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When It Comes To I Ching and Numerology, Apocalypse 2012 Is All About The Numbers

by Alex Frew McMillan | Special to CNBC.com
Wednesday, 6 Apr 2011 | 9:36 AM ET

Numerologist and medium Yvonne Chan Siu-chu says 2012 will be a year of massive change. And literally every day someone asks her about it.

“The whole world is going to a higher frequency,” Chan, the founder of the Hong Kong Tarot Centre, says. “All the materials will break down, including stocks, buildings, land.”

Max Dannenbaum | Stone | Getty Images

Not particularly promising for the stock market, you would think. But Chan’s view of next year does not revolve around doomsday predictions. The change will actually be positive in terms of human development, she says.

“People will start to move into the value of life rather than materials, moving to a new culture or new way of living,” Chan says. “They will more appreciate who you are. You are not your money, you are not your house, you are not your bank.”

Twenty-twelve has been ascribed significant importance by numerologists, not least of them Terence McKenna, who outlined the link between the I Ching and timewave zero in his book The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching. Some number watchers believe Dec. 21, 2012 — 12/21/2012 — will see a cataclysmic set of events that mark either the end or a rebirth of the world.

McKenna, who died in 2000, was a mystic who believed psychedelic drugs helped him explore altered states of consciousness and the fabric of the universe. In the 1970s, he developed the concept of novelty theory,” that the universe is increasingly interconnected, tethered to a final point at the end of time. As it works toward that period, there are periods of novelty, or major change in human society and life, breaking the force of habit. The process speeds up until the end date, when there’s a point of infinite complexity, and every point in the universe is connected. He eventually set that date to December 2012.

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McKenna seems to have taken 12/21/2012 as his end date and then worked backwards, forcing previous major events into his timeline. The first edition of the book from 1975 didn’t emphasize that date, but after considering the Hiroshima bombing date and scholarship on the Mayan calendar, a reprint in 1994 gave Dec. 21, 2012 — also a solstice — great importance.

The concepts in McKenna’s work are more connected to Western New Age thinking than Eastern philosophy. But Asian fortune tellers and astrologers also have opinions about the 2012 predictions. Although all the astrologers interviewed for this story debunked the theory that the end of the world will come in 2012, most did say they expected dramatic events next year – and suggested it would not be a good time to be heavily exposed to the stock market.

“I think the economy will go to a downtrend,” feng shui master Louis Wong Wing-hing says. “So next year we should be very careful, unless we have a long term investment, counting out at least three to five years. Especially for the stock market, I think it will suffer a hard time in early next year.”

Cantonese people in particular are fascinated with numbers – the number “4” is considered unlucky, purely because the Cantonese “seh” also sounds like the word for “death.” Many buildings skip the 4th, 14th, 24th floor as a result – though this may be as much because developers figure they can command higher prices if they don’t have to sell units on “cursed” floors.

Similarly, the number “8” is lucky because it sounds like the Cantonese word for “wealth.” It is often used in phone numbers, license plates and even company names. It’s common for Hong Kong TV commercials to end with a rattle of 8s in the number to call – “bah bah bah bah.”

Apocalypse 2012
Apocalypse 2012

The popularity or mistrust of those numbers is essentially a form of rhyming slang, however, and not a concept of feng shui – which is a system of Chinese-based principles used to interpret the workings of the world. In feng shui — widely consulted in Chinese culture, despite a hefty dose of skepticism from many Hong Kongers — each digit has its own importance that must be taken in context.

Dec. 12, 2012 and the year itself, 2012, are significant from a feng shui point of view.

“The number 2 in feng shui means lazy, not good for health, and also belongs to the earth, so this number is not a good number from a feng shui point of view,” says Wong, who runs Sky Fortune International in Hong Kong. “The number 1 can represent the career, but it also represents water. Water from a Chinese point of view can be good or can be bad, because water can be unstable.”

Water Over Earth

The order of digits in 2012 therefore suggests “water over earth,” Wong explains. “This is another problem of waves, or the sea, which may overflow onto the earth, so there may be another year of this kind of disaster.”

In fact, the world is in a 20-year earth cycle that started in 2004, feng shui masters say. That may explain the earthquake and tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2004, and the Sichuan earthquake in 2008. 2012 is likely to have another major earthquake.

The March earthquake in Japan is eight months early by that forecast. “It doesn’t mean that next year it won’t happen again,” Wong adds.

Many of the concepts of feng shui take root in the system of divination outlined in the I Ching, one of the oldest Chinese texts and mythical in its stature. One of its root principles is the acceptance of change.

“There’s nothing in the I Ching that says the end of the world is coming in 2012,” feng shui grand master Raymond Lo Hang-lap asserts. “There’s no such prediction in Chinese astrology or feng shui or anything else.”

The I Ching – sometimes known in English as the “Book of Changes” – measures life by a repetitive calendar, much like the repetition of the seasons. So it doesn’t make a particular forecast of the end of the world. It’s a system of knowledge that can be understood in many ways, scholars say.

The Sung dynasty scholar Shao Yong did interpret the I Ching in a way that each of its 64 hexagrams translates to a set period in history – but that was his own interpretation. Even following that system, each hexagram lasts for thousands of years. We’re currently only half-way through the eighth hexagram, which totals 129,600 years. Add 50-some similar periods, some of them of much greater length, and we’ve got little to worry about next year.

But 2012 will be the Year of the Dragon, which has traditionally involved earthquakes, and is a water year. December is also a water month.

"You cannot be too afraid of all these things because everything is already fixed" -Louis Wong Wing-hing, Sky Fortune International

"If you look at feng shui, in 2012 the elements show that there is more chance of turbulence, financial disasters, big water flooding, earthquakes," Lo says. In December, "there will be a lot of water, and there could be big flooding or even a tsunami — but it doesn't mean the end of the world."

During this 20-year feng shui cycle, countries with water in the southwest and mountains in the northeast should fare well – with money stemming from the water and human harmony from the mountains. Lo believes that bodes well for the economic development of India and South Korea. When it was pointed out that Pakistan has similar features but has seen a lot of recent political strife, Lo noted it was a general theory, with specifics varying in each place.

Next year, Southeast Asia has negative energy, which this year comes from the East. So the next big earthquake is likely to originate there, Lo believes.

Chan, a teacher of numerology at the Hong Kong Tarot Centre, says the information on what's likely to happen next year has come from "channeling," receiving inspiration or messages from spirits and the invisible world. It's not particularly driven by numerology or the confluence of numbers on Dec. 21, 2012.

"There are rumors about the end of the world — but actually it is just a new century, or a new culture is coming," Chan explains.

She endorses taking a fairly relaxed approach based more on self-fulfillment than anything else.

"Don't be too scared – if it happens it happens," she suggests, recommending that you use any dramatic changes in the world around you as the impetus for change in your own life. "Think about who you are and what you really want in life."

Wong believes global stock markets may drop 20% to 30% next year. He believes investors need to be cautious, starting in the fourth quarter of this year. But there's only so much you can do.

"Now we are coming to a bad cycle, so I think we need to take it easy," Wong says. "You cannot be too afraid of all these things because everything is already fixed."

"Apocalypse 2012" will air on Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 9 p.m. and midnight ET on CNBC. The documentary will repeat on Friday, December 21, 2012 at 8 p.m.