Apple Pie with No Sugar

This is the first post I saw  by Harmen in a Face book group (I referenced it another blog post):

“Think of the Yijing as an apple pie: the text of the Yi are the apples, the commentary & interpretations the sugar in the pie. You taste the pie and you think, “Hmm, that tastes good! That’s good apple pie!.” But what you are actually tasting is the sugar, not the apple. Pretty soon you think you can only eat apple pie with sugar, because without the sugar it doesn’t taste as good – you have become addicted to the sugar. If you would learn to eat apple pie without sugar (is that possible? yes it is possible) you would actually taste the apples instead of the sugar.

Don’t read the commentary or -even worse- an interpretation of the Yijing during a consultation. You are not doing yourself a favor with it. (Law #7 –>…/126-the-ten-laws-of-proper-yijing…)”

The group members were argumentative. I bantered the apple pie metaphor and then asked this question:

“Help me understand with clarity the method of consultation described by Mr. Mesker ” Response

Harmen‘s Response:  “Normally when I ‘read’ a hexagram I see the lower trigram as the questioner (=you), but since the topic is about my method I also see the lower trigram as representative of me & my method.

The lower trigram is Fire. Fire symbolizes your own view, your own truth, how you ‘see’ it. It attaches to what is important to you, it connects to the fuel that allows it to burn. The hexagram and its text (Judgment, line texts) are the fuel. When you connect to it your interpretation becomes visible. Fire symbolizes a personal view, it signifies what you find important.

The upper trigram represents your surroundings, everything outside you. Here it is Heaven: authority, leaders, choosing direction, guiding. That is what commentary (which is outside you) does: it leads you, takes you by the hand, often because you give it authority. Heaven tells you what to do and how to do it, whether you agree with it or not.

We have Fire, symbolizing attachment, your own truth, accompanied by Heaven which is authority and guiding. These two are connected by the two moving lines: the 3rd line is the top line of the lower trigram whereas the 4th line is the first line of the upper trigram. The top line of a trigram signifies (coming to a) conclusion, ending, fulfillment, closing off the trigram. The first line of a trigram means initiating, starting the trigram. To me this means that you first have to find and conclude your own view (Fire) before you can start with that of somebody else who you regard as authority (Heaven). First Fire, then Heaven. If you would skip the first step then there would be no Fire, no connection – there would only be Heaven that tells you what to do.

When we look at the baoti 包體, the trigrams that surround the nuclear trigrams, we see that both trigrams that we just discussed are also restraining factors for other trigrams: Heaven (line 1, 5 and 6) restrains Wind (line 2, 3 and 4), while Fire (line 1, 2 and 6) restrains Heaven (line 3, 4 and 5). Heaven (=commentary) can restrain curiosity, can keep you from going deep, look at the details, work on the long term instead of the short term. Fire ( = your own view/interpretation) restrains Heaven ( =commentary): when you have found your own view/interpretation the commentary does not have to be leading anymore. Your own interpretation can keep the commentary from becoming dominant.

The two moving lines both belong to the Talents of Man (1 & 2 belong to the Talents of Earth, 5 & 6 belong to the Talents of Heaven). The Talents of Man tells about relationships, how we handle and approach other people, how you (could) function in human society. The Talents of Man connect both trigrams, which might tell that how we relate the material to each other, how we share and connect our own view (Fire) combined with those outside of ourselves (Heaven) with each other is part of my method. This is not about Telling the Truth, this is about finding and sharing your own understanding of the hexagram and combining that with views outside of you that you regard as authoritative. To be able to do the latter you must be able to do the first.

On to the text. The 3rd line says 伏戎于莽。升其高陵。三歲不興。 “Hiding weapons in the thick grass. Climbing the high hill. For three years he does not rise.” This line is in the lower trigram Fire and tells how I think you should handle your own view of the hexagram and its text: you should not attack it nor can it be attacked by someone else, and you should not use it as means to attack someone else his view. You should ‘climb’ your own interpretation as if it were a hill and thus allow yourself to see the broader landscape that is contained in your own interpretation. This takes time, you cannot hurry it. Only when the cycle is complete, when you have found your own understanding of the answer of the Yi, you can rise and move further.

The 4th line says 乘其墉。弗克攻。吉。 “Defending the city wall. (They) cannot attack. Auspicious.” Cheng 乘 has many meanings. Considering the context of the line text I choose ‘defend’ which is a legitimate meaning of the character but I am aware that other choices are also possible and equally valid. This line is the 1st line of trigram Heaven so it might say something about that trigram. The city wall is that which protects you and those close to you, it shields you from that which is outside you and could harm you. The translators’ commentary is the city wall: it should protect your own understanding, view and interpretation of the answer of the Yi, instead of attacking it.

This is how I ‘read’ the hexagram. As you see I don’t use commentary. If I would have read Wilhelm’s commentary then I would have read “Here fellowship has changed about to mistrust. Each man distrusts the other, plans a secret ambush, and seeks to spy on his fellow from afar. We are dealing with an obstinate opponent whom we cannot come at by this method. Obstacles standing in the way of fellowship with others are shown here. One has mental reservations for one’s own part and seeks to take his opponent by surprise. This very fact makes one mistrustful, suspecting the same wiles in his opponent and trying to ferret them out. The result is that one departs further and further from true fellowship. The longer this goes on, the more alienated one becomes.” Which is completely different from how I see this line text within the context of your statement, “Help me understand with clarity the method of consultation described by Mr. Mesker”. The text of the Yi does not talk about an ‘opponent’ yet Wilhelm brings this opponent up. The tone of Wilhelm’s interpretation is quite negative, which I don’t understand because the line text does not say that this line is xiong 凶, ‘inauspicious’. Wilhelm’s commentary would have garbled up, ‘attacked’ my own interpretation of the hexagram which is not what it should do.

Anyway, this is my ‘method’, if you can call it such. I tried to read the hexagram in a way that explains how I see commentary and how it should be used: only use it when you have formed your own opinion. Unfortunately most users are dependent on it and do not dare to consult the Yi without it. Therefore I think it is best not to read it at all.

Of course I am completely biased in this matter and I am my own blind spot. But this is how I see the hexagram as related to your request to the Yi to “Help me understand with clarity the method of consultation described by Mr. Mesker”.

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