It is important to remember that studying the I Ching is not about picking favorites or which hexagram is the best and which hexagram sucks. But I have always been consistent in my willingness to break my own rules, and, as I did with the wonderful eighth hexagram, I will state openly that the eleventh hexagram is just an undeniable pleasure to read and to ponder and to discuss. After all, the condition described here is that of heaven on Earth, the dead center of what we can all recall deep within the archetypes of our mind as the forgotten and long-lost Golden Age. Heavens on Earth and Golden Ages are, in fact, real, the I Ching tells us; in fact, they are but one of sixty-four stages in the cycle of the cosmos. Through examining the nature of this particular stage, however, we gain knowledge of nature, politics, and our own selves.
What we’re examining is represented within the year by the time period we’ve just completed, February and March. Nature is busy preparing for the new spring, when heaven and earth–or, more precisely, the Creative force and the Receptive force, yin and yang–meet one another, they do so in harmony and new life and prosperity rule the day everywhere. An abiding peace settles over all people, a peace accompanied by blessings seemingly raining down from the stars upon the whole of our world. Kings and titans of industry work side by side with the chronically unemployed, and the average worker holds no animosity towards his superiors. Even on the smallest scale, in our own personal lives, all feuds are ended.
This involves at its center the eruption of a torrent of energy, and in order for this energy to do any good, there must be a leader (or a committed leadership class) able and willing to harness it and regulate it. I use that word hesitantly because I do not mean to give the impression that I’m talking about anything tyrannical or even vaguely bureaucratic. The regulation undertaken by these leaders on this massive, maybe even atomic, level of energy is like the regulation of a clock with hours and minutes, the regulation of the year into seasons and phases. It’s implementation of order, but instead of the usual kind of vain hubris (or arbitrary/discriminatory) order, we’re talking about the highest order of accordance with the planet and with the cosmos surrounding her–and us. When the leaders properly channel the forces of nature in order to cultivate them, the effects of this cultivation on nature in turn cultivate and bless the people.
At the onset of such a wondrous epoch, there are people who will be able and ready to take care of the work of society, and these people will draw others of similar ability and thought to surround them and collaborate together. The thing to remember is, this group of people, growing strong together, do not–in a Golden Age with heaven on Earth, anyway–turn themselves into a faction designed to work for the mutual benefit of one another. This isn’t about them, not as a group, and not as individuals. It’s about doing the work that society needs done for society, for all people, because it is a form of duty and nothing more. It’s not for fame or money or connections, but is only for doing what needs to be done–perhaps the purest form of politics. Because they do not lack in tolerance and do not imbibe the wine of superiority, they bear with the imperfect people and even the lazy people, and meet them with kindness and not censure, for they know that in such a magical and sun-drenched time, even the lowest of the low have their part to play.
Indeed, the Golden Age is the age in which the mighty and the powerful take it upon themselves, not of guilt or guile or public relations or marketing but out of sincerity and desire, to work alongside the common man. She does not lose her wealth or even her stature, but she does not lord it over the “lesser” people. She knows they are all one and the same. (It may be worth remembering that it is essentially only in a Golden Age that the high and wealthy will recognize their own universal humanity. Adjust expectations accordingly.) Not only that, but in the Golden Age, with heaven on Earth, those who find themselves as rulers and leaders require their family members and confederates to follow the same laws and customs as everybody else. While that may sound elementary, actually following this policy to the letter attracts good fortune and good will to a society like a moth before a flame.
Freedom and cooperation and peace on Earth, good will to men.
But, lest we forget so quickly in our reverie, this is not the end result or final condition of anything. You can’t make the imposition of a Golden Age or ensnaring heaven with knots and bonds to the surface of the earth your ultimate and singular goal. Not only can such times not be brought about by will or force–only by the changing seasons of the universe, the turning of the endless wheel–but they don’t last. They change. It’s not due to any fault in their structure or fatal weakness slow to kill. It’s due to the fact that nothing lasts. Everything changes. As soon as something arrives, it is beginning to depart. That is the essence of this entire ancient text. It’s not something to be bummed out about. So you can’t keep evil down forever? That’s the way of things, and the way to always remain on friendly terms with good fortune is to work your spirit until it is strong enough that it’s unaffected by the turning of the wheel, unattached to any particular period of time, even a golden era of peace and prosperity. Accept the transitory nature of it before it happens. When it does happen, when you feel the security and warmth of the Supreme Sublime Good Times, even the golden streets and gates of the beautiful Cosmic Zion slipping back down into the mud and slowly getting swallowed by the crust of the planet, don’t be surprised. Don’t even be alarmed. Most of all, don’t try to prevent it from happening with wild violence, flailing out like a man thrashing his fists at God/the-empty-sky. You’ll only make it hurt more. Good times come and then they go. If the goodness within you doesn’t depend upon a Golden Age in order that it may flower, your success can be found in any Age and at any stage.
The last bit of truth you can carry with you back into whatever epoch you’re living in this morning is this: if the forces of good in any given society or workplace or town or environment are positioned in the middle of things, in a place from which they can exercise control, these forces really can manipulate the levers at their disposal to dispatch and subdue even the most evil of the elements in the land. In the same way, within your own self, if you let your own higher nature, the nature of heaven and the cosmos, occupy the center of your mind and your being, it won’t be long before you find yourself wholly transformed.
This Days of Change piece is the eleventh post in a series of 64 posts examining the 64 hexagrams of the ancient Chinese I Ching over the course of 2013. If you want to dig a little deeper, learn a little more about the I Ching, or even read the other ten posts from the beginning, go to this place.
One thought on “XI. Heaven on Earth – the New Old-Fashioned Zion”