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The End of the World as We've Known It

“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness...the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”
--- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

You can take the fact that you are reading these words as proof-positive that the world did not end on the winter solstice - 12/21/12.

The media loves to sensationalize “doomsday stories". Our news programs make sure to set apart small segments, feeding us tidbits as they simultaneously titillate and terrorize us - their clientele.

Without a doubt, the news media understood that reports of the “end” of the ancient sacred Mayan would evoke feelings of curiosity, fascination, and fear – and in the process sell newspapers, movie tickets, etc. And, just as predictably, once our “date with destiny” had passed, the same media personalities who had been busy selling us their scary wares took just as much pleasure dismissing the whole laughable business: “Can you imagine that so many gullible people bought the whole Mayan prophecy thing?

And, as they so often do, the media missed the mark by a mile. Such stories tend to be designed to distract us from the things that truly matter. And, the message that the Mayans recorded – and wanted people of our time to understand, some 13 centuries later – does truly matter.

Some details: Today the Mayan people live in Guatemala, southern Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula, Belize, El Salvador and western Honduras.

The simple fact is that the supposedly primitive “classic Maya” (435-830 A.D.), who lived in Mexico and Guatemala, possessed an advanced knowledge of the arts, astronomy, urbanization, architecture, writing skills and social organization. They also developed extraordinarily sophisticated mathematical systems, cosmologies and calendars.

Dr. Jose Argulles writes:

"Unquestionably, the [classic] Maya represent one of the great civilizational flowerings of planet Earth. Scattered across the jungles of the Yucatan and the highlands of present-day Guatemala are incredible numbers of ancient cities and temple sites. Towering stepped pyramids, finely laid-out plazas, and ceremonial centers are exquisitely adorned with sculpted stones, covered everywhere with hieroglyphic inscriptions."

Also - and this is very significant - the Mayan calendar does not end on the winter solstice, 12/21/12. Instead, this date is a marker for the close of three converging cycles of time, each nested within the other: one of 102,500 years, another with a duration of 25,625 years and a third lasting 5,125 years.

Here is where things get really interesting. The classic Mayans regarded each of these cycles as an “evolutionary season.” Four 26,000-year evolutionary seasons, form the grand Arcturus cycle of 104,000 years. For us, this age corresponds to the emergence of anatomically modern humans.

The 26,000 year era, which the Mayans described as a “grand Cosmic year,” refers to a particular period of collective human growth and spiritual evolution. This epoch began with the disappearance of the Neanderthal type and the ascendance of the significantly more sophisticated Cro-Magnon human. Artifacts strongly suggest that Cro-Magnon culture was exemplified by fine artwork, body ornaments, decorated and carefully worked tools, ivory carvings of humans and animals, musical instruments, and exquisite cave paintings.

The ancient Maya also understood 26,000 year cycles to be composed of 5 lesser eras of 5,125 years. Each of these was considered its own World Age or Creation Cycle. Our present great cycle (3113 B.C. - 2012 A.D.) corresponds to what we have called “civilization” or “history” (as opposed to prehistory). This final cycle, which began approximately 3100 B.C., refers to the initial appearance of western civilizations – the founding of the first Egyptian dynasty and in Sumeria, the first urban center, the city of Uruk (from which the name Iraq was derived). The Mayan calendar indicates that this era ended on 12/21/12.

The Mayan timekeepers believed that all evolution unfolds as a result of precisely calibrated master cycles of time. Somehow the multi-dimensional Maya were able to calculate the periods of time that account for the development of multi-cellular organisms, fish, reptiles, and the higher mammals, including human beings. Each cycle was seen as propelling earth's lifeforms to unfold higher forms of organization and complexity.

This knowledge reflects an astonishingly accurate understanding of great expanses of time and human evolution – gained without the benefit of modern archeology, paleo-anthropology, astronomy etc. We don't know how the Mayans came to an understanding of these patterns. Yet the reality remains that they did.

The first thing to say is that there is nothing new here. Nature is eternally cyclic. Here on earth winter (finally!) stretches into spring; spring unfolds into summer; summer turns a corner and transforms into fall (all too soon, it seems!). Picture the exuberance of spring and then summer activity: leaves and buds appear, flowers bloom, insects busily pollinate plants of all kinds. Think of autumn: green summer leaves start to change hue (these are really the leaves' death colors) and begin to fall. All that was glorious summer gradually disappears; we feel a bit of a chill in the wind - and in ourselves.

Likewise, imagine the atmosphere at the beginning of western civilization . The “summer”, so to speak, appears in early Egypt as the sheer grandeur of the First Dynasty becoming the organizing principle for entire river valleys, plains, and cities.

Fast forward five millennia - through the twists and turns of the evolution of civilization in our world - to the present time. Now, in 2012 it would appear that autumn is quickly transforming into winter.

First, let's step back and have a look at what we usually think of the achievements of modern, industrial civilization. Quite a few of us all around the planet now have our own (air-conditioned) cars. Modern culture gives us access to a dazzling array of foods, whether at the local supermarket or the corner store. Even amidst our very troubled healthcare system, many of us are blessed with technologically advanced medical care. And, in addition to having virtually all the knowledge in the world at our finger-tips, we currently have the ability to communicate with someone on the other side of the planet in the blink of an eye.

OK, now let's step back once more. When we take a courageous, clear-headed look at the downside of modern society's development we can see some very significant – and disturbing - negatives.

First, climate change: we already have created a situation that is beyond what has existed for millions of years. In addition to global warming and rising oceans, we are already dealing with factors such as changing weather and precipitation patterns. If these undergo a radical shift, it will be extremely challenging to adapt global agriculture to respond to the new climate circumstances. Should this scenario come to pass we would likely be facing countless causalities.

It is highly probable that in the near future we will add roughly two to three billion people to the earth. In other words we will be adding enormous numbers of people to the earth at the very time the climate is beginning to shift and make food growing more precarious. It has been estimated that within ten to twenty years 40% of the world may not have enough water to grow their own food.

Species extinction: current projections are that roughly 25% of all mammals, 12% of all bird species, 25% of all reptiles, and 30% of all fish are threatened with extinction. This is to say that we are drastically disturbing the exquisite – and increasingly precarious - ecological balance of earth's biosphere at the very time that we’re stressing it with climate change, and stressing it further with exponential population growth. At the same time we are diminishing the availability of critical resources like water.

To these factors we must add the impact of the rapidly accelerating gap between the rich and the poor worldwide. Whether it is a pair of shoes, eyeglasses, medicine or vitamins, the basics of life are very quickly becoming inaccessible to some 60% of the world’s population.

Today, many of us are sensing these realities, even if only subliminally. During the past 5,000 year wave of activity that we call “history,” we have supposedly succeeded in dominating nature. Yet, today we find ourselves surrounded on all sides by unforeseen and potentially disastrous consequences.

Einstein said that we should not expect to solve certain tenacious, interdependent and complex problems using the same level of thinking from which we created them in the first place. Clearly, it is time for a new way of being – a new way of perceiving our lives and a fresh approach to solving the many global dilemmas we face.

It is our good fortune that scholars who are taking a fresh look at the Mayans and their calendar are beginning to arrive at a breathtaking realization. As mentioned earlier, it now appears that, in calibrating great expanses of time, the Mayans were tracking what we might consider the universal energies of evolution and development that function in our galaxy as a whole.

In this way we are coming to understand that there are "seasons," not only in nature here on earth, but in our galaxy as well. And just as on Earth, when one season ends, another begins. Now, as the previous season is concluding, a new climate - one that is supportive of human transformation and maturation - is in the process of being born.

Today, just as the Mayan calendar predicted, the reality is that we are at a crossroads and have the potential to either move into a new season of growth and development – or to descend into chaos. To take advantage of this unique window of opportunity we will need to become willing to wake up and expand our consciousness. This will surely involve re- learning how to stay attuned to the cycles of nature – at many levels.

To do so we will need to move beyond the now obsolete paradigms of “man over nature,” “men over women,” and “men over other men.” This means maturing beyond the belief that we must dominate others to survive. In fact the opposite is true: these notions are not only outmoded – they are now putting humans on the endangered species list.

The Mayan calendar suggests that, with the ending of three major aeons of time, humans currently are being offered the possibility of choosing to create a new chapter – actually a new world - based on respect, creativity, and caring for ourselves and the rest of the Biosphere. There is much to learn – and to unlearn. One of our most important lessons will be to free our hearts so that we can see the world through the lens of wholeness and compassion.

The Mayans may have much to teach us about our present predicament. Even so, we will need to move through – and beyond – our denial, and apply whatever we may learn to our current problematic circumstances. To do so we will need to join together, make this knowledge our own, and take wise action to create a sustainable world.

One place to begin is with the unify movement, which can be found at With so much at stake, how can we delay? Each of us is called to choose a new way – today. We will make the path by walking it.

Blair Gelbond is a currently a psychotherapist in Brookline. He had an office in East Boston for nine years.

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