The end of the world as we know it - Page 3

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Debra Giusti, who is co-producing Synthesis, started the Bay Area's popular Harmony Festival in 1978, and co-wrote the book Transforming Through 2012. "Obviously, the planet has been getting out of balance and there is a need to go back to basics," Giusti told me.

They are reaching out to people around the world who are doing similar gatherings on Dec. 21, urging them to register with their World Unity 2012 website and livestream their events for all to see. "We are launching this whole global social network to help develop solutions," DiMartino said. (You can also follow my posts from Chichen Itza on the sfbg.com Politics blog).

Two of the keynote speakers at Synthesis 2012 are a little skeptical of the significance of the Mayan calendar and the galactic alignment, yet they are people with spiritual practices who have been working toward the shift in global consciousness they say we need.

"It's more of a marker along the way," Joe Marshalla, an author, psychologist, and researcher, told me. "We've been in this transition for almost 30 years."

Marshalla said his speech at the festival will be about using certain memes to focus people's energy on creating change, starting with letting go of the thoughts and structures that divide us from each other and the planet and replacing them with a new sense of connection.

"Everyone is waking up to the deeply held knowledge of the one-ness of all the planet, that we are in this together," Marshalla said. "I think the world is waking up to the fact there are 7 billion of us and there are a couple hundred thousand that are running everything."

Caroline Casey, host of KPFA's "Visionary Activist Show" and a keynote speaker at the Synthesis Festival, takes a skeptical view of the Mayan prophecies and how New Age thinkers have latched onto them. "Everything should be satirized and there will be plenty of opportunities for that down there," she said, embracing the trickster spirit as a tool for transformation.

But the goal of creating a new world is one she shares. "Yes, let's have empire collapse and a big part of that is domination and ending the subjugation of nature," she said. Rob Brezsny, the San Rafael resident whose down-to-earth Free Will Astrology column has been printed in alt-weeklies throughout the country for decades, agrees that this is an important moment in human evolution, but he doesn't think it has much to do with the Mayans.

"My perspective on the Mayan stuff tends to be skeptical. It might do more harm than good," Brezsny told me. "It goes against everything I know, that it's slow and gradual and it takes a lot of willpower to do this work."

READING THE STARS

The ancient Maya based their calendar and much of their science and spirituality on observations of the night sky. Over generations, they watched the constellations slowly but steadily drifting across the horizon, learning about a process we now know as precession, the slight wobble of the Earth as it spins on its axis.

Linea Van Horn, president of the San Francisco Astrological Society, said there is something simple and powerful about observing natural cycles to tap into our history and spirituality. "All myth is based in the sky, and one of the most powerful markers of myth is precession," she said.

DiMartino said it wasn't just the Maya, but ancient cultures around the world that saw a long era ending around now. "They each talk about the ending and beginning of new cycles," he said. "Prophecies are only road signs to warn humanity about the impacts of certain behaviors."

Casey's a bit more down-to-Earth. "This has nothing to do with the galactic center," Casey said, decrying the "faux-hucksterism" of such magical thinking, as opposed to the real work of building our relationships and circulating important ideas in order to raise our collective consciousness.