The 2012 phenomenon comprises a range of eschatological beliefs that cataclysmic or transformative events will occur on December 21, 2012,which is said to be the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mayan Long Count calendar. Various astronomical alignments and numerological formulae related to this date have been proposed.
A New Age interpretation of this transition posits that during this time Earth and its inhabitants may undergo a positive physical or spiritual transformation, and that 2012 may mark the beginning of a new era. Others suggest that the 2012 date marks the end of the world or a similar catastrophe. Scenarios posited for the end of the world include the Earth's collision with a passing planet (often referred to as "Nibiru") or black hole, or the arrival of the next solar maximum.
Scholars from various disciplines have dismissed the idea of catastrophe in 2012. Mainstream Mayanist scholars state that predictions of impending doom are not found in any of the existing classic Maya accounts, and that the idea that the Long Count calendar "ends" in 2012 misrepresents Maya history. The modern Maya do not consider the date significant, and the classical sources on the subject are scarce and contradictory, suggesting that there was little if any universal agreement among them about what, if anything, the date might mean.
Additionally, astronomers and other scientists have rejected the apocalyptic forecasts as pseudoscience, stating that the anticipated events are contradicted by simple astronomical observations. NASA has compared fears about 2012 with those about the approaching millennium in the late 1990s, suggesting that an adequate analysis should preclude fears of disaster. None of the proposed alignments or formulas have been accepted by mainstream scholarship.
Mesoamerican Long Count calendar
A date inscription for the Mayan Long Count.
December 2012 marks the conclusion of a b'ak'tun; a time period in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, which was used in Central America prior to the arrival of Europeans. Though the Long Count was most likely invented by the Olmec, it has become closely associated with the Maya civilization, whose classic period lasted from 250 to 900 AD. The writing system of the classic Maya has been substantially deciphered, meaning that a corpus of their written and inscribed material has survived from before the European conquest.
Unlike the 52-year Calendar Round still used today among the Maya, the Long Count was linear, rather than cyclical, and kept time roughly in units of 20: 20 days made a uinal, 18 uinals (360 days) made a tun, 20 tuns made a k'atun, and 20 k'atuns (144,000 days) made up a b'ak'tun. Thus, the Mayan date of 184.108.40.206.15 represents 8 b'ak'tuns, 3 k'atuns, 2 tuns, 10 uinals and 15 days.
There is a strong tradition of "world ages" in Maya literature, but unfortunately the record has been distorted, leaving several possibilities open. According to the Popol Vuh, a book compiling details of creation accounts known to the K'iche' Maya of the Colonial-era highlands, we are living in the fourth world. The Popol Vuh describes the first three creations that the gods failed in making and the creation of the successful fourth world, where men were placed. In the Maya Long Count, the previous world ended after 13 b'ak'tuns, or roughly 5,125 years. The Long Count's "zero date" was set at a point in the past marking the end of the third world and the beginning of the current one, which corresponds to either 11 or 13 August 3114 BC in the Proleptic Gregorian calendar, depending on the formula used. This means that the fourth world will also have reached the end of its thirteenth b'ak'tun, or Mayan date 220.127.116.11.0, on either December 21 or December 23, 2012.
In 1957, Mayanist and astronomer Maud Worcester Makemson wrote that "the completion of a Great Period of 13 b'ak'tuns would have been of the utmost significance to the Maya". In 1966, Michael D. Coe more ambitiously asserted in The Maya that "there is a suggestion ... that Armageddon would overtake the degenerate peoples of the world and all creation on the final day of the thirteenth [b'ak'tun]. Thus ... our present universe [would] be annihilated [in December 2012] when the Great Cycle of the Long Count reaches completion."
Coe's apocalyptic interpretation was repeated by other scholars through the early 1990s. In contrast, later researchers said that, while the end of the 13th b'ak'tun would perhaps be a cause for celebration, it did not mark the end of the calendar. "There is nothing in the Maya or Aztec or ancient Mesoamerican prophecy to suggest that they prophesied a sudden or major change of any sort in 2012," says Mayanist scholar Mark Van Stone. "The notion of a "Great Cycle" coming to an end is completely a modern invention." In 1990, Mayanist scholars Linda Schele and David Freidel argued that the Maya "did not conceive this to be the end of creation, as many have suggested." Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, stated that "We have no record or knowledge that [the Maya] would think the world would come to an end" in 2012." For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle," says Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies in Crystal River, Florida. To render December 21, 2012, as a doomsday event or moment of cosmic shifting, she says, is "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in." "There will be another cycle," says E. Wyllys Andrews V, director of the Tulane University Middle American Research Institute (MARI). "We know the Maya thought there was one before this, and that implies they were comfortable with the idea of another one after this."
Mayan references to b'ak'tun 13
The present-day Maya, as a whole, do not attach much significance to b'ak'tun 13. Although the Calendar Round is still used by some Maya groups in the Guatemalan highlands, the Long Count was employed exclusively by the classic Maya, and was only recently rediscovered by archaeologists. Mayan elder Apolinario Chile Pixtun and Mexican archaeologist Guillermo Bernal both note that "apocalypse" is a Western concept that has little or nothing to do with Mayan beliefs. Bernal believes that such ideas have been foisted on the Maya by Westerners because their own myths are "exhausted". Mayan archaeologist Jose Huchm has stated that "If I went to some Mayan-speaking communities and asked people what is going to happen in 2012, they wouldn't have any idea. That the world is going to end? They wouldn't believe you. We have real concerns these days, like rain".
What significance the classic Maya gave the 13th b'ak'tun is uncertain. Most classic Maya inscriptions are strictly historical and do not make any prophetic declarations. Two items in the Maya historical corpus, however, may mention the end of the 13th b'ak'tun: Tortuguero Monument 6 and, possibly, the Chilam Balam.
The Tortuguero monument connects the end
The Tortuguero site, which lies in southernmost Tabasco, Mexico, dates from the 7th century AD and consists of a series of inscriptions mostly in honor of the contemporary ruler Bahlam Ajaw. One inscription, known as Tortuguero Monument 6, is the only inscription to refer to b'ak'tun 13. It has been partially defaced; Sven Gronemeyer and Barbara MacLeod have given the most complete translation:
tzuhtzjo:m uy-u:xlaju:n pik
It will be completed the thirteenth b'ak'tun.
chan ajaw u:x uni:w
It is 4 Ajaw 3 K'ank'in
and it will happen a 'seeing'[?].
ye'ni/ye:n bolon yokte'
It is the display of B'olon-Yokte'
ta chak joyaj
in a great "investiture".
Very little is known about the god Bolon Yokte'. According to an article by Mayanists Markus Eberl and Christian Prager in British Anthropological Reports, his name is composed of the elements "nine", 'OK-te' (the meaning of which is unknown), and "god". Confusion in classical period inscriptions suggests that the name was already ancient and unfamiliar to contemporary scribes. He also appears in inscriptions from Palenque, Usumacinta, and La Mar as a god of war, conflict, and the underworld. In one stela he is portrayed with a rope tied around his neck, and in another with an incense bag, together signifying a sacrifice to end a period of time.
On the subject of the future events being prophesied, Gronemeyer and MacLeod note that "[t]he popular adage of Murphy's Law now comes into play, as this statement is badly eroded," but using modern Maya ceremony to supplement the fragments, they claim that it refers to a celebratory ritual where a person portraying Bolon Yokte' K'uh is wrapped in ritual garments and paraded around the site. They note that the association of Bolon Yokte' K'uh with the 13 b'ak'tun date appears to be so important on this inscription that it supersedes more typical statements of future celebrations such as "erection of stelae, scattering of incense" and so forth. They furthermore assert that this event was indeed planned for 2012, and not the 7th century.
The Chilam Balam are a group of post-conquest Mayan prophetic histories transcribed in a modified form of the Spanish alphabet. Their authorship is ascribed to a chilam balam, or jaguar prophet. The Chilam Balam of Tizimin has been translated four times in the 20th century, with many disputes over the meaning of its passages. One passage in particular is relevant to the interpretation of the 13th b'ak'tun:
lic u tal oxlahun bak chem, ti u cenic u (tzan a cen/ba nacom)i (ciac/cha') a ba yum(il/t)exe
Maud Worcester Makemson, an archaeoastronomer, believed that this line referred to the "tremendously important event of the arrival of 18.104.22.168.0 4 Ahau 3 Kankin in the not too distant future", Her translation of the line, runs:
Presently B'ak'tun 13 shall come sailing, figuratively speaking, bringing the ornaments of which I have spoken from your ancestors.
Her version of the text continues, "Then the god will come to visit his little ones. Perhaps 'After Death' will be the subject of his discourse." Makemson was still relying on her own dating of 22.214.171.124.0 to 1752 and therefore the "not too distant future" in her annotations meant a few years after the scribe in Tizimin recorded his Chilam Balam. The more recent translation of Munro S. Edmonson does not support this reading; he considers the Long Count almost entirely absent from the book, since the 360-day tun was supplanted in the 1750s by a 365-day Christian year, and a 24-round may system was being implemented. He translates the line as follows:
...like the coming of 13 sail-ships. When the captains dress themselves, your fathers will be taken.
Other Chilam Balam books contain references to the 13th b'ak'tun, but it is unclear if these are in the past or future; for example, oxhun bakam u katunil (thirteen bakam of k'atuns) in the Chilam Balam of Chumayel. Bolon Yokte' K'uh appears in the Chilam Balam of Chumayel to signify an apparent battle and victory over Spanish invaders.
Dates beyond b'ak'tun 13
Mayan inscriptions occasionally reference predicted future events or commemorations that would occur on dates that lie beyond the completion of the 13th b'ak'tun. Most of these are in the form of "distance dates" where some Long Count date is given, together with a Distance Number that is to be added to the Long Count date to arrive at this future date. On the west panel at the Temple of Inscriptions in Palenque, a section of the text projects into the future to the 80th Calendar Round anniversary of the Palenque ruler K'inich Janaab' Pakal's accession to the throne (Pakal's accession occurred on 126.96.36.199.8; equivalent to 27 July 615 CE in the proleptic Gregorian calendar). It does this by commencing with Pakal's birthdate of 188.8.131.52.0 (24 March 603 CE Gregorian) and adding to it the Distance Number 10.11.10.5.8. This calculation arrives at the 80th Calendar Round since his accession, which lies over 4,000 years after Pakal's time—the 21st of October in the year AD 4772.
Another example is Stela 1 at Coba, which gives a date with twenty units above the b'ak'tun, placing it either 4.134105 × 10 (41 octillion) years in the future, or an equal distance in the past. Either way, this date is 3 quintillion times the age of the universe, demonstrating that not all Mayans considered the 5,125-year cycle as the most important.
New Age beliefs
Many assertions about 2012 are a form of Mayanism, a non-codified collection of New Age beliefs about ancient Maya wisdom and spirituality. Archaeoastronomer Anthony Aveni says that while the idea of "balancing the cosmos" was prominent in ancient Maya literature, and some modern Maya affirm this idea of an age of coexistence, the 2012 phenomenon does not present this message in its original form. Instead, it is bound up with American traditions such as the New Age movement, millenarianism, and the belief in secret knowledge from distant times and places. Established themes found in 2012 literature include "suspicion towards mainstream Western culture", the idea of spiritual evolution, and the possibility of leading the world into the New Age by individual example or by a group's joined consciousness. The general intent of this literature is not to warn of impending doom but "to foster counter-cultural sympathies and eventually socio-political and 'spiritual' activism". Aveni, who has studied New Age and SETI communities, describes 2012 narratives as the product of a "disconnected" society: "Unable to find spiritual answers to life's big questions within ourselves, we turn outward to imagined entities that lie far off in space or time—entities that just might be in possession of superior knowledge."
In 1975, the ending of the b'ak'tun cycle became the subject of speculation by several New Age authors, who believe it will correspond to a global "consciousness shift". In his book Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth Age of Consciousness, Frank Waters tied Coe's December 24, 2011 date to astrology and the prophecies of the Hopi, while both José Argüelles and Terence McKenna (in their books The Transformative Vision and The Invisible Landscape respectively) discussed the significance of the year 2012, but not a specific day. In 1987, the year in which he held the Harmonic Convergence event, Argüelles settled on the date of December 21 in his book The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology, in which he claimed on that date the Earth would pass through a great "beam" from the centre of the Galaxy, and that the Maya aligned their calendar in anticipation of that event.
In the mid-1990s, esoteric author John Major Jenkins asserted that the ancient Maya intended to tie the end of their calendar to the winter solstice in 2012, which falls on December 21. This date was in line with an idea he terms the galactic alignment.
In the Solar System, the planets and the Sun share roughly the same plane of orbit, known as the plane of the ecliptic. From our perspective on Earth, the ecliptic is the path taken by the Sun across the sky over the course of the year. The 12 constellations which line the ecliptic are known as the zodiac and, through the year, the Sun passes through each constellation in turn. Additionally, over time, the Sun's annual passage appears to recede counterclockwise by one degree every 72 years. This movement, called "precession", is attributed to a slight wobble in the Earth's axis as it spins. As a result, approximately every 2,160 years, the constellation visible on the early morning of the spring equinox changes. In Western astrological traditions, this signals the end of one astrological age (currently the Age of Pisces) and the beginning of another (Age of Aquarius). Over the course of 26,000 years, precession makes one full circuit around the ecliptic.
Just as the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere is currently in the constellation of Pisces, so the winter solstice is currently in the constellation of Sagittarius, which is the zodiacal constellation intersected by the galactic equator.Every year for the last 1,000 years or so, on the winter solstice, the Earth, Sun and the galactic equator come into alignment, and every year, precession pushes the Sun's position a little way further through the Milky Way's band.
The Milky Way near Cygnus showing the lane of the Dark Rift, which the Maya called the Xibalba be or "Black Road"
Jenkins suggests that the Maya based their calendar on observations of the Great Rift, a band of dark dust clouds in the Milky Way, which the Maya called the Xibalba be or "Black Road." Jenkins claims that the Maya were aware of where the ecliptic intersected the Black Road and gave this position in the sky a special significance in their cosmology. According to the hypothesis, the Sun precisely aligns with this intersection point at the winter solstice of 2012. Jenkins claimed that the classical Mayans anticipated this conjunction and celebrated it as the harbinger of a profound spiritual transition for mankind. New Age proponents of the galactic alignment hypothesis argue that, just as astrology uses the positions of stars and planets to make claims of future events, the Mayans plotted their calendars with the objective of preparing for significant world events. Jenkins attributes the insights of ancient Maya shamans about the galactic center to their use of psilocybin mushrooms, psychoactive toads, and other psychedelics. Jenkins also associates the Xibalba be with a "world tree", drawing on studies of contemporary (not ancient) Maya cosmology.
Astronomers argue that the galactic equator is an entirely arbitrary line, and can never be precisely determined because it is impossible to say exactly where the Milky Way begins or ends. Jenkins claims he drew his conclusions about the location of the galactic equator from observations taken at above 11,000 feet (3,400 m), which is higher than any of the Maya lived. Furthermore, the precessional alignment of the Sun with any single point is not exclusive to a specific year, but takes place over a 36-year period, corresponding to its diameter. Jenkins himself notes that, even given his determined location for the line of the galactic equator, its most precise convergence with the centre of the Sun already occurred in 1998.
There is no clear evidence that the classic Maya were aware of precession. Some Maya scholars, such as Barbara MacLeod, Michael Grofe, Eva Hunt, Gordon Brotherston, and Anthony Aveni, have suggested that some Mayan holy dates were timed to precessional cycles, but scholarly opinion on the subject remains divided. There is also little evidence, archaeological or historical, that the Maya placed any importance on solstices or equinoxes. It is possible that early Mesoamericans had an emphasis on solstices which was later forgotten, but this is also a disputed issue among Mayanists. The start date of the Long Count is not astronomically significant.
Timewave zero and the I Ching
A screenshot of the Timewave Zero software
"Timewave zero" is a numerological formula that purports to calculate the ebb and flow of "novelty", defined as increase in the universe's interconnectedness, or organised complexity over time. According to Terence McKenna, who conceived the idea over several years in the early- to mid-1970s while using psilocybin mushrooms and DMT, the universe has a teleological attractor at the end of time that increases interconnectedness, eventually reaching a singularity of infinite complexity in 2012, at which point anything and everything imaginable will occur simultaneously.
McKenna expressed "novelty" in a computer program, which purportedly produces a waveform known as timewave zero or the timewave. Based on McKenna's interpretation of the King Wen sequence of the I Ching, the graph appears to show great periods of novelty corresponding with major shifts in humanity's biological and sociocultural evolution. He believed the events of any given time are recursively related to the events of other times, and chose the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as the basis for calculating his end date in November 2012. When he later discovered this date's proximity to the end of the 13th b'ak'tun of the Maya calendar, he revised his hypothesis so that the two dates matched.
The first edition of The Invisible Landscape refers to 2012 (as the year, not a specific day) only twice. It was only in 1983, with the publication of Sharer's revised table of date correlations in the 4th edition of Morley's The Ancient Maya, that each became convinced that December 21, 2012, had significant meaning. McKenna subsequently included this specific date throughout the second edition of The Invisible Landscape, published in 1993.
Other New Age ideas
In 2006, author Daniel Pinchbeck popularised New Age concepts about this date in his book 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, linking it to beliefs about crop circles, alien abduction, and personal revelations based on the use of entheogens and mediumship. Pinchbeck claims to discern a "growing realization that materialism and the rational, empirical worldview that comes with it has reached its expiration date...[w]e're on the verge of transitioning to a dispensation of consciousness that's more intuitive, mystical and shamanic." Aveni dismisses all these authors.
In India, the guru Kalki Bhagavan has promoted 2012 as a "deadline" for human enlightenment since at least 1998. In the United States, the association of December 21, 2012 with a "transformation of consciousness" has also received popular attention in The Lost Symbol (2009), a bestselling work of thriller fiction by Dan Brown, in which the date is associated with references to esoteric beliefs of Freemasonry and noetic theory.
Frank Joseph's Atlantis and 2012: The Science of the Lost Civilization and the Prophecies of the Maya, published in 2010, links supposed Maya prophecies about December 21, 2012 to mythology about the lost continents of Atlantis and Lemuria, claiming that knowledge of a past cataclysm was carried to the ancient Maya and to ancient Egypt. Joseph connects this knowledge to stories of the Ark of the Covenant, which he claims was stolen from the Great Pyramid by Moses, brought from Jerusalem to the Americas by the Knights Templar, and now lies hidden in a cave in Illinois, awaiting its prophesied discovery in 2012. The discovery of the ark and the knowledge it contains will usher in a New Age.
Beginning in 2000, the small French village of Bugarach, population 189, began receiving visits from "esoterics"; mystic believers who have concluded that the local mountain, Pic de Bugarach, was the ideal location to weather the transformative events of 2012. In 2011, the local mayor, Jean-Pierre Delord, began voicing fears to the international press that the small town would be overwhelmed by an influx of thousands of visitors in 2012, even suggesting he may call in the army.
A far more apocalyptic view of the year 2012 has also spread in various media, describing the end of the world or of human civilization on that date. This view has been promulgated by many hoax sites on the Internet, particularly on YouTube, and by the History Channel, with such series as Decoding the Past (2005–2007), 2012, End of Days (2006), Last Days on Earth (2006), Seven Signs of the Apocalypse (2007), and Nostradamus 2012 (2008). The Discovery Channel also aired 2012 Apocalypse in 2009, suggesting that massive solar storms, magnetic pole reversal, earthquakes, supervolcanoes, and other drastic natural events may occur in 2012. Author Graham Hancock, in his book Fingerprints of the Gods, interpreted Coe's remarks in Breaking the Maya Code as evidence for the prophecy of a global cataclysm.
An apocalyptic reading of Jenkins's hypothesis has that, when the galactic alignment occurs, it will somehow create a combined gravitational effect between the Sun and the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy (known as Sagittarius A*), creating havoc on Earth. Apart from the fact noted above that the "galactic alignment" predicted by Jenkins already happened in 1998, the Sun's apparent path through the zodiac as seen from Earth does not take it near the true galactic center, but rather several degrees above it. Even if this were not the case, Sagittarius A* is 30,000 light years from Earth, and would have to be more than 6 million times closer to cause any gravitational disruption to Earth's Solar System. This reading of Jenkins's theories was included on the History Channel documentary, Decoding the Past. However, Jenkins has complained of the fact that a science fiction writer co-authored the documentary, and went on to characterize it as "45 minutes of unabashed doomsday hype and the worst kind of inane sensationalism".
Some suggested alternate alignments relate to a very different "galactic alignment" proposed by some scientists to explain a supposed periodicity in mass extinctions in the fossil record. The hypothesis supposes that vertical oscillations made by the Sun as it orbits the galactic center cause it to regularly pass through the galactic plane. When the Sun's orbit takes it outside the galactic plane which bisects the galactic disc, the influence of the galactic tide is weaker; as it re-enters the galactic disc, as it does every 20–25 million years, it comes under the influence of the far stronger "disc tides", which, according to mathematical models, increase the flux of Oort cloud comets into the Solar System by a factor of 4, leading to a massive increase in the likelihood of a devastating comet impact. However, this "alignment" takes place over tens of millions of years, and could never be timed to an exact date. Evidence shows that the Sun passed through the plane bisecting the galactic disc only three million years ago, and is now moving farther above it.
A third suggested alignment is a planetary conjunction on December 21, 2012. However, there will be no alignment of planets on that date.
Another idea involves a geomagnetic reversal (often incorrectly referred to as a polar shift by proponents of this hypothesis), perhaps triggered by a massive solar flare, one with energy equal to 100 billion atomic bombs. This belief is supposedly supported by observations that the Earth's magnetic field is weakening, which could precede a reversal of the north and south magnetic poles. Scientists believe the Earth is overdue for a geomagnetic reversal, and has been for a long time, even since well before the time of the Mayans, because the last reversal was 780,000 years ago. Critics, however, claim geomagnetic reversals take up to 5,000 years to complete, and do not start on any particular date. Also, NOAA now predicts that the solar maximum will peak in 2013, not 2012, and that it will be fairly weak, with a below-average number of sunspots. In any case, there is no scientific evidence linking a solar maximum to a geomagnetic reversal. In particular, the planet's magnetic fields are caused and regulated by the spinning of the solid inner core inside the molten outer core, and so cannot be changed by something external to the planet such as a solar flare. A solar maximum would be mostly notable for its effects on satellite and cellular phone communications. NASA's David Morrison attributes the rise of the solar storm idea to physicist and science populariser Michio Kaku, who claimed in an interview with Fox News that a solar peak in 2012 could be disastrous for orbiting satellites.
Some proponents of doomsday in 2012 claim that a planet called Planet X or Nibiru will collide with or pass by Earth in that year. This idea, which has appeared in various forms within New Age circles since 1995, initially slated the event for 2003 but abandoned that date after it passed without incident. It originated from claims of channeling of alien beings and has been widely ridiculed. Astronomers calculate that such an object so close to Earth would be visible to anyone looking up at the night sky.
In late 2009, rumours began circulating in UFO forums on the internet that SETI had detected several city-sized spacecraft headed towards Earth, often citing a particular image from the Digitized Sky Survey as evidence. In December 2010, an article appeared in examiner.com, again citing the photograph, and stating that a high-ranking SETI researcher named "Craig Kasnov" had reported that three "flying saucers", each tens of kilometres long, would arrive in Earth orbit by December, 2012. This article was referenced in a number of mainstream news outlets, including the English language version of Pravda. Although no-one named Craig Kasnov could be located at SETI, Craig Kasnoff, a computer programmer who co-conceived the SETI@home project with David Gedye, stated that he had never made the reported claims. Astronomer and debunker Phil Plait noted on his blog that the supposed UFO photograph bore more resemblance to a bit of grit or a defect in the photographic plate. Also, he noted that by using the small angle formula one could determine that, were the object in the photo as large as claimed, it would have to be closer to Earth than the Moon, which would mean it would effectively have already arrived. In January 2011, Seth Shostak, chief astronomer of SETI, issued a press release debunking the claims.
^ Many Mayanist scholars, such as Michael D. Coe, Linda Schele and Marc Zender, adhere to the "Lounsbury/GMT+2" correlation with the Long Count, which sets the end date of b'ak'tun 13 at December 23, 2012; however, others, such as Mark Van Stone, adhere to the "GMT correlation", which places the date at December 21. This date is also the overwhelming preference of those who believe in 2012 eschatology, arguably, Van Stone suggests, because it falls on a solstice, and is thus more astrologically significant. Which of these is the precise correlation has yet to be conclusively settled.
^ Coe's initial date was "December 24, 2011." He revised it to "11 January AD 2013" in the 1980 2nd edition of his book, not settling on December 23, 2012 until the 1984 3rd edition. The correlation of 184.108.40.206.0 as 21 December 2012 first appeared in Table B.2 of Robert J. Sharer's 1983 revision of the 4th edition of Sylvanus Morley's book The Ancient Maya.
^ The term "Mayanism" is distinct from "Mayanist"; a Mayanist is an academic scholar of the Maya, whereas Mayanism is a mystical, New Age phenomenon.
Novelty theory (Time Wave Zero)
Novelty theory attempts to calculate the ebb and flow of novelty in the universe as an inherent quality of time. It is an idea conceived of and discussed at length by Terence McKenna from the early 1970s until his death in the year 2000. Novelty theory involves ontology, morphogenesis, and eschatology. Novelty, in this context, can be thought of as newness, density of complexification, and dynamic change as opposed to static habituation. According to McKenna, when "novelty" is graphed over time, a fractal waveform known as timewave zero or simply the timewave results. The graph shows at what times, but never at what locations, novelty is increasing or decreasing.
The timewave itself is a combination of numerology and mathematics. It is formed out of McKenna's interpretation and analysis of numerical patterns in the King Wen sequence of the I Ching (the ancient Chinese Book of Changes). This concept first took root in his entheogenic experiences shared by him and his brother Dennis McKenna as documented in the book True Hallucinations. The theory is clearlyTemplate:Fact based in numerology and takes shape out of McKenna's belief that the sequence is artificially arranged as such purposefully. Mathematically, the sequence is graphed according to a set of mathematical ratios, and displays a fractal nature as well as resonancesTemplate:Fact, although it was not captured in a true formula until criticism from mathematician Matthew Watkins (see below). McKenna interpreted the fractal nature and resonances of the wave, as well as his theory of the I Ching's artificial arrangement, to show that the events of any given time are recursively related to the events of other times.
As the theory was never published in a peer-reviewed journal and McKenna's sources and reasoning were primarily what would be considered numerological rather than mathematical by professional mathematicians and scientists, the theory has failed to gain any (scientific) credibility or much recognition. However, McKenna was highly critical of such fields for adhering to what he saw as a flawed Occidental paradigm, and did not seek to create a theory acceptable to the mathematical community. The theory was, however, revised by nuclear physicist John Sheliak after a flaw was discovered by Matthew Watkins. The new revision is often referred to as Timewave One, but is also inclusive in the set of alternate waves in the Timewave Zero software. It is also claimed that this new version is more closely matched to history. Template:Fact
Timewave Zero received a great deal of its public attention through the publications of R. U. Sirius, particularly the cyberculture magazine Mondo 2000.
Precepts of novelty theory
Novelty theory has a few basic tenets:
That the universe is a living system with a teleological attractor at the end of time that drives the increase and conservation of complexity in material forms.
That novelty and complexity increase over time, despite repeated set-backs.
That the human brain represents the pinnacle of complex organization in the known universe to date.
That fluctuations in novelty over time are self-similar at different scales. Thus the rise and fall of the Roman Empire might be resonant with the life of a family within a single generation, or with an individual's day at work.
That as the complexity and sophistication of human thought and culture increase, universal novelty approaches a Koch curve of infinite exponential growth.
That in the time immediately prior to, and during this omega point of infinite novelty, anything and everything conceivable to the human imagination will occur simultaneously.
That the date of this historical endpoint is December 21, 2012, the end of the long count of the Mayan calendar. (Although many interpretations of the "end" of the Mayan calendar exist, partly due to abbreviations made by the Maya when referring to the date, McKenna used the solstice date in 2012, a common interpretation of the calendar among New Age writers, although this date corresponds to such an abbreviation rather than the full date. See Mayan calendar for more information on this controversy.) Originally McKenna had chosen the end of the calendar by looking for a very novel event in recent history, and using this as the beginning of the final 67.29 year cycle; the event he chose was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which gave an end-date in mid-November of 2012, but when he discovered the proximity of this date to the end of the current 13-baktun cycle of the Maya calender, he adjusted the end date to match this point in the calendar.
This End of History was to be the final manifestation of The Eschaton, which McKenna characterized as a sort of strange attractor towards which the evolution of the universe developed.
His predictions for this transcendent event were wide ranging and varied, depending on his audience, and different times he conjectured the following: the mass of humanity would, by means of some technology, become mentally conjoined in a great collective; the moment in which time travel became a reality; the birth of self-conscious artificial intelligence; a global UFO visitation; and occasionally he even expressed doubt whether anything at all would happen. However, McKenna claimed that there was no contradiction between these scenarios, as they might all happen simultaneously.
McKenna repeatedly describes human cultural development as a succession of historical periods which are "compressed" versions of each other. In this manner, he describes an overall acceleration of human cultural development, which he likens to a "tightening spiral" approaching what he describes as the "transcendental object of the universe".
The acceleration of human cultural development has been observed by other philosophers and historians, perhaps most notably Ray Kurzweil in his Law of Accelerating Returns.
See also Stuart Kauffman and his concept of "The Adjacent Possible"
Robert Anton Wilson has the theory of The Jumping Jesus Phenomenon, which he describes at an hour and a half long seminar given in 1988 titled "The Acceleration of Knowledge". He also theorizes that information has doubled over history, and that these doublings come faster and faster. The Jumping Jesus Phenomenon has more of a philosophical and historical basis than a scientific one, though many parallels between his theory and Timewave Zero can be drawn.
There are several criticisms of novelty theory. Many contend that it is a sophistry based on a form of irrational scientism with pseudo-scientific premises and reasoning.
One criticism in this vein is that novelty is not defined in natural units. Another is that the supporting, corroborative arguments are based on subjective historical analysis. McKenna was adept at this, and Rupert Sheldrake complained that the theory required his personality for its demonstration. Another criticism is that the historical end point was chosen arbitrarily.
When the user quits Fractal Time 7.1 (the last software package written to demonstrate the theory, see below), the program prints the following message before exiting:
Perhaps the real value of novelty theory, at the end of the technological war-driven 20th century, is that it is a parody. It is not a scientific theory, nor is it a pseudo-scientific theory -- it is a parody of a scientific theory. It basically mocks the pretensions of 20th century physical science. It purports to explain the nature of time and to elucidate the inner workings of the temporal world, yet it is obviously absurd, at least to a more than superficial examination. Novelty theory says to us: This is what any Cartesian-Newtonian scientific theory really is -- basically absurd. And since it is absurd, we should not, and do not have to, believe. This basically knocks the foundations out from under the assumptions of modern Western society, built as it is on a faith in modern physical science as being the authority as to the nature of the real world. In this sense Terence McKenna's thought is both liberating and subversive.
This disclaimer was built into the program by its author, Peter Meyer. Terence McKenna is not known to have ever issued such a statement. Indeed, in his published books, interviews, and recorded lectures McKenna consistently treats the theory as seriously as any of his other material.
Despite it being generally ignored by the scientific community due to its basis in the I Ching and the Mayan Calendar, as previously mentioned, there were several mathematical criticisms which led to subsequent minor revisions of the model.
In 1996 Matthew Watkins (founder of The RetroPsychoKinesis Project) published an objection which changed the underpinnings of the novelty theory, capturing the I Ching transform into a formula.
McKenna recruited Royce Kelley and Leon Taylor in 1974 to model the mathematical underpinnings of his theory. This was done in FORTRAN, on a CDC 6400 computer at UC Berkeley.
The first program for a personal computer was written in 1978 or 1979 by Peter Broadwell, an employee of Ralph Abraham. It was made for the Apple IIe, and was the first to represent the data points as a graph. It was difficult to manipulate.
In the late 1970s the German professor of mathematics and physics Klaus Scharff developed his own computer model based on the data sets in The Invisible Landscape, which he considered primitive. It was written in Pascal.
In 1985 programmer Peter Meyer was asked by McKenna to write a new version for the Apple IIe. After finding the original work vague, and inspired by the recent publications of Benoît Mandelbrot, Meyer reinterpreted the waveform as a fractal. He completed this new version in Applesoft BASIC for the Apple IIe in February 1987. It was the first piece of software to allow calculation of resonances.
In 1989 he wrote the first MS-DOS version in Munich. It was written in C, supported multiple screens, and was much faster. It was also in German.
In 1990 it was bought back by Meyer, rewritten to take advantage of the FPU, and published by his company Dolphin Software in 1991. In April 1991 a German version of the MS-DOS software was commissioned by Gaia Media in Switzerland. A new German-language version, with various improvements in resonance rendering, was written and released in 1993.
In 1994 a newer English language version was written with even more improvements.
In 1996 Matthew Watkins (founder of The RetroPsychoKinesis Project) published an objection which changed the underpinnings of the novelty theory, capturing the I Ching transform into a formula. A new DOS version was written by Meyer to incorporate this change in 1998. It was released as Fractal Time Version 6.72.
Physicist John Sheliak further revised the theory, and version 7.1 was subsequently released by Meyer in 1999.
In 2006 a new timewave calculator was written in java and made available as an applet at http://www.timewave2012.com. This version allows for simultaneous viewing of multiple number sets as well as "resonating" back or forward in time (finding date ranges which have the same plot shape as the date range currently being viewed)