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Saturday, July 23, 2011

The 'I Ching': Events in Norway

Gro Brundtland, the ex Prime Minister of Norway, who allegedly was targeted by the same right-wing extremist responsible for these recent killings, normally walks about her country without a guard or escort.

It's almost a zero-security country, an idyll of peace until Anders Breivik exploded a bomb in downtown Oslo, and simultaneously went on a killing spree on a remote island with a high powered rifle.

Norway is an exporter of peace to the rest of the world. The world owes a debt to Norway's consistent adherence to peaceful principles, amongst a global rabble of feuding nations. Norway recently contributed to NATO aggressions against Libya, causing many to assume the bomb attack came from a radical Islamic group, such as Al Queda.

But no. The heinous attack came from within. While Breivik's lawyer argues his client's insanity, Norway and the world are puzzled. Why? How could hate distort perceptions so radically, as to turn aggression inwards. Since the event, it has been learned that other cells, and individuals like Breivik are working to accomplish similar ends, in Norway, and throughout Europe.

I thought I would consult the 'I Ching', that bottomless well of Taoist wisdom, on what Norway's response should be, after this terrible series of events.


For those not familiar with the 'I Ching', there's a description of methodology at the end of this post. Much about this great work is available on-line as well.

Here is the first hexagram obtained, in answer to my anxiety about the Norway attacks:

The 'I Ching' shows water, as a metaphor for abysmal anguish, and the circumstances of terrible events.

'Hexagrams' are the heart of the 'I Ching'. They are pictures assembled out of chance coin tosses, composed of six lines. The straight yang lines are lines of light, signifying the creative aspect. The broken yin lines signify darkness,  receptivity. It's how these lines combine with each other that the 64 hexagrams are generated.

Each hexagram is composed of two trigrams, pictures made with three lines, an upper and a lower. In this case #29, The Abysmal, or 'Water' is composed of two trigrams for water, which looks a little like a river running between two banks. Water over water, makes the reading doubly powerful.

The Judgement
The Abysmal repeated.
If you are sincere, you have success in your heart.
And whatever you do succeeds.    fr. the 'I Ching', R.Wilhelm translation, Princeton Univ. Press]

How ironic that the 'I Ching' plunges into the image of water, the day after this horrible tragedy. At least 76 innocents, most of them children, were murdered on Utøya island. Many died trying to swim to safety. At the same time at least 7 died in a bomb attack in the capital.

Water, a symbol of life, is also a symbol of darkness, death, and treachery.

For Norway, water is a symbol of life. Of fjords, lakes, snow, ice. Water means life. The sea. Fish. On it's own "Water" as a first reading for Norway, is exactly what Norway is, a land of water, and mountains. Water is part of Norway's truth.

The 'I Ching' says that Norway's truth is challenged, by the abysmal aspect of human nature, but that if Norway remains sincere as a nation of peace, it will get through this terrible crisis. Water is patient, pure of heart, truthful to itself. Water never lies. So the heart of Norway is truthful, and if it remains sincere in this, will succeed.

Violence invites us to join in violence. The invitation of reactionaries is to become reactionary in defense. Here the 'I Ching' warns against violating the inner truth of water, saying the only course is Norway's peaceful inner nature.

The Image
Water flows on uninterruptedly and reaches its goal'
The image of the Abysmal repeated.
Thus the superior man walks in lasting virtue.
And carries on the business of teaching.     [Ibid.]

Richard Wilhelm the translator of this edition, comments on his bit of translation:

"Water reaches its goal by flowing continually. It fills up every depression before it flows on. The superior man follows its example." [Ibid.]

The true peaceful nature of Norway is being tested. Peaceful determination must fill every depression, move through the pain of loss and suffering, yet remain true to its inner nature. Being a peaceful nation means being peaceful even in response to violent acts.

Here is the reading for the change line:

Six at the beginning means:
Repetition of the Abysmal.
In the abyss, one falls into a pit.
Misfortune.     [Ibid.]

The world is in grief. Norway is in terrible pain. What causes man to commit such terrible acts against fellow men, against innocents? This is a pit, the very essence of the Abysmal. This is Norway acting against herself, turning her water into self-destruction.

But the true 'pit', the one that brings misfortune, is the inappropriate response to such terror. What will this lead to?

Since the first line, a 6 in the first place changes, to a closed line, the second reading becomes:

In the philosophy of the 'I Ching', future influences enter the hexagram from the bottom, and move upwards. So now a lake enters the picture, the 'Abysmal' leads to 'Limitation'.

What sort of limitation?

The two trigrams of this image are K'an above, or Water, (which we covered) and below, Tui, the Joyous, expressed through the image of a Lake. One can see the lake in the lower three lines, a broken line over two solid. The image of the Abysmal, which is associated with the second son, is being softened by the addition of Tui, a Lake, or the youngest daughter, who stands for joy.

The 'Abysmal' Water, which is infinite, pours into a lake, which is finite, but expresses joy.

The Judgment
Limitation. Success.
Galling limitation must not be persevered to.       [Ibid.]

Wilhelm interprets:

"Limitations are troublesome, but they are effective. If we live economically in normal times, we are prepared for times of want. To be sparing saves us from humiliation. Limitation are also indispensable in the regulation of world conditions. . . In the same way, economy, by setting fixed limits upon expenditures acts to preserve property and prevent injury to the people."      [Ibid.]

The 'I Ching' counsels here that limitations, or perhaps a tightening of laws and regulations by a fearful leadership, is not the correct response. Limitations are indispensable in the regulations of world conditions, but too much regulations pose a threat to the true nature of a people:

"But in limitation we must observe due measure. If a man should seek to impose galling limitations upon his own nature, it would be injurious. And if he should go too far in imposing limitations on others, they would rebel. Therefor it is necessary to set limits even upon limitation."      [Ibid.]

The Image
Water over lake: the image of limitation.
Thus the superior man
Creates number and measure
And examines the nature of virtue and correct conduct.     [Ibid.]

"A lake is something limited. Water is inexhaustible . . . In human life too the individual achieves significance through discrimination and the setting of limits. Therefor what concerns us here is the problem of clearly defining these discriminations, which are, so to speak, the backbone of morality."     [Ibid.]

The 'I Ching' makes a case against the fearful imposition of limitations, that might undermine the morality of the Norwegian people. An aberrant situation must not endanger the whole, through an inappropriate response.

The threat from terrorist acts of violence, is not the loss of life, though tragic, but society's own response to such acts.

Senseless violence is on the rise. Governments and peoples must make the correct response to violence, and not destroy themselves in the process.


Determining the Reading:

While tossing the coins, I'm thinking seriously about recent events in Oslo and on Utøya island, wondering what the global, and Norwegian response should be. I shook three ordinary pennies all at once, and tossed them six times:

1st Toss - 6, Three Tails. ___  ___. This is a change line. Yin becomes Yang for the second reading.
2nd Toss - 7, Two Heads, one Tail. Yang, ______.
3rd Toss - 8, Two Tails, one Head,. Yin, ___  ___.
4th Toss - 8, Yin, ___  ___.
5th Toss - 7, Yang, ______.
6th Toss - 8, Yin, ___  ___.

The oracle is consulted through tossing coins, or dividing 49 yarrow sticks to generate 'hexagrams' or pictures made with six lines, which are either 'yin' or 'yang'.

Today I'm using the 3 coin method. where heads = 2, and tails = 3. Each toss of three coins leads to one of the following four results:

2, 2, and 2 or 6, is an yin line, that changes to yang. ___  ___ becomes _____.
2, 2, and 3 or 7 is a yang line. ______.
3, 3, and 2 or 8 is yin. ___  ___
3, 3, and 3 or 9, is yang, that changes to yin. _______ becomes ___  ___. 

The first toss creates the first line that is at the bottom of the hexagram. The second toss creates the line just above it. Change lines are typically recorded as ___o___  (yang changing to yin) or ___ x___ (yin changing to yang).


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