Changing Lines

Tradition has it that, besides just 'looking' at the hexagrams and contemplating the philosophy within, they can be created through the tossing of coins or a ritual involving yarrow sticks (A more modern version uses coloured marbles).

These processes include the concept of a changing line, where a line changes into it's opposite. This stems from the 'natural' movement of lines; yin lines contract (---><---) and yang lines expand (<------>). For yin lines, if there is too much contraction in a particular context then this implies energy and the two parts meet and the line becomes a yang line. In the yang lines, if there is too little expansion this implies weakness and so the line breaks and becomes yin. These are considered as 'moving lines' and are symbolized as (--- X ---), moving yin, and (----O----), moving yang. (As discussed earlier. the overall path through a trigram or hexagram is bottom to top.)

The modern form of tossing coins is to use three coins and build a hexagram from the bottom-up using the following to determine the line type:

H = heads
T = tails

HHH        ----O----
HTT        ---   ---
THH        ---------
TTT        --- X ---

Six tosses of three coins will create a hexagram. Please note that this is a very 50/50 point of view and that the yarrow stick method has a built-in bias to yin and is more 'hierarchic' in form. This bias shows that the yin state (low energy) is dominant; people prefer the 'ground state' to change. (One can also use the trigram attributes to create a hexagram, with the bottom trigram symbolizing context and the top the specific 'behaviour' within the context, also used in the INNER(bottom tri)/OUTER(top tri)concept).

In the traditional I Ching texts, comments have been written that deal with the specific situation of a line changing within the overall context of the hexagram. It is obvious that these comments apply to ONE line changing within a hexagram. If two lines change then one is supposed to read both comments as well as the comments of the hexagram created by the changing lines.

For example:

if we create:

        ---   ---                ---   ---
        ---   ---                ---   ---
        --- X --- it becomes     ---------
        --- X ---                ---------
        ----O----                ---   ---
        ---  ----                ---   ---

We are supposed to read the comments for the three changing lines as well as any comments for the overall newly formed hexagram.

It is often found that, for example, the line comment for a specific line bares little association with the generated hexagram or with the overall hexagram.

My own research suggests that this system may be of a later origin and that the original concept, based around refinement, worked something like this:

In the I Ching we find no comments on the nature of a *non-changing* line. Is it possible to ascertain the nature of a line within a hexagram in a more specific context than it's position attributes (worker, sage etc)?

Using the refinement aspect - top trigram in the context of the bottom - we consider, for one line, the source of change. The suggestion is it is external. We extend this by considering the source of the change with relation to the current hexagram. In this source, the inner/outer dichotomy, in relation to 'us', is reversed. Therefore, taking this into consideration we (a) create the changed hexagram and then (b) swap the trigrams. Using this system -

this:                   becomes this:
        ---   ---                ---   ---
        ---   ---                ---------
        --- X ---                ---   ---
        ---   ---                ---   ---
        ---------                ---   ---
        ---  ----                ---------

What is surprising about this is that the resulting hexagram is symbolic of the change affecting the line in the old one rather than the old one changing into a new one. For example, in hexagram 1, The Creative, the comments for the changing bottom line imply that, although having potential it is best to lie low for now. By applying the above system, the hexagram of influence is hexagram 9 - The Taming Power of the Small. This hexagram deals with the making of small gains. In this context what is being said is that in the beginning, (bottom position) if you do NOT put in enough energy (normal yang line) then only small gains can be made (changed yang to yin line).

What is implied here is that the hexagram of influence on a non-changing line is infact the opposite of that for a changing line. In the context of hexagram 1 we have hexagram 16 - Enthusiasm, which suggests the first step through hexagram 1 is enthusiasm and preparedness/foresight (a plan).

We find, therefore, that in each hexagram, a pair of hexagrams influence each line. This influence can be either positive or negative.

We further find that the hexagram pair influencing the top line is closely associated with the overall meaning of the hexagram. This would be logical since, in the context of refinement, the top line symbolizes completion and the full hexagram's name incorporates the top line's 'meaning' together with the rest. For example, the text of the Creative emphasises leadership but at all times searching for and then maintaining balance. The top line of the hexagram is influenced by the hexagram pair of 10 Conduct (changing line) / 15 Modesty (normal line). (this can of course be further refined).

For situations of multiple changing lines, the method of processing is the same (swap trigrams after applying the changes) but the structure we get is of a hexagram that is influencing all change. There are no comments for these sorts of conditions, but taking the influencing hexagram within the context of the influenced hexagram, I am sure the user can determine what is going on.

The 'way of the inferior' and the 'way of the superior'.

Traditionally, the I Ching is seen as a tool for devining; for predicting the outcome of a current situation. This link with the universe is often termed as 'synchronistic' in form; the moment one toss coins or yarrow sticks etc., the resulting hexagram comes from the processes of the moment.

In Science, there is more an emphasis on causality, where A leads to B. The I Ching encompasses both of these systems. (the causal/synchronous dichotomy forms a 'whole'.)

the I Ching, in the form of hexagrams etc is a closed system. Every hexagram has another hexagram as context. Every line has a hexagram as context. These contextual hexagrams are NOT randomly distributed, there are specific contextual hexagrams for specific states and all of these can be derived from the hexagram under consideration.

The problem with this closed system is exactly that - it is closed; once you know all of the forms, everything becomes highly predictable. There is a lot to learn but it becomes easy with experience. This closed system is an extremely rich area of study and the whole concept of divining is replaced by a concept of philosophical (or for some even theological) analysis. This is called the 'way of the superior'.

Whoever put the I Ching together, and I believe from my studies that most of the creation stories are more myth than fact, recognized that the richness of the 'way of the superior' was limited in that it lacked the ability to evolve - it lacked 'change' - and creativity was limited to discovering a new aspect of the whole within the whole which is a more adaptive form of creativity. Innovative creativity has to come from the outside.

This innovative creativity came in the form of devising a way in which a hexagram could be placed out of it's more 'fixed' context. For example, the gross context of hexagram 01 - the creative - is symbolized by hexagram 28 - great excess (this is discussed in detail later); this hexagram is the overall hexagram of influence on the base line of hexagram 1. By overall I mean that it does not matter if the line is changing or not. As we shall see, at a more refined level of analysis there are two hexagrams that relate to change/non-change and these are infact summarized by the nature of hexagram 28. In refinement there is strong emphasis on hierarchy.

But nature shows that we can have things appear out of context. We call this 'random behaviour' and it can be highly creative and is infact a standard mode of creativity within any metaphoric system:

"[A] metaphor is a complex whole that draws on comparisons, identities, bold images, and complex ideas. Through complex juxtapositions, metaphors fuse feeling, thought, and images in ways that expand the expressiveness of the language.
As a form of thinking as well as a way of speaking, metaphor opens up the possibility of combining almost any two words and imagining a context in which they enhance meaning."
p34 (H. Kohl 1992)

In the I Ching we take the hexagram out of it's normal context by posing a question and then randomly generating the lines of a hexagram to form an answer; we combine the text of the hexagram with the context of the moment. This can work extremely well in that it gives a perspective that was not considered, but at the same time it is also temporary and/or can be misleading if taken too literally; the idea is to enhance meaning rather than to give meaning. Thus the tossing of coins is considered the 'way of the inferior'; highly creative but of short term when compared to the 'whole' of the I Ching. (this does NOT mean that you are inferior if you 'toss coins'. It means that the path of divining can be creative and lead to out of the ordinary states but 'nature' has a way of restoring the ordinary and thus the way of the superior can give a deeper perspective. Overall, use both systems with a slight bias to the way of the inferior (and thus innovative creativity) once you have gained a reasonable understanding of the way of the superior.)