domingo, 24 de maio de 2015

The Book of Law according to the I-Ching

Horus by Neutralie

I asked the I-Ching the following question:

What's the pertinency of the Book of the Law for humankind?

As a result I got the 6º hexagram, "Conflict" (originally termed "Sung"), with the 2º and 4º line in transition, taking us to the 20º hexagram, "Contemplation" (originally termed "Kuan"). (1)


Regarding this hexagram, Wilhelm (2) says: "The upper trigram, whose image is heaven, has an upward movement; the lower trigram, water, in accordance with its nature tends downward. Thus the two halves move away from each other, giving rise to the idea of conflict."

The higher and the lower therefore are distancing. Once the priestly religions had guaranteed the union between the higher and the lower, operating as an unitive and directive force of society, in order to sustain an "imagined comunity" (3) that trespassed over ethnic frontiers and shifts of power. The end of the ancién regime brough the separation between the power of the state and the church, creating a new type of state, one that doesn't disposes of the vertical or divine justification for it's authority, but proposes itself as an horizontal sum of popular will.

This is perceived as a liberation by the absolute majority of people in modernity; the old bonds that wrapped the classes and the state according to "divine order" would be, then, just a make up to sustain the "good and old" mundane power of noblemans and clerics. Be it in a vision of democratic emancipation, class struggle, feminine fight against patriarchy, or scientific combat against superstition, modernity mythifies itself as the great liberator from obsolete and unjust top-to-bottom restrictions. I'm trying to present this as neutrally as it's possible, as it's not me but the I-Ching that'll pass...


"CONFLICT. You are sincere and are being obstructed. A cautious halt halfway brings good fortune. Going through to the end brings misfortune. It furthers one to see the great man. It does not further one to cross the great water."

Conflict emerges when a sincere force, aligned with truth, is being blocked. Though sincere, pushing the conflict would increase the division between the higher and the lower, thus bringing misfortune.

According to the traditional comentaries about this hexagram, the "great man" that we should seek corresponds to the 5th line. As this line was not emphatized in our cast, we can consider this solution to be beyond the possibilities of the moment!

The bottom trigram, "Kun", counts among it's meanings the DANGER and MOVEMENT. It points us to the fragile, moving soil of modernity, in it's "constant revolution" that (as everything indicates) is taking us to the ecological collapse. The text makes explicit that forced attempts to solve the contradictions aren't favourable, (which means that they aren't of help in revealing the true nature of the antagonism.)
Wilhelm warns us that trying to cross the great water in this time can lead us to fall into the abyss ("Kun" is also the abysmal). This brings to memory the mystic diagram of the Tree of Life, where the Abyss is understood to be what separates the divine from the secular. Crossing this abyss is the goal of every magician and mystic worth of his/her name! So the I-Ching points us that in this time of conflict, the tools that we have in hand are not favourable to realizing enlightenment.

The image of this hexagram is:

Heaven and water go their opposite ways: The image of CONFLICT. Thus in all his transactions the superior man Carefully considers the beginning.

The beginning, in this case, points us to the beginning of the new Aeon, corresponding to the writing of the very Book of Law. Comenting on this image, Wilhelm proposes: "If rights and duties are exactly defined, or if, in a group, the spiritual trends of the individuals harmonize, the cause of conflict is removed in advance." So the question here is based on distinct perceptions regarding rights and duties - the traditions of the old Aeon, with their ideals and moralities, and the various new perceptions that have arisen with modern movements, prenunciating new horizons.

This is the stage that's set at the moment the Book of Law comes into play. It's the moving lines that will teel us about the modifications brought about by the new Aeon.

Author: Unknown


The fact we have two moving lines suggests a correlation with the "two sides" in conflict. The Book of Law clearly express, at the third chapter, that Ra-Hoor-Khuit came to bring vengeance, and will deal hardly with "them". But who's "them", after all? Things get more confusing as we consider Hadit, on the second chapter, afirming that we should stomp on the weak - "the lords of the earth are our kin". In the other hand, Hadit contends that there's no certain test that a beggar isn't a King in cover. So we reach the conclusion that the nobility there mentioned has nothing to do with visible, social signs of status. Modern world is a façade for the ancestral game between vice and virtue (the Book says that "everything is as it ever was"); at most, it's capable of obscuring the game, confusing it's rules.

So there comes the Book of Law, restoring the notion of Virtue to a meaning more proper to it's original conception: as Nietzsche (a thunder announcing the storm!) once proposed, virtue is POTENCY, excelence. But on our castrated world, potency is felt as a menace to the comodity of the status quo (and of our own neurosis); "success", as it's socially defined, equals to a well succeeded domestication, submission to the rules of the marketplace, factory, school or barracks, rules that have nothing to do with our deeper vital instincts. And so here we go a step further than Nietzsche, for we need to oppose radically the concept of POWER to that of POTENCY; Power, the minimal degree of potency, is that what politicians (and cops) do, the routine management of status quo (the colective stasis or neurosis). The desire to comand is as pathetic as the desire to obey; potency only cares about itself, destroying anything that opposes it.

So, we're heirs of 10.000 years (or more) of power and exploitation, the "Old Aeon", that made humankind resentful and aparted from their very vital cores. The second line represents those who are "below", and rebel; the fourth represents those who occupy positions of power, which means, comfort or privilege. This can be understood in an objective social sense, or in a subjective or even mystical sense; ie., the potencies of our mind-body that were repressed correspond to the second line, and the dominant ones whose expression is socially legitimated correspond to the fourth.

Nine at second position offer us the following text:
One cannot engage in conflict;
One returns home, gives way.
The people of his town,
Three hundred households,
Remain free of guilt.

Wilhelm proposes that the "sincere man" that's being obstructed (on this hexagram Judgment) corresponds to this line. By "sincere" it means that this line, strong and central, is aligned to Truth. However the situation is disadvantageous, as it's on the lower trigram, and surrounded by weak/dark lines. The lower trigram "Kun" also means "cunning", or may we say, the opressed are willing (and probably being forced) to fight even through unrightful means, thievery, spycraft, sabotage. The situation turns even worst as the second line is in conflict with the fifth (the only capable judge of the situation!) - though the revolt is rooted in sincere feelings, it's oriented according to a tainted perspective. It's again through Nietzsche that we can clarify this matter: the social agitations founded on resentment search for an "equality" that has nothing to do with the crowned anarchy of nature; where there's no equality (and even less power), but pure potency and pure difference!

So the only option this line has is to become Yin, to hide. Those who search for a deep rupture with the past are a minority at this point (300 houses means a small clan), and the old powers (however crumbling) are still installed on their old thrones with infernal machinery at hand; there's no possible open confrontation. The solution lies in a tactical retreat. (This is confirmed by Ra-Hoor-Khuit's instructions on the third chapter of the Book of Law: "Lurk! Withdraw! Upon them! this is the Law of the Battle of Conquest: thus shall my worship be about my secret house."). By withdrawing, the small clan can avoid calamity. In the original chinese text the word we translate as "calamity" (more specifically "man-made calamity") has it's origins in ideograms that means also "visual disease", reinforcing the notion that this retreat is necessary to avoid a vision distorted by resentment.

Now for the nine in the fourth position:
One cannot engage in conflict.
One turns back and submits to fate,
Changes one's attitude,
And finds peace in perseverance.
Good fortune.

This line is strong, and finds itself at the upper trigram. It could try to win the conflict forcefully. But it doesn't occupies a central position on it's trigram, and it's yang character isn't adequated to the minister function (attributed to the fourth line). For this reason I take this line to refer to those who occupy a privileged position in the old aeon hierarchies, and thus are lent to cling to their old ideals, moralities and comfortable positions. It's only escape is to submit to fate, ie., face openly the collapse of civilization, the failure of reason, science, morality and ideals to produce a deserving future for humankind, and more broadly, for life in earth. Through voluntary submission of stasis to the ways of nature (that correspond to the deep logic of biology itself), and there persevering, the true benefits of reason, ideals and science can at last be reaped.

The Book of Law therefore allows a reconciliation between high and low, erradicating resentment and aligning the high civilized reason with the the deep biological truth.

These transformations brings us to the 20º hexagram,


There's a vast view above, says the confucian comentary (4) about this time.

The unveiling of the company of heaven. (Book of Law, I-2).

I am Heaven, and there is no other God than me, and my lord Hadit. (Book of Law, I-22)

When things are big, they can be contemplated, Confucius adds.


CONTEMPLATION. The ablution has been made,
But not yet the offering.
Full of trust they look up to him.

In the confucian comentaries, it's said: "Dedicated and soft. Central and correct, he is worthy of being contemplated by the world. (...) Those who are below look upon him and are transformed. He propitiates them a vision of the divine ways of heaven, and the four season don't divert from their regularities. So, the holy individual uses the divine ways to offer his teachings, and the whole world accepts him. The rite of sacrifice is revealed to the humans and by them contemplated. The holy individual knows the laws of the heaven. He reveals them to the people, and what he says turns true."

The two strong lines atop correspond to the King (who in the Book of Law is the self-sovereign individual), and his Temple (the "Kiblah", ie., the microcosmic interseccion with the Sacred).

Wilhelm informs us that the nuclear trigram (5) "Ken", "Mountain", means also Hand, and this trigram is centered at the superior trigram "Sun"/"Wind", which counts Purity among it's meanings. The Book of Law "purified the hands of mankind", ie., purged from the practices the accretions of the old Aeon - this is the meaning of the "ablution" mentioned in this hexagram's Judgement.

The "Offering", that can also be translated as Sacrifice, means turning something sacred. The Law has been proclaimed, defining in whose heads will fit the Crowns of our Crowned Anarchy, or may we say, in what instances the human life aligns with the Divine Ways.  This is the meaning of the King in his Temple.


The wind blows over the earth:
Thus the kings of old visited the regions of the world,
Contemplated the people,
And gave them instruction.

The trigram "Wind" also means "penetration", and it's above the trigram Earth (K'un), who is all made of Yin lines; pure receptivity; and the chinese word K'un means also the people. So it's said that the two lines atop - the King and his Temple - "penetrate" the people, as a blowing wind dispensing their message across the world, inciting thus the devotion ("devotion" being yet another meaning of the word K'un).

As it seems, the I-Ching endorses the Book of Law enthusiastically! - and the Book of Law engenders it's own prophets. They teach, but don't preach. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

(This text was previously posted in portuguese on this blog, in a different edition, and divided in three parts here, here, and here, accompanying the 2015 comemorations of the 3 days of writing of the Book of Law.)

Author: Terra Grammaton

(1) The casting was preceded by a Lesser Banishing Pentagram Ritual, and was done using the inovative "4 Staves" casting method teached by Swami Anand Nisarg. More info can be found in his I-Ching comunity at Facebook, or in his (excellent) book The Magician's I-Ching.
(2) Wilhelm is the author of the german translation of the I-Ching that became the more famous; it's dated 1950, and includes an introduction written by Carl G. Jung. This is the version I used as a reference for this post.
(3) "Imagined Community" is a concept coined by sociologist Benedict Anderson in his book "Imagined Communities" - it means comunities that exist beyond the face-to-face interaction of local coexistence. In her book, she tries to understand the origins of the nationalism.
(4) It's unclear wether the comentaries were written by Confucius or his students.
(5) "Nuclear trigrams" are 2 trigrams formeds by (respectively) the 2º, 3º and 4º lines of an hexagram (counting from bottom up), and the 3ª, 4ª e 5ª lines. They express the underlying conditions that sustains a given "time" (hexagram).

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