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Ancient Art & Sacred Symbols:
Access to Forgotten Wisdom; Tools for Group Learning

By Karen Speerstra & Joel Speerstra

[click on any heading]

Symbols & Archetypes
A Matrix of Ideas Leading to Wisdom
Synchronicity Happens
Hunab Ku at the Center


It was during the First Gulf War when we began thinking about the ancient sites of Ur in present day Iraq. Ziggurats, Babylonian walls, statues—all in danger of being blown up, just as surely as the Taliban blew the statues of Buddha in Afghanistan into dusty fragments. We thought: why have some ancient artifacts and sites survived our best efforts to destroy them? And what are they telling us?

That’s how our thirteen year journey of creating Hunab Ku: 77 Sacred Symbols for Balancing Body and Spirit began. The book was published by Crossing Press in 2005.

We started collecting images of ancient earthworks, petroglyphs, pottery from all around the globe. Joel drew line art, Karen scanned and photoshopped. Together we created a collection of 77 images yearning to be organized into system of interrelated concepts that eventually grew into a collection of essays and mediations all relating to our bodies—our energy chakra system. Over the years, people have performed earthly acupuncture on our planet by marking certain places with stones and structures and honoring them through ritual and meditation Later groups of people co-opted them for their own sacred spaces. Holy wells, stones, mounds became platforms, and platforms in turn became cathedrals, temples and mosques. People continue to journey to these places from Egypt to the Yucatan and all over our planet to become reinvigorated. By our intentional presence at these sacred spots, we honor the earth and who knows how far the consequences are felt.

The images in Hunab Ku offer a virtual pilgrimage to our ancient “homescapes.” Each image can be viewed as a milestone marking our individual and collective human journey. Some images call us back as far as thirty thousand years.

We have selected fifteen images for you to play with: two from each of the seven colors forming the color chakra palettes, plus the Hunab Ku image—a Mayan yin-yang symbol. By clicking on the individual images, you will find some ideas for working with the symbolism and the archetypes each embodies. As you and your colleagues ponder these images from the past, allow their multiple interpretations to deepen your understanding of what you already know and desperately need to remember.

Symbols and Archetypes

Carl Jung’s theory of archetypes helps us better understand the interconnections of our minds, emotions, and spiritual constructs with the world around us. He wrote, “…certain ideas exist almost everywhere and at all times and can even spontaneously create themselves quite independently of migration and tradition.”

Archetypes are those big ideas capable of exploding us into different dimensions of understanding. They can heal us, restore our balance, energize our creativity, and if we allow them entrance, they can move us deeply. Particularly when we pose meaningful questions, individually or as a group. Archetypal symbols prompt us to access our own forgotten wisdom in thought-provoking ways. Archetypes tell stories and invite us to journey inward.

Symbols act as code language. We unlock the symbol and then the symbol unlocks us. Think of the archetypal symbols in the Harry Potter series, for instance. Griffin. Lion, Eagle, Phoenix, Serpent, Dragon. Even children can understand this code language. Flannery O’Connor said, “The truer the symbol, the deeper it leads you, the more meaning it opens up.” The cross is another powerful archetype. C. S.. Lewis claimed “a crucifix exists in order to direct the worshiper’s thoughts and affections to the Passion—hence, devout people may prefer the crudest and emptiest icon. The emptier, the more permeable.” We wanted our Hunab Ku images to be permeable, so we chose line art. Simple. Yet layered with complexity.

A Matrix of Ideas Leading to Wisdom

Hunab Ku’s matrix of ideas, ancient art and archetypes [see Table of Contents] forms an interactive system for individual learning, healing and meditation. But because of the way certain people have used this book and these images, we realize that they can also be tools for group processes. For group learnings. And for group conflict resolution and healing.

The book offers various ways to combine and “read” the images. You can try it yourself by reading the two 17’s included in the gallery. One is a “body” image: “Child” in the Orange chakra-palette; the other is a “spirit” image: “Wise Old One” from the Indigo chakra- palette. This is just one of the many correspondences you could play with, if you had all 77 images before you. Pose to your group that you think together of what these two images placed side by side might mean. If you need prompts, ask them to remember how the group started—relive the “child” phase of your being together. Did you feel, at times, like this little Olmec child, fearful, wary, even unhappy about what was unfolding? What were the first things you learned? How did you learn to trust? How have you grown? Now move your attention to the Indigo image of the bone. Think about your group’s skeletal structure. What holds you up? How strong are your bones? Access your “elder” wisdom. The more you work/play with the images, the more ideas will present themselves to you. That is the way of archetypes.

Synchronicity Happens

When you choose images at random, you will be very surprised at how they bunch together sometimes—like events—“not because one is causing the other,” Jung said, “but because their meanings are linked.” Our rational minds simply cannot explain profound coincidences. One of Carl Jung’s classic synchronicity stories revolved around a patient’s dream about a scarab, an ancient Egyptian symbol for resurrection and rebirth. Just as she was describing her dream, in which someone had given her a golden scarab pin, they both heard a sound at the window. Jung opened the window and in flew a real golden-green scarab, a beetle that had waited to join them at just the right moment.

How do you explain needing some bit of information and turning around, only to find it in an unexpected place? How do you explain thinking of someone and then having them call you at that very instant? How do you explain the right book falling off the library or bookstore shelf into your outstretched hand? Certainly not with logic…but your soul knows the world is all ordered, perfectly, so why should you be surprised? Tell synchronicity stories in your group. Honor them. They are the universe winking at you, inviting you to play.

Hunab Ku at the Center

In the early 1500’s when Spanish galleons slipped into Central American bays, vines covered the abandoned pyramids and jaguars prowled abandoned temple courtyards. The Ancient Ones who had built magnificent cities and terraced gardens had gone, but they left some of their books (codices) behind. It didn’t take long for the Spaniards to ferret out and translate these clever riddle-and pun-filled books. When they had learned enough of the language to declare the books heretical, the Spanish priests ordered them burned. Only three or four remain, today, but from them we are able to “remember” some of what the Old Mayans intended us to know.

The Maya believed in harmonic resonance. All of life’s cycles and passages are woven on what they called “Loom of Maya,”or this yin-yang shaped galactic core, the [Hunab Ku.] It is the “Lord” that ushers us all through passages between worlds. To Andean people the Mayu or Milky Way acted as an axis and a map telling them not only where they are, but also who they are.

Amazingly enough, Dr. Scott Hyman of Sweet Briar College has been recording energetic radio emissions from the center of our Milky Way. He and other astronomers have verified some “whirling disk” there—a Black Hole swallowing and giving birth to new stars.

John Major Jenkins writes about this massive black hole in his Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: “Something very profound and mysterious is going on here. Is it just a coincidence that lurking deep within the dark-rift ‘black hole’ is the very real Black Hole at the center of our Galaxy? If not a coincidence, the dark-rift itself might indeed by the surface signifier of deeper cosmic mysteries, ones that the Maya were well aware of.”

Most people view time today as being linear, not cyclical. However the early Mayans believed there was a beginning and an end to all things, but they also believed time originates out of Hunab Ku the god that creates new beginnings. We live on a spiral, not on a line. On December 21, 2012 around 11:11 Universal Time, our Sun will align, precisely, with the Hunab Ku and the spiral may pulse a new energy into our fields. These energetic outbursts may cause severe weather, earth changes, cultural upheavals. Look around. It is already happening. Yet the message of this Galactic Archetype seems to be telling us that life will go on.

No doubt about it. We’re on a collective journey Boat. One based on a choice to cooperate rather than destroy. One based on trust and telepathy and technology that can be used to enhance our lives rather than to demean them. In his book 2012: The Return of Quetzaloatl, Daniel Pinchbeck says of the internet: “Billions of dollars funneled into the military-industrial complex, for the creation of advanced killing machines, accidentally funds a powerful tool for advancing human knowledge and creating new social networks. Evolution and destruction enjoy dancing the tango together on the same razor’s edge.” (p. 29, 2006, Jeremy Tarcher/Penguin. ) Groups dance this tango all the time.

Pinchbeck’s book had not been published yet when Hunab Ku’s bibliography was put together or it would have appeared there. Like Pinchbeck, we drew from many disciplines and sources We decided to organize our bibliography this way: Angels/Archetypes/Astrology; Color Symbolism/Chakras; Earth Sites/Earth Wisdom/Labyrinths; Goddess Culture; Health and Wholeness; Mythology and Sacred Wisdom; Number Symbolism and Sacred Geometry.

Daniel Pinchbeck’s book is a marvelous collection of ideas pointing to a cyclical change in the nature of consciousness. We are about to move into what Mayans called the Age of Itza, the Age of Consciousness. We need not succumb to apocalyptic fever, but we can take advantage of using archetypes and images for staying calm and balanced while we enjoy our front row seats for the coming Hunab Ku. We can choose to pass through this great moment together, not mired in confusion and fear, but filled with grace and love.


[ NOTE: See Hunab Ku: 77 Sacred Symbols for Balancing Body and Spirit for information about the book this paper describes. ]

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