Archetype 6: Conflict

CR P02 C06 A01

Though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do your duty, yet I would rather appeal to you on the basis of love—and I, Paul, do this as an old man, and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become during my imprisonment. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful both to you and to me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I wanted to keep him with me, so that he might be of service to me in your place during my imprisonment for the gospel; but I preferred to do nothing without your consent, in order that your good deed might be voluntary and not something forced.

—Philemon 1:9–14

The Reading

This reading describes the conflict between Paul and Philemon, a wealthy Roman convert to Christianity. The conflict is over Onesimus, one of Philemon’s slaves, whom Paul has converted to Christianity. Onesimus has fled to Paul for sanctuary. Paul wants Onesimus freed. Philemon doesn’t.

Paul can use his authority to order Philemon to free Onesimus. But Philemon is wealthy and a major supporter of his local church. Paul doesn’t want to offend a wealthy donor. And if Philemon is offended, it won’t be Paul bearing the brunt of his anger. It will be Onesimus and the local church. So Paul doesn’t attack the issue directly, but instead uses gentle persuasion and subtle guilt and appeals to higher authorities to resolve the conflict.

The Hexagram

CR P02 C06 A02

The upper trigram, God, has the image of heaven. Heaven’s energy moves upward. The lower trigram, Chaos, has the image of water. Water moves downward. Thus the two trigrams are moving away from each other, causing conflict.

The Archetype

There is a time...

  • To understand that conflict occurs when one feels in the right, but is opposed.
  • To be willing to meet the opponent halfway.
  • To meet conflict not head-on, but with gentleness.
  • To reduce conflict by taking great care and consideration of the other’s feelings.
  • To worry less about being right and more about being clearheaded.
  • To take time to build the unity that will be needed to achieve goals.
  • To ensure the spiritual needs of the individuals and the group are in harmony, thereby removing the causes of conflict before the conflict becomes manifest.
  • To recognize that one who relies on cunning and determination will inevitably cause conflict.

Now is that time.

Moving Lines

Moving Line in the First (Bottom) Position

A moving line in the bottom position suggests conflict is in its initial stage, and the best thing to do is simply to drop the issue. This is especially true when facing a stronger adversary. There is too much of a risk of creating a crisis. A fire with no fuel dies out.

Moving Line in the Second Position

A moving line in the second position warns that the enemy is stronger that it seems. It is the time for retreat. Ego tells us to fight and defend our honor. Wisdom tells us that fighting against overwhelming strength brings defeat, not only on ourselves but on others who will inevitably be dragged into the conflict. Accommodation, not aggression, is called for.

Moving Line in the Third Position

A moving line in the third position suggests an expanding influence, but also an expanding danger. Wariness is called for when laying claim to things that belong to others. Things can only be held that are acquired through Wisdom and inner strength. These things can never be taken away. This is not the time to seek fame for accomplishments. It is the time to let fame go to those who care about it.

Moving Line in the Fourth Position

A moving line in the fourth position points to one who is not at peace with God. Ego tempts the antagonist to escalate the conflict. This seems reasonable because of a strong position. But this will ultimately fail, because Wisdom knows who is really in the right. Therefore it is a time for acceptance of fate. Ultimately this leads to a greater grounding in God, which is more valuable than whatever could have been achieved through force.

Moving Line in the Fifth Position

A moving line in the fifth position suggests a way out of the dilemma. There is an arbiter who is powerful and just and respected by both sides. The dispute can be turned over to this arbiter with confidence. Whoever is right will be vindicated. Whoever is wrong will be spared the loss of honor. All works out well.

Moving Line in the Sixth (Top) Position

A moving line in the top position is ominous. This line points to one who has carried the conflict to its bitter end and has apparently triumphed. But the glory is short lived. The victor can never rest; new attacks will continuously pop up. This conflict has no end.

Other interpretations of Archetype 6:

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