I Ching or Book of Changes     translated by Richard Wilhelm

29.  K'an / The Abysmal (Water)

                  above   K'AN  THE ABYSMAL, WATER
                  below   K'AN  THE ABYSMAL, WATER

  This hexagram consists of a doubling of the trigram K'an.  It is one of the 
  eight hexagrams in which doubling occurs.  The trigram K'an means a 
  plunging in.  A yang line has plunged in between two yin lines and is
  in by them like water in a ravine.  The trigram K'an is also the middle
  The Receptive has obtained the middle line of the Creative, and thus K'an 
  develops.  As an image it represents water, the water that comes from above 
  and is in motion on earth in streams and rivers, giving rise to all life on 
     In man's world K'an represents the heart, the soul locked up within the 
  body, the principle of light inclosed in the dark--that is, reason.  The
name of 
  the hexagram, because the trigram is doubled, has the additional meaning, 
  "repetition of danger."  Thus the hexagram is intended to designate an 
  objective situation to which one must become accustomed, not a subjective 
  attitude.  For danger due to a subjective attitude means either
  or guile. Hence too a ravine is used to symbolize danger; it is a
situation in 
  which a man is in the same pass as the water in a ravine, and, like the
  he can escape if he behaves correctly.

          THE JUDGMENT

          The Abysmal repeated.
          If you are sincere, you have success in your heart,
          And whatever you do succeeds.

  Through repetition of danger we grow accustomed to it.  Water sets the 
  example for the right conduct under such circumstances.  It flows on and
  and merely fills up all the places through which it flows; it does not
  from any dangerous spot nor from any plunge, and nothing can make it lose 
  its own essential nature. It remains true to itself under all conditions.
  likewise, if one is sincere when confronted with difficulties, the heart
  penetrate the meaning of the situation.  And once we have gained inner 
  mastery of a problem, it will come about naturally that the action we
take will 
  succeed.  In danger all that counts is really carrying out all that has
to be done-
  -thoroughness--and going forward, in order not to perish through tarrying
  the danger.
     Properly used, danger can have an important meaning as a protective 
  measure.  Thus heaven has its perilous height protecting it against every 
  attempt at invasion, and earth has its mountains and bodies of water, 
  separating countries by their dangers. Thus also rulers make use of
danger to 
  protect themselves against attacks from without and against turmoil within.

          THE IMAGE

          Water flows on uninterruptedly and reaches its foal:
          The image of the Abysmal repeated.
          Thus the superior man walks in lasting virtue
          And carries on the business of  teaching.

  Water reaches its goal by flowing continually.  It fills up every
  before it flows on.  The superior man follows its example; he is concerned 
  that goodness should be an established attribute of character rather than
  accidental and isolated occurrence. So likewise in teaching others
  depends on consistency, for it is only through repetition that the pupil
  the material his own.

          THE LINES

          Six at the beginning means:
          Repetition of the Abysmal.
          In the abyss one falls into a pit.

  By growing used to what is dangerous, a man can easily allow it to become 
  part of him. He is familiar with it and grows used to evil.  With this he
  lost the right way, and misfortune is the natural result.

           Nine in the second place means:
             The abyss is dangerous.
             One should strive to attain small things only.

  When we are in danger we ought not to attempt to get out of it immediately, 
  regardless of circumstances; at first we must content ourselves with not
  overcome by it.  We must calmly weigh the conditions of the time and by 
  satisfied with small gains, because for the time being a great success
cannot be 
  attained.  A spring flows only sparingly at first, and tarries for some
  before it makes its way in to the open.

          Six in the third place means:
          Forward and backward, abyss on abyss.
          In danger like this, pause at first and wait,
          Otherwise you will fall into a pit in the abyss.
          Do not act this way.

  Here every step, forward or backward, leads into danger.  Escape is out
of the 
  question.  Therefore we must not be misled into action, as a result of
  we should only bog down deeper in the danger; disagreeable as it may be to 
  remain in such a situation, we must wait until a way out shows itself.

          Six in the fourth place means:
          A jug of wine, a bowl of rice with it;
          Earthen vessels
          Simply handed in through the Window.
          There is certainly no blame in this.

  In times of danger ceremonious forms are dropped. What matters most is 
  sincerity. Although as a rule it is customary for an official to present
  introductory gifts and recommendations before he is appointed, here 
  everything is simplified to the utmost. The gifts are insignificant,
there is no 
  one to sponsor him, he introduces himself; yet all this need not be 
  humiliating if only there is the honest intention of mutual help in danger. 
  Still another idea is suggested.  The window is the place through which
  enters the room.  If in difficult times we want to enlighten someone, we
  begin with that which is in itself lucid and proceed quite simply from that 
  point on.

           Nine in the fifth place means:
            The abyss is not filled to overflowing,
            It is filled only to the rim.
            No blame.

  Danger comes because one is too ambitious.  In order to flow out of a
  water does not rise higher than the lowest point of the rim.  So likewise a 
  man when in danger has only to proceed along the line of least resistance; 
  thus he reaches the goal. Great labors cannot be accomplished in such
times; it 
  is enough to get out of the danger.

          Six at the top means:
          Bound with cords and ropes,
          Shut in between thorn-hedged prison walls:
          For three years one does not find the way.

  A man who in the extremity of danger has lost the right way and is 
  irremediably entangled in his sins has no prospect of escape.  He is like a 
  criminal who sits shackled behind thorn hedged prison walls.

          30.  Li / The Clinging, Fire

                  above   LI  THE CLINGING, FIRE
                  below   LI  THE CLINGING, FIRE

  This hexagram is another double sign.  The trigram Li means "to cling to 
  something," and also "brightness."  A dark line clings to two light
lines, one 
  above and one below--the image of an empty space between two strong lines, 
  whereby the two strong lines are made bright.  The trigram represents the 
  middle daughter.  The Creative has incorporated the central line of the 
  Receptive, and thus Li develops.  As an image, it is fire.  Fire has no
  form but clings to the burning object and thus is bright.  As water pours
  from heaven, so fire flames up from the earth.  While K'an means the soul 
  shut within the body, Li stands for nature in its radiance.

          THE JUDGMENT

          THE CLINGING.  Perseverance furthers.
          It brings success.
          Care of the cow brings good fortune.

  What is dark clings to what is light and so enhances the brightness of the 
  latter.  A luminous thing giving out light must have within itself
  that perseveres; otherwise it will in time burn itself out. Everything
that gives 
  light is dependent on something to which it clings, in order that it may 
  continue to shine.
     Thus the sun and moon cling to heaven, and grain, grass, and trees
cling to 
  the earth.  So too the twofold clarity of the dedicated man clings to
what is 
  right and thereby can shape the world.  Human life on earth is conditioned 
  and unfree, and when man recognizes this limitation and makes himself 
  dependent upon the harmonious and beneficent forces of the cosmos, he 
  achieves success. The cow is the symbol of extreme docility.  By
cultivating in 
  himself an attitude of compliance and voluntary dependence, man acquires 
  clarity without sharpness and finds his place in the world.

          THE IMAGE

          That which is bright rises twice:
          The image of FIRE.
          Thus the great man, by perpetuating this brightness,
          Illumines the four quarters of the world.

  Each of the two trigrams represents the sun in the course of a day.  The
  together represent the repeated movement of the sun, the function of light 
  with respect to time.  The great man continues the work of nature in the 
  human world.  Through the clarity of  his nature he causes the light to
  farther and farther and to penetrate the nature of man ever more deeply.  
          THE LINES
          Nine at the beginning means:
          The footprints run crisscross.
          If one is seriously intent, no blame.

  It is early morning and work begins.  The mind has been closed to the
  world in sleep; now its connections with the world begin again.  The
traces of 
  one's impressions run crisscross.  Activity and haste prevail.  It is
  then to preserve inner composure and not to allow oneself to be swept along 
  by the bustle of life.  If one is serious and composed, he can acquire
the clarity 
  of mind needed for coming to terms with the innumerable impressions that 
  pour in.  It is precisely at the beginning that serious concentration is 
  important, because the beginning holds the seed of all that is to follow.

           Six in the second place means:
             Yellow light.  Supreme good fortune.

  Midday has come; the sun shines with a yellow light.  Yellow is the color
  measure and mean.  Yellow light is therefore a symbol of the highest
  and art, whose consummate harmony consists in holding to the mean.

          Nine in the third place means:
          In the light of the setting sun,
          Men either beat the pot and sing
          Or loudly bewail the approach of old age.

  Here the end of the day has come.  The light of the setting sun calls to
  the fact that life is transitory and conditional.  Caught in this external 
  bondage, men are usually robbed of their inner freedom as well.  The
sense of 
  the transitoriness of life impels them to uninhibited revelry in order to
  life while it lasts, or else they yield to melancholy and spoil the
precious time 
  by lamenting the approach  of old age.  Both attitudes are wrong.  To the 
  superior man it makes no difference whether death comes early or late. He 
  cultivates himself, awaits his allotted time, and in this way secures his

          Nine in the fourth place means:
          Its coming is sudden;
          It flames up, dies down, is thrown away.

  Clarity of mind has the same relation to life that fire has to wood.
Fire clings 
  to wood, but also consumes it. Clarity of mind is rooted in life but can
  consume it.  Everything depends upon how the clarity functions.  Here the 
  image used is that of a meteor or a straw fire.  A man who is excitable and 
  restless may rise quickly to prominence but produces no lasting effects.
  matters end badly when a man spends himself too rapidly and consumes 
  himself like a meteor.

           Six in the fifth place means:
             Tears in floods, sighing and lamenting.
             Good fortune. 

  Here the zenith of life has been reached.  Were there no warning, one would 
  at this point consume oneself like a flame. Instead, understanding the
  of all things, one may put aside both hope and fear, and sigh and lament:
  one is intent on retaining his clarity of mind, good fortune will come from 
  this grief.  For here we are dealing not with a passing mood, as in the
nine in 
  the third place, but with a real change of heart.       

          Nine at the top means:
          The king used him to march forth and chastise.
          Then it is best to kill the leaders
          And take captive the followers.  No blame.

  It is not the purpose of chastisement to impose punishment blindly but to 
  create discipline.  Evil must be cured at its roots.  To eradicate evil
in political 
  life, it is best to kill the ringleaders and spare the followers.  In
  oneself it is best to root out bad habits and tolerate those that are
  For asceticism that is too strict, like sentences of undue severity,
fails in its 

Ron Epstein

Research Professor                       Lecturer
Institute for World Religions        Philosophy Department
2304 McKinley Avenue                San Francisco State University
Berkeley, CA 94703                     1600 Holloway Avenue
(510) 848-3440                            (415) 338-3140
namofo@jps.net                            epstein@athena.sfsu.edu

"Genetic Engineering and Its Dangers":