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2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl
by Daniel Pinchbeck
Book Reviews
Reviewed by J Fisher, 11/14/2006

First pinpointed by the Mayans about 2,300 years ago, the date of December 21, 2012 has recently garnered considerable attention from fringe theorists in the West. Daniel Pinchbeck draws from a diverse collection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century thinkers, as well as his own dreams and altered states, in an attempt to situate the 2012 mythos within a contemporary context. Pinchbeck posits that the date heralds a global shift in consciousness, a change that will necessitate new worldviews and moral imperatives. Pinchbeck’s effort to understand the past and future of human consciousness comprises 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. The endeavor leads him across three continents, at times rattling his psyche and threatening to consume his personal relationships.

Picking up the thread that began in Pinchbeck’s first book, Breaking Open the Head, 2012 chronicles the author’s continued personal development, this time not only through the lens of psychedelic drug use, but occult phenomena as well. The first fifty or so pages of 2012 bring the reader up to speed on Pinchbeck’s introduction to psychedelics and his transformation from a disaffected member of New York’s literati to a passionate explorer of consciousness. For readers of Breaking Open the Head, this section will be familiar, but it provides a useful context for the book that follows.

Pinchbeck’s early psychedelic experiences confirmed, for him, the reality of interior realms. These headspaces seemed to exist independently of the world of matter and corporeal form, but the experiences they afforded were as convincing as the material world. Pinchbeck’s experiences in these mental realms often seemed to trigger synchronous events in his daily life, and, at times, the interior worlds of dreams and drugs seemed to commingle with consensus reality. Enter crop circles.

In hopes of better understanding the interface between interior and exterior realities, Pinchbeck travels to Glastonbury, England, where crop circles have appeared with increasing frequency in recent years. He speaks with Michael Glickman, Allan Brown, and Rob Irving, all veterans of the crop circle community, and visits several newly formed circles. To his credit, Pinchbeck plumbs the literature thoroughly and interviews his living subjects with a well-metered skepticism. Although he encounters a fair amount of New Age quackery and obvious hoaxes, he also collects compelling evidence to indicate that there are forces at work in the mental and physical worlds which cannot be explained by our current scientific or cultural paradigms.

In his attempt to interpret the nature of these forces, Pinchbeck draws from the written works of Rudolph Steiner and Jean Gebser, as well as various prophecies-ancient and contemporary-that invoke the date, December 21, 2012. Both Steiner and Gebser present models for the evolution of consciousness, affording Pinchbeck some of the necessary reference points to contextualize his own experiences and discoveries. He interprets the increasing frequency of crop circles and alien abduction reports, as well as the destruction of our global ecosystem, as indicators that humanity is on the brink of a dramatic change. Pinchbeck is rather vague, however, as to the specifics of this impending shift in consciousness.

2012 alternates frequently between first-person accounts and third-person reporting, but throughout, Pinchbeck’s tone remains conversational. Events from his personal life unify the text, allowing the reader direct access to Pinchbeck’s motivations and the seeds of his hypotheses. He does, occasionally, enter into chapter-long discussions of his literary sources, but these passages are carefully grounded with relevant anecdotes from the field.

The last section of the book, however, departs from the dual narrative structure. By this point, Pinchbeck has established most of the evidence in support of a shift in consciousness, and the text turns to his struggle to orient himself in the face of these conclusions. At times he seems to be losing traction, spinning tales of sleepless nights and Hoffman-inspired bike rides through Black Rock City, of voices in his head that will not stop chattering, and of admitted psychedelic excess. Nonetheless, Pinchbeck emerges from his globetrotting, entheogen-laden investigations with hard-won insight about his personal relationships and the relationship between humans and the planet. Like Breaking Open the Head, 2012 is both a fascinating and inspiring investigation.

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