Kim Gould from Love Your Design, asked me this question on Facebook. “I’ve always wondered why hexagram 63 is After Completion and 64 is Before Completion and I expect you know the answer. Any ideas?
I’m flattered that Kim thinks enough of me to ask. All I can do is respond with how I see this. Other I Ching devotees may have other perspectives.
Part of the answer to Kim’s question has to do with the structure of the lines and the order they are placed in which according to I Ching scholars, changed over time. Mathematicians are interested in the structure of I Ching as a binary system. I am not qualified to enter a discussion about the mathematical structure of I Ching. I will comment on what I find interesting in the structure of Hexagrams 63 and 64 and how they interrelate to each other.
Hexagram 63, Water over Fire, changes into Hexagram 64, Fire over Water, if all the lines change. Hexagram 63, also become Hexagram 64 if you turn the set upside down. This also happens with Hexagram 11, Peace, turning into 12, Standstill, in the same way, and again in Hexagrams 17 and 18.
However, even the nuclear hexagrams in 63 and 64 create the other. We can’t have one of these two hexagrams without the other contained within it in several ways. Perhaps these two hexagrams exemplify the basis for yin yang activity at its purest level. I’m sure mathematicians could have a lot to say about this structure from that perspective. I invite them to comment here for us on that subject.
One of the meanings for Hexagram 64, After completion, is that all the lines; yang, yin, yang, yin, yang and then yin again at top are in the order the I Ching deems correct for perfect completion. Yang is the beginning, “creative” followed by yin, “receptive.” In the hexagram of After Completion this order occurs in a perfect way. Wilhelm writes regarding Hexagram 63, “This hexagram is the only one in which all the lines stand in their proper places.”
Of course After Completion is full of warnings just because everything is in such perfect order. According to I Ching philosophy, everything is always in change and that if things are perfect we have to expect they will not stay that way. I always like getting Hexagram 64, because then I know a whole new order or event is about to happen. The new event is contained within me already, when the order of things rearranges, all will fall into place. But not yet.
Wilhelm says in his note at the end of Hexagram 64: “The hexagram After Completion represents a gradual transition from a time of ascent past a peak of culture to a time of standstill. The hexagram Before Completion represents a transition from chaos to order. This hexagram comes at the end of the Book of Changes. It points to the fact that every end contains a new beginning. Thus it gives hope to men. The Book for Changes is a book of the future.”
Does this answer Kim’s question? I don’t know. I answered it for myself so thank her for asking – made me think.