It is 00:22 Universal Time as I write this, and the projection of the Earth's rotational axis onto the ecliptic plane is exactly aligned with the Sun, defining a point in time called the Winter Solstice. Six years from now the Winter Solstice will fall on December 21, and that day in the year 2012 will also be significant for another reason. I have been thinking a lot about 2012 recently and have been inspired to commit my thoughts to bit patterns and make them accessible via the wonders of the World Wide Web. The title of this new section of my website is derived from the name of a tongue-in-cheek reworking of the history of England by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman called 1066 and All That.
On December 2 2006 I found myself in St Pancras Old Church for the launch of a new poem called "Salvia Divinorum" by my friend Aidan Andrew Dun. Aidan is a larger than life character whose mind works on a level that I don't seem to have access to, but I do know that he is prone to some remarkable insights. After the performance Aidan opened the floor to discussion about the future of King's Cross, a future which depends greatly on the decisions being made by a single man. That man is Roger Madelin, Chief Executive of Argent, the organisation behind one of the largest redevelopment projects London has ever seen - King's Cross Central. This project is of great significance to Aidan, since it has been revealed to him that King's Cross is not just a very special site in psychogeographical terms, but is in fact (to put it simply) the site of the "New Jerusalem" referred to by William Blake - the "Site of Our Hope" as Aidan calls it in the title of track three of his prophetic album "The Cool Shall Inherit".
Now I am already getting a bit distracted so, to pick up the thread, why did I not refer to King's Cross Central as the largest redevelopment project London has ever seen? Well, that was the subject of a question I asked there in the Old Church (after some interesting questions by others including a prominent member of the Blake Society). Hasn't King's Cross Central been eclipsed by the behemoth known as London 2012 - the grotesquely over-hyped Olympic project? (a project which is only now becoming the subject of any seriously organised critical analysis - but that is another story) Now here's the rub. Aidan answered my question by pointing out that 2012 is a long way off and that the Government's vision of the Olympic Torch being paraded through the streets of London to cheering crowds is just that, a vision; whether it comes to pass is by no means certain given the cosmic significance of 2012. Well that was all it took to set my mind in motion.
On December 19 the first two foundation columns were laid for New York's "Freedom Tower", the skyscraper which is being erected on the site of the World Trade Centre. When I saw this reported on the BBC website I couldn't help but be struck by the significance of the line "All building work at the site is due to be completed by 2012". My immediate thought was "Well it would have to be wouldn't it?" and (worryingly) my "logic" was that there would be no point starting such a project if you didn't plan to finish it before the end of the world.
Back in early 2002, I started a page on my website about the War on Terrorism, and in my first entry on that page I mentioned that Aidan had speculated on the idea of a Karmic disturbance set in motion when hard line elements of the Taliban regime ordered the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan six months prior to the attack on the World Trade Centre. One thing lead to another and in March 2003, despite protests from the French, a US/UK alliance invaded Iraq. In September 2004 I was in Stratford, East London and was bemused by the gleaming new glass and steel station with a huge graphic proclaiming London as the site of the 2012 games - odd because the IOC had not yet decided which city was to host the games and it was publicly known that Paris was favourite. So is this stuff all somehow connected?
It is reasonably well known that the year 2012 is considered to have great significance in the Maya calendar. The most commonly accepted correlation between the Maya calendar and our modern calendar is the "Goodman, Martinez, Thompson" correlation (GMT correlation), according to which, the Maya creation date (0.0.0.0.0 in Long Count notation) correlates with August 11 3114 BCE in the proleptic Gregorian calendar. On December 21 2012 the Mayan date will be 22.214.171.124.0 - the start the next 13-baktun cycle.
Strangely enough this date coincides with the 2012 Winter Solstice, which will compound the significance of the two events. It is believed by some that this is not a coincidence and that the Mayans designed the Long Count to end on a Winter Solstice - and not just any Winter Solstice. John Major Jenkins believes that the Mayans were aware of the 26,000 year precession of the equinoxes. He also identifies the crossing of the Milky Way (galactic equator) and the ecliptic plane as the Sacred Tree of Maya mythology. They would have observed that the Winter Solstice Sun was slowly but steadily creeping towards the Sacred Tree and he claims that they would have been able to calculate that it would reach it on or around 2012. This is all discussed on Jenkins' Alignment 2012 website.
Incidentally, the U.S. Naval Observatory Earth Seasons page indicates that the 2012 Winter Solstice will occur at 11:11 Universal Time on December 21, which will undoubtedly be interpreted to have some particular numerological significance (there is a website called The NVisible which is all about the "Doorway of the 11:11" although apparently that is scheduled to close on November 11, 2011).
Before we leave the subject of the Maya calendar I just want to mention that the renowned physicist Richard Feynman (after whom Feynman Diagrams were named) dabbled a bit himself, as revealed in his piece "Bringing Culture to the Physicists" published in 1985 in his bestseller "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman". It was while he was on honeymoon with his second wife that he walked into a museum in a small Guatemalan town and walked out having purchased a copy of the Villacorta copy of the Dresden Codex, an original book made by the Mayans and found in a museum in Dresden. So whilst his wife spent a day climbing up and down pyramids he sat in his hotel room, covered up the Spanish commentary, and began trying to decipher the codex. Well he made rapid progress, worked out their counting system and realised that 584 was an important number. Later he went to an astronomy library and found that the period of Venus as it appears from earth is 583.92 days. It is not surprising that the Mayans knew the period of Venus to the nearest day, but they were also aware that 584 days was not quite right and had developed a correction. This and many other fascinating facts are discussed in an article by Valerie Vaughan titled The Fibonacci Numbers: Connections within the Mathematics and Calendrical Systems of Ancient Mesoamerica.
Remember the hype in 1999 about millennial celebrations and the Y2K Bug? I was working in IT for a large university at the time and was lumbered with the task of auditing various systems for "Y2K compliance". We actually shut down most servers before Christmas and restarted them under close supervision the day before the university opened again in January. As it happens, there were no really significant computer failures when the clocks rolled over into 2000 but debate raged over whether that was due to the result of preparations taken, or an overestimation of the significance of the problem. One thing the whole issue did highlight though was the extent to which civilisation was becoming dependent on computers and the Internet to maintain a functional infrastructure. This trend has since accelerated, a point to which I will return later.
Anyway, during 1999 there was a definite "millennium fever" - enough to get the FBI worried. In 2003 I wrote a page about Project Megiddo, from which I quote:
Towards the end of the last millennium there was a general feeling of anticipation mixed with some concern about potential Y2K computer problems. Project Megiddo dealt with the possibility that certain extremist groups within the United States might initiate violent action with the aim of either overthrowing the Federal Government or precipitating a Holy Race War. The scope of the project was limited to the study of those individuals or groups who were motivated in some way by the advent of the new millennium and these motivations were broadly classified into two types. On the one hand there were those who might have seen the disruption caused by Y2K problems as a sign that the United Nations was taking over the United States by military force and who had stocked up on weapons and food in preparation for this eventuality. On the other there were religious groups who believed that the Apocalypse was just around the corner and who so relished the prospect that they were prepared to use violence to help things along the way.
Despite the lack of a corresponding 2012 computer problem I suspect that something similar to millennium fever will occur. The first signs are already apparent to those who look for them but it remains to be seen how quickly awareness will spread into mainstream culture.
A few months ago I read a book called "Shroom" by Andy Letcher, a meticulously researched cultural history of the magic mushroom. My interest was partly due to personal experience with magic mushrooms but the book turned out to touch on a great many aspects of culture which interest me (and it mentions the psychoactive plant Salvia Divinorum which inspired Aidan's poem). Andy also devoted a whole chapter to Terence McKenna. The final paragraph of chapter 14 (The Elf-Clowns of Hyperspace) reads:
But if the jury is still out on the question of whether McKenna really was an unsung Newton, or was just plain nuts, there is one of his acheivements, made with his brother, that we have yet to mention and that most definitely can be said to have changed the world. For, tinkering around in the shed at the bottom of his garden, the brothers McKenna hit on their equivalent of alchemical gold: they cracked the problem of how to grow unlimited supplies of magic mushrooms. Within twenty years of their discovery, cultivated magic mushrooms were being openly sold in Holland and the UK, and to the horror of politicians and, one hopes, Terence's eternal satisfaction, the second magic mushroom boom was underway.
Leaving out a lot of fascinating detail I will try to jump straight to the point. During McKenna's bemushroomed visions he came to know something which he referred to as "the glittering object in hyperspace" or "the glittering object at the end of time". Thinking deeply about cosmology he came to believe that the key to all this was encoded in the ancient Chinese oracle of the I Ching, and by subjecting it to various forms of computer aided mathematical analysis he "discovered" something he called the "Timewave". It is difficult for me to explain exactly what the Timewave is, so I refer you to Terence McKenna's own Derivation of the Timewave from the King Wen Sequence of Hexagrams. It is perhaps worth noting that the Chinese, like the Mayans, were advanced astronomers. Suffice it to say that this Timewave Theory explained the glittering object Terrence had seen as a sort of attractor to which we are being inexorably drawn.
Now Timewave Theory does not imply any particular date as the "zero date", but it does "predict" a certain pattern in the occurrence of novel events throughout history. If the theory were valid then by looking back at such novel events one ought to be able to determine the zero date. The way Terence settled on a zero date is explained on the Hermetic Systems website by Peter Meyer, and as you may have guessed he ended up believing that it coincides with the end of the current 13-baktun cycle of the Maya calendar. Terence dramatically stated that "The twentieth century is the shudder that announces the approaching cataracts of time over which our species and the destiny of this planet is about to be swept".
I have done my best to explain Timewave Theory in simple terms and you might be wondering whether or not I "believe in it". Not really - but it is strangely compelling and is characteristic of the sort of crazy insights that made Terence McKenna such a unique and fascinating individual. Don't take my word for any of this though. The only way to really appreciate Terence is to see him speak, and since he sadly passed away the closest you can get is to watch some of the many videos of him that are available from Sound Photosynthesis (including one called "TimeWave Zero" which I first watched in 2005).
Implausible as Terence McKenna's Timewave Theory may seem to you, rest assured that there are plenty of even less plausible narratives out there. Any sort of literal interpretation of the Bible qualifies for a start, but some Christian narratives really take the biscuit. In April 2004, George Monbiot wrote a piece in the Guardian called Their beliefs are bonkers, but they are at the heart of power from which I quote:
In the United States, several million people have succumbed to an extraordinary delusion. In the 19th century, two immigrant preachers cobbled together a series of unrelated passages from the Bible to create what appears to be a consistent narrative: Jesus will return to Earth when certain preconditions have been met. The first of these was the establishment of a state of Israel. The next involves Israel's occupation of the rest of its "biblical lands" (most of the Middle East), and the rebuilding of the Third Temple on the site now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques. The legions of the antichrist will then be deployed against Israel, and their war will lead to a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. The Jews will either burn or convert to Christianity, and the Messiah will return to Earth.
But the maddest thing of all is that these people believe that before the final showdown starts, true believers will be lifted out of their clothes and wafted up to heaven during an event called the Rapture. And the scariest thing is that given such a belief it is the interest of adherents to try to provoke a full scale war in the Middle East. Well Bush and co seem to have done a pretty good job on Afghanistan, and Iraq has been "on the verge" of civil war for so long now that one wonders just how bad it has to get before it becomes an actual civil war.
As I pointed out earlier, some fundamentalist Christians were hoping to kick start the Apocalypse at the turn of the millennium, and when the floaty thing failed to happen it would have been straight back to the drawing board. You can be sure that some of them will have pegged 2012 as their next best chance.
Eschatology is a part of theology and philosophy concerned with the final events in the history of the world or the ultimate destiny of mankind, and the end of the world is sometimes referred to as the "Eschaton". Now the Eschaton has been predicted so many times that you would think people would have stopped taking any notice, but there are number of worrying developments that deserve to be taken very seriously. These include human induced climate change, nuclear proliferation, loss of biodiversity, resource scarcity etc. I won't dwell on these things - some of them are dealt with fairly extensively on the rest of my website. However, it would be remiss of me not to point out that the current Kyoto Protocol commitment ends in 2012.
You might be wondering whether I have any good news to report - any evidence to suggest that the world will not end in 2012? Well on June 21 2001 someone calling himself John Titor posted a message on The Anomalies Network bulletin board which began:
Greetings. I am a time traveler from the year 2036. I am on my way home after getting an IBM 5100 computer system from the year 1975.
Of course it was a hoax right? Lots of people are not so sure! You see during the five months or so that he was posting on the Internet, John Titor revealed information about the future, and people are saying that his "prophesies" are coming true. I have only looked briefly at John Titor's Story and have not seen enough to make any sort of judgement myself - but I have seen enough to say that if it was a hoax then it was certainly a elaborate one.
So what did John Titor have to say about 2012 then? Well apparently nothing spectacular happens and the world doesn't end. So we don't have to worry then? Not quite, society as we know it ends in a very short but massive global nuclear war in 2015!
Incidentally, John Titor apparently claimed that he had to go and fetch the IBM 5100 in order to help mitigate the year 2038 problem which will be the first major computer time/date problem since the Y2K bug.
Terence McKenna's Timewave Theory suggests that as we approach the zero date, the pace of change will increase in inverse proportion to the time remaining until everything "ends" in some sort of singularity. It does not predict how that will manifest itself to those who are still around to witness it.
It is however undeniable that by almost any conceivable measure, the pace of change is increasing, and the rate of increase is increasing, and so on. There is a film by Richard Linklater called Waking Life which features monologues by a number of interesting characters. One of them is a chemistry professor called Eamonn Healy, who goes off on one about the "telescoping" of evolutionary time. If you haven't watched Waking Life then you should, but here is an extract from Eamonn's monologue:
Now, what you've seen here is the evolution of populations, not so much the evolution of individuals. And in addition, if you look at the time scales that are involved here - two billion years for life, six million years for the hominid, 100,000 years for mankind as we know it - you're beginning to see the telescoping nature of the evolutionary paradigm. And then when you get to agricultural, when you get to scientific revolution and industrial revolution, you're looking at 10,000 years, 400 years, 150 years. You're seeing a further telescoping of this evolutionary time. What that means is that as we go through the new evolution, it's gonna telescope to the point we should be able to see it manifest itself within our lifetime, within this generation.
I just looked up Eamonn Healy on Wikipedia and found a link to another Wikipedia article titled Technological singularity which actually sums up a lot of what I wanted to try to convey in this final section, so I think I will stop now and proceed to the conclusion.
Don't bother making any plans for 2013:-)
www.zenatode.org.uk Ian Gregory 2010