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Two faces?

javalava

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Seeing patterns and analogies can be fun, but it is something of a two-edged sword as well. On the one hand the category/relationship gives you another way to think about things. On the other there is a tendency to think in terms of putting things in boxes. We then need extra effort to "think outside the box" or simply see the thing-in-itself.

So what do you think of this pattern. Is it an inspiration or a constraint? I am aware that earth-air-water-fire is not a particularly Chinese 4-scale (1) but it is tempting to see the trigrams in terms of them.

Trigrams kun and gen are two faces of earth. Of course, kan and dui must be two faces of water. Its a bit more of a stretch to see zhen and li as two faces of fire. But what about qian and xun? They seem to defy categorization even without this. Just because the pattern cries out for them to be two faces of air, are we justified in putting them in that box?

If we accept the pattern, can we use it? Perhaps kun, dui, li and xun align on one side contrasting with gen, kan, zhen and qian on the other. But what does this polarity signify? Is it real enough to give it a name, and if so, does it tell us any more about the nature/usefulness of the trigrams for interpreting the YiJing oracle?


  1. Bradford Hatcher explores categorisation as numbered "scales of thought" in his excellent "The Book of Changes: Yijing word by word" which you can buy direct from hermetica.info. His translation is interesting, not least because he also gives us the Chinese derivation, in considerable detail, that led to his version.

    But the book is so much more than that. Hatcher takes seriously what others have to say (and has evidently read very widely) but his conclusions are definitely his own. So even when I don't agree with him, his writing never fails to be thought provoking! Don't think less of this work just because he prefers to avoid a publisher's mangling and so doesn't appear in the "amazon.com" machine. Its well worth buying.
 

dobro p

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Try this:

K'un and Ken are the two faces of earth.

K'an and Tui are the two faces of water.

Sun and Chen are the two faces of air. (Sun's wind and Chen's thunder, which is essentially an atmospheric thing.

Ch'ien and Li are the two faces of fire. (Ch'ien's the divine fire, simultaneously creative and destructive.)

I think it's not a bad way to think about the trigrams if it helps you read and understand the Yi better.
 

fkegan

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Try this:

K'un and Ken are the two faces of earth.

K'an and Tui are the two faces of water.

Sun and Chen are the two faces of air. (Sun's wind and Chen's thunder, which is essentially an atmospheric thing.

Ch'ien and Li are the two faces of fire. (Ch'ien's the divine fire, simultaneously creative and destructive.)

I think it's not a bad way to think about the trigrams if it helps you read and understand the Yi better.

Hi Dobro and welcome Javalava,

The two faces notion is a Dyad idea, like Yang and Yin which highlights the two sides or faces of a coin at the expense of appreciating the substance of the coin, which used to be the actual little bar of stamped precious metal that a coin was.

The four elements notion is more ancient Greek science, the Chinese tend to speak of 5 elements more. In any event, the air, earth, water, fire notions would have to be somehow more fundamental than the trigrams to care about such category boxes to slip your thoughts into.

Consider the trigrams as the fundamental and primary concepts and your two-faced dilemma vanishes.

Three points or entities necessarily forms an image or gestalt or eidos. The gua are such images (whether in their trigram or hexagram form). The rule for any gestalt or gua is that there must always and all ways be both a background and an image or focus at all times and in all circumstances.

For Ch'ien and K'un which are all the same lines, that background is the blank background around the lines--the white page around and between the lines. The others have a mix of lines and can form their image from just that mix.

Ch'ien is the rays of sunshine that come through the atmosphere (heaven) and cause the Water Cycle. K'un is the levels of Planet Earth topography that controls water flow within the Water Cycle.

The other six trigrams indicate dynamics between open space (Yin) and substance that can diffuse into open space (Yang) which can in part be associated to the various natural phenomenon traditional for these elements of air, earth, fire, water or the various family members and their place in common family dynamics. They are both just examples of abstract principles and symbolism.

So, being tempted into 4-element boxes may be fun, but it is just imaginary. It is the clinging to such expectations which brings pain since they are not at all real and will not survive indefinitely.

Frank
 

javalava

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In any event, the air, earth, water, fire notions would have to be somehow more fundamental than the trigrams to care about such category boxes to slip your thoughts into. Consider the trigrams as the fundamental and primary concepts and your two-faced dilemma vanishes.
Trouble is, the air-earth-fire-water notions are more fundamental in my consciousness: I've lived with them some 30 or 40 years, where I've yet to live one round of seasons being aware of the trigrams. I asked because it would help me to get a better handle on what they mean (as opposed to how they are described, if that makes any sense).

It is the clinging to such expectations which brings pain since they are not at all real and will not survive indefinitely.
Yeah, I get that.
(A lot :eek:)
 

fkegan

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Hi Christopher,
The air-earth-fire-water elements are far more Aristotle than I Ching. Of course, even the zodiac is done fire (Aries)-Earth (Taurus)-air (Gemini)- water (Cancer), etc. And the trigrams tend to be associated first and foremost to the family relationships: Father Ch'ien, Mother K'un, 3 daughters Sun, Li, Tui and 3 sons Chen, Kan, Ken. The kids are determined by where they have their one line different from the other two.`
The Earlier Heaven arrangement of the trigrams puts male and female of the same order across from one another (father-mother, eldest son and daughter, middle and youngest).

The diagrams in Wilhelm, Book II chapter IX, 1 and 2 about elements either do not use trigrams or associate them to earth, metal, water, wood, fire.

However, if it is important to you to see I Ching trigrams in terms of the classical Greek four elements, it is fundamentally open ground for you to place your own stamp upon such research in your own way. I have done my work based upon connecting Pythagorean concepts to King Wen Sequence of the I Ching, so I find the Greek-Chinese metaphysical connections quite reasonable.

Good Luck,
Frank
 
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meng

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Seeing patterns and analogies can be fun, but it is something of a two-edged sword as well. On the one hand the category/relationship gives you another way to think about things. On the other there is a tendency to think in terms of putting things in boxes. We then need extra effort to "think outside the box" or simply see the thing-in-itself.

So what do you think of this pattern. Is it an inspiration or a constraint? I am aware that earth-air-water-fire is not a particularly Chinese 4-scale (1) but it is tempting to see the trigrams in terms of them.

Christopher, first let me say that I enjoy reading your thoughts and I can relate to what you're presenting here.

In my thought process I observe the construct of patterns and analogies as a matter of communicative necessity. There needs to be order, and if there's one thing the human mind is skilled with, it's seeing order within a sky lit with chaos. And upon that construct I build additional constructs, and constructs upon those constructs.

Now, and for the last ten years, my efforts have been to gradually strip away those constructs, one layer at a time. The language, the symbolism, the metaphors; even the most clever of them lose their value, and I'm better off without too much of them.
 

pantherpanther

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Christopher, first let me say that I enjoy reading your thoughts and I can relate to what you're presenting here.

In my thought process I observe the construct of patterns and analogies as a matter of communicative necessity. There needs to be order, and if there's one thing the human mind is skilled with, it's seeing order within a sky lit with chaos. And upon that construct I build additional constructs, and constructs upon those constructs.

Now, and for the last ten years, my efforts have been to gradually strip away those constructs, one layer at a time. The language, the symbolism, the metaphors; even the most clever of them lose their value, and I'm better off without too much of them.

So the metaphors are guides to verify their value for myself by personal experience, although my understanding may be partial and incomplete.
 

javalava

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Now, and for the last ten years, my efforts have been to gradually strip away those constructs, one layer at a time. The language, the symbolism, the metaphors; even the most clever of them lose their value, and I'm better off without too much of them.
Me too, hence my ambivalence. I have come to the yijing and taiji late, in my fifties. Shunryu Suzuki, a Zen master teaching in 1970s San Francisco, recounted how he had joined the monestary after his 10th birthday (very late for a Buddhist monk) and ever after was scolded (usually fondly) by his master who called him "you lately joined fellow". My situation feels much like that :eek::blush: .

So while I have lived sufficiently long for my well-developed understanding of things to fade from memory, leaving what it may as part of who I am, I am also exploring whole new conceptually alien areas. Hopefully with Shunryu Suzuki's "Beginner's Mind" (or at least, thats the intention :rolleyes: ).

So the metaphors are guides to verify their value for myself by personal experience, although my understanding may be partial and incomplete.
Yes, indeed. Though I might put it less formally, I think we're talking about the same thing. I think of them as "scaffolding": support for playing with the ideas that shape how we see/affect the world.

Dedre Gentner has spent the last two or three decades looking into conceptual development, and particularly how we seem to use what she calls structural mapping and alignment. Some of her work with infants is particularly interesting. It suggests the concept processing we use when making analogies is already fully developed before the reinforcement learning favoured by behaviourists starts to have cognitive effects. In other words, analogies are primary, conditioning is secondary!

As fkegan and meng have pointed out, the big mistake is to see our understandings as the real thing (Alan Watt's eating the menu instead of the meal). This should become less of a problem with age. My guess is that the forgetting people complain about as they get older is a side effect of living more skilfully. When learning a piano piece you first have to learn every finger on every note, but soon your fingers 'know' where to go by themselves and you can play without engaging brain. We are supposed to forget as we get older: ageing includes exchanging the energy needed for exploration with the efficiency found with acquired skill.

So when younger, our lives are full of theories, but as we grow older we have the opportunity to see things in their is-ness and now-ness (yet also knowing a whole web of stuff about how they relate and are used, 'without knowing'). Ah. Maybe I shouldn't be embarking on this fool's (lately-joined-fellow's) errand of learning about all this new stuff at my age? I can't resist though -- its just so fascinating :) .
 
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javalava

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Has anyone any insights on my third original question...

[Do] kun, dui, li and xun align on one side contrasting with gen, kan, zhen and qian on the other[?] [W]hat does this polarity signify?

How would you describe it?

The hexagram pairs are interesting in that how the Pair complements the Primary gives a better grasp of what they are about. So I thought playing with this contrast might do the same. Trouble is, I kind of intuitively see a gentleness/robustness dimension, but I don't have enough experience with the trigrams to tell whether this is useful or just my imagination. Although King Wen's arrangement shows them as opposing halves, the halves are different from the way Karcher splits them with his 'hemicycles' idea: he has zhen, xun and li together, opposing dui, qian and kan, with gen and kun as still points between them.

Any ideas, stories, illustrations, theories?
 
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my_key

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So when younger, our lives are full of theories, but as we grow older we have the opportunity to see things in their is-ness and now-ness (yet also knowing a whole web of stuff about how they relate and are used, 'without knowing'). Ah. Maybe I shouldn't be embarking on this fool's (lately-joined-fellow's) errand of learning about all this new stuff at my age? I can't resist though -- its just so fascinating :) .

Christopher
Your image of the johnny-come-lately monk arriving too late aged 10 years old made me smile. Like you I have come to The I Ching later in life and am having great fun putting a few more pieces in the jigsaw. Sometimes arriving late at the party means that you bring with you an opportunity to invigorate what has become tarnished. The things that we chase after in our youth are rarely the things that we value in our older years.

Your intuitive approach to the I Ching is not to be underestimated, for that is where you are now. Reconciling this with your analytical / academic side will I hope be as much fun for you as it is proving to be for me.

Meng's
Now, and for the last ten years, my efforts have been to gradually strip away those constructs, one layer at a time. The language, the symbolism, the metaphors; even the most clever of them lose their value, and I'm better off without too much of them.
resonates well with me as well. Although I believe I was stripping away the constructs way before I even realised that I had constructs to strip away.
On top of this reading your posts here it seemed like they could be summed up simply by - Life is for remembering.

Whether Karcher is right, King Wen is right, both of them are right or neither of them is immaterial. Following what you feel is right is what matters for you and similarly the conclusions that you reach will be far less meaningful than what you have remembered on the way.

Happy Hunting

Mike
 

fkegan

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Yi understanding simple without limit.

Hi Christopher,

Understanding the Yi is as simple as you would like it to be, probably even simpler, given your interest in complex trigram associations.

The special innovation of the King Wen Sequence is that instead of focusing upon the details of the lines (Yin and Yang) or the 8 trigrams, the overall meaning of the WHOLE hexagram became the unit gestalt or image with the lines and trigrams as parts or fractions of that meaning whole/unit/gestalt. Also allowed for a larger philosophical entity, the set of 10 hexagrams which share a theme and a philosophy. They also build up into the two halves and then on to the entire Yi.

The first half (hex 1-30) being the 3 sets of 10 describing Planet Earth or the Water Cycle; then society as organized around agriculture based upon that Water Cycle; and finally the appreciation of the Divine in terms of the principles of Justice or Karma or natural cause-and-effect that keeps everything running smoothly as the Great Central Nation or Middle Kingdom or traditional Chinese Empire.

Today will be a better day to study and review than come to hard decisions or conclusions, you might enjoy checking out simpler ways to look at the Yi than trigram sets and Earth-Air-Water-Fire elements.

I am trying to write my simpler insights in a simple style, but that is quite a challenge for me, but it might have something to interest you in your quest:
http://www.stars-n-dice.com/fluxtome.html

There is a line in Lao Tzu poem 27:
A good door needs no lock, Yet no one can open it.
which seems to illustrate that the deep secrets of the Yi are hidden in plain sight and it is much more a matter of just looking at what is there, plain as the nose on your face to see it all. The deep analysis may not be the most fruitful.

Frank
 

heylise

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If we accept the pattern, can we use it? Perhaps kun, dui, li and xun align on one side contrasting with gen, kan, zhen and qian on the other. But what does this polarity signify? Is it real enough to give it a name, and if so, does it tell us any more about the nature/usefulness of the trigrams for interpreting the YiJing oracle?

I have been looking at upper and lower trigrams, searching for common meanings, and there was a difference between the 'sons' and 'daughters'.
http://www.yijing.nl/hex-families/index.htm
 

frank_r

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Hello Cristopher,

Interesting discusion about the trigrams. One thing I realy found fascinating over the years is that the Chinese made the 5 element jump with the 8 trigrams. This because the number 5 is a yang number it has a centre(3) and is itself also a centre of 9. And 5 + 5= 10 what is the yin expression of 1.

fushi.jpg


5elements.jpg


Understanding this I understood the 4 Western elements and the 5 Chinese elements. Being 4 a yin materealistic and 5 a yang energetic aproach. Both different but with the same basic elements.

When looking closer to how the Chinese did this then you see that in the case of Element Earth you get the trigrams Water and fire, that gives the possibility to cross the middle.
And also that Wood has the same trigrams as element Water.(both trigram Heaven and Earth), so the energy of the beginning is the same as the energy of the end. The power in Winter into the seed has the same power as the spring that the seed is starting to grow. The everlasting cycle. The end of something is always the beginning of something new. Always liked this idea.

Frank
 
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bamboo

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Chris, You made that interactive tool?? wow, incredible.
 

my_key

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HI Chris
May I add my thanks. A wonderful piece of work.
Mike
 
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maremaria

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Hi Chris,
Interesting and handy tool !!!

Thanks for sharing
Maria
 

fkegan

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Are the Yi hexagrams given meaning by their lines and trigrams first and foremost?

Hi Chris,
A lovely interactive tool with many options and color choices.

Of course, it doesn't confront the fundamental issue of the utility of looking at the trigrams for primary meaning of the hexagrams. I would suggest the meaning of the hexagram comes from its total structure in terms of which of the 6 line places have yang lines indicating a specific focus.
And beyond that the place of the hexagram in terms of its King Wen Sequence number also describes its meaning in terms of its place in the sets of 10 hexagrams.

After that establishment of the meaning overall of the hexagram, then the trigrams and individual lines can be used for further understanding.

Frank
 

javalava

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One thing I realy found fascinating over the years is that the Chinese made the 5 element jump with the 8 trigrams. This because the number 5 is a yang number it has a centre(3) and is itself also a centre of 9. And 5 + 5= 10 what is the yin expression of 1.

...

The everlasting cycle. The end of something is always the beginning of something new. Always liked this idea.
Thank you very much for this reply, Frank. Though I'm ashamed to admit most of it went over my head (in a good way). I didn't understand it in the same way I don't understand my Taiji teacher. He says such things can't be taught in words, only done. Once understanding has been born, from proper action, then we can talk about our insights (presumably because the words are only required to reference the known, not generate it). So I will bear these strange meandering diagrams in mind and watch for their meaning. It's happened before, so I'm hopeful...
 

javalava

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Of course, it doesn't confront the fundamental issue of the utility of looking at the trigrams for primary meaning of the hexagrams.
Naturally. That was not its purpose, though. I was trying to use the hexagrams' meanings to shed some light on what (if anything) might be in common among hexagrams with a particular trigram in a particular position. Something LiSe has already explored, it seems:

I have been looking at upper and lower trigrams, searching for common meanings, and there was a difference between the 'sons' and 'daughters'.
http://www.yijing.nl/hex-families/index.htm

This was therefore a tool to explore the meaning of trigrams, not the hexagrams. I am very happy with the received wisdom that the hexagrams came first. Although there were some vague notions around when the Zhouyi was written, the detailed exposition of the trigrams themselves are derivative.
 

fkegan

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Hi Christopher,
It is a lovely interactive tool for looking at trigram arrangements in various colors.
 

lienshan

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I am aware that earth-air-water-fire is not a particularly Chinese 4-scale
the air-earth-fire-water notions are more fundamental in my consciousness
The trigram order of the King Wen hexagram sequence is air-earth-water-fire

That's the order of the 'double-trigrams' 1-2-29-30 and the 'lake-sequence' 43/44 - 45/46 - 47/48 - 49/50

The trigram sequence of the King Wen hexagram sequence is the upper trigrams of the odd hexagrams
21 - 17 - 13 - 9 - 5 (earth is the upper trigram of the separating odd hexagrams 19 - 15 - 11 - 7)

I like your tool-colours :D
 

heylise

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Nice thread!

Curious where it says that the hexagrams came first, and then the trigrams. I also used to think that, from out my own "logic", but left it when I delved deeper in the trigrams. Now my "logic" rather thinks the trigrams came first.

As far as I know, nobody knows which came first. The oldest evidence of "hexagrams" are numbers arranged like hexagram lines, but not necessarily 6. Nobody can tell if there was 'nothing' before that. For a very long time the Yi (or the oracles which later became the Yi) was not written down in any form at all. It was transmitted orally, and probably only among a very small number of people.
 

javalava

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Curious where it says that the hexagrams came first, and then the trigrams.
I think I got that from one of Brad Hatcher's essays in his book. Like you he basically says, we don't know. It seems reasonable that some trigram notions were around (as the Zhouyi refers to them doubled) but their meanings may have changed (developed?) over the centuries.

We normally expect component parts to come before the whole, but it isn't always true. Face recognition seems to come long before infants are able to distinguish features. I can recognise someone from their walk when they are far away; my poor eyesight means I can't "see" much else, but I know who they are. Wasn't that a Gestalt idea?
 

fkegan

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Greek elements, Shang trigrams and line, King Wen Sequence Hexagrams all different...

The trigram order of the King Wen hexagram sequence is air-earth-water-fire

That's the order of the 'double-trigrams' 1-2-29-30 and the 'lake-sequence' 43/44 - 45/46 - 47/48 - 49/50

The trigram sequence of the King Wen hexagram sequence is the upper trigrams of the odd hexagrams
21 - 17 - 13 - 9 - 5 (earth is the upper trigram of the separating odd hexagrams 19 - 15 - 11 - 7)

I like your tool-colours :D

Hi Lienshan and all,

Air vs Earth then water vs. fire is a fundamental reflection of observed natural phenomena. With the sky above us and our Planet Earth below us as first reality, then the interaction of flowing water and the rising and setting sun as dynamic changes of great importance. Water is closer to human reality, as a species we forever and all ways live by water (an often neglected detail of caveman life is that the caves they lived in were formed by flowing water in their depths, so living in them was staying close to flowing water. And the disk of the Sun rising and setting and also the domestication of fire, the two primary images of trigram Li are also universally recognized as the dynamic essentials of human life.

The doubled trigrams, are ultimately hexagrams. The question of what their trigrams bring to their place in the Sequence remains a matter in dispute. Those four trigrams are the only ones of the eight which are symmetrical when turned upon their little heads, as it were. The hexagrams 61 and 62 are also symmetrical to such tumbling, but their trigrams are not. Hexagrams 63 and 64 aren't symmetrical to tumbling but they still make a similar pair as their difference in that change are very symmetrical and related.

Of course the relationship between Heaven/Planet Earth and air/earth is not a settled or simple matter. Similarly, flowing water/ dynamic fire and the substance elements of water and fire (as well as earth and air) have lots of differences.

LiSe,

Which meaning of first is important?

Do we care about about historical first--like European explorer's staking claim to other folks homeland for their Kings' Empire?

Number starts for all peoples as one, two, three since as current research shows these are the numbers known to many species including birds and other mammals. And numerals, the writing of number, begins with tally marks, which it still is in Chinese numbering for one, two, three and oh yes, the tally set of 10.

Or is what is important the philosophical first, or prime, or capital/head, such as in the ideogram for Tao as the prime or head, dynamic or human process?

Whether one considers trigrams or hexagrams as primary comes to a head in terms of the King Wen Sequence and the earlier and Shang divination systems.

If it is the hexagram meaning that is primary with the trigrams and line places taking their meaning within that overall hexagram gestalt, then there is also in parallel with that inner or component meaning a larger meaning in terms of the groupings of the hexagrams into sets of 10 and into the two parts for the whole 64.

If it is the trigrams and lines which are primary, then the hexagrams are as far as that insight can be extended and the whole set of 64 is reduced to the 8x8 chessboard of 32 pairs.

You raise a different, interesting point about what really mattered in the historical trajectory of Yi insight--were the first and best insights written neatly upon fragments of material and upon tomb walls or were such things only the after thoughts and long eclipsed and abandoned discards that got picked up by those who didn't understand the Master was pointing to the Moon and thought he was talking about the fingers of his glove.

If Yi knowledge was an oral tradition amongst initiates of some kind, then the best source would not be the cast off artifacts kept as souvenirs by other folks not part of the active circle of initiates. The best source, then, would be similar initiate knowledge in other cultures on the grounds that what is unique is also universal since at root and in core we are each unique subjects and as such our unique subjectivity is universal too since it is an exact shared reality. We can know no more about someone else's subjectivity than we can know about the universal unique subjectivity of the human species throughout time and space. Or in the alternative, we are only individuals in outer objective detail. Inside we are each and all humans of similar biology and brain functions.

Hi Christopher,
Yes to you too. The gestalt interpretation of the Yi is one major alternative. The hexagram as primary view involves the gestalt concept of Meaning as developing from how we recognize the whole. The component pieces still exist, no one looks only at the hexagrams and ignores the existence of individual lines or upper and lower trigrams and nuclears, etc.

It is a matter whether there are only the pieces that at the very tippy top of possible consideration form hexagrams out of the sequences of lines and trigrams. Or there was a great innovation in 1100 BCE in the new intellectual atmosphere of the Chou that allowed a different orientation and philosophy where the hexagram meaning became primary and there was a two-way development from those hexagram meanings--one into the lines and trigrams and inner details; the other up into larger units like the sets of 10 and the two parts of the whole 64 hexagram universe.

Frank
 

heylise

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I think I got that from one of Brad Hatcher's essays in his book. Like you he basically says, we don't know. It seems reasonable that some trigram notions were around (as the Zhouyi refers to them doubled) but their meanings may have changed (developed?) over the centuries.
I was curious if there was anything anywhere, but I didn't expect anything. It is not the kind of information diviners would be interested in. That kind of interest came later, when the oracle reached the scholars. A diviner has different priorities. Dissecting an oracle is not good for its shamanic power, how interesting it may be to find all those layers.

We normally expect component parts to come before the whole, but it isn't always true. Face recognition seems to come long before infants are able to distinguish features. I can recognise someone from their walk when they are far away; my poor eyesight means I can't "see" much else, but I know who they are. Wasn't that a Gestalt idea?
I made an animation for one origin of the hexagrams. It was a lot of fun to get that idea and then make it visible. If it makes any sense.. no idea. But who cares, nobody knows the 'truth'. Like Kegan says, every individual is him/herself part of universe. So my crazy idea is as valid as any other idea.
Gui-Gua
 

bradford

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The fashion in academia is to view the trigrams as a later addition.
Steve Moore's book The Trigrams of Han, if you can find it, is a good
place to start.
My own theory is that they coevolved, simultaneously. But the trigram
associations did not emerge fully formed. They grew over many centuries
and didn't stop growing when the Shuo Gua came out. I believe the first
mention of them in literature is in the Zuozhuan, but my book outlines
a number of reasons why I think they were part of the original thinking.
 

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