Thursday, 20 December 2012

Mayan Calendar

Tomorrow is the last day of the Mayan Calendar.  Not the last day of the year in their calendar - the last day of the calendar itself!

Should we be running to the hills for survival?  Not according to John Major Jenkins, an expert on Mayan Cosmology and Mayan sacred science.

John Major Jenkins is the author of two key books on this subject: "Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: The True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End Date" and "Galactic Alignment: The Transformation of Consciousness According to Mayan, Egyptian and Vedic Traditions".  You can purchase either of the above books from Amazon by clicking on the name.  If you wish to pay in pounds sterling or have the books shipped from the UK you may order the first here (Maya Cosmogenesis 2012), or the second here (Galactic Alignment).  Please do not hold Amazon or John responsible if the world ends before your books arrive! ;)

John's full article is appended below.  It is a long article, but very well worth reading.  If you don't have time to read it, though, the conclusion is this:  the end of 2012 is not the end of the world, but it is a time when we are being given the opportunity to sacrifice our self-centered, egotistical view of the world and our place in it, and to replace this view with that of a selfless, higher consciousness.  This applies equally to society as a whole and to each of us as individuals.

Here is the full text of the very carefully researched article by John Major Jenkins on the end of the Mayan Calendar.  It was written in 2010 and refers to what will happen as we enter 2012 as well as what may happen tomorrow, the 21st December 2012 or the last day of the Mayan Calendar.  Do you think he got it right?  My own view is that it really doesn't matter whether or not he did.  What is important is whether we will take this opportunity now to change ourselves, which is the only way we can change society.

The Mayan Calendar and 2012: Why Should We Care?


John Major Jenkins

In my own process of studying the Maya and their traditions, I moved progressively into deeper water with time. Twenty-two years in, I can report back to newcomers that the implications of the Mayan calendar are staggering, its connection to other cosmologies around the globe is deep, and its most famous artifact, the cycle ending date of 2012, encodes an understanding of the cosmos that modern science is unprepared to grasp.

That’s where the investigation leads, but we will not venture so far in this article. Many people will be introduced to the existence of the Maya and their calendar through the attention generated by the 2012 date. You may be one of them. In fact, I hope you are, because this article is written for you. How can we even begin to understand the Mayan calendar and its 2012 date? What is it? What was it intended to represent? What did the ancient Maya believe would happen as 2012 draws close? Sit back and read on, for there are answers to these questions.

In my speaking events and workshops, people ask questions and I’ve noticed that many of them are based on misconceptions. I will anticipate and address these, hopefully guiding you away from dead ends.It is no surprise that 2012, the so-called ‘end of the Mayan calendar’, is a topic filled with images of the end of the world, doomsday, and cataclysm. Many writers have and will exploit such a hot topic to play into human fears. They are not necessarily interested in understanding 2012 as the ancient Maya understood it. Here we must state a guiding principle so we can have a healthy approach to 2012: let’s honour the authentic Mayan tradition.

This seems self evident, but is rarely taken to heart by modern writers. As a result of this unfortunate situation, newcomers are likely to encounter a smorgasbord of ideas, information, opinions, and models about 2012. The loudest barkers in Carnival 2012, as my friend Jonathan Zap reminds me, are likely to be the first ones heard. There’s the Pleiadian faction, there’s the crop circle theorists, there’s the alien invasion crowd, there’s the doomsday tribe, there’s the ascension light workers. People like many choices on the menu, right? Sure, but what about the real ding an sich, the thing-in-itself? Are we interested in getting to the heart of the Mayan insight? I propose that we should be, and that such an approach yields interesting, satisfying, revolutionary, and lasting results.

A little research reveals that a large cycle in the Mayan Long Count calendar ends precisely on December 21, 2012. The precision comes from a painstakingly established correlation between the Long Count calendar and our own Gregorian calendar. Scholars figured it out, beginning in the 1890s, testing and retesting the correct correlation. It was settled by 1950.

The Gregorian calendar and the Long Count calendar are simply two different methods of tracking time. Each one tracks one day after another, but designates the days with different symbols and words. The correct correlation between the two means that, for example, in the Long Count equals May 7, 755 in the Gregorian calendar. We are simply correlating two different systems. It’s the same challenge of correlating the ancient Egyptian calendar, or the ancient Hindu or Roman system, to a time frame we recognise. With the ‘key’ of the correlation, we can make a precise conversion between the Mayan calendar into our own. It’s not rocket science, and there’s no need to mystify it.

What you need to know is that scholars have isolated the precise correlation for the Mayan calendar, such that the end of the 13-baktun cycle in the Long Count (written falls precisely on December 21, 2012. Most importantly, the surviving 260-day calendar (the tzolkin) among the Maya today verifies this correlation, since it confirms that the cycle-ending date falls on 4 Ahau in the tzolkin. Authors that write popular books and broadcast other notions have simply not done their homework.

Next, what is the Long Count and how does it work? The Long Count calendar system was developed about 2,100 years ago in southern Mexico. Archaeologists know this because the first carved monuments with Long Count dates appear in the first-century BCE, mostly in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico. Theoretical reconstructions of the calendar that trace its origins further back in time are possible, but for now we can rest safely with the carved monuments that date to the first-century BCE. This is a good indicator of when the Long Count was formally inaugurated and carved in stone.

A typical Long Count date contains five place values. A baktun is a period of 144,000 days. A katun is a period of 7,200 days. A tun contains 360 days. A uinal contains 20 days, and a kin is a day. I’m surprised when newcomers begin to wonder how anyone can possibly know this. Some assert that the Maya disappeared long ago, so how do we know this information about their calendar? Well, the truth is that the Maya have not disappeared, as the popular misconception goes. The reason why we can say things with certainty about how the Long Count works is because scholars have reconstructed its operation from a careful examination of the archaeological evidence. It’s not so mysterious or far fetched for scholars to piece together fragments of a forgotten tradition, especially something as tangible as the basic mathematics of a calendar system.

A typical Long Count date is written The cycle ending date is written After this date, the calendar cycles back to Why? Because there are 13 Baktuns in one Creation Cycle, or Age. We know this because there are several carvings that are called ‘Creation Monuments’, and they tell us that is the completion of a World Age. The Long Count is thus part of a philosophy of time known as a World Age doctrine. It is a belief that many ancient cultures share, that the world passes through a series of chapters or Ages. For the Maya, an Age lasts 13 Baktuns, which is 5,125 years.

The Maya’s Creation Myth contains information about the World Ages, and therefore we can consult it to gain an understanding of what the ancient Maya believed occurs during a cycle ending. General principles can be identified. For example, at the end of all Ages, humanity goes through a transformation and is reborn. A person chooses from two ways, because free will is honoured. One can go the way of Seven Macaw, the vain ego-driven ruler who appears at the end of the cycle, or one can go the way of One Hunahpu, who sacrifices his false self and is reborn whole.

The point is that the Creation Myth actually provides relevant and meaningful information concerning the ancient Maya belief about what would happen as 2012 approached. Therefore, studying the messages in the Creation Myth is an effective approach for understanding 2012.

Another important question is, why did the Maya believe that the year we call 2012 in our calendar would be so transformative? What is so special about 2012? The answer to this has been the focus of my pioneering research. My 1994 article “The How and Why of the Mayan End Date” really broke the case, as it identified how a rare astronomical alignment (the ‘galactic alignment’) was encoded by the Maya into their Creation Myth. My 1995 book The Center of Mayan Time explored my new findings further, by examining the early Maya site, Izapa, that invented the Long Count cosmology. More discoveries occurred in 1995-1997, and were reported in various articles and in my books Izapa Cosmos (1996) and Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 (1998). The galactic alignment is the key to understanding why the ancient Maya believed 2012 (or, to be more accurate, ‘the years around 2012’) would be so transformational.

What is the Galactic Alignment?

  A = the solstice sun’s position 4,000 years ago. B = the solstice sun’s position 2,000 years ago. C = the solstice sun’s position in era-2012 (the galactic alignment). Note the dark rift and the crossroads of the Milky Way and the ecliptic.

The galactic alignment is a rare alignment within the cycle of the precession of the equinoxes, or let’s say ‘precession’ for short. Precession is thought to be caused by the slow wobble of the earth on its axis. The earth spins once every 24 hours, giving us the day cycle. But like a spinning top it also wobbles very slowly, making one complete wobble in just under 26,000 years. This phenomenon changes our angular orientation to the larger field of stars and constellations that surround us. One effect of the precession is that the position of the sun on a solstice or equinox slowly shifts in relation to the background stars. Ancient skywatchers might observe the stars of Capricorn rising ahead of the dawning solstice sun. Eight hundred years later, however, it will be the stars of Sagittarius. The constellations served as markers for this celestial shifting.

For the Maya, the bright band of the Milky Way was a very important feature of the night sky. It was seen to be a river, a road, a cosmic snake, a Great Mother, or even a celestial ballcourt. Compared to the very wide constellations, the Milky Way is a better marker for precessional shifting, because it is thin, like a ‘finish line’ in the sky. If the sun’s position on, say, the December solstice, was tracked, skywatchers would notice it shifting closer and closer to the bright band of the Milky Way. According to my pioneering research, ancient Maya skywatchers noticed this shifting, and calculated forward to the future day when the December solstice sun would line up with the Milky Way. They even used a more precise marker for the alignment, the dark rift in the Milky Way, which lies right along the Milky Way’s mid-plane.

Modern astronomers call the Milky Way’s precise mid-plane the ‘galactic equator’. So, a good definition of the galactic alignment is ‘the alignment of the December solstice sun with the galactic equator’. Modern astronomers have largely ignored this alignment phenomenon, but one named Jean Meeus calculated it after being encouraged to look at it by astrologer Daniel Giamario. With his calculation, and recognising that the sun itself is one-half of a degree wide, we arrive at a reasonable ‘alignment zone’ that stretches from 1980 to 2016. This is the ‘alignment zone’ of the galactic alignment. In the mid-1990s I pioneered a comparative analysis of Mayan traditions, such as the ballgame, king-making rituals, and the Creation Mythology, to show how the Maya were aware of this future galactic alignment (also sometimes called ‘the solstice-galaxy alignment’).

The galactic alignment occurs at an important location along the Milky Way – right at the crossing point formed by the Milky Way and the ecliptic (the path followed by the sun, moon, and planets). This crossroads in the sky is a critical feature of Mayan star lore. It is the Mayan Sacred Tree. Most interestingly, this cross targets the ‘nuclear bulge’ of the Galactic Centre. For this reason, the galactic alignment is often described as an alignment to the galactic centre, which it is, generally speaking.

These astronomical features had profound symbolic meaning for the ancient Maya. And some still do for the modern Maya. The Milky Way was the Great Mother, the galactic centre was her womb, and the dark rift was her birth canal. The December solstice sun was also very important, energetically, because that day signals the turnabout in the year, when increasing night shifts to increasing light. After the December solstice, the light begins to return as days grow longer. When THAT sun, the December solstice sun, shifts into alignment with the dark rift ‘birth canal’ of the Milky Way, the Maya believed the world would be reborn. It constituted a good location to place the end of a World Age, in their calendar, and the beginning of the next Age. The cycle ending is ultimately about renewal.

The galactic alignment, so defined, happens only once every 26,000 years. This is the big news, why we should be astounded at what the ancient Maya achieved. If we honour it only as a profound galactic cosmovision, whether or not we believe in its transformational power or correctness, that would be enough to shatter the continuing stereotypes of the ancient Maya as barbaric savages. Progress in understanding the brilliance of the ancient Maya’s achievement is hindered by stereotypes and clichés propagated by an exploitative media, as recent Hollywood movies illustrate. They play into fear and deep-set biases, and newcomers should be on alert for attitudes and books that disrespect the authentic Mayan calendar tradition, the one that makes December 21, 2012 equal to 4 Ahau,

But what of it? Does the galactic alignment somehow ‘cause’ change? This is an inevitable question, and one that is currently not easy to answer within the limits of our science. Astrophysicists look at distant galaxies, peer into galactic centres, and theorise about black holes, quasars, and dark matter. That’s all well and good, but they have not looked at the empirical effects of the galactic alignment phenomena. The possibility that our changing angular orientation to the galactic plane might somehow trigger seasonal changes on Earth, over very long periods of time, should be examined. Speaking from personal experience, however, it’s been very difficult to get astronomers and scientists to engage in a rational dialogue about the galactic alignment, although there have been some exceptions.

I’ve suggested scientific research that may answer the question of how the galactic alignment effects life on planet earth. It is, after all, an interesting question. In my 2002 book Galactic Alignment I discussed the Cosmecology theory of Dr. Oliver Reiser. Combining Reiser’s ideas with the galactic alignment concept, which he was not aware of, results in a possible model by which galactic alignments trigger consciousness. In 1995 I noted that our sun is roughly 26,000 light years from the galactic centre. I wondered if this could mean that precession is somehow entrained to this distance. A principle of sub-atomic physics that I located, later confirmed in the work of Reiser, provides the missing clue. The principle of ‘proton precession’ observes that protons have a varying wobble rate or ‘precession’ just like the earth does. The frequency of the wobble is directly related to the strength of the magnetic field that the proton is in, as well as its distance from the source of field. Here we have a principle that connects distance from source to the precession rate.

I am neither a sub-atomic particle physicist nor am I an interstellar astrophysicist, so this is not really my department. I offer this observation to others who are more interested in exploring the empirical models by which precession, and galactic alignments, may effect consciousness on earth.

We may be on the verge of a revolution in how we, in Western countries, understand the cosmos and our relationship to it. We may be going through a paradigm shift, much like the seventeenth century, when the sun became the centre of the cosmos during the Copernican revolution. Now, inspired by Mayan cosmology (just as Copernicus was inspired by Greek precursors), we might begin to see the womb of the Great Mother as the centre of the universe. This shift has important ramifications for our socio-political assumptions, for ‘god the solar father’ cannot be reborn unless it is through ‘goddess the galactic mother’. A higher principle that has been winnowed out of Western thought is reasserting itself, and our embracing it may be the key to transforming our unstable world into a sustainable one.

What Does 2012 Mean for the Modern World?

The pressing question is ‘what does 2012 mean for us?’ Consider this: the Maya offer us the 2012 date and tie it to a rare galactic alignment that our science barely acknowledges. They believed, for reasons we cannot quite grasp, that such an alignment would signal great transformation on the planet. If we look around us today, and recall events of the last twenty, fifty, and a hundred years, great transformation is indeed what is going on. Perhaps we should pay more attention to what the ancient Maya teachings actually say, rather than injecting modern assumptions and distortions into the 2012 discussion. There is no better place for accessing this Mayan wisdom than the Creation Mythology, otherwise known as the Popol Vuh or Hero Twin myth.

And here it is in a nutshell: 2012 bodes a challenge and an opportunity for humanity to rebirth itself. Such a transformational rebirth can only be accomplished through sacrifice, sacrificing the illusions that bind us to states of suffering and limitation. We can reconnect with the higher source, our true selves, the centre and source of the world. This invitation is reflected in the galactic alignment, our sun’s rare alignment with the cosmic heart and source (symbolised by the galactic centre).

This requires a little context and explanation. In the Creation Myth, the vain and false ruler Seven Macaw appears at the end of the cycle. He deceives and controls people, trying to take all the wealth for himself. He represents the archetype of self-serving egoism. That is the Mayan prophecy for 2012. Today, world leaders, megalomaniacal presidents, and even corporations all exhibit this trait. The Mayan prophecy for 2012 has come to pass. This is no accident. Ego takes control of the world at the end of the cycle, and this is a fact of the dynamics of cycles. We see this insight in many World Age doctrines, from the Hindus to the Greeks and especially among the indigenous peoples of the New World, such as the Maya. Spiritual light at the beginning gives way to darkness. Day turns to night, and at midnight the darkness has maximised. Year 2012 represents galactic midnight in the great cycle of precession. Everything is inverted; the ego denies any spiritual authority higher than itself. But because the ego’s vision is short-sighted, limited only to its own gain, it corrupts the world.

There is a second part to the Mayan prophecy in the Popol Vuh. Seven Macaw’s nemesis is One Hunahpu, the December solstice solar deity. He is the father of the Hero Twins, and much of the story is about facilitating his rebirth at the end of the Age. First, Seven Macaw, the ego, must be put in his place. In order for the higher consciousness to appear, for the mind and heart of humanity to be reborn, the self-serving squawking of ego must be stopped. The whole story is about the dynamic between the limited ego (Seven Macaw) and the eternal soul (One Hunahpu). Since One Hunahpu represents the December solstice sun, the entire myth is framed upon the galactic alignment. And here’s the key to the transformation, the key to putting Seven Macaw back into right relationship with One Hunahpu: sacrifice.

The challenge and the opportunity of 2012 lies within the province of our free will choice to sacrifice our illusions, the illusions that entangle our consciousness with the ego limitation of Seven Macaw. 2012 is not about something that ‘will happen’ in a predetermined sense while we sit around waiting. It is about our free will choice to open up and reconnect with the eternal wisdom, or hunker down in defeatism, closing our minds in fear.

These ideas, found in the Maya Creation Myth, are really perennial teachings. It is very significant that hidden within the depths of the Mayan calendar we find the same spiritual wisdom that resides at the root of all great spiritual traditions. Called the primordial tradition or the perennial philosophy, Mayan genius has linked up this global human heritage to galactic seasons of change timed by the galactic alignment of era-2012.

The ramifications of the 2012 opportunity are critical for creating a sustainable future. The key is embodying the higher wisdom, the higher vantage point, to resolve problems that are impossible to solve when consciousness retains an allegiance to lower consciousness, to the self-serving agenda of egoism.

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