Added by: M. Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Andrés Hernández Villarreal
Publisher's note: For at least two millennia before the advent of the Spaniards in 1519, there was a flourishing civilization in central Mexico. During that long span of time a cultural evolution took place which saw a high development of the arts and literature, the formulation of complex religious doctrines, systems of education, and diverse political and social organization. The rich documentation concerning these people, commonly called Aztecs, includes, in addition to a few codices written before the Conquest, thousands of folios in the Nahuatl or Aztec language written by natives after the Conquest. Adapting the Latin alphabet, which they had been taught by the missionary friars, to their native tongue, they recorded poems, chronicles, and traditions.
The fundamental concepts of ancient Mexico presented and examined in this book have been taken from more than ninety original Aztec documents. They concern the origin of the universe and of life, conjectures on the mystery of God, the possibility of comprehending things beyond the realm of experience, life after death, and the meaning of education, history, and art. The philosophy of the Nahuatl wise men, which probably stemmed from the ancient doctrines and traditions of the Teotihuacans and Toltecs, quite often reveals profound intuition and in some instances is remarkably “modern.”
This English edition is not a direct translation of the original Spanish, but an adaptation and rewriting of the text for the English-speaking reader.
Comment (from this Blueprint): This chapter introduces key concepts in the Nahua conception of human beings. Firstly, it introduces the idea that human beings are created out of necessity by the gods, and the idea that they find themselves in a precarious situation. It also introduces the concepts of heart (yóllotl) and face (ix-tli) as the key concepts to understand human being’s dynamic nature. While the face can be understood as that which makes each person an individual and that which needs to be developed (we can assimilate it to a notion of the self), the heart is taken to be the dynamic center of human being’s psychological life. The chapter also focuses on the destiny of human beings on earth and in the afterlife, as well as to the notion of free will that is at play.
Added by: M. Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Andrés Hernández VillarrealAbstract:
For the ancient Mexicas, the composition of the human body was similar to that of the cosmos, with both being composed of dense and light substances. The light substance of the human body was divine in nature and formed the different souls of each human being. Some souls were indispensable for human existence while others were unnecessary and often harmful. The dense part of the human body functioned through its union with the souls. Like the different souls, the dense parts of the human body also had specific functions dedicated to different activities. For example, human thought derived primarily from the heart. Souls could be damaged, which could cause them to malfunction and lead to illness and possibly death in the human being. As the souls were divine, each was a conscious being with its own personality; thus there could be disagreements between them. Disharmony could also lead to illness.
Comment (from this Blueprint): Because of the difficulty of López-Austin’s text, it is proposed to focus only on some sections. Specifically, from chapter 5 focus on the section that introduces the location of animistic states and processes, the section on the linguistic group yol, yollo, the linguistic group tonal, the linguistic group cua, and the linguistic group ihío. Finally, read the section on the animistic centers. Individual members of the reading group can also choose to focus each on one of the animistic entity presented in chapter 6. For illustration of the concepts discussed, consider also reading Bernardino de Sahagún's Florentine Codex.