Excerpt from Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 (Jenkins 1998: 383-384). Citation references can be found at http://Alignment2012.com/bibbb.htm.


Isbell (1982) clarifies the anthropological definition of the concept of dialectics. She proposes that the tropical zone "provides a perceptual environment that promotes and enhances a particular `science of the concrete'" (353). By "science of the concrete" she means that empirically perceived order in a given site's environment provides the foundation for "systems of classifications, epistemological structures, and cosmologies" (353). Presumably the ambient framework that informs local cosmo-conception includes topography, seasonal cycles, and astronomy. Having noticed the unique orientational properties of a specific location, human beings may found a site for precisely these reasons, and I believe this is what happened at Izapa. According to Isbell, environmental determinants inform cosmo-conception within the Tropics and lend themselves to ideas rooted in "dialectical, reversible dualism" (353). Importantly, she notes that "native philosophers, who are usually shamans or astronomer-priests, use methods and metaphorical language that are unfamiliar to us" (353). In other words, the logic underlying native thought-systems is dialectical rather than rationalistic. Rational or linear thought processes are limited by an either-or assumption that, in the end, does not model nature very well. A complementary, oppositionally inclusive or reciprocal relationship between opposed categories of experience more accurately reflects native thought as revealed over many decades of ethnographic study. For example, see B. Tedlock (1982:2-5) and Jenkins (1994a:316-319).

            Another concept related to this dialectical approach is "conflation." In my usage here, this means the purposeful mythologizing of dialectically opposed events so that they are understood as reflecting the same underlying unity. Opposites are conceptually "conflated" into a higher unity. We see this most clearly in the identification of Mesoamerican deities. The full moon is associated with the sun, being called a "little sun." In another example, the Underworld becomes the night sky when, after sundown, it rotates above the horizon. Here, the Underworld is actually above the Earth, a concept strange to either-or thinkers but perfectly compatible with the dialectical mind-set. The categories of sky and Earth are conflated into a higher unity in which, under certain conditions, the sky is below the Earth and the Underworld is above. Dennis Tedlock (1985 and 1995) stresses that the Quiché word cahuleu (sky-Earth) reveals a conflated concept in which sky and Earth are unified into one dialectical whole. This is a good example of how conflation and dialectical thinking works. And it can apply to extremely complicated levels of meaning, involving several levels of observations, including both temporal and spatial categories. The unsung dimensions of knowledge encoded in Izapan stelae provide a great challenge of interpretation even when armed with such a progressive dialectical model.

            For elucidation of dialectical thought, Isbell refers to Wagner (1975), who states that the anthropological usage of the concept of dialectics refers to "a tension or dialogue-like alternation between two conceptions or view-points that are simultaneously contradictory and supportive of each other" (52). According to Wagner, dialectical thought  works by "exploiting contradictions against a common ground of similarity" (52). In comparison, "rationalistic or `linear' logic" (52) appeals to a consistent meaning against a foundation of differences.