Changes.

At the end of the 1960s, and the mystical hippie dawning of the Aquarius age, we were all Still searching for meaning.

The big four philosophers when I was 18 were Hesse, Vonnegut, Brautigan and Tolkien.

Of course I read other influential writers, but at the time I really believed everything I needed to know about being a decent human being was in the works of those four, though it took me another 50 years to really begin to understand why.

There was another influential book I encountered.

In the course of exploring the world I came upon the I Ching. inevitably. It had a great deal of credibility amongst the hippies of my generation. Of course I looked into it. I still have, in my lock-up in New Zealand, a beautiful translation from Chinese through German to English, of the I Ching by Richard Wilhelm.

Yarrow sticks were hard to come by where I grew up, but I was a numismatist, and had in my collection several of those fascinating old Chinese coins with square holes. It seemed appropriate to use them. Having designated which side was heads and which was tails, I had a culturally acceptable method of obtaining a randomly generated hexagram, in accordance with the instructions accompanying the book.

My youthful, hopeful self was quite surprised to find how seemingly accurate and appropriate was the advice I gleaned from the wise words of the Tao. The last remnants of my Roman Catholic superstition we’re slowly fading at the time (now only the guilt remains) and I could possibly have easily fallen into the woo mentally of believing some spiritual power, something beyond myself, was guiding me, through the words of the book.

But I read something – I don’t recall exactly where – some scientific article, perhaps, that said our brains were hard-wired to look for patterns. We look for visual patterns, such as potentially threatening animal or human shapes hiding in the trees, and we look for patterns of events and try to make some sense, often wrong, of the coincidences and causality.

The evolutionary advantage of this pattern recognition behaviour is in the significance of the value of the false positive over the false negative.

If I see what looks like a lion lurking in the bushes, and run, the likelihood of staying alive is increased, whether it is a real or imagined lion. If I decide it’s a trick of the light, and ignore it, my chances of survival are decreased if I am wrong.

The same principle applies if we recognise a pattern of events that seem to coincide. Should it rain enough times after we ask nature politely for a shower to water the crop, we may come to believe that asking causes rain.

The downside of this, is that as there is, or was, an evolutionary advantage to being superstitious. We suffered from pareidolia. It became an affliction. We came to see those shapes and faces in the bark of trees, as beings, and ascribed to them powers and motives. We recognised patterns of events, some like the celestial movements, or the seasons, quite real. Then some smart arse recognised the patterns of our own behaviour, saw an opportunity for power and put himself forward as an intermediary between the common people and the spiritual world. And we got religion.

But I digress. I was speaking of the I Ching. I recognised that my brain was looking for patterns in the events of my own life. I was taking the words from an ancient book written in Chinese, translate first to German then to English, and gleaning valuable meaning from them. But this was not superstition. The advice the book was giving me was good. Why? Because it was written in such a way that it was inevitable that the reader would apply the general advice in such a way that it would most benefit him. Because the Tau was the way of the upright, it had to be good advice. For a few formative years the I Ching helped me make decisions that brought me to where I am now. I have few regrets.

These musings were inspired by coming upon this following little piece in one of the philosophical emails that turn up in my in-box from time to time.

After a few more hours swimming up and down the Bribie Island pool, I may have more to write on the subject.

The following is borrowed from Psychology Today.

Impact of the I Ching on Carl G. Jung & its implications

Jung, Taoist psychology, and cross-cultural communications

Posted Mar 01, 2017 

Although research has examined how world cultures (e.g., independent vs. interdependent ones) each uniquely shaped psychological experiences, few investigations focus on how cultures influence one another in the psychological domains. This issue is important, because cross-cultural information and knowledge exchange, contacts, and influences, though moderate in the past, have transformed all cultures, including the field of psychology. For example, Taoist psychology is one of the main cultural inspirations for Jungian psychology.

In May 1930, Jung gave the Eulogy at a memorial service in Munich for Richard Wilhelm. Jung integrated the Eastern philosophy into his principles of psychotherapy and human psyche through his study of Richard Wilhelm’s translations of I Ching (The Book of Changes), The Secret of the Golden Flower, and their frequent interactions that lasted from the early 1920’s until Wilhelm’s death in 1930 (Goulding, 2015; Karcher, 1999; Stein, 2005).

Jung said that Wilhelm “inoculated us with the living germ of the Chinese spirit and we found ourselves partaking of the spirit of the East as we experience the living power of the I Ching. It is capable of working a profound transformation of our thought.” Jung said that Wilhelm’s work was of such immense importance to him because it confirmed what he had been seeking in his efforts to alleviate the psychic suffering of Europeans. The book was both a carrier of human experience and a door to the energy of the archetypes. “I heard from him in clear language the things I had dimly divined in the confusion of the European subconscious. I received more from him than from any other man” (cited in Karcher, 1999; also see Goulding, 2015; Stein, 2005).

Jung expressed his deep gratitude for what he received from Wilhelm, because through his translations and teaching, Taoist psychology influenced Jung’s theoretical frameworks by facilitating the formation of his chief conceptions: synchronicity and individuation, in addition to confirming his views about the unconscious and nonlinear or circular psychological development for adult (Goulding, 2015; Karcher, 1999; Stein, 2005).

Jung’s comprehension of Tao is much deeper than the conventional translation “the way.” As he commented, Tao is the interaction between the mind and reality. The essential Taoist idea in I Ching suggests that all of the ingredients make up the observed moment. Understanding human experiences involves recognizing a special interdependence of objective events among themselves, as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers (Jung, 1967). In other words, according to I Ching, psychological experiences are determined by the interaction of the mind, time, space, situations, and action or non-action. The mind and reality interaction, rather than being an isolated or independent event, symbolically represents the person’s dialogue with a broad reality transcending a specific moment and space. It is the interactions that serve as the parameter for deciphering psychological experiences.

In short, Jung’s achievements in integrating the East and West demonstrate that psychological phenomena and principles are both cultural and universal.

References:

Goulding, J. (2015). The forgotten Frankfurt school: Richard Wilhelm’s China Institute. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 41:1-2 (March–June 2014) 170–186

Jung, C. G. (1967). Foreword. In The I Ching or Book of changes (C. F. Baynes, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Karcher, S. (1999). Jung, the Tao and the Classic of Change. Journal of Religion and Health, 38, 287-304.

Stein, M. (2005). Some reflections on the influence of Chinese thought on Jung and his  psychological theory. The Journal of Analytical Psychology, 50(2), 209-222. doi:10.1111/j.0021-8774.2005.00524

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MSG

Monosodium Glutamate, or MSG, has had a bad rap. There is no such thing as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. No one has ever been able to reproduce it, or to explain a physiological mechanism for it. People who claim to be allergic to MSG, putting it plainly, aren’t. If they were they’d be allergic to mushrooms, soy sauce, Parmesan cheese AND tomatoes. All of these are naturally rich in glutamate. There is no Italian Restaurant Syndrome either. Obviously.

I have known this for a long time, and I’ve never been concerned about whether there was MSG in my food. These days however, there rarely is, all because of a myth. I can’t even find it in a supermarket any more, though I have tracked it down on line. So someone is still using it.

This became of interest, even of importance to me when my friend Bob commented on my post in which I talked about reducing my sodium intake for the sake of my failing kidneys. A quick check with a reputable source of scientific information confirmed that, as Bob had suggested, MSG will enhance the flavour of food significantly better than salt while contributing to the diet only 40% of the sodium that salt does.

Worth knowing. It may well be that salt is not the bad guy it is made out to be either, when it comes to blood pressure and heart attacks. A study a few years ago suggested that people tend to self regulate their salt intake, and though its consumption is higher in some societies than others, there is not much correlation between sodium intake and BP and heart conditions.

Be that as it may, it IS a known factor in chronic kidney disease.

While on the subject of food myths, let’s pop a few others;

Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. This belief was generated by Mr Kellog, who wanted young men to stop wanking.

There is nothing scary or dangerous about GMOs. All our fruit and vegetables as well as our livestock are genetically modified. That is what evolution is. Modern science has just found a way to speed up the process and guide its direction.

There’s no such thing as a superfood. No discussion necessary. Good food is the basis of good health, it is not medicine. Though some foods have medicinal properties, they are not medicines because there is no way to know or standardise the concentration of active ingredient without processing and analysis. This is why most medicines and supplements are synthesised rather than extracted.

The body cannot distinguish between synthetic or natural substances. They are chemically identical and metabolised in exactly the same way. This means that the vitamin C in Berocca is as good as what is in an orange.

This principle also means there is no “good” sugar and no “bad” sugar. No “natural”or “organic” sugar. There is just sugar. The only bad thing about sugar is in the amount eaten. The poison is in the dose. Any diabetic knows that starch is metabolised into sugars. The important factor here is the rate of conversion, which is why complex carbohydrates are better for you.

Fats and oils, however, are chemically different, and are metabolised differently. So there are good fats and bad fats.

Lastly, and I speak from both expertise and experience, the only diet that ever works for weight loss is one in which the amount of energy, measured in Calories or kilojoules, that is taken in by way of food and drink, is exceeded by the energy burned in normal metabolism, activities and exercise. To gain weight, reverse the balance of the equation.

A healthy diet is one that contains all the components, in the proper overall proportion, for maintaining a healthy metabolism; protein, fat, fuel in the form of carbohydrate and sugar, vitamins and minerals. And don’t forget fibre to keep it all moving, and water!

Carob

19th-century British chemists sold carob pods to singers. Chewing on carob pods helped singers maintain healthy vocal cords and soothe and cleanse their throat.

Carob was valued as a cheaper substitute for cocoa, as it came from the Mediterranean rather than all the way from South America. In the great cocoa shortage of 1887 demand for carob soared. Fleets of ships were sent to Greece and neighbouring countries to fill their holds with the now increasingly valuable commodity. Demand was so high that corsairs from Algiers set out to intercept the ships and steal their cargo, which they sold in Spain.

These were the first Pirates of the Carob Bean.

Cragh

The Crow was reading poems aloud

From an ancient vellum manuscript

I strained to hear but could not parse,

Because of his strange accent, the words

– Which all sounded like “cragh!” –

I figured he was Irish.

Tuhua

The trail leads up a bush-clad mountainside
Singing with birds, redolent with earthy attar
Rustling with hidden afternoon activity.
I catch an occasional glimpse
Of furtive feathered ground dwellers
And fleeing lizards.

The path is rough; rock and root-strewn
I need my stick to steady my steps
The summit touches the sky, above the highest trees
Which are shrouded in evening mist that washes
In slow floating waves as on a time lapse shore
Branches reaching out like dark coral rock.

Above the washing white tide
Here at sunset, I made my camp
With one desire;
To sleep, and awake at dawn
To the bellbirds’ famed chorus.

The morning came bright
The birdsong, sublime under a clear sky, echoed.
The island below me a taonga of poenamo
Set in lapiz: Around my camp
Came curious weka
Enquiring after crumbs from breakfast.

On my descent I followed no path.
I had set my course on line of sight
Towards the green and black lakes
And beyond, to the obsidian cliffs
My second objective.
Though taking the obsidian is forbidden
I had set my heart on finding a piece
Suitable to nap a knife.

The going was slow. The bush impeding.
I came upon a place of silence
No birdsong, no rustling in the undergrowth
Eerie. The nape of my neck tingled
I fell into a hole
Unhurt I climbed out
And saw the overgrown hole was regular, square
And there were more; many more, man made
It was a place where people had once dwelt.
Lived and died.
I moved on as swiftly as I could

One lake was black, one algal green
I cooled myself but did not drink
I had a feeling Lethe might live within
At the foot of the cliffs I found
Tumbled shards of shining atramentous
The volcanic glass I coveted.
I took some; perhaps there and then
Began the curse that follows me yet.

I cannot return the tuhua; I no longer have it
I left it somewhere, some time, I don’t recall.
It is lost. It does not matter.

 
© 2019 ARF

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Lofty Purpose

Once, with lofty purpose, I set out
Of a mind, and with a will, to conquer
I saw the world with scientific eyes
And shunned the superstition and the lies
That I learned from the pulpit and the cassock.

In the real world that I found awaiting
The simplest task was fraught with ignorance
Of those whose fears and faiths, irrational
Denied the possibilities of science
Demanding asservation of the unknowable.

Unprovable tales; Insane conspiracy
Demands that I Believe a Prayer
Offered to some omniscient being
Who until that moment unaware
Of my desires, might choose
To grant or deny, by chance alone, at whim.
And yet ignore the needs of millions.

Thus, and thusly, I cannot feel reverent
To your Lord of superstitions and of lies.
Vonnegut was right
The God of the Utterly Indifferent
Has no interest in his creation.

© 2019 ARF

Crow

I talk to the birds;
None but one stay
To hear.

Only Crow listens
He Carries my words away.
He is wise and he knows
A word is a seed,
and a seed grows.

Into the forest
He takes it
To bury it deep
by the roots of The Hazel Tree.

He takes my words
to plant for me
Where they might flourish.

© 2019 ARF