Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Evil Geniuses: Tlacaelel

The theology of human misery, from Charles Mann (2005), 1491 (New York: Knopf: 140004006X):

pp. 188 ff: The [Aztec] empire grew rapidly. Its presiding genius was... Tlacaelel (1398-1480).... A visionary and a patriot, Tlacaelel believed that the Mexica were destined to rule.... [H]e wanted to furnish the alliance with an animating ideology.... He came up with a corker: a theogony that transformed the Mexica into keepers of the cosmic order.

At its center was Huitzilopochtli, a martial god who wore a helmet shaped like a hummingbird's head... long the Mexica's patron deity.... In Tlacaelel's vision, Ometeotl had four sons, one of whom was Huitzilopochtli. These four sons had been vying for supremacy since the beginning of time.... At intervals... a precarious equilibrium... with one brother on top.... In these interregnums of order, Tlacaelel explained, the topmost brother linked himself to the sun, on which all living creatures depend.... [L]ife could exist only when one brother held sway.... But when the balance came apart, as it always did, the brothers would resume their strife. The sun would go dark....

Each day of sunlight was a victory that must be fought and won again the next day. Because the sun could not hold out forever... it would one day inevitably lose... the calamity could be postponed.... [T]he sun needed chalchihuatl... life-energy. The sacred mission of the Triple Alliance, Tlacaelel proclaimed, was to furnish this vital substance to Huitzilopochtlli... [through] ritual human sacrifice... [of] prisoners of war.... In Tlacaelel's scheme, imperial conquests were the key to the "moral combat against evil," explained Miguel Leon-Portilla.... "The survival of the universe depended on them."...

We're lucky all we have to deal with is L. Ron Hubbard. Just sayin'.

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