The old character for ‘Dispersing’ shows flowing water, and a man at the mouth of a cave, looking around with a stick in his hands. He seems to me to be trying to get the measure of a newly flooded landscape, though he might also be holding a knife and releasing the flow of blood from a sacrifice. But at all events, a powerful flow has been released from its usual channels and is free to find its own direction. There are no more barriers or boundaries; the whole, solid means of dividing and understanding the world have crumbled away.
‘Dispersing’ means a change of state: ice melting, water evaporating, clouds dissolved. At every stage, there is more free movement, more space, and longer perspectives for clear vision. It leaves an empty slate, being made ready for the more vital, flexible articulations of Hexagram 60.
And this is quite a challenge:
‘Dispersing, creating success.
The king enters his temple.
Harvest in crossing the great river,
Harvest in constancy.’
Once the flood is visited on you, or once you have unleashed the flow of emotion yourself, there is definitely no returning to normality – normality is somewhere down the river. The king enters his temple to reconnect mundane understanding with something larger than normal-scale ideas, and to receive guidance in this wide-open landscape. He doesn’t ‘take charge’ in his own right: superheroes are not required here. Instead of finding purpose and meaning in preservation work, people have the new project and goal of crossing the great river (which may have come to them). They have a clear view now into unknown territories, and an opportunity to embrace the unthinkable.
‘Wind moves over the water. Dispersing.
The ancient kings made offerings to the Highest and established the temples.’
This alludes to the substance of offerings: the spirits are nourished by the rising vapours. What lasts is the constant circulation of energy between humans and spirits. Temples that endure for millennia are made, not of immense rocks, but of wind and water.
The process of dissolving the old boundaries and articulating a new understanding – Hexagrams 59 and 60 – pivots around the nuclear hexagram of 27, Nourishment. This is about renewing the structures of life, all the personal and social ‘ecosystems’ that provide nourishment. It restores impeded circulation!
There are many ways you might experience this hexagram in practice.
In relationships, the removal of all boundaries or obstacles to vision can create a renewed flow and connection – and, paradoxically, difficulties in ordinary communication when the usual shared concepts and understanding melt away. Instead, people can become overwhelmingly present and visible to one another, with no more concept of ‘personal space’ or emotional privacy. The truth comes into plain view: this may or may not be comforting.
It often leaves people feeling lost, without their usual mental landmarks: ‘here is my job,’ ‘here is what I believe, what I can do, who I am.’ Dispersing is the opposite of Feng, Hexagram 55, the city where Wu received his mandate: amidst the floodwaters, it’s hard to know what you are ‘meant’ to do. And this can dissolve self-limiting beliefs, so that you understand your own potential on a larger scale.