9 Power of the Meek > 48 The Well/Source < 38 Differences
Hexagram #9, The Power of Humility: there are two ideographs that demonstrate the meaning of this gua. The first ideograph denotes “little.” It is made up of three strokes, one to the left and one to the right, with the third vertical stroke going all the way from top to bottom between the left and right strokes. This character symbolizes an act of dividing. To the ancient sages, things become little after division.
The second ideograph consists of two parts. The lower one represents a field, and the upper part represents two piles of grass stored one upon the other with a cover on the top. The whole ideograph is a picture of storing up or accumulating. [Huang]
On 4/6 I enquired about RFK as a Presidential Candidate in upcoming US Federal elections. On 4/8 I enquired about President Xi’s geopolitical intentions, essentially asking whether or not he was a good, well-intentioned world leader type or not. On 4/11 I enquired ‘what makes for a meaningful life?’
All three throws responded by offering up Hexagram #9 which Wilhelm translates as ‘The Taming Power of the Small.’ What is meant by ‘taming power’ is that the single yin line is the master of the other five yang lines. Since yang is usually regarded as dominant to yin’s submissive, this is a reversal of sorts, hence the notion of ‘taming.’ The single yin tames the five yangs, which together represent a situation involving great power or great potential. Only Hexagram #1, with all six lines being yang, is more powerful this way.
Now Hexagram #9 is one of six hexagrams with five yang lines and one yin line. Starting with the single yin at the bottom they are:
#44 – Coming to Meet or Intercourse
#13 – Fellowship with Men
#10 – Treading (on the tail of the tiger!)
#9 – Power of the Meek
#14 – Possession in Great Measure
#43 – Breakthrough, Proclamation
Note that 9 & 10 are paired, as are 14 & 14 and 43 & 44. The first three have Heaven Above and something else below depending upon where the single yin line below is, and the last three have Heaven Below and something else depending on where the single yin line above is.
Hexagram #9 has the yin line in the fourth place which is typically described – in political-hierarchical terms – as the line of the Minister (who serves the Ruler in the 5th place as opposed to the Sage – above all such things – in the sixth place). So not only do we have one yin line controlling five yang lines, but also this particular one in #9 is in the subordinate Line 4 position. So this position emphasizes the humility aspect of yin controlling or ruling yang.
There is no such material thing as yin or yang. They are abstract comparative terms, or polarities if you prefer. The warm sun-facing side of a mountain is yang, and the cooler side in shadow is yin. This makes immediate experiential sense but is a constantly changing variable as the sun moves across the sky from dawn until dusk. Hence the Book of Changes (I Ching): everything is always changing and yet there are recognizable patterns or situations, such as the mountain example above.
There are also three main levels of experiential reality assumed in the I Ching world view that are not often mentioned because they are so fundamental. (I also suspect various masters of yore deliberately didn’t want to spell everything out to obviously.) These three are called Heaven, Earth and Man about which more upcoming, hopefully.
In a hexagram, the top two lines are Heaven, the bottom two lines are Earth and the middle two lines are Man. According to some texts cited later on in most editions, the reason for having six-line hexagrams instead of simple three-line trigrams is to give Heaven Earth and Man two lines each. In any case, both individual trigrams and hexagrams have a Heaven Earth and Man structure that is instantly apparent to anyone brought up in this worldview. Let’s look at the three different levels, or aspects, briefly:
Heaven sets the overall mood or context, like the sky in a landscape.
Earth complements that overall mood or context, like the terrain in a landscape.
For example, when you have a bright sunny day with only a few puffy white clouds, the landscape below – trees, fields, cattle, small town on a hillside in the distance, all complement the initial tone set by the sky. But if the sky is dark, brooding, menacing, or even spewing down heavy rain, then the Earth complementing it will also look and feel different from how it did before; it will have darkers shadows, more gloomy areas, the town will look less cheerful and so forth.
Then comes MAN. All three aspects are experiential, but Man is the most dynamic in that it specifically references human agency. You have the sky, you have the terrain (in our example) then you have how it is all put together. For example, the MAN principle involves how the fields are shaped and tended for; how many and well looked after are the cattle; the architectural style and taste of the small town – does it have nice church spires or domes or is it a huddled mass of lowly cattle sheds with a communal field for defecation etc.?
The sky, terrain, man example above is easy to understand, but it’s just an example. You can learn to pick up on these three aspects, or principles, in all experiences, both inner and outer. In terms of our selves, for example, we have mind (heaven), body (earth) and feelings/processes/experiences (Man). Or morally we could say that we have a sense of what is ideal (Heaven), a plethora of situations that happen to us – our family, our town, our society, various events etc. – (Earth) and how we handle them (Man) – do we become a better and wiser person over time or do we become a lowlife, evil-doing demon?
Some people see them in artistic disciplines, such as flower arranging. The first branch or flower placed is Heaven. Then something lower down complements it. Then finally Man is placed bringing the whole thing into some sort of dynamic life.
Note that in the article linked in the caption to the picture above, though Heaven Earth and Man are referenced as being fundamental principles, they are not explained. A similar thing is evidenced in I Ching / YiJing editions.
In the above picture, Heaven is the upper flowers including the long stems. Traditionally they are placed first to set the overall mood or space. The Earth are the green leaves and the lowest brownish flowers. They will be placed second. Finally Man is placed, here the yellow flowers which makes the whole thing come alive. Note how some of Earth is above Man (the higher green leaves). It is possible to make an arrangement with Heaven at the bottom; possibly but not easy. In any case, to the classically educated Asian mind, societies all configure to Heaven Earth and Man principles and one can easily tell which societies accord with them nicely and which do not. Respect for authority is a given, for example, since if Man is fighting with Heaven, there can be no peace, no appreciation for the inherent beauty and majesty of things as they are. If revolutions are necessary, their function should be to restore proper appreciation and awareness of harmonious Heaven, Earth and Man societal configuration.
Well, all this was a sidetrack to explain a little more about the significance of Line 4 in Hexagam #9. Put another way: what difference does it make if the yin line is in #1, #3, #4 or #5? Well, first of all it is up to the interpreter of course! But also one can develop one’s own feelings and responses, one of which might include Heaven Earth and Man considerations.
Doing so in this case, Line #4 is the upper of the two Man lines (lines 3 & 4). Line 4 is part of the upper trigram Wind and Line 3 is part of the lower trigram Heaven. Man traditionally is said to ‘join’ Heaven and Earth and with these two lines it is in contact with both the upper and lower parts of the Hexagram.
Turned into a hexagram, they become #38 with Fire above and Lake below, each of which includes the two Man lines. So one effect of the yin line being in the fourth place is what sort of Nuclear you get. Again going from bottom to top starting with the yin line in the first place:
1st line #44 Nuclear: #1
2nd line #13 Nuclear: #44
3rd line #10 Nuclear #37
4th line # 9 Nuclear #38
5th line #14 Nuclear #43
6th line #43 Nuclear #1
Note also how the Nuclears are paired: 1 &2, 44 & 43, 37 & 38. This shows the internal structure in play and also how the numbering of the Hexagrams from 1 to 64, each in a pair, reflects some of this underlying structure even though it is not immediately apparent as such.
Why are Nuclears important? Again, it is up to the interpreter. Some don’t pay any attention to them at all and get very helpful Readings nonetheless. But for those who do like them, here are some of my impressions based partly on the position and partly on Heaven Earth and Man considerations.
Nuclear, the basic position: If we look at how it is formed, we see that the lower trigram of 38 comes from lines 2,3 & 4 of Hexagram #9, and the upper trigram comes from lines 3,4 and 5 of Hexagram #9. This means that lines 3 & 4 feature in both, whereas lines 2 and 5 only appear in the lower and upper Nuclear trigrams respectively, and of course lines 3 & 4 are the two Man lines, about which more later.
To me what the Nuclear represents is the internal process aspect of whatever the main Hexagram, in this case #9, is presenting. In the case of this particular query, the question is about the Meaning of Life for all of us, so the subject matter is somewhat general and dealing with universal issues and principles, perhaps, rather than any particular or immediate specifics. In this context, what might the lower versus the upper aspects be? Let us say that the former are represented by Nuclear’s lower trigram Lake and the latter are represented by Nuclear’s upper trigram Fire. We can go to the commentary for their hexagram, #38 for guidance or ideas, or we can make them up ourselves based on our sense of what trigrams Lake and Fire represent.
Now: it may be interesting to note that only Hexagram #9 gives us Nuclear #38 so this particular Nuclear tells us much about the particular dynamics involved with this particular Hexagram #9. So, come to think of it, this is at least one good reason for paying attention to the Nuclear. And in this case we can examine #38 in the light of #9 which has this theme of the humble being the Ruler. We are not using this Reading to examine a marriage or a business venture, rather a broad question about ‘the meaning of life’ and in the more specific context of how Hexagram #9 might relate to that query.
So we have Lake Below, Fire Above as part of the dynamic involving how the yin line in the fourth place of #9 rules the other five yang lines. A few things about Lake and Fire:
Lake is the youngest daughter because the yin line is at the top, so imagined as last. The first line yin (Wind) is the eldest daughter, the second line yin (Fire) is the middle daughter, so the top line yin (Lake) is the youngest daughter. So #38 features the middle daughter and the youngest daughter, perhaps being out of natural sequence. But also what happens, if you look further, is that you can see inside #38 lines 3, 4 and 5 being Water, with lines 2,3 &4 being Fire. Water always denotes some sort of work or difficulty in the mix. This is partly because it is heavy whereas Fire is light, and partly because it is dark whereas fire is bright, so Water is the Moon and Fire is the Sun; as such it is associated with darkness, heaviness, coldness, with negative emotions, with thieves (who break in at night) and with work, because here things come about from more difficulty than ease. Nuclear #38’s textual references usually describe something involving Opposites or Opposition even though Lake and Fire are sisters. The idea is that two sisters living under the same roof will often quarrel or differ. But this is because they are similar not because they are totally different. So the opposition in #38 is not that of outright conflict.
Lake is involved with joy, pleasure, communication, speech, beauty. Fire is involved with brightness, clarity, interdependency (in the way that fire depends upon fuel), clarity or insight. So we have beauty and insight. To my mind, one of the greatest challenges we face as human being has to do with how to manage pleasure properly. Indulged in overmuch and it becomes highly destructive and degrading; avoided overmuch and we become dry, cold, unfeeling. And so also with clarity and related wisdom: life is about learning, not just learning via childhood how to become adult, but how to become a good human being, a good husband or wife or parent or colleague or citizen. About learning what ‘good’ means and therefore also what is ‘not good.’ So to me #38 is about the juxtapositioning of good and not good that runs through our entire experience of living especially as regards Joy/passion/beauty and clarity/insight/wisdom. This entire view is what many might call ‘spiritual’ so to me Hexagram #9 as a response to a query about a political leader is providing personal, intimate feedback as to their human qualities within more so than commenting on their role and political system per se.
In each case, it seems to me that the Reading is intimating that both RFK and President Xi are mainly honourable and decent, capable of truly serving others rather than being megolomaniacs. And in terms of the Meaning of Life, those sorts of principles hold true as well, that the best leadership is that which serves, which puts others above themselves. It also implies that life is a spiritual journey of continuous life-long learning which can only come from not assuming one knows it all already, that there is always more to learn and others to learn from – humility.
Another aspect of the Nuclear, as mentioned above, is Heaven Earth and Man. This piece is getting a little long so shall just summarize from the Notes in the document:
Heaven is the Well, which has to do with collective reverence for core values, what is essential – like water is for any living physical community. Earth happens to be #9 again, the principle message of which being the Power of Meekness/Humbleness. And Man has to do with properly managing love and wisdom, two deep, eternal driving forces for all human beings, both individually and societally. I should just note here that the fact that Heaven is 48 The Well and Earth is 9 Power of Humbleness and that these two are the Derived and Primary hexagrams respectively is a coincidence. This does not usually happen. So to my mind it reinforces the ‘resonance quotient’ in the query and response by the Yi. This one is probably worth contemplating many times in years to come.
There’s an old Buddhist expression which sums up Hexagram #9 fairly well. Let us leave it at that:
‘Humbleness is the dwelling place of the Ancestors.’