Yi King

I Ching

(for French, click on the flag)

We cannot defined an  "absolute" pattern , such as the "senaire pattern" (refer to presentation), supposed able to represent the complete development of the World, as well as any of its component, without some interest for the Yi king ideograms which lead the Chinese  grasp of the march of the World  since 3000 years.

This page develops a connection between the senaire pattern (the so called "Absolute Structure" of Raymond Abellio) and the hexagrams, the result is quite astonishing !


1/ Introduction

2/  2 strokes ideograms

3/ Trigrams

4/ Hexagrams

5/ Conclusion

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1/ Introduction

Our approach, is definitively aside the usual "occidental" way of thinking. As a matter of fact, we are not trying to explain, by some natural rules or laws, the behavior of the organizations, and more widely any structured system (till and including human beings), but more prosaically, we are trying to describe there behavior and evolution as simply as possible by means of elementary patterns.

This process leads us to look at the invariants within the observed structures, and precisely then to erect this invariant in "systems".

We tried to make the process as scientific as possible, and we proposed some statements that can be checked, concerning for example the variation of the contacts frequencies between the the dipoles of a structure, depending of there hierarchical position within the structure (refer to systems thermodynamics).

Some researches on the subject could be done, but - and this is where the shoe rubs - this kind of investigations has to be part of the potential investigation field of  some group of researchers. Regarding this subject, please refer to our analysis of Khun's theory about the structure of scientific revolutions.

Nevertheless, coming back to our initial paradigm (refer to introduction), following which we consider that our doubt (the doubt of Descartes) is not a default but on the contrary the most stable element of our process and the basis of our thought, we moved away from the "occidental" approach of the World, looking for explanations and searching an ultimate truth ("In God We Trust").

Straight off this initial doubt, fitted to to Observer, this latest cannot be omitted of his description and understanding of the World, the couple (Observer / World) forms an irreducible duo.

So, even if we succeed to fulfill the scientific criteria of acceptance - as the Karl Popper's  falsification for instance - our point of view remains definitively aside the dominant occidental scientific spirit, because we are rather looking for some simple means of representation, some help to support the action, than looking for a final explanation or truth. 

Shifting from one paradigm to the other, we become closer to the Chinese attitude, who adapt their behavior to the effective state of the World, rather than they try to change the Word to fulfill some ideal representation of the reality.

Now, to come back to the senaire pattern, the fact is that it is quite simple to pass from this pattern to the I Ching Hexagrams, as we shall see.

We started from the very simple statement that it is the necessity - to discuss about a singular thing noted s - of doing at least an distinction of this thing from the overall environment (the entire World) noted S.

The first of all these separations is obviously the one which differentiate the Observer (A) from the System observed (S) - even if the said System is as large as the Universe -. Split which renders possible the discourse of the Observer about the System observed.

The I Ching started by another preliminary separation: le Great Comment of the I Ching, attributed to Confucius begins by:

The Sky is elevated, the Earth is below

That way, the Initiator and the Receptive

Through this disposition from bottom to top

The highest and lowest values are in place

The Chinese lay down as fundamental  the duality of the Sky (which is elevated) and the Earth (which is below), when we start by an initial split between the Overall (S) and the Part (s).

Following the comment of Franois Jullien, we can see with him that the initial Chinese duality is less a duality of actual objects (Sky/Earth) than a duality of values and they point out the relation between them (one is elevated when the other is below). The Great Comment states even a moral judgment about this relation. 

In Occident, we are more interested by actual objects, considered either as a whole, A & S, or through some particular aspect : s & a. Obviously the inclusion of a party within the whole connotes some dependence of the Party to the Whole. Nevertheless, we do not apply any moral judgment to this "de facto" statement.

The I Ching is based upon a duality between the yang (the Sky, the male, the firm etc.) and the yin (the Earth, the female, the soft etc) and the perpetual motion from one to the other. There is no question here, of an opposition between actual objects, between the Whole and the Part, but question of the link connecting them and its evolution.

In fact, both discourses are the two faces of the same reality: one is focused on the objects, while the other takes care of there relation (what we called transactions within the senaire pattern).

Our language reflects our culture and carry on some slant and we have to be aware of that. Looking  at our senaire pattern at the light of another culture is a good exercise to check our theory from another point of view, and is a very beneficial.

More precisely, this exercise points out the fact that our pattern carry on the both approaches:

 i.e, the senaire pattern:

names the poles (the objects) involved in a pattern,

defines the transactions in which the poles are engaged,

Marks the tracks of all the potential transactions which could existe between the poles.

To cut it short, we can say that the first point is an "Occidental" approach, and particularly at its earliest stage, at the so called "taxonomy" stage (refer to "Les Mots et les Choses" by Foucault); the first an the second points form the structuralist approach; the second and the third points form an approach close to the I Ching because the ideograms (as we shall see), define not only a particular situation but also, and mainly, include this particular situation in a complete field of potential situations.

return to Summary

2/ Senaire Patterns & 2 strokes ideograms

To release or senaire pattern from its graphic representation, it is possible to characterize all the transactions involving the 4 poles A, S, a, s of a senaire pattern by a set of 2 relations defining the effectives transactions within each of the 2 dipoles A a et S s of a particular pattern.

For each of the 2 dipoles, the initiative of the transaction could be taken by one ole or the other.

When we have: A a or S s, we have a voluntary action of A (respectively S) which promote one of its particular state a (respectively s).

Reciprocally, when a particular state a (versus s) is activated by the opposed dipole it reacts on the whole A (versus S).

In others words : A a and S s defined an active state of the dipoles, while a A et s S defined a passive status of the dipoles.

A a and S s are yang    let be : ___

a A and s S are yin        let be : _  _

To shift from a graphical representation of our senaire pattern to a 2 strokes pattern, we have now to fit the respective position of the two strokes, one under the other.

To do so, we have to compare the 2 dipoles of the senaire pattern with the 2 Chinese initial terms of "Sky" and "Earth". Which dipole could be assimilated to the "Sky", which one to the "Earth" ? 

If we go back to our initial shift between the Observer or Actor A within the System or the whole World S, his situation is double: as a physical part of S, we have A S; but on another hand, as a part of the discourse of the Observer A the observed system S is in a dependant situation: we have S A (we have discussed about this situation in our introduction).

Nevertheless S -the World as a whole- remains the final Initiator, it determine completely  A, especially because we privilege, as a basic attitude the doubt, which let A in a waiting attitude.

Consequently, and in order to respect the usual sense of reading odf the ideograms (from the bottom to the top), we have to place  Ss under Aa.

With all the previous conventions, the 4 possible transactions within a senaire pattern can be represented by the 4 following ideograms:






old yang



_  _

_  _


old yin



_  _



young yang




_  _


young yin

We have now to verify, by the study of each case, if such a connection between both approaches enriches our senaire pattern or remains a gratuitous game.

2.1/ Young yang

_  _


In this case, the Actor initiates the action, with a feed back effect from the System. We have privileged this kind of situation in our pattern.

Let us take the following example:  I see a tree

A = I

a = Eye

S = World

s = Tree

There is an initiative from A, who activates his eye in order to see a tree. The remaining of the World is passive and remains open to any of the foregoing initiatives of A (the transaction is closed by the feed back from S to A, without any particular action one one particular state of A).

In this case, it can be noticed that the strokes yang and yin are in there proper place (when we number the strokes of an ideogram from the bottom to the top, odd strokes are yang and even strokes are yin).

2.2/ Young yin


_  _

In this case, the transaction is initiated by the System, its surprises the Actor who reacts to the stimuli coming from his environment.

Let us take the following example:  the stump of a tree makes me trip me up, my move my foot forward to stop my fall.

S = the World

s = the tree stump

A = I

a = my foot

In this case, we can see that the initiative lays on the System, the feed back action of the Actor A is not focused on a particular aspect of the World S. Because, till the Actor has not a clear idea of what is happening, he can only act by reflex and not by a focused action on the System S. The actor has no time to adapt his action to the reality, he only follows an internal previously acquired scheme.

After he recovers his equilibrium, the Actor A should recover the initiative, have the deal again and invert the transaction.

The both two previous cases draw up our daily fate: the Actor could have the initiative or be surprise by his environment and react, but without any interruption in the cycle of transactions. That means A and S are accorded: there is always at least one state of one of them as adapted to the action of the other.

In this figure, the 2 strokes yin and yang are not suited at there stable position (1st stroke is yang and 2nd stroke is yin), and effectively, from the point of view of the Actor (the Observer, the one for whom the pattern is drawn), the situation is precarious because he is in a position where he doesn't handle his destiny.

The rock from one situations to the other (from young yin to young yang and vice versa) fits with the shift of the strokes yin and yang in the figure. These two adjacent strokes appear as complementary.

The way that I Ching characterizes the 2 strokes of the ideogram (the first one essentially yang, the upper one essentially yin), leads us to emphasize the situation where the Actor has the initiative; and this point of view is in fact quite similar to the occidental one (Man is the common measure of everything).

The two following cases are a little bit away from our daily experience and concern limit cases.

2.3/ Old yang



In this case, each of the two antagonists acts on the other considered as a whole, without any care of the effective state it find itself. Each of them ignores its counterpart or wish to impose its will. This case shows us two  wills standing up face to face.

We are in a situation of game or war where each antagonists tries to surprise to other. Nevertheless, this situation doesn't reach the braking point: there is always an answer from the attacked side, the cycle of transactions is still going on.

The two previous cases can be seen as a chest game where both antagonists can see the actual situation. Here, the attacks are global, the intents hidden, the games are essentially "no cooperative".

Let us take the example of a sailorman A trying to follow his route while the storm is raging.

S imposes its power to A, every particular state s concerns A without any possibility for A to modify the course of the process.

A could initiate several actions a: to reduce the sail, to change of course or to unballast in order to be less sensitive to the storm, but keeping in mind his final route. So even if the sailor cannot impose his willing to the storm, he is still expressing his will and continue his route.

In a war between  S and A ; each one try to dominate the other (considered as a whole) by hidden means.

The situation is tough and full of conflicts, but obviously an evolution is needed. One of the two strokes of the figure has to shift in order to be in accordance with the other one (the upper or lower stroke shall become yin). Doing so, the remaining yang stroke should then express itself accordingly.

2.4/ Old yin

_  _

_  _

This last case is the exact opposite of the previous one. When each one was concentrated on its proper wiliness, ignorant of the actual state of its counterpart, we find here a complete empathy: S  is in accordance with a, when A is in accordance with s.

The situation can become deeper, or last without any change, because we are in a contemplative stage.

Coming back to an example involving an Actor and a tree:

S = the World

s = the Tree

A = I

a = Eye

Starting from S we have: A tree gives itself to be seen  

Or, starting from A :I am contemplating a tree

From a psychoanalytical point  of view, the contact point (,s) between A and S could be seen as the climax place of A.

For the games theory, we are in a perfect case of cooperation: for staking, each of the players takes into account the best achievable result for them together.

By tests and errors, two players could reach to the same result, shifting between the two first cases (young yang and young yin). Doing so they can learn a little bit more after every game (after every transaction) and arrive at the same result. But in the present case, they reach immediately to the final point. Their empathy lead them directly to the perfect solution.

But this empathy could turn to stagnation: because their is no evolution in that case. The two states s and a, remain unchanged during the process for lack of will from one part or the other.

2.5 Conclusion

We have presented the four different cases of our senaire pattern, following an order, we can say "occidental", more interested by the possibility of action (wanted) or reaction  (suffered), than by the extreme situation presented by the two last cases: pure wills face to face or pure empathy.

On the reverse, the Chinese put the stress on the two last cases which start the I Ching book. From their point of view these two ideograms (old yang and old yin) defined the field of the reality where the other cases can move.

Nevertheless, we can resume our presentation by saying that there is a great convergence between the 4 cases of transaction within a senaire pattern and the 4 Chinese 2 strokes ideograms; and particularly on the following points:

The lower position is essentially yang, the upper one essentially yin,

The 2 strokes are in harmony when they are complementary (young yang or young yin)

Old yang is unstable and need some yin to be stabilized.

In Old yin, too much yin lead to sclerosis, and need some yang to evolve.

Return to Summary


3/ The trigrams

On the previous 2 strokes patterns were just indicated the "Sky" at the top and the "Earth" at the bottom; we are now introducing the "Man" between the two initial strokes. In that place, the "Man" is in the central position of the trigram.

I fact this conception of the place of the Man in the Universe, in a medium situation within a 3 stages structure is not specifically Chinese, but also Indo-European.

We find more or less this 3 stages structure anywhere: in our myths (refer to "structure of the Indo-European myths" by Dumzil) as well as in our social organizations. In India, the society is split up in 3 castes (Wise men/ Warrior /Peasant) and in France under the monarchy regime (Church / Nobility / Third estate).

That is why you have not to be surprised if we used often a 3 levels senaire pattern for the analysis of the social organizations or in our approach of the Lacan's theory. Refer to Lacan's approach and the 3 levels structure of the personality  (the Imaginary / the Symbolic / the Unconscious).

It is effectively always useful (and often sufficient) to look at the level of the Actor and the two adjacent levels : the level +1 which governs the Actor, and the level -1 on which the Actor is influent. The effect of the remaining levels of an organization is more or less weakened and can be summarized  within the two extreme poles of the senaire pattern. The opening of the pattern is precisely depending on he opening of these two extreme poles. (refer also in introduction the notes about the limits of knowledge).

Moreover: we defined a counter-entropic axis in our 3 levels patterns, directed from the bottom to the top (see diachronic analysis). This axis indicates that the action takes sense when it is synthesized towards the top; while it becomes incarnate and diversifies towards the bottom.

This presentation is very close to the Chinese one, where the "yang energy" must circulate top down in order spread its influence; while the "yin energy" must go upwards to take sense and be unified.

Return to Summary

4/ The hexagrams

For the Chinese, the hexagrams are seen as a splitting of the previous trigrams.

Quite easily, we can compare the hexagrams to a 3 levels senaire pattern, where each level is represented by a 2 strokes figure.

Accordingly with what we said about the triagram structure versus the 3 levels senaire patterns, we put the level of the Actor at the medium stage, the level+1 at the "Sky" stage and the level -1 at the "Earth" stage.

At every level, we have to respect the relative position of the 2 dipoles forming a single level pattern (level S s under level A a).

We have now to verify that our pattern, modified in such a way, respects all the sympathies which link the strokes on the Chinese original ideogram, depending upon there respective position.

For this study, I start from the hexagrams analysis done by a French philosopher: Franois Jullien.

I consider a 3 level organization. To be more specific, I'll analyze an industrial structure.

At the top level of this kind of organization, we see the general management facing the share holder, through whom the general management is in contact with he outside, the remaining World (for them: the financial market).

The intermediate level is specifically the "management field", where the general management is facing the production (production in a very large meaning: all the operations are concerned) management (Staff & Line). This level is not open to the outside, only concerned by the internal rules of the organization (and highly subject of schizophrenic attitude. refer to : bureaucracy model)).

At the lower level, the production managers are facing the workers. It is  at this level that the income springs. At his level also, the organization is in contact with the outside, and withdraw its value .












The complete transcription is as follows :

Market Share holders 6th stroke

_  _


Board General Management 5th stroke



General Management Control 4th stroke

_  _


Staff Line 3rd stroke



Operational Hierarchy (use of authority) Operational Hierarchy (need of result) 2nd stroke

_  _

    Workers           (working force)  Employees       (Citizens protected by Labour Laws) 1st stroke



4.1 Strokes 1 & 6

In that pattern, the upper aperture to the outside, the World, can by seen as the contact with the financial market (in the case we are in a purely Liberal World, the Market expresses the fluctuations of the World). This is, for that case, the aperture to the "Sky" of the hexagram. 

The lower aperture is, as yet presented, le "Citizen" aspect of the employees which transcends their membership in the company. This is the aperture to the "Earth" of the hexagram.

4.2 Trigrams "inside" & "outside"

The two first positions, at the bottom of the pattern, represent the "Earth level", in that case, the "Working force". both following ones at the level of the "Man" correspond to the level where the day to day live of the organization is regulated (tactic level), and the two last ones, le "Sky level", represent in our case, the field devoted to the "Capital" games (or strategic level).

At the same time as he presents this tri-partition of the roles, the hexagram appears itself as a duality: The three positions of bottom compose the lower trigram (inside) which serves as base in the figure and constitute its " determined being", the three positions of the height compose the superior trigram (outside) which adapts the figure to the "evolution" and allows its "functioning".

Such a grouping corresponds, for the considered company, to distinguish the functions (offices) of the "Staff" of the functions (offices) of "Line". This distinction often corresponds to a physical reality: the Staff, due to its need of opening, representation and contacts, is often situated in a place more visible than workshops, very often situated according to the availability of the manpower (see the problems due to the relocation).

4.3 Complementarities of the neighboring strokes

We have already verified the complementarities of the 2 strokes in the figure in 2 strokes patterns: i.e. complementarities of the strokes 1 & 2; 3 & 4, 5 & 6.

If we consider now both previous trigrams, one can also consider that the strokes 2 and 3 as well as the strokes 4 and 5 should be additional.

Indeed, if we return to our conception of the functioning of a system, when there is interruption of the deals at a level ( a " disaster " ), there is activation of the superior level, and this action is introduced by the pole which passes on the information. For example

If there is problem at the level 2, the information goes back up, either by the controllers (audit reports) towards the administrators, or to the management level, by going back up of a hierarchic rung. The resolution of this disaster implies deals among 4th and 5th strokes, Which can be treated as articulating in a senaire model and so these two strokes offer the same type of complementarities as the strokes 2 and 3.

Also, when a problem arises at the level 1 and can not there be resolute, the operational management is alerted at the level 2.

Here also, we can constitute the strokes 2 and 3 in senaire model to report this type of deal (treatment of a "disaster" at level 1); the strokes 2 and 3 must so be complementarities.

On the whole, we find, in the 3 levels senaire model, the complementarities of the neighboring strokes of the hexagram.

4.4 Strokes 2 & 5

Within each of the  two trigrams "inside" and "outside", the central position of 2nd and 5th stroke is considered as essential and connected one to the other. It is to note that the 5th stroke is by "essence" yang, when the 2nd is yin.

Now, from the point of view of the Company considered, it is certain that its future decides between the Board and the Head office, whereas the walking every day depends on the direct hierarchy, 3rd and 4th levels being drive belts among both, as for the strokes 1 and 6 they are rather considered, inside the Company as outside factors which it is necessary to manage or to which it is necessary to comply...

4.5 "Nuclear" Trigrams

Such a grouping by three of the positions does not only concern the height and the bottom of the figure: it spreads also to the "nuclear" trigrams which compose it (that is 2nd , 3rd and 4th strokes, or 3rd , 4th and 5th strokes), groupings which both keep a sense.

One has just seen about the strokes 3 and 5 their role in case of "disaster" at level 2. One can so consider every trigram as representing in fact 2 senaires models imbricate:

The strokes 2, 3, 4 representing 2 senaires, one formed of 2 & 3, the other of 3 & 4

The strokes 3, 4, 5 representing 2 senaires, one formed of 3 & 4, the other of 4 & 5

The Trigram 2 , 3 , 4 is centered on the problems of production and more particularly changes, their medium-term evolution ( Implication of the 3rd stroke in case of "disaster" of first level in the sense of our analysis; this last one is also the outcome of the internal trigram in the sense of the I Ching, its "Sky").

The Trigram 3 , 4 , 5 is centered on the development policy of the Company, its controllable evolution (without reversal of the market, without intervention of the 6th stroke), but of a level superior to the tactical management of the level 2 (implication of the 4th stroke which serves as articulation between the levels tactical and strategic of the Company in the sense of our analysis, and which is also the base of the outside trigram, its "Earth" in the sense of the I Ching.

4.6 Strokes 3 & 4

Naturally the strokes 3 and 4 which form the intermediate level (the place of the Man in the structure) are in the center of the representation, it is around them that is constructed the model (and the hexagram).

They are complementary, because acting bound in the same cycle of transactions within the same senaire pattern, which makes at the time complementary both "nuclear" trigrams of which they are the center.

In another perspective, the stroke 3 is the "Sky", the outcome of the lower trigram, whereas the stroke 4 is the "Earth", the root of the upper trigram what we could understand easily. They are for the daily contact both, but in a completely different perspective, not to say a different world: a warrant officer is at the top of his expectations, whereas a lieutenant can strive to become general.

From another point of view, these two strokes are only drive belts: the history will remind nothing about their transactions, excepted the evolution of the troops (stroke 2) and the strategy of the leaders (stroke 5).

return to summary

5/ Conclusion

Of all which precedes, we can conclude that there is a large compatibility between our systematic approach and the figures of I Ching and what with this lighting our senaire patterns gains legibility and sense.

That makes us accessible an immense treasure of wisdom to comment on the functioning of the senaire model.

This contribution is not without reciprocity: our approach leads us to take into account the temporal dimension, what is not present in hexagrams. Indeed, in a 3 levels senaire model, the rhythm of every level is slower than that of the lower level.

We even calculated the terracing of the rhythms of transactions between levels (to see the thermodynamics of the systems). According to our calculations, if the rhythms of the 1st and the 3rd level vary in a report from 1 to 9, then the optimal rhythms ration between the 1st and the 2nd level is from 1 to 3).

By supposing a correlation between the number of transactions at a level and a probability that there is a break in their stream (a disaster, with intervention of the superior level), it infers that the transitions within a hexagram have not all the same probability.

The draw lot program enclosed could help us to have an idea of the rhythm of the transformations of a hexagram which would result from it (one took the hypothesis where this correlation would be perfect): Draw.

But this is a discussion which would bring us much farther than this simple introduction.

return to summary

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note 1:

For the philosophic reading of I Ching, see " Figures of immanence " by Franois Jullien. Publishing Grasset on 1993. We shall use this approach in present page.




note 2

Let us remind here that we appropriated the senaire model of Raymond Abellio, but that we do not resume the transcendental approach.




note 3


To return to this Diderot's remark in the " speech of d' Alambert " (already evoked in introduction):

" Listen my friend, if you think indeed of it, you will find that in everything, our real feeling is not the one in that we have never vacillated, but the one to that we returned mostly ."

One can qualify this attitude of purely yin.

The one that doubts and remains attentive to his doubt, remains open minded - waiting attitude, before the action- ready to follow the movements of the World which, in this relation, represents the yang pole.

For the Taoist, it would be advisable that this attitude of doubt, this absence of prejudice and this opening to the World is maximal, so that action to be begun follows then the way of lesser resistance and produces its maximum effect.


note 4

For a more complete study of the transactions within a senaire pattern, refer to the diachronic analysis.


note 5

Diderot's attitude represents for us the wisdom and this word of wisdom itself needs to be explained moreover.

In the talmudic tradition (forgive me for not giving here names in Hebrew) the word of "wisdom", is made of two parts (and already, this sharing action leads us to the Chinese attitude),  which are "force" of the "questioning".

Attach to the "questioning", which we qualified as yin, the notion of "force", purely yang, indicates us that the roads of the wisdom are numerous and confirm each other more than one would believe...

And naturally, the more they are numerous, the more the reached position is stable (to see our developments on the subject).

To finish by a comment Taoist of the Cabbala me filled with jubilation, but how much of you shall go to this note (please let me know!)?


note 6

By summarizing in 3 points the functions of the senaire model, I can not refrain from considering that these three stages of the knowledge form a trigram in itself. The taxonomy, the first stage, bases the others (it would be necessary to read again Foucault), the last one represents the Chinese approach of I Ching, as for the structuralism it settles comfortably in the center of the trigram so formed.

This trigramme (to see paragraph 3) of the knowledge would then be moved closer to that of the personality (The Imagination or contact with the reality / Symbolism or level of the language / Unconscious or contact with the other one). See the approach of Lacan.


note 7

Refer to the page of introduction, for a complete presentation, or to the synchronic analysis to see the theoretical definition of the " Senaire model ", that Abellio calls  "Absolute Structure ", or to the analysis of the dysfunction of the bureaucratic structures for a global presentation of its functioning.


note 8

These notations A and S refer to the Actor and to the System as presented by Michel Crozier in his book " The Actor and the System ", published by "Seuil" 1977.


note 9

That means, in fact, changing our point of view: the modeling of a system or an organization is always relative to the point of view adopted. Let us not forget that any construction is relative to the one that realizes it (it is the sense of our method).


page updated on 18/08/02
author : Alain SIMON
© copyright 2002 Alain SIMON
adresse : isa.al.simon@wanadoo.fr

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