Hexagrams for a Recession- Hexagram 15 changes to 39

Hexagram 15 changes to Hexagram 39
Recession Advice?

A few weeks ago, our I Ching group asked the Sage how to respond to what’s going on “right now”.  We received Hexagram #15 – Modesty (also known as Humility, Moderation, Integrity, Authenticity, Humbleness, and Humbling) with the 5th line changing, creating Hexagram #39 – Obstruction (other names for it include Limping, Difficulties, Impasses, Obstacles, and Hindrance).


Sometimes we link the 2 hexagrams in a kind of haiku. You can play around with these but here are some possibilities.

If  Modesty, then Obstruction.
If you are not Humble, then Hardship.
Modesty then Hindrance.
Integrity but Obstacles.
Humility while Limping. (I like this one…)
Humbleness becomes Obstruction.

Digging deeper….

Hexagram 15 – “Modesty creates success.  The superior man carries things through. “ – Wilhelm.

Al Huang’s translation says, “The superior person decreases what is excessive and increases what is scarce.

He weighs things and makes them balance”

In Hexagram 15, Earth sits above the Mountain.  The receptive, soft, and quiet power of Earth (maximum yin) is on top of the mountain. Or you could say that the strength of the Mountain is inside the Earth, the ultimate yin, yielding force. Modesty is considered one of the highest and most valued virtues in Chinese culture.

According to Stephen Karcher’s Total I Ching, Myths for Change, “Humbling” has a connection to a mythical dream animal, ”the grey one – a rat-headed hamster”. Our grey friend is a real animal – a solitary creature, untamable, living in a system of burrows and tunnels where he protects his storehouse of food.  Prone to sudden attacks, he can appear without warning.  Our group always has a good laugh as we imagine encountering an unattractive 2-foot tall rodent standing on its hind legs, the contradiction between his animal nature and his human stance puzzling. What a strange being! According to Karcher, The Grey One is an immediate mythological link to the moment when a need is filled through some unconscious power moving in an underworld way. This is the moment of “Humbling”.

Other texts advise us that being humble brings out a great harvest.

The translations and interpretations of the changing line # 5 can be confusing. Here are a few possibilities.

From Al Huang:  “Not being wealthy
Together with his neighbors
Favorable to engage in subjugation
Nothing is unfavorable.”

The Sage seems to be asking us to humble ourselves and work with others to attack our problems aggressively in order to solve them.

From Wilhelm:  “No boasting of wealth before one’s neighbor.
It is favorable to attack with force.
Nothing that would not further.”

Don’t confuse weak good nature with modesty.  If necessary, act boldly but without inflation.

Sounds like sane advice. Now here comes the tricky part. The changing 5th line gives us #39 – Obstruction (aka Hardship, Limping, Hindrance) as the relating figure.  Modesty changes to Obstruction????  Doesn’t sound so wonderful.


“The southwest furthers.  The northeast does not further.  It furthers one to see the great man.  Perseverance brings good fortune.” – Wilhelm

Hexagram #39 is The Pit (Water) over Mountain.  Danger over Limitation. A time of difficulty and slow, painstaking movement.  The Sage advises us to hook up with others.  Find friends and helpers in this difficult time. The northeast is said to relate to the past and lonely striving (the enemy attacks from this direction); the southwest means common effort and future good.

Mythologically this hexagram is connected to the hero, Yu, the Great, the limping god. He was known to confront all difficulties with unceasing toil and great adaptability. His movement is a dance, a shuffling step, backwards and forwards.

Karcher says,
“Bad influence going, exorcise it! Seeds of good are coming”.

Does this apply to you? What do you think?


3 thoughts on “Hexagrams for a Recession- Hexagram 15 changes to 39

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