In recent months, I've been exploring the rabbit hole of 2012 prophecy  and possibility, a beguiling mixture of myth, spirituality, and hope that humans will finally awaken to the global ecological and economic catastrophes we're creating and make a fundamental shift in our approach, whether that's sparked by cosmic energies or our own earthly intention.
When the Mayan calendar ends on Dec. 21 – a date that also marks the Winter Solstice and the peak of our alignment with the galactic center (Earth, sun, and the dark center of the Milky Way lining up for the first time in recorded human history) – it will be a day anticipated by millions of people around the world. Thanks to the modern amplification by pop culture and the Internet, it will be an unprecedented and potentially auspicious astrological, energetic, and cultural moment.
“The earth is being flooded with energies from the galactic center,” San Francisco Astrological Society President Linea Van Horn, who has been giving presentations for eight years on the significance of a cosmic alignment that occurs once every 26,000 years, told us. “That was the alignment that the Mayans were marking on their calendars.”
It isn't just the Mayan Long Count calendar that indicates the current age is ending and a new one dawning. Some Aztec, Toltec, Indian, and Egyptian scholars and writer Terence McKenna (who used the I Ching to make the revelation in his book The Invisible Landscape) and various New Age authors have predicted we're entering a new era, one many believe will be marked by enhanced human consciousness.
But one needn't believe any of this to understand the pressing need for humans to wake the fuck up and start working together on issues ranging from global warming and the alarming decrease in the planet's biodiversity to the many shortcomings of global capitalism and the escalating social unrest it's creating. So why not use this grand mystical moment to spark that discussion, as many progressive activists and conscious community advocates have suggested.
“It allows us to have a stage for the question, a frame for the question. We have to ask very basic questions about our survival,” said Rev. Billy Talen, an artist/activist whose latest book, The End of the World, delves into the earth's ecosystems reaching their tipping points. “We have the uncanny, mythic, prophetic calendar ending and beginning. And then we have scientists saying the same thing, so where does that leave you?”
There will be many epicenters and gathering points on Dec. 21, both real and virtual. Personally, I'm headed down into the heart of the Mayan empire to Chichen Itza, Mexico, where I'll be attending the Synthesis Festival  and doing daily dispatches through this website. Daniel Pinchbeck, author 2012: The Return of Quetzacoatl, will be in Egypt at The Great Convergence  “celebrating the dawning of a new era.”
“Basically, we are going to have to have a rapid shift in global consciousness,” Pinchbeck told me, arguing that shift has already begun, as seen in movements from Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. “It is happening in terms of horizontal, peer-to-peer, cooperative movements with no top down hierarchy...We can make a much more rapid transition than most people realize.”
Both festivals, and many others around the world, will be heavily attended by people from the Bay Area, where many of the concepts behind transformational possibilities and alternative organizing models have incubated and evolved for decades. The organizers of Synthesis have also set up a World Unity 2012 online hub  where people can participate with livestreams from where they are and join in conversation about what's next.
“It's probably one of the most pointed to and significant times ever,” said Synthesis Executive Producer Michael DiMartino, who has been leading tours of Mayan sites for almost 20 years, establishing a close working relationship with the Mayan community in Piste Pueblo adjacent to the pyramids at Chichen Itza that he's tapping for this event. “We're at a crossroads in human history – and the crossroads are self-preservation or self-destruction...We create the future. As we make our decisions, we create the future now.”
While DiMartino and other festival organizers believe in the spiritual and energetic possibilities of this moment, they emphasize that it is an opportunity to bring together people with a variety of worldviews and belief systems and have a conversation about how the global community of people can work together on solutions.
“Obviously, the planet has been getting out of balance and there is a need to go back to basics,” said Debra Giusti, founder of the Harmony Festival and author of Transforming Through 2012. “We need to get back to the values of the indigenous people, but in the modern context making use of our technology.”
As I've interviewed people about 2012, from true believers to skeptics, mystics to scientists, a common theme has been that nobody knows what this intriguing moment portends. They have their hopes and their fears, their doubts and their desires. I'll be looking at the 2012 question from a variety of perspectives in my upcoming coverage, and I'm open to your suggestions and observations as well.
But for now, for me, I'm maintaining an open heart and an open mind. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, that are dreamt up in your philosophy,” Shakespeare's Hamlet said, a statement for ages that our modern minds, so rational and cynical, too often forget.
Maybe this metaphysical moment will be the anticlimactic New Age equivalent of Y2K, or maybe it will be an important signpost on the road to global transformation in consciousness, or something in between. Whatever happens, it's bound to be interesting, and I hope you'll join me on this journey.