Planet Maya


Rak Razam

Date of original publication

Dec 5, 2005


It may not be a bank holiday or a day off work, but July 25th is the ‘Day Out of Time’ for the newest spiritual movement and it’s push for global calendar reform. It’s called ‘Dreamspell’, a cross between astrology and a new religion that has appropriated the knowledge of the ancient Maya and their 13 moon calendar and packaged it for mainstream consumption.

Calendar classes are popping up like the new Pilates as the ‘in’ thing to do, as a ‘sexed up’ Mayan calendar resurgence sweeps the world. Before you know it, Madonna will be casting her glyph and singing about the ‘Blue Crystal Storm’ as the message that ‘we are now at the end of the Dreamspell of history and at the beginning of the Dreamspell of galactic culture’ takes off.

But what is it about the13 moon calendar that has haunted history? Why is it so important and why does it still resonate with everyday people in this global village of pick and choose ideologies? Underlying it all is a deep sense of something that feels right in an artificial world where even the way we measure time is arbitrary and oppressive. The only problem is, indigenous Mayan Elders aren’t too happy about the way it’s being promoted, and a culture war is brewing as the Dreamspell turns into a nightmare.

Turn back that artificial calendar to April, 2004. The Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre is just about the last place you’d expect to usher in the Messiah, but greater miracles have been born in mangers, and it is Easter Sunday, so who am I to say? The speaker is none other than Dr. Jose Arguelles, scholar on Mayan issues and High Priest on the road to 2012, author and spiritual reincarnation of a knowledge lost to time. His duty - according to him - is to close down the Fifth World and usher in a new era. Arguelles has a sold out venue and a line stretching out the door, with a potpourri of New Age seekers, Ferals in a sea of dreadlocks, and, well, everyday people all eager to hear his message of calendar change and consciousness. Next week Kamal is playing one show only, tickets still available.

Giant coloured cloth glyphs hang from the walls like the alphabet of an alien race looking down on us. A stall at the back is selling merchandise and paraphenalia, from 13 moon Dreamspell calendars to Arguelles’ writings. An American anthropologist and academic, his books include The Mayan Factor (1987), ‘The Dreamspell: Journey of Timeship Earth 2013’ (1991), and Time and the Technosphere (2002), which reveal his decoding of the Mayan 13 moon calendar, the synchronous nature of 4th dimensional time and the End of the World As We Know It tm in 2012, at which time the Mayan calendar finishes one 26,000 year cycle and another age begins.

All that and in one of his many internet articles he has promulgated the dawning of a new synchronous Universal Religion - ‘UR’ - where a global tribe takes up indigenous understanding to take part in a galactic culture. Sound familiar? Well, just remember L. Ron Hubbard started the Scientologists, and he was just a science fiction writer. Jose, by his own admission, is the reincarnation of Valum Votan, an ancient Mayan priest. Power, obsession and a New Religion - it's all deeply mythological in a 21st Century way that appeals to a large cross-section of seekers of all ages.

A group of hip, young Dreamspell girls with glyph symbols on their clothes buzz around preparing the stage for Arguelles, like groupies with big smiles and wide eyes in the front row of a rock concert. The show is about to begin. Arguelles strides into the hall with the charm and showmanship of a New Age Richard Branson, playing indigenous guitar and cleansing the energies before settling into his spiel. “It’s great to be here in Melbourne, Aus-tray-lia” he says in the soft Californian accent of self help tapes and motivational speakers helping you reach your full potential. He looks like an aging Rolling Stone, Mick without the lips, long grey hair and exuding charisma, his gaudy costume in homage to some indigenous outfit created for another time and place.

He’s just come back from a peace mission in Baghdad, once known as Mesopotamia, where indigenous elders are ‘Closing History’ at the place where it all started 6000 years or so ago by the Gregorian calendar. Arguelles’ tour has taken him to Brisbane, Nimbin, Byron Bay – all the spiritual hotspots - before arriving here in Darebin for the last leg of his Australian tour to promote the World Thirteen Moon Calendar Change and Peace Movement. “Who owns your time owns your mind, “ he explains. “Change your time and you change your mind. Change your mind and you change your world”.

Arguelles argues that the modern calendar has become a tool of social control, used for scheduling the payments of debts (calends) and marking 3rd dimensional time. He unabashedly promotes his own calendar, the Dreamspell, as a more synchronous replacement for the patchwork Gregorian method in use for the last few hundred years (Anglican England only switched as late as 1752 A.D.) Dreamspell uses an annual cycle of 13 moons of median 28 days, or 364 days with the extra ‘Day out of Time’ on July 25th - a “day of celebration and forgiveness, to acknowledge the passing year and welcome in the new year”. This is meant to bring users back into “harmony with the Earth and with the natural cycles coded into the human female biological cycle”.

On a synchronous level, ‘13:20’ is said to be a ‘natural time’ of the cosmos, reflecting it’s movements, not an artificial time frequency of the 12-month Gregorian calendar and the 60-minute hour (‘12:60’), which Arguelles believes throws us out of sync with the natural world. “Dissolving the countless environmental and social injustices which currently plague the planet requires that we dissolve the mentality perpetuating the dysfunction. The Law of Time makes clear that at the root of the world's imbalance is humanity's alienation from nature. The motto of the 12:60 paradigm is "time is money." “

Arguelles’ Dreamspell, and the 13:20 time movement also make money by selling wares to a growing market of spiritual seekers fascinated by the imminent 2012 phenomenon and ancient wisdom, and conducting workshops and seminars instructing true believers. Like the genetic pillaging and trademarking of the natural world by the West, cultural appropriation is also rife. What was once the tribal knowledge of the Maya is now a trademark of a sixty four year old white American academic, dispensed and elucidated by his command alone.

Many new inductees to the Dreamspell are not aware that it is not the indigenous Mayan calendar, but simply ‘based on’ it, like a telemovie of a book that recasts the lead characters and changes the end to suit its audience. Pressure from critics and surviving Mayan elders angry at his trading of their culture has forced Arguelles has come out and clarify that the Dreamspell is not the actual Mayan calendar, but a “New Dispensation Maya”. In fact, the native Quiche Maya of Guatemala still use an indigenous 13 moon calendar to this day, and by their tribal reckoning the Dreamspell calendar is in error by 50 days.

So who are the Maya and what do they mean to us today, as a rapidly globalised world? To Hindu Indians the word ‘Maya’ refers to the illusionary nature of the material world. To a growing market of New Age seekers and alternative thinkers, ‘Maya’ is the path to enlightenment and a spiritual legacy encoded in the calendars of the ancient indigenous peoples of Central and South America known as the Maya. Their uncanny astronomical knowledge and incredibly precise time keeping could calculate the solar year to an accuracy of a thousandth of a decimal point, at a time when the Western world was still inventing the triangle.

“The Mayan perception of time is so radically different…time is what synchronises all of reality (and) the universe to be a perfect work of art of harmonic totality. Interlocking harmonic patterns, cycles of harmony interlocking with other cycles of harmony,” Arguelles explains. The Mayans themselves had dozens of calendars for agricultural, lunar and galactic cycles, believing the more units of measurement you had the more you could control synchronisation and understand multi-dimensional time. It sounds out there, but in scientific terms many of the breakthroughs of modern quantum physics explore the same concepts for a Western audience, and come to startlingly similar conclusions.

Where Western culture uses the clock as a measure of chronological time, the ancient Maya had a larger purpose – to measure evolution of consciousness. The Maya were unparalleled astronomers and timekeepers and their intricate almanacs – the Codexes destroyed by Spanish invaders in the 1500’s – recorded time on galactic scales, mapping full galactic orbits of the solar system and our place in the spiral of evolution. Other tribal cultures also had lunar and solar equivalents based on twelve and thirteen months, like the Maoris, Incas and Druids.

The origins of the Gregorian calendar itself are obscure, but both the Egyptians and Babylonians had a solar based 365 day calendar that was revived by Julius Caesar during the Roman Empire, who named a month after himself, as did Augustus, his successor. Pope Gregory XIII added 11 days to the calendar the Christians had inherited from the Romans back in 1582, adding in February 29 and the leap year rules to standardize the calendar and bring it back into sync with the seasons and solar and lunar year. But as any schoolchild knows, the arbitrary length of each month has to be remembered by rhyme and repetition, and has other makeshift add-ons that make the whole system confusing and artificial.

There is some validity, however, to Arguelles perception that the modern, globalised world needs easy panaceas to swallow, and that the complicated timekeeping and calendrical system of synchronous Mayan time would be too hard for the average Westerner to follow. Arguelles says that his method is “universal and is for everyone on the planet today… (so) they can learn to live as galactic Maya”. What he doesn’t go on to say is that his calendar has taken the guts of the oldest surviving time mechanism and changed the names, and thus the resonances and exact dates the Mayans were trying to synchronise with.

As a pure lunar calendar of 13 moons of 28 days, or 364 days, the Mayans added a holy Day Out of Time at either Solstice, the 21st of June or December. Arguelles amplified another date - July 25 - to prominence as the Dreamspell ‘Day out of Time’, and tilted the whole Dreamspell calendar to start the New Year the next day. To be fair, July 25th is also when the star Sirius rises in conjunction with the Sun and Sirius, in the centre of the galaxy, is where the Mayans are supposed to have received their knowledge from. They call it ‘Hunab Ku’ – the ‘Womb of the Great Mother’. So maybe the Sirians are working through Arguelles to turn on the free market world. Or maybe it’s all smoke and mirrors.

It’s no easy task to change the whole structure of our time obsessed society and economy, but that’s what Arguelles is out to do, despite the weight of all of history. Arguelles and his followers have been petitioning the United Nations for “New World Calendar Reform…for the destructuring of globalised human society and its creative transformation into peace on Earth.”

Dreamspell ‘Day out of Time’ on July 25th, 2005, is at the centre of the big push to popularise the13 moon calendar with the mainstream - and perhaps it’s not soon enough. The problems with the Gregorian calendar have been recognised by authorities throughout the years, beginning with Frenchman Auguste Comte, founder of scientific positivism, who proposed a 13 month calendar in 1849. The idea of calendar reform persisted until the 1930's with considerable support, and was on the agenda of the League of Nations until World War II got in the way and the Vatican used their weight to strike it down.

Argulles says it’s his life message to spread the word – and in that, at least, he’s telling the truth – he’s been at this for almost 50 years. In 1952 the tomb of Pacal Votan, a historic Mayan priest and timekeeper was opened in Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico. When a fourteen year old Arguelles visited the tomb the following year he received a mysterious epiphany and began a quest for the lost knowledge. “I had a calling that I was to bring back the ancient cosmic knowledge that would be useful for modern humans, because I had a perception that modern knowledge and the cosmic knowledge of the ancients were vastly different.”

In 1998 Arguelles announced that he was the ‘Closer of the Cycle’ and that “Votan lives in Arguelles! Arguelles is dead! I complete the prophecy cycle of Pacal Votan and Quetzalcoatl which defines the year 2012 as the conclusion of a schedule of historic and evolutionary cycles”. Arguelles/ Votan appears obsessed by Mayan culture yet contemptuous of it. One is left with the idea that power corrupts, and that even wise men possessed by the knowledge of forgotten ages can become similarly corrupted by their own sense of importance.

Arguelles is no stranger to way out theories and proclamations – his consumer base depends on it, in fact. In the early 1980’s he announced August 16, 1987 would be a very special Harmonic Convergence of celestial bodies and energies that resulted in the biggest New Age love-in since Woodstock. Over 100.000 people, all wearing white, tuned into this mystic moment at Mount Shasta in California and sacred sites across the planet, which also augured 25 years until the end of the Mayan Great Cycle and the measure of history in 2012 A.D. The 25 years of peace that was to follow this event obviously haven’t eventuated, but the cultural phenomenon Arguelles is driving has since become a cultural force on the fringes of the mainstream and is going deeper every day.

As more and more people become disenchanted with a world beset with elitism, war and terror and a civilisation seemingly on the brink of collapse, people will look to the past, as well as to the spirit and the sky for answers. Arguelles himself realises this, and asks if the New Age movement is changing the world or getting anywhere, and if the alternative it once pointed towards is still viable in a world eroded in spirit and direction. “Can we accept a positive transformation of the world in the face of everything that’s going on?” he asks.

A lot of what Argeulles says isn’t new. The idea of cyclical ages of history is something most world religions and mythologies contain, as is some sense of closure, or Armageddon, and then a rebirth. His deep research into Mayan timekeeping and the profound revelations of time and consciousness the Mayans safeguarded for the future is, however, a message worth repeating in any age. It tells of our connection with the natural world and the cosmos around us, of how we measure that connection and how to live in balance with the lager galactic ecosystem.

And this is also why it’s crucial that his packaging of his Dreamspell interpretation is honest with itself. A new calendar system won’t change the world we live in outright – but it could help people get back in touch with their roots and with the world around them. It could help connect people with the realisation that time is not about money at all, it is about living. “Time is Art,” as Argeulles says. “2012 is the End of History. It is the end of civilisation as we know it. The End of the World As We Know It – And We Feel Fine, because there’s a better world coming.”

Planet Maya, here we come.