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. He 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” itself. 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 pacha. 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 energy 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.