Like Scientology “stress tests” or rock concerts for Jesus, the 2012 craze serves as bait for deeper ideas.
At The Ark, 2012 turns out to be the hook for a lecture on politics and philosophy. Barrios proselytizes for more than an hour, in Spanish, pausing for interpretation. She tells the crowd how Evangelicals from the north have picked up where Catholic missionaries from overseas left off, how the plunder of minerals, now carried out by corporations, continues in Guatemala. She encourages support for reforestation efforts and praises the historic presidential candidacy of an indigenous Mayan woman. She decries the evils of plastic, coffee and technological over-dependence, which seems to strike a chord with the audience.
“I know people that have three cell phones, and I imagine that their world is going to end,” Barrios says.
A serious woman pipes up from her seat to suggest all the doomsdayers are small-minded tech addicts, deaf to Mother Earth’s cries and anxious about the fragility of their lifestyles.
“Ah, bueno,” Barrios says. She pauses, and amends her earlier statement: “If your world depends on electricity,” she says, “it might end.”
Barrios asks each audience member where he or she hopes to be on Dec. 21, 2012. Swimming with dolphins, a woman says. Eating well, SFR replies.
“Hawaii,” a scruffy, long-haired man of 53 says.
His first spiritual experience happened there around the time of “harmonic convergence” in 1987. Long story short, a volcano god spat hot lava at his feet. It was “fucking terrifying.”
This is Raymond Mardyks, “galactic astrologer” and co-author of 1999’s Maya Calendar: Voice of the Galaxy. He claims partial responsibility for the 2012 madness. “Someone else created the monster. I was coming out with more the real deal,” Mardyks tells SFR. “One of the little Frankensteins grabbed my stuff.”
Mardyks says he moved to Santa Fe a few years ago after living “out of the Matrix” in Hawaii, where he built intricate geometric mobiles based on the Mayan calendar. A confluence of factors brought him here.
“I just felt like destiny was moving me back into the world, back to the mainland, and I’m still kind of winging it,” Mardyks says. There was also a nasty divorce, accompanied by domestic abuse charges from his ex-wife, the mother of his five children. Years before their breakup, they lived in Sedona, Ariz. and took dictation from extraterrestrials. In that sense, his books had many co-authors.
If a religion can be defined by metaphysical belief combined with ritual practice and arbitrary taboo, Mardyks would be the L Ron Hubbard of 2012ism. He shuns coffee but praises magic mushrooms. He believes stars and planets are like cells in the body of the universe. He holds interesting opinions about gender-specific energy and the weird eyeball pyramid on the $1 bill. Like any good priest, Mardyks has spent years researching sacred texts. He says the Mayan calendars contain his life’s work.
Mardyks claims to have surpassed ancient Mayan understanding of the cosmos. But then, it’s smart not to take him too literally: To Mardyks, astrology is metaphor, and the Mayan calendar, with its focus on Venus, is an advanced form of the “science of love.”
He spends a lot of time online and has long corresponded with John Hoopes, a Harvard- and Yale-trained anthropologist who specializes in Central America and teaches at the University of Kansas. Hoopes, who has researched the origins of the 2012 meme, calls it a “fruitful” exchange. (They had a falling-out after Hoopes jokingly sent Mardyks an ad for Crystal Head Vodka.) “He knows a great deal more about this calendar stuff than many people out there who are presenting themselves as experts,” Hoopes says. “He’s not an academic. He’s not a scientist. He’s not an expert on the ancient Maya. He’s a professional astrologer…[which] is like saying, ‘this is a very qualified fortune-teller.’”
Nevertheless, Mardyks has more expertise than the typical 2012 blogger, in an area few can claim to truly understand.