The I Ching on Donald Trump: A Call for Nonaction

After reading Philip K. Dick’s alternate history novel The Man in the High Castle, I was inspired to obtain a copy of the I Ching also known as The Book of Changes. The I Ching is an ancient Chinese fortune telling book meant to provide guidance when you ask it a question. It answers your question in a sequence of broken and solid lines known as hexagrams, which you obtain through a series of coin tosses. Throughout The Man in the High Castle, certain characters consult the I Ching whenever they approach a personal crossroads or seek spiritual guidance.

In Dick’s novel, the trade minister of the Japanese Pacific States, Nobosuke Tagomi describes the I Ching as follows:

“We are absurd,” Mr. Tagomi said, “because we live by a five-thousand-year-old book. We set it questions as if it were alive. It is alive. As is the Christian Bible; many books are actually alive. Not in a metaphoric fashion. Spirit animates it.”

In the Brian Browne Walker translation of the I Ching, the introduction suggests that the I Ching is just a book. But at the same time, it is more than just a book. In Walker’s words, “It is a living, breathing oracle, a patient and all-seeing teacher who can be relied upon for flawless advice at every turning point in our lives.”

Call me superstitious. Call me spiritual. Call me whatever you want, but the I Ching has intrigued me and it’s now lying on my dresser next to a rosary.

When I first obtained my copy of the I Ching, I asked it the following question: “Will Donald Trump make America great again?” I took three pennies and tossed them onto the floor six times to get my hexagrams. The first hexagram I received was “Ta Chuang” meaning, The Power of the Great. There was one “changing” line in my first hexagram, which means it will form a second hexagram. The second hexagram said “Heng” meaning Duration.

Seems promising, doesn’t it? Judging by these hexagrams one might think the I Ching is saying that Donald Trump is great and powerful and his legacy will endure. But the I Ching offers a more complex answer than what you might think. In the explanation of The Power of the Great, the I Ching says, “False power and false greatness can be seen all around us in the world. Through egotistical and aggressive manipulations many people obtain a temporary position of influence. The I Ching teaches us a different way of acquiring and using power, one that leads to true greatness and enduring influence.”

Egotistical and aggressive manipulations are all too common in American politics. Is Trump an exception to the manipulative egotists plaguing the US government? He could be. But who is to say he isn’t? He’s a shrewd businessman, he knows how to manipulate the media, and he has expertly rallied masses of people around his candidacy. Democracy in general tends to select for characters like this, both right and left. Rarely are they ever trustworthy.

Does this mean the I Ching is saying that Donald Trump is a liar and a charlatan? I don’t think so. After all, that isn’t what I asked it. What the I Ching is really telling us is what true greatness is and how we can become great. Donald Trump could very well be a great man, but that doesn’t make us great by proxy. It may be tempting to feel empowered by a Trump candidacy, but that doesn’t mean that Trump supporters themselves have any degree of power.

The I Ching explicates further, “Through contemplation of higher principles you have begun to open doors for yourself; through alignment with what is true and good you gain insight into situations and the power to resolve them in your favor.” In other words, Ta Chuang indicates that greatness comes with the cultivation of virtue and character. Furthermore it suggests that “the truly superior person relies on stillness and nonaction, allowing inner truth to penetrate gently to the heart of difficulties.”

Recall Moldbug’s notion of passivism. Stillness and nonaction are the very principles passivism advocates. The idea behind passivism is that power comes to those who are worthy of it. Are you worthy of power? That depends. How have you cultivated your character? Do you adhere to good principles? Do you live a life of virtue? This is the first step in passivism, and it’s also what the I Ching says is the path to lasting greatness.

To acquire power you must first renounce it. This idea seems impractical on its face, but when you compare it to many right-wing activist strategies it’s the most practical thing you could possibly do. Activism exposes you to the cross-hairs of those who oppose your cause; the ones who wield the real power in this country: The Cathedral. As Spandrell pointed out recently, Roosh V publicly announced meetups around the world which led to his family getting doxxed by Anonymous. And after being silent on the subject for so long, feminist activists now have a convenient scapegoat, Roosh, to blame for the rape crisis in Cologne rather than hoards of virile Arabs. Renouncing the desire for power and disavowing activist causes prevents this sort of thing from happening to you because your political enemies aren’t paying much attention to you.

The second hexagram I received, Heng, further reinforces the importance of passivism. In this section, the I Ching states, “It is likely that a change has occurred, or is about to. It is your responsibility to hold to your course and go on without regarding this change.” (67) The change the I Ching refers to is most likely the presidential election. Donald Trump might very well be the next president of the United States. Hillary Clinton could also be the next president of the United States. Either of these outcomes will signify a great change for America, but regardless of the election’s outcome it is important to remain passive to this change. It’s not that the election is not important at all, but your individual influence on this election is negligible. To paraphrase Moldbug, voting makes you feel powerful in the same sense that playing the lottery makes you feel rich. Again, power flows to those who are worthy. Cultivate virtue in your own life and make yourself worthy of power.

It is the byproduct of a modernist mindset that we believe that we should stand up and be heard in order to change the world for the better. Rightists have fallen into the activist trap for years and have not managed to shift the Overton Window rightward in any significant way. This is the case because we have no significant power backing us while leftist movements have backing from the Cathedral which gives them legitimacy. So long as we lack power, all attempts at rightward activism will be a waste of time. While there’s no denying that Trump has done great work, and that he has been influential in his own right, it’s important to understand that he obtained power by cultivating his own virtues. As president Donald Trump can do many great things for America, but for America to become great, more and more of her subjects need to become worthy.

If you find it difficult to resist the temptation to act, or you have trouble conducting yourself as a passivist should, then consult the I Ching. It doesn’t matter what question you ask it; the answer it gives will always be a passivist one.

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3 Responses to The I Ching on Donald Trump: A Call for Nonaction

  1. Pingback: The I Ching on Donald Trump: A Call for Nonaction | Reaction Times

  2. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2016/03/06) - Social Matter

  3. Julio Urvina says:

    Excellent interpretation. I have been studying the I Ching for the last 50 years. I also asked the I Ching about Trump and both Hexagrams were very positive. I have written two books on Managing and Investing with the I Ching (The TAO for CEOs and Investors). I would like to send you the Trump Hexagrams if you send me your email

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