Wednesday, December 28, 2016

I Ching Question: Why is Heaven Cold and the World Warm?

I am often asked questions regarding the I Ching, about specific hexagrams, and sometimes also the trigrams. This has been particularly true since the publication of The Magician's I Ching or the creation of the popular Facebook Group related to it.

One I have been asked more than once is on the subject of the various attributes of the Trigrams.  And of these, maybe one of the most common questions is why it is that the Heaven trigram is called 'cold', while the World is called 'hot'.

Westerners I think tend to imagine Heaven, being masculine, is warm; and Earth, feminine, is cold.

But in the traditional attributions of the Trigrams, it is very clearly laid out: Heaven is 'light' and 'cold', while Earth (being womb-like) is 'dark' and 'warm'.

If you imagine Heaven, think of it as the highest greatest peak, the extreme of space. It thrusts outward, far and high. It is shining with light. But it is exposed, out there. The highest peaks are cold.

On the other hand, imagine the World as deep, receptive, it is as low as possible, it is the ground and under the ground. It is dark like a cave, or like a womb. And in these depths is found warmth. 

This also has to be understood in the context of the other two Celestial Trigrams: Sun and Moon.

Sun is fire, bright and hot.

Moon is water, dark and cold.

Thus, you can see how the four celestial elements balance each other out: two are bright, two are dark. Two are warm, two are cold.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Zhuge Liang and the Stone Maze

While Zhuge Liang did not follow the same teachings as the Yi Fa descends from, he was a true master of the I Ching.  Liang was a famous general and prime-minister during the period in Chinese history known as the "Three Kingdoms" period, after the fall of the Han dynasty, when China split into three warring states in the early part of the 3rd century AD.  He was the Prime Minister of the state of Shu, one of the three Kingdoms. He was also famed as one of the greatest strategists of all Chinese history, comparable to Sun Tzu (who is more famous in the west).

In the stories relating to the wars between the three kingdoms, there is a famous account of Zhuge Liang making use of the power of the I Ching in magick to confound his enemies.  In of the many military campaigns, Liang's King, Liu Bei, was defeated in battle against an enemy general. His army retreated toward a famous temple-complex called Baidicheng, where Zhuge Liang was waiting. While the troops escaped, Liang arranged a set of stones into 64 piles, of about 5ft in height each. The pattern he arranged them in was corresponding to the arrangement of the eight trigrams of the I Ching. 

When the enemy general arrived, he felt the presence of heavy Qi in the area. He suspected a trap but saw only the strange field of stones. He chose to enter it with his men, thinking it some kind of cheap trick.

But once they'd entered, they suddenly found that the stones seemed like vast mountains. The mists of the temple seemed like a storm of cloud and dust. The men were soon totally bewildered, like in a maze.

They would have perished there, had it not been for an old man who appeared in the maze, Liang's father-in-law. He guided the general and his men out, explaining that Liang had created the maze with his understanding of the eight trigrams and the mysteries of the elements, and that only through understanding could one make one's way through it.  The enemy general, realizing that Zhuge Liang's superior wisdom was unbeatable, chose to halt and turn back from his invasion of the Shu kingdom.

This story is meant to be allegorical, about the maze-like qualities of the contemplation of nature and the eight trigrams and 64 hexagrams, and the gifts that it's contemplation can provide.
However, it is also not solely allegory. The Stone Maze was a real place, found at Baidicheng, where remnants of it had survived all the way until modern times, and had been visible until the area was flooded by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam.

Friday, December 9, 2016

More on the Cultivation of Virtue

Virtue ("De"), in the context of the Yi Fa work, should not be mistaken for some kind of an idea of absolute morality, or an abstract and impractical set of ironclad religious rules.

Virtue involves the encouraging of a set of qualities, embodied as Yuan Heng Li Zhen, of the growth of those qualities as a substance within one's being.  To encourage and cultivate, through actions, Union, Discipline, Harmony, and Truth. 

What it is really about is being able to act in a way that is:
a) connected to the rest of the world (not shut inside yourself)
b) able to focus and be effective (not dithering or lost in the mind or distracted)
c) balanced and harmonious within yourself and on the outside (as opposed to being divided inside, and wavering from totality on the outside)
d) dealing with things as they really are, right now (and not driven by fantasies or desires or frustrations/fears of the past)

So how do you work these things?
a) by working on connecting to the world and engaging in it
b) by working on a disciplined routine in your activities, including a spiritual discipline.
c) by working on putting an emphasis on those parts of yourself and your life that you are weaker in, rather than hiding only in the ones you are stronger at. Also, by meditation.
d) by committing yourself to honesty and sincerity, and with dealing with things in life as they are rather than running away from them.