If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
‘Buy the Prophecy, sell the fact.’
I had thought, previous to any research on the subject, that the Mayan Prophecy of global reckoning on the 21st December 2012 would be my third apocalypse since 1968, the year of my birth. The first, that I could clearly recall, had been on the 10th March 1982 and had been precipitated by a particular alignment of the planets within our solar system. A book, ‘The Jupiter Effect’, had predicted that the gravitational forces unleashed by this planetary alignment would wreak havoc here on Earth. As I was only 13 years old at the time much of the hype and hubris which preceded the fateful date passed me by and the occasion has only remained with me because my school’s headmaster felt it necessary to call a special assembly on the morning of the 10th March. He pointed out that the unusual alignment of the planets that day was not unprecedented and had occured without incident 850 years previously, though he concluded rather soberingly that the world would indeed end some day though it was likely to be in about 5 billion years when our sun would expand into a red giant and destroy the Earth but that, as we’d all be dead long before then, there was nothing to stop any of us from concentrating fully on double Maths that afternoon.
My second apocalypse was the year 2000, the Millenium/Y2K, as I’m sure everyone will remember, this was a combination of biblical numerology and a technological concern about whether computers could indeed count to 2000.
But as I researched I began to realise that far from being my third apocalypse, the 21st December 2012 would in fact be at least my 50th apocalypse since the year of my birth, and that before that, according to this incomplete list on Wikipedia, there had been countless more prophecies and predictions of apocalypse. It would almost seem that in the pre-scientific age, when the Church was preeminent and superstition and the fear of imminent judgement were powerful tools of control, that any day was as likely as any other to be the last. It must have been like constantly living in a Cold War/Cuban Missile Crisis atmosphere where nobody quite knew if God would launch a preemptive strike that day or the next.
But this time it’s different, not least because the 21st December 2012 still lies in our future but also because of the unprecedented media coverage that it has received. There has been one Hollywood film, any number of books, and countless magazine and newspaper articles in the last decade. We now are firmly living in the age of the internet and a quick google search will return about 27 million results for ‘Mayan 2012’ . But this article is not about the minutiae of the Mayan phenomenon, it is an attempt to address some of the very real psychological and sociological consequences of this particular prophesy.
To begin with let’s look at the date, the 21st December 2012 is the Winter Solstice in the Northern hemisphere. From Saturday the 22nd of September 2012, the Autumn Equinox, the nights will be longer than the days and over the next 3 months they will gradually lengthen until on the 21st December we will reach the shortest day/ longest night of the year. There has been an ancient association of the Winter Solstice with death and rebirth. Stonehenge, thought by many archeaologists to be a monument to the Winter Solstice and not the Summer Solstice, is commonly thought to be between 4 and 5 thousand years old but the site may have been used up to 4 thousand years earlier. Mike Parker Pearson, leader of the Stonehenge Riverside Project has said;
Stonehenge was a place of burial from its beginning to its zenith in the mid third millennium B.C. The cremation burial dating to Stonehenge’s sarsen stones phase is likely just one of many from this later period of the monument’s use and demonstrates that it was still very much a domain of the dead.
But you don’t have to believe in ancient mysticism or be superstitious to recognise that this point in the Earth’s orbit of the Sun can have a tangiable affect on human beings. There is a proven correlation between depression and Winter and it is not unusual for many people to feel some sense of relief as the days once again begin to get longer after the Winter Solstice.
There is also a sense that the situation in the world is precarious as we approach the 21st December. The feeling that we are in the middle of a clash of civilisations between the Muslim world and the democratic west has been heightened by the recent unrest in the Middle East. There is an increasing likelyhood of a conflict between Israel and Iran which could draw other nations with strategic interests in the region into a wider global conflagration. Tensions between China and Japan are once again on the rise and, of course, there is the ongoing financial situation which resembles an existential crisis as the very foundations of our economic system are undermined by central banks in the supposed pursuit of it’s preservation. There is a sense that this reckoning has only been put off at the cost of a greater catastrophe and that the worst, in the form of collapse and ever greater civil unrest, is yet to come.
The problem with a prophesised apocalypse is that many people can’t help but look for ‘signs’ of it’s approach. It feeds off itself and underneath the surface there is an increasing hubris as the day approaches.
21st December 2012 will pass without apocalyptic incident but for those that are capable of gauging the public nervousness while keeping their own heads in the run up to that date, it may present them with opportunities.
Now, I’ll make my prophesy, it is this; the next big predicted apocalypse , even bigger than 2012, will be in 2060 when none other than Sir Isaac Newton prophesised it was the earliest possible date for the end of the world. Newton not only has the ‘ancient wisdom’ generally necessary for a blockbusting apocalypse he also has good form which is bound to make even the most sceptical think twice, having predicted around 1705 that 1899 would mark the ‘Call to return to Jerusalem’ and that 1944 would mark the ‘End of the great tribulation of the Jews’. The documents containng these predictions were once owned by none other than the economist John Maynard Keynes and are now held in The Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem.
Has anyone bought the film rights yet ?