Thursday, 3 December 2009


Photo by Rosa Yoskovsky

In our Yi Jing study group last week, we looked at Hexagram 7, SHI, which Huang translates as 'Multitude', and Bradford as “The Militia”. The hexagram is composed of five yin lines, led by one yang, in the second place, the position of an Ambassador (in peacetime) or the General of the Army (in time of war).

It's about leadership, when and how to mobilize group energy, and the difficulties of leading it: will it be a mob or a movement? Not least, it describes the importance of a return to normalcy when the task has been accomplished.

The Rogue River Commentary on the Judgement reads:

To the extent that life is good it may need to be defended, safe in its many scenarios, with resources, means and wherewithal arranged for multiple uses, ready to adapt, with both strength and wealth secured by a healthy diversity. But all of this attention paid to being secure is best if gone when not needed, leaving only a small contingent of vigilant ones to watch the gates and horizons, set to emerge in emergencies only, and not just standing by, rattling swords....Would that all states were ad hoc like this, and sunset all laws when done and go home. This can refer to one person as well, a mature one taken as model, a pool of resources, a population of selves, the readiness of one’s reserves to meet the time’s conditions....”

We are all, as Brad says, a population of selves, each of us a multitude. Most of the time, when people come to me for psychotherapy, they are grappling with parts of themselves that were mobilized at a particular time for a particular purpose, and have stayed with that agenda long after the moment has passed. Like the Japanese soldiers who hid out in the jungle for forty years, unaware the war had ended, or the old woman in the village who keeps her curtains drawn for fear of violating blackout laws, they are stuck in a time warp, responding to situations that no longer exist.

Parts of ourselves can become renegades, like the Ronin, the Samurai who were not in the service of a feudal lord. Samurai were professional warriors who were bound by strict codes of honour to a Daimyo (feudal lord). At various times in Japanese history, these codes were so rigid that if the Daimyo died, or was disenfranchised or dishonoured, his Samurai were expected to commit ritual suicide. Those who did not became social exiles, reduced to finding work as mercenaries, or becoming thieves or revolutionaries.

We all carry parts of ourselves that are holdovers from former, younger, lives: frightened children, indignant adolescents, disillusioned idealists, naïve lovers. They are often exiled to the periphery of our consciousness because the feelings they carry are painful, and sometimes dangerous to the lives we want to lead. Who wants the frightened child inside them coming forward at that board meeting, or a stroppy teenager taking centre stage when you first meet your future in-laws? So there is another army of policing parts that keep these exiles under control, trying, with varying degrees of success, to maintain our private public order, usually by threatening, cajoling, and shaming the exiles into a skittish silence. Other parts dictate behaviour intended to protect the most vulnerable parts from danger, but like the others, running a human life from an old script sometimes has tragi-comic consequences.

This well-intentioned ragtag crew rides along with us like a busload of Keystone Cops and squalling children, shaping our personalities and skewing our lives.

How do we disband these armies, rehabilitate our Ronin, and return them to useful service?

Ultimately, we need to listen, hear their stories, bring them up to speed on our lives, offer them leadership. And in order to do that we have to recognize that we are not just a collection of parts, a catalog of experiences.

Huang's etymology for SHI has the lefthand part of the character signifying a multitude, and the righthand part denoting a circle or the action of 'going around'. He takes its meaning as a mass of people circling a pivot; thus, by extension, a master or teacher who deserves respect from society.

We are the pivot our parts circle around: an organizing principle, an essence that is 'not this, not that', not separate, but a face of the Divine as it manifests in and through us.

1 comment:

Hilary said...

Hi Cesca! I enjoyed this, thank you - interesting thoughts on how that inner multitude can make its presence known. I think the authors of the Image knew what they were about when they laid emphasis on the noble one accepting people like earth accepts water - not subjecting them to a careful selection and qualification process ;) . That's generally good advice for the inner crowds also.

Oh, and about the central pivot - don't you think that at times receiving hexagram 7 is a cue to ask yourself what everything's revolving around?