When I started studying the I Ching, I promptly realized that the hexagrams were describing situations. The comments associated with each hexagram and line either give proper advice, or describe the situation and eventually predict its outcome.
This is how I started studying, situation after situation, until I came to a stop because there were situations that I could not resolve, comments that I could not understand. 13.1 is one of these, I could never understand what it was about. At some point I could not progress anymore.
Then I have stopped studying the I Ching for 10 years, and when I returned (long story short) I asked the oracle to give me its own titles and comments for the hexagrams and the lines. The multiple lines comments came after. And then, many of the lines I could not understand appeared much clearer, but at the same time some situations that I thought I was understanding crystal clear became less obvious, for example 8.1.
So there were some gains and some losses, but overall, my understanding of the I Ching has tremendously evolved. And then I’ve wondered if it was possible to prove these comments to be true, how would I proceed to do that?
Two ways of validating comments
One can validate comments and titles by using structure or readings. If you choose to validate them with the hexagram structure, you don’ t rely on anything else than the other comments for different hexagrams. Validation with readings suppose that you have access to a large base of readings, preferably with enough background and also the outcome, what happened in the end. Such base exists on the internet, but you can also use your own readings if you have enough and documented them sufficiently.
Validation with structure
When I was a young I Ching student, I was annoyed by 63.4 because it was warning of a danger but didn’t propose a solution.
The finest clothes turn to rags.
Be careful all day long.
It is fine and dandy that I should be careful all day long, but there should be something to do about it, don’t you think? I’ve read more about it in Richard Wilhelm and Da Liu’s books, and I got some hints about a boat having leaks that one could fix with rags, and also about the bottom of a dress getting wet. So, I reflected that if the boat presents leaks, it would be better to take another or at least to put it on a dry dock to fix it rather than using rags. Likewise, if the bottom of my clothes get wet, I can return home and change them. And then I considered that 49.4 could be the “solution” of 63.4.
Remorse disappears. Men believe him.
Changing the form of government brings good fortune.
49.4 is this kind of situation when you tidy up your room and change the place of every piece of furniture. It’s a great way to find old coins and lost papers. So, if your boat has leaks, putting it on a dry dock is very 49.4.
It turns out that 63.4 becomes 49, I’ve later learned that 49.4 is called the Fan Yao of 63.4. And then I wondered if each line’s Fan Yao was the “solution” or the “remedy” of the said line. That would be a great way to validate line comment’s don’t you think?
But before doing that we should consider unchanging hexagrams first.
Oftentimes, people don’t understand unchanging hexagrams. What do they mean exactly? They have so many meanings!
There is something very simple to do about it: consider the complementary hexagram. Let’s take the hexagrams 29 and 30 as example :
29 – Depth
When problems are too difficult, one tries to work around them.
29 represents darkness, difficulties, danger and depth. It is quite easy to understand Now that we have understood that, we can infer the properties of hexagram 30: light, security, easiness, because 29 and 30 are complementaries.
30 – Lucidity
Patience leads to success.
And it is true that many of the lines of hexagram 30 relate to security, specially line 3 and line 6. On the other hand, the hexagram 30 has been named Lucidity by the oracle, so 29 must be about confusion, it works both ways.
We can understand hexagram 30 just by reflecting on hexagram 29. While it is true for any hexagram pairs, some are harder to get than others.
Some of the “easy” ones other than 29 & 30 are 1 & 2, 63 & 64, and also 11 & 12. We can also easily understand 19 & 33 since one is named (Wilhelm) Approach and the other Retreat. However it is much more difficult to get some of the pairs such as 3 & 50, 8 & 14, 9 & 16, 26 & 45. They require thorough attention and I am far from being able to validate them all. As of today, I have been able to validate 8 & 14 by following the oracle’s titles: Selecting recruits for 8 and Meeting demands for 14. This is how comments and titles can be validated, by considering the complementary and this is why you cannot put any name in front of an hexagram, because it has to match its complementary.
The hexagrams 41 & 42 form a kind of exception here, since they represent decreasing and increasing but are not complementary of each other. The reason can be found in hexagram 42, for it is not about being increased but about increasing others. By decreasing others one gains in influence (31), by increasing others they make them last longer (32). You can get the picture by considering a pile of sand. When shoveling it, you decrease the pile (41) and gain some sand (31), then you would drop it (42) at it’s resting place (32). 41 & 42 are said to be mirror hexagrams.
As I was consulting the I Ching to get the hexagram titles, when I reached the hexagram 61, one of the first readings I got was 63.4. I took it as a warning, because the hexagram 61 is traditionally called Inner Truth, it is a beautiful concept and as such the hexagram 61 is the favorite hexagram of many, even though they don’t get it always. The oracle was warning me that it would turn into something ugly, and I finally got Immobilized as title. This was causing two problems for me, the first was that it was conflicting with hexagram 52 (Keeping Still) and the second being that hexagram 61 is usually interpreted as trust. Now there are arguments in favor of Immobilized. The first is that it looks like a cage, the second is that Immobilized is the complementary of 62, which represents a bird flying, so is about mobility. The oracle gave me Exiting as title for 62, which confirms 61 as being Immobilized. 61 being the cage, 62 is the bird and we can recognize that love happens when the bird (soul) gets caught into the cage (heart). This is how we can find Inner Truth again, despite the difficulties. Even if someone disagrees about the titles of 61 & 62, we can see clearly that they fit into the complementary scheme. And if someone would like to propose different titles, or even keep Inner Truth and Preponderance of the Small, then they would have to show how inner truth is a complementary idea of the small being in excess, good luck with that!
Another great way of validating an unchanging hexagram and its comments is by considering the nuclear hexagram. The nuclear hexagram is the hexagram formed by the two inner trigrams of the starting hexagram. That is, when you have an hexagram, take the lines 2,3,4 then 3,4,5 and you will get its nuclear hexagram. As I understand it, the nuclear hexagram represents the root or the origin of the situation. For the hexagram 29, the nuclear hexagram would be 27:
27 – Supply
One supplies as needed.
There is a lot to say about the nuclear hexagrams. Here we can understand that feeding oneself creates difficulties. Among the 64 hexagrams, four hexagrams have 27 as nuclear (the three others being 59, 60 and 61). So there are four possibilities given a root situation. There are sixteen nuclears of the first level, and those sixteen nuclears have four nuclears of the second level, which are 1, 2, 63 and 64. 1 & 2 being their own nuclears, 63 & 64 being the nuclear of the other. So, the need for supplies (hunger) limits us (60), creates difficulties (29), causes separation (59) and is a cause of immobilization (or capture, 61). Again, given an hexagram and its nuclear, the titles and comments need to match. This is how we can ensure that comments are valid.
Single changing line
As I have already explained, the Fan Yao is a very interesting line of research when it comes to validating line comments. Naturally it has to work for every line, and not just for 63.4 & 49.4. So, can we find other examples ?
A relatively easy one is 16.1:
Enthusiasm that expresses itself
This situation is quite well understood. We are enthusiastic about something, then get disappointed. So, let say I have been enthusiastic about a new singer, then my friends may tell me that this singer is worthless and they don’t like this kind of music. This is how 16.1 works. Is there anyway I can fix this issue?
Shock comes–oh, oh!
Then follow laughing words–ha, ha!
OK, I have been enthusiastic, and it turned wrong but I can still joke about it. This is how I can revert misfortune into fortune.
Another is 35.4:
Progress like a hamster.
Perseverance brings danger.
We have someone hiding here. What can be done about it? The answer is 23.4:
The bed is split up to the skin.
23.4 represents a direct attack. For example if a thief is hiding stolen goods, a search warrant would let the policemen find them. Note that the reverse is also true. If you are scared about a direct attack (23.4), then hiding yourself (35.4) is the way to go.
I have used here Wilhelm’s comments but I have naturally in mind Taoscopy’s comments. But before we look at them please let me introduce you other ideas about these changing lines.
Derived, Juncture and Reciprocal
It’s only recently that I have learned about those lines, in a post at onlineclarity.co.uk mentioning a line path. The idea is quite similar to the Fan Yao in that any hexagram line has connections. Let’s examine the line 1 of hexagram 28 to see what it is about, and let’s see if we can validate Taoscopy’s comments with these lines.
28.1 Strengthening supports
One wants to improve because of the weakness.
There is nothing too controversial here, since the comment matches the classical version:
To spread white rushes underneath.
The Fan Yao of 28.1 is 43.1, and there the classical comment and Taoscopy’s comment do not match.
Derived (Fan Yao)
There is a risk of rupture by displaying one’s preferences. One must keep a low profile.
Mighty in the forward-striding toes.
When one goes and is not equal to the task,
One makes a mistake.
So, my theory is that the Fan Yao (which I used to name Derived) is the “solution” or the “remedy” to 28.1. Now it sounds strange, because 28.1 is about strengthening something, so why would I want a solution to that? This is why I have enclosed the word in double quotes, it’s a “solution”.
As we see it here, 43.1 is about exerting pressure on a single point. This can be a cause of rupture. In the classical comments, we also see the pressure caused by being mighty in the toes. So, you would prevent risks of rupture by reinforcing the whole, and you would fight the reinforcement by exerting pressure on a single point. This is how the line and its Fan Yao respond one to another. There is great insight to obtain by studying the Fan Yao.
One wants to continue alone because of the weakness of one’s entourage.
The Reciprocal is the line that you obtain if you flip the hexagram upside down. In the case of 28 we still get 28 since the hexagram 28 is symmetric.
We can see here that it goes the opposite way: instead of strengthening the weakest element, it is abandoned and left behind.
The Juncture is the Fan Yao of the Reciprocal, it can be seen as a kind of middle ground between 28.1 and 28.6.
One asks their relatives to wait because they are not ready.
There is here a period of uncertainty, the weak element has been spotted but there is no decision taken between strengthening it or abandoning it.
As with the complementaries, these connections can be easy or difficult to grasp. But they are nonetheless helpful because they help us understanding a given line and its associated situation. Before looking at the multiple lines, let’s examine another example, with 22.3:
22.3 Making the pleasure last
One does not want to finish too fast.
Graceful and moist.
Constant perseverance brings good fortune.
Derived (Fan Yao)
One neglects their supply.
Again, we can see here that the “solution” to not finishing too fast is to neglect your supply, and the “solution” to having neglected your supply is to use whatever is left slowly.
One asks what one believes that one deserves for one’s trouble.
Rather than living on reserves, the subject here prefers asking for payment.
One considers the possibilities.
Again, the middle ground and indecision here, we can consider living on reserves or asking for payment.
Multiple changing lines
While I have obtained comments from the Oracle for the 4096 situations of the I Ching, these comments still need to be validated, essentially for three reasons. The first is that I have made mistakes, the second is that I don’t understand them all, and the third is that you may not believe that these are the right comments, and thus need some kind of proof.
When it comes to multiple lines, there is no definitive method of interpretation. One option is to use the hexagrams names to make a sentence. For example, if you get 20 (View) > 30 (Lucidity) you could as “Seeing light” or “Seeing clearly”. There are also multiple methods for the interpretation of multiple lines, such as the Nanjing rules or the transitional method.
There is another method that I use here, and that I have called the “Pivot Method”, which consist of taking one line and amend it with the other lines. I have written several posts about this method already, I am not going to detail all the different methods here, but we can look at the pivot method, and see how we can validate comments with it.
The pivot method
This method consists of taking the topmost line of the hexagram, which we can call the “Ruler”, and amending it with the situation formed by the other lines. Hilary Barrett had come to a similar method last year but seems to have abandoned it since. It is a very simple and natural approach, which has some level of recognition for two changing lines.
Thus, in our example 20 > 30 has the following title and comment:
126.96.36.199.5 (20 > 30)
One focuses on the most convincing elements.
Reading the headlines, why not after all? But, is this a random comment or can we validate it with the pivot method?
So, with the pivot method we would read line 5’s comment, then amend it with the comment for 188.8.131.52.
One explains to others what they already know.
One looks at what the others have done to know what is left to be done.
I have already said that this method is not definitive, but it is very promising anyway. The biggest problem is caused by line 5, how can you explain to others what they already know when they read headlines? It does not seem to make sense. The correction also brings an issue, how would you study the situation when you read headlines? You would rather read the headlines, then study the situation by reading the whole article. And while you read the article, you already know what it is about since you have read the headline, thus, retrospectively, 20.5 makes sense here. This situation is about reading an article after having read the headlines. Maybe I will be able to refine the title later, but the comment is right on track One focuses on the most convincing elements. We have chosen an article to read after reading the headlines.
This method is not definitive because we have yet to take into account the transformation (some modern I Ching’s students call it the related hexagram). In 20 > 30 it does not seem to matter that much, but there are situations where it weights heavily.
Here is another example with only two changing lines:
33.3.4 (33 > 20)
One promises one’s children to do everything possible to get them out of the situation.
This comment is what I got from asking the Oracle. How does it relate to the changing lines, and we can explain it with the pivot method?
Leaving to succeed alone: one has to be competent.
Getting assistance from those who are coming in.
First, we interpret the line 4: someone is in a position where they can succeed without help. Without the help of what? The help of what is described in line 3: from outside. Thus, it means that someone relies only on their own and refuses outside assistance. What the final comment suggests here, is that there is a competition between line 3 and line 4: not only line 4 does not want the help of line 3 but line 3 is seen as a competitor, so it is about defending oneself from rivals. The children here can be seen as one’s works who are endangered by line 3.
This example shows how limited is the pivot method. We may use it to validate a comment, but it won’t tell us definitely what it is about.
Finally, let’s examine an example where the transformation can be seen in the resulting comment:
184.108.40.206.4.5 (33 > 41)
One criticizes the weak more than the powerful.
One stops searching alone.
One encroaches on the line of demarcation without creating a significant incident.
While we can see the criticism in 33 > 61 and the court in 33.5, the opposition weak/powerful comes directly from the hexagram 41, because 41 shows a situation where the powerful takes something from the weak. This is why the pivot method is not sufficient to explain a situation, but it gives solid clues nonetheless.
One loses their support and abandons. Accepting the constraints will arouse sympathy.
Validation with readings
The best theories don’t always resist Reality. To be valid, a comment has to help interpretation and give comprehensive results. There are many readings on the internet, you can find them on social networks (such as reddit or Twitter), you can find them on forums (such as Taoscopy or onlineclarity.co.uk), you can find them in I Ching’s books, and you can naturally find them in your own records.
In the French translation of Richard Wilhelm’s I Ching, the translator, Etienne Perrot, has written a short tutorial on how to consult the I Ching. The question being “What is the usefulness of the instructions I am writing?” When I saw it the first time, I was baffled because he received 29.1.3 > 5, and I thought at the time that it was a very negative reading.
He must have been embarrassed himself since his short interpretation is only about the hexagrams. However, when reading the comment for 29.1.3, here is what we get:
29.1.3 (29 > 5)
One presents facts that others have already experienced.
This is what I call a spot on answer. In his interpretation, he has stressed on the importance of sincerity. And his sincerity is rewarded now, since we can make sense of the reply he got.
I could go on and quote a lot of threads, however some have personal content and can be embarrassing. So let’s stick to general questions.
While I could go and plunder the other I Ching’s sites, there are a few daily readings on Taoscopy’s forum. At that time (2015) I didn’t have the comments for multiple lines, so we can have a second look here:
Daily reading: 5.1.3 (Fukushima: Up to 100% of No. 2 reactor fuel may have melted)http://taoscopy.com/forum/english-discussion/i-ching-discussion/interpretation/107-daily-reading-5-1-3-fukushima-up-to-100-of-no-2-reactor-fuel-may-have-melted
The original link is gone but the situation is well known. We got 5.1.3 for this daily reading.
5.1.3 (5 > 29)
One expected better conditions than those that occurred.
Again, the comment is spot on. We have a follow up question in the thread that contains multiple lines.
Who/what become distant? -> 25.1.6 > 45
25.1.6 (25 > 45)
One takes advantage of an unstable situation by taking protective measures.
Again, this is spot on. The lack of protective measures is pointed out here.
Validating controversial comments
While comments about multiple lines have no equivalent, some comments for the hexagrams and changing lines can be controversial when they don’t match closely the classical ones. The most difficult of all is probably 8.1. So, what about examining it?
8.1 (8 > 3)
One is tired of the delays caused by checks, so one modestly asks the other to come back to finish what they have started, when they are done showing their results to others.
Hold to him in truth and loyalty;
This is without blame.
Truth, like a full earthen bowl:
Thus in the end
Good fortune comes from without.
In the second part of Wilhelm’s book, we can see a comment related to “Coming from the other side”, but for the rest, the comments do not match. So, what are we going to do? We just need to check if the line makes sense in regard with the Fan Yao, the Juncture and the Reciprocal:
When others ask for help, if one accepts despite the constraints, they set an example.
Dismiss those who cross the line.
It is time to restore order after action and for that one will need people who are willing to do what one commands.
We have seen that the Fan Yao is the “remedy” of a given line. In 8.1 (as expressed here) the subject is waiting for the results of checks. It can be for example a medical examination. In our example, while the subject is waiting the doctor or the nurse is showing the results to someone else. At some point the examination will be over and the medical visit will resume.
What is the remedy for that? Instead of being studied, the subject is being helped, the constraint being that without examination it is difficult to help.
The Reciprocal 7.6 shows a situation where order needs to be restored, while in 8.1 order is in the process of being restored. Also in 8.1 the subject is in a position of weakness when in 7.6 the subject has won the war.
The juncture 4.6 shows a middle ground between 8.1 and 7.6, things must not be taken too far.
I would not be surprised if you are not convinced as of now, because as already said, 8.1 is certainly the most difficult line to validate. A line that is usually well understood by I Ching’s students is 8.5, so we could check 8.1.5’s comment against the pivot method and see if it makes sense:
8.1.5 (8 > 24)
One has succeeded to turn the situation around in their favor.
Show what selection is: only take those who want to come, others can leave.
One is tired of the delays caused by checks, so one modestly asks the other to come back to finish what they have started, when they are done showing their results to others.
In the comment for 8 > 24, we clearly see the weight of 24. 8.5 is well understood: those who do not volunteer can leave. What does 8.1 apply to? To those who have left, or to those who volunteer? While I don’t have a definitive answer here, the study of the comments show that it has to be those who have left, who then are asked to return. Thus the situation has been turned around in the subject’s favor.
We can also validate 8.1 with readings. Unfortunately, while I have found a few examples, they are a bit too personal or don’t have enough background to be presented here
In this post we have seen different ways of validating comments. If you have any doubt about a comment, if it is an unchanging hexagram examine it’s complementary, if it is a single line, look at the Fan Yao and the Reciprocal, and if it is a multiple line comments, check it with the pivot method. And at any rate, always verify with readings giving the same hexagram.
We have also seen with 8.1 that it is not possible, as of now, to validate every comment. More work has to be done.
But to conclude on a spiritual note I would like to show you something. We have seen that the complementary hexagram can be used to validate an unchanging hexagram name (or title) and comment. But yet, the oracle has given me very different names for 1&2. 1 is named Evolution while 2 is named Obedience. At first, I have seen Evolution as a way to settle the dispute between creationists and evolutionists, since 1 is usually named “The creative”. We can also see that giving different names to the hexagrams help us understand them better, because if 1&2 had been named “The emitter” and “The receiver” then we would not gain much knowledge here. But recently I have found another way to explain these meanings. It is a quote from Sri Ma Anandamayi in Bhaiji’s book.
Mother said on one occasion, “The one Eternal Word is the prime cause of the universe; with the evolution of that ever-abiding Word, the progress of the material life of creation goes on in parallel lines.”
The evolution of the divine word is represented by hexagram 1 while the obedience of material life is represented by hexagram 2.