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Hexagram 36, Brightness Hiding

The name of Hexagram 36, ming yi, is translated as ‘brightness hidden’ or ‘brightness wounded’. The two ideas blend together in readings: the light is hidden away to escape the danger of injury.

The wealth of layers of association in this hexagram hint at a complex relationship of light and dark. ‘Yi’, ‘hidden’ or ‘wounded’, is the name of a barbarian tribe – a threat to the light of civilisation. However, a tiny alteration to the character ming, ‘brightness’, transforms it into meng, ‘alliance’ – and Hexagram 55, line 4, which changes to 36, indicates an alliance with a ‘Yi lord’. Freeman Crouch translates ming yi as ‘Brilliance Wounded (the Yi covenant). Maybe sometimes you need to be allied with what can injure you?

And then the old form of the character yi shows a man with an arrow. This along with ming is reminiscent of  a different Yi: Yi the Archer, who shot arrows at the sun. Why did he do this? One myth explains that the ten suns (one for each day of the week) rose into the sun at once, and Yi had to shoot them down to save the earth from burning. Yet the completed form of this myth is probably younger than the Yi – and in his Mandate of Heaven, Steve Marshall draws together evidence for an earlier version in which Yi shot down the crow that was ‘eating’ (eclipsing) the sun. So perhaps we must save the light, or perhaps we must be saved from the dangers of too much light.

Brightness Hiding follows from Hexagram 35, Advancing, where the sun shines out over the earth (the trigram li above the trigram kun; their positions are reversed in 36). The Sequence says,

‘Advancing necessarily has occasion for injury, and so Brightness Hidden follows; Brightness Hidden means injury.’

This suggests how in shining more brightly – either making yourself overly conspicuous, or burning the candle at both ends with ever-increasing expectations – the light can be wounded.

The Oracle says,

‘Brightness hidden.
Constancy in hardship bears fruit.’

I would suggest this is constancy to the light – to your original, clear insight. ‘Hardship constancy’ is the capacity to stay true to what you know, not to second-guess and doubt yourself because times are hard.

And times, in Hexagram 36, are hard. The character is said to show someone with their hands tied, like a prisoner: it means hard labour, and the time of mourning for a parent’s death. It’s important, receiving this hexagram, not to gloss over the real risk of injury.

Amongst its layers of association, the clearest is with Prince Ji, who is named in the fifth line:

‘Prince Ji’s brightness hidden.
Constancy bears fruit.’

As the story goes, Ji was one of the last surviving good men at the Shang court in its decline. The king and his entourage were once so drunk that they (literally) didn’t know what day it was, and sent a messenger to ask Ji. Rather than reveal himself as the only one who knew, he feigned drunkenness and madness. In this way he hid his light, and survived without compromising his principles by cooperating with the regime.

In readings, of course, Hexagram 36 rarely describes a situation quite this extreme; being too insightful rarely incurs the risk of gruesome death. But we do find ourselves, often enough, ‘out of the loop’, exiled from power, experiencing a mismatch of standards or of character that threatens injury. There is no way our light can illuminate or change anything, and it’s safer to adopt protective camouflage. The sense of powerlessness and vulnerability leads to hiding your insight from others; it can also occasionally lead to hiding it from yourself. Sometimes it may be safer not to be fully aware.

In relationships, to ‘hide your brightness’ means not sharing all you see. The Contrast between Advancing and Brightness Hiding says that,

‘Advancing means daylight, Brightness Hidden means castigation.’

They contrast the fates of two princes: Kang, rewarded with a gift of horses; Ji, serving just as faithfully, rewarded with the threat of execution. Your light isn’t always popular; sometimes you are blamed and punished for it. Maybe you’ve encountered this situation in relationships, where any insight you offer will be rejected instantly, reflexively, just because you are the one offering it? This is the time to hide your light: the only way to protect the insight and keep alive the possibility that it might one day be recognised is to conceal it.

And on the other side of this coin, the Image says:

‘Brightness enters the earth’s centre. Brightness Hidden.
A noble one, overseeing the crowds, uses both darkness and light.’

The noble one is using the qualities of both trigrams: he has insight, clear and sharp, but contains this within the earth, with its qualities of tolerance and accommodation. Being too ostentatious about your insight doesn’t endear you to anyone – or, as Wilhelm puts it, ‘In social intercourse one should not try to be all-knowing. One should let many things pass, without being duped.’

None of this means that the light is gone: on the contrary, it is hidden and safeguarded. It’s no more extinguished than the sun at night. The nuclear hexagram of 36 is 40, Release, hinting at how hiding the light liberates it from attention and definition. Hexagram 36 can be a chance to understand what the light is in its essential nature, without being distracted by what it does or how it is to be used. (Imagine what would have happened to Ji’s light if his self-esteem had depended on having the rulers think well of him, or being seen to be ‘useful’.) It’s like the understanding that can be released in dreams, away from the light of conscious attention and intention.

19 responses to Hexagram 36, Brightness Hiding

  1. Have you ever said the word ‘divine’ and seen people roll their eyes? I am tired of getting hurt for what I believe, and therefore I hide myself away.

  2. Yup, successful experiment there! Simple html works, though.

    Ginnie, for years when people asked what I did I said something like, ”Well you’re going to think it’s stupid and I don’t mind if you do because everyone does and it really doesn’t bother me and even my husband does and anyway well I’m a diviner with the I Ching and you probably haven’t heard of it and don’t worry.”
    – and generally said this all in one breath and very quietly, as if muffled by the great weight of earth!

    Nowadays I smile happily and say, ‘I’m an I Ching diviner.’

  3. A practical example of this hexagram.

    I was going to be dealing with some people who were more powerful than me, who had the power to change the course of my life by their judgements.

    I asked the Yijing for advice before going into the situation. It gave me this hexagram, unchanging.

    I took it to mean that not only did I need to ‘darken’ for a while, but in that darkening it was imperative that I not lose contact with my ‘inner light’.

    To put it another way: darkening my light on the outside must not have been accompanied by darkening my light on the inside.

    If I didn’t darken on the outside I would suffer by attracting negative attention. But if I didn’t stay well lit on the inside I would suffer by snuffing out my own energy and my clear-sightedness of the situation.

    I followed the strategy and although the situation was still stressful in the short term (hiding my light didn’t seem natural, although it did seem logical and necessary) the outcome was beneficial to me in the long term.

  4. 55.4 – 36

    I cast this online the same day the Icelandic volcano erupted mid april.
    That same day personal issues came to a head & I embarked on an expedient but troublesome alliance reminiscent of yi tribe.

    Volcanic ash often eclipses the sun & the current activity started 20th march I believe when the sun was centred between the solstices.

    Brightness hiding suggests an eclipse & has a heavy (bird with clipped tail ) atmosphere including flying with drooping wings line one & resonates with the aviation lockdown over northern Europe.

    I am circumspect about the july solar eclipse.

  5. Oh, that is a good one – thank you! The fire on the inside, and all at once eruption-thunder on the outside. The fire in the earth is certainly making its presence felt lately.

  6. I forgot to mention I had an appointment at 12 noon the same day – a meeting with the yi-lord , who incidentally made an odd comment about the cloudy weather.

    • It’s always striking when Yi does something like that. Maybe the situation requires you to hide your light, but you are seeing this somehow as an opportunity to shine? Maybe – looking at 36.1.3 – this is a time when the light starts to escape, to get ‘out from under’?

  7. I have just asked ‘Y’s “Opinion of ‘Z” answered with 36.3 > 24. Z is the ‘partner’ of X and I am of the opinion that Z is a complete cheat and just after what she can get. Then I asked “Please give me a picture of Z’s true feelings for X?” Answer Hex 36 unchanging. X thinks that Z is a good person. I disagree but haven’t said so. At present X is traumatised because everything, including relationship, at the moment is going wrong for him and I believe Z is now showing her true colours. I don’t know if anyone will see this so I’ll ask in shared.

    • Hi Meigga,

      Yes, asking in the forums is the way to go. If you’d like me to see and reply, go to Reading Circle (inside Change Circle), though, rather than Shared Readings.

  8. I have a person close to me (I unfortunately cannot identify them more clearly than that) who has been struggling with an enormous, long night in his or her own life for decades. I’ve had clarity about that situation and he or she has come to me for that clarity but cannot gather the pluck to act on it–it really is a very difficult situation for him or her, a serious enmeshment full of thorns and constant hurting. (I’m sorry to be so vague, not normal for me.) The two of us may be going on a journey. It is the kind of journey I craved for so many years, particularly with this person, and yet now that it has come around under these circumstances, I don’t look forward to it with my usual enthusiasm and spontaneity. When I consulted the book of Changes about this, I received Hexagram 36, lines one and 3 moving. Being confused now myself, mainly because of the confusion brought along almost second-naturally by this person (so beloved in the past by me), and also because I’m gullible and cannot always see clearly myself, for sure, I struggle with the answer. I asked if we go on this journey what the case would be. Being dull, I guess :), I now wonder: should I stay or should I go now? I have a lovely home with a wonderful wife and tribe, and staying right here might be the best option–it’s as though I’m losing the line that I should stick to in view of the impending journey. (I now realize the terms of the journey has been determined by my currently-“weaker” person, the person I’ve been mentioning. Maybe I should try to shift those terms a bit in my direction… no, maybe I should extricate myself from going at all… I’m sponsoring most of it, quite expensive… ) Phew! Let me stop this verbiage somewhere. Any advice or sympathy would be most welcome 🙂

  9. I asked for guidance on returning to online dating site and received 36 unchanged. Clearer impossible. I will continue waiting for the right moment to come back.

  10. I have to say I am writing a book about receiving this hexagram while about to journey as a volunteer to the Amazon. I went through a death. I went through long night of the soul (eight years) and now bearing fruit😁 If you get this one above it is said “in reading, of course, hexagram 36 rarely describes a situation quite this extreme; bring to insightful rarely occurs the risk of gruesome death, in my case it did. Take care but if it is your fate, maybe a wise one can say how to ask for more guidance. I was warned. I love this ancient oracle

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