Salka Wind Blog

Posts on the Andean Cosmovision

Filling in the Conceptual Corners

In the Andean Cosmovision the Cosmos does not play by the rules of Aristotelean logic where everything must be either A or not A. An example of this can be found in the various ways in which the Andeans conceive the difference between the energies found on the right and left side.

In the previous post (Right Side / Left Side) I described how in the Andes the right side is our ability to operate in everyday life while the left side connects us to the ineffable mystery of the Cosmos. This distinction, and the meditation I provided that goes with it, come from what I learned from don Americo Yabar. Don Americo, however, also draws a different distinction between the right and left side, that of the mystical and the magical.

Our right side is our mystical side, it involves our ability to connect with and learn from the larger Cosmos of which we are but a part. This is the path of knowledge, to follow it we must leave our ego behind and seek the at-one-ment with the Cosmos as a whole. Our left side, on the other hand, is our magical side, it involves our ability to work with the energy of the Cosmos to accomplish our goals, goals that may be wise or not, benevolent or not, loving or not. These goals may be driven by our ego.

Another view of the right/left side distinction in the Andes is provided by the anthropologist Douglas Sharon in his description of the relative roles of the right and left side of the paqo’s mesa (Shamanism, Mesas, and Cosmologies in the Central Andes, 2006).  A mesa (from the Spanish word for table) is a woven cloth that serves as a portable altar. A paq’o spreads the mesa on the ground or on a flat rock and arranges upon it sacred objects. The objects are placed upon either the right side or the left side of the mesa depending upon their attributes. On the left are placed objects associated with ‘hot’ energy, with the past, with the undoing of energies related to sickness and misfortune. On the right are placed objects associated with ‘cold’ energy, with the future, with the energy of good fortune. The paq’o then works from the center of the mesa, transcending both energies.

Besides being interesting on their own merits, the point I want to make is that these various distinctions between the energies of the right and left side don’t necessarily boil down to being different ways of saying the same thing. The right and left side are like this…and they are also like that…and they can be like this other thing entirely. This may not be logical, but who says the Cosmos is logical? Logic is but a part of our ability to think, and our ability to think is but part of our experience, and our experience is but part of the Cosmos, and a part of the whole (e.g. logic) cannot subsume the whole (i.e. the Cosmos). Another way to say this is to point out that our ability to think in a logical way arose out of the evolutionary processes of the Cosmos. That logic works as well as it does in understanding the Cosmos is due to it being a product of the same Cosmos it is trying to understand. Logic cannot, however, be expected to be able to understand the processes from which logic itself emerged. For a really nice exposition of this I recommend Alan Watts’ book Man, Woman, and Nature.

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1 Comment

  1. Thanks, Oakley.

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