Monday 16 December 2019

Does the I Ching have a personality?

From a 1976 interview with Philip K Dick (Phil)

Phil: ...I wrote The Man In The High Castle with the I Ching.

Mike: You did?

Phil: Yeah, and I’ve been sorry ever since because when it came time to resolve the novel at the end, the I Ching didn’t know what to do. It got me through most of the book. 

Everytime they cast a hexagram I actually cast four of them and got something and assigned it to them and they proceeded on the basis of the advice given. Like when Juliana Frink decides to tell Abendsen that he’s about to be offed by an agent. I threw the coins and she got warning make known the truth to the court of the King great danger and so on. Someone comes up behind him and hits him with a club. That’s what she got. 

And so she did go warn Abendsen and if she’d got another hexagram I would not have had her go speak to Abendsen. But then when it came time to close down the novel the I Ching had no more to say. And so there’s no real ending on it. 

I like to regard it as an open ending. It will segue into a sequel sometime.

Mike: When you find somebody with the stomach to write one.

Phil: Yeah, or if the I Ching ever gets off its ass.

Mike: Do you go back from time to time and throw it to see if there is an ending to it or —

Phil: No, I don’t use the I Ching anymore. I’ll tell ya, the I Ching told me more lies than anybody else I’ve ever known. 

The I Ching has a personality and it’s very devious and very treacherous. And it feeds ya just what you want to hear. And it’s really spaced out and burned out more people than I would care to name.  

Like a friend is somebody who doesn’t tell you what you want to hear. A friend tells you what’s true. A toady is the old word for somebody who told you what you wanted to hear. The Kings all had their toadies around them who told them what they wanted to hear. The King said, am I the greatest King in the world? Yeah, you’re the greatest King in the world, yeah. 

Well, this is what the I Ching does. It tells you what you want to hear and it’s not a true friend. 

One time I really zapped it. I asked it if it was the devil. And it said yes. And then I asked it if it spoke for God, and it said no. It said I am a complete liar. I mean that was the interpretation. 

In other words I set it up. I set it up. I asked two questions simultaneously and it said I speak with forked tongue, is what it said. And then it said, oops, I didn’t mean to say that. But it had already –

Mike: Then you get a paradox.

Phil: Oh, I watched a girl do this to it once.

Mike: That’s the paradox. It’s lying when it says it’s lying.

Phil: It’s just full of, it’s a crock is what it is.


I bought a book about the I Ching back in... 1985 I think; and tried it a few times. But I never had any confidence in the results, never actually changed anything in my life as a consequence - never had any sense of a 'personality' at work.

Nowadays, I think (at a cultural level) divination does not work - I think that the 'evolution of human consciousness' has gone past that particular transitional phase when we were close enough to the gods that divination worked, but far enough away that we needed divination to know the gods' minds.

But of course specific individual persons may still find themselves at the transition phase where divination is both necessary and effective; and then such a person may find out the nature of who - among the gods and demons - is actually doing the divining for them.

Apparently, that what what happened to PKD.


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Paging Serhei...

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Have you read The Man in the High Castle? Does it read as it had been dictated by a devil?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Wm - I read it c35 years ago, but it didn't make much impact - not bad, but I recall I found it a bit disappointing (because I'd heard it was his best - Hugo Award winner) - whereas it made less impact than any other I looked at (even the unpromisingly titled The Zap Gun). I shall probably re-read soonish, but it's not a priority.

Faculty X said...

Divination of that sort is banned in Deuteronomy 18:10:

'There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch,'