The Context of Writing Galactic Alignment: 1998 - 2002
John Major Jenkins
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This is a highly personal summary of the context of my life during the research and writing of Galactic Alignment. It is rather tedious at times and somewhat bitter, but that is my current sense of this period as of the month my book was released (August 2002). Perhaps time will convey greater appreciation for the inner necessity of the exhausting struggle and baffling roadblocks that getting this book manifested entailed.
Books, like songs, manifest in many different ways. Galactic Alignment is the logical extension of MC2012, but hindsight is 20-20 and where my research would lead me next was not so clear after MC2012 was released in June of 1998. However, a solid clue came the very same week that the book was released. Jay Weidner called me out of the blue and introduced himself. He was coordinator of the catalog and esoteric library at Conscious Wave (also known as Gaiam) in Broomfield, Colorado. Independently of his work at Gaiam, he was writing a book that would be called A Monument to the End of Time, which was about a 17th-century cross that still stands in a small town in coastal France—a monument carved with symbols that Weidner and his coauthor Vincent Bridges argued encoded an apocalyptic moment timed by the manifestation of the equinox-galaxy cross. This was astounding information to me, as it suggested that the equinox-galaxy cross (which is the same as the solstice-galaxy alignment) was known in other traditions besides Mayan cosmology. (Ironically, Weidner's workplace was about four miles from my home in Louisville, Colorado, where I wrote MC2012.
One of the covers of the Explorations catalog that Weidner managed contained a conspicuous image of the earth inside of the center of the galaxy. I saw this long before I met Weidner and couldn't help but wonder—I thought it was a case of an artist intuitively grasping the fact of the empirical alignment, but in fact it was Weidner's doing! Discussions with Weidner led me to the work of Ananda Coomaraswamy and René Guénon, key players in the research that unfolded over the next three years. Although I had not been conscious of the work of these two great thinkers, I was bemused to realize at one point that Alan Watts, in his 1950 book The Supreme Identity, had acknowledged the thought of Coomaraswamy and Guénon for its contribution to that book. The Supreme Identity was one of those few books that I carried around with me, like some kind of intellectual security blanket, when I was seventeen years old and struggling to come to terms with the intellectual and spiritual wasteland of American suburbia.
Robert Lawlor, who was working with Jay at Gaiam that summer, pointed me to Guénon as someone who had said something about the Galactic Center. It took years of acquiring and reading Guénon's books to understand that the reference to the Galactic Center was not explicit, but needed to be inferred. That this conclusion is no fantasy is glimpsed perhaps in the fact that the cover of the 1961 Gallimard edition of Guénon's Formes traditionnelles et cycles cosmiques portrays the galaxy.
Promotion for Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 extended to January 2000 or perhaps even beyond 2000 if you count the Discovery Channel interviews that aired on the Travel Channel into 2001. Even before the millennium turned I married, bought a house in Denver, moved three times, found and lost jobs, and began commuting 54 miles a day to a "real" job. Promotional and teaching opportunities included Naropa University, Esalen Institute, trips to Mexico, England, and Denmark, and appearances in several documentaries and dozens of radio shows. Despite my growing interest in the works of Coomaraswamy and Guénon—which involved some pretty heavy reading—my next book-concept gelled in early 1999 around the idea "It's About Time." This morphed into an outline and proposal called "The Talking Cross" which I sent to an agent in the summer of 1999. It was rejected. I was trying to shift back into the more personal travelogue voice of my earlier books, and in this sense the proposal was regressive. But I was trying to offset the alienation felt by many readers in encountering my complicated research. Besides, my first two books were travelogues, and that can be a good format for sharing research. But life pulled me in a different direction.
By late ‘99 I was entrenched in commuting and was suffering the angst of having no time for writing and research. I was nevertheless invited to give a slide show for a millennium event at a café in northwest Denver, along with artist Stevon Lucero and multimedia guru Amaurante Montez, whose CD Mixtec sampled quotes from his interview with Tony Shearer. This New Year’s eve celebration was also attended by, of course, the big Y2K hoopla. 2000 dawned while my wife and friend Curt Joy bridged the millenniums with talk of Terence, psychedelics, art, and metaphysics.
In early 2000 I tracked down one of Coomaraswamy's unpublished essays at the Princeton University Archive (online) and it catalyzed my thoughts. Then, in May, I acquired Julius Evola's The Mystery of the Grail and something in it about sacred kingship intrigued and excited me so much that I began writing a piece about the Primordial Tradition; it grew to 27,000 words in a short time and the new book concept, Ancient Gnosis and the Galaxy, crystallized around it. The piece, which remains a self-standing monograph, is here (some of it overlaps with the excised material from Chapter 3). At this time I began negotiations with Inner Traditions, who had just acquired Bear & Company.
In October of 2000 and April of 2001 I did events in Boulder with Erick Gonzalez, a Maya-trained ceremonialist, and these presentations were somewhat transitional as I began sharing my new discoveries. Both of these events were videotaped. The pdf flyer for the April event is here. Gonzalez is a key player in the Lungold-Calleman events which I have detailed elsewhere; the chronicle involves the True Count controversy and other amusing adventures. As Gonzalez recounts, the conversion formula used by Lungold for his Daycount Placemats was a slightly modified conversion method that Gonzalez adopted after an email exchange with me in 1996—the method being an adaptation of the one I charted in my book Tzolkin. His account is supported by the fact that Calleman used a calculation chart in his Maya Calendar book that was identical to the one I developed for Tzolkin, and he admitted as much in our debate of late 2001. (Lungold and Calleman were together taking Mayaland by storm in the summer of 2000, trying to find investors for a Disney-esque Maya theme park on land purchased in Quintana Roo.)
While working at netLibrary between November 1999 and April 2001, I converted books from hardcopy to electronic format, and helped develop a conversion process called MetaText. One of my early conversion projects was Dennis Tedlock's book Breath on the Mirror. I wrote a humorous piece about the lamentable realities of corporate politics in cube culture, based on my experience converting and editing this book while trying to preserve all the idiosyncratic formatting styles. I sent it to Dennis but never received a response; it is here.
My rough proposal of July, 2000 was called Ancient Gnosis and the Galaxy. Inner Traditions finally responded that they were interested but required some sample chapters and a more extensive outline. In late November I moved to second shift, still in the MetaText department, and as a result some time opened up for me to work in earnest on my outline and chapters. A lot more research needed to be done, but I already had a solid idea of where the new book was going. Working 3 pm to midnight, my mornings opened up for writing, but of course the situation did not allow my wife, Ellie, and I to spend much time together. By mid-January I had a more extensive 50,000-word manuscript, with illustrations, and sent it off to ITI (Inner Traditions International). At this time I wrote a tongue-in-cheek "Intro" for the book, intended to give a glimpse of the struggles of authors, especially research-oriented authors. I really don't want to sound pretentious here, but to say that it is "not easy" to write books like MC2012 or GA is to understate in the extreme. Readers need to understand that the recent book was written in limited space, with no funding (even my modest advance came after 90% of the work was done, in September 2001!) and mostly while working a full-time job. Many people do not understand why I do it, as the compensation is absolutely negligible. High paid and high profile icons of “successful” authorship like Stephen King or James Redfield are routinely thrust in front of me by good-intentioned acquaintances as examples of what I should be shooting for. And my admonitions that sales success is not necessarily an admirable goal are scoffed at. My work has grown organically, from project to project, in an unbroken lineage from my earliest poetry, always motivated by the search for truth and clarity in expressing universal, eternal principles. My latest effort shares new insights and discoveries, and it attempts to push back further the fringes of our awareness; it’s not a distorting rehash of old platitudes cast in a fictional scenario masquerading as allegory, nor does it strive to merely entertain or shock or frighten the reader. I'll leave that to the millionaires who capitalize on modern confusion rather than attempt to dispel it.
During this developmental period I wrote essays for websites like ccplanet, ccbeyond, and Graham Hancock's. I seized an invitation to write an essay for The Millennial Institute at Boston University; my essay on the Mayan solstice-galaxy alignment was conservatively framed and met the requirements of the mission statement, yet was rejected. The outline is here. The director of The Millennial Institute (Richard Landis?) in an interview with, I believe, Terri Gross of NPR’s "Fresh Air" program, revealed a bias when he opined that 2012 was a spurious New Age fantasy. Later, just before I maxed out my vacation and sick time at netLibrary and went to Guatemala for 17 days, I wrote a concise piece on Izapa for Timothy Laughton, a Mayan scholar in England who wrote his thesis on Izapa. I established a cordial email exchange, as I was planning on visiting Izapa, but when I directed him to the piece I wrote and posted on my website, silence prevailed. The original Izapa piece evolved into the Izapa chapter in GA. After returning from Izapa, I sent Laughton a letter in which I commented on his astronomical thesis in his article "Izapa: A Preclassic Codex in Stone" (Indiana Journal of Hispanic Literatures, No. 13, Fall 1998). Our brief exchange is here. Again, no response; the communication line went dead. An exchange with Susan Milbrath took place the previous November, and resulted in a brief cordial exchange, but she preferred to not comment on my book MC2012, which had been sitting on a shelf or in a closet since I had sent it to here three years before. Her general comment was that I should, like her, build up the argument over thirty or so years of journal publications and then write the magnum opus (her book of 1999 was Star Gods of the Maya). We had already corresponded in 1996.
Just after my exchange with Susan Milbrath, in October 2000, Marty Matz asked me to do a website for him and reprint his book of poetry called Pipe Dreams. I retyped the entire text and two new prefaces and designed the book in my spare time. Pipe Dreams booklets and the official Marty Matz website were completed quickly. I'm still trying to complete the Pyramid of Fire project that we were working on together as early as 1995, but Marty went to Mexico, disappeared, then gave poetry readings in Italy and finally resurface in late 2000. The Pyramid of Fire is a lost Aztec codex that Marty copied while living in the Sierra Mazateca in the early 1960s; I analyzed it and wrote a commentary but publisher interest in this remarkable find were eclipsed by Redfield's Celestine fantasies. Marty died in October 2001 and so this project, though of extreme importance in understanding pre-conquest Central Mexican esoteric knowledge, remains unfinished.
So as 2001 dawned I connived my way into using all of my forthcoming vacation time for the 2001 work year, as well as a few as-yet unearned sick days, and left for Guatemala on February 22, 2001. I met Jim Reed, former president of the Institute of Maya Studies (where I gave the Maya Cosmogenesis presentation in August 1997) and Mary Lou Ridinger of Jades S.A. in Antigua and prepared for an expedition to Izapa. My 37th birthday was approaching, and according to my theories on the lunar node cycle and the 260-day calendar, I could expect something interesting to manifest. But most prominent in my mind was escaping my job, revisiting Antigua, and—most monumental of all—exploring Izapa. Mary Lou and Jay Ridinger, very gracious hosts, introduced me to Marion Popenoe Hatch, director of the archaeological project at Abaj Takalik. Jim and I visited that site and made it to Izapa, where we spent three days exploring the site and documenting our visit with Jim's video camera. At the end of that 17 days of freedom, on the very last full day of my trip, we were pointed to an interesting architectural anomaly in Antigua, the portada or doorway to La Concepcion, a 17th-century nunnery that was destroyed by earthquakes. The symbolism was so striking that I devoted an entire chapter to it in my still-evolving book.
Returning to Denver, I was sucked back into cube culture but with great interest I researched the portada in my old haunt, CU’s Norlin library. April 3, 2001—a date of significance in my reconstruction of the Maya Venus calendar, explained in Tzolkin (1994)—came and went. I was finally offered a contract for my book, and negotiations over provisions, terms and details thus commenced. I had to work hard to get the same deal that I had with Bear & Company, even though that what was verbally promised. When the contract arrived, that clearly wasn't the case, but publishers basically try to get away with as much as they can. Other frustrating roadblocks—not least of which was the fact that I worked a very time consuming job—forced me to attempt to work out an unpaid leave of absence at netLibrary. By that time, however, netLibrary's dark corporate side was all too apparent; though dedicated to the noble cause of digitizing books into electronic formats and spearheading the digital revolution, the "netLiability" reneged on stock offers, favored certain employees, and so on. And for me personally, my skills and abilities and accomplishments as an author were never acknowledged, let alone allowed for. For instance, when I wanted to put a flyer on the bulletin board for my book signing at Barnes and Noble in January 2000, they took it down, citing that the space was only for company related matters—like the golf tournament, fitness club discounts, and so on. In fact, netLibrary eventually pulled an Enron months before Enron became famous for corporate fraud and deceiving employees. People at my job had already been laid off twice, and I new my time was right around the corner. So I hung in until the day of glory came, April 25, 2001. Almost 100 people were given the boot. It was just days after my precise nodal return, mere weeks after my 52nd tzolkin birthday on which I had discovered the portada of La Concepcion. Some kind of dharmic/karmic tour of duty had ended, and I was freed to write my book full time.
It took almost a solid month to recover from the abuse of commuting and spending eight hours a day in front of computer screens emitting high frequency electromagnetic radiation. But then I slowly began writing, compiling, researching certain points, and I visited ITI in Vermont with my wife in June. It must be said that even while working full time I had not been idle; I had consistently sought out and read Traditionalist writers like Corbin, Burckhardt, Coomaraswamy, Guénon, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. By the time I was freed from wage-slave monotony I had acquired, through the online Advanced Book Exchange, many important Traditionalist works for my own library. In fact, at netLibrary I was involved in converting the books of some of these authors. A lot can be accomplished in a short time when circumstances allow you to focus, and I had a well conceived outline and a 50,000-word rough manuscript to work with. The summer was hot in Denver, the guy next door had tractors revving in his front yard all day, and I had seriously injured my back while carrying a sofa. Nevertheless I was once again in that groove that writers live for. By late August I had added some significant new research on Mithraism and the book was done. Or so I hoped. Many readers probably don't know that an author is responsible for everything, and if they don't do it themselves, they must pay for it. For example, illustrations and index. I've always done my own illustrations and diagrams, so this wasn't an issue. I also did the index for my 1994 book Tzolkin, so neither was this a problem. However, it is difficult to explain everything involved in launching a book, and although the publisher delegates different workers at different stages of the publication process, you, the author, are involved in everything. End notes, illustrations, bibliography, index, permissions, not to mention the research that takes place before you actually write the book! Emails, drafts, faxes, phone calls, an endless stream of details crowds in for consideration. And then, after it's released, you set up all the promo events and max out a few credit cards traveling the country so you can reap in 8 cents on the dollar of every sale. Yes, with a standard contract that is what it boils down to. The industry is very unfriendly to authors who are trying to make a contribution to human knowledge, exploring topics that are not sexy enough for top ten blockbuster sales. But look what's on that list: self-improvement obsessions and pop guru personalities peddling the latest novelty. Of course any author who could win an Oscar if they were an actor can draw in crowds at events—so you not only have to be an intellectual genius and be able to multitask all aspects of book writing, you have to go to the mat with Laurence Olivier on the lecture circuit.
Other frustrations involved not be allowed into the decision-making process of certain key elements of your book, even if your publisher gives you lip service that you are. My original cover art concept was nixed in the final stages—I think this was the plan all along but they strung me along with feigned interest. I spent time working up three different versions of a cover using an amazing painting of a local artist, with his permission secured. Considering that I designed or, in the case of MC2012, conceived, all of my previous book covers, this rejection came as a blow. I still do not believe the final cover is as compelling as the original concept: see for yourself. Likewise, my original title for the book was Ancient Gnosis and the Galaxy, subsequently changed. Maybe this is just industry wisdom, I don't know. The state of the book as of November, 2001 was such that I produced a CD-Rom version, html style. I would have been happy going to press with it. However, many unseen typos and errors do sneak through, and the editing process, though grueling and frustrating, does have the effect of fine-tuning the presentation. About 20% of all the copy-editing and proofreading was effective in improving the book; I had to do 11th-hour damage control on the other 80%. And so, here in late May 2002, we are ready to go to the printer (though I still need to do the Index, and lickety-split—I’m awaiting the hard-copy to work on). Subsequent copy editing, proofreading, redoing images and so on are memories too painful to relate at this moment.
Now for the real-life context. This is shared “for the record” as I have always been intrigued by the personal struggles of authors—the inside scoop so to speak. Read the biography of Arthur Koestler for exampleyikes! Or J.R.R. Tolkein, or how long it took Joseph Campbell to get his masterpiece Hero With a Thousand Faces published. In the past 10 months (since September of 2001), I've visited my father in Chicago four times, all by car. In my 17 years living in the Boulder-Denver area, I have completed the 1000-mile Denver-Chicago cruise dozens of times. On the recent trips I mastered the 14-hour cruise. I leave at 5:30 a.m. and keep driving at 75 mph. It seems to work well, if the weather's good. Almost two years ago my father was diagnosed with renal cell kidney cancer. He had a very serious operation in November of 2000, followed by another in August of 2001. It was decided that he needed help cleaning out his house, preparing to sell it, while other living arrangements would be made. Unfortunately, he didn't recover well from his second operation. I drove to Chicago (actually, the western suburb, Lombard) in early September. He was still in the hospital, but house cleaning would begin. Apart from the hard work, the emotional difficulty of this endeavor was compounded by the fact that this was the house I lived in during high school, years that embraced what I have called my "dark night of soul," filled with poetry and angst. My father had been teaching computer programming at the nearby DeVry College, and before that had dissolved his hobby craft business that he founded in the early 1970s. As his own boss, he designed and developed a line of doll house kits that were successful throughout the 1980s. After business declined in the early 1990s, he did freelance wedding videos for a few years before getting the teaching job at DeVry, which he enjoyed very much despite encroaching health issues. So much can be written about parents; my Dad supported my independent research, at least in principle although being a scientific rationalist he didn’t agree with anything involving astrology or metaphysics. He helped by using his ink jet and laser jet printers to print out good quality master copies of my self-published books in the early 1990s, including Journey to the Mayan Underworld, Mirror in the Sky, and Tzolkin. I then cut-and-paste the illustrations into those masters and went to Kinkos with them. Journey is dedicated to him, and I hope to have it back in print soon. I remember having interesting intellectual discussions with him at times long ago, but he was a rationalist and a materialist, and in that sense I parted company with him at age 17, when my interest in physics morphed into an interest in Eastern metaphysics (blame Fritjof Capra).
While I visited in September and late-October we tried to implement exercises for improving mobility, but it was difficult going. My two brothers and my sister also flew in from around the country for visits, especially in Feb-March, when we made a concerted effort to get his house cleaned out and sold. But 23 years of accumulated interests, and my Dad is something of a modern polymath, made for slow going. The visit in December was only for Christmas, and at that time he could get up and down the stairs fairly okay, but a relapse on New Year's Eve sent him back to the hospital and he hasn't walked since. In February he moved into a room in his mother's house in Elmhurst and a 24-hour caregiver was hired for them both. He was there, in bed, hanging out and doing his thing on the computer until he developed breathing problems several weeks ago as well as adema and was taken to the hospital. Five months ago the doctors gave him three months. It is almost June and they expect he will be released soon, but perhaps two months more is overly optimistic. As I said, much could be written. I'm leaving for another visit in five days (this was written around May 28; the final events of June are below.) Anyway, after the visit in March I returned to Denver armed with some genealogical information that my sister helped dig up (our family history has been a passion of my Dad's since the early 1980s, and I'm currently editing his genealogy book called Doc: The Life and Times of Frank Lukenbill Jenkins, Sr, which is an homage to his father). A new connection in our family line allowed me to write a piece on my family history, tracing our line back to Eleanor of Aquitaine, and ultimately to the early pre-Merovingian ruler named Pharamond. The piece is here. Between September and December I was also engaged in an extremely involved debate with author Carl Calleman, and edited Dr. William Gaspar's book The Celestial Clock for its second edition release.
As long as were getting up close and personal, another contextual life reality involved the effort of my wife and I to get pregnant. We were married in May, 1999 and thus commenced the effort (of love). After two years and no luck we got the standard testing done, on me and her, and then tried artificial insemination for three months. Our suspicions were confirmed when a laparoscopy procedure this past February revealed that our chances for having children are small, short of diving into expensive en vitro procedures.
So, my decades-long obsessions with reconstructing lost artifacts of ancient gnosis seem a dalliance compared to these life-and-death realities. And yet life, and the work, must go on.
In April and May we invited friends stay with us for three weeks while they were transitioning for a move to Missoula. It was just after my Global Shift event in Louisville, Kentucky. Their little 16-month old was a delightful monkey to have around, but the experience made us think that we might be okay with not having childrenyou have to be superhuman! I had to proofread the book at this stage, after intense damage control after overzealous copy editing in January. Now, final corrections are being labored over while I begin the Index process and begin to set up promo events for the Fall. As of late May I still await the final hard copy so I can do the Index; the printer’s deadline is approaching and I wonder why it’s taking them so long.
Update. August 13, 2002. I wasn't able to begin the indexing as planned, as my publisher delayed getting the final book-copy to me until early June. I helped friends move to Missoula, then was home for a few days, and still no book. Unfortunately, my father went into the hospital again and things looked grim so I drove quickly to Chicago to be with him. I told Inner Traditions to send it there when they were ready. My father's situation was even worse than I had expected. He passed away June 6th, after a week in the hospital. I was with him for the final 6 days and at his side when he took his last breath at 6:20 a.m. An ironic and mathematically elegant moment for a math-wiz to die, for he was 66 years and 2 months old on 6-6-02. Rest in peace. Now comes the double-whammy. The book arrived the day after my Dad died, with the especially infuriated proviso that they needed the index done in 6 days. In other words, because of their own dalliance, they were now up against the scheduled printer's deadline. I could refuse but it would mean rescheduling with the printer and a delay of a month. The wake happened; relatives were picked up at the airport and returned days later; everything was surreal but three days later the wake and burial was over and relatives were dispersing. So much comes up around these times, I can’t even begin to explain the force-vector that impinges on ones heart. Now I had three days left to do what my publisher gives "professional" indexers two weeks and $750 to do. Having just dropped off my wife at the airport, I returned to my Dad’s abandoned house and dove in, on a card table in an empty room with a laptop in my late-father's emptied-out house in Lombard. This is one reason why I have no appreciation for publishers—they kill authors. Over the next 65 hours I worked on it every waking minute, about 50 hours worth, and it was done. Unfortunately, the indexing process revealed to me that there were still many typos, even though a proofreader had been through it. So I stayed up all night and re-read the entire book with an eagle eye and sent in over thirty typo corrections. Now it was Saturday afternoon, June 15th; I packed up the car and drove through broiling midwest sun for eight hours to my mother's house in Springfield, Missouri. That ends the story, except to say that the next weekend, back in Denver, I stumbled across the INAT show—a big publishing industry trade show—and I was able to attend with a vendor ID I borrowed from friends. I had been at the same show four years before, signing copies of MC2012. I found the Inner Traditions booth and, looking around, was disheartened to realize that neither MC2012 nor my forthcoming book was being represented. Other forthcoming books were displayed in prototype. I was being completely unrepresented by my publisher at a major industry event in my own home town. As they say, when it rains it pours.
The book arrived July 30th—always a landmark moment. Looks good. Now that all the hard work and drama of bringing it to manifestation is passed, I thank God that I’ve lived to do it. Yes, this is what I am here to do. Now let’s see how it is received. . .
Boulder Bookstore, August 22—happy 125th birthday Coomaraswamy!
Lane Planetarium, September 15th, Eugene, Oregon.
Listen to archived recent interviews at www.unknowncountry.com and www.lauralee.com