July 28, 2008

Downing the trees to catch a glimpse of the forest

by sparhawk
Categories: Rants, Yijing
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So in the readings that you’ll find here, there will be no discussion of the Confucian “Image” section of the hexagrams. Indeed, our business here is to draw on the insight of the cosmic teaching voice that speaks through the I Ching to learn how to expel self-images, be they of the personal or the cultural variety. As Lao Tzu says in Chapter 12 of the Tao Te Ching:
Rampant color impairs vision;
A profusion of sound obstructs the ear;
Gluttonous tastes poison the mouth;
Attachment to belief warps the self;
Predatory impulse reviles the treasure.
The Sage uses the outer to point to the inner;
By exposing the image, it shows us ourselves.

In his very personal interpretive opinion, Brian Donohue is trying to simplify the real effort it takes to dive into the depths of the Yijing, by peeling away some of the layers that he considers “superfluos” late additions and/or biased exegesis. I will not go into the detail of a response like Hilary’s because, while worthwhile, I believe there is a more practical way to answer such simplifications: “You can’t cut down the trees to see the forest”
Of course, I understand where Brian is coming from and he’s not alone. Carol Anthony and Hanna Moog, whom he quotes in his note, could be other such examples–but only in appearance. See, the way the Anthony/Moog commentary is quoted is a bit oxymoronic and taken out of the context of Anthony’s work. If I know anything about Anthony’s take on the Yi is that she doesn’t discard any commentary or ancient exegesis on the classic. Her apparent dismissal of the Wings is an effort to digest and ‘Westernize’ the Yijing for those looking for shortcuts. And here is the crux of the matter: the Yijing cannot be ‘westernized’. While Anthony has a very good insight into the Yijing she has reached that point, not by dismissing layers, but by embracing them. If anything, Anthony ‘easternized’ herself in order to find her way through the maze of the Yi and thus provide a more familiar, Western-minded view of the classic, which have coalesced in her works. But she didn’t skip any steps to reach her comprehension of it. They don’t ignore the Third and Fourth wings, the so called “Images,” on the contrary, they have integrated them into their interpretation. And that’s what the Anthony/Moog duo are providing to the world: their own interpretation and understanding of the Yijing.
A diligent student does not, however, relies on others to chew their food for them. Anthony and Moog certainly did not. The Yijing is a Chinese creation, as well as is their millennia worth of countless exegesis and philosophical interpretations, until Leibniz and his Jesuit pen-pals took a whiff of it. For anybody to point, or imply, that the Chinese are more “image” oriented than the rest of the world, as something of dubious value, while seemingly embracing one of their key gifts to the world, is an open invitation to a plethora of unflattering adjectives, not to mention exposing how far from understanding the classic they really are. The Yijing is all about images… I don’t care if the images came with the canonized version–which is the Yijing as we know it today, that is, the Zhouyi+The Ten Wings, for the uninformed–or if they are formed anew in our heads everytime we approach the Yijing: There’s no way to properly interpret the Yijing without comprehesively embracing the whole of its imagery.


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