Tikal_in_sepia_lg.jpg As the year 2012 approaches, apocalyptic visions of the year has achieved newfound popularity. In this MA-thesis, Sacha Defeche investigates the roots of the esoteric apocalypse in 2012 in psychedelic and New Age subculture, and looks at the different types of apocalyptic visions, from Jose Argüelles to David Icke.

By Sacha Defesche (published 17.06.2008)

‘The 2012 Phenomenon’: A historical and typological approach to a modern apocalyptic mythology.

M.A. Thesis by Sacha Defesche

Department of Religious Studies, Subdepartment History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents

M.A. Program Mysticism and Western Esotericism.

Tutor: Prof. Dr. W.J. Hanegraaff

Secondary Reader: Dr. M. Pasi

University of Amsterdam

January-August 2007


Introduction: Apocalypticism in the early 21st century

Research questions

Scope of the phenomenon; choice of source material

Outline of thesis

Chapter 1: Early Sources of the 2012 phenomenon

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the emergence of the ‘noosphere’

The apocalypticism of the ‘proto-New Age movement’ of the 1950’s

Chapter 2: The Birth of an Apocalypse

The psychedelic millennialism of the brothers McKenna

2012 and ‘the end of the Mayan calendar’

Prophet of a New Age: José Argüelles

The ‘Great Alignment’ of 2012

‘The Cigarette-Smoking Man’ and 2012

Chapter 3: Types of 2012 speculation

(1) Calendar Reform Movements: José Argüelles’ Planetary Art Movement

(2) Neo-Shamanic (Psychedelic) Millennialism: Daniel Pinchbeck and ‘the Return of Quetzalcoatl’

(3) Conspiracy-based 2012 speculation: David Icke’s Reptilian Conspiracy

(4) (Pseudo)Scientific 2012 theory: David Wilcock’s «Divine Cosmos»

(5) ‘Casual’ and Spirituality-based 2012 speculation

Chapter 4: Psychedelics, conspiracy and ‘the Inevitable Event’

The psychedelic roots of 2012 prophecy

‘The end of whose time…?‘; apocalypse and conspiracy theory

‘The Inevitable Event’ and the revival of apocalypticism

Chapter 5: Conclusions



Online texts

Miscellaneous websites


It looks as if the outer environment we live in will completely and totally die, as well as everything in it. We are going to come to that stage. So it is going to look hopeless. My angels didn’t show me that part of it. All they would say is that you are going to witness in your life a place where it looks like it is just over. Then this «thing» is going to happen. And the world situation is going to be quickly and completely turned around.

-New Age teacher Drunvalo Melchizedek in an interview, February 2007[1].


«You are going to witness in your life a place where it looks like it is just over», the spiritual sources of prolific New Age author and teacher Drunvalo Melchizedek warn us, referring to the imminence of a ‘great shift’ in or around the year 2012. Melchizedek, best known for his popular series of workshops and books titled The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life, is clear about it. Millions, if not billions of people will not survive the coming apocalypse. Life after this event will be reserved for the happy few, those who will have been best prepared, spiritually and physically, for the enormous changes that are awaiting us in just a few years’ time.

These statements were made by Melchizedek in an interview in February 2007 and absolutely perplexed me when I first read them. Although such rhetoric, of a ‘shift of the ages’ that is either already taking place or just around the corner is a commonplace, not to say fundamental aspect of New Age ideology, such a physicalist and remarkably literal interpretation of the notion of an imminent apocalyptic shift is quite remarkable, and illustrative of a growing corpus of books and websites devoted to speculation concerning the year 2012 in an apocalyptic framework. In this thesis we will see that Drunvalo Melchizedek is by no means alone in his apocalyptic expectancy and that although he is perhaps one of the more pessimistic and catastrophist voices within what I will refer to as the 2012 phenomenon[2] from hereon, we are in fact dealing with a rapidly developing genre of contemporary esoteric literature.

Although the discipline of millennial studies is already quite well established as a field in its own right, I feel that the 2012 phenomenon as I have sketched it above has hardly received the scholarly attention it deserves, both as a relatively recent form of apocalypticism and as a religious and esoteric phenomenon in itself. Take for example the collection of essays that was published in 2006 under the title Expecting the End[3]; although it contains many interesting pieces of information and methodological discussions concerning the study of millennialism, and offers a comprehensive overview of the various forms of apocalypticism the 20th century has seen, nowhere in this book even a passing reference is made to the apocalyptic narrative that has emerged concerning the year 2012.

Even scholars who are focusing on New Religious Movements in general or the New Age in particular have apparently seen no reason to look in depth at this fascinating piece of contemporary apocalypticism. To my knowledge, the only (!) academic paper devoted specifically to this subject at this point in time was written in 2006 by Robert Sitler in Nova Religio[4]. Although it is a good, critical and much-needed piece of research, it focuses exclusively on the occurence of the year 2012 in Mayan calendrics and the way it has become an important aspect of New Age philosophy and religion. The problem with Sitler’s article is that its scope is too limited, and reading it one might get the idea that 2012 speculation is restricted to a «New Age Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar» alone.

This is certainly not the case.

While it is true without a doubt that some of the roots of the 2012 phenomenon can be found in (fringe) archaeological research on the Maya of the Classic period, as we will see, throughout the years it has developed into a complex and almost infinitely diverse movement. The restrictive interpretation offered by Sitler is further reflected by the way in which the 2012 phenomenon has been represented in the mainstream media, which often remain stuck at one-liners such as «Fringe groups predict the end of the world on December 21st 2012» or «Mayan calendar ends in 2012″[5].

This is hardly surprising given that looking for accuracy in the popular media is like searching for polar bears in a desert, so giving an accurate account of phenomena such as these will be one of the primary goals of scholars in this field. I am convinced that studying the 2012 phenomenon in itself, taking a close look at the history of its development, its characteristics, and possibly shedding some light on the reasons for its gaining popularity[6] will have been well worth the effort put into it. Students of New Religious Movements and the New Age Movement simply cannot afford to ignore what I consider to be an important aspect of contemporary esotericism.

Research questions

In order not to get completely lost in the labyrinthine realm of 2012 speculation, I have formulated a number of questions that will serve as a red thread of sorts throughout this paper. Of course, at times I will make some shorter and longer excursions to related topics if necessary, but these questions will always be in the back of my mind. In their most concise forms these questions are the following:

– Where has the notion of the year 2012 as holding a special apocalyptic or millennial significance originated? What are the most important historical sources for the 2012 phenomenon? Are there indeed several ‘pure’ (as in independent) sources of prophecy that separately mention the importance of the 2012 date as is often thought in New Age circles?

– Furthermore, we will need to take a look at what might have been the most important ideological influences on the ‘founders’ of this modern mythological phenomenon.

– These questions naturally lead to a wider concern with the 2012 phenomenon in general, in two ways. Firstly: is it possible to construct a typological approach to the variety of 2012 speculation? Are there clearly discernable types of theories that we can identify? Secondly: what are the most important shared characteristics of the various instances of 2012 speculation?

The questions formulated above are relatively straightforward and can be answered by taking a good look at the historical evidence. A more implicit question that runs throughout this thesis is connected to a preliminary hypothesis: that what appears to be a rapid popularization of apocalypticism in the form of the 2012 phenomenon can be interpreted as a paradigm of a wider tendency towards apocalypticism in contemporary esoteric milieux, and perhaps even in the wider culture as well.

In relation to this, I should note that this project developed out of a fascination with this apparent growth of the 2012 phenomenon, both on the internet and in New Age circles, ‘leaking’ every now and then into popular art and media. It seems to me that more and more people seem to be willing to seriously consider the possibility of an imminent shift, whether as a profound change in a personal life, oriented more and more towards truth and love or cataclysmic or ecstatic changes with ramifications for the whole of humanity and even beyond. To examine this pre-theoretical intuition, that somehow there is a discursive shift taking place, at the very least in the literature and ideology of certain popular esoteric circles, oriented towards millennialism and apocalypticism and that perhaps even in the ‘mainstream’ of Western culture there is a growing fascination with the idea of apocalypse and the willingness to adhere to such notions, is one of the more implicit aims of this thesis.

In summary, this question is the following: wherein lies the appeal of end-of-time thinking and why is it that in this particular period in time there seems to be a widening of this apocalyptic mood? Is this even true, or is this very idea purely a consequence of being exposed to such notions in the first place? In the penultimate chapter, I will allow some space for reflection on these questions.

Scope of the phenomenon; choice of source material

Anyone interested in a comprehensive overview of the scope of the 2012 phenomenon, will not find what they are looking for here. I have no interest in merely writing a summary of what is happening in this field. Although such a project, when taken up with the adequate amount of scientific rigor, would certainly yield some highly relevant results, I am much more concerned with identifying the ideological and historical roots of this phenomenon and its relation to the broader cultural discourse, something that (to my knowledge), has not been attempted before.

Those who want to get an idea of the immense scope of this ‘movement’ and the incredible variety of speculative avenues undertaken in it are well-advised to consult Geoff Stray’s voluminous work Beyond 2012: Catastrophe or Ecstasy[7]. Stray’s effort to catalogue the phenomenon and attempt to isolate separate strands and sources within it should be applauded, but the book lacks in critical discrimination and never really moves beyond being a summary (its subtitle: A complete Guide to End-of-Time Predictions says it all in this regard). However, it still holds sway as the most inclusive account of the scope of the 2012 phenomenon in existence today, and in combination with its companion website ‘2012: DireGnosis[8]’ it is the best source for information on the caleidoscopic world of 2012 speculation we have available at this point in time.

A final note on the choice of source materials used in this thesis: I begun my research on the 2012 phenomenon towards the end of 2006, and started examining books and websites referring to this date. At a certain point, it became quite obvious that it would be absolutely impossible to read all of the material that exists within this field. In this sense, doing research on a religious phenomenon that is (presumably) approaching its peak of development at the very moment of observing it is somewhat of an impossible task. Not only is there simply too much already in print and on the web, there are new websites and new (e)books being added to the heap every week. If you step into a random esoteric bookstore in Amsterdam, for example, there is a good chance that you will find two or three new books on 2012 that were not there the month before. So, I frankly decided at a certain point to stop reading new material. This means that most books and websites published in 2007, with a few important exceptions, have not been included in the research of this thesis.

Outline of thesis

In the following two chapters I will examine the historical emergence and development of the 2012 phenomenon by taking a close look at some of its most important literary and ideological sources and tracing the unfolding of a mythological, apocalyptic narrative throughout the second half of the 20th century. After that, I will attempt to construct an analytical typology of the various forms of speculation that exist concerning the year 2012 and we will begin to see the contours of a complex and diverse phenomenon emerge. In this chapter, we will also encounter some of the more recent 2012 theorists and their work in this field. The penultimate chapter will be devoted to some reflection on the general nature of this phenomenon, identifying -in the process- three important textual and historical motives in the 2012 discourse. And finally, in the fifth chapter of this thesis, I will move towards drawing some conclusions based on my research.


Anno 2007, you are certain to find in esoteric stores a myriad of books, videos and other products that are either exclusively focused on the ‘great shift’ of 2012, or at least prominently display knowledge of the alleged importance of this date. There are books on the significance of 2012 in ‘the Mayan calendar'[9], a whole library could be filled with ‘channeled’ messages of ascended masters and other spiritual sources that speak of 2012 as year of apocalypse[10], and there are quite a number of books that aim to give a (pseudo)scientific justification for the alleged ‘earth changes’ that will culminate in a great cataclysm in 2012[11]. There are even examples of books that are not primarily concerned with esoteric speculation and still prominently feature the notion that the year 2012 will confront humanity with a shift of immense significance[12]. The world wide web is no exception; simply entering ‘2012’ as a search term in your browser will yield, besides the occasional occurrence of the London Olympics scheduled for that year, a large number of websites passingly mentioning the 2012 mythology and a least a dozen web pages exclusively devoted to discussing 2012 in an apocalyptic context. The last few years, arguably since 2001[13], speculation surrounding a possible apocalyptic or millennial event due in or around 2012 has increased exponentially, to the point where it is now possible to speak of a definite genre in contemporary esoteric literature.

In the introduction I referred to Robert Sitler’s article on the 2012 phenomenon and his contention that it consist primarily in a syncretic ‘appropriation of an ancient Mayan calendar’ by New Age enthusiasts. It is indeed the case that a good portion of the recently published literature referring to 2012 can be fitted into this category, but a more thorough examination of the history of this phenomenon will show that there is much more to it than this alone. While (alternative) archaeological research on the timekeeping systems of the ancient Mayan civilization, and the subsequent esoteric interpretations given to it by various New Age thinkers and authors, are indeed significant aspects of the historical development of the 2012 phenomenon, the ideological sources of this modern religious mythology concerning the year 2012 as apocalypse are to be sought elsewhere. So, before turning my attention to the context in which 2012 first emerged as a year of eschatological significance in an esoteric and millennial narrative, which can arguably be traced back to the 1970’s (as I will demonstrate in the next chapter), we will have to take a look at the intellectual climate in which this narrative has originated.

There are two elements I will take into account here, recognizing at the same time that these are only two possible influences on the 2012 phenomenon, and are in no way exhaustive. First I will look at the influence of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and his concept of the emergence of the ‘noosphere’ and related notions. Secondly, I will briefly examine the apocalypticism of the cultic milieu of the 1950’s and the fascination with the UFO phenomenon within this context.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the emergence of the ‘noosphere’

By asking the question of what some of the early historical influences on the founding authors of 2012 apocalypticism have been, one inevitably encounters the name of the French Jesuit priest, paleontologist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955).

Although the year 2012 is attributed no special significance in his work, some of his theories and ideas have been fundamentally important in shaping the ideological backbone of the major and more intellectually-oriented proponents of 2012 speculation. This is why it makes sense to begin this narrative with him, and the intellectual current he represents.

In the 1960’s and ’70’s de Chardin enjoyed a brief period of posthumous popularity amongst a minority of the intellectual elite (or perhaps, «fringe»?) of the time, after which he seems to have been slowly forgotten again, until recently gaining some renewed attention through the work of the American perennialist philosopher Ken Wilber[14]. I have no intention here of giving a complete account of the complex system of thought Teilhard has developed, but I merely want to point towards his pervasive influence on some of the major representatives of the 2012 phenomenon[15], especially Terence McKenna and José Argüelles, both of whom will be introduced in the next chapter.

Best known for his work The Phenomenon of Man[16], first published in 1955, but written between 1938 and 1940, Teilhard developed a system of thought that he hoped would finally integrate science and religion (Christianity in particular), in that it attempted to expand the concept of evolution to apply matters of the mind and spirituality as well. Of central importance in his overall theory is the notion of the emergence of the ‘noosphere’ as the next step in the evolution of life on this planet. Although the origin of the term ‘noosphere’ is somewhat fuzzy, there is no doubt that the work of Teilhard was responsible for bringing it to a wider audience. In a 1948 essay titled ‘My Fundamental Vision[17]’, in which Teilhard attempts to give a systematic overview of his thought, he describes what his work has been pointing towards, being:

The progressive genesis of what I have called a ‘noosphere’-the pan-terrestrial organism in which, by compression and arrangement of the thinking particles, a resurgence of evolution (itself now become reflective) is striving to carry the stuff of the universe towards the higher conditions of a planetary super-reflection[18].

By closely examining data from physics, biology, geology and psychology, in combination with his Jesuit training, Teilhard arrived at the conclusion that «as a result of mankind’s now standing upon its own feet, life is here and now entering into a new era of autonomous control and self-orientation[19]». The ‘noosphere’, as the imminent next step in the evolutionary process was conceived by Teilhard a result of a movement he called ‘the convergence of the universe’.

In this theory, the cosmos should be considered as «a universe which, under the influence of an ever more advanced organic arrangement, concentrates and reflects psychologically upon itself[20]». What Teilhard is describing here, is the notion that the emergence of human consciousness is a sign of a shift of the evolutionary process to the level of mind, leading first to the development of a ‘noosphere’, in which mankind is unified and ultimately to ‘point Omega’, the complete reflection of consciousness upon itself, an event that «mysticism has since all time called the revelation of God[21]».

What is important to understand is that the general gist of Teilhard’s notion of the emergence of the ‘noosphere’ has, in the course of the 20th century, been adopted and adapted by various esotericists, who found in this theory a fertile ground for their apocalyptic mythologies. For example, almost sixty years later, in his book on the ‘great shift’ of 2012[22], author Daniel Pinchbeck (whom we will encounter at a later stage again), explains the concept of ‘noogenesis’ as follows:

When physical evolution ended, the evolving stem of the Earth switched from the outer layers to the levels of cognition, developed through human consciousness, containing the entirety of our thought, as well as the planet’s future evolutionary program. [Teilhard de] Chardin proposed that the noosphere would eventually develop into «a harmonized collectivity of consciousness equivalent to a sort of super-consciousness».[23]

What the work of de Chardin seems to offer to 2012 theorists is a semi-scientific justification for the central notion that the expected ‘great shift’ of 2012 is the culmination of a longer and deeper evolutionary process in which mankind, specifically our mental and spiritual capacities play an integral part. The evolution of matter through the development of life has come to its climax, which means that the forces of evolution are now operating on the mental plane and working towards a unification of mankind in the ‘noosphere’.

Theories such as Teilhard’s allowed the ‘founders’ of the 2012 mythology an intellectual framework constructed around the central notion that the locus of evolutionary activity is making a fundamental shift, from biology (and the ‘biosphere’) to the mental realm (the ‘noosphere’) and allowed them to place their prophetic and revelatory experiences (often triggered by the use of various psychoactive compounds) and conceptions in this already-existing frame of reference. We will shortly see how this general evolutionary and spiritual ideology became ‘home’ to a wide variety of very specific apocalyptic prophecies, with the year 2012 as the essential turning point in the cosmic evolutionary process, thereby giving a very specific prophetic interpretation to a general theory, something which Teilhard was never willing to do in his lifetime.

The apocalypticism of the ‘proto-New Age movement’ of the 1950’s

The intellectual and ideological foundations of the 2012 mythology are not limited to the work of Teilhard and similar theories[24], although they represent to a large degree a type of cosmic ‘evolutionism’ that is so characteristic of this phenomenon, as we will shortly see. A second important constitutive element can be found in the apocalyptic milieu surrounding various UFO cults in the 1950’s in the United States and Europe, a phenomenon Wouter Hanegraaff has described as a ‘proto-New Age movement’.

The groups and texts that fall into this category can be characterized by a deep concern with what was perceived as a fundamental corruption at the roots of Western civilization after Europe lived through two catastrophic World Wars. Apocalypticism and millennialism were fundamental in this context, and were often surprisingly literal and catastrophist. Hanegraaff characterizes the individuals and organizations in this milieu as holding:

(…) strongly apocalyptic beliefs. They believed that very soon the world would be hit by unheard-of catastrophes, such as earthquakes, floods, famines, epidemic diseases, etc. These disasters would completely disrupt western civilization. Spiritually highly evolved beings, living in higher dimensions or on other planets and knowing what would come to pass, were now trying to warn humanity. They did this by appearing in their spacecraft and communicating with human beings by paranormal means. Those who followed their teachings would be picked up by flying saucers and brought into safety. Following the apocalyptic period, they would become the pioneers of a new civilization that would be built on the ruins of the old. A New Age of peace and prosperity would begin, in which humanity would live according to the universal spiritual laws of the universe.[25]

What we find in this cultic environment of the 1950’s is a combination of various narratives weaved around recent waves of ‘UFO sightings’, in which elements of conspiracy theory, where governments were deemed to be involved in large scale cover-ups of extraterrestrial contacts, notions of an imminent cosmic shift largely derived from authors such as the Theosophist author Alice Bailey (1880-1949) and various other occultist sources are combined.

In many ways, the kaleidoscopic and syncretic nature of this movement is remarkably similar to what we will encounter in the contemporary 2012 phenomenon, most notably in three senses.

Firstly, the centrality of the expectation of an apocalyptic event leading to changes on a massive scale, an event moreover that is often considered to be part of a trans-historical and cosmic evolutionary blueprint.

Secondly, the idea that the apocalyptic period is or will be characterized by a violent conflict (a war, if you will) between contrary forces, in which official governments and institutions (scientific for example) are often representing «dark forces» aimed at dominating humanity and arresting its evolutionary trajectory.

And finally, the notion that there is the possibility of a ‘redemption’ of sorts if the efforts of a small elite of dedicated people, often inspired or aided by extraterrestrial or non-material beings, are able to bring about a conclusive tipping of the scales towards the light, positive side of the cosmic conflict.

Before moving on to the actual emergence of the year 2012 in an apocalyptic sense in the next chapter, a brief note on the subsequent developments in the New Age movement is in order. Whereas in the proto- New Age groups of the 1950’s a strongly dualist and catastrophist orientation was essential, the 1960’s saw a movement towards more inclusive and «softer» theories about the nature and the means of bringing about a New Age. The mood of the New Age in a restricted sense, as Hanegraaff calls this phase

«can be characterized as a «pioneer attitude»: people tried to live «as if» the New Age had already arrived (…) In other words: the emphasis gradually shifted from an attitude of passive expectation of the Big Event to an active attitude of trying to help create the New Age[26]».

That is not to say that there was a decrease in the level of suspicion towards mainstream Western culture, only that what seemed to happen was a rethinking of the means by which a much needed attitudinal change could be brought about. Instead of waiting for an inevitable catastrophe to wake people out of their «culturally conditioned trance», the idea was to «lead by example». It is in this context that various New Age communities, such as the still existing Findhorn Community were set up.

In the 1980’s and 90’s, a further decrease in the apocalyptic orientation of New Age literature took place, until

«the specific expectation of an Age of Aquarius [was] found widely, but [was] not by any means as prominent and central as in the original movement. The Aquarian Age [had] become just one of the many themes that characterize[d] the New Age movement in a general sense[27]».

In this sense, the contemporary 2012 phenomenon has moved in a different direction than the New Age movement in a general sense[28], which throughout the 1990’s and the 2000’s has arguably undergone a process of integration and consolidation with the mainstream of Western culture. It could therefore be posited that whereas the New Age movement in general saw a gradual decline in its apocalyptic and millennial orientation, the 2012 phenomenon represents a return to the radical apocalypticism extant in the proto-New Age groups of the 1950’s. But this hypothesis I will have to demonstrate through a historical sketch of the development of this phenomenon.


Keeping in mind Teilhard’s theories about the ‘convergence of the universe’ and the concurrent emergence of a new, global form of consciousness with the development of the ‘noosphere’ on the one hand, and the apocalyptic and millennial visions of the UFO cults of the 1950’s on the other, we can now begin to trace the history of the 2012 phenomenon in earnest. In this thesis, I will distinguish three important bibliographical sources of this apocalyptic narrative, beginning with The Invisible Landscape[29] (1975) by Terence and Dennis McKenna, The Mayan Factor[30] (1987) by José Argüelles and Maya Cosmogenesis 2012[31] (1998) by John Major Jenkins. The interaction between these authors and their ideas together constitute to a large degree the esoteric and millennial framework in which most of the contemporary 2012 speculation has developed.

The psychedelic millennialism of the brothers McKenna

At once one of the most bizarre and extremely hilarious books I have read in a long time must be Terence McKenna’s True Hallucinations[32] (1993) It recounts the story of a journey the American ethnobotanist and bohemian Terence McKenna (1946-2000) and a group of friends, among which his older brother Dennis, undertook to the Amazon rainforest in 1971 in search of certain species of plants containing orally active di-methyltryptamine (DMT) which is used as one of two ingredients of a psychoactive brew popularly known as «ayahuasca[33]» («the vine of of the soul»).

According to McKenna, «these plants were long associated with telepathic abilities and feats of the paranormal. Yet the patterns of their use, which were unique to the Amazon jungles, had not been fully studied[34].» Even though the original goal of this voyage was more-or-less scientific, it quickly turned into a bizarre and often dangerous adventure, leading the brothers McKenna to the furthest reaches of human sanity, and at moments well beyond it. What happened is that they «accidentally» encountered large quantities of a certain species of mushroom containing the potent psychoactive agent psilocybin. What ensued was a period of intense experimentation with this mushroom, often in combination with DMT and marijuana, in which Terence’s brother Dennis appeared to be undergoing a form of shamanic initiation into the mysteries of this mushroom, which he considered to be connected to the legend of shamans producing a «magical liquid» of sorts that represents a material form of ‘hyperspatial’ reality; a «hyperdimensional tryptamine[35]» with magical potency.

Entering a state of consciousness that in many ways echoes Teilhard’s notion of the noosphere, Dennis was convinced to be in direct contact with «our collective DNA[36]», acting in effect as a radio receiver for humanity’s collective consciousness. At the climax of Dennis’ psychedelic and shamanic experience, his brother Terence became

flooded with ecstasy as the realization passed over me that we had passed the omega point, that we were now operating in the first few moments of the millennium. Both of us felt our excitement rising as we became convinced that somehow the world was now radically, fundamentally different[37].

What ensued was a period that most readers will characterize as psychotic and deluded, as Terence was convinced that Dennis’ initiatory experience had brought about the apocalypse («we had passed the omega point[38]») and the world outside the Amazon jungle had been forever changed, moved on to a higher dimension where the borders between the material and spiritual worlds were now gone for good. The ‘New Age’ had arrived in full and humanity had entered the next phase of its evolutionary journey and it had been the brothers McKenna who had been its midwives.

Still shaken by his brother’s journey into ‘hyperspace’, and convinced of the ontological transformation that was taking place on a global scale, Terence hears a voice («the teacher») in his head tell him:

You’ve found it. This is it. It’s all over now. There is no more. Within a few hours, the superstructure of earthbound, human civilization is going to collapse and your species will depart. First you will go to Jupiter and then to Alpha in Sagittarius. A day of high adventure dawns at last for the human beings[39].

Passages like these illustrate the extent to which the brothers McKenna believed they had personally been responsible for bringing about the millennium.

Of course, and perhaps disappointingly so, the world had not changed substantially after their experiment, and the subsequent days and weeks things slowly started to move back to normal.

The years following the revelations of 1971 were spent attempting to understand and integrate the extraordinary implications of their encounter with a ‘mysterious Other’ through the psilocybin mushroom.

In 1975, some four years after the experiment in the Amazon, Dennis and Terence published The Invisible Landscape, in which an attempt is made to present the ideas and visions gained through their visionary experiences in a coherent philosophical and mathematical theory. One of the essential elements of this theory, and the most important for understanding the beginnings of the 2012 mythology, is their theory that the I Ching[40], apart from being a divinatory tool, is also a very ancient lunar calendar, a system for keeping track of time and the events unfolding in history, through a mathematical model referred to as «the Eschaton Wave»[41].

In its simplest form, this «Timewave» theory can be illustrated as follows: they start with the observation that the evolution of human consciousness is accelerating at an exponential rate. In the roughly twenty thousand years of human history, «from nomadic hunting and gathering to cybernetics and spaceflights[42]», waves of «Novelty» (in which great leaps of innovation are made) appear to emerge faster and faster. The McKenna’s, inspired (or deluded) by their psilocybin and DMT experiences used the I Ching hexagrams to create a computer model they called the «Timewave», graphing in intricate detail the course of ‘novelty’ in history.

A rather puzzling property of this model is that according to McKenna,

The timewave seems to give a best fit configuration with the historical data when the assumption is made that the maximum ingression of novelty, or the end of the wave, will occur on December 22, 2012. [43].

«The end of the wave» refers to the precise moment at which the rate in which «novelty» occurs approximates the infinite as the curve that describes history explodes into the endless. McKenna refers to this event as «the end of history» and speculates that the winter solstice of 2012 will see «an ontological mutation of the human form, nothing less than the resurrection-body that Christianity anticipates»; the objectification of the mind as it were, much like what he considered to have happened to Dennis in 1971.

This «object at the end of time», as McKenna refers to this event, can be best illustrated by the UFO, which «holds out the possibility of mind become object, a ship that can cross the universe in the time it takes to think about it». In this view, 2012 represents a radical dimensional shift from planetary life bound by the constraints of time and space into «a conquest of hyperspace»[44].

This is how the experiences of 1971 had crystallized twenty-two years later, but we need to take a step back to understand how McKenna arrived at these conclusions. Whereas the first edition of the Invisible Landscape mentions this possibility of the year 2012 being the definite end-date to their ‘Eschaton Wave’ only twice[45] and in passing, in the 1993 edition of the same book, the theory that the year 2012 as end-date appears much more frequently, and perhaps more importantly: with much more certainty. This notwithstanding, it is possible to trace the first mention of the year 2012 in an esoteric millennial context to the first edition of The Invisible Landscape. In this sense, the work of the McKenna’s in the 1970’s serves as an early prototype of 2012 apocalypticism, a general framework that was more or less waiting to be specified and expanded by adding other prophecies concerning the year 2012.

And this is indeed exactly what happened as Terence McKenna met with José Argüelles in 1985[46]. In 1987, Argüelles gives us a valuable clue as to the way in which the 2012 phenomenon developed:

My meeting with Terence McKenna, author of the intriguing Invisible Landscape, contributed greatly to [my] understanding of the Mayan Factor, for he, too, by working at the I Ching had been drawn into things Mayan. In particular, his I Ching fractal calendrics had led him to the conclusion that we are involved in a «final» cycle of time whose 67-year span takes us from Hiroshima, in 1945, to the Mayan synchronization date of A.D. 2012, the completion of the so-called Great Cycle which began in 3113 B.C.[47]

I will describe Argüelles’ own (fundamental) role in the development of the 2012 current in detail in the third section of the present chapter, but it is important to understand the implications of this passage. In the first edition of The Invisible Landscape (1975), as mentioned above, the year 2012 already features as end-date, but no mention is made of its occurrence in a Mayan prophecy. The original bibliography also suggests that the McKenna’s were not aware, at that point in time, of any connection to the Maya.

However, Argüelles implies, at the time of their meeting in 1985, that the brothers McKenna had already, independently, learned of the occurrence of the year 2012 in one of the Mayan calendars. This is possible, but as it did not feature in the original edition of the book, the implication is that The Invisible Landscape is indeed the first source for an esoteric eschatology in which the year 2012 plays an essential role. In 1993, when a new edition[48] of The Invisible Landscape was published, Terence corroborates this idea. According to him, they first arrived at the 2012 end-date:

without knowledge of the Mayan calendar, and it was only after we noticed that the historical data seemed to fit best with the wave if this end date was chosen that we were informed that the end date that we had deduced was in fact the end of the Mayan Calendar[49].

In the bibliography to the 1993 edition of the book, we do not find any reference to either Argüelles or any other literature on the Mayan calendar, but taking into consideration Argüelles’ account, I consider it the most likely that it is through their meeting that the McKenna’s deduced that 2012 «was in fact the end of the Mayan Calendar», and began to incorporate this narrative into their theory. Perhaps we will never know exactly how the year 2012 ‘popped’ up in the first edition of The Invisible Landscape, if it really was discovered through finding a ‘best fit’ between the McKenna’s Eschaton Wave and their interpretation of historical events (as Terence makes it seem in 1993) or that there was another, perhaps literary source, that they failed to mention. In his typical speculative style, Terence comes up with his own theory on their having set the year 2012 as ‘end-of-the-wave’ as early as 1975:

Strangely enough this [21.12.2012] is the end date that the Mayans assigned to their calendar system as well. What is it that gives both a twentieth-century individual and an ancient Meso-American civilization the same date upon which to peg the transformation of the world? Is it that both used psychedelic mushrooms? Could the answer be so simple? I don’t think so. Rather, I suspect that when we inspect the structure of our own deep unconscious we will make the unexpected discovery that we are ordered on the same principle as the larger universe in which we arose. This notion, surprising at first, quickly comes to be seen as obvious, natural, and inevitable[50].

McKenna was convinced that the amazing parallelism between his own Eschaton Wave and an ancient Mayan calendar, in that they both point to the significance of 2012, should be attributed to its being programmed into our unconscious and accessed through psychedelic or shamanic experience. In this theory the awareness of the apocalypse of 2012 is already potentially present in our genetic and spiritual heritage.

This notion of 2012 being the fulfillment of a pre-programmed evolutionary path has become widespread in contemporary 2012 speculation, as we will see. However imaginative this scenario may be, in trying to systematically trace the development of an apocalyptic mythology around the year 2012 it makes more sense to look at the level of strategic literary rhetoric.

2012 and ‘the end of the Mayan calendar’

At this point in my story, I need to make a short excursion (and a step backwards in time as well) in order to ascertain how a gradual development of a mythology built around 2012 has taken place throughout the 20th century. In order to do this, we will have to tackle one of the most commonly found assumptions in texts representative of the 2012 phenomenon; the notion that «the Mayan calendar» predicts that the winter solstice of 2012 (December 21st) will «bring about a catastrophic destruction of the world and/or a radical renovation of human consciousness[51]».

Even though in contemporary 2012 literature there are references to many other sources apparently pointing towards an imminent shift in 2012, most authors seem to agree that «the Mayan calendar» is the most convincing and reliable source of this prophecy. It is hardly surprising then that it is indeed in the context of (alternative) archaeological research into the time measurement systems of the Mayan of the Classical period (which is usually considered to have lasted from circa 250-900 C.E.) that the year 2012 was first discovered to possibly be very significant in their culture and calculations, and conversely ours as well, as the historical scope of their astrological calculations appears to reach up right to the present period.

Acknowledging this, it is important to examine however, the specific details of how this discovery was made, and much more importantly, how it began to lead a life of its own in the second half of the 20th century, mainly through the speculative esoteric work of José Argüelles.

Ever since the ruins of an ancient Mayan city have been (re)discovered in 1773 in what is now Palenque, Mexico, scholars have been fascinated with ancient Mayan culture and mythology. A recurrent mystery in the research into their civilization is the Maya’s apparent obsession with measuring temporal and natural cycles, something that they were able to do with an astounding degree of accuracy considering the means at their disposal. Although from inscriptions on stele and monuments, it has been deduced that they used several calendrical systems simultaneously, the calendar that is usually referred to in 2012 literature is what is known amongst Maya scholars as the Long Count, measuring long periods of time (repeating cycles of 5.125 years).

From the occurrence of references to dates on this cycle, scholars had been able to sketch the general contours of this Long Count calendar, but what was missing was a key to enable a correlation between this system and our own Gregorian calendar, so that the dates could be interpreted in familiar terms. Instrumental in establishing this correlation was the collaborative efforts of early Mayanists Joseph T. Goodman and Juan M. Hernández, were the first to conceive of a sustainable correlation between the Mayan Long Count and the Judeo-Christian Gregorian calendar in 1897[52].

This means that the year 2012 as «the end-date» of the Long Count was indeed implied as early as 1897, when Joseph Goodman correlated («the first day, or zero-day»[53]) of this calendar with 3114 BCE. Eight years later, he further specified the date to the 13th of August 3114 BCE. Correlating the Long Count to the Gregorian calendar in this way, taking into account the length of the cycle it measures, implies that the end-date (commonly referred to as is indeed the 21st December 2012.

In 1950, influential Maya scholar J. Eric Thompson (1898-1975) «did a final reexamination of Goodman’s work, combining it with the latest findings, and settled on the original (…) correlation[54]», thereby validating their work. This correlation of the Mayan Long Count and the Gregorian calendar has gone into history as the GMT correlation, referring to the researchers who established it.

This means that ever since 1950 mainstream Maya scholars have reached a general consensus that one of the calendars of the Classical Maya does indeed ‘end’ in 2012, noting at the same time that to speak of «the Mayan calendar» (as is commonplace in 2012 literature) makes very little sense, as the Maya of the Classic period employed a large number of different calendars simultaneously, each of them attuned to different natural or astronomical cycles.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that there is indeed a scientific foundation to the common assumption that ‘the Mayan calendar’ (the Long Count) was oriented towards the year 2012, but a widespread consensus as to the reasons why this date was set as the end-date to this cycle is lacking. In his article on the 2012 phenomenon, Robert Sitler summarizes the relevance of 2012 in the time keeping systems of the Maya of the Classic Period as follows:

…the December 21, 2012 date simply marks the last day of the current b’ak’tun cycle, a period of 144.000 days roughly equivalent to 394 years. More significantly, it marks the end of the thirteenth b’ak’tun, the culminating periods of a far larger calendar cycle that began on August 11, 3114 B.C.E., and that will come to fruition 1.872.000 days later on the 2012 winter solstice. It is important to point out that this so-called Great Cycle was only a minor component in far larger chronological periods that theoretically extend infinitely backwards and forwards in time within a system of exponentially increasing temporal cycles that have no final beginning or ending points[55].

This passage points to one the major problems with the methodology of most 2012 theorists concerned with the Mayan Long Count. The problem has to do with the interpretation given to the archaeological data that is available; although the year 2012 had been established as a likely candidate as an end-date for the Long Count as early as 1897, the archaeological findings that we do possess are inconclusive when it comes to the question of interpreting the possible significance the Classic Maya ascribed to this shift of cycles.

Simply put: we do not know exactly what these ancient astronomers expected to happen when one of their temporal cycles reached its end-point because specific knowledge of their culture and religious imaginations is simply lacking. Did they consider it to be the end in any absolute sense, or simply a shift to a new revolution of an endless temporal cycle?

This is where esoteric speculists enter the picture, and through their vivid imagination, psychedelic experiments, communications with spiritual beings and sometimes ‘conspiracist’ paranoia are able to give very specific interpretations and expectations to the occurrence of the year 2012 in the Mayan calendar.

Prophet of a New Age: José Argüelles

As we have seen the year 2012 was discovered to have an important place in at least one of the Mayan calendars as early as 1897, but this seemed to go largely unnoticed outside the world of Maya scholarship. Moreover, traditional scholars have not been able to make any definite statements on the possible significance of this date for the Maya themselves. The author single-handedly responsible for bringing the year 2012 and its occurrence in the Mayan Long Count to a wider public is without a doubt José Argüelles (1939- ). It is his self-cast role as a prophet of ‘the Galactic Maya’ and a shift of the ages in 2012 that I will now examine, as it is with him that the 2012 phenomenon really starts to take shape .

In 1975, the same year in which the McKenna’s made public their strange, psychedelic theory of the End of History, Argüelles published a book called The Transformative Vision[56], a relatively straightforward treatise on the nature of art and its role in human history. Although the basic orientation of this book is sharply counter-cultural and somewhat esoteric, it does not yet employ the prophetic rhetoric that characterizes Argüelles’ later work.

In the introduction he provides us with some valuable insights into the influences on his subsequent work, leading up to his most important publication, The Mayan Factor (1987). Describing his disillusionment with traditional academia, he informs us that he abandoned university life to

experience the world, which in the mid-1960’s was a strange and chaotic place that bore little resemblance to what I had known inside the university. It was a world characterized by war, civil riots, seething unrest, and electronic culture gone mad, the strange enchantment of drugs, of occult murmurings, of sciences and literatures never touched upon in the classroom. Through a total letting-go and immersion in this other world, I finally began to see. History was no longer a meaningless façade of facts and artifacts, but an alchemical formula, a symbolic calculus, a mystery play enacted by the collective human psyche on the planetary stage[57].

If history had become «a mystery play» for Argüelles, he was very soon to announce himself one of its leading actors. And although in this book there is no definite sign yet of Argüelles’ subsequent revelations connected to ‘the Mayan calendar’ and his becoming a ‘noospherical’ prophet of the apocalypse of 2012, passages such as these clearly signify Argüelles’ basic intellectual orientation of the time that in many ways resembles that of the McKenna’s.

For example, the book’s central theory that history can be seen as a precession of definite eras, an evolutionary program leading up to a ‘great transformation’ and the initiation of a New Age shows us that Argüelles’ preoccupation with apocalyptic themes and imagery is already present in this early work, ready to be complemented with specific prophecies relating to ‘the Mayan calendar’ and the year 2012.

In closing this 1975 book, he writes the following:

We are already changing, mutating, whirling around the center, at the very least, of an apocalypse of consciousness. To pass through the center of this apocalypse is to embark on a new stage of growth. Once the test of personal and historical catharsis is met, true individuation becomes possible[58].

I cannot help but wonder if he foresaw the extent to which «true individuation» would befall him, just thirteen years later, when emerging from what he himself described as a «personal crisis and alcoholic breakdown[59]», Argüelles became convinced that in 1987 a 25-year period leading up to the collapse of Western civilization in 2012 would be initiated, fulfilling an ancient Mayan prophecy. He labeled this period one of «Harmonic Convergence» and defined it as «the definitive conclusion of the prophecy of the Thirteen Heavens and Nine Hells[60]», referring back to some of the work he had done in The Transformative Vision.

Moreover, The Mayan Factor included the injunction that if

144.000 persons cold respond to the call of meditating at dawn, on August 16 and 17, 1987, the world would be renewed and humanity would enter a ‘new age'[61].

This «event», the initiation of this apocalyptic and cathartic historical period was actually adopted by a number of leading New Age authors and teachers at the time and Argüelles was convinced of its effectiveness, judging by his commentary on this event in 1996[62]. Here he lists, with hindsight, all the direct consequences that the ‘Harmonic Convergence’ had brought about, summing up the various ways in which «the sociopolitical makeup of human civilization began to change[63]».

In an earlier publication, the 1984 book Earth Ascending[64], the first contours of the theory of ‘Harmonic Convergence’ that was developed in The Mayan Factor are already present. There is, however, no mention of a definite timeframe for the eschatological process, which means that the notion of the importance of the 1987-2012 period of ‘Harmonic Convergence’ probably came to Argüelles in 1985 or 1986. When looking at the work of the brothers McKenna earlier, we saw that there was a meeting between Argüelles and McKenna in 1985, which would fit our chronology.

Looking at Argüelles’ bibliography and own account of his development of ‘the Mayan Factor’, it becomes clear what must have happened: Argüelles had already learned of the occurrence of the year 2012 in the Mayan Long Count through the work of J.E.S. Thompson (who as you will remember established the final correlation of the Long Count with the Gregorian calendar in 1950) as early as 1953[65]. This means that although Argüelles was no doubt already aware of the occurrence of 2012 in one of the Mayan calendars, his meeting with McKenna in 1985 must have served as a catalyst for his own research into the coming apocalypse.

Terence McKenna’s account in 1993, cited above, validates this hypothesis: that it was through their meeting each other and sharing ideas that for both Argüelles and McKenna a process of cross-fertilization was set in motion, allowing the year 2012 to become more and more proliferated as the exact date of the ‘great shift’ in their respective theories.

Although throughout the 1990’s Argüelles role as spokesman of ‘the Galactic Maya’ would only increase, leading him to announce in 1993 to have become a living channel of Pacal Votan[66] (an ancient Mayan ruler said to be buried in Palenque) and receiving a corpus of revelations concerning the current historical epoch, it is with The Mayan Factor that a fully-fledged New Age prophecy in which the year 2012 featured prominently was firmly in place, and the stage was ready for a contemporary mythology to develop even further.

In his typical vocabulary of science-fiction and spirituality, Argüelles has this to say about the coming transformation:

As the year A.D. 2012 approaches, the planet will be humming and vibrating as never before. The final five-year period, A.D. 2007-2012, will be singularly directed to the emplacement of galactic synchronization crews at all the planetary light-body grid-nodes (…) Then it shall be ready. The unique moment, the moment of total planetary synchronization, on the beam, will arrive-the closing out not only of the Great Cycle, but of the evolutionary interim called Homo Sapiens. Amidst festive preparation and awesome galactic solar-signs psychically received, the human race, in harmony with the animal and other kingdoms and taking its rightful place in the great electromagnetic sea, will unify as a single circuit. (…) At last, Earth will be ready for the emergence into inter-planetary civilization[67].

In the next chapter, when taking a look at the different types of 2012 speculation that have developed throughout the years, we will once again encounter Argüelles, and take a more specific look at his development of a global ‘Calendar Change Movement’ devoted to introducing a worldwide adaptation of ‘the Mayan calendar’ in preparation of the dimensional shift of 2012.

The ‘Great Alignment’ of 2012

One final important literary source in the development of the 2012 phenomenon is the 1998 publication Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 by John Major Jenkins.

Although this book does not contain much new information and builds largely on available data on Mayan archaeology, it contains a number of influential interpretations of the significance of 2012 that have become widespread in the field. The most important of these is the «discovery» that on December 21, 2012, there will be a unique astronomical alignment between the December solstice sun, «the dark rift in the Milky Way» and the center of our galaxy, and it is this remarkable alignment[68] that the 13-baktun cycle end date of the Mayan Long Count calendar is pointing towards primarily. On the more obvious level, it is also the first publication that mentions the apocalyptic significance of the year 2012 this explicitly (in its title) and one of the first[69] to be singularly devoted to the question of why the end of the Mayan Long Count was set for the year 2012.

An interesting historical side note to this is that Terence McKenna claims to have been the first to acknowledge this conjunction of the 2012 winter solstice sun with the centre of the galaxy in print (Jenkins acknowledges this in his book), pointing once again to the fundamental importance of his work in the development of the 2012 phenomenon. In his foreword to Jenkins’ book, McKenna explains how he sees this:

My path of discovery was different from Jenkins’, a fact that I believe gives greater credence to both our individual conclusions. By 1974 I was aware of the approach of a heliacal solstice rising of the Galactic Center and its potential as a time of renewal, yet astonishingly this was before I was aware that the astronomer-shamans of the Olmec/Maya had reached the same conclusions more than two millennia ago[70].

And taking a look at the original version of The Invisible Landscape, we find the passage McKenna is referring to on page 189. In looking for a way to «search for possible dates for future concrescence», by which McKenna means finding a correlation between the ‘Eschaton Wave’ distilled from the I Ching and historical events, his attention is drawn to the phenomenon of the precession of the equinoxes; an astronomical phenomenon that is concerned with the rotation of the earth’s axis in relation to space.

Because of a slow process through which the earth ‘wobbles’ around its own axis, its relative position to various astronomical bodies will change over time and it takes approximately 26.000 years for a full precession cycle to finish[71], tracing all twelve zodiacal constellations in its course. Taking into account this phenomenon, McKenna speculates:

In our time, the winter solstice is placed in the constellation Sagittarius, only about 3º from the galactic center which, (…) is within 2º of the ecliptic. Because the winter solstice node is precessing, it is moving closer and closer to the point on the ecliptic where it will eclipse the galactic center. This will occur sometime in the next 200 years. It is difficult to be more accurate, since the term «galactic center» is ambiguous[72].

This last sentence is significant in that it shows us that McKenna was indeed aware of the imminence of a ‘Great Alignment’ but had not (yet) linked this phenomenon with the year 2012, as he would do after becoming aware of the independent work of John Major Jenkins in the early 1990’s. Jenkins’ theory, that the Mayan Long Count calendar was set to end on December 21st, 2012 to draw attention to the unique astronomical alignment to occur on that date stands or falls with the question whether or not ancient Mayan astronomers were aware of the ‘precession’ effect. Although Jenkins carefully argues that this must have been the case, this notion is quite controversial amongst more traditional Maya scholars[73].

For the present study, however, verifying the scientific adequacy of his theories is less interesting than looking at the discourse that is developed around them, as it is the development of an apocalyptic narrative around the year 2012 that I am interested in. Although Jenkins’ book is largely speculative archaeology (or: ‘astromythology’ as he himself refers to it), there is a definite religious or spiritual flavor to his interpretations, in that he considers the encoding of the year 2012 in the Mayan Long Count as an injunction to «abandon our illusions and return to the center, back to rejuvenation with the Great Mother, our cosmic heart and source[74]».

Through rigorous and admittedly creative interpretations of various Mayan monuments and artifacts at various archaeological sites (the most important of which, for Jenkins, are the pre-Classic ruins at Izapa, near the Mexico-Guatemala border), Jenkins aims to restore ‘the forgotten Galactic Paradigm'[75] of the ancient Maya civilization and create an awareness of the enormous changes they foresaw so many centuries ago. Echoing the counter-cultural ideology of the New Age movement, he explains his view on what awaits us leading up to and after the year 2012:

On small or local levels of manifestation-in cultural revivals and in religious movement for example- the historical process of polarization has occurred before, but the 2012 era represents a global reversal. (…) As a result of my studies of Mayan end-date cosmologies, I prefer to emphasize what might be termed a pole shift in our collective psyche. This places the possibility of successful, positive transformation squarely in our own hands. What I suspect this is about is already underway- a shift from the dominator mode so characteristic of our civilization to a partnership style[76].

Although Jenkins’ work and method in his earliest work is distinctly lacking the psychedelic and prophetic rhetoric that the McKenna’s and Argüelles respectively employ, recent developments in his work suggest that Jenkins is placing more emphasis on the role of psychoactive substances[77] (especially the psilocybin mushroom) in ancient Mayan culture. Considering Jenkins’ correspondence with Terence McKenna in the last decade of the twentieth century, and his recent collaboration with Daniel Pinchbeck on the Reality Sandwich website, this is hardly surprising. It does, however, indicate the possibility that the (neo-)psychedelic elements of 2012 speculation are moving more and more towards the foreground. In the fourth chapter of this thesis, I will return to this issue of the role of psychedelics in the development of the 2012 phenomenon.

‘The Cigarette-Smoking Man’ and 2012

A further catalyst in the popular dissemination of the 2012 mythology is the hugely popular television series The X-Files, which was originally broadcast from 1993 until 2002.

The thematic of this series in many ways reflects the essential elements of the 2012 phenomenon: a deep mistrust of official governments leading to numerous conspiracy theories, interest in the supernatural and spirituality and, of course the widespread belief in the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence and their possible past or future interference in human affairs.

In the series finale, the two final episodes[78] («The Truth» parts I and II), first broadcast on May 19, 2002 in the United States, feature the notion that December 22nd, 2012 will see the final ‘Colonization’ of our planet by extraterrestrials. ‘The Mayan calendar’ is also mentioned in this episode, when we find FBI agents Mulder and Scully seeking out ‘the Cigarette Smoking Man’, government infiltrator (and, as some may remember, Mulder’s father) in Mexico. Of this ‘colonization’ plan, he says the following:

Ten centuries ago the Mayans were so afraid that their calendar stopped on the exact date that my story begins. December 22, the year 2012. The date of the final alien invasion. Mulder can confirm the date. He saw it at Mount Weather … …where our own «Secret Government» will be hiding when it all comes down[79].

In this plot, we have a number of essential ingredients of the 2012 phenomenon present at once: conspiracy theory, extraterrestrial intelligence, ancient calendars and prophecies related to the year 2012. Whether the occurrence of this prophecy in a series as popular as this was a reflection of its gaining currency in the countercultural milieu at that time, or that this series itself was an important factor in its proliferation is difficult to say. But considering the amount of viewers that must have seen these episodes, there can be no doubt that it brought the year 2012 to a much wider audience than relatively obscure esoteric books could ever accomplish on their own.

In this chapter I have attempted to trace the gradual development of an apocalyptic narrative concerning the year 2012 by taking a look at its most important literary sources. Although Robert Sitler is correct in positing that an important aspect of this phenomenon is a ‘New Age appropriation of an ancient Mayan calendar’, as we have seen in examining José Argüelles and John Major Jenkins, my version of the story strongly suggests that it is the brothers McKenna who should be considered as the primary source of this modern mythology.

In the next chapter, where I will attempt to construct an analytical typology of contemporary 2012 speculation, we will see the extent to which the psychedelic musings the McKenna’s have influenced the field. Their strange cosmology, in which DMT, psilocybin and human DNA are intimately connected to the revelation of a great shift in 2012 and the evolution of human consciousness, has served as framework in which further speculations were able to flourish. In his Beyond 2012, Geoff Stray has illustrated the extent to which the 2012 ‘end-date’ has come to permeate a large portion of apocalyptic speculation in the New Age milieu. After there appeared to have been some degree of consensus on the importance of 2012 in ‘the Mayan calendar’, and more and more reference to its possibly apocalyptic significance were made, many mediums, channels and otherwise divinely or spiritually inspired messages containing references to 2012 began to pop up, leading «the Mayan connection» to be considered as merely one of several prophecies regarding 2012.


Ever since I began my research on the 2012 phenomenon, I have been wondering if it is possible and necessary to conceive of a typological approach to this field. I think that although such typologies are always to a large extent artificial, they can serve as valuable heuristic tools that facilitate a better understanding of what we are dealing with.

I propose to distinguish five ideal-typical categories of 2012 speculation, illustrate their basic notions as well as provide one or two examples of relevant authors and texts within each respective category. Please keep in mind that these categories are only analytical concepts designed to organize an overwhelming amount of data, and that most of the specific instances of 2012 theory will fall into more than one of these. I am convinced this will become clear shortly. Nevertheless, the five categories of «2012ology» I will distinguish here are: (1) Calendar Reform Movements, (2) Neo-Shamanic (psychedelic) Millennialism, (3) Conspiracy-based 2012 speculation, (4) (Pseudo)Scientific 2012 theory and finally, (5) Casual and spirituality-based 2012 speculation.

(1) Calendar Reform Movements: José Argüelles’ Planetary Art Movement

In the previous chapter we have already encountered José Argüelles and his work on «the Mayan calendar» and its relationship to the world we are living in today. As we saw, Argüelles enjoyed a brief moment of fame when in 1987, in the influential book The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology, he announced the occurrence of «the Harmonic Convergence», a cosmological event that inaugurated the final 25 years before the fulfillment of an ancient Mayan prophecy, before the great transition of 2012. In that same book he first began to formulate his basic esoteric theories on the nature of time and the need for the Western world to change their time-keeping system in order to avoid catastrophe. In subsequent publications he developed a complex calendrical system, loosely based on «the ancient Mayan calendar» (the Tzolkin) which would allow the West to live in accordance with «the Law of Time», defined in pseudo mathematical form as T(E)=Art («Time is Art»).

Although his many followers and (to a lesser degree) Argüelles himself present his «Dreamspell» calendar as authentically Mayan, this is not the case. Instead, his system of timekeeping resembles in many way popular Western astrology, in that in enables people to calculate their personal «birth signs», which endows them with specific talents, gifts and challenges and relate these to the specific «energy stamp» each successive day in the year has. In examining some of the websites and books directly inspired by the work of Argüelles it is quite remarkable how there seems to be very little awareness of the syncretic origins of the «Dreamspell» calendar. In recent years, there have been a number of articles[80] devoted to critically examining Argüelles’ version of ancient Mayan calendar systems, something which appears to have had little influence on his followers. To the contrary, as it seems that this type of 2012 speculation is flourishing at the moment.

According to Argüelles, ‘the Mayan calendar’ will indeed «end» in 2012, and serves as an ancient alarm clock for a civilization that is quickly heading towards its destruction. Argüelles and his Planetary Art Network (PAN) and derivative organizations represent the first strand of 2012 speculation I have introduced above, that of «Calendar Reform». According to advocates of this current, the major source of the corrupt nature of our civilization is the fact that the calendar we employ to organize our personal and societal lives (the Gregorian calendar) is at a considerable remove from the ‘natural order’ of time, the cycles of the earth, the moon, the sun and other celestial bodies. «The Mayan calendar», as these groups conceive of it, on the other hand represents a perfect form of calendrics in that it is perfectly aligned with every conceivable natural cycle in existence.

The question these theorists ask is always: «What is time?», and conversely, «what does our calendar measure?» A fundamental assumption in all of the work of Argüelles is that somehow it is the calendar of a civilization that is primarily responsible for the lifestyle of the citizens of that society. He defines time as «the universal factor of synchronization[81]», the fundamental ordering principle at work in societies. Changing this factor changes the manner in which people relate to the forces at work in the universe.

I should note that although Argüelles often presents his work as a scientific accomplishment, what we actually find is an explicit rhetoric of prophecy. Daniel Pinchbeck, who I will discuss in the next section, quotes him as saying, in 1987 after «the Harmonic Convergence» event:

«I no longer sought any conventional means to communicate. I was now operating prophetically, on behalf of the noosphere[82]».

Using an esoteric cosmology loosely based on the work of Teilhard de Chardin, in combination with his own ‘revelations’ concerning ancient Mayan mythology, he established himself as the prime authority on all things Mayan. This rhetoric of prophecy is important in understanding Argüelles’ role in the 2012 phenomenon, seeing that for many New Age and ‘Mayan calendar’ enthusiasts he embodies «Valum Votan», «the Closer of the Cycles» prophesied to

accomplish what I was sent here to accomplish, and that is to «close the cycle.» That cycle, of course is the cycle of the Thirteen Baktuns, the Great Cycle, the cycle of the testing and perfection of the human soul[83].

His work has influenced a number of authors and theorists to adopt his global «Calendar Reform» initiative and write their own books on the importance of the Tzolkin in dealing with the current apocalyptic phase[84]. Argüelles’ presence on the internet is downright impressive, as there are many websites affiliated to his ‘Galactic Research Institute’ where he is constantly publishing articles.

There is also a regular journal titled Second Creation Magazine[85], where a younger generation of Argüelles’ followers write articles, poems and stories about living according to ‘the Law of Time’. One of the central aims of this journal is to be «a voice for the emerging noosphere (planetary consciousness) in the years leading up to and beyond December 21st 2012[86]». An interesting side note to Argüelles’ and the Planetary Art Network’s «Calendar Reform» campaign is that it was repeatedly stressed that the time-window for a worldwide transition to a «thirteen moon calendar» was set for the year 2004. If the world’s leaders would fail to answer this prophetic call, humanity would face certain destruction in 2012. Since obviously such a calendar change has not occurred before their ultimatum’s end, and most of us still live by the Gregorian calendar, one can only imagine the future these advocates of «the Mayan calendar» envision for us.

(2) Neo-Shamanic (Psychedelic) Millennialism : Daniel Pinchbeck and ‘the Return of Quetzalcoatl’

Daniel Pinchbeck (1966-) can be considered as one of the leading spokespersons of the imminence of a transformational event in the year 2012 of the present moment. He has been recognized as the successor to Timothy Leary and Terence McKenna as an advocate and theorist of psychedelic drugs. After setting up a number of literary journals and projects, he published his first book in 2002, entitled Breaking Open the Head: a Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism (Broadway Books: New York, 2002). This well-written and fascinating account of Pinchbeck’s travels in search of authentic «shamanic experience» is in many ways reminiscent of McKenna’s True Hallucinations.

The book combines two narratives into a coherent and compelling story. On the one hand, Pinchbeck is interested in «the cultural history of psychedelic compounds in the modern West[87]», tracing the literary and intellectual discourse tied to psychedelics throughout the twentieth century. In doing so, he presents an interesting account of the development of the narrative surrounding psychedelics, leading up to the current ‘War on Drugs’. The second aspect of the book, which is more significant for us, is his description of his personal experiences under the influence of various psychedelic substances and recounts his own «subjective, incomplete, occasionally harrowing, often alienating, yet exhilarating and fun process of discovery and transformation[88]». In the process, Pinchbeck does occasionally refer to the work of the brothers McKenna and their theory of the acceleration of ‘novelty’ to its climax in 2012[89], but does not yet give it the central importance he would four years later, when he published 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl (Tarcher/Penguin: London, 2006).

In this book, Pinchbeck undergoes a remarkable transformation from an advocate of psychedelics and neo-shamanism to a fully-fledged prophet of an apocalypse in 2012. Whereas Breaking Open the Head did feature a sharply counter-cultural injunction to «break the spell of our culture’s death-trap deception and hypnotic distractions[90]» through the use of psychedelics and the cultivation of a neo-shamanic lifestyle based on spiritual principles, his 2006 book represents Pinchbeck’s emergence as a prophet and visionary. In the book he advances the thesis that

(…)human consciousness is rapidly transitioning to a new state, a new intensity of awareness that will manifest as a different understanding, a transformed realization, of time and space and self. By this thesis, the transition is already under way-though largely subliminally-and will become increasingly evident as we approach the year 2012[91].

The method by which he aims to demonstrate the reality of the coming apocalypse is quite interesting and can be seen as a philosophical attempt to synthesize the work of (amongst many others) Teilhard de Chardin, Terence and Dennis McKenna, José Argüelles and Carl Jung. His basic theory is that the notion of apocalypse should be seen as a fundamental psychic archetype, the becoming-reality of which will lead to

«the transformation of our consciousness, (…) the rapid creation, development and dissemination of new institutions and social structures, corresponding to our new level of mind[92]».

And it is the winter solstice of 2012 that Pinchbeck considers to be the exact date of humanity’s graduation from «nation-states to a noospheric state[93]». Pinchbeck, like McKenna and Argüelles, develops a distinctly utopian vision of the post-2012 world, emphasizing themes that are characteristic of many neo-Pagan groups and authors such as adopting a spirituality oriented towards the Divine Feminine («the Goddess»).

In the course of developing his argument, Pinchbeck weaves together his psychedelic experiences (in this respect his 2012 is basically similar to Breaking Open the Head), philosophical reflection and a recurring fascination with the crop circle and UFO phenomena into what is basically a prophetic narrative. In many ways, this book recounts the themes we have already encountered when looking at his intellectual predecessors, making this publication an important source for insight into the nature of the 2012 phenomenon in general.

Pinchbeck’s own revelatory experiences, while experimenting with various psychoactive drugs, serve to give him an added amount of authority as a contemporary prophet of 2012. According to Pinchbeck, he first began to have these experiences while participating in a religious ceremony of the Santo Daime Church[94] in Brazil in November 2003. During one of the sessions in this church, in which participants take one or more doses of the DMT-containing ayahuasca brew, Daniel began receiving transmissions from an entity that identified itself as ‘Quetzalcoatl[95]’. Communications with this entity continued for a number of days after the initial contact, until a clear message had been received. Although Pinchbeck has not yet officially published the entire message he received, he did post a transcript on the forum to his companion website[96] to his first book in November 2004.

Three years later, Pinchbeck looks back on the incident somewhat humorously but eloquent as ever:

Quetzalcoatl-or whatever spirit, daimonic entity, or disassociated shard of my overwrought psyche had taken up temporary residence inside my skull-explained that he was an imminent field of mind, a new level of consciousness, linking sacred traditions with modern thought-streams, melding modern empiricism with mercurial realms of the soul and higher pirouettes of spirit. The Plumed Serpent, winged avenger of Mayan myth, had chosen this moment to alight. I was a convenient reference point, a panoptic illusion, embedded at the necessary coordinates in our space-time matrix to transmit this noospheric news[97].

The message that he received, appropriately titled ‘Quetzalcoatl Returns’ speaks of the imminence of «a great change to your world» and contains many references to the work of the McKenna’s and Argüelles. Spatial restrictions to this thesis do not allow me to analyze this ‘revelation’ in detail (which is something that future researchers may find very interesting and worthwhile to do), but it suffices to mention that all the essential elements of 2012 speculation as we have see it are present: a sharp counter-cultural ‘stab’ to dominant values («The global capitalist system that is currently devouring your planetary resources will soon self-destruct»), a description and diagnosis of the current cosmological changes that are taking place («You are, right now, living at the time of revelation, Apocalypse, and the fulfillment of prophecy (…) What are those shadows that crowd around you? They are the unintegrated aspects of your own psyche, projected into material form») and a vision of the world to come based on New Age ideas («The current transition is, simultaneously, a return to origin. The original matrix of this new world reality is the ecstatic limitlessness of your own being»). With yet another 2012 prophecy in place, the plot thickens considerably.

(3) Conspiracy-based 2012 speculation: David Icke’s Reptilian Conspiracy

In the next chapter I will have a word or two to say about the interesting connection that appears to exist generally between millennialism and conspiracism as it seems that in most, if not all 2012 theories there is an element of conspiracy theory, varying in scope of course. Nevertheless there can be distinguished a definite type of 2012 speculation that is fundamentally concerned with the existence of a global (and sometimes even cosmic) conspiracy in connection with the year 2012.

A prime example of this type of speculation is the work of the British author David Icke, (1952- ) who is well known in certain conspiracist circles and wrote titles such as The Robots’ Rebellion (1994), …And the Truth Shall Set You Free (1995), and The Children of the Matrix (2001) Although some of his theories are quite bizarre, especially his notion that the world’s royal families and top politicians are not human but an interplanetary race of evil shape shifting reptilians conspiring to dominate humanity, he represents a small but in many ways vocal portion of the 2012 phenomenon. In A Culture of Conspiracy, Michael Barkun summarizes the basic theory of Icke as:

a generic New World Order concept: humanity is in thrall to «manipulators» who keep us from reaching a condition of full freedom. Icke refers to these plotters as ‘the Brotherhood». The Brotherhood consists of «an enormous network of secret societies» at whose apex stand the Illuminati. This set of nested conspiracies achieves its goals through control of the «world financial system» and its mastery of «mind control» techniques. Its goal is «a world government to which every continent would be subordinate»[98]

It is interesting to note that in earlier publications, Icke did not consider the year 2012 to be of any special significance in his own particular system of thought, as a citation from his 1994 book The Robot’s Rebellion will show. According to Icke, the year 2012

is when those who follow the Mayan calculations believe that Planet Earth will be re-synchronized. Different people put different time scales on these things, but they all agree on the basic period. My feeling is that the ‘window’ of time in which we will see the most dramatic change is between the 1990s and circa 2030[99].

Where Icke derived this information from is difficult to say, as in neither this text nor its bibliography any reference is made to sources that established 2012 as ‘the end of the Mayan calendar’, Although in 1994 both Argüelles and McKenna were available, judging by Icke’s (erroneous) identification of the ‘end-date’ of the Long Count as 12.12.2012[100], and the interpretation he gives of it, it is likely that he derived it from a secondary mention of alternative archaeological research into Mayan calendrics.

In any case, it is clear that in 1994, Icke saw no reason to jump on the 2012 bandwagon as of yet. Then somehow, five years later the status of the year 2012, with the exact date adjusted to December 21st, gained a promotion in Icke’s work, finally coming to play an essential part in his conspiracy theory:

With fear as the reptilians’ greatest weapon, the plan is to engineer events, real and staged, that will create enormous fear in the countdown years to 2012. This includes a plan to start a third world war either by stimulating the Muslim world into a ‘holy war’ against the West or by using the Chinese to cause global conflict. Maybe both.[101]

Either Icke became aware of an updated plot in the global conspiracy, or (and this is much more likely) he must have noticed the growing number of books and websites referring to the importance of 2012, especially the new edition of the 1975 work of the brothers McKenna[102] and their mathematical manipulation of the I Ching, which he mentions explicitly.

Following their notion of the rapid acceleration of the Timewave and its «end» in 2012, Icke appears to recognize the notion that this year will bring about the single most important transformation in human consciousness in history. «The Brotherhood», aware of the coming shift «are seeking desperately to hide these facts by blaming the weather changes on ‘the Greenhouse Effect’ or ‘El Nino’. They know that once people realize that something very different is happening the dominoes will fall and the game will be up[103]». In this framework, the year 2012 represents a chance for humanity to avoid total domination by an extraterrestrial, malevolent conspiracy and «see freedom return to this planet for the first time in so, so long[104]».

Another 2012 theorists that falls within this category worth mention here is the Irish born Michael Tsarion (1969- ), author of a number of books on ancient civilizations, divination and most importantly a very vocal advocate of a cosmic conspiracy against consciousness His work in many ways echoes that of David Icke, although he is perhaps wider in scope. Apart from developing a complex worldview in which conspirism, occultism and «alternative history» (as Tsarion calls it) are interwoven, he is very clear about the significance of 2012 in the future development of humanity.

In Tsarion’s view, the «war on terror» that ensued after the event of 9/11 actually represent a deepening of an ancient «war on consciousness» of a global conspiracy aimed at the total domination of humanity. In this picture, the 21st of December 2012 is «the Zero Year» in which the sun will be in conjunction with the galactic center and the dawn of a «New Age», an «age of awakening». The three-and-a-half hour lecture he gave on the Granada Forum in Los Angeles in 2006 titled 2012- The Future of Mankind[105] reflects his sense of urgency in getting his message across before the year 2012 actually arrives and nicely illustrates the immensity of the scope of 2012 speculation and the rhetorical ‘fire’ that characterizes many of the authors and speakers in this genre .

(4) (Pseudo)Scientific 2012 theory: David Wilcock’s «Divine Cosmos»

Your social structures cannot survive as they are now. You may like them as they are, but you cannot like the idea of a planet that is dead. That is the bottom line. These changes have to happen if any of you are to survive.

-‘Ra’/David Wilcock, November 11, 1999[106].

This next type of speculation concerning 2012 often goes hand-in-hand with conspiracy theory, in that most of the authors who attempt to provide a scientific justification for the imminence of a great shift in 2012 use conspiracy rhetoric to explain why the secret scientific knowledge they have somehow managed to uncover has been hidden from the public.

David Wilcock (1973- ), whose work in the field of «2012 studies» is published on his «Divine Cosmos» website[107], holds an ambiguous position in the present study. He is at once one of the most vocal and, admittedly, sophisticated of the many authors concerned with speculation regarding the events surrounding 2012, and one of our most valuable sources of information regarding the various theories and sources that exist concerning 2012. One of the great advantages of having his research out in the open and available to us is that we can see very clearly how the syncretism of this phenomenon is working. In the case of Wilcock, this happens on an almost daily basis, as new web links, visions and theories on 2012 are posted. His website has evolved over the years into a veritable database of information regarding the various theories and ideas about «the coming shift» and he has published (online, for now) three very voluminous «books»[108] that summarize, in a surprisingly coherent narrative, the data he has gathered so far. In this sense he represents a relatively mature and sophisticated, albeit controversial and often obscure current within the 2012 phenomenon.

Wilcock gained some international attention through his contention[109] (and of those around him) that he is the reincarnation of the well-known American psychic Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) and his (until recently) work as a psychic reader and counselor himself. Through «rigorous research» into (quantum) physics, geometry, various material ‘channeled’ by himself and others and several other scientific disciplines such as astronomy and geology, Wilcock has come to be convinced that leading up to the year 2012, humanity is experiencing a process of ‘ascension’, a gradual but intense shift to a higher dimensional form of existence, a discrete «astrophysical event in our near future with profound spiritual implications[110]».

His work is characterized by a passionate, almost obsessive drive to convince even the most skeptical of his readers that the ‘ascension’ process he is pointing towards is actually taking place. Very recently, on June 19th 2007[111], he appeared on the well-known American radio broadcast «Coast to Coast AM» and was interviewed specifically on his ideas concerning 2012. The conversation that ensued neatly captures the important characteristics of this fourth type of 2012 speculation.

In my view, there are three basic rhetorical «avenues» that characterize the (pseudo)scientific type of 2012 theory, being (1) alternative physics, (2) geological and astronomical data and (3) alternative archaeology and history. I will briefly go into all three aspects here.

(1) Although I am hardly in a position to qualify the scientists that are constantly being quoted qua science, it is not difficult to see that there is a rhetorical strategy being employed in this kind of speculative writing; one that both overwhelms the readers with seemingly consistent, but highly complex (not to say mind-blowingly bizarre) models of physical reality, often using geometry and advanced mathematics and mathematical physics, and has the appeal of the «exotic other», in that it is from the work of Russian scientists that often are described as having, in Russia, a status similar as that of Einstein in the West. Who are we to judge them then? Their having been overlooked by mainstream, Western (read: rationalist, materialist, Illuminati-influenced) science is merely a case of strategic data management by the powers that be. Wilcock, much like more seasoned ‘conspiracists’ such as Icke or Tsarion, often uses such rhetoric to explain the obscure status of many such scientists. The knowledge they represent is actively being repressed and kept from us.

Then, upon being presented with a dazzling display of intellectual superiority and geometric axioms of cosmic significance (which will no doubt lead many reader to either give up reading altogether or just accept the concepts and theories supposedly «explained» in detail at face value, by accepting the authority of the author and his sources), these difficult concepts are neatly related to more familiar, easier to grasp concepts from the various New Age sources, in Wilcock’s case this is usually the channeled material from the Law of One series, or Jane Robert’s contact «Seth».

This discursive strategy, which we might call «scientism» (in Olav Hammer’s sense[112]) is a common occurrence in New Age science and is aptly illustrated by the work of David Wilcock. What all these scientific sources point towards, in Wilcock’s view, is the reality of «the Shift of the Ages» in 2012, leading to «a golden age for humanity» in which «Ascended abilities such as telekinesis, levitation, instantaneous healing, the ability to fast-forward and rewind linear time like a videotape – things like that[113]» will be part of ordinary life.

(2) A second important aspect of the (pseudo)scientific form of 2012 theory often takes the form of speculation derived from various «earth sciences» and astronomical research into conjunctions of planets, solar activity and «interplanetary climate change». Wilcock often posts links to newspaper articles or scientific journals which provide evidence for anomalous findings in various scientific disciplines, after which he skillfully places them in his wider discourse of Ascension in 2012.

Examples that are found in various 2012 sources include the notion that the year 2012 will see an unprecedented amount of «solar flare» activity, leading to massive changes in the magnetic activity on our planet and the apparent «planetary warming» on all the planets in our solar system, connected to a cosmic dimensional shift. All such extraordinary changes, and many more are considered to be pointing towards the same apocalyptic event in 2012. A leading theorist in this field of speculation is the British author Adrian Gilbert[114], who in collaboration with Maurice Cotterell advances the theory that the Mayan Long Count calendar measures ‘sun spot’ activity, which is due to come to a maximum in 2012, causing mass catastrophe and destruction.

(3) This aspect, of «alternative history and archaeology» I have already treated exhaustively in chapter 3, where I discussed the origin of the 2012 end date in the Mayan Long Count. Although the Mayan connection is pervasive in the 2012 phenomenon, a plethora of other alternative archaeologies are often used to back up theories concerning 2012. Various theories concerning the supposed ancient civilizations of Lemuria and Atlantis, but also Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Judeo-Christian history are used to corroborate the 2012 theory; it seems that once you get your attention turned to the year 2012 as apocalypse, the evidence is everywhere to be found. Geoff Stray’s book is still the most valuable source for an overview of all the different prophecies and visions that are considered by many to indicate that 2012 is essential in our history as a species, of which there are many.[115]

Wilcock himself aptly illustrates once again the syncretic and kaleidoscopic nature of the contemporary 2012 phenomenon, as we see in his work the interweaving of various discourses take place: pseudo-scientific data, conspiracy theory, ancient prophecies and revelation (‘channeling’ in this case) are mixed into a single apocalyptic narrative in which the year 2012 holds a central position. The certainty that the year 2012 will indeed be the moment of ‘ascension’, when humans will undergo a radical, but ultimately positive transformation into spiritual existence, provides him with a rhetorical catalyst to keep producing literature and ensures him a steady and perhaps growing audience of 2012 enthusiasts. Wilcock is currently working on a series of films tentatively titled ‘Convergence’ and I am curious to see how the year 2012 will feature in these.

(5) ‘Casual’ and spirituality-based 2012 speculation

A survey of the books, websites and web discussion on the year 2012 reveals that quantitatively, most of the 2012 speculation can be fitted into this final category, that I propose to term «casual» and «spirituality-based». With the designation «casual» I am not implying that the assumptions and theories of the speculists in this category are taken any less serious, but merely that the notion of an imminent «shift of the ages» due in 2012 is often no more than a rhetorical strategy to gain publicity for one’s text or project. That apocalyptic imagery and thematic works wonders as a marketing strategy is further evinced by events such as LiveEarth[116], inspired by Al Gore’s recent film An Inconvenient Truth (Paramount, 2006) and the broader environmentalist discussion taking place at the moment.

Here, we are dealing with books and webpages not so much concerned with apocalypse in a literal or catastrophist sense, but mostly exhibit a version of New Age in a general sense, with an added emphasis on the nearness of the transformational event in 2012. In this sense, it is possible to see the 2012 phenomenon as a genre of contemporary esoteric literature and speculation.

In this category I would place the multitude of «channeled» messages that contain reference to the shift of 2012. Examples of these are widespread: the recent mentioning of the imminence of an apocalyptic shift in the work of Drunvalo Melchizedek is an example, as well as the work of the Dutch ‘Aquarian mystic’ Sonia Bos. Less esoterically oriented theorists such as the Hungarian founder of the Club of Budapest Ervin Laszlo and his recent volume The Chaos Point would also belong in this more «casual» type of 2012 speculation, in which the apocalyptic aspects are downplayed and a systems theory approach is taken towards proving that the year 2012 is a «crossroad» for humanity, in which an essential choice towards a more responsible lifestyle will have to be made. In such works it can be seen that the year 2012 can indeed serve as a shibboleth of sorts, identifying oneself with a wider cultural, perhaps even political movement.

In this chapter, I have attempted to sketch one possible typological approach to the wide field of 2012 speculation by distinguishing between five different speculative categories. In doing so, I have emphasized the epistemological aspects of those different types. Before moving on to the next chapter, I would like to make two final comments on my typology of the 2012 phenomenon.

Firstly, most of the specific instances of 2012 speculation can be considered as hybrids of two or more of the categories distinguished above, so it will be difficult to find ideal examples in reality. Secondly, I have to stress the fact that this approach I chose is merely one of several possible; it would be interesting, for example to differentiate 2012 theories by the specific nature of their apocalyptic expectancy, possibly ranging anywhere from mildly utopian to extremely catastrophist. This having been said, I do hope that the distinctions as made above have made it clear that the 2012 phenomenon is by no means limited to a ‘New Age appropriation of an ancient Mayan calendar’, but should be seen as a multi-faceted and complex apocalyptic current in modern Western esotericism that is moving into increasingly bizarre but often highly fascinating, speculative territories at this very moment.


In this chapter I will focus on three aspects of the 2012 phenomenon in general that appear to run as red threads throughout the entire field. We have encountered all of these themes in one form or another in the previous chapters, while discussing the history and typology of the 2012 phenomenon, but in order to gain a clear understanding of the nature of this phenomenon it is important to treat these motives separately and make them explicit.

I will begin by taking a closer look at the possible significance that the fascination and experiments with ‘psychedelics’ by the major figures in the 2012 current may have had on its development. After that I will reflect on the relationship that appears to exist between apocalypticism and conspiracy theory, of which we have seen ample evidence already. Finally, I will point towards the importance of the events of September 11th, 2001 in New York and Washington and the changes in global socio-political discourse that ensued, in the current popularization of apocalyptic thematics and imagery in general and in the form of 2012 speculation in particular.

Because of the limits on space available for this thesis, I will only be able to reflect on these topics in the briefest of ways. I am convinced, however, that they can serve as valuable pointers for future research.

The psychedelic roots of 2012 prophecy

The role of psychoactive substances like LSD-25, psilocybin (the active compound in what is popularly referred to as ‘magic mushrooms’) and related ‘psychedelics’ in the counter-cultural climate of the 1960’s and 1970’s is a well-known fact, and has been documented to some extent.[117] There is no question that many of the people who experimented with such and other drugs have had profound experiences that have influenced their subsequent lives.

An aspect of this historical period that has not been adequately studied is the role that psychoactive substances may have had in the religious imagination of that generation, and more generally: the role of psychedelic experience on esoteric discourse. In examining a number of prolific representatives of the 2012 phenomenon, which as we saw can be seen as an apocalyptic or millennial framework for more and less esoteric speculation we have encountered several examples of experimentation with various substances.

The prime example of this link that may exist is of course Terence McKenna, who without a doubt became a leading figure in ‘the psychedelic movement’ of the 1990’s; his image and his voice being used in video clips and sampled in psychedelic music tracks. Looking at the development of his controversial theories on the nature of history and the imminence of an eschatological event in 2012, it is difficult to ignore the role of the psilocybin mushroom and dimethyltryptamine (DMT). I would even contend that it is impossible to understand his speculations and worldview without taking into account their springing from an imagination set on fire by such psychoactive agents. It was through a series of deeply transformative experiences in the Amazon Jungle, facilitated by high dose ingestion of psilocybin and DMT (often in combination with cannabis) that intuitive insights appeared to come to the brothers McKenna, insights that were eventually developed into a more or less coherent system of thought centered around the ‘end of history’ in 2012.

I was not surprised to find a passage[118] in Pinchbeck’s 2012 that explained some of the biographical backgrounds of José Argüelles, a reference to his experimentation with LSD in the 1960’s. In the second chapter above, we have seen Argüelles’ own account of his experiences in this period, which strongly suggest a link between the use of certain psychoactive agents and subsequent prophetic inspirations. That is, I am sure, one of the reasons that Argüelles’ ‘Calendar Reform’ initiative seems to resonate most deeply in contemporary neo-psychedelic circles.

An example of this is last year’s ‘Boom Festival’ in Portugal, which is a European festival somewhat similar to the ‘Burning Man Festival’ in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. On this festival you could find an eclectic mix of trance music, meditation and yoga classes and an atmosphere consciously created to facilitate experimentation with psychedelic drugs. The ‘Planetary Art Movement’ of which Argüelles’ is the founder was prominently set up there and offered several workshops devoted to calendar reform and the shift of 2012. The apocalyptic thematic woven throughout the entire festival becomes clear by their description of it as «a transformative experience in celebration of the perpetual cycle of creation and re-creation- from the beginning of the Whole to the Eschaton.[119]»

And finally, there is Daniel Pinchbeck, the contemporary ‘prophet’ of the year 2012 in whose writings we can also clearly see the importance of psychedelic substances in 2012 speculation. The narrative of his coming into prophethood is fundamentally linked to his experiences with ayahuasca, LSD, various ‘designer drugs’ not generally available and ibogaine[120]. It is again under the influence of these agents that some of the most important threads in his neo-apocalyptic thought have come together. For Pinchbeck, and most other 2012 prophets, the ‘crisis’ we find ourselves in today is a crisis of consciousness first and foremost, and thus the only viable solution to this crisis has to be found on the level of consciousness itself.

This often means that the use of psychedelics is actively encouraged as a means to make the necessary preparations. What Western culture needs, according to Pinchbeck is «shamans powerful enough to suck the spiritual poison from our social body and vomit it out for us[121]». Through the conscious and pragmatic use of various psychoactive substances and neo-shamanic techniques we must become

(…)spiritual warriors [and] take responsibility for the plight of our own species. To break the spell of our culture’s death-trap deceptions and hypnotic distractions, we need the courage to confront what lies behind the open doors of our own minds[122].

By briefly pointing to this influence of psychedelics on some of the major 2012 theorists, I have by no means attempted to explain the phenomenon away. It is merely one of several important constitutive elements in an increasingly complex field. I do hope that future research on the 2012 phenomenon will delve deeper into this connection between contemporary esoteric apocalypticism and the use of psychedelics that appears to exist.

‘The end of whose time…?’ Apocalypse and conspiracy theory

The apocalypse, too, is about time- the end of time (…) But the end of whose time?

-José Argüelles, in Time and the Technosphere[123].

The more one delves into the labyrinth of prophecy related to the year 2012, whether it be of the (pseudo)scientific variety, or of the explicitly prophetic kind, there is always one aspect that seems to remain constant: the countercultural tone that defines the nature of the texts. The fuel for all of these prophecies, speculations and revelations concerning the imminence of a great shift, whether catastrophic or glorious, whether ordained by greater powers or brought about by the hands of human beings, seems to be a very deep suspicion concerning the nature and foundations of Western culture (late capitalism, military intervention etc.). This suspicion is often accompanied by elaborate conspiracy theories that involve knowledge of extraterrestrial intelligence, the UFO phenomenon and the existence of a global ‘war or consciousness’.

Argüelles speaks of the imminence of a shift from the «technosphere» to the noosphere, which in common language would mean something like a reorientation from dominant technology-based culture to a spiritually mature and possibly even telepathic form of society. The technosphere represents the work of a dominator culture devoted to material and spiritual domination, using the Gregorian calendar as their most potent ‘weapon’ against «aboriginal continuity[124]», the archaic, shamanic and spiritual orientation we need to reclaim before 2012. In the work of David Icke we saw that the conspiracy was everywhere and more cosmic in scope; together with Michael Tsarion he speaks of an ancient «war on consciousness», the final battle which is being fought out at this very moment.

In a 2006 documentary film titled ‘2012: The Odyssey’ (Sacred Mysteries Productions, 2006), New Age teacher, poet and healer Stephen Levine, upon being asked the question whether ot not the world will end in 2012 gives a telling response. According to Levine,

….whether or not time ends in 2012, we should be assuming that it will, so that we will take care of business. And perhaps more importantly: don’t cancel your appointments for 2013.

This «taking care of business» is an important phrase in that it points us towards what I think is an important characteristic of the 2012 business in general; even though there may be several authors who take a rather literalist stance on the significance of 2012, it is highly probable that the adoption of 2012 thematic and imagery serves as a rhetorical strategy that is designed to foster counter-cultural sympathies and eventually socio-political and ‘spiritual’ activism. Although it is difficult to say if and to what extent this attitude is dominant, it is quite likely that many of the contemporary authors and lecturers that include references to the millennial significance of the year 2012 are very much aware of the potency of apocalypticism in making people take a stand against a civilization that is perceived to be based on values that are fundamentally corrupt.

«The Inevitable Event» and the revival of apocalypticism

It has become somewhat of a cliché to refer to «9/11» and point towards the immense consequences this date has had on Western culture and its intellectual discourse in recent years. Nevertheless, these consequences are very visible in at least on form of contemporary esotericism: the rapid proliferation of 2012 apocalypticism that is currently taking place. Not only has the ‘mainstream’ culture adopted the images and emotions associated with this day into their standard vocabulary, it has also proved to be a fertile source for esoteric and conspiratorial speculation.

It should not surprise us then, that in recent publications and projects within the 2012 phenomenon, the symbolic significance of the destruction of the Twin Towers has been employed exhaustively. The recent work Time and the Technosphere by Argüelles is perhaps the best example of this use. Argüelles, in his obscure and difficult to follow style, even goes so far as to attribute to 9/11 the prophetic label of «the Inevitable Event[125]» (which Argüelles claims he derived from Islamic scripture); the planes flying into the World Trade Centre and the subsequent retaliatory strikes against Afghanistan herald the commencement of the final phase of the program of the ‘technosphere’, which he defines as the interim phase in the ‘biosphere-technosphere-noosphere’ transition we are currently experiencing. The ‘technosphere’, in Argüelles’ theory represents everything that is essentially corrupted about Western civilization; an artificial ‘sheath’ of man-made technology leading to a ‘false consciousness’, and is thus directly responsible for what is often seen as a global crisis of an unprecedented scope.

Reflecting an attitude that is found in many 2012 texts and sources, including the work of David Wilcock and Daniel Pinchbeck, Argüelles gives us a valuable insight into the way in which many of the 2012 speculists perceive the state of the world today and a clue as to the significance of «the Inevitable Event»:

The destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon marked a point beyond the comprehension of the current belief system in every way. To say that the event was mind-blowing is an understatement. But if it was mind-blowing-which it truly was-that means that a whole belief system was knocked off of its foundations, and only a new belief system can supply the answer. A higher, more all-encompassing belief system-a new paradigm-is what is needed if we are to really understand what happened on 9-11[126].

The «higher, more all-encompassing belief system» Argüelles is referring to is of course his highly syncretic, neo-shamanic Calendar Reform programme based on an esoteric interpretation of ‘the Mayan calendar’. Historically speaking, there is nothing ‘new’ about such a call for a «new paradigm» in face of what is perceived as a global crisis. This notion, of the need for a «new paradigm» for a New Age has been part and parcel of New Age religion for a number of decades now[127]. What is «new», or rather a new version of this old discourse, is the explicitly apocalyptic undertone and the sense of absolute certainty that works such as Time and the Technosphere present us with.

Daniel Pinchbeck, author of the 2006 title 2012: the Return of Quetzalcoatl and since mid-2007 webmaster of the ‘Reality Sandwich[128]’ web site, can be used to illustrate the significance of 9/11 in the current 2012 movement as well. Apart from delivering the relatively standard New Age critique of mainstream Western culture and its perceived corruption, some of his work is also an attack on what many consider to be the complacency and materialism evident within the New Age movement itself. Referring to the ideology implicit in immensely popular films such as What the Bleep do we (K)Now…? (Lord of the Wind Films, 2004) and The Secret (Prime Time Productions, 2006), Pinchbeck writes:

This is a metaphysics suited to the narcissism of the baby boomers and the «Me Generation», whose lifestyles have denuded the planet’s rainforests and ripped big holes in the ozone layer[129].

This critical remark is not merely a casual sneer at the generation of Pinchbeck parents, but should be read in the light of Pinchbeck’s self-cast role as a contemporary prophet of a major shift in 2012, which I have examined in the previous chapter. Pinchbeck is convinced that despite all the evident catastrophe, blind materialism and general corruption, the world is nonetheless heading towards a positive shift in consciousness.

Thus, in his latest book, 2012: the Return of Quetzalcoatl, he shows a deep concern with environmental issues, a contempt for late capitalism and a call to a new lifestyle based on spirituality and experimentation with psychedelics. As we saw, he aims to construct a neo-Jungian interpretation of the notion of apocalypse, weaving a narrative that is characterized by personal psychedelic experiences, research into crop circles, extraterrestrials, UFOs, reflections on (neo-)shamanism and general culture criticism. The theme of an imminent apocalyptic event, either leading to a much anticipated utopian paradise or to a post-catastrophic wasteland is central throughout this book.

In his earlier work Breaking Open the Head, this was not nearly as explicit. Clearly, something must have triggered this increased emphasis of apocalypticism. Early in The Return of Quetzalcoatl, Pinchbeck gives us a valuable clue as to what this trigger might have been:

As the towers flamed, I left my house and walked downtown toward them, past dazed survivors covered in gray ash and police squadrons, past blow-dried TV anchors set up on street corners, through crowds rushing away or collected around radios and television screens, as if the media could tell them something more essential than what they could see with their own eyes. I wanted to feel the magnitude of the disaster, to absorb into my skin its biblical proportions, as well as it stage-prop-like unreality[130].

In the light of the preceding, it should be noted that socio-political catastrophes appear to be excellent catalysts for esoteric speculation. The millennial or apocalyptic framework already firmly in place, historical (catastrophic) events are easily interpreted in such a discourse. In closing then, looking back to Argüelles’ 1987 The Mayan Factor[131], we see a similar rhetoric mechanism at work, where he considered the explosion of the NASA spaceshuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986 as an event that shattered «the myth of technological superiority[132]». The rhetoric is exactly the same here as it is in Argüelles’ response to the events of ‘9/11’ in Time and the Technosphere. What this similarity shows us, is that we should see the apocalypticism of some of the major 2012 theorists as a rhetorical strategy first and foremost, aimed at criticizing mainstream culture. In advancing an apocalyptic and esoteric worldview, any opportunity that appears to point the finger at the corruption at the basis of Western culture is taken with both hands.


Expanding on Robert Sitler’s analysis of the 2012 phenomenon, I have attempted to show how an apocalyptic mythology surrounding the year 2012 has developed throughout the 20th century. We saw how in the counter-cultural climate of the 1970’s, a number of theorists, under the influence of psychedelic experiments, speculation around the UFO phenomenon and various esoteric theories about the nature of time, history and the human mind began to formulate theories relating to the End of History and the imminence of an apocalyptic event or period.

In setting the early apocalyptic stage for the 2012 phenomenon, the work of the brothers McKenna is of central importance. Through the work of José Argüelles, especially his controversial interpretations of ‘the Mayan calendar’ and his prophecy of ‘Harmonic Convergence’, the year 2012 began to gradually gain in eschatological significance, until in the present period, there is a rapid growth in literature and websites devoted to speculation concerning 2012.

In the third chapter, I have attempted to show how throughout the 2012 phenomenon there appears to run a red thread consisting of three strands: a deep fascination and experimentation with psychedelic substances, counter-cultural sympathies ranging from extreme conspiracy theory to mildly left-wing political ideals and a fascination (and sometimes obsession) with the events of September 11th, 2001 in the United States.

If after reading all of this, you are still wondering whether indeed «we live in a time of unprecedented change» and the current climate seems ripe for decay and eventual apocalypse, even a short, preliminary reading of the history of apocalypticism and millennialism in the West will serve as a good antidote. The British historian Eugen Weber, in his 1999 work Apocalypses[133], gives us the following (perhaps for some, reassuring) advice:

All ages are marked by perils, lawlessness, social disorders and upheavals, breakdown of morality and family, perils [sic], turbulence and troubles that can serve as signs and stimulate expectations. They are portents; and there are always portents, always apocalyptic apprehensions, always fears and hopes to suggest millennial themes. Joining pessimism and optimism together, the millenarian message is infinitely adaptable to the circumstances at every age[134]».

If we consider that Weber published this book in 1999, one year before ‘Ý2K’, the year for which a large number of speculists and prophets predicted ‘the end of the world’ or massive catastrophic and transformative changes as well.

As most of us will recall, nothing particularly spectacular happened when the year 2000 arrived. This historical evidence notwithstanding, which strongly suggests that apocalypticism, the attitude of ‘expecting the end’ is virtually a given in Western culture, and even though I am well aware of the speculative and often bizarre fundaments upon which the 2012 mythology has been constructed, the question of authenticity does pop up, occasionally. Some of the ‘2012 prophets’, as I do not hesitate to call them at this point, are so adamant in their claims, so fundamentally certain about the imminence of this momentous shift in the history of humanity, that one is often tempted to ask oneself, even if only for a fraction of a moment, «what if it were really true?». (An over-exposure to these types of theories and to reports of catastrophe and imminent crisis in the media can produce this effect).

But the sources I have examined in the preceding chapters will convince most readers that authenticity, in the sense of verifiability and historiographical, as well as autobiographical sincerity is not the major concern of those involved in 2012 speculation. For most of them, the «correctness» of this date and the way it has become a focus of speculation seem to be of little value. Robert Sitler puts this nicely, while at the same time legitimizing academic study of this phenomenon. According to him,

whether there is any underlying substance to the 2012 date has become meaningless as its power as a self-validating set of ideas establishes a reality of it own among believers who have no interest in examining the authenticity of those beliefs[135].

And it is as «a self-validating set of beliefs» that I have attempted to present this phenomenon here as well.

We have seen how the year 2012 was introduced to a larger audience by (fringe) archaeologists by speculative mathematics and astronomy applied to one of several ancient Mayan calendric systems. As is the case in religious creativity, this date and its derivate, 21.12.2012, quickly became an umbrella-theme of sorts, able to support all sorts of speculative theories and extraordinary visions, establishing a widely proliferated genre of esoteric literature and speculation.

Taking up Sitler’s advice and putting aside the question of whether or not 2012 will hold some special apocalyptic significance, the analysis of the 2012 phenomenon that I have presented has, I hope, shown how apocalyptic and millennial beliefs can serve as a catalyst for esoteric speculation, through a process that Richard Landes has appropriately termed ‘semiotic arousal[136]’. According to Landes, for people who are affected by this condition:

everything quickens, everything enlivens, everything coheres. In apocalyptic time, believers become semiotically aroused-everything has meaning, patterns. The smallest incident can have immense importance and open the way to an entirely new vision of the world, one in which forces unseen by other mortals operate (…) Believers commit themselves to this world of transformation, convinced of the superiority of their perceptions, convinced that the uncomprehending mass (including the old elites) will either soon join them or get shredded in the cosmic transformation. The believer’s semiotic arousal leads him or her straight into the apocalyptic vortex.[137]

This ‘semiotic arousal’ or rhetorical fire is very much visible when we hear or see some of the 2012ologists speak in public.

Looking at a video recording of Terence McKenna, speaking without interruption for hours on the relationship between psychoactive mushrooms, the UFO phenomenon and the imminent apocalypse is a good example of this. Michael Tsarion, David Wilcock and José Argüelles, to name a few, all have this trait in common: the apocalyptic framework in which they have developed their various systems of thought serves as a discursive catalyst and is moreover able to provide them with a sense of historical importance and moral obligation.

It also accounts for some of the outlandish theories and visions that we have encountered in the preceding pages. The wonderful thing about this particular prophetic current in contemporary esotericism is that its projected end-date is so close that most of us will still be around to see for ourselves what, if anything, will happen and how some of the authors I have dealt with so far will respond to this. I am convinced that in the coming years, as the much anticipated and sometimes dreaded year 2012 moves closer, the ‘apocalyptic vortex’ will spin faster and faster and we will see an even more explosive growth in apocalyptic and millennial visions and ideas related to this date. In any case, it is an exciting time for historians of religion as well.


There are a number people who I would like to acknowledge here as without their help, writing this thesis would not have been possible. First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to Prof. Wouter Hanegraaff, whose critical reading of the first version of the present thesis helped me to gain some important insights into the process of historical research and helped me thoroughly revise it. I have learned a lot from working with him on this project. Secondly, a big ‘thank you’ to Dr. Marco Pasi, who was kind enough to read the horribly messy first version as well and provide some excellent comments and points of criticism. I am also very grateful for the guidance he offered me in the last three years of studying and showing me what it means to be ‘a real scholar’.

Also a warm thanks to my partner Arieke Duijzer for her support, love and occassional (and much needed) pulling me back down to earth. Also my two housemates, my dear friend David Knibbe and my brother Nick for putting up with the mess of books and notes in the living room and making me countless pots of coffee; thank you guys! Finally, my fellow students in the 2006-2007 M.A. programme ‘Mysticism and Western Esotericism’ at the UvA, for their enthousiasm and critical insights. I wish you all the best of luck in the future.


Argüelles, J. The Transformative Vision: Reflections on the Nature and History of Human Expression, Shamballa: Berkeley&London, 1975.

– Earth Ascending: An Illustrated Treatise on Law Governing Whole Systems, Bear & Company: Rochester, 1984.

– The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology, Bear & Company: Rochester, 1987.

– Time & the Technosphere: the Law of Time in Human Affairs, Bear & Company: Rochester, 2002.

Barkun, M. A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America, University of California Press: Berkeley/Los Angeles, 2003.

Baumgartner, F.J. Longing for the End: a History of Millennialism in Western Civilization, Palgrave: New York, 1999.

Broek, R. van den & Gnosis & Hermeticism from Antiquity to Modern Times, SUNY

Hanegraaff, W.J. Press: Albany, 1997.

Burroughs, W & The Yage Letters, City Lights Books: San Fransisco, 1963.

Ginsberg, A.

Calleman,C.J. The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness, Bear & Company: Rochester, 2004.

Chardin, P.T. de Le Phénomène Humain, Editions du Seuil: Paris, 1955.

– De Toekomst van de Mens, Uitgeverij het Spectrum: Utrecht, 1964.

– Toward the Future (1973), translated by René Hague, Harvest: San Diego, 1975.

– Activation of Energy: Enlightening Reflections on Spiritual Energy (1976), translated by René Hague, Harvest: San Diego, 1978

Festinger, L. When Prophecy Fails: a Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World (1956), Harper Torch Books: New York, 1964.

Free, W. The Reincarnation of Edgar Cayce? Interdimensional Communication and Global Transformation (with David Wilcock), Frog Ltd: Berkeley, 2004.

Fuller, R.C. Stairways to Heaven: Drugs in American Religious History, Westview Press: Boulder, Colorado 2000.

Friedländer, S., (a.o.) Visions of Apocalypse: End or Rebirth? Edited by Saul Friedländer, Gerald Holton, Leo Marx and Eugene Skolnikoff, Holmes & Meier: London, 1985.

Gilbert, A. The End of Time: the Mayan Prophecies Revisited, Mainstream Publishing Company: Edinburgh, 2006.

Gilbert, A. & The Mayan Prophecies: Unlocking the Secrets of a Lost

Cotterell, M.M. Civilization, Element Books Limites: Shaftesbury, 1995.

Hammer, O. Claiming Knowledge: Strategies of Epistemology from Theosophy to the New Age, Brill: Leiden, 2000.

Hanegraaff, W.J. New Age Religion and Western Esotericism: Esotericism in the Mirror of Secular Thought, Brill: Leiden, 1996.

Heelas, P. The New Age Movement: the Celebration of the Self and the Sacralization of Modernity, Blackwell: Oxford. 1996.

Icke, D. The Robot’s Rebellion: The Story of the Spiritual Renaissance, Gateway Books: Bath, 1994.

– The Biggest Secret: the Book that will Change the world, Brigde of Love Publications USA: Scottsdale, 1999

– Infinite Love is the Only Truth- Everything Else is Illusion : Exposing the Dreamworld We Believe to be Real, Bridge of Love Publications: Scottsdale, 2003.

– Tales from the Time Loop: the most Comprehensive Exposé of the Global Conspiracy Ever Written and All You Need to Know to be Truly Free, Bridge of Love Publications USA: Scottsdale, 2005.

Jenkins, J.M. Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: the True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date, Bear & Co.: Rochester, 1998.

Joseph, L.E. Apocalypse 2012: An Investigation into the End of Civilization, Broadway: New York, 2006.

Landes, R. ‘Millenarianism and the Dynamics of Apocalyptic Time’, in: Expecting the End: Millennialism in Social and Historical Context, edited by Kenneth G.C. Newport and Crawford Gribben, Baylor University Press: Waco, 2006.

Laszlo, E. The Chaos Point, the World at the Crossroads: Seven Years to Avoid Global Collapse and Promote Worldwide Renewal, Hampton Roads Publishing Company: Charlottesville, 2006.

Lewis, J.R. & Perspectives on the New Age, SUNY Press: New York, 1992.

Melton, J.G. (eds.)

McKenna, T. The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens and the I Ching (with Dennis McKenna), Seabury Press: New York, 1975.

– The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess and the End of History, HarperCollins: New York, 1991.

– Food of the Gods, the Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge: a Radical History of Plants, Drugs and Human Evolution, Bantam: New York, 1992.

– The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens and the I Ching (with Dennis McKenna), HarperCollins: New York, 1993.

– True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author’s Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil’s Paradise, Harper: San Francisco, 1993.

Melchizedek, D. The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life, Volumes 1 & 2, Light Technology Publishing: Flagstaff, 1990.

Newport, K.G.C. Expecting the End: Millennialism in Social and Historical

& Gribben, C (eds.) Context, Baylor University Press: Waco, 2006 .

Parfrey, A. (ed.) Apocalypse Culture, Amok Press: New York, 1987.

Partridge, C. The Re-Enchantment of the West, Volume I: Alternative Spiritualities, Sacralization, Popular Culture and Occulture, T&T Clark International: New York, 2004.

Pinchbeck, D. Breaking Open the Head: a Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism, Broadway Books: New York, 2002.

– 2012: the Return of Quetzalcoatl, Tarcher/Penguin: London, 2006.

Sitler, R.K. ‘The 2012 Phenomenon: New Age Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar’ in: Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Volume 9, issue 3, pp. 24-38.

Stray, G. Beyond 2012: Catastrophe or Ecstasy, a Complete Guide to End-of-Time Predictions, introduced by John Major Jenkins, Vital Signs Publishing: East Sussex, 2005.

Toonen, P. De Natuurlijke Tijd: Berichten van de Maya’s voor de Nieuwe Tijd, Uitgeverij Petiet: Laren, 2002.

Weber, E. Apocalypses: Prophecies, Cults and Millennial Beliefs throughout the Ages, Hutchinson: London, 1999.

Wilber, K. Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: the Spirit of Evolution, Shambala: Boston, 1995


Allizon, M. ‘Interview with Drunvalo’, in Ma’at Magazine, Volume 4, No. 7 (February 2007), also published online at http://spiritofmaat.com/feb07/drunvalo_interview.html

Argüelles, J. ‘Votan Lives in Argüelles! Argüelles is Dead!’ http://www.earthportals.com/Portal_Messenger/josevotan.html (last visited June 21st, 2007)

Finley, M.J. ‘Jose Arguelles Calendric Dreams’, (2002-3), http://members.shaw.ca/mjfinley/arguelles.html (last visited June 17th, 2007).

Grigoriadis, V. ‘Daniel Pinchbeck and the New Psychedelic Elite: How a Cynical Son of Beatnik Parents combined Drugs, the Devil and the Apocalypse into a Modern Movement’, published online (21.08.2006) at Rolling Stone at http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/11217201/daniel_pinchbeck_and_the_new_psychedelic_elite (last visited June 16th, 2007).

Jenkins, J.M. ‘Maya Shamanism and 2012: a Psychedelic Cosmology’ (2007), http://www.realitysandwich.com/maya_shamanism_and_2012_psychedelic_cosmology (last visited August 20th, 2007).

Pinchbeck, D. ‘Our Forgotten Future’ in: Conscious Choice Magazine, June 2007, published online at http://consciouschoice.com/2007/06/prophetmotive0706.html (last visited June 11th, 2007)

Stray, G. ‘2012- Dire Gnosis’ http://www.diagnosis2012.co.uk/ (last visited June 25th, 2007)

Tsarion, M. ‘2012- The Future of Mankind’ can be accessed through http://www.taroscopes.com/webstream/webstream_startpage.html (last visited June 24th, 2007)

Wicherink, J. Souls of Distortion Awakening: Convergence of Science and Spirituality, published online at: http://soulsofdistortion.nl/SODA_intro.html

Wilcock, D. ‘Law of One and 2012: the Facts!’ http://www.divinecosmos.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=332&Itemid=30, last visited May 7, 2007.

Wilcock, D. The Divine Cosmos: a Breathtaking New View of Reality, published online at http://www.divinecosmos.com.

– The Science of Oneness, published online at http://www.divinecosmos.com.

– The Shift of the Ages, published online at http://www.divinecosmos.com.

– Law of One and 2012: the Facts!, published online at http://www.divinecosmos.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=332&Itemid=30, last visited May 7, 2007.

Miscellaneous websites

– Daniel Pinchbeck’s companion website to Breaking Open the Head:

http://www.breakingopenthehead.com (last visited August 20th, 2007)

-Daniel Pinchbeck’s new site (as of March 2007): http://www.realitysandwich.com (last

visited August 20th, 2007)

– Dutch New Age organization «Omnicum»: http://www.omnicum.org (June 13th, 2007)

-Link to video of item on «Omnicum» on Dutch news program «Nova» (date of

broadcast June 12th, 2007:



-Website by former members of «Omnicum»: http://www.spraakloos.nl (June 13th, 2007)

– Dutch «13 moon calendar» website (Argüelles): http://www.13manenkalender.nl (last visited June 19th, 2007)

-Galactic Research Institute (Argüelles): http://www.lawoftime.org/home (last visited June 18th, 2007)

-‘The Vaults of Erowid: Documenting the Complex Relationship between Humans & Psychoactives’ at http://www.erowid.org (last visited August 20th, 2007)

[1] See: Allizon, ‘Interview with Drunvalo’, in Ma’at Magazine, Volume 4, No. 7 (February 2007), also published online at http://spiritofmaat.com/feb07/drunvalo_interview.html

[2] After Robert K. Sitler, in: ‘The 2012 Phenomenon: New Age Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar’,

in: Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Volume 9, issue 3, pp. 24-38.

[3] Newport & Gribbens (eds.), Expecting the End: Millennialism in Social and Historical Context, Baylor University Press: Waco, 2006.

[4] See footnote 2 above.

[5] A good example of this is the announcement of a short documentary that was broadcast on June 12th 2007 on the Dutch television program ‘Nova’ on the controversial Dutch New Age organization «Omnicum». The announcement was «Sekte voorspelt het einde der tijden in 2012» («Cult predicts the end of times in 2012»). A simple visit to the organization’s website (http://www.omnicum.org) shows us that although the organization can be considered as employing a relatively standard form of 2012 speculation, mainly focused on the current and expected «earth changes», there is no mention of an «end of the world» type scenario. We need to be careful to prevent such sensationalism from leaking into the academic study of apocalyptic and millennial movements.

[6] Of course, this is difficult to prove. As there are no studies devoted to measuring the number of people involved in speculation concerning the possible millennial significance of the year 2012, I take the increase in publications concerning this theme in the last year in the Netherlands alone to be an adequate indication that there is indeed a growing interest in this phenomenon, both within and without the context of the New Age movement properly speaking.

[7] Vital Signs Publishing: East Sussex, 2005. (It should be noted that this book was published in 2005, which means that although it does give a comprehensive overview, it is already outdated considering the pace of development and change that the phenomenon shows.)

[8] Geoff Stray’s website can be found at the following address: http://www.diagnosis2012.co.uk/ (last visited August 20th, 2007).

[9] The works of José Argüelles are the prime example of this, but also books such as: Carl J. Calleman, The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness, Bear & Company: Rochester, 2004.

[10] See for example the series of channelled material focusing on the year 2012 by German channel Ute Kretzschmar.

[11] A popular example is the following: L.E. Joseph, Apocalypse 2012: An Investigation into the End of Civilization, Broadway: New York, 2006.

[12] I am referring, for example to: Ervin Laszlo, The Chaos Point, the World at the Crossroads: Seven Years to Avoid Global Collapse and Promote Worldwide Renewal, Hampton Roads Publishing Company: Charlottesville, 2006.

[13] In Chapter 4 below, I have devoted a section to discussing the possible importance of ‘9/11’ in the popularization of the 2012 phenomenon.

[14] Especially in Wilber’s Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution (Shambala: Boston, 1995).

[15] Getting a bit ahead of myself, this influence can nevertheless be demonstrated by the fact that all of the significant 2012 theorists we will encounter in this thesis are very explicit about their indebtedness to the work of Teilhard de Chardin, especially his notion of the emergence of the «noosphere» in a process known as «noogenesis» and the concept of the imminence of ‘the Omega Point’.

[16] P.T. de Chardin, Le Phénomène Humain, Editions du Seuil: Paris, 1955.

[17] Teilhard de Chardin, ‘My Fundamental Vision’, in: Toward the Future, Harcourt: San Diego, 1975, pp. 163-208.

[18] Ibid., 180.

[19] Ibid., 181.

[20] P.T. de Chardin, in: ‘the Convergence of the Universe’,in: Activation of Energy: Enlightening Reflections on Spiritual Energy (1976), translated by René Hague, Harvest: San Diego, 1978, 283.

[21] Ibid., 296.

[22] Daniel Pinchbeck, 2012: the Return of Quetzalcoatl, Tarcher/Penguin: London, 2006.

[23] Ibid., 60.

[24] For example the work of the French mathematician and philosopher Henri Bergson, specially his Creative Evolution (1907) and that of the Russian physicist V.I. Vernadsky.

[25] Hanegraaff, ‘The New Age Movement and the Esoteric Tradition’, in: Van den Broek & Hanegraaff, Gnosis and Hermeticism, 361.

[26] Ibid., 362.

[27] Ibid., 363.

[28] Hanegraaff (1996), 323.

[29] Terence McKenna, The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens and the I Ching (with Dennis McKenna),

HarperCollins: New York, 1975.

[30]José Argüelles, The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology, Bear & Company: Rochester, 1984.

[31] John M. Jenkins, Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: the True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date, Bear & Co.: Rochester, 1998.

[32] True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author’s Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil’s Paradise, Harper: San Francisco, 1993. (Referred to hitherto as: McKenna (1993-ii)

[33] See for example: http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/ayahuasca/ayahuasca.shtml (last visited August 16th, 2007) A similar journey was undertaken in 1953 by William Burroughs and his ‘pupil’ Allen Ginsberg in 1960’see: Burroughs & Ginsberg, The Yage Letters, City Light Books: San Fransisco, 1963.

[34] McKenna (1993(2)), 13.

[35] Ibid., 65.

[36] Ibid., 71.

[37] Ibid., 90.

[38] Note that this is a direct reference to Teilhard’s notion of ‘Point Omega’.

[39] Ibid., 94.

[40] The ancient Chinese «Book of Changes», the oldest of the Chinese Classical texts. The McKenna’s used the following by Richard Wilhelm for their research: The I Ching or Book of Changes. Translated by Cary F. Baines, Princeton University Press: New York, 1964.

[41] See: Stray(2005), 48-57 for a good discussion of the details of the «Timewave» theory.

[42] McKenna (1993-ii ), 153.

[43] Ibid., 153-4 (my italics).

[44] Ibid., 171.

[45]McKenna (1975),174 and 184.

[46] Argüelles (1987), 40.

[47] Ibid., 41,

[48] The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens and the I Ching (with Dennis McKenna), HarperCollins: New York, 1993. From hereon: McKenna (1993-i).

[49] McKenna (1993-i), 115.

[50] Ibid., 154.

[51] Sitler (2006), 24.

[52] Jenkins (1998), 23.

[53] Stray (2005), 21.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Sitler (2006), 25 (Italics are mine).

[56] José Argüelles, The Transformative Vision: Reflections on the Nature and History of Human Expression, Shamballa: Berkeley & London, 1975.

[57] Argüelles, op. cit., 2.

[58] Ibid., 293.

[59] Argüelles (1987), 36,

[60] Ibid., 218.

[61] Ibid.

[62] See the 1996 reprint of The Mayan Factor (Bear & Co.: Rochester, 1996), 218-224.

[63] Ibid., 218.

[64] José Argüelles, Earth Ascending: An Illustrated Treatise on Law Governing Whole Systems, Bear & Company: Rochester, 1984.

[65] At least, according to his own account. See: Argüelles (1987), 26-27.

[66] See: ‘Votan Lives in Argüelles! Argüelles is Dead!’ http://www.earthportals.com/Portal_Messenger/josevotan.html (last visited June 21st, 2007)

[67] Argüelles (1987), 194.

[68] Jenkins (1998), 106.

[69] One of the first publications to go into this issue is: Gilbert & Cotterell, The Mayan Prophecies: Unlocking the Secrets of a Lost Civilization, Element Books Limites: Shaftesbury, 1995. In this book, the theory is advanced that the Long Count can be considered to measure solar activity, pointing towards an imminent maximum of sunspot activity in 2012.

[70] McKenna, ‘Foreword’ in: Jenkins (1998), xxvi.

[71] This is sometimes referred to as a ‘Great Year’ or ‘Platonic Year’.

[72] McKenna (1975), 189, (my emphasis).

[73] See: Sitler (2006), 29-30.

[74] Ibid., 332.

[75] Jenkins (1998), 315-326.

[76] Ibid., 330-1.

[77] See: Jenkins, ‘Maya Shamanism and 2012: a Psychedelic Cosmology’ (2007), published online at: http://www.realitysandwich.com/maya_shamanism_and_2012_psychedelic_cosmology (last visited August 20th, 2007).

[78] For script, see: http://www.insidethex.co.uk/transcrp/scrp919.htm (last visited July 19th, 2007).

[79] The X-Files ‘The Truth, Part II’, Scene 26.

[80] A good example is M.J. Finley’s online article, ‘Jose Arguelles Calendric Dreams’, (2002-3),

http://members.shaw.ca/mjfinley/arguelles.html (last visited June 17th, 2007).

[81] Argüelles (2002), 25.

[82] As found in Pinchbeck (2006), 196.

[83]See: http://www.earthportals.com/Portal_Messenger/josevotan.html (last visited June 21st, 2007).

[84] In the Netherlands, the author Peter Toonen is the primary representative of Argüelles Planetray Art Network, regularly publishing books and giving lectures on the importance of 2012. See, for example: Peter Toonen, De Natuurlijke Tijd: Berichten van de Maya’s voor de Nieuwe Tijd, Uitgeverij Petiet: Laren, 2002.

[85] This magazine can be accessed through Argüelles website at http://www.tortuga.com/portal (last visited August 20th, 2007) or http://www.2ndcreation.org (last visited August 20th, 2007).

[86] See: http://www.tortuga.com/portal/files/secondcreation/lunarwizard/episode1.pdf, page 2.

[87] Pinchbeck (2002), 2.

[88] Ibid., 3.

[89] See, for example: Ibid., 230-238.

[90] Ibid., 297.

[91] Pinchbeck (2006), 1-2.

[92] Ibid., 2.

[93] Ibid.¸394.

[94] A modern religious sect that originated in the 1920’s with the Brazilian Raimundo Irineu Serra, in which the psychoactive brew ‘ayahuasca’ (containing DMT) is used as a religious sacrament. The church is currently active on a global scale and has attracted tens of thousands of active followers.

[95] This name refers to a deity from the Aztec religion and is taken to be a combination of the words ‘quetzal’ (a bird native to Central America) and ‘coatl’ (‘serpent’). It is usually translated as ‘Feathered Serpent».

[96] The entire ‘revelation’ can still be accessed on: http://www.breakingopenthehead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2525 (last visited August 19th, 2007).

[97] Pinchbeck (2006), 340.

[98] Barkun (2003), 104.

[99] Icke (1994), 19.

[100] Ibid.

[101] Icke (1999), 482.

[102] Ibid., 476-7.

[103] Ibid., 478.

[104] Ibid., 486.

[105] A video recording of this lecture can be accessed through Tsarion’s website; see references for internet link.

[106] Quoted in: W. Free (2004), 3.

[107] http://www.divinecosmos.com (lat visited August 20th, 2007)

[108] The first of these is ‘The Shift of the Ages: Scientific Proof for Ascension’. See bibliography for link.

[109] Wynn Free (2004).

[110] Wilcock, in the introduction to ‘The Shift of the Ages’.

[111] A transcript of this appearance has been posted on Wilcock’s website.

[112] Hammer (2006), 206.

[113] Wilcock on ‘Coast-to-Coast AM’, June 19th 2007.

[114] He is the author of books such as The Mayan Prophecies (1995) and The End of Time (2006).

[115] Although I do not hesitate to refer readers to this ‘guide’ to 2012 prophecy, the objections I raised in the introduction to this thesis still hold. It is perhaps best to consider Stray’s book as part of the 2012 phenomenon itself, adding to the mythologizing tendencies in the field.

[116] A worldwide television broadcast of music festivals with an environmentalist (and implicitly apocalyptic) message that took place on July 7th, 2007.

[117] See, for example Robert C. Fuller, Stairways to Heaven: Drugs in American Religious History, Westview Press: Boulder, Colorado 2000.

[118] Pinchbeck (2006), 227.

[119] http://www.boomfestival.org (last visited August 15, 2007).

[120] Ibogaine is the active substance of the Iboga root (the chemical name is 12-methoxyibogamine), which is a plant native to Africa. ‘The Vaults of Erowid’ give the following description: «ibogaine is the active chemical in the African Tabernanthe iboga root. It is a strong, long-lasting psychedelic used traditionally in a coming of age ritual but also known for its modern use in treating opiate addiction». As found on: http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/ibogaine/ibogaine.shtml (last visited August 20th, 2007).

[121] Pinchbeck (2007), in: ‘Our forgotten future’ at: http://consciouschoice.com/2007/06/prophetmotive0706.html (last visited June 11th, 2007).

[122] Pinchbeck (2002), 296-7.

[123] Argüelles (2002), 24.

[124] Ibid., 13.

[125] Argüelles (2002); Chapter 1 is devoted to explaining the prophetic significance of «the Inevitable Event» in terms of the «technosphere-noosphere transition» due to reach its climax in 2012.

[126] Ibid., 23.

[127] See: Hanegraaff (1996), 62-76.

[128] This collaborative website often features articles and discussions relating to 2012. It can be found at http://www.realitysandwich.com (last visited August 20h, 2007).

[129] Daniel Pinchbeck, in ‘Our Forgotten Future’ (see bibliography).

[130] Ibid., 58.

[131] Argüelles (1987), 15.

[132] Ibid.

[133] Eugen Weber, Apocalypses: Prophecies, Cults and Millennial Beliefs throughout the Ages, Hutchinson: London, 1999.

[134] Weber (1999), 33.

[135] Sitler, p. 35.

[136] Landes (2006), p.4-5.

[137] Ibid.