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Chatting with Jim Reed, it's easy to assume the guy watches too much X-Files. But between his job as a graphic designer and his obsession with Maya culture, he barely has enough time to watch TV.

Actually it's his interpretation of Maya prophecy that might cause some to think he's an alien-conspiracy theorist. Reed is executive vice president of the Institute of Maya Studies at the Miami Museum of Science, and he believes that the tribe's early mystics and mathematicians were way ahead of their time. Without the benefit of telescopes, Maya "daykeepers" mapped out a calendar by watching the planets move through the heavens. Taking into account planetary convergences (when planets appear to cross paths), they settled on a calendar cycle that lasts 26,000 years. Maya shamans noted periods of rapid growth and change every 400 years or so, and they predicted that one big change -- the cause of great upheaval -- would occur at the end of the full cycle: December 21, 2012.

"They were predicting this 1500 years ago," says Reed. He claims we're already seeing evidence -- an increase in natural disasters, political instability, and rapid technological change -- that the day of unrest is coming. He noted, however, that the Maya never said the world would end on that day, only that humans would have to transform into a new type of being in order to adapt and, therefore, survive for at least another 26,000 years. Reed wonders if a human-alien hybrid a la The X-Files is just the ticket.

Could be. Or maybe we just need to simplify our lives and take better care of the planet, he suggests. The Maya prophets weren't specific -- at least they haven't been yet. The tribe's descendants still inhabit southeast Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. The civilization -- revered for its calendar, architecture, mathematics, and hieroglyphics -- flourished between 300 and 900 A.D. But Reed didn't learn of the Maya until the mid-'70s, when he and a group of friends attempted to open a yoga retreat near a Maya pyramid in Belize. The yoga thing didn't pan out, but Reed, now age 46, embarked on a backpacking odyssey in nearby Guatemala that sparked his lifelong interest in the Maya.

He has since created programs on Maya culture by compiling his and other scholars' research and adding slides and narrative. In his latest program, "Mayan Cosmology," he covers Maya prophecies and the Popol Vuh, the record of Maya mythology and astronomy. During the program he'll also talk about upcoming trips to Maya sites in Mexico, for which he'll serve as a guide.

"Between now and 2012, you're going to be seeing a lot more on the Maya," Reed predicts. "They have a lot of information they haven't released yet. They haven't released the final prophecy."

-- John Ferri

"Mayan Cosmology" will be presented Saturday, March 6, at 8 p.m. in Kenley Metaphysical Center, 4966 N. University Dr., Lauderhill. Admission is $7. Call 954-971-4691 for information. See "Readings & Lectures" listings for additional presentation dates.

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John Ferri