Andeans spatially position time differently than we do in Western Judeo-Christian cultures, and this blog post examines the Andean conception of future and past in relation to the Upper World (hanaqpacha) and Lower World (ukhupacha).
Generally speaking in our culture, we think of the Upper World—sometimes as a heaven—as representing the future. After all, we won’t go there until after we physically die and its most common characteristic is that of redemption, something we may not be worthy of in the current time but may attain or be blessed with in the future. The Upper World is a perfected world and a place beckoning us through future possibility and even potential reward. It presumes a future state we might attain. On a more personal level, in terms of our body and spatial positioning, we locate the future in front of us: we are walking into our future, creating it moment by moment. It is unformed until we form it through how we live. It is full of potential because we can improve how we live and thus impact our future for the better.
In contrast, generally speaking our conception of the Lower World is of the past. It is the place we may go once we die because of the conditions of our past—the quality of our past character, the thoughts and actions of our recently ended life. Spatially, the past generally and our personal past more specifically is behind us: they are comprised of our collective or personal completed thoughts, words, actions, and so on. We are walking away from our past toward our future, but our future is conditioned by the consequences of our past.
Andeans see things differently.
Let me start with the Upper World, the hanaqpacha. It is associated with the past, which Andeans call the ñaupa pacha. In terms of its characteristics, the Upper World is eternal and perfected. What was now is and forever will be. It is the abode of the Mystery, or whatever you want to call God, who is unchanging. According to anthropologist Jan Szemínski and his collection of oral testimonies of indigenous Andeans, the Upper World’s chief characteristics are stability, permanence, duration, in front (spatially), and past (chronologically). He also reports that Andeans associate it, in terms of the direction of left or right, with the right (paña). In the Andean mystical tradition, the right-side work is that of yachay and perception—of knowledge. The Upper World is the place of those who know or who have perfected their perceptions (qaway). It is the place of perfect ayni, and hence occupied by God and those beings who practiced ayni well during their lifetime (their past).
In terms of each of us as humans, we have a personal hanaqpacha, which encodes our true and eternal self—our ñaupa pacha, or past. It is our inner heaven, where we are revealed for who we really are—drops of the Mystery/God, already enlightened and perfected, although as beings in human bodies in this material world our past as an aspect of Gods is something we have forgotten and must recover. Thus, enlightenment is held in potential in our Inka Seed, and on this material plane we must grow into who we really are. Anthropologist Constance Classen, in her book Inca Cosmology and the Human Body, confirms this association of the past with divine time and eternal space. She reports that Andeans correlate the Upper World and the past with the moment of creation, when “Viraqocha sets the body of the cosmos in motion with his animating breath . . .”
In terms of spatial position in the physical world, the hanaqpacha is above us. But in terms of its association with the past in relation to the human body, both the mystical tradition and the indigenous peoples of the Andes place the past in front of us. We know it, we have seen it, and we have experienced it. It is in full view for us. In terms of our personal poq’po (energy body), we can have a striking clarity about our past because we have six mystical eyes (ñawis) in the front of our poq’po looking at it. These are the qosqo ñawi at the belly, the sonqo ñawi at the chest, the kunka ñawi at the neck, the two physical eyes, and the qanchis ñawi in the middle of the forehead. This mystical vision can provide deep insight into our past, which can be liberating; or it can cause us to become fixated on our past, as so many Westerners do through our psychological and analytical propensities.
But we also have a personal hanaqpacha inside of our poq’po. It is located in the space between the top of our head and the upper inside of our poq’po. This mystical knowledge is supported by anthropological knowledge, as Classen tells us that for Andeans the hanaqpacha is said to be located not only in the upper part of the world but also around the upper part and top of the head. Mystically, this is the place of the three eyes (the two physical eyes and the qanchis ñawi). Our two physical eyes provide the vision to see ourselves as we have been in this human life whereas our seventh eye provides the mystical vision to see beyond this world—to our eternal past and our original perfected, enlightened selves.
In contrast, the ukhupacha, or Lower World, is associated chronologically with the future (called kaya pacha) and spatially is situated behind us. The ukhupacha in Andean cosmology is not a place of punishment or damnation but of regeneration. It is the place of potential—of the future self. Those who occupy it did not live their lives in ayni, and now they are in the Lower World to learn ayni and, thus, to improve themselves. They are being given an opportunity for personal transformation and growth. If they succeed, they can rise up to the hanaqpacha.
According to Classen, the ukhupacha symbolically is the place of the “dark, fluid future.” Szemínski confirms this information: he reports from his discussions with hundreds of Andeans that the Lower World is associated with future time, with a spatial position in back of or behind us, and with the main characteristics of change and creation. He also says Andeans place it in a position/direction of the left. This makes sense, since in the Andean tradition the left-side work (lloq’e) is the place of action, which is certainly what the people in the Lower World are undertaking on their path of regeneration.
As already mentioned, in terms of the body the future is located behind you, which has an important connection to the mystical eyes, the ñawis. Classen reports that for most Andeans “the future . . . is not something one can walk ahead into, but rather, is something that one has to turn oneself around . . . to reach.” This may not be a literal turning. It may instead refer to the single ñawi that is in the back of the body/poq’po. Remember that you can see your past with clarity because you have six mystical eyes in the front of your body/poq’po looking at it. But you can’t easily see your future—or potential future, since it is not set but is a field of potentialities—because you have only one eye, the siki ñawi, at the base of your spine looking at it.
Classes also points out that in terms of the human body, the Lower World is associated with the feet and is considered a place of transition. This correlates perfectly with the mystical tradition, where the personal ukhupacha is located within your poq’po in the space between the bottom of your feet and the lower inside of your poq’po. It is your place of personal inner regeneration and transformation, where you undertake the work of realizing your potential.
There is much more I could say about the Upper and Lower Worlds and their time and space relations, but let me end by mentioning the Middle World, or the kaypacha. The kaypacha is this world—our material, human world. According to Szemínski, the kaypacha results from the interaction of the two other worlds. The hanapacha and ukhupacha energies, the past and the future, meet in the now to create your personal kaypacha. We can turn to psychology to help explain more about this process. The Lower World can be associated with our unconscious and conscious selves, and the Upper World with our divine and Higher Self. We become whole in this life, in our kaypacha, when we bring our unconscious impulses under our will and integrate our unconscious and conscious selves to express our Higher Self. Our inner Lower World/ukhupacha expands and moves upward while our inner Upper World/hanaqpacha expands and moves downward, with the two coalescing into a more perfected personal human world or kaypacha.