CHAPTER VII. The Relation of Certain Hexagrams to Character Formation

1. The Changes came into use in the period of middle antiquity. Those who composed the Changes had great care and sorrow.

This passage refers to King Wên and his son, the Duke of Chou, who both lived through very difficult times. The writer of the lines quoted above feels himself in sympathy with them in this respect, for he too can do nothing more than preserve for posterity the framework of a perishing civilization.

2. Thus the hexagram of TREADING shows the basis of character. MODESTY shows the handle of character; RETURN, the stem of character. DURATION brings about firmness of character; DECREASE, cultivation of character; INCREASE, fullness of character; OPPRESSION, the test of character; THE WELL, the field of character; THE GENTLE, the exercise of character.

3. The hexagram of TREADING is harmonious and attains its goal. MODESTY gives honor and shines forth. RETURN is small, yet different from external things. DURATION shows manifold experiences without satiety. DECREASE shows first what is difficult and then what is easy. INCREASE shows the growth of fullness without artifices. OPPRESSION leads to perplexity and thereby to success. THE WELL abides in its place, yet has influence on other things. Through THE GENTLE one is able to weigh things and remain hidden.

4. TREADING brings about harmonious conduct. MODESTY serves to regulate the mores. RETURN leads to self-knowledge. DURATION brings about unity of character. DECREASE keeps harm away. INSCREASE furthers what is useful. Through OPPRESSION one learns to lessen one's rancor. THE WELL brings about discrimination as to what is right. Through THE GENTLE one is able to take special circumstances into account.

Here the nine hexagrams are used to show the development of character. First the relations of the hexagrams to character are given, then the material of the hexagrams, and finally their effect. The movement is from within outward. What is wrought in the depths of the heart becomes outwardly visible in its effects. The nine hexagrams are as follows:

1. Lü, TREADING (10). This hexagram deals with the rules of good conduct, compliance with which is a prerequisite of character formation. This good conduct is harmonious--in conformity with the trigram Tui, the Joyous, which is inside--and attains its goal even under difficult circumstances ("treading upon the tail of the tiger"). Thus it brings about those harmonious forms which are a prerequisite of outward behavior.

2. Ch'ien, MODESTY (15). This hexagram shows the attitude that is necessary before character formation can be undertaken. Modesty (mountain under the earth) honors others and thereby attains honor for itself; it regulates human intercourse in such a way that friendliness evokes friendliness. To the outward forms it adds the right attitude of mind as content.

3. Fu, RETURN (24). This hexagram is characterized by the fact that a light line returns from below and moves upward. It means the root and stem of character. The good that shows itself below is at first quite insignificant, but it is strong enough to be able constantly to prevail in its own unique character against any temptation of the surroundings. In the sense of return, it also suggests lasting reform following upon errors committed, and the self-examination and self-knowledge necessary for this.

4. Hêng, DURATION (32). This hexagram brings about firmness of character in the frame of time. It shows wind and thunder constantly together; hence there are manifold movements and experiences, from which fixed rules are derived, so that a unified character results.

5. Sun, DECREASE (41). This hexagram shows a decrease in influence of the lower faculties, the untamed instincts, in favor of the higher life of the mind. Here we have the essence of character training. The hexagram shows first the difficult thing--the taming of the instincts--then the easy phase, when character is under control; thus harm is kept away.

6. I, INCREASE (42). This hexagram gives fullness to character. Mere asceticism is not enough to make a good character: greatness is also needed. Thus INCREASE shows an organic growth of personality that is not artificial and hence furthers what is useful.

7. K'un, OPPRESSION (47). This hexagram leads the individual of developed character finally into the field where he must prove himself. Difficulties and obstacles arise; these must be overcome, yet they often prove insuperable. He sees himself confronted by bounds that he cannot set aside and that can be surmounted only recognizing them for what they are. In thus recognizing as fate the things that must be so taken, one ceases to hate adversity--of what use would it be to storm against fate--and through this lessening of resentment, character is purified and advances to a higher level.

8. Ching, THE WELL (48). This hexagram represents a wellspring, which, though fixed in one spot, dispenses blessing far and wide and so makes its influence far-reaching. This shows the field in which character can take effect. We perceive the profound influence emanating from a richly endowed and generous personality, an influence that is not any the less because the person exerting it keeps in the background. The hexagram shows what is right, and thus makes it possible for the right to take effect.

9. Sun, THE GENTLE, THE PENETRATING (57). This hexagram gives the proper flexibility of character. What is needed is not rigidity that holds fast to established principles and is in reality mere pedantry, but mobility; thus one weighs things and penetrates to the needs of the time without exposing oneself to attack, so learning to take circumstances into account and to preserve a strong unity of character along with intelligent versatility.

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