Congratulations to all our readers! If you are reading this article, then you have survived the end of the world which was predicted to occur on December 21st 2012 – or at least that's what some doomsayers would have had us believe. Apparently the world was supposed to be scheduled for annihilation last month. But it was not to be – somebody up there decided to give us another chance…
Certain fundamentalists proclaimed 2012 to be the year of reckoning and some were already preparing for The Rapture – when God teleports all good Christians to heaven and leaves the rest of us infidels to contend with hellfire and brimstone.
Some predicted that the earth would be struck by an asteroid, collide with a black hole, be hit by giant solar flares – or all of the above. The more eccentric prophets forecasted that we would collide with a (yet to be discovered) planet called Nibiru.
All these apocalyptic predictions were centred on a stone calendar that was discovered in the 1960s at Tortuguero in the state of Tabasco in Mexico. This tablet (known as the Long Count Calendar) was carved by the Mayans, whose civilization flourished between 300CE to 900CE. According to the Mayans, this calendar marks the end of a 5,126 year cycle which ushers in the return of Bolon Yokte' Ku, the Mayan god of destruction and creation. The long calendar begins in 3,114BCE and is basically divided into periods of 394 years called B’ak’tuns. In the west, the number 13 is thought by some to be unlucky, but the Mayans considered 13 to be sacred and the 13th B’ak’tun ends on 21st December 2012.
So what happened?
Experts in Mesoamerican history explain that time, according to the Mayans, was cyclic and not linear. In other words, the so-called 'end day' in December simply refers to a transition from one time period to another.
Mayan scholar Sven Gronemeyer of La Trobe University, Australia, says that people have ignored evidence showing that dates beyond 2012 can also be found in Mayan records. For example, on the west panel at the HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_of_Inscriptions" Temple of Inscriptions in Palenque, there are texts referring to 21st October 4772CE. Another inscription found at the ancient city of Coba gives a date that translates as 41 octillion years into the future – a date that is 3 HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quintillion" quintillion times the HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_the_universe" age of the universe as determined by modern cosmologists.
Erik Velasquez, an etchings specialist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico says, "We have to be clear about this. There is no prophecy for 2012…it’s a marketing fallacy."
The National Institute of Anthropological History in Mexico also stated that, "The West's messianic thinking has distorted the world view of ancient civilizations like the Mayans."
However, such doomsday scenarios are nothing new. Humans have been predicting the end of the world almost since the world began. Below, we present a brief history of how many peole through the ages have prophesized the End of Times, only to be frequently disappointed:
* Probably the earliest record of an End of Times prediction is from round 2800 BCE. An Assyrian tablet was found which said, “Our earth is becoming degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end. Bribery and corruption are common."
* In 634 BCE, a rumour spread in Rome that the world was about to end. Apparently there was a myth that 12 eagles revealed to Romulus (the founder of Rome) a secret number that represented the duration of the world. Some Romans speculated that each eagle represented 10 years and since the Roman calendar began from the founding of Rome (753 BCE), they expected to be destroyed in 634. It didn't happen.
The same rumour did the rounds again in 389 BCE. This time the Romans figured that the numbers that the magic eagles had revealed to Romulus represented the number of days in a year. Thus, they expected the end of the world in 389 BCE. It still didn't happen! In fact, Rome didn't get destroyed until 64 CE when the Great Fire of Rome almost burned the entire city to the ground.
* A Jewish religious sect known as the Essenes that flourished from the 2nd Century BCE till the 1st Century CE believed that there was to be a final battle before the end of the world. And indeed, the world did end – but only for the Essenes. They rebelled against the Romans and were wiped off the face of the earth in 70 CE.
* When Christianity appeared on the world stage it brought with it a plethora of apocalyptic predictions. Almost every couple of years there was a prediction that Christ was returning and the end of the world was near. Some 1st Century Christians believed that Christ would return within one generation of his death. The belief that Jesus is ‘just now coming’ has been a prediction that has been repeated up to modern times.
* When the Roman Empire observed its thousandth anniversary in 247 CE, the senate celebrated by increasing its persecution of Christians – so much so that many Christians believed that the End of Days had arrived.
* On April 6th 793 CE a Spanish monk named Beatus of Liebana told a crowd of people that the world would end that very day. Believing him, the people became frightened and fasted throughout the night until the next morning. However, seeing that the world had not ended, one of the fasters said, "Well, we may as well eat and drink now – if we die, at least we won’t be hungry when we go!" Later, Beatus wrote a book in which he claimed that there was only 14 years left before the end of the world.
* The year 1000 CE brought with it a huge amount of apocalyptic predictions. In December 999 CE, everyone was on their best behavior thinking that Christ was coming to judge them the next year. Thousands went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, crops were not planted, criminals were set free and charity was given in abundance. When the year 1000 came and nothing happened, it was business as usual.
* On October 19th 1533, the German mathematician Michael Stifel calculated that Judgment Day would begin just before breakfast at 8:00am. The following year, another German, Jans Matthys, predicted that the entire world would be destroyed on April 5th and only the town of Munster would be spared.
* In 1669 the Old Believers (a Christian sect in Russia) believed that the world would end that year. So convinced were they that 20,000 burned themselves to death to protect themselves from the Antichrist.
* The British mathematician William Whitson predicted a flood of biblical proportions that would wipe out all life on October 13th 1736. Apart from a few light showers, the day remained dry.
* Richard Brothers, a believer and teacher of HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Israelism" Anglo-Israelism, stated that Armageddon would begin between 1793 and 1795. He was eventually committed to an insane asylum.
* 1806 saw the amazing ‘Prophet Hen of Leeds’ – a hen that laid eggs on which the phrase "Christ is coming" was written. Eventually it was discovered to be a hoax.
* In 1814, HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joanna_Southcott" Joanna Southcott, a 64-year-old woman claimed that Christ was returning and that she was pregnant with the Christ child who would be born on Christmas Day. However, it was not to be. She died on the day of her prediction and an autopsy proved she was not pregnant.
* In 1844, a sect of Christians known as the Millerites believed that the world would end on October 22nd. Gathering on hilltops and wearing white ‘ascension robes’ the group became disappointed when nothing happened. The day became known amongst them as ‘The Great Disappointment’. As one believer wrote – "I waited all Tuesday and dear Jesus did not come. I waited all the forenoon of Wednesday, and was well in body as I ever was, but after 12 o'clock I began to feel faint, and before dark I needed someone to help me up to my chamber, as my natural strength was leaving me very fast, and I lay prostrate for 2 days without any pain – sick with disappointment."
* George Rapp, the founder of the HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmony_Society" Harmony Society, preached that Jesus would return in his lifetime, even as he lay on his deathbed on Aug 7, 1847.
* 1874 also saw the first apocalyptic prediction of the Bible Student Movement. The movement tried to predict the end of the world seven more times between 1874 and 1925, but without success.
* Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, predicted that Jesus would descend and the end of the world would happen in 1890 when Smith would reach 85 years old. Unfortunately, by 1890, Smith had already been dead for almost a half century, after being assassinated by a mob.
* Albert Porta, an expert seismographer and meteorologist predicted that a HYPERLINK "http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/BibleStudyAndTheology/perspectives/2012..." \t "_blank" conjunction of six planets on December 17, 1919, would generate a magnetic current that would cause the sun to explode, thereby destroying the whole planet. His failed prediction caused severe damage to his reputation.
* In October 1962, during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the entire town of Madison thought the apocalypse was nigh. So they did what most people would do when faced with imminent global destruction – they threw an enormous party. The next morning, the residents of Madison woke up with enormous hangovers and probably regretted that the world was still there!
* August 20th 1967 would mark the beginning of the Apocalypse, during which the southeastern United States would be destroyed by a Soviet nuclear attack, according to HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Van_Tassel" George Van Tassel, a UFO prophet, who claimed to have channeled an alien named HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashtar_%28extraterrestrial_being%29" Ashtar.
* Elizabeth Clare Prophet predicted a nuclear war would start on April 23rd 1990, with the world ending 12 years later, leading her followers to stockpile a shelter with supplies and weapons. Her prediction did not come to pass and she was promptly diagnosed with HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epilepsy" epilepsy and HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alzheimer%27s_disease" Alzheimer's disease.
* On March 8th 1998, a religious group in Karnataka, South India, claimed that earthquakes would destroy the world and India would break off and sink into the ocean. Then, after the destruction, Lord Vishnu would appear on Earth.
* According to a quatrain by Nostradamus, the “king of the Mongols” was supposed to “rain terror from the skies” in July 1999. Everyone waited with baited breath, but the King of the Mongols didn't show up.
* The year 2000 had so many doomsday predictions that we can’t even list them all. As well as the religious crackpots, Y2K mania swept across the globe to add extra spice to the doomsday scenarios.
* 90-year-old California preacher Harold Camping has made various predictions since the 90’s about the end of the world (all of which were wrong). His most recent was when he stated that May 21st 2011 was the day of reckoning. With such a shoddy record of prophecies, Camping was cautious this time, stating,” 'I really am beginning to think as I've restudied these matters that there's going to be no big display of any kind. The end is going to come very, very quietly.” When his latest prediction failed to manifest, Camping went into hiding only to reappear and predict that October 21st 2011 would be the day or reckoning.
And this is just a fraction of prophecies that have been reported throughout history. To record all of them here would probably take up our whole magazine!
In conclusion, the ancient Mayans did not predict global warming, nuclear wars, polar shifts or the dawn of a new ice age. All the hype about 2012 was simply a case of conditioned living beings projecting their own fears upon the Mayan calendar myth.
So we have no reason to worry – the world will not end any time soon. And by the looks of things, neither will human ignorance and stupidity…