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Beyond 2012

Gary Lachman has written a great piece for Seed Magazine titled “2013: Or, What to Do When the Apocalypse Doesn’t Arrive” – an excellent read. I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to predictions about 2012, and it seems the majority of TDG readers agree. In the article, Gary points out the long history of expectations of massive world changes, giving the 2012 hysteria some historical context:

While I’ve been lucky enough to have missed anything like the French or Russian revolution and the First World War, my own lifetime has been peppered with quite a few millennial expectations. Growing up in the 1960s, through the media I was aware of the modern Brethren of the Free Spirit in places like Greenwich Village and Haight-Ashbury. I was also aware that something called the Age of Aquarius either was on its way or had already arrived (the jury is still out on this). Linked to this was the idea that the fabled lost continent of Atlantis – which I read about in comic books and fantasy paperbacks — was due to surface sometime in 1969. Both were heralds of a coming golden age, when “peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars.” By the early seventies such anticipations had fizzled, but in 1974 they were briefly revived when comet Kohoutek sparked new interest in apocalyptic beliefs. A Christian group called the Children of God — who, incidentally, advocated “revolutionary lovemaking” (read: promiscuity) — distributed leaflets announcing doomsday for January of that year, which my friends and I read with interest. Predictably, Kohoutek fizzled as well. That same year, the science writers John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann published The Jupiter Effect, a bestseller predicting the devastating results (earthquakes, tidal waves, etc.) of a curious alignment of the planets on one side of the sun. When the alignment took place and nothing happened, they wrote a second book, The Jupiter Effect Reconsidered, explaining what went wrong. Not surprisingly, this sequel didn’t sell as well.

There were other millennial dates too. Remember the solar eclipse of 1999 and Y2K, the millennium bug? But the most significant millennial date so far in my lifetime surely was 1987, the year of the Harmonic Convergence — another planetary alignment — which was seen as the kickoff for the most anticipated apocalyptic event in recent years, the year 2012.

Gary also points out that the 2012 meme includes two of the major responses of civilizations to periods of crisis:

In his Study of History, an account of the rise and fall of civilizations, the historian Arnold Toynbee argues that there are two stereotypical responses to what he calls a “time of troubles,” the crisis points that make or break a civilization. One is the “archaist,” a desire to return to some previous happy time or golden age. The other is the “futurist,” an urge to accelerate time and leap into a dazzling future. That both offerings are embraced today is, I think, clear. The belief that a saving grace may come from indigenous non-Western people untouched by modernity’s sins is part of a very popular “archaic revival.” Likewise, the trans- or posthumanism that sees salvation in some form of technological marriage between man and computer is equally fashionable. The 2012 scenario seems to partake of both camps: It proposes a return to the beliefs of an ancient civilization in order to make a leap into an unimaginable future. What both strategies share, however, is a desire to escape the present.

What do you think? Is Gary on the money here, or do you think that 2012 really is going to bring world-shaking changes? Head over to Seed for the full article.

  1. I’ll bet my first day of 2013 its not.
    He’s bang on.

    I guess if aliens came forward and said ‘Hay Human’s, err we have a bit of a problem. A gamma ray burst occurred 5000 years ago 5001 light years away. You havn’t seen it yet because you can’t, but here’s the data so you’ll have to trust us, your atmosphere is going to be burnt away next year’. Under that sort of situation i might be a bit more intrigued. The idea that something bad (or good) is going to happen because some people interpret a calendar in a certain way doesn’t float my boat.

    I would say never on a month of sunday’s is anything geological or astrophysical going to happen, but then if an especially bad earthquake occurs anywhere on the planet are we to say ‘yep, told you so’. What if the Asian Tsunami had happened in 2012? I’m quite confident there will be bad weather events and the likelihood of terrible earthquakes somewhere is as high as ever. Globally catastrophic events are as likely to happen in 2011 as 2012 or 20whatever.

    Given the enormous shift in perspective many people will be asked to undertake if this hypothesis is correct i think it is only fair that enough information be provided beforehand to judge at the start of 2013 whether it is was right. Else at the start of 2013 let it be dropped forever like the cults it has parallels with. It will be pretty boring if come 2013 forums such as this are littered with retrospective grabs at any event to justify ego’s.

    1. Who the hell invited you guys anyway?? 😛
      Sheesh… can’t a people have their end of the world without nosy foreigner wanting a piece of the fun??

      Remember: the prediction was done in Mexico. There are myths about different cycles of birth and destruction that not necessarily should apply to the entire world. Take for instance the tale of the 5th sun (Aztec). They represented it with the symbol of Tonatiuh Ollin. And the idea was that the current civilization would be destroyed by tremors (Ollin means movement in nahuatl).

      And sure enough, we had a very nasty tremor on Sept 19, 1985 down here. Maybe to an hypothetical Aztec shaman “seeing” those events through shrooming or other divination method, this catastrophe would have been interpreted as the end of *the* world; after all, Tenochtitlan was to them the belly of the world.

      But wait: “Ollin” (movement) could also be interpreted as social movements, as social turmoil. And trust me: we’re experiencing A WHOLE LOT of that right now.

      So yeah, maybe something interesting is going to happen after all. But maybe it will only have a local impact. 2010 brings the “cellebration” of the 200th anniversary of the Mexican independency, and the 100th anniversary of the Mexican revolution.

      …And there are quite a lot of people who are saying “1810, 1910… hell, let’s keep the tradition and start some s*$t up in 2010!!”.

      So maybe this 2012 business is a private part-eh! y’all 😉

  2. Eve of Destruction?
    I’m of two minds on this.

    First, I agree and can look back at the Y2K doomsday that never happened as a good example of what happens when this many people get headlong into a flight of panic. I also recall the Eve of Destruction that many of us foresaw coming after both the 1963 JFK assassination and those of MLK and RFK in 1968.

    But between those two ages… the ’60s and Y2K, we saw the end of the war in Vietnam, the fall Berlin Wall and the liberation of those held under the thumb of Soviet communism. There was a period of good will that included the signing of a peace accord between Israel and Egypt and later, President Clinton’s initiative that came within a hair’s width of seeing an agreement between Arafat’s Palestine and Israel.

    As for 2012?

    Things today look just as dark, if not darker, than in the depths of the late ’60s. One major problem is that today’s crop of world leaders were born after WW2 and the death and destruction that was visited upon humanity from this conflict.

    We also seem to have set aside the understanding of MAD, Mutual Assured Destruction, when it comes to the use of nuclear weapons. It’s like there are those who really believe that a nuclear conflict is not only survivable and winnable, but even a preferred method of achieving nationalistic aims.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the general mood of the people of this planet has turned dark as well. We no longer trust our leadership and suspect them of betraying us with chemtrails, 9.11, voting fraud, and a scheme to sell out the individual nations in the name of a NWO.

    So, even if we can keep a fool’s finger off the button, we may well simply implode of our own design.

    Finally, 2012 just looks like a good year, right now anyway, for the juncture of so many of these issues.

    So… maybe the Mayan calendar is a bunch of hooey. But even if it is, we look bound to some horrible act of self-destructive activity with or without it.

    I really and truly fear that this cup will not pass this time around.

    I hope I’m wrong.

    1. I agree
      We have serious problems, and 2012 looks like a good a year as any other to start facing them in order to solve them; so if people need to believe in Mayan predictions to agree on something… so be it.

  3. last sentence
    Of course the prediction of imminent doom is nothing new. And the Mayan calendar thing is not even a good one, Y2K was a little better I thought.

    But the last sentence in the quote

    What both strategies share, however, is a desire to escape the present.

    that is on the money I think, in more ways than one. Lots of people are not happy, and don’t want others to be happy either. So they predict, even desire, the end of the world. That will show the happy idiots.

  4. Not Just Right….
    Gary’s more right than he intends to be in quoting Toynbee. The effect noted is seen at crucial points, certainly, and is made memorable by the incipient crisis du jour. Less overtly memorable but just as valid is our day to day future shocked, techno-socio-economic angst brought on by being owners of minds recently evolved to be tool makers, suddenly recognizing the fact that our tools (technological, social, financial) are remaking us. We alternate between the rush of riding the wave and the fear of getting caught under the curl, both of these requiring more and more effort yet falling farther and farther behind as we are increasingly unequipped to deal with the tsunami of infotainment through which we experience the world now. Go back and look at Gary’s second section re: Toynbee. Now, keep it in mind but remove reference to volcanic terminal world/social crises and replace them with a slow rolling boil of a daily news feed. Now go through a stack of TDG’s news pages covering any ten days over the entire life of the project. We too are continually attempting to re-examine, redefine and understand the world and ourselves using data from the historical/mythological and/or techno-scientific/futurism perspectives. We’re doing exactly what Toynbee says, and for the same reasons, except we are living in a constant state of heightened awareness about our precarious existence and its instability in the gale force winds of change (veter peremen, for any cyrillic scorpions reading). We are living in a world of weird and that weird is accelerating exponentially while we are capable only of linear increase. Things are out of hand, and so we don’t go out of mind we seek to anchor ourselves between what came before (factual or not) and what’s to come (via progress and/or mysterious manifestation), and when these fail us we supplement our present perception with tales of cryptos, mythos and kybernetikos — distancing ourselves from our future shock by giving it names, pictures, and most of all, stories, stories which last a few minutes and then end, and then we go on to the next, and so on, day after day. We’re staying afloat in a boat made of Grail. Oh yes, Gary is right and Toynbee is right on, and where else should you read this but in TDG, where you come to weather the storm by reaching forward and back, just as Toynbee said. One pill, two pill, red pill, blue pill, I for one will choose free will. Ask not for whom the bells chime, we are only immortal for a limited time. 2012? Why, it’s just the century-prior anniversary of the coming of 2112. Isn’t it? Don’t set down your copy of TDG, you might lose it. You may never get the answers, and frankly for most of what’s here there will never be any final and definitive answers, and perhaps we really don’t want them anyway as we’d just seek more unknown. But to make it through the coming turbulent everything of the rest of the future (that part of the future which hasn’t already arrived) you’ll need a firm grasp on the questions that tie us together with time line, and you can get your Daily Grail of questions to quaff right here. Why else did you think TDG existed?

  5. Toynbee and Changes in Consciousness
    There’s a section buried in the unabridged version of Toynbee’s A Study of History that points in a different direction from his main thesis, when he explores the sources of his own inspiration.

    See Arnold J. Toynbee, Time Traveler if you’re unfamiliar with this side of the historian.

    I believe we’re living at a fairly unusual moment in our particular probable physical reality, one in which a major transition is currently in process.

    This transition has been and is called many things by many people; I tend to refer to it simply as The Change but note that not everyone will experience it, while it is being and will be experienced quite differently by different people.

    Per my understanding, this has no specific year such as 2012 associated with it, but will be more or less complete towards the end of this century.

    I find Toynbee’s unusual personal experiences relevant, even though he experienced these beginning nearly a century ago, mostly as a young man, as those experiences reflected what could be called a variation of ego-transcendence — a change in consciousness.

    There are different degrees of such changes and many variations, but what they have in common is a loosening of the strictures of ego, that wall of self that has enclosed many people for a very long time.

    This is a frightening prospect for a good many, and fear can generate all kinds of nasty behavior.

    Certainly we are still living through an acceleration of technological change, but this outward change can be seen as symbolic of inner changes. This would be more apparent, perhaps, if we didn’t live in societies that have been so strongly focused outwardly, a development that has intensified in the last few centuries and is intimately associated with the modern and tightly restricted ego.

    In the West, a number of people broke through this in the 60s, but some of them also managed to melt their egos down in the process, with powerful hallucinogens — not just Syd Barrett. A reaction soon set in, but this seems to be part of the overall pattern, as though we are dealing with waves.

    LSD is not required to partake of The Change; what is required, at a minimum, is learning to quiet the mind.

    Bill I.

  6. The Great Disappointment
    Every generation, and every faith, has its end-of-the-world mythos and prophecies, and none of them have ever come true. My favourite has always been the Millerites in the 19th century – when the second coming of Jesus didn’t occur on the predicted date, they just moved the date. 🙂

    It was fittingly called “The Great Disappointment” – which is exactly what people expecting anything to happen in 2012 are in for.



    1. inflation
      Indeed. Things are getting better though – there is no an end-of-the-world mythos every few years. We have the frequency down to less than 2 years I think.

      Or am I behind the times, do we have more than one end of the world at the same time?

      People are getting good at this.

      1. Weeeeeell
        I tell you, I am sort of torn on the whole 2012 issue.

        While it is apparent that things are chaging drastically and, at least to me, it is apparent that it is going to continue to do so, I can’t equate that with catastrophic change. Now, it is important to realize that the doom and gloom stuff surrounding 2012 didn’t start until relatively recently.

        [quote]Many prophecies mark the 2012 as the final year of mankind,the old Mayas,Nostradamus and many others…Some prophecies say that this may not be the Apocalypse it only represents a change in human conscience,but it will be followed by many disasters which will alter the human perspective of life.[/quote][url]

        The above quote is what I personally believe. However, I don’t know that anything perceptible will happen on December 21, 2012. I tend to think that it will be something we look back on, say, about 20 years later and say, “Yeah, that’s when it all changed.”

        1. Meh!!
          To be blunt I am sick to death of 2012.
          If something happens around that date it will almost certainly be seen as “prophecy fulfilled” and if there is one thing I hate it is self fulfilled prophecy.
          To me it is not the date or event that I find interesting it is how people react to this sort of thing. I find it interesting and also frustrating how we so easily become vulgar fatalists to superstition when the cry of “it’s the end of the world” gets raised.
          So what scientific data do we have in regards to 2012? Hmmm well none really.
          It is all hear say and conjecture. Now do not get me wrong I have an open mind or I would not be on this forum to start with but it is not so open that my brains fall out.
          A motto I like is that of Gene and David from the Paracast “separate the signal from the noise” and what you have left is the interesting bit if anything remains at all. In the case of 2012 I see very little signal and a hell of a lot of noise. So is it the end of the world? Well that I do not know. Is it an interesting ancient prophecy? Hmm well maybe. But from what I can tell it has be either A/ taken out of context or
          B/ blown out of all proportion.
          The bit that really gets my blood boiling is when ancient Sumerian texts are dumped in with it. It drives me nuts.
          Any way I am rambling.
          So wait and see I say but I really do not expect to see anything out of the ordinary on the 23/12/2012.


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