Crowley’s Yi King Sticks

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”

The Yi King was Crowley’s preferred method of divination and he consulted it regularly if not daily.  He also cast an omen with every Word of the Equinox which were sent to members of the A∴A∴ as a sort of oracular “password” – (See The Words of the Equinox in “The Vault” for details).  Crowley’s personal edition of the Yi King was from “The Sacred Books of the East” series, Vol XVI. (Oxford 1899); translated by Legge and edited by F. Max Muller.  Many practitioners might prefer a modern translation of this work.  However, this is the version Crowley used for over forty years and is therefore especially well suited to the Thelemic scholar researching Crowley’s Yi King readings.

It should be noted that Crowley often disagreed with Legge interpretations.  At times drawing lines through entire sections while simply adding the note “Ass” or “Shit to Legge” etc… but he still utilized this translation as a spring board for his own analysis.  Crowley may have had little choice being that it was the only English edition available at the time.  None the less, most of Crowley’s criticisms were based upon the old aeonic perspectives which colored Legge’s interpretations.

In studying Crowley’s journals it’s clear that he actively engaged the Yi king in his own internal quest for Knowledge.  In a note before the Introduction in his personal copy Crowley wrote, “Very normally: the good hexagrams end ill, and vice-versa. View held in ancient China and a doctrine discovered independently by myself – long experience, experiment, and statistical inquiry – it is not enough to receive a good omen; one must assure it to oneself by some further ritual”.  Crowley’s interpretations were developed through years of labor, trial and analysis in an ongoing process.  Further he recognized that only by his actions would the Omens manifest, bad or good.

Crowley would develop his own unique system which quickly derives a hexagram and utilizes just 6 sticks.  A description of this method was first published in the OTO newsletter Vol. III no. 9 (Summer/August) – 1979 e.v.

Written by Grady McMurtry and part of a series entitled ‘On Knowing Aleister Crowley Personally’.  Grady describes watching Crowley doing a reading while visiting with him at Aston Clinton during the war.  If not for this article we would have no idea how Crowley read his Yi King sticks.  Thank you Hymenaeus Alpha.

“Here is Grady’s description of Crowley’s sticks…

“The blank side is the male (Yang, energy) side.  The divided side (looks like red nail polish to me) is ·the female (Yin, receptive) side.  By my ruler, they are less than an 8th of an inch in thickness, but slightly more than a 16th thick.  They either were mahogany or teak or stained dark to look so.  Each stick has a Yang side and a Yin side. The way Crowley used them was to shuffle them (with his eyes closed) then take them one at a time and, holding each one upright with his right fore­finger (eyes, still closed), get a signal and lay it down either right or left.  First stick down is the bottom line.  You can also get moving lines this way.  If one of the sticks wants to move when you lay it down, just shove it right or left as indicated.  Personally, I like this method of taking The Oracle It gives you a chance for your Angel to communicate directly through your fingertips.”

The image below is a modern replica of Crowley’s sticks made to spec by a dear Brother.  If you wish to get closer to Crowley’s in appearance then the wood should be a dark cherry color and the squares a darker red. (measuring 4 ½” X ½” & just over a 16th of an inch thick)

“Love is the law, love under will”


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