Around the corner from the Santa Fe Plaza, in the Museum of New Mexico library, Mardyks taps at a keyboard and vents about his online nemeses.
“They call me a troll. They call me the fringe of the fringe,” he says. Wikipedia editors have banned him five times for various violations. “They all have anonymous little names. I don’t know if they’re from the CIA. There’s no way to tell.”
Why would a galactic astrologer spend so much time arguing with CIA agents or, more likely, nerds?
“Because there’s a movie coming out, and you know what it says? It says, ‘Google 2012,” Mardyks says. “So you Google 2012; look what comes up right here.” He clicks the mouse. It’s Wikipedia, of course.
Mardyks asks a librarian to unlock a glass case. He removes and opens a large hardback reproduction of the Dresden Codex, one of the few Mayan documents the Spanish failed to destroy. Forget the BS online: The Dresden Codex is a real, living mystery. For the late Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, who worked on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, decoding it was a hobby.
“It’s as sophisticated as super-string theory, but the math is easier,” Mardyks says. He believes the ancients were galactic astrologers, just like him. He tries to explain its dots, bars and glyphs. Here is a table showing future solar eclipses. Here is a human sacrifice. (“Vietnam, wasn’t that human sacrifice?” Mardyks says.) And here is the image that scares the hell out of so many end-timesers: a snake spitting water on some birds.
“This page can denote nothing but the end of the world,” Ernst Förstemann wrote in his 1906 commentary on the Dresden Codex. Mardyks traces today’s doomsday hype to that single sentence. “The big heads are blaming this on the New Agers,” Mardyks says. “I’m like, ‘Look, no—it’s one of your own.’”
Most serious researchers, amateur or otherwise, agree: There is no ancient Mayan doomsday prophecy. Indeed, if the 2012 apocalypse sounds suspiciously Christian, that’s because they, not the Maya, probably invented it.
Before he reached the American mainland, Christopher Columbus wrote a book “in which he saw himself as initiating the end of times” by empowering the Spanish monarchs to reconquest Jerusalem, Hoopes says. Other colonists likely shared such extreme theology. “Among the first things the Franciscan missionaries talked about with the native population were the Great Flood in the Book of Genesis and the meaning of the Book of Revelation,” Hoopes says.
Even interpretations of ancient prophecy by living Maya are suspect. In The 2012 Story, Jenkins says his works inspired some of Carlos Barrios’ galactic alignment theories, “framing my work in the marketplace that prefers to deliver it through the mouth of an elder.”
Barrios did not return SFR’s email. His sister Lina came to Santa Fe under the auspices of Saq’ Be’, a tiny nonprofit run by a friend of the family; its founder, Adam Rubel, met Carlos in 1997 at a talk in upstate New York.
The Barrioses may be of Spanish descent, Rubel says, but they understand Mayan traditions. “Things can get a little bit complicated and convoluted in terms of figuring out what defines authentic,” Rubel says. “These communities had reached a point where they were willing to accept others that weren’t of a Mayan bloodline.”
Barrios recruited Rubel to spread the word to other young Yankees. Rubel says Barrios is aware of concessions that must be made for the mass market, such as the celebrity astrology in The Book of Destiny, which retails at Borders for $23.98, shelved above Oprah fave The Secret.
As Lina Barrios abhors plastic, Carlos disdains scientific thought. “Caught up in worshiping reason and ignoring abstraction, the West is adrift,” he writes.
In attacking reason itself, Barrios may have misdiagnosed the world’s troubles. Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue that the West is on a steady course toward greater human fulfillment.
“It’s dissatisfaction with existing mainstream religions that draws people to these beliefs systems,” Hoopes says. With America’s post-war secular religion—progress—failing to deliver, 2012ism represents a kind of backlash, a mellower, Santa Fe-style version of the anti-government “Tea Parties.”
A recent Central Intelligence Agency report pegs not 2012, but 2025 as the date the world—or at least US global dominance—finally ends. Earlier this month, salon.com columnist Michael Klare noted that many of the CIA’s warnings—prophecies, if you will—have already come to pass. This is shown by the dollar’s uncertain future as a global medium of exchange and the International Olympic Committee’s snub of Chicago, what Klare calls “a symbolic moment on a planet entering a new age.”
In short, we are fixated on the end of the world as we know it because that end is now.
Maybe it’s accidental that today’s anxieties have found a focus in the Mayan calendar. Still, it is fitting. Some realities are too heavy to bear and, as Americans see their own empire collapsing, they may find it easier to pick over the ruins of another. Mayan hieroglyphs are easier to comprehend than Middle East politics or health care reform.
This backlash could have lasting consequences. Some scientists fear not a coming apocalypse, but a new era ruled by superstition, such as that which followed the fall of Rome.
“The Dark Ages were a terrible time to be alive. Could that happen again? Absolutely. We have forces at work right now that seem to be promoting that, though they may not realize it,” Jeff Wagg, executive director of the James Randi Educational Foundation, says. The foundation seeks to debunk “paranormal and pseudoscientific claims,” like those made by “Intelligent Design” advocates, the anti-vaccination movement and, of course, 2012ers.
As the moon rises on the day of destiny, better known as the day before Halloween, men and women gather in a circle around a fire pit at a condo complex in Santa Fe. Lina Barrios apologizes to everyone: She had to make some substitutions. Instead of tobacco, she has chocolate chips and candy corn.
“Culture changes through time,” she says.
Authentic or not, this Mayan fire ceremony smells delicious. And, at $10 for a high-spirited three-hour prayer session culminating in hugs for everyone, it’s a better deal than the 158-minute film starring John Cusack.
Most of the participants are Mayan-fire-ceremony virgins. There’s a laugh when Barrios tells the group to turn to the north and everyone turns south.
Led by Barrios, the group gives thanks for pretty much everything. For water, food, children, money, sex, food, sex (the Maya have their priorities straight). For the laws that give order. For staying out of jail. For sanity. For not getting locked into a mortgage. For staying out of credit card debt.
Barrios is a missionary for cultural tolerance. “Tell everyone this is not witchcraft,” she says.
OK. It’s not witchcraft. But it sure ain’t rocket science. SFR