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February 20, 2021


Photo by 龔 月強 on Pexels.


(Copyright Ian Faulkner Soutar 1976)

The I Ching is a unique divination method based on philosophical readings that provide good advice. Basically you get randomized good advice. The I Ching is not about a prediction of the future. It’s use is about providing random wisdom to help with the present!

The most respected version is translated from Chinese to German by Richard Wilhelm and is translated into English by Cary F. Baines. The foreward is by the famous psychologist/philosopher C.G. Jung.

I moved recently and in unpacking boxes of books I had not opened for 40 years I rediscovered my old I Ching book. It had a surprise written in the front page. I had created a better method of doing readings using 4 coins instead of the popular 3 coin method of divination.

The “yarrow stalk” method traditionally used was complex involving about 50 stalks cut from the yarrow plant.

Historically hundreds of years after its creation the technique was simplified through the use of a “three coin” method. This simplified method however does not produce the same probability of getting readings as the more complex “yarrow stalk” method does.

I created an improved “four coin” method to simulate the reading probabilities gained by the use of traditional “yarrow stalk” divination method.

When you cast the I Ching by the more traditional “yarrow stalk” method:
The chance of getting a six is 1 in 16.
The chance of getting a nine is 3 in 16.
The chance of getting a seven is 5 in 16.
The chance of getting an eight is 7 in 16.

When you cast the I Ching by the simplified “three coin” method:
The chance of getting a six or a nine is 2 in 16.
The chance of getting a seven or an eight is 6 in 16.

Thus one observes that the reading corresponding to a six would occur much less frequently than reading involving a nine. If you study the text carefully you realize that the rarely occuring readings are actually appropriate in only rare circumstances.

The “three coin” method which is commonly used in modern times is seriously flawed and should be replaced by the “four coin” method.

People are welcome to re-publish this method as long as they retain the copyright notice. It is part of a small booklet I’m writing on I Ching divination.

The “Yarrow Stick” method was how the book was originally intended to be used for divination. Clearly you won’t get the same readings by using the two “three coin” method. The Yarrow Stick method is very time-consuming and prone to error by way of its complexity.

The “four coin” method preserves the probabilities of the “yarrow stalk” method.

The “four coin” method I created works like this:

Use two dimes and two pennies. The two pennies however count as if they are one coin. Both pennies have to be a head before it counts as a head. Otherwise the two pennies count as a single tail.

The two dimes count separately, either heads or tails each.

A head counts for 2
Tail counts for 3

Consult the instructions in the I Ching book for the full details in using the coin method. With this slight modification the “four coin” method retains the “yarrow stick” method probabilities. If you work out the statistics, the probability of a six, nine, seven or eight reading will now have the exact probabilities of the yarrow stick method. Thus the most unusual text readings will only rarely occur.

The I Ching is not about a prediction of the future. It’s use is about providing random wisdom in the present. It is something to have fun with and to help to move forward in life with reflection. May it help you in crossing the great waters of life!

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