The headline this morning read “Four Days to Go Until the Mayan Doomsday”. Yep, it’s creeping up on us, so it’s about time I recount a lecture I heard from a Mayan expert.
One of the things I like about living in a university town is that there is always some intellectually provocative stuff available. Better yet, this said stuff is usually free.
So a couple of weeks ago I went to listen to a lecture by Dr. Edwin Barnhart at the student center. He is the head of something called the Maya Exploration Center.
(One thing I noticed in the good doctor’s lecture: he left off the “n” that usually forms the adjective for the word “Maya” for some reason during his lecture. The man is an explorer and archeologist and most likely knows Mayan linguistics. So who am I to quibble?)
I sat in the lecture hall with about 50 students. From what I could tell, I was the only old coot there. Hey, as I said, it’s cheap fun!
Dr. Barnhart noted in his opening remarks that lately a lot of people have been showing up to his lectures. His explanation: everybody loves an Apocalypse.
However, the professor is a skeptic. He says we are completely misunderstanding the Maya calendar and that 2012 has no significance and went on to discuss why.
First, though, Dr. Barnhart tells us that interest in end times is nothing new. He says a grumpy old man complaining about young people (he must have noticed my presence in the audience and threw this tidbit out for me) left behind a text referring to the end of days in ancient Assyria.
Dr. Barnhart also mentions Christian beliefs. (He mentioned good ole Harold “The Heretic” Camping, but not by name, as an example. Camping thought we were all gonna go in May of this year.) Furthermore, he says there was such discussions about the end of days around the Fall of Rome.
Then there is the present age, he says. Hollywood portrays the Maya people as if they were a bunch of quitters, committing suicide as the end nears
Advocates of a 2012 apocalypse fall into two camps. One group focuses on catastrophes surrounding the event: the occurrence of devastating solar flares, the flipping of magnetic poles, and the aligning of the planet. The other crowd believes the Mayas predicted a time of enlightenment.
Dr. Barnhart debunks the theories of both groups. First, he says we are a long way from the Sun and protected. Not only that, but flare episodes tend to come in cycles and have happened in the past.
The idea that the magnetic poles will switch and create some sort of water world is hogwash as well according to the doc. This too has happened before without effect–750,000 years ago to be exact. (We are long overdue, he says.)
Finally, there is no alignment of the planets scheduled for this year. Even so, this happened in 1962 and there was no cataclysm.
When I came home after the lecture, one of my favorite Christian eschatologists was making the same points as Dr. Barnhart on TV. He then launched into the biblical view of what the Bible says about the end of days.
The much more fun crowd according to Barnhart are the enlightenment people. We’re supposed to get some sort of expanded consciousness as a result of the end of days.
Yet, Dr. Barnhart says that this theory is the product of some “new agey” type authors who were trying to sell their books and even sell real estate to await the end. One of these authors made a scant reference to a “Maya Armageddon” and has told Barnhart that he wish he had never written that comment.
Our lecturer then went into some of the intricacies of the Maya Long Count calendar to support his skepticism. Given my revulsion for numbers, this was my least favorite part of the presentation, but still interesting.
Barnhart points to the Maya people themselves as one of the key reasons he thinks that we are not in the final days. For one, the Mayas only mentioned 2012 in a couple of their texts, out of gazillions of them.
In addition, there are still Mayas around today (they’re called Guatemalans he says) and they’ll tell you that they have no such belief in the end times. What they do believe, however, is that their calendar points to times of change.
Like any good modern day capitalists, modern Mayas might engage in what Barnhart calls the “pizza effect”. They’ll mirror back what people want to hear.
What has happened in the last couple of thousand years is that the Maya have tended to abandon their cities occasionally. This happened about every 400 years. Th last time they did this was in 1618.
So today’s Maya will tell you that 2012 is indeed a time of change, but not the end of the world. They will say that this time is one of transformation.
As a Christian who believes wholeheartedly in the need for that, on a daily basis in fact, that’ll be my focus as we come up to 2013.
Yes, there will be one according to Barnhart. He sells a 2013 Maya calendar on his website.
Furthermore, when I asked him how Nostradamus fit into all this, Barnhart just said that he was looking forward to what all the progosticators leaning on that fellow were going to come up with next year when their predictions failed to materialize.
Happy 2013 everybody!