The Call of the Unknown

By Doug Marman

Here is the talk that I gave in Toronto at the end of September. It is titled: The Call of the Unknown. You can see a video of this talk below.

In this talk I approach one of the most important elements that distinguishes a spiritual search from a typical search for knowledge. This is hardly ever talked about.

When we search for knowledge, we usually set out with a plan of some kind to learn about something that we already have some idea about. For example, we look for a book that can give us a better understanding of some era in history, or added insights into some field of science, or some pointers on how to find a job, how to paint, or how to raise children.

A spiritual search, however, is a search to gain something that is beyond our understanding. We don’t even know what it is that moves us or calls us to this search. We might think that we have an idea of the information that we would like to find, but the farther we follow the call of the unknown, the more it changes us. And we soon realize that we knew nothing about the real meaning of the spiritual path when we started.

This “not knowing” turns out to be more important than we realize because the things that we think we know are generally obstacles on the spiritual path.

The true spiritual search requires a completely different approach because it is a quest for something beyond us. It is a search to find out the real meaning of the spiritual path. There is no one who can give us the answer to what this meaning is. It can only be understood through experience. It is the search itself that changes us. It is the search itself that is the path.

This talk was set up by Farzad Khalvati and Mitra Shafaei of Toronto, as part of an ongoing series called The Hidden Teachings of Rumi.

Just before the talk, Farzad came up with the idea of projecting spiritual art and photos of nature on the screen behind me when I was talking. The images change as I give my talk.

I wanted to mention this because one of the surprising outcomes, that a number of people asked about afterwards, was how well the changes of these images seem to be synchronized to my talk. Surprisingly, there is no direct connection. I could not see the images on the screen behind me or when they were changing, and the images switched by a simple timing mechanism.

Why did so many people experience a connection? I don’t know. Perhaps the images on the screen, when they changed, changed the audience, and I unconsciously sensed this and changed what I was saying. Or perhaps when we see a change in the background, it changes our perspective on what is being said at that time, and since I was talking about changes in perspective, it seemed to be connected.

Rather than trying to guess at the explanation, I just point it out so that you might enjoy the mystery of it, if you find yourself experiencing this same feeling that there is a connection.

One thing that I’ve learned is that the spiritual path seems to bring about more of these events of synchronicity as we become more deeply entangled with life at a deeper level. Explaining it in order to understand it with our mind is not nearly as important as experiencing it and how the experience of synchronicity seems to wake us up to an awe of life itself.


Upcoming Talk: The Call of the Unknown — A Spiritual Adventure

By Doug Marman

I’ve been invited back to Toronto, Canada, to give another talk about The Hidden Teachings of Rumi.

The talk will be held Sunday, September 30, 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM, EDT, at the Aurora Public Library, just north of Toronto. I hope to see you there.

Here is a quick description of what I will be talking about:

The spiritual path is not a path where we find answers that bring an end to our questions. It is a path that leads deeper and deeper into the unknown.

As the Sufi poet, Rumi, says, we have to continually give up everything we think we know to take the next step on the spiritual path. This means, over and over again, becoming a beginner, like a child who sees life as completely new. We need to keep starting over because our experience with life changes us as we grow spiritually. We are changed so deeply that we see the world through different eyes.

We like to reassure ourselves about how much we know and how much we have learned, especially as we grow older. It gives us the feeling that we are standing on firm ground and that we know who we are. However, this won’t do us much good if we are seeking what Rumi calls the real jewel of life—the treasures hidden in the unknown. To find the wisdom of the invisible worlds within us we must let go of the firm ground beneath our feet and who we think we are. We must risk everything. This is every bit a true adventure.

You can find more information at these links:
Facebook, Meetup, The Hidden Teachings of Rumi webpage

If you are interested in a dialogue on this subject, please feel free to start the discussion below.


You can now see a video of the talk I gave by clicking this link:

Upcoming Talk: What Psychologists & Quantum Physicists Can Teach Each Other

By Doug Marman

I will be giving a talk at a university in Toronto on Friday, October 5 at 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM, EDT, at York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON, Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3. The public is welcome to attend.

A video of this talk, plus questions and answers after the talk are now available here:

Here is an overview of what I will be talking about:


For the last 100 years, psychologists have been moving toward a more scientific approach, to find principles that can be established on the firm ground of objectivity. At the same time, quantum physicists have been turning the foundations of physics in exactly the opposite direction, toward the realization that objectivity is impossible when observing quantum behavior; that “forces” do not force particles, they only influence them; and that it is quantum entanglement between particles and the environment that create the appearance of a solid objective reality.

Psychology can learn important lessons from these quantum discoveries. For example, it offers new insights into the recent “replication crisis” in psychology experiments by showing that there is a direct relationship between the replication problem and the “measurement problem” in quantum physics. I recently published an interpretation of quantum mechanics that also suggests the possibility that subatomic particles may behave so strangely because they possess an element of sentience, and all of the strangest aspects of quantum mechanics can be explained by this sentience. This new interpretation predicts that quantum behavior should also be present whenever relationships form between sentient agents, including organisms and human beings. If this is true, then psychology will never become a hard science like classical physics because there are too many quantum effects involved in human perception and experience.

At the same time, psychology has lessons it can teach physics. Over the last century, physicists have failed to find a way to understand the quantum mystery. Perceptual “sets” and “schemas” offer insights that open the door to a deeper understanding. The scientific lens of perception comes from schemas learned from centuries of studying mechanisms and reactions to forces. This is why the principle of objectivity became the foundation of science at the same time as the Industrial Revolution took off. But this lens of perception has not been able to solve the paradoxes of quantum mechanics, the mystery of what makes organisms alive, or the enigma of consciousness. An understanding of perceptual sets can play a role in expanding the reach of quantum physics, especially when it gives us insights into why quantum relationships between sentient quanta should indeed create forces of attraction and repulsion, as physicists have learned.

If you would like to discuss this topic, please feel free to start the dialogue below.

Science Paper Published: The Lenses of Perception Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics

By Doug Marman

A paper I wrote for the peer reviewed Integral Review Journal was just published. You can read the paper here:

This paper is a formal scientific paper that I have been working on for two years, so parts of it get a bit technical. However, I have tried to write it to be understandable to anyone who enjoys science and knows something about quantum physics. If you have read my book, Lenses of Perception, you will see that this paper presents the same ideas in a more formal and more thorough scientific manner.

The editor of Integral Review Journal, Jonathan Reams, introduces my paper with these comments:

40 years ago I began my university education studying physics, but dropped out and later turned to studying consciousness (and leadership). Along the way I have encountered numerous perspectives on the relationship between the two subjects, with a polarity in perspectives, from materialist interpretations to idealist ones. This conversation continues today, being taken more and more seriously as it becomes apparent that we cannot ignore an integral view of the intimately intertwined nature of consciousness and matter. The science magazine Nature recently highlighted this as an ongoing conundrum (see article here). An example of an integrative perspective comes in the notion of panpsychism, that consciousness is a fundamental feature of physical matter, which is being taken seriously by a wider range of mainstream physicists and others (see article here). All of this leads into the territory IR has always been intended to serve as a platform for new thinking from an integral view.

Thus we fittingly begin this issue with Doug Marman’s The Lenses of Perception Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. At IR, we are always on the lookout for new thought and Marman delivers on this. His article is a substantive piece of investigation into some of the most fundamental questions science has ever tried to answer. In true transdisciplinary fashion, Marman covers a wide range of disciplinary knowledge. He begins by showing similarities between quanta and living organisms, leading to an inescapable predication that quantum behaviour is driven by sentience. This leads naturally into a detailed examination of consciousness itself and how participation is a creative process of perception…. Marman then lays out a set of nine postulates that lay a more formal foundation to show how his Lenses of Perception interpretation can address a wide ranging and essential set of issues generally held as necessary for any theory to be able to bring coherence to our understanding of all physical processes. Having done this, an examination of quantum formalism and how the LoP interpretation (using first, second and third person lenses) not only meets the tests of quantum formalism, but even shows why the second person lens of relationship is necessary for understanding it. Finally, Marman lays out how his LoP interpretation meets a variety of challenges, including the five unsolved problems of physics, and points to ways to test out this interpretation. The overall scope, depth, breadth and rigor of Marman’s work makes this article a seminal contribution to discourse around these fundamental questions, and IR is pleased to publish it here.

I will be offering a place for technical questions, comments, and dialogue about this paper on my Lenses of Perception website (here) if you are interested.

If you have non-technical questions, comments, and dialogue, please feel free to add them below.

Restoring Health Through the Spiritual Flow of Life

By Mitra Shafaei,
Rehabilitation Therapist,
Registered Kinesiologist (Ont. Canada), MSc, BSc

Doug Marman’s new book, “The Spiritual Flow of Life” helped me understand how to form a constructive and inspiring relationship with our bodies.

Mitra Shafaei

We have all heard about the use of “mindfulness” and “positive thinking” as ways of relieving illness. They are now a well-known trend in the healthcare field of our times. However, it is not exactly clear why these strategies work—and more importantly how they work. And it is not always easy to educate patients—especially when they are going through the most difficult time of their lives—to use such techniques as an important element in their treatments. However, what Doug talks about in his book, “The Spiritual Flow of Life,” goes beyond mindfulness and positive thinking strategies.

To give a little bit of background, I have been working in the field of rehabilitation for over 15 years. The range of patients that I provide treatment for is quite wide; from people who suffer from chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia, to patients who are dealing with acute injuries related to motor vehicle accidents.

I always find it helpful to have my patients see themselves as one of the active participants in the circle of their healthcare providers. I encourage them to be a part of the team, instead of expecting that their cure will come to them from “outside”. Of course, a lot of help does come from doctors and physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and rehabilitation therapists (like me). But the main ones who determine whether all the hard work of others becomes effective or not are the patients!

I have always known that this is true, as I have seen it many times in my career. But I never really knew why and how true it is. Doug’s recent book helped me understand and it bridged the gap for me. Now I know the reason behind this “bond” that we have with our bodies: The “all-for-one bond” is the key.

Since I understand this better, it is easier to explain this special bond to my patients. And because they are now better able to understand it, see it, and make sense of it, they can use the suggested techniques more effectively. As a result, their recovery and progress is now significantly better. In fact, I can objectively show that these patients recover faster than those who are not using the process in their treatments—in other words, the patients who expect their help will come to them from outside, and not from within.

One of the inspiring ideas that came to me from reading “The Spiritual Flow of Life,” is something that I explain to my patients this way:

“Imagine you are the leader of a big factory, and the factory is your body. Now, imagine parts of your factory went under a catastrophic fire and burned down. There are workers who are severely injured, and some are even dead. These workers have worked for your factory with devotion and love for their entire lives. But now they are suffering and in great need of help.  Think of all those areas, cells, and organs of your body as workers and damaged structures. You, as the leader, need to make a commitment to visit those people who work for you and need your help, on a daily basis. Be with them! Tell them how much you appreciate them, their work, and their love. Tell them how much you love them back and care for them. Change the burned-out lights and fix them. Bring light to the dark rooms and food for the team. Keep the area bright and clean and let those people heal in a loving environment.”

I have had patients who suffered from stroke and half of their bodies were paralyzed. Being in a wheelchair for more than two years is not easy. But, the frustration and negative feelings that make them “hate” their bodies never helps them. I suggest that they see it differently, which helps them change their perspective. I encourage them by saying this:

“Don’t try to be the boss of your body. Instead, be the leader! Your factory is half burned! Is it fair to go there, as the boss, and scream at them: “Why are you not doing your job?” How would you feel if you had a boss who didn’t care and could not see the problem? Would you stay in such an abusive environment and keep working for that boss? I know that I would quit and leave with no hesitation! Now, if all the workers—your cells and organs—quit and leave, what will happen to the factory—to YOU?”

They laugh and say: “I guess you have a point.”

So I ask them to be “a loving and caring leader who is there to inspire the employees and help them, not to abuse them!”

Frustrated patients have now become more loving and kind to their bodies. Shortly after they start changing their perspective, a change and progression in their recovery begins. Their new way of seeing comes directly from what I learned in “The Spiritual Flow of Life”.

In other words, I help my patients learn how to become a “Soul Catalyst” in their relationship with their bodies. Soul Catalyst is a term that Doug talks about extensively in his book. As soon as my patients change their perspective and become more involved in their treatment, their progress changes. I mean “real change,” to the point that management in my company noticed it. They recently sent me this message: “We don’t know what you are doing, but it’s working; better than the other team members. We want to know more about it and hopefully teach others to use it.”

In this note, I have shared only one example on how this book inspired me to help my patients. I believe everybody interested in the field of health and wellness will find this book helpful. I strongly recommend my colleagues and other healthcare professionals to read this book. It can help them develop new strategies that will help their patients, on their journey to recovery.

Seeing the Invisible

—From Rumi’s Poetry to the Fullness of Atoms

By Doug Marman

“Whirling Dervish” by Mitra Shafaei

Last summer I was invited to speak at a talk for “Spiritual Dialogues on Rumi’s Legacy and Teachings,” in Toronto, Canada. It is part of an on-going series of public talks on Rumi and Consciousness. The group has been using my book, “It Is What It Is — The Personal Discourses of Rumi,” along with Rumi’s poetry, to explore the hidden teachings behind Rumi’s teachings. I gave the talk based on a simple lesson I’ve learned:

Something extraordinary takes place when discovering new insights into life through deep discussions with friends. Time seems to stand still as new perspectives suddenly open up before us. In such moments we sense the scope of truth so fully, as a whole, that it alters our experience, giving us the feeling we are touching life itself. This is the magic of spiritual dialogue.

A thirty minute video captures a portion of this talk. It is called, “Seeing the Invisible — From Rumi’s Poetry to the Fullness of Atoms. You can see the video below:

Not Everything

By Doug Marman

Not everything can be explained with words. Not every situation can be understood. Not everyone fits into the boxes we try to put them in.

Tree Sky. Photo by Kim Lessel.

Life is a mystery. Some questions should not be answered. Some questions are for living with, like a companion. Not every picture needs words. Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss.

Not every day can be extraordinary, or extraordinary days would be ordinary. But every moment is meaningful and seeps deeper into our beingness than we realize.

Our mind desperately wants to understand, but not knowing is also a gift because it keeps us learning. Not everything has a beginning and an end. Sometimes it just is.

Where is life taking us? Ask life.

Do you know how to ask life? Do you know how to listen to life’s answers? Can you hear the questions of life? What is life asking you?

Not every teaching can be found in books. Not every teacher has a name. Sometimes the core of our being sails beyond all worlds, leaving names behind.

Not every pause should be filled with words. Moments of silence are never empty. Some speech is noise, some is singing.

Can you hear the stories of the trees? Do you know why they stand in one place for years with outstretched arms? Sit beneath their branches for a while. Listen to their tales.

Sometimes we need to step off our path and see where it is taking us, to appreciate the adventure we are on. Not every gift is visible. Not everyone realizes what a gift they are to others.

Our paths of learning reach back lifetimes. We are not the same as we were when we first began. The world is not the same. Is there an end to this path? How can we understand the meaning of a story that never ends?

Not everything is finite. Our mind can’t grasp infinity—it really can’t grasp it. But we can experience it, and in that experience we too become infinite. How can this be?

Not everything can be explained with words.

Finding Spiritual Love

By Doug Marman

My wife, Karen, recently remembered a dream she had many years ago. In her dream she was at a seminar, in a roundtable discussion. Paul Twitchell was there. He started talking:

“Love connects everything,” he said. “All of life is held together by love. Every rock, every tree…everything.”

Paiting by Grev Kafi.

Paiting by Grev Kafi.

Thinking about this dream and looking across the decades since she had it, she said to me, “Listening to what Paul said was one thing, but knowing it is altogether different.”

This goes to the heart of the spiritual path: How do we know, really know, the meaning of spiritual love?

We won’t find it by reading books or listening to talks—although the stories of others can increase our hunger for it. Knowingness doesn’t come from thinking about love or trying to understand it with our mind. In fact, if we try to go after love directly, the very thing we are pursuing runs away from us.

The reality of spiritual love—the love that flows into this physical world from the inner and connects all things—doesn’t come from hunting it down. We can’t catch it or trap it like a wild animal.

How do we find it? To put it simply, we need experience. Once we have spiritual experiences, we begin to see and understand the reality of spirit lurking in the heart of everything around us.

This presents us with a paradox: We need spiritual experiences, but we can’t get them by going after them.

Fortunately, there’s a solution. Love isn’t something that can be owned or possessed because it only blossoms in relationships. So, to understand spiritual love, we must foster a relationship with all of Life.

It needs to develop the same way all relationships do. It takes time. It needs care. We must welcome Life into our home—invite her in. We need to ask and listen to what she wants of us. We need to make sacrifices, just as we would with any lover.

Some people long for a spiritual experience so powerful that it will prove to them, once and for all, the reality of spiritual love. But, even if you’re fortunate enough to have such an experience, it will fade over time. After a while, you’ll feel as if you once found the secret of life but lost it.

More important than dramatic encounters are the small spiritual blessings that come to us in our daily lives. Everyone has moments when they feel lifted by a subtle feeling that changes their mood. It might happen while we’re watching children playing or when we take a walk in the woods. Something comes over us and touches us deeply.

These are spiritual experiences. They can be so subtle that they’re barely noticeable. But they are gifts that Life sends our way. They’re invitations to enter a relationship with something larger than we can imagine. Life is opening a door for us. Don’t let these moments slip by.

These gifts are like ocean waves knocking at our door. Since when does the ocean come to someone’s door? These are extraordinary occasions. Dive in and let the waves carry you out, far beyond all doorways. Follow them wherever they take you. Their depths will surprise you.

Once you start to appreciate these blessings, they will change you. They will also start happening more often. Wait expectantly for another secret visit, another subtle feeling that lifts and moves you, and your relationship with Life will deepen. Make time in your life for her, wait by your door for her, and she will greet you every day.

The more you welcome Life into your home, the more doors she’ll open for you. She’ll show you all the secrets of love. Once you’ve felt her kiss a thousand times, you will know. You will know that you and Life find meaning in each other. Your secret rendezvous with her will continue as long as you keep awaiting her arrival.

A Three Thousand Year Secret — Part II

By Doug Marman

In part I of this series, I wrote about the enigma at the heart of quantum physics that has baffled physicists for a hundred years. It’s a mystery that can finally be explained: Relationships are the true causes of everything we see in the world.

"Mountain Hall." Painting by Dong Yuan.

“Mountain Hall.” Painting by Dong Yuan.

The forces of physics start as relationships between particles. They produce patterns that look like external forces only when billions of particles are involved. As soon as we dive down to the level of electrons and quarks, the whole picture of cause-and-effect reactions falls apart. Instead, we find the unpredictable nature of relationships driving everything.

We find the same thing on the human level. When you look at countries with millions of people, customs change slowly. Large institutions are the same way. They often act more like lumbering, mindless machines that move at the speed of glaciers. But once we look closer, at the lives of individuals, we see creativity, learning, and the dynamism of relationships.

In part I, I wrote about the influence of relationships on the outer world—our physical universe. But before we explore the inner side of this story, there are a few things worth mentioning.

Scientists can’t actually see forces. They can only observe changes. From this, they deduce the forces that cause those changes.

The I Ching also studies changes. In fact, I Ching means “the book of changes.” But it looks at these changes, not through the traditional scientific lens of external forces acting on objects. Rather it sees all changes as the result of relationships. In other words, the I Ching is looking at nature from the quantum view—the level of individuals.

However, the I Ching goes further. It opens doors that scientists haven’t explored yet. For example, physicists tell us that forces act independently. They don’t influence each other. Electromagnetism never affects gravity and gravity doesn’t change the ‘strong force’ that binds atoms together.

The I Ching, however, says that behind the four forces of physics are three types of relationships. These relationships are the true causes and, more importantly, they do influence each other. They change each other in clear ways. The I Ching displays these relationships as eight combinations. Each represents a unique state.

I-Ching_Trigrams_with_NamesSeeing these states allows us to peer deeper into the underlying currents of life. But we can’t understand them by thinking about them analytically. We need to get to know them like friends, until their nature is familiar to us. The following is how the I Ching describes this—but remember, it is best to read this as descriptions of subtle relationships:

"Early Autumn." Painting by Qian Xuan.

“Early Autumn.” Painting by Qian Xuan.

“Heaven and earth set the direction. The forces of mountain and lake are aligned. Thunder and wind arouse each other. Water and fire are not at odds. Thus the eight trigrams influence each other.

“Thunder moves, wind disperses. Rain brings water, the fire of the sun brings warmth. Standing still is a rest point, open joy is appreciation. The creative empowers leadership, as the receptive offers shelter.”

“The Book of Changes…enables us to comprehend the nature (the Tao) of heaven and earth, and its order.”

“A kind person sees it and considers it kind. A wise person discovers it and calls it wise. People use it day by day without knowing it, for the way of knowing is rare.”

“It shows itself as kindness but hides its ways. It gives life to all things but is free from the anxieties of the world.”

“It includes everything—that is its field of action. It renews all living things daily—that is its glorious power.

“As the cause of all causes, it is called change.”[1]

All of life’s changes are contained in the trigrams. Birth and death. Day and night. The four seasons. The formation of seeds and the falling of leaves. People and nations rise to prominence and then fade into oblivion. Every moment is filled with change because the spirit of life moves everything in its own way, by its own nature.

The quote above says, “Heaven and earth set the direction.” This means that the natural flow of spirit is from the inner spirit to outer form.

It also tells us that the top line in the trigram is the original source. It gives birth to and influences the middle line. The middle line then gives birth to and affects the bottom line. However, the bottom line also sways the middle line above it, and the middle line influences the top. In other words, the impact of these three relationships clearly depend on each other.

To understand this better, let’s review what each line in the trigram means.

As we saw in part I, the top line represents one-on-one relationships between individuals, whether those individuals are particles, cells, or human beings. Forces of attraction and repulsion emerge from these relationships. For example, in biology we see symbiotic bonds between males and females, and between bees and flowers. Their lives become aligned. We also find opposing relationships, such as predators and prey. In physics, attraction and repulsion between particles create electricity and light.[2]

The middle line represents what I call “all-for-one bonds,” which are the relationships we experience when we belong to a group working for a common cause. This might be a team, a family, or a company. The relationship is strongest when we feel the spirit of all-for-one and one-for-all holding the group together. All bodies and forms in the world are created by this power. Physicists call it “the strong force.” It is the binding power that holds protons and atoms together, as physicists know well, but it also forms stars and galaxies, as well as cells, the bodies of animals, and families.[3]

Trigram-relationshipsThe bottom line represents the group consciousness that individuals form when in groups. It’s an impersonal relationship with others. For example, when watching a movie or listening to a lecture, we might be surrounded by people we’ve never met before, but we still experience the group consciousness around us. We sense it when the audience laughs or becomes upset.

If our own feelings are in line with the group, we feel connected. When we’re at odds with the audience, we feel estranged. This is where peer pressure comes from. Whether we realize it or not, we all have unconscious desires to feel normal. As I’ve shown in Lenses of Perception, peer pressure between particles creates gravity[4] and the subatomic weak force.[5]

That’s a quick recap. A book could be written on these three types of relationships. It takes time to understand how they work together. But once they are familiar, you’ll see them everywhere.

"I Ching" means "Book of Changes." Calligraphy by White Whirlwind.

“I Ching” means “Book of Changes.” Calligraphy by White Whirlwind.

According to Lenses of Perception and the I Ching, only three types of relationships exist. There are no others. But, this doesn’t mean it’s easy to tell the difference between them. It isn’t, because they influence each other. We can’t completely pull them apart and study them independently, because they’re continually shaping and changing each other. This is the way nature unfolds and evolves.

This brings us to a new understanding of life, beyond the scientific knowledge of today. It offers a richer picture. It shows the hidden pattern of nature.

It also offers a new way of understanding the inner worlds and how they influence the outer. Seeing these three relationships allows us to probe deeper into the spiritual reality, taking us beyond the borders of most religions, as well as science.

For example, look at the trinity of Christianity—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Without realizing it, this describes the all-for-one bond behind the Christian religious experience. The Father is God, above everything. The Son is the one who people look up to, who connects them to the Father, because a focal point is needed for an all-for-one bond. Holy Spirit is the grace and inspiration that flows into and uplifts those who are united by this bond.

Hinduism offers a different trinity—Brahma, the creator; Shiva, the destroyer; and Vishnu, the preserver. This describes the cycle of creation, which is also the story of the all-for-one bond, since this is the relationship behind the process of formation itself. It is the force of creation that brings even the world itself into being.

Almost all major religions have a trinity, and, from what I’ve seen, they all relate to the all-for-one bond behind the religious experience and the act of creation.

But the I Ching and Lenses of Perception show us something different: Creation is not the highest power. It’s the middle force. The Creator God is only part of the story, because the power of creation is in the middle. It isn’t the original source. There is something more.

I-Ching-trigramsThis is why the religions of China—Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism (including Zen)—avoid the image of God as the Creator. Their teachings don’t push the idea that everyone must be bound to their religion to be saved. This shows the influence of the I Ching, because it teaches that behind creation is a spiritual spring that flows into and gives birth to all-for-one bonds. It is the same spirit that brings seeds to life. The same energy that sparks cells to reproduce and develop into the bodies of animals. It is the source behind all-for-one bonds.

The force that I’m talking about comes from one-on-one relationships between beings.

In other words, the top-line relationship comes first. It gives birth to the middle line. One-on-one relationships provide the energy for all-for-one bonds. In fact, look carefully and you’ll see that all-for-one bonds are nothing but shared relationships between individuals. Brothers and sisters in a religion feel a connection to each other. At the same time, each individual feels a personal bond to the one they look up to. When people follow the same leader, the connection between them grows stronger. This is where the all-for-one experience comes from.

This means that while power seems to flow down from the leader, it also flows up from the followers—from the grass roots.

A similar relationship exists between the bottom line and the middle line. The bottom line relates to the peer pressure that coaxes people to the norm of a group. But before this is possible, the group must exist. And groups always start with all-for-one bonds. Thus, behind every group, even an audience formed by people who don’t know each other, is an all-for-one bond that influences it from the inside. You can think of it as an over-soul. Every species, company, family and nation has a subtle inner connection.

The power of the bottom-line relationship grows as the group gets larger. Tradition then becomes more important to the group, and resistance to change gets stronger. This is exactly what we see in all large institutions, where stagnation and red tape are the order of the day.

Start-up companies are faster and nimbler because they’re smaller. The all-for-one relationship is stronger for them. They feel more like a family. However, as the company expands into a corporation, everyone’s roles become more stilted and solidified. Following rules becomes more important than the entrepreneurial spirit. All of this happens when a group grows larger.

This is why large organizations suffer from a form of insanity. The force to maintain stasis and tradition is mindless. This is why crowds and audiences don’t have the ability to act. They’re receptive and passive. A group consciousness doesn’t have the creativity that we find in all-for-one bonds and one-on-one relationships. It isn’t driven by a goal. It has no other purpose than to establish a standard for what is normal. This is why it opposes change.

For a healthy society, we need a mixture of large institutions, medium sized corporations, and small businesses. If leaders want their companies to survive in a changing world, they need to find a way to make space for small teams that develop new products and new processes in the organization. It’s a mistake to ask government to solve the problems of a country, because deep changes start first with smaller groups. The process of evolution begins with those who feel free to try new things. Government, on the other hand, is best for giving us stability, by keeping and enforcing laws.

Now, let’s turn our spotlight on the inner worlds. Religions, philosophies, and metaphysics have various names and ways of describing the subtle dimensions that influence the world subjectively and shape the destinies of people and nations. Differing terminology is used, but most agree that there are many inner mansions, heavens, layers, and levels.

I’m going to use terms that are well-known across many groups, but the I Ching and Lenses of Perceptions offer a clearer picture of what this inner reality is and how it influences us.

As I said in Part I, two trigrams are used in the I Ching. One represents outer changes. The other captures the influences of the inner planes. Studying the inner trigram reveals an amazing insight: The top line describes the ‘Mental world,’ the middle line represents the ‘Causal world,’ and the bottom line relates to the ‘Astral world.’

Trigram-planesYou can think of the Astral plane as inwardly influencing all aspects of the outer trigram—the physical world. The Causal dimension subtly shapes everything that happens on the Astral, and the Mental plane has a hidden effect on every Causal event.

However, if we step back and look at the big changes taking place in these worlds, we can also look at the physical universe as living within the larger space of the Astral world, just as the Astral inhabits a small region of the Causal world, and the Causal is but one little area of the Mental.

Don’t get hung up on the names for these levels. The Astral is the source of our emotions. It influences our imagination. When we feel subtle shifts in attitude as the weather changes, or waves of emotion that move across a nation in the wake of a disaster, those are Astral experiences. They may be invisible, but they affect all living things.

It is easiest to see the connection between these inner worlds and the inner trigram by looking at the Causal plane first. So, let’s start there.

This plane is called Causal because all of creation starts here. The idea of a Creator God comes from this world. The form of every seed, the germ of every great thought, originates in this dimension.

If you read the records of those who have inwardly seen this world, you will see how they describe the God of this world. He says to those who come before him, “I am the all-in-all, the source of everything. Worship me and find life. Nothing exists beyond me.” But this isn’t quite true. This is only what seems to be true in that world, because this is the nature of the all-for-one bond. It creates a reality that seems complete in itself, as if nothing else matters.

This is where many problems in religion come from, when people feel that only their religion is valid and all outsiders are ‘heathens.’ The same problems show up in organizations, even scientific institutions, when insiders are seen as more powerful. Outsiders are either ignored or attacked, to defend the all-for-one bond.

However, conflicts like these are rare in the Causal world, because each individual is in their proper place. Everything is as it should be. Everyone knows this because the lord of that plane, the Creator God, bathes that world with his Universal Mind, showing how his hand—the all-for-one bond—is behind all things.

The Mental Plane is filled with Light. "Abode of Light" by Grev Kafi.

The Mental Plane is filled with Light. “Abode of Light” by Grev Kafi.

When we leave this world and cross into the Mental plane, we experience a greater sense of freedom. With it comes a change in the moral sense of right and wrong. On the Causal plane, truth seems like a divine law that comes from the Creator God. In the Mental world truth is relative.

This doesn’t mean that people in the Mental world have a slippery sense of right and wrong. On the contrary, the experience of truth is deeper and stronger there. However, it is relative to the situation and people involved. There is no universal truth in that world, except that everyone must find what is true for themselves in each moment.

The reason for this is that truth in the Mental world emerges from one-on-one relations. It springs from shared experiences between beings. The great discovery in that world is that our relationships are the most meaningful part of our lives because they reflect life itself. They are the keys to understanding life and its nature. As a result, everything in that world is an active expression of teamwork, comradery, and working together.

We learn so much from each other because we’re different. Look into the eyes of others and you will discover new worlds that expand your understanding. A new dimension opens up when you spend time with friends and co-workers. Spiritual growth is the result.

Communication in the Mental world is through symbols and is hardly ever direct, because, like poetry, the meaning being conveyed is hidden between the lines for those share it. It is never used to share concrete ideas or facts, but as a fluid art form. Everyone in the Mental world is involved in creative work, whether teaching wisdom or creating artistic works for others. Relationships are the mode of creation behind every force and every change in that world.

One-on-one relationships are also the originating force behind teams, companies, and nations. The spirit of cooperation is needed for all of them. That’s how every group starts. When people form a common goal and work together behind a leader, the group takes form on the Causal plane. This is how an all-for-one bond is born. It starts with personal relationships.

If the Mental world is the home and original source of one-on-one relationships, and the Causal plane is where all-for-one bonds begin, then the Astral plane must relate to the bottom line on the trigram. It does, and the connection is remarkable.

Remember, the bottom line represents two forces in physics: gravity and the subatomic weak force. These two forces explain exactly why the Astral plane is different from the Physical.

The force of gravity comes from a relationship that connects every real particle to the physical universe. It forms one group consciousness. Particles have mass only because they’re tied to this group. Scientists call it the field of space. Mass is nothing more than the resistance that particles have to outside forces. Remember, resistance to change is what peer pressure is all about. This is what makes this universe a material world.

The Astral Plane is like a more refined and illuminated reflection of the Physical World. "Kitez" by Grev Kafi.

The Astral Plane is like a more refined and illuminated reflection of the Physical World. “Kitez” by Grev Kafi.

Gravity doesn’t exist in the Astral world because there no single field connects all Astral particles together. What the Astral plane has, however, is the stabilizing force of communities. People share common emotions and imagination, the same way that TV broadcasts create a culture shared by fans with common interests.

These communities exist like islands, each with their own group consciousness that align its members. They each have a unique society, with their own history, laws, and leaders. The experience of exotic cultures is alive and well on the Astral.

This influence is reflected on Earth. That’s why we have so many religions, countries, and cities. We have societies of artists, scientists, politicians, and actors. Each of these groups has a consciousness that aligns the group and establishes a norm, a reference frame. However, the continuing force toward conformity in our world gradually eliminates much of the cultural richness of the past. This is the difference between the Astral and Physical.

The Causal plane also has continents and islands, but they’re all aligned to the Creator God, who stands at the apex. The force of stability in Astral cultures is so strong that they seem to exist on their own. But this isn’t really true, since behind each culture is a subtle all-for-one bond that ties directly back to the Causal plane.

Therefore, each of the inner worlds shapes what happens in the worlds below it.

The original writers of the I Ching didn’t label these inner dimensions with names like Astral, Causal, or Mental. We use these terms because it is easier for us to think of them as places. To the authors of the I Ching, however, they are inner relationships.

For example, hidden behind the country of ancient China, the writers of the I Ching saw an inner China. Their country on earth was but a reflection of that inner reality. This is why they taught the leaders of their day the importance of seeing these inner influences. China, as a whole, prospered when it was aligned to the inner changes taking place. This is the wisdom of the I Ching that has inspired people for thousands of years. It shows how to find lenses that allow us to see The Way, The Tao—the current of life behind nature.

As I said in part I of this series, both Taoism and Confucianism sprang from the I Ching. If you study these two teachings, you can see that Confucianism is more closely associated with the outer trigram, and Taoism focuses more on the inner trigram.

This is interesting because a similar split took place in the West, when science and religion separated. However, the original authors of the I Ching saw no such separation, and I believe that with the new insights gained from Lenses of Perception, we can now, once more, return to this way of seeing. The outer and inner are interrelated. No complete understanding of life is possible without seeing both.

While writing this article, I remembered something that I wrote a decade ago, long before I started Lenses of Perception. (See pages 507-520 in my book, The Whole Truth.) In that section, I showed that some groups, such as religions and countries, have survived for thousands of years, while most last for but a few decades at best. The secret to longevity is that a group must be inwardly aligned to two or more modes of creation based on the inner worlds we’ve been talking about. For example:

“The Jewish religion has been passed down through their families from generation to generation. This is one mode of creation, since the family is the way that life comes into existence in this physical world. Birth comes through a woman, and there must be a father who provides the seed. This is the law of this world established at the formation of the physical plane, billions of years ago. Therefore, everything that is born into this world must enter through the life that already exists here. That is the meaning of family.

“But Jewish teachers also draw upon a group consciousness to center their teachings. Rabbis spread their tradition of words and wisdom to link Jewish families together. Their synagogues are assemblies for uniting their people, as well as a place of worship to connect them to the consciousness that watches over them. This shows how their family traditions are held together by their teaching.

“Group consciousness is the mode of creation on the astral plane, just as families are the source of life in the physical world. Communities on the astral plane are formed through united feelings and ways of seeing. They draw sustenance from common emotions and imagination, the same way that TV broadcasts create a bond between fans with common interests. All new forms of life come into existence in that world through waves of group enthusiasm.”

Jesus was a Jew, but Christian religion is different because it opened its teachings to everyone, no matter what family they come from. So, it doesn’t depend on the physical mode of creation. It still uses group consciousness, through its traditions and teachings, but to this it adds a hierarchical organization. Organization is the mode of creation on the Causal plane.

Compare the Jewish and Christian religions to the Masonic Lodge. Surprisingly, it has also existed for a long time, for hundreds of years. Why? Because, like all long lasting groups, it creates a bridge between modes of creation from two or more inner worlds.

We can see in the Masonic Lodge, from their love of titles, order, and rituals, that organization plays an important role. But any group based on this alone won’t survive for long. The key to the life of the Masons is that they worked together to actively change to the cultures they lived in. They instigated countless initiatives that have influenced the course of governments and leaders. But they did so in secret, because they were not trying to gain credit for the Masons. That was not their motivation. They wanted to share their love of comradery by helping others. This was the second mode of creation that they used.

This reveals an important principle that has been overlooked by leaders in our modern world. No business can live for long if it works only for its own profits and its own survival. Every movement will fade like a fad, if it only promotes its own group consciousness. Even families fall apart over time if they aren’t involved in some other work together.

The lessons we just learned show us why this principle is a law of nature. Longevity comes from building bridges between two or more worlds because none of these relationships can survive on their own. They all need each other.

"The Magical Source" by Grev Kafi/

“The Magical Source” by Grev Kafi/

A group consciousness— the creative force behind a movement—will continue evolving and growing only as long as it recognizes and looks up to the subtle all-for-one bond behind it. This means that it needs to evolve a sense of organization or align itself to an organization. This is exactly what happened when Christianity changed from its early days as a movement into becoming the official religion of Rome.

The group consciousness of a community, by itself, is passive, like a crowd or an audience. It can only move people to a norm or tradition, because that’s what it does. For a while, when it is small, a movement can create a wave of enthusiasm that spreads. However, if a group consciousness wants to leave a lasting mark on the world, organization is needed.

This means leadership needs to recognize the importance of all-for-one bonds. Organizations create lasting forms because they actively focus energies toward a common goal. This is a powerful force. But if the only aim of an organization is to perpetuate itself, it won’t survive for long. It will stop growing and wither away.

Leaders need to make space for renegades who bring new ways of seeing and new perspectives, because organizations need free-flowing comradery to grow. The spirit of working together is the energy that underlies all organizations. This can come from every level in an organization, but it needs freedom to blossom.

One-on-one relationships are the source of this spirit, which comes from the Mental plane. All-for-one bonds create the forms in our world, which begins in the Causal world. Group consciousness creates the richness of culture, which is the influence of the Astral.

The physical world is the least dynamic. Everything is slowed down by mass here, because every particle is tied to the field of space. We need effort to do anything in this world. Particles don’t have mass in any of the worlds above the physical, so they are freer and more energetic. On the Astral, this energy goes into the forming of communities. These communities, however, depend on all-for-one bonds, and the energy that creates those bonds comes from one-on-one relationships.

Therefore, each of the lines looks up to the line above for their source and inspiration. Their lifeline literally depends on the flow of spirit and energy from above. The more we develop a relationship with life itself, the clearer we see that this is a spiritual law. As the I Ching said, “Heaven and earth set the direction,” because Spirit flows from the inner to the outer, where it takes form. And then, all of life evolves as it returns to its source.

It’s easy to see why the influence of the I Ching has lasted so long, and why it describes a spiritual teaching that will last until the ends of time—because it combines all three modes of creation together. This is why the I Ching says of its teaching:

“It includes everything—that is its field of action. It renews all living things daily—that is its glorious power.”

However, this leaves us with a question: If all of this is true, then where does the spirit of one-on-one relationships come from? What is the power source of the Mental world and what does the I Ching say about this?

The I Ching is silent about this question, but not because it isn’t aware of the answer. It is silent intentionally, because there are no words or symbolic lines to describe it.

To understand this, we need one more part to this series. This will take us into a secret that has been hidden for three-thousand-years. Even followers of the I Ching have not seen this teaching before.

In Part III we will move from the lower worlds to the higher worlds. Beyond the worlds of yin and yang, the worlds of duality, to the pure positive realms of spirit.

[1] Derived from: Richard Wilhelm, English translation by Cary F. Baynes, The I Ching — or Book of Changes, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1967, p. 293-299.

[2] Doug Marman, Lenses of Perception: A Surprising New Look at the Origin of Life, the Laws of Nature, and Our Universe (Washington: Lenses of Perception Press, 2016), p. 242-247.

[3] Ibid, p. 248-258.

[4] Ibid, p. 411-418.

[5] Ibid, p. 450-462.

A Three Thousand Year Secret — Part I

By Doug Marman

For over a hundred years, the bizarre mysteries of quantum mechanics have puzzled physicists. Most have given up trying to explain the strange behavior of subatomic particles. Scientists have no intuitive answer. As a result, the quantum revolution is incomplete, as I said in another article, because we haven’t gained any wisdom in our lives from this great discovery.

Lenses of Perception offers a new approach. These mysteries do make sense and we can learn valuable lessons from them. We simply need to look at quantum behavior as the result of relationships. This offers us new insights into the true nature of life.

I Ching — The Book of Changes

I Ching — The Book of Changes

I’m still absorbing the meaning of it all. So, I keep running into discoveries that take me by surprise. For example, the realization just hit me that none of this is new. A deep understanding of the quantum enigma was known over three thousand years ago, under a different name.

This didn’t occur to me until after finishing my book, Lenses of Perception. As the first printed copies were being shipped, memories of an ancient book, the I Ching, unexpectedly came to mind. All at once I had the oddest idea: The I Ching and Lenses of Perception are both describing the same thing.

What a strange thought. Could this be right? I found a copy of the I Ching—Book of Changes and began flipping through its pages. The more I read, the more I saw the connection between these two books. But, how can this be?

No one knew about atoms or the subatomic world over three thousand years ago, when the I Ching was first written. How could they solve the quantum riddle? They lived in a world surrounded by animals and nature. Lightning and thunder, the life-giving rays of the sun, the cycles of life and death, day and night, and the changing seasons were all mysteries to them.

Their awareness of mechanical and chemical reactions was primitive compared to ours. But as I thought about it, I realized that this was an advantage. It helped them see some things clearer, because it made them more aware of the power of relationships. Not just their ties with people, but with nature and life itself.

Wood, Bamboo, and Elegant Stone by Ni Zan (Wikipedia)

Wood, Bamboo, and Elegant Stone by Ni Zan (Wikipedia)

They didn’t see themselves as observers. They were participants. Life, for them, was an experience they shared with the natural world. If relationships are the key to understanding quantum behavior, they were fully prepared to solve the mystery.

The problem we have today is that we keep trying to explain everything through third-person lenses. We learned this hundreds of years ago from Isaac Newton. It is now considered a foundation stone for all of our sciences: We study the world as outside observers. And there’s a reason why objectivity is so crucial: It’s the perfect tool for understanding cause and effect.

Unfortunately, this way of seeing fails in the quantum world. The behavior of particles can’t be explained by cause and effect. Physicists have proven this. Particles seem to defy all logic, from an outsider’s perspective. Understanding relationships, however, changes everything.

The I Ching emerged in an age when third-person perception—which we think of today as the scientific perspective—was being learned and used for the first time. However, people in those days were mostly blind to the mechanical reactions that are second nature to us today, because their lives and experiences were dominated by relationships, not mechanisms.

Centuries after the I Ching was first written, objectivity began to bloom. China shows some of the earliest efforts in the practice of science. But we see similar changes in Ancient Greece and other countries, as well. For example, in Greece, we find Pythagoras, followed later by Plato, Aristotle, Archimedes, and others.

This move toward objectivity created a growth in knowledge about the world. At the same time, it decreased our feelings of closeness to nature. This is exactly what the writers of the Old Testament were getting at with the story of the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were forced to leave when they ate from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” In other words, objective knowledge was dimming their intimate connection with life.

This doesn’t mean that we should live like our ancestors. No, that’s not the lesson here. The point is that our ancestors saw the changes taking place—the shift to objectivity—and they tried to warn people about what they were losing. It isn’t necessary to give up our spiritual connection with life. We simply need to learn how to use different lenses.

All of this explains why, three thousand years ago, some people began teaching a natural way of seeing that shows us the secrets at the heart of all relationships. It turns out that these same principles solve the riddles of quantum particles. We gradually forgot this ability, as third-person lenses took over more and more of our perceptions. I think it’s time to remember.

But this story goes much further. After looking through the I Ching, it is clear that the original authors realized that the same principles that govern relationships in the outer world play an equally important role in our inner experiences as well. In other words, the same lenses help us understand the spiritual mysteries. In fact, they help us penetrate deep into the inner planes.

Let’s start by looking at the role of relationships in the physical world. In Part II, we’ll explore the inner side of this story.

In Lenses of Perception, I showed that all four of the forces known to physics, along with the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, can be explained by three different types of relationships:

  1. There are one-on-one connections between beings.
  2. There are groups that form as action teams, pulled together by a common goal.
  3. Large groups also create a feeling of pressure on their members that tends to align people to a norm.

The first two, above, are highly personal experiences. The third one is impersonal because it’s based on outsider perceptions—the way everyone sees everyone else. (For more details see Lenses of Perception.)

We can relate to all three types of relationships on the human level. Let’s review.

First, one-on-one relationships naturally lead to feelings of attraction and repulsion. Friendships and love affairs spring from something that exists between two people, drawing them together. This type of relationship doesn’t belong to one person or another, but to both together. It’s a shared connection and a private experience. And it’s never static. It continually changes as our understanding of each other, and the world, changes.

Second, groups that work as a unit are pulled together by a sense of “all-for-one and one-for-all.” We feel this in strong families, well-functioning teams, and the sense of loyalty we feel for the communities and companies we work for. This can be a powerful and deeply moving relationship when it inspires everyone to pitch in.

Third, large groups have a completely different type of influence on us. We call it peer-pressure, and we feel it even when no one is intentionally pressuring us. It happens unconsciously because we feel a need to adapt to the norm of society. This is why lawyers tend to dress and act alike, while actors and accountants have different styles and behavior. We try to fit in with groups because it’s uncomfortable being out of step with the world.

These three types of relationships not only play an important role in human affairs, they also define the world of subatomic particles (as shown in Lenses of Perception). For example, “entanglement” is one of the great puzzles of quantum physics. When two particles become “entangled,” their traits become aligned in such a way that the connection between them seems to reach across time and space, defying all logic. This fits perfectly with our experiences with loved ones. We feel their successes and failures, their joys and suffering, as if we’re connected, because we are.

Now, what about the I Ching? What does it say about these three types of relationships? Here is what the I Ching—Book of Changes says:

“In ancient times the holy sages made the Book of Changes thus:

“Their purpose was to follow the order of nature. Therefore, they determined the way of heaven and called it the dark and the light. They determined the way of the earth and called it the yielding and the firm. They determined the way of man and called it humane feeling and rectitude. They combined these three fundamental powers and doubled them; therefore the Book of Changes captures the signs of nature by six lines.”[1]

Let me explain. First, by studying nature, the ancient sages determined that there are three fundamental powers behind all changes. They represent these powers with three lines.

These are the symbols used in the I Ching. They’re called “trigrams.” Each glyph has three lines, either solid or broken, creating eight possible combinations:

I Ching trigrams

I Ching trigrams

Historians have discovered the use of trigrams in China in the earliest Chinese writings. However, around three thousand years ago, the I Ching went through a change: The trigrams were doubled and turned into hexagrams (six lines instead of three).

Why were the lines doubled? It turns out that the sages who first created the I Ching saw both inner and outer forces behind everything that happens. And these inner and outer influences are governed by the same three powers. However, the inner and outer worlds are different.

Therefore, in the beginning, the trigram for outer changes and the trigram for inner changes were separate. Two trigrams were needed to see a complete complete picture of the influences. That’s why these two trigrams were combined into one hexagram with six lines.

For now, I’m going to focus on the outer trigram. In Part II, we’ll look at how the inner trigram works. This should make it easier to understand the deep wisdom revealed by the I Ching about the nature of life. But first, let’s look at the history of the I Ching. It’s something of a mystery.

It is one of the oldest books in the world. No one knows when it began, since it goes back before the earliest records. Legend has it that it started with Fu Hsi, the first emperor of China (2852–2737 B.C.), but this is just a myth. No one knows.

However, one thing that is well known is that the I Ching was the inspiration behind two of China’s greatest teachings: Taoism and Confucianism. In fact, the I Ching was the well-spring for much of what we think of as “oriental wisdom.” It inspired the flowering of ancient China, leaving its mark on everything, including Buddhism, especially Zen. Its influence can still be felt today, thousands of years later.

Now, let’s listen to how a translator of the I Ching, Richard Wilhelm, explains the meaning of the trigrams:

“The eight trigrams are images not so much of objects as states of change. This view is associated with the concept expressed in the teachings of Lao-tse [Lao Tzu], as also in those of Confucius, that every event in the visible world is the effect of an ‘image,’ that is, of an idea in the unseen world. Accordingly, everything that happens on earth is only a reproduction, as it were, of an event in the world beyond our sense perception… The holy men and sages, who are in contact with those higher spheres, have access to these ideas through direct intuition and are therefore able to intervene decisively in events in the world.”[2]

These aren’t actual ‘images’ or ideas, but this gives us a hint of what this is referring to. They are intuitive perceptions, as Wilhelm says. But even this doesn’t explain what they are. The I Ching tries to show us that there are three patterns behind the influences of life, both inwardly and outwardly. By contemplating the trigrams, it’s possible to learn new lenses that gives us new ways of seeing these patterns directly. This is why the I Ching produced such a powerful influence on Oriental thought. It is just as valuable for our lives today.

This is why I say the I Ching teaches the same thing as Lenses of Perception, because it shows that with new ways of seeing, a deeper understanding becomes clear.

Now, let’s study these trigrams. Are they really describing the same three types of relationships as in Lenses of Perception? I believe they are. But I’ll will warn you that we have to look behind the words to find their true meaning. This takes a little digging, but it’s worth the effort, because it helps us uncover a treasure that has been buried for over three thousand years.

The I Ching represents the “three fundamental powers” by giving them different names. Their meaning seems elusive at first. But I’ll walk you through them.[3]

First, the power represented by the top line in a trigram is described by these words: “heaven as content.” What does this mean? What force is this describing?

We need to set aside the literal meaning of these words to see what they’re hinting at. Remember, we’re looking for a lens that makes this clear to us.

Don’t think of heaven, here, as another world. It’s referring to an influence, not a place. It is describing a specific element of change—an inner impetus that shapes life.

The philosophy of yin and yang came from the I Ching

The philosophy of yin and yang came from the I Ching

To get a better insight, we need to hear what the ancient commentaries say. They tell us that when the top line is solid, it is called “light.” When the line is broken it is “dark.” The dynamic between these opposites, light and dark, describe this power. This is the principle that inspired the Taoist teaching of “yin” and “yang.” It tells us that opposites give rise to each other as they relate to each other. Light and dark, in the world, along with many other dualities, are considered manifestations of this power.

It still seems mysterious, doesn’t it?

Now let’s look at this in terms of relationships. Think about a connection developing between two people. It starts with an unconscious attraction. In other words, it starts in darkness. Soon, an intuitive impression—the idea of a possible relationship—emerges into the light of day, you might say.

Feeling this potential for a relationship influences them. But as soon as they realize that the feeling is mutual and real—the moment they both perceive this—it changes the way they see each other. Suddenly the future seems less clear. They’re plunged into darkness. What will happen next? The process goes back and forth as the couple, layer by layer, come to understand each other. More and more emerges into the light. In other words, this top line describes the influence of one-on-one relationships.

The I Ching calls it “heaven as content” because it comes from within. It is the inner content and substance that shapes the dynamic nature of relationships. It gives birth to attraction and repulsion, and from this springs all of the energy that propels our world. The light and warmth from the sun, the vitality of a sprouting seed, the power of storms—all emerge from this source of change. It is easy to see why the ancients saw this as the spirit of life itself—the influence of heaven—because it comes from within.

The dawning of light, when a relationship becomes real, is indeed the source of light in our world. Physicists call it electromagnetism (see NOTE below). The sages were right. The back and forth nature of relationships is also the cause of the wave action in electromagnetic waves. The alignment here with what I wrote about in Lenses of Perception is clear.

At first, when we looked at the meaning of the top line, it seemed hard to fathom because it isn’t describing an object or a thing, or even an idea. This power is a dynamic that we experience with connections. We can’t understand it using third-person lenses, because it’s invisible to outsiders. We only know it because we’re involved in relationships with life. I call it a “second-person lens,” because it’s a way of seeing the “you” in others, in relation to ourselves.

This is what physicists have been missing. They study the way outside forces influence things. They don’t see the dynamics that emerge between things, because these exchanges are private and hidden. We have to be in a relationship to see them.

Sages of the I Ching (image from

Sages of the I-Ching from left to right: Emperor Zhou-Man, who wrote some of the earliest commentary on the I-Ching; Fu Hsi the mythical first emperor of China; and Confucius (image from

Next, let’s look at the middle line. This one is just as mysterious. It’s described by the words: “man as subject.” That doesn’t make much sense, does it?

The word, subject, means the opposite of object. An object is something that seems to exist on its own. A subject exists only in relation to something else. For example, the subject of a painting is what the art is about. However, there is another aspect to this word: A subject is under the rule of someone else. This is what we mean when we say a person is subjected to another. This gets us closer to the meaning of the word we are looking for here.

The word, man, refers to mankind. Being the middle line, it says that people stand halfway between the inner expression of light and the outer world of form. Halfway between heaven and earth. This is how sages saw the human race thousands of years ago. But remember, these lines represent influences. So, man, here, is more like a verb, such as manning a post.

What makes mankind different from the other creatures of our world? We work for causes. We have goals. Working with a group of others for a purpose means taking up a role, a position in a hierarchy. This is what raises the human race. This is the power that allowed us to create civilization and modern technology. It also shows us why mankind is subjected to heaven.

This doesn’t mean that we’re stuck in the middle between heaven and earth. The I Ching shows that all conscious beings are involved with all three levels of the trigram, whether we realize it or not. Rather, what this is saying is that the term, man, is hinting at the power that comes from working for a greater cause by being subjected to a higher rule.

When the middle line is solid, it represents “humane feeling,” which is the desire to help others. Caring for those less fortunate, or those who need care, is the way this power flows down from above. When the middle line is broken, it means “rectitude,” which is a sense of moral correctness—doing what is right. This is the way the power flows up. Once again, the dynamic between these opposites is the key to understanding.

Think of a leader who cares for the people he is leading, or an artist who loves her work. In these cases, the artist and the leader act as agents of change, but they soon come to learn that they’re never completely in control. The power they bring to the world comes through them, not from them. The artist, for example, is subject to the source of her inspiration. She must look up to and honor her muse. The leader must find a vision to show him the right course.

In other words, only by looking up can the leader and artist find the source for leading and creativity. Artists need inspiration. Leaders need a purpose. We find these by looking up to something larger than ourselves. This is the reason why this mode of action is in the middle between heaven and earth.

The I Ching doesn’t just see this middle power as something that belongs only to mankind. Plants bear seeds and fruit that are gifts to the world. Animals care for their young, and their offspring learn from and depend on them until they mature. All living creatures give birth and make sacrifices for the sake of the continuation of life. This is the power of the “all-for-one bond,” the most powerful force in the world.

At the level of particles, we see protons and neutrons instead of seeds. We find atoms instead of families. The hierarchical structure of nature is visible from the lowest levels to the highest, due to this power. Ancient people saw this even more clearly than we do today.

The_trigram_and_its_meaningNow for the bottom line. This is the easiest one. The I Ching describes this power with these words: “earth as form.” It represents the influence of outer forms—the public world.

If the bottom line is solid, it represents “firmness.” If the line is broken, it is considered “yielding.” From this we see that the nature of this element moves from being a stabilizing force, like the ground we stand on, to a force that moves us to adapt as the world changes.

Think of times in your life when you were in-tune with society. You felt like you were exactly where you were supposed to be. That’s a feeling of firmness. Other times you realize how desperately you need to change because the world has changed. That’s the desire to yield. These experiences come from being part of an outer reality. In other words, it comes from impersonal relationships with groups. This same force, in physics, creates fields.

The I Ching tells us that there are times to stand firm, because firmness is needed in the world. In other situations, we should go along with changes, because it’s a time to be receptive to the world. We can choose our actions wisely if we see the situation correctly.

This is the whole crux of this teaching: If we see the inner influences of these three powers, we will understand the way of life and can align ourselves to it. In other words, it can make our relationship with life whole and complete. Here is how the I Ching puts it:

“The Book of Changes enables us to comprehend the way of heaven and earth and its order.

“Looking upward we contemplate with its help the signs in the heavens; looking down, we examine the lines of the earth. Thus we come to know the circumstances of the dark and the light. Going back to the beginnings of things and pursuing them to the end, we come to know the lessons of birth and of death. The union of seed and power produces all things; the entering and leaving of soul brings about change.

“When, in this way, man comes to resemble heaven and earth, he is not in conflict with them. His wisdom then embraces all things, and his way brings order into the whole world. He is active everywhere but does not let himself be carried away. He rejoices in heaven and has knowledge of the laws of nature, therefore he is free of care. He is content with his circumstances and genuine in his kindness, so he can practice love.

“The Book of Changes includes the forms and scope of everything in the heavens and on earth. Nothing escapes it. All things everywhere are completed in it. Nothing is missing. Therefore, by means of it we can penetrate the way of day and night, to understand it. Just as spirit exists everywhere, the Book of Changes is not bound to any one form.”[4]

All of the wisdom contained in this three-thousand-year old book can be understood with the right lenses. This is the same message as Lenses of Perception. It is strange to realize that I am restating something that started so long ago. It does indeed seem like an ancient science.

But what I’ve shared so far is only part of the story. We’ve been focusing on the outer trigram. That’s the same story I wrote about in my book. It turns out, however, that these same influences play a role that is just as important in the inner worlds. They underlie the workings of heaven as well.

This is the part of the story that I didn’t tell in my book, but needs to be told. This is also part of the teaching that was lost over three thousand years go.

Stay tuned for Part II.

NOTE: If you are interested in how these three types of relationships explain the four forces of physics, here’s a quick explanation:

One-on-one relationships between charged particles lead to attraction and repulsion, which is where the force of electromagnetism comes from. You might think that every electron repels every other electron, but physicists have shown that this isn’t true. This is one of the unique qualities of relationships—you can’t predict them.

The “all-for-one bond” on the level of particles creates the “the strong force,” the strongest of all the forces. When three quarks come together as a group, they can become so unified that the group acts as if it’s a singular particle. This is where protons and neutrons come from. When protons and neutrons unite, they create atoms. A new whole emerges from this relationship that is greater than the parts. And as we saw above, quarks don’t always bond in this way. It doesn’t happen automatically. Often, when they form a group, their ties are so weak that the bond fizzles almost immediately, while protons can have lifetimes that are almost as old as the universe itself. These relationships are completely unpredictable.

We also see peer pressure between particles, the third type of relationship. This is where “fields” come from. For example, all of the particles in our universe form a single field called “space.” Space isn’t just an idea, and it isn’t empty. It exerts a real pressure. Einstein showed that curvatures in space define the force of gravity.

We saw above how accountants, actors, and lawyers form groups with differing senses about what is normal. It’s easy to see that this can lead to conflicts between groups, since they form different ways of seeing. The same thing happens with electrons, neutrinos, and quarks. The clash between different types of particles gives birth to the last of the four forces of physics: “the weak nuclear force.” It causes particles to change types, leading to the radioactive decay of atoms. And, once again, the process seems completely random to outsiders. Physicists never know when an atom will decay. They only know its typical life expectancy. That’s why they call it a “half-life.”

The point is that none of the four forces are driven by cause and effect. This is a problem. Why are the laws of nature so unpredictable at the quantum level?

The answer is easy to see, with the right lens: It’s all about relationships. They’re complicated. You can’t predict what happens next at the level of individual beings, because attraction and repulsion comes from within. They aren’t outer forces. They’re the result of life interacting with life. This new insight completely changes the picture of what is happening in the quantum world, and it opens new doors to understanding our own lives and interactions.

If you find it hard to believe that relationships could play such a central role in quantum mechanics, then you might enjoy this recent article: Complementarity and the Quantum of Life: Nobel-Winning Physicist Frank Wilczek on Why Reality Is Woven of Opposing Truths

In the article Maria Popova writes:

“[Niels] Bohr [who has been called the father of quantum mechanics] was so enchanted by complementarity and its manifestations beyond science that he became fascinated with the unified duality of yin-yang in the Eastern philosophy — so fascinated that he placed the yin-yang symbol in the middle of the coat of arms he designed for himself, under the banner Contraria sunt complementa [Opposites Are Complementary].

“[Noble-Winning Physicist Frank] Wilczek writes:

“From his immersion in the quantum world, where contradiction and truth are near neighbors, Niels Bohr drew the lesson of complementarity: No one perspective exhausts reality, and different perspectives may be valuable, yet mutually exclusive. The yin-yang sign is an appropriate symbol for complementarity, and was adopted as such by Niels Bohr. Its two aspects are equal, but different; each contains, and is contained within, the other. Perhaps not coincidentally, Niels Bohr was very happily married. Once recognized, complementarity is a wisdom we rediscover, and confirm, both in the physical world and beyond.”


[1] Derived from: Richard Wilhelm, English translation by Cary F. Baynes, The I Ching — or Book of Changes, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1967, p. 264.

[2] Richard Wilhelm, English translation by Cary F. Baynes, The I Ching — or Book of Changes, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, 1967, p lvii.

[3] For an explanation of the three “powers” represented by the lines in a trigram, see: Richard Wilhelm, The I Ching — or Book of Changes, p 264-265.

[4] Derived from Richard Wilhelm, The I Ching — or Book of Changes, p 293-296.