Friday, January 22, 2021

I Ching Hexagram Commentary #16 - Certainty

 Here is the latest in the I Ching public video series. 

Members of the Yi Fa Society get access to private videos and written teachings that elaborate further on each hexagram covered in this series. If you are interested in applying to the Yi Fa Society please get in touch.

Monday, January 4, 2021

On the Significance of Yuan Heng Li Zhen

 The opening words of the I Ching's core text are "Yuan Heng Li Zhen", which is typically translated as "Sublime celestial forces in motion". 

When you think of the "celestial force" that is Time itself, you can understand immediately that this first line, the main text description of Hexagram #1, is also an apt description of what the entire I Ching is all about, and it has been treated that way by many scholars and adepts of the I Ching throughout history. As more commentary has been made of Hexagrams 1 & 2 than any of the others, it can also be said that more commentary has been made on those four words than any other words in the entire I Ching.

 These words do not appear on in Hexagram 1, however. They are also spread out, often in pairs (Yuan heng, or li zhen) throughout the I Ching core text.  Separately, "Yuan heng" means a broad or easy path, or also, a ritual or sacrificial rite. While "Li zhen" means a favorable auspice, clearly a common phrase in the context of divination. 

A Chinese coin-shaped talisman inscribed with Yuan Heng Li Zhen


In the Yi Fa teaching, a great deal of emphasis is put on those words as representative of the four facets of Virtue: Union/Love, Discipline, Justness/Harmony, and Truth/Reality. 

The description of Yuan Heng Li Zhen as being these four virtue facets originates with the Wenyan Commentary, which dates back to before the Han Dynasty. Here is a quote of that commentary from one translation:

 "What is called "the great and originating" (yuan 元) is [in man] the first and chief quality of goodness; what is called "the penetrating" (heng 亨) is the assemblage of excellences; what is called "the advantageous" (li 利) is the harmony of all that is right; and what is called "the correct and firm" (zhen 貞) is the faculty of action."

Here "goodness" is Love/Union, "the Assemblage of excellences" is the process of Discipline, Li is already translated here as Harmony, and the "Faculty of Action" is Truth or Reality, that is to say the perceptual faculty that allows us to take action.

Yuan Heng Li Zhen is also a reference to cycles:

Yuan - sublime, the head. The beginning. Spring
Heng accomplishment, prosperous. Summer
Li beneficence, harvest, autumn.
Zhen determination, endurance, winter

Thus Yuan symbolizes the beginning of all things, Heng their growth, Li their further development, and Zhen their maturity.  This concept of the four words connecting to the cycles of growth and the four seasons was particularly elaborated by Cheng Yi, the Song dynasty sage and friend of Shao Yong. 

These words are also used in some esoteric contexts as a mantra, and also as words of invocation for ritual purposes. In fact, just as the four words can be used to describe the pattern or process of natural or seasonal cycles, they can also be used to describe the STEPS of a ritual.

In this sense, "Yuan" symbolizes the invocation, calling down what is above, for the sake of Union.

"Heng" symbolizes the correct performance of the ritual, with Discipline.

"Li" means receiving a response from the forces you have called upon; that is to say, your ritual bringing you into Harmony with the universe.

And "Zhen" means applying that response or change in yourself, embodying Truth in the real world.



Friday, December 11, 2020

What Does Active Consciousness Feel Like?

In Yi Fa Qi Gong, a great emphasis is placed on being in the Active Consciousness. What this means is that while you're doing the exercises it is very important to be present, to "Show Up" to the practice; to be situated in your body and in the moment, attentive to what you are doing. You can't be distracted in your mind; and to avoid this you must pay attention to the sense of your body.

 But some students have asked what this experience feels like; how one can know what the Active Consciousness is like?

When you're REALLY in the "zone" of the Active Consciousness you will feel like you're completely present, sort of like you're right at the front of your body. 

Your breathing will be Qi Breathing, effortlessly centered in the lower dantien point (the spot just below your belly button), and you'll be experiencing the whole of your body as one whole thing. 




You will feel much more solid and real than usual.  You will not be in the head, though you'll still hear your thoughts, they won't feel like where you are and what you're doing, they'll feel like something in the background, like it was a radio playing on a shelf behind you.

You will feel very powerful and your practices will feel very powerful and intuitive.

 These are the signs that you are effectively present in the Active Consciousness.

Friday, November 13, 2020

What is the Nature of the Superior Individual?

In the philosophy of the I Ching,  there is a basic truth that in every moment, we have a choice between manifesting the Superior Individual or the inferior person. 

Among those who practice cultivation, however, there may be some question as to just what the "Superior Individual" is.  In the course of cultivation, one might get a sense of the Superior Individual being some outside entity, the "higher self" sending them messages or guiding their life. 

So some have developed a conception where the Superior Individual is some kind of outside spiritual, angelic or divine entity.

But in fact, the Superior Individual is basic part of ourselves. It is not a separate being at all, it is us. The best of us. 

 This sense of differentness, of the Superior Individual seeming like another being with its own intelligence and communicating with us is a product of people's primary identification with the 'inferior person', which is also a part of us. Thus, we have become separate from the 'higher self'.

Why are we separated from our higher self?

We aren't, but it seems this way.

The issue is this: we are a species in the process of evolution. Our consciousness has multiple layers, which can be generally divided into two parts. In the context of I Ching studies (including the Yi Fa work) these are described as "World" and "Heaven". To Nietzche it was "last man" and "super-man". In others, it could be called "animal" and "divine".


The Chinese actually say that there are two parts to the human soul: Po and Hung. The Po is the part of us that is animal instinct plus conditioned behavior. The Hung is the part of us that is our fullest potential and true Individuality (as opposed to the 'persona' of our inferior po-soul).

We can, at every moment, choose to associate with one or the other. But on account of our intermediary condition and because of our social conditioning we tend to more directly identify ourselves as the "Inferior Person". So much so, that the Superior Individual can sometimes feel like it's a separate entity, some kind of guiding spirit.

You will find, if you engage with discipline in a sincere long-term course of spiritual cultivation, that over time, you will become more and more identified as one with the Superior Individual. At that point, the 'ideas' of the Superior Individual will be identical to your own, and the notions of the inferior person, which will still be present, will instead be the ones that appear to be foreign.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Steps of Human Consciousness

 There's a teaching in Chinese mysticism that there are two levels of our consciousness. They're associated with the concepts in the I Ching of the "inferior person" and "superior individual". 

At every moment in space and time we have a choice of which of the two we associate with in our active consciousness, but most people in general associate with the inferior person. The inferior person is a collection of influences and conditionings based on your physical nature, your environment, and the influences of your past and present choices and people in your life.

The Superior Individual is your true nature, what is real about you behind all those things. But in point of fact most people are so disconnected from their true and essential nature that it feels like it is another person. In many rituals used to "communicate" with the Superior Individual, that division is so notable that it feels like the Superior individual is some totally different entity from "ourselves", which is why in western symbolism its called the "Holy Guardian Angel". 

This is also why when one is trying to shift the association of their consciousness from the inferior person to the Superior Individual it feels like dying, like the very essence of who were until now (or rather, who you thought you were) has to be destroyed for you to get to that true self. In a lot of cases, people's motives for getting to that true state involve desires OF the inferior person, so they realize that to get to what's real, they'll have to give up the fantasies of the false person they were, and that's very hard.

This internal conflict is mirrored externally by the struggle between (the inferior person) wanting to imagine one's self the center of the universe, and wanting to have a power that acts on the universe and get to impose its desires on the universe, and the (Superior Individual's) understanding that we are one non-divisible part of reality and are not the central actor but one small part of a very big picture in the vastness of Space and Time, and how this is not something that can just be reasoned out, but has to be experienced through meditative practice and the application of virtue to restore that Union with the Taiji (what in modern English we could call the "Singularity").

So in fact while most of these sorts of studies and articles and ordinary perceptions on the subject of "enlightenment" talk about a two-option process (unconsciousness / enlightenment), the work of spiritual Cultivation is actually a multi-step process of initial glimpses of waking up, initiation, developing discipline, achieving communication with the Superior Individual (in western magick called the "True Will"), working to change one's life and environment to better fit one's efforts at attainment and union, making the shift from general association with the inferior person to general association with the Superior Individual, engaging in teaching or other forms of applying Virtue in the world, attaining states of Union to reality, and finally manifesting that Union fully and becoming the Sage (Enlightenment). There are steps Beyond Enlightenment as well but these are generally not spoken of in lay contexts.

Of the above stages, the big three are:

- Initiation: the beginning of awareness of one's Enlightenment quality, and the start of serious spiritual cultivation.

-Adepthood: the shift into association with the Superior Individual

-Enlightenment: uniting to nature or space-time as a whole (which is to say, overcoming this false notion of separation between self and other, and the self-referencing nature of "thinking you're in the middle of the picture").


Finally, I'll note that the very notion that Enlightenment is some kind of separation from the World or one's humanity is ridiculous and disgusting. That's essentially either nihilism or solipsism, the heresies of the gnostics. You can't become "one with everything" by being less human, or less engaged. 

Anyone claiming to be Enlightened while pretending that they don't care about things, or feel things, or that there are certain normal human things that they just don't experience (be it anger, sadness, physical pain, or basic physical needs) are both arguing for Enlightenment being a kind of sub-humanity, and blatant liars.

Enlightenment requires, as my own teacher once said, that you Be More Human.

It's not about separating yourself, it's about Showing Up, being present in the active consciousness.
It's not about feeling less or caring less, it's about Totality. Becoming one part of the big picture, without trying to run away from that big picture, or trying to be right in the middle of that big picture, or trying to control that big picture. It's about being 100% of yourself in the here and now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

How to Master the I Ching

 In this latest video, I give you some guidelines as to how you should study the text and structure of the I Ching to maximize your ability to understand it!