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Seeing the Great Person (a story)

Seeing the Great Person (a story)

‘See the great person’ (or ‘great people’) is one of the Yijing’s recurrent phrases: in Hexagram 1, lines 2 and 5, in the oracle texts of hexagrams 6, 39, 45, 46 and 57, and in 39, line 6. (There’s also just ‘great person’ – without the advice to see them – in 12.2.5, 47, and 49.5 – but that’s another story.)

‘Great people’ might originally have been those with power, but the key idea in the Yijing seems to be that they have vision – they can see more and further than most. I wrote about ‘seeing the great person’ – its literal meaning, ideas for interpretation and example applications – in the Language of Change Yijing glossary. Here’s an excerpt –

“When you ‘see a great person’, you seek out a source of insight and advice you can use now – and sometimes also direct help, for instance to more important, fulfilling work.

This can mean literally meeting with another person, perhaps someone who’s achieved what you have only imagined: your entry point to a realm where these things are possible. Or you might encounter the great person through a book, a dream, even introspection. Sometimes, ‘seeing the great person’ can mean recognising the quality of greatness in another person – where it may or may not be obvious! – and also seeing that quality in yourself. (You can only recognise greatness because you already know within yourself what it is.)

The key word is see: seeing the great person always means a change in awareness. It lifts the situation to a higher level where more can be seen and done.”

What I’d like to do in this post is to trace the development of this idea through the Sequence, as I did with the noble one some years ago. Here are all the times Yi advises it’s fruitful to see great people:

‘See the dragon in the fields.
Fruitful to see great people.’

‘Dragon flying in heaven.
Fruitful to see great people.’

‘Arguing.
There is truth and confidence, blocked.
Vigilant and centred, good fortune. Ending, pitfall.
Fruitful to see great people,
Fruitless to cross the great river.’

‘Limping. Fruitful in the southwest,
Not fruitful in the northeast.
Fruitful to see great people.
Constancy, good fortune.’

‘Going on, limping; coming back, maturity.
Good fortune.
Fruitful to see great people.’

‘Gathering, creating success.
The king enters his temple
Fruitful to see great people, creating success.
Constancy bears fruit.
Using great sacrificial animals: good fortune.
Fruitful to have a direction to go.’

‘Pushing upward, creating success from the source.
Make use of seeing great people.
Do not worry.
Set forth to the south, good fortune.’

‘Subtly penetrating, creating small success.
Fruitful to have a direction to go,
Fruitful to see great people.’

From Hexagram 1 all the way to Hexagram 57. What happens along the way?

Prelude: Eye-opening

The idea is introduced in Hexagram 1, line 2, which suggests a parallel between ‘seeing the dragon in the fields’ and seeing great people. See the dragon – see the creative power at work – see how we can go to work now and reap a good harvest later. See the future we can create – or, in the fifth line, see what is possible now, with the dragon in full flight.

Changing these two ‘see the great person’ lines together creates this reading:

changing to

1.2.5 to 30: the two solid lines ‘open’ to yin, revealing the hexagram of light and clear perception at the end of the Upper Canon. Seeing great people carries us directly to Clarity.

Act 1: Look up!

‘Arguing.
There is truth and confidence, blocked.
Vigilant and centred, good fortune. Ending, pitfall.
Fruitful to see great people,
Fruitless to cross the great river.’

When a reading advises someone that it’s ‘fruitful to see great people’, I will often tell them that they might ‘see’ them outside or inside themselves. With Hexagram 6, though, we’re most likely to need a real, external great person – an arbitration service, a marriage counsellor, or someone who is outside the Argument, has an overview and can mediate. The phrase used is the same one you might interpret elsewhere as ‘see your own higher self’ – it’s just that we humans seem to be less than brilliant at seeing beyond our own perspective when we’re fighting.

‘Limping. Fruitful in the west and south,
Not fruitful in the east and north.
Fruitful to see great people.
Constancy, good fortune.’

Something similar applies with Hexagram 39 – when we’re in that ‘I’m going to get this done if it kills me’ mode, we tend to be quite entrenched. This reminds me of amateur musicians (like me) when the music gets difficult to play: the struggle to get round the notes consumes all our attention, we bury our heads in the part and become oblivious to all else. Lift up your eyes, says Yi, remove your nose from the grindstone for a moment, and see the bigger picture. Follow the conductor. See the potential.

Interlude: Turnaround

There are just three moving lines that speak of ‘seeing great people’: 1.2.5, and 39.6:
‘Going on, limping; coming back, maturity.
Good fortune.
Fruitful to see a great person.’

This change is Limping’s final change of direction: from struggle to 碩, shuo: a broad term for someone with size, mastery, eminence, maturity… the qualities, in fact, of a great person.

With this line, Limping joins with 53, Gradual Development – a hexagram of integration and homecoming. It seems that now the one limping has turned around and is moving towards the vision of great people. Perhaps, with this new alignment, more of that dragon’s potential could be realised.

Act II: Alignment

The three remaining moments to ‘see great people’ are quite different from 6 and 39. Then, you needed to see the great person to change your angle of view altogether – to lift your eyes up and see beyond a narrow preoccupation. Simply put, someone who manages to see great people will probably not keep on Arguing, or Limping, as before.

But now…

‘Gathering, creating success.
The king enters his temple
Fruitful to see great people, creating success.
Constancy bears fruit.
Using great sacrificial animals: good fortune.
Fruitful to have a direction to go.’

…we can imagine the great people are present at the Gathering, with the king in his temple and the great sacrificial animals. (Wu Jing Nuan thinks the great people you need to see are probably diviners.)

Or you are facing south, aspiring onward and upward, and can make use of the great people to support your progress:

‘Pushing upward, creating success from the source.
Make use of seeing great people.
Do not worry.
Set forth to the south, good fortune.’

And perhaps, with Subtly Penetrating, you can fully internalise the great person along with your direction to go. (In readings, I think this is the opposite extreme to Hexagram 6 – when you might think first of an inner sense of the great person, and only then of an external mentor.)

‘Subtly penetrating, creating small success.
Fruitful to have a direction to go,
Fruitful to see the great person.’

In 45 and 57, ‘seeing great people’ is now joined with ‘having a direction to go’, while in 46 it goes with ‘setting out to the south’. Seeing great people now can lend direction and wisdom to your own undertaking. It’s not an alternative to your preoccupations, but something that works with them – not drawing your attention elsewhere, but illuminating your work and its purposes.

Misty path up a mountain

 

 

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