Response to E. C. Krupp’s 2012 article in Sky & Telescope


John Major Jenkins. October 18, 2009 / /


There’s a new genre of critique on the rise in academia --- “Jenkins bashing.” I am less personally offended at this treatment than I am shocked that such misleading polemics is being wielded by scholars and thinkers whom I have respected. Although these critiques  emanate from academic scholars, they are easily demonstrated to proceed upon inaccurate paraphrasings of my work as well as incomplete assessments of what my work is actually saying. It is about as reliable a source for facts as the New Age fringes that these pundits of status quo propriety conflate with my pioneering work. My work with Mesoamerican cultures and traditions goes back to my first 15-week-long trip to Central America in 1986.

            Astronomer E. C. Krupp published an article in the November 2009 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine. It was announced in a companion piece written by Tony Flanders on the Sky & Telescope website (October 15, 2009), to which I replied in the comment section. []. Krupp’s title is typically hyped around the fallacious doomsday ideation that infects the 2012 discussion: “The Great 2012 Scare.” Krupp’s brief treatment of my work is riddled with glaring omissions and self-serving cherry-picked quotations, which I am happy to clarify here. Not once did he state that I have been decrying the incorrect doomsday-2012 association for some twenty years — longer that Krupp and other academic come-latelies have cared to think twice about 2012. It’s typical for scholars to approach their critique of 2012 through the increasing doomsday hype. That’s fine. Author Geoff Stray and I have been assessing, analyzing, and correcting the doomsday-2012 theories for almost two decades. Scholars, however, stop short of doing their real jobs: assessing the role hat 2012 may have played in ancient Maya thought. One bright beacon that something might be found, if only it was pursued with an open mind, is the fact that the correlation having the widest acceptance in academia — the so-called GMT-2 correlation — results in the 13-Baktun cycle ending on December 21, 2012. So what, you say? It’s a solstice. I can testify to twenty years of academic myopia on this fact as a compelling entry point to investigating the possibility that 2012 was an intentional artifact of ancient Maya thought, because I’ve been asking scholars about this for years and up until very recently they’ve responded “it must be a coincidence.” And so my work proceeded, beginning around 1988, untrammeled by whatever closed-minded mandate blinds professional scholars. The results of my twenty-year investigation were barely touched upon by Krupp, and what he did address was presented in a distorted form. My friends, this is a case of professional scholars unwilling to honestly assess the findings of a person operating outside of their Ivory Tower guild. It’s a very old story. But let’s take a look at the actual ideas presented in Krupp’s article.


Krupp assesses the Googlesphere and happily conflates my galactic alignment theory with doomsday disasters: “The ancient Maya [according to Krupp’s mashed together reading of a variety of web sources] … kept a calendar that is about to roll up the red carpet of time, swing the solar system into transcendental alignment with the heart of the Milky Way, and turn the earth into a bowling pin for a rogue planet heading down our alley for a strike.” See how clever that is, folks? With purple prose he seamlessly conflates a generalized nod to my alignment theory with a catastrophic rogue planet. He tickles your brain while feeding it red herrings. 


A picture of my 1998 book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 adorns the second page of his article, which he calls the “chief book behind the 2012 mania.” This book is an interdisciplinary investigation based upon my years of study of academic sources. It’s 430 pages long, contains almost 200 line drawings of monuments and glyphs, 30 pages of incisive end notes, and six appendices. The sources I used in my investigation are listed in the book's bibliography and here: Check it out. I have had a chapter-by-chapter summary of the book on my website since 2002, aware that people didn’t care to actually read and assess what my work is about before casting aspersions:

            Krupp mentions Richard Landes, director of The Center for Millennial Studies, who demonstrated his lack of understanding of Maya traditions and calendrics in his 1999 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross. In my introduction to Geoff Stray’s 2005 book Beyond 2012, I address how Landes seemed to think that New Age visionary Jose Arguelles was the only source for information about 2012, a conviction that will certainly lead you astray. Krupp's deference to Landes smacks of old boy network politics rather than any kind of actual qualifications for comment on 2012. As mentioned, I’ve spent a great deal of time assessing books and models proffered by Arguelles and others. My approach has always been to study the Maya traditions deeply, to call out erroneous ideas not congruent with Maya concepts, and my work has been focused on attempting to reconstruct poorly understood aspects of ancient Maya thought, cosmology, and calendrics. This is demonstrated in my 1998 book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 by my adherence to synthesizing the previous work of Maya scholars.  Arguelles, Calleman, and other popular writers almost completely ignore the vast storehouse of Maya scholarship while my synthesizing conclusions are soaked wth them, and yet Krupp and other critics insinuate that I and my work belong in the specious New Age category. This is the game of derision and polemics, utilizing tedious linguistic and conceptual labyrinths to keep you from looking at the dang an sich, the actual facts of the matter.

For example, Krupp protects academia when he writes of the origin of the doomsday-2012 meme. He ascribes it to Frank Waters’s 1975 book Mexico Mystique. In point of fact, the interpretation that the end of the current 13-Baktun cycle must be an “Armageddon” was first enunciated by Maya scholar Michael Coe, in his 1966 book The Maya (page 149). I noticed that years ago and Maya scholar John Hoopes has discussed this. That’s right folks, all this 2012-doomsday nonsense originated right from within the hallowed Halls of Academe. But Krupp would not want you to know that. Neither would epigrapher David Stuart, who wrote in his online blog that the doomsday-2012 idea originated with “New Age hacks.”[see]. Apparently all is fair in love and rational discourse.

            Krupp then tops this mistaken assertion by writing that “Waters also miscalculated the date when the calendar would supposedly pull down the shades … ‘December 24, 2011 A.D.’.” In point of actual known FACT, it was, again, Michael Coe who offered this erroneous calculation in his 1966 book, which Waters duly adopted. Waters’s mistake was to trust the words of a scholar. I can accept that Krupp was simply unaware of the origins of this mess in Coe’s 1966 book, which means that Krupp did not read my 1992 book Tzolkin, my 1998 book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, nor my articles in the Institute of Maya Studies newsletter, nor my comments on the academic e-list called Aztlan 1999-2009, nor my 2002 book Galactic Alignment, nor relevant pages on my website Next, Krupp mentions the 1975 book by the McKenna brothers, The Invisible Landscape. He states “that book at least got the Baktun-13 end date right: December 21, 2012.”  Wrong! The first edition did not state the month and day. It mentioned only 2012 once. It was the slightly revised 1993 edition that added the full date. If readers would like a complete and accurate accounting of the history of these 2012 manifestations, please see my new book, The 2012 Story: The Myths, Fallacies and Truth Behind the Most Intriguing Date in History.[]

Krupp then goes on to dissect the McKenna brothers' generalized and somewhat misleading definition of what has now become known as the “galactic alignment.” The state of the discussion on the galactic alignment up until the early 1990s was practically non-existent. A few astrologers, Ray Mardyks and Nick Fiorenza, had described the astronomy behind it more-or-less accurately, but neither had sought to demonstrate its role, as I would come to do, within Maya traditions and concepts. The definitions of it remained a bit unclear. Throughout the 1990s I had striven to provide clear definitions and assessments of the astronomy behind the galactic alignment, discussing it in articles and books and web pages between 1994 and 1999. Of course, it featured in my 1995 book The Center of Mayan Time and my 1998 book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. This breakthrough work that I did as a self-funded independent investigator, traveling to Izapa and Central America fifteen times over 22 years, was characterized by Krupp in this way: “John Major Jenkins packaged several of these themes into Maya Cosmogenesis 2012.” Krupp neglects to acknowledge that my book presents five or six completely new integrative ideas regarding various previously unexplored areas of ancient Maya precessional astronomy, the basis of the New Fire ceremony, Izapa, the ballgame, Chichen Itza, and zenith-Pleiades symbolism. [] His dismissive assessment that I merely “repackaged” previous ideas is disingenuous to say the least. But not surprising. Many professional scholars go through their entire careers without making one original contribution to the advancement of knowledge.   

As I pointed out eleven years ago in my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 and in a web page that I posted almost a decade ago [], the galactic alignment can be defined scientifically as “the alignment of the December solstice sun with the galactic equator in Sagittarius.” You could also speak more generally of “galactic alignments” if you widened the definition to include the two solstices and the two equinoxes. You could also theoretically pinpoint the galactic alignment very accurately if you chose to use the exact midpoint of the sun as the reference point, shifting with precession into alignment with the galactic equator. You would then arrived at a theoretically precise calculation, as European astronomer Jean Meeus did, of May 1998 (Meeus, Mathematical Astronomy Morsels, 1997). A decade ago I applied rational rigor to Meeus’s calculation and pointed out that no error range was offered, that even a very slight variation in the assumption about the exact location of the galactic equator would render the calculation off by several years and, most importantly, that the sun’s actual width (1/2 degree) should be factored into a reasonable discussion of the astronomical definition of the so-called galactic alignment. Krupp mentioned my resulting 36-year “alignment window” of 1980 – 2016 as a lead-in to some kind of criticism of circular reasoning. Fascinating. You apply rational and scientific rigor to define and address the empirical facts of an astronomical phenomenon and it becomes the linchpin of your critic’s accusation of “arbitrary” circular thinking. Ed, can you clarify that one for me? I’ve never used an argument about the precision of the galactic alignment’s connection to 2012 as a basis for demonstrating how the ancient Maya incorporated the alignment into their concepts. More importantly: The projected alignment of the sun, on the solstice, with the middle zone of the Milky Way’s dark rift would have been a compelling target for their evolving calendrical cosmology (see below for more on the dark rift).  

In 1999 I also posted  the calculations of astronomer Patrick Wallace regarding the precession-based galactic alignment process, it’s relation to the galactic equator and the galactic center, and discussed these things openly in my articles and my 2002 book Galactic Alignment.[] Yet Krupp writes: “Jenkins … settles for an imprecise alignment to which December 21, 2012, is arbitrarily and circularly assigned. Real astronomy does not support any match between the Baktun-13 end date and a galactic alignment. The advocates both admit and ignore this discrepancy.” Allow me to correct this. I was one of the first to provide a clear definition and discussion of this pejoratively labelled "discrepancy" between 1998 and 2012 openly and honestly. It is not ignored. The problem is that what Krupp believes to be “real astronomy” (the one that uses precise abstract scientific definitions courtesy of Meeus) does not correspond very well with the observations and concerns of ancient naked-eye skywatchers, such as the Maya. Modern scientific definitions and concepts can be used, as I have done, to define and discuss a phenomenon such as the galactic alignment precisely,  but modern scientists and astronomers often get lost in their allegiance to these abstractions. Krupp, and many of my critics, neglect to point out that my reconstruction of ancient Maya cosmology proceeds on the basis of the naked-eye astronomy of the ancient Maya.

Krupp’s further complaints about me ignoring the various timing parameters of the galactic alignment are mitigated by the fact that I have not only openly discussed these issues, I introduced these issues; they were discussed in my 1998 book and an entire chapter in my 2002 book Galactic Alignment is called “Timing Parameters of the Galactic Alignment.” The real issue is that the niggling details of modern scientific definitions are less relevant than the observational astronomy that, as I argue, was implemented by the ancient Maya skywatchers, involving the astronomical feature known as the dark rift in he Milky Way (called by the Maya the xibal be or xibalba be, the road to the underworld). Krupp did not mention the dark rift in his article, an indispensable and central feature of my astronomical reconstruction work revealing how the ancient Maya may have actually conceived the galactic alignment. The oversight is perplexing, considering the exchanges Krupp and I had back in 1995-6, when I sent him articles and clearly explained the importance of the dark rift in my reconstruction work. The solstice sun's precession-caused alignment with the dark rift in era-2012 is, simply, the galactic alignment. My work has been deeply involved in showing how this astronomical image-complex of the sun in the dark-rift is encoded into the Maya’s ballgame symbolism at the site of Izapa, in king-making symbolism, and in the Maya Creation Mythology. I shared a lot of this on Aztlan in mid-1999, which perhaps Krupp doesn’t pay attention to, including a specially-crafted piece for doubtful Maya scholars and astronomers: All of this was conveniently ignored by Krupp.

Krupp therefore cherry picks various quotes and gives incorrect impressions. I have never, for example, assumed or believed that the galactic alignment would happen precisely on, and only on, December 21, 2012. Given the tenacity with which I have defined and assessed the parameters of the galactic alignment phenomenon, I think it is rather absurd to suggest such a thing, which Krupp did. In my rather large literary and audio output on Maya calendrics since 1989, I suppose it’s possible to find generalized statements that give the impression of this notion, but if a critic was to honestly assess my long-standing, consistently applied, overall intention, such a misconception would be exposed and we could proceed with a rational debate. Many times, quotes clipped out of context give the wrong impression. For example, as Krupp cites I have written that 2012 would have represented for the ancient Maya “a tremendous transformation and opportunity for spiritual growth, a transition from one world age to another.” This statement is predicated upon several contextual relations between the Maya Long Count and World Age periods that Krupp himself sketched: 3114 BC and 2012 AD would have been conceived as transitional period endings. I call this a “world age” transition because the ends of 13-baktun cycles were conceived by the Maya as cosmological renewal events (at Quirigua and at Tortuguero). Krupp asserts that there is no genuine Maya tradition of world ages, which is incorrect — the Maya Creation Myth (the Popol Vuh) describes a sequence of world ages.

Krupp briefly mentions the 2012 date on Tortuguero Monument 6, but like many other Maya scholars, he dismisses it because two of its 190 glyphs are partially effaced.  It’s easy to say that “there is no evidence [including at Tortuguero] that they saw the calendar and a world age ending in either transcendence or catastrophe on December 21, 2012.” Sure, I’d agree with that statement. But there is evidence, particularly at Tortuguero, for how 2012 was being conceived and utilized. Krupp is simply unaware of the new work that is being done on other dates and events recorded on Tortuguero Monument 6 that are tied in various ways to the 2012 date. He is also apparently unaware of the debates and observations that have occurred on Stephen Houston's blog about Tortuguero.[] or comments by progressive scholars on Aztlan about the inscriptions of Tortuguero Monument 6.[] All of that lends a huge amount of support to my work at Izapa and my interpretation of 2012 as being, according to Maya tradition, a time of transformation and renewal connected, in their cosmological beliefs, with the solstice sun's alignment with the dark rift in the Milky Way in era-2012.


Krupp ends his article with a lament for the idiocracy that permeates the 2012 discussion. I say to him: join the club, I’ve been dealing with that for over twenty years. And the irrationality of under-informed New Age exploitation-meisters, doomsday pimps, and carnival barkers is just as maddening as the misleading know-it-all proclamations of come-lately scholars. Perhaps scholars should have started investigating 2012 twenty years ago, as I did; they’d be a lot further along in piercing through all the 2012 noise and getting to the heart of the reconstruction. Krupp’s analysis of my reconstruction is just as flawed as the silly New Age 2012 models, proceeding as it does on inaccurate assessments and under-informed assumptions.