Alfonso Caso has laid particular stress on the creation of the heavenly city before the earthly one, as we find this conceptualization in various cultures of Mexico. Thus we find the heavenly city inhabited by the mythic forefathers, the ancestors who constitute a genealogy of current names-for example, in certain Mesoamerican codices. These "genealogies" are not strictly historical, but mythic and symbolic, and there is no reason, however, why they should be seen as standing in opposition to history.1 

These "genealogical" names are steeped in a numerical, linguistic, astronomical, rhythmical and cyclic, magical, and so on, meaning. The Triquis groups of today, a closed, traditional community of Oaxaca, venerate their forebears-their "lineage," which they trace directly to the heavenly city, or other world, where these ancestors dwell-especially on the Christian All Souls Day.  

The Tamoanchan, Codex Vindobonensis
The celestial city is a different space, a country coexisting with our own, a homeland of spiritual body, inhabited by the gods and the departed. This impalpable reality was already known to the Egyptians: "Know you not, Asclepius, that Egypt is the image of Heaven, and is the projection into this world of all of the ordering of celestial things?" (Hermes Trismegistus, Corpus Hermeticum). What the heavenly city is to spatial symbolism, the genealogies, or ancestors, are to the temporal, and the two flow together to form the foundation of reality and tribal life. They coexist in the world of the Platonic Ideas, and mold the archetypes. Certain mystics, such as Swedenborg, give us an account of their experiences in this inhabited city, which they know perfectly well, down to its most minute details. They refer to the realm of the Immortals, so called owing to the condition of its inhabitants. Almost all traditions have felt that they are the inheritors on this earth of that city of heaven, and descendants of its population. Hence they have invariably thought that their homeland constituted the center of the world-that is, a place specially charged with cosmic reality, where the energies of heaven and earth, of the living and the dead, conjoined, enabling life and that community to develop in time. 

India, for the Hindus, and the Celestial Empire, for the Chinese, are, or have been clear symbols of all of this, although this claim is found among all peoples and cultures, just as is worship offered to their lineage. Let us add that this city and its inhabitants are also seen from an eschatological perspective. This is the New Jerusalem, the city that "is to come" at the end of the ages, the Heavenly Jerusalem attested by Saint John in the Book of Revelation. 

Indeed, all symbology is founded on the belief that a known level is the expression of another, unknown one, and on the correspondences prevailing between them. This is the basis of the laws of analogy. Universally, the archaic traditions have known this other space and time where things are more real and more actual, to the point that our illusory, chaotic world must imitate the archetypal reality in order for its life to have a meaning. This vibration on the same wave length-that is, this accord with the cosmic diapason-is that through which one knows other levels of manifestation, more perfect as they are more lofty, subtle and transparent, other worlds so genuine as actually to be the authentic ones. But this last is a modern explanation, a manner of speaking. For the traditional mentality, which does not know this terminology, there is no great difference between the heavenly city and the earthly city, since the latter is the former in this world. Just so, the king (or the cacique of today) "is" that same archetypal ancestor; indeed, this is precisely the reason that justifies his position. 

The great myths and legends always refer to the cosmogonic geneses, by way of which existence is explained and an order and a sense discovered in the instability of becoming. Cosmogony is ever current, just as is time, and is continuously regenerated: in the eternity of the present, past and future are abolished. The heavenly city, and the ancestors, are here and now, and man is an abiding bond between two realities or worlds. By way of the ritual reiteration of the ancestral myth, and by means of the symbols that reveal that myth, the passage from the known to the unknown can be effected. 

This is the intent of every teaching, and the reason for the secrets of office. The Precolumbian cacique or king is a shaman, inasmuch as he unites heaven and earth, and it is for this reason that he is chief-not because of his will or that of the group. The entire society is a sharer in these symbols, myths, rites, and cosmogonical teachings, which individuals will absorb in their respective ways and degrees. However, the profession of shaman is open to all, and many receive the spirit, and practice its "priesthood," in different manners.2 To no one would it occur to be deceitful in things of this nature. Such things are not doubted in an archaic society. For that matter, any such deceit would be noticed at once, by virtue of the very dynamics of the social milieu. 

The myths occur in an "other" time, in a "non-time," in a "reality apart," which symbols represent, and rites reactualize permanently. Origins become contemporary, and the primordial situation is embodied, so that life is re-generated. True, there are levels of comprehension of and participation in (or hierarchized readings of reality, or degrees of consciousness of the cosmos and of being) what the myths express. But those levels do not exclude each other, instead, they complement each other. Thus, a symbolical or mythical thing or occurrence can likewise be historical, and geographically situated. In fact, in light of what we have said, a celestial occurrence necessarily corresponds to another, earthly one, and this reciprocity is one of the proper characteristics of the universe and of man. Accordingly, the different readings of reality, or the knowledge of the distinct levels on which this reality is manifested, far from being mutually exclusive, actually conjoin in the cosmic concert, which is open to being experienced in multidimensional wise. 

One of the most beautiful examples of the Precolumbian myths that have come down to us is found in the Popol Vuh, a sacred book of the Mayas-Quiches, which contains a set of cosmogonical legends. These legends had been transmitted by oral tradition and represented, recited, and danced by the community (in ceremonies still performed today). They had also been presumably written in codices no longer extant. They appear to be common to all Mesoamerican peoples, and studies show them to be related to South American material as well-surely not to be wondered at (any more than their similarity to other, analogous sacred books of other continents), when we stop to think that they describe an archetypal genesis and cosmogony, and that they correspond perfectly to the rites of the initiatory processes (which further the new, true man-the creation of a being), which actualizes permanently on mythic history, thus regenerating the archetypal being, be the latter individual or universal. 

The oral traditions, the hieroglyphic inscriptions, or the sacred book set forth an exemplary model, to be experienced, and continuously rendered current, by the community, as it simultaneously governed thoughts, conduct, and group and individual activities. It determined absolutely everything, being but a reflection of the archetypal cosmogony, in which life and man find themselves framed. In Central America, this role seems to have fallen to the Popol Vuh, and other mythic/prophetical collections. The ancient codices, despite their great number, have disappeared, and we have only three writings, in hierographic characters. We do have these characters, it is true, in very great abundance, on monuments, steles, and ceramic objects. However, we have been able to decipher them only to a very limited extent, although, fortunately, we have been able to read the numerical inscriptions for some time.3 

But first of all, let us call attention to the confusion arising from the notion that, were Mayan writing to be deciphered, secret knowledge, including technical knowledge, could be obtained, and that this knowledge would be of extreme importance to humanity. This attitude rests on the figment of the imagination, proper to the conditioning of the modern world, that something literal, material, and logical is concealed in these hieroglyphics.4 Let us observe that, in the best of cases, what can be read is the Popol Vuh (or some of the texts of the Chilam Balam, sacred historical genealogies) or other hierological texts such that, in order to begin to understand them, the reader will be required to submit to a total psychological reform. The same occurs with all of the great sacred texts of all peoples, not excepting the Bible. When, after great expectations, the West came to know the lost "book" of the great wizard Zoroaster (Zarathustra), the celebrated Avesta, it found only a book of "ritual chants" and "liturgical rubrics." That is, it found an esoteric discourse that said nothing about anything outside its own symbolical network, its cosmovision. The Avesta was nothing beyond the suppositions that framed its own mental boundaries, within which they were effective. 

Such is the case with the Popol Vuh, as well, written in Quiche during the Spanish colonization. One of humanity's great books, it narrates a sacred history set in an equally sacred geography, which meet as space-time coordinates in a multidimensional cosmos they structure. After all, for the archaic peoples-as for those of classical and post-classical Greco-Roman antiquity-places, personages, and events were the symbolical protagonists of a sacred geography and history whose character was transcendental, and which came to manifestation according to the rhythm and cadence to which they were subject. 

The rhythmic form itself, in which the myths and their representation were narrated, were also sacred of themselves. The tone of voice, recitation, chant, and staging, along with the gestures, costumes, masks, adornments, paintings, and all of the ceremonial details, constituted rites, that is, myths (and magical-theurgic symbols) in action. True, the myths are open to different readings: (a) cosmogonical-ontological-metaphysical, (b) emotional-psychological-moral, (c) naturalistic-literal-motivational. All of these levels of meaning of myth (or of any reality) are superimposed on one another, without any problem, and each one speaks a direct language, to those who are capable of communicating with it. It goes without saying that one can be connected with all of the hierarchical levels of myth, inasmuch as, far from being mutually exclusive, these levels coexist in harmony and simultaneity, expressing themselves in manifold significates. Hence the importance of myth as a cementing, intermediary synthetic factor among the distinct levels of reality, which it connects. Myth, like symbol, is the analogical unity that binds one world with another, time with eternity, the visible with the invisible, the finite with the infinite. This can be clearly seen in the dramatization of myth: in ritual. 

The Popol Vuh was sung and danced. A goodly part of the population knew the entire text by heart, and the personages of the text and their fortunes were known by everyone. Many undertook to represent them, as well, just as they took part in other ritual festivals.5 Even today, fragments of these ceremonies endure, performed from time immemorial. The ritual places in which the actions occur are likewise symbolical, and even correspond to geographical places of today. This sacred geography is contracted, and occupies a small part of modern Guatemala. There, at a time standing in solidarity with the origins, light was made, and, through four successive creations (in perfect agreement with the Bible, Greco-Roman antiquity, Hinduism/Buddhism, and other traditions generally), man was formed. These beliefs are common to all of the peoples of the world, as we have said. But the interesting thing is that, for an archaic mentality, this is always occurring, that is, at this very moment. Hence the archetypal creation recounted by the myth is but a living reality, now, and of this reality the very nature of phenomena, beings, and things, speaks to us constantly.

1 It is the same with the genealogy of the Incas, which has been so sagaciously investigated by Imbelloni. Likewise, the dates and the events indicated in Mayan hieroglyphics have a symbolic character, without thereby ceasing to be historical. It is a matter of mythical, magical histories-a cyclical-rhythmic meaning, expressed ritually and mnemonically. Sacred history and geography have been the property of all traditional peoples. Without seeking further, let us recall the biblical genealogies, with the ages and events reported there, and the geographical/symbolical places to be found in the Greek myths.
2 "In the low tropical lands of Central America, just as in certain places of Africa and Asia, such persons [the shaman-kings] were regarded as of divine origin as a belief prevailed that they were directly descended from the gods who had founded society, the first fathers or first men to be created. The story of these ancestors was recounted in the myths, and their names were cited in the inscriptions as being the source of the legitimacy of the dynasty" (Miguel Rivera Dorado, La Religión Maya [Madrid: Alianza Universidad, 1986]).
3 The word xok, in Mayan, means numeration, counting, even reading-which connects the Mayans' written texts with the calendar. As in all traditions that have developed writing, letters (or glyphs) and numbers are mutually related and corresponding.
4 Which by no means deprives epigraphical endeavors and studies of their legitimacy. Such investigations reveal the metalogical, associative, and symbolic language proper to the most refined traditional civilizations.
5 The texts of the codices, as well, and the hieroglyphics, were recited and performed in these ways.