an alternation network of 384 pathways of organizational transformation
interpreted for networks in the light of the Chinese Book of Changes
- / -
Printed in: Transnational Associations
, 35, 1983, 4, pp. 172-181; 5, pp
245-258. Also distributed together as a separate publication [see PDF version
]. Subsequently incorporated
into Policy Alternation
(1984), pp. 175-202 and incorporated in a modified form into
the Encyclopedia of World Problems and
A generalized version was subsequently produced on the methodology as Transformation
Metaphors: derived experimentally from the Chinese Book of Changes (I
Ching) for sustainable dialogue, vision, conferencing, policy, network,
community and lifestyle (1997) that provides access to the generalized
results of the exercise itself. The modified originally commentary is currently
presented in three parts:
- Commentary A: Patterning
Transformative Change for sustainable dialogue, vision, conference, policy,
network, community and lifestyle
- Commentary B: Alternating
between Complementary Conditions for sustainable dialogue, vision, conference,
policy, network, community and lifestyle
- Commentary C: Interrelating
Incompatible Viewpoints for sustainable dialogue, vision, conference, policy,
network, community and lifestyle
What follows is the original unabridged 1983 text of the commentary, but without
the results of the interpretative exercise on networking, currently integrated
into the general
exercise. Figures referenced here are located in
Commentary B above (to which they are linked)
This exercise is concerned with change and with the development of better
ways of responding to its possibilities in various forms of socially organized
activity. The exercise has only been applied to networks but, as will be
seen, it could just as well be applied to groups, organizations, meetings
or intentional communities, in each of which very similar challenges are faced.
1. Networks Networks and networking have become extremely fashionable
over the past decade, even within the intergovernmental community, as a means
of circumventing weaknesses perceived in conventional styles of organization.
But in practice networks themselves have failed to live up to the hopes placed
in them, despite their positive image and the appearance of enthusiastic publications
in support of that image (1,2). An example of such unbridled optimism is the
following: "Just as bureaucracy is less than the sum of its parts, a
network is many times greater than the sum of its parts. This is a source
of power never before tapped in history: multiple self-sufficient social
movements linked for a whole array of goals whose accomplishment would transform
every aspect of contemporary life... most people don't see them -- or think
they are conspiracies" (2, p. 236). The kinds of criticism that can be
made are that :
in some cases "network"is merely used as a substitute for
what previously functioned with limited effectiveness under the name of
"club" or "group";
- networking tends to function by filtering out conflict and opposition
and thus is ill-equipped to interrelate a diversity of perspectives, many
of which may involve fundamental disagreements (sometimes manageable by hierarchies
in an "objectionable" manner);
- the informal strengths of networks have been transformed into weaknesses
through rejection of any form of compensatory self-discipline; networks tend
to become "flabby" and subject to a variety of "networking
- networks tend to function as temporary vehicles for enthusiasm and are
frequently abandoned as soon as unpleasant realities have to be faced;
- the networking philosophy is often geared to that of "positive thinking
"which negates the possibility of criticism and especially self-criticism,
thus hindering collective learning for the development of the network.
The question is then whether there are any clues to ways of "tensing"
networks to correct such tendencies (4). What can be done to prevent the
energy from draining out of networks? One approach has been discussed under
the heading of "tensegrity
organization" as a hybrid "marriage" between networks and
A related approach is to assume that networks fail to contain problems because
they are effectively out-manoevered by the dynamics of such problems. As in
the martial arts, a network must swiftly re-order its conceptual and organizational
resources to keep up with shape-shifting and hydra-like transformations of
the problematique. The network may need to alternate between several modes
of action and conception in order to respond effectively (6,
this is the case how can we come to recognize the pattern of transformation
pathways of which the network needs to be aware ?
2. Groups and organizations: Clearly groups and organizations also
need to be aware of the transformational pathways they may have to use to
be able to contain problems effectively. Like networks, which are anyway a
more loosely ordered form of organization, they may need to alternate between
several modes of action or conception.
3. Meetings : Conferences have been usefully perceived as temporary
organizations. In many ways they also resemble networks. They too tend to
fail to live up to the expectations placed in them, especially with respect
to response to the world problématique. As with networks, the significance
tends to leak out of them, leaving the problems unaffected. There is little
collective awareness of the transformational and organizational dynamics of
the problématique (8).
4. Intentional communities : The past decades have seen many attempts
to establish intentional communities. Many have broken up because of inability
to order their dynamics satisfactorily. Such "alternative" communities
combine many of the features of networks, groups, organizations and meetings.
As such they are faced with many of the same difficulties.
It is debatable whether Western-style organization has reached the limits
of its ability to improve its "effectiveness". Even if this is not
the case, it is possible that new insights can be derived from non-Western
approaches, as is indicated by the current Western concern with the art of
Japanese management. These would have the merit of breaking out of the currently
criticized constraints of "euro-centric" modes of thought (9,10,
11 ) that have been largely responsible for networking as it is presently
For example, the above challenge can be usefully clarified by an exercise
in adapting the insights of The Book of Changes, otherwise known as
the I Ching (12). This has been a major influence on Chinese thinking
for 3,000 years, providing a common source for both Confucian and Taoist philosophy.
As noted by R G H Siu: "For centuries, the I Ching has served
as a principal guide in China on how to govern a country, organize an enterprise,
deal with people, conduct oneself under difficult conditions, and contemplate
the future. It has been studied carefully by philosophers like Confucius and
men of the world like Mao Tse-tung" (13). For this reason the popularity
of its (ab)use as an oracle should not be confused with the philosophy and
insight embodied in its structure.
With the benediction of C G Jung (12), it has achieved wide popularity in
the West over the past decades, inspiring many who have attempted to develop
the practice of networking. Part of the merit of the book, as its title indicates,
is that it purports to indicate complete patterns of changes, one of which
has 384 pathways between 64 conditions that are recognizable both in an individual
and in society. These insights have hitherto been interpreted in terms of
the needs of the individual (of whatever degree of influence in society).
Although basically they are addressed to the condition of any social entity,
they have not been applied to organizations as such. Thus even though R G
H Siu, cited above as one of the commentators on the I Ching, has managerial
interests in addition to his research role as a biochemist at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT), his commentary is addressed to the individual.
It is interesting to note that not only did MIT publish his commentary, it
also published a study by Siu on the nature of "ch'i" (14). This
is the psychic energy that an individual can accumulate according to neo-taoist
philosophy. It may also be useful to conceive of it as the kind of "energy"
which leaks out of networks or meetings when they fail to enter appropriately
into the dynamics of change and development.
The structure of the I Ching is based on 64 conditions (dynamic situations,
perspectives, challenges, phases, or modes of action or conception) with which
an entity may be faced. The underlying scheme is based on sets of 2 or 8 more
fundamental conditions. The series could be expanded geometrically to 128,
256, 512 or more conditions. But as Siu notes: "The originators of the
I Ching judiciously stopped at the practical limit of sixty-four. This
number constitutes a classification sufficiently fine so as to provide useful
types of situations, against which specific cases can be matched. Yet the
subdivisions are not so numerous as to be too cumbersome for a single scheme"
(13, p. 3). For each of the 64 conditions there are six possible sub-conditions
(behavioural responses) on which statements are also provided.
The text of The Book of Changes is often written in a notoriously subtle
and poetic style. This in no way precludes an interpretation of its significance
for organizations or, more specifically, for networks. Such an interpretation
has therefore been undertaken as an exercise [presented elsewhere].
By making the interpretation specific to networks, there is clearly a loss
of generality, but this is compensated by a reduction in ambiguity. Subsequent
evaluation will show whether this constitutes an unfortunate degree of distortion
of the original insights.
The interpretation given is as faithful to the texts of the Richard Wilhelm
translation (12) as seemed feasible. Some of the condition names have been
adapted from those suggested by Siu (13). Hopefully this exercise will encourage
others to produce a more helpful interpretation.
No extraneous insights have been introduced. In elaborating each statement
the basic constraint was that it should be briefly formulated with respect
to a "network"and that any terms used should be credible in a networking
context. It is debatable whether the texts should instead have been focused
on a "group" or "organization". or even a "conference";
although this might have made them of more general interest. A somewhat similar
procedure has been used in an exercise in generating a "Universal
Declaration of Rights of Human Organization" from the articles of
the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (15).
The formulation of the statements here can be criticized because the orientation
is not always consistent. In some cases they are formulated as injunctions
as to what the network "should" do. In other cases they are formulated
in terms of explanations as to the probable consequences of the network acting
in a certain manner. Or else they are expressed in terms of what the network
"could" or "might" do. The original texts place the burden
of choosing between such interpretations on the reader.
It is important to recognize that the original text permits a complex of
interpretations, encouraged by the nature of the Chinese language. For each
condition the central meaning is underdefined, although clearly delimited
by a complex of connotations based on terms that "alternate" subtly
in meaning between emphasis on: abstract or concrete; operator or operand;
noun or verb; action or actor; problem or opportunity. Any word can often
be beneficially replaced by a synonym or an alternative grammatical form.
Quite distinct conditions may acquire apparent similarity as a result of the
specificity of the words finally chosen - a choice that amounts to a "frozen"
distortion of the connotation dynamics by which the underlying meaning is
embodied (see insert on "Resonance hybrids"). The (undeterministic)
significance in fact emerges through alternation
of attention between the possible (deterministic) interpretations - in sympathy
with the theme of this paper (see also ref. 7).
An exercise of this kind is therefore rather like attempting to "tune"
a "semantic piano" in order to distinguish meanings effectively,
even though no one tuning system can satisfactorily bring out all the possible
relationships between the connotations. Valuable insights into the nature
of this semantic problem, given the possibilities of alternative tuning systems,
can be found in the works of E. G. McClain (31, 32). An earlier experiment
focussed on "tuning" interrelated cross-cultural concept sets having
from 2 to 20 statements each (33).
Longer interpretations may offer greater clarity, as in those of Wilhelm
(12) or Siu (13). Needless to say, as an exercise by one person, the results
given here for networks call for further "tuning" and should therefore be
viewed with reservation. Furthermore, it should be noted that the presentation
given here does not do justice to the more sophisticated relationships embedded
in the structure of the I Ching.
It is the network of 384 transformation pathways between the 64 conditions
into which an entity can supposedly get "trapped" that is perhaps the most
interesting feature of this exercise.
In the following pages [elsewhere]
each of the 64 numbered conditions is briefly described, accompanied in each
case by descriptions of 6 possible transformation pathways from that condition.
These may also be understood as the possible "levels" of skill with
which that condition can be faced. The number following each transformation
possibility indicates the new condition with which the network is then purportedly
faced. It should be emphasized however that these are merely the high probability
Another set of pathways given here is that of the actual sequence of the
numbered conditions. The "a causal" reason for each such transformation
is given in italics at the end of each condition on the basis of one of the
classic commentaries on the sequence (12). Read separately, the Italic text
constitutes an interesting a causal cycle, with many links of immediately
comprehensible relevance to current world conditions (e.g. progress-decline-community
(35 to 37), adversity-basic need-revolution (47 to 49), or liberation-deficiency-aid
(40 to 42).
If in a particular condition the network engages in lower probability multiple
transformations the result is not apparent here, although The Book of Changes
does employ a binary coding system from which this can be determined without
ambiguity. Leibniz is reported to have been influenced in the 17th century
by the binary code of theI Ching, which could therefore be said to
have influenced the design of modem computers. The striking relationship to
the genetic coding system has also been explored (34).
The range of possible transformation pathways encoded in this way is of great
value in the light of contemporary efforts to grasp the nature of change in
relation to human and social development.
As a work of political philosophy, it is useful to contrast interpretations
of the I Ching with an early Western equivalent, namely Machiavelli's
The Prince (16). Both provide recommendations to rulers, but the I
Ching also adapts its recommendations to the initiatives of the ruled.
The Prince has been severely criticized (often inappropriately, given the
instabilities of its historical context), because of the distinctly undemocratic
values of the princes for whom it was designed, in contrast, built into the
I Ching is the progressive discovery of "superior values",
however these are to be understood by the user.
As with Machiavelli's adice, the networking precepts from the I Ching
could prove as valuable to the "ill-intentioned" as to the "well-intentioned".
It would be interesting to compare the precepts given here with those in the
network operations manuals of intelligence services and revolutionary groups,
given their respective understanding of "superior values". It is
worth noting that another set of 394 Chinese precepts, in Sun Tzu's classic
The Art of War, has received considerable attention in modern military
academies (17). It is based on the principle that it is the supreme art of
war to subdue the enemy without fighting. Contemporary students of organizational
life have also benefited from an adaptation of Machiavelli's insights by Antony
Jay to the management of corporations (18).
Organization sociologists do not appear to have had the ambition (or the
presumption) to attempt such a transformation map. Although in 1958 March
and Simon published a study, now a classic, tracing parts of what might have
become such a map (19). This does not appear to have been followed up. Literature
reviews have since resulted in the production of "inventories" of
concepts for organization effectiveness, as in that of J. L. Price (20) with
31 propositions, or more recently in that of D H and B L Smith with approximately
400 concrete suggestions, especially for voluntary associations (21).
Of special interest is the exercise of Edward de Bono who has produced an
Atlas of Management Thinking (see insert).
|Atlas of Management Thinking
Edward de Bono,founder of the Centre for the Study of Thinking and
director of the world's largest curriculum programme for direct teaching
of thinking in schools, is renowned for his promotion of "lateral
thinking", especially in management situations. He has recently
produced an atlas "written specifically for the right side of the
brain - the intuitive side". For him an "atlas is a visual
reference system, and although thinking is an abstract subject I believe
we can create perceptual maps for its use". The problem is that
we do not have adequate right-brain images for complex management situations.
Hence the tendency to try to treat them through fragmented verbal descriptions
lodged in the left brain. What de Bono does is to provide 200 images,
each describing one such situation (e.g. confrontation, self-created
problems, tolerance, etc). Each image is accompanied by a verbal commentary.
He suggests that the atlas references provide a shorthand notation
for such complex situations, enabling people to be much more direct
in labelling perceived opportunities and traps. "The clarity with
which we see a situation is the basis for any subsequent decision or
action". Such thinking is very different from much of that of the
academic or scientific world.
De Bono has coined the term "operacy"(to be contrasted with
numeracy and literacy) as the much neglected skill of getting things
done, solving problems, discovering opportunities, conceiving ventures,
and organizing projects."It is the more successful organizations
that sense the need to develop further thinking skills because they
attribute their success to their thinking. The less successful ones
see no need because they blame their failure on circumstances".
The I Ching may also be considered as an atlas of right-brain
perceptions of complex situations for which an appropriate notation
has been developed. Although it has the Special merit of using a right-brain
context to order the relationships between such situations. Like de
Bono's atlas it also makes deliberate use of combinations of memorable
"images" to "create a visual meta-language for situations".
The resemblances call for further study.
This identifies 200 functions or "complex situations" which bear
a striking resemblance to those derived from the I Ching. The Western
managerial sciences have given rise to many treatises on problem solving in
organizations. One of the originators of systems science. Russel Ackoff, has
condensed his understanding of the art of problem solving into 34 "fables"
(22). Semi-humorous insights have also emerged in the form of numerous "laws"
(Parson, Peter, etc), culminating in their synthesis in John Gall's 32 "axioms"
in Systemantics (23). Another semi-humorous approach, inspired by the
holds and positions in the martial arts, is that of Thierry Gaudin who has
identified 21 institutional "katas" (24). It is appropriate
to note that the control of "ch'i". mentioned earlier, is basic
to the Eastern martial arts.
Western efforts to provide (world) systems models of the interrelationships
between socio-political conditions to societies (as opposed to socio-economic
conditions) have been modest and of limited success, compared to the preferences
for lengthy textual discourses of which Machiavelli's is an early form. For
a recent general review, see J M Richardson Jr (35) reporting in a special
issue on "Models" as tools for shaping reality, as well as reference
It is therefore surprising to note that in the East a number of societies
have produced religiously-inspired board games with squares denoting value-based
psycho-social conditions, linked by a variety of transformation pathways,
in a manner similar to systems flow charts. Precepts (possibly embodied in
chants) are associated with the definition of each condition and the developmental
challenge it constitutes. Examples are: a Tibetan game (72 conditions) with
a Bhutanese version (64 + 13 conditions) and a Nepalese version (25); a Korean
game (169 conditions) and a Hindu equivalent (72 conditions), supposedly
the prototype of Western "snakes and ladders" (26). It has been
argued that the similarity between such games provides "the most perfect
existing evidence of the underlying foundation of mythic concepts upon which
so much of the fabric of our culture is built" (27).
Directly relevant to networking itself is the effort of Network Research
(Denver) to produce a basic set of 5 rules of The Networking Game (28). These
reflect the practical recommendations which have emerged from Western insights
into the art of at least one form of networking. Academic work on social networks
tends to be concerned with descriptive analysis rather than with any attempt
to empower such networks to act more effectively. Intergovernmental bodies,
such as the United Nations University, with a declared commitment to a network
mode of action, have not yet elaborated any such set of guidelines.
The vital point that emerges from this Chinese perspective is that it is
not sufficient to conceive of organizational conditions in isolation, as is
the prevalent tendency among Western networkers. The processes of change
in which a network is embedded, or to which it responds, require that the
network consider itself in a state of transience within a set of potential
conditions. It courts disaster if it attempts to "stick" to one
condition such as "peace". If the dynamics of problem networks are
not being contained by present strategies, as would appear to be the case,
then organizational self-satisfaction is a recipe for the disaster-prone or
the ineffectual, it creates a false sense of security. Any condition may
be right temporarily, none is right permanently.
The situation is somewhat analogous to many team ball games where a player
tries to retain the ball it will be taken from him by the opposing side, or
else the team is penalized. Furthermore networks opposing the "team"of
world problems find themselves like novices having to deal with an opponent
which handles the ball with a dynamism such as that of the Haarlem Globetrotters
or a shell-game con-artist, The focus shifts continually and is often where
it is least to be expected in order to take advantage of weaknesses.
A network must continually "alternate" its stance within the network
of transformation pathways in order to "keep on the ball" and "keep
its act together". As with a surfer, a wind sailor, or a sailor on a
rocking boat, if it fails to change its stance it will be destabilized, according
to the I Ching, by one of 64 changing conditions through which it is
forced to move in a turbulent environment.
The developmental goal can then be conceived as somehow lying "through"the
exit of this labyrinth of traps for the unwary. More satisfactorily, it
is perhaps "in" the art of moving through these conditions as progressively
clarifying the locus of a common point of reference undefined by any of
them (cf. the Sanskrit phrase "Neti Neti", roughly translated as
"not this, not that"). It is this art which is extolled in describing
the use of the I Ching or of Eastern board games (13, 26). A similar
notion has recently emerged from theoretical physics through the work of David
Bohm (30). He stresses the nature of an underlying "holomovement"
from which particularities are successively "unfolded" by our attention,
only to be "re-enfolded "once again. The significance is more readily
apparent in the case of "resonance hybrids" (see insert).
The problem for a network, an organization, an intentional community, a meeting,
or even an individual, is then how to "network the alternation pathways
together" and how to "alternate through a transformational network".
Hence the ambiguous title of this paper: "networking alternation".
Given that understanding of alternation seems only to be well-developed at
the instinctual or sub-conscious level (e.g. walking, breathing, sex, dancing),
the nature of alternation processes is explored in a separate paper on "alternation
Extending the earlier metaphor of the "semantic piano" however,
the challenge for networks is then not simply to try to activate people by
monotonous playing of single notes (e.g. "peace", "liberation","development").
as presently tends to be the case. It is rather to acquire a perspective enabling
them to collaborate in improvising exciting, rippling tunes with such notes
(each of which is an I Ching condition) in order to bring out all the
musical possibilities of alternation as explored in harmony, counterpoint,
discord and rhythm (37).
In this sense the true potential of networking lies in the transformational
possibilities of "playing" On such instruments. Such an approach
could perhaps provide the "requisite variety" by which the world
problematique may be tamed, without breaking the spirit it embodies.
A related challenge is then how to represent or map these transformation
pathways in a memorable manner so that the range of possibilities becomes
clear. In The Book of Changes a mnemonic system for the 64 conditions
is given on the basis of 8 natural features of which people have both an instinctive
and a poetic understanding (The features include: mountain, lake, wind, thunder,
light, ravine, earth and sky. Note the arguments in favour of some such topographically
based mnemonic system given in an earlier paper: The
territory construed as a map (38).). This contributes significantly to
dissemination of understanding about relationships between such conditions
in contrast to the restriction of interest in such matters in the West to
scientific elites. The Eastern board games mentioned above are deliberately
used for educational purposes, whereas very few in the West have access to
the Computer simulation exercises with an equivalent orientation.
|Resonance hybrids: an illustration of alternation
Some chemical molecules cannot be satisfactorily described by a single
configuration of bonded atoms. The theory of resonance is molecules
by a dynamic combination of several alternative structures, rather than
by any one of them alone. The molecule is then conceived as "resonating".
among the several conceivable/describable structures and is said to
be a "resonance hybrid" of them. The classic example is the
benzene molecule with 6 carbon atoms. This is one of the basic components
of many larger molecules essential to life. Its cyclic form only became
credible when Kekulé showed that it oscillated between structures
A and B. Linus Pauling later showed that it in fact alternates between
all five forms below (and as such requires less energy than for any
one of them).
This concept could be used in designing/describing/operating organizations,
especially fragile coalitions. It may be the key to the "marriage"
between networks and hierarchies in tensegrity
organizations (5). It could also be used to interrelate alternative
definitions (or theories, paradigms, policies, etc.), where none of
them is completely satisfactory taken in static isolation. The "undefinable"
significance then emerges through the alternation process. The conditions
of The Book of Changes can be conceived as constituting a resonance
hybrid, whether collectively or individually.
Challenge of representation
The first part of this paper called attention to the advantages of perceiving
change in terms of a network of transformation pathways between 64 conditions
of organization derived from the Chinese Book of Changes or I
Ching. The challenge for any organization is then to learn how to "alternate"
through such a network rather than get trapped in any particular condition.
To facilitate the response to this challenge, ways must be found to map
this set of transformation pathways so that it becomes comprehensible as
a whole that can be consciously negotiated. This part of the paper discusses
some mapping possibilities.
Elaboration of a circular sequence
Helmut Wilhelm reports (39) that in the Sung period (960-1127) of Confucianism
the scholar Shao Yung produced a tabular representation of the I Ching
elements. This "table" was also represented as a circle which
he reproduces. It was Shao Yung's scheme which so excited Leibniz in the
course of his reflections on the binary system (41).
In this traditional representation the transformation pathways are implicit
except for the circular sequence itself. It is however possible to render
them explicit by simple adding them to the representation. One way of doing
this results in a diagram such as Figure 1. The only lines added are for
the six "high probability" transformation pathways associated
with the six sub-conditions of each of the 64 conditions, as described in
the text accompanying this paper [elsewhere;
Conditions 1 to 34 were described in the first part of this paper (Transnational
Associations, 1983, 4, pp. 176-181). The description of Conditions 35
to 64 accompanied this part (see pages 253-268)].
Before commenting further on Figure 1 some basic points must be made about
the traditional circular sequence. It is made up of 64 distinct "hexagrams".
The hexagram is the traditional Chinese way of representing a change condition
by a binary code of 6 broken or unbroken lines (which can be considered
identical to the binary bit-code used in modern computers). But there are
at least two fundamental points about any such code, as pointed out in
the case of computers by Xavier Sallantin (40) :
there must be agreement as to what represents "broken"
(or "on"), as opposed to "unbroken" (or "off"),
or else the code may be mis-read as its own "negative";
- there must be agreement as to how the hexagram (or computer bit sequence)
should be read, whether up-to-down (or right-to-left) or down-to-up (or left-to-right),
or else the code may be mis-read in an "inverted" form. The traditional
circular sequence does not distinguish between these two possibilities.
The second point as applied to Figure 1 means that in relating the 64 condition
names to their traditional hexagram representations a decision has to be
taken as to the direction in which a hexagram is to be read. In Figure 1
the decision has been made to read the hexagrams with the "top"of
each towards the centre and the numbered conditions have been allocated
accordingly. This means that there is an alternative interpretation. Figure 2, in which the bottom of each is towards the centre. Note that the
order of the numbered conditions is then quite different. The pattern
of transformation pathways remains the same, although the sub-conditions
to which they relate are now different. The 3 transformation pathways for
each hexagram that were originally indicated inside the circle in Figure 1 are indicated by the lines outside the circle in Figure 2.
The diagrams give rise to three problems :
a) Either Figure 1 or Figure 2 can thus be considered as a very compact
map of the 384 high probability transformation pathways. But the existence
of two different and seemingly conflicting maps is obviously cause for
b) Also of concern is their non-evident relation to the numbered sequence
of conditions, which itself constitutes a single transformation cycle. This
lack of relationship is especially evident when lines are traced between
the conditions in that traditional sequence, as in the case of Figure 3
(using the Figure 1 order) or Figure 4 (using the Figure 2 order).
c) In addition, other than the striking elegance of the pattern, it
is not obvious why either the order of Figure 1 or 2 should be the basis
for an appropriate map
With regard to the first problem, the existence of two interpretations
can be explained as due to the manner in which the I Ching perspective
is grounded on alternation between perspectives rather than being tied
arbitrarily to one perspective. If two interpretations are possible there
is necessarily an alternation between them according to the Chinese perspective.
What then could the alternation between such contrasting interpretations
From the significance traditionally attached to the top and bottom of
the I Ching hexagrams, it could be argued that in the case of organizations
the two contrasting interpretations could relate to an inward global worldview
alternating with an outward local worldview. The top-in perspective (Figure 1 ) would then correspond to a map of consciously interrelated contrasting
perspectives on the wholeness in which they are embedded, signalled to some
extent by the process whereby leaders of a group "put their heads together"
and "share their views". The "enemy" is recognized as
being within the group ("he is us").
The alternative top-out perspective would then correspond to a map of unexplicated
solidarity in response to the challenges of the immediately perceived external
environment, signalled to some extent by the process whereby group members
"stand back-to-back" to face an external "enemy" as
he manifests differently to each. To survive the group must to some extent
alternate between these contextual and particular worldviews, rather as
an individual alternates between right and left-brain perspectives. Lama
Govinda notes that hexagrams are traditonally read from bottom-to-top to
represent the sub-conditions of individual life, in contrast to the top-to-bottom
direction for more fundamental or universal transformations (42, p. 136).
With regard to the second problem, using Figure 3 or 4, inspection will
show that the continuing alternation between "global inwardness"
and "local outwardness" forces every second hexagram in the numbered
sequence into its opposite form (e.g. 3 in Figure 1 becomes 4 in Figure 2; 5 becomes 6; etc) and back again. Only the hexagrams 1, 2, 27, 28, 29,30,
61 and 62 are not "driven"through the numbered sequence by this
alternation process (which here acts in a manner reminiscent of the effects
of current alternation in the coil windings of an electric motor). The
map is a map of alternation dynamics and cannot be appropriately understood
as a conventional map of static structural elements.
With regard to the third problem, the "logic" of the circular
representation is that every condition denoted by a hexagram is conterbalanced
by its "opposite" across the circle. In effect the broken lines
are converted into unbroken lines and vice versa (thus partially containing
the variations in significance of broken and unbroken lines noted above).
In addition to the six high probability transformations from (and to| each
condition, there is therefore a seventh transformation through the numbered
sequence (by inversion of the code reading direction) and an eighth transformation
into its opposite (through "negative" code bits of a hexagram
acquiring a "positive" connotation and vice versa).
Given the striking relationship already noted by Schönberger between the I Ching 64-hexagram code and the genetic 64-codon code (35), the fundamental
nature of the circular representation may also be illustrated by using
it to map the 20 amino acids basic to biological organization. In Figure 1 these are denoted completely by the set of (long) transformation lines
linking quarters of the circle. For example, according to Schonberger, asparagine
is denoted by (the transformation between) the hexagram pair 34-43, the
more complex amino acid threonin is denoted by (the symmetrically balanced
transformation lines) 11-5: 26-9,and the "stop"codes amber and
ochre are denoted by the individual hexagrams 56 and 33 respectively. In
the Figure 2 map the hexagrams denoting each amino acid, rather than being
equidistant, are brought together side-by-side, as is illustrated around
the circumference of Figure 4. Whether this suggests that certain well-defined
transformation processes are as essential for the life of an organization
or network as those 20 amino acids are for biological organization, is a
question for further investigation.
A striking feature of Figure 1 (or 2) is the manner in which the transformation
pathways of different types differentiate the circle so clearly into :
(a) 2 halves of 32
(b) 4 quarters of 16
(c) 8 groups of 8
(d) 16 groups of 4
(e) 32 groups of 2
(f) 64 groups of 1
In the light of current interest in the distinct functions of right and
left brain perspectives, group (a) can be considered an interesting representation
of the limited number of pathways linking such halves and the manner in
which the halves are each separately integrated. In the light of Jungian
investigation of the four basic psychological functions (sensation, feeling,
intellect, intuition), group (b) can be considered an interesting representation
of the transformation pathways by which these are linked and separately
integrated as semi-independent functions. The 4 masculine and 4 feminine
archetypal versions of these functions distinguished by Jungian psychoanalysts
can in turn perhaps he usefully represented by group (c).
The question that now emerges is whether it is possible to elaborate some
kind of typology of transformation "cycles" for organizations
or networks. Such a typology would clarify the different kinds of way that,
for example, the two functional halves, or the four functional quarters
are interlinked. For it is highly probable that organizations or networks
can "survive" by using the simplest possible transformation cycles
that enable them to renew themselves, but that richer and more effective
networking is only possible when more complex transformation pathway cycles
are used. It is therefore to be expected that some organizations only manage
a 4-transformation cycle linking four functional quarters but are quite
incapable of handling the subtler functional transformations between an
8-condition cycle, or one with an even larger number of transformations.
Many organizations probably get stuck in cyclic "traps" because
they cannot enrich the transformative cycles on which they depend.
In addition to what has been termed the "high probability"transformations,
based on the modification of a single line in a hexagram denoting a network
condition, some other transformations of lower probability are shown in
Figure 5. These too may form part of transformation cycles.
Circular representation: inner structure
A different approach to circular representation forms part of the conclusion
of an extensive study by the renowned Buddhist scholar Lama Anagarika Govinda
in a recent book entitled: The Inner Structure of the I Ching: The
Book of Transformations (42). My attention was drawn to this book (after
the first part of this paper had gone to print) by Zentatsu Baker Roshi,
Abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, who contributed the preface. He pointed
out the resemblance between Figures 1 and 2 and diagrams in Lama Govinda's
book. I wish to express my gratitude to him for this information and to
the Zen center for furnishing me a copy across the Atlantic at miraculous
speed.. His preference for "transformation" in the title is to
be compared with the conventional translation as "change".
The special interest of this study, in contrast to the many studies of
I Ching commentaries, is that it focuses on the structure of the
I Ching itself as a system of signs in which "two values were
alternated and finally combined into eight symbols, which by replication
yielded sixty-four hexagrams" (42. p. ...). Lama Govinda concentrates
on the problem of the relationship between two traditional representations
of the set of transformations. The first is the "abstract order"
of Fu Hi which essentially determines the order of balanced polarities from
which Figures 1 and 2 were derived. The second is the "temporal order"
of King Wen which emphasizes the developmental sequence of phenomena. In
order to make the movements from one condition to another graphically visible
the author concludes that it only seems possible to find a unifying principle
in the Fu Hi system.
His detailed investigations led him to propose Figure 6. This shows the
position of all 64 I Ching conditions projected onto a circular diagram.
A unique feature of his focus on the "inner structure" is that
this diagram results from the interplay between the 8 fundamental conditions
from which the 64 are derived. The 8 are each denoted by a half-hexagram,
namely a trigram Depending on the order in which any given pair of trigrams
is read, one of two hexagrams is thus defined. It is the condition numbers
of these alternatives which are indicated on the straight lines within the
circle. Each line thus represents two transformative movements. The eight
conditions around the circumference represent those cases when the two trigrams
are identical. Thus the straight lines denote transformations governed by
the relationship between the 8 fundamental conditions denoted by each doubled
trigram on the circumference.
What then is the relationship between Figure 6 and Figures 1 to 5 ? As
noted above, in Figures 1 to 5 the circle of hexagrams may be split into
eight parts in each of which the trigram on the inside is identical. One
of the hexagrams in each part also has the outside trigram equal to the
inside one. It is these eight (1, 2, 29, 30, 51, 52, 57 and 58) that are
positioned around the circumference in the "top-out" order of
Figures 2 and 4. Comparison with these Figures will show that the transformations
from any numbered condition are here indicated by the lines (or points)
to which it is connected through these fundamental positions, whether one
or more hexagram lines are modified. In this sense Figure 6 is a much more
compact representation than Figures 2 and 5.
Also of great interest is Lama Govinda's very detailed investigation of
sub-patterns of transformation connecting groups of 8 conditions traditionally
called "houses". There is an intriguing resemblance between some
of Lama Govinda's other diagrams of transformation between trigrams (represented
by "curves" and "lines") and aspects of the structure
of Figures 1 and 2. In graph theory terms, Figure 6 is a "dual"
of Figures 2 and 5 combined, in that the transformation lines in the latter
correspond to the transformation points in the former. It could be argued
that even in this representational convention there is advantage in alternating
between both forms. These patterns provide an important basis for any further
investigation of the typology of transformation cycles called for above.
It also enables him to clarify the relationship between the numerical sequence
and the abstract order of Figure 6 by determining in Figure 7 the four symmetrical
sub-patterns from which Figure 6 is constituted.
Elaboration of a spherical map
One interesting approach to this is to consider how Figure 6 would be transformed
if it were to correspond to the alternative "top-in" order of
Figures 1 and 3, instead of the "top-out" order of Figure 2. In
effect the square formed by conditions 51, 52, 57, 58 in Figure 6 is simply
rotated about the axis of conditions 1, 2: Conditions 1,2,29 and 30 do not
move. The new sequence around the circumference is then 1, 58,29, 51, 2,
52, 30, 57, as in Figures 1 and 3. If conditions 1 and 2 are considered
as fixed "poles". a continuous rotation between the fixed positions
29 and 30 may be seen as transforming the circular representation into a
spheric one. This dynamic model would need to be interpreted in terms of
lines of force, as in the analysis of an electric motor or dynamo.
For reasons discussed in earlier papers (38), there are advantages in seeking
a representation whose completeness is highlighted by basing it on an approximation
to a spheric surface. The question then becomes how to cut up that surface
into 64 units which will be assumed firstly to take the form of regular
areas and secondly to be of identical form. (Other approaches are of course
worth exploring.) Since the 64 phases (hexagrams) result from a conceptual
system based on an eightfold complexification of 8 fundamental phases of
change (trigrams), the problem can initially be reduced to one of representing
the latter on a spherical approximation. The simplest such polyhedral approximation
is the regular octahedron with eight triangular facets (see Figure 8). In
allocating the 8 phases to these facets it would obviously be advantageous
to do so such that their three high probability transformation pathways
Returning to the 64 phases, the problem can now be defined as one of how
to divide up each of the triangular facets of the octahedron into eight
equal parts so that eight phases can be represented within each such triangle.
This can be done as shown in Figure 9. In this way the 64 phases can each
be given a unique location on a polyhedral structure which can be easily
projected onto the surface of a sphere.
There remains the problem of how to order the eight phases within each
facet in Figure 8 so that within the completed figure the six high probability
transformation pathways of the 64 phases are highlighted. It would seem,
as with the standard problem of geographical map projections onto a two-dimensional
surface, that there are a number of approaches to be explored. Each would
be based on a different convention and would lead to a different arrangement
with different advantages. Some possibilities are discussed in the inset.
The Book of Changes is recognized as striking a remarkable balance
between logical, structural (left-brain) precision and intuitive, contextual
(right-brain) nuances of comprehension. For 3,000 years it has proved to
be a unique achievement in relating the qualitative to the quantitative
in a manner which is both practical and poetically appealing. These are
qualities to be sought in any blueprint for a new world order.
In the exercise for this paper, most of the poetic appeal has been sacrificed.
It does demonstrate that it is possible to interpret the insights of an
Eastern classic into the jargon of Western management, however much of a
"profanation" this may appear to those who know the original.
An important consequence of the elimination of metaphor is the loss of vital
mnemonic keys with which the original is replete with good reason. Much
of value has therefore been lost, as in any interpretation, despite the
seeming advantages to be gained from the precision of the alternative presentation.
Clearly some of the distortion is due to the alternative framework, whilst
much is due to the limitations of the interpreter. Hopefully other interpretations
will be produced that will strike a more graceful balance between jargon
The acid test is of course whether this interpretation is useful to those
engaged in networking. Is it possible to relate the conditions described
to the practical experience of networking ? Can networkers use or adapt
the maps of transformation pathways reproduced here ? The answers are for
the future. But the precision of the framework of The Book of Changes,
linking such contemporary topics as "development", "liberation",
"peace","revolution", with what have here been termed
"basic need", "deficiency"and "cultural heritage",
offers an intriguing challenge to reflection and comprehension. The topics
recall many of the concerns of the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development
project (1978-82) of the United Nations University.
With regard to the important problem of representation, it is appropriate
to note that schematic diagrams of similar form have already been produced
in combining Eastern insights and a Western management emphasis. A striking
example is that of Figure 10. from Zen and Creative Management by
Albert Low (43). Erich Jantsch, in his wide-ranging synthesis of self-organizing
systems and their implications for policy-making and human development,
draws attention to metabolic transformation cycles such as the carbon cycle
shown, in Figure 11 (44). Indeed, given the fundamental nature of the representation
system and its relationship to the basic amino acids (34), it is worth investigating
to what extent the set of interconnected metabolic cycles and pathways does
not illustrate the kinds of transformation pathways which need to be identified
for organizations. The map of metabolic pathways could prove to be a very
provocative challenge to organizational sociologists of the future (45).
|Some possible approaches and conventions
The approaches listed below are split into three groups. The first
focuses on the ordering of the eight facets of an octahedron. The
second focuses on the ordering of the eight facets within each triangular
face of an octahedron. The third identifies some conventions which
merit further exploration.
1. Octahedral facet ordering
1.1. Primary arrangement ; if it is assumed that this arrangement
is in some way more fundamental, then use can be made of the "Primal
Arrangement" given m the commentaries to the I Ching.
Here the stress is on pairing opposites across the centre.
1.2. Sequential arrangement: the alternative to the previous approach
is to use the sequential arrangement which traditionally suggested
the temporal relationship between the phases.
1.3. Transform juxtaposition: the three phases into which a given
phase has a high probability of transforming can be allocated to
the three triangles which surround it on the octahedron.
1.4. Circular transform pathways: an octahedron is partially defined
by the interlocking of three great circles through its points of
symmetry. Each circle may be considered as a transformation pathway
linking the facets it crosses.
2. Ordering within octahedral facets
2.1. Primary arrangement: a form of the traditional primary arrangement
may also be adapted within the triangular facets.
2.2 Sequential arrangement: a form of the traditional sequential
arrangement may also be adapted within the triangular facets.
2.3. Transform juxtaposition: various approaches to juxtaposing
intertransforming facets are possible. They draw attention to the
problem of how such solutions transform across the boundary to other
facets of the octahedron.
2.4. House arrangement: one traditional arrangement groups the
64 phases into 8 "houses", where each house would be equivalent
to an octahedral facet. The arrangement of the houses and the order
within each house calls for further investigation (see especially
reference 42). This approach has the advantage of de-emphasizing
the boundaries constituted by the octahedral facets.
3. Possible conventions
3.1. Triangle boundary single signifier: each side of a triangle
represents one line of the trigram represented by the enclosed area.
Sides are therefore denoted either by unbroken or by broken lines.
Sides are common to neighbouring triangles.
3.2. Triangle boundary double signifier: as for 3.1., except that
sides are not common to neighbouring triangles. Each inter-triangle
boundary is denoted by two signifiers (broken or unbroken in parallel
lines), one for each of the two contiguous triangles.
3.2.1. Inter-triangle like-to-like bonding: triangles can be bonded
as neighbours if they have identical signifiers on a common boundary
(either broken or unbroken lines).
3.2.2. Inter-triangle like-to-unlike bonding: triangles can be
bonded as neighbours if they have different signifiers on a common
3.3. Line ordering: three alternative conventions are possible
for ordering the sides of a right angle triangle to correspond to
the lines in a trigram.
3.4. Triangle transformai relationships: more complex relationships
may be considered between proximate triangles where the type of
transformation is governed by the types of line (of the right angled
triangles) which are contiguous. These include various inversions
and reversals of the trigrams represented.
3.5. Variable lines: given the fundamental significance of resonance
bonding and hybrids in organic chemistry (eg. Kekulé and models
of the benzene molecule as noted in the first part of this paper),
it is work considering a representation based upon alternation of
triangle side signifiers between broken and unbroken forms. The
representation then becomes a shifting pattern in which particular
phases emerge and disappear at different locations.
It is also tempting to see the 6 (+ 1 ) basic transformations from each
condition (in Figures 1 and 2) in terms of catastrophe theory, as qualitative
equivalents to the 7 characteristics kinds of catastrophe to which natural
conditions are subject.
This paper began with a concern with how to reduce the drain of "energy"and
significance from networks, organizations and meetings. There are conditions
described in the I Ching interpretation for networks which pinpoint
some of the less satisfactory forms of "networking". It is appropriate
to note that in the current fundamental research on nuclear fusion the key
problem is how to "contain "the nuclear plasma in order for a
self-sustaining reaction to occur and produce a controlled release of energy
(46). The key indicator is known as the "confinement parameter".
The configurations used to contain the plasma, whether within a torus or
using a " tandem-mirror" approach with the aid of "yin-yang"
magnets (47) bear a tantalizing relation to the kinds of representation
that might be used to interrelate the conditions of a network. It is unfortunate
that networking enthusiasts fail to recognize the advantages to be gained
from networking discipline and limits in order to master the collective
energy they have to offer (48). Possibly organizational sociologists of
the future may find a correspondence between the current problems of "integration"for
controlled release of social energy and those of plasma control for nuclear
Inherent in the structure of the I Ching is a recognition that the
fundamental conditions or principles of change complement, reinforce or
erode the situations to which they give rise. Their sequence arises from
the manner in which one is undermined by the next. In one traditional symbolization
of change in the I Ching in terms of five "elements" :
"Wood, for instance, penetrates and breaks up Earth. In this respect
it proves itself the stronger element. But Earth is stronger than Water,
because it absorbs it. Water is stronger than Fire, because it can extinguish
it, and Fire melts Iron (or other metals), whereas Iron cuts Wood"
(42, p. 44).
These cyclic insights can be related to the dramatic problem, central to
social organization, of whether a system of voting can be devised that is
at the same time rational, decisive and egalitarian. In the classic analysis
of this problem, Kenneth J. Arrow advanced five intuitively appealing axioms
(including unanimity and universal scope) that any procedure for combining
or aggregating the preferences of individuals into collective judgements
should satisfy (49). Treating "non-dictatorship" as a sixth axiom.
Arrow demonstrated that no constitution can exist which will obey all six
What happens is that when three or more alternatives are faced, majority
rule gives rise to voting cycles in which: Alternative A defeats Alternative
B, B defeats C, C defeats D, D defeats E, and E defeats A, as noted in a
recent discussion of Arrow's "impossibility theorem" by D Blair
and R Pollak (50). For them:
"Thus the designer of voting procedures for legislatures, committees
and clubs who accepts these conditions as necessary properties of constitutions
is simply out of luck... If society foregoes collective rationality, thereby
accepting the necessary arbitrariness and manipulability of irrational procedures,
majority rule is likely to be the choice because it attains the remaining
goals. If society insists on retaining a degree of collective rationality,
it can achieve equality by adopting the rule of consensus, but only at the
price of extreme indecisiveness. Society can increase decisiveness by concentrating
veto power in progressively fewer hands; the most decisive rule, dictatorship,
is also the least egalitarian".
Blair and Pollak explore the difficulty of designing acyclic constitutions
for organizations which would avoid such voting cycles. The Eastern insights
from the I Ching suggest that it might be more valuable to look for
ways of designing cyclic constitutions to permit an organization to alternate
through such a network of alternatives, each of which exerts a dominant
influence for a period of the cycle, before in turn being overthrown or
undermined by a succeeding alternative in that cycle (7).
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