877887Hexagram 18


Line image

The inner being does not accept an active emerging life force (lines 6 and 1); our identity accepts an inactive intuitive feeling (lines 5 and 2); our identity accepts an inactive outer world (lines 4 and 3). We reject what is active and accept what is inactive. Human activity is aimed at furthering growth and complexity (organization); here we have its opposite, decay, the breakdown of complexity or the development of simplicity. The common name of the hexagram is “decay”.

Trigram image

Emerging energy is already formed (Sun) and there is hope of activity in the outer world (Tui), this activity is realized, however, in identity (Chên) while our inner being stands apart (Kên). The flow from the source is matured, firm and unchanging, and although there is the beginning of activity outside it is in our identifying that great change occurs—changing our identification; the change is here in our identity, not in our inner being.

The Chinese Oracle

Greatest success.
It is of benefit to cross the great water.
Three days before the turning point
three days after.


Three days symbolizes change (three) and a cycle (day); change in the cycle occurs before and after the turning point between growth and decay; the change (activity) before is different to the change after because of the turning point so there is need to cross the great water, to change the mode of our being (across the great water the culture is different).

The mature identity cannot be re-born, first it has to complete its cycle by decay because structures are never re-born, only the essence of what they are, their being, can take a new form. Here is indeed the great water for us to cross, the greatest success that identity can achieve is genuinely to follow its continually changing circumstances.


The pattern
The source is firm,
formed and unflowing.
Outer form decays,
allowing new to take its place,
virile, rebuilding.
For humans
Our ways are fixed
and move no more.
Allow their death
and walk away in new country.
In nature
Maturity of autumn;
sap thickens, dries.
Decay of winter;
form dissipates.
Quickening of spring;
all is made new.
In forms we make
Perseverance in form,
momentum of habit,
pretence of life,
prevent reality living.

Changing Lines

Line 1 goes yang

life force shows less change

Without the attention of our inner being (line 6 is yang) the emerging energy becomes quiet. This, in the context of decay, means a disconnection between an activity and the one following (the sixth line is our inner structure absorbed from activity and the first line is the next emerging energy).

The Chinese Image
The child deals with the actions of the father.
A son makes the father blameless.
Peril, but good fortune eventually.

For an internal interpretation the father is our past distinguishing which “fathers” our next response. The disconnection noted above is seen as a change of mode which, if a change in distinguishing (a son rather than a daughter which would be feeling) removes the old way of distinguishing (the father’s mode). Changing our way of being is going through instability (peril) but brings good fortune, a new way forward.

Line 2 goes yin

intuitive feeling more active

Here is a new feeling of the life force; it derives from our old way of feeling (the mother).

The Chinese Image
The child deals with the actions of the mother.
Do not be too active in this.

Feeling is a flow and so a continuity, consequently the change of one cycle to the next in feeling is not achieved by throwing out the old. The natural flow of feeling is for the new to take the place of the old when that is exhausted, so we allow old feelings to die, we do not kill them.

Line 3 goes yin

outer world changes more

The old outer activity had ceased and now here is the new in which our identity manifests; changing our outer mode is only carried out when we think the old is inferior and can be improved (the old mode is the father’s). We spend our time making things “better” and this means that we are always seeing ourselves as in some way in error.

The Chinese Image
The child deals with the actions of the father.
There is some regret but no great error.

We have to regret what we are in order to want to change it but this does not necessarily mean that there is error.

Line 4 goes yang

accepting the outer state less

The old outer activity has decayed by exhausting itself; this lessens interest in outer activity so that we do not change what has been done. In this tao it is important that a new cycle replaces the old or identity itself has no vehicle.

The Chinese Image
He tolerates actions of his father.
Continuing causes regret.

Line 5 goes yang

less awareness of intuition

Here we are becoming less involved in the inactive feeling of line 2, less attached to it, and this is a turning point from decay to new growth. We prepare to take on a new cycle of activity, which in our usual progress is a development of what has gone before.

The Chinese Image
He deals with the actions of his father.
There is praise.

The praise belongs to the re-experience of our direction in a new way.

Line 6 goes yin

our inner being accepts more

Here we accept the turning point from decay to re-birth as it refers to our own being. In this we can have no purposes.

The Chinese Image
He does not serve kings or princes.
A loftier spirit has his own affairs.

This is the line of the inner being and as near to experience of the whole as our manifest part can reach. Kings and princes refer to the identifying process which is irrelevant here, where the turning point is in our own being.

Nuclear HexagramHexagram 54

Held back—breaks forth.

Line image

There is contradiction in this structure. We accept what is inactive innerly (lines 6 and 5) and reject what is active outside (line 4), so all movement is held up and nothing can be done. Such restraints on change cannot last for long because without change there is atrophy and the structure gives way to another; commonly the danger signals of being contained cause identity to break out of the restraint in some way.

It is an awkward structure because anything we do will be to relieve our feelings of being trapped without really changing our situation. While held thus by circumstances we will benefit by witnessing our reactions to it; it is always identity that traps itself—outer identity (line 4) cannot recognize activity as valid, it may, indeed, have been afraid for a long time, and then activity becomes awkward and undisciplined.

Trigram image

The flow is self-restricting, starting with hope (Tui) and then tentative in the world (Li) and sluggish in identity (K’an), but then with great force in our inner being (Chên). We hope for release of pent-up energies, but realizing their difficulties we are hesitant to let them out, so our activity is full of plans but very little outer action is possible. When energy cannot flow outwards it moves in our inner being and then awaits another chance of expression; when this chance comes the feeling that comes with it is “emotional”—charged with a purposeful need for expression.

The Chinese Oracle

The maiden seeks marriage.
Active undertakings bring misfortune.
No direction is favoured now.


The maiden (feeling) seeks the “other”, seeks definition and sense of purpose; a goal or direction is other to feeling, it is the male element to the female element. This goal or direction is to express the feeling in outer activity but this need is now out of phase with the tao—against the circumstances we are now in—and we usually get into such a situation by having experienced frustration of action at some earlier time and that action still needs expression. At present the circumstances of that challenge do not exist so if we act we are out of context.


The pattern
Young and joyful
but shy to venture.
Jumps with both feet;
becomes an active force.
For humans
His natural flow,
too long held back,
accepts any course for action.
Desire long unfulfilled
breaks forth.
How else could it become?
In nature
The lake flows out.
A young river, reluctant to flow,
comes to an abyss
and turns into a torrent.
In forms we make
When great force
overcomes unmoving friction
it is suddenly unopposed.

Changing Lines

Line 1 goes yin

life force shows more change

A change to greater activity of the life force cannot be fully used in this tao where we are without a feeling of it and not identifying in outer action.

The Chinese Image
The maiden marries as a concubine.
A lame man can walk.
Active directions bring good fortune.

She marries but not fully, he can walk but not fully; it is better to have this partial movement than none, it is better to participate in what is on offer than to live in our images of what ought to be on offer.

Line 2 goes yin

intuitive feeling more active

As the emerging life force is tending to become active in this tao (the trigram Tui) and everything is slow in our outer world, it is natural for our feelings towards activity to turn to this line which feels the life force. Feeling seeks the “other”, something to feel, but in these circumstances there is nothing available so we can only feel our own responses.

The Chinese Image
The one-eyed man can see.
Continuance of the solitary man brings advantage.

Feeling “looks” both inwards and outwards, but here vision is only on offer inwards so continuing in this is the way to proceed.

Line 3 goes yang

outer world changes less

We do not properly take part in the outer activity of this tao; we long to share but we cannot (sometimes dare not) give ourselves up to it. When the activity decreases we are able to take some part in it, an entrance into a world we wish to share.

The Chinese Image
From being a servant
she becomes a concubine.

A servant does not participate, a concubine does; a servant has separate quarters, a concubine co-inhabits. Here we become a participator, we enter the world of others and our energies have some outlet.

Line 4 goes yin

accepting the outer state more

In this moving line we are involved, we are interested or even dedicated to becoming involved; but this tao is a result of a long time of denial of outer flow and of acceptance of inner inactivity, so becoming interested in feelings of flow does not cause a torrent of activity, it prepares for movement.

The Chinese Image
The maiden does not marry at the usual age, she delays and makes a late marriage.

Line 5 goes yang

less awareness of intuition

In this tao we have been accepting that feeling is inactive; here we no longer accept this and so create a mind-feeling, a feeling stimulated by mind rather than the life force.

The Chinese Image
The emperor’s daughter was married in a gown less impressive than that of the serving maid.
The moon is nearly full, good fortune.

Our feeling is, in this symbol, the serving maid of our identifying, supplying the experience that is then identified, and this moving line 5 is about what identity does with feeling, how it dresses it up. The emperor is the ruler and our ruler in identity is the identifying process; this dresses up the experience in a way that is less beautiful than its original natural self. But the moon is nearly full, the growth of the feeling influence is waxing and about to reach its full radiance, so this opening to feeling will allow natural feeling to show itself again and this is good fortune.

Line 6 goes yang

our inner being accepts less

Here we cease to accept the life force as it emerges into manifestation and act as though we could create activity; but the life force is not active so our actions become gestures only.

The Chinese Image
The woman’s basket is empty.
When the man stabs a sheep
no blood flows.
No direction is now favourable.

In both these images the action of the person is empty, nothing in the basket and no blood in the sheep. Whether we feel (the woman) or try to make identifying nourishment for identity (the man) there is nothing there and no direction we take, no action we make, will produce the result we desire at present. It is something to learn that we are not the creators.