With about two weeks to go to the much anticipated date of the Mayan calendar prophecy, just what exactly did their highly acclaimed calendar system predict - are we about to witness a cataclysmic event, as the Hollywood blockbuster movie 2012 wants to make us believe, or rather an apocalypse in the original meaning of the word, i.e. a revelation that might usher in a quantum leap in technology and a new era of social consciousness?
As a historian who has been trained to separate fact from fiction, I have made an effort to analyse the historic records from the Mayan period relating to the target date 21 December 2012 and to consult authorities in the field of Mayan archaeology and history about what exactly the mysterious Mayan calendar system was all about.
Archaeological evidence suggests the Maya were one of the first ancient people to use modern mathematical methods, track the movement of the stars and build massive multi-story celestial observatories - using technology that to this day has no identifiable source.
According to theologian Dr Sean-David Morton, the Maya boasted hyper advanced astronomy, astrology, trigonometry, architecture. But perhaps the most amazing achievement was their system of charting the stars and planets in the form of a calendar.
According to Dr Mark van Stone, author of 2012: Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya, "they were tracking in particular Venus, phases of the Moon, eclipses, but they also tracked precession which is an extraordinary long cycle - what it means is that every year on say March 15, the Pleiades rise for the first time in the sky. If you wait 72 years, the day of the rising of the Pleiades will be one day earlier. If you wait another 72 years, it will be a day earlier still. And if you wait 26,000 years, the Pleiades will move back to that same day."
According to scholars, the Mayans believed that time - like the stars - moved in repeating patterns, called calendar cycles and that these cycles can be used to predict future events. One of these calendar cycles, the Mayan long count last for 5,125 years and will end on 21 December 2012.
The birth canal of the universe
But why did the Maya chose this date - and what did they believe would happen to our world? Perhaps a clue can be found in an astronomical phenomenon located in the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy - an area where there are no stars. According to Dr Morton, "the Maya not only knew where the centre of the galaxy was but they understood that it was a light year across black hole that they called the great rift."
The Maya believed that this was the birth canal of the universe and that all things came from the birth canal of the universe. And on 21 December 2012, the earth, the sun and the birth canal are all in perfect alignment - a phenomenon that happens only every 26,000 years.
Could the fact that the Mayan long-count calendar ends on the same day as this rare alignment in the Milky Way Galaxy be a mere coincidence? And did this advanced understanding of celestial cycles really come from ancient Mayan astronomers observing the stars with only their naked eyes? Or did the Maya use advanced technology to decipher the laws of our galaxy?
Exhibit Number One: Monument No 6
According to Mayan researcher Logan Hawkes, "the Mayans believed that this knowledge came to them from their gods and that their gods existed in the stars. So is it possible that these gods were extra-terrestrials?" But even if the information pertaining to the long-count calendar comes from an other-worldly source, why 2012? What is it about this date that has a special significance? Researchers believe a clue may recently have been found amongst the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Tortuguero, one that was pieced together from a panel of broken hieroglyphs, known as monument number six. Although fragmentary, this set of hieroglyphs predicted that "the nine Gods will return on 21 December 2012".
According to Dr Edwin Barnhart, Archaeologist Director at the Maya Exploration Centre, for a long time this was the one and only clear reference to the date in the long count that arrives in 2012. However, for years, scholars dismissed the evidence found on the Tortuguero monument as a solitary anomaly without any special significance.
Exhibit Number Two: The Comalcalco Brick
But on 24 November 2011, the Mexican National Institute of Archaeology and History revealed to the world the existence of a second artefact - a sun-dried mud brick that was discovered at the ancient Mayan city of Comalcalco with an inscription many believe refers to an exact date - saying that "the gods will return to restructure what they once created."
For most archaeologists and researchers, the concept is not just a little far fetched - they consider it to be more a curiosity than a prophecy. But one feature of the Comalcalco brick is not so easy to dismiss - the inscriptions on the brick were carved on the inner facing side of the temple wall, hidden from view. So why would they inscribe a date on a brick and then turn it around so that no one can see it and put it into the wall? One reason is that the ruling king or priest or whoever commissioned the building at Comalcalco did not want this to be public knowledge.
Exhibit Number Three: Awaiting Discovery
There is another curious aspect to the Mayan calendar - not when it ends but when it begins, more than 3,000 years before the Mayan civilisation even existed. According to Mayan researcher Dr Barnhart, "the origins of the long count calendar, why they created day one to be 13 August 3114 BC is still a mystery. Based on the things we have learnt about the Maya, it should be something astronomical."
More accurate than the atomic clock?
But how could the Mayan calendar be so accurate? According to Dr Barnhart, "the Maya created the most elaborate calendar system of any culture in the world. They had a solar calendar, but before that they had the sacred calendar. When you look at the ratio of the two, you get 365.2422 days for an actual year - the atomic clock says that it is 365.2420 days. But they admit that at the fourth decimal point, they could be plus or minus five wrong. So we are not sure who is more accurate - is it the Maya or the atomic clock?"
Equally astonishing is the fact that the Maya estimated the age of the universe at 16.4 billion years. Modern science today puts it at about 14.5 to 15 billion years and the better technology gets, the more we may begin to realise that the Maya were correct.
Advanced technology from the stars?
Why would the Maya track celestial events in cycles of over thousands of years? Was it simply, as some scholars suggest, because they could? Or did they, as ancient astronaut theorists believe, create their calendar as a way of marking time until the return of other worldly visitors - beings that were believed by them to have been gods?
But who or what were those gods - and what is their agenda? According to ancient astronaut theorists, the answer can be found in the dense jungle of Central America. The Mayan city of Tikal, located today in northern Guatemala, was once one of the great urban centres of the Mayan civilisation.
Along the grand plaza of Tikal, the Maya built seven pyramid shaped temples aligned to mimic the constellation Pleiades. They called it the seven sisters, because it consisted of seven bright stars. They also believed that the Pleiades was at the centre of all fixed stars - and that it might be the centre of all creation and that they came from the centre of creation.
Why would the Maya go to such tremendous effort to recreate a mere image of the stars on the ground? According to scholars, the Maya believed that powerful gods descended to earth from the stars.
A new era of social consciousness?
Whilst it is easy to dismiss the Mayan prophecy, the astonishing accuracy of their elaborate calendar system suggests that they were privy to knowledge that may have been lost throughout the ages. Interestingly, many of their findings correlate with the belief systems of many other ancient civilisations.
Researchers have noticed a connection with the prophecies of the Hopi Indians of the American Southwest. The Hopi believe that we are in the fifth age of humankind, and that this is an age of purification and that unless all the people of the earth can come down and live more in harmony with themselves and the planet, there will be a great destruction coming.
Maybe this is the real meaning of the so-called social revolution - not just to communicate with others on social media, but to engage in deliberate acts of kindness and building up the social capital of planet earth rather than depleting its collective goodwill.
The next quantum leap in human technology?
Will 21 December 2012 really signal the end of the world - or are the dire predictions nothing more than a myth, a misrepresentation of an even greater truth? As much as this date signifies the end of one calendar round, it equally signifies the beginning of a new calendar round. Perhaps what awaits us is not the end of the world, but rather a new beginning - one that will usher in the next quantum leap in the evolution of the Homo sapiens. Will we advance from the state of intelligent beings to the state of empathetic beings - and will the advances in technology propel humanity to the next step in evolution, the much vaunted Homo sentiens (the feeling human vs the knowing human)?
Maybe we should focus our collective efforts on creating peace and harmony on planet earth rather than destruction and division - and move from the emotions of fear and greed to the vibrations of love and joy. This would certainly correlate with the findings of Dr David Hawkins who mapped out the earth's emotional energy grid in his authoritative work on "Power vs Force" and stipulated that the survival and prosperity of mankind will depend upon a recalibration of the collective consciousness levels.
Dr Nikolaus Eberl is the author of BrandOvation: How Germany won the World Cup of Nation Branding and The Hero's Journey: Building a Nation of World Champions. He headed the Net Promoter Scorecard research project on SA's destination branding success story during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, co-authored the World Cup Brand Ambassador Program 'Welcome 2010' and was chairperson of the inaugural 2010 FAN World Cup. Email and follow @nikolauseberl.
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