Posted by: Johan Normark | December 11, 2012

2012: John Major Jenkins on “scientific materialism”

A few days ago John Major Jenkins (JMJ) posted a text he has entitled “Heretics: Truth Tellers Who Upset the Protectors of Consensus Lies.”  In the text he attacks those people that have criticized his ideas. I am not mentioned by name but I am sure he sees me as a “protector of consensus lies”. The text is interesting in that it reveals once again that JMJ sees himself as an extraordinarily thinker. In this particular piece he associates his “fate” with the fate of people like Bruno, Copernicus, Galilei, etc. Once considered heretics they turned out to be winners in the long-term. Clearly he sees himself as victorious in the long run. Whereas Copernicus and Galilei changed the worldview in a profound way, one has to be trapped inside one’s own thinking if one is to believe the galactic alignment theory will revolutionize our worldview. It could potentially change Maya studies and in fact only a tiny part of Maya studies for that matter.

I have said this before, and I repeat it here, I have no major problems with his galactic alignment theory as such. In my first published article (2000) I even referred to it. I quote myself:

Jenkins (1998) believes that the Maya calculated when the winter-solstice sun (as the First Father) will rise in a dark area in the Milky Way (which symbolised the First Mother’s vagina). This will happen on 21 December 2012, and the Maya may have believed that a new Long Count cycIe would be born through this cosmic fertilization. In this view, the Long Count was a sort of countdown to the end of time and its rebirth. If this was the case, the Maya or other peoples may have had this knowledge long before the earliest Long Count inscriptions around 37 B.C. [should be 36 B.C.].We now know that large and hierarchical societies existed in the Maya lowlands in the Middle PrecIassic at Nakbe and even earlier societies among the Olmecs.

Since then I have become more familiar with Maya cosmology and with the New Age associations I found in later readings of JMJ’s work. I do believe that the Maya understood the precession of the equinoxes but I do not believe it was the crucial part of the Long Count. Neither do I believe there were multiple World Ages associated with the precession (for the Maya area) and the Long Count. Those are issues that one can debate from a scientific point of view.

What I reject with JMJ’s work is the part that links the galactic alignment with what he terms “very profound metaphysical ideas”. It is here he sets up a dichotomy between “perennial philosophy” and “scientific materialism”. Apparently the latter term is self-evident in JMJ’s view because he does not explain what it means. I highly doubt that any of JMJ’s critiques are what the truly limited concept of scientific materialism means. Instead JMJ uses it as a straw man in a derogatory manner. It basically only exists in his own writing, which ironically, is the same thing he criticizes John Hoopes’ term “Mayanism” for. The difference it, of course, that Hoopes has a much broader perspective and defines the way he uses the term (and it is not a “concentration camp”).

JMJ writes that “sometimes one even senses a lingering prejudice about the ancient Maya being “primitive” and incapable of sophisticated thinking”. Well, “senses” is in the eye of the beholder. One can easily turn that argument around. Why is JMJ’s view of Maya cosmology/astrology deemed to be advanced because it includes calculations and abstract thinking (qualities that we find in “scientific materialism”…)? Only a tiny part of the Maya archaeological record has anything to do with JMJ’s beloved celestial sphere. Most Maya were farmers and the remains of their activities are far more extensive than those made by ancient astronomers, but you have to walk away from the pyramids and range structures to see them. I have a “sense” that JMJ, in his transcendent metaphysical ivory tower sees the knowledge by farmers as “primitive” and “materialist”, not worthy his pioneering attention. Without the knowledge and skills of the Maya farmers there would not have been an infrastructure that could develop the Long Count in the first place. The farmers also survived the divine kings…

“Traditional” materialism is simply an inverted form of (German) idealism. The step from Hegel to Marx is not far. JMJ’s “scientific materialism straw man” is not defined so I cannot tell how it relates to the perennial philosophy he proposes. I have a hunch that they are mirror images of each other and therefore they are intertwined. By necessity JMJ’s idea is connected to a primordial truth associated with the galactic alignment. However, necessity is not necessary. There is no necessity in cosmos. This is not something told by “scientific materialism”, because that “paradigm” (whatever JMJ believes it is) is also based on necessity but of another sort. There is one way out of this dilemma and that will be revealed after the winter solstice has occurred.


  1. I think a lot of people like JMJ (don’t know about him specifically with regards to this) draw a huge false dichotomy: The ancient Maya were not primitive, therefore they were incredibly advanced to the point that we’re just beginning to be able to confirm what they “knew” thousands of years ago. Half the time that I hear this kind of statement, it goes hand-in-hand with them either getting this information from aliens or them being descendants of Atlantis.

    I’m looking forward to December 22.

    • Yup. I only heard about “scientific materialism” when I got into skepticism ‘n’ stuff. These days I hear it pretty much 100% from the Intelligent Design folks, young-Earth creationists, and from the psi/new-age/ghosts/etc. crowd … JMJ falls into that last one.

      Re: Nazon — yeah, as I said in the e-mail and post I never published, that brief bit in September was slightly scary on the one hand but also a “WTF is she trying to pull?” on the other with pretty much zero legal legs to stand on.

    • Most archaeologists and anthropologists have ditched the “primitive”/”advanced” dichotomy a long time ago (because of its colonial heritage). Most 2012ers make use of older Mayanist research when this dichotomy was still in use. You can, unfortunately, find these evaluations even in recent literature, such as in Michael Coe’s The Maya. However, he belongs to an older generation of researchers. Because JMJ is not a scholar and read selected texts that only confirms his predefined worldview (and at the same time claim others do the same thing), he knows nothing about contemporary anthropological theory. I googled “scientific materialism” and the only ones who appear to use it are religious people. Hence, it is a straw man, their limited understanding of science.

      Btw, thanks for the update on Nazon. And I am also looking forward to the official end of this circus.

  2. Martyrdom and victimhood seems to be such a big part of Jenkins’s identity that I wonder whether he’d ever be happy unless someone really did burn him at the stake.

  3. Regarding your comments about the whole “if they weren’t primitive they must have been extraordinarily advanced” line of thinking, I just want to add that the belief in a special time (and/or people) who had greater access to True Spiritual Knowledge is perhaps THE most common theme in religions cross-culturally, more so even than belief in any kind of gods or supreme being. The fact that so many of the “time scientists” affiliated with the 2012 movement hold this view so adamantly is just one more reason to see the phenomenon as a religious movement, as Hoopes does.

    • It is for sure part of the 2012-phenomenon but I disagree with the idea that it solely is a religious movement (I will write more about that in my upcoming posts). There are secular narratives as well. I see it as a “hyperobject” that primarily is fed by apocalyptic ideas (but not only religious apocalyptic ideas and here I define apocalyptic as the belief that the current order will end in a drastic way).

  4. […] materialism. This post should therefore be seen in relation to the previous post on the supposed “scientific materialism” discussed by various fringe theorists. My coverage of Meillassoux’s provocative and quite […]

  5. When was it that J.M.J. changed his position from 23rd of December to 21st?

    • Has he ever consider the 23rd? For him it is all about the winter solstice.

      • I think he accepts most of Schele’s and Freidel’s work in their book Maya Cosmos (1993) but decided to go along with the GMT correlation (not GMT+2) because it is more significant from an astronomical and astrological perspective (and for his galactic alignment idea).

      • in his book titled “The 2012 Story. The Myths the fallacies and The Truth Behind History’s Most Intriguing date.” (2009, Tarcher-Penguin) he took Linda Schele’s (defunct) position. I had a physical copy of the book and I vaguely remember. peace out.

  6. The quote from your first published work is a good antidote to Jenkins’s wailing that academics defend their consensus lies against his superlative genius by refusing to take his ideas seriously. Another is on pp. 259-260 of his book The 2012 Story. He grudgingly describes how after years of whining that academics wouldn’t accept his groundbreaking discovery of the solstice alignment of the Izapa ballcourt, he found out that Anthony Aveni had preceded him in that discovery by years.

    I’m glad that you acknowledged the ancient Maya farmers. Laymen like me who don’t give them their due because we know nothing about the challenges of agriculture in the tropics might like to check out Vandermeer’s Ecology of Agroecosystems. (

    Strange how 2012 gurus and their fans seem to be interested only in the ancient Maya royalty and priests. Perhaps because the gurus and fans equate themselves with that element? I’m waiting for Jenkins and his buddies to offer a trip consisting of two weeks of weeding cotton and maize with a stone hoe under a tropical sun so a bunch of self deifying parasites can have ornate tombs and hoards of jewels.

    • Their interest in the royalty etc. is undoubtedly due to the fact that they left written records and monuments which can be used for modern esoteric speculation. For these people, stone tools are not exciting in their normal contexts. They are probably reminding themselves of what they dislike most of this world; the hard facts of real life. The skills of a farmer outlives the skills of the esoterics. Ironically, the materialist “survival of the fittest” will weed out these people.

  7. […] do these “pseudoscientists” (Sheldrake and Hancock in TEDx-gate and Calleman and Jenkins in the 2012-circus) have in common with “real” science? It is the doctrine of necessary entities. This is a true […]



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