Poetry for Paqos

Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”
― Leonard Cohen

I am sharing something quite different in this post. As some of you may know, I completed doctoral coursework in modern American and British fiction and poetry. Recently, when I was revisiting some poetry, I was inspired to share excerpts that speak about life and nature. These particular excepts remind me, as Leonard Cohen says in the quotation above, to make sure my life “burns.”

hummingbird and three dianthusAs paqos, we are on a path of conscious evolution and that starts with our resacralizing our relationship with nature. We are hummingbirds feeding on the sami (nectar) of the living cosmos. These poems are like sami to me, and I hope they are to you as well.

We start with part of a Mary Oliver poem about how to meet the end of your physical life with joy. Since she is one of my favorite contemporary poets, we also end with an excerpt from another of her poems. The other excerpts may inspire your immersion into nature both as a paqo and as a “natural” human being. For instance, the Walt Whitman excerpt reminded me of the Inka Seed. A paqos we are in ayni with nature, but we are also in ayni with the entire cosmos of living energy. Like poets, in the words of poet Wallace Stevens, we are “priests of the invisible.” Enjoy!

(Note: If you are viewing this post on a phone, the line breaks in the poems may be effected.)

 

Mary Oliver, Excerpt from “When Death Comes”

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

 

Walt Whitman, Excerpt from Section 1 of “Song of the Universal”

Come said the Muse,
Sing me a song no poet yet has chanted,
Sing me the universal.

In this broad earth of ours,
Amid the measureless grossness and the slag,
Enclosed and safe within its central heart,
Nestles the seed perfection.

By every life a share or more or less,
None born but it is born, conceal’d or unconceal’d the seed is
waiting.

 

By William Wordsworth, Excerpt from “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798”

. . . The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, not any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
. . . For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue.—And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.

 

Conrad Aiken, Excerpt from Section 4 of “A Letter from Li Po”

Exiled are we.
Were exiles born.
The ‘far away,’

language of desert, language of ocean, language of sky,
as of the unfathomable worlds that lie
between the apple and the eye,
these are the only words we learn to say.

Each morning we devour the unknown.
Each day
we find, and take, and spill, or spend, or lose,
a sunflower splendor of which none knows the source.

This cornucopia of air! This very heaven
of simple day! We do not know, can never know,
the alphabet to find us entrance there.

So, in the street, we stand and stare,
to greet a friend, and shake his hand,
yet know him beyond knowledge, like ourselves;
ocean unknowable by unknowable sand.

 

Mary Oliver, Excerpt from “Humpbacks”

Listen, whatever it is you try
to do with your life, nothing will every dazzle you
like the dreams of your body,

its spirit
longing to fly while the dead-weight bones

toss their dark mane and hurry
back into the fields of glittering fire

where everything,
even the great whale,
throbs with song.

 

Befriending the Apus

As paqos, when we hear the word apu, many of us immediately think of the tutelary mountain spirits. But apu means much more than that.

The word itself is an appellation, meaning something like “Lord or Lady.” It also New cross at qolloritimeans “superior.” During the Inca Empire, it was an honorific title for those who governed the tawantinsuyu and for high-ranking members of the military. In the mystical vocabulary, it refers to any highly valorized spirit being. Therefore, an apu is not just a mountain, but any high-level sacred being, such as the teqse apukuna—the universal spirit beings. There is a hierarchy to these apukuna. For the universal spirit beings it is, from “lowest” to “highest,” Mama Unu, Mother Water; Mama Allpa, Mother Earth; Tayta Inti, Father Sun; Tayta Wayra, Father Wind; Mama Killa, Mother Moon; Mamacha, Holy Mother Mary; and Taytacha, Father Jesus Christ.

For the mountains as apus—which, like the teqse apukuna, can be either male or female—the order of hierarchy starts with the tutelary apus of towns or communities, the ayllu apus; these also relate, in the three worlds of Andean cosmovision, to the ukhupacha, or lower or interior world. Stepping up the hierarchy, next comes the apus of large towns, the llaqta apus, which connect with the kaypacha, this material world here on Earth. Finally, there are the apus of large regions, the suyu apus, which relate with the hanaqpacha, the upper or spiritual world. We can understand, also, that these three levels represent the first three Willkanust'alevels of consciousness.

Don Benito said that our lives are supported by both the kawsay pacha—the cosmos of living energy—and the apus. Everything we need for a good life, we receive from them. We honor them through the despacho ceremony, providing them sustenance through our energy and intentions as well as through the items we place in the despacho. The center of the despacho, where traditionally we place a shell and cross, is the integration point of all three worlds and levels of apus and represents what Juan Nuñez del Prado calls the “Holy Ones,” the teqse, or universal, apus and beings of the fourth level of consciousness.

Using Christian terminology and overlaying this belief structure on the traditional Andean structure, paqos call the Holy One the “Apu YaYa,” meaning the Apu Jesus Christ, who is the father of all the apus.

Camping at Q'ero village Chua Chua on our way to Q'ollorit'iNot all mountains are apus—inhabited by a spirit being. We know a little something about how apus go from being just a mountain to becoming an apu through the story of the great late paqo Manuel Pinta, who was the master of the master of don Benito Qoriwaman and don Melchor Desa. Their primary teacher was the renowned paqo don Julian Chhallayku, and his teacher was don Manuel Pinta. Don Maneul Pinta is now an apu!

The story as Juan Nuñez del Prado tells it is that upon the death of don Manuel Pinta, the people he served were so motivated to honor his service to them that they urged him (his spirit) to enter a nearby mountain, from which they could continue to receive his blessings and counsel. How do they know if he did? They worked with this potential apu, petitioning the apu when they had a need and waited to see if that need was met, if their questions were answered, if the counsel they sought was given. Apparently it was, and so they knew the great paqo had accepted their invitation and was now inhabiting the mountain (and still ministering to them). That’s how and why this mountain is the now the Apu Manuel Pinta. So, we know that an apu is created when a great paqo takes up residence in it after his or her physical death. No doubt there are other ways an apu comes into being, but we don’tAdmiring the view on the way to Q'ollorit'i have any other information about how that might occur.

Most groups in the Andes identify a specific mountain as their guiding apu. For the Q’ero, it is Apu Wamanripa. In the local Quechua dialect, the name for this mountain actually is Senecio, which refers to a genus of the daisy family but, more accurately in this case, comes from the Latin senecio, which means “old man.” Apu Wanamripa is the “wise old man” guiding the peoples of the region around Q’ero.

We are not Andeans, so does it make sense for us to connect with and even commune with apus of our area? Or even with mountains elsewhere, such as in Peru?

Absolutely. In terms of local mountains, you won’t know if the mountain you choose to connect with is an actual apu until you work with it and see if it responds. Remember, in the Andean tradition, when we work, we expect results! Getting results may mean that this is not just a mountain but an apu. Even if the mountain is not an apu, you can still work with it as a magnificent energy being that confers sami, as all things in nature are composed only of sami.

If you want to work with an apu, how do you open communication?

The traditional way is to offer a despacho and introduce yourself. Then you ask Fran another despachopermission to work with the apu and listen for an answer. It might not come right away, and could arrive in myriad ways, from a visual sign to in inner feeling. It is said that often an apu will answer you in your dreams.

How do you connect energetically with an apu (beyond the ayni of a despacho)? Use your poq’po (energy body) and intention. All Andean work is based on intention, as energy must follow intention. But you also use that intention to direct energy. So you can throw a seqe—a cord of energy from your poq’po, usually your qosqo or belly area—to the apu. I remember when I first met don Mariano Apasa Marchaqa, back in 1994, and he predicted that if I did my energy work I would, in his translated words, “one day bring the word of Q’ero to the world.” Talking with him the next day, through a translator, he told me to “throw [my] seqes up to the apus and I will meet you there and give you much information.” I can’t say that I ever felt that actually happened, but the many difficulties of arranging the Q’ero interviews back in 1996 were swiftly and easily overcome, and our interviews were incredibly productive. During those interviews don Mariano provided extensive information. So, perhaps the seqe we had established together in 1994 pulled us through the years to 1996 and the actual exchange in person that resulted in such a rich trove of information. In a similar way, you can throw your seqes to the apus and form a bond that might result over time in a relationship.

Another way I use my seqes with the apus is to establish a welcoming “hello” when I arrive in Cuzco. I usually take a moment to throw my seqes to the many surrounding apus to ask that they receive me, to request their permission to work well in the area, and to appeal for their blessings during my stay.joan-phukuy-with-qero-whistling-vessel-trip-cropped

You can start befriending an apu by doing something similar to a local mountain in your area, which may turn out to be an apu. Simply say “Hello,” as you would upon any introduction. Then open a conversation. Over time, if you hear from a specific mountain—an apu—then you can offer a despacho to acknowledge the new relationship. You can do the same over long distances, to mountains far from your home, across the state, nation, or the world.

Don’t forget you can do the same with any or all of the teqse apukuna—the universal spirit beings. Follow the same protocol. These are spirit beings—fourth level beings, and in the case of Apu Jesu Cristo, a sixth level being—so they will have wisdom to bestow.

Before you work with an apu, however, be aware that doing so is an act of ayni—reciprocity—so you have to be prepared for the possibility that the apu may make a request of you or may advise you to undertake a particular task. Always use your good judgment in determining anything an apu says to be sure it is not your unconscious or ego talking, but if it is the apu, be prepared to follow its counsel or fulfill its request.

So, are you ready to develop your own relationship with the apus and teqse apukuna? Here’s wishing you many new friends (and wise “masters”)!

Chunpis and Chakras

A common question people who are new to the Andean tradition have is whether the chunpis—the energetic belts of the poq’po (energy body)—are similar to the chakras. They are not. The misunderstanding arises for several reasons that I won’t go into here. But let’s take a look at the differences, acknowledging that both are complex subjects and I will provide only a cursory overview.

Tradition of Origin

 The concept of chakras is Eastern­—usually Hindu or Buddhist in origin.

The chunpis are Andean.

To call the chunpis “charkas” is to confuse two entirely different traditions, for as you will see below, there is little to no similarity between chunpis and chakras.

Energetic  Structure

Chakras are usually described as spinning or swirling vortices of light energy. The Silhouette of a monk meditating in a lotus positionword itself is Sanskrit for “wheel” or “disk.” Traditionally, there are seven of them, aligned along the spine from the root of the body  to the top of the head. They are centers where energy and matter meet, facilitating the flow of the life-force energy. The chakras are aligned with major nerve plexuses and organs of the body, and each is associated with a color and with various human emotional traits and states of consciousness, which we will discuss briefly later.

The chunpis are belts or bands of kawsay, the animating energy of the universe. This Quechua word literally means “belt,” and there are four belts, with a quasi fifth belt. The lower belt is at the trunk of the body, wrapping around the hips and between the legs. The three other chunpis are around the belly area, the chest area, and the throat area. The quasi fifth belt encompasses the two physical eyes and the seventh eye (called the third eye in other traditions) at the center of the forehead.

The chunpis are not wheels or disks. I remember once giving the karpay to weave the belts to a large group. A man who had been taught the karpay by another teacher and then coached by me was helping me. I overheard him say to the person he was working with something along the lines of: “Now see a brilliant red energy around your belly. See a brilliant spinning disk of red.” I had to stop him. The chunpis are not disks! They are bands that wrap around the body and interpenetrate it. They are not connected to or aligned with the spine, as chakras are, nor do they spin.

Each chunpi has an “eye,” called a ñawi. Except for one, the ñawis are opposite the spine. For the three upper belts, the ñawis are at the front of the body. For the lower belt, it is at the back of the body, near the base of the spine.

The chakras always exist. You come into human form with them. For optimal well-being, the chakras must be “opened” and balanced. If they are not balanced, then some chakras become overactive to compensate. Energy practices include opening the ckakras (there are various methods and practices) and restoring balance to any underactive ckakras.

The chunpis do not exist until you weave them into your poq’po, which is what you do during the karpay, called the Chunpi Away (pronounced “ah-why” and which means “to weave” in Quechua). In contrast, the ñawis exist from your birth. The work is to “awaken” or “open” these mystical eyes. This part of the karpay is called the Ñawi K’ichay.

Both the chakras and the chunpis are associated with colors and elements. The seven chakras from the lower chakra to the higher are associated with the following colors: red, orange, yellow, green, light blue, dark blue/indigo, violet.

For the chunpis, the lower belt is black and is associated with water. The belt around the belly is red and is related to earth (and, by the way, this belt is not magical  loving heartassociated with the sacral and solar plexus areas; it is around the entire trunk of the body at the belly area and the eye is usually located below the navel). The belt around the chest/heart level is gold and associated with the sun. The belt at the throat is silver and linked with moon and wind. The quasi fifth belt for the two physical eyes and the seventh eye is violet. However, it is not really a violet band of energy. The color of the belt is that of your two physical eyes. It is sometimes, for ease of reference only, called the violet belt because at the end of the karpay you pull violet light into your poq’po through the seventh eye. But you move that violet light through your entire poq’po and body, not just through this eye area of your head.

Capacities of Consciousness

Both the ckakras and chunpis mediate flows of energy to and through the energy and physical bodies. The consequence of blocked or stalled energy is the same in both systems, loss of well-being. However, the similarities of the energy dynamics stop there.

For the chakras, the four upper chakras are said to relate to spirituality and our Energy of Sacred Geometryhigher cognitive and emotional capacities, such as insight, creativity, and love. The three lower chakras are associated with our more physical and instinctual selves, including survival, self-image, social bonds, power, family, and the like. The elements and senses of the belts are usually identified as follows: the root chakra with earth and sense of smell, the sacral with water and taste, solar plexus with fire and sight, heart with air and touch, throat with ether and hearing, third eye with light and perception, and crown with spirit and being.

The capacities of conscious for each chakra are too long a list to go into here, but generally the root chakra is the life-force and connection to earth and physicality, survival instinct and capacity to be a stable physical being in the physical world. The sacral chakra is about relations and relationships, sexuality, impulses, creativity, and confidence. The solar plexus is associated with emotions, identity and self-image, power, and strength.  The heart relates to feelings, love, trust, and safety. The throat capacities include communication, expression, and will. The third-eye chakra relates to ideas, mind, insights, inner expression, and intuition. The crown is associated with spirituality, wisdom, and awareness.

The chunpis, in contrast, each confer a specific range of capacities. They are not, as some say, belts of “protection.” The entire range of energy practices in the Andes (as passed down through the two lineages I was taught) is to master your energy so that you can perceive and relate to every nuance of kawsay. Since the entire cosmos and everything in nature is made of sami, there is nothing to protect yourself from.  The capacities of consciousness encoded within the belts can be both realized abilities we already use in the world and potentials that are as yet not developed. The specific capacities are as follows:

  • The three eyes (two physical eyes and seventh eye) confer a capacity for insight and mystical vision, called qaway.
  • At the throat, the capacity is rimay, which is to speak with integrity and power, and also to speak with magical power, such that the sounds or vocalizations you make can affect physical reality.
  • At the heart and Inka Seed level is kanay, the capacity to be who you really are, to express and live your mission here on earth.
  • At the belly, the qosqo, is personal power, especially in relation to the kinetic capacity to take action in the world and to live with khuyay, or engaged passion.
  • At the root, the capacities involve being able to time your actions for maximum effect and to measure your power at the current time.

As you can see, the physical, mental, emotional, psychological and energetic capacities of the chunpis are quite distinct from those associated traditionally with the chakras.

This has been only a brief overview, but I hope you now better understand how different these two systems of “energetic anatomy” are and why using terminology from one tradition when referring to the dynamics of an entirely different system is not only imprecise but can be downright confusing.

Evil and Andean Mysticism

When I teach the Andean mystical tradition, one of the most important concepts concerns the  nature of energy, and it seems to take a lot of “unlearning” for many people to grasp that kawsay is beyond moral overlay. There is no good energy or bad Atomenergy, negative or positive energy, angelic or demonic energy within the kawsay pacha itself. There is nothing contaminating about kawsay to extract from your own or another person’s energy body (poq’po). If you have enough personal power (ayni), there is no need to protect yourself from energy and, thus, the chunpis, or energetic belts, have nothing to do with protection, even though some still perpetuate that misunderstanding. In the kawsay pacha, energy is just energy, just like an electron is an electron and a photon is a photon. I want to extend this discussion now to talk about the nature of evil and how we can view it from the perspective of Andean mysticism.

Let’s start with a review of kawsay. Kawsay is the living, animating energy of the immaterial universe. From it, the material universe arose, including this human world. As I pointed out in the paragraph above, kawsay is beyond moral overly and is not dualistic. So there is no good or bad or positive or negative kawsay. Kawsay is always and only the First Cause life-force, the animating force of all beingness, and so from that perspective is nourishing and beneficial; it is the force from which all things are created and that drives evolution on the material realm and in the realm of human consciousness.

Kawsay has a core kinetic dynamic—its nature is to move unrestricted through the cosmos. We want to evolve consciously so that we can be perfect absorbers of kawsay and perfect radiators of it. It is interesting to note that a precursor to the word “Inka” was “Enqa,” which one anthropologist says means a person (an enlightened or nearly enlightened being) who perfectly absorbs and radiates energy on behalf of the community. All humans have the capacity to be Enqas/Inkas—perfect mediators of kawsay, allowing it to flow in to nourish us and to flow out again to continue to move through the universe. A metaphor is the rain cycle: water droplets flow through the atmosphere, fall to earth, are absorbed by the earth to fuel plant growth, and then the plants respire and the water condenses and rises again, and so the cycle goes. Nothing is trapped; it is absorbed, fuels life, and flows on.

Here’s the rub in this scenario: Humans have the dubious distinction of being the only creatures who can slow down kawsay. While we are meant to perfectly absorb and radiate kawsay, we don’t because we are not sufficiently evolved in our consciousness. Our life-negating emotions, thoughts, words, and actions cause kawsay to slow when it hits the skin of our energy body. It’s like our filter is clogged and so some energy flows through us, some gets slowed from its natural state, and some even gets blocked or stuck as it tries to move through us.

The ancient mystics of the Andes of Peru understood this energy dynamic and have words for it.  Llasaq kawsay is this slowed kawsay, which can feel heavy to us or, rather, makes us feel heavy emotionally, physically, spiritually. Llasaq kawsay literally means “heavy living energy.” Today, we call this heavy energy hucha. The ancients had a different word for the most refined, flowing  kawsay—llanthu kawsay, or, literally, “light living energy.” The more modern word for this is sami.

Don’t let the fact there are two words for human interaction with kawsay (sami and Yin Yang Celestialhucha) fool you into thinking this sets up a dichotomy for kawsay itself. It does not. Kawsay moves along a spectrum, from sami (unrestricted flow) to hucha (slow or stuck energy) in relation only to humans. Hucha is still kawsay, only slow moving. Learn to improve your ayni (energetic reciprocity, capacity to absorb and radiate kawsay) and you reduce your hucha and/or stop creating it. And, if you can’t yet turn hucha into sami, then give it to someone who can, like Mother Earth or a skilled paqo, both of whom “eat” hucha and return sami (or, in other words, get slow energy moving again).

I review all this information so you can understand that hucha is not bad, dirty, negative, or contaminating. Nor is it associated with evil. Because so many metaphysical traditions have a concept of evil, some people new to the Andean mystical system not only have a hard time understanding hucha simply as slow kawsay, but they resist the rejection of the concept of energetic evil.

I am no scholar of the Andean tradition, but I have looked into the question of evil in relation to Andean mysticism and would now like to share my musing on the topic as it connects to our understanding of kawsay as practitioners of Andean mysticism.

Did the Inkas have a concept of evil, of the devil or Satan? How would a paqo within the mystical system view these same concepts?

Among the Inkas, there was a god called Supay, who was seen primarily as the God of Death, although he was also known as the Ruler of the Underworld (ukhupacha).
Another association, based on his reign in the underworld, is as the God of Minerals. As such, he was especially associated with miners, who conducted rituals to keep Supay appeased and themselves safe in the dangerous environment of their work.

As the God of Death, Supay represented human mortality. As Ruler of the Underworld, he was said to command demons, which were the spirits beings who Shadow self close up compressed AdobeStock_34688107inhabited the underworld. But from what we know of the “underworld” according to the mystical system, these were probably not demons as we think of them in the Westernized, Christianized sense. The people of the lower world—the ukhupacharuna—don’t know ayni. They are unable to participate in the core energy dynamic of the cosmos—energetic reciprocity. Thus, as mystics, we can see them as devoid of knowledge rather than as demonic in nature.

This underworld also had more benign and even benevolent associations: for example, with Mother Earth and with the ancestors, both of which were sources of nourishment and even wisdom for the people.

It was through the Christianization that came with the Spanish Conquest that Supay morphed from the God of Death and ruler of the ukhupacha to the Devil or Satan. His underworld realm became associated with the land of the fallen and wicked—in other words, with Hell. But this Christainized concept of the ukhupacha is in direct conflict with everything the mystical system says about this lower world. The people there are not evil, just uneducated in the ways of ayni. They are not condemned in a hell, they actually are living in a place of regeneration. The ukhupacha is not a place people go to be imprisoned, but to be set free! They go to the ukhupacha to learn ayni. It is a place whose very nature is one of potentiality and rejuvenation.

If we trace the origins of certain words—such as Satan and the Devil—we will also see that those root meanings have been filtered through the lens of third-level On the crossroadsunderstanding. (There are seven levels of consciousness; most of the world currently is at the third level). The Hebrew Bible was first translated into Koine Greek, and the Koine Greek word for what came to be translated into “Satan” was kategoro, which means to “categorize” or to create a “division.” The Greek word for “Devil” was diabolos, which means “accuser” or “slanderer.” I think you can immediately see that the meanings of these words are a far cry from “evil.” It is interesting that when I asked several paqos about the devil or fear of evil, they said that the devil or evil is that which divides us or separates us—separates us from knowing ourselves and from knowing and being cooperative or empathetic with others. Their understanding is closer to the Koine Greek meanings than to the codified Christain meaning of Devil and Satan.

Their view reminds me of the two core relationships of energy and of the human interaction with kawsay: masintin and yanantin. Masintin is when we touch “similar” energies. Yanantin is when we touch “dissimilar” energies. Both dynamics are in relation to your own energy state, not to some universal, independent state of being. Touching energy that feels “like” or “unlike” your own is a far cry from
labeling an “unlike” energy evil or even harmful. Certainly we can understand a “devil” (as a slandered or accuser) as someone who does not (at least at that moment) know or act from ayni. That is a far cry from their being evil.

I understand that people do unspeakably horrible, even “evil” things. This moral evaluation is an ethical, spiritual, or social determination. It varies from culture to culture. But from an Andean perspective, such people are not in the clutches of a universal evil energy or entity. They are just deeply, deeply out of ayni. They are “divided” from their true nature as a divine, cosmic being and even perhaps from their true nature as human beings in social relations with others. They are heavy in ladder stairs heaven door freedom blue skythe heaviest way. . .

The paqos I have asked all have said that when we come across something heavy, we either leave it alone or we use our personal power to decrease that heaviness (hucha) and increase lightness (sami). Every single one of the them has expressed the opinion that fear is a projection from ourselves outward onto a person or thing. We humans create heaviness, and we project our fear out into the world to divide, categorize, and label that which we do not yet have the personal power to understand or deal with. When we realize this, we save ourselves from wasting our energy. There is nothing, energetically speaking, to protect yourself from. Don’t be foolish—run from a person who is acting from extreme heaviness and threatening you. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that that person’s state of being and action is evidence for a fundamental, organized, independent evil energy of the kawsay pacha. Instead, understand it is the mindset and actions of someone lower down of the qanchispatañan, the stairway of the seven steps of consciousness in the human world.

The Nature of the Kawsay Pacha

In their conception of an immaterial energetic cosmos that has no beginning, is without end, and underlies All that Is, the Andeans join the great philosophers of history. Let’s look (in grossly simplified terms) at what a few of those philosophers have to say so that we can see how the Andeans sit alongside these giants of thought.

The word ylem, from the ancient Greek, refers to the primordial, foundational “substance” (although it is immaterial) of the cosmos, before the cosmos took actual form. Most philosophical traditions that concern themselves with the origin of the cosmos have concepts similar to that of ylem.

The Greek Anaximander posited that the universe arose from a “substance” he called Aperion, which was limitless, unknowable, and unobservable.  The Aperion, which can be translated to mean “the boundless” or “the indefinite,” is not itself material but from it all matter arose. Part of the Milesian school of philosophy, Anaximander and his cohorts surmised that the primary underlying energy of the cosmos was simply the “Source,” also called Arche. From this Source, all things come and all things return. As such, he has a notion of space and time that is subsumed within the immaterial infinite.

Another pre-Socratic philosopher, Heraclitus, saw the universe as “power” or “force,” a moving energy that he metaphorically associated with both fire and water. Evolving MicrocosmHe ascribed to this energy a “logos,” or a rational structuring principle that controlled, arranged, and ordered the cosmos. He was a major proponent of the ontological philosophy of “becoming,” believing that while the Whole is ordered, beneath it everything is always changing, moving, in flux and flow. In this sense, he, like Anaximander, saw “becoming” as arising in relation to space and time. He also articulated a law of transformation, which some misunderstand as a law of opposites, by which things flow from one state—for example, hot—to their counterpoint—cold. Unlike Anaximander, Heraclitus believed in a creator.

The Eleatics, a school of philosophy founded by Parmenides, based their purely ontological philosophy on the notion that Being is the only reality. According to this school of thought, the foundation of the universe is “the One,” which in its fullness is unchanging and immutable. All change is illusion. This philosophy shares similarities with some Eastern concepts, so let’s  switch from the Western view to briefly take a look at Eastern ones.

We start by going to the Hindu Rig Veda, which says that the nature of the cosmos is neither Being nor Non-being. The primordial substance is either unknowable (beyond even our ability to grasp) or is pure consciousness. Switching to the Vedic philosophy of the Upanisads, ultimate reality is beyond perception; it permeates all things but is not those things. This ultimate reality cannot be touched, seen, or otherwise grasped through physical perception, but can, nonetheless, be experienced.

In Daoism, a Chinese philosophy, the Wu is cosmic non-being, seen as the matrix from which everything arises while being beyond any conception of “thingness” Yin Yang Celestialitself. In one of its many senses, the Wu cannot be separated from nature, because it is not a metaphysical or transcendent “first principle” that can be separate from that which arises from it. This immanent creative force both underlies and infuses nature. It also is always changing, giving rise to the concept of yin-yang, Yin-yang is the polar aspect of nature and being, where things are inseparable but complementary in their relation to each other, such as the polarity of male-female and light-dark. Bringing balance to the two poles creates harmony.

There are many other philosophical traditions we could look at, but this brief glance at a few prominent ones allows us to see that the Andean cosmovision deserves to take a seat at the philosophical table. Here’s the Andean view in brief, which can see even from this broad overview holds its own alongside some of the most esteemed philosophies of the world.

In the Andean view, which aligns philosophically with some of the Greek views, the universe is immaterial, comprised of  animating energy, and called the kawsay don-francisco-offering-despacho-compressed-lisa-sims-img_4160pacha. It is the primordial “living” energy from which all matter arises. It is First Cause, the immaterial and infinite moving energy and the energizing principle that fuels creation and evolution. From it arose all matter—called the Pachamama, which is the entire material universe—which is subject to space and time. In fact, the word pacha means both space and time, as inseparable aspects of the one Pachamama. Like Heraclitus, Andeans believe that there is a creator, one of whose names is Wiraqocha, which means something like “foam of the sea,” the sea perhaps being the vast expanse of the flowing energy of the cosmos. But energy is beyond human moral overlay.

Unlike some of the philosophers mentioned above, Andeans would not say that change is an illusion, but they would agree with other Greek thinkers that the primordial nature of energy/kawsay is to move. It’s nature is to move unimpeded in the boundless expanse. Therefore, Andeans also share a notion of “becoming,” which they call ayni. Ayni is energetic reciprocity between everything in the material universe and the immutable living energy of the kawsay pacha. Ayni is a driving force for evolution, as evidenced through the ceaseless change and flux of the Pachamama (material universe). In the Andean concept of aynillan kawsaypas, which is related to ayni, “beingness” (life) is subject to a natural cycle: all things come from the kawsay pacha and all things will return to it. We did nothing to deserve our lives. They are gifts from the kawsay pacha. Part of our goal here in human form is to consciously evolve and return to the kawsay pacha with a greater fullness of being than when we arrived here on Earth.

Andeans would agree somewhat with the yin-yang aspect of Chinese philosophy or Heraclitus’s concept of transformational opposites. In the Andean conception of mesas-compressed-lisa-sims-photos-2016energy there are really only four core energy dynamics, and they are pairs of polarities: light/refined energy and heavy energy (although lightness and heaviness run along a spectrum) and compatible and incompatible energy (in relation to your own energy body, the poq’po). Awareness of these flows helps us to manage them and, thus, to avoid creating hucha (heavy energy) and to increase our sami (refined or “light” energy).

Like the philosophy preserved in the Upanishads, Andean would say that while ultimate reality cannot be perceived, it can be experienced. In a slight amendment of the Hindu view, they would say that the energy of the universe (kawsay), while immaterial in its origin, can be perceived in its flow through the Pachamama (material world). In fact, a paqo’s training is mostly about learning to perceive kawsay, and to move it and tune it.

As you can see from only this brief description, Andean cosmology is developed to a level equivalent to that held by of some of the greatest philosophers. When you learn the Andean cosmology through a deep dive, rather than this quick overview, you will feel as if you have received a PhD in energy! So, when you are practicing the Andean energy techniques and improving your capacities as a paqo, know that you are putting into living practice ideas that stand on their own merit alongside the ideas of some of history’s deepest thinkers.

Last two pictures are by Lisa McClendon Sims, copyright 2016.