Understanding the Eight Helper Spirits

I am frequently asked to go deeper into an explanation of the energy dynamics of the eight helpers. For those of you who have studied the Andean sacred arts with me, don Juan Nuñez del Prado, his son don Ivan, or another of the teachers they have trained, you know that in the lloq’e (left side) training, we choose eight helpers to guide, counsel, and inspire us. For those who have not taken the training, the helpers are just what they sound like—spirits who guide and assist us.

In the lloq’e training, we consciously and deliberately choose these eight helper spirits, one for each level of consciousness, from the zero level to the seventh level. The first three helpers—the zero through the second level—areFalcon compressed and cropped a reptile (cold-blooded animal), mammal (warm-blooded animal), and bird. The third-level through sixth-level helpers are human beings from the past or present who represent the qualities of that level of consciousness and so can inspire us to lift ourselves up to that level. The seventh-level helper usually represents Taytanchis, or whatever God is to you, or, less commonly, it can be a fully enlightened human being who is ranti, equivalent, to Taytanchis.

When we begin our work with these helper spirits, we imprint and tune ourselves with each one’s energy, moving them through our ñawis, or mystical eyes, and perceiving each one’s energy directly and viscerally so that we can know it and begin to more easily develop an energetic relationship with it. Once that relationship strengthens, the helper spirits can come of their own bidding to work with us, and we can call on them when we need them. Seeing the helpers as real spirit beings is what we call “working from the third level,” and that is the way it was taught by don Melchor Desa, who passed on this knowledge and these practices. 

However, there is another way to understand what the helper spirits actually are and how we interact with them. This is a high-level, more abstract view that is from the fourth level of practice, meaning it takes us beyond the third-level concrete teachings of the paqos; we bridge traditions to see how what the paqos discovered correlates to similar things discovered by mystics and others in non-Andean cultures and philosophical domains. Reaching across cultures and intellectual fields of inquiry not only provides independent verification for the Andean paqo teachings, but also fosters an opportunity for us to widen our perceptions and deepen our understanding of the energy dynamics of the eight helpers. So, that’s exactly what we are going to do, relying once again on my (and Christina Allen’s) discussions over the past year or two with don Juan and don Ivan. I have combed through my transcripts of our talks and pulled out the material on the eight helpers, editing them into this long “interview.”

Before I get to the interview, there are two terms that need to be defined briefly: archetype and prototype. According to psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who did the most to develop the theory of archetypes, an archetype is a primal, universal symbol, pattern, or theme that is common to the human collective unconscious and that shapes the human psyche and behavior. A prototype, as applies to our discussion, is a physical representation that superbly embodies the qualities of the archetype. If the archetype is “Devotion,” the prototype might be Mother Theresa or your best friend or your dog. Prototypes differ based on personal values and preferences. Archetypes are timeless and universal.

Joan: Let’s talk about the eight helper spirits—how they are real and how they are archetypes. Let’s start with talking about them as real energies, actual spirit beings.

[Note: Although don Juan uses the male pronoun and examples in his answer, helper spirits may be either male or female.]

Don Juan: What is the list? Let’s start there. The top helper is Taytanchis. He has a characteristic: he must be kanaq—able to create—which is the seventh level. The sixth-level helper is a Sapa Inka, a helper who is characterized as being qanchaq, able to glow literally. Then at the fifth level is an Inka awki, a candidate to be an Inka, or a tukuy hampeq, a Inkatotal healer. Then comes qapaq, a king, but he must be wise because he is hamuta, which is wisdom. The fourth level is an apu, representing leadership. Then [at the lower three levels, level two down to zero) are the animals. The pisqa, a bird; then a qorikawsay, warm-blooded animal, then at the zero level the chirikawsay, a cold-blooded animal.

Don Ivan: Working with them as real energies . . . if you have a perception, it changes the shape of your poq’po [energy body/bubble]. If you touch the essence of your helpers, this can retune you and change the shape of your bubble. Because you are able to touch their essence. I always say when you are working with your helpers you are shapeshifting in a way. Your body is the same but your bubble is taking different forms. I feel it like that, but that’s just my perception when I work with my helpers.

Joan: What do you mean by shapeshifting? Energetically or literally? Your bubble becomes shaped more like your cold-blooded helper or your bird or whatever helper you are working with? 

Don Ivan: Not literally, but its energy is perceivable to your senses. You tune with the bird or the puma. Its energy shapes you like that, tuning you.

Don Juan: You become charged.

Joan: Even if different many people select the same helper—say a fox or an eagle, or, for the human helpers, don Benito or the Christ or Buddha—the way that helper tunes each of them is different, correct? You have said the helpers are holding the space for capacities within each of us, places where we are still undeveloped, and helping us to develop those capacities. So, how they help is going to vary from person to person. The same helper is tuning different people in different ways to realize different capacities. I just want to verify that.

Don Ivan: Yes.

Don Juan: Take a look . . . you have an Inka Seed inside yourself. [The Inka Seed holds within it all the capacities we each have to reach our full potential, for our development to the highest level of human consciousness.] Your helpers are the difference between what you are today and what you can be. The only thing we are bridging are the levels [of consciousness]. Because the Andean tradition is flexible in every other aspect, except in these levels of development. This is about ontological levels, about a way of being. The difference between the first level of consciousness and the second level—it’s not just an idea, a concept. [It is a real difference in states of consciousness, in a way of being and acting in the human world and so not just an intellectual difference.]

Joan: You have said that everything, all knowledge, all human thought and experience, everything is “imprinted” in the earth or the entire material universe (Pachamama). Is there a connection between this idea and the helpers?

Don Juan: Yes. I am going to look in the scientific framework of the Western tradition, as there is something there to explain that. There is a Jesuit psychologist who speaks about how the human unconscious knows everything. Unconscious is a word. What is your unconscious? It is also something you can project—to the heavens and into the ground. It’s something like the idea of Rupert Sheldrake, the morphogenetic resonance or field. It is a memory of reality, or, it is saying that reality has memory.

Don Ivan: It’s like the Akashic records.

Don Juan: Yes, akashic records is another way.

Don Ivan: As a concept, they say the akashic records are in the ground, memory or imprints in the ground. Whetherbinary code they are there or not . . . what we are saying is that many people talk about how a certain amount of information is accessible in some way. So, when we work with helpers, we can say that we are not working only with the spirit being, but also with the memory of that helper [especially of human helpers, most of whom tend to be historical], which is imprinted in the earth, into the physical world. In the practice of the left side, when you choose your helpers, you are establishing a connection between yourself and the field of information—and with the ground, with Pachamama, and with those specific pieces of knowledge. So, in working with the helpers, you are working with information that you bring into your bubble.

Don Juan: In this way, the levels are ontological. The helpers are just symbols of each level of consciousness.

The first way to see them is as real beings. This is the third level. We are working with the teaching of don Melchor Desa. And for him, these are real beings. For Andeans the Taytanchis is super real, because he is the Creator. If you are here [in this physical world] you can make a connection with the other side of reality [metaphysical and spirit world]. I can work with my [deceased] grandfather as my ally. He’s just my ally. Where is he? In the hanaqpacha [upper world], but we are connected. For the Western mind, this idea can be very difficult, because for them he is dead. But we are talking now about the fourth level, bridging realities or states. For that, we can look at these as archetypes according to Carl Jung.

What are the archetypes? The most important ones are in the map of the unconscious: your ego, your shadow, the Royal Couple [animus-anima/inner male and female self], and the Self. This map is only from Carl Jung. I didn’t find it anywhere else. Jung made a statement about the Self. He said it is an archetype. Then he said the Self in Western culture is the imprint of Jesus, and in the East it is the imprint of Buddha. What are Jesus and Buddha in both cases?

Joan: Prototypes.

Don Juan: Yes! So, every helper, especially human helpers, we choose can be seen as a prototype. Because they must be or have been real people who we can take as examples or guides; they can help lift us up. They are prototypes. But I am only showing the way in which we can work. We don’t jump from one thing to another. We take the Andean structure and then we look for equivalence in other Western frameworks, and if we can put together two structures, this is what we are looking for. Because a structure is a system, which is a whole. It is not just a collection of factors. We are trying to build and work with systems, with wholes.

The important thing is to follow what we did. We started working with the traditional Andean system, then we picked up the main character of every step in the system and we searched in the Western system, in a different system, which is to us a possible way to make a progression that is trans-civilizational. This is what we are doing. Because the Inka civilization is ours and Western civilization is ours, and we are trying to translate not words but meanings. In anthropology, there is a discipline which is trans-civilization translation and it’s very sophisticated and precise. You take a whole and compare it with another whole. You don’t look for semantics. You look for the meanings and the big background. This is the way we operate.

Don Ivan: Would you agree with me, I think, that the qanchispatañan, the path of the seven levels of human development, is an archetype?

Don Juan: Yes.

Don Ivan: The structure of the seven levels of human development is the archetype, and then the helpers are prototypes that are going to fit into this archetype. But you can put the two things together. The most important archetype we have for working with consciousness is the qanchispatañan, the stairway of the seven levels of the development of human consciousness.

Don Juan: Yes.

Don Ivan: This pathway of development is common to every human being independent of their culture or tradition. It is within. That is the archetype. So, all human beings will develop along those stages of the qanchispatañan, with maybe the help of these prototypes of helpers or whatever their own tradition provides to develop that particular level.

Don Juan: I would say something else: the seven levels is an archetype of the protocol of human growth, and you find it in the Andean tradition and in other traditions. They provide independent verification for each other. And the system of the seven levels of human conscious development is the most important aspect of our teachings. The Andean tradition is absolutely flexible except about the qanchispatañan.

Christina: What’s interesting is that when you go to Peru you see the animals associate with the three worlds—the hanaqpacha, kaypacha, and ukhupacha. They’re all over the place—the images of the condor, puma, and amaru. They obviously are pretty basic in the Andean cultural perspective.

Don Juan: We are going to frame it in the left-side teaching of don Melchor Desa and approach it from the fourth-level, the archetypal level, where the animals represent deep parts of you. In this framework, the cold-blooded animal is the zero level, the warm-blooded is the first level, and the bird is the second level. But, in general, people talk about the condor as similar to the hanaqpacha [upper world]. The puma connects with the kaypacha [this world], and amaru with the ukhupacha [lower world]. It’s correct, but in general you can take them as symbols of those worlds, which means as images, instead of real spirits or animals, that represent that inner state of human beings. But you need to remember that the framework of don Melchor is larger than that. Because birds are only second level, you must then choose a human being for the third level of development; a hamuta qapaq, or wise king, for the fourth level, and so on for the scale of the levels of development. Don Melchor was using in a very personal way something that is general in the Andes. It’s the condor as the symbol of upper world, puma of this world, amaru of the underworld.

It’s the difference between the common knowledge and the specialized work of the paqo path. The Andean culture in general uses these three animals in the most general way, with the three worlds, the three levels of the kawsay pacha. A specific animal will help you connect and tune with one of the three levels. But there is another way, a certain way that they help you to resonate with the levels that are within you. They help you deal with that aspect of yourself. Like the ukhupacha is your unconscious, the kaypacha the conscious part, and the hanaqpacha is your connection with the spirits and gods, the metaphysical part of yourself. They help you access these. For the Andeans in general, they are at the door of each of the three worlds, as kind of gatekeepers; for you as a paqo, they also are a way to tune yourself inside of yourself to those worlds in order to tune to that reality. You deliberately choose each of your helpers, which makes it more specific, because they the ones you feel serve as the best possible way to help yourself to connect.

Your helpers can be seen as a projection from yourself! To help you make a connection with a part of your psyche. Your zero-level helper with the reptile brain, the bottom of your psyche. The mammal is another projection from you that is connected to your mammal way of being. And the bird helps you make a connection with your [more developed] ape brain, ape way of being. The interesting thing is in Jungian psychology, Jung shows how there is in every other society a representation of reptiles, mammals and birds like this. In the Andean tradition, the three animals [condor, puma, amaru] represent the Andean cosmology [three worlds]. But what are the three worlds? From the fourth-level, the ukhupacha can be seen as the world of your instincts or impulses. The kaypacha the world of your affections, your social world. The hanaqpacha the world of your metaphysical factors. The three worlds can be thought of as a projection of the structure of the human mind—Andean style. And all of our eight helpers represent the path of development of our human psyche.