Tucked away in a hidden corner of Harmen Mesker’s Yijing site, there’s a very interesting blog, Lessons from the Lake. Its author is learning from Harmen how to read the Yi through its trigrams, and as she puts what she learns into practice she writes clear, detailed posts about it all.
An interested reader can follow along and will find a lot to digest: in-depth interpretations based on nothing but trigrams, an example of the use of baoti, and now a nuanced exploration of the view from different moving lines within a trigram. (A yang line in the third place that’s the top of a mountain might not be not the same thing as one that’s the highest moving current of the wind.)
As for ‘apple pie’… that comes from a suggestion of Harmen’s that the translator’s commentary is to the Yijing text as excessive sugar is to apple pie: you lose the flavour of the apples, or the Yi, altogether. Speaking as an author of a book-full of sugar (hopefully tempered with a little cinnamon), I couldn’t agree more.
However, with the method taught in this blog, the student isn’t allowed to look at a word of Yijing text – all the work’s done with trigrams and line positions. Following the original simile, I’d suggest this is more like ‘apple pie, no apples’: only the pastry that holds it all together. And yet it’s remarkable how much meaning can be teased out of this bare structure. It’s not nearly as dry as you might expect – you should try it.
(If we’re sticking with culinary metaphors… I’d say the Yi as a whole is more like a seven course meal, no doubt including some really excellent apple pie. Sitting at the dessert trolley, picking apples out of pastry, we might feel a little silly – but then again, we also might not do ourselves so much good if we tried to digest the whole banquet at once…)