I have finally begun work on Volume two of I Ching Meditations which begins with hexagram seventeen, Following.
It is somewhat embarrassing to say that I have been working on this project for the past forty-three years. I had the hubris to think when I started illustrating a line by line interpretation of the I Ching that it would take me no more than five years. Volume One was completed at the end of 2012. This year found me moving again which is a of time-consuming hell process.
Besides the packing and then unpacking, because I moved out of state there were a host of other tedious paper work and tasks to deal with. Finally that was done and I was ready to attack hexagram seventeen. I couldn’t do it. I was tired. Oddly enough I found that I wasn’t too tired for other tasks, even those involving the I Ching. I turned to working on the paintings of the Chinese Characters that I began in October of 2011.
I had a crisis of doubt. It felt like a crisis of my soul. I began to think, do I really want to continue with this task that I began so many years ago? Who cares anyway? I had never in all those years considered not completing the work – or at least die trying.
I was so disturbed and surprised by my thought of giving up working on my art and words for I Ching Meditations that I did what I usually do and consulted the I Ching. I didn’t even know what question to ask and wrote, Comment on my crisis. Tell me!
I received hexagram 27, Providing Nourishment with the first line changing the hexagram to 23, Splitting Apart. As usual, the I Ching reflects just what is. The Wilhelm interpretation of I Ching says in the first line of Providing Nourishment, You let your magic tortoise go, and look at me with the corners of your mouth drooping. Misfortune. . . . The magic tortoise is a creature possessed of such supernatural powers that it lives on air and needs no earthly nourishment.”
Next I looked at what I had written for this line in my book, I Ching Prescriptions. I prescribed, Do not envy others who appear to have more than you. Don’t leave things up to chance. Take control. Be self-reliant.
Letting my magic tortoise go (the I Ching itself) leads to Splitting Apart. Of course! That was what I was contemplating – letting go of the I Ching – Splitting apart from my magic tortoise. The tortoise is one of the oldest images associated with the I Ching which originated from tortoise shells that were heated until it cracked. The cracks were then interpreted with meaning and used as divination.
A smack in the face from the I Ching, reminding me that that letting go of my work, the magic tortoise that lives on air, led to Splitting Apart, woke me up. I asked another question. Can I get my magic tortoise back? With another throw of the coins the response was, hexagram 20, Contemplation with the last line changing to Hexagram 8, Union. Perfect!
The hexagram for contemplation refers to the tower which has a wide view from where it sits and can be seen as a landmark from a distance. Wilhelm refers to sacrificial rituals to involve the Deity – moments that require deep inner concentration. If piety is sincere and expressive of real faith, the contemplation of it has a transforming and awe-inspiring effect on those who witness it. . . .Contemplation of the divine meaning underlying the workings of the universe gives to the man who is called upon to influence others the means of producing like effects. This requires that power of inner concentration which religious contemplation develops in great men strong in faith. It enables them to apprehend the mysterious and divine laws of life, and by means of profoundest inner concentration they give expression to these laws in their own persons.
Well this certainly reflected what I was trying to do all these years and what I needed to do to continue. The top line of Contemplation that changed talks about being liberated from one’s ego.
So that did it! The I Ching told me that if I concentrated on my work on the I Ching – contemplation of the divine meaning underlying the workings of the universe – I would be in Union once again.
So I didn’t give up but that doesn’t mean that I instantly solved my work resistance. While I don’t find the meaning of Following difficult to understand I wasn’t inspired to find an image to represent what Following meant to me.
Line 5 in Following says that every one must have something to follow that serves as a lodestar. He who follows with conviction the beautiful and the good may feel himself strengthened by this saying.
It struck me that of course the loadstar that I have been following for so long is the I Ching. This is so obvious I was blind to see it. I decided that I had to write about Following in terms of what I am following.
Another problem arose. In working on the I Ching all these years I have found that I get stopped by worrying about what other I Ching devotees will think or judge about what I’m doing. Other devotees tend to think that the I Ching belongs to them and their own personal perspective. I worried that if I wrote about my own following in the I Ching as following the I Ching, someone would have a critical judgment about this. I can’t help it. Those self-judgments happen so I asked the I Ching another question.
What does I Ching have to say about me using I Ching as my lodestar in the hexagram for Following?
The answer I got was hexagram 40, Deliverance, with the top line changing to hexagram 64, Before Completion. Perfect! Wilhelm interprets the last line of Deliverance: The prince shoots a hawk on a high wall. He kills it. Everything serves to further. . . . The hawk on a high wall is the symbol of a powerful inferior (myself) in a high position who is hindering the deliverance.
So that’s where I am with Following. Stay tuned.