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From sun cult to Christianity

Humanity is based on six original civilizations that developed independently in various locations around the world. These were: Egypt, Babylon, China, India, Mesopotamia, and Central America. Excavations at Caral (Peru) suggest that the second oldest civilization after the Sumerians developed there around 4,600 years ago. The Andean tradition thus looks back on nearly 5,000 years of history from the Chavín to the Tiahuanaco culture, but written records have only been kept for the last 500 years.

At that time there was a nation in South America called Tawantinsuyu (“four nations united"), known today as the Inkan empire. It covered the present areas of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador and parts of Columbia, Chile and Argentina and was the largest contiguous national territory in North and South America until the founding of the United States of America, spanning an area that was larger than the Roman Empire or the Empire of Alexander the Great. 

The Inkan empire

It is noteworthy that there was neither poverty nor hunger during the heyday of the Inkan empire (1438 – 1532); people enjoyed a state that can be described as well-being or economic prosperity – a state that had never before been known in such abundance in any country in the world and has also never been witnessed after.

It seems that this was made possible by a combination of pragmatism and spirituality that was guided by a moral principle, which to this day is known by the Indians of the Andes as Ayni. This is a kind of cosmic law that is both part of everyday life and part of a supernatural order. Ayni is a concept with many facets, which, simply put, amounts to the following: If you give something, you have the right to receive something. And when you receive something, you have the obligation to give something back. If it is applied in human relationships, groups, or systems, for example, this principle can create an intentional force field that opens up the possibility for positive change, synchronicities or even miracles.  

The Inka religion and the sun cult

Before the existence of their calendar, long before the establishment of the Inka empire, the Inkas worshipped the sun. Until the beginning of the 15th Century, under the 9th Inka Hatun Topa, the Inka religion or Inka culture can also be described as sun worship or sun cult. The worship of the sun, however, had already developed further at that time. This developmental leap is also known as “The appearance of Punchau,” the sun god, who inhabits the physical sun.

The Punchau is the creator of fire or solar power, whose consciousness was expanded to a divine presence by the mere radiance of the sun. Accordingly, the Inkas worshiped not only the “visible” sun - its appearance – but also perceived it as a living being, a living spirit. They called this whole living creature Taita Inti, Father Sun. In their records, the Spanish chroniclers describe that the Punchau was a gold statue about the size of a 2-year old child that stood at a central location within the Qorikancha, the sun temple. All the other symbols of the sun cults of the various peoples in the Inkan empire were placed around it. 

From sun cult to god

During his reign, Hatun Topa Inka had an experience or encounter with the metaphysical god on the mountain Wiraqochan – much like Moses on Mount Sinai – whom he then called Wiraqocha (“God”). He later changed his own name from Hatun Topa Inka to Wiraqocha Inka. However, it was his son Pachakuti Inka who led the Inka culture an important step further in its spiritual development by integrating the experience of his father – witnessing the presence of a metaphysical god – and developing his father’s skills more deeply. A highly developed sun cult evolved into a belief system in which the Inka and the nobility as well as a few selected priests prayed to a metaphysical god whose influence and power far exceeded the power of the sun.  

Instead of fighting or abolishing the sun cult, however – knowing full well that the peoples of the Inka empire were followers of this cult, because the sun, unlike the metaphysical god, was visible for everyone in the sky every day – Pachakuti Inka used it to his advantage. As soon as he integrated a new kingdom in the wake of the expansion of his empire, he sealed the covenant by having the sun symbol of this newly integrated culture carried to Cusco in a grand procession. There, a copy of this symbol was made of pure gold, placed in the magnificent Sun Temple and incorporated, together with the priests of the respective cult, into the empire.

The continuation of the sun cult can therefore be seen as a political instrument rather than a practiced spiritual or religious tradition. Instead of being challenged on their spiritual beliefs, the different tribes were united in one place and it was ensured that each individual sun cult could nourish and strengthen its connection to its origin. 

The Inka religion today

The Inka religion currently practiced in the Andes involves a belief system that clearly identifies its followers as Christians. They have accepted the image of Jesus Christ in the form revealed to them by Christianity – Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior. Similarly, they have also accepted the image of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. However, these two central images are surrounded by a number of “supernatural” beings, which have nothing in common with the Roman Catholic tradition – beings such as the Pachamama, the omnipresent Mother Earth (or also the “female aspect of the universe”), around which all spiritual activities of the Andean Indians revolve to this day. There are, for example, the Apus, the spirits of the mountains, the Mallkis, the spirits of the trees, or Mama Qocha, the spirit of the lagoons, oceans and lakes.

The Andean belief system or today’s Inka religion includes beings that have a greater connection to the world of the Inkas than to the supernatural world of the Europeans. Christianity has thus been merged with a tradition that has obviously been present in America for much longer than Christianity itself.   

Inka shamanism vs. Inka religion

In 1979 the valley of Cusco was home to exactly 70 Paqos (a Quechua word that translates as “practitioner of the Inka tradition” or “priest”). This number was so significant then because it was substantially higher than the total number of Catholic priests and Protestant pastors in the area. These “specialists” of the Inka tradition were (and still are) divided into a hierarchical structure with four levels, which differs from the rather flat structure of shamanism. All four levels have an order and structure which describes the transition from one level to the next with the help of precisely defined initiations and ceremonies, not unlike Buddhism or the Christian church.  

The academic studies and observations of Juan Núñez del Prado at the end of the 1970s brought to light much knowledge of a long-forgotten tradition and revealed a spirituality that can today be referred to as modern Inka religion.  

Read here what changes this religion has been exposed to over the last 500 years.