By Elise McDonough. Illustration by Joshua Marc Levy

The end draws near, and many of us embedded in the counterculture are gripped with a sense of urgency about our political, social and environmental future. Whether confronting climate change, the quagmire in Iraq or the erosion of civil liberties, few activists foresee a widespread transformation in consciousness just around the corner. But courtesy of a little DMT and an all-but-forgotten Mayan prophecy—and continuing in the tradition of Terence McKenna—one shamanic investigator makes just such a claim of impending salvation. In his first book, Breaking Open The Head, best-selling author Daniel Pinchbeck examined the world within through the use of sacramental drugs. In his latest metaphysical epic, 2012: The Return Of Quetzalcoatl, he explores the cosmos without, and the idea that we’re rapidly approaching the end of time.

Many people experience extraordinary visions while experimenting with psychedelic drugs, but few abandon almost everything else in their lives to explore these fleeting, mysterious realms. Pinchbeck is a veteran journalist and self-proclaimed skeptical character of “dubious repute” who has made just such a leap, weaving together disparate cosmological phenomena into a tale about his own journey and how it relates to an ancient Mayan prophecy foretelling an evolutionary leap at the conclusion of a 5,125-year cycle that ends on Dec. 21, 2012. This mind-blowing journey carries Pinchbeck around the world to meet scientists, philosophers, shamans and self-proclaimed prophets. Along the way, he discovers evidence proving that crop circles are authentically alien, that reincarnation can indeed be measured, and that implementation of a new calendrical system tied to the moon may be all that’s needed to bring about a human future of utopian creativity and limitless imagination. A vast puzzle of alien visitation, otherworldly communication, quantum mechanics, occult crisis, and lessons learned from ayahuasca, iboga and DMT, 2012 ultimately reveals a pattern of consciousness evolving toward an entirely new state of awareness that embraces time, space and self.