Hannes Weinelt
I presented my doctoral thesis, under the title above, at the University of Graz . In this article I describe synthetically the followed method and some examples of its application, to reach then the conclusions of the work done.

The thematic index was composed, in general terms, of the following 7 main chapters:
1. Presentation of the theory on «The anthropological structures of the imaginary», by Gilbert Durand.
2. Fundamental symbols of the Mesoamerican and South American cultures and their classifications within this imaginary.
3. Myths of the Mesoamerican and South American cultures and their classification in this imaginary.
4. Architectural and iconographic structures of Mesoamerican and South American cultures and their classifications within the imaginary.
5. Deductions on the interpretation of the world among Mesoamerican and South American cultures from its beginnings until today.
6. Work on the myth today.
7. Conclusion.

As a preliminary introduction, it must be remembered that the imaginary, according to G. Durand, is where all the images that make up the thought of Homo sapiens are found. The imaginary is not thought but the “principal” of thought. G. Durand structures, in the first place,
that set of images of human thought in two poles: in a “daytime regime” and other in a “nighttime” one. The diurnal regime contains all the images that are in relation to the light, the sun, etc., taking into account that, in principle, that is where the dualisms inhabit, because light always implies involves shadows also. Therefore, the diurnal regime is called “schizomorphic imaginary” or “solar”.

The night regime levels, like night, all the differences. This regime includes the ideas of mixing, fusing, and internalizing. It is also called the “mystical imaginary”, since, in the mystical, all limits are blurred. Within the nocturnal regime, G. Durand separates the “synthetic imaginary” from the “mystic”, resulting in three fundamental structures of the human imagination. In the synthetic imaginary the opposites are united. It is like the dawn and the twilight, where day and night connect with each other.

The diurnal regime is identified with the verb “to differentiate”. It is to separate, to discriminate. The corresponding logic would be that of the disjunctive, the “this or that”, the antithesis. One of the parts of the night regime is identified with the verb “combine/ mix”. The corresponding logic would be that of the “analogy”. And the second part of the nocturnal regime is identified with the verb “unite”. This is where things come into relation with each other; it is a union of opposites. The corresponding logic would be that of the copulative conjunction of the «and», the synthesis.


The 2nd chapter was devoted firstly to the three main symbols of the mythology of pre-
Columbian America: the feline, the serpent and the eagle, alternatively the condor, and their
relations with the three imaginary ones. From all this comes the following graph:
Following, it was analyzed the symbolic fundamental forms of man (for example, the shaman,
the hero of the culture, man-woman, ancestors, etc.), other animals (fish, dog, hummingbird,
etc.), plants ( tree, hallucinogenic plants, corn, etc.), the stars (Sun, Moon, Venus, Southern
Cross, etc.), arithmetic and geometry (0, 1, 2 etc., as well as circle, square , diagonal, etc.) and
cultural techniques (ceramics, textiles, plumage, war, etc.), classifying them, then within the
three imaginaries. By inscribing them in a circular diagram with the classification of G. Durand, the following graphic is given:

Most of the symbols are in the night zone and, among them, there is a majority in the field of
synthetic imaginary. The symbols of early cultural periods, such as those of the Olmecs, are
located in the mystical imaginary. The few symbols located in the diurnal zone come mainly
from imperial civilizations that emerged shortly before the Spanish conquest, those of the Incas
and the Aztecs. This indicates a change within the pre-Columbian cultures in the course of their
evolution, as known: from the mystical imaginary, at the beginning of their cultural evolution,
through the synthetic imaginary, in the classical epochs, until reaching a reinforcement of the
heroic symbolism and schizomorph in the final phase of the Empires.

In the third chapter, the fundamental myths of the Mesoamerican and South American cultures and their corresponding classifications within the imaginary were analyzed. This is only possible to do with the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas, since we only have sources of them. In the case of all other cultures, we depend on architectural and iconographic structures to deduce their
corresponding vision of the world and man, which is discussed in the following chapter # 4.

Finally, in the conclusion, the circular diagrams of the imaginaries of the different pre- Columbian cultures were confronted. In the case of Mesoamerica, were the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs; in South America, the Chavín, Tiahuanaco and Inca culture. These last three are the
ones presented in this article.

The Chavín culture, historically speaking, represents the early horizon and shows a clear
concentration of the nocturnal regime in its symbolic world.


Tiahuanaco belongs to the middle horizon. The symbolic world of this culture is clearly concentrated in the synthetic imaginary.

The Incas belong to the late horizon. In this pre-Columbian culture, a great importance of the synthetic imaginary prevails, although, in comparison with previous cultures, a massive displacement takes place from the nocturnal regime to the daytime one. In view of the resulting conclusion, the fact that the available material, on which these deductions are supported, is incomplete, should not be overlooked at all; In part, it is even scarce. With new discoveries and new knowledge may be completed or perhaps correct some elements in the coming years and decades. The deductions presented here must, therefore, be understood as hypotheses.

Hypothesis 1: The cultures of pre-Columbian America are completely framed in the synthetic imaginary.

Simply contemplating and comparing the circular diagrams of all the chapters, it is obvious that in the Mesoamerican and South American cultures there is a concentration of symbols in the nocturnal regime and, within it, in the synthetic imaginary. As for the relationship with time, the myths of pre-Columbian America speak of a succession of different ages and humanities. Again and again decadence and death come, followed by a new creation. It is not, however, an eternal return to the same point of origin, but clearly confirms an advance as the central structure of the synthetic imaginary. The complex systems of calendars in early pre-Columbian cultures seem to have already calculated these cycles.
The world itself is “tricótomo”1)Equivalent Word in english not found by translator., that is to say, it is composed of three levels: heaven, earth and the underworld. The permanent presence of different worlds is expressed iconographically through the union of representatives of these worlds, showing them as “hybrid” beings: snakebird, jaguar-snake, bird-jaguar, or directly, bird-snake-jaguar. In this three-dimensionality appears, on a side, the synthetic structure of systematization, and on the other, the relation of opposing elements, also those of the coincidentia oppositorum. 2)Lat Opposites coincident (Translator note) Since that, for the pre-Columbian man everything is polar, and unity is only understood in the complementary duality, the synthetic structure of the coincidentia oppositorum can be understood as a fundamental structure of the pre-Columbian vision of the world in general.

Hypothesis 2: Early pre-Columbian cultures tend to the mystical imaginary; the late ones, to the schizomorphic imaginary.

Although the main structures and symbols of the imaginary in all the pre-Columbian eras are synthetic and appear as the foundation of their vision of the world, on the simply basis of the circular diagrams it is recognized how much early cultures, such as the Olmecs or the Chavin
culture are located in the mystic imaginary, whereas the cultures in times of the Conquest, like the Aztecs or the Incas, show a clear tendency to the schizomorphic3)Not an equivalent Word found in english imaginary. Classical cultures in Mesoamerica, such as the Maya, or those of the middle horizon in South America, such as Tiahuanaco, show the greatest balance within the three fundamental imaginaries: schizomorph, synthetic and mystic. It must be remembered that, according to G. Durand, all the truly great epochs of history are characterized by the fact that the three imaginaries are equally represented. Since in all cultures you can basically observe the phases of ascent, apogee and decay until the fall, the question arises whether you can generalize in the hypothesis that the phase of the beginnings is located more in the mystical imaginary, and the one of decadence more in the schizomorphic imaginary; or, that it could be a specificity of the pre-Columbian cultures. Obviously, this question can not be answered in this context.

Hypothesis 3: The Conquest is based on the clash of two different imaginaries and, therefore, on antithetical worlds.

Many disquisitions are not necessary to understand that the Spanish conquerors, as one of the most important powers of Christian Europe of that time, were ruled by the schizomorphic imaginary. Consequently, these schizomorphic structures of thought and action collided with the nocturnal regime of indigenous cultures. Euphemistically, the Aztecs identified the Spaniards with the return of the gods, something that had already been announced in their myths. They sacrificed some prisoners to the Spaniards because “the gods were satisfied by human blood […], but when the whites saw it, they shuddered with horror and disgust. They spit on the ground […], they turned their heads in horror.4)Codex Florentino, Libro XII. En: León-Portilla, Miguel; Heuer, Renate, El retorno de los dioses: Los registros de los aztecas sobre la caída de su imperio; en edición alemana, Frankfurt am Main 1986, pág.30. While the Aztecs had made the human sacrifice as a gesture of homage and connection with the supposed “gods” (a gesture of the synthetic imaginary), the Spaniards, from their “schizomorphic point of view”, could only understand it as a bestial cruelty that he practically claimed a separation between the “bearers of salvation” and the “savage barbarians.” At that historical moment, we see the clash of two different imaginaries. On one side are the Aztecs and the Incas who, like other indigenous peoples, had ritualized the war. “For the natives, an attack without a declaration of war was inadmissible.5)Séjourné, Laurette, “Antiguas culturas precolombinas”; en edición alemana Frankfurt am Main 1971, pág. 59. ” The Incas practically did not conquer by force of arms. With all due respect, expensive gifts were first sent to the “opponent cacique “, and they were trying to convince him of how sensible it would be to submit to the Incas in the framework of a debate. Only when all these attempts did not bear fruit – what seldom happened – did the battle come6. This euphemized form of submission is as much attributable to the night regime, with its synthetic and mystical structures, as to the ritualized form of war. The Spaniards, on the other hand, followed the myth of the heroic discoverer, conqueror, adventurer and warrior who fights against everything and everyone who gets in his way. The goal is fame and wealth. This is the myth of the daytime regime par excellence. And the ideological superstructure, and therefore also the legitimation of these “exploitation dramas and extermination actions”, existed in the antithetical Christianity, which divided the world between God and demon, good and evil, Christians and pagans. In this way a kind of grotesque schizophrenia developed among the Spanish conquistadors: on the one hand, they fell into a “frenzy of primitive instincts6)Ibíd, S.64.” -the nictomorphic blindness of power and wealth and the teriomorphic power, devouring and annihilating; on the other hand, they saw themselves as “the good and generous Christians who expose their lives for the spiritual good of the barbarians,
whose bestiality sometimes reaches insubordination, forcing the sweet evangelists to resort by the use force”7)Séjourné, Laurette, “Antiguas culturas precolombinas”; en edición alemana, Frankfurt am Main 1971, pág.57. The own bestiality is seen in others, as in a mirror upside down. A similar schizophrenia is also found in National Socialism or in the current provocative Islamic terror.

Hypothesis 4: Indigenous cultures have survived until today thanks to their synthetic and mystical imaginary.

Precisely in recent decades, there has been a true rebirth of indigenous cultures in Latin America and their own vision of life. How could substantial parts of the indigenous pre-Columbian culture and religion survive despite the Inquisition, the systematic destruction of writings,
cultural property and sacred sites, despite centuries of repression of all kinds? We find an answer in Latin American syncretism, in the union and mixture of different philosophical or religious systems. Syncretism is itself a concept of the nocturnal regime. Connecting is the key
concept of the synthetic imaginary, and mixing it is of the mystical imaginary.

German cultural anthropologist Ina Rösing summarized the way in which all this had and takes place in five decisive ruling conditions:

1) Division of competences. This is shown in the indigenous catechists, who are determined to establish a link between the Catholic Church and the life of the rural people. These catechists offer the corresponding sacrifices to the gods to alleviate every issue, problem and disease of daily life, while addressing God to be pure in heart or be saved. That is to say, the Christian God 8)Rösing, Ina, Jeder Ort –ein heiliger Ort, Zürich 1997, S.23-25. serves for the sublime and abstract, while his ancient religion serves for the practicality of life. The term “division of competencies”, chosen by I. Rösing, is related to the schizomorphic imaginary, but in my opinion, this condition does not refer to a division but rather to a complementarity, because both competences complement each other, without excluding one another. Therefore, this condition must be attributed to the synthetic imaginary.

2) Linguistic adaptation. In syncretistic representations of saints it is venerated in parallel. For example, in the figure of the Virgin Mary the Andean Pachamama is venerated, or in the figure of Santiago, the patron of Spain, the Andean god of lightning, Illapa9)Gisbert, Teresa, Synkretismus in der Kolonialzeit. In: Assmann, Ulm, Weinelt Hg., Das Sonnentor, Linz 2012, S.194-197., is venerated. This means that the same idea can be expressed in different concepts and forms. From the point of view of the logic of “and”, this linguistic or formal
adaptation can be framed in the synthetic imaginary, and from the point of view of the “jumble” of the forms, in the mystical imaginary. In each of the cases it is a concept corresponding to the night regime.

3) Coding.
This is best illustrated by an example: Aymara Indians prepare various nests of offerings called San Pablo, San Pedro, etc. It is interpreted as offering to Christian saints, but in reality they are offerings to the deity of the Illapa ray, and each ray simply receives the name of the saint on whose day that lightning fell.

4) Incorporation.
Here the Christian “deities” are integrated, like God himself, Jesus, Mary and the saints, into an indigenous religion. Naturally, they all have the same duties and the same rights as well, that is, they also receive their own offerings.10)Ibíd, S.27. This condition of “inclusion” (incorporation) is clearly a concept of intimacy within the mystical imaginary.

5) Reset
. In this context, the Lord’s Prayer as a quintessence of Christian prayer is used as an example, which is used as another magic formula to carry an offering.11) Ibíd, S.27f. This leads to a translation of the meaning (a concept within the “inversion”), since the purpose of the Our Father is clearly another very different from that of being a magic formula to carry an offering. Hence, this fifth condition is imbricated in the mystical imaginary.

These five paths, which were and continue to be decisive for the survival of the basic concepts of pre-Columbian philosophies and religions, can be aligned in the nocturnal regime. The Christian priests, with their schizomorphic imaginary, have long escaped that the indigenous
concepts continued to live within Christian forms. It seems an irony of fate that, precisely because of the antagonism of the Western-Christian imaginary against the indigenous-pre- Columbian imaginary, there has been a victory for the former at the political level, but at the
level of worldview, and because of that same antagonism, a victory of the second is pre seen.


Mosaic of various characteristics of Mesoamerica from images from Wikicommons, prepared by
Yavidaxiu – own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9884971

Notas   [ + ]

1. Equivalent Word in english not found by translator.
2. Lat Opposites coincident (Translator note
3. Not an equivalent Word found in english
4. Codex Florentino, Libro XII. En: León-Portilla, Miguel; Heuer, Renate, El retorno de los dioses: Los registros de los aztecas sobre la caída de su imperio; en edición alemana, Frankfurt am Main 1986, pág.30
5. Séjourné, Laurette, “Antiguas culturas precolombinas”; en edición alemana Frankfurt am Main 1971, pág. 59.
6. Ibíd, S.64.
7. Séjourné, Laurette, “Antiguas culturas precolombinas”; en edición alemana, Frankfurt am Main 1971, pág.57.
8. Rösing, Ina, Jeder Ort –ein heiliger Ort, Zürich 1997, S.23-25.
9. Gisbert, Teresa, Synkretismus in der Kolonialzeit. In: Assmann, Ulm, Weinelt Hg., Das Sonnentor, Linz 2012, S.194-197.
10. Ibíd, S.27.
11. Ibíd, S.27f.