IS THE WORLD COMING TO AN END IN 2012?
-- Are the Mayan 2012 Apocalypse and the Christian Apocalypse of Revelation one and the same? Do they share common elements?
The two cataclysms share many common elements, and their End-Time predictions arguably fall on the same year, 2012.
Revelation prophesies that the central battle of the Christian Apocalypse will be fought in the Holy Land on the Plains of Armageddon-where many past wars have been waged-and will then engulf the world. Revelation's thousand-year countdown to Armageddon, however, does not begin until "the Angel" casts "Satan" into the bottomless pit, where he is then contained for 1,000 years. If the Christian Apocalypse were to commence on 2012-the date when the Mayan Apocalypse is to due to destroy us-what would have happened in 1012 to commence the 1,000-year countdown of Revelation?
Many Christians have viewed 1000 C.E. as marking the beginning of the Millenarian countdown. It was a time of famines so terrible they were called apocalyptic portents, when a new star was spotted in the heavens (the Supernova of 1006), followed in 1009 by a "rain of blood" when the sun turned red and failed to shine for three days. Unprecedented plagues broke out, and by the 1012 the Abbey of St-Vaast was having his apocalyptic visions of the End Time.
The most telling apocalyptic cataclysm came in 1012 when the satanically militant Muslim ruler, Egypt's Caliph Al Hakim destroyed the holiest edifice in Christendom, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Erected by Constantine, it reputedly occupied Golgotha, the Hill of Skulls, the site of Christ's crucifixion. The church's worshippers believed it even encompassed the ground and sepulcher where Christ was originally buried.
This mad, millenarian, Islamist ruler-who mysteriously vanished into the desert after desecrating Christian holy places-has long been identified with the 1000 year countdown. Al Hakim's atrocities, which culminated in 1012, eventually sparked the Crusades . . . which would go on for a thousand years and which, some would argue, are still waged today. Many people believe that this war with militant Islam will culminate on the Plains of Armageddon and consume the nations of earth in a global Armageddon.
Proponents of this interpretation sometimes point out another potentially history shaping event: the next US presidential election takes place on 2012.
-- What other common elements do the Maya Apocalypse and that of Revelation share besides a similar time-line?
There are striking similarities between the apocalyptic Four Horsemen and the Four Apocalyptic Gods of the Maya. In Revelation the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are responsible for humanity's annihilation. The White Horseman brings Pestilence, the Red Horseman War, the Black Horseman Famine and the Pale Horseman Death. The Pale Horseman unleashes the forces of hell. These horsemen each emerge from one of the four cardinal directions.
The Mayans too have four supernatural beings-in their case deities-who will participate in humanity's apocalyptic end. While they have also shared to varying degrees in the creation of the four previous "Sun Age" and in our own fifth era, they are inherently violent, perpetually vindictive and will on 2012 destroy our world just as they helped to obliterate the four previous Ages of Humanity. The four apocalyptic Mayan gods, just like the Four Horsemen, are identified by "colors" and come from the "four cardinal directions." The Blue Huitzilopochtli, the god of war, comes out of the south. The Red Xipe Totec, the god of gold, farming and spring, comes out of the west bringing famine. The Black Tezcatlipoca-the god of night, deceit, sorcery, hurricanes, discord and strife-presides over the north. The Black Tezcatlipoca will unleash the dark demons of the Mayan hell which on 12/21/2012 will traverse the Underworld Road, exit the Dark Rift of the Milky Way, overwhelm the earth and exterminate humankind.
The only god who is at all friendly to humanity is the White Quetzalcoatl, who is the god of light, mercy, wind and fire. He will probably not be of much help though. The Black Tezcatlipoca defeated him once before, ejecting him from his privileged position in the night sky, where he had reigned amid the stars. He has subsequently roamed the earth, sometimes serving as humanity's patron deity.
Quetzalcoatl is ambivalent toward us however. One thousand years ago, he incarnated a Toltec emperor and tried to bring humanity science, compassion and enlightenment as well as outlawing war and human sacrifice. The priests whipped up the multitudes, which rose up against him, and Quetzalcoatl-the so-called god-king-went into exile.
Having been betrayed by humanity 1,000 years ago, there is no evidence he will attempt a rescue on 2012
-- Are there any other similarities between Christianity and the Mayan religion?
Alejandro Murgula in "Why Not Teach Maya Creation Story, Too?" argues: "Some of the Popul Vuh will resonate deeply with those familiar with the Bible. A tremendous flood washes away an early race of humans; there is an overarching trinity of life, death and resurrection; good and evil are powerful forces, and man is central to creation."
In some respects the creation myth in the Popul Vuh-one of the most important Mayan religious texts-resembles that of Genesis. The earth is engulfed by silence and the dark. Only God and his subordinate deities possess light. They decide they need a world of trees, plants, animals-all lead by humanity. They struggle to find the right building material for the first man and woman. They settle on white and yellow corn, and the first man and woman emerge out of the first dawn.
In Genesis too God brings Light and creates the world, molding Adam out of dust, clay and God's divine breath. Eve, God forms out of Adam's rib. Humanity is to be the master of that newly invented world.
Then, of course, many Christian and Jewish sects believe the Maya and other native Americans are in fact a Lost Tribe of Israel.
Some scholars argue that one reason Mexico's native population adopted Christianity with so much passion and commitment was that the native religion and Christianity had much in common.
-- Did the Mayans have a serious scientific reason for their belief in a 2012 apocalypse?
The date they picked for their apocalypse is December 21, 2012. At that time our planet, moon and solar system will align with the heart of the galactic plane, in which scientists now know a supermassive black hole resides. The Mayans viewed that black abyss as a kind of hell world, out of which the Black Tezcatlipoca would unleash the dark demons of everlasting night, which would then descend on the earth and annihilate humankind. This alignment only occurs once every 26,000 years, which closely approximates the combined duration of the five Mayan "Sun Ages." I say "approximates" because the precise length of each of those "Sun Ages" is not known. They come to around 5200 years each, which would equal 26,000 years. In other words, the first "Sun Age" would have roughly coincided with the earth's last alignment with the galaxy's core. On 12/21/2012 at 11:11 PM Universal Time earth will experience its first galactic alignment in that 26,000 period. The Mayans believed that date marks the end of the Fifth Sun Age.
I'm not suggesting the Mayans viewed the universe exactly as we do or that they had our mathematical and the scientific sophistication-only that their vision of the 2012 apocalypse was based on closely studied astronomical observations and mathematical calculations as well as mystical divination.
-- Do any other religions predict the world will end on 2012?
The BAGAVAD GITA's author, Lord Krishna, died on 2/18/3102 BCE, which is very close to the year our Fifth Sun Age commenced. The Hindus believe that with Krishna's death the world began a new earthly cycle, "the Kali Yuga," which they think of as "the Degenerate Age." The Hindu mystic, scholar and religious leader, Sri Kalki Bhagavan, has told his million-plus followers that he is the Kalki Messiah, the 10th and final avatar of Vishna and that our "Degenerate Age" will end on 2012. He ties his calculations to the next Transit of Venus, which occurs on 2012.
Quetzalcoatl's followers coincidentally associated him with Venus, viewing him as its earthly avatar.
Michael Drosnin-author of the bestselling THE BIBLE CODE-says that "equidistant letter sequences in [the Hebrew version of] Genesis" reveal that the earth will be destroyed in 2012, conceivably by comets. His predictions are based on the calculations of three eminent Israeli mathematicians.
Rabbi Vitzhak Kaduri, a renown Israeli Kabbalistic elder and scholar, claims that the Hebrew messiah has incarnated himself in Israeli and will emerge shortly. If so, the Hebrew Apocalypse could well occur on 2012 . . . according to Rabbi Kaduri.
Iran's firebrand political leader, President Ahmadinejad, says the arrival of the Shiite's Mahdi-Messiah is also imminent. He could well arrive in time to disrupt the 2012 presidential elections.
The belief in a returning messiah is not only central to the Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Hebrew religions apocalypse, many Mayans have held that Quetzalcoatl will return for their 2012 apocalypse. His ability to counter that catastrophe however is problematic.
-- Some New Age pundits argue that the Mayans did not necessarily believe the world would end violently on 2012? Do they have a point?
The Mayan religion does not support that belief. The previous four "Sun Ages" did not go gentle. There is no reason to assume #5 will be the exception and not remain true to form.
-- Should we worry about global annihilation on 2012 for scientific reasons?
Yes, because it's happened before. Science has identified 20 times during which earthly life has faced a "mass extinction event" caused by a natural phenomena. On some occasions over 90 percent of the life forms on the planet was wiped out.
Extinction of one life form to make room for the next is the way life has evolved on Earth. For instance, the dinosaurs' extinction made possible the emergence and eventual domination of mammals . . . none of which is all that comforting if yours is the species facing extermination.
-- Does the fact it happened past mean it will happen again?
Absolutely - because many threats are cyclical in nature: Asteroid strikes, rise of poisonous atmospheric gases such as methane, geological upheavals such as super-volcanic detonations, ice ages and other radical climate changes are all events that occur in cycles.
It's been said that life is a circle - and in many respectcs the universe operates that way. A good example of that is the near-miss asteroid on March 3, 2009. This chunk of speeding space rock was the size of the one that destroyed 800 square miles of Siberian forest in the early 1900s. This one swept "darn close" as a JPL scientist put it. If it had hit a major metro area like New York or L.A., millions would have died.
The most frightening thing is that we only had about two days notice when it suddenly appeared closer to earth (about 48,000 miles) then most of our satellites . . . and it is coming back for another shot at us.
Five years ago an asteroid missed the earth by only 4,000 miles, and we had only 19 hours warning.
In 2036 a massive planet-killing asteroid is estimated to have 1 in 5500 in hitting us. Given the scope and duration of its orbit, that impact is "too close to call."
In 2013 the US will have a chance to approach the asteroid and attach a transponder to it, after which we could monitor its 2036 approach with scientific precision. We would have to begin that mission immediately, which no one is doing. The US seems indifferent to a potential extinction event 27 years from now.
Something even bigger could be coming at us and we are unable to spot it because space objects are tracked as they race across the line of sight - ones that come directly at us are not seen until they are almost on top of us.
-- Do all the natural apocalyptic threats emanate out of the heavens?
Many of them do. Not only comets and asteroids threaten humankind but apocalyptic solar storms in our own sun could end civilization as could a nearby star turning supernova. A major collision with black hole-such as the one at our galaxy's core-could prove lethal for life on earth . . . particularly if that collision involved another black hole.
Some of humanity's worst threats, however, come from the earth's bowels, where many mythologies have believed hell resides. It turns out those mythologies were right. Supervolcanos-whose colossal calderas are measured in terms of square miles, sometimes tens of square miles-are scattered around the earth, and their explosive potential is earth-shattering. One supervolcano in Lake Toba, Indonesia detonated 74,000 years ago. Blanketing the earth in ash and flaming ember, it destroyed 90 percent of homo sapiens. The rest found themselves in a world of sunless blackened skies, the air choked with drifting volcanic debris. They must have truly thought they were in hell-and they were.
Most are under or near the sea, but one landlocked supervolcano is in America's Yellowstone Park and is due to detonate every 600,000 years. The last time it blew was 640,000 years ago, so it's 40,000 years overdue-and it's making its impatience known. Groaning, sobbing, roaring, occasionally erupting, the pressure inside its magma chamber has increased dangerously during the last decade-to unprecedented levels. Eventually its chamber-roof will detonate, and the volcanic mountain will again blow apart with the force and velocity of a crashing asteroid and 100,000 thermonuclear bombs. Melting, demolishing and devouring the surrounding mountains, the explosion will expand its already massive cauldron-shaped volcanic crater, currently 34 by 45 miles. This vast depression is called "the Yellowstone Caldera"-or by tourists, "Yellowstone Park."
The last time the Yellowstone supervolcano blew, it ejected 1,000 cubic kilometers of flaming hell into the atmosphere, which, coming down, buried North America in two meters of smoldering debris. That detonation had also effectively exterminated many of the world's life forms and plunged the planet into black, volcanic winter . . .
Can anything be done to mitigate supervolcano disasters?
Some scientists believe that sophisticated slant-drilling could syphon off the caldera's pressure.
-- Is humankind more vulnerable to mass extinction that species from earlier periods?
Humanity is far more vulnerable to extinction events. In the past, life on the planet only had to worry about natural disasters. But when the dinosaurs passed, the mammals were able to rise, chief among them homo sapiens - a life form clever enough to be able to engineer its own mass extinction through nuclear weapons, chemically-induced climate change and genetically-engineered pandemics.
We must fear ourselves even more than natural catastrophes.
-- What do the Maya and the Toltecs in APOCALYPSE 2012 have to teach us about coping with global catastrophe?
The Maya faced and went through almost everything that our world is experiencing today, including religiously-motivated wars, climate change which produced the sorts of drought-driven food and water scarcity which now plagues Asia and Africa, particularly India. They faced internecine class conflict fueled by escalating inequities between the ruling and the laboring classes.
They faced the same tensions that many theocratic nations face today-the eternal conflict between science and religion. As drought ravaged their croplands, their religious/political leaders demanded not technological advances and organized efforts to improve food production and alleviate water scarcity but massive sacrifices of blood and treasure consecrated to their sky gods, including en masse human sacrifices. If the Maya and their sister civilizations had put that effort into additional aqueducts, new irrigation systems and crop diversification, they might not have gone under. Instead they cut out hearts and hacked off heads.
-- How knowledgeable were the Maya and their sister cultures?
The ancient Mesoamerica Maya-Aztec cultures were more advanced in the science of astronomy than their contemporaries in Europe and Asia. They even took astronomy into consideration how they laid out the core of their cities, placing buildings not just taking into consideration the four cardinal directions but placing observatories strategically to study the sky.
No other ancient society recorded as accurate observations of celestial phenomena as the Maya (and later Aztec) did, and they measured time with obsessively elaborate precision. Their Long-Count Calendar, which predicts our world will come to an end on 2012, was infinitely more advanced than anything the Old World had when Cortez conquered the Aztecs militarily in the 16th century.
-- Did their astronomical observations have a practical purpose?
In some regards, they did. In ancient times, the sky was an integral part of daily life - people looked to the sky not just to see whether they needed an umbrella, but for guidance on how to cross a sea, the route caravans took, when crops were to be planted and harvested, and even to predict future events.
-- What could the Maya have known that we don't?
The answer to that question goes back to the basic premise of how our universe operates:
Everything operates in a circle.
What goes around, comes around.
Which means that whatever they saw . . .
-- Could the Maya have discerned the nature of our 12/21/2012 cataclysm?
They could have conceivably witnessed a passing asteroid, whose approach we're ignorant of, and surmised it would return and visit its violence on the earth on . . . 12/21/2012.
-- How would the Maya have viewed such a celestial visitor?
They say all celestial objects as gods, none of whom were benign in their attitudes toward humankind. Quetzalcoatl was viewed as the friendliest, but he was defeated and displaced in the heavens by a black god of the death and the everlasting night,Tezcatlipoca. The Maya believed that when the 2012 Long-Count Calendar ran out, Tezcatlipoca would smash the heavenly gates, that he and his infernal legions would scorch the Underworld Road which leads via the constellation, Sagittarius, and scourge the earth-and their final scorching scourge would be our Last Day, the One World's Last Day . . . 12/21/2012.
-- If, for argument's sake, these prophesies are wrong, are we wrong to brood about the world's end?
Quite the contrary. As we have just observed, Planet Earth lives in a shooting gallery, its interior is a species-killing bomb waiting to detonate and humanity itself is capable of species-wide annihilation, including self-annihilation. We have enough nuclear weapons to destroy ourselves many times over, and the genetically-engineered plague viruses could also end civilization as we know it. We can never spend too much time planning for catastrophe-prevention and consequence-management.
Robert Heinlein said that "earth is too small and fragile a basket for humanity to put all its eggs in." Many scientists have argued that for humanity to survive the next millennium, we must spread our species into space-onto other planets.
If nothing else, the Mayan prophesy of 2012 should be viewed as a profoundly important wake-up call, the ultimate cautionary tale.