The Deep Structure of Andean Mysticism

I feel compelled to launch this post with a caution. This is an extremely long and a decidedly nerdy post, one that takes a deep-dive into the esoteric aspects of Andean energy dynamics. If you are not well versed in the karpays of the Chunpi Away and Ñawi K’ichay, this discussion may be confusing, or even unintelligible, to you. (And there are no illustrations or pictures!) So forewarned is forearmed . . .

My primary teacher, don Juan Nuñez del Prado, has described our training in the Andean sacred arts as a protocol. This means there is a sequence of tasks in our training, which we follow toward the goal of being in ayni more efficiently, effectively, and joyously with our fellow human beings and with the living universe. We would do well, he suggests, to review the entire training—in the order and according to the sequence in which we learned it—once a year to refine our capacity for perceiving and moving energy and to attain greater mastery of the practices.

Once I understood our training as a protocol—that it has a deep structure—I was able to see how it also has many subprotocols (protocols within protocols). For instance, one of the core energy dynamics of the tradition is ayni, or reciprocity. It can be seen as a kind of subprotocol in that there is a set order or sequence to practicing ayni: first using intention, then taking action, and, finally, being aware of the feedback. Another important aspect of our training is the qanchispatañan, which is a sequence of the seven stages of the development of human consciousness, so it too can be seen as a subprotocol. I also saw—based on teachings from don Juan and don Ivan and on my own thinking about the topic—that there is another qanchispatañan of human relationship—it is a set sequence of increasingly refined energy dynamics for developing our interpersonal relationships: tinkuy/tupay, taqe, munay, ayni, masintin, yanantin, tawantin.

There is no skipping a step or reordering steps in a protocol or a subprotocol. The sequence is everything in terms of gaining proficiency in the energy dynamics. For example, in seeking to achieve high-level, quality interpersonal relationships, we can only establish an ayni dynamic in that relationship after we have developed our munay. People tend to generalize munay as love and ayni as any two-way interchange, but these energy dynamics take on particular qualities and characteristics within the development of a meaningful interpersonal relationship. Likewise, there is no achieving a truly harmonious yanantin relationship without first doing the work associated with the masintin energies of the relationship. So, the sequence is crucial.

In my capacity as a teacher of the tradition, I eventually began to develop standalone advanced classes, which I call the “deep-dive classes,” that are devoted to examining some of these subprotocols in depth. For example, my thinking about the relationship qanchispatañan described above turned into a class I call “Achieving Holy Relationships,” which focuses exclusively on this sequence—this protocol—of the energy dynamics of the seven stages of interpersonal relationships. A new deep-dive class, which I will offer for the first time this year, is about willka (the black light energy). As I was thinking about willka and all the ways it shows up in the Andean tradition, I couldn’t help but probe more deeply into its importance in our mystical body. We create willka during the karpays of the Ñawi K’ichay and Chunpi Away (activating the mystical eyes and weaving the energetic belts, which I will call a “joint” karpay since we do them together). I realized that this joint karpay can been seen as a type of subprotocol, where the sequence of the energies we move has a precise order that is not accidental but quite meaningful. When I took a deep, and admittedly speculative, dive into trying to unravel these energy dynamics, I realized that the logic of this sequence reveals interesting aspects of how we are tuning our mystical body (and even our physical body) in this joint karpay. I began to see why the karpays took this form in terms of energy dynamics. So, in the rest of this blog, I am going to focus on these joint karpays as an example of the value of understanding some of our core practices as having a deep structure. I trust that this explication will provide insight into the protocol nature of this energy work—into what may be going on energetically, why the sequence matters, and how the sequence is helping us achieve a more sensitive and holistic mystical awareness.

I feel compelled to stress that this information is just my way of seeing things, and it is not intended to suggest that don Juan, don Ivan, or any of the paqos of our two lineages would agree with me. This is my own take on the energy dynamics, although everything I am about to suggest is based on the broader teachings from these masters. (And, again, if you are not well acquainted with the form of this joint karpay, this view of its energy dynamics may be challenging to follow.)

The karpays of Ñawi K’ichay and Chunpi Away are karpays we perform together, as a single integrated karpay with two goals: to awaken or activate our mystical eyes (called the ñawis) and to weave the belt-like energy fields (called the chunpis) into ourselves. The combined purpose is to energetically connect the separate ñawis into a fully integrated system. As we do that, we also activate the energies of the universal spirit beings associated with each ñawi (e.g., Mama Unu, Mother of the Waters; and Tayta Inti, Father Sun) and begin the process of refining the human capacities at each ñawi (e.g., rimay, khuyay, atiy).

We use five khuyas (called the mullu khuyas) to perform this combined karpay, and their form is, in and of itself, significant in this subprotocol, although discussing them in any depth is beyond the scope of this blog post. But that’s where we will start: with the mullu khuyas, because they guide the energy dynamics of this joint karpay.

The five mullu khuyas we use to perform this ceremony have names that refer to the number of “nubs” or protrusions on them. They are ch’ulla (one, singular), yanantin (two, dual and complementary), kinsantin (three), tawantin (four, the number of wholeness or unity), and pisqantin (five). Very briefly, let me share that odd numbers and even numbers have meaning in terms of Andean energy dynamics: odd numbers refer to a vertical movement of energy, whereas even numbers refer to a horizontal movement.

In the energy dynamics of this joint karpay, we start with the ch’ulla khuya, which we place on the pukyu, the energy point at the top of the forehead at the hairline. Through this single-nubbed khuya, we initiate a vertical flow of energy: we connect to the singular source of our paqarina, our place of origin, which for the sake of convenience I will call God (devoid of religious dogma and referring more generally to First Cause, Originating Consciousness, Creator, or the All). Kawsay is always flowing from our place of origin (from God) through a point at the top of our forehead and down into our Inka Muyu (Inka Seed). So, we start the karpay with the single khuya moving a singular, unitary energy, which to me is an undifferentiated energy (we and God in effect are this same life-force energy). This is the foundational and essential connection: the energy flow from Spirit to Flesh, from the Immaterial to the Material, from God-Spirit to God-Matter.

You will note that I italicized the word “undifferentiated” above. This term is important! My insight into this karpay is about how the protocol leads us—tunes us—from a state of unitary, integrated energy (undifferentiated energy) to increasingly discrete, or differentiated, kinds of energy and then back toward an undifferentiated, unitary (or integrated) energy. This is the deep energy dynamic of this joint karpay, at least according to my thinking about it as a kind of protocol. So, I will be focusing on how energy moves from an undifferentiated state to differentiated states and then back to undifferentiated.

The next step in this protocol involves our changing to the yanantin mullu khuya, which does most of the work of the karpay. Using the yanantin khuya, we move this unitary, undifferentiated energy of Creator up and back to the uma, the top of the head, where through the yanantin khuya (twoness, dual but complementary) we pull in a split stream of energy that is the abstract Creative energy of the material realm. I see the uma serving, in this joint karpay, as a kind of “reverse chaupi” point. A chaupi is usually a place where two energies merge into one. So, a reverse chaupi point would be where a singular, unitary energy splits into two. So, the uma as a reverse chaupi point is where we separate out from the undifferentiated unitary God energy the differentiated cosmic creative energies of the material cosmos: we simultaneously pull a gold stream and a silver stream of energy from the cosmos through the yanantin khuya. The gold and silver streams of energy can mean different things to different people, but usually they represent the male gold cosmic energy and the female silver cosmic energy. I see these as the unitary energy of God splitting into the Pachatata (Father Cosmos) and Pachamama (Mother Cosmos), the two universal yet differentiated energies necessary for creation in the physical world. They are the Father and Mother of the created world.

Two, as an even number, signifies a horizontal movement of energy. That’s what is happening here. We pull this yanantin energy over our skull as two fields that spread over skull on each side and then narrow down into thin streams of energy (seqes), which we cross over at the back of the neck (at the root of the kunka ñawi). Using the yanantin mullu khuya, we pull these two seqes (one gold, one silver) down to the bottom of the spine to the siki ñawi. Then we lift this khuya off the body and, at this point, the person undergoing the karpay uses only their intention to differentiate the energy further by pulling up the (green) energy of Mama Allpa (Mother Earth). We can think of what is about to happen as the two creative cosmic energies (as a yanantin) touching the energy of their creation—the physical earth, the energy of Mama Allpa.

The person pulls this green Earth energy up along their spine to the crossover point of the gold and silver in the middle back of the neck. We now have a new yanantin pair: physical, cosmic energy (the combined unit of gold and silver, Father and Mother Cosmos) and physical, earthly energy (Mama Allpa). And here, at the back of the neck, the person merges these three energies together, creating willka energy, or black light energy, as they move the energy down to the root of body, to the siki ñawi.

I see this crossover point at the back of the neck as another chaupi point: it is the point at which we begin to merge separate energies (the paired cosmic energies with the earthly energy) into a single, unitary energy, which is the black light energy. The person integrates these differentiated energies into a single, undifferentiated energy, which is the willka energy.  Thus, differentiation leads back to a new kind of undifferentiation. The outer is now inner! In the willka energy, we have created a personal source of Creator energy inside our physical and mystical body; we have “incorporated” the three physical Creator energies as one within, and from now on we are self-sufficient in this “Creator” energy. We can pull from our own source of willka energy at any time to restructure, reorganize, or reset ourselves (or use it to help others to do the same). According to don Juan, don Benito Qoriwaman would speak of the God Without and the God Within. At this point of the karpay as protocol, I see the integration of the God Without and the God Within as exactly what is happening along the spine from the neck (root of the kunka ñawi) to the tailbone (eye of the siki ñawi).

Something equally as interesting happens next. We are about to weave the four discrete chunpis (black, red, gold, and silver energy belts). I see the process of weaving these belts as resulting from the energy dynamics of another “reverse chaupi” point at the siki ñawi. From the integration of the creative energies into the singular willka energy, which is a restructuring or reorganizing kind of creative energy, we are about to break energy apart again into discrete types or frequencies to weave the four chunpis. We begin now to again work with differentiated energy and to restructure ourselves by “wiring” up the discrete ñawis into a unified perceptual system. As we move up the front of the body, we will be working in the karpay only with differentiated energy to weave each belt, activate and wire up each ñawi, and connect with and receive attunement from discrete universal spirit beings.

Using the yanantin mullu khuya we make the black belt, awaken the siki ñawi, and connect with and are tuned by Mama Unu (Mother Water). Next, we use the kinsantin mullu khuya to make another differentiation of energy, creating the red belt (the puka chunpi), awakening the qosqo ñawi (eye of the navel/belly), and connecting with and being tuned by Mama Allpa (Mother Earth). We switch to the tawantin mullu khuya to make the qori chunpi, or gold belt, activate the sonqo ñawi (eye of the feelings/heart), and connect with and be tuned by Tayta Inti (Father Sun), and then we move the tawantin mullu khuya up to the neck.

At the front of the neck, we back to another chaupi point, where we are going to reverse the process again and work toward integrating differentiated energies back into an undifferentiated unity energy. I think it’s not too much to see these shifts as mini Pachakutis (or world reversals) within!

Here at the throat, we use the pisqantin mullu khuya to weave the qolqe chunpi (silver belt), awaken the kunka ñawi (eye of the neck), and connect with and be tuned by Tayta Wayra, or Father Wind. We have completed the work of weaving the fourth and final chunpi. We have four chunpis, and only four chunpis. Together they form a tawantin of the differentiated energies of the mystical body. A tawantin represents wholeness, perfection, and harmony, and by activating our four (discrete) main ñawis and connecting them together into an integrated system through weaving the four chunpis, we have achieved a tawantin of mystical capacity and perception in the body. The tawantin also is of the four primary universal spirit beings, which represent the four aspects of Nature that anything physical needs to live: water, earth, sun, and wind/air. These are the energies necessary for life; the energies we need to be, as don Juan says, a “self-made human being.” (However, we are not working with these energies as “elements,” but as universal spirit beings.) So, now having created this energetic tawantin—the mandala of the self, as don Juan has termed it—we begin the move back from working with discrete kinds of energies to working with unified or integrated energies. We do this at the kunka, the neck, which, to me, makes the kunka ñawi, as the top of the tawantin, another chaupi point.

At the neck, we use the five-nubbed pisqantin mullu khuya to weave the silver belt. Five is an odd number and so indicates a vertical energy flow. Once we have woven the silver belt, we are about to “lift” energy from the physical back to the metaphysical in a way we have not done previously in this joint karpay. As we move up past the neck, we are back to moving toward undifferentiated energy, the energy of Oneness, as I explain below. And we are about to end the karpay very close to the starting point of the pukyu, which is always flowing undifferentiated Oneness (God) energy into us.

At this point in the karpay, we take the pisqantin mullu khuya off the body of the person undergoing the karpay and ask them to pull sami in from all around them, filling themselves from the siki (root) up to the kunka (neck) with sami. When they have done that, the person giving the karpay (the chunpi paqo) pulls in sami through him- or herself and into the pisqantin mullu khuya toward the person while the person sends some of the sami they just filled with out their kunka ñawi. Just off the skin of the throat these two streams of sami meet: the sami that the chunpi paqo is sending inward meets the sami that the person is sending outward, so that at this chaupi point the “inner and outer sami” become one. Again, the God Within and the God Without merge, and the chunpi paqo pulls this integrated (undifferentiated) sami up over the person’s face and uses it to activate the person’s two physical eyes (which are the paña and lloq’e ñawis) and the qanchis ñawi, or the seventh eye in the forehead, which is the eye through which we perceive the non-material (or metaphysical) world.

These three upper eyes are activated almost as a unity. There is no chunpi (belt) here, but we see these three eyes as a unit. It is through these three upper ñawis that physical perception and metaphysical perception are integrated, so that we can learn to see the Whole, which is to simultaneously perceive both the physical human world and the metaphysical world. We are back at a place of integration, of undifferentiated perception. If we train ourselves well, we now have the capacity to “see” with the equivalent of the eyes of God: the Whole of reality.

But there is an even greater integration that ends the karpay. Once these three upper eyes are activated, the chunpi paqo removes the pisqantin mullu khuya and the person connects with the cosmos and fills their body and poq’po (energy body) with the violet energy of the cosmos. This is the final incorporation of undifferentiated universal energy. During the karpay, and now most strongly while filling with the violet energy, the person releases their connections (seqes) to everyone in their life. (This happens automatically and doesn’t involve conscious intent). By the end of the karpay, as they fill with violet light, they are an utterly singular human being. The karpay ends with this experience of the state of complete inner integration of the Self.

Whew! Are you still with me? Many thanks to those of you are. I have gone into such great depth not only to offer a hopefully interesting (and maybe even an enlightening?) view of the sequenced energy dynamics of this important joint karpay, but also to show you why and how we can see this and other important practices of the Andean tradition as protocols: as ordered dynamical progressions of energy work that contain an inner logic. I often tell my students that if you take a deep dive into the Andean tradition and stick with it, you will attain the equivalent of a PhD in energy dynamics! I think you can see why from this post. Whether you agree with the interpretation I have shared here or not, I hope that you will have deepened your respect for the incredible sophistication of the energy work that has been passed on to us and that you will hold that knowledge and our practices as I do—as a precious gift.


6 thoughts on “The Deep Structure of Andean Mysticism

  1. Knocking it out of the water! I followed most of it despite not having heard it for 30 plus years. It is very helpful to have context around the actions of a Karpay. I was not completely clear how you were moving the energy from the back to the front. I recall it moving around the legs, but I didn’t see that description. A great read and re-read for sure!


  2. Thank you so much for this! I have read and re-read and will probably read multiple times again in future. There is so much but once I was able to wrap my brain around the visualization and take it all in, it is absolutely enlightening. Blessings to you for this.


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