Carol K Anthony: A Guide To The I-Ching
Ku/ Work on What Has Been Spoiled- Hexagram 18
(Correcting decadent habits of mind, and tolerating what is spoiled in others.)
Work on what has been spoiled has supreme success. The images presented by this hexagram are a bowl in which worms are breeding, three days and human decadence as the cause of corruption.
A bowl in which worms are breeding is an analogy of the false ideas that we or others may have about the way things work. False ideas come from incomplete perceptions. Receiving this hexagram tells us that some of the perceptions and beliefs we have been taking for granted are incorrect. It also tells us to seek out any decadent ways in which we may be relating to the Sage, Fate, other people or our general situation. This search should include the way we react to incorrect treatment from others. Before we can progress further it is necessary to recognize and correct our faulty ideas and attitudes.
Three days symbolizes the three steps of self-correction: (1) the diligence required to seek out the defects, (2) the sincerity required to resolve ourself firmly against them, and (3) the resolution required to guard against their return.
The I Ching tends to be concerned with faulty perspectives and slanders on the truth. For example, a person allies himself with his ego in suspecting that God is not good, that Fate is hostile, that human nature is naturally defective, that life is only meant to be suffering, or that others cannot find the correct way without our intervention. We often accept such attitudes because they are commonly held. Holding them results in indifference to suffering and insensitivity to life. By tolerating them within ourself we unwittingly influence others to adopt them.
Other faulty attitudes include taking comfort in a vindictive or hard attitude; enjoying something at the expense of principle; assigning attributes of the inferior Man of God, the Sage, or the Higher Power; assuming these attributes are natural within ourself; giving up on ourselves or others; and speaking or thinking carelessly on the assumption that what we think or say, even lightly, has no great importance. When our treasured ideas and beliefs come to mind during an I Ching consultation, it is best to ask whether they are correct. Often the idea or belief that comes to mind is the very thing the I Ching is telling us to question.
This hexagram also shows the correct way to respond to others when they are insensitive, indifferent, or unjust. To respond correctly we need to attain an impersonal, Cosmic perspective. This requires that we dismiss or disperse anger, and rid ourselves of personal considerations such as desire or envy. It is also important to avoid ignoring or dismissing the problem because we lack a way of dealing with it. It is essential to recognize defective attitudes as such, but in a just and moderate context. As soon as our viewpoint becomes correct, the power of inner truth is activated to correct the problem.
If we focus on having a comfortable relationship, or overlook evil because of desire, we “tolerate what has been spoiled” and are unable to relate to the problem constructively. Evil comes into our lives mostly because we make room for it through not being strict with ourselves.
It is possible to correct spoiled relationships by correcting our own lax attitudes. These lax attitudes create problems, which accumulate until the whole is spoiled. By correcting these attitudes, the resistances which have built up over time give way. Suspicion and distrust subside and the excesses we have encouraged find no basis to continue. Gradually the situation returns to balance and harmony. In waiting for situations to return to normal we may not use force or pressure. If it is to be truly resolved we must allow others the space and time to see that sincere self-correction is the only path to follow. If we are consistent in maintaining our neutrality and disengagement, and in holding to what is correct within ourself, others will perceive what is correct in relating to us. Our attitude signals that envy and insensitivity are unacceptable. Even though someone who has been relating to us incorrectly begins to approach in a friendly manner, we should remain reserved and cautious so long as there exist contradictions in his behaviour. We should not presume that our goal has been achieved simply because we hope so.
Finally, work on what has been spoiled applies to social behaviour in general. Public officials intuitively know the minds of the people they serve. If the attitudes of the people are lax, if they are willing to sacrifice the long-term good for short-term gain, then public officials will represent them accordingly. If in their inner attitudes the people are firm and correct, public officials will know how they must govern; regardless of the form of government, evil finds its basis in the weakness of the people. When people are strong in their inner direction, and firm in their attitudes, evil in government, and in society can find no place in which to grow.