Revisiting the Purity of Ancient Spirituality : Exclusive Article by J. E. Williams

Friday Jun 15 | BY |
| Comments (2)

“What brings me back to Peru is the Amazon and the Andes—places where tribes still carry on traditional ways, and where the Earth and forest, mountains, lakes, and rivers are held sacred.”

I’m back on the Gulf of Mexico, catching up with patient lab results, emails, and prescriptions. My next blogs, I assure you, will re-focus on natural medicine and healthy living. This one provides a last glimpse into the world of Andean spirituality.

I’ve been traveling to South America since 1969, and in Peru from 1996. What draws me here is the magic. What once made California and Hawaii special in the 60s and 70s, and in Costa Rica in the 80s, is still strong in Peru today. What brings me back to Peru is the Amazon and the Andes—places where tribes still carry on traditional ways, and where the Earth and forest, mountains, lakes, and rivers are held sacred. It is the deep reverence for life and all living things that moves me. I find that in the biology of the body, and also in the wilderness.

I also believe in an American spirituality. Not religions imported from Europe, the Middle East, India or China; or cults; or new age philosophy; but deeply ingrained principles of what make life sacred. That is what enthralls me.

Core Principles
This way of knowledge, transmitting from lineages that date back hundreds, and even thousands of years, remains intact in isolated areas among a few individuals. Among the last of these incredible men is my mentor and friend, Sebastian Pauccar Flores, a pampamisyoq from Q’ero, high in the Andes. Sebastian is illiterate in modern cultural information, but his lineage is rich in myth and lore, and guided by deep principles.

The core principle is Ayni—a Quechua word representing the interchange of life, energy, labor, knowledge, and goods. In my books, The Andean Codex and Light of the Andes, I explore the way of the shaman as taught by the Q’ero, and write about the importance of Ayni in our post-modern world.

The Q’ero believe in action. They like to show their respect for the Earth, which they call Pachamama, and the mountain spirits—the Apus—with acts of reciprocity. These symbolic acts of Ayni, called despachos, are offerings to the gods so that human life remains whole and balanced.

Offering a Prayer
Sebastian climbed high above the ruins of Ollantaytambo, towards the snow-capped peaks, to offer our prayers and a despacho for the benefit of our work together. In the Andes, coco leaves are integral to all ceremonies. Coca refers more than four cultivated varieties that belong to the family Erythroxylaceae.

The Q’ero revere the plant, calling it mamakuka, “mother coca,” for it’s ability to serve as a bridge between the Apus and people. The shaman is the instrument of contact, relaying messages between humans and the mountain spirits. In Incan times, these were performed in elaborate rituals. Now, Sebastian and other Q’ero shamans, prepare simpler, but no less powerful, offerings. It is what’s in your heart that counts, Sebastian informs me as we trek into the mountains.

We approach an ancient site, portals into the world of the mountain spirits that represent the four cardinal directions, and four regions of the Incan Empire. We pause to offer prayers to each of the four directions.

Then we continue higher and higher into the clouds, where the wind is strong enough to blow a grownup over the precipice. We find a cluster of rocks large enough to break the wind. Huddling in their protection, we prepare the offering. I pray for the wellbeing and healing of my patients, our families, and for our students and friends. We hope that more people will open their hearts and minds, awaken to the beauty of the natural world around them, and preserve it undamaged for generations to come.

Perhaps we ask for too much. So, I pray with Sebastian again, a modest request for a blessing on our path and for good health. When finished, we offer it to the earth, burying it in the dry earth, and covering it with a large stone. Then we head down, back to taxis and buses and crowds of people in Cusco, and our responsibilities and daily work.

* * *

Pictures courtesy Dr. Williams.

Dr. J. E. Williams


Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

Visit Dr. Williams’ Website:

And Follow on Facebook:


Comments are closed.