Appendix/critique (summer of 1999)
Yes, please feel free to critique my work. However, I'd like to provide some of my own responses that you may use to adapt your appendix if you like.
CJC: "Another example [of a pseudo-spiritual interpretation] is provided by John Major Jenkins’ book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, where the author seeks to ground the Mayan Great Cycle, and its changing energies, in the 26,000-year astronomical cycle that the earth undergoes because of precession. Both [Arguelles and Jenkins] thus seek to adapt the spiritual cycles to the astronomical rather than the other way around…"
JMJ: In MC2012 I sought to identify the underlying empirical (astronomical) reason why the Maya chose 2012 to end the 13 baktun cycle. Elsewhere in the book, and in previous articles and books, I explore and elucidate the spiritual and ceremonial dimensions of the tzolkin and Long Count. MC2012 had a focus - one book cannot be all things. Carl, your summation of my theory is accurate; your precession description is easy to understand.
CJC: "On a planet made from a non-bulging material (and hence no precession) no evolution could take place."
JMJ: Local gravitational influences may not be the sole cause of precession. Is it any coincidence that the Galactic Center is roughly 26,000 light years from earth?
CJC: "Jenkins has chosen the midwinter solstice, which seemed to fit the Mayan end date, but this is arbitrary too. Why not let the summer solstice determine the age?"
JMJ: I don't know, it seems to have been a decision of the early Maya cosmologists.
CJC: "And, really, no one has proved that precession has an effect on human consciousness."
JMJ: If true, however, this possibility could, as with the rediscovery of the heliocentric solar system by Copernicus/Kepler/Galileo, stimulate a cosmological revolution. [Proof of this idea doesn’t invalidate my reconstruction of the ancient Mayan belief about it.]
CJC: "… this highlights the strangest and most inexplicable omission in Jenkins work - the total neglect of the creation stories actually presented by the ancient Maya in Quirigua and Palenque."
JMJ: These are Classic Period versions; I chose the Quiche Popol Vuh Creation Story, which has close associations with the original Creation Story portrayed on the monuments of Izapa. In fact, I did discuss the Quirigua creation monument in my 1994 book Jaloj Kexoj and PHI-64. The usually read something like "On 22.214.171.124.0 the image is made to appear." The glyph for "the image" is a kan-cross, symbol of the crossroads
and the sun. Notice that the date reads 126.96.36.199.0 rather than 0.0.0.0.0. I also discuss Schele's questionable use of the Palenque texts in an Appendix in MC2012, "Response to Counter-Arguments."
CJC: "I do not feel that the description of creation in Palenque is something that serious research about the meaning of the Long Count can allow itself to overlook."
JMJ: In my opinion, spiritual politics at Palenque gave permission for rulers to place themselves into the older Long Count creation wisdom, adapting it when necessary to contemporary political needs. Palenque thrived 700 years after the Izapan culture created the Long Count. Compare Christianity of the 1st century with the corruptions of the 14th.
CJC: "This omission is all the more serious as the evidence he presents to support his theses is mostly mythological…"
JMJ: This is not true and I would serious advise amending this. Mythology yes, but mythology with established astronomical references. Also, I utilized calendrics (see reconstruction of the Izapan Calendar Round), iconography (rending the Izapan monuments readable), astronomy, archaeoastronomy, ethnography (ancient and modern), epigraphy (see upturned frog-mouth glyph interpretation of Kelley). This is the greatest and most argument-resistant aspect of my work - I didn't isolate the data, I synthesized data from a wide spectrum of different disciplines. Some date was considered irrelevant, with good reason. Please don't give the wrong impression here.
CJC: "They date the fall of Seven-Macaw to May 28, 3149 BC…"
JMJ: Who is this "they" - latter-day pundits at Palenque? Yes.
CJC: "The neglect of the actual Mayan dates presented in the creation stories"
JMJ: On the contrary, I emphasized the date (or era) of the creation of the Creation Myth itself, as evidence by it's first appearance in the archaeological record, at Izapa in roughly the first century B.C. Again, I consciously chose to examine the untarnished first occurrence of the Creation Myth rather than it's adaptations centuries later.
CJC: "Jenkins interprets Seven-Macaw as the Big Dipper which begins to fall from its north pole location in the sky some time around 1000 BC. Since anthropologists agree that the Maya identified Seven-Macaw with the Big Dipper it would at first seem that Jenkins has a strong case. But what if the fall of the Big Dipper from its polar position was just a way for popularizing the end of the Seventh DAY of the Cultural Cycle (I have already suggested that during NIGHTS the ancient Egyptians would be led into identifying the Seven LIGHTS of a creation cycle with seven stars, and there is no reason why the ancient Maya would not have succumbed to the same type of illusion regarding Seven-Macaw in the NIGHT of baktun 7). Thus, if Jenkins interpretation were correct we would expect that they would have dated the fall of Seven-Macaw to baktun 5, which is when the Big Dipper began to fall from its polar position. But in fact they do not. They date the fall of Seven-Macaw to May 28, 3149 BC, even before the present creation began with the First Father raising the World Tree.
JMJ: [Here Carl is interpreting the material though his model of Cultural Cycles. The date he uses for the fall of Seven Macaw is from seventh-century Palenque, 800 years after the fall of Seven Macaw was portrayed on monuments at Izapa. Again, this is a misplaced reliance of precise correspondence of dates, The astronomical reference of the fall of Seven Macaw myth is to the movements of the North Celestial Pole. My work goes further in suggesting both annual and precession-caused movements are involved.]
CJC: "The neglect of the actual Mayan dates presented in the creation stories, in favor of his own interpretation of their myths tainted by the astrological Doctrine of the World Ages, is in my opinion a great shortcoming of Jenkins’ work…"
JMJ: Isn't the Maya Creation Myth an astrological doctrine of World Ages? What about Hamlet's Mill?
CJC: "Nowhere in the Mayan accounts from ancient times is a cycle of 26,000 years described. Nowhere!"
JMJ: Perhaps not explicitly among the Maya, but as I thoroughly explored in an appendix, Gordon Brotherston finds explicit reference to periods of roughly 26,000 years in Central Mexican codices. Remember, there are only four Maya books left. Ultimately, precise knowledge of the exact duration of precession is irrelevant to my thesis that they were able to project forward some 2100 years with decent accuracy to the solstice-galaxy alignment of 2012. Of course it doesn't directly follow that the early cosmologists would have even been interested in (let alone aware of) the full 26,000 cycle. However, this doesn't effect my end-date alignment theory. In other words, to know that I must awake at 6:00 AM does not imply that I know there are 24 hours in the day.
A great deal of your additional critique hinges on the supposition that I ignored Classic Period inscriptions. However, as I said these speak less for the original conception of the Long Count BY THOSE WHO CREATED IT than the earlier monuments and alignments at Izapa.
CJC: "Another Mayan mythological concept that is important to discuss is the World Tree. Jenkins suggests that this is formed by the cross of the ecliptic (local planetary component) and the equator of the Milky Way (galactic). But this interpretation is impossible. The ecliptic and the galactic mid-plane are at an angle of about 60° in relation to each other, and in all representations from the Maya the World Tree is formed by the perpendicular arms of a cross, which give rise to the four geographical directions on earth."
JMJ: This identification is not mine, but as credited and cited in my book, is a well-established universal and ancient motif. What about the material in the chapter A Hawk, A Cross, and A Mouth?
CJC: "In reality, the true galactic cross is invisible (it has no material manifestations) and is formed by the galactic midplane and a line perpendicular to it."
JMJ: This is an interesting point, and has meaning for new theories about galactic dynamics. However, I don't think it is what the Maya were referring to.
CJC: "It is thus simply an accident that the end-date of the Long Count falls on a midwinter solstice: Midwinter solstice is in fact where the end-date by necessity must fall if its beginning is set at the solar zenith in Izapa. Strangely, Jenkins is aware that the beginning date of the Long Count is the solar zenith in Izapa, but does not point out what a remarkable accident this would be if the Long Count was meant for targeting the end-date."
JMJ: I noted and discussed this in my 1995 book The Center of Mayan Time. It is impossible to recapitulate all material in previous books. Also, this is an area that needs further research, as it may not be a coincidence. But it doesn't mean I'm intentionally ignoring it. Jesus, what am I suppose to have all the answers? Each successive katun begins 260 days further on in the seasonal year, yet each katun also has an even 7200 days. Which is primary?
CJC: "Yet, throughout his book he keeps referring to "the end-date alignment" as if this was a reality, when in fact, the midwinter solstice sun does not align with the galactic equator in the year 2012."
JMJ: The sun is 1/2 degree wide, remember? We've both discussed the parameters of this alignment. Don't accuse me of ignoring the full scope of the question. It is complex, and I don't evade it. I've posted discussions of this question on my website.
In conclusion, your critique is selective and assumes several key things about my approach which are presented as wrong (for example, my not using Classic Period evidence to understand the Long Count / Creation Myth complex which first emerged in the 1st century B.C.) My response: Why the hell would I? By examining 14th century Christianity would we understand any better the birth of Christianity? The evidence I've assembled to argue for my stated thesis, that "the Maya intended 2012 to mark the alignment of solstice and galaxy" is thoroughly, interdisciplinary, and extremely well-supported. However, you didn't discuss this material. And thus I'm forced to defend and restate material that I've researched and written and rewritten and rewritten and rewritten. My theory is not perfect, but it is well researched and argued, based upon established Maya concepts. I'm not qualified to say much about Maya spirituality. I leave that to others. But I don't think that our approaches / conclusions are contradictory.
Thanks for sending me your critique, and I wish you luck in all your endeavors.
Carl Calleman responds (note: this is a year after the above exchange took place):
From: Carl Calleman [mailto:xxxxxxxxxx]
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2000 3:10 PM
At some point you said you were going to write an endorsement for my book but I have not heard from you since. Anyway I have sort of concluded that you are so critical of my theory that you may not want to do it. If that is the case it is all right with me, since I feel it will only serve my forthcoming book to have people endorse it that recognize it as the truth and may stand strongly behind it. It will be published in the United States a few months from now under the title Solving the Greatest Mystery of Our Time: The Mayan Calendar by Merit Publishers in Florida. Nonetheless I would be interested to know if you have read the manuscript and if you have some criticism of the theory that you would like to pass on to me.
All the Best
I have several critiques. First is a general lack of clarity in distinguishing your own model of history based on the Mayan calendar and a reconstruction of ancient Maya thought/philosophy. This is a fairly straight forward thing to do, and then it doesn't confuse the authentic Maya tradition nor will it detract from your own work. Second, I cannot agree with your adjusted end-date of October 2011, nor can I vouche for the reasoning that you bring to bear to argue for it. It ignores the fact that 188.8.131.52.0 equals 4 Ahau. Remember how Cotterell added a 260-day register to the Long Count so that his time-periods would work out? I feel that's kind of what you're doing there. Adopting the authentic Quiche count has given a look of accuracy to your work, such that one can say "he uses the True Count," but then people will be given the erroneous impression that the Maya themselves believed the enddate is in October of 2011. The True Cross: your astronomical concept of the Cosmic Cross is different than what we find supported in Maya starlore and iconography. As I understand it, you envision the galactic equator and the galactic axis as the True Cross. This is a right-angle cross and is an abstraction of what could actually be perceived from Earth by ancient skywatchers. For various other reasons one can argue that this cross is more elegant a conception than the Maya's view of the Sacred Cross or Tree being the Milky Way / ecliptic, but this pursuit is a modern add-on to the ancient Maya conception. It might be wise to steer clear of generalized hypothesizing and confusing your own process of working with Maya cosmology - and I'm sure you've had your share of insights - with the ongoing effort to reconstruct the ancient Maya cosmology / philosophy / metaphysics. Clarity and discernment are very important right now. For these reasons, and for the disagreements over some fundamental concepts that emerged in our correspondence last summer, I could not endorse your work. I do, however, wish you the best on your journey of discovery and trust that we will all move forward on our journeys. Sincerely,
John Major Jenkins