Article #9: On Opposition by Carol Anthony
May. 22, 2012
Throughout my work with the I Ching, my path has always been an inner one. Things appear in my mind spontaneously. When I ignore them, they keep returning until there is some breakthrough in my understanding.
Recently, to improve my understanding of German, since I spend some time in Germany each year, I saw three paperbacks in Hanna’s German library by Herman Hesse. Checking to see how difficult his language might be, I found them very readable for my level of German. This led to my reading, in a short time, all three, but the one that left me with the most interesting image was the book Siddhartha.
What appeared and reappeared in my mind was the image he gave of “the river.” In some ways, Hesse painted it mysteriously as a general picture of life, with everyone beginning near the beginning point of the river, and proceeding down it throughout their lives. This image spurred memories in me of several images that came to me in meditation in 1972, only a year after I began consulting the I Ching. In these meditations different places on the river represented times when I began to understand more about my true self. I understood that everyone was “somewhere” on this river, making his learning journey. Some people got frightened when they encountered rapids, and stopped their journeys for a while. Others picnicked on the side, and some did so for much of their lives. They are all somewhere on the river, making their way down, none of them stuck forever.
I began to realize that this image returned to mind to make me aware of a principle written into the I Ching that I had somehow overlooked. It is the principle that neither evil nor opposition to it is a natural part of the Cosmos. What stops us from continuing on our learning journey down the river, is the onset of opposition.
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Hex. 37 Hex. 38
The I Ching has two hexagrams that complement each other in their structures. They are Hexagram 37, The Family, and Hexagram 38, Separating/Opposition. Undoubtedly, in the most ancient version of Hexagram 37, the family represents the Cosmic Family, to which everything that exists, belongs. It includes the multitudinous Helpers that we can call on to help us in all moments of need. Over the millennia it has been incorrectly revised to fit the hierarchical, human-centered view that refers only to the human family. This is obviously reflected in the way the Chinese culture puts heavy emphasis on the importance of the family. Yet we can understand its true meaning as the Cosmic family by comparing it to the configuration of its complement, Hexagram 38, Separating/Opposition. The two yin lines in Hexagram 37 show a hexagram firmly grounded in the Cosmic order. In Hexagram 38, the two yin lines have moved upward, and tend to lose their grounding in the earth. Their movement upward gives rise to the meaning of “separating,” and to “opposition.” The opposition refers to the human family blotting out the significance of the Cosmic family.
The Cosmic family, in contrast to the human family, is all embracing to that which holds to it, and is non-hierarchical. When we are in harmony with this natural order, our lives flow smoothly and rewardingly. When we limit its meaning to the actual human family, and use it to describe a hierarchically structured order of society, we fall out of this greater harmony. That is to say, we separate from it and come into opposition with the Cosmic family, which includes all its helping forces. Through this separation, we lose the blessings and protections that come with being in harmony with the whole.
Opposition, thus defined, is the great stumbling block to all relations. In the smallest of ways, when we recognize something as disharmonious or “not right,” we are meant to say an inner No to it, and turn it over to the Cosmos for correction. Hexagram 21, Biting Through, not only informs us that saying the Inner No is the most potent action we can take in response to ego actions in others, saying No is the meaning indicated in the words “firm and correct” that we meet throughout the I Ching. Because the inner no is meant to be said from a true feeling of caring for the true self in the person doing wrong, it bypasses the notice and interference of the ego in the wrongdoer, while simultaneously engaging Cosmic Helpers to correct the matter. Thus it fulfills what Lao Tzu described as “doing through non-doing.”
In a similar way Hex. 26, Preponderance of the Great, instructs us to turn any anger at ego-transgressions that we feel over to the Cosmos, after having said the inner No to the transgressor. Only then can the helping forces of the Cosmos that truly correct the situation be activated. Fighting injustice only temporarily suppresses it.
We little realize that we step out of this protective system when we allow ourselves to fall into an attitude of opposition toward people, either as individuals or as groups. This happens when we fix them as obstinate, bad, or hopeless, or when we regard them as “opposite to us,” or as holding “contrary beliefs.” The opposition this sets up in us swiftly becomes a hardened, prideful competition with them that “must win.” Our inner opposition creates the blockage to any harmony being able to occur because the energy of opposition begets opposition. Pride in us engages pride in the others. The ego thrives on opposition.
The image of people on different parts the river, where each is learning a lesson that takes him forward just a bit, has helped me to realize that it is incorrect to fix people as “stuck.” There is always a possibility for growth. This is the meaning of
the “yellow light of moderation” mentioned in Line 2 of Hexagram 30, Attaining Clarity. This “yellow light” is compared there with the harsh white light of judgment and condemnation. Evil is not something to be fought, but to be transformed with the help of the Cosmic Helpers, and if necessary, with the Helper of Fate. When we fully trust these Helpers, they do exactly what is needed to rescue the person, even if that sometimes may mean his death, and a return to a life in the body at another time.
Instead of seeing a person in “opposition to us,” we see them as somewhere on the river moving slowly in their growth, no longer fixing them as hopeless. With this enlarged view, we no longer seek to put them down, or to conquer them, or to show ourselves as better, or more enlightened.
Without the internal tension of opposition, we develop a flabby quality that neither the ego in ourselves nor in others can engage, or master, or overcome. Even if we are endangered temporarily by another’s seeing us in opposition to them, they find no vibration in us that gives them the urge to put us down.
I first came to this realization when I was trying to explain to myself why the I Ching always refutes the idea that the Cosmos is divided into good and evil. That is to say, evil is not indigenous to the Cosmic order. Opposition, the I Ching has confirmed, is the beginning point of what we call evil. The moment we adopt a fixed view of someone or something as defective, evil, bad, inferior, unknowing, impossible, fundamentally different, irreconcilable, or opposed, the ego, and the evil it creates, becomes active. Lost immediately is our unity with the Cosmic family, with all its helping forces. It is no wonder then that the collective ego wants us to deny entirely that such helping forces exist.
When we recognize that all of us are on that river of learning, we keep our connection with the Cosmos; then, opposition has no easy foothold. Help is then constantly with us, blessing, supporting and protecting us as we go.