Monday, October 4, 2010

Popol Vuh and Ta Chuan


Ch'ien and K'un are known within I Ching and its appendices as the Gates or poles of Changes; they are represented as the first pair of figures in the Book of Changes wherein they are colloquially called Heaven and Earth, respectively.  They are also called the Two First Powers, and as such can be regarded as primordial YANG and YIN, the products of the division of Taiji. The process of Change and all the "ten thousand things" (a metaphor for all beings and phenomena between Heaven and Earth) is understood as a consequence of the interaction of Heaven and Earth.

Ta Chuan (The Great Treatise) is typically included as an appendix to the text of I Ching, but stand-alone editions may be found.  It is a primer to I Ching, though beginning students will find it somewhat of a fanciful description of Ch'ien, K'un, and the process of Change they engender.  It is this author's personal opinion that editors of I Ching do their works a disservice by not presenting 
Ta Chuan as an indispensable handbook.

These texts are provided to highlight the importance placed by the authors/commentators on "seeing" life clearly or seeing the system of Changes.  The respective writers of Ta Chuan and Popol Vuh heaped praises on the texts, and emphasized the power that can be obtained through study and contemplation of the respective texts.

Selected verses from Ta Chuan, The Great Treatise

Ta Chuan
- Section 2
VI - 1
See also: Section 1, Chapter XII-3.
The master said: 'Ch'ien and K'un may be regarded as the gate to the I'.  Ch'ien represents what is of the yang nature (bright and active); K'un what is of the yin nature (shaded and inactive). These two unite according to their qualities, and there comes the embodiment of the result by the strong and weak lines. In this way we have the phenomena of heaven and earth visibly exhibited, and can comprehend the operation of the spiritual intelligence.

Ta Chuan - Section 1
XII - 3
May we not say that Ch'ien and K'un are the secret and substance of the I? Ch'ien and K'un being established, the system of changes was thereby constituted. If Ch'ien and K'un were taken away, there would be no means of seeing that system; and if no changes were seen, Ch'ien and K'un would almost cease to exist.


Excerpt from foreword to Popol Vuh (tr. by Allen J. Christenson), in reference to the pre-Columbian version of that book:

This account we shall now write under the law of God [31] and Christianity. [32] We shall bring it forth because there is no longer the means whereby the Popol Vuh may be seen, [33] the means of seeing clearly that had come from across the sea—the account of our obscurity, and the means of seeing life clearly, as it is said. The original book exists that was written anciently, [34] but its witnesses and those who ponder [35] it hide their faces. [36] Great is its performance [37] and its account of the completion and germination [38] of all the sky and earth—its four corners and its four sides. 

All then was measured and staked out into four divisions, doubling over and stretching the measuring cords of the womb of sky and the womb of earth. [39] Thus were established the four corners, the four sides, [40] as it is said, by the Framer and the Shaper, the Mother and the Father [41] of life and all creation, [42] the giver of breath [43] and the giver of heart, [44] they who give birth and give heart to the light everlasting, [45] the child of light born of woman and the son of light born of man, [46] they who are compassionate [47] and wise in all things—all that exists in the sky and on the earth, in the lakes and in the sea.


Excerpt from foreword to Popol Vuh (translated by Allen J. Christenson), in reference to the purported divinatory power of the book

By far the most important extant example of such a transcription is the Popol Vuh, a lengthy document composed by anonymous members of the Quiché-Maya aristocracy in Guatemala soon after the fall of their capital city to the Spanish conquerors. The authors of the manuscript described the text as an ilb'al (instrument of sight) by which the reader may “envision” the thoughts and actions of the gods and sacred ancestors from the beginning of time and into the future. The opening chapters of the Popol Vuh. The fact that the contents of the original Popol Vuh predated the Spanish conquest gave them an aura of mystery and power. 

Its authors referred to the ancient book upon which the [24] Popol Vuh was based as an ilb'al, meaning “instrument of sight or vision” (p. 64; lines 51-52). The word is used today to refer to the clear quartz crystals that Quiché priests use in divinatory ceremonies. It may also be used to refer to magnifying glasses or spectacles, by which things may be seen more clearly. 


Excerpt from text of Popol Vuh
Thus the rulers (Cucumatz and Co Tuha were enchanted people and enchanted lords. Quicab and Cauizimah were also enchanted lords) of the Quichés consulted the Popol Vuh in times of national distress as a means of seeing the future: They knew if there would be war. It was clear before their faces. They saw if there would be death, if there would be hunger. They surely knew if there would be strife. There was an instrument of sight. There was a book. Popol Vuh was their name for it. (p. 287)

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