Hum If You Love the Mayans

updated 08/31/1987 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/31/1987 01:00AM

Bummer, man. Maximum bummer. The big Sunday came and went. And the dead were not raised. The UFOs did not land. Mother Earth was not wracked by devastating quakes. Quetzalcóatl, the Aztec god, did not reveal himself. And the world as we know it did not end—amen.

Of course, all this and more had been prophesied by devotees of "harmonic convergence." They believe that, celestially speaking, the human race arrived at the verge of salvation, destruction...or maybe both, on Aug. 16, when the heavens came into rare alignment and the 5, 125-year-old Mayan calendar came to an end.

Interestingly, though, the faithful had been downgrading their predictions as the date approached, and high-profile skeptics such as Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau made light of their new age astro-illogic. (He called it "moronic convergence, sort of a national fruit loops day" and predicted lots of crafts fairs.) Maybe the world would just shift a bit on its cosmic axis. Or maybe human understanding would just tilt imperceptibly toward the good. It still seemed worth the trip. "I don't know what this is or what I have to do, but I know I will know when I'm ready," said Ruth Anne. Richardson, a Malibu jewelry dealer who traveled to Chaco Canyon, N.M., one of 350 "sacred sites" around the United States.

Others converged on Ohio's Great Serpent Mound and New York's Niagara Falls, Woodstock and Central park to usher in the millennium with prayers, chanting and meditation. Worldwide, crowds gathered at the Great Pyramids, Stonehenge and Machu Picchu. Hollywood even got into the act when stars aligned themselves briefly on Monday evening at the Palace, designated a "power spot" to cut down on commuting. Fanciful costumes and indiscriminate hugging were the order of the day. "I'm here to have a damn good time," said Catherine Oxenberg, just back from Machu Picchu, which "wasn't as spiritual as I'd hoped."

Chief architect of this global bliss-in was Jose Arguelles, a 48-year-old artist and historian from Boulder, Colo., who is author of The Mayan Factor—a new age best-seller that sets out the convergence theory. No matter that highly respected anthropologists such as Dr. Michael Coe of Yale have branded Arguelles' work as "totally crackpot"; thousands have been won over by his thesis that "to prepare to enter the galactic age in 2012," 144,000 true believers must create "a human-to-human power grid" to correct the earth's wandering frequency of 7.8 hertz. A little recondite perhaps, but great science often is, as Arguelles is well aware. "My daughter asked me to explain the convergence theory," he recalls, "and when I finished she looked at me and said, 'You're sort of like Einstein, aren't you?' and I said that in some ways, yes."

In practical terms, Arguelles says, convergence means "that for the next few weeks there will perhaps be communications with UFOs and extraterrestrials. There might also be more of a feeling of déjà vu."

That much, at least, came true. All the hand-holding, hugging and beatific smiles in Woodstock, for example, a cradle of hippie civilization, were eerily reminiscent of the '60s be-ins, minus the drugs and loud music. "The magic is back!" exulted Nathan Koenig, 41, an aspiring filmmaker who was an organizer of the Woodstock festivities. Perhaps, but the magic was on a much smaller scale than Koenig anticipated. Up to 1,000 were expected to attend the sunrise meditation in Woodstock's Magic Meadow on Sunday. More like 300 turned out. Yet Koenig laughed as he watched the true believers dance around a pyramid containing chunks of crystal—the mood ring of the '80s. "It's a small celebration," shrugged Koenig, "but all it means is that people are doing it in their own sacred places."

Attendance was also off in Chaco Canyon, where the Parks Service forced celebrants to camp some 35 miles from the ceremonial site, a prayer ring built 900 years ago by cliff-dwelling Indians. About 3,000 were hoped for; far fewer converged. "If only two people came, those would be the two people who needed to be here," said Oz, a psychic priestess from Santa Fe. But the organizers, who had laid out money for tents, toilets and shuttle buses to and from the sacred kiva, were less serene. And some attendees were downright annoyed to be slapped with $35 to $100 registration fees.

At Mount Shasta, the big attraction turned out to be a message in an unlikely medium. On Friday evening, during the late news, the image of an angel suddenly appeared on Diane Boettcher's TV set in nearby Mount Shasta City. She switched channels, unplugged the cable—it was still there. A television repairman checked it and told her, "Looks to me like you've got an angel on your screen." Then he went off to meditate on the meaning of it all. As word spread, convergers flocked to Boettcher's video shrine. Not that she minded. "It doesn't really matter if it's real or not," says Boettcher, a theosophist who has a healthy supply of crystals arrayed next to the TV, "because it's made these people happy."

Well, some people were happy. By Sunday, the line of worshippers had spilled out into the street. Boettcher's neighbors called the cops. One particularly unevolved boy in blue threatened to bring in his own repairman to "fix" the TV. Yet at last report the angel, or whatever, was still there.

Things were calmer at the ancient Indian burial ground called Great Serpent Mound, despite the fact that local Adams County preachers had warned their straitlaced Ohio congregants that harmonizers might be into pagan rituals such as animal mutilation and virgin sacrifice. County Sheriff R.D. Johnson saw no reason to worry on that last count. "Hell, there ain't no virgins in Adams County," he said, laughing. "They'll have to bring one in." His real concern, he added, was the chanting. Saturday, watching a bunch of convergers warm up for the main event, Johnson predicted that "if they all get to humming like that, tomorrow it could get the cows all stirred up." Sure enough, when the chant went up Sunday at dawn—a giant "ooooom" seeking to resonate with the spheres—it was met from across the hill by a plaintive sonic mirror image: "mooooo." All the creatures were in harmony, and another prediction had come true to usher in the new age.

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