I have finished reading The 2012 Story by John Major Jenkins. Sometime in the future, most likely after my vacation, I will write two posts, one dealing with his frustrations with academia (the traditional “I think outside the academic box” tendency) and one about his use of perennial philosophy. Actually, I have least problem with his galactic alignment theory and had he just stuck to that I would not have bothered including him in my 2012 coverage. In this post I will point out his use of selective and misrepresenting readings and statements. Since his main interest is archaeoastronomy and cosmology he ignores relevant data assessed by Mayanists.
We can begin with some non-Maya issues first. Jenkins is not an archaeologist and this is seen throughout the book where he makes all sorts of non-supported claims. Let us ignore the minor parts, such as labeling the Magdalenian period Neolithic (it is Paleolithic) (p 345). More problematic is his statement that “the aborigines of Australia are noted for not developing and using tools […] Archaeologists consider tool use a sign of civilization, a development out of a more primitive state. About 3,000 years ago, tool use did begin to develop among the aborigines […] Tools and technology began to spread from group to group and then, suddenly, it stopped. The tools stopped being made.” (p 343). This is simply not true as one easily can see in this online article. The aborigines (which, btw, is not a homogenous group) has been using tools for over 30,000 years.
So what credible source does Jenkins assess to spread this misinformation? It is the New Age author Robert Lawlor who argues that “the ancient aborigines realized that tools and technology would lead them down a road to a place where the Dreamtime did not exist […] They made a rational [not transrational???] decision to not limit their minds to the domain of material objects and their clever uses, not to leave the Dreamtime” (p 343f). Now, this is simply a projection of modernist Western concepts into the ancient past where tools and technology only will lead to violence and a dominator mode of being. Lawlor and Jenkins apparently believe that the ancient aborigines knew that their stone tools in a distant future would lead them to atomic bombs and cars that will destroy “nature” (another Western/modernist concept frequently and unproblematically used by Jenkins). Nature-culture is just another dualism and dualisms have no place in Jenkins’s transrational perennial philosophy but for some unknown reason they are everywhere in the text, even in contexts when he claims to have overcome it.
For instance, when he says that “clearly, the assumptions of our mainstream anthropologists and historians are flawed” (p 351) he means that the mainstreamers (people thinking within the academic box) focus on the violent, hierarchical and male-oriented behavior of chimpanzees in order to explain the way the sapien mind works. This Jenkins contrasts with the bonobo variety of chimpanzees which is a “female-centered, egalitarian, and peace-loving, one that substitutes sexual contact for aggression as means of conflict resolution” (p 349). What he tries to accomplish here is to show that human behavior does not need to be aggressive, etc.(such as those ideas proposed by a minority of researchers today). Other chimpanzees are not violent so why cannot we be peaceful? Jenkins states that there are people living in peace and he exemplifies with Australian aborigines who in his mind rejected warfare and tool use. An archaeologist would not need to dive into the idea of a holistic universe and Dreamtime to answer why these people lived in “harmony with nature” (not a quote from Jenkins). The aborigines lived in small scale groups, often widely separated. There was little competition over the resources. More densely populated areas lead to conflicts. Here Jenkins could have read thousands of pages of research from the Maya area that people do fight wars because they lack resources (but since you find that kind of information in materialistic journals and books that pays little attention to ancient skies Jenkins will most likely never encounter these limits to interpretation that academics do have to take into account).
If one has been dealing with the Maya for decades it is hard to understand how you can come up with a statement like this: “territorial expansion, land parceling, habitat destruction and species distinction, resource drainage-all this reveals the impact of Western civilization” (p 341). I suggest Jenkins take a look at Early Classic Chunchucmil for land parceling, territorial expansion can be seen in much of research on Maya geopolitics for the past decades, habitat destruction has been documented at several sites (including deforestation at Copan), etc. For species distinction (extinction?) I suggest Jenkins look up the terms “megafauna extinction” and “Holocene extinction” and maybe he will change his attitudes to the early transrational inhabitants of Australia and everywhere else in the world.
Why does Jenkins retreat to a peaceful Australian Dreamtime when his focus is on Preclassic and Classic Maya? How does he transrationally interpret what others rationally would see as a violent situation? Regarding the famous decapitation of Waxaklajun Ub’ah K’awiil at Quirigua Jenkins believes this to have occurred when Jupiter (the king’s head) was aligned with the dark rift of the Milky Way. This event was not at all violent and gruesome for the king. In fact, “we must entertain the possibility that the Copán King went willingly into the black hole and his sacrifice was accomplice to a historically enacted mystery play” (p 273). I suggest he takes a look into Houston, Stuart, and Taube’s book on the depiction of feelings, pain, etc. People do not seem to have been too happy about being tortured and then sacrificed. I suspect the people massacred at Cancuen did not feel happy about being killed en masse. Why did people need fortifications?
Never mind these trivial issues; Jenkins has the solution for us that will set the stage for a new paradigm, just like Newton and Einstein before him. Obviously, before the winter solstice sunrise in the dark rift of the Milky Way next year we should take some LSD, like Jenkins has done himself, and invest “in our inner bonobo while divesting ourselves from chimpocracy, receiving the aboriginal Dreamtime, and opening up the transrational perspective” (p 402). However, I urge you, the reader, to consult some of the suggested readings here before you join the ideas of this perennial philosopher or New Age guru (not so much in disguise after this book).