The Common Sense Book of Change is an easy-to-read version of the Chinese I Ching, complete with clear user instructions. Use it first to increase self-understanding, then to create harmony between the inner world of self and outer world of others.

The text maps the natural patterns of change which trigger predictable passages from one stage to another in our lives. Its simple observations are a treasure of enduring practical wisdom. Its purpose is to maintain poise and stability in the midst of change.

Using the interactive Book of Change is a powerful way to get in touch with the native common sense we’re all born with, but too often forget under the pressures of hectic daily life.

Based on the timeless Positive Paradigm of Change rediscovered by Einstein in the 20th century, it gives new meaning to the natural law Tom Paine invoked in his appeal to Common Sense. As that pamphlet was catalyst to change in an earlier century, this small but powerful book has the potential to remind people worldwide of their common good NOW.

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CSBOC intro contents

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The 64 readings of the I Ching are based on mathematical formulas expressed in straight and broken lines. This text is called the Book of Change because its readings sum up the natural laws of change. They reflect stages through which daily events evolve in predictable cyclical patterns.

These patterns can be drawn on any scale from smallest to largest. For example, they might express the seconds which add up to a minute, or the minutes which complete an hour on the face of the clock. They explain the seasonal changes of the year. In still more expanded form, these cyclical patterns describe the life-cycles of a human being or even the duration of an entire civilization.

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The purpose of using the Book of Change is to increase self-understanding. Once basic self-awareness is established, the reader can begin to think about how to create harmony between the inner world of self and the outer world of others.

Because daily events flow in ordered, archetypal patterns, thoughtful study of natural laws can shed light on any aspect of human activity.

The hexagrams are a frozen miniature of the universe. Studying them gives the opportunity to comprehend events that on the surface are too complex and fast-moving to observe.

Slowing down events long enough to analyze and understand the universal patterns that lie beneath them often proves to be a useful exercise leading to more effective action upon return to the normal tempo of daily life.

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Everything in nature is subject to change. Nature, however, is subject to invariable laws. Change is therefore predictable. It need not be regarded as threatening.

The unknown is only frightening until it has been faced. When the patterns underlying change are illuminated, life becomes very beautiful, like a work of art.

Ancient sages looked to The Book of Change primarily to discover ways to maintain balance and stability in the midst of change.

Advisors to long-lasting dynasties in China observed how to adjust with the winds and waves of time just as a ship pilot shifts the sails or a surfer rides the cresting water to reach a far shore safely.

They knew that temporal wisdom depends on the existence of a timeless essence deeper than change, the same at the heart of the universe, the individual and every atom.

Observing change from this centered viewpoint, as if dwelling in the eye of the storm, is the experience of what sages call “immortality.”

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America’s Declaration of Independence names three kinds of law: the laws of man, of nature and nature’s God.

The Book of Change is based on the laws of natural change. They emanate from and depend on divine law and serve as the rightful foundation of civil law. Clearly, laws legislated in ignorance of or in opposition to natural and divine law are not likely to work out well. Policy makers at all levels would do well to give this point careful thought.

In Common Sense, Thomas Paine wrote about the relationship of divine, natural and human law in a way that inspired readers at the time of the American Revolution to fight for freedom from tyranny.

Approaching natural law from the deeper understanding of the ancients could inspire a reinvention of democracy now.

Sages say that freedom from tyranny begins with dispelling ignorance and overcoming toxic, negative emotions. Inalienable freedom starts with the self-awareness and self-mastery which can be gained by diligent use of the I Ching.

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The Book of Change is based on the science which the ancient Chinese devised to describe the interaction of positive and negative energy currents.

Today we have similar sciences which study what physicists call electricity or electromagnetism. Computer technology based on digital binary codes is also similar.

The Chinese developed a convenient short-hand to represent polar energy valances. A broken line represents negative (yin) energy, while a solid line represents positive (yang) energy.

No value judgments are attached to these energy terms. Complementary valences are simply mutually dependent forces of nature.

The dynamic existence of the universe depends on the harmonious interaction and creative balancing of these polar opposites. Much of Chinese philosophy is based on pondering the observable effects of the laws of nature and prescribing how to live successfully within the structure of these laws.

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Each hexagram is constructed of six lines formed by combining two interacting three-lined trigrams.

Hexagram 1, CREATIVE POWER, looks like this:

hex 01

Eight basic trigrams are associated with the elements of earth, moving and still water, fire, air (wood) and metal. The qualities of stasis (mountain) and kinetic explosiveness (thunder) complete in the basic set of trigrams.

By studying the interaction of these elements, skillful users can diagnose changes in physical health. They can also anticipate changes in weather and climate.

Each of the six lines of the hexagram is correlated with one of the six of the energy centers (chakras) described in yoga anatomy. The top center, called the crown chakra, isn’t included because it is regarded as beyond time and nature, and therefore not subject to laws of change.

The six lines are also said to indicate the levels of relationship within a family or inside the hierarchies of larger social organizations. In this context, social scientists explain the dynamics of human behavior from their interpretations of the hexagram readings.

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The Book of Change is an ancient text of enduring wisdom. Its particular relevance to the modern world is that it presents timeless wisdom in a neutral form.

Those who have become disenchanted with sexist, authoritarian and culture-bound sources of guidance find that The Common Sense Book of Change offers them a viable alternative method for getting in touch with the authority of inner conscience.

The eight three-line trigrams that represent primary energy patterns were first “noticed” by Fu Hsi, an emperor who according to legend ruled China 5000 years ago.

Tradition has it that he got the idea of combining firm and yielding lines as he studied the markings on the shell of a great tortoise.

Twenty-five hundred years later, while imprisoned by a political enemy, the ancestor of the Chou Dynasty combined interacting pairs of trigrams to build six-line hexagrams.

He wrote a commentary for each of the 64 possible combinations, thus earning his name, King Wen, or “the writing, civilizing king.”

Because the I Ching’s diagram of the universe is so complete, it is regarded as a valid tool by people with many different points of view.

For example, Lao Tse, a Taoist, used the Book of Change. He viewed the world as an artist and free spirit. Confucius, however, who was mainly concerned with duty towards family and state, also had profound respect for the Book of Change.

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8. USE

Many great leaders have used the book to spark the creative thought process. The Book of Change can be consulted on any matter of vital concern.

Its use can enrich every aspect of life. For example, farmers use the Book of Change to anticipate seasonal agricultural yields. Scientists ask questions about health, energy and other natural phenomena.

Office holders consult it for mapping their social, political and military strategies. Economists ponder the process of wealth distribution.

Philosophers read it to probe profound questions of religion and ethics. Many ask questions about their personal growth and close relationships.

With an accessible version free of technical jargon and cultural bias, anyone can use the Book of Change to define and cope with the transitions and transformations which inform our lives and mark our growth.

Sages use the I Ching carefully, for the common good, never for selfish purposes. They know that actions return in kind.

They are therefore careful to use natural law to generate the same good fortune for their neighbors that they intend for themselves.

What the ancients named Tao, or God, is the ultimate source and true goal of wisdom. Therefore, though sages hold teachings in highest regard, they do not worship books or teachers.

They remain humble before the source of change, respectful towards fellow beings and grateful for what they receive. They know it is the source which is sacred, not written words, physical objects or even the worthy stewards who lead truth-seekers safe home.

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Although first recorded in ancient China, the ideas in the Book of Change transcend limitations of time and place. In fact, because we live in a world of rapidly accelerating change, its contents are of more timely importance than ever before.

This comprehensive text gives insights into the predictable nature of change. It teaches the thoughtful reader how to deal consciously and gracefully with the daily changes which everyone experiences.

With its help, the user can maintain the inner consistency needed to honor personal commitments and accomplish long-term goals.

The best of many worlds are combined. No dogma is involved in the method of using the Book of Change. The readings associated with the hexagrams describe the natural laws of cause and effect in a way which allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about the effectiveness of ethical behavior, as well as the importance of inner atunement.

The hexagrams can be regarded as data to be used in the decision-making process. The ultimate authority is individual intelligence in alignment with inner conscience.

The benefit derived from an I Ching reading is a unique blend of immediate situation, personal insight and ancient wisdom. The quality of the insight it has to offer is limited only by the degree of the reader’s quietness and good will.

The I Ching offers a method with which users can “think outside the box” of narrow rational logic. In a mysterious yet undeniable way, it helps to expand ordinary awareness. It draws on super-rational levels of conscience associated with the center of the Positive Paradigm Wheel.

It also taps into the sub-rational level of emotional intelligence associated with the middle level of the Wheel. This has the effect of linking the mundane world of external, surface events with the more inward levels of personal experience.

In sum, working with the Common Sense Book of Change has the potential to open the inquiring mind to a comprehensive understanding of life and the universe.

As a counselor, the Book of Change is less expensive, more accessible and probably more perceptive than many professionals.

For people who consult the Book of Change together to resolve mutual questions, it serves as a neutral third party. Partners find it a valuable tool for improving the quality of their personal relationships.

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The Book of Change can be approached in many ways. Some read it once in awhile when they have a particularly difficult problem to solve. Others consult it daily. They use it as a way to collect their thoughts and bring clarity to their actions.

In any case, the readings help to understand current events and how situations are likely to change in the future.

Common to all approaches, however, is the importance placed on attitude. Since the quality of the question will have a significant effect on the quality of the answer, much emphasis is placed on learning how to work with The Book of Change.

The Book of Change is not usually read from cover to cover like an ordinary book. When approached out of context or read as a one-sided manual with no active input on the part of the user, its readings lose their potent effect.

Only when used as a catalyst to trigger the latent intuitive forces of the mind is the intended benefit (which is exactly to put the user in touch with these forces) realized.

The reader is cautioned, however, to discriminate between intuition and the distraction of selfish wants, negative emotions and wishful thinking.

With diligence, the difference between conscience and ego will become clear.

The quality of results depends on the state of mind in which information is received. It is therefore essential to learn how to approach the Book of Change in the best possible frame of mind.

So quiet yourself. Get past the clutter of chaotic thoughts to focus on forming a worthy question.

Don’t ask simple “yes” or “no” questions. These are not appropriate to the complexity of life. Instead, ask about goals, how to achieve them, or possible consequences.

If you’re not sure exactly what you need to know, the answer can help. It often cuts straight to the heart of the matter, by-passing irrelevant, superficial issues.

There are many techniques for calming the mind and focusing attention. One of these is usually practiced before asking the question.

This is equally true whether a single individual is consulting the Book of Change in the privacy of a quiet room or two or more people work together to solve a problem of mutual concern.

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The ancient Chinese originally used tortoise shells to derive the basic hexagram. They applied heat and read the resulting cracks for patterns.

Later on, a method of throwing sticks was invented. Yarrow stalks were used to form the patterns from which the hexagram was constructed. These are still used and can be found in some bookstores.

More recently, mathematical formulas similar to astrological methods have been developed. The specifics of time and place are used to determine the reading.

Exactly how or why these various methods are of assistance in tapping deeper levels of consciousness is a question which lies beyond the grasp of ordinary mind.

The usefulness of the methods, however, suggests that explanations do exist for those with minds sufficiently developed to penetrate such subtle subjects. As with the electric light bulb and aviation, one generation’s magic is the next one’s science.

In any case, evidence that using the Chinese Book of Change has benefited considerable numbers of people over a very long period of time testifies to the probable validity of this approach to understanding.

The easiest and therefore commonest method for deriving the hexagrams involves throwing coins. The method is similar to tossing dice.

Values are assigned to heads and tails. Heads are counted as 2, tails as 1. Three pennies are thrown and their values added up.

If the sum of the values is an even number, a broken line is drawn. If the sum is odd, like the number 3, then the line is unbroken. This is done six times, building from bottom to top, to complete a hexagram.

Any time all heads or all tails are thrown, the line is considered to be a “changing line.” An “X” is placed next to the line indicating that, because any extreme is unstable and evokes its shadow, this line will change into its opposite in the future.

After the basic hexagram has been constructed, the trigram grid is consulted. Upper and lower trigrams are combined to find the number of the resulting hexagram.

The selected hexagram is then read. It is understood as a description of the present situation. Changing lines, which occur whenever all heads or all tails come up, are then read for warnings and advice about the present situation. The new hexagrams which result from the changing lines are then considered.

The number of the each new reading is given in parens after the warning. If there is more than one changing line, users can read each new hexagram individually, and/or the single hexagram that results from combining the changing lines.

A sample reading follows below to demonstrate the method.

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To remember the readings and crystallize one’s thoughts, it is useful to keep a diary. Readings can be written next to the questions. Also, whatever thoughts are inspired by the hexagram can be recorded.

Sometimes rereading later will increase one’s understanding of what the reading was about.

Like any other good friend, the Book of Change takes a while to get to know. The more you work with it, the more familiar its ways will become.

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First I collect my materials. I need three pennies, a pad of paper or notebook, a pen or pencil and the Book of Change.

Then I find a quiet place to sit. I take a few minutes to settle down. I clear my mind of other thoughts and silently watch the breath until it becomes slow and even.

Then I think carefully about what is going on, what is troubling me, and the issues I need to know more about. I list the decisions I have to make and consider what consequences are likely to follow from my future actions.

For the example in this book, I have decided to ask, “What does The Common Sense Book of Change have to offer its readers?”

I enter the date and my question in the Diary Section at the back of the book.

Concentrating on my question, I take my three pennies, shake them a few times in my gently closed fist and roll them onto the flat surface in front of me.

The first throw of my three coins comes up three heads. The value of heads is two, so I multiply three times two to get six.

Since this is an even number, I draw a broken line on my pad of paper. It will be the bottom line. Because all three coins were the same, I place an “X” next to this line to show that it is a changing line.

My bottom line looks like this:

CSBOC Intro throw 1

Then I take the three coins and throw them again. This time I get two tails and one head. The value of tails is one, so I add one and one to get two. I add this to the two for the heads coin to get four.

Since four is an even number, I place a broken line in the second place over the bottom line. My pad of paper now looks like this:

CSBOC intro throw 2

I follow the same procedure four more times. My final hexagram looks like this:

CSBOC Intro throws 6

The next step is to find the number of my reading. I turn to the chart at the back of the book. The bottom three lines of my hexagram are all broken.

I turn to the chart at the back. In the “lower trigram” column of the chart, the picture which matches this figure is “k’un.”

The top three lines of my hexagram are two solid lines over a broken line. In the “upper trigram” row of the chart, the picture which matches this figure is “sun.”

By going to the box which shows the combination of upper and lower trigrams, I find the number 20. I therefore turn to Hexagram 20 for answers to my question.

Hexagram 20 is AWARENESS. So the answer to my question, “What does the Common Sense Book of Change have to offer its readers?” is AWARENESS. It reads:

Seek increased AWARENESS of the patterns which underlie all natural events. Tune yourself to the creative source of natural change. Then harmony becomes a way of life. Secrets of the arts and sciences will be revealed. Human relationships will become smooth. Mistakes of miscalculation will be prevented. Avoid unnatural leaders.

Because the bottom line is a changing line, I go to the page directly opposite the hexagram, titled “Direction of Change.” I read the sentences for the bottom line. They advise:

Narrow-minded self-interest is not enlightened. Broaden your views. Include others. (42)

The number in parens after the warning represents the hexagram which results when the bottom line changes to its opposite, a firm line.

The new hexagram, GAIN, indicates the change that would result from the AWARENESS this book has to offer its readers. Turning to Hexagram 42, I read:

GAINS can be made after analyzing the situation correctly. When a person’s life goals are kept firmly in mind, no time is wasted. A way can be found to use whatever resources are at hand to serve one’s purpose. Serving others can be compatible with personal gain. Avoid smug self-satisfaction.

In my notebook or diary, I write the numbers of the hexagram and any changing lines next to my question. Then I decide what future actions I to take.

Finally, I enter a few sentences to describe my thoughts and decisions into the Diary Section. That way, I know I can return to my question, the reading and my decisions later to think more about them.

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There are many advantages to using the Common Sense Book of Change as an introduction to the study of Chinese natural law.

It is practical, straight-forward and easy to read. Anyone with average reading skills, an open mind and an interest in personal growth can benefit from working with the text.

However, once the reader has become comfortable with this version, reading further would also be helpful.

The international backgrounds of authors who have written versions of the Book of Change shows that thoughtful people all over the world are attracted to learning about the laws of change.

Depending on one’s tastes and interests, there are several longer books from which to choose. Each gives additional insights and new perspectives on the hexagrams.

Comparing texts gives an appreciation for the many different ways one essential idea can be presented. Comparisons develop an appreciation for the fundamental thought, deeper than words, which underlies individual modes of expression.

The classic English version of the I Ching began with Lao Ni-hsuan, a direct descendant of Confucius. In the years before World War I, Mr. Lao taught his traditional wisdom to Richard Wilhelm, who later translated the Book of Change into German.

The Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, a student of Freud who wrote about universal symbols in art and literature, was impressed with this translation.

He actively sponsored Cary F. Baynes’ English translation from the German and wrote the introduction to what is now known as the Wilhelm/Baynes version of the I Ching.

In this version, Hexagram 20 is called “Contemplation.” The text states that “. . . the hexagram shows a ruler who contemplates the law of heaven above him and the ways of the people below.”

In a section called “the Judgment,” it is explained that “natural occurrences are uniformly subject to law.” Through the power of concentration, the thoughtful person can develop the ability to “apprehend the mysterious and divine laws of life” and learn how to “express these laws in their own persons.”

Joseph Murphy, a Fellow at the Andhra Research University of India, wrote a version called The Secrets of the I Ching. He quotes from the Bible to illustrate the Chinese text.

For example, the Judgment section of Hexagram 20, “Contemplation,” begins with Jeremiah 33.3. “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not.”

The image is explained from Proverbs 3:6. “In all thy ways acknowledge him and he will make plain thy paths.”

Another version, which compiles the work of many others, is by R.L. Wing. Hexagram 20 of that version gives the following advice:

When attempting to determine the meaning and tendency of a situation, approach it with the predictable plan of the seasons in mind. By Contemplating the present situation you should be able to determine what will follow.

She continues:

The inherent ability to predict such tendencies is difficult to accept because one rarely sees what one desires. Yet one who can courageously and objectively contemplate in this way masters his world.

Technical versions by scholars steeped in the traditions of Chinese science and philosophy include one by Hua-Ching Ni, The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth.

The unique contributions of this text are detailed mathematical diagrams and explanations of Chinese science rarely made available to the general public. The “guidance” he offers is:

Contemplation. After washing the hands and beginning the ceremony, with deep sincerity the officiant centers the mind. The hearts and minds of all participants are drawn to this good example.

A second scholarly version is Thomas Cleary’s The Taoist I Ching. He translates Hexagram 20 with the word “Observing.”

His commentary explains:

Achieving attentive observation is a matter of restoring the primordial while in the midst of the temporal. . . if you know this, then you can preserve the real and eliminate the false, so there is eternal life.

A third is The Complete I Ching by the Taoist Master Alfred Huang. He calls Hexagram 20 “Watching,” and writes:

There are two aspects of watching, subjective and objective. Subjective watching deals with one’s self; it is to examine one’s inner motives. Objective watching deals with others; it is to watch others’ reactions to one’s conduct.

Sarah Dening’s The Everyday I Ching calls Hexagram 20 “Taking an Overview.” Her characteristic quote is taken from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar:

He is a great observer, and he looks /  Quite through the deeds of men.

Her advice is action-oriented:

Your understanding of the situation must be translated into action. Fresh insights are essential but can only be of benefit once they are incorporated into your life. Old attitudes must change.

Those with an interest in bioengineering would learn much by paying careful attention to Dr. Johnson F. Yan’s DNA and the I Ching: The Tao of Life, Dr. Katya Walter’s Tao of Chaos: Merging East and West, and Dr. Martin Schönberger’s The I Ching and The Genetic Code: The Hidden Key To Life.

Each examines data in mathematical formulas which show that the same information now being decoded in DNA mapping and the parallel “string theory” of physics was embedded in the I Ching thousands of years ago.

Those who enjoy science fiction might reconsider the movie Contact. In this story, advanced beings communicate by transmitting messages in mathematical language, using a code which is simple and efficient much like the I Ching.

When correctly encrypted, the digital code of The Book of Change opens access to dimensions of experience beyond that of the rational, earth-bound mind.

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These longer versions detail in poetic or technical terms the same conversion process Einstein described in the language of physics.

This continuity of vision, from ancient to modern, Asian to European, is evidence that people of every time and place, no matter how different their social customs and prejudices, have equal access to and ownership in timeless wisdom.

The universal science of the I Ching is not only the foundation of everyday ethics practiced by careful thinkers everywhere. It also speaks to the mysteries of life and death inherent in natural change. It answers the basic questions which people everywhere have in common, which all of us ask.

QiGong, T’ai Chi, Yoga and other practices of meditation-in-motion set natural law into action. Use of The Book of Change in conjunction with these related disciplines is the foundation of Positive Action.