Friday, December 21, 2018

What is the Yi Fa Society?

The Yi Fa Society is a "Secret School" founded on ancient formulas for the teaching of a complete system of inner alchemy.  It provides a complete curriculum of training taught over various levels, with both practical and philosophical teaching material.  It utilizes a complete system of Qi Gong (Yi Fa Qi Gong) for the cultivation of consciousness, and trains its members in the secrets and symbolic language of the I Ching. Its 8-level curriculum allows students to progress in understanding and self-transformation.

The structure of the Yi Fa Society emerged from a series of revelations which came as a result of a twenty-year study of the I Ching.  The I Ching is the foundational text of all Chinese spirituality; a three-thousand year old book that has been in continuous use since its creation, the oldest book of such kind in the world.   Used by most as a mere fortune-telling device, sages throughout history have understood it to contain a profound system of metaphysics, and the keys to understanding reality itself.   It also contains within it a system for personal transformation through a process of "inner alchemy".

The I Ching provides the symbolic basis of the system of meditation and inner-alchemy known as Qi Gong, but this too has usually been misunderstood by laymen as a mere system of health-exercises.  Thus, the Yi Fa Society has designed a new set of Qi Gong practices, known as Yi Fa Qi Gong, which are meant to use the principles of the eight elements (the four celestial and four terrestrial elements) to establish a progressive set of teachings by which its members can develop inner transformation, leading to what the I Ching refers to as the emergence of the "Superior Individual", the higher or true self, through the establishment of the True Will (that is, our fundamental natures).

The Yi Fa Society's system of teachings are done in eight levels, each of which provides a graduated series of secret practices and teachings that build on the former levels. It is not tied to any specific religious teaching, but rather to the perennial philosophy of enlightenment; although it makes use of symbols and concepts that have come into common use in Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism (as all three were influenced by the symbolism and philosophy of the I Ching).

Where to Begin?

If you are interested in joining the Yi Fa Society, please contact me here, on Facebook, or Google+ to receive an application form.  Likewise, please write if you have any questions.

The foundation of the Yi Fa is found in the I Ching.  This book provides the foundation for the entire Yi Fa curriculum, and while there are many worthwhile versions of the I Ching in publication today, the specific teachings of the Yi Fa are best expressed in the book "The Magician's I Ching", where the teachings of the I Ching as a system of divination, decision making, and tool for transcendence are explained in straightforward terms specifically designed for western readers, and for those who plan to actually use the I Ching as a system for self-transformation.

(if you are interested in joining the Yi Fa Society and working its curriculum, which is a complete system of esoteric training, please contact me!)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

On the Nature of Nuclear Hexagrams

Nuclear Hexagrams are a frequently-misunderstood mystery of the I Ching.  In The Magician's I Ching I attempted to give a brief explanation of how to understand them.  They can be understood as "nuclear hexagrams" because they are the hexagram the exists inside the "nucleus" of a hexagram: the lower trigram of a nuclear hexagram consists of lines 2, 3 and 4 of the original hexagram, and the upper trigram consists of lines 3, 4 and 5 of the original hexagram.

So for example, Hexagram #19:

has as its nuclear Hexagram #24:

I have seen some people mistakenly look at nuclear hexagrams in an I Ching casting as if it was some additional part of the divination process on its own, as if there was some random element to it which contributed to the 'fortune telling' itself. But the nuclear hexagram is static, every hexagram only has a single nuclear (though in the cases of Hexagram #1 and Hexagram #2, they are their own nuclear).
In fact, Nuclear Hexagrams are part of a system of clusters or connections between hexagrams.  On the cover of The Magician's I Ching, you can see this pattern depicted artistically:

The nuclears show you groups of common hexagrams which can be understood to interact in special ways. Their main practical use is for the purpose of contemplating the mysteries and deepening one's understanding of the I Ching as a whole and of the individual hexagrams. The relationship of the hexagrams connected by their nuclear provides important insights.

Let's look, for example, at the hexagrams that have Hexagram #23 as their nuclear:

Hexagram #23 is "Shedding".

In this set of four hexagrams with #23 as their nuclear, for example, you can see the pattern that starts first with the effort of beginning, with Hexagram #3, "challenge":

Then as you build up, it leads to bringing things together, with Hexagram #8 "Union":

 After this, you move to reaching beyond the level of the foundations to be able to discover the greater mastery that is more than the sum of its parts, with Hexagram #20 "Contemplating":

And finally, to the state of making advance to a new level, with Hexagram #42 "Gaining":

So to put it another way, looking at it (for example) in the context of Cultivation: first the initial enthusiasm in the face of a vast undertaking, then the hard work of mastering the basic forms of the exercise, then when that is mastered of understanding what lies beyond the mere technical practice and exploring the essence, and then the genuine growth.

This needs to begin with Shedding (#23); you can almost imagine the "landslide" of Shedding, and following that landslide the tiny sprout of #3 breaking out of the shifted ground, then the hard work of growth, then the bearing fruit, and finally the harvest.
But it is also true that the nuclear governs at each step; as you move from one step to the next there needs to always be a process of shedding off some of what you are doing to make room for the next stage of growth.

In your own I Ching studies, first you need to study and learn the basic meanings of each hexagram by itself. But once you're ready to go deeper, studying the nuclears and the connections between the hexagrams and their nuclears will be of great use for developing a larger understanding of the greater mysteries of the I Ching.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Taoist Secret of Longevity, a new Book, and a Newsletter

In my latest video, I talk about the real Taoist secret of longevity, and how people are always looking for the wrong king of longevity.

Also, I read a chapter from The Path and The Power, my new interpretation of the Tao Te Ching.

Also, take note of my newsletter sign-up, where you will be able to receive a monthly update of my teachings. It's free to sign up, and anyone who does will receive a free PDF of The Path and the Power!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Hexagram #12 and the Mulberry Buds

After posting the video commentary to Hexagram #12, where I had recited the text of the hexagram as it appears in The Magician's I Ching, someone presented me with an interesting question:

"What happened to the roots of the mulberry tree in line 5? Anyway, I am surprised that your version is so much different from the original text, that's all."

I felt that it was important to present an answer to this, for those who are students of the Yi Fa Society or readers of my book.

For a start, line five, in the original text, doesn't refer to any 'roots'. It refers to the flower-buds of the Mulberry tree. This is a reference to fortune, patience, and constancy.

So for those who know what the reference to the mulberry tree means, the meaning is in the line I quoted. For those who don't know what the reference to the mulberry tree means, the meaning is in the line I quoted.

"Bao" refers to the calyx or bud of a flower. Xi in this case (to tie) refers to a silkworm, which will make its cocoon next to the flower bud of a mulberry tree.

In other words, it is a stuckness that must be done, to follow one's true will. When the flower bud unsticks, naturally, in the flowering moment, then the silkworm's cocoon opens as well, and the silkmoth will be freed. The Superior individual must remind himself constantly, to create constancy and patience, to bring an end to corruption.

As far as the absence of the analogy in the text, the questioner actually gives a perfect example of why I kept it out. Trying to explain this analogy which is so out of western culture would have required too much room for this type of text, and leaving it as it was for some kind of academic precision in the blind dumb service of sinology would only have created something impractical for actual use for most readers.

Again, those who UNDERSTAND the meaning of the mulberry in this line would understand the line as I wrote it. Those who don't know the existence of the symbol would receive the meaning without the symbol present, and avoid confusion. The only ones who would be distressed by the line as I presented it are people who know, but do not understand.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The I Ching, Reality and Rules For Living

There is no one formula for what to do in life.
But there is a path to work out what to do in each moment.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

How Do You Develop Wisdom?

There is a common misconception that age brings with it wisdom.  That is not true. Even experiences are useless to wisdom, without consciousness. There are great many people in the world who are no wiser at 80 than they were at 18.
Someone who lives an unexamined life is a child forever.

So what does develop wisdom?

It is true that Time brings wisdom. But this requires not just to go through time without any consideration. You have to understand and consider time.
Considering the nature of time and one's place in it and going through it is one part of the process to develop wisdom.  This is part of what is developed through the study of the I Ching.

But this alone is not enough.

There are three other factors that are essential to the development of wisdom:
The first is an attention and awareness of your Self. Most importantly, recognizing your own imperfections. It is through time that we can measure these imperfections, so that we can work on them, and through time track our improvement.

The second is the Will. Will is the raw determination to change yourself. Self-inquiry is useless if you consider yourself but make no effort to transform yourself.

The third is concentration, Attention. This is only available through disciplined training. If you practice discipline in developing your ability to be actively conscious, the Will can then be accurately applied.

Without an understanding of time, you cannot measure the self.
Without the will, you cannot take action to transform.
Without concentration, you cannot apply the will effectively.

If you  have all of these, you can know how and where to work on yourself, and take note of your ability to change. This is how you develop wisdom.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

An Excerpt From a Level-4 Yi Fa Text: Advanced Commentaries

II. The Vast in the Small

People want to imagine a top-down vision of reality, where there is some "higher" and "greater" true reality, and their everyday ordinary world is just some pale shadow of the real thing.

This perspective on reality will lend itself to escapism. Even many models of creation, like the Qabalistic Tree of Life or the older Taijitu Tree of Life, give one the impression that our material world is at the "lowest" point and everything else is higher (and thus it is suggested, more important).

But imagine if you held those models upside-down! The World of 10000 things is the final, most completely diverse manifestation of reality.

In fact, the idea of 'up' and 'down' is factually irrelevant; there is no level of reality that is "more real" or "less real" than another. But what is true is that the root of creation begins with the simplest form, and grows in complexity into the final form. 

Consider the Taijitu: the simplest forms are Wu and Wuji, which are both types of emptiness. Emptiness is present in all levels of creation. Emptiness by definition cannot be either small or large; you can find conceive of emptiness as the tiniest gap or the largest expanse, and without anything else present (to provide boundaries for it) you cannot really consider it to have 'size' at all. Thus Wuji is "boundless".

Then there is Taiji, the ALL. The Taiji must emerge out of Wuji, as it is a more complex thing; Taiji is all that exists and all that is empty at once.

Then there are the two poles: Yin and Yang. These must emerge from the Taiji, because again they are more complex and diverse. The Sixiang emerge from Yin and Yang, the Bagua from the Sixiang, and the World of Ten Thousand Things from the Bagua.

So where could you go that is not part of the World of Ten Thousand Things to find the Bagua? Where could you go apart from the Bagua to find the Sixiang? It is like if you had an object: to find molecules you would have to look inside that object; to find atoms inside that molecule, to find electrons inside that atom, to find quarks inside that electron. You can't go looking for the building-blocks of reality by ignoring the very small, because it the more fundamental things are the smaller things that make up the more complex forms.

The Qabalists have a saying about Kether and Malkuth (the highest and lowest points on their tree of life): "Kether is in Malkuth and Malkuth is in Kether". It is the same in the Taijitu: The Taiji can only be found within the Hexagrams, and the Hexagrams are found within the Taiji. There's no place you could look for the Taiji, nowhere to "seek out the Tao", except within the Yi Fa (the manifested reality); and at the same time, you cannot find the Ten Thousand Things except within the Taiji.

It is the same way with yourself: people want to escape their material existence to seek out some kind of "higher plane" but you cannot find any such "higher" plane. You can find the vastness of reality only by going within, not by escaping to some other place. When the Celestial Eye is opened, what you see are vast universes: those universes all exist in the Yi Fa. In fact, they all exist within your own body, and your body exists within them.

So understand that the vastness of what you will begin to experience is not some other world, it is in fact the hidden interiors of this very Manifested Reality. It is within you.

(if you are interested in joining the Yi Fa society to work through a structured curriculum of spiritual/esoteric Cultivation training for self-transformation,  please contact me for an application)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

On the Origin of the I Ching's Lines

How did the lines of the I Ching get the text they did?

1. Often considerations have to do with the nature of the line, especially if its the only line of its type (yin or yang) in the hexagram.

2. The position of the line determines its overall role; so for example the first line is always about beginnings, the sixth about endings, in some sense.

3. In terms of the specific examples, they are often taken out of either common folk stories/sayings, or from events in the pre-zhouyi history (especially events relating to the royal lineage of Zhou, or sometimes of the Shang dynasty they eventually deposed).

But there is also an esoteric aspect that frequently emerges.

Look at a line and its text. Now consider this in the light of three different trigrams:
1. The trigam that line is found in.

2. The trigram that would result when that line changes.

3. The Nuclear trigram that rules it (generally the lower nuclear for lines 1-3 and upper nuclear for lines 4-6, but in the case of line 4 it can sometimes be either).

Studying the qualities that these trigrams have (the elements they are associated with, the qualities of nature they are associated with, and the qualities or spiritual concepts these represent), you will find that the line's text relates to aspects of those three trigrams.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Magician's I Ching Facebook Group Has 2300 members!

The Facebook group created in honor of The Magician's I Ching, but which is a general discussion group for all I Ching related subjects, has now reached 2300 members!

So if you haven't already joined the Magician's I Ching Facebook Group, please consider joining!  It's free, and filled with interesting conversation and material related to the I Ching and I Ching studies.  It's open to people coming from western or eastern traditions.  It's very welcoming to newcomers to the I Ching, and you can get questions answered or useful advice. But it also has many very learned and highly experienced advanced students of the I Ching, and if you are one of those people you'll find some excellent higher level discussion about some of the finer points of I Ching study.

While you're at it, please consider joining the Yi Fa Society.  Members of the Yi Fa Society also have a (secret) discussion group, and benefit from a complete and detailed training program for studying Yi Fa Qi Gong and the I Ching.   Members of the Yi Fa Society are taught additional Qi Gong and I Ching secrets that are not available anywhere public.

At higher levels of membership, the advanced exercises of Yi Fa Qi Gong are taught, and students are provided large numbers of instructional materials (whole books, like "Secret Techniques of the I Ching", "Universal Yi Fa", "The Yi Dao", and "the Great Book of Yi Fa", among others) on how to deepen their work with Qi Gong and I Ching for self-transformation and the work of enlightenment.

Members of the Yi Fa Society can work personally with me to keep up their practice, to resolve problems in their practice, and to develop discipline and structure in their spiritual path.   Members also have the opportunity to have monthly Skype meetings with me for the same purpose.

Yi Fa Society membership is not free, but basic membership is on a monthly donation basis set by each student.

If you are interested in joining the Magician's I Ching Facebook group, just click on the link and join, and start reading and sharing with us!

If you are interested in joining the Yi Fa Society, please contact me, here or on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Experiencing Harmony

Harmony is one of the four qualities of De (as expressed in the I Ching), the power that can be roughly translated as "Virtue". It is not a concept of morality in the western sense, but rather a state of being.

So Harmony (like the other three aspects of De: Unity, Discipline and Truth) is something you have to work towards, but it is also something that you experience. De can also be translated as "power", and it is the true source of your spiritual power, for Qi Gong or anything else.

So how do we experience Harmony while engaging in Cultivation practice?

The key to Harmony is to understand how to have a direction, in your meditation, in your Qi Gong movements, and in your activities in the everyday world, all while not being unbalanced by your own self-referencing world-view. In other words, being driven by your own 'lust of result' to try to impose your agenda on the world.

But you also shouldn't concern yourself too much about fearing your own Inferior Person, those desires to try to impose yourself on reality, because that fear can also paralyze you and unbalance you.

Rather than trying to resist your own attachments, let go of concerning yourself with attachments at all, and focus on the bigger panoramic vision, first of yourself, and then of yourself in the world.

Find your own vast nature. Not the small little and petty inferior person. The vast and open Superior Individual constantly referred to in the I Ching.
Show up, and then open up.
And when you do, connecting to that vast Panorama, you can choose any direction to move within that panorama, and it becomes liberating.

When you aren't doing this, that's when you feel more closed. It feels like you're on a railroad track, you have blinders on, you only see a tunnel going one direction.

When you're acting in Harmony, you see the whole panorama and it feels open and free, to move in any direction while keeping your goals in mind.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

New Video: The Importance of Symbols, and Why the West is Losing It

Symbols are the secret language of humanity; the language that operates on a deeper level than surface speech. Universal symbols are common to all human beings and operate on a fundamental level to our human nature; while each culture also has specific symbolic languages that act as their own particular dialect of the human experience, which allows their culture to function.

In the 1960s, the Chinese declared war on their own symbolic language (that began in the I Ching), and it came at a terrible cost. Today, the West has done much the same, and if you lose this language of symbols, really bad things happen to your culture:

Friday, May 18, 2018

Getting the Right Answer From the I Ching

I've had a number of people who have expressed difficulty with being able to get a coherent or useful answer out of their I Ching castings.

When I help them analyze their casting, it is quite often, certainly more than half the time, that the very first thing that becomes evident to me is that the caster did not take the time to formulate the ideal question.

This is the most important part of an I Ching casting, in the sense that it is the first thing you must figure out, and forms the ground for everything that comes after!

The nature and quality of your question will fundamentally determine the answer you receive.

The nature of your question speaks to the state of mind you have at the moment of making the casting: part of formulating the right question is not just a matter of the question itself, but of taking the time to contemplate and center yourself, to be in the right state to approach the casting.

So remember, first and foremost, when you are going to cast the I Ching, first give yourself a good while to work out what you want your question to be. Think about what it is you really need to know about the situation you want to cast about, and how you can phrase that in a way that will present you with the right sort of answers you can actually use.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Just "Being In The Moment" is Useless

"In the moment" is kind of a tricky term. Because in fact no matter what, we're ALWAYS 'in the moment'. The real question is whether we're Conscious in the moment, and what that means. Just 'living in the moment' is nothing special, and it's actually useless.

Fundamentally, being Conscious in the Moment is about bringing the Future INTO the moment. It means being sufficiently aware of one's own self that you expand through Space/Time in this very moment to be able to INCLUDE where you've already been and where you're likely to be into this moment.

So what does this do? It gives you free Will. Without this Active Consciousness, you are still here, in the moment but the moment is actually very small, so small that you don't really have the power to really control what happens to you. You are a prisoner of the past and doomed toward a given future because you're not Aware enough to Change anything.

If you are Conscious in the Moment, then Space/Time is all existing right there, in that moment. The gives us the power to move; to change. What has led us to here, and where here can lead to, is part of our Awareness, and we can alter it.

Just being 'in the moment' without any Consciousness is basically being an animal or a robot.
On the other hand, being Conscious in the Moment means that you have the power to transform reality itself.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Do Kanye & Trump Really Have "Dragon Energy"?

Today, rap musician Kanye West caused some controversy on social media for coming to the defense of Donald Trump on Twitter, something that must be a surprise to many of his fans, and was clearly a surprise to a great many political commentators.

His Tweet was interesting because of the reason why he expressed sympathy for Trump: he stated that he and Trump "are both Dragon Energy". 

This was a  bit of an amusing surprise for me to read. And it's very likely that Kanye did not intend to refer (at least not consciously) to the ideas of the School of Yin and Yang or to Qi Gong terminology of the I Ching. But it leads to an amusing question: let's assume that IS what he meant... is he right? Do Kanye West and Donald Trump both have "dragon energy"?

In the terminology of Qi, different forms of Yin and Yang have traditional associations to different animals.

So for example,  the Mare is associated with the World trigram, the three Yin lines.
The Moon trigram with it's "fat middle" is associated to the boar. The Air/Wind trigram to the Tiger, with it's one-yin-line tail at the end of it's two yang-line body.

And the Heaven Trigram is the Dragon. The power of great Yang.

So if someone is full of "dragon energy" what would that say about them? Well, it is:

-Extremely forceful


-Filled with confidence

-Prone to risk-taking

-Potentially arrogant

-Defiant of any opposition to their goals

-Unconcerned with blame or praise from others

-Unwilling to show fear or uncertainty

-Extremely effective at accomplishing their goals



-Extremely determined in their beliefs


-Rarely open to criticism


-Ambitious to ascend in life

-Strong, and also concerned with the appearance of strength


-Favoring action over contemplation

-Favoring reason over feelings

-Unwilling to submit/surrender to anyone

-Insistent on their own self-expression

-A lover of life and life's pleasures

-A dreamer

-Interested in the Big Picture, less interested in minor details

-Tending toward intense relationships, demanding loyalty

-Protective of family and loved ones

-Tend to be spiritual but not conventionally spiritual

Dragon energy in this form is all Yang and no Yin, so unless it is counterbalanced by Yin people or Yin cultivation, it will tend to cause disharmony and instability. 

So, what do you think? Does it sound, based on what Dragon Energy is, that Kanye and Trump both have it?

And if so, is that a good thing?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

I Ching Commentary Video - Hexagram #11 "Intercourse"

Here is the youtube video for the newest in my commentaries on the I Ching, on the subject of the 11th Hexagram- "Intercourse".

Members of the Yi Fa Society get access to additional I Ching video and text commentaries that go into more depth on the symbolism and divination uses of the I Ching's Hexagrams. If you are interested in joining the Yi Fa Society, please get in touch.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"Incipiencies": More on How the I Ching Works

Incipiency is a concept inherent in the I Ching, because it is inherent in space-time. But the term (it's explanation, and centrality to I Ching studies) is largely attributable to the master Zhu Xi.

It emerges out of the question of "how does the I Ching tell the future"? The answer is: it doesn't. The I Ching measures the present, this moment. But you have to imagine this moment as a set of interconnecting streams from trillions of previous choices, from events that took place yesterday, the day before that, 50 years ago, 4000 years ago, 12 million years ago, etc. Each choice both sealed off a whole bunch of possible futures, and created a cascade of effects that would have a possibility of happening in the future. And in the present moment, we have the culmination of that weight of trillions of trillions of circumstances.

With me so far?

So, if we understand that, we also understand that the future is observable in the present moment; by looking at those past streams, where they can and cannot lead, which of them cannot be altered at this time (unchanging lines) and which of them could be (changing lines). The future exists as a kind of seed already in the present. It is not here but the ingredients for it are all here.

In I Ching study there's a saying that goes something like "you cannot change something once it has happened. If you want to change something, you need to change it before it happens".

The changing lines reflect those incipiencies, the malleable spots in the present moment in Space Time, where you can make a choice, you can drop a new pebble in the stream of space-time to alter the current and change the course of the future.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

"Synchronicity" and the I Ching

Many people in the west try to claim, in answer to the question of how the I Ching works, that it is through "synchronicity".  This was a term used by the psychologist C.G. Jung (who was a great admirer of the I Ching, and tried to explain its function through the lens of his psychological theories), and was later bastardized for common use by the new-age movement.

(Jung, giving a questioning glance at New Age woo)

Synchronicity, as it is most often used by people involved in applying the term to the I Ching, supposes that "random" events, random convergence, random meaning, all just comes together as little more than some sort of "coincidence on steroids" (as one of my Yi Fa Society students put it).

It is a way you can feel like something has meaning, but you still don't have to really challenge your ideas beyond the assumption it's all just random chance.

It allows you to 'cop out' in various ways:

-to chicken out of needing to take a casting seriously if you decide you don't like what it's saying

-to chicken out of considering your own deeper consciousness ("I just look for synchronicity and let the universe guide me!!")

-to chicken out of exploring the vaster significance of the I Ching's expression of space-time

-to chicken-out of having to move beyond our 20th/21st century post-modern Baby-Boomer western paradigm

This Western Paradigm is the one that says things like "spirituality is just some kind of primitive superstitious psychology", or "you are the center of the universe so of course the universe will send you personally unique personal messages when you toss some coins around, because of how special you are", or "there is no actual reality, all that matters is what you're feeling and what you imagine"!

But in fact, profound study of the I Ching shows that nothing at all is really "random".  All events are caused by Incipiencies: the quality of previous events in space-time synthesizing to plant the seed of future events in space-time. As a certain Canadian philosopher once said: "Fate is just the weight of circumstances".   Every event consists of a moment (represented by the Hexagram) that is the product of literally TRILLIONS AND TRILLIONS of previous choices made, that weigh down on that moment to make it THAT moment and no other possible moment.

Within that moment, there are only a certain number of malleable points, where one can act to create a new Incipiency that will work to shift the movement of time in the future. These are represented in an I Ching hexagram by the Changing Lines.

So Incipiency is like the "Gravity" of Time.

If you understand this, then you'd get that "synchronicity" as a notion has nothing to do with the structure of the I Ching.  Or, for that matter, with reality, except in the sense that you can take any coincidence and apply meaning to it, sometimes to good purpose.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Scaling Yongjia's Green Crag Mountain

Scaling Yongjia's Green Crag Mountain

(An I Ching poem, by Xie Lingyun, 4th century poet)

With provisions packed and a thin staff,
I walked a winding path, and scaled to a hidden place,
I went upstream and went beyond the trail.
I reached the peak, but had not yet found harmony.
The gentle rivulets frosted in winter beauty.
Strong bamboo glistened with frost.
The stream wound along, often losing its direction.
The forest was vast, the mountains deep.
I looked west anticipating the moonrise;
I glanced east, observing the light of sunset.
I walked on until night, having marched from dawn to dusk.
Even the most hidden places have become known to me.
The top line of Gu (#18): serve no king or prince.
The second line of Lu (#10): right pushing brings good luck.
A Hermit will always walk peacefully.
His great Virtue is incomparable.
How far is the distance from "yes" to "no"?
In stillness, I dedicate myself to Union.
As Harmony and Truth combine,
Only then can one begin to Repair.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

On The Gender of the Eight Trigrams

The 64 6-line Hexagrams of the I Ching are built on paired combinations of the 8 3-line trigrams (the bagua).  Thus, as the hexagrams represent all phenomena in the material world, the trigrams represent the eight fundamental elements, four terrestrial and four celestial elements.

These elements are equivalent to the four classical elements in Western esoteric symbolism. They are in essence a doubled-up version (with terrestrial and celestial/spirit equivalents) of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire.

However, there is one complicated detail about these elements versus their western equivalent that some students have brought up: in both systems, there is a traditional attribution of 'genders' to the elements. But these genders do not appear to 'match up'. Let's review the basics:

In BOTH Western and Eastern symbolism, there are fundamental Masculine/Feminine forces: Chokmah/Binah, Animus/Anima, Shiva/Shakti, Yang/Yin, etc.

In Western symbolism, Earth and Water are feminine, Air and Fire are masculine.

In Chinese symbolism:
Earth/Mountain is masculine
Fire/Thunder is masculine
Moon/primordial-Water is masculine
Heaven is masculine

Air/Wind is feminine
Water/Lake is feminine
Sun/primordial-fire is feminine
The World is feminine

Before continuing, you should note that there is a connection between the physical image of the trigrams and their traditional 'gender': all the 'masculine' trigrams require an odd number of brush-strokes to draw, while all the 'feminine' trigrams require an even number of brush-strokes to draw.  But the various masculine trigrams and the various feminine trigrams also have another thing in common with each other, which we will bring up below. 

So now, let's focus on what is clear: in both systems of esoteric cosmology, there is a force far more fundamental than the level of elements that gets identified as the fundamental Masculine and Feminine duality. These are Yang (masculine) and Yin (feminine).

And of course, even this is not literally about 'gender' in the sense of which we tend to think of it now. Rather, they embody all the notions of duality itself; the important thing about this idea from a cosmological point of view is that it talks about all the qualities that a product of the separation from a single indivisible state of Oneness. All of our material reality is produced by this notion of the division into dualism.

To explain: you can't actually define anything positively. All definition, at its most basic level (that is, when you try to get the definitions of definitions of definitions) comes down to defining things by what they are not. This is because our entire process of thought is based on dualistic thinking. There is white and black, hot and cold, moist and dry, passive and active, positive and negative, etc.
It is only at the highest levels of awareness, and not in the level of phenomena, that this can be transcended, through the mystical process described as the Union of Opposites.

So from the esoteric point of view, the gender consideration of masculine and feminine is really about Dualism.

When we get down beyond the level of yin and yang, we are adding more elements of complexity. So Gender at the level of yin and yang is simple: Yin is everything we can define as archetypal female and Yang is everything we can describe as archetypal masculine.

At the level of elements, the reason for the gendering of elements is something more complex.  And here we get to the reason for the difference in the genders of the elements in Western and Chinese symbolism: the complex quality that the former chooses to focus on is different than the complex quality that the latter chooses to focus on.

With the Western elements, the 'male' elements have the quality of active inherent motion, while the 'female' elements have the quality of inherent stillness.

Earth and Water may move, in an earthquake or a rockslide or down-river or pouring down a sink, but this is only in reaction to what is around them: water and earth are passive, they sink down until they can reach a point of rest. Thus, they reflect the quality of Passive or Receptive nature that is attributed to the Feminine. They are also tangible, of matter, they rest in the world.

Fire and Air, however, are in motion. They rise. They only exist in movement. If air has no movement it has no qualities at all (at least, from the classical perspective) and has become foul and deathly. If fire has no movement it is extinguished. Thus they reflect that quality of Active and Creative that is attributed to the Masculine. They are also intangible, you can't actually hold on to them, they have no matter.

In the Chinese system, however, the quality being looked at is not motion and stillness, which is so important to the Yang and Yin duality, but rather the qualities of "strength" and "softness".

The Mountain, the Thunderbolt/fire, The darkness of the Moon (or the deep dangerous waters of the abyss), and the power of Heaven are all considered to be 'strong' forces.

The gentle Airy breeze, the still Lake, the warm clinging light of the Sun, and the receptiveness of the World are all considered to be "soft" forces.

So both classifications of these are examples of how to classify duality, but they focus on different aspects of duality.  This is because the purely Masculine and purely Feminine are absolutes. They do not exist anywhere in material reality; where they get closest is in Heaven and The World, but in all aspects at this dimension of reality, all phenomena contain a combination of Yin and Yang. They are a mix of the forces we call 'masculine' and 'feminine'. Depending on which aspects of the male and female you want to observe, there are thus different ways to categorize them.