2012 and the Spirit of the Age

Whether the ancient Mayans intended it or not, the end of their calendar coincides with a profound turning point in human civilization.

This comprises what Carl Jung called a synchronicity.  A term that get bandied about too loosely sometimes, a synchronicity is not simply a coincidence–it is a meaningful coincidence.

Synchronicities are, by their very nature, impossible to ignore.  They are unexpected coincidences that seem to hint at the existence of some hidden order to the universe, an acausal orderedness, as Jung and his colleague Wolgang Pauli labeled it.  It orders the world but not in the cause-and-effect way we are used to thinking.  They are meaningful coincidences because they link inner psychological-spiritual states to external physical events in such a way that something new is created–a new relationship between inner and outer realities, a new range of possibilities, a new sense of the Whole and our place in it.



That the Mayan Calendar ends on the Winter Solstice of 2012 is not held as a fact by all, however most interpreters of the calendar agree it falls within a range of a couple years, and in most cases, a few days, of that date.  The December 21, 2012 date is based on the correlation constant well-attested from the earliest days of the Spanish military conquest of Mexico.  The issue that most commentators forget in their passion to fix the precise date of the calendar’s end, however, is that such Mayan dates are symbolic, not historical.

This is clearly understood by looking at the origin date of the Mayan Calendar itself, which is generally held to begin on August 11, 3114 B.C.E.  This is a Founding Date, marking when time began again–when one period of 13 baktuns ended and another began with the gods creating this world of human beings.  This is the symbolic date that the Long Count calendar begins, the traditional founding of the calendar which, 5,125 years later, ends on December 21, 2012.  That it is a symbolic date is clear from the fact that it pre-dates the actual invention of the calendar by at least two thousand years.

The essential point, however, is that because tradition dictates that another 5,125 year calendar follow the one that is ending, this Winter Solstice of 2012 marks the Founding Date of a new age of creation.

The only known Long Count date to specify the December 21, 2012 date occurs as an inscription in stone on Monument 6 at Tortugero, which seems to state that a deity associated with endings and beginnings will appear on that date.  Deeply embedded in ancient Mesoamerican cultures was the concept of sequential Suns, or Ages, when cyclic time began anew. Such is the subject of the famous Aztec Calendar Sun Stone, which shows the four previous Suns that have come and gone–and shows this, the current Fifth Sun, the Age of Movement, which is to come to an end on the day 4 Ollin.  Just as each of the preceding four Ages gave way to a new one, this Fifth Sun is to give way to a new Age, the Sixth Sun.

In other words, endings are established in order to initiate times of Starting Over.  This is an important psychological and cultural need, marking the mature ability to recognize when mistakes have led us in the wrong direction and decisions must be corrected by making a radical and positive departure from the past.  This is simply the modern practice of making New Year’s resolutions embodied in a deeper order of psychological-spiritual complexity:  recognizing a dead end when we come to it, we exercise the only real choice we have and reverse course to look for a living road.  We do not engage in lemming behavior, following the most paranoid and panicked among us over the precipice of destruction–nor do we engage in apocalyptic thinking, secretly wishing for the world to end rather than accept the fact that it will go on without us.

The ancients formalized endings so that symbolic beginnings could renew the human spirit and restore social cohesion.



Today, we are dying of history.  Our collective story is one of wrongs and revenge that cannot be forgotten or forgiven.  There is no going forward as a global civilization fully capable of creating a Golden Age for all humanity because we cannot stop going backward to justify our rage and violence and feuding.  We are imprisoned in a collective vision of pain and grieving for what we have lost when the prison cells have all been unlocked and the walls collapsed long ago:  the will to keep up the cycle of revenge and hatred is becoming more and more difficult to sustain when we see what we could be creating instead.

Whether the ancient Mayans intended it or not, the end of their calendar coincides with a profound turning point in human civilization.

The Spirit of the Age has been Reason–which has come to mean The Age of Materialism– and it is Reason that appears to be the focus of our present turning point.  The logic of the intellect has given us a scientific materialism full of technological wonders capable of large-scale harm to the environment and society both:  not only are species and their habitats disappearing at an alarming rate but people are alienated from nature and one another in ways unimaginable just a few generations ago.  Governments declare wars that people do not want, armies stockpile nuclear and biological weapons too horrible to contemplate, speculators ruin economies and people’s well-being, people are starving world-wide and lack potable water when neither is necessary, and basic health care is withheld by modern practitioners who simultaneously do everything in their power to discredit traditional forms of medicine.  Politics and religion simply polarize people instead of bringing them together and personal liberty increasingly comes under pressure from the demands for security.  This is not, in a word, the world any of us want to live in.

The intellect can justify anything, can rationalize any type of behavior, can explain away anything we are doing.

But it cannot make us happy.

Because human happiness occurs despite reason, despite the intellect’s unending parade of excuses to accept dwelling in misery.

And human happiness is an ideal that more and more people across cultures are holding dear.



The 2012 meme really came into being with Jose Argeulles and subsequently Terence McKenna, both of whom lent their considerable intellectual and creative capacities to the envisioning of a more positive and harmonious world.  Arguelles was also responsible for organizing the first Earth Day, for example, and McKenna, who calculated the King Wen sequence of the I Ching to culminate on the 2012 date, was once introduced by Timothy Leary as one of the five or six most important people on the planet.  Both men were instrumental in bringing the 2012 date to public awareness and tying it to their own efforts to transform human consciousness and, thereby, civilization in a positive way.  For this reason, the 2012 meme became early on associated with the the New Age movement.

These ideas surfaced as the works of Carlos Castaneda were really taking hold in popular awareness, his tales of the Yaqui shaman Don Juan introducing Western readers to the lifeway of Native American shamanism in present-day Mexico.  Interest overall, in the U.S. and Europe both, increased in regard to Native American beliefs, especially regarding shamanism, drumming, sweat lodges, journeying, and soul retrieval.  The underlying worldview of animism–that all matter is imbued with spirit–began pervading popular thought just as the environmentalist movement began to blossom:  people began feeling their kinship with nature instead of merely thinking about it.  This formed a perfect confluence of great rivers of thought as the nature mysticism of ancient Taoism and Zen also captured hearts and imaginations.

The monotheistic religions that had held sway for so long began to lose their appeal as people began turning to more traditional earth-centered belief systems.  Esoteric traditions from the Old World were finding their way into popular culture, reviving wide-spread interest in Astrology, Tarot, the Cabala, Magic, and Wicca.  All this arose as the feminist movement gained ground, spurring interest in cultivating personal power instead of expending external force.  Tibetan Buddhism entered our consciousness in a very real way as monks escaping the Chinese invasion began actively teaching in the West.  The Dalai Lama embodied a new model of how someone titled His Holiness ought to think, believe, and act.

The West was rediscovering the Heart.

And the internet became the new community plaza, the new city park:  people began meeting and exchanging ideas and, eventually, goods.  Its own innovation spurred further innovation and the capacity for free speech that could be heard world-wide drove the idea of democracy home in a new and startling real way.  The democratization of voices changed the way we perceived leadership and what actions we should accept from our government.  Our lives were being effected positively by people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, not by the politicians who seemed only interested in getting elected.  And the betrayal by institutions people had trusted for their financial security drove the point home for folks who had never considered themselves outside the mainstream.

People across cultures began talking to one another via the immediacy of social networks.  Revolutions and demonstrations were coordinated using the new technology.  The idea of real democracy, not one nation’s copyrighted definition of democracy, has sunk in and is proving difficult to uproot:  in a world of peers, how can the disparity of wealth be justified?  when all cultures are created equal, can might really equal right?

Popular culture has changed.  What had seemed exotic had become natural, the new normal.  People form communities across vast distances, tied together by common ideals and purposes instead of physical proximity.  Invention, creativity, beauty, elegance, and spirituality have become ideals and purposes rather than self-interest, competition, nationalism, and religious zealotry.  People’s commonality has given rise to the Occupy Movement and the social networks have made it possible to coordinate those efforts across borders.

The momentum of change has intensified and its direction is away from empty promises and dead rituals and inhumane logic.



Whether the ancient Mayans intended it or not, the end of their calendar coincides with a profound turning point in human civilization.

The issue at hand is not whether the Mayan Calendar predicts anything.  There is no way to be certain of that:  there is no evidence, no fact, to make such a claim with absolute certainty.  There is no reason to think that its end was calculated to coincide with the alignment of the sun with the galactic center–what is important is that it does coincide with just such an event.  In the realm of synchronicity, things coincide as manifestations of an acausal orderedness underlying the ongoing creation of the universe.  The issue is not whether the ancient Mayans set their calendar to end on a year of greater than normal solar activity or weakening geomagnetic field–the issue is that it does coincide with such concerns.  These events don’t stand in direct cause-and-effect relationships:  they are part of the underlying harmony of reality that spontaneously produces things like whole numbers and the discontinuities of modern physics.  Some things simply are and the more of them that overlap in the same time-frame, the more impossible they are to ignore.  This kind of simultaneity of meaningful coincidences and the implication of their momentum has likewise been brought to view by more recent social commentators and activists like Daniel Pinchbeck.

Civilization is changing.  Instead of engaging in a culture war with the antiquated worldview of religious extremism and national militarism and fetishized capitalism, people worldwide are simply moving on with life.  Letting go of the past, forgiving the wrongs done them, hoping for forgiveness for the wrongs they have done, envisioning a better world rising from the mistakes of the Age of Reason–the worldview of the global counterculture is constructive and filled with goodwill toward all.  It is a counterculture well on its way to becoming the global culture.

The whole “world ends in the year 2000” was simply too full of fundamentalist trappings to capture this culture’s thinking.  But the Mayan Calendar, filled as it is with mystery and mathematics, steeped in the Pre-columbian civilization of the Native Americans of ancient Mexico, expressed with such magnificent artwork!  This is an ending that excites and inspires the Spiritual Left to compassionate action, one that infuses animists and nature mystics with the promise of restoring the natural balance between humankind, nature and spirit, an umbilical cord tying the lifeway of indigenous peoples to the lifeway of modern peoples.

We steer into the Winter Solstice of 2012 with full sails.  The wind of change is at our back, the momentum for a profound and lasting transformation of civilization has built to this cresting point.  We need do nothing different than what we have begun:  trusting in the World Soul to call us forward on its sacred path, we just have to keep listening to the Great Mystery and following its loving intent.

The Winter Solstice of 2012 will pass, a symbolic milestone that initiates another 5,125 year period of human civilization.  The world will be a completely transformed place when next the 13 baktuns of the Mayan Calendar come to an end.  Be assured, people will celebrate that milestone, for the Mayan Calendar is one of the great achievements of the human spirit–what, if anything, of these days, of our deeds, will those people 5,000 years from now remember?

If the years leading up to this turning point are any indication, they will remember us for founding an age of peace and prospering for all.

Those attuned to the coming Spirit of the Age are themselves synchronicities.  Each is a meaningful coincidence, alive at this time because an unaccountable and unfathomable acausal orderedness has placed them here.  They are meaningful coincidences because they link inner psychological-spiritual states to external physical events in such a way that something new is created–a new relationship between inner and outer realities, a new range of possibilities, a new sense of the Whole and our place in it.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 The Toltec I Ching,  by Martha Ramirez-Oropeza and William Douglas Horden, is published by Larson Publications. It recasts the I Ching in the symbology of the Native Americans of ancient Mexico and includes original illustrations interpreting each of the hexagrams. Its subtitle, “64 Keys to Inspired Action in the New World,” alludes to its focus on the ethics of the emerging world culture.

Go to the main site to see sample chapters, reviews and the link to Larson Publications for ordering the book.

Two companion volumes, The Five Emanations, and The Spiritual Basis of Good Fortune,  have recently been published that expand on carrying the practices forward in the modern world.

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