12-20-2012; Our Last Golden Sunset?

Copyright © 2012 by Martian Publishing Company


I began studying the cycles contained within the Mayan Calendar in the 1970’s. The differing interwoven cycles they used intrigued me and I based a paper for my Statistics class on several of them.

One of the cycles I found most interesting was the one that ran more than nineteen years. It seemed that it nearly coincided with the “twenty year curse” for American Presidents. The Presidents elected in 1820, 1840, 1860, 1880, 1900, 1920, 1940, and 1960 all had the misfortune to die in office. I thought perhaps the Mayan cycle could give me some insight into the pattern.

Sadly, it was inconclusive. But my interest in the calendar was born.

In 1998, I came across a new volume, The Mayan Factor, by Jose Argüelles. I had been toying with the idea of writing a fictional tale of the Mayans creating their calendar and the reasoning behind it. Perhaps the Argüelles book could help me in my understanding.

It opened a whole new world to me and I began to look into the “2012” phenomenon and all the talk going around about doomsday.

I thought the calendar – and the reasons behind it – were obvious enough that no one could really misunderstand what the Mayan were saying.

Boy! Was I wrong!

I read far and wide in the literature and found such a variety of predictions. Some rather bland, some rather far out there, and none even vaguely resembling what I understood the thing to be about.

And so, we have this present volume. Not intending to “set everyone straight”, I just wanted to point out my interpretation of what the Maya really intended for their calendar.

And to try and present such evidence that supports my interpretation.

INTRODUCTION – What’s the Buzz?

I have a calendar on the wall in my office. Every year it reaches the end with nothing more dire than another round of New Year’s resolutions and the preparations for another season with the tax people. That and the bother of finding a new one to replace it… preferably one with some cute kittens or ferrets to make the coming year a little lighter.

So what’s all this fuss about the Mayan Calendar coming to an end? Can’t they just take it down and go to the local hardware or bookstore and get a new one? Well, unfortunately, their calendar covers more than one simple year; more like 5,125 years. Replacements like that are going to be pretty hard to come by.

What could they have been thinking when they devised such a thing? It seems strange in our hurry-hurry world to think that anyone would need to plan that far in advance for anything.

So, what were they thinking? The question is not intended to be rhetorical. Really, what were they thinking? Our calendar is designed to last one year for a purpose: we plan most everything in yearly increments – five or ten years at best. Were they thinking in five thousand year increments? And, if so, why?

It is possible, some tell us, that they were not actually planning that far in advance but simply passing along a message to us. Not exactly “us” specifically but perhaps they saw something in their future – the future of their grandchildren’s great-grandchildren’s grandchildren – that necessitated some means whereby they could convey the warning to them, and to us. But why should the message have been couched in such unspecific terms? Why the subterfuge? Why not just tell us what it is they saw coming down the pike?

I believe they did. They made the message as clear as they possibly could only it seems that we have forgotten how to read what they have left us. Somewhere between the literal and the metaphorical interpretations of their legacy lies the truth in the message.

How can we decide which path leads to the answers? A lot has been written about the Mayan Calendar recently and there seems to be plenty of confusion about what is really going on. Some see dire omens, others see a new enlightenment, and yet others see just another December 21st no different than any other.

A recent History Channel production, “Mayan Doomsday 2012”, consulted a variety of prophets throughout the past to describe the coming end of the world in 2012. Unfortunately, the only one that actually mentioned the year 2012 was the Mayan Calendar; the others simply describe a doomsday scenario. None of the others, not Nostradamus or Cayce, supplied us with the date. And that rapidly approaching date is the puzzle.

A lot of this confusion comes about because the Mayan End-Date has only recently been discovered and the decipherment of their language is still ongoing. Apparently even the modern Maya had forgotten about it as it took the researchers several decades to piece together the start and end dates for their calendar – the Maya seem to have forgotten this dire prediction. Today there is still some disparity on the precise End-Date but most scholars agree that the calendar began on August 11th 3114 BC and will end on December 21st 2012. (The less-popular interpretation starts the calendar on the 13th of August 3114 BC and ends December 23rd 2012.) One researcher claims the actual End-Date is October 28, 2011, but most agree on the Winter Solstice date.

What could have been going on around 3000 BC to warrant the Maya starting a calendar that would last for more than five thousand years?

Again, what could they have been thinking?

What’s a Calendar for, Anyway?

Calendars have a long and varied history. Presently, I believe they serve the same purpose as the census: a tax gathering tool. But the calendar did not start that way.

Some scholars think it was originally used to help with agricultural cycles, but I cannot see a culture living in tune with nature and the seasons – as they most certainly needed to be – require some numerical artifice to tell them when to plant and harvest; nature itself does that well enough.

It seems calendars were first devised to help honoring special days. Precisely why the solar anniversary of an important event was celebrated is unknown but it goes back to the misty beginnings of humankind. Perhaps it had something to do with our own birthdays.

But these special days were generally of religious significance. So the calendars were formed with religious overtones. The seven day week and the seven days of Creation from the Bible immediately come to mind.

Many early cultures used the Moon as the basis of their calendar rather than the Sun. This repeating cycle gave us the month, named for the Moon. The lunar cycle (about 29 days) falls just short of the modern month (30/31 days), so they would quickly fall out of alignment and the year measured by moons would end earlier and earlier each solar year. The Hebrews solved this by adding an extra lunar month every few years.

The length of the solar year seems to have undergone some adjustment as well. Some of the very earliest calendars have the length of a year set at 360 days and the lunar month at 30 days. These numbers led the ancients to devising the circle of 360° and the twelve astrological signs at 30° each. Historians think it strange that the ancients had such difficulty in counting the true length of a year. They marvel that the ancients did not notice the variance after a couple of years; in less than twenty years, the spring solstice would have moved an entire season!

Still, the ancients did make an adjustment. After many years, cultures around the world noticed the year was suddenly five days longer. Most simply tacked the extra five days to the end of their year in its own short “month” and considered them evil days.

Could it possibly be that the year in ancient times was only 360 days long? Could the Sun and Moon actually have been that closely synchronized? Historians mock the ancients for their obvious ineptitude, but considering the ancients’ careful concern for the movements of the heavens, another solution seems appropriate. And judging by the widespread belief that the year was shorter, I would tend to favor the eyewitnesses.

Though the movements of the Sun and the Moon became the building blocks for the year and month, the origin of the week is less certain. Some think it a measure for the various phases of the Moon but no one knows for sure. It has been around a long time as evidenced by its inclusion in the Book of Genesis. Since the Jewish texts have it as the metaphorical length of time it took for the Creation perhaps a metaphysical or esoteric interpretation may point researchers in the right direction.

So, we come to understand that most of the phenomena assigned to the birth of calendars are of celestial origin. So were the gods of the ancients. With the Sun, Moon, and planets deified, the basis for the calendar takes on even more religious overtones.

Heavenly Obsession

The ancients were obsessed with the heavens. Their gods were up in the heavens above – many were planets, for some strange reason – and they kept a keen eye on their movements and the portents above. As the planets are not visible during the day, this had to have been a nocturnal activity. They must have been insomniacs and there must have been some important reason for their sky-watching rather than some idle whim. The basic struggle to survive lent little time for such “academic” pursuits on anything but a modest scale. There must have been some worldwide pressing need to keep such a vigilant watch.

Again, historians aid our understanding by pronouncing it superstitious fear. They tell us Stonehenge was built for this reason: they feared the Sun was disappearing, going away southward, and needed some reassurance it was returning.

I don’t know where anyone got this notion. Surely the ancients, more in tune with their environment than most modern mankind, would have noticed that the Sun came back every year. And without the intercession of a priest. How could anyone convince them otherwise? Perhaps if they had just crawled out of some hole and never witnessed the seasons… No, probably not.

Obsessed, though, they were. They could see the planets moving independently of the background star-field and were able to plot their courses, predict their future positions, as if they had nothing better to do. Why go to the bother if there is no pressing reason?

Fear is a good motivation. Not some hypothetical superstitious fear but something tangible. For us, Friday the 13th is a symbol of bad luck; for the Templars it was a deadly reality. Many today still fear the 13th but it lacks the punch it had for the Templars.

We find it remarkable that the ancients understood precession – use it, in fact, as a standard for intelligence – but how important is it, really? How does it impact our daily lives? Most people would be hard pressed to define what it is and even fewer could say if it had any bearing on anything.

Precession is the by-product of the slow wobble in our planetary axis. Astronomers think the entire process takes a little longer than 26,000 years to complete the circuit. As this wobble progresses, the equinoxes (spring and autumn) appear to move backward through the signs of the zodiac. Hence the term: precession of the equinoxes.

Many think this slow progress through the zodiacal houses is the mechanism the ancients defined the “world ages” of the past. But for the variation in the equinox there is nothing that actually affects the world and the people on it. Why would the changing of the positions of the equinoxes be any matter of importance to the ancients unless there was a momentous event attached to the change? Easter and Thanksgiving fall on different dates each year and yet very few people could describe the mechanism for the change. It is merely a calendrical appointment and nothing to require the changing of an age.

Precession is, in essence, nothing of any great importance to our day-to-day world. From its study over the centuries, observers have come to understand that the Earth is not the center of the universe. Precession shows us the motions of the solar system on a grand scale. Any effect on us is miniscule. It is a mechanism for denoting the passage of time not unlike the rotation of the planet or the length of revolution of the Moon around our world or the Earth around the Sun.

So that could not have been the change in the heavens watched so carefully by the ancients. They tracked the planetary motions and something more as well: they seemed to know features about some of the planets they should not have. Jupiter’s red spot and Saturn’s rings were known to the ancients even though they could not have seen these features without the aid of a telescope.

Scholars scoff at the notion that the ancients had such intimate knowledge of the planets but the facts speak for themselves. Cultures around the globe mention these features. Were they simply lucky guesses? Incredibly so to be made in diverse localities.

Can the ancient world have been so different from our own? And what might these changes have meant to the people in the world, like the Maya? Certainly it would have affected their world view, their philosophy, and the priorities of their culture. By studying their histories and artifacts we might come closer to understanding.

Studying the modern Maya may help in our understanding but one should not confuse them with their historical counterparts. How many Catholics today would relate to their Church in the ninth century?

The Nature of Memory

Their Calendar could be used as an aid to memory. Not just for one person or a generation, but to pass knowledge onto future generations. Through specifying days of importance, they pass along insight into what they considered important.

Uneventful days are not commemorated, non-occurrences not remembered. Great circumstances are. The more memorable the event, the greater the commemoration.

I have been through many New Year’s in my life but can remember only a few of them. Some retained importance because of the persons I was with or some other passage in my life, but most have passed into oblivion as non-eventful. New Year’s Day is an important day on our present calendar but is not necessarily a memorable day.

The Sun crossing the Galactic Center is such an event. It happens annually but its occurrence on the Winter Solstice is a rare event. But if nothing had ever happened during such a crossing, why would the event be important?

Social memory works in the same fashion. The Sun crossing a certain point in the sky may be heralded as it is approaching but if the day passes without some event to punctuate the passage there is no reason anyone would mark it down in memory – there is nothing to remember. The memory requires something to latch onto. A normal day – and most of us that work a forty-hour week have plenty of those – simply does not lend itself to being remembered in any detail, much less commemorated.

Many doomsdays have been predicted in the past, and the days are now forgotten because exactly nothing happened. The doom and destruction of Y2K may be remembered today only as a laughing matter. In a century, it will be less than a footnote.

Many historians create time-scales to plot the great moments in history. This is highly subjective and often say more about the historian than our history. The “great moments” they pick are from our perspective, gauged by what is important to us now. Usually, great battles and wars find their way onto such charts but they really important in the greater scheme of things?

I think an epochal moment in history was the middle of the twentieth century, 1950/51. No great wars or battles took place, nothing most people would call momentous happened, but I always considered it the birth of the New Age. In that short period, four rather special books occupied the top of the bestseller lists: 1- Kon Tiki, by Thor Heyerdahl, which would forever change our view of the capabilities of ancient man; 2- The Edge of the Sea, by Rachel Carson, which gave birth to ecology and our consciousness of the natural balance around us; 3- Worlds in Collision, by Immanuel Velikovsky, which gave life to modern catastrophism; and 4- Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health, by L. Ron Hubbard, which hoped to change psychotherapy but evolved into the Church of Scientology and a myriad of New Age philosophies. (An interesting footnote that Hubbard – author of #4 on the list – based his book, Dianetics, on the theory of the “engram” which was hypothesized in a 1939 paper by Velikovsky – author of #3.)

No one includes this epochal year in any list. Perhaps most do not see anything of importance in these events. The far-reaching effects of the shift in consciousness seem to fall under most people’s radar. Milestones and catastrophes, however, are remembered. Milestones? Like the American Bi-centennial? Hey, where were you during the Bi-centennial? No, that’s not very memorable for most of us.

Where were you when President Kennedy was shot? Or, for the current generation, where were you on 9/11? Now, there’s a memory!

Epochal events are those that get remembered. So what is it that triggered the Maya? Certainly nothing as “memorable” as the Sun conjuncting the Galactic Center or passing over some other point in the heavens. Some sources tell us the 3114 BC date concerned the “birth of Venus” although that seems ludicrous to us as science informs us it has been around at least as long as our own planet. Or has it? Wasn’t that the subject of the book by Velikovsky mentioned above?

The birth of a new planet should be momentous enough to initiate a calendar, especially if the event was accompanied by some world-changing side-effects. But even then, the effects would dissipate over the centuries and when nothing similar repeated, the event would become less and less important than the celebration. Until all that was left was the date.

And the date alone has come down to us. But why, and why now?

How This All Started

Like most people, I was unaware of the Mayan End-Date, even though it had been debated in scholarly journals for decades. That changed in 1987 with the publication of Jose Argüelles’ book, The Mayan Factor. I picked up a copy in an esoteric bookstore in 1998 and was fascinated. I was not alone.

Since that time, I have followed the further researches of Argüelles and those that were also inspired: John Major Jenkins, Carl Johan Calleman, Adrian Gilbert, Maurice Cotterell, Michael Tsarion, and others. The interest led me to read Linda Schele and Anthony Aveni as well. The last two are mainstream Maya scholars while the remainder are, like myself, somewhere out on the fringe.

What had begun as an interesting metaphysical construction by Argüelles has become a rather large and diverse field of studies ranging from the heavily scientific to the extremely speculative, and even some wildly speculative.

Argüelles was an Art professor before his immersion in Mayan studies as was Linda Schele, one of the greatest scholars in the field of Maya Studies. Each brought the eye of an artist to the inscriptions of the Maya in order to better understand the nuances of the carved glyphs. Through this understanding, each was able to further their interpretation of the Maya, their culture, and their meaning in our present world.

Most of the writers in this fringe field do not come from the hallowed halls of historical scholarship but have ventured onto this path through other, more personal, callings. Each has brought a different view and a variant understanding of the End-Date phenomenon. As the subject has grown and diversified, the variations in the theories have grown wider. Two authors who began in agreement in the main have diverged in specifics as their studies and researches have carried them in different directions. They each offer some wider understanding as they delve deeper.

So, while Argüelles has focused on his interpretation of a Maya Calendar for our times, the Dreamspell Calendar, and Jenkins has narrowed his research on the End-Date itself and the crossing of the Sun across the Galactic Center, Calleman has chosen to investigate the fifth stellar age and its sub-ages, each with their own influences, and others have found other parts of the whole to focus their attention on.

The interpretations are as varied as the authors. But whose is correct? Consulting with the Maya on the subject does not help clarify the situation as they seem to agree with Argüelles… and Jenkins… and Calleman… and – so forth.

Their agenda seems not to be which theory is correct – they are far too removed from the past to know the answer – but that the Maya are well represented in the portrayals. It is a political agenda but, judging from the politics in the region they live, quite understandable. This subject is their heritage and they are protective of it.

It is not correct that we should expect them to understand the workings of the ancient form of the calendar and its true meaning. They are more than a millennia removed from those Maya.

But if we cannot consult the present-day Maya on the subject, to whom can we turn? Is there any other sources we can consult?

Data Mining

There is a lot of information on this subject both in published form and on the internet. As one blogger lamented: yes, there are a lot on End-Date websites, but they all seem to be selling something.

Still, there are many that are not trying to sell anything, except their slant on the 2012 question itself. Many are disciples of one or another of the authors mentioned above and they repeat their author’s interpretation and frequently attack other ideas. A lot of the information is repetitive, rehashing or copying other sites (thanks to the RSS feeds) or offering excerpts from the various theories.

The vast majority of theories fall into two camps: 1- those who think the End-Date will usher in the next Golden Age; and 2- those who think it will be the end of everything, or the world as we know it.

The Hollywood blockbuster movie, “2012”, encompasses the latter scenario. Let’s face it: the special effects in which they excel are better suited to sweeping catastrophes more than gradual enlightenment.

But which of these is the scenario the Maya foresaw, what did it mean to them? An exact answer is lacking. Their ancient writings are a bit ambiguous on the subject which is why there are so many varying theories today.

So we will have to try and find the answers elsewhere.

One might think it is an impossible task but there are ways to accomplish this. First we can consult their history and their cosmology for clues. Where the data is lacking we can examine the mythology of other ancient lands to find parallels, being careful not to imply too much from this without some sort of corroboration from the Maya sources.

They had an interesting mathematics but the number seven, so prevalent in other ancient societies seems to lack the importance for them.

Other sources of data can be in their social structures. The sacrificing of humans is a feature of most Mesoamerican cultures and may offer clues. That and the reason a great many of the victims were volunteers is a bit frightening. Perhaps their worldview and perception of the afterlife was substantially different than our own, and another piece of the puzzle.

Other scholars have brought information to the table – most to become ostracized by the scholarly community because their findings did not jibe with “accepted” theory. We shall have to examine these as well. Any kernel of information that lends itself to understanding the beginnings of this culture that produced such a marvelous wonder will have to be checked.

The data that adds to our understanding of their world view should help us understand the how and why of their calendar. Information that belittles them or their achievements will have to be discarded. A civilization does not put that much time and effort into constructing such a mechanism for no reason.

This was not some “secret society” or underground cult that tried and kept their motive or their message from prying eyes, this was a living and breathing culture that lasted for more than a millennium, using this very calendar in their daily life. Surely, the secret cannot be kept from our eyes too very long once we strip away the preconceptions and look at their story with honest and open eyes.

It may have been a religion but it will be something we can understand because of the humanness it must have held, even if the finer details seem somehow foreign to our modern mind.

Where the search eventually ends is hard to know at the start. But I know it will lead to a greater understanding of the Maya, their calendar, and ourselves as well. Because their story must discuss the real world, the same world they and we have in common.

Much of this data will be revisited later in the volume where appropriate as some of it bears repeating and looking at in differing contexts.

Trying On Their Shoes

After determining the answer we should be able to turn the clock back with a better understanding of the Maya, their, calendar, their world and what the message might be for us today.

Perhaps fear guided them, as some historians have postulated, perhaps it was a hopeful future they foresaw. Whatever it was, it should make complete sense to us into their apparent compulsion to create and utilize the calendar for centuries, perhaps millennia, before abandoning it along with their magnificent cities to the jungles of time.

These were real people, these ancients, who lived and died as we moderns do. Their dreams and hopes were captured in their art, their religion, in their palaces, temples, observatories, and in their calendar.

With a little effort we should confidently assume the mantle of responsibility they carried so long and be able to carry their burden onward, walking in their well-worn shoes.

And, with luck, our civilization will last as long.

In the following days I will present the chapters from the volume, one chapter a day:

PART I – THE BASICS – understanding the Maya has been a long time coming
Chapter 1 – The Maya and Their Place in the Sun
Chapter 2 – The Mesoamerican Calendar(s)
Chapter 3 – Parting Gifts
Chapter 4 – A Ray of Sunshine
PART II – THE HYPOTHESES – after Argüelles awakened the Beast
Chapter 5 – The Coming Golden Age
Chapter 6 – Doom and Destruction
Chapter 7 – Spin Cycle
Chapter 8 – Lost Worlds
Chapter 9 – Much Ado About Nothing
PART III – BACK TO THE BASICS – we are we really left with?
Chapter 10 – Removing the Lens
Chapter 11 – Into the Light

Hopefully, you will find it interesting.

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