777887Hexagram 26

The flow and the channel.

Line image

In lines 4 and 5 we accept an inactive outer world and inactive feeling while line 6 shows that we do not accept the inner quietness of line 1. This pattern indicates that what we are feeling and doing is real to us but we do not see the movement of the tao, the way our circumstances are moving, and so we are ruled by our situation. The common name of the hexagram is “power or nourishment of the great”, and this “great” is the greater reality that surrounds our known reality, so it is inner (not distinguished) and produces little show outside.

Trigram image

The flow is in ourselves (Chên); we are changed by the great silence of the bottom trigram Ch’ien although we can hear nothing coming from it. It is an effect we call fate, not essentially separate from us but made to seem so by the focus of identity which creates the illusion of separateness. In this tao the illusion is tested, our acceptance of the greater reality is tested.

The Chinese Oracle

Nourishment by the great is furthered by persistence.
Not eating at home and crossing the great water are favoured.


The outer is nourished by the inner, this is the power that the great has. There are barriers of our ignorance, however, which have to be overcome before we can accept what the great offers, so persistence is necessary in whatever contact we have with our inner sources; this involves being aware of how unaware we are. This is both not eating at home and crossing the great water, it is trying nourishment not already in our identity (home) and experiencing in a different manner (across great waters culture is different).


The pattern
Great actions achieve their purpose.
Outer obeys inner,
becoming quiet and still.
For humans
He is inspired;
works all day outside,
discovering the form of things
he thinks he has made.
In the evening
he sits on the mountain.
In nature
Life force unfolds
in evolution of form.
The peak of form is order.
In forms we make
A pipe through which water flows.

Changing Lines

Line 1 goes yin

life force shows more change

The tao is about allowing the inner forces to flow as they will, and here the greater activity of the life force may cause us to think we can move (there is some pressure for personal activity).

The Chinese Image
Danger is about
We should halt our activities.

The danger comes from our not being aware of the wider nature of our circumstances (lines 2 and 6 being yang).

Line 2 goes yin

intuitive feeling more active

When intuitive feeling reacts to the life force it is interpreting it and so stands between the whole reality and identity; in identity’s terms it is a link but as reality is whole it is also a barrier.

The Chinese Image
A carriage with its under-connection removed.

Identity is our carriage which is part of whole reality except for its self-identification, when feeling does not interpret, the inner and outer are undivided, here feeling becomes active and so divides the outer from the inner. The image is a statement, not a judgement.

Line 3 goes yin

outer world changes more

Outer activity is part of the flow in the whole, provided we allow it to flow as it will.

The Chinese Image
Urging fine horses.
Awareness of danger,
practice of martial arts,
and persistence (in the tao)
give advantage in any direction.

There is some danger in urging the life force onwards, it is the beginning of manipulating, so we need to be mindful of the tao. Martial arts are practised to enhance alertness and alertness to the circumstances we are in allows freedom of movement.

Line 4 goes yang

accepting the outer state less

Here we are becoming less involved in, less worried by, the outer inactivity and this has a quietening effect on us.

The Chinese Image
The headboard of a young bull.

A headboard over the horns was used to restrain and quieten the bull’s too-high spirits. The image sees this as an advantage to the whole.

Line 5 goes yang

less awareness of intuition

The less we interpret the life force the freer is the flow of the whole, for interpretation restricts possibilities; the less we interpret the more we accept.

The Chinese Image
The tusk of a gelded boar.
Good fortune.

The tusk is not changed when the boar is castrated but the drive that makes it dangerous is removed; this neatly pictures our personalization of activity, the way we own it.

Line 6 goes yin

our inner being accepts more

This line is our contact with the greater reality that surrounds us, our personal part in it, so this present involvement of our inner being with the greater undistinguished reality is a culmination of the tao.

The Chinese Image
He arrives at the way of heaven.

This is an acceptance of the great tao, it does not invest identity with some power or other but we are open to the inner silence (of the lower half of the hexagram, Ch’ien). In experience this may involve a deep discovery which brings us into deep peace with ourselves, or it may be that we simply feel more in tune.

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.