Novelty Theory

Novelty theory was developed by American psychonaut Terence McKenna to explain the increasing complexity of reality; according to the theory, the universe has a teleological attractor at the end of time that increases interconnectedness. McKenna predicted that a singularity of infinite complexity would be reached in 2012 at which point anything and everything imaginable would occur simultaneously. He referred to this as the Eschaton. He conceived this idea over several years in the early to mid-1970s while using psilocybin mushrooms and DMT.

McKenna viewed the universe as a swarm of matter waves, spiralling down the gradient of their synergetic (energetically favorable) constructive interference. He saw the universe as being ‘pulled from the future toward a goal that is as inevitable as a marble reaching the bottom of a bowl when you release it up near the rim…it comes to rest at the lowest energy state, which is the bottom of the bowl. That’s precisely my model of human history.’

In novelty theory, when two matter waves become connected by mutual constructive interference (quantum entanglement, rapport), they ‘imagine’ or ‘grok’ each other. McKenna believed that imagination was capable of interconnecting matter waves instantaneously, stating that ‘the imagination is a dimension of nonlocal information,’ and ‘novelty is density of connection.’ He wrote: ‘What is happening to our world is ingression of novelty toward what Whitehead called ‘concrescence,’ a tightening gyre. Everything is flowing together. The ‘autopoietic lapis,’ the alchemical stone at the end of time, coalesces when everything flows together. When the laws of physics are obviated, the universe disappears, and what is left is the tightly bound plenum, the monad, able to express itself for itself, rather than only able to cast a shadow into physis as its reflection. I come very close here to classical millenarian and apocalyptic thought in my view of the rate at which change is accelerating. From the way the gyre is tightening, I predict that the concrescence will occur soon—around 2012 AD. It will be the entry of our species into hyperspace, but it will appear to be the end of physical laws accompanied by the release of the mind into the imagination.’

McKenna often illustrated his theory by reference to a computer program written by his collaborator Peter Meyer, which produces a waveform known as ‘timewave zero.’ It is based on a numerological formula that purports to calculate the ebb and flow of ‘novelty,’ defined as increase over time in the universe’s interconnectedness, or organized complexity. The formula was derived from McKenna’s interpretation of the ‘King Wen’ sequence of the ‘I Ching,’ and the graph appears to show great periods of novelty corresponding with major shifts in humanity’s biological and sociocultural evolution.

He believed that the events of any given time are recursively related to the events of other times, and chose the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as the basis for calculating his end date of November 16, 2012. When he later discovered that the end of the 13th baktun in the Maya Calendar had been correlated by Western Maya scholars with December 21, not far from his own hypothesized end date, he decided that the Maya were more likely to be right on this subject and he adopted their end date. The 1975 first edition of his book, ‘The Invisible Landscape’ refers to 2012 (but no specific day during the year) only twice. In the 1993 second edition, he employed the 21st of December 2012 throughout, the date arrived at by the Mayanist researcher Robert J. Sharer. Terence McKenna died of brain cancer in 2000.

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