788788Hexagram 51

Shaken in his being.

Line image

Line 6 is yin while line 1 is yang, so we change innerly in this tao but not from the activity of the emerging life force. The outer world (line 3) is active, while line 4 shows us to be ignorant about this outer activity. When our outer world is the centre of activity and we ignore this we are likely to meet the unexpected and to be unprepared. “Shock” is the common name of the hexagram.

Trigram image

The strong surge of energy in Chên is met by the immovable Kên. This flow is a severe jolt to the being, which, in its established peace is quite unprepared for such force; it resists and then succumbs (K’an), only to recover again as we recognize and co-ordinate a new reality.

Shock occurs when new experience appears too fast for our co-ordination to deal with it. Feeling cannot come up with a feeling and there may be rejection and disorganization (panic) or withdrawal of feeling (numbness). All this may be fleeting, as when we meet someone suddenly in a doorway, or profound. All this feeling cannot move outwards, cannot be identified, so it moves in our inner being (Chên at the top).

The Chinese Oracle

Shock (thunder), success.
Shock then laughter.
Frightening tumult for 100 miles around.
He does not spill the sacrificial vessel.


Shock by its nature is sudden and short, followed by relief and laughter. 100 miles around is symbolic of it going the whole distance—it is total in us. The sacrificial vessel is ourself (as in the Ting, hexagram 50), we do not go outwards in shock, we centre very severely, so the self or sacrificial vessel is not externalized, spilt. The movement of the energy in our inner being can make changes there and this is the success the tao offers.


The pattern
The world is shaken
to its foundation.
Unparalleled relief
must follow.
For humans
Shock follows shock
until his reality
itself is shaken.
Then he will laugh from his belly
at his alarm, at his escape,
at his relief;
and examine his weaknesses.
In nature
Lightning tears the air
and all beasts cower.
Strikes at the earth
and they tremble.
Its thunder rolls away,
uncovering the sun
and beautiful normality.
In forms we make
Authority stamps,
shaking its power;
and withdraws,
creating order.

Changing Lines

Line 1 goes yin

life force shows more change

Here we react to shock immediately by stirring our inner peace into activity. We are alert and not taken much off our guard, or the shock is such that it is quickly recognized; either way it is quickly followed by relief.

The Chinese Image
Shock roars
then speaks smilingly.
Good fortune.

Line 2 goes yang

intuitive feeling less active

This is the numbness reaction to shock. Feeling cannot co-ordinate and so does not function, creating a strange separateness but this will pass.

The Chinese Image
Shock signals danger.
He loses his valuables
and climbs nine hills.
He should not go after them,
in seven days he will have them again.

The danger of overload is a danger to our ability to distinguish what is happening to us, a danger to identity itself. When we cannot distinguish because of shock we lose all of value because confusion has no values.
Over nine hills is nine times up and down again, a vacillation about the number nine, which is 3 × 3 or symbolically change which is changing—all is confusion as we try to follow the change but cannot. But it all comes back again at the end of the process, the seven days. This symbolism just describes the shock syndrome.

Line 3 goes yang

outer world changes less

With shock, action becomes confused; but it is action that leads out of shock so instinctive action is an effective outlet; it also involves acting without caution.

The Chinese Image
Thunder (shock) is impetuous;
reacting likewise is not harmful.

It is necessary to move to get out of shock and our lightning-like reflexes operate, knowing in their own way what is needed; but here we control this and do not move.

Line 4 goes yin

accepting the outer state more

Here we are taking possession of the action of shock, using it for our purposes, conscious or unconscious. This is a misunderstanding; shock is by its nature spontaneous and although we may serve our purposes by this means we narrow our reality.

The Chinese Image
Shock in mud.

In mud we get stuck and here we get stuck in shock, using it, entangling with it. Allow shock and it flows out, try to define or use it and it stays.

Line 5 goes yang

less awareness of intuition

This fifth line is our recognition of intuitive feeling. Here the shock to feeling causes withdrawal from it—yet we cannot withdraw successfully from something so evident.

The Chinese Image
Shock comes and goes repeatedly.
Nothing is lost and things need doing.

The danger is that we are distracted from outer action needed in response to the shock, “things need doing”. We are wildly seeking but nothing is lost so we need not seek.

Line 6 goes yang

our inner being accepts less

This line of our inner being does not accept the shock, it is a matter for our outer coordination to deal with it.

The Chinese Image
Shock creates disorder and terrified eye movements.
Advance brings misfortune.
His neighbours are shocked
but not he himself, no error.
The neighbours criticize him.

The outer boundary of self, the identified self which has many facets, are the “neighbours” who are disoriented, not the inner self, they look around with frightened eyes for some help but get none and feel let down.

Nuclear HexagramHexagram 39


Line image

Our identity accepts an inactive outer world (lines 4 and 3) while it does not accept our active intuitive feeling (lines 5 and 2); this does not favour our taking new directions, but acceptance by our inner being (line 6) creates change there, so although the tao restrains outer activity we are furthered by experiencing it.

Trigram image

The life force seeks to be still (Kên) and there is little flow in our outer world (K’an), so we are unable to act effectively; we hesitate (Li). The K’an, Li, K’an sequence on top of the stillness of Kên contradicts itself, giving the hexagram its common name of “obstruction” as no direction can be usefully taken.

The Chinese Oracle

South and west are favourable.
North and east are unfavourable.
There is advantage in seeing the great man.
Continuance in the way brings good fortune.


The sun traverses the south and west from midday to night; the north and east is traversed through darkness to morning; so the south and west is activity becoming tranquil and the north and east is tranquility becoming active, so it is better to complete works rather than start new ones. It is an advantage to experience widely (the great man) when obstructed and work through the situation so that our inner experience is enriched.


The pattern
The life force halts
when each tries to take
the other’s place.
For humans
They fight around him.
He does not take part,
Knowing other ways.
In nature
In upheaval.
The water is upon the land.
The mountain in the water.
Fire springs from chasms.
The life force waits its time.
In forms we make
When the outside forces
are attacking one another
form is overthrown.

Changing Lines

Line 1 goes yang

life force shows less change

When the life force is inactive less activity is possible, especially when we are in the tao of obstruction.

The Chinese Image
Going meets obstruction.
Remaining brings praise.

Remaining involves being still, being alert, being aware; more being, less doing.

Line 2 goes yang

intuitive feeling less active

The natural reaction of feeling to troubled times is to become less sensitive; it is an instinctive move to balance sensitivity with aggravating circumstance.

The Chinese Image
The king’s minister meets
obstruction upon obstruction.
He is disadvantaged but
he is not at fault.

The minister supplies the king with advice and information, as feeling does for identifying. Feeling is suffering under the stress of our circumstances but this is not a fault in the way we feel.

Line 3 goes yin

outer world changes more

Here we act out to overcome our frustration although there is no path there; our objectives cannot be reached so we will then give up the attempt.

The Chinese Image
Goes and meets trouble.
Turns back.

Line 4 goes yang

accepting the outer state less

The unflowing state of outer action appears to us to be an obstruction. By becoming less involved in this we can be more aware of what is actually going on around us.

The Chinese Image
Going leads to obstruction.
Remaining connects together.

Connecting things together is a state of awareness, not of outer activity; here we try to understand our situation instead of battling against it.

Line 5 goes yin

more awareness of intuition

The obstruction is so great that we turn to our intuitive feeling, which we have been ignoring.

The Chinese Image
When obstruction is at its height,
friends come.

Feeling our circumstances helps as a friend would, be relating innerly. Our ignorance of this feeling was part of the obstruction so this improves matters.

Line 6 goes yang

our inner being accepts less

The obstruction in this tao is about our not being able to be still nor to act. Here our inner being becomes still, which is helpful.

The Chinese Image
Going outward meets obstruction.
Remaining is good fortune.
To see the great man brings advantage.
Good fortune.

Remaining is also keeping still and to see the great man is to see widely, not narrowing our view by choice; this is the good fortune.