The Korean Neo-Confucianism of Yi Toegye and Yi Yulgok (Part 126)


From a standpoint of concrete phenomena, “unless there is ki, i has nothing to depend on; unless there is i, ki has nothing to learn to.” i and ki are “one yet two” because they are not one; they are “two yet one” because they are not two. In his third Four-Seven letter, Yulgok argues that their relationship includes both unity and duality:

Why is it said that i and ki are not one? i and ki are inseparable from each other; however, in their mysterious unity, i is i in itself, and ki is ki in itself. Since i and ki are not intermingled as such, they are not one. Why is it said that they are not two? Although i itself is i and ki itself is ki, they are still merged one into the other in perfect harmony, thereby having no space, no priority and posterity. and no separation and union between them. Since i and ki are not seen as two as such, they are not two. For this reason, movement and tranquility have no beginning, and yin and yang have no starting point. Since i has no starting point, ki also has no starting point. In general, i is nothing but one. Fundamentally, in i there is no difference between the correct and the turbid, the pure and the impure. But the ki that is ridden by i ascends and descends, flies and flutters, and becomes blended and irregular everywhere. It never stops its breath, while producing the myriad things of Heaven and Earth that become correct or partial, penetrated or blocked, clear or turbid, pure or impure, and so on.

Surely, this passage reveals Yulgok’s point that i is one but takes on the myriad variations when it rides on ki. “What is irregular” in concrete phenomena must be dude to the activity of ki. Because i and ki are interrelated without on being prior and the other posterior, it follows that they cannot be treated as two separate entities.

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