Shift happens


Since the beginning of the presidential campaign, Americans have been bombarded with one big concept summed up in one little word: change.

It was Barack Obama’s slogan from day one and represented many people’s hope for the future, an idea that so appeals to beleaguered Americans that the Republicans eventually adopted it as well. Both parties recognized that the country would have to make big adjustments to salvage the economy, environment, schools, and health care system.

They each cited factors that point to the big changes that are coming — but they didn’t mention a huge one that has been bearing down on our species for nearly 5,200 years: the colossal transformation of solar system and our collective psyche that the ancient Mayans and their modern day supporters believe will take place Dec. 21, 2012, the day the Mayan calendar comes to an abrupt end.

Erick Gonzalez, founder and spiritual leader of Earth Peoples United, a nonprofit organization that works to bridge indigenous values with modern society, says the event will deeply disturb our minds and bodies here on earth. Nearly 300 people from around the world gathered Oct. 31-Nov. 2 during a 2012 conference at Fort Mason Center.

Some enthusiasts predict an apocalypse, while others foresee a shift in human awareness. Yet they all believe that big change is coming.

The Mayan calendar was developed by ancient astronomers who concluded that Dec. 21 was the sun’s birthday, noting that the winter solstice marked the beginning of the sun’s return from around the world.

Gonzalez, who has been studying Mayan culture for 33 years, says Dec. 21, 2012 will be a monumental birthday for our sun, when it will shift to the dead center of the Milky Way galaxy, on the galactic equator, for the first time.

The Mayans believed this was the precise spot where the sun — and all life — was created. Followers of the ancient theory claim the Milky Way will give birth to a new sun and a new galactic cycle on this day, marking the beginning of our world’s transformation.

"For the Maya, this is like the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve," said philosopher Roderick Marling, a Tantric yoga teacher who has spent the last 36 years researching yoga meditation and expanding consciousness, in addition to writing numerous papers on religion, mythology, history, and archeology. "The galactic clock will be set at zero point, and a new processional cycle will begin," he said.

As our planets shift overhead, believers say our awareness of the Earth, political issues, and each other will also change. Conference co-organizer Christian Voltaire says many of the changes in 2012 will be tangible, such as revising our current financial model or switching to alternative fuels. He points to former presidential candidate Ron Paul, who advocated for extreme change in monetary policy — abolishing the IRS and the Federal Reserve, for example — and Obama, who has pushed for transforming the economy with green jobs. "They’re at least conscious of the fact that something has to change," he says. "And, as we’ve been told by our prophesies, change is coming."

But skeptics have their doubts. Wouldn’t we be pushing for green energy anyway? And how could the shifting planets cause the financial meltdown — or even the actual meltdown of our polar ice caps? University of Florida anthropologist Susan Gillespie says the theory is a media myth and nothing more. Susan Milbrath, author of Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore, and Calendars and curator of Latin American art and archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, believes it’s unlikely the Mayans could have predicted such events.

Believers remain undeterred. Last Gasp Books employee and conference attendee Eliza Strack says her 2012 obsession started as an innocent topic of conversation many years ago. She believes alternate realms of existence and multiple dimensions of time could collide, allowing us to access our past, present, and future in one moment. "We spend a quarter of our lives in a dream state where alternate realities are playing themselves out," Strack says. Gonzalez backs her up, arguing that the alignment of the sun in 2012 will create a powerful magnetic force, and human protons and electronic will react to it.

Lifelong Mayan researcher John Major Jenkins, who has written several books on 2012, brings up the possibility of the sun inverting the earth’s magnetic fields. But according to Vincent H. Malmström, professor emeritus of geography at Dartmouth College, there’s no hard evidence to support Strack’s claim. Besides, how could a magnetic pull bring our dreamlike realities to life? Malmström writes in his paper The Astronomical Insignificance of Maya Date ( "It would seem that Jenkins has advanced our understanding of the Maya from the sublime to the ridiculous."

Although we have four years before the astral shift, Voltaire says it’s crucial to hold 2012 conventions now. "The weekend before the election carries a vibration of anticipation of the future. We wanted to connect with that." The Southern Californian didn’t know much about the 2012 theory before last March, but he says he’s constantly alert and keeps a subtle ear out.

"I kept hearing the subject of 2012 in my consciousness — at events, on the radio, at yoga class," he says. "Everyone was talking about it." After making a few phone calls, he partnered with 2012 author and filmmaker Jay Weidner, a native Oregonian who has been studying the subject for nearly 20 years. Sponsored by Weidner’s company Sacred Mysteries Live, they organized their first convention in Hollywood in March 2008 and were blown away by the response.

Their conference last weekend was even bigger. With interactive panels and community circles, participants could share their ideas about 2012. Voltaire and Weidner say it represents something different for everyone: change, chaos — even beauty. In the midst of it all, the organizers premiered 2012-themed films and documentaries that filmmakers submitted along with an entry fee of — $20.12.

The conference also offered critical analyses of some related prophecies: the Mayans, Tibetan Buddhists, Incas, and the mysterious Cross of Hendaye. They lived in different times, and had different notions about the events that would take place around 2012. Conference organizers say Inca texts prophesized "a world turned upside-down" around that year, while Tibetan Buddhists predicted the mythical city of Shanballad would be constructed at the end of the current era.

Voltaire says the Cross of Hendaye — a 400-year-old monument in the coastal town of Hendaye, France — holds the key to the paradigm. The cross was first described in the 1926 book The Mystery of the Cathedrals, written by an alchemist named Fulcanelli. In 1995, before learning of the 2012 stories, Weidner was hooked on this book. He worked for years to decipher the messages behind the cross, deconstructing a Latin inscription carved into its top, and finally claims to have discovered its meaning: "It represents a world crisis that will end this time period.

There’s exactly one presidential term left before the end of this time period, which has witnessed everything from financial crises to homelessness to global warming. But will a new era end the problems of the current one? It’s hard to imagine how thousands of San Francisco’s poorest residents will acquire homes, or how our ozone layer will suddenly thicken.

After rifling through more books, Weidner says he discovered another secret behind the cross: that the Earth’s greatest changes will take place between 1992 and 2012. During that time so far, we’ve seen the birth the Internet, economic globalization and overextension, mass extinctions and global warming, terrorism and imperial hubris, exploding populations and rising discontent, and the end of the age of oil coming into sight. Then again, 20 years is a long time and life moves fast these days, with or without a mystical cross.

Nevertheless, since his supposed discoveries, Weidner has written two books and one film about the Cross of Hendaye’s secrets. In addition to a simpler belief that attributes a natural, geological pattern to these changes, three other prophecies predict some version of disaster or shift around 2012. Weidner admits this could be an incredible coincidence, but he thinks we should be aware of today’s experiences anyway. "There’s no doubt this is one of the most incredible time periods in human history."

While no one knows what will go down Dec. 21, 2012, Strack likes to put a positive spin on the brewing events. She wonders if 2013 will bring sweet-smelling city air, friendly neighbors, and tricycles for old folks to ride to the grocery store. After all, who believes that a shift in consciousness would be a bad thing?

Many followers even look forward to the date and equate it with the second coming of Christ, when they will be blessed with knowledge and euphoria. "Those are the happy thoughts," Strack says. "Yin-yang that shit and you find the darkest, most terrifying possibilities." She says she has had multiple apocalyptic dreams, leading her to ponder World War III, death, chaos, betrayal, and everything else that could hit the fan in 2012.

This sort of anxiety has led some people to use the term "doomsday" when describing the last day of the Mayan calendar. Although the theory has no solid academic backing, it is catching on. YouTube hosts countless videos of asteroids striking earth, tsunamis, tornados, and incidents of chaos linked to the date. Many devotees are preparing for hell on earth. But Voltaire says 2012 isn’t all about doom and gloom. "Our prophecies are about facing the facts and bringing up new ideas, acknowledging indigenous cultures of the past and present and truly listening to what they have to say, not brushing them off."

During our country’s time of change, we may not have heard many full-blown prophecies coming to pass, but we have all witnessed powerful people raising fresh ideas, such as rapidly shifting to new energy sources, developing international standards of human rights and controls on the use of force, and attacking poverty and disease worldwide. Like the 2012 followers, we’re listening and trying to remain open-minded.

If you chose to listen — to the prophecies or the new president — you might ask yourself how you’re supposed to prepare for the future. Voltaire says that "if you’re conscious of the changes, you’ll be able to roll with them, like if you’re in the ocean swimming with the tide. But if you’re unconscious and you suddenly wake up, it’ll be a lot harder to deal with."

Voltaire and Weidner say that our president will need to prepare too. They think that for him to be successful, he will have to address issues such as green energy and global warming brought forth at the 2012 conference.
Whether we’re believers or not, our country’s in for some big changes, whatever the solar alignment.