Hilary Barrett, I Ching

Hexagram 46, Pushing Upward (step 2 – trigrams)

The trigrams of Hexagram 46 seem to embody its nature particularly clearly.

Earth

::: - the trigram kun, earth

 

contains wood

:|| - the trigram xun, wood

 

- a straightforward picture of a germinating seed.

The Image says:

‘Centre of the earth gives birth to wood. Pushing upward.
A noble one with patient character,
Builds up small things to attain the high and great.’

The authors of the Image were always quite deliberate in the words they chose to express inner and outer trigrams. Wood isn’t merely below or inside earth, but at its centre; it doesn’t just ‘happen’, but earth ‘gives birth to’ it. (The verb is elegantly chosen, too: its character originally shows a growing plant.)

Havingan inner nature ofxun, wood, suggests an inner tendency to move and grow, finding a way round or through. It isn’t forced; it does not occasion resistance. It’s instinctive, gentle,natural.

The work of the hexagram, exemplified by the noble one, is to turn an earth-like attention to this deep growing nature. The noble one has patientde – that multifaceted word that means not just a tamely abstract ‘virtue’ but also the power of intrinsic character.Patient de is the power to obey and follow along in a given direction: earth’s power, which opens space for growth and provides what is needed. It acts to allow a whole potential to be realised.

(You can see kun doing the same work in other hexagrams where it’s the outer trigram: closing borders in 24, accepting and nurturing in 7, supporting and protecting in 11… in each case, providing for the particular needs of the inner trigram.)

The noble one with earth-decan accumulate small things to attain something great. In readings, this hexagram counteracts that human tendency to want to have done it all already, as soon as we think of it – a tendency that can lead to discounting or altogether rejecting the first signs of growth because it’s ‘not enough’ (not big enough, not far enough, not good enough…). Which makes about as much sense as crushing a seedling’s first shoot because it’s not an oak tree. You only get a pile of grain (the original meaning of ‘accumulate’) by piling up grains; when climbing a mountain, you can’t miss out the first step.

And in the spirit of the hexagram, I’ll publish just this little post, and climb into moving lines and hexagrams of context later…

seedling pushing upward

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