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Wednesday, April 2, 2008 10:20 pm

Mark your calendar

2012 author should have dabbled in facts more, drugs less

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2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl By Daniel Pinchbeck, Tarcher (paperback edition), 2007, 416 pages, $14.95.
Untitled Document At one point in Daniel Pinchbeck’s fantastical personal exploration of apocalyptic myth and reality in 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, he elaborates on the Global Consciousness Project of Princeton University, mentioning that one of the researchers speculates that they are “witnessing the early phases of the self-organization of a global brain.” Pinchbeck believes that a planetary human-consciousness transformation may happen soon — very soon — beginning Dec. 21, 2012, when the earth and the sun are in alignment with the “dark rift” at the center or our galaxy. In a nutshell, that’s also the date at the end of 5,000-year Mayan calendar, the “Fifth World.” It’s believed by some that the world will end then as a result of multiple catastrophes or there will be a grand human consciousness change as a reaction to global environmental disasters and breakdowns of the human socioeconomic system. Pinchbeck’s quest to discover the truth of the upcoming “dimensional shift” takes him to several countries. He concludes, for instance, that crop circles are evidence of alien visitations in England and that the current “sun” calendar must be replaced with a 13-month “moon” calendar. Numbers and time have elaborate meanings. As an exploration of his inner self as Pinchbeck describes theories of the Apocalypse and possible mechanisms for global consciousness change, the book is an engaging and intelligently written but overlong treatise on the range of mystical, New Age, religious, and philosophical hypotheses currently in vogue. Pinchbeck, a journalist, author, and admitted atheist, even criticizes these claims throughout the book. But he undermines his own skepticism constantly by immediately embracing those very same claims, such as astrology, extrasensory perception, and numerology, which have no scientific validity. What’s more, he’s constantly taking psychedelic drugs and having visions that he interprets as actual or symbolic truths. Despite his immersion in drugs that should create self-doubt about his visions and dreams, Pinchbeck believes that he’s the vessel for the return of Quetzalcoatl, the Mesoamerican feathered serpent deity that signifies the end of the corrupt age in 2012 and subsequent magical transformation of societies into Utopian ones. At least he believes the deity is an archetype and the world will continue to exist, in contrast to others who foresee apocalyptic collapse. One New Ager he quotes flatly states that the Internet will cease to exist in 2009. But Pinchbeck really goes off the deep end when he relates conversations with a praying mantis that tells him psychically that they are “emissaries from a galactic civilization” and they look forward to “opening formal lines of communication with the human race once we had passed through the dimensional portal.” I wonder whether he saw Men in Black. Those who believe that 2012 will be the end of the world in some way should remember James Randi’s list of dozens of failed end-of-the-world predictions, such as those made by the Millerites in the 1840s and the Jupiter Effect of 1982. Over and over, in reading about the true believers’ predictions of the quick evolution of human beings into some obscure “higher consciousness,” I was reminded of the Overmind in the late Arthur C. Clarke’s science-fiction classic Childhood’s End, which was written before the New Age writings that Pinchbeck embraces. “There lay the Overmind,” Clarke writes, “whatever it might be, bearing the same relation to man as man bore to amoeba. Potentially infinite, beyond mortality, how long had it been absorbing race after race as it spread across the stars? . . . Now it had drawn into its being all that the human race had ever achieved. . . . The billions of transient sparks of consciousness that had made up humanity would flicker no more like fireflies against the night.”
Daniel Pinchbeck has written a New Age manifesto that could have used a dose of better historical reflection and recognition of the difference between science and science fiction.
Bob Ladendorf is a freelance writer, co-founder of the Rational Examination Association of Lincoln Land, and chief operating officer of the Center for Inquiry-Los Angeles.
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