What Argüellés saw was that this idea of an end point provided a powerful tool to explain what made this particular time we are living in unique. The acceleration of modern times is one of its defining features. In 100 years, we have gone from the steam engine to the nuclear bomb. At the same time, population has increased several times over. The power of our communications technology has increased exponentially. The process of industrialization has changed the face of the planet. This time in history is unprecedented, but historians have little to say about what it is that makes it so special. There is nothing in the modern model of time that helps us explain this unique state of affairs. Most importantly, this sense of acceleration is something that pretty much everyone living in the modern world has direct experience of and can feel happening.
This new way of viewing the story of history provides an attractive and useful tool for helping us deal with the ever-increasing demands of contemporary experience. It helps explain some of the most important underlying trends of modern times, psychologically preparing us for the possibility of even greater changes to come.
Seeing history as a cycle with a beginning and an ending gives it a narrative that it would otherwise be missing. In this model history is, literally, a story in whose final chapter we are now living. Like a classic cliffhanger, we are now poised between the possibilities of great global catastrophe and potential transformation.
The Path Beyond Technology
For Argüellés, this is represented by a transcendence of material technology and the return of a more spiritualized culture that is able to live in harmony and balance with the planet. This is facilitated by the realization that the Tzolkin and its mathematical template of the twenty glyphs represents a kind of harmonically resonant mental structure. He claims that by using the Tzolkin we can evolve our minds from their artificial historical shackles and develop a form of natural telepathy, which is facilitated by using a calendar in tune with the cycles of nature. This is the path beyond technology. For academic Mayanists there is no real evidence for this, but it has been a very popular idea about what makes the Mayan calendar ending in 2012 so important.
Is the Tzolkin Related to DNA?
In his book Earth Ascending, Argüellés draws further interesting parallels between the structure of the Tzolkin and the structures of the I Ching and DNA. He notes that both the ancient Chinese oracle of the I Ching and the modern discovery of the structure of DNA are based upon sixty-four distinct elements.
Argüellés also uses the mathematical structures known as magic squares to show a possible mathematical connection between the sixty-four permutations of the I Ching and DNA and the 260 permutations of the Tzolkin. The magic squares are an 8 × 8 grid in which all of the numbers from one to sixty-four are layed out. This can be accomplished in two particular combinations that make each of the rows and columns add up to a total of 260 every time. Benjamin Franklin was responsible for discovering one of these interesting mathematical curiosities, which have an ancient origin and were highly regarded by mathematicians of antiquity as providing insight into how nature is organized.
The magic squares of Ben Franklin
Another way the Tzolkin and DNA are related, according to Argüel-lés, is that the twenty day signs can be seen to correspond to the twenty amino acids, whose differing combinations make up the DNA code. This mathematical relationship is the springboard for an imaginative leap, where Argüellés suggests that the Tzolkin is more than just a calendar and handy counting tool. His idea is that the 260-day calendar is actually a self-existing template that exists as an organizing principle in nature in the same way DNA does. The structure of DNA has always existed; Francis Crick and James Watson's discovery revealed a fundamental structure of biological nature that was always there, though unknown to us. In a similar way, Argüellés suggests, the structure of the Tzolkin, the 260-day constant, is a fundamental pattern of nature, not a human invention or contrivance.
These two principles have related mathematical properties. Argüellés calls this crossover polarity, meaning both function in a way that creates a kind of weaving together. In the case of DNA, this manifests in its double helix structure; in the case of the Tzolkin, it is manifested in a weave in time marked by a sequence of days called galactic activation portals. This is one of the most important ideas about the calendar Argüellés is responsible for.
Galactic Activation Portals
This sequence of days within the Tzolkin is actually another discovery of Shearer's, first published in Beneath The Moon and Under The Sun. He highlights a series of fifty-two days in the 260-day cycle that form a distinctive pattern on the grid. Each of the days is paired with another three to create a weaving pattern that runs through the Tzolkin.
The galactic activation portal sequence or Loom of the Maya
The picture of the Tzolkin matrix as a grid of thirteen columns comes from one sketch done in pencil on the flyleaf of a Mayan book that was made shortly after the European invasion. This scribbled footnote is called the Buk Xok permutational table and is one of the earliest known examples of a codicil.
The Loom of the Maya
The pattern of these fifty-two days or galactic activation portals exhibits the property of symmetry in two planes, one vertical and one horizontal, which are both centered on the middle column. This means each of the portal days is connected to three others that are its reflections in these two planes, dividing the Tzolkin into four equal quarters. The significance of this is another interesting mathematical property, where the sum of each of the four linked portal days always adds up to the same number: twenty-eight. In this way, Argüellés shows that the Tzolkin functions like one of Ben Franklin's magic squares
Any four days anywhere on the Tzolkin would also always add up to twenty-eight when mirrored in this way. There is no real link to any corroborating evidence in the Mayan codexes or elsewhere that shows that they gave any significance to this pattern.
The Genetic Mirror
The researchers Stray and John Martineau recently uncovered another pattern in the Tzolkin that is based on the same harmonic numbers as the galactic activation portal sequence. It also uses groups of four days that are mirrored in the horizontal and vertical plane and add up to the sum of twenty-eight. However, it emphasizes the numbers one, seven, and thirteen in the Tzolkin. The result reveals a pattern that looks even more like the DNA double helix.
The genetic mirror sequence
Used by permission from The Mayan and Other Ancient Calendars by GeoffStray, Wooden Books, Glastonbury, UK, 2007 and Walker, New York, 2007.