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Steps through Hexagram 46

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

Stone steps up to horizon - hexagram 46Here are some thoughts on the moving line texts of Hexagram 46, Pushing Upward. I’d like to have a good dive in here – drawing on the meaning of the line position, the relationship to the zhi gua (the hexagram each line changes to) and the line pathway, along with experience, to get a feel for each one. (This kind of work lies behind what ended up in my book – but space there was limited, and here the page can be as long as I like… you have been warned…)

Before I fill the screen with stuff, though, let’s just have the uninterrupted flow of the lines themselves:

‘Welcomed pushing upward,
Great good fortune.’
‘True and confident,
And so it is fruitful to make the summer offering.
No mistake.’
‘Pushing upward in the empty city.’
‘The king makes offerings on Mount Qi.
Good fortune, no mistake.’
‘Constancy, good fortune.
Pushing upward step by step.’
‘In the dark, pushing upward.
Fruitful with unceasing constancy.’

Line 1

‘Welcomed pushing upward,
Great good fortune.’

Line 1 – the place of beginnings, the first inklings of a hexagram’s theme, of inner stirrings and itchy feet, as often as not. Many hexagrams do not encourage acting on those itches/stirrings (take the first lines of hexagrams 34 or 43, for instance!) – but in Pushing Upward, that basic desire to move onward and upward is the heart of the whole thing, and it is welcomed.

It’s an interesting word, that ‘welcomed’ – something of a technical term for an action that is in harmony with the time. Hence it means something that receives consent, is allowed, an action that is true and loyal, and simultaneously just something that is possible. The cosmos at large says yes to this.

It makes clear, intuitive sense that this first line joins with Hexagram 11, Flow – a hexagram full of ‘yes’. The first step onto the mountain moves into this creative flow; to want to begin is good.

Looking at the line pathway (46.1, 11.1, 12.6, 45.6), it seems that this first step is taken with deep, wholehearted emotional involvement. If you read the crossing from 45.6 to 46.1 as a story –

‘Heartfelt lamenting, weeping, snivelling.
Not a mistake.’

‘Welcomed pushing upward,
Great good fortune.’

– then you can imagine the first steps taken in response to a sense of loss, something missing. Heartfelt emotion is the force that overcomes resistance and creates an initiative in harmony with the time, hence capable of developing momentum.

Line 2

‘True and confident,
And so it is fruitful to make the summer offering.
No mistake.’

The second line position – in any hexagram – seems to me to reach out and upward in search of connection. So at this stage of the climb, you’re moved not by where you are or where you could go, but by what you can connect with – through fu, truth-confidence-trust, and through a modest offering.

The offering named here, yue, was a small one. In his excellent article on 46, Harmen mentions that it’s also the name of a measure: one-tenth of one-tenth of a dipper. As an offering, yue was made of plant matter only (no ‘great sacrificial animals’ here!), and was proportionate to your rank.

It helps to think of rank as not just an empty bureaucratic status-label, but in its ideal sense of a true measure of your personal capability. Then this becomes an offering that’s naturally proportional to what you can give – and you can see the connection to Hexagram 15, Integrity. With a completely clear sense of yourself – both your limitations and your potential – you can make a true yue offering. It’s your personal call to the spirits (see the fan yao, 15.2) and you – not any external standard – are its measure.

(Quite often the person who receives this line is tacitly asking, ‘How much can I be expected to give?’)

The line pathway (46.2, 15.2, 16.5, 45.5) suggests that this small offering can restore relationship and health.

Line 3

‘Pushing upward in the empty city.’

This is a disconcertingly neutral line!

People’s experiences with it vary from bitter disappointment because you expected a warm, lively welcome in the city, to overwhelming relief because you expected resistance and hostility there. The small image (commentary on the line) just says ‘no reason to hesitate.’ There’s nothing for you here; move on through.

This fits at line 3, because here just inside the threshold between inner and outer worlds, the question is often, ‘How far can I go out there? This thing I have in mind – can I really move towards it?’ And yes… you can move towards it and keep on travelling. It’s just that sometimes the world’s consent comes as perfect absence and emptiness. (The idea is that this was once a major city, full of life, but it has been abandoned.)

46.3 changes to Hexagram 7, the Army: marching on with purpose in mind, not stopping to reflect on the scenery or dwell on how it might have been. And the line pathway (46.3, 7.3, 8.4, 45.4) encourages the wisdom of not fixating on this empty husk, but looking beyond. The centre of life and meaning is not where it was, maybe not where you expected to find it, certainly not where you are now. So good fortune is available from looking beyond and outside your usual perspective, and just from keeping going.

Line 4

‘The king makes offerings on Mount Qi.
Good fortune, no mistake.’

Mount Qi is the sacred mountain close to the Zhou homeland – an ancestral spiritual home to them. Line 4 (in general) tends to ask, ‘What can I do here?’ seeking a working relationship with this place and time. So reconnecting with your roots at Mount Qi, anchoring your present striving to that ancient rock, is a powerful act.

The line changes to Hexagram 32, Enduring. Cities may come and go (line 3), but ancestors and mountains endure. As long as you can refer to the mountain, you will know where – and when, and who – you are.

And yet… experience suggests this line isn’t quite all it seems. Enough people have received this line in situations where they are clearly not getting what they aspire to, and not about to get it, that I’ve had to take a second and third look at it.

For instance: ‘Good fortune, no mistake.’ It’s often the case that ‘no mistake’ means ‘even though this looks very much like a mistake to you, it isn’t one.’

Mt Qi was the sacred place of the Zhou long before they were the ruling dynasty, when they were just a small people of no particular significance or distinction. But what was the sacred mountain then is still the sacred mountain now, and it doesn’t look so different. Perhaps what endures and creates meaning isn’t so connected to ‘progress’ after all.

Then there is the line pathway: 46.4 is reflected in 32.4, and you might expect to find its subjective experience there, maybe along with some necessary wisdom. 32.4 reads, ‘In the field, no game.’ As simple as that. (The ‘field’ is specifically the area you mapped out for your hunting, so the experience is quite specifically of not finding something where you expected it to be.)

And the other lines in the pathway (45.3, 31.3) indicate a time when more intense desire and emotionality is not helpful – which would make sense, if what you want is unavailable.

So… I believe 46.4  marks a time when your personal desires and aspirations are not being rewarded. The message is that this is not a mistake – on the contrary! And so the optimal response is not to want it more and pursue it more avidly, but to set it in context by redirecting your attention: away from the object of your desire, back towards your roots, towards what is permanent and real. Then you have the foundation for a more real, more connected progress: good fortune, no mistake.

(You could see line 3 as looking outward, onward and beyond, and line 4 as looking backward and inward… and if you changed both lines together, you’d have Hexagram 40, Release, with its choice of path…)

Line 5

‘Constancy, good fortune.
Pushing upward step by step.’

Line 5’s traditionally the place for the ruler – certainly the place for vision, choice and guiding principles. Only the guiding principle in Pushing Upward turns out to be one step at a time. I remember walking up hill paths with my parents as a child – running ahead and relishing the view to start with, but as we climbed higher and the slopes got steeper, my focus would narrow down to my own aching feet and the simple act of putting one in front of the other.

This is a line of encouragement, often in the face of setbacks. Yi says first that constancy is good fortune, which is really the first thing you need to know, and then ‘step by step’. Mountains can’t be leapt in a single bound; the only thing you can do next is the next step. (Tautological, yet oddly easy to overlook!)

So why does this line link to Hexagram 48, the Well? Partly as comfort, I think – there’s water as you need it (and you can’t drink for the month). And partly to suggest a parallel between hauling yourself up the mountain and hauling the bucket up the well – all the way, inch by inch, because almost all the way is no better than not starting at all – with great respect for the small, simple, incremental things. (And – if you look round the whole pathway – a corresponding wariness of complications and ambition.)

Line 6

‘In the dark, pushing upward.
Fruitful with unceasing constancy.’

Line 6 is traditionally said to be ‘outside’ the hexagram – and this one surely is outside the realms of purposeful ascent, just because you can’t see where you’re going. In the original just as in English, ‘in the dark’ has both literal and figurative meanings.

Commentators come down hard on this idea of pushing on up in the dark, calling it following ‘blind impulse’ and ‘ego’. Yet it’s worth noting that the Yi does not say ‘So stop!’ And goodness knows, it’s really not shy about telling people who are headed blindly into trouble, moved by not-so-spiritual impulses, to stop. On the contrary: pushing upward in the dark bears fruit – with unceasing constancy.

All the way up this mountain, there’s been the question of how you orient yourself. The itch to move is enough at first, and the true desire to make your offering. Then the empty city, the sacred mountain, and your own next steps. But if you’re to keep climbing here in the dark, how are you to know where you’re headed?

It’s good to remember that the earliest meaning of ‘constancy’ is ‘divination’. The two concepts meet in the idea of holding to the truth you know and to your way of knowing. So pushing upward in the dark bears fruit if you divine without stopping to rest (‘unceasing’ means literally without rest, without pausing for breath) – if you keep on referring to truth.

In his article, Harmen describes this line as being on the mountain at night, especially close to the the spirits, and vulnerable. He seems to be imagining something like this. Certainly, this is a scary line – it no longer feels like ‘getting somewhere’, let alone ‘getting something’ – the small image says that it means ‘loss not gain’. (Should you receive this line when you have a specific goal in mind and any alternative way of reaching it, I’d look into the alternative!)

The line changes to Hexagram 18, which is also scary… but from experience, and from the line pathway, I don’t feel it means that the process of pushing upward has itself become corrupted. Rather, it’s past the stage of striving for a goal and hence is finding something simpler as a guide. 18.6 and 17.1 show a radical reorientation, choosing quite different standards of measurement to the norm. And if you read across from 45.1 to 46.6 –

‘There is truth and confidence, but no completion.
Then disorder, then gathering.
Like a call, one clasp of the hands brings laughter.
Do not worry.
Going on, no mistake.’

‘In the dark, pushing upward.
Fruitful with unceasing constancy.’

– then there’s a strong sense of continuity – that you only need one line of connection, one call, to guide you…

 

 

 

34 responses to Steps through Hexagram 46

  1. Why pay attention to people having experiences at odds with what lines mean? That says nothing about what a line means. While it is possible that one may not be able to connect one’s experience to a line, to say that an experience contrary to the meaning of a line casts any light on the line is the faint hope of a mediocre mind being able to understand the oracle by dilution. The entire point of the Yijing is to be able to connect one’s experience to what the oracle says (by which I mean the best possible understanding of the Chinese). If one cannot do that, then one should assume that the oracle has not spoken rather than assume that one’s own ill-understood experience should find a pigeonhole at that place for future use.

    For example, line 3 is excellent for unhindered easy progress, and anyone who feels ‘bitter disappointment’ simply doesn’t understand the line, and is more interested in having their personal needs fulfilled immediately rather than grasping the ease inherent in the time. They are extrapolating the image without understanding the image, believing a perceived surface meaning (’empty city’ = lack of welcome) has relevance. If one doesn’t understand the original imagery in any depth, then one’s first recourse should at least be to the traditional commentary as opposed to ideas that ‘sound good’ and seem to appeal to ‘personal experience’.

    This kind of interpretation adds nothing to the Yi, the Yi simply isn’t speaking to that kind of personality construct and rather asks one to see the real ease inherent in the time rather than make up one’s own meanings. If the ease isn’t felt, then the question is why not? Perhaps then there would be the greater insight that one is still under the spell of previous conditioning, such that one has a tendency to disbelieve one’s good luck. But of course how will that ever be seen if some commentary somewhere assures the person that they are right to feel ‘bitterly disappointed’?

    Similarly, in line 4, anyone who receives this line but who feels they aren’t getting what they aspire to is clearly aspiring to the wrong things, which the oracle has no interest in. Again, the oracle is not speaking to this kind of personality construct, and it is up to that person to transcend their own needful attitudes. This line is clearly about making a sacrifice. The only way to make a sacrifice is without expectation of reward, this in itself is the reward, in that one is now in a position to be able to partake of such a sacrificial act. To go into such an act with ‘personal desires and aspirations’ is contrary to the meaning of the line; to say that the lack of fulfillment of these has anything to do with the meaning of the line is a projection and failure to understand.

    The fourth line certainly doesn’t refer to a time when rewards are not forthcoming, but it may well be true that if one expects some ‘personal’ rewards then one will be disappointed, because this is contrary to the act of sacrifice. But to say that therefore the line means that this is a time when personal aspirations are not being rewarded is a failure of the challenge to see that it is not about personal rewards but rather some greater destiny than that which one wishes to impose on events.

    The Yi does not speak to the xiaoren (‘little person’). In other words, the Yi does not speak when the light by which it is to be understood is not at the forefront of the one asking, and to interpret it contrary to its meaning in the light of some lesser meaning is simply not understanding it, but assuming one does because some commentator has exposed the line to the very misinterpretation that such a ‘little person’ finds ‘speaks to them’. But the oracle itself is just not involved in this abstraction of superficial meanings and forever demands that it be understood on its own terms or not at all.

  2. I’ve only read as far as the section on Line 1 – but I might just have to go to sleep happy tonight 😀

    46.1 > 11 was the reading for the year that I did on my birthday. I didn’t know what to make of it, but if it means a whole bunch of “yes,” all concerned might have to be hugged. (Can you hug hexagrams?)

  3. @SJM

    Why pay attention to people having experiences at odds with what lines mean?

    That presupposes that someone knows beyond doubt what each line means. I learn a lot about hexagrams and lines from experience.

    The entire point of the Yijing is to be able to connect one’s experience to what the oracle says (by which I mean the best possible understanding of the Chinese).

    Yes. And more often than not, this requires looking more than once at the Chinese, observing what it doesn’t say as well as what it does.

    46.3 does not say anything about the city except that it’s empty. Historical background (I will never cease to be grateful for your book) suggests that the emptiness of the abandoned city could mean mourning for some, a sense of ease for others, depending on their relationship to what used to be there. Yi doesn’t mention either mourning or ‘sense of ease’.

    Similarly, in line 4, anyone who receives this line but who feels they aren’t getting what they aspire to is clearly aspiring to the wrong things, which the oracle has no interest in.

    I think that’s more or less what I said, though from a more practical than moral perspective. (Aspiring to things that are not available could certainly be described as aspiring to ‘wrong things’.)

    The Yi does not speak to the xiaoren (‘little person’).

    Well, here we can just agree to differ, I think. I’ve found the oracle speaks very plainly to very ordinary, small people when we are right in the middle of longing for all the wrong things. Isn’t it also said that the person who has no need for oracles is the one who’s perfectly enlightened?

    @Lisa
    Can we define ‘too silly’, please? Or maybe we shouldn’t try. I can laugh out loud at hexagrams, or shout at them, so I can’t see why they shouldn’t be hugged. (Careful with 11, though – it’s not the cuddly type.)

  4. About line 3 – I’ve always gotten stuck on this one, not knowing if it meant something like “easy victory,” or “why would anyone want a city with nothing in it?”

    But thinking of it as just utter neutrality, “move on through,” “sometimes the world’s consent comes as perfect absence and emptiness” makes a lot of sense and ties those two concepts together. I can easily apply it to two specific readings I’ve never understood. Thank you!

    SJM – I’m trying to understand your point at least acceptably well; not sure I am, though. The oracle means what it means and not what we think it means, yes. And we shouldn’t draw overly broad conclusions based on any specific experience. But isn’t it valid for particular readings to provide “aha!” moments (there’s a thread for that 🙂 ) and to illuminate facets of meaning?

    And are you both saying the same thing, really, about 46.4? Hilary says, “It’s often the case that ‘no mistake’ means ‘even though this looks very much like a mistake to you, it isn’t one’” […] “the optimal response is not to want it more and pursue it more avidly” […] “Then you have the foundation for a more real, more connected progress: good fortune, no mistake.”

    I mean, if Yi selects a particular line as its response to specific questions, don’t we somehow have to interpret the answer in light of the questions? I agree that if we can’t do that, it often means that the oracle hasn’t “spoken” to us yet (or that we haven’t yet been able to “receive” the message), but what Hilary is trying to do (I think) is aggregate a larger quantity of readings to make sense of the line. More of a general pattern that forms from a lot of data?

    Not sure I’m correctly understanding the gist here, though…anxious to see how this develops…

  5. Oh, well, first of all, comment timing overlap…and then argh, I will henceforth just stop it with the HTML tags.

    Hilary, if you were to be so kind as to remove all that italic nonsense it would be fine with me…as you wish…

    Yes, I’ve gotten the impression from other things I’ve read here that hex 11 isn’t “cuddly.” Will wait to see rather than hug prematurely!

    Due to the aforementioned timing mishap, I hadn’t seen your response to SJM when I posted. Another lesson: refresh the screen before clicking Submit…

  6. 46.3 does not say anything about the city except that it’s empty. Historical background (I will never cease to be grateful for your book) suggests that the emptiness of the abandoned city could mean mourning for some, a sense of ease for others, depending on their relationship to what used to be there. Yi doesn’t mention either mourning or ‘sense of ease’.

    Quite true, the idea of ease in the traditional exegesis comes from the Xiaoxiang commentary originally, then was developed by later commentators. My own experience has confirmed this in actual use, whereas you have used your own and others’ experience to come up with two contradictory ideas, both of which cannot be right.

    The story of Jizi passing the ruins of the Shang capital after the conquest that I mentioned in ‘The Mandate of Heaven’ I do believe relates to this line, but the sense I draw from that is of a time when all troubles are behind one and one reflects, naturally, on how a state of quiet victory has emerged out of a time of great trouble. Notice how hexagram 46 at the third position casts its shadow back to hexagram 7, ‘The Army’. The third line of hexagram 7, that which changes the hexagram into 46, deals directly with this former conflict of dynastic change in the image of King Wen’s corpse being carried into battle. How far one is from that when Jizi passes Yinxu, the ‘Ruins of Yin’, literally ’empty city’.

    It is now a time of ease, is it not? The mournful aspect, if there is one, is a reflection on the terrible strife out of which one has ascended, but which is now long passed, rather than some selfish ‘bitter disappointment’ kept fresh by the ‘little person’ that for some reason you see in it, based, I suspect, on some experience that has not been fully digested and integrated, and thereby truly connected to the oracle rather than merely flung at it as if it fits. The entire point of the line is to take advantage of the newfound ease and to press on without any misgivings due largely to disappointments in the past.

    I’ve found the oracle speaks very plainly to very ordinary, small people when we are right in the middle of longing for all the wrong things.

    It is a little disingenuous to equate ‘ordinary person’ with what the Yijing refers to as ‘little person’. While this latter term was originally a term denoting lowly rank in society it later under the guidance of Confucianism became a term denoting lack of character, regardless of worldly status. The xiaoren or ‘little person’, as I would have thought you were aware, is the one who acts from petty motives, whereas the junzi or ‘noble’ is one who acts from elevated principles. The so-called ‘ordinary person’ may be a person of character or a scoundrel, or somewhere oscillating between the two. It has nothing to do with the Yijing being a book for the elite, it is a book for those of character. It does not dilly-dally with those who indulge shallow motives. While the Yijing may help such an ‘ordinary person’ to overcome their petty attitudes it will do so by educating them, not by indulging them.

  7. Correction: Yinxu, ‘Ruins of Yin’, is not literally ’empty city’ (shows the degree to which I have identified the two in my mind), but rather the character xu appearing in that name and in 46/3 means both ‘ruins’ and ’empty’, suggesting an allusion that may prove fruitful to reflect upon since if the line alludes to a specific empty city, rather than a general empty city, then one may consider narratives concerning it in making an interpretation.

  8. I’m trying to understand your point at least acceptably well; not sure I am, though. The oracle means what it means and not what we think it means, yes. And we shouldn’t draw overly broad conclusions based on any specific experience. But isn’t it valid for particular readings to provide “aha!” moments (there’s a thread for that 🙂 ) and to illuminate facets of meaning?

    I regard a ‘aha!’ moment as connecting the enigmatic quality of one’s own experience with an enigmatic statement of the oracle, resolving two sides of a contradiction rather than retaining a contradiction and supposing what one understands has more validity than what the oracle says, even though one doesn’t grasp what the oracle says in terms of being able to resolve the contradiction.

    And certainly it is true that one can have ‘aha!’ moments that reveal one’s previous ‘aha!’ moments as just wrong. In practice, one’s ‘aha!’ moments have more value when they are long in the past and one simply has a sober and deep comprehension of the nature of what the oracle is saying without any need for ‘aha!’ moments, since they usually have something of the youthful enthusiasm of false revelation also, and only time reveals that.

  9. I can see a need for a post about learning about lines from experiences – what works, hidden pitfalls, and so on.

    Quite true, the idea of ease in the traditional exegesis comes from the Xiaoxiang commentary originally, then was developed by later commentators. My own experience has confirmed this in actual use, whereas you have used your own and others’ experience to come up with two contradictory ideas, both of which cannot be right.

    I understood the xiaoxiang to say ‘no occasion for doubt/hesitation’ – which to me doesn’t necessarily mean this is an easy time, just that there is nothing to stop for.

    My own experience with 46.3 did start with a disappointment; then I heard from many, many other people who’d also experienced it as a disappointment or just a non-event of some kind, often without any great emotional charge; then I heard of an experience where the non-event came as a great relief.

    That could indeed all seem to amount to two contradictory and mutually exclusive ideas, but I tried to explain in the original post what they have in common: the emptiness of the city. Nothing happening there. If you expected difficulties, the line ‘means’ ease; if you expected community, the line ‘means’ disappointment. All it can really be said to mean is what it says – emptiness.

    The third line of hexagram 7, that which changes the hexagram into 46, deals directly with this former conflict of dynastic change in the image of King Wen’s corpse being carried into battle. How far one is from that when Jizi passes Yinxu, the ‘Ruins of Yin’, literally ‘empty city’.

    A long way away, in time. Maybe not so far emotionally, since Jizi was loyal to the old regime. There’s also a lot to be said about the perspective 7.3 speaks from – when the Zhou carried the corpse, they won; in this line, if maybe the army carries corpses, it means misfortune.

    What the lines have in common: the image of something that was full of life, and now is not. It’s my view that there is a third ‘husk’ here, besides the corpse and the city: the story of the Zhou conquest. What was a dynamic, vital act for these heroes will not necessarily carry the same meaning and power if we try to duplicate it now.

    It is a little disingenuous to equate ‘ordinary person’ with what the Yijing refers to as ‘little person’. While this latter term was originally a term denoting lowly rank in society it later under the guidance of Confucianism became a term denoting lack of character, regardless of worldly status.

    I understand what you mean. But I think it’s rare that anyone can successfully evaluate another’s motives.

  10. What has evaluating another’s motives to do with anything? It is always solely about evaluating your own motives.

    So there we have it concerning the notion of disappointment and 46/3. An old interpretation born of your own experience, backed up by apparent agreement from others on your forum (presumably such experiences are being shared in the first place because they are not understood in terms of the traditional exegesis). Well, you are free to interpret anything any way you like, but I would suggest that if you disagree with traditional consensus since at least the Song dynasty you ought to have a good reason, otherwise the interpretation is bound to look a little ‘light’. The plain fact is that people misinterpret events and their own experience all the time, this indeed is the reason for consulting the Yijing isn’t it? If I cannot assure you about the actual meaning of this line, perhaps I will at least assure some others.

    Yes, the Xiaoxiang underscores the absence of doubt, rather than ease as such, but don’t you think absence of doubt implies ease? It seems to have done to the Song dynasty commentators. To add to your more recent database of experiences, let me say I cannot recall any instance of disappointment with this line, only joy at the sense of free passage. The only hesitant aspect would be that there wasn’t such ease previously, and one may still initially be a little concerned about trusting it, hence the Xiaoxiang says not to doubt it. But I suppose if one is still worrying away at past disappointments with a sense of entitlement then one may not be clear about this. But as I said, the Yijing doesn’t speak to the ‘little person’, who is usually too hunched over in personal trivia to see the changes being ushered in.

  11. Let me share one of my experiences with 46.3, because what Hilary had to say about it made perfect sense and enabled me to understand a reading from years ago:

    When I was young I was involved in a school-age contest, in which I did much better than I’d done before, better than I had any reason to expect, but not better than I’d hoped. (I didn’t win.) So both ideas were actually present – “ease” (surprising myself with a pretty good result), and disappointment (that I’d gotten that far without winning).

    My question was what my parents thought about it, and Yi gave me 46.3, which didn’t make sense to me until now. I think what Yi was telling me was exactly what I wrote above, but also that it was just something we “passed through” – significant at the time, but simply one event in the narrative of our lives. My parents were disappointed for me, but not disappointed in me; they were also pleased with the result, and we moved on.

    The fact that this is a very dull reading, now that I understand it, is actually amusing – “nothing to see here.” Indeed!

  12. Let me explain that last sentence a little bit more. I’m amused at the reading because I think Yi was both answering the question I asked, and also pointing out that I already knew all that. Hence the reading was telling me that the reading itself was an “empty city.” *g*

  13. Lisa, this just shows that people can draw all sorts of ‘sense’ from the Yijing, my point concerned not what sense you draw from it but rather what sense it intends.

    I see little point in revisiting old readings. They’re dead and gone. All that matters is how you interpret the oracle when you consult it. Retrospective appraisal doesn’t allow you to understand an old reading any better, it is just an idle exercise.

    There is also little point in asking an oracle what other people think about something. Notwithstanding that other people usually think a whole gamut of contradictory things and change their mind frequently, it is a dubious activity to frame questions in such a way as to imply a desire to pry into other people’s private business. If your reading meant anything, it simply meant that whatever worry you had concerning your parent’s opinion need not have concerned you. But even to say this much assumes too much, from whether you wrote the hexagram down right to whether you interpreted moving lines correctly, all sorts of things. It is an illusion to suppose one can even remember anything of the past with any accuracy, since events are always perceived through our assumptions at the time. I generally find the past is best discarded as soon as it arrives, because it has no greater concern for us.

  14. I agree that it was a trivial and probably silly question (now immortalized on the internet, hooray…)

    But I do feel I have a much better understanding of 46.3, which will help me in future readings when I encounter that line. That’s certainly not to say that 46.3 will always mean what I think it means in this example. But it’s a place to start, something to keep in mind. I’ll never again fail to consider the idea of “passing through emptiness” when I see that line.

  15. SJM – may I ask you a bigger question?

    I’m perfectly willing to admit that I’m a “‘little person,’ hunched over in personal trivia.” That’s quite accurate, actually. Except that my personal trivia usually doesn’t seem trivial to me. I doubt that I’m alone in this.

    What do you suggest we do? How do you suggest we use the I Ching? How do you suggest we learn it?

  16. Well, xu, ’empty’, can mean the ‘false’ or ‘unreal’ or ‘insubstantial’, but what is that in terms of a city? I don’t see how sense is served by regarding the line as referring to a mirage.

  17. I’m perfectly willing to admit that I’m a “‘little person,’ hunched over in personal trivia.” That’s quite accurate, actually. Except that my personal trivia usually doesn’t seem trivial to me. I doubt that I’m alone in this.

    What do you suggest we do? How do you suggest we use the I Ching? How do you suggest we learn it?

    If your personal trivia doesn’t seem trivial to you how can you say it is trivia? You either recognise it or you don’t. What is the point of ‘willingly’ identifying with the ‘little person’? If you see aspects of petty personality, then overcome them, but certainly don’t just live with them as if you are unable to do any better. You are only stuck in conditioned behaviour to the degree to which you show little interest in doing anything about it. You may say how can you attend to things you can’t see, but that was never the point, the point was to attend to what you can see in the hope that through doing that you will come to see more and then be able to attend to that. Study of the Yijing should clarify this for anyone with an intent to rise above the ‘small’ aspects of their own personality, but that is only the beginning. The beginning though is all you have. There is a Chinese saying: ‘Off by a fraction at the beginning, far of the mark at the end.’

  18. Hilary:
    Thank you for cleaning up the italics; I hate leaving messes on people’s nice clean websites. More importantly, this article is terrific. Maybe someday you’ll be able to publish a nice long book with things like this?? (You probably hear that all the time. And I do own your current, space-constrained book, and love it, and use it all the time.)

    SJM:
    I was responding to your distinction: “The xiaoren or ‘little person’…is the one who acts from petty motives, whereas the junzi or ‘noble’ is one who acts from elevated principles.

    If something really seems trivial or petty to me, it doesn’t occur to me to divine about it, so I guess in that sense I “never” divine about trivia? (I doubt that’s what you meant.) Often things will seem trivial in hindsight, after they’ve worked themselves out and the roof hasn’t caved in. But isn’t that universally true? Today’s crisis is tomorrow’s trivia, assuming we’re still intact? Are you saying that we can learn to tell the difference in advance, and then only divine about the “real” problems?

    How? (I don’t see it.)

    On the other issue, my impression is that you’ve invested a lot of time here saying what not to do: don’t ask about petty things, don’t learn from previous readings or experience or commentaries or aha! moments and so forth, but do understand the oracle “on its own terms” and do develop a “sober and deep conprehension of the nature of what [it] is saying.”

    Again, how? I suspect your reponse might be along the lines of “from first principles, by studying the original Chinese,” which you alluded to, but that would mean an awful lot of people who use the I Ching, shouldn’t. Most of us rely on what people like you and Hilary write, our own experience, and that of others. (And doesn’t this apply to almost every field of knowledge, not just the I Ching?)

    So my suggestion is to pay attention to beginnings. The rest will look after itself.

    In a hex 3 way? Is that a reasonable way to look at that?

    Anyway. This has gone far afield, and there’s a lot to think about, so I will do just that. Thank you.

  19. Hexagram 3 deals with one type of beginning, all the rest of the hexagrams have their own types of beginnings. By paying attention to beginnings I mean in a ‘knowing the seeds’ way.

    If you read back you will see that the context for the remark about ‘trivia’ neither concerned the type of question people ask nor was it a judgment on the relative value of anyone’s personal concern, but rather it was an observation that after the Yijing has been consulted the ego’s attachment to personal drama can cause misinterpretation of what the oracle is saying, such that the message offered to the junzi (‘noble’) is supplanted by one that appeals to the xiaoren ‘(little person’). In such a case the oracle has ‘not spoken’, because the one for whom the message is intended is not there.

  20. I can see how that is different. I suspect one way it shows up is if I’m emotionally keyed up about something, don’t understand the reading, and then think the I Ching is refusing to answer the question. (Usually followed by 20 questions trying to “clarify”…)

    That is one reason why I do find readings valuable in retrospect, and learn from them – the emotional charge is gone, so I can see the message more clearly and objectively. (Though that wasn’t the case in the example I gave; I just didn’t “get it.” The “just passing through” aspect of 46.3 had never clicked with me until I read this blog post.)

    I do still see your original context as a discussion of people’s character and motives (Feb. 13th, 5:54 pm, last paragraph), so thank you for clarifying that. You also made the point that an “ordinary person” is not just one way or the other, but a combination.

    I think a lot of us are bad at “evaluating [our] own motives.” (Feb. 13, 9:07 pm) Maybe this is where what Hilary said in the Line 6 section helps: Yi is “…really not shy about telling people who are headed blindly into trouble, moved by not-so-spiritual impulses, to stop.” Indeed!

    Good discussion – thank you.

  21. Oh woe! I tried to preserve your italics, Hilary, found and used a “HTML previewing” website to check it – and STILL messed up. *will REALLY not use tags again*

  22. Reflecting on a reading in retrospect is useful when it is still ‘the time’, as when you look back to an enigmatic reading a day or two later and find it clear. But looking back to very old readings involves too much mental reconstruction of the events. I used to write readings in a notebook when I started consulting the Yijing. When I read through them after about two years all I was struck by was the stupidity of most of the questions, how few of them needed to be asked. This was a valuable insight, but once I’d had it I no longer kept records.

    The quest to understand the Yijing through a database of previous readings is actually a way to ensure there is little change in your manner of interpreting, it dulls spontaneity and freshness. And reliance on a database of other people’s experiences of hexagrams is even worse, a pseudo-exegesis of the masses, a statistical leveling of meaning to a lowest common denominator of misunderstanding. While one may wish to take advantage of just a few particularly insightful commentaries that have been published, reliance on other people’s divinatory experiences is a good way to ensure you don’t develop your own insight. Even relying on one’s own previous experiences holds one back from new understanding.

    One rarely understands a hexagram before one has misinterpreted it at least ten times, to go back to old understandings is often to go back to old misunderstandings. The difference between understanding and misunderstanding is usually very slight.

    As for what you regard as the ‘just passing through’ aspect of hexagram 46/3, it depends what you mean by that. To me, that sounds like devaluing the change, but if you mean not seeking gain then that would be closer I’d say.

    (Use the em tag for italic rather than the i tag.)

  23. Well…I see it the opposite way, I suppose. I guess it could result in the lowest common denominator, as you say, but I’ve always thought that studying how Yi uses particular lines could illuminate a broader range of meaning, rather than narrow it to a cliche. You see the line from different angles and get a more multi-dimensional sense of it. I don’t invest that kind of time very often – but I’d hate to just scrap all databases and lose the possibility.

    What I don’t do is have an aha! moment, and then conclude that it’s the only correct interpretation of the line, in all cases, forevermore. (I think that would be hard to do, actually, just because future situations are bound to be different enough.) But it is very nice to feel you’ve understood SOMETHING.

    As we’re taught, the I Ching is necessarily…is “cryptic” the right word? so its limited vocabulary can apply to wildly different things – relationships, the meaning of life, where are the car keys. Given that, we beginners don’t really understand ANYTHING, and we need (I think) successful experiences to help us.

    Would you be willing to mention a few commentaries that you think are worthwhile? Maybe you’ve listed them elsewhere? (I have fallen into the trap of using “cliche” commentaries, some of which had no translation text at all – now I at least make sure to look at translation first, and only then the commentary.)

    One rarely understands a hexagram before one has misinterpreted it at least ten times […] The difference between understanding and misunderstanding is usually very slight.

    Very interesting…good to remember…applies to more than the I Ching, probably. You can have something explained to you over and over, and then someone’s particular way of saying it sinks in.

    …to go back to old understandings is often to go back to old misunderstandings.

    Only if you fail to recognize them as misunderstandings? Don’t you find that it sometimes jumps right out, because you know more now than you did then?

    Re: my 46.3 example – I’m not sure what you mean by “not seeking gain.” The biggest thing I’ve learned from this blog post, as applied to that particular reading, is “passing/progressing through an empty city” = “passing through an event in our lives.” There are events every day, we experience them, and then it’s tomorrow and something else happens. It wasn’t of a magnitude to have lasting impact.

    (This really was one of those “trivial” questions that, as you say, didn’t need to be asked. But it is a very illuminating (to me) example of 46.3, which is why I recounted it here. Before reading this blog post, I thought 46.3 meant either “easy progress” or “you’ve captured an empty city, not much of a prize, what good is it?” Neither of those fit, but “just passing through” does, and it clicked with me.)

    (Have used those dastardly tags again. Clearly I lie (em – thank you).)

  24. …reliance on other people’s divinatory experiences is a good way to ensure you don’t develop your own insight. Even relying on one’s own previous experiences holds one back from new understanding.

    I agree about reliance, but I’ve found drawing on experience (along with historical background, commentary tradition and structural context) to be essential in building understanding.

  25. Hilary — Of course you draw on experience, but I’m talking about doing it spontaneously and freshly, not as a matter of plodding reference. Experience is not static, previous experience is reinterpreted, it composts and yields new ideas. Immediately going back to some previous written record stops this dead.

    Lisa — Apart from Wilhelm of course, the Richmond books on my site I have found to be continually useful commentaries:

    http://www.biroco.com/yijing/richmond.htm

  26. Thank you for the link; I’ll download those.

    Not using experience robotically – yes. But you did start by advocating not looking at previous readings and not even keeping records. That would (unavoidably) leave our memory of them, which you’ve correctly pointed out is untrustworthy. I get more out of previous readings if I bothered to make notes at the time. If I turn up readings that I barely remember, I naturally pay much less attention to them. Sometimes I know at the time that a reading is significant in some way; other times I realize it only after some time has passed.

    Probably we’re arriving at the same point – experience is valuable if one uses it properly, is aware of the pitfalls, and tries to avoid them. Which, I believe, Hilary said would be the subject of a whole new blog post! 🙂

  27. “Hilary — Of course you draw on experience, but I’m talking about doing it spontaneously and freshly, not as a matter of plodding reference. Experience is not static, previous experience is reinterpreted, it composts and yields new ideas. Immediately going back to some previous written record stops this dead.”

    This is just quibbling that almost borders on harrassment. At every point your main motive appears to be asserting your superiority over Hilary….and others . I would see this need to display superiority as very much a trait of the ‘little people’ whose thoughts and experiences you so despise. Wouldn’t you ?

    To make these statements about the ‘little people’ I asssume you must feel yourself to be a ‘noble junzi’ yet I can’t see it as quality of the noble junzi that he would proclaim he knew who the I Ching would and would not answer. In that respect you remind me of a priest in some old religion, telling people only he could speak to God, jealously afraid that the populace should ever be empowered by knowledge from their own learning and their own connection with the Source of wisdom.

    . First you say Hilary should pay no attention to ‘small people’s’ readings as if there were just one standard meaning for 46.3 and that you know it..(which is obviously nonsense.)and therefore anyone who actually clothes the line in their own experience of it should be dismissed out of hand…So in effect you were saying unless people tailored their perception closely to your idea of the meaning of 46.3 and erase their own personal connection of their experience of the line then they are merely deluded small people Yi does not talk to…..unlike you who presumably Yi does talk to.

    Hmm so more than anyone else ever Hilary has bought the I Ching to real people to use in their real lives and she has the humility to be open to the meaning of their experiences as we are all still learning about the I Ching and yet you say she is plodding and not fresh and so on..?

    Lets look at that paragraph again

    “Hilary — Of course you draw on experience, but I’m talking about doing it spontaneously and freshly, not as a matter of plodding reference. Experience is not static, previous experience is reinterpreted, it composts and yields new ideas. Immediately going back to some previous written record stops this dead.”

    Initially you said people had to adhere strictly to your idea of a meaning as written down…..or ideas and expereinces were just little people’s egoic imaginings. But here you turn this idea around to make out Hilary is the plodding one relying soley on dead words. No no no, that’s your idea of Yi …..how dare we, those so far beneath you, even imagine our experiences with the I Ching are even real ?!

    Hilary is actually doing something immensely creative and exciting here on her blog and on her forum. She is connecting up people and their experiences with the I Ching. There is nothing fusty or dead or stale about that.

  28. I got this hexagram, with line 4 changing, in response to asking for advice about a job interview. I was basically given the brush off. Although the line insists there is “no mistake,” it is hard to see what is gained by having attempted the interview at all. Perhaps the advice lay in choosing not to go and make the mistake in the first place. I was actually contemplating not even showing up, and sadly I think the prospective employer wouldn’t even have noticed.

  29. Thanks for sharing that one – and I’m sorry about the job interview. With that line, I wouldn’t be surprised if something better shows up for you, though not what you were aiming for.

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