The first two hexagrams of the I Ching are also a pair of opposites, just like the last two. To change one of these into the other you would have to change every line. However, unlike the final two, there is no natural tendency for them to change into each other.
Ch'ien: The Creative
K'un: The Receptive
These two are Ch’ien, “The Creative” and K’un “The Receptive”. Ch’ien is wholy yang and K’un wholly yin. The Wilhelm-Baynes translation says that Ch’ien stands for “the primal power, which is light-giving, active, strong and of the spirit.” It symbolises Heaven. K’un stands for “the dark, yielding, receptive, primal power of yin”. It symbolises the Earth and represents Nature in contrast to Spirit.
We can, therefore, directly relate these two hexagrams to the yin-yang circle. The Tao is the circle and the yin and yang are the components, ever circling around one another. From the persoective of ancient China this is the essential flow and principle of all relationships and the key to things going well is for us to behave in accordance with the Tao, which means that, according as we find ourselves in the position of yin or the position of yang, acting accordingly.
One might think that this is a highly conservative philosophy and in a certain way it is, but not a static one. In the West, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world we have a strong tradition of opposition, but we tend not to see how the opponents need each other in the way that is suggested in the Tao. Political parties often act as though their aim was to completely eliminate the opposition. In court, one side wins and the other side loses.
So, one might object, but what if the powerful abuse their power? This would usually mean being overly yang. From the point of view of the I Ching, if one is in a yang position and one uses that power in a childish way, simply lining one’s own pocket or having a tantrum at the expense of those you don’t like, then you are, by that very fact, shedding some of your yang lines. There is, therefore, a natural tendency for abused power to decay and fall.
Also, when one is in either position it pays not to be arrogant about it, either in a positive or negative fashion. All hexagrams are on the point of changing. In these cases - the only ones of this kind in the whole set of 64, we know what each is going to turn into. With all the other hexagrams the line entering at the bottom could be either yin or yang but since each of these is already saturated, if nothing happens to change the course, ch’ien has to naturally turn into 44 Ku and K’un has to turn into 24 Fu. Fu is associated with mid-winter when the light begins to return and Ku with mid-summer when, although things seem bright, they are already starting to move toward the dark time.
|Ku: Coming to meet||Fu: Return|
Ku suggests that when power is at its peak, it is something that at first seems weak and innocuous that creeps in and destroys it. Fu represent a turning point. When we look at the careers of great people, they have often experienced a time of despair followed by such a turning point. looking back, years later, one sees that the disaster was, in fact, the best thing that ever happened to one because it jolted one out of a rut and forced one to consider possibilities that would otherwise have seemed unthinkable.
In a way, it is really Ku and Fu that are most in tune with the yin-yang circle, since in that circle there is a spot of dark in the light and a spot of light in the dark. It is this spot that we tend to overlook that brings about the most profound change.