Mysterious Object at Noon: Terence McKenna’s Novelty Theory.

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Terence Mckenna in 1976.

I’ve been reading and listening to Terence McKenna, the American botanist, psychonaut and philosopher for a number of years now and it’s taken some time to get into his vocabulary and way of thinking, as it can be very abstract and demand from the listener to completely let go of that dreaded box of traditional expectations and ideas and embrace something that might sound utterly insane at a first glance.

One thing that comes up over and over again in texts about him, and in his own lectures, is his Novelty Theory — based on the Chinese divination text I-Ching, which produces apparently random numbers; which is then checked with the ancient text itself. It includes 64 different situations what is said to represent everything — all to predict your life or any other time sequences. To fully grasp his theory it’s better to not focus on the I-Ching, as it’s just the MacGuffin here. The novelty theory is McKenna’s explanation of time, and time is something that’s been fascinating me for many years; how we perceive it and how we can affect it (if that’s even possible?). According to McKenna time is a wave, a huge wave that becomes denser and more intensive the longer it gets until it crashes into the shore and ends.

This time wave is constructed by novelty, innovations of all kinds; information, incidents, accidents, events etc. — which means that history itself is a result of the wave, where novelties from the dawn of the time have produced and inspired new novelties: one thing leads to another, inspires another event, which soon in a fractal way creates an even bigger wave of novelty. Nowadays it happens more in one week than what happened during millions of the years back in the past of the earth. These events, all this information and progressive movements — no matter what’s considered “good” or “bad” — are getting more and more intensive the longer we look at history. The last hundred years have been extreme, as our discoveries and technology evolves so fast there’s no way for us to even predict how the world and the universe will look in 100, 500 or 1000 years.

The time wave is rolling in faster and faster, and the question is what will happen in the end, when it can’t travel any further? The density of information will be so compact it will be difficult to understand what’s happening — things will turn weird, something McKenna felt was already happening in 1998 — and just look at it now, in 2019, and the weirdness that continues; social unrest, Putin, Trump and other almost cartoonish characters controlling the world together with a few privately owned companies, the development of AI and genetic modification, even the technological equipment we use every day, from “smartphones” to streaming services and ultra realistic computer games — things we never expected years ago. According to this theory it’s possible to predict stuff on the bigger scale, like the I-Ching that tells the future of a lifetime or an idea or a concept, but ignores the details along the way.

To me it sounds right. Let’s compress this into one of the most familiar fractals of our known universe, us humans. Remember your childhood when time seemed to run so slow — a summer could last for years, until today when time just seems to go faster and faster and faster as we’re filled with knowledge and experiences. Our life IS a time wave, as it’s constructed with innovations, information, events and accidents; constant novelty until we finally hits — what McKenna called — the transcendental object at the end of time, in our existence; death. Do this mean that death is the ultimate goal of our existence, where we should experience life as much as possible — on our own private levels of excitement — until the end will either be just that, the end, or maybe start of something new; us reaching another level of enlightenment? Or is it a new beginning, maybe reincarnation? Can by accident or intention we start a negative/positive time wave of our lives, where negativity leads to more negativity and the opposite, to put it bluntly: the law of attraction?

If we’re riding on a wave of time in a tunnel of existence towards an ending we can’t avoid, let’s stay at the top of it, evolving until we reach what we aim to be. Call it the end, the art of dying, the transcendental object at the end of time or as the Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul put it; the mysterious object at noon. It’s the dense, vibrant fulfillment of our dreams and hopes.

Whatever time really is, we’re in control.

Author, thinker, television freelancer, mystery aficionado and cat lover.

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