ingo swann

︎Artist, Painting, Spirituality.   
︎ Ventral Is Golden

"The future always foreshadows itself."

Ingo Swann (1933 - 2013) was a visionary artist and renowned for being a pioneer of the technique of ‘remote viewing’ (awareness of distant objects or places through extra sensory perception) at the Stanford Research Institute during the height of the Cold War.

Alongside renouned researchers and physicist, such as Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ, their project, code-named ‘Project Stargate’, ran from 1978 - 1995 and was entirely funded by the CIA with the aim of developing psychic abilities.

Some of Swann’s most notable discoveries using Extra Sensory Perception were describing, in 1973, Jupiter’s rings and the presence of rotating storms and ice crystals in its atmosphere, years before NASA confirmed their existence, as well as successfully locating terrestrial targets such as Soviet spy planes for the U.S Department of Defence.

Perhaps Swann’s most peculiar discovery whilst remote viewing was described in one of his books entitled, ‘Penetration: The Question of Extraterrestrial and Human Telepathy’ (1998), where he states that whilst employed by a covert, ‘deep black’ CIA operation, he was tasked to explore a possible colony on the dark side of the moon.

In 2006, classified files on the Stargate Project were released and confirmed Ingo Swann’s collaborations with the CIA.

Regarding the presence of extra-terrestrials on the moon, Swann stated that “not only are they already here, they are also building something”.

After being hypnotised by a secret agent known only as Mr. Axelrod, Swann was given various locations on the moon’s surface to remote view.
Upon reviewing the last location, Swann described seeing what appeared to be track marks leading towards a crater that was filled with a greenish haze of diffused light. At the centre of the crater were some kind of domed structures with windows. Swann moved closer and describes seeing humanoid figures inside who were working on something technical. Then, all of sudden, one of the beings, then two, then a dozen or more, stopped what they were doing and turned to the window where Swann had projected himself.

Swann said aloud, “They see me”.
Mr. Axelrod replied, “Come back, come back now.”
“They’re pointing at me”, Swann said.
Mr. Axelrod told Swann firmly, “Please come back, away from that place.”

Swann returned his consciousness back into the room and opened his eyes. He turned to Mr. Axelrod and said, “You already know they’re psychic, don’t you”.

“The experiment has now ended”, replied Mr. Axelrod.

Throughout his later life, Ingo Swann rarely made public appearances due to the media isolating his powers as a special case. He preferred instead to live out of the public eye, alongside his pet chinchilla, focussing on painting his visionary artworks to encourage others to reconnect to the energy of themselves and the cosmos.

“To a large extent, creativity is self-generated in areas of the mind beyond or beneath the individual’s willful, conscious control. All he can do is discipline his consciousness to accommodate the needs of the creative process.” - Ingo Swann.
“This archaic form of telepathy might not undergo conscious development in individuals, but it still remains in the collective unconscious where it continues to exist and react as a non- conscious responsive source of “reciprocal influence” within all individuals of the species.” - Ingo Swann.



︎Sculpture, Spirituality, Article  
︎ Ventral Is Golden

The ancient Masters were profound and subtle. Their wisdom was unfathomable. There is no way to describe it; all we can describe is their appearance. They were careful as someone crossing an icy stream. Alert as a warrior in enemy territory. Courteous as a guest. Fluid as melting ice. Shapable as a block of wood. Receptive as a valley. Clear as a glass of water.” - Lao Tzu.

Since historical times to the present day, it has been the foundation and source of a country’s power, both in spiritual and military terms, to centralise a mythic tradition so that a national identity can venerate and maintain its own sense of a particular origin.
There have been many theories suggesting the development of this kind of archaic consciousness through to the rise of modern civilisations, from Julian Jayne’s Bicameral Mind - a mythic sensibility experienced as the ‘voice of god’ in the thought of preliterate and prehistorical societies, to Karl Jaspers’ Axial Age - a suggested turning point in the history of philosophy, from around 500BC, that saw the emergence of cultural figures across the Eurasian continent, such as Lao-Tzu and the Tao te Ching in China, the Buddha and the Upanishads across India with the rise of Buddhism and Hindusim, Zarathustra and the Avestas in Iran and the regions of the Persian Empire, in Greece where the likes of Plato, Parmenides and Heraclitus were shaping cultural thought and in Israel where monotheism was connected with a rather different mode of the breaking down of tribal communities and their reconstruction into new forms of solidarity with new institutional patterns.
Overall these phenomena were experienced in a multitude of different forms but culminated in what Jaspers thought of as ‘a basis for a theory of universal history’ that lead to a transcendental breakthrough toward a consciousness-of-being as a whole and to self-consciousness in general (source).

However, as the late anarchist anthropologist, David Graeber once suggested in his essay on ‘Culture as Creative Refusal’, “the degree to which cultures are not just conceptions of what the world is like, not just ways of being and acting in the world, but active political projects (in opposition to) ...many aspects of culture that we are used to interpreting in essentialist or even tacitly evolutionist terms, might better be seen as acts of self-conscious rejection, or as formed through a schizmogenetic process of mutual definition against the values of neighbouring societies.

Graeber also goes onto say that we tend to assume that such attitudes were somehow primordial or, at best, the product of some deep but ultimately arbitrary cultural matrix, but certainly not a self-conscious political project on the part of actors just as mature and sophisticated as modern-day people.
Furthermore, he elucidates a phenomena, scattered across a band of territory that runs from roughly the Danube to the Ganges, where treasure troves full of large amounts of extremely valuable metalware that appear to have been self-consciously abandoned or even systematically destroyed always seem to appear where cultures mysteriously disappear. The remarkable thing is that such troves never occur within the great urban civilisations themselves, but always in the surrounding marginal zones that were closely connected to the commercial and bureaucratic centres by trade but were in no sense incorporated, and the recently discovered sacrificial pits of the ancient Sanxingdui culture in modern day China are no exception to this trend.

︎ Sacrificial pits containing relics and elephant tusks.
Originally discovered in the late 1920’s by a local farmer, the Sanxingdui artefacts have been dubbed as one of the world's greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century. However, they were only recognised as significant discoveries in the 1980’s when thousands more artifacts were accidentally unearthed from two sacrificial pits by construction workers.  
The pits contained thousands of gold, bronze, jade, and pottery artefacts that had been intentionally broken, burned, and carefully buried. In total, six pits have been excavated to date, where around 1,000 elephant tusks (perhaps as a shamanic icon referencing a subspecies of Asian elephant) and thousands more cowrie shells have been found, which had the unintended effect of buffering the soil's acidity and helping to preserve the contents.

In addition, the discovery of house remains and a city wall show that agriculture, animal husbandry, handicrafts and architecture had developed by that time, creating the foundations for a civilised society that could undertake projects of this nature. Furthermore, the inclusion of cowrie shells, which originate from the Indian Ocean and Elephant tusks suggest an interconnected trading network, which are all possible attributes to discredit the notion that culture arose from a single sphere of influence.

Some of the most outstanding examples of artistry and technical ability have been characterised by the Sanxingdui, most particularly the Tree of Life (thought to represent the later Fusang mythological tree) and the life-size bronze figure of a ceremonial shaman that stands, barefooted on an elephant mounted podium, at 2.62m tall.

︎ Bronze Tree of Life, Spirit Tree, Axis Mundi (3.95m tall).

︎ The Bronze Figure, 1600BC (2.62m tall).

The Sanxingdui (meaning ‘Three Star Mound’) were a Bronze Age civilisation that flourished in China’s fertile Sichuan Basin for several hundred years before mysteriously disappearing around 1200 B.C. They flourished in a time when it was thought that the cradle of Chinese civilisation was to the northeast, on the Yellow River, in China’s central plain region. However, the existence of the Sanxingdui culture completely defies this traditional theory of Chinese history.

The archaeological discoveries make evident that pre-Zhou China was not ruled by a single state or a Shang Dynasty as suggested by the traditional historiographic sources, but that the Shang cultural narrative simply establishes a change in time from mythological to historical by way of two characters known as Xie (偰) and Yu the Great (禹), mythical twins who helped redirect the waters caused by ‘the great flood’.
Early bronze-age China, rather than having a single, centralised origin, was instead inhabited by numerous communities with different cultural traditions, several of which proved to be politically and technoloigcally superior to the Shang and Zhou dynasties, and were able to dominate a larger territory for a certain time (source).

This is what makes the Sanxingdui cultural artefacts so intruiging and mysterious within the narrative of China’s early cultural formation. Their bronze scupltures are more technically advanced than other areas of China for this time, even though the culture is older (dating back 4,800 years, roughly one thousand years older than the first dynasty). Additionally, the style and symbology of the Sanxingdui are idiosyncratic and completely unknown within early, traditional Chinese symbology and production methods.
For example, according to Huo Wei, the dean of the School of Archaeology, Culture and Museum at Sichuan University, the 112 bronze wares that were excavated from the two sacrificial pits in 1986 showed that people living in the ancient kingdom of Shu (of which Sanxingdui was a continuation) had another hierarchy and worshiping system which can be seen in their relics including gold masks, bronze standing figures and the bronze tree that are totally different with those from the Central Plains area of China.

The Sanxingdui are also said to have been contemporaneous with the Bashu culture in Jinsha, where they are thought to have migrated towards their decline. Collectively these two regions were part of the Shu Kingdom, which was largely a mixture of mythological stories and historical legends found in local annals, which rendered this era of Chinese history in a similar light to the ancient Greek account of the once mythical city of Troy, which later was discovered to be an actual city by Heinrich Schliemann.

One particular artefact that ties into the mythological narrative of the Shu kingdom is contained in the artistic detailing of a golden sceptre that was found in the excavations from the 1980’s.
Dating back around 4,000 to 3,600 years, the gold sceptre was the largest of its kind to be unearthed in China at that time, and is particularly intruiging as the sceptre / staff symbology is not something particular to China but more common in ancient Sumerian, Egyptian and Indian cultures. As a sign or insignia of royal divinity, the Ding (鼎) cooking vessel was more commonly used in Chinese symbology. 
Described as one of the national treasures with the greatest historical and scientific significance, the gold sceptre is believed to symbolise the same kind of royal divinity through the ages.

︎ Golden Sceptre details.

The golden sceptre also reflects the exquisitely detailed gold leaf designs and smelting techniques of the time, as the gold had to be hammered thin enough to cover the limited surface of the wooden stick around which it is wrapped.
Upon closer examination, the staff displays patterns of human heads, fish, birds, and arrows that some researchers say reflect the ancestral worship of the ancient Shu people, which coincides with the mythical accounts of the five Shu culture heroes; Can Cong, Baiguan, Yufu, Du Yu, and Kaiming.

Since the Shu people were not a single homogeneous people, but instead consisting of multiple heterogeneous groups from near and far, they are similar in structure to the likes of the Celts and Jōmon.
Their clan lineages are indeterminate with a reliance upon mythical accounts of cultural figures such as those mentioned above.
Arguably the most notable of these culture heroes is Can Cong, who’s totem "Silkworm” was ascribed to him due to his blue/green clothing and his knowledge of silkworm cultivation that he spread throughout the kingdom. According to legend from later cultures (as the Sanxingdui have no written records), Can Cong is described as being immortal and having ‘vertical eyes’ (muzong - 目纵) which are most likely depicted in the shamanic rendering of the largest of the Sanxingdui bronze masks.
The strange symbology of the pertruding eyes are yet to be deciphered, but some have suggested that later Chinese traditions (attributed to Wei Xie and Zhang Sengyou), that artists would sometimes refrain from painting the eyes of deities and supernatural forces such as dragons. When Zhang Sengyou was urged to paint the eyes of a dragon, as one story recounts, the walls immediately collapsed and the dragon flew into the sky.
The suggestion is that these bronze masks record the supernatural power of vision that can extend physically through various dimensions. In addition to the ‘nose motif’, this could also suggest a connection to a heavenly realm through the animating principle of lightning - interestingly not too dissimilar from the Mayan depiction of rain god Chaac.

︎ Mask from Pit 2 (82cm tall).

The remaining mythical dynasties of the Shu kingdom all share corresponding totemic features to the natural world that can be briefly summarised as Baiguan ("White Crane"), Yufu ("Fish / Cormorant"), Du Yu ("Cookoo") and Kaiming ("Turtle / Sun"), all of which represent phases of development and decline due to climate changes brought about by earthquakes and changes in political structure as the Bronze Age tribal cultures slowly migrated and were absorbed into more sedentary ways of living.

What seems to be a common feature that bound tribal confederacies of this mythical era together was their veneration for totemic animals and the kinds of magical attributes they inspired in the constructing of an identity. Human-animal hybrids are not uncommon and speak to the supernatural and liminal realms that often typify changes in consciousness and poetic affiliation with new technologies and modes of expression - even writing. 
Although evidence of writing has not yet been proven within the Sanxingdui culture, it is possible to think that the conceptual seeds of what became the Oracle Bone Script of the later Shang Dynasty were developed in these early Bronze Age cultures, which is further supported by the Jaihu symbols, which date to an even earlier time of 6000BC.

There is also an uncanny visual resonance between some of the totemic animals that were used by the Sanxingdui (such as birds, dragons and serpents) and later characters from the Oracle Bone script.
The idea that written language itself is a fossilied poem and contains the natural phenomena that had to be witnessed in the process of its creation, is something that can be ascribed to morphemic systems like modern Chinese for example (where the basic unit of a word is still visually represented in the meaning it portrays). The visual vernacular of the eye itself, so exaggerated in the Shu kingdom culture, is also ascribed to its later Oracle Bone character, which consists of an eye with a serpentine body (source).

︎ Bird, Tree and Shu Kingdom character (serpentine eye).

The archetypal symbols that seem to transform humanity’s spiritual vision are often mediated through establishing magical relationships with the energies that swirl within the ever-changing environments we find ourselves in. Although their appearance can give the impression of idiosyncrasies held within small tribal groups, their apparent transcendence between space, time and cultural development suggests the existence of a kind of chaos theory of cross-cultural cosmology, a spontaneous order or morphic resonance that weaves a common thread through seemingly disparate cultural expressions.
The Sanxingdui are a direct example of this in that their symbology is thought to fall outside of the traditional Chinese aesthetic, which gives them their mysterious lustre.

In the historical narrative, their regions were until recently thought of as being desolate and devoid of complexity. In the same way the ancient Greeks and Romans used the term ‘barbarian’ to distinguish themselves from those groups who were deemed less civilised, these regions were thought of as the "Lands beyond moral influence” during the Shang dynasty.

︎ Golden Sun Bird Disc (found at the Jinsha ruins).

If, as Karl Jaspers put forward in his understanding of the ‘axial age’, that all modern thought now perceives the world through ideas inherited between 800 - 500BC, a common underlying element which might unite these emerging traditions (ranging from Lao Tzu to Zarathustra) being a strain towards transcendence or a strange movement that passed through the spirit of all civilised people (source), then we must also remember the uncivilised, the nomadic, the barbarian regions of the magical hinterlands of mythic history that comprised most of Eurasia and the rest of the world, and provided the ingredients for this axial shift to take place in a time before these particular culture heroes were restricted to their national identities.

It should be taken into respectful consideration that Lao Tzu or Gautama Buddha’s world view, for example, didn’t just emerge without any historical development to become a cultural legacy of Asia. These ideas circulated and were exchanged between people as far ranging as the British Isles to the Pontic Steppe, long before the Silk Routes were established and for some one thousand five hundred years before the likes of Daoism or Buddhism, as we understand them today, reached southeast Asia. The expanse and complexity of the Sanxingdui artefacts are much more far reaching than first imagined and have prompted some researchers to look at the earlier Iron Age Andronovo and Pazyryk cultures of the Altai Mountains as possible influence, as some of their well-preserved tapestries share resemblance to Sanxingdui symbology.

There are many aspects of history and dimensions of ancient thought that are yet to be fully explored and incorporated into a more cohesive image of how mythical narratives have influenced the course of historical culture on a local and global scale. As more advanced, lost civilisations come to the surface, they will continue to challenge the idea that cradles of civilisation neatly fit into institutionalised ideas of national identity and perhaps encourage broader perspectives when dealing with the value that cultural exchange has upon the spiritual and creative enhancement of humanity as a whole.

“The wise people act without effort and teach by quiet example. They accept things as they come, create without possessing, nourish without demanding, and accomplish without taking credit. Because they constantly forget themselves, they are never forgotten.” - Lao Tzu.


popol vuh

︎Spirituality, Illustration, Animation   
︎ Ventral Is Golden

"We shall write about this now amid the preaching of God. We shall bring it out because there is no longer a place to see it, a Council Book, a place to see The Light That Came from Beside the Sea, the account of Our Place in the Shadows, a place to see The Dawn of Life." - Popol Vuh.

In his book, Infancy and History: On the Destruction of Experience, bio-political philosopher, Giorgio Agamben writes that “every culture is first and foremost a particular experience of time, and no new culture is possible without an alteration in this experience. The original task of a genuine revolution, therefore, is never merely to 'change the world', but also - and above all - to 'change time’.”

A change in time was certainly being imposed upon the Mayan culture during the colonial rule and was most likely the motivation behind the re-writing and translation of the sacred Popol Vuh.
Written in the 16th Century, sometime between 1550 and 1558 by a group of unknown mayan authors, who had memorised their mythology through centuries of oral traditions, dating back to the Olmecs (the earliest known civilisation of Meso-America), the Popol Vuh, translated as “The Book of the Community” or “The Book of the People”, recounts the mythological history of the Mayan people who inhabit modern day Guatemala and the Mexican states of Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo, as well as areas of Belize, Honduras and El Salvador.

Only a handful of Maya texts are still in existence today as a result of the systematic burning of all texts relating to ancient cosmological time, astrology, astronomy and the natural sciences, alongside the destruction of temples and cult imagery. Ordered by the Roman Catholic bishop, Diego de Landa, in the municipality of Mani on July 12, 1562, approximately 5,000 Maya cult images and a disputed number of Maya codices (philosophies on ancient knowledge) thought to number at least 27, were all burned.
Only four incomplete codices remain.

In addition to these four codices are texts that were transcribed or translated during the colonial era via the memory of the mayan priestly communities. The Popol Vuh is one of these texts, yet its importance within the context of ancient Mayan history is verified by depictions of scenes within the text upon temple walls and on pottery that date to the pre-classic era of 1800BC.

︎ Mayan Scribe.

A pre-existing text of the Popol Vuh, that was used as the basis of the translation, was held most sacred by the local mayan priests on account that the written word was an ilb’al - ‘an instrument of sight’ by which the reader may “envision” the thoughts and actions of the gods and ancestors from the beginning of time and into the future, as if creation were occuring in the immediate present, with time folding back upon itself to transport the reader into the primordial waters of chaos at the very moment the first lands emerged (source).

This idea is most poetically and graphically represented on an incised bone found in Tikal, depicting a hand holding a calligraphic pauntbrush whilst emerging from the jaws of a serpent. In Classic Maya art, the open jaws represent a threshold between sacred and profane worlds that are characterised by a change in time and thus a shift in consciouness. The message of this incised bone is that the scribal arts invoke and summon energy as thought.

It wasn’t until around 1701 that a Spanish friar named Francisco Ximénez happened to glimpse this original text as he was serving as the parish priest. Ximénez, who had gained the trust of the local mayan community, and as the local priests had realised that their ancient beliefs would no longer be tolerated by their Christian conquerors, allowed Ximénez to see this original text, which has since either disappeared or remains hidden by the Kiche maya for its protection, making the copy made by Ximénez the only known example that survives today.

“When all is still silent and placid. All is silent and calm. Hushed and empty is the womb of the sky. The face of the earth has not yet appeared. Alone lies the expanse of the sea, along with the womb of all the sky. There is not yet anything gathered together. All is at rest. Nothing stirs.”


︎ Mayan Scribal glyph on incised bone, Tikal.

In the tradition of Wesern philosophy sourced from Aristotle, the definition of time was thought of as a quantity of movement, who’s continuity is assured by its division into discrete instants, analogous to a geometric point, which ultimately gives time the character of being ‘other’ or ‘outside’ of nature (source). The Western philosopher’s incapacity to master time, and his consequent obsession with gaining it, have their origins in this idea and are picked up by later Christian thought, which resolutely separates time from the natural movement of the stars to make it an essentially human construct and an interior phenomena.

This existential paradox can be attributed to the systematic destruction of all ancient texts relating to astrology and myth, and the attempted eradication of hieroglyphic writing by extension, which for the Maya, being expressed very intrinsically with the energies ascribed to each day (k’in), was directly connected with this change in the perception of nature and time as a spherical, cosmic environment, filled with deep mathematical energetics and a complex philosophical understanding that rendered time a kind of substance or living entity.
Even Mayan priests, in both ancient and contemporary contexts, who were held in high regard in creative society for their ability to write and express poetry (called xochicuicatl - “flower-song” in the Nahuatl of the later Aztecs), are also called Aj q'ijab' (They of Days, or Daykeepers).

The energetics of time were central to the philosophy preserved by the Mayan culture and expressed in their calendrical systems.
These systems in fact span across at least three different cultures, the earliest dating to the Olmecs, then the Mayan culture of the Yucatan and surrounding areas and later into the Aztecs (Mexica) of Central Mexico.
The energetics were by most accounts expressed in a similar manner cross-culturally, with the Tzolki’n of the Maya and the Tonalpohualli of the Aztecs being used as the sacred lunar calendars, where the quality of time was embedded into the glyph that represented each of the twenty day names - known as Nahuales (or animal co-essences that comprised part of the human soul). 

In the Popol Vuh, this quality of time also envelops the four initial ages of humanity, with each age or era having a distinct temperament. The end result of these ages is an evolution in the general structure of consciousness through the differentiation of three worlds common to much of pre-historical mythology: the heavens, the earth, and the underworld.
The fall from the original state of union with the gods (who are themselves expressions of universal forces) is accompanied by the knowledge of the soul as that which weaves a world between spirit and matter.

︎ Watercolour illustrations by Diego Rivera (1930).

︎ Mayan Cosmogensis, watercolour by Diego Rivera (1930).

“The first men to be created and formed were called the Sorcerer of Fatal Laughter, the Sorcerer of Night, Unkempt, and the Black Sorcerer. They were endowed with intelligence, they succeeded in knowing all that there is in the world. When they looked, instantly they saw all that is around them, and they contemplated in turn the arc of heaven and the round face of the earth. Then the Creator said, 'They know all… what shall we do with them now? Let their sight reach only to that which is near; let them see only a little of the face of the earth! Are they not by nature simple creatures of our making? Must they also be gods?” - Popol Vuh.

︎ Popol Vuh, amination by Patricia Amlin (1989).

The first era was the creation of a race of giants, beings that lived very close to an animalistic union, a pre-individualistic age where many global accounts of this era recalled the building of monolithic structures. The gods urged the giants to call upon their creators as a sign of respect, but none could speak, using only a form of telepathy or pre-verbal insight as communication, and so their bodies were sacrificed as a result of these abilities incarnating too soon in the development of humanity.

The second race of human beings were created from earth and mud, they were kind hearted but lacked cohesion and strength. They could speak but had no reason or sense. The gods ended this era in a great flood that turned the people into fish.

Now the creator gods called upon the help of the ancient grandparents, Ixpiyacoc (divine male) and Ixmucané (divine female), both described as soothsayers, who would help in the next phase of creation known as the era of the Wooden people. These resembled humans, could talk and spread over the earth, but they lacked soul, reason, and any memory of their creators. Their forgetfulness and materialism was the source of their downfall, and so Heart of Sky caused another flood that brought about the end of this civilisation. 

At this third stage, for the first time, the Popol Vuh mentions an explicit differentiation of the sexes. However, human beings still lacked a self awareness and did not remember their creators. And so another flood brought this phase to an end and the very few who survived retreated into the forests and became monkeys.

The fourth stage marked another turning point in the structure of consciousness via the transitioning of time from mythical to historical.
It is here in the fourth era that the Mayan Long Count calendar begins, in August 3114BC, marking the start of a new 13 Baktun cycle. Likewise, the narrative of the Popol Vuh changes course here and introduces the mythical Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, as well as their archetypal father figues 1 Hunahpu and 7 Hunahpu. Their numerological archetypes are integral to understanding the sacred geometry encoded within the text.

“In the darkness before creation was complete, the gods sent a great flood that wiped out humanity. The sky had been formed by the Maker, mother and father of all, the great Feathered Serpent. The gods had raised the mountains of the earth from the face of the murmuring sea. But the creation of humanity had been a dismal failure. Humans made of wood babbled senselessly before crumbing away. So the gods made puppets without strings, carved as humans. But their wooden heads were empty. They couldn't remember their makers with praise, so the gods sent the flood. In this time of darkness were born twins named One and Seven Hunahpu.”

- Popol Vuh.

︎ Ceremonial Cacao cup,
depicting the story of the Hero Twins.

︎ Hunahpu and Ixbalanque (The Hero Twins).

︎ The head of Hunahpu regenerating on the tree of life as a Calabash or Cacao pod (centre).

It is common knowledge in most modern Mayan communities that the Tzolk’in (the sacred lunar calendar which is composed of 20 male day signs and 13 female moon signs) is derived from the 13 joints of the human body, approximately 13 lunations in one solar year and that its 260 day total (13 x 20) is roughly the gestation period of a human baby.
Given that the Mayan perception of time implies that number is a type of energy that the sun gives to each day, it is no coincidence that the importance of the 1 and 7 in the Popol Vuh correspond to a spectrum of meanings relating to the effects of time upon the physical and spiritual domains. For example; the structure of mayan cosmology is composed of 13 spheres of heaven and 9 underworlds, where 7 represents the mid-point of a spiritual ascension upon the physical plane (and the Hero Twins are described as “the mid-most seers upon the face of the earth”), whilst the 1 and the 7 together can invoke the completion of an entire cycle, as the sequence of day names fall in the order of 1, 8, 2, 9, 3, 10, 4, 11, 5, 12, 6, 13 and 7 (source).
Additionally, the completion of an age, a cycle, or a Sun, are similarly comprised of 13 Baktuns (1,872,000 days or 144,000 days each). This is a number that contains sacred geometric attributes, in that one Baktun is a multiple of 1440, the amount of degrees found in the interior angles of the Platonic Solid that signifies ‘Air’ - which is also the number of minutes it takes the earth to make one rotation. 
Contemporary philosopher and cofounder of the Mayan Dream Spell Calendar, Jose Arguelles, succinctly stated in his ‘Treatise on Time’ that “just as air is the atmosphere of the body, so time is the atmosphere of the mind” and the Popol Vuh seems to embed the psychology of these numerical reflections into the dynamic symmetry that underlies all expressions that bind the earthly and cosmic planes together.

︎ ‘The Immaculate Conception’ of Xquic (Blood Woman).
Another phenomena contained within these sacred numbers that measure the earth’s movement in relation to the sun and the moon, is that they all reduce to 9 by adding their digits together - which coincidentally is the number of levels in the Mayan underworld (Xibalba).
This is a significant piece of information that relates to the concept of the fall from the state of union with the original creator gods ( Heart of Sky, the Framer, the Shaper and Sovereign Feathered Serpent), who themselves represent the powerful natural forces that bring the spirit of regeneration into the material world via the archetype of the ‘Immaculate Conception’, as seen throughout all world mythology, as well as being articulated as the descent into the underworld of 1 and 7 Hunaphu and their offspring, the Hero Twins.

The conception of the Mayan underworld (Xibalba) is not only a place characterised by the limited moralistic ideas of good and evil, but is also an unseen dimension through which all of the upperworlds emerge. This is consistent with the belief that caves, called ‘Pib Na’ in some maya regions, represented physical entrances into Xibalba as well as being the word for sweat baths and holes made in the ground for planting seeds. Collective linguistic concepts where energies can mingle into eachother established poetic relationships with the world, as all these artefacts of cultural thought were seen as regenerative places or ‘houses of the soul’ that provided internal heat for growth.

As the ruling deities of this unseen dimension are also named 1 and 7 Death, they act as a reflection of the material world of Hunaphu and Ixbalanque, who’s descent and subsequent resurrection brings about a new era (or a new Sun) in the social and spritual structure of time on earth.
This new dawning is characterised by the placing of ‘three stones in the sky’ and the cultivation of corn as a central food source, bringing us back to the fourth stage of the Popol Vuh’s creation story and the beginning of the era which characterises the current expression of humanity.

︎ Mayan Maize God emerging from a flower.

︎ Stills from Popol Vuh, amination by Patricia Amlin (1989).

︎ Regeneration of Hun Hunaphu as the Maize God.

Contained within the Popol Vuh, the Mayan culture and ancient American culture more widely, is not only a mythic account of humanity’s relationship to itself and to the environments that created it, but an ongoing prophesy into the development of the strcuture of consciouness.
As the late mayan archaeologist, Micheal D. Coe stated in his book ‘The Maya’ (1972), “The idea of cyclical creations and destructions is a typical feature of Mesoamerican religions, as it is of Oriental. The Aztec, for instance, thought that the universe had passed through four such ages, and that we were now in the fifth, to be destroyed by earthquakes. The Maya thought along the same lines, in terms of eras of great length, like the Hindu kalpas. There is a suggestion that each of these measured 13 baktuns, or something less than 5,200 years.”

Keeping in mind that the version of the Popol Vuh that survived the colonial destruction is mostly a translation from memory of an earlier text that has since been lost, we can currently only glimpse into the true complexity and vastness of the systems of thought that ancient literature would have contained in their totality. We inherit them now through fragments embedded within world cultures, largely disconnected through modern politics, but who’s history suggests a cultural cohesion that was mediated through a connection to outer space and a veneration for inner earth.

In the final chapters of the Popol Vuh, the current form of humanity were initially made perfect in their knowledge. An accumulation of all preivous attempts perhaps, and “By sacrifice alone. By genius alone they were made… They talked and they made words. They looked and they listened. They were good people. Thoughts came into existence and they gazed. Their vision came all at once. Perfectly they saw, perfectly they knew everything under the sky… As they looked, their knowledge became intense. Their sight passed through trees, through rocks, through lakes, through seas, through mountains, through plains…”

Yet for some reason, this knowledge was deemed to be too powerful for the time it was created, by the energies that created it; Heart of Sky, Hurricane, Newborn Thunderbolt, Sudden Thunderbolt, Sovereign Plumed Serpent, Xpiyacoc, Xmucané, Maker and Modeller.

And so, perhaps the accumulation of previous knowledge was to be integrated at a later time, as the character of the social structure gave rise to sedentary society, agriculture, the material sciences and subject specialism. No longer was the awareness of a bigger picture necessary to establish what needed to be established, and the first people of this new era “were blinded as the face of a mirror is breathed upon. Their vision flickered and now it was only from close up that they could see what was there with clarity”.

“Remembrance restores possibility to the past, making what happened incomplete and completing what never was. Remembrance is neither what happened nor what did not happen but, rather... their becoming possible once again.”

- Giorgio Agamben.


william blake

︎Artist, Poetry, Illustration, Spirituality   
︎ Ventral Is Golden

"Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past and Future sees,
Whose ears have heard the Holy Word,
That walked among the ancient trees. "

Master engraver, illustrator, poet, story-teller and spiritual revolutionary, throughout his life, William Blake endeavoured to reconnect the divided psyche of industrialised man back to its divine and eternal self.

Blake was born on November 28th, 1757 in the UK, and during his own lifetime was subjected to various accusations of being mentally unstable, having experienced many religious apparitions and visionary experiences throughout his life and from a very young age recounted seeing God “put his head through the window” of his parents house; at the age of nine, whilst walking through Peckham Rye in London, he saw “a tree filled with angels” who’s “bright angelic wings were bespangling every bough like stars”.
Despite these accusations, Blake continued to cite the spiritual world as his true inspiration, which against the backdrop of human cruelty, social disparity, revolution and the fall of monarchies, gave rise to a concept he termed the ‘Marriage of Heaven and Hell’, which he would later publish as a book of the same name, imitating archetypes of biblical narrative and infusing them with romantic experiences and revolutionary insights that were particular to the changes he witnessed during his own era.

The legacy of William Blake continues to be felt to this day, influencing poets and musicians of contemporary culture through cosmic and visionary insights, with Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg and other artists of the Beat Generation often ascribing their own inspiration to hearing the voice of Blake during altered states of consciousness.
Arguably Blake’s most pop-cultural reference comes via Aldous Huxley’s book about the visionary effects of Mescaline, ‘The Doors of Perception’, (also the origin of Jim Morrison’s band name, The Doors), which was taken from the afore mentioned ‘Marriage of Heaven and Hell’.

“The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of six thousand years is true, as I have heard from Hell.
For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at [the] tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy, whereas it now appears finite and corrupt.

This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.
But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged; this I shall do by printing in the infernal method by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid.

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern.”
- William Blake.

Techne - the application of a technology derrived through technique, was something very close to the alchemical spirit of Blake and his works. His illustrated poems or ‘illuminated wiritng’ were of a scribal tradition and aesthetically resembled the ‘illuminted manusripts’ of biblical texts most common between the twelth and seventeenth centuries.
It was an appropriation of this style which led Blake directly to the technique of producing text and designs on a copper plate with an impervious liquid. The plate was then dipped in acid so that the text and design remained in relief. These plates could then be used to print on paper, and the final copy would then be hand coloured (source).

Blake also stated that the inspiration for this technique was given to him by the spirit of his recently deceased brother, Robert, who he cared for before his passing. Blake announced that the spirit of Robert was ever present in his life and that without his divine intervention, the alchemical secrets of the printing technque would not have been available to him.
The dual nature of reality being both material yet emanating from an immaterial source would occupy most of Blake’s visionary insights.

“After experimenting with this method in a series of aphorisms entitled ‘There is No Natural Religion’ and ‘All Religions are One’ (1788), Blake designed the series of plates for the poems entitled ‘Songs of Innocence’. Blake continued to experiment with the process of illuminated writing and in 1794 combined the early poems with companion poems entitled ‘Songs of Experience’. The title page of the combined set announces that the poems show “the two Contrary States of the Human Soul.”

The dual role played by the poet is Blake’s interpretation of the ancient dictum that poetry should both delight and instruct. More important, for Blake, the poet speaks both from the personal experience of his own vision and from the “inherited” tradition of ancient Bards and prophets who carried the Holy Word to the nations.” 

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

- William Blake.

The underlying theme to all of Blake’s work was that through social and political conventions of the real, humanity had become further estranged and abstracted from the primacy of experiencing time and divinity as infinite.
His desire was situated in the raising of other men’s perceptions of the infinite through a communion with the body and of the land, often merging mythical accounts of the world’s historical records with an imagining of his own mythopoetic cosmology of the dreamscape and its relation to the universal mind.
This idea was expanded in his prophetic books and conceptualised as ‘The Four Zoas’ (or emanations of the ‘Eternal Body’), where the character of Albion the Giant represented the mythological archetype of the primeval man, the Birtish Isles and the Universe itself before the fall and subsequent division into the material realm.
The Zoas (emanations) were as follows:

Tharmas (unity of the body): representing instinct and strength.
Urizen (head - reason and horizon): conventional society; a cruel god of limitations, resembling the Gnostic Demiurge.
Luvah (heart): love, passion and emotive faculties; a Christ-like figure, also known as ‘Orc’ in his most amorous and rebellious form.
Urthona (loins), also known as ‘Los’: inspiration and imagination.

Their feminine counterparts were as follows:

Enion (earth mother, separation of unity)
Ahania (wisdom of the head)
Vala ( the nature of the heart)
Enitharmon (what can’t be attained in nature, the mystery, the sexual and creative impulse).

Found in their proper place of Eternity, the Zoas take up their original positions; the Sun of the imagination (Urthona - North), the Moon of the Emotions (Luvah - East), the Stars of Reason (Urizen - South) and the World of the Senses (Tharmas - West), thus for a well balanced individual, the forces of eternity; Imagination/Reason and Love/Lust become unified opposites, none repressed but all being cultivated through the Marriage of Heaven (the Soul) and Hell (the Body).
For his time, Blake’s ideas about organised religion were rebellious and his spiritual vision revolutionary and highly criticised by his peers who often thought him to be insane. However, Blake was carving a distinctive vision of humanity redeemed by self-sacrifice and forgiveness expressed through the liberation of the senses as opposed to a moral code being exacted by dogmas that restricted the imagination. 
His negative attitude towards what he felt was the rigid and morbid authoritarianism of traditional religion was superimposed upon a perversion of ancient visions, where: “The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses, calling them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations, and whatever their enlarged & numerous senses could perceive.” (source).

Orc, a character of Blake’s Mythos in his prophetic books, represented the revolutionary energy and revival of the spirit. A child of the split between the imagination and the creative impulse, he initially takes the form of a worm and evolves into a snake, where he is an epitome of wrath, frustrated desire and logic. In human form he is chained to a rock by the jealousy of his father Los (the creative impulse), high upon a mountain, in a similar vein to Prometheus. Whilst bound, his imagination is able to exist in a cave located in the Kingdom of Reason (Urizen) in much the same way as Plato used the allegory of the cave as the locale of the unconscious mind. Bound to the flickering images, the people inside the cave were unable to turn their heads towards the origin of the forms that cast the shadows.

"Fiery the angels rose, and as they rose deep thunder roll'd. Around their shores: indignant burning with the fires of Orc.” - William Blake.

The act of mental projection disturbed Urizen from the slumber of his logic, for after having made his Kingdom of Reason and the material Universe, Urizen, an eternally self sufficient being, became abstracted through his inability to control his creations and so was tormented by the very nature of infinity within himself. This dichotomy between the old figure of Urizen and the young, untamed energy of Orc, represented a singular cycle of destructive and creative essences. For Urizen, ruling alone was a force confining, and the passion of Orc, unattended, was a flame that burns to its own destruction. It was only after Urizen refrained from this eternal struggle with Orc that Orc himself could transform back into his eternal emanation, Luvah - the regenerative experience of love and emotion.

“Now I, a fourfold vision see,
And a fourfold vision is given to me,
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight,
And three fold in soft Beulah’s night,
And twofold Always. May God us keep,
From Single vision & Newton’s sleep.”

- William Blake.

Inspired greatly by other esotericists, polymaths, inventors, theologians and mystics, Blake came into contact with the works of Emmanuel Swedenborg (1668 - 1772). What came to be known as Swedenborgianism, although now comparatively a conservative Christian philosophy, in its conception, Swedenborg declared that he had communed with Christ whilst dining at a London tavern. This shadowy figure, who initially told him “Do no eat too much!”, would later appear in his dreams to give him directions on how to reform Christianity with the aims of creating a New Jerusalem.
Although Swedenborg had no intention of building such a physical place, this New Jerusalem would occupy the psychic grounds of personal experience in opposition to orthodoxy and dogmatism.

For Blake, Swedenborg’s ideas were initially regarded as poetic (although he was later to regard them as ‘spiritually pedestrian’), the concept of a New Jerusalem represented liberation from his disdain for Nationalism during the Napoleonic Wars and the rise of the Industrial Revolution, perceiving a clear link between imperialism and the commercialisation of the world. This vision can be summarised in the image of the young Newton (above), who’s intellectual faculties were born from the occult knowledge of alchemical traditions, yet were single-mindedly focussed upon their material and measurable affects, what Blake himself described as the “single vision of Newton’s sleep”.

Blake was not unfamiliar with eastern philosophical texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, which was first translated into english during his lifetime and which arguably supported his notions that all religions are one, and that the “philosophy of the east taught the first principles of human perception” (source). This eastern tradition, also particularly of Zen thought, contributed to the cosmology of the universal mind as it appeared in the mind of human societies, namely that of Urizen (reason and intellect), one of the four Zoas who abstracts the creative principle and reduces it to a ratio. 

“Life as it is lived suffices. It is only when the disquieting intellect steps in and tries to murder it that we stop to live and imagine ourselves to be short of or in something. Let the intellect alone, it has its usefulness in its proper sphere, but let it not interfere with the flowing of the life-stream.“
- D.T Suzuki.

The theme of the four-fold nature of all things overcomes the illusion of duality as imposed by the intellect, and is a construct of all the world’s ancient systems of cosmology - which are all systems to aid in the integration of reason, passion and inspiration of the human body within the larger body of systems through which it interacts with the world. By knowing their proper place through self-examination, whilst not repressing either spheres of influence in temporal, moralistic judgements, were central to the Blakean philosophy of experiencing the divinity of the natural world by connecting to time and space at its vegetal and omnipresent origin. This was the immortal journey of self-renewal that Blake ascribed to the imagination, to ressurect the universal body of the land before the fall, to reinstate the power of the feminine, of sensuality, and above all, to reconnect the wonder of innocence with the energy of experience.


chac mool

︎Sculpture, Photography, Architecture   
︎ Ventral Is Golden

“Wisdom fears no thing, but still bows humbly to its own source, with its deeper understanding, loves all things, for it has seen the beauty, the tenderness, and the sweetness which underlie Life's mystery.” - Manly P Hall.

After arriving in Chichen Itza for the first time in 1875, after a long and arduous trip through politically unstable territory during the uprising of the Chan Santa Cruz, the Le Plongeons spent five months living in and around the Maya ruins, constantly in fear for their lives, yet meticulously documenting buildings and friezes, taking plaster casts of hieroglyphs, bas-reliefs and sculptures, eventually undertaking two excavations that led to the discovery of the first Chacmool, an enigmatic stone carving that became the symbol of mesoamerican archeology, at a time when the established consensus of the noble savage discredited indigenous cultural heritage and any evidence of the existence of high civilisation in the so called ‘New World’.

︎ Chacmool, Chichen Itza, Yucatan.

︎ Toecallis at Chichén-Itzá. Drawing by Frederick Catherwood (1844).

Taking place mostly during the late nineteenth century, the research of Augustus Le Plongeon and his wife Alice Dixon Le Plongeon, within the field of archeology, a discipline still in its infancy yet dominated largely by male inflections upon cultural narratives, were inspired by the earlier drawings of English artist, architect and explorer, Frederick Catherwood and the contemporary discovery of the ancient, mythical city of Troy (in modern day Turkey) by amateur explorer Heinrich Schliemann, who, armed with only a copy of Homer’s ‘Illiad’ and his intuitive passion for archeology, discovered the lost city, along with a cache of golden artefacts he dubbed ‘Priam's Treasure’, later to be identified as the mask of Agamemnon.
Up until Schelimann’s discovery, Troy had been thought a purely literary creation by academics and historians with no real basis in the historical timeline. Nevertheless, Schleimann was convinced and overcame his critics. 

Although they were two of the earliest individuals to investigate extensively the Maya civilisation, Augustus Le Plongeon and his wife Alice Dixon Le Plongeon are today dismissed by nearly all Maya scholars as little more than troublesome eccentrics, who spent a considerable time working in Yucatan, concocting theories of cultural diffusion in an era when esoteric philosophies relating to aspects of spiritualism and mediumship were becoming popular throughout western society. This, in turn, had prompted an overly sceptical response regarding their archaeological research from the material sciences and academics, who were unwavering in their established historical timelines of the development of the world’s mother cultures.

This kind of cultural climate, although on the one hand heavily influencing empathic social movements in the development of the humanities, such as the Abolitionists, Woman’s Suffrage and the Temperance Movements (who all occupied an alternative spiritual dimension to the dominant social politics of the time), left the early archeological work, field research and ultimately the personal lives of the Le Plongeon’s completely entangled and open to unfair amounts of derision which subsequently left their contribution to Maya history relatively obscured.

︎ Discovery of Chacmool at Chichen Itza, Yucatan (1876).

︎ Alice Dixon Le Plongeon, Uxmal (1876).

︎ Augustus Le Plongeon photographing a facade at Uxmal, Yucatan, taken by Alice Le Plongeon (1876).

︎ Gateway of the Great Teocallis, Uxmal. Drawing by Frederick Catherwood (1844).

“In this work, I offer no theory. In the question of history, theories prove nothing. They are therefore out of place. I leave my readers to draw their own inferences from the facts presented for their consideration. Whatever be their conclusions are no concern of mine. One thing, however, is certain - neither their opinion nor mine will alter events that have happened in the dim past of which so little is known today. A record of many of these events has reached our times written, by those who took part in them, in a language still spoken by several thousand human beings. There we may read part of man's history and follow the progress of his civilisation.”
- Augustus Le Plongeon.

Augustus Le Plongeon was a man of many purported professions. A civil engineer, surveyor and town planner in America, a Freemason, a master in the art of photographic development, an amateur archeologist and a trained doctor, where some reports suggest that he tried to pioneer  “electro-hydropathic" therapy in his clinic in Lima, Peru (1862). Meanwhile, his wife Alice Dixon was by no means an obedient follower of her husbands beliefs, but was herself an accomplished photographer, author and public speaker, often lecturing with the Theosophical Society and publishing her own literary works on maya life in the Yucatan peninsula.

Both Alice and Augustus were also heavily involved in social work, often times raising funds to build local churches for the poor, whilst largely self financing their archeological expeditions and being called upon by the govenor of Yucatan to vaccinate any Maya person suffering from the 1874 outbreak of Smallpox, which he did free of charge.
Both also learnt the local customs and language and had the full trust and support of many conflicting maya communities, which gave them even greater access to ancient ruins during times of civil unrest.

All this however is overshadowed by their theories concerning the origins of ancient civilisations and Augustus’ outspoken belief that the Maya were world culture bearers, descendants of the Atlanteans, and founders of the Babylonian and Egyptian civilisations, which were condemned by scholars of the nineteenth century and still carry conflicting sentiments ranging from curiosity to indignation amongst the contemporary public.

︎ El Cstillo, Chichen Itza (1876).

︎ Observatory, Chichen Itza (1876).

︎ Gateway of the Casa del Gobernador, Uxmal, Drawing by Frederick Catherwood (1844).

︎ Alice Dixon at Uxmal (1876).

Within the framework of the prolonged controversy surrounding the origin of the Mayan peoples, Augustus Le Plongeon and Alice Dixon strongly supported the possibility that they were the first inhabitants of Plato’s Atlantis and of Mu (Lemuria, in the Pacific), who found refuge within meso-america after a series of catastrophic floods marked the start of the Holocene Epoch. 
For Alice Dixon, it was in the ancient Mayan books where a large part of the historical and scientific secrets of this civilisation were to be found. Among the books that were saved from the systematic burning by Diego de Landa, Dixon mentions the Codex Troano (Madrid) which, according to Augustus Le Plongeon, constitutes a work on astrology, geology and ethnology of the Kan (serpent) family dynasty. For Dixon, the description of the Kan family in the codex, corresponds “exactly to what we have discovered, regarding that royal family, in our study of the ancient paintings and inscriptions". Dixon also identifies in the codex the record of cataclysms "by which the face of the earth has more than once been changed, owing to the submersion of some lands, and the upheaval of others" (source).

︎ Feathered Serpent Facade, Uxmal, Drawing by Frederick Catherwood (1844).

Whilst working at the very limits of what their technological knowledge would allow (such as misinterpretations of the mayan script that remained undeciphered until a century later, and chronological evidence that placed the Classic maya civilisation after that of the ancient Egyptians) the Le Plongeons’ theories and approahces to archeomythology were less concerned with mere data collection but more concerned with moving into the mythology and cosmology as it was rememebred within the living dimensions of local Yucatecan folklore.

The maya genealogy, ancestry and the general peopling of the ‘New World’ is still causing much debate in modern archeological circles and challenges the conventional timeline of technologically advanced civilisations
Despite the limitations of the Le Plongeon’s theories, it does nothing to negate the possibilitiy of an even earlier common culture that united both Egypt and Meso-america, something that is sometimes still attested to today in northern and eastern coastal regions of the Yucatan peninsula, with ancestral origins ranging from myths of the Tamil Indian Nagaland, the continent of Kumari Kandam, to ‘The Island of Scorpions’ (Zinaan), known today as the West Indian Islands (Antiles).

It was here, in the Antilles of the Carribean and Atlantic oceans, that Augustus and Alice placed one of the main characters of their interpretation of the murals at Chichen Itza.
Princess Mu, later to become queen of Chichen Itza, would marry the great warrior, Prince Coh (later to become Chacmool), whom she loved. Meanwhile Uxmal had been inherited by Prince Aac, but he coveted Queen Mu and was jealous of the fame of Coh.
He conspired to kill his brother, Coh, capture Queen Mu, marry her, and unite the divided empire under his own name. He murdered Coh, and a civil war then broke out, which Aac offered to stop should Queen Mu accept his romantic advances. She rejected him, and his armies finally defeated her followers.
Sometime after her capture, with the help of her people, she escaped, firstly to her ancestral homeland in the Antiles, only to discover that the vast majority of the continent was now submerged, a shadow of a once great civilisation, and so she continued her journey into Egypt, where she was later received as Isis (which according to Le Plongeon’s interpretations meant ‘little sister’ in the Yucatecan maya language).

Although the historicity of the narrative is completely dismissed by mayan scholars, Augustus interpreted these scenes from the bas-releifs at Chichen Itza, which in his time were not considered a source of maya prehistory but merely as quaint scenes of village life. It is now well attested that the murals of the maya are a source of their recorded history.

The Le Plongeons approach to live into the mythology dissolved the boundaries between subject and object, at times allowing them to interpret through means of meditation and ‘psychic archeology’, not only the symbolic and linguistic value of mayan art but also where to locate what was undeniably the most iconic discovery of the Le Plongeon’s archeological careers - the Chacmool.


“Whoever has read history knows that in all nations, civilized as well as uncivilised, from the remotest antiquity, the priests have claimed learning as the privilege of their caste, bestowed upon them by special favour of the Ruling Spirit of the universe. For this reason they have zealously kept from the gaze of other men their intellectual treasures, and surrounded them with the veil of mystery. They have carefully hid all their discoveries, scientific or artistic, under the cover of symbols, reserving their esoteric or secret meaning for the initiated.” - Augustus Le Plongeon.

︎ Illustration of Prince Coh (Chacmool) taken from a fresco tracing at Chichen Itza.

I then remember” Augustus wrote in his letter, explaining his finds to the Mexican President, “about one hundred yards in the thicket from the edifice, in an easterly direction, a few days before, I had noticed the ruins of a remarkable mount of rather small dimensions. It was ornamented with slabs engraved with the images of spotted tigers, eating human hearts, forming magnificent bas-reliefs, conserving yet traces of the colors in which it was formerly painted...
Guided by my interpretations of the mural paintings, bas-reliefs, and other signs that I found in the monument raised to the memory of the Chief Chaacmol... By which the stones speak to those who can understand them, I directed my steps to a dense part of the thicket. Only one Indian, Desiderio Kansal, from the neighborhood of Sisal-Valladolid, accompanied me.
With his machete he opened a path among the weeds, vines and bushes, and I reached the place I sought. It was a shapeless heap of rough stones. Around it were sculptured pieces and bas-reliefs delicately executed... Scraping away the earth from around it, with the machete and the hand, the effigy of a reclining tiger soon appeared.... but the head was wanting. This, of human form, I had the happiness to find, some meters distant, among a pile of other carved stones. My interpretations had been correct; everything I saw proved it to me.”

︎ Discovery of Chacmool at Chichen Itza, Yucatan (1876).

︎ Jaguar eating a human heart, bas-relief, Chichen Itza (1876).

︎ Discovery of Jaguar with human head at Chichen Itza (artefact now missing), Yucatan (1876).

After the discovery of the Chacmool through the Le Plongeon’s deductive methods of psychic archeology and interpretations of mayan art, they began to think of themselves as mechanisms of mythological reincarnation, in much the same way as the alchemical spirit lay the foundations of western science.
Initially, the indigenous workers employed by Augustus were reluctant to dig the sacred mound, but believing as he did that the prehistorical religious philosophy of the maya shared concepts of reincarnation as found in India and Egypt, he took them to the summit of the Temple of Kukulcán. There, standing in profile next to a bas-releif, the indigenous men saw the resemblance that Augustus shared with the bearded figure of Kukulcán - the Feathered Serpent.

Although later criticised for this tactic, Augustus was called upon to use it once again when members of the violent Chan Santa Cruz finally came to inspect the Chacmool and the actions of the bearded white man. Taking one of the elders to the summit of the temple, beleiving him neither to be naive nor a fool, he stood next to the bas-releif.

Eying him respectfully and steadily, the elder asked,
Do you remember what happened to you whilst you were enchanted?
Well Father”, Augustus replied. “Do you dream sometimes?
He nodded his head in affirmation.
...and when you awake, do you remember distinctly your dreams?” No, was his answer.
Well Father, and so it happened with me” Augustus continued. “I do not remember what took place during the time I was enchanted”.

Whatever the motives were of the Chan Santa Cruz, they respected the actions of the Le Plongeons and an attack never came.
Some years later, in 1882, after being ridiculed for his beleifs about the origin of the maya civilisation and its connections with the ‘Old World’ in academic circles, Augustus eventually resigned from the American Antiquarian Society, criticising the majority of its members as being armchair archeologists with no real interest in the local customs and culture. In his letter of resignation, he expressly stated that his photos and findings from the field not be used in any subsequent publications.  Only three months later, in an article published by a member of the American Antiquarian Society, two of Augustus’ photos from Chichen Itza were included without proper accreditation and with his own captions used, with the addition of “supposed” before the incusion of “bearded figure” in an attempt to perosnally discredit the Le Plongeon’s work. Since this publication, the bearded figures of Chichen Itza have been proven to be authentic by mayan scholars, and a common feature across the mundo maya.

︎ ‘The Bearded Figure’, Temple of Kukulcán, Chichen Itza (1876).

︎ Chacmool on display in the Anthopological Museum, Mexico City.

︎ Chacmool of Chichen Itza.

The immense amount of personal energy and finances expended by Augustus and Alice Le Plongeon during a period of two intensely political years whilst at Uxmal and Chichen Itza (out of the eleven years they spent dedicating their lives to the study of maya ruins in the Yucatan), they received little credit, if any at all, for their efforts.
After his letter to the President of Mexico, detailing the importance of his findings within the cultural context of ancient civilisation, Augustus requested that the Chacmool statue be exhibited in the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and to be made a member of the committee of Mexican scientists to accompany the findings, but was met with a flat refusal.

Due to the political instability across Mexico at the time, Augustus explained in his letter to the president that he had devised a personal method of transportation of the Chacmool for its excavation, but had then been forced to hide it in the undergrowth of the forest in the nearby town of Piste, away from potential looters and any further damage to be caused by adverse weather conditions.
The Le Plongeons then left for further study of Isla Mujeres and Cozumel, but during their first month away from the mainland, the Chacmool statue was first confiscated by the govenment of Yucatan and then taken illegally to Mexico City via a military warship named ‘Libertad’. To add insult to injury, the local papers of Merida reported that “the entrance to the Capitol of the statue of Chaacmol will also form an epoch in the annals of Yucatecan history and it will be remembered along with Governor General Protasio Guerra under whose administrations our Museum has been enriched with a jewel so priceless.” with further dedication made to the president of Mexico “the illustrious C. General Porfirio Diaz”.

For all of their poetic musings, the Le Plongeons were committing their lives to the point in history where the man, the book, and the dream dissolves. It was the renovation of mythical history that had been neglected by the very nations that once nurtured them into existence. 
One lasting testament to the work of the Le Plongeons at least, is the name of Chac Mool himself. Augustus derived the name he gave to the sculpture, found in the Platform of the Eagles, as follows:

The etymon of the last word is: Chaac "thunder," "tempest," hence "irresistible power," and Mol, "paw of any carnivorous animal ... the Mayas, who as we have said, named all things by onomatopoeia, called their most famous warrior Chaacmol; that is, "the paw swift like thunder," "the paw with irresistible power like the tempest...”

The Chacmool, its distribution as far as Costa Rica and into the Aztec era of central Mexico, as well as the Chacmool - Serpent Column Complex associated with the Toltecs, remain enigmatic in their meaning and socio-spiritual function. 
The aquatic and serpentine imagery carved onto the underside of some of the figures symbolised that they were the frontier between the physical world and the supernatural realm, which can be sometimes attested by the Chacmool’s position at the threshold of a temple structure, suggesting they acted as messengers between the mortal realm and that of the gods.

An alternative view is that the sacrificial bowl on the stomach of the Chacmool was instead filled with liquid mercury (to act as a mirror for divination, largely associated with royal, priestly and warrior iconography). It is a substance well known to the alchemical traditions and recently discovered pools of mercury were found under the main temple at Teotihuacan in central Mexico, where other Chacmool figures were also discovered.

In his own analysis of the statue, Le Plongeon speculated that, “the band that composes the head-dress was formed of pieces of an octagonal shape, fastened by ribbons also on the back of the head. The figure had bracelets and garters of feathers, and the sandals, quite different from those used by the present inhabitants of the country... resemble those found on the mummies of the Guanehes, the ancient inhabitants of the Canary Islands.”And further that, “It is not an idol, but a true portrait of a man who has lived an earthly life. I have seen him represented in battle, in councils, and in court receptions. I am well acquainted with his life, and the manner of his death. The scientific world owes much to Mrs. Le Plongeon for the restoration of the mural paintings where his history and the customs of his people are portrayed”.

According to some sources, Augustus Le Plongeon had decided to burn all his notes and photographs just before his death to prevent their falling into the hands of such an ungrateful world, until a close friend of the Le Plongeons sold their works to 
Manly P. Hall, President and Founder of the Philosophical Research Society and author of The Secret Teaching of All Ages, who in 1948, made this statment about his works:

“Le Plongeon's photographs are of the highest importance to the modern Mayan archaeology, and we are happy to say that the younger generation of scientific men in this field have never known the intolerance of the earlier school. By an almost miraculous circumstance many of Le Plongeon's negatives and prints have survived. He had intended to destroy everything before his death but a kindly fortune intervened, and while much is lost, considerable remains.”

︎ Illustration from Queen Mu’s Talisman, by Alice Dixon.

︎ Later exmaple of the Chacmool altar at Tenochtitlan (Aztec).

︎ Later exmaple of the Chacmool altar at Tenochtitlan. (Aztec).

︎ Alice Dixon & Augustus Le Plongeon in their temporary living quarters / dark room. Governor’s Palace, Uxmal (1876). 


mat maitland

︎Art, Digital, Collage   
︎ Mat Maitland

"Over time my collage images have evolved into something less ‘cut and paste’ and more redfined but essentially still use the same ethos of unplanned accidents."

As I have spent the last 2 weeks sharing some of my visual inspirations I thought I would end my residency with some of my own work as an image maker. This strand of my career began as a hobby really and a creative outlet away from art directing and designing music projects, one of which was the catalyst for following this visual path - Goldfrapp’s 'Black Cherry’ album. Over time my collage images have evolved into something less 'cut and paste' and more refined but essentially still use the same ethos of unplanned accidents using a desperate source of found library imagery - apart from when a specific element is needed which would be shot. The images and films most often combine my love of surrealism and pop and have allowed me to work with more fashion orientated clients. I hope you enjoyed my posts, Mat.

Further Reading ︎


john kacere

︎ Mat Maitland

"The images are sensual, sexual, beautiful and exude a intimate narrative"

Kacere made a career out painting the mid-section of women dressed in lingerie, creating an iconic body (excuse the pun) of work. His work takes on an almost classical aesthetic, which could be attributed to the luxurious materials and skin on display. The images are sensual, sexual, beautiful and exude a intimate narrative because you are forced to think outside of the frame he is showing us. I have a bit of an addiction to photorealism and always admired the specificity of his subject matter which was so individual against the more well trodden paths of say buildings, cars and fruit.

Kacere was a direct reference for the opening scene of Sofia Coppola’s 'Lost In Translation’ which shows an almost still life study of Scarlett Johansson’s behind in sheer pale pink underwear.


people of kau – leni riefenstahl

︎ Mat Maitland

"I’m attracted to the idea of projected characters and personas - a way of twisting reality"

I have always been fascinated by masks and the facade of fantasy, it's something that often (unintentionally) flows through my work and even on my Instagram through some of the visual references I post.

I’m attracted to the idea of projected characters and personas - a way of twisting reality - because even in the smallest way we all use props to express our individuality to present something of ourselves outwardly but in the creative arts it is especially powerful when elevated beyond the every day and into the realm of theatre.

“in the creative arts it is especially powerful when elevated beyond the every day and into the realm of theatre.”
It’s partly what attracted me to this body of work by German photographer Riefenstahl - aside from the fact that the photographs themselves are truly striking. The images below are from the book People of Kau, published in 1976 and featuring a portfolio of stunning images depicting the tribal face painted designs of the Kau tribe. It has to be said that Riefenstahl was something of a controversial figure which I won’t go into here as you can read more online if you choose to.


james rosenquist

︎ Mat Maitland

"The immense scale of the pieces felt like you were viewing them in IMAX format"

Rosenquist died in March and it brought back into focus my first intoxicating experience seeing his work. It was a show about 15 years ago in a disused warehouse behind the Truman Brewery in East London. The immense scale of the pieces felt like you were viewing them in IMAX format, it was astounding. Being a collage artist myself, albeit a digital one, I was mesmerised by the collage technique he used in many of his paintings, surely not lost on Jeff Koons who surely tipped his hat to Rosenquist when making his Easy Fun series in the mid nighties.

He began his working life as a billboard painter in America and like many Pop artists of the era adapted advertising and recontextualized it into fine art helping to define the Pop Art movement of the 60’s. However, my favourite work is from the 80s and 90s.


salvador dali - art in jewels

︎Photography, Surreal   
︎ Mat Maitland

I love the internet, it’s a great place to discover new things but really books are still the best source for uncovering forgotten visual marvels. Such is the case with this one which contains a series of fine jewels based on Salvador Dalí drawing and paintings. The pieces were created by Alemany & Company of New York in close collaboration with the artist. If that wasn’t enough, the photography and design of the images are incredible too. One of my top 5 books.