The ancient glory of America is to be sought in Mexico, Central America and Peru. In impassable valleys or on inaccessible heights lie buried hundreds of once mighty cities without a name and lost even to the memory of man. Up to the time of the Spanish conquest the people of America were unknown, and thereafter the jealousy and suspicion of the conquerors created an effectual barrier between them and the outside world and precluded any scientific investigation. Even the enthusiastic accounts of Cortes and Pizarro and their armies of robbers and monks in regard to the wonderful cities they had found, were long discredited. Not until the beginning of the last century did the corroborative reports of travelers bring belated attention to the marvellous antiquities of these lands which, judging by the massiveness and durability of the architecture, equalled or surpassed the splendor of ancient Egypt.
In the basin of Lake Titicaca, nearly 13,000 feet above sea-level, are cyclopean ruins that have no counterpart on the American continent and no rival in kind on the face of the globe. Tradition ascribes them to giants who reared them in a night—five exiled brothers from “beyond the mounts,” whom an angry deity turned to stone for refusing hospitality to his messenger. They worshipped the moon as their progenitor and lived before the “Sons and Virgins of the Sun.” Likewise, the topes of India are attributed to the five Pandus of the Lunar race; hence the similarity between the Aryan and American tradition is obvious, and the Solar and Lunar races of the old world reappear in the new. The great doorway of the temple at Tiahuanacu is hewn out of a single block of rock 7 feet high, 131/2 wide, and 11/2 thick. The upper part of the massive portal is covered with symbolic figures. In the center is a head surrounded by solar rays, and in each hand a scepter suggestive of the body of a serpent, the ends of which terminate in heads of condors and tigers. Statues similar to those on Easter Island are still standing and another head indicates that the original figure must have been 18 feet high. Peru is covered with temples, mounds, pyramids, round towers, sun circles and monoliths inscribed with hieroglyphs which were as much of a mystery to the Incas as to us, proving that they were the work of a people who lived far anterior to our historical period. Madame Blavatsky says that however modern or ancient some of the American temples may seem, their mathematical proportions will be found to correspond with those of the Egyptian religious edifices and belong to the age of Hermes Trismegistus. In the Peruvian temples are the remains of artificial lakes, such as were found in the precincts of Karnak, of Nagon-Wat, and within the grounds of the temple at Copan and Santa Cruz del Quiche in Central America. In all is a similar disposition of court-yards, adyta, passages and steps, the whole being laid out with reference to cyclical calculations. If each of these was built by a different nation, none of whom had had intercourse with the other for ages, it is also certain that they were all planned and constructed under the supervision of priests who had been initiated into the same mysteries which were taught all over the world.
Many believe that the primitive Andean stock arrived from Atlantis on the shores of Brazil and, working its way by degrees up the Amazon, arrived at last in Peru; certainly migrations from both east and west were possible. When Dr. Schliemann was excavating the site of Troy, he found in the treasure house of Priam a beautifully wrought bronze of a design and shape hitherto unknown in Mediterranean countries, and this wonderful vase bore the inscription “From King Chronos of Atlantis.” Ten years later in the Louvre he discovered its mate, but the latter came from the ruined temple of Tiahuanacu. Some idea of the antiquity of the pre-Inca civilization may be had from the fact that remains of pottery, ornaments and idols have been found at a depth of sixty-two feet under the guano. This Peruvian fertilizer has accumulated only a few lines within the past three hundred years; therefore, if we allow so much as an inch of this deposit in a century, we shall be carried back about 75,000 years, corresponding to the era of Osiris and Hermes in Egypt. From fossils of animals and plants that cannot exist above an elevation of 11,000 feet, it is inferred that in former times the Andes were much lower than at present, and some geologists claim that since their upheaval they have sunk three times beneath the ocean.
How many nations have had their rise and fall during all these millenniums we do not know, but at least five distinct types of architecture are found in Peru, the latest alone belonging to the Incas. H.P.B. observes that if the origin, development and final grouping of races are ever to be unravelled, we must begin by massing together the concrete imagery of the early thought, more eloquent in its stationary form than the verbal expression of the same which is but too liable to be distorted in inaccurate and inadequate renditions. The student of early American art, especially of that in Mexico and Central America, must learn to read symbols, for it is largely representative—not so much a portrayal of human, animal, or supposedly divine forms, but of ideas. On the famous Chavin stone (in Markham’s Incas of Peru), the author remarks that everything seems to have an intention or meaning.1
In the absence of historical data we are obliged to fall back upontradition. According to the latter there was a time when the inhabitants of the New World were broken up into warring tribes. At last the Highest Deity, the Sun, taking pity upon them, sent his two children, Manco Ccapac and his wife and sister, Mama Ocllo,2 to instruct them in the arts of civilization and peace. This divine couple made their appearance on the sacred island in Lake Titicaca and from there proceeded on their mission as far as Cuzco, the site of the later Inca capital. Manco is the South American Manu, and from him the Incas claimed descent. The Aymaras also claimed him as their instructor and founder of their civilization, but neither could prove the fact and neither knew anything about the ancient megalithic people. The sacred island was the Mecca of the Peruvians; but no one could enter the consecrated shrine until he had undergone a period of fasting and purification and passed the Three Portals (places of trial) that led thereto.
Montecinos gives a long list of kings that extends back to 900 B.C. In the reign of the sixty-second Inca, who ruled about the time of Christ, he says that there was a great invasion from the south, that the king was defeated and fled with a handful of followers to a place called Tampu-Tocco, the place or Temple of Three Windows. Here something of the former culture was preserved and also the ancient religion, which elsewhere was degraded, and the people fell into a more or less barbarous state. The Indians, evidently to mislead the Spaniards, said that Tampu-Tocco was south of Cuzco; but in 1911 Prof. Hiram Bingham discovered a very remarkable and almost inaccessible megalithic city near Machu Picchu, northwest of Cuzco, which alone answers to the description of the Incas’ refuge, and where were exhumed all the indicia of the Mysteries.3 After some five or six centuries, under the leadership of the Ayar Manco and his three brothers, some of the tribes set forth to seek new territory. Manco is said to have carried a golden wand or wedge, and where the soil should be found so fertile that the wand would sink its entire length into the soft earth, there was to be the new city. This marvel occurred at Cuzco, in 565 A.D. according to Montecinos, but nearer 1100 A.D. in the opinion of modern historians. On the way Manco is said to have disposed of his three brothers, which Garcilasso interprets as symbolical of his laying aside those ideas and habits that belong to a purely “rational life.” The Ayar Manco claimed to be a “Child of the Sun,” and his golden wand, sometimes connected with the first Manco Ccapac, was undoubtedly another symbolical mark of his rank. It is a curious fact that the word Manco has no meaning in the Inca language, nor has the word Ayar, which Señor Lopez thinks may be the Sanscrit word, Ajar, meaning “primitive chief.” Ccapac means “rich,” but as a title signifies rich in the possession of those qualifications requisite for rulers, eleven of whom took it. However mythical and indefinite this information, it is obvious that there was a line of great instructors and leaders in Peru, who appeared from time to time as necessity or opportunity arose.
Inca is the Quichua word for emperor and the name of the aristocratic caste among the Peruvians. To the reigning Inca the blindest obedience was given; his person was sacred and he was the object of divine honors. The highest officers of the land could not appear shod in his presence, a custom pointing to oriental origin. All the statesmen of the land were of the Inca class, the high priest generally being a brother or near relative of the king. As children of the Sun, they wore on their breasts plates of gold about five inches in diameter representing the deity. The practice of boring the ears of the youth of royal blood and inserting in them golden rings, increasing in size as the men advanced in rank, bears a strong resemblance to the images of Buddha, and won for the nobles the title of Orejones, or great-eared people. Beginning probably with Pachacuti, the custom was established of marrying their sisters, as with the Copts in Egypt, so that a peculiar race might be and was produced, far superior to the average Peruvian.
As direct descendants of the sun, the list of Inca sovereigns begins with the Deity, called Illa Tici Uira-cocha, often shortened to Viracocha. Illa means “light;” Tici, “foundation” or the beginning of things; Uira, possibly a corruption of Pirua, which means “storehouse;” Cocha, “lake,” but in this connection “abyss”—that is, the primeval waters of space. To this combination was occasionally added the word Yachachic, meaning “teacher.” These names were not invented by the Incas who had them from earlier times. In four words are expressed the ideas connected with the beginning of a period of manifestation, based on the “storehouse” of a prior cycle of evolution. And who is the “teacher” but Ishwara?—”the preceptor of all, even of the earliest of created beings,” says Patanjali. The first recorded king whose deity is thus described was Pirua Paccari Manco. One writer translates Pirua as “Revealer of Light.” Although etymological deductions are often erroneous, we cannot fail to note in this name the root Pir. The Greek equivalent is pyr, as found in our words pyre and pyramid, which Plato construed as fire-mountain. Paccari is the word for the dawn. So it seems warrantable to believe that Pirua Paccari Manco was the seed (storehouse) Manu, the spiritual ancestor and Elder Brother of the Incas. The name Viracocha was assumed by two of the Incas. One of them when a prince was banished by his father and sent to tend the flocks on the desolate Andean heights. Here Viracocha, the deity, appeared to him as an old man and warned him of impending danger to the realm. The prince told his father about the vision, but the latter paid no attention to the prophecy, which soon came true; and had it not been for the courage and leadership of the son, the Peruvians would have been defeated. Afterwards the people proclaimed the youth Inca, who in gratitude to Viracocha, built a temple to the deity and took his name.
It is very difficult to obtain a correct idea of the beliefs of the Peruvians. We need to remember that they had no written language. Historical events and ideas were painted on boards and there was a class of wise men, Amautas, who instructed the pupils in the schools, taught them the use of the quipus, passed on their knowledge and the memory of by-gone events and interpreted these pictorial representations. Some of the latter were translated into Spanish, with the help of natives; but when we consider the difficulties involved, their transcription by ignorant scribes, and the prejudice and fanaticism of the Spanish historians of the time, it is not strange that so much confusion and contradiction arise. Nevertheless Theosophy is the key that fits into the fragments that have been preserved and opens for us a glimpse into the Wisdom-Religion of these American Children of the Sun.
Behind the Deity already named was the Supreme Spirit, to which a temple was erected at Cuzco apart from the temple of the sun, and which was represented in the latter by an oval of gold above that of the sun deity. Nine prayers have come down to us in which there is a plaintive cry for a knowledge of the Unknowable, exceedingly touching in its simplicity. This recognition of the “Unknowable” was without doubt confined to the highest class. There has been a common, but perhaps erroneous idea that Pachacamac was the Supreme Deity. Pacha means “earth,” and camac, “maker” or “moulder,” so evidently he was one of the “Creators.” He is said to have provided all things, plants and animals, with souls by the mere exercise of his will. In his famous temple there was an idol which gave out oracles and was consulted by people from far and near. It seems likely that the coast people had degraded the primitive religion of megalithic times into a system of soothsaying and sorcery, and that here prevailed one of the downward “moon cycles,” or spiritualism. A legend connected with Pachacamac is, however, not without significance. After the deluge, of which many versions occur in South America, the prehistoric town of Tiahuanacu was regarded as the seat of a new creation. Here the creator made man out of clay, painted the dresses of each nation with a particular color, endowed them with language, furnished them with food and seeds, and then commanded them to enter the bowels of the earth (physical birth?), whence they came upward in the places he ordered them to go. Seven classes of Incas thus repeopled the earth, as in the Puranic allegories.
As the father of the Inca was the sun, all the populace worshipped the visible luminary. There was also a secondary worship of the moon, thunder and lightning (Jupiter?), and the dawn, represented by the morning star, Chasca (Venus). Each family had its household god, like the Romans, while all the families of a tribus had their common ancestor or ancestral god, which by uniting great numbers in blood relationship, fostered the community spirit and kept the village system on a very firm basis. Markham speaks of the curious belief in a spiritual essence of all things, that is, the astral counterpart or mother. Every household had its Sara Mama or maize mother, to which prayers and sacrifices were made. In like manner there was a Llama Mama for the flocks. The spirit of the earth, Pacha Mama, was a special object of adoration. Figures of llamas were made with a cavity in their backs into which the sacrificial offerings were placed and then buried in the fields, a custom which persists to this day. The offerings were chica, spirits, and coca, those things which the poor husbandmen loved best. In the special sacrifices which came to be generally observed, the sacrificer said to his god, “What I love best to Thee I give.” The custom prevailed among all the North American Indians of giving up that which was truly most prized. Human sacrifice, so revoltingly common in Mexico and Central America, was exceedingly rare in Peru. Valera declares there was a law against it which was strictly observed. He admits that Huahua, or children, and Yuyucs, or adults, were sacrificed, but explains that by the former were meant lambs, and by the latter, full-grown llamas. At the greatest of the Raymi festivals, beginning on the 22nd of December (the summer solstice in Peru), Prescott says the new fire was kindled by means of a concave mirror of polished metal, which concentrated the rays of the sun upon a quantity of cotton and set it on fire.4 If the sun was obscured, the fire was produced by friction. This sacred flame was entrusted to the Virgins of the Sun, and if through any neglect they allowed it to go out during the year, the event was regarded as a great calamity.
At Cuzco was the famous temple of the sun, approached by a series of enchanting terraces, filled with marvellous designs wrought in silver and gold. The very drain pipes and garden utensils were of solid silver, and the inner and outer walls of the temple were covered with sheets of gold. So splendid were the surroundings that the entire quarter was called the Coricancha, or City of Gold. Within the temple was a huge plaque of gold upon which was depicted the face of the deity, so placed that the beams of the morning sun fell upon it and bathed it in a flood of almost unbearable radiance. The atmosphere of mysterious splendor was enhanced by the presence of the magnificently attired mummies of thirteen royal Incas grouped around the altar-piece. This object fell as booty to a Spanish gambler who lost it on a single throw of the dice. In the adjoining temple of the moon, the mummies of the queens were similarly disposed. Mummification was general throughout Peru, the methods employed being practically the same as those in Egypt. The similarities between the customs of these two countries have been too often commented upon to need repetition, and have led to much speculation as to possible intercourse between them. The common center in Atlantis from which colonists to both the old world and the new migrated, and the diffusion of a common knowledge among the Adepts of every country sufficiently account for the likeness.
Works of public utility such as cyclopean walls, fortifications, irrigation systems extending for hundreds of miles, reservoirs, bridges and exquisitely paved roads covering the land as with a net, attest to the greatness of the civilization. As in Egypt, enormous blocks of the hardest stone weighing many tons were moved miles from the place where quarried and fitted together with such nicety that the point of a needle cannot be inserted between them. Garcilasso speaks of the “Tired Stone,” weighing a thousand tons, half way up the slope, never having been moved to its intended position. In Cuzco is the famous stone of twelve corners, fitted perfectly into the wall of which it forms a part. Did these ancient masons know that the universe is built on the plan of a twelve-sided figure? Agriculture was an art among the Peruvians. Their stair-case farms must have been much more spectacular than the hanging gardens of Babylon, for some of the banks consisted of as many as fifty terraces, each ten feet high. The annual recurrenceof agricultural events, such as the preparation of the soil, sowing and harvest, all dependent upon the calendar, were the occasion of festivals, partly of a religious nature, in which the Inca and nobles took part. For calculating the solstices and equinoxes stone columns were devised, called Intihuatana—literally, “the place where the sun is tied up.” Inti was originally the name of the familiar spirit of Manco Ccapac in the form of a falcon,5 and finally came to be applied to the sun as a deity. As the giver of daylight, the sun was called Punchau or Lupi. The moon, as a deity, was Pasca Mama, but as planet, its name was Quilla. Here we see the Peruvians distinguishing between physical bodies and their ensouling intelligence, or deity.
The government of the Incas was an inexorable, yet withal beneficent despotism. Their necessarily complicated system worked without friction and almost automatically, as instanced by a soldier of the conquest. One of its features was that when any calamity overtook a particular district, another was assigned to bring aid. When the Spanish massacred the inhabitants, burnt the dwellings, and destroyed the crops in one district, the soldier saw the right people come from the right district to aid the sufferers, help rebuild the dwellings and resow the crops. The condition of the people, though one of tutelage and dependence, secured for them a large amount of material comfort and happiness and want was unknown. Convincing testimony of the merits of the Incal government is given by another soldier. At the close of his life, troubled with regrets and full of remorse, he left a “legacy of truth” to the King of Spain, in which he says:
“The Incas governed in such a way that in all the land neither a thief, nor a vicious man, nor a bad, dishonest woman was known. The men all had honest and profitable employment. The woods and mines and all kinds of property were so divided that each man knew what belonged to him, and there were no lawsuits. Crimes were so little known among them that an Indian with 100,000 pieces of gold in his house left it open, placing only a little stick across the door as the sign that the master was out, and nobody went in! But when they saw that we placed locks and keys on our doors, they understood that it was from fear of thieves, and when they saw that we had thieves amongst us, they despised us. Your Majesty must understand that my reason for making this statement is to relieve my conscience, for we have destroyed this people by our bad example.”
The whole territory was divided into three parts: one for the Sun, one for the Inca, and the last for the people, which was equally shared among them and reassigned annually. The land was cultivated wholly by the people, that of the Sun being first attended to. That of the old, the sick, and those in any way disabled came next. Then, each man was allowed to till his own ground, but always under the general obligation to assist his neighbor if the latter was unable to help himself. Lastly, they cultivated the land of the Inca. Thus the ordinary Peruvian was born and brought up to devote himself first of all to the interests of others. The right performance of duty was the paramount consideration in life. Idleness was unknown and punishable by law. There seems to have been little stimulus to ambition or to rise above one’s fellows, for a man could not step outside his caste. Markham says “the Inca government finds a close affinity in the theories of modern socialists … being the single instance of such realization in the world’s history.” The system points to oriental origin and to a primary ideal aiming to harmonize the life of man with the life and laws of great nature. The “Highest Deity,” the Sun, is the chief exemplar of regularity, law, and hence of the performance of duty, and is the regulator and setter of man’s duties. The Masters, the highest exemplars on earth, live a life of unswerving duty to mankind. Krishna says if he were not indefatigable in the performance of right action, all creatures would perish. Had the Children of the Sun been faithful in the carrying out of their duties as wards of the people, they would never have been conquered, and what new and glorious possibilities might have been developed from the general scheme of their system, who can say? But however fallen from their former greatness the later Incas, their rule was infinitely superior to that of their conquerors. The Spaniards, by imposing dogmatic Christianity upon the survivors, brought about a condition of degradation that bears no comparison to the “pagan” state they destroyed.
The wealth of the Incas was enormous and much of it is still in existence though concealed. At the time Atahualpa was captured, enough gold was demanded for his release to fill to the roof the house in which he was held prisoner. A train of 10,000 llamas loaded with the amount necessary was arrested in the Andes upon the report of the unfortunate man’s murder and the treasure so effectually concealed that not a trace of it has ever been found. “The Weird Tale,” by Mr. Judge informs us that such hiding places are known to the Adepts, who are obliged at certain seasons of the year to guard the subterranean passages leading thereto. In Isis Unveiled (Vol. I, pp. 595-598) Madame Blavatsky speaks of having in her possession a plan of the tunnel extending from Cuzco to Lima and thence into Bolivia, which is filled with the accumulations of many generations of Incas, the aggregate value of which is incalculable.
1. The reader is referred to reproductions found in numerous books of travel in Peru; also to “The Land of Mystery,” Vol. III, p. 561, and Vol. IV, pp. 13, 84, 129, Theosophy.
2. The counterparts of Osiris and Isis in Egypt.
3. See The National Geographic, April, 1913.
4. There was a similar use of mirrors by Numa, in early Roman days.
5. Connote the hawk of Horus, symbol of the sun.