2012 and Human Destiny: End of the World or Consciousness Revolution?

Stanislav Grof, M.D.

Since the publication of Jose Arguelles’ book The Mayan
Factor: Path Beyond Technology (Arguelles 1987) brought to the
attention of lay audiences the ancient prophecy concerning the end of
the Maya Long Count calendar, which started on August 11, 3114 BC,
and will end on December 21, 2012 AD, this date has become the focus
of many articles, books, and conferences and of a forthcoming movie
entitled 2012. Similar prophecies about the end of the Great Cycle can
be found in many other cultural and religious groups – the Hopi,
Navajo, Cherokee, Apache, Iroquois confederacy, ancient Egyptians,
the Kabbalists, Essenes, Qero elders of Peru, the Subsaharan Dogon
tribe, and the Australian Aborigines.
With a few exceptions, the Mayan prophecy about the end of
the cosmic cycle, the Fifth World, has been interpreted in terms of
actual physical destruction of humanity and of the material world, in a
way similar to the interpretation (or better misinterpretation) of the
term apocalypse by Christian fundamentalists, particularly the millions
of American Christians who believe that at the time of this global
destruction they will experience “rapture” and be united with Jesus.
People who see it this way are not aware of the fact that the original
and literal meaning of the term apocalypse (Greek ??????????
Apokálypsis) is not destruction but “lifting of the veil” or “revelation.”
It referred to the disclosure of some secrets hidden from the majority of
humanity to certain privileged persons. The source of the
misinterpretation of this word is probably the phrase “apokálypsis
eschaton” which literally means “revelation at the end of the æon, or
The purpose of this conference is to explore a radically
different, more optimistic interpretation of the Mayan prophecy – as
referring to the end of the world as we have known it: a world
dominated by unbridled violence and insatiable greed, egotistic
hierarchy of values, corrupted institutions and corporations, and
irreconcilable conflicts between organized religions. Instead of
predicting a physical destruction of the material world, the Mayan
prophecy might refer to death and rebirth and a mass inner
transformation of humanity. In order to explore this idea, we have to
answer two important questions, First, how could ancient Mayans two
thousand years ago predict what situation humanity would be facing in
the twenty-first century? And second, are there any indications that
modern society, more specifically the industrial civilization, is
currently on the verge of a major psychospiritual transformation? I will
try to address these questions in the course of my presentation.
The Mayan prophecy concerning the 2012 winter solstice has
an important astronomical dimension. Over 2,000 years ago the early
Maya formulated a profound galactic cosmology. Being excellent
observers of the sky, they noticed that the position of the winter solstice
sun was slowly shifting toward an alignment with the galactic axis.
This movement is caused by so called precession – the wobble of the
rotational axis of the earth. The Mayans concluded that major changes
of cosmic proportions would occur at the time of this auspicious
solar/galactic alignment. This is an event that happens only every
25,920 years, which is the period required for the equinox to move
through all twelve zodiacal signs. C. G. Jung used in his book Aion and
in his other writings the term “Platonic Month” for the period that it
takes the vernal equinox point to pass through one constellation of the
sidereal zodiac (approximately 2160 years) and the term “Platonic
Year” for the completion of the entire zodiacal cycle.
Astronomers of the pre-classic Maya culture called the Izapa
Culture devised the Long Count calendar consisting of thirteen baktuns
to target the time when the cosmic alignment would maximize –
December 2012 AD. The cultural legacy of ancient Mayans includes
stone monuments conveying in carved glyphs and images the prophecy
concerning this auspicious alignment. The above facts make it clear
why the list of presenters to this conference should include people like
John Major Jenkins, who has spent two decades studying Mayan
archeological records trying to understand their original meaning
(Jenkins 1998, 2002) or Robert Sitler, who has spent extensive time
with contemporary Mayans and can offer deep insights into their
culture (2006). It is also obvious that an accomplished astrologer and
historian like Richard Tarnas would be able to make a vital contribution
to the main theme of the conference (Tarnas 2006).
My own area of interest in the last fifty years has been research
of non-ordinary states of consciousness or, more specifically, an
important subcategory of these states for which I coined the term
holotropic. This composite word means literally “oriented toward
wholeness” or “moving in the direction of wholeness” (from the
Greek holos = whole and trepein = moving toward or in the direction
of something). These are states that novice shamans experience
during their initiatory crises and later induce in their clients. Ancient
and native cultures have used these states in rites of passage and in
their healing ceremonies. They were described by mystics of all ages
and initiates in the ancient mysteries of death and rebirth. Procedures
inducing these states were also developed in the context of the great
religions of the world – Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam,
Judaism, and Christianity (Grof 2000, 2006).
It is less immediately evident and requires some explanation
why and how experiences and observations from the study of
holotropic states can throw new light on the problem of the Mayan
prophecy. The key consideration in this regard is that powerful
consciousness-expanding procedures (“technologies of the sacred”)
played an integral and essential role in the Mayan culture. We have
ample pictorial evidence on Mayan stone stelae, sculptures, and
ceramics that they used for this purpose the Mexican cactus peyote
(Lophophora williamsii), magic mushrooms (Psilocybe mexicana or
coerulescens known to the Indians as Xibalba okox or teonanacatl), and
skin secretions of the toad Bufo marinus. Additional plant materials
used in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica were the morning glory seeds
(Ipomoea violacea) called by the natives ololiuqui, Salvia divinatorum,
also known as diviner’s sage, wild tobacco (Nicotiana rustica), and
balche (a fermented drink made from the tree Lonchocarpus longistylus
and honey).
A powerful and specifically Mayan mind-altering technique
was massive bloodletting induced by using lancets made of stingray
spines, flint, or obsidian to wound the tongue, earlobes, and genitals
(Schele and Miller 1986, Grof 1994). Ritual bloodletting opened up an
experiential realm that was not ordinarily accessible before the time of
biological death. The Mayans used the symbol of the Vision Serpent
for the experiences induced by blood loss and shock. This symbol
represented the contact between the everyday world of human beings
and the world of gods and sacred ancestors, who were expected to
appear in their visions in the supernatural realms. The lancet was
perceived as a sacred object with enormous power; it was personified in
the form of the Perforator God.
Because of the extraordinary importance that these
“technologies of the sacred” had in the Mayan culture, it is reasonable
to assume that visionary experiences induced by them might have
provided inspiration for the prophecy concerning 2012 and played a
major role in its articulation. It is thus fully justified to look at this
prophecy through the prism of the discoveries of modern consciousness
In holotropic states of consciousness, it is possible to obtain
profound revelations concerning the master blueprint of the universe
designed by cosmic intelligence of such astonishing proportions that it
is far beyond the limits of our everyday imagination. Individuals
experiencing psychedelic states, including myself, occasionally
reported that they had profound illuminating insights into the creative
dynamics of the Kosmos. More specifically, psychedelic pioneer
Terrence McKenna described in his preface to John Major Jenkins’
book “Maya Cosmogenesis 2012” that he received his insights
concerning 2012 in his mushroom sessions.
Individuals who had such illuminating cosmic visions suddenly
understood that what is happening in the material world is formed and
informed by archetypal principles, beings, and events existing in
dimensions of reality that are inaccessible for our everyday
consciousness. They also saw that the dynamics of the archetypal world
is systematically correlated with the movements of the planets, their
angular relationships, and their relative positions to the fixed stars. This
led to a completely new understanding of astrology, its origins, and
paramount importance. It became clear to them that the source of
astrology were global encompassing visions of the workings of the
Kosmos and not tedious accumulation of individual observations of
correlations between events in the world and celestial bodies.
Richard Tarnas, amassed over a period of more than thirty
years impressive and convincing evidence for systematic correlations
existing between the archetypal world, celestial dynamics, and
psychological and historical processes and presented it in his groundbreaking
and paradigm-breaking book Cosmos and Psyche (Tarnas
2006). Rick’s astrological research has focused primarily on
correlations with the movements of the planets, but there exist
astrological systems, which pay great attention to fixed stars;
experiences in holotropic states can provide equally revealing insights
in this regard.
An important aspect of experiences in holotropic states is that
they transcend narrow linear time and make it possible to see events in
the universe on a cosmic astronomical scale. In all their grandeur, time
scales like the Mayan Long Count Calendar or the Great or Platonic
Year are very modest as compared to others inspired by visionary
experiences, such as those found in Tantric science, in which the age of
the universe amounts to billions of years (a number similar to the
assessment of modern cosmologists), or to those discussed in Hindu
religion and mythology, such as the kalpas or the Day of Brahman that
also amounts to billions of years. The visions of ancient Mayan seers
could thus with the help of “technologies of the sacred” easily reach
many centuries into the future.
The Mayan prophecy concerning the galactic alignment is not
limited to astronomical observations and astrological predictions; it is
intimately interconnected with mythology, with what C. G. Jung called
the archetypal domain of the collective unconscious. For example, the
Mayan seers referred to the December solstice sun as “Cosmic Father”
and to the Milky Way as “Cosmic Mother. They envisioned the center
of the galaxy, where modern astronomy places a giant black hole, as
her creative and destructive womb. The time of the galactic alignment
was thus the time of a cosmic hieros gamos, sacred marriage between
the Feminine and the Masculine.
In the year 2012, the sun will have traveled to the edge of a
cosmic dust cloud known as the Great Dark Rift that lies along the
Milky Way and seems to divide its light into two paths. The Mayans
called this dark rift Xibalba Be {Road to the Underworld) and saw it as
a place of birth and death and of death/rebirth. It was for them the birth
canal of the Cosmic Mother Creatrix, where the December solstice sun
gets reborn in 2012. It was also a death place, because it is the doorway
into the underworld, the land of the dead and the unborn. These
associations clearly were not products of everyday fantasy and
imagination of the Mayans projected on the night sky, but results of
profound direct apprehensions of the connection between the
archetypal world and the celestial bodies and processes.
The Mayan prophecy has also an important mythological
connection to the story about the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque,
who were invited by the death gods to visit the underworld Xibalba and
play ballgame with them. The Xibalba Lords put them through many
ordeals and the brothers overcame them all and, finally, they died and
were reborn as the Sun and the Moon (or according to some
interpretations as the Sun and Venus). The part of the story that seems
particularly relevant in this regard is the battle of the twins with the bird
demon Vucub-Caquix (“Seven-Macaw”); he is a vain, selfish, and
impulsive ruler, who pretends to be the sun and the moon of the
twilight world inbetween the former creation and the present one. He
seems to represents the ego archetype that is dominant at the end of the
cycle. Seven Macaw seems to have an archetypal parallel in the New
Testament -– the Endtime Ruler or the “Beast,” also known as
Hunahpu and Xbalanque defeat Seven Macaw and strip him of
his teeth (the instrument of violence), of his riches, and his power. By
doing this, they facilitate the resurrection of their father, One Hunahpu,
a just ruler who represents selfless divine consciousness that is holistic;
it shows concern for all beings, and makes political decisions based
upon future generations or – as Native Americans say – with regard to
how they will affect seven generations down the road.
Research of holotropic states – psychedelic therapy, holotropic
breathwork, and work with individuals in “spiritual emergencies” –
made major contributions to the understanding of mythology. Myths
are commonly considered to be products of human fantasy and
imagination not unlike stories of modern fiction writers and
playwrights. However, the work of C. G. Jung and Joseph Campbell
brought about a radically new understanding of mythology. According
to these two seminal thinkers, myths are not fictitious stories about
adventures of imaginary characters in nonexistent countries and thus
arbitrary products of individual human fantasy. Rather, myths originate
in the collective unconscious of humanity and are manifestations of
primordial organizing principles of the psyche and of the cosmos which
Jung called archetypes (Jung 1976).
Archetypes express themselves through the individual psyche
and its deeper processes, but they do not originate in the human brain
and are not its products. They are superordinate to the individual
psyche and function as its governing principles. In holotropic states the
archetypal world can be directly experienced in a way that is as
convincing and authentic as the material world appears to be, or more
so. To distinguish transpersonal experiences involving archetypal
figures and domains from imaginary products of individual fantasy,
Jungians refer to this domain as imaginal.
French scholar, philosopher, and mystic, Henri Corbin, who
first used the term mundus imaginalis, was inspired in this regard by
his study of Islamic mystical literature (Corbin 2000). ). Islamic
theosophers call the imaginal world, where everything existing in the
sensory world has its analogue, ‘alam a mithal,’ or the “eighth
climate,” to distinguish it from the “seven climates,” regions of
traditional Islamic geography. The imaginal world possesses extension
and dimensions, forms and colors, but these are not perceptible to our
senses as they would be if they were properties of physical objects.
However, this realm is in every respect as fully ontologically real and
susceptible to consensual validation by otherpeople as the material
world perceived by our sensory organs.
Archetypes are timeless essences, cosmic ordering principles,
which can also manifest as mythic personifications, or specific deities
of various cultures. The figures of Maya mythology – Hunahpu,
Xbalanque, their father One Hunahpu, Seven Macaw, Quetzalcoatl
(Kukulcan), and others – like those of any other culture are thus
ontologically real and can be directly apprehended by individuals
experiencing holotropic states. As John Major Jenkins pointed out,
Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend contributed to the
understanding of archetypes another important dimension that is
relevant for the problem of the Mayan prophecy. They described in
their book Hamlet’s Mill the deep connection that exists between myth
and astronomical processes (de Santillana and Dechend 1969).
In 1948, after many years of systematically studying mythologies of
various cultures of the world, Joseph Campbell published his groundbreaking
book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which in the following
decades profoundly influenced research and understanding in the field
(Campbell 1968). Analyzing a broad spectrum of myths from various parts
of the world, Campbell realized that they all contained variations of one
universal archetypal formula, which he called the monomyth. This was the
story of the hero, either male or female, who leaves his or her home ground
or is forcefully separated from it by external circumstances and, after
fantastic adventures and ordeals culminating in psychospiritual death and
rebirth, returns to his original society radically transformed – as an
enlightened or deified being, a healer, seer, or great spiritual teacher.
In Campbell’s own words, the basic formula for the hero’s journey
can be summarized as follows: “A hero ventures forth from the world of
common day into a region of supernatural wonder; fabulous forces are
encountered and a decisive victory is won; the hero comes back from this
mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow men.”
Campbell’s inquisitive and incisive intellect went beyond simply recognizing
the universality of this myth over time and space. His curiosity drove him to
ask what makes this myth universal. Why does the theme of the hero’s
journey appeal to cultures of all times and countries, even if they differ in
every other respect?
Campbell’s answer has the simplicity and unrelenting logic of all
brilliant insights: the monomyth of the hero’s journey is a blueprint for the
transformative crisis, which all human beings can experience when the deep
contents of the unconscious psyche emerge into consciousness. The hero’s
journey describes nothing less than the experiential territory that an
individual must traverse during times of profound transformation. The story
of the Mayan Hero Twins is a classical example of Campbell’s Hero’s
Journey. It belongs to a vast array of archetypal motifs that we can
experience in holotropic states.
I hope that the above discussion adequately addressed the first
question that I asked earlier in my presentation: “How could ancient
Mayans two thousand years ago discover anything that would be
relevant for humanity in the twenty-first century?” The theme of Joseph
Campell’s Hero’s Journey brings us to the second question: “If the
Mayan prophecy does not refer to the end of the world and to physical
destruction of humanity, but to profound collective psychospiritual
death and rebirth comparable to what Campbell described on the
individual scale, are there any indications that such inner
transformation is possible or that it actually is already underway.
My approach to this question is based not only on observations
of the experiences of thousands of individuals in holotropic states of
consciousness – psychedelic therapy, holotropic breathwork sessions,
and spontaneous psychospiritual crises (“spiritual emergencies”) – but
also on extensive personal experience of these states. I would like to
begin this discussion with an account of an experiential sequence from one of
my own psychedelic sessions. It provided for me deep insights into the
archetype of the Apocalypse, a motif that occurs relatively rarely in holotropic
states, but is particularly relevant for the topic of our conference.
About fifty minutes into the session, I started
experiencing strong activation in the lower part of my body. My
pelvis was vibrating as enormous amounts of energy were being
released in ecstatic jolts. At one point, this streaming energy
swept me along in an intoxicating frenzy into a whirling cosmic
vortex of creation and destruction.
In the center of this monstrous hurricane of primordial
forces were four giant herculean figures performing what
seemed to be the ultimate cosmic saber dance. They had strong
Mongolian features with protruding cheekbones, oblique eyes,
and clean-shaven heads decorated by large braided ponytails.
Whirling around in a frantic dance craze, they were swinging
large weapons that looked like scythes or L-shaped scimitars; all
four of these combined formed a rapidly rotating swastika.
I intuitively understood that this monumental archetypal
scene was related to the beginning of the process of creation and
simultaneously to the final stage of the spiritual journey. In the
cosmogenetic process (in the movement from the primordial
unity to the worlds of plurality) the blades of the scimitars
represented the force that is splitting and fragmenting the unified
field of cosmic consciousness and creative energy into countless
individual units. In relation to spiritual journey, they represented
the stage when the seeker’s consciousness transcends separation
and polarity and reaches the state of original undifferentiated
unity. The direction of this process seemed to be related to the
clockwise and counterclockwise rotation of the blades. Projected
into the material world, this archetypal motif seemed to be
related to growth and development (the fertilized egg or seed
becoming an organism) or destruction of forms (wars, natural
catastrophes, decay).
Then the experience opened up into an unimaginable
panorama of scenes of destruction. In these visions, natural
disasters, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, crashing
meteors, forest fires, floods and tidal waves, were combined with
images of burning cities, entire blocks of collapsing high-rise
buildings, mass death, and horror of wars. Heading this wave of
total annihilation were four archetypal images of macabre riders
symbolizing the end of the world. I realized that these were the
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. (pestilence, war, famine, and
death). The continuing vibrations and jolts of my pelvis now
became synchronized with the movements of this ominous
horseback riding and I became I joined the dance, becoming one
of them, or possibly all four of them at once, leaving my own
identity behind.
Suddenly, there was a rapid change of scenery and I had
a vision of the cave from Plato’s Republic. In this work, Plato
describes a group of people who live chained all of their
lives in a cave, facing a blank wall. They watch shadows
projected on the wall by things passing in front of the cave
entrance. According to Plato, the shadows are as close as
the prisoners get to seeing reality. The enlightened
philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from this illusion
and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are
illusory, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather
than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners. This was
followed by profound and convincing realization that the
material world of our everyday life is not made of «stuff»
but created by cosmic consciousness by infinitely complex
and sophisticated orchestration of experiences. It is a divine
play that the Hindus call lila, created by cosmic illusion
The final major scene of the session was a magnificent
ornate theater stage featuring a parade of personified universal
principles, archetypes – cosmic actors, who through a complex
interplay create the illusion of the phenomenal world. They were
protean personages with many facets, levels, and dimensions of
meaning that kept changing their forms in extremely intricate
holographic interpenetration as I was observing them. Each of
them seemed to represent simultaneously the essence of his or
her function and all the concrete manifestations of this element in
the world of matter. There was Maya, the mysterious ethereal
principle symbolizing the world illusion; Anima, embodying the
eternal Female; a Mars-like personification of war and
aggression; the Lovers, representing all the sexual dramas and
romances throughout ages; the royal figure of the Ruler; the
withdrawn Hermit; the elusive Trickster; and many others. As
they were passing across the stage, they bowed in my direction,
as if expecting appreciation for the stellar performance in the
divine play of the universe.
This experience brought me a deep understanding of the
meaning of the archetypal motif of the Apocalypse. It suddenly seemed
profoundly wrong to see it as related exclusively to physical destruction
of the world. It is certainly possible that the Apocalypse will in the future
be actually manifested on a planetary scale as a historical event, which is
a potential of all archetypes. There are many examples of situations in
which archetypal motifs and energies broke through the boundary that
usually separates the archetypal realm from the material world and shaped
history. The giant asteroid that 65 million years ago killed the
dinosaurs, wars of all ages, the crucifixion of Jesus, the medieval
Witches’ Sabbath and Dance of Death, the Nazi concentration camps, and
Hiroshima are just a few salient examples. But the primary importance of
the archetype of the Apocalypse is that it functions as an important
landmark on the spiritual journey. It emerges into the consciousness of the
seeker at a time when he or she recognizes the illusory nature of the
material world. As the universe reveals its true essence as virtual reality,
as a cosmic play of consciousness, the world of matter is destroyed in the
psyche of the individual. This might also be the meaning of the “end of
the world” referred to in the Mayan prophecy.
The observations from modern consciousness research that are
most relevant for a positive interpretation of the Mayan prophecy are
related to a phenomenon that is much more common in holotropic states
than the experience of the Apocalypse; it is the experience of
psychospiritual death and rebirth. This experience has played a crucial
role in the ritual and spiritual history of humanity – in shamanism, rites of
passage, the ancient death/rebirth mysteries, and in the great religions of
the world (see the Christian concept of being “born again” and the Hindu
“dvija”). The process of death and rebirth is a multivalent archetype that
manifests on many different levels and in various areas and ways, but in
self-exploration and therapy it is closely related to the reliving and
conscious integration of the memory of biological birth.
Psychospiritual death and rebirth is one of the most
prominent themes in therapeutic work using holotropic states.
When the age regression in the process of deep experiential selfexploration
moves beyond the level of memories from childhood
and infancy and reaches the level of the unconscious that contains
the memory of birth, we start encountering emotions and physical
sensations of extreme intensity, often surpassing anything we
previously considered humanly possible. At this point, the
experiences become a strange mixture of the themes of birth and
death. They involve a sense of a severe, life-threatening
confinement and a desperate and determined struggle to free
ourselves and survive.
Because of the close connection between this domain of the
unconscious and biological birth, I have chosen for it the name
perinatal. It is a Greek-Latin composite word where the prefix peri-
, means “near” or “around,” and the root natalis signifies
“pertaining to childbirth.” This word is commonly used in medicine
to describe various biological processes occurring shortly before,
during, and immediately after birth. The obstetricians talk, for
example, about perinatal hemorrhage, infection, or brain damage.
However, since traditional medicine denies that the child can
consciously experience birth and claims that this event is not
recorded in memory, one never hears about perinatal experiences.
The use of the term perinatal in connection with consciousness
reflects my own findings and is entirely new (Grof 1975).
The perinatal region of the unconscious contains the
memories of what the fetus experienced in the consecutive stages of
the birth process, including all the emotions and physical sensations
involved. These memories form four distinct experiential clusters,
each of which is related to one of the stages of the birth process. I
have coined for them the term Basic Perinatal Matrices (BPM IIV).
BPM I consists of memories of the advanced prenatal state just
before the onset of the delivery. BPM II is related to the onset of the
delivery when the uterus contracts, but the cervix is not yet open.
BPM III reflects the struggle to be born after the uterine cervix
dilates. And finally, BPM IV holds the memory of the emerging
into the world, the birth itself.
The content of these matrices is not limited to fetal
memories; each of them also provides selective opening into a vast
domain in the unconscious psyche that we now call transpersonal.
This involves experiential identification with other people and other
life forms, ancestral, racial, collective, phylogenetic and karmic
memories, and material from the historical and archetypal collective
unconscious, which contains motifs of similar experiential quality.
Emergence of this material into consciousness constitutes the
process of psychospiritual death and rebirth and results in deep
inner transformation.
Some of the insights of people experiencing holotropic states
of consciousness are directly related to the current global crisis and
its relationship with consciousness evolution. They show that we
have exteriorized in the modern world many of the essential themes
of the death rebirth process that a person involved in deep personal
transformation has to face and come to terms with internally. The
same elements that we would encounter in the process of
psychological death and rebirth in our visionary experiences make
today our evening news. This is particularly true in regard to the
phenomena that characterize what I refer to as the third Basic
Perinatal Matrix (BPM III)(Grof 2000).
As I mentioned earlier, this matrix is related to the stage of
birth when the cervix is open and the fetus experiences the tedious
propulsion through the birth canal. This stage is associated with the
emergence of the shadow side of human personality – murderous
violence and excessive or deviant sexual drives, scatological
elements, and even satanic imagery. It is easy to see manifestations
of these aspects of the death rebirth process in today’s troubled
We certainly see the enormous unleashing of the aggressive
impulse in the many wars and revolutionary upheavals in the world,
in the rising criminality, terrorism, and racial riots. Equally
dramatic and striking is the lifting of sexual repression and freeing
of the sexual impulse in both healthy and problematic ways. Sexual
experiences and behaviors are taking unprecedented forms, as
manifested in the sexual freedomof adolescents, premarital sex,
gay liberation, general promiscuity, common and open marriages,
high divorce rate, overtly sexual books, plays and movies,
sadomasochistic experimentation, and many others.
The demonic element is also becoming increasingly manifest
in the modern world. Renaissance of satanic cults and witchcraft,
popularity of books and horror movies with occult themes, and
crimes with satanic motivations attest to that fact. Terrorism of the
fundamentalist fanatics and groups is also reaching satanic
proportions. The scatological dimension is evident in the
progressive industrial pollution, accumulation of waste products on
a global scale, and rapidly deteriorating hygienic conditions in large
cities. A more abstract form of the same trend is the escalating
corruption and degradation of political, military, economic, and
religious institutions, including the American presidency.
Ancient Mayans showed profound interest in death and in
the process of death and rebirth. They saw it happening on an
astronomical level every day watching the sunset and sunrise and
every year during December solstice when the sun got “reborn” and
its light started returning into the world. The highest octave of this
solar return was then the alignment of the December solstice sun
with the galactic center, which the Mayans saw as hieros gamos –
Sacred Marriage between the Cosmic Mother and the Cosmic
Father. This phenomenal event occurring only every 26.000 years
heralded for them a major rebirth of cosmic proportions, beginning
of a new world cycle (Jenkins 1989).
Much of the Mayan ritual and art was dedicated to the
process of death, from the soul’s entrance into the underworld
called Xibalba to a final rebirth and apotheosis. Mayan mythology
and funereal art described death as a journey whose challenges
were known and its important stages were depicted on coffins, wall
paintings, pottery, jades, and other objects that accompanied the
deceased during the great transition. Mayan funeral vases of the
Classic period were decorated with paintings depicting rebirth of
young lords from a cracked skull or turtle carapace and many
sculptures showed similar figures in the process of being reborn
from water lilies.
Unfortunately, no specific eschatological texts comparable
to the Egyptian or Tibetan Book of the Dead have survived from
the Mayan Classical Period, since much of the Maya literary legacy
has been lost for posterity. Only a few codices, accordion-like bark
paper screenfolds with rich and colorful illustrations, survived the
hot and moist climate of Central America and escaped the ravaging
of the Spanish invaders.” However, in the 1970s, mayologists Lin
Crocker and Michael Coe were able to distinguish a group of
funeral vessels painted in the style of the Maya codices, probably
by the same artists. Cardiosurgeon and archeologist Francis
Robicsek was able to assemble substantial evidence for his theory
that certain sequences of the vases of the ‘ceramic codex,’ placed in
proper sequence, actually represented a Maya Book of the Dead”
(Robicsek 1981).
Observations from the research of holotropic states of
consciousness have thrown new light on human propensity to
unbridled violence and insatiable greed – two forces that have
driven human history since time immemorial and are currently
threatening survival of life on this planet. This research has
revealed that these “poisons,” as they are called in Tibetan
Vajrayana, have much deeper roots than current biological and
psychological theories assume – biology with concepts like the
naked ape, the triune brain, and the selfish gene and psychoanalysis
and related schools with their emphasis on base instincts as the
governing principles of the psyche.
Deep motivating forces underlying these dangerous traits of
human nature have their origin on the perinatal and transpersonal
levels of the psyche, domains that mainstream psychology does not
yet recognize (Grof 2000). The finding that the roots of human
violence and insatiable greed reach far deeper than mainstream
academic science ever suspected and that their reservoirs in the
psyche are truly enormous could in and of itself be very
discouraging. However, it is balanced by the exciting discovery of
new therapeutic mechanisms and transformative potentials that
become available in holotropic states on the perinatal and
transpersonal levels of the psyche.
We have seen over the years profound emotional and
psychosomatic healing, as well as radical personality
transformation, in many people who were involved in serious and
systematic experiential self-exploration and inner quest. Some of
them had supervised psychedelic sessions, others participated in
holotropic breathwork workshops and training or various other
forms of experiential psychotherapy and self-exploration. Similar
changes occur often in individuals who are involved in shamanic
practice or are meditators and have regular spiritual practice. We
have also witnessed profound positive changes in many people who
received adequate support during episodes of spontaneous
psychospiritual crises (“spiritual emergencies”). Thanatologist Ken
Ring referred to this group of transformative experiences as
“Omega experiences” and included in it near-death experiences and
alien abduction experiences (Ring 1984).
As the content of the perinatal level of the unconscious
emerges into consciousness and is integrated, the individuals
involved undergo radical personality changes. They experience
considerable decrease of aggression and become more peaceful,
comfortable with themselves, and tolerant of others. The experience
of psychospiritual death and rebirth and conscious connection with
positive postnatal or prenatal memories reduces irrational drives
and ambitions. It causes a shift of focus from the past and future to
the present moment and enhances zest, élan vital, and joi de vivre –
ability to enjoy and draw satisfaction from simple circumstances of
life, such as everyday activities, food, lovemaking, nature, and
music. Another important result of this process is emergence of
spirituality of a universal and mystical nature that, unlike the
dogmas of mainstream religions, is very authentic and convincing,
because it is based on deep personal experience.
The process of spiritual opening and transformation
typically deepens further as a result of transpersonal experiences,
such as identification with other people, entire human groups,
animals, plants, and even inorganic materials and processes in
nature. Other experiences provide conscious access to events
occurring in other countries, cultures, and historical periods and
even to the mythological realms and archetypal beings of the
collective unconscious. Experiences of cosmic unity and one’s own
divinity result in increasing identification with all of creation and
bring the sense of wonder, love, compassion, and inner peace.
What began as a process of psychological probing of the
unconscious psyche conducted for therapeutic purposes or personal
growth automatically becomes a philosophical quest for the
meaning of life and a journey of spiritual discovery. People, who
connect to the transpersonal domain of their psyche, tend to develop
a new appreciation for existence and reverence for all life. One of
the most striking consequences of various forms of transpersonal
experiences is spontaneous emergence and development of deep
humanitarian and ecological concerns.
Differences among people appear to be interesting and
enriching rather than threatening, whether they are related to
gender, race, color, language, political conviction, or religious
belief. Following this transformation, these individuals develop a
deep sense of being planetary citizens rather than citizens of a
particular country or members of a particular racial, social,
ideological, political, or religious group. and they feel the need to
get involved in service for some common purpose. These changes
resemble those that have occurred in many of the American
astronauts who were able to see the earth from outer space (see
Mickey Lemle’s documentary The Other Side of the Moon).
It becomes obvious that our highest priorities as biological
creatures have to be clean air, water, and soil. No other concerns,
such as economic profit, military pursuits, scientific and
technological progress, or ideological and religious beliefs, should
be allowed to take priority over this vital imperative. We cannot
violate our natural environment and destroy other species without
simultaneously damaging ourselves. This awareness is based on an
almost cellular knowledge that the boundaries in the universe are
arbitrary and that each of us is ultimately identical with the entire
web of existence.
In view of the fact that everything in nature runs in cycles
and is based on the principles of optimum values, homeostasis, and
sustainability, the technological civilization’s frantic pursuit of
unlimited economic growth, exploitation of non-renewable
resources, and exponential increase of industrial pollution hostile to
life appears to be dangerous insanity. In the world of biology excess
of calcium, vitamins, or even water is not better than lack of these
substances and unlimited growth is the main characteristic of
It is clear that a transformation associated with the
experience of psychospiritual death and rebirth would increase our
chances for survival if it could occur on a sufficiently large scale.
The great German writer and philosopher Johann Wolfgang Goethe
was aware of the importance of the experience of psychospiritual
death and rebirth for the quality of our life and sense of belonging
when he wrote in his poem Selige Sehnsucht: “Und so lang du das
nicht hast, dieses: ‘Stirb und werde!’ Bist du nur ein trüber Gast auf
der dunklen Erde.” (“And as long as you do not experience this:
‘Die and become!’ you will be only a shadow guest on the dark
Holotropic states of consciousness experienced in a
supportive environment and under responsible guidance offer thus
an opportunity for profound psychospiritual transformation of two
different kinds or degrees. An individual who experiences death
and rebirth – usually in the context of reliving and integrating the
trauma of biological birth – discovers his or her own divinity,
sacredness of all creation and oneness with other people, nature,
and the cosmos. Deeper exploration of the transpersonal realms and
particularly the experience of the archetype of the Apocalypse then
radically changes the perception of the world we live in. We begin
to understand that what we experience as material reality might be
what the Hindu teachings refer to as lila – divine play created by
cosmic consciousness. Both of these two forms of spiritual
transformation have profound positive effects on the individual’s
hierarchy of values and life strategy described above.
Various methods of inducing holotropic states –
“technologies of the sacred” – have been an integral part of ancient
and native cultures for millennia (Grof 2000). Modern humanity
has been rediscovering the healing and transformative power of
these states in many different contexts. Meditative practices of the
great Eastern spiritual traditions and various shamanic techniques
are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among the young
generation. Translation and publication of spiritual literature of
many cultures, recording of their sacred music, and availability of
competent teachers have greatly contributed to this process.
The isolation and chemical identification of the active
principles of many psychedelic plants, development of new
synthetic psychedelic compounds, and increasing knowledge about
these substances have been instrumental in inner transformation of
many individuals who have used these powerful tools wisely and
responsibly. The use of psychedelics – the most powerful means for
inducing holotropic states of consciousness – is seriously hindered
by legal restrictions, bad and misleading publicity, and difficulties
in obtaining pure materials. However, there exist very effective
forms of experiential psychotherapy, such as various neo-Reichian
approaches, primal therapy, rebirthing, and holotropic breathwork,
which can induce these states without the use of chemical agents.
Their increasing popularity thus represents a very promising trend.
Advances of modern medicine have made it possible to
save the lives of individuals involved in life-threatening accidents
and diseases and have increased the incidence of near-death
experiences (NDEs) The development of thanatology, a discipline
studying death and dying, has amassed and spread information
about these states and made it possible for survivors to use them for
positive inner transformation (Ring 1982, Ring and Valarino
1998).. As the economic, ecological, and political global crisis
escalates, it instills fear and diminishes hope for fulfilling and
satisfying life in the minds of hundreds of millions of people all
over the world. The resulting emotional turmoil seems to engender
spontaneous psychospiritual crises (“spiritual emergencies”)(Grof
and Grof 1989, Grof and Grof 1990). Once mainstream
psychiatrists recognize that these states have an extraordinary
healing and transformative potential – if they are properly
understood – and provide support and guidance for this process
rather than suppress it by tranquilizers, it could greatly contribute to
inner transformation of many people.
As Gregg Braden pointed out, the potential significance of
2012 can be supported by scientific observations (Braden 2007).
Astrophysicists have shown that we are at the beginning of a new
cycle of magnetic storms (sunspots) that will peak in 2012 with an
intensity 30-50% greater than previous cycles. Although the solar
magnetic storms are cyclical, they have never occurred during the
last 26.000 years at the time of galactic alignment and with the
population and the technology we have today; it is therefore
uncertain what effects this phenomenon will have on our future.
Scientists also agree that the magnetic field of the earth has
been rapidly weakening and there are indications that we are in the
early stage of reversal of the magnetic poles, which could occur in
2012. Historical analysis shows that periods and areas of weak
magnetic fields are conducive to greater acceptance of new ideas
and change. Magnetic reversals are rare in the history of
civilizations, but common in the history of the earth; at least 14 of
them happened in the last 4.5 million years (one of them coinciding
with the sudden extinction of the mammoths). However, none of
them happened at a time when the planet had over 6 billion
inhabitants with significant number of them depending on modern
communication technology – television, radio, computers, and
We can now return to the subject of our conference and of
this paper – the Mayan prophecy concerning 2012. Whether or not
this was predicted by ancient Mayan seers, we are clearly involved
in a dramatic race for time that has no precedent in the entire
history of humanity. What is at stake is nothing less than the future
of humanity and of life on this planet. Many of the people with
whom we have worked saw humanity at a critical crossroad facing
either collective annihilation or an evolutionary jump in
consciousness of unprecedented nature and dimension. Terence
McKenna put it very succinctly: “The history of the silly monkey is
over, one way or another” (McKenna 1992). We either undergo a
radical transformation of our species or we might not survive.
The final outcome of the crisis we are facing is ambiguous
and uncertain; it lends itself to pessimistic or optimistic
interpretation and each of them can be supported by existing data. If
we continue the old strategies, which in their consequences are
clearly extremely destructive and self-destructive, it is unlikely that
modern civilization will survive. However, if a sufficient number of
people undergoes a process of deep inner transformation described
above, we might reach a stage and level of consciousness evolution
at which we will deserve the proud name we have given to our
species: homo sapiens sapiens and live in a new world that will
have little resemblance to the old one.


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