Monday, December 31, 2012

The discovery of the Nag Hammadi library

It was sometime in December of 1945 when three brothers, fellahin from the village of al-Qasr (see detailed map below) unearthed an ancient jar at the foot of the cliffs of the Jabal al-Tarif west of the village of Hamrah Dun.  Although they could not know it at the time, it was a discovery of enormous import.

The jar contained texts written on papyrus and bound into codex form, and the contents of those codices turned out to be texts that were most likely declared to be heretical in the fourth century AD and were thus buried to escape detection and destruction -- destruction that was so thorough that the teachings in these texts were almost completely eradicated and could only be pieced together by inference from writings by those who were on the side of those ordering their destruction and who were denouncing the doctrines that were preserved in the codices inside this ancient jar.

The discovery, then, opened a window onto a part of the ancient world that had been sealed off for centuries, an imperfect window to be sure, but since all the other windows onto that view had been deliberately smashed and bricked over (so to speak), it was an important window indeed.

These texts would come to be called the "Nag Hammadi library," and they would take a rather circuitous path to publication and translation, but they are now available to the public (since 1975) and can be found online in various places, such as here.  

The story of their discovery has been told by Professor James M. Robinson, who was responsible for tracking down the discoverers and determining the approximate date of their discovery (which had not been previously specified beyond a range of years), as well as for much of the analysis of the texts and their significance.  He spoke in person with the field hand who discovered the texts, and in an essay entitled "Nag Hammadi: the First Fifty Years" published in the Proceedings of the 1995 Society of Biblical Literature Commemoration, explains that the three brothers, named Muhammad Ali (the eldest brother), Khalifa Ali, and Abu al-Magd, were digging for fertilizer in the talus at the foot of the Jabal al-Tarif.  From his interviews with Muhammad Ali, Professor Robinson discovered:
When the local sugarcane harvest was over and the land lay fallow during the brief winter, he regularly dug soft earth at the foot of the cliff that served as fertilizer for the fields.  He had been digging fertilizer, he recalled, just a few weeks before the Coptic Christmas, which is January 7, when he made the discovery.  [. . .]

Muhammad Ali at first feared to open the jar (sealed with a bowl attached with bitumen to the mouth of the jar) lest it contain a jinn.  But then it occurred to him it might contain gold.  This gave him courage enough to break it with his mattock.  Out flew, into the air, what he thought might be an airy golden jinn, but which I suspect was only papyrus fragments.  He was very let down to find only worthless old books in the jar.  

He tore some up to share with some of the other camel drivers who were present, which explains some of the damage and loss which does not fit the pattern of what one would expect from the gradual deterioration of the centuries.  Since the other camel drivers, no doubt out of fear of Muhammad Ali, declined his insincere offer to share, he stacked it all back up together, unrolled his turban from around his head, put the codices in it, slung it over his shoulder, unhobbled his camel, drove back home, and dumped the junk in the enclosed patio in his house where the animals and their fodder were kept.  His mother confirmed to me that she had in fact burnt some along with straw as kindling in the outdoor clay oven.
We will probably never know what was on those texts that helped light the outdoor clay oven.  However, scholars have since determined that the jar contained thirteen codices (the twelfth was probably sacrificed as kindling, according to the analysis done by Professor Robinson, and only one text and the opening of another text from the thirteenth survive, having anciently been stuffed inside the cover material of the sixth codex), and that the surviving library of texts number forty-seven (not counting additional fragments and duplicates).  They have been given the name "the Nag Hammadi texts" or the "Nag Hammadi library" after the largest village near the cliffs where they were found (circled in green in the map above and notable for a bridge there across the Nile; the jar itself was found closer to Hamrah Dum, which is circled in red and has a red arrow pointing toward the cliff area one kilometer west, where Muhammad Ali told Professor Robinson he and his brothers discovered the jar; they were from the village of al-Qasr south of Hamrah Dum and circled in blue).

Nag Hammadi is located near the dramatic bend in the Nile just north of Luxor, which in ancient Egypt was called Thebes, the mighty ancient capitol of Upper Egypt (southern Egypt, the "upstream" and thus "upper" portion of Egypt, since the Nile flows south-to-north).  The map below shows the region and its terrain, along with a red arrow indicating Nag Hammadi and a blue arrow indicating the Jabal al-Tarif below whose cliffs the jar was buried.

Note that the terrain of Egypt shows clear geological evidence of massive water movement which shaped the severe terrain in the vicinity of Nag Hammadi and Luxor.  The deep gullies and wadis with their serpentine branches were probably formed by outrushing groundwater erupting and pouring out into the channel that would later hold the Nile River, when the entire area was covered by water that was trapped after the global flood described in the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown.  When this trapped water was rapidly and violently released and drained into the Mediterranean (probably due to the Mediterranean's breaching of the Dardanelles and Bosporus and the rapid filling of the area now covered by the Black Sea -- as that water flowed east, the water that had covered Egypt flowed out and into the now-lower Mediterranean; this aspect of the hydroplate theory is discussed on this page of Dr. Brown's book, towards the bottom of that web page, just above the inset entitled "Prediction 3").  

Dr. Brown discusses similar canyons to those seen in the terrain map above, but in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon.  There, many deep canyons are also seen which he describes in the section entitled "Side Canyons" a little less than halfway down this page, saying, "These side canyons also have their own side canyons, all connected like branches on a big, bushy tree. Surprisingly, most side canyons, at least today, have no source of water that could have carved them—or basins above that could have held much water."  On this later page, also dealing with the geology in and around the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Dr. Brown explains that the side canyons and barbed canyons there were most likely carved by water from the water table that had previously been much higher (before the trapped inland seas or giant lakes breached and lost all their water) erupting out of the flanks of the cliffs that today are high and dry (see his sections called "Side Canyons of Marble Canyon and Grand Canyon" and also "Barbed Canyons," both about halfway down the web page). 

To see where this particular Nag Hammadi and Luxor portion of the Nile fits into the larger picture of Egypt, see the map below.  Similar geological signs of catastrophic water outflows can be seen further east, where the outflowing water ended up in the Red Sea and connected ultimately with the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean:

Getting back to the incredibly important texts found buried in that ancient jar at the base of the Jabal al-Tarif, they have been generally categorized as reflecting a "gnostic" understanding of the origin of mankind and our purpose here in this life, a perspective that is at odds with the understanding that would become the teaching of orthodox Christianity and which would therefore be violently declaimed against and apparently was stamped out.  The texts are described by Marvin Meyer in his 2005 book The Gnostic Discoveries: The Impact of the Nag Hammadi Library as follows: 
Research on the Nag Hammadi library and the Berlin Gnostic Codex [also found in Egypt but in the late 1800s, which appears related in its contents to the Nag Hammadi texts and which contains four texts] has disclosed a broad spectrum of perspectives among the texts that may be identified as gnostic or gnosticizing, and the texts seem to fall roughly into five groups.  These five groups may reflect, for several of the groups, gnostic schools of thought embraced by teachers and students in communities.

The first group of gnostic texts in the Nag Hammadi library consists of the Thomas texts: the Gospel of Thomas, the Book of Thomas, and probably the Dialogue of the Savior. [. . .]

The second group of texts derives from the Sethian school of thought.  Sethian texts reflect traditions of Seth, son of Adam and Eve, as a paradigmatic human being. [. . .]

The third group of gnostic texts represents the Valentinian school of thought.  Valentinus was a second-century Egyptian who became a Christian gnostic teacher and preacher in Alexandria and Rome. [. . .]

The fourth group of gnostic texts in the Nag Hammadi library comes from the Hermetic heritage.  The Hermetic tradition has been known for a long time, and Hermetic texts, collected in the Corpus Hermeticum, have assumed a prominent place in discussions of mystical religion in antiquity and late antiquity. [ . . .]

[. . .]  Within the texts of the Nag Hammadi library there are three Hermetic texts, two previously known, an excerpt from the Perfect Discourse and the Prayer of Thanksgiving, and one new Hermetic text, the Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth.  

The fifth group of gnostic texts in the Nag Hammadi library and the Berlin Gnostic Codex is hardly a definable group, but instead consists of those gnostic texts that defy classification.  These texts seem to incorporate leading gnostic themes, as suggested above, and may show similarities to other gnostic texts and traditions, but they do not fit neatly into the other groups of gnostic texts.  48 - 52.
Such is the categorization suggested by Marvin Meyer and other scholars.  Others may perhaps organize or categorize them differently.  However they are categorized, their significance is profound on many levels and for many reasons.  First, as Marvin Meyer explains elsewhere in the same book, "Prior to the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library, 'gnosticism' typically was considered to be an early and pernicious Christian heresy, and much of our knowledge of gnostic religion was gleaned from the writings of the Christian heresiologists, those authors who attempted to establish orthodoxy and expose heresy in the early church. [. . .]  Since the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library and related texts, the study of gnostic religion and its impact upon ancient and modern religion has been fundamentally transformed" (1-6).

Second, the deliberate burial at the base of a cliff after sealing the texts into a jar suggests that those who valued these texts were hiding them from those who wanted to suppress or even destroy them, and this brings up the entire theme of the destruction of ancient knowledge which has appeared in previous posts such as this one and this one.   Marvin Meyer provides evidence that these texts may have been buried upon the publication of the Festal Letter of Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria, in AD 367 (also known as the 39th Festal Letter (Meyer 30-31).  This letter lists the texts considered canonical and condemns as heretical those that are "an invention of heretics."

Finally, the texts have great importance to us on their own merit, for the light they may shed upon the meaning of human existence and the nature of human consciousness.  For this, the reader is encouraged to examine them for himself or herself (again, they can be searched and read here).

There is also the matter of that mysterious report from the discoverer of the long-lost jar containing the library, who said that when he broke open the jar, out flew what "might be an airy golden jinn," but which Professor Robinson says he suspects was "only papyrus fragments."  I wonder . . .

Friday, December 28, 2012

Are you ready for genetically-modified salmon?

This week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made public its environmental assessment (EA) on the material submitted in support of a new animal drug application (NADA) for a genetically-modified Atlantic salmon, the AquAdvantage Salmon.  

The FDA's "finding of no significant impact" (or FONSI) advances the process of ultimate approval for sale and human consumption of this genetically-modified salmon in the US.  According to this article published in the Independent (in the UK) on December 24th, 2012, "The verdict clears one of the last remaining hurdles for GM salmon to be lawfully sold and eaten in the US and will put pressure on salmon producers in Britain and Europe to follow suit."

Oddly enough, that article notes that the FDA completed its assessment in May of 2012, but decided not to publish its findings at that time, deferring instead until December 21, 2012.  That seems to be a strange choice of a date, coinciding as it does with the conclusion of the Maya Long Count and thus one of the most anciently-anticipated dates known, as well as one with a tremendous amount of popular apocalyptic hype, partially inflamed by sensationalist videos over the years (such as this one from National Geographic). 

This recent article by Jon Entine of the Genetic Literacy Project suggests that the delay by the FDA was due to the anticipation of the 2012 presidential election, and fears of alienating the voters in the incumbent's base, who generally oppose genetically-modified food in plant form and probably would not be too thrilled about the approval of the first genetically-modified animal for human consumption, as well as the potential impact on the natural ecosystems and existing salmon populations should genetically-modified salmon somehow escape into the wild.  

Note that the Genetic Literacy Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the public acceptance of and increased use of genetically-modified organisms; the organization's website declares in its mission statement the assertion that "genetics is our future" because genetic modification can be "a source of dramatic innovations to improve food security, the environment and public health."  They also state that they exist to combat the ignorance of "people who don’t understand risk and complexity" (that would appear to be anyone who doubts that "genetics is our future" or who don't believe that the potential risks of genetically-modifying living organisms using the rDNA of other organisms are necessarily outweighed by the supposed gains in "food security, the environment and public health").

Several previous posts have argued that the question of genetic modification of organisms is far more problematic than the "fear and misunderstanding" that arises among "people who don't understand risk and complexity," and that there may be excellent reasons to be very concerned about the creation and consumption of genetically modified foods.  At the very least, it is an area that demands extensive analysis and the realization that there are many arguments on both sides that are worth hearing, rather than simply calling names and demeaning anyone who opposes your position on the subject.

Previous posts on this topic include:
The FDA's recently-published examination of the merits of genetically-modified salmon for human consumption explain that the AquAdvantage salmon (which is referred to as "the construct") is created by introducing the recombinant DNA (rDNA) of three organisms into an Atlantic salmon: the anti-freeze protein gene (AFP) of the ocean pout, the coding sequence (cDNA) of the growth hormone (GH) of the Chinook salmon found in its pituitary gland, and two synthetic DNAs introduced as "synthetic linkers" (pages 18-19).

The FDA's literature confirms that these genetic modifications cause the construct to grow at rates that are from 2- to 6-fold the growth rates of a natural Atlantic salmon. Not only do they grow faster, but the introduction of the foreign DNA causes them to grow in cold waters, whereas normal Atlantic salmon only turn on their growth hormone in warm waters.  The average size after an equal number of "degrees celsius days" of the construct versus a control group was 261.0 grams versus 72.6 grams!  That's a big difference.  At the end of that same period, only 4.9% of the control population had reached the 100 gram threshold, while 98.6% of the construct population had met or exceeded that size!  (See page 41 of this FDA document).

The same FDA document explains that recently-issued changes to US Dietary Guidelines (published in 2010) "specifically recommend that Americans increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry" and that "these recommendations are expected to further contribute to increased demands for seafood in the future" (page 20).  

Putting aside the question of the advisability of having governments telling people what to eat (there is evidence that this advice has been quite harmful and often may have been based on completely erroneous analysis in the relatively short period of time since governments began interfering in the diet of the citizenry), does it necessarily follow that just because demand for seafood is expected to increase, it is advisable to introduce the DNA of other fish (along with synthetic DNA) into Atlantic salmon, and then to sell the meat of such "constructs" to satisfy the demand for seafood?

This article from the New York Times raises the question of whether increased levels of hormones in food animals might be linked to increased cancer risk in those who consume those animals.  The article notes that some studies appear to indicate such a link.

There is also the question of the ethics of creating these genetic "construct" organisms, and the possible negative repercussions for the fish themselves.  The FDA's recently-released study indicates that farm-raised salmon (and trout) appear to suffer from numerous ailments at much higher rates than their wild cousins.  In a footnote beginning on page 27 of this FDA document and continuing onto the bottom of page 28, the FDA writes:
Morphologic irregularities do occur in non-transgenic salmonids, most commonly affecting cartilaginous and boney structures (Brown and Nunez, 1998), and are often associated with the development of new commercial lines or husbandry techniques and culture conditions.  Developmental malformations of cartilage and bone have been observed quite commonly in association with intensive commercial farming of salmon (Salmo) and trout (Oncorhynchus) species [. . .].  These malformations include irregularities of the head, jaw, and operculum, and twisting or compression of the spine.  [. . .]  Veterinary field studies have identified the periodic occurrence of spinal compression (humpback) in 70% of salmon in Norwegian farming operations (Kvellestad et al., 2000), and jaw malformation in 80% of salmon at commercial sites in Chile (Roberts et al., 2001).
The report indicates that these irregularities appear to be caused by "suboptimal culture condition (e.g., nutrition, water quality, and environmental stressors)."  It also notes that about 69% of salmon currently consumed in the US is farmed.

These are very sad statistics and should raise some ethical questions about farmed salmon, let alone about the creation of new "constructs" of salmon to be farmed (the genetically-modified constructs will be grown from eggs in Canada and then shipped to heavily-secured farm pens in the highlands of Panama, to prevent their escape into the wild, and they will be designed to be all-female and "triploid" or having triple the genes of a fertile female salmon, so that they will be infertile just in case one or more do escape).

The conditions described above also bring to mind the two previous posts (here and here) which examined two texts by the ancient author (and priest of Apollo) Plutarch, entitled "On the eating of flesh."  In those essays, Plutarch asks "what madness, what frenzy drives you to the pollution of shedding blood, you who have such a superfluity of necessities?"  He argues that, when so many plants grow for our nourishment and enjoyment, we cannot justify the slaughter of other creatures merely for taste.  He further argues that the fear that the increase of the earth cannot feed us indicates a lack of faith in the divinities that provide the food (he names Demeter and Dionysus in his essays).  His final argument is that animals are conscious beings, and there is the added possibility of the survival and reincarnation of the consciousness, which should tip the scales against the horrible mistreatment of animals that are kept for slaughter and consumption.

These arguments should be carefully considered before humanity rushes to begin creating and consuming genetically-modified animals on a mass scale, starting with salmon.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

On December 27, watch some of the movies starring Lam Ching-Ying (1952 - 1997)

December 27 is the birthday of the late Lam Ching-Ying, who starred in such famous Hong Kong films of the 1980s as Prodigal Son (Bai Ga Jai in Cantonese) and Mr. Vampire.  

Last year's post on this day has some detail on his life and filmography.

Like all forms of human expression, films and theater can have many layers of meaning. 

Above is a link to Prodigal Son (1982, Cantonese with English subtitles).  Below is a link to Mr. Vampire (1985, the first in the Mr. Vampire series; Cantonese and in order to turn on English subtitles you may need to click on the "cc" button and then select "Translate Captions" and then select "English - English," unless you understand Cantonese).


Monday, December 24, 2012

Were the strata of the earth laid down all at once, or over hundreds of millions of years?

I recently received Dr. Walt Brown's Christmas letter, and as always it is filled with remarkable insights, as well as some updates and new photographs and diagrams that are going into his newest edition of his comprehensive book on his hydroplate theory, In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood.

One of the updated photos is a very recent picture of the strata of the Grand Canyon, taken just after Thanksgiving of this year, and showing his two grandsons standing next to a quartzite block embedded in the layers of the Grand Canyon -- a quartzite block that acts as a very important clue about the strata that geologists use to try to understand the ancient history of our globe and its geological features.

That updated photo of the quartzite block can be seen on this page of Dr. Brown's hydroplate theory book, which he graciously makes available for free to everyone online in its entirety.  The photo is labeled "Figure 1" and it shows the location of the quartzite block in the wall of the Grand Canyon (the image to the left) as well as a close-up of the block and the strata around it.

The reason this block, which Dr. Brown estimates to weigh between five and ten tons, is so significant is the fact that it is made of quartzite from the strata of the Grand Canyon below the "Great Unconformity" which are usually designated as the "Pre-Cambrian" strata, but this huge block is embedded in the layers above the unconformity, which geologists say formed about a billion years later!  Further, as the interested reader can easily see by looking at the close-up of the block in the "later" strata, the layers around the block are clearly deformed in smooth-flowing lines around the mighty block, almost as if these layers were soft and pliant when the block was in their midst, and then hardened later!

But such a suggestion, that the layers were all soft and pliable, goes against all the assumptions upon which modern geology and stratigraphy are founded!  Conventional geologists confidently tell us that the various layers of the Grand Canyon (and all the other layers found in the geological strata around the world) were laid down over many millions of years.  In fact, they will tell you with great precision the date range of each of the layers of the Grand Canyon -- you can see them in this previous discussion in a blog post entitled "The Strata and the Great Flood."

If the quartzite block is from the "Pre-Cambrian" layers of the Grand Canyon "Supergroup" dated by conventional geologists as being laid down between 740 million to 1.8 billion years ago, how did it "float" upwards into the layers above which are dated between 525 million and 505 million years ago?  How did those layers oblige by bending around it so gracefully?  Perhaps that quartzite block was floating in the air for hundreds of millions of years while it waited for the other strata to be laid down around it.

This quartzite block and its intriguing location argues strongly for the possibility that the strata of the Grand Canyon were laid down rapidly, rather than hundreds of millions of years apart.  As discussed in previous posts, and in much greater detail in his book, Dr. Brown has provided extensive evidence that this is exactly what did take place: the strata were laid down rapidly during a flood event, the result of a massive outpouring of sediments when the "fountains of the great deep" erupted with cataclysmic violence, abrading millions of tons of earth as they did so.  He has explained that the hydrodynamic forces of liquefaction sorted these sediments into layers during the flood.  Afterwards, some of these layers were still soft and pliable for some time, before hardening into sedimentary rock.  This explains the graceful folds seen in some places where great pressures (also during the events surrounding the global flood) acted on them while they were still able to bend.  

Regarding this particular quartzite block, Dr. Brown provides this explanation (again, be sure to check out his full discussion in his book itself):
Geology professor Arthur V. Chadwick brought this block to my attention in 197824 and later in a visit to my office. The block—a very hard material called quartzite—was lifted, transported from right to left, and deposited on layers which, at the time, were soft mud. Other mud layers then blanketed the block. (See the deformed layers below and above the block.) Professor Chadwick correctly identified the lifting force: a very dense, rapidly-flowing, sand/mud/water slurry, which plucked the block off the lower quartzite layer upstream (far to the right of these pictures). Part of that “pink” quartzite layer is seen in the first picture (lower right). The easiest way to lift and transport such a heavy block is in a dense liquefied (and therefore, very buoyant), sediment/water mixture. 

This rapid transport, which was immediately above the Cambrian-Precambrian interface, occurred during the compression event. Below the sliding slurry, a sand layer decelerated and compressed first. That compression squeezed up water that lubricated the slide and heated the quartz sand, so it became quartzite.25 Compression also tipped the layers up, causing them to be beveled by the overriding, sliding layers. The camera is looking north; therefore the slurry slid from east to west, which is consistent with the direction the Americas hydroplate slid away from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
This explanation is much more consistent with the location of this block and the appearance of the layers around that transported quartzite block than any explanation which tries to argue that the layers around the block were successively laid down over many millions of years.
There are many other places around the globe where the geology appears to provide evidence that the strata were laid down rapidly rather than over the course of many successive aeons of time the way that conventional geologists tell us in school.  Take a look at the photograph at the top of this post showing graceful curving strata in the Gasteretal in Switzerland (south of Bern).  Or the photograph below from the Chikmagalur in southwest India (Karnataka region, formerly Mysore). 
Ask yourself whether, if you had to bet on it, you would say these layers appear to have been bent into these shapes while the strata were still partially wet and pliable (because they were all laid down during the same event) or whether it looks like they were laid down over millions of years and then somehow bent into these shapes when they were dry as a bone?

The question of whether the strata of the earth were laid down all at once, or over hundreds of millions of years, is a crucial question for the conclusions one draws from the various geological formations around the world.  If one is looking at the geological clues, and working from a thesis or framework of thought in which the strata must have been laid down over successive ages spanning more than a billion years, then the evidence will be interpreted very differently than if one is open to the possibility that these layers were all laid down in a relatively short period of time.

The majority of conventional geologists absolutely refuse to even entertain the possibility that the strata may have all been laid down in a relatively short period of time.  They should, however, reconsider that possibility.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fake rapture captured on video!

Here's a video which was making the rounds this past few days -- I had heard about it fairly soon after it was originally posted but didn't actually bother to watch it until after it was exposed as a hoax, at which point I became more interested in seeing what it looked like.  The video now has over 30 million views on YouTube, which is an incredible number of views.

The reason this is interesting is that the video demonstrates once again how modern technology enables the creation of an illusion that can fool many people into believing it is reality.  Earlier discussions of this same principle include the post about the radio broadcast by Orson Wells of the War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells in 1938 (which, interestingly enough, was estimated to have reached about 32 million listeners on the night of October 30, 1938) and the post about the very first Star Trek episode, the trailer originally entitled "The Cage" which was filmed in 1964.  

As an aside, it is interesting to note that the actual first Star Trek episode to be broadcast on television in 1966 (prior to either of the original "pilots" being broadcast) was called "The Man Trap" and it too featured an "illusion" theme, in which a salt-eating monster can project illusions into men's minds in order to influence their behavior (usually to lull them into complacency long enough to suck the life-giving salts out of their bodies, leaving them lifeless).

The "eagle snatches kid" video above was allegedly made as a film project by three students at a Canadian design studio called Centre NAD (the Centre NAD website has an article explaining that the eagle and the flying child were created using 3D animation).  Below is a pretty good explanation of some of the evidence of digital manipulation found in the film:

Personally, what struck me when seeing the video for the first time was the size of the eagle -- even though eagles can have wingspans of over seven feet (and golden eagles, such as this film's eagle is supposed to be, wingspans of almost seven feet), the eagle in the video appears to have a wingspan even bigger than that.  You can see in the image below that the wingspan appears to be larger than the full-grown man who is in the foreground compared to the eagle -- if he were to stand up in the image below, his height would be about equal to the distance between the wingtips, even though the wingtips are not even fully spread out  and even though the eagle is in the background relative to the man and thus should appear smaller.  In other words, when scientists measure the maximum wingspan of an eagle, they stretch them out even further than that, but this one has a wingspan much bigger than a full-grown man even before they are fully stretched out -- truly a formidable eagle!

It is interesting to muse about the subject matter of this very successful video, especially in light of all the "apocalyptic" media hype surrounding the Maya Long Count.  While the word "rapture" appears nowhere in the Bible, the idea of a "rapture" event became very popular in Bible interpretation in the early 1800s among certain Christian denominations -- especially those known as "dispensationalists," whose interpretation of the Bible remains very prevalent among many Protestant denominations in the United States to this day.

The word "rapture" means "snatched up" or "seized" and it is related to the word "rape" and "raptor."  Raptors are the large birds of prey who snatch up their prey in their powerful talons: eagles, hawks, falcons, ospreys, etc.  The word "rapture" is etymologically related to the Greek word used in 1 Thessalonians 4, ἁρπάζω harpazō and translated "caught up" in the King James and other English translations and rapiemur in the Latin Vulgate.

Thus, the video can be seen as depicting a "rapture" which fooled many into believing it was real, and which was later revealed to have been an illusion.  Of course, there is no evidence that the film's creators intended it to be a "fake rapture" reference (although they did choose to release it on December 18, 2012, just two days prior to the end of the Long Count).

However, it shows how easy it is for powerful images to elicit emotional responses in viewers, and how conditioned we have become to believing that what we see presented as "real footage" must have actually taken place, even when it did not.

This phenomenon is similar to the fact that most people believe in theories such as plate tectonics based on the authority of others, even though they have not seen the evidence of plate tectonics for themselves.  They are told by those "in authority" that plate tectonics explains the geology of the world around us, they view some convincing films with computer animation of plates drifting on molten oceans of magma, it looks fairly plausible, and they accept it as fact.

The same could be said about "National Geographic"-type videos about ancient human history, showing Egyptians erecting the pyramids with gangs of laborers hauling blocks up huge ramps with ropes, for example, or actors depicting ancient Maya holy men envisioning the end of the world in 2012.

It is unfortunate that we are so ready to cede our powers of reasoning to those perceived to be "in authority," or even to anything which appears on a video screen.  Anything that appears as a video on a television screen (or even a computer website) is imbued with strange powers to make us defer to it -- which is why many people suddenly find they are treated as celebrities after appearing in "reality" TV shows, for example, even though they are the same person they were before being shown on a screen in front of millions of viewers.

Illusions can be harmful.  Captain Kirk almost got his life sucked out by a salt-eating alien while his medical officer was under the influence of an illusion.

Erroneous theories about human history and even about the earth's history can also be harmful.  This theme is discussed in other previous posts such as this one and others.

Fortunately, the video above about a baby being snatched by an eagle is probably not harmful, even though some environmentalists are condemning it as harmful because they think it will lead to fear of eagles or even violence towards eagles (that seems to be a bit of an over-reaction by those well-meaning and eagle-loving individuals).  But all of these examples point to the importance of critical thinking and "due diligence" and thinking for ourselves rather than letting others think for us, and the importance of being alert to the power of illusion.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The staggering implications of the Maya Long Count

12  . 19   . 19  . 17 . 19

 :||   ::|||    ::|||    :|||    ::|||

The past few posts, of course, have been counting down to the end of the current Maya Long Count, and here in California (as in most of the world) the last setting of the "current Sun" has now taken place, although the first sunrise of the "new Sun" has not yet taken place here.  

The December 21 sun has of course risen in many other parts of the world that are adjudged to be "ahead" of California in relation to the international date line, although it is debatable as to whether the ancient Maya would have conceded that they have the new Sun already -- perhaps we should consider it a new Maya Long Count only when the new Sun begins to shine on the traditional land of the ancient Maya.

Two posts back we looked at the mechanism of the Long Count itself, as well as the terrible slaughter of the Maya during the 1500s and the deliberate destruction of almost every book or scroll upon which they had preserved their ancient wisdom, science, and traditions.

One post back we looked at the Galactic Alignment theory of John Major Jenkins, which asserts that the Maya Long Count indicated an understanding of the process of precession, and that it was counting down to the day when the Winter Solstice Sunrise (already a symbol of rebirth) would take place against the backdrop of the pregnant bulge of the Milky Way Galaxy (and the Dark Rift in the galactic path which the Maya saw as a celestial birth canal).  Thus, their count was anticipating a renewal of truly galactic proportions, we might say, with profound spiritual implications.

Mr. Jenkins finds many different lines of evidence to support his argument that the Long Count pointed to an ancient Maya understanding of precession -- the understanding that the action of precession would eventually "delay" the band of the Milky Way until it formed the backdrop for the rising Winter Solstice sun.  Among the evidence he points to are celestial aspects of the Maya Creation story in the Popol Vuh and other surviving ancient sacred traditions, stone depictions of the birth event at the Izapa Group F site, and the imagery of the Maya Ball Court, which is aligned with the Winter Solstice sunrise location at Izapa and which featured a ball being put through a ring -- symbolic of the sun passing through the birth canal and the "rebirth" of the sun (see the article by John Major Jenkins linked in the previous post for his broad overview of the Galactic Alignment theory and some of the powerful evidence supporting this interpretation).

I've created some "rough sketches" to help the reader envision the precessional forces at work in this theory.  They are generally adapted from the sketch provided in the article linked above (the sketch showing the Milky Way galaxy slowly being lower and lower in the sky on the morning of the Winter Solstice, until it finally aligns with the sunrise on that day of annual renewal).  

At the top of this post, you can see a rough sketch of the eastern horizon, as we wait for the sun to rise.  The Milky Way galaxy stretches up from the horizon and arcs right across the heavens, flanked on either side by the stars of Sagittarius ("left" of the galaxy and closer to the horizon) and Scorpio ("right" of the galaxy and on its way across the southern portion of the sky).

The large curved arrow indicates the direction that the Milky Way and the constellations appear to turn during the night (this is because the earth is turning in the opposite direction).  They will make their way up and then towards the west.  This means that the Milky Way will start from a more horizontal position and slowly arc towards "the right" of this rough sketch above, sort of like a door swinging on a hinge (in this case, a hinge that is located a bit below the horizon).  The Milky Way and the two important flanking constellations shown above, in other words, will arc across the sketch in the direction of the arrow as indicated, and then sink down in the west.

The image below shows the Winter Solstice sunrise on an imagined day in the far-distant past, when the Winter Solstice sun was rising in the space "below" the constellation Sagittarius.  

In other words, this is the situation on the morning of a Winter Solstice around the end of the Age of Aries and the beginning of the present Age of Pisces (see previous post which has two diagrams at the bottom showing what this means).  The "Age of Pisces" takes its name from the sign in which the Spring Equinox sun appears to rise, so that means that the Winter Solstice sun would rise in Capricorn (the sign behind Sagittarius).  

However, as we have discussed in previous posts and as I've also explained in a video using a helpful "analogy of a dining room," the action of precession delays the background constellations and stars over the ages.  This means that over time, Sagittarius (and the Milky Way and Scorpio ahead of Sagittarius) will not be "as far" on their path when the sun comes up.  Sagittarius will be "delayed" and be lower and lower in the sky, until the sun is actually rising "in" Sagittarius instead of in the space prior to Sagittarius as depicted above.  The diagram below illustrates the "delayed" Sagittarius and the sun rising in that zodiac constellation:

Please note that, because of the "arcing" motion of their path (described above as a door swinging on its hinges), the Milky Way will "lay down" more horizontally as it is lower in the sky (closer to the horizon).  Thus, in the diagram above, it is laying slightly more horizontally than in the previous image.  This is because it has not "gotten as far" up into the sky before the sun rises on the morning of the Winter Solstice.

The above image depicts the situation during the Age of Pisces, when the sun rises in Pisces on the Spring Equinox and in Sagittarius on the Winter Solstice.  As the Age of Pisces progresses, the Winter Solstice sunrise will be ever "further along" in Sagittarius, creeping closer and closer to the Milky Way (or, seen another way, the Milky Way and the zodiac constellations will be delayed bit by bit, and will not get as far into the sky when viewed on successive Winter Solstice mornings over a period of two thousand years).

Somewhere towards the end of the Age of Pisces and near the start of the Age of Aquarius (that age in which the Spring Equinox sun rises in Aquarius and the Winter Solstice sun rises in Scorpio), the Winter Solstice sun will align with the brilliant band of the Milky Way galaxy, which rises dramatically between Sagittarius and Scorpio.  As described in the previous post and as pointed out by John Major Jenkins in his theory, this galactic band has a prominent "bulge" (the Galactic Center or Galactic Nucleus), which the Maya described as symbolizing the cosmic mother, as well as a prominent "Dark Rift" which the Maya associated with a birth canal (they called this dark path the xibalba be, or "Road to the Underworld").

The motion of precession would eventually bring the Winter Solstice sunrise in line with this cosmic symbol of birth -- a powerful conjoining of "rebirth" symbology (the Winter Solstice sunrise already symbolizing annual rebirth as the sun stops its southward journey and the days cease to grow shorter and begin again to grow longer).  This is what John Major Jenkins believes the Long Count was pointing towards.  It is depicted in the image below:

Note that this theory assumes a rather startling piece of information: the ancient Maya understood the subtle astronomical mechanics of precession.  This assertion is actually quite revolutionary when we consider that detecting precession is really not easy at all.  The motion of precession only delays a star by a single degree in about 71.6 years -- and that single degree is only between its location on any given day a full year apart, as in, one degree of difference from one Winter Solstice to another Winter Solstice 72 years later!

Thus, to detect precession requires the ability to measure a star's location very precisely, and then to record that location somehow so that it can be compared on successive nights over the course of many years, and even after 72 such successive years the difference would be very slight. It would really take hundreds of years in all likelihood to detect the change, meaning records kept for generations, passed on, continued, and studied carefully.  

Even then, when the change is perceived, there is no guarantee that those who perceive it will be able to determine the rate with any great accuracy.  Conventional academia attributes the first awareness of precession in the ancient classical world to Hipparchus (c. 190 BC - c. 120 BC), although (as many have pointed out before me, and as I discuss extensively in my own book as well as in previous posts) there is irrefutable evidence that the ancient Egyptians and other cultures previous to Hipparchus understood precession thousands of years earlier.  But, conventional historians still assert that Hipparchus was first, and it can be demonstrated that neither he nor his successor Ptolemy (AD 90 - AD 168) knew that precession delayed the sky by one degree every 71.6 years -- they only knew that it was "faster" than one degree every 100 years (giving themselves some margin for error).

The ancient Maya clearly possessed a much more sophisticated understanding of precession, then, than did either Hipparchus or Ptolemy!  Look at the precision of their Long Count calendar, and marvel at their superior astronomical science.

Also, note that the earliest Long Count date known at present (as discussed in this previous post) was inscribed in the year 67 BC by the Maya, at Chiapas.  That means that (if the Long Count anticipates a Galactic Alignment as John Major Jenkins demonstrates that it does) the ancient Mesoamericans understood precession to this astonishingly sophisticated degree no later than 67 BC.  Since Hipparchus lived from 190 BC to 120 BC, this 67 BC date for an early Long Count inscription does not automatically prove that the Maya knew about precession before Hipparchus did.  

However, think again about what it takes to even notice precession.  It takes many decades (and more likely centuries) of very accurate observation, position measurement, position recording, and then record comparison before one can even notice that it is going on.  It would then probably take many more years to come up with a theory for what is going on, as well as to make the measurements necessary to determine the rate of the precessional delay with any degree of accuracy.  The accuracy that the Maya seem to have possessed was extremely precise, indicating that their investigation of this phenomenon had been going on for centuries.  It is almost certain that their knowledge of precession predated Hipparchus, and yet conventional historians insist on attributing the first awareness of precession to him.

It is also probable that the Maya understood precession for some time (perhaps for hundreds of years) before inscribing the first text we have of a Long Count date.  It is ridiculous to assert that they discovered precession in AD 68 and inscribed their first text with a Long Count a year later in AD 67, for example.  Coming up with the Long Count would seem to be almost as involved as measuring precession, especially if (as John Major Jenkins finds ample evidence to believe) the Long Count was anticipating very accurately the alignment of a Winter Solstice sunrise with the birth canal of the Milky Way galaxy.

This information is something that really is staggering.  It upsets the entire conventional picture of the ancient timeline of human development.  It demonstrates a level of scientific achievement (and probably of spiritual awareness) at a far earlier date than conventional academia will admit any human beings possessed such capabilities.  

This amazing achievement of the Maya is completely overlooked in most of the hype and condescending media treatment of the renewal of the Maya Long Count on December 21, 2012.

… ||    Ө   Ө   Ө   Ө
13   .   0   .  0  .  0   .   0


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Maya Long Count and Galactic Alignment: the work of John Major Jenkins

12  . 19   . 19  . 17 . 17

 :||   ::|||    ::|||    :|||    :|||

As discussed in the previous post, the famous Maya Long Count is approaching that momentous point at which the final place rolls back to zero, increasing the place before it by one.  

In this case, that place before it also rolls back to zero when asked to increase by one, causing the place before it to increase by one, which again is already at the point at which it too will roll to zero when it increases by one.  This, of course, causes the place before it to also roll to zero, causing the first place in the five-glyph series to increase to 13, followed by four zeros -- the start of a new cycle.

As this is published, December 18th is just beginning here in California, and so the series of glyphs above shows a "17" (or two dots each representing a single tally and three bars representing five apiece) at the final space (this is the count for the 18th of December this year, according to most modern analysts of the Maya Long Count).  It can only go up to 19 before it rolls to zero and increases the count in the previous space -- it will reach 19 (four dots and three bars) on December 20th and "roll over" on the 21st.

Also mentioned in the previous post is my belief that the renewal of the Long Count has more to do with celestial renewal than with any supposed prediction of catastrophe, whether from being "cut off from the galactic center by the interposition of the sun" (as some have alleged to be the cause of impending disaster) or from the earth finally becoming fed up with supposed overpopulation and carbon emission (as others maintain).  

This assertion -- that the Long Count most likely commemorated the precessional cycles and anticipated the arrival of a new precessional dawning -- is also discussed in my 2011 book, and in the "Happy New Year 2012" blog message published at the end of December of last year.  The fact that the Long Count counting system described above appears to have been deliberately fashioned to incorporate certain precessional numbers (particularly 7,200) and to measure out roughly one-fifth of the entire estimated "Great Year" or "full circle" of precession appear to support the assertion that the Long Count points to precessional renewal (which, of course, can also point to both cosmic and individual renewal at all kinds of levels, based on the ancient teaching of the harmony between the macrocosm and the microcosm).

As mentioned in other previous posts on this subject, I believe that the thorough and deliberate analysis of John Major Jenkins on this subject is extremely compelling.  John Major Jenkins has been studying the evidence related to the Long Count and its significance for nearly thirty years, including much time spent at ancient sites in modern-day Guatemala and Mexico and among the contemporary Maya themselves.  

His Galactic Alignment theory of the Long Count's celestial meaning (which he shows to have almost certainly had additional layers of significance relating to rebirth, renewal, and the transcending of the duality that many ancient wisdom traditions link to "the Fall") is perhaps best summarized in a 2001 article entitled "Izapan Cosmos: a brief survey of Izapan iconography and astronomy in the Group F ballcourt,"  which gives a short version of his theory and supports it with numerous diagrams, photographs and maps.

Using the evidence at Izapa, he shows that there are multiple reasons to believe that the Long Count was pointing to the time when the Winter Solstice sun (which is already a sunrise of annual rebirth, in that it marks the period in which the sun ceases its southern movement and shortening of days, and turns back towards the north and begins the lengthening of days) would rise against the backdrop of the Milky Way galaxy, and the Great Rift (or Dark Rift) in the galaxy near the bulge of the galactic center, which the Maya associated with birth (the bulge being seen as symbolizing an expectant mother, and the Great Rift as the birth canal).  

[Readers of this blog may want to go back and review the discussions of the sun's motion at Winter Solstice here, here, and here, and to check out the discussion of the concept of "heliacal rise" here and here].

Mr. Jenkins reviews the evidence in that article, which include the symbology of the monuments and the alignment of the Maya Ball Court (whose ball going through a circular goal almost certainly symbolizes the same solar rebirth, as Mr. Jenkins demonstrates), along with numerous photos and diagrams.  He expands on this evidence in much greater detail in his books (which can be found here on his website).

To understand the motion of precession that Mr. Jenkins is explaining, take a look at the drawing he includes right in the middle of the article linked above, just below his drawing of the Ball Court at Izapa and to the right of it Stela 60, and just above his full-color drawing of the dramatic Stela 67.  That drawing shows the rising band of the Milky Way galaxy in the east on the morning of the Winter Solstice sunrise at Izapa.  

The drawing shows the Milky Way drawn four times.  In the top position, marked as 6000 BC, the Milky Way band (with the galactic nuclear bulge and the Dark Rift or birth canal) is well above the horizon at Izapa as the Winter Solstice sun begins to rise.  However, as we have discussed in previous posts such as this one and this one, the mechanics of precession act to "delay" the celestial background over the centuries, such that the familiar landmarks slowly show up at a lower place in the sky on the expected day than they were before.  

Thus, as the drawing in the article shows, the Milky Way will be successively lower and lower in the sky on the morning of Winter Solstice sunrise, until it is lying along the Izapa horizon as the Winter Solstice sun begins to dawn.  This significant alignment, which the ancient Maya astronomers calculated to take place in 2012, creates a powerful astronomical picture of rebirth.  The Winter Solstice sunrise, already a symbol of annual rebirth, aligns with the birth canal of the galaxy.  It is such a powerful motif that we can understand why the ancient Maya were counting down towards 2012.

In another excellent article in which he summarizes and explains his theory, this time on the Graham Hancock website, John Major Jenkins says:
As I've been able to show through an interdisciplinary analysis of the academic literature, synthesizing material from ethnographic starlore, archaeoastronomy, linguistics, mythology, and iconography, the solstice-galaxy alignment was conceived as the union of the male principle (December solstice sun) with the female principle (the Milky Way's center). The region of the Milky Way that the solstice sun will unite with contains not only the nuclear bulge of the Galactic Center (which, by the way, is recognizable with the naked eye) but also a "dark-rift" feature caused by interstellar dust. The modern Maya call this dark-rift or Great Cleft the xibalba be- the Road to the Underworld. This feature is the key to understanding the rebirth metaphor of the 2012 end-date, for it was also conceived, in Maya symbology, as the birth canal of the Great Mother (the Milky Way).

The concept of Father Sun being reborn at the end of the age is very similar to the events in Maya Creation mythology (the Popol Vuh) in which First Father / One Hunahpu is reborn in the underworld ballcourt. The ballgame metaphor, too, encodes the alignment. If we look at accepted notions of ballgame symbolism, we learn that it is basically about the rebirth of the sun on the temporal levels of day, year, and World Age. The sun is reborn daily at dawn, yearly at the December solstice, and, in terms of World Ages, on December 21, 2012-when the December solstice sun aligns with the Galactic Plane, which is the precession cycle's "finish line." The dark-rift that lies along this plane is the "goal" toward which the December solstice sun, as the gameball, moves over many millennia. In this way, the Maya conceived of the gameball going into the goalring as a replication of cosmic time's end-game. Finally, yet another way that the solstice-galaxy alignment was encoded into basic Maya institutions involves King accession rites. Here, the king, as a shamanic journey, must be initiated into kingship my journeying into the "cosmic center"-something Siberian shamans have been doing for a long time. In the Maya tropical lands, however, the cosmic center is not the Polestar but the Galactic Center, identified by the nuclear bulge- the womb of the Milky Way mother toward which the "sun king" precesses. Precession reveals the king's slow procession to ultimate enthronement in the heart of time and space. But for the sake of kingship in local space-time, he makes an initiatory vision journey into the celestial heart to be anointed and given the power of rulership and sacred knowledge.

This is the core of how the solstice-galaxy alignment of 2012 was encoded by ancient Maya thinkers into their basic institutions. In my book I call this end-date idea-complex "the Galactic Cosmology."
The diagrams below may assist readers in further conceptualizing the mechanics that bring the December solstice sunrise into alignment with the glorious band of the Milky Way.   The first diagram shows the Age of Pisces, which is coming to an end (the exact end-year is a subject of debate and some disagreement). 

I have added a red line which indicates the constellation-signs in which the equinox sunrise takes place (again, remember the concept of heliacal rise -- a couple previous posts dealing with that concept are linked above).  The red letter "E" shown in Pisces (on the left) and Virgo (on the right) indicate that the equinox sunrise takes place in these zodiac constellations during the Age of Pisces.  For the northern hemisphere, the March equinox is the spring and gives the Age of Pisces its name.  During this age, the solstices (marked with a blue line) are in Gemini (at the top, marked with "JS" for "June Solstice") and Sagittarius (at the bottom, marked with "DS" for "December Solstice").  In the northern hemisphere, of course, the December Solstice is the Winter Solstice.

However, as the mechanism of precession slowly delays the backdrop of the heavens, the ages will finally shift as they have before, and the zodiacal constellation of Pisces at the Spring Equinox will be replaced by Aquarius (the "preceding" sign -- hence "precession"), ushering in the Age of Aquarius.  The situation will then be as shown in the diagram below:

Note that the red line of the equinoxes now indicates Aquarius (marked with a red "E" in the lower left) and Leo (red "E" at upper right).  The blue line of the solstices has shifted too, and now designates Taurus (June Solstice, upper left) and Scorpio (December Solstice or Winter Solstice, lower right).  

The important point to understand is that the Milky Way in the night sky rises between Sagittarius and Scorpio.  You can see these brilliant constellations in the stunning video linked at the top of this post: click on the image of the Milky Way lying almost horizontal above the eastern horizon.  This should help to imagine the celestial backdrop that John Major Jenkins is discussing in his articles, and which his theory maintains is the key to understanding the significance of the Long Count and 2012. 

Even if it is not yet the official start of the Age of Aquarius, you can now understand why the Maya understood the December Solstice sunrise to line up with a year in that transitional period in which we are shifting from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius.  Because this shift brings the Winter Solstice sunrise from Sagittarius (in the Age of Pisces) to Scorpio (in the Age of Aquarius), that sunrise will pass through the band of the Milky Way (which rises between Scorpio and Sagittarius) at some point during that transition.  The Maya calculated it to take place THIS YEAR, on this December Solstice.

This discussion should help us to begin to understand the amazing significance of the Maya Long Count.  John Major Jenkins is to be commended for his diligent work in uncovering the evidence that supports this Galactic Alignment understanding of the Maya Long Count cycle.   Finally, this understanding of what the Maya Long Count may mean should also serve to raise our respect for the incredible astronomical and mathematical sophistication of the Maya who anticipated this event well over two thousand years ago, incorporating both a masterful understanding of the subtle motion of precession and also a profound awareness of the symbolic language of our earth, sun, and galaxy -- and the connections between macrocosm and microcosm spanning many levels of consciousness.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

450 years

By now, most of the world is aware of the fact that the Maya Long Count, which consists of 13 periods of 144,000 days each (for a total of one million, eight hundred seventy-two thousand days) is coming to an end.  

Even if the ancient Maya (as most conventional scholars assert) were not actually counting from that start date over 5,000 years ago, the ancient inhabitants of Mesoamerica began erecting monuments with carved inscriptions which dated themselves from that start date as early as 36 BC.

There is a wall panel at Chiapa de Corzo in Mexico with a Long Count date of, which indicates that it was commemorating a date that was (starting from the number on the right of the series above):
  •  this position indicates13 individual days (the furthest-right number rolls to 0 after 19, such that the second-to-the-far-right number indicates periods of 20 days), 
  •  this position indicates 2 periods of 20 more days (this position rolls to zero after 17, such that each tick of the  third-to-right position indicates 18 periods of 20 days, or 360 days),bringing the total so far to 53 (two periods of forty days, plus 13 individual days),
  •  this position indicates 3 periods of 360 days, in addition to the 53 days already indicated, bringing the total so far to 1080 days plus 53 days or 1,133 days (note that this position rolls back to zero after 19 ticks),
  •  this position indicates sixteen periods of 7,200 days each, and it also rolls to zero after 19 ticks, so 115,200 days are indicated by this sixteen, which add to the 1,133 indicated so far, for a total of 116,333 days from the start of the count,
  •  this final position indicates periods of 144,000 days each (because the previous place in the numeral system counted nineteen periods of 7,200 days each, such that the twentieth rolls the previous place to zero and moves this final far-left position up one tick, and twenty times 7,200 equals 144,000).  There are seven such periods of 144,000 days each indicated on the date at Chiapa de Corzo, which total 1,008,000 days in addition to the 116,333 indicated so far.  This brings the grand total of days from initiation on this inscription to 1,124,333 days, which Maya researchers believe indicates a date in the month we call December (in the calendar that most of us accept due to our schooling and the conventions in place in the business and political and academic worlds) in the year that we would call 36 BC.  The creation of the current age was held to have taken place when this count reached thirteen such periods of 144,000 days the previous time around.
The above date shows that this count has been observed for an enormous length of time -- at least since 36 BC and probably before.  According to most observers, we have now reached the final days that will cause the positions to roll up to again.

The day that the calendars we have been taught designate as Saturday, December 15 would be designated under the above system as  The final digit (the 15) is ticking upward each day, until it reaches 19, and after 19 it will roll back to 0, causing the digit to its left (already at 17) to tick upwards to indicate another 20-day period.  Since that place rolls over at 18, it will then roll to zero, causing the next place over to its left to tick upwards in turn.  Since that place is already at 19, it too will roll over to zero, causing the place to its left to tick upwards, but since that one is also at 19, it too will roll over to zero, bringing the first position from 12 up to 13, and thus the end of the count:

The famous Stela C at Quirigua shows, on its eastern face, an inscription indicating the creation date of the current age, the last time the count was at  You can see that numeral in the image above, reading from the top-left to the top-right, then down to the next row left-to-right, and so on.  The top-left glyph shows two bars and three dots (they look like squares), which indicates thirteen (each bar is five, and the dots go up to four before forming a bar, just like a typical tally system in which you make four vertical lines on a piece of paper and "cross" it on the fifth).  The next four glyphs show a zero.

The significance of this end of the current Long Count and initiation of the next one has been heavily debated and sensationalized, of course.  I have discussed the unfortunate media sensationalism and obsession with the "end of the world" in several previous posts, including this one, this one, and this one.

I am much more inclined to agree with the analysis and conclusions of longtime Maya researcher John Major Jenkins, who believes based upon his research and his extensive time on the site and among the Maya people themselves that:
There is ZERO evidence that the ancient Maya predicted the end of the world in 2012. The Maya calendar does not END in 2012. DOOMSDAY-2012 is a fallacious construct, a projection of exploitative and underinformed writers and Western nihilistic fantasy.
Instead, he finds that this rolling over of the count indicates a renewal and a new beginning, one long anticipated by those ancients who had been counting towards it for so long.  It was to be a renewal triggered by an alignment of the earth, the sun and the galaxy, and one that they anticipated based upon their incredible astronomical knowledge and foresight.  He writes:
Over 2,000 years ago the early Maya formulated a profound galactic cosmology. They saw that the sun, on the winter solstice, was slowly moving toward the heart of the galaxy. Naturally enough, with their uncorrupted intelligence intact, they suspected that the world would go through a transformation when the solar and the galactic planes aligned. They devised their Long Count calendar to target when the cosmic alignment would maximize, and that time is AD 2012. We are lucky that the brilliant skywatchers who devised the 2012 calendar left carved monuments for us to decode, and that they have survived the decay of centuries, so that we can know exactly what they prophesied and believed about 2012. 

Incredibly, at the early Maya site of Izapa in southern Mexico, the galactic cosmology and a profound spiritual teaching are preserved. Izapa speaks to us of the Galactic Alignment in 2012 as a transformative nexus in time, a still-point turnabout, inviting us to reconnect with our cosmic heart and eternal source.
The fact that there is so much confusion over the meaning of this incredible count, and the fact that it takes the dedicated efforts of careful thinkers such as John Major Jenkins to piece together what the ancient Maya were anticipating with their count should cause us to ask, "Why is there so much confusion about this whole subject?"   

The answer to that question is a heartbreaking answer, but it is one that should be meditated upon deeply as we approach this momentous 13.  The reason that so little is known about this ancient civilization and what they thought is that their records were cruelly and deliberately and almost utterly destroyed by violent men 

You can read the heart-rending account in the words of one of those responsible for the destruction of these records, the Franciscan friar Diego de Landa (later a Bishop), in his account Yucatan Before and After the Conquest. Translator William Gates wrote in 1937 in introduction to that account that:
It is perhaps not too strong a statement to make, that ninety-nine percent of what we today know of the Mayas, we know as the result either of what Landa has told us in the pages that follow, or have learned in the use and study of what he told. [. . .]

If ninety-nine hundredths of our present knowledge is at base derived from what he told us, it is an equally safe statement that at that Auto de fé of ‘62, he burned ninety-nine times as much knowledge of Maya history and sciences as he has given us in his book. 
By '62, Gates means 1562, four hundred fifty years ago, when Landa and his forces tortured many Maya to death as part of his efforts to subdue and convert them.  During the same year, he admits to destroying a great number of the Maya texts.

In chapter 41 of his text (the chapters were probably divided and numbered later by someone other than Landa), Diego de Landa describes some details of the Maya calendar cycles, and then adds these terrible words:
These people also used certain characters or letters, with which they wrote in their books about the antiquities and their sciences; with these, and with figures, and certain signs in the figures, they understood their matters, made them known, and taught them. We found a great number of books in these letters, and since they contained nothing but superstitions and falsehoods of the devil we burned them all, which they took most grievously, and which gave them great pain.  
In Fingerprints of the Gods, Graham Hancock writes of the above statement, "Not only the 'natives' should have felt this pain but anyone and everyone -- then and now -- who would like to know the truth about the past" (112).  On the same page, Mr. Hancock also describes similar depredations, such as those of Juan de Zumarraga, who in November of 1530 "burned a Christianized Aztec aristocrat at the stake for having allegedly reverted to worship of the 'rain-god' and later, in the market-place at Texcoco, built a vast bonfire of astronomical documents, paintings, manuscripts and hieroglyphic texts  which the consquistadores had forcibly extracted from the Aztecs during the previous eleven years."

How far could these ancient texts have gone towards shedding light upon the thinking of those who created the Long Count and who had been diligently keeping it so many centuries before the invasion of their land by these violent intruders!

How much more might the Maya themselves be able to tell us today if their ancestors had not been horribly murdered en masse and their culture forcibly erased at the point of a sword!

In chapter 15 of his text, Diego de Landa offers some samples of the atrocities that were perpetrated upon the Maya by the invading conquerors:
I, Diego de Landa, say that I saw a great tree near the village upon the branches of which a captain had hung many women, with their infant children hung from their feet. At this town, and another two leagues away called Verey, they hung two Indian women, one a maiden and the other recently married, for no other crime than their beauty, and because of fearing a disturbance among the soldiers on their account; also further to cause the Indians to believe the Spaniards indifferent to their women. The memory of these two is kept both among the Indians and Spaniards on account of their great beauty and the cruelty with which they were killed. The Indians of the provinces of Cochuah and Chetumal rose, and the Spaniards so pacified them that from being the most settled and populous it became the most wretched of the whole country. Unheard-of cruelties were inflicted, cutting off their noses, hands, arms and legs, and the breasts of their women; throwing them into deep water with gourds tied to their feet, thrusting the children with spears because they could not go as fast as their mothers. If some of those who had been put in chains fell sick or could not keep up with the rest, they would cut off their heads among the rest rather than stop to unfasten them. They also kept great numbers of women and men captive in their service, with similar treatment.   
These horrifying events are important to gravely consider as the Maya Long Count approaches  It has been ticking its way towards this date for long centuries, but the culture and civilization of the people descended from those who started that count was violently interrupted along the way (four and a half centuries from the renewal point, if we count from 1562).

Now, as the count reaches its long anticipated end, it does so in the midst of an awful silence.