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Consciousness and Time: A Theory of the Ancient Trigrams & their Bagua Arrangements Part 1: The Trigrams

A theory on the ancient Chinese trigrams and their bagua arrangements. Traditionally associated terms are taken as poetic descriptions of states of mind with respect to time. Using this model the entire symbolic system is revealed to be a coherent
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  Consciousness and Time: A Theory of the Ancient Trigrams & their Bagua ArrangementsPart 1: The Trigrams This is an overview of a theory about the ancient Chinese trigram symbols and their prenatal and  postnatal arrangements. The srcin of these symbols is obscure and dates back to the earliest days of Chinese civilization. Throughout their long history they have been adopted by a variety of cultural traditions. They are associated with systems of diagnosis and treatment within Chinese medicine. They represent various fighting techniques within martial arts. In feng shui they are used to determine auspicious spatial orientations. They comprise the basic elements of yijing's hexagrams which are often consulted as a divination device. Four of the eight appear on the South Korean flag. And they are frequently referred to in philosophical texts.Although much has been written about these symbols a complete explanation of their exact meaningis elusive. A coherent theory must explain why each combination of broken yin & solid yang lines are associated with specific traditional concepts: !   Heaven ÒcreativeÓ "   Earth ÒreceptiveÓ #   Thunder Òarousing, shake, shock, quakeÓ $   Wind Ògentle, penetratingÓ %   Fire Òclinging, brightnessÓ &   Water Òabysmal, darknessÓ '   Lake ÒjoyousÓ (   Mountain ÒstillnessÓ  A complete theory must also explain the structure and significance of the prenatal and postnatal arrangements:To understand this paper will require some familiarity with the trigram symbols, the concepts traditionally associated with them, and their placement in the prenatal and postnatal arrangements. If you are new to the subject, a pdf file of necessary background information can be found here (  Note: Throughout this paper reference is made to ÒmaterialÓ and ÒspiritualÓ domains. It seems unlikely anyone will have difficulty with the term ÒmaterialÓ but some may balk at anything that mentions ÒspiritÓ. It would be evasive and overly technical to use a term other than ÒspiritÓ since the concept is deeply embedded within the tradition being discussed. However, for the sake of any rationalists who might otherwise be willing to read this work Ð please try substituting ÒobserverÓ  for ÒspiritÓ and ÒobservedÓ for ÒmaterialÓ. The observer denotes the realm of the experiencer Ð that animating spark which brings life to matter. The observed denotes the realm of what is experienced Ð the phenomena that provides the observer with meaning and purpose. It's the interaction of the observer with the observed that allows for an experience of sensation and thought. ☯ This theory is based upon the proposal that each trigram represents an elemental state of mind, with each of the three lines corresponding to one of the three realms of time: past, present or future. The trigram's structure and poetic tradition can be interpreted in a coherent and consistent manner when viewed through the lens of this model:  These are not arbitrary associations: the correspondence of each line to a time domain derives from the traditional terms associated with each trigram (as described in detail below). The solid yang line is traditionally translated as ÒfirmÓ (suggesting Òfirm-mindednessÓ) and is therefore taken to indicate the attentive focus of the mind. The broken yin line is thus taken to indicate inattention or unawareness (traditionally translated as ÒyieldingÓ). Yielding inattentiveness tends to produce chaos (notice what happens to your room if you fail to  pay attention to its condition). Attention is the mind's attempt to put things into order. 1  This agrees with the common association of yang with order and yin with chaos. In its quest to create order the mind can focus attention on any combination of past, present or future. !   #   $   %   &   '   (   The mind can also suspend its attentive involvement with time " , which is a technique common tomany meditation practices.  In what follows I discuss each trigram's traditional poetic terms to support the proposal that they describe temporal states of mind as indicated in the model above. &   Water Òabysmal, darknessÓ A state of mind focused solely on the Present.The Present exists between Past and Future - consequently we take the middle line to signify the Present. The Present consists of what's currently happening - a never ending flow of being we call "now" and which we experience as perception. The Water trigram suggests a mind focused solely on the  present, with no attention paid to past or future. Why is this state of mind associated with the terms ÒwaterÓ, ÒdarknessÓ and ÒabysmalÓ? Aristotle is credited with saying Òto perceive is to sufferÓ. Consider what it's like to experience  present sensations without any context from prior events, or any sense of where things are heading. In this state of mind you're completely absorbed in the current phenomena: a flood of sensation without orientation. Is this not like the endlessly transmogrifying flow of water? Without memory or forecasting - it's impossible to make sense of anything. It's like falling into an abyss, a dark  bottomless pit. (   Mountain ÒstillnessÓ A state of mind focused only on the Past. 1 Here we are only talking about the mind's intention, not the resulting outcome. If attention results in chaos it's merely ineffectual attention and/or attention places on the wrong things! States of mind exist independent of outcomes.  Once an event occurs it immediately gets parked in the past. When we speak of Òthe pastÓ we are referring to two things:1.The immutable stack of all actual prior events. 2.Whatever we think those events to be. Our ideas of the past may bear little resemblance to what actually occurred. Nevertheless, the Mountain trigram can represent actual events or the inaccurate memories of actual events Ð just as the word "past" signifies both actual and remembered events too. 2 The Mountain trigram has a single firm line on top. Why is this symbol associated with "stillness"?When we attempt to put the past in order we create a fixed notion of what happened. If we cannot create a stable mental image in memory the past is thrown into question and no stable image can be formed. Ideas of the past may change - but actual past events cannot. Stillness is therefore an appropriate term to describe the past. Even just an idea of the past will seem like an immovable foundation - until some new information changes our mind. And when our mind is undergoing a reconsideration of the past Ð well, that's no longer a (  state of mind because it's actively being modified in the present. The Mountain state is only possible when (for the time being) we've settledon some version of what we believe the past to have been.Actual past events set the stage for whatever's going on now - as well as for whatever is yet to come. The past is like an immovable (  still  ) backdrop in a theater within which all the present actionis played out. A Mountain is a looming mass that defines the landscape around it, just as our histories tend to define our preconceptions and beliefs. Mountain is a set of preconditions we take as a given, and which form an edifice we do not  presently question. #   Thunder Òarousing (shake, shock, quake) Ó A state of mind focused only on the future.Thunder's associated concepts are "Arousing", sometimes translated as "shake, shock or quake" - evoking the potential for ground-breaking changes. The future is the realm of all potential change. We may have ideas of what the future will bring -  but what actually is going to happen is anyone's guess. Attempting to create order in the future is a tricky business Ð our worldview is likely to shake and quake if we place too much faith in our ideas of the future.Hearing thunder in the distance arouses our concern - we become more alert and vigilant. A loud crack of thunder causes all thoughts of past and present to be immediately overshadowed by suspense as our minds are gripped by our wondering what's about to happen. We experience shock and may even quake in fear if we feel unprepared for what we imagine the future will be. 2Without getting too far ahead of ourselves: it might be said that actual events are represented by ( 's position in the  prenatal arrangement while the memory of events is represented by ( 's position in the postnatal.  '   Lake (Valley, Marsh) ÒjoyousÓ A state of mind attempting to unify Present with Future.The Joyous Lake ignores the past in its attempt to unify Present and Future. This trigram is sometimes translated as "Valley" or "Marsh". All these terms indicate a place where water pools and life congregates. Lakes, fertile valleys and marshlands are habitats for dynamic and diverse life because of the presence of water - but not the flowing water represented by the water &   trigram - here we are talking about a large body of water - a reservoir that contains enough supply to allow usto feel that good times will last forever. Everyone wants joy to continue for as long as possible, and when we're enjoying ourselves we don'twant to be reminded of the past - hence the broken line in the past position at the top. '  is a party-going state of mind: Ò  forget the past and enjoy yourself - for as long as possible Ó. The lessons of the past can bring any party to an abrupt end, so they are ignored for as long as the good times roll. $   Wind Ògentle, penetratingÓ A state of mind attempting to unify Present with Past. The Wind is called "gentle" and "penetrating" because its present action is patterned on prior events. This state of mind joins past with present and is not concerned with the future. It attempts to maintain existing conditions by following the established order Ð new things are avoided.When previously existing operations are repeated they penetrate more deeply. It's only through long repeated exposure to the wind that its effect is noticed. $  is not a hurricane Ð it's a breeze. It'sgentle because it has no intention to change anything - but over long periods of time even the mildest action can incrementally cause significant modifications to a landscape. 3 !   Heaven ÒcreativeÓ A state of mind attempting to unify Past, Present and Future.Heaven is called ÒcreativeÓ, representing the birth of new phenomena: past present and future are united as one - which is exactly what creation requires. When something new comes into being it has to be built upon the foundation of the past Ð it must also be able to persist into the future and it must also be more than a fantasy - it has to actually exist in the present. If any of these conditions are absent then nothing new can come into being.Creativity is often experienced as a flash of insight or inspiration where all of a sudden everything comes together into perfect order - with something new arising out of it just as the entire universe isthought to have arisen out of some primordial big bang. 3 $  doesn't focus on the future - but it's action influences the future nonetheless. All states of mind have some influence on present and future events, regardless of their intention. But no state of mind can influence the actual past. Only ideas of the past can change.
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