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The Steps of Yu: Speculations on the Matrix of Change

Many people have asked me questions about what I call the Pairs and the Crossline Omens.
Perhaps this might help clarify what I am talking about and help in using these powerful
divinatory tools. All this is suggestion and, to my mind at least, might provide a base for further
exploration. It has been my experience that these tools are a great help in the divinatory act itself,
letting us go deeply into the inner processes of a particular ‘change’.

The Matrix and the Pairs

The King Wen order of the 64 hexagrams is meaningful, even though it cannot be explained in
any systematic mathematical manner. Indeed, this resistance to systematization may be a precise
indication of its significance. The order is a synchronistic or acausal model of experience that
expresses the “holographic capacity of the mythological mind to create models of complex
realities.” To my mind, there is a spirit presiding over the interconnections of this matrix and that
spirit is Yu the Great, the “limping shaman,” as it were, with one foot in each world, life and
death, light and dark, yang and yin. Yu cast the Vessels, created the Water Ways and essentially
founded culture. To this day, many Daoist rituals are based on the “Steps of Yu” and his
shuffling gait through the sequence of the Bagua. I take this as a metaphor for our own passage
through the inner pathways of the matrix of Change.

Now this matrix is built of Pairs of adjoining hexagrams; 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6, etc. A Pair is
an expression of “holding the opposites in one thought,” a procedure that, according to Dazhuan,
at least, allows the shen or “enlightening spirit” to enter. Operationally, I see a Pair as made up
of an “inspiring” (yang) figure and a “realizing” (yin) figure interconnected through the matrix of
lines between them.

Kinds of Pairs

There seem to be three distinct kinds of Pairs:

Rotational Pairs that change into each other through inversion, for example, 51 and 52. This is
the norm in the matrix.

Symmetrical Pairs that change into each other through conversion of each line into its opposite:
1:2, 27:28, 29:30, 61:62. These are primary sites or “engines” that charge the matrix with

A set of four Pairs that change through both rotation and conversion: 11;12, 17:18, 53:54, 63:64.
These I call “sites of intense shamanic and ritual activity” that link the worlds. Imagery in these
Pairs bears out this idea.

A Rotational Pair and its Matrix

Let’s look at a Rotational Pair. (A lot of what follows will be familiar to anyone following LiSe’s
Square Games, and I feel it is of real importance to the act of divination with Change.) Change
suggested we look at the Pair 17:18, one of the “sites of intense shamanic activity” that
nevertheless functions basically as a Rotational Pair. The two hexagrams are linked through a set
of interconnecting lines: 1 and 6, 2 and 5, 3 and 4, 4 and 3, 5 and 2, 6 and 1. We can see these as
expressing a connection at the limits (beginning and culmination, lines 1 and 6); the centers
(inner and outer center, lines 2 and 5) and at the thresholds (the important passage between lines
3 and 4 from inner to outer trigrams).

If we change each of these lines separately, we see that they each generate another Pair across
the inner matrix. In the case of 17:18, these are: lines 1:6, 6:1 generate 45:46 and 25:26; lines
2:5, 5:2 generate 58:57 and 51:52; lines 3:4, 4:3 generate 49:50 and 3:4.

These can be set out in a linear sequence:

3:4 25:26 45:46 49:50 51:52 57:58

These are what I call the Karmic Nodes, reflecting age-sites where particularly personal
experiences are “constellated.” In practice, using these to explore “personal traumas and hidden
resources” in a deep divination can be extremely helpful and shockingly accurate.

The Crossline Omens

These Generated Pairs also form the Crossline Omens. Each transforming line will pass through
the fan lao of the generated pair to connect with its “partner,” thus describing a deep pathway
between “inspiration” and “realization” in a given situation. How do we read them or use them?
Here are two examples from the revisions of Total I Ching that will be included in the US edition
scheduled to appear this fall:

Nine at Fifth

Following. A triumph.

A connection to the spirits that leads to excellence.

Wise Words! The Way opens.

The situation is centered and correct. You have made a connection that will lead to real
achievements. Have no doubts. The Way is open to you.

Outer Center (17.5 > 51.5 : 52.2 > 18.2). The shock of the new rouses a flock of angry ghosts
and painful memories. You are called to serve now, so do not lose your sense of purpose. Still
yourself first. Make the sacrifice of the old ways through inner work and do not run after
impossible desires. You must confront the corruption of the Mothers, the abuse of nourishment
and care. Gather energy for the decisive new move.

The series of numbers is the structure of the omen with the underlining indicating where we are.
The attached commentary is an attempt to use the images from those lines to create a sense of the
meaning of the “deep pathway.” I feel this is the most effective way to preserve the omen itself,
rather than reducing it to a moral platitude. The last phrase in the omen (here, “gather energy for
a decisive new move”) comes from the nuclear figures of the relating hexagram and orients us
toward one of the Four Landmarks, the four possible second-generation nuclear figures (1, 2, 63,

Here is the same omen read from the other side of the Pair:

Nine at Second

Corruption. Managing and straightening the Mother’s Pestilence.

This is not an Enabling Trial.

This means acquiring the center and the Way. You must deal with the corruption of nourishment
and care. Get to the source of the trouble before you put things into motion. You cannot simply
take action. Put yourself in the middle of the situation and try to find the Way. Then you can see
and change the obstruction.

Inner Center (17.5 > 51.5 : 52.2 > 18.2). You have a connection to the spirits that leads to
excellence. You are called to serve now, so do not lose your sense of purpose. The shock of the
new has roused a flock of angry ghosts. Still yourself. Make the sacrifice of the old ways through
inner work before you proceed. Do not run after impossible desires, trying to create a following.
These comings and goings release energy bound in the past. Co-operate with the ongoing process
of change.

Reversed Pairs

The other Crossline Omen at “centers” from 17:18 illustrates something that often occurs: a Pair
is reversed across the matrix. Here the inner pair and fan lao are in reverse order. To me, this
shows a real “step of Yu,” a psychic movement that reaches out for something, then pulls back to
incorporate it before moving on. Here we move from 17.2 to 57.5, pull back to 58.2 and emerge
at 18.5.

Six at Second

Following. Tied to the Small Son,

You let go the Experienced Husbandman.

This means having nowhere to join helpful companions. Follow the Small now. Let go of your
self-importance and sense of position. This will dissolve your connection to the corruption you
feel all around you. Adapt to what crosses your path. By diminishing your sense of self-
importance, you can strip away the outmoded and find what is real.
Inner Center (17.2 > 58.2 : 57.5 > 18.5). You have a connection to the spirits that will carry you
through, so open yourself to this influence. The cause for sorrow will soon disappear. Do not
initiate things now, bring them to completion. Lay out the offerings and your work will be
rewarded. You are facing the corruption of the fathers and authority. See this as the exorcism of
an old disease. Do not get involved in conflict and invective. Use praise to disarm your
opponents. This will let you gather energy for a decisive new move.

And, from the other side of the Pair:

Six at Fifth

Corruption. Managing and straightening the Father’s Pestilence.

This is an exorcism. Use praise to accomplish the task.

This means receiving and using power and virtue. You must deal with the corruption of
authority. Do not attack directly. Use praise to accomplish the task. You will disarm your
opponent and reclaim your own power. In the process you will find out what your purpose really

Outer Center (17.2 > 58.2 : 57.5 > 18.5). Let go of your self-importance and sense of position.
Follow the Small. Do not initiate things, bring them to completion. Ancestors and descendents
will reward your work. This lets you strip away the outmoded and express your real self. Step
outside the norms and re-imagine the situation. Co-operate with the ongoing process of change.

In practice, I have found these deep pathways can truly contribute to an understanding of the
precise ways Change is moving. To my mind, they also express an underlayer of the text itself,
connecting the overt layers with an older, perhaps more “mythological” sense of things prior to
the codification of the text as a pathway to power.

The Symmetrical Pairs

Be that as it may, there is another consideration we should look at in considering these

Crosslines: the operation of the Omens in the Symmetrical Pairs that DO NOT generate other
Pairs across their matrix, but rather within each single figure.

Now a whole series of very insightful structural anthropologists who worked with systems of
meaning in traditional mythological cultures have differentiated two major modes of “exchange”
that relate complexes of meaning within a culture, and I feel this is directly relevant to the
“exchange” between the different kinds of hexagrams. In brief, they differentiate between a
“mythological” kind of exchange and a “canonical” or “totemic” sort of exchange between two
systems of images within the field of a culture. The mythological exchange connects images; the
“canonical” or “totemic” exchange connects basic categories of thought and experience.

I feel that this distinction is operative in the King Wen sequence. The Rotational Pairs are
“mythological,” dealing with interconnected set of “gods or spirits,” while the Symmetrical Pairs
are canonical, reflecting the basic categories of thought and experience: Dragon and Dark
Animal Goddess (1:2); the Tiger’s Mouth and the Great Transition (27:28); Water and Fire, the
Ghost River and the Bright Omens (29:30); The Opened Heart and the Flying Bird that carries its
message across the river of life and death (61:62).

Here there is another sort of exchange: each line primarily connects horizontally with its
counterpart, its conversion (1;1, 2:2, 3:3, 4;4, 5:5, 6;6). Notice too that within each symmetrical
figure Pairs are generated by lines 1 and 6, lines 2 and 5 and lines 3 and 4. Thus this sort of
exchange also connects the Pair it generates within the figure with the Pair generated by its
opposite. Thus, in the Pair 1:2, for example:

Nine at Fifth

Inspiring Force. Flying Dragon in the Heavens.

Advantageous to see the Great People. Harvesting.

The Great Person is creating. Midsummer. The Dragon appears, bright against the dark night
sky. Spread your wings. Let your creative power emerge. You receive energy and guidance. Now
is the time to build something enduring. Seek those who connect you to the Great Spirits and
trust what is Great in yourself.

Outer Center (1.5 > 14.5 : 8.5 > 2.5). The connection to the spirits you make now will carry you
through, an awesome presence that impresses others. Be generous in your victory and people will
be attracted by your compassion. There are hidden processes at work that open the way to
enduring connections, even though things may at first look confusing. This will affect you deeply
and positively, a source of great good fortune and meaningful events. So be resolute and part
from the past, for you are connected with a creative force.

Zones of Radical Transformation

This Crossline also creates what I call a Zone of Radical Transformation within the generated
Pair 13:14, where “we are reverted to a source of primal power.” These alert you to the
possibility of radical change in a given situation, indicating that a pathway to real creative energy
is open.

Six at Second: Zone of Radical Transformation

Harmonizing people in the Ancestral Hall.


Distress is the Way. Announcing the new is a source of anxiety. You stand before the ancestor
images in the temple, are exposed to their power and the ideals they represent, and are distressed.
This is exactly the right feeling to have. As you think about it you will see the right way to act. It
will reorganize your connection to the Way.
Inner Center (13.2 > 1.2 : 1.5 > 14.5). This is a transformation when the creative power of the
Dragon releases Bright Omens that guide people’s lives. The creative energy appears in the
fields and in the heavens to connect what is above and what is below. So have no fear, for you
truly have a connection to this spirit that will carry through to others. Mingle with them and you
will impress them. You are coupled to a creative force.

Six at Fifth: Zone of Radical Transformation

Great Being. Great Possessions.

You truly have a connection to the spirits

that carries through to others!

Mingle and you will impress them. An awesome presence!

Wise Words! The Way is open.

Trust the purpose to shoot forth. Be versatile and do not prepare things. You have made a
connection to the spirits and everyone will benefit. Act with complete confidence. Stay true to
your purpose. With spirit like this you can deal with anything.

Outer Center (13.2 > 1.2 : 1.5 > 14.5). This is a transformation when the creative power of the
Dragon releases the Bright Omens that guide our lives. People gather in the ancestral hall and
feel distress as they confront the power of the great images. This is the precisely the right feeling
to have, for it will return you to the Way. The Dragon power is emerging in the fields and in the
heavens now, connecting what is above with what is below. Have no fear, for you are connected
to this creative force.

On Describing a Pair

There is one other consideration I would like to introduce, on the subject of exploring the
significance of a particular Pair. These great symbols certainly invite individual exploration of
their “meaning,” but I feel the complex interconnection of a given Pair with others spread
throughout the Matrix, connections seen through the “karmic nodes”, should be taken into
consideration. We must, I feel, acknowledge Scott Davis’ seminal insight into the structure of the
King Wen order as also reflecting an age-grade system that describes the shape of the symbolic
life of an individual and his/her culture in terms of “Decades.” So when we think about the
meaning of a Pair, we should also look at these multi-dimensional connections to both past and
future. I have tried to express something of this in the “Pair pages” of the revised Total I Ching.
Here is an example, a description of the pair 17:18:

17:18 The Pair and the Matrix

The Pair holds inspiration and realization in a single effective image. This is the model for your
situation as a whole. Locate yourself within this model and explore its personal connections.
Follow the Spirit to Renovate the Ancestral Images

17 Inspiration: Following: leave old grounds for dissension behind.

18 Field of Realization: Renovate Corruption and you find the foundation of the new.

This is a flow of inspiring new energy that leads to the renovation of inner ancestral and parental
images. It is a site of intense shamanic and ritual activity, connecting the primary powers to
personal life, and is the Mission of the second stage of the symbolic life, the Decade of the Teens
when we struggle with identity and its relation to society. Hidden Possibilities: 53:54 > 63:64,
the great marriages that change the time. Make the crossing to prepare a decisive new move.

The Matrix connects particular sites with this theme. This Pair connects the primal vision of the
spirit world with building pressures that lead to the emergence of a new order. It is part of the
Secret Sickness pathways that link personal and cultural disorders. The Pair is empowered by
45:46 (Gathering the People and Climbing the Sacred Mountain). Its inner drive comes from
25:26 (Disentangling from Old Ghosts and Accumulating the new spirit). Other lines relate the
process to 3:4 (Sprouting and Nurturing the New); 49:50 (Revolution and Casting the new
Vessel); 51:52 (The Great Operators, the Rouser and the Sacrificer); and 57:58 (The Great
Intermediaries, the Lady of Fates and the Joyous Dancer). Shadow Site: 47:48, The Oppressed
Noble returns to the Common Source. This is a power you will need. Let go of any obstructing
identity suggested by the age and social position to integrate the dynamic.

These connections can be seen as a series of Karmic Nodes that relate the central theme to an
individual life. Look at the ages and events these figures suggest for relevant personal
experiences and connections to past and future. These are themes from your life that are
interwoven in the situation.

3:4 25:26 45:46 49:50 51:52 57:58

I would encourage you to see all this not as the erection of a new system, but as a real attempt to
“re-invigorate” Change by bringing in things that I feel were systematically edited out of the
tradition almost two thousand years ago. They are suggestions, not prescriptions.

Best wishes

Stephen Karcher