Debunking Doomsday

By Lisa Clift

The mystery about the most fascinating date in modern history—December 21, 2012—is about to unfold. Will it be the end of the world, just another winter solstice, or a milestone in consciousness that signifies the end of a great cycle in time and the beginning of a new era filled with opportunity?

The answer to this question depends upon whom you ask. Many self-pronounced prophets, Hollywood producers, and doomsday advocates have been promoting the end of the Mayan Long Count Calendar as an impending end-of-days apocalypse for years. However, the true historical Greek meaning of the word apocalypse is to “uncover what is hidden,” a process that includes revelation, judgment, destruction, and rebirth. Mayan calendar expert and Mesoamerican researcher John Major Jenkins has been supporting this less-sensational perspective over the past 25 years, and through his in-depth studies of Mayan cosmology and culture he has set forth 2012 theories including the ancient Maya’s understanding of a rare galactic alignment that occurs at the end of the Long Count Calendar cycle. He emphasizes that this alignment takes place during a window of time that provides an opportunity for renewal and transformation; it does not mark a target date for the destruction of the earth and its inhabitants.

“Being the guy who says the Maya did not predict the end of the world in 2012 does not make you very popular,” Jenkins says.

“To understand 2012 you really have to have a grasp of Mayan astronomy, mythology, symbolism, prophecy, and spirituality. They all go together. If you can embrace all of those things then you are going to have a better understanding of how the Maya world view works. They saw that everything is interwoven and interdependent.”

Keeping Track of Time

One of three main components in the ancient Mayan culture’s calendar system (along with the 260-day tzolkin and the 365-day haab), the Long Count Calendar and its 13-Baktun cycle is based on the cycle of time known as the procession of the equinoxes, which is caused by the earth wobbling slowly on its axis. As a result of this movement, the celestial position of the sun on the equinoxes and solstices changes as viewed from earth. The motion is about 50.3 seconds of arc per year or 1 degree every 71.6 years. A complete procession cycle covers a period of approximately 26,000 years. During this timeframe, the equinox regresses 360 degrees through the 12 constellations of the zodiac, which determines the length of an astrological age.

Through his research, Jenkins believes the birthplace of the Mayan Long Count Calendar is in the pre-Mayan city of Izapa, which is located in Southwest Mexico close to the Pacific Ocean and the border of Guatemala. “The earliest Long Count dates were recorded in the first century BC around Izapa, and astronomy is in the iconography,” explains Jenkins. The calendar signifies a “World Age.” This almost 26,000-year cycle has a beginning, a middle, and an end. However, according to teachings that have remained intact to this day through the modern Quiché Maya, “Time as a total construct doesn’t have an end, but it does have a middle, and that middle is always located right dead center in the now,” explains Jenkins. We need to understand that the Long Count Calendar cycles are continuous, not finite.

The Maya also knew that at the end of the Long Count Calendar’s “Great Year” the earth will come into an alignment with the dark rift in the center of the Milky Way galaxy, a feature that is caused by interstellar dust that runs along the Milky Way from the Galactic Center northward past the constellation of Aquila. This event takes place over a 36-year time period, from 1980 to 2016, and it marks the time when the December solstice sun is in alignment with the galactic equator.

“What people need to understand is that the galactic alignment is real astronomy. The galactic center is a nuclear bulge in the Milky Way that is noticeable to the naked eye,” says Jenkins.

“The Maya were excellent astronomers. What I add through my research is an interpretation of what the Maya thought and understood about the alignment’s significance.”

In Mayan mythology, the dark rift is the birthplace of the great mother, and when the sun lines up with this birthplace on the solstice, it is the joining of “mother” galaxy with “father” sun, explains Jenkins. “It’s a way of explaining the union of creation forces,” the masculine and the feminine energies that represent the ultimate duality and creative intelligence in our universe. When this happens, a period of rebalancing occurs in the world and renewal can take place if people embrace these energies.

Lost in Western Thought

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to displace the tendency of Western culture—especially in the United States—to focus on finite points in time that loom on the horizon as “doomsday.” Jenkins did his best to get the message across at the red carpet preview of the movie 2012 Doomsday by wearing a big button printed with the words “The End is Always Near.” It was a pithy statement that hinted at the underlying problem the Western world has in delineating between a self-centered, ego-based existence and a world view that is perennial in nature. “Western civilization really is the only cultural tradition that doesn’t see the holistic situation associated with cycles of time. The movement of the universe is cyclical and spirals. It is not linear.”

One can look to concepts such as Carl Jung’s archetype of the Apocalypse to understand this phenomenon better. In simple terms, an archetype is a primordial energetic pattern of behavior that is universally understood through symbology and typically experienced through instinctual behavior patterns. The archetype of the Apocalypse is the activation of the Self (higher self, or the collective unconscious) that is bringing with it some new worldview, a new God-image, a new relationship to the Divine, and/or a new stage of psychological maturation for the whole earth. Because our culture is very much driven by the small self, or the ego, we have become myopic in our vision of existence and see the world as finite and self centered upon the time of our own physical life. The ego doesn’t want to change or let go, so its fear drives the feeling of impending doom.

In contrast, the Mayan philosophy is on par with all of the great spiritual traditions of the world that recognize a higher, unified intelligence or unity consciousness that oversees the great cycles of life. “The Maya people did not have a problem with the ego orbiting around and being in service to the Self,” says Jenkins, “while most of our Western society is based on dualistic beliefs that are unhealthy and unsustainable. Apocalypse, properly understood, is a good and necessary process, and our Western ego framework can learn a lot from the teachings of the Maya long after the event horizon of December 21, 2012 has passed. We can consciously surrender or sacrifice the illusion our egos have created.”

For those ready to take this step, it’s important to understand that Mayan culture uses mythology to convey significant astrological and spiritual concepts through sacred vehicles such as the Popol Vuh. This document was recorded by the Mayan elders in the 1550s, and it recounts the Maya’s World Age doctrine or creation myth, which is the story of the “Hero Twins.” Similar to other great epics such as India’s Mahabharata, it represents Gnostic (esoteric or intuitive knowledge) teachings of an allegorical nature that integrate all aspects of existence, values, and belief structures about the cosmos and our place in it.

“The Mayans were shamans and they understood that the microcosm reflects the macrocosm,” notes Jenkins. “They implicitly understood that this connection goes on through the heart and soul of all humanity.” As 2012 comes to an auspicious end this month, it’s not time to close the book on the Mayan calendar and its teachings.

“I have been working with the Maya Conservancy (, and the message from the modern-day Maya leaders is that we need to work together now to plant the seeds of peace,” says Jenkins. “The world is in a crisis and we are all interdependent. We need to incorporate all good teachings from the past and utilize them in the present to create a positive outcome for the future.”

Editor’s note: John Major Jenkins has been studying Maya culture and writing about 2012 since the mid-1980s. As an independent scholar, he is the author of over a dozen books on Maya cosmology and calendrics, including The 2012 Story. He is an advisory board member of the Maya Conservancy and Director of The Center for 2012 Studies. He is the originator of the “2012 alignment theory” and has taught at the Institute of Maya Studies, Naropa University, Esalen Institute, the Universidad Francisco Marroquin, and many venues internationally. His latest book is Time Conscious Kingdoms: How Maya Rulers Used 2012 in their Rhetoric of Power. John’ latest film project “2012: The Beginning” was the most-watched documentary at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. For more information or to purchase a copy, visit To learn firsthand about the Mayan culture and its teachings, join John for the “Great Return” tour, which will take place at the Copan archeological site in Honduras from December 16-22, 2012 (

Lisa Clift is the editor for Transformation. Contact her at

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