Difficulties of the classical study

Published: Tuesday, 9 October 2012
Updated: Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The original texts, which are many thousands years old, can embarrass a modern reader for several reasons.

  • Sexism

    In the ancient texts, the woman is presented as inferior to the man. It is not only false but can also prevent understanding, because the readings are not related to the gender.

  • Rejection

    Confucius liked to speak about the superior man, which works on himself in order to improve. In the classical I Ching, there are several references to the superior man and to the inferior man. But if these notions are useful in order to reform oneself, they become really harmful when they are applied to others. Vulgarity and nobility match situations and are not labels that can be sticked onto other people. One of our friends which was acting like a common man can prove to be a noble man a moment later.

  • Fortune and Misfortune

    The signal words Fortune and Misfortune which are often found in the classical text are exaggerated. The harsher judgments can prove to be very useful if their unfavorable aspect is abandoned. Furthermore, Fortune contradicts the first line of the hexagram 16 and Misfortune the fifth line of the hexagram 58 (see further for the coherence).

  • The subject

    The I Ching classical text sometimes uses the singular first person and sometimes the second or the third person. But the objective situation will determine who or what the hexagram or the line matches.

  • Coherence

    The advices from the I Ching should apply to the comments themselves. As we have already seen, speaking about misfortune contradicts the comment of the fifth line of the hexagram 58 which says (in the original text) that sincerity toward disintegrating influences is dangerous. Therefore the difficulty of understanding the hexagrams and the lines is raised.

  • Lost meaning

    Some line comments are unclear because their meaning has been lost. The name of some hexagrams is also poorly understood (for example the hexagram 61 is called in Richard Wilhelm's book Inner Truth and really means Immobilized). This is the reason why the oracle is sometimes perfectly understood, and sometimes totally misunderstood, which has unfortunately led to many dropouts amongst the I Ching students.