For the Laika, time is intertwined with space, very much like the concept in physics known as space-time. The shamans call it pacha. It is the basis of the word Pachamama, or Mother Earth, our home in time and space. Since space and time are deeply connected in Andean cosmology, it is not out of the question to imagine that one could traverse time just as one can travel through the landscape.
If this is difficult for you to imagine, try the definition of space-time in physics. The essence of Einstein’s theory of general relativity is often described as follows: matter tells space-time how to curve, and curved space-time tells matter how to move.
It’s like a river.
I have traveled the Peruvian rain forest and camped by the edge of the Amazon and the Mother of God rivers. Later, I studied with the shamans of the high Andes, in villages near bubbling brooks that later merged into tributaries of the Amazon. For the Indio, the river is a good metaphor for many things, including time. They speak about mysterious currents beneath the surface that can take you back to your birth and beyond, before the moment of your conception and to earlier lifetimes, and to the beginning of time itself. The currents of the river of time do not flow from the past toward the future only. And you do not have to fight the current to swim upstream like the salmon do. You simply must find the right undercurrent that can take you as far back into the past as you wish.
I was fortunate early on in my travels in the Andes to study with Don Manuel, whom I have mentioned earlier. He was in his late 60s when I first met him, and we hiked together through the Andes for nearly 30 years.
On one occasion, I asked Don Manuel if the Inka notion of time, of pacha, meant that I could be born again in the past. I had thought that if reincarnation existed, we would always take rebirth in the future. Could I be a soldier in Alexander’s army 2,000 years ago in my next incarnation?
“It’s like a dream, where the past and present swirl into each other,” he responded. “Children are always born into the future, but the Laika can visit the past at will, and even return there for a brief period or for an entire lifetime. It depends on your personal power.”
“What do you mean?” I asked the old man.
“Some people do not have enough personal power even to be in the moment fully. They are here, but absent in some strange way, not living in the present. They are stuck in the past, victims of their childhood, of how they suffered, or they did not get what they feel they deserved. They pray for a better, more comfortable future.”
He continued: “Your personal power is the product of your communion with the Ti. If the Ti is strong within you, and you are unencumbered by your past, you cannot be seduced by the daydream of a different future. Then the past opens up to you.”
I learned with Don Manuel that one can enter the river of time to discover treasures hidden by ancient masters inside the currents and eddies of the past and in the turbulent whitewaters of the future. You could journey to explore the currents of tomorrow to find opportunities for yourself and your village. Once you did so, you could stop searching and get on with the job of creating it with the power of Ti, the Primordial Light.
At first, shamans explored the river of time to ensure the success of the hunt. If you were a medicine woman in the American Southwest, you had to lead the hunters to where the buffalo were going to be the following morning. If you arrived and there were fresh buffalo tracks in the snow, you were out of a job. You had to track forward along the river of time to find where the buffalo were going to be, and make sure that the hunters were there as well.
The Q’ero Nation that Don Manuel belonged to is in some of the most barren and inhospitable land in the Andes. Like the Hopi in North America, the Q’ero chose desolate peaks from which they could observe the machinations of the world and wait for the moment when they would deliver their prophecy of peace. The Laika want to dream the world into being with the power of the Primordial Light—to create beauty and peace where there is conflict and strife.