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End of the world prophecies on or about 2012-DEC-21

PART 1: Interpretations of the significance
of the precise date of 2012-DEC-21

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Interpretations of the significance of the Mayan calendar:

Various beliefs are circulating:

  • Pessimism: Some interpreters believe that the Mayans expected that the world would last precisely 13 Baktun -- about 5,125.36 of our years -- and then self-destruct in some way. That is, they anticipated the end of the world in the day 13.0.0.0.0 in the Mayan notation. This is the date of the Winter Solstice, on 2012-DEC-21 CE in in our (Gregorian) calendar. 1 See below.

  • Astronomical event: John Jenkins has determined that on this date, there will be "an extremely close conjunction of the winter solstice sun with the crossing point of Galactic Equator and the ecliptic." He believes that this is an event that will not be repeated for thousands of years in the future.

    Our galaxy is relatively flat with spiral arms. Our sun, the Earth, and other planets in the solar system are gradually rotating around the center of our galaxy. However, with the current level of astronomical knowledge and collected data, we are at a loss to understand how astronomers could predict with absolute precision exactly where the galaxy's equator is located, and when our solar system's equator will match it. We suspect that they cannot measure it within an accuracy of a few centuries, let alone one day.

  • Optimism: Author Carl Johan Calleman disagrees that the Mayan calendar predicts a major transition in the world. He writes that "the Mayan calendar is about the progress of evolution, not about the end of the world." 2,3 Many other authors have taken alternate optimistic views and predict positive changes in the world -- mostly spiritual.

  • Realism: Consider some facts:
    • Total number of Maya glyphs -- inscriptions, typically "... carved in wood or stone, or molded in stucco" found: Thousands.

    • Number containing a reference to 2012-DEC-21: Two, one of which was discovered recently.

    • Topic mentioned in these two glyphs: the return of a Mayan god-man to Earth.

    • Number of glyphs containing references to dates after 2012 CE: dozens or hundreds.

One can safely assume that the Mayan did not expect the world to end in 2012 as has been suggested in many books. If it did, prophecies of activities later than this date would not make a great deal of sense.

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Our opinion, for what it is worth:

Unfortunately, various authors and commentators cannot agree on whether:

  • All life on Earth will end on this date, or

  • Humans will be almost wiped out, or

  • Humanity will be elevated to a higher spiritual plane, or

  • A new human species will evolve, or

  • The Earth will flip on its axis so that the South Pole will point towards the North Star,

  • The Earth's magnetic field will reverse, causing massive devastation,

  • Some other major development will occur, or -- as we expect --

  • Nothing much will happen that is different from any other day.

We normally confine our web site activities to merely reporting the beliefs and findings of others without interjecting our opinions. However, because of the seriousness of these prophecies, and the extreme fear that it is generating in some people, we have decided to intrude here with our own opinion. Our concern is that if many people believe the apocalyptic predictions of some of the authors and commentators, then there are certain to be a few people who will become so frightened that they will commit suicide in order to avoid "the end." Harold Camping's failed predictions of the Rapture in 2011 have been linked to at least one suicide. The apocalyptic scenarios associated with the Winter Solstice of 2012 have been much more widely disseminated. If suicides also occur in 2012, many dozens of writers will have blood on their hands.

A bit of astronomy: The Earth spins like a top on its axis which runs from the north pole to the south pole. Like all tops, it wobbles slowly. Right now, the earth's axis points toward a location in the sky near the North Star. Over an interval of about 26,000 years the axis' wobble will complete a circular path, passing through all of the signs of the zodiac. This is called the "precession of the equinoxes." Over these 26 millennia, various other stars will be referred to as the North Star. This interval is called the "Great Year." The ancient Mayans were aware of this precession. They arbitrarily divided the Great Year into exactly five sub-intervals called World Ages; each is about 5,125 years long.

The Mayan Calendar is believed by most Mayan specialists to have started on 3114-AUG-11 BCE.  Thus, the first World Age will end about 2012-DEC-21. But that is only one-fifth of a Great Year. One might logically ask: why would the Mayans expect some major event to occur only 20% of the way through a Great Year? It would seem to be much more likely that the Mayans would simply expect another World Age to begin.

We believe that all books and Internet references to an earth-shaking change in 2012 should be regarded as fictional works of imagination. We speculate that no major changes will happen at the Winter Solstice of 2012. The sun will rise and fall; there will be violent weather extremes in different places in the world. There will be a few hundred earthquakes of magnitude 3 and below. Small-scale wars will continue. Babies will be born. Tens of thousands of young people will die preventable deaths. Older people's bodies will wear out and they will die. That is, the Winter Solstice will simply be another day.

We have a hunch that 2012-DEC-21 became a favorite among authors a few years ago because:

  • It was reasonably close to the time when their books were published, so the immediacy of their predictions would attract the interest (and the credit cards) of the public.

  • It was far enough into the future when the books started to be published that almost all of the eventual book sales will probably have been made by 2012-DEC. The authors will have already deposited all of the royalty checks in his/her bank account and be lounging on a tropical beach somewhere anticipating a relaxing winter solstice and Christmas day for 2012.

Please pardon the cynicism, but we have seen it happen before:

  • Hal Lindsay's famous book "The Late, Great Planet Earth," predicted the end of the world in 1988. It didn't happen.

  • Harold Camping predicted the rapture for 1994. It didn't happen.

  • Camping made a second prediction of the rapture for 2011-MAY-21 at 6 PM local time in each time zone around the world. He also predicted the end of the world would happen five months later on 2011-OCT-21. Neither event occurred.

According to Wikipedia:

"In May 2012, an Ipsos poll of 16,000 adults in 21 countries found that 8 percent had experienced fear or anxiety over the possibility of the world ending in December, 2012, while an average of 10 percent agreed with the statement 'the Mayan calendar, which some say ends in 2012, marks the end of the world', with responses as high as 20 percent in China, 13 percent in Russia, Turkey, Japan and Korea, and 12 percent in the United States, where sales of private underground blast shelters have increased noticeably since 2009.

At least one suicide has been directly linked to fear of a 2012 apocalypse, with several more anecdotally reported. A panel of scientists questioned on the topic at a plenary session at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific contended that the Internet has played a substantial role in allowing this doomsday date to gain more traction than previous similar panics." 4

Authors, commentators and religious leaders have made a lot of money by mining the gullibility of their readers and followers. I suspect that some are sincere in their predictions. But I suspect that most of them are frauds.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Terence McKenna, "The Final Illusion," at http://www.levity.com/
  2. Bill Michelmore, "Niagara Falls prophesied as site of Second Coming," The Buffalo News, 2007-OCT-28, at: http://www.buffalonews.com/
  3. "Planet X," Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  4. "List of dates predicted for apocalyptic events," Wikipedia, as on 2012-NOV-30, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

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 Home page > > Religious conflict  > World end > In 2012 > here
or Home page > Religious information > World end > In 2012 > here

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Copyright 1997 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-NOV-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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