There is some 2012 millenarianism growing out there proposing that cataclysmic or transformative events will occur in the year 2012. A lot of this talk centers on what some people see as a “prediction” made by the Mayan people that comes at the end-date of their Long Count calendar. That count of 5,125 years ends on December 21 or 23, 2012 (as best we can calculate).  Online, this discussion has become a cultural meme with interpretations of legends, scriptures, numerological constructions and prophecies.

I have written about it twice before here – once, a general piece this past January and a follow up on the calendar itself in March.

What brings me back to it now is the promotional materials I have been seeing this summer for a new movie “based” on all this.


2012 is an upcoming American science fiction schedule for release in mid-November.  The film is directed by Roland Emmerich who also did Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow.  If you have seen either of those films, you can guess that in the new one December 2012 will not be transformative but disastrous.

In the film, a global cataclysm will occur leading to the end of the world. Add to that a US government agency (the “Institute for Human Continuity”) which is taking the Noah’s ark approach to this by trying to build ships to ensure the survival of the human race.


section of the Mayan glyphs carved into La Mojarra Stela 1

I can’t fault Hollywood for choosing the dark side of the two hypotheses based on the ancient Mayan calendar that ends around the 2012 northern hemisphere winter solstice.  I suppose that the “dawning of a new age” sounds very “new age” and probably doesn’t suggest blockbuster special effects.

But there is that side in all the 2012 speculation too.  The antidote to the doomsday interpretation is that Earth and its people will undergo a positive physical or spiritual transformation which will begin with that solstice.

The idea that a global “consciousness shift” has been promoted by a number of authors.  Frank Waters wrote about it back in 1975 when it was definitely not a pop meme. He connected it with Native American  Hopi prophecies in Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth World of Consciousness (which I believe is out of print). Other books that addressed this before all the buzz include The Transformative Vision: Reflections on the Nature and History of Human ExpressionThe Mayan Factor and Harmonic Convergence.

Daniel Pinchbeck gave it a new age injection by linking it to beliefs about crop circles, alien abduction, and personal revelations in the popular 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. He is definitely on the shift-in-consciousness side of this.

Is there any science to this meme? If you believe that it is possible that there will be in 2012 a geomagnetic reversal which could be triggered by a massive solar flare, that sounds like science. This would be a flare with energy equal to 100 billion atomic bombs.

Any proof? Supporters point to observations that the Earth’s magnetic field is weakening, which indicates an impending reversal of the north and south magnetic poles. There are scientists who believe the Earth is overdue for a geomagnetic reversal, and has been for a long time, even since the time of the Mayans, because the last reversal was 780,000 years ago.

Scientists critical of this view say that a geomagnetic reversal would take up to 5,000 years to complete and do not start on any particular date. NASA expects a particularly strong solar maximum sometime between 2010 and 2012 but aren’t predicting that it will lead to a geomagnetic reversal. What may happen with a solar maximum is a lot of screwed up satellite and cellular phone communications.

Or, you can take my wife’s approach that December 2012 will be like the big Y2K scare and that the results will be not a bang, not even a whimper but that our GPS might not work for awhile and we won’t get any text messages – which is not all bad.