December 21, 2012

Apocalypse? The End of the World? Or Just Another Day?

Few of us have missed the news about 2012, not the year, or even the movie, but the coming apocalypse that for many the number 2012 has come to represent. When is the world going to end? What is the so-called Mayan end of the world. According to certain doomsday prophets December 21st 2012 is sure to be the end of the world and we need to prepare for it like it’s Y2K all over again Where did this prediction come from? Does it have any reasonable basis? Should you do something to prepare for 2012? These are some of the questions we’ll explore in this article as we ask ourselves when's the world going to end.

what you need to know about 2012

The Mayans

The prediction of the world ending in 2012 is all based on the Mayan calendar. The Mayans  were an aboriginal people native to central America. They lived in hidden cities in the jungles, some of which remain today in remnants found mostly in Guatemala and Mexico. It’s not for certain exactly when the Mayan civilization was established but it most certainly ended with the arrival of the Spanish in the 9th century AD. At first glance modern man might dismiss the Mayans as simply a primitive and superstitious culture. Certainly they were primitive in many ways relative to our modern world and clearly superstitious as well as all ancient civilizations tended to be. However they were also remarkably advanced and scientific in certain areas such as writing, mathematics, architecture, and especially astronomy. Without any of the modern tools we use today to study the stars the Mayans successfully acquired a solid understanding of the solar system and its movements. They were able to precisely predict the movements and alignment of the planets as well as the solar and lunar eclipses.

The Mayan Calendar

myan calendarThe Mayans had a special interest in time, not so much the hours of the day but larger scales of time. They saw time as advancing in cycles and on a very large scale.
From this interest in time and their knowledge of astronomy they created a grand calendar of the world, going back to its  beginning and ahead to its end. They  set the date of the earth’s beginning on August 11th, 3114 BC. They set the date of the earth’s end on December 21st, 2012 AD.  And that’s it. This is the basis, and nothing more, for the belief many hold today that the world will end on 12-21-12. In the 9th century the Mayan’s own world came to an end due to the Spanish conquest. Their culture and civilization was wiped out, including most of their writings and records. Very few fragments survived. Only the Mayan calendar and a handful of tablets remained.

What Did the Mayans Say About 2012

Nothing. December 21st 2012 was simply the last date indicated on their calendar. Nothing more was recorded. Therefore a lot, in fact just about everything, is left up to our imagination. Will there be a massive earthquake? Tidal waves? Hurricanes? Will destruction come from methane gas beneath the earth’s crust, or from space in the form of solar flares or perhaps an asteroid. Maybe aliens from space might appear and destroy our world. We can project our own wisdom, fears, or superstitions onto the date as much as we like but the Mayans were silent on the subject.

Mayan Philosophy of Time and Cycles

The Mayan’s might not have told us anything specifically about 2012 but we can glean a few relevant points from their philosophy and worldview. Again the Mayans were fascinated with numbers, time, and especially cycles of time as well as cycles of history, nature, stars, and humankind. They saw all of these areas as being interconnected. Therefore the Mayan calendar isn’t just a calendar as we think of a calendar, it’s a philosophy, a philosophy of time and nature. It was the basis for ordering their society and understanding the functioning of the universe. Their concern was not so much about when the world ended but how the world worked and how the cycles functioned.

Why 2012?

So how did the Mayans determine 2012 to be the final day for the earth? It was all based on their numerology and astronomy. Their numerology was based on the numbers 13 and 20, and multiples of those numbers. Their calendar was also based on their philosophy of time cycles, and a rather complex notion of interconnecting and overlapping cycles. Notable time cycles would involve 13 days, 20 days, and 260 days. A longer time cycle of importance was 400 years. The longest time cycle of all is what they called “the long count” which spanned 5126 years, and, was projected to be the period of the world’s existence. Add it all up and it results in the earth ending it’s cycle of life on December 21, 2012.

What Does it Really Mean?

What does the Mayan calendar and it’s ending date on 2012 really mean? What did they think of the 2012 date when they created the calendar?  There’s just no was of knowing for sure. There are certainly some interesting and mysterious ideas that people have considered. For example, notice how that the date of December 21, 2012 is the winter solstice. Is this just a coincidence or is there something else going on? Something of astronomical interest that we do know will take place on that date is that the earth will be lined up with what is called the galactic equator. In other words, the earth will face the alignment of a certain sector of the milk way. There is evidence from one Mayan tablet fragment that speaks of a god from another world returning to the earth whenever the earth is again aligned with the galactic equator. This god was believed to be a god of destruction who would one day return to the earth and descend to his temple. Based on this perhaps the predictions of space aliens reigning down destruction on the earth isn’t so far off after all.

myan predictionIn the end, and no pun intended, the Mayan calendar’s 2012 date was probably set rather arbitrarily by our standards. Even though the Mayan astronomers had a keen sense of precision when it came to the observable universe and concrete numerical calculations, trying to understand millennia of time and predict the end of the earth was far beyond what they could observe, and thus left up to what was common in most ancient cultures, and even common today; the false assumption and creation of patterns. In other words, it is intuitive to human intelligence to look for and establish patterns. In this way we come to understand things like mathematics and astronomy. Whenever you take away a solid basis for patterns however, we still look for them but end up making them up according to our own philosophy, viewpoint, and even superstitions. Such factors clearly influenced the Mayan calendar, as well as factors that may have involved the will of the kings, who clearly wanted their imprint made on the calendar’s history and may have even determined the starting date for the calendar.

When is the world supposed to end? No one knows but the Mayan calendar’s end on 2012 wasn’t necessarily meant to indicate the end of the world. Again the Mayans believed in cycles, and cycles mean beginnings and endings. Whenever one cycle ends another one begins. There is some possibility then that the Mayans didn’t see 2012  as the end of all things, but only the end of a certain phase of history. One Mayan inscription on the walls of a city’s ruins reveals a certain king’s decree (a king who ruled after the calendar was created) that his rule be celebrated on a distant future date of 4772. So clearly all Mayans of that time didn’t necessarily see 2012 as the end of the world, only as the end of a certain cycle of the earth, to be followed by more cycles.

For Further Reading