There continues to be a difference of opinion within present day macrobiotics as to the interpretation and use of yin/yang and the Five Transformations… Why this is, I dont know, but I suspect that the difficulties with the healing process and beyond manifesting today in all levels of practice and teaching stem from the unwillingness or inability to see and use these tools for what they really are. To help clear the air, I would like to present two similar views, one from George Ohsawa in 1960, and the other from Roy Collins in 1998, having to do with the chronology of this philosophy and its physical origin.
In the Introduction to The Philosophy of Oriental Medicine entitled The Physics and Metaphysics of Yin and Yang, Ohsawa writes the following:
The Unique Principle of Far Eastern philosophy, the very basic unique foundation of all our cultures, including medicine, is definitive. However, its translation and interpretation may be either physical or metaphysical.
At the beginning, over four thousand years ago, the Unique Principle was a physical dialectics. Later, metaphysical commentators and interpreters, such as Confucius, twisted or complicated the explanation of it. Then the physicians did the same. Here lies the reason for the confusion and uncertainty beclouding the philosophy and medicine of the Far East.
The Far Eastern peoples, always referred to as spiritual, metaphysical, or primitive, use a quite peculiar language; they inhabit an infinite, eternal, and absolute world, and in consequence their tongues are indefinite, uncertain, and extremely simple, but deep and often lacking in clarity. the Chinese and Japanese languages (the Easternmost ones) lack the notions of time, number, and sex. (As a matter of fact, according to my method, you can learn colloquial and pure Japanese in four hours. It is the easiest language that I know of in the whole world.) This factor has also unquestionably contributed to the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the philosophy of the Far East.
In the beginning, over four thousand years ago, the sky, or infinite space, was considered the supreme yin symbol, and the earth, the supreme yang symbol. The sky, being infinite space, the boundless expansion, was considered the representative of yin, the centrifugal force. The earth, on the contrary, was considered yang, the centripetal force.
Later, metaphysicians described the sky as the generator of all the phenomena and beings in the world, including all celestial bodies(the major force, or supreme divinity), and they classified it as yang. The earth was considered yin.
Metaphysically speaking, the sky, infinite space, may be called yang, the greatest producer. In the physical sense, however, the sky – infinite space, the boundless expansion – may be called yin, the greatest entropical passiveness. From this point of view, the earth is compact and yang.
In old Chinese medicine, the small intestine, bladder, stomach, large intestine, etc., are classified as yang while the heart, kidneys, pancreas, liver, etc., are classified as yin. This is a metaphysical classification. Physically speaking, this must be reversed: all empty organs are yin, as they are passive and receptive; all solid organs, with density and compactness, are yang. (The stomach, intestines, bladder, lungs, etc., are yin; the liver, kidneys, heart, pancreas, etc., are yang.)
We are living in a scientific and physical era. We therefore need a physical, up-to-date classification to unify terminology for the introduction of the Unique Principle into all the natural sciences, in addition to medicine, and all the cultural sciences as well. Most of all, it is necessary in the formation of fundamental concepts for a world government.
Roy Collins, student of Chinese philosophy and author of two books on the subject, presents a historical view. (Compiled from conversations on the Internet)
I will state historical facts that point to Yu as the conqueror of the Great Flood around 2600 BCE. It was Yu who diverted the floodwaters by dividing the flooded land into four irrigation lines so that from a birds eyes view the land looked like a tic-tac-toe board ( 9 squares). Yus son was Chi, who founded Hsia, the legendary first dynasty of China. It is highly doubtful that Yu knew anything about the I Ching, the Five Elements, or Fung Shui, Nine Star Ki , Five Star Ki, or even the concept of yin and yang as most of these systems were either too primitive or had not yet been invented. In fact one really does not see or hear much about yin and yang or divination until the Shang Dynasty (oracle bone script) where writing was invented – about 100 years after Yu. It was after the Shang was overthrown by Chou when we first start to hear about the Five Agents (Wu Xing) which was a physical concept that had not yet developed into the correlative system that we know it as today.
…The I Ching, which is based on eight trigrams… got thrown into the mix as well, and later correlated to Fung Shui, or geomany, which originated in the placement of graves. In fact, the original sequence of the hexagrams was rearranged as well and in the new sequence the yin and yang axis was removed.
The original sequence of the hexagrams however, completely follows the yin/yang system as it is understood and applied to macrobiotics, which we call the physical understanding. The revised, or altered hexagram sequence, as well as the Five Elements, Feng Shui, Acupuncture, and TCM all follow the Metaphysical understanding of yin and yang.
I have assumed nothing but have gone by facts alone. The point is that the Five Elements is a prejudiced, fixed system of force fits that were redesigned by Taoist magicians for occult purposes, yet there is a certain beauty about the system that makes it nearly impossible to dismiss in its entirety. That beauty is in the interplay of transformation and of mutual benefit and destruction, which in reality exists universally in Nature.
Yin and yang originated in the Neolithic period in China’s history near the teinshui region by a real person named Fu Hsi. Fu Hsi came up with this idea after observing all natural phenomena for many years, then using his own body began to make comparisons that were relative to his stand.
One of the earliest discussions of this comes to us from the writings of Confucius. We are told that when Fu Hsi looked UP at the SKY and waved his hands that there was only the void which he called The Yielding or great Yin. Then he looked DOWN at his feet, jumped on the ground and found that it did not yield but was solid. He called it THE FIRM or great yang. Fu Hsi then began to make three line graphs out of broken and solid lines (solid for yang/broken for yin) and began to make a system of eight variants that he related to the family. The mother was the great yin of three broken lines in the north, and the father was the great yang of three solid lines in the south. From the marriage of mom and dad came the six children — three boys and three girls. The boys were placed on the right side and the girls on the left. This is the origin of the system the eight houses of I Ching. This is how it all began some 5.5 thousand years ago.
After about 1.5 thousand years an egocentric king named Wen discovered Fu Hsi’s yin yang charts and decided to change them around a bit. He replaced the Great Yin in the northern position with the Great Yang, and next to it placed the Great Yin. By doing this he destroyed the opposite and complimentary sets of line graphs.
It is at this point in history where all the problems of trying to explain yin and yang began. One of our macrobiotic leaders named George Ohsawa figured out this problem and restored yin and yang to their proper positions. Today we call this the physical system of yin/yang understanding. It is where we differ from people who practice Chinese Medicine. They use King Wen’s system, which designates yin and yang in the exact opposite way of how it was originally conceived by Fu Hsi.
(The previous four paragraphs weren’t part of the original article, but are also from Roy Collins. They add some clarification. Also, a correction was made and the first paragraph of the quotations in the article attributed to Mr. Collins was removed after it was determined to be something he didn’t it. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused. -BN)
A detailed account of the original sequence can be found in my book titled Fu Hsi I Ching, published by University Press of America (1993) and it is scheduled to be reprinted in a revised format by the George Ohsawa Macrobiotic Foundation with the new title as Yin & Yang and I Ching: Six Thousand Years of Changing Opinion later this year. Personally, I’d wait for the new book as it contains an additional 40 pages with some 20 new illustrations and charts.