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Interpreting the I Ching
Ta Chuan - Section 1, Chapter XI-4.
With the discovery of the Connection and its implementation in the program, the I Ching has finally 'received its complete form'. There are now new tools to interpret its highly metaphorical language. One cannot profit from these, however, without knowing the basics of how to interpret the I Ching without them. Here's a summary of aspects to consider. First and foremost:
Beginning with taking note of its explanations, we reason out the principles to which they point. Thus we find that it does supply a constant and standard rule. But if there be not the proper men, the course cannot be pursued.
Ta Chuan - Section 2, Chapter VIII-4.
Ta Chuan - Section 2, Chapter VIII-4.
Throwing the coins
This program uses the coin method to determine the outcome of a divination. An outcome will always consist of three hexagrams, the actual hexagram, the future hexagram and the mediator.
Three coins are being thrown six times. Tail represents yin and has the value 2. Head represents yang and has the value 3. Obviously, the outcome of a throw will be between 6 and 9, inclusive.
- one head is called a 'young yang' or a 'seven'
- three heads is called an 'old yang' or a 'nine'
- one tail is called a 'young yin' or a 'eight'
- three tails is called a 'old yin' or a 'six'
A young yang ascends to to become old, then recedes to become a young yin. A young yin descends to become old, then rises to become a young yang.
Thus old lines change their character, while young ones don't. This is illustrated by the hexagrams that emerge simultaneously. The actual hexagram is on the left, the future hexagram on the right and the mediator in the middle.
- Young lines will carry the character they have in the actual hexagram into the future hexagram.
- Old lines will change their character, and thus become the opposite, in the future hexagram.
- The mediator indicates changing lines, but does not distinguish between them.
|Hexagrams should be considered as being composed of two trigrams, rather than of six individual lines. These trigrams are open for interpretation according to the different sides of their nature: their properties, images and position within the family in the Inner World Arrangement.|
Moreover, the positions of the trigrams with regard to each other should be taken into account: the lower trigram is under, inside, in the back, and its lines are considered waxing; the upper trigram above, outside, in front, and its lines are considered waning.
Time is the framework for change and, implicitly, for the Book of Changes. The total situation expressed by a hexagram, is often referred to as 'the time' and must be interpreted according to the character of the hexagram. Where the situation as a whole involves movement, time is the increase or decrease caused by this movement.
Hexagrams for which this applies are, for example disintegration and the turning point.
It may also stand for 'the sign of the times', the process described by the hexagram, for example conflict and biting through.
Or it may stand for gradual change, as in influence and endurance.
Or for a symbolic situation, as in the well and the cauldron.
In all of these cases, the time provides the context for the interpretation of the situation: from this the individual lines derive their meaning.
The different places occupied by the lines, represent an order of importance. The lines represent a division in noble and mean, determined by their relative positions. As a rule, the bottom and top line have minor impact, while the four central places are active within the time. Of these, the fifth is the place of the ruler, the fourth that of the minister near him. The third place has a transitional position of which the significance may vary, while the second place represents a civil servant in the province, with a direct connexion to the ruler in the fifth place.
Likewise, the fourth place sometimes represents the ruler's wife, the second his son. Under certain conditions, the second place may be the wife, taking care of business inside, while the man in the fifth place is active in the outside world. Though names change, relations remain similar.
From the viewpoint of time, the bottom and top place usually mark beginning and end. Under certain conditions, the bottom line marks someone starting to participate in the meaning of the time, without having entered its field of action; likewise, the top line may represent someone withdrawing from the activities of the time.
Character of the lines
The character of the lines is said to be strong or weak, central or not central, correct or incorrect.
- Strong or 'yang' are the undivided lines, weak or 'yin' the divided.
- 'Central' refers to the trigrams, and thus to the lines in the second and fifth place, independent of their influence.
- 'Correct' is a line in a corresponding place, meaning a strong line in the bottom, third or fifth place, or a weak line in the second, fourth or sixth place.
Strong and weak lines both can be favourable or unfavourable, depending on the demands of the time. If the time asks for firmness, strong lines are favourable; if it asks for receptiveness and submission, weak lines are favourable. This implies that 'correctness' isn't always in one's favour: if the time asks for submission, a strong line in the third place, though correct, may be a disadvantage due to the double hardness of both line and place. In such a case a compensating weak line is better.
The central positions usually are favourable regardless of correctness. A weak ruler in the fifth place may harmonize very well with a strong civil servant in the second place or a strong minister in the fourth, all lines being incorrect.
The corresponding lines of the upper and lower trigram are called 'correlates', and sometimes engage in a bond called harmony. This applies to the relation of the bottom line with the fourth, the second with the fifth, and the third with the top line. If the lines are different of nature, the correlation is called 'proper', but there are a few cases of harmony in an improper correlation.
In terms of correlation, the central lines are most important, in the proper relations of ruler and civil servant, father and son, man and wife. Especially a weak ruler and a strong civil servant, less so a strong ruler and a weak civil servant, tend to harmonize.
Harmony does occur between the bottom- and the fourth line. In that case a strong bottom-line and a weak line in the fourth place is the best combination.
Harmony between the third and the top-line seldom occurs: the withdrawing sage in the sixth place would, entangled in worldly affairs, risk to lose his purity, whereas the civil servant in the third place would seem to bypass his ruler.
Adjacent lines of a different nature may engage in a bond called solidarity, in which the lower line is considered to be 'receiving', while the upper line is considered to be 'resting on'. For this relationship the fourth and the fifth place, minister and ruler, usually deserve consideration. Here however, unlike the bond between the second and fifth line, the relation is most favourable if a weak minister serves a strong ruler: greater nearness requires greater respect.
Solidarity between the fifth and the top-line also occurs: a ruler paying tribute to a sage. Usually this involves a weak ruler and a strong sage.
Solidarity in the lower regions does occur sporadically, and always brings with it the danger of nepotism, which should be avoided.
The rulers of a hexagram
There are two kinds of rulers in a hexagram: constitutional and governing.
- The constitutional ruler is the line that gives the hexagram its characteristic meaning, regardless of its level and position. One example is the weak bottom line in coming on: its unexpectedly invading the strong lines, disrupting the peace, is the constituting characteristic of the hexagram.
- Governing rulers become what they are by their position and the meaning of the time; they always have a good character. Usually they occupy the fifth place, but occasionally other places house a ruler.
A hexagram may have several governing or constitutional rulers. If a governing ruler is at the same time constitutional, he is sure to be good and his character and position are in accordance with the demands of the time. If not, then the constitutional ruler's character and position may not be in accordance with the demands of the time.
The actual hexagram
The actual hexagram answers a question as far as the actual situation is concerned. The most important aspects are the image, the judgement and the lines, especially the changing ones.
- The Image introduces the hexagram as an interaction between its trigrams, and shows the state of mind a superior man would adapt under the circumstances.
- The Judgement focuses on the subject and how he or she should act under the circumstances to proceed with advantage or to avoid calamity. The circumstances may be good or bad, but there's always a best strategy. More often than not the I advises the course of the due mean, also called 'the way of the superior man'.
Attached to the judgement is a commentary that elaborates on the various points. Though separated by some seven centuries, these commentaries are very much in the same spirit as the judgements themselves, and should be read carefully.
- The Lines show the tendencies of movement that surround the question. First of all, the complete section should be read. Its subject can be followed as he goes through the different stages of the hexagram, encountering good or evil as the case may be, and the advice that goes with it.
This is what the I says:
There is difficulty in knowing the significance of the first line, while to know that of the topmost line is easy; they form the beginning and the end of the hexagram. The explanation of the first line tasked the calculating of the makers, but in the end they had but to complete this.
Ta Chuan - Section 2, Chapter 9-2.
These symbolic stages may trigger the response of different levels of the subject's mind, regarding the actual situation he's involved in. The first line is the most difficult because it represents a first and minute movement as it becomes manifest. As such it is easily overlooked by busy minds.
If no lines did change, the answer must be interpreted from the above, and from any additional information that may have appeared in the form of an appended judgement, or a reference made to the Ta Chuan or the Shuo Kua.
If lines did change, the above provides a context for the next step, which is the interpretation of these changing lines in terms of the question. They carry the most weight, and should be contemplated with care.
- A six (or 'old yin') changes to yang in the future hexagram. In a connexion it is under a waning influence of the adjacent hexagram (given in a lighter shade), and should be interpreted in that context.
- A nine (or 'old yang') changes to yin in the future hexagram. In a connexion it is under a waxing influence of the adjacent hexagram (given in a darker shade), and should be interpreted in that context.
For all lines, the commentaries should also be taken into account, though their quality may vary.
The future hexagram
The future hexagram reflects the outcome of the several tendencies working in the actual hexagram, and represents the situation towards which its subject is moving.
The time this process will take depends first and foremost on the time span implied in the question. Asking the best strategy for a job interview on the next day is another matter than asking the prospects for a relation over the next three years. So you yourself are the prime factor in this respect, and indicating a time span along with the question is good strategy.
Secondary factors regarding time can be read from the nature of the actual hexagram and from the relative positions of the hexagrams in the connexion.
Keeping the time factor in mind, the nature of the developing situation can be read from the image, the judgement and the commentary of the future hexagram.
To a lesser degree the lines may be taken into account, but if there were nines in the actual hexagram, special attention should be given to the waxing influences on the corresponding young yin lines in the future hexagram.
In terms of interpretation, the mediator governs the transition from the actual hexagram to future hexagram, representing heaven's influence on earth. It represents the heavenly messengers, the 'Kwei Shen', or 'Spiritual Intelligences', as Legge translates the written characters when used binomially together.
'Kwei' is used for an earthbound spirit, in particular a human spirit disembodied, 'Shen' for one whose seat is in heaven. These two sides should both be taken into account: one can never be quite sure about the nature of their involvement.
This concludes the basic procedure of a divination and by this time you may have encountered several problems trying to interpret the symbolism. To make this easier, explanations of a few of the most frequent symbolic phraseologies have been collected in Symbolism.