“What an abyss of uncertainty whenever the mind feels that some part of it has strayed beyond its own borders; when it, the seeker, is at once the dark region through which it must go seeking, where all its equipment will avail it nothing. Seek? More than that: create. It is face to face with something which does not so far exist, to which it alone can give reality and substance, which it alone can bring into the light of day.”
Hexagram 29, Repeating Chasms, has a reputation as one of those ‘bad hexagrams’ – which is basically code for ‘hexagrams the experience of which we typically do not enjoy.’ Only, of course, it is more than that…
The two words of its name are equally important:
Repeating also means rehearsing and learning: this is the classic hexagram of ‘learning opportunities’ (also something we might prefer to avoid).
Chasms are pits, depth and absence, and also the dangers of running water. We experience them as the complete absence of anything solid – and for a comical take on this, see ‘Hexagram 29 and learning to swim’. (Though the experience I describe there would have been a better picture of 29 if I’d had no idea whether the pool had an opposite side I could reach.)
I have seen Hexagram 29 describe the experience of someone who is going blind and doesn’t know whether she’ll be able to cope. Someone who never hears from the one she loves. Someone who finds her ability to do her beloved work slipping away, and who has no idea what she might be or how she might live without it. The roof beam of Hexagram 28 has broken, the structure is falling, and there is no more support or reassurance to be had. What’s left?
There are many stories of Hexagram 4, Not Knowing, coming as Yi’s reproof to someone who asks too many questions. Repeating Chasms can do something similar, but whereas 4’s message is something like, ‘There is no answer for you because you’re too immature to understand,’ 29’s is more like, ‘No matter how desperately you want there to be a solid answer, there isn’t one.’
29 is not only chasms, but repeating chasms. The pit will yawn open on your path again and again until you stop searching for detours and travel through it. A few examples…
Someone close to me is suffering, and I don’t know how to cope; I never know how to cope. I write in my journal, ‘Oh, how I wish I had some kind of strategy to handle this!’ (Ultimately the answer is to stop wondering how and allow the free flow of compassion. This is scary in itself – it feels like pouring myself out into a bottomless pit – but it transforms the situation.)
Or there is Barbra’s experience, as she described it in her second comment on this post. When she received Hexagram 29, she imagined her life might be in danger – but what she and those close to her actually faced again and again was the need to go through the fears of illness, disability and lack.
It’s important to realise that 29 is not always about something big and life-threatening. Looking through my own readings, I find one occasion when it referred to a cold that came back for 24 hours because I did too much too soon, and another where the small cut on my fingertip was going to take many weeks to heal, and I’d learn this again and again every time I tried to find a new way to wrap it up so I could play the ‘cello.
Also, Hexagram 29 is not just a sign of repeating chasms to come. It also describes how to travel through them, living in the dark for as long as it takes:
There is truth and confidence.
Holding your heart fast creates success.
Movement brings honour.’
In these times, certainty comes of an inner connection, by holding to your own heart (or from a ‘connected heart’). And it comes of being in movement: undertaking committed action without knowing; being present without trying to make it safe first. (You can’t.) This is a liquid hexagram (not unlike 59), where all you can know to be real is movement – though the moving line texts often advise moving with attention, noticing where you are before hurtling into action.
The Image – always a source of counsel – develops the idea of repetition as ‘learning opportunity’:
‘Waters flow on and reach the end. Repeating Chasms.
A noble one acts with constant character [de],
And teaches things by repeating.’
Water never loses its nature, and so it creates rivers that reach the sea. Sometimes this Image reminds me of what I’m communicating to another person; more often, though, it seems to be what I’m teaching myself. This crystallised for me when I heard Jennifer Louden suggest that I ask what I am teaching myself with each habit.
Come to think of it, that could be yet another way in which 30 emerges from 29.
A subscriber asked me to write about 29, and especially about 29 as relating hexagram. Well… it so happens that my reading for last year was 3 changing to 29, so I can respond with the full benefit of hindsight.
29 as relating hexagram says something like this:
“See this primary hexagram? You will be compelled to learn its depths and intensity, and the movement it demands of you in order to come through.”
Sometimes, especially if two or more lines change to reach 29, the line texts show both the depths of a hexagram – the ways you could fall into it and not be able to get out – and also its flow, what it will take to come through. For instance, I think this pattern’s visible in the lines that join hexagrams 3, 4, 5 and 6 to 29. (Maybe also in 7.2.)
You’re compelled to learn, of course, by repetition: the chasm keeps presenting itself until you do. I spent the first 8 months or so of last year looking for ways to keep on pursuing my chosen ‘direction to go’, and coming up against the same basic inability every time. I was searching diligently for a route round the chasm, and we know how well that works. Eventually, I had to learn Hexagram 3: growth without direction; coming up against my limitations; seeing the smallness of my own perspective compared to the larger scale and longer term.
Thoughts? Examples to share? Please comment…