A ‘nuclear story’ (my term for something many people have described before me) is found within a single hexagram, by ‘unpacking’ its trigrams and nuclear trigrams. It unfolds a kind of ‘hidden adventure’ for the hexagram.
I realise I’ve written this up for Change Circle members in some detail (see this Wiki article and the linked pdf and call recording), but not really mentioned it on the blog, so here – as one more of the many ways that Yi is a ‘Book of Stories‘ – is a whirlwind tour.
A hexagram’s formed of two trigrams – lines 1,2,3 and 4,5,6. But folded up inside it, in overlapping lines, are another two trigrams: lines 2,3,4 and 3,4,5. Those are the nuclear trigrams. Put them together, and you have the nuclear hexagram, the heart or seed of the original.
But you can also combine main component trigrams with nuclear trigrams to form yet more ‘hidden hexagrams’. I’ve found it most satisfying to look at just three nuclear hexagrams:
- lines 123,234, making an ‘encounter’ or ‘Call’ hexagram
- lines 234,345, the true nuclear, the core work
- lines 345,456, expressing a higher potential, learning or gift
These three hexagrams between them tell the cast hexagram’s underlying story. You could think of it as a way to imagine the hexagram as a novel, or an epic poem… or a blockbuster film…
“ The Great Taming”
Our impulsive hero is called to take a stand, to speak up, to decide what she’s really about. Maybe her neighbourhood’s turning into a ghost town because everyone’s going to the soulless restaurant chain down the road, so she decides the place needs its own café, makes her case to the local authorities and gets permission to open her own…
…and then she finds that running a café is vastly bigger and more complicated than she ever imagined. All her plans amount to nothing, and she’s compelled to learn on her feet, divine what the locals really want, and adapt as she goes.
…so that ultimately she learns to nourish both her own life and her community in a sustainable way, and finds new equilibrium.
(Hexagram 26: ‘call’ nuclear hexagram 43, Deciding; true ‘work’ nuclear 54, Marrying Maiden; final, ‘higher’ nuclear 27, Nourishment.)
OK, perhaps that one isn’t blockbuster material. Maybe sci-fi…
Aboard the multi-species interstellar ship seeking a new planet to call home…
…there’s a catastrophic cascading systems failure that demands an unprecedented response…
…and they can only be saved from destruction by creative use of the different species’ unique characteristics. (The hive mind that can survive in vacuum and the individualist that can see in ultraviolet, or some such.)
(That one’s Hexagram 56: ‘call’ nuclear hexagram 53, true nuclear 28, ‘learning’ 38.)
Well, possibly I shouldn’t give up the day job – but hopefully you see what I mean, how the the three nuclear hexagrams can tell a story of their own.
If you receive Hexagram 56, the Traveller, you might encounter it at first as the flight of the geese, searching for a place to belong. You might find that the real work and adventure of being the traveller involves ‘standing alone without fear’, finding your environment won’t bear the weight of your true identity and purpose so you must carry it all yourself, feeling the stress of that and the risk of overstepping the mark. And ultimately you might have an opportunity to learn to live with difference at a higher and more creative level.
Nuclear stories reflected in changing lines
And… you can look not only at the hexagrams, but also the moving lines within the hexagrams. (I have Luis Andrade, Sparhawk in our I Ching Community, to thank for suggesting I look into this fully.)
So line 3 in Hexagram 56 is reflected at the very beginning of that hidden, inner story as 53.3.5:
If the protagonist of ‘Traveller’ were an anti-hero who triggered the system failure and lost friends… well, perhaps his back-story might involve losing his father to the failed settlement of an inhospitable planet, and a driving frustration at how long the journey is taking. Perhaps that’s why he burned out life support in an impatient attempt to boost the engines.
(Who knew this oracle would make it so easy to write clichéd sci-fi? We can probably get a romantic sub-plot out of 28.2.4, and the moral of the story from 38.1, in which our hero can only save the day by overcoming his reflexive aversion to the slug aliens. Or something.)
Outside Hexagram Cinema, though, how could you use this in real-life readings? Well… with discretion. Do I want to explore the full-length epic of a temperamental webserver, or a holey tooth? Probably not, no. But for a big question, something larger-scale and longer-term, nuclear stories come into their own.
When you’re not sure where to start or how to ‘get into’ a reading, the ‘Calling’ nuclear may give you a foothold. It answers questions like, ‘Yes, but why would that happen?’ or ‘Yes, but where’s that coming from?’
A big reading often works itself out in both waking and dreaming life – and the core nuclear can show those workings. Dream imagery especially can show up in the lines of nuclear hexagrams; it’s very exciting when that happens in a client’s reading. (When doing an in-depth reading for a client I always read through the full nuclear story, but I wouldn’t share it all in our first call – not when a single changing line can be reflected in as many as five nuclear story lines. It’s possible to have too much of a good thing.)
It also works itself out in other readings. I just found a smallish reading I cast showing up as the true nuclear hexagram (and moving line) of a bigger one; it’s surprising how often this happens. Yi’s redirecting my attention by showing me where smallish thing fits in the bigger scheme of things.
In conclusion? No conclusion, really… just explore, let your readings tell you stories, see where they take you. Also, the slug aliens really aren’t so bad.
Yijing, Book of Stories
– an anthology.