Yet again, I am forced to remind myself (in vain, unfortunately) that all 64 hexagrams in the I Ching are to be taken as equals. Having said that, the twenty-fifth is just overflowing with the kind of wisdom and truth we so desperately need in our days and weeks, especially when we are facing difficulties and trials.
As with so much wisdom and truth in this life, the meaning here is utterly simple: Innocence is defined as operating in accordance with the cycles and principles of nature and the cosmos, with no other motivation. This is the way of heaven. No tricks, no cleverness – what is found in our spirits is true, uncorrupted nature.
Most Christian doctrine teaches us that all people are born “fallen” and “imperfect” – and, indeed, that all of nature and the world of the “flesh” is corrupt and to be renounced. It’s not just Christianity or the Abrahamic religions that tell us this. The entire premise of Buddhism rests in the notion that all existence, including that of the individual, is nothing more than desires and suffering. The I Ching offers us an alternate, indeed, entirely opposite, way of approaching this existence. It is said here that our inner nature is derived from heaven (nature, the cosmos), and this fundamental innocence of nature is always available to us if we seek to follow it. Devotion to this inner purity will cultivate and strengthen us.
Now, this should not be taken to mean that we should just follow all of our gut instincts, because they must all be right. Not all of them are. Following the less innocent instincts we possess is what leads us to misfortune, and it’s being able to tell the difference between what’s truly within (and what is truly the cosmic) and what is not that makes the difference when it comes to the results of our decisions and our plans. If you can, however, figure out which impulses originate from your “heart,” those are the ones to follow, the ones that will lead to success, whatever form that may take.
We are also reminded of a notion that appears quite often throughout virtually all eastern philosophy and religion – don’t do the things that you do only because of results that might theoretically result from them down the line. Do all that you do for its own sake, and let the “results” come what may, all in due course. We must never sacrifice the present for the sake of any imagined future. Of course, that’s not to say that bad things are not going to happen. Sometimes, other people are straight-up going to steal shit from us. They’re going to take advantage of us. A state of innocence and purity does not prevent any of those things from coming to pass, and it’s a huge mistake to assume that it will. Innocence, we are told, does not preclude us whatsoever from protecting ourselves against the threats posed to us by people who are not innocent. Indeed, if we don’t do so, it will be our loss.
At the same time, we must not allow ourselves to be beset by anxiety and fear. We need not indulge either. What is truly yours, what is truly within, what is truly of the cosmos, can never be lost to you. Find that which is universal within you and don’t let go – let what others say and do be damned. In fact, if some bad thing should come to pass, so long as it is external in origin, so long as you allow it to gain no foothold on what you own within, all you need do is relax and let it pass. It will.
Similarly, if you know the time is not right to act, relax and wait. The time will come. Pushing ahead when it is too early will also lead to completely avoidable misfortune.
The overall image directly invoked here is one that should be familiar to us: the thunder of the springtime, which booms down from heaven and invites the life of the earth, asleep for the winter, to come forth in new life. There is a political message in this hexagram, but it’s an extremely simple one. Good rulers and leaders understand the ways and the cycles of the universe and they apply those ways and cycles to the society at large. If all aspects of society – commerce, public behavior, religion, culture, science, engineering – are employed in their proper natural order, the society will be well-run. Simple, on the one hand, for it requires few words to explain, but difficult in terms of the wisdom required to put into practice. It also bears mentioning that the text specifically uses the phrase “rulers of old,” suggesting that such governance was possible once, in a different age, and, since we’re always dealing with cycles here, it will be possible once again.
Fear nothing and go with what you know to be true. Salaam and blessings to us all while we wait.
This post is the twenty-fifth 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.