Mayanism is a non-codified eclectic collection of New Age beliefs, influenced in part by Pre-Columbian Maya mythology and some folk beliefs of the modern Maya peoples. Adherents of this belief system are not to be confused with Mayanists, scholars who research the historical Maya civilization.
Contemporary Mayanism places less emphasis on contacts between the ancient Maya and lost lands than in the work of early writers such as Godfrey Higgins, Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg and Augustus Le Plongeon, alluding instead to possible contacts with extraterrestrial life. However, it continues to include references to Atlantis. Notions about extraterrestrial influence on the Maya can be traced to the book Chariots of the Gods? by Erich von Däniken, whose ancient astronaut theories were in turn influenced by the work of Peter Kolosimo and especially the team of Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels, authors of Le Matin des magiciens. These latter writers were inspired by the fantasy literature of H. P. Lovecraft and publications by Charles Fort. However, there remain elements of fascination with lost continents and lost civilizations, especially as popularized by 19th century science fiction and speculative fiction by authors such as Jules Verne, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and H. Rider Haggard.
Mayanism experienced a revival in the 1970s through the work of Frank Waters, a writer on the subject of Hopi mythology. His Book of the Hopi is rejected "as largely ersatz by Hopi traditionalists". In 1970, Waters was the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation grant to support research in Mexico and Central America. This resulted in his 1975 book Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth World of Consciousness, a discussion of Mesoamerican culture strongly colored by Waters' beliefs in astrology, prophecy, and the lost continent of Atlantis. It has gained new momentum in the context of the 2012 phenomenon, especially as presented in the work of New Age author John Major Jenkins, who asserts that Mayanism is "the essential core ideas or teachings of Maya religion and philosophy" in his 2009 book The 2012 Story: The Myths, Fallacies, and Truth Behind the Most Intriguing Date in History.
Mayanism has gained renewed vigor due to pseudoscientific nonfiction by authors such as Erich von Däniken, Zecharia Sitchin, and Graham Hancock, whose theories range from invoking ancient astronauts and other extraterrestrials from outer space to revivals of the idea that ancient peoples from lost lands brought wisdom and technology to the Mayas. The implication of this is that the Mayas had access to aspects of ancient knowledge, spiritualism, philosophy, and religion that are useful for coping with the modern world, whether by avoiding Armageddon, embracing a mystical Apocalypse, or constructing a future Utopia.
Mayanism has a complex history that draws from many different sources on the fringes of mainstream archaeology. It has gained growing attention through its influence on popular culture through pulp fiction, science fiction, fantasy literature, and more recently cinema, graphic novels, fantasy role-playing games (especially Dungeons & Dragons), and video games. It has also drawn inspiration from the success of The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, a novel that refers to the fictional discovery of a Pre-Columbian self-help manuscript in South America.
Mayanism has been promoted by specific publishing houses, most notably Inner Traditions - Bear & Company, which has produced a number of books on the theme of 2012 by authors such as José Argüelles, John Major Jenkins, Carl Johan Calleman, and Barbara Hand Clow. Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc. has published works by New Age authors Daniel Pinchbeck and John Major Jenkins that have further contributed to a growing interest in Mayanism.