Requiring That Ancient Maya Stargazers Be Like Modern Astronomers:
The Polemical Sophistry of Marcos Villaseñor and David Freidel

 

John Major Jenkins. January 10, 2010.

Back to Update2012.com

 

This will be my response to a piece that is apparently written by two authors. It is another superficial attack piece against my work, which fails to state the intention of my work while simultaneously asserting incorrect notions. This is revealing of these authors’ own assumptions that, although incorrect, have power to the extant that they and their readers have not fully apprised themselves of my work. A good litmus test for the superficial treatment that these two authors engage in is found in the fact that they completely neglect the primary goal of my work — to reconstruct lost or forgotten aspects of ancient Maya cosmology. In addition, the authors neglect to engage the evidence I’ve assembled that strongly indicates a conscious use by the ancient Maya of the astronomical features involved in the so-called “galactic alignment” (such as the dark rift, the solstice sun, and the cross formed by the Milky Way and the ecliptic) in their central traditions and institutions (namely, the Creation Myth, the ballgame, and king making rites). Furthermore, the work I have published on the astronomical alignments at Izapa, preceding any other work done by professional Maya scholars, was also completely overlooked. So, right off the bat we are dealing here with an incredibly superficial and incomplete treatment of my work, tantamount to presuming to assess Buddhism by eating an egg roll. Such is the conceit and presumption of the two authors.

 

Now, the fact is that I dealt in great detail with a previous critique made by one of these authors, David Freidel, who alluded to me as “a charlatan” in a piece published by CNN in May of 2009. I inquired why he believed this, and he responded by saying that, to his mind, I was a charlatan because I was “preaching the doctrine of astrological causality to a gullible public.” I immediately responded to him via email that such a perception of my work and beliefs was completely incorrect. I cited my early book from 1992, called Tzolkin: Visionary Perspectives and Calendar Studies (BSRF, Garberville, CA), which argued against the notion that astrology is causally efficacious. Furthermore, a brief survey of my beliefs about the galactic alignment will reveal to even the casual reader that I don’t believe the galactic alignment has any importance as a definitive causal agent in the affairs of humanity. I have alluded on occasion to beliefs that are much closer to a definitive causal interpretation of end-times events, but favor the deeper non-dual spiritual teachings that can be read in the Maya Creation Myth, the Popol Vuh.

 

David Freidel thereafter invited me into a dual-dialogue with the contentious challenge “game on,” and sent me the Power Point presentation he created with Stanley Guenter, which he was using in public presentations. I responded to this fairly quickly with a lengthy point-by-point critique of many factual errors in their presentation, as well as correctives on his mistaken assumptions about my work. The correction regarding the basis upon which he believes I am a charlatan should, at the very least, have been taken to heart by an honest scholar. Freidel’s lack of integrity and intellectual honesty, and his lack of courage in dealing with me directly, is revealed in this new piece that he posted with Marcos Villaseñor, many months after our last exchange when I sent him my response to his Power Point presentation. In the new piece, he and Marcos reiterate the inflammatory statement that I am a charlatan. Since I was expecting a one-on-one dialogue with Freidel, I was wondering if he was ever intending to respond to me directly or if his new co-article with Marcos was suppose to serve that purpose. If he was going to evade my lengthy response to his fallacious views and simply post another piece that reiterated his pot shots against me, I could see that I wasn’t actually dealing with a mature thinker who could handle engaging challenges to his assumptions. Sadly, this appears to be the case, because when I subsequently emailed David and asked whether he was planning on responding to my critique of his Power Point, I did not receive a response. So, it’s quite clear that he has taken the irresponsible and immature path of the fear-filled person who will only put energy into propagating his false notions but will refrain from dealing directly with his adversary. So much for "game on." In the interest of sharing these matters, and to expose the fallacious character of Freidel’s position on my work, I have posted the entire exchange, up to the point that David Freidel bowed out, on my Update2012.com website (May update).

 

Marcos Villaseñor, on the other hand, did respond to my email query. Aware of the tenor  and content of Marcos’s previous posts to the academic Aztlan e-list, I had the impression that the piece was largely written by him, and he more or less confirmed this, also saying that Freidel was unlikely to respond to me. So, obviously I am faced, once again, with re-responding to  familiar critiques foisted upon me in a different format. That Freidel’s name should be attached to Marcos’s piece is thus up for review. The reason why his name is attached is clearly a matter a political expediency and creating an illusion of status and appearance, rather than Freidel having had much directly to do with the writing of the piece. So, again, we are dealing here more with the craft of sophistry, of crafting the appearance of scholarly consensus (while ignoring evidence), of deconstructing arguments without making reference to the full context of those arguments, as well as asserting inexplicable ad hominem attacks on my character rather than evincing any desire to take an honest look at what my work is about. In contrast, I will do for Villaseñor what he was unwilling or unable to do for me — that is, provide a thorough and honest critique.  

 

But first, it’s important to understand that Marcos is already approaching my work from a biased position. We have a history of exchanges on Aztlan, where he is a frequent contributor. As a photographer, Marcos has done photographs that have appeared in the academic works of scholars and so he has a cordial working relationship with them. This is probably how he was able to “collaborate” with Freidel on his/their critique. The resulting critique was posted at   http://homepage.mac.com/villas1/MayaProphesies/index.htm sometime around October 2009 and is duplicated at the end of my rebuttal below.

 

Villaseñor’s approach to my work proceeds upon his own unwarranted assumptions, often in reactionary ways that evade engaging discourse. To demonstrate this clearly, I direct the reader to an exchange that occurred on Aztlan in January 2008. A Belgium researcher named Antoon Vollamaere opened up the correlation issue again. (Additional archives on Aztlan document my earlier responses to Vollamaere’s ideas from mid-1999.) This time, I restated clearly the ethnographic argument that supports the GMT2 correlation, which makes 13.0.0.0.0 fall on December 21, 2012. My perspectives on the correlation are published in my writings going back to 1992. In my Aztlan post of 2008, I emphasized, once again, the importance of the surviving 260-day calendar as a test for any proposed correlation, because according to Classic Period texts and the unchanging calendrical relationship between the Long Count and the 260-day calendar 13.0.0.0.0 must correspond to the day 4 Ahau in the 260-day calendar. This same criterion, very often ignored and misunderstood by commentators on the correlation debate, was advocated by Munro Edmonson, Dennis Tedlock, and others. Thus, I am not alone in emphasizing the importance of this ethnographic test. In my 2008 response to Vollamaere, not once did I mention my galactic alignment theory. Why? Because it has no bearing as a support for the correlation question. I have never used my galactic alignment theory as some kind of argument for the GMT2 correlation.

 

My work on 2012 astronomy proceeded after I had studied the correlation question for many years, 1988-1992, and determined by using a multidisciplinary set of criteria that the correct correlation associates 13.0.0.0.0 with December 21, 2012. Despite the non-relevance of my galactic alignment theory as a basis for arguing for the correlation, the next post in the thread was from Marcos Villaseñor, who proceeded to attack my galactic alignment theory — even though I had not even mentioned it in my post. In his mind, Villaseñor confusedly believed that I use my alignment work as a support for the correlation question. At the very least, this is putting the cart before the horse. I have never asserted such a perspective, nor have I used my galactic alignment theory as an argument for which correlation has more efficacy. This situation is very typical of Villaseñor’s critique of my work. He proceeds based on false premises that originate in his own mind, and do not actually engage the facts and the evidence that I try, time and again, to present in order to engage a rational debate.

 

A similar gross conceptual error by Villaseñor is also easily identified when he introduces me in his critique, referring to me as “a New Age apologist.” Not wanting to assume a meaning that he may not actually have intended, I emailed him and confirmed that, yes, he intended that to mean that I was an apologist for New Age ideas, New Age authors, and New Age beliefs. Some context about my writing activities since 1989 will expose such a contention as completed baseless and unwarranted.

 

Since 1989 I have offered clear critiques of errors and misconceptions in the works of Frank Waters, Terence McKenna, Jose Arguelles, Carl Calleman, Will Hart, Greg Braden, Maurice Cotterell, Adrian Gilbert, Daniel Pinchbeck, Richard Hoagland, Barbara Clow and others. I was the first to publish exposés of the errors in The Mayan Prophecies book of 1995, in Argüelles’s Dreamspell and 13-Moon calendar system, in the idiosyncratic inventions of Carl Calleman, Barbara Clow, and others. These are the purveyors of New Age ideation around 2012 and the Mayan calendar. An important aspect of my work has been concerned with exposing grossly inaccurate assertions in these works, and I have frequently been the first to do so.   To say that I am an apologist for these writers, or for their ideas, is completely ridiculous. So, Villaseñor’s reading of who I am is demonstrably skewed and in error, seriously calling into question his ability to accurately assess my work.

 

As a conciliatory gesture, I think I can offer a suggestion as to why he believes I am a New Age person. In my writings, I have been concerned with reconstructing lost aspects of ancient Maya astronomy, but I have also sought to clearly elucidate the underlying principles of Maya spiritual teachings found in the Maya Creation Myth and elsewhere. Philosophically speaking, I have found it useful to interpret Maya spiritual teachings through the framework of the perennial philosophy. I discussed this extensively in my 2002 book Galactic Alignment, which Villaseñor cites and thus was aware of, and in my recent book The 2012 Story. The impressive insights of brilliant philosophical and spiritual thinkers such as Ananda Coomaraswamy, Henry Corbin, René Guénon, Titus Burckhardt, Kathleen Raine, Anne Marie Schimmel, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Joseph Campbell, Heinrich Zimmer, Aldous Huxley, and Alan Watts have been the source of understanding the non-dual perspective through which many oriental and indigenous teachings can be properly contextualized and understood. Since many Mayanists are pretty much in kindergarten when it comes to framing Maya spirituality in terms of the profound non-dual perennial philosophy that underlies all of the world’s great religions, I can understand how my extensive and clear writings on this front would be misconstrued as some kind of weird New Age expression. It’s similar to how the cognitively immature mind of a 2-year old child tends to perceives a train or an airplane as some kind of scary monster.

 

This situation reveals a lack of sophistication in the people making the critique. Anthony Aveni’s words are the classic example of this, when he simply calls me a “spiritualist.” As with Villaseñor’s label “New Age apologist,” Aveni’s label is intended not to convey an accurate identifier but a pejorative subtext to the mind of the reader, which again reveals that we are dealing here with dishonest sophistry rather than a clear framing of who I am and what I have written — even though such information is easily found in my writings and on my website.  

 

It’s a bit surprising that Villaseñor would indulge in such baseless tactics. It simply serves the purpose of erecting a straw man who will then be duly torched, an age-old tactic of closed-minded and intellectually dishonest sophists who are threatened by new breakthroughs.  I’d suspect that Villaseñor would rather be a minion for the consensus status quo than risk his friendships by supporting the progressive work of a non-degreed outsider. That is to be expected; those who make new breakthroughs do not begin by having many allies.

 

Marcos/Freidel begins his/their piece with a rather lengthy introduction to Mesoamerican cultures, astronomy and astrology as used in ancient cultures. He/they write: “astrology with its mystical assertions of cause and effect links between celestial bodies and human destiny is a matter of faith and not of fact.” This statement is a construct of the modern scientific mind. It draws from a superficial interpretation of how astrology must work, filtered through the lens of a modern mind steeped in the supremacy of causality. In truth, in the ancient paradigms of Oriental metaphysics, a non-dual perception of the mutually arising nature of subjective and objective domains underlies the belief that the inner world of human beings and the outer motions of planets and stars are inseparable. It’s evident that modern and probably ancient Maya religion subscribes to a non-dual philosophy, often languaged by scholars with the somewhat diluted phrase “a belief in reciprocity.” To apply a critique of cause and effect to these non-dual paradigms is inappropriate as it invokes an irrelevant framework rooted in the superiority complex of modern physics rather than understanding the topic on its own terms. Certainly it is true that astrology has been distorted and misrepresented, often by its own practitioners, but it’s also possible to understand higher forms of astrological thinking as an expression of the non-dual Hermetic dictum “as above, so below.”  Villaseñor, nevertheless, chooses the low road and does the topic an injustice by relegating it to the most superficial and distorted level of interpretation possible, that of gravity waves impinging on human skin across billions of miles of space. 

 

I am not arguing in favor of “astrology”; I am only suggesting that we can have a more sophisticated conversation about it. Otherwise, you end up with the clichéd critique of Carl Sagan or James Randi – apparently heroes of David Freidel’s — who dismiss astrology because the gravitational effects of Jupiter on a person are less than that of a paper clip two feet away. Boring and simplistic discussions unfold from such premises. A thorough exposé of the causal premise of astrology’s scientistic critics was provided in my 1992 book Tzolkin, along with a discussion of the metaphysics of non-duality and concepts such as Carl Jung’s synchronicity. This material provides the underlying basis of my thoughts on astrology and non-dual philosophies. That book has been out of print for many years but for ten years I’ve offered a CD-Rom version of it on my website Alignment2012.com, where excerpts can be found for free.  Villaseñor and Freidel may be excused perhaps for not actually doing their homework on what my actual thinking is on astrology, even though I’ve also discussed similar ideas in my other books. Now that I’ve informed them of my two decades of work on the matter, one hopes that they will correct their derogatory and slanderous aspersions, because the false notion that I preach a doctrine of astrological causality to unsuspecting readers is the basis of Freidel and Villaseñor labeling me a charlatan and a New Age apologist. I'm not holding my breath, however. For some reason I've expected decent behavior by scholars but time and again their incredibly huge egos blind them to the facts of the matter.

 

I'll proceed on the basis that Marcos is the primary author of the critique, although I will assume that Freidel agrees with everything in it since his name is attached to it. Villaseñor sets the stage in his introduction to frame me and my work in a bad light, writing that “astrologers and self-taught enthusiasts in Maya religion” write and speak “at great length about the imminent arrival of December 21st 2012.” Villaseñor also introduces 2012 with a factually incorrect statement:  “the 2012 event is simply not mentioned by the Maya in their written texts.” In fact, Tortuguero Monument 6 references the 2012 date as an end of a period of 13 Baktuns. Nowhere does Villaseñor mention Tortuguero. I doubt that Villaseñor (or Freidel) have undertaken a thorough examination of the 13 dates on Tortuguero Monument 6 and related events including those involving the kings at Palenque. Does Tortuguero Monument 6 help us understand how the 13-baktun period ending in 2012 was thought about and used by, at least, the elite ruling class of Tortuguero? Yes, it does.

 

My work is about reconstructing what the ancient Maya thought about 2012, so Tortuguero is of great interest to me. To my surprise, I found that of the 13 dates on this monument, four are dates when the sun was aligned with the dark rift. Another date is near a lunar eclipse aligned with the dark rift, with the accompanying text describing, according to epigrapher Michael Grofe's decipherment, an eclipsed moon in the celestial caiman. A sixth date, which is an important pivot point in the entire text, involves Jupiter at station in the dark rift. The protagonist of the monument, Bahlam Ajaw, asserts a special relationship to the 2012 date via the structural parallelism between his birth date and the 2012 date, as well as the link of his accession in 644 AD to his building dedication rite in 669 AD and then to the 2012 date. Curiously, he was born in 612 AD on a day when the sun was aligned with the dark rift. On December 21, 2012 (13.0.0.0.0) the sun will be aligned, on the solstice, with the dark rift. This alignment happens on the solstice, which identifies it as belonging to a unique era of precession.  This solstice-dark rift alignment is in essence the “galactic alignment” which I have also referred to as a “solstice-galaxy alignment” and a “solstice-dark rift” alignment.

 

This is not the space for a thorough treatment of Monument 6, but after engaging in a thorough examination of Tortuguero Monument 6, it is clear that, at the very least, the people of Tortuguero were aware that on 13.0.0.0.0 (December 21, 2012) the sun would be aligned, on the solstice, with the dark rift in the Milky Way. Furthermore, the situation requires that such an alignment nexus with 13.0.0.0.0 was installed at the very origins of the Long Count, some seven centuries before the life of Bahlam Ajaw. This is the crux of my “galactic alignment theory,” now strongly supported by the one Classic Period hieroglyphic inscription of the 2012 date which Villanseñor incorrectly stated was “simply not mentioned by the Maya in their written texts.”      

 

So, obviously we have a rather large gulf between what Villaseñor asserts and what is factually present in the inscriptions. Elsewhere in his critique we find Marcos writing of a poetic vision of reciprocity and balance between the human and the divine: “Maize is still the staple of Maya people, and they must care for it and for the world around it in order to ensure that they can live and their children can live after them. This simple covenant between people and the divine is knowable by everyone, and it contains an enduring truth about humanity and the world. If humans will sustain and nurture the world, and revere as they should, then they can live and prosper. If they do not, it does not take a prophet to predict disaster.” Marcos languages here a perennial truth as it is found in Mesoamerican religion. As I mentioned earlier, my own elucidation of perennial principles within Maya religion can be the only cause of Villaseñor and Freidel calling me a New Age apologist and a charlatan, but here Villaseñor languages something very similar. So, I suppose that it’s okay if it comes out of his mouth but not someone else’s; or perhaps he just can’t see beyond his own mouth.

 

Next, after his lengthy preamble, I am introduced as “One of the most prolific and enterprising” of the 2012 “charlatans” who “present formidable sounding arguments why the ancient Maya hold the secret to the future through predictions about 2012.” Here again we find a false notion as to what my work is about. My work argues that the ancient Maya made a decent calculation forward to a precessional alignment in era-2012, but I do not argue that Maya “predicted” any predetermined “secret to the future.” Again, we are misled by Villaseñor’s unsophisticated terminology and unwillingness to accurately summarize what my work is about, a typical tactic of polemics and sophistry. Because of this inane tactic, we can suspect that Villaseñor’s critique will be severely biased and overloaded with misconceptions. And it is. Let’s take a look.

 

Villaseñor writes: “The well-known New Age apologist John Major Jenkins has made a name for himself by promoting a distorted notion of astronomy that he calls the “Galactic Alignment”, which he claims occurs once every Precession of the Equinoxes cycle or Great Year of 26,000 years and will next happen on December 21, 2012.”

 

Actually, I think I’ve made more of a name for myself by critiquing biased perspectives in academia and correcting the endless stream of exploitative underinformed writers in the popular marketplace. It should be said that I’ve been doing both of these things for longer than Villaseñor and other critics have cared to give 2012 a second glance. A baseline reference point for the comprehensive grounding of my work on the end-date in the large and challenging body of existing scholarly research is found in the bibliography to my 1998 book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: http://Alignment2012.com/bibbb.htm. (Incredibly, my seminal 1998 work Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 does not even appear to have factored into Villaseñor’s critique as it doesn’t appear his bibliography and there are no references to it in the text of his critique.) Villaseñor would not want readers to know about the extensive bibliographic sources that have factored into my research, as it reveals the depth of scholarship that I have engaged to support my unprecedented integrative synthesis. Rather, he wishes to construct an easily toppled straw man. This is a brilliant strategy if you’re in the game of mind control, but not that commendable if you are presuming to base your critique in reality.  Anyway, what is often referred to as the “galactic alignment” has been calculated by several professional astronomers (Patrick Wallace and Jean Meeus in his 1997 book Mathematical Astronomy Morsels). I have defined this alignment, in terms of a precise astronomical definition, as “the alignment of the December solstice sun with the galactic equator (in Sagittarius).” This definition requires acknowledging that the sun itself is one-half a degree wide, and it will thus take the sun roughly 36 years to precess through the galactic equator (precession = roughly 1 degree of shift every 72 years). My implementation of a range of years for the alignment was intended to prevent the misconception that the alignment “will happen” only on and precisely on December 21, 2012 (a position I have never held).

 

This alignment, as defined, does indeed happen “only once” during the 26,000 cycle of precession, however. Based on the precise calculation of the solstice sun’s midpoint alignment with the galactic equator (1998, see Meeus), the “once-in a precesional cycle” alignment zone is thus 1980 – 2016. These years and ranges are important frameworks for understanding the slow nature of the process. The alignment of some part of the body of the solstice sun will indeed "be happening" on December 21, 2012, but Villaseñor engages a deception by insinuating that I believe the alignment happens only on that one day. This is a gross error which could have been avoided if Villaseñor attempted even a cursory reading of my books, articles and websites. I suspect that he did read these caveats in my work, but like a good polemical sophist, Villaseñor wished to obfuscate rather than illuminate.  Villaseñor is basically indulging in the same error that astronomer Stephen Tonkin did, who I had discussions with back in 2004 and whom Villaseñor cites. It should be noted, however, that Villaseñor’s citation is to Tonkin’s updated webpage (2006, accessed in June 2009). A more accurate treatment of this issue as it unfolded six years ago, revealing of Tonkin’s still uncorrected flawed logic, can be found in the exchange I had with Tonkin in 2004:  (http://alignment2012.com/tonkins-error.html).  

 

So, Villaseñor cleverly uses the false idea that I believe the alignment happens only on December 21, 2012. If we give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he isn’t indulging in low-minded polemics with intent to distort, then his mistaken perspective must arise because of his sloppy conceptual distinctions, not because of a lack of clarity in my description of, use of, and definition of the terminology. A distinction must be made between the sun as a body having diameter and the precise midpoint of the sun which astronomers use to make calculations.  (And I’ve made this distinction many times.) The former has obvious meaning to naked eye skywatchers whereas the latter is the supreme and only reality for mathematical astronomers.  Villaseñor’s confusion of the two concepts is evident in his statement: “Since the conjunction of the solsticial sun with the galactic equator took place in 1998 (Meeus 1997) (fig. 1) and not on December 21, 2012…”  In actual astronomical fact, the “solstitial sun” (the term used in his statement) is a half-degree-wide body that will be in alignment-contact with the galactic equator in 2012, and for all years between 1980 and 2016. The resistance of astronomers to allowing the sun to have a diameter, which apparently is also the position of Villaseñor, is also evident in my exchange with Tonkin (see my diagrams in the link given in the paragraph above).

 

What we are assessing here, let us recall, is the possibility that the ancient Maya made a future calculation in the precessional motion, forward in time some 2,000 years from the origin of the Long Count system. I did not invent the 36-year range to account for a 14-year discrepancy between 1998 and 2012; I never considered that an issue because I do not require that the Maya must have made such an astronomical calculation with absolute precision. Villaseñor apparently does require this because he rejects the fact that the solstice sun’s alignment with the galactic equator is still in effect on December 21, 2012 by invoking modern astronomical precision and confusing the term “solstice sun” with what in his usage should properly be called “solstice point” or perhaps “the solstice sun’s midpoint.” In any case, his requirement of absolute precision here is irrelevant in terms of testing the achievements of ancient naked eye Maya skywatchers. Tellingly, he back projects his own requirement of absolsute precision onto the ancient Maya, and insinuates that I am at fault for not applying it to the Maya when he concludes with the flippant comment “The Maya love for astronomical precision be damned.” Here we have identified the overarching problem that we see in Aveni, Freidel, Krupp, Villanseñor and others. They require that the ancient Maya were capable of and utilized a high degree of astronomical precession on par with that of modern science before arguments and theories, such as mine, are taken seriously. They believe that my entire theory rests on demonstrating that the ancient Maya made an absolutely precise forward calculation in precession, to the exact year determined by a modern astronomer (Meeus), even though the unstated range of error in that calculation would have to be at least +/- 3 years.  I reconstruct Maya cosmology on its own terms; all of those named above dismiss my reconstruction in favor of what Maya scholar Gerardo Aldana calls a “circum-Mediterranean-derived” prejudice. Scientism + ethnocentrism + intellectual arrogance = no ability to understand Maya cosmology on its own terms. So, as framed by the kind of myopic polemical sophistry wielded by Villaseñor and others, this is basically an impossible conversation. Unless they are willing to admit that they are coming at the problem from a flawed and biased perspective. I doubt that is going to happen, so these rebuttals I endlessly write are really a legacy for future generations to assess, people who I hope will live in a more enlightened age.

 

Meanwhile, it is quite clear how the scientifically defined “galactic alignment” scenario would have been mythologized by naked-eye skywatchers such as the ancient Maya. It is a compelling generalizable “event” that evokes the solstice sun’s (a high solar lord’s) birth or rebirth from the dark rift, a feature that is demonstrably related to a complex of symbols including vaginas, caves, mouths, sweatbaths, and underworld portals. (The primary source of these identifications is the Maya Creation Myth, the Popol Vuh, which I have elaborated upon extensively in my books but which Villaseñor conveniently ignores.)   The cross formed by the Milky Way and the ecliptic in Sagittarius targets the sidereal location where the alignment of the solstice sun and the southern terminus of the dark rift will occur in era-2012. This cross feature, involving the ecliptic and the Milky Way, had significance for the Maya, and even for the pre-Classic Olmec (see "The Watershed: Olmec Antecedents"). In fact, it is referenced in the Maya Creation Myth as the “four-junction roads” or “Crossroads” (see D. Tedlock's Popol Vuh translation). The dark rift in the Milky Way begins at this crossing point in Sagittarius and stretches northward along the midline of the Milky Way to Cygnus.

 

Regardless of whatever Maya observational methodologies were used to attempt accurate precessional calculations (and there is important work being done on this right now by Michael Grofe), it is in the use of these features in key Maya institutions that I have argued the case for my “galactic alignment theory.” That work was undertaken in the pre-Classic milieu of Izapan iconography and archaeoastronomy, on many self-funded trips to the site, identifying evidence that the solstice sunrise horizon, the dark rift, and the Milky Way were utilized in Izapa iconography, ballgame symbolism, and throne-birthing rites. None of that research has ever been accurately addressed by my critics, and is more often completely ignored in favor of distractive polemical tactics such as those employed by Freidel, Villaseñor, Aveni, and Krupp. I have examined early Maya cosmology, iconography, and calendrical concepts on their own terms, in the milieu of their origin, whereas Villaseñor and other critics favor back projecting onto the Maya their own modern scientific obsession with absolute precision.  The most important feature (to naked-eye skywatchers) of this galactic alignment scenario, as I have stated many times, is the dark rift in the Milky Way. As the “portal to the underworld” this feature clearly had important mythological connotations for the Maya, as evidenced in its use in certain Maya Classic Period Long Count dates (such as 9.14.0.0.0 at Tikal, Tortuguero, and Copan), and in iconography and epigraphy at Palenque, Tortuguero, Quirigua, Copan, and Tikal.

 

The examination (with diagrams) that Villaseñor applies to the solstice sun’s precessional passage through the dark rift over a much longer period than the 36-year window neglects to take into consideration this evidence. Villaseñor recognizes that despite its rather large girth, the dark rift retains a visual mid-section which could have served as the target for possible precessional alignment calculations, which he offers as a”corrective” in his concluding section. Based on information on Tonkin’s website, Villaseñor states that the east and west edges of the dark rift define the limits of a “155-year” period. However, the two figures picture the solstice sun entering the eastern edge of the dark rift “in 1955” and exiting the western edge “in 2100 AD.” This is 145 years, not 155 years. See my Appendix 1 below for a more detailed treatment of the implications of this misinformation.

 

It’s curious that in this section of his critique, Villaseñor assumes that the solstice sun’s alignment with the dark rift is real, begins before 2012 and ends well after 2012, whereas earlier he stated that there would be no alignment in 2012. Weird.

 

At any rate, Villaseñor  takes the typical approach of then quoting a passage from my book that was intended as a speculative conjecture, based upon the hypothetical premise that science might eventually find that the solstice axis’s changing angular orientation to the galactic plane does somehow have demonstrable empirical effects. What would the various alignment dynamics then look like? How would we think of them? It is natural for a thinking person working with ideas such as the galactic alignment to wonder about such a thing. I have not asserted that there is evidence for this, nor is it a requirement of my theory which, as I’ve stated hundreds of times, first and foremost intends to reconstruct lost aspects of ancient Maya cosmology as it relates to 2012. This is a point that seems lost even on alleged scholars such as Villaseñor. The galactic alignment does not need to be empirically efficacious for it to have once been used in an ancient cosmological paradigm.  Nevertheless, whether or not the galactic alignment has demonstrable “effects” on earth must remain an open question, because scientists haven’t even looked at it. What we have from them is a few flippant and arrogant assertions, typical of reactions by consensus-protecting “experts” during any period of revolutionary breakthrough. In entertaining that the galactic alignment may have empirical effects, I honestly noted that several different phases of a many-centuries long process would have to be acknowledged, including the sun’s closest spatial approach to the galactic center point. These speculations were offered in my book towards the end of the text, after my arguments and points had been made regarding the ancient Maya’s probable integration of the galactic alignment concept into their calendar and other institutions. There are possibly larger issues and discoveries of great importance that the galactic alignment, as a very new concept, offers science. However, scientists at NASA (David Morrison) and other closed-minded skeptics who don’t even have an accurate concept of what the galactic alignment is (Michael Schermer) are simply playing the roles of closed-minded and myopic gatekeepers, hiding behind stereotyped labels and worn out clichés.        

 

At the beginning of his critique, Villaseñor stated that he would examine my “case” in some detail. The section of his article that introduces and addresses “Jenkins’s Distorted Astronomy” amounts to just over 900 words. So, in fact he has chipped off one tiny little sliver of a much greater work spanning two decades that includes fifteen books and many articles, conference presentations, panel debates, and interviews, which he doesn’t even allude to. He failed to provide my own frequently stated intention in pursuing the work that I have pursued for 20 years. In several instances he constructs a straw man with no basis in what I believe and have stated in print. He inappropriately applies the values of a circum-Mediterranean-derived (cMd) system of analyzing indigenous cultural artifacts to acquire false positives in his rejection of my findings. He avoided addressing much of the actual evidence that I have brought to bear on demonstrating how the ancient Maya utilized the galactic alignment in their traditions and how they thought about it, and completely neglected to mention or cite from my magnum opus Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 (1998). Actually, now that I think about it, he didn’t address or deal with any of that. I repeat: Villaseñor did not actually address any of the evidence that I’ve brought to bear in support of my thesis not Izapa iconography and archaeoastronomy, not the Creation Myth, not the ballgame symbolism, or any of the other items that provide a meaningful context and were summarized in my online chapter-by-chapter of Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. The reason for this neglect could simply be that he believed that the modern calculation of the galactic alignment must be 100% in congruence with the 13-baktun period end date in 2012 for my theory to have any merit, and his dismissal of this would suffice. This is fundamentally an absurd position.   His application of scientific precision in his “simple solution” section comes across as a corrective on the ancient Maya, resulting in an end date that the Maya should have arrived at had they indeed been intending to calculate the galactic alignment. He gets his “Mesoamerican value for precession” by assuming the “probability” that the 13-baktun period is one-fifth of the full precession cycle. This operation screams of astronomical ambiguity, and is certainly not capable of supporting the 20-year alteration on the established 13-baktun end date that he computes. Such arguments are completely baseless. (Side note: Villaseñor mistakenly categorizes my last name in his bibliography as “Major Jenkins” — that would have been an easy thing to check.) 

 

Villaseñor’s conclusion briefly reiterates his misconceptions, such as his confused assumption that when I’ve said that “the galactic alignment happens only once every 26,000 years” I mean that it happens only on one day. As I previously noted, such a reading of my work cannot be supported, especially considering my 36-year “alignment zone” that Villaseñor himself dealt with in his critique (there’s some conceptual inconsistency for you). One might say, “I once worked at the Nikon factory.” No one assumes that you mean you worked there for one day. I can only guess that a willful obfuscation on Villaseñor’s part is being asserted in order to muddy the discussion. So, the time-waster function of his critique, from my point of view, is very high. My suggestion is that Villaseñor and Freidel (to the extant that Freidel had any real role in this critique) try to address the actual evidence that I’ve brought to bear in support of my theory. The current critique has completely neglected to address that, and in effect is squabbling over semantics while confusedly projecting a modern scientific need for absolute precision onto demonstrable ancient Maya cosmological constructs. 

 

It’s rather sad that people who obviously have a love and passion for Mesoamerican culture are being forced into an ideological corner by their unwillingness to acknowledge that a total outsider to their disciplines discovered something of seminal importance, has argued for it clearly and has done field research without the grant funds they rely on, and has been willing to tirelessly engage their flawed critiques with clarity and honesty. Unfortunately, the Maya value of reciprocity does not seem to obtain in the realm of reactionary polemical sophistry. See also my critiques of Aveni, Freidel, Krupp, and Stuart at http://Update2012.com (October updates).

 

 

Appendix A. Un-Deconstructing the Machinations of Polemical Sophistry

 

In Villaseñor’s penultimate section, titled “A Simple Solution” he begins: “In juggling these three unrelated astronomical events that span more than two centuries, Jenkins invents a meaningless term, distorts astronomical definitions and ascribes to the Maya his own pseudo-astronomy.” Each one of the three elements of this statement are inaccurate assertions. First, the “three unrelated events” alluded to are in fact intimately related, as they all are phases of the generalized galactic alignment process. Second, I didn’t invent the term “galactic alignment,” as he asserts, but I have used it to refer to a real astronomical alignment, which is clearly defined in my work using, on the one hand, accurate astronomical terminology and on the other hand terminology referential to naked-eye sky features that were meaningful to the ancient Maya astronomers. It’s unfortunate that my critics have no ability to grasp contextual distinctions that I have clearly enunciated. Thirdly, Villaseñor has made no demonstration of my reputed “pseudo-astronomy,” but has abundantly revealed his own misconceptions about my astronomical reconstruction which results, due to his own misperceptions, in an indictment of pseudo-astronomy.

 

Villaseñor’s “simple solution” is a fascinating exercise in how the accuracy-obsessed scientifically-minded person runs himself around in circles looking for scraps of argument which he believes will disprove his opponent’s position. Let’s take a look here, as it is both edifying and hilarious. Villaseñor summarizes the results of the diagrams he displayed (figs 3 and 4), which were taken from the website of Stephen Tonkin, that map out the spatial parameters of the dark rift and track the solstice sun’s precessional passage through the dark rift. The star chart maps depict and describe the solstice sun entering the eastern edge of the dark rift “in 1955 AD,” and exiting the western edge of the dark rift “in 2100 AD.” Villaseñor writes that what I refer to as an alignment  is really a transit that spans 155-years.” This must be a mathematical error, since 2100 minus 1955 equals 145, not 155. I accessed his website on January 10, 2010, and saved it below as I suppose that Villaseñor will probably fix the error without acknowledging my correction and without further comment. This error has interesting implications, however, for Villaseñor’s “simple solution” section, which contains poorly or incompletely expressed ideas that are difficult to get the gist of. Verbatim, he writes that “in all his writings John Major Jenkins fails to recognizes the discrepancy between the contemporary value of precession (50.38 arc seconds/year) and the Mesoamerican value of precession (50.57 arc seconds/year) and that by simply substituting today’s more accurate value of precession for the Mesoamerican value of precession (based on the probability that the Long Count is one fifth of a Great Year), one ends with the solsticial sun in the middle of the Dark Rift on December 22, 2032.”

This is a nonsensical statement. First, it is unstated and unclear how Villaseñor arrives at the date of December 22, 2023 with a precessional value determined by dividing the full cycle of precession by five. From what anchor point is the 2032 date calculated? Villaseñor is mute on his method. It does appear, however, that because he was attempting to locate the solstice sun’s arrival in the middle of the dark rift as defined by the two maps provided earlier, the midpoint year should be half way between 1955 and 2100. However, as mentioned Villaseñor used a mistaken value of 155 years, which he must have divided by two, adding 77.5 years to 1955, resulting in the year 2032. (Or, actually, mid-2033). Villaseñor believes this should be the date the Maya chose if they intended their end date to target a precise alignment of the solstice sun with the middle of the dark rift. We need to correct his mathematical error, for the halfway point between December 1955 and December 2100 would not be 2032 AD, but 2028 AD (precisely, June 21, 2028).

 

But let us not forget the important criteria of the galactic equator alignment in 1998 that was so important to Villaseñor’s earlier critique, and the lamentable 14-year discrepancy between 1998 and 2012 which Villasneor represented as a stumbling block for taking my work seriously. The galactic equator is apparently not precisely co-spatial with the exact middle of the dark rift; which is not surprising since the dark rift’s shape and breadth is subject to a variety of factors. So, how do we handle these two apparently equally valid “alignment points,” 1998 and 2028? Here I will use the methodology of precision-obsessed sophists to show how the Maya did achieve absolute precision in the calculation of their end date. The following is a facetious satire, a gratuitous experiment in how the profane intellect generates seemingly air-tight arguments; however, I’m using it against the position arrived at by my critics.  For them, it is a taste of their own medicine.

 

Obviously, the Maya calculated the precise alignment of the solstice sun’s midpoint with the galactic equator, which Meeus similarly calculated as occurring in May of 1998. But the Maya were also precisely aware of the midpoint of the solstice sun’s passage through the dark rift, on June 21, 2028. The Maya were capable of exact precision and could apply the value of precision that is held so dear to modern astronomers, but the Maya would have wanted to create a compromise between the May 1998 date and the June 21, 2028 date. Half of this interval is 14 years and 6 ½ months, which added to May of 1998 brings us right up to December of 2012. [Notice to clueless nitpickers: this was a facetious satire]

 

See, now isn’t that clever? This kind of argument utilizes the same methodology and argument that Villaseñor applies as a criticism but, flipped around it can easily be used to un-deconstruct his tedious, fallacious, and ridiculous deconstruction. Now, because some readers may be overawed at the magical operation performed above, I will state clearly that I don’t see any value in this kind of argument. Why? Because, as I stated earlier, I have never required the Maya to be absolutely precise in their astronomical calculations. It’s unrealistic as well as unnecessary as a support for my theory.  Furthermore, if the Maya were indeed shooting for a 2027 or 2028 date rather than a 1998 date, then the alleged “error” in relation to 2012 is still roughly 14 years, so my decade-old response to the so-called 1998 / 2012 “discrepancy” applies equally to Villaseñor’s 2012 / 2032 discrepancy (corrected to 2027-8) and his so-called “solution.”  In brief, that response is that it is completely unrealistic to expect the ancient Maya astronomers to have been absolutely precise in their forward precessional calculations, and a 14- or 16-year “discrepancy” is less than negligible (roughly 12 minutes of arc of precessional motion, or slightly larger than one-third the diameter of the full moon).

 

What’s really hilarious about all this hairsplitting and wasted digital ink is that none of this really matters in terms of an ultimate make-or-break test of my theory. As mentioned, the actual evidence for an ancient Maya awareness of the solstice sun’s alignment with the dark rift in era-2012, which is the focus of my books and research, was completely neglected by Villaseñor and Freidel.  That has consistently been the case with my critics. So, if they want me to take them seriously, they should 1) read and understand my work;  2) address the evidence and arguments that I’ve brought to bear on my thesis. 

 

It is possible to misunderstand anything and everything if you try hard enough. My critics should try to rise above their prejudice against an independent outsider and help move our understanding of ancient Maya cosmology forward, instead of blocking conclusions that are becoming increasingly obvious as more evidence rolls in (e.g., from the Tortuguero inscriptions). Unfortunately, since it has been all too easy for critics like Freidel and Villaseñor to ignore the evidence I have thus far assembled, it will be equally easy for them to ignore the new evidence from Tortuguero in their future baseless attacks.        

 

 

Sources:

 

Villaseñor – Jenkins – Vollamaere:        

http://www.famsi.org/pipermail/aztlan/2008-January/003929.html

 

http://Update2012.com (October update: Krupp, Aveni, Freidel, Stuart, etc)

 

http://Alignment2012.com

 

Meeus, Jean. Mathematical Astronomy Morels. 1997

 

Patrick Wallace’s calculation. On my website (http://www.alignment2012.com/truezone.htm) and in my 2002 book Galactic Alignment.

 

David Morrison / NASA / Aveni in National Geographic article of November, 2009: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/11/091106-2012-end-of-world-myths.html.

 

 

Glossary:

 

Galactic alignment. Strictly speaking, as it applies to 2012, the galactic alignment is “The alignment of the December solstice sun with the galactic equator in Sagittarius.” The dark rift feature can also be used a reference point for the 2012 galactic alignment, in order to emphasize what ancient sky-watchers were looking at. A fuller treatment of galactic alignment definitions can be found in my 2002 book, Galactic Alignment, and online: http://www.alignment2012.com/whatisGA.htm.   

 

Polemics. An argument made or controversy asserted against one opinion, doctrine, or person.

 

Sophistry. Subtly deceptive reasoning or argumentation.

 

cMd. Interpretations that utilize, consciously or unconsciously, “circum-Mediterranean-derived” assumptions and biases. See Gerardo Aldana’s The Apotheosis of Janaab Pakal.

 

Myopic. Beyond visual impairment, I use this term in reference to conceptual blindness or murkiness caused by short-sighted and limited understanding, or fixation on small-minded dogmas and/or academic positions, especially regarding scholars and other academic gatekeepers who are not supposed to be imprisoned in their own biases and tiny conceptual boxes. 

 

 

Note: Villaseñor’s cult interests and experiences can be gleaned in his articles posted on Reality Sandwich: http://www.realitysandwich.com/the_awakening_teotiwakan?page=1 and http://www.realitysandwich.com/shamans_and_charlatans_assessing_castanedas_legacy.

 

- - -

 

Marcos Villaseñor email:

mvillase@hunter.cuny.edu

 

David Freidel email:

dfreidel@artsci.wustl.edu

 

Location of the piece by Villaseñor and Freidel:

http://homepage.mac.com/villas1/MayaProphesies/index.htm

Should the authors attempt to edit their original piece, it is replicated in its original form below.

 

 

Original version of the article (images omitted):

 

Ancient Maya Prophecy and Calendrics: Reality and Fantasy

By Marcos Adrián Villaseñor and David A. Freidel

mvillase@hunter.cuny.edu - dfreidel@artsci.wustl.edu

Introduction

The Pre-Columbian peoples of Central America and Southeastern Mexico who established and sustained the ancient Maya civilization between 750 BC and 1520 AD were devoted star-gazers and day-keepers. Although their calendars had the practical value of scheduling major social and religious events and, in the case of the Classic Maya civilization especially, they allowed the chronicling of history, the main motivation for astronomical observation was that they believed in astrology. Astrology is, in essence, the idea that the celestial bodies, Sun, Moon, planets, and stars, affect the destinies of people. Maya prophecy, while always based in the mystical capacity of some people to commune directly with supernatural beings, was also anchored into predictions based in astrological calculations.

Astrology is a deeply influential idea world-wide, and for obvious reasons: before the light pollution of the modern age the night sky was a universally awesome sight. The patterned movement of the Moon, planets and stars across the night sky inspired stories of the creation and the role of divine beings in the creation everywhere people looked up and wondered. These stories, promulgated by the charismatic and the wise, had the power of a universally observable frame of reference. Insofar as there was knowledge to be discovered, it lay in the interpretation of what everyone could always see and ultimately confirm. And of course star-gazing ushered in the modern world of scientific cosmology with the Solar-centric model of Copernicus, Galileo and many other pioneering astronomers. Science, the universal method of discovering and knowing, is still expanding our model of the cosmos and our place in it. In the world of the scientific method, however, astrology with its mystical assertions of cause and effect links between celestial bodies and human destiny is a matter of faith and not of fact.

The Maya were participants in a larger “world” of civilizations that included the ancestral Mixe-Zoque speakers, the Zapotec, the Mixtec, the Totonac, and ultimately the famous Nahua speakers who included the Culhua-Mexica, the Imperial Aztec nation. Over ten percent of the contemporary peoples of Mexico, and half the people of Guatemala, speak a language indigenous to this civilized world. When the Maya founded their first cities in the lowlands of the Yucatan peninsula after 1000 BC, star-gazing and was already a time-worn tradition in their world. They raised public buildings that symbolized celestial bodies and that were oriented to the path of the sun, the moon, the Milky Way and the constellations they could observe on the ecliptic path in the night sky. The Pre-Columbian Maya discerned thirteen constellations on the ecliptic path in contrast to the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia who saw twelve and whose astrological legacy came to modern Western civilization.

The number thirteen was, and remains, an exceptionally propitious one and it figures prominently in Maya astrological calculations in the Tzolkin (day counting) 260 day sacred almanac. The 260 day sacred almanac is the most ancient calendar for which we have evidence in Mexico and Central America and was so wide-spread throughout the Mesoamerican world that it is virtually one of the defining cultural traits for it. That calendar cycles through the permutations of twenty named days and thirteen numbers generating 260 unique day-number combinations. The numbered day on which a person is born is so important that it was the name a child went by until given others and always figured in that persons adult destiny. Even the birthday names of gods were important. The number twenty, for the Maya, is an obvious allusion to a major characteristic of all human beings: we have twenty fingers and toes. For those Mesoamericans who participated in the place notation system invented sometime in the first millennium BCE, that it was a base twenty system made perfect sense. Unlike the ancient Mesopotamian astrology we have inherited in the West, the Mesoamericans did not see a direct correspondence between the patterns of particular constellations and the fates of individuals born under their influence. Nevertheless, it is hardly coincidental that the 260 day calendar anchors into 13 numbers as well as twenty named days.

During the Classic period of lowland Maya civilization, roughly 200 AD to 900 AD, scribes painted and carved glyphic texts that included references to the Long Count, a reckoning of days from a Creation Day which experts can correlate with our own calendar as August 11, 3114 BC. In their system, the short way to write Creation Day is 13.0.0.0.0. 4 Ajaw 8 Kumku and this date marks the completion of 13 bundles of 7200 days. But this is just the short way to write date. The full way to write it would show the successive bundles of days 20 place markers above this number 13. Creation Day marks the end of one unimaginably long cosmic era and the beginning of the present, equally unimaginably long era. We know this because a Classic period stela or carved stone monument at the site of Coba in Quintana Roo Mexico does not just write out Creation Day to 13th Baktun, but goes on to list zeros in twenty places above that number 13. For the real cosmic era to reach completion and return to 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Kumku, each of those zeros would, in succession, have to turn over to 13. That number is roughly 10 to the 64th power years. All of which is to say that the end of the 13th Baktun coming up in 2012, on 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 3 Kankin, is just a small tick in the cosmic clock as far as the Classic Maya were concerned. We can confirm that by noting that the 2012 event is simply not mentioned by the Maya in their written texts, while Creation Day figures prominently and pervasively in the texts.

This reality, however, has not prevented modern day astrologers and self-taught enthusiasts in Maya religion from writing and speaking at great length about the imminent arrival of December 21st 2012 and its implications. The book stores around the world are filling up with new publications interpreting the completion of the 13th Baktun and what will happen. Why are people buying these books? In the West, at least, one good reason is that Christianity, the major religious tradition, teaches that the world will come to an end. This belief, millenarianism, is found in other religious traditions as well, but it is especially robust in contemporary evangelical Christianity. So if the Maya predicted the end of the world, it would be, so to speak, independent verification of the Christian view. In the 19th century, some unscrupulous men created a petrified giant and buried him in upper state New York. The Cardiff Giant, when “discovered” made those men a great deal of money because people who had read Genesis and other scripture were predisposed to believe that giants once walked the earth. And they would pay good money to see the giant for themselves. The end of the world has been a perennially popular theme for sincere religious prophets and charlatans out to make money. So it is unsurprising that the ancient Maya have been elevated to the world stage as 2012 approaches.

What did the ancient Maya really think about prophecy? They believed in astrology, and powerful political and religious leaders regularly depicted themselves in communion with divine beings, both gods and ancestors. Their Classic period texts are quite brief and laconic compared to the scriptures we have from other religious traditions. But the way that they regularly anchor important historical events into the Long Count and the other calendars they kept implies that they were situating those historical events into cosmic patterns, making sense of them in light of the known past and the prospective future. While such reckoning was done in the context of the will of the gods, it was a kind of historical analysis we can also see in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, South Asia, and China among the areas that have early writing systems and literary traditions.

Eye-witness accounts at the time of the Spanish arrival in Maya country show that Maya shaman-priests would predict future events, ordinarily disasters, associated with calendar rituals such as the turning of the k’atun or twenty year cycle. These were recorded in the lowlands in the Colonial period in books called the prophecies of the jaguar priest or Chilam Balam. These books are interesting for the way they relate Maya concerns with famine, disease, war and other disasters, and they confirm that the ancient Maya did indeed prophecy for whole communities and polities, not just for individuals. That said, we do not have clear examples of such prediction and prophecy from the Classic period texts. They remain implied by the focus on situating events in calendar cycles.

In the run-up to 2012, we have an opportunity to reflect on the powerful and beautiful qualities of Maya religious thought and sacred stories, and upon the centrality of balance, reciprocity, to the relationships between people and the divine. The Popol Vuh, a highland Maya Colonial period version of ancient Maya beliefs, the current, successful human beings were created following divination by the gods. Those people, the ancestors of modern Maya, were made of maize. They were successful because they could not only discern the gods as was true of earlier human beings, but they nurtured and sustained them. For the Classic Maya centuries earlier, maize was the deity that provided flesh for people. This was likely true for the authors of the Popol Vuh, although they lived in a Christian world in which they could not declare that reality. Maize is still the staple of Maya people, and they must care for it and for the world around it in order to ensure that they can live and their children can live after them. This simple covenant between people and the divine is knowable by everyone, and it contains an enduring truth about humanity and the world. If humans will sustain and nurture the world, and revere as they should, then they can live and prosper. If they do not, it does not take a prophet to predict disaster.

Meanwhile, the charlatans present formidable sounding arguments why the ancient Maya hold the secret to the future through predictions about 2012. One of the most prolific and enterprising is John Major Jenkins. We think it is worthwhile examining his case in some detail.

JOHN MAJOR JENKINS’ DISTORTED ASTRONOMY

Introduction

The well-known New Age apologist John Major Jenkins has made a name for himself by promoting a distorted notion of astronomy that he calls the “Galactic Alignment”, which he claims occurs once every Precession of the Equinoxes cycle or Great Year of 26,000 years and will next happen on December 21, 2012.

In astronomy the term “alignment” is used to describe a linear arrangement of celestial bodies within a gravitational system along different celestial longitudes. For example, within the solar system we often witness alignments in which two or more planets appear to form a straight line with the sun. In astronomical parlance the term alignment cannot be meaningfully applied to solar-galactic conjunctions (along the same celestial longitude) or solar-galactic transits (see “transit” in Glossary) —to do so is misleading. In reality no significant astronomical event will occur on December 21, 2012, what Jenkins promotes as a galactic alignment is three distinct events occurring over a span of more than two hundred years.

 

Jenkins’ Claims vs Astronomy

 

According to Jenkins, the galactic alignment is the “alignment of the solstice’s meridian with the galactic equator” (Jenkins 2002:250). —Note that the galactic equator is an imaginary line created by modern astronomy for which there is no evidence of its use by the Classic Maya—. Since the conjunction of the solsticial sun with the galactic equator took place in 1998 (Meeus 1997) (fig. 1) and not on December 21, 2012, Jenkins attempts to fit fact to theory by inventing a 36-year period of time centered on 1998 (1980-2016) that he calls “the 2012 era”. He writes “Because the sun is one-half of a degree wide, it will take the December solstice sun 36 years to precess through the Galactic equator.” (Jenkins 2009). The Maya love for astronomical precision be damned.

 

Figure 1. “The solsticial sun cross the galactic equator in 1998”

 

Jenkins also writes, in reference to the 1998 solsticial sun-galactic equator conjunction, that the “Galactic Alignment occurs only once every 26,000 years (Jenkins 2009). This is not true, since the galactic equator divides the celestial sphere in two and therefore intersects the sun’s ecliptic at two separate nodes (fig. 2). In other words the conjunction of the solsticial sun with the galactic equator actually happens twice (approximately every 13,000 years) in a precession cycle of slightly less than 26,000 years. In addition he states: “This Galactic Alignment …was what the ancient Maya were pointing to with the 2012 end-date of their Long Count calendar” (Jenkins 2009). This is an unfounded statement based on nothing more than Jenkins own distorted astronomy.

 

Figure 2.solstice axis aligning with Galactic equator every 13,000 years”

 

According to Jenkins his galactic alignment is also an “alignment of the December solstice sun with the Dark Rift” —and it occurs— “once every 26,000 years” (Jenkins 2002:18). This is another misleading statement. This time what Jenkins calls alignment is really a transit that spans 155-years. The solstice sun began transiting the Dark Rift of the Milky Way in 1955 and will finish this transit in the year 2100 (Tonkin 2006) (figs. 3, 4). In other words what Jenkins claims happens once every 26,000 years in reality happens every year for a period of 155 years during each precession cycle.

 

Figure 3. “The solsticial sun on December 22, 1955 as it begins its transit through the Dark Rift of the Milky Way.” 

 

Figure 4. “The solsticial sun on December 21, 2100 as I ends its transits through the Dark rift of the Milky Way.”

 

Jenkins’ third claim is that on December 21, 2012, the December solsticial sun will “align” with the galactic center (Jenkins 2002:14). This conjunction will actually occur on the December solstice of 2225. In order to fit this conjunction into his 2012 scheme, he writes: “So we might want to be open enough to entertain a 260-year transformation window that would embrace the ‘two’ alignments” (Jenkins 2002: 253). In other words, according to Jenkins, his 2012 galactic alignment is magically both: an event occurring once in 26,000 years (next on December 21, 2012), and at the same time a 260 year period of “transformation.”

 

A Simple Solution

 

In juggling these three unrelated astronomical events that span more than two centuries, Jenkins invents a meaningless term, distorts astronomical definitions and ascribes to the Maya his own pseudo-astronomy. But in all his writings John Major Jenkins fails to recognizes the discrepancy between the contemporary value of precession (50.38 arc seconds/year) and the Mesoamerican value of precession (50.57 arc seconds/year) and that by simply substituting today’s more accurate value of precession for the Mesoamerican value of precession (based on the probability that the Long Count is one fifth of a Great Year[i]), one ends with the solsticial sun in the middle of the Dark Rift on December 22, 2032 (fig. 5).

 

Figure 5. “The solsticial sun on December 22, 2032 as it transits through the midpoint of Dark Rift of the Milky Way.”

 

 

Conclusion

While his reconstruction of Maya myths vis à vis the Milky Way may have strong foundations, his invention and promotion of the astronomically meaningless concept of galactic alignment discredits much of his research. Responding to an email on this topic, Jenkins wrote: "an extremely high degree of accuracy is not a requirement of my alignment theory" (Jenkins, personal communication). If a “high degree of accuracy” is not required for the galactic alignment, he should not insist on saying that his galactic alignment happens only once every 26,000 years (next on December 21, 2012), when he is clearly and knowingly referring not to one but to three distinct events occurring over two centuries. It cannot be both ways.

If John Major Jenkins wants to be taken seriously, he must first dispense with his distorted astronomy and update his astronomical lexicon. Then he may be able to understand that the use of astronomical definitions, rather than the creation of nebulous concepts, illuminates the road to Xibalba.

 

Glossary of terms

• Conjunction: the situation of two celestial bodies having either the same celestial longitude or the same sidereal hour angle

• Galactic center: the rotational center of the Milky Way; galactic longitude 359° 56′ 39.5″, galactic latitude −0° 2′ 46.3″ (the galactic center is invisible to the human eye)

• Galactic equator: an imaginary circle drawn along the central plane of the Milky Way that divides the celestial sphere into two hemispheres; the reference plane for celestial coordinates (the galactic equator lies at 0º longitude of the celestial system of coordinates, inclined at an angle of 62º to the celestial equator)

• Galactic longitude: a coordinate system that gives the angular position of an object around the galactic equator, measured in degrees clockwise along the galactic equator

• Great Rift, sometimes called the Dark Rift: a series of overlapping, non-luminous, molecular dust clouds located between the solar system and the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way. To the naked eye they divide the bright band of the Milky Way lengthwise through about one-third of its extent, forming a dark lane, flanked by lanes of multitudinous stars. Starting at the constellation Cygnus, where it is known as the Cygnus Rift or Northern Coalsack, the rift reaches through Aquila into Ophiuchus, where it broaden into Sagittarius, obscuring the center of the galaxy, and finishing in Centaurus.

• Great Year: The complete period of time of a precession of the equinoxes its duration estimate today is 25,724 years.

• Precession of the Equinoxes: the astronomical phenomena of the apparent westward movement of the equinoxes in relationship to the constellations in the ecliptic of the sun.

• Transit: the passage of a celestial body across the face of another celestial body or across any point, area, or line.

Xibalba: is the name of the Maya underworld. The road to Xibalba as viewed by the K'iche' Maya is the Dark Rift of the Milky Way.

 

References:

Glover, Daniel R. Jr. (editor)

            2004 Dictionary for Technical Terms for Aerospace Use, Web edition, NASA Lewis Research Center, Cleveland.

 

Major Jenkins, John

            2002 Galactic Alignment: The Transformation of Consciousness According to Mayan, Egyptian and Vedic Traditions. Bear & Company, Rochester, Vermont.

 

Major Jenkins, John

            2009 What is the Galactic Alignment? Electronic document, http://www.alignment2012.com/whatisGA.htm, accessed June 2009.

 

Meeus, Jean

            1997 Mathematical Astronomy Morsels. Willman-Bell Inc., Richmond, Virginia.

 

Tonkin, Stephen

            2006 The 2012 Winter Solstice Non-event. Electronic document, http://www.astunit.com/astrocrud/2012.htm, accessed June 2009.

 


[i] If indeed the Long Count is a precession calculation, then by multiplying the Long Count's 5,125 years by 5, we can see that the Long Count's calculation for the Great Year or Precession of the Equinoxes is 25,625 years and its value of precession is 50.57 arc seconds a year. This is .19 arc seconds more than the modern value of precession of 50.38 arc seconds a year or 25,724 years for the Great Year. This difference is equal to 20 years in one 5125-year period.

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