December 21, 2012. The date seems to be the latest fixation in the seemingly never-ending fascination with apocalypticism. For those who haven't picked up a magazine or turned on a radio or television over the last year or so, that day is the last in the 5,125-year cycle of the Mayan "Long Count" calendar. In today's popular culture, such an event leads to a variety of theories and predictions on what, if anything, it portends. As such, the subject is right up the alley for the Disinformation Company, which prides itself on distributing works addressing topics that come more out of the counterculture than the mainstream.
2012: Science or Superstition, a 77-minute documentary, is the company's foray into 2012 mania. Astute viewers will sense the drift early on, as we are told the documentary will examine two camps: those forecasting apocalypse and those who see it as the source of a "rebirth of consciousness." Largely omitted is an examination of whether 2012 is, in fact, superstition.
The film is fairly evenly divided between looking at supposed scientific explanations for potential apocalypse and New Age metaphysics. But both intermingle various elements and the film even includes a section on shamanic use of natural psychedelics as well as a bonus feature on Terence McKenna, the advocate of psychedelics who came up with his own theory of December 12, 2012, being a landmark for human consciousness based on the I-Ching. And even though the film explores theories based on the Mayan calendar and the other bonus feature is a brief tour of a Mayan site, for whatever reason Egyptian pyramids and the Sphinx appear occasionally amidst the occasionally repetitive photos and film clips.
There are two main scientific principles asserted to support 2012 bringing apocalyptic change to the planet. One is dramatic increases in sunspot activity that supposedly will climax that year. Among other things, we are warned this solar "attack" could not only wipe out the global satellite system, it could weaken the Earth's magnetic field or even lead to a shifting of the poles, thereby possibly producing catastrophic climate change. Solar activity, however, is not the main focus. Rather, what really seems to fuel both the apocalyptic and New Age approaches is the precession of the equinoxes.
Precession causes the Sun to rise on the equinox at a different location against the background constellations, with a complete 360-degree cycle taking about 26,000 years. Most scientists believe this is caused by a wobble in the Earth's rotation on axis, similar to a top as it slows down. 2012: Science or Superstition includes another theory, though. Walter Cruttenden, billed on his website as "an amateur theoretical archaeo-astronomer," posits that we actually live in a binary-star system in which the Sun and solar system revolve around another star. The two elliptical orbits take 24,000 years to complete, thereby producing the precession, according to Cruttenden.
Regardless of the scientific basis, the precession theory says that on December 21, 2012, as viewed from Earth, the Sun will be at the "dead center" of the Milky Way galaxy. With the Sun positioned between us and that center, the planet will be "cut off from a direct connection to the Milky Way galaxy," thereby depriving us of "a certain energetic sustenance we require for continuing to live as we have." At least that is the claim of Lawrence E. Joseph, author of Apocalypse 2012: An Investigation into Civilization's End. While Joseph never tells us exactly what that deprivation means, it does help provide a connection to the New Age theories.
John Major Jenkins, who has written several books about the Mayan calendar as well as 2012, casts the cosmological event as a "galactic alignment," with the Sun aligned with the "dark rift" of the Milky Way. He predicts it will produce dramatic change in human consciousness. Jenkins finds support for the importance of December 21, 2012, in Mayan culture. For example, he says the ball and circle in the Mayan ball game actually represent the December 21, 2012, solstice Sun and the dark rift, respectively. He also points to icons he claims show Mayan rulers/shamans entering or leaving the dark rift. The documentary does not mention, though, that one of those carvings was cited in Erich von Däniken's 1968 best seller, Chariots of the Gods?, as evidence of extraterrestrial influence on the Mayans.
And that is basically the trouble with 2012: Science or Superstition. It takes a fairly hands-off approach to the contentions of 2012 enthusiasts. Thus, the documentary tells viewers that when the two stars in Cruttenden's binary system are closest together, it will produce a "golden age" on Earth. That is despite the fact the just minutes earlier Cruttenden himself says the two stars currently are far apart.
Similarly, although Anthony Aveni, a professor of astronomy and expert in the field of Mesoamerican archaeoastronomy, provides occasional mainstream views, they are largely overwhelmed by the deluge of 2012 theories. Despite the extensive discussion of precession and galactic alignment, it is an hour into the documentary before there is a clip of Aveni saying that only "in the crudest possible sense" could the Sun be considered to align with the center of Milky Way in December 2012. It is only in the closing minutes that some of those interviewed in the documentary indicate that, as far as they are concerned, claims that December 21, 2012, will bring about the end of the world are "fallacious" and there's really nothing to worry about.
The science here essentially confirms the Mayans were excellent astronomers. But that doesn't render their Long Calendar an oracle. Yet the problem is books, television shows, documentaries or movies in which nothing happens in 2012 probably don't sell very well. Thus, 2012: Science or Superstition is an additional entrant into an undoubtedly growing onslaught on whether this mixture of scientific fact, ancient history and New Age esoterics portends disaster, rebirth or this century's Harmonic Convergence.