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Drums in the lake

Drums in the lake

Integrating trigram imagery into a full reading is sometimes tricky: we don’t, after all, know what the trigrams represented to the people who first wrote the book. So attempting to justify text in terms of trigrams can get one tied up in all sorts of over-elaborate knots.

However… those original writers were surely aware of trigrams, and letting our own trigram-awareness permeate our readings (gently, and without trying to nail things down) can make for a more vivid understanding of a line.

For instance…

Hexagram 17, Following, is ‘thunder in the lake’. The Image draws guidance from this –

‘At the centre of the lake is thunder. Following.
A noble one at nightfall
Goes inside for renewal and rest.’

This has always seemed to me as though the creative energy of thunder itself were sleeping within the lake. It reminds me of the story I learned from SJ Marshall’s Mandate of Heaven, of how the dragon over-winters on the lake-bed, and awakens in spring. There’s a season for waking, and a season for sleep, rest and renewal, and the noble one is like the dragon and knows both.

The Sequence adds to this sense that thunder itself is ‘going inside’. As the eldest son in the trigram family, thunder is the very first child trigram to appear in the Sequence, as the inner trigram of 3, Sprouting. On its next appearance, it ‘bursts forth from the earth’ in Hexagram 16 – where it’s the outer trigram, thunder above the earth – in harmony with the celebratory music of the ancient kings.

Then, in Following, the creative spark is taken back inside. It rests there all the way through hexagrams 21, 24, 25 and 27, only emerging again in 32. So to me, it’s in Hexagram 17 that inner thunder begins to feel like the pulse of natural cyclic rhythm, one we can Follow through days or (as in the Images of 24 and 25) seasons.

Of course, the Image is far younger than the original Yi, maybe 800 years or more, so you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find these ideas echoed in the original, Zhouyi text… of line 5, for instance, at the centre of the outer lake:

‘True and confident in excellence.
Good fortune.’

And in that rather bland translation (mine!), they don’t seem to be. But just under the surface, it turns out that the character translated ‘excellence’, jia 嘉, has the components 加 – ‘add, increase’, made of ‘strong’ and ‘mouth’ – and 壴, a drum. Together this means what is fine, good and praised – something worth drumming about.

Here we are at the centre of the lake, at the line that changes it to thunder and – in my imagination, at least… – synchronises it with the pulse of the inner trigram. ‘Truth to excellence’ as the fifth line and guiding principle of Following looks something like being in rhythm – perhaps with the dragon’s heartbeat.

lake ripples

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4 responses to Drums in the lake

  1. Thank you. I enjoyed this post.

    Some nice translation observations too.

    And yes again Marshall’s dragon in the pool came to my mind too. I still feel for the little pigs thrown into it!

    It seems to me that working with trigrams often creates a second Yi which works with its own imagery rather than being a route toward the received texts.

    Jung and Van der Post (Who were close friends) commented on the seeming universality of images in all of the cultures which had been studied. This gives me the confidence to try and work with the images with only a cursory glance of the text. However I do use the Shuogua and hexagram name as anchors.

    Here I would be looking at Thunder as rapid change and renewal which is taking place inside the individual who is situated in the Lake (or Marsh). The Lake representing community, market place (community again) festivals and dancing (community again). With the changing line in the first place the change is only just beginning to emerge and it appears to emerging in the personal (lower trigram). However depending on the question that lower trigram might be the communities inner world.

    The change is just beginning… So wise words – Go indoors (don’t shout about it) take a nap and reflect. Sui – follow this energy, do not try to lead or take control.

    I do like your image of drums sounding from under the water… as if the lakes heartbeat as it stirs anew.

    It would be the changing lines here that would give the process a vector and that would be where my focus would lie.

    Adding – I have long given up on the ‘good fortune’ bad fortune side of Yi. I have had so much good fortune come from bad and the other way around in this life. Indeed Yi has positively sent me into many tiger filled forests promising much good and happiness only for me to get to the other side some years later clawed and bleeding… but usually a lot wiser.

    Well that’s my effort on this for what its worth.

    It seems the thunder has indeed wakened a small dragon 😉

    Thank you for the thought provoking and informative post.

    • Oops
      “The change is just beginning… So wise words – Go indoors (don’t shout about it) take a nap and reflect. Sui – follow this energy, do not try to lead or take control.”

      Would be the case if the first line was changing… I don’t know why my head had that changing line embedded.

      Bu to finish that thought. Relating hexagram 45 Gathering them… A lovely echo of the waters gathered in 17. Manifestation emerging beneath the waters. Something growing – the new time emerging? That reflection in 17 seems to be leading toward a deep change beneath the waters. More cause to go indoors and reflect and prepare.

      Looking forward to other views here.

      Waiving hello.

      • Waving back – good to hear from you!

        Hm, yes, changing line 1 would take us into the middle of the 40s and their – er – reflections on lakes. Interesting… why would Gathering accompany the very first step into Following? Hm…

        ‘An official has a change of heart.
        Constancy, good fortune.
        Going out of the gates, joining with others, there is achievement.’

        …apparently because to join the flow of what Follows you need to start by getting outside the official box – maybe experiencing a broader, stronger emotional current than your own concerns?

        And then conversely, to begin Gathering you might draw on Following: align yourself, create emotional union along with spiritual connection, and then we can start…

        It seems to me that working with trigrams often creates a second Yi which works with its own imagery rather than being a route toward the received texts.

        True. I’m leery of asking Yi a question and then paying attention only to its body language, as it were, and not to its words. But if it’s possible to understand the two together, things get interesting. (The Image authors were masters at this, IMO.)

  2. Yes!

    Well, it would be the first step of Gathering, no? Perhaps ‘Prepare to Gather?”

    But, “True. I’m leery of asking Yi a question and then paying attention only to its body language, as it were, and not to its words. But if it’s possible to understand the two together, things get interesting. (The Image authors were masters at this, IMO.)”

    Still agreeing, but for me its not just body language. I sometimes think of Yi as having multiple languages and ,yes, I don’t ignore the text.

    Sometimes I wonder to what degree the text has been hampered a little by the authors thinking context, situation, culture and period and that possibly the imagery might be a little more beyond that and universal in its message.

    I’m not rejecting the text, nor putting imagery above it… but I do draw on it quite heavily.

    Thank you for these two very informed posts. I have much to catch up on I think.

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