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Apocalypticism 101


Apocalypticism is the religious belief that there will be an apocalypse, a term which originally referred to a revelation of God's will, but now usually refers to belief that the world will come to an end time very soon, even within one's own lifetime.  This belief is usually accompanied by the idea that civilization, as we know it, will soon come to a tumultuous end with some sort of catastrophic global event such as war.

Apocalypticism is often conjoined with esoteric knowledge that will likely be revealed in a major confrontation between good and evil forces, destined to change the course of history.  Apocalypses can be viewed as good, evil, ambiguous or neutral, depending on the particular religion or belief system promoting them.  They can appear as a personal or group tendency, an outlook or a perceptual frame of reference, or merely as expressions in a speaker's rhetorical style.

Jewish Apocalypticism

Jewish apocalypticism holds a doctrine that there are two eras of history:  the present era, which is ruled over by evil, and a coming era to be ruled over by God.  At the time of the coming era, there will be a messiah who will deliver the faithful into the new era.  Due to incidents arising very early on in Jewish history, predictions about the time of the coming of the Jewish messiah were highly discouraged, lest people lose faith when the predictions did not come true during the lifespan of the believer.

In Judaism, End Times are usually called The End of Days (aḥarit ha-yamim), a phrase that appears several times in the Tanakh.  Though the idea of a messianic age has a prominent place in Jewish thought, it is not a pre-ordained event but rather brought about by religious observance and good deeds.

The term may refer to a number of interwoven themes:

Tumultuous events will overturn the old world order, as is recorded in the following passages from the Old Testament (Tanakh): Deuteronomy 4:29-39, Isaiah 2:1-5, and Micah 4:1-5.  These events create a new order in which God is universally recognized as the ruler over His creation, which includes everyone and everything.

According to Jewish tradition, the Messianic Era will be one of global peace and harmony, an era free of strife and hardship, and one conducive to the furtherment of the knowledge of the Creator.  The theme of the Messiah ushering in an era of global peace is encapsulated in one of the most famous scriptural passages from the book of Isaiah:

"They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift sword against nation and they will no longer study warfare (Isaiah 2:4)."

According to the Talmud, the Midrash, and the medieval Kabbalistic work, the Zohar, the Messiah must arrive before the year 6000 from the time of creation.  (According to Orthodox Jewish belief, the Hebrew calendar dates to the time of creation.  The year 2010 corresponds to the year 5770 from creation, or before the year 2240).

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Christian Apocalypticism

Emergency Essentials' Tips for Preparedness Book

Christian apocalypticism is based on Jewish apocalypticism, and therefore holds consistent with the doctrine of two eras.  John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the Apostles were all apocalypticists who preached to their followers that the world would end within their own lifetimes.  The apocalyptic preaching of John the Baptist and the Apostles is well known and accepted as historical by religious and secular scholars due to extensive extra-biblical historical accounts of their lives.  However, the apocalyptic message of Jesus as expressed in the synoptic gospels is much less well known.  Jesus' apocalyptic teachings are usually not emphasized in Christian religious education.  However, some secular scholars believe that Jesus' apocalyptic teachings were the central message Jesus intended to impart, more central even than his messianism.

Various Christian eschatological systems have developed, providing different frameworks for understanding the timing and nature of apocalyptic predictions.  Christians premillennialists who believe that the End Times are occurring now, are usually specific about timelines that climax in the end of the world.  For some, Israel, the European Union, or the United Nations are seen as major players whose roles are foretold in scriptures.  Among dispensational premillennialists writers, there are those who believe that Christians will be supernaturally summoned to Heaven by Jesus in an event called the Rapture, which occurs before the biblical "Great Tribulation" prophesied in Matthew 24-25; Mark 13 and Luke 21.  The Great Tribulation is also mentioned in the last book of the Bible—the book of Revelation.

Millennialists concentrate on the issue of whether the true believers will see the tribulation or be removed from it by what is referred to as a Pre-Tribulation RaptureAmillennialists believe that the end times encompass the time from Christ's ascension to the Last day, and maintain that the mention of the "thousand years" in the Book of Revelation is meant to be taken metaphorically (i.e., not literally, or 'spiritually'), a view which continues to cause divisions within evangelical Christianity.

Since the 19th century, many apocalyptic millennial Christian eschatologists, starting with John Nelson Darby, have feared a globalist conspiracy to impose a tyrannical New World Order as the fulfillment of prophecies about the "end time" in the Bible, specifically in the Book of Ezekiel, the Book of Daniel, the Olivet discourse found in the Synoptic Gospels, and the Book of Revelation.  They assert that people who have made a deal with the Devil to gain wealth and power have become pawns in a supernatural chess game to move humanity into accepting an utopian world government, which rests on the spiritual foundations of a syncretic-messianic world religion, that will later reveal itself to be a dystopian world empire, which imposes the imperial cult of an “Unholy Trinity”—Satan, the Antichrist and the False Prophet.

In many contemporary Christian conspiracy theories, the False Prophet will either be the last pope of the Catholic Church (groomed and installed by an Alta Vendita or Jesuit conspiracy) or a guru from the New Age movement or even the leader of an elite fundamentalist Christian organization like the Fellowship, while the Antichrist will either be the president of the European Union or the secretary-general of the United Nations or even the caliph of a pan-Islamic state.

American televangelist Pat Robertson, with his 1991 best-selling book The New World Order, became the most prominent Christian popularizer of conspiracy theories about recent American history as a theater in which Wall Street, the Federal Reserve System, Council on Foreign Relations, Bilderberg Group, and Trilateral Commission control the flow of events from behind the scenes, nudging us constantly and covertly in the direction of world government for the Antichrist.

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Jesus' Apocalypticism

The gospels portray Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet, described by himself and by others as the Son of Man—translated as the Son of Humanity—and hailing the restoration of Israel.  Jesus himself, as the Son of God, a description also used by himself and others for him, was to rule this kingdom as lord of the Twelve Apostles, the judges of the twelve tribes.

Many historians concur that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, most notably Paula Fredriksen, Bart Ehrman, and John P.  Meier.  E. P. Sanders portrays Jesus as expecting to assume the "viceroy" position in God's kingdom, above the Twelve Disciples, who would judge the twelve tribes, but below God.  He concludes, however, that Jesus seems to have rejected the title Messiah, and he contends that the evidence is uncertain to whether Jesus meant himself when he referred to the Son of Man coming on the clouds as a divine judge (see also Daniel's Vision of Chapter 7), and further states that biblical references to the Son of Man as a suffering figure are not genuine.

Most Christian believers and theologians interpret the Book of Revelation, which was written by John of Patmos and not Jesus Christ himself, to mean an actual, literal apocalypse with very little backing to support that claim other than biblical references.  One account supporting the interpretation of Jesus' apocalypticism is at the crucifixion.  After there is no apocalypse upon his crucifixion as he believed there would be, he asks on the Cross, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" The disciples then have to change their interpretation of Jesus' message as portrayed in Acts of the Apostles.

The preaching of John was, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Mat. 3:2), and Jesus also taught this same message (Mat 4:17; Mark 1:15).  Additionally, Jesus spoke of the signs of "the close of the age" in the Olivet Discourse in Mat 24 (and parallels), near the end of which he said, "This generation will not pass away until all these things take place" (v. 34).  Interpreters have understood this phrase in a variety of ways, some saying that most of what he described was in fact fulfilled in the destruction of the Temple in the Roman Siege of Jerusalem (see Preterism), and some that "generation" should be understood instead to mean "race".

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Islamic Apocalyticism

There are various signs (as many as up to 100) given in the Sunnah and Quran for the coming of Judgment Day.  These signs can be divided into two parts, minor and major.  The major signs include:

  1. And you will see people entering religion of God in crowds.  (Qur'an Surat an-Nasr, 1-2)
  2. the coming of the one-eyed Dajjal (Evil Antichrist), Imam Mahdi and then Prophet Jesus (who will combine forces of good, against evil), (Qur'an 43:61)
  3. the blowing of Trumpet and the minor signs will precede them.
  4. the Earth will experience an earthquake that will cause mountains to crash down.  The Earth's inner body will break out, and the Earth will be stretched out.  99:1, 69:13-14, 70:8, 84:3-4, 20:105-107, 99:1-6.
  5. Earthquakes from the East, the West, and one in the Arabian Peninsula
  6. Gog (yahjuj) & Magog (mahjuj) will be released and will destroy the crops, animals, water and kill everything.
  7. Smoke will spread and cause non-believers to fall ill whereas the believers will catch a mere cold.  Later, Allah will send a cool wind, taking life (gently) from all of the believers, leaving only the Kufaars (unbelievers) to see the last day till the Day Of Judgment will arrive.

Islamic eschatology is concerned with the Qiyamah (end of the world; Last Judgment) and the final judgment of humanity.  Eschatology relates to one of the six articles of faith (aqidah) of Islam.  Like the other Abrahamic religions, Islam teaches the bodily resurrection of the dead, the fulfillment of a divine plan for creation, and the immortality of the human soul; the righteous are rewarded with the pleasures of Jannah (Heaven), while the unrighteous are punished in Jahannam (Hell).  A significant fraction of the Quran deals with these beliefs, with many hadith elaborating on the themes and details.  Islamic apocalyptic literature describing the Armageddon is often known as fitna (a test) and malahim (or ghayba in the shi'ite tradition).

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Hindu Apocalyticism

Contemporary Hindu eschatology is linked in the Vaishnavite tradition to the figure of Kalki, or the tenth and last Avatar of Vishnu before the age draws to a close, and Shiva dissolves and Brahma regenerates the universe.

In Hinduism, time is cyclic, consisting of cycles or "Kalpa", repeating infinitely.  The "End Time" as we understand from other religions does not exists as such.  However, Kalpa (and its sub cycles) has its own start and end.  One Kalpa, lasts 8.64 billion years, illustrates the pattern of decline in the state of nature and civilization between periods of timelessness when Brahma (Matter, mass) regenerates the world of existence/reality.

Unlike some other religions, the wrong doings or such things committed by humans shall have no effects on the end of time, as the end of time as per Hinduism is purely a property of matter.  However, Hindu conceptions of time, like those found in other non-Western traditions, is cyclical in that one age may end but another will always begin.  As such, the cycle of birth, growth, decay, death, and renewal at the individual level finds its echo in the cosmic order of all things, yet affected by the vagaries of the comings and goings of divine interventions in the Vaishnavite belief.

There are four yugas, or ages, in this process from complete purity to complete impurity.  The final is Kali Yuga, or the Dark Age, where civilization becomes spiritually degraded, human lives are shortened by violence and disease, and there is a general state of decay in nature.  This is the worst period before complete destruction which is then followed by a Golden Age.

Most Hindus acknowledge as part of their cosmology that we are living in the Kali Yuga, the last of four periods (Yuga) that make up the current age.  Each period has seen a successive degeneration in the moral order and character of human beings, to the point that in the Kali Yuga where quarrel and hypocrisy are prevalent.  Often, the invocation of Kali Yuga denotes a certain helplessness in the face of the horrors and suffering of the human condition and a nostalgia for a golden past or a future salvation.  Thus whenever there is intolerable evil and chaos in the world, there is an appearance of an Avatar.  In the current yuga, known as the Kali (the most evil) yuga, "The Lord shall manifest Himself as the Kalki Avatar… He will establish righteousness upon the earth and the minds of the people will become as pure as crystal."

In Hinduism, there is no eternal damnation of souls or end times.  After this evil Kali yuga ends, the next yuga or epoch would be Satya yuga where everyone will be righteous, followed by Treta yuga, Dwapara yuga and then another Kali Yuga.  Thus time is cyclical and the epochs keep repeating infinitely.  However, the extent of tolerable evil and degradation in each epoch is different and therefore the threshold that is necessary for the manifestation of God's incarnation is different for each yuga.

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Buddhist Apocalyticism

Gautama Buddha was a spiritual teacher from Nepal and the founder of Buddhism.  The exact dates of his birth and death are uncertain, but a number of 20th-century historians have dated his lifetime from circa 563 BC to 483 BC.

The Buddha predicted that his teachings Dharma (Buddhism) would disappear after 5,000 years, when no one practices the actual teachings any more.  It would last so long as someone practiced.  According to the Sutta Pitaka, the "ten wholesome courses of conduct" will disappear and people will follow the ten unwholesome concepts of theft, violence, murder, lying, false speech, sexual misconduct, abusive and idle talk, covetousness and ill will, wanton greed, and uncontrolled lust resulting in poverty and the breakdown of law and cooperation or regard for the dharma.

As part of Buddhist eschatology, it is believed that the age leading up to the coming of the next Buddha Maitreya will be characterized by impiety, physical weakness, sexual depravity, and general social disarray.

Commentators like Buddhaghosa predicted a step-by-step disappearance of the Buddha's teachings.  During the first stage, arahants would no longer appear in the world.  Later, the content of the Buddha's true teachings would vanish, and only their appearance or outward form would be preserved.  Finally, even the form of the Dharma would be lost.  During the final stage, the memory of the Buddha himself would be forgotten, and the last of his relics would be gathered together in Bodh Gaya and cremated.  Some time following this devolution a new Buddha named Maitreya will arise to rediscover and reveal the timeless teachings of dharma and rediscover the path to Nirvana.  Maitreya is said to currently reside in the Tushita world, before his final rebirth in the human world.

The decline of Buddha's teaching in the human world, and its eventual re-establishment by Maitreya, are in keeping with the general shape of Buddhist cosmology.  Like Hindus, Buddhists generally believe in cycles of destruction and creation, of which the current epoch represents only the latest step.  The historical Buddha Shakyamuni is only the latest in a series of Buddhas that stretches back into the past.

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Zoroastrian Apocalyticism

Zoroastrian eschatology is the oldest eschatology found in recorded history.  By the year 500 BC, a fully developed concept of the end of the world was established in Zoroastrianism.

The doctrinal premises are (1) good will eventually prevail over evil; (2) creation was initially perfectly good, but was subsequently corrupted by evil; (3) the world will ultimately be restored to the perfection it had at the time of creation; (4) the "salvation for the individual depended on the sum of [that person's] thoughts, words and deeds, and there could be no intervention, whether compassionate or capricious, by any divine being to alter this." Thus, each human bears the responsibility for the fate of his own soul, and simultaneously shares in the responsibility for the fate of the world

According to Zoroastrian philosophy, redacted in the Zand-i Vohuman Yasht, "at the end of thy tenth hundredth winter...the sun is more unseen and more spotted; the year, month, and day are shorter; and the earth is more barren; and the crop will not yield the seed; and men ...  become more deceitful and more given to vile practices.  They have no gratitude." "Honorable wealth will all proceed to those of perverted faith...and a dark cloud makes the whole sky night...and it will rain more noxious creatures than winter."

At the end of this spiritual battle between the righteous and wicked, a final judgment of all souls will occur.  Sinners whose bad deeds are more than their good deeds will be punished for 3 days, but will eventually be forgiven.  The world will reach perfection as all evil traits such as poverty, old age, disease, thirst, hunger, and death will disappear from the earth.  Zoroastrian concepts parallel greatly with those of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic eschatological beliefs.  Zoroaster also preached that bliss will be everywhere, and not just in a remote kingdom of paradise.

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The 2012 Phenomenon

The 2012 phenomenon comprises a range of eschatological beliefs according to which cataclysmic or transformative events will occur on December 21, 2012.  The 2012 doomsday prediction is a present-day cultural meme proposing that cataclysmic and apocalyptic events will occur on December 21, 2012.  This idea has been disseminated by numerous books, Internet sites and by TV documentaries with increasing frequency since the late 1990s.  This date is derived from the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar which completes 12 baktuns or 1 Great cycle equaling 5,125 years on December 21 or 23, 2012.  The prediction given by the Mayans about what will happen at the end of this Great Cycle is described as a rebirth of this world and the beginning of an age of enlightenment.  There are also other interpretations of assorted legends, scriptures, numerological constructions and prophecies encircling this date.

A New Age interpretation of this transition is that this date marks the start of time in which Earth and its inhabitants may undergo a positive physical or spiritual transformation, and that 2012 may mark the beginning of a new era.  Others suggest that the 2012 date marks the end of the world as we know it or a similar catastrophe.  Scenarios suggested for the end of the world include the arrival of the next solar maximum, or Earth's collision with a black hole, passing asteroid or a planet called "Nibiru".

Scholars from various disciplines have dismissed the idea of such cataclysmic events occurring in 2012.  Astronomers and other scientists have rejected the proposed events as pseudoscience, stating that they are contradicted by simple astronomical observations.

The 2012 phenomenon has produced hundreds of books, as well as hundreds of thousands of websites.  "Ask an Astrobiologist", a NASA public outreach website, has received over 5000 questions from the public on the subject since 2007, some asking whether they should kill themselves, their children or their pets.  In 2011, the Mexico tourism board stated its intentions to use the year 2012, without its apocalyptic connotations, as a means to revive Mexico's tourism industry, which had suffered as the country gained a reputation for drug wars and kidnapping.  The initiative hopes to draw on the mystical appeal of the Mayan ruins.  On December 21, 2011, the Mayan town of Tapachula in Chiapas activated an eight-foot digital clock counting down the days until b'ak'tun 13, while in Izapa, a nearby archaeological site, Mayan priests burned incense and prayed.

A far more apocalyptic view of the year 2012 that has spread in various media describes the end of the world or of human civilization on that date.  This view has been promulgated by many hoax pages on the Internet, particularly on YouTube.  The History Channel has aired a handful of special series on doomsday that include analysis of 2012 theories, such as Decoding the Past (2005–2007), 2012, End of Days (2006), Last Days on Earth (2006), Seven Signs of the Apocalypse (2007), and Nostradamus 2012 (2008).  In his book 2012: It's Not the End of the World Peter Lemesurier has listed many misleading statements in these programs.  The Discovery Channel also aired 2012 Apocalypse in 2009, suggesting that massive solar storms, magnetic pole reversal, earthquakes, supervolcanoes, and other drastic natural events may occur in 2012.  Author Graham Hancock, in his book Fingerprints of the Gods, interpreted Coe's remarks in Breaking the Maya Codeas evidence for the prophecy of a global cataclysm.

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The Mayan Calendar 2012

Although the Long Count was most likely invented by the Olmec, it has become closely associated with the Maya civilization, whose classic period lasted from 250 to 900 AD.  There is a strong tradition of "world ages" in Mayan literature, but the record has been distorted, leaving several possibilities open to interpretation.  According to the Popol Vuh, a compilation of the creation accounts of the K'iche' Maya of the Colonial-era highlands, we are living in the fourth world.  The Popol Vuh describes the gods first creating three failed worlds, followed by a successful fourth world in which humanity was placed.  In the Maya Long Count, the previous world ended after 13 b'ak'tuns, or roughly 5,125 years.  The Long Count's "zero date" was set at a point in the past marking the end of the third world and the beginning of the current one, which corresponds to 11 August 3114 BC in the proleptic Gregorian calendar.  This means that the fourth world will also have reached the end of its 13th b'ak'tun, or Mayan date, on December 21, 2012.

In 1966, Michael D. Coe wrote in The Maya that "there is a suggestion ...  that Armageddon would overtake the degenerate peoples of the world and all creation on the final day of the 13th [b'ak'tun].  Thus ...  our present universe [would] be annihilated [in December 2012] when the Great Cycle of the Long Count reaches completion." Coe's interpretation was repeated by other scholars through the early 1990s.  In contrast, later researchers said that, while the end of the 13th b'ak'tun would perhaps be a cause for celebration, it did not mark the end of the calendar.  "There is nothing in the Maya or Aztec or ancient Mesoamerican prophecy to suggest that they prophesied a sudden or major change of any sort in 2012," said Mayanist scholar Mark Van Stone.  "The notion of a "Great Cycle" coming to an end is completely a modern invention."

In 1990, Mayanist scholars Linda Schele and David Freidel argued that the Maya "did not conceive this to be the end of creation, as many have suggested." Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, stated that "We have no record or knowledge that [the Maya] would think the world would come to an end" in 2012.  "For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle," said Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies.  The 2012 phenomenon, she said, is "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in." "There will be another cycle," said E.  Wyllys Andrews V, director of the Tulane University Middle American Research Institute.  "We know the Maya thought there was one before this, and that implies they were comfortable with the idea of another one after this."

Several prominent individuals representing Maya of Guatemala decried the suggestion that the world ends on b'ak'tun 13.  Ricardo Cajas, president of the Colectivo de Organizaciones Indígenas de Guatemala, said the date did not represent an end of humanity or fulfillment of the catastrophic prophecies found in the Maya Chilam Balam, but that the new cycle "supposes changes in human consciousness."

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New Age Beliefs

Many assertions about the year 2012 form part of a non-codified collection of New Age beliefs about ancient Maya wisdom and spirituality.  Archaeoastronomer Anthony Aveni says that while the idea of "balancing the cosmos" was prominent in ancient Maya literature, the 2012 phenomenon does not draw from those traditions.  Instead, it is bound up with American concepts such as the New Age movement, millenarianism, and the belief in secret knowledge from distant times and places.  Established themes found in 2012 literature include "suspicion towards mainstream Western culture," the idea of spiritual evolution, and the possibility of leading the world into the New Age by individual example or by a group's joined consciousness.  The general intent of this literature is not to warn of impending doom but "to foster counter-cultural sympathies and eventually socio-political and 'spiritual' activism".  Aveni, who has studied New Age and SETI communities, describes 2012 narratives as the product of a "disconnected" society: "Unable to find spiritual answers to life's big questions within ourselves, we turn outward to imagined entities that lie far off in space or time—entities that just might be in possession of superior knowledge."

In 1975, the ending of b'ak'tun 13 became the subject of speculation by several New Age authors, who asserted it would correspond with a global "transformation of consciousness".  In Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth Age of Consciousness, Frank Waters tied Coe's original date of December 24, 2011, to astrology and the prophecies of the Hopi, while both José Argüelles (in The Transformative Vision) and Terence McKenna (in The Invisible Landscape) discussed the significance of the year 2012, but not a specific day.  It was only in 1983, with the publication of Robert J.  Sharer's revised table of date correlations in the 4th edition of Morley's The Ancient Maya, that each became convinced that December 21, 2012, had significant meaning.  By 1987, the year in which he organized the Harmonic Convergence event, Arguelles was using the date December 21, 2012 in The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology.  He claimed that on August 13, 3113 BC the Earth began a passage through a "galactic synchronization beam" that emanated from the center of our galaxy, that it would pass through this beam during a period of 5200 tuns (Maya cycles of 360-days each), and that this beam would result in "total synchronization" and "galactic entrainment" of individuals "plugged into the Earth's electromagnetic battery" by (December 21, 2012).  He believed that the Maya aligned their calendar to correspond to this phenomenon.

There is no significant astronomical event tied to the Long Count's start date.  However, its supposed end date has been tied to astronomical phenomena by esoteric, fringe, and New Age literature that places great significance on astrology.  Chief among these is the concept of the "galactic alignment."

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Proposed Theory of Galactic Alignment & Precession

In the Solar System, the planets and the Sun lie roughly within the same flat plane, known as the plane of the ecliptic.  From our perspective on Earth, the ecliptic is the path taken by the Sun across the sky over the course of the year.  The twelve constellations that line the ecliptic are known as the zodiac and, annually, the Sun passes through all of them in turn.  Additionally, over time, the Sun's annual cycle appears to recede very slowly backward by one degree every 72 years, or by one constellation every 2,160 years.  This backward movement, called "precession", is due to a slight wobble in the Earth's axis as it spins, and can be compared to the way a spinning top wobbles as it slows down.  Over the course of 25,800 years, a period often called a Great Year, the Sun completes a full, 360-degree backward circuit through the zodiac.  

 In Western astrological traditions, precession is measured from the March equinox, or the point at which the Sun is exactly halfway between its lowest and highest points in the sky.  Presently, the Sun's March equinox position is in the constellation Pisces and is moving back into Aquarius.  This signals the end of one astrological age (the Age of Pisces) and the beginning of another (the Age of Aquarius).

Similarly, the Sun's December solstice position (in the northern hemisphere, the lowest point on its annual path; in the southern hemisphere, the highest) is currently in the constellation of Sagittarius, one of two constellations in which the zodiac intersects with the Milky Way.  Every year, on the December solstice, the Sun and the Milky Way, from the surface of the Earth, appear to come into alignment, and every year, precession causes a slight shift in the Sun's position in the Milky Way.  Given that the Milky Way is between 10° and 20° wide, it takes between 700 and 1400 years for the Sun's December solstice position to precess through it.  It is currently about halfway through the Milky Way, crossing the galactic equator.

The significance of a future "galactic alignment" was noted in 1991 by astrologer Raymond Mardyks, who asserted that the winter solstice would align with the galactic plane in 1998/1999, writing that an event that "only occurs once each 26,000 year cycle and would be most definitely of utmost significance to the top flight ancient astrologers."  Adherents to the idea, following a theory first proposed by Munro Edmonson, allege that the Maya based their calendar on observations of the Great Rift or Dark Rift, a band of dark dust clouds in the Milky Way, which, according to some scholars, the Maya called the Xibalba be or "Black Road."  

John Major Jenkins claims that the Maya were aware of where the ecliptic intersected the Black Road and gave this position in the sky a special significance in their cosmology.  According to Jenkins, precession will align the Sun precisely with the galactic equator at the 2012 winter solstice.  Jenkins claimed that the classical Maya anticipated this conjunction and celebrated it as the harbinger of a profound spiritual transition for mankind.  New Age proponents of the galactic alignment hypothesis argue that, just as astrology uses the positions of stars and planets to make claims of future events, the Mayans plotted their calendars with the objective of preparing for significant world events.

However, there is no clear evidence that the classic Maya were aware of precession.  Some Maya scholars, such as Barbara MacLeod, Michael Grofe, Eva Hunt, Gordon Brotherston, and Anthony Aveni, have suggested that some Mayan holy dates were timed to precessional cycles, but scholarly opinion on the subject remains divided.  There is also little evidence, archaeological or historical, that the Maya placed any importance on solstices or equinoxes.  There is also no evidence that the classic Maya attached any importance to the Milky Way; there is no glyph in their writing system to represent it, and no astronomical or chronological table tied to it.

Some people have interpreted the galactic alignment apocalyptically, claiming that when it occurs, it will somehow create a combined gravitational effect between the Sun and the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy (known as Sagittarius A*), thus creating havoc on Earth.  Apart from the fact noted above that the "galactic alignment" already happened in 1998, the Sun's apparent path through the zodiac as seen from Earth does not take it near the true galactic center, but rather several degrees above it.  Even if this were not the case, Sagittarius A* is 30,000 light years from Earth, and would have to be more than 6 million times closer to cause any gravitational disruption to Earth's Solar System.  This reading of the alignment was included on the History Channel documentary, Decoding the Past.  However, John Major Jenkins has complained that a science fiction writer co-authored the documentary, and he went on to characterize it as "45 minutes of unabashed doomsday hype and the worst kind of inane sensationalism".

Some believers in a 2012 doomsday have used the term "galactic alignment" to describe a very different phenomenon proposed by some scientists to explain a pattern in mass extinctions supposedly observed in the fossil record.  According to this hypothesis, mass extinctions are not random, but recur every 26 million years.  To account for this, it suggests that vertical oscillations made by the Sun on its 250-million-year orbit of the galactic center cause it to regularly pass through the galactic plane.  When the Sun's orbit takes it outside the galactic plane which bisects the galactic disc, the influence of the galactic tide is weaker.  However, when re-entering the galactic disc—as it does every 20–25 million years—it comes under the influence of the far stronger "disc tides", which, according to mathematical models, increase the flux of Oort cloud comets into the inner Solar System by a factor of 4, thus leading to a massive increase in the likelihood of a devastating comet impact.  However, this "alignment" takes place over tens of millions of years, and could never be timed to an exact date.  Evidence shows that the Sun passed through the plane bisecting the galactic disc only three million years ago and is now moving farther above it.

A third suggested alignment is some sort of planetary conjunction occurring on December 21, 2012; however, there will be no conjunction on that date.  Multi-planet alignments did occur in both 2000 and 2010, each with no ill result for the Earth.  Jupiter is the largest planet in the Solar System; larger than all other planets combined.  When Jupiter is near opposition, the Earth experiences less than 1% the gravitational force it feels daily from the Moon.

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Geomagnetic Reversal ("Pole Shift")

Another idea tied to 2012 involves a geomagnetic reversal (often incorrectly referred to as a pole shift by proponents), possibly triggered by a massive solar flare, that would release an energy equal to 100 billion atomic bombs.  This belief is supposedly supported by observations that the Earth's magnetic field is weakening, which could precede a reversal of the north and south magnetic poles.

Critics, however, claim that geomagnetic reversals take up to 7,000 years to complete, and do not start on any particular date.  Furthermore, the U.S.  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration now predicts that the solar maximum will peak in May 2013, not 2012, and that it will be fairly weak, with a below-average number of sunspots.  In any case, there is no scientific evidence linking a solar maximum to a geomagnetic reversal, which is driven by forces entirely within the Earth.  Instead, a solar maximum would be mostly notable for its effects on satellite and cellular phone communications.  David Morrison attributes the rise of the solar storm idea to physicist and science popularizer Michio Kaku, who claimed in an interview with Fox News that a solar peak in 2012 could be disastrous for orbiting satellites.

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Planet X, or Nibiru

Some proponents of doomsday in 2012 claim that a planet called Planet X, or Nibiru, will collide with or pass by Earth in that year.  This idea, which has appeared in various forms since 1995, initially predicted Doomsday in May, 2003, but proponents later abandoned that date after it passed without incident.  The idea originated from claims of channeling of alien beings and has been widely ridiculed.  Astronomers have calculated that such an object so close to Earth would be visible to anyone looking up at the night sky.

Web Bot Predictions

Web Bot, or the Web Bot Project, refers to an Internet bot software program that is claimed to be able to predict future events by tracking keywords entered on the Internet.  It was created in 1997, originally to predict stock market trends.  The creator of the Web Bot Project, Clif High, along with his associate George Ure, who call themselves "The Time Monks", keep the technology and algorithms largely secret and sell the predictions via the website.

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Internet bots monitor news articles, blogs, forums, and other forms of Internet chatter.  Words in the lexicon are assigned numeric values for emotional quantifiers such as duration, impact, immediacy, intensity, and others.  The lexicon is dynamic, and changes according to shifts in emotional tension, and how humans communicate those changes using the Internet.  As of 2008, there were about 300,000 keywords in the lexicon, along with emotional context indicators which are fed into a computer-generated modelspace.  They then use a technique called Asymmetric Language Trend Analysis (ALTA) developed by Clif High to generate a predictive report from a fully populated modelspace.  These predictive reports are known as ALTA or Web Bot reports.

Ure and High hypothesize that changes in language precede changes in behavior.  This is the basis for attempting to use ALTA as a form of future viewing.  The authors have repeatedly asserted in interviews that the predictions made in the ALTA report have an inherent bias toward events of a negative nature and tend to be framed in catastrophic terms.  However, the reports have also indicated positive events such as the development of new technology and increased social awareness.

The Web Bot has gained most of its notoriety for contributing to the 2012 phenomenon by predicting that a cataclysm will devastate the planet in the year 2012, possibly a reversing of Earth's magnetic poles or a small series of nuclear attacks leading up to a major attack during the year.  The prediction does not call for a complete end of the world.

The following comes from the Web Bot Project Blogspot report on a radio interview with High and Ure:

  • A second depression, triggered by mass layoffs, bankruptcies, and the popping of the derivatives bubble.
  • A "data gap" has been found in 2012 running through May 2013.  One explanation is that "our civilization gets knocked back to a pre-electronic state," such as brought about by devastating solar activity.
  • A new benign form of capitalism will emerge during 2017-2020.

The History Channel has discussed Web Bot in its special Doomsday 2012 and on other shows like Nostradamus Effect which feature predictions about the end of the world.

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Alien Invasion - Watches, Knives & Outdoor Gear

Another claim involves alien invasion.  In December 2010, an article, first published in and later referenced in the English-language edition of Pravda claimed, citing a Second Digitized Sky Survey photograph as evidence, that SETI had detected three large spacecraft due to arrive at Earth in 2012.  Astronomer and debunker Phil Plait noted that by using the small-angle formula, one could determine that if the object in the photo was as large as claimed, it would have had to be closer to Earth than the Moon, which would mean it would already have arrived.  In January 2011, Seth Shostak, chief astronomer of SETI, issued a press release debunking the claims.

Since the late 1970s, extraterrestrials from other habitable planets or parallel dimensions (such as "Greys") and intraterrestrials from Hollow Earth (such as "Reptilians") have been included in the New World Order conspiracy, in more or less dominant roles, as in the theories put forward by American writers Stan Deyo and Milton William Cooper, and British writer David Icke.

The common theme in these conspiracy theories is that aliens have been among us for decades, centuries or millennia, but a government cover-up enforced by “Men in Black” has shielded the public from knowledge of a secret alien invasion.  Motivated by speciesism and imperialism, these aliens have been and are secretly manipulating developments and changes in human society in order to more efficiently control and exploit human beings.  In some theories, alien infiltrators have shapeshifted into human form and move freely throughout human society, even to the point of taking control of command positions in governmental, corporate, and religious institutions, and are now in the final stages of their plan to take over the world.  A mythical covert government agency of the United States code-named Majestic 12 is often imagined to be the shadow government which collaborates with the alien occupation and permits alien abductions, in exchange for assistance in the development and testing of military "flying saucers" at Area 51, in order for U.S.  armed forces to achieve full-spectrum dominance.

Skeptics, who adhere to the psychosocial hypothesis for unidentified flying objects, argue that the convergence of New World Order conspiracy theory and UFO conspiracy theory is a product of not only the era's widespread mistrust of governments and the popularity of the extraterrestrial hypothesis for UFOs but of the far right and ufologists actually joining forces.  Barkun notes that the only positive side to this development is that, if conspirators plotting to rule the world are believed to be aliens, traditional human scapegoats (Freemasons, Illuminati, Jews, etc.) are downgraded or exonerated.

Other Catastrophes

The 2012 date has been loosely tied to the long-running concept of the Photon Belt, which predicts a form of interaction between Earth and Alcyone, the largest star of the Pleiades cluster.  Critics have argued that photons cannot form belts, that the Pleiades, located more than 400 light years away, could have no effect on Earth, and that the Solar System, rather than getting closer to the Pleiades, is in fact moving farther away from them.

Some media outlets have tied the fact that the red supergiant star Betelgeuse will undergo a supernova at some point in the future to the 2012 phenomenon.  However, while Betelgeuse is certainly in the final stages of its life, and will die as a supernova, there is no way to predict the timing of the event to within 100,000 years.  To be a threat to Earth, a supernova would need to be as close as 25 light years to the Solar System.  Betelgeuse is roughly 600 light years away, and so its supernova will not affect Earth.

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The New World Order

In conspiracy theory, the term New World Order or NWO refers to the emergence of a totalitarian one-world government.

The common theme in conspiracy theories about a New World Order is that a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government—which replaces sovereign nation-states—and an all-encompassing propaganda that ideologizes its establishment as the culmination of history's progress.  Significant occurrences in politics and finance are speculated to be orchestrated by an unduly influential cabal operating through many front organizations.  Numerous historical and current events are seen as steps in an on-going plot to achieve world domination through secret political gatherings and decision-making processes, claiming that established upper-class families with "old money" (in particular, the Rothschilds and Rockefellers) who founded and finance the Bilderberg Group, Bohemian Club, Club of Rome, Council on Foreign Relations, Rhodes Trust, Skull and Bones, Trilateral Commission, and similar think tanks and private clubs, are illuminated conspirators plotting to impose a totalitarian New World Order.

Conspiracy theorists believe that the New World Order will also be implemented through the use of human population control in order to more easily monitor and control the movement of individuals.  The means range from stopping the growth of human societies through reproductive health and family planning programs, which promote abstinence, contraception and abortion, or intentionally reducing the bulk of the world population through genocides by mongering unnecessary wars, through plagues by engineering emergent viruses and tainting vaccines, and through environmental disasters by controlling the weather (HAARP, chemtrails), etc.  Conspiracy theorists argue that globalists, plotting on behalf of a New World Order, are neo-Malthusians who engage in overpopulation and climate change alarmism in order to create public support for coercive population control and ultimately world government.  It should be duly noted that fears of population control can be traced back to the traumatic legacy of the eugenics movement's "war against the weak" in the United States during the first decades of the 20th century.

Prior to the early 1990s, New World Order conspiracism was limited to two American countercultures, primarily the militantly anti-government right, and secondarily fundamentalist Christians concerned with end-time emergence of the Antichrist.  Skeptics, such as Michael Barkun and Chip Berlet, have observed that right-wing populist conspiracy theories about a New World Order have now not only been embraced by many seekers of stigmatized knowledge but have seeped into popular culture, thereby inaugurating an unrivaled period of people actively preparing for apocalyptic millenarian scenarios in the United States of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.  These political scientists are concerned that this mass hysteria could have what they judge to be devastating effects on American political life, ranging from widespread political alienation to escalating lone-wolf terrorism.



ANCIENT ALIENS & MODERN UFOs:  These videos raise questions about possible visitations and their implications.

CULTURE:  These videos examine the shared attitudes, values, goals and practices that characterize various groups & societies.

ECONOMICS:  The social, political, technological, and human behavioral factors that effect the economy—both domestic and foreign.

ENVIRONMENT:  These videos examine the politics, philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding environmental conservation.

OUR FOOD:  These videos examine food safety, food security, and the future of food, including issues of genetically modified foods.

HEALTH & WELLNESS:  These videos examine and challenge various aspects of the health care system, as well as environmental threats to our health.

HISTORY:  These videos examine the sequence of various key historical events, and their patterns of cause and effect.

PHILOSOPHY:  A philosophical approach to societal issues of ethics, law, morality, metaphysics, religion, and cosmology.

POLITICS & MILITARYThese videos examine and challenge various aspects of politics and the military—domestic and foreign.

RELIGION:  A look at various world religions and belief systems, as well as their historical, cultural, social, and political impact.

SCIENCE & TECH:  A look at various developments in science and technology and their impact on our history, culture, society, politics, and environment.


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