The Beginning Times
There are two overarching lessons of the I Ching.
The first is this: Every Ending Begets A New Beginning.
Change is not conceived as an endless string of cause-and-effect events but, rather, as a cycle of repeating seasons that influence the cause-and-effect events within them. Human actions and endeavors, in other words, are not viewed as independent of the time but, rather, are viewed in context of the season in which they occur. In this sense, the linear progression of change is always set against the unchanging principle of cyclic change that underlies the unfolding of time. For this reason, each of the hexagrams of the I Ching is experienced as a spatial expanse no less immediate and encompassing as Spring, let us say. Or Autumn for that matter.
In the previous post, I published an oracle cast on the recent Autumnal Equinox. In it the events around the 2012 turning point are presented as resulting in a growing authoritarianism that, once transcended, will usher in a time of global reconciliation. More specifically, it points to a crisis that we, as humanity, have confronted before and failed to resolve in the most beneficial way for all. With the approach of 2012, we have the opportunity to face our collective dilemma again and, although the official reaction will reflexively repeat the same mistake as before, a groundswell of enlightened goodwill that transcends borders will unite people everywhere in a positive and constructive response—one that overrides the authoritarianism of church and state and sets in motion those metamorphic forces of nonviolence and noninterference that give rise to the harmonious and creative civilization our collective ancestors dreamed for us.
Far from confronting the end times, in other words, we are on the cusp of entering the beginning times.
A Training Manual for the Road Ahead
The Toltec I Ching is, first and foremost, an Oracle, continuing the age-old practice of rendering the voice of the One intelligible to the contemporary mind. By echoing the living words of the Spirit that continuously recreates the world, the Oracle manifests the universal civilizing influence caring for the entirety of creation, including humanity. Because our thoughts and lives are part of the One, the Oracle enables us to anticipate each crossroads as it approaches and keep our feet firmly on the path of freedom. To open our hearts to the hopes and dreams placed in us by all that has come before us is to sense the loving-kindness and communion in the Oracle’s answers.
But, as its subtitle, 64 Keys to Inspired Action in the New World, implies, The Toltec I Ching is also a training manual of ethical strategies embodying the ideals and values of the emerging world culture. The vision it presents is of a living universe in which everything is invested with spirit and, just like human beings, has a level of awareness that is constantly undergoing a process of metamorphosis. Our transforming human nature is envisioned as the spirit warrior, defined as a woman or man who trains diligently to defeat her or his self-defeating habits of thought, emotion, and memory. The Duality of the great creative forces that manifest the intent of the One in the form of the macrocosm, furthermore, are mirrored in the masculine and feminine halves making up the microcosm of every human being.
As said since ancient times, the metamorphosis of the whole is initiated by the metamorphosis of the individual—and it is the work of each spirit warrior that builds an ever-widening community of humaneness. The 64 Keys to Inspired Action in the New World are embodied, of course, in the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching, each of which incorporates the core lessons of attaining good fortune, both individually and collectively. This individual striving to benefit the whole is seen as the open secret of personal and collective good fortune: by letting go self-interest, the spirit warrior metamorphoses into a well of benefit that allies her or him with others likewise making positive use of the law of spiritual cause-and-effect. Like all truly proactive measures, these lessons do not merely help us avoid coming difficulties, but establish new attitudes and behaviors that actually help shape the emerging future.
The actual means of metamorphosis is the work of harmonizing the masculine and feminine halves inherent within each individual—and inherent, therefore, in every social institution. Understanding that our feminine and masculine halves are microcosmic reflections of the macrocosmic creative forces empowers us to marshal our energies toward constructive actions and ennoble our intentions toward ever-widening circles of harmonious unity. In the arena of social institutions, for example, the conservative tendencies within a nation that seeks to defend itself with military strength can be thought of as its masculine half, while its progressive tendencies to channel resources into social service programs and international diplomacy can be thought of as its feminine half. How well these two halves reach a harmonious balance of power determines the longevity of the nation and the well-being of its people.
The step-by-step training of the spirit warrior is just this exercising of the masculine and feminine halves in response to the archetypal situations making up human experience. Specifically, it is the blending and balancing of the our feminine and masculine halves as they alternate in our outer actions and inner intentions that is formulated in the hexagram-by-hexagram progress through the sequence of 64 hexagrams. Each of the hexagrams has it own proportion of the feminine and masculine generative energy—or, in more traditional language, its own specific mixture of yin and yang qi—and the hexagrams are arranged in a sequence that activates and harmonizes the sacred duality within us. Working our way through the sequence of hexagrams, in other words, cultivates the creative forces within us, setting our intentions and actions on a course of self-transformation that leads to ever-widening spheres of good fortune.
The Storm Before The Calm
Returning to the recent 2012 oracle provides us with the opportunity to see how the lessons embodied in the hexagrams provide us with ethical strategies and ennobling values during a time of profound social transformation. Of the numerous hexagrams relevant to this situation, we will cite just two examples—
Concerning the first part of the Oracle’s answer, in which a rising tide of reactionary authoritarianism will need to be overcome, we can look to Hexagram #41 Feigning Compliance for inspiration:
Image: A shadowy male warrior stands upon the coils of a great serpent, forcing it to submit to his will at spear point. He has, however, mistaken the snake’s tail for its head, which rises above and behind him, ready to strike.
Interpretation: The shadowy male warrior symbolizes those who seek to dominate others. The point of the spear symbolizes force, whether in the form of aggression, threat, intimidation, or subversion. The great serpent symbolizes the energy and power of those who resist domination. Its coils symbolize the convolutions and intricacies of the strategy of invisible defiance. That the serpent’s tail is shaped to look like its head means that you are able to disguise your true intent behind a mask of conformity. That the serpent’s head is poised to strike means that you remain vigilant, neither missing any real opportunity for resistance nor getting lulled into a false sense of security. Taken together, these symbols mean that you lull your captor into a false sense of security while awaiting the right moment to reclaim your freedom.
Action: There is no true victory in force because those overcome eventually use the moral high ground to achieve their independence. Such a turn of events is made inevitable by the fact that the spirit of those who oppress is progressively sickened by their past actions at just the time that the spirit of those oppressed is made progressively stronger and finer by the hardship they have endured. Force corrupts those who use it and ennobles those who endure it. For this reason, those who use force fail because they are brutish and short-sighted while those whose spirit cannot be dominated succeed because they are humane and wise. When those who are stronger seek to dominate and control us then we must develop a strategy that ensures we defeat our oppressors without repeating their mistakes. In this sense, it is necessary that we commit beforehand to making no attempt to exact revenge from those who have wronged us. In order to emerge unscathed from domination we have to recognize the indomitable nature we have inherited from our ancestors and then ally ourselves with others committed to preserving inner independence until outer independence can be openly celebrated. Because you take the time to gather inner strength without arousing any suspicion, you succeed in freeing yourself without harming another. Because your humaneness shines on your oppressors, you succeed in freeing them without harming yourself.
Intent: The spirit warrior refrains from attempting to dominate anyone in any way, for fear of the inevitable and justifiable backlash it would produce. Others are not necessarily so farsighted, however: at a time when force and intimidation are openly used to control our actions and shape our attitudes, it is imperative that we train ourselves to resist every tendency to succumb to mental or spiritual tyranny. By adopting a demeanor of naive complacency while making our true thoughts and feelings unreadable, we make it possible to live with oppression without being conquered by it: using visible compliance to mask invisible defiance, we maintain our reverence toward all things so that we never wrong others the way we were wronged.
Summary: When those who are more powerful demand you submit to their will, do not just pretend to go along with them—make a show of agreeing with them and working for their goals as if they were your own. Keep your true feelings to yourself, work to find kindred spirits who can be trusted, and gather your strength until the moment to reclaim your independence and freedom arrives.
Concerning the second part of the Oracle’s answer, in which a time of widespread reconciliation will lead to a new world culture, we can look to Hexagram #16 Renewing Devotion for inspiration. Once we have surmounted our self-destructive tendencies, we need to hold fast to our new vision of harmonious unity:
Image: On the platform of a pyramid, a group of male and female warriors greet the dawn with ceremonial fire, drum, and song. Out among the surrounding vegetation, a bird greets the dawn with two speech glyphs, one of which represents a flower and the other a song.
Interpretation: The pyramid is a symbol of the sacred mountain at the center of all things and means that you are part of the collective work striving to mirror the handiwork of nature and the divine. The dawn is a symbol of the daily renewal of creation and greeting it with companions means that you have others with whom you share the song of your beliefs, the drumbeat of your passions, and the fire of your creativity. The surrounding vegetation is a symbol of the natural order and means that you are in harmony with the spirit of the world. The singing bird represents the winged, transcendent, essence of nature and means that you are free to spontaneously give voice to the pure joy of life. The flower and song glyphs represent the spirit warrior’s philosophy of life and mean that you have the courage to confront the eventual passing of everything beautiful, as well as the dignity to honor each passing both before and after it occurs. Taken together, these symbols mean that your sincerity, trustworthiness and persistence will bring you success, vindication, and contentment.
Action: The feminine and masculine halves of the spirit warrior unite to carry out past decisions. This is not the time for questioning the correctness of inner decisions such as your commitments to your beliefs, values, and viewpoints—nor is it the time for second guessing the wisdom of outer decisions such as your commitments to your duties, goals, and loved ones. It is, rather, the time for honoring your sense of honor—the time for renewing your devotion to the higher purpose guiding your life. Sometimes it is not a question of what we have faith in, but that our faith is strong and unshakable. Likewise, it is not always a question of who or what we are faithful to, but that our faithfulness is pure and unbreakable. Your future circumstances are created out of today’s actions, so set aside all thoughts of changing direction. Your future character is created out of today’s motives, so set aside all self-doubt. You have taken a stand: do not permit the opinions or actions of others to move you off center. Keep in mind that your decisions each have a symbolic value and represent part of your relationship with the whole of creation—by daily renewing your heartfelt devotion to acting with integrity, you will achieve the kind of consistency, firmness, and clarity that brings the highest benefit into your life and the lives of those around you.
Intent: If we look for reasons to doubt the perfection of all creation, we will find them. Because the perfect nature with which we are born is overwhelmed by the collective self-doubt produced by human history, we come to doubt our own vision and are increasingly influenced by the prevailing viewpoint of the world as inhumane and, therefore, imperfect. It is this social indoctrination that creates an artificial viewpoint which obscures our original vision and, much like a mask covers the real face, creates in us an artificial sense of an imperfect nature. When we become aware that our true birthright is usurped when we are too young to defend the perfect nature we bring into the world, then we come to understand the old stories about the royal child who is hidden away until it comes of age and can reclaim its rightful place in the world: once we recognize our true self as that part which was hidden in order to protect it until was strong enough to fend for itself, then we view the world through the eyes of our innate perfect nature and no longer remain blind to the perfection of all creation. Renewing their devotion to perfection every day, spirit warriors are tireless in their effort to remain aware that nature is spirit—and unfaltering in their decision to rejoice in the fact that they are a vital part of that perfect unity.
Summary: Work to continually renew your heart-felt dedication to fulfilling the first ancestor’s vision of the human spirit, especially when surrounded by others who lack the awareness and sensitivity to appreciate the presence of spirit everywhere. Stay true to your road and destination. At this time, influencing others is more proper than allowing them to influence you.
Introducing these two hexagrams into the 2012 reading allows us to derive additional information by comparing them to the original ones cast on the Autumnal Equinox .
Comparing the two hexagrams relating to the “storm” portion of the oracle, we find that there is just one line change—in the fifth place—between Hexagram #54 Repeating Test and Hexagram #41 Feigning Compliance. The fifth line change of Hexagram #54 Repeating Test seems particularly relevant:
The situation is auspicious—you are at the vanguard of sweeping changes that will benefit all but those you replace. The principal task for now is to brighten the emotional atmosphere and give everyone hope. Slow down—actually implementing the new will take a long time.
Likewise, comparing the two hexagrams relating to the “calm” portion of the oracle, we find that there is just one line change—in the sixth place—between Hexagram #2 Sensing Creation and Hexagram #16 Renewing Devotion. The sixth line change of hexagram #16 Renewing Devotion seems especially useful:
Look back at the period just passed and study it diligently, gleaning all the lessons you can from it. Do you feel more empowered or less empowered than before? What do you want to have continue, what do you want to have change?
Expanding a reading by consciously introducing hexagrams that amplify the meaning and intent of the Oracle’s answer like this allows us to combine the two facets of the I Ching—the Oracle and the book of wisdom—into a more comprehensive and illuminating forecast. In this way, we can encompass more of the mood and decision points of the divination by opening up the intuitive aspect of the reading to more in-depth analysis.
Summary: The Master Key to Inspired Action
The second overarching lesson of the I Ching is this: Sooner Or Later, Everything Changes Into Its Opposite.
Nothing can maintain its status quo forever. The action of trying to maintain its status quo is the very thing that triggers its own backlash.
In point of fact, the stronger its action, the more wide-spread its action, the longer its action continues, and the stronger its resistance to change, the more profound and complete and rapid its reversal.
As the old adage goes: No one is easier to topple than one standing on tiptoes. When things reach their peak, they decline. When the natural process of expansion and contraction is thwarted by unnatural means, such as force and oppression, then the decline does not follow its natural timetable but is accelerated by the pent-up energies locked within a self-destructive equilibrium.
Perhaps a universal change of heart seems unlikely to some. Perhaps they view the politics of the moment as in control of our collective destiny. Perhaps they are afraid to hope again.
But these are irrelevancies in the grand cycle of change, the forces of which work from the inside and outside simultaneously. The cathartic moment arrives unbidden by conscious calling: it answers the unconscious desperation and despair welling up from within both the personal and collective unconscious. Just as the chick’s call from the inside the egg is answered by the hen’s pecking the shell from the outside, the anguish of the personal unconscious calls forth a complete and immediate reversal of conventional beliefs and values from humanity’s collective unconscious.
This 2012 Oracle states unequivocally that we are on the cusp of a metamorphosed civilization, one in which personal ethics are mirrored in our collective ethics and in which individual self-transformation ripples outward, contributing directly to the transformation of the Whole.
The Master Key to Inspired Action, then, is Inspired Intention—it is the diligently cultivated heart-mind that can, moment-to-moment, shift its attention to a world in which there are not only enough resources for all to live, but one in which there is enough time for all to live blissfully.
The Golden Age of Humanity is within our reach.
What shall we build together?
The Toltec I Ching, by Martha Ramirez-Oropeza and William Douglas Horden has just received a Silver Award in the 2010 Nautilus Awards. It recasts the I Ching in the symbology of the Native Americans of ancient Mexico and includes original illustrations interpreting each of the hexagrams. Its subtitle, 64 Keys to Inspired Action in the New World hints at its focus on the ethics of the emerging world culture.