The title of this hexagram has two parts: Wu Wang, Not Entangled. So what does it mean to be entangled? To be without principle or foundation; without hope and – since the character shows a broken sickle or barren woman – without fruit. The hexagram means separating from all things that are barren, that have (or should have!) no place in life.
This hexagram often comes up in times of misfortune, to offer a way of dealing with it not by exploring it as something you created for yourself, but by firmly detaching from it. Some scholars have even proposed that Wuwang is the name of a disease demon (Demon Fruitless?), dealt with not with medicinal herbs (line 5) but by fastening it to an animal and sending it away (line 3). Bad things can happen that are not your fault; sometimes the best response is just to separate yourself from them.
(There is a negative aspect to this attitude, as evinced by the opposition of hexagrams 25 and 46, Pushing Upward. Hexagram 46 shows an optimistic confidence that progress is possible, step by step, and effort will be rewarded. Hexagram 25 can point to an unwillingness to get involved in trying to change anything, for fear of misjudging and making matters worse.)
Being Without Entanglement is the prime antidote to obsessive stress: it means not getting caught up in trying to ‘fix’ things that are not yours to fix, even if you could. And also, not being enmeshed in profitless nostalgia or anxiety, you are capable of complete presence. This is the ‘correctness’ of the Judgement –
Creates success from the source, harvest in constancy.
One who does not correct herself will blunder,
No harvest in having a direction to go.’
The one who is ‘correct’ has a firm foundation and vision unclouded by past or future. She or he is like the ancient kings, with their energy and understanding liberated from the desire to control:
‘Below heaven, thunder moves. Creatures help one another without entanglement.
The ancient kings with the luxuriant growth of the season nourished the ten thousand things.’
Further reading from the blog: