2012: What Does it Mean?
John Major Jenkins in conversation with Doghead Cola

 

in mid-1999

 

Published in The Deadly Type magazine

http://www.deadlysystems.com/zine/

 

 

“In Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, Jenkins has shown that this precessional alignment of the winter solstice sun with the galaxy is the phenomenon in nature to which the ancient Olmec/Maya anchored their great calendar. Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 sets the stage for us to ask the deeper question: ‘Why?’ This would be an interesting question under any circumstances; for us in these times it is doubly interesting, for we, by chance or design, actually live in the end time anticipated by the ancient Maya shaman-prophets. Their bones and their civilization have long since gone into the Gaian womb that claims all the children of time. Indeed, their cities were ghostly necropoleis by the time the Spanish conquerors first gazed upon them, five hundred years ago. Yet it was our time that fascinated the Maya, and it was toward our time that they cast their ecstatic gaze, though it lay more than two millennia in the future at the time the first Long Count dates were recorded.”

 

—Terence McKenna, from his introduction to Maya Cosmogenesis 2012

 

In recent years, John Major Jenkins has come to be renowned as one of the leading independent researchers investigating ancient Mesoamerican cosmology. His latest effort in that study, Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: The True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date, from Bear & Company Publishing (1998), specifically explores the Mayan end-date which has emerged as a point of Apocalypse for some New Age doomsayers, and remains a fascinating enigma to serious researchers. Jenkins isn’t new to the subject of Mayan calendrics and culture, having authored four other books on the subject previous to his most recent outing, including Journey to the Mayan Underworld, Mirror in the Sky, Tzolkin: Visionary Perspectives and Calendar Studies, and The Center of Mayan Time. I caught up with John in the RadioValve studios for a lengthy wine-laden, tobacco-hazed conversation about Mayan cosmology, the academic and underground tour circuits, his

books and adventures in Mexico, and other bits of verbal bandying about. This interview represents the first in a two-part series which will conclude in the next issue of  The Deadly Type...

 

Doghead Cola:

So let’s just sort of talk about the orientation of where this book has come from. I know you’ve written several other books previously, and uh, I remember that the first night that you and I met, you ended up meeting Terence McKenna...

 

John Major Jenkins:

Mm-hmmm. Yeah, I remember that; that was back in 1996, actually the first time I met Terence in person. [Shortly after that] I participated in an event that he did up at the Gold Lake Mountain Ranch up in the mountains west of Boulder. At that time I was very much engaged into this research that I was doing into the Maya Calendar...  my interest in the Maya stretches back to 1986 when I first visited Guatemala, and I was really amazed at this Maya civilization, and the fact that the Maya people were still around certainly was important to me. Upon returning from that first trip south of the border, I really started looking into the unanswered questions in the ancient Maya thought and civilization. As many people are aware, there’s this intriguing date in the Maya system of time that is December 21, 2012 AD. And this is the end of a large cycle of time called the 13 Baktun Cycle. It’s never been clear in the academic literature or the popular literature about what this date is about. Why did the Maya pick 2012 to end this vast cycle of time? And why did they believe the years around 2012 would be a time of great change and great transformation unprecedented in human history, at least as far as we know? And I kinda took it upon myself to do some research at the university library to track down some of these questions, and the biggest unresolved question in Maya studies is ‘Why 2012?’, what’s the big deal? Y’know, is it just some random artifact, or is there some empirical reason behind it? And the answer to my question actually came pretty early on in my research. Back in 1993 I already had a couple of books under my belt, and this 2012 enigma was very present for me. Through some of the writings of Terence McKenna I encountered this idea that we are approaching this time when the December solstice sun will be lining up with the center of the galaxy. It’s an astronomical fact. It’s caused by the precession of the equinoxes, which is the slow wobbling of the earth on its axis. And, uh, this seemed to be the reason why the Maya picked 2012.

 

I didn’t want to sort of rest with that as a statement…. I wanted to go deeply into the information of the Maya, mostly drawing from academic studies, to demonstrate how the Maya incorporated this concept into their basic institutions, such as the Ball Game, king accession rites, and so on.… Um, but yeah, a lot of my interest into the Maya developed from trips that I took to Mexico and Guatemala, stretching over 5 or 6 years. I basically returned almost every winter and lived and worked among the Maya in the highlands of Guatemala. Very traditional groups of Maya people, different groups of the Maya, including the Cakchiquel, Ixil, and Quiché Maya. Basically there’s six groups of pure-blood Maya living in the highlands of Guatemala, and many, many of the ancient traditions still survive. I felt that the Maya of today are heir to a very profound understanding of the cosmos; a very profound understanding of the cosmological forces that contribute to and stimulate the evolution of consciousness on this planet.

 

This idea of the solstice sun lining up with the galactic center—the center of the Milky Way Galaxy—seemed to be a very profound thing that should be looked at more closely. Not from just, y’know, a very popular point of view, but also from the stand-point of science. There seemed to be a real science behind this. We can call this alignment a Galactic Alignment. The cosmic center is the center of our Milky Way Galaxy; it’s the center and the source of the galaxy of which we are members. In a sense we can think of it as that place in the sky out of which everything, in the local galaxy at least, including us, has come.  So this work, in trying to decode the galactic alignment and its presence in the ancient Maya system of thought was really what I took on. I lived in Boulder for many years, and sort of led a maverick, independent-scholar lifestyle, living in a small

garage—actually by that time I was living in Louisville, six miles east of Boulder—and, um, I set up my life so that I would have a lot of free time to do this research. It was really an amazing time of discovery for me. My work with the Maya and the Maya cosmology has sort of been my own gnostic path to understanding some deep principles that have to do with the situation that we are in today as a civilization... Oh, let’s see, what can we sort of... There’s a lot to talk about here, really, yeah...

 

DC:

Right, because clearly within all of civilization right now we’re at a head with a lot of systems which have been proven to be archaic in many ways. Um, war-driven, economically-driven, that have very little to do with the substance of who we are, and how, and why we’re here, and what it means to be alive. I mean, obviously, like, being alive means that you’re constantly on a path towards death. And you can look at that in a negative way, or you can look at it in a positive way…

 

JMJ:

Hmmm.

 

DC:

…and be, uh, generating energies, y’know, towards that... It seems like, in a sense, the calendrical studies that you’ve become involved in seems relevant ...Why did the Maya pick 2012 to end this vast cycle of time? And why did they believe the years around 2012 would be a time of great change and great transformation unprecedented in human history? …these ideas reflect the idea that we’re moving towards a death and a rebirth of this state of civilization.

 

JMJ:

Mm-hmm. Right. A lot of times in the presentation that I give, the question comes up, ‘Is this the end of the world?’ And, uh, there’s really no definite answer to that. I’d like to emphasize that indigenous time is cyclic, and, um, espouses a doctrine of renewal. But of course that is based upon the idea that something will be coming to an end. So it’s kind of unavoidable to confront the spiritual transformation that comes from confronting our imminent death. Instead of shying away from that, and trying to sort of evade the issue that maybe the world  is going to end. I dunno—I mean, we live in a really crazy time. I mean, look at what’s going on right now with Kosovo. The nuclear threat certainly is not a done deal. It’s not over with.  Also, we’re approaching the Millennium—the millennial turning of our own Judeo-Christian calendar, which, y’know, is a social-historical phenomenon... Always at the end of a decade, the end of a century—and now we’re approaching the end of a millennium—human beings react in very, very strange ways. [some laughter] And there is this feeling that something very big is coming to an end. I think that one of the biggest things that human beings can confront is death. And death can be a very transformative thing. So, um, there are many prophecies and many predictions that seem to be converging upon the time that we currently live in. And these prophecies come from, basically, cultures and traditions around the globe. Some of them very ancient, some of them more recent. We have work by visionaries such as Nostradamus, or Edgar Cayce; we have prophecies in the Judeo-Christian tradition like the Book of Revelations... All of these prophecies and predictions seem to be pointing towards our time as a time of endings, and, I would add, probably new beginnings. But what is beyond the ending of a civilization with which we have become accustomed to is unclear. I think that it’s a great opportunity for creating. It’s a great opportunity for co-creating—

 

DC:

Mmmm...

 


The Alignment of AD 2012

 

JMJ:

—for working together and getting real with each other, and building what the world is going to look like in the next phase, or the next chapter of human unfolding on this planet.  But really, what’s fascinating for me is that, it’s only the Maya material that identifies the underlying empirical reason why we’re in a time of such great, transformative change. And it seems to be about this astronomical alignment with the galactic center.

 

DC:

Well, along that line, I’m curious, because based upon some other reading that I’ve done, um, there’s the concept of 2012 being Year Zero…

 

JMJ:

Mm-hmm.

 

DC:

…and that’s both kind of promising and kind of, y’know, horrifying in a sense. Y’know, obviously the Cambodians called 1973 Year Zero for themselves because their civilization was completely destroyed…

 

JMJ:

Right.

 

DC:

…by the Nixon campaign to discover the “secret” Viet-Cong encampments within Cambodia. And so that’s kind of a model that we can work with in terms of total devastation of a society. So I’m curious, in terms of this Year Zero potentially being a new beginning, is there anything in the calendrical system that kind of foretells of things that may come beyond that. Y’know, is there a set-up for calendrical ideas that also deal with community that transcends the 2012 date?

 

JMJ:

Yeah, but I can’t be really specific about predictions. I think we need to understand this from the point of view of systems-dynamics. What we’re approaching  is Year Zero. But Year Zero in what? Um, a little background on this concept, um...The 13 Baktun period  of the Maya is this period of 5,200 years, and in the Maya doctrine of World Ages, there’s five World Ages—there’s five periods of 5,200 years. So 5,200 years times five is 26,000. 26,000 years is the cycle of precession; it’s the cycle of the earth’s wobble. This is a very, very important concept. It’s been neglected in scientific discourse. In many, many ancient traditions—including Egyptian cosmology and Vedic doctrine of the Yugas—this 26,000-year cycle is recognized as a vast period of human spiritual gestation on this planet. So even in the Western astrological tradition, you have the twelve Zodiacal Ages, and, y’know, we’re supposedly entering the Age of Aquarius, and all that, and um... The Maya divided up this 26,000-year cycle into five periods whereas the Western astrological tradition divides it into twelve. Also, the Western astrological tradition is not very clear on where the beginning point of this gestational cycle should be. I mean, if it is a gestation, there must be a birth moment somewhere. Well, the Maya information provides that, and the birth moment, our collective birth moment, into the next phase of our collective unfolding as a species is the moment, or the era, in which the December solstice sun is lining up with the galactic center. It kinda makes sense too, just from the point of, y’know, understanding that the galactic center is that point in the sky that is very, very energetic…. I mean, it’s a place that is dense with radiowaves, it’s a place where quasars are found. In fact, astrophysicists believe that there’s a Black Hole residing in the center of our galaxy. This is, uh, a trans-dimensional portal that can move us into other dimensions.

 

So in the Maya material, they provide us with an answer to the question of when the 26,000-year cycle of human spiritual gestation ends and begins anew...  So it’s really hard to be more specific about that in terms of predictions. It’s sorta funny because it’s sort of analogous to understanding the yearly cycle. It’s like, we as human beings—and our consciousness is evolving—we’re struggling to grasp these larger cycles of time of which we are a part, of which our species is slowly unfolding through. Imagine 20,000 years ago, 30,000 years ago, when human beings did not have the capacity to conceive of

the yearly cycle. Y’know, their time-concept was limited to the task at hand. And probably some intrepid shaman came along and said, ‘Hey, if we put these seeds in the ground now, they’re going to sprout in six moons, or eight moons,’ or something. Basically, it was an enhancement of the time-concept of human beings to the level of the year so that we could anticipate. And then they could say that, y’know, let’s say that today it’s like spring-time, right? Well, human time-concept became enhanced to the point that they could project forward and say that ‘in six months, it’s going to be cold.’ They could anticipate and plan for events that would be taking place in the future.  Well, that’s just a very short yearly cycle. Now we’re dealing with this vast Great Year cycle of 26,000 years. And we have to start seeing ourselves as beings that are participating in a life-wave. The life-wave of humanity, a life that is beyond our own individual lives. And the amazing thing is that we are the ones who live in this time of great transformation. It’s almost like we are the ones who can plant the, uh, concept-seeds that can come to fruition 26,000 years from now.

 

DC:

And certainly some of the things that we’re discussing here plug in with Terence McKenna’s concept of Timewave Zero, and previous to this interview you and I have talked about that to a degree. Um...

 

JMJ:

Anywhere you wanna go.

 

DC:

Yeah. [laughter] Um...

 

JMJ:

I’m not even sure it’s a question of what we can do or what we can expect. I think getting back to the idea that we’re approaching this birth-death nexus... I’m mean, the imagery of the sky, this area of the sky that contains the galactic center, there are features along the Milky Way... For example, there’s the Dark Rift caused by inter-galactic dust clouds that run along the Milky Way. You can see it if you’re out there on a dark mid-summer’s night. That area of the Milky Way that contains the galactic center is very bright and very wide. And that is how the Maya were able to recognize and understand that part of the Milky Way as what they call the Cosmic Womb. They conceived of the Milky Way as the Cosmic Mother, the fertile road of light. And that bulging, wide part of the Milky Way that contains the galactic center, they called that the Womb of the Cosmic Mother. Which is a real good label for it. I mean, the galactic center is that creation place in the sky.  What’s interesting to me is that a real understanding of the mindset of the Maya has sort of congealed in this research. They were basically shamans, and they were engaging in psychedelic journeys into the full multi-tiered levels of the universe. And as shamans, of course, they were accessing psychoactives—sacred mushrooms, DMT extracted from the  Bufo marines toad species—there’s evidence for all of this in the pictographs of the Maya. Well, that’s really fascinating then, because it seems that the Mayan thought is much, much in advance of the most cherished notions of our own science. And because of that, it seems like we could learn a lot from the Maya.  I tried to share this material with astronomers and with straight Maya scholars, but had a really hard time convincing them that this alignment is important, and that many, many ancient civilizations have recognized this alignment that we are in right now as the transformative moment for Earth. Uh, it’s really strange to me. It’s almost analogous to the density that the powers-that-be had in relation to Galileo and his telescope, y’know.

 

DC:

Sure.

 

JMJ:

He pointed his telescope to Jupiter and saw moons revolving around Jupiter, and said ‘Hey, look— proof that there are things out there that are not revolving around the earth!’ And the Church responded to that with excommunication and just a horrendous attack against Galileo.


Izapa Stela 11

DC:

In fact, one of the most humorous facts about that story is that, uh, he spent pretty much the remainder of his life from that point on in imprisonment because of his ideas. And on his death bed was given his last rites, and was offered a chance to confess. And just before he died he said, ‘Of course, it’s actually more true my way.’ [laughter]

 

Which is a funny story, y’know, it’s a great way to approach your last rites—you’re no longer excommunicated, you now go into the Heaven of doctrinal Christianity, and then at the last moment you reclaim the truth… —to be continued—

 

 

An Open Letter to Astronomers

By John Major Jenkins / June 30, 1999

Printed in The Deadly Type; for revised version see website: http://www.alignment2012.com/openletter.htm