The essential message of Stripping Away is devastatingly simple:
Fruitless to have a direction to go.’
Your ‘direction to go’ can be whatever plan you have in mind, your purpose or vision or intent, or something as slight as a curiosity to explore in a certain direction. The root of the idea is to travel from the centre to the borders, to explore and sound out the unknown. Stephen Field associates Hexagram 23 with King Hai at Yi – exploring and testing his boundaries in a new culture, something that didn’t work out so well for him.
Hexagram 23 responds to whatever part of you is saying ‘Onward and outward!’ with ‘Nope. No use.’
So in practice, in readings, this is pretty simple: you see Hexagram 23, and give up whatever you had in mind.
Naturally, simple is not the same as easy. We like our ideas; we do not want to let them go. And a particular frustration of Hexagram 23, at least for me, is that I tend to receive it just when I’m convinced I’ve had a grand and entirely new idea – only to realise, in the course of the reading, that I was only perpetuating the old.
When Hexagram 23 is the primary hexagram, especially, it tends to point to some purpose or self-concept or pet idea that needs to be shed completely. The shape of the hexagram shows how what the idea rests on is not solid and offers no support. There’s no point trying to travel to the borders when the centre is crumbling; you can’t build towers on air.
But the advice isn’t just to recognise your idea is doomed and drop it; it’s to strip it away actively and create mental space. It’s particularly important not to respond to 23 with, ‘Oh, this idea must need some tweaking to make it work…’ The shadow hexagram for 23 – Hexagram ‘Minus 23’ in the Sequence – is 42, Increase, with its Image of a noble one who ‘sees improvement, and so changes; where there is excess, she corrects it.’ Increase’s way of thinking is ‘this can be changed, this can be improved’ – and in a time of Stripping Away, that would be a trap.
As long as old ways of thinking linger, we tend to repeat ourselves. Hexagram 23 is a call to create such emptiness that the next move can only be completely new. Perfect tabula rasa; no precedent. In this space you might find a true seed of change.
The Image helps us find this mindset –
‘Mountain rests on the earth. Stripping Away.
The heights are generous, and there are tranquil homes below.’
– because it depersonalises. The mountain rests on the earth, the soil erodes into the valley, the heights are generous, and the process of change is ongoing. There’s no person here called on to give things up, willingly or not; there’s just change happening. It isn’t about you.