My husband and I recently had the good fortune to travel to Mayan sites in Guatemala and Copan, Honduras. To prepare for our trip, we attended the Maya 2012 Lords of Time exhibit at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The exhibition explored the current fascination with predictions of a world-transforming apocalypse (that some say will occur on December 21, 2012) with their origins in the ancient Mayan civilization. The exhibition and Penn Museum researchers made it clear that the Maya did not believe the world will end in December; nor did the present-day Maya asked in taped interviews. Nor did our Mayan guide, Serge, on our trip to Guatemala and Honduras. However, it felt like the world was ending as we left during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and narrowly escaped an earthquake in Guatemala (7.5 on the Richter scale), we heard repeatedly that December 21st would not be the end of the world. Rather, it will be the end of the 13-baktun cycle, which in Mayan Philosophy equals one World Age. Fortunately, a friend loaned me the book The Mystery of 2012: Predictions, Prophecies & Possibilities with articles that discuss the wisdom of the Mayan calendar, changes in the earth’s magnetic field, the accelerating pace of evolution, and the shift of consciousness the Mayans believe will be necessary for humanity to survive in the years ahead. Many of the contributors, including Jean Houston and Barbara Marx Hubbard (a speaker I heard at a Saybrook graduation), are well known to the Saybrook community. Houston, in an entitled article “Jump Time is Now,” talks about the radical transformation and accelerated change she sees in the coming years. It is a time when “maps no longer fit the territories,” “the only expected is the unexpected,” “everything that was, isn’t anymore,” and “everything that isn’t, is coming to be” (p. 344). This certainly sounds like “existential crisis” territory to me! In her article “A Vision for Humanity,” Barbara Marx Hubbard, a futurist, finds it amazing that from the famous Mayan prophecy has come the indication that we are facing the end of the world as we have known it and the beginning of a new world. She suggests we assume there is some validity to the prophecies surrounding 2012 as this date corresponds to environmental and social predictions of breakdowns and breakthroughs now widely known. Hubbard notes that “crises precede transformation” and “problems are evolutionary drivers” (p. 356). For the future, she sees “the outlines of a vastly enhanced humanity, applying the growing edge of human consciousness, capacities, and evolutionary technologies to life-affirming goals, resulting in a quantum transformation of the human species itself” (p. 357). I want Hubbard’s vision of the future to happen. Yet, as an individual I wonder, “How will I contribute to this vision?” I know I am not being a responsible existentialist when I almost whine, “What should I do?” “What guidelines should I follow?” “Isn’t there someone who can provide Ten Commandments for a New Existentialist?” Then I read Ervin Laszlo’s article, “The Birthing of a New World,” an excerpt from his book The Chaos Point. Laszlo outlines four phases of chaos dynamics in society where The Chaos Point is the final stage. At this stage, the system is critically unstable. This is our stage now, in 2012, with two possible alternatives: “Breakdown Path: Devolution to Disaster or Breakthrough Path: Evolution to a New Civilization” (p. 122). Of course, I hope the “breakdown” alternative does not occur where conflict and violence assume global proportions leading to anarchy. I much prefer the “evolution” alternative where a more evolved consciousness will mobilize people’s will and catalyze a fresh surge of creativity. Laszlo presents 10 ways to tell if one has an “evolved consciousness”—the consciousness he says we will need to avert disaster and create a new era. He certainly does not present them as “commandments,” but I think they are consistent with principles of existentialism. Briefly they are as follows:
- Live in ways that enable all other people to live as well, satisfying your needs without detracting from the chances of other people to satisfy theirs.
- Live in ways that respect the right to life and to economic and cultural development of all people.
- Live in ways that safeguard the intrinsic right to life and to an environment supportive of life for all the things that live and grown on Earth.
- Pursue happiness, freedom, and personal fulfillment in harmony with the integrity of nature and with consideration for the similar pursuits of others in society.
- Require that your government relate to other nations and peoples peacefully and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing the legitimate aspirations for a better life and a healthy environment of all the people in the human family.
- Require business enterprises to accept responsibility for all their stakeholders as well as for the sustainability of their environment.
- Require public media to provide a constant stream of reliable information on basic trends and crucial processes to enable you and other citizens and consumers to reach informed decisions on issues that affect your and their life and well-being.
- Make room in your life to help those less privileged than you to live a life of dignity, free from the struggles and humiliations of abject poverty.
- Encourage young people and open-minded people of all ages to evolve the spirit that could empower them to make ethical decisions of their own on issues that decide their future and the future of their children.
- Work with like-minded people to preserve or restore the essential balances of the environment, with attention to your neighborhood, your country or region, and the whole of the biosphere. (pp. 122-124)
Laszlo quotes an address Vaclav Havel, then the president of Czechoslovakia, gave to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in February 1991. “Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better … and the catastrophe toward which this world is headed—the ecological, social, demographic, or general breakdown of civilization—will be unavoidable” (p. 124). My hope is human consciousness will catalyze “a new surge of creativity” to usher in a New Era. References Houston, J. (2007). Jump Time is now. In Various Authors, The mystery of 2012: Predictions, prophecies & possibilities (pp. 343-353) . Boulder, CO: Sounds True. Hubbard, B. M. (2007). A vision for humanity. In Various Authors, The mystery of 2012: Predictions, prophecies & possibilities (pp. 355-362) . Boulder, CO: Sounds True. Laszlo, E. (2006). Chaos point 2012 and beyond: Appointment with destiny. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads. Laszlo, E. (2012). The birthing of a new world. In Various Authors, The mystery of 2012: Predictions, prophecies & possibilities (pp. 111-124) . Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
— Christina Robertson