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Engagement in Hexagram 18

Hexagram 18, Corruption, demands that we actively engage with how things are. And things are a mess: there are ‘negative patterns’ playing themselves out, or in other words the same old bad things keep on happening.

As a rule, these are inherited patterns. In modern readings, Hexagram 18 is often a cue to look for patterns that have been transmitted through the generations (sometimes through the whole culture, but typically through the family) unexamined, and are still perpetuating themselves. Its ancient imagery is about a curse inflicted by a neglected ancestor. These phenomena might not be so different – at all events, whether we think of an ancestral curse or a negative family pattern, we know it must be redeemed by attention and awareness.

So interpreting the moving lines of Hexagram 18 tends to be an intensely personal affair. We can generalise that the second line will concern allowing things to grow to fruition, but your ‘ancestral mother’s corruption’ is likely to be quite different from mine.

The first and last lines, though, as we enter and leave the situation, seem to me to have a different quality about them: less personal, more universal. Here’s line 1:

‘Ancestral father’s corruption.
There is a son,
The deceased elders are without fault.
Danger. In the end, good fortune.’

The child engages with the ancestral father’s corruption so that his forefathers are without fault. Why should this be the first step into dealing with Corruption?

To me, this line suggests a ritually powerful step. The deceased elders may well be originally responsible for neglecting the ancestor and bringing about the curse. The deceased elders, however, are deceased: they can’t redeem the situation. Only the living son can do so – if he makes it his responsibility.

So I think that ‘the deceased elders are without fault’ is a performative statement: that is, it makes this true by saying it. By taking the full responsibility for and ownership of the curse on himself, the son brings himself into danger – but if he left the ‘fault’ with the dead, then the curse could never be lifted.

At the opposite extreme, line 6, we leave the process behind:

‘No business with kings and lords,
Honouring what is highest is your business.’

Placating the neglected ancestor would mean re-establishing correct ritual attention – recreating the working relationships in the hierarchies of living and dead. (This seems to me like the inner  ‘negotiations’ that happen in the psyche after a parent dies, balancing out relationships and letting influences find their level.) There comes a time to step beyond all this. “Leave the politics behind!” says Yi. “Move to a different kind of priority.” Or, as this post puts it, “Who you are is beyond such silly games. Turn over the king and walk away from the chessboard.”

4 responses to Engagement in Hexagram 18

  1. So timely you’d write about this! I’m working with my ancestors. I hadn’t considered my family line to be an influence on me until I was introduced to ‘soul genetics.’ One one level we are an uncorrupted soul, beyond familial entanglements. On another level we are ‘inherited patterns.’ I suppose there are positive influences too, but those who are no longer living sometimes remain attached to the earth plane. This is neither good for their spirit, nor yours. It’s difficult to know the history involved, so in mutual forgiveness, you encourage them to continue on their eternal journey. That’s my ritual anyway…Thanks Hilary!

  2. Hi Pamir,

    Timeliness is our stock in trade 😉 .

    Something I find very interesting about Hexagram 18 and the beliefs behind it – what I know of them, I’m no expert – is that the idea is not to somehow ‘get rid of’ the angry ghosts. The ancestors have a powerful connection with the living: the living invite them to ritual meals as honoured guests, and nourish them with the best they have to offer. In return the ancestors offer blessings, and mediate with higher or more remote spirits that have a greater power to help.

    The problems start when an ancestor is neglected. Then instead of a benevolent spirit, you have an angry ghost. Your first step is to identify the ancestor you’ve unconsciously angered. As far as I know, this isn’t so you can ‘exorcise’ anything – you can’t do without ancestors any more than you can do without air and water – but so you can restore the relationship.

    All this, too, translates in interesting ways into modern habits of thought about those old ‘patterns’. Maybe the objective isn’t to eradicate them, but to pay them attention and honour that will turn them into a source of blessing.

  3. One of the challenges here is that we’re dealing with two different traditions, but truth often emerges anyway. Yes, it’s about placating, or another word is propitiate. This is probably outside what the hexagram says, but while the ancestor(s) isn’t being exorcised, the negative influence on you is. And there may be a negative influence because of neglect, but in the metaphysics of the soul, sometimes the soul doesn’t complete its afterlife journey for whatever reason. So they hang in an astral or earthly dimension, usually suffering.

    The propitiation is to help them release into the Light, to continue their journey through eternity, rather than staying attached. It’s for the good of all involved.

  4. Hmm….In reading this thread, and considering the sequence of 17 –> 18 –> 19, I receive a sudden hunch that Hex. 18, in part, identifies an urgent need to move on from the “suffering ghosts” –> both the ancestral/family influences, and one’s own mistaken pathways/patterns. Change the course of your “following” (17), tend to what is injured (18), and move on. If appropriate attention is offered to what is injured, a new way will open (19) …

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