The Cipher of Ollin
AFTERWORD to the Endtime Articles
Of course, the overload here is partly due to the subject. 2012 is a catch-all for rabid speculation and ripe nonsense in boundless measure. Going through Goeff Stray's comprehensive survey, I stopped counting the items associated with 2012 when I got to fifty. But who am I to point the finger at excess? The themes and ideas I've developed in these articles may well run into the same figures: the timing of Kali Yuga, Krishna and Osiris, the Antares-Aldebaran axis, phylogenetic rites at Dendera, the battle to end patriarchy, nodal moments in the theocratic agenda, resistence to Islam and the People of the Book, breaking the spell of Biblical narrative, the end of faith and intimidation by the faithful (all in Countdown to 2012); the follow-through of the Romantic movement, emergence of the tribes of the Next World, DNA shift (Ollin), Originals, Orgiastics, Sustainers, Evolvers, Visioneers, the interactive model of Gaian symbiosis, male-mind theories of planetarization, biomimicry, the phase-out of New Age spirituality (in The Discovery of the Next World); free-lance wizards among the tribes, the twin of Quetzalcoatl, Gnostikoi and the serpent power, paranormal faculties, technologies of the sacred, Kali as world-destroyer, anesthetic shock among the masses, spiritual emergencies (Grof), meltdown of the Greenland iceshelf, reversal of the magnetic field of the planet, return to Paleolithic shamanism, magical realism in Castaneda, the quest for a master narrative, Melville, Moby Dick and Mardi, power surge from the galactic core, the Quest for the Holy Grail, Maya Blue Face, epiphany of the White Lions, the coming Ice Age, bilocation for a lucky few and NDE for the entire human species (in The Party of Xolotl); Aztec timing in Mexico Mystique, location of the galactic center in the Zodiac, Stellar and Sign Zodiacs contrasted, the shift of the VP in the Fishes, parameters of the Piscean Age, midnight hour of the Kalpa, the aim of the Archer, phylogenetic transfer in Quest for the Zodiac, spiritual embryogenesis in Oliver Reiser and John Major Jenkins, Sophia's correction in 2102 perspective, conscious orientation to the Gaian mind (in Stars on the Endtime Horizon) - this is only halfway through the series. Well glory be, I think I'll leave it at that.
Having completed the eighth article last week, I found myself wondering if I could specify a single theme of paramount importance in all that I had written on 2012. As it turns out, this is not difficult, for this theme was in the forefront of my mind from the outset: "movement," depicted in the cipher of Ollin.
You may recall the Aztec glyph Ollin from the second article, The Discovery of the Next World. This item of 2012 folklore has not been widely treated so far. Geoff Stray barely gives it a mention. With the emphasis on Maya cosmology, the worldview of the Mexica of Tenochtitlan takes a distant second place to their Yucatan neighbors. To my knowledge, no one has written a book called The Aztec Factor, even though the Feathered Serpent legend belongs to that culture complex, and not to the Maya. (I regard the refuge of Quetzalcoatl among the Maya, following his humiliating defeat by the sorcerer Tezcatlipoca, to be a spurious script tacked on to the main plot by poncy scribes assigned to pretty up the story.) The fact is, the horrific reality of Aztec civilization—a cannabilistic warrior society organized along the lines of Stalinist Russia as imagined by Edgar Allen Poe—and the improbable events around its downfall, remain totally unexplained. Yet that story with its themes of religious genocide and morbid intoxication through substance abuse may conceal the determining mythological imperatives of our Western society.
My conclusion: the Quetzalcoatl legend, interpreted in terms of a curse laid on the Aztecs by the Toltecs, explains the historical end of Aztec civilization, but Aztec culture in its religious obsession with sacrifice and intoxication reflects the terminal pathology of our civilization, and may well portend its ending.
I wonder if the Mayan emphasis may not be largely a distraction as far as the gruesome reality of the endtime goes, although there are some instructive factors in Mayan cosmology, to say the least, and an encounter with the Blue Face healers of Palenque is always possible... I wish it for you, my fair-eyed friends.
In Aztec calendrics the current world age is called Ollin, pictured in various gllyphs (above). Ollin designates the Fifth Age or "Fifth Sun" in Mexican cosmology. It is thought that this Age will end with "movement," meaning earthquakes, crustal shift of the earth´s mantle, the collapse of ice sheets, rising of sea levels, etc, but also "a shift of consciousness, mind movement." I have pointed out that the glyph for Ollin resembles intertwining strands of DNA. It uses a three-prong, four-notch motif suggestive of three-letter codons composed of four bases. It also brings to mind, perhaps more vividly, the structure of paired chromosome chains (below, from Wikipedia: "the eukaryotic chromosome seen as it appears in cell division"). The "movement" implied, then, would be the shifting of histones, a mysterious biochemical process thought to be involved in the rescripting of RNA, which in turn allows the reprogramming of DNA.
To my mind, this is the single most significant prospect in the constellation of themes around 2012: the role of histones in the DNA-RNA circuit. Investigation of this phenomena leads directly into epigenetics, a new paradigm in biological science that allows for reprogramming of the DNA blueprint by a molecular mechanism, reverse transcriptase.( See The Biology of Belief by Bruce H. Lipton.)
Reprogramming at the genomic level is Ollin, the movement of the histones. Is this the secret of transpeciation, the way Gaia selects the genetic signatures that she will resurrect after extinction? I have often wondered how Gaia could make a whole species from a single specimen. How she can, for that matter, select an individual to prefigure an emergent species. It is no joke that in the experiment at La Chorrera (True Hallucinations), the entheogenic genius demanded that the subject of the experiment, Dennis McKenna, be addressed as if he were, not a mere individual, but a species, and it seemed that Dennis could really articulate as a species. Ponder on this.
Histone shift is what I make of the Ollin theme, regardless of how the Aztecs understood it.
Histones are proteins in chromatin that act as spools for winding DNA, thus keeping genes in place. DNA is wound around eight histones at a time, allowing high compaction of genomic sequences within cell nuclei. The core histones form one octameric nucleosome unit by wrapping 146 base pairs of DNA around the protein spool in a left-handed super-helical turn (shown above, from Wikipedia article). The "linker histone" H1 binds the nucleosome at the entry and exit sites of the DNA, locking it into place and allowing the formation of higher order structure. Make of this what you can.
The trick here is, histones lock or seal the genetic code, and when they move they unseal it. These protein molecules are highly water-soluble—chalk up yet another Aquarian motif. Histone shift correlates to the mythological concept of the apocalypse, "the lifting of the seal." Biologists are uncertain what makes histones shift, or precisely how this might happen in individual cases, or for the entire species. Thinking in terms of Stan Grof's "spiritual emergencies," which I expect to increase dramatically in the endtime, histone shift might occur due to the traumatic impact of life-threatening events—indeed, the threat of total extinction for our species.
Bear in mind that 95 percent of all species that have existed on this planet are now extinct. In Gaia's way of life, extinction is the rule, survival the exception. Take that for whatever consolation it offers!
Lessons in the Sky
The daysign Ollin is associated with Xolotl (Sho-LOW-tul), the daimonic twin of Quetzalcoatl. In one version of the Feathered Serpent legend, Quetzalcoatl sacrifices himself on a pyre and becomes transformed into the morning star, Venus appearing before sunrise. The celestial dance of his twin Xolotl is different, taking place in the west at sunset. Over the last few months as I have been writing these 2012 articles, Venus has been the evening star, Xolotl, and now that planet has sunk low on the horizon, disappearing as it makes it pass between the earth and the sun. We can observe the evening star every couple of years, by the recent cycle involved a relatively rare display of venus with jupiter and saturn.
Left: Cross-section of a conch shell cut to reveal the Venusian star-motif generated by the logarithmic spiral based on phi, the golden ratio 1/.618. Aztec symbol of the Feathered Serpent as "Lord of the Wind".
All through the summer venus appeared remarkably high in the sky at dusk, at maximum elongation from the sun. During July she approached saturn, just then moving from the Crab into the Lion. (Readers may recall that I wrote the series on "The Alternative History of the Grail" while saturn was in transit through the constellation of the Crab, a movement cited by Wolfram von Eschenbach as signalling Parzival's attainment of the Grail.) By mid-July, even casual observers of the sky would have noticed a remarkable display: venus close to saturn high in the west at sunset, with jupiter shining high in the east, near Antares in the Scorpion. You could scan right to left from venus and saturn in the Lion to jupiter in the Scorpion, a distance of about 120 degrees, one third of the entire Zodiac. With the new moon of June 15, the skywriting presented a stunning vision: the crescent moon, venus, saturn and Regulus, the heart-star of the Lion, in a straight-arrow alignment. At the next new moon (July 14, the 6th lunation of the endtime, counting ahead to 72), Venus then passed very close to saturn as it began to drop back from its extreme elevation and commence its "descent into the underworld" (invisibility, inferior conjunction with the sun).
Xolotl. the evening star, is the Lord of the West, a shapeshifter, sorcerer and master of occult powers, siddhis. He is the archetype of the shaman, by contrast to Quetzalcoatl who, although also a shamanic figure, conforms more closely to the archetype of the messiah. In The Discovery of the Next World, I wrote:
One way to interpret the skywriting of this summer would be to say that Xolotl, having devoloped some saturnian insights on cosmic and historical timing, and absorbed some jupiterian lessons on intoxication and extinction, is now taking this knowledge down into the collective unconscious to disseminate it through the range of symbolic directive codes. Consciously or not, humanity is on the verge of processing some deeply disturbing information on the master themes of cosmic timing and extinction. Growing interest in the 2012 endtime—extending into the mainstream, as suggested by a recent feature article in the New York Times—is a reflection of what's on top of the species' agenda, or just ahead on the phylogenetic learning curve. As without, so within.
The Entheogenic Question
My final observation on 2012 would be that the serious interest in shamanism, building since the 1960s, will peak out and morph into something else. In part, it will dissipate in overpopularization, and the radical impact of the shamanic revival will largely be lost in cooptation. This enormous breakthrough will be trivialized and degraded into a cliche. As it looks right now, anyone who cares to do so can claim to be a shaman, and be taken as such! The awful lurch from shamanizing to shamming is inevitable, but the core factor of the breakthrough will remain intact. I would define this core factor as the entheogenic question—which can be formulated in a number of ways.
The entheogenic question is intimately related to the theme of histone shift. One way to formulate the question would be: What is the purpose of entheogenic practice in the 21th century? One answer might be: To engage histone shift.
I link the theme of entheogenic practice with Ollin because, as far as I know, ritual use of psychoactive plants is the best way to learn how DNA works, and possibly even to affect its workings. While writing Dendera Decoded, I came up with the term "sacred biology" for knowledge of nature acquired by direct access to biological and molecular processes in visionary trance. I distinguish sacred biology from conventional biology that relies on instruments such as the microscope, as well as classification of specimens, lab analysis, abstraction from the phenomena to "natural laws," etc. In sacred biology, the investigator interacts directly with Shakti, the animating, formative power of the natural world, the basis of all that is truly sacred in the sense of being more powerful than anything it supports.
The Hindu Devi Shakti may be equated with the Divine Sophia of the Gnostics. Put in imaginative terms, the Shakti endows us with the faculties to know her most intimate operations in our own minds, in our bodies, and across the sensory continuum of the entire biosphere. My studies with the DZ (coinciding with a tour to Egypt with the Marion Institute in February 1999, with venus racing past jupiter and saturn in the Fishes) convinced me that the Egyptian seers had evolved the faculties that allowed them direct access of this kind, and possibly even to induce changes at the genetic level (the resurrection rites of the "grain-god" Osiris).
It is by now rather old news to some people that ayahuascueros have the siddhi or occult faculty to perceive at the molecular level. In Twins and the Double, I proposed that traditional shamanic access to "the realm of the ancestors" was a way of describing clairvoyant vision at the genetic level. Jeremy Narby made a similar claim in The Cosmic Serpent, citing the testimony of Peruvian shamans that the plants in the jungle teach them how to use the plants. More recently, Graham Hancock has popularized this idea in Supernatural. I consider it to be one of the most significant topics of our time.
The entheogenic question (in another form) asks, What do we do once we know that we can access the most intimate secrets of life without the aid of mechanical instruments? In considering this question, bear in mind that such access does not come in ordinary consciousness, but in the non-ordinary trance induced by psychoactive plants. So the question in yet another version is, Do we want to use entheogenic practice to access and develop intimate knowledge of nature, or not?
The entheogenic question is about accepting visionary instruction from nature, as it might be called. In Not in His Image, I show that the Pagan Mysteries of pre-Christian Europe belonged to a millennial tradition of trained seers, the telestai, "those who are aimed" —so called because they saw the purpose of life as cultural coevolution guided by what the Gaian intelligence taught them. Instruction by the Organic Light was their method. Their teacher was Sophia, not any human person. With the shamanic revival now at a crossroads, if not a dead-end, we have the advantage of hindsight plus intensive understanding of the cognitive dimensions of visionary trance. Given what we've learned in 50 years, the telestic method can be ours once again. If we choose to reclaim it.
In my case for the Pagan Mysteries, I insist that visionary access to the secrets of the biosphere (the planetary body of the Goddess Sophia, if you will) cannot be had except by egodeath and ecstatic immersion in nature. Confined to the normal egobound state of single-self identity, no one can either enter or sustain the high somatic concentration of instruction by the Light. Such concentration (dhyana) involves the meltdown of egoic boundaries leading to open-field psychosomatic illumination, full-spectrum body-knowledge. Gnosis is rapturous knowing of the Other in the lucid state of no-self. Paradoxically, it is not the self that encounters the Other as not-self, it is the no-self that encounters the not-self.
Perhaps the signal development leading into the 2012 endtime is the world tour of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers with their basket of psychoactive plants, including iboga, peyote, and psilocybin mushrooms. The Grandmothers are appealing to humanity to return to the wisdom practices that rely on instruction by the plant-allies, who are also powerful healers. Both for our enlightenment as a species and the healing of our sick society, traditionaly psychoactive plants are indispensible. Such is the Grandmothers' message. This is also the overriding message of this site.
Having made this case, let me say that I am the last one on the planet to convince anyone to undergo entheogenic initiation with psychoactive plants. My argument stresses the necessity of that practice, but I am not here to persuade anyone on an individual basis to undertake it. All I can say in that vein is this: as someone who has had direct access to molecular and genetic levels of nature, and received visionary instruction from nature, I don't know any experience in this world that could be more profound, or more interesting, inspirational, and educational. It is also fabulously entertaining.
But visionary instruction from nature does not come with recreational use of psychoative plants, not is it consistently available in the traditional modes of shamanic ritual preserved by indigenous peoples. In short, we lack the method for it. Okay, here I am back to my pet peeve: the destruction of the Mysteries. The telestai had a method, consistent and time-tried, simple and transmissable. Can we learn the ways of coevolution from Gaia-Sophia in the scope and depth that those ancient seers learned them, if we do not follow that method? Perhaps we can, but you'll have to show me how.
So, Ollin is about movement ahead, and movement back. Going into the sixth extinction, we have to look back to the primal learning resource of our species, the entheogenic path of wisdom, and discover ways to re-invent that path. The religious phenomenon of shamanism as it is understood so far has gotten us to the threshold. What will get us across the threshold lies beyond shamanism and depends almost totally on the daring of human imagination, not to exceed or replace nature, but to defend it, revere it, imitate it, and lovingly follow Her instruction.
Written in the 6th lunation of the endtime, the 67th counting down from 72 (winter soltice, 2006: new moon conjunct pluto at the galactic center)
JLL: 2 August 2007 Flanders
Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2017 by John Lash.