The ancient Mayans, along with the other peoples of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, held a view of time as cyclical and spiritually potent.
Cyclical in the sense that history is divided into a series of Ages (sometimes called Suns), each of which led to a better, more humane, world.
Spiritually potent in the sense that the creative forces governing certain time periods (sometimes called gods in Western thinking) have sacrificed and invested themselves in the creation and sustaining of the world.
We moderns tend to view time as linear, forgetting that, as one Taoist sage put it, Everything we know about spirit we learn by analogy from nature. The seasons of the year correspond to the times of day, both of which correlate to the four directions of the compass in what has been termed the Spatializaton Of Time—
By analogy, we know that Spring symbolizes the sowing of seeds, that Summer symbolizes the cultivation and care of what we are growing, that Autumn symbolizes the gathering in and harvesting of our efforts, that Winter symbolizes the resting and saving up of energy for the next creative effort. This is the cyclical aspect of time: starting something new, nurturing and developing it, sharing the benefit with others, and consolidating resources for the next endeavor.
But the spiritually potent aspect. That is something else. It requires that we sensitize ourselves to the Livingness of Space. It means leaving behind the view of matter as dead and directly experiencing stone and tree and animal and weather and the sun and stars as Alive and Aware, with no less a spiritual half of their body than ours possesses. It means standing in Spring and feeling the mood and intention of the creative force governing that season. It requires, in a word, returning to the world view of indigenous people everywhere who hold every thing in creation as sacred persons, each with a lifetime and heart-mind of its own. It is only our lack of sensitivity to the mood and intention of the creative forces invested in, and emanating out of, each thing that keeps us bound up in isolation and alienation from the loving embrace of Spirit-Nature.
It will seem strange to some to think of a stone as a sacred person. But then again, have they ever thought of themselves as a sacred person? They may know that indigenous people ask the plant for permission to take its leaves or ask the stone for permission to carve it but do they understand that the plant or stone are being treated as a sacred person? One thing we can see as utter fact is the equality with which the universe treats all things: the eagle may take the hare, but it dies touching the high-voltage wires around its nest, dooming the rabbits offspring as well as its own. Any hierarchy we imagine to exist is leveled by death and accident. The electrons making up my body come from stone and tree and sun and stars and, when this body disintegrates, its electrons will fly off into billions of directions to help constitute other persons, many of whom will not be human beings. The webwork of subatomic particles forming the space-time continuum has no “holes”. It is simply one unbroken interwoven Livingness of Space.
Every practical person in the world knows that things cannot go on like they have been any longer. Only blindfolded ideologues and self-serving demagogues continue to push civilization closer and closer to self-destruction. The rest of us know—or are rapidly coming to recognize—that we cannot simply go on propagating the same old dead worldview that allows the most brutish among us to continue desecrating Nature and Humanity.
The ancient Mayans and their counterparts throughout ancient Mesoamerica—as well as other indigenous peoples around the world, such as the visionaries who constructed the ancient Chinese oracle, the I Ching—were well aware of the patterns of human behavior, both individual and collective. Intrinsic to such worldviews is the concept of a universal duality that makes up the universal unity of the world. While this has many cosmological significances in term of the creation and sustaining of the world, it plays itself out in the patterning of human perception and behavior through the rule of action and backlash.
The future, in other words, becomes predictable simply by understanding that sooner or later, everything changes into its opposite. The art of such predictions lies in being able to recognize when things are getting to be either “too much” or “too little”, states which call forth their opposites. This requires a sensitivity to the underlying mood and intent of things, which manifests itself as a keen sense of timing. The greater the historical shifts from one opposite to another, the longer the time frame.
December 21, 2012 marks the end of a 5,128-year cyle. The Mayan Long Count calendar is established as beginning on a purely mythological date of August 11, 3114 BC in order that its end date would occur in our time. The Mayan mathematicians went so far as to drop the date directly on a Winter Solstice, just to get our attention. Aware of the patterns of human perception and behavior, the Mayan priest-scribes foresaw this time, our time, as the one in which the dead worldview would give way to the Living Worldview.
Let us honor their sensitivity to the changing Ages of human nature and their keen sense of timing.
Let us honor our own sacred nature by ending this Dark Age of inhumanity and joyfully advancing in the next, more humane, Golden Age of Humanity.
The Toltec I Ching, by Martha Ramirez-Oropeza and William Douglas Horden has just been released by Larson Publications. It recasts the I Ching in the symbology of the Native Americans of ancient Mexico and includes original illustrations interpreting each of the hexagrams. Its subtitle, 64 Keys to Inspired Action in the New World hints at its focus on the ethics of the emerging world culture.