The Sixty Four Hexagrams

By: R.C.L.

Study of the trigrams can help you to understand Awareness and your states of consciousness. But the trigrams alone can not help you with existential decisions and choices. This requires the doubling of the trigrams into inner and outer worlds wherein six lines are used to create the Hexagram. The I Ching book is made up of the 64 possible Hexagrams and commentary on each Hexagram. The 64 Hexagrams are shown vertically on the left. The chart below shows how the trigrams combine to form the hexagrams. The upper trigrams ar listed on top, and the lower trigrams on the left.

  tri1.gif (912 bytes) tri2.gif (923 bytes) tri3.gif (923 bytes) tri4.gif (920 bytes) tri5.gif (929 bytes) tri6.gif (917 bytes) tri7.gif (916 bytes) tri8.gif (917 bytes)
tri1.gif (912 bytes) 01 34 5 26 11 9 14 43
tri1.gif (912 bytes) 25 51 3 27 24 42 21 17
tri3.gif (923 bytes) 6 40 29 4 7 59 64 47
tri4.gif (920 bytes) 33 62 39 52 15 53 56 31
tri5.gif (929 bytes) 12 16 8 23 2 20 35 45
tri6.gif (917 bytes) 44 32 48 18 46 57 50 28
tri7.gif (916 bytes) 13 55 63 22 36 37 30 49
tri8.gif (917 bytes) 10 54 60 41 19 61 38 58

The first three lines of the Hexagram, from the bottom up, constitute the lower trigram and symbolizes the inner world. The fourth, fifth and sixth lines constitute the upper trigram and symbolizes the outer world. The lower trigram of the Hexagram represents the attitude towards motivation, the upper towards intention. There are sixty four possible combinations of six yin or yang lines. For example, one possible combination is a hexagram known as PEACE where the top three lines are all yin, and the bottom three all yang, Heaven below the Earth:

                    ___   ___  6
                    ___   ___  5  Outer Trigram
                    ___   ___  4
                    ________ 3

Inner Trigram _ 2 _ 1

The I Ching is more than a book to be understood. It is a tool invented by the Chinese to help a person reach their creative state by proper alignment of their inner and outer attitude. A person can read the I Ching like a book, but its highest purpose is to be consulted or used like an introspective tool. You consult the I Ching by using a random selection process to choose one of the sixty four hexagrams to answer a question.

Each Hexagram selected can also change into another by means of changing lines, whereby a yin line can change into a yang, or a yang to a yin. The random selection of the hexagram is traditionally accomplished either by a complicated process of using 50 yarrow sticks, or by throwing three coins. Heads is three, heaven-yang. Tails is two, earth-yin. With this chance system of coin tossing the following possibilities of change emerge:

3 tails - 2 + 2 + 2 = 6 _ X --> __Yin line that changes to Yang

2 tails, 1 head - 2 + 2 + 3 = 7 __ Yang line that does not change

2 heads, 1 tail - 3 + 3 + 2 = 8 _ _ Yin line that does not change

3 heads - 3 + 3 + 3 = 9 _O --> _ _ Yang line that changes to Yin

The consultation process begins by your formulation of a real-life question, a significant question involving a problem you are facing or a decision you must make. The hexagram or hexagrams then selected allows the Self in the Right brain to communicate with and send messages to the Ego in the left brain.

Work at the School of Wisdom since the 1920s has shown that the best form for any question asked of the I Ching, particularly for the inexperienced, is "What should my attitude be towards ... such and such an action". You fill in the particular action you have in mind, the course of conduct which you are considering to solve a particular problem, the decision you want to make. With the question focused like that, the response is typically much more meaningful and easy to understand. An unfocused question which has no particular action in mind, like "What should I do", will usually not have good results. You have to formulate the proposed choice yourself. Then the hexagrams will give you an idea as to whether you should go forward with the action, and if so, how, with what inner attitude.

After you formulate the question and pick a hexagram(s) through chance, you then refer to the hexagram in the I Ching which you have selected. Most of the text of the I Ching is comprised of explanations and commentary concerning each of the sixty four hexagrams. They are written in very general terms and images. The Book of Changes appears to have been slowly compiled over thousands of years by hundreds of different sages and scholars. However, the legendary Chinese rulers King Wen and the Duke of Chou, along with the ever-popular Confucius, are usually given credit for most of the writings. The explanations and commentary of the hexagrams can be mystifying unless the structure is understood. Until recently few people have understood the structure and so the I Ching has been widely misunderstood outside of China.

The six lines of the Hexagram relate to the seven states of consciousness (four functions and three realms) by deletion of the middle function - willing. In the I Ching you yourself provide the will by forming the question and then by making a decision based upon the hexagram. The first line is sensing, the second line is thinking, the third is feeling, the fourth is body, the fifth is soul and the sixth is spirit.

Using Confucian terminology the first line at the bottom of the hexagram, the sensing line, is called the "cause outside of you". The sixth line at the top of the hexagram, the spirit line, is the "result". Like the first line, the sixth does not depend on your consciousness, it represents a cause outside of you. The second line from the bottom, the thinking line, is known as the "official". The fifth soul line is the place of the "prince". The third feeling line shows your motivation which will lead to the fourth body line of karma. There is no willing line on the hexagram - this comes from you, and from the random process itself, the Strange Attractor.

Result 6 __ __ Spirit

Prince 5 __ __Soul

Karma  4 __  __Body

Motivation 3 __ __ Feeling

Official 2 __ __ Thinking

Outside Cause 1 __ __ Sensing

The consultation process is really very ingenious, and as most people who use it with understanding soon find, extremely powerful and effective. In Chinese terms the Wu Chi ñ here evoked by random chance is used to tune you into the Tao. The hexagram randomly selected provides guidance as to what a person's attitude should be to the particular life situation they find themselves in.

Again, the basic structure of the trigram begins with the polarity stated by Jung as introversive and extroversive. The lower Trigram stands for a person's attitude to their inner world, the upper trigram stands for their attitude to the outer world. The basic law of this system of Chinese thinking is that by changing your attitude to life, both inner and outer, you can effectuate a change in your fate. It is a pragmatic philosophy of taking responsibility for your life and creating your own reality.

Each hexagram is also understood as containing 4 trigrams: the lines 123, 234, 345, 456.

yin-trigrams.gifThe Yin trigrams in this context are said to point downward:


The yang trigrams point upward:

hex-53.jpgThus for example, hexagram 53 Development:

contains four internal trigrams:


mental-equilibrium.jpgWith Development the four internal trigrams create a "mental equilibrium" of two yang trigrams going upward and two yin trigrams going downward. Most hexagrams have a equilibrium of 2 to 2, but sometimes there is a relationship of 1 to 3, such as with 44, Coming To Meet:


There are eight hexagrams made up of doubled trigrams, called the Pa Koa, which have only one direction.

Four are all yang, moving only upwards:

yan-hex-upward.gif These four yang hexagrams represent the movement from Self to Ego.

Four hexagrams are all yin, moving only downwards:

yin-hex-downward.gifThese four yin hexagrams represent the contrary movement from Ego to Self. Both movements are necessary for a balanced life.

yinyang.JPGUnlike western scientific laws which are based on causality, where everything has physical cause and effect, the I Ching is based on a non-linear law which Carl Jung called "synchronicity". The Law of Synchronicity is an a-causal connecting principle. Much has been written about this by Jung and his followers. Synchronicity recognizes the relationship between physical reality and the unconscious, and provides an explanation for how seemingly chance events in physical reality can reveal a hidden order in the psyche.

The principles of the I Ching and the law of synchonicity are in accord with the natural Laws of Chaos and Self Organization. Life is based on Self Organization, the fractal reality of the fourth dimension. At the human stage of evolution we try to base our Self Organization on the infinity beyond the left-right symmetry of the animal kingdom. So it is appropriate to make our choices out of chance, out of chaos, so long as the chance is constrained by mathematical structure in consonance with the Universe. This is exactly what the I Ching does. It uses chance, constrained by the basic numeric structure of life, to bridge Wu Chi and Tao the infinite and the finite This is how the book is able to provide such remarkably-accurate answers to questions put to it.

The system works and creates synchronicity because the mathematics are correct. Mere tossing of coins, for instance, heads I do this and tails I don't, cannot create synchronous effects because the mathematics are wrong. The I Ching "constrains chance" as Mandelbrot says, by ordering the random process with a mathematical structure which correctly mirrors the Universe. It works because of the mathematical structure of the hexagrams themselves. This structure is the "base two" number system to the sixth power, the six yin or yang lines in the hexagram. One of the first Europeans to see the hexagram structure when it was first brought out of China in the early 1700s was Gottfried Leibniz. He is the German philosopher and mathematician who first developed base two mathematics in the West. Today the base two number system has become the cornerstone of all modern technical culture. All computers operate on a machine level using a base two binary code of off or on, 0 or 1, or as the Chinese would say, Yin and Yang.

Last Modified on July 20, 2010 9:56 AM | Edit

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