Favorite recent and insightful quote I have read recently:

Favorite quote I have recently read: "The word temple comes from the Latin templum, which signifies an extended open space that has been marked out for the observation of the sky. In what manner is such a space marked out? According to Dr. Hugh Nibley, the word templum, "designates a building specifically designed for interpreting signs in the heavens--a sort of observatory where one gets one's bearings on the universe." The root "tem-" in Greek and Latin denotes a "cutting" or intersection of two lines at right angles, the point where the "cardo" and "decumanus" cross, hence where the four regions come together." Matthew Brown - "The Gate of Heaven"

Monday, February 27, 2012

Inca Temples, Joseph Campbell, and the Chartres Cathedral

The party of tourists at the "Utah Rock" in Sacsayhuaman an Inca
religious site and fortress above Cusco. Utah does have good rocks
that we miss. 
Our time is drawing into the last months of our mission in Peru. We continue to travel given the opportunity. In a week we will travel north to Bandurria. It holds the most recent claim as the oldest urban center in the Americas and is part of the Norte Chico/Caral Supe civilization. It features more pre-ceramic, and monumental architecture, as well as sunken circular plazas that seems to be a part of all of the sacred sites in Peru we have visited.
Alice and Kyle. He was a missionary in Peru a dozen
years ago, as was his father before him. Grandson
Jack indicates he would like to be a missionary here one
day too. 
During the two week February temple closing we visited several familiar sites with family. We added a new one. It also seemed to be the consensus favorite of those we saw and experienced. It outranked, only slightly, my favorite of Machu Picchu. This was Lake Titicaca. We arrived there after an enjoyable bus ride through the altiplano or high plains of the Andes from Cusco.
A stop on our bus ride to take a photo of a young Quechua girl in traditional
garb. The houses are very small and the winters very cold at 15,000 feet. Our 
guide said the residents sleep with "blankets that have ears" to stay warm as 
there is no heat or fireplaces at this elevation. No firewood or trees grow at
this elevation either. Potatoes and llamas do, along with a few woolly sheep.
The floating islands of the Uros are usually the photos you are shown from any tours to Lake Titicaca.  The people on the Uros Islands were fascinating, hospitable, gentle, and very friendly.  In addition to tourist visits and dollars their whole life depends on and is built from the reeds called 'totora' that grow in the lake.  The reeds are part their diet along with fish caught from the cold waters including transplanted Canadian trout. They provide the building material for their houses, transportation, and floating islands. Walking on these islands has something of a giant water bed feel. There are more than forty of them on the Lake.  One island has LDS Church members on it, but ours was an Adventist Island, we think, since there were no Catholic iconography in sight. I did ask our Uros host where the 'Mormones' were and he pointed toward the horizon.  The Uros are the descendants of the original inhabitants of the area and speak a different native language than Quechua and is known as Aymara. It has a few characteristics common to Mongolian, Turkish, and Korean, though no linguist or scientist would ever say so.
Em, Alice and Kyle on a reed boat, Lake Titicaca Peru

A view of a neighboring boat being rowed by several of the Uros
While here during our free time and in addition to traveling to these important historical sites we are learning more of the early history. I am also enjoying the works of the preeminent scholar of comparative religious myth, Joseph Campbell. His commentary and characterizations about the myths of the ancient world fit and explain Peruvian traditions. In the  television series on PBS with interviewer Bill Moyers Campbell is asked where are the sacred places in the world today. He responds, "They don't exist. There are a few hundred spots where people may go to think about something important that happened there. For example, we may go visit the Holy Land, because that is the land of our religious origins. But every land should be a holy land. One should find the symbol in the landscape itself of the energies of life there. That's what all early traditions do. They sanctify their own landscape." The architects, builders, and stone workers of ancient Peru did sanctify their landscape.  There is so much here that is so beautiful.
We stopped at Raqchi on our bus trip to Lake Titicaca.
It is a 15th century Inca temple of Viracocha. 
The foundation stones of the Temple of Viracocha are carved in the Inca
Empire style while above adobe bricks were used. It is impressive the 
adobe walls have withstood earthquake and El Niño rains for 500 years.
A glue extracted from cactus added weather resistance to the adobe creating 
a type of 'cement' or more weather proof plaster. 
Scholars have suggested five of the most important and sacred sites for the Inca were the Temple of Koricancha in Cusco, nearby Machu Picchu, the Isla del Sol or the Island of the Sun in Lake Titicaca, the ruins of Tiwanaku, and the old ruins at Pachacamac near Lima. Of these we have visited or seen all but one. The ruins at Tiwanaku remain elusive to us as they are on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca and outside of the mission boundaries. Our allotted time too has dwindled to make such a visit. When our twenty two months are up, we will depart for home where our nearly two years older grandkids await.
One of the Pre-Inca ruins at Tiwanaku known as the Temple of  Kalasasaya. It
was likely also a solar and stellar observatory. The figure in the distance is
the staff god, inasmuch as he carries a staff in his right hand. We regret we
will not see these ruins. Looks like it could be from an Indiana Jones movie
In addition to these aforementioned, we have in our travels observed, photographed, and climbed about literally hundreds of pyramids, huacas, or sacred sites, and shrines. There is no question about the importance of the role of religious ritual in the lives of the inhabitants of Peru, both present and past. It is not a secret for many anthropologists, and particularly for Campbell, that religion or myth is the force that motivated and compelled the sacrifice and cooperative human endeavor on such a grand scale to construct such places as Machu Picchu or these many mounds, earthworks, and pyramids. Campbell freely interchanges and uses the word myth to describe religion. Of course he says everyone else's religion is myth while your own is not.
Templo del Sol or the Temple to the Sun built by the Inca at Pachacamac.
Incredibly huge pyramids were constructed by several methods either of 
stone or adobe. Over the centuries or millennia they eroded into just natural
looking hills. Such was the case with these mounds or pyramids. Archaeologists
slowly and painstakingly uncover the original stone or adobe work in their 
efforts to reveal the past. Literally millions of adobe bricks were made and used
to construct this temple and others. The work went on for generations, not
unlike the construction of the LDS Salt Lake Temple. 
Earlier in the month we visited a site known as Pachacamac, about 40 km south of Lima along the PanAmerican Highway. Construction probably began on the site more than a thousand years before the Inca.  In Pre-Inca myth Pachacamac was the creator god. Because he was an invisible god he had to be represented as a totem. One side was depicted as a male and the opposite a female figure. This duality is universal in Peru's history. Eventually a complex of some 17 temples or pyramids would be constructed on the site. When the Inca arrived early in the 1400's they allowed the locals to continue to practice their religion, but added their own Temple of the Sun or Inti as he was called.  It was the New World equivalent of the Oracle of Delphi. There Pachacamac would intercede in the lives of the petitioners as well as give direction and instructions to the solicitous. Pachacamac was also the god of earthquakes and therefore required propitiation or sacrifice.

The two of us at Pachacamac on one of the 17 temple mounds or pyramids
The Spanish fathers and priests of course knew it was the devil who was deceiving the Inca and their predecessors. Our guide Miriam informed us, even to this day near the first of October, coinciding with a national Catholic holiday, Peruvians make a trek to the site at Pachcamac. It is not uncommon here to have Christian holidays coincide with those of the Inca and others. After all we celebrate our December 25th Christmas day based on an ancient Roman pagan holiday of some sort. The solicitous still make the pilgrimage bringing a purple corn drink and coca leaves for Pachacamac. Those two things, along with a potent and a near hallucinogenic strength tobacco, were the items of choice as offerings to deities in Peru.
With our English speaking guide Miriam. She has a degree from the
prestigious University of San Marcos in Lima. 
A younger cousin of Francisco Pizarro named Pedro Pizarro, learning of the stories about this site and supposing the many sacrifices and offerings made there would be in the form of gold, silver, and fine textiles came to exploit the site in 1533. He found only the wooden idol of Pachacamac and maybe some wetted ground from the chicha drink. He and his men with some frustration pushed over the totem and then set fire to the temple.
The terracing of the island provides cultivatable garden space for several
varieties of potatoes, corn, beans, including fava beans or habas verdes, 
onions, peppers and more. 
The consensus highpoint of our trip was the hike up la Isla Tequille in Lago Titicaca.  We had majestic views of the surroundings and could see the Isla del Sol in the distance on the Bolivian side.  According to Inca myth it is the point of origin where the creator god Viracocha and his two assistants emerged going forth and beginning the creation of the world and the first people on the planet.
The Island of the Sun or the Isla del Sol in the distance.  Maybe on another
trip we can visit this island and the accompanying ruins at Tiwanaku. 
Early Inca ruins on the Isla del Sol
During our nearly 18 months here our interest in Peru's past has deepened significantly. It is tied in with our day jobs as we find so much of allied interest and comparable to the temple traditions we know so well. This has been enhanced of course by reading everything of Joseph Campbell's available on Kindle or listening to on Audible. Books have sent from Utah via UPS as well when I had an 'emergency' and could not get something of his electronically. In his book, "The Mythic Image" he writes, and it is confirmed from our travels around Peru, "The idea of a sacred place where the walls and laws of the temporal world may dissolve to reveal a wonder is apparently as old as the human race."
One of our dear friends and fellow temple workers in the 
Lima Temple Sister Rosa.  
Our day jobs in Peru and our experience of working in a temple for a number of years elsewhere have us agreeing with the good professor about sacred places, places that were open to ritual, meditation and contemplation.  From those who inhabited this land centuries ago their whole world was a sacred place. Our lives have become so economic and practical in their orientation that as we get older, the claims of the moment upon you are so great, you hardly know where the h+** you are, he says, and what it is you intended. We are always so busy doing something that is required of us. He asks, "Where is your bliss station? You have to try and find it...put on music that you really love, or get the book you like to read. In your sacred place you get the sense of the "thou," the sense of the awe of things Goethe wrote about. Continuing he urges us to "...follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are--if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time." 
The Chartres Cathedral built in the 12th Century has
survived with its original stain glass windows. Going 
through a ritual day after day can keep us in touch with 
our spiritual life and "keeps you on the line," according
to Campbell. 
Joseph Campbell's favorite place of ritual, meditation, and contemplation was the Cathedral of Chartres in France. In the medieval towns of Europe they dominated the skyline and the surrounding countryside, much in the same manner of the pyramids and temples of the ancients here in Peru. He regrets the decline in the use and loss of such sites today, concluding with his observation, "Since about the year 1914 there has been evident in our progressive world an increasing disregard and even disdain for those ritual forms that once brought forth, and up to now have sustained, this infinitely rich and fruitfully developing civilization." We continue to enjoy what we do here in Lima and the people we work with each day.  The meaning of what we experience is deepened as we have visited these impressive sites from ages past. It is ironic to me that in this land of 10,000 temples, huacas or sacred places, and pyramids, we work and are most appreciative to be doing so in the Lima Peru Temple. As President Hinckley observed, "The Temple is concerned with the things of immortality, a bridge between this life and the next. It is a symbol of and faith in the immortality of the human soul."

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