Terence McKenna – KUT Public Radio Interview – I Ching, Habit & Novelty – October 1997

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Interview on KUT Public Radio, Austin (October, 1997)

In 1971 Terence and Dennis Mckenna took a trip to Columbia to try to explore the landscape made evident by the psychedelic experience more fully and came back with information about Time and the I Ching. This journey is explored in the book, True Hallucinations.


Though often thought of as a simple divination tool, Mckenna called the I Ching one of the “oldest structured abstractions known.” I Ching symbols have been found scratched on the 6,000 year old shoulder bone of a sheep. Official record of it appears in the 7th or 8th century BCE. The Tarim Basin, from whence the I Ching hailed, was a pre-Han civilization. It is the classic home of shamanism and has very little to do with what many people think of as Chinese cosmology.


The I Ching is translated as The Book of Changes. Terence Mckenna decided the I Ching was the book of Time. Since Time is change, this makes perfect sense. Through years of research and mathematical analysis he deduced that the I Ching is an ancient shamanic understanding of Time as made up of individual units with separate and distinct qualities. Time is composed of discrete units of energy with discernable differences. Therefore it follows that certain Times would be more or less auspicious for certain activities. Terence believed the I Ching is to Time what the periodic table is to elements. Most probably the creators of the I Ching understood Time the way western science has come to understand matter. As Western science broke matter down into component parts, the I Ching applies the same system to cycles of Time. It is possible the people who created the I Ching understood Time as intimately as we now understand matter. These ideas are fully explored in the book he co-wrote with Dennis, The Invisible Landscape.


He turned his mathematical analysis of the 64 Hexagrams of the King Wen sequence of the I Ching into a graph and created a computer program he called Timewave Zero. He spread his graph out onto the linear line of human history and saw patterns emerge. He began to see that Time is a duality between what he called “habit” and “novelty.” In periods of habit, not much new happens, patterns are entrenched and change is difficult. Periods of novelty, however, are the opposite, leading to great transformative ideas and events. Certain Times tend toward novelty and others for habit. He also noticed that certain epochs in history were resonant with each other. We will delve more deeply into the resonances on the timewave in a future post. Curiously his timewave graph had an end to it. It ended at 2012, which he interpreted as a Time of ultimate possibility and infinite novelty.

Image: I-Ching Holitzka Deck by Klaus Holitzka (1994)
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