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Wrapped in the Hide of a Yellow Cow

Dear Blog Fans,

I stumbled across this very metaphor several times today, it is making itself seen, loudly so. I can almost hear you wondering where is she stumbling about to run across this strange image, more than once. On a single day, mind you.

Easy answer, long story.

The short part is this: it stems from the Chinese philosophical and ethical work The I-Ching. It is estimated to be about 3000 years old- so if it is still around it must have some profoundness to it. More precisely, the I-Ching is referred to as an oracle, less a future teller than a spiritual guide. The word oracle derives from the Latin verb orare, to speak, and relates to sceneries of priests connecting to the Gods above to pass along their messages. When common folks took over talking to the Gods they used all kinds of paraphernalia to decipher these messages. Bamboo sticks, papyrus rolls, tea leaves, and later cards.

In that sense, the I-Ching is not an oracle.

The I-Ching arrived on the shores of Western civilization around 1920 when it was translated by a German missionary (Richard Wilhelm). He had to learn Chinese first and then dive deeply into the Dao philosophy. His biography is stunning. There is a great film about him, made by his granddaughter (read on, you´ll find it). Wilhelm discovered and deeply understood an ancient treasure, The I-Ching, The Book of Change.

Life is a river. Keep it flowing. The Dao or Tao means the path. It does not provide “do´s and don´t ´s” it rather describes what (energy) is needed to get the waters back into motion or how to calm down a (life) torrent. (I apologize to the Higher Forces for having made an attempt to sum it up in one sentence. We are the 7-second- attention span generation, are we not?) For those who are easier addressed by modern analogies, I dare say that the Epos Star Wars carries many elements of the Dao (thus the I-Ching). Welcome Jedis out there!

One last note on Richard Wilhelm.

He had the charisma to establish a cosmopolitan community around him. It couldn´t be more true for him what my life coaching teacher Martha Beck is saying “find your own North Star to live the life you love.” Wilhelm (having been raised in a small village in Germany, having lost his father early, and having to help the family get by) found his inner destination against all odds. He made it all the way to China where he even met his German wife Salome. He was able to spread the Christian belief of caring for each other and weave into it the threads of the Dao philosophy. He built a hospital, and two schools and his community became a shelter zone for the elite when the emperor was pushed off his throne. Thus he had access to the highest master teachers in the Dao.

Two of Wilhelm's close friends took up the teachings of the I-Ching immediately. One was Herman Hesse, who devoted a thread of the I-Ching to his famous novel “Glass Bead Game”. The other one was C.G. Jung. There were more, but the two make the point. My point is, the I-Ching could be the centerline that we are all so missing in these crazy times. The next generation, The I-Ching The Cosmic Way.

There have been revisions to this original work. Confucius (sometimes mistakenly referred to as the originator of the Ijing) rewrote it about 600 years ago and gave a twist, it did not have before: a hierarchical, male-dominated look on life. After the publishing of the translation by Wilhelm in 1924 several Western adaptations appeared. Joseph Murphy published an interpretation in 1970. To me, the most mind-opening rework was made by Carol K. Anthony, and Hanna Moog, when they published a version, I-Ching, the Oracle of the Cosmic Way. That´s the version that crossed my path about 12 years ago and I have literally had to replace the book copy twice. Inkblots, dogears, coffee stains, the whole thing.

I wasn´t convinced easily.

But I am now (how could you tell?). And because this afternoon I will be recording the first English Podcast with author Hanna Moog, I am creating some space to share what I have learned (mostly from her and Carol, who unfortunately passed away two years ago). Although she would not have agreed with me labeling it as “unfortunate” because for Carol Anthony life was a seamless transition between form and non-form.

It takes more than 7 seconds

to access the I-Ching. The Book may easily have 600 plus pages. But it is not a read, it is a reference. The ancient Daoist looked for the basic unchangeable variables of human lives, which are comparable to the chemical elements that exist within themselves, not to be broken down and not to vanish ever. They found them and displayed them in 8 Trigrammes, being nature images like a mountain, thunder, fire, and so on. They found that the eight modes did not suffice to depict life and combined them in two packs, the hexagrams. Eight times eight makes 64 Hexagrams. That´s the journey.

Back to the Yellow Cow.

I have been teaching the I-Ching in Germany for a while and I am about to teach an Introduction to the Teachings in English this January. For those who recognize the seed, find out more on my website.

I am not expecting a run (like the opening of a designer store would in Shanghai) but The Voice that speaks from the I-Ching has advised me to proceed. So I do. That is the very practical side of the I-Ching. You can ask it questions and you will get the answer. Sometimes our questions derive from a source that leads us astray — the Ego — but the I-Ching will tell us that as well. There is no discussion around this Ego other than that The I-Ching does not maintain any relation to it. It will withdraw. You will find yourself in the neon-lit misery of a fast-turning world without help. Not good.

And it s this very Ego that the I-Ching dresses in the metaphor of a yellow cow. If you allow it to wrap you in its world, the flow of life will go in a direction that will not nourish you. You may gather things upon things, success after success, but the inner emptiness will not cease. And since the I-Ching never propagates a black-and-white attitude, either/or, you don´t have to leave your life and sit on a mountain for the remainder of your time on the planet. It wants you, the learner, to participate in Cosmic Evolution.

The purpose of your life may be much simpler to see than you think and much harder to arrive at, but that´s okay.

Personal note: forgive my inadequacy in the English language, I am German and doing my best. I am grateful for your support. Please submit corrections at any time.

Further inspirations: I found an interesting article by This is the film: Youtube, “Richard Wilhelm, the wisdom of change


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