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Why look at the relating hexagram?

Why look at the relating hexagram?

Why would someone ignore the relating hexagram?

A few people have told me lately that they don’t tend to look at the relating hexagram – the second one, the one found by changing any changing lines in your cast hexagram – as they don’t really find anything in it. They’re not alone: if any part of a reading’s going to be forgotten or glossed over, it’s usually that second hexagram. (I’ve done it a few times myself – and on two occasions have had that relating hexagram pointedly ‘redelivered’ as an unchanging primary hexagram.)

But actually deciding to skip the second hexagram often comes of getting stuck on the idea that it’s a ‘resulting hexagram’ that shows the future. This leads to readings with a supposed internal logic: obey first hexagram, follow advice of lines, reach second hexagram. The logic is incredibly neat, tidy and easily explained – so it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that in real readings with the Yijing, it often makes No Sense Whatsoever.

Follow the advice of the perfectly pleasant line from this perfectly pleasant hexagram (58.1)…

‘Responsive opening: good fortune’

…and you too can land in the remarkably unpleasant-sounding hole of Hexagram 47, Confined.

Incur this hideous misfortune (23.4)…

‘Stripping the bed by way of the flesh.

and then you arrive somewhere good (Hexagram 35, Advancing).

In an attempt to keep things straight, you wind up reasoning that if you like the second hexagram, you can reach it by doing what the lines say. Or maybe by not doing what the lines say, if they’re ill-omened. And if you don’t like the second hexagram and wouldn’t want to reach it, maybe you can avoid it by following (or not following) the advice of the lines? And then if the advice of the lines, that either does or doesn’t lead to the ‘resulting’ hexagram, goes in two (or three) opposing directions at once… well, then you might be forgiven for no longer looking at the second hexagram at all.

And this isn’t a disaster – it doesn’t ‘break’ the oracle. (It’s proven pretty shatter-proof so far.) Looking just at the cast hexagram and moving lines, you’ll get a direct answer to your question, an immediate picture of the situation you’re asking about coupled with some ‘you are here’ signs in the lines. This will give you something to take away and act on – so it’s enough for the Change Book to do its job.

Recognising the relating hexagram

But coming at this from the other end… quite often, having worked on someone’s reading, I find it comes naturally to present it to them by starting with the second, relating hexagram. (Naturally, if I’m working with someone new to the Yi, I explain first that we’re starting ‘zoomed out’ and will ‘zoom in’ to the crux of the answer later.)

I do this because it’s the part of the reading people most often recognise. This is where you get to see yourself: it’s…

  • where you stand in relation to everything that’s going on,
  • or what you aspire to or fear,
  • or the direction you’ve pointed yourself in,
  • or what this whole chapter in your life is about.

As that little list illustrates, this way of approaching the relating hexagram doesn’t lend itself to tidy logical formulas, applicable to every reading. It’s more of a cue for things to look for as you start to find yourself in the reading. (Come to think of it, this is probably another reason why people are inclined to ditch the second hexagram altogether – if they expected it to be easier to pin down and weren’t prepared for this kind of exploration.) The most useful general formula I’ve found is that the relating hexagram embodies what it’s about for you.

And that’s why I’ve found that the relating hexagram is where people most often recognise themselves. I start to talk about the relating hexagram and they say, ‘Yes, you’re talking about me.’ (The same is true of the individual zhi gua of each line, by the way, and the fan yao within it.) From this recognition comes any ability to engage with the reading at all. Without it, you just have an eminently forgettable shopping list of advice.

The relating hexagram for context

Another, related reason why I appreciate the relating hexagram: it provides context, the ‘how’ and ‘why’ to go with the primary hexagram’s ‘what’. As well as opening the door to ‘aha!’ moments and deep changes, this also enables me to answer people’s questions about their readings and show how it hangs together.

Take the example I gave above – 23 line 4,

‘Stripping the bed by way of the flesh.

which points you towards Hexagram 35, Advancing. Looking at a lot of past readings with that (and probably also the fan yao) in mind, I settled on this commentary for my book:Hilary Barrett I Ching book cover

“The ‘pruning’ process goes too far; it cuts away not only support and security, but even living flesh.

This is a danger when you only see the situation in ‘positive’ terms, always looking for ways to get the best possible outcome. When you place too much emphasis on a narrow definition of ‘success’, you become blind to the harm you could do.”

Hexagram 35 as background motivation shows why you might be ‘stripping the bed by way of the flesh’. (And this isn’t the only occasion when 35 as relating hexagram makes for a bad fit – think of 56.3, for instance.)

LiSe was way ahead of me on this, naturally. Here’s what she has for my other example above, 58.1 illuminated by 47:

Initial 9 : Harmonious exchange, auspicious.
Inner contentment, not needing anything from outside, is the base of freedom. You find your power within yourself. Making a true and good contact with others is only possible when this inner freedom exists.”

Yi explains…

None of this exactly makes it easier to understand why people sometimes don’t get anything from the relating hexagram – not even if they’ve read Karcher (who coined the term ‘relating hexagram’) or otherwise come across the idea that it is a ‘relating’ hexagram. So still puzzled, I asked Yi:

“What’s going on when people don’t recognise or get anything from the relating hexagram?”

On reflection – you know, the kind of reflection I’m always saying is better done before divining? – that’s a fairly hopelessly presumptuous question. What are the chances that the exact same thing is always ‘going on’ for everyone who doesn’t get it? Still… the answer was so interesting I wanted to share it anyway: 52, Stilling, changing at the third line to 23, Stripping Away.

‘Stilling your waist,
Dividing your back,
Danger smothers the heart.’

Is that a picture of someone so inwardly divided that they’re unaware of ‘what this is about for them’ – pulling away from their own aspiration, desire or fear – and can’t recognise it in the reading?


11 responses to Why look at the relating hexagram?

  1. Could it mean something like people try to find stillness and stability and lack of complication in their reading (situation), and so they try to force it by arbitrarily cutting away a large part of the information? Which won’t work and might actually make things worse?

  2. Thank you for this insight about relating hexagrams. A couple more journal entries like this one on the topic and I will probably get a hang of the concept:)

  3. 57.1.2 – 37
    57.2 : A period of confusion that somehow worked to my advantage ( the mottled has significance )
    57.1 : A critical moment when clear, decisive action was needed ( advantage to martial people )
    37 : The issue was home related.

    43.4.5 – 11
    One of fKegans last public casts before he passed on.( Blog ”camped on the left” )
    I had a flash of insight about the relating haxagram ( old man under earth ) and then the meaning of the primary cast seemed to fall into place.
    27 – 16
    Fk’s other cast. I wondering about this one when I cast the lines myself , and more : 27 – 62 . Not sure what it means , but as Adele Aldridge says ( I Ching Prescriptions – afterword ) the meaning has a habit of revealing itself in its own time.

  4. Dear Hillary,
    didn´t the Yi rather talk to yourself at that time? 52/3 is where head and heart fall apart completely. If the head would not controll the heart so strongly emotions would burst/explode. On a deeper level to me this casting has to do with the desire of beeing saved / rescued or saving / rescuing ones life or that of others.

  5. Hi Lilly, thanks for the thought! You may well be right – it’s always a possibility, when I think I’m asking one of those general questions, that the answer will talk to me directly.

    Actually, this reading is long enough ago that I can’t reach back that far to remember what my own personal state was. But I can see how it could have been talking to me and answering the question – saying that if you don’t see the relating hexagram, that would be because you’re resisting the flow of feeling.

    On a deeper level to me this casting has to do with the desire of being saved / rescued or saving / rescuing ones life or that of others.

    That sounds as though you’re referring to 52.2… are you? And if so, is there a special reason to look back to that line?

  6. Dear Hillary.
    to me Hex 52 in general speaks about bringing mind and body to stillness (and thus inner peace) through good meditation practice. If one can reach this state you are in the flow. But each coin has two sides. If one surpresses (or has to surpress) ones impulses fiercely head and heart ‘fall apart’. This is the situation of 52.3 to me. There is thunder (pressure) in the game which can be very frightening. 52.2 wants to rescue ‘someone’…. 52.3 needs or had to be rescued desperately… it can be a temporary situation but you can as well observe people who are highly controlled …

    I believe the well-beeing of others is very, very close to your heart. To me 52.3 reads as “make space inside of you” (do not get dense inside) this is the way to rescue someone. Within this space beeings will blossom.

    • The zhi gua is just the hexagram created by changing a line. If you have a reading with several moving lines, you can look at the hexagram each line changes to individually to get a sense of how or why that change happens the way it does.

  7. Just wow. This is so deep and insightful on a level you don’t come across every now and then.

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