...life can be translucent

Hexagram 63 continued

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Hexagram 63

‘…and now the conclusion.’

So as I was saying… trigrams, in Hexagram 63. On the inside, li, fire and light: vision, awareness, lucidity. As an inner trigram, li tends to mean insight into the nature of the time. On the outside, kan, dark depths and unceasingly moving waters that can flow anywhere and take any shape. Everything unpredictable, ungraspable, unknowable – its only constant quality is that it changes.

The trigrams show awareness inside the stream: on the inside, the centre is open, listening and looking; on the outside, the whole stream of stuff keeps on happening, and we keep on acting and adapting.

The two trigrams are complementary – that is, they match up; you can imagine fitting them together like mould and cast, with the firm central line of kan fitting into the open space at the centre of li. In the same way, the noble one’s awareness is ‘fitted’ to the flow of experience. Awareness within the flow means the noble one has some powers of anticipation, and asks not only ‘Now what?’ but also ‘What could go wrong?’

‘Stream dwells above fire. Already across.
A noble one reflects on distress and prepares to defend against it.’

The characters for ‘reflects on distress’ are  (the links are to the Chinese Etymology site). As you can see, both characters contain ‘heart’, and ‘reflection’ is made of heart and head – full awareness. (It’s also intriguing that Richard Sears gives the meanings ‘remember, recall, mourn’ for the character – suggesting it has to do with looking back – in this case, perhaps as a way of looking forward.)

Projecting this constant, open-hearted anticipation into a flow of action is the noble one’s way of always beginning, not falling into the chaos of endings. I think this is not obsessive cogitation about what could go wrong, but more of a compassionate awareness of flows and tendencies – not unlike the noble one’s powers of anticipation in Hexagram 54, as the Marrying Maiden.

And this is followed by practical steps to prepare and defend. The defences, incidentally, are the same word as in 62.3: earth embankments. Perhaps we should be thinking in terms of flood defences.

(This might mean that in my excitable planning phases – those I mentioned in my last post, that are generally followed by a slither down a muddy bank – I need to think not only about all that’s possible with all this energy and enthusiasm, but also what I’ll do when I run out of that.)

The similarity to Hexagram 54 isn’t altogether coincidental. There are quite a few links between 53 and 54, the marriage hexagrams, and 63-64.

There’s the thematic link: you cross the river on the way to your marriage.

There’s a structural link: Already Across and Not Yet Across are a special kind of hexagram pair, what Schorre and Dunne call a ‘river crossing’ pair, formed both by inversion and complementarity. (That is, turning 63 upside down gives you 64, but so does changing every line of 63 to its opposite.) There are only four such pairs: 11-12 (whose nuclear hexagrams are 54-53), 17-18 (whose nuclear hexagrams are 53-54), 53-54 (whose nuclear hexagrams are 64-63) and 63-64 (whose nuclears are 64-63).

And there’s also a link in the zagua, the tenth and final Wing of the Yijing, which begins with hexagrams neatly arranged in their contrasting pairs, and ends… well… chaotically, with apparently unrelated hexagrams jumbled together in a tangle of rhymes. 63-64 are among these: instead of appearing as a contrasting pair, they show up like this:

‘Nourishment is correct; Already Across is settled.
Marrying maiden, a woman’s completion; Not Yet Across, a man’s exhaustion.’

That ‘completion’ is the same word as ‘endings’ as in ‘endings, chaos’. Also the ‘maiden’ herself is etymologically-speaking a ‘not-yet woman’ – as in ‘not yet across’.

The concepts of these hexagrams are utterly intertwined – rather than trying to disentangle and arrange them tidily, I think it’s better to point (with a certain amount of enthusiastic hand-waving) to connecting themes: completion and incompletion, ways and ways of being settled*, different kinds of strength, male and female (archetypally so rather than biologically, I think), and how they’re adapted to handle (in)completion.

* The 63 way of being ‘settled’, by the way, shows a footstep arrived under a roof – the kind of ‘settled’ you have when you’ve arrived home, perhaps once you’re married and ready for ‘happily ever after’. 27’s ‘correctness’ shows that footstep simply arrived. A fully realised 27-situation would be a self-sustaining, self-balancing ecosystem of mutual support. 63-ness… not quite the same.

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could create smooth, logical transitions and evolutions between one part of this post and the next? I suppose that was never really going to happen. Ah well. Other things I find intriguing about hexagram 63…

Its nuclear hexagram

I do love the way 63 and 64 – as well as being one another’s complement and inversion – are also one another’s nuclear hexagram. Each contains the other, in a kind of infinite matryoshka doll regress. At one extreme of the Sequence of Hexagrams are pure absolutes that are their own nuclear hexagrams: the Creative is the Creative and Earth is always Earth, no matter how you slice them. Here at the other end, we have something absolutely human, with the struggle to hang on to gains and stay afloat, slippery muddy banks and of course the fine balance between too much alcohol and just enough. What’s complete is incomplete is complete is incomplete; what’s done is undone is done is undone… . These are hexagrams for housework, or the email inbox, or (heaven help us) ‘life lessons’.

Its smallness

Already Across follows – maybe surprisingly – from Hexagram 62:

‘Going past others naturally means crossing the river, and so Already Across follows.’

That’s ‘going past’ as in ‘exceeding’ in the name of Hexagram 62, which means transgressing, crossing the line, going beyond. If you keep on going a bit beyond what’s normal and doing a bit more than the ‘done thing’ – always just a bit, always small and down-to-earth – you find this amounts to crossing the river: a real commitment and real progress.

The smallness persists, though: being already across creates small success, or shows a small offering accepted. And in the fifth line, the Zhou people (the Eastern neighbour) are making a true spiritual connection through a small scale offering.

This attention to the small stuff is all part of keeping on beginning. The lines are also mostly small-scale: a wet tail, a lost carriage screen, leaks to be plugged. Expect difficulty, don’t get sidetracked, safeguard your gains, stay afloat, stay connected, don’t get carried away. (One of King Wen’s reproaches to Shang in the Song I quoted: it wasn’t heaven that got you drunk.)

The third line, of course, is not small scale –

‘The high ancestor attacks the Demon Country.
Three years go round, and he overcomes it.
Don’t use small people.’

That’s a large scale and long term military undertaking, and not for small people. Yet it’s this line’s change that shows the connection to Hexagram 3, Sprouting – or ‘Difficulty Beginning’. (This 60-hexagram gulf, by the way, is the largest distance bridged by a single line-change anywhere in the Yi.)

It’s a very apt zhi gua (anyone would think someone designed this…): the moment where Already Across encounters Difficulty Beginning. That’s the anxious line 3 moment: peering out across the threshold, asking ‘What could this actually mean in practice?’ 63 might say ‘We’ve arrived!’ but 3 knows it’s only beginning. 63 might have conquered a great realm and founded a grand new regime, but 3 experiences this as just a tiny garrison camp in the middle of strange territory.

3 responses to Hexagram 63 continued

  1. Hi Hillary
    I am not already across but rather the characteristic of hexagram 3 which was where the main hexagram 63 went – sprouting. I imagine a seed – which needs to be planted, watered and with fingers crossed some energy to push up through the earth. It’s mid summer here – not the best time for sprouting outside so more an inside potted seed – odds raised with that. small 3 in bi territory. Very apt. My q. to yi has to do with my health and is very fitting all way round and seemed to move into the spiritual Light of Li – what is my commitment? I mistakenly want to rest when the fire still burns and water still flows.
    I very much appreciated your writing out a commitment on the 2015 page and lol thinking it came from already across – all illuminating.

    OLD Moon

    • Hello, Old Moon! You mean you had 63.3 to 3 about your health? Then yes, keep plugging away: issues can be resolved. At this line, the light of li translates into the action and initiative of zhen. You’ll get there.

  2. Hello Hilary,

    I am so glad I came upon this essay series. I’ve been thinking about 63.3 –> 3 for almost 4 years now. I am from the US, and it was the result of my reading, on 9 Nov. 2016, on the meaning of Donald Trump’s election.

    You write, “That’s the anxious line 3 moment: peering out across the threshold, asking ‘What could this actually mean in practice?’ 63 might say ‘We’ve arrived!’ but 3 knows it’s only beginning. 63 might have conquered a great realm and founded a grand new regime, but 3 experiences this as just a tiny garrison camp in the middle of strange territory.”

    Indeed! For those of us who were happy about progress made and optimistic about progress still to come, Trump came as a gut punch. And since then the realization just deepens that the project of government of, by & for the people has a long way to go.

    I continually find thinking about this reading bracing, clarifying and, ultimately, hopeful.

    Thanks for the work you do! Keep it up!


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