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Confidence in Change

For some 3,000 years, people have turned to the I Ching, the Book of Changes, to help them uncover the meaning of their experience, to bring their actions into harmony with their underlying purpose, and above all to build a foundation of confident awareness for their choices.

Down the millennia, as the I Ching tradition has grown richer and deeper, the things we consult about may have changed a little, but the moment of consultation is much the same. These are the times when you’re turning in circles, hemmed in and frustrated by all the things you can’t see or don’t understand. You can think it over (and over, and over); you can ‘journal’ it; you can gather opinions.

But how can you have confidence in choosing a way to go, if you can’t quite be sure of seeing where you are?

Only understand where you are now, and you rediscover your power to make changes. This is the heart of I Ching divination. Once you can truly see into the present moment, all its possibilities open out before you – and you are free to create your future.

What is the I Ching?

The I Ching (or Yijing) is an oracle book: it speaks to you. You can call on its help with any question you have: issues with relationships of all kinds, ways to attain your personal goals, the outcomes of different choices for a key decision. It grounds you in present reality, encourages you to grow, and nurtures your self-knowledge. When things aren’t working, it opens up a space for you to get ‘off the ride’, out of the rut, and choose your own direction. And above all, it’s a wide-open, free-flowing channel for truth.

For I Ching Beginners -

How do you want to get started?

There are two different ways most people first meet the I Ching. There’s,

‘I’m fascinated by this ancient book and I want to learn all about it,’

and there’s,

‘I need help now with this thing (so I’ll learn whatever I need to know to get help with The Thing).’

Learning about the I Ching, or learning from the I Ching?

In the end, these two ways aren’t actually different. It isn’t possible to do one without the other, and people end up wanting both: the ‘learn about Yi’ people draw on its help more as their knowledge grows; the ‘learn from Yi’ people find they want to know more, once they’ve got the help they need.

But... they are different at the beginning:

Not a beginner?

Welcome - I’m glad you’ve come. Clarity’s here to help you deepen, explore and enjoy your relationship with Yi. You might like...

And so you can get to know some like-minded Yi-enthusiasts and we can keep in touch, do join Clarity

Hello, and thank you for visiting!

I’m Hilary - I work as an I Ching diviner and teacher, and I’m the author of I Ching: Walking your path, creating your future.

I hope you enjoy the site and find what you’re looking for here - do contact me with any comments or questions.

Clarity is my one-woman business providing I Ching courses, readings and community. (You can read more about me, and what I do, here.) It lets me spend my time doing the work I love, using my gifts to help you.

(Thank you.)

Warm wishes,
Hilary”

From the blog

Name and nature: the enigma of guai

ancient guai characterHexagram 43 is called 夬, guai, which is generally understood to mean‘decision’ or ‘resoluteness’ or ‘breakthrough’. The oldest forms of the character show a hand holding up an object – a token of authority, perhaps, or an archer’s thumb ring. In some early versions of the character, it’s quite clearly a drawing of a hand with a thumb ring: Guai character on silk

Nowadays, the word for an archer’s ring is jue, 玦, formed by combining guai with the ‘jade’ radical.

The Wings (Tuanzhuan, Zagua and Xugua) agree, though, that 夬 means  jue 决: a word that combines guai with the ‘water’ radical and means decide, breakthrough, breach (of a dike), certainty, execution. This, they say, is what the solid lines of the hexagram are doing to the one broken line at the top: ‘taking decisive action’ against it (Lynn).

43 as motion

|||||:Translators almost all follow the wisdom of the Wings authors, because their understanding fits so naturally with the shape of the hexagram. Following its energy through from the bottom line to the top, you get the sense of a powerful upward drive, pushing out that final yin line. It feels like a single giant arrow of motion: one way only.

I wonder whether guai might originally refer to a particular kind of motion: the kind that characterises both the bowstring released by the archer’s thumb and the water that breaches a dike. Stored energy is released into swift motion – in a single direction, with momentum, and not to be diverted.

The position of this hexagram in the Sequence carries the same idea: the lake gathers under the mountain in 41, and then there is Increase, and then ‘Increasing and not reaching an end must mean breakthrough.’

(Here’s more on 43 as the ‘breakthrough’ of water breaching a dike.)

The Oracle

The Oracle of 43, though, seems to tell the story of an idea:

‘Deciding, tell it in the king’s chambers.
With truth, cry out, there is danger.
Notify your own town.
Fruitless to take up arms;
Fruitful to have a direction to go.’

It begins with communication: broadcast the message in the king’s chambers, truth calls out there is danger, notify the town. The word translate ‘cry out’ means to yell, or howl like the wind: ‘Truth that howls means danger!’

The message ripples outward: from the royal court to the town and beyond, into a ‘direction to go’. In this way, it translates into motion – the potent momentum of the hexagram. An idea with power behind it is carried through into action.

The Oracle finishes up with a very clear contrast: to take up arms is fruitless; to have a direction to go is fruitful. What’s the distinction it’s pointing to here? The Tuanzhuan says that taking up arms would mean what you hold in high esteem comes to nothing – which actually seems odd: with all this energy and momentum, wouldn’t you expect to win any battles you started?

In my book I only said, ‘It will serve you better to focus with clear intention on what you’re moving towards, rather than what you’re reacting against.’ I think we might add that taking up arms would be a distraction from 43’s single direction.

In this connection, it’s interesting to see how Wang Bi describes this (in Lynn’s translation). He points out that 43 is the opposite of 23, when ‘the Dao of the noble man wanes’ and ‘his virtues of strength and rectitude are denied a straight path to action.’ Since 43 does have a straight path to action, best to keep to the path.

Lonely as a cloud

The Image of 43 says,

‘Lake above heaven. Deciding.
A noble one distributes riches to reach those below,
He dwells in power and virtue, and also shuns things.’

…except that there’s actually more than one way to understand that final line. Word for word in Chinese, it’s literally something like, ‘Dwelling-in virtue and/thus avoid.’ Wilhelm has, ‘he refrains from resting on his virtue;’ Lynn, following Wang Bi, has ‘dwells in virtue and so clarifies what one should be averse to.’ (Wang Bi says that to be averse to something implies to prohibit it, and this is about having very clear laws without laxity.)

What do the trigrams imply? The outer lake has to do with communicating, spreading and sharing. Heaven on the inside indicates both lasting power and unchanging truths behind this communication – probably what Wang Bi had in mind when he talked about having clear laws.

Of course, the simplest way to understand a ‘lake above heaven’ is as a cloud. A cloud distributes riches to those below. It reaches everyone, but no-one can reach it: rain water is always pure; the shores of a sky-lake never get muddy. It makes sense to me that the noble one is like this: simultaneously generous and aloof. In the line texts, it turns out that we do need a certain reserve and distance to keep going.

(In support of this – the Image of 53 has a very similar phrase, ‘the noble one dwells in good character and virtue’. No-one interprets this as lazily ‘resting on his virtue.’)

Words have power

According to the Dazhuan, the hexagrams predate civilisation and inspire its greatest creations – such as the written word:

‘In remote antiquity, people knotted cords to keep things in order. The sages of later ages exchanged these for written tallies, and by means of these all the various officials were kept in order, and the myriad folk were supervised. They probably got the idea for this from the hexagram Kuai.’ (Lynn)

The idea of written tallies comes – like the image of the cloud – from the trigrams: communication (lake) that contains enduring power (heaven). As Wilhelm says, ‘words should be made strong and enduring.’ Writing infuses communication with greater power.

In this connection… it’s interesting to see the role Hexagram 43 plays in the Zagua, the ‘Miscellaneous Hexagrams’ Wing that describes contrasting pairs. At the end of this Wing, the last few hexagrams mentioned are no longer grouped with their pairs. (No-one knows why.) 43, separated from 44, is the very last of all:

Guai is breaking through,
Firm breaks through soft.
The noble one’s dao is long lasting,
The small man’s dao is sorrow.’

Why might this be the final word? I wonder if it’s because 43 is about words with power behind them. The Zagua is a simple little text, mostly in rhyme – I imagine it was intended to be recited out loud by a student learning the pairs. The recitation ends with something like an incantation, with the power of the whole book behind it: may the noble man’s way endure, may the small man decline.

Journey through the lines

The line texts of 43, true to its sense of direction and momentum, tell a story. Deciding – it makes clear – isn’t just theoretical: it means carrying your intention, your words-with-power-behind-them, through into action.

Line 1

‘Vigour in the leading foot.
Going on without control means making mistakes.’

It’s no good to start moving too soon, before you’re capable of the task. Just declaring your intent is not enough. This line joins with Hexagram 28, Great Exceeding. Someone has such an overwhelming sense that Something Must Be Done that she falls over her own feet in her hurry to get going.

Line 2

‘Alarmed, crying out.
Evening and night, bearing arms.
Do not fear.’

The ‘crying out’ from the Oracle is heard again. This line connects with 49, Radical Change. Truth howls in the dark, and we are thoroughly alarmed. (The character ‘alarm’ consists of ‘heart’ and yi, ‘change’, making it pretty clear what frightens us.) This is when we’re liable to take up arms, which the Oracle said wasn’t a good idea. Perhaps it still isn’t – at all events, better not to over-react or over-identify.

Line 3

‘Vigour in the cheekbones means a pitfall.
Noble one decides, decides.
Walks alone, meets the rain,
And is indignant as if he were soaked through.
Not a mistake.’

Deciding meets Hexagram 58, Opening: it’s time to go out into the open and communicate. Line 3 asks ‘can I, should I, go out across the threshold?’ and the answer is yes. To decide now is to walk out alone, though you may end up bedraggled and sputtering. Never mind preserving your dignity: some things are more important. (You can see the reflection of this noble one in the Image.)

Line 4

‘Thighs without flesh,
Walking awkwardly now.
Lead a sheep, regrets vanish.
Hear words, not trusted.’

This is the line associated with Yu the Great, the hero whose thighs were wasted from his decades spent battling the floods. It’s the second line about how you move: alone in line 3, understandably awkwardly now.

This line joins with Hexagram 5, Waiting: the floods didn’t recede instantaneously just because Heaven said that Yu should conquer them. ‘Deciding’ can be a long-term undertaking. If things are getting on top of you, surrender to the reality of it and just keep hobbling on.

This is a hexagram of words with power, but now we reach the outer trigram, words are not trusted. I think that’s partly because it’s time for action now – words alone aren’t enough – and partly because these words come from the sidelines. LiSe sees Yu here and in line 3, getting no thanks for his labours.

Line 5

‘Amaranth on high ground.
Decide, decide.
Walk in the centre, no mistake.’

A third ‘walking’ line, now with Great Vigour (Hexagram 34) – like that amaranth, perhaps, or like the energy it would take to harvest it. At line 5 – the place of personal autonomy and choice – in a hexagram about Deciding, Yi is remarkably open-ended. Decide for yourself where the middle path lies, and walk it.

Line 6

‘Not crying out.
In the end, pitfall.’

If truth never cries out, there’s no deciding; nothing happens. Hexagram 1 shines through this line, bringing the necessity of creative change – but also, perhaps, a desire to keep clear of messiness, and not allow anything to go wrong. This reminds me somewhat of 55.6, and also 21.6: what if the message never got through? What if the upheaval never happened? In the short term, this might make things easier, but not in the end.

Backlit rain storm at sunset

What is Jie 介 ?

The character jie 介 occurs three times in the Yi:

16.2

Boundaries of stone,
Not for a whole day.
Constancy, good fortune.’

35.2

‘Now advancing, now apprehensive.
Constancy, good fortune.
Accepting this armour blessing from your ancestral mother.’

58.4

‘Negotiating opening, not yet at rest.
Containing the affliction brings rejoicing.’

As you can see, I haven’t managed to translate it with the same word each time: no-one does, and there’s a lot of variability in the translations. Even 58.4, which on the face of it seems the simplest, has translations of ‘jie affliction’ varying from ‘ward off harm’ (Lynn) to ‘disease confined’ (Rutt) to ‘great illness’ (Field) to ‘being aided when ill’ (Redmond).

So…

What does it mean?

In the Shijing, the Book of Songs, jie overwhelmingly means ‘confer/ grant/ vouchsafe [a blessing]’. It’s used again and again at the end of songs and hymns to ask the ancestors to bless the ruler, and also used to describe the king conferring authority on a feudal lord.

In the Liji, the Book of Rites, jie means armoured, shelled (as in ‘creatures with shells’), and ‘attendants’ – as far as I can see, it’s only used once as a verb, meaning ‘to present’.

How can one word possibly mean everything from an attendant to a beetle’s carapace to the act of an ancestor granting long life?

In the dictionary, jie is defined as ‘armour, shell’ and ‘be situated between, interpose’. According to Richard Sears, its original meaning is ‘border’ and the original character is thought to show a man in armour protecting the border.

As far as I can see, the meaning stretches from ‘what goes inbetween (you and everything out there)’, including the attendants who flank you, to ‘what covers you (and protects you against everything out there)’ to ‘the act of covering and shielding you’. There’s something comparable in Psalm 28: ‘the Lord is my strength and shield,’ and ‘shield’ there is a word that means both armour, defending a city, and the scaly hide of a crocodile. I get the idea of being clothed in spiritual power or authority.

But what about the use of the word in the Yi, which is neither quite a book of songs and invocations, nor quite a book of prescriptions for correct behaviour?

Jie and kan

Yi, of course, makes its meanings out of structures as well as words. So here are the three structures in which the word jie appears:

changing to

and

changing to

and

changing to

As you can see, in each one, the line change creates the trigram kan.

Kan is traditionally said to represent pits and running water. If you consider the yang line to represent what moves and acts, and the yin lines to represent what’s acted on, then it looks like a river flowing between its banks. The river is acting and carving its course… though then again, the banks are also containing and directing the flow of the river. Where the two meet, they are always shaping one another.

And now, thinking of the trigram kan, look at the shape of the ancient character jie:

ancient character jie

The border guard in his armour is represented as a solid human figure clothed in something broken and flexible.

If it’s possible, I would like to learn what the trigrams meant to the people who wrote the Zhouyi – not just what they meant in separate, parallel traditions such as that represented by the Shuogua Wing, but the understanding revealed by the Zhouyi itself. I think this association of jie with kan is a tiny fragment of that understanding.

Jie in the Yi

Once I’d looked at jie, looked at kan, and got very Yeekily excited, I dived into the line texts in more depth. From this, I think I can see…

  • a consistent theme running through the lines (even though the word jie is used in different ways), and
  • that theme expressed in different, evolving ways according to the phase of the Sequence to which each hexagram belongs.

16.2: boundaries of rock

‘Boundaries of stone,
Not for a whole day.
Constancy, good fortune.’

This is one of those lines addressed by the master diviner who speaks in the Dazhuan. This does not take a whole day, he says, because the protagonist ‘knows the seeds’, recognises what is incipient – is quick on the uptake, basically, and so doesn’t have to wait for events to play themselves out.

Wilhelm translates this one as ‘firm as a rock’ (not impressionable); Rutt translates as ‘pilloried on the rock’. Both readings fit quite naturally with this idea of ‘not for a whole day’: it doesn’t take someone who is ‘firm as a rock’ long to understand the seeds; the punishment on the rock doesn’t take a whole day because the person learns their lesson quickly.

What does happen with these rocks? The Chinese has just three words: ‘jie at/to/by/from rock’. Direct translations could be ‘bordered by rocks’, ‘armoured by rocks’ or ‘hemmed in by rocks’. Field even observes the elephant in the name of 16, and thinks the line describes an attempt at containing it.

Is this rock-solid boundary a protective blessing, or is it oppressive? Well… ask a teenager and their parents about boundaries.

Also, consider a third possibility (thanks to LiSe for opening my eyes to this one): that they’re also formative. Boundaries of rock shape you, harden you, keep you safe – but that doesn’t take all day.

Why not? Because this line is 16 changing to 40: Enthusiasm’s Release. Release unties knots, solves problems, sees what can be done and sets out at daybreak. Teenagers see how the world should be different and set out to change it.

For another view of boundaries, consider the paired line, 15.5:

‘Not rich in your neighbour:
Fruitful to use this to invade and conquer.
Nothing that does not bear fruit.’

You have neighbours because there is a boundary between your land and theirs. Such a boundary is essential – but not impregnable. There may come a moment when you can no longer live within them. What persists when boundaries crumble is constancy: persisting loyally in what you know to be true. Inner security – like the teenager who knows that the world must change – is stronger than rock.

35.2: mantled in blessing

‘Now advancing, now apprehensive.
Constancy, good fortune.
Accept this jie blessing from your ancestral mother.’

This line sounds closest to the use of jie in the Book of Songs: an ancestor confers a blessing. ‘Accept this conferred blessing’, maybe ‘or ‘accept this protective blessing’ – or both.

I find it intriguing that it says ‘accept this blessing,’ though. (I failed to notice this in my book.) After Christmas dinner, when we settle down to open presents, if I say, ‘Take this one,’ it’s because I’m already handing you a parcel. Couldn’t it be the same in the line, with ‘this’ referring to a blessing you can already see?

…in other words, might the apprehension itself be the conferred armour-blessing?

Think of the nature of this line’s anxiety. It’s where 35, Advancing, meets 64, Not Yet Across: making progress, but not yet arrived. What if you can’t make it across? Apprehension marks the boundary where your plans and intention meet your circumstances – and you created this boundary, this line of tension, by making progress. To be apprehensive because you are making progress might be described as a blessing in itself.

Boundaries, here, draw a line between you, with your resolve, on the inside, and the circumstances you’re worried about, on the outside. ‘Constancy is good fortune’ because inner resolve is stronger and more real. (Constancy means good fortune in both 16.2 and 35.2, and also in the fan yao of each line, 40.2 and 64.2.)

This protective mantle of apprehension shields and strengthens you; it makes you acutely aware of where the edges are, what’s part of you and what isn’t. (For more on this idea, in association with kan, see the Tuanzhuan on Hexagram 29.) So this, like the banks of the river, and like the rock boundary of 16.2, has a shaping and defining effect.

58.4: contain the infection

‘Negotiating opening, not yet at rest.
Containing the affliction brings rejoicing.’

Jie clearly means something different here: it’s containing the affliction, not conferring it. Still, the idea is very similar to 35.2: jie wraps round the anxiety or disease, setting a boundary, defining its edges. Rutt cites Arthur Waley, who thought jie in these lines could describe a kind of magical practice of containment.

This is 58 changing to 60: Opening’s Measure and Limiting. Hexagram 60 draws lines, subdivides things, breaks them into segments like the bamboo stem. The line seems to show two ways ‘Opening with Measure’ could go: an anxious desire to nail everything down and set comprehensive terms (as I think also happens in 61.6 zhi 60), or breaking things down into manageable portions. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof; cross that bridge when you come to it; eat the elephant one bite at a time.

The negotiations are ongoing, there’s no peace settlement yet – and the important thing seems to be to let them stay open and a work in progress, and not be in too much of a hurry. (The paired line, 57.3, is part of the same idea.) The jie boundary still draws a line between an inner state (affliction, illness, stress, feverishness…) and the outer world, but now I think it’s there to protect the outer world. The negotiations need to be insulated from any contagion.

Summing up…

Change Circle members who’ve read the Sequence book will be familiar with the idea that the final part of the Sequence belongs to elders, storytellers and those who make history. Boundaries shape – but can’t hold – the young ones; they become a gift of awareness and protection for the adventurous adult; they keep fretful individuals out of the way of the flow of history.

And one more thing,

A word from the Department of Wild Speculation

As Field points out, the word translated ‘Negotiating’ in 58.4 is actually the name of the Shang dynasty. His translation begins, ‘There is negotiation with Shang, but no reconciliation as yet.’

Also, the final two words of the line, ‘having rejoicing’, are a phrase meaning ‘expecting a child’. ‘Nine at fourth’s rejoicing,’ says the xiaoxiang, ‘has celebrations.’

It would make particularly good sense to protect a pregnant woman from infectious disease.

The business with Zhou and Shang was only ultimately resolved when Wu, son of Wen and (almost certainly) a Shang mother, came to power. 57/58 – again, see the Sequence book – is the axis of a ‘history-making’ decade of hexagrams, looking backward to the second wife in 54 and forward into the ‘sweet measures’ of Zhou rule, and linked via 57.5’s line pathway to the ‘small child’ of 17.2 – the ‘small child’ being the name Wu gave himself in speeches.

So… perhaps we might need to keep the feverish contagion at a safe distance, in 58.4, and allow the negotiations to be unresolved, while we wait for Wu’s birth.

Field sees in 35.2 a specific reference to Kang, a younger brother of Wu, being granted the fiefdom of Wei with its relocated Shang nobles because of his Shang mother.

The exact number and birth order of King Wen’s sons isn’t clear, but S.J. Marshall says that Wu is Wen’s second son of ten, and Kang his ninth. In that sense, both are middle sons  – like kan.

Talking with Yi is a conversation – and with regular readings, we develop a relationship with the oracle. We habitually talk about it as a person: ‘Yi’ rather than ‘the Yi’; something we can ‘get to know’ rather than just ‘learn’; something that speaks. (The roots of the word ‘oracle’ are in Latin orare, ‘to speak’. Oracles can talk.)

The reason Yi speaks is, of course, because it has words of its own. Tarot speaks through images; Yi speaks through the patterns we call hexagrams, but also in words, like we do. I think this leads to a different experience of divination: having a conversation with a person, versus applying a system. Yes, just as with tarot, there’s a system of symbols to learn and apply, and skills to develop – and beyond that, Yi also has something to say. Yes, there’s water above heaven (clouds in the sky, inner constancy in the face of outer uncertainty, and so on…) – and also, Yi says, ‘Wait, with truth and confidence…’

Consequently, a lot of good divination advice is also good relationship advice. Talk openly and often; be honest and straightforward. Let no topic be off-limits. Have boundaries: keep your autonomy, don’t become dependent on having Yi tell you what to do. And so on.

Also, of course, we are actually talking to a 3,000 year old book, or something that speaks through the book – and however we conceive of this speaker, it certainly can’t get bunions. Talking with Yi is also not like talking with a human being.

This has a lot of implications. Some of them make it rather like talking to an infinitely wise person, beyond ordinary human limitations: someone who can’t possibly misunderstand your question, but whose ideas of what constitute good or bad fortune might be quite different from your own. However, another is that you will tend to hear Yi speak in your own inner voice.

By ‘inner voice’ I mean both the tone of voice, and also the kind of thing it can say. If your own inner voice is hypercritical, or sarcastic, or sanguine, then your Yi will tend to sound like this, too. Yi is not your inner voice, of course, and it can and will shatter that illusion from time to time and sound unmistakably other. However, it remains true that it’s harder for a pessimist ever to hear Yi being optimistic, or a laid-back character to hear Yi being fiercely critical, or vice versa.

And this is why, even though your relationship with the oracle is an absolutely individual one, and you are the only true authority on the answers you receive, it’s also good to share a reading with another person and listen to their response – because you get to hear the reading speak with a different voice. I’ve had a few I Ching chats with Change Circle members recently, and it seems to me that what I contribute is only partly familiarity and skill with the ‘system’ of how Yi makes meaning; it’s also how I make it possible for people to hear Yi differently. The same kind of thing happens in Clarity’s forums: ‘Here’s how I hear the reading,’ we say. ‘Does that resonate for you?’ And then, perhaps, comes that unmistakable sense of being spoken to.

I’m very, very pleased to announce the birth of

The Resonance Journal, version 2.0!

 

 

With this version, you can:

Print your entries

print option in menu

…which also means you can use your computer’s ‘print to pdf’ driver to share individual entries.

Protect your journal with a password

password protection dialogue

And adjust the size and font of all the text you see in the program (menus, entry lists and so on)

adjusting interface text

(useful for ageing eyes… ask me how I know!)

Along with all the original features, such as

  • possibly the best Yijing reading search in the world
  • the choice of casting a reading inside your journal or entering one you already cast
  • tagging, internal links and sub-entries to interconnect readings, dreams, signs and more
  • the lovely little ‘review random entry’ feature that invites synchronicities
  • …and so on…

How to get the new version

If you’re trying the Resonance Journal for the first time

Visit this page for more detail and to download!

If you already use the Resonance Journal

Do not download and install from the main download page.

Re-installing the whole program in the same directory would overwrite all your entries with an empty journal.

Instead, you need to use the updater program from one of these links:

Decrease, Increase

Hexagrams 41 and 42, Decreasing and Increasing, are an especially clear hexagram pair: the two of them together describe a single phenomenon, seen from two perspectives. There is a single flow of energy, life and abundance, and it moves as a cycle: ‘Decrease, Increase, the beginnings of abundance and decline.’ When you receive one of these hexagrams, you have to think of is as part of that whole.

This is the main distinction between the experiences of Decrease and Stripping Away, Hexagram 23. 41/42 are about active participation in the flow; 23 in its purest form is just a loss you undergo, as something is taken from you. Hexagram 41 also means having less, but with an underlying awareness that there is no net loss.

There are two good examples in this I Ching Community thread: letting a plane journey go and gaining an upgrade to the bullet train; acknowledging the reality of deteriorating eyesight and getting corrective lenses. The energy hasn’t been lost, but it has been transferred – for instance, from the natural lens to an external, artificial one. There is loss, and life goes on.

The counterbalancing gain is by no means always as clear as in these examples, but it’s always happening somewhere. If you’re experiencing loss, that would be because it is your time to have less, to give things up. The Tuanzhuan, Commentary on the Judgement, lays especial emphasis on timeliness:

‘”Two baskets” corresponds to the times. To decrease the strong and increase the weak has its time. Decrease and increase, to fill and to empty, should be linked with time and associated actions.’
(Wu Jing Nuan’s translation)

The role of 41/42 as a unit stands out when you see their position in the Vessel pattern of hexagrams. They stand opposite 11/12, the hexagrams from which they’re ‘created’ by the migration of a single line between trigrams – in Hexagram 41, when the inner trigram of 11 is ‘decreased’ by one yang line that moves to the sixth place. With this, it encloses three yin lines with three yang, and creates a ‘container’:

|||::: becomes ||:::|

Here is the vessel, now cast, ready to use for pouring out or receiving:

ancient Chinese character Sun, decrease

The Oracle’s story

As so often with Yi’s longer texts, the oracle of Hexagram 41 is telling us a story…

‘Decreasing: there is truth and confidence.
From the source, good fortune.
Not a mistake, there can be constancy.
Fruitful to have a direction to go.
How to use this?
Two gui vessels may be used for the offering.’

Fu opens the way

It all opens with ‘truth and confidence’, fu. From the Language of Change Yijing glossary:

Fu can sometimes (11.3, 44.1) mean simply ‘what is true’ or ‘the true nature of this’. But more often, it means the quality of trust and being true which opens channels and creates an interface – a way or place of connection. Relationships of all kinds happen through fu; it’s the prerequisite for both inner and outer communication. In the Songs, it unites the king with heaven’s mandate, and unites the people with the king.

Fu in readings most often describes human relationships. At its simplest, this is just an undeniable connection between people. At its fullest, it creates mutual trust and rapport such that people can act with unanimity. It allows transmission (teaching and learning) and precludes any strategising or manipulation.

Fu is also the prerequisite for another kind of relationship: offerings, which must be made with sincerity and an undivided heart. Just as in relationships between people, truth and trust are the conduit through which connection flows – and it is always important to care for the conduit.

As an inner state, fu is truth to self, often experienced as self-belief and confidence. It arises as a motive energy and awareness that enables you to take decisions – to commit yourself without reserve. It is the opposite of anxiety, defensiveness and doubt, of second thoughts or ‘being in two minds’. Because it means openness, it can support exploration and learning – crossing the great river, or having a direction to go.”

For Decrease, fu comes first, because it is the key to a true offering. You have to be fully present, not in two minds about it. All the good omens that follow come from this: if there is futhen there is an opening to the source, good fortune without mistake, constancy is possible and a direction to go gives good results.

From trust to action

How does all that flow from fu?

The next thing we need to know: this is not a mistake. I think this is an example of Yi using this phrase for reassurance: it might feel wrong, but it isn’t. We don’t like losing things and having less, so Yi guides us step by step towards understanding and full participation. With trust. Not wrong.

This allows constancy. ‘Allows’, ke 可, originally has to do with speaking or singing, words of assent. Someone/ something says ‘this can happen’ – in other words, the action is in harmony with the time. The same word is used at the end of the Oracle: ‘two gui vessels may be [ke 可] used’. It allows constancy, which is also (in the earliest meaning of the word) divination: perceiving truth, seeing what the time calls for, and loyally following through.

Then, having a direction to go bears fruit. This gives me a sense of reaching out towards the future – deliberately stretching your awareness beyond the immediate experience of loss and into the reasons why. To make an offering, you need a sense of purpose.

‘How to use this?

In the middle of the oracle text, a voice asking questions. Again, I think this is Yi acknowledging that giving things up is hard. The very presence of a question and answer session in the middle of the oracle suggests thoughtfulness. (Also, look at the prerequisite for Decrease in the first line text: ‘considering decreasing it,’ conscious deliberation.)

‘How to use this?’ is very much the question you are asking and Yi is answering with this hexagram. It seems to me to lie somewhere between ‘How can I use this time?’ – a respectful enquiry about being in harmony with the time – and ‘What use is this sacrifice, what is it good for?’ with an implied ‘How can I possibly do this?’ and a hint of ‘Why should I?’

‘How to use this?’
‘Two gui vessels may be used.’

The verb ‘use’ is the same; this is a direct answer to the question. With this dialogue, awareness that was stretched towards future times and distant places contracts back to the present moment. How to participate in the larger whole? By staying at your own size.

Gui vessels are not necessarily mere baskets – the word does originally mean a bamboo basket, but by Shang and Zhou times was a kind of bronze vessel. However, it was used for offerings of grain, so the message is the same: this is not a casual or trivial offering, but it is also not a vast state occasion with oxen and sheep (and maybe prisoners of war) sacrificed in their hundreds. It’s proportionate and manageable; you do not need to make exaggerated dramatic gestures of self-sacrifice.

Letting go and lightening up

In fact, Hexagram 41 can encourage us to take our sacrifices more lightly. It follows from Hexagram 40, Release:

‘Letting things take their course necessarily has occasion to let go.
And so Decrease follows.’

After untying the knots of obligation, after the relief of the thunderstorm, after letting go of the uphill struggle, then Decrease.

The Dazhuan, Great Treatise, agrees:

‘Decrease is the renewal of de.
Heaviness before, lightness afterwards.
Keeping harm at a distance.’

Becoming lighter in this way can mean becoming much less attached to the conviction that ‘I have to Do Something!’ and investing what you need to give up with less significance. Maybe you don’t need to solve everything, just give what you can. (I’ve been greatly consoled by this hexagram in situations where I had no idea how to help.)

Decrease can renew your de, your strength and energy, perhaps just because you cease to imagine that you have to control things you can’t, in fact, control. You become less attached to making things happen a certain way, and hence less vulnerable when they don’t.

The Image: reflective presence

The Image has more to say about how to handle the emotions of Decrease:

‘Below the mountain is the lake. Decreasing.
A noble one curbs anger and restrains desires.’

I’ve always liked this Image for its realism in what it doesn’t say: ‘A noble one is perfectly free of anger and feels no desire.’ The noble one, we can assume, also doesn’t like giving things up – but he will put a mountain-sized lid on his reactions and keep them in check.

And… maybe the mountain creates the lake: it forms a vessel to contain the water and prevent it from draining away. Perhaps the noble one is creating a state of deep reflection instead of getting carried away on a torrent of emotions – and perhaps anger and desire need to be checked just because they would carry you away from what’s present and real.

The Sequence – as it often does – points to a deeper significance. The lake gathered under the mountain in Hexagram 41 will become the outer trigram in hexagrams 43, 45, 47 and 49. It seems as though Hexagram 41’s Offering has deepened this capacity to communicate and share, that will lead all the way from Deciding to Radical Change.

lake at the foot of mountains, South Tyrol

From the I Ching Community

Name and nature: the enigma of guai

ancient guai characterHexagram 43 is called 夬, guai, which is generally understood to mean‘decision’ or ‘resoluteness’ or ‘breakthrough’. The oldest forms of the character show a hand holding up an object – a token of authority, perhaps, or an archer’s thumb ring. In some early versions of the character, it’s quite clearly a drawing of a hand with a thumb ring: Guai character on silk

Nowadays, the word for an archer’s ring is jue, 玦, formed by combining guai with the ‘jade’ radical.

The Wings (Tuanzhuan, Zagua and Xugua) agree, though, that 夬 means  jue 决: a word that combines guai with the ‘water’ radical and means decide, breakthrough, breach (of a dike), certainty, execution. This, they say, is what the solid lines of the hexagram are doing to the one broken line at the top: ‘taking decisive action’ against it (Lynn).

43 as motion

|||||:Translators almost all follow the wisdom of the Wings authors, because their understanding fits so naturally with the shape of the hexagram. Following its energy through from the bottom line to the top, you get the sense of a powerful upward drive, pushing out that final yin line. It feels like a single giant arrow of motion: one way only.

I wonder whether guai might originally refer to a particular kind of motion: the kind that characterises both the bowstring released by the archer’s thumb and the water that breaches a dike. Stored energy is released into swift motion – in a single direction, with momentum, and not to be diverted.

The position of this hexagram in the Sequence carries the same idea: the lake gathers under the mountain in 41, and then there is Increase, and then ‘Increasing and not reaching an end must mean breakthrough.’

(Here’s more on 43 as the ‘breakthrough’ of water breaching a dike.)

The Oracle

The Oracle of 43, though, seems to tell the story of an idea:

‘Deciding, tell it in the king’s chambers.
With truth, cry out, there is danger.
Notify your own town.
Fruitless to take up arms;
Fruitful to have a direction to go.’

It begins with communication: broadcast the message in the king’s chambers, truth calls out there is danger, notify the town. The word translate ‘cry out’ means to yell, or howl like the wind: ‘Truth that howls means danger!’

The message ripples outward: from the royal court to the town and beyond, into a ‘direction to go’. In this way, it translates into motion – the potent momentum of the hexagram. An idea with power behind it is carried through into action.

The Oracle finishes up with a very clear contrast: to take up arms is fruitless; to have a direction to go is fruitful. What’s the distinction it’s pointing to here? The Tuanzhuan says that taking up arms would mean what you hold in high esteem comes to nothing – which actually seems odd: with all this energy and momentum, wouldn’t you expect to win any battles you started?

In my book I only said, ‘It will serve you better to focus with clear intention on what you’re moving towards, rather than what you’re reacting against.’ I think we might add that taking up arms would be a distraction from 43’s single direction.

In this connection, it’s interesting to see how Wang Bi describes this (in Lynn’s translation). He points out that 43 is the opposite of 23, when ‘the Dao of the noble man wanes’ and ‘his virtues of strength and rectitude are denied a straight path to action.’ Since 43 does have a straight path to action, best to keep to the path.

Lonely as a cloud

The Image of 43 says,

‘Lake above heaven. Deciding.
A noble one distributes riches to reach those below,
He dwells in power and virtue, and also shuns things.’

…except that there’s actually more than one way to understand that final line. Word for word in Chinese, it’s literally something like, ‘Dwelling-in virtue and/thus avoid.’ Wilhelm has, ‘he refrains from resting on his virtue;’ Lynn, following Wang Bi, has ‘dwells in virtue and so clarifies what one should be averse to.’ (Wang Bi says that to be averse to something implies to prohibit it, and this is about having very clear laws without laxity.)

What do the trigrams imply? The outer lake has to do with communicating, spreading and sharing. Heaven on the inside indicates both lasting power and unchanging truths behind this communication – probably what Wang Bi had in mind when he talked about having clear laws.

Of course, the simplest way to understand a ‘lake above heaven’ is as a cloud. A cloud distributes riches to those below. It reaches everyone, but no-one can reach it: rain water is always pure; the shores of a sky-lake never get muddy. It makes sense to me that the noble one is like this: simultaneously generous and aloof. In the line texts, it turns out that we do need a certain reserve and distance to keep going.

(In support of this – the Image of 53 has a very similar phrase, ‘the noble one dwells in good character and virtue’. No-one interprets this as lazily ‘resting on his virtue.’)

Words have power

According to the Dazhuan, the hexagrams predate civilisation and inspire its greatest creations – such as the written word:

‘In remote antiquity, people knotted cords to keep things in order. The sages of later ages exchanged these for written tallies, and by means of these all the various officials were kept in order, and the myriad folk were supervised. They probably got the idea for this from the hexagram Kuai.’ (Lynn)

The idea of written tallies comes – like the image of the cloud – from the trigrams: communication (lake) that contains enduring power (heaven). As Wilhelm says, ‘words should be made strong and enduring.’ Writing infuses communication with greater power.

In this connection… it’s interesting to see the role Hexagram 43 plays in the Zagua, the ‘Miscellaneous Hexagrams’ Wing that describes contrasting pairs. At the end of this Wing, the last few hexagrams mentioned are no longer grouped with their pairs. (No-one knows why.) 43, separated from 44, is the very last of all:

Guai is breaking through,
Firm breaks through soft.
The noble one’s dao is long lasting,
The small man’s dao is sorrow.’

Why might this be the final word? I wonder if it’s because 43 is about words with power behind them. The Zagua is a simple little text, mostly in rhyme – I imagine it was intended to be recited out loud by a student learning the pairs. The recitation ends with something like an incantation, with the power of the whole book behind it: may the noble man’s way endure, may the small man decline.

Journey through the lines

The line texts of 43, true to its sense of direction and momentum, tell a story. Deciding – it makes clear – isn’t just theoretical: it means carrying your intention, your words-with-power-behind-them, through into action.

Line 1

‘Vigour in the leading foot.
Going on without control means making mistakes.’

It’s no good to start moving too soon, before you’re capable of the task. Just declaring your intent is not enough. This line joins with Hexagram 28, Great Exceeding. Someone has such an overwhelming sense that Something Must Be Done that she falls over her own feet in her hurry to get going.

Line 2

‘Alarmed, crying out.
Evening and night, bearing arms.
Do not fear.’

The ‘crying out’ from the Oracle is heard again. This line connects with 49, Radical Change. Truth howls in the dark, and we are thoroughly alarmed. (The character ‘alarm’ consists of ‘heart’ and yi, ‘change’, making it pretty clear what frightens us.) This is when we’re liable to take up arms, which the Oracle said wasn’t a good idea. Perhaps it still isn’t – at all events, better not to over-react or over-identify.

Line 3

‘Vigour in the cheekbones means a pitfall.
Noble one decides, decides.
Walks alone, meets the rain,
And is indignant as if he were soaked through.
Not a mistake.’

Deciding meets Hexagram 58, Opening: it’s time to go out into the open and communicate. Line 3 asks ‘can I, should I, go out across the threshold?’ and the answer is yes. To decide now is to walk out alone, though you may end up bedraggled and sputtering. Never mind preserving your dignity: some things are more important. (You can see the reflection of this noble one in the Image.)

Line 4

‘Thighs without flesh,
Walking awkwardly now.
Lead a sheep, regrets vanish.
Hear words, not trusted.’

This is the line associated with Yu the Great, the hero whose thighs were wasted from his decades spent battling the floods. It’s the second line about how you move: alone in line 3, understandably awkwardly now.

This line joins with Hexagram 5, Waiting: the floods didn’t recede instantaneously just because Heaven said that Yu should conquer them. ‘Deciding’ can be a long-term undertaking. If things are getting on top of you, surrender to the reality of it and just keep hobbling on.

This is a hexagram of words with power, but now we reach the outer trigram, words are not trusted. I think that’s partly because it’s time for action now – words alone aren’t enough – and partly because these words come from the sidelines. LiSe sees Yu here and in line 3, getting no thanks for his labours.

Line 5

‘Amaranth on high ground.
Decide, decide.
Walk in the centre, no mistake.’

A third ‘walking’ line, now with Great Vigour (Hexagram 34) – like that amaranth, perhaps, or like the energy it would take to harvest it. At line 5 – the place of personal autonomy and choice – in a hexagram about Deciding, Yi is remarkably open-ended. Decide for yourself where the middle path lies, and walk it.

Line 6

‘Not crying out.
In the end, pitfall.’

If truth never cries out, there’s no deciding; nothing happens. Hexagram 1 shines through this line, bringing the necessity of creative change – but also, perhaps, a desire to keep clear of messiness, and not allow anything to go wrong. This reminds me somewhat of 55.6, and also 21.6: what if the message never got through? What if the upheaval never happened? In the short term, this might make things easier, but not in the end.

Backlit rain storm at sunset

What is Jie 介 ?

The character jie 介 occurs three times in the Yi:

16.2

Boundaries of stone,
Not for a whole day.
Constancy, good fortune.’

35.2

‘Now advancing, now apprehensive.
Constancy, good fortune.
Accepting this armour blessing from your ancestral mother.’

58.4

‘Negotiating opening, not yet at rest.
Containing the affliction brings rejoicing.’

As you can see, I haven’t managed to translate it with the same word each time: no-one does, and there’s a lot of variability in the translations. Even 58.4, which on the face of it seems the simplest, has translations of ‘jie affliction’ varying from ‘ward off harm’ (Lynn) to ‘disease confined’ (Rutt) to ‘great illness’ (Field) to ‘being aided when ill’ (Redmond).

So…

What does it mean?

In the Shijing, the Book of Songs, jie overwhelmingly means ‘confer/ grant/ vouchsafe [a blessing]’. It’s used again and again at the end of songs and hymns to ask the ancestors to bless the ruler, and also used to describe the king conferring authority on a feudal lord.

In the Liji, the Book of Rites, jie means armoured, shelled (as in ‘creatures with shells’), and ‘attendants’ – as far as I can see, it’s only used once as a verb, meaning ‘to present’.

How can one word possibly mean everything from an attendant to a beetle’s carapace to the act of an ancestor granting long life?

In the dictionary, jie is defined as ‘armour, shell’ and ‘be situated between, interpose’. According to Richard Sears, its original meaning is ‘border’ and the original character is thought to show a man in armour protecting the border.

As far as I can see, the meaning stretches from ‘what goes inbetween (you and everything out there)’, including the attendants who flank you, to ‘what covers you (and protects you against everything out there)’ to ‘the act of covering and shielding you’. There’s something comparable in Psalm 28: ‘the Lord is my strength and shield,’ and ‘shield’ there is a word that means both armour, defending a city, and the scaly hide of a crocodile. I get the idea of being clothed in spiritual power or authority.

But what about the use of the word in the Yi, which is neither quite a book of songs and invocations, nor quite a book of prescriptions for correct behaviour?

Jie and kan

Yi, of course, makes its meanings out of structures as well as words. So here are the three structures in which the word jie appears:

changing to

and

changing to

and

changing to

As you can see, in each one, the line change creates the trigram kan.

Kan is traditionally said to represent pits and running water. If you consider the yang line to represent what moves and acts, and the yin lines to represent what’s acted on, then it looks like a river flowing between its banks. The river is acting and carving its course… though then again, the banks are also containing and directing the flow of the river. Where the two meet, they are always shaping one another.

And now, thinking of the trigram kan, look at the shape of the ancient character jie:

ancient character jie

The border guard in his armour is represented as a solid human figure clothed in something broken and flexible.

If it’s possible, I would like to learn what the trigrams meant to the people who wrote the Zhouyi – not just what they meant in separate, parallel traditions such as that represented by the Shuogua Wing, but the understanding revealed by the Zhouyi itself. I think this association of jie with kan is a tiny fragment of that understanding.

Jie in the Yi

Once I’d looked at jie, looked at kan, and got very Yeekily excited, I dived into the line texts in more depth. From this, I think I can see…

  • a consistent theme running through the lines (even though the word jie is used in different ways), and
  • that theme expressed in different, evolving ways according to the phase of the Sequence to which each hexagram belongs.

16.2: boundaries of rock

‘Boundaries of stone,
Not for a whole day.
Constancy, good fortune.’

This is one of those lines addressed by the master diviner who speaks in the Dazhuan. This does not take a whole day, he says, because the protagonist ‘knows the seeds’, recognises what is incipient – is quick on the uptake, basically, and so doesn’t have to wait for events to play themselves out.

Wilhelm translates this one as ‘firm as a rock’ (not impressionable); Rutt translates as ‘pilloried on the rock’. Both readings fit quite naturally with this idea of ‘not for a whole day’: it doesn’t take someone who is ‘firm as a rock’ long to understand the seeds; the punishment on the rock doesn’t take a whole day because the person learns their lesson quickly.

What does happen with these rocks? The Chinese has just three words: ‘jie at/to/by/from rock’. Direct translations could be ‘bordered by rocks’, ‘armoured by rocks’ or ‘hemmed in by rocks’. Field even observes the elephant in the name of 16, and thinks the line describes an attempt at containing it.

Is this rock-solid boundary a protective blessing, or is it oppressive? Well… ask a teenager and their parents about boundaries.

Also, consider a third possibility (thanks to LiSe for opening my eyes to this one): that they’re also formative. Boundaries of rock shape you, harden you, keep you safe – but that doesn’t take all day.

Why not? Because this line is 16 changing to 40: Enthusiasm’s Release. Release unties knots, solves problems, sees what can be done and sets out at daybreak. Teenagers see how the world should be different and set out to change it.

For another view of boundaries, consider the paired line, 15.5:

‘Not rich in your neighbour:
Fruitful to use this to invade and conquer.
Nothing that does not bear fruit.’

You have neighbours because there is a boundary between your land and theirs. Such a boundary is essential – but not impregnable. There may come a moment when you can no longer live within them. What persists when boundaries crumble is constancy: persisting loyally in what you know to be true. Inner security – like the teenager who knows that the world must change – is stronger than rock.

35.2: mantled in blessing

‘Now advancing, now apprehensive.
Constancy, good fortune.
Accept this jie blessing from your ancestral mother.’

This line sounds closest to the use of jie in the Book of Songs: an ancestor confers a blessing. ‘Accept this conferred blessing’, maybe ‘or ‘accept this protective blessing’ – or both.

I find it intriguing that it says ‘accept this blessing,’ though. (I failed to notice this in my book.) After Christmas dinner, when we settle down to open presents, if I say, ‘Take this one,’ it’s because I’m already handing you a parcel. Couldn’t it be the same in the line, with ‘this’ referring to a blessing you can already see?

…in other words, might the apprehension itself be the conferred armour-blessing?

Think of the nature of this line’s anxiety. It’s where 35, Advancing, meets 64, Not Yet Across: making progress, but not yet arrived. What if you can’t make it across? Apprehension marks the boundary where your plans and intention meet your circumstances – and you created this boundary, this line of tension, by making progress. To be apprehensive because you are making progress might be described as a blessing in itself.

Boundaries, here, draw a line between you, with your resolve, on the inside, and the circumstances you’re worried about, on the outside. ‘Constancy is good fortune’ because inner resolve is stronger and more real. (Constancy means good fortune in both 16.2 and 35.2, and also in the fan yao of each line, 40.2 and 64.2.)

This protective mantle of apprehension shields and strengthens you; it makes you acutely aware of where the edges are, what’s part of you and what isn’t. (For more on this idea, in association with kan, see the Tuanzhuan on Hexagram 29.) So this, like the banks of the river, and like the rock boundary of 16.2, has a shaping and defining effect.

58.4: contain the infection

‘Negotiating opening, not yet at rest.
Containing the affliction brings rejoicing.’

Jie clearly means something different here: it’s containing the affliction, not conferring it. Still, the idea is very similar to 35.2: jie wraps round the anxiety or disease, setting a boundary, defining its edges. Rutt cites Arthur Waley, who thought jie in these lines could describe a kind of magical practice of containment.

This is 58 changing to 60: Opening’s Measure and Limiting. Hexagram 60 draws lines, subdivides things, breaks them into segments like the bamboo stem. The line seems to show two ways ‘Opening with Measure’ could go: an anxious desire to nail everything down and set comprehensive terms (as I think also happens in 61.6 zhi 60), or breaking things down into manageable portions. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof; cross that bridge when you come to it; eat the elephant one bite at a time.

The negotiations are ongoing, there’s no peace settlement yet – and the important thing seems to be to let them stay open and a work in progress, and not be in too much of a hurry. (The paired line, 57.3, is part of the same idea.) The jie boundary still draws a line between an inner state (affliction, illness, stress, feverishness…) and the outer world, but now I think it’s there to protect the outer world. The negotiations need to be insulated from any contagion.

Summing up…

Change Circle members who’ve read the Sequence book will be familiar with the idea that the final part of the Sequence belongs to elders, storytellers and those who make history. Boundaries shape – but can’t hold – the young ones; they become a gift of awareness and protection for the adventurous adult; they keep fretful individuals out of the way of the flow of history.

And one more thing,

A word from the Department of Wild Speculation

As Field points out, the word translated ‘Negotiating’ in 58.4 is actually the name of the Shang dynasty. His translation begins, ‘There is negotiation with Shang, but no reconciliation as yet.’

Also, the final two words of the line, ‘having rejoicing’, are a phrase meaning ‘expecting a child’. ‘Nine at fourth’s rejoicing,’ says the xiaoxiang, ‘has celebrations.’

It would make particularly good sense to protect a pregnant woman from infectious disease.

The business with Zhou and Shang was only ultimately resolved when Wu, son of Wen and (almost certainly) a Shang mother, came to power. 57/58 – again, see the Sequence book – is the axis of a ‘history-making’ decade of hexagrams, looking backward to the second wife in 54 and forward into the ‘sweet measures’ of Zhou rule, and linked via 57.5’s line pathway to the ‘small child’ of 17.2 – the ‘small child’ being the name Wu gave himself in speeches.

So… perhaps we might need to keep the feverish contagion at a safe distance, in 58.4, and allow the negotiations to be unresolved, while we wait for Wu’s birth.

Field sees in 35.2 a specific reference to Kang, a younger brother of Wu, being granted the fiefdom of Wei with its relocated Shang nobles because of his Shang mother.

The exact number and birth order of King Wen’s sons isn’t clear, but S.J. Marshall says that Wu is Wen’s second son of ten, and Kang his ninth. In that sense, both are middle sons  – like kan.

Talking with Yi is a conversation – and with regular readings, we develop a relationship with the oracle. We habitually talk about it as a person: ‘Yi’ rather than ‘the Yi’; something we can ‘get to know’ rather than just ‘learn’; something that speaks. (The roots of the word ‘oracle’ are in Latin orare, ‘to speak’. Oracles can talk.)

The reason Yi speaks is, of course, because it has words of its own. Tarot speaks through images; Yi speaks through the patterns we call hexagrams, but also in words, like we do. I think this leads to a different experience of divination: having a conversation with a person, versus applying a system. Yes, just as with tarot, there’s a system of symbols to learn and apply, and skills to develop – and beyond that, Yi also has something to say. Yes, there’s water above heaven (clouds in the sky, inner constancy in the face of outer uncertainty, and so on…) – and also, Yi says, ‘Wait, with truth and confidence…’

Consequently, a lot of good divination advice is also good relationship advice. Talk openly and often; be honest and straightforward. Let no topic be off-limits. Have boundaries: keep your autonomy, don’t become dependent on having Yi tell you what to do. And so on.

Also, of course, we are actually talking to a 3,000 year old book, or something that speaks through the book – and however we conceive of this speaker, it certainly can’t get bunions. Talking with Yi is also not like talking with a human being.

This has a lot of implications. Some of them make it rather like talking to an infinitely wise person, beyond ordinary human limitations: someone who can’t possibly misunderstand your question, but whose ideas of what constitute good or bad fortune might be quite different from your own. However, another is that you will tend to hear Yi speak in your own inner voice.

By ‘inner voice’ I mean both the tone of voice, and also the kind of thing it can say. If your own inner voice is hypercritical, or sarcastic, or sanguine, then your Yi will tend to sound like this, too. Yi is not your inner voice, of course, and it can and will shatter that illusion from time to time and sound unmistakably other. However, it remains true that it’s harder for a pessimist ever to hear Yi being optimistic, or a laid-back character to hear Yi being fiercely critical, or vice versa.

And this is why, even though your relationship with the oracle is an absolutely individual one, and you are the only true authority on the answers you receive, it’s also good to share a reading with another person and listen to their response – because you get to hear the reading speak with a different voice. I’ve had a few I Ching chats with Change Circle members recently, and it seems to me that what I contribute is only partly familiarity and skill with the ‘system’ of how Yi makes meaning; it’s also how I make it possible for people to hear Yi differently. The same kind of thing happens in Clarity’s forums: ‘Here’s how I hear the reading,’ we say. ‘Does that resonate for you?’ And then, perhaps, comes that unmistakable sense of being spoken to.

I’m very, very pleased to announce the birth of

The Resonance Journal, version 2.0!

 

 

With this version, you can:

Print your entries

print option in menu

…which also means you can use your computer’s ‘print to pdf’ driver to share individual entries.

Protect your journal with a password

password protection dialogue

And adjust the size and font of all the text you see in the program (menus, entry lists and so on)

adjusting interface text

(useful for ageing eyes… ask me how I know!)

Along with all the original features, such as

  • possibly the best Yijing reading search in the world
  • the choice of casting a reading inside your journal or entering one you already cast
  • tagging, internal links and sub-entries to interconnect readings, dreams, signs and more
  • the lovely little ‘review random entry’ feature that invites synchronicities
  • …and so on…

How to get the new version

If you’re trying the Resonance Journal for the first time

Visit this page for more detail and to download!

If you already use the Resonance Journal

Do not download and install from the main download page.

Re-installing the whole program in the same directory would overwrite all your entries with an empty journal.

Instead, you need to use the updater program from one of these links:

Decrease, Increase

Hexagrams 41 and 42, Decreasing and Increasing, are an especially clear hexagram pair: the two of them together describe a single phenomenon, seen from two perspectives. There is a single flow of energy, life and abundance, and it moves as a cycle: ‘Decrease, Increase, the beginnings of abundance and decline.’ When you receive one of these hexagrams, you have to think of is as part of that whole.

This is the main distinction between the experiences of Decrease and Stripping Away, Hexagram 23. 41/42 are about active participation in the flow; 23 in its purest form is just a loss you undergo, as something is taken from you. Hexagram 41 also means having less, but with an underlying awareness that there is no net loss.

There are two good examples in this I Ching Community thread: letting a plane journey go and gaining an upgrade to the bullet train; acknowledging the reality of deteriorating eyesight and getting corrective lenses. The energy hasn’t been lost, but it has been transferred – for instance, from the natural lens to an external, artificial one. There is loss, and life goes on.

The counterbalancing gain is by no means always as clear as in these examples, but it’s always happening somewhere. If you’re experiencing loss, that would be because it is your time to have less, to give things up. The Tuanzhuan, Commentary on the Judgement, lays especial emphasis on timeliness:

‘”Two baskets” corresponds to the times. To decrease the strong and increase the weak has its time. Decrease and increase, to fill and to empty, should be linked with time and associated actions.’
(Wu Jing Nuan’s translation)

The role of 41/42 as a unit stands out when you see their position in the Vessel pattern of hexagrams. They stand opposite 11/12, the hexagrams from which they’re ‘created’ by the migration of a single line between trigrams – in Hexagram 41, when the inner trigram of 11 is ‘decreased’ by one yang line that moves to the sixth place. With this, it encloses three yin lines with three yang, and creates a ‘container’:

|||::: becomes ||:::|

Here is the vessel, now cast, ready to use for pouring out or receiving:

ancient Chinese character Sun, decrease

The Oracle’s story

As so often with Yi’s longer texts, the oracle of Hexagram 41 is telling us a story…

‘Decreasing: there is truth and confidence.
From the source, good fortune.
Not a mistake, there can be constancy.
Fruitful to have a direction to go.
How to use this?
Two gui vessels may be used for the offering.’

Fu opens the way

It all opens with ‘truth and confidence’, fu. From the Language of Change Yijing glossary:

Fu can sometimes (11.3, 44.1) mean simply ‘what is true’ or ‘the true nature of this’. But more often, it means the quality of trust and being true which opens channels and creates an interface – a way or place of connection. Relationships of all kinds happen through fu; it’s the prerequisite for both inner and outer communication. In the Songs, it unites the king with heaven’s mandate, and unites the people with the king.

Fu in readings most often describes human relationships. At its simplest, this is just an undeniable connection between people. At its fullest, it creates mutual trust and rapport such that people can act with unanimity. It allows transmission (teaching and learning) and precludes any strategising or manipulation.

Fu is also the prerequisite for another kind of relationship: offerings, which must be made with sincerity and an undivided heart. Just as in relationships between people, truth and trust are the conduit through which connection flows – and it is always important to care for the conduit.

As an inner state, fu is truth to self, often experienced as self-belief and confidence. It arises as a motive energy and awareness that enables you to take decisions – to commit yourself without reserve. It is the opposite of anxiety, defensiveness and doubt, of second thoughts or ‘being in two minds’. Because it means openness, it can support exploration and learning – crossing the great river, or having a direction to go.”

For Decrease, fu comes first, because it is the key to a true offering. You have to be fully present, not in two minds about it. All the good omens that follow come from this: if there is futhen there is an opening to the source, good fortune without mistake, constancy is possible and a direction to go gives good results.

From trust to action

How does all that flow from fu?

The next thing we need to know: this is not a mistake. I think this is an example of Yi using this phrase for reassurance: it might feel wrong, but it isn’t. We don’t like losing things and having less, so Yi guides us step by step towards understanding and full participation. With trust. Not wrong.

This allows constancy. ‘Allows’, ke 可, originally has to do with speaking or singing, words of assent. Someone/ something says ‘this can happen’ – in other words, the action is in harmony with the time. The same word is used at the end of the Oracle: ‘two gui vessels may be [ke 可] used’. It allows constancy, which is also (in the earliest meaning of the word) divination: perceiving truth, seeing what the time calls for, and loyally following through.

Then, having a direction to go bears fruit. This gives me a sense of reaching out towards the future – deliberately stretching your awareness beyond the immediate experience of loss and into the reasons why. To make an offering, you need a sense of purpose.

‘How to use this?

In the middle of the oracle text, a voice asking questions. Again, I think this is Yi acknowledging that giving things up is hard. The very presence of a question and answer session in the middle of the oracle suggests thoughtfulness. (Also, look at the prerequisite for Decrease in the first line text: ‘considering decreasing it,’ conscious deliberation.)

‘How to use this?’ is very much the question you are asking and Yi is answering with this hexagram. It seems to me to lie somewhere between ‘How can I use this time?’ – a respectful enquiry about being in harmony with the time – and ‘What use is this sacrifice, what is it good for?’ with an implied ‘How can I possibly do this?’ and a hint of ‘Why should I?’

‘How to use this?’
‘Two gui vessels may be used.’

The verb ‘use’ is the same; this is a direct answer to the question. With this dialogue, awareness that was stretched towards future times and distant places contracts back to the present moment. How to participate in the larger whole? By staying at your own size.

Gui vessels are not necessarily mere baskets – the word does originally mean a bamboo basket, but by Shang and Zhou times was a kind of bronze vessel. However, it was used for offerings of grain, so the message is the same: this is not a casual or trivial offering, but it is also not a vast state occasion with oxen and sheep (and maybe prisoners of war) sacrificed in their hundreds. It’s proportionate and manageable; you do not need to make exaggerated dramatic gestures of self-sacrifice.

Letting go and lightening up

In fact, Hexagram 41 can encourage us to take our sacrifices more lightly. It follows from Hexagram 40, Release:

‘Letting things take their course necessarily has occasion to let go.
And so Decrease follows.’

After untying the knots of obligation, after the relief of the thunderstorm, after letting go of the uphill struggle, then Decrease.

The Dazhuan, Great Treatise, agrees:

‘Decrease is the renewal of de.
Heaviness before, lightness afterwards.
Keeping harm at a distance.’

Becoming lighter in this way can mean becoming much less attached to the conviction that ‘I have to Do Something!’ and investing what you need to give up with less significance. Maybe you don’t need to solve everything, just give what you can. (I’ve been greatly consoled by this hexagram in situations where I had no idea how to help.)

Decrease can renew your de, your strength and energy, perhaps just because you cease to imagine that you have to control things you can’t, in fact, control. You become less attached to making things happen a certain way, and hence less vulnerable when they don’t.

The Image: reflective presence

The Image has more to say about how to handle the emotions of Decrease:

‘Below the mountain is the lake. Decreasing.
A noble one curbs anger and restrains desires.’

I’ve always liked this Image for its realism in what it doesn’t say: ‘A noble one is perfectly free of anger and feels no desire.’ The noble one, we can assume, also doesn’t like giving things up – but he will put a mountain-sized lid on his reactions and keep them in check.

And… maybe the mountain creates the lake: it forms a vessel to contain the water and prevent it from draining away. Perhaps the noble one is creating a state of deep reflection instead of getting carried away on a torrent of emotions – and perhaps anger and desire need to be checked just because they would carry you away from what’s present and real.

The Sequence – as it often does – points to a deeper significance. The lake gathered under the mountain in Hexagram 41 will become the outer trigram in hexagrams 43, 45, 47 and 49. It seems as though Hexagram 41’s Offering has deepened this capacity to communicate and share, that will lead all the way from Deciding to Radical Change.

lake at the foot of mountains, South Tyrol

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