Copyright © 1997 Ordo Templi Orientis U.S.A. All rights reserved.

The Chinese Book of Changes, the *Yi Jing*,
was compiled, as we know it today, by King Wen at the end of the
Shang dynasty in the 12^{th} century b.c. His sources
were the oracular traditions employed by the sages of the Shang
dynasty, which, according to legend, were originally devised at
the dawn of civilization by the mythical culture hero Fu Xi, who
had also invented writing, fishing, and trapping.

The Book of Changes serves as both a repository of
timeless wisdom and as an oracle which may be consulted using
a number of divinatory methods. All such methods involve the
construction of a figure (termed a "hexagram" by Legge
and subsequent Western scholars) composed of six elements, each
element being either a simple line segment (------), considered to
be *Yang* or "light, " or a divided line segment (-- --), considered to be *Yin* or "dark."

Each of the 64 possible hexagrams has its own meaning
and oracular value, each of which is described in the text of
the *Yi Jing* and in its commentaries known as the "Ten
Wings," written by philosophers of the Confucian school.
In addition, the *Yi Jing* provides for the construction
of a secondary hexagram from the primary hexagram based on special
cases of *Yin* and *Yang* called "moving lines."
Each moving line in the primary hexagram has a special comment
written by the Duke of Zhou (son of King Wen, and younger brother
of King Wu, who founded the Zhou dynasty). The secondary hexagram
is formed as the moving *Yang* lines "change" into
*Yin* lines, and the moving *Yin* lines "transform"
into *Yang* lines. The secondary hexagram so formed has
its own oracular value which is to be considered in the context
of that of the primary hexagram and its moving lines.

The two traditional methods of constructing a hexagram
are the "yarrow stalk method" and the "coin method."

- To employ the yarrow stalk method, one begins with a bundle of 50 straight, dried stalks of the yarrow herb.
- One stalk is set aside and not used again.
- The bundle of the remaining 49 stalks is then divided into two bundles.
- One stalk is taken from the bundle on the right and placed between the ring finger and little finger of the left hand.
- The bundle on the left is then taken up in the left hand, and stalks are removed therefrom and set aside in groups of 4 using the right hand, until 4 or fewer remain.
- The remaining stalks are placed between the middle finger and ring finger of the left hand.
- The bundle on the right is then taken up in the left hand, and stalks are removed therefrom and set aside in groups of 4 using the right hand, until 4 or fewer remain.
- The remaining stalks are placed between the index finger and middle finger of the left hand.
- The total number of stalks between the fingers of the left hand are then counted and noted. The possibilities are 9 and 5. Nine stalks results in the value of 2, and five stalks results in the value of 3. Here are the possible outcomes of the first operation:

Between index and middle fingers: | 4 | 3 | 1 | 2 |

Between middle and ring fingers: | 4 | 1 | 3 | 2 |

Between ring and little fingers: | 1 |
1 |
1 |
1 |

Total: |
9 |
5 |
5 |
5 |

Assigned Value: |
2 |
3 |
3 |
3 |

- These 9 or 5 stalks are then set aside and the remaining bundle of 40 or 44 stalks is divided and counted out in the same manner. This time, eight stalks results in the value of 2, and four stalks results in the value of 3. Here are the possible outcomes of the second operation:

Between index and middle fingers: | 4 | 3 | 1 | 2 |

Between middle and ring fingers: | 3 | 4 | 2 | 1 |

Between ring and little fingers: | 1 |
1 |
1 |
1 |

Total: |
8 |
8 |
4 |
4 |

Assigned Value: |
2 |
2 |
3 |
3 |

- These 8 or 4 stalks are then set aside and the remaining bundle of 32, 36 or 40 stalks is divided and counted out in the same manner for a third operation, the possible outcomes of which are identical to those of the second operation.
- Each operation has now produced a value of either 2 or 3,
and these three values are now added together to produce a total
of 6, 7, 8, or 9. The totals of 6 and 8 yield a
*Yin*line (-- --), the totals 7 and 9 yield a*Yang*line (------). A total of 6 is considered a moving*Yin*line (-- x --), and a total of 9 is considered a moving*Yang*line (---o---). - This first line is placed at the bottom of the hexagram and the entire operation is repeated five times to produce the remaining five lines. The sixth line is placed at the top of the hexagram.

The other traditional method of constructing a hexagram employs three coins instead of 50 yarrow stalks, and is considerably quicker than the yarrow stalk method.

- To employ the coin method, one begins with three similar coins. One side of each coin is assigned the value of 2, the other side is assigned the value of 3. If old Chinese coins are used, the side with the Chinese characters is assigned the value of 2.
- All three coins are tossed at once and the values of the visible sides are added to produce a total of either 6, 7, 8, or 9. Thus, a single toss of three coins produces the equivalent of the three operations of the yarrow stalk method.
- The coins are then tossed five more times to construct the remainder of the hexagram. Again, the hexagram is constructed from the bottom upward.

Using either method, the probability of obtaining
a *Yin* line or a *Yang* line is equal. The probability
of obtaining either is once in two tries, or ½, or 50%.
Using either method, the probability of obtaining any particular
hexagram is once out of 64 tries, or 1/64. However, the probability
of obtaining a moving line versus a stable line differs according
to which method is used, as follows:

Probability of Obtaining the Line | ||

Line | Yarrow Stalk Method | Coin Method |

Yang |
||

Yang |
||

Yin | ||

Yin |

Note that with the yarrow stalk method, it is easier to get a
moving *Yang* line and more difficult to get a moving *Yin*
line. This discrepancy in probability is all due to the first
operation of the yarrow stalk method, which is biased towards
an outcome value of 3 against that of 2 by a factor of 3 to 1.

The coin method can be modified to give approximately
the same probabilities as the yarrow stalk method, as follows.
Identify one of the three coins by some distinction in size,
color, age, etc.; or paint a small dot on one of one of the coins,
on the side which is valued 2. When the three coins are thrown
and the "special" coin reads 3, the values of the three
coins are added as usual. However, if the special coin reads
2, the special coin is thrown again, and *then* the values of the
three coins are added.

Aleister Crowley was an avid student of the *Yi
Jing*, and frequently consulted the oracle throughout his adult
life. He usually obtained his hexagrams using a non-traditional
method of his own devising. He used six flat, wooden sticks,
each of which had a notch cut in the center of one side. He painted
the inside of the notches red for contrast. With his eyes closed,
he would shuffle the six and lay them out in front of him to form
a hexagram, from bottom to top. *Yin* lines would be indicated
by the sticks with the notched sides up, and *Yang* lines
would be indicated by the sticks with the unbroken sides up.
This flat stick method yields the same probability
of obtaining any particular hexagram as either the yarrow stalk
method or the coin method, and it has the added benefit of providing
a graphical representation of the hexagrams.

Crowley evidently used at least two methods to obtain "moving lines" for consulting the text on the lines by the Duke of Zhou. One method was to push one or more sticks slightly to the side, based on "feel," to indicate the moving lines. Another method is indicated by the fact that one of Crowley's sticks was marked with paint on one end. The marked stick would indicate a single moving line in each hexagram
obtained.
Obviously, the probability of obtaining a moving line would be very different with the latter method than with either of the two traditional methods. One moving line will *always* occur in every hexagram obtained, and there will never be more than one moving line in any hexagram obtained. This would obviously provide a simpler oracle to interpret, but it would also be somewhat deficient in subtlety with respect to an oracle obtained using either of the two traditional methods. In addition, the text for Hexagrams I and II, *Qian *and
*Kun,* both include material which is applicable only when
all the lines are moving lines; which material would be unusable
with this method.

It is possible, however, to adapt the flat stick method, with its graphical image of the hexagram, to provide the same probabilities for moving lines as either the coin method or the yarrow stalk method.

To produce roughly the same probabilities as the
coin method, twelve sticks must be constructed. Six of these
are painted on one end only. When constructing a hexagram, all
twelve sticks are shuffled, and six of the twelve are dealt out
to build the hexagram. Those lines with the painted end on the*
left side only* (or on the right side only - consistency is
the key) are interpreted as moving lines.

To produce roughly the same probabilities as the
yarrow stalk method, sixteen sticks must be constructed, six of
which are painted on one end only. The 16 sticks are shuffled,
and six are dealt out to construct a hexagram. *Yang* lines
which are painted *on either end* are interpreted as moving
lines; but *Yin* lines which are painted *only on the left
end* (or only on the right end, as before) are interpreted
as moving lines.

Probability theory is based on one fundamental assumption:
that the events in question are *random*. If one holds oracular
phenomena to be non-random, then considerations of probability
are entirely irrelevant, and it is only necessary to ensure that
all desired outcomes are *possible*. The oracle can be viewed
as being guided by intelligence or a cosmic pattern; in which
case the same hexagram would be produced for a given set of circumstances
regardless of the method used, provided the guiding intelligence
had been properly invoked through satisfaction of the moral and
ritual requisites.

On the other hand, randomness, or Chaos, can be seen
as an aspect of the *Dao*, or as the mirror of the Subconscious;
and the selection of different oracular methods can be viewed
as influencing the circumstances of the questioner and thus the
outcome of the oracle. In the end, the consultation of any oracle
requires the use of a well-developed intuitive capacity; and it
is intuition which should be used to select the oracular method
to be employed.

- Legge, James,
*The Yi King,*in*Sacred Books of the East, Part II,*F. Max Mueller, ed., Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1899 - Wilhelm, Richard & Cary F. Baynes (Trans.),
*The I Ching, or Book of Changes,*[1950] Bollingen series XIX (Third Edition), Princeton University Press, New York 1967 - Ko Yuen (Aleister Crowley) (Trans.),
*Shih Yi, A Critical and Mnemonic Paraphrase of the Yi King,*H. Parsons Smith, Oceanside, California 1971 - Hymenaeus Alpha 777 (Grady L. McMurtry), "On Knowing Aleister Crowley Personally," in
*The O.T.O. Newsletter,*Vol. III, No. 9, August 1979 e.v. - Cornelius, J. Edward, "Crowley's I Ching Sticks," unpublished article
- Gardner, Martin, "Mathematics of the I Ching," in
*Scientific American,*January 1974