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The I Ching Connection

Of the three systems which we sought to link to the Tree of Life, the I Ching will be the most difficult to successfully correspond. Its structure gives no apparent clues as to how we can assign hexagrams to the Tree. The I Ching is not divided into groups of three, or ten, or twenty-two. In fact there are really no divisions at all between the hexagrams, except for which two trigrams they are made up of. So we will work from there, assign trigrams to the Tree, and then tackle the problem of the hexagrams.

This cuts down our workload considerably, since there are only eight trigrams to work with. But nothing on the Tree of Life is divisible by eight. (The total number of paths and sephiroth is 32 = 4 x 8, but this does not help much. It would mean assigning each trigram to four different elements; there is not an obvious way to do such a thing.) The closest number to 8 on the Tree is 10, the number of sephiroth.

This actually looks rather promising. Paths are defined in terms of the sephiroth they join (i.e. Kether to Chokmah) and hexagrams are defined in terms of which two trigrams they are composed of (such as Heaven over Fire). So if we can successfully attribute the trigrams to the sephiroth, attributing the hexagrams to paths should be simple.

Unfortunately, assigning 8 elements to 10 places is difficult. There will obviously be some repetition which must be justifiable. We are also likely to have some duplications (i.e. two paths have the same hexagram attributed to them) but this may not necessarily be a bad thing. What matters most is that we find a system by which the eight trigrams can be corresponded to the ten sephiroth. And such a system was indeed found.

It would be pointless to go through all the failed attempts (and there were several) which preceded this discovery, especially when the way to arrive at a correct solution is so easily explained. We start by assigning elemental values (Fire, Earth, Air, Water) to each of the eight trigrams. This is straightforward; Fire and Thunder are of the fire element, Earth and Mountain are of earth, Wind and Heaven are airy, and Water and Mist are watery.

By the formula of Tetragrammmaton, Chokmah is Yod, Binah is the first Heh, Tiphareth is Vau and Malkuth is the final Heh. Knowing elemental correspondences for the Tetragrammaton, we assign the Fire trigram to Chokmah, the Water trigram to Binah, Wind to Tiphareth and Earth to Malkuth. This arrangement cannot really be disputed without arguing against the correspondences of Tetragrammaton, which work beautifully in all other circumstances.

A basic Qabalistic principle states that Air must stand between Fire and Water. Kether must therefore be the other Air trigram, Heaven, since it stands between Chokmah and Binah. Again, it is difficult to refute the sensibility of this placement. The "Air between" principle also means that Fire and Water trigrams must occupy the sephiroth to either side of Tiphareth. This is where we encounter a problem. Four sephiroth lie beside Tiphareth, but there is only one Fire trigram (Thunder) and one Water trigram (Mist) left.

The solution to the problem comes in realizing that Thunder is part Air and part Fire, while Mist is part Water and part Earth. Therefore Thunder goes well in either Hod (a mercurial region) or Geburah (which is martian), and Mist corresponds amicably to both Chesed (jovian) and Netzach (venusian). In fact there is no problem with assigning them to both. The lone remaining trigram, Mountain, must therefore be attributed to Yesod. The placement makes sense when we consider the traditional title of Yesod, "Foundation".

So the final Tree looks like this. To find out which hexagram is attributed to which path, simply combine the trigrams of the spheres which that path connects. Since Malkuth is Earth and Yesod is Mountain, the path joining them will be some combination of Mountain and Earth.

An interesting consequence of this method is that each path gets two hexagrams; for example, the path from Kether to Tiphareth is Heaven over Wind, but it is also Wind over Heaven. This is because the path goes from Tiphareth to Kether when we are at the bottom of the Tree looking up, but it leads from Kether to Tiphareth when we are at the top looking down. It is all a matter of perspective.

The fact that Thunder and Mist appear twice in the tree mean that some paths will have the same attribution from different points of view. So from Kether looking down, the path from Geburah to Tiphareth is Thunder over Wind, and Hod to Tiphareth is Wind over Thunder. If you look up from Malkuth the attributions are reversed. Actually, this is a useful phenomenon because it links those paths together in a unique way. The cards and Runes assigned to those paths will also be linked to one another.

Speaking of which, it is now possible at last to complete the system and assign Tarot cards to Runes, Runes to hexagrams, and hexagrams to paths on the Tree of Life.

Proceed to the next section

Copyright 2000 James Rioux