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The Real Meaning of 2012 – Part One

(Excerpted and expanded from DECODING DOOMSDAY by S. Douglass Woodward)

Posted: February 10, 2010
11:00 am Eastern

by S. Douglas Woodward

Is 2012 the End of the World?

While many in our world today are frantically anticipating a possible apocalypse, most gurus and guides of a not-so-new spirituality associated with popular 2012 books generally dismiss the end of days as the likely outcome. 

Instead, they predict that we are rushing inevitably toward an historic time of transformation.  On December 21, 2012, the alignment of the earth, sun, and galactic center (as predicted by the Maya), will provide the impetus to remake our world and to change all of us for the better! 

In the introduction to the book, The Mystery of 2012, publisher Tami Simon declares that,


2012 is most often described as a choice point, a time of intensified possibility and opportunity, rather than an apocalyptic time bomb destined to explode at midnight on December 21, 2012… Opening to the possibilities of 2012 required us to open to mystery, to open to the powers of the cosmos that are transhuman.” (Emphasis mine) [1] 


Greg Braden, a prominent author in the 2012 “movement” (if I may be allowed to call it that in this paper), confirms this perspective:


…there is nothing in any of the prophecies that tells us unconditionally that the world itself will end on this date.  What they do say is that the world as we have known it will enter a time of change on this date.  How we respond to that change will define how we experience it and our lives in the next age of our existence.[2] 

Peter Russell, an author who attempts to bridge science to God along the lines of this “new reality,” points out the historical origins of 2012 wisdom:


The global crisis we are now facing is, at its root, a crisis of consciousness – a crisis born of the fact that we have prodigious technological powers but still remain half awake.  We need to awaken to who we are and what we really want.

Throughout human history, there have been individuals who appear to have become fully awake.  These are the enlightened ones – the mystics, seers, saints, rishis, roshis, and lamas who in one way or another have discovered for themselves the true nature of consciousness…

Aldous Huxley called this the “perennial philosophy” – the timeless wisdom that has been rediscovered again and again through the ages. (Emphasis mine) [3]


The science supporting such transformation may be sketchy.  But in a remarkable modern leap of faith, the proponents for this transformation remain steadfast in their conviction. Their many manifest affirmations conclude that the drama will not be catastrophic but cosmic.  In 2012, human beings will suddenly understand that there is much more to the universe than materialist wisdom allows.  Soon, we will come to appreciate how the realms of nature and of spirit are a single re­ality, a union of the seen and the unseen.  From the admonitions of Hindu avatars and the aged wise men of Native Americans, the consensus is that our fall from grace (metaphorically speaking), is our failure to appreciate the underlying unity of these realms and our tendency to dwell only on the material.  Marxism with its advocacy for naked materialism is dead:  Long live spiritism!   

The once unassailable standard of Christianity in the West – holding sway for 1,400 years (from Constantine to the Enlightenment) – served as the philosophical basis for government, for personal and community mores, and for cultural expression. This standard is most certainly passé.  We now live in a thoroughly post-Christian world, even in America.  Furthermore, the worldview of our day is advancing beyond the rigid secularism of recent decades gone by.  Indeed, commonly-held cosmology (i.e., the philosophical study of the nature of the universe) is no longer purely naturalistic; disdain for the supernatural is rapidly disappearing.  This is in spite the resurgence of radical atheism (a la Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins) which staunchly reflects the old views.  Winning notions of the day are conceptions of a “super-spiritual” variety.  Hitchens and Dawkins are aberrations of our time, aged voices of positivism,[4] dying a much-deserved philosophical death.

What are we who call ourselves Christians to make of this new type of spirituality?  Is 2012 a watershed moment for humanity?  Moreover, underlying this call for a new spirituality is an apparent form of humanism upon which its advocates believe we can build a new foundation for human society, politics, and personal meaning. 

In short, 2012 proposes a “humanism based upon transhumanism” – a notion that humanity will demonstrate superhuman abilities as a result of achieving “higher consciousness.”   

In this essay in 3 parts, we will critique both the spirituality of “2012” advocates as well as whether it’s “credo” is a worthy alternative basis for society.

Do the spiritual affirmations of 2012, taken as a statement of spiritual principles and means to interpret reality, deserve to replace Judeo-Christian religion as the basis for Western culture?  Will 2012 serve as a catalyst to realize this transformation?

The Cosmology of 2012

At the beginning of the 21st century, we’re experiencing an unpredicted replay of the early 20th century where occult and theosophical pursuit’s preoccupied academia and the super-rich. Today, popular authors amidst the general culture likewise assert how humankind is retuning its spiritual faculty; the magical nature of reality awaits us, ready to be explored.  Soon we will realize the true nature of our universe – a “fantastic reality” – what authors Pauwels and Bergier asserted in their 1960 classic book, The Morning of the Magicians.  No longer does space-time entrap us in a purely physical state. We can overcome it, if we know how.  Once initiated, those who possess higher consciousness can escape physical limitations and interact with the transhuman beings which surround us.

Indeed, the subject of transhumanism wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t also contemplate the secondary meaning of transhumanism:  Obtaining higher consciousness.  According to the experts, humankind is on the verge of a major evolutionary leap.  Besides factoring in the integration of nano-technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and genetic engineering into transforming the human species (known collectively as GRIN technologies), we should also consider the ever-deepening and dramatic change in human perception of spiritual reality and its transformative effects.   2012 adherents, most of whom are not doomsday prophets but intensely spiritual spokespeople for a new way forward, believe we have already overturned the positivism of Western thought.   Furthermore, their “consciousness credo” is threatening to overrun traditional monotheistic theology in the Western world. We even see it influencing traditionally orthodox churches. 

Judeo-Christian theology, as well as Islam (the three great monotheistic religions), professes a spirituality built upon transcendent absolutes (emphasizing the importance of law, morality, and ethics).  Additionally, Christianity in particular asserts a spirituality influenced by love – for God, for our fellow-man, for ourselves, and (despite environmentalists’ complaints to the contrary) for God’s creation.  But in the 21st century, these historically dominant religions have grown out of favor and are often blamed for the challenges we face in the world today.  “Alternative” spirituality focuses on “higher consciousness” – which not only condemns the consequences of our many materialistic behaviors, but encourages the exploration of other forms of human perception. 

What do we mean by “higher consciousness?”  Succinctly, it’s awakening to an entirely new view of the world and fully participating in this supersensible realm.[5]   It recognizes that Nature is much more than what we observe directly with our five senses.  Terrence McKenna, a “messiah” of sorts in 2012 literature, says there is an invisible landscape that we can access.   Mediums call it “the other side.”  Aldous Huxley wrote about it in the Doors of Perception.  Jim Morrison sung about it when he wailed, “Break on through to the other side.”  In essence, to the 2012 enlightened, spirituality is the focus on inner mysticism, an ability to directly encounter supernatural beings.  By encountering this fantastic reality which its advocates champion, we explore the essential method to find meaning as human beings.

But given the vehicle proposed to achieve this supposedly new spiritualism, should “spiritually-inclined” people get on board?[6]

The McKenna Brothers and the 2012 Leap to Higher Consciousness

In the 1970’s, Dennis and Terrence McKenna, noted 2012 prognosticators, went on a trip to the Amazon and studied the effects of various psychedelic drugs on perception.  They searched (but never found) the plant known as the “oo-koo-he” which con­tains a chemical substance, Dimethyltrypta­mine , alias, DMT .  The common name for the fun juice derived from it is Ayahuasca . On their way to the oo-koo-he, they encountered mushrooms and got stuck with them instead.  But they still experienced a great trip (in more ways than one).  With such promising good times ahead, Dennis urged Ter­rence to sample the goods (which they both ingested).  You might call it doing primary research (a firsthand investigation – purely for the sake of science of course), in which they actively took part in in­gesting the drugs and experiencing their direct affects. 

One of their more academic conclusions was that when primitive humans began ingesting this class of drugs, they “spoke in tongues” (otherwise known sci­entifically as glossolalia ).  These chemical brothers[7] theorized that language developed in our forebears from such experiences of exuberant expressions in which they verbalized sounds without meaning.  All oohing and cooing aside, while being a truly provocative position on the origination of language in humans, at the very least it wouldn’t be the first time that native folk were accused of taking drugs to get in the spirit of things.  However, for McKenna, this was no laughing matter:  He echoed Dr. Timothy Leary , the Cal-at-Berkeley professor,  intellectual leader of the “hippie movement” in the 1960’s, and advocate for another similar drug known popularly as LSD.  Like Leary before him who also tripped south of the border to check out some special mushrooms, McKenna con­cluded that drugs were the gateway to God.[8] 

The book that made these brainstorms public appeared in 1975:  The Invisible Landscape  Mind Hallucinogens and the I Ching.[9]  According to McKenna, the coincidence of his date for the end, De­cember 22, 2012 and the Mayan date of December 21, 2012 was something that he couldn’t have contrived, at least the way he tells the story.  After all, he published his book years ahead of the Mayan “discoveries.”[10] 

Space doesn’t allow describing his overarching Time Wave Theory and its linkage to the I Ching.  Suffice it to say that the late Terrence McKenna worked out a computer algorithm which his followers believe conclusively proves that 2012 is the moment of truth when higher consciousness dawns for those who seek enlightenment.   

Nevertheless, given the information laid down on this pathway so far, we can now build a chain of intellectual cause-and-effect:  Huxley led to Leary; Leary led to McKenna.  Each featured drugs as the awakening agent for human perception, enabling encounter with the spiritual realm – opening the door to alternative reality.  But the chain of thinkers and drug takers doesn’t end there.

The 2012 Prophecies, the Apocalypse, and the Perilous Days Ahead

The Perspective of Daniel Pinchbeck

Indeed, Huxley, McKenna and Leary are not alone prescribing a pharmacological solution for spiritual growth and awareness.

2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl , by Daniel Pinchbeck , is perhaps the most fascinating and well-written book in the entire 2012 genre.  It’s Pinchbeck’s personal story, his personal “magical mystery tour” of experimenting with psychedelic drugs (ayahuasca , DMT ), shamanism , and initiation into drug-centered cults of ancient tribes (like the Bwiti  of Africa with their drug of choice iboga ),[11] as well as the first-hand experience of walking amidst freshly created crop circles  in England. 

Additionally, Pinchbeck provides a framework for understanding his experiences, which connects to Carl Jung ’s psychological interpretation of the “soul of man” (or the collective human mind, aka the Self or God) and Rudolf Steiner’s cosmology extoling the supersensible reality surrounding us.  Given his articulate and philosophical treatment of the cosmology of 2012, Pinchbeck should be regarded as the most intellectual and important commentator to explain the 2012 “movement.”  Hence, we will spend a disproportionate amount of time with him in this article.

To a point, one has to admire the openness of Pinchbeck.  He tells us firsthand what it’s like to experience the various drugs touted by McKenna  and the corresponding visions that result from them. He is an emphatic believer in the spiritual realm, a critic of the materialist, and clear-minded in his expression of what he has witnessed.  However, the analysis of his encounters is colored by his religious frame of reference which regards traditional Judeo-Christian thought as a “patriarchal religion,” rendered near useless (from his perspective) to modern humankind due to its dogmatic trappings and fallacious world-view of a personal, judgmental God standing distinct and apart from the consciousness of human beings.  Pinchbeck believes, like so many others in the 2012 camp, that an elevated consciousness actually creates and participates in the divine.  Without our collective consciousness, God would cease to exist.[12]  His personal experiences of entities and phantasms, made so vibrant by his extensive drug use, undergird his convictions about what 2012 really means. 

For Pinchbeck , the Second Coming of Christ  is actually the re-emergence of enlightened human beings who regain their ability to contact and influence the “hidden realm.”  Pinchbeck believes that humans gave up the immediacy of spiritual experience in order to grow their rational and technological skills.  This insight is not unique.  Trevor Ravenscroft  points out the same in his book The Spear of Destiny.  This consciousness transformation (which dismissed our intuition in exchange for logic and reason) was mostly successful.  Clairvoyance and other psychic skills, one time intrinsic to humanity, were lost (or more precisely suppressed).  Without this shift in our mindset, supposedly cultivated by the Catholic Church beginning in the 8th and 9th centuries, we would never have progressed. In fact, there would be no modern world.[13] 

To reclaim these supernatural abilities (which were once native to our psyches), humans must launch a “vision quest.” Indeed, this search became the hidden meaning behind the quest for the Holy Grail , at least in the German version.  

For 2012 advocates, drugs are the vulgar shortcut to find the Grail.  By the ingestion of peyote, mescaline, LSD, and other substances, we achieve higher consciousness.  These “modern techniques” (which are not modern at all), can facilitate the shift back the other way toward the mystical.  To Pinchbeck, if we don’t reaffirm the mythical aspects of truth and don’t reactivate our ability to roam amidst the “hidden landscapes” of the spiritual realm (accessed through dreams, drugs, and visionary states), our prognosis is bleak.  While Pinchbeck believes that the apocalypse is actually only an archetype  of the subconscious (an infrequently quoted view held by Jung ), we must realign our values and our manner of living, else we will destroy the ecosystem of our planet in a matter of a few decades.  If we don’t achieve higher consciousness, then the apocalypse will be experienced real-time.  Thus, transformation is a mandate!

Pinchbeck’s book has something of a surprise ending.  Throughout his story, a spirit entity has been pursuing him; or so it seems.  This spirit finally identifies itself to Pinchbeck and demands that Pinchbeck channel his message.  Who is the entity?  It’s Quetzalcoatl  himself.  Although reluctant to convey his message, and willing to admit that perhaps he is letting his own ego get the best of him, Pinchbeck accedes and scribes the message.  What is the earth shattering revelation?  The meaning of Quetzalcoatl’s return in 2012 is the homecoming of human beings to their true selves. It’s the recognition that our move toward self-consciousness makes us more God-conscious.  But isn’t this special communication just more of the same?  Hasn’t Pinchbeck  been teaching this lesson to us even before Quetzalcoatl put words in his mouth?  Furthermore, at this point we feel compelled to ask, “How can this epiphany be a genuine revelation?”

Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and it is us.”  Quetzalcoatl says, “You know God when you know yourself.”[14]   The Christ in the Gospel of Thomas , a Gnostic reinterpretation of the words of Jesus, couldn’t have said it better (although it tried).  Once again, as sophisticated and intriguing as Pinchbeck’s writing is and although the vocabulary is new-age chic peppered with words like, matrix, metamorphous, and vortex, we come to the same conclusion:  It’s mystical drivel encased in exceptional pagan prose masquerading as shining new words of enlightenment .  How can we not be disappointed?  The author acts as if he has discovered fire.  Instead, he has just come to the same conclusion as the pagan masters and navel-gazing sages of time immemorial.  As a fellow seeker of spiritual truth, I must ask, “How much peace will this really afford Pinchbeck in the long run?”  Being possessed by such entities ultimately has disastrous outcomes. 

No doubt, Pinchbeck acquired exactly what he sought.  He “opened the doors of perception” that Aldous Huxley  extolled through the use of mescaline.  But by letting Quetzalcoatl in the door, hasn’t he actually forfeited rather than found his soul?

In the next article, we will focus on the Mayan religion and the part its plays in the enthusiasm surrounding 2012. 


S. Douglas Woodward has written two books, the most recent,
Decoding Doomsday, now published by Defender Books (380 pages).   
 You can order the book from Survivor Mall today!



[1] Simon, Tami, publisher, The Mystery of 2012, Sounds True, Boulder, Co., 2009, page xi. 

[2] Ibid., pg. 13.  Gregg Braden, “Choice Point.”

[3] Ibid., pp. 27,28.  Peter Russell, “A Singularity in Time.”

4  Positivism is defined as “the theory that knowledge can be acquired only through direct observation and experimentation, and not through metaphysics or theology” – from the Encarta Dictionary.

[5] Supersensible means, “Beyond our five senses.”

[6] According to the Encarta Dictionary, spiritualism is the belief that the spirits of dead people can communicate with the living, especially through mediums.  It can include the specific technologies or processes that facilitate such communication (e.g., crystal balls, Ouija Boards).  It is also a system of belief that emphasizes the spiritual nature of existence; or a philosophical doctrine that all reality is spiritual, not material.

[7] For the musically challenged, this is a pun on the band, The Chemical Brothers.

[8] Take note of the number of people that used drugs to encounter the spiritual realm.

[9] It’s hardly an easy read.  To make much sense of it, you need a degree in Pharmacology, Process Theology  (Whitehead), Shamanism, and grounding in Chinese Philosophy.  Obfuscation certainly makes the smart seem smarter.

[10] As I explain in my book, Decoding Doomsday, McKenna actually laid his chart on a timeline and decided that it worked best when the end date was December, 2012.  The algorithm itself did not “spit out” 2012 as the so-called moment of “singularity.”  Perhaps it is still provocative, but to me it seems contrived.

[11] “Modern Bwiti  is syncretistic, incorporating animism, ancestor worship and Christianity into its belief system. Bwiti use the hallucinogenic root bark of the Tabernanthe iboga  plant, specially cultivated for the religion, to induce a spiritual enlightenment, stabilize community and family structure, meet religious requirements and to solve problems of a spiritual and/or medical nature. The root bark has been used for hundreds of years as part of a Bwiti coming of age ceremony and other initiation rites and acts of healing, producing complex visions and insights anticipated to be valuable to the initiate and the chapel.” 

See http:// for more information.

[12] An intriguing way to turn the Bible on its head:  Humanity, through its consciousness creates God.  God exists only to the extent humanity “contemplates” him. 

[13] At issue, was the need for the Church, according to Ravenscroft, to eliminate personal revelations in order to lock down God’s word solely in the Scripture and the Church’s interpretation thereof.  Christianity couldn’t allow individuals to have revelations and undo what the Church contended was God’s will.  Whether true or not, the issue is real enough.  When new revelations arise that contradict the old, the institutions which exist based upon the old revelations are at risk. 

[14] This is hardly the same thing that Socrates meant when he said, “Know thyself.”

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