33. Retiring (dùn). Retreat
Before a big leap think and make the run, departing from the starting line a few steps.
Inital text of I Ching
Retreat. Success. In what is small, perseverance furthers.
Mountain under heaven:
The image of Retreat. Thus the superior man keeps the inferior man at a distance, not angrily but with reserve.
- At the tail in retreat. This is dangerous. One must not wish to undertake anything.
- He holds him fast with yellow oxhide. No one can tear him loose.
- A halted retreat is nerve-wracking and dangerous. To retain people as men- and maidservants brings good fortune.
- Voluntary retreat brings good fortune to the superior man and downfall to the inferior man.
- Friendly retreat. Perseverance brings good fortune.
- Cheerful retreat. Everything serves to further.
If we talk about the great, then now it is the moment of transition between the willingness to act and action itself. Prudence, balance, clarification of objectives and its comparison with internal need (higher aspiration) are necessary - a temporary escape from the action itself. Feel free to act - according to your will, without coercion. Intentions must be kept secret. It is time for positive solution of only minor problems, but even here caution is necessary.
The power of the dark is ascending. The light retreats to security, so that the
dark cannot encroach upon it. This retreat is a matter not of man's will but of
natural law. Therefore in this case withdrawal is proper; it is the correct way
to behave in order not to exhaust one's forces.
In the calendar this hexagram is linked with the sixth month (July-August),
in which the forces of winter are already showing their influence.
Conditions are such that the hostile forces favored by the time are advancing.
In this case retreat is the right course, and it is not to be confused with flight.
Flight means saving oneself under any circumstances, whereas retreat is a
sign of strength. We must be careful not to miss the right moment while we
are in full possession of power and position. Then we shall be able to
interpret the signs of the time before it is too late and to prepare for
provisional retreat instead of being drawn into a desperate life-and-death
struggle. Thus we do not simple abandon the field to the opponent; we make
it difficult for him to advance by showing perseverance in single acts of
resistance. In this way we prepare, while retreating, for the counter-
movement. Understanding the laws of a constructive retreat of this sort is
not easy. The meaning that lies hidden in such a time is important.
The mountain rises up under heaven, but owing to its nature it finally comes
to a stop. Heaven on the other hand retreats upward before it into the
distance and remains out of reach. This symbolizes the behavior of the
superior man toward a climbing inferior; he retreats into his own thoughts as
the inferior man comes forward. He does not hate him, for hatred is a form
of subjective involvement by which we are bound to the hated object. The
superior man shows strength (heaven) in that he brings the inferior man to a
standstill (mountain) by his dignified reserve.
Since the hexagram is the picture of something that is retreating, the lowest
line represents the tail and the top line the head. In a retreat it is
advantageous to be at the front. Here one is at the back, in immediate contact
with the pursuing enemy. This is dangerous, and under such circumstances
it is not advisable to undertake anything. Keeping still is the easiest way of
escaping from the threatening danger.
Yellow is the color of the middle. It indicates that which is correct and in line
with duty. Oxhide is strong and not to be torn.
While the superior men retreat and the inferior press after them, the
inferior man represented here holds on so firmly and tightly to the superior
man that the latter cannot shake him off. And because he is in quest of what
is right an so strong in purpose, he reaches his goal. Thus the line confirms
what is said in the Judgment: "In what is small" --here equivalent to "in the
inferior man" -- "perseverance furthers."
When it is time to retreat it is both unpleasant and dangerous to be held back,
because then one no longer has freedom of action. In such a case the only
expedient is to take into one's service, so to speak, those who refuse to let one
go, so that one may at least keep one's initiative and not fall helplessly under
their domination. But even with this expedient the situation is far from
satisfactory--for what can one hope to accomplish with such servants?
In retreating the superior man is intent on taking his departure willingly and
in all friendliness. He easily adjusts his mind to retreat, because in retreating
he does not have to do violence to his convictions. The only one who suffers
is the inferior man from whom he retreats, who will degenerate when
deprived of the guidance of the superior man.
It is the business of the superior man to recognize in time that the moment
for retreat has come. If the right moment is chosen, the retreat can be carried
out within the forms of perfect friendliness, without the necessity of
disagreeable discussions. Yet, for all the observance of amenities, absolute
firmness of decision is necessary if one is not to be led astray by irrelevant
The situation is unequivocal. Inner detachment has become an established
fact, and we are at liberty to depart. When one sees the way ahead thus
clearly, free of all doubt, a cheerful mood sets in, and one chooses what is
right without further thought. Such a clear path ahead always leads to the
Barbara Hejslip interpretation
Try to constrain itself a little; believe, that you only will win from this. At present persistence and persistence will not bring any advantage. This hexagram is very favorable for interesting rest and entertainments; take advantage of this time to consider the plans for the future. However do not hasten to carry out them, the present period of uncertainty yet will not end. Use it for meditation, quiet contemplation and reflection is better.