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Blog post: The non-people of Hexagram 8

hilary

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The non-people of Hexagram 8

swan in a flock of ducks
Some 15 years ago, I wrote on this blog about the non-people of Hexagram 12.

‘Blocking it, non-people.
Noble one’s constancy bears no fruit.
Great goes, small comes.’

Hexagram 12, the Oracle
Back then, I emphasised how the idea of ‘non-people’ (fei ren, 匪人) could mean labelling people and sticking them in boxes, which eliminates any possibility of human understanding. Legge’s translation, speaking of a ‘want of understanding between men,’ is striking.

That’s a useful meaning to bear in mind when you have Hexagram 12 – but it’s also important to remember that there can be ‘inhumanity’ here: a dearth of empathy or solidarity.

A less literal and more idiomatic translation would be ‘bandits’ or ‘outlaws’. However, I’m sticking with ‘non-people’, as I think that draws attention to something we might otherwise miss about outlaws: that these are people who are outside society, ‘beyond the pale’. They’re not part of the social fabric as we know it, don’t observe its norms, and are simply not available for that normal, social relationship of mutual help and support. Restoring communication might or might not be as simple as peeling away the dehumanising labels.

So… what happens in the one other place Yi mentions fei ren – Hexagram 8, line 3?

‘Seeking union with non-people.’

Hexagram 8, line 3
The context is very different: Hexagram 8 is about the desire to belong, and how people come together, as easily as water flows together over the earth, on the basis of natural affinity and mutual enjoyment. And it’s also associated with Yu the Great, after he has conquered the floods through his labours, founding a new world based on what belongs. (More on Hexagram 8 here.)

8.3 changes to Hexagram 39, Limping – another of Yu’s hexagrams, where he limps and struggles through the floodwaters, in urgent need of allies and ready to make a 180 degree turn (from north-and-east to south-and-west) to find them.

This helps to explain what’s happening at line 3, ‘Seeking union’s Limping’: the combination of hexagrams both tells us that seeking allies here is tremendously hard work, and might also hint that we’re in such straits that we’ll try to get blood from a stone, and seek union anywhere, with anyone, even the outlaws.

Here are a couple of different translations and commentaries that cast fresh light:

Stephen Field –

‘He sides with the non-human.’

8.3 in Field’s Duke of Zhou Changes
He suggests that Hexagram 8 has to do with the Zhou seeking alliances, and that here they are trying to ally with non-Chinese tribes, maybe even with the Guifang, the ‘Demon Country’ of 63.3/64.4.

And an unlikely ally (!) for Field: R.J. Lynn:

‘Here one joins in Closeness but not with his own people.’

8.3 in Lynn’s I Ching
Wang Bi’s commentary explains how line 2 and line 4 are both allied with the yang line at 5 (corresponding with it or supporting it), so that 3 is left without potential allies nearby.

At this line, we’re seeking union with those who are just not our kind of people. The really odd thing, though, is that the line doesn’t say whether this is a bad idea. Maybe this alliance with foreigners is just what we need? Probably not – there’s nothing to suggest that – but there’s also no ‘misfortune’, nor even a ‘danger’ or ‘shame’ or ‘regret’, any of which would make sense.

The general view of the line has always been that all that goes without saying. This begins with the Xiaoxiang – the commentary on the lines that was canonised as part of the Yijing itself:

‘“Here one joins in Closeness but not with one’s own people”: will this not indeed cause harm?’

Lynn, I Ching
And commentators of all stripes follow in these footsteps:

‘One rotten apple can spoil a whole basket, so throw it out. If that is not possible, then leave yourself. You have just one life, don’t waste it.’

LiSe
‘The people you are involved with now will do you no good. Danger. This is not where you belong. Leave now before you are sacrificed along with the others.’

Karcher, Total I Ching
And something subtly different from Wilhelm:

‘We are often among people who do not belong to our own sphere. In that case we must beware of being drawn into false intimacy through force of habit. Needless to say, this would have evil consequences. Maintaining sociability without intimacy is the only right attitude toward such people, because otherwise we should not be free to enter into relationship with people of our own kind later on.’

Wilhelm/Baynes, I Ching
This has to be the common sense view; it can’t be wise to try to find union with non-people. It’s almost an oxymoron: you’re trying to belong with those who don’t belong; seeking solidarity with those who are – exactly, by definition – outside any such bonds. As Wilhelm hints, you could only find union with them by going out of your own sphere, your own way of knowing, finding meaning and connecting.

So maybe Yi doesn’t explicitly say, ‘…and this is a Bad Idea’ because that’s already patently obvious.

But then again… I’ve had a few experiences with this line lately where there was no choice: it was essential to create some kind of rapport with the ‘non-people’.

  • Needing to work with someone whose priorities are so wildly different as to be unintelligible.
  • Having to communicate with a medical system where you get the impression you’re talking to a rulebook, not a human being with empathy.
  • Trying to build relationships with people – exceptionally lovely, compassionate people – whose strong foreign accents make mutual comprehension a real struggle.

In each of these cases, it wasn’t a situation anyone could leave: ‘seeking union’ was essential. And each time, when someone made a great effort to step into the world of the ‘non-people’, it worked and communication succeeded.

This experience, and the gentler translation from Lynn, gives me a new perspective on the line. This is never going to be a promising place to seek union, but if you have to try for that ‘sociability without intimacy’ Wilhelm mentions, don’t give up. Instead, cease hostilities; bear in mind you may need to ‘turn around’, 39-style, and completely change your natural approach. And allow the possibility – however remote – that they might become allies.

swan in a flock of ducks

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Trojina

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I've long thought commentaries were way off for this line.
 

hilary

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I think Wilhelm's basic idea, that you might just have to get on with it, this isn't always something you can avoid, is a good one. (But not that there's any risk of 'false intimacy' or what-have-you, or at least I've never seen that.)
 
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Freedda

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Looking at the various interpretations of fei ren, we have:

* non-people * bandits’ or ‘outlaws * inhuman people, whom are without empathy or solidarity * inferior people * not one's own people ...

The question I find myself asking is, how important are these distinctions?

As Hilary says, 'this has to be the common sense view; it can’t be wise to try to find union with _______'. Or Hilary also says 'I’ve had a few experiences with this line lately where there was no choice: it was essential to create some kind of rapport with the _______".

... and for both of these we can fill in the blank ______: with inferior people, with non-humans, with ....

And so, running the risk of repeating myself, could it be that the specifics of the question / query are more important - or as important - as how we specifically define 'fei ren', ... or could it be that the specific question or query will give us important information, guidance of how we would apply 'fei ren'.

For 8.3 we have - within the larger context of the hexagram's meaning of joining, bonding, belonging:
* Joining with such inferior people (Hatcher);
* Joining offenders (is) disastrous (Rutt); and
* Bonding without people (Mesker)

... and so how would we apply any of these to:
* 'how will my new business venture turn out?'
* 'does he/she/then love me?'
* 'tell me about tonight's get-together with friends.'

all the best ....
 

hilary

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could it be that the specifics of the question / query are more important - or as important - as how we specifically define 'fei ren', ... or could it be that the specific question or query will give us important information, guidance of how we would apply 'fei ren'.
Yes, of course the question/ context guides you as to how to apply it. That's kind-of how divination works. Somewhere round this forum, I think there's a reading where the fei ren was a cat. Human logic does not apply.

And... this is why it's always worthwhile to keep digging into words, contexts and reading experiences in search of the essential.
... and so how would we apply any of these to:
* 'how will my new business venture turn out?'
* 'does he/she/then love me?'
* 'tell me about tonight's get-together with friends.'
  • 'You need to rethink - who are the people you will serve, what do they want, how do they feel? Empathy first, business plan later.'
    • (or, if this is a partnership, 'Please have another look at your prospective partners in this.')
  • 'Please read the sticky thread on relationship readings. Also, no, not in any way you'd recognise as love.'
  • 'Er. Are you sure they're your friends? Please listen to your intuition and don't act out of character just to "fit in".'
 
F

Freedda

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Thanks.
Yes, of course the question/ context guides you .... That's ... how divination works. Somewhere round this forum, I think there's a reading where the fei ren was a cat. Human logic does not apply.

And... this is why it's always worthwhile to keep digging into words, contexts and reading experiences in search of the essential.
Agreed. I suppose too that if the query was about a cat or a pet, then it would be logical for the fei ren to be a cat.

Also, dig into words, context, reading experiences ... yes, thanks for that reminder.

I'd add to that, digging into images, imagery - and also 'reading (divination) experiences' both new and ancient (and maybe from other sources like the T'ai, Huang Ching (my current favorite 'other' divination system), ...

... and if I went off-line for a week and all I had was a battered copy of Wilhelm, I could also rely on stepping into the reading / situation and into the oracle's imagery and the response, to see how it felt and what insights it gave me - even if I didn't have anyone else's words or insights to refer to. Or if I was walking a remote beach and I didn't have any book or website .... I suppose I could scrawl the hexagrams in the sand and ...?

I'm trusting - or at least hoping - that's how divination also works.

All the best ....
 
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my_key

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In many ways Line 3 sits at the place of inner change: at the point where we are needing to rebalance before we cross the threshold of expressing ourselves differently in the big wide world. It sits between the grouping on the inside of line 2 and the groupings in the outside of line 4.

Joining here with the non-people - those abiding in an 'inferior' place either physically, emotionally, intellectually or spiritually - will tend to not serve us well in the short term. Yes, circumstances may dictate that we have to join with them or that we are inexplicably drawn towards these people however this is not a union made in heaven.

I like the wisdom of Wilhelm and his idea that our 'force of habit' provides the impetus. Our baser instincts, the inferior in us, that have grown strong over many years of practice drive our thoughts and behaviours. We, perhaps unconsciously, seek the comfort of that which is known and familiar and on some level, somewhere, the joy this union / re-union brings. Hence the danger.

This is a union that will not suit either party - there is not a deep connection here. All is superficial. We are limping as we compromise our own position. The only real option is to turn back or turn away. To recognise this as the best option may take time. The guiding hand behind Hex 8 is Hex 23 Falling Away (Huang) and this indicates that we have to learn to be receptive first of the truth behind this act. Understanding that our desire for union, connection in whatever form, outweighs all else. Only an increase in our awareness can save the day and lead us towards stepping over the threshold where we can freely gambol without limping.

The shadow of 8 is 57 - Subtly Penetrating where as Hilary says " Subtly penetrating means becoming part of something, or someone. It describes all-pervading influences, like the wind shaping the landscape.

Line 3 follows on from Line 2 fulfilling our needs through finding union with what fits naturally. At line 3 we are drawn to people, places, situations etc that are not a natural fit. However, perhaps this is necessary in an attempt to appease our shadow (57.3). We have to try the hat that doesn't fit to find the hat that does(line 4). Having recognised the false union we can then do more to attract the true union we are looking for. We focus our efforts on directing more game towards us. Better able now to sort the wheat from the chaff, we become like the king (line 5). Of course, we have to be wary that that we don't become intoxicated by this richness of game; if we try to catch them all, we'll probably lose them all and end up running around like a headless chicken (line 6). Then we will have no union.

.... of course it may be nothing like this at all.

Stay safe. Stay well.
 
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