Posted by: Johan Normark | September 26, 2009

2012: How to spot a prophet’s Maya hoax – thinking outside the box

Central to the 2012 phenomenon is that many proponents are self-proclaimed novel thinkers. They say that they think outside the box, a box usually created by science or by society in general. It comes in many different versions: Calleman creates his own personal cosmology by mixing his version of the Maya calendar(s) and scientific results of the 20th and 21st centuries. Plenty of people include extraterrestrial beings and/or Atlantis. Some see conspiracy everywhere and that the government(s) conceals or lies about the knowledge of the impending disaster that will be caused by planet Nibiru. Pyramids are evidence of ancient knowledge of quantum physics. It goes on and on.

Is this thinking outside the box? Not really, it is usually just a negative or mirror image of the dominant discourse. Some of these ideas are distorted versions of either creationism or at least a Christian belief system (judgement day scenarios) but most of the ideas go back to the Cartesian dualism of mind and matter. I would say a majority of the “New Age” faction of the 2012 “movement” believe people of today are materialistic and that they lack spiritual guidance or values. Creationists would blame this on evil evolutionary ideas proposed by atheists, new agers are less condemning but even so reflect a stereotypical dualism between mind and matter. Materialism is bad, spirituality is good. Hence, once you question the physical evidence of some of these ideas you usually get the answer that science do not get the whole picture, it just focus on simple matter. Their holistic view includes spiritualism as well. This is even so among new agers inspired by “indigenous beliefs” (such as Maya, Hopi, etc). They simply miss a couple of points which I shall elaborate upon below.

(1) Most 2012ers are “Westerners” who simply lack the capability to think outside the box. Few people can really think outside the box (whatever that box may be, it is in fact the idea of a box that is most revealing how their ideas are connected to the discourse they argue against). Hence, people who have questioned established norms, in the 2012 people’s mind(s), become their heroes and they are usually quoted or being referred to. Einstein figures quite a lot here (also because he shows the relation between energy [spiritual quality] and matter). The same goes for quantum physics as mentioned above.  Einstein’s ideas were crucial in ending the paradigm of Newtonian physics and Einstein was slightly outside the established academia (but not completely). Hence, he has become a model for how to think novelty. We have plenty of such people through history and they have often been on the fringe of established discourse. 2012ers bring this up since they like to think of themselves as these novel thinkers. It is good to criticize and question established facts. The problem is that the 2012ers mix scientists with religious/spiritual people who lack any credibility such as Nostradamus, Aleister Crowley, etc. They are put on the same level of credibility. Testable, verifiable and falsifiable theories are mixed with hocus pocus with the result that the end result also is hocus pocus.

(2) Even if it is science or new age, all signification is indeterminate and meaning cannot be frozen, it cannot remain static and stable (despite new agers and creationists beliefs in a higher non-changing order). Science, pseudoscience and new age are metaphysical constructs that do not exist beyond our language and signification. Central ideas are created and these have the effect of making the whole arborescent structure natural since it is given a center, a point of reference and origin (for scientists it is usually materialism and for new agers it is the opposite). But this center is impossible and therefore it is a nonexistent point of truth. Both camps argue and debate as if their centers actually exist since they need to secure their authority (in this way, new agers are the same). Hence everyone will continue to repeat the same arguments again and again since it provides coherence and security to their own metaphysical system. The questions we ask predetermine the answers we give.

(3) To think outside the box is to transcend the frames of an established discourse. This is quite different from immanent perspectives where one thing is implicated in another (spirit in matter, human in nature, etc.). Duality is nonexistent, everything is becoming instead of being in stasis. Here we go in-between things, a focus on movement and change. This is the non-Cartesian opposite of transcendent thinking (such as ideology, ultimate causes and the apocalyptic narratives we find in the 2012 circus). Immanent perspectives are common in “indigenous” societies. There was no division between mind and matter in the Maya area before the arrival of the Spaniards. There were no ideologies (despite what most Mayanists argue) and there were certainly no ultimate cause for events (such as the Maya Culture). These are all box labels used by Cartesian anthropologists. New agers have apparently not seen through this box but view “indigenous” beliefs from a transcendent/Western tradition and hence misses the whole philosophy behind the various forms of “indigenous” logocentrism.

Now you know that when you see a 2012 hoaxer claiming to think outside the box, he or she is very far from it. We can never break free from the values and ideas brought to us at a very young age. That is to be part of a society. What the hoaxers usually reveal is a lack of constructive critical thinking. Anyone can criticize the current discourse but if one has no clue of how the current discourse is formed and how it affects people, then the criticism is likely to be naïve and/or focus on how to fit scientific materialism within a greater transcendent spiritualism. I am in favor of questioning the thoughts delivered by the State, the Major Science, etc. But this critique must in itself be based on empirical evidence, not on mumbo jumbo.

In the end, it all comes down to politics of how to convince people how to think (see the example of creationism at Ethnografix). The 2012 hoaxers have their own agenda (as we all do). Most of them apparently do not see how their own agendas just are repetitions of other people’s agendas. If you look for novel thinkers, do not search for them in the 2012 circus. Most of them are clowns with red noses running around and blowing the trumpets before the main show that begins after December 21, 2012. Clowns are fun for children but grownups like to see the skilled acrobatic movements of real scientists.



  1. Not sure I understand: “Some of these ideas are distorted versions of either creationism or at least a Christian belief system”

    A circular view of time is the total antithesis of the Judeo-Christian linear arrow of time. The context in which the Mayans viewed time seems to be the core of most Mayan Calendar related study, yet I am confused as to why the word “time” doesn’t even make an appearance in this article.

    • Most people set up a dichotomy between linear and cyclical views of time. However, we also use cycles (weeks, months, years). However, both views of time are based in a spatialized view of time. Linear and circular are all geometric (spatial) forms. Is time the same as space? It is not, and I have written several blog posts on temporality (mostly from Bergson’s perspective). In any case, the reference to creationism and Christianity is the current 2012 belief that the world will end like in a Christian apocalypse. There is no evidence of this in the epigraphical record.

  2. […] 2012: How to spot a prophet’s Maya hoax – thinking outside the box « Archaeological H… a few seconds ago from Gwibber […]

  3. Jesus said that not even He knows when the last day will come, and the Mayans wouldn’t have known if He didn’t.

    God bless,

  4. I am pretty sure there will not be any last day whatsoever. That would be to take a completely geocentric and antropocentric perspective that I am against.

    • There is a beginning and an end to everthing. To belive that there will be no end to this earth is just nieve. Even science backs me up on that.

      • Nieve? Snow in Spanish? I assume you mean naive? Yes, the Earth began and it will cease to exist. However, the Earth itself did not emerge on a single day and it will not end on a single day. Hence, there will not be a last day since this assumes that time itself has a beginning and an end. I see time as a eternal continuum. Even philosophy backs me up on that.

  5. The word credibility is highly relative. In the world of nanotech, the old definition for matter takes a somersault. Now about perception. It depends upon how much one learned and contain at a particular point of time

  6. Is thís comment in the right post?

  7. I believe we might get some earthquakes, maybe an earth plate shift, a volcano or two erupting when the sun and the milkyway aligns with earth on 21 Dec 2012, but no end to earth.
    Maybe, very big maybe, an asteroid might crash into earth at some time in the future which might cause some deaths and hardship, but we do not know if and when.
    It seems the weather is changing which will probably mean very hot and very cold weather in different parts of the globe in future also. This in itself will force people to have different lifestyles.
    But people waiting for a saviour to come and fetch them, because of an apocalypse which is supposedly going to occur, sorry, not going to happen on a scale which will destroy all life and the earth too.

  8. The alignment you mention occurs every year.


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