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Hexagram 40 and forgiveness

Apologies if you had higher expectations from that portentous title, but this is just a quick note – the kind of meeting of patterns of ideas that I enjoy.

Here’s an article from Bri Saussy about sin. Now I’ve learned that the original Greek, hamartia, means missing the mark, I can’t help thinking of Hexagram 40, Release.

The theme of Release includes forgiveness. The Image, bringing things to a human level, shows how the noble one can do the ‘untying’ work of the hexagram and allow the simple and complete freedom of movement the Oracle describes:

‘Thunder and rain do their work. Release.
A noble one pardons transgressions and forgives crimes.’

Bri writes that

In the story of Christ as in the older stories that follow the same path, there is a moment where all sin is redeemed, forgiven, washed away and cleansed.

– impossible not to think of thunder and rain doing their work. We all know in a simple, literal way how the clear air feels after a storm, and that gives life to the metaphor.

Bri continues:

By analogy, our vision is cleared, our aim is steadied, our target still, waiting, and available.

And in the final line of Hexagram 40 – which is very much the ‘apotheosis’ kind of line 6 –

‘A prince uses this to shoot a hawk, on the top of the high ramparts.
He gets it. Nothing that does not bear fruit.’

17 responses to Hexagram 40 and forgiveness

  1. I fear that Bri Saussy substantially misses the mark. Sin, in the culture of Judaism-into-Christianity that most of us in the west are heir to, derives from the notion of actively doing something contrary to known (religious) laws or prohibitions. One must know that one is transgressing in order to sin.

    From Wikipedia: “The word pesha, or “trespass”, means a sin done out of rebelliousness. The word aveira means “transgression”. And the word avone, or “iniquity”, means a sin done out of moral failing. The word most commonly translated simply as “sin”, khata, literally means “to go astray.” Just as Jewish law, halakha provides the proper “way” (or path) to live, sin involves straying from that path.”

    In some estimations, by the way, “to go astray” also derives from the practice of archery — as in the Greek “missing the mark.” Nevertheless, the sense of a strong moral failing dominates the understanding of “sin.”

    Compare the Greek, where hamartia includes also acts done in ignorance or misunderstanding as well as deliberate malfeasance. Oedipus “sins” out of ignorance, in killing his father/marrying his mother. In attempting to avoid his fate, he drives full-tilt into it.

    The Greek notion of sin might be closer to our contemporary understanding of irony — the opposition of one level of understanding over another. Though one might deliberately speak or act in an ironic manner — which may verge on “sinful” in the Hebrew sense — just as often we act in good faith only to discover that our actions have an effect contrary to what we intend due to that misapprehended level of reality.

    The difference of course is in that moral component. Oedipus is acting according to his understanding of conventional morality. Compare, say, the Biblical Joseph, who espies the lovely Bathsheba in her garden and contrives her husband’s certain death. In the conventional western understanding, only one would qualify as “sin.” Only one demands atonement.

    Insofar as the contrast is appropriate to the I Ching, I agree that Hex 40 addresses the issue of radical acceptance and forgiveness, ideas more aligned with Taoism than in the actual practice (verses the teachings) of contemporary Christianity.

  2. Well… my knowledge of Christianity is pretty thin, so I defer to yours. Maybe Bri is thinking specifically of ‘sin’ in the Greek New Testament? You could always head over to her blog to discuss this.

    My attention was just grabbed by the coincidence of concepts and imagery from two such different sources: forgiveness, cleansing water, arrows that miss or hit the mark.

  3. I’m not understanding this long discussion of what the concept of sin is or is not, but I seem to recall from my Sunday school days that man is born into sin, so this may indicate that most children at least are not aware that they are, supposedly, sinners, until they are enlightened by some well-meaning adult. Sin is known throughout the world under various names–in the pacific islands as tabu, etc. and of course there are the yamas and niyamas and the Buddhist ethical precepts–these philosophies don’t like to think of these ethical misadventures as “sin” per se, but they follow pretty closely to the Judeo-Christian rulings. Interesting that the seven deadly sins didn’t come out of scripture.

  4. Oh, we have lots of different kinds of sin here. The broad Christian tradition, the specific word used in the New Testament, and whatever-is-being-forgiven in the Daxiang of hexagram 40.

  5. I was looking for “surrender” and “forgiveness” within the Tao, so thanks for your insights with Hexagram 40, it is very helpful. Another view I found on forgiveness is Hexagram 18 from Ma Deva Padma’s Oracle card deck “Work on what has been spoiled”. It just so happens that the text for Padma’s Hex 40 is on page 108. This is a very special number in the iching, I believe. The oracle does bring things together for me. May I quote from her book “Begin the work of cleaning up and restoring balance in your own small self first. Give it your total love and attention. Be forgiving and absolutely diligent. You and the world will be better for it”
    . . . We are the world (one mind). There are lots of other beautiful comments made by Meher Baba, who does not at any stage contradict the iching, but talks “to it”, and “of it”.
    . . . I call it Harmonic Balancing.

  6. I really like that card deck – a beautiful way of making hexagrams ‘portable’.

    I think Hexagram 18 says, ‘This is wrong, and here is my opportunity to take responsibility for it, sort it out and start afresh.’ 40 can also start over – sets out on the journey in the early morning light – but in a different way: 18 takes the thing up, 40 lets it go.

  7. Hi elias,
    This is Bri and I would love to correspond with you more about these notions either through email or at my own blog-I was deliberately sticking with the Greek term for sin to discuss its role within the new testament/Christian Bible-getting into the Jewish aspect of sin would require an entirely different post! The connections with the I-ching are beautiful Hilary!

  8. Thanks, Bri – I’m glad you enjoyed them! It always delights me when I stumble across unexpected connection and rapport between ‘unrelated’ traditions.

  9. Not about sin, that is my post is not. But… I think release is the better word for it than forgiveness. Because we forgive consciously but do not do so subconsciously. Therefore, the forgiveness is not real and there is no release. It is not simply a matter of forgiveness but also of letting go and releasing the pattern. If we do not release the pattern, we do not truly forgive and we attract the same experiences to ourselves over and over again. As long as we have not only forgiven, but released as well, we harbor thoughts of the incident and attract more thoughts of the same nature. It is not possible for us to truly forgive until we have released the thoughts and attitudes that magnetize particular situations into our life. Often we think we have forgiven when we haven’t. And this is dangerous and sooner or later life will reveal to us our mistake.


  10. Gene:

    What you just shared totally resonate with me. The question now becomes: “How does one release the pattern?” In case of Line 6 in 40, how does one release a pattern that has taken a dominant position in ones life? Any practical insights here?

  11. I’m not Gene (hopefully he will see this), but I would suggest asking Yi about this pattern you’re thinking of, and how you can release it. That’s your best source of practical insights rather than generalisations, I should think.

    40.6 becomes possible when, even though you’ve not yet shot the hawk, you know you can do it – you can imagine the success completely vividly. The trick is to let the imagining inspire you, without letting it fool you into forgetting where you are. (I’m thinking, in case it isn’t obvious, of the wisdom of the fan yao, 64.6.)

  12. I’m a bit late in getting to this posting. However, I had to comment on this for several reasons. Hilary, I’ve been looking closely into this hex for a few days now and this really helped cross a threshold of comprehension for me! The varying types (definitions) of sin as well as the levels of “forgiveness” which Gene (as usual…and thank you Gene!) also hit right into the belly of deeper understanding for me in relation to this hex and on an even broader level as well. The canyon of difference between the oft exhausting, almost physical, intentional action of forgiveness opposed to a state of releasing. I suddenly saw how one (forgiveness) almost binds and thethers one to the transgression itself, while the other (releasing) is without a doubt a peaceful, natural flow of just opening clenched hands and letting it go…as one would release, say, a delicate butterfly, and the glorious feeling of freedom which comes at watching it fly away.
    Not sure I effectively explained myself here, but I had to comment and say thank you for posting this.

  13. I’m sorry for anyone trying to work with the Ching who goes into such horrendous detail about the many and various definitions of “sin”. We have to meet the Ching on our own turf and out of our own experience and understanding. Hex 40 seems to be saying the the superior person can be forgiving–period. Why get into some head-banging thing about this kind of sin or that kind of sin. Over-intellectualizing. I think the KISS rule applies even to understanding the Ching–“keep it simple, stupid!”


  14. Thank you for your thoughts, Chad. I enjoy hearing different individuals’ positions on subjects. It’s so valuable in broadening my own subjective and limited perception which I strive to do:) My interest in the Yi is personal development and a deeper understanding or “look” into life and people. I suppose I never thought of my interests as “over-intellectualizing”, but more a huge interest in life and human nature coupled with a compelling desire to learn. Perhaps my interests alone encourage over-intellectualizing in general… Yes, I very well may be quite guilty as charged:)
    I do love how you simplified hexagram 40 with “the superior person can be forgiving–period”. I very much agree with that!
    On an extremely personal level though, while dealing with things like death, forgiveness, and transgressions, I very much valued this deeper insight as far as applying these depths to my own personal journey to understanding and my endeavors to keep refining myself into the “superior person” as much as I’m able in my lifetime.

  15. Hi, Krista: My apologies–clearly I don’t know how to reply in response to a particular post. I was trying to comment on Elias’s post (I think the first one in the comments to the “Forgiveness” article)–if I wound up seeming as though I was replying to YOUR post, I do apologize. I’m still not a whiz with the I Ching, but years ago, in my stormy 30’s, I recall getting way too complicated in trying to understand the readings I cast; the older I get, the more direct or simple I try to make my interrpetations, still a challenge for me. I was intending to respond to Elias’s post where he or she got extremely detailed about the various definitions of sin, from the Greek I guess.


  16. No apologies necessary Chad! I shouldn’t have just assumed it was directed at me. Personally, I *do* tend to over analyze and delve far too deeply into certain topics than is likely to be useful…probably the very reason I felt your post was directed at mine! KISS is a motto I very much need to apply more often to my own thoughts and actions anyway! So, I took no offense, I actually appreciated your post with that wise reminder:)

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