I Ching for Beginners – Mark McElroy
“Enough tire-kicking! It’s time to get under the hood of the Book of Changes and get a peek at its thirty-five hundred year-old Wisdom Engine: a ingenious problem-solving computer built back when the Silicon Valley was just the Silicon Gully.” – From the book

The I Ching (pronounced eee ching or yee jing) is a profound Chinese oracle that speaks to the complex and changing nature of life. Centered on the Tao—the Truth or master pattern of the universe—the I Ching blends the Yin (feminine principle) and the yang (male principle) to address virtually every type of situation.

Originally consulted using yarrow sticks, this ancient oracle comprises 64 hexagrams consisting of six lines. Each hexagram is like a “chapter” of the Book of Changes (another name for the I Ching). Solid lines are yang and broken lines are yin; both are considered stable. Then there are changing lines that are yang turning yin or yin about to become yang. Although diviners generated these hexagrams with yarrow sticks in the past, modern methods have incorporated coins or even special I Ching cards.

In his new book I Ching for Beginners, Mark McElroy makes this often-ponderous oracle accessible to a new generation. He admits that this book is not a translation nor is it a traditional or scholarly exposition. Nevertheless, I Ching for Beginners provides everything you need to quickly consult—and apply—the wisdom found in the Book of Changes.

Even if you’re not into divination, Mark makes the case that the I Ching provides opportunity for reflection, enhances our perception, encourages awareness of impact, and moderates our responses. Often leading individuals by the hand to the “middle way”, the I Ching dispenses wise advice for those seeking insight.

Mark explains the nature of trigrams and hexagrams and shows readers how to prepare for a reading and easily generate a hexagram. In fact, he’s come up with an ingenious way of generating lines using a handmade deck of sixteen “consultation cards” that are quick and easy to make. Of course, you can also generate hexagrams using three coins (which is what I do). If all the lines are stable, then you just consult the corresponding chapter in the book. (There’s an easy-to-read Hexagram Chart in the Appendix). If the hexagram contains changing lines, then you need to create a Primary Hexagram and a Secondary Hexagram—reflecting how a situation is currently and how it’s likely to evolve. Then, consult the chapters correlating with the Primary and Secondary Hexagrams.

Each chapter offers a sage observation about the Hexagram and what it encourages and cautions against, as well as keywords, thought questions, and a commentary. Comments on both love and relationships and work and projects are also provided, in addition to comments about the changing lines (stable or Primary Hexagrams only).

I’ve consulted the I Ching for Beginners three different times, and each of the readings have been incredibly spot on. One night, I was at my wits end as me and my 7 year old were butting heads. I tossed the coins and (surprise!) the situation was a changing one, so it reflected changing lines. The Primary Hexagram was (get this) 38 Resolving Tensions! It spoke of antagonism, conflict, and rebellion—as well as blending fire and water to make powerful steam (as opposed to extinguishing one another.) The Secondary Hexagram comforted me—what the situation was evolving into—because it was 54 Managing Relationships. It showed me the best way to deal with my son and provided me much clarity and comfort.

I consulted Mark’s book two other times and found the results to be not only profoundly accurate and insightful, but also amazingly comforting and empowering. I just did a reading a short while ago about the next few days and I what I needed to focus on, and I got exactly the answer I needed—and one that was doable!

Out of curiosity, I compared Mark’s “thought for thought” interpretations inspired by the ancient oracle to The Complete I Ching: The Definitive Translation by the Taoist Master Alfred Huang. I was surprised that I Ching for Beginners reflected the gist of the Hexagrams found in this scholarly book. Sure, a book like The Complete I Ching may give some added nuance and information, but for someone wanting a modern, accessible version of the I Ching, Mark’s book does the trick.

If you want to learn about the I Ching—especially if you’re looking for an easy-to-use oracle with depth and breadth—I Ching for Beginners is an excellent book to get you started. Written in his characteristic witty, engaging style, Mark takes a potentially cumbersome subject and makes it understandable—and more importantly, doable--for a new generation of seekers.

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