Traditional Peruvian art often depicts a common trifecta of animals; The Snake, The Puma, and The Condor.
Together, they translate a variety of theories about our Universe and communicate different meanings depending on which perspective you choose.
In this episode, A.C. Ridenour shares a freestyle explanation of the three animals from two different perspectives, and gets a little bit heated near the end while talking about where people generally get their information.
The second portion of this episode is an example of a practice A.C. calls “word-breaking”. Word-breaking is the process of considering a different meaning for a word; usually this is done by separating the roots and making connections, or translating portions into different languages, just for the hell of it.
In example: Dichotomy, Diabolical, Divided, Diablo.
All of these words start with “Di” which means “separated”. Except, we don’t think of “Diabolical” as meaning separated. We think it means “evil”. “Diablo” is the Spanish word for “Devil”.
Considering those connections, is it possible that Jesus meant to say that anything separate from God was evil?
Related excerpt from Chuck’s 2017 memoir, Wildchild.
“A satellite village exists—not 45 minutes outside Cusco, Peru—called Pisac. Shuttles run all day, everyday, and depart from a particular street located twenty walking minutes outside Cusco’s central plaza. Seats are shared by native Quechua speaking mamitas with rainbow sacks of wild herbs, and gap-year German engineering students alike.
An hour of walking around Pisac and one easily forms a book-cover judgement. The town’s main infrastructure measures only two square kilometers and can be traversed on foot within 20 minutes. Beyond the city limits, stretches of healthy farm land run in all directions like splatters of green of green and brown paint at the bottom of a bowl. Where crops and ranch homes end, a wall of rock and dry Evergreen forest begins, and doesn’t stop in it’s gradual escalation until a cloudless sky consumes the sometimes jagged peak. They call this region the Sacred Valley. Besides Pisac, the Valley also encapsulates ten neighboring towns, each one unique and independent of the others geographically. A single river fed from . Despite providing one of the smaller layouts, Pisac receives the most visitors of all the villages due to its prominent location as the first stop for people traveling from Cusco.
Pisac and its concentration of expatriate esoteric types could be described as a wholistic whirlpool. Concrete facades outside vegan restaurants and “shaman shops” featured floor-to-ceiling murals that resemble those purple shirts with a silver wolf howling into the cosmos. We all know those shirts. Only these paintings usually contained a different trifecta of animals: The snake, the puma, and the condor. The three symbolic creatures appear in every region of Peru, even on the interior walls of State Banks or molded into iron statues outside Christian churches.
I heard a variety of explanations regarding the significance of this ubiquitous trinity. Perhaps most obvious to a Western thinker, the snake could represent the underworld, or Hell, while the Puma and Condor align with Earth and Heaven respectively. From this more commonly Christian perspective, the snake would therefore be considered a bad omen. Personally, I wouldn’t want to get tangled up with any of the creatures in question, but are snakes really that much worse than pumas?
Instead of the snake representing Hell, Peruvian spiritual theology would suggest the snake is a symbol for the microcosmos, or the ever present interactions between the submicroscopic aspects of our universe; like what we call electrons, protons, and neutrons. Not to distract from the point, but the word “atom” means “cannot be divided”, yet humans proceed in dividing them into increasingly subatomic scales all the time. We have an obsession with separation that, I would guess, will not end until every human takes magic mushrooms at the exact same time.
Anyways, if the idea of Hell not existing hasn’t yet broken your dogmatic spine, calm down a minute, and think of the puma as the physical reality we perceive most immediately as humans. Some call it the mesocosmos. It’s the banana you ate for breakfast. It’s the turd you left this morning. It’s the sex you have when conceiving a beautiful child. Whatever happens on Earth, stays on Earth, and all of it can be wrapped up in an amateur painting of a mundane wild cat.
Finally, the condor, normally depicted with its record breaking wings spread above the puma, symbolizes the macrocosmos. Yes, some aspects of what can be considered the macrocosmos are perceivable by the human eye. But any 5th grade student who watched Neil Degrassi Tyson on Cosmos during science class could explain that a vast majority of our physical Universe exists beyond fathomable size. Stars, nebulas, asteroids 1000 times the size of Earth, black holes, and essentially any other phenomena imaginable are all currently existing on a macrocosmic scale. Each level of cosmic scale exists at the same time. Each level of the cosmic scale exists within itself. The levels, and their respective animals, all exist as part of one thing. We call that “one thing” the universe. To illustrate this ironically unfathomability even further, I like to think of each layer as a concentration of variably sized spheres.
After hearing this explanation and considering it over a cup of coffee, Peru proposes it again and again. The people themselves find it unnervingly entertaining to explain, especially in Pisac. It’s like they feel an ecological purpose to share their idea with the world, with subconscious hopes of rattling the diabolical cage that is traditional Christianity. Around 1532 A.D., the Spanish began violently obliterating the Inca Empire in search of gold and other riches. With the onslaught of murder, rape, and slavery also came a widespread conversion from the Ancient Andean spirituality to the Spanish version Christianity at that time. God only knows what route their translation of the Bible’s original Aramaic took on its way to becoming a Spanish Bible – pardon me, “una Biblia en Español”. I might add that the word for “library” in Spanish is “biblioteqa”, which literally translates to “place for books”. Now, following an obvious course of deduction and common sense, the word “Bible” in English must have originated from the Latin word for “book”. So, “the Bible” means nothing more than “the book”, when broken down using its principle significances.
Please note before reading on that we humans are meaning creators; meaning that the meaning I’m trying to translate by typing the series of symbols you are now reading, are all creations of the human mind. Does meaning exist beyond the human mind? If all humans were gone, would “the Bible” mean anything at all? To say the Bible is the Truth, and the whole Truth, is, I’m sorry to say, utter insanity.
I used a word earlier in this explanation: Diabolical. Commonly, the word is defined as evil or associated with the Devil. Even in Spanish, the word for “Devil” itself translates to “Diablo”, which shares its first four letters with the word in question: Diabolical. Another generally accepted “Di…” word , “Dichotomy”, means “a division between two things.” All of these words share the same basic meaning, and are inherently important when considering any theory about the existence of our apparent Universe. I will explain why in a moment, but first, consider this.
On Earth, as humans, we will die. People familiar with the Bible are generally familiar with the eventual goal of Christianity; to get into Heaven and find Unity with God. To do so, a human must, as is most commonly understood today, accept Jesus Christ as his or her or their savior. I constantly ask myself what this means. If God is ONE and ONLY it doesn’t make sense to claim humans, bananas, atoms, or suns are seperate. It doesn’t make sense to say we are divided. Yet, it appears as so from our little human eyes. Believe it or not, there are alternative explanations for our place in the Universe besides what a Christian Pastor would preach about, just as the Peruvians have their alternative explanation for the snake, puma, and condor.
Jesus could have been trying to explain the word Diabolical in the same way I am now. Translating experiential truth into intellectually bite sized chunks was probably his biggest priority. I can only imagine his knowledge and personal experience was just as burdensome as it was liberating. The theory I am proposing here is pretty simple;
What Christians consider to be the Word of God might have gotten mixed up over the years
Just 400 years ago, when King James hired 54 white dudes to translate the preceding Bible into “The New King James Version” a word as simple as “awful” carried a significance totally different from what we think of now. Awful used to mean “worthy of awe,” which meant people commonly made statements like “the awful majesty of God.” If the meaning of a word like “awful” could develop in such a skewed manner over 400 years, it’s arguably very silly to assume a fuzzy word like “diabolical” didn’t get at least a little distorted since Jesus Christ walked the Earth. Let alone the fact that English, nor Spanish, ni Latin even existed when Jesus taught about God!
Therefore, translating these terms from Traditional Christianity into another theology is difficult at first. In this case, very difficult because the new theology doesn’t have a name. It is your personal theology. By rearranging your personal understanding of the meaning of a few words, you could completely unravel your entire belief system. The process can be painful. Especially when all of your friends go to the same church as you and they may not even invite you out for iHOP anymore if they find out you have been fooling around with significance. With that precursor of thought in mind, take caution when considering the following statement: The words in the Bible could have meant something totally different to Jesus than they do to you.
As an example, entertain the idea that when Jesus, or any of the scribes, or prophets talked about the Devil, they could have been using a translated form of the word diabolical. If they were, then they might have really been talking about “a division between two things”. Those two things being ourselves and God. To reach Heaven and come into Unity with God, these terms propose that we must accept that we are not separate from God.
I half expected the simulation to glitch out after typing that line, sending me into an introspective vortex towards Heaven and Eternity, but it didn’t. I’m still here, assuming such a phenomena requires a more experiential understanding. Like the snake, puma, and condor do for Dirty Gringos walking around Peru with their big nylon backpacks and gore-tex boots, I can remind myself that the series of odd markings on this paper you are now processing as Diabolical just might mean something other than what my 6th grade English teacher told me they did.”