Michael Szul reviews 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl by Daniel Pinchbeck.
I was phenomenally impressed with Daniel Pinchbeck’s Breaking Open the Head, so when 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl was published, I jumped on purchasing it as soon as I could.
It has taken me a while to complete the task of finishing up this book. I had started it several months afters its publication, but had to put it down as other things had occupied my attention. The enthusiasm to pick it back up had wanned a bit, and it wasn’t until a few months ago that I decided to task myself with completing the read.
Whereas Pinchbeck’s Breaking Open the Head was a subjective journey into psychedelics and the spiritual nature of these indigenous catalysts – which ultimately led Pinchbeck to accept the spiritual realms – 2012 is his continued journey into the belly of the spiritual and paranormal – with continued psychedelic use – as he attempts to search for truth and find a place for himself in this new spiritual worldview. In his first book, he was a man in a mid-life crisis attempting to look for something more in his shallow post-beatnik literary New York world. In his second book, he’s a newborn making discoveries and drawing conclusions in an attempt to make sense of his new knowledge. It was an interesting transition to watch him go through.
Pinchbeck is well learned; and 2012 is an excellently researched book. It offers a springboard for several points of study should the reader want to go off in any one of the many directions that this book takes. Pinchbeck brings up everything from psychic abilities, the occult, to many other fringe sciences and archeology. This book is not one that you tread lightly in. Leave the TV off. You’re going to need your concentration.
Pinchbeck spends a lot of time focusing on crop circles in what is probably the most entertaining section of the book. I’m not a crop circle fan, but his work in this area does make me want to investigate some of that phenomena further.
Pinchbeck’s style is very multi-tiered. He mixes normal events in his personal life with researched material as well as spiritual experiences. In this way, 2012 can be read from several different angles: as a research tome, as a spiritual investigation, and as a personal look at the psychology of the author. It wasn’t until the latter 2/3’s to 1/4 of the book that I felt that the third tier was overpowering the rest.
Two significant things happen in this book that affect the rest of the writing: Pinchbeck comes to his epiphany about crop circles, and he cheats on his partner by making out with another woman. Both occur at roughly the same time. When Pinchbeck has his epiphany, he makes the transition from researcher to philosopher. He takes his conclusions and runs with them, believing that he has found the key to the crop circles and trying to find someone to hear him out. This epiphany, in many ways, seems to affect his outlook on spirituality. He builds a condescending attitude towards the New Age and flippant tiredness towards events like Burning Man – an event where he decided to trip and then stretch the experience by refusing to sleep and fasting.
Furthermore, Pinchbeck begins to preach the necessity of polyamorous relationships, and seems to be trying to use indigenous relationships, and a search for a new way at viewing sexuality, as a justification for his infidelity. I know a few people who are polyamorous, and one thing I know for certain is that they accept all ideas of sexuality. They have never tried to preach the virtues or “rightness” of theirs over another’s beliefs. Pinchbeck’s insistence on polyamory boils to the point of a “voice” in his head demanding that he sleep with a woman who had previously turned him down or else kill himself by walking off into the wood. This is later understood by Pinchbeck to be the yearnings of a past self, but his insistence and attitude during this episode is a contradiction to the open-mindedness displayed earlier in this book.
Whether the end is near or not we’ll never really know until it is upon us, but one thing that shines through dramatically in this book is the necessity to pay attention to the indigenous cultures of the past and heed their myths and stories. These people were far more in tune with the world than we ever were. They know that the environment is having issues… now it’s out turn to listen and act. Daniel Pinchbeck gives us a phenomenal look at one man’s journey to find his place in all this madness. Maybe it’ll move some of us to do the same… and along the way, maybe we can fix some of the damage that we’ve done. [via]