Teotl’s process of continual and continuous selftransformation is defined by what I call agonistic inamic unity, that is, the continual and continuous cyclical struggle (agon) of paired opposites, polarities, or dualities. Agonistic inamic unity refers to a brute fact about the nature of teotl and hence brute fact about the nature of reality per se. It accordingly serves as a fundamental premise of Aztec metaphysics. Teotl’s ceaseless self-becoming, self-presenting, and self-unfolding, and therefore its ceaseless generating and regenerating of the cosmos, are defined by agonistic inamic unity. The cosmos and all its inhabitants are accordingly defined by it. Aztec metaphysics sees these paired opposites as interdependent, interrelated, mutually engendering, and mutually complementary while at the same time mutually competitive and antagonistic. Neither opposite is conceptually or temporally prior to the other. Neither is morally or metaphysically superior to the other. Consistent with ontological and constitutional
Monism, these paired opposites are dual aspects or facets of teotl. They are not two metaphysically distinct essences or kinds of stuff (as this would entail constitutional dualism).
Teotl’s dual aspects include life and death, day and night, fire and water, and male and female. Day and night, for example, are simultaneously mutually competitive as well as mutually arising, mutually dependent, and mutually complementary. Day is always becoming night, and night is always becoming day. Day temporarily vanquishes night yet emerges from night. Night temporarily vanquishes day yet emerges from day. Each contains within itself the seed of its opposite. Neither excludes nor can exist without the other. The Nahuatl term for this relationship is inamic. Day and night, for example, are each other’s inamic. Day and night constitute an inamic pair, or set of paired inamichuan (plural). Day and night may also be characterized as inamic partners. Day is the inamic of night, night the inamic of day. Generally speaking, an inamic is a power, force, or influence that is necessarily matched, partnered, or paired with a second power, force, or influence. Each is conceived as the complementary polar opposite of the other. In what follows I mark this relationship using the tilde (“~”), for example, day~night, life~death, and male~female.1
The cyclical, back-and-forth tug-of-war between inamic partners combined with the alternating, temporary dominance of one inamic over its partner constitutes and hence explains the genesis, diversity, movement, and momentary ordering of the cosmos. Each moment in this back-and-forth, cosmic tug-of-war consists of the temporary dominance of one or the other inamic within a pair, and therefore represents a temporary imbalance between the two. As Lopez Austin points out, the continuing agonistic interaction between paired inamichuan produces a continuo desajuste (“continuous imbalance or maladjustment”) in the cosmos.2 This notwithstanding, teotl’s long-term cosmic selfunfolding exhibits an overarching diachronic balance and equilibrium. Although each moment in the cosmic tug-of-war consists of the temporary dominance of one or the other of paired inamichuan, and therefore a moment of imbalance, over the long run their alternating yields a diachronic and dynamic balance. Shortterm imbalances are woven together into long-term balance.
As a prosaic example of this, consider the kind of balancing involved in walking. Walking is a process, not an event. It is diachronic, not static. Walking requires being able to achieve an overarching, diachronic balance between a repeating series of momentary imbalances (or maladjustments). Starting from standing position, one extends one’s left leg forward, shifts one’s weight left-forwardly, and in so doing puts oneself off balance. But before falling leftwards too far and crashing to the ground, one quickly extends one’s right leg and shifts one’s weight rightwards. This, of course, creates a right-leaning imbalance that counterbalances the first, left-leaning imbalance. However, before falling rightwards too far and tumbling to the ground, one quickly extends one’s left leg, thereby shifting one’s weight leftwards. The process of walking involves repeating these imbalancing and counterbalancing actions over and over again. One does not try to achieve a static middle or mean point of balancedness. Rather one passes through such a point in the constant “to and fro” of walking. Indeed, one cannot walk without embracing alternating momentary imbalances. One walks straightforwardly by walking crookedly. One walks in balance by walking imbalancedly. One walks in balance by walking middlingly - not by walking in the middle. Balance is attained dialectically, diachronically, and dynamically. Individual moments of short-term imbalance are woven together to yield a diachronic process of long-term balancing. V iewed kinesiologically, walking is a complex balancing act. In sum, long-term balancing consists of and is achieved by a rhythmic series of mutually interdependent and reciprocally influencing individual acts of short-term imbalance. This is precisely the sort of balancing struck by teotl. Although devoid of any stable, permanent created structure, teotl’s ceaseless becoming - and hence the becoming of the cosmos and all its contents - are nevertheless characterized by an enduring, immanent rhythm or pattern; namely, agonistic inamic unity.
But if this is so, then isn’t Aztec metaphysics guilty of logical inconsistency? After all, on the one hand it claims that everything changes, yet on the other, claims these changes exhibit a pattern or rhythm that does not change. The contradiction is merely apparent. Agonistic inamic unity is an unchanging pattern of change according to which everything changes; an uncreated pattern of creating and destroying according to which neither creation nor destruction is stable or lasting; and an ungenerated pattern of generating and degenerating according to which neither generation nor degeneration is stable or lasting. Agonistic inamic unity is an orderly pattern of ordering and disordering according to which neither order nor disorder is stable or enduring. Borrowing terminology from Western philosophy, we might say agonistic inamic unity is a stable, second-order pattern offirst-order orderings and disorderings according to which first-order orderings and disorderings are unstable, short-lived, and impermanent. It is a stable second-order pattern of being and nonbeing according to which neither being nor nonbeing is stable or lasting. In sum, agonistic inamic unity is an enduring rhythmic reiterative pattern in the becoming, changing, and processing of teotl and hence in the becoming, changing and processing of reality, cosmos, and all things.
This answer, however, yields a further question: what is a pattern? Isn’t a pattern a thing, and if so, aren’t we then still faced with an internal inconsistency?
I believe not. Agonistic inamic unity is not a thing, no less a created thing, and this fact absolves Aztec metaphysics of internal inconsistency. Agonistic inamic unity is a how, not a what. It is how teotl transforms, becomes, and processes; it is how teotl presents and discloses itself. It is how teotl’s energy circulates about the cosmos. Agonistic inamic unity is, in short, teotl’s modus operandi. It is a patterning, and a patterning is not a thing but a way: a how, not a what. As a patterning, agonistic inamic unity characterizes how teotl - and hence how reality, cosmos, and all things - become and unfold; it is the way teotl, reality, cosmos, and all things become and unfold. And because it is not a thing, it follows that agonistic inamic unity is not an unchanging thing. Chapter i suggested we treat the word teotl as a verb. I suggest now we treat the phrase agonistic inamic unity as an adverb, one that modifies the verb teotl. We must therefore resist reifying not only teotl but also agonistic inamic unity. Aztec metaphysics is a process metaphysics. Chapter i also argued that Aztec metaphysics claims that nature follows function. Since agonistic inamic unity defines how teotl functions, it defines the kind of process teotl is and hence the nature of teotl.
Since teotl is self-transforming, it follows that teotl is self-patterning. Agonistic inamic unity is generated by teotl from within teotl, and as a result, it is metaphysically immanent and nonhierarchical. It is not, in other words, a pre-existing, transcendent Platonic-style law, norm, or principle that is imposed upon teotl’s self-becoming and that governs teotl’s self-becoming from above or outside. Nor is it a transcendent matrix to which teotl’s self-unfolding must conform. Rather, agonistic inamic unity emerges in the course of teotl’s selftransforming, just as the pattern of rings in a tree trunk emerges in the course of a tree’s growing. A tree’s ring pattern is adverbial in the sense that it discloses how the tree grows. It is a how, not a what.3