Terence McKenna with Art Bell, May 22nd 1997

*AB:* You have a theory about time. Time is one of my favorite all-time topics, so before we
launch into what you think about time, tell me what you think time is. In other words, is time our
invention, or is time a real thing ... I realize we're measuring it, but in the cosmic scheme of
things, is there really time?

*TM:* Yeah, you give me a perfect entree to launch into this thing. See, in the west we have
inherited from Newton what is called the idea of pure duration, which is simply that time is sort
of a place where things are placed so that they don't all happen at once; in other words, it's used
as quality-less, it's an abstraction. In fact, I think when we carry out a complete analysis of time,
I think what we're going to discover is that like matter, time is composed of elemental, discrete
types. All matter, organic and inorganic matter, is composed of 104, 108 elements ... there's some
argument. Time, on the other hand, is thought to be this featureless, qualityless medium, but as
we experience it, as living feeling creatures, time has qualities. There are times when everything
seems to go right, and times when everything seems to go wrong ...

*AB:* That's absolutely true. I've wondered about that all my life. There are time when, in effect,
you can do no wrong, and there are other periods of time when you can do no right, no matter
what you do.

*TM:* Well, so in looking at this, I created a vocabulary ... actually I borrowed it from Alfred
North Whitehead ... but I think I'm on to something which science has missed, and it's this; it's
that the universe, or human life or an empire or an ecosystem, any large scale or small scale
process, can be looked at as a dynamic struggle between two qualities which I call habit and
novelty. And I think they're pretty self explanatory. Habit is simply repetition of established
patterns, conservation, holding back what has already been achieved into a system, and novelty is
the chance-taking, the exploratory, the new, the never-before-seen.

And these two qualities--habit and novelty--are locked in all situations in a kind of struggle. But
the good news is that if you look at large scales of time, novelty is winning, and this is the point
that I have been so concerned to make that I think science has overlooked. If you look back
through the history of the human race, or life on this planet, or of the solar system and the galaxy,
as you go backward in time, things become more simple, more basic. So turning that on its head,
we can say that as you come towards the present things become more novel, more complex.

So I've taken this as a universal law, affecting historical processes, biological processes and
astrophysical processes. Nature produces and conserves novelty, and what I mean by that, as the
universe cools the original cloud of electron plasma, eventually atomic systems form, as it further
cools molecular systems, then long-chain polymers, then non-nucleated primitive DNAcontaining
life, later complex life, multi-cellular life, and this is a principle that reaches right up
to our dear selves. And notice, Art, it's working across all scales of being. This is something that
is as true of human societies as it is of termite populations or populations of atoms in a chemical
system. Nature conserves, prefers novelty. And the interesting thing about an idea like this is that
it stands the existentialism of modern philosophy on its head ... you know, what modern, atheistic
existentialism says is that we're a cosmic accident and damn lucky to be here, and any meaning
you get out of the situation, you're simply conferring. I say, no ... by looking deeply into the
structure of nature, we can discover that novelty is what nature produces and conserves, and if
that represents a universal value system, then the human world that we find today with our
technologies and our complex societies represents the greatest novelty so far achieved, and
suddenly you have a basis for an ethic--that which advances novelty is good, that which retards it
is to be looked at very carefully.