Oh, well ...
This is another one that I really wanted
to like. I was poking around on Amazon and recognized the name, Michael Peter Langevin, which rang a bell as somebody who "I knew". At first I'd thought it might have been one of the many people with whom I'd traveled to Peru (and elsewhere) on one of Alberto Villoldo's trips (he did end up "name checking" a few of these), but he is actually the publisher of Magical Blend magazine, with whom I'd had a lot of contact (we were a regular advertiser when I had Eschaton Books). I was surprised to find that he'd written a book on Incan spirituality, as one of our very first books was Irene Siegel's Eyes of the Jaguar
and I don't recall him mentioning any simpatico with that (but, I could be wrong, it's been a while).
Anyway, I ordered Langevin's Secrets of the Ancient Incas: A Modern Approach to Ancient Ritual and Practice
and put it in the the upper reaches of the "to be read" pile as soon as it came in. It is a rather brief
book, only running about 200 pages, and one does get the feeling that he might have written something more substantial, but ended up "settling" for this.
The book begins with him as a 21-year-old in the early 70's, a college student in Boston, waiting tables and being entranced by the myths of Che Guevera (I don't think
he was specifically enamored of the Che who was the butcher for Castro's regime, the go-to guy when the task was too brutal and sadistic for a "regular soldier" to be entrusted with!). He'd heard of a Marxist coup d'état
in Peru and wanted to immerse himself in that particular environment, so he saved up a small amount of money, hitch-hiked from Boston to Miami, and got a ticket for Lima, leaving him the princely sum of $60 to live on while down there. He managed to bum around (being fed and housed by kindly Peruvians, but I guess that's the minimum they could do for an American Leftist who was so
interested in their betterment) for five weeks and still have $28 left when he decided to visit Machu Picchu. With nearly no food or water, he "moved into" a cave where he could sleep during the day and visit the ruins by night (no doubt to avoid unpleasantries like entrance fees), and, frankly, began to hallucinate. He believed that he was speaking Quechuan, he believed that he was spontaneously performing Ancient Incan Rituals, and he had vivid up-close-and-personal visits by assorted Incan deities and royalty.
Over several nights these various apparitions insist that he was a mighty warrior by the name "Partiti" whose return they have been waiting for over many generations, as a "savior" of the Incan people (he even references Che as a model here). To his credit, he argues that he has no
recall of any of the stuff they insist he should know, but he still goes along with an elaborate "self initiation" and works out a negotiated compromise to go back home, finish his education, etc., etc., etc. That's all in the Introduction.
The rest of the book is based on brief excepts from a journal of a trip there in 2001. He had gone off to get a degree, found a magazine, marry some college professor, and "start a family" by adopting a couple of Peruvian kids. There is a section about their trip down there in 1990 to get one kid, and how the other sort of got thrown into the deal. The journaled
trip was one in which they were taking the children back to "experience their roots" over an 4-month vacation. Each chapter starts with a quote from his journal and then a travel story, most of which are pretty much "we went here, this is what we saw, I wondered why it wasn't like this, or how it might have been then, the kids like the locals"
with various degrees of emoting over-laid (and typical travel-journal bitching about buses and delays), as well as the expected referencing back to his hallucinatory experiences a quarter century before. There are two
sections which break out of this, one which is a bit of a semi-historical over-view of the Incan empire (well padded with "newage" imagining), and the other is a run-down of the Incan pantheon in one of the "ritual" segments. He never really nails down his "sources" or credits any teachers other than the "Incan Gods and Goddesses", so I do have a bit of a question of how accurate
any of this info is, certainly there is a level of detail for historical practices that neither he nor anybody else has resources for, and I am loathe to take anybody's "revealed knowledge" as de facto
Needless to say, I can't much recommend this book, unless you have a taste for writing that is so "newagey" as to be cliché. I really wanted to be able to say something
nice about this, but I, frankly, can't find anything that wouldn't be (rightfully) perceived as "damning with faint praise". Secrets of the Ancient Incas
is understandably out of print currently, but "new" copies can be had for under five bucks from the new/used vendors over at Amazon. But hey, if you think that Che was a swell guy, and that the Easter Bunny has chats with you, this might be your cup of tea ... all others should probably just snicker and move along.
Sorry if you end up reading this, Michael, I wish I could have been kinder in my review!