My wife Betsy and I have recently returned from a trip to Peru.  I would like to use some of our photos to share more information about the Andean Cosmovision and the work of the waikis in Peru.

I’ll begin with Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is an ancient village and ceremonial site situated in the Sacred Valley of Peru, about a two hour drive from Cusco.  The village dates from pre-Inca times while most of the surviving ruins in the sanctuary date from the rule of Inca Pachacútec , who also built Machu Picchu.  Ollantaytambo is perhaps most famous for the role it played in Manco Inca’s battle against the Spanish Conquistadors, but for me that is small potatoes compared to its beautiful representation of the relationship between the Andean people and nature.

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More on Tunupa.   Tunupa is also known as Wirachochan, “Wiracocha’s messenger”. Wiracocha is often described as the Andean “creator god” but I believe this attempt to pound the round peg of the Andean Cosmovision into the square hole of the Western worldview distorts more than it illuminates.

In Western religion God is said to have created the Cosmos.  God exists independently of the Cosmos that He created.  He is to be found in an aspect of reality that is transcendent to (above and beyond) the material world of matter and energy.  The soul, including our consciousness, also exists in the transcendent realm.  Our soul resides in our body but it is not of our body, it exists independently of the material world of matter and energy.

Our Western culture also provides a second view of the transcendent realm.  In this view, often associated with science, it is thought that the transcendent realm does not really exist, that only the realm of matter and energy exists.  There is no God who created the Cosmos, there is no soul that inhabits the human body.  In this view consciousness is either an illusion or it is a byproduct of a sophisticated nervous system (like ours).

The Andean Cosmovision offers a third alternative.  The sacred exists, but it is not in an aspect of reality that is transcendent to the material world.  The elements of the material world itself (the mountains, the sun, the sky, the earth) are sacred.  Consciousness, rather then being part of a transcendent soul or a byproduct of a nervous system, is an attribute of the basic stuff of reality.  It is immanent (an inherent part of) in, not transcendent to, the material world.  This means that everything is conscious, and that consciousness appears at all levels of Cosmos. The Cosmos itself is conscious, the Pachamama (the great Being who is our planet earth) is conscious, the Apus (the great Beings who are the majestic mountain peaks) are conscious, as are the stars, and the dark of night (Mama Tuta), and the trees, and the oceans, and the rivers that cascade down the mountain sides. There is thus a subtle but very significant difference between the West and the Andes. In the Andes the Pachamama is not a transcendent spirit who resides in the big rock known as the planet Earth, she is instead the great Being who is the conscious planet earth.

In the Cosmovision the Cosmos is not only conscious, it also has a creative impulse. The Cosmos created itself (including you and me and the trees waving in the breeze outside of my study) and the Cosmos continues to evolve.  Wirachocha is the name for this dynamic, creative impulse of the Cosmos.  Tunupa, a.k.a. Wiracochan, is the messenger who brings information from Wiracocha to humankind.

That is my understanding of the view of the sacred, and of consciousness, in the Andean Cosmovision.  I pieced it together from many years of working with Andean people who were much more interested in shaping my experience of reality than they were in explaining the concepts behind it, and it is inevitably flavored by my being a child of the West. My understanding of these concepts has also been shaped by the chapter Three Times, Three Spaces in Cosmos Quechua, by Salvador Palomino, an indigenous, Peruvian, anthropologist and researcher.  His chapter can be found in the book Story Earth:  Native Voices on the Environment, edited by Pablo Piacentini (1993).  Palomino states that “In the Quechua language, the words ‘religion’ and ‘god’ do not exist, but we use them in Spanish to indicate our relationship with the divine beings that are the holy forces of nature,”  which is congruent with my own experiences in Peru. For more information about this aspect of the Andean Cosmovision please see the post: Andean Cosmovision: The Basics.

More on Yanantin.  Yanantin is the fundamental Andean concept of the complementarity of opposites.  For more information on yanantin I would like to recommend the earlier posts: Warmi-Qhari (Woman-Man) and Tinku-Confirming the Rules of Life. The twin peaks in the photo, male and female,  are standing back to back, engaged in yanachakuy (see the Back-to-Back Meditation).

The information in this post concerning the connection between Ollantaytambo and the winter and summer solstices comes from the book Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, by Fernando and Edgar Salazar.

© Oakley Gordon at date of posting. Contents licensed under a Creative Commons License — some rights reserved.

You might be interested in my book:  The Andean Cosmovision.

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