Category Archives: Consulting the I Ching

A promising methodology for interpreting multiple changing lines

While the interpretation of unchanging hexagrams and single changing line hexagrams, it has always been difficult to interpret multiple lines.

Several methods have been suggested, which all gave mixed results. Sometimes they were encouraging, and sometimes they were discouraging.

As I have been busy working on multiple line comments, by the mean of consulting the oracle, and by following a particular method, I have been unable so far to describe a proper method for interpreting multiple lines.

When consulted, the oracle hinted with 63.3:

63 - Maximum3 - Remedy

Situation

One is hard at work to solve a problem, it will be painful. The most able will go first.

I have interpreted this as the topmost line was the most important, thus should be interpreted first.

This gave me some good results with two changing lines, the topmost line was to be read first, then the bottom line. For example 7.1.2:

 

7 - The will24 - To return

Situation

7 > 24 – Not being taken immediately

One must show to their relatives that they are ready to respect the choice of others.

The formation

7 – The will

To solve their problems, one will need discipline and continuity.

7.1 – Contradictions show falsity.

7.2 – One does like everybody else, therefore is trusted.

You would read the comment for the second line first:

One does like everybody else, therefore is trusted.

then the comment for the first line:

Contradictions show falsity.

Since the first line amends the second, this can be interpreted as “everyone should be allowed to contradict others”, and we have this comment on the situation:

One must show to their relatives that they are ready to respect the choice of others.

This is compatible with the interpretation we have just made.

What about 3 or more changing lines?

My first idea was to use transitional changes, I have written an article about them here.

However, we have just seen that using transitional changes was not necessary for two lines. Would they be useful for three or more changing lines? Actually, I don’t think so.

For example, let’s check the transformations for 7.1.2.3:

7 - The will36 - Adversity

Situation

One goes further than those who have been afraid to face the unknown.

So, my first idea was to read the comment for 7.3, since the oracle commented that the most able should go first. Then I would read the comment for 46.2 since 7.3  > 46 and finally  15.1 since 46.2 > 15. So, roughly:

One gives up making a gesture of staying in place.

This is quite compatible with the comment on the situation. Of course, we can criticize “the gesture of staying in place” as being meaningless.

Alternatively, we could use the comment on 7.1.2 to interpret 7.1.2.3:

One gives up on others. (7.3)

One must show to their relatives that they are ready to respect the choice of others. (7.1.2)

That does not help… Finally we can use the comment on 7.2.3 to interpret 7.1.2.3:

One warns those who seek to stand out. (7.2.3)

Contradictions show falsity. (7.1)

And this makes perfect sense. Someone contradicts those who warn against standing out. In my opinion, the rest of the comment (facing the unknown) can be explained by the resulting hexagram 36.

So, the correct method would be to use the transformation of all lines except the bottom one amended by the bottom line.

We can verify with 7.1.2.3.4:

One explains to their opponents that it is necessary to find a compromise.

The 2 comments to take into consideration being:

One is in a hurry to leave when things have a reached such a level that one can no longer resist. (7.2.3.4)

Contradictions show falsity. (7.1)

So, if one can still resist but also shows signs of fatigue, it may be necessary to find a compromise.

We can also verify 7.1.2.3.4.5:

One joins those who want to highlight the most deserving.

One sends their friends to inform those who are wondering. (7.2.3.4.5)

Contradictions show falsity. (7.1)

While the two first comments have a similar tone, the influence of 7.1 is more difficult to catch. My interpretation is that those who are wondering are not really wondering, so they help highlighting the most deserving (for example with prepared questions).

Finally, we can have a look at 7.1.2.3.4.5.6, since we have all the comments for hexagram 7:

One had expected better conditions than those that really occurred.

One wants to learn the reason why the opponents have eventually agreed. (7.2.3.4.5.6)

Contradictions show falsity. (7.1)

So, if we interpret this as “the opponents did not really agree”, the comments are compatible here.

 

Conclusion

This methodology does not give a straight explanation of the comments on the situation. However it can be completed by the study of the two hexagrams, and also by the nuclear hexagram. Compared to using the transitional sequences, it offers little contradictions or conflicting interpretations (such as 46.2 mixed with 15.1). It is important to find the right methodology to demonstrate the validity of the comments on the situation, and eventually find errors. As we have seen with the difficulty of interpreting 7.1 in 7.1.2.3.4.5, the interpretation can be fragile, and thus questionable. However this method appears to be  the most promising to me, as of today.

43.5: Bad herb gone good

The Yi Jing comments have been made by humans, and as such they carry their lot of misunderstandings and mistakes. I have pointed already that mantic formulas like “Fortune” and “Misfortune” contradict the comments of 16.1 and 58.5. But there are also more subtle errors. 43.5 is one of them.

43.5 (43 > 34)

43 - Revelation34 - Concentration

Situation

Others return because one didn’t want to continue.

This comment on the situation has been made by consulting the I Ching. As you can see there is no mention of good or bad here. Thus, it made me ponder whether that 43.5 was always describing a bad herb, or if it could also describe something good returning.

Here is Richard Wilhelm’s comment, translated in English by Cary F. Baynes:

 

In dealing with weeds,
Firm resolution is necessary.
Walking in the middle
Remains free of blame.

Weeds always grow back again and are difficult to exterminate.

What is interesting here, is that weeds are mentioned, so the advice is to exterminate them with a firm resolution. What is even more interesting is that Richard Wilhelm adds:

So too the struggle against an inferior man in a high position demands firm resolution.

The man in in a high position is deemed “inferior”. And thus it seems to be a bad thing that this man always come back to pester us like a weed.

Let’s now examine what James Legge had to say about this line:

The fifth line, undivided, shows (the small men like) a bed of purslain, which ought to be uprooted with the utmost determination.

Purslain? Ha ha. It must be a very bad weed. Out of curiosity, I have googled purslain to discover what it was. Here is an excerpt of the Wikipedia entry:

Although purslane is considered a weed in the United States, it may be eaten as a leaf vegetable.[6] It has a slightly sour and salty taste and is eaten throughout much of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Mexico.[1][7] The stems, leaves and flower buds are all edible. Purslane may be used fresh as a saladstir-fried, or cooked as spinach is, and because of its mucilaginous quality it also is suitable for soups and stews.

And then, about nutrition:

Purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid in particular[13]) than any other leafy vegetable plant. Studies have found that purslane has 0.01 mg/g of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). It also contains vitamins (mainly vitamin Avitamin Cvitamin E (alpha-tocopherol),[14]vitamin Bcarotenoids), and dietary minerals such as magnesiumcalciumpotassium, and iron.

 

The purslain contains low fat, vitamin C, and omega-3, it is an excellent vegetable food! So, why would you uproot with the utmost determination such a wonderful plant?

 

 

 

Style and Content

I was consulting the oracle about the attitude that consists of considering only the style without looking at the content. Then, after a few readings I didn’t get fully, the oracle answered this:

22.1 (22 > 52)

22 - Reservation52 - Stop

Situation

One is trusted to succeed without help.

It represents a situation when style does not matter. If we ponder about it, we can think of the hexagram 22 as representing style, and the hexagram 52 representing content: the mountain is a pile of content.

Interpreting multiple lines: the answer is in your heart

In a recent post, I have explained that after obtaining the comment of 1.1.6 > 28, I was puzzled because I could not interpret it simply with the changing lines. I have changed my mind about that.

[1 > 28]

1 - Evolution28 - Abandonment

Situation

1 > 28 – Abandoning their disputes

One asks their opponents to seek an agreement.

The formation

1 – Evolution

Changing to obtain quality work.

1.1 – Inexperience – One is still too weak to act.

1.6 – One is getting into bothers.

In the making

28 – Abandonment

One goes on their own if necessary. Stick to the essential.

How is it possible to understand “One asks their opponents to seek an agreement” from the lines 1 and 6? In fact it is very simple. The line 1 represents weakness to act, and the line 6 represents too much action. They conflict each other, you cannot be too weak to act and too strong at the same time.  Thus the oracle comment, that the dispute needs to be abandoned.

Here we can interpret the comment by examining the structure of the hexagram, a method that I have learned by reading Richard Wilhelm’s book, but have not practiced much.

So, are the transitional sequences necessary? As far as I can tell the transitional sequences do not conflict with the understanding of the situation. They bring a lot more information, but they are not enough to understand the situation fully. Example:

 

[1 > 26]

1 - Evolution26 - Checking

Situation

To succeed, the reforms must not be too shocking.

The formation

1 – Evolution

Changing to obtain quality work.

1.4 – One can confront the problems.

1.5 – One has understood the needs of the times.

In the making

26 – Checking

See that everything is alright. In this way one will find the invisible problems.

The comment on the situation is that “To succeed, the reforms must not be too shocking”. We find a shock nowhere in the line comments. The only shock that we can see here is that the upper nuclear trigram of the resulting hexagram is Tchen (Thunder).

If we examine the transitional sequences we find no shock, except maybe the comment about 14.4:

Raising Transitional Sequence

11.499.526

1.4 – One can confront the problems.

9.5 – One must help others more so that they accept to share.

Descending Transitional Sequence

11.51414.426

1.5 – One has understood the needs of the times.

14.4 – One does not shift away to provoke others.

It is also very difficult to elaborate about reforms. To go further we can examine the Fan Yao (derived hexagram). When 9.5 becomes 26 then the Fan Yao of 9.5 is 26.5, when 1.4 becomes 9 then the Fan Yao of 1.4 is 9.4. So let see the Fan Yao for each transitional sequence:

Fan Yao Descending Return

2626.599.41

26.5 – One waits until the youngest return to repair.

9.4 – One needs help, and is sincere. Someone will come.

Fan Yao Ascending Return

2626.41414.51

26.4 – Controlling the other’s aggressivity by yielding.

14.5 – All are accepted but one will move away from those who are asking too much.

As we can see, it is very difficult to say whether these comments are related or not to the situation. However, in this case, the ascending Fan Yao sequence seems more understandable.

I have also googled this situation and found this thread where the comment on the situation matches perfectly, because the inquirer was looking for a job in a different sector, so we can see how the recruiter wonders if this person will adapt to the new job.

Conclusion

It is very difficult to interpret multiple lines, even 2, because there are so many techniques. We can try using the pivot method, we can ask follow-up questions, we can study the structure, we can look at the transitional sequences and at the Fan Yao, and I am not citing all of them. Fortunately, there is something about consulting the I Ching,  an old advice coming with the hexagram 29:

If you are sincere, you have success in your heart,
And whatever you do succeeds.

— Wilhelm/Baynes

And I have noticed that I could find comments on the situation by using the changing lines but also by reading at the transitional sequences: it’s all about inspiration.

 

Interpreting two changing lines: Mystery and Confusion

 

It used to work…

The traditional way to interpret an hexagram is to read the comments on the hexagram, on the transformation and the comment for each changing line (either at the end or before the transformation). I have obtained decent results by following this method, specially by using follow-up questions.

Here is an example reading, about renewable energy, with two changing lines: 13.1.4

 

[13 > 53]

13 - Company53 - To associate

The formation

13 – Company

Making oneself available. Not taking one’s own opinions into account. General agreement is impossible.

13.1 – We were lost, but we will meet later.

13.4 – Losing one’s bitterness.

As interpreted, the first line would design renewable energy ( We were lost, but we will meet later.) and the line four would design the loss of bitterness obtained by abandoning coal. The hexagram 53 is about associating to overcome constraints, on the follow-up question about the constraints  the oracle commented 35.6, which I interpreted hastily, now I think that it’s probably about the dislike for coal.

However, while the interpretation can be discussed, this hexagram with two changing lines does not seem to cause any major issue. This is a favorable case.

The technique employed here to interpret is what I call the pivot. The pivot is renewable energy at line 1, then we use the pivot to get an advice. So it becomes something like “renewable energy makes things less bitter”.

What is the problem?

The problem is that there were always readings that we could not interpret. Here is an example:

 

[38 > 51]

38 - Misunderstanding51 - Shock

The formation

38 – Misunderstanding

One must revisit a misunderstanding if they want to dispel it. If needed, one can seek advice. One may abandon the small differences.

38.2 – One comes upon someone they know who had taken distance.

38.6 – One wanted to take the other away from them, then refrains because the latter comes to ask friendly questions.

Here, 38.2 and 38.6 are “good” lines. How can they produce a shock? It does not seem to make sense at first glance. Maybe with followup questions we could determine the reason on a specific case. However, I am not working on followup questions actually, since I am asking the oracle to comment multiple changing lines.

Naturally, there are similar issues even with a single line change, for example:

[4 > 23]

4 - Asking for advice23 - Erosion

Situation

When someone is welcoming and a patient teacher, they are trusted.

This line can represent a bag, or the stomach that digests everything. After carrying so many things, fatigue ensues, thus the erosion of hexagram 23.

Likewise, we can think that 38.2.6 is not understood well enough. But I have started studying comments on the situation with the oracle, and the outcome is quite difficult to understand.

 

[1 > 33]

1 - Evolution33 - Moving away

Situation

1 > 33 – Indecision

One needs to listen before asking questions.

The formation

1 – Evolution

Changing to obtain quality work.

1.1 – Inexperience – One is still too weak to act.

1.2 – One has a strong potential and learns.

That one was a good start. We can see a relation between indecision, inexperience and learning.

 

[1 > 6]

1 - Evolution6 - Claim

Situation

1 > 6 – Waiting for a solution

One prepares to stop to help.

The formation

1 – Evolution

Changing to obtain quality work.

1.1 – Inexperience – One is still too weak to act.

1.3 – After a sustained activity, one questions themself.

We can understand the stop with the hexagram 6. The preparation cannot be understood, and neither the help. Here someone is confronted to an issue that they cannot solve. This comment makes sense anyway, I have googled this reading and found this thread at onlineclarity among the first results. The question was  what is preventing me from manifesting this dream? 

When asked for clarification, the oracle answered 34.3: One refrains until others go out.

If you had asked me before I study this situation with the oracle, what was the meaning of this, I would have said something like: “Someone is too weak to stop acting”, “After multiple tries, someone realizes that they can’t do anything” or “Someone is too weak to understand that they should stop”. The pivot technique does not seem to work very well here. If you think that this is confusing, wait for the next example:

 

[1 > 57]

1 - Evolution57 - Answer

Situation

1 > 57 – Giving up wanting

One waits until the others give up.

The formation

1 – Evolution

Changing to obtain quality work.

1.1 – Inexperience – One is still too weak to act.

1.4 – One can confront the problems.

In the making

57 – Answer

One goes after being approached.

By reading the lines, and using the pivot technique, we can think of either “One is inexperienced but they can confront the problem”, “One is too inexperienced to confront the problems”, or that “Someone can confront the problems caused by the inexperience of others.”

And the comment on the situation is nothing of that, except maybe the third way. I have googled again and found this thread still at onlineclarity. The question was: could Y be the right partner for me?

I have already mentioned 1.1.6 in a previous post, so I’ll finish with 1.1.5:

 

[1 > 50]

1 - Evolution50 - Involvement

Situation

One gives up working because they have sought too quickly instead of preparing.

The formation

1 – Evolution

Changing to obtain quality work.

1.1 – Inexperience – One is still too weak to act.

1.5 – One has understood the needs of the times.

To make a relation between the line comments and the comment on the situation we need to read the fifth line first since 1.5 traditionally shows someone who is working a lot.

However these considerations do not help us much in regard with the interpreation of 38.2.6

Transitional Sequences

An alternate possibility is to read the transitional sequences. They may give interesting results.

For 1 > 50, we can examine the two transitional sequences:

 

Raising Transitional Sequence

11.14444.550

1.1 – One is still too weak to act.

44.5 – One protects those who are not ready yet with patience, until one is satisfied.

Descending Transitional Sequence

11.51414.150

1.5 – One has understood the needs of the times.

14.1 – One must prepare themself before making the move.

While the first one does not seem to make much sense in regard with the comment on the situation, the second one seems to ring something. Naturally we need to be very careful.

Let’s examine the descending transitional sequence for 38.2.6:

3838.65454.251

38.6 – One wanted to take the other away from them, then refrains because the latter comes to ask friendly questions.

54.2 – When others don’t help, one can leave them.

Then we can see a real shock.

Conclusion

The top to bottom approach seems to give the best results, either when interpreting the lines directly or using the transitional sequences. However, no approach is entirely satisfying so far, since we have seen with 13.1.4 that the reading has been interpreted from the bottom to the top and it made sense.

 

 

 

The ‘Oops!’ moment of interpreting multiple lines

As many I Ching students will tell you, interpreting multiple lines is one of the most difficult things to do. It is so difficult that some only consider the two hexagrams without reading the line comments.

After making comments that matched the classical ones, under the guidance of the oracle, I was wondering if it was possible to make comments on the situation. But there are 4096 (64×64) situations in the I Ching, and since only 7 comments per hexagram had been made, there was still 3648 (57×64) comments to go! And since it has taken me about 5 years to make the first comments, I was expecting to spend between 10 and 40 years for the rest.

So I have consulted the I Ching about that, and received 31.5: One does not want to lose their comfort, and let the others do. I thought then that it was a hint that I should ask others to help me in the making of these hexagrams. I then contacted Mrs. Hilary Barrett who owns the forum at onlineclarity.co.uk, who has declined politely my offer and told me that 31.5 might have been talking about the power of clear intention and resolve.

That’s because Taoscopy’s comments are not considered seriously. Most people simply don’t believe that I’ve made them by consulting the oracle, or if I did, that I didn’t understand what was said to me.

Anyway, I know myself that I have made these comments under the oracle’s guidance and I have validated them. So, I carried on preparing yijing-oracle.com  then I  began making the first comments on the situation: 1.1.2, 1.1.3, 1.1.4, 1.1.5, 1.1.6 and 1.1.2.3

I have also validated them, for example by checking threads at onlineclarity. Then I was baffled. It was not so much that the comments had a meaning, because I’m used to that now, since I make comments like that since 2010. I was baffled because the multiple lines didn’t make any sense, except the first.

Let’s take a simple example: 1.1.6 > 28


1 - Evolution28 - Abandonment

1 – Evolution

Changing to obtain quality work.

1 – One is still too weak to act.

6 – One is getting into bothers.


It should mean that someone is getting into troubles because they are too weak, or maybe that they are too weak to be caught into troubles. I was expecting the oracle to clear the situation, but instead I got:


1 > 28 – Abandoning their disputes

One asks their opponents to seek an agreement.


How can we make any sense of the changing lines in this situation? Apparently, we can’t. At this point it looked to me that any hexagram with changing lines was impossible to decipher, unless I succeed at making a comment, which is quite difficult by itself.

As I was pondering about this, I remembered that when I was visiting onlineclarity, one of the users was using a bizarre method called the transitional method that he had found page 44 of a book available at hermetica.info.

Like others have not taken my comments seriously, I’ve never taken this method seriously. I was not impressed at all by the interpretations posted by the user who employed this method, who in turn was ignoring the comments that I had made.

So, for the heck of it, (what did I have to lose?), I have tried to compare the transitional method with those comments on multiple lines that I had made.

The transitional method is about interpreting the lines one by one from the bottom, and then consider the changing hexagram for the next comment. So, for 1.1.6 we consider 1.1 that transforms into 44 then 44.6 that transforms into 28.

 


1 - Evolution44 - Invitation

Situation

1 > 44 – Inexperience

One is still too weak to act.


44 - Invitation28 - Abandonment

Situation

One asks their relatives to wait because they are not ready.


So the comment on the situation for 1.1.6, according to the transitional method, would be along the lines of One is too weak to tell others to wait. If we use classical comments (Wilhelm/Baynes):

Hidden dragon. Do not act.

He comes to meet with his horns.
Humiliation. No blame.

We can think of Do not reject others.


1 > 28 – Abandoning their disputes

One asks their opponents to seek an agreement.


And then it makes much sense. And then comes the embarrassment. The oracle commented on this 36.3!

 


36 - Adversity24 - To return

Situation

One had retreated but while looking for supplies they find the issue.


Wilhelm/Baynes:

Darkening of the light during the hunt in the south.
Their great leader is captured.


The project of hunt in the south was about making the comments on the situation. Naturally, this is very embarrassing for everyone:

In this thread at onlineclarity, I am being praised for my interpetation, but if it sounded right, it’s only an effect of chance. Here 7.5.6 must be interpreted by reading 7.5 (7 > 29) then 29.6 (29 > 59). The fact that the classical comment for 29.6 is difficult to understand makes the reading unclear. Using Taoscopy’s comments we get now:

7.5: Something useful can be obtained, the most experienced will be able to succeed, another would damage it.

29.6: When it is too tiring, one can stop and resume later.

Which, in my opinion, either means that the most experienced (Hillary Clinton) would not be elected, or that Donald Trump was the most experienced to stop her (even jail her if we consider the classical comments). At the time of interpretation I had been influenced by a change of staff and interpreted lazily along that line.

Anything that we have interpreted in the past with more than 1 changing line was incorrect. In a way I am not surprised. I’ve read  about Philip K. Dick complaining in an interview about the I Ching.

No, I don’t use the I Ching anymore. I’ll tell ya, the I Ching told me more lies than anybody else I’ve ever known. The I Ching has a personality and it’s very devious and very treacherous.

I have followed a similar path. After studying the I Ching for 10 years and marveled at its wonders, I could not take it anymore and stopped throwing the coins. Then I have pondered about it for another 10 years and came to the conclusion that the classical comments were incorrect. But fixing them was not enough, and I still did not understand the I Ching most of the time.

Now, if you ask me, how can I be such a poor interpreter and still succeed at making comments? I’ll answer that I validate a lot, and verify a lot, I don’t write a line of comments without asking the oracle if it’s correct, sometimes two or three times. And these comments still have flaws, I may be able to fix some of them with this transitional method.

And then, 31.5, what does it mean? One does not want to lose their comfort so they let the others do. It means let the other hexagrams in, use the transitional method.

What can be said of readings with 3 changing lines or more? Actually, I have only made one comment for 3 changing lines with the oracle, 1.1.2.3. I can’t say anything definitive about its connection with the changing lines so far. It will be interesting to study its relation with 1.1.2 and 44.2.3. For now, my opinion is that the correct way to interpret it should be 1.1.(44.2.3), because (1.1.2 > 33).3 does not seem to fit, but I’ll need to study 44.2.3 with the oracle before confirming this.

 

 

 

 

 

Asking the I Ching once again?

I’ve discovered the I Ching with a book, it was one of those books with complicated sentences, but it was quite exotic and I found it entertaining for a while. Of course I didn’t understand much about the I Ching and I thought it would take a lifetime of studying with a teacher to get what it was about. At this point, I had almost lost interest.

Then it happened that a friend went missing and while we were waiting anxiously  for news, I’ve stumbled upon a chapter of that book describing the hexagram 5. The text was saying that nothing was to be done, but there was hope because something would happen. And, I said to myself: “This is the exact situation.”.

So, suddenly it all made sense: The I Ching describes situations, the comments describe the best approach to follow. So my interest growing rapidly, I bought Richard Wilhelm’s book which helped me understand a lot of situations. At that time, I was confident that I would soon understand most of it.

But, there was a difficulty, the hexagram 4 was standing in my way:

YOUTHFUL FOLLY has success.
It is not I who seek the young fool;
The young fool seeks me.
At the first oracle I inform him.
If he asks two or three times, it is importunity.
If he importunes, I give him no information.
Perseverance furthers.

How did I understand that comment? Ask your question, receive the answer and leave. That principle was difficult to apply because I was still a beginner, only able to understand a few lines.

So, I’ve followed the rule, reluctantly, for about 10 years. But each time I was receiving the hexagram 8 I felt committed to break it because of this comment:

Inquire of the oracle once again
Whether you possess sublimity, constancy, and perseverance;
Then there is no blame.

So, isn’t it strange that one comment tells you “One oracle is enough!” and the other tells you “Consult the oracle again!”? Isn’t there a lack of consistency?

Progressively I released my attention toward the rule of hexagram 4 and I’ve started asking more and more questions related to the same topic. Sometimes the answer would be the hexagram 4 and I was considering that this last question could have been avoided. Also, oftentimes, it happened that I consulted once, decided that I could not understand and then figured out the meaning while I was throwing the coins for the second time.

Of course, I was not feeling very comfortable with this way of doing, the hexagram 4 was still pointing an accusing finger at me: “You shall ask only once!”.  The solution came from a communications course where I’ve been taught that when a dialogue partner has said something, reword the sentence as to make sure that it was understood right.  So my new strategy was to ask a question then ask if my interpretation was correct. Those are two different questions and they solve the apparent contradiction between hexagram 4 and hexagram 8. Sublimity, constancy and perseverance represent your will to solve to the question. So, after pondering, inquire of the oracle once again: if your interpretation happens to be wrong, who better than the Yi is able to tell you?

Now are we done? Not yet, what is described here only applies to competent people. It does not apply to the incompetent. Competence and incompetence are relative notions.

If you speak Chinese fluently then you are competent in Chinese, and if you don’t know a single word of Gaelic then you are incompetent in Gaelic.

Someone competent in Chinese can ask questions such as the meaning of a special word, or about an ideogram. Once given, the information is supposed to be acquired, or this person didn’t pay really attention.

Someone incompetent in Gaelic will ask questions such as “How do you say hello?” or “How to say thank you?”. This person may have difficulties and it may take a lot of repetitions until the word can be pronounced correctly. It wouldn’t be right to tell this person that once the answer has been given, there is no more to ask, would it? This situation is naturally covered by the hexagram 18, line 2:

One helps the weakest gently.

So, are we competent or incompetent in respect with the I Ching? As beginners we are incompetent, and as we progress we are treated as competent. Sometimes we are able to understand, and sometimes we are not. So, how to proceed when we don’t understand immediately, shall we declare our incompetence or ponder about it until we grasp the meaning?

When I was consulting the I Ching about the hexagram 4, I naturally asked if it was right that a question shall only be asked once. Here is the answer that I got:

Give references to the student which asks oneself questions, but delay before answering to thoughtless questions. That way the student will trust their judgment.

Delay! It’s about delay, we need to take some time to ponder about it. The comment for the line 57.1 also confirms this:

One gives the youngest ones a time frame to finish the preparation. Then, one shows them their weaknesses and answers their requests for explanation.

There are also a few other comments related to this question, I’ll let you discover them by yourself if you happen to ask the Yi about it.