The most respected mystics of the Andes speak!
"Our clothes may be different, but we are all human beings--with love for each other." So spoke a Q'ero shaman as he began to relate his initiation story to me for my book, Keepers of the Ancient Knowledge. This book is the first in the English language to record the teachings of the Q'ero shamans of Peru in their own words. Known throughout the south-central Andes as the "keepers of the ancient knowledge," the Q'ero are some of the most respected mystics of Peru and are acknowledged by anthropologists as the indigenous population that has most purely preserved the ancient mystical system.
My book is divided into three parts. In part one, I provide an overview of Andean mysticism, introducing you to the world of living energy, the nature spirits, and the shamans' tools and practices. In part two, I reproduce the Q'ero interviews as closely as possible to how they actually happened, so you can hear what it's like to interact directly with the Q'ero masters. The Q'ero relate their initiation stories and discuss their shamanic practices and world view. In part three, I offer exercises by which you can begin to access your own energy body and interact with the world of living energy. You will also learn to work with stones of power, called khuyas, and to manifest dreams and desires using a nature offering called a despacho.
Andeans believe the world is comprised of living energy, and that it is as conscious of us as we are of it. We, too, are energy beings, and we are in continual interchange with the kawsay pacha, the world of animating energy. Our primary energy center is located at our navel area, and is called the qosqo. Through this chakra-like center, we make energy interchanges with nature and each other, and in so doing we determine the very conditions of our lives. If we accumulate heavy energy, instead of light energy, we can manifest its symptoms, which include physical, emotional and pyschological distress or illness. By cleansing ourselves of heavy energy, we can, therefore, improve every aspect of our lives, especially our relationships with other people.
The world of living energy includes many nature spirits, such as Inti, the sun; Mama Killa (pronounced "key-a"), the moon; Pachamama, Mother Earth; and the Apus and Nust'as, the Princes and Princesses of the mountains. (The book contains a glossary of mystical terminology, and more than 20 color photos of the Q'ero and sacred sites.)
For those of you whose only knowledge of Peruvian mysticism comes from fictional works, such as The Celestine Prophecy, my book will provide a glimpse into the real world of Andean mysticism. You will sit in circle with me as I talk with six Q'ero mystics, discovering as I did that talking with and listening to a real shaman is quite a bit different than you might expect, for there is not much of what I call "shamanic razzle-dazzle." In this book you won't hear much about shamanic journeys to other dimensions or leaps between perceptual worlds, as you do when you read Castaneda and other shamanic adventurers. One of my goals in this book is to present the Andean mystical world as it really is--which is very pragmatic and down to earth. I hope to somewhat demystify the Andean mystics. Too many tour operators and workshop leaders hype the Q'ero as mysterious, otherworldly masters. Believe me, they are masters, but they are not otherwordly. They are made of flesh and blood, and they struggle with the same life issues as the rest of us. Yes, they can show us how to access the metaphysical world and can guide us through its often strange encounters, but their more important work and teaching is how we can use energy tools to live with well-being and greater harmony in our day-to-day lives. Unlike Castaneda, we are not seeking to gain power in order to escape from or leap beyond this world, but to live in it, although in a more nurturing and authentic way than we may be at present. What's more, as we cleanse ourselves and our world, we also contribute to the Andean prophecy of the Tariypay Pacha, the "age of meeting ourselves again." This is a nineteen-year period, which we are already in the midst of, during which humankind has the potential to consciously evolve and to manifest a "paradise" on earth. (An entire chapter of the book is devoted to this prophecy.)
If you are wondering how I came to write this book, let me briefly recount my training as an Andean mystic. I began studying the tradition in 1994, and took my first trip to Peru that same year. I walked the "Royal Road of Shamans," the Inca Trail, to Machu Picchu. Two days later I met two Q'ero shamans, one of whom (don Mariano) gave me a power stone from his ritual bundle and predicted that if I worked hard and gained mastery of my energy body, I would "one day bring the word of Q'ero to the world." As he spoke, I thought he was probably suffering from altitude sickness! But over the next four years, I continued studying, returning to Peru every year to work with my mestizo and/or Q'ero teachers. In 1997, I was initiated as a fourth-level Andean "priest," the highest level of the Andean mystical hierarchy. I also received a blessing and the lineage from don Manuel Q'espi, the eldest shaman of Q'ero, during a ceremony at his house in Chua Chua, a Q'ero village. And now, five years after my journey began, the Q'ero do indeed speak to you in their own words. In reality this is not my book, but theirs. Your brothers and sisters of the Andes extend their light filaments, their hearts, and their teachings to you, in the hope that you too may live with greater well-being in the world of living energy.