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Using the Sequence in readings

I’m working, bit by bit, on an advanced Yijing course – sharing ideas with Change Circle members as I go along. I’ve started with the Sequence of Hexagrams.

On the one hand, this is a nice, simple place to start, as using the Sequence is about as un-technical as you can get. You look at the preceding hexagram to see where you’ve been on the road, or what you need to travel through to arrive at the cast hexagram. It’s intuitively obvious, straightforward, and works well.

And on the other hand, there turns out to be a lot more than that to the Sequence. The Gritter grid, vessel casting patterns, little trigram changes and long trigram sequences, not to mention all the patterns Scott Davis has found… a whole complex fabric of reflections and connections. Should I try to take all these into account in readings, too? It’s all very beautiful… but then again, it’s not ‘facts about the hexagram’ but ‘facts about how they’re arranged’, so how intrinsic is it, really?

…and so on. So in addition to going through volumes of past readings to see how/ when/ whether this kind of awareness might have helped, I also asked Yi:

How to use the Sequence in readings?

Yi says 25.4.6 to 3: Without Entanglement, its Sprouting.

(I’ll talk about the two hexagrams now, and the moving lines in my next post.)

Primary hexagram 25, Without Entanglement

|::|||Use it without entanglement. What’s entanglement? Involvement with something barren and futile: anything unfounded. An ‘entangled’ claim is pretentious, an action foolhardy, a belief deluded. It’s why the oracle of 25 insists on uprightness or correctness: the character shows a foot stopped at the line, in the right place. The Shijing speaks of the turtle oracle making a new town ‘correct’, meaning founded in the right place.

‘Without entanglement.
Creating success from the source, constancy bears fruit.
One who is not upright commits blunders,
And it is fruitless to have a direction to go.’

Without Entanglement, you are in touch with the creative force all the way from origin to fruition: yuan heng li zhen. But if you are not upright and correct – which has a lot to do with being grounded, as well as morally upright – then you blunder. That is, your vision is clouded, and you make errors because you don’t understand where you are. Setting intentions to be elsewhere is not going to help.

In readings, I’ve often found that 25’s entanglement is with past or future – or both. To be Without Entanglement is to be fully grounded in the present moment, fully aware. ‘Direction to go’ is unlikely to help because it tends to distract from the here and now. The ancient kings nourished the ten thousand things in accord with the seasons, not with a Five Year Strategic Plan.

That’s odd, because the Sequence certainly looks like a way to consider past and future. But using it without entanglement would mean using it as a way to be more in touch with where you are – not to become preoccupied with all the other places you might be, or might have been (but aren’t). It’s only useful in answering the question, ‘What time is it now?’

The Sequence doesn’t work as a formulaic story: ‘You have hexagram 49? Then you must have been building and exploring your way of interacting (outer dui trigram 43-49), and now you must be about to found a new way of living (50), and then spend time processing and integrating the changes (51-2) and ‘marrying into’ the world (53-4) and…’ That would be entangled: plunking the reading into a formula and the querent into a chain of inevitability – and in the process, forfeiting the spontaneous, individual connection that makes a reading real.

Relating hexagram 3: Sprouting

|:::|:The second hexagram is Sprouting and Beginning: putting out roots, establishing feudal lords, getting a feel for where you are by growing connections to your surroundings. How to use the Sequence in readings? Use it, without entanglement, to begin a reading – to become well-rooted in the themes and possibilities of your hexagram environment and start to weave order from chaos.

The xugua, the Wing that describes the Sequence, actually begins at hexagram 3. Sprouting is also the opening of the whole vessel casting process: the complex enterprise of creating a container (an understanding, a reading) begins with setting up those feudal lords.

Feudal lords provide lines of connection, communication and support through territories much too big to grasp on your own. They look to me a lot like the structures and landmarks of the Sequence: ‘You have hexagram 49? Then the lake-series of the 40s might bring you messages about this dui on the outside, that now you’re finally lighting up from within; the great casting-mould from 3 to 50 might lend support to your sense of creating something new…’

 Primary and relating hexagrams together

´Without entanglement.
Creating success from the source, constancy bears fruit.
One who is not upright commits blunders,
And it is fruitless to have a direction to go.´

Creating success from the source, constancy bears fruit.
Don’t use this to have a direction to go,
Fruitful to establish feudal lords.’

These oracle texts have two things in common. The first is yuan heng li zhen, ‘creating success from the source, constancy bears fruit.’ The four characters only occur together like this in a select few hexagrams. They point to a creative essence and its power and drive towards realisation. To me, seeing this formula twice in the reading suggests that use of the Sequence is a way to connect with that essence – with the heart of the oracle. The Sequence is something potent and real, telling us how things connect and unfold.

And the second thing they have in common: a distinct wariness about ‘having a direction to go’. Direction (intention, purpose, narrative…) may emerge from fully understanding where you are and being in right relationship to it – from being upright, from establishing feudal lords. It’s certainly no use to you without that.

This reminds me – intensely – of divination. It happens when a reading gives someone a way into the true nature and potential of the present moment. Then they can join their own initiative with the full reality, just as, in 25’s trigrams, inner thunder joins with heaven.

This oracle isn’t called the Book of The Inevitable, with the hexagrams chained together in fixed sequence: its defining characteristic is that any hexagram can change into any other. The real, actual connections of any reading are found in its changing lines; we know that the message of a changing line takes precedence in a reading.

So when using the Sequence, the message seems pretty clear: don’t try to use it to see where you’re going; use it to understand where you are. As a starting point, the Sequence contributes to your awareness of how you got here, what’s different about this moment, what your choices are – your feel for the moment as crossroads.

(Moving lines – and a bit more on the Sequence – to follow!)


thunder under heaven

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