Human Arenas

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 37–55 | Cite as

Natural Inclusionality, Indigenous Wisdom, and the Reality of Nature

  • Jeff Firewalker SchmittEmail author


Natural Inclusionality is a new biologically grounded paradigm that challenges several beliefs that underpin Western thought, which are perceived to cause strife, imbalance, and conflict across all scales of Ecological, Biological, and Social organization. We have entered an era, the Anthropocene, where the behavior of one animal species (Homo sapiens) is vastly and adversely impacting all life, making the need to illuminate our complex landscape in a way that inspires awe, co-creativity, and compassion, increasingly vital. This manuscript explores Natural Inclusionality as a philosophical framework that can broaden academic and public understanding of indigenous wisdom, cosmology, and spirituality. Without direct experience, it is difficult, if not impossible to appreciate the vital importance of preserving and learning from these wisdom traditions. Woven throughout Natural Inclusionality and these traditions is a call for a return to a sense of self-immersion in nature; the limited, if not miasmic way we experience the boundary between self and nature in the industrialized world is inherently harmful and false. For example, key tenets of Natural Inclusionality are shown here to reflect foundational concepts of Andean Cosmology, Spirituality, and ritual practice (which I will heretofore call Andean Nature Mysticism) while overcoming critical deficiencies in the holistic Western re-presentations of indigenous wisdom. Specifically, this manuscript explores how the following principles of Natural Inclusionality align with Andean Nature Mysticism: that (1) space is a receptive and continuous omnipresence/all that exists is a mutual inclusion of receptive space and informative flux, (2) there exists no separation of the tangible from the intangible, (3) self-identity and consciousness are a natural inclusion of neighborhood, (4) competitive opposition stalls evolution—and—life and the cosmos evolve through the receptive natural inclusion of what is possible in changing circumstances. Finally, various aspects of Vedic and Buddhist and other wisdom traditions are also evoked where useful.


Cosmology Indigenous Wisdom Natural Inclusionality Nature Spirituality Q’ero Andean 

Can we talk of integration until there is integration of hearts and minds? Unless you have this, you only have a physical presence, and the walls between us are as high as the mountain range.” – Chief Tsleil-Wauthth (Dan George)


God’s Ecstasy is the Creation of a Self-Creating Universe” – Beatrice Bruteau

Winston Churchill at the apex of Europe’s desperation, amid the darkest period the Second World War, said “conditions have become so dismal that we have no choice other than to be optimistic.” The current world stage is a potent, if not unsettling dance of polarity: dark and light unbound in full expression. We are in the age of the wicked problem (Churchman 1967), where challenges facing humanity are so complex and inter-determined that they evade state-of-the-art problem solving methodology. These wicked problems underlie the ecological, economic, and sociopolitical circumstances that pose a threat to human sustainability and life worldwide. Following Churchill’s optimism, we might view the myriad expressions of cruelty we are inflicting on ourselves, one another, and on nature as the last desperate gasp of the “old way”—patriarchal and dominating, at odds with the natural environment and mired by shallow ideologies dividing between peoples and beliefs and between darkness and light. Universal ancient wisdom teachings remind us that it is only in the presence of darkness that the light comes to fully know itself.
It is in the illumination of this polarity that we have the opportunity to make beneficial and transformative decisions, but this is predicated on a major planetary shift of consciousness. Faced with unprecedented challenge, many argue that without transforming how we view ourselves, our relationship to each other, and to the living world, the most well-intended efforts to effect change continue to fall short of the desired results. Abrams (1996) expresses this as an “inversion” where we have come to distrust our embodied, primary experience:

The fluid realm of direct experience has come to be seen as a secondary, derivative dimension, a mere consequence of events unfolding in the “realer” world of quantifiable and measurable facts … the living person is now an epiphenomenon of the anatomized corpse Abrams (1996, p. 34).

Our outlook is further challenged by negativity bias (Kanouse and Hanson 1972), a necessary component of our biological evolution that is nonetheless a skewed lens thru which events upon the world stage are interpreted. Negativity bias forces a pejorative interpretation of novel stimulus over an objective interpretation. Thus, the first-time a rabbit encounters a feline, the negativity bias, provides an interpretation that leads to a greater chance of survival for the rabbit. There are far more hopeful things afoot in all aspects of human endeavor than contemporary mass communication—which has devolved to an undisciplined, myopic, and entertainment-driven circus—would have us believe.
Numerous indigenous cultures worldwide point to this period of history as being pivotal for the awakening of human consciousness. The planet’s ecosystems are in peril; war and strife perpetuate the wounding unabated. We live in a time of prophecy. The influences, seen and unseen, that are catalyzing the emergence of a new planetary human conscious shift are often referred to as integral consciousness. Evermore potent is the recognition that we are all global citizens deeply related and creatively (rather than destructively) interdependent. A return to harmony with the earth in sacred and awakened reciprocity—in Thomas Berry’s words we become once again “a communion of subjects rather than a collection of objects” (Berry and Clarke 1991). We are likely close to the critical mass of inspired, aspirational humans, and organizations needed to make the shift; in the hopeful words of Gangadean (2007):

Worlds are mind-made, and when we rise together in awakened global and integral rational consciousness, we have the opportunity and responsibility to bring forth higher forms of sustainable cultures and worlds. A new global civilization awaits Gangadean (2007, p.37).

Required for this shift are new tools and philosophies to help release the mooring of antiquated perspectives so that wicked problems become tractable opportunities to restore, renew, and remember who we are in relationship to the cosmos. As this and other works demonstrate, Natural Inclusionality is one such philosophy.

Natural Inclusionality and Indigenous Wisdom

The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the Souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that its center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” – Black Elk

The Natural Inclusionality (NI) paradigm (Rayner 2011; Rayner 2017) posits that (a) Materialism1 and (b) mutual exclusivity between that which is Objective and that which is Subjective2 are the underlying causal links that must be addressed. This is in similitude with the expansive and foundational wisdom held by indigenous cultures around the world whose cultures are anchored in the belief that mind and body and nature are inextricably linked3 and that experience is inherently subjective.4 In his landmark work The Illusion of Technique, Barrett (1981) shares a similar perspective:

We have come to understand the phenomena of life only as an assemblage of the lifeless. We take the mechanistic abstractions of our technical calculation to be ultimately concrete and “fundamentally real,” while our most intimate experiences are labelled “mere appearance” and something having reality only within the closet of the isolated mind.

Suppose however we were to invert this whole scheme, reverse the order in which it assigns abstract and concrete. What is central to our experience, then, need not be peripheral to nature. This sunset now, for example, caught within the network of bare winter branches, seems like a moment of benediction in which the whole of nature collaborates. Why should not these colours and these charging banners of light be as much a part of the universe as the atoms and molecules that make them up? If they were only “in my mind,” then I and my mind would no longer be a part of nature. Why should the pulse of life toward beauty and value not be a part of things?

Following this path, we do not vainly seek to assemble the living out of configurations of dead stuff, but we descend downwards from more complex to simpler grades of the organic. From humans to trees to rocks... In the universe of energy, any individual thing is a pattern of activity within the flux, and thereby an organism at some level Barrett (1981, p.154).

Even within the confines of Western science, we have begun to amass striking evidence of the validity of this fundamentally indigenous world-view (for example, see Bateson 1979; Bohm 1980; Barrett 1981; Laszlo 2006; Gangadean 2007). For example, through this alternative lens, it is understood that most illness—be it physical or mental—arises from unresolved psychological trauma or wounding; when left unaddressed, these eventually manifest as physical or mental illness. In this context, merely addressing the physical symptoms will seldom address the underlying problem—the tendency is to mask them or suppress rather than to heal. Rarely does a physician tell their patient that illness is to be considered a teacher, as an agent to accelerate one’s personal and spiritual growth. This again reflects the validity of the intangible (the memory, the self-embodied story, and energy of the trauma) existing within the tangible (the physical body). In the industrialized world, we enjoy relatively few tools to enable a deeper inquiry into the nature of our being and the challenges emerging in our lives.

The depth and breadth of indigenous wisdom [sic knowledge] is articulated by Little Bear (2009)5:

Indigenous knowledge is part of the collective genius of humanity. It represents the accumulated experience, wisdom and know-how unique to nations, societies, and or communities of people, living in specific ecosystems of America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. It represents the accumulated knowledge of the earth’s people that represent over 5000 languages and cultures contained in more than 70 nation-states Little Bear (2009, p.7).

Within this diversity of belief, cosmology, social organization, and practice, the solutions to the world’s most pressing problems might be found (Davis 2009). This is evidenced by the remarkably “indigenous” (i.e., non-technological and systems-oriented) advances created by recipients of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge Grant program ( This program fosters the creation of path-breaking solutions to some of the world’s most complex and difficult problems that are in alignment with Buckminster Fuller’s imperative “to make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through the spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

Through the lens of Western academia, ceremony and ritual have been, for a very long time, considered artifacts of primitive culture—obsolete and without value in modern society. Influenced by Phenomenologists such as Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger and Husserl, and the pre-eminent Psychologist Carl Jung, recent decades have seen a blossoming of new perspective about the value of ceremony and ritual. These are now understood to be a practical means to expand our capacity to assimilate and process useful information. Barrett (1981) speculates that it is indeed the de-ritualization of industrialized culture that has led to rampant ecological destruction and dislocation from nature. The task of the shaman is to use non-ordinary states of consciousness to access more useful information, restoring balance and better decision making. In the context of indigenous culture, the mystic elder, through the use of ceremony and ritual realizes the same outcome. Much like the dramatic emergence of Yoga practice and philosophy in America and Europe over the past decades, Shamanism and ancient wisdom traditions are now emerging as a vital thread in the spiritual fabric of society. These traditions are a practical and efficient means to achieve spiritual awakening, personal growth, and a happier life in a way that is compatible with other faiths and religious traditions; they are also based on a clear sense of inter-dependence with the living Earth.

NI is a significant departure from Western “holistic” re-presentations (quite possibly mis-translations by the very nature of the descriptive process) of indigenous wisdom. These especially relate to the departure from discourse requiring evocation of “whole and part,” “oneness,” “connectedness,” etc., all of which focus on “figure” while neglecting continuous ground. There is also a very clear recognition in NI of the co-creative relationship as distinct from polar opposition evoked in dialectic, dualistic, and positivist approaches. Therefore, NI is a “post-dialectic philosophy” based on dynamic synthesis of thesis and antithesis between “darkness” (as omnipresent receptive space) and “light” (as informative energetic presence).

This manuscript explores how the following principals of Natural Inclusionality align with Andean Nature Mysticism: (1) Space is a receptive and continuous omnipresence/all that exists is a mutual inclusion of receptive space and informative flux aligns with the Andean Nature Mysticism concept of the Kawsaypacha (COW-sigh-potch-ah)—the universal field of living energy; (2) there exists no separation of the tangible from the intangible aligns with the concept of the Ukhupacha (OOH-KOOH-potch-ah)—the living, inter-connected interiority of all things; (3) self-identity and consciousness as a natural inclusion of neighborhood aligns with the central social and spiritual ordering principal of Ayni (EYE-knee)—sacred reciprocity; and (4) competitive opposition stalls evolution—and—life and the cosmos evolve through the receptive natural inclusion of what is possible in changing circumstances are propositions that reflect the wisdom teaching of the Yanantin (YAH-non-teen)—the harmonious existence of opposites.

Andean Nature Mysticism

The People of the Andes are considered among the five existing “pristine” civilizations, meaning that their cosmology, spiritual practices, and lifeways have not been significantly influenced by other civilizations (Upton and von Hagen 2015). Andean culture, like many high-mountain communities around the world, has been shaped by the harsh environments in which they live. High altitudes (8000–15,000 ft), climactic, and geological factors require not only sophisticated physical agricultural approaches and husbandry but also non-ordinary means of interrelating with the environment, as will be discussed in detail below. The Andean culture considered in this manuscript stretches from the highlands of Southern Ecuador to the Bolivian Altiplano South of Lake Titicaca (cultural groups that inhabit lower altitude ecosystems, such as those in high-jungle environments are not considered in this manuscript).6

The ethnic groups that make up this range of Andean culture share a great number of cultural characteristics, despite variation in ethnicity and dialect. Because of the unique and challenging environment of the Andean highlands, the primary focus is on local community, known as the Allyu (EYE-you). Land is cooperatively tended and often jointly owned by the Allyu; the exchange of resources, handcrafts, and food makes up the primary basis of the economic system. Woven handcrafts are a hallmark of many Andean communities. A typical Andean community will extend over a range of altitudes, allowing for both cultivation of high-altitude crops and tending livestock.

The only significant outside factor influencing Andean spirituality has been the introduction of Catholicism. Many Andean priests and priestesses (known as Paqos (POCK-oh-s) are devout Catholics, yet Christian Theism has had overall a minor effect on Andean Nature Mysticism in practice. Interestingly, diaries from sixteenth and seventeenth century missionaries working in the Northern Andes and Northern coast of Peru describe accounts of when pictures of Christ were to Paqos—note that many of whom had never encountered a European outsider—only to have the Paqo respond: “oh yes, we know him, he is the one we call Apu Taita7 (AH-poo TIE-tah), he is a great master whom we have known for a very long time.” Similarly, a testament to the spiritual maturity and sophistication of the Incas, icons of Jesus and Mary, were respected for their energetic power. The Incas projected Andean worldview onto the Spanish ethos by assuming the Spanish used the icon of Jesus as a portal through which they could receive the divine masculine energy of the universe, and the Virgin Mary image to receive the Divine Feminine living energy of the universe.8

The syncretization of the Andean worldview with the Catholic Church is similar to the merging of Christianity with Oriental Philosophy in Gnosticism as well as Buddhism with the ancient Bon tradition of Tibet that makes up modern Tibetan Buddhism. Because of the relative isolation of numerous communities throughout the Andes, it is not possible to put Andean Nature Mysticism under one conceptual umbrella; it is most accurate to consider it as a “cluster” with considerably similar practices and cosmologies. In the paragraphs that follow, an attempt is made to explore the most consistently occurring attributes.

First and foremost, the mystical practices of the Andean peoples constitute one of the most profound expressions of Earth-Centered Spirituality known. This is beautifully articulated by Jenkins (2013):

The mystical wisdom tradition of the Andes has maintained its ceremonies and practices, philosophies and worldview and it's priesthood due to the fact that its altars cannot be torn down. They are the very mountains, rivers, oceans, caves, streams and valleys in which we live. The earth on which we walk is herself the altar ... Nature herself is the teacher, the transmitter of energy and information. Infinitely generous, she proffers on the open secret of her living energy upon all wise enough to grasp it (Jenkins 2013, p. viii).

The Q’ero (CARE-oh) are the most widely known among the communities practicing Andean Nature Mysticism because of the Ethnological and educational work of Oscar Nuñez del Prado starting in 1955 and can be considered the “representative” community of practice for this manuscript.9 The Q’ero and other high-mountain communities throughout the central Andes are likely descendants of the Incas, the last great spiritual-technical civilization of the Andes (Upton and von Hagen 2015). According to a Q’ero story of origin, their ancestors defended themselves from invading Spanish with the aid of local mountain elder spirits (Apu (s.), Apukuna (pl.)) that destroyed the Conquistadores near Wiraqu Chapampa (WEAR-ah-koo CHA-pomp-ah; Müller and Müller-Herbon 1993). In addition to their isolation, another key reason that the Q’ero and other Andean cultures remain largely unknown is the lack of a written language. Only in the past hundred years have efforts been made to create a Romanized system of writing.

Ironically, the absence of written language has helped in the preservation of Andean Nature Mysticism. In similitude with Dzogchen (Norbu 1996) and Taoism (Chan 1969), Andean Nature Mysticism is a practice of inner refinement that does not emphasize scholarship, philosophical debate, dogma, or doctrine. The author’s Paqo teachers have numerous times affectionately laughed and mocked the author for asking probing philosophical questions. Oral sharing, working in nature, cultivation of loving kindness, and mentorship are at the heart of the tradition. Refinement is accomplished through deep-seated centeredness in the present moment, communion-supporting ritual and practices as well as purification of the energy body.

Communion-Supporting Ritual and Practices10

Andean Nature Mysticism—deeply mystical and non-dogmatic—is rooted in inner-practice, ritual, and communion.11 It is not a shamanic12 practice, per se, in that non-ordinary states of consciousness (e.g. ecstatic and trance states, possession by tutelary spirits, or those that are entheogen-induced) are not purposefully sought by the Paqo as a consequence of their work. That is not to say that non-ordinary states are not achieved, they are rather more subtly and slowly cultivated. Prayer in the native Quechua, much like Hindu mantra recitation, when performed properly is said to open-up gateways to other individuated and non-individuated realms and beings. This is the providence of daily practice for the Paqo as is the creation of the hayway (HIGH-why; known also as haywaricuy (HIGH-war-ee-kui) or in Spanish despacho), multi-ingredient mandalas as gifts of beauty and sacred reciprocity for Pachamama, and any number of spirits, deities, and/or ancestors. Quechua is understood to be a “primary spiritual language” like Sanskrit, in that the phonemes (sound elements) of the language are said to reflect the vibrational elements that constitute the perceivable universe.

It is understood that an important barrier to communion is transgression of balance between the individual and/or community and nature. The key spiritual ordering principal Ayni (sacred reciprocity) will be discussed in detail below. The Paqo spends much of his or her time in gratitude-infused ritual that helps to restore Ayni.

Purification of the Energy Body

It is widely understood that humans are unique among animals in their possession of self-reflexive consciousness. One can liken this to human beings having access to some degree of free will, a topic whose intricacies are beyond the scope of this manuscript. Nonetheless, our awareness of being conscious creates the capacity to uniquely experience disharmony and cognitive dissonance, leading to the creation of an energy called hucha (WHO-chah). This energy is created by the willful transgression of natural law, disrespecting anything living. Hucha has the effect of “weighing us down” and making it difficult to think clearly. The Paqo’s work is continually to recognize the underlying causes of hucha creation; she employs various energetic processes (see discussion of inner alchemy below) to transmute and recycle the hucha as it is cleared from their body. This energy takes on three forms: mental, emotional, and physical. Importantly, when one clears hucha the opposite energy called sami is brought into our energy field (see footnote 13). Sami is the uplifting, and vitalizing energy of positive interaction, akin to chi in Taoist Inner Alchemy, while hucha can be likened to stagnant chi.13 Various practices to transmute hucha are foundational in the Andean healing arts.

Over time, the Paqo frees herself of hucha creation, akin to release from the cycle of suffering and mundane existence similar to the Hindu/Vedic concept known in Sanskrit as Saṃsāra.14 There are seven levels of Psychospiritual development and initiation articulated in Andean Nature Mysticism. As the Paqo advances, they increase their energy field’s capacity to resonate with ever larger aspects of Pachamama’s (Mother Earth) geography. The literal identity of the Paqo expands with each initiation to encompass an ever larger geography; nature is in every way part of the Paqo’s ethos. In the Southern Andes, it is said that the Paqo eventually inherits a Runa Kirku K’anchay (ROO-na KEER-ku CON-ch-eye; a celestial or condor’s light body) allowing her to hold evermore healing and illuminating capacity. For it is a matter of social contract that the Paqo in Andean society serves as a reservoir of healing and illuminating energy that members of the community are free to “drink” when in need. Taken together, Andean Nature Mysticism practices bear extraordinary similarity to those of Taoist Inner Alchemy. Unwavering attention to the present moment15 is also central to the purification; for when we are not in the present, we create hucha and compromise the integrity of our bio-energetic system.16

Andean Nature Mysticism: Cosmology

Like many other indigenous cosmologies, here, the perceivable universe is distinguished into the tangible and the intangible. The tangible realm (the kaypacha), the plane where the physical world plays out in a chain of causality influenced to varying degrees by the intangible. Depending on the Andean community, two or more intangible reams are believed to exist. Here, we will consider the two intangible realms that are most widely articulated. The first intangible realm called the hanaqpacha (HAN-ock-pa-cha) can be likened to the numinous, exulted heavenly sphere. The other primary realm, the ukhupacha, of particular significance in this manuscript (see below) is the realm of interiority that which lies within and beneath the surface of all things. This is articulated sometimes as the underworld, because in certain inner practices (such as so-called shamanic journey work), one visualizes entering a tunnel or passageway into the earth, hence under-world.

One of the Paqo’s purposes is to engage in ritualized ayni practices to harmonize the realms. Here, we see an affinity between the world’s mystical traditions. The goal of consciousness is to reunify the worlds, the realms, in a state of “original” harmony. In the Upanishads of the early Veda, it is said that the “goal or directive of conscious evolution is the annihilation of time.” In Ezekiel, the great wheel which resides in the earthly realm (kaypacha) shuttles energy (brings energetic order) between the lower realms (ukhupacha) and heavenly realms (hanaqpacha), thus bringing them into closer resonance within the flow-form17 of individuated human existence. This is metaphorically equivalent to the Paqo’s job of bringing heaven to earth.

Andean Nature Mysticism: Theism

Andean Nature Mysticism is theistic in that it recognizes a three-fold (trinity) expression of God: (wiracocha (WIER-ah-coach-ah), taitanchis (TIE-tahn-chee-s), and pachakamak (PAH-CHAH-kie-mach)). Wiracocha is the ineffable form, the name carrying the meaning “the living energy inside all animate forms.” As with many cultures, it is possible to trace these trinities to early sun worship, where the three phases of the sun—rise, mid-day, and fall—represent discernable attributes of the universal generative force that creates and sustains all (Hall 2009). In terms of cosmological entities—the masculine creative solar sun, deified as intitaita (IN-TEA-tie-tah), is the most significant. Andean Nature Mysticism follows the pattern of other great traditions that associate name, symbol, and iconographic form to describe the boundless, originating, and generative source(s) of all that is. The moon, mamakillia (MAMA-kheel-yah), to many Andean cultural groups represents the divine feminine, the subconscious. The stars, chaska (CHA-ska), embody exalted forms of conscious intelligence.

The center of the galaxy, long recognized as a dark sun, is understood by some Andean communities to be a source of energy for the evolution of soul consciousness in our galaxy. The planet is understood to be Deific intelligence. Manifest as the great earthly and cosmic mother—pachamama (PACH-a-mama)—and the great earthly father—pachataita (PACH-a-tie-ta)), together representing Gaia. Pachamama is understood to be benevolent, sustaining, and nurturing. Many mountains in the Andes (and to a lesser extent mountains in other places) are considered to embody apus—mostly masculine embodiments of highest level divine tutelary intelligence on the planet. Other loci of divine feminine intelligence, the nusta (NUSE-tah), are embodied in bodies of water, rivers, and in certain mountains.

Unlike other spiritual traditions around the world, such as the Sramanic, Andean Nature Mysticism (including Incan and Pre-Incan cultures) seems to have not anthropomorphized their deities, nor do they rely on totems. From our limited understanding, it appears that the Andean peoples clearly understand the difference between human and non-human consciousness. Jenkins posits that the absence of Anthropomorphism stems from the Paqo’s practice of direct communication with the consciousness of nature.18 In similitude with other earth-centered systems of spirituality, Andean Nature Mysticism is primarily rooted in the feminine because of the primacy and all-encompassing receptivity of pachamama. Another distinguishing feature of Andean Nature Mysticism is that the aspirant Paqo, through a series of initiation rituals, comes into ever-deeper resonance with their nonhuman teachers—tutelary spirits associated with formations in nature, such as mountains.

Regarding Theism and Cosmology, Bohm (1980) beautifully articulates two Philosophical traps, understood by Andean Nature Mysticism to be real and true: (1) It is errant to interpret the content of our thought as a description of the world as it is; in other words, thought cannot be regarded as being in direct correspondence with reality; and (2) it is errant to believe that theories give true knowledge, corresponding to reality as it is. Theories are insights which are neither true nor false but clear/useful in certain domains and unclear/not useful when extended beyond those domains. Bohm posits that it is a fundamental problem that our theoretical insights are the main source of organization or factual knowledge because theoretical insights are a step removed from the direct experience of nature.

Prophecy in Andean Nature Mysticism

The history of the Andean peoples, beginning with accounts of the Incas, demonstrates that this culture group has the capacity to forecast future events and circumstances and casts them in terms of prophecy. For instance, the eighth Incan king Wiracocha Inka accurately prophesized that the empire would fall in five generations. Significant, for these times, prophecy says that this is the age of the taripaypacha (TERRY-pie-potch-ah)—the age of the return, coming to know ourselves again. In line with other indigenous prophecies, this reflects a time characterized by perilous risk and substantial promise.

In closing, no description of Andean Nature Mysticism would be complete without paying respectful homage to the profound attention to love and loving kindness not only in mystical practice but also love which weaves and makes strong Andean social fabric. The flowing, living principle of love-in-action is articulated by the term munay (MOO-nigh); indeed the role of the Paqo is to move and transmute energy motivated by munay. Visitors from the industrialized world frequently cite this as the most profound and transformative aspect of being with Andean people—a visceral demonstration of not only what is possible but also how far the industrialized world has drifted from its essential humanity.

Kawsaypacha: The Conscious Living Universe

Praises and victory! The light has come again from the heavens! Wirachcocha, we ask, come to see yourself in our lives, come to know yourself in our hearts. – Andean Morning Prayer

Here, it is shown that the foundational theses of NI, (i) that space is a receptive and continuous omnipresence and (ii) all that exists is a mutual inclusion of receptive space and informative flux, align with the Andean Nature Mysticism concept of the kawsaypacha—the universal field of living energy. To understand this, we must evoke the Andean concept of space known as teqse muyu (TECH-say MOO-you), and, as above, “literal” meaning of the word Wiracocha used to describe God in its ineffable form. The kawsaypacha is a self-creating dance between these two qualities. According to NI (Rayner 2017):

For any form to come into being, there have to be at least two basic kinds of presence in Nature: a motionless, receptive presence (i.e. a form-receiving presence, analogous to empty canvas) and an intrinsically mobile, informative presence (i.e. a form-giving presence, analogous to fluid paint). Moreover, these two kinds of presence must include each other: the receptive presence alone would be vacant— analogous to empty canvas—and the informative presence alone would have nowhere in which to move around and so give rise to forms of diverse shapes and sizes. In the most fundamental and universal sense, applicable literally to every- where, these two natural presences are experienced in the feeling of emptiness that we call “space” and enlivening flux that we call “energy”. Energy paints the variety of the natural world on an intangible canvas of receptive space (Rayner 2017, p.25).

Energy and space combine into local material bodies as flow forms, which, while being made from movement, resist being moved or deformed out of place to varying degrees depending on their composition and circumstances. These flow forms can be thought of as “energized beings”, whose association, dissociation and exchanges of energy with and from one another is the source of evolutionary variety across all scales of natural organization, including biological organization (Rayner 2017, p.41).

Here, we posit that receptive presence is a logical equivalency to teqse muyu and that informative presence is equivalent to wiracocha. The concept of an interconnected-living universe has seen numerous embodiments throughout the world’s history. Aristotle19 saw the universe as an interconnected whole, as do the Srmanic traditions of the East. The Mahayana Buddhist metaphor of Indra’s net is a particularly vivid and useful accounting (Cook 1977). In modern Physics, numerous models such as Bohm’s Implicate/Explicate Order (Bohm 1980) provide evidence of an interconnected, if not conscious universe (Bucke 2009; Chandrankunnel 2008; Hu and Wu 2013).


The concept of empty, passive space (the “void-background”) stems from the nineteenth century, finding its origin in Newtonian mechanics. To the psyche, it is inherently alienating and adds to the sense of isolation and separation from nature that many experience in the industrialized world. According to NI, space becomes a womb—a receptive and continuous omnipresence. Any conceptual or conditioned experiential attenuation of this is called a “space barrier.”

The emptiness of space invites energy to inhabit it; here, energy precedes coalescence of what we perceive as matter. Consistent with Newtonian Physics, it is motionless, frictionless, and provides freedom in all degrees for flow and movement. Yet, NI tells us that Newtonian physics errs in its attribution of “passivity” to space. This agrees with various theories of modern Physics that suggest the requirement for there to exist an “aetheric,” subtle, and space-filling substance no matter how subtle, in order for electromagnetic or gravitational forces to get propagated. In other words, space has to be receptive. So-called empty space seems to have structure, subtle though it may be; in certain ways, it interacts with light much like classical solids and fluids. Nobel Prize Winning Physicist Robert Laughlin says that “space behaves more like glass than the Newtonian conception” (Laughlin 2005).

No matter what scale or perspective, it is impossible to reach a limit where space ceases to exist. Atomic Physics has helped us understand that the “hard” mechanical boundary of solid matter is 99.9999% space, but even this has enforced an ultimate exclusion of material from spatial presence. According to NI, matter is 100% intangible space plus circulating energy. Quantum mechanics tells us that at scales below the atomic, it becomes impossible to differentiate a particle from a wave of energy and that even the particle-like aspect is a nearly dimensionless point. Space, therefore, is a truly infinite presence. This is equivalent to the teqse muyu or boundless fertile ovum of the universe, which contains all and culls nothing. Teqse muyu dissolves the plurality of the realms into one unified field. The directive of conscious evolution is to come deeply into resonance with this union—this may be considered an equivalent to the integrated mental state known across Sramanic traditions as Samadhi (Worthington 1982).

In Buddhist Tantra,20 space is also linked to the feminine, expressed as the matrix of all phenomena, that which embraces and grounds all appearance (to materiality). It is generally synonymous with emptiness. In terms of the teachings of the historical Buddha, the nature of the Universe was one of the avyākṛta, the unanswered questions. Nonetheless, Buddhist schools widely posit that sentience extends to the limits of space, which is to say, there is no end to space or sentience, and that wherever there is space, there is sentience. So again, we see other inner traditions indicating that space cannot be separated from “the expanse” of the individualized self. This is the limitless, unimpeded, centerless spontaneity of individualized self-knowing celebrating itself.


Energy is understood by NI as pure movement and flux, which exists in both materially embodied form and substance and in disembodied, intangible form as radiation (Light), which can only be detected when it is emitted or absorbed from or into tangible material form. The proposition is that energy is movement and flux is in line with Andean Nature Mysticism view of the principal universal energies kawsay (COW-sigh, vital energy akin to Jing in Chinese Inner Alchemy or Prana in Yogic Philosophy), sami (SAHM-ee, the energy that arises upon harmonious interaction between living beings), and k’anchay (CON-chai, celestial energy). So too, their concept of compassionate love (munay) is meaningless without movement and flux, or most importantly, exchange. Though it is beyond the scope of this manuscript, it is perhaps worthwhile to note that NI conjectures that “Time” cannot be isolated from “Energy” as an independent commodity or “frame,” any more than space can. In fact, there is an established basis in NI for recognizing that “Time is Light,” without which no material body can exist.21 This is a key reason why NI speaks of “place-time” as “dynamic locality” within the eternal, infinite ubiquity of receptive space (Rayner 2017b).

NI and Andean Nature Wisdom converge… the emptiness of space invites energy to inhabit it, energy preceding the coalescence of what we perceive as matter. Wiraqocha, which literally means “the living energy behind all manifest forms” is the ineffable presence of the divine, the flow of God’s ecstasy into manifestation. Ours is a Panentheistic22 universe. NI’s view of energy unpins the “evolutionary” imperative of Andean Nature Mysticism. If the origin of everything is living energy and religions, spiritual traditions and practices are manifested forms of living energy with innate evolutionary intelligence, then all we need to do is access the underlying living energy from which each manifested form springs to reunite and remember ourselves.

Boundary and Material Body

The subject of our conditioned understanding of boundary is at the heart of Alan Rayner’s NI. His first path-breaking exploration of boundary was used to demonstrate the artifactual nature of Darwinian Evolution (Rayner 1997). NI provides an intuitive analogy to this by combining first, second, and third person awareness of “Figure” as a dynamic inclusion of spatial and energetic “Ground,” rather than focusing on Figure alone as a definitive, discrete Subject or Object. Doing so again falsely isolates the “Figure” from its natural neighborhood by an abstract “space barrier” as occurs in objectivistic science and Philosophy. NI therefore avoids language that explicitly or implicitly describes material bodies (Figures) as independent Subjects or Objects. In other words, it recognizes that natural boundaries dynamically distinguish but never isolate a material body from its surroundings. Consider that a warm-blooded mammal exchanges 8–10% of its mass with the “environment” daily and that the molecules exhaled in your last breath will reach the other side of the planet in 4–5 days. Natural boundaries are intrinsically dynamic manifestations of flux, not “space barriers.” It is also worth noting a subtlety in the native Quechua and Aymara languages of Andean Nature Mysticism that it is grammatically impossible to refer to a Figure, especially those understood to embody tutelary intelligence (like an apu) as being a separate, isolated object. In other words, there is no cognitive map that places a space barrier between subject and object, as do most other grammars.

Ukhupacha: The Interiority of all Things

This section explores the alignment of the NI thesis that there exists no separation of tangible from the intangible with the concept of the Ukhupacha (OOH-KOOH-potch-ah)—the living, inter-connected interiority of all things.

Here, we must revisit the conditioned concept of empty, passive space (the “void-background”), against the backdrop of Aristotelian two-value logic. In this calculus, if two values exist for a proposition, one value must be true and the other false. Project this into our interpretation of self and tend to conclude a rigid division between self [value = true] and other [value = false]. As with so many unintended consequences of intellectual and technical discovery, we find ourselves marooned, isolated from the living world, indeed from the cosmos, by a binary boundary casting us into an ocean of desolation. Rayner (2017, 2018) further highlights the yearning need for a post-dialectic to arise:

Abstract thinking removes the middle ground of self-identity as a dynamic inclusion of neighborhood. This explains why two incompatible kinds of abstract logic have been at odds with one another for millennia. “Two-value logic” (also known as the Law of the Excluded Middle) straightforwardly regards one or other of the two mutually exclusive alternatives (bounded or unbounded) to be “true” and the other as “false”. Dialectic logic holds both alternatives to be equally true, which results in paradox. Since there is no way to resolve this paradox naturally, by allowing boundaries to fluidize and space to be continuous, the brutality of one and the softness of the other are held in “living contradiction.” (Rayner 2017, p.16).

When the intangible is mentally excluded from tangible reality, we either dismiss it as entirely without impact on our lives or we give it inordinate control over our lives. This false dichotomy accounts for the schisms between abstract scientific and deistic views of reality that persist to this day and engender profound personal and social conflict. It is as though our material existence is regarded scientifically as one thing, our sentient, emotional and living existence as spiritually quite another (Rayner 2018, p.4).

The law of the excluded middle contributes profoundly to the notion that God, the Sacred, ineffable generative intelligence lies far beyond the confines of the banal earthly realm. NI and the constellation of post-dialectic models, which seek to relate rather than estrange, together are “Re-enchanting the Cosmos,” in the words of Lazslow (Laszlo 2006).

The word ukhu refers to that which lies within or below. The ukhupacha is understood as the interior world of all things, the wellspring of certain generative forces that make life possible. It is also home to myriad beings benevolent and otherwise ready to participate in the building, destruction, and transmutation of form. For humans, it is the home of emotion and the subconscious (the shadow), which can only be illuminated and understood by directed conscious attention. These attributes make the Ukhupacha home to Jung’s collective unconscious (Jung 1953). Like the other realm(s) of the intangible, it is the place where archetype and symbol find their power. With NI, the inner realm of receptive space is continuous via its dynamic boundary with the outer realm between and beyond tangible locality via its dynamic boundary as a “sea” of intangible communion.

If we embrace the existence of an intangible interior within ourselves and all things, we become aware of a universe to be not only discovered but navigated and harnessed for the successful living out of one’s life mission. For the Paqo mastering the Ukhupacha is one and the same as ceasing to create hucha. Mastering the Ukhupacha is essential in the path to liberation, and a significant antidote to the Christian religious establishment’s preoccupation with “light” and enlightenment. The ukhupacha is the via negativa of Creation Spirituality, and to paraphrase Matthew Fox, our Enlightenment in the West desperately needs a counterbalancing Endarkenment (Fox 2006).

Ayni: Sacred Reciprocity

Self-identity and consciousness as a natural inclusion of neighborhood aligns with the central social and spiritual ordering principal of Ayni—sacred reciprocity. As described above, NI posits that “boundary” can be a useful concept if clearly held within useful conceptual frameworks, or it can be illusory, arbitrary, and harmful. How and where you position a boundary, as long as it does not isolate the “Figure” in question, is a matter of the specific question being asked. Meta-organisms like bees and ants as well as mycelial networks have served as vivid and useful examples, as they exhibit highly obvious physical, energetic, and social interconnectivity (as is the case with bees and ants) and morphological dynamism and interconnectivity (as is the case with mycelial networks).

The primary role of the Paqo is to maintain balance between humans and the web of life, the kawsaypacha. Balance is maintained by the minding of sacred reciprocity, known as ayni, in and between the realms. The razor’s-edge balance that must be maintained in order that Andean communities remain resilient requires a profound level of awareness regarding balance. For this and myriad other reasons, indigenous cultures, particularly those who have live and thrive in harsh and/or resource-restricted environments have so very much to teach.

It is also useful to further consider one of the most potent characteristics that differentiates humans from most if not all of our animal relatives. Humans have evolved to be consciously aware of their state of individuated consciousness. This introduces a new set of patterns and behaviors within biological evolution, so eloquently described by Teilhard de Chardin in his works concerning the emergence of the Noosphere (Teilhard de Chardin 1959). The Noosphere refers to the sphere of human thought. Self-reflexive and self-reflective consciousness has informed profoundly how we think, and make decisions and our creative capacity. Simply stated, we are more prone than other animal species to deviate from a state of balance (dynamic equilibrium). Throughout the world, where intact village culture is found, the role of the healing elder, first and foremost, is to help ensure that balance is maintained between humans and the natural order; Abrams (1996) explains:

The traditional or tribal shaman, I came to discern, acts as an intermediary between the human community and the larger ecological field, ensuring that there is an appropriate flow of nourishment… By his constant rituals, trances, exstacies, and “journeys,” he ensures that the relation between human society and the larger society of beings is balanced and reciprocal, and that the village never takes more from the living land than it returns to it – not just materially, but with prayers, propitiations, and praise… the shaman or sorcerer is the exemplary voyager in the intermediate realm between the human and the more-than-human worlds (Abrams 1996, p.7).

The Andean people through their beliefs (spirituality and cosmology) as well as their social organization and functioning recognize its members as distinct but not isolated local inclusions of natural energy flow. The Natural energy and material flow is ayni. This dynamic fabric of being allows us to cultivate gratitude and a profound, coherent connection to nature. As visitors experiencing Andean Nature Mysticism, we learn the healing power of giving and receiving,23 yielding to the flow of life with profound centering on the present moment. One of the many ways that ayni is ritualized is the social exchange of coca. This sacred plant—both a functional super-food and a “carrier” of prayer—is central to the practice of Andean Nature Mysticism. Members of various intact Andean communities carry small coca bags; when one encounters another community member, each person fetches a few coca leaves and sends prayers of health and well-being into the leaves before they are exchanged. Over time, each person’s coca bag becomes a repository of the communities’ collective prayers and intentions for well-being. When one lives in accord with the understanding of self-identity and consciousness as a natural inclusion of neighborhood, then compassion and gratitude become the master, and thought, the servant.

Sacred Polarities: Yanantin

Competitive opposition stalls evolution, and life and the cosmos evolve through the receptive natural inclusion of what is possible in changing circumstances are propositions that reflect the wisdom teaching of the Yanantin—the harmonious existence of opposites.

The abstraction of material content from spatial context implicit in Darwinian and neo-Darwinian theory has the effect of reducing material to a set of independent particles and space into a fixed container or “niche” that the particles compete amongst themselves to fit into. This competition culminates in the triumph of the “winner” or “most favoured.” Like a “first past the post” election or a TV talent contest, it is a process that removes the diversity that it relies upon to get started. It is a route from diversity to monopoly, not monopoly to diversity. The fact that “competition” is widely equated with “diversity” is correspondingly one of the great absurdities of modern capitalism as an expression of “social Darwinism.” Competitive opposition with the intent to defeat “other” does not drive evolution, it stalls it (Rayner 2017, p.49).

In line with NI, Andean Nature Mysticism is a foil to the oppositional Darwinian and neo-Darwinian viewpoint. It categorizes two types of relationship and encounter; yanantin marks the coming together of two things of dissimilar nature in keeping with a “duality”, while masintin (MAZ-ahn-teen) marks the coming together of two similar things. As with wisdom traditions throughout time, yanantin dualities such as a light and dark, peace and conflict, are useful conceptual tools to help in the understanding of the nature of reality, yet they are not meant to represent reality itself.

If there were a Metaphysics of Andean Nature Mysticism, foundational would be the premise that the yanantin, especially when cast as a judgment, are conceptual and not real. The Paqo seeks to hold within herself a still-point amid the yanantin and masintin relationships experienced at any moment. This is expressed in NI as the dynamic mutual inclusion of apparent “polarities.” Taoist Yin-Yang wheel represents the yanantin, the harmonious mutual inclusion, complementarity, and dance of the opposite (Chang 1968). As with NI and Andean Nature Mysticism, the duality of yin and yang represents an inseparable couple, where because of the intercommunicating nature of all things, the most extreme presentation of yin contains a seed of yang and vice versa. It is said in Andean cosmology that everything that is created is “united” with its complementary opposite. Nothing exists that does not possess a yanantin: male-female, sun-moon, and day-night. Indeed, hucha and sami are yanantin.


Woven throughout industrialized culture is the myth that our destiny is to subjugate and tame nature, twist her, to serve our needs and purposes. The Patriarchal Baconian miasma of a hostile nature that must be tamed and subjugated is as antiquated and wrong as is the perversion of Christ’s teachings by the Council of Nicaea and countless other calculated enterprises. Perhaps, the original sin (which means the transgression of anyi (Fredriksen, P. (Fredriksen 2012)) is to co-opt spiritual power for selfish and greedy ends. Human domination over the earth and heavenly redemption that frees us from the bondage of this supposedly hostile planet are potent memes. So too is Scientism, propagating the idea that all of humanity’s problems will be solved using science and technology. The apotheosis of science is so deeply rooted in our collective psyches that, like a cancer, it has been impossible for us to launch a constructive collective intervention. Our beliefs and behavior are turning the planet into a pillaged wasteland, her people—save the privileged few—desperate for a different way forward. As the drivers of the Anthropocene, we are triggering the planet’s sixth great mass extinction event. The future of life on the planet is at risk.

Without a “virtuous disruption” of the very foundation of Western thought and belief, it is hard to imagine that the mounting forces of restoration will mobilize in a sufficiently rapid and cohesive manner needed to bring the dawn of the taripaypacha—the golden age of {re}membering ourselves once again. Natural Inclusionality recognizes that language structures reality and thus has tremendous potential as a post-dialectic to build essential bridges of understanding. In addition, as demonstrated in this paper, there are many dimensions of indigenous wisdom traditions that are difficult to comprehend, whose value is difficult to assess short of direct experience. This manuscript attempts to demonstrate NI’s utility in this regard by way of comparison of NI’s essential propositions with Andean Nature Mysticism. In his work, which is the cornerstone for this special section of Human Arenas, Rayner (2018) states:

To accept the vitality of the intangible does not require extraordinary powers of perception or elevated consciousness. All it requires is DE-RESTRICTED perception – i.e. the ordinary perception that most of us are born with, but which gets suppressed by the imposition of a restrictive space barrier that prevents consideration of all knowledge that arises from being aware of how it feels and what is needed to inhabit a living body. Removal of that barrier immediately opens vast vistas of new understanding and possibility that are prevented by objectivistic perception (Rayner 2018, p.3).

If we are to understand, digest, and embody the wisdom of NI—for that matter if we are to integrate any coherent, intact wisdom tradition into our lives—we must regain the capacity to know the vitality of the intangible. To do this is our birthright. The vitality of the intangible is the energetic driver of the mythopoetic, visionary, and mystical dimension of human experience. And, it is this attribute that has sustained the most resilient, balanced, and healthy cultures that have walked upon our precious planet. Collaborative and humble in its essence, the tenor of NI will no doubt be a catalyst for deep dialogue24 among the people and cultures that hold the solutions to the planet’s most pressing problems.


  1. 1.

    In this manuscript, the philosophical term “Materialism” is synonymous with “Physicalism” and opposite of “Idealism” positing that all that exists is physical and that consciousness is an epiphenomenon of physical processes. For a comprehensive analysis of Materialism, see Novack (1979).

  2. 2.

    The terms Subjective and Objective are defined here in the Philosophical Sense (for definitions, see Audi 1999).

  3. 3.

    Spiritual traditions of the East (Veda, Vedanta, Jainism, and various embodiments of Buddhism) as well as the West (Native North American spiritual traditions, Andean Nature Mysticism as discussed in this manuscript) emphasize wholeness over fragmentation. That said, when referring to the relationship between an individual self-identity and nature, NI considers the concept of “wholeness” to be an artifact, because, whether or not it is recognized, we are always in flux, as the individual self-identity is not independent but rather a local receptive and responsive center of circulation within larger circulations (Rayner 2017).

  4. 4.

    The arguments in this manuscript follow the tenets of Phenomenology as originally defined by Husserl (1913) and later Merleau-Ponty (1964).

  5. 5.

    Dr. Leyroy Little Bear

  6. 6.

    In general, Andean culture encompasses the following peoples: Atacameño, Aymara, Muisca, Quechua, and Uros. In this manuscript, we exclude the Atacameño (Chile, Argentina, Bolivia) and Muisca (Columbia) peoples.

  7. 7.

    Also referred to as Apu Yaya (APU ye-yah)

  8. 8.

    Jenkins, Personal communication.

  9. 9.

    The Q’ero nation is located in the Paucartambo District of Peru, little more than 60 miles from Cusco.

  10. 10.

    Many are articulated in Jenkins (2013) as well as Jenkins (2009).

  11. 11.

    Here, the term communion refers to a deep sense of connection, where one senses on all levels the interchange and restorative power of connection with the living field of energy (kawsaypacha).

  12. 12.

    The Term Shamanism has become problematic in its widespread and inconsistent use. Originally surfaced as a term used in the Evenki language of North Asia by Janhunen (1986) in his Ethnographic study of indigenous Siberian village elder/healers.

  13. 13.

    For a description of Taoist Inner Alchemy, see Olson (2016). At the time of the submission of this manuscript, the author was unaware of any published study comparing Andean Nature Mysticism and Taoist Inner Alchemy.

  14. 14.

    A concept common to Sramanic religions, Veda/Veanta (Hinduism), Buddhism, and Jainism.

  15. 15.

    With the exception of intentional projection into the future.

  16. 16.

    Beyond the scope of this manuscript, the body is surrounded by a luminous energy bubble called the Poq’po (POCK-poe), and this structure is compromised when one mentally projects into the future or past.

  17. 17.

    The concept of individuated existence as being a flow-form: a natural inclusion of neighborhood, dynamical inclusion of all; according to Rayner (2017): This shift from regarding space and boundaries as sources of discontinuity between material bodies to understand them naturally as sources of continuity and energetic distinction, opens up our understanding of self-identity. A ‘living I’ cannot be a hermetically sealed, autonomous unit isolated from its neighborhood, because the space within its distinctive but not definitive bodily boundaries is continuous with the space beyond these boundaries. It finds identity not in its inner self, alone, but in its variably receptive, reflective and responsive energetic relationship with its limitless and changeable surroundings. It is a natural inclusional ‘I’, not an abstract ‘I’.

  18. 18.

    Personal communication, S. Jenkins.

  19. 19.

    Interestingly, one can interpret his arguments about form/proportion as an equivalent to ayni practice in Andean Nature Mysticism. Further, the Greek tragedies can be interpreted, in part, as parables of what happens when anyi is transgressed.

  20. 20.

    For review see, Gray (2016).

  21. 21.

    Rayner, personal communication.

  22. 22.

    For a summary discussion of Panpsychism, Pantheism, and Panantheism, see Hutchins (2014).

  23. 23.

    Across many indigenous cultures, the accumulation of more than one needs is understood as an illness.

  24. 24.

    A term coined by Ashok Ganagadean



Thank you Alan Rayner for your long-standing friendship, your courage, and for 25 years of inspiration. Dating back to my graduate school days and our Bio*Art collaboration, you have held a sacred mirror that has encouraged those who have been brave enough (and perhaps crazy enough) to look.

I wish to extend a heartfelt thanks to Elizabeth Jenkins for sharing her extraordinary understanding of Andean Nature Mysticism and for her contributions to the section on the influence of Christianity on the Andean peoples.

Sincere appreciation is also extended to Lama Karma Justin Wall for sharing his insights about Buddhist philosophy and its relation to Andean Nature Mysticism.

A heartfelt thank-you to Ellen Kittredge for her unwavering friendship, collaboration, and support in all things Andean.

Finally, I in acknowledgment of her profound impact on my life as a mentor and spiritual guide, I dedicate this paper Dr. Beatrice Bruteau. You are dearly missed.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Eagle Condor CouncilAshevilleUSA

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