BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Hoooo-boy ...

I don't know where to start on this one ... I guess the mundane stuff. This was another of my "coffee table books" from my pre-marriage apartment that got stuffed in a box when we moved and only re-surfaced when we dug out the front bathroom (which had devolved into storage space ... long story), so it's been "hanging around" for quite a while now. Mayan Vision Quest: Mystical Initiation in Mesoamerica is primarily a book of photos, but is SO over-the-edge "newagey" that it boggles the mind. Frankly, I was planning on writing a much more derisive review, but did a bit of digging on the authors, and began to get at least a glimmer of where this was "coming from".

My first gripe here is that the photos are 90% shot on infrared film. Now, this came out in 1991, a long time before TV discovered that you could shoot in "night vision" and make everything all spooky and thereby spew out dozens of unbelievably lame "ghost hunter" shows which are nearly totally dependent on the effects that produces ... so I can hardly blame Cynthia MacAdams for using a cliché, although her intent is exactly the same as the TV producers'! The photos are all in greyscale, with varying degrees of excessive granularity (there are maybe 3 pictures in the whole book which are "sharp"), and all those tell-tale signs of IR film, dark-to-black skies, bright white foliage, etc., all done to "capture the mystical forces in the pyramids and temples". Ohhh-kayy.

MacAdams was the photographer for Mayan Vision Quest, with the words perpetrated by Hunbartz Men and Charles Bensinger (both, interestingly, mis-spelled in the Amazon listings). The text is a "real doozy" ... frankly, back in my publishing days I wouldn't have touched this because it's so "out there". I started to poke around and found that Bensinger is a "newage" writer, specializing in Green politics and revisionist histories, and Men is "a Mayan Elder and Daykeeper" who supposedly is the holder of "the sacred teachings that were hidden by the Mayan priesthood shortly after the Spanish Conquistadors landed in Mexico in 1519" despite the Classic Mayan culture being dead half a millennia at that point, and even the post-Classic Mayan/Toltec culture having collapsed a couple of hundred years before! At least that explains where they were getting specifics of who was doing what in which buildings ... ala "In the upper section of this pyramid seven priests would conduct rituals to the seven solar systems." (???) or "To enhance the rituals performed here, colors were changed to ensure the optimum energy flow through the structure." ... for structures that had laid in ruins for a thousand years.

Now, I'm not one to openly mock another's Shamanism or "ancient knowledge", but the chronology of Hunbartz Men's "sacred teachings" should tax the "suspension of disbelief" of all but the most credulous new ager. Frankly, I suspect that Ms. MacAdams falls into that category, and Mr. Bensinger is the type of writer who's never met a lie he didn't like, as long as it made Western Civilization look bad. Again, I (having read quite a lot of historical/archaeological material about the Maya) was aghast at the text accompany the "ooh, spooky" pictures in this book!

Needless to say, I find this hard to recommend, except, perhaps, as a stellar example of over-blown newage twaddle. As much as I love "armchair traveling" through a book of ruin photos, this is even a tainted experience on that level, as all the photos are (by way of their grainy IR effects) bad, if well-composed and of interesting subjects. I am relieved to see that this is, indeed, out of print, so you would have to go looking through the aftermarket if for some reason you were interested in picking up a copy. There are some to be had via the Amazon new/used vendors (for as little as 70¢ for a "good" copy and six bucks and change for a "like new" one), if you think this needs to be in your library ... but you have been warned!

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Tags: book review

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