XII. When Earth Feels Like Mars

Hexagram 12: Standstill (Stagnation)
Hexagram 12: Standstill (Stagnation)

If you read the previous post in the Days of Change series, you may remember that I very much appreciate the 11th hexagram. This, the 12th, is its opposite.

I don’t like it.

I try not to be like that, but this just generally represents something I don’t usually want to talk about. When I conduct my weekly divination with the I Ching, and I get back number twelve as an answer, I groan and prepare for the worst. If the last one was something like planet Earth – comfortable, beautiful, filled with water and life – this one is like Mars, cold and sandy and sucked dry of moisture and movement. The previous hexagram talked of a Golden Age and this one talks of a Dark one.

But this is the kind of dynamic, living text that continues to surprise even a self-proclaimed sometimes-jaded scholar like myself, and upon studying it for the purposes of this post, I discovered – to no one’s surprise – that my distaste was misplaced. If ever there was a lesson that hexagrams are not “good” or “bad” but simple “are,” it is this one. Very quickly, I came to the conclusion that twelve is perhaps just as beautiful as eleven, and is almost certainly more useful.

After all, are we in a Golden Age right now? Not by a long shot. Is this something of a Dark Age? Probably. If it isn’t, I’d hate to see what a real Dark Age is like. It stands to reason, therefore, that information that pertains to a situation we’re actually in is probably more helpful on a day-to-day basis than information that pertains to a situation we are not in.

Tell me I’m wrong.

Yeah, of course, there’s still the fact that maybe I just don’t wanna talk about this dark crap or think about it or study it – but even at my most stubborn, I can’t get away from the notion that it would be helpful to understand the Dark Age, to know a little bit about how to handle it, and understand what we can expect to follow.

Here, heaven and Earth are moving away from one another. We are not acting in concert with the cosmos and we are not acting in harmony with nature. We watch helplessly as superficial-minded people gain power and rise up over the wise and the just and the kind. There is standstill, there is decline. It’s not pretty, but who can say it’s not true? On the Wheel of the Year, the text tells us that this is like August and September. Now that the light has long passed its high point, we’re on the down hill slope.

The simple admonition we are given early on is to remain firm. Keep your principles. Keep your joy. Keep your truth and kindness. Don’t be broken by the weight of bad times and bad conditions. If you can’t make it better, either for others or for yourself, keep the faith and withdraw from the madness as much as you possibly can.

In the first line of hexagram eleven, we are shown a person called into public service to act in the name of the people, and she brings with her other like-minded and talented individuals to form an effective and just team. Here, the first line depicts the inverse – the superior person withdraws from the unhealthy society, and other like-minded and talented and just people are drawn to go with her out of it. These are the people who keep their own selves amid the dry desert of dark times.

In such an age, as we continue to try and hold true to what is right and holy, we will watch as sleeping and dangerous people flatter and manipulate their way into good graces with the powerful. Hold on, everybody. Keep cool. Don’t start playing that kind of game and, if you yourself have some measure of clout or position, don’t let the other people work this kind of scheme on you. Keep going and hold on. The thing is, when the wrong people illegitimately worm their way into powerful positions, they know it on the inside. Eventually, this always manifests itself on the outside. When they fall, this marks a turning point for us, the point at which things can begin to get better.

They do get better, after all. The cycle always continues on.

And when that blessed time comes, that moment when the Dark Age really is about to begin to come to an end, we may (almost definitely) want to help out. We’ll want to contribute towards turning things around and making them right. It’s important, good intentions nonetheless, that we are honest with ourselves as to whether we are equal to the task we set out to do. If we’re not, and we try to do it anyway, it won’t end well, and we might miss out on the better days ahead. Being so honest in your head, though, if you really are capable of pitching in, when you see the signs that the time is right, get to work immediately! Jump in. What could be better than a lightening of the times?

The day may, in fact, come when it is time to overthrow the illegitimate pretender power game. Simply due to laws of the cosmos, the present regime is going to fall, but in such times where we might become ensnared in the trap of inevitability, it is most important that we don’t relax. The way to win here is to be utterly cautious in everything that we do. Don’t let yourself feel safe yet. Don’t let yourself rest yet. Keep careful and pay attention to your own every move to be certain it is the right one. If you control your behavior in this way, success and an even bigger dawn lay ahead.

I’ll be the first to point out that this is a difficult balance. You’ve got to stay out of things when things are most dark but be ready to jump back into them the moment the light and the water begin to return. The text is very clear – an end to the Dark Age is entirely unavoidable, but it will never happen without the effort of people. The right person has got to step up at the right time, and you’ve got to be ready in case that might be you.

In the meantime, though, stay out of the spotlight. Nothing you do in the public sphere is going to come to good ends. Despite the occasional temptation that might come your way, there is no benefit to joining the dark and illegitimate society. Take yourself out of it and nurture what you know to be true until the time is right for all of us to rise again.

Earth. Salaam.


This Days of Change piece is thetwelfth 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 eleven posts from the beginning, go to this place.

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