Sunday, April 18, 2021

The most important book I will ever read

I have kept a dream journal for many decades and I know it is the most important book  that I will ever read. I say this as a voracious reader with a personal library of nearly 14,000 books.
    My journal is my personal encyclopedia of symbols. It is my user's manual for living a fruitful life and choosing wisely between alternate possible futures that my traveling self visits every night. It is my scientific data log for incidents of precognition, telepathy and clairsentience, and for transpersonal experiences in which, for example, two or more people are engaged in the same dream activities. It is my atlas of the multiverse, my magical diary and the core of my personal mythology. It commemorates the nightly screening of gods, archetypes and daimones.
     It is starter dough for creative expression. It is the first and sometimes the best draft of pages that will appear in my books or be shared as stories in my lectures and classes. It is a book of clues, full of curious words and intriguing details that will send me off on research assignments.   

    Dreaming is not fundamentally about what happens during sleep; it is about waking up to a deeper order of reality. So my journal not only contains reports from sleep dreams, but also from shamanic journeys and special moments of synchronicity when we become vividly aware that ordinary life may be a waking dream. I take particular care to record the impressions that come in the liminal space between sleep and awake. The most important spiritual dialogues of my life have unfolded from contact with inner guides who communicate in this space, and some of my most thrilling adventures in lucid dream travel have taken off from here. 
     My journal reveals continuous lives that I seem to be leading in parallel worlds where I made different life choices. It shows me threads of connection between my present dramas and those of counterpart personalities living in other places and times, and helps me to pull gently on the web, to bind or release. My journal holds up a magic mirror to my attitudes and actions, offering course correction and restoring my inner compassIt helps me to track my progress in the practice of continuity of consciousness. This involves retaining witness perspective and awareness of choice in two or more realities simultaneously, as you cycle through states of sleep, dream, sleep-wake, waking dream and more.
     I may write my first reports of the day with a pencil or a fountain pen, in a beautiful bound journal with archival quality paper that invites me to sketch and to color as well. As soon as possible, however, I'll transcribe my reports into a digital data base. I date and title each report, so I have an instant chronological index. Saving my documents in Word gives me a search engine so if I want to track a theme or a name over all the years - "black dog", "Mircea Eliade", "HG" [hypnagogic] - all I have to do is type it in the box and all the relevant entries are there before me.
     No doubt everything is recorded somewhere - more likely in nonlocal mind than the basement of the personal subconscious - but it is essential (and can be wonderful creative fun) to develop searchable logs of this kind over time. They become the most important scientific data (in the sense of state-specific science, adequate to the field under investigation) in this area that we will ever attain.
     How much to record? My feelings will guide me on the urgency and importance of a dream - and indeed of whatever enter my field of perception - and how much detail I should include in my journal reports. On most days, I don't try record everything I remember from my dreams, just as I don't write down what I ate for breakfast or how many times my dog relieved himself in the park. A map as big as a country is no longer a map, as in the Borges story.
     There are limits to how much even the most dedicated dream journal-keeper can bring back from a night in the multiverse. On some days, my inner guidance is to write down whatever I remember as soon as possible, and let further writing and pattern recognition emerge as I do that. This works really well when I start by drawing something from the dream. On other days, my guidance is to forego journaling altogether in favor of simply writing with the energy and elements my dreams and hypnagogic experiences have given me.
    Some of the things that happen in Dreamland and stay in Dreamland have enduring effects even when we are amnesiac about what happened. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Stamp of reality


 "Where have you been?" He glares at me, hurt and angry. How could I have missed the big event? He slew or tamed the monster - I missed the story - just before his 12th birthday. As everyone knows this is the very best time for adventures of initiation. His birthday party became a public triumph. I can see the evidence in ribbons and exploded fireworks in the square.

How can I explain to him that we don't live in the same country? I only visit in dreams and miss out on the action when I'm away. If I tell him this he will think I am crazy, just as people in the country where I will record this over coffee will think me mad if I tell them that I travel to a land where hydras and dragons are as real as traffic lights and Ubers.
I mutter something like, "I had business on a far island. I sailed on a two-masted schooner."
I give him a postage stamp with a picture of a two-masted schooner. It slipped out of the pages of a French novel overnight. He is mollified. What boy does not love stamps from far places? Uh-oh.There is a discrepancy. The schooner in the picture is three-masted. But in the world of the novel from which it sailed, with no need of an outer wind, it is une goélette à deux mâts. Two-masted. This is important. The author inists on it again and again. Perhaps the boy won't notice. However,it is precisely the kind of thing that won't pass the scrutiny of a 12-year-old with a love of adventure.


If you are curious about the back story of the French novel that came to me via a friend's dream, you will find it here. What I have shared on this page is of course a jeu d'esprit. However, I did meet that boy monster slayer in a dream before dawm today. Embarrassed by the difficulty of explaining that I don't live in his country all the time, I did reach to the novel (L'agent de change by Jacques Bellefroid) to fumble an answer to his question.

I was reading the French novel in the early hours, my favorite time for intimacy with books. When I turned in at 4:00 a.m., the narrator had not yet realized that the unusual postage stamp commemorates Joseph Conrad (born Józef Korzeniowski). Conrad became a master of English prose despite that fact that English was  not only not his native tongue but, as I recall, the third language he learned.

Lady of Crossroads


As I drifted in the liminal state between sleep and awake, I imagned myself entering the great temple at Eleusis. I was received by a priestess wearing a gold bee with outspread wings at her throat.

I asked to meet the deity who would appear to me at the climax of the Mysteries. She was scary to begin with. There was something like an immense cobweb that parted, and snakes, and a dark bird rushed from her eyes. She seemed to have owl eyes in the lined and craggy face of a crone.

Then the old woman’s face rippled like muslin curtain, and I saw her three-formed, all three bodies and faces beautiful. The central one facing me was that of a mature woman, the ones on either side looked younger. They were conjoined, not stuck together, vibrating in constant movement, capable of taking other forms but content to present themselves in the most lovely shapes for now. A reward for the initiate who finds the courage to part the veil, to come and go from the Underworld at will. No doubt about it: This is Hekate time. 

I reflected on offerings made to Hekate in ancient times. Food for sure: raw eggs, olive oil, honey, bread and cakes, beer. Since juniper is one of her special trees (small figures of Hekate were often carved from juniper) gin would be a modern addition.Neo pagans offer food from the meal they prepare each month at the dark of the moon, before or after the mortals eat.     

Hekate is Lady of Crossroads. She is also called Apotropaia (The One Who Turns Away Evil) and Enodia (In the Road) and the Key Holder.She is not only the Lady of Crossroads to be invoked when you are traveling this world or between the worlds. She is threshold guardian. The Greeks put little statues or emblems of Hekate at their doors. In Miletus these were small stone cubes,or wreaths. Larger temples might have little shrines to Hekate just inside their gates. 

Pausanias in his Description of Greece (5th century bce) wrote that "Of the gods, the Aeginetans worship most Hecate, in whose honor every year they celebrate mystic rites which, they say, Orpheus the Thracian established among them. Within the enclosure is a temple; its wooden image is the work of Myron, and it has one face and one body. It was Alcamenes, in my opinion, who first made three images of Hecate attached to one another, a figure called by the Athenians Epipurgidia (on the Tower); it stands beside the temple of the Wingless Victory." [2.30.2] 

Her reputation was darkened and demonized especially after the Church took on the old gods. But the darkening is also the work of dark sorcerers who called on her for low goetic workings  I think of the horrid bestial sculptures of Hekate I saw during a visit to the dusty old archaeology museum in Constanța on the Black Sea coast of Romania. Then known as Tomis, this was the place of exile of the Roman poetyOvid, the great scholar of shapeshifting.

Among Hekate's animals and avatars: 

Screech Owl (she sees better at night)

Raven and dark birds

Wolf

Goat 

Fox (I am sure though I do not see it in the references)

Black dog. One of her Greek titles is Black Bitch, something we would be prudent not to say in English. Cautious translators sometimes call her the autiously render this as Black She Dog. Since I have lived with black dogs most of my life, Hekate is no stranger.

Her role in the Persephone story: she is the one who hears Kore’s cry and helps Demeter in her search. In some of the ancient art, Hekate is with Hermes when he guides Persephone up from the Underworld, holding torches. 

Let us note that Hekate enters literature, around 700 bce in Hesiod's Theogony, as a Great Goddess who is not yet deparmentalized. Hesiod speaks of "Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honored above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honor also in starry heaven, and is honored exceedingly by the deathless gods. For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favor according to custom, he calls upon Hecate. Great honor comes full easily to him whose prayers the goddess receives favorably, and she bestows wealth upon him; for the power surely is with her.

She was worshipped in this way into much later times in Caria in what is now southwest Turkey.Around 125 bce the people of Lagina built a monumentak temple for her where she was honored with lavish animal sacrifices.She was revered not only as a cthonic deity but as city protector, rather like Athena in Athens. The Carians put her image on their coins, just as Athenians put their goddess and her owl on their silver tetradrachmas. Rites of Hekate in Caria included the Procession of the Key. The daughter of the priest of Hecate carried the key from Lagina to the larger city of Stratonikeia,10 km away, where the goddess was honored with animal sacrifice. Then the key-bearer and her retinue traveled back to the temple. [*] 

* Amanda Herring, “Reconstructing the Sacred Experience at the Sanctuary of Hekate at Lagina”in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (2020) 79 (3): 247–263.


On the Trail of My Bookish Dream Double


I am constantly tryng to keep up with my traveling dream self. A friend in Europe recently reported a dream in which he visited a Paris bookshop and leafed through an interesting novel about dreams and reality titled L'agent de change. He left the bookstore without purchasing the book. When he mentioned this to my double, in his dream, Dream Robert reprimanded him for not buying the book.

After waking, he went online and discovered that there is a novel called L'agent de change with similar content to the one he looked over in his dream. The author is a veteran French writer with an interesting name, Jacques Bellefroid ("Beautiful Cold").

Well, of course I could not refuse a book recommendation from my dream self. I ordered the novel and it arrived today. There is a mystery involving a tiny picture of a schooner (goélette) on a postage stamp that starts sailing on a lively sea when the narrator looks at it. The writing is spare and crisp and doesn't make me go to the dictionary often. So I'll add it to my current reading. I smiled when I came to these lines:
On me dit que les écrivains ont peur de la page blanche. Grâce à Dieu, je ne suis pas écrivain
"I am told that writers are scared of the blank page. Thank God I am not a writer."
Agent de change means "stockbroker" in French, and that is the narrator's profession. He thinks his job requires him to "trust in only quantifiable things that keep him at a distance from dreams and surprises ". We can be sure the author was conscious of the double entendre in his title.
Everything changes in the stockbroker's perception of reality when he sees and feels the spray bursting over the stem of the two-masted schooner in the ocean of a postage stamp he was given by his wife, who sees nothing except a pretty picture.


Reading in Dreams: Don't trust any of those dream researchers who tell you that you can't read in dreams. Nonsense. I read as much in my dreams as in regular life, that is to say, enormously. While I may sometimes bring back only a few lines or just a title (of books that may or may not exist in regular life) I can sometimes bring through several pages. My friend was reading, too, in that Paris bookshop,and brought back a title and a summary of content.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Ariadne and the Moon Bull that Came to My Town

 


A dream shows me how to craft a new group shamanic journey into mythic territory in quest of the Minotaur. Then the Minotaur turns up, thirty feet tall, on a building haf a mile from my house in a little rustbelt city in the Northeast United States.

Like the Great Goddess,a myth we can live by may turn any one of a thousand faces to us. Sometimes they shine on us in dreams, as in  a dream I recorded on May 13,2018. Here is my unedited journal report:
Ariadne's Magic Ball
Overnight I led a workshop in which I guided eager participants on a new group journey modeled on the story of Ariadne's thread. The assignment was to find your way through a confusing maze to confront your own version of the Minotaur: the shape of the fear that prevents you from claiming your full creative gifts. I instructed the journeyers to take with them a magic ball of luminous thread. They would tie one end of the thread to the lintel at the entrance to the maze and then let the ball roll before them, guiding them to the place of encounter with the Beast. They would then follow the thread back, like Theseus the Minotaur-slayer.
Feelings: I came out of this dream cheerful and satisfied, also curious about the variation from the familiar story of Ariadne's thread,
Reality check and research: Ariadne's thread is usually described as something that will get you out of a hairy situation, rather than into it. I was excited to find that Robert Graves reports (in The Greek Myths) that Daedalus, the builder of the Cretan Labyrinth (actually more like a maze) gave Ariadne "a magic ball of thread" that would roll along winding ways to the place of the Minotaur. This is what she loaned to Theseus to get him to the "innermost room" of the Minotaur and back.
Dreaming with a myth: What was actually going on here? Is it possible the original reason for braving the labyrinth was not that you had been condemned as a blood offering to a monster,or called to a hero's quest to slay the monster,but invited to a place of initiation and union with the sacred?
Revisiting old sources, I was reminded that Minoan culture was Goddess-centered and that the hieros gamos (sacred marriage) between the Goddess and her Moon Bull consort was an essential rite. It has been suggested that the Goddess, embodied by her priestess, wore a cow mask and horns and that the King wore a bull mask and horns.
Was the place of the Minotaur (literally "Bull of Minos"; Minos means "Moon-being") a place of enactment of the sacred rite? Or an ordeal that must be survived to earn the right to enter the divine embrace? Was passage through the labyrinth (not the neat unicursal labyrinth of later churches but a wilderness of wandering ways) initiation in the deep womb of the Great Mother?
Has the simplified and familiar story of the hero killing the monster been overlaid on the more ancient Goddess story, and the Goddess reduced to a crazy queen and a girl with a crush on a strapping Greek?
"Without the names, the meaning of things is lost," wrote the great lexicographer Isadore of Seville,and that is especially true in threading this myth. When you know that the name Ariadne may be related to a Greek title of the Queen of the Underworld and may originally derive from a Sumerian name (Ariande) meaning “High Fruitful Mother of the Barley" you'll be freed from the notion that she is just a romantic girl with a useful ball of thread. 
When you learn that the name of Queen Pasiphae, mother of the Minoteur and his half-sister Ariadne, means "Shines on All" you might doubt those versions in which she is a cracked tauromaniac who has a wooden frame constructed so she can have sex with a very special bull by tricking him into thinking she was a cow  You may then be able to visualize ancient Minoans and Hellenes chortling over the rubes who bought an exoteric, literalistic telling of the Goddess's relations with the bull.
You'll find that boughs heavy with fruit were carried in rituals in her honor. She was worshipped as a goddess of the fertile earth, as well as the Underworld and the Moon, and was attributed the power to bring men inside the experience of women. In Cypriot rituals devoted to her, men simulated the pain of childbirth.
A ball of yarn is also called a clew. This, from Middle English, is the origin of our word "clue". Ariadne's clue can take you to a place of creative discovery,where you step beyond fear and blockage into the embrace of a greater power.
Let's hear from Joseph Campbell. Still writing in hero more than Goddess mode in The Power of Myth, he gives us further valid perspective:
“The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we thought to find an abomination we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another we shall shay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence."
If we find that we have to face a monster at the heart of the labyrinth, we may discover that the monster is no stranger, but a shadow self that must be recognized and integrated or overcome.
Men and women may have differing experiences of the Minotaur. A man man may be more inclined to fight,a woman more poised to gentle and heal and embrace. In his extraordinary short story "The House of Asterion", Jorge Luis Borges speaks in the voice of the Minotaur (one of whose Cretain names is Asterion) expressing his longing to be released from self-imposed isolation by the bronze sword of the hero.
Whatever we find at the heart of the labyrinth, let's be ready to recognize that what we feared as a monster may prove to be a teacher, as promised in the derivation of the word. Our word "monster" comes from the Latin monstrum, which means "portent" or "oracle" and is related to monstrator,or "teacher" and demonstrator, one who shows what we need to see. Threading the maze brings us to the center of the self, to what we need to confromt in order to release our full creative and erotic power, marry separated aspects of our energies, and embody the god/goddess of our greater nature.
Last week in my current online course Dreaming Your Mythic Life I invited participants to go on a group shamanic journey to thread the Labyrinth and meet the Minotaur. This went very deep and the journey reports shared later were amazing, turning the face of the myth in hundreds of fresh and original ways.


Then the Minotaur appeared, 30 feet tall, on the wall of a building half a mile from my home. We learned from a local news report that a downtown meadery called The Bull and Bee commissioned an artist to paint him. Unknown to me, this was accomplished in the dark the night before my class. The message, for me, is clear: when a mythic power comes after you, invoked or uninvoked, be ready for it to show up in the street.

Top image
The National Archaeological Museum of Spain in Madrid houses an Attic black-figure cup from around 515 bc with this painting ofthe Minotaur iniside. There are letters around the edge. start just before the Minotaur’s left foot and ead in a counter-clockwise direction and you will the Greek phrase, χω παις καλώς ho pais kalos, which translates as “I play well”. Maybe not would expect and a clue tyhat a sacred game is afoot. It may be a sexual come-on. Such cups were used in symposia where older and younger men and boys partied together.

Dreaming with the Bee Goddess in the Baltic


Safe in Honey

Warmed by the sun, amber quickens and streams,
remembering a golden world within wood.
A honey bee wakes in the dream of amber
and bursts from the yellow dome in its silver mount.

I track the bee to the old barn, paint-less and forgotten,
we had thought an abandoned wreck.
Something has been working here, unseen.
The barn is filled with sweetness. Honey drips from the rafters.
Soon I am drunk with abundance, giddy with joy.

The drone of the bees is a song, the chant of melissai.
I remember priestesses who bring the honey of the invisible
and always lead home to the bosom of the Great Mother.
With the song, a power is rising in the dark amber shadows.

I feel the heat of its quivering flanks.
Earth heaves with the stamping hooves;
its great windy mane drives a breeze through the still air.
It comes to me now, and I mount it with joy, safe in honey.


I rediscovered the text of this poem, composed in 2006. It revives my desire to learn more about the mysteries of the ancient Bee Goddess, the honeybee priestesses, and the connection between honey and amber. I look to the Baltic for the most reliable access to these things, because  the Bee Goddess (whose Lithuanian name is Austeja) is still known and revered there, and this is the source of the most precious amber, and because ancient and contemporary priestesses of this tradition have communicated with me directly when I have been in the Baltic lands. 

Austeja is a woman and a bee in one person. Her name melds the Lthuanian word for weave (austi, as in weaving linen) and for flying swiftly, or repeatedly closing and opening doors (austyi)

When you make offering to Austeja, you toss your drink up into the air.Mead is best, offered to Austeja at ceremonies related to marriage, pregnancy and christening – she is the protector of brides and pregnant women. Her holiday [Zoline] is in mid-August, when bees are very active in bringing in honey. At this time, honey is offered to Austeja, a gift of the goddess to the goddess.

Before honey is gathered from the hives, the beekeepers pray and make offerings, Such a gathering is called biciuliai (“fellow beekeepers”). The use of the word has been  broadened to mean "close friends".

Bees are not ordinary. The death of a human and the death of a bee is described with the same word – there is a different term for death in all other species.A dead bee is to be buried in the earth. You are supposed to watch your manners around bees; they understand human speech.

In The Civilization of the Goddess, Marija Gimbutas,the great Lithuanian-born scholar of the religions of Old Europe, wrote that bees are symbols of the Goddess as the power of regeneration. They "may represent the Goddess herself, or souls that leave the body at death or during dreams.” 


Art: "Path of Honey" by Robert Moss

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Way and the Changes

 


We find in China a word and a way of understanding synchronicity that are simple and profound. The word is Tao (also transliterated as Dao). It is sometimes translated as “way”, or the Way, which is good enough for me. If we are attuned to the Tao, then our ways are open.

    The Tao of Psychology, Jean Shinoda Bolen’s lively little book from 1979 is one of the very best expositions of the theory of synchronicity. She goes looking for an easier and more elegant way to explain the phenomenon Jung struggled to define. She found it waiting where it has been for thousands of years, in the Chinese understanding of the Tao, the Way that had no name but generates the ten thousand names. 

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.[1]

     As Bolen observed, “the Eastern mind has considered the underlying connection between ourselves and others, between ourselves and the universe, the essential reality and called in Tao.” [2]  The I Ching is a way of invoking the Tao; its first successful Western translator, Richard Wilhelm, decided that the best one-word translation of Tao is “meaning.”
     Jung’s thinking about synchronicity flowered when Richard Wilhelm sent him the text of an ancient Taoist treatise, The Secret of the Golden Flower, for which Jung wrote a preface. Wilhelm also introduced Jung to the Book of Changes, or I Ching, for which he provided the first translation that made the Chinese oracle accessible for Western readers as a divination system. Jung studied I Ching closely, and realized he was entering the mind of a culture for which synchronicity — as the Way and its Changes — was the fundamental law of life, and the preferred way of understanding what wants to happen in life.
     The dynamic interplay between yin and yang is at the heart of I Ching. It is the interplay between the receiving and the creating forces, between dark and light, between cool and warm, forever intermingled and turning into each other.
    The emergence of the I Ching is wrapped in legend and mystery. By tradition, it was the ancient Dragon Emperor, Fu Tsi, who “noticed” patterns in the cracks of turtle shells, and distinguished these patterns as the eight trigrams (pa kua) that are the root of I Ching. Then later the “King of Writing”, Wu Wen amplified the system into the 64 hexagrams and the Confucius ordered and numbered the arrangement.
     Archaeology suggests an evolution over some 4,000 years. Under the Shang dynasty, shamans read auguries in the cracks that appeared in the bones of animals offered as burned offerings. It was believed that as the appeals of humans traveled upward in the smoke, messages and warnings from higher powers came down. The relation between patterns of cracks and subsequent events was noted, and cracked bones were kept in pre-literate “archives”. Later turtle shells were substituted. They provided a larger surface, and their shape was thought to resemble the dome of heaven above and the square fields of earth below. With the coming of the bronze age, turtle shells were cracked with bronze pokers. Patterns corresponding to later events began to be marked with simple symbols, suggesting fire or flood. From these symbols, Chinese writing emerged. Under the Chou dynasty — before the supply of turtles was exhausted — shamans and diviners began to record the code of the I Ching on strips of bamboo, tied together with silk ribbons. And the first books of China emerged.
    The ancient method for casting the I Ching involves a fistful of dried yarrow stalks. The yarrow most valued for early divination as found growing on the graves of past teachers and masters of I Ching, including Confucius. Early translator James Legge reported seeing yarrow growing on the grave of Confucius. The Chinese still believe that when a good diviner in the right state of mind is doing his/her stuff, there is communication with the spirits, whether you are using yarrow stalks or coins or grains of rice, which my first teacher recommended, after lighting some incense.
    The Great Treatise (one of the earliest long commentaries on the I Ching) maintains that the I Ching contains "the measure of heaven and earth" — ie, it is a microcosm of the whole cosmic game — and that if we place ourselves in exactly the right point in its revolutions, we move in synchrony with the workings of the universe and can help to shape events on every scale through our conscious participation. The Great Treatise suggests that you not only learn to meet every event in the right way but may be privileged “to aid the gods in governing the world.”
    The I Ching hexagrams are stacks of six lines, broken or unbroken. Variations on a single binary code. The unbroken lines are yang, the broken ones are yin. One way to understand them is to see an unbroken line as a portal that is opening, and a broken one as a portal that is closing. Through this binary code, the Book of Changes reveals the interplay of three realms: the earthly, the human and the heavenly. The two lowest lines of the hexagram relate to the Earth realm, the middle lines to the human, and the upper pair to Heaven.
    You don’t use I Ching for fortune-telling. It’s not about seeing the future; it’s about seeing when and how to manifest your hopes and plans for the future, which is actually much more interesting. This is a tool for helping you to create the future you choose. You bring your clear intention — your project — and you ask for guidance on current conditions and the strategy to be followed. The I Ching does not bind you to any determinist scheme of things. It gives you a diagnosis of how things are, with the world and with you now, whether this is the right time to pursue a goal and what strategy you should follow.
     Since Jung’s death, we have had access to a manuscript of the Book of Changes that is more ancient than those available in his lifetime. It is a broken text, and therefore not useable — without creative addition or fabrication — as a full oracle. Nonetheless, it makes very exciting reading for those interested in the shamanic origins of the oracle and the different levels on which it registers and provokes synchronicity.
      The text dates from about 175 BCE. It was discovered in the tomb of a duke of the Han dynasty at Mawangdui that also contained the text of the Tao Te Ching, clearly placing this version of the Changes in the ancient Way. The ordering of the hexagrams in the Mawangdui version is quite different from that of the familiar Duke Wen arrangement used by Wilhelm and other translators. The two primal hexagrams have different and sexier names. Among the “appended statements” to the text, in Edward Shaughnessy’s translation, we find this: 

The sage…takes the real characteristics of all under heaven to their extremes and causes them to reside in the hexagrams; drums [emphasis added] the movements of all under heaven and causes them to reside in the statements; transforms and regulates them and causes them to reside in the alternations; pushes and puts them into motion and causes them to reside in the unity; makes them spiritual and transforms them and causes them to reside in his person; and plans and completes them…and causes them to reside in virtuous action.[3] 

     Inspired by this, when I led a course in I Ching, we drummed the binary code of the lines, changing and constant, yin and yang, on our single-headed frame drums, and pictured early diviners doing something similar.
     We drummed the six lines of the twentieth hexagram, which is called Watching and whose shape is that of a watchtower, the kind that Chinese armies placed along the borders. We saw how rising up through the lines of the hexagram is like climbing steps from the lowest level of an observation tower to the very top, from a place of limited or impeded vision to a space from which we could see, without restriction, across time and space.
     A great revelation came when we worked, with drumming and also with body movements, with the 61st hexagram, Wind on the Lake, called Zhong Fu, or Inner Truth. The hole in the center of the hexagram can be seen as the opening of the heart, and also as the unveiling of a window between worlds.
      In Philip K. Dick’s fascinating novel of alternate realities, The Man in the High Castle, the casting of this hexagram brings a shift between parallel worlds. In the main narrative, we are in a world where the Axis powers were the victors in World War II, and North America is divided between Japanese and German occupation armies and other entities. Yet a subversive work of fantasy is circulating, a story in which the Allies won the war and everything is different. When Juliana casts Zhong Fu for Abendsen in the last pages of The Man in the High Castle, he understands (if only for a moment) that the alternate reality he thought was fiction is true, the real world. We see the observer effect working on a human, and even global scale. If only for a shimmering moment, as the coins roll and settle, we glimpse how it may be possible to switch worlds.
     The way we see reality generates our experience of reality. A method of seeing like the I Ching can make us co-creators of our worlds. The Great Treatise suggests that through deep study of the Book of Changes we not only learn to meet every event in the right way but may be privileged “to aid the gods in governing the world.” [4] The Mawangdui text asserts that the Book of Changes “knows the reasons for light and dark” [5]. It “strengthens beings and fixes fate, taking pleasure in the way of all under heaven…This is why the sage uses it to penetrate the will of all under heaven.” [6]

References

1. Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching trans. Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English.
2. Jean Shinoda Bolen, The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self  (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982) xi 
3. 
Edward L. Shaughnessy (trans and ed) I Ching: The Classic of Changes. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1997) 203
4. Richard Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes, trans., The I Ching or Book of Changes (Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990) 294.
5. ibid, 191
6. ibid, 199



Text adapted from Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Graphic: The precursor to I Ching as China's main system of divination (besides dream interpretation) was the Shang dynasty system for reading the "oracle bones": shoulder bones of animals and the plastrons from turtle shells.