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 innerÂ ‘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.”