I recently had an email from ‘M’, who’s baffled by a recent reading. M’s particular question was a little unusual, asking what he himself is really looking for in a given situation, but the basic problem he’s having is familiar:
“Essentially, I am confused as how to interpret the original hexagram, changing lines and subsequent resulting hexagram as the two hexagrams seem contradictory.”
The first hexagram looks like something he might want; the second doesn’t. So…
“Is it possible that currently, I want what the first hexagram describes but will inevitably evolve through the changing lines to desire what the resulting hexagram describes or is the oracle suggesting that I may avoid wanting the second hexagram by correcting my path before the 6 at the top changes?”
This is something I have
ranted written about before – the splendid nonsense that’s created when we try to string hexagrams and lines out along a timeline, where the primary hexagram and its lines always cause the relating hexagram. If we just stop doing that, and instead read what we cast – just one six-line figure, one unit of meaning, that can contain the meeting of two hexagrams – then the nonsense evaporates.
Here’s a step-by-step way of approaching this. (In practice, naturally, it’s not so formulaic – but I think this is a decent starting point.)
Look at the two hexagrams together
– and imagine ways they might fit together to make a single answer to your question.
This is an exploratory, speculative stage, looking at possible relationships between the hexagrams. Those relationships are shaped by two major factors: the general nature of that primary hexagram-relating hexagram interaction, and the natural movement of the hexagrams themselves. ’46 changing to…’ can be ‘pushing upward through’, ’25 changing to’ can be ‘disentangling from…’, ’61 changing to…’ can be ‘experiencing the inner truth of…’, and so on.
(24 changing to 23 feels like a special case, since the hexagrams work together as a pair, and each already implies the other. I imagine M might be looking for Return amidst Stripping Away.)
The overall nature and shape of that interaction between the hexagrams within a reading is a beautifully complicated and elusive thing. A simple phrase I like to start with in many readings is ‘the [relating hexagram] of [primary hexagram]’ – relating hexagram as an aspect of/ perspective on the primary. 34 (Great Vigour) .1.2 to 62 (Small Excess) – might be the experience of applying Great Vigour and having it set in proportion, reduced to size. 38 (Opposing).2 to 21 (Biting Through): how otherness meets, comes together incisively, creating a working unit. 33 (Retreat).1.3 to 25 (Without Entanglement): the disengaging part of retreating, where you recognise what is and isn’t yours.
Expect to find each hexagram present now
Part of M’s difficulty, I think, was that he’d relegated Hexagram 23 to the future – whether possible or inevitable – which made it fantastically hard to imagine or relate to. Usually, both hexagrams are present and recognisable – and the relating hexagram especially, as the more personal, subjective one. M surely doesn’t want 23 – that experience of loss, of the futility of purposeful action, of having things torn away from you… – but he mentioned that he’s changing his life to care for his mother, who’s seriously ill. So Hexagram 23 appeared as the emotional landscape, the backdrop to all his experience: it’s something he accepts, while Return is something he aspires to.
Then look to the moving lines…
…within this context. Seeing the reading as a single unit, you’re looking at the primary hexagram with the relating hexagram ‘shining through’ it, moving lines lighting up as if a current flowed at the points of difference between them. So the line texts are a portrait of the interaction of the two hexagrams – and as simple or as confusing as any human situation…