The I Ching, The Most Modern Ancient Wisdom Classic
By REG LITTLE
In a changing and unpredictable world, no classical text is more rewarding, or more challenging, than the ancient Chinese I Ching or Book of Changes. This classic presents itself as a book of divination and invites dismissal on such grounds amongst educated Western circles, including even the great British sinologist and advocate of Chinese science and technology Joseph Needham. It is, however, the most modern of practical handbooks, being a remarkably wise and profound guide to that nagging imperative of contemporary personal and political life – self-organisation.
This truth only grows as political authority shifts from West to East, as economic productivity travels from America to China, as industrial technology grows robustly throughout Asia and shrivels in the developed economies and as health and well-being wisdom is found more surely in Asian therapeutic traditions than in contemporary share market driven medical innovations.
Indeed, the I Ching is not only the source of a profound personal, social and political wisdom but also of a scientific genius that is holistic and organic and that led the world for several millennia until the rise of Anglo-American power over the past two hundred years. Moreover, this scientific culture promises much for the future of a troubled global community. It contrasts with the culture that has turned contemporary life into one large uncontrolled and poorly understood scientific experiment, where the casino of the marketplace has ceased to respect the ecologies of life.
Central elements of the text of the I Ching are attributed to men (King Wen and his sons King Wu and the Duke of Zhou) who were responsible for overthrowing the powerful tyrant who ruled a declining and corrupt Shang Dynasty, as the prelude to founding the Zhou Dynasty around 1045 BCE. As such, much of its wisdom can be read as a political text, informed by profound and holistic wisdom. This wisdom is shaped by a keen sense of the social morality needed to win widespread popular support, the human understanding needed to avoid the perils of carelessness and hubris and the acute insight into the dynamics of life and nature essential to prosper in this world.
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