The Purposeful Universe by Carl Calleman – A View on the Evolution of Life

Carl Calleman is a well known speaker and author on Mayan topics.

His previous books include of Solving the Greatest Mystery of Our Time: The Mayan Calendar, and The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness.

His most recent book which is published by Bear & Company is titled, “The Purposeful Universe: How Quantum Theory and Mayan Cosmology Explain the Origin and Evolution of Life.

Carl Calleman Versus Charles Darwin

Darwinism and GettyA few chapters into The Purposeful Universe I became convinced that Charles Darwin must have shot Carl Calleman’s dog in a past life because his assault on Darwin, Darwinism, and Neo-Darwinism throughout the book is relentless, and as ill conceived as a Texas school system science book.

Somehow Calleman has made an unexplained distinction between evolution theory, which he accepts with the caveat that God created evolution in his “plan,” and Darwinism.

Of all the tried and true scientific theories from gravity to relativity, evolution is the one most closely associated with its founder. To say Darwinism is to say Theory of Evolution. After all, we don’t say Newtonism or Einsteinism.

Darwin the man, is also directly associated, rightly or wrongly, with the most dramatic refutation of Christianity’s ontological stranglehold on reality since the Enlightenment. Calleman appears to want to trump all arguments, including Quantum Mechanics, with his new synthesis by raising, god-like, his “Tree of Life Theory” and displace Darwin from some imagined throne.

Intelligent Design and the World Tree

This book promotes Intelligent Design by somehow morphing the Mayan mythological World Tree into a quasi-Kabbalistic Tree of Life as a new way to say God created the universe for his own un-fathomable purpose.

The Purposeful Universe, picks up where his previous book, The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness, left off, continuing an elaborate revision of the “meaning” behind the enigmatic Mayan Calendar.

But first, let’s examine his science which, as he states in the Preface, “presents a theory to be scrutinized and critiqued by the scientific community,” yet “has not been published in peer-reviewed articles because the theory needs to be presented in its entirety for the sake of clarity.” In other words, accept intelligent design a priori and this all makes sense.

God’s Crowning Achievement

Calleman proceeds down the tiresome path of all creationists and ID proponents by filling these pages with fascinating data from scientific disciplines such as astronomy, physics, and his PhD field, biology.

We are led to believe that the world, and by extension the universe, has been fine tuned to accommodate God’s crowning achievement, human life. Life would not exist if the earth were a different distance from the sun, if there were not an abundance of liquid water, if any number of precise criteria had not been met. “…our estimates of the likelihood of life on other planets will depend very directly on what model we are using to explain the emergence of life.”

Planet EarthIn other words, human life emerges in the image of God, or as Calleman parses it, the Tree of Life. We’ll get to more about the “Tree” in a moment.

Life On Earth

Christopher Hitchens recounts the story told breathlessly by his grade school teacher on a class outing to the English countryside that God made so much green in the world because he loves you and the color green is so soothing to the human eye.

Evolutionary theory postulates that the eye evolved sensitivity to subtle variations of green BECAUSE there is so much green in the world due to photosynthesis. Life on earth appears the way it is because the conditions are the way they are.

If the definition of life is narrowed to mean only the accumulation of properties embodied by processes found on earth then any existence based, for instance, on the field effect of moving energy streams around a distant binary star system will not constitute “life.” Xenophobia on a cosmic scale.

What Darwin Got Wrong

Perhaps he’s seen too many PowerPoint presentations from the Discovery Institute, but Calleman re-iterates most of the false claims for “what Darwin got wrong” that no amount of de-bunking will dispel from the minds of the willfully ignorant.

We find several instances of him transposing randomness to mean accidental or “everything happens by chance.” This deliberate obfuscation is unforgivable for a biologist. Words have meanings specific to the context of the discipline in which they are used, such as science or law. “Random” in biology (which is inseparable from evolution) means that mutations occur regardless if they have usefulness to the organism.

Randomness is never claimed to be the sole driving force of natural selection, but it is an important part of it.

The Missing Link Between Brain & Consciousness

The Missing LinkCalleman’s catalog of science anecdotes may be accurate, there’s too much of it for me to check point for point, but it is very selective and contrasted against improperly argued Darwinism. His interpretations are skewed to bolster an un-falsifiable conclusion.

In his discussion of microtubules he bends exciting science about quantum processes between neurons to the will of God, or reflections of the Tree of Life. Microtubules, given their self organizing and seemingly non-local awareness, may be the “missing link” between brain and consciousness (check out the exciting research being done by Stuart Hameroff, MD and others). But Calleman assigns them a subordinate role to centronomes and the centriole, which play a critical role in cell division.

In fact, until Neo-Darwinism shifted the focus of attention over to DNA in the 1950’s, biologists typically looked upon the centrosome as the regulatory center of cells, and this is still a natural conclusion to draw if one has no preconceived ideas.

His fascination with centrioles, which generate a cell’s cytoskeleton containing microtubules and microfilaments, seems to stem from the fact they look like a microscopic disjointed cross or “T”, which fit his pre-conceived idea of the sacred shape of the universe.

Bad scientific method throughout and, as we’ll see, even worse Mayan cosmology.

Mining The Mystery

In September of 2004 I journeyed from my home in Hawaii to a cold rain soaked lodge on the shore of Minnesota’s Lake Sturgeon to hear and experience Martin Prechtel recount the ancient Mayan story The Toe Bone and the Tooth.

Prechtel had apprenticed to a Tzutujil Mayan shaman in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, eventually rising to the office of Nabey Mam, first chief, until the demise of that tribal structure at the hands of Reagan era death squads and voracious evangelical Christians.

The telling would take four days and Martin insisted on only two admonitions; we must hear the entire story from start to finish, never missing a day or an hour; and we must not “mine” the story for small pieces of it to add to our “collection” of trinkets of indigenous wisdom. By the end of the fourth day we all had been immersed in a heady, aromatic spiritual mist affording us all a glimpse into a mysterious, yet heart-satisfying way of looking at the world.

Euro-Centrism & Mayan Cosmology

Tree of LifeCarl Calleman has done what Martin Prechtel warned us not to do; he has mined the Mayan Calendar for tidbits and buzz words to bolster his own belief in Intelligent Design.

We find similar instances of Euro-centrism in most studies of “indigenous” cultures, but the level of unrepentant hubris put forth by Calleman is stunning in its boldness as he sets out to trash Darwinism with his bastardized Mayan Cosmology.

Central to Calleman’s argument that Mayan Cosmology “explains”  the origin of life, is the role of what he calls the Tree of Life. The Maya have in their mythology a World Tree raised by Hunahpu to give form to the world. This process is central to the structure of Mayan society and is referred to in numerous stelae, murals and at length in the Popul Vuh, the Maya creation myth.

Big Bang or Big Thought

In his previous book, the Mayan Calendar, Calleman physically locates the trunk of the World Tree (not until the Purposeful Universe does he change the name to Tree of Life) along longitude 12º east from his native Sweden through Central Europe, Rome, and Central Africa.

For the Maya the World Tree is a process, not a thing that has a locus, it has equivalence in the Milky Way, a king’s shamanic personification during ritual, the construction of a building or creation of a sacred space. In Purposeful he declares, “the purpose of biological evolution is to create organisms in the image of the Cosmic Tree of Life” and plots its birth in the first micro-seconds after the Big Bang (though “the universe is not the result of a big bang, but rather a big thought” and “what are the letters in which this thought is expressed?”).

This Cosmic Tree vibrates establishing quantum wave functions which collapse and form . . . well . . . new species. Calleman almost drops his self referential pomposity on occasion and comes close to tying what David Boehm calls “implicate order” to the Mayan appreciation for the grand rhythms of the cosmos. But his attachment to ID and promoting himself as presenter of a grand new theory traps him in a very stale world view.

Down The Rabbit Hole

Back in the ’60s I had a friend who was both eloquent and a certifiable schizophrenic. He could spin stream of consciousness imagery drawing on history, religion, science, pop culture, and his own hallucinations that, especially when high, could leave you spellbound.

He fascinated Andy Warhol enough that Warhol made two or three movies about him. And his internally consistent rap on the symbolism of rows of telephone poles as rows of crucifixes inspired the album cover and title track of Jim Morrison’s LA Woman.

Calleman tells quite a tale, but is nowhere near as fun as my old friend. He takes the reader down an utterly humorless rabbit hole of nonsense minus the eloquence.

Carl Calleman As Seven Macaw

Mayan PhotoThe cliche goes, “everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.”

Calleman does a grave disservice in expropriating the term World Tree and twisting its profound meaning to his purposes.

But if he were to actually read the Popul Vuh, he might recognize his own image perched high in the World Tree. Seven Macaw represents the ego bound, preening, self important aspect that the sons of Hunahpu, the Hero Twins, must shoot with their blowguns out of the tree to make way for the solar disc to glide into place, into the womb of creation, on December 21, 2012, a date he disputes, without credible evidence, as being the end date of the Mayan Calendar.

Curtis McCosco


Writer, photographer, raconteur, Curtis McCosco fled from academia to further his education in Haight-Ashbury and the streets of Hollywood.

He’s worked as a furniture maker, Moviola repairman, documentary film maker, Motown tech, carpenter, masseur, and explores the the worlds of indigenous wisdom and shamanism, Hermetic occultism, remote viewing, history, politics and the evolution of consciousness, all from a Buddhist perspective.

You can find more of his writing on his blog,

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3 Responses

  1. John G. says:

    I’ve never read such pompous writing in my whole entire life. This shows why the WWW isn’t always a good idea. Anyone can publish anything for everyone to read without any authority but their own foolish mind.

  2. Chris D. says:

    Like all critics Curtis McCosco makes bold statements without backing up his opinions with facts. Firstly, if the universe has no purpose what is the point of us being here? Secondly, if the universe happened randomly, with no prescribed order, how does he describe fractal logic at micro and macro levels? Thirdly, it is now realized by many key biologists that evolution advances more by cooperation between organisms than by competition. Darwinism, which was a symptom of Newton’s published mechanical description of the universe, gave rise to the fascist and military dictatorships of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco etc. The Darwinist concept of species selection paved the way for racial profiling and eugenics. While I applaud Darwin for his pioneering evolutionary work I hope we have all grown up a little since then, where our concepts of evolution and purpose are concerned.

  3. Curtis says:

    Alas, poor Mr. Darwin is now blamed for Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, but spared responsibility for Stalin, Mao or Henry Kissinger, must be some other secular humanist progenitor for them. I see Chris D. is as ignorant of the meaning of “randomness” in biology as Dr. Calleman. That fact is covered in my critique. If only we could evolve a world without serious critics. Then we could have … wait, we did have such a utopia. It was the administration of Bush the Younger. As for purpose, who decides what the purpose of the universe is? God? Then who translates? You, Chris D? Some bronze age poets in the Sinai? The Pope? Calleman? I’ll take my universe benignly ambivalent, thank you very much. 

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