Ancient Philosophy of Health

In ancient Peru the cosmic order was organized based on the principle of quadripartition. Each person had to be in harmony with this order to guarantee health and to interact with the external world. According to the principle of quadripartition, life depends on the following four factors: above and below, male and female, air and earth, and warm and cold. This concept was commonly known as the four winds, the four suyos, or the four pachas (sources or times) of life.

El camino de la Chacana

For the ancient Peruvians of the Andes and the Amazon, the term for wind, which is wayra in Quechua, was not only used to describe the physical phenomenon; it also referred to the flow of energies that make up life, which manifests the harmony or Supreme Equilibrium of the energies of the cosmos.  Even today, healers and shamans from this tradition believe that the winds above and winds below, and the previous and subsequent winds cause disease (or imbalance); they invoke the wayras to restore the vital balance or health.

Wayras or winds also refer to the psychoactive plants that are fundamental in the panperuvian shamanic traditions. Examples of these psychoactive plants are: sanpedro or wachuma (Trichocereus pachanoi), ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi), misha (Datura), toé or guarguar (Brugmansia), the wilca (Anadenanthera colubrina), tobacco, etc. The primary goal of the spiritual medical tradition of the ancient Peruvians was to maintain the balance of the four winds (tawa wayra); this was the only way people could guarantee their own internal order (as the cosmos and each one of its elements does) and could maintain a permanent dialogue with Noqa Kani Kani, Entelechy or Vital energy and its manifestations in each of the worlds: above and below, masculine and feminine, where life flows like the winds do.

Internal development encompasses awareness and clarification of unconscious and conscious barriers and blockages, as well as, the recovery of principles, energies, and strengths that could help us to get to where we want. The aim is the synchrony between the external spaces we transit and the internal elements. Synchrony is achieved by progressively building bridges between nature, the energy present in sacred spaces, and the inner energy, while addressing the obstacles that may hamper this process of bridging.

The spiritual medical tradition of the ancient Peru was also based on the principle of quadripartition, in which everything to the left was considered feminine, while everything to the right, was masculine. There were also two more winds: up and down. And, only when one was in harmony with these four winds (tawa wayrakuna,) could one easily be in harmony with her internal world, in a synchrony between the internal development and external nature, and with its supernatural aspects, the energies beneath appearances.

Illness was also conceived as an imbalance between the internal and external energies. Pilgrimages play a fundamental role in restoring the synchrony between these energies as they facilitated mobilization of the internal and the external. Medicinal plants enhance this process of achieving the objectives set by each participant at the beginning.

The World Health Organization States that health is the state of physical, mental, and social well-being. Within this model, Western medicine has produced great advances, particularly in the fields of medical specialization. Nevertheless, we consider that indigenous traditional medicine conceives a more evolved model.

This is because indigenous medicinal health is regarded as a state of balance between the individual and his environment, which includes the ecological, socio-cultural, natural and spiritual aspects of well-being. In other words, there is a sort of parallelism between internal ecology and nature. According to the indigenous model, mankind has pillaged nature by pillaging his spiritual world.

Traditional doctors, through sacred plants want to restore that inner balance, in order to repair the individual and socio-cultural damage perpetrated over nature and on the human body. We are called to stand in the center of the four winds of life to be nurtured by its vital energy and to repair our interior cosmos, as well as, external nature. People need to recover harmony and appreciation for the four winds to be able to restore their health, to experience the whole emotional spectrum, and to clarify a better future for themselves and their family. This necessity of life order encouraged people to seek traditional medicine, and it is also what drives people towards it today.


The linguistic root of the word medicine in Western languages is the Latin world mederi that derives from the concept “to measure.” As the Greek Protagoras stated, “Man is the measure of all things” and given that all human beings have an “internal measure” of their own lives, they aim to regain that ideal measure.

The integrative work of shamanism and Amazonian medicine (the wide diversity of medicinal plants and awareness techniques) along with Western psychology and psychotherapy (interpretative and integrative techniques) offer the possibility of establishing a path towards a transpersonal connection and synchrony that extends the current definitions of health and can be recommended by non-indigenous people.


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