Monday, March 19, 2018

Prelate on Retreat: No Daily Readings

The prelate of the Order of the Singularity, the organization that publishes this blog/feed is on retreat this week. See you next week!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 15-MAR-2018

Hexagram 41, judgment text:

Hexagram 42

Old text:

Expedition gainful.
Beneficial to cross the great stream.

New text:

Beneficial to have somewhere to go.
Beneficial to cross the great stream.

The image of this hexagram demonstrates an important principle of life. Life is iterative. We improve by stages, we make mistakes, and correct them. If we are smart, we don’t just learn from our own mistakes, but by watching others, emulating what is good in them and avoiding what is bad.

The text consists only of the name or ‘tag’ of the hexagram and two divining tags, both favoring action and decisiveness.

Here we have the elder pair of the siblings of hexagrams 41 and 42. In 41 we had the youngest son and daughter of the family attributions of the trigrams. Here we have the eldest. As in 11 and 12, it is more auspicious for the male trigram to be below the female so that their naturally tendencies, arising and settling, intermingle. The character is an ancient offertory. It shows a cup in which incense or other material is burned as an offering that rises up. Thus the ideas of gift, rising and offering combine in this character. This is the idea behind the ‘air libation’ to the Ancestors of Zhou Yi Dao. The water or liquor of the offering is left in a cup before the ancestral tablets and evaporates into the air instead of being absorbed by the earth.

We have interlocking concepts here, because this hexagram, with a title showing an offering going ‘up’, conceptually shows benefits raining down from above. Though this hexagram pair was originally probably interpreted simply as omens for sacrificial rites, the Confucian philosophy shows through in how the pair of hexagrams was later understood. Decrease is excessive taxation, taking from the people to give to the ruler, or in modern parlance the government. Increase comes from the ruler/governor increasing the means of the people. This paradox of reducing taxation to increase government revenue seems lost on many. But it should come as no surprise, we have many instances in early Chinese dialog between rulers and their ministers in which the ruler imposes heavy burdens on the people and ends up impoverishing himself thereby, or worse.

Confucius looked back to the Duke of Zhou as a standard for governance, and thus called for a tax rate of no more than 10%. This fit well with the legendary ‘well-field’ system of communal agriculture. In that scheme a hamlet of eight households would be built in a square pattern with a ninth field in the middle. The field would contain the communal well and would be worked by all the eight surrounding households. The harvest of the well-field would go to the government while the individual households kept all of their grain. The concept is mentioned repeatedly in the corpus of early Chinese literature, but there is some doubt if it was ever widely adopted in Chinese history. Nonetheless, the concept of low taxes and a community that took care of the needs of its residents are part of the fabric of Confucian thinking.

The Image


Wind and Thunder, Increase.
When the noble sees good, they strive for it.
When they are in error they change it.

This is one of my favorite image texts in the Yi. The message is simple, and answers the question, how do I steer a steady course of improvement? If it’s good, imitate it. If it’s broken, fix it.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Russian translation of the Yi:

Hexagram 42 Augmenting

Part of the message of this hexagram is found in the preceding one. Decreasing the negative adds to the positive. But the positive will not overcome the negative by simply waiting it out. To increase the good, active measures must be taken against the bad. So it is very important here to maintain the constancy mentioned in the previous hexagram. The very essence of the present situation is to use inner constancy to perform great and serious undertakings leading to great changes. In this light we have the text:

Beneficial to have somewhere to go.
Beneficial to ford the great river.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Cross the great stream.
Good omen for business deals.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

41 - 42

The western rain god’s son marries the eastern rain god’s daughter
This is Huang Yan’s child. [1]
After the ceremony, bride and groom go southward.
A soaking rain in the fields,
A year of happiness and plenty.[2]

[1] A place in Zhejiang Province, though it could also be a name.
[2] See note on 32 - 35. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 14-MAR-2018

Hexagram 47, judgment text:

Hexagram 47


Old text:

For the great man divining, good fortune.
No blame.
His words are not believed.

New text:

Sincerity brings the great person good fortune.
No blame.
There are words but they are not trusted.

The character is a tree in a walled pen. The trigrams show water that is beneath a marsh. Some view this as the fresh water being shut off by the muck above. Others see it as the water flowing down into the ground until the swamp is dried up and dead. All the images of this hexagram give us a feeling of oppression, of a heavy and restricting environment. And yet, here in the judgment text…good fortune. That is because in life we succeed not so much by luck and favor as struggle and principle. The superior person, the truly noble, changes their actions to match the times and, even in a time of entanglement and oppression, succeeds. To the ancients this involved ‘being right with the Ancestors’—sacrifice. In the modern world of the last 1000 years or so the emphasis moves to ethical action, sincerity, constancy. In times of danger the superior person will not throw their lives away, but they will not hesitate to die for a just cause, as shown in the image text.

The last sentence stands out. It is not a divining tag. In my opinion it’s a warning. You can talk all you want, but no one is going to listen to you. Been there. Done that. But again, there are nuances. The phrase may also be divided according to status. The superior person acts, and their words confirm the actions taken. What a lesser person says is ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’. As always in the Yi, there is no one correct answer everything is ‘well, it depends’.

Huang Dao Zhou cites Mao 40 of the Book of Songs on this text:

The king’s affairs come to me, the government’s affairs are every more increased on me;
When I enter from the outside, the people of the house all together reprove me.
It is all over.
Heaven truly has done it;
What is to be said about it?
                                    (Karlgren’s translation)


A marsh without water,
The noble will lay down their lives,
In order to accomplish their will.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Russian translation of the Yi:

Hexagram 47 Exhaustion

No matter how much power there was in the preceding hexagram it still had its limit. Power is not infinite and sooner or later is exhausted. That is why arising necessarily leads to exhaustion. But merely pointing out this exhaustion is not the point. This situation, like all others, is not permanent, what is important here is how to get out of the situation. This in itself shows possible growth, in the technical term of the Book of Changes ‘accomplishment’. To overcome this situation a person has to be developed, in the language of the book, a great person. Only such a person can get a good outcome here. Their action may produce some talk since not everyone around them will understand that action, but it can safely be ignored because this is a situation in which a person must depend completely on themselves. Therefore the text says:

To the great person—good fortune.
(2) There will be talk (but) it is unfounded.
(1) No blame.[1]

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Ask the Oracle again.
For a superior avatar, good fortune.
No trouble.
You speak, but no one is listening.

[1] The last two lines are reversed in order from the original Chinese text.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

 47 - 3

Crawling on the belly,
Scared witless.
The White Tiger’s gives birth to a descendant,
Ru Shou, the spirit of autumn,[1]
Brings up the rear.
Remaining in the center avoids blame.

[1] The ‘attending spirit’ of the first month of autumn.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 13-MAR-2018

Hexagram 46, judgment text:


Hexagram 46
Old text:

Great sacrifice.
Use to see the great man.
No remorse.
An expedition to the south is fortunate.

New text:

Great success.
Useful to see the great man.
No remorse.
An expedition to the south is fortunate.

There are two hexagrams that represent gradual progress, this one and 53. The difference is that the progress here is like the slow and gradual growth of a tree, where the progress of 53 comes in stages. Thus we may say that Sheng represents an analog development where that of 53 is binary, dividing reality into distinct bands that are differentiated from one another.

The Ma Wang Dui Yi Jing on Silk has profitable instead of useful, so ‘Seeing the great man benefits’.

Field (2015) points out that the etymology of the character had to do with the ascent of heavenly bodies.

Many attempts are made in commentaries over the years to assign some symbolic or cosmological value to the word ‘south’ here. Of course in the way the book was originally used I’m pretty sure it simply meant ‘go south’. But since the text is at once like a textual hologram and a textual maze it also contains the various aspects it has accrued over the millennia of commentary.

The gradual nature of ascending is to be seen in our perception of time over the years of a human life. When we are very young a year seems a great length of time. After all, at ten, a year is ten percent of a child’s time on earth. But as we go along, the years grow shorter even as the teeth grow longer. We look around, and suddenly the sapling has become a tree, the child has grown and started a family. But of course there was nothing sudden about it. This is the gradual and organic nature of the hexagram Arising.


Wood grows in the Earth,
The noble adapts, making small gains,
Attaining to the great and high.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Russian translation of the Yi:

Hexagram 46 Rising

All forces were successfully unified in the previous hexagram. In the current one we have the result of that unification. The structure of the hexagram itself shows us the growth resulting from gathering forces, with Xun, the trigram of wood below and Kun, the trigram of earth above it. This gives us an image of the trees that gather their strength to push up through the soil in the spring. So we have the idea of growth and also its direction…upward. Also entailed in this concept is attaining the stature to be able to see a person of superior development and higher standing. There is no cause to worry about being abandoned. The text has no warnings against danger and just informs us that an expedition to the south benefits. The south is where the sun reaches its fullest brightness, so it is a place where everything is displayed at its maximum. So we read the following in the text:

Primordial perfection.
A meeting with the great man benefits.
Do not grieve.
An expedition to the south is fortunate.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Find a tree growing on a mountain and meditate on its meaning.
Seek the Great Avatar.
Travel South.
Move to the next skill level.

Commentary: The Great Avatar is either a semi-divine figure or a great (noble) leader or teacher. There aren’t actually formal skill levels in Second Life, so the last line is a more general statement.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

46 - 60

‘Progressing daily and advancing monthly’,[1]
Bright the glory of accumulated merit.
A Spiritual Tower raised for observation and enjoyment,[2]
Used to nurture the people.

[1] A line from the Book of Songs, Mao 288.
[2] Tradition holds that King Wen had such a tower that the people built for him. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 12-MAR-2018

Hexagram 46, line 2:

九二 孚乃利用禴。无咎

Old text:

Nine in the Second.
The captives can be used for the Yue sacrifice.
No blame.

New text:

Nine in the Second.
Sincerity makes even a small offering acceptable.
No blame.

In the Xia and Shang dynasties the Yue was a sacrifice offered in the spring. In the Zhou it was offered in the summer. In all cases it was made to the royal ancestors by a king. The difference between circumstances is meaningful in how we interpret the text. In the ancient times of the Xia and Shang sacrificing prisoners of war was common. Thus the rather barbarous old text version. This was a spring sacrifice and most combat occurred in winter in order not to interfere with the agricultural cycle. So in the spring there would be prisoners available from the winter’s campaigns. Summer, even though it is the time of nature’s greatest flourishing, is not a rich season for the food items used in sacrifice; those are available in abundance in the fall. So according to some the Yue sacrifice of later times was a rather humble, frugal affair offered to the ancestors. But as the new text interpretation points out, if given with constancy it was accepted. However, since human sacrifice continued well into the Western Zhou period we may also see the old text version as fitting for the authors of the Yi.

To rise in any hierarchy means looking and moving forward and upward. But at this juncture it is equally important to honor those who went before and those without whom we would not have our present position.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Russian translation of the Yi:

The ability to arise correctly is the main characteristic of the inner veracity shown in the second line. What matters is not how many sacrifices a person makes in ascending, but whether that ascent was straight upward. The text says:

Strong line in the second place.
Be truthful and it (will) make (even a minor) offering beneficial.
No blame.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Acquire a musical instrument.
No trouble.
Subtle trends are profitable in the beginning.
Forest of Changes verse for today:

46 - 56

Yin arises,
Yang collapses.
Tyrant Jie pulls down his residence.[1]
Decorations in place of food,
No rest in a nest made of thorns.

[1] Jie of Xia, last emperor of the Xia Dynasty, tore down the palace three years into his reign and built the ‘tilt palace’, a high walled palace with inclining walls. It is possible that this is a conflated account. Some accounts say that Jie destroyed a ‘Rong’ pyramid (either at a place called Rong or belonging to the Rong tribesmen). Other accounts say that he built a pyramid atop the tilt palace. To my mind it seems that a ‘tilt palace’ is a term for a pyramid, or a building with walls that incline inward, in the general form of a pyramid. His wife Mo Xi was supposedly the factor that drove him into his various excesses. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 08-MAR-2018

Hexagram 15, judgment text.

Hexagram 15
Modesty (Lovebirds)


Old text:

The noble gets results.

New text:

The superior person gets results.

Modesty is not notable for being the only hexagram in the Yi where all the lines are favorable. As in many other places we have a contrast here between the old interpretation of sacrifice and the new one of success. But both point to the same thing: Abundance. In order to have enough to make a great sacrifice a person needs to have plenty. Thus they are successful. For the superior person, the noble person, there is a good outcome here, good fortune in the end. In the original context of the Yi as a text of omens this hexagram is an animal name. Various animals have been proposed, an elephant, a large hamster native to China that is a voracious pest, a lovebird or ‘wedwing’ bird in Field’s (2015) innovative translation (traditionally a pair of birds, each with one wing, only by coming together can they fly, thus an image of love). The character has the speaking radical to the left and a component meaning doubling or combining to the right. Perhaps significantly, a calling lovebird is found in lines two and six, thus the concept of crying out is stressed in the line texts. The concept of the modesty has been associated with the hexagram from at least the date of writing of the Great Treatise.


In the midst of earth, Mountain,
The noble trims the excess and fills in what lacks,
Estimating and balancing all.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Russian translation of the Yi:

Hexagram 15 Humility

Having great possessions would be enough in the world…if the world could stop. But the foundation concept of the teachings here is mutability, how a person should seek harmony in a world that is in constant motion. Thus a halt in development is not halting, it is falling behind and coming into conflict with the world’s progress. So if you stop, even after attaining great achievements, that stopping is not in accord with the world. On the other hand, moving straight forward is not possible because everything has already been attained in the previous hexagram. So the only way to guarantee a future development that is in step with the world is to detach yourself from the achievements of the past. Such a renunciation of personal achievements is called “humility” and is shown by the structure of the hexagram in which the symbol of Mountain is below that of Earth. Mountains tower over the earth, so for one to be below the earth is a very concise summation of humility. This kind of development should not frighten a person because ultimately it is the only kind of development that is possible and it is also productive if it is carried out to completion. These are the thoughts reflected in the text:

Development. The noble person will attain completion.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Fortunate to donate or rate.
Think of the distant future and plan.

Commentary: In the old days of Second Life there was a rating system for avatars. You could complement someone by rating them highly on their appearance, etc.

Forest of Changes verse for today:

15 - 64

A thousand pillars and a hundred beams,
Solid and unbending,
Lasting to the end without collapse.
Benevolent and wise the sages,
Who bring peace to the temple of the Zhou.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Zhou Yi Dao Morning Reading for 07-MAR-2018

Hexagram 18, judgment text:

Hexagram 18

Old text:

Great sacrifice.
Beneficial to cross the great stream.
Three days before the Jia day, Three days after the Jia day.

New text:

Great success.
Beneficial to cross the great stream. 
Three days before the Jia day, Three days after the Jia day.

Kong Zi once said:

"While a man's father is alive, look at the bent of his will; when his father is dead, look at his conduct. If for three years he does not alter from the way of his father, he may be called filial."

Analects 1:11

The inference is that after that three years of mourning he CAN begin to alter those ways, if needed. In physical things we get the cards we are dealt and have to make the most of them. As one old country doctor put it: The best way to have a long, healthy life is to be very careful whom you choose as parents.

There are things we can change about ourselves and things that are so much a part of our nature that we can no more change them than we could change our DNA. This text is about looking at things from a little distance, objectively, to see what we can salvage from the past, what is solid enough to build on and what needs to be cut away.

The Jia day represented the first celestial stem of the Chinese calendar. It shows a time at the start of an enterprise, when a dynasty is established or a new household is set up. It is very important to time such an event correctly, not just arbitrarily pick a date.

The term Gu was also used to describe a poison. Several poisonous creatures were enclosed in a jar for a long period until one had overcome and consumed the others. The venom of that ‘evolved’ vermin was used as a poison.

An interesting variant text of this hexagram is found in the Zuo Traditions of the Spring and Autumn Annals (Schaberg et al., 2016). In the commentary for the Duke Xi, 15.4a we find:

“Diviner Tufu divined with milfoil about this, and the result was auspicious: “Upon crossing the Yellow River, the chariot of the prince will break down.” The Liege of Qin questioned him about this, and the diviner responded, “This is greatly auspicious. After defeating them three times, you are sure to capture the Jin ruler. The hexagram encounter was Pest (18), which says,

A thousand chariots depart three times,
Among those who are left after the three departures,
One captures the male fox.

The fox is a ‘pest’ and surely signifies their ruler. The lower trigram of ‘Pest’ is ‘Wind’; the upper, ‘Mountain,’ the year being now in autumn, we will knock down their fruit and seize their timber. That is how we will prevail. If the fruit falls and the timber is lost, what would one expect but defeat?”

See also Duke Zhao 1.12f in the Zuo Traditions, where we find:

“In the Zhou Changes, when the female bewitches the male, and when the wind falls upon the mountain,[1] that is called a ‘spell’, Gu. All are things of the same sort.”

See also the discussion of shamans and the Gu poison in Boileu, 2013, pp. 62 – 66.


The Mountain has Wood beneath it,
The noble arouses the people,
Inspiring them with virtuous power.

Iulian Shchutskii’s Book of Changes version:

Hexagram 18 (Repairing) The Corrupted

The character used to entitle this hexagram shows a cup which has gone unused for so long that worms are growing in it. This is how corruption is represented. It can also be understood in a figurative sense, showing a peace and calm that has too long kept the country in an ossified hibernation, leading to corruption and decay. An atmosphere of happily following along can only last so long. After that it too begins to decay. In cognition a person can come to some hurried initial conclusions and then blithely move the process forward, distorted by those initial findings. In time that influence grows so strong that the entire situation becomes one of corruption, with cognition itself no longer evident. That is one side of this situation. The other is that we not only have corruption here, but the repair of that corruption inherited from ancestors. That initial repair is just a starting point on which to base further repairs in the course of development. Although the situation is as difficult and dangerous as ‘fording the great river’, it is still beneficial. In spite of that, though, a comprehensive circumspection is called for and an active reinforcement of results achieved. Here, as Ou-Yi says, “Three days are needed to prepare oneself (for action) beforehand, and three days afterward to reinforce (its results).” So we find this in the text:

(Repairing) Corruption.
Primordial development.
Beneficial to ford the great river.
(Be attentive) for three days before and three days after.

Oracle of the Singularity version from Second Life:


Beneficial to rate this place.
Make a positive decision, but consider it for three days before and after.

[1] In Couvreur’s translation ‘when the wind overturns the hill’.
Forest of Changes verse for today:

18 - 36

Choked with vines,
Blossom never turns to fruit.
The schemers and flatterers surround the imperial court,
And the emperor’s benevolence is blocked.