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Hexagram 46, Pushing Upward (step 3: some hexagrams of context)

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Hexagram 46

I call the hexagrams that are naturally related to the cast hexagram, regardless of its changing lines, ‘hexagrams of context’. They make an extended family of contrasts and sources. (Those simple old human ways of understanding something – seeing what it isn’t, and telling its stories – work just as well with hexagrams.)

Hexagram 46 isn’t Hexagram 45 –

:::||:      :||:::

– except that, if you turn round and come at it from the opposite direction, it is after all…

That is, these two are an inverse pair: two perspectives on the same pattern of lines. Hexagram 45 has its two solid lines high up in the outer trigram, a Gathering of meaning, resource and dedication all focussed into one powerful moment. The king is present in the temple, the great people can be seen, great offerings are made, there is a direction to go…

…and this naturally tends to turn around, with the solid lines internalised, and the sense of being part of something significant translating into a desire to go somewhere significant, to offer something. The Xugua (Sequence) says,

‘Assembling and moving higher is called pushing upward, and so pushing upward follows.’

This is what is called pushing upward – the sequence follows just from naming the essence of the gathering. There’s a sense that the gathering contains the aspiration within it (‘fruitful to have a direction to go’), and 46 gives it expression. It’s the story we see unfold when a whole group of people all aiming for the same thing starts to move, or when you align your whole self – all the ‘little selves’ – towards a single purpose, and then naturally find yourself in motion. Investing and identifying creates its own momentum.

Receiving Hexagram 46, you look at Hexagram 45 both for this broader sense of story from the Sequence, and also for the ‘this is not that’ insight from the contrasting pair.

The contrast within each pair of hexagrams is summed up in the Zagua (contrasting hexagrams):

‘Gathering means assembling; Pushing Upward means not coming back.’

That gives you a simple idea of the dynamics of the thing: you could represent Gathering with a lot of lines spiralling inward towards a focus, and Pushing Upward with one broad arrow pointing upwards. If you receive Hexagram 46, you don’t have to try to uphold a great meaning, all pooled into a single reservoir. You can travel one step at a time.

Sometimes that comes as a relief: I’m only expected to take one step, not leap the mountain in a single bound. But it can also be disconcerting, as it speaks of real commitment. (You can imagine that deciding to climb to an altar to make an offering, and then deciding it’s too much like hard work and turning back would not be the done thing.)

So some people receive 46 and say, ‘What, all that?’ (or ‘what, no helicopter ride?’) and realise they don’t want to start. Especially when it’s unchanging, Hexagram 46 invites some questions about the ascent: is this something you can commit to wholeheartedly? What are you pushing up towards –  and is that somewhere you want to be so much that you’ll undertake the climb? Which wall is this ladder leaning against anyway?

And this brings us to the hidden core of 46, its nuclear hexagram: 54, the Marrying Maiden. (A nuclear hexagram is found by ‘unpacking’ the original hexagram’s inner lines – 2345 – into a full hexagram – 234,345.) Pushing upward contains a drive towards relationship and connection, a desire to participate in something bigger. And the ultimate experience of participation in something bigger would be finding you have become part of something much too big for you, you’re relatively much smaller than you’ve been used to, and your own will and intention are of no consequence. So – apparently paradoxically – at the heart of all the purpose and drive of 46 is the girl who finds that ‘to set out to bring order means a pitfall, and no direction bears fruit.’ For example, you get the dream job but find it overwhelmingly stressful, and hard on your self-esteem.

(The other hexagrams with 54 as nuclear are 11, 18 and 26. They have in common this inner experience of getting out of your depth – by no means always a bad thing.)

(And speaking of going one step at a time and getting utterly out of your depth – I think there’s another post’s worth of hexagrams of context to write before I start on the moving lines, post-apocalyptically.)

5 responses to Hexagram 46, Pushing Upward (step 3: some hexagrams of context)

  1. Perhaps you intend to cover something of this later, but I might add for now that another hexagram of context would be hexagram twenty, in which the upper and lower trigrams are exchanged. For hexagram forty six says, “One MUST see the great man,” where hexagram twenty speaks of looking up to the great man. By contemplating the teachings coming “from above” in hexagram twenty, one is able to come and see the “great man,” and understand his words much better and on a higher level. In so doing, one takes one step closer to becoming a “great man” or a great person, him or herself. In this way one advances into the “heavenly” realm, and rises, or “pushes upward.” In “hearing the words of the sage, attuning to his commands,” one is able to push upward and progress in wisdom and stature. The exchange of trigrams in hexagram forty five leads to hexagram nineteen in which similar things could be said, but not for that now.

    Finally, the small things that a person heaps up are the commands and teachings of the sage in hexagram twenty which lead to a greater understanding of the laws and nature of the universe.


    • Thanks, Gene. (Also, Happy New Year!) Exchanged trigrams are one ‘hexagram of context’ I haven’t really learned to use. How would you describe the relationship between exchanged-trigram hexagrams, in the abstract? Is each a means of achieving the other?

  2. Hilary

    I will see if I can put something together on this. It will take a little time. I haven’t studied such things extensively. There is another type of hexagram of context also, at least to me it is, where all the lines are opposite. Of course this happens on the doubled trigrams in the next hexagram. But others do not. I will have to try to put something together.


  3. Yes,

    in hexagram 25 one learns that one must be without falsehood. In hexagram 46 one must see the great man. But we cannot approach the “great man” if there is any falsehood within us. The judgment in hexagram forty six says, “fear not.” But we can only be without fear if we have rid ourselves of any ulterior motives. For the true sage of the world will see through us immediately, and our “falsehood” will be discovered. In our meditations we must come to know that deeper part of ourselves that knows us completely, and we cannot present any false appearances. We cannot “ascend” vertically (into the heavenly realm) unless we have completely rid ourselves of all inner dishonesty, and of all self deception.

    Line one of 46, which is the constituting ruler, says”Pushing upward that meets with confidence.” We cannot meet with confidence with anyone unless we have rid ourselves of all ulterior motives and plans of defeating the other person. How much more so with our own higher self. The commentary on the judgment in 25 says, “Not everything instinctive is nature in this higher sense of the word, but only that which is right and in accord with the will of heaven. If we are not in the accord with the will of heaven there is no way we can see the great man and not be burnt. (hexagram 10) And as hexagram forty three says, “At the court of the king, it must be announced truthfully.” We cannot deceive our higher self. We must come before our higher self with sincerity, without falsehood, and innocently.


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