The nahuatl legend of five Suns is fundamental to symbolically understand human evolution. With all the variants that exist regarding that in the beginning there was nothing and that's the Lord of the divine duality, Ometecuhtli, created Tonacatecuhtli and Tonacacihuatl, Lady and Lord of our flesh, so they could populate the land. They reproduced and had four children named: Red Tezcatlipoca, Black Tezcatlipoca, White Tezcatlipoca and Blue Tezcatlipoca.
Then the Tezcatlipocas thought that they should create a work so they would be worshiped as gods. Tezcatlipoca blue made a huge fire and the brothers placed themselves around to create human beings. Thus man was born and was Huehuecoyotl and a wife was created. They ordered them to have children and created the animals, mountains, seas, lakes and left them as a mission to worship the four gods. However, the work was not perfect because the Tlaltipac was in darkness, given that there was no sun.
It was then, Tezcatlipoca White-Quetzalcoatl turned the fire into a weak Sun, this annoyed Black Tezcatlipoca and turned into a powerful Sun, which destroys life and withers the plants. The giants who inhabited the world at that time called Tzoculiceque fed from pine-nuts. Tezcatlipoca, White Quetzalcoatl, brought down the merciless sun and Black Tezcatlipoca fell into the bottom of a lake and emerged transformed into a huge jaguar, the many Jaguars following him devoured the Giants. This was the Sun of Earth or Tlaltipactonantiuh.
The following Sun was created because Quetzalcoatl became the Sun, but it was a less intense sun, causing agriculture to prosper and humans feed from a wild fruit called acotzintli. But one day Black Tezcatlipoca turned into jaguar climbed up to the heavens and with a paw blow toppled his brother Tezcatlipoca White-Quetzalcoatl, which provoked a tempest that tore the hills, sowing destruction. By the force of the wind, human beings had to walk bent, thus became monkeys. This Sun was called Sun of wind or Ehecatonatiuh.
The third Sun was created when Tlaloc takes the place of Quetzalcoatl and becomes Sun. The Tlaltipac again becomes populated and humans now feed on water corn. Over time human beings began to corrupt with immoral practices and to neglect their obligations with the gods. The land became a wasteland, so Quetzalcoatl orders Xiuhtecuhtli, Lord of fire, to destroy humanity. From the sky began to rain fire and human beings became birds. This Sun was called Xiuhtonatiuh.
The following Sun was created on the orders of Tezcatlipoca Blue-Huitzilopochtli (for the Mexica), who ordered Chalchuiuhcueye, the Lady of emeralds skirt to become Sun. The humans food was Nahui-xochitl. But in the cosmic struggle of opposites, Tezcatlipoca forces Chalchuiuhcueye to destroy humanity, so it starts to rain on a permanent basis until human beings become fish and the heavens lost balance and fell upon the Earth. This Sun is called Atonatiuh.
Then, the gods ashamed for their mistakes gathered again at Teotihuacan to rectify, decided to create four men called: Atemoc, Itzacoatl, Itzamaliza, and Tenoch. The four emerged from the four cardinal points converted into leafy trees. They lifted the 13 heavens and rebuilt the 9 layers of the underworld. The gods ordered Tezcatlipoca White-Quetzalcoatl to travel to the Mictlán (underworld) and asked Mictlantecuhtli, the Lord of death, to give him the bones of human beings that died in the previous Sun. The Lord of death gave him some tests, and Quetzalcoatl managed to overcome with the help of insects and its nagual Xolotl to rescue the "divine relics" and gave them life by bleeding his member on the bones. Food for human beings of the new Sun was missing. So the gods decided again that Tezcatlipoca White-Quetzalcoatl, now turned into an Ant again locate the Mount of livelihood called in nahuatl Tonacaltepetl and to bring corn and seeds for the new human beings nourishment.
The gods again gathered in Teotihuacan and decided to create the Fifth Sun, as the Tlaltipac was in darkness. They agreed that one of them would become Sun, therefore made a large fire and chose Tecucciztecatl and Nanahuatzin to fast for 13 days and purify their body and spirit. While the first avoided sacrifice by offering jewelry and precious stones, the second surrendered with devotion to sacrifice for purification.
When the gods ordered Tecucciztecatl to jump into the huge fire, didn't find the courage and internal strength to do so. After several failed attempts, the gods ordered Nanahuatzin to jump, which was immediately done. Shortly thereafter, on the horizon appeared Nanahuatzin converted into the Fifth Sun, but soon from the west appeared Tecucciztecatl also turned into a Sun. The gods conversed and concluded that there could not be two Suns, so they took a rabbit passing by, and threw him onto the face of Tecucciztecatl, to obscure his light and thus became the moon.
Despite anything done by the gods the Sun had no movement. Again the gods conversed and concluded that they should sacrifice, also threw themselves into the fire, to give life and movement to the Fifth Sun. The only one who refused to jump was Xolotl, but was pursued by Quetzalcoatl and even when intended to evade his destiny turning into corn, maguey and Axolotl. The sacrifice of gods resulted in the creation and life of the Fifth Sun. The gods had to be sacrificed so that humans could live. Thus, the name given to the people was macehualli or macehual, which in nahuatl means "Deserving of the sacrifice of the gods". This explains, philosophically, the deep sense of sacrifice that life had for the anahuacas and contemporary Mexicans. The gods were sacrificed to give them life and human beings "feed" to the gods through "spiritually sacrificing them. This concept is of the classical period, as Tlacaélel, the Mexica Cihuacóatl changed the spiritual sacrifice for material sacrifice, at the end of the Postclassic period. But this will be discussed later.
"Confirming the myths, these images underscore the essential role of the man in the maintenance of the cosmic harmony secured only by constant spiritual regeneration." (Laurette Séjourné. 1957)
We can find in the legend of the five Suns, how the ancient Mexicans metaphorically speak to us of an evolution and a series of processes in the pursuit of better stages of human development. This non-linear consciousness of evolution, which involves the opposite and complementary forces of the universe and humans, shows us a much more scientific view than the origin myths of the Judeo-Christian culture. The philosophical aspect is present in the history and explains the attitudes by the Mexicans yesterday and today, with respect to the divine and sacred, with life and death.
"No other culture of antiquity came to formulate, as they (the Maya) such number of modules and calendrical categories nor so many mathematical relations to frame, with tireless yearning for accuracy, the cyclic reality of the time from the most varied points of view. To mention a few of their achievements in the field of astronomy, chronology and mathematics, our purpose has been to highlight the most known parts of their wisdom about the measure of time."
(Miguel León portilla. 1968)
(Taken from the book Roots and Essence of Ancient MEXICO. Guillermo Marín 2004. It can be downloaded for free, search books section in the page)