I’ve been looking at the patterns that take shape within the ‘container’ formed by hexagrams 3 and 50, and wondering what they might mean. Here’s a bit more wondering.
It looks as though hexagrams 3 and 50, living energies and vessel, form a mould, within which an individual life (or culture, or way of living) can be cast: become embodied, take shape, become real.
So then… what might be said about the nature of the stuff that takes shape? It seems to make sense to look at the parts of it nearest to the mould, where the traces of its imprint are more distinct:
- Hexagrams 5 and 6 mirroring 47 and 48 (differing by a single line at the outer boundary, 1/6)
- Hexagrams 7 and 8 mirroring 46 and 45 (again, differing by a single line, this time at the inner threshold of lines 3/4)
- Hexagrams 9 and 10, mirroring 44 and 43 (exchanged trigrams, with the single open line at 3/4 or 1/6)
5/6 and 47/48 share a very simple theme: the need for water, when and where it can be used. Without this, nothing can be created. On the outer edge of this set in particular, there’s water everywhere: in the name of Hexagram 5, where the character shows falling rain; underfoot in bogs, sands and mud, in the Well, and of course in the trigrams themselves. 6 and 47 have more to say about deprivation and struggle for resources. To be able to work with earth – to grow crops or shape moulds – we first need water. So we start at 5.1 – the line that connects with 48 – by going to the altar mound on the outskirts to make offerings for good weather.
7/8 and 45/46 deal with human resources, choice and will. The army, the chosen union, the gathering, the concerted effort to push upward; kings, generals, hunts, offerings, emotion. The overarching theme is of bringing the power of humanity to bear. 8.4 ‘seeks union outside’ to find the breadth and depth that’s needed, and reaches out as far as 45 – where in 45.4 its desire to belong and be of service contributes to ‘great good fortune, no mistake.’
9/10 and 43/44 are connected in a different way: not by a single changing line, but by an exchange of trigrams. Xun (wind/wood) and dui (lake), mediators and messengers, move around the trigram qian, heaven, seeking to create a relationship with the great heavenly powers. We need the clouds to bring rain, we try to get close to the tiger or the ancestral spirits; try, perhaps, to live like Yu the Great with the exigencies of heaven’s command. Following tigers, or maybe wrestling with angels – not easy. It’s far from obvious how to cope with 44’s powerful woman, or even with the frustrations of Small Taming.
Well… in a book of hexagrams, it seems good to pause after three sets of two. In a single hexagram, there are three sets of two lines: the first two for earth, the central two for humanity, and then heaven. And what about the themes of these three sets of two pairs within the casting mould? Hmmm…
It seems to me that these three sets of hexagrams evoke the three great resources needed for a successful casting: natural resources, human commitment, and spiritual connection. That would suggest that receiving one of these hexagrams in a reading carries a distinct significance: you’re engaged in creating a whole, and at this time you need to work with this resource as a part of the whole.
The nature of this depends on where you are, of course: the first decade of the Yijing shows a much simpler experience than its fifth. Everything from hexagram 5 to 10 has that sense of a first encounter, whereas the 40s show the depths and subtleties of an established culture. It’s the difference between rainfall and the well, or between Yu’s first gathering after the floods and the great offerings at the temple, or between the dangers of following a tiger through the forest and standing up in the king’s court.
What can come after earth, humanity and heaven? Hexagrams 11 and 12: the first big natural ‘punctuation mark’ of the Yi, the first complementary and inverted pair (what Schorre and Dunne call a ‘River Crossing’), and the mixing of hexagrams 1 and 2. And towards the other face of the casting, hexagrams 41 and 42, Decrease and Increase. Maybe what comes next is the dance of relationship through ritual, and an awareness of cycles?
(More questions than answers from this mould-casting pattern, in the end…
Do all the lines connecting those outer layers – 5.1, 48.1, 6.6, 47.6, 7.3, 46.3, 8.4, 45.4 – have more in common? And what about the hexagrams outside the mould, 1-2 and 51-64? Are they simply ‘outside’, beyond? Are they shaping rather than shaped?
What are the chances they’ll run out of questions about Yi any time in the next 3,000 years?)