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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ah, academe, academe...
I just read the other reviews...wow, quite a discussion! I do believe the book accomplished well more than the author, Robert Sitler, intended. I just finished the book and thoroughly enjoyed it- not because it is the quitessence of academic research, that accordingly, only the academy could love; but because it is a thoughtful and heartfelt chronicle of a journey- a...
Published on February 10, 2011 by Dai Adesso

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars May 2012 go well for the living Maya in spite of New Agers
As a reader expecting an unbiased, scholarly appraisal of the "2012 phenomenon" from the professor who coined that phrase, this book is a disappointment. Sitler was the author of the first academic article on 2012 mythology to appear in a peer-reviewed journal ("The 2012 Phenomenon: New Age Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar". Novo Religio: The Journal of...
Published on November 7, 2010 by John W. Hoopes


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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars May 2012 go well for the living Maya in spite of New Agers, November 7, 2010
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This review is from: The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012 (Paperback)
As a reader expecting an unbiased, scholarly appraisal of the "2012 phenomenon" from the professor who coined that phrase, this book is a disappointment. Sitler was the author of the first academic article on 2012 mythology to appear in a peer-reviewed journal ("The 2012 Phenomenon: New Age Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar". Novo Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 24-38, 2006). It was written with an authoritative and objective voice, one with which the author was able to make a dispassionate appraisal of how various authors and groups had used themes from scholarship on the ancient Maya to advance their own ideological positions. His article appeared in February 2006, just before the 2012 meme "tipped" (to use a term from Malcolm Gladwell) sometime in 2007 in the wake of New Age psychedelic guru Daniel Pinchbeck's heavily marketed and commercially successful 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl and Lawrence Joseph's darkly opportunistic Apocalypse 2012: An Investigation into Civilization's End. For academics who were following the phenomenon--mostly with bemused detachment--Sitler's initial article provided a sober appraisal of what was brewing. It should still be required reading for anyone interested in 2012 lore, as should the two other books on 2012 by academic experts: Anthony Aveni's The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012 and Mark Van Stone's 2012 - Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya.

Since that article's publication, Sitler (to his credit, for honesty) has made his own New Age leanings clear. He is up front and honest about this in his new book (for example, he refers to "my fellow New Agers" on p. 3). His own participation in the appropriation should now be, too. Sitler tells how in 1987, inspired by José Argüelles' The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology, he participated with his family in the Harmonic Convergence and writes favorably of Argüelles' "profoundly optimistic visions of humanity's future." Sitler describes authors Daniel Pinchbeck and Greg Braden) as "keenly insightful, talented, and provocative writers." He also discusses uncritically the work of Carl Johan Calleman. However, he reserves his greatest praise for John Major Jenkins. According to Sitler, "Jenkins is a solid and serious researcher who exhibits solid understanding of Mayan calendar systems and the related astronomy" (p. 21). The problem with this--as Amazon reviews and comments about Jenkins' book The 2012 Story: The Myths, Fallacies, and Truth Behind the Most Intriguing Date in History will reveal--is that Jenkins' understanding of astronomy (even Maya astronomy) and serious research is far from solid. In fact, the work of ALL of these authors (who Sitler refers to as "luminaries") is highly problematic and well outside the realm of mainstream Mayanist studies. Their books can all be found correctly shelved in the "Metaphysical," "Speculative," and "New Age" sections of major bookstores. Sitler is a professor of Spanish and not a credentialed anthropologist (the late Prof. Linda Schele of the University of Texas was on his Ph.D. dissertation committee but not as his principal advisor) so, despite its appearance, this book should not be seen as an academic ethnography. What Sitler presents is highly subjective and must be considered in light of his own beliefs. For this reason, it is difficult to accept that his book "authentically reflects the Maya," as claimed by one of the blurbs on the cover.

That said, there is no question that Sitler authentically reflects *some* Maya voices. One of the "genuinely Mayan teachers" he cites is Hunbatz Men (César Mena Toto), the New Age-oriented Yucatec author of The 8 Calendars of the Maya: The Pleiadian Cycle and the Key to Destiny. Another is Alejandro Cirilo Pérez Oxlaj, the K'iche' elder featured in the metaphysically apocalyptic film "Shift of the Ages" ([...]) who has had the ear of Guatemala's President Alvaro Colom. Yet another is Gaspar Pedro González, a Q'anjobal novelist and author of 13 B'aktun: Mayan Visions of 2012 and Beyond, translated from the Spanish by Sitler himself. Authentically Maya, each of these individuals offers a syncretistic blend of traditional, Christian, and (especially) New Age beliefs, the latter including references to the lost continent of Atlantis, transoceanic contacts with Egypt, extraterrestrial visitors from the Pleiades, crystal skulls, polar shifts, alternative medicine, Western astrology, and assertions of a coming "shift" or "transformation of consciousness" that will usher in a new age of peace and understanding. However, Sitler fails to explain that these particular voices represent the result of syncretism, a blending of multiple religious traditions and influences. These began with centuries of Catholic missionization, followed by evangelical Protestant missionization (including that of Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses), Freemasonry (common among Guatemalan and Mexican elites, including the Nobel Prize-winning author Miguel Angel Asturias), and decades of visits to Maya communities by earnest hippies bringing elements of Buddhism, Hinduism, Theosophy, Native American and First Nations, and New Age beliefs spread within subcultures that have--following spiritual paths encouraged by Timothy Leary, Carlos Castaneda, and Terence McKenna--embraced psychotropic substances such as cannabis, LSD, psilocybin, DMT, and ayahuasca. The result of this mix is something extremely different from either ancient knowledge or the practices and beliefs of the vast majority of living Maya. Unfortunately, the effects of diverse influences from 16th-18th century Spain, San Francisco, New York, Boulder, London, Honolulu, New Delhi, and Kathmandu on interpretations and claims about the beliefs of the "living Maya" of Guatemala about whom Silter writes--or on his own beliefs--seem to have been the object of sparse critical introspection.

These factors must be taken into consideration in evaluating Maya culture as portrayed by Sitler. Anthropologists familiar with the diversity of Maya culture (evident in thirty different languages across five different countries) may cringe at Sitler's conflation of all of these into his single category of "the living Maya." Subtleties and significant variations tend to be lost. Sitler is hardly the first to do this. Academic archaeologists began this conflationary trend by writing books with titles such as "The Ancient Maya" and "The Maya" long before the Maya themselves were ever comfortable with this overarching label (one that most living Maya might not even recognize, much less choose, today). The reality is that a label such as "the Maya" or "the living Maya" is as problematic as "the Europeans" or "the living Americans" would be. Hidden under the label of "the living Maya" is enormous ethnic diversity, including significant influences that came from different indigenous non-Maya groups, both past and present. There is tremendous, precious, and expressive variation in the multiplicity of expressions of both past and present cultures of Mayan language speakers and their descendants that is worth knowing about. Sitler himself admits that "generalizations about the Maya such as those made in this book are highly problematic" (p. 52) and comments (pp. 52-55) on "the astonishing cultural diversity" among Maya populations. Great injustice can be done by unqualified general statements about what "the Maya," whether ancient or living, are thought to have believed or believe today. Claiming a handful of New Age-influenced Maya spokespeople represent general rather than individual "authentic" belief systems is extremely problematic. So are claims of authoritative statements about general rather than specific "Mayan" beliefs about the topics addressed in this book: birth and midwifery, community solidarity, Mother Nature, Holy Maize, the Holy Cross, and the cholq'ih ("tzolkin"). Sitler has a tendency to ignore the reality of successfully missionized Catholic and Protestant Maya communities, a vast majority whose belief systems--syncretistic as they may be--are no less authentic than those of either traditionalists or New Age-influenced indigenous practitioners. This may be because of a legitimate resentment that springs from the horrific genocide that has happened at the hands first of Catholic Spaniards and later evangelical Protestant generals. However, the reality is that "living Maya" belief systems are varied and complex, ones that are not easily reduced to a set of beliefs that appeals to a progressive, liberal, New Age readership. The actual story is far more complicated.

Sitler's presentation of Maya cosmology reflects the influence of Linda Schele, particularly in his interpretations of the symbolism of the World Tree, a motif central to many of the discussions presented in her co-authored book Maya Cosmos, both of which were strongly influenced by cosmological themes first outlined by Romanian religious studies scholar Mircea Eliade in his book "Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy" (1964). It is important that readers know there have been sharp scholarly critiques of these ideas. Sitler's voice does not represent a consensus opinion and there are good reasons to be wary of Schele and Eliade's models.

Sitler writes with a tremendous depth of insight, compassion, and personal experience gained through thirty years of challenging but rewarding and life-changing experiences in Maya communities. It is precisely his personal knowledge and direct experience that gives his book a clear, authoritative voice. However, it is not an objective voice (like the academic one in his initial article), but a subjective one that represents a complex breadth of influences and interpretations. In this, it is reminiscent of the work of Martin Prechtel, author of Secrets of the Talking Jaguar.

It is probably fair to characterize Sitler as a believer in "the era of 2012". His book will appeal to readers who enjoy the writings of authors such as Argüelles, Jenkins, Calleman, Pinchbeck, Braden, and Hunbatz Men. It will also be of interest to some academic readers, not so much as a source of rich ethnographic information, but as an artifact of our times representing one participant's view of the 2012 phenomenon. Because of its highly subjective nature, this book merits careful reading from an informed, critical thinking perspective. There are good reasons to be skeptical of the many dubious claims made by the very authors who Sitler identifies as luminaries. To quote a prayer from the Popol Vuh cited by Sitler at the end his book, "let no deceiver come behind or before."

There are many individuals who have sought and continue to seek to profit from the 2012 phenomenon by appropriating (to use Sitler's original word) what they claim to be "authentic" Maya beliefs about calendar systems, cosmology, and even end-of-times prophecies, selling tickets to lectures, workshops, conferences, tours, and the like. The principal purpose of many of these is a New Age brand of individually focused self-improvement. Few of these focus on anything that will benefit suffering communities in Mexico and Guatemala. The living Maya are profoundly impoverished and disenfranchised. They lack territorial sovereignty, control of sacred sites, potable water, clinics and medical care, and schools (traditional or otherwise). Problems of alcoholism, domestic violence, poor health, dependency, lack of opportunities for success, and lack of fair representation in their own country's government are dire. These are issues that merit significant attention and immediate action. They are also the reasons why most living Maya are baffled by Western seekers who claim to know a great deal about 2012 when in actuality they know hardly anything about the Maya, either ancient or living.

Previous and current waves of Catholic and Protestant missionaries among Maya communities have played a dominant role in acculturation, the transformation of traditional belief systems, and the emergence of religious and spiritual syncretisms. However, they also built roads, homes, schools, hospitals, and community centers. We have yet to see whether new waves of 2012-inspired New Age seekers concerned with their own personal transformations will also seek to improve the lives of the living Maya, honoring their traditions while at the same time addressing the immediate and desperate needs of the impoverished, disempowered descendants of indigenous populations subjected to repeated episodes of what was often religiously motivated genocide and ethnocide. Sitler's book ends with a Yucatec saying, "Xi'ik tech utzil," which translates as "May it go well for you." When it comes to the living Maya, a principal concern should be that the 2012 phenomenon goes well for them, too.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ah, academe, academe..., February 10, 2011
By 
Dai Adesso (Iowa City, Iowa) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012 (Paperback)
I just read the other reviews...wow, quite a discussion! I do believe the book accomplished well more than the author, Robert Sitler, intended. I just finished the book and thoroughly enjoyed it- not because it is the quitessence of academic research, that accordingly, only the academy could love; but because it is a thoughtful and heartfelt chronicle of a journey- a respectful and accurate portrayal of the heart and soul of a people whose history remains a mystery. Never did I expect- nor did the author offer- an anthropologist's or archaeologist's treatise on the meaning of 2012. In fact, Sitler- on more than one occasion- tells the reader he simply just doesn't know. To me the book offers an accurate glimpse into the wisdom of a magnificent people via the path of a shared and meaningful human exchange. Having wandered along the same paths, and sharing the author's love and appreciation for this ancient yet existent civilization, I read this book simply for the pleasure of reading- without expectation- and I wasn't disappointed. I relived the stored memories of my own travels along the way in the Yucatan Peninsula over the course of 25 years; nodding in agreement as the book affirmed all the reasons I have honored the Maya for the better part of my life. Ancient wisdom in the era of 2012...we could use a heaping portion! I highly recommend this book with a cup of hot tea and an absorbent mind...curl up in your favorite chair and visit with the living Maya a while. What you learn may surprise you, but certainly what you receive will be your own; and it will travel with you along your own path, just like a good friend. Que le vaya bien...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, August 15, 2011
By 
Yogaman (Pinche, CO USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012 (Paperback)
If you're interested in 2012, read this book. The author provides a totally unique perspective on this Mayan event, one that was surprising to me yet much more valuable than anything else I've read or heard. I think this guy really gets at the heart of the matter. I highly recommend it.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2012 Book Focuses on the Living Maya's "Ancient Wisdom", March 8, 2011
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This review is from: The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012 (Paperback)
The quantity of 2012 literature out there is mind-boggling. There are hundreds of books about the Maya calendar cycle ending on December 21, 2012, but few give a rational, researched, big picture of the 2012 phenomenon and its related aspects.

Fewer still focus on the eight million living Maya and how they look at 2012, and are written by such a respected and experienced author as Robert Sitler, PhD, a professor and Director of the Latin American Studies Program at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida.

If you haven't read anything about this subject, The Living Maya is a great place to start. It begins with the Yukatek Maya greeting, "Bix a bel?" which means, "How is your road?" And that's right where the author puts us--in the vivid landscapes of the Guatemalan highlands and southern Mexican villages, traveling through misty, surreal scenery and interacting with modern-day Mayans of all types.

Along the way, Sitler outlines the lessons the Western world can learn from the Maya: Namely, "Cherish our babies, connect with our communities, revere the natural world that sustains us, seek the wisdom of humanity's elders, and immerse ourselves in direct expereience of this divine world..."

He writes:

These "invaluable lessons from the living Maya are not esoteric messages from the stars of complex prophecies hidden in hieroglyphic texts that we must struggle to interpret. On the contrary, they are gems of wisdom drawn from thousands of years of human experience."

I enjoyed this book and it made me want to read others, especially by the Mayan authors Sitler mentions.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight into another culture, November 11, 2010
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This review is from: The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012 (Paperback)
It is with deep gratitude that I applaud Robert Sitler and his heartfelt account of many aspects of the Mayan culture. He seamlessly weaves together academic research along with introspection and very vivid personal descriptions of his experiences living and working among the Maya. He makes it clear that the Mayan culture is vast and complex but presents a slice of that culture in a way that makes us feel as if we are there with him. It is a holistic look at the history and present dilemmas that the Mayans face as well as our own Western culture. It gives us much food for thought. It also gives us hope and another way of looking at the natural world and the future. His conclusions are penetrating, thoughtful and undeniable. This book will stay with you for many weeks after you finish reading it.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply honoring life itself, February 8, 2011
By 
Dwayne Edward Rourke (Spences Bridge, Bc, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012 (Paperback)
Of all the books (several) I've read related to the 2012 phenomenon, I find Robert Sitler's "The Living Maya" to be the most personally accessible. By that I mean it really touched my heart in a palpable way. It has already contributed much to the fabric of my daily life here in a wee village in the Canadian desert.

Like Robert, I have been labeled as a New Ager because I initially came into the Mayan world via my head, thousands of miles from Mesoamerica. I am one of this rare individuals who read the Jose' Arguelles' books Earth Ascending and The Mayan Factor even prior to the unprecedented global ceremonial event they helped precipitate at that time: Harmonic Convergence, August 16-17, 1987.

Over the decades since Harmonic Convergence I have come to the same realization expressed by Sitler in this book when he writes: "Whereas New Agers like me tend to get caught up in the study of esoteric traditions, complex analyses of sacred scripture, and even probing cosmic symbolism related to 2012, Maya themselves have little time or interest in such pursuits and tend to orient their spirituality around simply honoring life itself."

I resonate deeply with this notion of "simply honoring life itself" because I understand it to be an encouragement to honor what life actually brings us; in other words, to honor what we have come to know by direct experience. I emphasize this point because twenty-five years ago, my direct experience of the symbology of the Mayan sacred calendar (tzolkin) unexpectedly aligned my consciousness to a novel path of Moon-cycle-by-Moon-cycle attunement to the tzolkin that continues to this day. (See [...])

This approach is novel in that each number/glyph combination in the tzolkin calendar is seen to represent not a single day, but rather, a single Moon cycle (29.5 day synodic). This "fractal expansion" of the tzolkin structure does not change its essential nature. Rather, it presents us with a kind of "hieroglyph-of-the-month-club," a way of coming into very gradual alignment with the calendar's perennial wisdom.

Hieroglyphic awareness, however, is only just the beginning of a multi-stage process of values manifestation. And this, for me, is where Sitler's book has been so helpful. It lays out in very practical terms, many vital aspects of what is involved in bringing important core values into form, in community, here and now.

What are the core values Sitler focuses on? Cherishing the children. Weaving bonds of community. Revering nature. Honoring the elders. Experiencing the Omnipresent Divine.

Simple, straightforward and honest, The Living Maya is an oasis of perennial wisdom.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I can imagine on this topic, February 28, 2013
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This review is from: The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012 (Paperback)
This book is a treasure--a very clear and accessible text about the living Maya. The author, Robert Sitler, is wonderfully transparent about his genuine love and respect for Mayan people and culture, which for me adds tremendously to the author's and the book's credibility.

In a style of writing that is very true to indigenous culture, Sitler frames his reflections about the living Maya in the context of the story of his own life, and his own experiences among the Maya. While this style of writing may not please readers who are looking for something "objective" and "academic", Sitler's very personal and engaging style of writing makes the book a joy to read for ordinary, non-academically-obsessed people.

The author does a great service to the reader by identifying and elucidating five core, definitive aspects of Mayan culture. He elaborates on those cultural elements in chapters entitled: Cherish the Babies, Weave Bonds of Community, Revere Nature, Remember the Elders and Ancestors, and Experience the Spirit. Each of these chapters are full of wonderfully engaging stories that illustrate the aspect of the culture being described in the chapter.

I have read many, many books about indigenous culture, and many other books that are written from an indigenous cultural perspective. The succinct description of Mayan culture contained in the five above-mentioned chapters is, I believe, one of the best descriptions in writing of what I call "the natural or indigenous approach to life", as sharply contrasted with the modern/Western approach to life.

My primary work in this life is as "designer of culture" (culture being "the synergistic total of how groups of people live, inclusive of everything"). I have no doubt that those five chapters will serve as a cherished cultural reference point for my "culture design work" for decades to come.

In the beginning and end of the book, Sitler does a great job of meaningfully placing the Maya in a global cultural context--past, present and future. He does this by helping us understand: classical Mayan culture, the 2012 phenomenon, the historical and present relationship of the living Maya to the United States, what we can learn from the living Maya that can help us face the impending global ecological/economic/social crisis, and more.

This book is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED not only for people who want to learn about the living Maya, but also for people who want to read a concise and clear description of the kind wisdom that is embodied in many indigenous cultures--any and all of which can help point our world back toward sanity and balance.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good service and product, September 9, 2014
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This review is from: The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012 (Paperback)
Everything was as posted. Good service and product!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A top pick for additions to metaphysics collections, December 9, 2010
This review is from: The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012 (Paperback)
2012 is a hot topic in metaphysics circles, but where lies the truth? "The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012" looks into the history of the Mayan culture and tries to draw parallels to the 2012 phenomena and looks to this ancient culture for an idea of what it truly means. Thoughtful with plenty to add to the debate, "The Living Maya" is a top pick for additions to metaphysics collections.
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The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012
The Living Maya: Ancient Wisdom in the Era of 2012 by Robert Sitler (Paperback - November 2, 2010)
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