Prehistoric Origins of the I Ching
By Tara Faulkner
I had originally titled this piece The History of the I Ching, but as I immersed myself in the subject matter, it became frustratingly clear that the true origins of the I Ching reside in the vagaries of the prehistoric world. Consequently, the most interesting part of the story took place long before anyone had the means to write it down. So, to get to the heart of the matter, it becomes necessary to play detective and follow the trail of one's intuitive knowing, ironically, the very thing the I Ching was designed to assist one in doing.
Theories abound, some academic, some mythological, most of them ultimately unsatisfying. The typical academic view is that the I Ching probably developed out of earlier methods of tortoise shell and ox shoulder-bone divination, whereby a red-hot poker was applied to a bone or shell and the random pattern of cracks examined by priests who deduced its meaning.
The typical mythological view attributes the authorship of the I Ching to China's first emperor, a god-like figure, half man, half dragon, who went by the name Fu Hsi and is said to have lived about 5,000 years ago. One day, according to legend, he saw a dragon-horse rise from the Yellow River. On it's side were markings which inspired the earliest version of the I Ching. Almost 2,000 years later, significant changes were made to the original I Ching by King Wen of Zhou. Invited to the capital under false pretenses, he was imprisoned by the emperor for a period of seven years, where he languished awaiting a death sentence. During his imprisonment, King Wen studied the I Ching. He rearranged the 64 hexagrams in an order which appears somewhat arbitrary, given its original binary sequencing, and then wrote extensive commentaries on each of the hexagrams.
John Major Jenkins work, in his books Galactic Alignment and Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, indirectly sheds some light on the question of the prehistoric origins of the I Ching. He makes the very provocative assertion that the civilizations of the ancient world were oriented around the center of the galaxy, and, furthermore, that there was widespread recognition that alignments to the galactic center periodically occurred and that these alignments offered spiritual renewal for humanity.
Jenkins describes the overriding philosophy of the ancient world as one of unceasing change:
...an insight into the nature of time and reality, such that the world is perceived to periodically renew itself. This insight, which also applies to the ups and downs of human civilization, is derived from observing nature. Nature is filled with affirmations about the cycles of time. The seasons wax and wane throughout the year. Birth, growth, death, and rebirth occur in unending cycles. Likewise, long range chapters in human development give way, during brief periods of intense change, to a new 'era' or 'age'...
John Lamb Lash, in his book about the ancient, pre-patriarchal world, Not in His Image, adds another piece to the puzzle, noting that much has been made of the fact that the 64 unit code of human DNA occurs in the I Ching, indicating that the ancients had direct knowledge of the structure of life down to the molecular level. According to Lash, this is because infrasensory perception at the molecular level, or “microscopic vision,” was common among accomplished yogis of Asia, and, indeed, the entire ancient world.
The mystery of the true origins of the I Ching was ultimately solved to my satisfaction with the final pieces of the story provided inBarbara Walker's The I Ching of the Goddess. Walker laments the fact that the perfectly elegant and symmetrical binary code of the original I Ching was broken up by the King Wen version 3,000 years ago, arguing that this may well have been done as part of a general pattern of “Confucian confusion” at that time, amounting to an attack on every aspect of the earlier matriarchal culture that revered women and the feminine principle.
She asserts that Fu Hsi, the mythic figure credited with creating the earliest version of the I Ching, was an early god of the cultural-hero type who was coupled with the universal Muse, the Goddess of Creation, Nu Kua. Like many other primal Goddesses, according to Walker, Nu Kua stood for the Cosmic Water Womb associated with the Milky Way where the center of the galaxy is located. And, like cultural-hero type gods in all ancient civilizations:
As an oracle for propping up patriarchal rulers, the King Wen version of the I Ching reveals a status-conscious concern for “firmness” and “correctness.” Between the lines, Walker detects an anxiety to please and imagines “the worried frowns of the king's official diviners, striving never to give the “great man” any offense, even when prospects look dim.” The former, matriarchal concept of equality in cyclical duality has, unfortunately, been obscured, though not entirely lost. (See The Goddess, Love and the I Ching for more information.)
[Fu Hsi] was credited with inspiration from the Goddess who embodied life-giving intelligence and understanding, the primary I-dea, meaning “Goddess within.” Ancient scriptures said nothing could be accomplished by any god without the spirit of the Goddess. Whether she was called Minerva, Athene, Neith, Maat, Isis, Carmenta, Kali-Maya, Shakti, Idun, Hokmah, Shekina or Sophia, she supplied the essential wisdom of all father gods, including even Jehovah himself...