Week 5 - The Youthful Folly of Sir Perceval

Guiding Question: Can wisdom, that can help you at home or work, be accessed randomly?

   Our story, through the adventures of Perceval, brings us into a brief interlude in our discussion on the development of reason in the West, and affords an opportunity to consider the wisdom of another, more ancient school of thought, represented in the I Ching: the ancient book of divination in China.
    The I Ching (Book of Changes) is difficult to date.  It is an ancient divination system of which nothing was written until 1150 BC.  At this date, however, it remains one of the oldest books in the world.  After the first text, more had been added to it in the form of commentaries (many of which are credited to Confucius), enhancing the meaning and interpretation of each section.  Today there are many versions and translations of the I Ching which reflect different world-views.  These include a Buddhist I Ching, which interprets each hexagram more introspectively, and a feminist version called the Kwan Yin.  We have chosen the Wilhelm edition for the thorough context provided by Richard Wilhelm and the insightful "Forward" by Carl Jung.  Of course references to the “Superior Man,” etc. should be assumed to apply to anyone consulting this oracle.
    The I Ching has become another one of the favorite divination methods in Occidental culture as well, along with the Tarot and astrology.  Whether one believes in them or not, at the very least these practices give us some insight into the complexity of human personalities.  Both the Tarot and the I Ching utilize chance in casting the nature of events, ingredients which have become a part of the creative process of twentieth century artists including John Cage.
    In an Oriental context, chance creates the impression of the intervention of another higher consciousness.  The text of the I Ching may be personified when consulting it for clarification of a particular problem, and it may seem as if the text is speaking directly to the questioner.  One may look at this experience from a Jungian perspective, and envision the personality of the text as a projection of one’s own unconscious.  The I Ching helps give a voice to the unconscious, expressing ideas which may contrast with one's own more conventional conscious perspective.

    Due to chance, asking a question implies the acceptance of a variety of possibilities for answers.  Therefore, consulting the oracle puts one automatically in a state more conducive to finding a creative solution.  One then interprets the text subjectively as it applies to the question.  The results are often remarkable.
    Hexagram 4, Meng/Youthful Folly is required for our reading because we are, in the Quest of the Holy Grail, at the chapter devoted to Perceval and the text corresponding to this hexagram seems to be written especially for him.  A footnote in the Wilhelm edition is as follows:

    Perceval indeed seems to follow the hexagram’s advice in the same way he accepts the advice of the many priests and hermits who have spent so much time instructing him in the story.  Certainly Perceval has researched the history and meaning of the quest more thoroughly than any of his companions, thus both “The Judgment” and “The Image” are followed by him.  Next we will look at the moving lines:     Accordingly, Perceval has been kept for a long period by his instructors, but when he is on his own, things do not go as easily for him as they do for Galahad.  At one moment he wants to die simply because he has problems getting a horse.
      Perceval's first instructor on the quest is a woman, his aunt, who has become a holy recluse.  He exerts his independence, and therefore his manhood, by joining the Round Table in spite of the grief it causes his mother.  She died soon after he left to join King Arthur’s court.     Perceval is a virgin yet almost loses his virginity to the devil.     This could be addressed to the problems Perceval had finding a horse.  He was later taken away by the devil in the form of this much sought after animal.     Perceval’s childlike innocence helps him to become one of only three of King Arthur’s court allowed to participate in the mysteries of the Grail.     Perceval seems to be punished by his being stranded on a mountain on a deserted island after being tempted by the devil in the form of a horse.  A priest floats by to explain some of the strange things that happen, but he does not take him away.
    Thus the moving lines could be addressed to the situation of Perceval in the Quest, and demonstrates perhaps through archetypes tailored to a particular situation, how we can get a better understanding of ways to interpret the I Ching.

Required Reading:  "Week 5" in the Study Guide; The Quest of the Holy Grail, pp. 94-134; I Ching (1150 BC), Jung’s “Forward,” Wilhem’s “Introduction,” Hexagram 4, “Meng/Youthful Folly.”

Use the coin method, described on pages 723-724 and the chart on the inside of the back cover of the Wilhelm edition of the I Ching, while thinking of a question requiring a complex answer.  Copy  “The Judgment,” “The Image” and the appropriate moving lines into your online journal and write your own short response to them.

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