The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
October 2008 -- Vol. 11 Issue 8
There has been a lot of speculation in the last several years about what the end of the Mayan Great Cycle means, slated to occur on December 21, 2012. The Mayans, whose civilization flourished in Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala between 200 BC to 900 AD, created several complex calendars consisting of interconnecting cycles of days, months, and years. The Mayan Great Cycle consists of 5125 years, and according to a consensus of Mayan scholars, this cycle began on August 11, 3114 BC.
Most of the cycles the Mayans devised had their basis in the nature of man and the planets. For example, their sacred calendar consisted of 260 days, which is the length of gestation of the human being. Also, many of their cycles are multiples of 20, which is thought to represent the number of man's fingers and toes. Since cycles of time created by the Mayans held much meaning for them, and reflected the natural laws of the universe, what significance did they see in an elapsed time of 5125 years? Was it meant to represent one fifth of the earth's precessional cycle (25,800 years), a cycle that some modern scientists say the Mayans were not advanced enough to be aware of? Or was it just the result of adding up the total of other spans of time that were significant to them? Does the end of this great cycle correspond to the end of the earth, as some speculate?
One hint to the possible meaning of the end date lies in the significance of the start date of August 11, 3114 BC. This date is believed to be the beginning of what the Mayans call the fourth creation. This assumption is based on an inscription found on Stela C at Quirigua, Guatamala. The story of the fourth creation is described in the Popul Vuh, a 17th century document which relates the creation myth of the ancient Quiche Indians. This myth describes four attempts of the gods to create men who would honor and adore them. The first three attempts failed, and in the second and third the gods destroyed mankind. In the last attempt, or fourth creation, the gods succeeded in creating men who "remembered their creators," had souls, minds, and intelligence.
Thus, since the beginning of the great cycle is the start of the fourth creation, is the end of the great cycle the end of the fourth creation? Mayanists David Freidel and Linda Schele believe not: "From the ancient inscriptions, we know that the Maya did not consider it [the end of this great cycle] to be the beginning of a new creation as has been suggested." (Forest of Kings, p. 430) They also don't believe that the end of this great cycle marks the destruction of the world, citing examples of Mayan inscriptions that date into the future at least 2600 years from now. While I think these "distance dates," as they are called, suggest that the Mayans thought that the earth would last for thousands more years, I don't think it necessarily implies that they believed that the humans that inhabit the earth would endure that long. As G. de Purucker says in Studies in Occult Philosophy, p. 486, we are currently in our most difficult age, our Kali Yuga, which he predicts will bring several catastrophes to humanity before the age ends 427,000 years hence. It is interesting to note that the start of the Kali Yuga is believed by Hindus to have begun with the death of Krishna in 3102 BC, very close to the proposed start of the Mayan great cycle. It makes one wonder if "The Light That Came from Across the Sea," as the Popul Vuh is also called, came from initiates who traveled from the east to the Americas, bringing the wisdom religion with them. Or perhaps the dates were based on similar astronomical observations and deductions.
There is no doubt that the Mayans believed that time was infinite and cyclical, that civilizations, races, planets and stars rise and fall in a predictable, cyclical progression. Many of these cycles are not yet fully understood, making it difficult to predict with certainty what will happen in the future. All we can do is be as prepared as possible, and make our choice to follow the upward path of evolution, a path of human courage, altruism and love. -- Marilyn O'Day
"The End of the World" is our next subject. We will be discussing such questions as: Why are we so fascinated by endings and beginnings? How do various religions and cultures picture the “end times,” whether seen as a final end or part of a cyclic process? Why did such apocalyptic or millennial beliefs originate? What are current scientific theories about the end of the earth and cosmos? How do views on the end of the world relate to beliefs about good and evil, justice, and what happens after death? Why do variations on this theme remain perennially popular and continue to play a role in many movements and belief systems? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge
These subjects are currently being considered for the Monthly Discussion group. As always, those who have a particular topic they would like to have featured are encouraged to contact us.
November 13: Becoming Completely Human
December: Agreement among Religions
January: The Mysteries of Birth
February: What Is Inspiration?
March: Solstices and Equinoxes
April: How Are We Connected?
“The radical unity of the ultimate essence of each constituent part of compounds in Nature – from Star to mineral Atom, from the highest Dhyan Chohan to the smallest infusoria, in the fullest acceptation of the term, and whether applied to the spiritual, intellectual, or physical worlds – this is the one fundamental law in Occult Science.” – H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, 1:120
From this smallest microorganism to the largest conceivable universal system are a myriad of intermediate systems, visible and invisible. They are arranged, as Hermes’ Emerald Tablet has it, ‘as above, so below; as below so above,’ an endless arrangement which we can only begin to imagine each end of. Modern physicists posit many theories of things small and large which they cannot see, and sometimes cannot measure – they can only infer size, motion or mass by what happens around what they are studying. On the infinitesimal end they talk about matter melding or fading into consciousness – very plausible in my mind for the very tiny and the extremely large. Perhaps the whole continuum is infused with consciousness – or perhaps the whole system is just consciousness sheathed in a ‘hard candy shell’! Perhaps also these ends, the large and small, touch like a mobius strip or Klein bottle.
Between these fadings-out-of-sight is the world we experience day-to-day with our physical senses. There we see stars being born, stars dying; worlds forming and being destroyed. On our own planet all forms of life we see come into existence physically only to deteriorate and die. We mimic this natural process in the building and destruction of everything we use: clothes, cars, houses, even cities, nations. We view this cyclic process – every cyclic process – as the coming into and fading out of existence, physically. Could we view beyond the physical, inside or outside, we might see that the essence of things is grounded in, or just is, consciousness.
That which we cannot describe, which is beyond our comprehension but simply IS, has no visible or understandable beginning or end which we can see. Things appear and then disappear with growth cycles happening between. From the very small to the very great, we could say that worlds are coming into being and ending each moment – physical size is not a factor.
We also know that things in Nature do not move by sudden jumps and starts. The process of growth and birth varies, but takes time whether it is a rock, flower, dolphin, human, or planet. Similarly, the decline and death of something, whether a mountain, sequoia, or solar system, happens gradually. It takes time for the life force to build or shed its various vehicles of expression. Naturally the larger systems take longer in this process of birth and death than do things we perceive physically as smaller. Cities do not crumble overnight, and neither do worlds or planets. Even our physical human death process can take decades of decay before the life force has fully exhausted the possibilities. How long must it take a planet or a star?
Change comes to all complex organisms – it is growth. The path of the inner spiritual light forms vehicles of expression around itself which interact in the multifaceted environment we find around us. These forms are continually adjusted. Forms change, as the inner Self grows. Be it a person or planet, each entity expresses itself in relation to all else – every thing is related to everything. The outer expressions or forms are related, and intimately – through the ultimately unitary inner essence.
I have always liked clouds, their form amorphous, their structure tenuous, their life fleeting. Let us be like the clouds, and understand that our world is also always coming into being, shifting, growing, changing – and always dissipating to return another day.