The more I look at the Sequence of hexagrams, the more it seems obvious that the trigrams are an intrinsic part of its logic. The patterns are there to be found. (Here’s a handy colour-coded trigram chart that makes it easier.)
For an outstanding analysis of the large-scale patterns, the landscape of rivers, mountains and lakes, you need Danny Van den Berghe’s work. But there’s also a lot to be learned at the smaller scale.
Just for example…
Hexagram 10 shows the lake below heaven, like the dancing shaman reaching for spiritual power. The hexagram as a whole deals with how to get closer to that kind of power, ‘treading the tiger’s tail’, embodying the ancestral spirits. The challenge is to invite this creative, fertilising blessing into life without letting it swallow you whole. (No wonder the noble one ‘differentiates above and below’.)
Hexagram 11 shows heaven below – and within – the earth. Instead of dancing after the power of heaven, now it has been taken inside, incorporated into the fabric of life. The result is an outpouring of creative energy through the earth: inspiration coming together with the power to make them real.
The Sequence itself – the Xugua – says that ‘Treading and also Tai mean that there is peace.’ The word for ‘peace’ means being settled: the old character shows a woman under a roof. This is exactly what Treading couldn’t do: it could dance freely after heaven, find inspiration there, but it couldn’t ‘come to rest’ and build anything with it. Through Mount Tai, those skills for moving in harmony with the sacred find their full use, not trying to ‘tame’ the power of heaven, but to make it real. And the trigrams show the dynamics of it: the inspiration is no longer ‘out there’ for you to react to; it’s inside.