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Category Archives: Interpreting hexagrams

Comments on whole hexagrams, individual lines and so on

A spring of doubt

A spring of doubt

A thought on Hexagram 4. We think of Not Knowing as a default state, a starting position: children don’t know at first, so they learn; we start off not knowing, so then we consult the oracle. (Though preferably not for a second and third time…)

In today’s news, the BBC announces the results of a poll about people’s belief in the Resurrection of Jesus and in life after death. They write the headline, ‘Resurrection did not happen, say quarter of Christians.’ Here’s an alternative headline from the same poll: ‘95% of people know for certain whether or not the Resurrection happened.’ Only about 5% of respondents said they didn’t know.

So perhaps not knowing isn’t a default starting position?

Things I’ve noticed about my own mental habits lately: it’s very hard, almost impossible, to stay quietly in a state of not knowing – so much so, in fact, that I’ll whizz through that state at light speed on the way to knowing, barely noticing I was ever there. I ‘know’ what people must mean by their actions. I ‘know’ what I need to do today (and tomorrow and next month): I have a list. (And if I don’t know what to do next, there are always cat videos and chocolate.)

If I don’t know what someone meant, I can ask them. If I don’t know what to do next, perhaps I can be guided. But to make that first consultation, I’ll need at least to stay quiet for long enough to notice that I don’t know.

(I’ve often noticed that Hexagram 4 can describe not only wanting a specific answer, but also just wanting a response of some kind: feedback, validation, or recognition. Maybe another word for what we want is stimulus – stirring up the waters, filling the disconcertingly still space of not knowing with motion. Like I said, if the to-do list fails, there are always cat videos.)

I think that’s how Not Knowing contains its nuclear hexagram: 24, Returning. If ignorance can bring you to a standstill, then you can return, reconnect and get back on track. As the Image of 24 says, it’s not something that happens in the midst of ‘business as usual’.

In his challenging Ted talk, The Gospel of Doubt, Casey Gerald makes a remarkable choice of image to describe his 12-year-old self’s experience, when the Rapture didn’t happen on schedule, of discovering he (and the Church elders) didn’t know after all:

“It was possible the answers I had were wrong, that the questions themselves were wrong. And now, where there was once a mountain of certitude, there was, running right down to its foundation, a spring of doubt, a spring that promised rivers.”

stream under mountain

Hexagram 28, Great Exceeding

Hexagram 28, Great Exceeding

Crossing the line: guo Hexagram 28 shares its core concept with 62: Exceeding, guo, great or small. I wrote about this a while ago: Hexagrams 28 and 62 are both about guo: ‘passing, going by, exceeding’. The central idea is crossing a line – whether that’s a standard of morality or of customs, or a border… Continue Reading



A friend who works as a coach/counsellor, who’s learned from and drawn on probably hundreds of sources as she develops her own way of helping, has recently had a couple of teachers ask her for payment for her use of their intellectual property. I was bemused, because this is something I’ve never needed to think about at… Continue Reading

Hexagram 8 musings

Hexagram 8 musings

Hexagram 8 is called Bi  – 比 – a very ancient, simple character that originally depicts two people side by side. It implies both that they’re together, and that they can be compared to one another, and so the word means belonging, seeking union, holding together, comparing, neighbouring, side-by-side… really, to translate the name of the hexagram… Continue Reading

23 as relating hexagram

23 as relating hexagram
This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Hexagram 23

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Hexagram 23I wrote about a core message of Hexagram 23 when it’s your cast hexagram: how it demands a true tabula rasa, not just a ‘rethink’. What about 23 as relating hexagram – what can that mean? Of course, there are 64 different ways a reading… Continue Reading

Hexagram 23 in readings

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Hexagram 23

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Hexagram 23The essential message of Stripping Away is devastatingly simple: ‘Stripping away. Fruitless to have a direction to go.’ Your ‘direction to go’ can be whatever plan you have in mind, your purpose or vision or intent, or something as slight as a curiosity to explore… Continue Reading

Stripping Away: a change of perspective

Stripping Away: a change of perspective
This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Hexagram 23

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Hexagram 23I wrote about how Stripping Away, in its ideal form as depicted by the Image, might be painless – but that’s not how the process starts, and not our dominant experience of it. Hexagram 23 typically shows up as something you have to undergo;… Continue Reading

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