Aztec philosophy and Beliefs
Aztec philosophy was the school of philosophy developed by the Aztec Empire. The Aztecs had a well developed school of philosophy, perhaps the most developed in the Americas and in many ways comparable to Greek philosophy, even amassing more texts than the ancient Greeks. Aztec philosophy focused on dualism, monism, and aesthetics, and Aztec philosophers attempted to answer the main Aztec philosophical question of how to gain stability and balance in an ephemeral world.Aztec philosophy saw the concept of teotl as a fundamental unity that underlies the entire universe. Teotl forms, shapes, and is all things. The concept of teotl bears some resemblance to the Eastern philosophical idea of Tao.
Reflecting dialectical monism, teotl manifests itself as opposing but complementary opposites. While things appear different, they are ultimately the same thing (teotl).Aztec priests had a pantheistic view of religion but the popular Aztec religion maintained polytheism. Priests saw the different gods as aspects of the singular and transcendent unity of teotl but the masses were allowed to practice polytheism without understanding the true, unified nature of the Aztec gods. Some view Hinduism as as similar mix of pantheism and polytheism.
Aztec philosophers focused on morality as establishing balance. The world was seen as constantly shifting with the ever-changing teotl. Morality focused on finding the path to living a balanced life which would provide stability in the shifting world.
Moral beliefs and aesthetics
Aztec philosophy saw the arts as a way to express the true nature of teotl. Art was considered to be good if it in some way brought about a better understanding of teotl. Aztec poetry was closely tied to philosophy and often used to express philosophic concepts.Pantheism (Greek: pan = all and Theos = God) literally means "God is All" and "All is God". It is the view that everything is of an all-encompassing immanent God; or that the universe, or nature, and God are equivalent. More detailed definitions tend to emphasize the idea that natural law, existence, and the universe (the sum total of all that is, was, and shall be) is represented or personified in the theological principle of 'God'.
Song and poetry were highly regarded; there were presentations and poetry contests at most of the Aztec festivals. Also there was a kind of dramatic presentation that included players, musicians and acrobats.
Poetry was the only occupation worthy of an Aztec warrior in times of peace. A remarkable amount of this poetry survives, having been collected during the era of the conquest. In some cases, we know names of individual authors, such as Netzahualcoyotl, tlatoani of Texcoco, and Cuacuatzin, Lord of Tepechpan. Miguel León-Portilla, the most renowned translator of Nahuatl, comments that it is in this poetry where we can find the real thought of the Aztecs, independent of "official" Aztec ideology.In the basement of the Great Temple there was the "house of the eagles", where in peacetime Aztec captains could drink a foaming chocolate, smoke good cigars, and have poetry contests. The poetry was accompanied by percussion instruments (teponaztli). Recurring themes in this poetry are whether life is real or a dream, whether there is an afterlife, and whether we can approach the giver of life.
An important collection of these poems is Romances de los señores de la Nueva España, collected in Tezcoco in 1582, probably by Juan Bautista de Pomar. This volume was later translated into Spanish by Ángel María Garibay K.. Bautista de Pomar was the great grandson of Netzahualcoyotl. He spoke Nahuatl, but was raised as Christian and wrote in Latin characters."Is It You?", a short poem by Netzahualcoyotl, can be found in Wikisource. "Lament on the Fall of Tenochtitlan", a short poem contained within the "Unos Anales Históricos de la Nación Mexicana" manuscript.
The Aztec people also enjoyed a type of dramatic presentation, although it could not be called theater. Some were comical with music and acrobats, others were staged dramas of their gods. After the conquest, the first Christian churches had open chapels reserved for these kinds of representations. Plays in Nahuatl, written by converted Indians, were an important instrument for the conversion to Christianity, and are still found today in the form of traditional pastorelas, which are played during Christmas to show the Adoration of Baby Jesus, and other Biblical passages.
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