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Hexagram 12 – negative souls?

I’ve been revisiting the idea of the ‘non-people’ in hexagram 12. The most helpful way to understand them, most of the time, is as people we regard, for whatever reason, as not quite ‘like us’ enough to be real. Most of the time, the problem is with the labelling and consequent failure of communication, not with the individual.

This way of seeing hexagram 12 often leads to helpful new understanding. Take for instance that time when I received it, years back, after yet another draining row with someone with whom I always seem to find myself having draining rows. ‘Obstructing it, non-people…’ suggested to me that the problem was with the way I’d typecast him as someone with a short temper, always bound to react in extreme ways. And this, of course, gave me a perfect excuse not to listen to him, and created a situation of ‘Obstruction’.

However, there is another way to see readings like this one, and I was alerted to it when I read this post about negative souls.

I don’t buy into everything Andrea writes: if there were such a thing as a ‘negative soul’ in any absolute sense, it’s not as if we could recognise them. We don’t enjoy that kind of divine overview from which to see the true nature of other’s souls – but we can see the patterns of how they interact with us, personally. I’m not inclined to believe in negative souls, but I’m coming to believe in constantly negative relationships, and I think Hexagram 12 can sometimes point to these.

Here are some excerpts from Andrea’s description of a ‘negative soul’ that seem to me to characterise a 12-ish kind of relationship all too well:

  • They are not creative…
  • They do not really change…
  • They do not add to our lives…
  • They are always there when you are down! …
  • If you are happy and joyfully embracing your purpose, they have a way of diverting your attention. …
  • You may feel tired or depleted when you spend a great deal of time with them…

This reads almost like a hexagram commentary.

‘Obstructing it, non-people.

No harvest in noble one’s constancy.

Great goes, small comes.’

With communication obstructed by negatively-relating-people, to be true to yourself and your purpose, to be imaginative, visionary and willing to find new ways, bears no fruit. Your best efforts get you nowhere. In fact, the Image makes this still clearer:

‘Heaven and earth do not interact. Obstruction.
The noble one uses energy sparingly to avoid resistance
He does not allow official honours and salary.’
Use energy sparingly to avoid resistance – because the more you invest, the more you push against the immoveable obstruction, the more ‘tired and depleted’ you become. (The energy to use sparingly here is de, ‘virtue’, the strength of personal character.) This is the kind of situation where if you could receive rewards, it would only be for becoming less yourself.

But of course this is the Book of Change, not the book of fixed soul-types or even fixed relationship-types. Moving lines in hexagram 12 show openings to shift obstructions, change relationships, break deadlocks. And even unchanging, the hexagram contains the hidden potential (nuclear hexagram) of 53, Gradual Development.

I think this makes it a key moment in the noble one’s education. Sometimes (hexagram 11) communication flows smoothly, petty things are carried away and great things become possible; all your creative potential is well-received and can be realised. And sometimes this doesn’t happen at all. Sometimes, being your best self brings you no positive response at all. What now?

Well… now you learn to imitate the Image’s noble one and follow the movement of the trigrams. Ground-level reality and heavenly, spiritual-creative-visionary reality move apart, each according to its own nature. So in your daily interactions you become ‘smaller’, investing less and lowering your expectations of reward; in your vision and de, you remain constant, whether or not that yields harvest.

9 responses to Hexagram 12 – negative souls?

  1. Glad I followed the link in the Friends Notes to this discussion! It had some very timely things to say to me about Obstruction.


  2. What a beautiful, thought-provoking post! Thank you, Clarity.

    I can’t imagine a soul being inherently negative; I see the soul as the individual animating force within each person — pure light; pure life.

    One of the ways that I see Hexagram 12 is as the shadow-side of a soul, the “negative,” if you will … the “dark side of the moon”. (I see H36, Censorship, more as an act of shadowing … and H12 as being in a state of “shadowment”.) H12 is a polarity of two natural states of the soul: Peace (11) and Community/Friendship (13). I’ve been grappling with H12 for years — its many guises as Swamp, depression, impasse, paralysis, entropy, indifference, being in a limbo or bardo, desolation, retrogression … and also as brooding, composting, resting at some fundamental level; realizing that one is estranged, inert, in a rut. We resist change when we stagnate … and still, all is changing. That core principle of the I Ching sustains me when I feel stagnant … for even stagnation is not static. I think of stagnation as the mind’s lowest possible low-pressure system … **cold** soup, and nobody’s stirring the pot! But even so, there is minute movement…

    I have a few “pet-peeve” hexagrams — like H12 — that challenge me to see the “negative” in me with a relational, compassionate eye, and to consider how the “negative” is simply one necessary passage in a whole process. The pivotal thing is that I choose to help move the passage along by living in sync with the principles and ethics of the Sage.

    *Sigh* … Old habits die hard, don’t they? ;-D

    …they take their own time in passing, just like the dourest weather. But pass they do … 🙂

  3. Thank you, Jaliya. And thank you for the link to your blog – how can I have missed finding it before? It’s good to learn I’m not the only one who goes through my favourite books noting hexagrams in the margins.

    Who calls hexagram 36 ‘Censorship’? I like that – it seems to sum up a lot of the possibilities.

  4. Hilary, you’re welcome 🙂

    I’ve not been blogging for long … Just started this winter.

    I’ve seen Hexagram 36 called “Censorship” in R. L. Wing’s *The I Ching Workbook* and Jack Balkin’s *The Laws of Change: I Ching and the Philosophy of Life*. The word “censorship” has helped me to understand two facets of 36 –> one being the need sometimes to intentionally “darken one’s light”; the other being a less conscious habit of self-censorship/muting one’s voice.

    I love how meanings keep expanding and deepening in one’s study of this oracle…

  5. Thank you to both Jaliya and Clarity, two of my favorite I Ching bloggers!

    Let me try out one interpretation of a “negative” state of soul – those times when we give in to our fear, our negative beliefs, negative self-talk (those influences referenced in Hexagram 18?). These become obstructions to our ability to experience love and joy at the core of our being or to maintain belief in an intention that we want to manifest in the world. I have been in this state for a couple months now – and seeking a path out of it. I received 12 just recently in response to a question… what should I be doing now to influence this situation in a positive way? I spoiled a beautiful and positive relationship by expressing jealousy and doubt. Now I am separated from that person, and I realize that it was my own fears and insecurities that raised the doubt in my mind… the lines give clues…
    and I love Jaliya’s suggestion that the “negative” time is perhaps a necessary passage, hopefully leading to deeper understanding and acceptance.

  6. Hi Gail, thanks for posting!

    Three ways to look at 12…

    With certain moving lines, it can be ‘here’s your opportunity to shift the blockage’. Yes, you’re stuck, but here’s where you have leverage…

    On the other hand, it can be ‘permission to rest’ in the midst of our culture of unremitting positivity – always having to be making progress, exerting a positive influence, etc. If there actually isn’t anything positive you can do, it can almost come as a relief. Certainly for me it’s a relief to realise I don’t have to fix every single relationship all the time.

    And yes, as a stage. Looking at the difference between 11 and 13: 11 is pure flow, maybe something like being in love: everything working as if it was always meant to be like that, always going to be like that, this is its natural state, what else could it do…? Whereas 13 actively creates harmony between people who might not naturally be particularly harmonious, by the application of human insight and understanding. 12 inbetween the two has a ‘life happens’ feel to it.

    Oh… and the nuclear hexagram of 12 is 53. That’s interesting, too…

  7. For the first time I consulted te Yijing for a rather ‘trivial’ mather. I was hesitating if I should leave the door of the porch a bit open for ventilation when leaving for holidays. The disadvantage is that if it should rain, it could rain inside.
    I got>2. The translation by Hilary for 12 is BLOCKED. For my wife the message was clear. Porch doors closed!

  8. Wow, thank you ! Your analysis of the hexagram 12 is very useful to me. I feel very connected to the dynamic described in this hexagram and I want to know more about it. Here, I found a very good text ! So thank you !

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