Hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear some reference or other to the Mayan Prophecy – the one that says that the world ends on 21 December 2012. Well at any rate, when I first started hearing about it decades ago that’s what it was supposed to mean, but these days I hear all sorts of wild New Age theories. The latest was just the other day, when someone told me that the Mayan calendar ‘ending date’ is in fact the day that the earth enters the Galactic Centre – a place billions of light years away that we orbit over unimaginable lengths of time and that we can’t get any closer to since we are circling it – duh!
This New Age business is gobsmacking. They have managed to transform a prophecy of the end of the world – a key principle of any religious organisation worth its salt – into the characteristic new age fluffy unicorn stuff of “transformation”, delight, bliss, elevation of our miserable lives into a spiritual rescue mission that sends us into another dimension, by means of the usual hodge podge of misunderstood science, bastardised and misunderstood Astrology and Religion of the Self.
It’s nothing more than the Catholic Rapture twisted into an almost unrecognisable mockery of itself, which is ironically true of much of the rubbish that the ‘New Age movement’ recycles: so much of it is a shallow relic of long-crumbled Judaeo-Christian spirituality with a tad of Hinduism and a healthy dash of anything Native American.
Anyway, this date is derived from the fact that the fascinating Mayan Calendar comes to the end of its great cycle on that date. It’s a remarkable blend of partly understood but complex concepts of time, much like the same kind of things that most ancient cultures have, but of course claiming an altogether different measure of time as all the others do, as is generally the case. (Let alone the fact that the Mayans knew nothing of the Galactic Centre.)
What makes little sense is why the New Age pundits have seized onto this particularly obscure theory of time as the gospel? Especially since there is not much that these ancient American cultures have to offer that is particularly desirable, profound or applicable to the rest of humankind. Part of the reason is of course that little of their culture is known, having been so utterly destroyed by their contemporary enemies and even more so by the marauding Spaniards.
Ah, there’s the rub: there is nothing so attractive as a vague and unsolveable mystery. When something is coded and lost in the mists of time it could be made to serve anyone’s theories – Nostradamus’ obscure scribblings are a great example of that. No better way to prove vague New Age ideas than with vague historical ones – there’s a reason to punt some obscure culture’s obscure prophecies.
And here’s a more important rub: everyone seems to neglect the fact that the very same Mayan calendar predicted the ‘previous’ end of the world as 11 August 3114 B.C. Oops. Not only did that prediction patently fail, but so has every other end-of-the-world prediction failed, and there have been no shortage of those across various times and cultures.
Yet the Calendar-thumpers persist in their prophecy of doom transformed into another good old fashioned deus-ex-machina, their Rapture, the hoary old “listen to us and you will be saved!” And there’s the other reason why end-of-world prophecies are so necessary to any burgeoning religion that wants to be worth the parchment its scriptures are printed on.
There’s an aspect of human psychology here too: it seems that throughout time people need to believe that they are the last generation, the pinnacle of all that has gone before, the ones cast with the divine responsibility of saving the world from certain destruction. It is the psychology that underlies much of that religious thinking, as well as the need for individual and own-group purpose and meaning. And it also reveals the materialism that lies behind New Age ‘spirituality’ – there is no room for redemption in spirit or in time, it has to be in our own lifetime. Ah well, New Age spirituality is the spirituality of the Ego, as I have said elsewhere in this blog (see The Secret Behind the Secret.)
But let’s face it: it really does seem that the world is in a sorrier state than ever before. There is little doubt now that we truly have brought our planet to a brink of some kind, with our destruction of natural resources and the environment adding up to actual evidence, for once, that an end is indeed nigh. Maybe this time, the prophecies are right … ?
Well, what time and failed prophecies prove is that the earth – nature – is self-correcting, as all systems are. It is sadly likely that death and destruction do follow, that global warming, HIV and other diseases, you name it, are indeed symptoms of a world at a brink, but in reality what follows is a turn of a cycle, a natural cycle, one that does not change magically on some special date predicted by a people not noted for any intellectual, spiritual or cosmic insight. Nope, the consequences of the result of our destruction themselves eventually bring about the correction – many humans will die from these horrors over the next decades and centuries: not a disaster, though – a sadly necessary natural correction.
As an astrologer, I believe that we should learn more about cycles than worry about predictions. Perhaps you’re surprised that an astrologer would say that, but there is a lot more sense to astrology and how it works than most lay people know, more topics for future posts. Astrology is also an ancient study of time, a study that concludes that everything goes through cycles, be it the weather, events, beliefs and even individual human experience.
Mayan astrology has not survived (although it has been reinvented, not at all the same thing.) There is a culture whose notion of time cycles have endured for millenia, undestroyed, and that offers a view of cycles that provide a more useful and meaningful set of symbols to understand these cycles, and why the earth is such a sorry mess. The ancient astrology of the Vedas, the early (East) Indian culture, describes cycles as vast – from hundreds of thousands to billions of years in size, much closer to what nature and experience actually show. In their cultural worldview, we are now in a long age of ‘iron’ or darkness, an age predicted at about the time the Mayan calendar was predicting the previous end of the world 5000 years ago.
The characteristics of that age are all we see in our time: materialism, loss of our respect for humanity and nature, loss of our natural spirituality, destruction of species, the list goes on. But this is what is important: since it’s a cycle, eventually it will shift and gradually start going in the other direction. No intervention necessary, no chosen people, no chosen culture.
No spiritual rescue is required, no subscription to a religion or even a belief in astrology. It is not relevant whether the number of years given for each cycle is right or wrong. It is the underlying universal wisdom we should see in these ancient teachings rather than the assertion that an individual culture is correct – the wisdom of huge cycles expects no individual culture to last billions of years; only humanity itself could.
So we are not required to subscribe to some lost culture’s beliefs. In this worldview, all that is required is a personal commitment for the individual to live his or her life as respectfully as possible, and to strive toward one’s own innrer enlightenment rather than to look to outer events or to proselytise. In this way, we can keep the tiny fire of mankind’s natural spirituality burning, passing it on down the generations, through the inevitable destruction of much more of this planet and our species, until the day returns many years hence, not in our lifetimes, when we can again live in harmony with everything else.
And even then, the Galactic Centre will be as many billions of miles away in space and relevance as it has ever been.