December 21, 2012, is a date that has become emblazoned in the cultural consciousness for the last several years. It has been associated with many things including doomsday scenarios, global spiritual awakenings, aliens and errant asteroids bent on Earth’s destruction. John Major Jenkins has heard them all in the twenty-plus years that he has been studying the Maya civilization and their intriguing calendar system.
For Jenkins, who wandered into the Maya jungle of speculation quite by accident, studying the ancient wisdom of these people has become a lifelong passion, and he feels that he has much relevant information to offer on the true meaning of this date. Now a recognized expert on the ancient Maya and the 2012 phenomenon, he spends his time writing and doing research at his home in Windsor, Colorado, and travelling the world teaching about the Maya culture.
John Major Jenkins’s curiosity about the Mayan calendar led him to research the Long Count Calendar, an ancient system of counting great cycles of time that began appearing thousands of years ago, in Izapa, Mexico. His approach was to study the site where scholars agree the ideas for the long count calendar began, looking at icons such as the Hero Twins, The Father of the Hero Twins, The Great Mother, and other Maya mythological figures, all through the disciplines of archeology, astronomy, mythology and spirituality. He equates the ancient culture that he studied to the Perennial Philosophy or the Primordial tradition, what Jenkins calls a collection of wisdom and spiritual knowledge common to all the great religions.
Jenkins’ research has led to a theory about Maya spiritual teachings that are related to a rare astrological alignment, sometimes called the Galactic Alignment that happens only once every 26,000 years. The phenomenon of Precession (also called precession of the equinoxes), where the Earth wobbles on its axis, brings the December Solstice sun into alignment with the precise midline of the Milky Way, known as the galactic equator.
Jenkins says, “In the ancient mythology of the Maya, the imagery of the alignment is really about birth. The part of the Milky Way that the sun is lining up with is called the nuclear bulge, known to the Maya as the womb of the Great Mother deity. So when the Solar Father, the December solstice Sun, aligns with the womb of the Great Mother at the end of a great age, it creates an ideology of birth and renewal.”
His studies reveal a civilization that was quite advanced in its ability to calculate astronomical events. He believes that the Maya intended their calendar end date to coincide with this rare occurrence, not as a fatalistic warning but as a signal of the end of a great world age and a time for transformation and rebirth. The ideas of transformation, renewal and cyclical time are very important, not only to the ancient Maya but also for their present day descendants who still inhabit Mexico and Central America. Jenkins says that the doomsday predictions are merely Western sensationalism that has been grossly amplified by the spiritual and media marketplace.
What do these ancient teachings have to offer modern people? Jenkins says, “The spiritual teaching of 2012 is to regain our understanding of our interdependence with the big picture, to create a sustainable world based on those principles and to move into a healthier future. In a sense, 2012 is the beginning. It clears the slate and we can start doing the work that spiritual teachings, not only of the Maya but in many of the world’s great spiritual traditions, advocate.”
He maintains that it is a call for all of us to get back to our roots, to reconnect with what it is to be human, to create connections, build communities and to cultivate values that support and nurture a kind of culture that is more oriented toward partnership. To facilitate this Jenkins suggests, “So we could learn to live simply, have integrity, but most importantly work on a spiritual level to have an examination of consciousness and look at how our lives are being run.”
To help achieve this he recommends service work. For his own service work, he delivered relief supplies to Maya villages in the early 1990s, and he helped build a school before he began researching and writing his books. He returned to service work and co-founded the Maya Conservancy, a non-profit that works with the Maya to re-introduce them to their cultural roots. Even after Dec. 21, 2012, Jenkins hopes that research into the Maya culture continues so that the world can benefit from their ancient wisdom.