Process, Interaction, and the Human Situation:

A Humanistic Approach to the I-Ching

Joseph S. Wu

[Editor痴 Note:] Originally presented at the Meeting of American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division, on March 21, 1985, in conjunction with the International Society for Chinese Philosophy, this paper is a summary of the chapter on the I-Ching in the author's forthcoming book Foundations of Chinese Thought: Lectures on Confucianism, Taoism, and the I-Ching.

  1. Process, Growth, and Regularity

The term "I" (pronounced "yi"), according to a well-recognized classical commentary of the I-Ching, has three connotations: (a) "I" means "easy" or "simple"; (b) "I" means "change"; (c) "I" means "constant" or "unchanging."[1] The first and the third meanings need some clarification. In ancient Chinese there were not enough written characters for all the spoken words. Consequently many spoken words had to borrow characters which meant differently. It is not strange that the character for "I" ("change") was borrowed to mean "easy" and "simple." As to the third connotation that "I" means "constant" or "unchanging," from the view-point of the present author, it is a result of linguistic confusion, a confusion of the language of the first order with meta-language. The statement that "The principle of change is unchanging" in the Chinese original can be formulated like "Change is unchanging." It should now be clear that what is relevant is only the second meaning -- "I" means "change."

The structure of the Chinese character for "I" has been a subject-matter of competing views. It has been noted that in archaic Chinese abstract concepts were usually symbolized by characters which were pictures (in a very generalized sense) of some concrete particular objects or phenomena.[2] Our question now is: What is the picture as represented by the character which means "change" and is pronounced "yi"? Two interpretations have been dominant among classical commentaries. The first interpretation was offered by Shuo Wen Chieh Tzu,[3] a great authority in Chinese etymology. According to this view, the character is a picture of a lizard which symbolizes mobility and changeableness. From the view-point of the present author, this interpretation is not well-justified at all. The lizard is only one among many kinds of creatures which can reveal the meaning of mobility and changeableness. It would be very incidental and arbitrary for the character inventor (or inventors) to pick up lizard as an example. Secondly, lizard, unlike dragon, tiger, or horse, did not have much place in the experience of ancient Chinese people. Even if the inventor did pick up lizard, it would be very difficult to get support from conventionality which is based on shared experience of a social group or community. Therefore, modern scholars no longer recognize this as an adequate interpretation. A second view was offered by a Taoist of the Han Dynasty. According to this view, the character "I" is a combined picture of the sun and moon.[4] This interpretation is quite appealing to the students of the I-Ching. But the structure of the character does not warrant such an interpretation. The picture of the sun "O" is easily recognized, but to interpret the rest of the character as a picture of the moon "B" requires an arbitrary twist in imagination. In addition, this interpretation grows out of the popularity of the I-Ching which connotes Yin (symbolized by the moon) and Yang (symbolized by the sun) as the essential forces of the universe. Although this interpretation may be in harmony with the spirit of the I-Ching, it still fails to disclose the original meaning of the character as based on its struc-ture. Recently a prominent etymologist offered a new interpretation. It is the late Professor Lincoln Kao of The National Taiwan Normal University who has offered probably the most reasonable interpretation of this character. According to Kao, this character is an image of the sun being partly covered or shaded by cloud. It reveals the phenomena of the transition between being cloudy and being clear.[5] This interpretation hits upon a most commonly seen changing process in the sky, and, at the same time, it is very compatible with the structure of the character. So, before the discovery of any evidence pointing to the contrary, the essence of this character can well be settled with Kao痴 interpretation.

Now, our concern is philosophy. The first philosophical question to ask about the I-Ching is: What kind of change does this text deal with? In our commonsense world, we have various types of changes: changes of space or location, numeral and quantitative changes, changes in quality, changes in social status, changes of date or schedule, changes of names, etc. In elementary science texts, a distinction is usually made between physical and chemical change. Is the kind of change in the I-Ching a physical one, chemical one, psychical one, or a spiritual one? The answer is neither. It is a more primordial or fundamental kind. If we are asked for a name or label, we can call it "organic" change. Helmut Wilhelm has provided a very pointed interpretation:

The concept of change is not an external, normative principle that imprints itself upon phenomena; it is an inner tendency according to which development takes place naturally and spontaneously.[6]

The words and phrases like "naturally," "spontaneously," "development," and "inner tendency" deserve full attention. All these indicate that the kind of change the I-Ching deals with is never the kind of change which can be induced by an external efficient cause. Rather, it is the kind of change which life alone may have. It is the process of growth. The Ta Chuan distinctly stated that being born and growth constitute change [i.e., in the sense of "perpetual creativity."[7] It is a process of reproduction and development. This fundamental cosmological view is in fact shared by many modern Western philosophers such as Samuel Alexander, Lloyd Morgans, and even John Dewey and Alfred North Whitehead. According to this world view, nothing is inert or dead. In every phenomenon there lurks an impetus of life. The universe as a whole, can be seen as a magnificent realm of the concrescence of universal life.[8]

It should be noted that the Chinese concept of change as exemplified in the I-Ching is not one of a chaotic flux. The cosmic process follows some patterns immanently or implicitly. All existences in the universe follow a definite order, and this is explicitly stated in the Ta Chuan: "Movement and rest follow definite laws."[9] Now a question arises: What kind of law do all existences follow? How do the Chinese sages view cosmic order or Laws of Nature?

In Adventures of Ideas Whitehead has outlined four main theories of the Laws of Nature:

At the present time, there are prevalent four main doctrines concerning the Laws of Nature: the doctrine of Law as immanent, the doctrine of Law as imposed, and the doctrine of Law as observed order of succession, in other words, Law as mere description and lastly the the later doctrine of Law as conventional interpretation.[10

To view a Law as merely a description is to deprive its predictive function, and this is certainly alien to the spirit of the I-Ching. The theory that Law is a rationalized convention or conventional interpretation may adequately apply to jurisprudence, linguistics, and probably the axiomatic nature of mathematics. But to interpret the phenomena of sunrise, sunset, the movements of planets, the formation of rain and snow, all these natural phenomena in terms of conventionality is but a metaphysical "bad faith," to hide an important part of truth from ourselves. It seems that we are left only two alternatives: Law as Imposed and Law as Immanent.

The Imposition view is dominant in the cultural tradition of the West. The Hebrew concept of the universe requires a Creator who gives Order to which all creatures have to obey. According to Whitehead, even the concept of Law of Nature in Newtonian physics requires "God for the imposition of the principles on which all depended."[11] This view does not seem compatible with what is underlying the metaphysics of the I-Ching. Now, by the method of elimination, it is clear that only the Doctrine of Immanence can apply to the Chinese view, particularly the view as em-bodied in the Book of Changes. This has been affirmed by Joseph Need-ham, who, in his article "Human Laws and Laws of Nature in China and the West," after presenting the traditional Western view, characterized the Chinese concept of nature thus:

The Chinese world-view depended upon a totally different line of thought. The harmonious cooperation of all beings arose, not from the orders of a superior authority external to themselves, but from the fact that they were all parts in a hierarchy of wholes forming a cosmic pattern and what they obeyed were the internal dictates of their wn natures.[12]

Professor T誕ng Chün-I of Hong Kong has confirmed Needham's observa-tion and has provided a more thorough and penetrating explanation:

In the text of the I-Ching (Book of Changes) and the philosophies of early Confucianism and Taoism, there was already developed a concept of natural law as immanent in the processes of myriad things and events. However, such a law is not one of necessity or inevitableness. This theory of law of nature is not a conclusion reached by pure intellect. It is the result of growing out of immediate experience, direct contact with events and objects. It is substantiated by the spirit of art and morality of both Confucianism and Taoism. According to this cosmology, the logos of myriad things constitutes their nature which is manifested through their functions and development. [13]

In other words, the Laws of Nature in ancient Chinese cosmology as represented by the I-Ching are not Laws of Physics, but Principles of Life. According to this view, the cosmic process embraces within itself all beings and creatures interwoven with the great path of never-ceasing growth. This concept of Life is the metaphysical foundation of the formation and development of all events and existences. It constitutes the intelligible ground of the order of the universe which is not conceived as a massive collection of inert objects, but an organic process of perpetual creativity.

B. Interaction, Creativity, and Harmony

We have established that change [as above defined] is an undeniable fact and is the essential nature of the universe. Now an important philosophical question is: How is change possible? Some of us are probably reminded of the Aristotelian concept of efficient cause. But the concept of an efficient cause as external to the process of change will not explain adequately the subject-matter of the I-Ching. As we already pointed out that the concept of change in the I-Ching is organic change, a process of growth or development. Then our question is: How is growth or development possible?

An answer is provided by a distinguished American philosopher, John Dewey, who probably read none of the fragments of this collection of obsolete magic spells. Nevertheless, Dewey痴 concept of interaction is so attuned with the spirit of the I-Ching that one may even take his philosophy as the modern version of the ancient text. For Dewey, inter-action forms the foundation of experience, and without it experience would have been entirely impossible. But Dewey is ultimately not a metaphysician in the traditional sense, and his concept of interaction focuses on the relation between an individual (or organism) and his social and natural environment. The concept of interaction in the I-Ching [to paraphrase it in Whiteheadian language] is an ultimate generality in terms of which all phenomena of growth or change are to be interpreted. It is not merely a relation between two objects or two individuals but a relation between two cosmic forces which are immanent in all beings and existences. These two forces have been called by many different pairs of names. The most notable pairs are "Yang and Yin," "Ch'ien and K'un," and, "Kang and Jou," among which "Ch'ien and K'un" is the most frequently used pair in the text of the I-Ching. The Ta Chuang tells us: "It is through the interaction between Kang and Jou there comes change."[14] Again it says: "The continuous interaction between Yin and Yang is the process of Tao." [15] "Kang" as an adjective means "strong," "hard," "unyielding," and "firm," while "Jou" means "weak," soft," "submis-sive," and "flexible." They can be used as a noun without having their forms changed. "Yang" etymologically means the sunny side of the moun-tain and "Yin," the shaded side. In the process of semantical growth, they are extended to mean "male and female," "sun and moon," "light and dark," etc. We have to remember that in the Chinese language, abstract concepts or general notions are symbolized by characters which are originally concrete particulars. Therefore, we have to caution ourselves not to equate "Yin and Yang" with any of their lexicon meanings which are only their exemplars, lest we should commit the fallacy of taking the example for the principle.

The terms "Ch段en and K置n" need special treatment because they have constituted the essential part of the text of the I-Ching. In the context of the I-Ching, "Ch段en and K置n" are used to stand for "T段en and Ti" which are usually translated as "Heaven and Earth." Strictly speaking, "Heaven" and "Earth" are not adequate translations, for the term "Heaven" suggests transcendence and "Earth" implies too much material substantiality. The term "sky" for "t段en" is equally inaccurate, for "sky" fails to suggest the kind of creative power that "t段en" would imply. The nature of "ti" is not its material substance, but its receptivity, vastness, productive and procreative capacity. In the absence of better translations, "Heaven" and "Earth" will be employed for the sake of convenience.

According to the text, both Ch段en and K置n are originators of all existences. But in the act (or process) of origination, they perform different functions. Ch段en takes the initiative of life-giving and trans-forming while K置n serves as the cosmic womb for all existences. But Ch段en and K置n do not exist apart. They constitute an inseparable unity through unfailing and unceasing interaction due to which there come all existences. Thus it was indicated clearly in the text that "Heaven and Earth interact with each other and all existences come into being,"[16] and the Ta Chuan compares this [symbolically] to the relation between a man and a woman:

There is an intermingling of the genial influence of Heaven and Earth, and the transformation of all things proceeds abundantly. There is an intercommunication of seed between male and female, and all things are produced.[17]

This "sexual-intercourse" viewpoint of the universe may invite criticisms from modern positivistic-minded readers. An analystic philosopher like Professor Gilbert Ryle would comment on it as a result of a "category mistake,"[18] confusing the human category with the category of natural objects. A hard-headed sociologist or anthropologist may view it as an expression of the primitive mentality because of its anthropomorphic nature. From the viewpoint of the present writer, anthropomorphism is not to be downgraded as primitive or undeveloped. A post-Einsteinian meta-physical system like Whitehead痴 philosophy is, to a certain extent, very anthropomorphic. The theme that "Nature is Alive" may appear to echo some viewpoints which can be found in primitive culture.[19] Nevertheless, it does not follow that Whiteheads' metaphysics is inferiorly primitive or grossly undeveloped. Secondly, to criticize this "intercourse" viewpoint of metaphysics as a category mistake is to confuse the literal use of language with the metaphorical use. The authors of the I-Ching never mean Ch段en was a man of certain weight, certain height, and certain color, constantly engaged in sex with a woman called K置n. These sexual terminologies are not to be conceived literally. Instead, they are symbolic of a more fundamental concept of interaction of which "sexual intercourse" is but an individual instance [a particular instantiation] or an exemplar. This is a metaphorical way of using language and is a dominant linguistic phenomenon in the Chinese language. Professor Stephen Pepper痴 root-metaphor theory will throw some light on this metaphysical theory.

By a root metaphor, I mean an area of empirical observation which is the point of origin for a world hypothesis. When anyone has a pro-blem before him and is at a loss how to handle it, he looks about in his available experience for some analogy that might suggests a solution .... The originating analogy I have called the root metaphor of a world hypothesis.[20]

In other words, a root metaphor is a common sense fact chosen by a philosopher (particularly a metaphysician) to interpret the world or uni-verse as a whole. For a philosophy of mechanism, the root metaphor is a machine, and, for a philosophy of organism, the root metaphor is a living creature. Then, what is the root metaphor of the I-Ching? As the present author observes, the root metaphor of this ancient Chinese metaphysics is a family.[21] Family relations start with the interaction between husband and wife who in turn produce children who will interact with one another and interact with their parents. As viewed by the authors of the I-Ching, Heaven and Earth are the greatest in the universe. They again observed that in heaven there are quite a few things which are significant to human life and experience, e.g., the sun, the moon, wind, and thunder. On earth, the striking items are mountains, mashy lowlands, fire, and water. They regarded these objects as fundamental constituents of the universe, and devised the eight trigrams symbolizing them. They then linked these tri-grams together by assigning them family relationships of father and mother, sons and daughters. Here are the eight trigrams and their alleged meanings.


Chinese Name


English Translation





The Creative



- -

- -

- -

- -

- -

- -

- -

- -

- -

- -

- -

- -













The Receptive

The Arousing



The Abysmal



Keeping still



The Gentle



The Clinging



The Joyous













Wind, wood






First son


Second son



Third son



First daughter



Second daughter



Third daughter

Here it should be noted that these eight trigrams are not literal representa-tions of things as such (e.g., thunder, water, etc.), but are indications of their tendencies in movement. In order to achieve a greater multiplicity in symbolism, the authors of the I-Ching combined these eight trigrams with one another whereby [the construction of] a total number of sixty-four hexagrams were produced. In spite of a large number of sixty-four, their most fundamental building bricks are only two, a continuous line " " and a broken line "- -", which stand for the two cosmic forces Yang and Yin correspondingly. In other words, ontologically, all existences of the universe, all natural phenomena and human events are but results of the interaction between Yang and Yin, and such an interacting process is the creative process advancing into novelty.

Here the author would like to make a comment on the Principle of Interaction. The interacting process between Yang and Yin is not to be interpreted as a form of opposition or mutual conflict, nor is it an act of force or violence. It is in accordance with the Principle of Love. Here Professor Thomé Fang has provided us a very penetrating explanation:

The spirit of life gives expression to the spirit of love. The sentiment of love bears the semblance of universal change whereby the motive of comely life is actuated and the relation of affective unity is established among all beings in the world through the rhythmic movements of Yin and Yang. What is here called love is just the intimate communion in intensified emotional contrasts like the convection of opposite electric charges across a spark-gap. It is a universal process wherein Heaven and Earth lead all things to play important parts in the sport of bliss. The strong and the tender supervene upon each other concordantly; men and women are happily consorted; creatures of different nature are congruently concerted; and societies and institutions are beautifully interfused and interwoven. In a word, life of all form is fulfilled and the value of all kind is achieved through the spirit of love.[22]

In order to grasp this metaphysical principle, we should first understand the Chinese concept of love. In Chinese literature, descrip-tions of romantic love, particularly premarital love, were very uncom-mon.[23] It seems that Chinese people know very little about the kind of love in Western culture in which the lover views the loved as a transcendent object, which induces a strong admiration and craving on the part of the lover. This kind of love is featured by sublimity and the adventure of the spirit. In Chinese literature, which reflects the general experience of Chinese people, the love depicted very often exists between husband and wife, and among brothers, sisters, and friends. Chinese ways of love are rarely founded upon wonder or adventure of the spirit, instead it is deeply rooted in the sense of caring or concern. It is more love of the family style than love between two unrelated individuals with unique characters. Instead of being aspired by adventure or sublimation of the spirit, Chinese love is guided by the teleological principle of creative harmony, which is a first principle of Chinese metaphysics.

The Chinese term for harmony is "ho" which has appeared in the I-Ching nine times.[24] This is probably the most prevailing single notion in the history of Chinese culture, both the cultivated and the vernacular. It is the custom of Chinese people to post slips of red paper containing maxims or sayings of good fortune during the new year time. Two of the most popular sayings are Ho chi sheng t'sai (Harmony brings fortune) and I t置an ho ch段 (Being united in harmony). In ordinary Chinese, a well-flavored dish is called ho wei (harmonized tastes), a drawn game is called ho jü (a situation of harmony or peace), and a pleasant breeze is called ho feng (harmonious wind). All these indicate that the concept of harmony plays a significant guiding role in Chinese modes of thinking and Chinese ways of life.

It has been an established belief that the concept of harmony also plays an important role in Greek culture. But the author would like to point out that the Chinese concept of harmony is essentially different from that of the Greeks. The Greek concept of harmony is developed from an admiration of geometrical forms and the shapes of architecture. Both geometry and architecture are static and do not possess any dynamic or process nature. The Chinese concept of harmony, on the other hand, is derived from an appreciation of the equilibrium or peacefulness in life. It is not statically given, but dynamically created. The Doctrine of the Mean explains this meaning saying: "Chung indicates the psychic state in which feelings are not yet aroused, and ho denotes the state of harmony attained through the balancing of all aroused feelings."[25] Different from that of the Greeks, the Chinese concept is a continuous process of harmonizing. In human affairs, it is the ideal of family relations, and it characterizes the dynamic quality which features the proper degree of interaction and the compatibility among multiplicity of apparent discordant elements in the process of creative development. In sum, this is the teleological principle of the I-Ching, which governs all movements, tendencies, processes, situations, and events of the cosmos, natural and human.

C. Human Situations and Freedom of Choice

Contemporary Western thought has been featured by conflicts, diversities, and polarities.[26] A striking polarity is found between the psychology of B. F. Skinner and the philosophy of Jean-Paul Satre.[27] On the one hand, there we see the behaviorist痴 thesis that human behavior is determined and is thus predictable; on the other hand, we heard an existentialist cry that "Man is condemned to be free!" Were these two men together and could speak the same language, their uncompromising debates would incisively dramatize a perennial intellectual issue of the Western men.

In its simplest form, the main thesis of determinism can be stated in the following statement. "Everything that happens has a cause," or "Everything that happens is determined." If we accept this thesis that everything that happens has a cause, we have to accept that every human act is caused or determined. Then what place is left for human action, choice, or volition? Nevertheless there seems to be evidence in our experience suggesting that we do have a power to choose among alter-natives and act upon them. In choosing a career or choosing a life-mate for marriage, we seem to be aware of our power to make such a choice. Furthermore, our sense of obligation or responsibility is justified only when we recognize that we do have freedom of making our choices. But, if we hold that we do have freedom of choices, we seem to be denying the statement that everything that happens is caused or determined and at the same time this statement appears so true to us. Consequently, we are caught in the middle of this dilemma.

Strangely enough, this problem has bypassed the main stream of the Chinese philosophic tradition. This problem has never captured the attention of any prominent Chinese philosophers with the mere exception of those who were exposed to Western philosophy. This interesting phenomenon is indeed a worthwhile topic for our investigation. There have been cases that a problem in one philosophic tradition ceases to be a problem in another tradition. For example, the validity of the ontological argument for the existence of God has been a significant problem in the history of Western philosophy, and it was virtually unknown [or negligible] to the Chinese philosophers, for the Chinese people never had an Almighty God of the Hebrew type. But the problem of "freedom and determinism" cannot be explained away so easily. Both the Chinese people and the Western people share the experience of making choices and both of them live in the same universe and are surrounded by the same kind of physical environment mountains, waters, sunshine, moonlight, storm, snow, rocks, clouds, even mud and dirt. Why were they so different regarding this problem of "freedom and determinism?" To the present writer, the fundamental difference lies in different concepts of nature, and particularly different concepts of the relation between man and nature.

The position of determinism presupposes a concept of nature in which the universe is conceived as a giant machine, a conglomeration of lifeless substances governed by the physical laws of nature. This concept of nature is totally alien to Chinese metaphysics. As for the kind of determinism which was revealed in Greek tragedy, it is also alien to the Chinese mind, for the Chinese religious tradition has never entertained a transcendent God or a transcendent Law Giver dictating human acts and events. The concept of nature as embodied in the I-Ching, as mentioned earlier in this chapter, is that the universe is an organic whole, a process of never-ceasing growth. All the existences within this growing context are organically interrelated, and form a comprehensive continuum advancing into novelty. As to the relation between man and nature, we also see a noticeable contrast between the Chinese viewpoint and what has been traditionally held in the West. Roughly speaking, in traditional Western thought, man, nature, and supernature (God), are clearly distinct with God as the creator of both man and nature. But in the Chinese philosophic tradition, as embodied in the I-Ching, Heaven (roughly supernature), Earth (roughly physical nature), and Man, form an intimate trinity exhibiting congenial congruence and harmony. For the Chinese man is a co-creator of the universe. Wilhelm was very perceptive in observing that even "the six lines of each hexagram are divided among the primal powers, heaven, earth, and man." [28] This means that, in under-standing any given situation as represented by a hexagram, nature, supernature, and man have to be taken into account. If we take the position of determinism, we may say that man participates in determining his own act. If we advocate free will, we may say that man has freedom (but not unlimited, since he has to get the consent from his co-creators) to choose to make himself, and to create his physical and spiritual environment. This may suggest the reason why the problem of "freedom and determinism" has bypassed the Chinese philosophic tradition.

It is widely recognized that the Chinese philosophic tradition is predominantly humanistic. Supernaturalism and naturalism have played only a very subordinate role. Confucius manifestly maintained that "It is man who made Tao great, but not vice versa."[29] Since the I-Ching is a major representative of this humanistic tradition, despite its supernatural tone of fortune-telling, it is a human-centered text. Hellmut Wilhelm has put it very well:

From this comprehensiveness of Tao, embracing both macrocosm and microcosm, the Book of Changes derives the idea that man is in the center of events; the individual who is conscious of responsibility is on a par with the cosmic forces of heaven and earth.[30]

Since man is the center of events, the supernatural (Heaven) and the natural (Earth) aspects of events are but for man痴 survival, development, and fulfillment. All that exists is for humanity, by humanity, and of humanity. Interrelations among all existences are but instrumentality for man to realize his freedom.

In order to understand this underlying thesis, we have to probe into the nature of causal relation as viewed by the authors of the I-Ching. As this author explained in another treatise, the concept of causality under-lying the I-Ching is one of instrumentality. This instrumentalist view of causality is fully revealed as we study the hexagrams. The Ta Chuan says:

The holy sages instituted the hexagrams, so that phenomena might be perceived therein. They appended the judgments, in order to indicate good fortune and misfortune.[31]

As to who the holy sages are, this is not a philosophically relevant question here. Nor could it be answered without any dispute. The important questions are: What are the hexagrams? Are they merely symbolic diagrams or do they bear significance in human experience? By what method are these hexagrams instituted? What is a judgement? What is the purpose of a judgement appended to a hexagram? Perhaps the most important question for our discussion is: What is the concept of causal relation underlying all these? A descriptive or explanatory definition of hexagrams is that they are symbolic devices exhibiting various types of possible situations a human individual may encounter. Each hexagram is a foretelling of possible consequences and a suggestion of how they can be secured or averted. The relation between hexagrams and actual experience is a twofold one. It is genetic and functional. It is genetic in that a hexagram is generated by previously experienced situations; functional, in that a hexagram, when applied properly, may perform the function of refining, guiding, or regulating our activities. There is no doubt that the method by which the hexagrams are instituted is [what Whitehead calls] descriptive generalization with genetic and functional consideration in view. A judgment is an interpretation of what is revealed in a hexagram. The significance of a judgment, as pointed out by the Ta Chuan, is that the "superior man takes pleasure" in them and "ponders on" them.[32] Nevertheless, the superior men in the Confucian tradition ponder on the judgments not because of a pure sense of wonder, but because of care or concern. The role of the judgments is to provide a tool or guidance for action. It indicates that if we take certain steps, certain consequences will likely follow. This kind of "if-then" proposition is what we call a "causal statements" which prescribes a "means-ends" formula for action. It is very obvious that the concept of causality underlying the I-Ching is a pragmatic one, having a strong emphasis on instrumentality and rele-vance to human action. A judgment appended to a hexagram in the I-Ching functions as a hypothesis leading to the settlement of a problematic situation one may encounter in his social or natural environment. It is now clear that the relations among events or existences are but instruments for man to attain self-fulfillment, growth and development, as well as freedom. It is said that even "the holy sages," through this text, "reached all depth and grasped the subtleties of all things."[33] Freedom begins with knowledge and understanding, and is fully attained through proper course of action in accordance with reliable knowledge. Deterministic networks among existences do not hinder freedom but serve as means for the attainment of it. Nevertheless the final goal of the study of the I-Ching is "to know all the universal principles, to fulfill one's nature, and to approach the Mandate of Heaven."[34] This goes beyond the metaphysical level and reaches the realm of religious fulfillment being one with Tao (for Destiny) through understanding and a life of commitment. This is the ultimate wisdom of the I-Ching, which is beyond the level of instrumentality and pragmatic concern, and has provided the Neo-Confucian religious-metaphysical foundations for their philosophy of life.