Aztec Thought and Culture: A Study of the Ancient Nahuatl Mind

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University of Oklahoma Press, 1990 - History - 237 pages
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For at least two millennia before the advent of the Spaniards in 1519, there was a flourishing civilization in central Mexico. During that long span of time a cultural evolution took place which saw a high development of the arts and literature, the formulation of complex religious doctrines, systems of education, and diverse political and social organization.

The rich documentation concerning these people, commonly called Aztecs, includes, in addition to a few codices written before the Conquest, thousands of folios in the Nahuatl or Aztec language written by natives after the Conquest. Adapting the Latin alphabet, which they had been taught by the missionary friars, to their native tongue, they recorded poems, chronicles, and traditions.

The fundamental concepts of ancient Mexico presented and examined in this book have been taken from more than ninety original Aztec documents. They concern the origin of the universe and of life, conjectures on the mystery of God, the possibility of comprehending things beyond the realm of experience, life after death, and the meaning of education, history, and art. The philosophy of the Nahuatl wise men, which probably stemmed from the ancient doctrines and traditions of the Teotihuacans and Toltecs, quite often reveals profound intuition and in some instances is remarkably “modern.”

This English edition is not a direct translation of the original Spanish, but an adaptation and rewriting of the text for the English-speaking reader.

 

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Contents

The Birth of Philosophy among the Nahuas
3
The PreColumbian Concept of the Universe
25
The Aztec Universe page
47
The Levels of Heaven
58
Metaphysical and Theological Ideas of the Nahuas
62
The Sun of the Second Age opposite page
72
The Statue of Coatlicue
88
Drawings from the Madrid Codex fol 254 v page
100
The Approach to Man in Nahuatl Thought
104
The Plumed Serpent opposite page
136
The God Xochipilli
152
Conclusion
177
Copyright

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About the author (1990)

Director of the Inter-American Indian Institute in Mexico City, Miguel León-Portilla is a significant young Mexican scholar. He holds B.A. and M.A. degrees (summa cum laude) form Loyola University at Los Angeles and the Ph.D. from the National University of Mexico. La filosofía náhuatl: estudiada en sus fuentes, the Spanish version of this book, received high praise from both Mexican and American scholars.

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