Victim of stratagems
As an expert on stratagems, Harro von Senger's practice of using them in life is nevertheless bumpy.
"After I returned to Switzerland, I wanted to change my specialty. I used to study law but at Beijing I studied history and philosophy. My horizon had been enlarged and I felt lucky that I wasn't admitted by Department of Law in China. To fulfill my personal dreams, I wanted to switch to Chinese studies. Thus I told a responsible professor that I wanted to teach at his department later. This professor was unhappy because he already had selected his successor and I would become a competitor to this person. One day, he sent me a letter with an attached copy to the dean; I responded also with an attached copy to the dean. I wrote my letter in a polite tone but his response was impolite. Thus I wrote a new letter from my side.
"In the beginning, the dean stood by my side. However, after my second letter, he said it would be difficult to work with me. After that, this important person no longer supported me. At that time, I was at level zero regarding the stratagems. It was too bad that I considered them as something confined to China in spite of my knowledge of the subject. When I started to write the first volume of Stratagems, I realized that I had fallen into the professor's trap as he had used the stratagem of sowing discord between the dean and me, namely, the 33rd of the 36 stratagems. If I was aware of that, I wouldn't have sent the second letter to the dean. Thus I have understood that it was very useful to learn these stratagems and very harmful to ignore them."
God and 36 stratagems
God taught people "be then as wise as snakes, and as gentle as doves." Professor von Senger thinks by saying this, God was encouraging man to gain a consciousness of the stratagems. He said that many Europeans failed to understand this sentence. Last year, he had a reunion with his middle school English teacher, an aged priest. The latter had preached over 1,000 sermons but had never talked about this quotation. Von Senger cited this is an example of Westerners' total ignorance of the stratagems.
Three methods of using the stratagems
According to the Swiss Sinologist, there are three ways of using the stratagems. The first is to take the initiative in resorting to them; the second is to analyze the potential stratagems of the adversary so as not to fall into any trap and the third one is to analyze the stratagems as spectators.
"Why do I recommend the discipline of stratagems? It's because it is real wisdom. As a Westerner, I have realized that my studies of the stratagems have greatly enriched my intelligence. It is a good instrument to understand politics, economics and human relations. I am particular interested in the second method of employing stratagems to avoid falling into traps and the third method of using stratagems as a spectator. In my opinion, enriching Western intelligence means importing and taking advantage of the knowledge in this area. The difference between my book and those written by Chinese authors on the same subject is that my book systematically studies the 36 stratagems in a scientific manner and makes analysis from different angles. If we can use the knowledge with Chinese people, we will be able to build a better world of peace and mutual comprehension," he concluded.