Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Friday, December 21, 2012

World's End

July 20, 1956 'Emergency Edition' of The Buffalo Evening News, a faux headline that was part of Operation Alert, a US civil defense exercise in the 1950s, was a dress rehearsal for potential nuclear annihilation. Image Source: Conelrad.

Why is the end of the world so popular? It is a resilient human expectation which has transcended all times, all cultures, all religions. If the end of the world weren't such a frightening message, it would amout to a comforting reminder of human commonality.

Image Source: Oxcgn.

Baby Boomer astrologer Rob Breszny, in his book Pronoia (p. 12) sums up the popularity of doom-saying:
As far back as 2800 BC, an unknown prophet wrote on an Assyrian clay tablet, "Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end." [See this story questioned here, here and here.] In the seventh century BC, many Romans believed Rome would suffer a cataclysm in 634 BC.

Around 300 BC, Hindus were convinced they lived in an "unfortunate time" known as the Kali Yuga - the lowest point in the great cosmic cycle. In 426 AD, the Christian writer Augustine mourned that this evil world was in its last days. According to the Lotharingian panic-mongers who lived more than 1,000 years ago, human life on earth would end on March 25, 970.

Astrologers in 16th century calculated that the city would be destroyed by a great flood on February 1, 1524.  American minister William Miller proclaimed the planet's "purification by fire" would occur in 1844. Anglican minister Michael Baxter assured his followers that the Battle of Armageddon would take place in 1868. The Jehovah's Witnesses anticipated the End of Days in 1910, then 1914, then 1918, then 1925. John Ballou Newbrough ("America's Greatest Prophet") promised mass annihilation and global anarchy for 1947.
Breszny directs his readers to the Website, A Brief History of the Apocalypse - here. On this site, compiled by Chris Nelson, you get a timeline of failed doomsday prophecies across the centuries. The timeline reveals that doom-sayers have predicted the end of the world more or less continuously every few years since ancient times.

November 2012 solar eclipse by Phil Hart. Image Source: Starship Asterisk.

World's end is one of the most profitable and popular film, genre fiction, and video game themes. In a lousy economy, entertainment about massive doom and destruction is guaranteed to make money. In marketing terms, scenes like the one below have more consumer appeal than any smiling flower or singing teddy bear.

Image Source: Bethesda Softworks via io9.

Since the turn of the Millennium, technological communication has multiplied the type and number of millenarian apocalyptic predictions to several per year - see here. What is interesting is the sheer number of coincidental fateful predictions set for the end of this year and into next year. Does the sun have a shadow twin (see here, here and here)? Have we reached the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy? Are we leaving the Age of Pisces and entering the Age of Aquarius? Have the Mayans read the heavens correctly to predict a new era (see here, here, here and here)? NASA is concerned enough to post articles and videos to reassure the public. Conspiracy theorists on the Internet have responded by arguing that NASA is keeping the 2012 disaster a secret!

People love to imagine the end of the world. Is it because it gets them off the hook from all their worries and responsibilities? Is it because promised apocalypses give dire meaning to things when the world seems wayward, misdirected, or in the grip of frightening change? Is it a most seductive way of falsely predicting the future? Does the prediction's attraction stem from the way it is used to justify requests for power and money from vulnerable people?

I would argue that the 2012 phenomenon stems from concerns far more profound than those associated with late capitalism. The 2012 phenomenon centres on today's solstice because it is a distillate of all our Millennial fears and anxieties, explained through the mythology and astronomy of the ancients.

The most glaring Millennial anxiety, which I have discussed extensively on this blog, is the loss of values, or anomie. There is a feeling that there is something missing, and the end of the world makes things make sense. A few years ago, a fantastic film version of Frank Miller's Sin City came out to rave reviews. The film cleverly wallowed in black and white technique as a metaphor not for evil and good, but for what comes after they have imploded. As great as the film was, the few critics who disliked this slick adaptation felt that the story was propelled by its disconnection from humanity. Critic A. O. Scott felt the film "offers sensation without feeling, death without grief, sin without guilt and, ultimately, novelty without surprise." Manohla Dargis observed "the directors' 'commitment to absolute unreality and the absence of the human factor.'"
That lost human factor is often recovered today through fantasy and symbolism. Postmodern dislocation, alienation, and desensitization, especially in technological environments, have inspired a response online, where many engage in role-playing, conspiracy theorizing, and bringing any and every fantasy to life.
In 1939, Carl Jung argued in a lecture that people desperately need powerful symbols and symbolic roles to give their lives meaning; at that time, there was no Internet to give these yearnings direction and shape:
You see, man is in need of a symbolic life - badly in need. We only live banal, ordinary, rational, or irrational things . . . but we have no symbolic life. Where do we live symbolically? Nowhere except where we participate in the ritual of life. . . .
Have you got a corner somewhere in your house where you perform the rites, as you can see in India? Even the very simple houses there have at least a curtained corner where the members of the household can perform the symbolic life, where they can make their new vows or their meditation. We don't have it; we have no such corner. We have our own room, of course, - but there is a telephone that can ring us up at any time, and we always must be ready. We have no time, no place.

We have no symbolic life, and we are all badly in need of the symbolic life. Only the symbolic life can express the need of the soul - the daily need of the soul, mind you! And because people have no such thing, they can never step out of this mill - this awful, banal, grinding life in which they are "nothing but." . . . Everything is banal; everything is "nothing but," and that is the reason why people are neurotic. They are simply sick of the whole thing, sick of that banal life, and therefore they want sensation. They even want a war; they all want a war; they are all glad when there is a war; they say, "Thank heaven, now something is going to happen - something bigger than ourselves!"

These things go pretty deep, and no wonder people get neurotic. Life is too rational; there is no symbolic existence in which I am something else, in which I am fulfilling my role, my role as one of the actors in the divine drama of life.

I once had a talk with the master of ceremonies of a tribe of Pueblo Indians, and he told me something very interesting. He said, "Yes, we are a small tribe, and these Americans, they want to interfere with our religion. They should not do it," he said, "because we are the sons of the Father, the Sun. He who goes there" (pointing to the sun) -- "that is our Father. We must help him daily to rise over the horizon and to walk over heaven. And we don't do it for ourselves only; we do it for America; we do it for the whole world. And if these Americans interfere with our religion through their missions, they will see something. In ten years Father Sun won't rise anymore because we can't help him any more."

Now, you may say, that is just a sort of mild madness. Not at all! These people have no problems. They have their daily life, their symbolic life. They get up in the morning with a feeling of their great and divine responsibility; they are the sons of the Sun, the Father, and their daily duty is to help the Father over the horizon - not for themselves alone, but for the whole world. You should see these fellows; they have a natural fulfilled dignity. And I quite understand when he said to me, "Now look at these Americans; they are always seeking something. They are always full of unrest, always looking for something. What are they looking for? There is nothing to be looked for!" That's perfectly true. You can see them, these traveling tourists, always looking for something, always in the vain hope of finding something. On my many travels I have found people who were on their third trip around the world - uninterruptedly. Just traveling, traveling; seeking, seeking. I met a woman in central Africa who had come up alone in a car from Cape Town and wanted to go to Cairo. "What for?" I asked. "What are you trying to do that for?" And I was amazed when I looked into her eyes -- the eyes of a hunted, a cornered animal -- seeking, seeking, always in the hope of something. I said, "What in the world are you seeking? What are you waiting for? What are you hunting after?" She is nearly possessed; she is possessed by so many devils that chase her around. And why is she possessed? Because she does not live the life that makes sense. Hers is a life utterly, grotesquely banal, utterly poor, meaningless, with no point in it at all. If she is killed today, nothing has happened, nothing has vanished - because she was nothing! But if she could say, "I am the daughter of the Moon. Every night I must help the moon, my Mother, over the horizon" - ah, that is something else! Then she lives; then her life makes sense, and makes sense in all continuity, and for the whole of humanity. That gives peace, when people feel that they are living the symbolic life, that they are actors in the divine drama. That gives the only meaning to human life; everything else is banal and you can dismiss it. A career, producing of children, are all maya compared with that one thing, that your life is meaningful.
The 2012 phenomenon employs some of the strongest symbols in the human cultural, narrative and dramatic lexicons. As a result, it is extremely compelling. And because this collection of theories has gained popularity at precisely the point when the Internet has become sophisticated enough to line up several symbols in neat lines, it makes a huge appeal to Gestalt psychology

Image Source: Crystalinks.

As ancients revered the triangle, and the age of Pisces encapsulated its advancements within the square, the resonant symbol of the new Millennium is the circle. The Mayan Long Count Calendar also refers to the circle, so that the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning (for details on Mayan calendars and how to read them, go here). In other words: we revisit that which we know with new eyes. There is a revolution in thinking. There is a game called Dreamspell which uses a modern esoteric adaptation of the Mayan calendar; the game is meant to wean us off the idea that 'time is money' and replace it with the idea that 'time is art.'

Some astrologers have attempted to associate the end of the Mayan long count calendar with the wheel of the Precession and the turning from the Piscean Age to the Age of Aquarius. At the moment of the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere, the sun occupies the same place in the sky as one of the constellations of the Zodiac. The sun spends roughly 2,160 years in each constellation. It then moves backward through the Precession of the Zodiac constellations. Hence the pre-Christian age is associated with Aries, the Ram. The Christian age is associated with Pisces, the Fish. When our star reaches Aries again, it will have moved through the whole Zodiac and will have marked one Great Year, or approximately 25,920 years.

An astrological age is determined by the constellation in which the sun appears to reside at the moment of the northern spring equinox. This is the 2013 spring equinox in London, UK, showing that we are in the Age of Pisces and making a transition to the Age of Aquarius. Because the two constellations overlap, in the years from 2691 and 2817, the vernal equinox will point to both Pisces and Aquarius, indicating a cusp age to anyone left then who will believe in the Precession. Image Source and © Stellarium.

The 2013 spring equinox in Ottawa, Canada, similarly showing the equinox sunrise is in the constellation of Pisces and near Aquarius. Image Source and © Stellarium.

Whether or not the Mayan calendar could be lined up with the western astrological Precession, the idea of Mayan doom-saying is that the gods created the world and then wiped it and successive versions out, with new worlds intended to reach an ever more pure and fault-free state. In other words, Mayan doomsday is part of a story of the search for ever-greater perfection. This is a very human ambition, which features in many, if not most, spiritual systems of belief.

Sections from the Mayan calendar. Image Source: BBC.
There is also a Millennial notion that divine perfection is extra-mortal, and must originate in the stars. The ancient astronaut theory (see my earlier post on it here) quotes the Mayan Popol Vuh: "Men came from the stars, knowing everything, and they examined the four corners of the sky and the Earth's round surface." And the Mayan Chilam Balaam texts state, "Beings descended from the sky in flying vessels ... white men in flying rings, who can touch the sky."

This alien element connects with New World Order anxieties about reptilian cabals and conspiracies: anti-Zionists-revisit-the-Protocols-of-the-Elders-of-Zion, Illuminati, Freemasons, big corporations, the CIA, MI6, the British royal family, the American government, Republicans, and so on. Under this rubric you can toss everyone from the Princess-Diana-was-murdered conspiracy theorists, to the people who are afraid that vaccinations are part of an evil population control plot.

Many of these yarns incorporate and digest very real distresses about what uncontrolled governments did and can do in post-World-War-II global society. Consider the German government's actions during World War II or other radical and genocidal rĂ©gimes through the latter half of the 20th century, and it is easy to see why people now regard with suspicion, politicians, the government, the secret services, and the police. Given the Nazis' racial hatreds, quasi-biological profiling and human experiments, it is also understandable that people would be frightened by post-Nazi horror stories, and consider leaps in science and technological research - especially in microbiology, nanotechnology and genetics - to be all part of the same menace.
2012's alien astronauts and New World Order are sometimes aligned with chatter about genetic breeding programs that would make Fox Mulder proud. The fact that 2012 enthusiasts wish to relate Millennial genetic technology to a mash-up of space aliens and the Mayan myth of creation and destruction demonstrates that the turn of the Millennium mentality hinges on a desire to present a unified picture of time and history, where the past becomes the future, and the future becomes the past.

To complete that revolution to a new world or new age, Millennial doomsayers focus on the stars. Some bizarre quasi-astronomy and astrology come together to 'explain' our and our planet's response to her symbolically altered position in the universe. This cosmic dimension of the 2012 phenomenon reveals that increasingly sophisticated space exploration can sometimes only be popularly grasped in terms of legends. These legends grew out of humankind's most ancient beliefs about naked eye astronomy, which is why the solstice features so prominently in the 2012 phenomenon:
Image Source: Chichen 2012.

Caption for the above image: Dec 12, 2012: Dawn from the southeast in Mexico City. Sun of the Winter Solstice-Milky Way Equator-Galactic Center Alignment. The imaginary sun-galactic equator trajectory creates a Cosmic Cross.

Wiki on galactic alignment ideas, which show where old values of naked eye astronomy diverge from the science of modern astronomy:
A third suggested alignment is a planetary conjunction on December 21, 2012. However, there will be no alignment of planets on that date. ... [Another false theory states that] when the galactic alignment occurs, it will somehow create a combined gravitational effect between the Sun and the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy (known as Sagittarius A*), creating havoc on Earth. Apart from the fact noted above that the "galactic alignment" predicted by Jenkins already happened in 1998, the Sun's apparent path through the zodiac as seen from Earth does not take it near the true galactic center, but rather several degrees above it. Even if this were not the case, Sagittarius A* is 30,000 light years from Earth, and would have to be more than 6 million times closer to cause any gravitational disruption to Earth's Solar System. This reading of Jenkins's theories was included on the History Channel documentary, Decoding the Past. However, Jenkins has complained of the fact that a science fiction writer co-authored the documentary, and went on to characterize it as "45 minutes of unabashed doomsday hype and the worst kind of inane sensationalism".
Supposed galactic alignment is also associated with so-called disc-tides, powerful galactic forces which are claimed to increase our chance of a comet impact. From there, it is a short step to our sun having a shadow doppelgänger, earth being hit by a big asteroid, and/or Planet Nibiru (below), a hypothetical twelfth planet, which was supposed to crash into earth today. The name of the shadow planet comes from mythology: "'Nibiru' is derived from the works of the late ancient astronaut writer Zecharia Sitchin and his interpretations of Babylonian and Sumerian mythology."

Nibiru on its way? Video from 2007 includes familiar Millennial stresses: environmental disasters, economic disparity, the technological boom, and the symbols which help people absorb those stresses, i.e. a shadowy planetary threat and life as we know it ceasing to exist. Video Source: Youtube.

Planet Nibiru aka Planet X - the shadowy supposed 12th planet; some fear its collision with Earth in 2012. Images: Dr. Mat and Jimmy Prophet.

There is a generational dimension to 2012 beliefs as well. 2012's doomsday solstice revives New Age theories from the 1960s and 1970s and brings them to fruition. The tech revolution was also a brainchild of the Baby Boomers. With a few dire exceptions, these supposed children of the Age of Aquarius embrace the anticipated arrival of the Technological Singularity as their final path to transcendence. One example of this (il)logic is Terence McKenna's theory, Timewave Zero, which channels his 70s' drug experiences and one of the oldest cosmic texts on change, the I Ching, through a computer program that predicted the end of the world in 2012:
"Timewave zero" is a numerological formula that purports to calculate the ebb and flow of "novelty", defined as increase in the universe's interconnectedness, or organised complexity, over time. According to Terence McKenna, who conceived the idea over several years in the early-mid 1970s while using psilocybin mushrooms and DMT, the universe has a teleological attractor at the end of time that increases interconnectedness, eventually reaching a singularity of infinite complexity in 2012, at which point anything and everything imaginable will occur simultaneously.

McKenna expressed "novelty" in a computer program, which purportedly produces a waveform known as timewave zero or the timewave. Based on McKenna's interpretation of the King Wen sequence of the I Ching, the graph appears to show great periods of novelty corresponding with major shifts in humanity's biological and cultural evolution. He believed the events of any given time are recursively related to the events of other times, and chose the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as the basis for calculating his end date in November 2012. When he later discovered this date's proximity to the end of the 13th b'ak'tun of the Maya calendar, he revised his hypothesis so that the two dates matched.

The first edition of The Invisible Landscape refers to 2012 (as the year, not a specific day) only twice. It was only in 1983, with the publication of Sharer's revised table of date correlations in the 4th edition of Morley's The Ancient Maya, that each became convinced that December 21, 2012, had significant meaning. McKenna subsequently included this specific date throughout the second edition of The Invisible Landscape, published in 1993.
Apocalyptic computer algorithms, such as those pioneered by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita or High and Ure, sometimes point to the dark side of the Boomer singularity in 2012. Is the singularity dangerous?

Perhaps the mechanistic dystopia depicted by the silent film Metropolis has already arrived. James Cameron's film franchise, Terminator, depicted a future in which our computers become sentient and rise up against us. This is also the driving notion of Matrix trilogy. Perhaps our own war machines will turn on us, as was explored by Philip K. Dick in stories like Second Variety.

Torah Codes and the Mayan Prediction. Video Source: Youtube.

The 2012 phenomenon, with its fixation on an ancient calendar, also loosely overlaps with religious prophecies about the end of the world - be they from the Torah, the Book of Revelation, or the Koran. These cryptics - a mess of numerology, cosmology, calendar studies, and holy visions of great changes and conflicts - are variously associated with total economic collapse, World War III, nuclear war, plagues, earthquakes, asteroid strikes, floods, and other disasters and threats. In a similar manner, some look to the writings of 16th century seer, Nostradamus, for loose confirmations of a fateful 2012.

An example of the 2012 phenomenon associated with a numerological interpretation of passages in the Koran. Video Source: Youtube.

Millennial fear of apocalyptic doom has inspired survivalists and 'Preppers' in some countries, but chiefly in the United States. Lately, they have become the focus of criticism and speculation because the media have associated their movement with the mother of the 16 December 2012 Connecticut shooter. Media commentators thus imply that mass murderer Adam Lanza may have been convinced by his Prepper mother that the world was about to end on 21 December, and this fear prompted his crimes. The American Preppers Network has put out a statement condemning this rumour and associated bad publicity.

The only thing the 2012 doomsday phenomenon does not seem to cover is time travel. Although the precedents for that are out there.
See all my posts on 2012.

If you're not reading this post on Histories of Things to Come, the content has been scraped and republished without the original author's permission. Please let me know by following this link and leaving me a comment. Thank you.


  1. Phenomenal post! I didn't realize the "end of the world" had such a history!

    I think Jung probably nailed it... but, then again, I really wonder how people interpret "the end"... total annihilation, or just some dystopian fantasy?

    The weird thing was that there was enough of articles on the web explaining away the misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar and, yet, apparently there were still people buying into it.

  2. Thanks Dia; yeah, it is pretty evident that believers in apocalyptic predictions do not believe in total annihilation. Either way, it's more a dystopian fantasy, wherein they are finally vindicated - even if that's in the afterlife. LOL.