FAQ: Apocalypse 2012 Explained
If you happened to search Amazon.com’s bestsellers recently for “2012,” most of the top hits would have been guide books of various sorts – how to visit Disney World, how to ace the GMAT, etc. The number one book, however, was by a little-known author and won’t even be published until August: “The Source Field Investigations: The Hidden Science and Lost Civilizations Behind the 2012 Prophecies” by David Wilcock. At 528 pages, the tome will be anything but light reading. And it will be the latest of hundreds of books, videos, conferences and related products tied to predictions about 2012.
The 2012-ers have pulled together archaeology about Mesoamerica, New Age spirituality, UFO stories about extraterrestrials, and left-field understandings about science to produce a prophecy that something Really Big will happen on December 21, 2012.
It's a confusing hodgepodge of ideas and predictions — so we've simplified matters. Read our FAQ — everything you need to know about Apocalypse 2012.
What’s special about the predictions about 2012?
Daniel Wojcik is a professor at the University of Oregon and the author of “The End of the World As We Know It: Faith, Fatalism, and Apocalypse in America.” He’s been tracking the 2012-er phenomenon for a while. He says it shares qualities found in End Times predictions through the ages, but is very much the unique product of the Internet age where out-of-mainstream ideas can easily find an audience.
“The 2012 phenomenon is something new on a grand scale, as an eclectic and countercultural apocalyptic, in contrast to Christian evangelical apocalypticism,” he said. “And while 2012 is similar to Y2K fears, it is distinctive, much more of a millennial smorgasbord, a kaleidoscopic array of ancient and new prophecy beliefs.”
Plus, he said, it’s fun.
“I sense that a lot of people who are interested in 2012 are just plain interested because it is entertaining and weird, a new and alternative apocalyptic angle, and the ideas are so X-File, esoteric, and all over the map of belief, that you can find whatever you want in it, and then add your own doomsday ingredients to the millennial stew,” he said. “There is not only good old doomsday fear here, but also the hope of worldly transformation.”
Is there anything unarguable about the hoopla over 2012?
Pretty much everybody agrees on this much: The Maya peoples who spread across what is now Mexico, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala used a unique calendar that strung years together in long cycles. Many mainstream scholars agree that one of these cycles started in 3114 BC and will end next year.
Why the attention on December 21?
That’s where the disagreements start. Some of the people who study the Mayan calendar say that’s the day the current cycle will end. Others say picking the exact day is more problematic, given a diversity of opinion even among the Maya about the exact dates of the calendar. December 21 happens to be the date of next year’s winter solstice, which is a big deal for many of the 2012-ers. And it’s also tied to another real astronomical event: The earth and sun will be roughly lined up with the center of the Milky Way galaxy.
What did the Maya think would happen when the calendar cycle ended?
Many Mayan scholars say it wasn't a much bigger deal than when the odometer on your car goes to all zeros. Others say there are interesting prophesies found in the Mayan record about events at the end of the cycle – stories as relevant to us as Norse tales of Ragnarok. And then there are those – the folks selling the books and attending the conferences – who say that the Maya were on to something profound.
Depends on which 2012-er you talk to. Here's a mash-up: The people who created the Mayan calendar were extraterrestrials who wanted to let us Earthers know exactly when there would be a particular lineup of the Solar System and a beam emanating from the Galactic Center. That beam will affect human consciousness in either terrible or amazing ways. Maybe it will also have physical effects on the planet. And maybe how people respond will have something to do with whether we experience a catastrophe or a positive transformation. Maybe, the 2012-ers say, we can all help midwife a new spiritual age. The idea that everyday folk can influence how the End Times story comes out, what Wojcik calls "avertive apocalypticism," is central to the narrative for many true believers.
Who started this story?
A few scholars started paying attention to 2012 in the 18th Century, after Mayan inscriptions about their calendar were translated. But the modern circus probably started with former University of California art history professor, Jose Arguelles, credited as a co-founder of Earth Day in 1970. He started pushing his Mayan-linked ideas in the 1980s. Arguelles took an unusual astronomical event – a lineup of the planets on one side of the sun – and spun up the idea that August 16-17, 1987 would see a "Maya-Galactic Harmonic Convergence." His books and conferences got plenty of media attention and tens of thousands of people held mass events during the "convergence" that made for entertaining TV.
His prediction was tied to the Mayan calendar, and he subsequently became one of the better known promoters of the 2012 phenomenon. But Arguelles will not be around next year either to apologize or tell the world "I told you so." According to his organization's website, he died last month after saying that: " "I have done all that I could on this planet. I am being called to assist in the closing of the cycle from the Other Side."
If the Maya were so smart, why did their civilization crumble? Why were their descendents utterly defeated by a relative handful of Spaniards (and the illnesses they carried to the New World)?
Even Mayan scholars who reject any mystical interpretations of the culture struggle to explain why a remarkably successful civilization fell apart the way it did. Arguelles said the "seed Maya" with the real wisdom were galactic travelers who had moved on by the time the Mayan civilization collapsed. Some 2012-ers say the "seed Maya" will be back next year.
What kinds of groups have bought into the prophesies?
Here’s a partial list of the ideas that Wojcik says have mind-melded with the 2012 phenomenon: Planet X, Indigo Children, crop circles, I Ching, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s Noosphere, and the writings of UFO-ologist Terence McKenna, who predicted that human knowledge would spike to infinity on December 21, 2012. In many cases, the predictions claim that the world as we know it will end. There is, as you’d expect, considerable disagreement even among the true believers about what will come next.
Can I pay money for 2012-related products?
Does Ursa Major circle Polaris? Apparently capitalism will survive into the New Age. You want a full set of “Mayan style crystal skulls?” Only $298. How about your very own Mayan Prophesy Medallion “with a museum quality Cherry Wood pocket case?” Only $55. Or maybe you want to join a community of like-minded people who would survive the Coming Whatever in specially constructed shelters? Pony up $25,000 for a membership.