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Articles - The I Ching & 2012

Terence McKenna's Time Wave Zero

There is another odd pointer to the 2012 date, American psychedelic shaman Terrance McKenna's Time Wave theory. In that theory, the year 2012 is called "Time Wave Zero." McKenna took the I Ching, did some kind of mathematical fractal operation with it, and produced a computer program which supposedly produces a "time wave" which maps out something called "novelty" across the scale of time, from the Big Bang to the Eschaton, the ending of time. And guess what? The mapping of time mysteriously ends at 2012. The Omega point.

I found out about the time wave zero because I had been interested in McKenna's work for quite some time. He was primarily an expert on psychedelic substances, especially as religious sacraments and as used by shamans throughout history. He recounts, like Ginsberg and Burroughs before him, memorable journeys to the Amazon region in search of the mystic brew called "Yage" used by shamans there as an entrance to the "other world" beyond our ordinary consciousness. He was also a heroic taker of, and expert on, that explosive beyond-LSD drug called DMT or dimethyltryptamine. His accounts of his trips using that are really amazing to read, and he seriously believed that this particular drug enabled telepathic contact to occur with extraterrestrial intelligences, or what he called "the self-transforming elves." He felt that DMT opened up direct perception of hyperspace.

I will confess straightaway I don't understand his time wave scheme or its mathematics at all. It seems very complicated. But I thought I would check out some links today and present them for anyone who is interested in investigaing this strange linking of the very ancient (I Ching) and the very modern (computers & fractals). I am not very good at mathematics so it is a bit beyond me, but the whole thing is intriguing, especially in that he arrives at the same date pointed to by the Maya calendar.

Here is a time wave graph showing the fluctuations in "novelty" over a vastest scale, starting with the Big Bang and ending on Dec. 21, 2012. Apparently the fractal function can be graphed for any time period at all, but this one is the overall widest period, 25 billion years:

Exactly what this shows, I am still not sure. I am trying to figure it out. To show how the fractal graph, somehow derived from the 64 I Ching hexagrams (King Wen Sequence), here is another graph of a much smaller chunk of time:

Apparently the fractal function depends especially on the sequence (order) in which the hexagrams are taken. You may have seen fractal pictures before. One of their features is that you can zoom in on them forever and each emerging tiny detail reveals the same structure of the overall whole. The two diagrams above represent this kind of "zooming in."

McKenna explains how he derived the Timewave from the I Ching in an article called "Derivation of the Timewave from the King Wen Sequence of Hexagrams," which you can look at here. If anyone can understand this article, please write to me and explain it! It contains the key to McKenna's whole system, but for the life of me I cannot figure it out. As I said, my mind gets kind of fuzzy when I try to dive into mathematics. Anyway, he arrives somehow at the following graph of the 64 hexagrams, of which he says "Here is the complete graph of the King Wen first order of differnce with its mirror image fitted against it to achieve closure:"

"Using techniques that I developed for the problem I was able to mathematically collapse the hexagram construct into a self-similar fractal curve that can be used to map the unfolding of temporal variables and their resonances on all levels of duration."

I will leave it to the more mathematically gifted to try to understand this derivation of the Time Wave, but I find it fascinating that anyone would even think of trying this in the first place. If anything is modern computerized esotericism, this is it! Has any reader figured out what all this means?

McKenna sums it up this way:

"Such quantized transitions from one modality to another are called "changes of epoches" By Whitehead. The appearance of life in an inorganic world, of consciousness in an unconscious world, or of language in a world without language are all examples of such epochal transitions. Our lives are filled with such transitions, but they are terminations of relatively short cycles in the quantified hierarchy. Terminations of cycles or epoches of really long duration cause extreme accelerations toward the zero state. This idea is similar to Whitehead's conception of concrescence and the Vedic conception of world ages which grow shorter as they tighten around an axis point. The spiral image of the Christian apocalypse is another example of this intuition that time is a series of tightening gyres around the quantized emergence of transformation."

Using his computer program based on the structure of the I Ching McKenna could generate what he called "Novelty Reports." On another page called Novelty & Concrescence he explains what he means by "novelty" by quoting Alfred North Whitehead:

"Creativity is the principle of novelty. Creativity introduces novelty into the content of the many, which are the universe disjunctively. The creative advance is the application of this ultimate principle of creativity to each novel situation which it originates. The ultimate metaphysical principle is the advance from disjunction to conjunction, creating a novel entity other than the entities given in disjunction. The novel entity is at once the togetherness of the 'many' which it finds and also it is one among the disjunctive ' many' which it leaves; it is a novel entity, disjunctively among the many entities which it synthesises. The many become one, and are increased by one. In their natures, entities are disjunctively 'many' in process of passage into conjunctive unity... Thus the 'production of novel togetherness' is the ultimate notion embodied in the term concrescence. These ultimate notions of 'production of novelty' and 'concrete togetherness' are inexplicable either in terms of higher universals or in terms of the components participating in the concrescence. The analysis of the components abstracts from the concrescence. The sole appeal is to intuition." (Process and Reality, p. 26)

I'm not sure that helps much. Western philosophers! They drive me crazy. I can read that paragraph forever and have no idea what it says! Let's forget about it for now and go on. On another page McKenna describes what the "Omega Point" is, or Time Wave Zero, 2012:

"Novelty Theory suggests that on December 21 of 2012 AD, at the coincidence of the moment of the solstice and the heliacal rising of the galactic center, levels of planetary novelty will exponentially increase. Theory does not make clear the nature of the ultranovel event, however. Speculation as to the nature of the encounter with the trans-dimensional object at the end of time includes the following:"

Hyperspatial Breakthrough
Planetesimal Impact
Alien Contact
Historical Metamorphosis
Metamorphosis of Natural Law
Solar Explosion
Quasar Ignition at the Galactic Core

Eschatology is defined as "a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of mankind," and McKenna calls this "trans-dimensional object at the end of time" the "Eschaton." Applying his time wave formula to various periods of history he produces more of those time graphs like those at the top of this page. You can see more of them, with explanations, on the page The Time Wave and History. Just exactly WHY the grand time wave ends in 2012 is something I have still not figured out. Probably one needs to grasp the mathematical formula to understand that.

On another page called From Here to the Eschaton he gives the following image which shows the novelty graph from now upto 2012.

As far as I can figure out so far I think the points where the graph changes greatly, going up or down, are the points of great novelty or change, in other words, big events. And notice at the point of 2012 the graph no longer fluctuates, it goes to zero. That is Time Wave Zero, the Omega point, the Eschaton.

Remembering that this fractal time wave can be magnified to show increasing detail, you can look at some more sample "Novelty Reports" generated by McKenna's I Ching/Novelty program to get more of an idea of how it works.

If this all seems fairly whacky, another page describes how a couple of noted mathematicians went over McKenna's work. One of them, John Sheliak, found an error in basic formula I guess, AND CORRECTED IT, putting the whole thing on firmer mathematical ground. McKenna was very excited about this.

"I owe a real debt of gratitude to both Watkins and John Sheliak, but especially John. His work now makes explicit every stage in the construction of the timewave, any interested mathematician can now satisfy him or herself as to the precise details of the construction of the timewave. What is exciting to me and what makes me very confident of the new formulation is the fact that we are now getting a better fit of the Novelty graphs to historical data in a number of key areas where before, with the old version, we had some problems. Just to mention two examples. The new wave, which we are calling Timewave 1, to distinguish it from Timewave 0, the new wave gives a much better picture of the ebb and flow of Novelty during the Second World War and during the century of the birth of Islam, than did the old wave. These are exciting times for Novelty Theory. I am happy to admit my error in the construction of the wave. Novelty Theory can now mature into a genuine intellectual discipline in which we can hope to see the contributions made by many people exploring the field. Many exciting discoveries now lie ahead."

Sheliak's work on the time wave theory can be found here:

Sheliak states in the forward to his consideration of the Time Wave:

"Does the mathematical or philosophical structure of the I-Ching, reveal anything of an underlying connection with nature or the cosmos, that could explain how it (the I-Ching) might work? When it is viewed as a system that reflects or represents a process of flow, motion, or change in nature and the human experience, it is one that finds considerable correspondence elsewhere in philosophy and science, including elements of quantum theory. The flow of yin to yang, yang to yin, finds correspondence in the flow of matter to energy, and energy to matter - revealing a dynamic and ever changing universe. The First Order of Difference (FOD) number set, described by McKenna and others, is derived from the King Wen sequence of the I-Ching and is assumed to contain meaningful information about the nature of the physical universe, that is intelligible to us and consistent with our experience. If correct, Novelty Theory is then a description of the form in which this information expresses itself - i.e. the TimeWave."

McKenna has written a number of books and they are all fascinating. One book is called "The Archaic Revival," which he describes in an essay.

"What the Archaic Revival means is shamanism, ecstacy, orgiastic sexuality, and the defeat of the three enemies of the people. And the three enemies of the people are hegemony, monogamy and monotony! And if you get them on the run you have the dominators sweating folks, because that means your getting it all reconnected, and getting it all reconnected means putting aside the idea of separateness and self-definition through thing-fetish. Getting it all connected means tapping into the Gaian mind, and the Gaian mind is what we're calling the psychedelic experience. Its an experience of the living fact of the entelechy of the planet. And without that experience we wander in a desert of bogus ideologies. But with that experience the compass of the self can be set, and that's the idea; figuring out how to reset the compass of the self through community, through ecstatic dance, through psychedelics, sexuality, intelligence, INTELLIGENCE. This is what we have to have to make the forward escape into hyperspace."

I have no idea what it is that the Mayan calendar points to and the Time Wave formula points to, in the year 2012. McKenna doesn't pretend he knows either. He just calls it "the eschaton," a "something" that has been pulling mankind toward itself since the beginning, like a great attractor. Is it mankind's graduation at last into hyperspace? One can't help but be reminded of that great science fiction book by Arthur C. Clark called "Childhood's End," where the "last generation" of children comes of age and transforms into something completely beyond mankind as we know it. Clark has often been called a prophet in realm of science, but I think "Childhood's End" may have been his most prophetic book of all. Looking toward that end, the eschaton, McKenna writes:

"We are flesh which has been caught in the grip of some kind of an attractor that lies ahead of us in time, and that is sculpting us to its ends; speaking to us through psychedelics, through visions, through culture, and technology, consciousness. The language forming capacity in our species is propelling itself forward as though it were going to shed the monkey body and leap into some extra-surreal space that surrounds us, but that we can not currently see. Even the people who run the planet, the World Bank, the IMF, you name it, they know that history is ending. They know by the reports which cross their desks: the disappearance of the ozone hole [?], the toxification of the ocean, the clearing of the rain forests. What this means is that the womb of the planet has reached its finite limits, and that the human species has now, without choice, begun the decent down the birth canal of collective transformation toward something right around the corner and nearly completely unimaginable. And this is where the psychedelic shaman comes is because I believe that what we really contact through psychedelics is a kind of hyperspace. And from that hyperspace we look down on..., we look down on both the past and the future, and we anticipate the end. And a shaman is someone who has seen the end, and therefore is a trickster, because you don't worry if you've seen the end. If you know how it comes out you go back and you take your place in the play, and you let it all roll on without anxiety. This is what boundary dissolution means. It means nothing less than the anticipation of the end state of human history."


"This is not a dress rehearsal for the apocalypse. This is not a pseudo-millenium. This is the real thing folks. This is not a test. This is the last chance before things become so dissipated that there is no chance for cohesiveness. We can use the calender as a club. We can make the millenium an occasion for establishing an authentic human civilization, overcoming the dominator paradigm, dissolving boundaries through psychedelics, recreating a sexuality not based on monotheism, monogamy and monotony. We.. All these things are possible if we can understand the overarching metaphor which holds it together which is the celebration of mind as play, the celebration of love as a genuine social value in the community. This is what they have suppressed so long. This is why they are so afraid of the psychedelics, because they understand that once you touch the inner core of your own and someone else's being you can't be led into thing-fetishes and consumerism. The message of psychedelics is that culture can be re-engineered as a set of emotional values rather than products. This is terrifying news. And if we are able to make this point then we can pull back, we can pull back and we can transcend. Nine times in the last million years the ice has ground south from the poles pushing human populations ahead of it and those people didn't f*ck up. Why should we then? We are all survivors. We are the inheritors of a million years of striving for the unspeakable. And now with the engines of technology in our hands we ought to be able to reach out and actually exteriorize the human soul at the end of time, invoke it into existence like a UFO and open the violet doorway into hyperspace and walk through it, out of profane history and into the world beyond the grave, beyond shamanism, beyond the end of history, into the galactic millenium that has beckoned to us for millions of years across space and time. THIS IS THE MOMENT. A planet brings forth an opportunity like this only once in its lifetime, and we are ready, and we are poised. And as a community we are ready to move into it, to claim it, to make it our own.

It's there. Go for it, and thank you."

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