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I Ching with Clarity

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: after your first reading, your curiosity will probably be aroused – and you’ll draw on Yi’s help more as your knowledge of it grows.

But… they are different at the beginning:

Get the I Ching’s help:

(There’s help at hand to explain how it works.)

If you’d like my help, have a look at the I Ching reading services.

Learn the I Ching:

It has all you need to get started from scratch. Then when you’re familiar with the basics and want to develop your confidence in interpretation, have a look at the Foundations Course.

Not a beginner?

Welcome – I’m glad you’ve come. Let’s explore this extraordinary oracle together!

Clarity’s here to help you deepen, explore and enjoy your relationship with Yi. You might like…

Reflections on readings, hexagrams, trigrams, imagery, myth, hidden structures…

Diving into real I Ching readings, relishing the way the oracle dissolves barriers between spiritual connection and ordinary life – listen and subscribe here.

where you can get to know some like-minded Yi-enthusiasts. To participate in the conversation and 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 Barrett


What to expect in a relationship

A new listener's reading for this podcast episode:

'What to expect in this relationship?'

And Yi's answer -

changing to

Hexagram 41, Decreasing, changing to 26, Great Tending (or Taming or Nurturing...), with changing line 3:

'Three people walking,
Hence decreased by one person.
One person walking,
Hence gains a friend.'

Hexagram 41, line 3

Who are the people walking, and what could this be about?

(If you'd like some more listening/reading, here's an earlier episode that also started with Hexagram 41, and here's a post about how mountain works as outer trigram.)


When I was preparing for our latest Well Gathering on the subject of Hexagram 6, I posted the above image to Facebook and invited people to guess the hexagram.

The first guess posted was Hexagram 38 - which is completely understandable, but it got me thinking...

The muddle

Both hexagrams are about not agreeing, one way or another. If you browse through Bradford Hatcher's list of hexagram translations, the distinction doesn't become quite as clear as you might like:

Hexagram 6 is called conflict, divisive conflict, lawsuit, contention, dispute, arguing...
Hexagram 38 is called opposition/ opposing, division, estrangement, alienation, and - yes - conflict.

In practice, experience says that both hexagrams can describe both outer and inner conditions: disagreeing with others, or finding yourself 'in two minds'.

Turning to the Zagua, the contrasts between hexagrams - always a good Wing for pithy definitions - we learn that

‘Waiting means not progressing, Arguing means not connecting.’

Zagua, Hexagrams 5 and 6


'Opposing means outside. People in the Home means inside.'

Zagua, Hexagrams 37 and 38.

And again, there seems to be some overlap. The people inside the home are surely more connected than the one outside. In practice, the same situation might well be described by both hexagrams at once. (The two hexagrams are only two lines apart, after all, so plenty of readings do involve both - if you're a Clarity member, you can use the I Ching Community's hexagram search to find some!)


The words

Digging a bit deeper into the names of the hexagrams, their differences start to become clearer:

Song 訟 means to dispute, argue, bring a case before a judge, lodge a complaint, contest in court to recover one's goods - and to reproach oneself with one's own faults. The ancient form of the character shows it is about speaking.

Kui 睽 means opposing, rebellion, foreign, contrary, discordant, divergent, and also glaring, staring and squinting. It's apparent from the ancient character that this is about seeing.

The oracle text of Arguing has more to say, arranged like legal arguments in opposing pairs: good fortune vs pitfall, fruitful vs fruitless:

There is truth and confidence, blocked.
Vigilant and centred, good fortune. Ending, pitfall.
Fruitful to see great people,
Fruitless to cross the great river.'

Hexagram 6, the Oracle

Opposing is simpler:

Small works, good fortune.'

Hexagram 38, the Oracle

Perhaps there's some similarity in the advice: by sticking to small works, or by staying at the centre, you avoid going to extremes and escalating disagreement. But you can start to see the difference, too: Opposing can get started on the small stuff and find good fortune directly, and the warning ('don't make this bigger!') is only implicit. When Arguing, you need to be wide awake, very careful, and seek out a higher perspective before you start anything.

The pictures

compared to

Both hexagrams' trigram pictures show water below, sinking down and away from a more celestial, upward-oriented outer trigram. In Arguing, the moving waters are in turmoil below heaven (something I can't help associating with the chaos of the Flood, caused - according to one Chinese myth - by the rage of Gong Gong when he lost the struggle to become ruler). In Opposing, a distant sun is reflected in the surface of the lake (more on that here).

Neither shows an easy, spontaneous relationship -

'Heaven joins with stream: contradictory movements. Arguing.
A noble one, starting work, plans how to begin.'

Hexagram 6, the Image

‘Fire above, lake below. Opposing.
A noble one is in harmony and yet different.’

Hexagram 38, the Image

The noble one in both of these hexagrams needs to think independently, and pay some attention to where she stands in relation to the status quo. But the two situations are also quite different: one calls for you to take the initiative, the other for some fine balancing of relationships.

Imaginary readings

"What to expect if I commit to this relationship?"

Arguing, or Opposing. Neither of those would be exactly encouraging as an unchanging reading would it?

Arguing's relationship is not going to get anywhere without seeing a relationship counsellor, though they might have a reasonable chance if they do. I'd advise this imaginary querent not to take any decisions without doing that first. (No, moving in with him is not going to create the rapport you crave!)

Hexagram 38? You are chalk and cheese, Mars and Venus; you are never going to see eye to eye. This doesn't necessarily mean you will fight all the time, though, or hate one another's company. If you want to be seen, understood and comfortable together, you'll be disappointed. Still, at least you won't be bored.

What if your reading asked for advice? Probably neither hexagram encourages you to argue your corner. If I ask what to do and receive Hexagram 6, I don't normally assume I'm being advised to Argue. It works more like 18, or 12, as scene-setting: the issue here is a state of corruption, or stasis, or conflict, and now, here's what you can do about it...

"What best to do about this conflict at work?"

6 - find a mediator, be flexible...
38 - hm, are you sure you belong in this job, with these people?

The main difference...

The main difference between Hexagrams 6 and 38 is that Arguing is something we do. State your case, fight your corner, plan how to begin when starting work. Heaven and stream are moving in contradictory directions; fire and lake simply are above and below. Hexagram 38 is more like what - or where - we are, and how the world looks to us from there. Like the Zagua said -

'Opposing means outside. People in the Home means inside.'

‘Waiting means not progressing, Arguing means not connecting.’

So if the two fighting cats are Arguing, what image could I have chosen for Hexagram 38? Maybe this one?

Cat meets dog: the dog play-bows, the cat arches its back.

This might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship, or then again it also might not.

Arguing is something we can do - and we can also stop doing it. There may be times when you feel you are absolutely obliged to argue, and if you happened to cast Hexagram 6 with the 5th line moving then you might even be right. But generally, you have the option of surrendering: of giving up arguing, and perhaps focussing on something more important. Reading through the moving lines of Hexagram 6, almost all of them indicate the argument is unwinnable, or not permanently winnable, and there may well be something much more important you could be concentrating on instead.

Opposing is more like who we are, or where we come from - the 'On what planet does that make any sense?' kind of disagreement. You can be kinder to your favourite Martian or Venusian, even do your utmost to understand their point of view, but you can't change your planet of origin. In the moving lines of Hexagram 38, there's often value in bridging the gulf, rather than avoiding it.

Each hexagram has a different kind of creative potential: Hexagram 38 might invent the iPod; Hexagram 6 might start a revolution.

'Drinking and eating naturally mean Arguing,' says the Sequence from 5 into 6. If we're Arguing, I want the last burger, and so do you. We can't have much of a conversation about that, so we'd better hope the host will take the decision for us, split it in half, or remind us that there is plenty of dessert to come so neither of us will starve, or something. If we're Opposed, one of us is probably a vegan, so the burger doesn't even look like food. We might get into a bitter argument, each trying to justify our way of living, neither budging an inch - or we might even each find our world enriched by containing such different points of view.

I Ching Community discussion

Happy 24th birthday Clarity, that is, and all its members. I registered the domain name '' on 26th April 2000, so I reckon this is our birthday.

So for our 24th, I commissioned an upgrade to the Hexagram Search feature of the I Ching Community, and that's just gone live today. As you will see (provided you're logged in - you need to be a member to access this), the results now display threads with the exact reading you searched for first: for instance, if you search for 30.2.5 to 1 you'll see readings with only lines 2 and 5 changing at the top of the page. Then if you keep scrolling down, you'll find the broader sweep of answers, with lines 2 or 5 included among others.

Also, details about the thread have been added to the results, so you can see before you click through how many replies there are and who posted.

Enjoy, and many happy returns!

By the way, did you see the video I made a few years ago for our 21st? A cinematic masterpiece, I maintain...

I Ching Community discussion

Creating peace through music


"What advice can be offered for more effectively providing meditative peace and healing through playing Shakuhachi flute music?"

Answer: Great Vigour in Flow.

changing to

A Yeeky thing I mentioned during this reading: the idea of a dabagua, or 'big trigram' hexagram. If you take the trigram dui, lake...


...and double each of its lines individually, in turn - from yang, yang, yin to yang+yang, yang+yang, yin+yin - then you have Hexagram 34:

In each hexagram formed this way - I mentioned this once before when I was writing about Hexagram 33 - it can help to think of it as a 'giant trigram' - and a giant lake seemed especially apt for a musician.

You can find Ron's music at

Alberto Ramon, 'Conversations with the I Ching'

Alberto Ramon has been developing his approach to Yijing readings for many years now, and recently published a new book: Conversations with the I Ching. Its subtitle: 'An intuitive approach to understanding the answers, with 85 explained readings.' I'm finding it a worthwhile read.

What I like about this book

The Yi is big. It has plenty of areas to research, and abundant space for everyone who wants to develop their own ideas about it and turn them into books. In the midst of all this abundance, I really appreciate the way Alberto focuses in on what works in readings - specifically and in depth. There is nothing in this book at all about ancient China, or the problems of translation, or the structure of the hexagrams, or the Sequence. It's simply a way of understanding readings: something you can start using, testing out in your own readings, within an hour or so of picking up the book.

His method involves prioritising the reading as a whole: the framework created by the primary and relating hexagram. That's something I support wholeheartedly - and is not a new idea to anyone at Clarity, of course. But Alberto takes it further: this framework is not just something to consider as you read the text, but the theme, which is the most important feature of the whole reading. He would never consider fragments of text in isolation. From the very first page:

"A complete interpretation of the results from a reading should be a clear message, rather than a collection of texts. One good analogy would be a jigsaw puzzle: after all the pieces have been put together in a certain way, an image emerges. The individual pieces are still seen, but only as part of the image."

That quotation is a good example of another thing I like about this book: its complete clarity. You may not agree with everything he proposes - I certainly don't - but you will never be left wondering what he means, or how he arrived at his conclusions. Everything is unpacked for you step by step.

I also appreciate the fact that he does readings, and lots of them: he has developed his method by testing it out in practice. (The book's probably worth having just for its 85 worked examples.) And he gives good advice on fostering a healthy relationship with the oracle. For instance, if the answer you receive is negative - and by this he means you can't find anything in it that's applicable to your question - then it will reveal a new and larger perspective; there is no discarding of readings because they 'didn't work'.

He advises asking questions in simple terms that are open to all possible answers, and "should you arrive at more than one question, choose the one that puts you in charge of all your possibilities." And you should avoid asking too many questions about one issue, or treating the Yi as a "machine" for answers. All this is good.

Things I like less

In this method, the 'theme' of the reading, derived from the two hexagrams, is the basis of all interpretation. And the only basis for the theme is Alberto's own set of hexagram meanings, which occupies some 65 pages at the back of the book. He has carefully, systematically derived these meanings from his reading of the Wilhelm/Baynes (alone). Pick the most applicable meaning from his list for each hexagram, put the two together in a phrase, and you have your theme.

This relegates everything the oracle actually says or does (its words and structure) to a secondary position of only providing 'clues to be interpreted in relation to the big picture'. And that, in my experience, is just not how readings work. To grasp that 'big picture' at all, you need to read the words of your answer and get a feel for its structure. Developing your own sense of each hexagram is immensely useful, but always with the proviso that this should never get in the way of hearing what the hexagram says as if you had never received it before.

He writes,

"If there is any contradiction between the theme and any of the texts, the theme takes precedence, and the contradicting text can be regarded as a precautionary warning, a temporary situation, or a future event or possibility."

I'd say that if there is a contradiction between your preconceived ideas of the hexagrams' overall meaning and what the oracle is actually saying, then your ideas of the hexagrams' meanings need revisiting. Supplanting the oracle's imagery with abstractions is never a good idea. (A few weeks ago I was talking through Hexagram 45 with a Foundations Class graduate. 'The king's presence creates the temple' meant something for her that had never occurred to me before. This kind of thing happens to me all the time - and of course that's only possible because I keep on reading what Yi says.)

To be fair, he does advise reading the whole answer - and it is wise to read moving lines and their omens within the context of the hexagram that contains them. (Bradford Hatcher developed that principle into some remarkable interpretations.) But I think Alberto has his interpretive hierarchy exactly backwards here.

There are other niggles, of course. He limits himself to Wilhelm/Baynes, which naturally limits his sense of what hexagrams can mean, and also leaves him stuck in the habit of viewing the two hexagrams only as present and future. That leads to the familiar argument that if you don't want to end up at the second hexagram, you must read the cast hexagram as a way to avoid it; if you do, you must assume it's a way to obtain it. My logical mind revolts at this - and more to the point, so does my experience.

What intrigues me

However, I do plan to take my time over exploring his category of 'negative readings'. By this, he, confusingly, doesn't mean an answer with a negative omen, but rather one that amounts to a negative response to whatever you proposed. And any answer that contradicts your experience, or is not immediately and directly applicable to your situation, is a negative one. It reveals a disconnection between your idea and the reality, and will probably also be proposing a new perspective - or simply changing the subject.

The book has many examples of this. (Also many positive answers, of course, but those are more straightforward.) Here's just one:

He had found her through an online dating app, where they had exchanged all of two messages. He asked if this would evolve favourably and received Hexagram 11 with the 5th line changing to 5, Waiting. Following the book's method, Hexagram 11 means a perfect match (which this couldn't possibly be at this stage), Hexagram 5 means waiting, and so the marriage imagery in the fifth line must be about someone else, in future. And sure enough, there was never a third message.

One more:
'Should I pursue pottery as a profession?' 13.3 to 25. 13 means 'amateur' (this is one of the words in 13's list at the back of the book), 25 means 'without ulterior motive', and as neither hexagram has to do with career or professionalism, the answer is 'no'.

I think this is often going to boil down just to testing your reading against common sense - which is not a bad idea in itself. It does leave me wondering, though, how you would recognise a prediction that went against all common sense and probability. Your reading might paint a picture that bears no relation to your present reality, but what if it's a picture of the future? If your reading really were saying that this was love at first swipe, how would you know? Carefully focussed questions, and perhaps some follow-up readings, might be in order. (And in the online dating example, the next reading was Hexagram 25 unchanging, which says it all. )

Anyway... as I was saying, this is something I want to explore.


If you're completely new to the Yi, I don't think this is one for you. You want to build a habit of reading the texts and visualising the trigram pictures, not skipping them. Also, the book's lists of hexagram meanings would be a poor substitute for developing your own.

However, if you're somewhat experienced, have your favourite translations to hand, and would welcome some new, creative ideas on how to navigate the framework of your reading, then this is absolutely worth getting. It offers a fresh perspective on interpretation, and the chance to look at past readings with new eyes.

Conversations with the I Ching is self-published on Amazon US and UK

Gradually nearing the high plateau

Hexagram 53, Gradual Progress, has two lines about the high plateau:

'The wild geese gradually progress to the high plateau.
The husband marches out and does not return,
The wife is pregnant, but does not raise the child.
Fruitful to resist robbers.'

Hexagram 53, line 3

'Wild geese gradually progress to the high plateau.
Their feathers can be used to perform the sacred dances.
Good fortune.'

Hexagram 53, line 6

The auspices for these two lines are very different, so much so that they seem to refer to completely different places - not least in the Wilhelm/Baynes translation, which calls line 3 'the plateau' but line 6 'the cloud heights'. However, the word used in both lines is the same: the geese are approaching 陸 lu: a high, arid plateau.

Also, I feel the atmosphere of the two lines is similar. The geese have travelled far away from their natural habitat in the river valley, and neither line feels in the least domestic or comfortable. There are no 'honking flocks' up here, no food - not so much as a branch to perch on.

When these two lines change together, Hexagram 53 becomes Hexagram 8, Seeking Union. This got me thinking because Hexagram 8 is associated with the story of Yu the Great and especially the gathering he called after he had conquered the floods and it was time to found a new order: a gathering on a mountaintop.

The high plateau where Yu the Great called his meeting was 會稽山, Kuaiji Shan, 'Gathering and Investigation Mountain' (or even 'Gathering and Plastromantic Divination Mountain', according to one dictionary), nowadays known as Xianglu peak. Might the geese of 53.3.6 be on a gradual journey towards Yu's gathering?


'In one common story, Yu had only been married four days when he was given the task of fighting the flood. He said goodbye to his wife, saying that he did not know when he would return. During the thirteen years of flooding, he passed by his own family's doorstep three times, but each time he did not return inside his own home. The first time he passed, he heard that his wife was in labor. The second time he passed by, his son could already call out to his father. His family urged him to return home, but he said it was impossible as the flood was still going on. The third time Yu was passing by, his son was more than ten years old. Each time, Yu refused to go in the door, saying that as the flood was rendering countless number of people homeless, he could not rest.'


'The wild geese gradually progress to the high plateau.
The husband marches out and does not return,
The wife is pregnant, but does not raise the child.
Fruitful to resist robbers.'

This line changes to Hexagram 20, Seeing: someone who observes the whole picture from a distance, perhaps seeing everything and not just his own family. This is not a perfect match to the story as we know it now, of course, as Yu's wife did succeed in raising her child on her own. All the same...

Also, that same mountaintop where Yu called his meeting is now the site of rites in his honour, and has been since ancient times.

'Wild geese gradually progress to the high plateau.
Their feathers can be used to perform the sacred dances.
Good fortune.'

This line changes to Hexagram 39, Limping, associated with the limping flood hero. Perhaps we can even imagine the dance performed here.

In readings

I love finding these connections hidden away in plain sight in the structure of the Yijing. And then, of course, I always start to wonder how they might work in readings. There's a broad range of possibilities here because Hexagram 8 covers such a broad range of motivations. Just as Hexagram 27, for instance, could mean anything from hunger for food to spiritual hunger, so Hexagram 8 could indicate a deep longing for spiritual significance and connection, or a desire to be part of a 'tribe' of your kind of people where you feel recognised and important - or, no doubt, many other possibilities in between.

Why would any of this lead to the high plateau - to relationship failure, and higher mysteries, and the awkward, empty gulf between the two? (Yu is a great ancient hero, but we might take a dimmer view, nowadays, of the way he ignored his wife and child.)

Maybe the key is the sense of restless haste in Hexagram 8. Seeking Union is good fortune, but there is disaster for the latecomer. Making a gradual journey towards Yu's mountaintop gathering is liable to get you beheaded. What if you're missing your chance? Yet the marriage and the journey home of Hexagram 53 do take time; you have to honour every step of the process. It's a hexagram that requires tremendous patience - in my experience, always far more of it than expected. 'Constancy bears fruit'!

So the two hexagrams are at odds, and perhaps the urgent need for belonging leads to abandoning one's duty of care in line 3, as well as to the higher aspirations of line 6. (Though I'm not altogether sure that 53.6 represents an aspiration of the protagonist. The feathers are still there but the geese have gone; Yu will not be participating in his own commemorative dance. Maybe this is one of those lines 6 where a narrator looks back on the story and reflects, long after it's all over.)

I Ching Community discussion

I Ching Community


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