Apocalypse Not Now ! A sceptical look at 2012 predictions
“Sure, everything is ending… but not yet.” – Jennifer Egan
While most monotheistic religions tend to view time as beginning and ending, most Contemporary Pagan religions view time as cyclical – as such many Pagans do not consider as likely the possibility of an apocalyptic end to the world. Nonetheless, many Pagans seem fascinated by the purported 2012 Mayan end of times prediction – especially the shift in consciousness which may accompany it.
The irony when it comes to this specific end of times prediction is that it has nothing to do with paganism or Paganism – Mayan or otherwise. In fact the 2012 Mayan prediction is pretty much a Christian fabrication which New Age authors and pseudo-scientists embraced wholeheartedly years ago.
It is worth noting that within some monotheistic religions, especially Christianity, followers who anticipate an end of times not only utilise their own religion’s prophecies, but often tend to search through ancient pagan religions for a date when the apocalypse will take place.
“The European association of the Mayans with eschatology (dealing with the end of the world) dates back already to the time of Christopher Columbus, who was compiling a work called “Libro de las profecias” during the voyage in 1502 when he first heard about the “Maia” on Guanaja, an island off the north coast of Honduras.
“Influenced by the writings of bishop Pierre d’Ailly, Columbus believed that his discovery of “most distant” lands was prophesied and would bring about the apocalypse. End-times fears were widespread during the early years of the Spanish Conquest as the result of popular astrological predictions in Europe of a second Great Flood for the year 1524.” – (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_phenomenon)
A belief in “Mayan end of time predictions” is in fact contrary to many of the ancient Mesoamerican religions as, like the Aztecs and Incas and most contemporary Pagans, the Mayans believed in the cyclical nature of time and were thus highly unlikely to believe in a final day of reckoning in any shape or form.
“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It’s already tomorrow in Australia.” – Charles Schultz
The Mayan calendar, actually the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, is most likely not even Mayan in origin – the Mayans inherited it from preceding cultures, possibly the Olmec, Zapotec or Mixtec cultures.
While it is true that the Long Count calendar was rather accurate for its time, this fact has been greatly exaggerated. The “Mayan calendar” was not even as accurate as the Roman Julian calendar, which had an error rate of 1 day every 128 years, while the Gregorian calendar has an error rate of 1 day every 3300 years. On the other hand, the Long Count calendar, which did not use any system of leap days, has an error rate of 1 day every 4 years.
Although much attention has been given to the Long Count calendar, the Mayans utilised up to 17 different calendars – some of them apparently charting time over a span of millions of years.
The Mayans used three main calendars:
• The Long Count was used for historical purposes, since it can define any date for millennia in the past and future. The Long Count calendar kept time in units of 20, so 20 days made a uinal, 18 uinals, or 360 days, made a tun, 20 tuns made a katun, and 20 katuns, or 144 000 days (394,52 years), made up a baktun. After 13 baktuns, the numbers reset and the count moved to a higher order.
• The Haab was a civil calendar based on a year of 360 days consisting of 18 periods of 20 days. Five days were added at the end of the Haab year to approximately synchronise it with the solar year.
• The Tzolkin calendar was used for ceremonial purposes, which had 20 periods of 13 days. The Tzolkin calendar went through a complete cycle every 260 days. The significance of this cycle is unknown; it may be connected with the orbit of Venus, which has a period of 263 days.
(Adapted from http://www.jaguarwisdom.org/2012.html)
The calendar that has drawn global attention is actually called the Tzolk’in or Cholq’ij, and it resets to day 0 every 1 872 000 days or about 5125 years, a period known as The Great Circle. The next reset date, by some rather vague calculations, is assumed to be December 21 2012.
The full long count calendar is, however, currently only at baktun 12; there are still 8 baktuns (or about three thousand years) to go before it turns over. And it is merely the current katun which may end on about December 21 2012.
One should remember that the Mesoamerican system involves cycles of approximately 5125 years each and this means that after about 5125 years their calendar is re-set. The “year 2012” merely marks the end of one such cycle and the beginning of the new baktun. There is no reason that date should be any more significant than the end of the last Christian millennium.
What we know of the Long Count calendar is nothing more than a theoretical reconstruction, and the date December 21 2012 a consensus date, originally proposed by JES Thompson – this particular date could still be off by years, similar to the Christian era which may be off by several years since there is no exact date for Jesus’ birth. Also, because the Gregorian calendar was not entirely accurate, and was only formalised in the 16th century based on records of “Christ’s birth”, there is a good chance it is a few years out on the Mayan’s 5125 year period.
WHAT THE MAYANS SAY
“I sat in the dark and thought: There’s no big apocalypse. Just an endless procession of little ones.” – Neil Gaiman
The classic Mayans were a Mesoamerican civilisation, noted for its developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, mathematical, astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period (2000 BCE to 250 CE), many Mayan cities reached their highest state of development during the Classic period (250 to 900 CE), and continued throughout the Post-Classic period until the arrival of the Spanish. (Wikipedia)
The Mayans never disappeared, neither at the time of the Classic period decline nor with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores, and the subsequent Spanish colonisation of the Americas. Today, the Mayans and their descendants form sizable populations and maintain a distinctive set of traditions and beliefs that are the result of the merger of pre-Columbian and post-Conquest ideas and cultures. The Mayans constitute a diverse range of the Native American people of southern Mexico and northern Central America. There are an estimated 7-million Mayans living in Guatemala, southern Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, El Salvador and western Honduras.
When it comes to the whole 2012 debacle, Mayans find the whole issue rather amusing and irritating.
Guatemalan Apolinario Chile Pixtun, a Mayan elder, says that “doomsday theories spring from Western, not Mayan ideas”.
Jose Huchim, a Yucatan Mayan archaeologist said: “That the world is going to end? They (the Mayans) wouldn’t believe you.” (Modern Mayans: 2012 ‘end of the world scenario’ false by G Serrano)
“In the way of Mayan thinking, it’s only a cyclical period which comes to an end. The Mayans never imagined it as a catastrophic date.”
Alfonso says that the Mayan predictions “arose long before 2012, in particular with the arrival of the Spaniards, who effectively ended the Maya world, made it run with blood, reorganised their lands, brought hunger and diseases and did not respect their beliefs.: The Mayans “certainly had their prophecies but they were talking about the end of their own world, not the entire world, as many people recently have interpreted the forecasts”.
“Wild, dark times are rumbling toward us, and the prophet who wishes to write a new apocalypse will have to invent entirely new beasts, and beasts so terrible that the ancient animal symbols of St John will seem like cooing doves and cupids in comparison.” – Heinrich Heine 1842
Another “happening” often linked to 2012, is that on December 21 2012 “for the first time in about 26000 years the Sun will rise to conjunct the intersection of the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic”.
Some writers have claimed that the Mayan calendar predicts that the sun will finish its one complete rotation around the Milky Way, hence rolling over to a new galactic year (approximately 26000 years).
Many fear that during such galactic alignment the sun and the earth will be exposed to an increase in the gravitational triggered from the Milky Way’s centre. But here too there seems to be a serious misunderstanding, as the centre of our Milky Way has not yet been identified.
Astronomer David Morrison says that the galactic equator is an entirely arbitrary line, and can never be precisely drawn because it is impossible to determine the Milky Way’s exact boundaries, which “vary depending on clarity of view”.
In 1975, the ending of baktun 13 became the subject of speculation by several authors. In his book Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth Age of Consciousness, Frank Waters tied Michael D Coe’s date of December 24 2011, to astrology and the prophecies of the Hopi, while both José Argüelles (in The Transformative Vision) and Terence McKenna (in The Invisible Landscape) discussed the significance of the year 2012, but not a specific day.
“In 1987, the year in which he held the Harmonic Convergence event, Argüelles settled on the date of December 21 in his book The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology, in which he claimed on that date the Earth would pass through a great ‘beam’ from the centre of our galaxy, and that the Maya aligned their calendar in anticipation of that event.” (http://willtheworldreallyendin2012.blogspot.com)
Speculations about the precession of the equinoxes and the Sun’s proximity to the centre of the Milky Way already appeared in “Hamlet’s Mill” by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Deschend in 1969. These were expanded upon by McKenna. The significance of a future galactic alignment was noted in 1991 by astrologer Raymond Mardyks, who asserted that the winter solstice would align with the galactic plane in 1998/1999, writing that an event that “only occurs once each 26000 year cycle and would be most definitely of utmost significance to the top flight ancient astrologers”.
It is worthwhile to note that Coe’s date originally was December 24 2011. He revised to January 11 2013 in the 1980 second edition of his book The Maya, and then decided on December 23 2012 in the 1984 third edition. He seemed unable to make up his mind.
In reality “every year, on the winter solstice, the Sun and the Milky Way, from the surface of the Earth, appear to come into alignment, and every year, precession causes a slight shift in the Sun’s position in the Milky Way. It takes between 700 and 1 400 years for the Sun’s winter solstice position to precess through the Milky Way, and it is currently about halfway through the Milky Way, crossing the galactic equator.” (2012 phenomenon – Wikipedia)
Furthermore, there is no clear evidence that the classic Mayans were even aware of precession. There is also little evidence, archaeological or historical, that the Mayans placed any importance on solstices or equinoxes. There is also no evidence that the Mayans attached any importance to the Milky Way – in fact there is no glyph in their writing system to even represent it.
“When you expect the world to end at any moment, you know there is no need to hurry. You take your time, you do your work well.” – Thomas Merton
There are actual experts in ancient Maya traditions who study the culture and religion of the ancient and modern Mayans.
In “What the Ancient Maya Tell Us About 2012” and “The Maya Cosmic Prophecy: From Sensation to Sensibility” Mark Van Stone (an expert specialising in Maya hieroglyphs and calligraphy) wrote: “As regards the 21 December date, the sun touched the galactic equator already in 1983 and will do so until 2019. Hence the 2012 date as the chosen date for this event is wrong. If we choose the December 23 correlation that crossing actually occurred during the 1870s. If you use that correlation we should already be dead or have transformed our consciousnesses. Further, solstices were unimportant to the Maya.”
Van Stone adds “when faced with a choice of an auspicious day on which to schedule an important event, Maya almost never chose a solstice or an equinox.” He says that there is “nothing in the Maya or Aztec or ancient Mesoamerican prophecy to suggest that they prophesied a sudden or major change of any sort in 2012…. The notion of a Great Cycle coming to an end is completely a modern invention.”
Archaeo-astronomer Anthony Aveni says that while the idea of “balancing the cosmos” was prominent in ancient Maya literature, the 2012 phenomenon does not draw from those traditions. Instead, it is “bound up with American concepts such as the New Age movement, millenarianism, and the belief in secret knowledge from distant times and places”.
Aveni describes 2012 theories as the product of a “disconnected” society. “Unable to find spiritual answers to life’s big questions within ourselves, we turn outward to imagined entities that lie far off in space or time – entities that just might be in possession of superior knowledge.”
Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, stated that: “We have no record or knowledge that (the Maya) would think the world would come to an end” in 2012.”
“There will be another cycle,” said E Wyllys Andrews, director of the Tulane University Middle American Research Institute. “We know the Maya thought there was one before this, and that implies they were comfortable with the idea of another one after this.”
“We have to be clear about this. There is no prophecy for 2012,” said Erik Velasquez, an etchings specialist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “It’s a marketing fallacy.”
The National Institute of Anthropological History in Mexico said: “The West’s messianic thinking has distorted the world view of ancient civilisations like the Mayans.”
Contrary to the apocalyptic prophecies for 2012 attributed to the Maya civilization, a Mexican archaeologist says that the Mayas were predicting a “strictly cyclical phenomenon,” not a planetary catastrophe. “The Maya did not think about humanity, global warming or predict the poles would fuse together,” said Alfonso Ladena, a professor from the Complutense University of Madrid. “We project our worries on them.”
A SPIRITUAL SHIFT?
“Take one quintuplified planetary alignment. Sprinkle in an always-mystifying solar eclipse. Stir in a potload of craziness–prayer vigils in Bombay, shelter-stocking in the United States, jittery sky-gazing everywhere–and you’ve got yourself an all-out Apocalypse Watch. Nothing happens, of course. But the Antichrist was born the next day, at least according to noted psychic Jeane Dixon.” – JASON BOYETT 1962
The notion of a “shift of the ages” due in 2012 is preferred interpretation of the “2012 prophecy” by proponents of the New Age, many Pagans, and followers of about any other religion who do not bother the investigate the whole matter properly.
Author Jose Arguelles popularised the whole idea that the Mayan calendar prophesies that in the year 2012 a major shift in cosmic energy coming into the Earth will occur. However, in “Mayan calendar”, writer Joseph Waligore explains that “Arguelles admits he got the whole idea in a private vision”, his “interpretation of the Mayan mind”, from the Tibetan teachings of Chögyam Trungpa (Rinpoche) and from meditation on the I Ching, the Chinese divination system”.
Not exactly based on any ancient Native American prophecy.
Many of the “accepted” interpretations of this shift in consciousness depend largely on “channelled” information, and pseudo-spiritual interpretations of a collection of prophecies and visions.
Some of these sources include: the medieval Irish Saint Malachi, Hindu prophecies, a vision by Padre Pio, the Book of Revelations, teaching from ascended masters, Pangaea, Atlantis, UFOs, aliens, , geo-cosmic change, jumping DNA, overlapping time-space continuums, collective consciousness, black holes, crop circles, climate change, the photon band/belt, human evolution, etc, etc… ad nauseam.
There are hundreds, probably thousands of other such claims. None have anything to do with the Long Count calendar, 2012, the end of the world or a shift in consciousness.
For example the photon belt is described as “an emanation from the Galactic centre and is instrumental in activating our 12 strands of DNA and 5th dimensional crystalline light body… On December 21 2012, when the earth moves fully into the Photon belt, and the Solstice sun is in alignment with the Galactic equator, will you be ready for lift off into a state of heart centred – Multi~Dimensionality?” (2012 – A Shift in Consciousness by the Ascension Temple of Purification).
Another talks about “celestial triggers such as supernovas and Earth’s alignment with Galactic Centre in the years leading up to 2012 to trigger the evolution of our species”. (Preparing for the Shift by Barry and Janae Weinhold, Ph.D.s)
Yet another “link” to 2012 and the Mayan calendar is a group of interdimensional, intergalactic ascended beings known as the Hathors, and a method known as the “Pituitary Dimensional Attunement”. (The Shift in Consciousness 2012: A Hathor Planetary Message on The Shamanic Rose)
Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies probably summed it up best when she wrote “the 2012 phenomenon is a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in”.
And cash in many have, and many more will.
“If we could destroy custom at a blow and see the stars as a child sees them, we should need no other apocalypse.” – G.K. CHESTERTON, “A Defence of Baby-Worship”
Mayan texts known to point to December 21 2012 are very rare – perhaps two. The one was found on Monument 6 from Tortuguero or El Tortuguero – an archaeological site in southernmost Tabasco, Mexico – and the full text is broken right after the date is mentioned, and nothing is thus known about what event is to take place on this date.
A second reference to the date is a carved fragment found at a southern Mexico ruin site. However, David Stuart, a specialist in Mayan epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin, said: “Some have proposed it as another reference to 2012, but I remain rather unconvinced.”
Also, it seems that Mayan calendars continue well past 2012. “What the Mayans really predicted for that date was that a war god would come down to earth, but without any notion of the end of the world,” said Guillermo Bernal, an investigator at the Centre of Maya Studies at Mexico’s National Autonomous University.
He said that the calendar anticipated another, 14th cycle, pointing to a pillar at the archaeological site of Palenque which cites a date further in the future: the birthday of a leader of the pre-Colombian city, in the year 4772 on the Roman calendar.
In “The World is Not Going to End in 2012, Anthropologists Explain”, Kyle Hill writes: “When people are scared or unsure, the doors for claims that fit their beliefs, even tangentially, swing open. Everything then falls into line with their motivated reasoning. It’s hard to get out of conspiracy-style thinking such as this because every piece of evidence against the conspiracy is considered part of the conspiracy.”
Religions have made many apocalyptic predictions throughout the ages. None have been realised – the only “end of world” scenario which is highly likely, in fact certain, will take place in about five billion years when our sun becomes a red giant and engulfs earth
For spiritual seekers, and everyone else on this planet, this whole debate at best presents another opportunity for spiritual questioning and growth … and further questioning. Except for that, I fear that December 21 2012 will simply be the day after December 20 2012 and the day before December 22 2012.
“Apocalypse is a frame of mind.” (Nicodemus) said then. “A belief. A surrender to inevitability. It is a despair for the future. It is the death of hope.” – Jim Butcher
The Mayan Calendar Simplified in Natural World by Alek;
The World is Not Going to End in 2012, Anthropologists Explain by Kyle Hill;
2011 Endtime Prophecy Net by Bill Kochman (aka The WordWeaver).
Modern Mayans: 2012 ‘end of the world scenario’ false by G Serrano;
Mayans never predicted world to end in 2012: experts by Pepe Cortes (Reuters on Friday December 2 2011);
Archaeologist Debunks Alleged Maya Prediction of Apocalypse by Helena Lozano in the Latin American Herald Tribune;
2012: The Long Count Calendar does not end on December 21 2112 by Johan Normark;
What the Ancient Maya Tell Us About 2012 by Mark Van Stone;
The Maya Cosmic Prophecy: From Sensation to Sensibility by Mark Van Stone
The 2012 Phenomenon: A historical and typological approach to a modern apocalyptic mythology. M.A. Thesis by Sacha Defesche
Mayan calendar by Joseph Waligore