BN-STUDY SO. AMERICA Part 1
Nov 02, 2004 11:47 AM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck
Nov 2 2004
Responding to a post in BN-Study, there is also HPB’s article:
This is Part 1
A LAND OF MYSTERY
WHETHER one surveys the imposing ruins of Memphis or Palmyra; stands at the
foot of the great pyramid of Ghizé; wanders along the shores of the Nile;or
ponders amid the desolate fastnesses of the long-lost and mysterious Petra;
however clouded and misty the origin of these prehistoric relics may appear,
one nevertheless finds at least certain fragments of firm ground upon which
to build conjecture.
Thick as may be the curtain behind which the history of these antiquities is
hidden, still there are rents here and there through which one may catch
glimpses of light. We are acquainted with the descendants of the builders.
And, however superficially, we also know the story of the nations whose
vestiges are scattered around us. Not so with the antiquities of the New
World of the two Americas.
There, all along the coast of Peru, all over the Isthmus and North America,
in the canyons of the Cordilleras, in the impossible gorges of the Andes,
and, especially beyond the valley of Mexico, lie, ruined and desolate,
hundreds of once mighty cities, lost to the memory of men, and having
themselves lost even a name.
Buried in dense forests, entombed in inaccessible valleys, sometimes sixty
feet under-ground, from the day of their discovery until now they have ever
remained a riddle to science, baffling all inquiry, and they have been muter
than the Egyptian Sphinx herself.
We know nothing of America prior to the Conquest--positively nothing. No
chronicles, not even comparatively modern ones survive; there are no
traditions, even among the aboriginal tribes, as to its past events. We are
as ignorant of the races that built these cyclopean structures, as of the
strange worship that inspired the antediluvian sculptors who carved upon
hundreds of miles of walls, of monuments, monoliths and altars, these weird
hieroglyphics, these groups of animals and men, pictures of an unknown life
and lost arts--scenes so fantastic and wild, at times, that they
involuntarily suggest the idea of a feverish dream, whose phantasmagoria at
the wave of some mighty magician's hand suddenly crystallized into granite,
to bewilder the coming generations for ever and ever.
So late as the beginning of the present century, the very existence of such
wealth of antiquities was unknown. The petty, suspicious jealousy of the
Spaniards had, from the first, created a sort of Chinese wall between their
American possessions and the too curious traveller: and the ignorance and
fanaticism of the conquerors, and their carelessness as to all but the
satisfaction of their insatiable greediness, had precluded scientific
research. Even the enthusiastic accounts of Cortez and his army of brigands
and priests, and of Pizarro and his robbers and monks, as to the splendour
of the temples, palaces, and cities of Mexico and Peru, were long
In his History of America, Dr. Robertson goes so far as to inform his reader
that the houses of the ancient Mexicans were "mere huts, built with turf, or
mud, or the branches of trees, like those of the rudest Indians; '' and,
upon the testimony of some Spaniards he even risked the assertion that "in
all the extent of that vast empire," there was not "a single monument or
vestige of any building more ancient than the Conquest"!
It was reserved to the great Alexander Humboldt to vindicate the truth. In
1803 a new flood of light was poured into the world of archæology by this
eminent and learned traveller. In this he luckily proved but the pioneer of
He then described but Mitla, or the Vale of the Dead, Xoxichalco, and the
great pyramidal Temple of Cholula. But, after him came Stephens, Catherwood,
and Squier; and, in Peru, D'Orbigny and Dr. Tschuddi. Since then, numerous
travellers have visited and given us accurate details of many of the
antiquities. But, how many more yet remain not only unexplored, but even
unknown, no one can tell.
As regards prehistoric buildings, both Peru and Mexico are rivals of Egypt.
Equaling the latter in the immensity of her cyclopean structures, Peru
surpasses her in their number; while Cholula exceeds the grand pyramid of
Cheops in breadth, if not in height. Works of public utility, such as walls,
fortifications, terraces, water-courses, aqueducts, bridges, temples,
burial-grounds, whole cities, and exquisitely paved roads, hundreds of miles
in length, stretch in an unbroken line, almost covering the land as with a
On the coast, they are built of sun-dried bricks; in the mountains, of
porphyritic lime, granite and silicated sandstones. Of the long generations
of peoples who built them, history knows nothing, and even tradition is
silent. As a matter of course, most of these lithic remains are covered with
a dense vegetation. Whole forests have grown out of the broken hearts of the
cities, and, with a few exceptions, everything is in ruin. But one may judge
of what once was by that which yet remains.
With a most flippant unconcern, the Spanish historians refer nearly every
ruin to Incan times. No greater mistake can be made. The hieroglyphics which
sometimes cover from top to bottom whole walls and monoliths are, as they
were from the first, a dead letter to modern science. But they were equally
a dead letter to the Incas, though the history of the latter can be traced
to the eleventh century They had no clue to the meaning of these
inscriptions, but attributed all such to their unknown predecessors; thus
barring the presumption of their own descent from the first civilizers of
their country. Briefly, the Incal history runs thus:--
Inca is the Quichua title for chief or emperor, and the name of the ruling
and most aristocratic race or rather caste of the land which was governed by
them for an unknown period, prior to, and until, the Spanish Conquest. Some
place their first appearance in Peru from regions unknown in 1021; others,
also, or conjecture, at five centuries after the Biblical "flood," and
according to the modest notions of Christian theology. Still the latter
theory is undoubtedly nearer truth than the former.
The Incas, judged by their exclusive privileges, power and "infallibility,"
are the antipodal counterpart of the Brahminical caste of India. Like the
latter, the Incas claimed direct descent from the Deity, which, as in the
case of the Sûryavansa dynasty of India, was the Sun.
According to the sole but general tradition, there was a time when the whole
of the population of the now New World was broken up into independent,
warring, and barbarian tribes. At last, the "Highest" deity--the Sun--took
pity upon them, and, in order to rescue the people from ignorance, sent down
upon earth, to teach them, his two children Manco Capac, and his sister and
wife, Mama Ocollo Huaco--the counterparts, again, of the Egyptian Osiris,
and his sister and wife, Isis, as well as of the several Hindu gods and
demi-gods and their wives.
These two made their appearance on a beautiful island in Lake Titicaca--of
which we will speak further on--and thence proceeded northward to Cuzco,
later on the capital of the Incas, where they at once began to disseminate
Collecting together the various races from all parts of Peru, the divine
couple then divided their labor. Manco Capac taught men agriculture,
legislation, architecture and arts; while Mama Ocollo instructed the women
in weaving, spinning, embroidery and house-keeping. It is from this
celestial pair that the Incas claimed their descent; and yet, they were
utterly ignorant of the people who built the stupendous and now ruined
cities which cover the whole area of their empire, and which then extended
from the Equator to over 37 degrees of Latitude, and included not only the
western slope of the Andes, but the whole mountain chain with its eastern
declivities to the Amazon and Orinoco.
As the direct descendants of the Sun, they were exclusively the high priests
of the state religion, and at the same time emperors and the highest
statesmen in the land: in virtue of which, they, again like the Brahmans,
arrogated to themselves a divine superiority over the ordinary mortals, thus
founding like the "twice-born" an exclusive and aristocratic caste--the Inca
Considered as the son of the Sun, every reigning Inca was the high priest,
the oracle, chief captain in war, and absolute sovereign; thus realizing the
double office of Pope and King, and so long anticipating the dream of the
Roman Pontiffs. To his command the blindest obedience was exacted; his
person was sacred; and he was the object of divine honours.
The highest officers of the land could not appear shod in his presence; this
mark of respect pointing again to an Oriental origin; while the custom of
boring the ears of the youths of royal blood and inserting in them golden
rings "which were increased in size as they advanced in rank, until the
distention of the cartilege became a positive deformity," suggests a strange
resemblance between the sculptured portraits of many of them that we find in
the more modern ruins, and the images of Buddha and of some deities, not to
mention our contemporary dandies of Siam, Burmah, and Southern India.
In that, once more like in India, in the palmy days of the Brahmin power, no
one had the right to either receive an education or study religion except
the privileged Inca caste. And, when the reigning Inca died, or as it was
termed, "was called home to the mansion of his father," a very large number
of his attendants and his wives were made to die with him, during the
ceremony of his obsequies, just as we find in the old annals of Rajesthan,
and down to the but just abolished custom of Sutti.
Taking all this into consideration, the archæologist cannot remain satisfied
with the brief remark of certain historians that "in this tradition we trace
only another version of the story of the civilization common to all
primitive nations, and that imposture of a celestial relationship whereby
designing rulers and cunning priests have sought to secure their ascendency
No more is it an explanation to say that "Manco Capac is the almost exact
counterpart of the Chinese Fohi, the Hindu Buddha, the terrestrial Osiris of
Egypt, the Quetzalcoatl of Mexico, and Votan of Central America"; for all
this is but too evident.
What we want to learn is how came these nations, so antipodal to each other
as India, Egypt, and America, to offer such extraordinary points of
resemblance, not only in their general religious, political, and social
views, but sometimes in the minutest details.
The much-needed task is to find out which one of them preceded the other; to
explain how these people came to plant at the four corners of the earth
nearly identical architecture and arts, unless there was a time when, as
assured by Plato and believed in by more than one modern archæologist, no
ships were needed for such a transit, as the two worlds formed but one
According to the most recent researches, there are five distinct styles of
architecture in the Andes alone, of which the temple of the Sun at Cuzco was
the latest. And this one, perhaps, is the only structure of importance
which, according to modern travellers, can be safely attributed to the
Incas, whose imperial glories are believed to have been the last gleam of a
civilization dating back for untold ages.
Dr. E. R. Heath, of Kansas (U.S.A.), thinks that "long before Manco Capac,
the Andes had been the dwelling-place of races, whose beginning must have
been coëval with the savages of Western Europe. The gigantic architecture
points to the cyclopean family, the founders of the Temple of Babel, and the
Egyptian pyramids. The Grecian scroll found in many places is borrowed (?)
from the Egyptians; the mode of burial and embalming their dead points to
Further on, this learned traveller finds that the skulls taken from the
burial-grounds, according to craniologists, represent three distinct races:
the Chinchas, who occupied the western part of Peru from the Andes to the
Pacific; the Aymaras, dwellers of the elevated plains of Peru and Bolivia,
on the southern shore of Lake Titicaca; and the Huancas, who "occupied the
plateau between the chains of the Andes, north of Lake Titicaca to the 9th
degree of South Latitude."
To confound the buildings of the epoch of the Incas in Peru, and of
Montezuma and his caciques, in Mexico, with the aboriginal monuments, is
fatal to archaeology.
While Cholula, Uxmal, Quiché, Pachacamac, and Chichen were all perfectly
preserved and occupied at the time of the invasion of the Spanish banditti,
there are hundreds of ruined cities and works which were in the same state
of ruin even then; whose origin was unknown to the conquered Incas and
caciques as it is to us; and which are undoubtedly the remains of unknown
and now extinct peoples.
The strange shapes of the heads, and profiles of the human figures upon the
monoliths of Copan are a warrant for the correctness of the hypothesis. The
pronounced difference between the skulls of these races and the
Indo-European skulls was at first attributed to mechanical means, used by
the mothers for giving a peculiar conformation to the head of their children
during infancy, as is often done by other tribes and peoples. But, as the
same author tells us, the finding in "a mummy of a fœtus of seven or eight
months having the same conformation of skull, has placed a doubt as to the
certainty of this fact." And besides hypothesis, we have a scientific and an
unimpeachable proof of a civilization that must have existed in Peru ages
ago. Were we to give the number of thousands of years that have probably
elapsed since then, without first showing good reasons for the assumption,
the reader might feel like holding his breath. So let us try.
The Peruvian guano (huano), that precious fertilizer, composed of the
excrement of sea-fowls, intermixed with their decaying bodies, eggs, remains
of seal, and so on, which has accumulated upon the isles of the Pacific and
the coast of South America, and its formation are now well-known. It was
Humboldt who first discovered and drew the world's attention to it in 1804.
And, while describing the deposits as covering the granite rocks of the
Chincas and other islands to the depth of 50 or 60 feet, he states that the
accumulation of the preceding 300 years, since the Conquest, had formed only
a few lines in thickness. How many thousands of years, then, it required to
form this deposit 60 feet deep, is a matter of simple calculation. In this
connection we may now quote something of a discovery spoken of in the
"Buried 62 feet under the ground, on the Chinca islands, stone-idols and
water-pots were found, while 35 and 33 feet below the surface were wooden
idols. Beneath the guano on the Guanapi islands, just south of Truxillo, and
Macabi just north, mummies, birds, and birds' eggs, gold and silver
ornaments were taken. On the Macabi the labourers found some large valuable
golden vases, which they broke up and divided among themselves, even though
offered weight for weight in gold coin, and thus relics of greater interest
to the scientist have been ever lost.
He--who can determine the centuries necessary to deposit thirty and sixty
feet of guano on these islands, remembering that since the Conquest, three
hundred years ago, no appreciable increase in depth has been noted--can give
you an idea of the antiquity of these relics."
If we confine ourselves to a strictly arithmetical calculation, then
allowing 12 lines to an inch, and 12 inches to a foot, and allowing one line
to every century, we are forced to believe that the people who made these
precious gold vases lived 864,000 years ago!
Leave an ample margin for errors, and give two lines to a century--say an
inch to every 100 years--and we will yet have 72,000 years back a
civilization which--if we judge by its public works, the durability of its
constructions, and the grandeur of its buildings,--equalled, and in some
things certainly surpassed, our own.
Having well defined ideas as to the periodicity of cycles, for the world as
well as for nations, empires, and tribes, we are convinced that our present
modern civilization is but the latest dawn of that which already has been
seen an innumerable number of times upon this planet. It may not be exact
science, but it is both inductive and deductive logic, based upon theories
far less hypothetical and more palpable than many another theory, held as
To express it in the words of Professor T. E. Nipher, of St. Louis, "we are
not the friends of theory, but of truth," and until truth is found, we
welcome every new theory, however unpopular at first, for fear of rejecting
in our ignorance the stone which may in time become the very corner-stone of
"The errors of scientific men are well nigh countless, not because they are
men of science, but because they are men," says the same scientist; and
further quotes the noble words of Faraday--"occasionally, and frequently the
exercise of the judgment ought to end in absolute reservation. It may be
very distasteful and a great fatigue to suspend a conclusion, but as we are
not infallible, so we ought to be cautious." (Experimental Researches, 24th
It is doubtful whether, with the exception of a few of the most prominent
ruins, there ever was attempted a detailed account of the so-called American
antiquities. Yet, in order to bring out the more prominently a point of
comparison, such a work would be absolutely necessary.
If the history of religion and of mythology and--far more important--the
origin, developing and final grouping of the human species are ever to be
unravelled, we have to trust to archaeological research, rather than to the
hypothetical deductions of philology.
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,
the latter being but too liable, in its manifold interpretations, to be
distorted in a thousand ways. This would afford us an easier and more
Archaeological Societies ought to have a whole cyclopædia of the world's
remains, with a collation of the most important of the speculations as to
each locality. For, however fantastic and wild some of these hypotheses may
seem at first glance, yet each has a chance of proving useful at some time.
It is often more beneficial to know what a thing is not than to know what it
is, as Max Müller truly tells us.
It is not within the limits of an article in our paper that any such object
could be achieved. Availing ourselves, though, of the reports of the
Government surveyors, trustworthy travellers, men of science, and, even our
own limited experience, we will try in the future issues to give to our
Hindu readers, who possibly may never have heard of these antiquities, a
general idea of them. Our latest informations are drawn from every reliable
source; the survey of the Peruvian antiquities being mostly due to Dr.
Heath's able paper, above mentioned.
Evidently we, THEOSOPHISTS, are not the only iconoclasts in this world of
mutual deception and hypocrisy. We are not the only ones who believe in
cycles and, opposing the Biblical chronology, lean towards those opinions
which secretly are shared by so many, but publicly avowed by so few.
We, Europeans, are just emerging from the very bottom of a new cycle, and
progressing upwards, while the Asiatics--Hindus especially--are the
lingering remnants of the nations which filled the world in the previous and
now departed cycles.
Whether the Aryans sprang from the archaic Americans, or the latter from the
prehistorical Aryans, is a question which no living man can decide. But that
there must have been an intimate connection at some time between the old
Aryans, the prehistoric inhabitants of America--whatever might have been
their name--and the ancient Egyptians, is a matter more easily proved than
contradicted. And probably, if there ever was such a connection, it must
have taken place at a time when the Atlantic did not yet divide the two
hemispheres as it does now.
In his Peruvian Antiquities (see the Theosophist for March) Dr. Heath, of
Kansas City--rara avis among scientific men, a fearless searcher, who
accepts truth wherever he finds it, and is not afraid to speak it out in the
very face of dogmatic opposition--sums up his impressions of the Peruvian
relics in the following words:--
“Three times the Andes sank hundreds of feet beneath the ocean level, and
again were slowly brought to their present height. A man's life would be too
short to count even the centuries consumed in this operation. The coast of
Peru has risen eighty feet since it felt the tread of Pizarro. Supposing the
Andes to have risen uniformly and without interruption, 70,000 years must
have elapsed before they reached their present altitude."
"Who knows, then, but that Jules Verne's fanciful idea regarding the lost
continent Atlanta may be near the truth?
Who can say that, where now is the Atlantic Ocean, formerly did not exist a
continent, with its dense population, advanced in the arts and sciences,
who, as they found their land sinking beneath the waters, retired part east
and part west, populating thus the two hemispheres?
This would explain the similarity of their archæological structures and
races, and their differences, modified by and adapted to the character of
their respective climates and countries. Thus would the llama and camel
differ, although of the same species; thus the algoraba and espino trees;
thus the Iroquois Indians of North America and the most ancient Arabs call
the constellation of the 'Great Bear' by the same name; thus various
nations, cut off from all intercourse or knowledge of each other, divide the
zodiac into twelve constellations, apply to them the same names, and the
Northern Hindus apply the name Andes to their Himalayan mountains, as did
the South Americans to their principal chain.
Must we fall in the old rut, and suppose no other means of populating the
Western Hemisphere except 'by way of Behring's Strait'? Must we still locate
a geographical Eden in the East, and suppose a land, equally adapted to man
and as old geologically, must wait the aimless wanderings of the 'lost tribe
of Israel' to become populated?"
Go where we may, to explore the antiquities of America--whether of Northern,
Central, or Southern America--we are first of all impressed with the
magnitude of these relics of ages and races unknown, and then with the
extraordinary similarity they present to the mounds and ancient structures
of old India, of Egypt and even of some parts of Europe.
Whoever has seen one of these mounds has seen all. Whoever has stood before
the cyclopean structures of one continent can have a pretty accurate idea of
those of the other. Only be it said--we know still less of the age of the
antiquities of America than even of those in the Valley of the Nile, of
which we know next to nothing.
But their symbolism--apart from their outward form--is evidently the same as
in Egypt, India, and elsewhere. As before the great pyramid of Cheops in
Cairo, so before the great mound, 100 feet high, on the plain of
Cahokia,--near St. Louis (Missouri)--which measures 700 feet long by 800
feet broad at the base, and covers upwards of eight acres of ground, having
20,000,000 cubic feet of contents, and the mound on the banks of Brush
Creek, Ohio, so accurately described by Squier and Davis, one knows not
whether to admire more the geometrical precision, prescribed by the
wonderful and mysterious builders in the form of their monuments, or the
hidden symbolism they evidently sought to express.
The Ohio mound represents a serpent, upwards of l ,000 feet long. Gracefully
coiled in capricious curves, it terminates in a triple coil at the tail.
"The embankment constituting the effigy, is upwards of five feet in height,
by thirty feet base at the centre of the body, slightly diminishing towards
the tail." 5
neck is stretched out and its mouth wide opened, holding within its jaws an
oval figure. "Formed by an embankment four feet in height, this oval is
perfectly regular in outline, its transverse and conjugate diameters being
160 and 8 feet respectively," say the surveyors.
The whole represents the universal cosmological idea of the serpent and the
egg. This is easy to surmise. But how came this great symbol of the Hermetic
wisdom of old Egypt to find itself represented in North America? How is it
that the sacred buildings found in Ohio and elsewhere, these squares,
circles, octagons, and other geometrical figures, in which one recognizes so
easily the prevailing idea of the Pythagorean sacred numerals, seem copied
from the Book of Numbers?
Apart from the complete silence as to their origin, even among the Indian
tribes, who have otherwise preserved their own traditions in every case, the
antiquity of these ruins is proved by the existence of the largest and most
ancient forests growing on the buried cities.
The prudent archæologists of America have generously assigned them 2,000
years. But by whom built, and whether their authors migrated, or disappeared
beneath victorious arms, or were swept out of existence by some direful
epidemic, or a universal famine, are questions, "probably beyond the power
of human investigation to answer," they say.
The earliest inhabitants of Mexico, of whom history has any knowledge--more
hypothetical than proven--are the Toltecs. These are supposed to have come
from the North and believed to have entered Anahuac in the 7th century A.D.
They are also credited with having constructed in Central America, where
they spread in the eleventh century, some of the great cities whose ruins
still exist. In this case it is they who must also have carved the
hieroglyphics that cover some of the relics.
How is it, then, that the pictorial system of writing of Mexico, which was
used by the conquered people and learned by the conquerors and their
missionaries, does not yet furnish the keys to the hieroglyphics of Palenque
and Copan, not to mention those of Peru?
And these civilized Toltecs themselves, who were they, and whence did they
come? And who are the Aztecs that succeeded them? Even among the
hieroglyphical systems of Mexico, there were some which the foreign
interpreters were precluded the possibility of studying. These were the
so-called schemes of judicial astrology "given but not explained in Lord
Kingsborough's published collection," and set down as purely figurative and
symbolical, "intended only for the use of the priests and diviners and
possessed of an esoteric significance." Many of the hieroglyphics on the
monoliths of Palenque and Copan are of the same character.
The "priests and diviners" were all killed off by the Catholic fanatics,--
the secret died with them.
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