I Ching on Israel

by Bob Schwartz

Note: It is astonishing for me to realize that in the years I have been mining the I Ching for wisdom, I have never asked about Israel. The I Ching is, for me at least, a companion to the Hebrew Bible, a text just as old from a culture just as ancient. It is worth repeating that like all the best books of hard-won wisdom, the I Ching is not a directive problem solver; it is suggestive, a vision expander, moving us away from the narrow focus that humans are naturally prone to. There are other ways of proceeding in situations, actually infinite other ways, and always have been.

Note also: Some astute students of Judaism may note that this past week included the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, celebrating the story of the giving of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai, an event marked by fire, and sometimes referenced as…fire on the mountain. As always, generating this hexagram was random. Unless, of course, one adopts Jung’s concept of synchronicity (he was a student of the I Ching), in which case little or nothing is random, least of all generating I Ching hexagrams.


Fire on Mountain

Lü means to travel, to move from place to place. In ancient times, an army of five hundred soldiers was called Lü.

Sequence of the Gua: If abundance proceeds to the utmost and becomes poor, surely one would lose his home. Thus, after Abundance, Traveling follows.

Wilhelm translates Lü as The Wanderer, and Blofeld translates it as The Traveler. In this book I adopt Traveling.

It was challenging to create an ideograph to express an act of moving. The ideograph of this gua employed the image of an army chasing its enemy to express traveling. The left half of the ideograph is an ancient character, fang. During the Shang dynasty and the beginning of the Zhou dynasty, the minorities on the northern border were called fang.

The ideograph of fang looks like a dancing warrior with his two arms swinging in the air. The minority groups usually performed a dance ceremony before fighting. On the right side are three soldiers. The leader at the top moves forward with two soldiers following him. The heads of the soldiers face the minority warrior, and their feet move toward him, suggesting that they are giving chase.

This gua is the inverse of the preceding one, Abundance. Abundance denotes a time of outstanding greatness and plenitude. However, this period cannot last very long. Abundance advises people to treasure and use well the plenitude and to sustain the state of abundance as long as possible. The gua Traveling suggests that after the declining of Abundance, one should move forward, exploring the new world and starting a new cycle. Staying at the old place and moving with the old pace is only to stagnate. Thus, Abundance and Traveling are opposite in content but still complementary.

The structure of the gua is Fire above, Mountain below. The image of fires burning on the mountain, their flames blown by the wind from place to place, is where the name Traveling came from. When one is traveling, life is not stable, and everyone is a stranger. Moving from place to place makes one physically and emotionally tired. Under every circumstance, a traveler should remain steadfast and upright. In this way there will be good fortune.

Little prosperity and smoothness.
Being steadfast and upright: good fortune.

Little prosperity or smoothness.
The yielding is central in the outer;
It follows the solids.
Keeping still and clinging to the brilliance,
There is chance for a little prosperity and smoothness.

Being steadfast and upright: good fortune.
The time and significance of Traveling are truly great!

Fire on Mountain.
An image of Traveling.
In correspondence with this,
The superior person is prudent and precise in punishment
And does not lengthen the period of imprisonment.

This gua expounds the principle of stability and unity. When abundance reaches the extreme, an unstable situation arises. Further progress and advance is not as easy and smooth as before. The gua takes the image of traveling to display the truth of change and development in human life. Life is a journey, and we are all travelers. Every event in our daily lives is part of a continuum of change and development. Time and space are a process. Every individual event enhances change and development. We must respond to the changes and discover the most suitable way to deal with them. Responding to isolated changes merely leads to a little success. Only by responding to the changes within the whole process can great success be achieved. This is the key to success. In this gua, all the yielding lines bring good fortune because they are docile and tend to be central and harmonious with others. On the other hand, all the solid lines are not that auspicious because they tend to be willful and opinionated and difficult for others to deal with.

During King Wen’s sitting in stillness he recalled the changes and development of the Shang dynasty as well as that of the Zhou. He realized that the life of a country, and of a person, is a journey. Before one settles down, chances for progress and success are few. Only being steadfast and upright can bring good fortune. The Duke of Zhou describes the different situations in one’s life journey. Dwelling upon trivial things, one cannot create good fortune. With a place to stay, enough money, and a companion, one’s life is better.

The Complete I Ching
Taoist Master Alfred Huang