After consulting the tortoise and/or the yarrow, the ancients on occasions had to rely on tell tale signs from heaven to confirm an omen on important matters of state. Heavenly signs can signify a rise and fall of dynasties/ empires for examples: an eclipse of the sun* during noon (also refer to 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines of Hexagram 55 Feng / Abundance) and the numerous comets sighted, a few earthquakes, great famine and floods during the conquest of the warring states and Zhou by the first Qin Emperor of China**. Since 1,070 BC (if not earlier), the ancients came to call these heavenly signs, Mandates of Heaven (Tian Ming).
With the advent of science and gradual development of specialized fields over the past few thousand of years, with a mere touch of a button on the remote to the TV or radio nowadays, one gets to read or hear of weather forecasts, to foreknow occurrences of eclipses of the sun and the moon, and to receive forewarnings of impending natural disasters brought on by droughts, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, and tsunamis, that is if the specialists – meteorologists, astrologers, and geologists – provided the relevant up-to-date information in a timely manner and discharged their jobs fully. Then it would be up to respective governments to speedily communicate any dire news to help and protect their people.
With the recent failures of inept governments to provide help and timely forewarnings, the best favor the people can do is to look after themselves. (Think of the tsunami that hit Indonesia, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the recent hurricanes that hit Central America and the Caribbean.)
In the case of omens, and similar to ancient times, the Yi diviner could be given forebodings that presage a prognostication. Heaven and nature are fair to people, if humans have learned how to read the warning signs. Let us read some of the recent signs, and consider if they constitute forebodings.
About two years ago, the forewarnings started with an earthquake off the islands of Indonesia followed by a tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people in Indonesia as well as holidaymakers in Penang, Malaysia and Phuket, Thailand. The next natural disaster was Hurricane Katrina which hit and flooded New Orleans. In both calamities, many people lost their lives, with many homes and infrastructures swept away or simply destroyed.
Some time later, a few countries suffered the worst floods in decades – Malaysia (Johor), China, and England. In between, several earthquakes jolted various countries – for example Japan and Taiwan.
In early September, heavy thunderstorms turned into hurricanes to hit Central America and the Caribbean. Tokyo was put on alert of an approach of a typhoon from the south on Thursday, September 6. Nearer to home, flash floods on Saturday hit several areas in Penang and Perak – both states north of where I live. The latest is that of a 6.8 magnitude earthquake jolting western Columbia on Sunday – online news provided by Reuters, UK.
Perhaps there will be more heavenly signs as the omen on natural disaster(s) in 2007 approaches.
*In his very well researched book titled The Mandate of Heaven – Hidden history of the I Ching, Steve J Marshall pinpointed and discussed the occurrence of an eclipse of the sun in 1,070 BC that presaged the change of dynasties from Shang or Yin to that of the Zhou. In the book, Marshall also meticulously explained the hidden meanings in most of the lines in Hexagram 55 Feng and a few other hexagrams.
**The numerous sightings of comets, earthquakes, great famine and floods were recorded in the Shiji (Records of the Historian) by Sima Qian whom I heard to be versed with the Zhouyi just like his father, the previous Han Grand Historian. A shooting star was sighted a year before the demise of the Qin emperor.