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Fractals, Evolution and the I Ching

By: R.C.L.

A Fractal Introduction to Chinese Philosophy

From recent advances in biology we know that the basis of evolution is self organization. There is no outside force orchestrating evolution. There is no master plan. We do it ourselves. Conversely, evolution does not happen by random chance, by stupid mutations. God is not playing dice with the Universe, but we do make a good deal of it up as we go along. We do it. It does not happen to us. Self organization develops without predetermination. There is free will.

Still, there are constraints. The self organization is structured and shaped by basic laws. As shown in the prior chapters it is shaped by the four dimensions and other numerical building blocks of nature. From this perspective self organization can be understood as the capacity to create information based on the Mandelbrot vector 0 -> : z -> z² + c considered as a continuous creative process. As we have seen the key to this process is spontaneous improvisation in the moment. This means returning to Zero, to pure awareness, and acting from there.

wuchi.jpgtaichi.jpgThis whole field of spontaneous creativity and returning to zero was thoroughly explored for millennia by Chinese thinkers. In Chinese, pure awareness is called Wu Chi. It is the infinite, formless place just before all meaning and form. The place from which all creativity springs. When you are connected with Wu Chi you are in the Tao. When you are in the Tao creativity naturally happens. WU CHI, emptiness, is symbolized by the empty circle, and TAI CHI, plenitude, is symbolized by the ancient Chinese yin/yang fractal:

WU CHI is pure attention, zero emptiness, corresponding to deep sleep. TAI CHI is one, containing the fractal dichotomy of Yang and Yin. Yang is time, Yin is space. Yang is characterized by the circle. Yin by the right angle. Symbolically Yang is a straight line, Yin is a broken line.

Yang ________

Yin   ____   ____

In CHI, Yang is the direction upwards, Yin downwards. Yang is the closed circle, Yin is the open angle. Yang is clockwise, Yin counter-clockwise. Yang is hard, resistant and tense, Yin is soft, yielding and relaxed.

Creativity is used here in the largest sense of the word. It refers to a free and spontaneous state where life itself is created and self organized in new and intelligent ways. It does not just refer to the creation of objects of art. The Chinese understood the whole of life as the proper field of creativity, not just ceramics, music, books and paintings, but also drinking tea and archery. Everything we do can be an art. Everything can be infused with creativity and beauty.

One of the applications of this kind of creativity which we have come to know in the west is martial arts. Martial arts originated in China and then spread to all of the other Eastern countries such as Japan and Korea. Martial arts such as Kung Fu, Tai Kwon Do, Karate, Judo, etc. apply the creative flow to the field of self defense. The creative process has been applied by the Chinese in many other fields as well, including medicine, religion, psychology and even politics.

The psychological and political applications of the creative process can be seen in the ancient Chinese book, the I Ching, or as it is sometimes called, The Book of Changes. According to many scholars this is the oldest book on Earth. The I Ching is made of 64 hexagrams, which are combinations of six yin or yang lines. The sixty four possible yin-yang combinations Ò the hexagrams Ò represent the basic situations of creative time. In my opinion, the best translation of the I Ching is by Richard Wilhelm, the friend of Carl Jung and Joseph Hauer mentioned before. Confucius is purported to have said that by following the counsels of the book, and studying it continuously, a person could attain creative awareness in every situation. Understanding the Book of Changes is the key to comprehension of the Chinese laws of creativity.

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Last Modified on July 7, 2010 2:41 PM | Edit

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