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hilary

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Leaping in the abyss

Painting of carp leaping the falls to become a dragon
I’ve been having another look at the mysterious fourth line of Hexagram 1, Creative Force:

‘Someone leaping in the abyss.
No mistake.’

Hexagram 1, line 4

A story of dragons​


This line is generally understood to be part of the story that begins in line 1, with the dragon still asleep underwater,

‘Dragon underwater – don’t act.’

and culminates in line 5 with the dragon in full flight,

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

Then the dragon overreaches in line 6, and all six dragons take flight without a leader when all six lines are changing.

There are two ways of understanding the dragon. The more widely-accepted view is that this is the Azure Dragon asterism: a giant group of constellations that begins to rise above the horizon at the beginning of spring, and is in full view at the height of the year.

So the dragon is first sleeping below the horizon, and hence beneath the waters that were thought to surround the habitable world –

‘Dragon underwater – don’t act.’

Then the first star of its horn appears just over the fields at nightfall, and it’s time to work together (zhi 13) and prepare for the growing season –

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

And then (after line 3, which is about the noble one instead of the dragon), comes:

‘Someone leaping in the abyss.
No mistake.’

By April, the dragon’s horn and neck are clearly visible above the horizon, and the rest of its body is coming into view. It’s arranged almost vertically, and so appears to be ‘leaping’ straight up from the watery abyss below the world.

S.J. Marshall has another take, and though he offers it as an alternative to the star-dragon, I see no reason why the two shouldn’t co-exist. He describes how dragons slept in pools in the mountains over winter, until, at the first sign of clouds gathering in spring, the people rushed to the pool to wake them with offerings, noise and aggravations. The rain would only fall once the dragon took flight. So at line 4, there’s a glimpse of something rising from the pool to the clouds – and when it reaches them, in line 5, we’ll have rain.

‘Someone’?​


The odd thing – or at least, I find it odd – is that this line doesn’t mention dragons. Lines 1,2,5 and 6 straightforwardly name the dragon, but not line 4. Someone is leaping, or maybe there’s leaping. How come?

Marshall’s story of the dragon in the mountain pool might explain it:

As clouds descend low in the mountains it is perhaps easy to enter into the spirit of the occasion, particularly as the dragon is said to possess the power of making itself invisible when it leaves the water to mae its ascent. Those intoxicated by wine may swear they saw a claw, or the tip of the tail, entering a cloud.

S.J. Marshall, The Mandate of Heaven

A mostly-invisible, barely-glimpsed dragon would create this kind of uncertainty.

Here’s another possibility, though. If you look through the Songs (the Shijing) for ‘leaping in the abyss’, you find Song 239, celebrating the joys of a prosperous country with a good prince. Among its signs of prosperity and harmony:

The hawk flies up to heaven, the fishes leap in the deep.

The ‘leaping’ and ‘deep’ are the same words as in 1.4. Fish leap in the abyss, too.

Leaping carp​


A Chinese folktale tells how, once a year in the third month of spring, the carp swim up the Yellow River to the foot of the mountains, where there is a waterfall called Dragon Gate. If they can leap the falls, they will be transformed into a dragon – and when the first fish makes the leap, the rains come. So we have…

  • leaping from the pool,
  • the possibility of attaining a whole new level of being
  • at roughly the same time of year that the dragon constellation rises vertically from the horizon,
  • becoming a dragon,
  • and bringing rain.

(For more detail, see these two Wikipedia articles. And a little way down this page, you’ll find a lovely video of the story.)

More about the leap…​


The carp’s leap is said to represent a sudden rise in social status, especially from passing the imperial examination. (Work hard in school, and you’ll get on in life!) The Yi is older than the imperial examination, of course, and has more to say with this line, but who’s to say how long carp have been attempting the dragon gate?

The leaping carp is moving up into a higher realm, much as the fourth line moves up a level into the upper trigram. This is the original ‘line 4 moment’: going from theory to practice, testing your strength and exploring the possibilities – though you’re not quite sure yet what they are.

A natural and traditional view is that the recipient of this hexagram should imagine themselves as the dragon, and that at line 4 they might move out into public life. Or, equally, they might not: there is hesitancy, and the wise querent will pay attention to right timing. The Wenyan (the seventh Wing) says,

‘The true gentleman cultivates inner strength, fulfils his task. He tunes Self to the moment, and thus incurs no harm.’

Translation by John Minford

Alfred Huang says this is like King Wu making sorties against the Shang and then retreating, ‘testing his capability for success.’

Wilhelm, though, has a remarkably different idea. It’s not just a choice between advancing and not-advancing, but between going on into public life or withdrawing and becoming a sage – two positive choices that are equally good, and equally adventurous:

Here we reach the upper limit of what pertains to man in the hexagram. Advance on level ground is no longer possible. In order to advance, a man must dare to relinquish his foothold on earth and soar into realms of uncharted space and utter solitude. Here the individual is free – precisely because of the possibilities inherent in the position. Each man must determine his own fate.

Wilhelm/Baynes

Hesitancy and Hexagram 9​


I tend to think of the pure yang of Hexagram 1 as in search of a field of action, and each changing line as opening a new field. So at line 4, Creative Force finds its scope for action in Hexagram 9, Small Taming – a hexagram which explicitly says there are ‘dense clouds without rain’.

This means fulfilment is still in the future; the decision is not yet taken; the dragon has not yet taken flight. And I think it also implies feelings of uncertainty, unreadiness and possible inadequacy –

Will the dragon take flight? For now, there is the dance along the border between ‘just enough’ and ‘not quite there’, stretching your wings and playing with vast possibilities. There’s no shortage of creative drive and imagination, but it’s not clear what will prove attainable.

(from my book)

(What if I turn out to be just a fish, after all?)

LiSe goes a step further, looking at the fan yao, 9.4 –

Being sincere, blood goes away, fear goes out. Without fault.

LiSe’s translation

– and seeing that 1.4 is the time deliberately to banish such fears:

Fearlessness can accomplish miracles. As soon as a stuntman feels fear, he is in danger. Fearlessness is the core of the hero. Hex.9.4 tells you to forget yourself (and any fear) for the sake of your responsibilities. Hex.1.4 is about what fearlessness accomplishes.

LiSe

Leaping, dancing and playing​


1.4 evokes the eager leap of a fish seeking to become a dragon, striving for a whole new level of existence. And… the verb 躍 yue means not only ‘leap’ but also ‘dance’. Yue is not just for fish… the character contains ‘foot’, after all, as well as ‘feathers’ and ‘bird’, and it’s used in Song 31 to describe a war dance. (Might the dancers leap higher with feathers on their ankles?)

Some alternative perspectives…

Karcher translates,

‘Someone’ is playing in the Primal Abyss.
This is not a mistake.

Karcher, Total I Ching

and insists that we should not ‘lose the playful spirit’ because ‘joy is the key to creation’.

Wu Jing Nuan:

Who is jumping? Is it man or dragon or both? The ideogram yue shows a foot, a bird, and feathers. This is a shamanistic picture of leaping about and dancing, a ritual to promote creativity. The abyss ideogram, yuan, is fashioned from the symbols for water and vortex, the whirlpool of constant, overwhelming phenomena. The recipient of this line must jump free of the whirlpool of everyday life.

Wu Jing Nuan, Yijing

My favourite commentary on this line by far comes from Bradford Hatcher. I recommend reading it through a few times:

The shaman drinks his brew, spreads his feathers, steps to the edge of the known, to dance into higher realms. The brave young dragon stands at the edge of the cliff, facing this rite of passage one way, his white-knuckled talons scarring the rocks, preparing to leap from aerial theory to practice, now two different things at long last. To gain the abyss will mean to let go of that clawhold completely. The wind will be no easy thing to take hold of, until reaching dangerous speeds. But here is the only control to be gained, the wind becomes the master: the only conquest comes from obeying the facts. No wavering will lift this beast, much less beast and his baggage, so lightening up should help. And never miss half the point by failing to look down. There can be no half measures here, in fact, as there are no real dragons in theory.

Bradford Hatcher

No real dragons in theory. Exactly.

Coda: and in experience?​


What does ‘leaping in the abyss’ look like in practice?

Like a leap to a whole new level, certainly, or dreaming of that. Plenty of people receive 1.4 as they’re dreaming of possibilities that might or might not become real, with motivation that might or might not break through into action – and yes, typically accompanied by some anxiety (or good old impostor syndrome) that probably needs banishing.

I found several readings about whether a relationship might make the leap from friendship or flirting into romance, several ‘how will the job interview go?’…

…and then there’s one about a quite different leap: a painfully-conscientious business owner asking, ‘How can I get to retirement safely?’ Years later, he’s dived into a joyful, creative retirement full of art and song-writing.

Painting of carp leaping the falls to become a dragon
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this article as a pdf​
 

rosada

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I think it's significant that 4 is the line of the teacher and here at line 4 in the first hexagram there isn't any predecessor to offer guidance. No wonder there's a bit of "wavering" and the fear this may turn out to be an abyss!

My own story for the lines:
1. The morning after. Upon waking up after a night of drinking and wild partying (64.6), it's wise to lie low till one is sure the coast is clear.
2. Look for a role model. Where did that dragon come from appearing in the field as if he fell from the sky?
3. Study him. Watch and learn. Worry about how you'll do when your time comes.
4. Can't learn anything more from watching. Time to jump.
5. Yea, you're now an official member of SkydivingDragons.org.!
6. Don't get above yourself.

I think it's interesting that line 5, the most powerful line of the most powerful hexagram, is about being part of a group. Creating and being a member of a group seems to be a major theme of the IC.
 
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Trojina

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2. Look for a role model. Where did that dragon come from appearing in the field as if he fell from the sky?


Why do you think there's anything about a role model here ?
 

Trojina

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Lots of lines speak of 'great people' can't take them all as 'use a role model'. I think a role model is a very weak thing to aim to adhere to and never more so than in hexagram 1 ! The pure power of the creative doesn't mess with making role models. If role models are anywhere maybe 37...or 9 not hexagram 1.
 

moss elk

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Can substitute role model with teacher,
or someone you can benefit from meeting,
until you become the flying dragon in L5.

T-dragon was once a minnow dragon (L1), all things are not in her power (L6), in Line 2 the dragon is rewarded with meeting a mature human being (presumably to be aided or to learn something other than how to dress when possessing a paunch.)
even T-dragon meets with the great Yi.

So, there is definitely a mighty season of power that waxes and wanes. The dragon develops, it isn't super at the outset only it's potential is,
call the mature person that helps them develop whatever one likes.
 
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Trojina

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No that's not 1, thats not the Creative. The Creative can't be dwindled down into the form if some teacher or so called 'role model'. I can't think of anything less of the Creative than following a role model. Neither is it sitting at the feet of a teacher.

You don't become the dragon in any of the lines, the dragon is the Creative. I don't know what you mean mean by T-dragon.

It's important to be clear the lines are not the story of an individual developing, that just diminishes the power and worth of this hexagram.

There is no minnow dragon in line 1, it's a fully formed dragon under the water.


I think the way you have put it is completely the wrong way round. The dragon is the Creative it does not learn from a 'mature human being'. All a human being can do with the Creative is move with it or be in tune with it's timing. The human is moved with the Creative.

How can you think the dragon is like a human ? The dragon is the Creative power.
 

moss elk

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the Dragon metaphor refers to powerful people in Yi.
Kings, great people, masters, nobility are called dragon in ancient China, remember Bruce Lee anyone?

The powers of the dragon are only manifest and prominent in a few lines.
This implies that there exists limits to the dragons power (realms and seasons), even the dragon must interact with physics.

The dragon is not Shang di or heaven,
it only leaps up there for a time.

(T-Dragon is you)
 
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Trojina

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the Dragon metaphor refers to powerful people in Yi.
Kings, great people, masters, nobility are called dragon in ancient China, remember Bruce Lee anyone?

Can't see why there would need to be a metaphor for people. The dragon is not a person to me, the dragon is the expression, the head of, the visible bit of, the Creative. The Creative as only one half of the whole can tread too far as in line 6. The dragon power might come through a person but the dragon is not a person IMO.

The thing is I don't believe in great people, masters, mature people or nobility. I think everyone is a dick once you get to know them :giggle:

Behind every great person there lies an idiot.(T-Dragon 2021)
 

Liselle

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Trojina, what do you think "fruitful to see great people" does mean in hexagram 1, then?
 

Liselle

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The thing is I don't believe in great people, masters, mature people or nobility. I think everyone is a dick once you get to know them :giggle:

I don't agree with that, either. :tongue: (I can't tell how much you might be teasing, though, sorry.)

No one - of course - is perfect, but there are certainly people each one of us can learn something from, and also definitely there are people who are more mature than others, more noble than others, and so forth. Biden > Trump, for instance, which is hardly the same as "Biden is perfect and should be worshipped like a god," and he probably does have areas in which he is a d***.
 

Liselle

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The dragon is not a person to me, the dragon is the expression... of the Creative
The dragon power might come through a person but the dragon is not a person IMO.

I see what you're getting at, but am not sure they're mutually exclusive. Will have to think about this part, though.

Would you say the same about 2? I just read a post over the weekend where someone (maybe you, don't remember) referred to 1 and 2 as the primal powers. So would you say 2 is also a power that comes through a person but could never be a person?
 
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Trojina

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Trojina, what do you think "fruitful to see great people" does mean in hexagram 1, then?

That it's fruitful to see a great person (if there is one about) I suppose.

That is quite separate from a dragon appearing in the field or a dragon flying across the skies. The dragon is beyond human, why else would it be called a dragon. The dragon is I think almost the embodiment of the Creative, the almost visible part of it. Where the Creative is, where this magical being is seen there is good fortune. The good fortune may come as a person but that doesn't mean the dragon is a person. If the dragon is on the move in my readings I know the Creative is on the move. That may or may not have anything to do with any specific human person.

There's no doubt for me for I can't imagine anything more dull and depressing than making this magical expression of the Creative nothing but a person


No one - of course - is perfect, but there are certainly people each one of us can learn something from, and also definitely there are people who are more mature than others, more noble than others, and so forth. Biden > Trump, for instance, which is hardly the same as "Biden is perfect and should be worshipped like a god," and he probably does have areas in which he is a d***.

That's not the same thing as having a role model is it, it's just admiring certain aspects of other people.

Biden is no more noble than someone who lives down the road who you never met. Why pick out 2 presidents when they have no more claim to greatness or intelligence than any other of the billions of people one has never met.

Having a role model isn't real because it's effectively trying to be someone who you aren't. Having a role model is something to grow out of not grow into.


This started with talking about role models not just being able to learn from others, there's a difference.
 

Liselle

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I've literally done readings here and there asking what I can/should learn from some person, and Yi has given me answers telling me exactly that. "Emulate this person in this way." That's a role model.
 

Liselle

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Having a role model is something to grow out of not grow into.
Again, I think I see what you mean... if Yi advises me to emulate X in a certain way, the idea is surely to internalize the particular good quality into myself, and then I have no need of X anymore. But it's probably both. I have to grow into X's good quality before I can grow out of using X as a role model.
 

hilary

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The dragon is not a person to me, the dragon is the expression, the head of, the visible bit of, the Creative. The Creative as only one half of the whole can tread too far as in line 6. The dragon power might come through a person but the dragon is not a person IMO.
I see what you mean, and, in practice, in readings, if you get line 6 -

'Overweening dragon has regrets.'

- don't you generally get the impression that if you are overweening (or whatever that dragon is), you'll regret it? And if you get line 4, aren't you the one leaping? (Whether you are a dragon or just a fish with ambitions?)
 

Liselle

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Biden is no more noble than someone who lives down the road who you never met. Why pick out 2 presidents when they have no more claim to greatness or intelligence than any other of the billions of people one has never met.
There are vast quantities of people who I would never, ever want to be president, they don't have anywhere close to the character for it, or the intelligence, so yes, a good president is better than all of them. (Let's let Trump out of it.)
 
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moss elk

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When we are at our best and brightest,
are we not also magical beings?
 

Liselle

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There's no doubt for me for I can't imagine anything more dull and depressing than making this magical expression of the Creative nothing but a person
I don't think anyone's saying nothing but a person.


(y) to what Hilary and M.E. just said.
 

hilary

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I think Brad's commentary on the lines steers a good course between 'dragon as dragon' and 'could be you'.
 

Trojina

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There are two ways of understanding the dragon. The more widely-accepted view is that this is the Azure Dragon asterism: a giant group of constellations that begins to rise above the horizon at the beginning of spring, and is in full view at the height of the year.


The third way is to take it that there were dragons. I mean all the theories you cite are based on not believing in dragons, actual dragons. Just because there are no dragons now it doesn't mean there never were.




I see what you mean, and, in practice, in readings, if you get line 6 -

'Overweening dragon has regrets.'

- don't you generally get the impression that if you are overweening (or whatever that dragon is), you'll regret it? And if you get line 4, aren't you the one leaping? (Whether you are a dragon or just a fish with ambitions?)

Yes, that's usually how we take it though it's the Creative in us that takes us too far in line 6 or is the impulse to hover or leap in line 4. If I cast line 6 I don't think I am a dragon, that the dragon is one and the same thing as my person, I just think the dragon, the visible of the Creative over reached it's powers.
 
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Liselle

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I'm also not literally a dragon, and likewise I've never dipped anything in water when I cast 22.3.

I'm probably misunderstanding since clearly you know it's all metaphor... but you seemed to be making a different point, that a person could never be 1-ish because 1 is much too lofty for people, or something.

Hexagrams scale, surely 1 is no different. When Yi gives us 1, maybe it's saying that at that moment we are indeed dragon-like with all that implies, or have the opportunity to be, only on the scale of our own life. What M.E. said.
 

Trojina

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Well the conversation started when I asked where Rosada got the idea of role model for line 2. I haven't said anything about a person not being1ish just that I don't think dragons are people nor metaphors for people, I kind of find that a travesty of what I see as the sacred magical being of a dragon. When the dragon flies in the sky it's the power of the Creative coming in to one's life, one doesn't know how that's going to be, how that will manifest. Hence the idea of plodding along behind a role model seemed very earthbound*.

So I was talking about the dragon, not hexagram 1 in general although you surely know that hex 1 and 2 are primal forces.

Hilary's point that we do see the dragon as ourselves in readings is a challenge in a sense to me saying 'dragons aren't people' because they clearly become people if we see them as ourselves and yet still it is not I that over reaches but the dragon. It doesn't say 'he overreaches' or 'look at that fool over reaching', it's the dragon. The dragon is very special and I won't have* people saying it's a winged alligator (Lise) or a leaping fish or a constellation. A dragon can be a dragon. If it wasn't a dragon it wouldn't be called a dragon.


* indeed you can't plod along behind a dragon because he's flying in the air...unless he hurt his wing but even then 36.1 he still flies

* when I say I 'won't have' it is a manner of speech rather than a command
 
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moss elk

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Yi calls humans all kinds of things based on their qualities: pig, flying bird, fish, crowing cock, tiger, dragon...etc

Each of these monikers mean something.
People of great ability are often referred to as dragons. Line 5 is referring to a human being with dragon-like qualities.
 

Trojina

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Hexagram one, the Creative, is not to do with ability - it's the primal power so all the lines concern that primal power.
 

Liselle

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Fine, Trojina, the next time Yi gives me 1.6 I'll abdicate all responsibility and say it's not me, it's some dragon. :tongue:

I once got 1.1 as part of a reading about making a phone call or going to some office right then, because they'd be closed the next day (don't remember all the details). "Submerged dragon. No employ." (LiSe). It was abundantly clear the dragon was the office, couldn't have been anything else.
 

moss elk

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Behind every great person there lies an idiot.(T-Dragon 2021)

How'd you know I was standing back here? :]


Taoists would call hex 1 and 2 secondary powers which sprang from the Primary Tao.
 
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