Much Ado About Nothing

Now that we have examined all the New Age wisdom and the theories of the doomsday prophets, we step out into the clean and quiet halls of academia. The hustle and bustle and all the worry of the pseudo-sciences are left behind for a little venture into sanity.

The scholars of Mayan history might have been amazed at the interest garnered by their research but I am certain they grew very quickly horrified at the nasty turn of events when the subject they loved so deeply was being paraded around as a poster-child of the next doomsday.

They say the day will past without notice because the Maya simply did not know anything. From all their researches into the people who revered the Calendar for so long, they assure us that it was just a calendar, nothing more than a way to track their religious festivals and personal and social anniversaries.

That was all.

And when this calendar had ended, they would have simply rolled it over and started the next one. After all, their writings had included events in their history/mythology from the cycle before this Long Count and their prophets had spoken about events that would occur in the next period.

It was just a calendar, after all.

The End-Date was nothing more than December 31st is to us. Every year, it rolls over into the new year. And the end of their calendar, 13.0.0.0.0, would have been nothing more.

But What About that Galactic Alignment Thingy?

As for the Milky Way, yes the Mayan mention it in their writings but they have nothing about Solar alignment with it as opening a portal into the next world.

It is pointed out that the Galactic Alignment that stands at the center of Jenkins’ scenario happens over a fourteen year period, not just the one year in question. The entire concept is nothing but a modern concept that has been “back-dated” for the ancients as if they had that very thing in mind.

Scholars do not agree with Calleman’s readjustment of the End-Date and neither do the Maya Elders. Neither concurs with the adjusted Dreamspell calendar as well. They see nothing but more modern concepts being thrust onto the Mayan mathematics.

It seems equally strange to propose a specific End-Date to merely propose a rather vague and gradual change in human consciousness. If that is the case, Calleman’s end-date is as viable as Jenkins and there would be essentially no difference. The Dreamspell Calendar of Argüelles would be equally important as the original tzolkin.

If the End-Date was nothing more than the December 31st of our annual calendars, then what is all the fuss about?

Is this all another case of Much Ado About Nothing?

So, What If?

People marvel at the “exactness” of the Mayan Calendar and the supporting texts but their tables for eclipses are known to be off in some cases by a day or two. Not too bad considering the time-frame in which they developed them but not truly very exact.

So it could be that their End-Date is off as well. Perhaps even by more than a couple of days. That is, assuming their End-Date was supposed to actually signify something.

Many academics have spent their whole life studying the Maya and are bewildered that so many “crackpot” theories are coming out of this phenomenon.

David Stuart, director of the Mesoamerica Center at the University of Texas at Austin, laments, “There’s going to be a whole generation of people who, when they think of the Maya, think of 2012, and to me that’s just criminal. There is no serious scholar who puts any stock in the idea that the Maya said anything meaningful about 2012.”

And that sums up the academic view in a nutshell. Trying to stem the flow of “What if…” questions coming from all directions, most institutions have reached out with literature, websites, and even help lines to deal with the number of enquiries.

One of the premier scholars on the Maya and author of many books, Anthony Aveni says the current books about the Maya and the 2012 phenomena are based on very little, if any, evidence.

Others are even less flattering, calling the entire corpus a fabrication and a hoax to relieve people of their money and their hope.

What the Scholars Say

Both Aveni and Stuart have written books to try and stem the flood of New Age thefts of the Mayan Calendar but both are rather pessimistic about their success. They think there are so few people out there who want to know the real story.

And after 2012 has passed, the interest in the Maya will fade away again while the New Agers go in search of another prophetic date they can sensationalize. But one of the New Agers thinks it will only be the doomsday set that will be in search of another date.

And even John Major Jenkins says that the trendy doomsday crowd “should be treated for what they are: under-informed opportunists and alarmists who will move onto other things in 2013.” But I guess that does not apply to himself…

He says that cycle endings were all about transformation and renewal, and not about catastrophe for the Maya and the period they “chose” just happens to coincide with his theory. Amazing claim that someone might actually take him for an opportunist since the Maya actually make no such claim.

The scholar Aveni says there is absolutely no evidence that the Maya cared about this alignment, or Jenkins’ concept of the Milky Way. He also says, “What you have here is a modern age influence, modern concepts trying to garb the ancient Maya in modern clothing, and it just doesn’t wash for me.”

What the Skeptics Say

On NASA’s website is a section titled “Ask an Astrobiologist”. Here senior scientist David Morrison fields questions from the public. Recently, more than half of the inquiries on the most popular list were related to 2012.

He responded, “The purveyors of doom are promoting a hoax.” Having studied the Maya for thirty-five years, he can confidently assert there is nothing apocalyptic in their Calendar.

As an example of the hype-factor for publishing in this field, Lawrence Joseph speaks about his recent publication Apocalypse 2012. The author himself outlines several disaster scenarios but claims he does not think the world is going to end. He said he had no control over the title of the volume but if it had been called Serious Threats 2012 or Profound Considerations for 2012, it would have never gotten published.

Another case of the public desires driving the marketplace for sure. Or is it more like beating the crowd into a frenzy?

And Who Do the Present Maya Support?

So, which of the theories presented most closely match what the ancient Maya meant, according to the Council of Maya Elders?

They have conversations with Jenkins and offer supportive phrases, as well as Calleman, and many of the golden enlightenment crowd. They shy away from the doomsday scenarios and quite emphatically tell people not to panic!!

But which one of these fellows do they agree with? Well, it would seem they like all the theories.

But why?

Let’s face it, they need the good press. Political times are hard for many minorities around the globe and the Maya are no different. Any support from any quarter is acceptable.

So why don’t they know what the ancient Maya meant by the calendar? You will have to remember they are 1200 years removed from the period when the Long Count was in vogue.

Can any Catholic today know with any degree of clarity the parameters of their faith in the year 900 AD?

I think not.

To expect the same from the modern Maya is a bit farfetched.

Toward Greater Understanding

I sense a disconnect from what the ancients believed and what the present Mayans believe. We need to look back at what was meant in the pre-Classic, Classic, and post-Classic periods. Much of the information we have comes from the later period of the Spanish Conquest. Much of the myths come from the Aztecs and, though similar in many respects to the Maya, they are different in many respects.

For example, the zenith position was obviously important to the ancients as they cut deep straight holes to view the zenith positions of planets. Still, why was it so important? Observing the fact is nowhere near gaining an understanding.

Some important parts of their cosmology seem to conflict a bit, so it would be helpful to know which parts are the most ancient and which were later interpretations of what they no longer understood.

The 52 year fire ritual can be credited to the end of the Long Count death of Sun to someone’s interpretation applying the death of Sun to the end of the Calendar Round (haab + tzolkin). One can understand how the meaning got translated one to the other in the transfer of the beliefs from one system to another… e.g. when the calendar ends, the Sun will die, and then they forget which calendar was meant.

Was there any ancient ceremony like the fire ritual in the periods before the Long Count was discontinued?

Rather than approaching the problem by figuring out what we think the End-Date might specify, it would be more provident to ascertain why they thought so. What in their society, philosophy, cosmology, or religion points to the End-Date? And not from the current Mayans as they probably no longer recall (nor were they the ones who devised the calendar).


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