Astronomy / Blog / Early Humans / Science / Writing and Language

Numbers, the Secret Language of the Cosmos?


No, not astrology, although the movements of heavenly bodies, including that of our sun, give us the first appreciation of the significance of time.  And that glowing orb, exploding in fire so closely nearby, gives us our daylight and the heated seasons for planting.

And some of these celestial movements seem to mysteriously track human reproduction.  The female cycle of menstruation and the duration of human gestation seemed to take on an added, special significance, when our distant ancestors looked up to the heavens and noted their similar movements.

Is it any wonder that we look toward the changing phases of the moon?  Or that the ancient Mayans prayed to Venus moving?  Or feared the danger, obvious to anyone thinking, during a darkening of a solar occlusion?

Repeated observation might describe the reason for such actions.  Give the possessor of that data the power of prediction.  Preserved in number notation.

And you don’t need secret codes to calculate with numbers.  You just need to figure out some basic system of counting.  Then look again at Venus, and everything else that is moving around there.  Every night.  And every night collect the data.  The calculations can come later, when you discover their mathematical relations.

That’s what the ancient Mayans did, and they constructed one of the most beautifully complex descriptions of counting ever developed.  And they were still working on figuring out more of the movements of Venus when the Spaniards arrived and ended their studies.

Let us start with, “4 Ahau, 8 Kumku.”  That is the calculated first date of creation in the ancient Mayan calendar.  In our Gregorian calendar, that date would be August 11, 3114 BCE [before the Christian era].  It was Catholic Pope Gregory XIII who, in 1582, revised the calendar of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar to reset the date of Easter celebrations to the proper season.  How the Mayans derived their own magical date is a tribute to our species.  Here we go, looking for their reasoning!

First, recall that Venus is both an evening and morning “star” [when did humans figure out that it was the same planet?].  It hangs around up there, in darkening night, for about 263 days during its evening séance.  Freaky bright.  And that is very close to about how long it takes to bring a human baby to birth.  And here we go again!

So these must be important numbers, if even birth and that bright object seem to move to the same cadence!  And you already know that stars twinkle, while planets remain fixed.  So that one must be even more important.  Closer to us, though they didn’t know that.

It takes about 365 days to bring the sun back to its same position relative to Earth, and announce the correct opportunity for proper spring crop planting.  A good reason to learn arithmetic.  Especially if you are planting that bright yellow corn thing.

And for the ancient Mayan people, that was important.  For the explosion of their population was due to the caloric exploitation of that wonderful food source we call corn [maize], bred from a roadside weed still growing today in Central America.  Teosinte.  I have grown its tiny, few, strung-out kernels here in Kentucky.  Barely makes it to fruition in our shorter growing season.  But it sure looks groovy growing.  Looks just like corn!

The average human menstrual cycle for a woman is 28 days, with ovulation [which resulted in your coming to fruition] generally occurring around day 14.  The moon also cycles through its phases in about 29 days.  Is that just a coincidence?

We are fascinated by numbers, and rightly so.  They obey consistent rules, and never lie to us [unless obeying different rules still unknown to you].  We set our clocks to them, blast off into space based on their calculations, and make calls through satellite communications that take into account their relative nature [thank Einstein for that one].  They balance our checkbooks and make us interest.  And, in the time of pandemics, they drive the stock market, based on fear and the low cost of borrowed money.

But they are always right.  Even if you do not like their meaning.  Static, not fluid, and certainly not alive.  Why, then, are we so fixated on their calculation and meaning?  Do we think that they have something hidden to say?  Another way for God to speak to us in some secret way?

Many conspiratorial theorists are certain of this.  History is replete with such movements of suspicion.  And when numbers get tied up with letters, all hell seems to break loose [so to speak, it may have broken out a long time ago, if bad luck and a pandemic are any indication].

But what if you assign numbers to certain letters, words, and phrases?  Manipulate the numbers, and a hidden truth reveals itself in the associated statement.  Do numbers, then, have a higher value in the description of reality?  Using infallible numbers in place of made up, written letters, symbols for some kind of imagined picture?

Euclid’s theorems are pretty basic.  And exceptionally powerful in their application.  Are they even incorporated into our genetic transcriptions?  We often see patterns before they become important.

Take a look at the ancient mystical, biblical tradition called the “Kabbalah.”  Then read Ezekiel 1:4-28 in the Old Testament, and see if you don’t think something else is hiding in what was written.  A secret code?  I don’t know.  Seems pretty obvious to me.  I guess it depends on your version of religion and the books that you are reading.

But how did the ancient Mayans do it?  Reaching so far back into history?  Capable of predicting planetary movements, solar eclipses, solstices, and equinoctial equivalents.

With numbers!  Glorious, complex cycles of numbers we call the Mayan “Rounds.”  Representatives of the reality that they observed.  The “Vague Year Cycle” was the solar one of 365 days [the Haab, called vague because there was no leap year adjustment].  The “Sacred Cycle” was based on the sacred number of 260 [the Tzolkin, remember Venus and the period of human gestation?].  It was the oldest calendar in use in Mesaoamerica.

Interconnected and spun together, those two cycles give you the “Calendar Round,” which repeats itself in every 52 years.  Two calendar rounds synchronized with the reappearance of Venus as the Morning Star [the Venus Round].  More beautiful numerical relationships.

And the Haab was based on 20 days [the number of your fingers and toes], multiplied by 18 months [with 5 days left over, called the Wayeb].  The Tzolkin was also based on 20 days, multiplied by the number 13.  Four-hundred-year-cycles of 360 days were called a baktun [a kin being one day, a uinal twenty days, a tun being 360 days, a katun being 20 tuns, and a baktun being 20 katuns].  These were used to calculate dates longer than 52 years, and were called the Long Count.  It counted periods greater than 5,125 years.  Did the ancient Mayans count back then?

Venus’s cycle around the sun, from start to finish, is 584 of our Earth days.  And five Venus cycles around the sun equals eight of our yearly grand journeys doing the same.  Who says there is no music in the heavenly spheres?  You can play those fifth notes against the eighth ones on your piano, and listen for that heavenly noise yourself!

And let’s not forget the moon.  Nine of its cycles fit nicely into that sacred Mayan number, 260.

But why did the Mayans make it so complicated?  Is it a numerical expression of the diversity in nature?  Is reality really just a mathematical construct?

That is the basis for the calculation of the Mayan creation day of “4 Ahau, 8 Kumku,” which initiated this essay.  Numerically stated, it is “”  [in bactun, katun, tun, uinal, kin nomenclature].

That cycle in the calculation of time was again completed [turned over] on December 21, 2012, a date that some believed would mark the end of our world.  That end will surely come.  But it did not end then.  And there is evidence that the ancient Mayans calculated that time would continue on.

So you still have time.  I will let you be your own Time Lord and discover that lost evidence for yourself.  Quite an adventure in the world of archaeological mathematics!

And remember, even Sigmund Freud was superstitious about numbers.  He kept seeing the number 62, or fractions thereof, display themselves in his daily life.  He was pretty certain that he was being told of his pending death, awaiting him at the age of 62.  Didn’t happen.  Numbers may be infallible, but they are not prescient!  He lived to be 83.

Is your life so completely constrained?  Can you count backward and find your future back then?  Some philosophies, and religions too, believe it to be true.

Psychoanalysis, anyone?

About Author

Ronald R. Van Stockum, Jr. is a lawyer, teacher, biologist, writer, guitarist, and recently an actor living on his family's old farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky. He has a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Santa Clara University, and a Masters and PhD. in Biology from the University of Louisville. He also has his Juris Doctorate in Law from the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law. He practices law from offices in Shelbyville, Kentucky concentrating his legal practice in environmental law. His biologic research is in historical phytogeography. Dr. Van Stockum, Jr. has published numerous books, articles, and short stories in the areas of law, science, and creative writing. most of his 24 titles are available on this site and Amazon with many on Kindle and Audible!


  • porchamie
    September 26, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    I can only imagine what it took for scholars to figure the Mayan calendar out, unless there were modern-day Mayans who understood it.

  • myselfknowledge
    September 26, 2020 at 2:29 pm

    Interesting. It is amazing what they knew and how they might have known it.


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