Now, whenever you see a featured image that has absolutely nothing to do with the title of the post, you know there’s some really warped backstory to it. So I’d invite you to read till the part that I touch on why there’s a Shiba Inu and decide if you wish to continue further.
I initially wanted to make the title of this blog post even longer and add in something that goes the “Physical Manifestation Of Chinese Metaphysics Laws In BaZi & Feng Shui And Why My Eye Rolled Till I Can See My Own Backside” but I figured that wouldn’t rank very well so I kept it as such.
Before you twiddle your thumbs or start reading this on a bus or while you’re taking that sweet morning (or late night) dump, please just read whatever is here with a light-hearted tone because I’d like to remind everyone that writing on my blog is always and will always an outlet of sorts for me. I’m incredibly busy these days, and I need to vent so just let me write in the tone and manner I want.
And yes! It’s been a while! Did anyone miss me? Even if you did, I didn’t – simply because I’m so swamped now and I can’t actually put a face to the internet traffic on my blog. To be fair, and you may or may not know, but some of my closest friends now were once my clients, so yes, I do miss some of you.
This is completely on an FYI basis, but there have been a lot of incidents where people “bro” me or behave as though they were the best man at my wedding – please don’t give me that nonsense. I’ve said this before, but if you cannot see my profile picture on WhatsApp, do not assume I’m your friend and do not “bro” me. Now, if you’re wondering if I tend to make friends with people with better, higher-quality charts. Of course, I do. Not because I am scheming or have anything to get out of it, but simply because we just get along better and that they bring out the best in me. If you can read charts and you observe for long enough, people of the same chart qualities just end up being in close proximity. Tough. It’s just nature’s laws. Because Heavens save my soul if I have to waste my life hanging out with people who think wearing a rock will change their lives.
Anyway, let’s begin before I digress too much.
A Few Quick Updates On What’s Going On BTS
I gave an update on my Facebook page earlier this month on what’s going on in my life right now:
Nothing new that I wish to say here other than to reiterate a few things.
Firstly, thank you to the people who said that my Rice Media feature humanizes me. I say this in jest, but I didn’t know I was so inhumane for people to say that the video humanizes me. I apologize if I came across as inhumane throughout the years although that might be a bit tad harsh on someone who is just trying to make the Chinese metaphysics industry better, don’t you think? (*Wink wink*)
I know it’s the way I sound on my blog. I just express myself differently in writing.
But really, thanks for saying that I feel more human and a lot more approachable after watching that video. Whatever you read on this blog is really just one side of me and it’s the ‘work-side’ of me that will say whatever needs to be said to get a point across. There are definitely other sides of me that you may or may not want to see, but let’s just leave that to your imagination.
My peak period has started and it’s usually about 1 to 1.5 months before Chinese New Year and I’m experiencing a huge uptick now. I’m already quite busy as it is even if it isn’t my peak period and I think most people are unable to fathom just how many cases I’m handling – which is fine of course because it’s not something that people need to know. I’m not telling everyone I’m busy because I want to show off or inflate my value – I’m really just saying it as a matter of fact. If I wanted to be more pompous in my tone, competing to look busier with other practitioners would be a bit of an insult not because I don’t think they are good in what they do (maybe they are, maybe they aren’t), but the point of being in this field is not to compete on who is busier.
I’m extremely grateful to be in the position I am in now, where visibility isn’t exactly an issue. I don’t do the whole “competitive advantage analysis” thing that they teach in business school because I’ve said many times that spending time looking at what other practitioners are doing is going to be a major distraction. If I focus on doing the right thing, Heavens will light the way. When I do spend some time reading what another practitioner has to say, it’s really when clients bring it up.
There will be periods where I simply ‘disappear’ online, especially when things get busy. Whenever I’m done for the day, week, or month, I really just want to go into my man-cave and do the things I like. It can be spending time with my wife, friends, reading, or getting my mind off things by indulging in video games, which sometimes make me even more stressed because I don’t know why I can never get a good team in my DOTA games.
I really have no plans to start doing videos on YouTube or TikTok. I’m already busy enough and I really don’t feel the impact of videos would be there. Some people will say videos are easier to digest and have a wider reach, which may be true, but my point is that if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t bother to read – I don’t want you as my client in the first place. I also find absolutely no joy in dressing up in a costume doing trivial stuff like dancing, singing, or simply just to wish you a happy new year when I know for a fact some of you are going to have the worst year of your lives.
What I’m trying to say is that I really wish to focus on writing things or creating content that is meaningful, and for me to write something meaningful, be it on my blog or on social media, does require me to squeeze in that extra amount of effort that I often find very hard to summon. Sometimes it’s actually not about creating content per se, but translating what our ancestors passed down for people who can’t understand Chinese idiomatically. There is no reason why I’d prefer giving everyone verbal diarrhoea to writing something meaningful, and writing something meaningful is not as easy as it looks.
I do not want to get into the weird habit of posting motivational posters with ‘inspiring’ quotes like some practitioners, and even if I were to lose my mind and do that someday, it’ll probably be with words like “You have but one life, don’t be a bloody doughnut you tedious imbecile.” instead of something like “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Some people can’t even walk and chew gum at the same time without tripping on their own heel, so let’s not kid each other and talk about walking a thousand miles. Let’s talk brain function instead.
Let’s be honest, posting these things really doesn’t do much for anyone. Do you really think people who are successful got to where they are because of a bloody poster?
Anyway, if you don’t hear from me on my blog or on social media, it’s really because I’m either working or resting. That’s it. What I am also trying to make known here is that I do not see myself as a role model who is fit to post motivational things – that’s really just not me. I’m not going to kid myself and say that everyone is meant for greatness because as a practitioner, I always have to see things from both the Yin and Yang side – the good and the bad – and I’m sure everyone knows by now that I’m fully cognizant of the bad in this world.
When I do feel like writing, or whenever I find that extra push to write, it’s because I feel strongly about something or that something triggered me.
Alas, something has triggered me recently.
I’m going to put the irreverent side of me aside for now and talk about the serious stuff.
What Does 取象 (‘Qu Xiang’) Actually Mean?
One core concept of Chinese metaphysics that a lot of newcomers to this field fail to appreciate is this thing we called 取象 (‘Qu Xiang’). Any practitioner should not be foreign to the saying 「在天成象， 在地成形， 在人成事」because this belief is intrinsic to Chinese metaphysics. The rough translation to this is that the essence of something is decided by Heavens and it receives a physical form on Earth, which then translates into different situations and dynamics between humans. This quote is not just for Qi Men Dun Jia but it applies to everything under the Chinese metaphysics umbrella.
Most people keep saying the word “metaphysics” without actually even understanding what the word means, but let’s get to that later and focus on this word you would hear a lot in Chinese metaphysics which is the word 象, pronounced ‘xiàng’ in Hanyu pinyin.
This word “象”, to most people (or Chinese people in Singapore who can’t actually speak Chinese for nuts), simply means a bloody elephant, when it is in fact so much more. The closest word I can find in English which doesn’t bend its meaning is the word “phenomenon” but it is still too one dimensional because if we talk about 象， it’s not something that you can see or touch, meaning it does not have a physical form. A common saying in Chinese metaphysics is「 万物皆有象 」 which basically means every phenomenon you experience is a form of 象。 The 8 Trigrams, your BaZi chart, name, your house layout, and even your face all have their own 象 which communicates something, like a hidden meaning waiting to be discovered.
It is this belief that lays the foundation of Chinese metaphysics and cosmology and allowed our ancestors to develop what practitioners are using now. You can see 取象 as the act of understanding and interpreting phenomena and it is through this process that we can, well, predict what happens or understand a situation on a deeper level. But remember, 取象 is drawing upon things you cannot actually see and touch.
We’ve still not got to the crux of what 象 exactly means and what it represents – we’ll get to that in a bit.
Whenever we look at a BaZi or Zi Wei Dou Shu chart or analyze a house’s feng shui, we are applying the belief of「在天成象， 在地成形， 在人成事」。 We usually just say 取象 and the quote is implied. 取象 is the thought process behind how a chart is broken down and interpreted and it is an extremely abstract way of looking at the world, but what people fail to realize is that even if it’s abstract, it doesn’t mean it isn’t real or meaningless. These abstract representations give birth to the things we experience.
The concept of 取象 is not hard to understand intellectually in my opinion, but it is hard to appreciate because it requires a very different way of looking at the world which a lot of our rational, scientific minds are unable to accept because it requires you to observe things that sometimes do not have a physical form. Rather, you are trying to study what the physical forms are trying to communicate.
I cannot speak for other civilizations and other forms of astrology, but 取象 is definitely a system of thought or framework that is very unique to the Chinese. The difference here is that this so-called framework is not based on manmade notions and ideas, but something deeper and more universal so-to-speak.
This does not mean we cannot attempt to find parallels in other schools of thought.
It would be very ignorant of someone to think that metaphysics is something only the Chinese explored. Philosophers from all other civilizations have also pondered this topic and it is no surprise that the Greek philosophers were one of, if not, the first to have a discourse on it.
As Aristotle would put it, “Metaphysics involves a study of the universal principles of being, the abstract qualities of existence itself.”
It may come as a surprise to some, but I was first introduced to the word “metaphysics” while reading the works of Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle – not through Chinese astrology – and I would like to think that these great minds spoke of the same thing, but expressed them differently.
I like to synthesize the things I learn and find parallels and the interconnection between things because this is a fundamental belief that all practitioners should have, and the closest thing I can find in other forms of philosophy that relates to what I do now is through Plato’s notion of “essence” and “form”.
Let’s try to explain to everyone what the concept of 象 means and represents.
The Essence Of An Element & Chinese Metaphysics
Let’s assume that the translation for 象 is the word “essence” and explore Plato’s notion of “essence” first.
“Essence” is what makes something what it is and gives quiddity to something. Essence exists in itself and does not consist of modifying traits such as colour, weight, etc.
I bring this up because I find that Plato’s discussion of “essence” reminds me of what we do in Chinese metaphysics – which is 取象。 We use 甲, 乙, 丙, 丁, 戊, 己, 庚, 辛, 壬, 癸 all the time but not many of us think about what is it that makes these Heavenly Stems what it is and what gives them meaning. Do they exist in themselves, or do they exist because we slapped an arbitrary label on them?
Whatever these Heavenly Stems represent will exist even if humans did not exist to interpret them – because they exist in themselves or have what we call “intrinsic existence”. We were lucky because our ancestors interpreted them correctly, and not because our ancestors arbitrarily assigned the meanings and labels to these Heavenly Stems and we now use these Stems to fit the bill.
The notion of something existing in itself is something we often don’t think about and I can tell you for sure these topics only get spoken about in philosophy classes. We’re usually more caught up with the physical form of things and what appeals to our senses and immediate desires and I say this because 甲, 乙, 丙, 丁, 戊, 己, 庚, 辛, 壬, 癸 can all represent wealth and money in someone’s BaZi chart and that’s what most people care about when they first get in touch with BaZi.
The epiphany of seeing some parallels from the philosophical discussions of sages from different civilizations, I’ve always felt that Plato’s theory of essence drew a parallel to the Heavenly Stems we use in Chinese metaphysics that represent the ethereal.
Perhaps to simplify what I’m trying to say: What makes an element, well, an element? Or what is the essence of an element that makes it what it fundamentally is? Why is it that Yang Wood (甲) represents the things it does and Yang Metal (庚) represents the things it does? Until one understands what makes an element what it fundamentally is, or what gives an element its quiddity, one would never be able to appreciate why one element can represent so many different things.
For example: Why is it that Yang Metal (庚) can represent justice, harvest, enemies, and the lungs + large intestines all at the same time? If Yang Metal was the “essence” of something, what is this essence and how does it show up in the physical manifestations described above? I have my own thoughts on why this is so, but I’ll spare everyone the abstract thinking for now. But the last you can do is to trust that the sages of the past have understood what is this “essence” that binds everything together.
The spirit of Chinese metaphysics, or Chinese thought and culture, is expressed through 「在天成象， 在地成形， 在人成事」。 It is a very unique way of processing information that is based on certain fundamental laws that have a form of intrinsic existence.
All these fluffy, metaphysical discourses on the formless and of an ethereal realm will ultimately have some form of physical manifestation and this is what astrologers and practitioners are trying to study. How do these “essences”, or these things that exist in themselves, express themselves in reality?
The reason why BaZi charts are always described metaphorically by phenomenon you can see in nature is because it is nature that is the ‘first point of contact’ that first expresses these “essences” and laws.
The reason why most people find philosophy boring and meaningless is that, well, nothing practical can be done with it. That’s a very commonly held belief in our capitalist society.
Why talk so much? Just show me the money.
The appeal of Chinese metaphysics and astrology, in general, is that the philosophy can finally be put to some practical use that appeals to our innermost desires. Teach me the fastest way to make money and find the spouse of my dreams.
But there’s one thing that I can never understand which is that people take the quote 「在天成象， 在地成形， 在人成事」and apply it as though it can be done in reverse, or feel that humans come first.
Where Does 形 (‘Xing‘) Come Into The Picture?
We spoke a lot about 象 (‘xiang‘) in the above segment and I think one common misconception by people who first get in touch with this term is that 象 is the physical form. It is not.
形 is the physical form, whereas 象 is ethereal.
Let’s take 甲 Wood as an example: If 甲 represents the beginning of something, this notion, or thought, is ethereal and has no physical form. 形 gives it a physical form, so it can be a beginning of a new career or relationship and the event is the modifier and or 形 here. That’s the difference between 象 and 形 and what is meant by ethereal vs physical.
形 can have traits and make it stand out from something else, but 象 exists in itself and does not need such modifiers.
The reason why a mere 8 characters in a chart can tell so much about someone’s life is because the process of 取象 and 取形 is basically a framework that practitioners use to determine how something is likely to happen and it can be applied in more ways than the average layman realizes. Each 10-year phase (大运) you move into and the Annual Phases (流年运) basically presents a different 象 and 形 and when we add in the 5 elements and the 10 ‘gods’ in BaZi, it gives birth to the various events we go through. Let’s not forget that Yin & Yang need to come together and interact with each other before reality can exist.
You can see 形 (‘xing‘) representing the traits of something and my favourite example of how something can manifest differently but still have the same “essence” is always the story of how Emperor Zhu Yuan Zhang wanted to hunt down the man with the same BaZi chart as him, only to realize this person was a bee farmer with nine bee farms. Both are, in essence, kings in their own right, but the form and shape they take are different.
May I also take this opportunity to reiterate once again that I do not care whether you are a doctor, lawyer, or private banker. Human garbage and a Category 4 chart can be from any profession and I can only say I feel very sorry for the people whose egos and self-esteem are so contingent on the so-called prestige of their profession. If your “essence” is bad, I really don’t care what form or shape it takes.
The process of the ethereal becoming the physical is basically what gives birth to action and the things we see and experience in real life and when we talk about a Heavenly Stem sitting on an Earthly Branch, it’s basically a way of portraying how this process is like. It is also the reason why when we say a Heavenly Stem is “rooted” or 通根， it’s when the manifestations are most salient.
Let’s use an example: Why is it that 甲 sitting on 子 can be so different from 甲 sitting on 午? The essence of 甲 Wood, arguably, does not change, but this “essence” is expressed differently as it manifests physically. 甲 can mean the beginning or the start of something, but the beginning of something, as an essence or ethereal concept, can be expressed differently. It can be the beginning of something good and constructive or the beginning of someone devolving into a doughnut. Why is it that 甲子 can even mean someone has started or begun an extra-marital affair?
The beginning of something will always be what it is as a notion and as an essence, and no modifier is required to change what it actually means, which is why 甲 Wood will always represent what it’s meant to represent.
I Want To Know What The New ‘Practitioners’ Are Smoking
Somebody. Please. Tell me what they are smoking.
The Chinese metaphysics industry sometimes makes me feel as though marijuana has already been legalized in Singapore because the kind of metaphysical hogwash that gets pulled out of pubic orifices is simply out of this realm.
I’m not going to lie, but I usually don’t bother looking at what other practitioners are doing because most of them just make me want to puke and call out the injustice I witness. The last time something irked me this badly was when one of my clients received a 10-page templated PDF report (which is now in my collection) which he paid $1000+ for and had to wait 30 days for it. It’s something else this time.
I do wish to thank them for their existence because they provide the dichotomy and Yin Yang balance I need to be writing about the things I do.
Now, it has come to my attention that there is a new ‘practitioner’ out there giving feng shui audits now and her analysis of a house was that because there was a doormat with a Shiba Inu at the door that ‘qi’ cannot enter the house because a dog represents “stop” and “don’t come in”. I’m trying extremely hard to understand how this can even possibly be derived.
I really want someone to tell me what this practitioner is smoking because I want some. As far as I know, dogs always want their owners back into the house, so at what point does the “essence” of a dog mean blocking or stopping something that’s good from entering – I do not know. This practitioner’s argument is that it’s because the Branch representing the dog is where the 艮 Trigram is which represents the mountains, meaning she’s using the Early Heaven Trigrams (先天八卦) which I have no idea why.
Did King Wen of Zhou from one of the most glorious dynasties of Chinese history develop the Later Heaven Trigrams (后天八卦) for fun? If I were to be blunt, any practitioner who uses the Early Heaven Trigrams is a moron who can’t be bothered to find out why Later Heaven Trigrams need to be used as opposed to the Early Heaven Trigrams. This is not to say that Early Heaven Trigrams are useless, but there is an appropriate time to use them.
The ‘practitioner’ goes on to defend herself by quoting things out of context, saying that 艮 representing the dog comes from Chapter 8 of 《说卦传》which is technically correct, but conveniently leaves out the complete sentence “乾为马，坤为牛，震为龙，巽为鸡，坎为豕，离为雉，艮为狗，兑为羊” which is a complete deviation from what we know of the 8 Trigrams because if we were to go by conventional theory, we know 坤 is where the Branches representing Goat and Monkey zodiacs are in the Later Heavens Trigram and where the Rat zodiac is if we were to use the Early Heavens Trigram. Rooster is not represented by 离 (‘li’) and Goat is not represented by the 兑 (‘dui’) Trigram.
The two are two things to note here:
- The Trigrams and which animal it represents in 《说卦传》is what we call 引申意 in Chinese, meaning it’s an extension of the original meaning.
- Building on the point above, it is precisely because the zodiac animals are not seen as “essences” in themselves that they can have multiple meanings. To put it in more layman terms: In various Chinese classical texts, the 坤 (‘kun’) Trigram is now shared by the Goat, Monkey, Ox, and Rat zodiac. If zodiac animal is supposed to represent one single thing that is free from human bias and perception, it does not make sense to be shared by so many different animal signs.
I’ve mentioned this quote by Confucius a long time ago, which is that “书不尽言，言不尽意”。Books sometimes cannot adequately express what can be done via words; words cannot adequately express something’s true meaning.
I’m also curious that if a doormat with a picture of a dog can block ‘qi’, then what happens if you have an actual, real dog? Would you not agree that having a pet dog is one of the best things that can happen to you, and now you’re telling me it blocks ‘good luck’?
Jokes aside, my point is that we as mere humans do not get to decide what the essence of something is and what it means. We take hints from Heavens and try to interpret them as accurately as we can, but what’s happening these days is that we are behaving as though we take the role of the Heavens and we get to decide what something is supposed to mean.
What’s being done here is not 取象。 It’s conjuring stories out of thin air and pulling snake oil out of one’s spiritual narcissistic orifice.
To be fair to this ‘practitioner’, understanding and interpreting 象 is not an easy task because factors like the human ego, inexperience, and confirmation bias all tend to mess things up. When we apply 取象， this thing we are trying to interpret, whatever it is, exists in itself, for itself and it is independent of our perception or biases. We would all agree that to interpret something without human bias is extremely difficult which is why our ancestors who developed Chinese metaphysics are sages who are not tied to their own egos like our dear anti-Shiba ‘practitioner’. An essence or 象 doesn’t exist because we threw some imaginary concept to them because if it does, the whole framework and foundation that Chinese metaphysics is built on will collapse.
Anything can mean anything and everything, and I would be selling Shiba Inu poo for gold in 2022.
The Era Where 取象 And 取形 Have Become A Clown Act
Everyone already knows why I’m against feng shui items and zodiac forecasts. There are plenty of blog posts on that which I’ll invite you to read especially when Chinese New Year is around the corner.
Me ruminating on this topic of 取象 And 取形 gave me an epiphany on why feng shui items are touted as remedies and it’s because we are using these items as artificial representations of the “essences” and whatever’s ethereal. We are forcing a 象 or 形 to ‘manifest’ by placing something and associating it with something we would like to have.
Please forgive me for the crass example I’m about to give.
When you apply a superficial remedy like placing an auspicious feng shui item, the flawed logic goes: If I’m stupid, let’s put something that represents intelligence so that I can become smarter. The real important question that is not being asked is “Why am I stupid in the first place?”, or rather, what kind of essence do you represent as a human being? I’ve yet to meet a stupid person who has become smarter simply by wearing a Pixiu bracelet or displaying a feng shui tree.
象 or the essence of something is not something that is modifiable, just like how the Heavenly Stems will always represent the things they are meant to represent. I cannot decide for 甲 Wood or 庚 Metal to mean something they are not just because I deem it so. So if someone’s BaZi chart were to paint a certain 象 or describe the essence of someone, nothing will ever change that, least of all feng shui items and lucky colours.
The act of using remedies like this also assumes that 「在天成象， 在地成形， 在人成事」goes in reverse and it’s no longer about Heaven’s will or nature’s law having a physical manifestation on Earth. It’s degenerated into a state where a stupid person does whatever he or she wants, and expects Heavens to stoop down to his or her level and for nature’s laws to change to fit someone’s low IQ. There is a reason why Heavens is mentioned first in the quote, and humans last.
The assumption is that humans have risen above Heavens, which is a dangerous notion your Asian parent will not be happy about.
I’m going to use two more extremely simple examples to illustrate this warped logic.
Our Dear Zodiac Animals And The Chaos They Create
The first one involves our dear zodiac animals. At the end of the day, the animals are symbols and it is a form of 象。 You can view the animals as a modifier or trait that describes this 象 or essence of something, but the animal in itself is not and never will be a 象 in itself. I know it’s hard to grasp what I’m saying but please try.
The said ‘practitioner’ makes a proposition that pictures of dogs shouldn’t be in the Southwest sector because Southwest is represented by the 未 (‘wei‘) Branch which forms 未戌刑 where 戌 (‘xu‘) represents the dog. If 取象 can be applied this way and the logic stands, shouldn’t we see dogs and goats fighting; chickens pecking at rabbits; monkeys choking tigers to death, and snakes wrestling with a pig, or something of that sort all the time? I get it that the above may happen in nature but my argument is that if a practitioner feels the essence of a dog can disrupt a house’s energies in the sector that holds the essence of a goat (it sounds so weird to even type it I don’t understand how some idiots can even say it out loud), wouldn’t the actual, physical representation of this essence show similar signs? If this absolutely moronic logic stands, do we see snakes and chickens hanging out in nature because the Branches representing them (巳 and 酉) are in a 三合 relationship?
Good lord of the high Heavens… I stand corrected. (The above phenomenon isn’t natural by any means.) The owner of the house where this picture was taken must be in an extremely auspicious house because we’re seeing the literal, physical embodiment of 巳酉合金。 Perhaps the house owner will strike gold someday. We’re just missing an ox or cow now for the full 丑巳三合金局 to form.
What’s more auspicious than a chicken on a snake? It’s a chicken, on a snake, which is on a cow, or whichever order you prefer should you deem a cow riding on a chicken more auspicious although a tad cruel. Maybe next time you go to a steak house, order some chicken chop and snake-infused liquor on the side because the laws of the universe say it’s better that way.
As a person under the Tiger zodiac, should I not eat porks because Tigers and Pigs are ‘secret friends’ (六合); should I not eat lamb because the Hidden Stems combine (暗合); should I not eat beef because the Branches representing Ox and Tiger are both in the 艮 Trigram? Should I turn vegetarian then? But holy hell, I’m the embodiment of a Tiger and eating vegetables only just doesn’t feel natural and sounds really unnatural and inauspicious!
I can come out with a thousand and one examples of such ridiculous examples and none of them will address what 象 or 取象 fundamentally means.
The Spirit Behind Why Our Ancestors Used Something That Doesn’t Actually Exist – The Dragon
I think we can all agree that out of all the 12 zodiac animals we use in anything Chinese metaphysics-related, the dragon is the only ‘animal’ that is made up. I don’t care what you are smoking, but a dragon did not exist and is not a real thing.
Our ancestors and the Chinese sages were not imbeciles like some of the newly-minted ‘practitioners’ you see these days. They would not invent an imaginary being such as a dragon and expect a dragon as an animal or living creature to be the 象 or essence of something. It is what a dragon is supposed to represent that is the 象 or essence.
Now, if you studied a bit on I-Ching, you would know that the 6 lines (or 爻) in 乾 Trigram are all described using the dragon and in these 6 lines the terms “潜”、“见”、“跃”、“惕”、“飞”、“亢” are all used, symbolizing the state of the dragon and its position. The ‘state’ of the dragon as described in the 乾 Trigram is but a way to describe the process of the rise and decline of all things and events, not because our ancestors actually saw a dragon soar into the sky, and fall into the pits.
The dragon and the image it’s associated with is a perfect example of what I’ve been trying to explain throughout this post, which is that the image of a dragon is nothing but a modifier or trait that describes the 象 or essence of something, which in this case the rise and decline of all things. The image of a dragon is 形， not 象。
If the logic that the 11 other animals and even their pictures can have such a profound effect in our real world, then I would like to understand why our ancestors chose to use one imaginary animal or celestial being because the logic is not consistent and should not stand.
Traditional Chinese Medicine & Vegetables
The second example will be easier to appreciate: If you know a bit about Traditional Chinese Medicine theory and what kind of food is good for which organs, you would have read that black sesame is good for the kidneys at some point. The saying goes “黑入肾”. Kidneys are represented by the Water element, which is also associated with the colour black, so foods that are black benefit the kidneys the most. Specific foods targetting specific organs is an act of 取形 and we are using the natural manifestations in the form of food to strengthen our organs and TCM practitioners of the past have spent centuries collating studies and data. If you’re asking how 取象 comes into the picture, it’ll be harder to explain and I won’t attempt to, but just see 取象 as the starting point for how black, kidneys, and black sesame are can somehow be linked.
Now, if I take a bunch of broccoli or brussels sprouts and I torch the living hell and send it to Satan’s inferno realm and back and it becomes as black as the void, and I eat it, do you think it will strengthen my kidneys? Or will it lead to me having my colon or part of my liver removed?
These green vegetables are supposed to be beneficial for the liver, but has their essence changed after I torched the living hell out of it? No, they are still in themselves, green vegetables. It’s just that a bad cook or husband got involved. The “essence” of something cannot be modified, but of course, it can be misapplied by trying to turn green vegetables into something it’s not.
Let’s put it this way: What makes a vegetable a vegetable is its intrinsic qualities and properties as a vegetable, not because it is green which is its modifier. Just because I paint something green does not make it a vegetable. Do you get what I mean? What’s happening here is that new-age ‘practitioners’ are going around painting things green and calling them a vegetable when they are the vegetables themselves, which is why you’ll have all these extremely warped applications of Chinese metaphysics.
Exercise some critical thinking, and you’ll get my point. We do not determine nor bend Heaven’s laws through such hacks or meaningless manipulation of something’s trait.
The Complexity Intrinsic To Chinese Metaphysics
I guess one concept that is unique in Chinese metaphysics that I’ve yet to come across in philosophical discourses from other civilizations is the concept of Yin and Yang and the 5 Elements. Rather, just Yin and Yang, because the 5 elements can actually just be seen as a subset of Yin and Yang because Wood is basically just Young Yang and Fire, is Old Yang.
It’s also not just about Yin & Yang on its own, but also how these different versions of Yin and Yang, expressed through the 5 Elements, end up interacting with each other.
Understanding the “essence” or 象 of something and how it takes physical form is already mind-boggling enough, and here our ancestors are, talking about how these “essences” interact with each other and why the element we control, or 克， represents wealth. But whatever it is, it’s also definitely a form of 取象。 Acquiring wealth could perhaps simply mean doing something, which is expressed through 克。
Let’s not talk about “essences” anymore and just use the word 象。
象 also has its different categories as well:
- Yin Yang
- 5 Elements
- Stems & Branches
- And many more…
All of the above has its own various forms of 象 and my point is that 象 is not something that you can simply pull out of your backside and whatever pleases your imagination.
The process of 取象 and using it to interpret and forecast events is extremely susceptible to confirmation bias, because 取象, as I said, is to interpret the laws that exist in our world and not a test of our creativity, and the only way to make sure that personal biases, confirmation bias, and artistic flair don’t get in the way is to make sure that our human minds don’t get in the way.
This is why the discussion on “essence” and intrinsic existence is important because if 象 is simply a matter of our imagination, as I said, the whole system that Chinese metaphysics was built on will collapse because anyone can conjure any kind of story and call it Chinese metaphysics. The process of 取象 will be nothing more than storytelling.
Why Heavens Comes First; Earth Second; Humans Last
The traditional belief is that humans are near powerless when it comes to Heavens’ will and that we can only listen to it in hopes that one day it leads us somewhere we would like to be. The old Chinese saying goes 听天由命 which is to listen to Heavens’ will.
I get it that it’s very appealing to think that human will can overcome everything, but I’d like to think that my life experience and cases I’ve witnessed have shown me that we still need to give Heavens and nature’s laws it’s due respect. I’m not definitely not saying that I believe in predestination, but there are certain things we need to accept first in order to alter the course of things. Even if you can alter the course of things, it doesn’t mean you get whatever you want and it certainly does not mean Heavens starts to listen to you because you’re a special snowflake. For some people, staying away from trouble is really good enough and they don’t need to bother thinking about becoming the next billionaire. I wrote about my thoughts on the topic of transcending charts many times and what it means for someone, so I won’t repeat it here.
I know I said this already but, I’m sorry, but I still don’t get it. How does a Shiba Inu doormat block ‘qi’?
I guess my point here is that if we are not interpreting these laws properly or Heavens’ will for that matter, then how exactly are we going to use Chinese metaphysics to map a better course of our lives? Because good Heavens, if a Shibu Inu doormat can block ‘qi’, when the day comes that I get a pet dog, I hope no one ever tells me “Hey Sean, you and your dog are starting to resemble each other. Better unblock that ‘qi’, dude.”
Interpreting these laws that we use in Chinese metaphysics or any form of astrology is not easy, and what I can say for sure is that our human ego gets in the way. People can come up with something that is complete nonsense for the sake of getting more views.
I don’t think anyone with a sound mind thinks that we, as humans, get to decide how the Earth spins and how long it takes for the planets to go around the sun. Whatever that needs to happen in nature, or the universe for that matter, will happen and all we can do is interpret it, and try to adapt.
To practice Chinese metaphysics or astrology and to blatantly assume we get to interpret the laws however we want suggests that one thinks that he or she is above Heavens, which is basically saying that one is nothing but another spiritual narcissist.
The point of this post is not because I’ve found another practitioner to throw shade at. Their existence does give us an opportunity to talk about these topics and explore them deeper. The reason why I went a bit more philosophical this time and even brought in Greek philosophy, I guess, is to remind everyone that there are some things that are not for us to decide. There is a reason why the Chinese sages were considered sages, and to assume that someone who can’t even read Chinese and can reach their level just because they look at some online course on BaZi or Feng Shui is utterly preposterous.
Studying Chinese metaphysics does not make me feel anymore capable of transcending my own chart compared to the average person who didn’t study it, and neither does it make me feel that I’ve found a way to game whatever Heaven has in store for me and live however I want. I know this might strike a few people as pretentious because of the way I usually sound on my blog, but studying Chinese metaphysics reminds me of how small and vulnerable I am to nature’s laws because everything that was supposed to happen in my chart, has happened. I personally find it very disturbing that the new ‘practitioners’ sprouting up begin their practice by assuming they can interpret things however they want as though they are the ‘chosen one’ and are wiser than our Chinese sages, and assume life can be hacked with extremely superficial things like placing inanimate objects around the house.
If I don’t like something about my own chart, it also doesn’t mean I get to change my interpretation of it just because I want to. The same logic applies to why you don’t say dogs are ‘qi’ blockers because what are you going to say to people born in the year of the Pig? Are they ‘qi’ eaters then?
How Is This Relevant To You?
If I were to be brutally honest about things, I really don’t care whether whatever I write is relevant to my readers or not. I write because I want to most of the time. If it’s relevant to you and you get some epiphany from things, that’s great. If you don’t, then feel free to just generate some advertising revenue for me to keep my website running.
My point in writing all this is simply to say that if you want to understand or apply something, then please really make a proper, dignified effort to do so. A lot of new ‘practitioners’ love insulting their intelligence and they make a living by insulting yours. And if you’re fine with that, sure. It is what it is and I don’t wish to be part of it.
On a less confrontational note: I guess the relevance of this post is perhaps to get people to think about notions like “intrinsic existence” and why certain things, ideals, notions simply exist because they just do.
I know… Pondering about these things isn’t going to feed your family or pay for that Michelin star dinner you wish you could bring your hot Tinder date (who is clearly not interested in you) on.
But I suppose it is through the contemplating of these notions on intrinsic existence that we get to value and appreciate some of the things that make being human a blessing and fascinating experience because we get to feel things like love, camaraderie, dignity, which do not actually have a physical form, but yet, feel amazing when you experience it. Even change, as a concept, notion, or “essence”, is fascinating enough.
The ethereal, sometimes, in fact, most of the time, has more value than something that is physical. How do you even begin to put a dollar value or quantify what’s ethereal in the first place?
I guess it’s also a reminder to all of us what we wish to stand for and represent in our lifetime, and if we were the living embodiment of something that has “intrinsic existence”, what would it be? OK fine, perhaps you can explain love with some hormones although I’d hate to describe love in such a reductive manner, but someone find me a dignity hormone then. You get my point.
Of course, to end off this post in the most Sean-esque way ever. Let’s not fail to appreciate that there are is an intrinsic existence to stupidity too that expresses itself as ‘qi’ blocking Shiba Inu doormats.
Last I heard, the Shibu Inu coin made a lot of people millionaires. ‘Qi’ blocking essence and 象? Sure.
Here’s to all the ‘practitioners’ who are only in this field because their original business failed and they can’t find anything else to do, other than continue their streak of doing a sloppy job in the Chinese metaphysics field and making a mess of the world:
How can something so cute block ‘qi’? Gawd the sheer stupidity that exists in this world…