The Mayans placed great religious and spiritual emphasis on the Milky Way galaxy. The Greatest God and the Supreme Creator of the Mayans of the Yucatan peninsula was Hunab Ku, literally meaning ‘Sole God’ or ‘Only God’. Hunab Ku resides at the center of the Milky Way galaxy and is regarded by the Mayans as the ‘Highest Authority’ of our galaxy. He is symbolically represented by a sacred spiral which can be found all over Mesoamerica. This sacred spiral symbolizes the source, the cosmic essence of our being. It is the ‘womb of creation’ from which all the stars and planets of our galaxy, including our Solar System, have been created. Although Hunab Ku remains stationary at the center of our galaxy, he directs the course of all events through his divine consciousness.
The notion of a stationary Creator God, who moves everything by his thought alone, has been prevalent since unknown antiquity. In cultures all around the world, there is a reference to a Central God, who remains motionless, and around whom the entire cosmos revolves. The symbolic representation of the Creator God in ancient times was a ‘dot inside a circle’, where the circle represented the boundaries of our world and the dot represented the Creator God at its center. It is possible that this central point of the cosmos, which was regarded as the ‘unmovable abode’ of the Creator God, refers to the Galactic Center, around which all the stars and planets of our galaxy revolve; while the circle represents the circular disk of the Milky Way galaxy.
A symbolic diagram of immense importance in the Hindu and Buddhist religions, but found in the religious symbolism of nearly all ancient cultures, is the ‘Mandala’ whose meaning in Sanskrit is a ‘circle’. This essentially circular symbol is considered as a geometrical diagram of the cosmos used in the performance of sacred rites, and as an instrument of meditation. The center of the Mandala is always occupied by a powerful deity. During the process of meditation, Buddhist monks ‘mentally’ enter the Mandala and proceed toward its centre, which is symbolic of the spiritual journey towards the source.
The Vedic texts known as the Upanishads is a collection of some of the loftiest and most profound philosophies of the ancient world. In a particular text called the Isavasya Upanishad, mention is made of the unmovable nature of the abode of god:
“There is only one Being who exists,
Unmoving, yet swifter than the mind,
Beyond the reach of the senses and always ahead of them,
Standing, it outruns those who run.
It moves and it moves not. It is far and it is near.
It is inside all this and also outside all this.”
A similar viewpoint, regarding the omnipresence of the Creator God, was expressed by Xenophanes of Colophon in the 6th century BC, the founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy, who had spent much of his life wandering across various countries and rhapsodically reciting his teachings. In some of the extant fragments that record his teaching, the following definition of the True God is provided:
“One god is greatest among gods and men,
Not at all like mortals in body or in thought. (frag. 23)
…whole he sees, whole he thinks, and whole he hears. (frag. 24)
…but completely without toil he shakes all things by the thought of his mind. (frag. 25)
…always he abides in the same place, not moving at all,
nor is it seemly for him to travel to different places at different times. (frag. 26)”[i]
The French scholar Jacques Enel, in his study of Egyptian imagery also assures us that the Egyptians remembered their Creator God Atum’s station as ‘the single, immovable point around which the movement of the stars occurred.’ In the book Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt, R.T. Rundle Clark writes: “No other ancient people was so deeply affected by the eternal circuit of the stars around a point in the northern sky. Here must be the node of the universe, the center of regulation, able to be located, but invisible…If God is the governor of the universe and it revolves around an axis, then God must preside over that axis.”[ii] This was the informing thought of the Egyptian cosmology. The Creator God is the hidden invisible source of life and movement at the heart of the universe, and he presides over the axis of revolution of the cosmos.
The presence of Creator God at the center of the cosmos is also reflected in some of the names that were associated with Him. The Japanese God of Creation was known as Ame-no-Minaka-Nushi-no-Mikoto meaning the ‘Deity-of-the-August-Center-of-Heaven’. In the Popul Vuh, the Mayan God of Creation is also referred to as ‘Huracan’ – the Heart of Heaven. It is easy to imagine how these descriptions could be referring to the Galactic Center.
In the book The Holy Science (1894), the Vedic seer Sri Yukteswar states that ‘Vishnunabhi’, the navel of the Vedic Creator God Vishnu, also refers to the Galactic Center. In the introduction to his book he says: “The sun also has another motion by which it revolves round a grand center called Vishnunabhi, which is the seat of the creative power, Brahma, the universal magnetism. Brahma regulates dharma, the mental virtue of the internal world.” [iii] We now know that our Solar System, along with all the planets, revolves around the center of our galaxy, completing one revolution in nearly 240 million years. Therefore, Yukteswar’s statement could only mean that the ‘grand center’ called Vishunabhi, which is the seat of creative power, is nothing but the Galactic Center.
Once we awaken to the idea that the ancient cultures were not only aware of the spiral shape of our galaxy, but they also considered the Galactic Center as the emanation point of the cosmos, we begin to realize that their knowledge of the universe was highly advanced. It was only in the past few decades that astronomers were able to conclude that our galaxy is spiral shaped. Due to our location deep inside the Galactic Disk of the Milky Way, astronomers have had a very difficult time deciphering the basic characteristics of our galaxy since they can’t look down upon our galaxy to study it the way they can for other nearby galaxies like Andromeda. We have also come to realize that our galaxy is a ‘Seyfert’ galaxy which enters into a periodic explosive phase, once every 10 to 100 million years, which results in the formation of most of the large globular star clusters of the galaxy. This is directly in accordance with the philosophical worldview of the ancients.
The Quiche Maya of Highland Guatemala has another interesting belief. They point towards the region of the Galactic Center and refer to it as the Xibalbá be’ i.e. the ‘Road to the Underworld’. In their religious iconography, the ‘Road to the Underworld’ was typically represented as the ‘mouth of a cosmic crocodile’. In certain inscriptions, the Mayans also referred to this feature as the ‘water monster’. Xibalbá be´ was also the region of rebirth into the material world, and was referred to as the ‘birth canal’ of the Milky Way.
Some Mayan researchers have speculated that the ‘mouth of the cosmic crocodile’ refers to the band of interstellar dust particles which blocks our view of the Galactic Center, popularly referred to as the ‘dark rift’ of the Milky Way. They have assumed, without any substantial basis, that this ‘dark rift’ feature gives the impression of a ‘cosmic crocodile’ when viewed from the earth.
Even if we stretch our imagination and assume that the ‘dark rift’ resembles a cosmic crocodile, we should remember that the darkest part of the ‘dark rift’ is quite a long way north of the Galactic Centre (approximately 25 degrees away). But the Mayans always point in the direction Galactic Center when they refer to the Xibalbá be´. Besides, why would the Mayans, who were expert astronomers and who were evidently aware of the spiral shape of our galaxy, represent some interstellar dust particles as an integral part of their cosmovision? Dust particles are a transient feature; they may disperse at any time. The Mayans would have certainly been aware of this. In no other ancient culture are dust particles accorded any level of importance. Thus, it is far more likely that the Mayans were referring to some specific cosmic feature of the Milky Way galaxy that lies behind the interstellar dust particles that block our vision of the Galactic Center, as the ‘mouth of the cosmic crocodile’. What could that be?
Is it possible that they are referring to the supermassive Black Hole which, scientists now believe, resides at the center of the Milky Way and powers our galaxy? This enormous Black Hole, which appears like a very strong, static, point-like radio-source, and is dubbed as Sgr A* (pronounced Sagittarius A star), is nearly 3.7 million times the mass of the sun, and is squeezed into a tiny space, only ten times bigger than the sun.
The epithet ‘mouth of the cosmic crocodile’ is a surprisingly accurate description of a Black Hole. Scientists themselves refer to Black Holes as ‘messy eaters’. A Black Hole is a cosmic object whose gravitational pull is so intense that nothing, not even light, can escape its pull once it falls inside the boundary of the Black Hole known as the ‘event horizon’. Since light does not escape from a Black Hole, it is very difficult to see it, especially if it floats alone in space. However, if a Black Hole passes through a cloud of interstellar matter, it can ‘accrete’ matter into itself. As the matter is pulled towards the Black Hole by the violent gravitational attraction, it gains kinetic energy, heats up and is squeezed by tidal forces. Thus, a Black Hole will be surrounded by superheated rings of hot gas, dust and stars which rotate around the Black Hole at extremely high speeds and spiral towards the event horizon. This is called the ‘accretion disk’.
Black Holes are also prolific sources of visible light at all frequencies, including X-rays. The extreme heating of matter falling into the Black Hole ionizes the atoms, and when the atoms reach a few million degrees Kelvin, they emit X-rays. Still more X-ray light is generated when some of the material swirling into the Black Hole doesn’t fall in but rather is spit out at incredibly fast speeds, close to the speed of light. Scientists compare this to a ‘messy eater’ who is trying to eat too much food at once and has food falling from his mouth.[iv] If we look at an artist’s depiction of a Black Hole then it is easy to imagine how the saw-tooth shaped, brilliant white, X-ray emissions from the Black Hole can be easily represented as the ‘rows of teeth that guard the mouth of a cosmic monster’.
We can find a detailed description of this ‘all-devouring cosmic mouth’ in the Bhagavad Gita. During the battle of the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna shows his ‘cosmic form’ to the warrior-prince Arjuna, after granting him the ‘divine eyes’ necessary to view this form. This cosmic form appears to have been a peek into the mysteries of the Milky Way galaxy. Some of the descriptions are strongly reminiscent of the Black Hole at the Galactic Center, which is described as the ‘blazing, flaming, all-consuming mouths of Krishna’.
“Lord Krishna said: O Arjuna, behold My hundreds and thousands of multifarious divine forms of different colors and shapes. Behold all the celestial beings, and many wonders never seen before. Also behold the entire creation animate, inanimate, and whatever else you like to see all at one place in My body. (11.05-07)
But, you are not able to see Me with your physical eye; therefore, I give you the divine eye to see My majestic power and glory. (11.08)
Arjuna saw the Universal Form of the Lord with many mouths and eyes, and many visions of marvel, with numerous divine ornaments, and holding many divine weapons. Wearing divine garlands and apparel, anointed with celestial perfumes and ointments, full of all wonders, the limitless God with faces on all sides. (11.10-11)
If the splendor of thousands of suns were to blaze forth all at once in the sky, even that would not resemble the splendor of that exalted being. (11.12)
Arjuna said: I see You with Your crown, club, discus; and a mass of radiance, difficult to behold, shining all around like the immeasurable brilliance of the sun and the blazing fire. (11.17)
I see You with infinite power, without beginning, middle, or end; with many arms, with the sun and the moon as Your eyes, with Your mouth as a blazing fire scorching the entire universe with Your radiance. (11.19)
I lose my sense of direction and find no comfort after seeing Your mouths with fearful tusks glowing like the fires of cosmic dissolution. Have mercy on me! O Lord of celestial rulers, and refuge of the universe. (11.25)
All my cousin brothers, along with the hosts of other kings and warriors of the other side, together with chief warriors on our side, are also quickly entering into Your fearful mouths with terrible tusks. Some are seen caught in between the tusks with their heads crushed. (11.26-27)
These warriors of the mortal world are entering Your blazing mouths as many torrents of the rivers enter into the ocean. (11.28)
All these people are rapidly rushing into Your mouths for destruction as moths rush with great speed into the blazing flame for destruction. (11.29)
You are licking up all the worlds with Your flaming mouths, swallowing them from all sides. Your powerful radiance is filling the entire universe with effulgence and burning it, O Krishna. (11.30)”
The elaborate descriptions of the ‘flaming mouths of Krishna’ provided in the text, appear to be a reference to the Black Hole at the Galactic Center. Arjuna mentions that ‘all the warriors of the mortal world’ are entering into Krishna’s blazing mouths like ‘rivers enter into the ocean’ or like ‘moths entering a blazing flame’. This immediately conjures up the imagery of a Black Hole which sucks everything into it by virtue of its intense gravitational attraction. The notion of dead warriors entering into the Black Hole is also similar to the Mayan notion that the spirit of a dead person enters the ‘mouth of the cosmic crocodile’ which leads to the ‘Road to the Underworld’.
Arjuna also describes Krishna’s mouth as ‘a blazing fire, scorching the entire universe’. He also uses other adjectives such as ‘flaming mouths’, ‘glowing like the fires of cosmic dissolution’ etc. This is an accurate description of the accretion disk which surrounds a Black Hole. The accretion disk is typically superheated to extremely high temperatures, and radiates intense light at all frequencies, thereby appearing extraordinarily luminescent. Indeed, scientists believe that the supermassive Black Hole at the center of our galaxy is as bright as a thousand suns. Arjuna also consistently refers to Krishna’s ‘mouths’ in the plural, thereby indicating the existence of many such ‘mouths’ i.e. Black Holes. Once again, this demonstrates an uncannily accurate knowledge of our galaxy. Scientists now believe that the supermassive Black Hole at the Galactic Center, represented by the point-like, radio-source Sgr A*, is surrounded by numerous other radio sources of lesser intensity (variously dubbed as Sgr B, Sgr C etc.), all of which are Black Hole candidates.
Arjuna’s description of the ‘fearful, terrible, tusks’ guarding the ‘blazing mouths’ of Krishna is possibly a reference to the saw-tooth shaped, brilliant, white, X-ray radiation that is emitted by a Black Hole. There is an interesting section in the text which mentions that as the warriors of the mortal world enter into the blazing mouth of Krishna, ‘some are seen caught in between the tusks with their heads crushed’. This is exactly the kind of effect that a Black Hole would have on any star that it happens to gobble up. The Black Hole would stretch the star due to its intense gravitational force, and practically rip it apart, such that one part of the star would go crashing inside the unknown depths of the Black Hole, while the other part would be emitted as matter or X-ray flares.
It is apparent that the knowledge of the Milky Way galaxy, as encoded in the ancient myths and symbols, far surpasses anything that can possibly be inferred from a simple visual observation of the skies. The spiral shape of our galaxy, or the location and properties of the Black Hole at the Galactic Center, have only been ascertained in the past few decades, using highly sophisticated observation techniques. We know that the ancient Mayans or the Vedic Indians did not possess the technically advanced telescopes that are now at our disposal. From where did they, then, obtain such highly advanced cosmic knowledge?
The Mayans have always claimed that in the remote antiquity their ancestors were visited by ‘galactic surfers’ from the Pleiades constellation, who had lived with them for hundreds of years. And that their knowledge of astronomy and the various sciences were obtained from them. Indeed, the myths of many ancient cultures reiterate the fact that they were visited by gods from outer space, who had co-habited with them, and imparted their wisdom and knowledge to their ancestors. In the Greek myths, the actions of the gods and the humans are so intricately interwoven, that it leaves one with the impression that such interactions were hardly extraordinary. In the Indian epic The Mahabharata (which describes events which happened in the previous World Age) there are countless instances of sages like Narada, Maitreya etc. travelling between the earth and the celestial regions and carrying information from one realm to the other. Many ancient cultures, including the Mayans, Incas, Sumerians, Babylonians, and Vedic Indians talk about the ‘Seven Sages’ who came from the stars at the dawn of civilization; they possessed immeasurable powers, and travelled across the globe imparting the arts of civilization.
The ancient cultures could have easily claimed this knowledge as their own. If they had said that their knowledge of astronomy and construction, farming and pottery, music and arithmetic were a result of their own endeavors and meticulous efforts, no one could have doubted them. Yet they have persistently maintained that all their knowledge was given to them by the gods and the sages. Why would they say that, unless it was true? In view of this consistent assertion, there is no option but to accept the fact that interactions with extraterrestrial intelligences have taken place in the remote past. It is equally possible that highly advanced civilizations existed on the earth in the previous World Ages, which had mastered the art of interstellar travel, and were therefore, privy to sophisticated information.
As soon as we make the assumption that the Mayans and other ancient cultures may have had access to futuristic sources of information, we are left wondering: What else did they know? If they were indeed ‘galactic surfers’, or were visited by beings from outer space, they could have access to information that is as yet unknown to us. Perhaps, in time, these store-houses of ancient wisdom will be revealed to us.
~ B. Misra
[i] Michael Patzia, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2009, http://www.iep.utm.edu/xenoph/
[ii] R. T. Rundle Clark, Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt, London: Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1959, p 58
[iii] Swami Yukteswar, The Holy Science, Self realization Fellowship, 7th edition, 1990, p 7
[iv] Susan Watanabe, NASA.gov, 2007, www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/starsgalaxies/black_hole_description.html