To Wilfrid Lay
Dear Mr. Lay, 20 April 1946
It was a great pleasure to have a letter from your hand.
Its contents have pleased me very much as they convey essential things.
You have understood my purpose indeed, even down to my “erudite” style.
As a matter of fact it was my intention to write in such a way that fools get scared and only true scholars and seekers can enjoy its reading.
I admire you very much for having learned and apparently mastered the difficult Chinese language.
I never got so far and that is the reason why I feel hopelessly handicapped in the further pursuit of the intricacies of I Ching.
I once had the immodest and rather foolish fantasy of writing a commentary on the I Ching, but I soon recognized the enormity of such a task and the absolute inadequacy of my equipment.
I’m not as old as you are yet, but I must say that not very long ago I recognized the immense truth of being the hsiao jen.
Such an understanding is indispensable to anyone who wants to understand what you very rightly formulate as equipollence.
Only the hsiao jen contains the chen-jen, who is the universal basis for your equipollence.
Your method of unravelling the mysteries of a quotation, namely by looking up its context, is very subtle and I must say elucidating.
Curiously enough it coincides absolutely with my method of dream interpretation.
What you say about “this so-called peace,” which apparently doesn’t make you particularly happy, doesn’t refer any more to the Pax Romana of olden times.
It is now, as you have noticed, a Pax Americana.
It should fill you with pride if you are still accessible to political illusions.
To me this peace is no peace at all.
I think there is no such thing as peace, since even a peaceful democracy like Switzerland is nothing but a mitigated civil war which we are wise enough or small enough to entertain chronically in order to escape worse issues.
Man, on the whole, is a fool and remains a fool.
Yet it is apparently indispensable to believe in a better future.
It never has been better, however, it has only been new and apparently incomparable, so that people have always been puzzled whether it could not be perchance the long hoped-for better future.
Hoping you are always in good health,
Note: Lit. “little man.” The “little man” is frequently referred to in the I Ching; his fate is to suffer and accept (cf. Hellmut Wilhelm, “Das Zusammenwirken von Himmel, Erde und Mensch,” Eranos Jahrbuch 1962 , pp. 342f.).
Richard Wilhelm, in his German translation of the I Ching, used the term “gemeiner Mensch” (common man), which in Mrs. Baynes’s English version is rendered “inferior man.”
According to a communication from Hellmut Wilhelm, the term hsiao jen in the I Ching does not carry a derogatory meaning although it acquired this in later writings, particularly those of the Confucian school; so perhaps “common man” would express the double meaning more accurately.
Note: L.’s concept of “spiritual equipollence,” according to which “everyone has a soul, and has as much chance as anyone else of becoming conscious of its extent.”