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States of Change:
States of Change #2 (yellow)

© 1999
BASID #074

Beth Ames Swartz
States of Change:
States of Change #2 (yellow)

acrylic, gold leaf and mixed media on shaped canvas
36" x 48" (1.22m x 0.91m)

Yellow River Map ( Ho T'u in Chinese)

In Chinese literature, four men are cited as authors of the Book of Changes . One of these purported authors (Fu Hsi) is a legendary figure; the fact that he is cited suggests that the initial development of the Book of Changes teachings is believed to be of such antiquity that it antedates historical memory. Many scholars believe the compilation that became the Book of Changes began before 1122 B.C.E. The youngest attributed author of the Book of Changes is Confucius, who lived approximately 551-479 B.C.E.

The Book of Changes may be interpreted many ways including the suggestion that reality is determined by chance events at the moment of observation rather than by observing cause and effect. Any such understanding of reality would be antithetical to Western concepts of the scientific method until the Twentieth Century discovery of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle that theorized and demonstrated the mere fact of observation does change reality on a sub-atomic scale.

Through an almost mystical divination procedure, the Book of Changes allows people to determine the future by observing chance events of the present. The Book of Changes authors were aware that people might interpret the outcome of chance events with a personal psychological bias thereby giving the predictive quality of any chance outcome increased likelihood of factual relevance.

The worldview implied by the Book of Changes is one of a realm continuously in change and subject to random events that may best be mastered by “going with the flow” rather than attempting to hold back change. Confucius said, “Everything flows on and on like a river, without pause, day and night.”

I try to suggest that those who recognize the transitory nature of individual things will change their focus (and, hence, their life) onto the enduring, eternal truths at work in the world.

I adopted from the Book of Changes an image of the five “elements” contained in a diagram known as Ho T'u or Yellow River Map (above). These five symbolic entities, often translated into English as “elements,” are known in Chinese as wu hsing and more appropriately interpreted as “five states of change” or “five forces.” The five states of change are: water, fire, wood, metal and earth. These five states of change also have correspondences to the five cardinal points and the five seasons, the center (earth) being added to the West's traditional four directions/seasons.

According to students of the Book of Changes , the five “states of change” form an alchemic-like system (analogous to the ancient Western system using four “elements”) that may be used to analyze and control phenomena. Some scholars believe Chinese “states of change” theories would have developed into a scientific system if these beliefs had been formulated tentatively and checked by experiment. Instead, the Book of Changes remains a pseudo-science followed by millions of people for over 2,500 years, yet it is a pseudo-science containing much insightful wisdom.

The Ho T'u diagram shows the interrelationship between odd and even numbers and the five “states of change.” The Ho T'u diagram places emphasis on the aspect of odd and even numbers because of their relationship to the concept of yin and yang , (all things are unities flowing back-and-forth between the seeming duality of earth and heaven, dark and light, passive and active, female and male). All “forces” are stable but in transition since each is a transmitter, a “father,” and a receiver, a “son.” For Chinese of this era, constantly to rely upon one's father and to provide for one's son was the way (Tao) of Heaven.

In my painting, water in the north springs from the one of heaven and is complemented by the six of earth. (Traditionally, the Chinese visually depict the four compass directions by placing north at the bottom of the diagram, rather than at the top as is done in West.) Fire in the south springs from the two of earth, which is complemented by the seven of heaven. Wood in the east springs from the three of heaven, which is complemented by the eight of earth. Metal in the west springs from the four of earth, which is complemented by the nine of heaven. Earth ( t'u , the soil), in the middle of the diagram, springs from the five of heaven, which is complemented by the ten of earth.

The teachings of C. G. Jung also function as a major long-term influence upon my creative output. I believe viewers of the States of Change series may respond on both conscious and unconscious levels to the archetype-like images I employ and, thereby, gain an understanding of the wisdom associated with the systems of knowledge that correspond to her images. I hope viewing these paintings will help each individual synthesize and integrate their personal belief system(s) in an harmonious manner with belief systems of other people of widely varying background and experience.