When disaster is immanent, the ruler listens to spirits

In the 32nd Year of Duke Zhuang of Lu,  year 32, 661 B.C.

In autumn, in the seventh month, there was the descent of a spirit in Xin [Xin belonged to the state of Guo]. King Hui asked Guo, the historiographer of the interior, the reason for it, and he replied:

“When a state is about to flourish, intelligent spirits descend into it, to survey its virtue. When it is going to perish, spirits also descend into it, to behold its wickedness. Thus there have been instances of states flourishing from spirits appearing, and also of states perishing. Cases in point might be adduced from the dynasties of Yu, Xia, Shang, and Zhou.”

The king then asked what should be done in the case of this spirit, and Guo replied: “Present to it its own proper offerings, which are those proper to the day on which it came.” The king acted accordingly, and the historiographer went [to Guo and presented the offerings]. There he heard that [the duke of] Guo had been requesting the favor [of enlarged territory] from the spirit, and on his return, he said, “Guo is sure to perish. The duke is oppressive and listens to spirits.”

The spirit stayed in Xin six months, when the duke of Guo caused the prayer-master Ying, the superintendent of the ancestral temple Qiu, and the historiographer Yin to sacrifice to the spirit, and the spirit [promised] to give him territory. The historiographer Yin said, “Ah! Guo will perish. I have heard that, when a state is about to flourish, [its ruler] listens to the people; when it is about to perish, he listens to spirits. The spirits are intelligent, correct, and impartial. How they act depends on human beings. The coldness of Guo’s virtue [DE] extends to many things. How can any increase of territory be obtained.”

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