26 Dec 2001

Embodying the Sphere of Change

Reframing metaphors of the I Ching as a codification of the patterns of change

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The purpose of this document is to indicate how a spherical metaphor might be used to interrelate the 64 conditions of change as coded within the Chinese Book of Changes (I Ching). The concern is to interrelate the complete set of changes and transformations as they may apply to individuals, communities, countries or the world. Some of these possibilities have been explored in a related set of pages.

The emphasis here is on the experiential quality of the complete set of changes and their ordering -- especially with respect to the transformational pathways between each condition.

Basic metaphor

Trigrams (or Hexagrams) distributed equally over a spherical surface:

  • lines tangential to the surface
  • maybe hexagram (broken and unbroken) lines are each like disks, with or without a central hole (as in traditional oracle coins)
  • hexagrams bobbing up and down like corks on the surface of water, passing through the surface as they do so
  • like sets of chakras?

Basic design constraint

A basic concern is not to seek conceptual closure, but rather to work with qualities that might include: elusive / non-closure / intimation / unfinished / open:

  • not an explanation, or an understanding to be grasped
  • more like a courtship dance with reality
  • Sufi bird cage: a constructed container that higher orders of meaning may briefly inhabit (if the design is sufficiently attractive and elegant)
  • an eternal puzzle
  • a koan
  • nature of the whole intimated by identification the pattern of the dancing parts
  • mirroring and projection (one trigram conditions into the other)
  • a thin gossamer pattern
  • implicit question as to what or who it is for?

Change conditions as attractors

Each trigram or hexagram may usefully be considered as an attractor

  • competing with other attractors (for attention time) and destabilizing their 'take' on reality
  • entering and existing the dramatic stage

For more on Human Values as Strange Attractors (see https://www.laetusinpraesens.org/docs/values93.php)

Dynamics and their metaphors

Changes embodied by the I Ching hexagram set temporarily activate (flickering changes):

  • moment by moment
  • longer cycles -- different for each line level
    • fastest inside, slowest outside, or
    • slowest outside, fastest inside
  • binding the parts into the whole (semantic ecosystem)
  • transformation links across the sphere
  • notes associated with each link (wind chime)
  • poetic associations between disparate conditions
  • recognizable patterns of associations (more culturally specific)

Sustainability of any pattern of changes is associated with the dynamics of the whole -- and how each plays off the other

Each hexagram might be considered as resembling any of the following:

  • a car cylinder
    • going through a cycle
    • 64 cylinder car
    • motor of life
    • what crankshaft is it turning, or by what is it being turned?
  • a species in an ecosystem (field of wildflowers, dell, niche, etc)
  • a leitmotiv in an opera (intertwining many leitmotivs)

Sets of polarities could be understood as stringed instruments

  • appropriately taughtened polarities can act like strings in an instrument
  • they generate notes and are effectively played (by the winds of change)
  • the question is the notes they generate, how they combine into melodies, and how to hear them

Media presentation

  • bobbing and flickering
  • patterns of links
  • cycles of patterns
  • rotating sphere
  • rotate sphere so that every hexagram (trigram) eventually faces the viewer
    • roulette
    • metaphoric story for that ideogram
    • side 'hidden' from the viewer

Experiential understanding

The most fundamental challenge is the degree and quality of metaphoric, experiential understanding (essentially incommunicable) associated with each condition (and how each relates to another) -- although metaphorically there is clearly much resonant familiarity with the conditions and the transformations (father - daughter, etc):

  • creative (strong, heaven, father) -- receptive (yielding, devoted, earth, mother)
  • arousing (inciting movement, thunder, first son) -- keeping still (resting, mountain, third son)
  • abysmal (dangerous, water, second son) -- clinging (light-giving, fire, second daughter)
  • gentle (penetrating, wind, wood, first daughter) -- joyous (lake, third daughter)

It is how such understanding is embodied that is the challenge -- rather than how it may be described conceptually without providing the perceiver with a new way of relating to change as it is experienced in the moment.

In multiple personality terms:

  • who (within oneself) is each condition?
  • why is the condition necessary within the whole?
  • how is it to be such a condition?
  • how is the transformation to another condition experienced?
  • is each transformation a kind of catastrophe?
  • each trigram or hexagram is a different type of coherence (a different type of understanding)

How does any such understanding:

  • resonate with experience as it changes moment-by-moment in the present?
  • evoke conditions to be encountered for learning?
  • force recognition of the larger pattern in which 'unwanted' roles have their place and 'desirable' roles are lost?
  • grasp the whole in a necessarily inappropriate and distorted manner (walking, reductionism, reifications)?
  • evoke challenging alternative understandings needed to sustain the larger whole?
  • change in depth, scope and quality (subtlety of patterns detected) with experience and maturity?
  • distance people from those who do not cultivate it ('mountaineering syndrome')?

Additional layer of trigrams (to make a hexagram) introduces a fundamental polarity (embedded in metaphoric interpretation):

  • inside (inner) vs outside (outer)
  • past vs future
  • up vs down
  • self vs other
  • knower vs known
  • right action vs inappropriate action ??
  • freedom (rights) vs constraint (obligations) ??
  • abstract vs concrete?

Quality of encounter

  • compacted earth
  • quality of encounter between trigrams of a hexagram
  • set up 7 kinds of transformation catastrophe (see diagram)

Considering the transformation pathways

Transformation pathways:

  • for eight trigrams (7 types of change = elementary catastrophe):
    • 3 x 8 single-line changes
    • 3 x 8 double-line changes
    • 1 x 8 triple-line changes
  • for 64 hexagrams (188?? types of change?)
    • 6 x 64 single-line changes
    • 24 x 64 double-line changes
    • 64 x 8 triple-line changes
    • 64?? x 8 quadruple-line changes
    • 24?? x 8 quintuple-line changes
    • 6 x 64 sextuple-line changes

Transformation pathways:

  • 8-fold set is all most could grok conceptually
    • hence 8-fold sets of vices and virtues
  • 64-fold set is what people live and experience (and are submerged within, as participants)

Catastrophe theory

Transformations and catastrophe theory

  • transformations are essentially discontinuities
  • Rene Thom models the seat of the morphogenetic process into domains of different attractors, separated by shock waves. Shock wave surfaces are singularities called "catastrophes".
  • a catastrophe is a state beyond which the system is detroyed in an irreversible manner.
  • in a 4-dimensional world there are 7 types of elementary catastrophes.
  • a catastrophe is how one gets from one attractor to another? Can the 7 transformational relationship pathways between the 8 trigrams be understood in these terms?

Surfing endlessly

  • each catastrophe is like a (shock) wave to be surfed appropriately (according to the type of wave)
  • living as catastrophe management, specifically the breathing cycle (cf Secret of the Golden Flower)
  Creative Arousing Abysmal Resting Receptive Gentle Clinging Joyous
Creative Creative (heaven) Power of the great Waiting (nourishment) Taming power of the great Peace
Taming power of the small

Possession in great measure

Breakthrough (resoluteness)
Arousing Innocence (unexpected) Arousing
Difficulty at the beginning Providing nourishment

Return (turning point)

Increase Biting through Following
Abysmal Conflict Deliverance Abysmal (water) Youthful folly Army Dispersion (dissolution) Before completion Oppression (exhaustion)
Resting Retreat Preponderance of the small Obstruction Keeping still (mountain) Modesty Development (gradual progress) Wanderer Influence
Receptive Standstill (stagnation) Enthusiasm Holding together (union) Splitting apart Receptive (earth) Contemplation (view) Progress Gathering together (massing)
Gentle Coming to meet Duration Well Work on what has been spoiled (decay) Pushing upward Gentle
(penetrating, wind)
Caldron Preponderance of the great
Clinging Fellowship with men Abundance (fullness) After completion Grace Darkening of the light Family
Revolution (moulting)
Joyous Treading (conduct) Marrying maiden Limitation Decrease Approach Inner truth Opposition Joyous


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