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The End of the World as We Know It: The Significance of 2012

Updated on November 14, 2019
CJStone profile image

CJ Stone is an author, columnist and feature writer. He has written seven books, and columns and articles for many newspapers and magazines.

You may have heard people talk about 2012. Some people say it is the year when the world will end.

By Steve Andrews & CJ Stone

Apocalypse When?

Some say it is December the 21st 2012, the winter solstice, while others suggest it might be the 22nd or the 23rd. It depends on your interpretation of the start date. Some people are even more specific, and say that it will take place at 11.11am on one of these dates.

It is when the clock stops ticking and the apocalypse begins. The end of humanity as we know it.

Or, then again - depending on your point of view - it might be the point when us human beings evolve, finally, into what we were meant to be: higher dimensional beings with our place in the cosmos finally assured.

There is a third interpretation, of course. This suggests that nothing much will happen. We will go to bed on the evening of the 21st as usual, wake up on the morning of the 22nd, get out of bed and get on with our day. This is not to say that nothing will change. One thing will definitely change, and that is the date.


But, before we get to the end, maybe we should say something about the beginning.

This was on the 11th of August 3114 BC.

Just to be clear: we are talking about the Mayan calendar here, which began its metronomic tick on the 11th of August 3114 BC, and ends on December the 21st (or thereabouts) 2012.

It was, until the advent of modern physics and the computer, the most accurate time-keeping device on the planet.

The Maya were a Pre-Columbian people of Central America and Southern Mexico who were responsible for a number of cultural innovations. They developed a writing system, and produced a large number of books, most of which, unfortunately, were burned by Spanish missionaries. They created a style of monumental architecture, including stepped pyramids. They lived in great cities and had intensive farming. They traded and interacted with various other peoples for more than a thousand miles in either direction, for more than a thousand years, and had a profound influence on all cultures in the region. They had a highly accurate system of astronomy and astrology, by which they studied the movement of the stars.


So what, exactly, is the Mayan calendar, why it is so accurate, and what is the significance of the 2012 date?

Put simply, the calendar is really a number of different calendars which interact with each other like a series of interlocking wheels. There’s a 365 day calendar, a 260 day calendar, a Venus cycle, a moon cycle and a sun cycle, plus one or two more obscure calendars that no one understands as yet.

The 365 day calendar is called the Haab, while the 260 day calendar is called the Tzolkin. Both calendars are divided up into months and days: the Haab into 18 months of 20 days, with five days left over, the Tzolkin into 13 months of 20 days. Both calendars were used simultaneously, so a Mayan date was written as a combination of four figures, the day and the month of the Tzolkin, and the day and the month of the Haab.

The 260 day calendar might represent the period of human gestation – the nine months of pregnancy – the combination of Haab dates and Tzolkin dates then being used to determine character traits in the individual human being, in much the same way as our astrological system in the West. No one date could be repeated for a total of 18,980 days or 52 years.

The Maya counted in increments of 20 – duodecimal as opposed to decimal - and were using the figure zero before anyone in the West had discovered it.

On top of the 52 year cycle, the Maya also used something called the Long Count, a highly complex counting system able to take a measure of days and months and years over periods extending to thousands of years, starting with that initial date of the 11th of August 3114 BC.

Quite why history should have begun at this particular date is a mystery, but according to Mayan belief, the current cycle will end on the 21st December 2012.

This has led a number of modern researchers to speculate on what, exactly, will happen on this fateful day.

James Redfield

Evidence of their culture extends back to at least 1800 BC, but they reached the height of their power between about 250-900 CE, after which, for some inexplicable reason, they disappeared from the cultural map. This has led to some fanciful theories about what happened to the Maya. The most famous of these is contained within the novel, The Celestine Prophecy, by James Redfield, which has the entire Mayan race reaching “an energy vibration level” and evolving into a new spiritual dimension.

The problem with this is that, actually, the Maya didn’t disappear. The Maya still live in the region as they always have done. They just stopped building large buildings, that’s all. They went back to being farmers.

James Redfield illustrates a common problem we have in assessing Mayan culture, in that a lot of people, with no real understanding of what they have to say, have loaded a pile of cultural baggage on top of them, and thus distorted their message. So, for example, as well as having the Maya disappear, James Redfield also has them located in Peru instead of Mexico, and reading and writing in Aramaic (a Biblical language) instead of their own, native, Mayan tongue.

We add these details as a warning. Much of what you may read about the Mayan calendar has been messed about by people with various agendas and is quite simply not to be trusted.

José Argüelles

One of them, José Argüelles (born January 24, 1939), has recently changed his name to Valum Votan. He is one of the main people who have brought the date of 2012 to public attention.

Books by Argüelles include the best seller, The Mayan Factor, Surfers of the Zuvuya and the recently published Time and the Technosphere: The Law of Time in Human Affairs.

He believes that the world is in the terrible state it is in because we have been using the wrong calendar and are consequently out of sync with the cosmos. Because the end of the cycle is in the year 2012, in order to survive, Argüelles advises that the world needs to revise its calendar system in a return to natural time very soon or face the consequences.

However, it has to be pointed out that the calendar that Arguelles recommends is NOT the Mayan calendar, but a new calendar of his own devising, consisting of thirteen months of 28 days, with one day left over.

On his website, in his new identity as Valum Votan, he says:

“As Valum Votan, I am closer of the cycle. What does this mean? I complete the prophecy cycle of Pacal Votan and Quetzalcoatl, which defines the year 2012 as the conclusion of a schedule of historic and evolutionary cycles. How? My purpose is to further the cause of the Earth and her biosphere by calling for a return of the deviant human species to the correct cycles of the natural galactic order.”

As to his question "What does this mean?" - your guess is as good as mine.

Re-Evolution by The Shamen featuring Terence McKenna

Terence McKenna

Another author who has said a lot about 2012 is the late Terence McKenna (1946 – 2000) who perhaps became most famous for his collaboration “Re-Evolution” with the psychedelic dance band The Shamen, on their hit album “Boss Drum.”

McKenna made many references to the subject of eschatology, which is a mixture of theology and philosophy with reference to the final events in the history of the world.

On the Art Bell radio show of 5/22/97 McKenna said:

“There is only one point in the entire cycle where ... the universe is actually evolving some kind of process of self-metamorphosis, and human beings indicate that we have crossed some boundary into a new era, a new epoch of ever greater acceleration into this process of self-revelation. ... that point occurs on this solstice date in 2012”.

Conspiracy theorist and author David Icke has had plenty to say about 2012 as well. In his latest book – The David Icke Guide to the Global Conspiracy (and how to end it) (David Icke Books) – he says, “Another theme to be aware of is the gathering obsession with the year 2012. This is destined to become near-hysteria as that date approaches.”

Icke thinks it is to do with “a process of transformation” and he adds: “…but I say 2012 is a ‘window’ of change, not a year, day or hour when everything suddenly flips.”

Michael Tsarion

Alternative historian and conspiracy author Michael Tsarion in Atlantis, Alien Visitation & Genetic Manipulation (Angels At Work Publishing) says: “The ancient Mayan calendar ended at the year 2012 and some scholars have forecasted this date as the end of the world. Indeed, the way things are going, it could be. But more likely, it will be the world as we have known it that comes to an end.”

Michael believes that long ago an alien race of beings known as the Nephilim intermixed their genes with humans and thus “evil” entered the world. He says this happened in Atlantean times and that ever since these beings have been trying to escape from this planet where they have been imprisoned because the beings who pursued them put a “Stargate” around the Earth to stop them leaving.

One of his forecasts for 2012 is that:

“The progeny of the Atlanteans succeed in regaining all their technological hardware, especially that necessary for space travel. They manage to crack the code and break through the Stargate and prepare for departure. In so doing, they come out into the open more than ever, startling the human race who cannot comprehend what is happening. When they are out of range, they destroy the planet and all that lives on it.”

Astrologer, visionary and futurist author Michael St. Clair (born 28 February 1959), commonly known as St. Clair, in his book Zen of Stars – Futures of Planet Earth (Trafford Publishing) tells us:

“Many things were predicted for the end of 2012, and I can guarantee you it is not the end of the world, although I am not certain how many of us will be around in 2013. This depends on our stated intent, which we must communicate to the Cosmos. Prayers are useless at that time, whereas setting intent and letting it be known will work quantum physical miracles…”

He also adds:

“I see 2012 as a powerful and empowering year. Granted, there could be some rather disturbing weather patterns and super storms, as well as extreme unrest when looking at the position of Uranus, Pluto, and Saturn; yet on the whole I detect a strategic breakthrough for the entire planet Earth by the end of 2012.”

Philip Plait

You should notice one thing about all of these authors, that they all use a lot of words but end up saying very little. Also, with the exception of Jose Arguelles, who has made up a brand new calendar system based loosely upon the Mayan calendar, none of them is actually referring to the Mayan calendar in relationship to the date.

That is, like James Redfield, these authors may be using the date for their own entirely separate agendas.

There is one more possible interpretation, as suggested by the astronomer and sceptic Philip Plait.

The Mayan calendar works as a series of cycles. In other words the Maya understood the cyclical nature of time and like an ordinary calendar, which goes from December 31st to January 1st every year, or the milometer of your car, which goes from a series of 9s to a series of zeros in one click, that 2012 date might just represent when the calendar “clicks over” into a brand new cycle again.

Not an end, in fact: a beginning.

Ten Books About 2012

1) 2013: The End of Days or a New Beginning: Envisioning the World After the Events of 2012 (Paperback) by Marie D. Jones

2) 2012: Crossing the Bridge to the Future (Paperback) by Mark Borax

3) The Mayan Code: Time Acceleration and Awakening the World Mind (Paperback) by Barbara Hand Clow (Author), Carl Johan Calleman (Foreword)

4) The Mystery of 2012: Predictions, Prophecies & Possibilities (Hardcover) by Gregg Braden (Author), Peter Russell (Author), Daniel Pinchbeck (Author), Geoff Stray (Author), John Major Jenkins (Author)

5) The Spontaneous Healing of Belief: Shattering the Paradigm of False Limits (Hardcover) by Gregg Braden (Author)

6) Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: The True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date (Paperback) by John Major Jenkins (Author), Terence McKenna (Author)

7) The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness (Paperback) by Carl Johan Calleman (Author), Jose Arguelles (Author)

8) Return of the Children of Light: Incan and Mayan Prophecies for a New World (Paperback) by Judith Bluestone Polich (Author)

9) Serpent of Light: Beyond 2012 (Paperback) by Drunvalo Melchizedek (Author)

10) 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl (Hardcover) by Daniel Pinchbeck (Author)

2012: Not To Be Confused With

1) The Apocalypse. A series of predictions contained within the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, which some people claim is coming into being now. However, the Book of Revelations does not specify a time, and, according to some authorities, is a parable about its own time, not a prediction about the future.

2) Armageddon. A mountain in Israel where the final battle between the forces of good and evil will supposedly take place, according to the Book of Revelation. Again, no time period is specified.

3) The Age of Aquarius. This refers to the Precession of the Equinox’, a process by which the Earth’s 26,000 year wobble on its axis can be recognised by the movement of star signs on the horizon at specific times of the year. We are currently in the Age of Pisces, and about to move into the Age of Aquarius. As to when this will happen, this is hotly debated. Some say not for another 150 years at least.

4) The Rapture. This is a predicted future event in which all the followers of Jesus will be lifted bodily into heaven at the end of the world. Unfortunately, this supposed event doesn’t appear in the Bible, and is rejected by many Christians.

5) Nostradamus. The great prophet made a number of very vague pronouncements which can – and have been – applied to every age since he wrote them. It is possible to read anything you like into Nostradamus.

© 2008 Christopher James Stone


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