Hilary Barrett, I Ching

Lars Bo Christensen, Book of Changes

May 17th, 2015

Here’s a new I Ching worth getting: Lars Bo Christensen’s Book of Changes, available (in the US and UK) for Kindle and now also on paper.

His aim is to create a coherent, usable and authentic translation of the Zhouyi core text. That’s interesting in itself, as ‘usable’ and ‘authentic’ are usually separated. Another recent I Ching, John Minford’s, is actually subdivided into two parts: the ‘wisdom book’ with all its accreted tradition, intended for use in divination, and a suggested reconstruction of the original meaning, which is no more intended for use than Rutt’s Zhouyi. Lars finds plenty of wisdom, coherence and psychological depth in the simple Zhouyi.

The book’s contents:

  • Introduction – not in any way a rehashing of the usual Yijing book introduction, but 80 pages with information on history, structure and sources.
  • The Zhouyi: Chinese text with line-by-line translation, using square brackets to show the translator’s interpolations, just like Legge. Each hexagram is followed by a glossary of most of the characters in the hexagram (the more commonly used characters get their own separate glossary, and there’s a section of the introduction dedicated to yuan, heng and zhen), giving their dictionary definitions along with notes on the translation.
  • Appendices: the glossary of common characters; a full listing of the trigrams and hexagrams of numbers found on late Shang and early Zhou artefacts; the Chinese text; a long bibliography.
  • A second version of the translation designed for easier use – no Chinese, no square brackets, and brief comment on the core meaning of each line.
  • Instructions for yarrow and three coin consultation, and a hexagram look-up chart.

Things I like

I would buy the book just for the introduction. It includes a really good, thorough, readable account of the book’s history, sources and dating. Perhaps it’s a teensy bit repetitive for lack of an editor, but it’s fascinating reading and I’m very glad to have all this information in one place. There’s a description of all the recently excavated texts, the readings described in the Zuozhuan, and a description of the number-trigrams and -hexagrams inscribed on artefacts.

The introduction also explains the thinking behind his translation – which is another thing I like. The gist is that the received text is coherent and intended for use (bravo!), that the words must be understood through their context, and that context includes not only contemporary texts and background knowledge of Zhou life and culture, but also the structure of the text (bravo!!).

By ‘structure’ he doesn’t mean the post-hoc systematisation of nuclear trigrams and the like, just the basics: the sequence of hexagrams, the sequence of lines rising through each hexagram, the hexagram pairs (he goes through and lists their contrasts and commonalities), and each line’s zhi gua. He points out that the use of zhi in the Zuozhuan to identify moving lines (such as ‘1 zhi 43′ for 1.6) probably indicates that the zhi gua had some significance – otherwise, why not just say ‘1 line 6’?

‘If a divination answer is obtained with the method of multiple lines then the lines must obviously be intended to be connected into little “stories” – stories of increasing length the more lines that the divination yields. And there must be a connection between the combined line statements and the following hexagram. I say it is obvious because I can hardly imagine that a divination answer with, for example, four lines changing to a following hexagram was supposed to be viewed as five different answers to that particular question.’

To which I say about 85% ‘hooray! bravo!’ and 15% ‘yes, but’ (see the ‘mixed feelings’ section).

He even gives specific examples of lines working together with their zhi gua – both single lines and combinations, both fully-worked examples and some more briefly stated that you can mull over for yourself. Funnily enough, I don’t agree with most of them – which is good for me, as I get to see some different possibilities and not get too stuck in my own ideas. But some are simply good. For instance…
‘H30 line 4 and 6 changing to H36: A flash of light makes it clear to us which of the barbarians can be trusted.’
or for 60.1 to 29,
‘Stay inside. H29 is not only a picture of a bad pit, but also a good space that can contain something.’

He believes the book was written by a single author, for whom he obviously has a great respect. I like the advice to read the Shijing ‘for anyone who finds it difficult to accept the full scope of themes in the Zhou Yi.’ In other words, Yi represents a full and complex inner life, not just politics and/or lucky/unlucky offerings. (There is a daft modern tendency to describe the ancient world as if people back then hadn’t quite developed self-awareness yet.) Lars makes the radical, blunt assertions that ‘H52 is about meditation and H31 is about the ancient concept of internal energy.’ He adds, ‘I believe the main problem in translating the Zhou Yi lies not in understanding the words, but rather in believing that someone more than 2500 years ago could hold the complexity of all these ideas and express them as clearly as they are, in fact, being presented to us in the Zhou Yi.’

The section on the yarrow method gives both the source and the practical method. There’s also an excellent practical explanation of the Nanjing method (for getting just one changing line) if you want to use that.

I really appreciate the use of square brackets in the translation to show the interpolations. Basically, when you’re translating the Yi you can either add hardly anything, and end up with something so cryptic you have to write reams of commentary to make up for this (which is pretty much what I did), or you can include some interpretation in your translation. By doing this and using brackets, Lars gives you something readable without creating any confusion as to what’s original and what’s his own idea. Some interpolations seem to me a bit much, but some are real ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ moments. Like 2.4:
‘It is no mistake to keep the sack closed, but you will get no credit [for what is in it].’

Also, I’m pretty much over the moon about the glossary and footnotes to each hexagram. It’s not just the dictionary entries, though those are good to have in themselves, but also notes explaining his translation choices, comments on contemporary usage and other occurrences of words and phrases within the Yi – which is part of Yi’s ‘vocabulary’ for communicating through a series of readings, so it’s important to know – and a privileged insight into his research and thinking in general. It also gives you the means to challenge his translations! If you’re not happy with ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ as translations for the names of the first two hexagrams (which I’m not), then check with the glossary.

Things I have mixed feelings about

I’m delighted that he points to the importance of structure in creating meaning, but not-so-thrilled with some of his assertions. He says the ‘following hexagram’ (aka changed hexagram aka relating hexagram) ‘was a sort of conclusion like: “Because … [line] and because … [other line] you should …”.’ That might sometimes be how it works, but – in my experience – not usually. (A single fixed meaning for the relating hexagram, ‘What you should be doing’? Good luck making that work in all your readings…) And while multiple moving lines often do work together as stories, that’s certainly not their only way of relating – and not the line texts’ only ‘baked in’ structural principle, either.

Along similar lines, he’s noticed the relationship between lines of the same level in the pairs (eg 12.1 and 11.1) but not the actual paired lines ( e.g. 41.5/42.2, 43.4/44.3, 63.3/64.4 – he notices the repeated text in each case but doesn’t put two and two together). He notices that lines tell stories and express ‘increasing levels of meaning’, that ‘the first one or two levels of lines are about feet, roots, staying, being closer to home, holes in the ground, beginnings, walking, tails, mats, staying low — in general anything that can be considered low or basic’ but not, for instance, the particular awkwardness of lines 3 and 4 as ‘threshold’ lines. Of course, it’s a very safe bet that we have all missed seeing things about Yi’s structure – but when I find that rare gem, a translator interested in how the structure helps to create the meaning, I wish he’d take this further. Maybe in the next edition?

He is distressed that 63 and 64 are the ‘wrong’ way round and thinks someone must have muddled up some bamboo strips. Perhaps, or perhaps Yi has – and embodies – a profound sense of humour. (We must ask Lars about this again after he’s done a few dozen rounds of textual revisions…)

Moving on to the translation – there are a lot of ideas here that I’ve never seen before and that had never occurred to me. In itself, this is a Very Good Thing: I’m compelled to stop and think and reconsider, and with enough of this I might even learn something. Some examples…

12 line 2 changes from,
‘Embracing the charge: good for small people, blocking for great people. Creating success.’
‘To shelter and support small people is good. By refraining from doing so, the great man makes things go well.’
Interesting! And you don’t have to agree with the change-around to appreciate the flexibility and the challenge to rethink what you thought you knew.

12.0 is intriguing. What’s usually along the lines of,
‘Blocked by bad/non- people. No harvest [in a] junzi[‘s] constancy. Great goes, small comes.’
‘Refrain from this. There is no one that does not want gain, but the wise person acts correctly when he lets great things go away and settles with the smaller.’ So ‘no harvest’ has become ‘does not want gain’, constancy/correctness is no longer ineffective, and the bad people (匪人) have disappeared into ‘no one’ – a choice he explains in the glossary note on 14.1,
‘The meaning of 匪 in the Shi Jing is in all cases derived from “not”; “nothing”, “without”, “there is no”, “no one”. 匪 can, in later texts, also mean “bad people” “bandit” or “robber”. There is, however, no example of this meaning in the Shi Jing. For that reason, I don’t think the meaning of 匪 in line 1 can be “bad” but rather “wrong [for you]”.’

Or how about 10.6:
‘Look when you step [on the tiger’s tail] and observe any signs that [indicate that the tiger will] turn around. [This is the] basic [method to insure things turn out] for the good.’
Lots of interpolations, but it’s not a bad idea, is it?

The surprises only rarely come from the translation of a particular word. An exception: the phrase in 45.0 and 59.0, ‘the king enters his temple’ (Wilhelm) or ‘the king places himself in service to the temple’ (Harmen) or ‘with the king’s presence there is a temple’ (Barrett, in the updated version in the Resonance Journal) becomes something like, ‘When the king is otherwise unoccupied, there is the temple to go to,’ as if the relationship with the royal ancestors were an afterthought. This is again explained with reference to the meaning of the character in the Shijing, which is fine in principle, but I am really not convinced.

More often, surprises come from one of Lars’ principles of translation:

1) One character per meaning. One Chinese character can have many English translations, of course, but many Chinese characters should not be reduced to one English word. If there’s already a character that means ‘move (a city)’ then a different character must mean something different (like ‘renew’). He makes exceptions when compelled to do so (as by the carriage in 40.3), but otherwise is guided by this. It makes sense, especially if you agree with him that the book has a single author. There aren’t so many characters for the author to choose from, so surely the choice of a different one would be deliberate and meaningful.

2) There is no punctuation in the original, so the traditional parsing can be discarded without loss: everything can be rethought.

This creates the freedom that allows for a lot of his best ideas. However, sometimes this reparsing extends into translating the words in a different order from that in which they appear in the text. Now… here I am going to start holding forth on things I know nothing about. Lars reads Chinese and is qualified to translate it; I don’t and I’m not. All I have is a rudimentary instinct for the book. Rudimentary instinct says that the order of the words in the original is an important part of the meaning. It creates a rhythm to the text that’s sometimes used to show contrasts and alternatives.

I first noticed Lars’ approach to word order in 48.0:
‘The Well. It is bad if the village is renewed, but the well is not renewed. Without [thinking about] what they can lose or gain, [people just] come and go to thewell. But the well can dry up even to the point where you cannot quite [reach down] to draw water from the well, [and prolonged use] will wear out its bucket.’

Wait – where does that ‘it is bad’ come from? Ah – from the xiong that’s the very last character of the whole oracle. Well… if the whole thing is a single utterance describing a single situation, I suppose it doesn’t make so much difference whether you put the omen at the end or the beginning. (Except that the author put it at the end, which makes you read the oracle differently, and maybe that reading experience is important in itself…)

Then there’s 11.4:

Word by word –
翩翩 (flutter-flutter) 不 (not – except Lars translates it as ‘don’t’, which I thought was 勿 wu as in 1.1, which he translates ‘can’t be’… sorry, speaking of flutter-flutter, where was I?) 富 (rich) 以 (in-relation-to/using) 其 (the/its/your) 鄰 (neighbour) 不 (not) 戒 (on guard) 以 (in-relation-to/using) 孚 (truth/confidence).

You don’t have to know a word of Chinese to see the parallel construction: 不 + adjective + 以 + something. Good old rudimentary instinct says that’s deliberate. So I (after a lot of trying and failing to find a single English preposition to work for both cases of 以) ended up with,
‘Fluttering, fluttering.
Not rich in your neighbours.
Not on guard against truth and confidence.’

Lars has,
‘Don’t go back and forth many times to enrich yourself with help from your neighbour, don’t feel unsafe but use your own inner confidence.’
He’s reading it as if the first 不, ‘not’, were at the beginning of the line, applying to the ‘fluttering’ or ‘going back and forth’. Does old Chinese ever work like that, with a negative applying to the preceding verb?

Who should buy it?

Probably almost anyone who’s interested in the Yi and not quite sure that they already know what it all means.

In this review I’ve talked mostly about the parts that grab my interest, which mainly means the translation with bracketed interpolations and those lovely glossaries and translation notes. It’s a great source of new ideas, and the information in the introduction is good to have. If you – like me – have got comfortable with certain explanations of the lines, this is an excellently uncomfortable book to have, and greatly recommended.

And if you’re more of a beginner? Well – out of consideration for less Yeeky types, there is also the second version of the translation included: no Chinese, no square brackets, and a quick comment indicating the gist of each line. This would be very usable for divination: straightforward, direct, respectful and authentic. I wouldn’t recommend it as your only version, as some of those novel translations are really very novel. (But then again, there isn’t really any book I’d recommend as your only version.) But it would make an excellent and eye-opening companion to another translation: look at this one, look at your Wilhelm/Karcher/Barrett/Hatcher/Lynn…, see how they differ, explore why, listen for what resonates…

You can find the book at Amazon – UK or US.

Rethinking the Well

May 14th, 2015

Lars Bo Christensen has brought out a very interesting new translation of the Zhouyi: Book of Changes – the original core of  the I Ching. I should post a full review one of these days (short version: yes, definitely buy it), but for now I just wanted to share something that’s made me think again about the oracle of Hexagram 48, the Well.

My version from 2010:
‘The Well. Moving the city, not moving the well.
Without loss, without gain,
They come and go, the well wells.
Almost drawn the water, but the rope does not quite reach the water,
Or breaking one’s clay jug,

‘The Well. The town may be changed,
But the well cannot be changed.
It neither decreases nor increases.
They come and go and draw from the well.
If one gets down almost to the water
And the rope does not go all the way,
Or the jug breaks, it brings misfortune.’

Wilhelm says the town may be ‘changed’, but goes on in his commentary to talk about the ancient practice of moving capital cities – an idea that found its way into my translation. And Wilhelm adds an ‘if’ at the end for the unfortunate scenario of the too-short rope and broken jug, so that the meaning-structure of the oracle falls into two parts: ‘Here are some general truths about wells; however, here is what can go wrong.’

Lars’ version is very different:

‘The Well. It is bad if the village is renewed, but the well is not renewed. Without [thinking about] what they can lose or gain, [people just] come and go to the well. But the well can dry up even to the point where you cannot quite [reach down] to draw water from the well, [and prolonged use] will wear out its bucket.’

This isn’t my favourite part of Lars’ book, but – especially in his footnotes – he makes a very interesting challenge to the whole idea of translating gai 改 as ‘moving’ the city. He points out that a quite different phrase is used to mean ‘move the city’ in 42.4. Also, the character appears in 49.4 for ‘changing mandate’ – where you could say it means ‘relocating the mandate’ (from Shang to Zhou), but it’s a bit of a stretch. And 48 overall – line texts, too – is mostly about repairing the well. So he translates it here as ‘renew’.

I went to look this up. Dictionary meanings? Change, amend, transform, modify, correct, put right… – nothing about relocation. In compound words in modern Chinese it also has to do with reforming, improving, rearranging and remaking – also nothing about moving. In the Shijing, the Book of Songs, it appears three times: to mend (a worn coat), the turning of the year, and not-gai meaning ‘unvarying’. Still nothing about relocation. Hmm.

What about the etymology? The phonetic component might be a loom thread or shuttle; the signific is a hand wielding an axe or mattock – a digging tool. The phonetic component apparently had an ancient meaning of ‘unravelling’ – which makes me wonder if it was chosen for this character to suggest ‘unmaking and remaking’. (Nowadays, land-gai means agrarian reform, and gai-group is to reshuffle.)

So there is plenty of evidence to back up Lars’ view that this means not ‘you can move cities but not wells’ (not least, come to think of it, that there is no ‘may’ or ‘cannot’ in the Chinese!) but ‘you’re making repairs to your city, not your well’. What difference does this make to the oracle as a whole?

To begin with, it casts a whole new light on ‘without loss, without gain’. It is actually not convincing to say this means ‘the level of the well water never decreases or increases': water tables do rise and fall, and human activity has an effect. (Just the other day I read a triumphant story from Tigray, where the fruits of shared labour mean you now have to dig only 10 ft down to find water, when it used to be 50ft.)

Also, the meanings of the words are (sorry, Wilhelm) not just ‘decrease’ and ‘increase’. They’re loss as in mourning for the dead and gain as in getting or achieving, literally a hand grasping money. Sang 喪, losing, appears quite a lot in the Yi, and always with an object, losing something specific: partners, a helper; sheep, a horse, cattle; a ladle, a veil, a hundred thousand coins. Always a clear and unmistakable loss, never just a matter of degree.

‘No loss no gain’ starts to sound to me like inertia – like me sitting at my desk all day and not exercising. There’s no gain and no loss obvious enough to weep over, I just get gradually fatter and stiffer. If the well is falling slowly into disrepair, over the course of years or maybe generations, there is never a day when you wake up and find you have lost your well in the same way you might lose your sheep, and mourn the loss. Rather –

‘We come and go, the well wells.’

I’ve always loved the poetic simplicity of that line: just four characters of Chinese, ‘go come well well’. We have comings and goings, to and fro; the well has no such contrasts, no such running about. For me this creates the same kind of effect as a timelapse video: the well quiet and still, and human feet scurrying to and fro, accelerated to absurdity.

This is still beautiful, still reassuring… but is it also tinged with melancholy? The meaning-structure is no longer ‘on the one hand, here are some beautiful truths about wells; on the other hand, this can go wrong’ but a straightforward, single story of neglect. (Very close in meaning to Lars’ version, in fact…) I’ve always thought it odd that what we generally regard as a ‘good’ hexagram should end its oracle with ‘pitfall’*.

‘The Well. Repairing the city, not repairing the well,
Nothing lost, nothing gained,
We come and go; the well wells.
Almost reaching, and yet the rope not quite drawing water,
Your clay pitcher weakened,

(*Actually, it’s very interesting to look at which hexagrams do mention ‘pitfall’ – misfortune, bad luck – in their oracles. Not 23, not 29, not 36, not 47 – but 6, 8, 19 and 48. And the ones that have ‘pitfall’ as the last word are 8, 19 and 48. They seem to have a common theme: you have something good here, and it’s unfortunate when you mess it up.)

I don’t know the first thing about the Yi

March 17th, 2015

Well, here I am getting started teaching week 1 of the I Ching Foundations Class, so it’s hard to think of a better title for a blog post…

Oh, I know quite a few things about Yi. I know some of its history and the stories behind its words, and how its components work together, and how to interpret what it has to say. Ask me what connects 48.3 to hexagram 29 in particular, or what to make of a reading where you receive it along with lines 1 and 5, and I could probably give you a sensible answer. Ask me about all the structural-interpretive tools I enjoy using, and I could probably write a book.

The first thing about Yi, the one I don’t know: why these words with this line?

Some millennia ago, some people somehow took patterns of lines and oral traditions of myth, history and omens, and put them together. They could look at




and know that this meant ‘Well’.

They somehow brought about a confluence of many streams of wisdom, and so they created something between a great work of art and a force of nature.

I play in orchestras, and I have trouble imagining how someone like Sibelius or Mahler conceives of new worlds of sound, never heard before, in his mind’s ear. But the mind that did this? I haven’t the beginnings of an inkling; I do not think I have the right kind of thinking apparatus. If I were in the least inclined to believe in visiting aliens, they’d come in very handy here.

As an aside – yes, I’ve read Wilhelm Book III and much more along similar lines, purporting to explain the line texts in light of line correspondences, trigrams and nuclear trigrams. This is a tremendously ingenious post-hoc patchwork of explanations: there is a wheel in 9.3 because the trigram qian is round; there is a wheel in 63.1 because wheels are associated with kan. The horse of 26.3 is there because of qian, the horse of 59.1 is there because of kan – and so on. Marvellously thorough and detailed work, but not (remotely) the answer to my question, ‘How was this made? How did they know to put these words with this line?’

We can imagine words and traditions gradually coalescing around lines. An obvious example would be the threads of Zhou history that found their way into the book – but which do look, pretty clearly, like threads woven into an existing fabric. Perhaps someone cast those lines at those moments and the divination stories became part of the tradition. We do something like this nowadays, after all, sharing and remembering the more vivid stories of our experiences with the lines. But this is still a long way from perceiving for the first time that


is the Marrying Maiden.

How is that done? I thought I would ask Yi. (Really, can you think of any other source to ask?)

I didn’t want to ask this one sitting at my desk – I took the beads outside so I could stand on the ground under the sky and ask.

Yi, what happened at this confluence of myth, tradition and gua? How were you made?



Small goes, great comes.
Good fortune, creating success.’

(A bird started singing as I reached line 4.)

‘3 coin casting’ video

February 25th, 2015

I’ve taken my courage (and three shiny 10p pieces) in both hands and created another video. This one with my face in…  hiding

It’s about how to consult the I Ching with three coins. I had wondered whether to include this in the Foundations Class, when most people are already familiar with it, but not everyone is. Making this available free ahead of the class seemed a good solution.

Also, it gives me the chance to include a couple of extra downloads – a quick reference, and another booklet on ‘ways of casting’ from yarrow to donkeys.

If you’ve only ever consulted through online readings, this is for you. Hexagrams and lines make a lot more sense once you’ve cast a hexagram yourself.


Foundations for confident readings

February 18th, 2015

Thinking about the I Ching Foundations Class has got me thinking about what’s actually necessary to be able to interpret your own readings with some confidence – not with a cast-iron assurance that you’ll never make a mistake, just enough confidence that you can have a useful, creative, supportive, working relationship with the Yi. There are a lot of things it’s fascinating and tremendously helpful to know, a lot of tools that can transform understanding of a reading, lots of insights from long experience – but really, what’s the minimum you need to interpret your own readings? As that’s what I need to include in this class.


This reminds me of a story Jill Bolte-Taylor told, of how – as a grown woman – she found herself utterly baffled by the task of putting together a simple jigsaw. She’d had a major stroke – you’ve probably come across her Ted talk or her book about it – and had everything to relearn. Her mother looked carefully at how she was struggling, and told her she could use the colours to match the pieces. This, Jill says, made her aware of the colours – previously, she hadn’t registered their existence. All at once, jigsaws became a lot more possible.

To put a jigsaw together, you need just a few things: an awareness of the shapes of the different pieces; an awareness of the colours of the picture. Imagine for a moment trying to complete the task with one of those things simply missing from your awareness. But with them, more strategies become available – like putting all the edge pieces together first, or comparing with the picture on the box.

Interpreting a reading is similar. You need to be aware of the colours and the shapes – of how the oracle responds to you in imagery, and how the pieces of the reading fit together. Without either of those, you’re going to be badly stuck; with them, you have foundations on which to build your own style of interpreting and your own relationship with Yi.

I’ve spoken to a few people recently who have both the gifts and the training to understand imagery, but then find their readings look like a jumbled pile of image-pieces: primary, relating, lines, more lines, assorted texts… lots of bits that show no sign of fitting together. The image-pieces can and do still help, but the picture’s missing.

And then there are people who come to a screeching halt when Yi starts talking about kings, feudal lords and marrying maidens, none of which – of course – exists in their world. This is the colour, the imagery – and there are a few simple, learn-able skills to relating to imagery that will make readings a lot more possible.

Is there anything else you need for readings? Probably only some insight into how to ask clear, true questions. (I think this is where my jigsaw analogy reaches the end of its useful life – er, unless having your question in mind is like looking at the picture on the lid?)

How to learn these basics? Some well-chosen reading, years of experience and an abundance of trial and error work fine. I think the Foundations Class will be good, too.


A final note. The stroke survivors I’ve got to know from volunteering at the local Stroke Club are tremendously warm, courageous, ingenious and resourceful people, dealing with ridiculously hard problems. The umbrella organisation to support survivors in the UK is the Stroke Association.


Hexagram 44, insect bites and nuclears

February 12th, 2015

Here is a remarkable article from Alexa over at the Quotable I Ching, about Hexagram 44 and desire – and, yes, insect bites. Remarkable for how she captures the spirit of the hexagram – and without mentioning the ‘powerful woman’ even once.

:|||||She says the ‘encounter’ of 44 is like the encounter with a biting insect that leaves an itch – an irritation, invitation, temptation and chaotic force. ‘Trouble brewing under the skin’, she says – and you can see that in the shape of the hexagram, I think, with its insignificant-looking little opening in line 1 .

So where does ‘the woman is powerful, do not take this woman’ fit in? Perhaps she represents the strength of desire and the object of desire, and taking the woman is like – well – scratching the itch. It misses the point, because she has further to go. Trying to bring her under control in this way not only works just about as well as scratching the mosquito bite, it also misses the potential, fails to see where this could go. Alexa writes, ‘Often, what we want right now is a scratchy shroud over what our soul longs for.’

Actually, the beginning of her post reminded me of Hexagram 31 as much as 44. Which is interesting, because 44 is the nuclear hexagram of 31 –


– folded within it as potential, so that 31 shows one way in which the challenge of 44 can be worked out in living experience – through opening to influence, creating space and being moved.

And the other hexagrams of which 44 is the nuclear – the other ways of living it out?

In Hexagram 49 – through radical change, changing the form of government, changing skin. Hidden at the heart of such change is the force that demands it, with an implicit warning that it might not be quite as under control as you think.

(I think Rilke wrote about the 49-experience of 44 in his Archaic Torso of Apollo. Here’s the German original, and an English translationSomehow, an intense encounter with a work of art – that ‘glimmers like the hide of a predatory animal’ – becomes an extraordinary imperative: you must change your life.)

In Hexagram 13, through going out beyond the familiar walls and into the wilds to meet strangers-and-allies. (What if they’re completely different from us? What if they aren’t?)

And in Hexagram 33, through retreating – up the mountain, away from the threat, but still carrying the inner itch with you. (You never know what might visit you, up in the cave.)

Clarity in 2015

January 31st, 2015

I haven’t made a post like this before, but I can see the wisdom in making public commitments, so here goes… this is what I intend to offer you through Clarity this year.

I Ching classes

I’ll run a series of live online classes – using a combination of live calls and private forum for support – through the year. The first will be in March, and I’m thinking of starting with a class for absolute beginners – though that depends on whether there’s sufficient demand.

I’ll send an email to ‘Friends’ Notes’ subscribers soon to ask for your advice and help to design this and future classes. (I just need to create a survey that asks all I need to ask without being stupidly long!)

I’ve pencilled in more advanced classes for June and September – it all depends on what people are interested in – and I expect to fit in at least one more opening for individual readings inbetween the classes. Each class will be for a small-ish group of maybe 20 people, and Change Circle members will have first claim on places (and a discount).


I’ll open for readings at least once more this year. Exactly when depends on energy levels and other circumstances, so I won’t promise a date for those.

Change Circle, er, changes

Well, no very enormous changes: we still have the private forum, Reading Circle (for posts you would rather not share with Google), and WikiWing, the experienced-based, member-created hexagram-by-hexagram commentary. And assorted useful downloads, discounts and such-like.

I very much appreciate (and depend on!) Change Circle members’ ongoing support, so I keep looking for ways to show it. This year we’re trying something new, where I’m available for 20 minute personal Skype/phone chats each week for any Yi-related questions. These are on Saturdays during February, starting on the 7th. (Details and booking link are here.)

Also, WikiWing is expanding – I’m adding articles on different parts of the ‘diviner’s toolkit’ (like pairs, nuclears and so on) which we can fill out with more examples and experiences over the coming months.

If you’re not already a Change Circle member, would you like to join? You’d be very welcome. Here’s the sign-up page :) .