12/20/2012 01:57 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2013

The Mayan Apocalypse: It's Showtime

Millenarians, unite: It's time to await what could be Earth's final days, or in the very least an auspicious restructuring. Many factors, Mayan scholars say, point to the end times, from global warming to a reversal of the earth's magnetic field, to profound shifts in human consciousness. The movie 2012: Science or Superstition gathers many of these cartographers of the mystical -- as well as a few skeptics -- in a fascinating exploration of an impending apocalypse slated to arrive in a handful of days.

Filmmaker Alexandra Bruce guides the lively debate into an in-depth discussion of the relevance of the Maya long count calendar to our contemporary experience. Does the date December 21, 2012, signify a "cyclical cataclysm linked to a galactic rebirth"? Or is it a prediction severed from its context, isolated from its origins, and completely misconstrued?

Journey into the shape of time

Whatever your initial response, it's hard to resist the palpable sense of urgency the movie conveys. And it's hard to argue with its general message -- that we live in a time of change and transition. Learning about the Maya-influenced cosmological ideas behind this transition is to stretch the doors of our perception to their maximum. John Major Jenkins, author of Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, and oft-quoted in the film, speaks in great detail about the upcoming "galactic alignment" of the solstice sun with the galactic equator, otherwise known as the axis that bisects the Milky Way. We embark on a journey of a wobbling universe, a procession of equinoxes, suns coming uncomfortably close to one another, interstellar energy clouds and dark rifts. Along the way, we enter a conception of the shape of time that includes a calendar system that manages to be simultaneously accurate and poetic, empirical and spiritual.

Radical integration

For me, the most intriguing questions 2012 raises is whether we are entering an epoch of catastrophe or advancement, a dark age or a golden one. The consciousness shift theory rings the most plausible. The Maya symbol of the bird and snake ultimately represents rebirth: the union of spirit and matter, East and West, heaven and earth. Many of the experts discussed the winter solstice of 2012 as marking the integration of rational thought with mystical knowledge systems. It turns out the Mayan's belief in a participatory cosmology, in which each person plays an active role in the world's destiny, conveys more optimism than despair. This movie made me look forward to whatever the next weeks bring, and to envision it as a time to transcend opposites and discover a new wholeness.

Elizabeth Marglin is a freelance writer for She writes on everything from acupuncture to temper tantrums. Marglin is the co-author of The Mother's Wisdom Deck and co-writes the blog Mothering with Soul.