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Blog post: Shadow hexagrams

hilary

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I sometimes think of Stephen Karcher as the alchemist of Yijing interpretation, working away in his divination-laboratory and emerging from time to time with new techniques and tools of interpretation for diviners to test out. I’ll always try what he offers, and often find it immensely useful – though by the time I’ve spent a few years using a tool in my own style of reading, it generally seems to ‘wear’ into a different shape from the original.

One of his most recent suggestions is the idea of a ‘shadow’ hexagram. You find this in a nice, simple way, by counting backwards through the Sequence of hexagrams. So Hexagram 1’s shadow is 64, 2’s shadow is 63, and so on. I suppose you could say you are ‘pairing’ the whole Sequence with itself by inverting it in this way. Stephen explains how he uses this, in conjunction with the ‘Ideal’ hexagram, in this essay:

“The Shadow Site gives you a hexagram that represents what is, at the moment, counter-indicated in your situation, covered by a sort of negative screen that can contain often painful memories. This screen or shadow is blocking transformative energy. If you completely release your awareness from these configurations by focusing on the Ideal, the necessary energy the Shadow Site contains will manifest itself spontaneously.

I had been pondering the possible meanings of what I call the Shadow Site, the reflection of a given hexagram in the Reverse Sequence of the 64 hexagrams, for quite a while. One of its functions made immediate sense to me when it was paired with the Ideal Form as a sort of negative mirror. This is the way Change seems to work, tactically pairing opposites with a situational rather than an abstract moral judgment on their innate qualities. Another realization came as I was working in depth with the Reverse Sequence in deep divinations as representing a kind of mystical re-birth, a union that can only be achieved through indirection or not-acting (wu-wei). From this came the awareness that whatever is shadowed is necessary for the completion of the transformative possibilities of the moment but cannot be reached through conscious action. It can and will manifest synchronistically, however, when there is no conscious effort directed towards it. This sort of indirection frees the quality in question from the linear flow of time and the karmic chain of cause and effect.”

(See the full essay for an example reading as well.)

The ‘ideal’ hexagram hasn’t quite gelled for me yet, or at least not as having any necessary connection to the ‘shadow’. But the shadow, in a series of readings now, has started to make a great deal of sense.

It turns out to be precisely the wrong way to conceive of the situation. In this it’s subtly different from the complementary hexagram (created by changing each line to its opposite), which is simply what the hexagram is not. If you are hiding your light, for instance (hexagram 36) then you cannot also be arguing (hexagram 6, its complement). You must decide which you’re doing, and find an overall balance between these two complementary approaches.

The shadow, though, is more specifically the wrong idea. This mindset will entangle you, have you going in circles and getting exactly nowhere. If you think of a situation and try to engage with it in the style of its shadow, you will be well and truly stuck – a very distinctive kind of ‘stuckness’, not so much ‘confronting immoveable obstacles’, more being perfectly ineffectual.

Funnily enough, this is also quite often the shape the issue has taken on as you grapple with it: it’s exactly what you’re wrestling with and finding insoluble.

This only becomes really clear in readings, when that particular form of ‘shadow stuckness’ is easy to recognise. But a few examples might help to show how this is taking shape for me:

The Shadow of hexagram 36, Brightness Hidden, is 29, Repeating Chasms. If you are in a situation where your light is threatened and needs to be hidden away, it’s not good to think of this as a test of faith, or to keep asking, ‘What am I supposed to be learning from this?’ Movement, now, does not ‘bring honour’ (as in the Oracle of 29); it would only get you hurt.

The Shadow of hexagram 58, Opening, is 7, the Army. If it is a time to be enriched by joining and exchanging with others, then it is not time to look for a single focal point, to ask yourself, ‘What is my objective here?’ It’s not about marching on an objective in an orderly way; it’s about receiving the gift that emerges from exchange and cross-fertilisation.

The Shadow of hexagram 59, Dispersing, is 6, Arguing. If the barriers and boundaries are all gone and the floods are washing over you, this is not time to define your position, argue your corner and look for ways to win. You have to allow all the ‘positions’ to be swept away, too, and let the flow of things find its course naturally.

And a story: recently, but before I received I Ching, the Symbolic Life in the post and started looking at shadows, I asked Yi for advice on how to approach someone to propose working together on a project. The primary hexagram was 46, Pushing Upward. I thought long and hard about the best way to go about this, how to start small, how to follow the advice of the lines – and finally made my approach.

Later, I found out that the shadow hexagram for 46 is 19: Nearing, or Approaching. That was exactly how I had been thinking of the situation, and what* had been asking myself: how to approach, how to modulate my approach when it received no response, and so on. All my thoughts about this fit neatly into the mould of 19.

I never did get a reply, so it’s becoming pretty clear that 19 was the wrong mindset. But this is highlighting for me another aspect of the Shadow: it is extraordinarily hard to get your thoughts free of it! How can approaching someone with a proposal not be – well – an approach?

I don’t have enough distance from this situation yet to learn all the lessons that dear old Professor Hindsight has to teach me. What I’ve realised so far, though, is that while Nearing has an overview of the whole picture and can ‘teach’ it to the other person, Pushing Upward is wholly present to what is growing, identifying fully with each stage of growth and not trying to anticipate what comes next. Perhaps I should just have said ‘hello’, tried only to begin a conversation, and allowed things to grow from there.

As I said, getting free from the Shadow way of seeing things is not easy. This, as I understand it, is where the Ideal is meant to come in:

“If you completely release your awareness from these configurations by focusing on the Ideal, the necessary energy the Shadow Site contains will manifest itself spontaneously.”

In The Symbolic Life, the presentation of ideal and shadow actually focusses entirely on that spontaneous manifestation, so the Shadow hexagram only appears as something that offers its blessings, or solves its problems, by itself.

So for 36, (Ideal 9, Shadow 29): “Accumulate small things and gather in your ghosts. The dangers you face will spontaneously dissolve.”

For 58 (Ideal 29, Shadow 7): “Confront the danger again and again and your inner world will organize itself.”

For 59 (Ideal 45, Shadow 6): “If you gather the resources for a great new project your words will spontaneously persuade others.”

And for 46 (Ideal 61, Shadow 19): “Open your heart and bring your inner and outer lives together and the spirit will draw near.”
 

pocossin

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If the hexagram that casts the shadow is the gnomon, then

shadow = 65 - gnomon
 

fkegan

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How many pages of Hexagram Commentary is enough for an Oracle Interpretation?

It works by reflecting the positions of the trigrams of a Figure in the King Wen or Later Heaven Sequence of Trigrams back into the Fuxi or Early Heaven Sequence. It is a brilliant move that has a solid foundation in Daoist thinking about the relation of these two primal trigram sequences.
Why is it these sorts of folks insist upon fleeing the simplicity of the King Wen Sequence to go into the Early Heaven Sequence?

And eventually does such auxiliary hexagram connections end up with connecting each hexagram to all the other hexagrams to give a totally full picture of the options available. Astrology traditionally did similar things multiplying interesting Zodiac points with the Arabian parts calculations and adding in asteroids so that each chart could move toward making each of the 360 degrees of the Zodiac included in every reading somehow.

Oh, what a tangled web gets woven when just reading the simple Oracle hexagram, lines, Resultant and Nuclear hex just isn't enough material to interpret.

Frank
 

Tohpol

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I sometimes think of Stephen Karcher as the alchemist of Yijing interpretation, working away in his divination-laboratory and emerging from time to time with new techniques and tools of interpretation for diviners to test out. I’ll always try what he offers, and often find it immensely useful – though by the time I’ve spent a few years using a tool in my own style of reading, it generally seems to ‘wear’ into a different shape from the original.

That's the beauty of the endless creative qualities of the I Ching but, while I'm certainly no specialist/expert on the I Ching (not by a long way) I do find Stephen Karcher's take quite frustrating in that his touchy feely approach often seems to end up being...well, a mess albeit a poetical one. Perhaps that's a bit harsh, but geeze he does go into the subjective stratosphere. I think he hits on some profundity now and then but some of his interpretations of the lines in the hexagrams could quite easily be shifted around and placed into other Hexagrams they'd be more or less identical. Even as a compliment, very seldom have I got anything approaching accuracy in line interpretation compared to say, Hilary's wikiwing, Wilhelm, Brad's work, even LiSe who follows a similar subjective heavy approach but still sufficiently "rooted."

He needs to be grounded more in my view as there's a danger he'll go so far from the original that it just becomes a top-heavy content of Karcher's mind. I'm all for free association and stream of consciousness but not to the point it obscures the original which is what seems to be what's happenning, at least in terms of line interpretations. And now he has a "shadow" hex while still leaving the essentials dangling in the wind...

The above is mostly with reference to Total I Ching however, not his other works. I like his commentaries though.

Topal
 
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hilary

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Just found my way to this thread again - sorry about the delay. Stephen's latest is slim and pithy - trouble is, of course, that I don't rest content with such things but insist on burrowing in and trying to get my mind inside all these relationships. There is a hideous moment when you are grappling to encompass a dozen hexagram relationships in your understanding of any one hexagram (and heaven help you when there are a couple or three changing lines) - but there also comes a time when these things sink into awareness and integrate themselves. Complements and nuclears and pairs and such-like have more or less integrated themselves for me; shadows are still at the 'hideous grappling' phase.

Thank you for the 'gnomon' picture.

About Stephen... funny thing is, when I've talked about individual readings with him he's been immensely practical. Yet when he writes, the 'I Ching' that emerges isn't one you'd necessarily consult with when deciding which house to buy, or what-have-you. How do you build the bridge between all the stories, associations, relationships, contexts etc and the 'you are here' sign of getting this line in response to this question? Maybe that can only be done in individual readings...?
 

rohamc

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Hello - I am very interested in this process, but cannot seem to find instructions for finding the Ideal Form. The Shadow Site is very clearly found by subtracting the number of the hexagram from 65 - so shadow site to hex 6 is 59, to 13 is 52, etc. Please help - I am finding the Primary Figure and Shadow Site cropping up everywhere in related readings. Would really like to know the Ideal Forms!! Thank you! ~R
 

pocossin

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Bradford just explained how, given a hexagram, to find its "Ideal Form."

It looks like you just substitute the original trigrams, understood as being from the Hou Tian (Later Heaven) arrangement, for their equivalent in the Xian Tian (Early or Primal Heaven arrangement).
http://www.onlineclarity.co.uk/friends/showthread.php?p=135771#post135771

The Ideal Form hexagram of 3 is 36:

3 36
☵ ☷
☳ ☲


That is, in Wen's arrangement is in the same place as in Fuxi's arrangement.
And in Wen's arrangement is in the same place as in Fuxi's arrangement.

The Ideal Form hexagram is the World of Thought hexagram of Diana ffarington Hook.

http://www.onlineclarity.co.uk/friends/showthread.php?t=2799

Would you please explain how you are finding the Primary Figure and Shadow Site cropping up everywhere in related readings?
 
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bradford

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I never could understand how someone could construct a meaningful edifice on a sequence that is inherently meaningless.
The proto-Sinaitic alphabet, then Phoenecian and Hebrew, evolved as a mishmash of a sequence, a haphazard bricolage. At some point, and until numerals came along, they were used for counting, but they had no numerical significance. But the Kabbalists reasoned that since Hashem used it to write His book, then everything about it had to be significant. This became a huge part of Kabbalah, almost completely obscuring the meaningful portions.
Decimal numbers have an order to them, but the fact that we have this instead of binary or octal is due mainly to our having ten digits. But when we combine this into assignments to alphabets or calendars, this order just isn't imbued into the resultant system. Combine this with the arbitrary assignment of months and year numbers and all you have is an arbitrary system with only self-referential significance. How then can you pull any kind of meaning out of decimal assignments to a Gregorian calendar birthday?
You can only do this because the human brain is made to make order out of anything, no matter how random. Out of the utterly random, this is called apophenia. Out of the merely suggestive it is pareidolia. This process is vital to the process of divination, but the wise will nonetheless recognize what they are doing and remain able to make distinctions between this and the use of more rational and systematic symbolic systems.
The bulk of Yixue methodology, including most of the Han (Yiweishu) dimensions, and the current method under discussion, are a third class that combines these two. The Yijing structure, as distinct from the Yijing itself, is a subset of binary systems and can be said to follow those structural laws. You can therefore explore all of the wonderful properties of binary systems and make an attempt to attribute them to the Yijing, and come to believe that you are exploring the Yijing instead of binary systems. Everybody here has seen how easy it is to get sucked into this. Many go forth and are never heard from again, with no ear for the distant cry. And no matter what we come up with it is always possible to both see and hallucinate meaning into our results. Witness the recent Tarot Correspondences thread.
I think in the end the question is this: How much of your time do you want to spend near the core of the Yi, with dimensions that were known to the authors, to figure out what they were trying to say, and how much time do you want to spend in the nearly infinite field of tangents? For me it comes down to triage. Ars longa, vita brevis. Getting even close to surrounding the core meanings of this Yi is a lifetime of work, not leaving a lot of time fior these distractions. This is not to say that every now and then a "distraction" doesn't hit the jackpot, as with Shao Yong's 12th century development of the Primal Heaven sequence. But from what I have seen, this is pretty rare, and not justifying chasing down every little thing that someone has just thought up.
 
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hilary

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mm. Yes. On the one hand, not creating a system so elaborate that every reading pretty much involves all 64 hexagrams through some association or other, and losing sight of what that specific hexagram and line is actually saying. Which is frequently something quite simple and blunt.

However, on the other hand... well, firstly, we are at best guessing about authorial intentions; they may well have had some things in mind that we haven't noticed yet. And secondly, in my view, there may be genuinely useful, revealing patterns that are part of the Yijing that no-one has ever noticed, authors included. It seems to me to be more than the sum of its authors' intentions. That 'secondly' is a vague, mystical, hand-waving kind of idea which no-one need pay much attention to, but the first one seems to me pretty undeniable.

And more to the point, the new tools can sometimes make it possible to build a better reading. They don't always lead to a Gothic monstrosity. Proof of the pudding, and all that.
 

bradford

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Agree. Again, for me, it's triage, an allocation of limited resources, limited decades for study remaining. My own search for authorial intent and core meanings is simply my personal specialty, and this is where the demands come from. Nobody with any sense would look for authorial intent in the invention of crystal balls. And the Yi can function just as well just like a crystal ball, just a funhouse mirror for our own projections and reflections.
 

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