CHAPTER XI. On the Yarrow Stalks and the Hexagrams and Lines

1. The Master said: The Changes, what do they do? The Changes disclose things, complete affairs, and encompass all ways on earth--this and nothing else. For this reason the holy sages used them to penetrate all will on earth and to determine all fields of action on earth, and to settle all doubts on earth.

Here again we have a saying of the Master placed at the head of a chapter which then develops and interprets it.

2. Therefore the nature of the yarrow stalks is round and spiritual. The nature of the hexagrams is square and wise. The meaning of the six lines changes, in order to furnish information.

In this way the holy sages purified their hearts, withdrew, and hid themselves in the secret. They concerned themselves with good fortune and misfortune in common with other men. they were divine, hence they knew the future; they were wise; hence they stored up the past. Who is it that can do all this? Only the reason and clear-mindedness of the ancients, their knowledge and wisdom, their unremitting divine power.

Here the triplicity of the first section is consistently carried further. Penetration of all wills is paralleled with the spirituality of the yarrow stalks: they are round because they are symbols of heaven and of the spirit. Their basic number is seven, their total number is forty-nine (7x7). The hexagrams stand for the earth; their basic number is eight, their total number is sixty-four (8x8). They serve to determine the field of action. Finally, the individual lines are movable and changeable (their basic numbers are nine and six), in order to give information and to settle doubts pertaining to particular situations.

The holy sages were possessed of this knowledge. They withdrew into seclusion and cultivated the spirit, so that they were able to penetrate the minds of all men (penetration), so that they could determine good fortune and misfortune (the field of action), and so that they knew the past and the future (settlement of doubts). They could do this thanks to their reason and clear-mindedness (penetration of wills), their knowledge and wisdom (determination of the field of action), and their divine power settlement of doubts). This divine power battle (shên wu) acts without weakening itself (this is a better reading than "without killing").

3. Therefore they fathomed the tao of heaven and understood the situations of men. Thus they invented these divine things in order to meet the need of men. The holy sages fasted for this reason, in order to make their natures divinely clear.

Because these wise men knew equally well the laws of the universe and what was needful to man, they invented the use of the oracle stalks--"these divine things"--in order thus to answer the needs of men. And so they concentrated their thoughts in holy meditation for the purpose of attaining the necessary power and fullness of being. Therefore the understanding of the Book of Changes calls for a similar concentration and meditation.

4. Therefore they called the closing of the gates the Receptive, and the opening of the gate the Creative. The alternation between the closing and the opening they called change. The going forward and backward without ceasing they called penetration. What manifests itself visibly they called a pattern. That which furthers on going out and coming in, that which all men live by, they called the divine.

In this passage are shown the tao of heaven and the conditions of men as recognized by the holy sages. The closing and the opening of the gates signify the alternation of rest and movement. These are likewise two conditions pertaining to yoga practice that are attainable only through individual training. Penetration is that state in which the individual has attained sovereign mastery in the psychic sphere as well and is able to move forward and backward in time. The next sentences show how the material world arises. First of all there is a pre-existent image, an idea; then a copy of this archetypal image takes shape as a corporeal form. That which regulates this process of imitation is a pattern; and the force that generates these processes is the divine principle. Many parallels to these expositions are to be found in Lao-tse.

5. Therefore there is in the Changes the Great Primal Beginning. This generates the two primary forces. The two primary forces generate the four images. The four images generate the eight trigrams.

The Great Primal Beginning, t'ai chi, plays an important role in later Chinese natural philosophy. Originally chi is the ridgepole--a simple line symbolizing the positing of oneness (⚊). This positing of oneness implies also a positing of duality, an above and a below. The conditioning element is further designated as an undivided line, while the conditioned element is represented by means of a divided line (⚋). These are the two polar primary forces later designated as yang, the bright principle, and yin, the dark. Then, through doubling, there arise the four images.

⚌ old or great yang ⚏ old or great yin
⚍ young or little yang ⚎ young or little yin

These correspond with the four seasons of the year. Through addition of another line, there arise the eight trigrams:

☰ Ch'ien ☷ K'un ☳ Chên ☲ Li
☱ Tui ☴ Sun ☵ K'an ☶ Kên

The same procedure is mentioned in chapter 42 of Lao-tse.

6. The eight trigrams determine good fortune and misfortune. Good fortune and misfortune create the great field of action.

The "great field of action" are the regulations and rules instituted by the sages in order to obtain good fortune for men and to avoid misfortune.

7. Therefore: There are no greater primal images than heaven and earth. There is nothing that has more movement or greater cohesion than the four seasons. Of the images suspended in the heavens, there is none more light-giving than the sun and the moon. Of the honored and highly placed, there is none greater than he who possesses wealth and rank. With respect to creating things for use and making tools helpful to the whole world, there is no one greater than the holy sages. For comprehending the chaotic diversity of things and exploring what is hidden, for penetrating the depths and extending influence afar, thereby determining good fortune and misfortune on earth and consummating all efforts on earth, there is nothing greater than the oracle.

As in chapter 25 of Lao-tse, where the four great things in the universe are discussed, the great things in nature and in the world of men are here named together. Heaven and earth offer the archetypal image to be imitated. Among all things, the seasons have the most movement and the greatest degree of cohesion; the brightest are the sun and moon.

On earth the most exalted person is the king of men, the sage on the throne, who, wealthy and noble himself, is at the same time the source of wealth and nobility. His helpers are, first, the active man of wisdom, directing and inventing, and second, the oracle, which, corresponding with the light-giving images, the sun and moon, clarifies and illumines all conditions on earth.

8. Therefore: Heaven creates divine things; the holy sage takes them as models. Heaven and earth change and transform; the holy sage imitates them. In the heavens hang images that reveal good fortune and misfortune; the holy sage reproduces these. The Yellow River brought forth a map and the Lo River brought forth a writing; the holy men took these as models.

In this section the parallel between the processes in the macrocosm and the works of the holy sages is elaborated. The divine things created by heaven and earth are presumably the natural phenomena that the holy men reproduced in the eight trigrams. According to another view, tortoises and yarrow stalks are meant. The changes and transformations manifesting themselves in day and night, and in the seasons of the year, are reproduced in the character of the changes in the lines. The signs in the heavens meaning good fortune and misfortune are the sun, moon and stars, together with comets, eclipses, and the like. They are reproduced in the appended judgments on good fortune and misfortune.

The last sentence of the section, referring to two legendary events occurring in the time of Fu Hsi and Yu respectively, is a later addition and has had a disastrous effect on the exegesis of the Book of Changes. Reproduction of the two diagrams are given in the explanation of chapter IX, section 1. That this is a later addition is proven by the fact that sections 7, 8, 9 of the present chapter all deal with the threefold parallelism between nature and the world of man broached in section 1 and this addendum creates a break in the continuity of thought.

9. In the Changes there are images, in order to reveal; there are judgments appended, in order to interpret; good fortune and misfortune are determined, in order to decide.

The text says "four" images; this is carried over by error from section 5. Here "images" means the eight trigrams, which show situations in their interrelation. This corresponds with the archetypal images of heaven. The judgments appended to the lines indicate the changes corresponding with the changes in the seasons. Finally, the decisions about good fortune and misfortune correspond with the signs in the heavens.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12