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2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl by Daniel…
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2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl

by Daniel Pinchbeck

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It's as an armchair travel guide to the lands beyond rationality (whether you think those lands lie above or below it,) that this book works best. I didn't mind a big dose of Pinchbeck's personal story being woven in, since we expect that from travel writers like Pico Iyer and Paul Theroux, who can be just as unlikeable and self-involved as Pinchbeck, and are driven to their travels by a similar sense of jaded exhaustion with the possibilities of conventional experience.

It's a big question, though: is there or isn't there a mythic dimension to our collective experience? If there isn't, then I agree with Pinchbeck that human history can seem irredeemably, catastrophically pointless, and consciousness is a bad joke. But if there is, why do we seem to be traveling away from it at breakneck speed, and why is its preservation in the hands of such a bunch of untrustworthy seeming folks: borderline psychotics and over-privileged, empty-headed questers?

I like his continual questioning of his own convictions and those of his guides, his erudition, and his writing ability generally. I like the idea that it's possible to think about time in a different way that could invest life with meaning beyond the day-to-day. And I like that he offers no prescription for enlightenment or salvation, as if they could be dispensed like the drugs he takes so liberally. What to do with all that? Who knows? The lack of resolution is part of the appeal. To coin a phrase: the Way is open, but there are neither travelers, nor guide. ( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
Once again, after the equally annoying Breaking Open the Head, Pinchbeck makes it very difficult to get through what should be a fascinating subject: the end of history as we know it, according to the Mayan calendar. The title should read "2012: Return of Quetzalcoatl incarnated by Daniel Pinchbeck" because he inserts so much obnoxious autobiography -- even going so far as to imply that he himself is the reincarnation of the Mayan god -- as to make the book infuriating to read. I actually gave it two stars (and not one) specifically because of that: in spite of how much I hated him, he still compelled me to keep reading. I had to see where he was going to go with it. After getting to the end and the answer of "nowhere", that's not a mistake I ever want to repeat. Even more frustratingly, there were some occasionally good discussions of 2012, crop circles, and other matters of the occult. ( )
  blake.rosser | Jul 28, 2013 |
This is a book about metaphysics, which I found eerily fascinating. Pinchbeck's key premise, which he arrived at through his own experiences beginning with his experimentation with psychedelics, is that consciousness is not just a product of matter, an epiphenomenon of brain functions. Instead, he asserts that mind and matter are inseparable and are in fact interactive. With the ideological landscape swept clean by Nietzsche's general refutation of the modern Western worldview Pinchbeck finds support for his unorthodox metaphysics in Jung's concepts of the collective unconscious and the universal mythical archetypes, from the uncertainty principle of quantum theory, which renders objective knowledge completely illusory, and from fellow psychedelic explorer and writer Terence McKenna, among many others.

Depending on the philosophical orientation of the reader and the conclusions the he or she chooses to draw, this book can be read alternately as a nonsensical drug-induced paranoid delusion or as a metaphysical critique of modern industrial society and its dogmatic rationalist materialism (or both, I suppose). The gatekeepers of academic orthodoxy predictably will raise flags of "pseudoscience" and other charges of blasphemy for his sparing and often dismissive allusions to mainstream scholarly research as he pursues more fertile sources of the unthinkable. Personally, I find the book difficult to criticize because Pinchbeck could not be any more forthcoming or humble about his objective, which he calls "an extravagant thought experiment."

This is not a book about the Maya, and it cannot and should not be judged as such. Pinchbeck is considering that the Mayan epistemology (as interpreted and popularized by new age writers) and modern epistemology are only different archetypal reflections of the same collective unconscious (as are the knowledge systems of every culture ever to exist). The world of superficial appearances is no less real than the worlds of the mind like dreams and hallucinations, and the latter can in fact convey a better overall sense of reality than the former, a fact that he believes the ancient Mayans understood. In contrast to contemporary society's general distaste for hallucinogenic substances, for example, Maya leaders like Pacal the Great ritually used them to guide their decisions.

Pinchbeck writes of the origin of the modern Western mind: "The drastic shift--mutation or leap of quantum creativity--into the mental-rational structure was foretold by a myth: the birth of the goddess Athena, who emerged from the painfully throbbing head of Zeus, split open by an ax. The blow was 'accompanied by a terrible tumult throughout nature, as well as by the astonishment of the entire pantheon,' writes [Jean] Gebser, paraphrasing Pindar. Once sprung, Athena, goddess of knowledge and clear thought, bestowed her protective grace over Athens, cradle of the modern Western mind. In the movement from the mythic to the mental-rational mind-set, human thought was directed outward, discovering the external world, for the first time, as an object of inquiry in itself." (210-1)

Pinchbeck is advocating another such shift in global consciousness toward a non-dualist myth-embracing culture that he believes is the only hope for human societies to transcend the imminent crises of peak oil, imperialist war, mass extinction, nuclear war, and ecological collapse--essentially the disastrous culmination of this "mental-rational" civilization finally becoming apparent.

He identifies this shift with the transformation of the world that is supposed to occur at the completion of the 13th bak'tun of the Mayan Long Count, or on Gregorian 12-21-2012. As this and other apocalyptic predictions and prophecies accumulate in the collective psyche, Pinchbeck sees potential for a physical manifestation of them: "If the Apocalypse, as an archetype, is currently constellating in our world, we have the option of bringing the 'dynamic agency' and primordial pattern, fully into our awareness. By giving it our conscious attention, we can mediate the process, potentially avoiding its most catastrophic effects." (110)

To me, this thesis cannot be answered by any point-by-point criticism of its assertions. Instead, it stands as an intersubjective challenge to the skeptical reader to explore non-ordinary states of awareness for herself and find whatever value she will there. ( )
  dmac7 | Jun 14, 2013 |
Good news: this is not a doomsday book;
Good news: the first third of this book explains what is known about Mayan culture and the Mayan calendar which is set to "expire" on December 21, 2012 (or is it October 11, 2011?);
Good news: the first third of this book discusses seemingly similar theories from ancient cultures such as the Hopi and Tibetan Buddhists;
Bad news: the last two thirds of this book is erratically interesting at best, there is some talk about crop circles that is captivating;
Bad news: much of this book is written as a personal memoir, in a stream of consciousness format, centering on personal hallucinogenic experiences.

I had never read a Daniel Pinchbeck book or article but have heard good things about his writing from friends, so when I was looking for a book about 2012 I decided on this one based on the author and what friends had told me. Initially I was impressed, I took notes on the people he spoke about, the cultures he referenced and theories he discussed. Suddenly, though, he began discussing his personal life - which never connected with what I believed the focus of the book was supposed to be on: 2012! He talks about his not so good relationship, and how he is away more than at home. He discusses his use of hallucinogens, which is extensive; but he justifies hallucinogen use on the basis that he is searching for his true self and needs them to break through his sub-conscience. I am sure the second two thirds of the book was very cathartic but for me it was very repetitious and mind numbing - definitely not mind expanding.

If you do get this book, focus your energies on the first third. Scan the last two thirds for interesting tid-bits and then call it a day. ( )
  PallanDavid | Jul 24, 2009 |
I love Daniel Pinchbeck, but not in a sexual way…. I mean, the guy is so obviously intellectually superior to just about anybody—you can see it in his prose—and yet he continues to blast that magnificent brain of his (heroically, courageously, in the interests of science, for the good of all mankind!) with weird, powerful hallucinogenic drugs every fucking chance he gets.

It would be so cool to hang out with Daniel Pinchbeck, wouldn’t you think? Imagine how the conversation might go:

Daniel: “So, as I was saying, Ahriman (called Mephistopheles in Faust)... he's the being that drags us down towards the material world, the mineral realm, and death. Ahriman's goal is to enslave us in matter, while opposing him is Lucifer—the “light-bringer”—the being that draws us upward towards escapism, imagination, and fantasy.”

Me: “Far out.”

Daniel: “According to Rudolph Steiner, the goal of human evolution is to find a balance between those two forces and to—Jesus Christ, is that a Chupacabra?!”

Me: “What?! Where?”

Daniel: “Over there! On top of the bookcase! A goddamned terrible, bloodthirsty Chupacabra perusing my autographed copy of Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre!”

Me: “I don’t see anything… are you sure?”

Actually, Sartre faced similar problems in his later years, after he started getting loaded on mescaline to inspire the writing of his last few books. That freaky old existentialist ended up thinking he was being chased through the streets of Paris by an evil, albino lobsterman. Not even Simone De Bouvier could talk him down… but Daniel Pinchbeck could’ve, I’ll bet!

Daniel Pinchbeck, after all, is the man who found out—as he describes with great humility and tip-toeing trepidation in 2012: The Return of Queztalcoatl—that he’s the actual, living and breathing reincarnation of that South American deity formerly known as Quetzalcoatl. That’s right: the big, feathered serpent dude, who was like Jesus to the Aztecs—Quetzalcoatl!

I know… I could hardly believe it myself, but it’s true!

(In Jungian analysis, this process of identification with an archetype is called “inflation”—not to be confused with what’s going to happen to our economy if the Fed keeps buying Treasuries. Psychic inflation often results in a bloated ego, or worse. In rare cases, it can even result in a book with the scary number 2012 in the title [cf. Whitley Strieber for confirmation; also cf. "Monetizing the Eschaton"].)

You might think that being dubbed the latest and greatest incarnation of Quetzalcoatl would make it easy to score chicks, but on that count you would be sorely mistaken. Feathered serpent gods have their fair share of romantic disappointments, too, as Daniel is all-too-willing to admit. One day, not long after he was telepathically informed of his badass Quetzalcoatlness, he was just hanging out in a rain forest down in the Amazon, grooving on nature, when he met a young and very pretty lady shaman. (I’m paraphrasing from the book like crazy here, in case you couldn’t tell; Daniel describes the encounter in much more finely-wrought paragraphs—pages and pages of over-wrought … I mean, finely-wrought paragraphs.) Impetuously enthralled—and only recently divorced—Daniel decided that the lady shaman should fall in love with him. It just made sense: her being a pretty lady shaman and him being Quetzalcoatl and all….

Now, you may find this hard to believe (I know I did, and I know Daniel did…), but the lady shaman told him she only liked him as a friend. In fact, the very pretty lady shaman refused to give Daniel/Quetzalcoatl even so much as a handjob!

Just try to imagine his ancient Aztec indignation. Go ahead: Try! But try as you might, you’re bound to fall short, unless the savagely beating heart of a feathered serpent god resides in your breast, too, my friend.

Well, that’s about all I remember from 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. A long time has passed since I read that book. I vaguely recall being quite enthused about it when I first brought it home; I must have stayed up all night reading it. Just as with his first book, Breaking Open The Head, I’m sure that the mere act of reading Daniel Pinchbeck’s 2012 metaphorically broke open my own head in several very important ways, but broken heads are sometimes accompanied by amnesia, or so I’ve been told.

(Crop circles… I’m pretty sure there was something about crop circles in there….)

Oh, well. Kudos, Daniel! Well done! ( )
1 vote DerekSwannson | Apr 28, 2009 |
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Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail;  whether there be tongues, they shall cease;  whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. - I Corinthians 13:8
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Our civilization is on a path of ever-increasing acceleration, but what are we rushing toward?
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Draws on cosmological phenomena of the modern world as well as the author's own research into shamanic and metaphysical belief systems to support the Mayan theory about an unprecedented global shift predicted for the year 2012.

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