The Dao gives birth to the One,
the One gives birth to the two,
the Two gives birth to the three,
the Three gives birth to the ten thousand things.
The ten thousand things carry the shade
and embrace the sunlight.
Shade and sunlight, yin and yang
breath blending into harmony.
Dao De Jing, Ch. 42
translated by Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo
Welcome to I Ching: Mothering Change, a unique way to consult the I Ching, the ancient Chinese Oracle of Change, that offers time-tested wisdom for embracing family transitions as a threshold of transformation within ourselves and among all our relations.
Written and illustrated by Stephen Karcher in collaboration with Julie Chase-Daniel for In the Family Way, Mothering Change is a new version of the Classic Book of Changes that emphasizes the sacred marriage of our inner creative masculine and feminine energies and helps us learn to nurture the process of change that brings all new things into being.
The I Ching
Since it first originated over three thousand years ago in ancient China, the I Ching has been in continuous use, gradually evolving under the influence of the prevailing political climate and worldview of scholars who have produced countless interpretations, commentaries and translations in response to the needs of their times. A Classical philosophical text, divinatory system, and spiritual practice, the Book of Changes communicates oracular pronouncements through sixty-four six-line hexagrams, which are composed of stacked three-line trigrams. It is said that the hexagrams of the I Ching evolved from a yes-no, two-line Oracle into a family of eight trigrams, and that these were transformed by King Wen during the Shang Dynasty (1099–1050 BC) into a sequence of thirty-two pairs. Second only to the Bible as the most widely read and interpreted book in the world, the hexagram texts of the I Ching serve as a continuous mirror, ever-reflecting the heart, mind and time of the sages and inquirers who work with it.
As a wisdom tradition and divinatory practice, the I Ching remains a resource for people who wish to engage more fruitfully with the potential for transformative change at the heart of important decisions and ordinary transitions of daily life. Through ancient symbols, myths, and messages, it allows us to engage our imagination and intuition as instruments of perception and sources of vital information when we make concrete decisions about the choices we face. This does not happen by simply reading it as a book, but by engaging in a dialogue with its symbols, xiang, and manifesting what we learn through practical action in the world around us.
The best way to relate to the I Ching is through conversation, by posing a question and reflecting on the response, tumbling it in our heart-mind until a clear path arises. The title, Change, as Karcher translates it, refers both to our capacity for alignment with the ever-changing nature of life itself, and particularly to those times in life when the process of change feels unsettling, confusing or destabilizing. Especially when our usual methods are failing us, the I Ching offers guidelines for fostering a sense of alignment with Dao, the Way or the ongoing process of the real, that is continually operating at both the most personal and collective levels of life as it unfolds around us, as we unfold within it. Consulting the Oracle of Change, we are aided in the effort to cultivate de, or power and virtue, to realize de in ourselves and in our world, and in this practice to become a Junzi, or Realizing Person. The oldest commentaries describe the Oracle as a beloved parent drawing near rather than an army gathering to protect us, a resource during times in life when it is most important to maintain a sense of connection to our greater purpose, to follow the order of our nature and of fate.
Mothering Change: I Ching for the Family of the Earth
Mothering Change was conceived in response to the need of our times to bring the feminine forward in the way we embrace change. It is grounded in Stephen Karcher’s depth psychological approach and a whole systems view of the creative process to help cultivate creativity and compassion during family transitions, the smallest possible point (ji) of larger cultural change. Jung taught that “the creative process has a feminine quality, and the creative work arises from unconscious depths – we might truly say from the realm of the mothers.” The symbols of Change are the language of the mothers, according to the ancient sages, and in dialogue with them we gain a deep level of fluency that allows us to transmute wisdom held in the collective unconscious into living experience. This is the essence of the creative act according to Jung, and for this reason the creative person is “a ‘collective man,’ a vehicle and moulder of the unconscious psychic life of mankind.” Mothering Change is grounded in the idea that through dialogue with the Oracle we acquire a language that re-patterns our way of thinking and acting in the world, liberating us from the fear of change by activating our creativity and teaching us how to nurture the transformative process, or the pivot of change (Daji).
According to the ancient sages, nurturing the pivot of change is the central goal of working with the Oracle. In the long ago and far away, the pivot of change was understood as the meeting ground of the processes of yin and yang, supple and strong, dark and light, cold and hot, non-doing and doing. These are elemental processes that give form and movement to all of life. Eventually, yin and yang became associated as well with feminine and masculine, energies that we all contain within us, regardless of our biological sex. Nurturing the pivot of change means both making wise use of these inner processes and allowing them to shape us as we respond to life’s problems, decisions, and transitions in order to cultivate greater alignment with the Way. The pivot of yin and yang, the point at which action through our masculine and feminine energy becomes a matter of conscious choice, is brought into being by engaging with the Oracle of Change. Over time, engaging with the Oracle gives us fluency in the language of the mothers, the creative ability, to join or differentiate our feminine and masculine energy as needed to manifest the potential hidden within our situation.
Nurturing the pivot of change requires us to think differently about the nature of nurturing action, which has been envisioned in the image of the mother throughout time all around the world. Using the I Ching as a guide for this helps us understand and activate an aspect of the mother that is often hidden in Western images of her, the primal impartiality of the creative feminine. While the creative masculine and feminine take form in the images of Father and Mother they are also embodied in our very real experiences of our parents, and of ourselves as parents. Liberating their energy is the work of maturing into our fullness as individuals and releases the masculine and feminine to move more fruitfully in the world. Jung taught that the greatest influence on our adult lives is the unlived life of our parents. Working with the Oracle we gain the ability to differentiate ourselves, which involves transforming our personal experiences with Father and Mother into energies that serve as inner guides in our own process of becoming who we are meant to be. The sages who gave us Change called this gathering in the ghosts, the deep inner work of allowing our parents to become ancestors, helping spirits that aid us in our journey through life. As we do the inner work with Change to de-personalize the deep, creative energies of the inner feminine and masculine, they become available to us as impartial processes to use in shaping our actions in the world.
Using Mothering to Do the Work of Change
Now listen very carefully:
As the birth of all births this Way is called Change.
Change is made of symbols.
What moves and completes the symbols is called Ch’ien.
What unfolds them into patterns of living is called K’un.
What shows our fate through these symbols is called divination.
Penetrating the transformations is called the work.
What we cannot understand in terms of dark and light
is called spirit.
As we do the work, the spirit arrives.
The Great Treatise
Translated by Stephen Karcher
All of the hexagram texts in Mothering Change summon the Spirit Helpers of the trigrams, and speak through the Voice of the Mothers and the Voice of the Fathers. You will see in the sample reading that they include the myths, directives, seasonal time cycle, and interconnections with other hexagrams that have come to characterize Stephen Karcher’s revolutionary approach to the I Ching. Mothering Change is formulated to give you a particular experience of Change that is patterned by the inner and outer ordering principles of yin and yang, the complementary processes of the creative feminine and masculine that define the process of emergence and self-creation. Their symbols are the fundamental symbols of Change, the solid and open lines of the hexagrams, which are stable and unchanging when they are young, and transform into their opposite when they are old. As trigrams, they are Qian and Kun, which are doubled to form the first two hexagrams in the I Ching. They are the gates through which all change occurs, the entry point and return, the pivot of yang and yin, and the primal father and mother of Change. They function as impartial processes, forces of nature, which generate all beginnings and endings and the patterns through which life unfolds. As Creator and Midwife in Mothering Change, Qian and Kun work in constant companionship to generate new ideas and action and bring things into tangible form.
In Mothering Change several essential dynamics of the I Ching are emphasized as processes of the creative feminine that can be engaged in the work of nurturing change. These lend influence to the Voice of the Fathers, a voice that offers a life-giving structure to describe various contexts in which Change may help us act through the language of the mothers.
Chaos: The Situation
The theme of chaos, or hundun, as the underlying dynamic of an unfolding cosmos is woven throughout early Chinese mythology and deeply tied to ideas of loss and return of the Way through divination. During the Warring States period (475 – 221 BCE), beliefs that the human world was subject to a chaotic and capricious cosmos gradually transformed into a sense of continuous, living connection between the human and spirit world, earth and cosmos. This eternal flow is Dao, or the Way, envisioned as a state of primal feminine chaos and dwelling place of the spirits, the pregnant void out of which the ten thousand things, or all of life, emerge. Divination became a resource used everywhere from farm and street, to court and palace, for cultivating greater alignment with the Way, for folding oneself into the divine unfolding of the universe. However, the sages who developed the I Ching also taught that the way that can be named is not the Way. It through aligning ourselves with the inner and outer conditions of our situation that we may come into accord with it. The space that is opened by not naming the Way is the empty center, the zero, and the threshold for the return of the spirit that is imaged in Hexagram 24 Return. Emergence and self-creation are current ways of thinking about chaotic conditions as the open field in which pattern emerges, about how our development occurs simultaneously from within the closed vessel of the self, and how to cultivate sustainability – or continually return to balance – in situations characterized by flux and fluidity. In Mothering Change, we learn to find and hold our empty center by nurturing the processes of emergence and self-creation at work in our situation, doing the work of transformation so that the spirit may arrive.
Eros: Caring for Others
The oldest myth and ritual traditions of the world symbolize radical change in images of death and rebirth, showing how our identification with the feminine principle mediates our fear of death through the force of love, or eros. Love, as the ancients sages knew, is the alchemical agent that neutralizes fear. Eros is woven throughout Change as the force of attraction, shocking or subtly penetrating, that draws together what belongs together, connecting our inner and outer worlds and linking intimate and cosmic belonging. It is the key to the realm of the mothers, the threshold of sacred marriage between masculine and feminine, and the gateway to a symbolic life. It is the driving energy in the specific hexagram-pairs that speak of various forms of marriage, or any kind of partnership, including those that are stimulating and stable (31 & 32), orderly and irregular (53 & 54), and spiritual and initiatory (61 & 62). The image of marriage is mirrored in the process of change itself, occurring through radical shifts or steady unfolding, stimulated and supported by love. In Mothering Change, it is in the way we care for one another that we can engage eros, the simple force of love that allows us to act with passion, compassion or dispassion in response to the people and events in our lives. This enables us to let go when it is time to release, and turn to one another when it is time to embrace, to craft whatever we produce through love as our greatest gift to future generations.
Pairing: Setting Intentions
The I Ching models the fractal patterns of emergence, transformation and return that the ten thousand things go through on the voyage of their lives, for each element of Change is a microcosmic map of a dynamic whole. Its most basic fractal unit is pairing, connecting seeming opposites by turning them into dynamic pairs. It is constantly turning “either-or” situations into “both-and,” connecting male and female, life and death, old and young, inside and outside, in what the ancient Greeks would have called a daimonic fashion. It draws upon this early human belief in spirit helpers, and links the process of change in the individual to the process of change in the cosmos by doubling them both into its symbols. Use of the I Ching is a sort of yoga of the subtle body, rooted in the pairing process of the trigrams to form hexagrams, the pair-structure of the sequence of all 64 hexagrams, and the doubled images of change in the individual and collective. It is a practice that re-trains us to recognize our mutual interdependence, to experience our wholeness not as a fixed, idealized identity but as a process of self-creation that happens in tandem with the emerging structures and patterns of the world around us.
Circularity: Communication and Interaction
Along with pairing, circularity is a fundamental quality and lesson of Change, where the beginning and ending mirror one another as points of entry and return and the central message is held in the middle. Change demands that we turn back, or inward, for wisdom, even as we unfold into our future. This is one of the oldest storytelling structures in the world, called a “ring story.” Mothering Change is rooted in the notion that a central message of the I Ching is a story about how the bright and enduring marriage of masculine and feminine (31 Conjoining, and 32 Persevering) is achieved by embodying the action of feminine (37 Dwelling People). By engaging with Change through this perspective, we can effectively retrain our heart-mind in an ancient way of knowing, experiencing the fuller meaning of the I Ching as an ancient text and more skillfully embodying its teachings. From this perspective the way of the creative feminine, the process of yin, is the threshold of a sacred marriage with the masculine and the link that connects family and cultural change. As the Dark Animal Goddess, the creative feminine is the flow, the provider, and she receives the dead, constantly circulating life and giving it form. It is a way of being and doing that is available to everyone regardless of biological gender, age, or the choice to have children. It is a way that gives form to the ten thousand things, bringing them into being and fostering connection among them.
Kairos: Change from the Inside Out
Jung coined the term synchronicity to speak of meaningful coincidence, moments when an event in outer reality suddenly collides with questions or challenges we’ve been turning over in our heart-mind to produce an epiphany or meaningful insight. Synchronicity has long been understood as the dynamic that gives the I Ching the ability to penetrate our rational thought processes with an experience of meaning that happens by chance, connecting us with a sense of our fate, and giving us the ability to influence our destiny by recognizing the hidden potential within our situation. Kairos, the ripening of time and circumstance to the just-right moment in which a striking event occurs, is another aspect of time and rhythm at work in Change. Synchronicity and kairos work together in Mothering Change to awaken a deep connection to inner truth and show the way to bring it forth in the world. They reach into primal flux of the Way to alert us to potential and pattern, activate beginnings and endings and help us take the steps that are required for transformation to occur. Kairos in Change is the butterfly effect, the ripple through which one small action ripens into a large result, often quite far from its point of origin. It is the gestation, the cooking, of the process of change, and the cultivation of the environment in which change occurs. Together, synchronicity and kairos are the dynamics at work in hexagrams 49 and 50, Revolution and the Vessel, through which a new radical spiritual paradigm comes into being that redefines our collective destiny.
Change in the Family Way
Mothering Change is attuned to the ancestral memory we all share of family transitions as rites of passage that serve the mutual becoming of self, family, community and world. It allows us to embrace the flux and fluidity of family life as midwives rather than heroes, wisely tending to life as it emerges in the cosmos of self, family, community and world. From this posture, the I Ching models a feminine path of wisdom, one very different from the hero’s journey. The process of change is marked by an experience of enclosure and incubation that leads to a sacred inner marriage and the birth of ways of being and doing aligned with cosmic unfolding and earthly belonging. In a world weary of approaching change through heroic striving, Mothering Change emphasizes our capacity to nurture the mutual process of becoming in ourselves, our families and in our world. Using it, we become parents first to ourselves by harmonizing the feminine and masculine energy that dwells within us. Through this we can nurture change in our families of origin, the families and partnerships we have created, and the family of the earth that holds us all.
Traditional Chinese culture has a maxim that says: Rectify the family and you rectify the culture. At In the Family Way, we say something similar in our guiding principle: When families thrive, communities flourish. We hope you enjoy I Ching: Mothering Change, which we offer as a resource that may help you draw on the world’s oldest wisdom tradition to solve problems and support greater wellbeing in your family and community.
In the Family Way
Santa Fe, NM
In developing Mothering Change for In the Family Way, Stephen Karcher offered the tremendous gift of his life work with the I Ching as a scholar, artist, and diviner. He has our deepest gratitude for the generosity of spirit and commitment he brought to this project. In the Family Way would also like to thank Canton Becker for the beauty and simplicity of the Mothering Change website and Christine Cortina for her fine eye as a book designer. Finally, we would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Ventura County Community Foundation and the Frank and Julie Papen Memorial Fund for the financial support that made it possible to produce I Ching: Mothering Change.