18 November 2008

Strange divination

(What follows refers to the I Ching, or Book of Changes, an ancient Chinese divinatory & philosophical text. Here is a wonderful introduction to the I Ching; the section on moving lines is particularly relevant.)

An interesting reading: Lake over Lake, all 6 lines moving, therefore changing to Mountain over Mountain.

#58 - Joy/Pleasing/Joyous Pleasure


Lakes resting one on the other:
The image of THE JOYOUS.
Thus the superior man joins with his friends
For discussion and practice.

A lake evaporates upward and thus gradually dries up; but when two lakes are joined they do not dry up so readily, for one replenishes the other. it is the same in the field of knowledge. Knowledge should be a refreshing and vitalizing force. It becomes so only through stimulating intercourse with congenial friends with whom one holds discussion and practices application of the truths of life. in this way learning becomes many-sided and takes on a cheerful lightness, whereas there is always something ponderous and one-sided about the learning of the self-taught.

THE LINES [selections]

We often find ourselves associating with inferior people in whose company we are tempted by pleasures that are inappropriate for the superior man. To participate in such pleasures would certainly bring remorse, for a superior man can find no real satisfaction in low pleasures.

Those who lack inner stability and therefore need amusement, will always find opportunity of indulgence. They attract external pleasures by the emptiness of their natures. Thus they lose themselves more and more, which of course has bad results.

Only when he clearly recognizes that passion brings suffering, can he make up his mind to turn away from the lower pleasures and strive for the higher.

#52 - Keeping Still


Mountains standing close together:
The image of KEEPING STILL.
Thus the superior man
Does not permit his thoughts
To go beyond his situation

The heart thinks constantly. this cannot be changed, but the movements of the heart - that is, a man’s thoughts - should restrict themselves to the immediate situation. All thinking that goes beyond this only makes the heart sore.

THE LINES [selections]

The beginning is the time of few mistakes. ... Not yet influenced by obscuring interests and desires, one sees things intuitively as they really are. A man who halts at the beginning, so long as he has not yet abandoned truth, finds the right way.

...in exercises in meditation and concentration, one ought not to try to force results. Rather, calmness must develop naturally out of a state of inner composure. If one tries to induce calmness by means of artificial rigidity, meditation will lead to very unwholesome results.

...injudicious speech easily leads to situations that subsequently give much cause for regret. However, if a man is reserved in speech, his words take ever more definite form, and every occasion for regret vanishes. [Cf. line 2 in #58.]

One is at rest, not merely in a small, circumscribed way in regard to matters of detail, but one has also a general resignation in regard to life as a whole, and this confers peace and good fortune in relation to every individual matter.

There is a wide difference of opinion on how best to interpret moving lines, particularly multiple moving lines. Six moving lines presents an interesting case. Is the second hexagram more important? Is there an implication that the first hexagram is a warning, something to be avoided?

In this example I have found it most useful to interpret the change chronologically. Joy can be achieved in the short term, but must eventually give way to Stillness. In striving after Joy, one should always remember that Stillness is on the horizon, making Joy possible.

With regard to my present situation and this particular consultation, it also makes sense to see Joy as something that can be achieved within stillness, without the necessity of major movement or change. One must recognize that movement is not necessary for happiness. Indeed, if one is unhappy, it might even be better to purposely keep still and make as few life changes so that the external forces (warned about in #58) don't get in the way or confuse the situation. Once joy has been achieved, life changes can be productive because they won't be based in brute force (warned about in both hexagrams).

(I Ching text from the Wilhelm-Baynes translation, as transcribed at theAbysmal.)

No comments: