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Series: Hexagram 46

46: Pushing Upward (step 1)

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Hexagram 46

Hexagram 46, Pushing Upward, has to do with step-by-step progress onward and upward, and the effort of the climb. It also has to do with offerings: Harmen, in his fascinating article on the hexagram, says,

Sheng was the name of a certain sacrifice, and because of the close resemblance between the old forms of sheng and dou, I believe that sheng could refer to a sacrifice made to the constellation beidou [the Big Dipper].”

He also mentions that the name of this hexagram in both Fuyang and Mawangdui manuscripts is a homophone of the received name, and means to make an offering at a high place – related to the ancient tradition of climbing a sacred mountain to make an offering.

So Hexagram 46 has to do not just with progress but with the desire for connection and participation at a higher level – with the implication that to reach that level, you need to do the work, and climb.

In readings over the years at the I Ching Community, Hexagram 46 has described the desire for more fulfilling work, for a fuller relationship (or for marriage), for democracy and social change. It’s pointed to the need to embark on a project, make progress, take steps to improve one’s financial situation.

What also comes across clearly, browsing through past threads, is that Pushing Upward isn’t only about quantitative change, but also qualitative – about experiencing the deeper meaning of a situation, not reducing it to numbers. (‘The rent bill’ actually represents a relationship with the landlord; ‘the job’ actually represents finding your work in the world.) And as an inner experience, 46 can translate into a desire to talk to someone, connect with something – even just to be in motion (especially in the darkness of line 6).

There’s an offering to be made; you need to climb the mountain to make the offering. A big lesson of the hexagram is that you can’t teleport to the top of the mountain; the only way up is one step at a time.

The oracle for Pushing Upward is something like a diagram of the engine that can make such an ascent:

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

There’s a powerful internal logic to this. It begins with yuan heng, ‘from the source, creating success’, which taps into the deep original energy of inspiration and develops a two-way flow, through offering (an early meaning of heng), between human work and spiritual source.

Then the advice is to make use of seeing great people. It seems to me that while yuan heng propels you into movement, seeing the great people pulls you onward. ‘Make use of’ emphasises that this vision has a power you can apply in your climb.

As ever, the  great people can be one or many, seen inwardly or outwardly; they can provide help, guidance or inspiration. In Pushing Upward, though, I think their most important ‘use’ is as a model; to see the great people here is to have the possibility of success in sight, and a more vivid, personal sense of relationship to the goal.

Next – ‘don’t worry.’ This needs saying, as it’s natural to worry when setting out on a climb. Steep slopes limit how far you can see;  you can’t anticipate the path ahead, and have no tangible sign you can in fact climb all the way. Anxiety presses in – especially at lines 3 and 6 – and Yi’s simple imperative helps.

And finally, good fortune in marching out to the south.  ‘Marching out’, or ‘setting out to bring order’, is quite often not a good idea in the Yijing: your ideas of how things should be ordered are not always fitting. But this march to the south – the line starts with ‘south’, indicating that you point yourself in the right direction first, and then set out – is clearly,  unambiguously blessed. So what does it mean to go south?

Harmen’s article establishes a connection between the name of Hexagram 46 and beidou, the Northern Ladle or Big Dipper, which by Han times was said to ‘serve as the chariot of the emperor’ and have a governing role in the heavens, and which was already the recipient of sacrifices at the time when this hexagram text was written.

Then there’s this quotation from The “South” in Chinese History, by Kwok (thanks to Charly at the I Ching Community for finding this!):

“To the extent that early Chinese cosmology was intricately involved in conceptions and theories of kingship, often invoked to lend earthly rule cosmic sanction, the ruler on earth took on the position of the North Polar Star and was also known as the nanmianjun (south-facing ruler). …Facing south has become not only propitious in the celestial and terrestrial affairs of life itself, but also a position of enormous honor, often, in social situations, offered to the guest of honor.”

While the North Polar star isn’t part of the Big Dipper, it’s located in the night sky by extrapolating a line from two of the Dipper’s stars. So all this might provide some contextual clues: if you adopt the position of the North Polar Star, or if you ride in the Dipper-chariot, then you would travel south. And in this way, you would at the very least have the most honoured position, and you might well be the ruler. (The King is in the temple of the paired hexagram, 45, and makes offerings in 46.4.)

You are lined up with the stars and the compass; by implication, you are aligned rightly; your undertaking is in harmony with cosmic order. This doesn’t come with guarantees that it will work out as you have in mind – it remains true that the path is too steep for you to see very far along it – but your essential direction is good and true. And so the oracle as a whole carries a great motivational charge – Yi’s best ‘pep talk’:

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

Hexagram 46, Pushing Upward (step 2 – trigrams)

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Hexagram 46

The trigrams of Hexagram 46 seem to embody its nature particularly clearly. Earth   contains wood   – a straightforward picture of a germinating seed. The Image says: ‘Centre of the earth gives birth to wood. Pushing upward. A noble one with patient character, Builds up small things to attain the high and great.’ The… Continue Reading

Hexagram 46, Pushing Upward (step 3: some hexagrams of context)

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Hexagram 46

I call the hexagrams that are naturally related to the cast hexagram, regardless of its changing lines, ‘hexagrams of context’. They make an extended family of contrasts and sources. (Those simple old human ways of understanding something – seeing what it isn’t, and telling its stories – work just as well with hexagrams.) Hexagram 46… Continue Reading

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