Reading hexagrams

I am still working on being able to read a trigram or hexagram like a sentence. A sentence, of course, is not an aggregate of words, but a sequential whole developed through the inter-illumination of the parts. The I Ching is a typology of 4,096 situations, each situated between past and future situations. I’d also like to learn to read any situation as a hexagram.


Heaven yao: meaning
Yang understanding – stable: unity; changing: discord
Yin understanding – stable: dividedness; changing: attunement

Man yao: practice
Yang action – stable: participation; changing: doubt
Yin action – stable: reflection; changing: experiment

Earth yao: theory
Yang comprehension – stable: system; changing: inconsistency
Yin comprehension – stable: flux; changing: hypothesis


A hexagram is a stack of two trigrams. Reading from bottom to top, it goes earth-man-heaven, earth-man-heaven. However, it can also be read earth-earth, man-man, heaven-heaven. (I enjoy relating these two interpretative rhythms to the simplest form of the Bulerias rhythm: 1-2-3, 1-2-3 / 1-2, 1-2, 1-2. Here’s a more complex variant  to listen to if you like flamenco, or perhaps a less complicated bastardization will do.)

My current understanding is that a hexagram represents a situation in terms of a perspectival duality: the lower trigram representing the part regarding the whole, and the upper trigram representing the whole regarding the part. In respect to the lower trigram, the upper trigram is transcendent, and merely intuited. What appears to fall cleanly within a perspective – objects – can be comprehended. What is itself comprehended by a containing perspective is aware of this containment by way of intuition. The intuition situates the contained subject within the larger subjectivity.

(Note, however, that this vision is a deep prejudice of mine, and I don’t prevent it from overpowering and subsuming other views. An example of this way of seeing: I do not believe two people negotiate directly with one another. Each negotiates with a subjectivity they share, and it only appears that the negotiation is between two parallel entities, one person with another. Being nests. The negotiation is between comprehension and transcendence.)


This is not exactly on topic, but it’s close enough to include here. My boss said something in a meeting last week that struck me: “Unity, not uniformity.”

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