I continued my video tour of Mystic Lands yesterday by landing in Peru: Kingdom In The Clouds. If you have missed any of my previous "journeys" you can click Mystic Lands in the labels section below and it will lay out the whole tour thus far.
This half hour program was perhaps the most fascinating for me so far, no doubt because it dealt almost excluesively with the Inca civilazation and their mystic nature religion. Little was said about religion in Peru now other than to note that although mainly Catholic Christian today, the people tend to blend some of the old ways with the new.
That Catholicism is the result of the sixteenth century overthrow of the Incan empire by the Spanish army, led by Francisco Pizzaro and depicted in John Everett Millais' painting above. However, the program notes, "There are those who believe the Inca will rise again from their kingdom in the clouds."
That "Kingdom in the Clouds," high up in the Andes Mountains or famous "Lost City of the Incas" as Machu Picchu is known," is where most of this program takes place. And a truly magnificent and astonishing accomplishment the erecting of this was for these people.
The narrator hauntingly asks:
"How did an ancient culture that lacked the wheel achieve grand feats of astronomy and architecture. Why does the spirit of the Inca live on, touching nearly all who visit this abandoned kingdom in the clouds?"
That answer, I suppose, is left to the imaginations of the viewers. But the ancient city built with "stone chisels and ancient knives" has been a source of speculation for those who allow their imaginations to run wild even to the present day.
One of the locations we saw was the Temple of the Three Windows, where it is explained that "ceremonies were peformed to the gods of the sun, the moon, and the stars." The Inca people worshipped the sun and the heavens and were guided by their astrological calculations, that while primitive, if this program is to be believed, were amazingly accurate.
We see an observatory there with a "curious stone" that is called the Inti-Huanta. It was used for the measuring of time and predicting the seasons.
The narrator tells us that
"According to Inca legend the world was in darkness until a resplendent sun rose for the first time. From the sun was born the Inca god of creation, Viracocha. The Inca believed Virachocha created men and women in his own image. He taught them to live in harmony with nature and to worship the sun."
And as with last week's tour about India's sacred city Varanasi and Ganges River, Peru has its "Sacred Valley," about which
"Many believe this is the spiritual heart of the Incan empire. The Urubama River cuts throught the farms of the valley and, according to legend, flows into the Milky Way at night. The Inca believed the valley was a reflection of the cosmos. The river was a pathway to knowledge and enlightenment."
Such connections with their surroundings as exhibited in these cultures can only speak to me in a very personal way as I have attempted to reconnect with with the cosmos after a childhood initiation into a "heavenly religion" that has a tendency to separate its followers from the immanence of the sacred.
But I'm not wanting to wax overly sentimental about ancient religious cultures because they did have crude ways mixed in with their lofty ideals. For example, although not examined in this program, the Incas apparently practiced ritual human sacrifice.
That and the common use of forced labor in the building of ancient holy places seems to our modern minds at odds with something else the narrator tells us:
"To the Inca all matter was divine, from living creatures to mountain peaks and rivers."
But some of the ancient gods had to be appeased, even if violently. Incidentally, the Abrahamic religions didn't escape that now shocking trend which was so prevelant many centuries ago.
We are also briefly guided to the Qenko ruins, where the "sacred practice" of mummification was observed. This was a religious custom that venerated dead leaders, who were often propped up for adoration. It is fascinating to me that so many miles away from the Egyptians we find the Incas dabbling not only with embalming, but pyramids as well. Totally fascinating to me!
Of course this brief program didn't do justice to the subject nor did I do justice to the program by this brief examination. These programs only serve to whet the appetites of the insatiably curious and spiritual-minded thinkers among us.
Without reservation I can tell you that I feel my money was well spent on this package of programs, and I'm looking forward to learning more in the weeks ahead.