In The Valley Of Novelty (Terence McKenna) [FULL]


A talk given over a weekend in summer 1998.

These were originaly aired by Lorenzo on the ‘Psychedelic Salon’ podcast. Where the audio cuts from one part of the talk to the next are how they were presented except my moving the 4th podcast to the begining which is the true start of this talk, minus the audience introuducing themselves which was edited due to privacy.

One of McKenna’s ideas is known as novelty theory. It predicts the ebb and flow of novelty in the universe as an inherent quality of time. McKenna developed the theory in the mid-1970s after his experiences in the Amazon at La Chorrera led him to closely study the King Wen sequence of the I-Ching. Novelty theory involves ontology, extropy, and eschatology.

The theory proposes that the universe is an engine designed for the production and conservation of novelty. Novelty, in this context, can be thought of as newness, or extropy (a term coined by Max More meaning the opposite of entropy). According to McKenna, when novelty is graphed over time, a fractal waveform known as “timewave zero” or simply the “timewave” results. The graph shows at what time periods, but never at what locations, novelty increases or decreases and is supposed to represent a model of history’s most important events.

Software for viewing Time Wave Zero was written by R.J. Pease, but was replaced by a Fortran version which appears in The Invisible Landscape.

The algorithm has also been extrapolated to be a model for future events. McKenna admitted to the expectation of a “singularity of novelty”, and that he and his colleagues projected into the future to find when this singularity (runaway “newness” or extropy) could occur. Millenarians give more credence to Novelty theory as a way to predict the future (especially regarding 2012) than McKenna himself. The graph of extropy had many enormous fluctuations over the last 25,000 years, but it hits an asymptote in the middle of November, 2012. After his discovery of other doomsday theories that would take place on exactly December 21, 2012, he simply bumped up the date of “doomsday”. This statement is contested, however, by McKenna’s own mouth when during a lecture he said,

” An astonishing thing about the date I arrived at, by this method is that it’s the same date that the Mayan civilization appointed for the end of its calendar. In all eternity … You know, you may choose not to believe that I didn’t know this when I made this prediction. But I didn’t, know it! I didn’t. Yet I chose not the month, not the same year – the same day, month and year. ”

In other words, entropy (or habituation) no longer exists after that date. It is impossible to define that state. This is also the date on which the Mayan long calendar ends one cycle through the zodiac signs, then it begins a new 26,000 year cycle through the next era, or the Age of Peace. The technological singularity concept parallels this, only at a date roughly three decades later.

Author Steve Wilson has stated that his reluctance to accept this technological endpoint was shattered when reading of the Adam robot experiment’s success. Since endpoint theory needs the creation of machines that can design and program other machines for the final stages to be possible, this experiment is a major step towards practical artificial intelligence.

There is a spiritual obligation, there is a task to be done. It is not, however, something as simple as following a set of somebody else’s rules. The noetic enterprise is a primary obligation toward being. Our salvation is linked to it. Not everyone has to read alchemical texts or study superconducting biomolecules to make the transition. Most people make it naively by thinking clearly about the present at hand, but we intellectuals are trapped in a world of too much information. Innocence is gone for us. We cannot expect to cross the rainbow bridge through a good act of contrition; that will not be sufficient.
We have to understand. Whitehead said, “Understanding is the apperception of pattern as such”; to fear death is to misunderstand life. Cognitive activity is the defining act of humanness. Language, thought, analysis, art, dance, poetry, mythmaking: these are the things that point the way toward the realm of the eschaton. We humans may be released into a realm of pure self-engineering. The imagination is everything. This was Blake’s perception. This is where we came from. This is where we are going. And it is only to be approached through cognitive activity.

Art: Hieronymus Bosch, ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ (tryptich, centre panel)1503 – 1504
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