The Seven Celestial Caves
For the benefit of the Great Cause, it is not irrelevant to begin this treatise by transcribing something marvelous. I want to emphatically address a certain narration of an account by Friar Diego Durán’s remarkable work on the history of Mexico, quoted in “The Book that Kills Death” (pages 126 to 134) by Don Mario Roso de Luna. Since I do not want to “adorn my head with other people’s feathers,” we will write these paragraphs in quotes.
“Our chronicle tells us about the history of the Indies of New Spain and islands from the mainland by Fray Diego Duran — in his beautiful book written following the Spanish colonization of that vast empire — that the emperor Moctezuma, who seeing himself in the fullness of his riches and glory, believed himself to be little less than a god. The magicians or priests of the kingdom, much wiser and richer than him since they dominated all of their lower desires, had to tell him, ‘Oh, our king and lord! Do not be conceited by whatever obeys your command. Your ancestors, the emperors who you believe dead, surpass you there in their world, just as sunlight surpasses any firefly…’
“Then, more with curiosity than pride, the emperor Moctezuma determined to send a vivid delegation laden with gifts to the land of his ancestors, that is, the blessed Mansion of the Dawn, beyond the seven caves of Pacaritambo, the famous birthplace of the Aztecs, and from where so many lauded references started their old traditions.
“The difficulty, however, was to find the means and true way to happily arrive at such a dark and mysterious region, a path that, in truth, already no one seemed to know.
“Then the emperor summoned his minister Tlacaelel to appear before him, and said to him, ‘You must know, oh Tlacaelel, that I have determined to call together a host consisting of my most heroic leaders, to send them very well seasoned and ready with much of the wealth that the great Huitzilipochtli has supplied us for his glory, and to reverently have this wealth placed at his august feet. As we also have faithful reports that the mother of our God still lives, he may even be pleased to know about these our greatness and splendor won by his descendants by their very arms and heads.’
“Tlacaelel answered, ‘Mighty lord, when speaking as you have, your royal chest has actually not been moved by longings of worldly business nor by determinations of your own so august heart, but because some exalted deity has moved you in that way to undertake such an outrageous adventure as the one you propose. But you must not ignore, lord, that what with such determination you have intended is not a matter of mere force or skill or courage, or any device of war, or of shrewd politics, but a matter of witches and enchanters capable of first discovering with their arts the way that can lead us to such places. For you must know, oh mighty prince, that according to our old stories, that road was blocked many years ago, and part of it — on this side — is hidden by great brambles and thickets populated by invincible monsters, dunes, and bottomless lagoons, and very dense reed-beds and floodplains of reeds where the one so foolhardy as to attempt such an undertaking enterprise will lose his life. Therefore, oh lord, as the only remedy against such impossible tasks, find those wise people that I mentioned, since with their magic arts, perhaps they can avoid all of those human impossibilities, and go there, and then bring you the news about that region that is so essential to us, a region where, as it is quite truthfully said, that when our parents and grandparents dwelled there — before coming on a long pilgrimage to the lagoons of Mexico where they saw the prodigy of the Tunal [pear cactus] or burning bush — it was a very prodigious and pleasant mansion where they enjoyed peace and rest, where everything was happier than in any of the most beautiful of dreams, and where they lived centuries and centuries without becoming old nor knowing diseases, fatigue, or pain — nor had, in short, any of those enslaving physical needs of we who suffer here; but that after leaving that paradise in order to come here, for them, for our seniors, everything turned to thorns and thistles: the herbs prodded them, stones and trees hurt them on their way, trees became hard, thorny, and barren, everything turned against them so that they could not return there, and so fulfilled their mission in our world.’
“Upon hearing the good advice of the sage Tlacaelel, Moctezuma remembered the royal historian Cuahucoatl [literally the “Dragon of Wisdom,” a common name of the followers of the right-hand or white magicians], a venerable ancient, so old that nobody could count his years. Thus, immediately Moctezuma had himself carried to the old man’s mountain retreat, and after having greeted him reverently, said to him, ‘Father of mine, most noble elder and the glory of thy people, much I want to hear from you, if you deign to tell me. What memory do you keep in thine holy old age about the story of the seven celestial caves inhabited by our venerable ancestors? And where is that holy place where our god Huitzilopochtli dwells and from where our fathers came?’
“‘Almighty Moctezuma,’ solemnly replied the ancient one, ‘what this your unworthy servant knows about your question is that our forefathers, in effect, dwelt in that indescribably happy place called Aztlan [synonym of whiteness or purity]. Still preserved there is a large hill surrounded by water that they call Culhuacan [which means “Twisted Hill” or “Hill of the Snakes”]. The caves are on that hill, and where, before coming here, our forefathers lived never-ending years.
“‘There, under the names of Medjins and Aztecs, they had a very great rest; there they enjoyed much, and all species of ducks, herons, cormorants, coots, moorhens, many and different kinds of beautiful fish, groves filled with very fresh fruit and adorned with colored sparrows and yellow heads, surrounded by fountains, willows, junipers, and huge alders. Those people used canoes, and made plots where they sowed corn, peppers, tomatoes, amaranth, beans, and all kinds of seeds that we eat here now, and which they brought from there, missing a few others.
“‘However, after they left toward this, our land, and lost sight of such a delightful place, everything, everything turned against them: herbs bit them; stones cut them; the fields were full of thorns and large brambles, and thorns that they could not pass, nor settle down and rest near. They found everything infested with snakes, poisonous snakes, and other poisonous vermin. Tigers, lions, and other wild animals disputed the land with them and made life impossible for them.
“‘This is the account that our ancestors left, and this is all that I can tell you regarding our stories, oh, mighty lord!’
“The king replied to the ancient one, saying that this account must be true since Tlacaelel gave him the same narration.
“So, at that point he gave the command for them to go throughout all the provinces of the empire to find and call as many enchanters and sorcerers as they could find. Sixty men were brought before Moctezuma. They were all elderly people, connoisseurs in the arts of magic. Once the sixty were assembled, the emperor said, ‘Fathers and elders, I am determined to know where the place is that the Mexican once came, and promptly know what land it is, who lives there, and if the mother of our god Huitzilopochtli is still alive. Therefore, prepare yourselves to seek that place in the best possible way you can, and return here quickly.’
“He also sent out the sorcerers with lots of mantles, of every kind; soft clothing; gold and valuable jewels; much cocoa, cotton, teonacaztli, roses and black vanilla flowers and great beautiful feathers; to that end, the most precious available things of his treasure, and gave it to those sorcerers, giving also to them their payment and plenty of food for their journey, so that with much care they may fulfill their mission.
“The sorcerers then departed and arrived at a hill named Coatepec that is said to be in Tulla. They made their invocations and magic circles and smeared their bodies with those ointments that nowadays are still in use in such magical operations…
“Once in that place, they invoked the demon [meaning their respective familiar daimon, the individual Lucifer of each one of them] whom they begged to show them the true place where their forefathers lived. Their demon, forced by those conjurations, transformed them, some into birds, others into ferocious beasts, lions, tigers, jackals, and frightening cats, and carried them, all of which they led to the place inhabited by their forefathers.
“On reaching the shores of a large lagoon, in the middle of which emerged the hill called Culhuacan, and after placing them on the bank, they again resumed the human forms they previously had. The chronicle tells us that when they stood on the shore of the lake, they saw people fishing on the other shore, so they called them. The people of that land drew near with their canoes, and asked them from where they were and why they came. They then responded, ‘We, sirs, are subjects of the great emperor Moctezuma of Mexico, and we have been sent by him to seek the place where our forefathers lived.’
“Then those of the land asked them, ‘What god do you worship?’
“And the travelers answered, ‘We worship the great Huitzilopochtli. Both Moctezuma as well his adviser Tlacaelel commanded us to seek also for the mother of Huitzilopochtli, named Coatlicue, inhabitant of the caves of Chicomoztoc, because for her and her whole family we bring rich presents.’
“Then they ordered them to wait and went to tell the priest of the mother of Huitzilipochtli, ‘Oh venerable lord, strange people have arrived on our shores, and say that they are Mexican, and that a great lord named Moctezuma and another they called Tlacaelel sent them here with rich presents.’
“The old man said, ‘Let them be welcome, and have them brought here.’
“Promptly they returned with their canoes, and took the sorcerers across the lake, and brought them to the hill of Culhuacan, which they say consists of very fine sand, therefore the travelers feet sank into it, hardly able to move. Barely reaching the elder’s house at the foot of the hill, they greeted the ancient one with the greatest reverence, and said, ‘Venerable master, behold here thy servants in the place where thy word is obeyed and thy protecting breath revered.’
“The ancient one replied to them with great love, ‘You are welcome, my children. Who sent you here? Who is Moctezuma and who is Tlacaelel Cuauhcoatl? Such names were never heard here, since the lords of this land are named Tezacatetl, Acactli, Ocelopán, Ahatl, Xochimitl, Auxeotl, Tenoch, and Victon, seven barons, leaders of many nations. Besides them, there were four wonderful ayos, or tutors of the great Huitzilopochtli, two of them are named Cuauhtloquetzqui and Axolona.’
“The astounded travelers said, ‘Sir, all of these names sound to us as very ancient beings, of which we have hardly memory in our sacred rites, because for many years they have all been forgotten or dead.’
“The ancient one, terrified by what he just heard, exclaimed, ‘Alas! Oh lord of all created things, who killed them, since all of us here are still alive in the place they abandoned? Here in this place no one dies, but lives forever. Who, then, are those who live now?’
“The sorcerers replied, confused, ‘No one lives, sir, but their great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, and all of them very old. One of them is the high priest of Huitzilopochtli, called Cuauhcoatl.’
“The elder, no less surprised than they, cried with magnificent voice, ‘Is it possible that this man has not yet returned? Since he left from here to go among you, his holy mother is inconsolably waiting for him, day after day!’
“Thereafter, the old man gave the order to depart towards the royal palace of the hill. The emissaries, loaded with the presents they had brought, tried to follow him, but for them a single step was almost impossible, instead they sank deeper and deeper into the sand, as if they set foot in a quagmire. When the good old man saw them in such trouble and sorrow, seeing that they could not walk as he did with such alacrity that he scarcely seemed to touch the ground, loving them asked, ‘What ails you, oh Mexicans? What makes you so clumsy and heavy? What do you eat in your land so as to be like that?’
“‘Sir,’ replied the sorcerers, ‘there we eat many meats from the animals that are bred there, and we drink pulque [alcohol].’
“To which the old man, full of compassion, replied, “'Those foods and drinks, along with your fiery passions, are what keep you like that, children, so clumsy and heavy. They are what prevent you to come to see where your ancestors live, and what bring premature death to you, as well. Also know that all these riches that you bring us are of no use to us here, where only poverty and simplicity surrounds us.’
“So saying, with great power the old man took all the loads and climbed the slope of the hill as if they were a feather…”
Chapter twenty-seven of that work of Father Duran, paraphrased here, continues with a story about the meeting of ambassadors with the mother of Huitzilopochtli, from which we selected the following:
“Once all the presents brought by the envoys had been taken up the hill, a woman of a great age appeared, so dirty and black she looked like something from hell. Crying bitterly, she told the Mexicans, ‘You are welcome, ye, my children. Know that after your god and my son Huitzilipochtli departed from this place, I have been in tears and sadness waiting for his return, and since that day I have not washed my face or hair or changed my clothes, and this grief and sadness will be with me until he returns.’
“Seeing such an absolutely neglected woman, the messengers full of fear said, ‘The one who sent us here is your servant King Moctezuma and his coadjutor Tlacaelel Sivacoatl. Know that he is not our first king, but the fifth. The four kings, his predecessors, suffered much hunger and poverty and brought tribute to other provinces, but now our city is free and prospers, and roads have been opened to the coast, to the sea, and is the head of all the others, and mines of gold, silver, and precious stones have discovered, from all of which we bring presents.’
“She answered them, while calming her tears, ‘I thank you for all your news, but I wonder if the old ayos (priests) who my son took from here still live?’
“‘Oh, our lady, they are dead, and we never knew them. All that remains are their shadows and almost erased memory.’
“Returning to crying, she then asked them, ‘Who killed them, since here all their companions are still alive?’ And then she added, ‘What did you bring to eat? That heavy food is what has hindered you, my children, and keep you attached to the land, and that is the reason you have not been able to climb the hill.’
“And giving a message to her son, she addressed the envoys telling them, ‘Tell my son that the time for his peregrination is ended, since he has lodged his people and given all his service, and in the same order strange people will have to remove everything from you, and he has to return here to our lap, once he has fulfilled its mission down there.’
“And giving them a blanket and a breechcloth [girdle of chastity] for her child, she bade them farewell.
“But as soon as the emissaries began to descend the hill, the old woman called them again, saying, ‘Stop, wait. You are going to see how men never get old in this land. Do you see this old ayo of mine? By the time he reaches where you are, you will see how young he will be.’
“The old man, indeed, began to descend, thus the lower he went the younger he became, and the farther he went up again he returned to being as old as before, saying, ‘You all must know, my children, that this hill has the power to turn us to the age we want, as through it we go up or down. You cannot understand this because you are brutalized and indulged with meals and drinks, and with luxury and wealth.’
“And so that they should not leave unrewarded for what they had brought, they made them bring all kinds of seabirds that are raised in that lake, all kinds of fish, vegetables, and roses, blankets and garlands and breechcloths, one for Moctezuma and another for Tlacaelel.
“The emissaries smeared themselves as they had when they began the journey. They were again transformed into the same fierce animals prior to passing through the intermediate country. They returned to the hill of Catepec, and there they returned into their human forms, and walked to the court, not without noting that some of them, about twenty at least, were missing, because their demons undoubtedly decimated them in payment for their work, for having walked more than three hundred leagues in eight days, and even at this rate they took a long time and could have done it in less time as the one who brought in three days from Guatemala, for the desire of an old lady to see his beautiful face thereof, as recounted in the first auto of faith celebrated by the Holy Inquisition in Mexico...
“Moctezuma was astounded by all of this, and thus summoned Tlacaelel, and both were wistfully moved by the great fertility of that holy land of their ancestors; the freshness of the trees, the unsurpassed abundance of everything, for all the crops were given at once, and while some were peppered, others were in milk, other budding and others were born, so there could never be known misery. When remembering the happiness of that land, king and minister began to weep bitterly, feeling homesick and longing for her boundless residence again someday, after serving their human mission down here.”
Until here we cite the delectable reference from Friar Diego Duran, transcribed by Don Mario Roso de Luna, the distinguished theosophical writer.