The Sixty-Four Hexagrams
Taken together, the sixty-four hexagrams have a meaning that is distinctively different from the meaning of each individual hexagram. Four of the sixty-four hexagrams stand apart from the other sixty.
These four (hexagrams #1, #2, #29, #30) in indistinction,
are right with empty non-being.
Sixty hexagrams revolve around them,
outspread like a chariot.
Harnessing a dragon and a mare,
The enlightened ruler holds the reins of time.
-- Wei Boyang (Cantong Qi, Triplex unity, 2nd c. Taoist text))
An old saying goes: I take my spirit as a carriage, while my inner strength acts as the horses. -- Yu Yan (13th c. Taoist master, Commentary on the Cantong Qi)
A human being is represented as a carriage with a driver and a master. The driver, also called the enlightened ruler, is the mind of Tao. He brings back the presence of the Original Spirit represented by the four hexagrams which are out of time. The other sixty hexagrams represent the firing times and occur in time.
Qian (Heaven) and Kun (Earth) form the crucible and furnace within; Kan (Water) and Li (Fire) are the medicinal substances from which the Elixir is made. The rest of the sixty hexagrams consequently make up the firing times – through which the Elixir is taken.
-- Master Shangyang (Commentary on Cantong Qi)
Qian (Heaven) ☰ and Kun (Earth) ☷ are the door and the gate of change, the father and the mother of all hexagrams. Kan (Water) ☵ and Li (Fire) ☲ mark the inner space, and spin the hub and align the axis. -- Wei Boyang, The Can Tong Qi (Triplex Unity,)
Qian is represented in the heavens above, and Kun in the earth beneath. They form the image of the axle and are the body of change. Kan and Li rising and falling between them, represent the hub that turns upon the axle and make up the function of change. Within a human, Qian and Kun are the cauldron and the furnace while Kan and Li make up the ingredients of the Elixir.
The rest of the remaining 60 hexagrams stand for the firing times. Each day there are twelve double hours; two hexagrams are made up of twelve lines, and so each day uses two hexagrams. Thus as the sixty hexagrams are divided among the thirty days, they represent a single month. But it is slightly limiting, so why is it done in this fashion? Because it is only metaphor. They are not meant to refer directly to the thirty days. -- Yu Yan (Commentary on the Cantong Qi)
As an example, hexagram #49 Revolution ䷰ and #50 The cauldron䷱, shown at 3 o’clock on the image on the left (at position # 23), form one spoke of a wheel. If hexagram #49 is turned upside down it becomes hexagram #50 which gives the image of the rising and falling, which refers to the rising and falling of the breath. All thirty pairs of hexagrams can be seen as the inhalation and exhalation of the breath.
As for using the signs and lines in carrying out the firing process, in the two hexagrams HEAVEN ䷀ and EARTH ䷁, strength and gentility depend on each other, coming and going alternately, establishing the four seasons, making a year, with the operation of the four qualities of creativity, development, fruition, and consummation going on endlessly. The firing process with its advancing and withdrawal, extraction and addition, increasing and decreasing, is modeled on and represented by this, and concentrates a year into a month, a month into a day, a day into an hour and an hour into one breath.
-- Li Dao Chun (13th c. Taoist master, The Book of Balance and Barmony)
Breathing out and breathing in does not refer to exhalation and inhalation through the nose, but rather to the opening and closing of the true breath, the inner pulse of life, the movement of energy and stillness of the spirit. -- Li Dao Chun ( The Book of Balance and Harmony)
The well-known quote from the Dao De Jing #11 refers to the sixty hexagrams arranged in pairs around a wheel:
The thirty spokes unite in the one nave; but it is the empty space for the axle, that makes the wheel useful. -- Dao De Jing #11
These thirty inhalations and exhalations of the True Breath, became the thirty Japanese gods of the thirty days of the month. Most scholars believe that they have their origin in China. The Gods in all religions are symbols for psychological tools; impulses to start and sustain the Firing Process, the operation of spiritual awareness.
If I accept the fact that a god is absolute and beyond all human experiences, he leaves me cold. I do not affect him, nor does he affect me. But if I know that a god is a powerful impulse in my soul, at once I must concern myself with him, for then he can become important. -- Carl Gustav Jung (20th c. psychotherapist)
Internal companions are the men who do not die, from the land of Kan ☵ in the southwest. They support the firm bold breath and hold the handle the life and death. Among the gods they are the numinous officers. -- Liu Yiming (Cultivating the Tao)
In the Chinese classical novel Journey to the West instead of gods, the image of fruit is used to represent an impulse to start and sustain the Firing Process.
The mountain was called the Mountain of Infinite Longevity, and there was a Taoist temple on it, called the Wuzhuang temple. The temple had a rare treasure, a miraculous tree that had been formed when primeval chaos was first being divided, before the separation of Heaven and Earth. Only thirty fruit were formed each ten thousand years, and they were shaped like newborn babies, complete with limbs and sense organs. Anyone whose destiny permitted him to smell one, would live for three hundred and sixty years., and if you ate one you would live for forty-seven thousand years. -- Journey to the West
The fruit shaped like newborn babies symbolizes that one needs to get rid of all one`s attitudes and opinions and be pure and empty-minded like a baby to unveil the Original Spirit. Living for thousands of years doesn`t refer to the life of the physical body but to the life of the Original Spirit, which rises out of the ashes like a phoenix. The thirty fruit, like the thirty pairs of hexagrams refer to thirty breaths in which one becomes simple and ready and aware of oneself, so that the Original Spirit is unveiled. The four timeless hexagrams Qian (Heaven) ䷀ , Kun (Earth) ䷁, Kan (Water) ䷜ and Li (Fire) ䷝ making up the empty space in the middle of the axe represent the emptiness of conscious awareness spreading in the four directions.
These four are one in God and the one is four. But we cannot grasp the simplicity of God. While we strive to understand that he is as one, he appears to us as fourfold. -- Bernard of Clairvaux (12th c. French abbot)
Qian ䷀ (Heaven) is strong, flourishing, and bright,
as it spreads over the four directions.
Yang terminates at the Self (己 - also means the 6th heavenly stem),
Residing in the center, it has a share in everything.
-- Liu Yiming (Taoist I Ching, Hexagram #1 Heaven)
In the Field of the square foot, in the House of the square inch, in the Temple of jade, dwells the God of utmost Emptiness and Light. -- The Secret of the Golden Flower
This immortal fourfold breath, is hidden in the original cavity of the spirit, behind the spot between the eyes. -- Chao Pi Chen (20th c. Taoist Master)
Of the sixty-four hexagrams of the I Ching, the reason Heaven ☰ and Earth ☷ are the gate and door is to show people the path of firmness and flexibility, simplicity and readiness. The other sixty-two hexagrams show people the path of modification of simplicity and readiness. The three hundred eighty-four lines of the sixty-four hexagrams all teach people how to know when they are not simple and ready, and to modify this so that they may eventually become simple and ready.
Modification to simplicity and readiness means that awareness and capability (to have self-awareness) are in their innate condition of innocence, and one is a superior person. If one does not change to simplicity and readiness, then awareness and capacity are faulty, and one is an inferior person. The difference between superior people and inferior people is simply a matter of whether or not they know how to make this change. -- Liu Yiming (Taoist I Ching, The path of superior people is eternal, the path of inferior people is miserable.)