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Blog post: Light inside: Hexagrams 49, 55 and 63

hilary

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Light inside: Hexagrams 49, 55 and 63

This entry is part of the series Light inside.

night sky

Hexagram 49, Radical Change​


Fire in the lake: awareness shining through all kinds of human interaction and exchange. I’ve imagined before that this could be the shaman’s eyes shining through his mask; it’s certainly the light of astronomical awareness shining through the calendar.
‘In the centre of the lake there is fire. Radical Change.
A noble one calculates the heavenly signs and clarifies the seasons.’

Hexagram 49, the Image

As I mentioned for Hexagram 13, the revolution could not take place until the heavens showed the time was right. So you can imagine inner li both as the light of sun and stars, and as the light of insight into their meaning. In the Oracle, this becomes knowledge of ‘your own day’; the Image brings awareness to the whole calendar.

One of the first duties of the new king after the revolution would have been to set the calendar to rights with fresh celestial observations. This would set the rhythm of the ritual and farming year – something everyone shares (no-one can bring in the harvest on their own private schedule). It’s important these things should not become an empty form; they need to be lit up with awareness. And sometimes the power of new inner awareness might demand a whole new outer form. (No new wine in old vessels!)

This is reminiscent of Hexagram 22 – the light shining on the rockface, humanising the laws and civilising them with the power of real understanding. But while light shines on rock, it can shine through water – and bring radical change.

Hexagram 55, Abundance​


Now we have li inside zhen, thunder…
‘Abundance [Feng], creating success.
The king is present to it.
Do not mourn. A fitting sacrifice at noon.’

Hexagram 55, the Oracle

This could be another story of the trigram li representing astronomical knowledge. In the story behind this hexagram, King Wu at the citadel Feng watched the skies and received a clear sign that it was time to stop mourning and march on the Shang. Again, the inner light of the hexagram is both sun- and starlight, and also the understanding of their meaning – and both translate into outer thunder, action. So action is not impulsive or random, but enlivened and transformed by the clarity of the stars and the king’s clear, present awareness.

The Image captures that sense that now is the time:
‘Thunder and lightning culminate as one. Abundance.
A noble one decides legal proceedings and brings about punishment.’

Hexagram 55, the Image

The trigram picture makes thunder and lightning – and when thunder follows immediately on lightning, you know the storm is directly overhead. The air itself feels electrically charged. The noble one responds by translating insight immediately into action – straight from understanding to consequences.

Hexagram 63, Already Crossing​


As in Hexagram 49, there is fire in the water – but this is moving water, its lowest line open to receive the heat of the fire, and so (I think) we’re invited to imagine a pan boiling away on the stove. Everything is in its right place, everything will work – unless, of course, you get distracted, the pan boils dry, you fill the kitchen with smoke and it takes days to scour the carbonised residue off the saucepan. (Not that I know anything about that.) ‘Beginnings, good fortune – endings, chaos.’

So these trigrams call for awareness to permeate the flow of kan, and anticipate what could go wrong –
‘Stream dwells above fire. Already across.
A noble one reflects on distress and prepares to defend against it.’

Hexagram 63, the Image

Running water never stops flowing – and its fluent action always needs to be complemented by awareness. (As it quite literally is: these two trigrams are one another’s complements, as if awareness were giving rise to fluency.) You need to stay awake, ensuring every change of direction is fully alive and enlightened.

I see this hexagram as continuing the story of the Mandate of Heaven: the revolution is complete, all is in place – now what? After the revolution… the continuation. The same light that shone through the lake and thunder can illuminate the continuous flow of change.
 

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