by Daniel Pinchbeck
At last, we have reached the end of the classic Mayan Long Count calendar, the 5,125-year cycle that ends on December 21 of this year. The mainstream media has, predictably, used the occasion to ridicule the straw man they irresponsibly helped to set up: That this was a doomsday threshold, as silly as Y2K. At the same time, the worst and best predictions of alternative theorists ranging from Graham Hancock to Paul LaViolette to Jose Arguelles, Terence McKenna, John Major Jenkins, David Wilcock, and Carl Johan Calleman have failed to materialize.
Apparently, a galactic superwave is not engulfing our planet, as LaViolette proposed. We are not confronting immediate cataclysmic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, as Hancock sensationally predicted in his bestsellingFingerprints of the Gods. We are, also, not suddenly attaining collective enlightenment as Calleman, Arguelles, and John Major Jenkins conceived. Our pineal glands are not being instantaneously flooded with DMT, as Wilcock concocted. We have not reached the Eschaton or Singularity, where time collapses as we construct the final technological object at the end of history and complete the Great Work of alchemy, as McKenna playfully projected. We are not ascending out of our bodies into the astral plane. But does this mean that this threshold was meaningless? Not at all.
As a personal aside, I am delighted we are finally getting beyond this date with destiny. Over the last months, my work has been constantly ridiculed and put down by mainstream journalists who parrot preconceived ideas. Almost as a rule, these journalists avoided watching the film I made with director Joao Amorim, which is freely available on Netflix, or reading my book. Each article is a tiny piffle of stupidity and ignorance, adding to the great vapidity. Although I am used to it, it is still painful to be misunderstood.
As discussed in my book and film, and repeated again and again in talks and essays, I am among those who consider this juncture to be the center — the hinge point — in a shift of planetary consciousness that will lead to a deep transformation of human civilization over the next few decades. The aspects of our situation that make this inevitable include the ecological crisis unleashed by human activity over the last centuries, the accelerated evolution of technology that has made us globally connected, and the integration of the world’s esoteric and mystical traditions with modern scientific thought.
It is too bad that the media didn’t factor in the recent reports on accelerating climate change from the World Bank and the UN into their articles on the Mayan Apocalypse. According to these studies, global temperatures will rise between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius in this century — but these projections are probably conservative. We currently put more than 8 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, and this figure keeps rising.
We are discovering there are many feedback loops in the climate that accelerate warming trends, past a certain point. We don’t know when we cross the point of no return, or if we have already crossed it. To take one example, a vast amount of carbon and other gasses were trapped underground and beneath the oceans during previous epochs of geological activity. Gigantic stores of methane lie under the Siberian permafrost — as much as 1.2 trillion tons of CO2. As the Arctic melts, the methane gets released — apparently the arctic shelf is already perforated, with gas leaking from it. Methane is 8 times more powerful than carbon as a heat-trapping gas. Similarly, as the oceans grow warmer, they not only become dangerously acidic, but begin to release CO2 in large quantities. As the tropical climate becomes dryer and hotter, tropical forests, like the Amazon, turn into tinderboxes. When they burn, they go from being carbon sinks to releasing masses of stored carbon into the atmosphere. We are already seeing an increase of forest fires around the world.
Glaciologists found that “roughly half of the entire warming between the ice ages and the postglacial world took place in only a decade,” writes Fred Pearce in With Speed and Violence: Why Scientists Fear Tipping Points in Climate Change, with a temperature increase of nine degrees during that time. While it is possible that nonhuman factors such as solar activity contribute to global warming, our continued tinkering runs the risk “of producing a runaway change — the climactic equivalent of a squawk on a sound system.”
Warming by just 2 degrees will eventually cause the “complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which would raise global sea levels by seven meters,” according to Mark Lynas, author of Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. A seven-meter sea level rise would inundate coastal areas around the world, and have devastating effects on low-lying countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Holland. In the US, all of our coastal cities would be abandoned. A 6 degree rise in temperature would have such devastating consequences that there would be little left of the world we know now.
Climate change is only the most immediate of the catastrophic threats we face, due to our own ingenuity and our race to material progress. The loss of biodiversity is another one. We are currently in the Sixth Great Extinction, and it is estimated that 25% of all organisms will be gone from the face of the earth in the next 25 – 40 years. All tropical forests will be gone in forty years at current rates of deforestation. The oceans are 90% fished out of large fish, and coral reefs are disintegrating and disappearing around the world.
As with climate change, the most threatening aspect of species extinction is that we don’t know when our impact on the living world reaches a point where it becomes uncontrollable. For instance, the loss of pollinating species like bees and butterflies could have a disastrous effect on agriculture. Amphibians such as frogs play a crucial role in the ecosystem, and so on. We are discovering that the web of life on earth is an intricate mesh, and we are tearing it to shreds.
The threat of industrial and military cataclysm also remains severe. Recent examples include the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, unleashed by British Petroleum, which released more than 5 million barrels of oil into the ocean before it was capped, with oil probably still seeping out; and the ongoing Fukushima nuclear meltdown, incited by an 8.9 Richter earthquake off the coast of Japan. The potential for the use of biological or nuclear weapons during a military campaign or as a terrorist retaliation remains significant, and could grow considerably as climate change impacts many areas of the world, creating masses of refugees and enraged ethnic groups.
Most people are incapable of contemplating these threats to our immediate future. People have been programmed by the media to remain disconnected, cynical, and detached. They are indoctrinated to pursue their personal ambitions, to take no responsibility for the planetary situation as a whole. A vague faith in technological progress has become the religion of atheists and materialists. While we create amazing things with our technology, we also unleash negative consequences along the way. For instance, plastic not only collects in every ecosystem and in the oceans, but also in our endocrine system, causing reproductive dysfunctions and cancers. Our development of new technology is oriented toward profit, with no precautionary principle in place.
The only way we will be able to confront the extreme challenges facing us is through a planetary awakening of consciousness and a global movement of civil society. Luckily, as we become ever more interconnected through social networks, this awakening is taking place. We saw it last year in the Arab Spring and in the rapid spread of the Occupy movement, which used social media like Facebook and Twitter to coordinate protests and counter lies and distortions of the corporate media. In the near future, it is conceivable that social networks will replace the hierarchical and authoritarian structure of corporations and governments with peer-to-peer and open-source systems for group decision-making and collective action.
We are coming into the realization that our human family constitutes a single collective organism — one that is in symbiotic relationship with the planetary ecology as a whole. As we shift into this understanding, we will redesign our social, cultural, political, financial, technological, and industrial systems so they support the health of the biosphere in its entirety. This will require a massive shift in priorities for us as individuals, as well as a new mythological underpinning for our civilization as a whole. We will shift from quantitative and materialist values to qualitative ones that include a spiritual or psychic dimension. When we act, we will be mindful of the whole of humanity, and the future of the earth — not just our own wants and desires.
What we will give up in this transition will be much less than what we will receive. As Donella Meadows writes in The Limits to Growth: A Thirty Year Update, “People don’t need enormous cars; they need admiration and respect. They don’t need a constant stream of new clothes; they need to feel that others consider them to be attractive, and they need excitement and variety and beauty. People don’t need electronic entertainment; they need something interesting to occupy their minds and emotions. And so forth. Trying to fill real but nonmaterial needs — for identity, community, self-esteem, challenge, love, joy — with material things is to set up an unquenchable appetite for false solutions to never-satisfied longings. A society that allows itself to admit and articulate its nonmaterial human needs, and to find nonmaterial ways to satisfy them, would require much lower material and energy throughputs and would provide much higher levels of human fulfillment.”
I believe a very important aspect of this ongoing shift will be bringing our psychic capacities into our conscious awareness, and the continuing realization that the mystical wisdom of ancient civilizations and aboriginal cultures has direct meaning for us now. The integration of Eastern mystical disciplines and indigenous shamanism into the modern Western worldview is an ongoing process. The Eastern concept of non-duality is something that more Westerners understand. Carl Jung was one pioneer in recognizing that the psychic and physical worlds are not separate, but form one interconnected whole.
It is possible that humanity has unconsciously willed a planetary mega-crisis in order to force us to access our latent psychic abilities. Within a few years we may be doing global visualizations and meditations to bring about world peace and reverse climate change. In fact, December 21 is already the subject of a global experiment in collective meditation, happening at 11:11 am Greenwich Meantime, the exact moment of the solstice. You can register at www.unify.org to be part of this initiative.
The odd fact that the moment of the solstice on 12/21/12 happens at 11:11 AM seems a wink from galactic intelligence, reminding us that what we are experiencing is a dream — a cosmic play, or what Hindus call “lila”. We are being invited to awaken into the dream and recognize our role as conscious dreamers whose thoughts and actions bring this world into being. I agree with futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard that this threshold represents the shift into “conscious evolution.” We are realizing that we have the capacity to advance evolution in all areas of life — and in fact have no choice but to accept this responsibility. But we can only do this properly when we adapt a Christ-like or Buddha-like sensibility, based on empathy and compassion for all of humanity and all of the species that share the earth with us.
As for the misconceptions of the various alternative theorists about this time, it is in the nature of this kind of archetypal process that it is very difficult for any individual human mind to encompass it completely. We seem to be in a time of great destruction as well as a time of creation and renewal, as many prophecies have foretold. We see the same tendency with the various religions around the world, which were based on a mystical revelation of pattern, but over-literalized what they intuitively understood, and built a fortress of faith and belief around it. In the future, we will find a way to speak about this archetypal process – of messianic descent, salvation or enlightenment – that satisfies the various religions of the world, and perhaps defines a new universal religion or spiritual impetus for humanity, as a whole.
Through their deep study of cosmological and natural cycles, combined with their shamanic explorations into visionary states of consciousness, the classic Maya civilization were able to accurately predict this time as the crux of a planetary transition — which it is. They couldn’t comprehend it in the way we can, but they knew that the culmination of this great cycle meant a shift into a new way of being for humanity on the earth. We are the ones who have arrived at this juncture — and we are the ones who will decide whether, or how, human civilization will continue, from here on out. It is wonderful that we have this precious opportunity. The question remains whether or not we will choose to make use of it.