March of 1987, I witnessed a dramatic all-day fire ceremony
in the highland Maya village of Chamula, Mexico.
It was a ritual of purification, burning the dross of the
old year and making way for the new.
I had been traveling through Mexico and Central America
for almost three months, and on that warm March day I vowed
to live and work with the Maya and study their culture.
During the next seven years I returned to Mesoamerica four
times. I helped build a school in San Pedro, Guatemala.
I delivered relief supplies to Quiché Maya villages in the
Guatemalan highlands. I traveled the remote out-backs, made
friends among the Maya, learned some of their language,
and developed a great appreciation for their innate wisdom
and strength of character. Throughout this period, I studied
the cultural history of the Maya, which brought me to an
understanding of their millennia-old calendars, cosmologies,
mythologies, and religious life.
I have always been interested in pushing back the fringes
of knowledge. Mesoamerican studies is a relatively young
field. The Mayan hieroglyphic writing has only recently
been decoded enough that we can reconstruct detailed histories
of specific Mayan kingdoms. In researching and writing seven
books, I have focused on decoding the ancient Mayan calendar
and its associated cosmology, and I have been drawn to address
one unanswered question: Why does a large cycle of time
in the Mayan Long Count calendar end in the year that we
call AD 2012?
First, on what basis do we know that 2012 is the correct
year? Mayan scholars have spent almost a century deciphering
the Mayan calendar’s relationship to our own. It is well
known that the basic 260-day calendar was augmented by the
use of another calendar, called the Long Count.
Utilising nested cycles of 20, 360, 7200, and 144,000 days,
the Long Count culminates in a World Age cycle of 13 baktuns,
which equals 5,125 years. On hundreds of carved monuments
spanning over 1,000 years, the dot-and-bar dating system
of the Long Count was found to correlate consistently with
moon phases and other astronomical phenomenon. After decades
of interdisciplinary analysis, Mayan scholars Joseph T.
Goodman, Juan Martínez, and J. Eric S. Thompson determined
that the 13-baktun cycle of the Long Count calendar could
be confidently located in real time, and its end-date would
occur on 18.104.22.168.0 in the Long Count, which corresponds
to December 21, 2012. This correlation of the Mayan and
Western calendars has been in place since the 1930s, and
is not the product of recent New Age speculation. It has
been challenged, tested, and discussed exhaustively and
remains the best candidate.1
Because the end-date of the 13-baktun cycle of the Mayan
Long Count calendar occurs on a winter solstice, I felt
that the ancient Maya may have intended to indicate something
with that end-date. Fixing a time period by its end-date
may seem counter-intuitive, but the Maya actually preferred
this perspective. For example, periods of time within the
Long Count are named by their end-date; we are currently
in the 4 Ahau katun of the Long Count calendar because
the last day of this katun falls on 4 Ahau.
Generally, Mayan metaphors draw from nature. The processes
of birth and growth feature prominently in the Mayan conception
of time, and childbirth is considered to occur at the
end of a nine-month term of embryogenesis (which is
believed to be the foundation of the 260-day calendar).
In this way, we can understand that it would not be unusual
for the end of the 13-baktun cycle to have some significance
in Mayan thinking.
After nine years of research into the 2012 question, in
1998 I published my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 [available
from New Dawn Book Service], presenting an astronomical
explanation for the Mayan 2012 end-date. In 1998-1999 I
was able to workshop my ideas at the Esalen Institute, Naropa
University, and the Institute of Maya Studies, with affirming
My findings can be summarised quite simply: The Maya chose
2012 to end their calendar cycle because in the years
around AD 2012 the solstice Sun will be aligning with the
Milky Way (the white band of stars that can be observed
arching overhead in late summer). This alignment is not
something that happens in every era, for the precession
of the equinoxes slowly shifts the position of the solstice
Sun in relation to the “background” position of the Milky
The precessional phenomenon that is responsible for bringing
the solstice Sun into alignment with the Milky Way is caused
by the slow wobbling of the Earth on its axis. One complete
wobble takes approximately 26,000 years. The Greek astronomer
Hipparchus is credited with discovering precession in 128
BCE. The conventional description refers to it as the precession
of the vernal point (the March equinox), thus “the
precession of the equinoxes.”
However, the phenomenon also equally applies to the solstices,
and evidence at the site of Izapa indicates that early Mayan
astronomers were concerned with tracking the precessional
movement of the December solstice Sun toward the Milky Way.
This awareness is affirmed by the fact that the Long Count
calendar starts appearing in the archaeological record during
the era of Izapa’s heyday, in the first century BCE. Izapa
– a progressive ceremonial site containing astronomical
alignments and monuments portraying the Mayan Creation Myth
– is evidently where the Long Count calendar was instituted.
My research shows that the ball court at Izapa is ground
zero of the knowledge that a future alignment of Sun and
galaxy would occur. Most significantly, according to calculations
by the US Naval Observatory, it is in our era that the
alignment of the December solstice Sun with the Milky Way
galaxy culminates. This “solstice-galaxy” or “galactic”
alignment has great significance within Mayan mythology
and cosmology. In my books, especially Maya Cosmogenesis
2012, I show how this alignment scenario was encoded
into basic Mayan institutions such as the Creation Myth,
the sacred ballgame, and king accession rites.
My reconstruction of the true intention of the Mayan calendar
end-date, though seemingly quite novel, gains support in
my subsequent research, for I have discovered that such
“galactic” concepts were recognised in other ancient cosmologies
(e.g., Egyptian, Islamic, and Vedic).
My new book, Galactic Alignment: The Transformation of
Consciousness According to Mayan, Egyptian, and Vedic Traditions
(Inner Traditions International, 2002 – available from
New Dawn Book Service), examines evidence that the alignment
of the solstice Sun with the Milky Way galaxy (the “galactic
alignment”) played a significant role in Old World and Eastern
religious iconography and metaphysical traditions. Tracing
the galactic knowledge back to ancient Vedic India, it appears
that its manifestation in Islamic, Greek, Mithraic, Celtic,
and Medieval Hermetic traditions is merely a nascent resurgence
of a knowledge that is very ancient indeed.
It must be emphasised that this ancient “galactic cosmology”
is based in empirical astronomy. The periodic alignment
of the solstices with the galactic plane is basic astronomy,
although discussion of it is largely absent from astronomy
text books (Jean Meuss’s 1997 book Mathematical Astronomy
Morsels is an exception).
Much could be explored along the lines of how such an alignment
is encoded into ancient mythologies and religious symbolism,
which is the primary concern of my new book. However, its
basis in empirical astronomy elicits a concern for whether
the eschatological ideas of world transformation that inevitably
attend an awareness of such alignments are empirically valid.
This opens up an avenue of enquiry that modern thinkers
who wish to integrate science and spirit should address.
I don’t have a definitive answer, and in fact I suspect
that a cause-and-effect model that would empirically “solve”
this problem is ultimately unnecessary for the alignment
to have meaning.
As a researcher of ancient traditions, I can point to certain
interpretations and reconstructions that are implied or
are even unavoidable given the facts – for example, I can
say with confidence that solstitial alignments to the galactic
plane were significant players in ancient traditions that
addressed questions of eschatology, cosmology, human salvation,
and the nature of time. But I wouldn’t argue why or how
such alignments might be empirically shown to have demonstrable
effects on life on Earth – although I have some suspicions
about how such empirical concerns might be approached.
For example, a chapter in my new book explores Oliver Reiser’s
work that suggests the Galactic Centre is a major factor
in the evolution of life on Earth. Four years ago Paul Clark,
a correspondent in Australia, pointed me to the book Cosmic
Superimposition by Wilhelm Reich which presents evidence
that two Orgone streams defined by the galactic equator
and the celestial equator (the planes of the Earth’s rotation
and the galaxy’s rotation) generate certain phenomena on
Earth such as hurricane trajectories. These are certainly
fascinating scientific areas to explore, but for myself
it is fascinating enough to encounter a previously unrecognised
galactic level within ancient philosophy, science, and metaphysics.
If empirical interests are granted precedence, it remains
for a collaborative think tank of intellectuals who are
comfortable exploring the fringes to sort out the possible
models that might apply. My own path of discovery suggests
the following: Beyond the insatiable quest for empirical
physical evidence lies the transcendent challenge of metaphysics,
and our materialist paradigm could benefit greatly from
a serious look at the profound insights of traditional metaphysics.
I believe that many researchers are currently focusing overmuch
on ancient technologies. This stance is clearly a projection
of our own culture’s fascination with technology and assumes
that the presence of recognisable technology is the best
barometer of how advanced an ancient culture was. However,
my surprising discoveries of an advanced Mayan cosmological
science suggest that what is more important to explore,
and what speaks clearly to a void in modern values, is the
spiritual insight we find in ancient traditions. Many of
us have studied and practiced various spiritual disciplines
derived from ancient Hindu, Mayan, or even Egyptian teachings.
However, even with this as a foundation, new insights open
up when we understand the galactic underpinnings of such
The ancient Mayan civilisation understood the universal
principles that create and sustain the world. These “first
principles” underlie the physical laws that modern science
has used to create technological miracles, but the first
principles of Mayan sacred science embraced a much larger
universe in which human beings were seen to be multidimensional
and capable of traveling beyond time and space, beyond the
confines that limit modern science with its “laws” that
are valid only in the physical three-dimensional plane.
But human beings, with our capacity for supra-sensory spiritual
vision, are more than three-dimensional.
We are amazed by the ancient Maya and their baffling, complicated
calendar science, and how they built their huge stone cities
without using beasts of burden. Writer Colin Wilson chastises
them for creating toys with little wheels while failing
to build wagons and harness animals into slavery for the
benefit of hauling stones. But does this really indicate
inferiority? Maybe it was a choice. We sift through their
documents, carvings, and fragmented traditions looking for
something that our modern mentality can grab hold of and
appreciate. We look for a bolt, or a gear, or something
that would prove to us that the Maya did indeed have a civilisation.
However, we are being ethnocentric if we look for evidence
of what our own culture values. Perhaps the value of ancient
civilisations lies not in a hope that they, at times, struggled
up to the same technological level that we recognise as
evidence of being civilised. Perhaps for the Maya, as with
the Kogi Indians of Columbia and the Australian aborigines,
material technology was briefly flirted with, but was then
recognised as an ego-dominated deathtrap and was quickly
abandoned to pursue the higher yearnings of the human spirit
in realms that we might call metaphysical or imaginal.2
Among the ruins lies buried an inner technology of personal
transformation that our civilisation lost long ago, leaving
us cast adrift in a reduced world ruled by matter, machines,
and marketing gimmicks peddling pre-fab paradigms. And perhaps
this is what we really seek, and need to find, among the
debris of ancient civilisations.
The ancient Vedic civilisation is not particularly celebrated
for material achievements and yet, like the Maya, they enjoyed
a sophisticated understanding of celestial cycles as well
as a deep understanding of human spirituality. In fact,
the Hindu-Vedic sages mastered magical techniques called
siddhis with which their consciousness could be projected
into animals, inanimate objects (which also contained a
soul), and into distant times and places. We can only hope
that someday we might be able to create a cultural context
in which human beings might once again cultivate this kind
of “inner” technology. In the light these achievements,
the so-called “miracle” of television appears to be an unnecessary
joke, useful only to those whose consciousness has been
Modern historical investigation continues to push back the
dating of the origins of civilisations and the advent of
material technologies. The arguments of modern independent
researchers for advanced technology in ancient times is
important, as it increases respect for these ancient cultures
among those who value these kinds of achievements, but I
believe it misses the point – it is like celebrating Einstein
because he worked in a patent office.
The problem is similar to the quest for lost Atlantis or
the Himalayan Shambhala that disappeared into the shadows
as humanity descended into an increasingly dense and materialistic
age. It’s not that Atlantis or Shambhala lies hidden in
some remote valley or underwater grave. The point is that
humanity has forgotten how to be in that place where
Atlantis/Shambhala once did and always will reside. In other
words, the Primordial Tradition symbolised by these semi-mythical
locations is a state of mind rather than a distant Golden
Age or ancient location.
The deeper truth of our search for lost “artefacts” is our
desire to make visible a knowledge or mindset which is more
comprehensive and fulfilling. As with Shambhala, which faded
into invisibility as humanity lost the ability to see it,
the Primordial Tradition fades but reemerges in places conducive
to discovering and appreciating its profound depth and wisdom.
This explains the ancient Maya’s isolation and independent
genius which nevertheless had tapped into the same doctrines
also found in ancient Vedic and Egyptian cosmology. Trans-oceanic
voyages are not required for this simultaneous non-local
emergence; rather, tapping into the transcendent galactic
source of wisdom is all that is required.
We may find engines in the sands of Egypt, stone computers
in the jungles of Guatemala, and gears in Paleolithic encrustations
of lava, and this may – indeed, should – create awe and
wonder among scientists and the interested public in general.
But it shouldn’t distract us from laying aside our own civilisation’s
faulty assumptions so that we can truly learn from the high
metaphysical teachings offered by ancient civilisations,
including the Egyptian, Vedic, and Mayan.
In part 3 of my new book Galactic Alignment, I
explore the metaphysical ideas of the Traditionalist school,
in particular the writings of esteemed scholar Ananda Coomaraswamy
and symbolist philosopher René Guénon. These writers pioneered
the resurrection of the Primordial Tradition, or Perennial
Philosophy, and a major idea in this school is that the
current cycle of history is ending amid a proliferation
of inverted spiritual values and rampant materialism – we
are approaching the end of Kali Yuga.
In the Vedic doctrine of World Ages, Kali Yuga is the final
age, the age of greatest spiritual darkness, and its end
signals the shift to a new World Age. Clarifying some undeveloped
areas within Traditionalist thought, and drawing from the
insights of various Vedic commentators, I identify the galactic
alignment of era-2012 as the key to the timing of this transition,
anchoring the Vedic yuga doctrine to a real astronomical
event. In addition, my analysis of the parameters of the
alignment phenomenon indicates it is best to think of an
“alignment zone” between 1980 and AD 2016.3
To say that the Mayans, Hindus, and Egyptians were aware
of the Milky Way galaxy should surprise no one – after all,
the Milky Way is dramatic and prominent in the night sky.
But to demonstrate, as I do in my new book, that they also
knew about the Milky Way’s centre and believed that our
periodic alignments to it have something to do with the
transformation of consciousness, should stand the history
of science and religion on its head.
And what if the common sense conclusion to be drawn from
all the evidence I’ve gathered together here is true? What
if ancient civilisations were aware of the Galactic Centre
and the precession of the equinoxes, and that they believed
that eras of galactic alignment – like the one we are struggling
through right now – somehow contribute to the unfolding
of consciousness on Earth? Furthermore, could global weather
changes as well as the intensification of synchronicities
and anomalous experiences that many people are increasingly
reporting be an effect of our alignment with the Galactic
Centre? I explore these questions, as well as the unforgettable
refrain: “Will the world end in 2012?” Is it about cosmogenesis
or catastrophe? From the book:
Birth-growth-death-renewal – this process does follow a
universal law that appears “predictable” but if it’s part
of the natural cycles of change, then what do we have to
worry about? We will worry to the extent that we are incapable
of letting go. Cycle endings are attended by the destruction
of everything belonging to the previous cycle, and like
the Phoenix the new world will be born out of the ashes
of the old. The metaphor is about birth and death. Not everyone
believes in rebirth (reincarnation) but no one can deny
the inevitability of death. Unfortunately, few spend much
time reflecting on death – the Great Transformer. Meditations
on mortality can lead to profound insights and realizations
about our humanity, and the denial of death – which is what
Western civilization is about – drives us more quickly and
less elegantly to it.4
New vistas have opened up while researching and writing
Galactic Alignment, ones that elevate “metaphysics”
to its traditional place as a superior framework for understanding
the nature of time, reality, and consciousness. This brings
me full circle back to my earliest philosophical preoccupations.
Metaphysics is the answer to the limitations and dead-ends
of the physical sciences, for as a “meta” physics it takes
a “higher” view than conventional physics. And this is not
semantic slight-of-hand; the sacred sciences of antiquity,
closely allied with metaphysical ideas that are now largely
misunderstood, were the multidimensional and holistic precursors
to our modern profane sciences that today amount to nothing
more than a kind of short-sighted thingism.
As we narrow down our search and venture into metaphysical
territory, we dig into the unpublished work of art historian
turned academic metaphysician Ananda K. Coomaraswamy and
emerge with a Vedic teaching that addresses our end-of-cycle
concerns, connecting us right into the Galactic Centre.
That teaching is encoded into the Vedic theft of soma myth,
and in pursuing its underlying wisdom regarding the transformation
of consciousness, all of the book’s themes are integrated
into the metaphysical importance of the solstice-galaxy
This brief introduction invites readers to explore more
deeply the source material that contributes to my conclusions,
including studies in sacred cartography, Mithraic symbolism,
the Chaldean Oracles, Islamic astronomy, Vedic and Egyptian
metaphysics, Hermetic studies, South American traditions,
Christian architecture and iconography, and Mayan astronomy.5
For empirical scientists, astronomy is the central key that
connects these questions to hard science, and the metaphysical
concepts relating to these eschatological questions are,
in fact, closely related to astronomy. Yet beyond empirical
concerns, the role of galactic alignments in spiritual transformation
is revealed as a core concept found in all of the major
ancient traditions – in both the Old World and the New World.
By recovering this core wisdom form the deep past, we open
a little doorway that can lead us into a new era of growth
Cosmogenesis 2012 and Galactic Alignment by
John Major Jenkins are available from New Dawn Book Service.
More on the correlation question can be found in my 1994
book Tzolkin: Visionary Perspectives and Calendar Studies
(Borderland Sciences Research Foundation). I recently
re-released this book on CD-Rom, with an extensive additional
archive of essays, reviews, and correspondence. To order,
see the Tzolkin page at http://Alignment2012.com.
I here use “imaginal” in the way understood by Henry Corbin
(see Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi)
– a dimension of real, though subtle, extension rather than
simply a place of fantasy.
This alignment zone is based on two facts: The US Naval
Observatory calculated the alignment of the solstice meridian
with the galactic equator would occur in 1998, and the Sun
itself is ½° wide. Thus, because precession takes 36 years
to move ½°, the range is 1980 to 2016. Other additional
alignment parameters are addressed in chapter 21 of Galactic
Galactic Alignment, page 259.
See the “Galactic Alignment 2” section of my website for
additional material: http://Alignment2012.com.
Major Jenkins is an independent researcher who has devoted
himself to reconstructing ancient Mayan cosmology and philosophy.
Since beginning his odyssey of research and discovery with
the Maya, John has authored dozens of articles and seven
books. John can be contacted via email at: John@Alignment2012.com.
Mayan Cosmology and Calendrics Website: Alignment2012.com