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After I posted my article about Inspiration for the Blog Carnival I asked I Ching, “What is Inspiration?” I threw my coins and got the answer, Hexagram 18, with the top line changing to Hexagram 46.

hexagram 18 image

Hexagram 18, Mountain Over Wind and Wood

When this answer came up my first response was, Poop! I don’t like that! What does corruption and working on what has been spoiled have to do with inspiration?  This was one of those I Ching answers that I thought, at first, was simply not appropriate for the concept of Inspiration. I thought the I Ching was off base and had betrayed me. Ooops – Blaspheme!

But, as always, I plowed on, changed my mind and will summarize what I found in meaning for me.

From the Wilhelm translation:

The Chinese character Ku represents a bowl in whose contents worms are breeding. This means decay. It is come about because the gentle indifference in the lower trigram has come together with the rigid inertia of the upper, and the result is stagnation. Since this implies guilt, the conditions embody a demand for removal of the cause. Hence the meaning of the hexagram is not simply “what has been spoiled” but “work on what has been spoiled”.

Wilhelm’s Judgment for Work on What Has Been Spoiled

What has been spoiled through man’s fault can be made good again through man’s work. IT is not immutable fate, as in the time of Standstill, that has caused the state of corruption, but rather the abuse of human freedom. Work toward improving conditions promises well, because it accords the possibilities of the time. We must not recoil from work and danger – symbolized by crossing of the great water – but must take hold energetically. Success depends, however, on proper deliberation. This is expressed by the lines, “Before the starting point, three days. After the starting point, three days.” We must first know the cause of corruption before we can do away with them; hence it is necessary to be cautious during the time before the start. Then we must see to it that the new way is safely entered upon, so that a relapse may be avoided; therefore we must pay attention to the time after the start. Decisiveness and energy must take the place of inertia and indifference that have led to decay, in order that the ending may be followed by a new beginning.

When ever I receive Hexagram 18, with all the talk about working on what has been spoiled by the parents in lines one through five I always think of our western therapy – talking to someone about the past as it relates to my upbringing and influence of my parents which is a can of worms.  I still thought – so? Is that inspiration? Is working on my stuff of what I had in my childhood inspiration? That struck me as work. When I’m inspired it doesn’t feel like work. And Hexagram 18, Gu, is definitely, Work on what has been spoiled.

There is only one line that changes in this reading – the last one that transforms the Hexagram to number 46, Pushing upward. And it is that changing line that hit me between the eyes as perfect for what inspiration means to me, or has meant for me over the many years of being an artist. Without going into the personal “can of worms” of my life, I can say that I was not brought up or encouraged to be an artist. All my inspiration came from within myself, or events, places, and “stuff” out there, not because of any family interest. Yes, I certainly have had to work on what has been spoiled. But still, I thought – so what? Is that inspiration? Not yet.

The first five lines of Hexagram 18 all refer to fixing something that has been spoiled by either the mother or the father. Hence my association with personal therapy rather than the literal can of worms. The expression, “That’s a can of worms” comes to mind as usually referring to something untouchable and unpleasant – unless you are going fishing.

But here is the gem that spoke directly to me – the top line says,

S/he does not serve kings and princes, Sets herself higher goals.


Not every person has an obligation to mingle in the affairs of the world. There are some who are developed to such a degree that they are justified in letting the world go its own way and in refusing to enter public life with a view to reforming it. But this does not imply a right to remain idle or to sit back and merely criticize it. Such withdrawal is justified only when we strive to realize in ourselves the higher aims of mankind. For although the sage remains distant from the turmoil of daily life, she creates incomparable human values for the future.

This speaks to a person who has either dealt with fixing all the ails caused by one’s parents, transformed them or risen above them – ie, setting higher goals. Well for me that certainly is inspiration, when my goals are outside of and above the limitations of the accidents of fate of my birth environment.

Stephen Karcher in his book, Total I Ching, Myths or Change, has additional interesting information about Gu, Hexagram 18, and its historical significance for this Hexagram. He amplified Wilhelm in strong words:

Gu is first of all poisonous acts done by or to fathers and mothers that become manifest in the children. It extends to straightening, and handling, managing these affairs in the individual’s life, work with the inner family or parental images we all carry with us. This is the time when the new seed sprouts, a ‘stem day’, and must be carefully watched. It is the moment we pass into action, cross the river, to deal with these things.

And for the last line also talking of not involving oneself in the pestilence affecting the kinds and the lords.

Honouring what is highest in your affair – This allows you to find your purpose. You should keep clear of the current corruption of business and politics. You have another job, finding and honouring what is truly noble in the human spirit. You will be rewarded for this. These are the people who work on in the dark time to prepare the new dawn…..Make the effort. If you let yourself be led, you can realize hidden potential.

But that’s not all. When the sixth line changes the Hexagram is transformed into number 46 Shêng / Pushing Upward.

Hexagram 46 - pushing upward

Hexagram 46 - Earth Over Wind and Wood

Above K’un The Receptive, Earth
Below Sun The Gentle, Wind, Wood

Wilhelm says:

The pushing upward of the good elements encounters no obstruction and is therefore accompanied by great success. The pushing upward is made possible not by violence but by modesty and adaptability. Since the individual is borne along by the propitiousness of the time, S/he advances. S/He must go to see authoritative people. S/He need not be afraid to do this, because success is assured. But s/he must set to work, for activity brings good fortune.

Karcher names, Shêng “Ascending the Sacred Mountain”

Assembling and then rising to what is above is called ascending the Sacred Mountain; Accept this and use the energy of ascending.

Ascending describes your situation in terms of rising to a higher level and getting something done. The way to deal with this is to set a goal and work towards it step by step. Root yourself and push towards the heights. Climb the mountain and connect with the spirits. Bring out and fulfill the hidden potential.

Who was it who said, “Inspiration is nine tenths perspiration?” After reading through the meanings of Working on, What Has Been Spoiled and then climbing the mountain, step by step I think the I Ching was right after all.

A foot note on all this: After writing my blog on Inspiration and then further inspired to ask this question of the I Ching and post my response, when I started to write it I was affronted by a deep resistance to do the work. I was thinking I can’t post everything all the books have to say about Hexagram 18 and 46. And who cares anyway? And lots of blah blah blah mind chatter. I have sitting on my desktop the little utility I downloaded – I Ching Generator you can see in my links under resources. I opened it up and said to the myself talking at the computer sort of as another way to not do the work, “Help me out of this morass of debilitating resistance to doing the work to write this.” The response I got was – you guessed it, Hexagram 18 GU, Work on What Has Been Spoiled. This time with the 4h line changing into Hexagram 50, Ding The Caldron. Another bolt between the eyes. The Caldron is one of favorites, all about transformation.

I’ve been thinking that a computer generated I Ching can’t be the same as one done with my own hands, can’t be as good. But heck, with a response like that, How can I doubt?

You can find the entire interpretation for Wilhelm by going HERE.

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13 Comments on What does I Ching tell me about Inspiration?

  1. IanNo Gravatar says:

    The ruling line of #20 is 9 at 5 . This represents Buddha .

    And that\’s contemplation until everything falls apart becoming void ( 20 > 23 ) or , just before , hopefully .

    And that\’s the golden place ! . Neither existent or non existent .
    And maybe , this is the quality , we call Inspiration .

  2. IanNo Gravatar says:

    I got #20 , contemplation , that is meditate , do nothing , and then , the reality of the situation kicks in , and that is inspired action , otherwise , one may be inspired , and do nothing .

    • Adele AldridgeNo Gravatar says:

      I don’t think of hexagram 20 to mean doing nothing. But this is just my view of “Contemplation” which is also about viewing and being viewed.

      • IanNo Gravatar says:

        For the term \’ contemplation \’ to have meaning , than that would have to be doing something , that\’s doing nothing , contemplating .

        • Adele AldridgeNo Gravatar says:

          Contemplating is not doing nothing if you have a mind. Thinking is doing something.

          • IanNo Gravatar says:

            My flat is in a right old state, filthy, and following flooding, mouldy. I hate it here (for spiritual reasons). The council will come round and look at the place. Question: Please offer some – inspiration – as to how to proceed. Answer # 20, Contemplation. So do nothing, leave the flat in the state it\’s in, the council will deem me unfit to look after myself, and offer me something more appropriate. And at last, maybe I can become free of the \’soul group\’,(the souls that \’happen\’ to be \’neighbours\’). This is my interpretation, and it would be wonderful if anyone understood any of this !.

  3. Glenroy WolfsenNo Gravatar says:

    My life mirrors this in many significant ways. Not encouraged to be who I am is a great deal of the story. Finding who I am is the ongoing part of the story. Working on what has been spoiled is the content of the story. But, the will in the heart has been the solution to the story. The inner truth that is trusted has taken wings. Nowhere outside myself has there ever been a realization or an invitation if not first rooted in my own beginning. Recovering a trust in that inner beginning has lifted the inertia – it has been the wind stirring up the can of worms. And the final line in hexagram 18 is a beacon as if it were a light-house on the sea of my troubles. This post is the most!!! Thank you. – Glen

  4. AdeleNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for the comment, Barb. I’m still mulling – musing over how to deal with posting for the non-I Chinger who might become one. Stay tuned.

    Adele’s last blog post..What does I Ching tell me about Inspiration?

  5. […] shares her personal I Ching on inspiration Adele presents What does the I Ching tell me about inspiration posted at I Ching […]

  6. I don’t pretend to understand even remotely what the I Ching is. However, you hooked me into the whole read with a couple of hints… inertia meeting indifference in a bowl of spoilage, with the solution lying somewhere in the notion (and motion) of pushing upward. Working on what is spoiled? Yep — we certainly aren’t born into glory — and as Anita often writes, pushing upward seems the only direction to go sometimes.

    I did follow your line of thinking, and at several points thought of Biblical verses that say the same thing. Truth is truth, is it not?

    It’s almost comical how, when you focus on something, you are deluged with opportunities for pursuing more of it. In my run through some blogs I like to read this morning I found much on Inspiration — far from the blogging studio or carnival. It’s like air to breathe! We just need it!

    An interesting post, Adele.

    Barb Hartsook’s last blog post..How Do You Find the Time to……..?

  7. SlilohNo Gravatar says:

    I can see that much is open to interpretation and that is the tricky part! I like the pushing upward, past all that is spoiled.


    Sliloh’s last blog post..Inspiration

  8. RainbowNo Gravatar says:

    This is very interesting article.
    I have learned a lot from your blog.
    Thank you.

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