Here’s a challenging post from Harmen Mesker: Ten Laws of Proper Yijing Practice Explained. While I’m unlikely ever to call anything to do with the Yi a ‘law’ (there’s a distinct shortage of rules graven on stone tablets for divination), this is a really thoughtful and thought-provoking article.
If you receive the same hexagram three times you have three different answers.
The meanings of the hexagrams are not fixed, they change according to your situation. Hexagram 3 can mean that you are experiencing initial difficulties, but it can also mean that initial difficulties elsewhere have to be addressed. A friend of mine was asked to give a beginners course at the upcoming Yijing Symposium in Ruigoord. He asked the Yijing whether this was a good idea, and he received hexagram 3 (5th line moving). You could see this as a difficult start, leading to a troubled course, and be tempted not to do it. But who were the targets of the course? Indeed, those people who experience difficulties when starting to use the Yijing. Therefore, “if you receive the same hexagram three times you have three different answers”.
This is very often true. Its corollary is that when we receive that same hexagram again, we still need to go read it afresh as a new response. There is a risk of getting stuck in a mental groove: ‘Oh, that one, I know what that means,’ substituting what we ‘know it means’ for what it says.
A related and trickier question: when you receive the same hexagram three times, should you assume that you have three connected, related answers, and Yi is pointing out a connection between your questions?
Or if you form a strong personal association between, say, Hexagram 53 and marriage, is it reasonable to assume that when you ask a work question and receive Hexagram 53, this is a reminder to consider your marriage?
I think this can only be answered by intuition, in the moment. Repeating hexagrams is one way Yi can point out connections you’d otherwise miss; however, rather than saying the Hexagram 53 reading is about your marriage, not your work, I’d be more inclined to look for a pattern of Gradual Progress that’s common to both areas of life. Those personal thematic associations need to be taken lightly and allowed to come and go, so the conversation stays free and alive.
However… sometimes when you receive the same hexagram three times, you might have one answer and two reminders that it would be a really good idea to take notice of that answer. (For example, there have been a couple of occasions when I’ve spent a long time thinking about a reading’s primary hexagram, finally asked a clarifying question, and received in response, with no lines changing, the relating hexagram from the original reading. I imagine the oracle speaking to me extra – slowly – and – clearly… ;))
Law 11 of Yijing Practice: there are not many laws.
Law 2, from Harmen:
Moving lines do not move.
Many users have the habit of immediately changing the moving lines in the received hexagram to generate a second hexagram. Apart from the fact that moving lines were probably a later invention and not used in the early days of Yijing practice (Rutt, p. 154-155; Nielsen, p. 22), the habit of generating a second hexagram makes it tempting to bypass the original answer of the Yijing if the second hexagram is more to your liking. But you do not receive the second hexagram as answer from the Yijing, you receive the first hexagram. And that’s the hexagram you have to deal with. An example from Clarity’s forum:
I got 39.3>8. Then, my I Ching book asks me to throw again when I receive hexa 8, so I asked for clarity and I got 37 “Family”.
The querent seems to skip hexagram 39 completely, going right over to hexagram 37 which could be called the third hexagram. But that is not the initial answer that she got from the Yijing and that she should have started with. Therefore, “moving lines do not move”.
- Bent Nielsen, A companion to Yi jing numerology and cosmology
- Richard Rutt, Zhou Yi – the Book of Changes
Well, this is more contentious!
As far as I know – which is nowhere near as far as Harmen knows – line texts have been described in terms of the hexagram they lead to for a long time. 39 line 3 is 39 zhi 8, 39’s 8. Impossible to tell from this, of course, whether or not this implied that people would actually go on to read Hexagram 8.
More important for me is what I find works in divination, which is that if you receive 39.3 changing to 8, you have received the combination of both hexagrams, and the relationship and ‘conversation’ that takes place between the two. You could also say that you’ve received Hexagram 39 in a context of 8: Difficulties and Limping as seen from or through a perspective of Seeking Union, the Seeking Union experience of Difficulties. So you might expect this to focus on how, when you are struggling, you seek people with whom you have a natural affinity. (Hexagram 39 already contains the idea of changing direction and going ‘southwest’; Hexagram 8 accentuates that aspect of its meaning.)
If Harmen finds that this second, relating hexagram often draws people’s attention, that would be because it tends to describe them: where they are, how they relate to the situation, what the reading is about for them. In this case, the reading was about a woman’s strong desire to leave an environment where she was struggling and move back home to her family and friends. Her moving line reads,
‘Going on, limping; coming back, turnaround.’
– endorsing her desire to change direction and go home, as the readers on her thread agreed.
Generally speaking, hurrying to ask again – not necessarily what Hexagram 8 advises – is not recommended. However… if this reading is an example of a broken ‘law’, it’s also an example of Yi’s flexibility and responsiveness to the sincere questioner. After she skimmed over her first reading, she was given a second answer that carried the same message, clear as day.
(More later on laws 3-10.)