The Great Year and the Lost Star:
Reflections on New Theories and the CPAK Conferences


John Major Jenkins. C. May 2006


In 1969, a book was published which put forth a long overdue reinterpretation of ancient mythology. The authors argued the myth was the technical language of a lost science, a science that mainly encoded a profound grasp of astronomy. That book was Hamlet’s Mill, and the authors were well respected historians of science, Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend. Much of the pioneering new insights came from earlier work by von Dechend, published in German, but Santillana eagerly joined the fray, hoping to push the history of science to new levels of understanding. He was well aware of the controversial nature of the book’s thesis. Even before the book came out, he wrote:


“Whatever fate awaits this last enterprise of my latter years [Hamlet’s Mill], and be it that of Odysseus’s last voyage, I feel comforted by the awareness that it shall be the right conclusion of a life dedicated to the search for truth.” Reflections on Men and Ideas (1968:xi).


And what was the thesis of Hamlet’s Mill? Well, there is a general thesis that most later researchers have taken to heart, and that is that ancient mythology and astronomy go together. But there is a more specific thesis that is more controversial. That is the idea that ancient mythologies describe the slow shifting of the heavens—the precession of the equinoxes. The book’s subtitle is An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time. The “frame” of time is the celestial framework of constellations, stars, the equinoxes and solstices.



Solstice and equinox points lining up with 6° Gemini-Sagittarius (the sidereal location of the galactic equator). From website by Nick Fiorenza:


The phenomenon of precession causes the positions of the equinoxes and solstices to slowly shift over vast periods of time. It has been attributed to the currently widely accepted idea that the earth wobbles, like a top, very slowly on its axis. One complete wobble is roughly 25,920 years, and during this time the Vernal equinox point will shift backward through all twelve constellations that lie along the ecliptic. As we will see, modern researchers at the Binary Research Institute in California have called into question the cause of the precession of the equinoxes, arguing that instead of the earth wobbling, our sun actually belongs to a binary system.


Hamlet’s Mill was a major influence on the Binary Institute’s director, Walter Cruttenden, and many other writers today who have sought to reconstruct the lost knowledge of the Ancients. My own pioneering books on the Maya 2012 date took a clue from Hamlet’s Mill, a deeper thesis in Hamlet’s Mill that few have recognized or commented on: Every quarter-precession cycle (6,450 years), one of the seasonal quarters will line up with the bright band of the Milky Way—specifically, that part of the Milky Way that contains the Galactic Center. The authors of Hamlet’s Mill note that the last time this occurred was around 4400 B.C., and that time of cosmic alignment was thought by later cultures as a time of an ancient Golden Age. The “un-tuning of the sky” that occurred after the alignment shifted out of synchronization was thought to be responsible for the idea of the Fall—the descent of mankind out of a state of cosmic harmony and into states of limitation and strife. The authors of Hamlet’s Mill indeed seem to have been onto something here, although this part of their book is spoken in hushed tones, for the implications are astounding.


Extrapolating from the arguments in Hamlet’s Mill, it’s easy to see that the fabled “return” of the state of cosmic harmony will occur when the next seasonal quarter aligns with the Milky Way. The next seasonal quarter in the precessional sequence is the winter solstice, which aligns with the Milky Way in the years around A.D. 2000. I’ve shown in my books how this “galactic alignment” is what the ancient Maya were intending to target with their Long Count calendar, which ends on December 21, 2012. I’ve also argued that this particular alignment bodes a situation that I call “galactic midnight” in the precessional seasons. The reason is simple: The winter solstice is like the hour hand of a clock, and the Milky Way runs through midnight (on one side of the sky) and noon (on the other side). The hour hand points to midnight in an “alignment zone” that can be calculated, based on the work of astronomer Jean Meeus, as occurring 1980 – 2016 A.D. The alignment of the December solstice sun and the galactic equator; this is a time of rare galactic alignment that comes only once every 25,920 years. The interpretation of what it means can be derived from the energy dynamics of the midnight turning point. We are turning the corner, ending the phase of increasing darkness, and entering the phase of increasing light.


These alignments and energy dynamics occur no matter what cause for precession is presented. However, we may be at a revolutionary point in understanding the real causes of precession, and Walter Cruttenden’s book The Lost Star promises to blaze the trail.  


In November of 2005, the second annual Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge took place in Sedona, Arizona. Speakers included Walter himself, his assistant Geoff Patino, Graham Hancock, Laird Scranton, Robert Schoch, John Dering, Martin Gray, and myself. It was a much needed think tank targeted on precessional theory, a welcome development at a time when many conferences have become tilted toward popular fringe ideas, including UFOs, crop circles, Nibiru planets, and so on. The first CPAK was held in Whistler, British Columbia, in 2004. The third is slated for this coming October, at the University of California at Irvine, an event that will no doubt exceed all others in importance and popularity. It will the set the bar for how conferences of this nature can and should be organized.


As a group we are largely independent, self-funded researchers, who approach ancient cosmology from very different perspectives, yet we all seek to get to the bottom of several interlocking ideas. One is, of course, precession. In what ways did the Ancients understand precession? How is it encoded into their mythologies, their sacred architecture, religions, and traditions? These are the fundamental questions.


I believe that we need to parse out and correct ancient misconceptions about precession. For example, in Plato’s day, the idea of a Great Year was known, but it was not connected with the possibility that the stars shift. In fact, an inviolable dogma of the day proclaimed that the stars were fixed. The Greeks interpreted earlier Babylonian insights (which hinted at the precession of the stars) in a highly questionable way: the flood that ended one Great Year was believed to be timed by all the planets aligning in one sign, Cancer, and then the conflagration to end the next Great Year was thought to occur when a similar alignment of planets occurred in the opposite sign, Capricorn. This is a pop-culture translation of precession, very much like the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius” in the popular song from the 1960s. However, although an “alignment of planets in one sign” doesn’t have anything to do with precessional motion, it is invoked time and again to explain the dawning of a new precessional era.


This mistaken notion has been hallowed by time and the clueless Greek godfathers of Western philosophy for thousands of years, and is called the “conjunctional” explanation of the Great Year. Greek mathematicians could not figure out how all the planetary periods could come together in anything less than millions of years—but even in Plato’s time, the Great Year was believed to be only 36,000 years long. Even after the Greek astronomer Hipparchus discovered that the “frame of the sky”—the stars—slowly shift, Greek philosophers could not except it, for it violated the dogma of the fixed stars. The “precessional” explanation for the Great Year suffered constant distortion and misinterpretation through the centuries.


It is clear that Babylonian and early Hindu doctrines supported a Great Year with a length that was 24,000 years—more-or-less on target with precession. Such information is recorded, for example, in the Vedic Laws of Manu, believed to convey information much older than 1000 B.C. The Hindu-Vedic doctrine of “yugas” or World Ages originally fit the four Ages into the 24,000-year period of the Great Year. However, around 500 AD a Hindu mathematician named Aryabhata, who was trained within the hallowed guidelines of Greek science and philosophy, tried to reconcile the Greek bias with his own tradition’s yuga doctrine. He tried to calculate when all the planets would come together, but realized that periods much larger than 24,000 years were needed. So, he multiplied yuga periods by factors of 360. He called these “divine” days and years.


One consequence of his clever manipulation was that the precessional basis of the ancient Vedic-Hindu yuga doctrine became obscured. Another side effect of his calculations was that the Kali Yuga began in 3102 BC. Also, he had to anchor his zodiac calculations to the sidereal sky, meaning that the “sign” of Cancer had to corresponded exactly to the actual constellation of Cancer as view in the sky. He did so, and of course his own era was considered the anchor point for his calculations. Thus, 500 AD became the anchor point for time calculations. Today, because of precession, the abstract signs have slipped far out of alignment with their viewable counterparts, causing tracking problems for modern astrologers. When Aryabhata fixed the sidereal and tropical zodiacs, he defined a “zero” time that was purely a mathematical convenience, but was taken up later by various theologians, philosophers, and even Hindu saints. One such Saint who believed the 500 AD zero date to be critical for chronology was Sri Yukteswar, the master of Yogananda, who founded the Self Realization Fellowship in California.     


In Yukteswar’s book The Holy Science, written in the 1890s, he made the important observation that the 24,000-year Great Year of the Laws of Manu should be divided into two halves—one ascending and one descending. As we approach the end of the descending phase, we shift from “descending” Kali Yuga to “ascending” Kali Yuga. Since 500 AD was the zero point, according to Aryabhata, then Yukteswar believed that 500 AD was the moment of turnabout. According to his chronology, which was subsequently adopted by members of the Self Realization Fellowship, we are now some 1,500 years into the ascending phase of precession (meaning human societies and civilization have been improving spiritually, and life on earth has been becoming more spiritualized and less tending towards brutality and violence).


In my 2002 book Galactic Alignment, I showed how Yukteswar’s perspective is questionable, on several fronts. First, there is the Aryabhata debacle, explained above. Second, the galactic alignment (alignment of the solstice sun with the galactic equator) serves as an hour hand pointer to the Milky Way, defining era-2012 as the midnight turning point to the ascending phase. The armature of this model involves the unambiguous key features of precessional tracking—the solstice point and the Milky Way’s equator. These are the main pillars of the “frame of time” spoken of in Hamlet’s Mill. Third, the debaucheries and brutalities of the twentieth century exceed by far anything that came in the centuries before. And, so far, the early years of the 21st century are giving Hitler, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Ho Chi Min a serious challenge.


The historical arguments for “enlightenment” via the material conveniences spawned by the industrial revolution don’t really mean that spirituality has been on the upswing. In addition, the Kali Yuga ends when spiritual darkness has maximized in a global context, whereas in 500 AD there was no global context.


The Binary Research Institute has explored many ancient teachings, and its binary hypothesis is based primarily upon Yukteswar’s words in The Holy Science. He writes:


. . . the sun, with its planets and their moons, takes some star for its dual and revolves around it in about 24,000 years of our earth—a celestial phenomenon [precession]. . . . The sun also has another motion by which it revolves around a grand center called Vishnunabhi, which is the seat of creative power, Brahma, the universal magnetism. Brahma regulates dharma, the mental virtue of the internal world. … When the sun in its revolution around its dual comes to the place nearest to this grand center, the seat of Brahma (an event which takes place when the Autumnal Equinox comes to the first point of Aries), dharma, the mental virtue, becomes so much developed that man can easily comprehend all, even the mysteries of the spirit. 


Now, I parsed out these words in my book Galactic Alignment as referring to precessional movement. The emphasis on an “orbital” motion of the sun around another “double” or reference point could easily be a mistranslation of a “shifting” motion of the sun around a fixed reference point on the zodiac.




I decoded a similar issue in the words of Hunbatz Men, who said (Profiles in Wisdom, McFadden) that our sun revolves around the Pleiades every 26,000 years. In my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 I reconstructed a precessional tracking method that the ancient Mesoamerican skywatchers employed, utilizing the sun and the Pleiades. Since the Pleiades are very close to the ecliptic, the sun on its zenith-passage day does shift further away from the Pleiades, all the way around the zodiac, until it shifts back into alignment with the Pleiades after 26,000 years. In other words, precessional shifting should not be confuted with orbital motion. That this is still occurring can be seen in a recent article by William Hammond III in Atlantis Rising.


Does this mean that our sun does not belong to a binary system? No, I don’t think so. But it is important to separate out the arguments that work and those that don’t work. For example, one possible implication of Yukteswar’s words is that we may belong to a binary system. Let’s explore it. Yukteswar’s other statements, for example that ascending Kali Yuga began in 500 AD, should also be questioned and explored. I did this years ago and this particular idea of Yukteswar’s doesn’t stand up to the facts. Luckily for the Binary Research Institute, it is irrelevant to the binary star argument.  There are, in fact,  anomalies and certain flaws in the “earth wobble” model of precession, and Cruttenden’s book The Lost Star is the first step in what may be a profound revolution in how we understand our solar system.



Such revolutions have occurred before. For example, when Copernicus showed that the earth revolves around the sun, the implication was that the earth spins on its axis once every 24 hours. “Preposterous!” cried several scientists of the day. “Why, we would all go flying off into space if such was the case!” The revolutionary new idea flied in the face of common sense. And yet, it proved to be true. Likewise, we can’t see a binary partner out in space, but perhaps unexpected and more complex considerations must be entertained. That is what The Lost Star is putting on the table, the opening salvo in what may be a revolutionary new understanding of precession and our solar system. Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend wrote that Hamlet’s Mill, for all its labyrinthine arguments, was a “first reconnaissance” into an unexplored area of the history of science. So too, The Lost Star opens the book on unexplored possibilities, ones that will catalyze us to connect more deeply with our mysterious past, and our unknown future.


2,600 words.