Film: 2012 and the End of the World As We Know It

Roland Emmerich’s apocalyptic Disney movie 2012 is filling movie theaters, while eliciting derisive hoots from sophisticated film critics, who deplore it’s simplistic, formulaic story of a decent family man heroically trying to cope with earth-shattering disaster. The film even induced the SF Chronicle to publish an article by a respected science journalist listing all the dubious and nonsensical science elements on display in the script. I wonder why the Chronicle felt it necessary to rebut the premises of the movie – did they really think people were going to take the movie as a real prediction? I felt like saying “lighten up people – this is Hollywood, not NASA.”

In fact, NASA has gotten somewhat defensive itself about 2012 (the calendar year, not the movie) because of the dozen or so books by unconventional researchers who point out that the end-date of one of the Mayan calendar counts coincides with the anticipated alignment of the Winter Solstice sun in 2012 with the center of our Milky Way galaxy. As Mayanist John Major Jenkins has pointed out however, this transit, which may coincide with a heightened reception of powerful radiation from the galactic center, is not limited to a three-day solstice event – rather it is period of 20 to 50 years, which has already begun.

And to anyone who has been attentive to the increasingly dire prognostications of climate scientists, energy experts and environmentalists over the past decades, predictions of drastic dislocations and disruptions of the planet’s biospheric balance are hardly news. So in that sense, one could say the premise of the movie 2012 is in accord with the basic message of science in our time – that the basic life-support systems of our planetary civilization are under threat.

There is another, perhaps even more significant aspect to this latest end-times scenario – the archetypal dimension associated with apocalyptic visions in the psyche of individuals undergoing profound transformations. As my friend the pioneering psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, renowned for his ground-breaking work in psychedelic and holotropic forms of psychotherapy has pointed out, in an unpublished essay on 2012, end-of-the world imagery frequently appears in conjunction with perinatal (birth-related) memories during profound non-ordinary states of consciousness. The 2012 film is filled with perinatal imagery – collapsing structures, massive tsunamis, underwater entrapment in grinding machinery, desperate flight from increasing threat, titanic volcanic eruptions and the like. And it ends, like the Nordic myth of Ragnarök (see my book, The Well of Remembrance), or the Biblical myth of Noah, with a vision of a newly reborn world of light and hope, in which the human survivors sail across the ocean in an ark, carrying with them the plant and animal seeds of a new life.

From that perspective, one could say the people watching the movie 2012 are cathartically encountering their deepest archetypal terrors – and perhaps in that way contributing to a raising of our collective consciousness.

Gorbachev on the Collapse of the Soviet Union

In a recent interview In The Nation (Nov 16, 2009) Mikail Gorbachev makes some fascinating comments on the factors that led to the dissolution of the communist empire. While right-wing commentators in the West are fond of declaring that the communist system was “defeated” by the superiority of the Western capitalist system promoted by Reagan in his meetings with the Soviet premier. Gorbachev states that the fall of the empire was brought about by a series of steps, following the policies of perestroika and glasnost.  When asked what was most important – the circumstances of that time or the leaders? – Gorbachev replies:

“I’ll tell you something that is very important about what subsequently happened in your country. When people came to the conclusion that they had won the cold war, they concluded they didn’t need to change. Let others change. That point of view was mistaken, and it undermined what we (referring to his discussions with Reagan) had envisaged for Europe – mutual collective security for everyone and a new world order. All of that was lost because of this muddled thinking in your country, and which has now made it so difficult to work together. World leadership is now understood to mean that America gives the orders. People in your country became dizzy with imagined success: they saw everything as their victory.”

Gorbachev does not blame only the American arrogance for the failure of follow-through on the disarmament that he and Reagan had initiated. He continues:

“In Yeltsin, Washington ended up with a vassal who thought that because of his anti-communism he would be carried in their arms. Delegations came to Russia one after the other, including Bill Clinton, but then they stopped coming. It turned out no one needed Yeltsin. But by then half of Russia’s industry was in ruins, even 60 percent. It was a country with a noncompetitive economy wide open to the world market, and it became slavishly dependent on imports.”

I was reminded, in reading these remarks, of what I had written in my book The Roots of War and Domination:

In our time we have economic imperialism, dressed up in the camouflage terminology of “free trade” and “development,” which takes the form of privatization – where large multinational corporations take over the common wealth of a society or country (water, utilities infrastructure, etc). Increasingly, the enormous wealth accumulated by the large corporations (especially those involved in oil, ore, minerals and other primary resources, as well as military contractors), enables them to pursue their own growth agenda, using shadowy, behind-the-scenes, extra-legal maneuvering to free them from democratic oversight and accountability. Ensuring the malleability and compliance of national governments becomes, for such multinational gangs, just another “cost of doing business.” (p.33)

The same processes that Gorbachev described as bringing about the fall of the Soviet empire, can now be observed being replayed in the collapse of the American financial empire. A “financial coup-d’etat” in which a half-dozen Wall Street  mega-banks rake in billions in profits and bonuses, while the real productive economy of Main Street is tanking and tens of  millions of people have lost their homes and their jobs.

In Roots of War and Domination, I wrote that

“The building of nations and empires is irrevocably connected not only with genocide against various external “others,” but also with systemic violence against internal groups, as class warfare and exploitative domination of subject populations. The nagging question remains, how does it happen that societies, from ancient to modern times, have time and again failed to maintain a cooperative social order and have fallen victim to being taken over by tyrannical, war-like and imperialist elites, often with the complicity of priests, intellectuals and ideologues?” (p.34)

In that book, I go on to consider the possibility that there are hidden forces, secret societies, active in human civilization that push societies repeatedly into divisive and destructive conflicts, deliberately practicing the strategy of “divide and conquer.”

James Hansen talks sense on the Copenhagen conference

In an interview with the Guardian, James Hansen, the world’s pre-eminent climate scientist and who heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies said any agreement likely to emerge from the negotiations would be so deeply flawed that it would be better to start again from scratch.

Hansen, in repeated appearances before Congress beginning in 1989, has done more than any other scientist to educate politicians about the causes of global warming and to prod them into action to avoid its most catastrophic consequences. But he is vehemently opposed to the carbon market schemes – in which permits to pollute are bought and sold – which are seen by the EU and other governments as the most efficient way to cut emissions and move to a new clean energy economy.

In Hansen’s view, dealing with climate change allows no room for the compromises that rule the world of elected politics. “This is analogous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill,” he said. “On those kind of issues you cannot compromise. You can’t say let’s reduce slavery, let’s find a compromise and reduce it 50% or reduce it 40%.” He added: “We don’t have a leader who is able to grasp it and say what is really needed. Instead we are trying to continue business as usual.”

He has irked some environmentalists by espousing a direct carbon tax on fuel use. He is scathing of the cap-and-trade approach being discussed in Congress and at the UN conference in Copenhagen. “This is analogous to the indulgences that the Catholic church sold in the Middle Ages. The bishops collected lots of money and the sinners got redemption. Both parties liked that arrangement despite its absurdity. That is exactly what’s happening,” he said. “We’ve got the developed countries who want to continue more or less business as usual and then these developing countries who want money and that is what they can get through offsets [sold through the carbon markets].”

The Film “The Men Who Stare at Goats” and Remote Viewing

This film surprised me. I expected a superficial and condescending take-off on the US Army and CIA experiments in psychic espionage (known as  Remote Viewing or RV) and the decidedly creepy psycho-kinetic (PK) killing at a distance – for which the operators practiced by trying to get a goat’s heart to stop by staring at it.  It turns out that the film is that rare thing – a brilliant satirical comedy about the futility and idiocy of war – in the tradition of Jaroslav Hasek’s The Good Soldier Schweik and Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage – as well as the MASH television series.

There have been several accounts by erstwhile participants in the highly classified and now supposedly disbanded RV studies carried out in the fifties and sixties. In my book Alchemical Divination, I compared RV to divination practiced in the interests of healing and guidance.

“Remote viewing can be considered a contemporary variant of traditional divinatory seeing. In remote viewing an individual attempts to clairvoyantly “see” hidden factors of present reality and future developments. Training programs were developed and researched by Ingo Swann, Russell Targ, Hal Puthoff and others, and applied in espionage work by the CIA and military intelligence services. To guard against personal bias, the protocol adopted in remote viewing is that “targets” are chosen “blind” and have no particular relation to the past history or future interests of the viewer.

In the kinds of psychospiritual divination we are discussing here the intention or question of the individual seeker guides the process, and that makes it totally personal. The questioner seeks answers to personal questions of their past (diagnosis)  or their future (prognosis)….The bias of personal expectations, fears and ego-centric wishes needs to be confronted directly and reduced by repeated testing and verification.”

In the film, the operatives who have been trained in RV come off as conceited buffoons, boasting about their psychic powers, while demonstrating bumbling ineptitude and competitive rivalries. And yet, a central thread is George Clooney’s character’s guilt over having actually succeeded in killing a goat with his mind, for which he eventually seeks redemption by releasing all the captured goats and prisoners in an army compound.

An additional reference to the 1960s epoch are scenes in which some of the operatives experiment with the surreptitious dosing of unsuspecting soldiers with LSD. This aspect of the film is also based in historical fact. I have seen a British documentary of the late 1950s, in which a company of soldiers were dosed unknowingly with LSD and proceeded to collapse in helpless hilarity as they contemplated the absurdity of their situation – a scene recreated to brilliant effect in this film, as an entire army base in Iraq goes harmlessly and childishly nutty after being dosed.

The dangers of surreptitious and unprepared administration of psychedelics are also shown in a scene in which a soldier, after being dosed, takes off all his clothes and goes naked on a shooting rampage in his base – a disquieting synchronicity with the Fort Hood shootings that occurred during the week the movie opened in theatres nationwide.

But the film also contains a touching moment of heart-felt truth-telling, when the two Americans and an Iraqi civilian,  who have been captured by competing militants, manage to escape and apologize to each other for the mendacity and brutality of their leaders and governments.