Editor's Choice

Maya - The Illusion Of Time


"In 1935, Sylvanus Griswold Morley wrote: When the material achievements of the ancient Maya in architecture, sculpture, ceramics, the lapidary arts, feather-work, cotton weaving and dyeing are added to the abstract intellectual achievements - invention of positional mathematics with its concomitant development of zero, construction of an elaborate chronology with a fixed starting point, use of a time-count as accurate as the Gregorian Calendar, knowledge of astronomy superior to that of the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians - and the whole judged in the light of their known cultural limitations, which were on a par with the early Neolithic Age in the Old World, we may acclaim them, without fear of successful contradiction, the most brilliant aboriginal people on this planet."

Maya - The Illusion Of Time
April 21, 2005

At the top of a pyramid, swarming with tourists, I slipped through time. We were there on holiday, drawn to the majesty and mystery of this ancient culture so unique and inspired. In the Gregorian moment of April 6th, 3:30 eastern standard time my wife and I swayed on the 356th step of the great pyramid of the feathered serpent, Kukulkan, dizzy and winded from the climb, mind's reeling at this point of contact. We'd finally made it to Chichen Itza. Among the many exemplary Mayan & Toltec ruins, the central timepiece of Kukulkan was the reason for our journey and the immediate point of our first visit. We each, in turn, approached the great base and laid hands on it's ancient stones, gazing up along it's ridges at the whisping cloudlets passing in the wind. Around to the other side and up the steep slope of 91 steps, calves burning moving past numerous apes, some too unfit to make the journey. Inertia doesn't stop up on the top in the temple, milling through the thickened crowd, looking, seeking, tuning...

But it's painfully frustratingly difficult to stop and silently open yourself to the intimacy and power of such a site when there are people everywhere around you. The ambience is just all wrong. And such wonders - power spots, vortices, monuments - really cry out to the sympathetic for an urgent communion. I tried not to think about the empty water bottles piling up under the capstone, then stepped through time.

Like straddling two rings of a spiral, I felt myself bifurcate gently between the present moment and a time some 2000 years ago, amidst the ancient Maya themselves. I felt the great celestial rites commanded from the temple, aligning with heavenly milestones - the solstice, the equinox, the rise of Venus. The vultures and falcons above had flown for millenia, and the lazy iguanas had been watching the stars since the birth of time. The buzzing hive around me blurred and thinned, semi-opaque, leaving me standing in the Isness of this timeplace, it's wordless moment coating me like amber honey. The information imparted was experiential, nonlinear, illogical. It was simply being in that place when it was far richer with meaning and intent and magick than the unwashed masses would now allow.

In 1935, Sylvanus Griswold Morley wrote:

When the material achievements of the ancient Maya in architecture, sculpture, ceramics, the lapidary arts, feather-work, cotton weaving and dyeing are added to the abstract intellectual achievements - invention of positional mathematics with its concomitant development of zero, construction of an elaborate chronology with a fixed starting point, use of a time-count as accurate as the Gregorian Calendar, knowledge of astronomy superior to that of the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians - and the whole judged in the light of their known cultural limitations, which were on a par with the early Neolithic Age in the Old World, we may acclaim them, without fear of successful contradiction, the most brilliant aboriginal people on this planet.

While I've been unable to find a direct translation of the word"maya"In Mayan, it's always fascinated me that the same word in Sanskrit means"Illusion." The enigmatic Maya of Mesoamerica often seem to shimmer and glimmer, beautiful and alluring like a mirage rising from hot sands, fleeting like a sudden glimpse of the Jaguar's spots receding back into thick jungles. Rising from early Olmec cultures in 300 b.c. the Maya grew to number among the millions with vast cities and religious complexes extending from Belize, Gautemala, and Honduras, up into the Yucatan peninsula in the north. Then around 900 a.d. the great southern lowland cities like Pelenque and Tikal were abandoned for reasons still unknown. Some suggest crop failure, others that a great volcano covered the region in ash. Or perhaps, as Arguelles and McKenna fancifully suggest, the great emperor Pacal Votan, having descended into the Underworld of Xibalba, gained access to the controls of time and swept his people away to the Galactic Center.

In Vedic philosophy maya is the illusion of a purely physical, phenomenal and mental reality, in which consciousness is completely entangled veiling the true spirit of existence, Brahman. God is reduced to law. Nature is no more than mechanism. The self is alone and ephemeral. Karma and ego consciousness are the binding forces of maya, trapping the individual in the ceaseless cycle of death and rebirth. The Hindu path of enlightenment entails an awakening to the illusion of physicality, separateness, and time itself to the ever-present timeless unity of true being.

The Mayan god of all gods, Hunab Ku, is said to exist in the center of each galaxy, radiating its intent out to life through each local star. It is in this galactic core that the motion of the galaxy is initiated and it's superstructure distributed out to it's components. Galactic time and it's dynamic web of gravitational effects entrains solar time which, in turn, entrains cellular time through the circadian rhythms of nature. The Maya were the emissaries of Hunab Ku tasked with tracking and calculating the movements of time as they relate to our planet and it's"harmonic relationship"With the galactic core.

It's interesting to relate the glyph of the Hunab Ku to the concept of a black hole, which we now suspect lies at the center of the Milky Way. Like the yin-yan, the Hunab Ku is a dynamic interplay of black and white. A black hole is an ultra-dense gravitational object so powerful that light itself cannot escape it's surface. While the galactic core keeps the dark firmament moving and hung with bright stars, their light is always being drawn into the darkness. The glyph of Hunab Ku is said to be a two-way street, allowing access to the core of any galaxy. Warping and bending with gravity, at the point of dissolution time ceases, space collapses, and infinity is revealed.

Mayan cosmology is intrinsically bound to time and the Tzolkien is their codification of a fractal, cyclical conception of motion radiating outward from the galactic center, through our star to Earth. The product of a 365 day solar/lunar calendar and a 260 day sacred calendar, the Tzolkien presents a great cycle of 5200 tun of 360 days each. This is roughly 5128 years for the current cycle, beginning at about 3113 B.C. within this cycle of 5200 tun are 13 baktuns, or eras, of about 144,000 days each (Current 144?). The present baktun is the 13th and last, set to end on that fateful day in December of 2012.

The Bhagavata Purana tells that Lord Brahma asked his four sons to go and create progeny in the universe. When they refused Brahma grew angry and a crying child appeared from his forehead. The child, Rudra, becomes Shiva and was asked to go and populate creation. Shiva, though ultimately formless, is often pictured in a dance, as the delicate play of nature - creation and destruction - as it unfolds through time in the 5 energies: Shrishti (creation, evolution); Sthiti (preservation, support); Samhara (destruction, evolution); Tirobhava (illusion); and Anugraha (release, emancipation, grace). Shiva, in fact, is the Conqueror of Time and has always been regarded and worshiped as the greatest deity of the Hindu pantheon. Maya only exists through the efforts of Shiva, and it is Shiva's to destroy with the blink of an eye.

Essential to an understanding of Mayan time is that it is cyclical in nature, like rings in a spiral. The events of a day within one baktun will be reflected in the same day of another baktun. Jose Arguelles has opined much on this notion, though it was perhaps Terence McKenna that demonstrated it best with his Timewave model of novelty based on the I-Ching (another fascinating model of time). Note that McKenna's model also crashes at 2012. Arguelles suggests that the I-Ching is the key to understanding the genetic code while the Tzolkien is the key to understanding the galactic code. Both timepieces at the very least suggest that time is nowhere near as linear as we'd like to think. In a way it seems far more elegant (or at least romantic) to imagine a resonant fractal harmonic superstructure of time set and stamped by the rotation of our galaxy and distributed to Earth by our star. If so, what happens in 2012 when the entire cycle resets itself? Only time will tell...

The Maya established the first and most complete understanding of time as it relates to our planet and solar system. While western science only stepped on the moon once in 1969, the Maya were thinking galactically before the birth of Christ. within the complex codices of the Tzolkien, perhaps aided by the intricacies of the I-Ching, appears to rest a template for eternity. Time, like the flow of a river, appears linear on the surface, only to reveal complex dynamics - eddies and vortices and currents - whorling below. The human penchant for eschatology surely must be beyond apocalyptica. The end of time may be simply that: the sudden collective awareness of the illusion of history. Like standing on the top of Kukulkan, tourists to my left, Mayan priests to my right, all of time is everpresent, compartmentalized and portioned out only by the fragmented self struggling to make sense of the vast data of hyperspace. Like a tesseract, the structures within time remain, only rotating in a higher dimension, archaic but entirely new. within the Hunab Ku, the black hole, the vortex, as above and below, the singularity of spacetime - galactic or personal - collapses temporality into the timeless moment of eternity. The serpent gains wings, flying feathered towards the sun, a blackened silhouette against a fiery white star.

Like the world-order system of the I-Ching, the system of Mayan science is one of holonomic resonance, as much of the future as it is of the past. Indeed, from the perspective of Mayan science the terms future and past are of little value as guages of superiority of progress. For the Maya, if time exists at all, it is a circuit from whose common source future and past flow equally, always meeting and being united in the present moment. - Jose Arguelles, The Mayan Factor

History repeats itself, as the old saying goes. But for how long?

Posted by LVX23 at April 21, 2005 11:10 AM




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