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Blog post: Puzzling over 54, line 1

hilary

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Puzzling over 54, line 1

rough mountain track
It’s a not-unfamiliar experience with readings: the oracle text of the hexagram says one thing, and then a moving line says something quite different. You probably know the basic principle: the moving line text takes precedence. It’s the ‘You Are Here’ sign to the hexagram’s overall scene-setting.

Still, it’s worth going beyond that to wonder exactly why the line text is different. Here’s a good example…

Hexagram 54 says,

‘Marrying maiden. To set out to bring order: pitfall.
No direction is fruitful.’

That’s blunt and unambiguous: your plans, and especially your ideas to fix things and set them to rights, are not looking promising. But then comes line 1:

‘Maiden marries as a younger sister.
Lame, can walk.
Setting out to bring order: good fortune.’

From ‘setting out to bring order: pitfall’ to exactly the opposite. How come?

Why pitfall?​


To start with, why is bringing order such a bad idea originally, overall, for the Marrying Maiden?

‘Setting out to bring order’ translates zheng 征 – which means

  • to go on a long journey
  • to target something, march on it, go straight for it
  • specifically, to launch a punitive military campaign. (‘Order’ might just mean, ‘Everyone pays tribute to the king’.)

The Chinese character shows a foot on the road, so the idea of marching out is fundamental.

The marrying maiden is someone who’s married off, probably as a second wife, and certainly not of her own initiative. She’s in a position of weakness, and can’t impose her idea of order on anything. Also, such marriages would be a way to forge alliances between clans, rendering military action unnecessary and counter-productive.

Why’s line 1 different?​


This all makes good sense – so what’s so different in line 1?

I can think of four differences…

  • It’s the first line
  • It’s changing
  • ‘Younger sister’
  • ‘Lame, can walk’

Let’s look at each in turn…

It’s the first line​


The first line of any hexagram has a sense of just entering its realm, just getting started, getting its feet under it. It doesn’t enjoy authority, or an overview, and probably not much understanding either, but it can at least begin.

In a lot of hexagrams (26, 43, 63…), this first step is to slow down, to get control of one’s momentum before setting a new direction. But as marrying maiden, when you’re in a weak position to start with, the important thing is just to get underway somehow.

It’s changing​


…and as soon as an element changes in the Yi, it creates relationships with other elements that make their presence felt.

This is the bottom line of dui, the lake, changing to kan, depths and running water. So this change is rather like pulling the bathplug: it creates flow.

And this is the line where Marrying Maiden meets Hexagram 40, Release:

changing to​
‘Release. The southwest is fruitful.
With no place to go,
To turn round and come back is good fortune.
With a direction to go,
Daybreak, good fortune.’

‘The southwest is fruitful’: it’s a good direction for finding allies, or maybe creating marital alliances. Release brings an underling attitude of ‘Let’s see what we can do, let’s see which paths might lead somewhere, and let’s get underway’ – all without tying ourselves in knots over what we wish we could do instead, or whether we’re likely to fail horribly.

The poor little marrying maiden doesn’t have much freedom overall, but she is at least free to do what she can, within the limits. ‘Lame, can still walk.’

Bradford Hatcher had a different take on this 54-40 relationship, and talked about the freedom from striving:

‘Freedom from all these demands might set her free from the hustle and leave her time to be just herself, enjoying her life as it is.’

Younger sister​


This is the first difference in the text: the maiden marries (just as in the first two words of the Oracle) as a younger sister (or possibly with her younger sisters).

‘Younger sister’ is one Chinese word, di 娣. Its components are ‘woman’ and ‘younger brother’ – an element that Sears says originally meant ‘sequence’ or ‘second’.

This points clearly to the junior wife, the woman who comes second in line. As the first line of dui, trigram of the youngest sister, that makes sense. By implication, the whole hexagram is about second wives, but this makes it absolutely explicit.

Hence tradition tells us that this line is about someone in a lowly position who serves with modesty and doesn’t rock the boat. The Tuanzhuan says, ‘If such a lame one can keep on treading, it shall mean good fortune, for it is to keep on giving support.’ (RJ Lynn’s translation). The junior wife supports the first wife and strengthens the family.

From this angle, she may be ‘setting out to bring order’, but in the sense that she’s limping along with the rank and file, not leading the expedition.

Lame, can walk​


The next new thing in the text: ‘lame, can walk’. Richard Rutt didn’t attempt to piece this together:

‘The sentence about the lame one who steps out is probably out of place and has nothing to do with the wedding story.’

It surely has something to do with zheng, though: ‘treading’ and ‘marching out’ are adjacent characters in the text, both with the ‘footsteps’ element 彳:


履 征

She can walk, so going on a journey is good fortune.

We might picture the junior wife limping off to her new home. But there may be more to it, as Hexagram 54 line 5 also alludes to to a particular ‘younger sister’, the Lady Shen who would become the mother of Wu, the Zhou heir and conqueror of the Shang. What if this line prefigures her rise, too?

Minford suggests that zheng here might be ‘a figurative description of a marriage “expedition”‘ – he explains that the ‘love is war’ metaphor was present in early Chinese texts. Now there are extra layers of meaning: the Zhou, too, started out small and powerless, but marched on Shang successfully in the end. Maybe the protagonist of this line, despite her handicaps, can expect to wield power of her own in future. The traditional idea of success for the unassuming and modest might not tell the whole story.

Hexagram 10, line 3​


One other angle on this line: ‘Lame, can walk’ is a direct quotation from Hexagram 10, line 3. It actually says ‘lame, can tread‘ – the name of Hexagram 10. And 54.2 also quotes the same line. Together, these three lines make up a complete inner dui trigram:

‘Maiden marries as a younger sister.
Lame, can walk.
Setting out to bring order: good fortune.’
‘With one eye, can see.
A hermit’s constancy bears fruit.’

Hexagram 54, lines 1 and 2
‘With one eye, can see.
Lame, can walk.
Treads on the tiger’s tail:
It bites him. Pitfall.
Soldier acting as a great leader.’

Hexagram 10, line 3

If we look back from the Marrying Maiden to Treading, what could we learn from the comparison?

When it comes to following tigers – or reflecting all of (outer trigram) heaven – it won’t work to hobble along with a limited field of vision. Inadequacy will be found out; ‘good enough’ isn’t. But in Hexagram 54, marrying as the second wife, the lake reflecting (on) this sudden change (outer trigram thunder), just getting by is good enough. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.

The situation in 54.1 is actually a perfect mirror image of 10.3. The soldier should be following, but tries to act as a great leader. The ‘younger sister’ is specifically the ‘woman who follows’ – but this younger sister may yet become the first wife.

(As for the hermit in 54.2, perhaps he’s one of those Daoist sages who deliberately makes himself useless, avoiding political power. Or perhaps, as Field says, he’s ‘the man in the dark,’ the imprisoned future King Wen – another one who starts at a disadvantage but wins in the end.)

And in real life?​


I can think of a few of my own experiences with this reading that capture something about the line.

One was a reading about a broken molar – it had been filled badly, so it cracked, and then a great lump of enamel had fallen off, leaving exposed dentin. One week on, was it hardening, or was infection setting in? I asked what was happening with the tooth, and received 54.1. I ‘set out to bring order’ with my usual regimen; that was four years ago, and the tooth is still fine, provided I keep up the daily oil pulling.

Someone contacted me to ask for a full reading with weekly calls. I was happy to work for her, except that she was in Australia, so I’d have to start client work first thing in the morning, a time I’d normally have set aside for writing. Advice? 54.1. I reorganised things, read for her, and it went well. (I’ve had several readings describe the role of a diviner with Hexagram 54.)

And then there was the 54.1 reading about hiring a particular web designer. To clarify – not anyone I’ve worked with recently; this was long ago. I hired him despite this reading, which was not my best idea: onlineClarity came second to everything, and deadlines came and went while he ignored all my emails. In the end I tried emailing not to ask for a new date, but to set one unilaterally: I’d pay pro rata for whatever he’d completed by then. That got him moving – though there was still a lot of clear-up to do afterwards from things he’d messed up.

What do these three have in common? I was starting out at a disadvantage, handicapped in some way. The promised good fortune is going to take a lot of effort and probably sore feet; this line’s situation isn’t one you’d choose to get into, in an ideal world.

However – and this is where it differs from the general picture of Hexagram 54 – there is some power to be found or claimed here that you might not have imagined you had. In each of these readings, I seem to have had to break with my usual habits to access it: rewriting my mornings, or getting completely uncharacteristically assertive with the vanishing designer, or – horrors – giving up chocolate for a while. If little sister ties on her walking boots and limps out with determination, she can make this work.
 

rosada

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Looking at the sequence:
As the younger sister to a super achiever I think I can identify with the trials of the marrying maiden in 54.1. That is to say, the perfection of 53.6 is a damn hard act to follow.
 
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hilary

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53.6 and 54.1 are paired lines - same line, seen from a different perspective. I think up at line 6, you can see how the feathers serve a higher purpose, whatever happens to the geese. Down at 54.1, limping along at ground level, you're in no position to see what it's all for - but it could still all be part of something bigger. (Hm, or it could just be about keeping a tooth...)
 

my_key

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Hex 54 Marrying Maiden carries a meaning of 'completion for the woman'. There is also a strong sense of new relationship and the marriage of Heaven and Earth in the hexagram. This seems to be calling for a 'womanly' softly softly approach to change rather than a 'manly' bull at a gate. The latter, in whatever direction is chosen brings many a pitfall. The former leads to a place of harmony in the relationship.

In the Image the guidance points towards building a growing awareness of what are favourable behaviours / actions (directions) to cease and to adopt. So at line 1 it is said that it is important to make a move, even though, or perhaps especially because, we are unable to walk in harmony (lame). This first small step of a thousand miles will bring good fortune.

This is reinforced as the step of change at line 1 becomes Hex 40 and so is encouraging release of old outmoded thoughts or actions and bringing a new sense of relief. We are one step closer to harmony.

The nuclear of 54 is 63 Already Across and has a meaning of 'setting things right' so this is providing a deep influence for the Marrying Maiden. The subliminal message imparted by the geese feathers in 53.6 wants to become more than imagination and so is begun to be manifest through the first hobbling steps of 54.1. So the potential has made it's way across the Great Divide. It makes it's first faltering steps in 54.1. It now seeks to be made fully manifest. Steps taken in a direction not aligned with this potential will lead to pitfalls. The new harmony can best be achieved through the receptive nature of the woman's work and when it is completed, the potential can come home to roost in Hex 55 Abundance.
 
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moss elk

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54.1

Beggars can't be choosers,
So, Go for the free lunch,
stay for the service.
(turns out the lunch will be earned,
but you'll get to help plan the menus.)
 
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hilary

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This seems to be calling for a 'womanly' softly softly approach to change rather than a 'manly' bull at a gate.
Y..e...s.... except that in line 1, zheng is fruitful, and it's hard to conceive of a softly-softly version of that.
 

my_key

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Y..e...s.... except that in line 1, zheng is fruitful, and it's hard to conceive of a softly-softly version of that.

Perhaps we have different understanding of softly-softly then. For me softly-softly carries the qualities of gentle, nurturing, receptivity.

Zheng from what I understand does carry the meaning of fruitful, favourable, good fortune etc and has it's roots in concepts of starting out on a journey.

At 54.1 the maiden is at the start of her journey in a new household. She starts from a lowly position and needs to make sense of her new world. Although hampered by the unfamiliarity of it all ,she has an inherent ability to learn and to become aware of what approaches will benefit her and how to best appreciate her changing world.

Her cock-eyed perspectives are modified and gently her approaches are changed. She becomes more discerning, better fitting in within the household and becomes promoted to second wife. Her new position affords her greater influence over how she can live her life. Her greatest realisation is that outer change relies on inner change and has no timeline. It cannot be bullied along. All relationships have to grow organically. They blossom when commitment is fully given and nurtured through sprinklings of kindness and generosity.

So that's my picture, coloured in a bit more, of the zheng-ness in 54.1 and how the 'completion for the woman' via a softly-softly approach can conceive the promise of a fruitful way.
 

hilary

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Zheng from what I understand does carry the meaning of fruitful, favourable, good fortune etc and has it's roots in concepts of starting out on a journey.
Zheng isn't intrinsically good or bad - it's good in this line, but disastrous in the Oracle for the hexagram overall. And while its most basic meaning is indeed to set out on a long journey (the Long March is a zheng), it also means a punitive military expedition. Hence 'setting out to bring order' as translation: the idea is that something out there needs sorting out, and we're going to fix it now. It's pretty much the opposite of being receptive. We don't care if the rebels think they're doing fine; we intend to get them paying tribute to the king again. (And if I'd been receptive to that web designer, I might still be waiting for him to get round to anything.)
 

my_key

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Zheng isn't intrinsically good or bad - it's good in this line, but disastrous in the Oracle for the hexagram overall. And while its most basic meaning is indeed to set out on a long journey (the Long March is a zheng), it also means a punitive military expedition.
I agree about it's intrinsic charge being neutral but do not align with your take on the overall oracle being 'disasterous' or that that there is any intent for an infliction of punishment in the Oracle.

Misfortune seems a better word use with the level of misfortune being dependant of the way in which your journey is conducted. Proceeding with caution, being wary and displaying suitable discretion will not be such a bad journey as one where you try to impose your will or act angrily, without tact or showing resentment towards your circumstances.

The journey as I see things comes from the starting place of the geese feathers gift. Not staying aligned with this gift (i.e. going in some other direction) in the wider Oracle picture will bring misfortune. At 54.1 making a small move along the line in the direction prompted by the gift brings good fortune.
Hence 'setting out to bring order' as translation: the idea is that something out there needs sorting out, and we're going to fix it now. It's pretty much the opposite of being receptive. We don't care if the rebels think they're doing fine; we intend to get them paying tribute to the king again. (And if I'd been receptive to that web designer, I might still be waiting for him to get round to anything.)
Yes, the theme is of setting out to bring order. Something does need to be brought into greater harmony.

However, I see it more about being receptive. Being receptive to the gift and each step of the journey brings about increased awareness. At any line 1 the new fate (the gift / the purpose)is being attracted to nest within our inner world. A seed has been planted and the more we are receptive to going in the direction the seed wants to grow and expand the more our outer world becomes aligned with our inner world.

This alignment is not necessarily a conscious act, at least to begin with, and perhaps by line 3 there has been an accumulation of the new inner strength, of the gift, to allow through lines 4 and 5 changes to be made manifest in our outer world.

To use your example, you weren't receptive to the web designer and this was causing you all sorts of suffering. This helped the seed grow in your inner world ( that this situation cannot be tolerated - maybe) and the more you were receptive to the growth the more you became set on bringing some order through taking external action. Your actions, however you did resolve it with that web designer, in my world, stemmed from your receptivity to finding what was needed in you to take action. You felt your way and you adapted. The agenda for the path taken was not yours, as such, but one gifted to you by the geese.

It may be that we still have a different base idea about the hexagram, mine one of completing the receptivity of the woman, and yours being one not of receptivity but more one of railroading the rebels and forcing them to pay tribute to the king. I'd be interested to hear more about how you see the rebels and the king as I'm not really following how this fits in with the marriage theme in Hex 54.
 
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hilary

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It may be that we still have a different base idea about the hexagram, mine one of completing the receptivity of the woman, and yours being one not of receptivity but more one of railroading the rebels and forcing them to pay tribute to the king. I'd be interested to hear more about how you see the rebels and the king as I'm not really following how this fits in with the marriage theme in Hex 54.
Er, no, I think we have our wires crossed. I'm just talking about the concept of zheng, which has those overtones of railroading rebels, and is a very bad idea in 54 in general:

‘Marrying maiden. To set out to bring order: pitfall.
No direction is fruitful.’

'Pitfall' or 'disaster' or 'misfortune', whichever, not a good idea. I suggested some reasons why in the original post.

The question that inspired the post is why line 1 says the exact opposite. Setting out to bring order, zheng, becomes good fortune. How come? What's changed?

I pointed to changes in the protagonist and circumstances. I think you're suggesting that it's actually a different kind of 'setting out' - is that right?
 

my_key

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Hi Hilary
I think we are on the same page now regarding zheng and the rebels in the oracle.

In general I think the Oracle is saying it is not favourable to go against the grain or the flow of the situation. Things are in motion that are outside of your control and you are advised to stand back and watch the events unfold. Anything that you do will be seen as inappropriate or not be recognised in the way you are offering it. Tact and diplomacy are the order of the day.

At 54.1, where Earth meets Earth in the fundamental bowels of our being there is an unconscious bubbling up of a new direction that is favourable. A seedling of inklings that will move us towards 'understanding the imperfect and the transitory, in the light of what endures in the end' (Jack Balkin). It is the direction imposed (we still have no control over this really thanks to the geese feathers) by this inkling that we need to follow: it will be the core of our new good fortune. Through setting forth in this direction and by continuing a receptive approach to what unfolds, in and around us, things will be set right. i.e. become more balanced and in harmony.

That, I hope, paints a clearer picture of how I see the zheng of 'misfortune' in the Oracle becoming imbued with a smidgeon of 'good fortune' at Line 1. It may well be a different kind of setting out than you are speaking of.

Take Care
 

rosada

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Thinking how the Image for 54 says, "Through many endings she knows what is flawed."
Did you ever see the movie Ground Hog Day? It's about a fellow who keeps living the same day over and over until finally he gets it right and finds true love. I think 54.1 The Marrying Maiden is like this fellow waking up to the same day, day after day, the same ritual, so likewise she knows what's ahead, she knows she can't change it so she vows to align with it and by aligning with the flow she progresses.
 
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my_key

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Ground Hog Day is a great analogy for Hex 54.

On first realising he is in the loop he starts off down pathways that are manipulative and self serving: not taking responsibility for his own actions etc. and he finds that misfortune lies in all directions. His first motivation is just to get to sleep with the young lady and when his self-centred approach doesn't work he hits rock bottom. Then after he has got fed up of committing suicide he begins to align with a new wisdom.

It's only after he decides to use the knowledge he has gained in the loop for good that things start smelling of roses. After much personal development; learning new skills and new approaches plus philanthropic gestures in the service of others he finally finds his true self and gets the lady. Not just to sleep with but to truly love.
 
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twilightshadow

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I hope it’s ok that I join in here. I’m not an expert on Yi by any stretch, and some of this discussion is over my head. However, your original question was why the difference in line 1? I often see the lines as a way of moving through the overall situation of the hex. So, could it be a matter of circumstance? What elements exist in a 54 situation that make any movement problematic? Then depending on your question, could line 1 be an indication of a slight shift from 54 alone that now allows some limited movement? Or could it be advising how or what to change so that some movement becomes possible?
 

hilary

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That's exactly the approach I took in the original post. Why is setting out to bring order a bad idea in 54 overall, and what is it about line 1 that makes it different?
Or could it be advising how or what to change so that some movement becomes possible?
Good point.
 

rosada

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If 54.1 is advising how to make some movement possible, I think the advice is "recognize you can't fight the system so quit dragging your feet and get on with it."
 

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