Goddess, Love and the I Ching
By Tara Faulkner
I've been reading a great book this week entitled The I Ching of the Goddess by Barbara G. Walker (which I also discuss in my piece The Prehistoric Origins of the I Ching). Walker has written several books on religion, cultural anthropology, spirituality and mythology from the standpoint of neolithic matriarchal societies, including one on the secrets of the Tarot. I have been consistently impressed with her ability to sift through seemingly disparate historic and prehistoric fragments in order to find the threads that lead to the Goddess of the ancient world. In her most recent book she does it again with her analysis of the matriarchal origins of the I Ching's hexagram symbols, in particular.
Here's what she has to say on that subject: A true hexagram is not an arrangement of six parallel lines as we see in the version of the I Ching that has survived to the present time. Instead, it is a geometric figure composed of two interlocking triangles; in other words, the six-pointed star which has been found in Neolithic iconography throughout the world. Walker argues that the three solid (male) and three broken (female) lines of the I Ching's hexagrams derive from this ancient matriarchal source.
According to Walker, the earliest symbol for divinity was a downward-pointing triangle which represented the vulva, the feminine principle, in general, and the Great Mother Goddess. This primordial female triangle became a six-pointed star representing the sacred union of masculine and feminine in eight steps as follows:
- At first and for a long time there was only the Goddess, complete within herself and in an unformed state, represented by the downward-pointing triangle.
- Eventually, a spark of life burst forth within the core of the Goddess, represented by a dot at the center of the triangle.
- The dot grew and became a separate being, a God, still completely enveloped within the body of the Goddess, represented by a small upward-pointing triangle.
- The God grew until he broke through the boundaries of the Goddess and was born, represented by a medium-sized, upward-pointing triangle superimposed upon the larger downward-pointing one. At this highly significant moment of birth, the male diety was depicted as three solid lines, while the female deity was depicted as three broken lines. Walker believes this design was taken apart and its components used as trigrams and hexagrams in the I Ching. Such extreme abstraction of the original male-female symbolism would be indicative of an intensely patriarchal society, in her view.
- Male and female triangles, once separated, came together again in the ancient symbol of two triangles touching at their apex. The female triangle above took on the aspect of a nourishing breast, while the male triangle below received her nourishment.
- Next, the triangles slightly penetrate one another, representing a sense of intermingling, “like the pouring of water into water.”
- When the two triangles penetrate each other to the farthest boundaries, a diamond is formed, flanked by four new triangles, representing the four elements, the four directions and the four corners of the earth.
- Finally, the ultimate penetration is shown by the hexagram. Male and female triangles extend out beyond each other's boundaries becoming ONE in six-fold symmetry. This is the ultimate symbol for the sacred union of masculine and feminine.
Another great book on a related subject is Carol K. Anthony's Love, an Inner Connection: Based on Principles Drawn from the I Ching. Like Walker, Anthony finds an inherent contradiction in the I Ching as it exists today, due to is matriarchal origins and sensibilities overlaid with a uniquely Confucian brand of patriarchy. Like any anthropologist of the soul, she digs deep into the 64 hexagrams and their changing lines, finding shining remnants of the early I Ching related to the topic of love in all its permutations. In fact, she argues that if one learns to read between the lines of the extensive, Confucian-based commentaries, it becomes clear that the I Ching is “entirely about love.” Its first two hexagrams represent the primal forces of the masculine (yang) and feminine (yin) principles, after all, and the harmonious relationship between these two elements serves as its philosophical underpinning. The ubiquitous yin/yang symbol, well-known throughout the world, shows them in sublime, complementary embrace: “wholly equal, interdependent and interactive.” In fact, in my opinion, it's not too far a stretch to surmise that this symbol derives from the six-pointed star, or hexagram, spinning rapidly, perhaps even at the speed of light/love!When you really stop to consider what the so-called “primitives” of our ancient past were up to, you have to admit that characterization doesn't holds up under close scrutiny. Who, exactly, were/are the primitives: them or us? It depends on the criteria by which we make the evaluation. Five thousand years after the fact, quantum physics is just beginning to scratch the surface of what was known to the mystics and shaman of the ancient world. It turns out that the ultimate scientific instrument may just be the human Mind (not to be confused with the intellect) turned inward, and that Mind, thankfully, is available to each of us, anytime, anyplace, free of charge. Everything we need to know about love and the sacred marriage of our inner male/female selves can be know by careful contemplation of the raw data, including especially the emotional data, of our lives. This is the essential message of the I Ching.