...life can be translucent


Divination using the Canon of Supreme Mystery AND the Tao Te Ching


Feb 6, 2021
Reaction score
The other day I was looking at the Tao Te Ching (see note *), and I noticed that it has 81 chapters or verses. This reminded me that the Canon of Supreme Mystery - or T-ai Hsuan Ching has 81 'tetragrams' - which are four-line figures akin to the 64 hexagams of the Yi (see note **).

Though I don't usually think of 'corralative' or connective (looking for connections) thinking as only being math-or numbers based, here it was hard to miss the 81 - 81 connection.

And this made me wonder, what would it be like to do a reading using both the Mystery and the Tao? So I queried:

Tell me about healing ... my heart/mind ... my body/knees/leg ... our world.

A bit of background: I have a really bad left knee which has been not all that great for 40+ years - thought it is not so bad nor nor so painful that I want (or need) to get it replaced - though looking at the x-ray might lead you do think otherwise!

For a month or so, I've been getting physical therapy to help heal/improve my left knee. A few weeks ago I told my PT that my other (right) leg had started hurting a bit, and she thought it was just my body making an adjustment to my knee being better.

Long story short, last Thursday I twisted / injured my 'good' right leg very badly. I could barely walk on it, and it took me a half hour just to hobble the two blocks back to my car. Over the last few days it has improved, however, later this week I have an appointment with an orthopedic doctor to (hopefully) find out what's going on.

So, I asked about healing, and got as a response:
Tetragram 52, named, 'Measure' (see note ***), which says:
Head (the 'judgement'): Yin (Earth) ch'i (energy) leaps up; Yang (Creative) energy daily yields (to the?) ground. Leaping and more leaping, receding and more receding - each attains it's proper measure.
Appraisal 52-2: Like waters that do not recede, the center measure is hidden. Waters not receding means: only then can there be rectitude (correct behavior / thinking).
Apprasial 52-4: Building (with) posts and uprights helps in building walls. (Using) posts and uprights means: these benefit the building.
Appraisal 52-9: When error comes from repeated faults, ten years is too short to restore true measure. (Making) cumulative mistakes means: constructive action is precluded.

What can I make of all this? Tetra 52, with it's 'leaping and receeding' made me think about being attentive to both being active and when I rest or relax. And also, that both are important right now - it's not just time to be 'leaping about'.

I'm not sure what to make of 52-2's 'waters do not recede' leading to correct behavior and thinking? Could it be about being 'fluid' (including in my knees, joints?)? Or maybe it's an acknoledgement that this is an emotional event/time (and not just a physical one?) ... and it also reminds me of Hex. 60 (see below) ....

The image of 52-4's 'posts and uprights' made me think of doing gentle strtches and movement, where I stretch - make myself - really straight and tall, and then relax, as if I'm sinking into the Earth - as we might do with a building post.

52-9's 'error comes from repeated faults'; sort of a no-brainer here: that I can't keep re-injuring myself (nor keep not taking the time to heal), and then expect that things will get better.

Ms. Michael Nylan's translation of the T'ai Huan Ching also includes 'correspondences' between the Mystery's tetragrams and the Yi's hexagrams (see note ****); here Tetra. 52 corresponds with Hex. 60, which Nylan calls "Regulation"; this is a title some Yi authors use; along with Measuring (Barrett), Boundaries (Hatcher); and Limitation (Wilhelm).

Wilhem's statement (judgement)'Success. Galling limitation must not be preservered in'.

For me, this also fits (and is perhaps obvious, but maybe I need a reminder anyway?): that my goal - my work - here is to overcome my limiations, and not to continue with them: that I should instead continue to see my PT, figure out what's going on, continue to do my exercises, meditate, be attentive ....

Richard Rutt calls Hex. 60 'Juncture': here (trigram) Moving Water, above is flowing into Lake, below - there is movement and then stillness (or receding). This brought to mind the study of 'edges' in landscape ecology: looking at the edges, borders, boundaries where one ecotone or ecosystem touches another: i.e. the transition area between a field and forest, or ...

... that place, that moment when/where the river's Moving Waters enter into - and become part of - the calm, joyful Lake ...

... and I need to be mindful and careful with my own transitions: going from sitting to standing, or from stillness to activity, from a bent knee to .... (or the other way around!)

The Tao Te Ching, verse / chapter 52 reads (in part):
.... Regarded as mother to the world / Having found (her)
Through this, comprehend her children
Having comprehended her children
Return & attend to the mother

>>> Mabye: making use of Earth's daughters, the trigrams Lake-Joy, Wind-Gentleness, and Flame-Clarity-Safety as part of my healing process - or processes.
.... Close the passages / Secure the gates
(And) the rest of life is no trouble

>>> This reminds me of meditation, of turning inward - and the benefits of doing this.
.... To maintain flexibility tells of strength
Make use of what is illuminated (return home to the light)
Do not abandon yourself to misfortune
This ... (is) called “sustainable practice”.

>>> 'Maintaining flexibility' and making use of what is 'illuminated' and making these 'sustainable practicies'. Again, a bit of a no-brainer, but also a needed reminder!


This is very experimental to me. And while I did like this reading and gleened useful stuff from it, to be sure, I'm not ready to give up using the Yi - at least not just yet!

Best, D


* Here I made use of Bradford Hatchers' Tao, which you can download as a PDF.

** The Canon of Supreme Mystery, or T'ai Hsuan Ching is a Han-era Oracle (from around 5 AD). It is Confucian in feel. Instead of hexagrams, it has 81 four-line figures called 'Tetragrams'; each of these has 9 'appraisals' (which each include a line called a 'fathoming') - which we can more or less think of as a tetragram's "lines".

I don't know how the Mystery was cast or consulted (I have developed my own system), but I understand that a tetragram 'reading' always includes three appraisals - with each one of these selected from a group of three appraisals, or lines - so one each from apprasials/lines 1,2,3 and 4,5,6, and 7,8,9.

I understand that 'The Mystery' was widely used, and fell out of favor, not because it was inaccurate or inaccessible, but because its auther, Yang Hsiung fell out of favor with more influential (and likely more powerful, and politically connected) Confucian 'elders' (or whatever they were called at that time). There are only two English translations I know of, including Ms. Nylan's.

*** Prof. Nylan's translation has at least a few errors (that I have found); e.g. for a few of the tetragrams, the four-line figures are incorrect, meaning they don't show the correct combination of solid, once-broken, and twice broken lines. This is the case for Tetragram 52, and I had to reference another source (from the internet) to confirm that I was using at the correct tetragram for this reading. (Or at least for he sake of this reading, I'll assume Tetra. 52 is correct.)

**** Nylan's Yijing-to-Mystery / Hexagram-to-Tetragram 'correspondences' have to be taken with a grain of salt: obiously 'fitting' 81 into 64 (or the other way around) is not straight-forward, and Nylan's 'Canon' further muddies the waters: while some of the Yi's hexagrams have to correspond to more than one of the Mystery's tetragram (after all, how else can you 'stretch' 64 out to be 81?) some of the hexagrams don't correspond to any of the tetragrams!
Last edited:

Office 17622,
PO Box 6945,
United Kingdom

Phone/ Voicemail:
+44 (0)20 3287 3053 (UK)
+1 (561) 459-4758 (US).