Turning Back: Good News from Today’s I Ching (Hexagram 24)

by Bob Schwartz

 

Today’s I Ching hexagram (Hexagram 24, Fu/Turning Back) brings good news, for individual lives and for any bigger concerns we might have about the way some things seem to be going in the world:

“During the time of decay, the dark forces proceed one after another until they reach the uppermost position. The situation seems hopeless. However, the Chinese believe that turning back and starting again is a universal and everlasting truth. When decaying has reached its extreme, a turning point comes. Then the light shines in the darkness, and the bright situation begins again….

This gua indicates that, through the influence of King Wen and King Wu, decaying was corrected in a short period of time. The social norm was reestablished. The courtesy and etiquette created by the Duke of Zhou was put back in place immediately. King Wen was happy about the situation; he claimed that turning back brought success. There was no harm for people going out and coming back. There was no harm in people of different kingdoms arriving and departing.”

Alfred Huang, The Complete I Ching:

Hexagram 24
Fu • Turning Back
Earth
over
Thunder

Fu plays an important role in the I Ching. It is one of the twelve tidal gua used to explain the cosmology of the changing of the seasons—to go around and begin again….

Things cannot go beyond the extreme. When they reach the limit, they turn back to the origin. Thus, after Falling Away comes Turning Back.

The situation seems hopeless. However, the Chinese believe that turning back and starting again is a universal and everlasting truth. When decaying has reached its extreme, a turning point comes. Then the light shines in the darkness, and the bright situation begins again….

This gua, together with the preceding one, displays the truth of changing. When things proceed to their extreme, they alternate to the opposite. Thus, after the period of falling away comes turning back. The light that has been banished returns. The change is not brought about by force—it accords with the law of Nature. The turning back arises spontaneously, like a bright spring returns after a severe winter. It is a matter of circumstance due to the appropriate time and situation. Because it is the law of Nature, no human force can alter it….

The Commentary on the Decision says, “From this gua, Fu, one can see the heart of Heaven and earth.” It reveals the cosmology of the Confucian school. Once Confucius said, “Heaven and earth have a heart fond of creating and propagating.” Confucian scholars advocate that one should follow the Tao of Heaven and Earth, that is, to be creative and propagate without ceasing. But the Taoists embrace a different view. Lao Tze says,

Attain the highest void;
Maintain the deepest stillness.
When ten thousand beings rise and fall,
Watch their turning back.

Taoists accept the idea of the cyclic motion of Falling Away and Turning Back and Falling Away again and Turning Back again, but they hold that existence originates from nonexistence and motion from nonmotion. Only when one reaches a state of total nonattachment is one able to see the heart of Heaven and earth. In Chinese culture, the Confucian and Taoist schools constitute a yin-yang complement. The philosophy of the Confucian school is moving and doing. That of the Taoist school is retreating and doing nothing. Yet both philosophies originate from the I Ching.

This is an auspicious gua, because the yang energy returns. Yet the Decision does not mention its auspiciousness because the yang energy is still weak. Its achievement depends on effort. But the first line bodes supreme good fortune. In reality, no one is perfect. If one is able to turn back from not going too far toward the evil, it brings supreme good fortune….

This gua indicates that, through the influence of King Wen and King Wu, decaying was corrected in a short period of time. The social norm was reestablished. The courtesy and etiquette created by the Duke of Zhou was put back in place immediately. King Wen was happy about the situation; he claimed that turning back brought success. There was no harm for people going out and coming back. There was no harm in people of different kingdoms arriving and departing. Falling away and turning back moved in accordance with the Tao of waxing and waning.

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