The I Ching as a Lunar Calendar
McKenna's timewave zero hypothesis is constructed around one single fact about the I Ching. The basic unit of The I Ching is the line or yao. Six of these make a kua or hexagram, and there are sixty-four different permutations of these kua that make up the complete oracle. This means the whole system is based upon six multiplied by sixty-four, making a total of 384 lines.
The timewave theory came about when McKenna linked this number to an important lunar cycle. Each lunation of Earth's moon is approximately 29.53 days, and a lunar year of thirteen lunations totals approximately 383.89 days, a figure very close to 384 days. This, McKenna suggests, means the I Ching might in fact be an ancient lunar calendar.
A lunation of the moon is the time it takes for the moon to return to the same phase. This is a synodic cycle and is one of the moon's two most important cycles. The other is the sidereal period. This is the time the moon will take to return to the same place in the sky. This is slightly shorter, at 27.32 days.
It is widely accepted that the oldest calendars kept by the Chinese, going back to Neolithic times, were lunar. A calendar based on 384 days or thirteen lunations is a good candidate for basing a lunar year upon because it is just 2.4 hours short of a complete day. By adding one intercalary day every ten lunar years, this calendar will only lose one day every 454.5 years, making it very accurate.
The King Wen Sequence
The sixty-four hexagrams of the I Ching can be ordered in different ways, but one of the most ancient orders is called the King Wen sequence after the ancient Chinese emperor. McKenna describes this as “the oldest preserved human abstract sequence” because its origins date to the beginning of known history. The hexagrams in the King Wen sequence are placed into pairs, where the second hexagram of a pair is obtained by inverting the first. This series of thirty-two pairs exhibits some very unusual numerical properties that McKenna used to form the basis of timewave zero's mathematics.
The Mathematics of the King Wen and Timewave Zero
McKenna was curious to find the intellectual principle that lies behind the ordering of the thirty-two pairs of I Ching hexagrams, which was unknown. He theorized that this could be expressed as a first order difference between the hexagrams. This is the number of lines that change between one hexagram and the next. It will always be an integer between one and six. What he found was that an exact 3:1 ratio of odd to even transitions was maintained in the King Wen, and that the number five was excluded completely. This seemed to be a profoundly unusual structure.
McKenna was also struck by the fact that the King Wen sequence contained a singularity: the first and last three positions were a mirror image of each other. This means that if you take the whole sequence, you can reverse it and place it over the original and each hexagram will be paired with its opposite. This backward and forward combination of the first order differences creates closure at the beginning and end of the sequence when it is mapped this way. This creates what can be seen as a single waveform.
What the Timewave Tells Us
McKenna concluded that the waveform made from the whole sequence of the I Ching could be used as the basic unit to form the hierarchy of a multileveled calendar. Treating the entire sequence as one unit or yao, he further multiplied the wave by six and sixty-four. This creates different layers, still based on the mathematics of the I Ching, which can be used to map every possible level of time from the very large to the very small. A lunar year of 384 days multiplied by sixty-four gives a period of around 67.3 years. This can then by multiplied by sixty-four again, giving a period of 4,306 years. This period is very close to the length of two zodiacal ages — 4,320 years. Six of these periods actually give a closer approximation to one cycle of precession than the great year of astrology. This led McKenna to believe that the relationship between the I Ching and the lunar calendar was fundamentally harmonic and could be used as a key to understand the whole unfolding process of history.
Like Argüellés, McKenna thinks there is an important relationship between the I Ching and DNA. He equates the wave derived from the King Wen sequence of the I Ching with a physical model of one strand of DNA. McKenna suggests that the flow of energy through our DNA is how we experience the flow of time itself.
By this expansion through multiplication, McKenna was able to apply this highly complex waveform to the whole of the space-time continuum. To achieve this requires twenty-six different levels of the original I Ching wave, each of which is a factor of sixty-four larger than the preceding level. The hierarchy of timewave zero extends in this way to cover a period of 72.25 billion years at the large end, all the way down to the subatomic range of Planck's constant on the microscale. At this point, further subdivisions on the quantum level are no longer meaningful.