Hilary Barrett, I Ching

Shadow hexagrams revisited

foxFour years ago :shock: , I posted about my first encounters with shadow hexagrams. And last week I was reminded of them again when a friend asked me to look at his connected-hexagrams-generating script that included Ideal and Shadow, along with many more of the creations from Stephen Karcher’s divination-laboratory.

(The Shadow – quick recap, more in the original post – is the hexagram found by counting back through the Sequence. Hexagram 1′s Shadow is 64, Hexagram 2′s Shadow is 63, and so on all the way in to 32 Shadowing 33.)

I realised to my shame that I’d been neglecting Shadows, even though I’ve found them distinctly helpful. What the Shadow points out is not necessarily apparent from other parts of the reading: it’s exactly the wrong way to think about the issue, an approach that will have you tied in knots, turning in circles and completely unable to engage or progress. I found that, very often, I could identify the Shadow-mindset in myself or whoever I was reading for: it would pinpoint exactly where we were stuck.

Yet… I hadn’t been looking at these, not for the majority of readings.

So I asked Yi, ‘What about Ideals and Shadows?’

The line of thought behind my question: is this something I should get back to? What value does it hold? I’m mostly interested in the Shadow, but I haven’t forgotten that Stephen likes to look at them alongside the Ideal.

Yi answered with Hexagram 40, Release, changing at line 2 to 16, Enthusiasm.

So here is the core of what Yi says about Shadows and Ideals:

‘In the field, taking three foxes.
Gaining a golden arrow.
Constancy, good fortune.’

And here is something Stephen wrote about them,

‘The Shadow Site gives you a hexagram that represents what is, at the moment, counter-indicated in your situation, covered by a sort of negative screen that can contain often painful memories. This screen or shadow is blocking transformative energy. If you completely release your awareness from these configurations by focusing on the Ideal, the necessary energy the Shadow Site contains will manifest itself spontaneously.’

…and something I found about them:

‘…The shadow, though, is more specifically the wrong idea. This mindset will entangle you, have you going in circles and getting exactly nowhere. If you think of a situation and try to engage with it in the style of its shadow, you will be well and truly stuck – a very distinctive kind of ‘stuckness’, not so much ‘confronting immoveable obstacles’, more being perfectly ineffectual.

Funnily enough, this is also quite often the shape the issue has taken on as you grapple with it: it’s exactly what you’re wrestling with and finding insoluble…’

It seems to me that the Shadow hexagram plays the role of the foxes. They represent delusion, confusion, fantasy – the negative face of the relating hexagram 16, ungrounded imaginings. Mythological foxes have the habit of disguising themselves to pass as real people and luring people into relationship with them – but none of this is real. Shadow hexagrams have the habit of disguising themselves as just obvious, the natural way to see the thing, so all your energy is soaked up before you even get close to the reality.

Also, looking round the line pathway of 40.2 (39.5, 15.5, 16.2, 40.2), there’s a theme of confinement, the need to breach boundaries before they calcify altogether (16.2), and the way you can find help by going beyond boundaries (15.5) and into hardship (39.5).

It all reminds me of something I was listening to this morning, asserting that the very first step to clearing personal hang-ups and fears is to get into situations where you experience those fears. If you create a life for yourself where you can always avoid them, the opportunity to clear them never arises; you just live inside the boundaries they create.

Well… I see a connection between deliberately entering difficult situations, and 39.5 (would you have met those partners if you’d stayed in the comfort zone?), and the idea of breaching limits, and deliberately using the Shadow hexagram to look at the concepts obstructing you, and taking the foxes.

If you take the foxes, cancel out their powers of deceptionyou can gain a golden arrow: shining and imperishable, the means of going directly in free flight to what you need. Stephen K talks about how the Shadow contains potential that can be unlocked if you manage not to think consciously along the lines it lays out, but instead find a new way of seeing in the Ideal hexagram:

‘If you completely release your awareness from these configurations by focusing on the Ideal, the necessary energy the Shadow Site contains will manifest itself spontaneously.’

‘Release’, hm?

Maybe the golden arrow is in the Ideal, or maybe it’s the emergent potential of the Shadow site when you’re freed from that. In any case, I had this fresh in my mind during last Saturday’s Change Circle call when someone asked if there were other hexagrams of context that might cast light on a Hexagram 2 unchanging. So I suggested its Shadow, 63,  and the reading’s ‘owner’, who as far as I know had never heard of Shadow Hexagrams before, took the foxes and saw the point (or gained the arrow, I suppose…) instantly – I was startled by how immediate it was for her. No explaining, interpreting or associated cleverness required.

We had the idea of using some of these calls to look at people’s readings through the lens of a specific interpretive technique, so we’re both studying and doing something real. Shadow hexagrams, anyone? Straightforward idea, nothing technically elaborate, and a very useful way to get to the heart of a reading.

You may be wondering about the Shadow of hexagram 40. It’s 25, Without Entanglement. Again, this is a lot clearer in the context of the reading, because my initial response to the friend with the connected-hexagram-generator was along the lines of, ‘These are Stephen Karcher’s ideas, not mine at all, so he’s the one you need to ask about how to describe them, not me.’ Hm. Very 25-ish, seeing it as if the main question were, ‘Is this mine, or not?’ – and hence altogether missing the freedom and energy inherent in Hexagram 40, as it asks ‘Could this lead me somewhere worth exploring?’

(With thanks to Dave Dyet for the fox.)

22 Responses to “Shadow hexagrams revisited”

  1. Luis Andrade Says:

    Speaking of divination labs and interesting concepts, Ricardo Andree talks about “Causal Hexagrams”. They are found when you have changing hexagrams. In this group sequence you have yin gua (yin1, just picked that up so not sure if it works to indicate “causal” gua), ben gua and zhi gua. For example if you get:

    22.3.5>42

    the yin gua is found by switching the upper and lower trigrams of the zhi gua (42), giving you 32. According to Andree, it describes the causes of the present situation.
    Luis Andrade´s last blog post ..On Uncertainty and the Yijing

  2. Anonymous Says:

    What is the method for figuring the Ideal? I can’t seem to make sense of it.

  3. Trojina Says:

    also responded on this blog post in SR, but if the pattern is seen as like when a stone is thrown into a pond and the ripples g o outwards from the centre, then taking that image why do we have to think in terms of a ‘shadow’ ? I mean with that imagery, and that’s what it looks like to me 64 may just be the furthest reflection of 1 and so on not the shadow. I don’t think the meaning of this pattern can be accepted as the ‘shadow’ until it has been used a lot more.

  4. Hilary Says:

    @Luis – that sounds like a similar idea to Karcher’s ‘hidden exchange’, though he doesn’t restrict it to the relating hexagram.

    Confession: I am sitting looking at I Ching – the symbolic life and can’t understand what he’s doing with these. He says sometimes that hexagram ab ‘develops from and is enabled by’ hexagram ba (where a and b are trigrams), and sometimes that ab ‘is the hidden ground and drive/stimulus that enables’ ba, but I don’t know on what basis he decides to point the arrow of enabling /grounding/drive from one hexagram towards the other. I’d need to go through and write a list and look for the pattern – or ask him…

    Also, didn’t Chris Lofting have a specific understanding of trigram-swapping as to do with causation? And no doubt a comprehensive explanation for it?

    So anyway, when can we expect your translation of all the rest of Andree’s work? ;)

    @anon -
    About the Ideal: to find this, you need two bagua – arrangements of the trigrams – the Early Heaven and Later Heaven. (You can find both in this Wikipedia article.)

    Start with the Later Heaven/ King Wen diagram; locate the trigrams of your cast hexagram. So with Hexagram 40, I have trigrams kan (in the North) and zhenkun, East is li. These two make the Ideal hexagram: 35, Advancing. So the Ideal approach would be to think of Release in terms of progress, opportunity and making the most of gifts.

  5. Luis Andrade Says:

    [quote]So anyway, when can we expect your translation of all the rest of Andree’s work? ;) [/quote]

    Hmmm, perhaps never. Let me finish my own stuff first, ‘in this lifetime’ (quoting Maria recently)… :D
    Luis Andrade´s last blog post ..On Uncertainty and the Yijing

  6. Hilary Says:

    Oh, and @Trojina – see you in SR. Why do I have comments open everywhere, anyway?

  7. Hilary Says:

    @Luis
    Cloning. Look into it.

  8. Hilary Says:

    I asked Stephen about the ‘hidden exchange’, and he says,

    I’ve said a lot about Ideal and Shadow on my website and I think you all are making it much too complicated. It is simple psychological or imaginative strategy, showing you how to focus your THINKING function and the desire it represents. so it does not get caught up in monkey-mind (i.e. greed, fear, ambition, etc). This is purely situational. And the moment you can fully let go of your involvement with the “shadow” (like your own desire to be Without Entanglement) the situation clicks and, amongst other things, you become disentangled because you let go of the desire to be so. I could go into lots of synchronicity and “rainmaker” and Jungian and “wu-wei” theory to elucidate all this but it boils down to one of the (to my mind) fundamental tenets of Change: if it works, use it. If it doesn’t, throw it away. But please don’t discuss it until it dies a slow heat-death from entropy. Remember – Change is images or symbols, not concepts. And it is magic: image-magic, like a koan.

    I got interested in the “trigram switch” because it was a unique way of pairing hexagrams that no one else talked about that worked entirely outside the usual framework of Pairs and the Matrix and produced eccentric yet very interesting results when one (numerically first) was thought of as the”ground” or “drive” or “basis” (or any of those words that seem to work in the particular situation) of the second. I think the two reverse-trigram-pairings that really convinced me of the radical importance of this eccentric insight were 37-50 and 38-49.

  9. Luis Andrade Says:

    >>>But please don’t discuss it until it dies a slow heat-death from entropy.<<<

    There goes Shredded Readings… :D
    Luis Andrade´s last blog post ..On Uncertainty and the Yijing

  10. Frank Brown Says:

    I may sound silly but I really curious to know how will you know shadow in hexagram? Also, why the counting is backward?

  11. Luis Andrade Says:

    Well, that’s easy, you stand them on their edge and shine a light through it. :D

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist…
    Luis Andrade´s last blog post ..On Uncertainty and the Yijing

  12. Hilary Says:

    Right.

    (Frank, if you follow the links you’ll know as much as anyone does about this.)

  13. Trojina Says:

    Without discussion ideas will die…so surely there is no use not discussing something until it dies. I mean it died because no one discussed it. What is wrong with discussing it ?

  14. Trojina Says:

    oh in the above comment I was referring to this statement

    ” But please don’t discuss it until it dies a slow heat-death from entropy. Remember – Change is images or symbols, not concepts. And it is magic: image-magic, like a koan.”

    Another point this raises… I Ching is concepts as well as images and symbols. We wouldn’t get far in thinking about it without concepts.

    How can anyone say it doesn’t include concepts ?

  15. Hilary Says:

    I may be proved wrong, but I think Stephen is unlikely to have time to chime in here. But fwiw, I think he means that theoretical discussions about interpretive tools are worth not-a-lot compared with experience of actually using said tools. And that it would be a shame to expend all our energy on discussing rather than using.

    As for images rather than concepts… big old debate, of course. I think readings have a lot more to do with identifying with images and stories, rather than grasping concepts. My best sense of Hexagram 2 comes from meeting some mares in a field, for instance.

  16. Trojina Says:

    Yes but in the end, being human, we cannot pretend we can think about Yi without using concepts. I have never known anyone write of Yi without using concepts…because all writing deals with concepts including Yi…how can it not ? You cannot communicate your sense of the mare in the field without using concepts to convey that to me.

    I still don’t see harm in discussing what we were discussing here. For many it is only through discussion the topic comes alive. I don’t think it was a waste of energy. Afterall this is a Blog post, where you convey ideas, so naturally we would want to discuss them.

    I didn’t expect Karcher to answer but you posted his thoughts so I am responding to those.

  17. Trojina Says:

    “I think he means that theoretical discussions about interpretive tools are worth not-a-lot compared with experience of actually using said tools. And that it would be a shame to expend all our energy on discussing rather than using.”

    Well no one would even use the interpretive tools if they could not discuss them first. Look at change patterns. More people are using them because of discussion…it’s what forums are for isn’t it ? We share our experience on the forum so our experience is combined with discussion about that experience. I don’t understand his point of telling us we would be better off not discussing this when you have written a Blog post about it. It’s all 58 IMO.

  18. Trojina Says:

    ” I think readings have a lot more to do with identifying with images and stories, rather than grasping concepts.”

    I have the sense there’s the concept that it is wrong to admit to having concepts ? Concepts must exist alongside images and stories.
    I mean images, stories and concepts all play into one another. Besides you have written a Blog post full of concepts. You didn’t post a picture. Wouldn’t have been much use to me if you had posted a story and a picture if I was trying to understand what the shadow hexagram was about.

  19. Hilary Says:

    Probably we are using the words in different senses. What I mean is the distinction between ‘you have hexagram 2, think about being responsive’ and ‘you have hexagram 2, imagine you are a mare’. Or ‘your answer says the ridgepole is buckling; this represents stress, so how are you under stress?’ versus ‘what is that ridgepole?’ (Imagine rant here about the ‘simplified’ versions that omit all mention of mares or ridgepoles.)

    We need a bit of both, especially with images that have changed their meaning a lot over 3,000 years.

    Same is true for tools: concepts of what they might represent are a starting point for getting the feel of them in practice. Not much point in trying to get started with no concept of what it might be about; vanishingly little point in discussing the details of what it might be about without trying it to see if it helps in readings.

    In the case of shadow hexagrams, I think ‘how not to think about it’ is enough concept to get started trying it out.

  20. Trojina Says:

    “Same is true for tools: concepts of what they might represent are a starting point for getting the feel of them in practice. Not much point in trying to get started with no concept of what it might be about; vanishingly little point in discussing the details of what it might be about without trying it to see if it helps in readings”

    You really have lost me there. I’m all for finding out how tools work through experience but I really don’t see how that amounts to “vanishingly little point in discussing the details of what it might be about without trying to see how it helps in readings”.

    To me it sounds like you are undermining your own Blog post and all the discussion that follows after Karcher said there was no point discussing it. If people want to discuss it then it’s worth discussing. Being told not to discuss is tantamount to being told ‘don’t think, you won’t understand, there’s no point’. I can’t imagine you would believe that.

    Anyway that’s the end of this discussion I suppose. Bye for now.

  21. Hilary Says:

    Sorry, Trojina, I’ve been ridiculously slow to get back to you here…

    I don’t think anyone is saying ‘don’t think’ or ‘don’t discuss’. Not me, anyway. Just ‘experiment (and discuss) with real readings’. I enjoy trying to express the essence of a tool in terms as simply as possible – but I can’t think of any way to get there except through trying it in readings, either.

  22. Trojina Says:

    Way up the thread I made that very point. I said

    ” I don’t think the meaning of this pattern can be accepted as the ‘shadow’ until it has been used a lot more.”

    Then you quoted this ;

    I’ve said a lot about Ideal and Shadow on my website and I think you all are making it much too complicated. It is simple psychological or imaginative strategy, showing you how to focus your THINKING function and the desire it represents. so it does not get caught up in monkey-mind (i.e. greed, fear, ambition, etc). This is purely situational. And the moment you can fully let go of your involvement with the “shadow” (like your own desire to be Without Entanglement) the situation clicks and, amongst other things, you become disentangled because you let go of the desire to be so. I could go into lots of synchronicity and “rainmaker” and Jungian and “wu-wei” theory to elucidate all this but it boils down to one of the (to my mind) fundamental tenets of Change: if it works, use it. If it doesn’t, throw it away. But please don’t discuss it until it dies a slow heat-death from entropy. Remember – Change is images or symbols, not concepts. And it is magic: image-magic, like a koan.”

    which ironically is the most complicated thing that has been said on shadow hexagram in this Blog so far.

    Anyway you initially said you were interested in exploring these ideas here ;

    “You may be wondering about the Shadow of hexagram 40. It’s 25, Without Entanglement. Again, this is a lot clearer in the context of the reading, because my initial response to the friend with the connected-hexagram-generator was along the lines of, ‘These are Stephen Karcher’s ideas, not mine at all, so he’s the one you need to ask about how to describe them, not me.’ Hm. Very 25-ish, seeing it as if the main question were, ‘Is this mine, or not?’ – and hence altogether missing the freedom and energy inherent in Hexagram 40, as it asks ‘Could this lead me somewhere worth exploring?’”

    You asked if it could lead somewhere exploring ? Yes I think so. Also because someone coins a term it doesn’t mean they own the idea here. Anyone can look and see this pattern for themselves so it isn’t as if Karcher is anymore the expert on them than you are. There are hexagrams 1 -64 …anyone can look and find patterns can’t they….we don’t have to defer to anyone on what they mean as no one invented them. As there is no expert to defer to here then I take 40 as do your thing with them. The foxes being the notion there is an expert who can tell us what they mean ?

    Anyway I shall be looking at the shadow hexagrams in my own readings so thankyou for this Blog post

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