Archetype 39: Obstruction

CR P02 C39 A01

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the minds of Pharaoh and his officials were changed towards the people, and they said, “What have we done, letting Israel leave our service?” So he had his chariot made ready, and took his army with him; he took six hundred picked chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt and he pursued the Israelites, who were going out boldly. The Egyptians pursued them, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, his chariot drivers and his army; they overtook them camped by the sea, by Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

—Exodus 14:5–9

The Reading

The Israelites have been enslaved in Egypt for four hundred years. Finally a leader has emerged. Moses has been chosen by God to lead the Israelites to freedom. The Israelites have followed Moses into the desert, as the pilgrimage to the Promised Land has begun. But the pharaoh has reneged on his promise to Moses to let the Israelites free. Instead he sends his army to hunt them down. The Israelites desperately try to stay ahead of the army. But now they have run into an insurmountable obstacle: the Red Sea, a vast body of water almost 1,400 miles long, 220 miles wide, and 1,500 feet deep. With the pharaoh’s army rapidly closing in, the Israelites have no place to escape.

The Hexagram

CR P02 C39 A02

The hexagram portrays Chaos in front and the Mountain behind. There is no place to go. The obstruction seems complete. However, the hexagram also contains a hint about how to overcome the obstruction. The upper trigram contains the image of Water. And water winds its way around the mountain.

The Archetype

There is a time...

  • To recognize that obstructions appear in the course of events and to not take it personally.
  • To see obstructions as challenges that can and should be overcome.
  • To accept that not all obstructions can be overcome directly.
  • To pause, pull back, join forces with others, and look for leadership that can help overcome the obstruction.
  • To detour around the obstruction rather than giving up on the destination.
  • To avoid the temptation to blame others for the obstruction and instead look inside.
  • To use the obstruction as an opportunity for inner growth and building inner strength.

Now is that time.

Moving Lines

Moving Line in the First (Bottom) Position

A moving line in the bottom position suggests that when encountering an obstruction, one must take time to contemplate the situation. Retreat doesn’t always mean surrender. It can be a time to regroup, reflect, and watch for the right time to move forward.

Moving Line in the Second Position

 A moving line in the second position encourages you to take on the obstruction head on. Sometimes the obstacle cannot be avoided or circumvented. But it is important that you make sure you are following the call of duty, not Ego. Only then can you move forward.

Moving Line in the Third Position

A moving line in the third position reminds you that you have a duty to your family or clan as well as to your ideals. These are people who will be devastated and left helpless if you are lost. They need you and will welcome you with love if you turn back and return to them.

Moving Line in the Fourth Position

A moving line in the fourth position cautions you to draw back in facing your obstruction. You are not strong enough by yourself. You must gather strength and consolidate support. You cannot push past your obstruction without undergoing preparation. Conditions now are not favorable for moving forward, but are favorable for forging bonds with those who will be your trusted partners.

Moving Line in the Fifth Position

A moving line in the fifth position is a call to action. In a true emergency, you cannot avoid the obstruction. You must act despite the risk. The danger seems great, but God has called you to this path. Organize your supporters and work together. Wisdom will show you the way to overcome your obstacle. Listen to her counsel.

Moving Line in the Sixth (Top) Position

A moving line in the top position is a call to return to the world that has been left behind. You have found a refuge from the pettiness and unhappiness of the world. But now obstructions have materialized in the world you have forgotten. You are tempted to say, “This is not my problem.” But it is your problem. You are still connected to your old world, and you can’t abandon it. But don’t lose the wisdom you have found. It is this wisdom that is precisely what is now needed.

Other interpretations of Archetype 39:

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Reproduced with permission from Wisdom's Way; The Christian I Ching copyright (c) 2015 Roger Sessions.