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Cosmos According to Plato and Pakal

By Tim Hazell

Plato envisioned a universe of balance and harmony expressed with mathematics. Fire and earth were conceived, and reason demanded that air and water provide the counterpoint. Heavenly bodies evolved to serve the purpose of recording time. Stars were fixed in the heavens. Planets were perfect spheres like the pristine circles of their journeys around the earth. A fundamental harmonic interval occurred when all eight known circuits and their respective planets, the sun, and the moon finished together and returned to a constellation they had occupied before. This fulfilled the complete number of Time and started the entire process again.

The Maya among Mesoamerican cultures developed their intricate mathematical and calendrical systems to express more than the 260-unit code of the Tzolkin permutation table and the 360-unit “calendar.” Monarchs such as Pakal Votan (AD 603–683), who ruled glittering Palenque during its renaissance, were diviners of harmony. His tomb beneath the Temple of Inscriptions is aligned with the Sun. Temples and ceremonial plazas in Mayan cities were positioned according to the compass points and movements of the planets and celestial bodies. Observatories, shadow casting devices, forked sticks, and trained eyes permitted the Maya to calculate the distance to the moon and path of Venus with astonishing accuracy. They venerated the Milky Way and dubbed it the “World Tree,” representing it by the majestic flowering ceiba or “tree of life.” The brilliant galactic core was referred to as Hunab Ku. Clouds of stars that form our galaxy were seen as foliage from which all creatures emanated.

Before the arrival of Spaniards to the Yucatán Peninsula, the name of the region was “el Mayab” translated as “a few.” It was a very important site for the Mayan civilization, which reached the peak of its development there with the advent of the cities of Chichen Itza, Izamal, Motul, Mayapan, Ek’ Balam, and Ichcaanzihóo, now Mérida. Seafood figures highly in “Mayan Rivieran” cuisine. This recipe integrates native and Asian ingredients!

Yucatecan Shrimp


4 tbsp. unsalted butter

1–2 large cloves garlic, minced

Juice of 2 large limes

1 tbsp. Thai sambal (sriracha) or any red chile paste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 pound large, fresh, shell-on shrimp

1 small jalapeño, seeded and chopped

2 tbsp. coriander, chopped


In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.          Add remaining 3 tablespoons of butter to saucepan. When it melts, stir in the lime juice, chili sauce, salt, and pepper. Turn off the heat and allow the sauce to rest. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook for 1 or 2 minutes or until just firm and pink. Do not overcook. Drain into a colander and shake over the sink to remove excess moisture. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp and chili sauce. Add jalapeño, sprinkle with coriander, and toss again. Serves 4.


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