The Art of Finding Ourselves
Nothing lives in isolation, which means that everything is related to everything else. Understanding these relationships helps us to make better sense of the Universe, in its physical, vital, perceptive, emotional, mental, intuitive and spiritual dimensions. This book is a journey through these seven layers of existence, towards the rediscovery of the Self.
I present you this journey in the form of a story, so that anyone can easily understand it. The story conveys a set of teachings through the dialogue between two characters: an elderly woman and a girl in her teens, both from high up in the Andes. To help us connect with our inner child, their dialogue is accompanied by illustrations of the sort you might find in children’s books. Don’t be misled by those illustrations. Their aim is to help us access our subconscious, so that we can change the way we reason, already ingrained in our minds by the time we turn seven.
In the story, the old woman teaches the girl how to use a very special sacred bundle. Sacred bundles, also known as medicine bags, were and are still used by many indigenous peoples of the American continent, such as the Aymara (Bolivia & Peru), Quechua (Peru), Mayan (Guatemala, Mexico & Belize), Aztec (Mexico), Lakota (USA), Pawnee (USA) and Blackfoot (Canada & USA). They are objects of power wrapped in a cloth or animal skin that help us reconnect with the sacred.
The bundle in this book contains seventeen power stones and a set of cards. The use of power stones is common among the Aymara and Quechua people, who call them khuyas. The power stones described in the story are also khuyas, but with very specific symbols engraved on them. The engraving of power stones with symbols was customary among the diverse traditions of Northern Europe, who called them runes (Germanic and Norse) or futhorc (Anglo-Saxon). Similarly, the diverse Western occult traditions often make use of cards. The teachings of tarot cards, for example, are said to reach as far back as Ancient Egypt. The set taught in this book does not belong to any specific tradition, but is strongly influenced by Arab and European Alchemy, Indian Philosophy and Jewish Kabbalah — what’s more, it is also based on the science of musical acoustics.
Both the set of 17 power stones and the 35 alchemical cards are derived by combining the four classical elements of Nature: Earth, Water, Fire and Air, plus their quintessence, also called Ether, Light or Space. These elements are not only present in all of the cultures mentioned previously, but also in Ancient Greece, Buddhism, Tibetan bön, Tantric philosophy, Japanese godai and in most shamanic traditions around the world. This technique therefore builds bridges between all of these traditions, creating a common language to connect their worldviews.
The elements are combined with each other, then connected to certain ideas; those ideas are connected to other ideas and then qualified with attributes, until we get an interrelated mesh of 256 concepts. To arrive at all these concepts, the technique applies the five different types of relationships that our mind can perceive in our current state of evolution. The relationships are explained, together with their state of unbalance and a formula for attaining balance. By understanding these dynamics, we can regain the ability to bring harmony to the state of disarray in which humanity is currently submerged — because it is not by studying things in isolation that we come to understand their essence, but by perceiving how they interrelate with everything else. The five relationships are: causation, opposition, complementarity, duality and correspondence.
The result is a logic that, instead of limiting, excluding and disturbing balance, serves to expand, integrate and harmonise. It is a worldview that helps us regain our connections with everything else, rather than seeing ourselves as separate beings; a model that defines each of us by our relationships with others, instead of claiming that selfish isolation is the only way to thrive. It offers us, both individually and collectively, the opportunity of an evolutionary leap towards something greater. To draw on analogy, it seeks to help us:
- Evolve from a prokaryotic into a eukaryotic humanity, so that we can become the first plurihuman organism.
- Experience the same metamorphosis through which a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, so that we can start flying from flower to flower across the galactic garden.
- Switch the operating system of our mind from one that constricts our human potential to one that reconnects us to the source and the web of life.
Understanding the five relationships allows us to balance the elements within ourselves. One technique for doing this is to draw mandalas with the khuyas and cards. The Andean tradition calls such mandalas ‘despachos’, because they help us to ‘dispatch’ very specific instructions to our subconscious and unconscious for rearranging the energetic, emotional, mental and spiritual realms of our Being. This gives us a visual means of giving conscious expression to the conditioning and hidden tendencies that sabotage our true potential. As a result, we learn to take our destinies back into our own hands, instead of allowing the logic of our current thought patterns to continue to rule over our lives. It also helps us to stop seeing the universe as a machine, and ourselves as just lumps of protein and electrical impulses. Instead, we will start to perceive body and soul as vibration: as a musical instrument that the medicine bundle helps us to tune, in harmony with the Spirit within.
By applying the techniques contained in this book, we can rediscover our true nature. We are the inner Self, also called Spirit or Consciousness. We are the musician who plays the instrument that we call body and soul. We are the programmer who designs the software that we call the mind, installed in the hardware that we call the body. We are not homo sapiens. Our hardware is homo sapiens. We are not souls. The software that runs our body is the soul. We are the Consciousness that drives them both. So, let’s not allow ourselves to be defined by what we are not, because we are so much more than just physical matter and electrical impulses. Let’s not allow ourselves to be limited, because we are unlimited.
THE LEGEND TELLS of a 16 year old girl from the high Andean mountains who had brought her family’s alpacas to graze in some pastures near Tres Cruces, where the Andes meet the Amazonian rainforest. Her name was Kusi Sonqo, meaning ‘joyous heart’.
Kusi was scribbling random symbols into the clay, on the morning of her first day in the pastures, having asked Mother Earth to provide her with the means to travel the world. And so it was that the Pachamama, the Mother of All, appeared to her disguised as a woman weathered with age.
The old lady was clad in garments worn from years of treading endless paths. From her skirt hung sprigs of herbs she had been collecting on her journey. She walked barefoot, her feet covered in mud, and her long nails stained by the filth of the journey. A bundle hung from her back. Kusi realised from the aroma it gave off and from the visible twigs attached to the lady’s skirt that the bundle contained fresh herbs.
She appeared from the South―the direction in which the ancestors dwelt. She took her time making her way to Kusi; she was not in a hurry. Hurrying is for those who eagerly seek their destiny but are unable to find it, which causes them to stray from their path. Therefore, this woman went on entertaining herself with every flower, every butterfly, and every stone. For each one of them, she seemed to have a nice word and a gesture of warmth and sympathy.
Kusi watched her with a face full of curiosity. Even with the lady’s unkempt appearance, our little shepherd was aware that she was seeing a very special being. She knew that this woman was the mother of many, though she would never imagine that she was addressing the Mother of All.
The old woman was getting closer without showing any sign of having noticed her. Kusi thought that the woman was so absorbed in herself that she would pass by without greeting her! She was wrong. After flashing an enormous smile to a hummingbird hovering in the air, the woman reached the girl. She bid Kusi good morning and asked her if she was aware of what she was doing.
“I’m not doing anything, I’m just messing around.”
“No. You are practising very ancient knowledge called the art of finding ourselves. It is a science that Mother Earth gave us so we could know exactly who we are, but over much time it has been forgotten.”
Kusi tried to deny it, saying that it was just a game. However, the old woman, without giving mind to the girl’s elusive answers, asked her to try to interpret the symbolism behind what she had just drawn in the clay.
“It looks like a mortar; like the one I sometimes use to grind up grain. A mortar with its yana (pestle).”
“And in this complementary pair of mortar and pestle, which do you think is the female symbol and which is the male?” The question made the girl blush; the mortar and pestle had been suddenly transformed into something erotic.
“Excuse me?” she said timidly, her cheeks coloured with embarrassment.
“Don’t be ashamed, ñañay, little sister of my heart, as it is an act as normal as sowing. It was this same act that brought you into the world. While your future parents were performing it, you were at their side observing, waiting for the moment of conception, so you could finally proclaim, ‘That future body is mine!’ It’s an act that you had to witness many times before your mother became pregnant, but you don’t remember this because it happened before you were born, when you were still in Spirit form. And although no man has yet caressed your fine ñusta (adolescent virgin) skin, the day will come when you find your other half and together you can entice, with your love, those souls that are waiting to be born again.”
The woman seemed to talk about all of this as if it were something completely normal; as normal as when a butterfly sits on a flower and fertilises it with pollen gathered on its legs from other flowers throughout its wandering flights. And so, faced with the girl’s shyness, the old woman carried on with her explanation.
“The bowl represents the woman’s womb that protects and provides. It is the receptacle in which the male deposits his seed in order to conceive. Meanwhile, the pestle is masculine—it is the penis. As such, it penetrates the woman to deposit its seed.”
The girl didn’t know where to look any more. Nobody had ever told her these kinds of things so directly before. She didn’t remember being a disembodied Spirit peeking at her parents making love while she was waiting to be born. However, many nights she had heard them groaning. At first, she thought that her tata, her father, must have been causing her mama pain. However, with time, she understood that they were moans of sexual pleasure. Upon hearing the term ‘sexual pleasure’ for the first time, she found it hard to understand its meaning. Her sister, some years older than her, tried to define it for her:
“It’s like when you eat kiwicha (amaranth) porridge with a lot of honey, while the sun is caressing your face and you’re thinking about a beautiful rainbow. It’s that, but multiplied by ten.”
How sweet this type of pleasure must be, if it’s ten times better than kiwicha with honey, she thought to herself on that occasion. But they never brought up the topic again.
“You should know that this world, which we call Kay Pacha, or the intermediate world, is born from the intersection between two worlds,” continued the old woman, “the one above, or exterior, called Hanan Pacha, and the one below, or interior, called Ukhu Pacha. They say that the exterior is male and the interior is female. And when these two worlds meet, they make love. This union gives rise to the intermediate world in which we live. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand, Mamasita (little mother).”
“It is in the intermediate world that the four elements appear. They are your grandparents, the parents of your parents.”
A ROW OF ants had just decided to include the grooves drawn by the girl in the clay as part of their way back to the nest. Nature dances like this, to the rhythms of change. The Andean world dances like this as well, celebrating life with a shout of happiness. But our little shepherd was not thinking about dances or celebrations. She was reflecting on something else.
Which parents does the old lady mean? Kusi wondered, observing the symbols without even noticing the ants.
“I mean the parents of everyone, not just yours,” responded the lady, upon reading her thoughts, “Tayta Inti (Father Sun) and Pachamama (Mother Earth). Father Sun is the son of Air and Fire, while Pachamama is born from Water and Earth. The two symbols that you drew are an ancient way of representing those four primordial elements, or grandparents, but the knowledge was lost when everything was flooded by the water of a thousand rains, the melting of the glaciers, and the waves of rough seas.”
Maybe the old woman means Unu Pachacuti, the cataclysm that my dad often talks about and that forced our ancestors to move to these high lands, thought the girl.
“Yes, that’s what I’m referring to. But this event happened many moons ago. Nevertheless, the time has arrived when you all will once again remember who your true grandparents are and learn to communicate with them. By drawing those two symbols in the clay, you invoked me. You performed the spell that brought me to dress in these old woman’s robes, put a bowler hat on my head, and come to give you this ancient knowledge.
Kusi was surprised by what the old lady had just told her about the symbols and their power to invoke a spiritual visitor, but she thought it would be rude to ask her about her true identity. Furthermore, as we know, in the Andes, the extraordinary can become ordinary. So, it is not uncommon, for example, for the guardian spirit of a mountain to take human flesh and appear to the sincere seeker. This is why, instead of enquiring about the woman’s origin, the girl decided to continue asking about the meaning of those symbols.
“How can these little lines drawn in the clay represent grandparents?”
“When you look at the female symbol, open towards the sky, what does it remind you of?”
“A bowl or body of water,” replied the girl.
“And when you look at it sitting on its base?” the woman asked again, while drawing the same symbol, this time inverted.
“It is precisely because of that that when it is open towards the sky, like a water container, it represents Nature ready to conceive―open to be able to receive the seed of life. It’s like a flower waiting for the moment of pollination. When you see it like that, you should know that it symbolises grandmother Water.”
“And when it’s turned around?” asked the girl.
“When you find it the other way up, it represents the motionless mountain―the observer, the witness of everything that’s happening, always present, constant and unchanging. It is the womb from which we were all conceived and to which we will all one day return. So, when you see it in this position, it represents grandmother Earth.”
Kusi found herself looking at the symbols drawn into the Andean clay, remnants of the lava of old volcanoes. Just then, it started to drizzle, as if the storm approaching on that chilly January morning wanted to erase the sensual calligraphy. She decided to retrace the symbols with her index finger, to define the strokes even further. The old woman watched her and asked if she recognised the other two grandparents in the second symbol that she had also drawn a short while ago.
“No,” replied Kusi.
“Remember that it is the male symbol. And so, when you see it in a vertical position, the symbol is dynamic―like when we’re walking upright. In it, we have the representation of grandfather Fire.”
“Like a rising flame?” asked Kusi.
“Exactly! Like a flame that’s trying to reach up to the sky. But the same symbol when turned horizontally represents something different.”
“What does it represent?” the girl asked again.
“It symbolises grandfather Air. It’s male like Fire and, because of this, it has a phallic form. But it’s static. Therefore, it is represented horizontally, like when someone is stretched out sleeping.”
“Static? To me, wayra seems really dynamic because it’s always moving.”
Such doubt was reasonable, especially if we keep in mind that this conversation was in being held mostly in Quechua―a language where the concept of air does not exist. It was because of this that the old woman had used the word wayra, a term that would translate as “wind”.
“The type of wayra that I’m talking about doesn’t move unless fire heats it up.”
“Oh! In Kastillanu (Spanish language) that’s called aire (air),” said Kusi, now understanding.
“Yes. Fire has a natural tendency to go upwards. Water flows downwards. Because of this, they are both dynamic. On the other hand, Air without a source of heat remains immobile above, while Earth remains motionless below. Therefore, these last two are static.
KUSI IMAGINED THE elements forming two elderly couples. Air and Earth were together and still, one facing the other, arms extended with a multi-coloured ribbon held in each hand. They formed an arc under which the other couple, this time formed by grandfather Fire and grandmother Water, danced to the tune of the music.
The music and dance accompanying this image was a huayno. The word comes from huayñunakunay, which in Quechua means ‘to dance hand in hand’. It’s a type of dancing that is usually done in pairs where the man courts the woman. Kusi used to do this dance with her older sister. She would play the role of the woman while her sister was the man. The two of them knew all of the lyrics by heart. These lyrics normally relate the disappointment and suffering caused by the loss of love. Our little shepherd girl didn’t really like the huaynos sung by men, since they often had to do with how bad and unfaithful women were. The heartbreaks suffered by her sister and her friends showed that the opposite was actually much more common. Because of this, Kusi preferred singing huaynos performed by women.
This is the Andean way. Rhythm is given to life, music is given to the rhythm, and life is given to the music. However, this scene of such typical dancing performed under the double rainbow of ribbons seemed to have a drawback. The problem was not that these grandparents, weathered with age, could dance with such grace and happiness to the rhythm of the quena, the charango, the harp and the mandolin. The problem was something else.
“I understand that some elements can be dynamic and others can be static, but I thought that they each contained both genders. This is, in the same way there are both male and female plants, stones and mountains, I thought that it was the same with the elements too. For example, there is female water, like the water of a sea or a lake. But there’s also male water, like the rain that falls and fertilises the ground or the waterfall that penetrates the pool at its feet.
“You’re right, since it’s in the nature of things that complement each other to also possess the qualities of the other. Though they possess those qualities, they need each other to learn to express them. It is by the means of complementarity that they are able to get in touch with this other self that they already carry inside of them.”
“Does this mean that the other half acts like a mirror?”
“Yes. It allows us to get in touch with the aspect of ourselves that we have not yet expressed in its entirety. We come in contact with this self by seeing it reflected in the other. However, this interaction between complements does not reach its equilibrium automatically. At the beginning, one of these aspects will try to dominate the other.”
“Why?” asked the young girl, her face full of curiosity.
“My little sister, such a reaction is natural if we keep in mind that this aspect of our self that we normally express has been suppressing for a very long time the other self that we also have inside us.”
“Like in a marriage when the husband always tries to be in charge?” asked the girl.
“Exactly. At the soul level, we all possess both genders, only we have one that prevails, and it is usually the one that coincides with the sex of our physical body. Thus, through the complementarity achieved in marriage, a man discovers his femininity and a woman her masculinity. But if, for example, a man represses his feminine self, he will also look to oppress his wife. Therefore, living as a couple is a great example of complementarity. Although this is not the only example. It can also be seen on the group level.”
“Like the Ayllu (an Andean community)?” asked the girl.
“Exactly. And also on the level of society as a whole. Because of this, in the beginning, some people try to impose their will upon others, be it in a couple, in a group, or in society as a whole.”
“And then, Mother, what happens then?”
“The first level of harmony is reached when responsibilities are distributed according to skills and each member makes decisions regarding the aspects for which they have taken responsibility.”
“And for decisions that include more than one responsibility?”
“In cases like that, the decisions should be made by consensus.”
“Yes. When a decision is made only when everybody is in agreement.”
“Now I understand, Mother. Therefore, in order to reach equilibrium, it is first necessary for nobody to want to exert power over anybody else. Instead, responsibilities must be distributed according to skills.”
“Yes. Authority will be distributed according to responsibilities. That being said, the aim is to achieve a state of complete consensus, where decisions are made together. Upon reaching this state, the couple, group or society will be acting as one. This allows for the attainment of spiritual union among its members.
“Is this how we discover in ourselves the qualities that we already hold, but that, in order to learn to express them, we had to see reflected in others?” asked the girl.
“Yes, because we, as Spirit, have the potential to be anything. I gave you the example of the complementarity between male and female, but remember that Spirit is neither one nor the other. It is both of them in perfect balance, or, better said, the transcendence of both. However, the soul or mind is a combination of both, while the physical body is either one or the other. Do you understand? The first is the transcendence of both, the second is both with usually one dominant, while the body is one at the exclusion of the other. It’s like the three stages that we talked about. The stage of dominating others would be linked to the physical body. The stage of having leadership based on our skills is linked to the soul or mind. And the stage where consensus allows the attainment of a full union is connecting us with Spirit.”
“I understand these three levels of body, soul and Spirit, but I still fail to understand how the elements can be either masculine or feminine?”
“What is more abundant in Nature, the masculine water expressed as rain and waterfalls or the feminine one we find in lakes and oceans?”
“The feminine one” replied the girl to then add in excitement: “Now I get it, Mother! Even though the water that falls as rain or as a waterfall is male, since the feminine one that we find in lakes and oceans is more abundant, we say that Water as an element is mostly female.”
“Exactly! Take into account that the element of Water, is not just the feminine water from a lake or the masculine rain. It is the ‘soul’ of water, the principle of liquidity manifested at a more subtle level.”
“Manifested as what?” asked the girl.
“I will tell you all about that later on, but at this stage let me say that at the emotional level Water manifests as ‘disgust’; at the mental level is an ‘empathetic thought’; while at the heart level it becomes ‘the feeling of compassion’.”
“Are our emotions, thoughts and feelings three levels at which the soul manifests?” asked the girl.
“Yes, they express three different levels of density of the soul, with the physical body being nothing else than a fourth density, the grossest of all. It is like pouring oil and water into a jar and covering it with a lid. The jar is the physical body; emotions are the water in the jar; thoughts are the oil, which stays on top since it is less dense than water; while feelings are the air that fills the space left between the oil and the lid.
“I got it!” exclaimed the girl finally grasping the real meaning of the word ‘element’. “And since the soul of water is mostly feminine, it is the water in the ocean and in the lakes that is dominant in Nature.”
“Yes, the jar or physical body tends to reflect what is inside it. The same happens with the other three elements. For example, in the case of Fire, female fire is what cooks our food at home and brings the family together. It is the fire that has been domesticated by human beings. But is that the predominant fire or is it actually the fire with which Father Sun (Taiya Inti) warms and lights us?”
“Father Sun’s fire.”
“Which means that the essence of Fire as an element is...?”
“And in the case of Air, which is predominant, the female air of homes, caves and grottos, or the male air that we find outside, in the open?”
“The air outside.”
“Lastly, in the case of Earth, which predominates, the earth of the cliffs and gorges, which is male, or that of the valleys, plateaus, pampas and beaches?”
“Correct. Therefore Fire is mainly male since it emanates from Father Sun (Tayta Inti). Water is female, since it flows to the rhythms of Mother Moon (Mama Qilla). Earth is female, since it is connected to Mother Earth (Pachamama), and Air is male because it is the element closest to Father Sky (Pachatata).”
“Of course!,” uttered Kusi. “This is why Father Sun and Mother Moon are always moving, spinning around us, because the elements of Fire and Water connected to them are dynamic. Meanwhile, Mother Earth always finds herself below and Father Sky above.”
“Yes, and not just that,” said the old woman. “As a masculine element, Fire’s movement is ascending, trying to reach the sky. Whilst Water, being feminine, tends to descend, wanting to return to the origin. These two opposite movements of the two dynamic elements causes the intermediate world of the here and now to always be flowing.”
THE OLD WOMAN knew that in order to better understand the true meaning of the symbols, Kusi needed to put them together in a unique ideogram. She set down her stick and cleared some space on the ground with her palm. She then asked Kusi to draw the four symbols in the way that seemed most balanced.
“Most balanced?” asked the girl.
“Yes, the way you feel they fit nicely together.”
Kusi considered the request for a few moments and then started placing the male symbols of Fire and Air to form the figure of a grid. Then she decided to place the two female symbols in the position that seemed most appropriate to her.
Having drawn the ideogram, she looked at the old woman, waiting to see her reaction to the strange glyph she had just drawn.
“Very good, my little sister. Now tell me, what do you see in this glyph?”
“I don’t know, Mother,” responded the girl.
“Connect all of the ends using only horizontal or vertical lines; never diagonal. Then insert a circle in the centre. Once you’ve done this, tell me what you see.” Kusi set about doing what the old woman told her and when she had finished, she couldn’t believe her eyes.
“The Chakana!” she exclaimed, visibly excited.
The Chakana, also known as the Inca Cross, is a symbol much worshipped by Andean culture. Everyone knows it. In it, some see the four cardinal points with the city of Cusco in the centre and the four regions, or suyus, of the ancient Inca State on each side. Others, trying to go a little further with their interpretation of the meaning, see the Southern Cross constellation. Meanwhile, a third group, attempting to delve deeper, maintain that it constitutes the Tree of Life with its three levels of existence called Hanan Pacha (Upper World), Kay Pacha (Earthly or Middle World), and Ukhu Pacha (World Below). All of these interpretations were right, but few people really understood its deepest meaning.
“So, in it, you recognised the Chakana, but I am convinced that you have never noticed its web,” commented the woman. “By that, I mean the design of lines and strokes that bring you from each of their twenty angles to the centre.”
“The centre… what’s in there?” asked the girl.
“The source from which we all came and to which we will all eventually return. For some, this origin is Pachamama; it is the under or inner world. For others, it is the sky, the upper world. Everybody is right, because in an oscillation, in the swaying of a pendulum, or in the beating of the heart, there is not a beginning and an end but a constant throb. This is why the important thing is that each time you see a Chakana, you try and visualise it with the symbols of the four elements inserted into it. When you see it like that, you will be looking at a map of all the possible routes that link the centre to the periphery, the Mother to the Father, the origin to the destiny. You will be looking at the web of life so that you can follow its designs and lessons.”
The young alpaca herder began to understand. Observing the four symbols traced in the clay, it was as if they had always been there. It was as if Nature had not just drawn them in the clay of the Andes, but also carved them into the rocks, into the outlines of the hills, and had made it so all kinds of things grew according to their shapes and curves.
Help me to continue financing the translation and distribution of this book by donating a small amount through Paypal.
THE RAIN WAS increasing in intensity until it became one of those downpours that usually occur in tropical latitudes during the wet season. Both women started running towards a small cave nearby, while the group of alpacas ignored the rain and continued to graze.
Once inside, the old one sat on a large carved rock in front of the ashes of an old bonfire in which the Andean priests and priestesses usually burnt their offerings. Then she began speaking again.
“I have spoken with you about complementarity. Let us see then how the four elements expresses it. So, let’s start by taking two different elements and combining them by placing one above the other. This allows us to create different glyphs.”
“Glyphs?” asked the girl.
“Yes. What I call a glyph is the result of grouping the symbols of the four elements in pairs, placing the element in the dominant role above the other one. In each of the identified pairs, there are times in which one element is dominant and times in which the other is. Let’s start by analysing the first of such glyphs.”
With one hand, the old one separated the embers and burned remains from past offerings, whilst with the other she flattened the ashes so that she could begin drawing on them. As the place was more of a grotto than a cave, the water from the rain had soaked most of the ground. The ashes had formed a sort of grey mud on which it was easy to draw with a finger. With her index finger, the woman drew the combination of two of the previous symbols as a glyph.
“Do you recognise these symbols?” she asked.
“Yes. Feminine above and masculine underneath. Both are static.”
“And as elements?”
“Earth above and Air underneath.”
“And do you know what the glyph represents?”
“Think a little. Or even better, let your surroundings inspire you.”
While uttering these last words, the old one gestured with her hand, pointing at the walls of the grotto in which they were taking shelter from the torrential rain. The girl kept looking at the walls, blackened by the smoke of many offerings, and then exclaimed:
“A cave! Air inside the earth can only be a cave!”
“I see that you’ve understood,” commented the woman, satisfied with the fast progress of her student. Then she continued to question her:
“What idea would you associate with a cave?”
“Idea?” asked Kusi, pulling a face and frowning in a way that suggested she wasn’t able to comprehend.
“To what would you link the concept of a cave? Can you link it to something general and abstract, applicable to many situations in life?” clarified the old one.
“I don’t know.”
The woman guessed that she would have to help her a little with this first glyph, but once she understood the logic, she would no longer need help in figuring out the ideas behind the remaining glyphs. So, she closed her eyes, told the shepherd to close hers too, and asked:
“Does one go to a cave to look for solitude or company?”
“Solitude,” responded the girl.
“And solitude, what does it invite us to do? To begin an inner journey that allows us to get to know ourselves better or to communicate with others?”
“To begin an inner journey.”
“Well, that journey is called introspection, which is the main idea related to the Cave glyph. We go to the cave to be introspective, to observe our thoughts, feelings and actions.”
“Why the main idea? Is that because there are others?”
“Yes. Every glyph tells us four ideas. Introspection is the main one communicated by the Cave. But there are another three. There is, among others, the cause of introspection.
“Yes. For example, what do you think we need in order to be able to carry out this process of internal observation?”
“Solitude,” replied the young one. “Without solitude, it would be much more difficult for us to undertake an inner journey.”
“Very good! I see you understand. A glyph can also communicate the opposite idea,” said the woman, after a short pause. “For example, what do you think is the opposite of introspection?”
“Observing the outside instead of the inside and talking instead of staying quiet.”
“Correct! Communication, socialising, being extroverted. All this cancels out introspection. That’s why it is the opposite. And, finally, that same glyph can also tell us the cause of the opposite idea. In the case of the Cave glyph, what do you think is necessary if we are to communicate?”
“Company?” the young one stuttered a little hesitantly, unsure of whether she had given the right answer.
“Of course. Communication needs an audience. Those who hear us need not always be with us. Technology allows communication at a distance. But without someone who listens, it is not possible to communicate. And so we have obtained the four ideas linked to the glyph of the Cave.“
“But Mother, how can there be four ideas connected with the same glyph? Isn’t that a bit confusing?
“It is not confusing to those who know that there is no effect without a cause and that nothing can exist without its opposite. In this way, we learn to perceive things not in isolation but as inseparable parts of a whole.”
“But how do I know which one applies to each case?”
“Do not worry about that yet, my little sister. Just remember that each glyph expresses four ideas. Once the glyph is engraved on both sides of a piece of wood, or bone, or a flat pebble, it becomes a khuya. The face this khuya shows and the direction to which it points will tell you which one of the four to apply. But even then we must not look at them in isolation, but as fragments in a web of relationships that binds us all together.”
THE GIRL ACCEPTED the explanation. Then she looked back at the glyph drawn in the ashes of many fires and many rituals. The old one, seeing that she had finally understood, decided to continue with the next glyph.
“Now that you know the first one and the four ideas to which it is connected, it will be much easier for you to guess the name of the next glyph. So, tell me, what do you think the name of this one is?”
“It is the Cave the other way round?” the young one answered, without much conviction.
“Do not try to interpret the glyph without analysing each symbol separately first, because those are exactly what express the meaning to you.”
“Water under Air.”
“And that is… ?” the old one asked, while she pointed towards the outside of the grotto.
The downpour that led them to take refuge had still not let up, so it wasn’t very difficult for the adolescent to guess what the grandmother was trying to get across.
“Rain! Water under Air must be the glyph of Rain.”
“Very good. And what idea does it convey to you?”
“Getting wet?” replied the young one, not very convinced.
“Think a little. It’s January now, the rainy season. What is the landscape like in September, just before the rain returns?”
“So, what does the rain bring about?”
“Fertility! Rain is a masculine expression of water fertilising the feminine earth so that it can conceive. It is masculine because when it pours, it nourishes the fields, forests and meadows, which are feminine expressions of Earth. Conversely, rocky cliffs are masculine expressions of Earth and on those grow hardly any vegetation.”
“Correct! And what is necessary for fertility?”
“I don’t know.”
“Remember, what rituals are traditionally held in August, just before the sowing season?”
“We make a hole in the earth and we fill it with offerings to nourish the Pachamama so that the harvest is abundant.”
August, just before the sowing season, is the month of the Pachamama. It is the month in which She is honoured and tribute is paid to Her. The ritual is called corpachada and involves the act of nourishing Mother Earth. Deep holes are dug in which all sorts of foods and drinks are deposited. The act is accompanied by dances, prayers, songs and invocations. The people thank Her for the harvests received that year, honour Her and nourish Her so that there are good harvests the following year. This is a typical act of Andean reciprocity.
The Andean world is governed by ayni, a concept which could be translated as ‘reciprocity’. As such, it could be seen as the equivalent to the famous phrase, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”. But ayni is not simply reciprocity. It goes much further than that. It is a natural law. It is a condition that is always fulfilled, even if it be against our will. The universe settles the score with everyone, so not only do we get back what we give, the intention behind our offering is also repaid to us. If we give affection, we receive affection; but if we cause pain, pain is returned to us. The East calls it the Law of Karma. In the Andes it is Ayni, the Law of Reciprocity.
The reason why pain is reciprocated has nothing to do with divine justice, with someone in the heavens punishing us for our sins. It is much simpler. The pain inflicted upon another is also inflicted upon us, since, in reality, we have done it to ourselves. This is because we and the ‘other’, whether human or otherwise, are, in fact, one and the same. The universe is indeed one single consciousness that observes itself through trillions of eyes. What happens is that the mind separates all manifestations of the Absolute. It separates them in space by using labels like ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘the other’, ‘this’ and ‘that’; and in time by inventing concepts such as ‘yesterday’, ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’ for what it is, in reality, the eternal ‘now’.
It is for this reason that, on a spiritual level, at the moment when we caused the pain, it was also inflicted on ourselves. But in the mind, the cause and the effect do not occur simultaneously. Our mind separates them in time and space, so that by the time the pain is returned to us, we usually have forgotten the cause and look for others to blame for what was, in reality, self-inflicted.
The concept of ayni has been integrated to such an extent in Andean culture that, in the past, they did not need money in order to manage their economic affairs. They did not even need to barter. Bartering is when one gives something in exchange for something else. In their case, interchanges were governed by ayni, where one would give without expecting anything in return or would receive without immediately having to give something back. Things were given and received knowing full well that we are all one. It is from the understanding of this unity that ayni is derived as a natural law for balancing everything out. It is a principle through which we understand how everything is related and that nothing exists in isolation. And ultimately, we realise that Everything is One.
“You will then agree with me that in order to have fertility, there needs to be nourishment,” stated the old one, “while lack of nourishment would mean… ?”
“Impoverishment” said Kusi decidedly, sure that it could not be anything else.
“And impoverishment causes…?”
“Sterility, aridity, infertility of the soil...”
THE GIRL WAS understanding and this clearly satisfied the old woman. The glyph of Rain was linked to fertility. Its opposite was sterility. What led to fertility was nourishment. And the cause of the opposite—that is to say, sterility—was impoverishment. Thus, the four concepts linked to that second glyph had been obtained. But there were still another fourteen glyphs left to analyse, so they needed to continue. This is why the old one said:
“If, instead of being underneath the air to fall as rain, you find the water in suspension above it, which glyph do you think you would have?”
The girl immediately took to drawing it. She was now completely familiarised with the idea that the symbols were combined in pairs to create manifestations of nature, like a cave or the rain. So, it was not difficult for her to guess the symbolism linked to the third glyph.
“It’s what the rain was before it fell: a cloud,” replied the girl, satisfied to be comprehending the logic behind these glyphs, so new to her but, at the same time, so familiar.
“And what do you think would be the main idea connected with the glyph of the Cloud?”
“I don’t know.”
The Apus are guardian spirits; they are ancient souls that have a mountain for a body. There are masculine ones and there are feminine ones, because in the Andean worldview, everything has a gender. Gender is necessary for union and procreation. So, if the Mother and Father of All bestowed gender upon the animals and the plants, it is logical to expect that the stones, the rivers, the mountains, the planets and the galaxies were also given a gender.
The Apus have the ability to make clouds. Some Apus, those of a more reserved nature, make them whenever somebody tries to reach their peaks or journey through their mountain passes. The settlers who live at the foothills of such Apus know this and therefore send expeditions to their summits whenever they want to call forth the rain. The Apu, observing the parade, becomes wrapped in a thick fog, which is usually accompanied by drizzle. Having achieved their objective, the locals will then return to their village at the foothills, satisfied with the rain and the fertility that it brings. This is common in the jungle area where the humid forests of the Amazon meet the Andes.
At greater heights, clouds are made when somebody requests them with an offering, although Apus do not always respond to these calls. It will depend on how, when and by whom the request is made. But we can be sure that none of them would refuse to make clouds when it is Mother Earth herself summoning them. So, when the Pachamama, in the body of an old woman, asked the guardian Apu of the area to make clouds, he did not hesitate. Shortly afterwards, a thick fog was completely covering the area.
The young one continued trying to guess what the main idea connected to the Cloud could be. She was tossing around different words, to see if one could be right. To give her a clue, the old one asked her to go outside and tell her what she saw. When the girl left the grotto, thick fog was already covering everything.
“What do you see?” the woman shouted.
“I see nothing,” exclaimed the girl. Worried about her alpacas, she fumbled around with her arms outstretched, calling to them. “I thought they were here but the clouds have confused me.”
“That’s it! The main idea conveyed by the Cloud glyph is confusion. But tell me, what do you think is the cause of confusion?”
“I don’t want to sound ignorant, Mother, but I don’t think I know the answer.”
“You just said it. The cause of confusion is ignorance,” pointed out the old one, visibly satisfied. “And what do you think is its opposite?”
“Clarity, Mama!” shouted the teenager from outside the cave, still frantic about not being able to see her herd of alpacas.
“And what is it that clarity brings to us?”
“Knowledge, Mother, such as knowing where my alpacas are,” shouted the young one again, completely desperate.
THE OLD LADY was frankly satisfied with the progress of her pupil. “Very good. Now I can ask the Apu to lift the fog,” murmured the grandmother in a low and grateful voice. But the girl did not hear this, because she was walking up and down the hills making sure that nothing had happened to her animals. When Kusi returned to the grotto, the woman had lit a fire and placed a pot over it.
“What were you afraid of?” the old one asked.
“Of losing my alpacas.”
“And do you not think that sometimes it is better to let go and have faith? Did you think that something bad was going to happen to them? When it rains so much that there is run-off, water does not fear letting itself be channelled by the riverbeds created by old currents. It knows that these riverbeds will lead first to the mighty river called the Amazon and from there to the great ocean that washes the Eastern coast of this great continent. Do you think that that same water would reach the ocean, if it did not trust the riverbed that carried it?”
“No. It would remain stagnant, forming a lake, a bog or an oxbow lake.”
“This leads on to the next glyph. What do you see?” asked the woman, after drawing it on the ground with the end of her staff.
“Water on Earth,” said the girl.
“A lake?” the girl suggested, unsure if she had guessed correctly.
“Remember, what is the nature of Water, static or dynamic?”
“Therefore, rather than a lake, don’t you think that it is maybe a river in which water flows?”
“Of course, the River glyph. I didn’t know that the nature of each element also tells us what the name of the glyph is.”
“Yes, it tells us that and much more. Not only do we learn from the nature of the element, but also its gender. For example, rain is masculine water. As the Rain glyph is formed of Air above and Water underneath, Air becomes the dominant element. And what is its gender?”
“Air is predominantly masculine, especially the air of the atmosphere. Now I understand! That’s why the result is rain, which is masculine water!”
“Exactly. As you will continue to see, each glyph has its logic, which allows it to be easily remembered. But returning to the River, what idea would you link to that one?”
“The current, water flowing and meandering downwards,” said the girl, thinking aloud, not very sure of herself.
“I asked for the idea.”
“Flow! Of course, how did that not occur to me? The River represents flow. It signifies letting ourselves be taken by the currents of destiny, as does the water of the stream that is born at the top of the mountain. Its opposite is stagnation, to become a lake or marsh.”
“And what do you think is the cause of flow?”
“I don’t know.”
“Think. So that something or someone may flow, you need something that…”
“That channels! Of course. And for stagnation to take place, there must be something that obstructs. Then we already have the four corresponding ideas linked to the River.”
“I see that you understand,” said the old one, satisfied, while she added some small, dry branches to the fire to rekindle it. She had placed a full pot of water on it, with the intention of preparing some soup.
“I have some potatoes that we can cook in the pot, Mama,” said the young one, guessing the intentions of the old lady. “If you want, I shall get them.”
“By all means, go and get them. I will add a little quinoa that I brought with me and some herbs I gathered this morning.
WHEN THE SOUP was ready, the old one served it in two wooden bowls and, raising hers to the sky, firstly thanked Pachacamac, the Cosmos, for the food. Then she poured a little liquid on the ground to thank Pachamama for the nourishment received. Next, she pointed in the four directions of the compass, starting with the East, to thank the great Apus who could be found in every direction. The young one did the same and, having finished the ceremony, she was about to put the first spoonful in her mouth when the old mother asked her to wait.
“Somebody is coming and it would be impolite to start eating without waiting for them.”
“I don’t hear anyone, Mama,” objected the young one.
“Do not try to listen for them because they are still much too far away for you to be able to hear them. Listen to the song of the birds, because they are what alerted me to their arrival. They tell me that they are a couple, who are tired, and who will still take a while to arrive. They are each carrying a load of around twelve kilos of coca leaves. They left yesterday at dusk from their village on the edge of the rainforest and have spent the whole night ascending the hills. They are heading for the market of Paucartambo, at which they intend to sell the coca leaves and use the money to buy some supplies to take back to their village.”
“The birds told you all this?” the young one asked, surprised.
“No, the birds only notified me of their arrival and that there are two of them, a man and a woman. Then, when I asked them directly what brought them to these parts, their Spirit answered with everything I have just told you. Upon seeing that they are humble people and of pure heart, I invited them to take a detour from their route, to come to this grotto, a place in which they will be able to rest and share some of our soup.” A short while later, the couple arrived.
“Enter, please,” said the old one, noticing that they were both waiting outside shyly, having seen the smoke of the bonfire and smelt the aroma of the hot food but preferring to wait until invited.
They must have been around fifty. The man was perhaps slightly older. They were clearly tired. The woman dressed in a gathered or common skirt composed of three layers that fell slightly past the knee. She wore a white shirt and a collarless cardigan. She also wore a black bowler hat to show she was a matriarch who held authority in the community from which she came. The way in which she wore it implied that she was a married woman. The man was dressed in a red, woollen poncho, worn to rags over many years, and a chullo or woollen cap that denoted his place of origin. Both carried a pack on their backs in which they had loaded the coca leaves. They wore sandals made of rubber. The man was missing a toe and he appeared unwell. Fatigue had not helped him but made his condition worse.
“Allin p´unchay,” said the woman timidly.
“Welcome, and please share this food with us,” said the old one.
With the invitation, both approached the fire to dry their clothing, soaked by the rain that had taken them by surprise during their long journey. The woman, very thankful, whispered to her husband:
“I told you that it was worth the trouble to divert from the route a little, to try to find a place to take shelter in.”
“We were hoping to share this soup with you,” the old one told them.
“We have some ground and toasted kiwicha that we would be delighted to share with you too,” said the husband.
“We shall go outside to eat, since the rain seems to be starting to clear up,” said the old woman.
After suggesting that they eat outside, the old one remembered that she had seen a honeycomb not far from there, so she went out with a large wooden bowl and a spoon and returned, after a little while, with some honey. It was honey of a thousand flowers, but in which eucalyptus predominated.
“This will allow us to taste the flavours of the herbs we have picked as well as sweeten the dessert,” she said, after sitting down on a stone next to the other three. They were waiting for her outside the grotto, not having started on the soup. Our shepherd girl did not ask how the old mother had collected the honey without being stung, because she was coming to realise that any kind of magic was possible with this woman. Instead, she anticipated the pleasure of the sweet honey in her mouth like a light tingling that was expanding through all of her body. Kiwicha porridge with honey, a double rainbow outside—impressive after that torrential rain—and the heat of the sun caressing her face. This was the closest she had ever been to pure joy.
Finishing lunch, the couple took off, with still a long way to go. Once they were alone, the old one drew a new glyph in the soil.
“Water on Fire,” said the girl, after the woman asked her which natural elements she had drawn.
“I don’t know.”
“Look at the glyph, because it also gives you information about its meaning, as if it were a pictogram.”
“A pot in which something is cooking!” said the girl.
“Very good!” exclaimed the elderly woman, “only I prefer to call it a Cauldron instead of a pot. Do you know what is special about this one?”
“Of all the glyphs, it is the only one that represents a man-made object. All the others are related to symbols of Nature. This is so you don‘t forget that human beings can also be creators; in this case, creators of their own reality.”
So far, five glyphs had already been analysed. Now it was necessary for the girl to be able to identify the essence expressed by the Cauldron, the general idea that some would call an archetype.
“I don’t know, Mama. I don’t have a clue what idea the Cauldron conveys.”
“Think a little. We have just had a feast in which we ate potato and quinoa soup as a main course and kiwicha porridge with honey for dessert. Well, there were some who had the porridge as their main course!” said the old woman mischievously, winking at the child.
“Abundance, Mama, the Cauldron symbolises abundance, because the four of us could eat and nobody was left hungry. And its opposite must be scarcity, like what occurs when the contents of the pot are spilt and the fire beneath it is extinguished.”
The woman was visibly satisfied. The Cauldron was the only glyph that represented a man-made object. As such, it was there as a reminder that, as creators of our own reality, we have the choice to decide our destiny. We could choose whether, as a society, we wished to live in profusion or deprivation. The next step was to identify the cause of abundance, so the old one asked Kusi what it was.
“Well, I suppose possessing a lot,” answered the girl.
“No. Think. What made that abundance possible? Had we not shared our food, you would have eaten plain boiled potatoes, I would have had quinoa with herbs and our two visitors would have eaten kiwicha. We wouldn’t have even tried the honey.”
“Sharing. Giving to each other. That is the cause of abundance.”
“Well, the opposite. Keeping things and not giving them away, accumulating, hoarding, the greed of desiring more, the avarice of wanting what others have and the selfishness of not sharing what we have.”
“Correct. But bear in mind that the greed, selfishness and avarice of which you speak are qualities that we perceive negatively. However, each of the four general ideas conveyed by a glyph must be neutral. Later, we will be able to put them in context to differentiate between their harmonious and disharmonious expressions. For that, we will need to apply the principle of duality, but, at this stage, we are just trying to find opposites and their causes. Therefore, what do avarice and the desire to hoard have in common with, for example, saving?”
“All of them lead us to accumulate.”
The old one was truly pleased with the progress made by her student. She gazed fondly upon her.
THE FACT THAT sharing leads to abundance, while accumulation results in its opposite, reveals a principle known by all the original inhabitants of the planet. Hence, in such cultures, there is always an understanding that things belong to no one and are used by those who need them the most. This means that no one can claim that something belongs to them nor can they keep it for themselves. This principle of non-ownership maximises the usefulness of things so that little is needed, allowing the community to make much from little.
It was in 1776 that a man called Adam Smith published a work titled The Wealth of Nations, considered the first modern book on economy. In it, a “system of natural liberty” was laid out, according to which free exercise of individual interest—that is to say, of egoism and greed—was inadvertently beneficial to the common good. This was possible thanks to an “invisible hand” that guided individuals and companies towards economic efficiency, despite the pursuance of their personal interests. This theory ended up becoming dogma, a professed religion for those who, in order to morally justify their opulence, denied what people had always known: that greed inevitably leads to scarcity. The result is a system in which only a few can live in abundance―those who have the power to hoard the products of the depleted environment—and in which there is an ever-increasing number of poverty-stricken communities.
The old one knew this very well, since she had suffered personally because of it. It was not the skin of an elderly woman that had suffered, but the skin she wore as Mother Earth, what we call the Earth’s crust and atmosphere.
The obvious innocence in the expectant look of the girl reminded her that all was not lost, that humanity could still recover the original teachings. She remembered that they had not been forgotten by everyone, because they still prevailed in the customs and traditions of the indigenous people of the planet. These people did not allow themselves to be possessed by that invisible, but at the same time so tangible, hand of the market. Such thoughts made her say:
“Abundance is one thing, and availability is another very different thing.”
“What do you mean by that, Mama?”
“That while sharing leads to abundance, a state in which there is enough for all, preservation is likewise something that allows it to be available for future generations. Preservation is then the main idea conveyed by our next glyph, but, unlike in the previous cases, in this one I ask that we find out the archetypal ideas first and then go about deducing the elements that it combines.”
“Yes. So, I ask you, what do you think would be its opposite?”
“I guess consumption,” replied the girl.
“And consumption, what do you think that leads to, especially when it is excessive?”
“To the exhaustion of something, Mama. It definitely causes us to exhaust our resources, whereas preservation allows them to remain available.”
The girl remained thoughtful. There was something the old one had just said that was of particular relevance to humanity. Our shepherd had perhaps not seen much of the world, but she had seen the hunger for resources elicited by the greed of the market system. The necessity to preserve resources was a reality where she lived. The land of her ancestors was not free from the clutches of the market. There were many who wanted to get hold of the richly fertile land of her ancestors and the minerals hidden within it.
Our shepherd lived where the Andes meet the rainforest. Her community was in the upper part, over three thousand metres above sea level. Not far from where Kusi lived was one of the territories with the greatest biodiversity on the planet. It is called Manu National Park, declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The area is home to ten percent of all bird species, five percent of all mammals, and fifteen percent of all butterfly species in the world. In particular, the area has the greatest diversity of reptiles, amphibians and butterflies on the planet. Furthermore, there are uncontacted indigenous communities living within it. These are people who do not even know that a resource-hungry humanity exists and awaits them.
Stories had reached the girl’s ears of the destruction caused by the illegal mining of gold, which left the rivers contaminated by mercury, cyanide and arsenic. And the impact of the surveying and extraction, this time ‘legal’ but no less destructive, of oil and natural gas. So far, such so-called legal activities were being carried out in the bordering zones of the park, but there had already been those who were using their influence and money in order to be able to extend the extraction into its interior.
Our shepherd had seen the animals flee, scared off by the detonation of explosives. She had witnessed the skin diseases and other health complications that appeared among those who lived near the areas in which such resources were being extracted, diseases that were caused by the chemicals used. She had seen how those who did not give in, the few brave ones who spoke out, had been abused. She thought about the temporary affluence of those who finally sold their land. She even saw the wedding of the mayor’s daughter, at which a civil employee of an American prospecting company had been best man.
Although our protagonist had travelled little, the ‘civilised’ world was closing in her, showing her a little of the good but mostly the bad. It loomed before her with its desire to consume and its disdain for the planet’s natural resources. So, what the old woman had just said had a great impact on her.
“What do you think the glyph is that binds together the idea of preserving, which makes something available for future generations, with the idea of consuming something until it is exhausted?” the woman asked.
With that question, the whole chain of thoughts and memories faded from the girl’s mind, bringing her back into the world of the here and now.
“Earth above, definitely; the element of Earth must be above to cover what must be preserved. While underneath... no resource is more highly valued than water. Therefore, Water is the element that I believe must be underneath.”
The old woman did not need to say anything because her smile spoke for itself. Now the glyph just required a name, so with a gaze still fixed upon the girl and an expression of satisfaction spread across her face, she asked:
“And what do you think the name of this glyph would be?”
“Water underneath Earth can only be a spring, Mama. Whether with rain or melting snow, the aquifers fill. Then they release water little by little so that the rivers flow. If that water were consumed too quickly, the spring would run dry. If we want that water to be always available, we must preserve it. If we do this, the Pachamama and the Apus will take care of filling the springs with rain and snowfall so that they never run out.”
LIFE TENDS TO optimise rather than maximise. Optimise means to obtain just the right amount, a value in between too much and too little. This is why natural organisms are in a constant process of ensuring that all necessary functions are met at some acceptable level. For example, a river, as an organism, does not try to carry as much water as possible, but to keep a constant flow. On the other hand, human-made organisms try to maximise. For example, corporations have the obligation towards their shareholders to maximise profit. Kusi’s ancestors knew a lot about that, about keeping life in balance, but that balance had been broken and it was in the hands of her generation to reestablish it.
The old lady looked at the young girl with eyes full of hope, knowing that the young generations had the required understanding to bring the so much required balance back. Then she asked:
“What do you think the glyph would be when, instead of Earth, we have Fire above Water?”
The young one drew the glyph on the surface that was still damp from the mid-morning downpour, remaining thoughtful.
“Fire upon Water,” she muttered in low voice, thinking aloud. “Could Fire be the sun and Water a lake?”
“Yes, that would be a good example, but remember that both the elements are dynamic.”
“Of course, dynamic. It means the sun evaporates the water, which rises as vapour. If so, the two lines in the glyph that represent Fire would symbolise the steam rising.”
“Very good! It is the glyph of Steam. You see how again we find ourselves with a pictogram, in which the glyph shows what it represents. But tell me, what do you think is the main idea it conveys?”
“I don’t know.”
“Think about the water molecules rising as steam. They seek a cold surface on which they can condense in order to become liquid water again. They seek something that will reunite them, that moment in which they will be able to fall as rain and then flow as a river.”
“Union!” the young one almost shouted, overwhelmed by excitement.
“And its opposite?”
“The opposite can only be Separation.”
Kusi imagined those small water molecules embracing each other in their liquid form and how the heat of the Fire element gave them energy, causing them to separate and rise.
In their liquid form, water molecules tend to group together, to form icosahedrons of 280 units. When the heat begins to excite them, these bonds are broken and the molecules begin to rise as vapour, forming much smaller clusters. For example, it has been observed that a very stable formation of water, when in its vapour state, is the grouping of 21 molecules in the shape of a pentagonal dodecahedron, with one molecule in each corner and a single molecule in the centre of the figure.
As this vapour condenses and becomes water again, these smaller clusters join back together in larger formations, creating the cotton-wool look that is so typical of clouds. When these formations reach their critical mass, the nucleation process begins, which allows them to recover their icosahedral formation typically exhibited by liquid water when it is grouped in formations of 280 molecules. This causes the steam to begin condensing into water droplets, which will end up falling as rain, snow or hail. Therefore, the two opposing ideas conveyed by the Steam glyph are the separation caused by heat and the union sought by steam in order to be able to become water again in either a liquid or solid state.
“And what do you think causes union?” the old one asked.
Kusi started imagining all these tiny water molecules as vapour. She imagined them being mutually attracted and coming together as small water droplets, snowflakes or hailstones. Then she remembered everything that the old one had explained to her about complementarity, which led her to round off her previous statement by saying:
“For there to be union, there must be complementarity,”
“And what causes separation?”
“I don’t know” replied the girl.
“I will explain it to you in greater detail another day, but for now let’s just remember that the cause of separation is duality, which is also the opposite of complementarity.”
ANDEAN MEN AND women are very aware that union is not achieved through homogeneity, but rather through complementarity. It is complementarity that we strive for, when we learn how to enrich ourselves through what differentiates us from others. For that reason, Andean culture has always respected diversity.
This way of thinking is displayed by the Inca Pachacutec. After new lands had been conquered, all of the historians from the conquered communities were summoned to Cusco. Because of their oral tradition, each community had assigned one person with the specific role of recording their history, a role that was passed down from parents to children. Once in Cusco, they were asked about their past and Pachacutec instructed for these chronicles to be carved in gold-trimmed tablets and taught to the Incan scholars so that they could learn to interpret them.
Pachacutec acted in this way because he was aware of the laws of complementarity and alternation. He did not consider his culture to be better than the others, but rather complementary (yanantin), and, for this reason, he respected them. He also knew that by the law of alternation (kuti) it was his people’s turn to rule; but if they did so with respect, when the time came for the others to be in power, by the law of reciprocity (ayni) they would also act towards his people in the same way.
But when Pizarroarrived in the Incan lands, the Andean world was confronted with the opposite logic. It was not a way of thinking based on the respect for diversity, but rather on the search for homogeneity. Nor was it built on reciprocity, but on the desire to hoard. So, instead of trying to enrich themselves with another culture, the newcomers manipulated the Incas’ past in order to impose their own. It is history written by the victors, whose account of the facts showed truth was to be the first victim.
Although all of these events took place five centuries ago, Kusi still experienced them first-hand. She was still living them as an attempt at homogenisation sought to impose a single language, a single religion, a single culture and one way of thinking: that of another.
She remembered her village, how it was divided into two parts: the upper and the lower. That division had not been made in order to separate the people, as some may think, but to unite them through the things that distinguished them. The Andean people know that union can only be the result of complementarity but for there to be complementarity, diversity is needed. There can never be true union when the group is homogeneous, since homogeneity negates complementarity.
“Little sister, you’ve seemed a little absent for a while, as if lost in thought,” said the old one, with a tone of apparent disapproval, though, in fact, she was hiding the delight of someone whose love makes her accept and whose acceptance helps her to understand.
“I was thinking about what my Papa always says about what holds us together.”
“Yes, my dear, complementarity is essential in order for there to be true union,” said the old woman, as if she knew what the girl had been thinking. “But let me introduce you to the next glyph so that I can explain to you how union does not last without peace. Therefore, I ask you, do you know what the basic requirement is for there to be peace?”
“Yes, respect is important, but just like peace, to achieve respect requires something else. What is it?”
“One tolerates when obliged to do so. We tolerate with the ego, but when that same tolerance comes from the heart, what do we call it?”
“Acceptance!” exclaimed Kusi with the delight of a child having discovered a sweet under their pillow.
“Correct. Acceptance is like a sweet,” the grandmother began to explain. “Our parents put the sweet under the pillow to celebrate us losing a tooth. Or perhaps it was the tooth fairy... In any case, the treat is a delight. But to be able to enjoy it, we need a tooth to fall out. In other words, we must be mature enough to be able to start listening to our heart and not to that tiny ‘I’, which we call the ego. At the beginning we listen to our heart as it speaks to us in dreams. This means the sweet is already there even though we have not yet discovered it. It is only when we wake up and look under the pillow that we will be able to fully savour it.”
Kusi’s mouth was watering while she savoured the luscious flavour of the sweet. Then she was filled with a feeling of joy and a very intense love for this woman who was speaking to her. She also felt love for her parents and sister, and even for aunt Eugenia, who constantly berated her. She noticed a pressure in her chest, as if a beam of energy were coming out of it that connected her to everything.
How simple it is, yet how much it takes for us to understand, she thought, while she was overwhelmed by this experience. The only thing we need to do is to learn to accept and the rest comes by itself.
“This is sweeter than the kiwicha porridge with honey,” she said to herself, half sobbing. However, this was just the prelude to a much more intense experience she would come to enjoy later.
There was a moment of silence, as the grandmother wanted to allow the girl to savour the sweetness without engaging her mind in thought and spoiling the experience. Then, once the flavour of joy had finally vanished from the girl’s soul, the old one said:
“Yes, little sister. Once we accept, we can discover these delights and savour their sweetness. It is the taste of joy. However, until we experience true acceptance we live in dreams, not because we are dreaming, but because we are being dreamt. We live at the expense of what destiny provides us with, incapable to take the reins of our own fate. Maybe the lollypop is already there, our tooth having already fallen out, but if we limit ourselves to tolerance, we will never be able to savour it. And if instead of tolerating others we look for conflict, then that dream which we call live will become a nightmare in which our ego drives our destiny without us even realising it.”
“Is the sweet our heart?” asked the girl.
“Yes it is, but in most of us, it is still wrapped. Do you know what needs to be done to tear off that wrapper?”
“We must purify our heart, Mama.”
Kusi had just made contact with the inner-Self, allowing her to initiate a dialogue with herself. This dialogue drove away ignorance and provided clarity. It allowed the girl to unite with Spirit and to realise that all of us are but One. It is opposition, which comes from the ego, that separates us from this unity. She was truly accepting, eliminating all conflict from her heart. She let herself flow, without any obstruction She contemplated how Mother Nature, in Her eternal generosity, had created a world of abundance that humankind, in its greed, had turned into scarcity. She also felt fertility in her womb. This allowed her to harness a new resource: her potential to create and change the world.
Kusi was no longer the same. Something had shifted, something deep down in her very Being, and you could see it in her eyes. She had started removing the wrapper from the sweet. But the wise old woman knew time was short and there were only three days left before the young girl had to return to her village. To introduce her to the ‘Art’ in such a short period of time meant that they had to continue without delay. For this reason, the old woman asked her:
“Sister, tell me, how do we purify an environment or someone’s poqpo (aura)?”
Kusi understood the urgency and replied:
“By smudging, Mama, with the smoke of the palo santo or frankincense.”
“And what elements make up the smoke?”
“Fire and Air, like a burning campfire out of which comes a plume of smoke. Fire above, as the dominant element, is what causes the smoke, whilst air feeds the fire so that it does not die out.”
Thus, our shepherdess discovered the next glyph, that of Smoke. Its main archetype was peace. Acceptance is needed for there to be peace. The opposite of acceptance is provocation, and provocation generates conflict.
“This does not mean that peace is good and conflict bad,” the woman went on. “As we are continuing to see, the glyphs that I am showing you here do not distinguish between good and evil. Everything has two sides. This means that there are times when conflict is necessary and others in which it is detrimental. Similarly, peace is a very praiseworthy goal to achieve, but when it is attained through the submission of some to the will of others, it can also be detrimental. All this will be explained later on. The important thing at this stage is to remember that Fire above Air gives us the glyph of Smoke, whose main archetype is peace.”
Help me to continue financing the translation and distribution of this book by donating a small amount through Paypal.
THE GIRL NODDED. Her jet-black eyes, still shining from the intensity of the experience, watched the woman with a renewed tenderness. An old woman who, barefoot and dressed in time-worn clothes, spoke to her with the melodic voice of someone who communicates by singing.
“And what do you think would be the glyph when Air is the dominant element?” asked the woman again.
“Air would come into motion upon being heated by Fire. So could it be wayra, the wind?” said Kusi in a questioning tone. An impish smile appeared across her face, implying that she knew she was right.
Wayra; the wind. A living being in constant movement. A being that has its own consciousness; an origin and a destiny; a colour, a scent and a flavour. The wind anticipates weather changes and can also hit us when we are down or when we feel weak, causing all kinds of ailments. This is wayra in the Andean world, especially south of the Peruvian Andes.
For instance, there is tuwinti wayra, the wind of the newborn, the wind that blows when a woman experiences a miscarriage or undergoes an abortion. The soul of the unborn babe wants to return to the mother’s womb to continue building its body, not accepting that the process was interrupted and that there is no foetus to which to return. It takes the shape of a wind that tries to enter the womb again.
There is also aya wayra, the wind of the dead. It is caused by disincarnated souls. These souls haunt the vicinity of the place where their bodies died. Souls trapped between two worlds, clinging to those who venture to the places in which they usually roam. This wind causes headaches and may sometimes cause a person to faint.
Another one is sulla wayra, a cold yet soft wind triggered by the morning dew or by wet places like swamps. As it blows, it brushes against our skin and gives us rashes and hives.
Or qhaqya wayra, the wind of the lightning. It blows in areas near to where a bolt of lightning struck. This wind feels like a burning sensation inside our body.
To the Andean people the wind is much more than air in motion. It is the expression of the subtle; of something that, though it cannot be seen, can be felt and it is capable of deeply affecting us. Air is the least dense of the four elements. That is why many cultures use their words for ‘wind’ or ‘breathing’ to refer to the intangible such as the Spirit; to the subtle, such as the soul; or to the vital energy which connects body and soul. For example, we have the word ‘spirit’, which comes from the Latin spiritus (breathing). We have ruach in Hebrew or ruh in Arabic, which also refer to the Spirit and etymologically come from the word used for saying ‘wind’. Qi in the Chinese culture, lüng in the Tibetan culture, prana in the Indian culture; all of these refer to this vital energy and are linked to the words used in each of these languages to refer to ‘breathing’, ‘air’ and ‘wind’ respectively.
“In this glyph,” continued the old woman, “we find the expression of that which gives matter its vitality. This is why it is related to the idea of movement. Movement brings change and everything in the Universe is subject to constant change. But tell me, what do you think the cause of movement is?
Faced with this question, Kusi did not know how to reply. The cause of movement? she wondered. If the whole universe is in motion, would it not be the same thing that created it? But what caused it be created? It must have been something very powerful. Something as powerful as…
“Desire!”, cried the girl. “It is desire that sets us in motion.”
“Very good,” said the old woman. “But tell me, what would their opposites be?”
“The opposite of movement is stillness, while the opposite of desire is to be content with what we already have.”
THUS; THE TWO women completed a new glyph. They had started with the Cave, before moving on to the Rain, the Cloud, the River, the Cauldron, the Spring, Vapour, Smoke and now the Wind. And each time, the glyph was always linked to the four ideas that the old woman called ‘archetypes’. These ideas were neither inherently good nor bad; rather, they could be one or the other depending on how we approach them.
“Are there always four ideas linked to each drawing?” asked the girl.
“Yes. Each glyph is always connected to four archetypes. This stems from the ancient wisdom of the continent you call America. For the original people of this land, the number four has always been sacred.”
“Your ancestors always saw an image of cosmic perfection in the number four, a perfection that they sought to simulate here on Earth. There are four cardinal points on the medicine wheel used by many cultures in the North of the continent. Further south, in a land currently called Mexico, there were wise men and woman known as Toltecs who made the city of Tula their capital and where the nation was also divided into four quarters. Even descriptions of the human soul were based on the number four.
“The human soul?”
“Yes, the human body was divided into four parts: the tonal to the right, a manifestation of the perceptible; the nagual to the left, an expression of the imperceptible; the bird or quetzal on top, linked to the Upper World; and the snake or coatl at the bottom, the symbol of the Underworld.
“Quetzal and coatl, do not they refer to the same things that we Andeans call kuntur (condor) and amaru (snake)?
“Yes, and the Incan territory, like Tula, was also organised around four regions. This is why its real name is Tawantinsuyu, referring to the four (Tawa) regions (Suyu) of the sun (Inti).”
“Why did all that have to end, Mamita (little mother), giving way to the current chaos where the elderly, women, children, animals and Mother Earth are no longer respected? Humans do not even respect themselves. How could they, without first respecting everything that is around them?”
“It did not end, little sister. It is a natural law that things disappear for a moment in order to come back stronger. For instance, the sun at sunset needs the mantle of the night to cover everything first in order to shine most intensely at midday. Only after darkness has reigned for a whole night, will there be a sunrise and only after that will the sun be able to reach its zenith once again.”
“My dad calls it pachakuti. He always tells me that with each sunrise and each sunset we live two minor pachakutis, but because a day in the Sky equals a thousand years on Earth, there is also a celestial day with both its light and darkness. He calls this cycle of thousand years a ‘sun’, because it equals a day of our Tayta, the Father Sun.”
“Yes, my darling, day and night are the result of the law of alternation, which governs the cycles. Your ancestors wisely identified it and named it kuti. That is why pachakuti symbolises the period in which pacha (time-space) alternates, giving way to the night if it was daytime and to the light if darkness reigned.”
“Is this day and night equal for everyone?”
“As each day has its sunrise and its sunset, cultures also live their own night and day, but not everyone of them at the same time. When the dawn breaks here, in another place sunset starts. In a similar way, when the sun rises for one culture, for another the night begins. And, as your father says, that daily cycle of cultures lasts for about one thousand years.”
“Does that mean that here in the Andes darkness fell five hundred years ago, but now the sun is rising again?”
“Yes, and for the people of Europe who had their sunrise during the Renaissance period, after a long mediaeval night, the sun is now setting. However, even in Europe it is not sunset everywhere. There are those who had their daytime during the mediaeval period and fell into night at the beginning of the Renaissance. For them, a new rebirth is also taking place.”
“Do any of the drawings represent that transition?” asked the girl.
“Yes indeed, there are two of them. The first one comes from the complementarity that happens when we join together the elements of Earth and Fire, but with Earth on top, as the dominant element.”
“Earth on top of Fire, I wonder what that could be…?”
“Think about what is created when the pressure exerted by the earth on top is combined with the heat of the fire below.”
“Pressure and heat... it’s a stone, isn´t it?”
“Exactly! Rocks require the pressure exerted by the sediments above (Earth) and the heat coming from beneath the crust (Fire). The heat melts matter and turns it into magma. Sometimes the magma cools down slowly in the depths and crystallises; whilst other times it emerges onto the surface as lava and cools quickly, turning into volcanic rocks.
“And what is its main idea?” asked the young lady.
“Think, what do stones remind you of?”
“Hardness and solidity.”
“Now, try to find an archetype, a word with a more general use that you can apply to many situations in life, that is related to hardness and solidity.”
“Strength, Mama. For instance, you can have a strong personality, a strong culture or strong ideas.”
“I see you understand. You have just identified the cause. Tell me then, what do we acquire with strength?”
“Security. Strength leads to security.”
“That’s it! The main archetype of the Stone glyph is security. What do you think the opposite is?”
“And the cause of vulnerability is…?”
“I do not know, loving Mother.”
“Approach it from the other way round. What is the opposite of strength? That will tell you what causes vulnerability.”
“That’s easy! The opposite of strength is weakness.”
AND SO A new glyph was completed. Later on, Kusi would discover how each glyph is also related to a culture or a group of cultures. In the case of the Stone, it was connected to the Andean and the Polynesian cultures. However, she would learn about all this another time; the day when Mother Moon would teach her how to use the glyphs as totems. At present, she was learning to use them to map human experiences and emotions. In order to do that, Kusi needed to understand the way in which language can determine our interpretation of reality. And so it was that the girl asked:
“Does this mean that in order to be less vulnerable, we must increase our security?”
“This is how today’s society teaches you to reason: in opposition. Nobody learns how to link effects with their causes. You are only taught to connect them with their opposites. Then you are told that, in order to forestall the unwanted opposite, you must go into battle. This is how the war against terror, pollution, disease, poverty and crime is born. Current society makes war against everything it wants to avoid, without realising that this is not the solution but the cause of the problem. Fighting an opposite denies the ‘law of alternation’. This hinders the true cause of things. As a result, people tend to believe that everything happens randomly. This creates a society built on fear, with many laws and rules designed to prevent something ‘bad’ from taking place. But nothing occurs by accident; rather, everything responds to the ‘law of reciprocity’, a principle that your ancestors understood very well.”
It was the first time that the old lady had excluded herself from the society or humanity she was talking about. But Kusi was not surprised. From the beginning, she sensed that the woman with bare feet bathed in mud was not human. Her soul was much older. She must be an Apu, she thought but she did not ask her out of respect.
In the Andes, it is very common for a guardian mountain spirit (Apu) to take the form of human flesh in order to interact with our world. Nevertheless, the girl would never have imagined that she was talking to the Pachamama herself, to whom even the Apus paid homage. The Mother of Everybody was revealing herself in human flesh to bring some glyphs that had the potential to help humanity recover a lost connection to our inner Self. They had the potential to get us in touch with our real Being, without the interference of the mind.
“Do you understand now why we cannot counteract vulnerability by increasing security, but by facing our weaknesses?” asked the old one.
“Yes, Mother. For example, I see vulnerability in my neighbour who drinks more than he should. His addiction to alcohol weakens not only his body but his marriage and his self-esteem as well. All that has made him vulnerable.”
“Yes, that would be an example, but not the only one. Trying to weaken somebody—for example, by criticising them in front of others—also makes us vulnerable. But if you mentioned their positive qualities instead, trying to strengthen the other person, you would boost your own security.
“Now I get it, Mamita: you are talking about ayni, about reciprocity, about receiving what we give. It is because of ayni that if we try to weaken other people, we are really weakening ourselves. But how are stones related to the cycles you mentioned before?”
“What lifts us up will bring us down. What makes us strong also makes us vulnerable. This is because the Universe is not only ruled by the law of reciprocity (ayni) but also by the law of alternation (kuti). Societies look for security in the combination of a range of strengths. Nevertheless, those same strengths turn into weaknesses with the change of cycle, which end up making them vulnerable.”
“Our strengths end up being our weaknesses?”
“Yes, and they will become strengths again with the next change of cycle. For instance, in the Andean world, ayni (reciprocity) was one of their major strengths. Ayni made money unnecessary and, without money, there was no greed. This is why for the Andean people a feather was as valuable as gold, because in the same way that gold is an expression of Tayta Inti, of the Father Sun, feathers symbolised the Upper World, so society valued both as equal.
“But then some men arrived who were eager for gold,” the old lady continued. “They desired it so intensely that they would not hesitate to kill in order to obtain it. That intense desire was their strength; it was what gave them the energy to accomplish their goal. But now, with the change of cycle, this same desire for material wealth has become their weakness.”
“How?“ asked Kusi, anxiously waiting for an answer.
“The day will come when the thing that they call money will be worth nothing. And when that day arrives, ayni will once more become the strength of the Andean culture. It will be a strength that will inspire the rest of humanity to do the same, so the need to act in reciprocity will be more important than the value assigned to something as fictitious as money.”
Those were the first prophetic words uttered by the old lady. The prophecy goes by many names and it can be found and told in many ways, not only in the Andes but all throughout the American continent, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. It is a prophecy that talks about the re-encounter of humanity. It talks about a planetary society based on heterogeneity, a society built on the principle of sumaq kawsay (good living), in which we will once more remember that we are not superior to Nature but part of it. We are its custodians.
But Kusi was eager to know about the second glyph related to the cycles, so she asked about it.
“The second glyph combines the same two elements, but this time Fire is dominant. It is the same but the other way around.” answered the old lady.
Fire on top of Earth, thought Kusi. What could the name of that glyph be?
“Draw it so it is easier for you to recognise what it represents.” said the woman, after reading her thoughts yet again.
When she drew it in the clayey Andean soil, Kusi immediately guessed what it was about.
“A mountain with fire on its summit! It only can be a volcano!”
“And what is its main archetype?”
“Exactly!” said the old lady gladly. “When volcanoes erupt, they provoke a crisis or catharsis. Everything that was within comes to the surface. And what do you think is the cause of the eruption?”
“I guess it must be accumulated tension.”
“Correct. When tension builds up in the Earth’s crust, magma looks for a way out and ends up causing a volcanic eruption. When this tension takes place in society, it generally causes a revolution. When it takes place in a person, the result is a nervous breakdown.”
“The archetype changes slightly according to the context,” the girl commented.
“It is not the archetype that changes but the word we associate it with. Remember that the archetype is just an idea. In this case, ‘eruption’ is the best word to express it. We demand two things from the words to be used as archetypes. First, they must be as general as possible, so they can be adapted to different contexts and situations.”
“They must be neutral. That is to say, they must not have a positive or negative connotation. Having found the word, we can use other, more appropriate words to express the same idea in the specific context to which the glyph refers.”
“Mama, I understand it better now. Therefore, the word that best describes this archetype is ‘eruption’, but in some cases we may be taking about a revolution, and in others, we may be referring to it as a crisis.”
“Yes, and also as a catharsis, an explosion, a sudden change, a metamorphosis, a revolt… But tell me, what do you think is the opposite of eruption?”
“No. Calm would be linked to stillness, the opposite of movement. You need to look for the cause. What is the opposite of tension?”
“Relaxation,” said the girl, this time without hesitation.
“And what brings us relaxation?”
“Relief, Mama. Relaxation helps us to relieve our pain.￼
The two women knew very well that volcanoes were very powerful Apus. They were phenomena that could radically transform the environment, turning a place into ashes in order to create something entirely new. The other Apus did not have such a destructive yet transformative power.
With this glyph, the old lady was going to introduce a legend that explained the main causes for the present planetary imbalances. These imbalances are creating a tension that could end up causing the volcano to erupt. She wanted to know if the girl was able to interpret the allegory behind the legend. It is for this reason that she asked:
“Do you know what happened to the little town of Maca on the banks of the Colca River near Arequipa?”
“Maca is at the foothills of two important Apus: the Sabancaya (Tongue of Fire) and the Walqa-walqa (necklace, crown or bracelet). They are a couple with children. We can see the wife with her skirt spread out, so she has somewhere to put all the medicinal herbs that she collects and needs to heal her sick husband, Sabancaya, who spits smoke because of his illness. One day, the wife went to the town of Maca to ask for help. She was dressed in rags, her face was dirty and her hair was full of nits. Her son was also dressed in tatters. She was crying inconsolably but the people in the town paid no attention to her, even rejected her. Only one old lady showed compassion. It was at that precise moment that the husband, infuriated, erupted causing the destruction of the entire town. The old lady was the only survivor. Do you understand the story?”
“Yes. The two Apus, as a couple, are an expression of complementarity, of the balance that must always be present between the feminine and masculine. Apu Sabancaya spits smoke because of some kind of cosmic disruption. This means that there is something causing tension in the environment and such tension is accumulating in the volcano. His wife went down to the town to ask for help, which implies asking the inhabitants to stop the actions that are causing such imbalances. Her clothes are worn-out because she is old, which gives us the clue that we are talking about a very ancient being that has been there since the beginning. In the town, people ignore her and continue acting the same way. This generates greater imbalances and an increase in tension. Only one old lady shows compassion, which means that only a few realise what is really going on. Those few are able to sense the effect that their actions are having on the environment, so they stop acting that way.”
“What helps them to realise?”
“Their connection with the ancestral feminine energy. This is why, in the legend, the old lady is the only one that offers help to the couple. It also shows us the cause of such imbalances: the denial of both the ancient and the feminine. Finally, the volcano erupts as an expression of cosmic reciprocity to rebalance the situation, but such an eruption does not affect those who were conscious of their actions, who are represented by the old lady. However, it did affect those who were looking for modernity and masculinity, values that appeal to current society.”
“I see you’ve understood.”
“Yes, Mother, but you said that the Volcano, together with the Stone, was related to the changes in the cycles. Could you tell me how, please?” said the girl, with curiosity in her eyes and a penetrating gaze.
“When the fire that is found under the earth emerges and places itself on top, a pachakuti takes place, a reversal of space-time. Pachakutis consist of sudden changes that completely alter the surroundings. These could occur in nature or society, but as they are intimately related, they will normally take place on both levels at the same time. In the natural world, they would appear as sudden weather changes and natural disasters. At a social level, they cause revolutions, social collapse or invasions.
“All that seems really terrible,” said the young lady, heartbroken after the old lady’s story.
“Not necessarily. For example, a pachakuti is also the metamorphosis that allows the caterpillar to turn into a butterfly, and that’s not so bad, is it?”
“No,” agreed the girl, relieved.
“Furthermore, volcanos destroy but they also allow for new things to be born. For instance, they change the topography of the land and release minerals that, in the long term, increase its fertility. This makes it possible for new vegetation to emerge and, with it, new fauna. This is what essentially happened five centuries ago when the people of Fire came from Europe, devastating this continent. The genetic material of the four human races mingled in America as magma. The explosion it caused was terrible and painful. The eruption lasted for five centuries, but now relief is coming.”
“What should we expect from the new pachakuti?”
“From such miscegenation we should expect the birth of a new humanity that combines the genetic code of the four races: red, yellow, black and white. But you will learn all about that some other time. For now, it is enough for you to know that each culture has its own pachakutis, which alternate between five hundred years of light and an equivalent amount of darkness. The Andean culture experienced its sunset half a millennium ago. During that period there was a foreign invasion, when completely alien values were imposed. As a result, there was a fusion, a miscegenation, a kind of syncretism, in which the Andean culture was consigned to second place. Its values were alienated and those of the invaders favoured.”
“Does that mean that, with the new sunrise, the ancient values of this land will emerge again?” asked Kusi, noticeably touched.
“Yes, but not only that. This minor pachakuti coincides with another, a greater one that takes place every five millennia. It will affect the whole of humanity, since it will mean the end of a world and the birth of a new one.”
“Yes. But it does not mean the end of the world or the physical destruction of the planet, as many expect; it means the birth of a new collective dream, a different reality. It involves a shift in values, goals and even a new paradigm and worldview.”
THESE WERE VERY recent concepts. The word ‘paradigm’ comes from Greek but its use has changed over time. The old woman was using it to refer to the foundations that support a discipline over a specific period of time. Whereas the idea of a worldview comes from German and reflects the way a society interprets ‘reality’.
The term ‘worldview’ differs from the word ‘paradigm’ in that it does not refer to a specific domain; such as science; rather it includes all of them. For example, we could say that the economic paradigm of current society is unlimited growth, but this only applies to the economy, whereas ‘worldview’ is the way in which society perceives the world in all of its domains.
The current worldview of the Western civilisation is based on the belief that there is an objective, tangible reality unconnected to everything else. Conversely, indigenous people perceive reality as being subjective, mostly intangible, and in which nothing exists in isolation. These two visions of the cosmos are seemingly opposed but actually complement each other, given that the former facilitates the study of matter and the latter the study of the soul.
“Imagine a migrating flock of geese. You see them forming a V, all flying together. Suddenly, they change direction. It seems as if they all agreed to do so. But the agreement was subconscious; it took place at a more instinctive level. Paradigms and worldviews are similar, but exist in the domain of human thought.”
Kusi imagined that she was flying with the flock of geese, as she did for every occasion where flying was involved. The day she could travel the world in an aeroplane, she would fly with her body. But, until fate gave her such an opportunity, she could at least fly with her imagination.
“Society is like a flock of geese,” the old woman continued. “A paradigm is encoded in the collective subconscious and from it the way people reason is determined. It is reasoning that goes unchallenged; for example, ‘in Autumn, we should fly to warmer grounds’, or ‘economic growth is good.’, In contrast a worldview defines the way a group relates to the environment, with this relationship resulting in what you call ‘reality’.”
“And what will be the new ‘reality’?”
“It is not new. It is very ancient but forgotten. Only now does humanity seem ready to rediscover it. Its paradigm tells us that everything is vibrating. It is based on a perception of the environment in which nothing exists in isolation, where each vibration, each movement or throb reverberates through the entire Universe.
“This is what we always have known, Mother!”
“Yes, little sister, but with time and the passing of the cycles, this ancient knowledge has been forgotten. It has only remained alive in the hearts of the original nations. Because they have never forgotten it, now they can now teach it to the rest of the world, so that everyone remembers. This is what the next glyph tells us, the last one of the twelve that combines two different elements.”
“Do you remember the first glyph we looked at: the Cave? This last one combines the same two elements, but this time with Air above and Earth below. It is called Dust. Look at the glyph. As you can see, once again it shows us an ideogram, in which we are able to observe the earth below and the layers of dust and sediment gradually building up on top.”
“And what is it telling us?” asked the youngster.
“Dust, over time, ends up covering everything. In effect it conceals what was once there. And when the winds of change blow, the things that were hidden become visible again.”
“The two ideas are hiding and discovering!” the girl exclaimed contentedly, as she saw how logical the archetypes were.
“And their opposites?” asked the old woman.
“The opposite of hiding should be to show, that is to teach. While the opposite of discovering is learning, because one can discover something that was hidden or learn about it when it is taught”
“Yes, little sister. Hence, when the right moment arrives the dust concealing the hidden knowledge is lifted, allowing us to rediscover what we may have already known during a previous cycle, but which most people have forgotten.”
“What is it that we are going to rediscover, Mama?”
“How to get back in sync with the beat and rhythm of the Universe.”
WHAT DO WE CALL something which has many names and so many people have perceived, but that science still does not recognise? What do we call the symphony that plays when the mind is silent and one can hear the music that comes directly from Spirit?
The Vedic scriptures say that the Universe was created from the sigh of Paramatman, the supreme reality, manifested as sound. This sigh is the Nada Brahma, the voice of the absolute. It is the OM, the mantra with no beginning and no end. In Sanskrit, it is called Anahata Nada, the ‘unstruck sound’. It is the transcendental tone hidden in every expression of Creation; the limitless light called Ain Soph Aur by the Kabbalist; the ‘first emanation’ in theosophy. It is the monad of the Pythagoreans; the word or logos of the New Testament; the moment in the Old Testament when God said “Let there be light”. It is not light, as light came later, but rather the word, the act of proclaiming that there should be light.
In ancient China it was called Huang Chung, or ‘yellow bell’, as it tends to be accompanied by a waterfall of yellow light. The Sufis call it Sawt-e-sarmad, the sound that floods all space and fills them with a mystic ecstasy. In Jainism it is ‘the current of divine sound’. In Sikhism it is the Ek-Onkar. For the Zoroastrians it is Sraosha. In Kashmir Shaivism it is Spanda, described as the ‘primordial pulse’.
It is the Amen of the Jews and Christians and the Amin of Islam. It represents the Alif of the Semitic languages, the Alpha of the Greeks, the first letter of the alphabet that comprises all others. It is the F-sharp played on the flutes by the North America-s first peoples, the Aloha of the Huna philosophy from the Hawaiian Islands and the Aluna of the Mamos found in Sierra Nevada, in the north of Colombia. It symbolises the fundamental note of a didgeridoo vibrating in the Australian desert, the echo of the magic flute, the cosmic symphony, the divine vibration and the abstract sound.
Throughout history, so many traditions have given it so many names that we can simply refer to it as the primordial tone. It is primordial because it was the very first sound to manifest itself.
“How can we be in sync with the beat of the Universe, Mama?”
“We synchronise ourselves with the beat when we vibrate in resonance with the primordial tone.”
“The primordial tone?”
“Your ancestors invoked it with the words Noccan Kani (I am) and reproduced it by pronouncing and holding the sound O.”
“Oooooooooooooooooh,” Kusi began to sing.
The reverberation of the mantra was lost in the open space of the pastures. Seeing that it was not the best place for singing, the old woman suggested they go into the cave, where the note would resonate against the walls. Once they were inside, the old woman asked the girl to sit down and look towards the depths of the cavern. Then she sat behind her, put her hands on her shoulders, and there, in that position, the two of them began to sing the mantra together.
It was in that moment that Kusi felt the echo of the tone of creation permeate her being. An instant later, she left her body. If it had not been for the old woman’s hands clutching at her shoulders, her body would have slumped to the cold floor like a sack of grain.
Out of her body, the first thing she saw was the old woman, also in her astral body, smiling and extending a hand towards her.
¨Follow me,” the woman said through thought. Kusi took her hand and they passed through the walls of the cave, towards the interior of the mountain. When they arrived, the old woman left her.
The place was dark. Dark as only the inside of a mountain can be. Then came the shadows that surrounded her. In this place without a trace of light, it wouldn’t be correct to call them shadows, because the must be a light, however faint, to project a shadow. So it would be better to call them spectres. Whatever they were, they began to move around her, as if trying to bite her. As they moved, they made a sound like harsh winds and hoarse cries. They were truly aggressive.
Many people in Kusi´s position would have panicked. She herself would have been scared had it not been for the profound sense of compassion she felt as she contemplated these disembodied souls inhabiting such a dark place in the depths of the Earth.
How low their level of consciousness must be for the Mother to relegate them to this place, she thought. Yet how deep Her love for them must be if, instead of disowning them, She shelters them in her womb and bestows all of Her affection upon them.
Many were the heroes who descended into the Underworld, their journeys becoming legend. Gilgamesh, fifth king of Uruk. Aeneas, hero of the Trojan War. Orpheus, musician, poet and prophet, who descended in search of his love. Odin, Nordic god, who descended to drink from Mimir’s well. After the creation of the fifth Sun, Quetzalcoatl (the Feathered Serpent) descended to recover the bones of the human race and repopulate the Earth. In the Vedas, the goddess Ushas (the Dawn) was freed from the caves of Vala by the god Indra. And Kusi, the little shepherdess of the Andes, was led there by the Pachamama herself. Why?
They say that to reach the Upper World, one must first plunge into the Underworld. So it wasn’t through fear, which would have trapped her in this dark place, but through the compassion she felt for these pained souls, that she managed to scape. A moment later, she found herself transported away from that place in the mountain’s interior and into a sort of in-between worlds. A waterfall of yellowish light invited her to cross. So she crossed...
It may not possible to explain in words what Kusi experienced on the other side of the waterfall. The only way to convey her experience is through the idea of ‘ineffable’, something that cannot be communicated by mere words. However, I shall try so that it cannot be said that I skipped this scene to save myself the effort of describing it. To do so, I am going to use the senses. Not those of the physical or astral body, but those of the most subtle expression of the soul: the causal body, also known as the ‘bliss body’. We will begin with hearing, the most subtle sense of all and the only one capable of merging with the Totality, as musical notes merge when they come together as a single chord.
I will begin by telling you about how her entire being vibrated to the sound of a tone similar to the ‘Ooooooh’ that she had been singing with the old woman only moments ago. But this time the sound permeated everything. That may not be the right word because one thing can permeate another without necessarily becoming at one with it. It would be better to say that she was the sound and the sound was everything. It was the Noccan Kani, the ‘I am what I am’.
The girl became the primordial tone from which Creation emanates. There will be those who say that such a statement is a hypothesis and therefore needs to be proven. Or that it is an act of faith, which demands belief. For Kusi, it was neither one nor the other. It was a realisation. A realisation is when we know something to be true without further proof. They are the steps of the staircase that leads us to self-realisation. Self-realisation takes place when we take root in the reality in which Kusi found herself, when we experience spiritual bliss not for an instant but constantly. Even though one may only have conscious access to that reality for an instant, it can be life-changing.
But let’s continue with the description of her experience. Descending the stairway of the five senses, from the most to the least subtle, the second is touch. This sense may not allow us to blend and become one with the entire Universe; that experience is left to the ears and to the sounds they perceive. But the sense of touch brings the feeling that comes when we are caressed by the Universe as a whole. Kusi felt her soul diving into an ocean of ecstasy. Her sense of touch allowed the Totality to impregnate her soul, dissolving her little by little like a lump of salt in the sea. If she had enjoyed that experience for just a little bit longer, the salt that is her soul would have dissolved away completely in the immensity of the ocean. But her time had not yet come. Her Self still needed her soul, as a vehicle of Consciousness, to continue growing spiritually before it could dissolve into the Totality.
The third sense in the descending order of subtlety is sight. The eye does not meld with Creation like sound, nor is it caressed by it like touch, but it can contemplate Creation in its totality. Kusi saw herself facing the entire Universe. In geometry, the nearest thing to what Kusi saw is a torus, a shape similar to that of a doughnut. But this doughnut, although it was circular in the centre, its periphery appeared to be square.
Many cultures have devised symbols and mandalas to describe what she saw, which proves that it is not an isolated occurrence, but something that many have experienced. For example, when this image that Kusi contemplated is found in the high peaks of the Himalayas, it is called Sri Yantra, the lord of the Yantras. When it comes from the high peaks of the Andes, it is called Chakana Cross. In current Mexico, the Huichol people represent it with a nierika. And in the region of the Great Lakes of North America, it is symbolised by a dreamcatcher.
It was as if each sense separated her, little by little, from what she was. As she descended the stairway of the senses, from the subtlest to the most dense. Her hearing allowed her to meld with the Absolute. Her touch did not melt her with it, but allowed her to be caressed by Totality. And now, her sight separated her from that Creation, but gave her the opportunity to contemplate it in its immensity. The last two senses would cause a greater fragmentation of the Self, widening the distance even further.
The fourth sense to manifest was taste. By the time Kusi tasted the nectar of Creation with the palate of her soul, she was already on her way back. Some might say that her fondness for kiwicha porridge with honey was what made her return to the plane of matter, but it wasn’t exactly that. It was because, by the time she regained her sense of taste, her soul was already returning from superconsciousness to ‘normal’ consciousness.
Finally, the last sense to present itself was smell. It wasn’t until she returned to the cave and re-joined her physical body that she caught the scent of something that hung between jasmine and amber. She began searching for its source only to realise that she had in fact brought it back from the dimension she had just visited.
There is a reason behind the order of subtlety given to the five senses. The most subtle of the elements, the quintessence that different schools of thought call Ether, Time-space, Akasha or Pacha, can only be perceived by the ear. The element Air, which is slightly denser, is perceived through hearing and touch but not the other three senses. Fire is sensed through hearing, touch, and sight but not by taste or smell. In the case of Water, it can be perceived through all the senses except smell. Only Earth, the densest element of all, is perceivable through all five senses.
THE OLD WOMAN waited for the buzz of Creation to fade away into the multitude of sounds of the intermediate world. She waited for the dissipation of the spiritual bliss in which Kusi had been submerged only seconds ago. She waited for the after-image of Creation that had been imprinted onto her Self to fade away. She waited for the sweet taste of nectar to subside and for the subtle fragrance that lingered from the experience to mix with the aromas of the area. And once the fog of dreams that we call ‘reality’ had enveloped her once again and the eyes of her causal body shut whilst those of her physical body and her mind opened; only then did the woman gesture with her hand that Kusi should follow.
Neither of them uttered a word. The silence was absolute and speech would have darkened the light of the moment. The sky was grey, but the storm clouds parted now and again to leave small clearings through which rays of sunlight streamed. These moments of light alternated with fleeting downpours, creating ideal conditions for a rainbow to appear. But Kusi was no longer thinking of rainbows or kiwicha porridge with honey or the sun caressing her face. In fact, she was trying not to think, because the more she let her mind interfere, the quicker the aftereffect of the experience dissipated. It was like a dream we do not want to forget, but whose details fade if we don’t firmly imprint them on our memory after waking.
The old woman understood this necessity and gave the girl some time and space. Slowly, they both headed towards a small lagoon where the alpacas often drank. Once there, Pachamama asked the girl to pick up a rough stone that laid on the bank and to throw it into the water. Although she was rather old for this, Kusi didn’t protest. She did not fully understand the reason behind this unusual request and she didn’t care. She sought to keep her mind like the lagoon, translucent and smooth, and for that she needed to keep her mind clear. She grabbed the rock and, with all her strength, threw it into the centre of the pond.
The splash was rather spectacular. Some of the water splashed her face, completely pulling her out of her daydream state. It was only then that she truly landed in the realm of mortals. There she was, unmoving, with her black rubber flip-flops half buried in the mud, mesmerised by the waves that radiated from the point where the rock had fallen. The calm had broken. The water was no longer crystalline; a cloud of mud had tinted it with opaque and brownish tones. It wasn’t until the waves completely disappeared that the old woman spoke again.
“Did you see the ripples that the stone created? The splash generated two sets of waves: one of concentric rings moving outwards towards the shore, and another one of contracting rings that became smaller and smaller.”
“Contracting rings? I didn’t see those, Mama.”
“Nor do you see the roots of the trees; that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The trees need to grow towards the depths of the Earth just as they grow towards the sky or the slightest breeze would topple them. But, my dear sister, do you know why I asked you to toss the stone?”
“It is important that you listen carefully and that you try to visualise and remember this.”
Kusi frowned in concentration. She squinted, as if she were trying to see an object in the distance. Her gaze was penetrating. Her jet-black eyes wanted to miss no detail. And if her ears had known how to move, they would have opened up like the wings of a butterfly in order to better capture the old woman’s words. Seeing that she had the girl’s full attention, the woman decided to go on with her explanation.
“Do you remember the experience you had a moment ago in the cave? What you saw was Creation, the entire Universe, beating. You perceived it in an instant, but the stone in the lagoon shows you what it would have been like to see it pulsate.”
“What would that be like, Mama?”
“Imagine the void. It is not like the crystalline lagoon that you saw at the beginning, where there was water, nor a place with space and time that can vibrate and pulsate; those are all something. It needs to be a place that isn’t even a place.”
“Alright. I am trying.”
“Very good. Now visualise the primordial tone emerging, like a seed of Creation.”
“Yes. It emerges like a ring, which, at first, produces a low and deep tone. But then the ring begins to contract inwards and expand outwards, changing from a ring into a doughnut.”
“Like the ones we eat at the festival on All Saints’ Day, and place on the altar the next day as an offering to our dead?”
“Exactly, the ones you eat with little meringue biscuits called suspiros (sighs). The suspiros symbolise the breath formed by the Creator’s sigh, while the doughnuts represent what has been created.”
“It is a doughnut shape that expands with each beat and then contracts until it turns back into a ring,” continued the old lady. “Then it disappears for an instant before pulsating again. As the doughnut expands, the primordial tone becomes more and more high-pitched. As it contracts, the pitch becomes deeper.”
“When I saw that big doughnut, it wasn’t beating, Mama.”
“Of course not. It takes billions of years to complete each throb, and you were only watching it for one moment of its huge cycle of expansion. But didn’t you see how the energy flowed from the inner circle to the outer? It flowed to the beat of the ‘Oooooh’ with which you merged.”
“Yes it did! It emanated from the centre towards the edge, like a fountain of bright energy. But the outer edge seemed to me to be rather square.”
“Of course, like the Chakana. Your ancestors saw the Upper World, the outer world, as square. It symbolises the very top of the Tree of Life. There we find the great cycles: the stars, the galaxies, the groups of galaxies, the clusters, the filaments, the superclusters... They also saw the World Below, the inner world, as circular, symbolising the roots of that great tree. There we find the shorter cycles, the higher frequencies, and the highest frequency of all: the primordial, found in everything. Meanwhile this intermediate reality in which you live is the bridge between the two worlds.
“Oh, Mama, what a special experience to have been able to see the Great Tree, the Chakana, in all its immensity! I can’t wait for the moment when I can return to see it again.”
“Little one, you and all human beings enjoy that experience every night. The problem is that you identify so strongly with your mind that, when it rests, you fall unconscious, deep into that state that human beings call ‘deep sleep’. But it is precisely that time that you spend each night, united with the Totality, listening to the Noccan Kani, that allows you to wake the next morning, rested and ready to begin a new day.”
“Oh, Mamita! It was the sweetness of the flavour entering my mouth that finally dragged me back to the intermediate world, depriving me of the experience.”
“Of course. That sweetness activated your mind and your mind once again drew the veil over your eyes, hiding from you the true identity of the Self. But if you had watched that image for eons, you would have seen it reach its point of maximum expansion, then watched the primordial tone deepening, the energy flowing in the opposite direction, and the universe contracting. And so it would continue until it disappeared, and in that instant there would be no time and no space. Creation would have been reabsorbed into the matrix of all energy, only to emerge again as a new throb.”
“But that’s like starting all over again from nothing!” protested Kusi.
“Is that what your heart thinks when it beats? If the heart thought that way, the body to which it gives life would only live for one beat. Remember that the heart was the first organ to form in the foetus, and from it flourished the rest of the body with all of the remaining organs. Just like the heart, the Universe is no more than an organ beating in a much greater body, and to inject life into that body, it must keep beating. But you are neither the heartbeat nor the heart that beats nor the body to which the heart gives life. You are the immutable Self. You are beyond time and space, so it makes no sense to ask what comes next or if this is all there is. You already are what you seek and you never stopped being it.”
“Noccan Kani, I am what I am,” said Kusi.
After that, Kusi remained pensive. What the old woman had just told her was irrefutable. It was not an explanation based on a hypothesis and used to construct a theory. Nor was the revelation one to be accepted unquestioningly and turned into a dogma, shaped into a religion and used as an instrument of control. Nor was it a miraculous story, narrated to be understood by others as fact, giving birth to a myth. It was neither science nor religion nor mythology. But what was it? thought Kusi.
“Music, little one. Everything I am telling you is nothing more than music played by a very special instrument. It is an instrument we can tune by making it vibrate in harmony with the primordial tone and in sync with the rhythms of the Universe. Any object, when struck, can produce either music or noise. That is why you name any object that generates harmony when played a ‘musical instrument’. And all of us, absolutely all of us, have an instrument that we have tuned and perfected through the course of many lives so that it can play a celestial melody. Do you know what it is I speak of?”
“The soul, Mama. The instrument is the soul and the player: the Self.”
THE GLYPHS THAT the old woman had shown her so far stemmed from the complementarity that is created by combining the different natural elements, like Water with Air or Earth with Fire. It is complementarity that gives rise to the landscape: the dust carried by the wind, the cloud of smoke emerging from the volcano, and the spring that bubbles up between the rocks. It’s the river that flows down the mountainside, the mist that transforms into clouds, and the clouds that make the rain. It’s the cave where we take shelter, and, lest we forget that human beings are also creators, it’s the cauldron in which we cook the soup that gives us nourishment.
But complementarity is also found wherever we have different expressions of the same element. It happens when two souls, one whose nature contains an element in abundance, and one within whom that same element is scarce, decide to join together to create something new, thus forming communicating vessels that help to rebalance the expression of that element in both of them. This is how nature reaches the state of homoeostasis, or dynamic equilibrium. It’s also how souls find each other again and again; to learn through the interactions with the other. In the Andean world this is called yanantin, and the old woman was about to explain how it can be achieved.
“You told me that you played the siku,” she said.
In Aymara, the word siku means ‘the pipe that makes sound.’ In Quechua, it is called an antara. Both the siku and the antara are panpipes: instruments made up of several pipes cut to varying lengths to produce different musical notes. The musical style associated with these instruments is called sikuri, and it usually includes the rhythmic boom of an accompaniment played on a bass drum or snare drum.
“Do you know why the siku is usually accompanied by a bass drum?” the woman asked.
“It’s because the siku, being a wind instrument, connects us with the world above, with Hanan Pacha. The bass drum, as a percussion instrument, connects us with Ukhu Pacha, the inner-world deep within the Earth crust. The former is an expression of the element of Air, while the latter is connected to the element of Earth.”
“I didn’t know that musical instruments were also related to the elements,” said Kusi.
“Everything, little sister, absolutely everything, is related to the elements. Remember, they are the notes of the symphony of life.”
“Which instruments are connected to the other two elements, I wonder?”
“Well, musical instruments with strings that are bowed, like the violin, or plucked, like the harp, belong to the element of Water. Whereas those with keys, whether wind instruments like the accordion or the organ, or percussion instruments like the piano, correspond to the element of Fire. So do all electronic ones.”
“Does that mean that the melody made by the the siku and the bass drum together combines Air with Earth?”
“That’s right. And because the siku leads while the percussion follows, that melody is paired with the glyph for Dust. That’s why sikuri is the perfect musical style for helping us find inspiration, and discover the hidden meaning of things.
“Oh, Mama! ‘Discovery’ is the main archetype of Dust! I never imagined that the glyphs and their archetypes could also apply to music.”
“But of course they can! For example, what do you think happens when it is the percussion instrument that leads, while the wind instrument accompanies it?”
“Then we would have Earth above Air, which makes the glyph of the Cave. If introspection is the main archetype of the Cave, does that mean that, played together, the siku and the drum help us to undertake that inner journey?”
“Of course, little sister. In that case, we would no longer be listening to sikuri; we would be setting out on a Shamanic journey. That is what we call a journey deep into the Underworld, where we are carried by the rhythmic drumming at four beats per second. Once we have entered this realm beneath the Earth’s crust, the melodious sound of the siku, or of a flute like the quena, helps us to find a way into the upper world. As the shaman knows, to reach the Upper World we must first enter into the Underworld, just as to reach the top of the great tree of life we must begin at the roots.”
This last observation reminded Kusi of what she had experienced in the cave, where the old woman had first taken her to visit the Underworld. Inside the cave, she had found herself in the darkest place she had ever known. It was only after she had begun to feel compassion for the disembodied souls that dwelt in that dark place that the gates of Heaven were opened up to her, and she was able to reach the Upper World from where she could observe the entire Universe pulsating. Her recollection was interrupted by the old woman, who remarked,
“I see that your siku is the arkiri (follower).”
“Yes, Mama. My dad plays the ira, and I the arca.”
It is said that Aymara women played the siku while they were coming down from the mountains, as a way of honouring Mother Earth. The full instrument is made up of thirteen pipes, covering almost two octaves of the musical scale. But that siku, with its thirteen pipes, was too heavy for them to carry along with their children, their harvested crops and all the rest of their belongings. So, faithful to the ancient Andean art of complementarity, they decided to split the siku into two rows of pipes. The result was two variations of the same instrument: the ira, which leads, and the arca, which follows. The notes are arranged to alternate perfectly, so that if the lowest note is the D of the arca, the next lowest would be the E of the ira, followed by the F of the arca, the G of the ira, and so on right up to the B of the next octave on the ira. In this way, the arca and the ira between them cover almost two whole octaves.
This arrangement of the notes in an interlocking pattern demands that the two should be played in partnership, or, if there is a group of musicians, that the number of iras should equal the number of arcas. This way, some of the players can take a breath while the others continue to play, and so the melody never ceases to flow. Even so, it’s not as easy as it sounds. For the music to flow without interruption, the players’ sense of timing must be faultless. As the Aymara say, there must be jjaktasina irampi arcampi (harmony between the ira and the arca).
When she was younger, Kusi used to play sikuri with her dad. She would make up her part on the arca as they went along while her dad would play the ira. This way of playing is called requintear. The arca improvises a musical pattern to accompany the ira, which leads, and so Kusi’s dad would play the tune while she played along by ear. But, ever since she left home to go to school, she had to be happy with improvising on her own, devising melodies using only the notes of the arca.
“Do you see, my little sister, how this instrument holds all the wisdom of your Quechua and Aymara ancestors?”
“What do you mean, Mama?”
“Well, first they separated what had been a single musical instrument, the siku with its thirteen pipes, into two halves. But in doing so they didn’t make two instruments exactly the same (masintin), because they understood that union is not achieved through sameness but through difference. They created two complementary instruments (yanantin), which they called the ira and the arca. Once these two instruments came to be, to achieve complementarity the ira would have to take the lead and the arca would have to follow.”
“That’s right, my dad used to set the pace while I followed him, but now I’m in Paucartambo for most of the year, so I hardly ever see him,” the girl said.
“Of course, there are some people who think that the arca player, being the follower, must bow to the will of the ira, which has the upper hand, but that isn’t true. As you know, when the follower is improvising the accompaniment, the leader has to keep to the predetermined melody - `but the follower can play freely, as long as they remain within the limits defined by the tune. Do you see? The player who leads must stick to the theme, while the follower is free to be spontaneous. This is what creates balance. Can you tell me, though, what inspired your ancestors to create such a harmonious pairing?”
“It was the loom. The two instruments are like the warp and weft of a woven cloth. The warp made up of the lengthwise threads that are fixed very firmly to the loom. Because the warp is held in tension throughout the process of weaving, the thread must be very sturdy. That’s what makes the cloth strong, as well as providing direction for the weft.”
“Just like the ira, guiding the arca!” cried the girl excitedly.
“Exactly. “And, like the ira, the warp must abide by the limits established by the loom, because it is the loom that holds the thread fast and gives it strength. The weft, on the other hand, shouldn’t be taut but loose, so that the cloth is pliable and won’t easily tear. That means its threads don’t need to be so strong; but it’s the weft that gives colour and pattern to the cloth. It can improvise and be creative, adding character and expression, just like the arca.”
“I understand, Mama.”
“Do you see how, once again, we find this balance between complements? One is strong, and dominates, but it is bound by the limits set by something higher; the melody, in the case of the ira; or the loom, in the case of the warp. The other follows, but it has the freedom to be creative. It’s the arca that makes every melody unique and unrepeatable; and the weft that gives the cloth its pattern and colour. In the same way, there is complementarity between men and women. To the Andean people, a man without a woman is like an ira without its arca, or a warp without its weft. He is a song that is missing half its notes, a collection of warp threads fixed to a loom but without a weft to unite and enliven them. At the same time, a woman without her masculine counterpart is like an arca without its ira, a weft without its warp. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Mama.” Kusi understood very well.
“In much the same way, two expressions of the same element can be combined with each other; but not if they are equal in intensity, because then there would be no complementarity, only repetition. We need to pay attention to the differences between them, so that through these differences we can achieve the complementarity that we seek.”
“We need to separate them, just like the Aymara women separated the siku,” said Kusi, so that the old woman would know that she was following her reasoning.
“Just like that. We can distinguish them by observing the abundance or scarcity of the element, being mindful that the traits that result from abundance should complement those that arise from scarcity. This imbalance will cause one who possesses an element in abundance to seek out the complementarity of another in whom it is scarce.”
“I understand, Mama. But how does this abundance or scarcity appear in the different elements?”
“That I will explain tomorrow; now it is getting late.”
The old woman knew that Kusi only had two more nights in the mountains before she would have to return to her family. For the girl, taking the alpacas up to the pastures was a chance to be alone and learn about herself. This was the second summer that she had brought the herd up the mountain to graze, sleeping outside with them at night. Because the secondary school at Challabamba was too far away for her to travel there every day, when she turned fourteen her parents let her go to live with her Aunt Gloria, in Paucartambo. That was almost a year ago, and next week would be Kusi’s fifteenth birthday. She was almost a grown woman now.
During that first year in Paucartambo, far away from her parents, Kusi had got used to doing as she pleased. To begin with she would go home every weekend, but, after about six months, her busy social life almost always kept her in the capital of the province. Now that she had come home for the holidays, she was eager for any excuse to regain the independence she enjoyed during term time. Taking the alpacas up to the pastures gave her just the opportunity and excuse she needed.
The rainy season was a time of lushness. The pastures were green and teeming with sweet grass. They were mostly found above a height of about 3500 metres, whereas the community was located further down the mountainside. Moving at alpaca pace, it took a whole day to reach them. Two days of walking, one to get there and the other to get back, plus three days up in the pasture; that was the agreement that Kusi had made with her parents.
She couldn’t wait to finish secondary school, and she dreamed of studying in Cusco, where she would surely be able to live with one relative or another. She had no shortage of family. Her Uncle Ezequiel ran a travel agency, and amongst other destinations, he organised expeditions to Manú National Park. The previous summer, her uncle had let her come along on one of these expeditions, and he had promised her that if she learned English and studied tourism, she could come and work with him. But Kusi wanted more than this. She didn’t just want to attend to the needs of travellers; her true desire was to become a traveller herself.
The old woman and the girl ate their evening meal, and then lay down to sleep. Because the ground was dry, they could sleep outside. It was a clear night, with hardly any thunderclouds; unusual for the end of January. All Kusi could see was a thick layer of mist, covering the forest like a blanket. The forest stretched out towards the east, and so, if she was lucky, she would see sun rise above this blanket of mist, without any thunderclouds to obscure it.
Just then, she remembered what her uncle Ezequiel had once told her: “If you fly in an aeroplane, you can watch the sun rise from above the clouds, like watching the dawn from Tres Cruces.” Where Kusi was now was only a few miles from Tres Cruces. The place where the women were camped offered an equally spectacular sunrise, but because no vehicles could reach it, only the local people knew about it. It was their own secret spot, accessible from the pastures to the west or via a path that descended to the forest to the east.
KUSI AWOKE well after midnight. It must have been just after three o’clock in the morning. The old woman was nowhere to be seen. Nor could Kusi see Mother Moon, who had just tucked herself in behind the high mountains rising in the west, after Orion, the flying imp, had given her chicha to ensure a restful sleep. With our nocturnal mother fast asleep after drinking the chicha, and with no clouds other than the thick, low layer that blanketed the rainforest, Mayu ― the great river of stars that we call the Milky Way ― stood out clearly against the sky.
“That’s the great river that the dead must cross, and along whose banks we return to be reborn,” Kusi’s father had told her once.
Towards the end of January, just after dawn, Mayu crosses the horizon from the south-east to the south-west, forming a great arc with the Chakana constellation at its crest, like the cherry on top of a vast cosmic cake. Next to Mayu was Hamp’atu, the toad, and Yutu, the partridge. Kusi recognised them because her father had told her about them more than once. Unlike the Chakana, which is a constellation of stars, the toad and the partridge are dark constellations — clouds of cosmic dust.
All three lay to the exact south, while towards the west was Mach’acuay, the two-headed snake: another cosmic dust cloud, long, slender and kindred to the rainbow. A little further to the east, Kusi could see Yacama, the black llama, with her cria.
At that latitude, the two llamas begin to appear along the horizon at the start of the rainy season. First, the mother’s head emerges, with its two huge eyes (Alfa and Beta Centauri) closely watching us. By the time that their bodies can be clearly seen, the wet season has reached its peak. This is how the sky lets us know that, while the masculine water we call rain is fertilising the fields, the male llamas are fertilising the females, just shortly after the birth of the crias conceived during the last wet season, eleven months earlier.
“Both mother and cria will vanish around April, when the dry season starts,” Kusi’s father told her once, “but until the rains stop, they will come down every night to drink from the waters of Mother Lake, also called the ocean. If they did not do this, sea levels would rise again, just like they did in the past, and half the world would end up underwater. It’s how they keep the cosmic water in balance, to prevent the Unu Pachakuti: the cataclysm of water. They keep an eye on us, and come down to Earth to prevent the cosmic balance from being disturbed, but only to the extent that we ourselves are able to maintain that same balance here, in the Middle World.”
All of this wisdom, passed down orally from generation to generation through legends, flooded back into Kusi’s memory now as she gazed at this magical scene once again.
“Look at the fox, Atoq; you can just see him peeking out!” her father had said, to make the little girl pay attention when he saw that her sleepy eyes were beginning to close. His tail is black because it got wet during the last cataclysm of water. The fox that you can see now, trailing behind the llama, the partridge, the toad and the snake, once marched in front of them all. At that time, the river was much narrower. It was Pariacaca who widened it, and he asked the animals to come and sweep the floor of the aqueduct. The fox wanted to be up ahead of all the other animals, so he could direct the work. But, suddenly, a partridge took to the air and flew off with a high-pitched squawk. Startled, the fox let out a bark and fell, tumbling down towards the ground. The other animals became angry and decided to let the snake go forward and take the lead. They say that if the fox hadn’t fallen, the aqueduct would have been higher, instead of following the lower path it takes now. The place where the fox fell is still plain to see, right where the water comes down,” Kusi’s father had told her, pointing towards the south-east.
“But Dad, I’m not a baby anymore!” Kusi protested, thinking that her father was telling her a bedtime story. At the time, Kusi had just turned twelve years old.
“No, child, these aren’t just tall tales. They are part of the knowledge that comes to us from the distant past. This wisdom has been recorded in legends, so that it will outlive the knowledge held in books.”
Just behind the fox lies the centre of our galaxy, a tangle of stars where the constellations of Sagittarius and Scorpio meet. But, just as before, Kusi was only able to enjoy the sight of the straggling fox for a few minutes, because soon Father Sun was dawning right behind him. Taita Inti, the star at the centre of our solar system, was now rising up above that blanket of cloud that often hung over the rainforest, draping the sky in a mantle of lights. For Kusi, this was the closest thing she knew to flying — gazing on the clouds from up above.
Just a few minutes later, it was impossible to see any stars at all. Their faint light had been hidden by a veil of yellow, orange and blue, which tinted the low clouds with red.
“What a shame Mamasita isn’t here with me to watch Father Sun come up!” Kusi thought plaintively.
She didn’t have the slightest idea where the old woman could be. Perhaps she had slipped away while Kusi was still asleep, or perhaps she hadn’t slept at all. All Kusi could remember was falling asleep, exhausted, while she was looking at the Moon, with the Orion constellation just behind — both at their zenith, right in the middle of the chicha celebration. But some hours had passed between then and now.
After a little while, as if she had heard the girl’s wish to share this moment with her, the old woman reappeared. Kusi didn’t ask her where she had been, nor if she had slept. They simply smiled at each other while the old woman sat down beside her to enjoy what remained of the sunrise. Just then, an event occurred that is only seen when certain very specific circumstances align: the Sun appeared to double, as if there were really two suns in the sky.
“You know, Father Sun actually has a sister,” the old woman said, once the optical illusion had passed and Taita Inti was blazing out with his usual fervour over the layer of cloud that still covered the rainforest.
“No, Mama, I had no idea.”
“Well, he does. They dance together.”
[Gif image of a binary system]
“Who is his sister? Please, show her to me,” Kusi begged, pointing up at the sky.
“You can’t see her yet, because she is far away and her light is very faint, but you will see her before too long. And did you know that, just as all children like to stay close to their mothers, they don’t stray very far from theirs? She is that star that your ancestors called Willka Wara, the Sacred Star, but which really is made up of three stars: one very bright, one very dense and a third that is very small. That’s where the amaru runa come from — those wise men and women whose knowledge gave birth to a new humanity at the beginning of this world. Two of them, Mánco Cápac and Mama Ocllo, visited us to help the human world in the aftermath of the great floods.”
“Unu Pachakuti?” asked Kusi, surprised to hear the old woman mention this event, which the two celestial llamas and the fox had brought to her own mind just a few minutes ago.
“Yes, little sister, what others refer to as the Great Flood, and what your ancestors called the Cataclysm (Pachakuti) of Water (Unu).”
“But Mama, is Willka Wara not the star they call Sirius?”
“Yes, that’s right. Father Sun and his sister move around the star called Sirius. All of them belong to the tributary of a great river. The tributary is called the Orion Spur, and the main river is the Sagittarius Arm, which flows out into a large opening, called a black hole. There they meet the waters from other rivers, forming whirlpools, before they plunge down into the Underworld, located at the Centre of the Galaxy.”
“Yes. You can’t see that opening from here, because Atoq, the cosmic fox, is standing in front of it.”
“And where do all those waters end up?”
“They come out in another place, to rejoin the waters from many other rivers, that is, clusters and superclusters of galaxies, which form oceans of stars called galactic filaments.”
Kusi was awestruck by what the old woman had just told her. This is known as fractal reality, although it was not a term that the girl had ever heard; nor was it part of the woman’s vocabulary.
“Do you see, little sister? Everything is in motion, whether it’s rotating all by itself, revolving around something else or pulsating. This motion can be found in the tiniest particle right through to the vast Universe itself, because without movement there is no Creation. That’s what the Wind glyph tells us, do you remember?”
“Yes, Mama. That glyph reminds us that motion is driven by desire, but when we are content, we are able to remain still.”
“Exactly, and since they are opposites, motion and stillness alternate, because even in the beating of your heart or the pulsating of the entire universe there is always a moment of stillness, a brief pause just at the point of furthest expansion, before the next contraction begins.”
The old woman held out both of her arms for Kusi to grasp, and together they began to spin like children around the still-steaming embers of last night’s camp fire. As they danced, the old woman began to pull Kusi towards her by drawing in both hands, before relaxing her arms to let her swing back, tracing a kind of dance of creation. Their eyes locked together and both began to laugh out loud, shrieking with excitement, as Andean people do when they dance to the rhythm of life.
After a short while, the old woman begged Kusi to stop for the sake of her heart, which just wasn’t up to that sort of thing. Panting, she sat down on a huge rock that stood just to one side, while Kusi, her beaming smile undiminished by the physical exertion, lay down at her feet. The woman reached out to her again, this time with both palms facing the sky, and Kusi guessed that she wanted her to take them in her own hands. Looking into each other’s eyes, they joined hands. Kusi could feel the warmth of her wrinkled hands, lined by the passing of time, and their smooth, silky skin, used to stroking flower petals and cradling resting butterflies.
“I need you to remember that opposites naturally alternate,” the woman said in a serious voice, her eyes still fixed on the girl’s. “In order to reach balance between two opposites, we must accept that they naturally take turn about, instead of clinging on to one state ― the one that suits us better ― at the expense of the other.”
“Do you mean that we can’t always expect to live in abundance, without also having to experience scarcity, as the Cauldron glyph tells us? Or hope that everything will always keep flowing, without also stagnating every now and then, as the River glyph tells us?”
“Exactly! In the same way that we cannot expect union to last forever, as is taught by the Steam glyph, or to always keep our strength, which is the message of the Stone glyph. Remember: the scarcity that forces us to beg; the sense of being stuck and unable to move forwards; the yearning for the loved ones we have left behind; or the need to face our own vulnerabilities — these are the things that make us human and give us opportunities for spiritual growth.
“That’s why we must always embrace both opposites, instead of longing for change, because that would be living in the future; or resisting it, to then live in the past. Opposition calls on us to live only in the present, embracing the new experiences that every moment brings.”
“I understand, Mama. Resisting change would be like pretending that it is always daytime.”
“That’s right. If the Earth stopped turning on its axis, and it was always day on our side of the planet, we would burn up from the heat, while the other side froze. The temperature difference would give rise to very strong winds that would tear through the atmosphere, and all life would disappear from the surface of this planet.”
“Will that really happen one day?”
“Of course, little sister. Remember — motion alternates. One day, even the Earth itself will lose the momentum that keeps it spinning. When that happens, the same side will always turn towards the Sun, just like we only ever see one side of the Moon. On that day, the planet will die, but that won’t be the end. It will just mean a transition to something else.”
“Do opposites always alternate, then?”
“Yes. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be opposites. An opposite must always meet three conditions: it must be the negation of the thing itself; it must be proportional to that thing, that is, of equal importance; and it must alternate with it. Where you find a negation of something that is not proportional and doesn’t alternate with it, then either it is not a true opposite or the two things are out of balance.”
“But if it isn’t an opposite, what is it?”
“A false opposite. I’m going to give you an example, but you will need to think in one of the languages that came here from young Europe, like Spanish for example. Don’t try to do it in Quechua; it won’t work. So, tell me: what is the negation of the real?”
“The unreal, that is, the imaginary, fictional or illusory. That which is created by a mirage, a dream or a fantasy.”
“Very good. And tell me, do the imaginary and the real ever alternate?”
“No. Things are either real or imaginary. If they are real, they exist, and if they are imaginary, they don’t.”
“And are they proportional?”
“No. The real is surely more important than the imaginary.”
“You see, little sister, it is important that you decolonise your mind.”
“What do you mean by that, Mama?”
“If two supposed opposites are not of equal importance and they do not alternate, then they can only offer an imperfect definition of the thing they seek to describe.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“Tell me, what is the opposite of the reality that your mind perceives when you are awake?”
“The things I imagine in my dreams.”
“And do they alternate?”
“Yes, because I am either awake or dreaming.”
“Not you, because the Self is always present. It is your mind that is either present or absent. When it is awake, it can be turned either outwards or inwards. When it is turned outwards, it means it is projecting the world you called ‘reality’. When it is turned inwards, it is projecting that other world you called ‘dreams’. But when it is absent, it isn’t projecting anything and you fall into what you called deep sleep.”
“What does that mean, Mama?”
“It means that Consciousness alternates between two sets of opposites, one nested within the other. One set alternates between the conscious reality we experience when we are awake and that other reality of dreams. In both states, there is movement. It is a movement of the mind projecting either outwards or inwards, as the Cave glyph teaches us. However, this opposition is nested within another, in which the two states of movement alternate with the stillness of deep sleep, as the Wind glyph teaches us.”
“Are you saying that imaginary things are also real?”
“Let go of the belief that the ‘imaginary’ is ‘unreal’, because that does nothing but limit the potential of your mind. Imagination exists as the reality of dreams, a reality that your mind can dip into when you are projecting it towards the inner world. That’s what the Cave glyph tells you. The mind alternates between the movement of these two states and the stillness of deep sleep.”
“Like the air, Mama, that is in motion outside the cave, in the form of wind, but motionless inside it!”
“That’s right. So, your mind shifts between these three states: consciousness, when you are awake, subconsciousness, when you are dreaming, and the unconscious state of deep sleep. In the first two states, the mind is in motion, whereas in the third it is like the air inside the cave. Then, for most people, every time they change state there is a break in consciousness.”
“What do you mean by that, Mama?”
“I mean that, when the physical body falls asleep, causing the mind to project itself inwards, you forget that just an instant before you were in that other, external world — and you pass into the internal world of dreams without the same level of awareness that you had when you were awake. The two realities are distinct, and when you are in one of them, you are blind to the other — just as Father Sun and his sister are so far apart that now you cannot even see her.”
“Does that mean that, if one day we do see her, then the two realities will be united?”
“When both stars are close enough that you can see her, too, then you will be able to pass between the subconscious reality of dreams and the conscious reality of wakefulness without breaking the flow of your consciousness. Your ancestors called this puñuq, the art of dreaming. This bridge will last for twelve thousand years, and after that time the two states of consciousness will split apart again, just at the point when the two stars are drawing apart. After another twelve thousand years, they will unite once again.”
“And the third state?”
“To maintain your consciousness in the third state, when the mind sleeps, you must connect with your true nature, the Inca within, called the Self — because while you identify yourself only with your mind, every time it falls asleep you will lose consciousness. At a global level, this union between the three states is only achieved once every hundred thousand years or so, when the Sun and his sister are not only closest to each other, but also to Sirius.”
“When will that happen?” asked Kusi, looking excited.
“Not for another fifty thousand years. At the moment, both stars are as far away from Sirius as they can be. That means that the first two states, conscious and subconscious, must be joined and separated twice more; when they join for the third time, they will also be united with the third state – the unconscious.”
“But Mama! I don’t want to wait that long!” the girl protested.
“You don’t have to wait for this union to happen at a collective level. You can reach it on your own, and then you will be reborn into one of the many worlds where it has already come to pass. To do that, you must make harmony out of duality, and complementarity out of opposition; that will allow you to bring them together. That’s what the Steam glyph teaches you, remember?”
“Well then, the first duality that you must harmonise is the one that leads you to believe that the imaginary is unreal, because that belief creates an opposition with the real. You must come to understand the imaginary as a world that complements conscious reality. You will know that you are getting close when you start to be aware of what is happening in your dreams.”
“And to reach the third state?”
“For that, you must stop reducing your identity to the mind, and connect with the Inca within. That’s exactly why I am showing you the Art of Finding Yourself — so that you can see yourself for who you really are: the Self. One by one, you need to keep harmonising each of the dualities defined by the four elements. If you can do that, you will be able to harmonise the duality defined by the fifth element: the duality between love and hate. We’re going to be talking about all of this today.”
Kusi looked thoughtful. Suddenly, words like ‘illusory’, ‘imaginary’ or ‘unreal’ no longer made much sense. Everything became real — the world of ideas as well as the world of things — and life seemed newly filled with magic. Anything became possible, erasing the notion of ‘impossible’ from her vocabulary.
“That’s another word that no longer makes sense,” thought Kusi. “Even though the impossible is the negation of the possible, they are not opposites, because they don’t alternate. But does that mean that nothing is impossible, and everything is possible?”
The old woman laughed as again she saw exactly what Kusi was thinking, and said,
“The Apu did a good job this morning.”
“Why do you say that, Mama?”
“In the short time it has taken us to have our breakfast, they have covered the sky with thunderclouds.”
The morning had dawned with clear skies, except for the blanket of low cloud overhanging the rainforest. Just a few hours later, however, the sky was overcast again. Science, in all its knowledge, still doesn’t know how clouds are formed. Scientists know that they are made of condensed water vapour, but not what causes the vapour to condense into clouds. For the old woman, the answer was plain: often, it was the Apu, the mountain spirits, who gathered up that translucent moisture to spin a ball of white fluff, which, like a wispy flock of cotton wool, rose up to the sky. Other types of clouds came about through different means. The blanket of low cloud that still enveloped the forest, for example — that was woven by the trees and the plants. These thoughts prompted the old woman to say:
“There are so many things that people still don’t know about, because the magic has been stripped away from life. Modern society has forgotten that everything is conscious, and that this consciousness is expressed through movement. This lack of understanding has led them to come up with a whole lot of new concepts, by negating others, that keep them trapped in duality and limit human potential. I spoke to you about the word ‘unreal’, and you came up with another one yourself: the ‘impossible’, as the negation of the ‘possible’. But now I’m going to suggest a third one to you: the ‘inanimate’, as the negation of the ‘animate’, and, at a deeper level, the negation of the soul.”
“Negation of the soul?!” Kusi exclaimed, taken aback.
“Yet again, we are talking about the view of the world that came to you from young Europe. ‘Animate’ comes from ‘anima’, which means ‘breath’ or ‘soul’ in Latin. For modern science, mountains are inanimate objects, yet it was their breath that in the last two hours created the clouds that now fill the sky. They are not objects, but beings, and they are indeed animate; it’s just that they move much more slowly than we do. Mountains are the daughters of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. They grow as a result of the tension that builds up between tectonic plates, and age through the action of the wind and the rain. To me, that is movement. But, since a year in the life of a mountain is equivalent to several million years from the point of view of a human being, many people think that mountains are inanimate. What do they expect? That they will start dancing before their very eyes? A particle that lives for only an instant would likewise see you as inanimate, but that doesn’t mean that you are a statue, or that you have no soul.”
Andean culture never forgot that mountains were imbued with life, soul and consciousness, and so the Andean people knew to respect them as the powerful beings that they are. All of this seemed obvious and natural to Kusi. Having had very little exposure to that other way of thinking that had come from young Europe, it was in fact the idea that there were people who saw mountains as mere lumps of earth and rock that surprised her the most.
“Mamita, you have told me all about complementarity and opposition, and before that you seemed to link both of them through the idea of duality. Can you explain some more what you mean by duality?”
Your contribution helps me continue narrating Kusi’s adventures and to have them translated to English.
They also help to fund Wise Trees, a network of centres that run on reciprocity, where volunteers are provided with meals and accomodation, plus workshops, in exchange of four hours volunteering work a day.
The first Wise Tree centre is located in W Tree, Victoria. Click here to read more about it.
Follow the updates on Facebook:
What is the Art of Finding Our Selves? It is the art of rediscovering our true nature. We are musicians in the symphony of life. The universe is the music, the soul is the instrument and we are the musicians. The art brought in these series of books tries to recover the old knowledge on how to tune this instrument, our soul, so that its melody becomes harmonious again.
Where the name of this art comes from? During the late European Middle Ages, in the land of Occitania and Catalonia an art was conceived called the Art of Trobar, also known as the troubadour’s art of songs. From it were born the Floral Games, a poetry competition in which the winner received a rose as a prize. In the Catalan and Occitan languages «trobar» originally meant ‘to compose’ but then, with the troubadours, the word acquired its current meaning: ‘to find’. What were they looking for that had to be found? They were searching for perfection of the soul and for this reason they sang to the Lady. They were like the flower and the song used as weapons by the Toltec warrior in their fight against the ‘small self’. With their songs, the troubadour and the wise Toltec attempt to transcend their ego in order to reintegrate with Spirit. And who is that Lady which the troubadours fell in love with, deserving of such praise and songs? She was not a woman of flesh and bone. She was, and still is, the Mother to us all ― the feminine incarnation of the Divine. The Lady has been called by many names throughout history, one of which is Pyrene.
Legend has it that, on seeing her father dethroned by Geryon, the giant with three heads, Princess Pyrene fled in an attempt to hide. Geryon, seeking the Princess’ death, set the forest on fire and this caught the attention of Hercules who was nearby fighting the giants of Provence and Roussillon. When Hercules went to contain the fire, he found the dying Princess. He fell in love with her, but on witnessing her death, his despair was such that he gathered together large rocks to build her a mausoleum. This led to the formation of the Pyrenees.
That all took place a long time ago, when humans were still living alongside a race of giants and others such as the «capgrossos» (people with large heads). These can still be seen in the parades which take place during the town festivals of Catalonia and the Basque Country, two nations at either end of the Pyrenees. The memory of that time is also preserved in place names. For example, the giant Geryon gave the city of Girona its name.
Several millennia later at the height of the era of the troubadours, Girona, along with Provence, would experience a rebirth of the Jewish Kabbalah. Meanwhile, in Languedoc, a land that lies between them, Catharism spread. Catharism was a doctrine greatly influenced by Christian Gnosticism and Kabbalah. The Cathars rejected the material world, they were vegetarians who lived together in communities and they knew about transmigration of the soul after death, its reincarnation from one body to another until the moment of final liberation.
L’Art de Trobarse is therefore the art of finding ourselves. It is a pun, given that the language of the troubadours facilitates semantic and phonetic word play whereby each word acquires at least two meanings: an obvious one and the other symbolic or hidden. This was how the troubadours protected themselves from the Inquisition, which was founded in 1184 with the specific mandate of stamping out the heresy of the Cathars and the freethinking of the Troubadours.
The word heretic comes from ‘hairesis’, a Greek term meaning ‘to choose’. The Inquisition used it to refer to all those who deviated from the Roman doctrine; in other words, those who dared to choose. While in the Pyrenees, a heretic is someone who lives in the mountains in close communion with Nature. It was a lifestyle that those fleeing persecution were forced to adopt. However, the local people did not see them as blasphemous heretics, but rather as refugees of bigotry. And thus for the Cathars, Rome was another play on words, another pun, given that the name of the imperial city (Roma) reads like love (amor in Occitan and Catalan) when spelled backwards.
The Art de Trobar was also called Gai Saber (the Gay Science), yet another play on words. The word ‘gay’ means ‘joy’, which for those who understood its meaning only on a superficial level, took it for courtly love. However, the joy which this Science or Knowledge brings us is not as ephemeral or fleeting as it may seem; rather, it refers to the joy brought by the communion with the Divine. So that the real meaning of the word is not forgotten, I bring you the protagonist of the story, Kusi, which in Quechuan language means ‘joy’. Gaya (Gaia) also has a third meaning―It is the name given to Mother Earth by the Ancient Greeks, the goddess that the Iberian Druids called Pyrene, the Lady of those that did not forget that Nature is also an expression of divinity. Thus, the Art of Trobar allowed insiders to praise the Mother Goddess without raising the suspicions of the Inquisition.
How the Andean world calls that Lady to whom the troubadours secretly sang their praises? How do they address that Lady for which so many European women were burned in the fires of bigotry? As goddess and mother to us all, the Andeans call her Pachamama. Pacha means ‘cosmos’ or ‘space’, but also time, whilst mama is the name for ‘mother’ in the language used by all children, for it is the first sound we learn to utter. As babies, our mouths were trained to pronounce it whilst breastfeeding in order to extract milk from our mother’s breast. That is why the second character of this story is Pachamama herself, Gaia or Pyrene. It is She who brings us wisdom, brings us the art of finding ourselves.
As was the case with the troubadour, the Inquisition forced many to use robes to disguise their Goddess. The Andean world hid their Pachamama beneath the robes of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding the baby Jesus. In Mexico the Lady is Tonantzin and she had to be disguised as the Virgin of Guadalupe. While the Pyrene of the Iberian Druids was transformed into «the Moreneta» (“The little dark-skinned one”), virgin of the sacred mountain of Montserrat and patron saint of Catalonia. She is called moreneta because she has a dark complexion like the soil. The infant Jesus sits on her lap, whilst in her hand she holds a sphere, denoting her status as Mistress of the World. Meanwhile, the infant Jesus holds a pine cone, symbol of the pineal gland, the bridge between the physical plane of consciousness and the spiritual realms.
This Art seeks to reactivate the connection with that tiny pine cone otherwise known as the pineal gland. However, there are other reasons for calling what I bring you here the Art of finding ourselves: Whilst the Inquisition persecuted Cathars and troubadours throughout Occitan lands, in Mallorca there lived a philosopher and alchemist named Ramon Llull who gave them shelter. Llull also developed a new form of art. Initially, he called it Art Abreujada d’Atrobar Veritat (The Abbreviated Art of Finding Truth). Later, he would rename it the Ars Magna (The Great Art). In his art, Llull identified sixteen principles which in groups of four were linked to each element of antiquity: earth, water, fire and air. With them, he attempted to create a procedure that would allow him to find the truth. The art I bring you here has many parallels with Llullian Art because it is also based on sixteen principles, brought together in groups of four and linked to the four primordial elements of antiquity. But, as will be expounded throughout this work, it is also connected with the Sacred Bundle, an ancestral tradition of the American continent. This Art thus becomes a bridge between the two.
I was born in the Pyrenees, and like Llull, my mother-tongue is Catalan. But Llull did not only write in his own language; he also wrote in the two vernacular languages of the Mediterranean at that time: Latin and Arabic. In a similar way, along with Catalan, I use the two bridge languages of America at the present time: English and Spanish. Llull wrote in these languages as part of his quest to build a bridge that would cross the Mediterranean. In my case, I intend to build another one, but this time it shall cross the Atlantic. My bridge is intended to help recover the ancient wisdom of the indigenous American people to ensure that Europe finally discovers America, because what occurred five centuries ago was not a discovery but an ‘invasion’. That is why this story is not located in the Pyrenees, in the land of the Dragon as it was called in antiquity. In contrast, it is located in the Andes, in Mother Earth’s spine. In this way, I am attempting to move closer to a land that, although I was not born there, feels as if it were my own.
In the Quechuan language, the people who build such bridges are called chaka runas (‘men and women bridges’). They are bridges which cross space in order to unite cultures, but also time, in order to connect us with the future we want.
I want to thank all the people who helped me to translate and revise this work.
I first started writing it in Catalan. Afterwards I translated it to Spanish and continuing to write in that language.
Mike VanNorman, Max Jeremiah, Aldana Audisio, Savannah McDermott and Stephen Routledge then helped me to translate it into English.
Once translated, I used the English version as the new manuscript and I continued making improvements.
Two of the translators, Savannah and Stephen, as well as Amy Willcock, Hannah Asquith and Kelly Harrison, then helped me to revise my edits.
Cover and decorative elements within the book by Enrica Bernini and Gabrielle Pollina.
All of them worked on a voluntary basis and I really thank them for all their invaluable help.
MARC COMES FROM Urus, a community in the Pyrenees, the land of the Cathars. The name Urus is of Indo-European origin and it means ‘a place where the water springs’. He went abroad in 1995 after graduating from the University of Barcelona, and since then has lived and worked a little in every continent. Through living in other countries, Marc has associated with many different cultures and ways of thinking, especially with those he calls ‘earth people’. From them, he has learned a different way of reasoning, and discovered that the future of the planet depends on our ability to learn what such cultures have to offer.
As an author, he writes about spirituality and new tendencies, developing and intermingling genres, making use of both narrative and essay writing. He tries to understand and experience things for himself in order to build bridges, both to unify different cultures and spiritual traditions across the globe.
JOSÉ DE JESUS Jimenez Villalpando (Emiliano Libre) was born on February 20, 1984 in the city of Aguascalientes, México.
An illustrator by profession, he has shown a keen passion for graphic art since his youth. Though he studied industrial electronics, his love for graphic art has guided his life. He has worked for various local newspapers as an artist. In 2006, together with Martìn Pineda y Luis Angel Pineda, he founded the civil organization Katùn 13, which strives to preserve the ancestral roots of the native peoples of Anahuac (Mexico). He contributed as an illustrator for a book published by the organization, and thanks to this affiliation – and to the tendency of beings who vibrate at the same frequency to find each other – he came to know Marc Torra, an author with whom Emiliano currently collaborates as an illustrator.
WOULD YOU LIKE to follow inspiring quotes extracted from my books? I post them together with beautiful images from the artists that collaborate with me. The quotes are available on: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest, while on Instagram I post images from places I visit with perspicacious comments.
Your comments on the quotes will help me to see what you enjoyed the most, thus making your observations my source of inspiration.Are you an artist?
I’m always looking for inspiring material with the right licence that allows me to reuse it together with my words. Do you have interesting art related to subjects such as consciousness, utopia or butterflies?I have accounts on DeviantArt and Flickr.