Why 2012? The Drunk Taxi Driver Model

Inaugurating a weblog, 1 November 2009

Whoever said “Well begun is half done” was thinking of someone like me. Except my grasshopper-mind offers such monumental impediments to getting started on large projects, that my version is more like, “Well begun is about 85.714286% done.” First impressions being so important, I’ve been dithering for days about the topic of my very first blog. I finally overcame the inertia with the comforting thought that only about six people in the world will read this, and three are family. You, dear Reader, are in very select company.

The first, the most specific: What did the Maya say to make us think that 2012 was the end of the world, or something?  And second, more generally: Why are people attracted to Apocalyptic prognostications like this?

I’ll speak to the latter issue first:
Interviewers always ask, “Harmonic Convergence in 1987, Y2K, and now 2012.   So why do people keep predicting The End of the World As We Know It?”

I think it springs from Christian ideology, coupled with a sense of helplessness and frustration. The former permeates our culture, religious and secular. Like our ubiquitous year-calendar, the visions of Revelation color all our thinking. Whether we be skeptic or Mennonite, these Apocalyptic visions resonate with us; they are saturate so deeply into our mental landscape we hardly ever notice them. We almost never consider what the world would be like, if as, say, in ancient Greece, we had no concept of End-Times.

(No doubt some alert Reader is going to quote some obscure bit of Diogenes to prove me wrong. Good. I welcome contributions of this type. But no way did Athenians spill as much ink about the End of the World as we do.)
Since Nero’s pogroms in 64 AD, Christians have been comforted by the notion that This World is not the one that counts. We shall be rewarded in the afterlife, if not in direct proportion to our suffering in this one, at least by eternal happiness. (Or, in some circles, 72 virgins.) Most apocalyptic prophecies embody this idea: at least a chosen few will be saved to start afresh in a cleansed world, or carried off in a silver spaceship, or perhaps we all shall be initiated into a Galactic Brotherhood. This comforts us, since we cannot escape tribulation, neither here and now, nor in a coming Deluge.

What is particularly frustrating to most of us is that WE can see the train wreck coming, and are helpless to stop it. From strip-mining forests to overfishing to bovine streroids to selling weapons to rogue states, we are aghast at stupid, stupid choices by powerful people. Those with their hands on our world’s steering wheel, and their feet tromping the throttle, are impervious to our cries of warning. We are riding in a taxicab whose driver is drunk, crazy, heedless. Despair seems our only option.

Along comes a soothing prophecy:
“Don’t worry; in 2012 this will all change. Powers set in motion, millennia ago, will rebalance the world. It’ll be OK.”

Who wouldn’t welcome this Deus ex machina? I wish I could. But I happen to believe that, if there are Creator Gods watching over us, they designed us to solve our own problems. They’re not about to step in and clean up our mess, like Noah’s Flood or the Popol Vuh destructions. Not this time.

The more specific answer to “What did the Maya say about 2012…” is a bit more technical, but simple enough. Bear with me:
1. The Maya had several calendars, as we do. Most are cyclical, again like ours.
2. Their uncyclical calendar, the Maya Long Count, counts time from a specified “zero date”, like our A.D. year-count.

So far, so good?  Nine more factoids:

3. While we count in a decimal system (“base 10”), based on our ten fingers, the Maya counted time in a vigesimal system (“base 20”), because these barefoot tropical-forest dwellers counted their fingers and toes. Our year “2009” counts years since the birth of Jesus (not exactly correctly, but never mind); the Maya counted the days since the gods “Manifested the Hearth”.  (Their metaphor for building World was building a house:  and a place to cook is foremost.)
4. While the Christian/Common beginning date was “1 AD / 1 CE”, we write the Maya “Era Date” as  4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u. They, of course, wrote it in their sublime hieroglyphs; our version is only a crude, convenient echo. They sometimes abbreviated the date to “End of the 13th Pik,” or, more usually, “4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u”. Don’t worry what all the Maya terms mean; I’ll explain them on a need-to-know basis. We call this latter abbreviated date a Calendar Round, or CR.
5. Like a clock just after midnight going to 12:01, then on to 1:00, the Maya Long Count apparently began this Creation at, then, and on up, but reset to instead of
6. The Maya and Aztec myths of Creation both describe several iterations of this world. We are in the fourth Creation, according to the Maya Popol Vuh (the most complete surviving Maya Creation mythology). But we are in the fifth Creation, according to the Aztec Leyenda de los Soles (“Legend of the Suns”: the Aztecs called each Creation a “sun”). Each of the previous Creations ended with annihilation of the population, of the sun and moon, perhaps of Time itself. This implies that they believed this World, too, —our world— was destined to end sometime.
7. The Leyenda de los Soles specifies that each Sun began on a specific cyclic date, such as 4-Jaguar, or 4-Water. This date itself prophesied the character of the era.  Each previous Sun ended on the same cycle date: the “4-Jaguar Sun” began and ended on the day 4-Jaguar, and the “4-Water Sun” began and ended on 4-Water. Likewise the “4-Wind Sun”, and the others. These beginning-and-ending dates were separated by multiples of 52 years, either 6 x 52, 7 x 52, or 13 x 52 years. (It is no accident that 6 + 7 = 13.)
7a.Specifically, the day-name of each Sun foretold the method of its destruction: at the end of the 4-Jaguar Sun, its population was devoured by jaguars. The 4-Water Sun ended in a massive flood. And our Creation, the 4-Earthquake Sun, will end … you can guess. The Mesoamerican calendar was more than a mere method to track Time; it was Destiny.
8. The Aztec Calendar clearly parallels many features of the much older Maya calendar. (Unfortunately, we know much less of the Maya Creation cycle story.) For example, the Maya Long Count begins on a 4 Ajaw date, echoing the 4-Water, 4-Jaguar, etc. (Note, however, that none of the five Aztec Creation dates are 4-Flower, which corresponds to 4 Ajaw. For some reason, the date got changed in translation….)
8a. Also, the Maya Long Count’s begin-date suggests a Creation cycle of 13 Pik (a Pik is 20 x 20 Maya ‘years’ of 360 days), which, perhaps, transformed into the Aztec 13 x 52-year cycle. Another feature distorted in translation. Unfortunately, the Popol Vuh, which details the four Maya Creations, neglects to date any of its events.
9. Combining the peculiar Maya Creation date of with the notion of multiple Creations, many people have deduced that the Maya Long Count has an “end date” of And the End is Near; the upcoming falls on 21st December 2012. (Its CR is 4 Ajaw 3 Uniiw, also known as 4 Ahau 3 Kank’in.)

Combining these three stories, the Maya Creation date with the Aztec and Maya Creation cycles, modern scholars —and others— have deduced the foundation of the 2012 “end date”. This is everything we know. All the rest of the kerfuffle is extrapolation, imagination, wishful thinking.

For a more detailed and colorfully-illustrated account of what the Maya tell us about these Creation cycles, as well as several related issues, please visit my FAMSI website:
http://www.famsi.org/research/vanstone/2012/index.html .

FAMSI has also kindly installed links to archived radio interviews and news items featuring scholars’ voices here:
http://www.famsi.org/research/vanstone/2012/2012articles.html .

My book, “2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya” is finally ready!  Hurrah!  You can get it at Amazon.com and several other online stores, in paperback or hardcover.  Also have a cheap .pdf download, which we’re in the process of making available to the Mac Store and other venues… Stay tuned!

Note: By the way, Nero’s persecutions, which first popularized feeding Christians to lions, led to his characterization as the Antichrist. I read somewhere that his name, rendered in Greek letters (which are also Greek numerals, from 1 – 700), added up to 666. However, when I sought confirmation of this by Googling “666 Nero Beast”, I found several candidates for names with numerological values added up to 666 (including “the Romans”), but Nero’s wasn’t among them. So I added up the letter-values for NERON KAISAR, his usual moniker in Greek, and they only reached 487. His full name, Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, has a value far in excess of 666. How anticlimactic.


Why 2012? The Drunk Taxi Driver Model — 8 Comments

  1. As far as I know there is no evidence of the four creations in Classic and Preclassic iconography and epigraphy. Popol Vuh was written down in the 16th century and at that time the highlands of Guatemala had been under Aztec influence for quite some time. Unless there is evidence of these multiple earlier creations in Late Preclassic data (when the first Long Count dates were recorded), I am sceptical to the idea that one can fill out gaps in our knowledge from much later periods (but then I am sceptical to the overall Mesoamerican culture area model as well, so I am biased).

    Anyway, it is good that professional Mayanists take on the 2012-circus.

    • Johan makes a very good point: we must be more than merely skeptical, we must be vigilant in vetting every source of our information. I had not considered how much blowback the Highland Maya might have received from Aztec culture —”Guatemala”, “Chichicastenango”. etc., are Nahuatl, not Maya names (though imposed by Spanish, not Aztec, governors)— and I would like to learn much more about the extent of 15th- & 16th-century Aztec influence there. However, *some* of the Popol Vuh does reflect in Classic art (The Hero Twins and their blowguns are all over Codex-style vases, and there is that Izapa Stela 25, which appears to illustrate Vucub Kaqix’s removal of Hunahpu’s arm, a good 1800 years before the Popol Vuh). There must have been some continuity. I would expect to find that other cultures besides the Aztec believed in multiple creations, so let’s go looking… Hoping that the “evidence” we find is pre-Aztec!

  2. I think Nielsen and Reunert’s article in Antiquity on Dante and the multilayered model of the Mesoamerican cosmos shows how quickly a Christian model “overcoded” a Mesoamerican model and how this new hybrid model have been used as a blueprint for much cosmological modelling (both among Mayanists and 2012ers). I strongly believe that not only did the Spanish contact affect the content of Popol Vuh, but so did the earlier Aztec presence as well (not to mention the even earlier Teotihuacano presence in both the Maya highlands and lowlands). Even though the recently found “Popol Vuh frieze” at El Mirador shows resemblance with much later mythology and cosmology in Popol Vuh, I am hesitant to say they are the same. There are recorded events before the current Long Count era but there are no indications that there were multiple creations before this one.

    My summary of Nielsen and Reunert’s article:

  3. I appreciate you for creating such a terrific portal. Your site was not only knowledgeable but also very artistic too. There are only few experts who can think to create not so easy stuff that creatively. Keep up the good work !!

  4. Hey, regarding 666, I’ll summarize a note from a study bible I use. The number is a double acrostic. NERON KAISAR transliterates into Hebrew as NRVN KSR (leaving off vowel points): 50+200+6+50 + 100+60+200, which equals 666. Those who use this interpretation also consider that the last-days Beast will be a reincarnated Nero; that his spirit will be put into the body of a killed world leader to reanimate him; this is the killing and return to life of the Beast. The term Antichrist is never used in Revelation, but in two of John’s letters, with a different connotation entirely.

  5. A lot of the claims made by the 2012 proponents cross disciplines in a rather Velikovskian way. I remember reading in one of Sagan’s books (perhaps “Broca’s Brain”) that he had a conversation with a scholar of Aramaic documents about some of Velikovsky’s claims: The documents expert was dismissive of Velikovsky’s claims about the claims made in the bible, but impressed by the astronomy. Of course Sagan had exactly the opposite reaction!

    All (or nearly all) of the claims made by the 2012ers that touch on astronomy have no basis in reality. I imagine that the claims that they make about the Mayans are similarly based in fantasy.

    A couple of examples: Jenkins claims that the Mayans designed their calendar so that the end of the cycle within the long count would correspond to the visual apparent alignment with the solstice sun and the center of the ‘dark road’ (the dust lanes that obscure the center of the galaxy from our viewpoint). As far as I have been able to tell from various sources, the only evidence for this is that there is an apparent alignment with the solstice sun and the center of the ‘dark road’. In other words, the claim is a circular argument.

    Furthermore, the claim appears to rest on a prerequisite claim that the Mayans observed and understood axial precession, the 26,000 year cycle that causes the gradual change in position of the constellations. I have asked for and searched for any evidence that they knew about precession and understood it, but have not found any.

    That does not mean that it is impossible, after all, the Greek astronomer Hipparchus first documented and commented on precession in about 150 BC. But, since the claim about designing the calendar to correspond to this event rests on understanding precession, you would think that Jenkins would be able to document this knowledge.

    Other claims made about the Mayans that lie outside the expertise of the Mayanists are those of the so called ‘Galactic Alignment’, and ‘Planetary Alignments’.

    I’ll reiterate the statement I make at 2012hoax.org… the Mayans were impressive naked-eye astronomers. They were not, however, as good at it as the Greeks were, and neither the ancient Greeks nor the ancient Mayans had the benefits of modern astronomical tools.

  6. Hi Dr. van Stone,

    I’m a graduate student at Brigham Young University working on my thesis with Dr. Allen Christenson. I’d like to cite some of the information from the powerpoints you’ve posted on FAMSI in my thesis. Are these slides from a presentation you gave at a conference? Is there a specific creation date I could include in my bibliography? Also, I love the picture of the “pregnant” ceiba tree from your powerpoints, and I’d like to include it in my paper’s figures. Did you take the photo yourself, and if so, could I get your permission to do that?

    K. Steiger