To Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 by John Major Jenkins
Fixing Our Sights
My fascination with the Maya began when I visited Mexico and Central America in 1986. This was the first of several journeys I undertook, "traveling on a shoestring" through the remnants of a vast and mysterious civilization. I explored dozens of ruins, many of them over a thousand years old. From the Yucatán in the north to Honduras in the south, from Belize in the east to Mexico City in the west, a vast civilization presented itself to me, and I was awestruck by its unfathomed mysteries. This region is called, appropriately enough, Mesoamerica—the middle of America. It is here that the Maya civilization arose, and it has tenaciously defied being fully understood.
That first journey south of the border was a turning point in my life, a commitment to learning about the profound history of my home continent. Leaving Chicago on a dismal December day with a thousand dollars in my pocket, I looked forward to several months of adventure, exploring ancient ruins and making friends among the contemporary Maya. Above all, I hoped to catch a glimpse of that elusive ancient knowledge, find some direction for my own life and, perhaps, to discovery a personal mission. My travels led me from Mexico City through Oaxaca, where I visited the Zapotec capital of Monte Alban. After a few weeks dreaming on the coastal beaches of Oaxaca, I made my way to the highlands of Chiapas, where I welcomed in the New Year, 1987. Now I was ready for the heart of the journey: Guatemala, with its volcanic peaks, beautiful Lake Atitlan, and dozens of ancient ruins. Most importantly to me, the traditional Quiché Maya—some six million of them—were still living in the highlands, in remote villages where they still counted the days according to the ancient calendar and followed age-old traditions. And deep in Guatemala's northern Peten rainforest, accessible only by a bone-jarring sixteen-hour bus ride on muddy and dangerous roads, I found Tikal, my personal mecca.
I can remember a moment when, seven weeks into the trip, I was overcome by the sprawling former metropolis of Tikal. Sitting on the steps of the Central Acropolis, I looked around me at the towering sentinels of stone, their upper platforms stretching above the jungle canopy like altars to the stars, and I listened carefully to the wind whisper messages of a far off time, and of another world. I thought about the expanse of time and the depth of space above me. This place had been home to some fifty thousand people at a time when London was a dirty market town of a thousand. Questions began to stir in my mind. What drove the Maya to such feats of accomplishment? What was their understanding about human nature, the stars, and the cosmos? Where did they come from? What caused the demise of their thriving cities? My questions were a natural outgrowth of a lifelong search for answers about the nature of life, death, and human spirituality.
From an early age I had been fascinated by the world of ideas. I had devoured everything I could on philosophy and cosmology. To me, cosmology involves more than just the study of the cosmos and the nature of the world, but also includes the role of human spirituality. My youthful curiousity led me through readings in science and philosophy, and deeper into Eastern mysticism. I soon found myself puzzling over what was happening in the world, where we were all headed, and what role human beings play in the evolution of life and consciousness. Ultimately, I became interested in Native American beliefs, the Hopi prophecies, and then the Maya. These interests led me to a contemplative moment at Tikal when, at age twenty-two, I intuited that the knowledge of the ancient Maya was going to play a significant role in the future development of Western philosophy and culture. There was something deep and profound in the stones on which I sat, and I sensed that the Maya where advanced in ways that my own world could barely appreciate or understand. Their minds seemed attuned to the cosmic spaces. Scholars had recognized Maya kings as priests, fully involved in both the political and spiritual life of their culture, but I envisioned Maya kings as time travellers, scientists, skywatchers, and magicians, capable of feats recognized only in ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts. While gazing at the carved monuments of the temple plazas of Guatemala's ruined cities, I saw Maya king-shamans journeying along sky ropes, passing between worlds, and communicating with other times and places. A lost knowledge echoed among the stones, fragmented, awaiting rediscovery.
But what was this ancient knowledge? At that point on my path, I still wasn't sure. I felt it had something to do with the sophisticated calendar systems used by the Maya, and I remembered reading in my guidebook that one of the Maya calendars was due to "end" on December 21, 2012. That date wasn't very far off. Why did the ancient Maya choose that date? I wondered. What is the true meaning of the Maya calendar end-date in A.D. 2012? The answer to this question became my personal quest. A brief reading of the literature on this topic did not offer much apart from unsatisfying generalizations. My gut feeling was that astronomy was involved, and yet I could not locate any academic books that directly addressed this possibility. That was over ten years ago.
Since 1986, the study of Maya science and religion has progressed by leaps and bounds. Archaeologists continued to uncover ancient ruins and excavated thousands of carved monuments, jade artifacts, rich burial tombs, painted ceramic vases, and examples of the hieroglyphic writing invented by the Maya. Scholars made enormous progress deciphering the Maya script. Specialists can now read almost all of these hieroglyphs, which reveal detailed histories for each Maya kingdom. In addition, scholars found and deciphered sacred texts that describe events that occured during the world's creation and successive recreations. Many of these texts have direct bearing on the meaning of the 2012 end-date. Another recent breakthrough occurred when scholars realized that Maya myth describes astronomical events. In other words, there is a secret cosmological dimension encoded into Maya mythology. The Creation myth of the Maya, the Popol Vuh, recounts the adventures of their most important deities and culture heroes. Since these Maya deities represent astronomical objects such as stars and planets, their activities thus describe astronomical processes. All of this evidence would provide a key to interpreting the true scope of Maya knowledge, but it was not widely known back in 1986. It wasn't until the 1992 Austin Hieroglyphic Meeting that Maya scholar Linda Schele revealed her interpretation of Maya Creation myth, in which she emphasized the relationship between myth and astronomy. Her work was hailed as a breakthrough, and was fully rendered in her 1993 book Maya Cosmos, coauthored with David Freidel and Joy Parker. I immediately saw the value of this new mytho-astronomical perspective, and it became my guiding principle as I searched more deeply into the Maya mysteries.
Upon returning from that first trip south of the border, I began a course of study that has resulted, over ten years, in seven books devoted to exploring the esoteric secrets of Maya calendar science and religion. It is amazing what you can do with a library card. I waded through popular and academic writings on Maya astronomy, culture, religion, and calendar science. In my book Tzolkin: Visionary Perspectives and Calendar Studies, I reconstructed the Maya Venus calendar and explored the nature of the 260-day Mayan sacred calendar, called the tzolkin. In so doing, I was led to a closer look at another Maya calendar, the Long Count. The Long Count calendar operates separately from the tzolkin and tracks very large periods of time. I learned that the cycle of time that ends in A.D. 2012 is a period of some 5,125 years. The Maya called this a period of 13 "baktuns," in which each baktun lasts about 394 years. This large cycle began back in 3114 B.C. However, I realized that this does not mean the Long Count was invented that far back. In fact, I discovered that the Long Count calendar was invented only about 2,100 years ago, when monuments dated in the Long Count start appearing in the archaeological record. For example, the very first "Long Count monument" dates to 37 B.C. As such, the 3114 B.C. "beginning" date appears to have been a back calculation. The Maya astronomers calculated that between 3114 B.C. and A.D. 2012, a total of 13 "baktuns" would elapse.
But why, I asked myself, did this 13-baktun Great Cycle of the Long Count calendar end in A.D. 2012? Why not A.D. 1712, or A.D. 2650? What determined the placement of the 13-baktun Great Cycle in real time? I noticed that the 2012 end-date occurs precisely on the December solstice. Could it be that the "end" date was the intended anchor for the placement of the Long Count calendar, rather than the "beginning" date? I eventually found that some authors have attempted interpretations of the end-date. For example, Frank Waters, in his 1975 book Mexico Mystique, analyzed astrology charts for the end-date.1 These were standard earth-centered charts, and a professional astrologer described the configuration of planets as being rare. This was intriguing information, yet somehow it just wasn't satisfying to me. I felt that, certainly, astronomy was involved in the Mayan end-date, but it would have to be something really big to justify the end of a cycle of more than 5,000 years. Standard horoscope interpretations just do not address the Maya belief that a World Age would be ending. More recently, The Mayan Prophecies, by Maurice Cotterell and Adrian Gilbert, proposed that the 2012 end-date was chosen because of sunspot extremes and their effects on human fertility. Theirs is an interesting hypothesis, but in my view their theory has problems. I reviewed their book carefully in 1995, interviewed Adrian Gilbert, and concluded that some doubt hung over the sunspot hypothesis.2
One thing was certain: The Maya believed the world will "end" in A.D. 2012. But what does this mean? The end-times doctrine can be interpreted in two ways: metaphorically and literally. My metaphorical interpretation is that the Maya believed that around the year we call 2012, a large chapter in human history will be coming to an end. All the values and assumptions of the previous World Age will expire, and a new phase of human growth will commence. Ultimately, I believe the Maya understood this to be a natural process, in which new life follows a death. We all experience this cycle of death and rebirth in our own lives: our most difficult experiences of suffering and loss are ultimately our best teachers. Imagine this principle taking effect on the level of the entire human race.
The literal interpretation of the Maya concept of a World Age shift in 2012 is emphasized by many writers for the sheer drama of it. In this scenario, humanity literally is going to experience cataclysm and upheavel, earthquakes, disasters, famine, and plague. This Earth cleansing, however, is the prelude for a global renewal. While this scenario may seem bleak, the Maya doctrine of World Ages extends back over four previous epochs, each of which ended in cataclysm and the transformation of humanity into something completely new, a new being better suited for life in the new world. So even in this catastrophic scenario, the cyclic renewal of the Earth and the spiritual unfoldment of humanity prevails.
With so many questions still unanswered, I continued trying to satisfy my thirst for understanding the true meaning of the Maya end-date. Two considerations led me to see the end-date in a larger context. First, Western astrologers, that is, astrologers who specialize in non-Maya astrology, are saying that we are entering the Age of Aquarius, that a new World Age is, indeed, about to begin. A concept that originated in ancient Greek and Egyptian science, the "shifting of the ages" is based in an astronomical phenomenon called the precession of the equinoxes. The precession of the equinoxes, or simply precession, is caused by the fact that Earth wobbles on its axis. Earth spins on its axis once every twenty-four hours, resulting in the sunrise and sunset that defines our day. However, the Earth, like a spinning top, also slowly wobbles or "precesses" on its axis. According to modern astronomical calculations, one full "wobble" (one full precessional cycle) takes about 25,800 years. For observers on Earth, this wobbling gives the impression that the sun rises against the background of different constellations as the centuries elapse. The result is that the equinox sun will soon be rising in the constellation of Aquarius rather than in Pisces, as it has for the past 2,000 years. Thus, we are moving out of the Age of Pisces and into the Age of Aquarius. Precession seemed to provide the "big event" I was looking for. I wondered if the Maya astronomers recognized the same twelve constellations as Western astrologers do, and if the Long Count calendar end-date marks our passage into the Aquarian Age.
The second consideration that emerged in my research also points to precession as being associated with the Long Count calendar. As already mentioned, the cycle that ends in A.D. 2012 is a period of 13 baktuns. A baktun is the fifth-place value in the base-twenty Long Count calendar, and it equals 144,000 days. Thirteen of these baktuns equal a 5,125-year "Great Cycle." Mayan and Aztec documents relate a belief in four or five World Ages, and we currently live in the last one. Amazingly, five Great Cycles equal one precessional cycle! Early on in my research I thought the Maya end-date simply reflected our movement into the Age of Aquarius. However, as I searched deeper into the Maya wisdom I learned that ancient Maya astronomers looked at the heavens differently than their Western counterparts in Greece: they used thirteen constellations rather than twelve. This fact would result in a different timing for the anticipated shift in World Ages, one that would not agree with the dawn of the Aquarian Age recognized in Western astrology. I had to rule out the dawning of the Age of Aquarius as an explanation for the Maya end-date in 2012. Besides, most modern astrologers were putting off the advent of the Aquarian Age until the twenty-second century—over 200 years after the Maya end-date! Something else seemed to be going on, something involving precession but that was alien to the Western assumptions I was encountering in my readings.
I reformulated my guiding question: What event in the cycle of precession does 2012 represent? As fate would have it, the right book appeared before me at the right time. The year was 1993. The book was Hamlet's Mill. Authored by two respected scholars, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Giorgio de Santillana and University of Frankfurt history of science professor Hertha von Dechend, Hamlet's Mill turned out to be a treasure trove of ideas. The book's subheading says a lot about its contents: "An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time." The "frame of time" refers to the celestial frame—the contents of the sky, including the stars, constellations, and the Milky Way. Our orientation to this "stellar frame" changes over time with precession. Myth is involved because the authors identify descriptions of this slow shifting of the sky in ancient myths from cultures around the globe. The basic premise of the book, then, is that myth and astronomy go hand in hand, that myth describes astronomical processes and, more specifically, that ancient cultures were aware of the precession of the equinoxes. Moreover, the authors contend that ancient cultures believed precession to have a primary influence on the changing destinies of humankind.
As mentioned, precession is usually tracked with the changing constellations in which the equinox sun rises. In Western astrology, there are twelve constellations, and thus each "constellation age" lasts about 2,160 years. However, the authors of Hamlet's Mill also noted that, during the precessional cycle, the equinox and solstice sun periodically line up with the Milky Way—the band of stars we see arching through the night sky that is also our home galaxy. One direct clue in Hamlet's Mill jumped out at me, and pointed me in a promising direction. The authors wrote that some 6,400 years ago (4400 B.C.), the fall equinox sun coincided with the Milky Way, and this was the fabled Golden Age found in many myths. In other words, this was a time when the sun, on the fall equinox, was in conjunction with the Milky Way, an era when a harmonious alignment existed in the sky. Of course, precession eventually causes this alignment to end, fostering a kind of celestial disharmony. Imagine how our ancient ancestors would have responded to this ever-increasing cosmic disharmony. The authors suggest this "untuning of the sky" resulted in our descent into history, with its increasing wars and fading memories of an ancient paradise in which cosmic harmony prevailed. Historically, the ancient paradise may be a collective memory of the Great Mother-worshipping culture of our Neolithic ancestors, in which the ideal of partnership and peaceful coexistence reigned. Moreover, 4400 B.C. does match up pretty well with when partnership culture was disrupted and a patriarchal system based upon hierarchies of dominance began arising in the Middle East—the forerunner of our own Western Tradition.
Interestingly, Santillana and von Dechend also discuss the ancient myths that relate a belief in a future time when cosmic harmony would return and an earthly paradise would resurface. In 1993, I began to carefully think through the implications of these ideas. If the fall equinox sun conjuncting the Milky Way was considered to be a precessional era of harmony, and a future return of this type of alignment was projected, what could it be? Well, the astronomical fact is that the alignment described above occured some 6,400 years ago. Since the equinoxes and solstices divide the year into quarters, I reasoned that one-quarter of a precessional cycle later (6,450 years), the December solstice sun will be joined with the Milky Way. In other words, the December solstice sun will be conjuncting the bright band of the Milky Way around the year A.D. 2012! I felt I had found the answer to my question about the true meaning of the Maya end-date, and quickly sought to confirm it. I studied star charts and proved to myself that, yes, despite it never making the morning newspaper headlines, a very rare alignment in the precessional cycle will occur on the December solstice of A.D. 2012—the end-date of the Maya calendar! Precession brings one of the seasonal quarters (either the March equinox, the June solstice, the September equinox, or the December solstice) into alignment with the Milky Way once every 6,450 years. However, the alignment of 2012 occurs only once every 25,800 years! Furthermore, the alignment involves the December solstice, the traditional "beginning" point of Earth's yearly cycle. Earth itself, and by extension its citizens, were involved in the alignment. This was certainly an event worthy of being recognized by the ancient Maya as a rare World Age shift. Could it be, I thought to myself, that the ancient Maya knew about precession thousands of years ago? And did they understand something about the Milky Way and our alignment with it that has escaped detection by modern science? My discovery answered one question but raised a host of others: Where exactly was the Long Count invented? Is the alignment of 2012 somehow encoded into Maya myths? Is it discussed in Maya hieroglyphic texts? Is it portrayed on Maya carvings? If so, how? I now had the key to understanding the meaning of the Maya end-date, but it was clear that I was venturing into uncharted territory. I dove further into the academic literature, but nothing I read had anything to say about an astronomical alignment on the 2012 end-date. I felt bewildered because my discovery was not based on conjecture, it was simply making a connection between two facts. First, the 13-baktun cycle of the Maya Long Count calendar ends on December 21, 2012. Second, a very rare alignment in the cycle of the precession of the equinoxes culminates on that day. Given this compelling "coincidence," in 1994 I asked esteemed Maya scholar Dennis Tedlock what he thought of it. He replied that he too had noticed this unusual situation in 2012, but did not know what to make of it. Were the ancient Maya aware of precession? Did they purposefully fix the end of their Long Count calendar to a rare alignment in the precessional cycle? If so, how were they able to accurately calculate the rate of precession? I had the impression that this train of thought was off limits in academia, that the implications were just too tantalizing to be credible.
However, I remained undaunted by the silence of the Ivory Tower, and by early 1994 I was making progress sorting out the data. I had been studying Maya cosmology for almost seven years, having published three books on the subject, so I already had a good understanding of Maya myth, calendrics, and astronomy. I continued to review pertinent academic studies, looking for connections between astronomy and Maya myth. I focused my attention on the astronomy associated with the end-date alignment: the December solstice sun, the Milky Way, and the stars of Sagittarius and Scorpio. Three facts loomed before me:
_ The ecliptic is the path travelled by the sun, moon, and planets through the sky. Twelve constellations lie along the ecliptic, and the sun passes through all twelve during the course of one year. The ecliptic crosses over the Milky Way at a 60° angle near the constellation Sagittarius. As such, it forms a cross with the Milky Way, and this cosmic cross was called the Sacred Tree by the ancient Maya.3 (The cross form was also known as the "crossroads.") Amazingly, the center of this cosmic cross, that is, right where the ecliptic crosses over the Milky Way, is exactly where the December solstice sun will be in A.D. 2012. This alignment occurs only once every 25,800 years.
_ The Milky Way is observed as a bright, wide band of stars arching through the sky. In the clear skies of ancient Mesoamerica, many dark, blotchy areas can be observed along the Milky Way's length. These are "dark-cloud" formations caused by interstellar dust. The most prominent of these is called the "dark-rift" or the "Great Cleft" of the Milky Way. It looks like a dark road running along the Milky Way, and it points right at the cosmic crossing point, the center of the Maya Sacred Tree, right where the sun will be in 2012! The Maya called this dark-rift the Black Road, or the Road to the Underworld. They seem to have imagined it as a portal to another world, and the December solstice sun can enter it only in A.D. 2012.
_ The area of the sky where all of these symbols and celestial objects converge is the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. This was perhaps the most astounding thing I discovered. The part of the Milky Way that the December solstice sun will conjunct is also where the center of our Galaxy (the Galactic Center) is located. It is the cosmic womb from which new stars are born, and from which everything in our Galaxy, including us, came.
It is important to visualize our relationship to the Milky Way. The Milky Way is saucer-shaped and appears to us as a white band of stars. When we look at the Milky Way in the night sky, we are looking out along the edge of a spinning disk, as if looking at the edge of a spinning bicycle wheel. If we look away from the center of this "wheel," we look toward Gemini and Orion, where we gaze into the vastness of open space outside our Galaxy. The Milky Way is thin and diffuse in this direction, and we see only whispy strands of white. If we look in the other direction, however, toward the center of the wheel, at its "axle," we see a plethora of stars and a rich cauldron of creation. Here is the cosmic oven of the Milky Way's center, and the dark-rift points right to it. The Milky Way is very bright and wide in this area, as if pregnant, and for this reason, I realized, the Maya recognized it as the womb of the sky. They considered this bulging area of the Galactic Center to be the cosmic source and center, the womb of All.
I was extremely intrigued with what I was finding, and felt I was unlocking long-lost secrets of Maya cosmology. I had answered my guiding question about what event in the cycle of precession occurs in A.D. 2012. The answer: a rare conjunction of the December solstice sun with the Galactic Center. I published my initial findings in late 1994.4 Thereafter, I was intensely engaged in tracking down the answers to the other questions that were popping up. My initial discovery opened up even more bizarre avenues of inquiry. For example, could the 2012 alignment cause Earth's poles to shift, resulting in sudden global catastrophe? Could the "field effects" of our changing relationship to the Milky Way stimulate genetic or spiritual evolution on Earth? If so, why are these possibilities not recognized in our supposedly superior Western science? Did the Mayas' focus on the Galactic Center have anything to do with the fact that astrophysicists have discovered a Black Hole—a possible portal through space and time—residing there? It was obvious I had my work cut out for me, and I determined to look into these mysteries as deeply as I could.
For two years, 1995 and 1996, I was immersed in research, obsessed with the labyrinthine Pandora's Box I had opened. These were very busy and introspective years, and I felt charged with a mission and full of enthusiasm. Throughout, I had the obligations of life to attend to, working and paying the bills. Fortunately, I lived simply and efficiently, and so had time to cosmologize. And I was making progress. It seemed at times as if mysteries were solved almost by magic. The more I learned, the better I was able to formulate questions. As soon as I had framed a question correctly, the answer appeared. Soon, a general theory emerged: The ancient Maya understood something about the nature of the cosmos and the spiritual evolution of humanity that has gone unrecognized in our own worldview. This understanding involves our alignment with the center of our Galaxy, our cosmic center and source, and identifies A.D. 2012 as a time of tremendous transformation and opportunity for spiritual growth, a transition from one World Age to another.
The bottom line of my theory is that the ancient Maya chose the 2012 end-date because this is the date on which occurs a rare alignment of the solstice sun with the Galactic Center. I tested my theory, revised it, corresponded with Maya experts and found that by synthesizing recent advances in the fields of archaeology, ethnography (the study of culture), archaeoastronomy (the study of the relationship between astronomy, archaeology, and cultural beliefs), epigraphy (the study of the Maya hieroglyphic writing), and iconography (the study of symbols and pictures), I could strongly support my ideas. Knowing the controversy my work might arouse in the academic community, I felt compelled to document my arguments so that my theory could not be dismissed as vague speculation. My self-published book The Center of Mayan Time presented the case as of early 1995, but more evidence continued to emerge, until a unified vision of the profound scope of Maya knowledge began to gel. By early 1997 I finished a magnum opus study—the original version of Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. It was huge, exhaustive, and covered a broad spectrum of related questions. I had identified how the 2012 alignment manifests in the symbolism of the Maya ballgame, in birthing rituals, and in King accession rites. Furthermore, I had traced the origins of the Long Count calendar to the little-known site of Izapa, and decoded its monuments as initiatory devices into a forgotten Galactic Cosmology. I began to solicit academic commentary on my book, openly inviting critique, by sending out abstracts to selected scholars. There was little response. Most of them simply did not have time to comment. However, I remembered that Robert Bauval, author of The Orion Mystery, had advised me to be persistent.
By this time (mid-1997), I had published over a dozen articles on Maya cosmology and the precession question. Finally, my friend Jim Reed convinced the Institute of Maya Studies that it would be worth bringing me to Miami to present my pioneering work. The Institute of Maya Studies is associated with the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium, and has hosted Maya scholars such as Dennis Tedlock and Munro Edmonson. I was honored to be invited to present my theory at such a prestigious venue. I suspected I was on the cutting edge of where the Maya experts themselves were going and, in the end, my presentation on August 20, 1997, was well received. It had the feel of a breakthrough, especially in regard to the acceptance of my work by academia.5 Nevertheless, I was not naive, and I knew that it would take years for an "outsider" like myself to make inroads into Maya scholardom. I had stormed the Ivory Tower, left my message, and that was enough for now.
Fortunately, around the same time, Barbara Hand Clow, a long-time believer in my work and copublisher at Bear & Company Publishing, encouraged me to begin revising the work for publication. The challenge of transforming what was originally an exercise in academic schematizing into something that is actually readable has been daunting at times. Many people have helped in this endeavor, and I am grateful to them all. At last I was blessed with an opportunity to share my discovery with a much larger readership.
My work fits into an emerging trend of independent researchers decoding ancient precessional mysteries. Importantly, there have been many key breakthroughs in understanding ancient Egyptian cosmology. Jane B. Sellers's The Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt carefully outlines a compelling argument that certain astronomical phenomena, including the precession of the equinoxes, were understood by ancient Egyptian skywatchers. In The Orion Mystery, Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert explain how the Great Pyramid of Egypt is a precessional star-clock. Sight tubes within the pyramid, usually called "air-shafts," point to Sirius, but only during a specific era of precession. In Fingerprints of the Gods, sleuth-scholar Graham Hancock adds to this discovery by showing that the constellation Leo the Lion was rising on the vernal equinox at the "Zero Time" of 10,500 B.C. Hancock believes the lion-like Sphinx may have been the earthly symbol of the constellation Leo. Based upon this insight, and other evidence that suggests the Sphinx was constructed much earlier than previously thought, perhaps even during the Egyptian Zero Time, Hancock suggests that the builders of the Sphinx lived during the astrological Age of Leo—around 10,500 B.C. The Sphinx then looms as a mute witness to an era of precession long past, and that precessional knowledge goes back to the very dawn of human civilization.
The idea that the Egyptians were aware of precession is not new. In compelling and original studies published in the 1940s and 1950s, much of it stemming from field observations, Alsatian researcher R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz defined Egypt as the great parent culture from which Old World wisdom emanated. In his book Sacred Science, de Lubicz shares the data that led him to conclude that the ancient Egyptians were aware of the precession of the equinoxes.
The Babylonians also seem to have been aware of precession. As early as 1906, historian of science J.L.E. Dreyer noted that three Babylonian tablets, each from a different era, give three different positions for the equinox, proving that the Babylonian astronomers were aware of precessional movement.6 The Vedic astronomers of ancient India, according to Vedic scholar David Frawley, were also aware of precession—a knowledge possibly going back 6,000 years.
Moving to the New World, William Sullivan's book The Secret of the Incas decoded precessional mysteries in the mythology and beliefs of the Inca in South America. Sullivan's work is well researched and adds a great deal to our understanding of how precessional knowledge manifested in the New World. Among independent scholars, at least, it appears as if there is a genuine revolution astir in how we view prehistoric peoples.
This revisioning has fought a persistent bias that survives in the assumptions of scholars as well as laypeople. Were our ancestors primitive, graceless cave dwellers, unaware of their relationship to the larger cosmos? Or did they gaze into the night sky with an appreciation for the majesty of it all, possessing insights into cosmic processes that are now lost to us? The new perspective championed by many independent thinkers favors the latter view.
For example, Barbara Hand Clow, in her book The Pleiadian Agenda, explores the deeper implications of the alignment in A.D. 2012. Going beyond strictly Egyptian or Maya perspectives, her insights into the history and future of our multidimensional cosmos testify to the deeply profound relationship that humanity has always had with the cosmos. According to Clow, we are entering a phase of human spiritual growth with galactic implications. Also taking a larger view of these intriguing ideas are Dennis and Terence McKenna, who in their book The Invisible Landscape mentioned the eclipse of the Galactic Center by the solstice sun in 2012. The McKennas arrived at the 2012 date using sources that did not involve the Maya calendar. This book was an underground classic upon publication in 1975, and was revised and republished in 1993. The McKennas write that the alignment in 2012 could "implicate the galaxy as a major formative influence upon the structure of the molecules that maintain and define life."7 I can trace my interest in precession back to my encounter with this book in 1984. The Invisible Landscape and Hamlet's Mill are the two earliest sources that recognized the impending alignment of the solstice sun with the Milky Way Galaxy. I outline the history of the discovery of this idea in Appendix 7.
Despite the wider implications of this discovery, in my work I have tried to focus on how the precession of the equinoxes was mapped and calibrated among the ancient civilizations of the New World, specifically in Mesoamerica. What has emerged from my research is nothing less than the recovery of a lost worldview containing insights we are just beginning to appreciate. Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 is devoted to exploring Maya understanding of the 2012 end-date and the philosphy and cosmology that goes with it. I have reconstructed what I term a lost Galactic Cosmology, and I explain its formulation, content, and the mythological language used by the Maya to encode its meanings. This is a book about cosmogenesis, the creation of the world. The Maya believed that the world will be reborn, in a sense "re-created," in the year we call 2012. Why did the Maya believe this? Where did this profound knowledge originate? What does it mean for the world to be "created" in 2012? And what are the implications for us? My book goes deep into previously unfathomed areas of the ancient Maya mind, and speaks to an event that is right around the corner. In addition, I offer an interpretation of what this rare cosmic event portends for those of us who will live through it. I believe, and I suspect that the Mayas believed, that we are all indispensible participants in the adventure of cosmogenesis. We co-create the world, and what looms before us is a great opportunity for spiritual growth, both individual and planetary.
Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 is divided into five Parts, each rigorously unveiling the archaeological and mythic dimensions of my theory. The text contains the flow of ideas as described below, as well as endnotes. For readers interested in documentation, the endnotes contain citations and more detailed arguments. The appendices are more technical still and explore academic considerations that should appeal more to the Maya specialists. For example, Appendix 5 contains my response to arguments against my theory that Maya scholars are likely to put forward. Likewise, Appendix 2 is a thorough examination of the academic literature pertaining to what the ancient Maya knew about precession.
Part I of my book provides a basic orientation to Mesoamerican civilization: the timeline of its development, its calendars, and its cosmology. Charting time was a central concern of the Maya, as was "finding the center" of the cosmos. Driven by a shamanistic interest in knowing the sky, the ancient Mesoamerican skywatchers discovered the astronomical phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes, and this knowledge was encoded into their Creation mythology. I introduce the two basic calendar systems used by the Maya and discuss how astronomy developed at various Mesoamerican sites, including those of the Olmec, Zapotec, Toltec, Izapan, and Mayan people.
It is my contention that understanding the nature of precession became the central interest of Mesoamerican shaman-astronomers. They believed that specific types of alignments in the cycle of precession stimulate evolution for life on Earth. In my research, I determined that the Toltecs and the Maya devised two different methods for tracking precession. In other words, two different and competing cosmologies emerged—one involved the Long Count calendar, with its end-date in A.D. 2012, and the other involved the New Fire ceremony. The true meaning of these traditions is reconstructed. Furthermore, I show how the two systems were merged at Chichén Itzá in the ninth century A.D., and how the schism in the Mesoamerican psyche was healed. Thus, Part II encapsulates a "unified Mesoamerican cosmology" based upon precessional insights discovered by the ancient Maya skywatchers.
I will show how the galactic alignment of A.D. 2012, pinpointed by the Long Count end-date, was encoded into Maya Creation mythology. The Hero Twin myth is the original Creation myth of the Maya. In Part III, I reveal the deeper symbolism of the Hero Twin myth, a symbolism that encodes precessional astronomy. My interest here is in getting to the heart of how the Maya understood cosmogenesis—the birth of the world and its rebirth in A.D. 2012. Ultimately, the Maya envisioned the alignment to occur in 2012 as a union of the Cosmic Mother (the Milky Way) with First Father (the December solstice sun). Woven into Maya astronomy, mythology, and cosmology is a profound understanding of Earth's evolving consciousness. As my conclusions began to gel, I realized that the ancient Maya developed a sophisticated cosmological paradigm that modern science has yet to recognize.
Part IV is devoted to exploring the little-known pre-Maya site of Izapa. Whereas traditional Maya scholarship interprets Izapa as an important site in the development of pre-Maya and Maya culture, I will reveal it to be the most innovative center of Mesoamerican astronomical, shamanic, calendric, and religious activity. I will show how ancient Izapa was the ceremonial site where the Galactic Cosmology was discovered. In fact, I believe Izapa to be the location where thousands of ancient calendar-priests were initiated into Galactic Cosmology. My interpretation of Izapa's more than sixty carved monuments reveals the highest esoteric secrets of ancient Maya cosmology.
In Part V, I summarize the profound implications of this newly reconstructed Galactic Cosmology. I take the reader on an intiatory journey around the monuments of Izapa, to reveal the ancient mysteries of Galactic Cosmology. We end with an understanding of why the Maya calendar ends in 2012, how this knowledge was built into Maya mythology and institutions, and what it means for us today.
I hope this book will open up new vistas in our understanding of the Maya, and preserve for the appreciation of future generations the amazing genius of their civilization. We are just beginning to understand what they knew. The importance of the foundation-principle of this ancient cosmovision—the precession of the equinoxes—must be recognized as having a formative influence on the evolving life of Earth. And yet, modern science refuses to acknowledge this, and the fact that a rare galactic alignment looms before us has no place in our short-sighted technocracy. Perhaps our limited sight will be our undoing. We know about precession today, but, as the authors of Hamlet's Mill write, "The space-time continuum does not affect it [precession]. It is by now only a boring complication."8
To the Ancients, precession had the most profound of implications. To their understanding, it was involved in nothing less than the evolution of life on Earth, propelling Earth's lifeforms to higher levels of organization and complexity. The end result is the full unfolding of spirit and consciousness on a planet that began as molten rock. The Maya understood that whereas the 260-day sacred cycle is our period of individual gestation, the 26,000-year cycle is our collective gestation—our collective unfolding as a species. Their calendars and myths encode these truths. Furthermore, 2012 is the zero point of the process—the moment of collective spiritual birth. And how can we say that they are wrong? One thing is for sure, in this case time will tell. The era of transformation is upon us.
It appears as if a long chapter in human history is coming to a close, one that began perhaps 13,000 years ago. At the dawn of agriculture in the Paleolithic Age, human beings began to understand the nature and potential of the yearly cycle. They discovered planting and harvesting. As their time-concept was enhanced, they planned for a future barely appreciated by their immediate ancestors, and the resultant effects on human culture were transformative. The same might be said for us in regard to our understanding of the larger Galactic Season of precession: if we can enlarge our spacetime concept and appreciate the immanent potential of this Great Year, the future of the human race might be brighter than we can presently imagine. Suffice it to say that we are, in fact, living in the Maya end-times, and something completely unprecedented does appear to be going on. Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 endeavors to resurrect and restore the ancient Galactic Cosmology of the Maya. It is a "first reconnaissance" into a profound knowledge that once flowered in Mesoamerica, and promises to again. According to this ancient knowledge, a door into the heart of space and time opens in 2012. May we all take a step forward.