The Book Of Changes

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Red Chinese Book Cover

I have had a copy of I-Ching – a.k.a. Book Of Changes – since I was about 15.  Like old ephemerides, they tat apart from such regular use.

It’s a book of  divination – Jung went mad for it as proof of synchronicity and all. Of course, the cosmology behind it is ravingly complex – similar to the other Ancient Chinese arts/sciences of acupuncture, Feng Shui & so on – but the actual book itself is easy to use. You can just get three coins with heads & tails on them, shake them around and throw six times. Each throw creates a line and you wind up with a hexagram which you then read the ‘result’ for.

It has a rich history too. In Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, he has Eliza, his seductive spy-princess-courtesan character, using it to communicate in code. With just a few little lines that could pass as a doodle, one could be directed to a paragraph that says the king is about to be deposed. Neal Stephenson himself is a Scorpio genius…though you do  not enter his world lightly. 

The moment i began to read Quicksilver, i took a deep breath & started cancelling social engagements etc, all the better to lie on the couch with sandwiches and The Book. Anyway, the I-Ching as spy code is totally fascinating and no doubt the theory of it being used in such a way has some accuracy.

I go on and off it. It’s  not at ALL New Agie & comforting like – say – The Goddess Oracle.

It constantly moralises & addresses one as if one were an aspiring ruler. It’s sexist – The Superior Man is often evoked to remind you of how to conduct yourself. And sometimes reading it is like being whacked over the hand with a ruler by some maniac but maybe-correct teacher. I haven’t got this hexagram for ages but i remember oh-my-godding when I’d ask the same question too many times, i would – without fail – keep getting the Number 4 Hexagram:

“Youthful Folly —

It is  not I who seek the young fool — It is the young fool who seeks me.

At first, I inform him with clear answers; But if he importunes, I tell him nothing,

He must persevere to succeed.”

The I-Ching also has an annoying habit of being right. Note that I’ve tried some of the online versions but i think there is something magical about having it as an actual book.

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18 thoughts on “The Book Of Changes

  1. Ha! I threw Youthful Folly yesterday! But the most wonderful version I have ever read is by Carol Anthony and Hannah Moog–unbelievably beautiful and insightful. Check it out if you care to:

    Truly, these women know the sage….

  2. I also dip in and out of the I Ching. Somehow I prefer the visual imagery of the tarot but the I Ching is useful sometimes.

    And, yes, #4 happened to me too when I asked the question too many times!

  3. The I Ching has been my favourite method of divination for years — I kind of like how clearly moral it is. Sometimes that slap on the wrist can be useful. Maybe that’s my Virgo showing. But the I Ching is always is right. Scarily so. On the other hand, there are different translations to consult if you want something less moralistic and sexist, and more poetic: I like Bradford Hatcher’s translation available at It’s beautifully written, a bit more meditative and less gendered than the Wilhelm/Baynes translation. And free, too, in PDF format.

  4. I love the tarot & runes and yet the Iching (for me) works much better and has better accuracy but it could be that i suck at interpreting the others. Iching doesn’t leave much room for bs.

  5. I have same experience of I Ching as you Mystic…tend to think of it as my “great great grandfather oracle” cos he’s always kind of pointing his zen wrinkly finger saying “in my day…”. And yes, Youthful Folly has bitten me too.
    My heart soars whenever I throw Li /the clinging, fire…it is beautiful poetry.
    My copy is a now a loose pile of yellowing pages & sticky tape, relegated to the deepest darkest depths of my oracle box. Might just go say hellooo…

  6. Have been using the I Ching for about 30 years. Got the Wilhelm version as a gift from someone I worked with. It is my oracle of choice and yes, its always spot on.
    Wilhelm is of course a ‘classic’ version and yes has some gender issues which of course can be brushed over if your not too sensitive. For you lot Carol Anthony’s first book, think it was The Guide to The I Ching, is an amazing version that really gets to the heart of emotional and relationship problems and solutions.
    The knowledge in these books are an amazing assistant to all facets of life and although it does take some years to perfect your own use of it, its well worth the effort. The sage is awesome.

  7. I’ve got the Wilhelm version too, with an intro by Jung!(my hero) also as a gift, took me a few years to realise what it was I had, and then became gold, the only book that has come with me consistently to new beginnings, like a trusty leatherbound journal (which ive never had!)…my fave new cards are Doreen Virtues ‘Angel Therapy’ cards, a far cry from the Crowley tarot deck which also kept me company for years, I find them really refreshing and with some great clearing recipes

  8. Thanks for those tips on the Carol Anthony versions IDV and david. Will check those out.

    I use the Taoist I Ching, translated by Thomas Cleary from a 17th Century (?) interpretation. It uses alchemic symbolism in the interpretations and is less literal, less Confucian and less gender biased than Wilhelm.

    Was also thinking that much of the patriarchal language is the fault of the translators. Naturally an ancient text from a patriarchal society will use gendered metaphors, but in some cases, the original Chinese characters are not gender specific. eg. Wilhelm translates da ren as ‘great man’ but ren means person. Tsk tsk Wilhelm.

  9. I actually read somewhere that the I Ching was used or influenced the binary code, which makes it even better. Is like the origin of the species for divination, no?

    It did get me through some pretty tough times though I confess I avoid it when I don’t want to be told off, haha…

  10. I used the I Ching in my early twenties. Funny tho, I recently found it and gave it to a very evolved, close and gentle friend who also reads my tarot. She liked the book because it was so dogg-eared, and wonderful old coins(tied together with leather thonging thru their square middles) because they were so authentic. I don’t regret giving them away as we shall always be friends and she loved them so.

  11. Oh thank you for asking Little Fish and how are you? Se moi, well, my Dad & brother are in town from overseas and they actually met Le Scorp who flew in specifically to see them. It was sweet, poignant and well, rather historic.

    Except…we are now on Full Silence as he has suggested he take the time to sort his situation (i.e. the Sgt) out as I have intuitively gathered she has been trying to come over and once again he is in the same quandary circa 2007. So you can imagine, a beautiful weekend followed by well…something like death.

    And this is AFTER we just had mass progress on the music… in short, the new life gasps for air while the old one hangs on. Therefore I am greeting this New Moon sort of sans him and only a promise he is to come back in September.

    Yet this may be the long walk away. Whatever it is, after two major eclipses one can only embrace change, whatever it brings.

  12. I can’t believe with all the decks (crowley & virtue) that I have used and loved I’ve never gotten on to the I-ching. Except for online versions which don’t really count.
    You have all inspired me. Do you have to be given a set or can you just go out and buy one for yourself?
    As for The Baroque Cycle and Mr. Stephenson. I am in love with it and am knee deep into the third book and have been holed up on the couch but with popcorn – the big bags of Cobbs Organic. I love Eliza but haven’t seen much of her in this one yet…

  13. No Gem, it doesn’t have to be gifted. Choose well, there are many translations.
    Compare them & see which one suits your comprehension.
    GooD Luck in choosing.

  14. I agree with you about the sexist aspect of the I Ching but then we have to consider how old it is and the culture from which is emerged. I’ve been working on my own visual interpretation for years for that reason, from a woman’s perspective – which you can see on my blog.

    I also do online readings some times, but really prefer the old fashioned way with coins in my hand.

    Thanks for posting this.

  15. AA & TAG, there is an I CHING of the GODDESS by some power women in USA,
    the big guns of the Woman thing & it is fascinating mythology they have interpretated.
    It’s hardcore & also more sexy.
    Best to do both & then compare. The Goddess one has some brill artwork attached.

    It’s all in how you phrase the questions according to the language of whichever translation that
    will clarify the answers & noticing how the upper & lower triagrams compare.
    Am i taking tea to China here?
    Forgive me if i am:)

    • Well I do think a womens version is prob no less sexual biased than a ‘male’ version ? Surely we have to soon start thinking of ourselves as just human and leave out the sexual orientation. Some men could say that this is a womens astrology blog, biased towards female views etc.. but thats just silly…same silliness as getting upset by traditional I ching talking in terms of superior men. Hopefully soon it wont be an issue.