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Reading with hexagram eyes again

This morning I picked up a book at random, opened it at random, and found myself reading what Thomas Moore has to say about jealousy in Care of the Soul. He relates it to the myth of Hippolytus, a young man who was a devotee of the goddess Artemis, something of a misogynist, avoided women and preferred to spend time with his horses. Aphrodite had her revenge and panicked the horses into trampling him to death. So… repress your sexuality, seek to remain child-like and pure, focus exclusively on one goddess and neglect the other, at your peril.

Then he tells the story of a young man who was also ‘pure’ and child-like, who lived a very high-minded, principled life, believed entirely in freedom in relationships – and was overwhelmed by intense jealous rage, which alarmed him greatly as such possessiveness ‘wasn’t like him’ at all. Rather than seek to ‘solve’ and eliminate this jealousy, Moore spent time listening to it:

“The idea was to let it reveal itself, to allow it to become more rather than less, and thus lose some of its compulsion.”

There is a lot more to this part of Moore’s book – not just about jealousy, but more about understanding such emotions in mythological terms rather than just as personal faults and ‘insecurities’. All fascinating, and makes me want to re-read the whole thing.

But all I wanted to write about here was what this reminded me of in the Yijing. Bringing out the hidden compulsion, giving it more space and more presence, listening to the spirit that’s angered by neglect before it overwhelms you… yes, that would be hexagram 18. (The chapter is even called ‘Jealousy and Envy: Healing Poisons‘.)

And the young man who wants to remain pure and child-like rather than engage with the complexities of adulthood? How about looking across to the complement and pair of Corruption, the place it somehow ‘comes from’, Following? Hexagram 17, line 2:

‘Bound to the small child,
Letting the mature man go.’

Yi, unlike generations of commentators, doesn’t say whether this is a good or a bad idea, much less why this happens. It’s just that at the inner centre of Following, when reaching out for relationship, when motivated by Opening (the zhi gua, 58), it happens.

Then the paired line, responding to this one, is 18.5 –
‘Ancestral father’s corruption.
Use praise.’
– and that sounds remarkably like Moore’s therapeutic response: ‘using praise’ and gentle power of Hexagram 57 to penetrate to the heart of things without awakening antagonism.

(“What if you tried to learn something from your jealousy,” Moore asked the young man, “like some value in being less open? Maybe you need to be less tolerant in life in general.”)

This naturally sends me looking for more patterns – could it be that each pair of lines in 17-18 is showing a hidden inner motivator and a response that makes it conscious?

Well no, it couldn’t – nothing so obvious or formulaic. Different line positions have different characters, and a conversation between line 2 and line 5 is going to look more like a conversation between client and therapist than, say, a conversation between 3 and 4:

‘Bound to the mature man,
Letting the small child go.
Following, there is quest and gain.
Settling with constancy bears fruit.’
‘Comfortable with the father’s corruption.
Going on sees shame.’

Those two seem like two ways of identifying what’s ‘good enough’. As a reason to step across the threshold into action, at line 3, it bears fruit; as a reason not to change anything, it really doesn’t.

So… no easy pattern here. But this has all got me noticing something else : how many of 17’s line texts are about a choice. An official has a change of heart; you choose the small child, or the mature man; you can choose between following to make a catch rather than holding to the path with clarity. Only the upper two lines, the ones you might expect to be more awake and aware, have just a single thing to follow.

I think this reflects how puzzlingly multi-faceted 17 is in reading experiences: sometimes it’s a state of effortless flow, sometimes it demands a quite frustrating amount of patience, and sometimes the ‘following’ becomes more of a pursuit. All of these utterly different experiences have in common the basic dynamic of ‘going with the flow’, of consenting to it. Then what follows depends on what kind of ‘flow’ you’re connected with: a swift flow of synchronicities or a glacial one too slow to perceive, or the currents of your own desires. Then it no longer feels like ‘consent’ at all, but more like a hunt.

So… the lines, as 17’s junctions and points of change, contain choices. What will you tune into? Which current will you flow with? And the zhi gua for each line suggests what you’re listening to, what’s guiding and moving you, and maybe what choices you’re presented with. (And incidentally… the pathway from 17.2 leads through 58 and 57, and Moore’s story leads through Aphrodite and Artemis…)

This is what happens when reading with hexagram eyes – lots of scattered ideas, some of which might (or might not) lead somewhere. Later. Maybe.

4 responses to Reading with hexagram eyes again

  1. With 17.3, I have found, the time is not yet ripe for giving up the inferior. But we possess the inner willingness to do so, which is the most important thing.

    Someone said hexagram 17 shows us the conditions under which one may successfully follow others without coming to harm. In general, whenever there are divided factions, the situation is tending towards decay.

    In drawing line 3, I think we get a bead on what would be a good direction for us to move in. Blofeld says: ‘It is advisable to make no move but to remain determined.’

  2. Alfred Huang points out that hexagram 17 is very special, because it possesses the four virtues: yuan, heng, li, and zhen.

    But sometimes we ourselves do not possess these four virtues at the time we draw this gua, and that may account for how ‘puzzlingly multi-faceted’ hex 17 can be in actual readings. For example, once when I cast hexagram 17, I remember exclaiming out loud: “But I’m just not up to it!”

  3. I would beware of equating ‘small child’ with ‘inferior’ or ‘wrong’. Of course, it often works better to be the adult than the child… usually, I suppose… but all the lines say is that we have a choice between the two.

    As for not being up to yuan heng li zhen – isn’t one of the first reading interpretations recorded, in the Zuozhuan, by a woman who says exactly that? Or at least that some of the virtues in the hexagram are not in her, and so the good omens are not for her either.

    More generally I think these hexagrams with the whole phrase in, yuan heng li zhen, show a great drive that ‘wants’ to attain completion… and then they confront us with the question of how or whether that can actually happen.

  4. When Aphrodite caused those horses to stampede and trample Hippolytus to death — well, that is just so “Greek.” In Greek mythology, the gods and humans let their jealousies, towering rages, and destructive lusts always run away with them. That is not “adult.” That is just over-the-top drama.

    A person cultivated in his inner mind would never let his horses go wild and kill someone. Better to exit the scene completely when feeling jealous.

    Feelings can be experienced without our acting them out — all those moods and impulses are not for expression … unless, of course, we are putting on a Greek drama, in which case it is more entertaining to the audience when we pull out all the stops.

    Irish drama can be pretty intense, too.

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