XXIV. The Turning Point

Hexagram 24: Return (The Turning Point)
Hexagram 24: Return (The Turning Point)

Well, we made it through yesterday’s depressing meander, and it’s as though the text itself possesses some human quality of kindness, for we are rewarded today with that terrible symbol’s exact opposite. Yesterday was the Dead End, today we see the Turning Point. As with the previous one, the basic meaning here is readily apparent from the appearance of the hexagram, even to a novice. Once again, we have only one light line, but it’s on bottom, emerging into the world of darkness. In the moment depicted here, darkness has already had its day, and it’s time for the light to come back and start chasing away all the shadows.

Somebody's Gotta Do It
Somebody’s Gotta Do It

Perhaps predictably, if the Dead End was associated with the terminally short days of late October and November, the Turning Point is what comes after, late December and early January. In other words, it’s the winter solstice we’re talking about here, that point at which the longest night is arrived upon and passed through, and the days begin to grow once more. Just as we celebrate our winter festivals like Christmas at this time of the year, we are showered here with practically unadulterated success. We’ve endured the time of decay and weakness and now it’s over. The light was once practically banished from the sky altogether, but now shines brightly, cutting the darkness down more and more with each and every day.

In the common terminology of our everyday lives, this is a time of new beginnings. Without any effort, the old is tossed aside to make way for the new life that is to come. Among our peers and countrymen, it is natural in this time for new associations of the like-minded to form, but here, we are specifically told, these groups come together in full light of day. There is no exclusivity, there are no secrets, and there is correspondingly no opposition, either.


Just as the Dead End was an unavoidable force of the cosmic cycle, an element of universal experience tied not to action and choice but to fate and seasonality, the Turning Point is of the exact same character. None of what happens here is done by force. It’s all spontaneous, all natural. All in accordance with the time and the season. You can’t hurry it, and indeed, you shouldn’t try. There is no need! In the last hexagram, we are admonished essentially to cower in a corner, waiting for a storm to pass, but here we’re out in open water underneath the sun, we’re leaping atop our space-faring surfboards and we’re riding this wave all the way into shore, baby. The meaning of everything in the universe can be boiled down to the doctrine of eternal return, and while previously we feared it and endured it, now is the time at which we greet it with joy and celebration.

And if you thought all of this couldn’t get any better, this is also a time at which we can even afford to make small mistakes with almost zero repercussions whatsoever! Take a few careless steps off the path and into the bush? No problem! Here at the Turning Point, we realize our mistakes and simply walk back and correct our course. Simple as that. Ever get the irresistible urge, even when things are good and peaceful, even when there is no rhyme or reason behind the urge, to just flail flagrantly into doing the exact wrong thing? You know, like when you know damn well it’s wrong and ill-advised but you just can’t stop yourself from doing it anyway? That’s still okay, because here at the Turning Point we can indulge our base failings and still return instantly and with little corrective action to doing the right thing. It’s as if we’re given a pass that says “No Harm, No Foul.”

This is not to say we will never find ourselves having something required of us at the Turning Point. It’s a wonderful time and a wonderful season, but it’s not a complete free-for-all. Sometimes a certain chosen course, possible only through deeply cultivated self-mastery, is demanded of us. Should we encounter this, know that it’s time for us to follow the good examples of the superior and wise among us, even in times when such following might injure our pride. We’re also advised that now is a good time to surround ourselves with good friends in our walk along this turning path. Indeed, even in such a time of hope and promise, we may find ourselves surrounded in a land or environment filled with the dark and the base people, against whom the whole of nature has now turned but whom still cling to their power and their positions even as they decline and are stripped away. These people, unfortunately, are not out of your way yet. Continuing to try and follow the examples of good people, or even a particular wise teacher with a spirit of light, you’ll know if it’s time to simply walk out of the shallow world that’s familiar to you. You need to do this even if nothing is promised to you as reward, but paradoxically this path will almost certainly lead to later success and good fortune.

Even as we are admonished not to try and hasten the light’s return or to manipulate it in any way, we must still remain ready when the time comes. It goes back to the surfing analogy we visited earlier – if you’re going to catch the wave, you’ve got to be ready to jump on the board. In this way, this is neither the time to get distracted by silly nonsense or to avoid hard truths. In fact, upon arrival at the Turning Point, we should honestly examine ourselves inwardly, sincerely determining whether there is anything wrong about our current disposition or anything wrong we have done in particular. Identifying any such injustice or imbalance within ourselves, we are given here an opportunity to make it right. If we do so, just as we rise up to catch the wave, they payoff down the line will be huge.

Doing all of this in costume is 100% optional.
Doing all of this in costume is 100% optional.

At the same time, great and hopeful and optimistic as this hexagram might be, it is possible to fuck it up. If you start off stubborn and you stay that way, if you have the wrong attitude about your world or the universe as a whole, and if you persist in these errors, you’ll miss the moment altogether. The results for you are not going to be pretty, and you’d better hope that your utterly unnecessary and colossal blunder does not lead into a complete regression to the dreaded Dead End.

Stay conscious of the dangers and the pitfalls here, but in closing it’s important to reemphasize the sheer awesomeness and joy of this hexagram. Find yourself here and, even if you should never drop your guard or your discipline entirely, you can look up in the sunlight and smile at what’s in front of you. Just as the solstice is a time for great celebration and joy, the early time of the winter needs also to be a time of rest in order to fully charge oneself for the new world and new year that is soon to come. The light is returning, but this is only the beginning. The victory is inherent in what we’re experiencing now, but the victory isn’t here yet. The emerging light is still weak and it’s folly to the extreme to try and stretch it too thin too soon. Indeed, while this is a time at which we are encouraged to force and manipulate very little, the time will soon be upon us when our effort is demanded. Knowing this well in advance, we rest now with smiles on our faces, gathering our strength within our warm feelings of hope and getting ready for whatever the new year has in store.



This post is the twenty-fourth of sixty-four in our Days of Change series exploring each hexagram of the ancient Chinese I Ching one by one. To sample others in this series – or go wild and read from the beginning – go here.

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