Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tom Horn and the I-Ching Thing

Now we’ll look at another of Horn’s wild and crazy applications on 2012: The alleged connection in the Chinese text, the I-Ching. 

Horn appeals to the work of “the late philosopher and scientist Terrance McKenna” who, with the help of his brother Dennis, allegedly found some sort of pattern in the I-Ching which corresponded with “spikes” in history – e.g., there was a “spike” around the time of September 11, 2001, and a sudden plunge into nothing on December 21, 2012. 

From the start this is non-credible information, since far from being a “philosopher and scientist,” McKenna was a lunatic who experimented with psychedelic drugs and mushrooms – a little fact Horn apparently did not feel his Christian readers needed to know. The book McKenna presented this in – The Invisible Landscape – was first published in 1975, and the whole title is something else Horn chooses not to reveal: The Invisible Landscape : Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching. To put the matter bluntly, McKenna came up with this idea while high on drugs. That certainly indicates a reliable source! 

So how does it all work? It's the sort of thing that ought to be subject to peer review before being believed, but it amounts to this in simple terms: Operating under the assumption that the I-Ching is some sort of encoded calendar, the text of it was used to calculate points of “novelty” in history. McKenna claimed to have plotted an “epoch” from 1945 (the atomic bomb) to the end of 2012. Points of “novelty” were alleged to have been discovered. Below is a sample chart from the book. 

 There’s more than a few problems here. Initially, the highly subjective baseline of “novelty” is one that can be force-fit onto any chosen event, and that alone makes the system epistemically worthless. Another issue is the suspicious choice of 2012 as an end point. McKenna fans may point to the fact that the earliest edition of the book had no mention of the Mayan calendar, but as noted in one of the articles we linked to last entry, that date was already floating around another way: 

In the mid-1970s, Michael Coe's speculation became associated with pseudoscientific speculation by bestselling Swiss author Erich von Däniken through a popular made-for-TV program called The Outer Space Connection (1975) written and produced by Alan Landsburg. This program and a popular book of the same name promoted claims that the ancient Maya had been contacted by "ancient astronauts" or "ancient aliens," identified as extraterrestrial visitors from another planet who were "prophecied" to return to Earth on December 24, 2011 (an erroneous date given by Coe in his 1966 book). Narrated by Rod Serling, creator of The Twilight Zone, the program was seen by millions, planting elements of mythology in popular culture. The same year, author Frank Waters, best known for his Book of the Hopi (1963), published Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth World of Consciousness (1975), in which he associated the same erroneous date with myths about Quetzalcoatl (an Aztec deity and legendary culture hero), Atlantis, and hints about extraterrestrial visitation. Waters wrote, "On the assumption that the Mayan Great Cycle, comprising 13 baktuns or 5,200 years and beginning on August 12, 3113 B.C., marked the end of the Fourth World and the beginning of the Fifth World, one would expect the great catastrophe attested by Nahuatl-Mayan myth. The end of the Great Cycle and the Fifth World, according to the same Goodman-Martínez-Thompson correlation, will occur on December 24, 2011 A.D., and it too will be destroyed by catastrophic earthquakes" (Waters 1975: 257-258). Notions of world destruction resonated with people familiar with stories of the destruction of the legendary "lost continent" of Atlantis and also doomsday prophecies made by new religious movement (NRM) leaders such as David Berg of the Children of God, who in 1973 had predicted that the Comet Kohoutek was a harbinger of doom. Since 12/24/11 was being given as a date of destiny well before the McKenna’s published, it is only logical that they would choose the very next year – with one week to go -- as an end point. 

The same article also adds a pointed note about the McKennas: 

In 1975, both McKenna (with his brother Dennis) and Argüelles published books in which they identified 2012 as the year this would happen. However, they did not narrow the date down to December 21, 2012 until 1983, when archaeologist Robert Sharer published that correlation in an appendix to the 4th edition of Sylvanus Morley's classic book The Ancient Maya. 

So here’s the sum of it: 

Horn is appealing to the subjective ravings of a lunatic who got high to reach his calculations, and who designed a system that has not been reviewed by any credible scholarly authority, and which started out with only a year as a date, a year which is remarkably in tune with earlier “predictions.” 

And this is the sort of person ISCA wants associated with their membership, rather than Mike Licona?


  1. In answer to your question at the end of the post. Yes, because even though Tom Horn doesn't take the Bible seriously at least he takes it literally.