The I Ching is a 5000 year old divination system that was popularized for the West by Richard Wilhelm, who spent most of his life studying and translating the ancient Chinese text. In 1949, Carl Jung wrote the foreword to Wilhelm’s translation, The I Ching or Book of Changes. It was the first time he publicly discussed his theory of synchronicity.
“…whoever invented the I Ching was convinced that the hexagram worked out in a certain moment coincided with the latter in quality no less than in time,” Jung wrote. “To him the hexagram was the exponent of the moment in which it was cast.”
“This assumption,” Jung continued, “involves a certain curious principle that I have termed synchronicity, a concept that formulates a point of view diametrically opposed to that of causality… synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance, namely a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves as well as the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers.”
In other words, when you ask your question and toss the coins, the hexagram you receive is like a snapshot in time, making manifest the internal.
For the Western mind, however, the definitions of the hexagrams sometimes seem obscure, couched as they are in references to life as it was 5,000 years ago. You may come away from an I Ching reading thinking, How does a hidden dragon relate to my question in the 21st century? Or: Who is this great man I’m supposed to see? Fortunately, Adele Aldridge, writer, artist, and I Ching connoisseur, provides a Western woman’s interpretation of the I Ching in her superb book I Ching Meditations: A Woman’s Book of Changes.
Back in the days before the Internet and personal computers, Adele decided she would define and illustrate every line in the I Ching’s 64 hexagrams. That should be 384 lines, but she has chosen to use 7 illustrations per hexagram, one for the image at the beginning and then an illustration for each of the 6 lines. So that’s 448 images! As she herself remarks, “A work of madness!”
She started this massive undertaking with a set of black and white abstract woodcuts that integrated the use of astrology symbols with the I Ching trigrams. She made 64 prints that she laminated onto canvases and strung them together in a large wall construction. She also made two sets of these prints on rice paper, bound them into books, then made a similar set in color. Her n3ext step was to translate these designs into acrylic paintings that were 36”x 48”.
A lesser mortal would be exhausted by all this. But Adele was just getting started, a testament to her passion for this work. She created limited editions books for hexagrams 1-16 with illustrations depicting women and created black and white pen and ink drawings. And all this happened before the introduction of the Macintosh computer in January 1984.
In many ways, her journey with the I Ching reminds me of Wilhelm’s, the total dedication to a vision. Where Wilhelm sought to open Chinese spirituality to the west through translating the I Ching texts from Chinese to German, Adele seeks to define the 64 hexagrams through the perceptions of an American woman and artist. “Because the Chinese language is pictorial and not linear, I felt that by giving the work images, along with linear text, it provides a broader experience for the meaning of the text, however subjective that may be.
This book takes us through hexagram 32, half of the I Ching, and what a stunner it is.
I tossed some coins on a roofer that is coming out today to give us an estimate for a new roof. I got Hexagram 32, Duration. Adele’s interp: “A relationship that endures is self-contained and self-renewing, maintained in a cycle with a a new beginning at every ending.” I had lines 1 and 2 changing. Her interp for line 1: “Something that lasts long begins gradually” and for line 2: “Commit to the relationship.” bThe illustration for this hexagram is at the top of the page.
Because of the changing lines, suggesting the situation is in flux, the hexagram changed to 30, The Clinging Fire. “Cling to what is correct action. Articulate. Illuminate. Discriminate. While doing all that try not to get burnt out.” Here’s the illustration for hexagram 30:
This makes perfect sense. Finding a roofer in South Florida is challenging. There was so much damage around here from Hurricane Irma last summer that roofers are booked for 3 and 4 months.
However, the reading turned out to be correct. Brad gave us the best estimate, can begin in July, and asked for a reasonable downpayment upon signing and first day of work – 10 percent and 10 percent. This contrasts with the 80 percent we were quoted by another roofer. Just as importantly, we like him – line 2, according to Adele – commit to the relationship. We have!
Thank you, Adele, for a stunning book!