Exchange between John Hoopes,
and John Major Jenkins (Dec 2007 – Jan 2008)
My first post to the Lawrence, Kansas newspaper comments section begins with thanking John Hoopes for alerting me to the article (the article is no longer available online but can probably be accessed with the Google way-Back Machine):
December 14, 2007
Thank you, John Hoopes, for the heads up and invitation to comment.
This is a nicely presented and written article. The audio clip with John Hoopes is especially useful, since transcribed talks can often be rife with mistaken meanings. My comments, as usual, grew lengthy, so I'll simply post the first two paragraphs here and link to a page on my website for the rest. The focus of King's article hones in on a somewhat contentious friendship between Hoopes and Pinchbeck, and generally the treatment is of "the 2012 movement" rather than the 2012 artifact itself. By this I mean that we hear of Hoopes's often insightful observations about the 2012 phenomenon in the culture at large. Daniel Pinchbeck's position as a visible front man for the 2012 "movement" is part of what comes under his purview. And we can sense his displeasure at Pinchbeck's success in the marketplace, probably, I suppose, because certain generalizations and inaccuracies occur in his rap and a scholar would prefer that the study and elucidation of Maya tradition be reserved for scholars.
On the far end of the spectrum, far beyond where Pinchbeck stands, are the truly ludicrous theories and ideas that dance around the 2012 meme. This is the area that journalists often feed upon. They compare these absurd fantasies with the other end of the spectrum, where calm and rational scholars assert with supreme confidence: "We [the archaeological community] have no record or knowledge that the Maya would think the world would come to an end in 2012." -Susan Milbrath. Hoopes himself emphasizes this several times. The world will not end. But I'd like to point out a discrepancy in many scholars' understanding of 2012, suggesting how academia is failing in its role of investigating 2012 rationally. For anyone who has spent anytime studying the Maya calendar and cosmology, it goes without saying that "the world will not end in 2012." The idea that it may, or will, is a complete paranoid fabrication of the media or an expression of some collective fear projection. The Maya calendar goes in cycles ...
-John Major Jenkins
see the rest of my comments at:
Daniel Pinchbeck writes, "I wish you had allowed me to respond to Hoopes' comments about my work - though he does a good job of utterly contradicting himself without my further corrections."
Did I really utterly contradict myself? I'm curious to know how, from Daniel Pinchbeck or someone else.
John Major Jenkins writes, "a scholar would prefer that the study and elucidation of Maya tradition be reserved for scholars". Nothing could be farther from the truth, and Jenkins knows this. I have not only encouraged him to submit his own work to a refereed, scholarly journal, but I have offered to help him do it. Tremendous contributions have been made to knowledge of the ancient Maya by amateur scholars, including J.T. Goodman's brilliant exposition of Maya calendrics in the late 19th century. Jenkins has some fascinating hypotheses that merit careful investigation, and good scholarly methodology could help make them more than just guesswork.
I don't mind non-scholars writing about the ancient Maya. What I do mind is when they willfully ignore readily accessible information and actively misrepresent the actual state of scholarship and knowledge (especially the religious beliefs of other cultures) for purposes of profit and self-aggrandizement. It's important that the general public know the difference between responsible scholarship and rampant speculation, especially in popular works of nonfiction (such as Pinchbeck's).
John H. -
I guess I was over-generalizing there, and was only speculating on how Pinchbeck's popularity may be getting under your skin. I Probably shouldn't do that on my part. And your second paragraph - I totally agree. But this beast called 2012 has taken on a life of its own, whether we like it or not. Perhaps the general public doesn't care about good scholarship or even the truth. Or, more likely, the mass media that designs consumables for the mass public only go for splash and entertainment. When you pare back all the extraneous stuff in Pinchbeck's 2012 book, and find the thing that he relates to 2012, it's a fairly simple and innocuous message about "Quetzalcoatl" being the integration of opposites. I think Frank Waters first mentioned that one. Maybe it was Covarrubias. In terms of media that influences / distorts people's attitudes toward the Maya, did you have an issue with Apocalypto? I think the fear and violence meme does a lot of damage to the collective understanding of the Maya.
JMJ, I don't think there's any need to speculate about my feelings regarding Pinchbeck. Tom refers to them himself in the article! Yes, this 2012 has taken on a life of its own, just like many other mythologies--some of which morphed into major world religions! A preoccpation with eschatology played a key role in the birth of Christianity, and I suspect that the stories spun about 2012 may wind up being just as compelling to some people as Joseph Smith's account of the angel Moroni and his decipherment of the famous Golden Tablets.
It's interesting that you mention Covarrubias. In his 1974 book "The Transformative Vision"--in which he first mentions 2012 and its putative significance--Jose Arguelles mentions that he heard about implications of the Maya calendar from poet Tony Shearer, who in turn said he got his information from artist Miguel Covarrubias. Covarrubias, of course, had remarkable insights about the Olmec. I suspect he may have played a key part in the modern manifestation of the 2012 meme. It certainly merits further information. (Go for it, non-scholars and scholars alike!)
Speaking of the "fear and violence" that's been associated with the 2012 meme, the heated argument that happened earlier this year between Daniel Pinchbeck and Whitely Streiber (author of a new book, "2012: The War for Souls--soon to be a major motion picture).
Here's Pincbeck's side of the story:
(The link from Pincbeck's site to Streiber's podcast isn't working, so readers will have to search for that.)
Yes, I actually had a little "exchange" with Strieber a few months before that. Scary indeed. Also, I and two others had the dubious honor of having an alien hit-contract taken out on our lives, since we were named in his book as the humans who the aliens were going to come after as soon as they arrived, because "we knew too much." Some kind of intergalactic mafia is apparently afoot!
Here's the link to Strieber's side of the story:
And here's a link to the podcast of Pinchbeck & Strieber's "War in Dreamland":
Sorry about that. Apparently the podcast is no longer available. Too bad, it was a fascinating bit of pre-2012 history.
The post by troubleeveryday is a good example of how thinking people can
develop dismissive attitudes as a result of the media's erroneous framing of
the topic. In the brief paragraph posted above, we can see that 2012 is assumed
to be all about, and only about, "apocalyptic predictions"
"Earth's end," etc. This attitude is understandable given the
emphasis in the article, which is typical of most media treatments of the 2012
topic. But why should we throw the baby out with the bathwater? Is it possible
that there is something interesting to be said about 2012? For example, is it
possible that the ancient Maya achieved an understanding of precession, of
galactic alignments, and developed a profound and sophisticated galactic
cosmovision that was embedded in their Creation Myth and ballgame Mystery Play?
Wow, maybe the Maya weren't primitive savages after all. Unfortunately, popular
attitudes and the media have a hard time refraining from harping on doomsday
predictions. It''s very seductive and alluring. And it distracts us from
looking at the thing-in-itself --- the philosophy and tradition developed by
the ancient Maya that relates to 2012. Can we examine and appreciate that
paradigm without it having to narcissistically and hysterically relate to us?
Can we study and appreciate it in the same way we might appreciate the
Upanishads, or the Druids, or Hellenistic philosophy? I think we must learn to
pierce the B.S. veil before we can even know how to approach what 2012 is.
John Major Jenkins
"I think we must learn to pierce the B.S. veil before we can even know how to approach what 2012 is."
Amen to that!
My own introduction to the archaeology of the ancient Maya grew out of a 1970s fascination with sci-fi and fantasy literature (along with pseudoscience about Atlantis, ancient astronauts, and Castaneda's "sorcery"). My hope is that the hype about 2012 will lead a new generation of students and scholars (both amateur and professional) to a huge and growing academic, non-speculative literature on this spectacular civilization.
The History Channel doesn't even begin to do justice to what is actually known about the ancient Maya. The best way to begin is with a book written by experts. Some excellent examples are:
The Ancient Maya (6th edition) by Robert J. Sharer & Loa Traxler
Ancient Mexico and Central America, by Susan Toby Evans
Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization, by Arthur A.
The Maya (7th edition) by Michael D. Coe
The Ancient Maya: New Perspectives, by Heather McKillop
Some excellent online resources:
Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc.
No, Tom, I don't think Tortuguero monument 6 indicates any prophecy of a 2012 apocalypse, exscept, perhaps in the true meaning of the word apocalypse: a revealing, or revelation. But, recently, the "Pakalian group" has speculated on the meaning of one of the defaced glyphs, by looking through the FAMSI glyph catalogue. John and John (Hoopes and Jenkins) may be interested to note that they also quote from an earlier more complete translation of the text, showing date of origin of the monument in February 669 Ad. The extra word is "darkness", but what Dave Stuart would think, I have not yet checked!
Here is the original full translation, including left side of the panel, which, I understand, was discussed in the Aztlan archives, "but after many posts in the thread it was omitted in the process."
:uhtiiy waxak Chuwen b'olon(te') Mak
Upib'naah Ahkal K'uk'.
Cha' b'olon winikij ux ha'b' waxak winikha'b'(?) ux pik
tzuhtz-(a)j-oom u (w)uxlajuun pik
(ta) chan Ajaw ux(te') Uniiw
ye..?.. B'olon Yookte' ta ..?..
:(long ago) it happened, the day Eight Chuwen, the ninth of Mak
when the Becoming-Ripe-House was constructed(?).
It was the 'underground house' (shrine) of (the god) Ahkal K'uk'.
It was two and nine-score days, three years, eight-score years and 3 x 400 years
(before) the Thirteenth Bak'tun will end
on Four Ajaw, the third of Uniiw,
when ..?.. it will occur,
the descent..?.. of B'olon Yookte' at ..?..
If we subtract 3 baktuns, 8 katuns, 3 tuns, 9 uinals and 2 days from 22.214.171.124.0 (21 December 2012) we get 126.96.36.199.18 9 etznab 6 kayab, which is January 14th 669 AD (Gregorian) (not Feb as previously stated). The distance date can be identified quite easily, once you realize that the uinal glyph is a more uncommon variety, that shows 2 dots on the left, representing days (the glyph for days is omitted). I'll be summarising this soon on the next site update at diagnosis2012.co.uk
The article is here:
I hadn''t heard of the Pakalian Group before. Here's the link to their website (with a nice soundtrack):
Its sheer wackiness suggests they have a healthy sense of humor about all this stuff.
From the website promoting that event:
"One Lotus LLC with Drunvalo Melchizedek and One Heart LLC with Diane Cooper will be co-sponsoring this gathering along with the Institute for Cultural Awareness as logistic coordinators to assist the Maya in completing this event."
Drunvalo Mechizedek's website:
Diana Cooper's website:
Opportunism? You decide.
The advertising for a new, special issue of U.S. News and World Report on "Secrets of Christianity" asks "Will there be an Apocalypse, and when will it happen?" Of course, "Apocalypse 2012?" appears on the cover:
For those who are interested in the astronomical implications of 2012, here's a helpful page from the Astronomical Institute at Utrecht University in the Netherlands:
The link provided by John Hoopes to a supposedly definitive 2012 astronomy
page by Louis Strous illustrates well how the 2012 topic is misunderstood and
misinterpreted by a scientifically rational person. Years ago I responded to
Strous's web page, and had an email exchange with him, both of which are online
Readers are best served by reading both Strous's commentary and my response.
One of the most fantabulous examples of a debunker showing his true colors was
Strous's original refutation of the galactic alignment being non-existent. He
did this by leaving out the important qualifying term "solstice" from
the definition, resulting in a meaningless definition of the era-2012 galactic
alignment being "the alignment of the sun with the galactic equator."
The correct definition that makes it meaningful for era-2012 is "the
alignment of the December solstice sun with the galactic equator." (This is
a useful scientific definition I've published and emphasized since 1995!!)
Strous also conflates my work with random phrases picked out of plagiarized
websites taken out of context and poor summaries garnered elsewhere. This does
not serve or further a rational treatment of the topic. Of course, false
debunkers are not really interested in rational examination, but instead have a
firmly entrenched bias that needs to be boosted by deconstructing (by whatever
deceptions necessary) that which offends them. Jonathan Zap explained this very
human reflex well:
Another debate I had, with yet another astronomer, is here:
It is very revealing of irrational closed-mindedness. There are those in academia who are more open minded about the relationship between the galactic alignment and the 13-baktun cycle end date, such as John Hoopes. Strous's 2012 page, however, should be treated with great suspicion as it contains several erroneous assumptions, as my response at the link above will clarify.
John Major Jenkins
The possible confusion and errors by astronomers such as Strous (on which I won't render a specfic opinion at this time) is all the more reason why John Major Jenkins should submit a clear, concise, well-documented exposition of the principal elements of his theory about 2012 for consideration by the editorial staff and reviewers of a respected academic journal. If his model represents a significant contribution to knowledge, it should be vetted by several qualified experts and published with the imprimatur of a reliable source.
I would be the first to agree that web-based resources and books written for a general audience (especially those published by highly speculative editors such as Barbara Hand Clow at New Age publishing houses such as Bear & Company) are potentially filled with all kinds of errors, which is why most scholars totally disregard them when better information is available in peer-reviewed journals.
What is needed is a succint, 25-page MS. with accompanying diagrams and figures that explains the Izapan galactic-rift-conjunction-plus-procession solsticial observation theory without extraneous references, accompanied by an explanation of what this contributes to our understanding of the ancient Maya. There is no need to expend further energy on books and websites until an article has been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal.
Brief articles in journals such as Science and Nature have radically transformed huge chunks of scientific knowledge. Is there some reason why the core and supporting data for John Major Jenkins' theory about 2012 cannot be presented in this way? A journal such as Ancient Mesoamerica or other journals dealing with archaeoastronomy would be perfectly appropriate.
Is it science or pseudoscience? Why not let the experts decide?
There are several reasons why I've resisting re-organizing my research and documentation into a monograph or manuscript for submission to a scholar-reviewed journal. First, the complete lack of cogent response to the evidence I've already assembled in Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, irregardless of who published it. This is not to say that I'm unwilling to give it another go, but I feel, at this stage, that the outcome will be somewhat predictable and disappointing. I've prepared and presented well documented and argued papers to various scholars and several journals; never has the core theory been directly addressed except by way of wan dismissals that refuse to engage the arguments and evidence. Usually, unrelated minutiae were targeted and a continuing dialogue was not possible. For example, in 1996 I submitted a carefully argued, succinct, and thoroughly cited paper on precessional knowledge among the ancient Maya to Mexicon. The editor was nice enough to reply - more than what occurred regarding other submissions to academic journals - and he commented that it was unsuited for publication with them because it did not use their in-house bibliography style. I was, at that time, using the Dumbarton Oaks style as exampled by Schele's Forest of Kings and Maya Cosmos.
Or, I could cite my exchange with David Stuart earlier this year regarding the Starry Deer Crocodile, as you are aware. I've found that rational examination is not necessarily the prime directive of academic scholars. Having said that, if you feel you can facilitate a rational discussion about my "theory" that will go beyond a monologue response, I'd be interested in putting the time and energy, once again, into repackaging and representing the arguments. There are several new pieces of contextual evidence from Izapa and environs that can now be added to thirteen years of existing biblio- and field research. One of the challenges for an accurate review of my work is to find scholars suitably versed in the various relevant disciplines. Otherwise, each of the reviewers will reject or beg off when they encounter the part of the theory that is outside of their jurisdiction. So, it would be best if you have a journal in mind since they will have their in-house documentation style - any thoughts? Anc Meso. would be a good place, if I new I wouldn't be wasting my time with a quick and superficial rejection - how can we ensure that won't happen? I submitted a paper to them in 1994; Munro Edmonson was one of the reviewers and after some persistance they sent me his comments - they were non specific, cranky, amounting to something like "this is not my cup of tea." How can I even engage a rational dialogue with that kind of language? Or, I can just begin. Thank you for renewing the offer, and Happy New Year!
John Major Jenkins
I'm sorry for the experience you had with Mexicon, but bibliography format seems to me to be an easy enough thing to fix. (EndNote and ProCite software now make it easy to change citation and bibliographic formats.) As for other reviews, shame on any colleagues who are not willing to help an enthusiastic amateur with constructive criticism. If Munro Edmonson didn't find your work to be his "cup of tea", then you have a right to request another reviewer.
As far as the response to "Maya Cosmogenesis 2012" goes, I doubt that many academic Mayanists have bothered to even pick it up, much less read it. Pseudoscience tends to be such a bottomless rabbit hole that most professionals are loathe to bother with anything that appears to be in that category. The Bear & Co. catalogue doesn't help with establishing a context of credibility.
I get the impression that you haven't engaged in much direct dialogue with journal editors. That's always a good idea, but keep in mind that editors are also concerned with maintaining the scholarly integrity of their publications. Forays into the fantastic don't inspire great confidence, and no one wants to come away looking as if they'd been fooled. Journals are expected to maintain a high level of authority and dignity. An editor may be able to give you some suggestions on what would be appropriate.
In the meantime, publicizing your work in conferences alongside the likes of Daniel Pinchbeck (such as the one linked below) is likely to elicit further stigma rather than serious scholarly attention. If you don't care about the latter, that's fine. However, if it's something you want, don't be surprised when Mayanists refuse to pay attention to anything you have to say because of the sensationalist, woo-woo, New Age company you keep.
This kind of stuff (which is the source of the "pseudo-" in "pseudoscience") tends to make your work come across more as for-profit entertainment--or even a religious obsession--than a scholarly contribution to knowledge.
John H., (Part I)
And a Happy New Year to you, too. It's really unfortunate that thinking people cannot separate the different contexts in which I present my work. Even the spiritual and metaphysical topics that I explore in my work are presented in the context of rational examination. For example, there's a big difference between summarizing the perennial philosophy elucidated by high caliber intellectual metaphysicians like Ananda Coomaraswamy and indulging in the kind of soft-headed mysticism that floods the marketplace. It's sad to me that scholar-intellects often deny themselves of so much human experience and knowledge because of their narrow-minded conception of what is allowable. When I've engaged in dialogues with scholars about the evidence I rally to support my theory, I've never asked them to follow me even a little bit into something so distasteful to them as "metaphysics." The problem - as numerous examples of my exchanges with scholars show - is an unwillingness of scholars to engage in a rational way with the evidence I present. If they refuse to engage the theory because they note that, outside of the rational discourse I wish to engage them in, I'm trying to pay my bills by sharing my work in venues that they personally judge, that too merely indicts them as closed-minded elitists.
Your dualist advice that I must chose to keep company with either a) university-approved scholars or b) "New Age company" is pretty narrow minded. By the way, didn't you used to hang with Pinchbeck? What's all that pagan stuff you were indulging in at Burning Man? Or were you merely an objective anthropological observer? And since you just shared a venue in this pop culture interview with "New Agers", aren't you afraid that your colleagues are now going to accuse you of "keeping New Age company?" Oops. See how that works? Guilt by association - the mainstay of fundamentalism.
- continued in next post -
John H., (Part II),
When the rubber hits the road, many scholars tend to deflect what could be a rational discourse and engage in borderline ad hominem attacks. Please don't do that, as it prevents the rational advancement of knowledge. So, I invite you to read my introduction to an essay that I just wrote, one that was inspired by your invitation to write a peer-reviewed essay. Don't worry, it's a brief intro and only strives to frame a rational approach to 2012. In writing it, I realized that I had to address some very basic issues that many scholars have misconceptions about, or have not thought through rationally, and that is why the 2012 discussion is bogged down in academia. I ask you to not critique it based upon a lack of citations - it is just intended to provide a rational framing of a useful and accurate approach to understanding 2012. If we aren't on the same page with where it promises to lead the 2012 discussion - in terms of rational investigation - then there's no point in wasting my time writing a longer essay embedded with citations and so on. It will be uploaded by the evening of January 3rd, at: http://Alignment2012.com/rationalappr...
John Major Jenkins
Tocayo (JMJ), I'm really flattered that you've taken my recommendation to heart! This puts a great start on the Gregorian new year and is a step in the right direction.
As I've said before, I don't think you can be faulted for earning a living or for delving into metaphysics. We pay far too much lip service to the need for scientists to consider religion and religionists to consider science. There is certainly room for faith in scholarship, so long as it doesn't adversely affect the quality of the pursuit of knowledge.
This may not be the right venue for a full set of comments on your essay, but I found myself catching on something I've mentioned to you before. You write: "The only alternative is to believe that the coordination of the 13-baktun cycle end date with a December solstice is a coincidence. The odds of this are extremely high." Am I mistaken, or aren't the odds of the end date occurring on the a December solstice exactly 1 in 365? Are those odds really "extremely high"?
The odds of hitting a solstice (June or December) are 2 in 365 or 1 in 182.5, while the odds of hitting either a solstice or an equinox (March or September) are 4 in 365 or 1 in 91.25. Wouldn't any of these four "hits" have elicited the interpretation of something significant? Add to the possibility of significant "hits" other astronomical events that occur in 2012, and the probability of the end of the 13-baktun cycle falling on one of them only increases.
Human consciousness has an aversion to random events, so it would probably be possible to cook up a post hoc explanation for any one of them. In my mind, something with a 1:365 probability has, in the grand scheme of things, a high likelihood of happening. It's not a 1:1,000,000 probability, but lots of people with worse odds than that win lotteries every week.
Low probability events do occur, and people have throughout history offered theories as to why they happen the way that they do and when. For example, anthropologist E.E. Evans-Pritchard wrote quite a bit on how the Azande use witchcraft to explain why granaries collapse on people at specific times. Metaphysics does provide answers for these things, but what's required here is persuasive science.
I do think you're on the right track with this approach, but one objection I have is the notion that 1:365 represents "extremely high" odds. Can you persuade me that I'm being irrational?
I think this is one of the clearest pieces you've written. I don't think there's anything wrong with your proposed "thought experiment", provided you're prepared to consider evidence that might counter your working hypothesis. The complaints about previous scholars' responses are irrelevant to the strength of the argument you're trying to build. I'd leave those out (and do the hornblowing with subtle but clear citations of your earlier publications).
You note, "The end of a 13-Baktun period is found frequently on so-called Creation monuments that deal with the events that occur at the end of a World Age - the end of a 13-Baktun period."
Could you cite specifically which monuments you mean? The argument that these documents affirm that a "World Age" is actually 13 Baktuns long is one that needs to be made much more clearly and explicitly, with references to specific texts.
A related problem that merits some discussion: Why did the Aztecs refer to five Creations while the Mayas referred to only four? Is there something in this disjunction that might provide a clue about what the length of a Great Cycle was thought to have been?
You note that "beliefs about what occurs at the end of one of these World Age periods may be found, mythologically expressed, in the Maya Creation Myth, the Popol Vuh. (That all cycle endings are like-in-kind events is attested in the Books of Chilam Balam..." However, as I and others have pointed out, both the Popol Vuh and the Books of Chilam Balam--which undoubtedly had Pre-Conquest antecedents in some form--have come down to us as POST-Conquest documents that were transcribed and modified by Spanish-trained scribes who had very likely been schooled in Biblical prophecies and Christian escatology. This must be acknowledged along with the fact that the strongest arguments for Maya escatology will have to come from documentation that is demonstrably Pre-Conquest.
Of course, you don't say anything in this piece about your ideas regarding the dark rift in the Milky Way. I hope that you will also be addressing that with the goal of a "rational" explication.
I think this is a helpful approach.
Even if we allow for odds of, say 1/365, the odds go higher when we realize that to place a big cycle ending (the 13-baktun cycle) in coordination with a smaller cycle end (the solstice) is meaningful, to be expected, and consistent with the Mayan value of temporal commensuration. The investigation must integrate not only a abstract and specialized analysis of mathematical probability, but identifiable conceptual meanings which argue for the case of intentionality.
However, what I presented in my brief piece was a way to circumvent the endless debate that can arise around that issue and to ask other investigators to entertain the notion that the solstice placement was intended. By the way, Edmonson, Bricker, and now Susan Milbrath all have responded to the solstice date with an initial assumption that it is unlikely to have been a coincidence. The rest of my essay then follows from that working hypothesis.
I can fill in citations and splice in the arguments that you want, as they already exist elsewhere. What will end up occurring is a piecemeal reconstruction and repackaging of large tracts of my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, but if that will help the advancement of the discussion, I'll do it.
Your comment on the Popol Vuh being a contaminated document is a large over-statement. Tedlock's translation, for example, draws from the original document recorded by Maya elders in the 1550s; they were apparently working from a pre-Conquest hieroglyphic book. More to the point, your comment, even if true, does not relate to the point I was making - that the Creation Myth is a World Age doctrine. Are you implying that the overarching World Age structure of the Creation Myth was craftily layered in by Spanish editors and Christian influences?
Similarly, my reference to the Chilam Balam books involve the specific idea that all cycle endings are like-in-kind events. In Christian theology, we don't find the idea of time cycles at all, let alone the idea that cycles express like-in-kind events. This concept is stated by Matthew Looper in one of his books - almost matter of factly as if such a conclusion was obvious - and was cited by me in the Bolon Yokte article I wrote. In the Chilam Balam books we read (I paraphrase): "What has happened in the past Katun will happen in the future Katun."
I didn't venture into the dark rift material in this introduction, because I realized that a proper framing of a rational approach to the topic would need to be agreed on before proceeding further. We'll see what develops, More later,
John Major Jenkins
"Tedlock's translation, for example, draws from the original document recorded by Maya elders in the 1550s"
I'm sorry, John, but here's what Tedlock (1996 27) says about the Popol Vuh:
"During the early colonial period the town of Quiche was eclipsed, in both size and prosperity, byt the neighboring town of Chuwi La' or 'Nettles Heights,' otherwise known as Chichicastenango. The residents of this rising town included members of the Canec and Lord Quiche lineages, and at some point a copy of the alphabetic Popol Vuh found its way there. Between 1701 and 1703, a friar named Francisco Ximenez happened to get a look at this manuscript while serving as the parish priest. He made THE ONLY SURVIVING COPY of the Quiche text of the Popol Vuh and added a Spanish translation."
Tedlock may in fact "draw" from the original alphabetic document recorded in the mid-16th century (by authors who had been schooled by Spanish missionaries), but only indirectly. Tedlock was working from a transcription that was been made by this Spanish friar (who also happened to be fluent in Quiche) in the first years of the 18th century. This copy of the Popol Vuh has been in the Newberry Library in Chicago since 1911.
You are right, I overlooked that one instance of a copy made. And how does that then support your implied issue that such copying introduced the World Age doctrine and the idea that time cycles express like-in-kind repetitions? (Let's not forget the specific context of my original observation that the World Age doctrine in the Popol Vuh expresses the calendrical World Age in the Long Count). Can you detail for me all of the distortions and introductions made by Ximenez? Has anybody? I doubt there are many, aside from typos. Certainly the astronomical references embedded in the Popol Vuh, which are the primary areas of support for my end date alignment thesis, were not introduced from outside.
John Major Jenkins
I'm not suggesting that the copying introduced the World Age doctrine at all, only pointing out that there were at least two opportunities for Christian eschatology to have been introduced to the only surviving copy of the Popol Vuh: 1) during the episode of its transcription to an alphabetic version by Spanish-trained Quiche scribes in the mid-16th century, and 2) during the copying of the alphabetic version by Ximenez in the early 1700s.
I haven't done a careful analysis of possible introductions to the text myself, but I don't think that's necessary to argue that the Popol Vuh, as it has come to us, is not a "pristine" version of a pre-Conquest Maya document. Just because you doubt that there were introductions made by Ximenez doesn't mean there weren't. A first step in evaluating this would be to learn more about who Ximenez was and what his motivations were in transcribing (and translating) this indigenous document. Was he doing it to document the erroneous ways of the pagan Quiches? Was he using the document to demonstrate parallels in Maya and Christian belief (the notion of an ancestral couple, past cataclysms, etc.)? Did he have any motivation to introduce changes (or elmininate offensive passages)? I don't know the answers to these, but they're certainly relevant to the reliability of the document.
I should also point out that highland Guatemala was the recipient of populations and accompanying cultural influences from central Mexico during the Postclassic period, at which time elements of non-Maya eschatology may also have been introduced. The Popol Vuh should therefore be considered in light of what these alternative ideologies might have been, and how they may have influenced the Quiche scribes. The only way to be confident of pre-Conquest Maya belief systems is to use pre-Conquest Maya documents, and this requires detailed knowledge of Maya epigraphy.
"Let's not forget the specific context of my original observation that the World Age doctrine in the Popol Vuh expresses the calendrical World Age in the Long Count." No, but use of the Long Count had ended many centuries before even the 16th century alphabetic transcription of the Popol Vuh. Your observation is the one that needs the clearest support. Is there *any* evidence you can cite that comes directly from Classic period Maya texts?
John H., Part 1
But the Christian eschatology is so fundamentally different from Maya time conception, that although an opportunity was theoretically present, it does not seem to have occurred, otherwise the Popol Vuh would have a very different appearance. I'm afraid your critique does not lead to viable conclusions. In regards to Jimenez, what I said was that any introductions he made must have minor, otherwise we would see the blatant stamp of Christian dogma. But we don't; that was my point and thus my original comment is sustained.
I don't believe pursuing Jimenez's motivations are relevant to the topic at all, since the doctrine as it survives in the Popol Vuh bears all the signs of Maya cosmovision rather than Christian theology - it is one of cyclic time and World Ages. It may be interesting to pursue your line of thinking for its own sake, but it's a sidetrack and only serves to derail and diffuse the main line of the investigation. Unless you can discover that Jimenez was a secret hermetic eschatologist who harbored heretical cyclical beliefs about time rather than towing the linear / apocalyptic party line, it's a waste of time.
I'm aware of the various influences that came into highland Guatemala. Ruud van Akkeren did an insightful study of this in his book The Place of the Lord's Daughter - have you read it? However, many central elements of the Popol Vuh have an ancient lineage, since we find key episodes on the very early carved monuments of Izapa - how do we explain this? Some kind of continuity from what appears to be the origins of the Popol Vuh myth, circa 100 BC, to the recording of the Popol Vuh in the 1550s, is undeniable. Here we encounter pre-Conquest Maya documentation on the carved monuments, and thus we need to understand the iconographic precursors to hieroglyphic writing.
John H., Part 2
The epigraphers of Classic Period writing could learn much from the iconographers of Pre-Classic symbology. For example, several symbol forms at Izapa have evolved into conventionalized hieroglyphs. The upturned frog mouth of Stela 11 is an early form of the upturned frog mouth glyph that means "to be born" (Kelley, 1976). The caiman on Stela 25 is clearly an early form of the Starry Deer Crocodile of Classic Period iconography, as David Stuart stated in his 2005 book but that he, oddly, dodged in our private communiqué of last summer.
Your last paragraph is baffling. Do you disagree with the observation that, conceptually speaking, a 13-Baktun cycle in the Long Count is equivalent to a "World Age" in the Popol Vuh? I guess I'd have to direct you to the writings of Gordon Brotherston for edification on that point. I don't need to be led through some kind of thesis-advisor process - I've heard the stories of what that's like - something like a fraternity hazing I gather. Soon I'll be having to provide evidence and citations that the Maya could count, or that they really did look up at the stars! Why do you assume that the arbiter of truth can only come from "evidence" cited from Classic Period Maya texts? What constitutes evidence in your view?
It seems that the sources of allowable evidence have been so severely limited such that only the most conservative of interpretations can be maintained. This may be cautious scholarship, but I don't think it's good scholarship. I consider the carved monuments of Izapa to be "statements"; epigraphers do not because they don't see "writing" there.
My answer to your last question would be: all of the Creation dates that are written 188.8.131.52.0 provide evidence that a 13-Baktun period is - a) A World Age, b) ? c) ? d) ? Please provide alternative options for a, b, and c, as I can't think of any. Secondly, there is a World Age doctrine in the Popl Vuh - we agree on that, right? There is a sequence of World Ages described in the Popol Vuh. Was this idea introduced from Jimenez? Extremely unlikely. As extremely unlikely, as laughably unlikely, as space aliens landing to spawn the Maya. We are left with the unavoidable conclusion - unless you really really want to avoid it - that the World Age doctrine is an authentic ancient belief of the Maya. Again, I refer you to Brotherston for context. If this idea is a stumbling block for you, let's bring it to Aztlan.
John Major Jenkins
Do pertinent descriptions of World Age periods and the Maya Creation Myth exist only in the Popul Vuh and the Books of Chilam Balam? JMJ mentioned glyphs...
Evidence for a World Age doctrine, and that World Ages last 13 Baktuns (5,125 years) is found in the glyphs in certain Creation texts - at Coba, Quirigua, Tortuguero, the Vase of the Seven Lords, and elsewhere. These are the texts dated 184.108.40.206.0.
I don't know why you said that I "don't want to debate with you." Your post above of January 3 is not legible in the English translation. I cannot decipher your brief January 4th email direct to me, which read:
"If you can travel, he/she comes to the Brazil so that he/she knows the whole work. They are more than 1.000 pages. He/she has 200 drawings, pictures and charts. You won't never regret to come and to know the discovered ones Mesoamerican. I think that you are very nice and you don't deserve to go by disfavors. Can everything be moved in advance not?"
Those are the only two contacts I've ever had with you. You appear to be using automated translation software that does not result in understandable English. How that makes me unwilling to debate with you, I do not know.
John Major Jenkins
Dear John MJ,
I'm sorry I put you on the defensive! That's never my intention, but I do understand where those sentiments might originate. The main point that I was trying to make is that, given the fact that the Popol Vuh and Books of Chilam Balam carry some elements of Christian eschatology, these cannot be considered (or referred to) as if they were "pristine" documents. I did not mean to imply that there were any introductions of Christian theology although I think it's important to acknowledge that these exist. You say that Christian theology is "fundamentally different", but that's really not so. Notions of cyclicity related to astronomical observations came into Christian thought through Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and other influences. Christian imagery is replete with references to the resurrected sun/son and many other astronomical/astrological allusions (a number of which remain as subject to varying interpretations as those in the Popol Vuh). These include the various astronomical events associated with the Christmas story, which were undoubtedly associated with cyclical events.
These are not easy to dismiss, especially if one of the motivations of Ximenez in transcribing the Popol Vuh was to either: 1) demonstrate the similarities of Christian and Maya traditions (i.e. the notion of a Great Flood punishing evil, the resurrection of self-sacrificed culture heros who triumphed over death, etc.), 2) to demonstrate that Maya mythology was a form of blasphemy (i.e. an intentionally distorted version of the Christian myth, perhaps the result of demonic influence), or 3) some combination of these. I think it's naive to ignore the similarities and the ways in which the Popol Vuh may have been modified in post-Conquest, pre-transcription contexts. The Spanish were constantly seeking either affirmation or disproof of their success at communicating Christian doctrine, which is indeed cyclical (the myth of the eternal return) and millennialist.
Please resist the impulse to feel defensive. I'm really trying to help. The reason I asked the question is because I think a systematic review of "all of the Creation dates that are written 220.127.116.11.0" and their contexts would strengthen your argument more than reference to the Popol Vuh, specifically because of what I've mentioned above.
Well, it looks as if the 2012 mythos and related ideologies have found a prominent place in Guatemalan politics:
"The 56-year-old Mr Colom has a background in the textile business and does not belong to any of the 23 Mayan ethnic groups who make up more than 40% of the population. But he has been ordained a Mayan priest, and drew much of his electoral support from the rural areas where poverty amongst indigenous groups is deep-rooted. Mr Colom, who will start his four-year term on 14 January, says he will regularly consult a group of spiritual leaders, known as the Mayan Elders National Council."
The council is headed by Don Alejandro Oxlaj, who is speaking at today's inauguration. Don Alejandro is a major figure in New Age "Mayanism" who has had the support of Carl Johan Calleman, one of the principal figures promoting 2012-related prophecies. Don Alejandro is known for making references to phenomena such as mediumistic contact with Pleiadeans (extraterrestrial entities from the Pleiades). He was prominently featured in a recent film titled "The Shift of the Ages":
Don Alejandro is also a spiritual advisor to the alternative think tank Common Passion:
It will be fascinating to see how Colom's presidency unfolds and whether New Age ideas will move closer to center stage as a synchretistic movement for peace and reconciliation.
Better this than what's already been in Guatemala's past.
I think what you are sensing is frustration rather than defensiveness. I am presenting rational, well argued information. And yet we are descending into an endless Socratic debate based upon nitpicking minutiae. The critique regarding distortions added to the Popol Vuh via Christian influence, at least to a degree that actually mitigates my thesis, remains an assertion on your part. I'm afraid the burden of proof rests with you on this one; my observation that Christian theology is linear whereas Maya time philosophy is cyclic is widely understood; it is frustrating and baffling that it is being utilized as the linchpin of your critique. Meanwhile, the main points of my argument are being ignored. Instead of engaging the main points of my thesis, irrelevant sidetracks are being widened as if what may be found there could make a lick of difference anyway. Perhaps you are doing this subconsciously in a reflexive advisory role, I don't know. Again, frustrating and baffling - much like the enervating current exchange with Marcos V on Aztlan I am having. If you are as well versed as I am in the various traditions that are relevant to this discussion, I don't see the value in derailing the discussion down irrelevant sidetracks. Furthermore, when I do respond cogently to your objections, my responses are qualified and countered from a vantage point that has nothing to do with the intention of my statement. Thus, I feel the frustrating necessity of re-re-re-repeating previously emphasized points. You'll have to admit, this can make anyone frustrated if not crazy. If you're trying to make me dig for citations in this online venue, I don't think this is an appropriate place for that; I refer you to my publications. What I was trying to present in my brief article (linked above) was a way to rationally frame our approach to 2012, utilizing the bare minimum of facts that we have at our disposal and that we can all agree on. (This is an overdue, and necessary, framing of the 2012 topic because scholars have failed to frame the 2012 topic at all, apart from saying "the world isn't going to end" or merely addressing the social feeding-frenzy phenomenon of 2012 rather than the thing-in-itself as a real artifact of the Maya calendar tradition.) The application of reason to those facts leads to the conclusion that the end date of the 13-baktun cycle (December 21, 2012) was very very very probably placed intentionally by a people of high mathematical and astronomical achievement. That conclusion follows from the mere facts of the end date, as sketched, and diversionary side issues do not mitigate that conclusion.
-continued to John H.,
In addition, it is not necessary to collate and examine the list of monuments and ceramics that utilize the date 18.104.22.168.0. The very simple fact that this date (which we can read as "the end of a 13 baktun cycle") is found in contexts involving Creation narratives indicates, all by itself, that a 13-Baktun cycle was conceived as a great cycle, what we can term a World Age cycle. I'm not sure of you object to this terminology, or if you object to identifying these dates as an indication of a belief in a 13-Baktun period/cycle/Age. If you reject making a conceptual connection between this 13-Baktun period and the Mesoamerican concept of Ages, then you need to read Brotherston for starters. I can't shake the feeling that you're just being difficult on this point, trying to save face perhaps, for once we understanding that relationship between the Long Count calendar and the World Age doctrine in the Creation mythology, then the connection to the World Age in the Popol Vuh is obvious. The only thing preventing this conclusion is your assertion that the World Age doctrine in the Popol Vuh is not a native belief but was introduced by Christian influence. So, please, find me one scholar who argues that the World Ages documented in the Popol Vuh are introductions from Christian influence. If not, then we are left with the extremely likely conclusion that the 13-Baktun period recorded on Maya creation narratives is identical to the World Ages spoken of in the Maya Creation Myth.
John Major Jenkins
January 15, 2008 at 8:15 p.m.