Last month we wrote about the revered Chinese oracle, The I Ching. This month we got out our Yarrow stalks and decided to ask for a comment on the current mood in our country. Can the United States survive this year's election atmosphere and come out of it with more grace and compassion than we did in 2000?
The I Ching opens thought processes and stimulates actions that might not have previously been considered. Perhaps it would be similar to a long trek up the mountain to meet the master to get some questions answered. If the questions are extremely mundane (Will I get a good job? or Should I move to Schenectady?), the wise one would probably answer the question, but there would be more. There would be questions, perhaps, within the answers. The master would send the questioner away with more to think about than what had originally been queried. The petitioner would be changed in new and powerful ways. So it is with the I Ching. One does not get direct, simple answers. The value is often in the cathartic process one goes through to unearth the mystery of the answers given. In many ways, it is entirely personal.
Casting the stalks is an energetic process filled with a constant focus on the question. A light rain punctuated the quiet in our home as we opened ourselves to the wisdom of the I Ching. The hexagrams that we cast were #15 Ch’ien/Modesty. It had one moving line, six at the top. The moving line indicates that the hexagram changes, and in this case, the final one is #52 Kên/Keeping Still. To read more about this cast and form your own opinion, the best source is the Richard Wilhelm Translation, Bollingen Series XIX, Princeton University Press. It returned phrases that had an eerie relevance to the current situation. For example, “It is favorable to set armies marching, to chastise one’s own city and one’s country.” “Thus the superior man [yes, that is the language of the Wilhelm-Baynes translation] reduces that which is too much and augments that which is too little. He weighs things and makes them equal.”
The general ideograms we received are favorable. Perhaps this means that the democratic process is flowing and that this is a good thing beyond anyone result or another. Or, it can mean something else completely. One of the predominant themes of the first hexagram is about restoring the balance between excess and dearth. Also, it seems, we are being asked to be still in the midst of all the chaos.
There seems to be a pretty direct warning against arrogance. Is it our personal arrogance that is referred to here? Is it the arrogance of the world's only "superpower?" Or, is it the arrogance of a particular ideology? Does this relate to the fanaticism and fundamentalism that has been expressed so much lately, and is driving a wedge between people? Is it a description of the imbalances between the haves and have-nots that has punctuated history from the time of the I Ching and influences our situation now?
The second hexagram speaks to working quietly in the background. Many have expressed that energy work and meditation can influence the course of our country very effectively. Are we asked here to be true to the systems our government has in place? Or, perhaps, we are asked to be still and understand that a higher level of mind is at work in all of our affairs. Perhaps we are being asked to be more careful in our responses focused less on me and more about the whole. The wording of the I Ching commentary regarding the second hexagram explicitly states two distinct ideas: "Whoever acts from these deep levels [stillness] makes no mistakes." "Thus the superior man does not permit his thoughts, to go beyond his current situation." We are being asked to act, but from a place of calm and quiet consideration and to focus on what we can do in relation to our current time with cultural sensitivity. It seems we are being asked to participate and to do so in a mature way.
It is somewhat outside the scope of the I Ching to comment on politics but certainly well within its parameters to comment on which way the wind is blowing and to give greater insight towards an asynchronous approach to the next month. The message seems to be that modesty will carry us further than arrogance. Oriental philosophy teaches that the natural course of things is to shift back into balance when they have strayed too far to an extreme.
This is a re-post from September 29, 2004