Second Critique,
Response to Calleman’s September 2001 Posting


John Major Jenkins
October 8, 2001


Note: When I refer to “my book” I mean Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 (Bear & Company, 1998).


In responding to Calleman’s September 2001 critique of my work, it will first be necessary to address his summary of my work, which is inaccurate. It is important to quote directly from his critique. He writes:


When it comes to explaining the meaning of the Mayan Calendar in the larger perspective, Jenkins’ idea is essentially that the Mayan Long Count, the 5,200 tun (tun = 360-day period) cycle that ends December 21, 2012, is really nothing but an attempt to calibrate a fifth of a precessional cycle of the earth, a cycle which is currently estimated by modern astronomers to approximately 25,920 years. 


The meaning of the Maya calendar is a huge, multifaceted topic. My work in Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 was to determine why the 13-baktun cycle of the Long Count calendar ends on December 21st 2012. Meaning can be sought from many perspectives, from personal to historical, astronomical, metaphysical or universal.  In my opinion it is essential to identify the intention of the ancient skywatchers in ending a large time cycle on December 21st 2012, and interpretations of meaning then can follow. In this regard, it is not accurate to state “my idea” is that the 13-baktun cycle “is really nothing but an attempt to calibrate a fifth of a precessional cycle of the earth.” It is the placement in real time of the 13-baktun cycle that determines its end-date, and why the end-date occurs on the solstice of 2012 is the question I sought to answer. It is true that 13-baktuns equal one-fifth of the precessional cycle, and this is probably very significant as well. Next, Calleman writes:


At the ending date of the Long Count Jenkins supposedly identifies an alignment of the Midwinter Solstice sun with the galactic center. He also claims that this event is what the Maya had targeted and had hit on with some super human accuracy.


Precession is a slow phenomenon, and we need to remember that flesh-and-blood human beings, some 2,100 years ago, invented the Long Count calendar. Beginning with adjustments for precession evident at La Venta circa 1200 BC, skywatchers over many centuries would have observed the position of the December solstice sun approaching the bright band of the Milky Way. The region of the Milky Way that the solstice sun was moving towards is the region of the nuclear bulge of the Galactic Center, which covers a large area in the sky. A more precise target for alignment calculations by these early astronomers is the nearby dark-rift in the Milky Way. It is likely that this dark-rift, near the Galactic Center, was the calculational reference point, as it lies along the Milky Way. So, early Maya astronomers were projecting forward to when the solstice sun would align with the dark-rift in the Milky Way, and a range of perhaps 100 years might be expected (and allowed). It is an astronomical fact that the solstice sun will align with the Galactic equator (the mid-line of the Milky Way) between 1980 and 2016 AD. Calleman says I “supposedly” identify an alignment of the solstice sun with the Galactic Center, implying that somehow I have misread the data. His unexpressed contention involves a precise measurement of difference in locations occupied by the Galactic Center and the crossing point of the ecliptic and Galactic equator. The problem arises from not considering the viewpoint of naked-eye astronomy, as Calleman will look at a star chart or astronomy software which identifies the Galactic Center as a precise point, an abstract conception that has no bearing on how the nuclear bulge of the Galactic Center is seen in the sky—it covers a large area. By invoking a scientific precision that is inappropriate in this instance, 2012 appears to not represent a precise alignment between the solstice sun and the Galactic Center. But I never claimed it did. Chapter 9 in my book addresses and carefully explores the various astronomical features involved in the alignment, as well as timing parameters, and unfortunately I am forced here to restate some of that material. Double-work is not something I enjoy.


Calleman writes that I claim “that this event is what the Maya had targeted and had hit on with some super human accuracy.” I have never claimed “super human accuracy” anywhere, or even precise accuracy. I am not an advocate for anything happening precisely on December 21, 2012, and I have been absolutely consistent on this point since day one—I have gone to great lengths to emphasize that the 2012 date is a pretty good forward calculation in precession, targeting the alignment of the solstice sun with the dark-rift in the Milky Way, but that it is reasonable to allow a range for calculations.


Next, Calleman writes that my book should “contain some proof of the central tenets of his ideas.” This it does. My book addresses the question “why does the 13-baktun cycle end on December 21, 2012” and I rallied interdisciplinary evidence to show that the early Maya astronomers intended 2012 to target the rare alignment of the solstice sun with the Milky Way. However, based on misunderstanding that this is the one question that my book sought to explore, even though it is clearly stated in the Introduction, Calleman requires that I should have demonstrated the following points:


1. that the Maya used a 26,000 tun cycle to describe the precessional cycle of the earth   


Let’s say that my hypothesis is correct, that the early Maya astronomers some 2,100 years ago made a pretty accurate forward calculation in precession, to an era during which certain astronomical features are aligned, and fixed the end-point of their calendar to it. In order to support this hypothesis, it is absolutely unnecessary to show that the Maya used a 26,000-tun cycle to describe precession. It is simply irrelevant. In other words, to make an accurate forward projection in precession of some 2,100 years does not require a knowledge of the full cycle; nor should we assume that an interest in the full cycle even was present. For the ancient skywatchers, realizing that the solstice sun was slowly converging with the dark-rift and the nuclear bulge, the primary objective would probably have simply been to calculate how many years/days until it occurred. Having said that, it does follow pretty naturally that five periods of 13 baktuns, each being one-fifth of precession, equal one precessional cycle. Five World Ages are found in Central American doctrines, in the quincunx symbol of time and space, and, arguably, in the Maya Creation myth. Calleman wants an ancient document that spells it all out clearly. But you have to work harder than that. One needs to read the “book” of the astronomical alignments and monuments at Izapa—which encode the future solstice-galaxy alignment in the guise of the Maya Creation story.


2. that the precessional cycle of the earth has something to do with the coming and going of the ages.


Many ancient civilizations and traditions recognize precession as the timing mechanism of World Ages. The global literature on this is too numerous to even mention. Regarding the Mesoamerican realm, in Appendix 2 of my book I present the work of Maya scholars like Eva Hunt and Gordon Brotherston that show how precession is related to the concept of World Ages in Mesoamerican thought. The Maya Creation Myth is a World Age doctrine. Brotherston even reports Central Mexican documents, based on the original Mayan Creation Myth, that give precessional numbers. One artifact he finds that has an encoded reference to the 26,000-year precession is the famous Aztec Sun Stone. Brotherston is a respected Maya scholar working out of a university in England. All of this is in my book! It is very frustrating to reiterate material that is, indeed, in my book, but that Calleman disregards.


3. that the Mayan calendar system is calibrated based on its end date.


In the Long Count calendar, katuns, baktuns, and tuns are named after their ending day. For example, we are now in the 4 Ahau katun of the Long Count, because the tzolkin day that it ends on is 4 Ahau. More philosophically speaking, the Maya believe that birth happens at the end of a time cycle or process in nature. For example, the 260-day cycle has a geomantic correspondence with the nine-month period of human gestation. This 260-day period, which we may correlate numerologically with the 26,000 years precession, ends with a birth. The genius of Mayan cosmo-conception involves this teleological insight into time and process in the universe: in a sense, the fruit causes the tree (or, better said, the tree exists for the fruit). This perspective inverts the linear causality of scientific thinking and is related to the belief that death is the flower of life. So much is misunderstood in Mayan cosmology because the Western mind approaches it through its own biases. For these reasons it is fair to suspect that the Long Count calendar’s placement may indeed have been fixed by its end date. Although counter-intuitive to the assumptions of the Westernized mind, this Mayan perspective is fundamental and should be part of any Intro 101 course of study into Maya time philosophy. Also, that the end-date was intentionally chosen as the primary anchor of the Long Count in real time is strongly suggested by the fact that it is a solstice date. If the end-date didn’t matter at all, the end-date would just fall anywhere. The double meaning of the December solstice as the end of the year and the birth of the new year is consistent with the meaning of the end of a World Age and the beginning of a new one. They didn’t choose a summer solstice nor did they choose an equinox, because it is the December solstice sun that converges with the dark-rift “birth canal” near the nuclear bulge of the Galactic Center.


4. that there is an alignment of the Midwinter Solstice sun with the Galactic Center in the year 2012.


FACT: There is an alignment of the Midwinter (December) solstice sun with the nuclear bulge of the Galactic Center in the years around 2012.  If this restatement is unsatisfyingly vague to the over-literal scientific mind, we need to remember once again what the ancient skywatchers were actually looking at, and anticipating, in terms of naked-eye sky observations. Precise alignments and parameters have been discussed and addressed in my work (e.g., see Chapter 9 in Maya Cosmogenesis 2012), and none of those considerations derail my interdisciplinary reconstruction.



Now, the four failings of my theory that Calleman listed, that I’ve responded to above, are not failings at all. They are:


1.      Requirements that Calleman believes are necessary in order for my theory to be supported, but in fact are irrelevant to what my book really argues for. Or,

2.      Topics that are in fact addressed, explained, and explored in my book, even though Calleman writes that they “are mostly not even discussed in Jenkins’ book.”       


It becomes difficult at this point to continue with the debate, as Calleman refuses to accept that my book is about answering one simple question: Why does the 13-baktun cycle end on December 21, 2012? Now, whether or not the 13-baktun cycle truly does end on this date is also open to ridicule, and I have explored this question exhaustively in my previous books, including Tzolkin: Visionary Perspectives and Calendar Studies. (Support files are linked below. I assure the reader who does not wish to examine this voluminous material that December 21st, 2012 is by far the best candidate for the 13-baktun cycle’s end-date.) The other complaint that is irrelevant is that in order to support my theory I need to show how the solstice-galaxy alignment can cause transformation. But to demonstrate that the Maya fixed their eschatological doctrine to such an alignment is a completely separate enterprise to demonstrating the efficacy of such an alignment. Do we need to prove astrology in order to accept that ancient people devised astrological doctrines? Now, I’m not saying that I believe the alignment is meaningless in the sense of being involved in human transformation on a global scale, I’m just saying that whether or not it is doesn’t mitigate against my explanation for why the Maya chose 2012. A chapter in my next book, to be released with Inner Traditions International in 2002, explores this interesting question.


In my book I show that the concept of “solstice sun in dark-rift” is central to the Mayan Creation myth, the sacred ballgame, and king accession rites. By showing that the alignment targeted by the 2012 end-date is central to these core Mayan institutions, I identify the solstice-galaxy alignment as a fundamental orientational structure of Mayan civilization. I still need to hear from Calleman a refutation of all this evidence which he has evaded addressing, even though it is the bulwark of my reconstruction.


Some general points:


·        Calleman needs to stop asserting falsehoods like “If the prophetic Mayan Calendar, as Jenkins seems to think, is primarily based on material processes...” This is a baffling statement. I have no agenda or belief in a materialist foundation for the Maya calendar. My writings are loaded with musings and observations to the contrary. I do recognize that all spiritual processes have their material extensions, and an astronomical convergence doesn’t need to cause a spiritual rebirth for it to be related to a spiritual rebirth. Chapter One of my book Tzolkin, “Synchronicity and Causality,” explores the distinction. If Calleman is going to continue with this false assertion, he should respond clearly to my critique of his accusation as I have offered in my previous essay. (In fact, my response to his viewpoint goes back to our email exchange of mid-1999, and he didn’t responded to it then either—he just keeps making the assertion. That’s not much of a debate, is it?)


·        Grand scale interpretations of the “meaning” of the Maya calendar need to be pursued in the context of a modern interpretation of the Maya calendar, not a reconstruction of its original function and intended purpose.


·        Calleman relates information about  Terence McKenna, who developed a timewave theory that involves December 21, 2012. I chose Terence to write the foreword to my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 because he (with his brother, Dennis), were the first discernable authors to state clearly in print (in 1975) that an alignment between the solstice point and the galactic node was approaching. Calleman relates information supplied to him by Peter Meyer, who developed the timewave software, regarding a mathematical flaw in the timewave that necessitated a correction. Calleman writes that the corrected timewave ends on November 18, 2012. I had read that the correction, discovered by a mathematician named Watkins and thus named the Watkins Objection, did not effect the end date but did recalibrate the shape of the wave. At any rate, Calleman is completely out of line when he writes that “McKenna choose not to respond to this very serious criticism.” On the contrary, Terence, like a true open-minded scientist,  welcomed any and all corrections and criticisms to his theory and in fact drew attention to and discussed the Watkins Objection on his website and on his email list in 1997-1998, as soon as it emerged. Here, Calleman’s carelessness misrepresents the truth and paints the wrong—in fact, the opposite—picture. I should also say, by the way, that Terence’s timewave theory has nothing to do with my Maya calendar research (apart from each using the 2012 date, but for different reasons) and therefore it is completely unclear why Calleman chose to bring it up in the context of our debate.


·        Calleman writes, “Much of Babylonian-European astrology, which Jenkins seems to be influenced by….” What does this mean, “seems to be influenced by?”  Are there astrological lists of planetary energies, sign qualities, and aspect interpretations in my book? No; in fact, in the Introduction I rejected conceptualizing the solstice-galaxy alignment as “the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.” Nothing in my book relies on Western or Euro-Babylonian astrological concepts. In my books I emphasize the uniquely Mesoamerican elucidations of astrological concepts, for example the 13-sign zodiac or the relationship between eclipses and the tzolkin. I am completely baffled by such an assertion. Calleman, stating elsewhere that his perspective is spiritual and mine is material sets up an unnecessary, and untrue, dualism that can only divide readers into two camps, the implication being that the spiritual interpretation is better, and he has it. This is where we part company, because now we are in the realm of persuasive argument, emotional/spiritual appeals, value-judgment choices, and lifestyle emulation rather than looking at the facts.


·        Calleman obscures truth by his choice of words: “The alignment that Jenkins wishes would occur in 2012 already happened in 1998.” I never wished for the alignment to happen in 2012. As stated in previous correspondence and in my book, I refer to “the alignment of era-2012” and explore why the alignment is best thought of as a range of years rather than a precise day/minute/second in 1998. Even in my earliest writings on the end-date alignment, I didn’t evade the 1998 date. As described previously, it is only an issue to those who require a degree of scientific precision that is inappropriate to the situation. Several factors complicate the alignment scenario and I am one of the few researchers who have explored them honestly and carefully. In the end, the 1998 date for the precise alignment doesn’t mitigate against my theory that the ancient Maya intended December 21, 2012 to mark or “target” or “indicate” the alignment of the solstice sun with the dark-rift (which runs along the Galactic equator). In fact, as I have written ad infinitum, the sun itself is ½° wide and a part of it will still be touching the Galactic equator on December 21, 2012. That sounds like an alignment to me. I don’t think I can write in a more succinct, careful, and discerning fashion. It is not possible to have a clear-headed and healthy debate when wrong impressions about my inner beliefs or assumptions are continuously implied by loaded word choices.


I could continue with these types of problems that occur throughout Calleman’s critique. In summary, a false impression of my assumptions, goals and motives is painted by Calleman, which he then proceeds to criticize. This is the oldest trick in the game of intellectual obfuscation and deconstruction, which I’m not interested in playing: build up a straw man and then knock him down. And these false statements are made as if they are paraphrased from my book, when in fact my clearly-described positions are usually the opposite of what Calleman implies.  I do not feel that my theory or book is under examination here, but rather a series of assumptions projected onto me that are false. Where certain points do have bearing on my theory, I have responded to them clearly in the previous critique-responses of September 2001 and mid-1999.   


If understanding the true nature of time is the urgent goal here, perhaps the ultimate wisdom to be contemplated is: “time is an illusion.”


Support files for the Calleman debate.


John Major Jenkins: background and publications


My first essay in the debate, September 2001.


My original response to Calleman’s Appendix, summer 1999



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