The Maya occupied a vast territory in Central America that included the present Mexican states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, and eastern Chiapas, as well as parts of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Theirs was a “stone age” type of agricultural civilization based on the raising of crops such as corn, cocoa beans, avocados, tobacco, and papayas, among others. They were skilled in the working of materials such as obsidian, copper, turquoise, and bone. They produced synthetic materials such as ceramics, paper, cotton cloth, and rubber. Their wealth consisted of cocoa beans, which were used as cash, as well as jade, copper, crystals, shells, and gold. They domesticated such animals as the chicken, pigeon, and dog, and hunted many other animals for skins and meat. Jaguar and puma skins were the most highly prized, while deer and rabbit provided the hunter with a regular source of game. In the large cities, whose populations reached as high as 90,000 individuals, the Mayan people were divided into distinct social classes. These ranged from slaves and laborers at the bottom, to merchants and bureaucrats in the middle, and at the top of the social ladder were the armed classes of nobles, priests, and sorcerers. Many of the foods prepared by the Maya, including tortillas and tamales, still predominate the streets of Mexico’s cities today.
Mayan architecture has also withstood the test of time, and tourists flock to the many ruins that dot the landscape of Central America. In Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula near Cancun ruins can be found at Chichen Itza, Mayapan, Uxmal, Tulum, and Coba. In Chiapas, the ruins of Palenque, Yaxchilan, and Bonampak stand in mute testimony to the architectural prowess of the ancient Maya. In Guatemala the highland sites of Tikal and Uaxactun await the intrepid adventurer. Honduras Quirigua and Copan also offer a glimpse of life in ancient times. At the Tikal site can be found the stele on which a date was carved registering a point in time that passed four hundred million years ago. Besides being a unique mathematical achievement among ancient peoples, the recording of this date in stone constitutes a mystery in itself. Why were the Maya interested in calculating dates so far into the past?
The “classical period” of Mayan culture, as historians call it, lasted from about 300 A.D. to 900 A.D. These six hundred years or so gave rise to the science of Mayan calendar mathematics that interests so many mystics today. Some time after 830 A.D., the Mayan cities and ceremonial centers built during the classical period were abandoned. The exact reasons for this abandonment remain obscure. Historians have speculated that a combination of factors including crop failures, foreign invasions, civil unrest, and the rise of new religious cults may have all contributed to the mysterious Mayan exodus. The bearded cult leader Kukulcan who founded a new Mayan religion between 947 and 999 A.D., and the Toltecs who invaded the Yucatan peninsula at around the same time, may have been more than partly responsible for the end of the classical Mayan civilization.
Speculations aside however, we do know that the later Maya-Toltecs who built new cities in the northern Yucatan, and even the Aztecs, continued to use the ancient Mayan calendar right up until the time of the Spanish conquest. Indeed, the arrival of Hernan Cortez on the exact date that Kukulcan prophesied his own return constituted a fatal coincidence for the Aztecs, who believed wholeheartedly in the cyclic repetition of cosmic and Earthly events. In The Mayan Factor (1987) author Jose Arguelles informs us, “The tenth century 1 Reed, Quetzalcoatl, presumed founder of the City of Tula and revitalizer of Chichen Itza in Yucatan, having prophesied his return on the day 1 Reed, in the year 1 Reed, was vindicated by the arrival of Cortez on that very day, Good Friday on the Christian calendar, A.D. 1519. This fact alone seems to have been sufficient to unstring the already nervous Montezuma II, emperor of the ill-fated Aztec empire.” One may see a similar point in the following information presented by Horacio Garcia and Nina Herrera in Los Senores Del Tiempo (1994), “The Mayan cross of Palenque, symbol of the sacred tree in whose greenery the quetzal bird nested, became identified with the Christian cross; the bearded Spaniards with the Toltec invaders guided by a bearded chief; and the cult of [the bearded] Kukulkan with the cult of Christ, [who was] also bearded like the Spaniards.” The concept of the cyclic return of events plays a central role in Mayan calendar mathematics.
This is an excerpt from one of the many elective courses available in the University of Metaphysical Sciences curriculum.