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2, Earth

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If you consult the Yijing with yarrow stalks, or with another method (like beads) that has the same odds, then you’ll find that 2, Earth, often turns up as relating hexagram. This is because with yarrow odds, yang lines in the primary hexagram are more likely to change than yin ones – and so the second hexagram is likely to have more yin lines than yang.

Leaving aside the vexed (and remarkably boring) question of which odds are ‘authentic’, Hexagram 2 feels to me like the quintessential ‘relating’ hexagram. It describes the archetypal response to initiative, wherever that comes from, and the archetypal way of growing creative ideas into solid, manifest results. This is what earth does: receive seeds, and give substance to growing things.

Hexagram 2 as relating hexagram is one of those things that can be almost too big to see. In general terms, it indicates that you’re not involved in initiating change or making things happen, so much as you’re allowing things to happen and lending your strength for things to grow. It also suggests being wide open – since, of course, every yang line must be on the move for you to receive this as the second hexagram, it suggests that all initiatives and ideas are opening up to possibilities.

Creating success from the source, harvest in the constancy of a mare.
A noble one has a direction to go.
At first: confusion. Later: gains a lord and harvest.
In the southwest, gains partners.
In the northeast, loses partners.
Peaceful constancy brings good fortune.’

Earth represents a colossal power of realisation. Nothing takes shape without it. To access this power, you first need the mare’s constancy. This involves gentleness and strength, and – crucially – being open and sensitive to guidance. Horses have an acute awareness of what happens around them: think of those mobile ears and the almost 360-degree vision. And they respond instantly to very subtle cues.

Next, to be like the noble one, have a direction to go. There is a general misconception that this hexagram is about being passive, just waiting around for guidance to follow. Not so. You can use a mare’s constancy without being a beast of burden. To be able to lend your full strength to a task, you need to have a destination in mind, an ideal to follow.

What you don’t need is a detailed roadmap – that is, you don’t need to know exactly how the task will be completed or the goal attained. This hexagram, especially in the ‘relating’ position, is often simply encouragement to get to work. Horses aren’t merely field-ornaments; they are a concentration of remarkable muscle power, and people value them for the work they can do. You don’t need to know the end in order to get to work at the beginning.

This is one of the meanings of the next line –

‘At first: confusion. Later: gains a lord and harvest.’

When you first open yourself to receive guidance, when you first start work, there will be a confusing multiplicity of signs and options. As you continue, you gain a lord you can serve. (The Chinese character for ‘lord’ shows a lit lamp, something we can recognise as a guiding beacon.)

Another meaning of this line is that if you attempt to go first, if you imagine yourself as a pioneer, you will be lost among all the possibilities. No matter how broad and free the terrain, the ancestors have been here before you, and you will do better by following them.

And then Yi introduces this imagery of southwest and northeast – the landscape in which you need to orient yourself if you’re to see anything accomplished. In the southwest are people you can work with, potential allies. Your individual calling lies to the northeast, in strange new territory. There’s a balance to be found here. Gaining a lord provides you with guidance and a stronger sense of direction; gaining partners means support and a broadening of perspective. This is something you’ll know if you’ve ever participated in a community or network of like-minded people: there are insights and openings here that you would miss if you pressed on doggedly on your own.

All this culminates in ‘peaceful constancy’ – where the character for ‘peaceful’ shows a woman under a roof. In the context, I don’t think this means finding security within walls, but rather making the limitless earth feel like home. And, of course, it means settling down to work – the woman in the home isn’t merely ornamental, either.

Further reading from the blog:

More hexagram 2


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