I CHING’s HOUSE OF THE ABYSSMAL: WATER
© 2015-9 Lili White
TO what are you paying attention? My mission is to create movies that feel, look & sound like dreamy psychic phenomena. I recently made films interpreting these dimensions based on the I CHING’s HOUSE OF WATER.
The I Ching (1000–750 BC) or Chinese Book of Changes, is a classic text, describing an ancient system of cosmology and philosophy, which set the heart of traditional cultural beliefs. As a “reflection of the universe in miniature”, it is composed of 64 different yet archetypal forms of human energy processes called “hexagrams.” Invisible, non-the-less alive, the hexagrams’ potential appears in the empirical world, acting in it. What humankind perceives are the effects.
C.G.Jung said, “The type of thought built on the synchronistic principle,… reaches its high point in the I Ching, …this thinking has been absent from the history of (Western) philosophy since the time of Heraclitus (500 BCE).”
— from I Ching Psychology of HEART, and Jungian Analysis; Heyong, Gao Lan, Theo A. Cope; Psychological Perspectives. Vol. 49: No. 1; Jan-June 2006, p. 61-78
Rick Jarow’s paper, “The I Ching Its structure and Message”, states:
… What the I Ching offers, … aligns with contemporary quantum physics and fractal geometry…It is a way of processing time, not as an observable abstract quantity, but as a multi-leveled, cohesive reality intertwining both sameness and difference through patterns and sequencing that not only underlie history, but that tie the past and future through the analogical resonances operating through them, far beyond the boundaries of a separate human or even national or planetary egos.
Each hexagram, is composed of 2 trigrams named after essences of Nature (example “fire” is clarity or illumination), and is assigned a specific number.
My film series, THE HOUSE OF WATER, interprets 8 hexagrams using gestural performance derived from “authentic movement technique”. This improvisational dance practice allows a type of free association of the body. Impressions from the unknown interior surface, validating a non-rational knowledge birthed through the body, rather than the thinking, parsing mind. This exploration of liminal space residing next to “consciousness,” eliminates explanations like those sought by a crime solver. Two I Ching pronouncements regarding Hexagrams #29 & #36, refer to the character of the heart, the center from which my gaze is directed.
When editing, my video-tapes figure is connected to intuition, imagination, and references from the I Ching’s beginnings in neolithic times, into the present. Cinematically, the figure loses the “human” becoming something like a ghost or “personage”, that frames the actions that occur in the film.
I invite the viewer to surrender to this borderline area that simultaneously belongs to action, thought, and emotion, and to connect, discuss and interpret these surreal states of actuality, which reflect the collective dreamscape that belongs to all of us.
THE HOUSE OF WATER, the house of the “abysmal” begins with the double of a trigram for water”, #29 or “water over water”. Its first pictogram is of an abyss, a pit, or a ravine. The element of water never loses its essential nature, it flows on and on and remains true to itself. It centers on the heart that can penetrate the meaning of all situations.
#29 is “the principle of light is enclosed in the dark” — “reason” combating obsession or emotion. You are vulnerable, but the danger needs to be faced — it teaches one to be adaptable and not aggressive.
The second change, #60 LIMITATION, presents a concept of measurement. The new bottom trigram is Lake, a place where water is contained.
The third change in THE HOUSE of WATER, is #3 SPROUT. Global Climate issues, the abuse of the EARTH, fellowship and communication between humankind — #3 is water (clouds) over thunder. Thunder rises out of the ground in a great force. #3 is named “sprout”. Like a plant pushing through the dirt, once roots are established, growth continues. Its deeper interior energy also refers to a mountain sitting on the earth: keeping still while stripping away the old un-useable; yielding to the essential for a new time of growth. All beginnings are always very difficult.
“The superior being brings order out of chaos.” The advice is that nothing should be undertaken, other than participating with inspiration and guidance during this crisis. Helpers are needed. Working together creates a communal network of support, for growth to continue and blossom.
Next, COMPLETION or #63 has water occurring over fire. Caution is the essence here, although everything seems to have reached completion. But, like water boiling over and putting out the flames beneath it, the competing balance between water and fire cannot be maintained: they act as equals and are forever unstable.
Most interestingly, this is the only hexagram whose nuclear trigrams (that’s another story) form a reverse order, a criss-crossing energy where fire is placed over water. Water’s energy flows down, and fire’s follows up. The triangles from the costume echo this direction, and black and white are the colors of these 2 forms. The character manipulates this dynamic, as they take turns flipping and flopping back and forth thru eternity.
In #49 I use color to describe the 2 trigrams that make up its hexagram, of lake (green) over fire (white) The opposition between these 2 forces a change like in a “revolution”. Its interior energy is heaven (the kind of spirit that fills one = blue); occurring over the penetrating energy found in wind or wood (= brown) which spreads the idea through the air; where they are growthed, given birth to the new, something akin to plant life. The walker moves in this liminal space where of Heaven & Earth meet, where different kinds of beings join together in beautiful display.
#55 means CITADEL or CANOPY (under heaven) also ABUNDANCE and reaching the ZENITH which cannot be maintained.
#55 is about expanded intelligence, portraying an energetic movement. This hexagram was pulled by King Wu, who avenged his father King Wen, who is said to have written the philosophy of the I CHING after being imprisoned by the Shang Dynasty leaders. He died in their prison.
King Wu inquired of the I CHING what action he should take while entering the mourning period for his father. It advised against staying still. At the time of King Wu’s inquiry, there was an eclipse and the pole stars were seen a noon. He entered the battlefield of war with his father’s coffin accompanying him and his troops. They defeated the SHANG.
In #55, an offering of rice grain supports the crossing over into victory.”Crossing the bridge” is engaging the enemy.And, as no ZENITH can ever last, at the peak the movement we “tip over into the next hexagram” in THE HOUSE OF WATER: #36 DARKNESS.
The most archaic Chinese glyph for the I Ching’s #36 hexagram, reads as “pelican calling”. The pelican was one of the sacred birds in China and anthropologists think perhaps this means the Chinese saw a bird in the moon, and there was also mention made of an eclipse that occurred thousand of years ago in China. Perhaps this “darkening of the light”, is like an eclipse where you couldn’t see the moon’s bird.
# 36 has undertones of separation, threat, danger and distress.
Here earth is over fire, covering the “light”. The keyword is “censorship”. It advises caution and being reserved: you are in danger, and you must hide your inner light. The advice here is “to remain outwardly tractable in attitude. Do not drag the practices of others censoriously into the light: in social intercourse try not to be all-knowing, but let many things pass without being duped.” My personage guides the viewer through this situation, where one must hide their light, because the situation centers one in the mist of physical danger, using the history of Frederick Douglass, as he escaped slavery, and became a voice as an abolitionist afterwards. The fire is the heart. The personage travels thru to the North; hiding along the way, hidden in the environment of water. Currently, many people are traveling to emigrate to other lands.
#7 COLLECTIVE FORCE takes the final place in the I CHING’s HOUSE of WATER. Water is the essential element all need to sustain life. Water reflects the world around it in its surface. The sea tides of water, influenced by the Moon, push and pull on the oceans, as well as inside humankind, delineated as emotions.
This film depicts an old alchemical saying, “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul”. Just as the atom proved strikingly similar to a solar system, the I CHING shows the “universe in miniature”. Humans are a part of the planet, standing between earth and sky— all are interlocked together, influencing each other.
In this final hexagram in the HOUSE of WATER, #7 conveys a force like earth over water, which grounds that feeling known as the abysmal, whose character is dangerous. #7 places the “emotion” of water stored beneath a field that contains it, much like soil storing water to sustain plant growth.
In #7 COLLECTIVE FORCE, bending the aspect ratio, re-frames the shots: a symbolic mimicking of “how one should see something.” In the film’s action, a person alone in a small boat travels sailing on water or sky-clouds, rather than being swept away in an abyss of hexagram #29— where the House of Water began. .Before attempting to join in group fellowships, #7 advises to use the discipline and the strategy of a soldier to corral deep feeling or beliefs.
Glitched footage of a garden’s surface meets public marches bent on a revolution for justice, and fair play; or expressing the cycle of life in the ritual actions of dancing around a May Pole on the first day of the month of May (aka BELTAIN, which falls halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice)