Thursday, December 10, 2009

2012 and the Invention of time (Part 2)

Courtesy web site "Mayan symbols"

Kevin Dann and Robert Powell, Christ and the Maya Calendar: 2012 and the Coming of the Antichrist. Lindisfarne books, 2009. $25.00
An Imprint of SteinerBooks/Anthroposophic Press, Great Barrington, MA 012

The end date of the Mayan calendar, December 21, 2012, exerts an apocalyptic fascination in our world today. The Mayans, who flourished in Central America for about six hundred years (circa 200-830 AD) belonged to a unique “chronovisual” civilization. According to Daniel Pinchbeck, they developed three different calendrical systems to record “...a vision of vast cycles of cosmic spirals of time, embodied and expressed by a seething pantheon of extravagant deities, hero-twins and cosmic monsters.” Pinchbeck quotes another Mayan scholar, C.J. Calleman, who believed that “understanding the spiral dynamics of evolution expressed through the Mayan calendar is in itself an aspect of the Divine Plan.”

José Argüelles, another Mayan researcher made famous by the 1987 “Harmonic Convergence” which he orchestrated, holds that the Mayans were- in some sense, not necessarily literal – visitors from another galactic location who came to earth to prepare a field of higher mind that would enable earthlings to enter the community of galactic intelligence. The Mayans established and codified their knowledge system through teaching the qualities of numbers and the cycles of time, developing the theory of resonance (tones and vibrational frequencies, etc.) and imprinting in earth's aura of the galactic “honor code.” This galactic honor code has to do with respect for individual integrity, in the sense that intelligent harmonization cannot come about through force and coercion, but has to be individually and socially acquired through learning and demonstration. Once the Mayans accomplished their mission, according to Argüelles, their civilization virtually disappeared - which remains a mystery to this day.

The “Mayan mystery” has given much for scholars, archeaologists and students of historical ethnology to ponder. Now Robert Powell and Kevin Dann have contributed their anthroposophical-Christian interpretation, the purpose of which is to bring Christian prophecy (specifically, from the Apocalypse of St. John, the last book of the Bible) to the Mayan calendar in order to solve the riddle of 2012. It's an unusual perspective, although José Argüelles – who certainly cannot be suspected of Christian bias – remarked in his book The Mayan Factor that “the number symbolism of the Book of Revelation possesses a profoundly Mayan overtone.”

Kevin Dann is a history teacher and Robert Powell is a well-known anthroposophical researcher in the field of Christian hermetic astrology, Sophiology, and movement therapy. While some New Age researchers have gone overboard in utopian imaginings about 2012 – that it will usher in an "Age of Light"-- Powell and Dann go to the opposite extreme. They argue that the “2012 Window” (the period 1980-2016) corresponds to the Temptation, when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. This is compelling, given the many apocalyptic developments in our time. But it becomes an increasingly dark vision, accentuated by the authors' speculations concerning the incarnation of Antichrist – or is it Ahriman?-- and their discussion of other demonic beings, things, and events-- Asuras, Sorath, Lucifer, the 666 factor, not to mention news flashes from the real world of today concerning Empire wars, torture, and the financial crisis. The end result is a promiscuous mix that says little about the civilization of the Mayans or their remarkable calendar.

The Spanish Conquest of Mesoamerica of 1519 was one of the most stunning and amazing events in world history. In its sheer unexpectedness it can be compared with the collapse of the Soviet Union in our own day. Here is what Kevin Dann says about it: "In 1519, Montezuma... made a fatal mistake of recognition when Hernan Cortes appeared... From our perspective, we could say that Montezuma (and his subjects, up until the moment that they finally shook themselves loose from their collective illusion, and attacked the Spanish) mistook as good that which was evil. Mistaken as Quetzalcoatl, the god whom Aztec myth identified as a culture-inspirer, Cortes turned out to be a culture-destroyer." If I can attempt to disentangle the pretzel logic of this statement-- "collective illusion" is hardly an adequate description of what the Aztecs saw in the conquistadores, and secondly "mistaking for good that which is evil" is something all of us do, all the time. Of course the Aztecs saw the conquistadores as "good." Of course abortion is considered "good," and wars of extermination carried out against the peoples of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Iran, etc., are considered "good." Rationalizing evil as good is too widespread a human failing to explain any unique historical circumstance.

Although the authors spend some time describing the black magical and ritual murder practices of the Aztecs (practices made vividly real in Mel Gibson's movie, "Apocalypto") an underlying dilemma that appears from time to time in the book is what to do about the Spanish conquerers. According to the notions of political correctness, the Spaniards were horrible exploiters and colonialists. On the other hand, the Aztecs were tearing the hearts out of tens of thousands of victims. Here is Kevin Dann damning by faint praise: "... the conquistadores... all saw the religious practices of the Aztecs as demonic, but our rightful indignation as the harsh measures of the Spanish has largely blinded us to the accuracy of this view." The Bringers of the Cross to Mexico come off as little better than the culture they were imposing themselves upon ("... the Spanish appear as superstitious as the Mexica..." p. 47). Such a lack of cultural conviction and of Christian loyalty is surprising in a book supposedly devoted to the temporal reverberations of the life of Christ in history.

The book is further marred by long quotations from Rudolf Steiner's lectures on the Mexican Mysteries about events in Mesoamerica 1,500 years before the Conquest and about the gods and deities of Mayans and Aztecs. Steiner in effect reverses the names of Mayan and Aztec deities, making the "good" Quetzalcoatl into an evil bloodthirsty demon. He says the purpose of the heart sacrifice was to create a civilization in which people would want to "flee the earth" - an explanation which apparently the authors accept without question. But why, if your heart is torn out, would you necessarily want to "flee the earth"? Might you not with equal probability want to return to earth for another incarnation and better chance at life? Neither Dann nor Powell makes much attempt to corroborate Steiner's statements - although Dann at least admits that Steiner's statements concerning the spiritual practices of Mesoamerica have no support in scholarship, that his lectures on the subject were "elliptical," and that in fact they left his audience so confused that he had to repeat them. The result of all this confusion piled upon an already complicated subject is to leave the reader completely in the dark as to the considerable differences between the Mayans and the Aztecs. [1]

The argument that "we are in the time of Antichrist" can hardly be disputed by any sensitive person today. Les Visible, who blogs under the name Visible Origami, writes in his posting today that "...most of us don't trust life and don't possess unshakeable faith in the cosmic will to good... This is the ground zero consideration, either the divine being is real or it is not." [2] This view is not so much that "God will save us" as it is in the saving power of faith itself - an idea which may be actually in alignment with genuine and uncorrupted religion, something along the lines of a Blakean Holy Imagination. Although Dann and Powell argue for the coming of Antichrist (or incarnation of Ahriman), there is some confusion when Powell remarks that "... the primary event of our time is not the coming of Antichrist" but the reappearance of Christ in the etheric realm. He says: "The coming of the Antichrist simply represents the shadow side of Christ's coming..." (The use of the word 'simply' in that passage is, in my opinion, unforgivable.) The deep confusions of this book are not bridged by vague nostrums about "turning evil into good" or woolly-minded generalities. [3] Powell at times seems obsessed by evil beings, to the point of Calvinism or predestinationism:
  • " is evident that the emergence of the two human beings who are the bearers of the suprasensory entities known as Sorath and Ahriman (Satan) is preordained in the divine plan," (p. 109);
  • "...just as the Mystery of Golgotha was preordained..."
  • "so the current enactment on the world stage of Rev. 13 is preordained"

and finally, perhaps most outrageous of all--

  • "In order for the Mystery of Golgotha to be accomplished, there had to be a highly evolved human being, Judas Iscariot, to betray Christ in order for the Crucifixion to happen."

These passages indicate not only a deficient education in moral theology, but also a trivialization of morality – as if people are justified in committing an evil deed for the sake of the good that can result from it. It is confusion at a juvenile level – highly embarrassing in one who claims to be doing spiritual research.

I know of the high quality of Robert Powell's and Kevin Dann's intentions, research and efforts. But this book is a disappointment. I don't think that Powell and Dann did justice to the Mayans – or to themselves.I believe that what motivated them was the growing disquiet with the condition of the United States and the desire to break the spell of illusion regarding our nation. I understand this motivation and am sympathetic with it. Our just and hopeful history has been taken from us. In the past few years we Americans have been given a dish of "serpents" to swallow – an odious and ugly history. We have become an empire, and in some ways we resemble the Aztecs – if abortion and empire wars can be likened to human sacrifice. I think they do. [4] Our shadow is very deep these days.

It is urgent that we develop the spiritualized intellect in order to reclaim the just and the true parts of our history and renew our culture. As Powell and Dann say – and this is the best thing they say in this entire book: "The evil coming from Ahriman needs to be bound so as to be overcome." There isn't much evidence of putting Ahriman in bounds in this book. A much more careful editing was needed. Nevertheless, I'd like to see them pursue their lines of thought in history and spirituality to a new level and really try to grapple with the crossroads of destiny that lie ahead for us all.

[1] Octavio Paz on the Aztecs: "[they] confiscated a singularly profound and complex vision of the universe to convert it into an instrument of domination." From The Labyrinth of Solitude; I am unable to find exact page of the quote on my copy. Quoted by Daniel Pinchbeck in his book, 2012 The Return of Quetzalcoatl.

[2] Visible Origami, "Dumber than dirt in a world of hurt," Wednesday, December 9, 2009.

[3] Powell on "turning evil into good": "The point is that Ahriman's influence usually extends into our thinking in such a way as to encourage thinking in a materialistic direction or in an egotistical way. The forces underlying this can be wrested from Ahriman if we consciously direct our thinking in a spiritual direction and in a non-egotistical way." (p.190) Well, duh, something like this has been the teaching of the Christian church for 2,000 years. How can Powell manage to write such drivel?

[4] E. Michael Jones reviewing Mel Gibon's movie, "Apocalypto" --

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

2012 and the Invention of Time (Part 1)

Mayan solar symbol, courtesy:

Lately I have been reading and reviewing certain books relating to the Mayan calendar and its famous ending date, December 21, 2012. Here's a list of the books I've been reading:

  • Daniel Pinchbeck, 2012:The Return of Quetzalcoatl (Tarcher/Penguin; 2006)

  • Jose Arguelles, The Mayan Factor: The Path Beyond Technology (Bear & Co., Rochester, VT; 1987 with 1996 addendum)

  • Barbara Hand Clow, The Mayan Code: Time Acceleration and Awakening the World Mind (Bear & Co., 2007)

  • Carl Johan Calleman, Ph.D.The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness. (Bear & Co., 2004)

  • Robert Powell and Kevin Dann, Christ & the Maya Calendar: 2012 & The Coming of the Antichrist. (Lindisfarne Books, an imprint of SteinerBooks/Anthroposophic Press; Hudson, NY, 2009)

Finally the old standard classic, Lewis Spence Atlantis Discovered, first published in 1924, has quite a lot of material devoted to arguing for the Atlantean origins of the Mayans. He believes that the Mayan god Quetzalcoatl " can be equated with Atlas - a world-upholder. He is also "...the civilizer, the architect, the craftsman in jewellry and dyestuffs, the agriculturalist...A long line of priest-kings...were called by his name. He introduced a religion totally at variance with the sanguinary faith of Mexico..."

I mention this now because I will have quite a lot to say later about the Powell-Dann book, which subjects the identity of Quetzalcoatl to what could be called an anthroposophical spin-cycle, leaving the original in tatters. Is Quetzalcoatl the same being as the bloodthirsty Aztec god Huitzilopochtli? they wonder. "Would it not be helpful to know the true identity of that being the 15th and 16th century Mexica and their subject peoples called 'Huitzilopochtli?'" Here is how they answer this question: "The main reason that we cannot turn for the answer to the Mexica themselves is that, no matter how much they were still in a condition of consciousness that largely precluded rational, perspectival thought, they were no longer clairvoyantly beholding the spiritual world. . . by 1428...the only individuals capable of clairvoyant communication with the spiritual world were the tonalpuhque, the priests... the 'third eye' was closed for the Mexica people, just as it was for the Europeans." (pps. 47-8)

This rather begs the question, it seems to me, because all priestcraft is predicated upon the loss of clairvoyant communion with the spiritual world. It is still necessary to ask who is the identity of the being being worshipped through the veils of religion. For there are always the "veils." That is the condition of spiritual perception in historical times - or more precisely, the condition of historical reality.

First, a few general remarks. I would not have been open to learning about the Mayan calendar, or reading so many "New Age" books about it, if it had not been for Dann and Powell's book. I had agreed to review it for Lilipoh Magazine, a local magazine produced in Phoenixville, PA., mainly devoted to Waldorf education. I have known of Robert Powell for some time. He is a Catholic anthroposophist - like myself, possibly a convert -- and has been doing very interesting work in "hermetic astrology." He has been mapping the life-stages in the life of Jesus to succeeding phases in Western history. It's a unique and indeed very interesting approach which incorporates Rudolf Steiner's deeply Christ-centered teachings to a new recognition of the significance of historical time.

There's a strong line of division within the Anthroposophical Society between the Catholics and the anti-Catholics. Powell, and more recently Christopher Bamford, head of the Anthroposophic Press, have followed the example of the late Valentine Tomberg in creating an astonishingly deep "catholized anthroposophy" which somehow reconciles history and the institution of the church with Rudolf Steiner's spiritual teachings - which are sometimes unhistorical and anti-institutional. There has grown up within the anthroposophical movement a contingent of practicing Catholics - a development viewed with alarm and horror by the anti-Catholic wing of the Society. The leadership of the Anthroposophical Society currently reposes with Sergei Prokofieff, a nephew of the famous Russian composer. Prokofieff is violently anti-Catholic and has nothing good to say about the Church. [1] Prokofieff has written a number of books, another one of which (not on the subject of Catholicism) a dear friend of mine found so embarassing that she burned it in the fireplace. "I didn't want anybody becoming introduced to anthroposophy through this book," she explained to me.

Well - to continue. I have known about Robert Powell for some time, but this was the first book of his that I had ever actually read. I found it so awful - dear Reader, such a bad book! - that the "New Age" books I read -- silly as they were at times -- seemed inoffensive by contrast. I felt that Robert Powell was not really interested in learning anything from the Mayans (this was also true of his co-author, Kevin Dann, but to a much lesser extent) and that he was involved in his own "trip" -- a relentless hammering of anthroposophical demonology, with an occasional side "breather" into his pet projects of Sophiology (studies of the Divine Sophia), Jeane Dixon's prophecies, the Russian mystical author of the "Rose of the World," etc. His writing lacked, shall we say, "reader rapport." After a while I got giddy with the promiscuous mingling of Ahriman, Antichrist, Lucifer, the 666 being, Sorath, the Asuras. Powell seemed at times almost "enraptured" by evil beings, events, and things, and I began to resent what seemed to me to be both an obsession with evil as well as a trivialization of it.

I will have more to say about the Dann-Powell book in a continuation of this post. For now, just to make a few remarks about the New Age books, which I will not review in detail. The New Agers can get carried away by the idea that the planetary alignment with the galaxy in 2012 will usher in a spiritual awakening, a new Age of Light. But, at least their vision is hopeful.

The unrelieved bleakness of Powell and Dann's book seems to me symptomatic of a kind of inability of the anthroposophical movement to grow - aside from its Waldorf education wing. Those of us who have been involved with anthroposophy over the years have often wondered what a truly American anthroposophy would look like. For anthroposophy has a strong European heritage, specifically in the philosophical tradition known as German idealism.

It has seemed to me that a true "American anthroposophy" would take account of historical time in a way that was not necessary for the European mind. For Europe simply "was" -- or "is" -- history in a way that has never been true for us. North America was founded in a certain moment of historical time - the "Enlightenment" -- and South America... Well, there's a totally different history there, really remarkably different. The Mayans seemed to have had a sense for the creative forces of time, and this is the real interest of their calendar.

"Time is invention or it is nothing at all." This is a saying by Henri Bergson, from his book Creative Evolution. You could say it took Western mankind 2,000 years to get to Bergson - who lived in the early 20th century. But it's where the Mayans began. The creative forces of time, a template for the evolution of consciousness - as Carl Johan Calleman puts it. This is the real excitement of the Mayan calendar and a good reason to at least become acquainted with it. The New Agers are onto it, the anthroposophists have missed it.
[1] If I may take the liberty of citing my own work - this is a blog, after all! - the reader may want to know of my essay, "Crisis in Anthroposophy at the End of the Century," in which I discuss anti-Catholicism in anthroposophy. In: The Sword in the Mouth: Apocalyptic Essays, 1996-2006, available through be continued....