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The lines that don’t change

The other day, I responded to a client’s I Ching Course assignment about a reading with five moving lines. Since I’m not a fan of systems that reduce the number of moving lines (I reckon that if your answer were contained in a single moving line, you’d have received just that one), I always have a lot of suggestions for ways to relate to  these complex, multiple-line readings. Reading the lines together, as a story, as voices from different ‘layers’, and so on… but what intrigued me this time was how much the client learned from looking at the one line that wasn’t changing.

The one unchanging line is the one ‘layer’ of the hexagram that isn’t involved, the one thing that isn’t a consideration. In amongst the mass of information about from all the lines that are active, this can give a particularly clear message.

We were working on Hexagram 8, Seeking Union, changing at lines 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 to 38, Opposition or Divergence. Naturally, there’s a great big gulf between these two hexagrams: seeking union, looking for natural harmony between kindred spirits, when there’s an underlying sense of seeing and inhabiting two utterly different worlds… this is going to take a lot of change, a lot of activity.

The one thing that isn’t involved, though, is

‘Seeking union with non-people.’

– or with bad people, wrong people, bandits and villains, people who are not quite human, so that in trying to ally yourself with them you’re almost negating your own self. This is what doesn’t follow: just because someone (or some aspect of yourself) seems to be from another planet, it doesn’t mean that they’re any less real or human.

It’s fascinating to look at these lines that don’t change and see what can be learned from them. 8.4, for instance, doesn’t change when moving towards hexagram 26, Great Taming. That’s another big change: from the first moment of choosing your relationships and finding how things fit together on the newly-cleared floodplain, all the way through to agriculture on a grand scale that can sustain high culture.

What isn’t involved in that change:

‘Seeking union outside.
Constancy, good fortune.’

That one puzzled me at first, as Great Taming actually does mean looking outside – crossing the river, not eating at home. I think the point is that the growth of strength and storing-up of potential energy comes from a powerful, purposeful inner cultivation, not from stretching yourself outward.

There must be plenty to be learned from the unchanging line in all 384 5-line readings. Any thoughts on the others for hexagram 8?

  • 8 zhi 50, changing all except line 1 – a vessel, but no overflowing jar
  • 8 zhi 30, changing all except 2 – seeing what’s out there rather than flowing from what’s in here?
  • 8 zhi 38, changing all except 3
  • 8 zhi 26, changing all except 4
  • 8 zhi 1, changing all except 5 – with all that creative drive, maybe you’re not inclined to let anything go?
  • 8 zhi 34, changing all except 6 – too powerful and confident to be ‘without a head’?

4 responses to The lines that don’t change

  1. Disapproval of an idea or practice is one thing, bringing together the evidence to support a theory is another. By introducing new ideas or challenging assumptions we seek to open up a discussion of an issue, whereas disapproval seeks to close it off.

    Let’s be clear on this subject: the reading of multiple lines is one theory and it is really an assumption that has been made by modern interpreters, which doesn’t take into consideration the difficulties many people have encountered in using this approach, nor does it recognize the evidence that points towards a different conclusion.

    At times, some proponents of reading multiple lines seem to have found it quite vexing to have their view challenged, almost as though they perceived a threat. This comes rather close to the way in which religious fundamentalists behave when they regard with contempt anyone who disagrees with them. It is a reaction that does nothing to promote greater insight.

    Our understanding is still evolving, so instead of creating an atmosphere that squelches diversity we can and should allow competing theories to compete. Students of the Yi deserve to hear all sides of the issue, so that they can decide for themselves based on the merits of a particular idea, free from any pressure to conform.

  2. Students of the Yi deserve to hear all sides of the issue, so that they can decide for themselves based on the merits of a particular idea, free from any pressure to conform.

    Agreed. (Of course. Did anyone imagine otherwise?)

  3. Actually, and for what it’s worth, the reason I read this site and feel like I learn from it is because Hilary does NOT write with ANY sort of religious fervor, nor does she have her head in the lofty spiritual clouds. Happily, this site is well grounded in common sense and actual practice without being the least bit simplistic or “cookbook” in nature. (Which is difficult to do, and not often achieved as far as I can tell.)

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