This morning I read the 34th hexagram of the I Ching as part of my ongoing meditation with the book of changes. In the 34th hexagram we see a development of awesome power and momentum, much like the day before the full moon represents a crescendo of energy moving toward a natural peak. The 34th hexagram’s decision reads, “Great power requires firm correctness.”
This is especially relevant right now as our upcoming full Moon features the Moon and Mars conjoining in opposition to the Sun. This is a powerful moment, and yet there is a stern warning about the need for greater integrity in moments where there is an accumulation of great energy, strength, momentum, or power. If we don’t have this integrity and discipline, to keep the moral compass pointed home, then the great power becomes destructive.
The 34th hexagram, sometimes called “awesome power,” changes into the 43rd hexagram, called “Eliminating” or “Breakthrough,” when the 5th yin line changes into a yang line. To briefly explain, each hexagram of the I Ching is made up of 6 possible yin/yang line combinations. In the 34th hexagram, called awesome power, you have the first 4 lines all yang, and the top two are yin…this is a picture of yang energy rising powerfully to the top…hence the buildup of tremendous power and the instruction within the hexagram to be ethical, correct, firm, cautious, etc. But when the 5th yin line of the hexagram changes to become another yang line (making 5 out of the 6 lines all yang!), then you have the hexagram called, “eliminating” or “breakthrough.” What does this mean? First we have to understand the nature of the changing line. In other words, what creates this particular change and how does it create the next hexagram’s outcome?
The text for the 5th line reads, “Losing the ram in the field, no regret.” This line pertains to someone naturally letting go of their position or their power, or their will to continue doing something that is clearly not going to work any longer. It’s as if in the face of the overwhelming power of a developing situation, someone naturally gives up their position or their efforts.
For example…let’s say you’re trying really hard to clean up your yard. As you’re cleaning out the flower beds a storm is building in the distance. You’re working up a really good sweat and you’re trying your hardest to accomplish all of your tasks, but then it starts pouring really hard and you quite naturally forget all the angst and inner turmoil about your yard work and you simply head inside. You’ve forgotten your angst about the flower beds because something has simply overwhelmed its relevance in that moment. Hence, the ram is lost in the field, but there is no regret. The ram is our will or power and action relative to some specific activity (the field).
The transformed hexagram that results from this line change, number 43, is called “eliminating” or “break through.” This is a special moment. To continue the yard work and rainstorm analogy, let’s say that once inside your house the power of that rainstorm has not only interrupted your yard work, but it has also overthrown all the anger and frustration you had internally, which actually wasn’t about the yard work but pertained to your marriage, or your kids, or your job, or your weight, or your finances. Suddenly, in the peace and surrender of that rainstorm, you find yourself opening up about these things. You start telling the truth.
Suddenly the rain lets up outside but now you’re the one pouring out inside. The 43rd hexagram shows the image of a boggy marsh being drawn up into the heavens where everyone can see its messiness (one last yin line atop 5 rising yang lines). If we’ve arrived at this place through an ethical yielding to the building of an undeniable truth, then the result is a radical form of honesty that serves to eliminate impurities and provides healing and powerful clarity and support. However, if we’ve fought and resisted and clung selfishly to our position, then this is more like the image of public disclosure (being called out, put on trial, or eliminated or removed or fired). For example, let’s say you come in from the downpour even more frustrated. The storm has put you into an even worse mood, so you take it out on your spouse and kids, which causes them to leave the house and go to your in-laws place for the weekend. You are then confronted by the family and they demand that you finally go and get yourself some serious help for your anger. You are publicly exposed, humiliated, and your anger has been forced out of office rather than gently removing itself for the sake of purification.
This sequence is an excellent analogy for our upcoming Full Moon. A power is building up. Ethical firmness or correctness is needed if we’re to harness this in the right way. Simultaneously it’s okay to be overwhelmed. In fact, when we simply allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by what is naturally rising up in the moment, there is an opportunity for cleansing, honesty, and the removal of impurities. Being overwhelmed is an invitation to let go of more than just our immediate circumstances. It is also an invitation to let go of a more complex web of inner circumstances. So despite the intimation of some dramatic conflict with Mars and the Moon and the Sun in this powerful opposition to each other, there is also an image of yielding, honesty, and gentle purification. It all hinges on knowing how and when to let go of something before it becomes destructive or unproductive.
Prayer: Teach us to wield power correctly. Teach us to yield power when the time is right. Teach us to gently admit and lift up that which calls to be removed.