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Friday I Ching: Hurricanes and the Mandate of Heaven

The Useless Tree: Friday I Ching: Hurricanes and the Mandate of Heaven

Sam Crane has found quite a question to ask this time:

“What does this second hurricane suggest for President Bush’s hold on the Mandate of Heaven?”

Sam’s understanding of the Mandate is that it “is rooted in how well people are being treated and protected and served by their government.” So the relevant issue for him is not whether there are hurricanes, but what condition the people find themselves in afterwards.

Yi answered with Hexagram 3, Sprouting, changing to Hexagram 7, the Army.

Sam has given a very good general interpretation, and Allan Lian has followed up with some specific, detailed line-based interpretation about the officials and levels of government involved.

As Sam says, Hexagram 3 (thunder and running water, chaos) is startlingly relevant to the subject matter. But as an answer to the question it’s just plain startling. What does this suggest for Bush’s hold on the Mandate? It’s Sprouting – or if you prefer, it has Difficulty at the Beginning. Steve Marshall suggested that it’s a large assumption to make that Bush has the mandate in the first place. Indeed. The reading seems to be saying that this has the potential to be where he starts to find it.

(The time-scale may seem surprising, but then in China, the Mandate was applied to dynasties that endured for centuries. It might make better sense to think of Bush receiving and holding the Mandate on behalf of the Republicans – or the political class – as a whole.)

To take the whole ‘sentence’: Bush’s hold on the Mandate begins here, though with difficulty, motivated by the spirit of the Army. One of the associations of this hexagram is actually making one’s political position more secure: Wu Jing Nuan says, “At the time of sprouting, you must define and protect your territory.” So the current chaos can also be creative, and it is an opportunity for his authority to ‘take root’ and strengthen.

The spirit of the Army, Hexagram 7, is to focus on a goal, take responsibility, get organised, and make it happen. As second hexagram, I’d see this as the motivation: Bush’s approach to or understanding of the situation. His administration is likely to conceive of this as a new front to fight on. (Haven’t there been images of Bush riding a military vehicle through New Orleans?) The Army contrasts with Hexagram 8, Seeking Union, which I would associate more with conscious policy choices about the kind of society a government wants to encourage. Hexagram 7’s mindset is perfect for Getting Things Done; it causes problems only when the laser focus becomes blinkered vision. One way in which the dangers of Hexagram 7 could become manifest here would be by pouring unlimited funds into a campaign for reconstruction, without being entirely clear about where those funds must be taken from.

Line 1:

‘Encircled by rocks.
Harvest from staying put with constancy.
Harvest from setting up feudal lords.’

The translation Sam found for this one – ‘establishing a chief’ – is excellent. Bush needs to stay in the centre, concentrate on the big picture, and delegate. He needs also to accept the solid reality of the problems he faces, and gather information from ‘feudal lords’ on the ground, before he even thinks of setting a ‘direction’.

Line 2:

‘Now beginning, now turning back,
Now driving a team of horses.
Not outlaws, marital suitors.
Woman-child constancy: not nursing a child.
Ten years go by, then nursing.’

The story here is of a suitor setting out with his horse team to collect a bride. At first there are obstacles, or perhaps just hesitation, but he gathers his courage at last and goes forth. As Brad Hatcher reads it:
‘He thought that the hard part was over, once he and his horses were ready to go.
His team is assembled, and presence majestic. He will sweep her from her feet.
So he holds his breath, paces and waits for a sign. And tries not to look like a fool.’
(His big show is all well and good, but the young woman is not ready to commit to him yet.)

Wu Jing Nuan points out that marital alliances would be a way to cement political ones and ‘establish familial roots of territory’. I’m not sure exactly how to apply this line, though I don’t doubt that Bush is the initially-hesitant suitor. Is there some specific political alliance that I just haven’t heard about from over here in the UK? If not, then perhaps this might have to do with his attempt to ‘court’ the people in the stricken areas: a long-term undertaking. (Again, I don’t think this is just about Bush individually.)

Line 5:

‘Sprouting, its essence.
Small constancy: good fortune.
Great constancy: pitfall.’

The ‘essence’ is more prosaically translated as ‘food’ or ‘fuel’: it’s the energy source for growth. This is the leader’s position, of course, but Sprouting calls for ‘small constancy’ from its leader. Great constancy, under the circumstances, might be some grand recovery plan conceived of at the centre; small constancy would be more responsive to local realities, and probably using a higher ratio of intelligence to funds. The ideal leader here would admit ignorance and be willing to be guided into real innovation.

So… looks to me as though, according to Yi, these events could give Bush (or perhaps the ‘dynasty’ he represents) the beginnings of a hold on the Mandate – if he can delegate intelligently, show he’s making a long term commitment, and above all stay responsive and not impose big ideas from the top down.

For those closer to events, does this interpretation seem to fit?

6 responses to Friday I Ching: Hurricanes and the Mandate of Heaven

  1. I like the way you turn it around. I was thinking of it as Bush could lose the Mandate if he does not delegate effectively. You state it as Bush can begin to gain (regain?) the Mandate if he delegates effectively. In a way, your framing of the issue might take better account of Steve’s point that, perhaps, Bush had already lost (begun to lose) the Mandate before the hurricanes (i.e. as a result of an unnecessary war). And must say how fun it is to bat these ideas around between the US, UK and Malaysia (Allan). You’ve just go to love the web….

  2. Well, it has turned out that Bush is currently considering letting the Defense Department take charge in natural disasters of a certain size (as reported by AP-news.yahoo.com Sunday Sept 25). Either, someone has looked at the Yi’s oracles given to Sam and interpreted Hexagram 7 Shih / The Army literally, and advised the US President to appoint a general to coordinate such matters? Or, the more likely case, the Yi has given Sam an advance notice of such an event.

    Giving the Army too much power can sometimes be destabilizing as China found out a couple of decades ago, and therefore she has been trimming the size of her army and its powers ever since. Anyway, it is the US President’s prerogative on what he wants to do. As interpreted earlier, some official(s) can be out of a job, if they are not persevering (wise).

    If US Presidents can also be deem to hold Mandates of Heaven, then the first to do so in the US could be the popular Kennedy family and decades later, the Bush family? But powerful families no matter how popular also have some drawbacks as stated in the Yi. Therefore it is ever so important for dynastic rulers to be benevolent and virtuous to continue the rule.

    Yes, Sam. Luckily telecoms provided links to the trees and the mountains for me and Steve respectively (puns intended) apart from the populated cities (Hilary and yours) to communicate through the web. One understands that some geography books in US still show photographs of Malaysians living in trees. And Steve sometimes comes down from the mountains to buy provisions and to tickle our brains? (Joke)

  3. For the benefit of those who may not understand about the idea of living in the mountains. In the olden days, most of the best Chinese masters live in seclusion in the mountains to practise their arts, be it martial or alchemy, and where they can be one with nature. A good example will be the founder of Taiqiquan, Zhang Sanfeng living and practising in Wudang Mountains.

    Although some may not agree, after discussing with him and reading his contributions in the I Ching Forum in 2002/03, in his Biroco blog and Yijing Dao website, one has considered Steve Marshall to be a master in Yi studies. He has been quiet and reclusive lately, therefore the pun that he lives in the mountains.

  4. I Ching – Politics and the Mandate of Heaven

    This is a very interesting change, and I believe it points to the general administration of government under Bush, as well as the specifics of the Katrina response. Specifically, it points to the disjoint between image and reality in the adminsitratio…

  5. Thanks for the feedback! 🙂 Yes, the oracle (source of the original hyperlink?) must have been waiting for a while for someone to come up with the www.

  6. “Therefore it is ever so important for dynastic rulers to be benevolent and virtuous to continue the rule. ”
    politics doesn’t work that way. It’s all about the money. The average citizen is not able to see through the BS. There are no valid choices on the ballot. please send me a list of Americans that are benevolent and virtuous.
    ps I live on a mountain and this is my 1st response to anything in your newsletter.
    pps you look to young to be wise 🙂

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