Dialogue between John Major Jenkins and astronomer Louis Strous, late 2004 / early 2005

presented by John Major Jenkins

return to home page for: http://alignment2012.com

I was alerted to Dr Louis Strous's website (http://www.astro.uu.nl/~strous/AA/en/2012.html) in November 2004.

I posted my response here: http://Alignment2012.com/responsetostrous.html

I emailed the website and made an initial discreet inquiry, which begins the exchange below:

1.
-----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
Van: John Major Jenkins [mailto:kahib@ix.netcom.com]
Verzonden: Saturday, November 27, 2004 4:49 AM
Aan: Astronomy@astro.uu.nl
Onderwerp: source of a page on your website

Hello,

I'm interested in the analysis on your "Astronomy Answers: December 21, 2012" page, at:

http://www.astro.uu.nl/~strous/AA/en/2012.html

There is no indication of who wrote it. If you could please put me in touch (email) with that person, I'd like to point out a couple corrections. Thank you,

John Major Jenkins

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2.
-----Original Message-----
From: Louis Strous [mailto:louis@l-strous.speedlinq.nl]
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2004 3:46 PM
To: kahib@ix.netcom.com
Cc: Marion Wijburg
Subject: RE: source of a page on your website

I wrote the analysis you refer to. I identify myself on the colophon page to which a link (a button with a copyright sign) is provided on every page that I publish on this website. I will take any proposed corrections under advisement.

Louis Strous

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3.
-----Original Message-----
From: John Major Jenkins [mailto:kahib@ix.netcom.com]
Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2004 8:49 PM
To: Louis Strous
Cc: Marion Wijburg
Subject: RE: source of a page on your website

Hello Dr. Strous,

I think your first point, "The Sun is then [on December 21, 2012] in conjunction with the intersection of the ecliptic and the Milky Way for the first time in 26,000 years", is very probably referring to the concept of "galactic alignment," which is more accurately stated as "the December solstice sun is then in conjunction with the intersection of the ecliptic and the Milky Way." Your astronomical assessment of the problem would then have to be quite different. My most urgent question for you is: What were your sources for the information you critique, as I only see a general reference to "some people expect...", etc. It would seem reasonable to supply some of your source references for your readers. The description of the galactic alignment that I observe in my sources, and certainly the intended reference in those sources, points to a rare precessional alignment of the December solstice sun and the galactic equator where it intersects the ecliptic in Sagittarius. Such a precessional alignment does indeed occur only once every 26,000 years or so, but, of course, not precisely and only on December 21, 2012. Since the sun is one-half a degree wide, a range of years would need to be admitted. See Jean Meuss's Mathematical Astronomy Morsels (1997:216) for the calculation. I'm interested in your response to this clarification. I can direct you to more detailed information on Mayan calendrics and astronomy if you are interested. Thank you,

John M Jenkins

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4.
Dr. Strous responded on the 18th. My response to him, on the 20th, is integrated into his email below (my comments are blue, his are black).

Dec 20, 2004:
Greetings Dr Strous,

Thank you so much for you kind reply. I believe these are important questions and although our email exchange is time consuming, I hope we can both benefit from it. My responses and further comments are below.

-----Original Message-----
From: Louis Strous [mailto:louis@l-strous.speedlinq.nl]
Sent: Saturday, December 18, 2004 9:51 AM
To: John Major Jenkins
Subject: RE: source of a page on your website

Dear Mr. Jenkins,

The claims that I present were distilled from various web pages (by various authors) that I found while searching for references to 21 December 2012 because of questions that I received about that date. I have not noted the addresses or authors of these web pages, though I believe I've seen your name associated with this topic.

It is not my intention to disparage particular web pages, but rather to clear up some of the erroneous ideas that some of the statements on such pages seem to be based upon. The text on the pages that I read was often not very clear about the connection between, or the chain of evidence leading up to, or the proper interpretation of, the various statements that were made, so it is possible that my summary of such texts (in the form of the claims that I present) does not match the intention of the authors of the texts, though I believe that casual readers may interpret the texts as I have.

Yes, I agree that the level of discussion is lamentable. A lack of clarity on the concepts involved is evident in many different places, on websites and in various books. You should be aware, however, that my work pioneered an interpretation of the Mayan 2012 date that, in its original elucidation, does not compare very closely to the malappropisms that came later. It has been very frustrating for me to see how messy the discussion has gotten. And it is very clear that the history of this idea as it has cascaded into distorted popular discourse is traceable to my early work. What you and others who wish to critique the "alignment in 2012" thesis need to do is assess the original undistorted source of the later adumbrations, which is in fact the clearest exposition you are going to find on the topic. I was first writing articles on this topic in 1994. I presented my work to The Institute of Maya Studies (associated with the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium) in August, 1997, and the entire thesis is documented in my pioneering book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, which was published in 1998. Have you read this book? In my book you will find clear language and source documentation to academic research that supports the thesis. My web pages are also very clear in explaining the thesis in accurate language, but are only partial expositions and mostly geared to a general audience. I have written four books devoted to fleshing out the arguments, questions, and details relating to the precessional basis of the 2012 calendar. While the critique on your web page is indeed in service to clarifying the typical misconceptions that have accrued around the thesis, I think you also have a more primary obligation to cast back to the original work and not draw from the later misconceptions of other writers.

There is no profit (at least, not to me) in debating whether my interpretation of this or that unclear or ambiguous text fits the author's (or anyone else's) interpretation, because that takes attention away from the problems that I see with the claims that I present. I argue against certain interpretations of these texts, whether or not these interpretations are as the authors intended.

Yes, and I agree that many of the claims you critique are wrong, plain and simple. I've addressed and clarified all of them through the years. You've shown that the Internet can be a messy place to assess the state of an area of study. I could go online and pull all kinds of crazy spin-offs on Einstein's relativity theory, but one can't thereby claim that the theory is flawed. I take this seriously because, in all frankness, my work pioneered these questions, over ten years ago, and it did so in a clear and concise way. I suppose my question to you is whether you'd be willing to assess my original presentation of the thesis, which is found in my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 (1998). At 450 pages, with copious endnotes referenced to a huge bibliography (at http://Alignment2012.com/bibbb.htm) comprised of the academic sources that I studied, it is this book that should be raised above all other sources for an answer to the question: Did the ancient Maya stargazers intend 13.0.0.0.0 to target the rare precessional alignment of the December solstice sun and the Milky Way/galactic equator? That seems to me to be the most relevant, and potentially revolutionary, question to answer. And that has always been the main question I have posed, despite the later Hollywood-style New Age accretions that have been projected onto the discussion by other writers.


The statement "the December solstice sun is then [in 2012] in conjunction with the intersection of the ecliptic and the Milky Way" refers only to a particular date in a single year, so it makes no difference whether the date is identified by it being "the December solstice of 2012" or "21 December 2012". If the statement is presented as evidence for the specialness of the date, then a casual reader might infer that the specialness derives merely from there being a conjunction between the Sun and the intersection (regardless of whether this is on a solstice). My first point addresses this case. I understand that you interpret the statement as "It is exceptional that a December solstice Sun is in conjunction with the intersection of the ecliptic and the "Milky Way". My third point addresses this case, except that I now realize that in that point I wrote "vernal equinox" where I meant "southern solstitial point". I'll fix that mistake.

You correctly point out that the proximity of the southern solstitial point to the galactic equator near Sagittarius occurs only once every 26,000 years and that a range of years must be admitted for this phenomenon, but I do not recall seeing this caveat about a range of years mentioned in any of the texts that I read, and such a caveat clearly weakens the case for the singular uniqueness of 2012, which uniqueness seems to be a major component of the interconnecting web of assertions relating to 2012 and the Maya culture that at least some web pages present.

Louis Strous

Such a caveat simply acknowledges the reality of the precessional range that must be admitted. It does not weaken the case for the argument that the Maya intended their 13.0.0.0.0 date (our December 21, 2012) to target an alignment of solstice sun and galactic equator. Why? Because the support comes not from a demonstration of calculational precision, but from the presence of the concepts involved in such an alignment scenario in the star lore, Creation mythology, ballgame symbolism, and other Mesoamerican traditions. This is the interdisciplinary work that I brought to bear on the question. The "specialness" of December 21, 2012 lies in the observation that it is the end-date of a large cycle of time in the Mayan World Age doctrine and it is within the allowable temporal range of that rare era in which the December solstice sun is found on the Milky Way. This range, based upon astronomical calculations in Jean Meeus's Mathematical Astronomy Morsels (1997:216), is 1980 - 2016 AD. Did the Maya intend their end-date to represent the rare precessional alignment that is occurring at this time? How would we go about exploring such a possibility? By looking at the entire context of Mayan tradition that involves the World Age doctrine; we therefore must look at the astronomical references in the Maya Creation myth; the ballgame is central to the Maya Creation myth so we must look at the encoded astronomy in the ballgame. When we do so we find that the goalring is the dark-rift in the Milky Way, where the December solstice sun is found in the years around 2012. The iconography of the ballgame and the Creation Myth are actually describing the convergence of the December solstice sun with the dark-rift in the Milky Way. Thus, the generalized terms "solstice-galaxy alignment" and "galactic alignment." This small example is only one of many very compelling pieces of evidence that support my argument. Notice that the only "interpretation" that I'm giving to this is the "interpretation" that the Maya intended their 2012 end-date to target (or represent) the alignment of the December solstice sun with the "road to the underworld" —a.k.a the dark-rift in the Milky Way. It's a very cogent and compelling thesis if you'd like to take a look. And I've said nothing yet of the early Maya site of Izapa, which was involved in the invention of the Long Count calendar—the iconographic evidence there is absolutely startling. Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 should be available for purchase in Amsterdam, at the Frontier Science Bookstore. Please don't pre-judge the thesis before you really give it a chance. I'm not arguing for any of the nonsense that New Age writers tend to project onto this material. But there is one revolutionary idea that comes through—the Maya were aware of the Galactic Center. If you balk at this suggestion, you must read and comment on the very brief "Open Letter to Astronomers" that I wrote and posted online in 1999:
at http://Alignment2012.com/openletter.htm

I sincerely hope that we can have a constructive dialogue on this topic. The first step: Have you read Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 and/or are you fairly well acquainted with the academic sources that I studied in writing that book, which are listed in this bibliography: http://Alignment2012.com/bibbb.htm? If you're serious and open minded about doing this topic justice, I will gladly arrange to have a copy of my book sent to you. (There is a Dutch translation, but the original English is guaranteed accurate.)

Best wishes,

John Major Jenkins
Denver, Colorado
http://Alignment2012.com

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5.
Here is some feedback from a correspondent about my "Response to Strous" page, December 20-22, 2004:

I thought your posted response to Dr. Strous was well expressed. Somehow my name has gotten on Carl Calleman's mailing list. Whenever he sends out a message there's usually something about it that doesn't quite sit right with me on an intuitive basis. Just recently I wrote to him. Essentially, I told Carl that it was my feeling that the Mayan Elders are in a position of authority regarding their calendars and the cycles they follow. I then asked him about the relationship of his theories to the position of the Mayan Elders. His reply seemed arrogant to me. He said in so many words that the Mayan Elders don't understand their own teachings and traditions. One of the things that I admire about your work is that you appear to be very respectful of the Maya... that you're more of a messenger of the information that you've uncovered and understood from the ancient sites and teachings rather than concocting theories that don't appear to have a basis within the traditions that have been handed down. I don't mean to be harsh or overly judgemental toward Carl Calleman. But, cultural arrogance is something that bothers me.

Thanks, Roger [Aldridge, in Maryland]

And my reply:

Hi Roger,

Thank you for the positive feedback on my response to Dr Strous. I've been advised to not get entangled with people that critique my work, but I feel an obligation to address and clarify misconceptions. And yes, Calleman has taken the view that the Maya are mistaken somehow, but this only goes to give him permission to peddle his own idiosyncratic system that is flagrantly out of step with the workings of the Maya calendar. He is probably well-intentioned, but he tries to download the Mayan / Perennial wisdom into late-20th century westernized New Age containers, and a lot gets lost in the conversion. And it can become a rather complicated discussion, because among the so-called Mayan "elders" themselves you might indeed find scam artists. My approach is to steer clear of making up my own ad-hoc model or system, and instead try to revive the core cosmology. My work isn't even about offering either a "Mayan" or a brand new spiritual method to the world—I'm first and foremost just trying to reconstruct a fragmented ancient cosmology that recognized the Galactic Center. To recognize that the ancient Maya perceived and formulated a galactic paradigm should be revolutionary enough, but people like Strous who try to obscure the very fact that there is a solstice-galaxy alignment in the years around 2012 makes it difficult.


6. Dr Strous responds:

-----Original Message-----
From: Louis Strous [mailto:louis@l-strous.speedlinq.nl]
Sent: Tuesday, January 04, 2005 4:27 PM
To: kahib@ix.netcom.com
Subject: RE: source of a page on your website


Dear Mr. Jenkins,

I tried to send a message to you earlier but it was rejected because your mailbox was full.

I have not read your book "Maya Cosmogenesis 2012".  I do not agree with you that I have "a more primary obligation to cast back to the original work and not draw from the later misconceptions of other writers", when those later misconceptions are why people send me questions about this matter.

To you the most important question is whether the ancient Mayas intended 13.0.0.0.0 to coincide with a particular celestial arrangement, but to me the most important question is whether we can expect to see anything extraordinary in the sky on 21 December 2012 as a result of a special celestial arrangement, as the people who send me questions seem to think.  My response to such questions is that there is no noteworthy arrangement in the sky on precisely that date, and that none should have been expected, because in my opinion the Mayas could not accurately target a single date of convergence of the involved celestial cycles so far into the future, for the reasons that I mention on the web page.

Note that I do not say that they could not have *tried* to target such a date, but rather that they did not have the knowledge to pick the *correct* date so far into the future.  If they did try to target a particular date corresponding to some celestial arrangement so far into the future, then the date that they settled on might be expected to be considerably in error, compared to the "true" date that a perfect calculation based on perfect data (including data from their future) would have yielded.  If you believe that my web page gives a different impression, then please point me to the passage or passages that deviate, and I'll try to clarify them.

I do not think that the answer to your most important question will be settled (to the extent that any historical question can ever be fully settled) until such time that Maya records are discovered that unambiguously describe their intentions regarding the epoch of their calendar in terms of precession, the seasons, and the Milky Way.  I am not aware of such records, so I believe that such records have not yet been identified.

I respectfully decline to assess your book "Maya Cosmogenesis 2012", because the answer to what you describe to be its central question is not so interesting to me that I wish to spend the very considerable time that it would require to become sufficiently familiar with the arguments that you present in that book, the evidence that you present for those arguments, and the arguments and evidence that others have presented on the same matter, in order to discuss the contents of the book at the level of detail that I expect you to desire.

If you wish, I could add some text to my web page to the effect that you believe that many of the claims that abound on the Web about the 2012 date are distortions of conclusions of your work, and that you believe that the ancient Maya stargazers did intend for 13.0.0.0.0 to target the rare precessional alignment of the December solstice sun and the Milky Way, with a link to a relevant web page.

Best regards,
Louis Strous

7. And my response:

From:
John Major Jenkins [kahib@ix.netcom.com]
Sent: Wednesday, January 05, 2005 2:50 PM
To: Louis Strous
Cc: Marion Wijburg
Subject: RE: source of a page on your website

Hello Dr Strous,

Yes, my email box filled up while I was away. Well, I understand your position. Perhaps "primary obligation" was too strong of a term. My hope was that you'd be interested in availing yourself of the evidence that you don't believe to be there, but in fact is there—not just in my own books, but in the academic sources at http://Alignment2012.com/bibbb.htm For example, my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 contains an entire appendix devoted to discussing the evidence that Mayan scholars present to argue that the ancient Maya were aware of precession. This would indeed have to be a kind of extra credit project for you, beyond the obligations of responding to email questions. It's interesting that other astronomer-scholars have refused my offer to send a free copy of my well-documented book (at my expense), in regards to which I've pointed out a humorous historical parallel: http://Alignment2012.com/demondevice.html.

You might be interested in knowing that an author named Carl Calleman has been referencing your site as providing fool-proof evidence that "the Mayan calendar has nothing to do with astronomy." In doing so he is also promulgating naive errors about Mayan calendar tradition. Is that really your position?  That seems to be the conclusion that readers would make after reading your page. If so, how do you respond to the hundreds of academic papers and books that explore the astronomical content of Mayan calendrics, iconography, archaeoastronomy, and so on? For example, have you read The Sky in Mayan Literature, Oxford University Press, ed. Anthony Aveni? By the way, do you know Carl personally?

Since your conclusions are so strongly worded, and I am now informing you that there is a large body of interdisciplinary evidence that seriously challenges your conclusion, which you are unfortunately unwilling to assess, perhaps you can reword things a little on your page to keep the question open, and thank you for offering to provide a link for readers to my website for an alternate view: http://alignment2012.com. Best wishes and thank you for taking the time to engage in this brief exchange,

John Major Jenkins
Denver, Colorado

Note: FYI, One of Calleman's articles is at: http://www.21stcenturyradio.com/articles/04/1116315.html and the broken link in that article to our debates of 2001 should be to:  http://www.alignment2012.com/debate2001.html

Also, essays on my website that would be informative: http://www.alignment2012.com/mc2012summary.html
http://www.alignment2012.com/app5.htm
http://Alignment2012.com/chapter3.html

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Postscript, January 05, 2005. The exchange cannot go any further, due to an unwillingness of Dr. Strous to entertain the possibility that there is evidence for what he believes there is no evidence for---he literally refuses to take a look at what I offer freely. Sort of a logical conundrum on that one. Jurgen Deleye in The Netherlands was interested in this exchange, and he generously translated it into Dutch and posted it at: http://www.dossierx.nl/index.php/content/view/289/

John Major Jenkins
related files:
Response to Calleman
Response to Dr Louis Strous
Chapter 3 (excised from Galactic Alignment, Inner Traditions, 2002)

http://Alignment2012.com