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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.

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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 -

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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,

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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:

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

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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.

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(Thank you.)

Warm wishes,
Hilary”

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Great good fortune

The Yijing is an optimistic oracle: omens of good fortune come more often than those of misfortune. But on four* occasions, it goes one step further and promises great good fortune:

'Enriching the home.
Great good fortune.'

Hexagram 37, line 4

'Great good fortune, no mistake.'

Hexagram 45, line 4

'Welcomed pushing upward,
Great good fortune.'

Hexagram 46, line 1

'Small exceeding, creating success,
Constancy bears fruit.
Allows small works, does not allow great works.
A bird in flight leaves its call,
Going higher is not fitting, coming down is fitting.
Great good fortune.'

Hexagram 62, the Oracle

Why great good fortune, not just 'good fortune'? What's special about these four moments?

(Spoiler: as usual, I don't know, and the Yi isn't letting on. But if I dig in and explore, perhaps I'll learn something…)

Great and small

To begin with, what does 'great' mean?

The obvious answer is probably the right one: this is big good fortune, something very auspicious. Da, 'great', at its simplest just means 'big' - as opposed to xiao, small.

However, sometimes in the Yijing there's more to it than that. 'Great people' are often thought of as those with good moral qualities - but the contrast of 'great people' with 'small people' is also bound up with power and capacity. Small people are too busy putting food on the table and dealing with whatever their 'superiors' have come up with now to be able to make great offerings or plan great things; great people can see further and undertake more.

Then there are great and small works (or 'business', or 'affairs') as in the Oracle of Hexagram 62, and also (just the 'small affairs') in Hexagram 38. These are big things as against trivia. The words 'great' and 'small' by themselves can mean much the same, as for instance in Hexagrams 11 and 12: when 'small goes, great comes', the small stuff vanishes into insignificance, whether because it's possible to achieve great things, or because these are momentous, life-changing times.

All this leaves me wondering. Is 'great good fortune' simply 'very lucky indeed', or could there be more to it?

Hexagram 62: small and great

'Small exceeding, creating success,
Constancy bears fruit.
Allows small works, does not allow great works.
A bird in flight leaves its call,
Going higher is not fitting, coming down is fitting.
Great good fortune.'

There's certainly more to 'great good fortune' here. It's the twist in the tale of a story of small exceeding, small works and flying low - the deliberate contrast with great good fortune should make us sit up and take notice.

Small exceeding has its own way of 'creating success': come down, join the world, use a sparrow's eye-view instead of an eagle's; bring excessive, over-the-top care and attention, as the Image suggests -

'Above the mountain is thunder. Small Exceeding.
A noble one in actions exceeds in respect,
In loss exceeds in mourning,
In spending exceeds in economy.'

You might feel small and vulnerable, like the bird in the vastness of sky, but you can respond to that not by shrinking away from the world but by connecting with greater care, 'meeting' it (the key verb from the moving line texts). In other words, by being 'small' in the sense of responsive, adapting rather than imposing your will.

I think 'great good fortune' here is meant to be contemplated rather than explained. Still… there's a hint of come down here, join the world, and greatness unfolds. This doesn't happen through your Big Idea, but through smallness that goes a little beyond the ordinary.

37.4

'Enriching the home.
Great good fortune.'

'Acceptance in position.'

Xiaoxiang commentary translated by Bradford Hatcher

There are just two words here to describe the 'great good fortune': 富家, meaning 'enriching the home' or just 'a rich home'. What makes it rich?

Wilhelm said this was the wife (hence the interpretive translation 'she is the treasure of the house'), or a faithful steward. Traditional interpretations emphasise how this is a yin line in a 'yin place' (lines 2, 4 and 6 are said to be 'correct' places for yin lines), and part of the trigram xun, wind or wood, making it especially compliant and content in its place.

You can also look at the whole trigram picture painted by Hexagram 37, with wind above fire. This yin line at the base of the outer trigram is open to receive the heat from the hearth fire inside the home, so it can translate into the movement and influence of wind. The direction of the line is onward and outward.

As this line changes, it's also going towards Hexagram 13, People in Harmony. 'People in the Home' joining with 'People in Harmony' - two hexagrams whose meanings naturally resonate and merge into the 'great good fortune' of the line.

‘People in harmony in the wilds: creating success.
Fruitful to cross the great river.
A noble one’s constancy bears fruit.’

Hexagram 13, the Oracle

Hexagram 13 points us out beyond our familiar four walls, into the wilds and across the river. How does a home become wealthy? Surely through friendly relations with its neighbours - how else? (If you do imagine the wife at this line, perhaps you should think of her going out to market: the Shuogua says that xun means those who make almost threefold profit.)

45.4

'Great good fortune, no mistake.'

The traditional understanding of this line is recognisably similar to that of 37.4. Line 4 is the line of the minister, serving the ruler at line 5, and this one (a yang line 4 supporting a yang line 5) is said to be particularly dedicated in working for his ruler, not himself.

Like every line of Hexagram 45, this one adds that there is 'no mistake'. Why might we think there was one? One possibility lies in line theory: lines 2, 4 and 6 are 'supposed' to be yin, so this yang line 4 is out of place; its 'position is not appropriate', as the commentary says. Wang Bi was sufficiently disturbed by this 'wrongly' positioned line having such a positive omen that he took it to mean 'only if this one were to have great good fortune would he be without blame' (Lynn's translation, reflecting Wang Bi's interpretation) - a pretty extreme alteration.

But without buying into the notion of 'wrong positions' for lines, we can get a feel for the shape of the hexagram. There's the yang leader at line 5, just as in Hexagram 8, Seeking Union, where five yin lines gather round the yang fifth line as if drawn by a magnet. But here the fourth line - the one that tends to ask, 'What can I do here, how can I be of use?' - is yang too. When a supporter has huge amounts of energy and initiative, mightn't it be too much for the leader? (45.5 is a bit slow to come into his own and develop the trust to fit its position.)

And in the trigram picture here, of the lake higher than the earth…

'Lake higher than the earth. Gathering.
A noble one sets aside weapons and tools,
And warns against the unexpected.'

Hexagram 45, Image

…line 4 is at the bottom of the lake, where the water pressure is greatest, and where it meets the (lower trigram) earth banks of the reservoir. We might be afraid of a breach here.

The line says 'no mistake' to reassure us that the banks will hold: the Gathering of commitment and meaning won't become overwhelming. Why not? what holds it together?

I think one clue lies in the zhi gua - the hexagram this line reveals when it changes - which is 8, Seeking Union. This has to do with choosing to join, opting in, coming from the source and following the flow of your natural inclinations. As with 37 and 13, 45 and 8 are close in meaning and seem to blend and resonate together naturally - in this case, strengthening Gathering with a sense of belonging. The motivation of line 4's devoted minister is clear, simple, and strong enough to secure 'great good fortune'.

46.1

'Welcomed pushing upward,
Great good fortune.'

Here, tradition says that the bottom, yin line of Hexagram 46 is joining with the two yang lines above it to move upward, with 'a higher unifying purpose' (Xiaoxiang, Hatcher). What strikes me is that this bottom line of the trigram xun is the softest, subtlest line of the trigram for gentle subtlety, where the growing roots penetrate into the earth.

And also, this line joins Pushing Upward with Flow in Hexagram 11 -

'Flow.
Small goes, great comes.
Good fortune, creating success.'

Hexagram 11, the Oracle

Small goes, great comes: the world unfolds as it should, your efforts and contributions can come into alignment with it and all will enter into harmony. The roots meet responsive earth; the one striving joins a harmonious creative flow. Great good fortune - not at the summit of the mountain, but right at the very beginning, with the smallest roots.

(A point of similarity with 37.4: both zhi gua, 11 and 13, create their meaning in contrast to Hexagram 12: now your efforts will bear fruit. In Hexagram 13, Harmony with People makes this possible; in Hexagram 11, harmony with the unfolding creative dao.)

Patterns…?

So after taking this closer look at all the instances of 'great good fortune', what have I learned?

Each of the three changing lines is in the Lower Canon (the second half of the book, hexagrams 31-64), and each one makes a connection back to the Upper Canon.

It seems to me that each of those lines shows an unusual harmony, an especially lively and healthy meeting, with its zhi gua. People in the Home joins with People in Harmony, as co-operation among different peoples enriches the home. Gathering joins with Seeking Union/Belonging, whose clear motivation and choice strengthens the gathering. And Pushing Upward with Flow can be welcomed and true, in harmony with How It Is.

Of course, there must be plenty of lines where the zhi gua feels particularly harmonious. Still… the way these join Lower to Upper Canon gives me the sense that they're connecting with something simpler and more fundamental that supports them.

Also, there seems to be a shared theme, at least in the commentary tradition, of coming to help - the wife/steward, the devoted minister, the first line with 'unifying purpose' with those above. That in turn might connect with the themes of Hexagram 62: smallness and adaptation, close connection and 'meeting'.

What do you think?

Correction...

As helpful people at the I Ching Community pointed out (incredibly diplomatically), there are five occurrences of 'great good fortune'. I missed out 50.6:

'The vessel has a jade handle
Great good fortune,
Nothing that does not bear fruit.'

Hexagram 50, line 6

Where does that leave the 'patterns' I (thought I'd) found?

'Great good fortune' still only occurs in the Lower Canon. It still links backwards through the Sequence - 50.6 changes to Hexagram 32, Lasting - but not all the way into the Upper Canon.

Is this a 'particularly harmonious' relationship with the zhi gua? Define 'particularly'... but it is harmonious. The Vessel is intended to Last, to be handed down through the generations, with the inscription on its inner surface commemorating - or immortalising - the moment of its casting. The jade handle will never tarnish.

And the 'shared theme' of coming to help? Perhaps, if you squint a little. Here is Wang Bi, translated by Lynn, describing the role of this line (he calls the handle 'lifters'):

'...it embodies hardness and strength yet treads the path of softness and compliance, so it uses its strength to serve as lifters. As it occupies the top position in such a way, even though it is so high, it does not in truth represent an overreacher. Because such a one achieves a regulated balance of strength and compliance, he is able to lift up that which is his responsibility. And because his response is free of partiality, there are none that he does not lift up.'

R.J. Lynn I Ching

I Ching Community discussion

No direction bears fruit

'Not yet across, creating success.
The small fox, almost across,
Soaks its tail:
No direction bears fruit.'

There are ten places where the Yi says that 'no direction bears fruit', or (in the Wilhelm/Baynes version) 'nothing furthers': 4.3, 19.3, 25.6, 27.3, 32.1, 34.6, 45.3, 54.0, 54.6, and finally 64.0. It's easy to see this is a Bad Sign for whatever you had in mind: it's a non-starter, a dead end; you're up the creek without a paddle. As I put it in Language of Change:

'The basic meaning: no goal you set under these circumstances will help. No amount of planning and intending, no purposeful action, will get you out of this.'

This is quite distinct from a simple 'pitfall' or 'disaster': it may not be bad now (it could be 'sweetness nearing', after all), but it isn't going anywhere; nothing good can come of it.

Only… is there more to it?

A far place?

The Chinese phrase is 无攸利, wu you li, 'no place fruitful'. It's 攸, you, that's the tricky part. It means 'place' and also 'distant, far', and also 'there' or just 'that which, the one who' - making 无攸利 mean simply 'not that which bears fruit' - not the kind of thing that yields results.

However, the more specific meaning of 'far distant' seems to be the older one. The character shows a man using a pole to ford a river, which seems to lend credence to that, and when Harmen wrote about the character back in 2005 he opted for a translation of 'far away' or 'the border regions'. So a 攸往 you wang, a 'you going', becomes a 'journey to the border regions', and 無攸利 becomes 'no profit from the border regions' - or more generally, aiming for a far distant place is no use.

Could it be fruitful to be without direction?

And then there is another way we might understand the whole phrase: it could be saying that there is no useful direction, or that far places are no use, but might it also be saying that with no direction, if you avoid the distant places, then this does bear fruit?

The entry in Language of Change continues,

'But there is also a secondary meaning that might sometimes apply: perhaps being without a direction might in itself bear fruit. It's worth trying a thought experiment to see how the situation would look if you had no agenda: 'If I saw a stranger in this situation, how would I advise her?' Free from the constraints of an original intent, your intuition might engage more directly and spontaneously with the changing reality.'

Looking back on this, I think 'might sometimes apply' is about right: I wouldn't want anyone to be distracted from the resounding 'nope, there is nothing remotely useful about this' message. Still… it can be a useful idea…

Ideas and examples

So we have quite a range of possible meanings for 无攸利 -

  • 'nothing furthers' (this is just Very Bad)
  • 'no direction bears fruit' (no plan or intention you might have is going to help)
  • 'no far distant place is fruitful' (but maybe somewhere close at hand might be?)
  • 'to be without direction bears fruit' (what if you had no agenda?)

Let's try them out…

34.6

'The ram butts the hedge.
Cannot pull back, cannot follow through,
No direction bears fruit.
Hardship, and hence good fortune.'

This is my favourite example, as it’s so vividly clear. It's not hard to imagine the ram caught in the hedge, and not hard to relate to the kind of situation where you've charged in headlong with Great Vigour and now find you can neither make progress nor back out. Neither direction, forwards nor back, will bear fruit.

Could this be about a 'far place'? I think it could. Maybe the ram was just attacking the hedge for its own sake, but then again, maybe he was mostly focussed on his plans for the ewes in the next field. Looking through there now isn't going to help him at all with the immediate problem.

What will it take to disentangle the poor silly creature? Certainly not choosing a destination and aiming for it. Bradford Hatcher enjoyed himself with this one:

'Even when his horns become hooks he will not be inclined to pause and ponder the problems, or the curve of his horns. He will not be free until he, or the shepherd, or maybe the predator, turns his head around. He can do this indirectly by trying different perspectives, or seeing things from new angles, or questioning old directions, or simply pausing to have a quick look around. Sometimes to find the objective one needs to drop the objective and bring out those other dimensions.'

64.0

'Not yet across, creating success.
The small fox, almost across,
Soaks its tail:
No direction bears fruit.'

Another animal story, and the fox may be stuck in a similar way to the ram. There have been cases of foxes crossing frozen rivers getting trapped when their soaked brush freezes onto the ice. The fox is like the ram: it needs to concentrate on navigating the immediate present. If it gets stuck to this ice floe, all its plans for the other side of the river will be moot.

This is one instance where I think 'no direction bears fruit' does mean 'to have no direction is fruitful': attune your ears, paws and whiskers to your next step, and you can make it across the river.

54.0

‘Marrying maiden. To set out to bring order: pitfall.
No direction is fruitful.’

For the marrying maiden, to set out to bring order - to try to organise things her way as if with military force - would be disastrous; more than that, any kind of long-range plan is useless.

Again, not looking too far ahead might bear fruit. The first wife might be childless; a junior wife might become mother to the heir. However, that's not something she can plan for or count on. All she can do is to feel her way in, attuning herself fully to the currents and vibrations of her changing circumstances, as the reverberations of the thunder are felt through the lake.

In practice, though, if you ask 'What about doing the thing?' and receive Hexagram 54 unchanging, it's not a good idea to jump into asking how being without direction could bear fruit - better not to count on anything you have in mind bearing fruit at all. It would be more sensible altogether just not to do the thing.

27.3

Continuing the theme of 'this just isn't going anywhere'…

'Rejecting nourishment.
Constancy, pitfall.
For ten years, don't act.
No direction bears fruit.'

'Constancy, pitfall' reinforces the message, there's no future in this. Making this your guiding principle is disastrous; this is no kind of starting point for anything. Rejecting nourishment, you take yourself out of commission, out of circulation (sometimes - zhi 22 - for the sake of preserving an image instead) - exactly the opposite of the moment-to-moment awareness of a wise fox.

32.1

'Deep into lasting.
Constancy, pitfall.
No direction bears fruit.'

Another line that combines 'no direction bears fruit' with 'constancy, pitfall'. This one, rather like the ram, is getting into something that'll be very hard to get out of. Again, it makes most sense to try to avoid this altogether if you can.

19.3

'Sweetness nearing,
No direction bears fruit.
Already grieving it, no mistake.'

The trouble is, situations with no fruitful direction can look inviting. We dive headlong into 32.1, or enjoy the purity of 27.3's ultra-restrictive diet, or follow our sweet tooth. Better, says 19.3, to put this behind you now.

Actually, I've found this line is often about being particularly sweet - the unfailingly mature one who can overlook all kinds of wrongs for the sake of the bigger picture and greater flow (zhi 11), knowing that it's all meant to unfold smoothly. Once again, the line suggests bringing attention back to present reality, not looking past it.

54.6, 4.3

‘The woman offers a basket with no contents.
The gentleman sacrifices a goat with no blood.
No direction bears fruit.’

'Don't take this woman.
Sees a man of bronze,
And there is no self.
No direction bears fruit.'

'No direction bears fruit' is specifically about future trajectories - not just what this will be, but where it can go. So it makes sense for it to show up as a bad marriage omen: marriage is (or should be) a starting point. Receiving one of these lines, you might think there could still be ways to make this thing work; you'd be wrong. A case, perhaps, of 'When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time,' or at all events a warning not to ignore the signs.

45.3

'Now gathering, now lamenting.
No direction bears fruit.
Going on, no mistake.
Small shame.'

This gathering really is inviting. So often this line shows up for someone in love (zhi 31) who keeps looking for ways to give more to the relationship, deepen its significance, find a sense of shared purpose - and the more she does, the more painful it all gets. So this 'no direction bears fruit' is another clear 'no, you can't make this work.'

So how come 'going on' is 'no mistake'? I think the idea is to keep putting one foot in front of the other without trying to find a route to the promised land. Just go one step at a time and see what happens: that's the best you can do, and despite the small humiliation, there's nothing wrong with that.

25.6

'Without entanglement. Acting brings blunders.
No direction bears fruit.'

'No direction bears fruit' here is a call back to the present moment. The final line of Hexagram 25 has taken Not Entangling to an extreme, disengaging from all issues, disowning all responsibility, utterly disconnected from the situation. That makes it impossible to act without blunder; no direction can bear fruit.

A picture…

…starts to emerge from this directionless tour. If no direction will bear fruit, if you can't plan, explore or think constructively, then what can you do? You can improvise and respond, moment to moment, where you are now. Let the situation rewrite your plans.

It all seems to be a question of where you focus. (Actually, this reminds me of the way I can be looking for something in the distance and almost poke my eye out on the fencepost / branch / pitchfork that's right in front of me. Am I the only one who does this?) If no direction bears fruit, it's time to bring your attention back to the immediate situation. Never mind the ewes in the next field, or any possible future: where are you now?

Sometimes the emphasis will be on, 'Never mind those possible futures - they aren't.' Sometimes it's more, 'You're looking past the present into the future, and it'll be fruitful for you to stop that and concentrate on where you are instead.' There's nothing for you in the far places; better notice what's near at hand.

© Jennifer Le Quemen

I Ching Community discussion

Creating a home

This podcast has a reading of my own, about creating a home. Yi answered with Hexagram 53, Gradual Progress, changing at line 5 to Hexagram 52, Stilling:

changing to

If you'd like to discuss a reading with me for a future episode (it's free, as a 'thank you' for sharing), please book here!

In this one, I spend some time discussing the 'nuclear story' of the moving lines - how you can find four component trigrams in a hexagram, and the hexagrams they create. Here they are (because this is a lot easier to follow when you can see it):

I cast this hexagram -

and by taking groups of consecutive lines, you can find four trigrams inside it:

- lines 1-2-3, 2-3-4, 3-4-5 and 4-5-6. So extract each of those trigrams, with the moving line included...

…and combine them into hexagrams. Each hexagram's made from two overlapping trigrams:

39, Limping

64, Not Yet Crossing

37, People in the Home

And there you have the three nuclear hexagrams I talk about in the episode.

Reflections on Lasting

A little background

Let me set some context for this one.

Back in November 2021, I'd just finished planting garlic round the half-dozen raised beds I've created over the years, then mulching the beds with a good layer of compost, ready for sowing the following spring. The next day, we had a visit from our old landlord's executors to say they would be selling up, so we would need to leave in the New Year.

We'd lived in the same home for some 28 years, and I'd put down deep roots. There was the orchestra where I'd played for most of that time; the woods across the road and the nearby common where I know the trees; the local Stroke Club where I'd volunteered for some time, that I'd been running since 2020; chamber music once a week with a wonderful violinist, musician and friend. And we were going to have to move to a completely different part of the country to find a big enough house that we could afford, so I would be leaving all of this behind.

Three weeks later, on my birthday, I cast my reading for the coming year, and received one unchanging hexagram: 32, Lasting.

Lasting?

I've had plenty of opportunity since then to reflect on what that can mean - helped by the fact that our rather unusual approach to the process means that a matter of days before leaving, I still didn't know where I'd be moving to. Instead I found myself packing my life into boxes and moving it by the van-load to a storage container, with no idea when it might come out again. I felt as though I was playing Jenga with Maslow's pyramid.

The name of the hexagram

Hexagram 32 is heng, Lasting - defined as constant, ordinary, habitual, a constant rule. It also has associations with fixing the omen - that's 'fixing' in much the same sense as fixing dye into cloth: how you carry through a reading and intentionally make your new understanding last, writing it deep into the fabric of your life.

What kind of thing Lasts? The Chinese character itself gives a good hint:

heng, Lasting

It shows a heart, and what Richard Sears calls a 'sun path': the sun and/or moon between the east and west horizons. This component means 'extending all the way across' or 'all the way through'. Sears summarises this as "Two sides of the sky with something going across - boat, sun, moon, stars." I wonder if perhaps different scribes had different things in mind. But in any case, the core idea is the same: there's a habitual course, a cycle, a never-ending journey. And the idea that Lasting means change is baked in: the moon is known for it, after all.

Somewhere to go

'Lasting, creating success.
Not a mistake.
Constancy bears fruit,
Fruitful to have somewhere to go.'

'Fruitful to have somewhere to go' has sounded like one of Yi's worse jokes to me at times: well, yes, 'somewhere to go' would indeed be a nice thing to have. But it is an essential part of Lasting - normally, I'd say it's what saves it from running on auto-pilot, just going round and round in a rut. You have to ask, where is this going? What are these habitual patterns and 'constant rules' creating?

In this reading, it reminds me I need a sense of 'towards' as well as 'away from' - don't just try to hang on to your life as it was, Hilary; ask where you're going. What's next? What do you want to explore? And think beyond the uncertainty to envision your life on the other side of the chasm.

(I've found this extraordinarily hard. There's no logical reason not to have a vision for work when I don't know where I'll be working, or for health when I don't know where I'll be walking, but there's a real mental block nonetheless. If it weren't for this reading, it'd never have occurred to me to try.)

The trigrams bring the same sense of 'towards', of momentum:

'Thunder and wind, Lasting.
A noble one stands firm and does not change his bearings.'

It's revealing that the trigrams that create Lasting are not rock or still water but their inverse: thunder and wind, the most mobile trigrams, probably the ones you'd most naturally think of as bringing change. The noble one doesn't stand firm and refuse to budge; he keeps moving in his chosen direction. It's fruitful to have somewhere to go.

Influence Lasting

All this is natural when you remember that Lasting is inspired by Hexagram 31, Influence.

'Influence, creating success.
Constancy bears fruit.
Taking a woman, good fortune.'
'Lasting, creating success.
Not a mistake.
Constancy bears fruit,
Fruitful to have somewhere to go.'

Oracle texts for hexagrams 31 and 32

When I read those two Oracle texts in succession (always a good way of connecting with the Sequence), I get the sense that the initial promise of 31, welcoming in the new and its potentials, is carried through into Lasting - not a mistake - where it becomes this sense of direction. Whatever begins with falling in love, with being moved…

'Influence calls, Lasting endures.'

Zagua, Contrasting hexagrams

…with what calls you - this can Last.

I've been responding to Lasting in two ways, each of which feels more important at different times depending on the degree of uncertainty of any particular day: what lasts? what can I hold on to? - and what do I want to 'fix' in my life? what do I want to create that lasts? Both of these start with Influence: what moves me and brings me to life.

For instance, finding habits and routine that express my identity and will last no matter where I end up living. There is nowhere in this country I won't be able to go out under the sky each morning, or practise the 'cello each evening. Wherever I am, I can sit down and write, do readings, talk with Yi, and of course, just as soon as I'm sure of an internet connection, get Well Gatherings underway again for Change Circle members.

And then, of course, there's the tradition behind these two hexagrams: that they represent attraction and marriage.

'The way of husband and wife cannot fail to endure, and so Lasting follows. Lasting means enduring.'

Xugua, Sequence of hexagrams

That's a good, literal and direct reminder for me, with no interpretation needed. Working this out together is a powerful experience.

What lasts?

I wonder whether the authors of the Tuanzhuan, the commentary on the oracle, might not have been inspired by that picture of the moon between two shores:

Long-lasting in its dao, the dao of heaven and earth, heng is long-lasting and never stops. Favourable when there is somewhere to go: an end must be followed by a new beginning.
Sun and moon are set in heaven
and can shine on for ever;
the four seasons change in sequence
and can go on for ever.
Sages are long-lasting in their dao,
so that all under heaven can be realised.
Observe what is heng, and the nature of all things in heaven and earth can be seen.
(Rutt, Zhouyi)

I'm not often drawn to the Tuanzhuan, but I do love this passage. 'An end must be followed by a new beginning; sun and moon are set in heaven and can go on for ever, the four seasons change in sequence and can go on for ever, sages are long-lasting in their dao' - or literally on their path. It could not be plainer: Lasting happens through change.

Bradford Hatcher adds another image: 'We are what remains of that plucky, old lungfish who first crawled up onto shore. Some of that fellow endures. We persist by adaptation, not by remaining the same.'

What lasts?

The cycle of the year keeps turning. That storage container we rented is in a business park surrounded by open fields, and as we packed box after box of belongings into its depths, the skylarks flooded us with a torrent of song. I've harvested the mustard greens I planted last year, seen the garlic shoot up, the beech hedge come into leaf and the wisteria into flower one more time - and yes, the jackdaws are nesting in the chimney again. I've been reminded that wherever I am next spring, there will still be nettles to harvest.

The final laurel tree that I just barely managed to save from the chainsaw in 2018 still didn't escape being 'shaped' - having maybe half its canopy hacked out. Many of the remaining branches died off, but it sent up a defiant mass of suckers and is still growing strong.

Lasting Laurel

Marriage lasts.

Yi lasts. (It's been doing OK for the past few millennia.)

So does Clarity - or in other words, so does my connection with you. At first, I thought I'd put most of my work on hold until we were settled again. That turns out not to be practical, not when 'unsettled' looks set to last (!) most of the year. I have to find ways to keep creating and serving and making a living while in this interesting limbo - and again, it's partly a matter of developing a routine, and partly of having 'somewhere to go' and a vision for life on the other side of the move. Consciously fixing the omen, creating Lasting, is a human activity in the face of change.

Essence of lasting

One last reflection - the nuclear hexagram of Lasting is 43, Deciding. 'We are what we repeatedly do,' as Aristotle didn't say: Lasting contains an emergent decision. Hexagram 43 brings the message: here I am, here's who I am. Or as Bradford Hatcher asks,
'Between yourself and your cells, what is it that you reduce to or keep?'

Beech and wisteria, Lasting

I Ching Community discussion

Hexagram 4, 'polluting the waters'

If you try for an 'eagle's-eye view' of the Yijing, you get to admire its architecture: the intricate connections between hexagrams, the Sequence, two-line changes and so on. What if you zoom in, instead, for a mouse's eye-view? Here's an example of that.

I've translated Hexagram 4's Oracle like this:

'Not knowing, creating success.
I do not seek the young ignoramus, the young ignoramus seeks me.
The first consultation speaks,
The second and third pollute the waters.
Polluted, and hence not speaking.
Constancy bears fruit.'

Gao, 'speaks' means to announce or inform. Ir could also mean a more performative announcement, such as making a ritual report to Heaven or the ancestors, but the basic idea is simply that the voice of this text (often, though not always, the Yi itself), when consulted, will speak - or, if questioned again and again, it won't.

Why not? Because this repeated questioning 'pollutes the waters'. This may be a bit of a poetic over-elaboration of another single Chinese word, 瀆 du.

Here are some other ways du is translated:

  • Harmen Mesker: 'excessive'
  • Schilling: ,verschmutzt' (soiled, polluted, dirty)
  • Rutt and LiSe Heyboer: 'confusing'
  • Wilhelm and Minford book I: 'importunity'
  • Lynn: 'violation'
  • Bradford Hatcher and Geoffrey Redmond: 'disrespect'
  • Minford Book II: 'insult'

There's a mix there, but you can see the core ideas: confusion and disrespect. It all fits well with the dictionary definitions: to lack respect, to profane, to take liberties; to importune with repetition; disorder; covetousness, avidity.

The word has another meaning, though: a ditch, drain, sluice or gutter. The left-hand part of the character, generally described as its significant part (the part that conveys the meaning as opposed to just the sound), represents water:

du, disrespect/ ditch

And this awakens our interest, of course, because the inner trigram of Hexagram 4 is kan, which also represents water:

There's water below the mountain, painting a picture of a stream welling up from the rock strata. In the story told by the Image, the mountain 'nourishes character' and the stream acts (or 'goes, travels'), as it begins to carve its course and create its own nature as it flows.

‘Below the mountain, spring water comes forth. Not Knowing.
A noble one nourishes character with the fruits of action.’

The clear, new stream represents the young ignoramus' spirit of experiment and enquiry, finding his way through trial and error.

So what might a ditch represent?

The remainder of the character du, its 'phonetic' element, means 'sell', which in turn is made up from elements meaning 'buy' (probably a cowrie shell in a net) and 'go out'. In theory, this is a purely phonetic element. However… mightn't the meanings of covetousness, avidity and over-familiarity be connected with buying and selling? Digging a ditch turns the natural flow of water into something transactional: we'll have less water here, more over there, to match our needs.

All this casts light on the choice of du to explain 'not speaking'. We might imagine a clear and innocent question meeting with a speaking answer as a fresh stream, and disrespectful, repeated casting as an attempt to channel the stream, leaving you with nothing more than a ditch.

straight muddy ditch

I Ching Community discussion

Portrait of a relationship

A reading for an I Ching Community member, Honey, aka MeltingPot247, with four moving lines full of darkness and warnings -

What do I need to know about this relationship as it is now?

The answer: Hexagram 32, Lasting, changing at lines 1, 3 4 and 6 to 41, Decrease.

changing to

There's a lot to listen to, here: how Honey's experiencing the tension between the two hexagrams, the realities of Lasting and her need for Decrease; how she recognises each moving line (especially line 6, which was much clearer to her than it was to me!); how the Steps of Change help her to 'find herself' at each stage; how an overall picture comes together.

In the reading, I mention the Chinese characters for the names of the two hexagrams. You can see them both and read more about them at LiSe Heyboer's website: Heng, Lasting and Sun, Decrease.

And if you'd like more information about Change Circle, Clarity's core membership, here you go.

I Ching Community

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