You should know about Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project because it’s a beautiful gift to the world – and also because, every now and then, it provides intriguing little sparks of insight into hexagrams.
Here’s Susan talking (in the video on the left) about non-attachment, in ways that make me think of Hexagram 25, Without Entanglement. ‘Usually,’ she says, ‘what we’re doing with our minds is either holding them in a state of hope… or… a state of fear,’ pulling things towards us or pushing them away. To be ‘entangled’ in the Yi is to be caught up in futility or delusion, and this constant pulling-pushing seems like a good instance of that.
She describes two ways of conceiving of non-attachment. There’s the one that says, ‘You shouldn’t get upset, you shouldn’t care, you should be able to just let go and flow with whatever’s happening’ – which she says is ‘unkind’, and also not the true meaning. (I imagine all the ‘should’s might be a clue!) And then there’s ‘not holding any one particular mind state, even non-attachment, as the ideal, but rather allowing all mind-states, all kinds of reactions, all emotions, to be there, and to feel them fully.’
I think Hexagram 25 can refer to both of these: a strong resistance to being involved at all (which is sometimes unconvincingly disguised as impartiality), but also a natural, timely involvement.
Creating success from the source, constancy bears fruit.
One who is not upright commits blunders,
And it is fruitless to have a direction to go.’
Yi describes this one with a lot of negatives, maybe to keep us on our toes, always disidentifying and disentangling. It tells us that to be without entanglement means to create success from the source and see constancy bear fruit, then about the one who is not upright, and the way of acting that bears no fruit.
Trying (probably misguidedly) to get a handle on this for a moment… to be ‘upright’ is to be correct or righteous. The word was used of advisers correcting the king, setting him straight, and of the tortoise oracle setting the right place for a town to be built. The old character is said to show a foot that comes to rest. One English word that comes to mind is grounded: feet on the ground, standing in your right place like the town that is built on the right spot, connected into the circuit of being. One who is not upright commits blunders, which are literally the errors of clouded vision: she isn’t properly aware.
We might imagine what one who is upright would be like by looking at the trigrams: inner thunder, outer heaven. Inwardly there is movement, the spark of iniative and emotion; outwardly, there is What Is. It’s very much like the idea of meditation (non-attachment practice, Susan says) as watching thoughts like clouds passing – inner weather – but keeping your attention on the sky beyond.
‘Below heaven, thunder moves. All things interact Without Entanglement.
The ancient kings, with abundant growth in accord with the seasons, nourished the ten thousand things.’
For the ancient kings, clearly, being without entanglement did not mean being uninvolved or uncaring.
But maybe this is part of the problem at line 6:
‘Without entanglement. Acting brings blunders.
No direction bears fruit.’
The text doesn’t say in so many words what has gone wrong here, but the way it echoes the oracle text makes it clear that this is someone ‘not upright’. They’re without entanglement, but not in their right place – not connected, not a working part of the whole.
Sometimes this can be a kind of repression: whatever you forcibly – purposefully, maybe – ‘disentangle’ or ‘detach’ from is not going anywhere, and is liable to jump out at you in inexplicable ways. More generally, it simply describes a state of too much detachment from an ongoing process – like that time I forgot all about the milk I’d left to boil down to make yoghourt, and boiled it down to crisp, shiny carbon…