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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

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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A few years ago now, I first noticed the Vessel Casting pattern in the Sequence, and got tremendously excited about it. For the past couple of months, I’ve been developing those ideas and their application in readings for Part 5 of ‘Exploring the Sequence’, which Change Circle members can find here. For this post, I won’t try to discuss the themes and significance and use of it all – that’s in Part 5 – I just want to point to the patterns and wave my arms around excitedly…

In brief… Vessels are made by casting them from moulds that form their reverse image.

The ‘reverse image’ of Hexagram 50, the Vessel, is Hexagram 3, its complement. And every hexagram from 4 to 49 finds its complement within that span of hexagrams, which is interesting. Then there turns out to be a series of structural connections at the outer surface, and also apt hexagram shapes at the centre. But wait, there’s more! Let’s make the connections one at a time…

Complements

If you map out the Vessel casting pattern by hexagram shapes, it looks like this (you can click on each image in this post for a larger version):

table of hexagrams

You can see hexagrams 3/4 standing opposite their complements, 49/50, at one end, and 27 opposite its complement 28 at the other, looking oddly vessel-shaped, or like a casting and its clay mould –

And oh look, there’s 19/20 opposite their complements too, 33/34:

‘Transferred’ lines

Hm… that’s a third of the way along, from right to left. What happens one third of the way along in the opposite direction? Hexagrams 11 and 12 – which are already one another’s complements, so naturally what stands opposite them must be something different. It’s 41/42, which Wilhelm tells us are related to 11/12:

“Peace and Standstill have an inner connection with Decrease and Increase, because through the transference of a strong line from the lower to the upper trigram, Decrease develops from Peace, and through the transference of a strong line from the upper to the lower trigram, Decrease develops from Standstill.”

(41 and 42 both include vessel characters as part of their Chinese names.)

So our Vessel casting pattern is divided into three equal parts, like this:

(This might be a good moment to look at this image of the piece mould process for casting bronze vessels.)

Actually, hexagrams 9/10 and 43/44 are related in the same way, but by the ‘transference’ of an open line from line 3 or 4 to line 6 or 1. You can imagine 9.4 moves ‘down’ to 44.1, and 10.3 moves ‘up’ to 43.6. Also, they’re exchanged trigram hexagrams – wind and lake above/below heaven. Anyway, they belong together –

Changing lines

As I mentioned in the original article, 5/6 connect with 48/47, and 7/8 with 46/45, through a single changing line – 5.1 > 48, 7.3 > 46. (As with the ‘transferring’ lines, it’s line 1/6 or 3/4 that make the connections – either the core or the surface.)

This leaves two groups of three apparently-unrelated hexagrams: in my original 2012 article, I said the pattern ‘melts away to nothing’ towards the centre. This, as it turns out, isn’t quite true. Vessels made of bronze have carefully crafted joints hidden beneath the surface, fully visible only to X-rays. And vessels made of hexagrams…?

13/14 stand opposite 39/40, and aren’t (as far as I can see) very related to them. It’s 15/16 that connect to 39/40: 15.5 > 39. Oh, and 15/16 also connect by a single line change to 35/36: 15.1 > 36. Isn’t that pretty?

I wonder…

13.4 > 37…

…but no, we do not get a complete interlocking pattern: 17/18 are not one line away from 37/38.

So there is almost a perfect interlocking pattern, but the symmetry is broken by the hexagram called Corruption, whose Chinese name shows a vessel that contains worms, used for dark magic.

However, 17/18 (which are one another’s complements), are one line away from both 3/4 and 49/50. 17.4 changes to 3; 18.4 changes to 50.And of course 50.4 changes to 18:

‘The vessel’s legs break off,
The prince’s stew is upset,
Dignity soiled.
Pitfall.’

The hidden interlocking joint is Corrupted; the legs break off.

And finally?

What about the final third of the pattern, towards the centre of the mould?

This part is thoroughly molten. 29 and 30 are complements, of course…

…but what about the line above, hexagrams 21 to 26?

They have no immediate structural connection to 29-32: no single changing line relationships here, and no complementary hexagrams. Wait… where are the complements for these three pairs?

Ah yes. There they are.

The ancient Chinese crafted vessels with exceptional skill, using techniques that would not be understood in the West for centuries…

What can we make of this?

This pattern of relationships – which I freely admit looks like a dog’s breakfast with the boxes and lines I’ve scrawled all over it – beautifully represents something I’ve come to love about the Yi. This is not a model of perfect mathematical symmetry; it doesn’t take a single principle of transformation or relationship and use it with rigid consistency. You couldn’t analyse or reproduce it with a computer program.

Instead, it offers a creative, shifting play of relationships and broken symmetry, that’s all inextricably woven together with the meaning of the hexagrams. Yi is an oracle, after all, so the patterns it makes must surely be meant to speak to us in readings – if we can just develop the ears to hear. I’ve written much more on this in Exploring the Sequence (Part 5, on Vessel Casting, is over 7,000 words…), but I wanted just to share the pattern here. Isn’t it beautiful?

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Its name and nature

The name of Hexagram 37 is simply 家人, jiaren, ‘Home People’ – which also means the members of a family.

Here’s the old form of the character –

– where you can see that a ‘home’ is an animal – a pig – under a roof. Home is where the pig is; it’s the safe place to keep what you value.

In readings, this idea unfolds to encompass any ‘shared space’ and its members. Often it’s literally a family home, or it can be any organisation and the stakeholders who work together within it – all feeding the same pig, as it were. More generally, the ‘home’ is any overarching structure, a working system where all the components cooperate harmoniously: a school of thought, a relationship, a way of making a living, a healthy body. The home provides our shelter, or economy (from Greek oikonomia, ‘household management’), or habitat – our ordinary living space.

The Oracle

‘People in the Home.
A woman’s constancy is fruitful.’

Why a woman’s constancy in particular?

The Tuanzhuan begins by saying, ‘Woman’s proper position is inside, man’s proper position is outside.’ Tradition in China, as in Europe, said that the man dealt with the outside world, the woman managed the inside: he farmed or fought, she cooked and spun. (Though what happened in practice might be different.)

Bearing in mind that casting Hexagram 37 has always been an equal opportunity affair, ‘woman’s constancy’ can best be understood as, ‘constancy in doing inside work‘: everything that maintains a working, integrated space where people can live and grow. (I find it helps to connect ‘woman’s constancy’ with the original ‘female’ hexagram, 2, Earth: the one that provides what is needed. )

This stands in clear contrast to its paired hexagram, 38, Opposing:

‘Opposing means outside. People in the Home means inside.’

Building a house creates an inside and an outside. This is the hexagram of inside.

Trigram Storytelling

The Sequence from Hexagram 36 shows why we build it:

‘Injury on the outside naturally means turning back towards the home, and so People in the Home follows.’

As anyone who’s ever called a friend or written in a journal after a painful experience knows, when injured we want to retreat to a safe place. The trigrams tell the story:

|:|:::     |:|:||

Hexagram 36, ‘Brightness Hidden’ or ‘Brightness Injured’ shows the trigram li, fire, hidden under the earth. Light kept firmly under a bushel, not letting yourself be seen for fear of getting hurt again. Hexagram 37 still has li inside, but now it is not hidden but sheltered by outer xun, wood. 36 looks like a fire fully banked up with earth; 37 looks like the hearth fire under the roof.

Xun is the trigram of wind as well as wood, and you can see from its shape, with the open line at the bottom, how it is open and responsive to what’s below it. Here it’s ‘listening’ to the inner light, which permeates and illuminates the structure, bringing it to life. And it also powers it: a roaring blaze will create its own draught.

So the Image says,

‘Wind comes forth originally from fire. People in the Home.
A noble one’s words have substance and her actions are consistent.’

Consistent words and actions are like the wind that comes forth from fire – powered by inner light. On a large scale, this looks like culture that develops from the family unit; on an individual level, it’s the secure inner light that permeates everything you do and are, and becomes a source of strength and confidence in the world.

What this isn’t

Hexagram 37 is precisely not Hexagram 40, Release: they’re complementary hexagrams, with every line different:

|:|:||    :|:|::

You could imagine these two as different answers to one question: ‘Where should I be, what should I do?’

Release says, ‘Well, which path leads to where you want to go?’:

‘Release. The west and south are fruitful.
With no place to go,
To turn round and come back is good fortune.
With a direction to go,
Daybreak, good fortune.’

Release is time to dismantle structures, untie knots, and most certainly beware of any thoughts beginning ‘I should’. A pre-determined role would only be another knot to untie.

Hexagram 37 already knows the answer: you belong in the home, fulfilling your role there. This is something profoundly necessary to us, and deeply comforting. We don’t need to keep asking, ‘What would get me where I want to go?’ when we have our place and our part in the whole. (The local church probably has a rota to say who is doing the flowers this week; it’s probably had one for centuries.)

We can be self-determined, choosing what’s right for us in the moment; we can also be determined by our context. And in practice, these things work together and we’re both at once: we choose our commitments, and our commitments create the ‘home’ where we become ourselves. (If any of the ‘homes’ I’ve committed to – marriage, relationship with Yi, even ‘cello-playing – were missing, I would not be the same person.) Too far into Hexagram 40, and we become rootless and shallow; too far into 37, and we become hidebound – or delusional, doggedly fitting all experience into an rigid structure of meaning.

Though having said all that… isn’t it interesting that the nuclear hexagram hidden within 37 is 64, Not Yet Across? (The movable screen to partition your home’s interior space is an ancient Chinese invention.)

Overview of the moving lines

Reading through… the moving lines all seem to emphasise, often quite fiercely, that the inside is what’s important. In readings about other people, these lines (especially 1 and 5, also 2) have been known describe how they’ve pulled up the drawbridge, leaving you on the outside – simply not part of the picture any more. In readings about your own world – well, sometimes it actually helps to have a narrower perspective and not to see quite so far afield. A strong hearth fire creates a strong draught; a robust home space lends you strength in the world.

‘With barriers, there is a home.
Regrets vanish.’

Barriers create ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ – with them, a home is possible. A house has walls; a body has an immune system. Why do ‘regrets vanish’ now? It doesn’t say… but perhaps because the barriers draw a line between you and all the other things you maybe ought to have done, or done differently. Nothing can creep through to whisper, ‘Wait, there’s somewhere else you should be…’

‘No direction to pursue,
Stay in the centre and cook.
Constancy, good fortune.’

Line 2, a place for human connection – and this is the line providing fuel at the heart of the fire. (Think of lines 1 and 3 as flames licking along the sides of a log.) Hexagram 40 says, ‘With a direction to go, daybreak, good fortune.’ This says there is no direction, nowhere else you need to be. Be central; provide nourishment; don’t be distracted. That could be what a woman’s constancy looks like.

‘People in the home scold and scold,
Regrets, danger: good fortune.
Wife and child giggle and giggle.
In the end, shame.’

Hello! Anybody home? Use the extra energy of the moment – however uncomfortable – to be present where you are! If the woman’s constancy is fruitful, then the wife giggling with the children surely isn’t.

‘Enriching the home.
Great good fortune.’

I had this line once about moving my piano out of storage and into our home. (For years, we’d thought there wasn’t space, and maybe the piano should wait until we moved.) This is your home, so this is where your pigs and/or pianos belong; open it up, accommodate them. A home isn’t hermetically sealed: enrich your inner space, and allow growth.

‘With the king’s presence, there is a home.
Do not worry. Good fortune.’

This completes the process that began at line 1. Barriers are a prerequisite for the home, and an authoritative presence completes it. Why does it say not to worry? Because (I think) this is the king’s space, so he says what is important here. The ruler doesn’t allow anything else – not even other people’s feelings – to usurp their authority.

‘With truth and confidence as authority.
In the end, good fortune.’

Line 1 is just creating the home; line 6 reaches beyond it, with influence that might extend past its four walls. This is a source of authority beyond the king’s: truth and trust, a higher connection that transcends the home.

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The Yijing as a whole is a rather disconcerting book. It can say things we don’t understand, or, worse, things we understand perfectly well but don’t want to know. A reading can be reassuring, can reinforce your thinking, or it can give you a real jolt.

‘I have had this truly brilliant idea, how about it?’
’54’

Or it might pour cold water on a whole series of brilliant ideas until you’re compelled to go back and question the assumption they all start from – or it might answer your question about some utterly intractable problem by saying there is no real problem at all. This is when we may find ourselves yelling at the book, or possibly jumping on it. (In a reverent way, of course…)

This is all comical – especially when it happens to someone else – but I don’t believe any of us actually likes these experiences. We arrange most of our lives nowadays to avoid disconcerting surprises, so can’t we bring Yi up to date in this regard?

Here are some ways to do this, from the simplest to the more involved. You may find you are already proficient at at least one of them; years of practice mean I’m good at quite a few.

The simplest method: don’t divine

You can, of course, cast a reading and then forget its existence. I’ve found this works surprisingly well. (Warning: friends who ask after your readings may sabotage this at any time.)

However, it is more straightforward to forget to cast in the first place. If a given course of action or attitude is unquestionably the only way, then the possibility of divining about it need never cross your mind. (Warning: those same friends may innocently ask, ‘What did Yi have to say about this?’)

An elegant solution is to decide that Yi is not to be treated as an oracle at all, but as a book of wisdom. Then you need not cast a hexagram; you can choose the one you feel applies, and avoid all the perils of the unknown.

Sarcasm apart, this actually has the potential to be a way of deep understanding: recognising the seeds of developments, knowing how they will unfold. The Yi is sometimes used this way in the Zuo commentary, where a wise person who recognises a hexagram pattern will know what developments to expect.

And on the other hand, it also has the potential to transform Yi from an oracle into sock puppet. (‘Clearly to learn more about my brilliant idea, I should study hexagram 14.’)

If you have cast a reading

…then defusing, taming or otherwise making your reading safe will be trickier. Though once again, it’s surprising how much we can do this entirely unconsciously.

An honorary mention should go here to all the various casting rules and methods that simplify a reading down to a single moving line. That way, the reading can’t represent alternative choices or inner conflict: you’ve restricted the range of things the oracle can say, hence ‘domesticated’ it a bit.

But in practice, what we often do is to use some tool or method that’s a wonderful support to engaging with a reading, and use it instead to replace the reading.

You’ll probably find most of these examples quite absurd. All I can say is that I have done some of them and seen all of them done.

You could try extemporising on trigram associations and never getting around to reading the text. This actually works in a surprisingly similar way to choosing your own hexagram: you can use it to develop your own thinking about the topic (and again, this can be genuinely helpful), but given the vast menu of possible associations with each trigram, you will naturally tend to choose the ones that resonate with your pre-existing ideas.

‘How about my brilliant idea?’ 54.

‘The inner trigram, which corresponds to me as questioner, is lake: I am full of joy about this and can be light-hearted about it, not take it too seriously. The outer trigram, which describes action in the world, is thunder: I should act swiftly, decisively and energetically. Conclusion: I should put my inner excitement into action without worrying and without delay.’

Or suppose the answer were 24.6:

‘The inner trigram is thunder – there’s my creative impulse and desire to act swiftly – and the outer trigram is earth, with the top line changing. So should I take this outer earth as a sign I should be more patient? Maybe – but then again, it could also indicate that the field is open to me, the world is ready to support and grow my idea like a field waiting for a seed. Besides, the top line changing implies an excess of passivity, and since this is the final line, it must be time to bring that to an end. I should stop waiting and go ahead. It’ll be like using my inner energy to break the surface of the soil and start ploughing.’

Now… I have deliberately used a few simple trigram associations and simple methods here to come up with interpretations that directly contradict what Yi says. (Note: please do not, in fact, plough ahead with any brilliant idea that Yi describes with Hexagram 24 line 6.) It would no doubt also be possible to use other associations and more complex methods to come up with interpretations that agree with the text. The thing is, you could go either way, and in practice you’re going to follow the path of least resistance, and the reading is probably not going to surprise you.

Alternatively, if you’re an experienced user, you can draw on your own associations with the hexagram instead of what it says:

Experienced user: What about my brilliant idea?
Hexagram 54 unchanging
Experienced user: “Ahh, yes… the second of the great and resonant Marriage hexagrams, the marrying maiden who facilitates the relationship and makes it possible, with the story of Diyi’s daughter, the second wife who will eventually give birth to the heir…”

(This also shows up in ideas of ‘bad hexagrams’ and ‘good hexagrams’ – getting Hexagram 29, for instance, thinking ‘bad idea’ and going no further than that – never asking what kind of idea.)

You can use your repertoire of interpretive tools:

Advanced user: What about my brilliant idea?
Hexagram 54 unchanging
Advanced user: “Aha, the nuclear hexagram here is 63, Already Across, showing that the development of this is already underway and the key is to keep a beginner’s mind.”

(Actually the most commonly-used interpretive tool for reading-taming is the fan yao, the ‘opposite direction’ to the line received. ‘54.6? Ah, so my doubts will prove unfounded in the end and this will be a successful partnership.’)

For beginners, who don’t yet have this kind of experience or toolkit, there’s always the option of browsing through commentaries (or forum threads) for a comfortable interpretation. A ‘positive thinking’ I Ching, perhaps, or one that’s all about introspection with nothing about action (or vice versa, depending on which you prefer to avoid!).

Actually, finding a commentary that makes 54 unchanging sound like a good idea is tricky, but I managed it: the ‘version for optimism‘ stuffed into the corner of my bookcase dubs 54 ‘Affection’ and gives as its main text, ‘I live the purpose of deep, joyous caring.’

This might be a good moment to mention what Yi actually says with hexagram 54:

‘Marrying maiden. To set out to bring order: pitfall.
No direction bears fruit.’

In conclusion…

It’s easy to recognise this kind of thing, and feel very superior about it, when someone else is doing it, but it’s actually very hard to avoid it altogether. Nobody likes having their view of the world contradicted by reality – and here we are, consulting an oracle, getting into conversation with reality. Of course we will come up with ‘taming’ strategies to handle the results.

…and to complicate matters further, more or less any one of those strategies – working with trigram associations, or personal associations with hexagrams, or fluent application of interpretive tools, or even good-quality commentaries – can also be ways of engaging more deeply with a reading.

Maybe the best we can manage is to try to notice what we’re doing? That, and leave some windows open, as it were, through which new light could fall. Regular open (question-free) readings are one way of doing this; friends who ask awkward questions are also a treasure.

 

Bridles hanging in a stable

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Short review

Don’t buy this one. Buy Minford and Redmond instead – or save up for Field, which I feel is worth its somewhat eye-watering price.

Longer review

Here’s the publisher’s blurb for Paul Fendos’ new I Ching:

The Book of Changes: A Modern Adaptation and Interpretation attempts to breathe new life into the Book of Changes by making it relevant to the present time and day. It does so by using archaeological evidence to trace the origins of the Book of Changes, starting with numeric trigrams and hexagrams, making its way up to early divination manuals, and ending with the oldest extant version of the Book of Changes—usually referred to as the ‘received version.’ It also explains the development of the Book of Changes from a divination manual into a philosophical text dealing with change. However, its main focus is on delineating sixty-four patterns of change in the Book of Changes, patterns based on novel metaphorical interpretations of the line texts in the Book of Changes that serve as the foundation for a new handbook on change.’

On the one hand, that first sentence triggers some wheezy old alarm klaxons. Modern adaptation? Breathe new life? Make it relevant? Oh, dear – is this going to be another limp Wilhelm-derivative with all the ancient imagery removed?

But on the other hand, the rest sounds really promising. A version that’s both infused with knowledge of the history and motivated by a desire to make something usable is a rarity; ‘novel metaphorical interpretations’ based on in-depth historical understanding would be wonderful.The author’s bio (Ph.D in Chinese, doctoral dissertation on the Yi, 25 years university teaching ‘Chinese Studies’) suggests that he’s qualified to do this. (The impressive bibliography and footnotes in the book confirm it: he’s well-versed in both recent discoveries and traditional interpretations and seems to have read just about everything.)

I replied to the publisher’s email asking to see a sample of the translation, and in return they sent me a pdf review copy of the whole thing, and I dived in. The book divides into three parts: historical introduction, translation/interpretation, and a method to use the book.

1. Historical introduction

This is the best part of the book. Fendos gives a thorough account of what’s known of the ancient origins of the Yi through to its canonisation as Yijing. There’s a table of source materials, their likely dates and what they consist of, and a timeline of Yi’s development through to Wang Bi that I’m genuinely glad to have. The next chapter continues the story through yin/yang and Five Element theory and the Chinese understanding of harmony with the time, and the distinction between schools of thought in the Chinese tradition.

There are a few eyebrow-raising things, though. He seems to think that the moment when hexagrams were first written with solid/broken lines instead of odd/even numbers is also the moment when they became identified as yang and yin, with all the associated metaphysics. Of the Mawangdui manuscript, he says the lines were written as the numbers 1 and 8, ‘but referred to as 9 or 6’ – as if this were quite inexplicable. And then there’s,

“As is evidenced by the Commentary on the Trigrams section of the Book of Changes, by then Five Phases theory had become part of the basic Yin/Yang correlative structure of the Book of Changes.”

By ‘then’ he means the early Western Han, when the received Yijing text had come together. This is indeed a time when correlative theories were developed, but the only association with Five Phases/Elements in this Wing is that the order in which the trigrams are described follows the generative cycle, with the exception of gen being placed at the end: thunder and wind/wood (both correlated with the ‘wood’ phase), then fire, earth, lake and heaven (both ‘metal’), then water, and finally mountain (earth). This is the closest thing to a reference to the Five Phases anywhere in the Yijing; they’re never mentioned explicitly, even in the Shuogua‘s long lists of trigram’s associations. It seems to me that the most economical explanation for this almost-parallel is that the correlation of 8 trigrams with 5 elements – a thoroughly awkward thing to accomplish – was helped along by the order of the trigrams given in the Wing.

Anyway, Fendos, though he inexplicably includes tables of pre-Han rulers and their Five Phase identities, never actually explains what Five Phase/Element theory is, so this is a bit of a detour. The historical information is good to have; the conclusions he draws from it are occasionally a bit odd.

He goes on to ask the very good question of how best to approach translation and interpretation now, if you actually want to use the book – through the tradition, or through seeking original meanings, or trying to find a middle way? He will try to find the middle way, which seems wise.

Then he talks about the omen elements of line texts, and makes a distinction between recognising them as omens versus understanding them as imagery. As is apparent to anyone who’s consulted Yi as an oracle (I would guess that Fendos hasn’t), this distinction falls apart as soon as an omen becomes part of a divination text. You consult and receive a message about geese in flight, although you haven’t seen any wild geese. How can you possibly engage with this if not as the vehicle of a metaphor – an image for what a flight of geese represents to you?

Onward…

2. Translation and interpretation

There follow the Chinese text and a translation of the Zhouyi line texts, with an interpretation and commentary, for each hexagram.

Yes – just the line texts. He has decided to omit the Judgement texts altogether. Here is the explanation he gives for the omission (in full, to give you a representative sample of his style of writing):

‘Though some have argued their placement near the head of a hexagram suggests a superior position and perhaps older age, hexagram texts generally serve to comment either on a hexagram as a whole or a theme being developed in its constituent line texts, leading to conjecture that they probably were added to what must have been an early version of a Zhouyi-like divination manual when that work was still being compiled from a collection of ad hoc divination texts originally attached to the lines of early numeric gua.’

… so now you know. He also omits the texts for all lines changing in hexagrams 1 and 2.

The translation itself is mostly fine. Perhaps because he omitted the hexagram text, he doesn’t always translate the name of the hexagram, sometimes substituting his own impression of the hexagram’s theme (eg 45 as ‘Anxiety’ and 50 as ‘Political Power’). But the line texts are largely translated in a straightforward, character-by-character way, with anything unusual explained in his commentary and/or footnotes. If he chooses to follow something other than the received text (as in Hexagram 58, which follows the Mawangdui version and becomes ‘Expropriation’), he will acknowledge and explain this, which is helpful.

An unfortunate exception is 6.5, where he’s substituted ‘No good fortune’ for ‘Great good fortune’ (in both Chinese text and translation). He gives no explanation for this, and since the expression ‘no good fortune’ exists nowhere else in the text, this seems a pretty obvious mistake.

I wonder whether it was caused by his guiding principle that the line texts can be read as a single essay on different aspects of a single situation/principle. This isn’t a bad idea, on the whole – it’s certainly better than reading lines in isolation from their hexagram. Thus in Hexagram 3 amidst difficulties you need help, not to marry a bandit (he has wangled the translation of line 3 accordingly) and not to go it alone (line 4) nor attempt too much (5) or you’ll be forced to backtrack (6). In Hexagram 4, you see the progression from allowing the young ignoramus to make his own mistakes at line 1 to giving him responsibility for his own home at line 2. Thus all lines are conveying a variant of the same unexceptionable message, and there’s really no place for a line – like 6.5 – that’s different from the rest.

With the lines amalgamated into a single block, the interpretations become bland. Hexagram 54, for instance (‘Binding Relationships’) becomes a homily on how to behave in a relationship when you are in an inferior position. He goes through the lines in turn, concluding,

‘In fact, the most perfect of unions is not always the one in which you enjoy the highest status or rank (54/5). Not to understand this could well leave one with no real advantage (54/6).’

The moon almost full, the shining silk, the historic moment with its ripples spreading throughout the book, the bitter emptiness of line 6… all reduced to that.

This is frankly baffling: he’s translated the text, he knows the richness of history and culture behind it, and he’s gone to the trouble of researching and writing a book… doesn’t he find any of it even a little bit interesting?

The promised ‘novel metaphorical interpretations’ are largely uncontentious, but similarly unexciting. There are some ideas I haven’t seen before – for instance, that Hexagram 55’s abundance of ‘curtains, banners, screens and canopies’ is sufficient to block out the light, and such abundance ‘is sure to create enmity among others unless one has their trust.’ Most, though, are familiar. A dragon in flight is a creative person seeking recognition. Hexagram 2 is acquiescence. Marriage, he observes in an introductory chapter, could mean ‘asking for a collaborative relationship [help]’; his interpretation of the two marriage-related lines in Hexagram 4 is as follows:

‘True learning begins to occur only when a student is freed from such restraints (4/1), given responsibilities, and allowed to make decisions on his own – as happens when a man takes a wife and starts a family (4/2). Nevertheless, care should be taken to avoid stepping outside the bounds of correct behavior: choosing, for example, a person who will not make a good spouse (4/3).’

That’s all.

Elsewhere, he can see that marriage can be a metaphor for other human relationships, but that’s as far as it goes. There is nothing, for instance, about marriage as a way to forge alliances between clans, or the different kinds of change marriage represents for men and women.

Another effect of reading six lines as a unit: the advice they can offer tends to boil down to, ‘Knowing how to do it right is good, and getting it wrong is not.’ The first two lines of 60, for instance:

‘Knowing the proper limitations of one’s behavior, for example, when to step back from things and withdraw to the privacy of one’s own home (60/1), or when to proactively get involved in the outside world (60/2), is essential to success.’

No doubt. So how are we to know when, or what time it is? A few thousand years ago in China, someone came up with a quite elegant solution to this, but Fendos has a different one:

‘Those general patterns of line text imagery and the situations they represent can be adopted in the real world to deal with circumstances faced there, as a way of both explaining how those situations develop and how best to react to them, with the decision on which set(s) of line texts best fit being intertwined with the personal dynamic of the involved person as well as that person’s subjective understanding of a situation he/she is facing and his/her interpretation of the line texts used to explain it. (All, as Chapter 5 will show, outside of the divination process.)’

3. Method of use

To summarise: the person asking the question, or someone they talk to, chooses a hexagram that best represents how they see their situation. This is the ‘original’ hexagram. (They thus need to be familiar with all 64 to start with.)

An advisor offers a different choice of hexagram. This is a ‘changing’ hexagram and offers an alternative course of action.

Do not misinterpret this to mean we then highlight the line texts that differ between the two hexagrams, thus deriving a clear and specific message. No: we read the whole sad, trite, magnolia-washed interpretation for both.

He gives examples.

A woman wondering whether to leave her marriage ends up being advised that it depends on what’s more important to her, continuity and economic security, or a meaningful relationship. A politician wondering how far to go with negative campaigning thinks he should take a measured approach, and ends up being advised to do more or less that, with the added observation that politics is about power, and if he wins he can use his power to make it up to his opponents.

And so on. The advisor looks through the book for hexagrams that fit their personal opinion, and the resultant advice is soporific.

Summing up…

I think this is the first time I’ve ever published a review that simply says, ‘Don’t buy the book,’ and I did hesitate about this one. But I had sort-of promised a friend to review the book, and Fendos is a well-established academic so I can’t really do him any personal harm, and I might just save someone the price of the book, which is worth doing.

Mostly, though, I would like to shout from the rooftops that Yi is everything this book is not: rich, complex, beautiful, profound, exquisitely succinct and concentrated, startling, challenging, exciting. I’ll get back to doing that.

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From the I Ching Community

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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A few years ago now, I first noticed the Vessel Casting pattern in the Sequence, and got tremendously excited about it. For the past couple of months, I’ve been developing those ideas and their application in readings for Part 5 of ‘Exploring the Sequence’, which Change Circle members can find here. For this post, I won’t try to discuss the themes and significance and use of it all – that’s in Part 5 – I just want to point to the patterns and wave my arms around excitedly…

In brief… Vessels are made by casting them from moulds that form their reverse image.

The ‘reverse image’ of Hexagram 50, the Vessel, is Hexagram 3, its complement. And every hexagram from 4 to 49 finds its complement within that span of hexagrams, which is interesting. Then there turns out to be a series of structural connections at the outer surface, and also apt hexagram shapes at the centre. But wait, there’s more! Let’s make the connections one at a time…

Complements

If you map out the Vessel casting pattern by hexagram shapes, it looks like this (you can click on each image in this post for a larger version):

table of hexagrams

You can see hexagrams 3/4 standing opposite their complements, 49/50, at one end, and 27 opposite its complement 28 at the other, looking oddly vessel-shaped, or like a casting and its clay mould –

And oh look, there’s 19/20 opposite their complements too, 33/34:

‘Transferred’ lines

Hm… that’s a third of the way along, from right to left. What happens one third of the way along in the opposite direction? Hexagrams 11 and 12 – which are already one another’s complements, so naturally what stands opposite them must be something different. It’s 41/42, which Wilhelm tells us are related to 11/12:

“Peace and Standstill have an inner connection with Decrease and Increase, because through the transference of a strong line from the lower to the upper trigram, Decrease develops from Peace, and through the transference of a strong line from the upper to the lower trigram, Decrease develops from Standstill.”

(41 and 42 both include vessel characters as part of their Chinese names.)

So our Vessel casting pattern is divided into three equal parts, like this:

(This might be a good moment to look at this image of the piece mould process for casting bronze vessels.)

Actually, hexagrams 9/10 and 43/44 are related in the same way, but by the ‘transference’ of an open line from line 3 or 4 to line 6 or 1. You can imagine 9.4 moves ‘down’ to 44.1, and 10.3 moves ‘up’ to 43.6. Also, they’re exchanged trigram hexagrams – wind and lake above/below heaven. Anyway, they belong together –

Changing lines

As I mentioned in the original article, 5/6 connect with 48/47, and 7/8 with 46/45, through a single changing line – 5.1 > 48, 7.3 > 46. (As with the ‘transferring’ lines, it’s line 1/6 or 3/4 that make the connections – either the core or the surface.)

This leaves two groups of three apparently-unrelated hexagrams: in my original 2012 article, I said the pattern ‘melts away to nothing’ towards the centre. This, as it turns out, isn’t quite true. Vessels made of bronze have carefully crafted joints hidden beneath the surface, fully visible only to X-rays. And vessels made of hexagrams…?

13/14 stand opposite 39/40, and aren’t (as far as I can see) very related to them. It’s 15/16 that connect to 39/40: 15.5 > 39. Oh, and 15/16 also connect by a single line change to 35/36: 15.1 > 36. Isn’t that pretty?

I wonder…

13.4 > 37…

…but no, we do not get a complete interlocking pattern: 17/18 are not one line away from 37/38.

So there is almost a perfect interlocking pattern, but the symmetry is broken by the hexagram called Corruption, whose Chinese name shows a vessel that contains worms, used for dark magic.

However, 17/18 (which are one another’s complements), are one line away from both 3/4 and 49/50. 17.4 changes to 3; 18.4 changes to 50.And of course 50.4 changes to 18:

‘The vessel’s legs break off,
The prince’s stew is upset,
Dignity soiled.
Pitfall.’

The hidden interlocking joint is Corrupted; the legs break off.

And finally?

What about the final third of the pattern, towards the centre of the mould?

This part is thoroughly molten. 29 and 30 are complements, of course…

…but what about the line above, hexagrams 21 to 26?

They have no immediate structural connection to 29-32: no single changing line relationships here, and no complementary hexagrams. Wait… where are the complements for these three pairs?

Ah yes. There they are.

The ancient Chinese crafted vessels with exceptional skill, using techniques that would not be understood in the West for centuries…

What can we make of this?

This pattern of relationships – which I freely admit looks like a dog’s breakfast with the boxes and lines I’ve scrawled all over it – beautifully represents something I’ve come to love about the Yi. This is not a model of perfect mathematical symmetry; it doesn’t take a single principle of transformation or relationship and use it with rigid consistency. You couldn’t analyse or reproduce it with a computer program.

Instead, it offers a creative, shifting play of relationships and broken symmetry, that’s all inextricably woven together with the meaning of the hexagrams. Yi is an oracle, after all, so the patterns it makes must surely be meant to speak to us in readings – if we can just develop the ears to hear. I’ve written much more on this in Exploring the Sequence (Part 5, on Vessel Casting, is over 7,000 words…), but I wanted just to share the pattern here. Isn’t it beautiful?

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Its name and nature

The name of Hexagram 37 is simply 家人, jiaren, ‘Home People’ – which also means the members of a family.

Here’s the old form of the character –

– where you can see that a ‘home’ is an animal – a pig – under a roof. Home is where the pig is; it’s the safe place to keep what you value.

In readings, this idea unfolds to encompass any ‘shared space’ and its members. Often it’s literally a family home, or it can be any organisation and the stakeholders who work together within it – all feeding the same pig, as it were. More generally, the ‘home’ is any overarching structure, a working system where all the components cooperate harmoniously: a school of thought, a relationship, a way of making a living, a healthy body. The home provides our shelter, or economy (from Greek oikonomia, ‘household management’), or habitat – our ordinary living space.

The Oracle

‘People in the Home.
A woman’s constancy is fruitful.’

Why a woman’s constancy in particular?

The Tuanzhuan begins by saying, ‘Woman’s proper position is inside, man’s proper position is outside.’ Tradition in China, as in Europe, said that the man dealt with the outside world, the woman managed the inside: he farmed or fought, she cooked and spun. (Though what happened in practice might be different.)

Bearing in mind that casting Hexagram 37 has always been an equal opportunity affair, ‘woman’s constancy’ can best be understood as, ‘constancy in doing inside work‘: everything that maintains a working, integrated space where people can live and grow. (I find it helps to connect ‘woman’s constancy’ with the original ‘female’ hexagram, 2, Earth: the one that provides what is needed. )

This stands in clear contrast to its paired hexagram, 38, Opposing:

‘Opposing means outside. People in the Home means inside.’

Building a house creates an inside and an outside. This is the hexagram of inside.

Trigram Storytelling

The Sequence from Hexagram 36 shows why we build it:

‘Injury on the outside naturally means turning back towards the home, and so People in the Home follows.’

As anyone who’s ever called a friend or written in a journal after a painful experience knows, when injured we want to retreat to a safe place. The trigrams tell the story:

|:|:::     |:|:||

Hexagram 36, ‘Brightness Hidden’ or ‘Brightness Injured’ shows the trigram li, fire, hidden under the earth. Light kept firmly under a bushel, not letting yourself be seen for fear of getting hurt again. Hexagram 37 still has li inside, but now it is not hidden but sheltered by outer xun, wood. 36 looks like a fire fully banked up with earth; 37 looks like the hearth fire under the roof.

Xun is the trigram of wind as well as wood, and you can see from its shape, with the open line at the bottom, how it is open and responsive to what’s below it. Here it’s ‘listening’ to the inner light, which permeates and illuminates the structure, bringing it to life. And it also powers it: a roaring blaze will create its own draught.

So the Image says,

‘Wind comes forth originally from fire. People in the Home.
A noble one’s words have substance and her actions are consistent.’

Consistent words and actions are like the wind that comes forth from fire – powered by inner light. On a large scale, this looks like culture that develops from the family unit; on an individual level, it’s the secure inner light that permeates everything you do and are, and becomes a source of strength and confidence in the world.

What this isn’t

Hexagram 37 is precisely not Hexagram 40, Release: they’re complementary hexagrams, with every line different:

|:|:||    :|:|::

You could imagine these two as different answers to one question: ‘Where should I be, what should I do?’

Release says, ‘Well, which path leads to where you want to go?’:

‘Release. The west and south are fruitful.
With no place to go,
To turn round and come back is good fortune.
With a direction to go,
Daybreak, good fortune.’

Release is time to dismantle structures, untie knots, and most certainly beware of any thoughts beginning ‘I should’. A pre-determined role would only be another knot to untie.

Hexagram 37 already knows the answer: you belong in the home, fulfilling your role there. This is something profoundly necessary to us, and deeply comforting. We don’t need to keep asking, ‘What would get me where I want to go?’ when we have our place and our part in the whole. (The local church probably has a rota to say who is doing the flowers this week; it’s probably had one for centuries.)

We can be self-determined, choosing what’s right for us in the moment; we can also be determined by our context. And in practice, these things work together and we’re both at once: we choose our commitments, and our commitments create the ‘home’ where we become ourselves. (If any of the ‘homes’ I’ve committed to – marriage, relationship with Yi, even ‘cello-playing – were missing, I would not be the same person.) Too far into Hexagram 40, and we become rootless and shallow; too far into 37, and we become hidebound – or delusional, doggedly fitting all experience into an rigid structure of meaning.

Though having said all that… isn’t it interesting that the nuclear hexagram hidden within 37 is 64, Not Yet Across? (The movable screen to partition your home’s interior space is an ancient Chinese invention.)

Overview of the moving lines

Reading through… the moving lines all seem to emphasise, often quite fiercely, that the inside is what’s important. In readings about other people, these lines (especially 1 and 5, also 2) have been known describe how they’ve pulled up the drawbridge, leaving you on the outside – simply not part of the picture any more. In readings about your own world – well, sometimes it actually helps to have a narrower perspective and not to see quite so far afield. A strong hearth fire creates a strong draught; a robust home space lends you strength in the world.

‘With barriers, there is a home.
Regrets vanish.’

Barriers create ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ – with them, a home is possible. A house has walls; a body has an immune system. Why do ‘regrets vanish’ now? It doesn’t say… but perhaps because the barriers draw a line between you and all the other things you maybe ought to have done, or done differently. Nothing can creep through to whisper, ‘Wait, there’s somewhere else you should be…’

‘No direction to pursue,
Stay in the centre and cook.
Constancy, good fortune.’

Line 2, a place for human connection – and this is the line providing fuel at the heart of the fire. (Think of lines 1 and 3 as flames licking along the sides of a log.) Hexagram 40 says, ‘With a direction to go, daybreak, good fortune.’ This says there is no direction, nowhere else you need to be. Be central; provide nourishment; don’t be distracted. That could be what a woman’s constancy looks like.

‘People in the home scold and scold,
Regrets, danger: good fortune.
Wife and child giggle and giggle.
In the end, shame.’

Hello! Anybody home? Use the extra energy of the moment – however uncomfortable – to be present where you are! If the woman’s constancy is fruitful, then the wife giggling with the children surely isn’t.

‘Enriching the home.
Great good fortune.’

I had this line once about moving my piano out of storage and into our home. (For years, we’d thought there wasn’t space, and maybe the piano should wait until we moved.) This is your home, so this is where your pigs and/or pianos belong; open it up, accommodate them. A home isn’t hermetically sealed: enrich your inner space, and allow growth.

‘With the king’s presence, there is a home.
Do not worry. Good fortune.’

This completes the process that began at line 1. Barriers are a prerequisite for the home, and an authoritative presence completes it. Why does it say not to worry? Because (I think) this is the king’s space, so he says what is important here. The ruler doesn’t allow anything else – not even other people’s feelings – to usurp their authority.

‘With truth and confidence as authority.
In the end, good fortune.’

Line 1 is just creating the home; line 6 reaches beyond it, with influence that might extend past its four walls. This is a source of authority beyond the king’s: truth and trust, a higher connection that transcends the home.

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The Yijing as a whole is a rather disconcerting book. It can say things we don’t understand, or, worse, things we understand perfectly well but don’t want to know. A reading can be reassuring, can reinforce your thinking, or it can give you a real jolt.

‘I have had this truly brilliant idea, how about it?’
’54’

Or it might pour cold water on a whole series of brilliant ideas until you’re compelled to go back and question the assumption they all start from – or it might answer your question about some utterly intractable problem by saying there is no real problem at all. This is when we may find ourselves yelling at the book, or possibly jumping on it. (In a reverent way, of course…)

This is all comical – especially when it happens to someone else – but I don’t believe any of us actually likes these experiences. We arrange most of our lives nowadays to avoid disconcerting surprises, so can’t we bring Yi up to date in this regard?

Here are some ways to do this, from the simplest to the more involved. You may find you are already proficient at at least one of them; years of practice mean I’m good at quite a few.

The simplest method: don’t divine

You can, of course, cast a reading and then forget its existence. I’ve found this works surprisingly well. (Warning: friends who ask after your readings may sabotage this at any time.)

However, it is more straightforward to forget to cast in the first place. If a given course of action or attitude is unquestionably the only way, then the possibility of divining about it need never cross your mind. (Warning: those same friends may innocently ask, ‘What did Yi have to say about this?’)

An elegant solution is to decide that Yi is not to be treated as an oracle at all, but as a book of wisdom. Then you need not cast a hexagram; you can choose the one you feel applies, and avoid all the perils of the unknown.

Sarcasm apart, this actually has the potential to be a way of deep understanding: recognising the seeds of developments, knowing how they will unfold. The Yi is sometimes used this way in the Zuo commentary, where a wise person who recognises a hexagram pattern will know what developments to expect.

And on the other hand, it also has the potential to transform Yi from an oracle into sock puppet. (‘Clearly to learn more about my brilliant idea, I should study hexagram 14.’)

If you have cast a reading

…then defusing, taming or otherwise making your reading safe will be trickier. Though once again, it’s surprising how much we can do this entirely unconsciously.

An honorary mention should go here to all the various casting rules and methods that simplify a reading down to a single moving line. That way, the reading can’t represent alternative choices or inner conflict: you’ve restricted the range of things the oracle can say, hence ‘domesticated’ it a bit.

But in practice, what we often do is to use some tool or method that’s a wonderful support to engaging with a reading, and use it instead to replace the reading.

You’ll probably find most of these examples quite absurd. All I can say is that I have done some of them and seen all of them done.

You could try extemporising on trigram associations and never getting around to reading the text. This actually works in a surprisingly similar way to choosing your own hexagram: you can use it to develop your own thinking about the topic (and again, this can be genuinely helpful), but given the vast menu of possible associations with each trigram, you will naturally tend to choose the ones that resonate with your pre-existing ideas.

‘How about my brilliant idea?’ 54.

‘The inner trigram, which corresponds to me as questioner, is lake: I am full of joy about this and can be light-hearted about it, not take it too seriously. The outer trigram, which describes action in the world, is thunder: I should act swiftly, decisively and energetically. Conclusion: I should put my inner excitement into action without worrying and without delay.’

Or suppose the answer were 24.6:

‘The inner trigram is thunder – there’s my creative impulse and desire to act swiftly – and the outer trigram is earth, with the top line changing. So should I take this outer earth as a sign I should be more patient? Maybe – but then again, it could also indicate that the field is open to me, the world is ready to support and grow my idea like a field waiting for a seed. Besides, the top line changing implies an excess of passivity, and since this is the final line, it must be time to bring that to an end. I should stop waiting and go ahead. It’ll be like using my inner energy to break the surface of the soil and start ploughing.’

Now… I have deliberately used a few simple trigram associations and simple methods here to come up with interpretations that directly contradict what Yi says. (Note: please do not, in fact, plough ahead with any brilliant idea that Yi describes with Hexagram 24 line 6.) It would no doubt also be possible to use other associations and more complex methods to come up with interpretations that agree with the text. The thing is, you could go either way, and in practice you’re going to follow the path of least resistance, and the reading is probably not going to surprise you.

Alternatively, if you’re an experienced user, you can draw on your own associations with the hexagram instead of what it says:

Experienced user: What about my brilliant idea?
Hexagram 54 unchanging
Experienced user: “Ahh, yes… the second of the great and resonant Marriage hexagrams, the marrying maiden who facilitates the relationship and makes it possible, with the story of Diyi’s daughter, the second wife who will eventually give birth to the heir…”

(This also shows up in ideas of ‘bad hexagrams’ and ‘good hexagrams’ – getting Hexagram 29, for instance, thinking ‘bad idea’ and going no further than that – never asking what kind of idea.)

You can use your repertoire of interpretive tools:

Advanced user: What about my brilliant idea?
Hexagram 54 unchanging
Advanced user: “Aha, the nuclear hexagram here is 63, Already Across, showing that the development of this is already underway and the key is to keep a beginner’s mind.”

(Actually the most commonly-used interpretive tool for reading-taming is the fan yao, the ‘opposite direction’ to the line received. ‘54.6? Ah, so my doubts will prove unfounded in the end and this will be a successful partnership.’)

For beginners, who don’t yet have this kind of experience or toolkit, there’s always the option of browsing through commentaries (or forum threads) for a comfortable interpretation. A ‘positive thinking’ I Ching, perhaps, or one that’s all about introspection with nothing about action (or vice versa, depending on which you prefer to avoid!).

Actually, finding a commentary that makes 54 unchanging sound like a good idea is tricky, but I managed it: the ‘version for optimism‘ stuffed into the corner of my bookcase dubs 54 ‘Affection’ and gives as its main text, ‘I live the purpose of deep, joyous caring.’

This might be a good moment to mention what Yi actually says with hexagram 54:

‘Marrying maiden. To set out to bring order: pitfall.
No direction bears fruit.’

In conclusion…

It’s easy to recognise this kind of thing, and feel very superior about it, when someone else is doing it, but it’s actually very hard to avoid it altogether. Nobody likes having their view of the world contradicted by reality – and here we are, consulting an oracle, getting into conversation with reality. Of course we will come up with ‘taming’ strategies to handle the results.

…and to complicate matters further, more or less any one of those strategies – working with trigram associations, or personal associations with hexagrams, or fluent application of interpretive tools, or even good-quality commentaries – can also be ways of engaging more deeply with a reading.

Maybe the best we can manage is to try to notice what we’re doing? That, and leave some windows open, as it were, through which new light could fall. Regular open (question-free) readings are one way of doing this; friends who ask awkward questions are also a treasure.

 

Bridles hanging in a stable

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Short review

Don’t buy this one. Buy Minford and Redmond instead – or save up for Field, which I feel is worth its somewhat eye-watering price.

Longer review

Here’s the publisher’s blurb for Paul Fendos’ new I Ching:

The Book of Changes: A Modern Adaptation and Interpretation attempts to breathe new life into the Book of Changes by making it relevant to the present time and day. It does so by using archaeological evidence to trace the origins of the Book of Changes, starting with numeric trigrams and hexagrams, making its way up to early divination manuals, and ending with the oldest extant version of the Book of Changes—usually referred to as the ‘received version.’ It also explains the development of the Book of Changes from a divination manual into a philosophical text dealing with change. However, its main focus is on delineating sixty-four patterns of change in the Book of Changes, patterns based on novel metaphorical interpretations of the line texts in the Book of Changes that serve as the foundation for a new handbook on change.’

On the one hand, that first sentence triggers some wheezy old alarm klaxons. Modern adaptation? Breathe new life? Make it relevant? Oh, dear – is this going to be another limp Wilhelm-derivative with all the ancient imagery removed?

But on the other hand, the rest sounds really promising. A version that’s both infused with knowledge of the history and motivated by a desire to make something usable is a rarity; ‘novel metaphorical interpretations’ based on in-depth historical understanding would be wonderful.The author’s bio (Ph.D in Chinese, doctoral dissertation on the Yi, 25 years university teaching ‘Chinese Studies’) suggests that he’s qualified to do this. (The impressive bibliography and footnotes in the book confirm it: he’s well-versed in both recent discoveries and traditional interpretations and seems to have read just about everything.)

I replied to the publisher’s email asking to see a sample of the translation, and in return they sent me a pdf review copy of the whole thing, and I dived in. The book divides into three parts: historical introduction, translation/interpretation, and a method to use the book.

1. Historical introduction

This is the best part of the book. Fendos gives a thorough account of what’s known of the ancient origins of the Yi through to its canonisation as Yijing. There’s a table of source materials, their likely dates and what they consist of, and a timeline of Yi’s development through to Wang Bi that I’m genuinely glad to have. The next chapter continues the story through yin/yang and Five Element theory and the Chinese understanding of harmony with the time, and the distinction between schools of thought in the Chinese tradition.

There are a few eyebrow-raising things, though. He seems to think that the moment when hexagrams were first written with solid/broken lines instead of odd/even numbers is also the moment when they became identified as yang and yin, with all the associated metaphysics. Of the Mawangdui manuscript, he says the lines were written as the numbers 1 and 8, ‘but referred to as 9 or 6’ – as if this were quite inexplicable. And then there’s,

“As is evidenced by the Commentary on the Trigrams section of the Book of Changes, by then Five Phases theory had become part of the basic Yin/Yang correlative structure of the Book of Changes.”

By ‘then’ he means the early Western Han, when the received Yijing text had come together. This is indeed a time when correlative theories were developed, but the only association with Five Phases/Elements in this Wing is that the order in which the trigrams are described follows the generative cycle, with the exception of gen being placed at the end: thunder and wind/wood (both correlated with the ‘wood’ phase), then fire, earth, lake and heaven (both ‘metal’), then water, and finally mountain (earth). This is the closest thing to a reference to the Five Phases anywhere in the Yijing; they’re never mentioned explicitly, even in the Shuogua‘s long lists of trigram’s associations. It seems to me that the most economical explanation for this almost-parallel is that the correlation of 8 trigrams with 5 elements – a thoroughly awkward thing to accomplish – was helped along by the order of the trigrams given in the Wing.

Anyway, Fendos, though he inexplicably includes tables of pre-Han rulers and their Five Phase identities, never actually explains what Five Phase/Element theory is, so this is a bit of a detour. The historical information is good to have; the conclusions he draws from it are occasionally a bit odd.

He goes on to ask the very good question of how best to approach translation and interpretation now, if you actually want to use the book – through the tradition, or through seeking original meanings, or trying to find a middle way? He will try to find the middle way, which seems wise.

Then he talks about the omen elements of line texts, and makes a distinction between recognising them as omens versus understanding them as imagery. As is apparent to anyone who’s consulted Yi as an oracle (I would guess that Fendos hasn’t), this distinction falls apart as soon as an omen becomes part of a divination text. You consult and receive a message about geese in flight, although you haven’t seen any wild geese. How can you possibly engage with this if not as the vehicle of a metaphor – an image for what a flight of geese represents to you?

Onward…

2. Translation and interpretation

There follow the Chinese text and a translation of the Zhouyi line texts, with an interpretation and commentary, for each hexagram.

Yes – just the line texts. He has decided to omit the Judgement texts altogether. Here is the explanation he gives for the omission (in full, to give you a representative sample of his style of writing):

‘Though some have argued their placement near the head of a hexagram suggests a superior position and perhaps older age, hexagram texts generally serve to comment either on a hexagram as a whole or a theme being developed in its constituent line texts, leading to conjecture that they probably were added to what must have been an early version of a Zhouyi-like divination manual when that work was still being compiled from a collection of ad hoc divination texts originally attached to the lines of early numeric gua.’

… so now you know. He also omits the texts for all lines changing in hexagrams 1 and 2.

The translation itself is mostly fine. Perhaps because he omitted the hexagram text, he doesn’t always translate the name of the hexagram, sometimes substituting his own impression of the hexagram’s theme (eg 45 as ‘Anxiety’ and 50 as ‘Political Power’). But the line texts are largely translated in a straightforward, character-by-character way, with anything unusual explained in his commentary and/or footnotes. If he chooses to follow something other than the received text (as in Hexagram 58, which follows the Mawangdui version and becomes ‘Expropriation’), he will acknowledge and explain this, which is helpful.

An unfortunate exception is 6.5, where he’s substituted ‘No good fortune’ for ‘Great good fortune’ (in both Chinese text and translation). He gives no explanation for this, and since the expression ‘no good fortune’ exists nowhere else in the text, this seems a pretty obvious mistake.

I wonder whether it was caused by his guiding principle that the line texts can be read as a single essay on different aspects of a single situation/principle. This isn’t a bad idea, on the whole – it’s certainly better than reading lines in isolation from their hexagram. Thus in Hexagram 3 amidst difficulties you need help, not to marry a bandit (he has wangled the translation of line 3 accordingly) and not to go it alone (line 4) nor attempt too much (5) or you’ll be forced to backtrack (6). In Hexagram 4, you see the progression from allowing the young ignoramus to make his own mistakes at line 1 to giving him responsibility for his own home at line 2. Thus all lines are conveying a variant of the same unexceptionable message, and there’s really no place for a line – like 6.5 – that’s different from the rest.

With the lines amalgamated into a single block, the interpretations become bland. Hexagram 54, for instance (‘Binding Relationships’) becomes a homily on how to behave in a relationship when you are in an inferior position. He goes through the lines in turn, concluding,

‘In fact, the most perfect of unions is not always the one in which you enjoy the highest status or rank (54/5). Not to understand this could well leave one with no real advantage (54/6).’

The moon almost full, the shining silk, the historic moment with its ripples spreading throughout the book, the bitter emptiness of line 6… all reduced to that.

This is frankly baffling: he’s translated the text, he knows the richness of history and culture behind it, and he’s gone to the trouble of researching and writing a book… doesn’t he find any of it even a little bit interesting?

The promised ‘novel metaphorical interpretations’ are largely uncontentious, but similarly unexciting. There are some ideas I haven’t seen before – for instance, that Hexagram 55’s abundance of ‘curtains, banners, screens and canopies’ is sufficient to block out the light, and such abundance ‘is sure to create enmity among others unless one has their trust.’ Most, though, are familiar. A dragon in flight is a creative person seeking recognition. Hexagram 2 is acquiescence. Marriage, he observes in an introductory chapter, could mean ‘asking for a collaborative relationship [help]’; his interpretation of the two marriage-related lines in Hexagram 4 is as follows:

‘True learning begins to occur only when a student is freed from such restraints (4/1), given responsibilities, and allowed to make decisions on his own – as happens when a man takes a wife and starts a family (4/2). Nevertheless, care should be taken to avoid stepping outside the bounds of correct behavior: choosing, for example, a person who will not make a good spouse (4/3).’

That’s all.

Elsewhere, he can see that marriage can be a metaphor for other human relationships, but that’s as far as it goes. There is nothing, for instance, about marriage as a way to forge alliances between clans, or the different kinds of change marriage represents for men and women.

Another effect of reading six lines as a unit: the advice they can offer tends to boil down to, ‘Knowing how to do it right is good, and getting it wrong is not.’ The first two lines of 60, for instance:

‘Knowing the proper limitations of one’s behavior, for example, when to step back from things and withdraw to the privacy of one’s own home (60/1), or when to proactively get involved in the outside world (60/2), is essential to success.’

No doubt. So how are we to know when, or what time it is? A few thousand years ago in China, someone came up with a quite elegant solution to this, but Fendos has a different one:

‘Those general patterns of line text imagery and the situations they represent can be adopted in the real world to deal with circumstances faced there, as a way of both explaining how those situations develop and how best to react to them, with the decision on which set(s) of line texts best fit being intertwined with the personal dynamic of the involved person as well as that person’s subjective understanding of a situation he/she is facing and his/her interpretation of the line texts used to explain it. (All, as Chapter 5 will show, outside of the divination process.)’

3. Method of use

To summarise: the person asking the question, or someone they talk to, chooses a hexagram that best represents how they see their situation. This is the ‘original’ hexagram. (They thus need to be familiar with all 64 to start with.)

An advisor offers a different choice of hexagram. This is a ‘changing’ hexagram and offers an alternative course of action.

Do not misinterpret this to mean we then highlight the line texts that differ between the two hexagrams, thus deriving a clear and specific message. No: we read the whole sad, trite, magnolia-washed interpretation for both.

He gives examples.

A woman wondering whether to leave her marriage ends up being advised that it depends on what’s more important to her, continuity and economic security, or a meaningful relationship. A politician wondering how far to go with negative campaigning thinks he should take a measured approach, and ends up being advised to do more or less that, with the added observation that politics is about power, and if he wins he can use his power to make it up to his opponents.

And so on. The advisor looks through the book for hexagrams that fit their personal opinion, and the resultant advice is soporific.

Summing up…

I think this is the first time I’ve ever published a review that simply says, ‘Don’t buy the book,’ and I did hesitate about this one. But I had sort-of promised a friend to review the book, and Fendos is a well-established academic so I can’t really do him any personal harm, and I might just save someone the price of the book, which is worth doing.

Mostly, though, I would like to shout from the rooftops that Yi is everything this book is not: rich, complex, beautiful, profound, exquisitely succinct and concentrated, startling, challenging, exciting. I’ll get back to doing that.

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