August 27, 2010
If you are tired of disempowering apocalyptic descriptions of 2012 that sound more like novels than explanations and guides for the future, this is the book for you. If you are interested in how and why the Maya considered 2012 an important date, this is really the book for you.
With media frenzy surrounding 2012, the supposed “end” of the Mayan calendar cycle, it’s about time we actually heard from a real Maya about “the end of the world.” Author, Gaspar Gonzales was born in a traditional Q’anjob’al (one of 30 different Mayan languages) village. Today he is a member of the Guatemalan Academy of Mayan Languages and teaches at the Mariano Galvan University in Guatemala City. Gaspar Gonzalez, brings a lifetime of personal involvement and direct study of Maya culture to the subject of 2012.
In our awe of the amazing artistic and architectural achievements of the ancient Maya seen today at archaeological sites like Chichen Itza, Tikal, or Palinque we forget that there are more than seven million Maya living today in southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Though European-introduced diseases and warfare reduced their ancestral population by two-thirds or more, the Maya retain much of their ancient culture and knowledge, which was handed down from generation to generation.
The first chapter tells the story of the violent end of this world by natural catastrophe as forseen in a teaching related by a father to his son. This story is later expanded through the visions of a Mayan priestess. The current world that we know is the most recent of three previous acts of creation. Each creation is serves as a chance for humanity to spiritually perfect itself. However, in each case it is humanity that destroyed itself. The First World passed through the inability of humans to balance freedom and responsibility. The Second World was destroyed through pride. We live in the Third World, commemorated on Stele C from the archaeological site of Quirigua in Guatemala. This creation event is recorded as having taken place on August 14, 3114 B.C., a time when the Maya lived in small farming communities. As in the previous two creation events humans are again asked by Heart of Sky and Heart of Earth, the creator of this world to perfect themselves.
Side note: ancient Mayan mathematical knowledge was amazing for its time. They developed the concept of a “zero” value as a notational place-holder prior to its appearance in Old World cultures. They also developed a complex calendar system that allows dates that were carved into stelae (sculpted stone columns) to be directly converted into our own Gregorian calendar.
The following chapters describe the ordering of the Maya World, which is divided into four quarters, each with an assigned color, function and associated deity. This section is followed by a chapter introducing the reader to the Mayan system of mathematics that describes how the Mayan calendar(s) actually work. The author’s presentation of these subjects is very easy to read and understand. Even the most math-phobic will be able to understand how and why the date of December 21, 2012 closes out the “end” of the Mayan calendar -cycle.
The final three chapters discuss the challenges we face as humans living at the end of the third cycle of creation. Forget the sensationalism. In the end, humanity will not be destroyed by some interplanetary catastrophe, but by us ourselves. The challenge the Gods have presented us, as inhabitants of the Third World, is to perfect ourselves. We have been given the power to do so, but we need to recognize injustices such as racism, violence, the unequal distribution of wealth, and environmental pollution and work to correct them. After all, the Gods have placed us here to make ourselves and our world a better place, and only we can do that.
This volume condenses a lot of material about the Maya world and humanity’s place in it into a very small volume. I found myself looking back at pages a couple of times to make sure that I understood a particular concept. The grammar and sentence structure were a bit uneven, but as this volume was translated from the original Spanish I can give this a pass.
This volume is definitely not a novel, nor is it just an anthropological treatise on the Mayan worldview or a source of spiritual teaching; rather, it combines these themes into something far greater.