...life can be translucent

Hexagram 37, People in the Home

Hexagram 37, People in the Home

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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