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Reading structure, and why it matters

Reading structure, and why it matters

As I prepare for the Yijing Foundations Class, I’m realising there are really just two essential elements for dependable readings: being able to connect with imagery, and knowing your way round the structure of a reading. This post’s about structure.

At its very simplest, a reading’s structure is just the cast hexagram, its changing lines, and the hexagram that results from the change. I follow Stephen Karcher and call the cast hexagram the ‘primary hexagram’ and changed hexagram ‘relating’, because this best describes how they work in readings.

Why’s the structure so important?

The structure of a reading shows you where you are.

It saves you from getting confused by apparent ‘contradictions’ between different parts of the reading: they fit together as parts of a whole, like the walls and the roof of a house. (No-one says the walls ‘contradict’ the roof…)

Hexagrams and lines join together to make a framework that holds all the different texts. This means your reading makes sense as a whole, and you hear it as a coherent answer to your question, instead of a random string of unrelated utterances.

An example reading

To illustrate this, here’s a very recent reading from my journal. You’ll need a little background to get it, though since this is a boring business-y one, I’ll try to keep that to a minimum.

A bit of background

I write blog posts, and share them on social media… where they’re seen by anything up to 5% of the people who follow Clarity there and then sink without trace. Not ideal.

The obvious solution is to post them again, and again – but that kind of thing can easily take up way too much time. Instead, you can pay for services to queue up your posts and share them automatically. There’s a really good one that reposts excerpts from each new post you make over the course of several months – and though it’s too expensive for me normally, now it’s on sale. Hm…

Question and answer

Question for Yi:

‘If I buy this and do the work to set it up and use it, what effect will that have for Clarity?’

Answer: Hexagram 27, Nourishment (Jaws), changing to 19, Nearing

changing to

I’ll admit it: the first thing I did was read the moving lines to go to the heart of the answer. (Did I mention I really wanted this software, and the sale only lasted 72 hours?)

‘Unbalanced nourishment.
Rejecting the standard, looking to the hill-top for nourishment.
Setting out to bring order – pitfall.’

Hexagram 27, line 2

‘Origin of nourishment. Danger, good fortune.
Fruitful to cross the great river.’

Hexagram 27, line 6

Ugh. Well… line 2 is about as discouraging as it could get, and line 6 isn’t clearly encouraging enough to outweigh that, so perhaps I’m not buying this after all, no matter how tempting it is. But it would be nice to know why not…

How do the two hexagrams relate?

This is one of the first questions I ask about a reading with changing lines: what’s the relationship? How might the two hexagrams work together?

The relationship between hexagrams was originally described with the word zhi: this is Nourishing zhi Nearing. Zhi is a possessive, so that’s ‘Nourishing’s Nearing’. There are several ways to imagine/ approach this; one useful one is to think of ‘aspects’. If there were a Nearing aspect of Nourishment, what could that be?

‘Nourishment: constancy brings good fortune.
See the jaws,
Your own quest for something real to fill your mouth.’

Hexagram 27, Oracle

Oh… maybe the quest for something real? That would be a reason to Near.

(Aside: also, the word ‘See’ in ‘See the jaws’ is the name of Hexagram 20, the paired hexagram of 19.)

So that puts special emphasis on the quest – on being increasingly present in search of nourishment.

…and what can I recognise?

What can I recognise from this in the situation? (Or – if that’s the big picture of the two hexagrams, where am I in relation to it all?)

27 can be a very simple hexagram: yes, it covers all kinds of nourishment, spiritual, intellectual, social and so on, but it’s also simply about how you get fed. I want to know whether, if I buy this, it’ll help me pay the bills.

(And when you look at the Image, it’s also about how you feed other people – the whole cycle of mutual nourishment. I’m asking about a system for ‘feeding’ articles to people.)

Also, although I’m calling it ‘Nourishment’, its name literally translates as Jaws – not just food, but the system and structure that makes nourishment possible. What structure is in place to feed people with articles and feed the website with new visitors? (Answer: not much of one yet, but I’m working on it!)

I recognise Hexagram 19 as the promise of the software: you can be more present and come closer to people with more (and better-designed) posts. This is the relating hexagram because it’s what I’m looking and hoping for.

Now when I put the two hexagrams together, I can see the whole picture Yi’s painting for me: here you are, looking to provide your business with dependable nourishment through Nearing. There’s the driving force of ‘your quest for something real to fill your mouth,’ and the hope that by Nearing (as promised by this software, but also just in general) I can find what I’m looking for.

How does that work out?

So… is that going to work? What happens when you look for Nourishment by Nearing? That’s the question I’m really asking – and the changing lines, the heart of the reading, are where I’ll find the most direct answer to my question.

‘Unbalanced nourishment.
Rejecting the standard, looking to the hill-top for nourishment.
Setting out to bring order – pitfall.’


‘Origin of nourishment. Danger, good fortune.
Fruitful to cross the great river.’


Still ‘ugh’, with a touch of ‘ouch’. Line 2 looks as though I’m suffering from a bad case of Shiny Object Syndrome: looking to the hill-top for the magic system. And then I’m trying to bring order to my efforts by systematising them more thoroughly, and that’s an excruciatingly bad idea.

How come? Well, I can see a link to hexagram 19 and its need for patience – ‘arrival at the eighth month means misfortune.’ Line 2 seems to be hurrying and pushing far too much.

Line 6 feels quite different – it seems to speak from a different place. And, of course, it does speak from a different place: line 2 comes from the inner heart, reaching out for connection; line 6 is on the outside, no longer needy. It’s the still point (the top of the mountain trigram; the upper jaw, that doesn’t move). Line 2’s unbalanced; line 6 could be that point of balance.

(Listening to the different voices of different line positions is another aspect of reading structure we go into in Foundations).

It reminds me of a second aspect of Hexagram 19: its generous presence –

‘Above the lake is earth. Nearing.
A noble one teaches and reflects untiringly,
Accepts and protects the ordinary people without limit.’

Hexagram 19, Image

This kind of Nearing might be willing to be the source of nourishment, despite the danger. (What danger? Maybe it’s because you’re all there is, at the origin, with no safety net; maybe because you might be devoured.) From here, it’s fruitful to cross the river, take the plunge – cross into new territory.

What could that be? Well… not posting on my blog in the same way I’ve done for going on 20 years and setting up an automated system to be my ‘presence’ on social media: that all feels like staying safely on this bank. It’s got to mean trying something new and being more available, hasn’t it?

To find out more about March’s Foundations Class and sign up to the waiting list, visit this page!

2 responses to Reading structure, and why it matters

  1. I think for me, it”s important to ‘relate’ the primary with the relating as soon as possible. In theory, this sounds right and in a perfect world the zhi that ties the two together makes for a nearly wrapped package. But then there’s the reality of it that says, “Seek and ye shall find” where the body parts must be checked and more often than not, rechecked to come up with the overall ‘image’. Sort of the ‘whole part whole’ concept where you have a notion of where the reading might be going but then “‘Whoa!’ this is so much deeper and richer than I first imagined.” I think it is more times than not, it is not until this point that the ‘exchange’ between Yi and me takes place on a more ‘healthy’ visual level.So to sum up, sometimes if not most times, at first glance, ‘things are not as they seem’, and the vision comes only after a bit of, or sometimes a lot of pondering has taken place.
    Am I on the right track or in left field here?

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