John Hoopes (Hoopes)

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Five Years

Well, it looks as if the 2012 mythos and related ideologies have found a prominent place in Guatemalan politics:

"The 56-year-old Mr Colom has a background in the textile business and does not belong to any of the 23 Mayan ethnic groups who make up more than 40% of the population. But he has been ordained a Mayan priest, and drew much of his electoral support from the rural areas where poverty amongst indigenous groups is deep-rooted. Mr Colom, who will start his four-year term on 14 January, says he will regularly consult a group of spiritual leaders, known as the Mayan Elders National Council."

The council is headed by Don Alejandro Oxlaj, who is speaking at today's inauguration. Don Alejandro is a major figure in New Age "Mayanism" who has had the support of Carl Johan Calleman, one of the principal figures promoting 2012-related prophecies. Don Alejandro is known for making references to phenomena such as mediumistic contact with Pleiadeans (extraterrestrial entities from the Pleiades). He was prominently featured in a recent film titled "The Shift of the Ages":

Don Alejandro is also a spiritual advisor to the alternative think tank Common Passion:

It will be fascinating to see how Colom's presidency unfolds and whether New Age ideas will move closer to center stage as a synchretistic movement for peace and reconciliation.

Better this than what's already been in Guatemala's past.

January 14, 2008 at 2:40 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Five Years

Dear John MJ,

I'm sorry I put you on the defensive! That's never my intention, but I do understand where those sentiments might originate. The main point that I was trying to make is that, given the fact that the Popol Vuh and Books of Chilam Balam carry some elements of Christian eschatology, these cannot be considered (or referred to) as if they were "pristine" documents. I did not mean to imply that there were any introductions of Christian theology although I think it's important to acknowledge that these exist. You say that Christian theology is "fundamentally different", but that's really not so. Notions of cyclicity related to astronomical observations came into Christian thought through Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and other influences. Christian imagery is replete with references to the resurrected sun/son and many other astronomical/astrological allusions (a number of which remain as subject to varying interpretations as those in the Popol Vuh). Theseinclude the various astronomical events associated with the Christmas story, which were undoubtedly associated with cyclical events.

These are not easy to dismiss, especially if one of the motivations of Ximenez in transcribing the Popol Vuh was to either: 1) demonstrate the similarities of Christian and Maya traditions (i.e. the notion of a Great Flood punishing evil, the resurrection of self-sacrificed culture heros who triumphed over death, etc.), 2) to demonstrate that Maya mythology was a form of blasphemy (i.e. an intentionally distorted version of the Christian myth, perhaps the result of demonic influence), or 3) some combination of these. I think it's naive to ignore the similarities and the ways in which the Popol Vuh may have been modified in post-Conquest, pre-transcription contexts. The Spanish were constantly seeking either affirmation or disproof of their success at communicating Christian doctrine, which is indeed cyclical (the myth of the eternal return) and millennialist.

Please resist the impulse to feel defensive. I'm really trying to help. The reason I asked the question is because I think a systematic review of "all of the Creation dates that are written" and their contexts would strengthen your argument more than reference to the Popol Vuh, specifically because of what I've mentioned above.

January 14, 2008 at 10:29 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Five Years

I'm not suggesting that the copying introduced the World Age doctrine at all, only pointing out that there were at least two opportunities for Christian eschatology to have been introduced to the only surviving copy of the Popol Vuh: 1) during the episode of its transcription to an alphabetic version by Spanish-trained Quiche scribes in the mid-16th century, and 2) during the copying of the alphabetic version by Ximenez in the early 1700s.

I haven't done a careful analysis of possible introductions to the text myself, but I don't think that's necessary to argue that the Popol Vuh, as it has come to us, is not a "pristine" version of a pre-Conquest Maya document. Just because you doubt that there were introductions made by Ximenez doesn't mean there weren't. A first step in evaluating this would be to learn more about who Ximenez was and what his motivations were in transcribing (and translating) this indigenous document. Was he doing it to document the erroneous ways of the pagan Quiches? Was he using the document to demonstrate parallels in Maya and Christian belief (the notion of an ancestral couple, past cataclysms, etc.)? Did he have any motivation to introduce changes (or elmininate offensive passages)? I don't know the answers to these, but they're certainly relevant to the reliability of the document.

I should also point out that highland Guatemala was the recipient of populations and accompanying cultural influences from central Mexico during the Postclassic period, at which time elements of non-Maya eschatology may also have been introduced. The Popol Vuh should therefore be considered in light of what these alternative ideologies might have been, and how they may have influenced the Quiche scribes. The only way to be confident of pre-Conquest Maya belief systems is to use pre-Conquest Maya documents, and this requires detailed knowledge of Maya epigraphy.

"Let's not forget the specific context of my original observation that the World Age doctrine in the Popol Vuh expresses the calendrical World Age in the Long Count." No, but use of the Long Count had ended many centuries before even the 16th century alphabetic transcription of the Popol Vuh. Your observation is the one that needs the clearest support. Is there *any* evidence you can cite that comes directly from Classic period Maya texts?

January 6, 2008 at 5:01 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Five Years

"Tedlock's translation, for example, draws from the original document recorded by Maya elders in the 1550s"

I'm sorry, John, but here's what Tedlock (1996 27) says about the Popol Vuh:

"During the early colonial period the town of Quiche was eclipsed, in both size and prosperity, byt the neighboring town of Chuwi La' or 'Nettles Heights,' otherwise known as Chichicastenango. The residents of this rising town included members of the Canec and Lord Quiche lineages, and at some point a copy of the alphabetic Popol Vuh found its way there. Between 1701 and 1703, a friar named Francisco Ximenez happened to get a look at this manuscript while serving as the parish priest. He made THE ONLY SURVIVING COPY of the Quiche text of the Popol Vuh and added a Spanish translation."

Tedlock may in fact "draw" from the original alphabetic document recorded in the mid-16th century (by authors who had been schooled by Spanish missionaries), but only indirectly. Tedlock was working from a transcription that was been made by this Spanish friar (who also happened to be fluent in Quiche) in the first years of the 18th century. This copy of the Popol Vuh has been in the Newberry Library in Chicago since 1911.

January 5, 2008 at 3:24 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Five Years

I think this is one of the clearest pieces you've written. I don't think there's anything wrong with your proposed "thought experiment", provided you're prepared to consider evidence that might counter your working hypothesis. The complaints about previous scholars' responses are irrelevant to the strength of the argument you're trying to build. I'd leave those out (and do the hornblowing with subtle but clear citations of your earlier publications).

You note, "The end of a 13-Baktun period is found frequently on so-called Creation monuments that deal with the events that occur at the end of a World Age - the end of a 13-Baktun period."

Could you cite specifically which monuments you mean? The argument that these documents affirm that a "World Age" is actually 13 Baktuns long is one that needs to be made much more clearly and explicitly, with references to specific texts.

A related problem that merits some discussion: Why did the Aztecs refer to five Creations while the Mayas referred to only four? Is there something in this disjunction that might provide a clue about what the length of a Great Cycle was thought to have been?

You note that "beliefs about what occurs at the end of one of these World Age periods may be found, mythologically expressed, in the Maya Creation Myth, the Popol Vuh. (That all cycle endings are like-in-kind events is attested in the Books of Chilam Balam..." However, as I and others have pointed out, both the Popol Vuh and the Books of Chilam Balam--which undoubtedly had Pre-Conquest antecedents in some form--have come down to us as POST-Conquest documents that were transcribed and modified by Spanish-trained scribes who had very likely been schooled in Biblical prophecies and Christian escatology. This must be acknowledged along with the fact that the strongest arguments for Maya escatology will have to come from documentation that is demonstrably Pre-Conquest.

Of course, you don't say anything in this piece about your ideas regarding the dark rift in the Milky Way. I hope that you will also be addressing that with the goal of a "rational" explication.

I think this is a helpful approach.

January 4, 2008 at 10:49 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Five Years

Tocayo (JMJ), I'm really flattered that you've taken my recommendation to heart! This puts a great start on the Gregorian new year and is a step in the right direction.

As I've said before, I don't think you can be faulted for earning a living or for delving into metaphysics. We pay far too much lip service to the need for scientists to consider religion and religionists to consider science. There is certainly room for faith in scholarship, so long as it doesn't adversely affect the quality of the pursuit of knowledge.

This may not be the right venue for a full set of comments on your essay, but I found myself catching on something I've mentioned to you before. You write: "The only alternative is to believe that the coordination of the 13-baktun cycle end date with a December solstice is a coincidence. The odds of this are extremely high." Am I mistaken, or aren't the odds of the end date occurring on the a December solstice exactly 1 in 365? Are those odds really "extremely high"?

The odds of hitting a solstice (June or December) are 2 in 365 or 1 in 182.5, while the odds of hitting either a solstice or an equinox (March or September) are 4 in 365 or 1 in 91.25. Wouldn't any of these four "hits" have elicited the interpretation of something significant? Add to the possibility of significant "hits" other astronomical events that occur in 2012, and the probability of the end of the 13-baktun cycle falling on one of them only increases.

Human consciousness has an aversion to random events, so it would probably be possible to cook up a post hoc explanation for any one of them. In my mind, something with a 1:365 probability has, in the grand scheme of things, a high likelihood of happening. It's not a 1:1,000,000 probability, but lots of people with worse odds than that win lotteries every week.

Low probability events do occur, and people have throughout history offered theories as to why they happen the way that they do and when. For example, anthropologist E.E. Evans-Pritchard wrote quite a bit on how the Azande use witchcraft to explain why granaries collapse on people at specific times. Metaphysics does provide answers for these things, but what's required here is persuasive science.

I do think you're on the right track with this approach, but one objection I have is the notion that 1:365 represents "extremely high" odds. Can you persuade me that I'm being irrational?

January 4, 2008 at 3:35 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Five Years

I'm sorry for the experience you had with Mexicon, but bibliography format seems to me to be an easy enough thing to fix. (EndNote and ProCite software now make it easy to change citation and bibliographic formats.) As for other reviews, shame on any colleagues who are not willing to help an enthusiastic amateur with constructive criticism. If Munro Edmonson didn't find your work to be his "cup of tea", then you have a right to request another reviewer.

As far as the response to "Maya Cosmogenesis 2012" goes, I doubt that many academic Mayanists have bothered to even pick it up, much less read it. Pseudoscience tends to be such a bottomless rabbit hole that most professionals are loathe to bother with anything that appears to be in that category. The Bear & Co. catalogue doesn't help with establishing a context of credibility.

I get the impression that you haven't engaged in much direct dialogue with journal editors. That's always a good idea, but keep in mind that editors are also concerned with maintaining the scholarly integrity of their publications. Forays into the fantastic don't inspire great confidence, and no one wants to come away looking as if they'd been fooled. Journals are expected to maintain a high level of authority and dignity. An editor may be able to give you some suggestions on what would be appropriate.

In the meantime, publicizing your work in conferences alongside the likes of Daniel Pinchbeck (such as the one linked below) is likely to elicit further stigma rather than serious scholarly attention. If you don't care about the latter, that's fine. However, if it's something you want, don't be surprised when Mayanists refuse to pay attention to anything you have to say because of the sensationalist, woo-woo, New Age company you keep.

"Shift happens."

This kind of stuff (which is the source of the "pseudo-" in "pseudoscience") tends to make your work come across more as for-profit entertainment--or even a religious obsession--than a scholarly contribution to knowledge.

January 1, 2008 at 3:28 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Five Years

The possible confusion and errors by astronomers such as Strous (on which I won't render a specfic opinion at this time) is all the more reason why John Major Jenkins should submit a clear, concise, well-documented exposition of the principal elements of his theory about 2012 for consideration by the editorial staff and reviewers of a respected academic journal. If his model represents a significant contribution to knowledge, it should be vetted by several qualified experts and published with the imprimatur of a reliable source.

I would be the first to agree that web-based resources and books written for a general audience (especially those published by highly speculative editors such as Barbara Hand Clow at New Age publishing houses such as Bear & Company) are potentially filled with all kinds of errors, which is why most scholars totally disregard them when better information is available in peer-reviewed journals.

What is needed is a succint, 25-page MS. with accompanying diagrams and figures that explains the Izapan galactic-rift-conjunction-plus-procession solsticial observation theory without extraneous references, accompanied by an explanation of what this contributes to our understanding of the ancient Maya. There is no need to expend further energy on books and websites until an article has been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal.

Brief articles in journals such as Science and Nature have radically transformed huge chunks of scientific knowledge. Is there some reason why the core and supporting data for John Major Jenkins' theory about 2012 cannot be presented in this way? A journal such as Ancient Mesoamerica or other journals dealing with archaeoastronomy would be perfectly appropriate.

Is it science or pseudoscience? Why not let the experts decide?

December 30, 2007 at 1:42 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Five Years

For those who are interested in the astronomical implications of 2012, here's a helpful page from the Astronomical Institute at Utrecht University in the Netherlands:

December 20, 2007 at 2:21 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Five Years

More opportunism?

The advertising for a new, special issue of U.S. News and World Report on "Secrets of Christianity" asks "Will there be an Apocalypse, and when will it happen?" Of course, "Apocalypse 2012?" appears on the cover:

December 19, 2007 at 2:47 p.m. ( | suggest removal )