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Series: Hexagram 23

Could Stripping Away be painless?

Could Stripping Away be painless?
This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Hexagram 23

Hexagram 23 is called Stripping Away. The old character shows a knife, and a less-clear component that might be a well winch or a bag for filtering wine, separating the wine from the dregs. As LiSe shows, that blends into the meaning of the whole. But the knife component is very clear – in etymology and in experience.

When you receive Hexagram 23, something is coming ‘under the knife’. The traditional version of the etymology says the knife is carving, cutting away what is not required. That’s often the lived experience of the hexagram: something outworn, something no longer of use, is cut away. The difficult part is that until the knife comes down, we might have been quite attached to our plans/ideas/self-image/social position/security/relationship… etc. The ‘stripping away’ might feel something like being skinned alive.

Living through this hexagram can be excruciating – but it isn’t necessarily so. This depends on two things – scale, that I wrote about the other day, and also on the degree of attachment. That’s the message of the Image –

‘Mountain rests on the earth. Stripping Away.
The heights are generous, and there are tranquil homes below.’

That isn’t an Image of pain and loss, but of kindness, generosity and peace. Mountains don’t develop neurotic attachments to ‘their’ minerals, and so the valley below is well-nourished.

Funnily enough, that mysterious ‘wine-bag’ part of the hexagram name is also a loan for three characters meaning the place at the foot of a mountain (see Harmen Mesker, Cutting Through Hexagram 23). Such a place might be in the mountain’s rain-shadow, arid and deprived, but it could also be – on the other side of the mountain – particularly moist and cool. I think the Image authors were imagining a fertile, sheltered valley.

How interesting that of all the Image texts in the book, this is the only one with no explicit human protagonist: no noble one, no ancient kings. Of course ‘heights’ implies upper social strata, but it literally only means ‘above’, the opposite of ‘below’. The human element – that part that can say ‘this is mine!‘ – is stripped back and disappears into the landscape.

Tradition says that the mountain rests on the earth like a government rests on the people, and this hexagram portrays a bad government that has eroded its foundations, exhausted popular support and is on the verge of collapse. It needs to practise generosity, because the society’s very structure is being pulled apart. (‘Pulling apart’ is Minford‘s name for the hexagram in his Part I, ‘Book of Wisdom’.)

It’s not about propping up the status quo with a pre-election tax cut, though: this scene, the mountains above the valley, shows that erosion is a natural constant: it’s just what happens. If we could participate in a spirit of generosity – if we were a little more like mountains, a little less attached – Hexagram 23 might be painless.

Generous heights and a tranquil home below

The shape of Hexagram 23

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Hexagram 23

In a little post on hexagrams and scale I wrote,­ Just on this blog, I found three readings I’d shared with Hexagram 23. They were, in order: auspices for using a certain technology during a webinar. (I persuaded myself I could use it anyway, and it failed impressively.) foreshadowing my mother’s death after a debilitating… Continue Reading

Stripping Away: a change of perspective

Stripping Away: a change of perspective
This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Hexagram 23

I wrote about how Stripping Away, in its ideal form as depicted by the Image, might be painless – but that’s not how the process starts, and not our dominant experience of it. Hexagram 23 typically shows up as something you have to undergo; it is fruitless to have a direction to go. You don’t… Continue Reading

Hexagram 23 in readings

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Hexagram 23

The essential message of Stripping Away is devastatingly simple: ‘Stripping away. 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… Continue Reading

23 as relating hexagram

23 as relating hexagram
This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Hexagram 23

I wrote about a core message of Hexagram 23 when it’s your cast hexagram: how it demands a true tabula rasa, not just a ‘rethink’. What about 23 as relating hexagram – what can that mean? Of course, there are 64 different ways a reading can change to Hexagram 23, but here are the six ways… Continue Reading

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