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39 -- Impasse -- 39





Other titles: Obstruction, The Symbol of Difficulty, Arresting Movement, Trouble, Obstacles, Barrier, Halt, Halting, Limping, Afoot, “Sit Tight—Don’t move” "One is surrounded by an underwater reef and should wait for assistance." -- D.F. Hook



Legge: During an Impasse advantage is found in the southwest, disadvantage in the northeast. See the great man. Firm correctness brings good fortune.

Wilhelm/Baynes:Obstruction. The southwest furthers. The northeast does not further. It furthers one to see the great man. Perseverance brings good fortune.

Blofeld: Trouble. The west and the south are favorable, but not the east and north. [That is to say, if we try to forward our plans by proceeding in either of those directions, we shall get bogged down or lost. It could also mean that we should be driven to unvirtuous conduct.] It is advisable to see a great man. [We should seek advice from someone of lofty moral stature and profound wisdom.] Persistence in a righteous course brings good fortune.

Liu: Obstruction. The southwest is of benefit. The northeast -- no benefit. It benefits one to visit a great man. To continue brings good fortune.

Ritsema/Karcher: Limping, Harvesting: Western South. Not Harvesting: Eastern North. Harvesting: visualizing Great People. Trial: significant. [This hexagram describes your situation in terms of being weak, afflicted or hampered. It emphasizes that going ahead even though haltingly is the adequate way to handle it. (Sic) To be in accord with the time, you are told to: limp!]

Shaughnessy: Afoot: Beneficial to the southwest, not beneficial to the northeast; beneficial to see the great man; determination is auspicious.

Cleary (1): When halted, the southwest is beneficial, not the northeast. It is profitable to see a great person; innocence is auspicious.

Cleary (2): When in trouble, it is beneficial to go southwest; it is not beneficial to go northeast. It is beneficial to see a great person. Correctness leads to good results.

Wu:Difficulty indicates that it will be advantageous in the southwest, but not so in the northeast. There will be advantage to meet with the great man. Auspiciousness will come with perseverance.

Hua-Ching Ni: The good direction is where there is no abyss or high mountains, like the Southwest, but not the Northeast. One should go to the great leader who can work with people in breaking through obstructions.


The Image

Legge: Water on the mountain -- the image of Impasse. The superior man turns around to examine himself and cultivate his virtue.

Wilhelm/Baynes: Water on the mountain: the image of Obstruction. Thus the superior man turns his attention to himself and molds his character.

Blofeld: This hexagram symbolizes water upon a mountain. The Superior Man cultivates virtue by bringing about a revolution within himself.

Liu: Water on the mountain symbolizes Obstruction. The superior man reexamines himself and improves his character.

Ritsema/Karcher: Above mountain possessing stream. Limping. A chun tzu uses reversing individuality to renovate actualizing-tao.

[Actualize-tao: Ability to follow the course traced by the ongoing process of the cosmos... Linked with acquire, TE: acquiring that which makes a being become what it is meant to be.]

Cleary (1): There is water atop a mountain, halting. Thus do superior people examine themselves and cultivate virtue.

Cleary (2): Water on a mountain – trouble. Developed people examine themselves to cultivate virtue.

Wu: There is water on the mountain; this is Difficulty. Thus, the jun zi examines his own person to polish his virtue.



Confucius/Legge:Impasse means difficulty, with the trigram of Peril up ahead. It is a wise man who can stop his advance at the first sign of danger. Advantage in the southwest means that the dynamic line has advanced to the central position. In the northeast, however, progress is halted. Seeing the great man insures progress and success. All of the lines except the first are in their appropriate places, suggesting the firm correctness in which the regions of the kingdom are brought to their natural order. Great indeed is the work to be done during an Impasse.

Legge: Impasse is the symbol of incompetency in the feet and legs involving difficulty in walking. Hence it represents a state of the kingdom which makes government an arduous task. The figure teaches how to perform this task under the prevailing circumstances.

The Judgment requires three things: the attention to place, the presence of the great man, and the observance of firm correctness. According to King Wen's arrangement of the trigrams, the southwest is occupied by the trigram of the Earth, and the northeast by the trigram of the Mountain. The former is the fertile lowland, the latter the mountain peaks; the former is easily traversed and held, while the latter presents obstacles. Thus the attention to place becomes a calculation of circumstances -- differentiating those that are promising from those that are likely to fail.

The great man is the correctly dynamic ruler in the fifth place, with the proper magnetic correlate in line two. However, favorable position and circumstances, and the presence of the great man do not relieve us from the observance of firm correctness -- this principle is consistent throughout the I Ching.

Ch'eng-tzu says: "We see here a steep and difficult mountain, on the top of which is water. Each trigram represents perilousness -- there is peril above and below. Hence it shows the difficulties of the state." The application of the symbolism is illustrated by the words of Mencius: "When our actions do not realize our desires, we must turn inwards and examine ourselves in every point."



Judgment: Dissolve the polarities of an Impasseby seeking its most fertile integration. Use your will in harmony with the principles of the Work.

The Superior Man seeks his center and refines his commitment.

Lines two and five of this difficult hexagram show those who struggle with hardship; all of the other lines show images of an improper advance followed by a proper return to a former position. Ritsema/Karcher's characterization of the hexagram's overall meaning as an injunction to "(go) ahead even though haltingly is the adequate way to handle (the situation)" is anomalous and at variance with the general import of this figure. Legge's Confucian commentary is more in keeping with its meaning: "It is a wise man who can stop his advance at the first sign of danger."

Legge also chooses an excellent paraphrase of the role of the superior man in the Image with his quotation from Mencius: "When our actions do not realize our desires, we must turn inwards and examine ourselves in every point." In other words, the chances are good that the Impassemay be self-created, and when the ego introspects with care the reasons usually become apparent.

It is not unknown at a certain stage of development for the ego, overwhelmed with the enormity of the Work, to evade its responsibilities and vainly try to return to the bliss of its former ignorance. At such times it soon becomes clear that no matter what you attempt, success will be blocked: where others succeed with ease, it will take you five times as much effort just to break even. ThisImpasse is permanent until you reassume responsibility for the Work. The following quotation is an allegory of this condition:

Yahweh Saboath says this: Reflect carefully how things have gone for you. You have sown much and harvested little; you eat but never have enough, drink but never have your fill, put on clothes but do not feel warm. The wage earner gets his wages only to put them in a purse riddled with holes ... The abundance you expected proved to be little. When you brought the harvest in, my breath spoiled it. And why? It is Yahweh Saboath who speaks. Because while my house lies in ruins you are busy with your own, each one of you.
Haggai 1: 6-10

In one way or another, the Self will attain its intent. To ignore this hard truth is to experience Impasse.


Legge: The first line, magnetic, shows that advance on the part of its subject will lead to greater difficulties, while remaining stationary will afford ground for praise.

Wilhelm/Baynes: Going leads to obstructions, coming meets with praise.

Blofeld: Going involves trouble; coming wins praise.

Liu: Going leads to obstruction. Coming brings praise. [People should remain in their present positions.]

Ritsema/Karcher: Going Limping, coming praise.

Shaughnessy: Going afoot, coming in a cart.

Cleary (1): Going results in trouble, coming in praise.

Wu: Going forth is difficult; coming back is commendable.

Hua-Ching Ni: If one moves forward, obstruction will be encountered. Honorable growth naturally comes to the one who keeps still.



Confucius/Legge: The proper course is to wait. Wilhelm/Baynes: Because it is right to wait. Blofeld: This passage stresses the advantage of waiting for some time. Ritsema/Karcher: Proper to await indeed. Cleary (2): It is best to wait. Wu: This means that waiting is in order.

Legge: Line one is magnetic in a dynamic place. If she advances she won't be able to cope with the difficulties of the situation, but will be overwhelmed by them. Let her wait for a more favorable time.



Siu: At the outset, the man forges ahead in the face of an impasse and is overwhelmed by complications. He should wait for a favorable moment.

Wing: If you have met with an obstacle in your path, do not attempt to overcome it. Instead, pull back from the situation and wait out the trouble. You will know the right moment for action when you can move with ease.

Editor: Most translators use the words "going" and/or "coming" in every line of this hexagram except number two. The respective differences between these two words, "going" and "coming," are the differences between analysis and synthesis. To "go" is to disperse, to create differences; to "come" is to return to center, to reunite. Legge chooses the phrase "remaining stationary" in place of "coming," which is not quite the same idea, though it nicely stresses the idea of waiting mentioned in the Confucian commentary.

The teaching without words and the benefit of taking no action are without compare in the universe.

A. “Don’t go there” -- "Wait and see."


Legge: The second line, magnetic, shows the king's servant struggling with difficulty on difficulty, and not with a view to her own advantage.

Wilhelm/Baynes: The king's servant is beset by obstruction upon obstruction, but it is not his own fault.

Blofeld: The King's minister meets with difficulty upon difficulty, but through no fault of his.

Liu: The king's officer meets many obstructions. It is not his fault.

Ritsema/Karcher: A king, a servant: Limping, Limping. In-no-way body's anteriority.

Shaughnessy: The king's servant is so afoot; it is not the body's reason.

Cleary (1): King and vassal both faithful in spite of difficulty, not for their own comfort.

Cleary (2): King and minister recognize trouble as trouble, not for personal reasons.

Wu: A king’s minister is in the depths of difficulties and he disregards his personal gains or losses.



Confucius/Legge: In the end no blame will attach to her. Wilhelm/Baynes: But in the end there is no blame in this. Blofeld: This indicates that we shall be free from blame to the very end (or in the end). Ritsema/Karcher: Completing without surpassing indeed. Cleary (2): In the end there is no bitterness. Wu: He will make no error in the end.

Legge: Line two is the correctly magnetic correlate of the ruler in line five. Here we see that the moral value of conduct is independent of success or failure.



Siu: When duty bound, the man should seek out the danger and deliberately face the opposition. This is especially important for officials in the government.

Wing: Because you serve a larger cause, whether you realize it or not, you are obligated to meet Obstacles head on and overcome them. Even though this is not advisable in ordinary affairs, this is the proper approach for extraordinary causes. You will not be blamed.

Editor: The image depicts an ego doggedly coping with an imperfect universe to further the Work. Since its subject is judged blameless for the difficulties encountered, this line often refers to dealing with the illusions of others; it could be a test.

Thus when Heaven is about to entrust a man with great work, it first causes distress to his mind, belabors his muscles and frame, starves his body, subjects him to want, and frustrates what he sets out to do. This is to stimulate his ambition, strengthen his character, and increase his capacity for doing what he could not do before.

A. Cope as best you can with arduous circumstances. The Work is more important than you are.

B. A selfless struggle ("Self-sacrifice").


Legge: The third line, dynamic, shows its subject advancing, but only to greater difficulties. He remains stationary, and returns to his former associates.

Wilhelm/Baynes: Going leads to obstructions, hence he comes back.

Blofeld: To proceed would lead to trouble; therefore turn back!

Liu: Going leads to obstruction. Therefore he returns. He will be happy. [Caution will prevent loss or injury.]

Ritsema/Karcher: Going Limping, coming reversing.

Shaughnessy: Going afoot, coming in return.

Cleary (1): Going leads to trouble. Come back.

Wu: Going forth is difficult; coming back is the opposite.



Confucius/Legge: His associates, represented by the lower trigram, rejoice

in him. Wilhelm/Baynes: Those within rejoice over it. Blofeld: This passage presages happiness for the women of the family (literally, happiness for those within). [This could also be translated "internal happiness," but I think the above rendering is what the author meant.] Ritsema/Karcher: Inside rejoicing-in-it indeed. Cleary (2): Those inside will rejoice at this. Wu: Because he will be greeted from inside.

Legge: Line three is dynamic, and in a place of strength, but his correlate sixth line is magnetic, so that his advance would not be supported. He waits therefore for a better time, and nurtures the two lines below, who naturally cling to him. On line three, K'ung Ying-ta says: "Of the three lines of the lower trigram only the third is yang, above the two others who are of the yin nature. They cling to him, and are represented as rejoicing."



Siu: Under certain circumstances, however, it is the duty of the man to refrain from dealing with obstructions. Should the father, for example, fail to return from his reckless venture, the dependents entrusted to his care may not survive.

Wing: If you abandon your present concerns in order to struggle with an external obstacle, you are in danger of jeopardizing the security of those close to you and, perhaps, undermining the structure of your life. It would be a good idea to return to your center and reconsider your plan.

Editor: This line changes the hexagram to number eight, Holding Together, the corresponding line of which states: "We see its subject seeking for union with such as ought not to be associated with." This reinforces the idea in the present case of returning from a dangerous position. There seems to be very little difference between lines one and three -- as in the former, the psychological correlations of "going" and "coming" with "analysis" (differentiation), and "synthesis" (union), are sometimes useful.

Much that I sought, I could not find;

Much that I found, I could not bind;

Much that I bound, I could not free;

Much that I freed returned to me.

-- L.W. Dodd

A. Avoid adversity by returning to a former alliance, attitude or discipline.


Legge: The fourth line, magnetic, shows its subject advancing, but only to greater difficulties. She remains stationary, and unites with the line above.

Wilhelm/Baynes: Going leads to obstructions, coming leads to union.

Blofeld: To proceed would lead to trouble, whereas those coming will forge useful connections.

Liu: Going leads to obstruction. Coming brings about unity.

Ritsema/Karcher: Going Limping, coming continuity.

Shaughnessy: Going afoot, coming connected.

Cleary (1): Going leads to trouble; come form associations.

Cleary (2): Going means trouble; coming back brings company.

Wu: Going forth is difficult; coming back will find an associate.



Confucius/Legge: To advance will only be to encounter greater difficulties; she remains stationary, and unites with the line above who is in his proper place and has the ruler's stability. Wilhelm/Baynes: In the appropriate place one finds support. Blofeld: Because this line is suitably placed and possesses solidity. Ritsema/Karcher: Appropriate situation, substance indeed. Cleary (2): One’s position is solidified. Wu: What is in place is solid.

Legge: Line four is magnetic, and though in her proper place, she can do very little by herself. She is immediately below the king or great man however, and cultivates her loyal attachment, waiting for the time when she shall be required to act.



Siu: The man charges ahead, only to fall back because of insufficient strength. He needs to gather trustworthy associates for the venture before it can succeed.

Wing: In order to meet the challenge and overcome Obstacles facing you, you must rely upon someone who can help you. You will need a unified approach, employing the help of another person or an organization. A single-handed maneuver will surely fail. Hold back and unite.

Editor: Blofeld's rendering of "union with the line above" in terms of "forging useful connections" is sometimes an apt interpretation in contemporary idiom. Psychologically it can refer to reuniting with your essence via meditation on the principles of the Work. Note that both lines 4 and 6 are magnetic, and both are counseled to focus on the 5th line ruler: dimensionally, the inner Self: the one who is both "above" and "inside." The structure of the upper trigram symbolizes these relationships in the context of Impasse.

They also serve who only stand and wait.

A. Remain in place and develop your higher potential.


Legge: The fifth line, dynamic, shows its subject struggling with the greatest difficulties, while friends are coming to help him.

Wilhelm/Baynes: In the midst of the greatest obstructions, friends come.

Blofeld: In the midst of severe trouble, friends (or a friend) arrive.

Liu: One meets great obstruction. Friends come. [You can expect help in your undertakings and good fortune in everything.]

Ritsema/Karcher: The great Limping, partnering coming.

Shaughnessy: Greatly afoot, the friend comes.

Cleary (1): Great trouble; a companion comes.

Cleary (2): In great trouble, companions come.

Wu: There is great difficulty. Friends will come.



Confucius/Legge: He is in the central position and possesses the requisite virtue. Wilhelm/Baynes: For they are ruled by the central position. Blofeld: This is indicated by the line's central position in the upper trigram. Ritsema/ Karcher: Using centering articulating indeed. Cleary (2): Because of balance and moderation. Wu: The difficulty will be assuaged around the center.

Legge: Line five is the king, the man great and strong. He can cope with the difficulties, and his "friends" are his correlate line two and the other two lines of the lower trigram who also give their help.



Siu: The man meets the obstruction head-on in an emergency. His spirit attracts able helpers.

Wing: Even in the most desperate struggles, your spirit alone will attract others. This co-operation will bring you success in your endeavors. Obstacles will give way.

Editor: The image suggests an impasse about to be resolved by forces currently outside your sphere of awareness.

I was living in a constant state of tension; often I felt as if gigantic blocks of stone were tumbling down upon me. One thunderstorm followed another. My enduring these storms was a question of brute strength. Others have been shattered by them -- Nietzsche, and Holderlin, and many others. But there was a demonic strength in me, and from the beginning there was no doubt in my mind that I must find the meaning of what I was experiencing in these fantasies. When I endured these assaults of the unconscious I had an unswerving conviction that I was obeying a higher will, and that feeling continued to uphold me until I had mastered the task.
Jung -- Memories, Dreams, Reflections

A. Forces for integration are on the threshold of awareness.


Legge: The sixth line, magnetic, shows its subject going forward, only to increase the difficulties, while her remaining stationary will be productive of great merit. There will be good fortune, and it will be advantageous to meet with the great man.

Wilhelm/Baynes: Going leads to obstructions, coming leads to great good fortune. It furthers one to see the great man.

Blofeld: To proceed would lead to trouble; coming will produce excellent results. It is advisable to see a great man. [We should seek advice from someone of lofty moral stature and profound wisdom.]

Liu: Going leads to obstruction. Coming brings great events. Good fortune. It is beneficial to see a great man.

Ritsema/Karcher: Going Limping, coming ripening. Significant.

Harvesting: visualizing Great People.

Shaughnessy: Going afoot, coming with swelled head; auspicious; beneficial to see a great man.

Cleary (1): Going is trouble, coming is great. For good results, it is beneficial to see a great person.

Wu: Going forth is difficult; coming back is great. Good fortune. It will be advantageous to see the great man.



Confucius/Legge: Her aim is to assist the subject of the line inside of her. By

her course she follows that noble Lord of the figure. Wilhelm/Baynes: For the will is directed to inner things. For thus does one follow a man of rank. Blofeld: The first sentence points to directing the will inwards. The other sentence is an injunction to submit ourselves to someone truly noble. Ritsema/Karcher: Purpose located inside indeed. Using adhering-to valuing indeed. Cleary (2): The aim is within. By following what is valuable. Wu: His goals are directed inward. He can get his advices from the highly placed.

Legge: The action of the hexagram is over -- where can the magnetic sixth line go? Let her abide where she is, and serve the great man immediately below her. So shall she also be great -- in meritorious action at least. "The line inside of her" refers to the ruler in line five.



Siu: The man cannot go forward. He needs to remain where he is and serve the great man in order to achieve meritorious deeds.

Wing: Although it seems that you may ignore the turmoil around you and proceed with your own affairs, you will not be able to do so. You will inexorably be drawn into the struggle. Look to the paths of the wise for guidance in this matter. This brings good fortune to all concerned.

Editor: The third and sixth lines are proper correlates and very similar in content. Wilhelm comments that the magnetic line six and its dynamic correlate in line three unite to support the dynamic fifth line ruler ("that noble Lord of the figure"). Legge's commentary misses this subtle distinction. The psychological message is to conjoin your thoughts and feelings and re-attune yourself to the principles of the Work. To assist the ruler "inside of us," or direct the will to "inner things," is to serve the intent of the Self -- a repetition of the counsel in the Judgment to "see the great man."

The wisdom of the "unconscious" stratum is not only different from but in certain respects even superior to our ego consciousness. While the conscious ego is normally unfamiliar and unaware of this hidden stratum, the unconscious objective psyche is evidently aware of the ego, its intentions and activities. We have learned through our work with dreams that the "unconscious" is also aware of facts and connections beyond the ego’s scope and capacity to tap, and which are relevant to the past, present and future.
E. C. Whitmont -- The Alchemy of Healing

A. Forces abdicate their autonomy to break an impasse by serving a greater good.

B. The work is taking place on inner planes -- cease your activity and allow the changes to fulfill themselves.

C. “Don’t go there.” Seek inner guidance -- by focusing on the Self and the principles of the Work, one attains success.

D. Nothing external can be accomplished. Instead, venture inward and work on your attitudes, beliefs or expectations.

June 25, 2001, 4/25/06