Carl Calleman's latest assault on
the traditional end-date, December 21, 2012
by John Major Jenkins
February 23, 2006
This piece is written in response to Carl Calleman's assertion that a well-known Mayan elder, Don Alejandro, "strongly argues" that December 21, 2012 is not the end date of the 13-baktun cycle of the Long Count calendar. Carl continues to make arguments against the established correlation that gives us December 21, 2012 as the end date of the 13-baktun cycle of the Mayan Long Count calendar, because he wishes to establish more firmly in the popular culture his own interpretation that the end date is "really" October 28, 2011. In tossing up his interview with Don Alejandro as evidence that "the Maya" disagree with December 21, 2012, Carl capitalizes on recently acquired information that, in fact, conflicts with earlier information given by the same informant (which I will discuss in detail with citations to sources below).
Unfortunately, Carl does not distinguish between the beliefs of a modern daykeeper and the beliefs of that daykeeper's ancient ancestors. This distinction is important because there has been a break in the transmission of the Long Count tradition. That's right, although modern daykeepers like Don Alejandro retain an accurate accounting of the 260-day calendar, the baktuns and katuns of the Long Count have been long forgotten. We shouldn't expect that any modern Mayans have any knowledge of the Long Count, its operation, or the end-date of its 13-baktun period. This may sound like I'm being unfair or quick-to-conclude, but, believe me, I've searched far and wide for any evidence that the highland Maya retained, in an unbroken fashion, any information about the Long Count. If they did, we should rightly suspect that the information was gathered through access to modern sources of information. This is exactly what seems to have happened with Don Alejandro's explanation of the meaning of 2012 (as I will show below).
Meanwhile, Carl continues to ignore all of the evidence that scholars have brought to bear, over a period of decades, for the correlation 22.214.171.124.0 = 4 Ahau = December 21, 2012 (the 584283 correlation). In our lengthy three-part debate of 2001, he never clearly addressed the evidence that supports December 21, 2012. Carl neglects to provide factual context and instead indulges in evangelical assertions and/or political machinations. Links to relevant research can be found at: Maya Calendar & 2012 Studies.
So, in point of fact, we have a previous testimonial of Don Alejandro, from an interview he did with reporters that was published as "The Mayan Worldview of the Universe" by Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez, Universal Press Syndicate. The Denver Post, January 2, 2000. In it, we read:
"Based on thousands of years of astronomical observation, a cataclysm is indeed predicted by indigenous elders, as opposed to "prophesized." No one is predicting that at the strike of midnight, Dec, 20, 2012, the world will end. Instead, Mayan elders predict that the cataclysm can occur within a year or 100 yearsand the cause would be something astronomical as opposed to metaphysical."
I've always agreed with this idea, that we should think of the 2012 end date as being a "zone" stretching on the order of decades. I don't agree with the above view that the end date is only an astronomical event, for the physical dimension and the metaphysical (or spiritual) dimension unfold in parallel. We further read in the interview that:
"We don't know what will happen in the next few days or in the next 12 years. What we do know is that it wouldn't hurt to listen to the worlds of Don Alejandro who said that on Dec. 20, 2012 Mother Earth will pass inside the center of a magnetic axis and that it may be darkened with a great cloud for 60 or 70 hours and that because of environmental degradation, she may not be strong enough to survive the effects. 'It will enter another age, but when it does, there will be great and serious events. Earthquakes, marimotos (tsunamis), floods, volcanic eruptions, and great illness on the planet Earth. Few survivors will be left.'"
Thus, beginning on December 20, as stated, the events stretch almost three full days ("60 or 70 hours") through December 21st. The Earth passing "inside the center of a magnetic axis" is a striking description and sounds like the way I described the alignment in the last chapter to Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. "Darkened by a great cloud" almost sounds like a reference to the dark-rift in the Milky Way. Notice the difference between this conception of "earth in the darkness" and my alignment description where I describe it as the sun passing through the dark-rift, through the "galactic axis," with different magnetic or gyroscopic effects on either side. I suppose Don Alejandro's wording works fine, it's just a translation or interpretation of where the effect is really to be felt (on Earth, ultimately).
Now, to what can we attribute this similarity between Don Alejandro's vision of 2012, and my description of the galactic alignment process in my 1998 book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012? Well, it's really no mystery. The above interview took place at a "medicine conference" in late 1999 (I think it was held in either Arizona or New Mexico). Sometime in either late 1998 or early-mid 1999, my aquaintance Ian Lungoldwho I had several cordial phone conversations withtravelled to Guatemala and met with Don Alejandro. Later, Ian described for me, via email, how he had a translator read pertinent passages from my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 to Don Alejandro at that time. Ian said that Don Alejandro was interested in my galactic alignment / 2012 thesis. This might sound unbelievable to readers, but it is true. It brings up a touchy issue in how reconstructed information by researchers "outside" of a tradition might be re-embraced by traditional elders. Clearly, even if an elder deemed the information viable (which here appears to be the case), there would remain a tendency to want to claim it as traditional lineage information without reference to the outsider who worked to reconstruct the truth. Given the facts above, this is quite likely in the present context. As mentioned, the fact is that the Long Count tradition was lost shortly after the Conquest. Yes, that's correct, the Mayan people stopped following the Long Count; its katuns and baktuns were forgotten. So, the only way that modern daykeepers who do in fact retain traditional knowledge of the 260-day tzolkin can reclaim Long Count information is through exposure to outside scholarship and books. This does not diminish the voice and authority of traditional Mayan elders like Don Alejandro. My reconstruction work is in service to bringing back to consciousness the highest perennial teachings that manifest in all the great world traditions. It is difficult, yet important, to be clear on what is going on here, since people like Calleman will cherry pick and manipulate the facts.
An important parallel to the Don Alejandro interpretation can also be identified in the words of Carlos Barrios. In an interview of Carlos Barrios by Stephen McFadden, posted on The Sacred Road website, we read:
"Carlos Barrios was born into a Spanish family on El Altiplano, the highlands of Guatemala. His home was in Huehuetenango, also the dwelling place of the Maya Mam tribe. With other Maya and other indigenous tradition keepers, the Mam carry part of the old ways on Turtle Island (North America). They are keepers of time, authorities on remarkable calendars that are ancient, elegant and relevant. Mr. Barrios is a historian, an anthropologist and investigator. After studying with traditional elders for 25 years since the age of 19, he has also became a Mayan Ajq'ij, a ceremonial priest and spiritual guide, Eagle Clan. Years ago, along with his brother, Gerardo, Carlos initiated an investigation into the different Mayan calendars. He studied with many teachers. He says his brother Gerardo interviewed nearly 600 traditional Mayan elders to widen their scope of knowledge."
(The piece was also widely circulated on email lists, and via Mitch Battros's Earth Changes website.) This is a very respectable background, and I very much respect and appreciate the words of Barrios in this interview, including his warnings about the dire political landscape of the world today. However, the interview takes the following position regarding "anthropologists" and "other people" who write "about prophecy in the name of the Maya," and say the "world will end in December 2012":
"'Anthropologists visit the temple sites,' Mr. Barrios says, 'and read the steles and inscriptions and make up stories about the Maya, but they do not read the signs correctly. It's just their imagination... Other people write about prophecy in the name of the Maya. They say that the world will end in December 2012. The Mayan elders are angry with this. The world will not end. It will be transformed.'"
And angry they should be. I've been shouting since day one that 2012 is about a transformation, a new beginning, not a final apocalyptic end. It says so in the Popol Vuh. So I'm in complete agreement with Carlos on this. But since many people see my books as being scholarly and me as an (albeit independent) anthropologist or archaeologist, I can't help feeling that the first part of the quote is leveled at outsiders like myself who "read the signs." This seems to be the implication, whether it was intended or not; the interviewer's wording is insufficiently clear. In this light, the next passage is all the more distressing:
"He [Carlos] said Mayan Daykeepers view the Dec. 21, 2012 date as a rebirth, the start of the World of the Fifth Sun. It will be the start of a new era resulting from and signified by the solar meridian crossing the galactic equator, and the earth aligning itself with the center of the galaxy. At sunrise on December 21, 2012 for the first time in 26,000 years the Sun rises to conjunct the intersection of the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic. This cosmic cross is considered to be an embodiment of the Sacred Tree, The Tree of Life, a tree remembered in all the world's spiritual traditions. Some observers say this alignment with the heart of the galaxy in 2012 will open a channel for cosmic energy to flow through the earth, cleansing it and all that dwells upon it, raising all to a higher level of vibration."
This terminology here is straight out of my books and web pages. I have gone to great pains to formalize a very clear language to describe the galactic alignment. A phrase like "the solar meridian crossing the galactic equator" provides an accurate description of what the 2012 alignment is. To what can we attribute this material in McFadden's interview with Barrios, apparently paraphrasing the words of Barrios himself? Well, as with Don Alejandro, the facts are at hand and the sourcing of the information is clear enough. Sources mentioned in the online interview link to a page on the Great Dreams website. This page contains lengthy paraphrased material including diagrams from my online article that has been posted HERE on my website since 1995. Since the material on the Great Dreams 2012 page is unattributed to me as the source, it is fair to say that they plagiarized my work. I've been unable to get a response from the obscure person(s) who are responsibile for that website. Nevertheless, such generic plagiarizing allows other web surfers to cherry pick information for their own projects, which is apparently what McFadden and/or perhaps Barrios did. The nameless piece also grants a free conscience for anyone who wants to give the impression that the solstice-galaxy alignment thesis is a general knowledge, perhaps "revealed" recently by Mayan elders or something, rather than the work of one person making a pioneering breakthrough. However, it is fair to give credit where credit is due. Before my pioneering work in the early 1990s, the connection between 2012 and Mayan traditions (the ballgame, Izapa's carvings, the Creation Myth, and king crowning symbolism) was only an unsupported assertion (see Appendix 1 in Maya Cosmogenesis 2012). I mean, I'm Norwegian, and if some Japanese guy reconstructed cogent and compelling information about ancient Norwegian traditions, I would welcome it with acknowledgment.
I could rail against this forever, but in truth I find it amusing. The mechanism
by which these things occur is fascinating, and can result in paradoxical inversions
of the truth. For example, the above interview with Barrios gives the impression
in one paragraph that non-Mayan outsiders are clueless, and in the next paragraph
supports and proclaims the lost ancient paradigm as reconstructed by a non-Mayan
That said, I support and respect Don Alejandro's and Carlos Barrios's work to bring clarity and guidance to all struggling human beings in these times of global crisis. Conflicting presentations of their work can only be attributed to the noise that pervades communication in the world today, or to misguided marketing guidelines trumped up by well intentioned interviewers. (For example, there is an unspoken marketing preference that dictates that all ancient knowledge should be presented by appropriately dressed Mayan elders and not by a starving, independent, white-guy philosopher meditating in an unheated garage.)
I agree wholeheartedly that Mayan wisdom and Mayan teachings are indispensible to help us make the transition out of an ego-dominated world of self-destruction and illusion into a new world in which we can all reclaim a connection with our universally shared cosmic heart and source. Carl's most recent assault on the traditional December 21, 2012 is motivated by his self-serving desire to find more support for his idiosyncratic October 28, 2011 end date. In claiming that "the Maya" disagree with December 21, 2012, Carl is using the tools of Seven Macawdistraction, deception, and self-magnification. Cheers and hooray to his display! He provides a very wonderful demonstration, for Seven Macaw must come into full manifestation before the tables can turn and a person can begin to put their self-centered machinations and assertions into perspective. Full steam ahead!
All of this is a lengthy though necessary treatment of issues that have been percolating for some time, regarding the topic of Mayan elders and 2012. An entire secondary discussion could be explored which would share how Hunbatz Men (who is from the Yucatan, where even the 260-day tzolkin count was lost) received from José Arguelles (in the mid 1980s) the distorted day-count that is still proferred in Arguelles's Dreamspell. A distorted day-count growth industry followed, with Aluna Joy Yaxkin publishing monthly day-count reports in Sedona magazine, and other New Age authors routinely utilized the idiosyncratic Arguelles invention.
Geoff Stray, in his book Beyond 2012, explored in great detail the questionable sourcing of supposedly authoritative pronouncements of certain Mayan elders. That book is available, as a rare U.K. import, HERE.
So, what will Carl have to say? In the above interview with Don Alejandro, the end date is stated as December 20, 2012. The question then becomes whether Carl believes that a one-day difference in the accounting is significant. Or, how does Carl reconcile his recently acquired info from Don Alejandro with this earlier statement? Also, we need to remember that Mayan Creation monuments of the Classic Period equate the end of the 13-baktun cycle with the day-sign 4 Ahau. Don Alejandro uses the traditional day-count correlation (the "True Count", the 584283 correlation). If we track forward using his day-count, we find that December 20, 2012 equals 3 Cauac the day before 4 Ahau. In Alejandro's accounting, it may be that his interviewers transcribed his thoughts incorrectly, for it would be an innocent mistake to assume that, since December 21, 2012 is often described as the beginning of a new World Age, then December 20 would be assumed to be the last day of the current World Age. At any rate, clarity and discernment must be invoked, as well as facts and evidence, to understand how modern Maya elders relate to the Long Count and it's 13-baktun cycle end date.
Update: The exposure of Carl's distorted co-opting of Don Alejandro's real intention is detailed in our email exchange of March, 2006.
John Major Jenkins
February 23, 2006
7 Manik (Deer), Quiché Maya New Year's Day