The I Ching: Getting it Wrong

Leonard Cohen, the Canadian poet, novelist, musician and songwriter, utilized the I Ching early in his career.
In researching this on the Web, the following article appeared, written by Ruth Wisse in 1995. (She is a professor of Yiddish literature at Harvard). It bespeaks of the prejudice about the I Ching, and how little it was known in the West:

I met Leonard Cohen in 1954 when I was a student in “Great Writings of European Literature.
The first time I remember feeling disappointed in Leonard was, in fact, in Robert Hershorn’s apartment. It must have been in the early 60’s, when the fault line was widening between those who did and those who did not inhale..
On the otherwise bare coffee table lay a book I’d never heard of I Ching. At first I thought it might be Oriental poetry, like the books of haiku I used to pick up at Charles Tuttle’s store in Rutland, Vermont. But Leonard explained to me that this was actually a way of life, or rather a way of determining life. Taking out of his pocket a couple of Canadian dimes, he began to demonstrate how, by flipping the coins and consulting them in tandem with the writings of the I Ching, we could alter the otherwise ego-driven nature of our behavior. It seemed such utter nonsense that I was sure it must be a game, perhaps an Asian form of Monopoly.
The more eloquently he described the subtleties of the method, the more ridiculous I thought he was being. When I realized that Leonard took all of this seriously, and when he realized that I did not, the conversation ended and I went home. Try as I might to convince myself that poets must draw their inspiration from all new forms of language, I was shocked that anyone whose ancestors had written the Talmud could profess enthusiasm for this stuff. (Source)


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