The Mayan Calendar and the Evolution of Consciousness (1)

In the early 2000s, the calendar received a lot of attention because it supposedly predicted the end of the world. After the failure of the catastrophe on 21 December 2012, it has again largely disappeared from the public consciousness. This is regrettable because the widespread misunderstanding that the end of the calendar records in 2012 would be synonymous with the end of the world obscures the view of the actual „message“ of the calendar.

Now, the Mayan calendar is indeed extremely complex and the Tzolkin, which I have been working with for two decades, is only one aspect of the calendar. It would be presumptuous to claim to be an „expert“ in the field. Nevertheless, I would like to elaborate here on some aspects that may help us to look at the difficult time we live in with different eyes, from a – let’s say – cosmic perspective.

If we look at history, we see that decisive social changes are usually accompanied by radical breaks, or in other words, what was valid before is seen as a complete aberration and a departure from certain cultural practices is often enforced with draconian punishments.

An example of this is the departure from traditional herbalism, decreed „from above“, after Christianity had established itself as the valid worldview in our cultural sphere. Proven medicinal herbs were no longer allowed to be used. As an alternative, only prayers were supposed to help with healing. It is hardly surprising that people continued to use herbs – but in secret. And woe betide those who were caught. Of course, these prohibitions were mainly about the complete devaluation and disempowerment of a previously influential population group. In relation to our example, many of those affected were women – healers – whose positive role was virtually reinterpreted into its opposite. Healers became witches. (Of course, it was not exclusively women who were affected, but women in particular were to lose their social status and influence for a very long time).

In many cases, as intended, these forced ruptures have led to „cultural amnesia“. This means that regardless of its usefulness to the community, knowledge has been irretrievably erased and can hardly be reconstructed. 

I think we can count ourselves lucky that several indigenous cultures have preserved large parts of their cultural heritage in spite of everything. This means that we, or rather ethnologists and anthropologists, in conjunction with the evaluation of archaeological finds, can identify commonalities and develop an idea of how our ancestors probably lived and thought.

All over the world, including today’s Europe, people have lived in close partnership with nature for the longest period of their history. In their universe, plants and animals were living beings that were treated with respect. The realisation that everything in nature is related to everything else and that every living thing has a role to play in the ecosystem (interbeing) is deeply embedded in the collective consciousness of humanity and it took some persuasion and not least the massive use of violence to create the illusion of a hierarchically organised creation (with humans at the top).

Today we have reached a point where a large part of the world’s population lives in (mega-) cities and has hardly any contact with the natural world. Therefore, it may seem strange to many people at first to deal with a sign system like the Tzolkin, which refers to animals and natural phenomena (crocodile, wind, night, lizard, snake, death, deer, rabbit, etc.) to describe energetic qualities that play a role in the evolutionary process. On the other hand, animals still play a major role today in explaining the world to children. In most children’s books, the protagonists are animals: the cunning fox, the sly raven, the fearful rabbit, the manipulative snake, the loyal dog – they are all perfectly suited to make abstract concepts vivid and to generate feelings through which the messages of the stories are anchored in our consciousness.

Carl Johan Calleman writes about the Mayan calendar: „A great value of the Mayan calendar is that it equips us with the knowledge of energies that guide evolution. It is a tool that enables us to go with the flow.“

In his book The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness, Calleman examines the extent to which world-shaking historical developments and upheavals are reflected in the Mayan calendar (not in the Tzolkin, but in the Long Count). It becomes clear that each beginning of a new period in the Mayan calendar is accompanied by radical events on earth.

The Mayan calendar with its different counts provides a deeper understanding of development processes that follow a pattern. Let us take for example the development of a human being. In order for a human being to fully develop his or her potential, certain developmental steps must be taken. With each of these steps, new circuitry occurs in the brain that makes the next step possible. If a step is omitted, it affects the entire development. According to the experience of developmental physiologists, a child who for some reason skips crawling and immediately starts walking will have problems in the area of fine motor skills.

Knowing about the different stages from potential to concrete idea to its manifestation in the real world requires a deepened awareness, or in other words – an awareness, of what we are doing and what needs to be considered.

Such a view relativises the question of guilt. If we assume that all historical developments are inevitable steps on the way to the evolution of consciousness, then an insistence on blame is not helpful because it divides humanity. This does not mean that crimes such as genocide, racism or the destruction of the environment do not need to be recognised and named as such. Destructive acts remain destructive acts. But the perspective offered by the Mayan calendar allows people (and cultures) to reach out to each other again and take responsibility together for the future of humanity.

For me, the calendar has helped to breathe life into abstract concepts such as devotion, grace or forgiveness, because their meaning makes sense in terms of our personal development, but also in terms of global phenomena.

I would like to illustrate this with an example.

Her understanding of forgiveness coincides with the quality assigned to the term in the Mayan calendar. Forgiveness here means stepping out of the role of victim and taking back one’s (creative) power. In the Mayan calendar, the term forgiveness is closely related to the quality of the „cosmic intelligence“, day sign owl or vulture (depending on the region), the 16th of the 20 archetypes.

It is an added benefit that the Mayan calendar encourages us to engage with the idiosyncrasies and qualities of natural phenomena, thereby reviving our connection to the natural world. Nowadays, we don’t even need to go to the zoo to study animals. There is plenty of literature and film documentaries.

To be continued.


Carl Johan Calleman, Der Maya Kalender und die Transformation des Bewusstseins, EU Verlag

Kenneth Johnson: Die Weisheit des Jaguar, Hugendubel Verlag

Magda Wimmer: Die Maya. Weber der Zeit. Spieler des Universums, Goldmann Verlag


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