(With added note on Andrew Collins)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On
Subject: Re: update on Gilbert's book
In firstname.lastname@example.org, ď
Thank you for your careful assessment of
It is very important that sketchy research be identified for what it is, so that readers will not be led astray. I've always thought that researchers should cross check their ideas, facts, and have an ongoing dialogue with each other. Authors like Gilbert and Cotterell donít seem to have any interest in actually dialoguing on their ideas, probably because they know they are just making things up and yet wish to continue to capitalize on being plugged into the publishing machine.
Right, well here's your chance John. I don't spend a lot of time 'dialoguing' as you put it because I am very busy researching, writing and reading. I have read your 'Maya Cosmogenisis 2012' and I thought that on the whole it was very good. Do you need me to tell you that? I haven't discussed your ideas in my book, John, as I don't want to be accused of plagiarism.
Nice to hear from you. I donít contribute to the 2012 yahoo group anymore Ė it was too time consuming and† repetitive. However, Geoff Stray forwarded your post to me so that I might comment. I'll reply to you directly and only cc Geoff since he was kind enough to facilitate this exchange. Feel free to post my response to the group, if you choose to share the exchange with the group. I hope this can be a fair and level-headed discussion without resorting to slinging darts and arrows.
First, the section of my post that you quoted at the beginning was
a reminder that it is important for researchers to exchange ideas and dialogue.
I realize this is perhaps an old school value, and doesnít really have much of
a place if everyone is just trying to write and sell their books. However, in a
non-fiction research-oriented milieu, such as reconstructing ancient belief
systems and cosmologies, I think you'd agree that "the work" itself
can be a shared enterprise - the work of reconstructing ancient cosmologies
accurately. This of course accentuates a non-ego-centered value that we are all
in service to a shared goal rather than purveying our own opinions without
conversing with each other. I suspect that shared value involves an assumption
that there is something specific that we are trying to elucidate, and thus
specific discoveries will emerge that should then be tested and weighed, to
determine whether or not they have merit - in the sense of accurately
reflecting the cosmology we seek to reconstruct. I always admired that the
On the 2012 Yahoo group, Adrian Gilbert commented on something I wrote regarding his new book. Months ago I spent some time with it in the bookstore. I simply canít afford to purchase everything that comes out on the Maya; however, in several hours at the store I was able to note several problems with his interpretations and conclusions. Later, I read Geoff Strayís critique of the book. Geoff is a trustworthy critic and discerning commentator on books that have come out on the Maya and 2012. I respect his observations. On all matters I agree with his assessment. Itís great that Gilbert is now willing to dialogue with critical readers of his new book; this is something he was unwilling to do in regards to my lengthy critique of The Mayan Prophecies. He did, however, speak with me by phone while in the States promoting the book. I could not write the review in the generic back-patting style that was expected of me, so I went renegade and published my observations myself online. I find it irresponsible to ignore the observations of critics, especially when the observations are leveled at errors and internal inconsistencies in the text. It is a fairly thankless task to critique the work of others. In the past, Iíve observed that many of my corrections will be adopted, while Iím either ignored or excoriated. Thatís a pretty interesting phenomenon. Since my primary interest is in clarity and truth, and that is the end result of my critiques in these cases, I largely let go of the double-standard that these irresponsible authors exhibit in this regard.†† Other authors will simply refuse to accept the exposed problems, and indulge in strange logic to provide caveats or explanatory bandages Ė damage control from spin doctors.
as the Big Dipper.
Letís start with the bird deity at Izapa. As you may know, the carved monuments from Izapa date to 400 bc Ė 50 ad and comprise the earliest iconographic depictions of episodes from the Maya Creation mythology Ė the Popol Vuh Hero Twin myth Ė at least in the standard recorded in the 16th century and translated by Dennis Tedlock. Stela 25, for example, portrays a hero twin with his arm torn off, held by the bird deity in the tree, next to a huge caiman arching downward on the left side of the carving. It is well understood by scholars that this carving depicts both a well known episode from the Popol Vuh and the sky over Izapa. The caiman, for example, is the Milky Way. You claim that the bird at the top cannot be the Big Dipper. This position is flawed for the following reasons, which draw solely from the archaeo-astronomical context of the monuments at Izapa that depict this bird deity.
Based on the position of Stela 25 in Group A, as well as the bird deity on other
monuments in Group A, and the orientation of Group A northward to Tacana volcano, we can conclude that the bird deities on
these carvings represent the Big Dipper. Why? Because the Big
Dipper rises over the eastern flank of Tacana
volcano. Now, you might recall a book called The Orion Mystery,
in which Bauval suggested the Egyptian pyramids
reflect the belt stars of Orion. The Tacana-Big
Dipper-Bird Deity association is the same kind of deduction, and is backed up
by other considerations as well. In fact, scholar Clemency Coggins
pointed this out long ago. So, without reference to any other sets of evidence
from other periods in Maya history, we can see that the iconographic statements
at Izapa lead to the conclusion that the bird deity on several stelae at Izapa Ė especially the ones on the Group A monuments Ė
clearly represent the Big Dipper. This is archeoastronomy,
iconography, and symbolism. Now, ideally, at this point you would go and reread
the section on Izapa in my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, and some of the academic articles
that are cited in that section, most notably the
Iím asking you to simply sit with the above information and not reflexively try to deconstruct my argument using principles of relativism and finding some scholar somewhere who disagrees. Believe me, Iíve conversed with as many of them who deigned to speak with me, and without fail they reveal a dearth of knowledge of the disciplines involved in understanding Izapa. I apologize for having researched Izapa so deeply and thoroughly; I wish I was on the same plane of ignorance as everyone else, then we could all just agree. But my whole work is about putting Izapa on the map so that others can understand the importance of it, in regards to 2012 and Maya cosmology. This COULD be a revolution in Maya studies, and in the popular understanding of 2012. And Iím not making wan assertions based on superficial and incomplete study like other writers, but providing good old fashioned documentation and evidence based on studying a huge amount of data Ė just check out the bibliography to Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. Thatís not window dressing. Thatís the bibliography. So, would it be nice to hear some honest, discerning, and supportive feedback from others who are supposedly my colleagues? You bet.† Would it be disappointing to see my work appropriated without credit, or while simultaneously lambasting me? Would it be astonishing and frustrating to see other authors shooting wide of the mark and making a killing in the marketplace? Absolutely.
So, Iím sure you can now understand
why the primary bird deity at Izapa refers to the Big
Dipper. Now, hold on, I havenít said that your
So, Seven Macaw.
Imagine if the same consensus of thinkers rallied around my insights as rallied around Bauvalís belt star observation. The reasons why this hasnít happened are many, and revolve around my refusal to endorse the crappy research of other authors, and the publishing industryís vested promotion of a well-optimized cabal of mutual ego strokers who peddle their own clever inventions at the expense of authentic Mayan tradition.† I am grateful that intelligent readers like Geoff Stray, Joscelyn Godwin, Robert Lawlor, Graham Hancock, John Anthony West, and others understand and appreciate the pioneering nature of my reconstruction. I respect Strayís discerning mind Ė Iíve benefited from his critiques of my work; you might benefit from critiques too.††
So, to continue:
Your ideas need to be stated in a way that makes a distinction between Central Mexican and Mayan ideas, as well as different eras in which different concepts were adopted. That would be one way to avoid overarching and comprehensive dismissals that are simply not accurate. One way to understand the bird deity motif is to examine where and when it first came into being; consequently, its later transformations - if there were any - can be better understood. Following this approach, it is clear that Izapa holds a key to understanding the original astronomical reference of the main bird deity, and we donít have to invoke later ethnographic or documentary evidence to understand this. We only need to look at the internally consistent motifs on the carved monuments from Izapa, understand their archaeo-astronomical orientations, and understand the iconographic program of the Izapan site as a whole. Unfortunately for truth and accuracy, no one except myself has looked at Izapa with this kind of discerning and comprehensive analysis, so people who donít like the way I dress or some other superficial reason, will not be disposed to agree with me, despite the large amount of evidence, documentation, and interdisciplinary synthesis I've brought to bear on the question. Itís amazing to me that my unprecedented discoveries about the importance of Izapa have gone largely unheeded, while other authors are celebrated as pioneers when their ďdiscoveriesĒ were in fact noted by others much earlier Ė and said author even cited the original discoverers! Hilarious. Anyway, that reflex of the marketplace works out well for certain careers, not so well for others. I do appreciate those readers who have commented on my Izapa work and ďget itĒ Ė and the numbers are growing.
(Note: I did not see your book or a review of it in Atlantis Rising.)†
Below, I include some specific responses (in blue) to your comments:
As for 'making things up': well yes there are new theories and ideas in my books. That's why I write them. You will find, though, that I am very careful to back these ideas with data and facts. These might conflict with the current orthodoxies at times but surely that's what authors like myself are for: we stand outside of the magic circle of academia and sometimes call out that 'the emperor has no clothes'.
I do accept that sometimes that puts me in the firing line: especially when people have made a large investment in the status quo. But please dont' make ad hominem attacks on me just because you disagree with some of my ideas.
Iíve harbored no pre-judgment of your work or person. My observations and critiques stem directly from a discerning assessment of what youíve written.
So, here we are, 11 years after I offered a point by point critique of the factual errors in The Mayan Prophecies (http://alignment2012.com/mproph.htm ) and Gilbert publishes a new book that preserves intact many of the errors that should have never occurred 11 years ago. James Frey, move over.
Adrian Gilbert replies:
a) I don't know who James Frey is and
b) The Mayan Prophecies has been out of print for nearly ten years now and is not going to be reprinted: so why do you keep harping on about it?
c) In the new book (2012: Mayan year of Destiny/The End of Time) I have recinded quite a lot of what we wrote in The Mayan Prophecies. Commenting on the Lid of Palenque I even wrote in a note: 'After further study since the publication of our book, The Mayan
Prophecies, I now regret the inclusion of these theories, which I think seriously undermined the credibility of other, more important, ideas concerning sunspot cycles and the Mayan calendar'.
What more do you want me to do? Do you want me to don sackcloth and ashes and to stand in the porch of the Cathedral of Mexico City?
No, I certainly wouldnít wish this upon you Ė the ashes clog your pores and the sackclothes are lice ridden.
One point Geoff brought up was your rejection of Seven Macaw's association
with the Big Dipper. You think the shooting of Seven Macaw represents "the
zenith transit of the constellation of Sagitta and
the wounded wing of
summarized by B. Tedlock
(Time and the Highland Maya), Dennis Tedlock's Popol Vuh translation, and many other sources. The
orientations of the bird deity monuments at Izapa especially
confirm the relation between Seven Macaw and the Big Dipper. Your quote (above)
reveals a typical confuting of different cultural groups and deities. Seven Macaw is Mayan; his Nahuatl
counterpart is Tezcatlipoca (explicitly connected with the Big Dipper). The
Adrian Gilbert replies:
Right, well let's cut to the chase then. Tedlock bases his assessment that Seven Macaw represents the Big Dipper on one entry in a medical dictionary by Miguel Alcarado Lopez. Not everyone accepts this assessment (see Susan Milbrath's 'Star Gods and the Maya'), which has serious problems if you claim that the 'Tree' on which Seven Macaw
sat when shot is the Milky Way.
I am not disputing that the modern Maya may link the story of Seven Macaw with the Big Dipper but there is here a problem with feedback.
See the above evidence from Izapa Ė the PRE-CLASSIC origin of the mythic construct.
Much of what is now accepted in even the Maya lands comes from the work
of modern ethnographers. There is no guarantee that what is today taught and
believed about such associations was taken as so two thousand years ago.
If you shift the 'tree' to mean the polar axis, then this does not help either. The Big Dipper does not, never has and never will straggle the north pole. You would be better off linking Seven Macaw with the Little Bear whose tail star is Polaris.
My evidence at Teotihuacan (which you
summarily dismiss) is that during the 'Third Age', as given in the Vatico Latin Codex,†
the constellation of Aquila gradually, because
of the precession of the equinoxes, moved from a position when the 'head'
transited the zenith (c.7395 BC) to the 'wing and arrow' (c.3114) BC. Since
I also find it more than a little interesting that if you, like
Linda Schele, regard the pots showing the shooting of Seven Macaw by Hunahpu as being symbolic of astronomy,
the Big Dipper is nowhere near. However, in that very part of the sky, exactly
where you would expect to find Seven Macaw sitting on the Milky Way, you find
Then again, think on this. Elsewhere in my book I talk about translatlantic contacts and (anathema) about the possibility of the Maya and Aztecs having a legacy of ideas from 'Atlantis'. Well it just so happens that in the Maya cosmology, Hunahpu is a twin-hero,
he shoots a bird (Seven macaw) and thereby
starts a new age. On the other side of the
Am I so stupid to see a link between these stellar mythologies or is it you, John, who is clutching at straws to hang onto what I now regard as a discredited theory: that Seven Macaw is to be thought of as symbolising the Big Dipper?
I know you don't like this but on this occassion
I think you have been led up the garden path. The astronomy fits
You see, Izapa provides the original context for understanding the genesis of these mythic constructs. And there, the Seven Macaw bird deity is the Big Dipper. Later redactions may have occurred, although a great continuity with the original identification is demonstrated in the Classic Period ceramic that is a later version of Izapa Stela 25, and in the Post Classic historical document and the modern ethnographic record. The scholars who disagree with Tedlock (that is, with the historical document Tedlock cites) are, unfortunately, confusing the bird deities. Plus, Milbrath and others donít give a hoot (ha! Ė bird, hoot; get it?) about Izapa as defining the original framework. They offer no reason for this neglect; they are simply unaware of the factual alignments and iconographic content of the Izapan corpus. By the way, have you seen my new field research on Izapa at my website:
Any comments? Note: NOBODY ELSE has done or is doing research like this at Izapa.††††
Teotihuacan was built by
the "people of the Pleiades" who aligned the temple site to Pleiades
set positions in relation to solar zenith passage dates at that latitude (see Aveni sources in http://alignment2012.com/bibbb.htm ). The
New Fire ceremony was also pioneered at
Adrian Gilbert answers:
I don't dispute this Pleiades connection (although why did you put
"people of the Pleiades" in quotes: is there an inscription to this
effect?). As a matter of fact, if you had actually read my book and not just
your acolytes biased review, you would know that I
wrote about this. I pointed out how between AD 725 and 850 the Pleiades used to
transit exactly over the zenith point at
So please, John, if you are going to slag off my work, at least read
the book and get your facts straight. After all you are going to meet me this
November at the IIth Hour Convention in
You said you didnít mention my work because you thought youíd be accused of plagiarism? That seems rather silly, or are you just being facetious? As you know, accurate paraphrasing and proper credit given to the original author does not a plagiarist make.
Well, I think I can now demote you to a mid-management archon of my imagination. Hope youíve gotten a few chuckles out of this Ė itís all dust in the wind anyway. The publishers will screw us all over anyway. We should think about forming our own publishing collective.
Note to viewers on the 2012 Yahoo
group: You might want to search back through the archives for various exchanges
I contributed to. Thereís probably the equivalent of 300 pages of well written
explanations on the critiques that came up. Anyway, letís all keep doing what
we do. Maybe Iíll see you in
BTW, Iím glad youíve discussed the celestial gateways (the two crosses of the Milky Way and the ecliptic as defined by Macrobius). Have you seen my book Galactic Alignment (2002)?
From: Adrian Gilbert [mailto:email@example.com]
To: 'John Major Jenkins'
Cc: 'GEOFF STRAY'
Subject: RE: update on Gilbert's book - Jenkins' response
Thank you for taking the trouble to reply. I fully understand your reasons for leaving the 2012 group: it seems, like most groups, to be dominated by a handful of big-mouths with nothing much of worth to say while all the rest of the members sit on their hands in anonymous silence, waiting to pick up any morsels of valuable information that you might let slip. In short, it is a microcosm of the internet itself: full of promise but mostly a distraction.
Now as regards your book Maya Cosmogenisis 2012, let me first say that I enjoyed it very much. It is some years since I have read it right through but I remember thinking it was first class for its type. That sales have not lived up to your expectations is not really surprising. As a book it requires a great deal of concentration to read and absorb, which is something few modern readers are either willing or able to give. I would speculate that unless a reader is already into the Maya in a big way, then it is probably not going to have immediate appeal. That is not your fault: you had a thesis to present and you couldnít skimp on your arguments but then it is not the customerís fault either. You need, I think, to bring out a much simpler version: one with short sentences, colour pictures and a punchier cover if you are going to reach a mass-market.
You will also need to swallow your scruples about being Ďsensationalisticí and go for it where 2012 is concerned. Stop caring about what the academics might think; they arenít going to buy your books anyway and if they read them in the library, they will give you little credit. After all, most of them were very sniffy about Linda Schele and her friends when they first started decoding the Maya script and they were much better placed than you or I to get a listening
So my first advice would be that you donít take it to heart that your words of wisdom have mostly fallen on stony ground. That happens to all of us. As I look back on things, I see that the success of ĎThe Orion Mysteryí and ĎMayan Propheciesí was really an anomaly and not the norm. None of my later books has done anything like as well and with the advent of the internet, domination of the market by Ďcelebrityí titles, increasing illiteracy etcetera etcetera, it is unlikely that this sort of success will be easily repeated: not by myself, not by Bauval and not even by Hancock (who is my bÍte noir).
Returning to your book and the matter of Izapa: I donít think it would serve much purpose if I spend too much time listing criticisms of your theory. What you have presented is a cogent thesis for believing that Izapa is the place where it all happened for the invention of the Maya Long Count and genesis of the hero-twin saga. However, you canít prove this beyond doubt---and there will always be doubts.
Your case would be strengthened immeasurably if archaeologists could find even one Long Count date at Izapa. Without this evidence, it is impossible to prove that this is where it was invented. We are into faith rather than proof.
Then again with the business of the Big Dipper rising over the crack in the mountain. You have a fundamental problem here in relating this event to the shooting of Seven macaw incident. Had the crack been on the other side of the mountain, the position where the Big Dipper sets, you would be better placed for this argument. With the Dipper rising rather than setting, we seem to be talking about rebirth rather than death.
Yes I know you equate the sky with the underworld and can therefore argue that a rising Dipper is really a dying one, but this is semantics and not realistic. I donít believe this and I donít think other people (the ones who matter: the ones who are going to buy your book) will either.
I have the
same skepticism when you write that for the Maya north equals Ďupí and south
equals Ďdowní. My reading of Maya material indicates that this is not the case.
They were very much into a quadripartite universe with directions set out like
a square on the ground and with a quincunx position at the centre. Often they
would raise a tree or pillar both as a shadow marker and as a symbol of the world
tree. This, as far as I can tell, was pretty much universal throughout
is a further problem with the mountain. We can see that
This makes me wonder. What if the Volcano at Izapa were not 21ļ north of the alignment but only 15ļ? Would they have abandoned the site as unsuitable because the Big Dipper would not then be rising in the cleft? Or would they have been quite satisfied as long as they had a volcano in their sights?
In all this we are dealing with motive as opposed to mechanics. I personally donít believe (I use the word advisedly) in the connection between the Big Dipper and Seven Macaw. I see nothing bird-like about the Dipper, no connection with a bird being shot from the top of a tree (either Milky Way, Zenith-marker or even polar axis) and no reason to believe the ancient Maya were as obsessed with this constellation as is indicated by Tedlock.
wonder whether the story of Seven macaw and of the Xip Hawk are really one and the same and simply different
versions of the same, basic story. This would be like the two creation of Adam myths in the Bible. Both stories are
regarded as important so both are included. Without doubt (in my mind anyway)
Now of course I canít prove this anymore than you can prove the Big Dipper was a significant factor in the lay-out of Izapa and the Seven Macaw legend. That is the frustrating thing about this kind of work. Bauval and I could never prove beyond all doubt that the Pyramids of Giza were laid out to represent Orionís Belt. To me it seems very obvious and the theory fits well with the orientation of shafts and with what we know about Orion in the pyramid tests. But proof? Short of finding the original plans for the buildings, we cannot claim this.
Which is why the field is open for other people to present
other theories for the pyramids. Mostly
these concern construction plans based on geometrical relationships but I
notice that Andrew Collins has recently written a book claiming that the
Iím sure that all of what I have written above you have heard a million times before, so I wonít bore you by going on. However, what I will say is that you should not discount the entertainment value of my books. When I write it is not intended to be dry as dust archaeology, history or anthropology. I am not qualified in any of those areas and I donít make any claims. What I do do is try to entertain my readers and give them fresh hope that there is something bigger Ďout thereí. Each book is, if you like, a sort of symbolic painting: at least that is the way they are designed. Yes they inform and they can be the basis for the discussion of important theories but they also have to entertain in the way that a good painting does when you view it in a gallery.
If that makes me a heretic, then so be it. I really donít care what academics think of my work any more than Vincent van Gogh was worried about how his contemporaries viewed his sun-flowers. I engage with my subject matter and try to always be true to that. In that way I think my books are of value and will be for many years to come.
With best wishes,
Thanks for your thoughts. In reading your comments / objections to the Big Dipper = Seven Macaw identification at Izapa, I can only encourage you to read the voluminous source material which I cite in my various published discussions. Itís not at all the spurious identification that you make it out to be. For example, when you say ďI for one simply donít believe the north=up, south=down propositionĒ I donít know how to respond. Itís not a matter of you believing it, itís a matter of you reading and accepting the evidence, the ethnographic data gathered from among the Maya themselves, and which is cited in my book. Such a statement is sort of a red flag that we arenít going to be able to have a productive exchange. It invites an examination of your assumptions that may be preventing you from ďbelievingĒ in the evidence cited. Thereís a bias among astronomers to neglect the unique characteristics of astronomy within the tropics; it is among the skywatchers of the tropics where up-down and north-south are conceptually identified.
Long Count dates at Izapa ó The Pre-Classic situation in the Pacific coast of
For some time now, Iíve had a more straightforward book-length version of the discoveries set forth in Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. However, I cannot secure a suitable publishing deal for it. In fact, Iím fed up with dealing with publishers.†
As long as youíre subscribed to the
2012 Yahoo group, you might want to search back through the archives for
various exchanges I contributed to. Thereís probably the equivalent of 300
pages of well written explanations on the critiques that came up. Anyway, letís
all keep doing what we do. Maybe Iíll see you in
After note: When I spoke at
the A.R.E. conference in early October, I had a chance to briefly speak with
Andrew Collins. He had, the previous night and in his book, asserted that the
Big Dipper could not be the Seven Macaw deity. He preferred to focus on Cygnus
Ė the other end of the dark rift. His concept disregarded the fact that the
southern end of the dark rift touches the ecliptic and therefore affords
contact with the sun and planets. That end of the dark rift (the birth canal)
is also in the nuclear bulge of the
met Andrew Co