At Richard Wilhelm’s memorial service in 1930 Jung expressed his gratitude for the rich contribution that Wilhelm made to Western society and to him in person. He singled out Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ching and described it as radiating the simplicity and ‘plantlike’ wisdom of Chinese culture, emerging like a light out of thousands of years of dark background ‘horrors,’ suffering. (1)

In Western culture it answers a need, with Christianity having become ‘debilitated.’ Western culture is tired of rationalism and intellectualism; it “wants to hear truths that broaden rather than restrict, that do not obscure, but enlighten, that do not run off them like water, but penetrate them to the marrow.” But new sensations alone will not help us; we have to “earn the right to it by working on ourselves.” (2)

The I Ching is based on an acausal system, as opposed to the familiar Western system of cause and effect, and centers around the concept of what Jung had named synchronicity or meaningful coincidence. Synchronicity refers to two or more events which appeared simultaneously, born from the same moment; they are meaningfully related, but not causally.  (3)  

Jung says: “Synchronicity therefore means the simultaneous occurrence of a certain psychic state with one or more external events which appear as meaningful parallels to the momentary subjective state and, in certain cases, vice versa.” (4)

Jung wrote a foreword to Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ching. He viewed it as a testimony to his individual experience of the book; he personified the book and asked it for its judgement on Jung’s intention of presenting it to the Western mind. In answer the I Ching told him “of its religious significance, of the fact that at present it is unknown or misjudged, of its hope of being restored to a place of honor.” (5)

The I Ching whose wisdom may be said to center around the principle of ‘tao’, refers to a quest for meaning in life, which has become a collective phenomenon in our time (6). Seen from this perspective the I Ching can be a great support to anyone seeking deeper meaningful containment.

Image credit: Bodhi Tree Leaf Yin Yang artwork from the Royal Thai Art website.


1 – 2 + 6. CG Jung, CW 8. Richard Wilhelm: In Memoriam, par 87 – 90.

3. CG Jung, CW 8 par 849.

4. CG Jung, CW 8 par 850.

5. Foreword by CG Jung from I Ching, The Wilhelm Edition, p. xxviii.