THE POWER OF
1. THE MANIFESTATIONS OF THE SPIRIT The First Abstract Core
The Impeccability of the Nagual Elías
2. THE KNOCK OF THE SPIRIT
The Last Seduction of the Nagual Julian
3. THE TRICKERY OF THE SPIRIT
Dusting the Link with the Spirit
The Four Moods of Stalking
4. THE DESCENT OF THE SPIRIT
Seeing the Spirit
The Somersault of Thought
Moving the Assemblage Point
The Place of No Pity
5. THE REQUIREMENTS OF INTENT
Breaking the Mirror of Self-Reflection The Ticket to Impeccability
6. HANDLING INTENT
The Third Point The Two One-Way Bridges Intending Appearances
My books are a
true account of a teaching method that Don Juan Matus, a Mexican Indian
sorcerer, used in order to help me understand the sorcerers' world. In this
sense, my books are the account of an on-going process which becomes more clear
to me as time goes by-
It takes years
of training to teach us to deal intelligently with the world of everyday life.
Our schooling—whether in plain reasoning or formal topics—is
rigorous, because the knowledge we are trying to impart is very complex. The
same criteria apply to the sorcerers' world: their schooling, which relies on
oral instruction and the manipulation of awareness, although different from
ours, is just as rigorous, because their knowledge is as, or perhaps more,
times Don Juan attempted to name his knowledge for my benefit. He felt that the
most appropriate name was nagualism, but that the term was too obscure. Calling
it simply "knowledge" made it too vague, and to call it
"witchcraft" was debasing. "The mastery of intent" was too
abstract, and "the search for total freedom" too long and
metaphorical. Finally, because he was unable to find a more appropriate name,
he called it "sorcery," although he admitted it was not really
Over the years,
he had given me different definitions of sorcery, but he had always maintained
that definitions change as knowledge increases. Toward the end of my
apprenticeship, I felt I was in a position to appreciate a clearer definition,
so I asked him once more.
where the average man stands," Don Juan said, "sorcery is nonsense or
an ominous mystery beyond his reach. And he is right—not because this is
an absolute fact, but because the average man lacks the energy to deal with
He stopped for
a moment before he continued. "Human beings are born with a finite amount
of energy," Don Juan said, "an energy that is systematically deployed,
beginning at the moment of birth, in order that it may be used most
advantageously by the modality of the time."
you mean by the modality of the time?" I asked.
modality of the time is the precise bundle of energy fields being perceived,"
he answered. "I believe man's perception has changed through the ages. The
actual time decides the mode; the time decides which precise bundle of energy
fields, out of an incalculable number, are to be used. And handling the
modality of the time—those few, selected energy fields—takes all
our available energy, leaving us nothing that would help us use any of the
other energy fields."
He urged me
with a subtle movement of his eyebrows to consider all this.
what I mean when I say that the average man lacks the energy needed to deal
with sorcery," he went on. "If he uses only the energy he has, he
can't perceive the worlds sorcerers do. To perceive them, sorcerers need to use
a cluster of energy fields not ordinarily used. Naturally, if the average man
is to perceive those worlds and understand sorcerers' perception he must use
the same cluster they have used. And this is just not possible, because all his
energy is already deployed."
He paused as if
searching for the appropriate words to make his point.
it this way," he proceeded. "It isn't that as time goes by you're
learning sorcery; rather, what you're
learning is to save energy. And this energy will enable you to handle some of
the energy fields which are inaccessible to you now. And that is sorcery: the
ability to use energy fields that are not employed in perceiving the ordinary
world we know. Sorcery is a state of awareness. Sorcery is the ability to
perceive something which ordinary perception cannot.
I've put you through," Don Juan went on, "each of the things I've
shown you was only a device to convince you that there's more to us than meets
the eye. We Don't need anyone to teach us sorcery, because there is really
nothing to learn. What we need is a teacher to convince us that there is
incalculable power at our fingertips. What a strange paradox! Every warrior on
the path of knowledge thinks, at one time or another, that he's learning
sorcery, but all he's doing is allowing himself to be convinced of the power
hidden in his being, and that he can reach it."
what you're doing, Don Juan—convincing me?"
I'm trying to convince you that you can reach that power. I went through the
same thing. And I was as hard to convince as you are."
have reached it, what exactly do we do with it, Don Juan?"
Once we have reached it, it will, by itself, make use of energy fields which
are available to us but inaccessible. And that, as I have said, is sorcery. We
begin then to see—that is, to perceive— something else; not as
imagination, but as real and concrete. And then we begin to know without having
to use words. And what any of us does with that increased perception, with that
silent knowledge, depends on our own temperament."
occasion, he gave me another kind of explanation. We were discussing an
unrelated topic when he abruptly changed the subject and began to tell me a
joke. He laughed and, very
my back between the shoulder blades, as if he were shy and it was too forward
of him to touch me. He chuckled at my nervous reaction.
skittish," he said teasingly, and slapped my back with greater force.
My ears buzzed.
For an instant I lost my breath. It felt as though he had hurt my lungs. Every
breath brought me great discomfort. Yet, after I had coughed and choked a few
times, my nasal passages opened and I found myself taking deep, soothing
breaths. I had such a feeling of well- being that I was not even annoyed at him
for his blow, which had been hard as well as unexpected.
Then Don Juan
began a most remarkable explanation. Clearly and concisely, he gave me a
different and more precise definition of sorcery.
I had entered
into a wondrous state of awareness! I had such clarity of mind that I was able
to comprehend and assimilate everything Don Juan was saying. He said that in
the universe there is an unmeasurable, indescribable force which sorcerers call
intent, and that absolutely everything that exists in the entire cosmos is
attached to intent by a connecting link. Sorcerers, or warriors, as he called
them, were concerned with discussing, understanding, and employing that
connecting link. They were especially concerned with cleaning it of the numbing
effects brought about by the ordinary concerns of their everyday lives. Sorcery
at this level could be defined as the procedure of cleaning one's connecting
link to intent. Don Juan stressed that this "cleaning procedure" was
extremely difficult to understand, or to learn to perform. Sorcerers,
therefore, divided their instruction into two categories. One was instruction
for the everyday-life state of awareness, in which the cleaning process was
presented in a disguised fashion. The other was instruction for the states of
heightened awareness, such as the one I was presently experiencing, in which
sorcerers obtained knowledge directly from intent, without the distracting
intervention of spoken language.
explained that by using heightened awareness over thousands of years of painful
struggle, sorcerers had gained specific insights into intent; and that they had
passed these nuggets of direct knowledge on from generation to generation to
the present. He said that the task of
sorcery is to
take this seemingly incomprehensible knowledge and make it understandable by
the standards of awareness of everyday life.
explained the role of the guide in the lives of sorcerers. He said that a guide
is called "the na-gual," and that the nagual is a man or a woman with
extraordinary energy, a teacher who has sobriety, endurance, stability; someone
seers see as a luminous sphere having four compartments, as if four luminous
balls have been compressed together. Because of their extraordinary energy,
naguals are intermediaries. Their energy allows them to channel peace, harmony,
laughter, and knowledge directly from the source, from intent, and transmit
them to their companions. Naguals are responsible for supplying what sorcerers
call "the minimal chance": the awareness of one's connection with
I told him that
my mind was grasping everything he was telling me, that the only part of his
explanation still unclear to me was why two sets of teachings were needed. I
could understand everything he was saying about his world easily, and yet he
had described the process of understanding as very difficult.
need a lifetime to remember the insights you've had today," he said,
"because most of them were silent knowledge. A few moments from now you
will have forgotten them. That's one of the unfathomable mysteries of
Don Juan then
made me shift levels of consciousness by striking me on my left side, at the
edge of my ribcage.
lost my extraordinary clarity of mind and could not remember having ever had
himself set me the task of writing about the premises of sorcery. Once, very
casually in the early stages of my apprenticeship, he suggested that I write a
book in order to make use of the
notes I had
always taken. I had accumulated reams of notes and never considered what to do
I argued that
the suggestion was absurd because I was not a writer.
course, you're not a writer," he said, "so you will have to use
sorcery. First, you must visualize your experiences as if you were reliving
them, and then you must see the text in your dreaming. For you, writing should
not be a literary exercise, but rather an exercise in sorcery."
I have written
in that manner about the premises of sorcery just as Don Juan explained them to
me, within the context of his teaching.
In his teaching
scheme, which was developed by sorcerers of ancient times, there were two categories
of instruction. One was called "teachings for the right side,"
carried out in the ordinary state of awareness. The other was called
"teachings for the left side," put into practice solely in states of
categories allowed teachers to school their apprentices toward three areas of
expertise: the mastery of awareness, the art of stalking, and the mastery of
areas of expertise are the three riddles sorcerers encounter in their search
The mastery of
awareness is the riddle of the mind; the perplexity sorcerers experience when
they recognize the astounding mystery and scope of awareness and perception.
The art of
stalking is the riddle of the heart; the puzzlement sorcerers feel upon becoming
aware of two things: first that the world appears to us to be unalterably
objective and factual, because of peculiarities of our awareness and
perception; second, that if different peculiarities of perception come into
play, the very things about the world that seem so unalterably objective and
The mastery of
intent is the riddle of the spirit, or the paradox of the
abstract—sorcerers' thoughts and actions projected beyond our human
instruction on the art of stalking and the mastery of intent depended upon his
instruction on the mastery of awareness, which was the cornerstone of his
teachings, and which consist of the following basic premises:
1. The universe
is an infinite agglomeration of energy fields, resembling threads of light.
2. These energy
fields, called the Eagle's emanations, radiate from a source of inconceivable
proportions metaphorically called the Eagle.
3. Human beings
are also composed of an incalculable number of the same threadlike energy
fields. These Eagle's emanations form an encased agglomeration that manifests
itself as a ball of light the size of the person's body with the arms extended
laterally, like a giant luminous egg.
4. Only a very
small group of the energy fields inside this luminous ball are lit up by a
point of intense brilliance located on the ball's surface.
occurs when the energy fields in that small group immediately surrounding the
point of brilliance extend their light to illuminate identical energy fields
outside the ball. Since the only energy fields perceivable are those lit by the
point of brilliance, that point is named "the point where perception is
assembled" or simply "the assemblage point."
assemblage point can be moved from its usual position on the surface of the
luminous ball to another position on the surface, or into the interior. Since
the brilliance of the assemblage point can light up whatever energy field it
conies in contact with, when it moves to a new position it immediately
brightens up new energy fields, making them perceivable. This perception is
known as seeing.
7. When the
assemblage point shifts, it makes possible the perception of an entirely
different world—as objective and factual as the one we normally perceive.
Sorcerers go into that other world to get energy, power, solutions to general
and particular problems, or to face the unimaginable.
8. Intent is
the pervasive force that causes us to perceive. We do not become aware because
we perceive; rather, we perceive as a result of the pressure and intrusion of
9. The aim of
sorcerers is to reach a state of total awareness in order to experience all the
possibilities of perception available to man. This state of awareness even
implies an alternative way of dying.
A level of practical
knowledge was included as part of teaching the mastery of awareness. On that
practical level Don Juan taught the procedures necessary to move the assemblage
point. The two great systems devised by the sorcerer seers of ancient times to
accomplish this were: dreaming, the control and utilization of dreams; and
stalking, the control of behavior.
assemblage point was an essential maneuver that every sorcerer had to learn.
Some of them, the naguals, also learned to perform it for others. They were
able to dislodge the assemblage point from its customary position by delivering
a hard slap directly to the assemblage point. This blow, which was experienced
as a smack on the right shoulder blade—although the body was never
touched—resulted in a state of heightened awareness.
with his tradition, it was exclusively in these states of heightened awareness
that Don Juan carried out the most important and dramatic part of his
teachings: the instructions for the left side. Because of the extraordinary
quality of these states, Don Juan demanded that I not discuss them with others
until we had concluded everything in the sorcerers' teaching scheme. That
demand was not difficult for me to accept. In those unique states of awareness
my capabilities for understanding the instruction were unbelievably enhanced,
but at the same time my capabilities for describing or even remembering it were
impaired. I could function in those states with proficiency and assuredness,
but I could not recollect anything about them once I returned to my normal
It took me
years to be able to make the crucial conversion of my enhanced awareness into
plain memory. My reason and common sense delayed this moment because they were
colliding head- on with the preposterous, unthinkable reality of heightened
awareness and direct knowledge. For years the resulting cognitive
disarrangement forced me to avoid the issue by not thinking about it.
Whatever I have
written about my sorcery apprenticeship, up to now, has been a recounting of
how Don Juan taught me the mastery of awareness. I have not yet described the
art of stalking or the mastery of intent.
Don Juan taught
me their principles and applications with the help of two of his companions: a
sorcerer named Vicente Medrano and another named Silvio Manuel, but whatever I
learned from them still remains clouded in what Don Juan called the intricacies
of heightened awareness. Until now it has been impossible for me to write or
even to think coherently about the art of stalking and the mastery of intent.
My mistake has been to regard them as subjects for normal memory and
recollection. They are, but at the same time they are not. In order to resolve
this contradiction, I have not pursued the subjects directly —a virtual
impossibility—but have dealt with them indirectly through the concluding
topic of Don Juan's instruction: the stories of the sorcerers of the past.
these stories to make evident what he called the abstract cores of his lessons.
But I was incapable of grasping the nature of the abstract cores despite his
comprehensive explanations, which, I know now, were intended more to open my
mind than to explain anything in a rational manner. His way of talking made me
believe for many years that his explanations of
cores were like academic dissertations; and all I was able to do, under these
circumstances, was to take his explanations as given. They became part of my
tacit acceptance of his teachings, but without the thorough assessment on my
part that was essential to understanding them.
presented three sets of six abstract cores each, arranged in an increasing
level of complexity. I have dealt here with the first set, which is composed of
the following: the manifestations of the spirit, the knock of the spirit, the
trickery of the spirit, the descent of the spirit, the requirements of intent,
and handling intent.
Manifestations of the Spirit
whenever it was pertinent, used to tell me brief stories about the sorcerers of
his lineage, especially his teacher, the nagual Julian. They were not really
stories, but rather descriptions of the way those sorcerers behaved and of
aspects of their personalities. These accounts were each designed to shed light
on a specific topic in my apprenticeship.
I had heard the
same stories from the other fifteen members of Don Juan's group of sorcerers,
but none of these accounts had been able to give me a clear picture of the
people they described. Since I had no way of persuading Don Juan to give me
more details about those sorcerers, I had resigned myself to the idea of never
knowing about them in any depth.
in the mountains of southern Mexico, Don Juan, after having explained to me
more about the intricacies of the mastery of awareness, made a statement that
completely baffled me.
it's time for us to talk about the sorcerers of our past/1 he said.
explained that it was necessary that I begin drawing conclusions based on a
systematic view of the past, conclusions about both the world of daily affairs
and the sorcerers' world.
are vitally concerned with their past," he said. "But I Don't mean
their personal past. For sorcerers their past is what other sorcerers in bygone
days have Done. And what we are now going to do is examine that past.
average man also examines the past. But it's mostly his personal past he
examines, and he does so for personal reasons. Sorcerers do quite the opposite;
they consult their past in order to obtain a point of reference."
that what everyone does? Look at the past to get a point of reference?"
he answered emphatically. "The average man measures himself against the
past, whether his personal past or the past knowledge of his time, in order to
find justifications for his present or future behavior, or to establish a model
for himself. Only sorcerers genuinely seek a point of reference in their
Juan, things would be clear to me if you tell me what a point of reference for
a sorcerer is."
sorcerers, establishing a point of reference means getting a chance to examine
intent," he replied. "Which is exactly the aim of this final topic of
instruction. And nothing can give sorcerers a better view of intent than
examining stories of other sorcerers battling to understand the same
that as they examined their past, the sorcerers of his lineage took careful
notice of the basic abstract order of their knowledge.
sorcery there are twenty-one abstract cores,"
Don Juan went
on. "And then, based on those abstract cores, there are scores of sorcery
stories about the naguals of our lineage battling to understand the spirit.
It's time to tell you the abstract cores and the sorcery stories."
I waited for Don
Juan to begin telling me the stories, but he changed the subject and went back
to explaining awareness.
minute," I protested. "What about the sorcery stories? Aren't you
going to tell them to me?"
I am," he said. "But they are not stories that one can tell as if
they were tales. You've got to think your way through them and then rethink
them— relive them, so to speak."
There was a
long silence. I became very cautious and was afraid that if I persisted in
asking him again to tell me the stories, I could be committing myself to
something I might later regret. But my curiosity was greater than my good
let's get on with them," I croaked.
obviously catching the gist of my thoughts, smiled maliciously. He stood and
signaled me to follow. We had been sitting on some dry rocks at the bottom of a
gully. It was midafternoon. The sky was dark and cloudy. Low, almost-black rain
clouds hovered above the peaks to the east. In comparison, the high clouds made
the sky seem clear to the south. Earlier it
heavily, but then the rain seemed to have retreated to a hiding place, leaving
behind only a threat.
I should have
been chilled to the bone, for it was very cold. But I was warm. As I clutched a
rock Don Juan had given me to hold, I realized that this sensation of being
warm in nearly freezing weather was familiar to me, yet it amazed me each time.
Whenever I seemed about to freeze, Don Juan would give me a branch to hold, or
a stone, or he would put a bunch of leaves under my shirt, on the tip of my
sternum, and that would be sufficient to raise my body temperature. I had tried
unsuccessfully to recreate, by myself, the effect of his ministrations. He told
me it was not the ministrations but his inner silence that kept me warm, and
the branches or stones or leaves were merely devices to trap my attention and
maintain it in focus.
we climbed the steep west side of a mountain until we reached a rock ledge at
the very top. We were in the foothills of a higher range of mountains. From the
rock ledge I could see that fog had begun to move onto the south end of the
valley floor below us. Low, wispy clouds seemed to be closing in on us, too,
sliding down from the black-green, high mountain peaks to the west. After the
rain, under the dark cloudy sky the valley and the mountains to the east and
south appeared covered in a mantle of black-green silence.
the ideal place to have a talk," Don Juan said, sitting on the rock floor
of a concealed shallow cave.
The cave was
perfect for the two of us to sit side by side. Our heads were nearly touching
the roof and our backs fitted snugly against the curved surface of the rock
wall. It was as if the cave had been carved deliberately to accommodate two
persons of our size.
another strange feature of the cave: when I stood on the ledge, I could see the
entire valley and the mountain ranges to the east and south, but when I sat
down, I was boxed in by the rocks. Yet the ledge was at the level of the cave
floor, and flat.
I was about to
point this strange effect out to Don Juan, but he anticipated me.
is man-made," he said. "The ledge is slanted but the eye doesn't
register the incline." "Who made this cave, Don Juan?"
ancient sorcerers. Perhaps thousands of years ago. And one of the peculiarities
of this cave is that animals and insects and even people stay away from it. The
ancient sorcerers seem to have infused it with an ominous charge that makes
every living thing feel ill at ease."
But strangely I
felt irrationally secure and happy there. A sensation of physical contentment
made my entire body tingle. I actually felt the most agreeable, the most
delectable, sensation in my stomach. It was as if my nerves were being tickled.
feel ill at ease," I commented.
do I," he said. "Which only means that you and I aren't that far
temperamentally from those old sorcerers of the past; something which worries
me no end."
I was afraid to
pursue that subject any further, so I waited for him to talk.
sorcery story I am going to tell you is called 'The Manifestations of the
Spirit,' " Don Juan began, "but Don't let the title mystify you. The
manifestations of the spirit is only the first abstract core around which the
first sorcery story is built.
first abstract core is a story in itself," he went on. "The story
says that once upon a time there was a man, an average man without any special
attributes. He was, like everyone else, a conduit for the spirit. And by virtue
of that, like everyone else, he was part of the spirit, part of the abstract.
But he didn't know it. The world kept him so busy that he had neither the time
nor the inclination really to examine the matter.
spirit tried, uselessly, to reveal their connection. Using an inner voice, the
spirit disclosed its secrets, but the man was incapable of understanding the
revelations. Naturally, he heard the inner voice, but he believed it to be his
own feelings he was feeling and his own thoughts he was thinking.
spirit, in order to shake him out of his slumber, gave him three signs, three
successive manifestations. The spirit physically crossed the man's path in the
most obvious manner. But the man was oblivious to anything but his
stopped and looked at me as he did whenever he was waiting for my comments and
questions. I had nothing to say. I did not understand the point he was trying
told you the first abstract core," he continued. "The only other
thing I could add is that because of the man's absolute unwillingness to
understand, the spirit was forced to use trickery. And trickery became the
essence of the sorcerers' path. But that is another story."
explained that sorcerers understood this abstract core to be a blueprint for
events, or a recurrent pattern that appeared every time intent was giving an
indication of something meaningful. Abstract cores, then, were blueprints of
complete chains of events.
He assured me
that by means beyond comprehension, every detail of every abstract core
reoccurred to every apprentice nagual. He further assured me that he had helped
intent to involve me in all the abstract cores of sorcery in the same manner
that his benefactor, the nagual Julian and all the naguals before him, had
involved their apprentices. The process by which each apprentice nagual
encountered the abstract cores created a series of accounts woven around those
abstract cores incorporating the particular details of each apprentice's
personality and circumstances.
He said, for
example, that I had my own story about the manifestations of the spirit, he had
his, his benefactor had his own, so had the nagual that preceded him, and so
on, and so forth.
my story about the manifestations of the spirit?" I asked, somewhat
warrior is aware of his stories it's you," he replied. "After all,
you've been writing about them for years. But you didn't notice the abstract
cores because you are a practical man. You do everything only for the purpose
of enhancing your practicality. Although you handled your stories to exhaustion
you had no idea that there was an abstract core in them. Everything I've Done
appears to you, therefore, as an often-whimsical practical activity: teaching
sorcery to a reluctant and, most of the time, stupid, apprentice. As long as
you see it in those terms, the abstract cores will elude you."
forgive me, Don Juan," I said, "but your statements are very
confusing. What are you saying?" "I'm trying to introduce the sorcery
stories as a subject," he replied. "I've never talked to you
specifically about this topic because traditionally it's left hidden. It is the
spirit's last artifice. It is said that when the apprentice understands the
abstract cores it's like the placing of the stone that caps and seals a
It was getting
dark and it looked as though it was about to rain again. I worried that if the
wind blew from east to west while it was raining, we were going to get soaked
in that cave. I was sure Don Juan was aware of that, but he seemed to ignore
rain again until tomorrow morning," he said.
inner thoughts being answered made me jump involuntarily and hit the top of my
head on the cave roof. It was a thud that sounded worse than it felt.
Don Juan held
his sides laughing. After a while my head really began to hurt and I had to
massage it. "Your company is as enjoyable to me as mine must have been to
my benefactor," he said and began to laugh again.
We were quiet
for a few minutes. The silence around me was ominous. I fancied that I could
hear the rustling of the low clouds as they descended on us from the higher
mountains. Then I realized that what I was hearing was the soft wind. From my
position in the shallow cave, it sounded like the whispering of human voices.
"I had the
incredible good luck to be taught by two naguals," Don Juan said and broke
the mesmeric grip the wind had on me at that moment. "One was, of course,
my benefactor, the nagual Julian, and the other was his benefactor, the nagual
Elías. My case was unique."
your case unique?" I asked. "Because for generations naguals have
gathered their apprentices years after their own teachers have left the
world," he explained. "Except my benefactor. I became the nagual
Julian's apprentice eight years before his benefactor left the world. I had
eight years' grace. It was the luckiest thing that could have happened to me,
for I had the opportunity to be taught by two opposite temperaments. It was
like being reared by a powerful father and an even more powerful grandfather
who Don't see eye to eye. In such a contest, the grandfather always wins. So
I'm properly the product of the nagual Elías's teachings. I was closer to
him not only in temperament but also in looks. I'd say that I owe him my fine
tuning. However, the bulk of the work that went into turning me from a miserable
being into an impeccable warrior I owe to my benefactor, the nagual
the nagual Julian like physically?" I
know that to this day it's hard for me to visualize him?" Don Juan said.
"I know that sounds
depending on his needs or the circumstances, he could be either young or old,
handsome or homely, effete and weak or strong and virile, fat or slender, of
medium height or extremely short."
mean he was an actor acting out different roles with the aid of props?"
were no props involved and he was not merely an actor. He was, of course, a
great actor in his own right, but that is different. The point is that he was
capable of transforming himself and becoming all those diametrically opposed
persons. Being a great actor enabled him to portray all the minute
peculiarities of behavior that made each specific being real. Let us say that
he was at ease in every change of being. As you are at ease in every change of
asked Don Juan to tell me more about his benefactor's transformations. He said
that someone taught him how to elicit those transformations, but that to
explain any further would force him to overlap into different stories.
the nagual Julian look like when he wasn't transforming himself?" I asked.
that before he became a nagual he was very slim and muscular," Don Juan
said. "His hair was black, thick, and wavy. He had a long, fine nose,
strong big white teeth, an oval face, strong jaw, and shiny dark-brown eyes. He
was about five feet eight inches tall. He was not Indian or even a brown
Mexican, but he was not Anglo white either. In fact, his complexion seemed to
be like no one else's, especially in his later years when his ever-changing
complexion shifted constantly from dark to very light and back again to dark.
When I first met him he was a light-
brown old man,
then as time went by, he became a light-skinned young man, perhaps only a few
years older than me. I was twenty at that time. "But if the changes of his
outer appearance were
Don Juan went on, "the changes of mood and behavior that accompanied each
transformation were even more astonishing. For example, when he was a fat young
man, he was jolly and sensual. When he was a skinny old man, he was petty and
vindictive. When he was a fat old man, he was the greatest imbecile there
was." "Was he ever himself?" I asked. "Not the way I am
myself," he replied. "Since I'm not interested in transformation I am
always the same. But he was not like me at all."
Don Juan looked
at me as if he were assessing my inner strength. He smiled, shook his head from
side to side and broke into a belly laugh. "What's so funny, Don
Juan?" I asked. "The fact is that you're still too prudish and stiff
to appreciate fully the nature of my benefactor's transformations and their
total scope," he said. "I only hope that when I tell you about them
you Don't become morbidly obsessed."
For some reason
I suddenly became quite uncomfortable and had to change the subject.
the naguals called "benefactors' and not simply teachers?" I asked
nagual a benefactor is a gesture his apprentices make," Don Juan said.
"A nagual creates an overwhelming feeling of gratitude in his disciples.
After all, a nagual molds them and guides them through unimaginable
I remarked that
to teach was in my opinion the greatest, most altruistic act anyone could
teaching is talking about patterns," he said. "For a sorcerer, to
teach is what a nagual does for his apprentices. For them he taps the
prevailing force in the universe: intent—the force that changes and
reorders things or keeps them as they are. The nagual formulates, then guides
the consequences that that force can have on his disciples. Without the
na-gual' s molding intent there would be no awe, no wonder for them. And his
apprentices, instead of embarking on a magical journey of discovery, would only
be learning a trade: healer, sorcerer, diviner, charlatan, or whatever."
explain intent to me?" I asked.
way to know intent," he replied, "is to know it directly through a
living connection that exists between intent and all sentient beings. Sorcerers
call intent the indescribable, the spirit, the abstract, the nagual. I would
prefer to call it nagual, but it overlaps with the name for the leader, the
benefactor, who is also called nagual, so I have opted for calling it the
spirit, intent, the abstract."
stopped abruptly and recommended that I keep quiet and think about what he had
told me. By then it was very dark. The silence was so profound that instead of
lulling me into a restful state, it agitated me. I could not maintain order in
my thoughts. I tried to focus my attention on the story he had told me, but
instead I thought of everything else, until finally I fell asleep.
IMPECCABILITY OF THE NAGUAL ELIAS
I had no way of
telling how long I slept in that cave. Don Juan's voice startled me and I
awoke. He was saying that the first sorcery story concerning the manifestations
of the spirit was an account of the relationship between intent and the nagual.
It was the story of how the spirit set up a lure for the nagual, a prospective
disciple, and of how the nagual had to evaluate the lure before making his
decision either to accept or reject it.
It was very
dark in the cave, and the small space was confining. Ordinarily an area of that
size would have made me claustrophobic, but the cave kept soothing me,
dispelling my feelings of annoyance. Also, something in the configuration of
the cave absorbed the echoes of Don Juan's words.
explained that every act performed by sorcerers, especially by the naguals, was
either performed as a way to strengthen their link with intent or as a response
triggered by the link itself. Sorcerers, and specifically the naguals,
therefore had to be actively and permanently on the lookout for manifestations
of the spirit. Such manifestations were called gestures of the spirit or, more
simply, indications or
He repeated a
story he had already told me; the story of how he had met his benefactor, the
Don Juan had
been cajoled by two crooked men to take a job on an isolated hacienda. One of
the men, the foreman of the hacienda, simply took possession of Don Juan and in
effect made him a slave.
with no other course of action, Don Juan escaped. The violent foreman chased
him and caught him on a country road where he shot Don Juan in the chest and
left him for dead.
Don Juan was
lying unconscious in the road, bleeding to death, when the nagual Julian came
along. Using his healer's knowledge, he stopped the bleeding, took Don Juan,
who was still unconscious, home and cured him.
the spirit gave the nagual Julian about Don Juan were, first, a small cyclone
that lifted a cone of dust on the road a couple of yards from where he lay. The
second omen was the thought which had crossed the nagual Julian's mind an
instant before he had heard the report of the gun a few yards away: that it was
time to have an apprentice nagual. Moments later, the spirit gave him the third
omen, when he ran to take cover and instead collided with the gunman, putting
him to flight, perhaps preventing him from shooting Don Juan a second time. A
collision with someone was the type of blunder which no sorcerer, much less a
nagual, should ever make.
Julian immediately evaluated the opportunity. When he saw Don Juan he
understood the reason for the spirit's manifestation: here was a double man, a
perfect candidate to be his apprentice nagual.
This brought up
a nagging rational concern for me. I wanted to know if sorcerers could
interpret an omen erroneously. Don Juan replied that although my question
sounded perfectly legitimate, it was inapplicable, like the majority of my
questions, because I asked them based on my experiences in the world of
everyday life. Thus they were always about tested procedures, steps to be
followed, and rules of meticulousness, but had nothing to do with the premises
of sorcery. He pointed out that the flaw in my reasoning was that I always
failed to include my experiences in the sorcerers' world.
I argued that
very few of my experiences in the sorcerers' world had continuity, and
therefore I could not make use of those experiences in my present day-to-day
life. Very few times, and only
when I was in
states of profound heightened awareness, had I remembered everything. At the
level of heightened awareness I usually reached, the only experience that
between past and present was that of knowing him.
cuttingly that I was perfectly capable of engaging in sorcerers' reasonings
because I had experienced the sorcery premises in my normal state of awareness.
In a more mellow tone he added that heightened awareness did not reveal
everything until the whole edifice of sorcery knowledge was completed.
answered my question about whether or not sorcerers could misinterpret omens.
He explained that when a sorcerer interpreted an omen he knew its exact meaning
without having any notion of how he knew it. This was one of the bewildering
effects of the connecting link with intent. Sorcerers had a sense of knowing
things directly. How sure they were depended on the strength and clarity of
He said that
the feeling everyone knows as "intuition" is the activation of our
link with intent. And since sorcerers deliberately pursue the understanding and
strengthening of that link, it could be said that they intuit everything
unerringly and accurately. Reading omens is commonplace for
sorcerers—mistakes happen only when personal feelings intervene and cloud
the sorcerers' connecting link with intent. Otherwise their direct knowledge is
totally accurate and functional.
quiet for a while.
All of a sudden
he said, "I am going to tell you a story about the nagual Elías and
the manifestation of the spirit. The spirit manifests itself to a sorcerer,
especially to a nagual, at every turn. However, this is not the entire truth.
The entire truth is that the spirit reveals itself to everyone with the same
intensity and consistency, but only sorcerers, and naguals in particular, are
attuned to such revelations."
Don Juan began
his story. He said that the nagual Elías had been riding his horse to the
city one day, taking him through a shortcut by some cornfields when suddenly
his horse shied, frightened by the low, fast sweep of a falcon that missed the
nagual's straw hat by only a few inches. The nagual immediately dismounted and
began to look around. He saw a strange young man among the tall, dry
cornstalks. The man was dressed in an expensive dark suit and appeared alien
there. The nagual Elías was used to the sight of peasants or landowners
in the fields, but he had never seen an elegantly dressed city man moving
through the fields with apparent disregard for his expensive shoes and clothes.
tethered his horse and walked toward the young man. He recognized the flight of
the falcon, as well as the man's apparel, as obvious manifestations of the
spirit which he could not disregard. He got very close to the young man and saw
what was going on. The man was chasing a peasant woman who was running a few yards
ahead of him, dodging and laughing with him.
contradiction was quite apparent to the nagual. The two people cavorting in the
cornfield did not belong together. The nagual thought that the man must be the
landowner's son and the woman a servant in the house. He felt embarrassed to be
observing them and was about to turn and leave when the falcon again swept over
the cornfield and this time brushed the young man's head. The falcon alarmed
the couple and they stopped and looked up, trying to anticipate another sweep.
The nagual noticed that the man was thin and handsome, and had haunting,
Then the couple
became bored watching for the falcon, and returned to their play. The man
caught the woman, embraced her and gently laid her on the ground. But instead
of trying to make love to her, as
assumed he would do next, he removed his own clothes and paraded naked in front
of the woman. She did not shyly close her eyes or scream with embarrassment or
fright. She giggled, mesmerized by the prancing naked man, who moved around her
like a satyr, making lewd gestures and laughing. Finally, apparently
overpowered by the sight, she uttered a wild cry, rose, and threw herself into
the young man's arms.
Don Juan said that
the nagual He’s confessed to him that the indications of the spirit on that
occasion had been most baffling. It was clearly evident that the man was
insane. Otherwise, knowing how protective peasants were of their women, he
would not have considered seducing a young peasant woman in broad daylight a
few yards from the road—and naked to boot.
Don Juan broke
into a laugh and told me that in those days to take off one's clothes and
engage in a sexual act in broad daylight in such a place meant one had to be
either insane or blessed by the spirit. He added that what the man had Done
might not seem remarkable nowadays. But then, nearly a hundred years ago,
people were infinitely more inhibited.
All of this
convinced the nagual Elías from the moment he laid eyes on the man that
he was both insane and blessed by the spirit. He worried that peasants might
happen by, become enraged and lynch the man on the spot. But no one did. It
felt to the nagual as if time had been suspended.
When the man
finished making love, he put on his clothes, took out a handkerchief,
meticulously dusted his shoes and, all the while making wild promises to the
girl, went on his way. The nagual Elías followed him. In fact, he
followed him for several days and found out that his name was Julian and that
he was an actor.
the nagual saw him on the stage often enough to realize that the actor had a
great deal of charisma. The audience, especially the women, loved him. And he
had no scruples about making use of his charismatic gifts to seduce female
admirers. As the nagual followed the actor, he was able to witness his
seduction technique more than once. It entailed showing himself naked to his
adoring fans as soon as he got them alone, then waiting until the women,
stunned by his display, surrendered. The technique seemed extremely effective
for him. The nagual had to admit that the actor was a great success, except on
one count. He was mortally ill. The nagual had seen the black shadow of death
that followed him everywhere.
explained again something he had told me years before—that our death was
a black spot right behind the left shoulder. He said that sorcerers knew when a
person was close to dying because they could see the dark spot, which became a
moving shadow the exact size and shape of the person to whom it belonged.
recognized the imminent presence of death the nagual was plunged into a numbing
perplexity. He wondered why the spirit was singling out such a sick person. He
had been taught that in a natural state replacement, not repair, prevailed. And
the nagual doubted that he had the ability or the strength to heal this young
man, or resist the black shadow of his death. He even doubted if he would be
able to discover why the spirit had involved him in a display of such obvious
could do nothing but stay with the actor, follow him around, and wait for the
opportunity to see in greater depth. Don Juan explained that a nagual's first
reaction, upon being faced with the manifestations of the spirit, is to see the
persons involved. The nagual Elías had been meticulous about seeing the
man the moment he laid eyes on him. He had also seen the peasant woman who was
part of the spirit's manifestation, but he had seen nothing that, in his
judgment, could have warranted the spirit's display.
In the course
of witnessing another seduction, however, the nagual's ability to see took on a
new depth. This time the actor's adoring fan was the daughter of a rich
landowner. And from the start she was in complete control. The nagual found out
about their rendezvous because he overheard her daring the actor to meet her
the next day. The nagual was hiding across the street at dawn when the young
woman left her house, and instead of going to early mass she went to join the
actor. The actor was waiting for her and she coaxed him into following her to
the open fields. He appeared to hesitate, but she taunted him and would not
allow him to withdraw.
As the nagual
watched them sneaking away, he had an absolute conviction that something was
going to happen on that day which neither of the players was anticipating. He
saw that the actor's black shadow had grown to almost twice his height. The
nagual deduced from the mysterious hard look in the young woman's eyes that she
too had felt the black shadow of death at an intuitive level. The actor seemed
preoccupied. He did not laugh as he had on other occasions.
quite a distance. At one point, they spotted the nagual following them, but he
instantly pretended to be working the land, a peasant who belonged there. That
made the couple relax and allowed the nagual to come closer.
Then the moment
came when the actor tossed off his clothes and showed himself to the girl. But
instead of swooning and falling into his arms as his other conquests had, this
girl began to hit him. She kicked and punched him mercilessly and stepped on
his bare toes, him cry out with pain.
The nagual knew
the man had not threatened or harmed the young woman. He had not laid a finger
on her. She was the only one fighting. He was merely trying to parry the blows,
and persistently, but without enthusiasm, trying to entice her by showing her
The nagual was
filled with both revulsion and admiration. He could perceive that the actor was
an irredeemable libertine, but he could also perceive equally easily that there
was something unique, although revolting, about him. It baffled the nagual to
see that the man's connecting link with the spirit was extraordinarily clear.
attack ended. The woman stopped beating the actor. But then, instead of running
away, she surrendered, lay down and told the actor he could now have his way
observed that the man was so exhausted he was practically unconscious. Yet
despite his fatigue he went right ahead and consummated his seduction. The
nagual was laughing and pondering that useless man's great stamina and
determination when the woman screamed and the actor began to gasp. The nagual
saw how the black shadow struck the actor. It went like a dagger, with pinpoint
accuracy into his gap.
Don Juan made a
digression at this point to elaborate on something he had explained before: he
had described the gap, an opening in our luminous shell at the height of the
navel, where the force of death ceaselessly struck. What Don Juan now explained
was that when death hit healthy beings it was with a ball-like blow—like
the punch of a fist. But when beings were dying, death struck them with a
Thus the nagual
Elías knew without any question that the actor was as good as dead, and
his death automatically finished his own interest in the spirit's designs.
There were no designs left; death had leveled everything.
He rose from
his hiding place and started to leave when something made him hesitate. It was
the young woman's calmness. She was nonchalantly putting on the few pieces of
clothing she had taken off and was whistling tunelessly as if nothing had
And then the
nagual saw that in relaxing to accept the presence of death, the man's body had
released a protecting veil and revealed his true nature. He was a double man of
tremendous resources, capable of creating a screen for protection or
disguise—a natural sorcerer and a perfect candidate for a nagual
apprentice, had it not been for the black shadow of death.
The nagual was
completely taken aback by that sight. He now understood the designs of the
spirit, but failed to comprehend how such a useless man could fit in the
sorcerers' scheme of things.
The woman in
the meantime had stood up and without so much as a glance at the man, whose
body was contorting with death spasms, walked away.
The nagual then
saw her luminosity and realized that her extreme aggressiveness was the result
of an enormous flow of superfluous energy. He became convinced that if she did
not put that energy to sober use, it would get the best of her and there was no
telling what misfortunes it would cause her.
As the nagual
watched the unconcern with which she walked away, he realized that the spirit
had given him another manifestation. He needed to be calm, nonchalant. He
needed to act as if he had nothing to lose and intervene for the hell of it. In
true nagual fashion he decided to tackle the impossible, with no one except the
spirit as witness.
commented that it took incidents like this to test whether a nagual is the real
thing or a fake, make decisions. With no regard for the consequences they take
action or choose not to. Imposters ponder and become paralyzed. The nagual
Elías, having made his decision, walked calmly to the side of the dying
man and did the first thing his body, not his mind, compelled him to do: he
struck the man's assemblage point to cause him to enter into heightened
awareness. He struck him frantically again and again until his assemblage point
moved. Aided by the force of death itself, the nagual's blows sent the man's
assemblage point to a place where death no longer mattered, and there he
By the time the
actor was breathing again, the nagual had become aware of the magnitude of his
responsibility. If the man was to fend off the force of his death, it would be
necessary for him to remain in deep heightened awareness until death had been
repelled. The man's advanced physical deterioration meant he could not be moved
from the spot or he would instantly die. The nagual did the only thing possible
under the circumstances: he built a shack around the body. There, for three
months he nursed the totally immobilized man.
thoughts took over, and instead of just listening; I wanted to know how the
nagual Elías could build a shack on someone else's land. I was aware of
the rural peoples' passion about land ownership and its accompanying feelings
admitted that he had asked the same question himself. And the nagual
Elías had said that the spirit itself had made it possible. This was the
case with everything a nagual undertook, providing he followed the spirit's
The first thing
the nagual Elías did, when the actor was breathing again, was to run
after the young woman. She was an important part of the spirit's manifestation.
He caught up with her not too far from the spot where the actor lay barely
alive. Rather than talking to her about the man's plight and trying to convince
her to help him, he again assumed total responsibility for his actions and
jumped on her tike a lion, striking her assemblage point a mighty blow. Both
she and the actor were capable of sustaining life or death blows. Her
assemblage point moved, but began to shift erratically once it was loose.
carried the young woman to where the actor lay. Then he spent the entire day
trying to keep her from losing her mind and the man from losing his life.
When he was
fairly certain he had a degree of control he went to the woman's father and
told him that lightning must have struck his daughter and made her temporarily
mad. He took the father to where she lay and said that the young man, whoever
he was, had taken the whole charge of the lightning with his body, thus saving
the girl from certain death, but injuring himself to the point that he could
not be moved.
father helped the nagual build the shack for the man who had saved his
daughter. And in three months the nagual accomplished the impossible. He healed
the young man.
When the time
came for the nagual to leave, his sense of responsibility and his duty required
him both to warn the young woman about her excess energy and the injurious
consequences it would have on her life and well being, and to ask her to join
the sorcerers' world, as that would be the only defense against her
The woman did
not respond. And the nagual Elías was obliged to tell her what every
nagual has said to a prospective apprentice throughout the ages: that sorcerers
speak of sorcery as a magical, mysterious bird which has paused in its flight
for a moment in order to give man hope and purpose; that sorcerers live under
the wing of that bird, which they call the bird of wisdom, the bird of freedom;
that they nourish it with their dedication and impeccability. He told her that
sorcerers knew the flight of the bird of freedom was always a straight line,
since it had no way of making a loop, no way of circling back and returning;
and that the bird of freedom could do only two things, take sorcerers along, or
leave them behind.
Elías could not talk to the young actor, who was still mortally ill, in
the same way. The young man did not have much of a choice. Still, the nagual
told him that if he wanted to be cured, he would have to follow the nagual
unconditionally. The actor accepted the terms instantly.
The day the
nagual Elías and the actor started back home, the young woman was waiting
silently at the edge of town. She carried no suitcases, not even a basket. She
seemed to have come merely to see them off. The nagual kept walking without
looking at her, but the actor, being carried on a stretcher, strained to say
goodbye to her. She laughed and wordlessly merged into the nagual's party. She
had no doubts and no problem about leaving everything behind. She had
understood perfectly that there was no second chance for her, that the bird of
freedom either took sorcerers along or left them behind.
commented that that was not surprising. The force of the nagual's personality
was always so overwhelming that he was practically irresistible, and the nagual
Elías had affected those two people deeply. He had had three months of
daily interaction to accustom them to his consistency, his detachment, his
objectivity. They had become enchanted by his sobriety and, above all, by his
total dedication to them. Through his example and his actions, the nagual
Elías had given them a sustained view of the sorcerers' world: supportive
and nurturing, yet utterly demanding. It was a world that admitted very few
reminded me then of something he had repeated to me often but which I had
always managed to think about. He said that I should not forget, even for an
instant, that the bird of freedom had very little patience with indecision, and
when it flew away, t never returned.
resonance of his voice made the surroundings, which only a second before had
been >peacefully dark, burst with immediacy.
summoned the peaceful darkness back as fast as he had summoned urgency. He
punched me lightly on the arm.
was so powerful that she could dance circles around anyone," he said.
"Her name was Talia."
The Knock of
We returned to Don
Juan's house in the early hours of the morning. It took us a long time to climb
down the mountain, mainly because I was afraid of stumbling into a precipice in
the dark, and Don Juan had to keep stopping to catch the breath he lost
laughing at me.
I was dead
tired, but I could not fall asleep. Before noon, it began to rain. The sound of
the heavy downpour on the tile roof, instead of making me feel drowsy, removed
every trace of sleepiness.
I got up and
went to look for Don Juan. I found him dozing in a chair. The moment I
approached him he was wide-awake. I said good morning.
to be having no trouble falling asleep," I commented.
have been afraid or upset, Don't lie down to sleep," he said without
looking at me. "Sleep sitting up on a soft chair as I'm doing."
suggested once that if I wanted to give my body healing rest I should take long
naps, lying on my stomach with my face turned to the left and my feet over the
foot of the bed. In order to avoid being cold, e recommended I put a soft
pillow over my shoulders, away from my neck, and wear heavy socks, or just
leave my shoes on.
When I first
heard his suggestion, I thought he was >being funny, but later changed my
mind. Sleeping in hat position helped me rest extraordinarily well. When I
commented on the surprising results, he advised that I follow his suggestions
to the letter without bothering to believe or disbelieve him.
I suggested to Don
Juan that he might have told me the night before about the sleeping in a
sitting position. 1 explained to him that the cause of my sleeplessness,
besides my extreme fatigue, was a strange concern about what he had told me in
the sorcerer's cave.
out!" he exclaimed. "You've seen and heard infinitely more
distressing things without losing a moment's sleep. Something else is bothering
For a moment I
thought he meant I was not being truthful with him about my real preoccupation.
I began to explain, but he kept talking as if I had not spoken.
stated categorically last night that the cave didn't make you feel ill at
ease," he said. "Well, it obviously did. Last night I didn't pursue
the subject of the cave any further because I was waiting to observe your
explained that the cave had been designed by sorcerers in ancient times to
serve as a catalyst. Its shape had been carefully constructed to accommodate
two people as two fields of energy. The theory of the sorcerers was that the
nature of the rock and the manner in which it had been carved allowed the two
bodies, the two luminous balls, to intertwine their energy.
you to that cave on purpose," he continued, "not because I like the
place—I Don't—but because it was created as an instrument to push
the apprentice deep into heightened awareness. But unfortunately, as it helps,
it also obscures issues. The ancient sorcerers were not given to thought. They
leaned toward action.'
always say that your benefactor was like that," I said.
own exaggeration," he answered, "very much like when I say you're a
fool. My benefactor was a modern nagual, involved in the pursuit of freedom,
but he leaned toward action instead of thoughts. You're a modern nagual,
involved in the same quest, but you lean heavily toward the aberrations of
He must have
thought his comparison was very funny; his laughter echoed in the empty room.
When I brought
the conversation back to the subject of the cave, he pretended not to hear me.
I knew he was pretending because of the glint in his eyes and the way he
night, I deliberately told you the first abstract core," he said, "in
the hope that by reflecting on the way I have acted with you over the years
you'll get an idea about the other cores. You've been with me for a long time
so you know me very well. During every minute of our association I have tried
to adjust my actions and thoughts to the patterns of the abstract cores.
nagual Elías’s story is another matter. Although it seems to be a story
about people, it is really a story about intent. Intent creates edifices before
us and invites us to enter them. This is the way sorcerers understand what is
happening around them."
reminded me that I had always insisted on trying to discover the underlying
order in everything he said to me. I thought he was criticizing me for my
attempt to turn whatever he was teaching me into a social science problem. I began
to tell him that my outlook had changed under his influence. He stopped me and
really Don't think too well," he said and sighed. "I want you to
understand the underlying order of what I teach you. My objection is to what
you think is the underlying order. To you, it means secret procedures or a
hidden consistency. To me, it means two things: both the edifice that intent
manufactures in the blink of an eye and places in front of us to enter, and the
signs it gives us so we won't get lost once we are inside.
can see, the story of the nagual Elías was more than merely an account of
the sequential details that made up the event," he went on.
"Underneath all that was the edifice of intent. And the story was meant to
give you an idea of what the naguals of the past were like, so that you would
recognize how they acted in order to adjust their thoughts and actions to the
edifices of intent."
There was a
prolonged silence. I did not have anything to say. Rather than let the
conversation die, I said the first thing that came into my mind. I said that
from the stories I had heard about the nagual Elías I had formed a very
positive opinion of him. I liked the nagual Elías, but for unknown
reasons, everything Don Juan had told me about the nagual Julian bothered me.
mention of my discomfort delighted Don Juan beyond measure. He had to stand up
from his chair lest he choke on his laughter. He put his arm on my shoulder and
said that we either loved or hated those who were reflections of ourselves.
Again a silly
self-consciousness prevented me from asking him what he meant. Don Juan kept on
laughing, obviously aware of my mood. He finally commented that the nagual
Julian was like a child whose sobriety and moderation came always from without.
He had no inner discipline beyond his training as an apprentice in sorcery.
I had an irrational
urge to defend myself. I told Don Juan that my discipline came from within me.
course," he said patronizingly. "You just can't expect to be exactly
like him." And began to laugh again.
Juan exasperated me so that I was ready to yell. But my mood did not last. It
dissipated so rapidly that another concern began to loom. I asked Don Juan if
it was possible that I had entered into heightened awareness without being
conscious of it? Or maybe I had remained in it for days?
stage you enter into heightened awareness all by yourself," he said.
"Heightened awareness is a mystery only for our reason. In practice, it's
very simple. As with everything else, we complicate matters by trying to make
the immensity that surrounds us reasonable."
that I should be thinking about the abstract core he had given me instead of
arguing uselessly about my person.
I told him that
I had been thinking about it all morning and had come to realize that the
metaphorical theme of the story was the manifestations of the spirit. What I
could not discern, however, was the abstract core he was talking about. It had
to be something unstated.
repeat," he said, as if he were a schoolteacher drilling his students,
"the Manifestations of the Spirit is the name for the first abstract core
in the sorcery stories. Obviously, what sorcerers recognize as an abstract core
is something that bypasses you at this moment. That part which escapes you
sorcerers know as the edifice of intent, or the silent voice of the spirit, or
the ulterior arrangement of the abstract."
I said I
understood ulterior to mean something not overtly revealed, as in
"ulterior motive." And he replied that in this case ulterior meant
more; it meant knowledge without words, outside our immediate
comprehension—especially mine. He allowed that the comprehension he was
referring to was merely beyond my aptitudes of the moment, not beyond my
ultimate possibilities for understanding.
abstract cores are beyond my comprehension what's the point of talking about
them?" I asked. "The rule says that the abstract cores and the
sorcery stories must be told at this point," he replied. "And some
day the ulterior arrangement of the abstract, which is knowledge without words
or the edifice of intent inherent in the stories, will be revealed to you by
the stories themselves." I still did not understand.
ulterior arrangement of the abstract is not merely the order in which the
abstract cores were presented to you," he explained, "or what they have
in common either, nor even the web that joins them. Rather it's to know the
abstract directly, without the intervention of language."
me in silence from head to toe with the obvious purpose of seeing me.
"It's not evident to you yet," he declared. He made a gesture of
impatience, even short temper, as though he were annoyed at my slowness. And
that worried me. Don Juan was not given to expressions of psychological
nothing to do with you or your actions," he said when I asked if he was
angry or disappointed with me. "It was a thought that crossed my mind the
mo-There is a feature in your luminous being that the old sorcerers would have
given anything to have."
what it is," I demanded.
remind you of this some other time," he said. "Meanwhile, let's
continue with the element that propels us: the abstract. The element without
which there could be no warrior's path, nor any warriors in search of
He said that
the difficulties I was experiencing were nothing new to him. He himself had
gone through agonies in order to understand the ulterior order of the abstract.
And had it not been for the helping hand of the nagual Elías, he would
have wound up just like his benefactor, all action and very little understanding.
the nagual Elías like?" I asked, to change the subject.
not like his disciple at all," Don Juan said. "He was an Indian. Very
dark and massive. He had rough features, big mouth, strong nose, small black
eyes, thick black hair with no gray in it. He was shorter than the nagual
Julian and had big hands and feet. He was very humble and very wise, but he had
no flare. Compared with my benefactor, he was dull. Always all by himself,
pondering questions. The nagual Julian used to joke that his teacher imparted
wisdom by the ton. Behind his back he used to call him the nagual Tonnage.
saw the reason for his jokes," Don Juan went on. "To me the nagual
Elías was like a breath of fresh air. He would patiently explain everything
to me. Very much as I explain things to you, but perhaps with a bit more of
something. I wouldn't call it compassion, but rather, empathy. Warriors are
incapable of feeling compassion because they no longer feel sorry for
themselves. Without the driving force of self-pity, compassion is
saying, Don Juan, that a warrior is all for himself?"
"In a way,
yes. For a warrior everything begins and ends with himself. However, his
contact with the abstract causes him to overcome his feeling of
self-importance. Then the self becomes abstract and impersonal.
nagual Elías felt that our lives and our personalities were quite
similar," Don Juan continued. "For this reason, he felt obliged to
help me. I Don't feel that similarity with you, so I suppose I regard you very
much the way the nagual Julian used to regard me."
Don Juan said
that the nagual Elías took him under his wing from the very first day he
arrived at his benefactor's house to start his apprenticeship and began to
explain what was taking place in his training, regardless of whether Don Juan
was capable of understanding. His urge to help Don Juan was so intense that he
practically held him prisoner. He protected him in this manner from the nagual
Julian's harsh onslaughts.
beginning, I used to stay at the nagual Elías's house all the time,"
Don Juan continued. "And I loved it. In my benefactor's house I was always
on the lookout, on guard, afraid of what he was going to do to me next. But in
the nagual Elías's home I felt confident, at ease.
benefactor used to press me mercilessly. And I couldn't figure out why he was
pressuring me so hard. I thought that the man was plain crazy."
Don Juan said
that the nagual Elías was an Indian from the state of Oaxaca, who had
been taught by another nagual named Rosendo, who came from the same area. Don
Juan described the nagual Elías as being a very conservative man who
cherished his privacy. And yet he was a famous healer and sorcerer, not only in
Oaxaca, but in all of southern Mexico.
spite of his occupation and notoriety, he lived in complete isolation at the
opposite end of the country, in northern Mexico.
stopped talking. Raising his eyebrows, he fixed me with a questioning look. But
all I wanted was for him to continue his story.
single time I think you should ask questions, you Don't," he said.
"I'm sure you heard me say that the nagual Elías was a famous
sorcerer who dealt with people daily in southern Mexico, and at the same time
he was a hermit in northern Mexico. Doesn't that arouse your curiosity?"
abysmally stupid. I told him that the thought had crossed my mind, as he was
telling me those facts, that the man must have had terrible difficulty
laughed, and, since he had made me aware of the question, I asked how it had
been possible for the nagual Elías to be in two places at once.
is a sorcerer's jet plane," he said. "The nagual Elías was a
dreamer as my benefactor was a stalker. He was able to create and project what
sorcerers know as the dreaming body, or the Other, and to be in two distant
places at the same time. With his dreaming body, he could carry on his business
as a sorcerer, and with his natural self be a recluse."
I remarked that
it amazed me that I could accept so easily the premise that the nagual
Elías had the ability to project a solid three-dimensional image of
himself, and yet could not for the life of me understand the explanations about
the abstract cores.
Don Juan said
that I could accept the idea of the nagual Elías's dual life because the
spirit was making final adjustments in my capacity for awareness. And I
exploded into a barrage of protests at the obscurity of his statement.
obscure," he said. "It's a statement of fact.
You could say
that it's an incomprehensible fact for he moment, but the moment will
Before I could
reply, he began to talk again about he nagual Elías. He said that the
nagual Elías had a very inquisitive mind and could work well with his
lands. In his journeys as a dreamer he saw many objects, which he copied in
wood and forged iron. Don Juan assured me that some of those models were of a
haunting, excite beauty. "What kind of objects were the originals?" I
asked. "There's no way of knowing," Don Juan said. "You've got
to consider that because he was an Indian the nagual Elías went into his
dreaming journeys the way a wild animal prowls for food. An animal never shows
up at a site when there are signs of activity. He comes only when no one is
around. The nagual Elías, as a solitary dreamer, visited, let's say, the
junkyard of infinity, when no one was around and copied whatever he saw, but
never knew what those things were used for, or their source."
Again, I had no
trouble accepting what he was saying. The' idea did not appear to me farfetched
in any way. I was about to comment when he interrupted me with a gesture of his
eyebrows. He then continued his account about the nagual Elías.
him was for me the ultimate treat," he said, "and simultaneously, a
source of strange guilt. I used to get bored to death there. Not because the
nagual Elías was boring, but because the nagual Julian had no peers and
he spoiled anyone for life."
thought you were confident and at ease in the nagual Elías's house,"
and that was the source of my guilt and my imagined problem. Like you, I loved
to torment myself. I think at the very beginning I found peace in the nagual
Elías's company, but later on, when I understood the nagual Julian
better, I went his way."
He told me that
the nagual Elías's house had an open, roofed section in the front, where
he had a forge and a carpentry bench and tools. The tiled-roof adobe house
consisted of a huge room with a dirt floor where he lived with five women
seers, who were actually his wives. There were also four men, sorcerer-seers of
his party who lived in small houses around the nagual's house. They were all
Indians from different parts of the country who had migrated to northern
nagual Elías had great respect for sexual energy," Don Juan said.
"He believed it has been given to us so we can use it in dreaming. He
believed dreaming had fallen into disuse because it can upset the precarious
mental balance of susceptible people.
taught you dreaming the same way he taught me," he continued. "He
taught me that while we dream the assemblage point moves very gently and
naturally. Mental balance is nothing but the fixing of the assemblage point on
one spot we're accustomed to. If dreams make that point move, and dreaming is
used to control that natural movement, and sexual energy is needed for
dreaming, the result is sometimes disastrous when sexual energy is dissipated
in sex instead of dreaming. Then dreamers move their assemblage point
erratically and lose their minds."
you trying to tell me, Don Juan?" I asked because I felt that the subject
of dreaming had not been a natural drift in the conversation.
"You are a
dreamer," he said. "If you're not careful with your sexual energy,
you might as well get used to the idea of erratic shifts of your assemblage
point. A moment ago you were bewildered by your reactions. Well, your
assemblage point moves almost erratically, because your sexual energy is not in
I made a stupid
and inappropriate comment about the sex life of adult males.
sexual energy is what governs dreaming," he explained. "The nagual
Elías taught me—and I taught you—that you either make love
with your sexual energy or you dream with it. There is no other way. The reason
I mention it at all is because you are having great difficulty shifting your
assemblage point to grasp our last topic: the abstract.
thing happened to me," Don Juan went on. "It was only when my sexual
energy was freed from the world that everything fit into place. That is the
rule for dreamers. Stalkers are the
benefactor was, you could say, a sexual libertine both as an average man and as
Don Juan seemed
to be on the verge of revealing his benefactor's doings, but he obviously
changed his mind. He shook his head and said that I was way too stiff for such
revelations. I did not insist.
He said that
the nagual Elías had the sobriety that only dreamers acquired after
inconceivable battles with themselves. He used his sobriety to plunge himself
into the task of answering Don Juan's questions.
nagual Elías explained that my difficulty in understanding the spirit was
the same as his own," Don Juan continued. "He thought there were two
different issues. One, the need to understand indirectly what the spirit is,
and the other, to understand the spirit directly.
having problems with the first. Once you understand what the spirit is, the
second issue will be resolved automatically, and vice versa. If the spirit
speaks to you, using its silent words, you will certainly know immediately what
the spirit is."
He said that
the nagual Elías believed that the difficulty was our reluctance to
accept the idea that knowledge could exist without words to explain it.
have no difficulty accepting that," I said.
this proposition is not as easy as saying you accept it," Don Juan said.
"The nagual Elías used to tell me that the whole of humanity has
moved away from the abstract, although at one time we must have been close to
it. It must have been our sustaining force. And then something happened and
pulled us away from the abstract. Now we can't get back to it. He used to say
that it takes years for an apprentice to be able to go back to the abstract,
that is, to know that knowledge and language can exist independent of each
repeated that the crux of our difficulty in going back to the abstract was our
refusal to accept that we could know without words or even without thoughts.
I was going to
argue that he was talking nonsense when I got the strong feeling I was missing
something and that his point was of crucial importance to me. He was really
trying to tell me something, something I either could not grasp or which could
not be told completely.
and language are separate," he repeated softly.
And I was just
about to say, "I know it," as if indeed I knew it, when I caught
you there is no way to talk about the spirit," he continued, "because
the spirit can only be experienced. Sorcerers try to explain this condition
when they say that the spirit is nothing you can see or feel. But it's there
looming over us always. Sometimes it comes to some of us. Most of the time it
I kept quiet.
And he continued to explain. He said that the spirit in many ways was a sort of
wild animal. It kept its distance from us until a moment when something enticed
it forward. It was then that the spirit manifested itself.
I raised the
point that if the spirit wasn't an entity, or a presence, and had no essence,
how could anyone notice it?
problem," he said, "is that you consider only your own idea of what's
abstract. For instance, the inner essence of man, or the fundamental principle,
are abstracts for you. Or perhaps something a bit less vague, such as
character, volition, courage, dignity, honor. The spirit, of course, can be
described in terms of all of these. And that's what's so confusing —that
it's all these and none of them."
He added that
what I considered abstractions were either the opposites of all the practicalities
I could think of or things I had decided did not have concrete existence.
for a sorcerer an abstract is something with no parallel in the human
condition," he said.
they're the same thing," I shouted. "Don't you see that we're both
talking about the same thing?"
not," he insisted. "For a sorcerer, the spirit is an abstract simply
because he knows it without words or even thoughts. It's an abstract because he
can't conceive what the spirit is. Yet without the slightest chance or desire
to understand it, a sorcerer handles the spirit. He recognizes it, beckons it,
entices it, becomes familiar with it, and expresses it with his acts." I
shook my head in despair. I could not see the difference.
of your misconception is that I have used the term 'abstract' to describe the
spirit," he said. "For you, abstracts are words which describe states
of intuition. An example is the word 'spirit,' which doesn't describe reason or
pragmatic experience, and which, of course, is of no use to you other than to
tickle your fancy.''
I was furious
with Don Juan. I called him obstinate and he laughed at me. He suggested that
if I would think about the proposition that knowledge might be independent of
language, without bothering to understand it, perhaps I could see the light.
this," he said. "It was not the act of meeting me that mattered to
you. The day I met you, you met the abstract. But since you couldn't talk about
it, you didn't notice it. Sorcerers meet the abstract without thinking about it
or seeing it or touching it or feeling its presence."
quiet because I did not enjoy arguing with him. At times I considered him to be
quite willfully abstruse. But Don Juan seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.
SEDUCTION OF THE NAGUAL JULIAN
It was as cool
and quiet in the patio of Don Juan's house as in the cloister of a convent.
There were a number of large fruit trees planted extremely close together,
which seemed to regulate the temperature and absorb all noises. When I first
came to his house, I had made critical remarks about the illogical way the
fruit trees had been planted. I would have given them more space. His answer
was that those trees were not his property, they were free and independent warrior
trees that had joined his party of warriors, and that my comments—which
applied to regular trees— were not relevant.
sounded metaphorical to me. What I didn’t know then was that Don Juan meant
everything he said literally.
Don Juan and I
were sitting in cane armchairs facing e fruit trees now. The trees were all
bearing fruit. I commented that it was not only a beautiful sight but an
extremely intriguing one, for it was not the fruit season.
an interesting story about it," he admit-:d. "As you know, these
trees are warriors of my arty. They are bearing now because all the members f
my party have been talking and expressing feelings bout our definitive journey,
here in front of them, aid the trees know now that when we embark on our definitive
journey, they will accompany us."
I looked at
leave them behind," he explained. "They re warriors too. They have
thrown their lot in with he nagual's party. And they know how I feel about hem.
The assemblage point of trees is located very low in their enormous luminous
shell, and that permits hem to know our feelings, for instance, the feelings we
are having now as we discuss my definitive journey."
quiet, for I did not want to dwell on the subject. Don Juan spoke and dispelled
second abstract core of the sorcery stories is called the Knock of the
Spirit," he said. "The first core, the Manifestations of the Spirit,
is the edifice that intent builds and places before a sorcerer, then invites
him to enter. It is the edifice of intent seen by a sorcerer. The Knock of the
Spirit is the same edifice seen by the beginner who is invited—or rather
second abstract core could be a story in itself. The story says that after the
spirit had manifested itself to that man we have talked about and had gotten no
response. the spirit laid a trap for the man. It was a final subterfuge, not
because the man was special, but because the incomprehensible chain of events
of the spirit made that man available at the very moment that the spirit
knocked on the door.
without saying that whatever the spirit revealed to that man made no sense to
him. In fact, it went against everything the man knew, everything he was. The
man, of course, refused on the spot, and in no uncertain terms, to have
anything to do with the spirit. He wasn't going to fall for such preposterous
nonsense. He knew better. The result was a total stalemate.
"I can say
that this is an idiotic story," he continued. "I can say that what
I've given you is the pacifier for those who are uncomfortable with the silence
of the abstract."
He peered at me
for a moment and then smiled.
words," he said accusingly. "The mere idea of silent knowledge scares
you. But stories, no matter how stupid, delight you and make you feel
His smile was
so mischievous that I couldn't help laughing.
reminded me that I had already heard his detailed account of the first time the
spirit had knocked on his door. For a moment I could not figure out what he was
not just my benefactor who stumbled upon me as I was dying from the
gunshot," he explained. "The spirit also found me and knocked on my
door that day. My benefactor understood that he was there to be a conduit for
the spirit. Without the spirit's intervention, meeting my benefactor would have
He said that a
nagual can be a conduit only after the spirit has manifested its willingness to
be used—either almost imperceptibly or with outright commands. It was
therefore not possible for a nagual to choose his apprentices according to his
own volition, or his own calculations. But once the willingness of the spirit
was revealed through omens, the nagual spared no effort to satisfy it.
lifetime of practice," he continued, "sorcerers, naguals in
particular, know if the spirit is inviting them to enter the edifice being
flaunted before them. They have learned to discipline their connecting links to
intent. So they are always forewarned, always know what the spirit has in store
Don Juan said
that progress along the sorcerers' path was, in general, a drastic process the
purpose of which was to bring this connecting link to order. The average man's
connecting link with intent is practically dead, and sorcerers begin with a
link that is useless, because it does not respond voluntarily.
that in order to revive that link sorcerers needed a rigorous, fierce
purpose—a special state of mind called unbending intent. Accepting that
the nagual was the only being capable of supplying unbending intent was the
most difficult part of the sorcerer's apprenticeship. I argued that I could not
see the difficulty. "An apprentice is someone who is striving to clear and
revive his connecting link with the
spirit," he explained. "Once the link is revived, he is no longer an
apprentice, but until that time, in order to keep going he needs a fierce
purpose, which, of course, he doesn't have. So he allows the nagual to provide
the purpose and to do that he has to relinquish his individuality. That's the
He reminded me
of something he had told me often: that volunteers were not welcome in the
sorcerers' world, because they already had a purpose of their own, which made
it particularly hard for them to relinquish their individuality. If the
sorcerers' world demanded ideas and actions contrary to the volunteers'
purpose, the volunteers simply refused to change.
an apprentice's link is a nagual's most challenging and intriguing work," Don
Juan continued, "and one of his biggest headaches too. Depending, of
course, on the apprentice's personality, the designs of the spirit are either
sublimely simple or the most complex labyrinths."
assured me that, although I might have had notions to the contrary, my
apprenticeship had not been as onerous to him as his must have been to his
benefactor. He admitted that I had a modicum of self-discipline that came in
very handy, while he had had none whatever. And his benefactor, in turn, had
had even less.
difference is discernible in the manifestations of the spirit," he
continued. "In some cases, they are barely noticeable; in my case, they
were commands. I had been shot. Blood was pouring out of a hole in my chest. My
benefactor had to act with speed and sureness, just as his own benefactor had
for him. Sorcerers know that the more difficult the command is, the more
difficult the disciple turns out to be."
explained that one of the most advantageous aspects of his association with two
naguals was that he could hear the same stories from two opposite points of
view. For instance, the story about the nagual Elías and the
manifestations of the spirit, from the apprentice's perspective, was the story
of the spirit's difficult knock on his benefactor's door.
connected with my benefactor was very difficult," he said and began to
laugh. "When he was twenty-four years old, the spirit didn't just knock on
his door, it nearly banged it down."
He said that
the story had really begun years earlier, when his benefactor had been a
handsome adolescent from a good family in Mexico City. He was wealthy,
educated, charming, and had a charismatic personality. Women fell in love with him
at first sight. But he was already self- indulgent and undisciplined, lazy
about anything that did not give him immediate gratification.
Don Juan said
that with that personality and his type of upbringing—he was the only son
of a wealthy widow who, together with his four adoring sisters, doted on
him—^he could only behave one way. He indulged in every impropriety he
could think of. Even among his equally self- indulgent friends, he was seen as
a moral delinquent who lived to do anything that the world considered morally
In the long
run, his excesses weakened him physically and he fell mortally ill with
tuberculosis— the dreaded disease of the time. But his illness, instead
of restraining him, created a physical condition in which he felt more sensual
than ever. Since he did not have one iota of self-control, he gave himself over
fully to debauchery, and his health deteriorated until there was no hope.
The saying that
it never rains but it pours was certainly true for Don Juan's benefactor then.
As his health declined, his mother, who was his only source of support and the
only restraint on him, died. She left him a sizable inheritance, which should
have supported him adequately for life, but undisciplined as he was, in a few
months he had spent every cent. With no profession or trade to fall back on, he
was left to scrounge for a living.
he no longer had friends; and even the women who once loved him turned their
backs. For the first time in his life, he found himself confronting a harsh
reality. Considering the state of his health, it should have been the end. But
he was resilient. He decided to work for a living. His sensual habits, however,
could not be changed, and they forced him to seek work in the only place he
felt comfortable: the theater. His qualifications were that he was a born ham
and had spent most of his adult life in the company of actresses. He joined a
theatrical troupe in the provinces, away from his familiar circle of friends
and acquaintances, and became a very intense actor, the consumptive hero in
religious and morality plays.
commented on the strange irony that had always marked his benefactor's life.
There he was, a perfect reprobate, dying as a result of his dissolute ways and
playing the roles of saints and mystics. He even played Jesus in the Passion
Play during Holy Week.
lasted through one theatrical tour of the northern states. Then two things
happened in the city of Durango: his life came to an end and the spirit knocked
on his door.
Both his death
and the spirit's knock came at the same time—in broad daylight in the
bushes. His death caught him in the act of seducing a young woman. He was
already extremely weak, and that day he overexerted himself. The young woman,
who was vivacious and strong and madly infatuated, had by promising to make
love induced him to walk to a secluded spot miles from nowhere. And there she
had fought him off for hours. When she finally submitted, he was completely
worn out, and coughing so badly that he could hardly breath.
During his last
passionate outburst he felt a searing pain in his shoulder. His chest felt as
if it were being ripped apart and a coughing spell made him retch
uncontrollably. But his compulsion to seek pleasure kept him going until his
death came in the form of a hemorrhage. It was then that the spirit made its
entry, borne by an Indian who came to his aid. Earlier he had noticed the
Indian following them around, but had not given him a second thought, absorbed
as he was in the seduction.
He saw, as in a
dream, the girl. She was not scared nor did she lose her composure. Quietly and
efficiently she put her clothes back on and took off as fast as a rabbit chased
He also saw the
Indian rushing to him trying to make him sit up. He heard him saying idiotic
things. He heard him pledging himself to the spirit and mumbling
incomprehensible words in a foreign language. Then the Indian acted very
quickly. Standing behind him, he gave him a smacking blow on the back.
rationally, the dying man deduced that the Indian was trying either to dislodge
the blood clot or to kill him.
As the Indian
struck him repeatedly on the back, the dying man became convinced that the
Indian was the woman's lover or husband and was murdering him. But seeing the
intensely brilliant eyes of that Indian, he changed his mind. He knew that the
Indian was simply crazy and was not connected with the woman. With his last bit
of consciousness, he focused his attention on the man's mumblings. What he was
saying was that the power of man was incalculable, that death existed only
because we had intended it since the moment of our birth, that the intent of
death could be suspended by making the assemblage point change positions.
He then knew
that the Indian was totally insane. His situation was so theatrical—dying
at the hands of a crazy Indian mumbling gibberish—that he vowed he would
be a ham actor to the bitter end, and he promised himself not to die of either
the hemorrhaging or the blows, but to die of laughter. And he laughed until he
remarked that naturally his benefactor could not possibly have taken the Indian
seriously. No one could take such a person seriously, especially not a
prospective apprentice who was not supposed to be volunteering for the sorcery
Don Juan then
said that he had given me different versions of what that sorcery task
consisted. He said it would not be presumptuous of him to disclose that, from
the spirit's point of view, the task consisted of clearing our connecting link
with it. The edifice that intent flaunts before us is, then, a clearinghouse,
within which we find not so much the procedures to clear our connecting link as
the silent knowledge that allows the clearing process to take place. Without
that silent knowledge no process could work, and all we would have would be an
indefinite sense of needing something.
that the events unleashed by sorcerers as a result of silent knowledge were so
simple and yet so abstract that sorcerers had decided long ago to speak of
those events only in symbolic terms. The manifestations and the knock of the
spirit were examples.
Don Juan said
that, for instance, a description of what took place during the initial meeting
between a nagual and a prospective apprentice from the sorcerers' point of
view, would be absolutely incomprehensible. It would be nonsense to explain
that the nagual, by virtue of his lifelong experience, was focusing something
we couldn't imagine, his second attention —the increased awareness gained
through sorcery training—on his invisible connection with some
indefinable abstract. He was doing this to emphasize and clarify someone else's
invisible connection with that indefinable abstract.
that each of us was barred from silent knowledge by natural barriers, specific
to each individual; and that the most impregnable of my barriers was the drive
to disguise my complacency as independence.
him to give me a concrete example. I reminded him that he had once warned me
that a favorite debating ploy was to raise general criticisms that could not be
supported by concrete examples. Don Juan looked at me and beamed. "In the
past, I used to give you power plants," he said. "At first, you went
to extremes to convince yourself that what you were experiencing were
hallucinations. Then you wanted them to be special hallucinations. I remember I
made fun of your insistence on calling them didactic hallucinatory
He said that my
need to prove my illusory independence forced me into a position where I could
not accept what he had told me was happening, although it was what I silently
knew for myself. I knew he was employing power plants, as the very limited
tools they were, to make me enter partial or temporary states of heightened
awareness by moving my assemblage point away from its habitual location.
your barrier of independence to get you over that obstruction," he went on.
"The same barrier has continued to work to this day, so you still retain
that sense of indefinite anguish, perhaps not so pronounced. Now the question
is, how are you arranging your conclusions so that your current experiences fit
into your scheme of complacency?"
that the only way I could maintain my independence was not to think about my
experiences at all.
hearty laugh nearly made him fall out of his cane chair. He stood and walked
around to catch his breath. He sat down again and composed himself. He pushed
his chair back and crossed his legs. He said that we, as average men did not
know, nor would we ever know, that it was something utterly real and
functional—our connecting link with intent— which gave us our hereditary
preoccupation with fate. He asserted that during our active lives we never have
the chance to go beyond the level of mere preoccupation, because since time
immemorial the lull of daily affairs has made us drowsy. It is only when our
lives are nearly over that our hereditary preoccupation with fate begins to
take on a different character. It begins to make us see through the fog of
daily affairs. Unfortunately, this awakening always comes hand in hand with
loss of energy caused by aging, when we have no more strength left to turn our
preoccupation into a pragmatic and positive discovery. At this point, all there
is left is an amorphous, piercing anguish, a longing for something
indescribable, and simple anger at having missed out.
poems for many reasons," he said. "One reason is that they catch the
mood of warriors and explain what can hardly be explained."
that poets were keenly aware of our connecting link with the spirit, but that
they were aware of it intuitively, not in the deliberate, pragmatic way of
have no firsthand knowledge of the spirit," he went on. "That is why
their poems cannot really hit the center of true gestures for the spirit. They
hit pretty close to it, though."
He picked up
one of my poetry books from a chair next to him, a collection by Juan Ramon
Jimenez. He opened it to where he had placed a marker, handed it to me and
signaled me to read.
Is it I who
walks tonight in my room or is it the beggar who was prowling in my garden at
I look around
and find that
is the same and
it is not the same . . .
Was the window
Had I not
already fallen asleep?
Was not the
garden pale green? . . .
The sky was
clear and blue . . .
And there are
and it is windy
and the garden
is dark and gloomy.
I think that my
hair was black . . .
I was dressed
in grey . . .
And my hair is
and I am
wearing black . . .
Is this my
voice, which now resounds in me,
rhythms of the voice I used to have?
Am I myself or
am I the beggar
prowling in my garden
I look around .
clouds and it is windy . . .
The garden is
dark and gloomy . . .
I come and go
... Is it not true that I had already fallen asleep? My hair is grey . . . And
everything is the same and it is not the same . . .
I reread the
poem to myself and I caught the poet's mood of impotence and bewilderment. I
asked Don Juan if he felt the same.
the poet senses the pressure of aging and the anxiety that that realization
produces," Don Juan said. "But that is only one part of it. The other
part, which interests me, is that the poet, although he never moves his
assemblage point, intuits that something extraordinary is at stake. He intuits
with great certainty that there is some unnamed factor, awesome because of its
simplicity, that is determining our fate."
The Trickery of
LINK WITH THE SPIRIT
The sun had not
yet risen from behind the eastern peaks, but the day was already hot. As we reached
the first steep slope, a couple of miles along the road from the outskirts of
town, Don Juan stopped walking and moved to the side of the paved highway. He
sat down by some huge boulders that had been dynamited from the face of the
mountain when they cut the road and signaled me to join him. We usually stopped
there to talk or rest on our way to the nearby mountains. Don Juan announced
that this trip was going to be long and that we might be in the mountains for
going to talk now about the third abstract core," Don Juan said. "It
is called the trickery of the spirit, or the trickery of the abstract, or
stalking oneself, or dusting the link."
I was surprised
at the variety of names, but said nothing. I waited for him to continue his explanation.
again, as with the first and second core," he went on, "it could be a
story in itself. The story says that after knocking on the door of that man
we've been talking about, and having no success with him, the spirit used the
only means available: trickery. After all, the spirit had resolved previous
impasses with trickery. It was obvious that if it wanted to make an impact on
this man it had to cajole him. So the spirit began to instruct the man on the
mysteries of sorcery. And the sorcery apprenticeship became what it is: a route
of artifice and subterfuge.
says that the spirit cajoled the man by making him shift back and forth between
levels of awareness to show him how to save energy needed to strengthen his
Don Juan told
me that if we apply his story to a modern setting we had the case of the
nagual, the living conduit of the spirit, repeating the structure of this
abstract core and resorting to artifice and subterfuge in order to teach.
stood and started to walk toward the mountain range. I followed him and we
started our climb, side by side.
In the very
late afternoon we reached the top of the high mountains. Even at that altitude
it was still very warm. All day we had followed a nearly invisible trail.
Finally we reached a small clearing, an ancient lookout post commanding the
north and west.
We sat there
and Don Juan returned our conversation to the sorcery stories. He said that now
I knew the story of intent manifesting itself to the nagual Elías and the
story of the spirit knocking on the nagual Julian's door. And I knew how he had
met the spirit, and I certainly could not forget how I had met it. All these
stories, he declared, had the same structure; only the characters differed.
Each story was an abstract tragicomedy with one abstract player, intent, and
two human actors, the nagual and his apprentice. The script was the abstract
I thought I had
finally understood what he meant, but I could not quite explain even to myself
what it was I understood, nor could I explain it to Don Juan. When I tried to
put my thoughts into words I found myself babbling.
Don Juan seemed
to recognize my state of mind. He suggested that I relax and listen. He told me
his next story was about the process of bringing an apprentice into the realm
of the spirit, a process sorcerers called the trickery of the spirit, or
dusting the connecting link to intent.
already told you the story of how the nagual Julian took me to his house after
I was shot and tended my wound until I recovered," Don Juan continued.
"But I didn't tell you how he dusted my link, how he taught me to stalk
thing a nagual does with his prospective apprentice is to trick him. That is,
he gives him a jolt on his connecting link to the spirit. There are two ways of
doing this. One is through semi-normal channels, which I used with you, and the
other is by means of outright sorcery, which my benefactor used on me."
Don Juan again
told me the story of how his benefactor had convinced the people who had
gathered at the road that the wounded man was his son. Then he had paid some
men to carry Don Juan, unconscious from shock and loss of blood, to his own
house. Don Juan woke there, days later, and found a kind old man and his fat
wife tending his wound.
The old man
said his name was Belisario and that his wife was a famous healer and that both
of them were healing his wound. Don Juan told them he had no money, and
Belisario suggested that when he recovered, payment of some sort could be
Don Juan said
that he was thoroughly confused, which was nothing new to him. He was just a
muscular, reckless twenty-year-old Indian, with no brains, no formal education,
and a terrible temper. He had no conception of gratitude. He thought it was
very kind of the old man and his wife to have helped him, but his intention was
to wait for his wound to heal and then simply vanish in the middle of the
When he had
recovered enough and was ready to flee, old Belisario took him into a room and
in trembling whispers disclosed that the house where they were staying belonged
to a monstrous man who was holding him and his wife prisoner. He asked Don Juan
to help them to regain their freedom, to escape from their captor and
tormentor. Before Don Juan could reply, a monstrous fish-faced man right out of
a horror tale burst into the room, as if he had been listening behind the door.
He was greenish-gray, had only one unblinking eye in the middle of his
forehead, and was as big as a door. He lurched at Don Juan, hissing like a
serpent, ready to tear him apart, and frightened him so greatly that he
of giving me a jolt on my connecting link with the spirit was masterful." Don
Juan laughed. "My benefactor, of course, had shifted me into heightened
awareness prior to the monster's entrance, so that what I actually saw as a
monstrous man was what sorcerers call an inorganic being, a formless energy
Don Juan said
that he knew countless cases in which his benefactor's devilishness created
hilariously embarrassing situations for all his apprentices, especially for Don
Juan himself, whose seriousness and stiffness made him the perfect subject for
his benefactor's didactic jokes. He added as an afterthought that it went
without saying that these jokes entertained his benefactor immensely.
think I laugh at you—which I do—it's nothing compared with how he
laughed at me," Don Juan continued. "My devilish benefactor had
learned to weep to hide his laughter. You just can't imagine how he used to cry
when I first began my apprenticeship."
his story, Don Juan stated that his life was never the same after the shock of
seeing that monstrous man. His benefactor made sure of it. Don Juan explained
that once a nagual has introduced his prospective disciple, especially his
nagual disciple, to trickery he must struggle to assure his compliance. This
compliance could be of two different kinds. Either the prospective disciple is
so disciplined and tuned that only his decision to join the nagual is needed,
as had been the case with young Talia. Or the prospective disciple is someone
with little or no discipline, in which case a nagual has to expend time and a
great deal of labor to convince his disciple.
In Don Juan's
case, because he was a wild young peasant without a thought in his head, the
process of reeling him in took bizarre turns.
Soon after the
first jolt, his benefactor gave him a second one by showing Don Juan his
ability to transform himself. One day his benefactor became a young man. Don
Juan was incapable of conceiving of this transformation as anything but an
example of a consummate actor's art.
he accomplish those changes?" I asked.
both a magician and an artist," Don Juan replied. "His magic was that
he transformed himself by moving his assemblage point into the position that
would bring on whatever particular change he desired. And his art was the
perfection of his transformations."
quite understand what you're telling me," I said.
Don Juan said
that perception is the hinge for everything man is or does, and that perception
is ruled by the location of the assemblage point. Therefore, if that point
changes positions, man's perception of the world changes accordingly. The
sorcerer who knew exactly where to place his assemblage point could become
anything he wanted.
nagual Julian's proficiency in moving his assemblage point was so magnificent
that he could elicit the subtlest transformations," Don Juan continued.
"When a sorcerer becomes a crow, for instance, it is definitely a great
accomplishment. But it entails a vast and therefore a gross shift of the
assemblage point. However, moving it to the position of a fat man, or an old
man, requires the minutest shift and the keenest knowledge of human
rather avoid thinking or talking about those things as facts," I said.
laughed as if I had said the funniest thing imaginable.
a reason for your benefactor's transformations?" I asked. "Or was he
just amusing himself?"
stupid. Warriors Don't do anything just to amuse themselves," he replied.
"His transformations were strategical. They were dictated by need, like
his transformation from old to young. Now and then there were funny
consequences, but that's another matter."
I reminded him
that I had asked before how his benefactor learned those transformations. He
had told me then that his benefactor had a teacher, but would not tell me who.
mysterious sorcerer who is our ward taught him," Don Juan replied curtly.
mysterious sorcerer is that?" I asked.
defier," he said and looked at me questioningly.
For all the sorcerers
of Don Juan's party the death defier was a most vivid character. According to
them, the death defier was a sorcerer of ancient times. He id succeeded in
surviving to the present day by manipulating his assemblage point, making it
move in specific ways to specific locations within his total energy field. Such
maneuvers had permitted his awareness and life force to persist.
Don Juan had
told me about the agreement that the sorcerers of his lineage had entered into
with the death defier centuries before. He made gifts to them in exchange for
vital energy. Because of this agreement, they considered him their ward and
called him "the tenant."
Don Juan had
explained that sorcerers of ancient times were expert at making the assemblage
point move. In doing so they had discovered extraordinary lings about
perception, but they had also discovered how easy it was to get lost in aberration.
The death defier's situation was for Don Juan a classic example of an
Don Juan used
to repeat every chance he could that the assemblage point was pushed by someone
who not only saw it but also had enough energy to move it, so that it slid,
within the luminous ball, to whatever location the pusher directed. Its
brilliance was enough to light up the threadlike energy fields it touched. The
resulting perception of the world was as complete as, but not the same as, our
normal perception of everyday life, therefore, sobriety was crucial to dealing
with the moving of the assemblage point.
story, Don Juan said that he quickly became accustomed to thinking of the old
man who had saved his life as really a young man masquerading as old. But one
day the young man was again the old Belisario Don Juan had first met. He and
the woman Don Juan thought was his wife packed their bags, and two smiling men
with a team of mules appeared out of nowhere.
laughed, savoring his story. He said that while the muleteers packed the mules,
Belisario pulled him aside and pointed out that he and his wife were again
disguised. He was again an old man, and his beautiful wife was a fat irascible
"I was so
young and stupid that only the obvious had value for me," Don Juan
continued. "Just a couple of days before, I had seen his incredible
transformation from a feeble man in his seventies to a vigorous young man in
his mid-twenties, and I took his word that old age was just a disguise. His
wife had also changed from a sour, fat Indian to a beautiful slender young
woman. The woman, of course, hadn't transformed herself the way my benefactor
had. He had simply changed the woman. Of course, I could have seen everything
at that time, but wisdom always comes to us painfully and in driblets."
Don Juan said
that the old man assured him that his wound was healed although he did not feel
quite well yet. He then embraced Don Juan and in a truly sad voice whispered,
"The monster has liked you so much that he has released me and my wife
from bondage and taken you as his sole servant."
have laughed at him," Don Juan went on, "had it not been for a deep
animal growling and a frightening rattle that came from the monster's
Don Juan's eyes
were shining with inner delight. I wanted to remain serious, but could not help
aware of Don Juan's fright, apologized profusely for the twist of fate that had
liberated him and imprisoned Don Juan. He clicked his tongue in disgust and
cursed the monster. He had tears in his eyes when he listed all the chores the
monster wanted Done daily. And when Don Juan protested, he confided, in low
tones, that there was no way to escape, because the monster's knowledge of
witchcraft was unequaled.
Don Juan asked
Belisario to recommend some line of action. And Belisario went into a long
explanation about plans of action being appropriate only if one were dealing
with average human beings. In the human context, we can plan and plot and,
depending on luck, plus our cunning and dedication, can succeed. But in the
face of the unknown, specifically Don Juan's situation, the only hope of
survival was to acquiesce and understand.
confessed to Don Juan in a barely audible murmur that to make sure the monster
never came after him, he was going to the state of Durango to learn sorcery. He
asked Don Juan if he, too, would consider learning sorcery. And Don Juan,
horrified at the thought, said that he would have nothing to do with witches.
Don Juan held
his sides laughing and admitted that he enjoyed thinking about how his
benefactor must have relished their interplay. Especially when he himself, in a
frenzy of fear and passion, rejected the bona fide invitation to learn sorcery,
saying, "I am an Indian. I was born to hate and fear witches."
exchanged looks with his wife and his body began to convulse. Don Juan realized
he was weeping silently, obviously hurt by the rejection. His wife had to prop
him up until he regained his composure.
As Belisario and
his wife were walking away, he turned and gave Don Juan one more piece of
advice. He said that the monster abhorred women, and Don Juan should be on the
lookout for a male replacement on the off chance that the monster would like
him enough to switch slaves. But he should not raise his hopes, because it was
going to be years before he could even leave the house. The monster liked to
make sure his slaves were loyal or at least obedient.
Don Juan could
stand it no longer. He broke down, began to weep, and told Belisario that no
one was going to enslave him. He could always kill himself. The old man was
very moved by Don Juan's outburst and confessed that he had had the same idea,
but, alas, the monster was able to read his thoughts and had prevented him from
taking his own life every time he had tried.
another offer to take Don Juan with him to Durango to learn sorcery. He said it
was the only possible solution. And Don Juan told him his solution was like
jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
to weep loudly and embraced Don Juan. He cursed the moment he had saved the
other man's life and swore that he had no idea they would trade places. He blew
his nose, and looking at Don Juan with burning eyes, said, "Disguise is
the only way to survive. If you Don't behave properly, the monster can steal
your soul and turn you into an idiot who does his chores, and nothing more. Too
bad I Don't have time to teach you acting." Then he wept even more.
choking with tears, asked him to describe how he could disguise himself.
Belisario confided that the monster had terrible eyesight, and recommended that
Don Juan experiment with various clothes that suited his fancy. He had, after
all, years ahead of him to try different disguises. He embraced Don Juan at the
door, weeping openly. His wife touched Don Juan's hand shyly. And then they
my life, before or after, have I felt such terror and despair," Don Juan
said. "The monster rattled things inside the house as if he were waiting
impatiently for me. I sat down by the door and whined like a dog in pain. Then
I vomited from sheer fear."
Don Juan sat
for hours incapable of moving. He dared not leave, nor did he dare go inside.
It was no exaggeration to say that he was actually about to die when he saw
Belisario waving his arms, frantically trying to catch his attention from the
other side of the street. Just seeing him again gave Don Juan instantaneous
relief. Belisario was squatting by the sidewalk watching the house. He signaled
Don Juan to stay put.
excruciatingly long time, Belisario crawled a few feet on his hands and knees
toward Don Juan, then squatted again, totally immobile. Crawling in that
fashion, he advanced until he was at Don Juan's side. It took him hours. A lot
of people had passed by, but no one seemed to have noticed Don Juan's despair
or the old man's actions. When the two of them were side by side, Belisario
whispered that he had not felt right leaving Don Juan like a dog tied to a
post. His wife
but he had returned to attempt to rescue him. After all, it was thanks to Don
Juan that he had gained his freedom.
He asked Don
Juan in a commanding whisper whether he was ready and willing to do anything to
escape this. And Don Juan assured him that he would do anything. In the most
surreptitious manner, Belisario handed Don Juan a bundle of clothes. Then he
outlined his plan. Don Juan was to go to the area of the house farthest from
the monster's rooms and slowly change his clothes, taking off one item of
clothing at a time, starting with his hat, leaving the shoes for last. Then he
was to put all his clothes on a wooden frame, a mannequin-like structure he was
to build, efficiently and quickly, as soon as he was inside the house.
The next step
of the plan was for Don Juan to put on the only disguise that could fool the
monster: the clothes in the bundle.
Don Juan ran
into the house and got everything ready. He built a scarecrow-like frame with
poles he found in the back of the house, took off his clothes and put them on
it. But when he opened the bundle he got the surprise of his life. The bundle
consisted of women's clothes!
stupid and lost," Don Juan said, "and was just about to put my own
clothes back on when I heard the inhuman growls of that monstrous man. I had
been reared to despise women, to believe their only function was to take care
of men. Putting on women's clothes to me was tantamount to becoming a woman.
But my fear of the monster was so intense that I closed my eyes and put on the
I looked at Don
Juan, imagining him in women's clothes. It was an image so utterly ridiculous
that against my will I broke into a belly laugh.
Don Juan said
that when old Belisario, waiting for him across the street, saw Don Juan in
disguise, he began to weep uncontrollably. Weeping, he guided Don Juan to the
outskirts of town where his wife was waiting with the two muleteers. One of
them very daringly asked Belisario if he was stealing the weird girl to sell
her to a whorehouse. The old man wept so hard he seemed on the
fainting. The young muleteers did not know what to do, but Belisario's wife,
instead of commiserating, began to scream with laughter. And Don Juan could not
The party began
to move in the dark. They took little-traveled trails and moved steadily north.
Belisario did not speak much. He seemed to be frightened and expecting trouble.
His wife fought with him all the time and complained that they had thrown away
their chance for freedom by taking Don Juan along. Belisario gave her strict
orders not to mention it again for fear the muleteers would discover that Don
Juan was in disguise. He cautioned Don Juan that because he did not know how to
behave convincingly like a woman, he should act as if he were a girl who was a
little touched in the head.
Within a few
days Don Juan's fear subsided a great deal. In fact, he became so confident
that he could not even remember having been afraid. If it had not been for the
clothes he was wearing, he could have imagined the whole experience had been a
clothes under those conditions, entailed, of course, a series of drastic
changes. Belisario’swifecoachedDon Juan, with true seriousness, in every aspect
of being a woman. Don Juan helped her cook, wash clothes, gather firewood.
Belisario shaved Don Juan's head and put a strong-smelling medicine on it, and
told the muleteers that the girl had had an infestation of lice. Don Juan said
that since he was still a beardless youth it was not really difficult to pass
as a woman. But he felt disgusted with himself, and with all those people, and,
above all, with his fate. To end up wearing women's clothes and doing women's
chores was more than he could bear.
One day he had
enough. The muleteers were the final straw. They expected and demanded that
this strange girl wait on them hand and foot. Don Juan said that he also had to
be on permanent guard, because they would make passes.
compelled to ask a question.
muleteers in cahoots with your benefactor?" I asked.
he replied and began to laugh uproariously. "They were just two nice
people who had fallen temporarily under his spell. He had hired their mules to
carry medicinal plants and told them that he would pay handsomely if they would
help him kidnap a young woman."
The scope of
the nagual Julian's actions staggered my imagination. I pictured Don Juan
fending off sexual advances and hollered with laughter.
continued his account. He said that he told the old man sternly that the
masquerade had lasted long enough, the men were making sexual advances.
Belisario nonchalantly advised him to be more understanding, because men will
be men, and began to weep again, completely baffling Don Juan, who found
himself furiously defending women.
He was so
passionate about the plight of women that he scared himself. He told Belisario
that he was going to end up in worse shape than he would have, had he stayed as
the monster's slave.
turmoil increased when the old man wept uncontrollably and mumbled inanities:
life was sweet, the little price one had to pay for it was a joke, the monster would
devour Don Juan's soul and not even allow him to kill himself. "Flirt with
the muleteers," he advised Don Juan in a conciliatory tone and manner.
"They are primitive peasants. All they want is to play, so push them back
when they shove you. Let them touch your leg. What do you care?" And
again, he wept unrestrainedly. Don Juan asked him why he wept like that.
"Because you are perfect for all this," he said and his body twisted
with the force of his sobbing.
thanked him for his good feelings and for all the trouble he was taking on his
account. He told Belisario he now felt safe and wanted to leave.
of stalking is learning all the quirks of your disguise," Belisario said,
paying no attention to what Don Juan was telling him. "And it is to learn
them so well no one will know you are disguised. For that you need to be
ruthless, cunning, patient, and sweet."
Don Juan had no
idea what Belisario was talking about. Rather than finding out, he asked him
for some men's clothes. Belisario was very understanding. He gave Don Juan some
old clothes and a few pesos. He promised Don Juan that his disguise would
always be there in case he needed it, and pressed him vehemently to come to
Durango with him to learn sorcery and free himself from the monster for good. Don
Juan said no and thanked him. So Belisario bid him goodbye and patted him on
the back repeatedly and with considerable force.
changed his clothes and asked Belisario for directions. He answered that if Don
Juan followed the trail north, sooner or later he would reach the next town. He
said that the two of them might even cross paths again since they were all
going in the same general direction—away from the monster.
Don Juan took
off as fast as he could, free at last. He must have walked four or five miles
before he found signs of people. He knew that a town was nearby and thought
that perhaps he could get work there until he decided where he was going. He
sat down to rest for a moment, anticipating the normal difficulties a stranger
would find in a small out-of-the-way town, when from the corner of his eye he
saw a movement in the bushes by the mule trail. He felt someone was watching
him. He became so thoroughly terrified that he jumped up and started to run in
the direction of the town; the monster jumped at him lurching out to grab his
neck. He missed by an inch. Don Juan screamed as he had never screamed before,
but still had enough self-control to turn and run back in the direction from
which he had come.
While Don Juan
ran for his life, the monster pursued him, crashing through the bushes only a
few feet away. Don Juan said that it was the most frightening sound he had ever
heard. Finally he saw the mules moving slowly in the distance, and he yelled
recognized Don Juan and ran toward him displaying overt terror. He threw the
bundle of women's clothes at Don Juan shouting, "Run like a woman, you
admitted that he did not know how he had the presence of mind to run like a
woman, but he did it. The monster stopped chasing him. And Belisario told him
to change quickly while he held the monster at bay.
Don Juan joined
Belisario's wife and the smiling muleteers without looking at anybody. They
doubled back and took other trails. Nobody spoke for days; then Belisario gave
him daily lessons. He told Don Juan that Indian women were practical and went
directly to the heart of things, but that they were also very shy, and that
when challenged they showed the physical signs of fright in shifty eyes, tight
mouths, and enlarged nostrils. All these signs were accompanied by a fearful
stubbornness, followed by shy laughter.
He made Don
Juan practice his womanly behavior skills in every town they passed through.
And Don Juan honestly believed he was teaching him to be an actor. But
Belisario insisted that he was teaching him the art of stalking. He told Don
Juan that stalking was an art applicable to everything, and that there were
four steps to learning it: ruthlessness, cunning, patience, and sweetness.
compelled to interrupt his account once more.
stalking taught in deep, heightened awareness?" I asked.
course," he replied with a grin. "But you have to understand that for
some men wearing women's clothes is the door into heightened awareness. In
fact, such means are more effective than pushing the assemblage point, but are
very difficult to arrange."
Don Juan said
that his benefactor drilled him daily in the four moods of stalking and
insisted that Don Juan understand that ruthlessness should not be harshness,
cunning should not be cruelty, patience should not be negligence, and sweetness
should not be foolishness.
He taught him
that these four steps had to be practiced and perfected until they were so
smooth they were unnoticeable. He believed women to be natural stalkers. And
his conviction was so strong he maintained that only in a woman's disguise could
any man really learn the art of stalking.
with him to every market in every town we passed and haggled with
everyone," Don Juan went on. "My benefactor used to stay to one side
watching me. 'Be ruthless but charming,' he used to say. 'Be cunning but nice.
Be patient but active. Be sweet but lethal. Only women can do it. If a man acts
this way he's being prissy.'
And as if to
make sure Don Juan stayed in line, the monstrous man appeared from time to
time. Don Juan caught sight of him, roaming the countryside. He would see him
most often after Belisario gave him a vigorous back massage, supposedly to
alleviate a sharp nervous pain in his neck. Don Juan laughed and said that he
had no idea he was being manipulated into heightened awareness.
"It took us
one month to reach the city of Durango," Don Juan said. "In that
month, I had a brief sample of the four moods of stalking. It really didn't
change me much, but it gave me a chance to have an inkling of what being a
woman was like."
THE FOUR MOODS
Don Juan said
that I should sit there at that ancient lookout post and use the pull of the
earth to move my assemblage point and recall other states of heightened
awareness in which he had taught me stalking.
past few days, I have mentioned many times the four moods of stalking," he
went on. "I have mentioned ruthlessness, cunning, patience, and sweetness,
with the hope that you might remember what I taught you about them. It would be
wonderful if you could use these four moods as the ushers to bring you into a
He kept quiet
for what seemed an inordinately long moment. Then he made a statement which
should not have surprised me, but did. He said he had taught me the four moods
of stalking in northern Mexico with the help of Vicente Medrano and Silvio
Manuel. He did not elaborate but let his statement sink in. I tried to remember
but finally gave up and wanted to shout that I could not remember something
that never happened.
As I was
struggling to voice my protest, anxious thoughts began to cross my mind. I knew
Don Juan had not said what he had just to annoy me. As I always did when asked
to remember heightened awareness, I became obsessively conscious that there was
really no continuity to the events I had experienced under his guidance. Those
events were not strung together as the events in my daily life were, in a
linear sequence. It was perfectly possible he was right. In Don Juan's world, I
had no business being certain of anything.
I tried to
voice my doubts but he refused to listen and urged me to recollect. By then it
was quite dark.
It had gotten
windy, but I did not feel the cold. Don Juan had given me a flat rock to place
on my sternum. My awareness was keenly tuned to everything around. I felt an
abrupt pull, which was neither external nor internal, but rather the sensation
of a sustained tugging at an unidentifiable part of myself. Suddenly I began to
remember with shattering clarity a meeting I had had years before. I remembered
events and people so vividly that it frightened me. I felt a chill.
I told all this
to Don Juan, who did not seem impressed or concerned. He urged me not to give
in to mental or physical fear.
was so phenomenal that it was as if I were reliving the experience. Don Juan
kept quiet. He did not even look at me. I felt numbed. The sensation of
numbness passed slowly.
I repeated the
same things I always said to Don Juan when I remembered an event with no linear
existence. "How can this be, Don Juan? How could I have forgotten all
reaffirmed the same things he always did. "This type of remembering or
forgetting has nothing to do with normal memory," he assured me. "It
has to do with the movement of the assemblage point."
that although I possessed total knowledge of what intent is, I did not command
that knowledge yet. Knowing what intent is means that one can, at any time,
explain that knowledge or use it. A nagual by the force of his position is
obliged to command his knowledge in this manner. "What did you
recollect?" he asked me. "The first time you told me about the four
moods of stalking," I said.
inexplicable in terms of my usual awareness of the world, had released a memory
which a minute before had not existed. And I recollected an entire sequence of
events that had happened many years before.
Just as I was
leaving Don Juan's house in Sonora, he had asked me to meet him the following
week around noon, across the U.S. border, in Nogales, Arizona, in the Greyhound
I arrived about
an hour early. He was standing by the door. I greeted him. He did not answer
but hurriedly pulled me aside and whispered that I should take my hands out of
my pockets. I was
did not give me time to respond, but said that my fly was open, and it was
shamefully evident that I was sexually aroused.
The speed with
which I rushed to cover myself was phenomenal. By the time I realized it was a
crude joke we were on the street. Don Juan was laughing, slapping me on the
back repeatedly and forcefully, as if he were just celebrating the joke.
Suddenly I found myself in a state of heightened awareness.
We walked into
a coffee shop and sat down. My mind was so clear I wanted to look at
everything, see the essence of things.
waste energy!" Don Juan commanded in a stern voice. "I brought you
here to discover if you can eat when your assemblage point has moved. Don't try
to do more than that."
But then a man
sat down at the table in front of me, and all my attention became trapped by
eyes in circles," Don Juan commanded. "Don't look at that man."
I found it
impossible to stop watching the man. I felt irritated by Don Juan's demands.
you see?" I heard Don Juan ask.
I was seeing a
luminous cocoon made of transparent wings which were folded over the cocoon
itself. The wings unfolded, fluttered for an instant, peeled off,
fell, and were
replaced by new wings, which repeated the same process.
Don Juan boldly
turned my chair until I was facing the wall.
waste," he said in a loud sigh, after I described what I had seen.
"You have exhausted nearly all your energy. Restrain yourself. A warrior
needs focus. Who gives a damn about wings on a luminous cocoon?"
He said that
heightened awareness was like a springboard. From it one could jump into
infinity. He stressed, over and over, that when the assemblage point was
dislodged, it either became lodged again at a position very near its customary
one or continued moving on into infinity.
have no idea of the strange power we carry within ourselves," he went on.
"At this moment, for instance, you have the means to reach infinity. If
you continue with your needless behavior, you may succeed in pushing your
assemblage point beyond a certain threshold, from which there is no
the peril he was talking about, or rather I had the bodily sensation that I was
standing on the brink of an abyss, and that if I leaned forward I would fall
assemblage point moved to heightened awareness," he continued,
"because I have lent you my energy."
We ate in
silence, very simple food. Don Juan did not allow me to drink coffee or tea.
are using my energy," he said, "you're not in your own time. You are
in mine. I drink water."
As we were
walking back to my car I felt a bit nauseous. I staggered and almost lost my
balance. It was a sensation similar to that of walking while wearing glasses
for the first time.
of yourself," Don Juan said, smiling.
we're going, you'll need to be extremely precise."
He told me to
drive across the international border into the twin city of Nogales, Mexico.
While I was driving, he gave me directions: which street to take, when to make
right or left hand turns, how fast to go.
this area," I said quite peeved. "Tell me where you want to go and
I'll take you there. Like a taxi driver."
he said. "Take me to 1573 Heavenward Avenue."
I did not know
Heavenward Avenue, or if such a street really existed. In fact, I had the
suspicion he had just concocted a name to embarrass me. I kept silent. There
was a mocking glint in his shiny eyes.
is a real tyrant," he said. "We must work ceaselessly to dethrone
He continued to
tell me how to drive. Finally he asked me to stop in front of a one-story,
light- beige house on a corner lot, in a well-to-do neighborhood.
something about the house that immediately caught my eye: a thick layer of
ocher gravel all around it. The solid street door, the window sashes, and the
house trim were all painted ocher, like the gravel. All the visible windows had
closed Venetian blinds. To all appearances it was a typical suburban
We got out of
the car. Don Juan led the way. He did not knock or open the door with a key,
but when we got to it, the door opened silently on oiled hinges—all by
itself, as far as I could detect.
quickly entered. He did not invite me in. I just followed him. I was curious to
see who had opened the door from the inside, but there was no one there.
The interior of
the house was very soothing. There were no pictures on the smooth, scrupulously
clean walls. There were no lamps or book shelves either. A golden yellow tile
floor contrasted most pleasingly with the off-white color of the walls. We were
in a small and narrow hall that opened into a spacious living room with a high
ceiling and a brick fireplace. Half the room was completely empty, but next to
the fireplace was a semicircle of expensive furniture: two large beige couches
in the middle, flanked by two armchairs covered in fabric of the same color.
There was a heavy, round, solid oak coffee table in the center. Judging from
what I was seeing around the house, the people who lived there appeared to be
well off, but frugal. And they obviously liked to sit around the fire. Two men,
perhaps in their mid-fifties, sat in the armchairs. They stood when we entered.
One of them was Indian, the other Latin American. Don Juan introduced me first
to the Indian, who was nearer to me.
Silvio Manuel," Don Juan said to me. "He's the most powerful and
dangerous sorcerer of my party, and the most mysterious too."
features were out of a Mayan fresco. His complexion was pale, almost yellow. I
thought he looked Chinese. His eyes were slanted, but without the epicanthic
fold. They were big, black, and brilliant. He was beardless. His hair was
jet-black with specks of gray in it. He had high cheekbones and full lips. He
was perhaps five feet seven, thin, wiry, and he wore a yellow sport shirt,
brown slacks, and a thin beige jacket. Judging from his clothes and general
mannerisms, he seemed to be Mexican-American.
I smiled and
extended my hand to Silvio Manuel, but he did not take it. He nodded
is Vicente Medrano," Don Juan said, turning to the other man. "He's
the most knowledgeable and the oldest of my companions. He is oldest not in
terms of age, but because he was my benefactor's first disciple."
just as perfunctorily as Silvio Manuel had, and also did not say a word.
He was a bit
taller than Silvio Manuel, but just as lean. He had a pinkish complexion and a
neatly trimmed beard and mustache. His features were almost delicate: a thin,
beautifully chiseled nose, a small mouth, thin lips. Bushy, dark eyebrows
contrasted with his graying beard and hair. His eyes were brown and also
brilliant and laughed in spite of his frowning expression.
conservatively dressed in a greenish seersucker suit and open-collared sport
shirt. He too seemed to be Mexican-American. I guessed him to be the owner of
In contrast, Don
Juan looked like an Indian peon. His straw hat, his worn-out shoes, his old
khaki pants and plaid shirt were those of a gardener or a handyman.
I had, upon seeing all three of them together, was that Don Juan was in
disguise. The military image came to me that Don Juan was the commanding
officer of a clandestine operation, an officer who, no matter how hard he
tried, could not hide his years of command.
I also had the
feeling that they must all have been around the same age, although Don Juan
looked much older than the other two, yet seemed infinitely stronger.
you already know that Carlos is by far the biggest indulger I have ever
met," Don Juan told them with a most serious expression. "Bigger even
than our benefactor. I assure you that if there is someone who takes indulging
seriously, this is the man."
I laughed, but
no one else did. The two men observed me with a strange glint in their eyes.
you'll make a memorable trio," Don Juan continued. "The oldest and
most knowledgeable, the most dangerous and powerful, and the most
They still did not
laugh. They scrutinized me until I became self-conscious. Then Vicente broke
know why you brought him inside the house," he said in a dry, cutting
tone. "He's of little use to us. Put him out in the backyard."
him." Silvio Manuel added.
Don Juan turned
to me. "Come on," he said in a soft voice and pointed with a quick
sideways movement of his head to the back of the house.
It was more
than obvious that the two men did not like me. I did not know what to say. I
was definitely angry and hurt, but those feelings were somehow deflected by my
state of heightened awareness.
We walked into
the backyard. Don Juan casually picked up a leather rope and twirled it around
my neck with tremendous speed. His movements were so fast and so nimble that an
instant later, before I could realize what was happening, I was tied at the
neck, like a dog, to one of the two cinder-block columns supporting the heavy
roof over the back porch.
Don Juan shook
his head from side to side in a gesture of resignation or disbelief and went
back into the house as I began to yell at him to untie me. The rope was so
tight around my neck it prevented me from screaming as loud as I would have
I could not
believe what was taking place. Containing my anger, I tried to undo the knot at
my neck. It was so compact that the leather strands seemed glued together. I
hurt my nails trying to pull them apart.
I had an attack
of uncontrollable wrath and growled like an impotent animal. Then I grabbed the
rope, twisted it around my forearms, and bracing my feet against the
cinder-block column, pulled. But the leather was too tough for the strength of
humiliated and scared. Fear brought me a moment of sobriety. I knew I had let Don
Juan's false aura of reasonableness deceive me.
I assessed my
situation as objectively as I could and saw no way to escape except by cutting
the leather rope. I frantically began to rub it against the sharp corner of the
cinder-block column. I thought that if I could rip the rope before any of the
men came to the back, I had a chance to run to my car and take off, never to
I puffed and
sweated and rubbed the rope until I had nearly worn it through. Then I braced
one foot against the column, wrapped the rope around my forearms again, and
pulled it desperately until it snapped, throwing me back into the house.
As I crashed
backward through the open door, Don Juan, Vicente, and Silvio Manuel were
standing in the middle of the room, applauding.
dramatic reentry," Vicente said, helping me up. "You fooled me. I
didn't think you were capable of such explosions."
Don Juan came
to me and snapped the knot open, freeing my neck from the piece of rope around
I was shaking
with fear, exertion, and anger. In a faltering voice, I asked Don Juan why he
was tormenting me like this. The three of them laughed and at that moment
seemed the farthest thing from threatening.
to test you and find out what sort of a man you really are," Don Juan
He led me to
one of the couches and politely offered me a seat. Vicente and Silvio Manuel
sat in the armchairs, Don Juan sat facing me on the other couch.
I laughed nervously
but was no longer apprehensive about my situation, nor about Don Juan and his
friends. All three regarded me with frank curiosity. Vicente could not stop
smiling, although he seemed to be trying desperately to appear serious. Silvio
Manuel shook his head rhythmically as he stared at me. His eyes were unfocused
but fixed on me.
you down," Don Juan went on, "because we wanted to know whether you
are sweet or patient or ruthless or cunning. We found out you are none of those
things. Rather you're a king- sized indulger, just as I had said.
hadn't indulged in being violent, you would certainly have noticed that the
formidable knot in the rope around your neck was a fake. It snaps. Vicente
designed that knot to fool his friends."
the rope violently. You're certainly not sweet," Silvio Manuel said.
They were all
quiet for a moment, then began to laugh.
neither ruthless nor cunning," Don Juan went on. "If you were, you
would easily have snapped open both knots and run away with a valuable leather
rope. You're not patient either. If
you were, you
would have whined and cried until you realized that there was a pair of
clippers by the wall with which you could have cut the rope in two seconds and
saved yourself all the agony and exertion.
be taught, then, to be violent or obtuse. You already are that. But you can
learn to be ruthless, cunning, patient, and sweet."
explained to me that ruthlessness, cunning, patience, and sweetness were the
essence of stalking. They were the basics that with all their ramifications had
to be taught in careful, meticulous steps.
definitely addressing me, but he talked looking at Vicente and Silvio Manuel,
who listened with utmost attention and shook their heads in agreement from time
repeatedly that teaching stalking was one of the most difficult things
sorcerers did. And he insisted that no matter what they themselves did to teach
me stalking, and no matter what I believed to the contrary, it was impeccability
which dictated their acts.
assured we know what we're doing. Our benefactor, the nagual Julian, saw to
it," Don Juan said, and all three of them broke into such uproarious
laughter that I felt quite uncomfortable. I did not know what to think.
reiterated that a very important point to consider was that, to an onlooker,
the behavior of sorcerers might appear malicious, when in reality their
behavior was always impeccable.
you tell the difference, if you're at the receiving end?" I asked.
acts are performed by people for personal gain," he said. "Sorcerers,
though, have an ulterior purpose for their acts, which has nothing to do with
personal gain. The fact that they
acts does not count as gain. Rather, it is a condition of their character. The
average man acts only if there is the chance for profit. Warriors say they act
not for profit but for the spirit."
I thought about
it. Acting without considering gain was truly an alien concept. I had been
reared to invest and to hope for some kind of reward for everything I did.
Don Juan must
have taken my silence and thoughtfulness as skepticism. He laughed and looked
at his two companions.
four of us, as an example," he went on. "You, yourself, believe that
you're investing in this situation and eventually you are going to profit from
it. If you get angry with us, or if we disappoint you, you may resort to
malicious acts to get even with us. We, on the contrary, have no thought of
personal gain. Our acts are dictated by impeccability—we can't be angry
or disillusioned with you."
Don Juan smiled
and told me that from the moment we had met at the bus depot that day,
everything he had Done to me, although it might not have seemed so, was
dictated by impeccability. He explained that he needed to get me into an
unguarded position to help me enter heightened awareness. It was to that end
that he had told me my fly was open.
"It was a
way of jolting you," he said with a grin. "We are crude Indians, so
all our jolts are somehow primitive. The more sophisticated the warrior, the
greater his finesse and elaboration of his jolts. But I have to admit we got a
big kick out of our crudeness, especially when we tied you at the neck like a
The three of
them grinned and then laughed quietly as if there was someone else inside the
house whom they did not want to disturb.
In a very low
voice Don Juan said that because I was in a state of heightened awareness, I
could understand more readily what he was going to tell me about the two
masteries: stalking and intent. He called them the crowning glory of sorcerers
old and new, the very thing sorcerers were concerned with today, just as
sorcerers had been thousands of years before. He asserted that stalking was the
beginning, and that before anything could be attempted on the warrior's path,
warriors must learn to stalk; next they must learn to intend, and only then
could they move their assemblage point at will.
I knew exactly
what he was talking about. I knew, without knowing how, what moving the
assemblage point could accomplish. But I did not have the words to explain what
I knew. I tried repeatedly to voice my knowledge to them. They laughed at my failures
and coaxed me to try again.
you like it if I articulate it for you?" Don Juan asked. "I might be
able to find the very wordsyouwanttousebutcan’t"
From his look,
I decided he was seriously asking my permission. I found the situation so incongruous
that I began to laugh.
displaying great patience, asked me again, and I got another attack of
laughter. Their look of surprise and concern told me my reaction was
incomprehensible to them. Don Juan got up and announced that I was too tired
and it was time for me to return to the world of ordinary affairs.
wait," I pleaded. "I am all right. I just find it funny that you
should be asking me to give you permission."
"I have to
ask your permission," Don Juan said, "because you're the only one who
can allow the words pent up inside you to be tapped. I think I made the mistake
of assuming you understand more than you do. Words are tremendously powerful
and important and are the magical property of whoever has them.
have a rule of thumb: they say that the deeper the assemblage point moves, the
greater the feeling that one has knowledge and no words to explain it.
Sometimes the assemblage point of average persons can move without a known
cause and without their being aware of it, except that they become tongue-tied,
confused, and evasive."
interrupted and suggested I stay with them a while longer. Don Juan agreed and
turned to face me.
first principle of stalking is that a warrior stalks himself," he said.
"He stalks himself ruthlessly, cunningly, patiently, and sweetly."
I wanted to
laugh, but he did not give me time. Very succinctly he defined stalking as the
art of using behavior in novel ways for specific purposes. He said that normal
human behavior in the world of everyday life was routine. Any behavior that
broke from routine caused an unusual effect on our total being. That unusual
effect was what sorcerers sought, because it was cumulative.
that the sorcerer seers of ancient times, through their seeing, had first
noticed that unusual behavior produced a tremor in the assemblage point. They
soon discovered that if unusual behavior was practiced systematically and
directed wisely, it eventually forced the assemblage point to move.
challenge for those sorcerer seers," Don Juan went on, "was finding a
system of behavior that was neither petty nor capricious, but that combined the
morality and the sense of beauty which differentiates sorcerer seers from plain
talking, and they all looked at me as if searching for signs of fatigue in my
eyes or face.
who succeeds in moving his assemblage point to a new position is a
sorcerer," Don Juan continued. "And from that new position, he can do
all kinds of good and bad things to his fellow men. Being a sorcerer,
therefore, can be like being a cobbler or a baker. The quest of sorcerer seers
is to go beyond that stand. And to do that, they need morality and
He said that
for sorcerers stalking was the foundation on which everything else they did was
sorcerers object to the term stalking," he went on, "but the name
came about because it entails surreptitious behavior.
called the art of stealth, but that term is equally unfortunate. We ourselves, because
of our nonmilitant temperament, call it the art of controlled folly. You can
call it anything you wish. We, however, will continue with the term stalking
since it's so easy to say stalker and, as my benefactor used to say, so awkward
to say controlled folly maker."
At the mention
of their benefactor, they laughed like children.
him perfectly. I had no questions or doubts. If anything, I had the feeling
that I needed to hold onto every word Don Juan was saying to anchor myself.
Otherwise my thoughts would have run ahead of him.
I noticed that
my eyes were fixed on the movement of his lips as my ears were fixed on the
sound of his words. But once I realized this, I could no longer follow him. My
concentration was broken. Don Juan continued talking, but I was not listening.
I was wondering about the inconceivable possibility of living permanently in
heightened awareness. I asked myself what would the survival value be? Would
one be able to assess situations better? Be quicker than the average man, or
perhaps more intelligent?
suddenly stopped talking and asked me what I was thinking about.
you're so very practical," he commented after I had told him my reveries.
"I thought that in heightened awareness your temperament was going to be
more artistic, more mystical."
Don Juan turned
to Vicente and asked him to answer my question. Vicente cleared his throat and
dried his hands by rubbing them against his thighs. He gave the clear
impression of suffering from stage fright. I felt sorry for him. My thoughts
began to spin. And when I heard him stammering, an image burst into my
mind—the image I had always had of my father's timidity, his fear of
people. But before I had time to surrender myself to that image, Vicente's eyes
flared with some strange inner luminosity. He made a comically serious face at
me and then spoke with authority and a professorial manner.
your question," he said, "there is no survival value in heightened
awareness; otherwise the whole human race would be there. They are safe from
that, though, because it's so hard to get into it. There is always, however,
the remote possibility that an average man might enter into such a state. If he
does, he ordinarily succeeds in confusing himself, sometimes irreparably."
The three of
them exploded with laughter. "Sorcerers say that heightened awareness is
the portal of intent,'"' Don Juan said. "And they use it as such.
Think about it."
I was staring
at each of them in turn. My mouth was open, and I felt that if I kept it open I
would be able to understand the riddle eventually. I closed my eyes and the
answer came to me. I felt it. I did not think it. But I could not put it into
words, no matter how hard I tried.
there," Don Juan said, "you've gotten another sorcerer's answer all
by yourself, but you still Don't have enough energy to flatten it and turn it
The sensation I
was experiencing was more than just that of being unable to voice my thoughts;
it was like reliving something I had forgotten ages ago: not to know what I
felt because I had not yet learned to speak, and therefore lacked the resources
to translate my feelings into thoughts.
and saying exactly what you want to say requires untold amounts of
energy," Don Juan said and broke into my feelings.
The force of my
reverie had been so intense it had made me forget what had started it. I stared
dumbfounded at Don Juan and confessed I had no idea what they or I had said or Done
just a moment before. I remembered the incident of the leather rope and what Don
Juan had told me immediately afterward, but I could not recall the feeling that
had flooded me just moments ago.
going the wrong way," Don Juan said. "You're trying to remember
thoughts the way you normally do, but this is a different situation. A second
ago you had an overwhelming feeling that you knew something very specific. Such
feelings cannot be recollected by using memory. You have to recall them by
intending them back."
He turned to
Silvio Manuel, who had stretched out in the armchair, his legs under the coffee
table. Silvio Manuel looked fixedly at me. His eyes were black, like two pieces
of shiny obsidian. Without moving a muscle, he let out a piercing birdlike
scream. "Intent!!" he yelled. "Intent!! Intent!!!" With
each scream his voice became more and more inhuman and piercing. The hair on
the back of my neck stood on end. I felt goose bumps on my skin. My mind,
however, instead of focusing on the fright I was experiencing, went directly to
recollecting the feeling I had had. But before I could savor it completely, the
feeling expanded and burst into something else. And then I understood not only
why heightened awareness was the portal of intent, but I also understood what
intent was. And, above all, I understood that that knowledge could not be
turned into words. That knowledge was there for everyone. It was there to be
felt, to be used, but not to be explained. One could come into it by changing
levels of awareness, therefore, heightened awareness was an entrance. But even
the entrance could not be explained. One could only make use of it.
There was still
another piece of knowledge that came to me that day without any coaching: that
the natural knowledge of intent was available to anyone, but the command of it
belonged to those who probed it.
I was terribly
tired by this time, and doubtlessly as a result of that, my Catholic upbringing
came to bear heavily on my reactions. For a moment I believed that intent was
I said as much
to Don Juan, Vicente and Silvio Manuel. They laughed. Vicente, still in his
professorial tone, said that it could not possibly be God, because intent was a
force that could not be described, much less represented.
presumptuous," Don Juan said to me sternly. "Don't try to speculate
on the basis of your first and only trial. Wait until you command your
knowledge, then decide what is what."
four moods of stalking exhausted me. The most dramatic result was a more than
ordinary indifference. I would not have cared if I had trapped dead, nor if Don
Juan had. I did not care whether we stayed at that ancient lookout post
overnight or started back in the pitch- dark.
Don Juan was
very understanding. He guided me by he hand, as if I were blind, to a massive
rock, and helped me sit with my back to it. He recommended that I let natural
sleep return me to a normal state of awareness.
The Descent of
Right after a
late lunch, while we were still at the table, Don Juan announced that the two
of us were going to spend the night in the sorcerers' cave and that we had to
be on our way. He said that it was imperative that I sit there again, in total
darkness, to allow the rock formation and the sorcerers' intent to move my
I started to
get up from my chair, but he stopped me. He said that there was something he
wanted to explain to me first. He stretched out, putting his feet on the seat
of a chair, then leaned back into a relaxed, comfortable position.
"As I see
you in greater detail," Don Juan said, "I notice more and more how
similar you and my benefactor are."
I felt so
threatened that I did not let him continue. I told him that I could not imagine
what those similarities were, but if there were any—a possibility I did
not consider reassuring—I would appreciate it if he told me about them,
to give me a chance to correct or avoid them. Don Juan laughed until tears were
rolling down his cheeks.
the similarities is that when you act, you act very well," he said,
"but when you think, you always trip yourself up. My benefactor was like
that. He didn't think too well."
I was just
about to defend myself, to say there was nothing wrong with my thinking, when I
caught a glint of mischievousness in his eyes. I stopped cold. Don Juan noticed
my shift and laughed with a note of surprise. He must have been anticipating
mean, for instance, is that you only have problems understanding the spirit
when you think about it," he went on with a chiding smile. "But when
you act, the spirit easily reveals itself to you. My benefactor was that way.
leave for the cave, I am going to tell you a story about my benefactor and the
fourth abstract core.
believe that until the very moment of the spirit's descent, any of us could
walk away from the spirit; but not afterwards."
deliberately stopped to urge me, with a movement of his eyebrows, to consider
what he was telling me.
fourth abstract core is the full brunt of the spirit's descent," he went
on. "The fourth abstract core is an act of revelation. The spirit reveals
itself to us. Sorcerers describe it as the spirit lying in ambush and then
descending on us, its prey. Sorcerers say that the spirit's descent is always
shrouded. It happens and yet it seems not to have happened at all."
I became very
nervous. Don Juan's tone of voice was giving me the feeling that he was
preparing to spring something on me at any moment.
He asked me if
I remembered the moment the spirit descended on me, sealing my permanent
allegiance to the abstract.
I had no idea
what he was talking about.
a threshold that once crossed permits no retreat," he said.
"Ordinarily, from the moment the spirit knocks, it is years before an
apprentice reaches that threshold. Sometimes, though, the threshold is reached
almost immediately. My benefactor's case is an example."
Don Juan said
every sorcerer should have a clear memory of crossing that threshold so he
could remind himself of the new state of his perceptual potential. He explained
that one did not have to be an apprentice of sorcery to reach this threshold,
and that the only difference between an
average man and
a sorcerer, in such cases, is what each emphasizes. A sorcerer emphasizes
crossing this threshold and uses the memory of it as a point of reference. An
average man does not cross the threshold and does his best to forget all about
I told him that
I did not agree with his point, because I could not accept that there was only
one threshold to cross.
Don Juan looked
heavenward in dismay and shook his head in a joking gesture of despair. I
proceeded with my argument, not to disagree with him, but to clarify things in
my mind. Yet I quickly lost my impetus. Suddenly I had the feeling I was
sliding through a tunnel.
say that the fourth abstract core happens when the spirit cuts our chains of
self- reflection," he said. "Cutting our chains is marvelous, but
also very undesirable, for nobody wants to be free."
of sliding through a tunnel persisted for a moment longer, and then everything
became clear to me. And I began to laugh. Strange insights pent up inside me
were exploding into laughter.
Don Juan seemed
to be reading my mind as if it were a book.
strange feeling: to realize that everything we think, everything we say depends
on the position of the assemblage point," he remarked.
And that was
exactly what I had been thinking and laughing about.
that at this moment your assemblage point has shifted," he went on,
"and you have understood the secret of our chains. They imprison us, but
by keeping us pinned down on our comfortable spot of self-reflection, they
defend us from the onslaughts of the unknown."
I was having
one of those extraordinary moments in which everything about the sorcerers'
world was crystal clear. I understood everything.
chains are cut," Don Juan continued, "we are no longer bound by the
concerns of the daily world. We are still in the daily world, but we Don't
belong there anymore. In order to belong we must share the concerns of people,
and without chains we can't."
Don Juan said
that the nagual Elías had explained to him that what distinguishes normal
people is that we share a metaphorical dagger: the concerns of our
self-reflection. With this dagger, we cut ourselves and bleed; and the job of
our chains of self-reflection is to give us the feeling that we are bleeding
together, that we are sharing something wonderful: our humanity. But if we were
to examine it, we would discover that we are bleeding alone; that we are not
sharing anything; that all we are doing is toying with our manageable, unreal,
are no longer in the world of daily affairs," Don Juan went on,
"because they are no longer prey to their self-reflection."
Don Juan then
began his story about his benefactor and the descent of the spirit. He said that
the story started right after the spirit had knocked on the young actor's door.
I interrupted Don
Juan and asked him why he consistently used the terms "young man" or
"young actor" to refer to the nagual Julian.
time of this story, he wasn't the nagual," Don Juan replied. "He was
a young actor. In my story, I can't just call him Julian, because to me he was
always the nagual Julian. As a sign of deference for his lifetime of
impeccability, we always prefix 'nagual' to a nagual's name."
proceeded with his story. He said that the nagual Elms had stopped the young
actor's death by making him shift into heightened awareness, and following
hours of struggle, the young actor regained consciousness. The nagual Elf as
did not mention his name, but he introduced himself as a professional healer
who had stumbled onto the scene of a tragedy, where two persons had nearly
died. He pointed to the young woman, Talia, stretched out on the ground. The
young man was astonished to see her lying unconscious next to him. He
remembered seeing her as she ran away. It startled him to hear the old healer
explain that doubtlessly God had punished Talia for her sins by striking her
with lightning and making her lose her mind.
could there be lightning if it's not even raining?" the young actor asked
in a barely audible voice. He was visibly affected when the old Indian replied
that God's ways couldn't be questioned.
interrupted Don Juan. I was curious to know if the young woman really had lost
her mind. He reminded me that the nagual Elías delivered a shattering
blow to her
assemblage point. He said that she had not lost her mind, but that as a result
of the blow she slipped in and out of heightened awareness, creating a serious
threat to her health. After a gigantic struggle, however, the nagual
Elías helped her to stabilize her assemblage point and she entered
permanently into heightened awareness.
commented that women are capable of such a master stroke: they can permanently
maintain a new position of their assemblage point. And Talia was peerless. As
soon as her chains were broken, she immediately understood everything and
complied with the nagual's designs.
recounting his story, said that the nagual Elías—who was not only a
superb dreamer, but also a superb stalker—had seen that the young actor
was spoiled and conceited, but only seemed to be hard and calloused. The nagual
knew that if he brought forth the idea of God, sin, and retribution, the
actor's religious beliefs would make his cynical attitude collapse.
about God's punishment, the actor's facade began to crumble. He started to
express remorse, but the nagual cut him short and forcefully stressed that when
death was so near, feelings of guilt no longer mattered.
The young actor
listened attentively, but, although he felt very ill, he did not believe that
he was in danger of dying. He thought that his weakness and fainting had been
brought on by his loss of blood.
As if he had
read the young actor's mind, the nagual explained to him that those optimistic
thoughts were out of place, that his hemorrhaging would have been fatal had it
not been for the plug that he, as a healer, had created.
struck your back, I put in a plug to stop the draining of your life
force," the nagual said to the skeptical young actor. "Without that
restraint, the unavoidable process of your death would continue. If you Don't
believe me, I'll prove it to you by removing the plug with another blow."
As he spoke,
the nagual Elías tapped the young actor on his right side by his ribcage.
In a moment the young man was retching and choking. Blood poured out of his
mouth as he coughed uncontrollably. Another tap on his back stopped the
agonizing pain and retching. But it did not stop his fear, and he passed out.
control your death for the time being," the nagual said when the young
actor regained consciousness. "How long I can control it depends on you,
on how faithfully you acquiesce to everything I tell you to do."
The nagual said
that the first requirements of the young man were total immobility and silence.
If he did not want his plug to come out, the nagual added, he had to behave as
if he had lost his powers of motion and speech. A single twitch or a single
utterance would be enough to restart his dying.
The young actor
was not accustomed to complying with suggestions or demands. He felt a surge of
anger. As he started to voice his protest, the burning pain and convulsions
started up again.
it, and I will cure you," the nagual said. "Act like the weak, rotten
imbecile you are, and you will die."
The actor, a
proud young man, was numbed by the insult. Nobody had ever called him a weak,
rotten imbecile. He wanted to express his fury, but his pain was so severe that
he could not react to the indignity.
want me to ease your pain, you must obey me blindly," the nagual said with
frightening coldness. "Signal me with a nod. But know now that the moment
you change your mind and act like the shameful moron you are, I'll immediately
pull the plug and leave you to die."
With his last
bit of strength the actor nodded his assent. The nagual tapped him on his back
and his pain vanished. But along with the searing pain, something else vanished:
the fog in his mind. And then the young actor knew everything without
understanding anything. The nagual introduced himself again. He told him that
his name was Elías, and that he was the nagual. And the actor knew what
it all meant.
The nagual Elías
then shifted his attention to the semi-conscious Talia. He put his mouth to her
left ear and whispered commands to her in order to make her assemblage point
stop its erratic shifting. He soothed her fear by telling her, in whispers,
stories of sorcerers who had gone through the same thing she was experiencing.
When she was fairly calm, he introduced himself as the nagual Elías, a
sorcerer; and then he attempted with her the most difficult thing in sorcery:
moving the assemblage point beyond the sphere of the world we know.
remarked that seasoned sorcerers are capable of moving beyond the world we
know, but that inexperienced persons are not. The nagual Elías always
maintained that ordinarily he would not have dreamed of attempting such a feat,
but on that day something other than his knowledge or his volition was making
him act. Yet the maneuver worked. Talia moved beyond the world we know and came
Then the nagual
Elías had another insight. He sat between the two people stretched out on
the ground —the actor was naked, covered only by the nagual Elías's
riding coat—and reviewed their situation. He told them they had both, by
the force of circumstances, fallen into a trap set by the spirit itself. He,
the nagual, was the active part of that trap, because by encountering them
under the conditions he had, he had been forced to become their temporary
protector and to engage his knowledge of sorcery in order to help them. As
their temporary protector it was his duty to warn them that they were about to
reach a unique threshold; and that it was up to them, both individually and
together, to attain that threshold by entering a mood of abanDon but not
recklessness; a mood of caring but not indulgence. He did not want to say more
for fear of confusing them or influencing their decision. He felt that if they
were to cross that threshold, it had to be with minimal help from him.
The nagual then
left them alone in that isolated spot and went to the city to arrange for
medicinal herbs, mats, and blankets to be brought to them. His idea was that in
solitude they would attain and cross that threshold.
For a long time
the two young people lay next to each other, immersed in their own thoughts.
The fact that their assemblage points had shifted meant that they could think
in greater depth than ordinarily, but it also meant that they worried,
pondered, and were afraid in equally greater depth.
could talk and was a bit stronger, she broke their silence; she asked the young
actor if he was afraid. He nodded affirmatively. She felt a great compassion
for him and took off a shawl she was wearing to put over his shoulders, and she
held his hand.
The young man
did not dare voice what he felt. His fear that his pain would recur if he spoke
was too great and too vivid. He wanted to apologize to her; to tell her that
his only regret was having hurt her, and that it did not matter that he was going
to die—for he knew with certainty that he was not going to survive the
thoughts were on the same subject. She said that she too had only one regret:
that she had fought him hard enough to bring on his death. She was very
peaceful now, a feeling which,
agitated as she
always was and driven by her great strength, was unfamiliar to her. She told
him that her death was very near, too, and that she was glad it all would end
actor, hearing his own thoughts being spoken by Talia, felt a chill. A surge of
energy came to him then and made him sit up. He was not in pain, nor was he
coughing. He took in great gulps of air, something he had no memory of having Done
before. He took the girl's hand and they began to talk without vocalizing.
Don Juan said
it was at that instant that the spirit came to them. And they saw. They were
deeply Catholic, and what they saw was a vision of heaven, where everything was
alive, bathed in light. They saw a world of miraculous sights.
When the nagual
returned, they were exhausted, although not injured. Talia was unconscious, but
the young man had managed to remain aware by a supreme effort of self-control.
He insisted on whispering something in the nagual's ear.
heaven," he whispered, tears rolling down his cheeks.
more than that," the nagual Elías retorted. "You saw the
Don Juan said
that since the spirit's descent is always shrouded, naturally, Talia and the
young actor could not hold onto their vision. They soon forgot it, as anyone
would. The uniqueness of their experience was that, without any training and
without being aware of it, they had dreamed together and had seen the spirit.
For them to have achieved this with such ease was quite out of the ordinary.
were really the most remarkable beings I have ever met," Don Juan added.
wanted to know more about them. But Don Juan would not indulge me. He said that
this was all there was about his benefactor and the fourth abstract core.
He seemed to remember
something he was not telling me and laughed uproariously. Then he patted me on
the back and told me it was time to set out for the cave.
When we got to
the rock ledge it was almost dark. Don Juan sat down hurriedly, in the same
position as the first time. He was to my right, touching me with his shoulder.
He immediately seemed to enter into a deep state of relaxation, which pulled me
into total immobility and silence. I could not even hear his breathing. I
closed my eyes, and he nudged me to warn me to keep them open.
By the time it
became completely dark, an immense fatigue had begun to make my eyes sore and
itchy. Finally I gave up my resistance and was pulled into the deepest,
blackest sleep I have ever had. Yet I was not totally asleep. I could feel the
thick blackness around me. I had an entirely physical sensation of wading
through blackness. Then it suddenly became reddish, then orange, then glaring
white, like a terribly strong neon light. Gradually I focused my vision until I
saw I was still sitting in the same position with Don Juan—but no longer
in the cave. We were on a mountaintop looking down over exquisite flatlands
with mountains in the distance. This beautiful prairie was bathed in a glow
that, like rays of light, emanated from the land itself. Wherever I looked, I
saw familiar features: rocks, hills, rivers, forests, canyons, enhanced and
transformed by their inner vibration, their inner glow. This glow that was so
pleasing to my eyes also tingled out of my very being.
assemblage point has moved," Don Juan seemed to say to me.
The words had
no sound; nevertheless I knew what he had just said to me. My rational reaction
was to try to explain to myself that I had no doubt heard him as I would have
if he had been talking in a vacuum, probably because my ears had been
temporarily affected by what was transpiring.
are fine. We are in a different realm of awareness," Don Juan again seemed
to say to me.
I could not
speak. I felt the lethargy of deep sleep preventing me from saying a word, yet
I was as alert as I could be.
happening?" I thought.
made your assemblage point move," Don Juan thought, and I heard his
thoughts as if they were my own words, voiced to myself.
I sensed a
command that was not expressed in thoughts. Something ordered me to look again
at the prairie.
As I stared at
the wondrous sight, filaments of light began to radiate from everything on that
prairie. At first it was like the explosion of an infinite number of short
fibers, then the fibers became long threadlike strands of luminosity bundled
together into beams of vibrating light that reached infinity. There was really
no way for me to make sense of what I was seeing, or to describe it, except as
filaments of vibrating light. The filaments were not intermingled or entwined.
Although they sprang, and continued to spring, in every direction, each one was
separate, and yet all of them were inextricably bundled together.
seeing the Eagle's emanations and the force that keeps them apart and bundles
them together," Don Juan thought.
The instant I
caught his thought the filaments of light seemed to consume all my energy.
Fatigue overwhelmed me. It erased my vision and plunged me into darkness.
When I became
aware of myself again, there was something so familiar around me, although I
could not tell what it was, that I believed myself to be back in a normal state
of awareness. Don Juan was asleep beside me, his shoulder against mine.
Then I realized
that the darkness around us was so intense that I could not even see my hands.
I speculated that fog must have covered the ledge and filled the cave. Or
perhaps it was the wispy low clouds that descended every rainy night from the
higher mountains like a silent avalanche. Yet in spite of the total blackness,
somehow I saw that Don Juan had opened his eyes immediately after I became
aware, although he did not look at me. Instantly I realized that seeing him was
not a consequence of light on my retina. It was, rather, a bodily sense.
I became so
engrossed in observing Don Juan without my eyes that I was not paying attention
to what he was telling me. Finally he stopped talking and turned his face to me
as if to look me in the eye.
He coughed a
couple of times to clear his throat and started to talk in a very low voice. He
said that his benefactor used to come to the cave quite often, both with him
and with his other disciples, but more often by himself. In that cave his
benefactor saw the same prairie we had just seen, a vision that gave him the
idea of describing the spirit as the flow of things.
repeated that his benefactor was not a good thinker. Had he been, he would have
realized in an instant that what he had seen and described as the flow of things
was intent, the force that permeates everything. Don Juan added that if his
benefactor ever became aware of the nature of his seeing he didn't reveal it.
And he, himself, had the idea that his benefactor never knew it. Instead, his
benefactor believed that he had seen the flow of things, which was the absolute
truth, but not the way he meant it.
Don Juan was so
emphatic about this that I wanted to ask him what the difference was, but I
could not speak. My throat seemed frozen. We sat there in complete silence and
hours. Yet I
did not experience any discomfort. My muscles did not get tired, my legs did
not fall asleep, my back did not ache.
When he began
to talk again, I did not even notice the transition, and I readily abanDoned
myself to listening to his voice. It was a melodic, rhythmical sound that
emerged from the total blackness that surrounded me.
He said that at
that very moment I was not in my normal state of awareness nor was I in
heightened awareness. I was suspended in a lull, in the blackness of
nonperception. My assemblage point had moved away from perceiving the daily
world, but it had not moved enough to reach and light a totally new bundle of
energy fields. Properly speaking, I was caught between two perceptual possibilities.
This in-between state, this lull of perception had been reached through the
influence of the cave, which was itself guided by the intent of the sorcerers
who carved it.
Don Juan asked
me to pay close attention to what he was going to say next. He said that
thousands of years ago, by means of seeing, sorcerers became aware that the
earth was sentient and that its awareness could affect the awareness of humans.
They tried to find a way to use the earth's influence on human awareness and
they discovered that certain caves were most effective. Don Juan said that the
search for caves became nearly full-time work for those sorcerers, and that
through their endeavors they were able to discover a variety of uses for a
variety of cave configurations. He added that out of all that work the only
result pertinent to us was this particular cave and its capacity to move the
assemblage point until it reached a lull of perception.
As Don Juan
spoke, I had the unsettling sensation that something was clearing in my mind. Something
was funnelling my awareness into a long narrow channel. All the superfluous
half- thoughts and feelings of my normal awareness were being squeezed out.
Don Juan was
thoroughly aware of what was happening to me. I heard his soft chuckle of
satisfaction. He said that now we could talk more easily and our conversation
would have more depth.
I remembered at
that moment scores of things he had explained to me before. For instance, I
knew that I was dreaming. I was actually sound asleep yet I was totally aware
of myself through my second attention —the counterpart of my normal
attentiveness. I was certain I was asleep because of a bodily sensation plus a
rational deduction based on statements that Don Juan had made in the past. I
had just seen the Eagle's emanations, and Don Juan had said that it was
impossible for sorcerers to have a sustained view of the Eagle's emanations in
any way except in dreaming, therefore I had to be dreaming.
Don Juan had
explained that the universe is made up of energy fields which defy description
or scrutiny. He had said that they resembled filaments of ordinary light,
except that light is lifeless compared to the Eagle's emanations, which exude
awareness. I had never, until this night, been able to see them in a sustained manner,
and indeed they were made out of a light that was alive. Don Juan had
maintained in the past that my knowledge and control of intent were not
adequate to withstand the impact of that sight. He had explained that normal
perception occurs when intent, which is pure energy, lights up a portion of the
luminous filaments inside our cocoon, and at the same time brightens a long
extension of the same luminous filaments extending into infinity outside our
cocoon. Extraordinary perception, seeing, occurs when by the force of intent, a
different cluster of energy fields energizes and lights up. He had said that
when a crucial number of energy fields are lit up inside the luminous cocoon, a
sorcerer is able to see the energy fields themselves.
occasion Don Juan had recounted the rational thinking of the early sorcerers.
He told me that, through their seeing, they realized that awareness took place
when the energy fields inside our luminous cocoon were aligned with the same
energy fields outside. And they believed they had discovered alignment as the
source of awareness.
examination, however, it became evident that what they had called alignment of
the Eagle's emanations did not entirely explain what they were seeing. They had
noticed that only a very small portion of the total number of luminous
filaments inside the cocoon was energized while the rest remained unaltered.
Seeing these few filaments energized had created a false discovery. The
filaments did not need to be aligned to be lit up, because the ones inside our
cocoon were the same as those outside. Whatever energized them was definitely
felt they could not continue to call it awareness, as they had, because
awareness was the glow of the energy fields being lit up. So the force that lit
up the fields was named will.
Don Juan had
said that when their seeing became still more sophisticated and effective, they
realized that will was the force that kept the Eagle's emanations separated and
was not only responsible for our awareness, but also for everything in the
universe. They saw that this force had total consciousness and that it sprang
from the very fields of energy that made the universe. They decided then that
intent was a more appropriate name for it than will. In the long run, however,
the name proved disadvantageous, because it does not describe its overwhelming
importance nor the living connection it has with everything in the universe.
Don Juan had
asserted that our great collective flaw is that we live our lives completely
disregarding that connection. The busyness of our lives, our relentless
interests, concerns, hopes, frustrations, and fears take precedence, and on a
day-to-day basis we are unaware of being linked to everything else.
Don Juan had
stated his belief that the Christian idea of being cast out from the Garden of
Eden sounded to him like an allegory for losing our silent knowledge, our
knowledge of intent. Sorcery, then, was a going back to the beginning, a return
seated in the cave in total silence, perhaps for hours, or perhaps it was only
a few instants. Suddenly Don Juan began to talk, and the unexpected sound of
his voice jarred me. I did not catch what he said. I cleared my throat to ask
him to repeat what he had said, and that act brought me completely out of my
reflectiveness. I quickly realized that the darkness around me was no longer
impenetrable. I could speak now. I felt I was back in my normal state of
In a calm voice
Don Juan told me that for the very first time in my life I had seen the spirit,
the force that sustains the universe. He emphasized that intent is not
something one might use or command or move in any way—nevertheless, one
could use it, command it, or move it as one desires. This contradiction, he
said, is the essence of sorcery. To fail to understand it had brought
generations of sorcerers unimaginable pain and sorrow. Modern-day naguals, in
an effort to avoid
exorbitant price in pain, had developed a code of behavior called the warrior's
way, or the impeccable action, which prepared sorcerers by enhancing their
sobriety and thoughtfulness.
explained that at one time in the remote past, sorcerers were deeply interested
in the general connecting link that intent has with everything. And by focusing
their second attention on that link, they acquired not only direct knowledge
but also the ability to manipulate that knowledge and perform astounding deeds.
They did not acquire, however, the soundness of mind needed to manage all that
So in a
judicious mood, sorcerers decided to focus their second attention solely on the
connecting link of creatures who have awareness. This included the entire range
of existing organic beings as well as the entire range of what sorcerers call
inorganic beings, or allies, which they described as entities with awareness,
but no life as we understand life. This solution was not successful either,
because it, too, foiled to bring diem wisdom.
In their next
reduction, sorcerers focused their attention exclusively on the link that
connects human beings with intent. The end result was very much as before.
sought a final reduction. Each sorcerer would be concerned solely with his individual
connection. But this proved to be equally ineffective.
Don Juan said
that although there were remarkable differences among those four areas of
interest, one was as corrupting as another. So in the end sorcerers concerned
themselves exclusively with the capacity that their individual connecting link
with intent had to set them free to light the fire from within.
that all modern-day sorcerers have to struggle fiercely to gain soundness of
mind. A nagual has to struggle especially hard because he has more strength, a
greater command over the energy fields that determine perception, and more
training in and familiarity with the intricacies of silent knowledge, which is
nothing but direct contact with intent.
this way, sorcery becomes an attempt to reestablish our knowledge of intent and
regain use of it without succumbing to it. And the abstract cores of the
sorcery stories are shades of realization, degrees of our being aware of
I understood Don
Juan's explanation with perfect clarity. But the more I understood and the
clearer his statements became, the greater my sense of loss and despondency. At
one moment I sincerely considered ending my life right there. I felt I was
damned. Nearly in tears, I told Don Juan that there was no point in his
continuing his explanation, for I knew that I was about to lose my clarity of
mind, and that when I reverted to my normal state of awareness I would have no
memory of having seen or heard anything. My mundane consciousness would impose
its lifelong habit of repetition and the reasonable predictability of its
logic. That was why I felt damned. I told him that I resented my fate.
responded that even in heightened awareness I thrived on repetition, and that
periodically I would insist on boring him by describing my attacks of feeling
worthless. He said that if I had to go under it should be fighting, not
apologizing or feeling sorry for myself, and that it did not matter what our
specific fate was as long as we faced it with ultimate abanDon.
His words made
me feel blissfully happy. I repeated over and over, tears streaming down my
cheeks, that I agreed with him. There was such profound happiness in me I
suspected my nerves were getting out of hand. I called upon all my forces to stop
this and I felt the sobering effect of my mental brakes. But as this happened,
my clarity of mind began to diffuse. I silently fought trying to be both less
sober and less nervous. Don Juan did not make a sound and left me alone.
By the time I
had reestablished my balance, it was almost dawn. Don Juan stood, stretched his
arms above his head and tensed his muscles, making his joints crack. He helped
me up and commented that I had spent a most enlightening night: I had
experienced what the spirit was and had been able to summon hidden strength to
accomplish something, which on the surface amounted to calming my nervousness,
but at a deeper level it had actually been a very successful, volitional
movement of my assemblage point.
then that it was time to start on our way back.
We walked into
his house around seven in the morning, in time for breakfast. I was famished
but not tired. We had left the cave to climb down to the valley at dawn. Don
Juan, instead of following the most direct route, made a long detour that took
us along the river. He explained that we had to collect our wits before we got
I answered it
was very kind of him to say "our wits" when I was the only one whose
wits were disordered. But he replied that he was acting not out of kindness but
out of warrior's training. A warrior, he said, was on permanent guard against
the roughness of human behavior. A warrior was magical and ruthless, a maverick
with the most refined taste and manners, whose worldly task was to sharpen, yet
disguise, his cutting edges so that no one would be able to suspect his
I thought it would be wise to get some sleep, but Don Juan contended I had no
time to waste. He said that all too soon I would lose the little clarity I
still had, and if I went to sleep I would lose it all.
doesn't take a genius to figure out that there is hardly any way to talk about
intent,'' he said quickly as he scrutinized me from head to toe. "But
making this statement doesn't mean anything. It is the reason why sorcerers
rely instead on the sorcery stories. And their hope is that someday the
abstract cores of the stories will make sense to the listener."
what he was saying, but I still could not conceive what an abstract core was or
what it was supposed to mean to me. I tried to think about it. Thoughts
barraged me. Images passed rapidly through my mind giving me no time to think
about them. I could not slow them down enough even to recognize them. Finally anger
overpowered me and I slammed my fist on the table.
Don Juan shook
from head to toe, choking with laughter.
you did last night," he urged me, winking. "Slow yourself down."
made me very aggressive. I immediately put forth some senseless arguments; then
I became aware of my error and apologized for my lack of restraint.
apologize," he said. "I should tell you that the understanding you're
after is impossible at this time. The abstract cores of the sorcery stories
will say nothing to you now. Later—years later, I mean—they may
make perfect sense to you."
I begged Don
Juan not to leave me in the dark, to
abstract cores. It was not at all clear to me what he wanted me to do with
them. I assured him that my present state of heightened awareness could be very
helpful to me in allowing me to understand his discussion. I urged him to
hurry, for I could not guarantee how long this state would last. I told him
that soon I would return to my normal state and would become a bigger idiot
than I was at that moment. I said it half in jest. His laughter told me that he
had taken it as such, but I was deeply affected by my own words. A tremendous
sense of melancholy overtook me.
Don Juan gently
took my arm, pulled me to a comfortable armchair, then sat down facing me. He
gazed fixedly into my eyes, and for a moment I was incapable of breaking the
force of his stare.
constantly stalk themselves," he said in a reassuring voice, as if trying
to calm me with the sound of his voice.
I wanted to say
that my nervousness had passed and that it had probably been caused by my lack
of sleep, but he did not allow me to say anything.
He assured me
that he had already taught me everything there was to know about stalking, but
I had not yet retrieved my knowledge from the depth of heightened awareness,
where I had it stored. I told him I had the annoying sensation of being bottled
up. I felt there was something locked inside me, something that made me slam
doors and kick tables, something that frustrated me and made me irascible.
sensation of being bottled up is experienced by every human being," he
said. "It is a reminder of our existing connection with intent. For
sorcerers this sensation is even more acute, precisely because their goal is to
sensitize their connecting link until they can make it function at will.
pressure of their connecting link is too great, sorcerers relieve it by
"I still Don't
think I understand what you mean by stalking," I said. "But at a
certain level I think I know exactly what you mean."
to help you clarify what you know, then," he said. "Stalking is a
procedure, a very simple one. Stalking is special behavior that follows certain
principles. It is secretive, furtive, deceptive behavior designed to deliver a
jolt. And, when you stalk yourself you jolt yourself, using your own behavior
in a ruthless, cunning way."
that when a sorcerer's awareness became bogged down with the weight of his
perceptual input, which was what was happening to me, the best, or even perhaps
the only, remedy was to use the idea of death to deliver that stalking jolt.
of death therefore is of monumental importance in the life of a sorcerer,"
Don Juan continued. "I have shown you innumerable things about death to
convince you that the knowledge of our impending and unavoidable end is what
gives us sobriety. Our most costly mistake as average men is indulging in a
sense of immortality. It is as though we believe that if we Don't think about
death we can protect ourselves from it."
agree, Don Juan, not thinking about death certainly protects us from worrying
serves that purpose," he conceded. "But that purpose is an unworthy
one for average men and a travesty for sorcerers. Without a clear view of
death, there is no order, no sobriety, no beauty. Sorcerers struggle to gain
this crucial insight in order to help them realize at the deepest possible
level that they have no assurance whatsoever their lives will continue beyond
the moment. That realization gives sorcerers
the courage to
be patient and yet take action, courage to be acquiescent without being
Don Juan fixed
his gaze on me. He smiled and shook his head.
he went on. "The idea of death is the only thing that can give sorcerers
courage. Strange, isn't it? It gives sorcerers the courage to be cunning
without being conceited, and above all it gives them courage to be ruthless
without being self-important."
He smiled again
and nudged me. I told him I was absolutely terrified by the idea of my death,
that I thought about it constantly, but it certainly didn't give me courage or
spur me to take action. It only made me cynical or caused me to lapse into
moods of profound melancholy.
problem is very simple," he said. "You become easily obsessed. I have
been telling you that sorcerers stalk themselves in order to break the power of
their obsessions. There are many ways
oneself. If you Don't want to use the idea of your death, use the poems you
read me to stalk yourself."
told you that there are many reasons I like poems," he said. "What I
do is stalk myself with them. I deliver a jolt to myself with them. I listen,
and as you read, I shut off my internal dialogue and let my inner silence gain
momentum. Then the combination of the poem and the silence delivers the
that poets unconsciously long for the sorcerers' world. Because they are not
sorcerers on the path of knowledge, longing is all they have.
see if you can feel what I'm talking about," he said, handing me a book of
poems by Jose Gorostiza.
I opened it at
the bookmark and he pointed to the poem he liked.
. . . this
Incessant stubborn dying,
that slays you,
in the roses,
in the stones,
and in the
flesh that burns out,
like a bonfire
lit by a song,
a hue that hits
. . . and you,
died eternities of ages out there,
knowing about it,
crumbs, ashes of you;
you that still
like a star
faked by its very light,
an empty light
"As I hear
the words," Don Juan said when I had finished reading, "I feel that
that man is seeing the essence of things and I can see with him. I Don't care
what the poem is about. I care only about the feeling the poet's longing brings
me. I borrow his longing, and with it I borrow the beauty. And marvel at the
fact that he, like a true warrior, lavishes it on the recipients, the
beholders, retaining for himself only his longing. This jolt, this shock of
beauty, is stalking."
I was very
moved. Don Juan's explanation had touched a strange chord in me.
say, Don Juan, that death is the only real enemy we have?" I asked him a
he said with conviction. "Death is not an enemy, although it appears to
be. Death is not our destroyer, although we think it is."
it, then, if not our destroyer?" I asked.
say death is the only worthy opponent we have," he replied. "Death is
our challenger. We are born to take that challenge, average men or sorcerers.
Sorcerers know about it; average men do not."
personally would say, Don Juan, life, not death, is the challenge."
the process by means of which death challenges us," he said. "Death
is the active force. Life is the arena. And in that arena there are only two
contenders at any time: oneself and death."
think, Don Juan, that we human beings are the challengers," I said.
all," he retorted. "We are passive. Think about it. If we move, it's
only when we feel the pressure of death. Death sets the pace for our actions
and feelings and pushes us relentlessly until it breaks us and wins the bout,
or else we rise above all possibilities and defeat death.
defeat death and death acknowledges the defeat by letting the sorcerers go
free, never to be challenged again."
mean that sorcerers become immortal?"
doesn't mean that," he replied. "Death stops challenging them, that's
does that mean, Don Juan?" I asked.
thought has taken a somersault into the inconceivable," he said.
"What is a
somersault of thought into the inconceivable?" I asked, trying not to
sound belligerent. "The problem you and I have is that we do not share the
not being truthful," Don Juan interrupted. "You understand what I
mean. For you to demand a rational explanation of 'a somersault of thought into
the inconceivable' is a travesty. You know exactly what it is."
"No, I Don't,"
And then I
realized that I did, or rather, that I intuited what it meant. There was some
part of me that could transcend my rationality and understand and explain,
beyond the level of metaphor, a somersault of thought into the inconceivable.
The trouble was that part of me was not strong enough to surface at will.
I said as much
to Don Juan, who laughed and commented that my awareness was like a yo-yo.
Sometimes it rose to a high spot and my command was keen, while at others it
descended and I became a rational moron. But most of the time it hovered at an
unworthy median where I was neither fish nor fowl.
somersault of thought into the inconceivable," he explained with an air of
resignation, "is the descent of the spirit; the act of breaking our
perceptual barriers. It is the moment in which man's perception reaches its
limits. Sorcerers practice the art of sending scouts, advance runners, to probe
our perceptual limits. This is another reason I like poems. I take them as
advance runners. But, as I've said to you before, poets Don't know as exactly
as sorcerers what those advance runners can accomplish."
In the early
evening, Don Juan said that we had many things to discuss and asked me if I
wanted to go for a walk. I was in a peculiar state of mind. Earlier I had
noticed a strange aloofness in myself that came and went. At first I thought it
was physical fatigue clouding my thoughts. But my thoughts were crystal clear.
So I became convinced that my strange detachment was a product of my shift to
We left the
house and strolled around the town's plaza. I quickly asked Don Juan about my
aloofness before he had a chance to begin on anything else. He explained it as
a shift of energy. He said that as the energy that was ordinarily used to
maintain the fixed position of the assemblage point became liberated, it
focused automatically on that connecting link. He assured me that there were no
techniques or maneuvers for a sorcerer to learn beforehand to move energy from one
place to the other. Rather it was a matter of an instantaneous shift taking
place once a certain level of proficiency had been attained.
I asked him
what the level of proficiency was. Pure understanding, he replied. In order to
attain that instantaneous shift of energy, one needed a clear connection with
intent, and to get a clear connection one needed only to intend it through pure
wanted him to explain pure understanding. He laughed and sat down on a bench.
to tell you something fundamental about sorcerers and their acts of
sorcery," he went on. "Something about the somersault of their
thought into the inconceivable."
He said that
some sorcerers were storytellers. Storytelling for them was not only the
advance runner that probed their perceptual limits but their path to
perfection, to power, to the spirit. He was quiet for a moment, obviously
searching for an appropriate example. Then he reminded me that the Yaqui
Indians had a collection of historical events they called "the memorable
dates." I knew that the memorable dates were oral accounts of their
history as a nation when they waged war against the invaders of their homeland:
the Spaniards first, the Mexicans later. Don Juan, a Yaqui himself, stated
emphatically that the memorable dates were accounts of their defeats and
would you say," he asked me, "since you are a learned man, about a
sorcerer storyteller's taking an account from the memorable dates—let's
say, for example, the story of Calixto Muni—and changing the ending so
that instead of describing how Calixto Muni was drawn and quartered by the
Spanish executioners, which is what happened, he tells a story of Calixto Muni
the victorious rebel who succeeded in liberating his people?"
I knew the
story of Calixto Muni. He was a Yaqui Indian who, according to the memorable
dates, served for many years on a buccaneer ship in the Caribbean in order to
learn war strategy. Then he returned to his native Sonora, managed to start an
uprising against the Spaniards and declared a war of independence, only to be
betrayed, captured, and executed.
Don Juan coaxed
me to comment. I told him I would have to assume that changing the factual
account in the manner he was describing would be a psychological device, a sort
of wishful thinking on the sorcerer storyteller's part. Or perhaps it would be
a personal, idiosyncratic way of alleviating frustration. I added that I would
even call such a sorcerer storyteller a patriot because he was unable to accept
laughed until he was choking.
not a matter of one sorcerer storyteller," he argued. "They all do
a socially sanctioned device to express the wishful thinking of a whole
society," I retorted. "A socially accepted way of releasing
psychological stress collectively."
argument is glib and convincing and reasonable," he commented. "But
because your spirit is dead, you can't see the flaw in your argument."
He eyed me as
if coaxing me to understand what he was saying. I had no comment, and anything
I might have said would have made me sound peevish.
sorcerer storyteller who changes the ending of the 'factual' account," he
said, "does it at the direction and under the auspices of the spirit.
Because he can manipulate his elusive-connection with intent, he can actually
change things. The sorcerer storyteller signals that he has intended it by
taking off his hat, putting it on the ground, and turning it a full three
hundred and sixty degrees
Under the auspices of the spirit, that simple act plunges him into the spirit
itself. He has let his thought somersault into the inconceivable."
Don Juan lifted
his arm above his head and pointed for an instant to the sky above the horizon.
his pure understanding is an advance runner probing that immensity out
there," Don Juan went on, "the sorcerer storyteller knows without a
shadow-of doubt that somewhere, somehow, in that infinity, at this very moment
the spirit has descended. Calixto Muni is victorious. He has delivered his
people. His goal has transcended his person."
A couple of
days later, Don Juan and I made a trip to the mountains. Halfway up the
foothills we sat down to rest. Earlier that day, Don Juan had decided to find
an appropriate setting in which to explain some intricate aspects of the
mastery of awareness. Usually he preferred to go to the closer western range of
mountains. This time, however, he chose the eastern peaks. They were much higher
and farther away. To me they seemed more ominous, darker, and more massive. But
I could not tell whether this impression was my own or if I had somehow
absorbed Don Juan's feelings about these mountains.
I opened my
backpack. The women seers from Don Juan's group had prepared it for me and I
discovered that they had packed some cheese. I experienced a moment of
annoyance, because while I liked cheese, it did not agree with me. Yet I was
incapable of refusing it whenever it was made available.
Don Juan had
pointed this out as a true weakness and had made fun of me. I was embarrassed
at first but found that when I did not have cheese around I did not miss it.
The problem was that the practical jokers in Don Juan's group always packed a
big chunk of cheese for me, which, of course, I always ended up eating.
in one sitting," Don Juan advised me with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
"That way you won't have to worry about it anymore."
influenced by his suggestion, I had the most intense desire to devour the whole
chunk. Don Juan laughed so much I suspected that once again he had schemed with
his group to set me up.
In a more
serious mood, he suggested that we spend the night there in the foothills and
take a day or two to reach the higher peaks. I agreed.
casually asked me if I had recalled anything about the four moods of stalking.
I admitted that I had tried, but that my memory had failed me.
remember my teaching you the nature of ruthlessness?" he asked.
"Ruthlessness, the opposite of self-pity?"
I could not
remember. Don Juan appeared to be considering what to say next. Then he
stopped. The corners of his mouth dropped in a gesture of sham impotence. He
shrugged his shoulders, stood up and quickly walked a short distance to a small
level spot on top of a hill.
sorcerers are ruthless," he said, as we sat down on the flat ground.
"But you know this. We have discussed this concept at length."
After a long
silence, he said that we were going to continue discussing the abstract cores
of the sorcery stories, but that he intended to talk less and less about them
because the time was approaching when it would be up to me to discover them and
allow them to reveal their meaning.
"As I have
already told you," he said, "the fourth abstract core of the sorcery
stories is called the descent of the spirit, or being moved by intent. The
story says that in order to let the mysteries of sorcery reveal themselves to
the man we've been talking about, it was necessary for the spirit to descend on
that man. The spirit chose a moment when the man was distracted, unguarded,
and, showing no pity, the spirit let its presence by itself move the man's
assemblage point to a specific position. This spot was known to sorcerers from
then on as the place of no pity. Ruthlessness became, in this way, the first
principle of sorcery.
principle should not be confused with the first effect of sorcery
apprenticeship, which is the shift between normal and heightened
understand what you are trying to tell me," I complained.
want to say is that, to all appearances, having the assemblage point shift is
the first thing that actually happens to a sorcery apprentice," he
replied. "So, it is only natural for an apprentice to assume that this is
the first principle of sorcery. But it is not. Ruthlessness is the first
principle of sorcery. But we have discussed this before. Now I am only trying
to help you remember."
honestly have said that I had no idea what he was talking about, but I also had
the strange sensation that I did.
back the recollection of the first time I taught you ruthlessness," he
urged. "Recollecting has to do with moving the assemblage point."
He waited a
moment to see whether I was following his suggestion. Since it was obvious that
I could not, he continued his explanation. He said that, mysterious as the
shift into heightened awareness was, all that one needed to accomplish it was
the presence of the spirit.
I remarked that
his statements that day either were extremely obscure or I was terribly dense,
because I could not follow his line of thought at all. He replied firmly that
my confusion was unimportant and insisted that the only thing of real
importance was that I understand that the mere contact with the spirit could
bring about any movement of the assemblage point.
you the nagual is the conduit of the spirit," he went on. "Since he
spends a lifetime impeccably redefining his connecting link with intent, and
since he has more energy than the average man, he can let the spirit express
itself through him. So, the first thing the sorcerer apprentice experiences is
a shift in his level of awareness, a shift brought about simply by the presence
of the nagual. And what I want you to know is that there really is no procedure
involved in making the assemblage point move. The spirit touches the apprentice
and his assemblage point moves. It is as simple as that."
I told him that
his assertions were disturbing because they contradicted what I had painfully
learned to accept through personal experience: that heightened awareness was
feasible as a sophisticated, although inexplicable, maneuver performed by Don
Juan by means of which he manipulated my perception. Throughout the years of
our association, he had time after time made me enter into heightened awareness
by striking me on my back. I pointed out this contradiction.
He replied that
striking my back was more a trick to trap my attention and remove doubts from
my mind than a bona fide maneuver to manipulate my perception. He called it a
simple trick, in keeping with his moderate personality. He commented, not quite
as a joke, that I was lucky he was a plain man, not given to weird behavior.
Otherwise, instead of simple tricks, I would have had to endure bizarre rituals
before he could remove all doubts from my mind, to let the spirit move my
need to do to allow magic to get hold of us is to banish doubt from our
minds," he said. "Once doubts are banished, anything is
He reminded me
of an event I had witnessed some months before in Mexico City, which I had
found to be incomprehensible until he had explained it, using the sorcerers'
What I had
witnessed was a surgical operation performed by a famous psychic healer. A
friend of mine was the patient. The healer was a woman who entered a very
dramatic trance to operate on him.
I was able to
observe that, using a kitchen knife, she cut his abdominal cavity open in the
umbilical region, detached his diseased liver, washed it in a bucket of
alcohol, put it back in and closed the bloodless opening with just the pressure
of her hands.
There had been
a number of people in the semidark room, witnesses to the operation. Some of
them seemed to be interested observers like myself. The others seemed to be the
operation, I talked briefly to three of the observers. They all agreed that
they had witnessed the same events I had. When I talked to my friend, the
patient, he reported that he had felt the operation as a
pain in his stomach and a burning sensation on his right side.
I had narrated
all of this to Don Juan and I had even ventured a cynical explanation. I had
told him that the semidarkness of the room, in my opinion, lent itself
perfectly to all kinds of sleight of hand, which could have accounted for the
sight of the internal organs being pulled out of the
cavity and washed in alcohol. The emotional shock caused by the healer's
dramatic trance—which I also considered trickery—helped to create
an atmosphere of almost religious faith.
immediately pointed out that this was a cynical opinion, not a cynical
explanation, because it did not explain the fact that my friend had really
gotten well. Don Juan had then proposed an alternative view based on sorcerers'
knowledge. He had explained that the event hinged on the salient fact that the
healer was capable of moving the assemblage point of the exact number of people
in her audience. The only trickery involved—if one could call it
trickery— was that the number of people present in the room could not
exceed the number she could handle.
trance and the accompanying histrionics were, according to him, either well-
thought-out devices the healer used to trap the attention of those present or
unconscious maneuvers dictated by the spirit itself. Whichever, they were the
most appropriate means whereby the healer could foster the unity of thought
needed to remove doubt from the minds of those present and force them into
When she cut
the body open with a kitchen knife and removed the internal organs it was not, Don
Juan had stressed, sleight of hand. These were bona fide events, which, by
virtue of taking place in heightened awareness, were outside the realm of
I had asked Don
Juan how the healer could manage to move the assemblage points of those people
without touching them. His reply had been that the healer's power, a gift or a
stupendous accomplishment, was to serve as a conduit for the spirit. It was the
spirit, he had said, and not the healer, which had moved those assemblage
explained to you then, although you didn't understand a word of it," Don
Juan went on, "that the healer's art and power was to remove doubts from
the minds of those present. By doing this, she was able to allow the spirit to
move their assemblage points. Once those points had moved, everything was
possible. They had entered into the realm where miracles are commonplace."
emphatically that the healer must also have been a sorceress, and that if I
made an effort to remember the operation, I would remember that she had been
ruthless with the people around her, especially the patient.
I repeated to
him what I could recall of the session. The pitch and tone of the healer's
flat, feminine voice changed dramatically when she entered a trance into a
raspy, deep, male voice. That voice announced that the spirit of a warrior of
pre-Columbian antiquity had possessed the healer's body. Once the announcement
was made, the healer's attitude changed dramatically. She was possessed. She
was obviously absolutely sure of herself, and she proceeded to operate with
total certainty and firmness.
the word 'ruthlessness' to 'certainty' and 'firmness,'" Don Juan
commented, then continued. "That healer had to be ruthless to create the
proper setting for the spirit's intervention."
that events difficult to explain, such as that operation, were really very
simple. They were made difficult by our insistence upon thinking. If we did not
think, everything fit into place.
truly absurd, Don Juan," I said and really meant it.
I reminded him
that he demanded serious thinking of all his apprentices, and even criticized
his own teacher for not being a good thinker.
I insist that everyone around me think clearly," he said. "And I
explain, to anyone who wants to listen, that the only way to think clearly is
to not think at all. I was convinced you understood this sorcerers'
In a loud voice
I protested the obscurity of his statements. He laughed and made fun of my
compulsion to defend myself. Then he explained again that for a sorcerer there
were two types of thinking. One was average day-to-day thinking, which was
ruled by the normal position of his
point. It was muddled thinking that did not really answer his needs and left
great murkiness in his head. The other was precise thinking. It was functional,
economical, and left very few things unexplained. Don Juan remarked that for
this type of thinking to prevail the assemblage point had to move. Or at least
the day-to-day type thinking had to stop to allow the assemblage point to shift.
Thus the apparent contradiction, which was really no contradiction at all.
you to recall something you have Done in the past," he said. "I want
you to recall a special movement of your assemblage point. And to do this, you
have to stop thinking the way you normally think. Then the other, the type I
call clear thinking, will take over and make you recollect."
do I stop thinking?" I asked, although I knew what he was going to reply.
intending the movement of your assemblage point," he said. "Intent is
beckoned with the eyes."
I told Don Juan
that my mind was shifting back and forth between moments of tremendous
lucidity, when everything was crystal clear, and lapses into profound mental
fatigue during which I could not understand what he was saying. He tried to put
me at ease, explaining that my instability was caused by a slight fluctuation
of my assemblage point, which had not stabilized in the new position it had
reached some years earlier. The fluctuation was the result of leftover feelings
of self-pity. "What new position is that, Don Juan?" I asked.
"Years ago—and this is what I want you to recollect—your
assemblage point reached the place of no pity," he replied.
your parDon?" I said. "The place of no pity is the site of
ruthlessness," he said. "But you know all this. For the time being,
though, until you recollect, let's say that ruthlessness, being a specific
position of the assemblage point, is shown in the eyes of sorcerers. It's like
a shimmering film over the eyes. The eyes of sorcerers are brilliant. The
greater the shine, the more ruthless the sorcerer is. At this moment, your eyes
that when the assemblage point moved to the place of no pity, the eyes began to
shine. The firmer the grip of the assemblage point on its new position, the
more the eyes shone.
recall what you already know about this,"
he urged me. He
kept quiet for a moment, then spoke without looking at me.
is not the same as remembering," he continued. "Remembering is
dictated by the day-today type of thinking, while recollecting is dictated by
the movement of the assemblage point. A recapitulation of their lives, which
sorcerers do, is the key to moving their assemblage points. Sorcerers start
their recapitulation by thinking, by remembering the most important acts of
their lives. From merely thinking about them they then move on to actually
being at the site of the event. When they can do that—be at the site of
the event—they have successfully shifted their assemblage point to the
precise spot it was when the event took place. Bringing back the total event by
means of shifting the assemblage point is known as sorcerers' recollection.''
He stared at me
for an instant as if trying to make sure I was listening.
assemblage points are constantly shifting," he explained,
"imperceptible shifts. Sorcerers believe that in order to make their
assemblage points shift to precise spots we must engage intent. Since there is
no way of knowing what intent is, sorcerers let their eyes beckon it."
is truly incomprehensible to me," I said.
Don Juan put
his hands behind his head and lay down on the ground. I did the same. We
remained quiet for a long time. The wind scudded the clouds. Their movement
almost made me feel dizzy. And the dizziness changed abruptly into a familiar
sense of anguish.
Every time I
was with Don Juan, I felt, especially in moments of rest and quiet, an
overwhelming sensation of despair—a longing for something I could not
describe. When I was alone, or with other people, I was never a victim of this
feeling. Don Juan had explained that what I felt and interpreted as longing was
in fact the sudden movement of my assemblage point.
When Don Juan
started to speak, all of a sudden the sound of his voice jolted me and I sat
recollect the first time your eyes shone," he said, "because that was
the first time your assemblage point reached the place of no pity. Ruthlessness
possessed you then. Ruthlessness makes sorcerers' eyes shine, and that shine
beckons intent. Each spot to which their assemblage points move is indicated by
a specific shine of their eyes. Since their eyes have their own memory, they
can call up the recollection of any spot by calling up the specific shine
associated with that spot."
that the reason sorcerers put so much emphasis on the shine of their eyes and
on their gaze is because the eyes are directly connected to intent.
Contradictory as it might sound, the truth is that the eyes are only
superficially connected to the world of everyday life. Their deeper connection
is to the abstract. I could not conceive how my eyes could store that sort of
information, and I said as much. Don Juan's reply was that man's possibilities
are so vast and mysterious that sorcerers, rather than thinking about them, had
chosen to explore them, with no hope of ever understanding them.
I asked him if
an average man's eyes were also affected by intent.
course!" he exclaimed. "You know all this. But you know it at such a
deep level that it is silent knowledge. You haven't sufficient energy to
explain it, even to yourself.
average man knows the same thing about his eyes, but he has even less energy
than you. The only advantages sorcerers may have over average men is that they
have stored their energy, which means a more precise, clearer connecting link
with intent. Naturally, it also means they can recollect at will, using the
shine of their eyes to move their assemblage points."
stopped talking and fixed me with his gaze. I clearly felt his eyes guiding,
pushing and pulling something indefinite in me. I could not break away from his
stare. His concentration was so intense it actually caused a physical sensation
in me: I felt as if I were inside a furnace. And, quite abruptly, I was looking
inward. It was a sensation very much like being in an absentminded reverie, but
with the strange accompanying sensation of an intense awareness of myself and
an absence of thoughts. Supremely aware, I was looking inward, into
With a gigantic
effort, I pulled myself out of it and stood up.
you do to me, Don Juan?"
you are absolutely unbearable," he said. "Your wastefulness is
infuriating. Your assemblage point was just in the most advantageous spot to
recollect anything you wanted, and what did you do? You let it all go, to ask
me what I did to you."
He kept silent
for a moment, and then smiled as I sat down again.
annoying is really your greatest asset," he added. "So why should I
Both of us
broke into a loud laugh. It was a private joke.
Years before, I
had been both very moved and very confused by Don Juan's tremendous dedication
to helping me. I could not imagine why he should show me such kindness. It was
evident that he did not need me in any way in his life. He was obviously not
investing in me. But I had learned, through life's painful experiences, that
nothing was free; and being unable to foresee what Don Juan's reward would be
made me tremendously uneasy.
One day I asked
Don Juan point-blank, in a very cynical tone, what he was getting out of our
association. I said that I had not been able to guess.
you would understand," he replied.
annoyed me. Belligerently I told him I was not stupid, and he could at least
try to explain it tome.
me just say that, although you could understand it, you are certainly not going
to like it," he said with the smile he always had when he was setting me
up. "You see, I really want to spare you."
I was hooked,
and I insisted that he tell me what he meant.
sure you want to hear the truth?" he asked, knowing I could never say no,
even if my life depended on it.
I want to hear whatever it is you're dangling in front of me," I said
He started to
laugh as if at a big joke; the more he laughed, the greater my annoyance.
see what's so funny," I said.
the underlying truth shouldn't be tampered with," he said. "The
underlying truth here is like a block at the bottom of a big pile of things, a
cornerstone. If we take a hard look at the bottom block, we might not like the
results. I prefer to avoid that."
again. His eyes, shining with mischievousness, seemed to invite me to pursue
the subject further. And I insisted again that I had to know what he was
talking about. I tried to sound calm but persistent.
that is what you want," he said with the air of one who had been
overwhelmed by the request. "First of all, I'd like to say that everything
I do for you is free. You Don't have to pay for it. As you know, I've been
impeccable with you. And as you also know, my impeccability with you is not an
investment. I am not grooming you to take care of me when I am too feeble to
look after myself. But I do get something of incalculable value out of our
association, a sort of reward for dealing impeccably with that bottom block
I've mentioned. And what I get is the very thing you are perhaps not going to
understand or like."
He stopped and
peered at me, with a devilish glint in his eyes.
about it, Don Juan!" I exclaimed, irritated with his delaying tactics.
you to bear in mind that I am telling you at your insistence," he said,
again. By then I was fuming.
judge me by my actions with you," he said, "you would have to admit
that I have been a paragon of patience and consistency. But what you Don't know
is that to accomplish this I have had to fight for impeccability as I have
never fought before. In order to spend time with you, I have had to transform
myself daily, restraining myself with the most excruciating effort."
Don Juan had
been right. I did not like what he said. I tried not to lose face and made a
that bad, Don Juan," I said.
sounded surprisingly unnatural to me.
you are that bad," he said with a serious expression. "You are petty,
wasteful, opinionated, coercive, short-tempered, conceited. You are morose,
ponderous, and ungrateful. You have an inexhaustible capacity for
self-indulgence. And worst of all, you have an exalted idea of yourself, with
nothing whatever to back it up.
sincerely say that your mere presence makes me feel like vomiting."
I wanted to get
angry. I wanted to protest, to complain that he had no right to talk to me that
way, but I could not utter a single word. I was crushed. I felt numb.
upon hearing the bottom truth, must have been something, for Don Juan broke
into such gales of laughter I thought he was going to choke.
you you were not going to like it or understand it," he said.
"Warriors' reasons are very simple, but their finesse is extreme. It is a
rare opportunity for a warrior to be given a genuine chance to be impeccable in
spite of his basic feelings. You gave me such a unique chance. The act of
giving freely and impeccably rejuvenates me and renews my wonder. What I get
from our association is indeed of incalculable value to me. I am in your
His eyes were
shining, but without mischievousness, as he peered at me.
Don Juan began
to explain what he had Done.
"I am the
nagual, I moved your assemblage point with the shine of my eyes," he said
matter-of- factly. "The nagual's eyes can do that. It's not difficult.
After all, the eyes of all living beings can move someone else's assemblage
point, especially if their eyes are focused on intent. Under normal conditions,
however, people's eyes are focused on the world, looking for food . . . looking
for shelter. ..."
He nudged my
for love," he added and broke into a loud laugh.
constantly teased me about my "looking for love." He never forgot a
naive answer I once gave him when he had asked me what I actively looked for in
life. He had been steering me toward admitting that I did not have a clear
goal, and he roared with laughter when I said that I was looking for love.
hunter mesmerizes his prey with his eyes," he went on. "With his gaze
he moves the assemblage point of his prey, and yet his eyes are on the world,
looking for food."
I asked him if
sorcerers could mesmerize people with their gaze. He chuckled and said that
what I really wanted to know was if I could mesmerize women with my gaze, in
spite of the fact that my eyes were focused on the world, looking for love. He
added, seriously, that the sorcerers' safety valve was that by the time their
eyes were really focused on intent, they were no longer interested in
sorcerers to use the shine of their eyes to move their own or anyone else's
assemblage point," he continued, "they have to be ruthless. That is,
they have to be familiar with that specific position of the assemblage point
called the place of no pity. This is especially true for the naguals."
He said that
each nagual developed a brand of ruthlessness specific to him alone. He took my
case as an example and said that, because of my unstable natural configuration,
I appeared to seers as a sphere of luminosity not composed of four balls
compressed into one —the usual structure of a nagual—but as a
sphere composed of only three compressed balls. This configuration made me
automatically hide my ruthlessness behind a mask of indulgence and laxness.
are very misleading," Don Juan went on. "They always give the
impression of something they are not, and they do it so completely that
everybody, including those who know them best, believe their masquerade."
"I really Don't
understand how you can say that I am masquerading, Don Juan," I protested.
yourself off as an indulgent, relaxed man," he said. "You give the
impression of being generous, of having great compassion. And everybody is
convinced of your genuineness. They can even swear that that is the way you
is the way I am!"
doubled up with laughter.
the conversation had taken was not to my liking. I wanted to set the record
straight. I argued vehemently that I was truthful in everything I did, and
challenged him to give me an example of my being otherwise. He said I
compulsively treated people with unwarranted generosity, giving them a false
sense of my ease and openness. And I argued that being open was my nature. He
laughed and retorted that if this were the case, why should it be that I always
demanded, without voicing it, that the people I dealt with be aware I was
deceiving them? The proof was that when they failed to be aware of my ploy and
took my pseudo-laxness at face value, I turned on them with exactly the cold
ruthlessness I was trying to mask.
made me feel desperate, because I couldn't argue with them. I remained quiet. I
did not want to show that I was hurt. I was wondering what to do when he stood
and started to walk away. I stopped him by holding his sleeve. It was an
unplanned move on my part which startled me and made him laugh. He sat down
again with a look of surprise on his face.
mean to be rude," I said, "but I've got to know more about this. It
assemblage point move," he urged. "We've discussed ruthlessness
before. Recollect it!"
He eyed me with
genuine expectation although he must have seen that I could not recollect
anything, for he continued to talk about the naguals' patterns of ruthlessness.
He said that his own method consisted of subjecting people to a flurry of
coercion and denial, hidden behind sham understanding and reasonableness.
about all the explanations you give me?" I asked. "Aren't they the
result of genuine reasonableness and desire to help me understand?"
he replied. "They are the result of my ruthlessness."
passionately that my own desire to understand was genuine. He patted me on the
shoulder and explained that my desire to understand was genuine, but my
generosity was not. He said that naguals masked their ruthlessness
automatically, even against their will.
As I listened
to his explanation, I had the peculiar sensation in the back of my mind that at
some point we had covered the concept of ruthlessness extensively.
"I'm not a
rational man," he continued, looking into my eyes. "I only appear to
be because my mask is so effective. What you perceive as reasonableness is my
lack of pity, because that's what ruthlessness is: a total lack of pity.
case, since you mask your lack of pity with generosity, you appear at ease,
open. But actually you are as generous as I am reasonable. We are both fakes.
We have perfected the art of disguising the fact that we feel no pity."
He said his
benefactor's total lack of pity was masked behind the facade of an easygoing,
practical joker with an irresistible need to poke fun at anyone with whom he
came into contact.
benefactor's mask was that of a happy, unruffled man without a care in the
world," Don Juan continued. "But underneath all that he was, like all
the naguals, as cold as the arctic wind."
are not cold, Don Juan," I said sincerely.
I am," he insisted. "The effectiveness of my mask is what gives you
the impression of warmth."
He went on to
explain that the nagual Elías’smaskconsistedofamaddeningmeticulousnes
about all details and accuracy, which created the false impression of attention
He started to
describe the nagual Elías’sbehavior.Ashetalked,hekeptwatching me. And
perhaps because he was observing me so intently, I was unable to concentrate at
all on what he was saying. I made a supreme effort to gather my thoughts.
He watched me
for an instant, then went back to explaining ruthlessness, but I no longer
needed his explanation. I told him that I had recollected what he wanted me to
recollect: the first time my
eyes had shone.
Very early in my apprenticeship I had achieved —by myself—a shift
in my level of awareness. My assemblage point reached the position called the
place of no pity.
THE PLACE OF NO
Don Juan told
me that there was no need to talk about the details of my recollection, at
least not at that moment, because talk was used only to lead one to
recollecting. Once the assemblage point moved, the total experience was
relived. He also told me the best way to assure a complete recollection was to
walk around. And so both of us stood up; walked very slowly and in silence,
following a trail in those mountains, until I had recollected everything.
We were in the
outskirts of Guaymas, in northern Mexico, on a drive from Nogales, Arizona,
when it became evident to me that something was wrong with Don Juan. For the
last hour or so he had been unusually quiet and somber. I did not think
anything of it, but then, abruptly, his body twitched out of control. His chin
hit his chest as if his neck muscles could no longer support the weight of his
getting carsick, Don Juan?" I asked, suddenly alarmed.
He did not
answer. He was breathing through his mouth.
first part of our drive, which had taken several hours, he had been fine. We
had talked a great deal about everything. When we had stopped in the city of
Santa Ana to get gas, he was even doing push-outs against the roof of the car
to loosen up the muscles of his shoulders.
wrong with you, Don Juan?" I asked. I felt pangs of anxiety in my stomach.
With his head down, he mumbled that he wanted to go to a particular restaurant
and in a slow, faltering voice gave me precise directions on how to get there.
I parked my car
on a side street, a block from the restaurant. As I opened the car door on my
side, he held onto my arm with an iron grip. Painfully, and with my help, he
dragged himself out of the car, over the driver's seat. Once he was on the
sidewalk, he held onto my shoulders with both hands to straighten his back. In
ominous silence, we shuffled down the street toward the dilapidated building
where the restaurant was.
Don Juan was
hanging onto my arm with all his weight. His breathing was so accelerated and
the tremor in his body so alarming that I panicked. I stumbled and had to brace
myself against the wall to keep us both from falling to the sidewalk. My
anxiety was so intense I could not think. I looked into his eyes. They were
dull. They did not have their usual shine.
entered the restaurant and a solicitous waiter rushed over, as if on cue, to
help Don Juan.
you feeling today?" he yelled into Don Juan's ear.
carried Don Juan from the door to a table, seated him, and then disappeared.
know you, Don Juan?" I asked when we were seated.
at me, he mumbled something unintelligible. I stood up and went to the kitchen
to look for the busy waiter.
know the old man I am with?" I asked when I was able to corner him.
I know him," he said with the attitude of someone who has just enough
patience to answer one question. "He's the old man who suffers from
settled things for me. I knew then that Don Juan had suffered a mild stroke
while we were driving. There was nothing I could have Done to avoid it but I
felt helpless and apprehensive. The feeling that the worst had not yet happened
made me feel sick to my stomach.
I went back to
the table and sat down in silence. Suddenly the same waiter arrived with two
plates of fresh shrimp and two large bowls of sea-turtle soup. The thought occurred
to me that either the restaurant served only shrimp and sea-turtle soup or Don
Juan ate the same thing every time he was here.
talked so loudly to Don Juan he could be heard above the clatter of customers.
like your food!" he yelled. "If you need me, just lift your arm. I'll
come right away."
Don Juan nodded
his head affirmatively and the waiter left, after patting Don Juan
affectionately on the
back. Don Juan
ate voraciously, smiling to himself from time to time. I was so apprehensive
that just the thought of food made me feel nauseous. But then I reached a
familiar threshold of anxiety, and the more I worried the hungrier I became. I
tried the food and found it incredibly good.
I felt somewhat
better after having eaten, but the situation had not changed, nor had my
When Don Juan
was through eating, he shot his arm straight above his head. In a moment, the
waiter came over and handed me the bill.
I paid him and
he helped Don Juan stand up. He guided him by the arm out of the restaurant.
The waiter even helped him out to the street and said goodbye to him
We walked back
to the car in the same laborious way, Don Juan leaning heavily on my arm,
panting and stopping to catch his breath every few steps. The waiter stood in
the doorway, as if to make sure I was not going to let Don Juan fall.
Don Juan took
two or three full minutes to climb into the car.
what can I do for you, Don Juan?" I pleaded.
car around," he ordered in a faltering, barely audible voice. "I want
to go to the other side of town, to the store. They know me there, too. They
are my friends."
I told him I
had no idea what store he was talking about. He mumbled incoherently and had a
tantrum. He stamped on the floor of the car with both feet. He pouted and
actually drooled on his shirt. Then he seemed to have an instant of lucidity. I
got extremely nervous, watching him struggle to arrange his thoughts. He
finally succeeded in telling me how to get to the store.
was at its peak. I was afraid that the stroke Don Juan had suffered was more
serious than I thought. I wanted to be rid of him, to take him to his family or
his friends, but I did not know who they were. I did not know what else to do.
I made a U-turn and drove to the store which he said was on the other side of
about going back to the restaurant to ask the waiter if he knew Don Juan's
family. I hoped someone in the store might know him. The more I thought about
my predicament, the sorrier I felt for myself. Don Juan was finished. I had a
terrible sense of loss, of doom. I was going to miss him, but my sense of loss
was offset by my feeling of annoyance at being saddled with him at his worst.
I drove around
for almost an hour looking for the store. I could not find it. Don Juan
admitted that he might have made a mistake, that the store might be in a
different town. By then I was completely exhausted and had no idea what to do
In my normal
state of awareness I always had the strange feeling that I knew more about him
than my reason told me. Now, under the pressure of his mental deterioration, I
was certain, without knowing why, that his friends were waiting for him
somewhere in Mexico, although I did not know where.
was more than physical. It was a combination of worry and guilt. It worried me
that I was stuck with a feeble old man who might, for all I knew, be mortally
ill. And I felt guilty for being so disloyal to him.
I parked my car
near the waterfront. It took nearly ten minutes for Don Juan to get out of the
car. We walked toward the ocean, but as we got closer, Don Juan shied like a
mule and refused to go on. He mumbled that the water of Guaymas Bay scared him.
around and led me to the main square: a dusty plaza without even benches. Don
Juan sat down
on the curb. A
street-cleaning truck went by, rotating its steel brushes, but no water was
squirting into them. The cloud of dust made me cough.
I was so
disturbed by my situation that the thought of leaving him sitting there crossed
my mind. I felt embarrassed at having had such a thought and patted Don Juan's
make an effort and tell me where I can take you," I said softly.
"Where do you want me to go."
you to go to hell!" he replied in a cracked, raspy voice.
speak to me like this, I had the suspicion that Don Juan might not have
suffered from a stroke, but some other crippling brain condition that had made
him lose his mind and become violent.
stood up and walked away from me. I noticed how frail he looked. He had aged in
a matter of hours. His natural vigor was gone, and what I saw before me was a
terribly old, weak man.
I rushed to
lend him a hand. A wave of immense pity enveloped me. I saw myself old and
weak, barely able to walk. It was intolerable. I was close to weeping, not for Don
Juan but for myself. I held his arm and made him a silent promise that I would
look after him, no matter what.
I was lost in a
reverie of self-pity when I felt the numbing force of a slap across my face.
Before I recovered from the surprise, Don Juan slapped me again across the back
of my neck. He was standing facing me, shivering with rage. His mouth was half
open and shook uncontrollably.
you?" he yelled in a strained voice.
He turned to a
group of onlookers who had immediately gathered.
know who this man is," he said to them. "Help me. I'm a lonely old
Indian. He's a foreigner and he wants to kill me. They do that to helpless old
people, kill them for pleasure."
There was a
murmur of disapproval. Various young, husky men looked at me menacingly.
you doing, Don Juan?" I asked him in a loud voice. I wanted to reassure
the crowd that I was with him.
know you," Don Juan shouted. "Leave me alone."
He turned to
the crowd and asked them to help him. He wanted them to restrain me until the
him," he insisted. "And someone, please call the police. They'll know
what to do with this man."
I had the image
of a Mexican jail. No one would know where I was. The idea that months would go
by before someone noticed my disappearance made me react with vicious speed. I
kicked the first young man who came close to me, then took off at a panicked
run. I knew I was running for my life. Several young men ran after me.
As I raced
toward the main street, I realized that in a small city like Guaymas there were
policemen all over the place patrolling on foot. There were none in sight, and
before I ran into one, I entered the first store in my path. I pretended to be
looking for curios.
The young men
running after me went by noisily. I conceived a quick plan: to buy as many
things as I could. I was counting on being taken for a tourist by the people in
the store. Then I was going to ask someone to help me carry the packages to my
It took me
quite a while to select what I wanted. I paid a young man in the store to help
me carry my packages, but as I got closer to my car, I saw Don Juan standing by
it, still surrounded by people. He was talking to a policeman, who was taking
It was useless.
My plan had failed. There was no way to get to my car. I instructed the young
man to leave my packages on the sidewalk. I told him a friend of mine was going
to drive by presently to take me to my hotel. He left and I remained hidden
behind the packages I was holding in front of my face, out of sight of Don Juan
and the people around him.
I saw the
policeman examining my California license plates. And that completely convinced
me I was Done for. The accusation of the crazy old man was too grave. And the
fact that I had run away would have only reinforced my guilt in the eyes of any
policeman. Besides, I would not have put it past the policeman to ignore the
truth, just to arrest a foreigner.
I stood in a
doorway for perhaps an hour. The policeman left, but the crowd remained around Don
Juan, who was shouting and agitatedly moving his arms. I was too far away to
hear what he was saying but I could imagine the gist of his fast, nervous
I was in
desperate need of another plan. I considered checking into a hotel and waiting
there for a couple of days before venturing out to get my car. I thought of
going back to the store and having them call a taxi. I had never had to hire a
cab in Guaymas and I had no idea if there were any. But my plan died instantly
with the realization that if the police were fairly competent, and had taken Don
Juan seriously, they would check the hotels. Perhaps the policeman had left Don
Juan in order to do just that.
alternative that crossed my mind was to get to the bus station and catch a bus
to any town along the international border. Or to take any bus leaving Guaymas
in any direction. I abanDoned the idea immediately. I was sure Don Juan had
given my name to the policeman and the police had probably already alerted the
My mind plunged
into blind panic. I took short breaths to calm my nerves.
I noticed then
that the crowd around Don Juan was beginning to disperse. The policeman
returned with a colleague, and the two of them moved away, walking slowly
toward the end of the street. It was at that point that I felt a sudden
uncontrollable urge. It was as if my body were
from my brain. I walked to my car, carrying all the packages. Without even the
slightest trace of fear or concern, I opened the trunk, put the packages inside,
then opened the driver's door.
Don Juan was on
the sidewalk, by my car, looking at me absentmindedly. I stared at him with a
thoroughly uncharacteristic coldness. Never in my life had I had such a
feeling. It was not hatred I felt, or even anger: I was not even annoyed with
him. What I felt was not resignation or patience, either. And it was certainly
not kindness. Rather it was a cold indifference, a frightening lack of pity. At
that instant, I could not have cared less about what happened to Don Juan or
Don Juan shook
his upper body the way a dog shakes itself dry after a swim. And then, as if
all of it had only been a bad dream, he was again the man I knew. He quickly
turned his jacket inside out. It was a reversible jacket, beige on one side and
black on the other. Now he was wearing a black jacket. He threw his straw hat
inside the car and carefully combed his hair. He pulled his shirt collar over
the jacket collar, instantly making himself look younger. Without saying a
word, he helped me put the rest of the packages in the car.
When the two
policemen ran back to us, blowing their whistles, drawn by the noise of the car
doors being opened and closed, Don Juan very nimbly rushed to meet them. He
listened to them attentively and assured them they had nothing to worry about.
He explained that they must have encountered his father,
a feeble old
Indian who suffered from brain damage. As he talked to them, he opened and
closed the car doors, as if checking the locks. He moved the packages from the
trunk to the back seat. His agility and youthful strength were the opposite of
the old man's movements of a few minutes ago. I knew that he was acting for the
benefit of the policeman who had seen him before. If I had been that man, there
would have been no doubt in my mind that I was now seeing the son of the old
Don Juan gave
them the name of the restaurant where they knew his father and then bribed them
I did not
bother to say anything to the policemen. There was something that made me feel
hard, cold, efficient, silent.
We got in the
car without a word. The policemen did not attempt to ask me anything. They
seemed too tired even to try. We drove away.
of act did you pull out there, Don Juan?" I asked, and the coldness in my
tone surprised me.
the first lesson in ruthlessness," he said.
that on our way to Guaymas he had warned me about the impending lesson on
that I had not paid attention because I had thought that we were just making
conversation to break the monotony of driving.
just make conversation," he said sternly. "You should know that by
now. What I did this afternoon was to create the proper situation for you to
move your assemblage point to the precise spot where pity disappears. That spot
is known as the place of no pity.
problem that sorcerers have to solve," tie went on, "is that the
place of no pity has to be reached with only minimal help. The nagual sets the
scene, but it is the apprentice who makes his assemblage point move.
just did that. I helped you, perhaps a bit overdramatically, by moving my own
assemblage point to a specific position that made me into a feeble and
unpredictable old man. I was not just acting old and feeble. I was old."
glint in his eyes told me that he was enjoying the moment.
not absolutely necessary that I do that," he went on. "I could have
directed you to move your assemblage point without the hard tactics, but I
couldn't help myself. Since this event will never be repeated, I wanted to know
whether or not I could act, in some measure, like my own benefactor. Believe
me, I surprised myself as much as I must have surprised you."
incredibly at ease. I had no problems in accepting what he was saying to me,
and no questions, because I understood everything without needing him to
He then said
something which I already knew, but could not verbalize, because I would not
have been able to find the appropriate words to describe it. He said that
everything sorcerers did was Done as a consequence of a movement of their
assemblage points, and that such movements were ruled by the amount of energy
sorcerers had at their command.
I mentioned to Don
Juan that I knew all that and much more. And he commented that inside every
human being was a gigantic, dark lake of silent knowledge which each of us
could intuit. He told me I could intuit it perhaps with a bit more clarity than
the average man because of my involvement in the warrior's path. He then said
that sorcerers were the only beings on earth who deliberately went beyond the
intuitive level by training themselves to do two transcendental things: first,
to conceive the existence of the assemblage point, and second, to make that
assemblage point move.
over and over that the most sophisticated knowledge sorcerers possessed was of
our potential as perceiving beings, and the knowledge that the content of
perception depended on the position of the assemblage point.
At that point I
began to experience a unique difficulty in concentrating on what he was saying,
not because I was distracted or fatigued, but because my mind, on its own, had
started to play the game of anticipating his words. It was as if an unknown
part of myself were inside me, trying unsuccessfully to find adequate words to
voice a thought. As Don Juan spoke, I felt I could anticipate how he was going
to express my own silent thoughts. I was thrilled to realize his choice of
words was always better than mine could have been. But anticipating his words
also diminished my concentration.
pulled over to the side of the road. And right there I had, for the first time
in my life, a clear knowledge of a dualism in me. Two obviously separate parts
were within my being. One was extremely old, at ease, indifferent. It was
heavy, dark, and connected to everything else. It was the part of me that did
not care, because it was equal to anything. It enjoyed things with no
expectation. The other part was light, new, fluffy, agitated. It was nervous,
fast. It cared about itself because it was insecure and did not enjoy anything,
simply because it lacked the capacity to connect itself to anything. It was
alone, on the surface, vulnerable. That was the part with which I looked at the
looked around with that part. Everywhere I looked I saw extensive farmlands.
And that insecure, fluffy, and caring part of me got caught between being proud
of the industriousness of man and being sad at the sight of the magnificent old
Sonoran desert turned into an orderly scene of furrows and domesticated plants.
The old, dark,
heavy part of me did not care. And the two parts entered into a debate. The
fluffy part wanted the heavy part to care, and the heavy part wanted the other
one to stop fretting, and to enjoy.
you stop?" Don Juan asked.
produced a reaction, but it would be inaccurate to say that it was I who
reacted. The sound of his voice seemed to solidify the fluffy part, and
suddenly I was recognizably myself.
I described to Don
Juan the realization I had just had about my dualism. As he began to explain it
in terms of the position of the assemblage point I lost my solidity. The fluffy
part became as fluffy as it had been when I first noticed my dualism, and once
again I knew what Don Juan was explaining.
He said that
when the assemblage point moves and reaches the place of no pity, the position
of rationality and common sense becomes weak. The sensation I was having of an
older, dark, silent side was a view of the antecedents of reason.
exactly what you are saying," I told him. "I know a great number of
things, but I can't speak of what I know. I Don't know how to begin."
mentioned this to you already," he said. "What you are experiencing
and call dualism is a view from another position of your assemblage point. From
that position, you can feel the older side of man. And what the older side of
man knows is called silent knowledge. It's a knowledge that you cannot yet
not?" I asked.
in order to voice it, it is necessary for you to have and use an inordinate
amount of energy," he replied. "You Don't at this time have that kind
of energy to spare.
knowledge is something that all of us have," he went on. "Something
that has complete mastery, complete knowledge of everything. But it cannot
think, therefore, it cannot speak of what it knows.
believe that when man became aware that he knew, and wanted to be conscious of
what he knew, he lost sight of what he knew. This silent knowledge, which you
cannot describe, is,
intent —the spirit, the abstract. Man's error was to want to know it
directly, the way he knew everyday life. The more he wanted, the more ephemeral
does that mean in plain words, Don Juan?" I asked.
that man gave up silent knowledge for the world of reason," he replied.
"The more he clings to the world of reason, the more ephemeral intent
I started the
car and we drove in silence. Don Juan did not attempt to give me directions or
tell me how to drive—a thing he often did in order to exacerbate my
self-importance. I had no clear idea where I was going, yet something in me
knew. I let that part take over.
Very late in
the evening we arrived at the big house Don Juan's group of sorcerers had in a
rural area of the state of Sinaloa in northwestern Mexico. The journey seemed
to have taken no time at all. I could not remember the particulars of our
drive. All I knew about it was that we had not talked.
seemed to be empty. There were no signs of people living there. I knew,
however, that Don Juan's friends were in the house. I could feel their presence
without actually having to see them.
Don Juan lit
some kerosene lanterns and we sat down at a sturdy table. It seemed that Don
Juan was getting ready to eat. I was wondering what to say or do when a woman
entered noiselessly and put a large plate of food on the table. I was not
prepared for her entrance, and when she stepped out of the darkness into the
light, as if she had materialized out of nowhere, I gasped involuntarily.
scared, it's me, Carmela," she said and disappeared, swallowed again by
I was left with
my mouth open in mid-scream. Don Juan laughed so hard that I knew everybody in
the house must have heard him. I half expected them to come, but no one
I tried to eat,
but I was not hungry. I began to think about the woman. I did not know her.
That is, I could almost identify her, but I could not quite work my memory of
her out of the fog that obscured my thoughts. I struggled to clear my mind. I
felt that it required too much energy and I gave up.
Almost as soon
as I had stopped thinking about her, I began to experience a strange, numbing
anxiety. At first I believed that the dark, massive house, and the silence in
and around it, were depressing. But then my anguish rose to incredible
proportions, right after I heard the faint barking of dogs in the distance. For
a moment I thought that my body was going to explode. Don Juan intervened
quickly. He jumped to where I was sitting and pushed my back until it cracked.
The pressure on my back brought me immediate relief.
When I had
calmed down, I realized I had lost, together with the anxiety that had nearly
consumed me, the clear sense of knowing everything. I could no longer
anticipate how Don Juan was going to articulate what I myself knew.
Don Juan then
started a most peculiar explanation. First he said that the origin of the
anxiety that had overtaken me with the speed of wildfire was the sudden
movement of my assemblage point, caused by Carmela's sudden appearance, and by
my unavoidable effort to move my assemblage point to the place where I would be
able to identify her completely.
He advised me
to get used to the idea of recurrent attacks of the same type of anxiety,
because my assemblage point was going to keep moving.
movement of the assemblage point is like dying," he said. "Everything
in us gets disconnected, then reconnected again to a source of much greater
power. That amplification of energy is felt as a killing anxiety."
"What am I
to do when this happens?" I asked. "Nothing," he said.
"Just wait. The outburst of energy will pass. What's dangerous is not
knowing what is happening to you. Once you know, there is no real danger."
Then he talked
about ancient man. He said that ancient man knew, in the most direct fashion,
what to do and how best to do it. But, because he performed so well, he started
to develop a sense of selfness, which gave him the feeling that he could
predict and plan the actions he was used to performing. And thus the idea of an
individual "self appeared; an individual self which began to dictate the
nature and scope of man's actions.
As the feeling
of the individual self became stronger, man lost his natural connection to
silent knowledge. Modern man, being heir to that development, therefore finds
himself so hopelessly removed from the source of everything that all he can do
is express his despair in violent and cynical acts of self-destruction. Don
Juan asserted that the reason for man's cynicism and despair is the bit of
silent knowledge left in him, which does two things: one, it gives man an
inkling of his ancient connection to the source of everything; and two, it
makes man feel that without this connection, he has no hope of peace, of
satisfaction, of attainment.
I thought I had
caught Don Juan in a contradiction. I pointed out to him that he had once told
me that war was the natural state for a warrior, that peace was an anomaly.
right," he admitted. "But war, for a warrior, doesn't mean acts of
individual or collective stupidity or wanton violence. War, for a warrior, is
the total struggle against that individual self that has deprived man of his
Don Juan said
then that it was time for us to talk further about ruthlessness—the most
basic premise of sorcery. He explained that sorcerers had discovered that any
movement of the assemblage point meant a movement away from the excessive
concern with that individual self which was the mark of modern man. He went on
to say that sorcerers believed it was the position of the assemblage point which
made modern man a homicidal egotist, a being totally involved with his
self-image. Having lost hope of ever returning to the source of everything, man
solace in his
selfness. And, in doing so, he succeeded in fixing his assemblage point in the
exact position to perpetuate his self-image. It was therefore safe to say that
any movement of the assemblage point away from its customary position resulted
in a movement away from man's self- reflection and its concomitant:
Don Juan described
self-importance as the force generated by man's self-image. He reiterated that
it is that force which keeps the assemblage point fixed where it is at present.
For this reason, the thrust of the warriors' way is to dethrone
self-importance. And everything sorcerers do is toward accomplishing this goal.
He explained that sorcerers had unmasked self-importance and found that it is
self-pity masquerading as something else.
doesn't sound possible, but that is what it is," he said. "Self-pity
is the real enemy and the source of man's misery. Without a degree of pity for
himself, man could not afford to be as self- important as he is. However, once
the force of self-importance is engaged, it develops its own momentum. And it
is this seemingly independent nature of self-importance which gives it its fake
sense of worth."
explanation, which I would have found incomprehensible under normal conditions,
seemed thoroughly cogent to me. But because of the duality in me, which still
pertained, it appeared a bit simplistic. Don Juan seemed to have aimed his
thoughts and words at a specific target. And I, in my normal state of
awareness, was that target.
his explanation, saying that sorcerers are absolutely convinced that by moving
our assemblage points away from their customary position we achieve a state of
being which could only be called ruthlessness. Sorcerers knew, by means of
their practical actions, that as soon as their assemblage points move, their
self-importance crumbles. Without the customary position of their assemblage
points, their self-image can no longer be sustained. And without the heavy
focus on that self-image, they lose their self-compassion, and with it their
self-importance. Sorcerers are right, therefore, in saying that,
self-importance is merely self-pity in disguise.
He then took my
experience of the afternoon and went through it step by step. He stated that a
nagual in his role as leader or teacher has to behave in the most efficient,
but at the same time
impeccable, way. Since it is not possible for him to plan the course of his
actions rationally, the nagual always lets the spirit decide his course. For
example, he said he had had no plans to do what he did until the spirit gave
him an indication, very early that morning while we were having breakfast in
Nogales. He urged me to recall the event and tell him what I could remember.
I recalled that
during breakfast I got very embarrassed because Don Juan made fun of me.
"Think about the waitress," Don Juan urged me. "All I can
remember about her is that she was rude."
did she do?" he insisted. "What did she do while she waited to take
moment's pause, I remembered that she was a hard-looking young woman who threw
the menu at me and stood there, almost touching me, silently demanding that I
hurry up and order.
waited, impatiently tapping her big foot on the floor, she pinned her long
black hair up on her head. The change was remarkable. She looked more
appealing, more mature. I was frankly taken by the change in her. In fact, I
overlooked her bad manners because of it.
the omen," Don Juan said. "Hardness and transformation were the
indication of the spirit." He said that his first act of the day, as a
nagual, was to let me know his intentions. To that end, he told me in very
plain language, but in a surreptitious manner, that he was going to give me a
lesson in ruthlessness. "Do you remember now?" he asked. "I
talked to the waitress and to an old lady at the next table."
Guided by him
in this fashion, I did remember Don Juan practically flirting with an old lady
and the ill-mannered waitress. He talked to them for a long time while I ate.
He told them idiotically funny stories about graft and corruption in
government, and jokes about manners in the city. Then he asked the waitress if
she was an American. She said no and laughed at the question. Don Juan said
that that was good, because I was a Mexican-American in search of love. And I
might as well start here, after eating such a good breakfast.
laughed. I thought they laughed at my being embarrassed. Don Juan said to them
that, seriously speaking, I had come to Mexico to find a wife. He asked if they
knew of any honest, modest, chaste woman who wanted to get married and was not
too demanding in matters of male beauty. He referred to himself as my
The women were
laughing very hard. I was truly chagrined. Don Juan turned to the waitress and
asked her if she would marry me. She said that she was engaged. It looked to me
as though she was taking Don Juan seriously.
you let him speak for himself?" the old lady asked Don Juan.
he has a speech impediment," he said. "He stutters horribly."
said that I had been perfectly normal when I ordered my food.
You're so observant," Don Juan said. "Only when he orders food can he
speak like anyone else. I've told him time and time again that if he wants to
learn to speak normally, he has to be ruthless. I brought him here to give him
some lessons in ruthlessness."
man," the old woman said.
we'd better get going if we are going to find love for him today," Don
Juan said as he stood to leave.
about this marriage business," the young waitress said to Don Juan.
bet," he replied. "I'm going to help him get what he needs so he can
cross the border and go to the place of no pity."
I thought Don
Juan was calling either marriage or the U.S.A. the place of no pity. I laughed
at the metaphor and stuttered horribly for a moment, which scared the women
half to death and made Don Juan laugh hysterically.
imperative that I state my purpose to you then," Don Juan said, continuing
his explanation. "I did, but it bypassed you completely, as it should
He said that
from the moment the spirit manifested itself, every step was carried to its
satisfactory completion with absolute ease. And my assemblage point reached the
place of no pity, when, under the stress of his transformation, it was forced
to abanDon its customary place of self-reflection.
position of self-reflection," Don Juan went on, "forces the
assemblage point to assemble a world of sham compassion, but of very real
cruelty and self-centeredness. In that world the only real feelings are those
convenient for the one who feels them.
sorcerer, ruthlessness is not cruelty. Ruthlessness is the opposite of
self-pity or self- importance. Ruthlessness is sobriety."
Requirements of Intent
MIRROR OF SELF-REFLECTION
We spent a
night at the spot where I had recollected my experience in Guaymas. During that
night, because my assemblage point was pliable, Don Juan helped me to reach new
positions, which immediately became blurry non-memories.
The next day I
was incapable of remembering what had happened or what I had perceived; I had,
nonetheless, the acute sensation of having had bizarre experiences. Don Juan
agreed that my assemblage point had moved beyond his expectations, yet he
refused to give me even a hint of what I had Done. His only comment had been
that some day I would recollect everything.
Around noon, we
continued on up the mountains. We walked in silence and without stopping until
late in the afternoon. As we slowly climbed a mildly steep mountain ridge, Don
Juan suddenly spoke. I did not understand any of what he was saying. He
repeated it until I realized he wanted to stop on a wide ledge, visible from
where we were. He was telling me that we would be protected there from the wind
by the boulders and large, bushy shrubs.
which spot on the ledge would be the best for us to sit out all night?" he
Earlier, as we
were climbing, I had spotted the almost unnoticeable ledge. It appeared as a
patch of darkness on the face of the mountain. I had identified it with a very
quick glance. Now that Don Juan was asking my opinion, I detected a spot of
even greater darkness, one almost black, on the south side of the ledge. The
dark ledge and the almost black spot in it did not generate any feeling of fear
or anxiety. I felt that I liked that ledge. And I liked its dark spot even
there is very dark, but Hike it," I said, when we reached the ledge.
He agreed that
that was the best place to sit all night. He said it was a place with a special
level of energy, and that he, too, liked its pleasing darkness.
toward some protruding rocks. Don Juan cleared an area by the boulders and we
sat with our backs against them.
I told him that
on the one hand I thought it had been a lucky guess on my part to choose that
very spot, but on the other I could not overlook the fact that I had perceived
it with my eyes.
wouldn't say that you perceived it exclusively with your eyes," he said.
"It was a bit more complex than that."
you mean by that, Don Juan?" I asked.
that you have possibilities you are not yet aware of," he replied.
"Since you're quite careless, you may think that all of what you perceive
is simply average sensory perception."
He said that if
I doubted him, he dared me to go down to the base of the mountain again and
corroborate what he was saying. He predicted that it would be impossible for me
to see the dark ledge merely by looking at it.
I stated vehemently
that I had no reason to doubt him. I was not going to climb down that mountain.
that we climb down. I thought he was doing it just to tease me. I got nervous,
though, when it occurred to me that he might be serious. He laughed so hard he choked.
He commented on
the fact that all animals could detect, in their surroundings, areas with
special levels of energy. Most animals were frightened of these spots and
avoided them. The exceptions were mountain lions and coyotes, which lay and
even slept on such spots whenever they happened upon them. But, only sorcerers
deliberately sought such spots for their effects.
I asked him
what the effects were. He said that they gave out imperceptible jolts of
invigorating energy, and he remarked that average men living in natural
settings could find such spots, even though they were not conscious about
having found them nor aware of their effects.
they know they have found them?" I asked.
never do," he replied. "Sorcerers watching men travel on foot trails
notice right away that men always become tired and rest right on the spot with
a positive level of energy. If, on the other hand, they are going through an
area with an injurious flow of energy, they become nervous and rush. If you ask
them about it they will tell you they rushed through that area because they
felt energized. But it is the opposite—the only place that energizes them
is the place where they feel tired."
He said that
sorcerers are capable of finding such spots by perceiving with their entire
bodies minute surges of energy in their surroundings. The sorcerers' increased
energy, derived from the curtailment of their self-reflection, allows their
senses a greater range of perception.
trying to make clear to you that the only worthwhile course of action, whether
for sorcerers or average men, is to restrict our involvement with our
self-image," he continued. "What a nagual aims at with his
apprentices is the shattering of their mirror of self-reflection."
He added that
each apprentice was an individual case, and that the nagual had to let the
spirit decide about the particulars.
us has a different degree of attachment to his self-reflection," he went
on. "And that attachment is felt as need. For example, before I started on
the path of knowledge, my life was endless need. And years after the nagual
Julian had taken me under his wing, I was still just as needy, if not more so.
are examples of people, sorcerers or average men, who need no one. They get
peace, harmony, laughter, knowledge, directly from the spirit. They need no
intermediaries. For you and for me, it's different. I'm your intermediary and
the nagual Julian was mine. Intermediaries, besides providing a minimal
chance—the awareness of intent—help shatter people's mirrors of
concrete help you ever get from me is that I attack your self-reflection. If it
weren't for that, you would be wasting your time. This is the only real help
you've gotten from me."
taught me, Don Juan, more than anyone in my entire life," I protested.
taught you all kinds of things in order to trap your attention," he said.
"You'll swear, though, that that teaching has been the important part. It
hasn't. There is very little value in instruction. Sorcerers maintain that
moving the assemblage point is all that matters. And that movement, as you well
know, depends on increased energy and not on instruction."
He then made an
incongruous statement. He said that any human being who would follow a specific
and simple sequence of actions can learn 10 move his assemblage point.
I pointed out
that he was contradicting himself. To me, a sequence of actions meant
instructions; it meant procedures.
sorcerers' world there are only contradictions of terms," he replied.
"In practice there are no contradictions. The sequence of actions I am
talking about is one that stems from being aware. To become aware of this
sequence you need a nagual. This is why I've said that the nagual provides a
minimal chance, but that minimal chance is not instruction, like the
instruction you need to learn to operate a machine. The minimal chance consists
of being made aware of the spirit."
that the specific sequence he had in mind called for being aware that self-
importance is the force which keeps the assemblage point fixed. When
self-importance is curtailed, the energy it requires is no longer expended.
That increased energy then serves as the springboard that launches the
assemblage point, automatically and without premeditation, into an
assemblage point has moved, the movement itself entails moving from
self-reflection, and this, in turn, assures a clear connecting link with the
spirit. He commented that, after all, it was self-reflection that had
disconnected man from the spirit in the first place.
"As I have
already said to you," Don Juan went on, "sorcery is a journey of
return. We return victorious to the spirit, having descended into hell. And
from hell we bring trophies. Understanding is one of our trophies."
I told him that
his sequence seemed very easy and very simple when he talked about it, but that
when I had tried to put it into practice I had found it the total antithesis of
ease and simplicity.
difficulty with this simple progression," he said, "is that most of
us are unwilling to accept that we need so little to get on with. We are geared
to expect instruction, teaching, guides, masters. And when we are told that we
need no one, we Don't believe it. We become nervous, then distrustful, and
finally angry and disappointed. If we need help, it is not in methods, but in
emphasis. If someone makes us aware that we need to curtail our
self-importance, that help is real.
say we should need no one to convince us that the world is infinitely more
complex than our wildest fantasies. So, why are we dependent? Why do we crave
someone to guide us when we can do it ourselves? Big question, eh?"
Don Juan did
not say anything else. Obviously, he wanted me to ponder the question. But I
had other worries in my mind. My recollection had undermined certain
foundations that I had believed unshakable, and I desperately needed him to
redefine them. I broke the long silence and
concern. I told him that I had come to accept that it was possible for me to
forget whole incidents, from beginning to end, if they had taken place in
heightened awareness. Up to that day I had had total recall of anything I had Done
under his guidance in my state of normal awareness. Yet, having had breakfast
with him in Nogales had not existed in my mind prior to my recollecting it. And
that event simply must have taken place in the world of everyday affairs.
forgetting something essential," he said.
nagual's presence is enough to move the assemblage point. I have humored you
all along with the nagual's blow. The blow between the shoulder blades that I
have delivered is only a pacifier. It serves the purpose of removing your
doubts. Sorcerers use physical contact as a jolt to the body. It doesn't do
anything but give confidence to the apprentice who is being manipulated."
moves the assemblage point, Don Juan?" I asked.
does it," he replied in the tone of someone about to lose his patience.
He seemed to
check himself and smiled and shook his head from side to side in a gesture of
for me to accept," I said. "My mind is ruled by the principle of
cause and effect."
He had one of
his usual attacks of inexplicable laughter—inexplicable from my point of
view, of course. I must have looked annoyed. He put his hand on my shoulder.
like this periodically because you are demented," he said. "The
answer to everything you ask me is staring you right in the eyes and you Don't
see it. I think dementia is your curse."
His eyes were
so shiny, so utterly crazy and mischievous, that I ended up laughing myself.
insisted to the point of exhaustion that there are no procedures in
sorcery," he went on. "There are no methods, no steps. The only thing
that matters is the movement of the assemblage point. And no procedure can
cause that. It's an effect that happens all by itself."
He pushed me as
if to straighten my shoulders, and then he peered at me, looking right into my
eyes. My attention became riveted to his words.
see how you figure this out," he said. "I have just said that the
movement of the assemblage point happens by itself. But I have also said that
the nagual's presence moves his apprentice's assemblage point and that the way
the nagual masks his ruthless-ness either helps or hinders that movement. How
would you resolve this contradiction?"
that I had been just about to ask him about the contradiction, for I had been
aware of it, but that I could not even begin to think of resolving it. I was
not a sorcery practitioner. "What are you, then?" he asked. "I
am a student of anthropology, trying to figure out what sorcerers do," I
was not altogether true, but it was not a lie.
laughed uncontrollably "It's too late for that," he said. "Your
assemblage point has moved already. And it is precisely that movement that
makes one a sorcerer."
He stated that
what seemed a contradiction was really the two sides of the same coin. The
nagual entices the assemblage point into moving by helping to destroy the
mirror of self-reflection. But that is all the nagual can do. The actual mover
is the spirit, the abstract; something that cannot be seen or felt; something
that does not seem to exist, and yet does. For this reason, sorcerers report
that the assemblage point moves all by itself. Or they say that the nagual
moves it. The nagual, being the conduit of the abstract, is allowed to express
it through his actions. I looked at Don Juan
"The nagual moves the assemblage point, and yet it is not he himself who
does the actual moving," Don Juan said. "Or perhaps it would be more
appropriate to say that the spirit expresses itself in accordance with the
nagual's impeccability. The spirit can move the assemblage point with the mere
presence of an impeccable nagual.''
He said that he
had wanted to clarify this point, because, if it was misunderstood, it led a
nagual back to self-importance and thus to his destruction.
He changed the
subject and said that, because the spirit had no perceivable essence, sorcerers
deal rather with the specific instances and ways in which they are able to
shatter the mirror of self-reflection.
Don Juan noted
that in this area it was important to realize the practical value of the
different ways in which the naguals masked their ruthlessness. He said my mask
of generosity, for example, was adequate for dealing with people on a shallow
level, but useless for shattering their self- reflection because it forced me
to demand an almost impossible decision on their part. I expected them to jump
into the sorcerers' world without any preparation.
decision such as that jump must be prepared for," he went on. "And in
order to prepare for it, any kind of mask for a nagual's ruthlessness will do,
except the mask of generosity."
I desperately wanted to believe that 1 was truly generous, his comments on my
behavior renewed my terrible sense of guilt. He assured me that I had nothing
to be ashamed of, and that the only undesirable effect was that my
pseudo-generosity did not result in positive trickery.
In this regard,
he said, although I resembled his benefactor in many ways, my mask of
generosity was too crude, too obvious to be of value to me as a teacher. A mask
of reasonableness, such as
however, was very effective in creating an atmosphere propitious to moving the
assemblage point. His disciples totally believed his pseudo-reasonableness. In
fact, they were so inspired by it that he could easily trick them into exerting
themselves to any degree.
happened to you that day in Guaymas was an example of how the nagual's masked
self-reflection," he continued. "My mask was your downfall. You, like
everyone around me, believed my reasonableness. And, of course, you expected,
above ail, the continuity of that reasonableness.
faced you with not only the senile behavior of a feeble old man, but with the
old man himself, your mind went to extremes in its efforts to repair my
continuity and your self-reflection. And so you told yourself that I must have
suffered a stroke.
when it became impossible to believe in the continuity of my reasonableness,
your mirror began to break down. From that point on, the shift of your
assemblage point was just a matter of tune. The only thing in question was
whether it was going to reach the place of no pity."
I must have
appeared skeptical to Don Juan, for he explained that the world of our
self-reflection or of our mind was very flimsy and was held together by a few
key ideas that served as its underlying order. When those ideas failed, the
underlying order ceased to function.
those key ideas, Don Juan?" I asked.
case, in that particular instance, as in the case of the audience of that
healer we talked about, continuity was the key idea," he replied.
continuity?" I asked.
that we are a solid block," he said. "In our minds, what sustains our
world is the certainty that we are unchangeable. We may accept that our
behavior can be modified, that our reactions and opinions can be modified, but
the idea that we are malleable to the point of changing appearances, to the
point of being someone else, is not part of the underlying order of our
self-reflection. Whenever a sorcerer interrupts that order, the world of reason
I wanted to ask
him if breaking an individual's continuity was enough to cause the assemblage
point to move. He seemed to anticipate my question. He said that that breakage
was merely a softener. What helped the assemblage point move was the nagual's
compared the acts he performed that afternoon in Guaymas with the actions of
the healer we had previously discussed. He said that the healer had shattered
the self-reflection of the people in her audience with a series of acts for
which they had no equivalents in their daily lives—the dramatic spirit
possession, changing voices, cutting the patient's body open. As soon as the
continuity of the idea of themselves was broken, their assemblage points were
ready to be moved.
He reminded me
that he had described to me in the past the concept of stopping the world. He
had said that stopping the world was as necessary for sorcerers as reading and
writing was for me. It consisted of introducing a dissonant element into the
fabric of everyday behavior for purposes of halting the otherwise smooth flow
of ordinary events—events which were catalogued in our minds by our
element was called "not-doing," or the opposite of doing.
"Doing" was anything that was part of a whole for which we had a
cognitive account. Not-doing was an element that did not belong in that charted
because they are stalkers, understand human behavior to perfection," he
said. "They understand, for instance, that human beings are creatures of
inventory. Knowing the ins and outs of a particular inventory is what makes a
man a scholar or an expert in his field.
know that when an average person's inventory fails, the person either enlarges
his inventory or his world of self-reflection collapses. The average person is
willing to incorporate new items into his inventory if they Don't contradict
the inventory's underlying order. But if the items contradict that order, the
person's mind collapses. The inventory is the mind. Sorcerers count on this
when they attempt to break the mirror of self-reflection."
that that day he had carefully chosen the props for his act to break my
continuity. He slowly transformed himself until he was indeed a feeble old man,
and then, in order to reinforce the breaking of my continuity, he took me to a
restaurant where they knew him as an old man.
him. I had become aware of a contradiction I had not noticed before. He had
said, at the time, that the reason he transformed himself was that he wanted to
know what it was like to be old. The occasion was propitious and unrepeatable.
I had understood that statement as meaning that he had not been an old man
before. Yet at the restaurant they knew him as the feeble old man who suffered
nagual's ruthlessness has many aspects," he said. "It's like a tool
that adapts itself to many uses. Ruthlessness is a state of being. It is a
level of intent that the nagual attains.
nagual uses it to entice the movement of his own assemblage point or those of
his apprentices. Or he uses it to stalk. I began that day as a stalker,
pretending to be old, and ended up as a genuinely old, feeble man. My
ruthlessness, controlled by my eyes, made my own assemblage point move.
I had been at the restaurant many times before as an old, sick man, I had only
been stalking, merely playing at being old. Never before that day had my
assemblage point moved to the precise spot of age and senility."
He said that as
soon as he had intended to be old, his eyes lost their shine, and I immediately
noticed it. Alarm was written all over my face. The loss of the shine in his
eyes was a consequence of using his eyes to intend the position of an old man.
As his assemblage point reached that position, he was able to age in
appearance, behavior, and feeling.
I asked him to
clarify the idea of intending with the eyes. I had the faint notion I
understood it, yet I could not formulate even to myself what I knew.
way of talking about it is to say that intent is intended with the eyes,"
he said. "I know that it is so. Yet, just like you, I can't pinpoint what
it is I know. Sorcerers resolve this particular difficulty by accepting
something extremely obvious: human beings are infinitely more complex and
mysterious than our wildest fantasies."
I insisted that
he had not shed any light on the matter.
"All I can
say is that the eyes do it," he said cuttingly. "I Don't know how,
but they do it. They summon intent with something indefinable that they have,
something in their shine. Sorcerers say that intent is experienced with the
eyes, not with the reason."
He refused to
add anything and went back to explaining my recollection. He said that once his
assemblage point had reached the specific position that made him genuinely old,
doubts should have been completely removed from my mind. But due to the fact
that I took pride in being super- rational, I immediately did my best to
explain away his transformation.
you over and over that being too rational is a handicap," he said.
"Human beings have a very deep sense of magic. We are part of the
mysterious. Rationality is only a veneer with us. If we
surface, we find a sorcerer underneath. Some of us, however, have great
difficulty getting underneath the surface level; others do it with total ease.
You and I are very alike in this respect—we both have to sweat blood
before we let go of our self-reflection."
I explained to
him that, for me, holding onto my rationality had always been a matter of life
or death. Even more so when it came to my experiences in his world.
that that day in Guaymas my rationality had been exceptionally trying for him.
From the start he had had to make use of every device he knew to undermine it.
To that end, he began by forcibly putting his hands on my shoulders and nearly
dragging me down with his weight. That blunt physical maneuver was the first
jolt to my body. And this, together with my fear caused by his lack of
continuity, punctured my rationality.
puncturing your rationality was not enough," Don Juan went on. "I
knew that if your assemblage point was going to reach the place of no pity, I
had to break every vestige of my continuity. That was when I became really
senile and made you run around town, and finally got angry at you and slapped
shocked, but you were on the road to instant recovery when I gave your mirror
of self- image what should have been its final blow. I yelled bloody murder. I
didn't expect you to run away. I had forgotten about your violent
He said that in
spite of my on-the-spot recovery tactics, my assemblage point reached the place
of no pity when I became enraged at his senile behavior. Or perhaps it had been
the opposite: I became enraged because my assemblage point had reached the
place of no pity. It did not really matter. What counted was that my assemblage
point did arrive there.
Once it was
there, my own behavior changed markedly. I became cold and calculating and
indifferent to my personal safety.
I asked Don
Juan whether he had seen all this. I did not remember telling him about it. He
replied that to know what I was feeling all he had to do was introspect and
remember his own experience.
He pointed out
that my assemblage point became fixed in its new position when he reverted to
his natural self. By then, my conviction about his normal continuity had
suffered such a profound upheaval that continuity no longer functioned as a
cohesive force. And it was at that moment, from its new position, that my
assemblage point allowed me to build another type of continuity, one which I
expressed in terms of a strange, detached hardness—a hardness that became
my normal mode of behavior from then on.
is so important in our lives that if it breaks it's always instantly
repaired," he went on. "In the case of sorcerers, however, once their
assemblage points reach the place of no pity, continuity is never the same.
are naturally slow, you haven't noticed yet that since that day in Guaymas you
have become, among other things, capable of accepting any kind of discontinuity
at its face value— after a token struggle of your reason, of course."
His eyes were
shining with laughter.
also that day that you acquired your masked ruthlessness," he went on.
"Your mask wasn't as well developed as it is now, of course, but what you
got then was the rudiments of what was to become your mask of generosity."
I tried to
protest. I did not like the idea of masked ruthlessness, no matter how he put
your mask on me," he said, laughing. "Save it for a better subject:
someone who doesn't know you."
He urged me to
recollect accurately the moment the mask came to me.
as you felt that cold fury coming over you," he went on, "you had to
mask it. You didn't joke about it, as my benefactor would have Done. You didn't
try to sound reasonable about it, like I would. You didn't pretend to be
intrigued by it, like the nagual Elías would have. Those are the three
nagual's masks I know. What did you do then? You calmly walked to your car and
gave half of your packages away to the guy who was helping you carry
moment I had not remembered that indeed someone helped me carry the packages. I
told Don Juan that I had seen lights dancing before my face, and I had thought
I was seeing them because, driven by my cold fury, I was on the verge of
not on the verge of fainting," Don Juan answered. "You were on the
verge of entering a dreaming state and seeing the spirit all by yourself, like
Talia and my benefactor."
I said to Don
Juan that it was not generosity that made me give away the packages but cold
fury. I had to do something to calm myself, and that was the first thing that
occurred to me.
that's exactly what I've been telling you. Your generosity is not
genuine," he retorted and began to laugh at my dismay.
THE TICKET TO
It had gotten
dark while Don Juan was talking about breaking the mirror of self-reflection. I
told him I was thoroughly exhausted, and we should cancel the rest of the trip
and return home, but he maintained that we
had to use
every minute of our available time to review the sorcery stories or recollect
by making my assemblage point move as many times as possible.
I was in a
complaining mood. I said that a state of deep fatigue such as mine could only
breed uncertainty and lack of conviction.
uncertainty is to be expected," Don Juan said matter-of-factly.
"After all, you are dealing with a new type of continuity. It takes time
to get used to it. Warriors spend years in limbo where they are neither average
men nor sorcerers."
happens to them in the end?" I asked. "Do they choose sides?"
have no choice," he replied. "All of them become aware of what they
already are: sorcerers. The difficulty is that the mirror of self-reflection is
extremely powerful and only lets its victims go after a ferocious
talking and seemed lost in thought. His body entered into the state of rigidity
I had seen before whenever he was engaged in what I characterized as reveries,
but which he described as instances in which his assemblage point had moved and
he was able to recollect.
to tell you the story of a sorcerer's ticket to impeccability," he
suddenly said after some thirty minutes of total silence. "I'm going to
tell you the story of my death."
He began to
recount what had happened to him after his arrival in Durango still disguised
in women's clothes, following his month-long journey through central Mexico. He
said that old Belisario took him directly to a hacienda to hide from the
monstrous man who was chasing him.
As soon as he
arrived, Don Juan—very daringly in view of his taciturn
nature—introduced himself to everyone in the house. There were seven
beautiful women and a strange unsociable man who did not utter a single word. Don
Juan delighted the lovely women with his rendition of the monstrous man's
efforts to capture him. Above all, they were enchanted with the disguise which
he still wore, and the story that went with it. They never tired of hearing the
details of his trip, and all of them advised him on how to perfect the
knowledge he had acquired during his journey. What surprised Don Juan was their
poise and assuredness, which were unbelievable to him.
The seven women
were exquisite and they made him feel happy. He liked them and trusted them.
They treated him with respect and consideration. But something in their eyes
told him that under their facades of charm there existed a terrifying coldness,
an aloofness he could never penetrate.
occurred to him that in order for these strong and beautiful women to be so at
ease and to have no regard for formalities, they had to be loose women. Yet it
was obvious to him that they were not.
Don Juan was
left alone to roam the property. He was dazzled by the huge mansion and its
grounds. He had never seen anything like it. It was an old colonial house with
a high surrounding wall. Inside were balconies with flowerpots and patios with
enormous fruit trees that provided shade, privacy, and quiet.
large rooms, and on the ground floor airy corridors around the patios. On the
upper floor there were mysterious bedrooms, where Don Juan was not permitted to
following days Don Juan was amazed by the profound interest the women took in
his well-being. They did everything for him. They seemed to hang on his every
word. Never before
had people been
so kind to him. But also, never before had he felt so solitary. He was always
in the company of the beautiful, strange women, and yet he had never been so
believed that his feeling of aloneness came from being unable to predict the
behavior of the women or to know their real feelings. He knew only what they
told him about themselves.
A few days
after his arrival, the woman who seemed to be their leader gave him some
brand-new men's clothes and told him that his woman's disguise was no longer
necessary, because whoever the monstrous man might have been, he was now
nowhere in sight. She told him he was free to go whenever he pleased.
Don Juan begged
to see Belisario, whom he had not seen since the day they arrived. The woman
said that Belisario was gone. He had left word, however, that Don Juan could
stay in the house as long as he wanted —but only if he was in danger.
declared he was in mortal danger. During his few days in the house, he had seen
the monster constantly, always sneaking about the cultivated fields surrounding
the house. The woman did not believe him and told him bluntly that he was a con
artist, pretending to see the monster so they would take him in. She told him
their house was not a place to loaf. She stated they were serious people who
worked very hard and could not afford to keep a freeloader.
Don Juan was
insulted. He stomped out of the house, but when he caught sight of the monster
hiding behind the ornamental shrubbery bordering the walk, his fright
immediately replaced his anger.
He rushed back
into the house and begged the woman to let him stay. He promised to do peon
labor for no wages if he could only remain at the hacienda.
with the understanding that Don Juan would accept two conditions: that he not
ask any questions, and that he do exactly as he was told without requiring any
explanations. She warned him that if he broke these rules his stay at the house
would be in jeopardy.
in the house really under protest," Don Juan continued. "I did not
like to accept her conditions, but I knew that the monster was outside. In the
house I was safe. I knew that the monstrous man was always stopped at an
invisible boundary that encircled the house, at a distance of perhaps a hundred
yards. Within that circle I was safe. As far as I could discern, there must
have been something about that house that kept the monstrous man away, and that
was all I cared about.
realized that when the people of the house were around me the monster never
After a few
weeks with no change in his situation, the young man who Don Juan believed had
been living in the monster's house disguised as old Belisario reappeared. He
told Don Juan that he had just arrived, that his name was Julian, and that he
owned the hacienda.
naturally asked him about his disguise. But the young man, looking him in the
eye and without the slightest hesitation, denied knowledge of any disguise.
you stand here in my own house and talk such rubbish?" he shouted at Don
Juan. "What do you take me for?"
are Belisario, aren't you?" Don Juan insisted.
the young man said. "Belisario is an old man. I am Julian and I'm young. Don't
Don Juan meekly
admitted that he had not been quite convinced that it was a disguise and
immediately realized the absurdity of his statement. If being old was not a
disguise, then it was a transformation, and that was even more absurd.
confusion increased by the moment. He asked about the monster and the young man
replied that he had no idea what monster he was talking about. He conceded that
Don Juan must have been scared by something, otherwise old Belisario would not
have given him sanctuary. But whatever reason Don Juan had for hiding, it was
his personal business.
Don Juan was
mortified by the coldness of his host's tone and manner. Risking his anger, Don
Juan reminded him that they had met. His host replied that he had never seen
him before that day, but that he was honoring Belisario's wishes as he felt
obliged to do.
The young man
added that not only was he the owner of the house but that he was also in
charge of every person in that household, including Don Juan, who, by the act
of hiding among them, had become a ward of the house. If Don Juan did not like
the arrangement, he was free to go and take his chances with the monster no one
else was able to see.
Before he made
up his mind one way or another, Don Juan judiciously decided to ask what being
a ward of the house involved.
The young man
took Don Juan to a section of the mansion that was under construction and said
that that part of the house was symbolic of his own life and actions. It was
unfinished. Construction was indeed underway, but chances were it might never
one of the elements of that incomplete construction," he said to Don Juan.
"Let's say that you are the beam that will support the roof. Until we put
it in place and put the roof on top of it, we won't know whether it will
support the weight. The master carpenter says it will. I am the master
metaphorical explanation meant nothing to Don Juan, who wanted to know what was
expected of him in matters of manual labor.
The young man
tried another approach. "I'm a nagual," he explained. "I bring
freedom. I'm the leader of the people in this house. You are in this house, and
because of that you are part of it whether you like or not."
Don Juan looked
at him dumbfounded, unable to say anything.
"I am the
nagual Julian,." his host said, smiling. "Without my intervention,
there is no way to freedom."
Don Juan still
did not understand. But he began to wonder about his safety in light of the
man's obviously erratic mind. He was so concerned with this unexpected
development that he was not even curious about the use of the word nagual. He
knew that nagual meant sorcerer, yet he was unable to take in the total
implication of the nagual Julian's words. Or perhaps, somehow, he understood it
perfectly, although his conscious mind did not.
The young man
stared at him for a moment and then said that Don Juan's actual job would
involve being his personal valet and assistant. There would be no pay for this,
but excellent room and board. From time to time there would be other small jobs
for Don Juan, jobs requiring special attention. He was to be in charge of
either doing the jobs himself or seeing that they got Done. For these special
services he would be paid small amounts of money which would be put into an account
kept for him by the other members of the household. Thus, should he ever want
to leave, there would be a small amount of cash to tide him over.
The young man
stressed that Don Juan should not consider himself a prisoner, but that if he
stayed he would have to work. And still more important than the work were the
three requirements he had to fulfill. He had to make a serious effort to learn
everything the women taught him. His conduct with all the members of the
household must be exemplary, which meant that he would have to examine his
behavior and attitude toward them every minute of the day.
And he was to
address the young man, in direct conversation, as nagual, and when talking of
him, to refer to him as the nagual Julian.
accepted the terms grudgingly. But although he instantly plunged into his
habitual sulkiness and moroseness, he learned his work quickly. What he did not
understand was what was expected of him in matters of attitude and behavior.
And even though he could not have put his finger on a concrete instance, he
honestly believed that he was being lied to and exploited.
moroseness got the upper hand, he entered into a permanent sulk and hardly said
a word to anyone.
It was then
that the nagual Julian assembled all the members of his household and explained
to them that even though he badly needed an assistant, he would abide by their
decision. If they did not like the morose and unappealing attitude of his new
orderly, they had the right to say so. If the majority disapproved of Don
Juan's behavior, the young man would have to leave and take his chances with
whatever was waiting for him outside, be it a monster or his own fabrication.
Julian then led them to the front of the house and challenged Don Juan to show
them the monstrous man. Don Juan pointed him out, but no one else saw him. Don
Juan ran frantically from one person to another, insisting that the monster was
there, imploring them to help him. They ignored his pleas and called him crazy.
It was then
that the nagual Julian put Don Juan's fate to a vote. The unsociable man did
not choose to vote. He shrugged his shoulders and walked away. All the women
spoke out against Don Juan's staying. They argued that he was simply too morose
and bad-tempered. During the heat of the argument, however, the nagual Julian
completely changed his attitude and became Don Juan's defender. He suggested
that the women might be misjudging the poor young man, that he was perhaps not
crazy at all and maybe actually did see a monster. He said that perhaps his
morose- ness was the result of his worries. And a great fight ensued. Tempers
flared, and in no time the women were yelling at the nagual.
Don Juan heard
the argument but was past caring. He knew they were going to throw him out and
that the monstrous man would certainly capture him and take him into slavery.
In his utter helplessness he began to weep.
His despair and
his tears swayed some of the enraged women. The leader of the women proposed
another choice: a three-week trial period during which Don Juan's actions and
attitude would be evaluated daily by all the women. She warned Don Juan that if
there was one single complaint about his attitude during that time, he would be
kicked out for good.
recounted how the nagual Julian in a fatherly manner took him aside and
proceeded to drive a wedge of fear into him. He whispered to Don Juan that he
knew for a fact that the monster not only existed but was roaming the property.
Nevertheless, because of certain previous agreements with the women, agreements
he could not divulge, he was not permitted to tell the women what he knew. He
urged Don Juan to stop demonstrating his stubborn, morose personality and
pretend to be the opposite.
to be happy and satisfied," he said to Don Juan. "If you Don't, the
women will kick you out. That prospect alone should be enough to scare you. Use
that fear as a real driving force. It's the only thing you have."
or second thoughts that Don Juan might have had were instantly dispelled at the
sight of the monstrous man. As the monster waited impatiently at the invisible
line, he seemed aware of how precarious Don Juan's position was. It was as if
the monster were ravenously hungry, anxiously anticipating a feast.
Julian drove his wedge of fear a bit deeper.
"If I were
you," he told Don Juan, "I would behave like an angel. I'd act any
way these women want me to, as long as it kept me from that hellish
do see the monster?" Don Juan asked.
I do," he replied. "And I also see that if you leave, or if the women
kick you out, the monster will capture you and put you in chains. That will
change your attitude for sure. Slaves Don't have any choice but to behave well
with their masters. They say that the pain inflicted by a monster like that is
Don Juan knew
that his only hope was to make himself as congenial as he possibly could. The
fear of falling prey to that monstrous man was indeed a powerful psychological
Don Juan told
me that by some quirk in his own nature he was boorish only with the women; he
never behaved badly in the presence of the nagual Julian. For some reason that Don
Juan could not determine, in his mind the nagual was not someone he could
attempt to affect either consciously or subconsciously.
member of the household, the unsociable man, was of no consequence to Don Juan.
Don Juan had formed an opinion the moment he met him, and had discounted him.
He thought that the man was weak, indolent, and overpowered by those beautiful
women. Later on, when he was more aware of the nagual's personality, he knew
that the man was definitely overshadowed by the glitter of the others.
As time passed,
the nature of leadership and authority among them became evident to Don Juan.
He was surprised and somehow delighted to realize that no one was better or
higher than another. Some of them performed functions of which the others were
incapable, but that did not make them superior. It simply made them different.
However, the ultimate decision in everything was automatically the nagual
Julian's, and he apparently took great pleasure in expressing his decisions in
the form of bestial jokes he played on everyone.
There was also
a mystery woman among them. They referred to her as Talia, the nagual woman.
Nobody told Don Juan who she was, or what being the nagual woman meant. It was
made clear to him, however, that one of the seven women was Talia. They all
talked so much about her that Don
curiosity was aroused to tremendous heights. He asked so many questions that
the woman who was the leader of the other women told him that she would teach
him to read and write so that he might make better use of his deductive
abilities. She said that he must learn to write things down rather than
committing them to memory. In this fashion he would accumulate a huge
collection of facts about Talia, facts that he ought to read and study until
the truth became evident.
anticipating the cynical retort he had in mind, she argued that, although it
might seem an absurd endeavor, finding out who Talia was was one of the most
difficult and rewarding tasks anyone could undertake.
That, she said,
was the fun part. She added more seriously that it was imperative for Don Juan
to learn basic bookkeeping in order to help the nagual manage the property.
started daily lessons and in one year Don Juan had progressed so rapidly and
extensively that he was able to read, write, and keep account books.
occurred so smoothly that he did not notice the changes in himself, the most
remarkable of which was a sense of detachment. As far as he was concerned, he
retained his impression that nothing was happening in the house, simply because
he still was unable to identify with the members of the household. Those people
were mirrors that did not yield reflection.
refuge in that house for nearly three years," Don Juan went on.
"Countless things happened to me during that time, but I didn't think they
were really important. Or at least I had chosen to consider them unimportant. I
was convinced that for three years all I had Done was hide, shake with fear,
and work like a mule."
laughed and told me that at one point, at the urging of the nagual Julian, he
agreed to learn sorcery so that he might rid himself of the fear that consumed
him each time he saw the monster keeping vigil. But although the nagual Julian
talked to him a great deal, he seemed more
playing jokes on him. So he believed it was fair and accurate to say that he
did not learn anything even loosely related to sorcery, simply because it was
apparent that nobody in that house knew or practiced sorcery.
however, he found himself walking purposefully, but without any volition on his
part, toward the invisible line that held the monster at bay. The monstrous man
was, of course, watching the house as usual. But that day, instead of turning
back and running to seek shelter inside the house, Don Juan kept walking. An
incredible surge of energy made him advance with no concern for his safety.
A feeling of
total detachment allowed him to face the monster that had terrorized him for so
expected the monster to lurch out and grab him by the throat, but that thought
no longer created any terror in him. From a distance of a few inches he stared
at the monstrous man for an instant and then stepped over the line. And the
monster did not attack him, as Don Juan had always feared he would, but became
blurry. He lost his definition and turned into a misty whiteness, a barely
perceptible patch of fog.
advanced toward the fog and it receded as if in fear. He chased the patch of
fog over the fields until he knew there was nothing left of the monster. He
knew then that there had never been one. He could not, however, explain what he
had feared. He had the vague sensation that although he knew exactly what the
monster was, something was preventing him from thinking about it. He
immediately thought that that rascal, the nagual Julian, knew the truth about
what was happening. Don Juan would not have put it past the nagual Julian to
play that kind of trick.
confronting him, Don Juan gave himself the pleasure of walking unescorted all
over the property. Never before had he been able to do that. Whenever he had
needed to venture beyond that invisible line, he had been escorted by a member
of the household. That had put a serious constraint on his mobility. The two or
three times he had attempted to walk unescorted, he had found that he risked
annihilation at the hands of the monstrous being.
Filled with a
strange vigor, Don Juan went into the house, but instead of celebrating his new
freedom and power, he assembled the entire household and angrily demanded that
they explain their lies. He accused them of making him work as their slave by
playing on his fear of a nonexistent monster.
laughed as if he were telling the funniest joke. Only the nagual Julian seemed
contrite, especially when Don Juan, his voice cracking with resentment,
described his three years of constant fear. The nagual Julian broke down and
wept openly as Don Juan demanded an apology for the shameful way he had been
told you the monster didn't exist," one of the women said.
Don Juan glared
at the nagual Julian, who cowered meekly.
the monster existed," Don Juan yelled, pointing an accusing finger at the
But at the same
time he was aware he was talking nonsense, because the nagual Julian had
originally told him that the monster did not exist.
monster didn't exist," Don Juan corrected himself, shaking with rage.
"It was one of his tricks."
Julian, weeping uncontrollably, apologized to Don Juan, while the women howled
with laughter. Don Juan had never seen them laughing so hard.
all along that there was never any monster. You lied to me," he accused
the nagual Julian, who, with his head down and his eyes filled with tears,
admitted his guilt.
certainly lied to you," he mumbled. "There was never any monster.
What you saw as a monster was simply a surge of energy. Your fear made it into
me that that monster was going to devour me. How could you have lied to me like
that?" Don Juan shouted at him.
devoured by that monster was symbolic," the nagual Julian replied softly.
"Your real enemy is your stupidity. You are in mortal danger of being
devoured by that monster now."
Don Juan yelled
that he did not have to put up with silly statements. And he insisted they
reassure him there were no longer any restrictions on his freedom to leave.
go any time you want," the nagual Julian said curtly.
I can go right now?" Don Juan asked.
want to?" the nagual asked.
course, I want to leave this miserable place and the miserable bunch of liars
who live here," Don Juan shouted.
Julian ordered that Don Juan's savings be paid him in full, and with shining
eyes wished him happiness, prosperity, and wisdom.
The women did
not want to say goodbye to him. They stared at him until he lowered his head to
avoid their burning eyes.
Don Juan put
his money in his pocket and without a backward glance walked out, glad his
ordeal was over. The outside world was a question mark to him. He yearned for
it. Inside that house he had been removed from it. He was young, strong. He had
money in his pocket and a thirst for living.
He left them
without saying thank you. His anger, bottled up by his fear for so long, was
finally able to surface. He had even learned to like them—and now he felt
betrayed. He wanted to run as far away from that place as he could.
In the city, he
had his first unpleasant encounter. Traveling was very difficult and very
expensive. He learned that if he wanted to leave the city at once he would not
be able to choose his destination, but would have to wait for whatever
muleteers were willing to take him. A few days later he left with a reputable
muleteer for the port of Mazatlan.
I was only twenty-three years old at the time," Don Juan said, "I
felt I had lived a full life. The only thing I had not experienced was sex. The
nagual Julian had told me that it was the fact I had not been with a woman that
gave me my strength and endurance, and that he had little time left to set
things up before the world would catch up with me."
he mean, Don Juan?" I asked.
that I had no idea about the kind of hell I was heading for," Don Juan
replied, "and that he had very little time to set up my barricades, my
silent protector, Don Juan?" I asked.
lifesaver," he said. "A silent protector is a surge of inexplicable
energy that comes to a warrior when nothing else works.
benefactor knew what direction my life would take once I was no longer under
his influence. So he struggled to give me as many sorcerers' options as
possible. Those sorcerers' options were to be my silent protectors."
sorcerers' options?" I asked.
of the assemblage point," he replied, "the infinite number of
positions which the assemblage point can reach. In each and every one of those
shallow or deep shifts, a sorcerer can strengthen his new continuity."
that everything he had experienced either with his benefactor or while under
his guidance had been the result of either a minute or a considerable shift of
his assemblage point. His benefactor had made him experience countless
sorcerers' options, more than the number that would normally be necessary,
because he knew that Don Juan's destiny would be to be called upon to explain
what sorcerers were and what they did.
effect of those shifts of the assemblage point is cumulative," he
continued. "It weighs on you whether you understand it or not. That
accumulation worked for me, at the end.
after I came into contact with the nagual, my point of assemblage moved so
profoundly that I was capable of seeing. I saw an energy field as a monster.
And the point kept on moving until I saw the monster as what it really was: an
energy field. I had succeeded in seeing, and I didn't know it. I thought I had Done
nothing, had learned nothing. I was stupid beyond belief."
too young, Don Juan," I said. "You couldn't have Done
He laughed. He
was on the verge of replying, when he seemed to change his mind. He shrugged
his shoulders and went on with his account.
Don Juan said
that when he arrived in Mazatlan he was practically a seasoned muleteer, and
was offered a permanent job running a mule train. He was very satisfied with
the arrangements. The idea that he would be making the trip between Durango and
Mazatlan pleased him no end. There were two things, however, that bothered him:
first, that he had not yet been with a woman, and second, a strong but
unexplainable urge to go north. He did not know why. He knew only that
somewhere to the north something was waiting for him. The feeling persisted so
strongly that in the end he was forced to refuse the security of a permanent
job so he could travel north.
strength and a new and unaccountable cunning enabled him to find jobs even
where there were none to be had, as he steadily worked his way north to the
state of Sinaloa. And there his journey ended. He met a young widow, like
himself a Yaqui Indian, who had been the wife of a man to whom Don Juan was
He attempted to
repay his indebtedness by helping the widow and her children, and without being
aware of it, he fell into the role of husband and father.
responsibilities put a great burden on him. He lost his freedom of movement and
even his urge to journey farther north. He felt compensated for that loss,
however, by the profound affection he felt for the woman and her children.
experienced moments of sublime happiness as a husband and father," Don
Juan said. "But it was at those moments when I first noticed that
something was terribly wrong. I realized that I was losing the feeling of
detachment, the aloofness I had acquired during my time in the nagual Julian's
house. Now I found myself identifying with the people who surrounded me."
Don Juan said
that it took about a year of unrelenting abrasion to make him lose every
vestige of the new personality he had acquired at the nagual's house. He had
begun with a profound yet aloof affection for the woman and her children. This
detached affection allowed him to play the role of husband and father with abanDon
and gusto. As time went by, his detached affection turned into a desperate passion
that made him lose his effectiveness.
Gone was his
feeling of detachment, which was what had given him the power to love. Without
that detachment, he had only mundane needs, desperation, and hopelessness: the
distinctive features of the world of everyday life. Gone as well was his
enterprise. During his years at the nagual's house, he had acquired a dynamism
that had served him well when he set out on his own.
But the most
draining pain was knowing that his physical energy had waned. Without actually
being in ill health, one day he became totally paralyzed. He did not feel pain.
He did not panic. It was as if his body had understood that he would get the
peace and quiet he so desperately needed only if it ceased to move.
As he lay
helpless in bed, he did nothing but think. And he came to realize that he had
failed because he did not have an abstract purpose. He knew that the people in
the nagual's house were extraordinary because they pursued freedom as their
abstract purpose. He did not understand what freedom was, but he knew that it
was the opposite of his own concrete needs.
His lack of an
abstract purpose had made him so weak and ineffective that he was incapable of
rescuing his adopted family from their abysmal poverty. Instead, they had
pulled him back to the very misery, sadness, and despair which he himself had
known prior to encountering the nagual.
As he reviewed
his life, he became aware that the only time he had not been poor and had not
had concrete needs was during his years with the nagual. Poverty was the state
of being that had reclaimed him when his concrete needs overpowered him.
For the first
time since he had been shot and wounded so many years before, Don Juan fully
understood that the nagual Julian was indeed the nagual, the leader, and his
benefactor. He understood what it was his benefactor had meant when he said to
him that there was no freedom without the nagual's intervention. There was now
no doubt in Don Juan's mind that his benefactor and all the members of his
benefactor's household were sorcerers. But what Don Juan understood with the
most painful clarity was that he had thrown away his chance to be with them.
pressure of his physical helplessness seemed unendurable, his paralysis ended
as mysteriously as it had begun. One day he simply got out of bed and went to
work. But his luck did not get any better. He could hardly make ends meet.
passed. He did not prosper, but there was one thing in which he succeeded
beyond his expectations: he made a total recapitulation of his life. He
understood then why he loved and could not leave those children, and why he
could not stay with them, and he also understood why he could neither act one
way nor the other.
Don Juan knew
that he had reached a complete impasse, and that to die like a warrior was the
only action congruous with what he had learned at his benefactor's house. So
every night, after a frustrating day of hardship and meaningless toil, he
patiently waited for his death to come.
He was so
utterly convinced of his end that his wife and her children waited with
him—in a gesture of solidarity, they too wanted to die. All four sat in
perfect immobility, night after night, without fail, and recapitulated their
lives while they waited for death.
Don Juan had admonished
them with the same words his benefactor had used to admonish him.
wish for it," his benefactor had said. "Just wait until it comes. Don't
try to imagine what death is like. Just be there to be caught in its
The time spent
quietly strengthened them mentally, but physically their emaciated bodies told
of their losing battle.
however, Don Juan thought his luck was beginning to change. He found temporary
work with a team of farm laborers during the harvest season. But the spirit had
other designs for him. A
couple of days
after he started work, someone stole his hat. It was impossible for him to buy
a new one, but he had to have one to work under the scorching sun.
He fashioned a
protection of sorts by covering his head with rags and handfuls of straw. His
coworkers began to laugh and taunt him. He ignored them. Compared to the lives
of the three people who depended on his labor, how he looked had little meaning
for him. But the men did not stop. They yelled and laughed until the foreman,
fearing that they would riot, fired Don Juan.
A wild rage
overwhelmed Don Juan's sense of sobriety and caution. He knew he had been
wronged. The moral right was with him. He let out a chilling, piercing scream,
and grabbed one of the men, and lifted him over his shoulders, meaning to crack
his back. But he thought of those hungry children. He thought of their
disciplined little bodies as they sat with him night after night awaiting
death. He put the man down and walked away.
Don Juan said
that he sat down at the edge of the field where the men were working, and all
the despair that had accumulated in him finally exploded. It was a silent rage,
but not against the people around him. He raged against himself. He raged until
all his anger was spent.
there in view of all those people and began to weep," Don Juan continued.
"They looked at me as if I were crazy, which I really was, but I didn't
care. I was beyond caring.
foreman felt sorry for me and came over to give a word of advice. He thought I
was weeping for myself. He couldn't have possibly known that I was weeping for
Don Juan said
that a silent protector came to him after his rage was spent. It was in the
form of an unaccountable surge of energy that left him with the clear feeling
that his death was imminent. He knew that he was not going to have time to see
his adopted family again. He apologized to them in a loud voice for not having
had the fortitude and wisdom necessary to deliver them from their hell on
workers continued to laugh and mock him. He vaguely heard them. Tears swelled
in his chest as he addressed and thanked the spirit for having placed him in
the nagual's path, giving him an undeserved chance to be free. He heard the
howls of the uncomprehending men. He heard their insults and yells as if from
within himself. They had the right to ridicule him. He had been at the portals
of eternity and had been unaware of it.
understood how right my benefactor had been," Don Juan said. "My
stupidity was a monster and it had already devoured me. The instant I had that
thought, I knew that anything I could say or do was useless. I had lost my
chance. Now, I was only clowning for those men. The spirit could not possibly
have cared about my despair. There were too many of us—men with our own
petty private hells, born of our stupidity —for the spirit to pay
and faced the southeast. I thanked my benefactor again and told the spirit I
was ashamed. So ashamed. And with my last breath I said goodbye to a world
which could have been wonderful if I had had wisdom. An immense wave came for
me then. I felt it, first. Then I heard it, and finally I saw it coming for me
from the southeast, over the fields. It overtook me and its blackness covered
me. And the light of my life was gone. My hell had ended. I was finally dead! I
was finally free!"
story devastated me. He ignored all my efforts to talk about it. He said that
at another time and in another setting we were going to discuss it. He demanded
instead that we get on with what he had come to do: elucidate the mastery of
A couple of
days later, as we were coming down from the mountains, he suddenly began to
talk about his story. We had sat down to rest. Actually, I was the one who had
stopped to catch my breath. Don Juan was not even breathing hard.
sorcerers' struggle for assuredness is the most dramatic struggle there
is," Don Juan said. "It's painful and costly. Many, many times it has
actually cost sorcerers their lives."
that in order for any sorcerer to have complete certainty about his actions, or
about his position in the sorcerers' world, or to be capable of utilizing
intelligently his new continuity, he must invalidate the continuity of his old
life. Only then can his actions have the necessary assuredness to fortify and
balance the tenuousness and instability of his new continuity.
sorcerer seers of modern times call this process of invalidation the ticket to
impeccability, or the sorcerers' symbolic but final death," Don Juan said.
"And in that field in Sinaloa, I got my ticket to impeccability. I died
there. The tenuousness of my new continuity cost me my life."
you die, Don Juan, or did you just faint?" I asked, trying not to sound
"I died in
that field," he said. "I felt my awareness flowing out of me and
heading toward the Eagle. But as I had impeccably recapitulated my life, the
Eagle did not swallow my awareness. The Eagle spat me out. Because my body was
dead in the field, the Eagle did not let me go through to freedom. It was as if
it told me to go back and try again.
ascended the heights of blackness and descended again to the light of the
earth. And then I found myself in a shallow grave at the edge of the field,
covered with rocks and dirt."
Don Juan said
that he knew instantly what to do. After digging himself out he rearranged the
grave to look as if a body were still there, and slipped away. He felt strong
and determined. He knew that he had to return to his benefactor's house. But,
before he started on his return journey, he wanted to see his family and
explain to them that he was a sorcerer and for that reason he could not stay
with them. He wanted to explain that his downfall had been not knowing that
sorcerers can never make a bridge to join the people of the world. But, if
people desire to do so, they have to make a bridge to join sorcerers.
home," Don Juan continued, "but the house was empty. The shocked
neighbors told me that farm workers had come earlier with the news that I had
dropped dead at work, and my wife and her children had left."
were you dead, Don Juan?" I asked.
day, apparently," he said.
smile played on his lips. His eyes seemed to be made of shiny obsidian. He was
watching my reaction, waiting for my comments.
became of your family, Don Juan?" I asked.
"Ah, the question
of a sensible man," he remarked. "For a moment I thought you were
going to ask me about my death!"
that I had been about to, but that I knew he was seeing my question as I
formulated it in my mind, and just to be contrary I asked something else. I did
not mean it as a joke, but it made him laugh.
disappeared that day," he said. "My wife was a survivor. She had to
be, with the conditions we lived under. Since I had been waiting for my death,
she believed I had gotten what I wanted. There was nothing for her to do there,
so she left.
the children and I consoled myself with the thought that it wasn't my fate to
be with them. However, sorcerers have a peculiar bent. They live exclusively in
the twilight of a feeling best described by the words 'and yet. . .' When
everything is crumbling down around them, sorcerers accept that the situation
is terrible, and then immediately escape to the twilight of 'and yet. . .'
that with my feelings for those children and the woman. With great
discipline—especially on the part of the oldest boy—they had
recapitulated their lives with me. Only the spirit could decide the outcome of
He reminded me
that he had taught me how warriors acted in such situations. They did their
utmost, and then, without any remorse or regrets, they relaxed and let the
spirit decide the outcome.
the decision of the spirit, Don Juan?" I asked.
me without answering. I knew he was completely aware of my motive for asking. I
had experienced a similar affection and a similar loss.
decision of the spirit is another basic core," he said. "Sorcery
stories are built around it. We'll talk about that specific decision when we
get to discussing that basic core.
wasn't there a question about my death you wanted to ask?"
thought you were dead, why the shallow grave?" I asked. "Why didn't
they dig a real grave and bury you?"
more like you," he said laughing. "I asked the same question myself
and I realized that all those farm workers were pious people. I was a
Christian. Christians are not buried just like that, nor are they left to rot
like dogs. I think they were waiting for my family to come and claim the body
and give it a proper burial. But my family never came."
go and look for them, Don Juan?" I asked.
Sorcerers never look for anyone," he replied. "And I was a sorcerer.
I had paid with my life for the mistake of not knowing I was a sorcerer, and
that sorcerers never approach anyone.
day on, I have only accepted the company or the care of people or warriors who
are dead, as I am."
Don Juan said
that he went back to his benefactor's house, where all of them knew instantly
what he had discovered. And they treated him as if he had not left at all.
Julian commented that because of his peculiar nature Don Juan had taken a long
time to die.
benefactor told me then that a sorcerer's ticket to freedom was his
death," Don Juan went on. "He said that he himself had paid with his
life for that ticket to freedom, as had everyone else in his household. And
that now we were equals in our condition of being dead."
"Am I dead
too, Don Juan?" I asked.
dead," he said. "The sorcerers' grand trick, however, is to be aware
that they are dead. Their ticket to impeccability must be wrapped in awareness.
In that wrapping, sorcerers say, their ticket is kept in mint condition.
years, I've kept mine in mint condition."
THE THIRD POINT
Don Juan often
took me and the rest of his apprentices on short trips to the western range
nearby. On this occasion we left at dawn, and late in the afternoon, started
back. I chose to walk with Don Juan. To be close to him always soothed and
relaxed me; but being with his volatile apprentices always produced in me the
opposite effect: they made me feel very tired.
As we all came
down from the mountains, Don Juan and I made one stop before we reached the
flatlands. An attack of profound melancholy came upon me with such speed and
strength that all I could do was to sit down. Then, following Don Juan's
suggestion, I lay on my stomach, on top of a large round boulder.
The rest of the
apprentices taunted me and continued walking. I heard their laughter and
yelling become faint in the distance. Don Juan urged me to relax and let my
assemblage point, which he said had moved with sudden speed, settle into its
fret," he advised me. "In a short while, you'll feel a sort of tug,
or a pat on your back, as if someone has touched you. Then you'll be
The act of
lying motionless on the boulder, waiting to feel the pat on my back, triggered
a spontaneous recollection so intense and clear that I never noticed the pat I
was expecting. I was sure, however, that I got it, because my melancholy indeed
described what I was recollecting to Don Juan. He suggested I stay on the
boulder and move my assemblage point back to the exact place it was when I
experienced the event that I was recalling.
detail of it," he warned.
It had happened
many years before. Don Juan and I had been at that time in the state of
Chihuahua in northern Mexico, in the high desert. I used to go there with him
because it was an area rich in the medicinal herbs he collected. From an
anthropological point of view that area also held a tremendous interest for me.
Archaeologists had found, not too long before, the remains of what they
concluded was a large, prehistoric trading post. They surmised that the trading
post, strategically situated in a natural pass way, had been the epicenter of
commerce along a trade route which joined the American Southwest to southern
Mexico and Central America.
The few times I
had been in that flat, high desert had reinforced my conviction that
archaeologists were right in their conclusions that it was a natural pass-way.
I, of course, had lectured Don Juan on the influence of that passway in the prehistoric
distribution of cultural traits on the North American continent. I was deeply
interested at that time in explaining sorcery among the Indians of the American
Southwest, Mexico, and Central America as a system of beliefs which had been
transmitted along trade routes and which had served to create, at a certain
abstract level, a sort of pre-Columbian pan-Indianism.
naturally, laughed uproariously every time I expounded my theories.
The event that
I recollected had begun in the mid-afternoon. After Don Juan and I had gathered
two small sacks of some extremely rare medicinal herbs, we took a break and sat
down on top of some huge boulders. But before we headed back to where I had
left my car, Don Juan insisted on talking about the art of stalking. He said
that the setting was the most adequate one for explaining its intricacies, but
that in order to understand them I first had to enter into heightened
I demanded that
before he do anything he explain to me again what heightened awareness really
displaying great patience, discussed heightened awareness in terms of the
movement of the assemblage point. As he kept talking, I realized the
facetiousness of my request. I knew everything he was telling me. I remarked
that I did not really need anything explained, and he said
explanations were never wasted, because they were imprinted in us for immediate
or later use or to help prepare our way to reaching silent knowledge.
When I asked
him to talk about silent knowledge in more detail, he quickly responded that
silent knowledge was a general position of the assemblage point, that ages ago
it had been man's normal position, but that, for reasons which would be
impossible to determine, man's assemblage point had moved away from that
specific location and adopted a new one called "reason."
remarked that not every human being was a representative of this new position.
The assemblage points of the majority of us were not placed squarely on the
location of reason itself, but in its immediate vicinity. The same thing had
been the case with silent knowledge: not every human being's assemblage point
had been squarely on that location either.
He also said
that "the place of no pity," being another position of the assemblage
point, was the forerunner of silent knowledge, and that yet another position of
the assemblage point called "the place of concern," was the
forerunner of reason.
I found nothing
obscure about those cryptic remarks. To me they were self-explanatory. I
understood everything he said while I waited for his usual blow to my shoulder
blades to make me enter into heightened awareness. But the blow never came, and
I kept on understanding what he was saying without really being aware that I
understood anything. The feeling of ease, of taking things for granted, proper
to my normal consciousness, remained with me, and I did not question my
capacity to understand.
Don Juan looked
at me fixedly and recommended that I lie face down on top of a round boulder
with my arms and legs spread like a frog.
I lay there for
about ten minutes, thoroughly relaxed, almost asleep, until I was jolted out of
my slumber by a soft, sustained hissing growl. I raised my head, looked up, and
my hair stood on end. A gigantic, dark jaguar was squatting on a boulder,
scarcely ten feet from me, right above where
Don Juan was
sitting. The jaguar, its fangs showing, was glaring straight at me. He seemed
ready to jump on me.
move!" Don Juan ordered me softly. "And Don't look at his eyes. Stare
at his nose and Don't blink. Your life depends on your stare."
I did what he
told me. The jaguar and I stared at each other for a moment until Don Juan
broke the standoff by hurling his hat, like a Frisbee, at the jaguar's head.
The jaguar jumped back to avoid being hit, and Don Juan let out a loud,
prolonged, and piercing whistle. He then yelled at the top of his voice and
clapped his hands two or three times. It sounded like muffled gunshots.
Don Juan signaled
me to come down from the boulder and join him. The two of us yelled and clapped
our hands until he decided we had scared the jaguar away.
My body was
shaking, yet I was not frightened. I told Don Juan that what had caused me the
greatest fear had not been the cat's sudden growl or his stare, but the
certainty that the jaguar had been staring at me long before I had heard him
and lifted my head.
Don Juan did
not say a word about the experience. He was deep in thought. When I began to
ask him if he had seen the jaguar before I had, he made an imperious gesture to
quiet me. He gave me the impression he was ill at ease or even confused.
moment's silence, Don Juan signaled me to start walking. He took the lead. We
walked away from the rocks, zigzagging at a fast pace through the bush.
half an hour we reached a clearing in the chaparral where we stopped to rest
for a moment. We had not said a single word and I was eager to know what Don
Juan was thinking.
we walking in this pattern?" I asked. "Wouldn't it be better to make
a beeline out of here, and fast?"
he said emphatically. "It wouldn't be any good. That one is a male jaguar.
He's hungry and he's going to come after us."
more reason to get out of here fast," I insisted.
so easy," he said. "That jaguar is not encumbered by reason. He'll
know exactly what to do to get us. And, as sure as I am talking to you, he'll
read our thoughts."
you mean, the jaguar reading our thoughts?" I asked.
no metaphorical statement," he said. "I mean what I say. Big animals
like that have the capacity to read thoughts. And I Don't mean guess. I mean
that they know everything directly."
we do then?" I asked, truly alarmed.
to become less rational and try to win the battle by making it impossible for
the jaguar to read us," he replied.
being less rational help us?" I asked.
makes us choose what seems sound to the mind," he said. "For
instance, your reason already told you to run as fast as you can in a straight
line. What your reason failed to consider is that we would have had to run
about six miles before reaching the safety of your car. And the
outrun us. He'll cut in front of us and be waiting in the most appropriate
place to jump us.
but less rational choice is to zigzag."
you know that it's better, Don Juan?" I asked.
"I know it
because my connection to the spirit is very clear," he replied. "That
is to say, my assemblage point is at the place of silent knowledge. From there
I can discern that this is a hungry jaguar, but not one that has already eaten
humans. And he's baffled by our actions. If we zigzag now, the jaguar will have
to make an effort to anticipate us."
any other choices beside zigzagging?" I asked.
only rational choices," he said. "And we Don't have all the equipment
we need to back up rational choices. For example, we can head for the high
ground, but we would need a gun to hold it.
match the jaguar's choices. Those choices are dictated by silent knowledge. We
must do what silent knowledge tells us, regardless of how unreasonable it may
He began his
zigzagging trot. I followed him very closely, but I had no confidence that
running like that would save us. I was having a delayed panic reaction. The
thought of the dark, looming shape of the enormous cat obsessed me.
chaparral consisted of tall, ragged bushes spaced four or five feet apart. The
limited rainfall in the high desert did not allow the growth of plants with
thick foliage or of dense underbrush. Yet the visual effect of the chaparral
was of thickness and impenetrable growth.
Don Juan moved
with extraordinary nimbleness and I followed as best as I could. He suggested
that I watch where I stepped and make less noise. He said that the sound of
branches cracking under my weight was a dead giveaway.
tried to step in Don Juan's tracks to avoid breaking dry branches. We zigzagged
about a hundred yards in this manner before I caught sight of the jaguar's
enormous dark mass no more than thirty feet behind me.
I yelled at the
top of my voice. Without stopping, Don Juan turned around quickly enough to see
the big cat move out of sight. Don Juan let out another piercing whistle and
kept clapping his hands, imitating the sound of muffled gunshots.
In a very low
voice he said that cats did not like to go uphill and so we were going to
cross, at top speed, the wide and deep ravine a few yards to my right.
He gave a
signal to go and we thrashed through the bushes as fast as we could. We slid
down one side of the ravine, reached the bottom, and rushed up the other side.
From there we had a clear view of the slope, the bottom of the ravine, and the
level ground where we had been. Don Juan whispered that the jaguar was
following our scent, and that if we were lucky we would see him running to the
bottom of the ravine, close to our tracks.
at the ravine below us, I waited anxiously to catch a glimpse of the animal.
But I did not see him. I was beginning to think the jaguar might have run away
when I heard the frightening growling of the big cat in the chaparral just
behind us. I had the chilling realization that Don Juan had been right. To get
to where he was, the jaguar must have read our thoughts and crossed the ravine
before we had.
uttering a single word, Don Juan began running at a formidable speed. I
followed and we zigzagged for quite a while. I was totally out of breath when
we stopped to rest.
The fear of
being chased by the jaguar had not, however, prevented me from admiring Don
Juan's superb physical prowess. He had run as if he were a young man. I began
to tell him that he had reminded me of someone in my childhood who had
impressed me deeply with his running ability, but he signaled me to stop
talking. He listened attentively and so did I.
I heard a soft
rustling in the underbrush, right ahead of us. And then the black silhouette of
the jaguar was visible for an instant at a spot in the chaparral perhaps fifty
yards from us.
shrugged his shoulders and pointed in the direction of the animal.
like we're not going to shake him off," he said with a tone of resignation.
"Let's walk calmly, as if we were taking a nice stroll in the park, and
you tell me the story of your childhood. This is the right time and the right
setting for it. A jaguar is after us with a ravenous appetite, and you are
reminiscing about your past: the perfect not-doing for being chased by a
loudly. But when I told him I had completely lost interest in telling the
story, he doubled up with laughter.
punishing me now for not wanting to listen to you, aren't you?" he asked.
And I, of
course, began to defend myself. I told him his accusation was definitely
absurd. I really had lost the thread of the story.
sorcerer doesn't have self-importance, he doesn't give a rat's ass about having
lost the thread of a story," he said with a malicious shine in his eyes.
"Since you Don't have any self-importance left, you should tell your story
now. Tell it to the spirit, to the jaguar, and to me, as if you hadn't lost the
thread at all."