Guidance from the I Ching: 34 - Great Power (Redux)

True strength is not an act

November 23, 2020

“Great Power. There is an advantage in correct persistence. An enlightened person, therefore, does not practice what is not proper.”

I consult the I Ching (Book Of Changes) for inspiration at the start of every week. This week’s message is all about doing the right thing.

The I Ching is unbiased in its response to the questions asked of it. For centuries it has been called upon to provide guidance by assessing the current conditions. While the I Ching is all about the universal cycles of change, the one principle to remember is that everything comes back around again. There is nothing new under the sun. And so it is with this week’s guidance. My response to the question, “what is the important lesson for this week?” resulted in a repeat of hexagram 34. It wasn’t until I had written this article and was prepared to post it that I realized I had previously discussed the same hexagram in July. So, upon studying the reading in the context of our current social environment, I felt it was appropriate to post my new observation of what the I Ching has to say. If you wish to read my previous essay on Great Power, you can find it here. But for now, let’s take a moment and contemplate the nature of this reading as it applies today.

“Those with Great Power do not live in fear and are willing to admit their failures and shortcomings. Great Power understands that it is not here to serve just one person but to benefit all people. check.”

Jose Johnson

I am a huge comic book fan. And one of my favorite characters has always been Spiderman. A famous quote from the Spiderman comics goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” And while these words may have come from a fictional character, they express a truth that shapes our current reality. Unfortunately, so does the quote, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The I Ching indicates that we are currently experiencing the effects of Great Power. But just like in the comics, Great Power can be used for good or evil. According to the I Ching, Great Power provides a true test of character. To wield Great Power for good requires putting your ego in check and subordinating individual desires for the good of the many. When used for self-serving purposes, Great Power creates division, chaos, and destruction. If you want to see the dichotomy of Great Power in action, simply turn on the news. Just because someone has Great Power does not mean that they have the strength of character to do the right thing. Great Power is a universal force that can be used as a tool to create unity and serve the common good or as a weapon for domination and destruction. The difference all lies in the true nature of the individual. Great Power can be an addictive drug to some. And like any addict, it can cause people to do whatever it takes to get their next fix.

Before using Great Power it is wise to stop and think to ensure that your objectives are honorable. According to the I Ching, “the meaning of the power of the great shows itself in the fact that one pauses.” Sometimes the best use of Great Power is found in not taking action. The I Ching suggests that the wise person waits until they are certain that action is appropriate. When granted Great Power, don’t become arrogant or pushy. Remember, when you try to force things, you will always be met with resistance. But when you have Great Power you can adapt and still maintain your center. Having Great Power does not mean you will succeed at everything. On the contrary, you can most clearly see the correct application of Great Power in times of defeat. According to the I Ching “one willing to bow down or concede in the face of opposition is demonstrating ultimate Power.” Great Power does not mean that you are always right, but it means that you always try to do what’s right.

Great Power is best used by those who have learned how to control themselves. As the philosopher, Zhuang Zhou states, “the strong man is he who overcomes himself.” Exercising Great Power can either renew your inner strength of character or completely drain you. When Great Power is utilized to uplift others, it becomes a self-renewing source of energy. The more that you give, the more you get back. Personal goals become attainable, not because you have forced others into supporting your cause, but because you have committed your Great Power to theirs. As Zig Ziglar once said, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” When you understand the nature of Great Power you understand that life is not a zero-sum game.

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So in this time of Great Power, remember that the truly strong do not need to show off. Allow your actions to influence others and act from a place of humility, caring, and gratitude. Those with Great Power do not live in fear and are willing to admit their failures and shortcomings. Great Power understands that it is not here to serve just one person but to benefit all people.

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