Origin: http://hotmix.narod.ru

     Carlos Castaneda — "The Power Of Silence"


     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, complex


     At  various 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 accurate.
     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.
     "From  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 sorcery."
     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."
     "What do you mean by the modality of the time?" I asked.
     "The 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  is 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.
     "Think of 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.
     "Everything 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."
     "Is that what you're doing, don Juan - convincing me?"
     "Exactly.  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."
     "Once we have reached it, what exactly do we do with it, don Juan?"
     "Nothing. 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
     On another 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 gently, patted  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.
     "You're skittish," he said teasingly, and  slapped my back with greater
     My ears buzzed.  For an instant I lost my breath. It felt us  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
     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
     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.
     Don Juan 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.
     Then he explained the  role of the guide in the lives of  sorcerers. He
said that a guide is called "the nagual," 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 intent.
     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
     "You will 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.
     Instantly  I  lost  my  extraordinary clarity of  mind  and  could  not
remember having ever had it. ...
     Don  Juan 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  with them. I argued that  the  suggestion was
absurd because I was not a writer.
     "Of 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 heightened awareness.
     These  two  categories  allowed  teachers  to school  their apprentices
toward  three  areas of  expertise:  the  mastery  of  awareness, the art of
stalking, and the mastery of intent.
     These  three  areas  of  expertise  are  the  three  riddles  sorcerers
encounter in their search for knowledge.
     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 factual change. The mastery of intent
is  the riddle of the spirit,  or  the paradox of the abstract -  sorcerers'
thoughts and actions projected beyond our human condition.
     Don Juan's 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
     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
     5.  Perception  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
     6.  The 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  comes 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 intent.
     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.
     Moving  one's 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.
     In compliance 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 consciousness.
     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
mime 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.
     He recounted 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 the abstract 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.
     Don Juan  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.


     The First Abstract Core

     Don  Juan,  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
     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.
     One  afternoon, 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.
     "I  think it's time for us to talk about the sorcerers of our past," he
     Don  Juan  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'
     "Sorcerers 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.
     "The  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
     "But isn't that what everyone does?  Look at the past to get a point of
     "No!"  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 past."
     "Perhaps, don Juan, things would be  clear to me if you tell me  what a
point of reference for a sorcerer is."
     "For  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 force."
     He explained  that  as they examined  their  past, the sorcerers of his
lineage took careful notice of the basic abstract order of their knowledge.
     "In 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.
     "Wait a minute," I protested. "What  about the  sorcery stories? Aren't
you going to tell them to me?"
     "Of course 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 sense.
     "Well, let's get on with them," I croaked.
     Don  Juan,  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 mid-afternoon.  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 had rained 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.
     Moving quickly,  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.
     "This is 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.
     I noticed  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.
     "This cave is  man-made," he  said.  "The  ledge is slanted but the eye
doesn't register the incline."
     "Who made this cave, don Juan?"
     "The 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.
     "I don't feel ill at ease," I commented.
     "Neither 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
     "The  first  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.
     "That 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.
     "The  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.
     "'The 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 self-concern."
     Don Juan 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 to make.
     "I've just 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."
     Don Juan 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.
     "What is  my story  about the  manifestations of the  spirit?" I asked,
somewhat mystified.
     "If any  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."
     "You must 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 pyramid."
     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 it.
     "It won't rain again until tomorrow morning," he said.
     Hearing my 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 Elias. My case was unique."
     "Why was 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 Elfas'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 Julian."
     "What was the nagual Julian like physically?" I asked.
     "Do you know that to  this day it's hard for  me to visualize him?" don
Juan said. "I  know that sounds absurd, but  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
     "Do you mean he was an actor acting out different roles with the aid of
     "No, there 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 clothes."
     Eagerly,  I  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.
     "What  did the  nagual Julian  look  like when  he wasn't  transforming
himself?" I asked.
     "Let's  say  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 astonishing," 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.
     "Why are the naguals  called 'benefactors' and not simply teachers?"  I
asked nervously.
     "Calling a 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 areas."
     I  remarked  that  to  teach  was  in  my  opinion  the  greatest, most
altruistic act anyone could perform for another.
     "For  you,  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 nagual'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
     "Can you explain intent to me?" I asked.
     "The only  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."
     Don Juan 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.

     The 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.
     Don Juan 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 omens.
     He repeated a story he had already told me; the story of how he had met
his benefactor, the nagual Julian.
     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.
     Desperate and  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 indications 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.
     The nagual 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  had
continuity between past and present was that of knowing him.
     He  responded  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.
     Then  he 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 their connecting link.
     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.
     We remained quiet for a while.
     All of a sudden  he said,  "I am going  to tell you  a  story about the
nagual Elias  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 Elias 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 Elias 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.
     The  nagual  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.
     The 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, restless eyes.
     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 the nagual 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  die  nagual Elias  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
     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 Elias 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  Elias  followed him. In
fact,  he followed  him for several days  and found  out that his  name  was
Julian and that he was an actor.
     Subsequently  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.
     Don Juan 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.
     As he  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 waste.
     The nagual 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  Elias  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
     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.
     They walked 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, making 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 his genitals.
     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.
     Finally the 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 with her.
     The nagual  observed  that the man was so exhausted he was  practically
unconscious. Yet despite his fatigue he went right ahead and consummated his
     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 dagger-like thrust.
     Thus  the nagual  Elias 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 happened.
     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
     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
     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.
     Don Juan commented  that it took  incidents like this to test whether a
nagual is the real thing or  a fake.  Naguals make decisions. With no regard
for the consequences they take action or choose not to. Imposters ponder and
become paralyzed. The nagual  Elias* 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 stopped dying.
     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.
     My rational thoughts took over, and instead of just listening, I wanted
to know how the nagual Elias could  build a shack  on someone else's land. I
was aware  of  the  rural  peoples'  passion  about land  ownership  and its
accompanying feelings of territoriality.
     Don Juan  admitted that he had asked the same question himself. And the
nagual Elias 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 manifestations.
     The first thing  the nagual Elias  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 like 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.
     The nagual  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.
     The grateful 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 self-destructive strength.
     The woman did not respond. And the nagual Elias 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.
     The nagual  Elias  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 Elias 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.
     Don Juan 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 Elias 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 Elfas had given them a sustained view of
the sorcerers'  world: supportive and nurturing, yet  utterly  demanding. It
was a world that admitted very few mistakes.
     Don Juan reminded me then of something  he had repeated to me often but
which  I had always managed not 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, it never returned.
     The chilling resonance of his voice made the surroundings, which only a
second  before  had been peacefully dark, burst  with  immediacy.  Don  Juan
summoned the peaceful darkness back as fast as  he had summoned urgency.  He
punched me lightly on the arm. "That  woman was so powerful  that  she could
dance circles around anyone," he said. "Her name was Talia."


     The Abstract

     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.
     "You seem to be having no trouble falling asleep," I commented.
     "When you 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."
     He had 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, he
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   that  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. I 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.
     "Cut  it out!"  he  exclaimed. "You've  seen  and heard infinitely more
distressing  things  without  losing  a moment's  sleep.  Something else  is
bothering you."
     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.
     "You 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
     Don Juan  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.
     "I took 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."
     "You always say that your benefactor was like that," I said.
     "That's  my 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 reason."
     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 smiled.
     "Last 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
     "The nagual Elias'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."
     Don Juan 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 smiled.
     "You 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.
     "As you can  see, the story of the nagual Elias 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 Elfas I had
formed a  very positive opinion of  him. I liked  the nagual  Elfas, but for
unknown  reasons, everything don Juan  had told  me about  the nagual Julian
bothered me.
     The mere 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.
     "Of  course,"  he  said  patronizingly.  "You  just can't expect to  be
exactly like him." And began to laugh again.
     Sometimes  don 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
     "At this 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."
     He  remarked  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.
     "I  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.
     "If the 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.
     "The 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."
     He scrutinized 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 displeasure.
     "It has 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 moment I saw  you. There is a feature in your luminous  being that
the old sorcerers would have given anything to have."
     "Tell me what it is," I demanded.
     "I'll 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 knowledge."
     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 Elias, he would  have wound up just  like his benefactor, all  action
and very little understanding.
     "What was the nagual Elias like?" I asked, to change the subject.
     "He  was  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.
     "I never saw the reason for his jokes,"  don Juan went on.  "To me  the
nagual  Elias  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
     "Are you 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.
     "The nagual Elias 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 Elias 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.
     "At the beginning, I used  to  stay at the nagual Elfas'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 Elias's home I felt confident, at ease.
     "My 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 Elias 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 Elias  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.
Nonetheless, in spite of his occupation  and notoriety, he lived in complete
isolation at the opposite end of the country, in northern Mexico.
     Don Juan  stopped talking. Raising  his eyebrows, he fixed  me  with  a
questioning look. But all I wanted was for him to continue his story.
     "Every single time I  think you should ask  questions,  you don't,"  he
said. "I'm sure you heard me say that the nagual Elias 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?"
     I felt 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 commuting.
     Don Juan laughed, and,  since he had  made me aware of  the question, I
asked how it had been possible for the nagual Elias to  be in  two places at
     "Dreaming is a  sorcerer's  jet plane," he said. The nagual Elias 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 Elias 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 Elfas'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
     "It isn't obscure," he said.  "It's a statement of fact. You could  say
that  it's  an  incomprehensible  fact for the moment,  but the  moment will
     Before I could reply, he began to talk again about the nagual Elias. He
said that the nagual Elias had a  very inquisitive  mind and could work well
with  his hands. 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, exquisite 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  Elias 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 Elias,  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 Elias.
     "Visiting  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  die nagual Elfas  was boring,  but because the  nagual
Julian had no peers and he spoiled anyone for life."
     "But  I thought  you were confident and  at  ease in the nagual Elias's
house," I said.
     "I was,  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 Elias's  company, but later on, when I understood  the
nagual Julian better, I went his way."
     He told me that the nagual Elias'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 Mexico.
     "The nagual Elias 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.
     "I've 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."
     "What are 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 balance." I made a stupid and inappropriate comment  about the sex
life of adult males.
     "Our sexual energy is what governs dreaming," he explained. "The nagual
Elfas 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.
     "The same 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 opposite. My benefactor was, you
could say, a sexual libertine both as an average man and as a nagual."
     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  Elfas 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.
     "The nagual  Elfas 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.
     "You're  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  Elfas  believed  that  the difficulty was our
reluctance to accept the idea that  knowledge could  exist without  words to
explain it.
     "But I have no difficulty accepting that," I said.
     "Accepting  this proposition is not as  easy as  saying you accept it,"
don Juan said. "The nagual Elfas  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 other."
     Don Juan 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.
     "Knowledge 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 myself.
     "I told 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 seems indifferent."
     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 entice it?
     "Your 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.
     "Whereas for  a sorcerer an abstract is something with  no  parallel in
the human condition," he said.
     "But they're the same thing," I shouted. "Don't you see that we're both
talking about the same thing?"
     "We are  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.
     "The root 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.
     "Consider 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
     I remained 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.

     The Last Seduction Of 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. His reply 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  the 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
     "There is an  interesting story  about it," he  admitted. "As you know,
these trees  are warriors of my party. They are bearing now because  all the
members of  my party  have been  talking and expressing  feelings about  our
definitive journey, here in front of  them. And the trees know now that when
we embark on our definitive journey, they will accompany us."
     I looked at him, astonished.
     "I can't leave them behind," he explained. "They are warriors too. They
have thrown their lot in with the nagual's party. And they know  how  I feel
about  them. The assemblage  point  of trees is  located  very low in  their
enormous luminous  shell, and that  permits  them to know our  feelings, for
instance,  the feelings  we  are having now  as  we  discuss  my  definitive
     I remained quiet, for I  did not want to dwell on the subject. Don Juan
spoke and dispelled my mood.
     "The 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 forced - to enter.
     "This 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.
     "It goes 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
     "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.
     "You  like  words,"  he  said  accusingly.  "The  mere idea  of  silent
knowledge  scares you.  But stories, no matter how  stupid, delight you  and
make you feel secure."
     His smile was so mischievous that I couldn't help laughing.
     Then he  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 talking about.
     "It 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
meant nothing."
     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.
     "After a 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 for them."
     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
     He  stressed  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 difficult part."
     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.
     "Reviving  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."
     Don Juan  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.
     "The 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."
     Don Juan 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 Elias
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.
     "Everything 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
     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 wrong.
     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
     Without  money 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
     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.
     Don  Juan 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.
     His  health 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 breathe.
     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. Hut 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 by hounds.
     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
     Very 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 was dead.
     Don Juan 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 task.
     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
     He explained  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
     He remarked 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.
     I challenged 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 experiences."
     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.
     "You   used  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?"
     I confessed that the only way I could maintain my  independence was not
to think about my experiences at all.
     Don Juan's 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.
     "I  like  poems  for  many reasons," he said. "One  reason is that they
catch the mood of warriors and explain what can hardly be explained."
     He conceded  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 sorcerers.
     "Poets 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 nightfall?
     I  look around and find that  everything  is the same and it is not the
     Was the window open?
     Had I not already fallen asleep?
     Was not the garden pale green? . . .
     The sly was clear and blue . . .
     And there are clouds
     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 grey
     and I am wearing black . . .
     Is this my gait?
     Does this voice, which now resounds in me,
     have the rhythms of the voice I used to have?
     Am I myself or am I the beggar
     who was prowling in my garden
     at nightfall?
     I look around . . .
     There are 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.
     "I think 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."


     Dusting The 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 days.
     "We are  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.
     "And  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.
     "The story 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 connecting link."
     Don  Juan told me that if we apply his story to a modern netting 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.
     Suddenly he 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 Elias 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 core.
     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
     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.
     "I've  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 myself.
     "The first 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  seminormal
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 arranged.
     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 night.
     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 fainted.
     "His way 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 field."
     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.
     "If you 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."
     Continuing with 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
Talfa. 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. "How
did he accomplish those  changes?" I asked. "He  was 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
     "I don't  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.
     "The 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
     "I'd rather avoid thinking or  talking  about those things as facts," I
     Don Juan laughed as if I had said the funniest thing imaginable.
     "Was  there a reason for  your benefactor's transformations?"  I asked.
"Or was he just amusing himself?"
     "Don't be 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.
     "That  very  mysterious  sorcerer who is our ward taught him," don Juan
replied curtly.
     "What mysterious sorcerer is that?" I asked.
     "The death 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  had  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 seers 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 things 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 aberration.
     Don Juan  used to repeat every chance he could that if  the  assemblage
point was pushed by someone who not  only saw it but also  had enough energy
to  move it,  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.
     Continuing his 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
     Don Juan 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
     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."
     "I would 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 laughing.
     Belisario,  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.
     Belisario 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."
     Belisario 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.
     Belisario  made 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.
     Belisario began 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.
     Don  Juan,  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 were gone.
     "Never  in 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
     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.
     After an 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 had objected,  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
     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!
     "I felt 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 damned clothes."
     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 verge of fainting. 'he 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 understand why.
     The party began to move in the dark. They took little-t raveled  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 bad dream.
     Wearing women's clothes under  those conditions, entailed, of course, a
series of drastic  changes. Belisario's  wife  coached  don 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
     I felt compelled to ask a question.
     "Were the muleteers in cahoots with your benefactor? I asked. .
     "No," 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.
     Don  Juan  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.
     Don  Juan's 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.
     Don Juan 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
     "The  art  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.
     Don Juan 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 for help.
     Belisario 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 fool."
     Don Juan 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.
     I felt compelled to interrupt his account once more.
     "But isn't stalking taught in deep, heightened awareness?" I asked.
     "Of  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.
     "I went 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 Of Stalking

     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.
     "In the 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 total recollection."
     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
Vicerite  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
     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. My recollection 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 this?"
     And he 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
     He affirmed  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.
     Some process, 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
     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 bus depot.
     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 dumbfounded. He  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
     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.
     "Don't 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 him.
     "Move your eyes in  circles,"  don Juan commanded. "Don't look at  that
     I found it impossible to stop watching the man. I felt irritated by don
Juan's demands.
     "What do 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
     Don Juan boldly turned my chair until I was facing the wall.
     "What a 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.
     "People 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 return."
     I understood 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 into it.
     "Your  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.
     "While you 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.
     "Get hold of  yourself,"  don Juan said,  smiling.  "Where 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.
     "I know this area," I said quite peeved. "Tell me where you want to  go
and I'll take you there. Like a taxi driver."
     "O.K.," 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.
     "Egomania  is a  real  tyrant,"  he said.  "We must work ceaselessly to
dethrone it."
     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
     There was  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 middle-class dwelling.
     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.
     Don Juan 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.
     "This is Silvio  Manuel," don Juan said to  me. "He's the most powerful
and dangerous sorcerer of my party, and the most mysterious too."
     Silvio Manuel's 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 perfunctorily.
     "And this 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."
     Vicente nodded 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
     He  was  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 the house.
     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.
     The impression 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.
     "I think 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.
     "For  sure 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 the silence.
     "I don't 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."
     "And tie 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 liked.
     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  my muscles. I felt 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 return.
     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.
     "What a 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 it.
     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.
     "We wanted to test you and find out what sort of a man you really are,"
don Juan said.
     He led me to one of the couches and politely offered me n seat. Vicente
and Silvio Manuel sat in the  armchairs, don Juan sat facing me on the other
     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.
     "We tied 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
     "If you 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."
     "You tore  the  rope  violently. You're  certainly not  sweet,"  Silvio
Manuel said.
     They were all quiet for a moment, then began to laugh.
     "You're 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.
     "You  can't be taught,  then, to  be violent or obtuse. You already are
that. But you can learn to be ruthless, cunning, patient, and sweet."
     Don Juan 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.
     He was 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 to time.
     He stressed 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. "Rest 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.
     Don Juan 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.
     "How can you tell the difference,  if you're  at the receiving end?"  I
     "Malicious  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 enjoy their 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.
     "Take  the 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
     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 dog."
     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.
     "How would you like  it if I articulate it for you?" don Juan asked. "I
might be able to find the very words you want to use but can't."
     From his look, I decided he was seriously asking my permission. I found
the situation so incongruous that I began to laugh.
     Don Juan,  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, 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.
     "Sorcerers  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."
     Vicente  interrupted and suggested I stay with them a while longer. Don
Juan agreed and turned to face me.
     "The  very  first  principle of  stalking  is  that  a  warrior  stalks
himself," he said. "He stalks himself ruthlessly,  cunningly, patiently, and
     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.
     He explained  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.
     "The real 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 witches."
     He stopped talking, and they all looked at me as if searching for signs
of fatigue in my eyes or face.
     "Anyone  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 built.
     "Some sorcerers object to the term stalking," he went on, "but the name
came about because it entails surreptitious behavior.
     "It's  also  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.
     I understood 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. Х
     I noticed that my eyes  were  fixed  on the movement of his lips as  my
ears were fixed on the sound of his words. Hut 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?
     Don Juan  suddenly  stopped  talking and asked  me what I  was thinking
     "Ah, 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 it
professorial manner.
     "To  answer  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
     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, 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 into words."
     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.
     "Thinking  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.
     "You're 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
     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 God.
     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.
     "Don't  be  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."
     Remembering the four  moods of stalking exhausted me. The most dramatic
result was a more than  ordinary indifference.  I would not have cared if  I
had dropped 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 the 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


     Seeing The Spirit

     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 assemblage point.
     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, hut 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.
     "One  of 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 the opposite.
     "What   I  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.
     "Before we leave for the cave, I am going to  tell you a story about my
benefactor and the fourth abstract core.
     "Sorcerers believe that until the very moment of the spirit's  descent,
any of us could walk away from the spirit; but not afterwards."
     Don Juan  deliberately  stopped  to  urge  me, with  a  movement of his
eyebrows, to consider what he was telling me.
     "The 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
     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.
     "There is 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 it.
     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.
     "Sorcerers 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 undesirible, for nobody wants to be free."
     The sensation  of  sliding through a  tunnel  persisted  for  a .moment
longer, and then  everything became  clear  to me.  And  1  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.
     "What  a  strange  feeling:  to   realize  that  everything  we  think,
everything  we say depends  on the  position  of  the assemblage point,"  he
     And that was exactly what I had been thinking and laughing about.
     "I know 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.
     "Once our 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  Elias  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, man-made reflection.
     "Sorcerers are no longer in  the world of daily affairs," don Juan went
on, "because they are no longer prey to their
     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.
     "At  the 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 impeccabitity, we always prefix 'nagual' to a nagual's name."
     Don  Juan proceeded with  his  story. He said that the nagual Elias 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 Elias 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.
     "But how 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.
     Again I interrupted don Juan. I was curious to  know if the young woman
really had lost her mind. He reminded  me that the nagual Elias 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 Elias  helped her to stabilize  her assemblage
point and she entered permanently into heightened awareness.
     Don Juan 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.
     Don Juan, recounting his story, said that the  nagual  Elias  - 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.
     Upon  hearing 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
     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
     "When  I 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
     As he spoke, the  nagual Elias 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.
     "I can 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.
     "Stay with 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.
     "If  you 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  Elias, and that he was the
nagual. And the actor knew what it all meant.
     The nagual Elias then shifted his attention to the semiconscious Talfa.
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 Elias, 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.
     Don Juan remarked that seasoned sorcerers are capable  of moving beyond
the world we  know, but that inexperienced persons are not. The nagual Elias
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 safely back.
     Then the  nagual Elias  had another insight. He  sat  between  the  two
people  stretched  out on the ground  - the actor was naked, covered only by
the nagual Elfas'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
     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.
     Since Talfa 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 day.
     Talia's 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 that day.
     The young 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.
     "We saw heaven," he whispered, tears rolling down his cheeks.
     "You  saw more than that," the  nagual  Elfas  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.
     "Those two were really the most remarkable beings I have ever met," don
Juan added.
     I, naturally, 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.
     "Your 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.
     "Your ears 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.
     "What's happening?" I thought.
     "The cave 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.
     "You are 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
     Don  Juan 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 immobility  for 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 funneling 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.
     On another 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.
     Upon close 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 an independent force. They 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,  die  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 to paradise.
     We stayed 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 awareness.
     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 paying this 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.
     Don Juan 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 power.
     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,  failed to bring
them 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.
     Then,  sorcerers 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.
     He asserted 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.
     Examined in 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 intent.
     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.
     Don  Juan 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
     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. He
signaled 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 home.
     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 wordly task was to sharpen, yet disguise, his cutting edges so that no
one would be able to suspect his ruthlessness.
     After breakfast 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
     "It 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."
     I understood 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
     Don Juan shook from head to toe, choking with laughter.
     "Do what  you did  last  night,"  he urged  me, winking. "Slow yourself
     My frustration 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.
     "Don't  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 discuss  the 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.
     "Sorcerers 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.
     "That  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.
     "When  the  pressure of their connecting link  is too great,  sorcerers
relieve it by stalking themselves."
     "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."
     "I'll try 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."
     He explained 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.
     "The idea 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."
     "You must agree, don Juan, not thinking  about death certainly protects
us from worrying about it."
     "Yes, it 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.
     "Yes," 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.
     "Your 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 of stalking oneself. If you
don't want to use the idea of your death, use the poems you read me to stalk
     "I beg your pardon?"
     "I have 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 jolt."
     He explained  that poets unconsciously  long for  the sorcerers' world.
Because they are not sorcerers on the path of knowledge, longing is all they
     "Let us 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,
     this living death,
     that slays you, oh God,
     in your rigorous handiwork,
     in the roses, in the stones,
     in the indomitable stars
     and in the flesh that burns out,
     like a bonfire lit by a song,
     a dream,
     a hue that hits the eye.
     . . . and you, yourself,
     perhaps have died eternities of ages out there,
     without us knowing about it,
     we dregs, crumbs, ashes of you;
     you that still are present,
     like a star faked by its very light,
     an empty light without star
     that reaches us,
     its infinite catastrophe.
     "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
     "Would you say, don Juan, that death is the only real enemy we have?" I
asked him a moment later.
     "No,"  he  said with conviction. "Death  is  not an enemy,  although it
appears to be. Death is not our destroyer, although we think it is."
     "What is it, then, if not our destroyer?" I asked.
     "Sorcerers 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."
     "I personally would say, don Juan, life, not death, is the challenge."
     "Life is 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."
     "I would think, don Juan, that we  human beings are the challengers," I
     "Not at all," he retorted.  "We are passive. Think about h. 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.
     "Sorcerers defeat death and death  acknowledges  the  defeat by letting
the sorcerers go free, never to be challenged
     "Does that mean that sorcerers become immortal?"
     "No. It doesn't mean that," he replied. "Death stops challenging  them,
that's all."
     "But what does that mean, don Juan?" I asked.
     "It  means thought has taken a  somersault into the inconceivable,"  he
     "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 same meanings."
     "You're 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," I said.
     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.
     "A 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 heightened awareness.
     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 understanding.
     Naturally I wanted him to  explain pure  understanding. He  laughed and
sat down on a bench.
     "I'm going 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 disintegration.
     "So, what 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 bitter defeat.
     Don Juan laughed until he was choking.
     "But it's not a matter  of one sorcerer storyteller," he  argued. "They
all do that."
     "Then it's a socially sanctioned device to express the wishful thinking
of  a  whole society,"  I retorted. "A  socially  accepted  way of releasing
psychological stress collectively."
     "Your argument is  glib  and convincing and  reasonable," he commented.
"But because your spirit is dead, you can't see the flaw hi 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.
     "The  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 counterclockwise. 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.
     "Because  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."

     Moving The Assemblage Point

     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
     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.
     "Finish it 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."
     Perhaps 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.
     Don  Juan  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.
     "Don't  you  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.
     "All  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 hi 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.
     "The  first principle  should  not be confused with the first effect of
sorcery apprenticeship,  which  is the shift  between normal and  heightened
     "I don't understand what you are trying to tell me," I complained.
     "What I 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."
     I could  honestly  have said  that I had  no idea  what  he was talking
about,  but  I also had  the strange  sensation that I did. "Bring  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
     "I've  told 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 hi 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
     ftde 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
assemblage point.
     "What we 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 possible."
     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' paradigm.
     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 healer's helpers.
     After  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
dull, constant
     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
abdominal 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.
     Don Juan 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.
     Her dramatic 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 heightened awareness.
     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 everyday judgment.
     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 points.
     "I 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."
     He asserted  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.
     "I  prefer 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."
     He  asserted  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.
     "That is 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
     "Of course  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' contradiction."
     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-today
thinking, which was ruled by the normal position of his assemblage 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.
     "I want 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."
     "But how  do  I stop thinking?" I  asked, although I knew what  he  was
going to reply.
     "By 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 left-over 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.
     "I beg 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
     are dull."
     He explained 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.
     "Try to recall what you already know about this," he urged me.  He kept
quiet for a moment, then spoke without looking at me.
     "Recollecting  is  not  the   same  as   remembering,"   he  continued.
"Remembering  is  dictated  by  the  day-to-day  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
     "Our  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."
     "All this 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
     When don Juan started to speak, all of a sudden  the sound of his voice
jolted me and I sat up.
     "You must 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."
     He  explained 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.
     "Of 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.
     "The 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
     Don Juan 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 nothingness.
     With a gigantic effort, I pulled myself out of it and stood up.
     "What did you do to me, don Juan?"
     "Sometimes 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.
     "But being annoying is really your greatest  asset," he  added. "So why
should I complain?"
     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
     "Nothing you would understand," he replied.
     His answer annoyed me. Belligerently  I told him I was not  stupid, and
he could at least try to explain it to me.
     "Well, let 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.
     "Are you  sure  you  want to hear the truth?" he asked, knowing I could
never say no, even if my life depended on it.
     "Of  course I want to hear whatever it  is you're dangling  in front of
me," I said cuttingly.
     He  started to laugh  as if  at a  big joke; the more  he  laughed, the
greater my annoyance.
     "I don't see what's so funny," I said.
     "Sometimes 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."
     He  laughed again. His eyes,  shining  with mischievous-ness, 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.
     "Well, if 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.
     "Tell me about it, don Juan!" I exclaimed, irritated  with his delaying
     "I want you to bear  in mind that I am telling you at your insistence,"
he said, still smiling.
     He paused again. By then I was fuming.
     "If  you 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
     Don Juan had been  right. I did  not like what he  said. I tried not to
lose face and made a sarcastic comeback.
     "I'm not that bad, don Juan," I said.
     My voice sounded surprisingly unnatural to me.
     "Oh, yes, 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.
     "I could sincerely  say  that  your mere presence makes  me  feel  like
     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.
     My expression, upon hearing the bottom truth, must have been something,
for don Juan  broke into such gales  of laughter I thought  he was  going to
     "I told 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 shoulder.
     "Looking for love," he added and broke into a loud laugh.
     Don Juan 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.
     "A good 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 mesmerizing anyone.
     "But, for 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 ruthless-ness 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.
     "Naguals  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.
     "You  pass yourself off as an indulgent, relaxed man," he id. "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 are."
     "But that is the  way  I am!" Don Juan doubled  up  with  laughter. The
direction the conversation had taken was not to my ting. 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 be
that I always demanded, without voicing it, that the people I dealt with  be
aware I  was  deceiving them? The roof 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.
     His comments  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 e 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.
     "I didn't mean  to be rude," I said,  "but I've  got to know more about
this. It upsets me."
     "Make  your  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.
     "What about all the  explanations you  give  me?" I asked. "Aren't they
the result of genuine reasonableness and desire to help me understand?"
     "No," he replied. "They are the result of my ruthlessness."
     I argued 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
ruthless-ness 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.
     "In your  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.
     "My 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."
     "But you are not cold, don Juan," I said sincerely.
     "Of course 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 Elias's  mask consisted  of a
maddening  meticulousness about all details  and accuracy, which created the
false impression of attention and thoroughness.
     He started  to describe the nagual Elias's  behavior.  As he talked, he
kept watching me. And perhaps because he was observing me so intently, I was
unable  to concentrate at all m 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  old 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 Pity

     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 head.
     "Are you getting carsick, don Juan?" I asked, suddenly alarmed.
     He did not answer. He was breathing through his mouth.
     During the 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.
     "What's 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 then- usual shine.
     We clumsily entered the restaurant and a solicitous waiter rushed over,
as if on cue, to help don Juan.
     "How are you feeling today?" he yelled into don Juan's ear.
     He practically carried don Juan  from the door to a table,  seated him,
and then disappeared.
     "Does he know you, don Juan?" I asked when we were seated.
     Without looking at  me, he mumbled something unintelligible. I stood up
and went to the kitchen to look for the busy waiter.
     "Do you know the old  man I am with?" I asked when I was able to corner
     "Of course 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 strokes."
     That  statement  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.
     The waiter  talked so loudly to  don Juan  he could be heard above  the
clatter of customers.
     "Hope you 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 anxiety diminished.
     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 effusively.
     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.
     "Tell me, what can I do for you, don Juan?" I pleaded.
     "Turn the 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
     My discomfort 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 town.
     I wondered 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 next.
     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.
     My exhaustion 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.
     He turned 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 back.
     "You must make  an effort  and  tell me where  I can take you,"  I said
softly. "Where do you want me to go."
     "I want you to go to hell!" he replied in a cracked, raspy voice.
     Hearing  him 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.
     Suddenly he  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.
     'Who are you?" he yelled in a strained voice.
     He turned to a group of onlookers who had immediately gathered.
     'I don't know who this man is," he said to them. "Help me. I'm a lonely
old Indian. He's a foreigner and he wants
     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. "What are you  doing, don Juan?" I asked him in a loud voice.
I wanted to reassure the crowd  that I was with him. "I don't 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  police came. "Hold 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 here I was. The idea that months
would  go  by  before  anyone noticed my disappearance  made  me react  with
vicious speed. I kicked the first young man who came close 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 as 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 car.  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 notes.
     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 shouting.
     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.
     Another  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 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 bus companies.
My mind plunged into blind panic. I took short breaths 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 sudden  uncontrollable urge. It was as  if my body were disconnected
from my brain. I walked to my car, carrying  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 myself.
     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 vas wearing a black
jacket. He threw his straw hat inside :he 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 braindamaged Indian.
     Don  Juan gave them the  name of  the  restaurant where  they knew  his
father and then bribed them shamelessly.
     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.
     "What kind of act did you  pull out  there, don Juan?" I asked, and the
coldness in my tone surprised me.
     "It was the first lesson in ruthlessness," he said.
     He remarked  that  on  our  way to  Guaymas he had  warned me about the
impending lesson on ruthlessness.
     I confessed that I had not paid attention because I had thought that we
were just making conversation to break the monotony of driving.
     "I never  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. "The problem  that
sorcerers have to solve," he 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. "Today you just did that. I
helped you, perhaps a bit dramatically, by moving my own assemblage point to
specific position that made me into  a  feeble and  unpredictable old man. I
was not just acting old and feeble. I was old"
     The mischievous  glint  in his eyes told  me that  he was  enjoying the
     "It was not absolutely necessary that I do that,"  he went i.  "I could
have directed  you  to move your assemblage point  without the hard tactics,
but I couldn't help myself, nee  this event will never be repeated, I wanted
to know whether or not I could act, in some measure, like my own :enefactor.
Believe me, I surprised myself as much as I must have surprised you."
     I felt incredibly  at ease. I had  no  problems in accepting hat he was
saying  to me, and no questions,  because  I  understood  everything without
needing him to  explain.  He then said something which  I  already knew, but
could  )t  verbalize,  because  I  would  not  have been able  to  find  the
appropriate words to describe  it. He said that every-ling sorcerers did was
done  as a  consequence of  a movement  of their assemblage points, and that
such  movements ere ruled  by  the amount of energy sorcerers  had at  their
     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.
     He emphasized  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.
     I abruptly  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 world.
     I deliberately 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.
     "Why did you stop?" don Juan asked.
     His  voice 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 bout 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  vas
     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  if an  older, dark, silent side was  a  view of the
antecedents of reason.
     "I  know 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
     "I have  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 voice."
     "Why not?" I asked.
     "Because 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.
     "Silent 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.
     "Sorcerers 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, of course, 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 it became."
     "But what does that mean in plain words, don Juan?" I asked.
     "It means 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 becomes."
     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.
     The house 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.
     "Don't  be  scared,  it's  me,  Carmela,"  she  said  and  disappeared,
swallowed again by the darkness.
     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 appeared.
     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.
     "Any  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
     "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 he natural  state for a warrior,
that peace was an anomaly.
     "That's 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 power."
     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 )f the assemblage  point meant a
movement away from the excessive concern with that individual self which was
the nark of modern man. He went on to say that sorcerers relieved 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 sought  solace in  his selfness.
And, in  doing so, he succeeded in fixing his assemblage point in  the exact
position to perpetuate his self-mage. It  was therefore safe to say that any
movement of :he 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.
     "It  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."
     His 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.
     He continued  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 leader or teacher has to behave in
the most  efficient, but the same time most impeccable, way. Since it is not
possible  for him to  plan the course of his actions  rationally,  :  nagual
always  lets the spirit decide his course. For ex-pie, he said he had had no
plans to do what he did until :  spirit gave him  an  indication, very early
that morning die we were having breakfast in Nogales. He urged me recall the
event and tell him what I could remember. I recalled that during breakfast I
got very embarrassed  cause  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." "But what did she do?" he insisted. "What did she do while she waited
to take  our order?" After  a  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.
     While she  waited,  impatiently  tapping  her big foot on e 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. "That was 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 t 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 farmers  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.
     The women 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 spokesman.
     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
     "Why don't you let him speak for himself?" the old lady asked don Juan.
     "Because he has a speech impediment," he said. "He stutters horribly."
     The waitress said  that I had been perfectly normal  when I  ordered my
     "Oh! 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."
     "Poor man," the old woman said.
     "Well,  we'd  better  get  going if we are going  to find love  for him
today," don Juan said as he stood to leave.
     You're serious about this  marriage business," the young waitress  said
to don Juan.
     You  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 to death and made don Juan laugh hysterically. It was
imperative that I state my purpose to you then,"  Juan  said, continuing his
explanation. "I did, but it bypassed  you completely, as it should have." 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
     "The  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 one  who feels them. 'For a  sorcerer, ruthlessness is
not cruelty.  Ruthlessness the  opposite  of self-pity  or  self-importance.
Ruthlessness sobriety."


     Breaking The 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
     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.
     "Tell me, which spot on  the ledge  would  be the best for s to sit out
all night?" he asked.
     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 elected a  spot of even greater darkness, one almost black, n the
south side of the ledge. The  dark ledge and the almost black spot in it did
not generate any feeling of fear r anxiety. I felt that  I liked that ledge.
And I liked its dark pot even more.
     "That spot there is very dark,  but I like it," I said, when /e reached
the ledge.
     He agreed that that was the  best place to sit all night. He aid it was
a place with a special level of energy, and that he, too, liked its pleasing
     We headed 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.
     "I wouldn't say that you perceived it  exclusively with your eyes,"  he
said. "It was a bit more complex than that."
     "What do you mean by that, don Juan?" I asked.
     "I mean  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 o 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.
     He insisted 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.
     "How do they know they have found them?" I asked.
     "They  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.
     "I've been 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
     "Each   of   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.
     "But there  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 self-reflection.
     "The only  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."
     "You've taught  me, don Juan, more than  anyone in  my  entire life," I
     "I've 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
     He then made an incongruous statement. He said that any human being who
would follow a specific and simple sequence of actions can learn to move his
assemblage point.
     I pointed out that  he was  contradicting himself. To me, a sequence of
actions meant instructions; it meant procedures.
     "In the 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."
     He explained 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 inconceivable journey.
     Once the 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
     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
     "Our  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.
     "Sorcerers 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 voiced
my 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.
     "You  are  forgetting something  essential,"  he  said.  "The  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."
     "Then who moves the assemblage point, don Juan?" I asked.
     "The spirit 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 resignation.
     "It's  hard  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.
     "I  laugh 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.
     "I  have  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.
     "Let us 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  ruthlessness either  helps  or hinders  that
movement. How would you resolve this contradiction?"
     I  confessed  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 said.
     My statement was not altogether true, but it was not a lie.
     Don Juan 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 questioningly.
     "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
     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
     "A 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."
     Perhaps  because I  desperately  wanted to believe  that  I  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
     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 his own, 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.
     "What happened to you that day in Guaymas  was an example  of  how  the
nagual's  masked  ruthlessness  shatters self-reflection," he continued. "My
mask  was  your  downfall.  You,  like   everyone  around  me,  believed  my
reasonableness.  And, of course, you expected, above all, the  continuity of
that reasonableness.
     "When  I 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.
     "Finally, 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 time. 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.
     "What are those key ideas, don Juan?" I asked.
     "In  your  case, in  that particular instance, as in the  case  of  the
audience  of that healer we talked about, continuity was the key  idea,"  he
     "What is continuity?" I asked.
     "The  idea 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 stops."
     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 ruthlessness.
     He then 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 reason.
     The dissonant 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 whole.
     "Sorcerers,  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.
     "Sorcerers 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."
     He  explained 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.
     I  interrupted  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 from strokes.
     "The  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.
     "The 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 ruthless-ness, controlled by my eyes, made my own assemblage
     point move. "Although 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
     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.
     "The  only 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.
     "I've told 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 scratch that 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.
     He  remarked  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.
     "But 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 you.
     "You were  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 outbursts."
     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.
     "Continuity 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
     "Since you 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.
     "It was  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
     I  tried to protest. I did not like the idea of masked ruthlessness, no
matter how he put it.
     "Don't use 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 soon 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 Elias  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 them."
     Until that 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 fainting.
     "You were  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.
     "But 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 Impeccability

     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.
     "Your  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."
     "What happens to them in the end?" I asked. "Do they choose sides?"
     "No.  They 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 struggle."
     He stopped  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.
     "I'm  going  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.
     The  thought 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.
     There were 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 set foot.
     During the 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 alone.
     Don Juan  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
     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.
     Don Juan 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 ;t him  stay. He
promised  to do peon labor  for  no  wages  if e  could only remain  at  the
hacienda. She agreed, with  the understanding that don Juan would accept two
conditions: that he  not ask any questions, and hat  he do exactly as he was
told  without requiring any explanations. She warned  him  that if he  broke
these rules as stay at the house would be in jeopardy.
     "I  stayed in the house  really under protest," don  Juan continued. "I
did not  like to  accept  her  conditions,  but I mew  that  the monster was
outside.  In the  house I was safe. ! 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 :hat was all I cared about.
     "I  also realized that  when the people  of the house were wound me the
monster never appeared."
     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.
     Don  Juan 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.
     "How can  you stand here in my  own  house  and talk  such rubbish?" he
shouted at don Juan. "What do you take me for?"
     "But - you are Belisario, aren't you?" don Juan insisted.
     "No," the young man said. "Belisario is an old man. I am Julian and I'm
young. Don't you see?"
     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.
     Don  Juan's  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 be completed.
     "You are one of the elements of that  incomplete construction," he said
to don Juan.  "Let's say that you are the beam  hat will support  the  roof.
Until we put it in place and put he roof on top of it, we won't know whether
it will  support  he weight.  The master carpenter  says it will.  I  am the
master carpenter."
     This 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.
     Don  Juan  accepted the  terms grudgingly. But  although  he  instantly
plunged into his  habitual sulkiness and  morose-ness, 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
     As his  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.
     The nagual Julian then led them to the front of the house id challenged
don Juan to show them the monstrous man. on Juan pointed him out, but no one
else saw him. Don tan ran frantically  from one person to another, insisting
that  the monster was there, imploring  them  to  help him. hey ignored  his
pleas and  called  him crazy. It  was then that the  nagual Julian  put  don
Juan's fate to  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 f 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 moroseness 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 new they were going
to throw him out  and that the montrous 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: 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.
     Don Juan recounted how the  nagual Julian in a fatherly manner took him
aside  and  proceeded to drive a  wedge of ear into him. He whispered to don
Juan  that  he knew  for a  fact that  the monster not only  existed but was
     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.
     "Pretend 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
     ' Any hesitation 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.
     The nagual 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
     "Then you do see the monster?" don Juan asked.
     "Of course 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 beyond anything."
     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 force.
     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
     The  other  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 Juan's 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
     Perhaps  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.
     Immediately she 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.
     Everything had 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
     "I took 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."
     Don Juan 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
interested in 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
     One day,  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 many years. Don Juan 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
     Don Juan  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.
     Before 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.
     The women  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 exploited.
     "But we told you the monster didn't exist," one of the women said.
     Don Juan glared at the nagual Julian, who cowered meekly.
     "He  knew the monster existed," don Juan yelled,  pointing an  accusing
finger at the nagual.
     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.
     "The monster didn't  exist," don  Juan corrected himself,  shaking with
rage. "It was one of his tricks."
     The nagual  Julian,  weeping  uncontrollably,  apologized to don  Juan,
while the women howled with laughter. Don Juan had never seen  them laughing
so hard.
     "You  knew 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.
     "I have  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 a monstrosity."
     "You  told me that that monster was going to  devour me.  How could you
have lied to me like that?" don Juan shouted at him.
     "Being  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.
     "You can go any time you want," the nagual Julian said curtly.
     "You mean I can go right now?" don Juan asked.
     "Do you want to?" the nagual asked.
     "Of  course,  I  want to leave this miserable place  and  the miserable
bunch of liars who live here," don Juan shouted.
     The nagual 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 Mazatldn.
     "Although  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."
     "What did he mean, don Juan?" I asked.
     "He meant 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 protectors."
     "What's a silent protector, don Juan?" I asked.
     "It's  a  lifesaver,"  he  said.  "A silent protector  is  a  surge  of
inexplicable energy that comes to a warrior when nothing else works.
     "My 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
     "What are sorcerers' options?" I asked.
     "Positions  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."
     He  reiterated 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.
     "The 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.
     "Very soon  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."
     "You  were  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.
     His superior 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 indebted.
     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.
     His new 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.
     "I  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
     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.
     When the 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.
     Another year  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.
     "Don't  wish for  it,"  his  benefactor had  said.  "Just wait until it
comes. Don't try to imagine what  death is like. Just l)c there to be caught
in its flow."
     The time spent quietly strengthened them mentally, but physically their
emaciated bodies told of their losing battle.
     One day, 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.
     "I  sat 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.
     "The 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 the spirit."
     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 earth.
     The  farm 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.
     "I  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
     "I knelt 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!"
     Don Juan's 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 awareness.
     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.
     "The 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."
     He explained 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 tenuous-ness and instability  of his
new continuity.
     "The 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
     "But did you die, don Juan, or did you just faint?" I asked, trying not
to sound cynical.
     "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.
     "I  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.
     "I  went 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."
     "How long were you dead, don Juan?" I asked.
     "A whole day, apparently," he said.
     Don Juan's  smile  played on his  lips. His eyes  seemed to be  made of
shiny obsidian. He was watching my reaction, waiting for my comments.
     "What 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!"
     I confessed 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.
     "My family 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.
     "I missed 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. . .'
     "I did 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 that affection."
     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.
     "What was the decision of the spirit, don Juan?" I asked.
     He scrutinized me without answering.  I knew he was completely aware of
my motive for asking.  I  had  experienced a similar affection and a similar
     "The 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.
     "Now, wasn't there a question about my death you wanted to ask?"
     "If  they thought you  were dead, why the shallow grave?" I asked. "Why
didn't they dig a real grave and bury you?"
     "That's  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 arc  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."
     "Did you go and look for them, don Juan?" I asked.
     "No.  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.
     "From  that 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.
     The nagual Julian  commented that  because of  his peculiar nature  don
Juan had taken a long time to die.
     "My 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.
     "You are 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
     "For sixty 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 new position.
     "Don't 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 vanished instantly.
     I quickly 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.
     "Get every 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 passkey. 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.
     Don Juan,  naturally, laughed  uproariously every time I  expounded  my
     The event that I recollected had begun in the  midafternoon.  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 awareness.
     I demanded  that  before  he  do  anything he  explain to me again what
heightened awareness really was.
     Don Juan, 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
that explanations were  never wasted, because they  were imprinted in us for
immediate  or  later  use  or to help  prepare our  way  to  reaching silent
     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
     Don Juan 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  or* 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,
     "Don't  move!" don  Juan ordered me softly. "And don't l

The Two One-Way Bridges

     Don Juan and I were sitting at  the table in his kitchen.  It was early
morning. We had just  returned from the mountains, where  we  had  spent the
night  after I had  recalled my experience with the jaguar.  Recollecting my
split perception  had  put me in a  state of euphoria,  which  don Juan  had
employed, as  usual, to plunge  me into more sensory experiences that  I was
now unable to recall. My euphoria, however, had not waned.
     "To  discover the possibility of being  in  two places at once  is very
exciting to the  mind," he said. "Since our minds are our  rationality,  and
our rationality is our self-reflection, anything  beyond our self-reflection
either appalls us or attracts us, depending on what kind of persons we are."
     He looked at  me fixedly  and  then smiled as if he had  just found out
something new.
     "Or it appalls  and  attracts us in  the same measure," he said, "which
seems to be the case with both of us."
     I  told him  that  with me  it was not a  matter of  being appalled  or
attracted by  my  experience,  but  a  matter  of  being  frightened by  the
immensity of the possibility of split perception.
     "I can't say that I don't believe I was in two places at once," I said.
"I  can't deny my experience,  and yet I think I am so frightened by it that
my mind refuses to accept it as a fact."
     "You and I  are the  type  of people who become obsessed by things like
that,  and then forget all about  them," he remarked and laughed. "You and I
are very much alike."
     It  was my  turn  to laugh. I knew  he  was making  fun of  me. Yet  he
projected such sincerity that I wanted to believe he was being truthful.
     I told him that  among  his apprentices,  I  was the only  one who  had
learned not to take his statements of equality with us too seriously. I said
that I had seen him in action, hearing him tell each of his apprentices,  in
the most sincere tone, "You  and I are such  fools. We  are so alike!" And I
had been horrified, time and time again, to realize that they believed him.
     "You are not  like any one of us, don Juan," I said.  "You are a mirror
that doesn't reflect our images. You are already beyond our reach."
     "What you're witnessing is the result of a lifelong struggle," he said.
"What you see is a sorcerer who has finally learned to follow the designs of
the spirit, but that's all.
     "I have described to you,  in many ways, the different stages a warrior
passes through along the path of  knowledge," he went on. "In  terms  of his
connection with intent, a  warrior goes through four  stages.  The  first is
when he  has a rusty, untrustworthy link with intent. The second is  when he
succeeds in cleaning it. The  third  is when he learns to manipulate it. And
the fourth is when he learns to accept the designs of the abstract."
     Don Juan maintained that his  attainment did not make him intrinsically
different.  It  only  made  him  more  resourceful;  thus  he  was not being
facetious  when  he said  to me or to his other apprentices that he was just
like us.
     "I understand exactly what you are going through," he  continued. "When
I laugh at you,  I really laugh at the memory of  myself  in  your shoes. I,
too, held on  to  the  world  of  everyday  life.  I held on  to  it  by  my
fingernails. Everything told me to let go,  but I couldn't. Just like you, I
trusted my mind implicitly, and I had no reason to do so. I was no longer an
average man.
     "My problem then is your problem today. The momentum of the daily world
carried me, and I kept acting like an average man. I  held on desperately to
my flimsy rational Structures. Don't you do the same."
     "I don't hold onto any structures; they hold onto me," I said, and that
made him laugh.
     I told him I understood him to perfection, but that no  matter how hard
I tried I was unable to carry on as a sorcerer should.
     He  said  my disadvantage  in  the sorcerers'  world  was  my  lack  of
familiarity with it. In that world I had to relate myself to everything in a
new way, which was infinitely more difficult, because it had  very little to
do with my everyday life continuity.
     He described the  specific problem of sorcerers  as twofold. One is the
impossibility  of  restoring  a  shattered  continuity;  the  other  is  the
impossibility of using the continuity dictated by the new  position of their
assemblage points. That new continuity  is always too tenuous, too unstable,
and  does  not offer sorcerers the assuredness they  need to  function as if
they were in the world of everyday life.
     "How do sorcerers resolve this problem?" I asked.
     "None of us resolves anything," he replied. "The spirit either resolves
it for us or it doesn't. If it does, a sorcerer finds himself  acting in the
sorcerers'  world,  but  without knowing how. This is the  reason why I have
insisted from the day I found you that impeccability  is all that counts.  A
sorcerer lives an impeccable life, and  that seems  to beckon  the solution.
Why? No one knows."
     Don Juan remained quiet for a moment. And then,  as if I had voiced it,
he commented  on a thought I was having. I  was thinking  that impeccability
always made me think of religious morality.
     "Impeccability, as I have  told you so many times, is not morality," he
said.  "It only resembles morality. Impeccability is simply the best  use of
our  energy  level.  Naturally,  it  calls  for  frugality,  thoughtfulness,
simplicity, innocence; and  above all, it calls for lack of self-reflection.
All this makes it sound like a manual for monastic life, but it isn't.
     "Sorcerers say that  in order to  command the spirit,  and by that they
mean to command the movement of the assem
     blage point, one needs energy. The only thing that stores energy for us
is our impeccability."
     Don Juan remarked that we do not have to be students of sorcery to move
our  assemblage   point.  Sometimes,   due  to  natural   although  dramatic
circumstances,   such  as   war,  deprivation,   stress,   fatigue,  sorrow,
helplessness, men's assemblage points undergo profound movements. If the men
who found themselves in such circumstances were  able to adopt  a sorcerer's
ideology,  don  Juan said,  they  would  be able  to  maximize that  natural
movement  with no trouble. And they would seek and find extraordinary things
instead of  doing what  men do in such circumstances: craving  the return to
     "When a movement of  the assemblage  point is maximized,"  he  went on,
"both  the average  man or the apprentice  in sorcery  becomes  a  sorcerer,
because by maximizing that movement, continuity is shattered beyond repair."
     "How do you maximize that movement?" I asked.
     "By curtailing  self-reflection,"  he  replied. "Moving  the assemblage
point or  breaking one's  continuity is not the real  difficulty.  The  real
difficulty  is having energy. If one has energy,  once the  assemblage point
moves, inconceivable things are there for the asking."
     Don Juan explained that man's predicament is that he intuits his hidden
resources, but he  does not dare use  them.  This is why  sorcerers say that
man's plight is the counterpoint between his stupidity and his ignorance. He
said that man needs now, more so than ever, to be taught new ideas that have
to do exclusively with his inner world - sorcerers' ideas, not social ideas,
ideas pertaining to man facing  the unknown, facing his personal death. Now,
more than anything else, he needs to be taught the secrets of the assemblage
     With no  preliminaries, and without stopping  to  think, don Juan  then
began to  tell me a sorcery  story. He said  that for an  entire year he had
been  the  only  young person  in  the  nagual  Julian's  house.  He was  so
completely self-centered he had not even  noticed  when at the beginning  of
the second year his benefactor  brought three young men and four young women
to live in the house. As far as don Juan was  concerned, those seven persons
who arrived one at  a time over two or three months were simply servants and
of no importance. One of the young men was even made his assistant.
     Don  Juan was convinced the  nagual Julian  had lured  and cajoled them
into coming  to work for him without wages. And he would have felt sorry for
them had it  not been  for their blind trust in  the nagual Julian and their
sickening attachment to everyone and everything in the household.
     His feeling was that they were  born slaves and  that he had nothing to
say  to  them. Yet he  was obliged to make friends  with  them and give them
advice, not because he wanted to, but because the nagual demanded it as part
of  his  work.  As  they  sought  his counseling,  he was  horrified by  the
poignancy and drama of their life stories.
     He secretly congratulated himself for being  better  off than  they. He
sincerely felt he was smarter  than all of them put together. He  boasted to
them that he could see through the nagual's maneuvers, although he could not
claim to understand them. And he laughed at  their ridiculous attempts to be
helpful. He considered  them servile and  told them to their faces that they
were being mercilessly exploited by a professional tyrant.
     But what enraged him was  that the four young women had crushes on  the
nagual Julian and would do anything to please him. Don Juan sought solace in
his work and plunged into it to forget his anger, or for hours on end he
     would  read the  books that the nagual Julian had in the house. Reading
became his passion. When he was reading,  everyone knew not to  bother  him,
except the nagual Julian, who  took pleasure in never leaving  him in peace.
He was always after don Juan to be friends with the young men and women.  He
told  him  repeatedly  that all of them, don Juan included, were his sorcery
apprentices. Don Juan  was  convinced the  nagual Julian  knew nothing about
sorcery, but he humored him, listening to him without ever believing.
     The  nagual Julian was unfazed by don Juan's lack  of trust. He  simply
proceeded  as if  don Juan believed him,  and gathered all  the  apprentices
together  to  give  them instruction.  Periodically he took all of  them  on
all-night excursions into the local  mountains.  On most of these excursions
the  nagual  would  leave  them  by  themselves,  stranded  in those  rugged
mountains, with don Juan in charge.
     The  rationale  given  for  the  trips was  that in  solitude,  in  the
wilderness, they  would discover the  spirit. But they  never did. At least,
not in any way  don  Juan  could  understand.  However,  the  nagual  Julian
insisted so strongly on the  importance of  knowing the spirit that don Juan
became obsessed with knowing what the spirit was.
     During  one of those nighttime excursions, the  nagual Julian urged don
Juan to go after the spirit, even if he didn't understand it.
     "Of course, he meant the  only thing a nagual could mean: the  movement
of the assemblage point," don  Juan said. "But  he  worded  it  in a way  he
believed would make sense to me: go after the spirit.
     "I  thought he was talking nonsense. At that  time I had already formed
my own opinions  and beliefs and was convinced that  the spirit was what  is
known as character,  volition, guts, strength. And I believed I didn't  have
to go after them. I had them all.
     "The  nagual Julian insisted that the spirit was  indefinable, that one
could not even  feel it, much less  talk about it. One could only beckon it,
he said, by acknowledging its existence. My retort was very much the same as
yours: one cannot beckon something that does not exist."
     Don Juan told me he had argued so much with the nagual  that the nagual
finally promised him, in front  of his  entire household, that in one single
stroke he was  going to show him not  only what the spirit  was, but how  to
define  it. He also promised to  throw an  enormous party, even inviting the
neighbors, to celebrate don Juan's lesson.
     Don Juan  remarked  that in those  days, before the Mexican Revolution,
the nagual Julian and the seven women of his group passed  themselves off as
the wealthy owners  of  a large hacienda.  Nobody ever  doubted their image,
especially the  nagual Julian's, a  rich and handsome landholder who had set
aside his earnest desire to pursue an ecclesiastical career in order to care
for his seven unmarried sisters.
     One  day, during the rainy season, the nagual  Julian announced that as
soon as the rains stopped, he would hold the enormous  party he had promised
don Juan. And one Sunday afternoon he took his entire household to the banks
of  the river,  which  was in flood  because of  the heavy rains. The nagual
Julian rode his horse  while  don Juan trotted  respectfully behind,  as was
their custom  in  case  they  met any  of  their  neighbors;  as  far as the
neighbors knew, don Juan was the landlord's personal servant.
     The nagual chose for their picnic a site on high  ground by the edge of
the  river.  The  women had prepared  food and drink.  The nagual  had  even
brought  a  group of  musicians  from the  town.  It  was  a big party which
included the peons of the  hacienda, neighbors, and even  passing  strangers
that had meandered over to join the fun.
     Everybody ate and drank to his  heart's content. The nagual danced with
all the women, sang, and recited poetry. He told jokes and, with the help of
some of the women, staged skits to the delight of all.
     At  a given moment, the  nagual Julian  asked if any of those  present,
especially the  apprentices, wanted to  share  don Juan's  lesson. They  all
declined. All of them were keenly aware of  the nagual's  hard tactics. Then
he asked don Juan if he was sure he wanted to find out what the spirit was.
     Don Juan could not say no.  He simply could not back out.  He announced
that he was as ready as he could ever be. The nagual  guided him to the edge
of the raging river and made him kneel. The  nagual began a long incantation
in which he invoked the  power of the wind and  the mountains and  asked the
power of the river to advise don Juan.
     His  incantation,  meaningful as  it might  have been,  was  worded  so
irreverently that everyone had to laugh. When he finished, he asked don Juan
to stand up with his eyes  closed.  Then he took the apprentice in his arms,
as he would a child, and threw him into the rushing waters, shouting, "Don't
hate the river, for heaven's sake!"
     Relating this  incident sent don  Juan into  fits of laughter.  Perhaps
under other circumstances I, too, might  have found it hilarious. This time,
however, the story upset me tremendously.
     "You  should have seen  those  people's  faces," don Juan continued. "I
caught a  glimpse of their dismay as I flew through the air on my way to the
river. No one had anticipated that that  devilish nagual would  do  a  thing
like that."
     Don Juan said he  had thought it was the end of his life. He was not  a
good swimmer,  and as  he sank to the  bottom of the river he cursed himself
for allowing this to  happen to him. He was so angry he did not have time to
panic. All he could think about was his resolve that he was not going to die
in that frigging river, at the hands of that frigging man.
     His  feet touched bottom and he propelled himself up. It was not a deep
river, but  the  flood waters  had widened it  a great deal. The current was
swift,  and it pulled him along  as he  dog-paddled,  trying  not to let the
rushing waters tumble him around.
     The current dragged him a long distance. And while he was being dragged
and trying his best not to succumb, he entered into a strange frame of mind.
He  knew his flaw.  He was  a very angry man and his pent-up  anger made him
hate and fight with everyone  around.  But he could not  hate or  fight  the
river, or be impatient with it,  or fret, which  were the  ways he  normally
behaved with everything and everybody in his life. All he could do  with the
river was follow its flow.
     Don Juan contended that that simple realization and the acquiescence it
engendered  tipped  the  scales,  so to  speak, and  he  experienced  a free
movement of his assemblage point. Suddenly, without  being in  any way aware
of what was  happening,  instead of being  pulled  by the rushing water, don
Juan felt himself running along the  riverbank. He was running so fast  that
he had no time to think. A tremendous force was pulling him, making him race
over boulders and fallen trees, as if they were not there.
     After he had run in that  desperate fashion for quite a while, don Juan
braved  a quick look at the reddish, rushing water. And he saw himself being
roughly tumbled by the current. Nothing  in his  experience had prepared him
     such  a moment. He  knew then, without involving his thought processes,
that he was in two places at once. And in one of them, in the rushing river,
he was helpless.
     All his energy went into trying to save himself.
     Without thinking about it, he began angling away from the riverbank. It
took all his strength and determination to edge an inch at  a  time. He felt
as  if he were dragging  a tree.  He moved  so slowly  that it  took him  an
eternity to gain a few yards.
     The strain was  too much for him. Suddenly he was no longer running; he
was falling down a deep well. When he hit the water, the coldness of it made
him scream. And then he was back in the river, being dragged by the current.
His fright upon  finding himself  back  in the  rushing water was so intense
that all he could do was to wish with all his might to be safe and  sound on
the riverbank.  And immediately  he was  there  again,  running at breakneck
speed parallel to, but a distance from, the river.
     As he ran, he looked at the rushing water and saw himself struggling to
stay afloat. He wanted to yell a command; he wanted to order himself to swim
at an angle, but he had no voice. His anguish for the part of  him that  was
in the water  was overwhelming. It  served as a bridge  between the two Juan
Matuses. He was instantly back in the water, swimming at an angle toward the
     The incredible sensation of alternating between two places  was  enough
to eradicate  his  fear. He no longer  cared about  his fate.  He alternated
freely between swimming in the river and racing on the  bank.  But whichever
he was doing, he  consistently moved toward his  left,  racing away from the
river or paddling to the left shore.
     He came out on the left side of the river about  five miles downstream.
He had  to wait there, sheltering in the shrubs,  for  over  a week.  He was
waiting for the waters to subside so  he could wade  across, but he was also
waiting until his fright wore off and he was whole again.
     Don Juan  said that what had happened was  that the  strong,  sustained
emotion of  fighting  for his  life  had caused his assemblage point to move
squarely to the  place of  silent  knowledge. Because he had never  paid any
attention to  what the nagual Julian told him about the assemblage point, he
had no idea what was happening to him. He was frightened at the thought that
he might never be normal  again. But as he explored his split perception, he
discovered its practical side and found he liked it. He was double for days.
He could be thoroughly one  or the other. Or  he could be  both at the  same
time. When he was both, things became fuzzy and neither being was effective,
so he  abandoned  that alternative.  But  being  one or the  other opened up
inconceivable possibilities for him.
     While he recuperated in  the  bushes, he  established  that  one of his
beings was more  flexible than  the other and could  cover distances in  the
blink of an eye and find  food or the best place to hide. It  was this being
that once went to the nagual's house to see if they were worrying about him.
     He heard  the young  people  crying  for him, and that  was certainly a
surprise.  He would have gone on watching them indefinitely, since he adored
the idea of finding  out what  they  thought of  him,  but the nagual Julian
caught him and put an end to it.
     That was the only time he had been truly afraid of the nagual. Don Juan
heard the nagual  telling him to stop his nonsense. He  appeared suddenly, a
jet black, bell-shaped object of immense weight and strength. He grabbed don
Juan. Don Juan did not know how the nagual was grabbing him, but it  hurt in
a  most unsettling way. It was a sharp nervous pain  he felt in his  stomach
and groin.
     "I was instantly back  on the riverbank," don Juan  said, laughing.  "I
got up, waded the recently subsided river, and started to walk home."
     He paused  then  asked me  what I  thought of his story. And I told him
that it had appalled me.
     "You could have drowned in that  river," I said, almost shouting. "What
a brutal thing to do to you. The nagual Julian must have been crazy!"
     "Wait a minute," don Juan protested.  "The nagual Julian was  devilish,
but not crazy. He did what he had to do in his  role  as nagual and teacher.
It's true that I could have died. But that's a risk we all have to take. You
yourself could have been easily eaten by the jaguar, or could have died from
any of  the  things  I have  made you do.  The nagual Julian  was  bold  and
commanding and tackled everything directly. No beating around  the bush with
him, no mincing words."
     I  insisted that  valuable as  the  lesson might  have been,  it  still
appeared to me  that the nagual Julian's methods were bizarre and excessive.
I admitted to don Juan that  everything I had heard about the nagual  Julian
had bothered me I so much I had formed a most negative picture of him.
     "I think you're afraid that one of these days I'm  going to | throw you
into  the river  or  make  you wear  women's clothes,"  he said and began to
laugh. "That's why you don't approve of the nagual Julian."
     I  admitted  that  he  was right,  and  he  assured  me that he had  no
intentions of  imitating his benefactor's methods, because they did not work
for him. He was, he  said,  as ruthless but  not as  practical as the nagual
     "At that time," don Juan continued, "I didn't appreciate his art, and I
certainly didn't like what he did to me, but now, whenever I think about it,
I admire him all the more for his superb and direct way of placing me in the
position of silent knowledge."
     Don  Juan said  that because of the enormity of  his experience, he had
totally forgotten the monstrous man. He walked unescorted almost to the door
of the nagual Julian's house, then  changed his mind and went instead to the
nagual Elfas's place, seeking solace. And the nagual Elfas explained  to him
the deep consistency of the nagual Julian's actions.
     The nagual Elfas could hardly contain his excitement when he  heard don
Juan's story. In a fervent tone he explained to don Juan that his benefactor
was  a supreme stalker, always  after  practicalities. His endless quest was
for pragmatic views and solutions. His behavior that  day  at the river  had
been a  masterpiece of stalking.  He had manipulated  and affected everyone.
Even the river seemed to be at his command.
     The nagual  Elfas maintained that while  don Juan was  being carried by
the current, fighting for his life, the river helped him understand what the
spirit was.  And thanks to that understanding, don  Juan had the opportunity
to enter directly into silent knowledge.
     Don Juan said that  because  he was a callow  youth he  listened to the
nagual  Elfas without understanding  a  word,  but  was  moved with  sincere
admiration for the nagual's intensity.
     First, the  nagual  Elfas  explained to don Juan  that  sound  and  the
meaning of words were of supreme importance to stalkers. Words were used  by
them as keys  to open anything that was  closed. Stalkers, therefore, had to
state  their aim before attempting to achieve it. But they  could not reveal
their true aim  at the  outset, so  they had  to word  things  carefully  to
conceal the main thrust.
     The nagual Elfas called this act waking up intent.  He explained to don
Juan that  the  nagual Julian woke  up  intent  by affirming emphatically in
front  of his entire household that  he was  going to show don Juan, in  one
stroke, what  the  spirit  was and how to  define  it. This  was  completely
nonsensical  because the nagual Julian  knew there was no  way to define the
spirit. What he was really trying to do was, of course, to place don Juan in
the position of silent knowledge.
     After making  the  statement  which concealed his true aim,  the nagual
Julian  gathered as  many  people as he  could,  thus making them  both  his
witting  and unwitting  accomplices. All of them knew about his stated goal,
but not a single one knew what he really had in mind.
     The nagual Elfas's belief that his explanation would shake don Juan out
of  his impossible  stand  of  total  rebelliousness  and  indifference  was
completely wrong. Yet the nagual patiently continued to explain to him  that
while he had been fighting the current in the river he had reached the third
     The  old nagual explained that the  position  of  silent  knowledge was
called the third point because in order to  get to  it one  had  to pass the
second point, the place of no pity.
     He said  that  don  Juan's  assemblage  point  had acquired  sufficient
fluidity for him to be double, which had allowed him to be in both the place
of reason and in the place of silent knowledge, either alternately or at the
same time.
     The nagual told  don Juan that his  accomplishment  was magnificent. He
even hugged don Juan as  if he were a child.  And he could not stop  talking
about how don Juan, in spite  of not knowing anything - or maybe because  of
not knowing anything  -  had transferred his total energy from  one place to
the other.  Which meant to the nagual that don Juan's assemblage point had a
most propitious, natural fluidity.
     He said to  don  Juan that every human being had  a  capacity  for that
fluidity. For most  of us, however, it was stored away and we never used it,
except on rare occasions which were brought about  by sorcerers, such as the
experience he had just had,  or by dramatic natural circumstances, such as a
life-or-death struggle.
     Don  Juan listened, mesmerized by the  sound of the old nagual's voice.
When he paid attention, he could  follow anything  the man  said, which  was
something he had never been able to do with the nagual Julian.
     The old nagual went on to explain that humanity was on the first point,
reason, but  that not every human being's  assemblage point was squarely  on
the  position  of reason.  Those who were on  the spot itself  were the true
leaders of mankind. Most of the time  they were unknown people whose  genius
was the exercising of their reason.
     The  nagual said there had been another time, when mankind  had been on
the third point, which, of course, had been the first point then.  But after
that, mankind moved to the place of reason.
     When silent knowledge was the first point the same condition prevailed.
Not every  human  being's assemblage  point was  squarely  on that  position
either. This meant that the true leaders of mankind had  always been the few
human beings  whose  assemblage points  happened to be either  on the  exact
point of reason or of silent knowledge. The rest of humanity, the old nagual
told don Juan, was merely the  audience. In our day, they were the lovers of
reason. In the past, they had been the lovers of silent knowledge. They were
the ones who had admired and sung odes to the heroes of either position.
     The nagual stated that mankind had spent the longer part of its history
in the  position of silent  knowledge, and  that this  explained  our  great
longing for it.
     Don Juan asked the  old nagual what exactly the nagual Julian was doing
to him. His question sounded more mature and intelligent than what he really
meant. The nagual  Elias answered it in  terms totally unintelligible to don
Juan  at  that time.  He said  that the nagual Julian was coaching don Juan,
enticing  his assemblage  point  to the position of reason, so he could be a
thinker rather  than  merely  part of  an  unsophisticated  but  emotionally
charged audience that loved the  orderly works of reason. At the  same time,
the nagual  was coaching  don Juan to be a true abstract sorcerer instead of
merely part of a morbid and ignorant audience of lovers of the unknown.
     The nagual Elias  assured  don Juan that only  a human  being who was a
paragon of reason could move his assemblage point easily and be a paragon of
silent knowledge.  He  said  that only  those  who were  squarely  in either
position  could see  the other position  clearly, and that that had been the
way the age of reason came to being. The position of reason was clearly seen
from the position of silent knowledge.
     The old  nagual  told  don Juan  that  the one-way bridge  from  silent
knowledge to reason was called "concern." That is, the concern that true men
of  silent knowledge had  about the source of what  they knew. And the other
one-way  bridge,   from   reason  to  silent  knowledge,  was  called  "pure
understanding." That  is, the recognition that  told the  man of reason that
reason was only one island in an endless sea of islands.
     The nagual added that a human being who had both oneway bridges working
was a sorcerer in direct contact with  the spirit, the vital force that made
both  positions  possible. He pointed oat  to  don  Juan that everything the
nagual Julian  had done that day at the river  had  been  a show, not for  a
human audience,  but for  the  spirit, the force that was  watching  him. He
pranced and frolicked with abandon and entertained everybody, especially the
power he was addressing.
     Don  Juan said that the  nagual Elias assured  him that the spirit only
listened when the speaker speaks in gestures. And gestures do not mean signs
or body movements, but acts of  true abandon, acts of largesse, of humor. As
a  gesture for the  spirit, sorcerers bring  out the best  of themselves and
silently offer it to the abstract.

     Intending Appearances

     Don Juan wanted us to make one more trip to the mountains before I went
home, but we never  made it. Instead, he asked me to drive  him to the city.
He needed to see some people there.
     On  the way he talked about every subject  but intent. It was a welcome
     In the afternoon,  after he had taken  care of his business,  we sat on
his favorite bench in the  plaza.  The place was deserted. I  was very tired
and sleepy.  But then, quite  unexpectedly,  I  perked up.  My  mind  became
crystal clear.
     Don Juan immediately noticed the  change  and  laughed at my gesture of
surprise. He picked a  thought right out of my mind; or perhaps it was I who
picked that thought out of his.
     "If you think about life in terms  of hours instead of years, our lives
are immensely long," he said. "Even if you think in  terms of days,  life is
still interminable."
     That was exactly what I had been thinking.
     He told me that sorcerers counted their lives in hours, and that in one
hour it was possible for a sorcerer to live the equivalent in intensity of a
normal  life.  This  intensity is an  advantage when  it  comes  to  storing
information in the movement of the assemblage point.
     I  demanded  that he explain  this  to me in more  detail. A long  time
before, because it was so cumbersome to take  notes on conversations, he had
recommended that I keep all  the information I obtained about the sorcerers'
world  neatly arranged, not on paper nor in  my mind, but in the movement of
my assemblage point.
     "The  assemblage  point,  with even the most  minute  shifting, creates
totally isolated islands of perception," don Juan said. "Information, in the
form of experiences in the complexity of awareness can be stored there."
     "But how can information be stored in something so vague?" I asked.
     "The  mind is equally  vague,  and still you trust it because  you  are
familiar  with  it," he  retorted.  "You don't yet have the same familiarity
with the movement of the assemblage point, but it is just about the same."
     "What I mean is, how is information stored?" I insisted.
     "The  information  is  stored in the experience  itself," he explained.
"Later,  when  a sorcerer moves his assemblage point to the exact spot where
it was, he relives the total experience. This sorcerers' recollection is the
way to get back all the information stored in the movement of die assemblage
     "Intensity  is an automatic result  of  the movement  of the assemblage
point,"  he  continued. "For instance,  you are living  these  moments  more
intensely than you ordinarily would, so,  properly speaking, you are storing
intensity. Some  day  you'll  relive this moment by  making your  assemblage
point return to the precise spot where it  is now. That is the way sorcerers
store information."
     I told don Juan that the intense  recollections I  had had in the  past
few  days had just  happened to me, without any special mental process I was
aware of.
     "How can one deliberately manage to recollect?" I asked.
     "Intensity,  being  an aspect of intent, is connected naturally to  the
shine  of the  sorcerers' eyes,"  he  explained.  "In order  to recall those
isolated  islands  of perception sorcerers need only intend  the  particular
shine  of their eyes associated with whichever spot they want  to return to.
But I have already explained that."
     I  must have looked  perplexed.  Don  Juan regarded  me  with a serious
expression. I opened my mouth two or three times  to ask him  questions, but
could not formulate my thoughts.
     "Because his intensity rate is greater than normal," don Juan said, "in
a  few hours a sorcerer can live  the  equivalent of a normal lifetime.  His
assemblage point, by  shifting  to an  unfamiliar  position, takes  in  more
energy than usual. That extra flow of energy is called intensity."
     I  understood  what  he   was  saying  with  perfect  clarity,  and  my
rationality staggered under the impact of the tremendous implication.
     Don  Juan  fixed me with his stare and then  warned me  to beware  of a
reaction  which typically afflicted  sorcerers  -  a  frustrating desire  to
explain the sorcery experience in cogent, well-reasoned terms.
     "The sorcerers' experience is so outlandish,"  don  Juan went on, "that
sorcerers  consider  it  an  intellectual  exercise,  and  use  it  to stalk
themselves with. Their trump  card as stalkers, though, is that they  remain
keenly  aware  that  we  are  perceivers   and  that  perception  has   more
possibilities than the mind can conceive."
     As  my  only comment  I voiced  my  apprehension  about the  outlandish
possibilities of human awareness.
     "In order to protect themselves  from that immensity,"  don Juan  said,
"sorcerers  learn  to  maintain a  perfect blend of  ruthlessness,  cunning,
patience,  and sweetness. These four  bases are inextricably bound together.
Sorcerers cultivate  them by  intending them. These  bases  are,  naturally,
positions of the assemblage point."
     He went  on  to  say that  every act performed  by  any sorcerer was by
definition  governed by these four principles. So, properly  speaking, every
sorcerer's every action  is deliberate  in thought and  realization, and has
the specific blend of the four foundations of stalking.
     "Sorcerers  use  the  four  moods of stalking as guides," he continued.
"These are four different frames of mind, four different brands of intensity
that sorcerers can use to induce their assemblage points to move to specific
     He seemed suddenly  annoyed.  I  asked  if  it  was  my  insistence  on
speculating that was bothering him.
     "I am just considering how our rationality puts us between a rock and a
hard place," he said. "Our tendency is to ponder, to question, to  find out.
And  there  is  no way  to do  that from  within the  discipline of sorcery.
Sorcery  is the  act of reaching  the place of silent  knowledge, and silent
knowledge can't be reasoned out. It can only be experienced."
     He smiled,  his eyes  shining  like two  spots of light.  He  said that
sorcerers, in an effort  to protect themselves from  the overwhelming effect
of silent  knowledge,  developed  the art of  stalking. Stalking  moves  the
assemblage  point  minutely but  steadily,  thus  giving  sorcerers time and
therefore the possibility of buttressing themselves.
     "Within the art of stalking," don Juan continued, "there is a technique
which sorcerers use a great deal: controlled
     folly. Sorcerers claim  that controlled folly is the only way they have
of dealing  with themselves  -  in their  state  of  expanded awareness  and
perception  -  and with everybody and  everything  in  the  world  of  daily
     Don  Juan  had explained  controlled  folly  as the art  of  controlled
deception or  the art of pretending  to be thoroughly immersed in the action
at  hand  - pretending so  well no one could tell  it  from the  real thing.
Controlled folly  is  not an  outright  deception,  he  had told  me,  but a
sophisticated,  artistic  way  of  being  separated  from  everything  while
remaining an integral part of everything.
     "Controlled folly is  an art," don  Juan  continued. "A very bothersome
art, and a difficult one to learn. Many sorcerers don't have the stomach for
it, not because there is anything inherently wrong with the art, but because
it takes a lot of energy to exercise it."
     Don Juan admitted that he practiced it conscientiously, although he was
not  particularly fond of doing  so, perhaps because his benefactor had been
so adept at it. Or, perhaps  it was because his personality - which he  said
was basically devious and petty - simply did not have  the agility needed to
practice controlled folly.
     I looked at him with surprise. He stopped talking and fixed me with his
mischievous eyes.
     "By the time we come to sorcery, our personality is already formed," he
said, and shrugged his shoulders to  signify resignation, "and all we can do
is practice controlled folly and laugh at ourselves."
     I had a surge  of empathy and assured him that to  me he was not in any
way petty or devious.
     "But that's my basic personality," he insisted.
     And I insisted that it was not.
     "Stalkers who  practice controlled folly believe  that,  in matters  of
personality,  the  entire human  race falls into three categories," he said,
and smiled the way he always did when he was setting me up.
     "That's  absurd," I protested.  "Human behavior  is  too  complex to be
categorized so simply."
     "Stalkers say that we are not so complex as we think  we are," he said,
"and that we all belong to one of three categories."
     I  laughed  out  of nervousness. Ordinarily  I would  have taken such a
statement as a  joke, but this time, because my mind was extremely clear and
my thoughts were poignant, I felt he was indeed serious.
     "Are you serious?" I asked, as politely as I could.
     "Completely serious," he replied, and began to laugh.
     His  laughter  relaxed me  a little. And  he  continued  explaining the
stalkers' system of classification.  He said that people in the  first class
are the perfect  secretaries, assistants, companions. They have a very fluid
personality,  but  their  fluidity  is not  nourishing.  They  are, however,
serviceable,   concerned,   totally  domestic,  resourceful  within  limits,
humorous,  well-mannered,  sweet,  delicate.  In other words,  they  are the
nicest people  one could  find,  but they have  one  huge flaw:  they  can't
function  alone. They are  always in need of someone  to  direct  them. With
direction, no matter how strained  or antagonistic that  direction might be,
they are stupendous. By themselves, they perish.
     People in  the  second  class  are  not nice  at all. They  are  petty,
vindictive,  envious,  jealous, self-centered.  They talk  exclusively about
themselves and usually demand that  people conform to their standards.  They
always  take the initiative even though  they are  not comfortable  with it.
They are thoroughly ill at ease in every situation and never relax. They are
insecure and  are never  pleased; the more  insecure they become the nastier
they are. Their fatal flaw is that they would kill to be leaders.
     In the third category are people  who are neither  nice nor nasty. They
serve  no one,  nor  do they impose themselves on anyone.  Rather  they  are
indifferent. They have an exalted idea about themselves derived solely  from
daydreams and wishful thinking. If they are extraordinary at anything, it is
at  waiting for things  to happen. They  are  waiting  to be  discovered and
conquered and have a marvelous facility for creating the  illusion that they
have  great things  in abeyance, which they  always  promise to  deliver but
never do because, in fact, they do not have such resources.
     Don Juan said that he himself  definitely belonged to the second class.
He  then asked  me to classify  myself  and I became  rattled.  Don Juan was
practically on the ground, bent over with laughter.
     He  urged me again to classify myself,  and reluctantly I  suggested  I
might be a combination of the three.
     "Don't give me that combination nonsense," he said, still laughing. "We
are simple beings, each of us is one of the three types. And as far as I  am
concerned, you belong to the second class. Stalkers call them farts."
     I began to protest that his scheme of classification was demeaning. But
I stopped  myself  just as  I  was about to go into a long tirade. Instead I
commented  that  if  it  were  true  that  there  are  only  three  types of
personalities, all of us are trapped  in one of those  three categories  for
life with no hope of change or redemption.
     He agreed that that  was  exactly the case. Except that one avenue  for
redemption remained. Sorcerers had long ago learned  that only our  personal
self-reflection fell into one of the categories.
     "The trouble with  us  is that we take  ourselves seriously,"  he said.
"Whichever  category our self-image falls into only  matters  because of our
self-importance. If  we  weren't self-important, it  wouldn't matter at  all
which category we fell into.
     "I'll always be a fart," he continued, his  body shaking with laughter.
"And so  will you. But now  I am a fart who doesn't  take himself seriously,
while you still do."
     I was indignant. I  wanted to argue with him, but  could not muster the
energy for it.
     In the empty plaza, the reverberation of his laughter was eerie.
     He changed the  subject  then and reeled  off  the  basic cores  he had
discussed  with me:  the  manifestations of the  spirit,  the knock  of  the
spirit,  the  trickery  of  the  spirit,  the  descent  of the  spirit,  the
requirement of  intent, and  handling intent. He repeated them as if he were
giving  my  memory a  chance  to retain them fully. And then,  he succinctly
highlighted everything  he  had told  me  about them. It was  as if he  were
deliberately  making me  store all that information in the intensity of that
     I remarked that the basic cores were still a mystery to me. I felt very
apprehensive  about my ability  to  understand them.  He  was giving me  the
impression that he was about to dismiss the topic, and I had not grasped its
meaning at all.
     I  insisted that I had  to  ask him  more  questions about the abstract
     He seemed to assess what I was saying, then he quietly nodded his head.
     "This topic was  also  very difficult for me,"  he  said. "And I,  too,
asked many questions. I was perhaps a tinge more self-centered than you. And
very  nasty.  Nagging  was  the  only way I  knew  of asking  questions. You
yourself are rather a belligerent inquisitor. At the end, of course, you and
I are equally annoying, but for different reasons."
     There was only one  more thing don Juan added to our  discussion of the
basic cores  before  he changed  the subject: that they revealed  themselves
extremely slowly, erratically advancing and retreating.
     "I  can't  repeat often  enough that every man whose  assemblage  point
moves can move it further," he began. "And the only reason we need a teacher
is to spur  us on mercilessly. Otherwise our natural reaction is  to stop to
congratulate ourselves for having covered so much ground."
     He  said that we were both good examples  of our odious tendency to  go
easy on ourselves. His benefactor, fortunately, being the stupendous stalker
he was, had not spared him.
     Don  Juan said that  in the course of their  nighttime journeys in  the
wilderness, the nagual  Julian had lectured him extensively on the nature of
self-importance and  the movement of  the assemblage point.  For the  nagual
Julian, self-importance was a monster that had three thousand heads. And one
could face  up to it and destroy it in any of three ways. The first way  was
to sever each head one at a time;  the  second was  to reach that mysterious
state of being called the place  of no pity, which destroyed self-importance
by  slowly starving  it; and the  third  was  to pay for  the  instantaneous
annihilation of the three-thousand-headed monster with one's symbolic death.
     The  nagual  Julian recommended the third  alternative. But he told don
Juan  that  he  could consider  himself fortunate  if  he got  the chance to
choose. For it was the spirit that usually determined which way the sorcerer
was to go, and it was the duty of the sorcerer to follow.
     Don Juan  said that, as he had guided me, his benefactor  guided him to
cut off the  three thousand heads  of self-importance, one by  one, but that
the  results  had been quite different. While I had responded  very well, he
had not responded at all.
     "Mine was a peculiar  condition,"  he  went on.  "From  the  moment  my
benefactor saw me lying on the road with a bullet hole in  my chest, he knew
I was  the new nagual. He acted accordingly and moved my assemblage point as
soon as my health  permitted it. And I saw with great ease a field of energy
in  the form of that  monstrous man.  But  this  accomplishment,  instead of
helping  as  it  was  supposed  to,  hindered  any  further  movement  of my
assemblage  point. And while the  assemblage points of the other apprentices
moved steadily, mine remained fixed at the level of  being  able to see  the
     "But didn't your benefactor tell you what was going on?" I asked, truly
baffled by the unnecessary complication.
     "My  benefactor  didn't  believe in handing  down knowledge,"  don Juan
said. "He thought that knowledge  imparted that way lacked effectiveness. It
was never there when one needed it. On the other hand, if knowledge was only
insinuated, the  person  who was interested would  devise ways to claim that
     Don Juan  said  that the difference between his method  of teaching and
his benefactor's was that he himself believed one should have the freedom to
choose. His benefactor did not.
     "Didn't your benefactor's teacher, the  nagual Elias, tell you what was
happening?" I insisted.
     "He  tried," don Juan said, and sighed, "but I was truly  impossible. I
knew everything. I  just let  the two men talk my ear off and never listened
to a thing they were saying."
     In order to deal  with that impasse, the nagual Julian decided to force
don  Juan to accomplish once again, but in a different  way, a free movement
of his assemblage point.
     I  interrupted him to ask whether this had happened before or after his
experience at the river. Don  Juan's stories did  not have the chronological
order I would have liked.
     "This  happened several months afterward," he  replied. "And  don't you
think for an instant that because  I experienced that split perception I was
really changed; that I was wiser or more sober. Nothing of the sort.
     "Consider  what happens to  you," he  went on.  "I have not only broken
your continuity time and time again, I have ripped it to shreds, and look at
you;  you still act as if you were  intact. That is a supreme accomplishment
of magic, of intending.
     "I was the same. For a while, I would reel under the impact  of what  I
was  experiencing and then I would forget  and tie up the severed ends as if
nothing had happened.  That was why my benefactor believed that we  can only
really change if we die."
     Returning to his  story,  don Juan said that the nagual used Tulio, the
unsociable member of his household, to deliver  a new shattering blow to his
psychological continuity.
     Don Juan  said  that all the apprentices, including himself,  had never
been in total agreement  about anything except that Tulio was a contemptibly
arrogant little man.  They  hated Tulio because  he  either  avoided them or
snubbed them.  He treated them  all  with  such disdain  that they felt like
dirt. They were all convinced that Tulio  never spoke to them because he had
nothing to say; and that his most salient feature,  his  arrogant aloofness,
was a cover for his timidity.
     Yet in spite of  his unpleasant personality, to  the chagrin of all the
apprentices, Tulio had undue influence on  the household - especially on the
nagual Julian, who seemed to dote on him.
     One morning the  nagual Julian sent all  the apprentices  on a day-long
errand to  the  city. The  only person left in  the house, besides the older
members of the household, was don Juan.
     Around midday the  nagual Julian headed for  his  study to do his daily
bookkeeping. As he was going in, he casually asked don Juan to help him with
the accounts.
     Don Juan began to look through  the receipts and  soon realized that to
continue  he  needed  some  information  that Tulio,  the  overseer  of  the
property, had, and had forgotten to note down.
     The nagual Julian  was definitely  angry  at  Tulio's  oversight, which
pleased don Juan. The nagual impatiently ordered don Juan to find Tulio, who
was out in the fields supervising  the  workers, and  ask him to come to the
     Don Juan,  gloating  at the idea  of annoying Tulio, ran half a mile to
the fields, accompanied, of course, by a field hand to protect him  from the
monstrous man.  He found Tulio supervising the workers from a  distance,  as
always.  Don  Juan had noticed that Tulio hated to come into  direct contact
with people and always watched them from afar.
     In a harsh voice  and with an  exaggeratedly imperious manner, don Juan
demanded that Tulio accompany him to  the house because  the nagual required
his services. Tulio,  his voice barely audible, replied that he was too busy
at the moment, but that in about an hour he would be free to come.
     Don  Juan insisted, knowing that Tulio would  not bother to  argue with
him  and would simply  dismiss him with a turn of  his head. He was  shocked
when Tulio  began  to  yell  obscenities  at him. The scene  was so  out  of
character for  Tulio  that even the farm  workers  stopped  their  labor and
looked at one another questioningly. Don Juan  was sure they had never heard
Tulio raise his voice, much less yell improprieties. His own surprise was so
great that he
     laughed  nervously, which made  Tulio extremely angry. He even hurled a
rock at the frightened don Juan, who fled.
     Don Juan and his  bodyguard immediately ran back to the house.  At  the
front  door they found Tulio. He was quietly talking and laughing with  some
of the women. As was his custom, he turned his head away, ignoring don Juan.
Don Juan began angrily to chastise him for socializing there when the nagual
wanted him in his study. Tulio and the women looked at don Juan as if he had
gone mad.
     But Tulio was not  his usual self that day. Instantly he yelled  at don
Juan to shut his damned mouth and mind his own damned business. He blatantly
accused don Juan of trying to put him in a bad light with the nagual Julian.
     The  women  showed   their  dismay   by  gasping  loudly  and   looking
disapprovingly at don Juan. They tried to calm Tulio. Don Juan ordered Tulio
to go to the nagual's  study and  explain the accounts. Tulio told him to go
to hell.
     Don Juan  was  shaking  with anger. The  simple task  of asking for the
accounts had turned into  a nightmare.  He controlled his  temper. The women
were  watching him intently,  which angered him all over again.  In a silent
rage he ran  to the nagual's study. Tulio and the women went back to talking
and laughing quietly as though they were celebrating a private joke.
     Don Juan's surprise was total when he entered the study and found Tulio
sitting  at  the nagual's desk absorbed  in his bookkeeping. Don Juan made a
supreme  effort and  controlled his anger.  He smiled at Tulio. He no longer
had the need  to confront Tulio. He had suddenly  understood that the nagual
Julian was  using Tulio to test him, to see if he  would lose his temper. He
would not give him that satisfaction.
     Without looking up from his accounts, Tulio said  that if don Juan  was
looking for the nagual, he would probably find him at  the  other end of the
     Don Juan raced to the other end of the house to  find the nagual Julian
walking slowly around the patio with Tulio at his side. The nagual  appeared
to  be engrossed in his conversation  with  Tulio.  Tulio gently nudged  the
nagual's sleeve and said in a low voice that his assistant was there.
     The nagual matter-of-factly explained to don Juan everything  about the
account  they had  been working  on. It was a long,  detailed,  and thorough
explanation.  He said then that  all don Juan  had  to do  was to bring  the
account book from the study so that they could make the entry and have Tulio
sign it.
     Don  Juan  could  not  understand  what  was  happening.  The  detailed
explanation and the nagual's matter-of-fact tone had brought everything into
the realm of mundane affairs. Tulio impatiently ordered don Juan to hurry up
and fetch the book, because he was busy. He was needed somewhere else.
     By now don Juan had resigned himself to being a clown. He knew that the
nagual was up to something; he had that  strange look in his eyes  which don
Juan  always  associated  with his beastly  jokes. Besides, Tulio had talked
more  that day  than he had in the entire two years don Juan had been in the
     Without uttering a word, don Juan went back to the study. And as he had
expected, Tulio had gotten there first. He was sitting  on the corner of the
desk, waiting for don Juan, impatiently tapping the floor with the hard heel
of his boot. He held out the ledger  don Juan was after, gave it to him, and
told him to be on his way.
     Despite being prepared, don Juan was astonished. He stared at the  man,
who became angry and abusive. Don
     Juan had to struggle not to explode. He kept saying to himself that all
this was merely a  test of his  attitude. He had visions of being thrown out
of the house if he failed the test.
     In  the midst  of his  turmoil,  he was still able  to wonder about the
speed with which Tulio managed always to be one jump ahead of him.
     Don  Juan  certainly  anticipated that Tulio would be waiting  with the
nagual. Still, when he saw him  there, although he was not surprised, he was
incredulous. He had raced through  the house,  following the shortest route.
There was no way that  Tulio could run faster than he. Furthermore, if Tulio
had run, he would have had to run right alongside don Juan.
     The nagual Julian took  the  account book from don Juan with an air  of
indifference.  He  made  the  entry; Tulio  signed  it. Then they  continued
talking about the account, disregarding don Juan, whose  eyes were fixed  on
Tulio. Don Juan wanted to figure out what kind of test they were putting him
through. It had to be a test of his attitude, he thought. After all, in that
house, his attitude had always been the issue.
     The nagual  dismissed don Juan, saying he wanted to be alone with Tulio
to discuss business. Don Juan immediately went looking for the women to find
out what they would say about this strange  situation. He  had gone ten feet
when he encountered  two of  the women and Tulio.  The  three  of  them were
caught up in a most animated  conversation. He saw them before they had seen
him, so he ran back to the nagual. Tulio was there, talking with the nagual.
     An incredible  suspicion entered don Juan's mind. He ran to  the study;
Tulio was immersed in his bookkeeping and did not even acknowledge don Juan.
Don Juan asked him what was going on. Tulio was his usual self this time: he
did not answer or look at don Juan.
     Don  Juan had at that moment another inconceivable  thought. He  ran to
the stable, saddled two horses and  asked his morning bodyguard to accompany
him again. They galloped to the place where they had seen  Tulio earlier. He
was  exactly where  they  had  left  him.  He did not speak to don  Juan. He
shrugged his shoulders and turned his head when don Juan questioned him.
     Don Juan and his companion galloped back to  the house. He left the man
to care for the  horses and rushed into the house. Tulio  was  lunching with
the  women. And Tulio was also  talking to  the nagual.  And  Tulio was also
working on the books.
     Don  Juan sat down and felt the  cold sweat of fear.  He knew  that the
nagual Julian was testing him with  one  of his horrible jokes. He  reasoned
that he  had three courses of action.  He could behave as  if nothing out of
the ordinary was happening; he could figure out the test himself;  or, since
the  nagual had engraved in his mind that he was  there to explain  anything
don Juan wanted, he could confront the nagual and ask for clarification.
     He decided to ask. He went to the  nagual and asked him to explain what
was  being done to him. The nagual was alone  then,  still  working  on  his
accounts. He put the ledger aside  and smiled at don Juan. He said that  the
twenty-one not-doings he had taught don Juan to perform were  the tools that
could  sever the  three thousand  heads of self-importance,  but  that those
tools had  not been effective with don Juan at all. Thus, he  was trying the
second method  for  destroying self-importance which meant  putting don Juan
into the state of being called the place of no pity.
     Don Juan was  convinced then  that  the nagual Julian was utterly  mad.
Hearing him talk about not-doings or about
     monsters with three thousand heads or about places of no pity, don Juan
felt almost sorry for him.
     The nagual Julian very calmly asked don Juan to  go to the storage shed
in the back of the house and ask Tulio to come out.
     Don Juan  sighed  and did his  best  not  to  burst out  laughing.  The
nagual's  methods were too obvious. Don Juan knew that the  nagual wanted to
continue the test, using Tulio.
     Don  Juan stopped  his  narration and  asked  me  what I  thought about
Tulio's behavior. I said that, guided by what  I knew  about the  sorcerers'
world, I would say  that Tulio was a sorcerer and somehow  he was moving his
own  assemblage point in a very  sophisticated  manner to give don  Juan the
impression that he was in four places at the same time.
     "So what do you think I found  in the shed?" don Juan  asked with a big
     "I  would say  either you found  Tulio or you  didn't find  anybody," I
     "But if either of these had happened, there would have been no shock to
my continuity," don Juan said.
     I tried to imagine bizarre things and I proposed  that perhaps he found
Tulio's  dreaming  body.  I reminded don  Juan  that  he  himself  had  done
something similar to me with one of the members of his party of sorcerers.
     "No,"  don  Juan  retorted.  "What  I  found  was a joke  that  has  no
equivalent in reality. And yet  it  was not bizarre; it was not out of  this
world. What do you think it was?"
     I  told  don Juan I hated riddles.  I said  that  with all the  bizarre
things he had made me experience, the only things I  could conceive would be
more bizarreness, and since that was ruled out, I gave up guessing.
     "When I  went  into  that shed  I was prepared to find  that  Tulio was
hiding," don Juan said. "I was sure that the next part of the test was going
to  be an infuriating  game of  hide-and-seek. Tulio  was going to  drive me
crazy hiding inside that shed.
     "But  nothing I had  prepared  myself for happened.  I walked into that
shed and found four Tulios."
     "What do you mean, four Tulios?" I asked.
     "There were four men in that shed," don Juan replied. "And  all of them
were Tulio. Can you imagine my  surprise?  All of them were  sitting  in the
same position,  their legs crossed and pressed  tightly together. They  were
waiting for me. I looked at them and ran away screaming.
     "My benefactor  held me down on  the ground outside the door. And then,
truly horrified, I saw how the four Tulios came out of the shed and advanced
toward me.  I screamed and  screamed while the Tulios pecked  me  with their
hard fingers, like huge  birds attacking. I screamed  until I felt something
give  in me and  I entered a state of  superb indifference. Never  in all my
life had I felt something so extraordinary. I brushed off the Tulios and got
up. They had just  been tickling me. I went directly to the nagual and asked
him to explain the four men to me."
     What the  nagual Julian explained  to don Juan was that  those four men
were  the  paragons of stalking. Their  names had  been  invented  by  their
teacher,  the  nagual Elias, who, as  an exercise  in  controlled folly, had
taken the Spanish numerals uno, dos, tres, cuatro, added them to the name of
Tulio, and obtained in that manner the  names Tuliuno, Tuliodo, Tulitre, and
     The  nagual Julian  introduced each in turn to don  Juan. The  four men
were  standing in a row.  Don Juan faced each of  them and nodded,  and each
nodded  to  him.  The nagual  said  the  four  men  were  stalkers  of  such
extraordinary talent, as  don Juan had  just corroborated, that  praise  was
meaningless. The Tulios  were the  nagual  Elias's triumph;  they  were  the
essence  of unobtrusiveness.  They were such magnificent  stalkers that, for
all practical purposes, only one  of  them existed.  Although people saw and
dealt with them daily, nobody outside the members of the household knew that
there were four Tulios.
     Don Juan  understood with perfect clarity everything the  nagual Julian
was saying  about the men. Because of  his unusual  clarity, he knew he  had
reached  the place  of no pity. And he understood, all  by himself, that the
place of no  pity was a position of the  assemblage point, a position  which
rendered self-pity inoperative. But don Juan also knew that  his insight and
wisdom  were extremely transitory. Unavoidably,  his assemblage point  would
return to its point of departure.
     When the nagual asked don Juan  if  he had any  questions, he  realized
that  he  would  be  better  off paying  close  attention  to  the  nagual's
explanation than speculating about his own foresightedness.
     Don  Juan  wanted to  know how  the Tulios created the  impression that
there was only one person. He was  extremely curious, because observing them
together he  realized  they  were  not really that alike. They wore the same
clothes. They were about the same size, age, and configuration. But that was
the extent of  their similarity. And yet, even as  he watched  them he could
have sworn that there was only one Tulio.
     The nagual  Julian explained that the human eye  was  trained  to focus
only  on the  most salient  features  of anything,  and  that those  salient
features were known  beforehand. Thus,  the stalkers'  art was  to create an
impression  by  presenting the  features they  chose, features they knew the
eyes  of the onlooker were bound to notice. By artfully  reinforcing certain
impressions,  stalkers were  able to create  on the part  of the onlooker an
unchallengeable conviction as to what their eyes had perceived.
     The  nagual Julian said that when don Juan first arrived dressed in his
woman's clothes, the women of his  party were delighted  and laughed openly.
But the man with them, who happened to  be Tulitre, immediately provided don
Juan with the first Tulio impression. He half  turned away to hide his face,
shrugged his shoulders disdainfully, as if  all of it was boring to him, and
walked  away  - to laugh his head off in private - while the women helped to
consolidate that first impression by acting apprehensive, almost annoyed, at
the unsociability of the man.
     From that moment on, any Tulio who was around don Juan reinforced  that
impression and further  perfected it until  don Juan's eye  could not  catch
anything except what was being fed to him.
     Tuliuno spoke then and said that  it had taken them about  three months
of very careful and consistent actions  to have don  Juan  blind to anything
except what he  was guided to expect. After three months,  his blindness was
so pronounced that the Tulios were no longer even careful. They acted normal
in  the house.  They even ceased wearing identical clothes, and don Juan did
not notice the difference.
     When other apprentices were brought into the house, however, the Tulios
had to start all over again. This time the challenge was hard, because there
were many apprentices and they were sharp.
     Don Juan asked  Tuliuno about Tulio's appearance. Tuliuno answered that
the nagual Elfas maintained appearance was the essence of  controlled folly,
and stalkers created appearance by intending them, rather  than by producing
them with the aid of props. Props created artificial appearances that looked
false to the eye. In this respect, intending appearances was exclusively  an
exercise for stalkers.
     Tulitre spoke next. He said appearances were solicited from the spirit.
Appearances  were asked, were forcefully called on; they were never invented
rationally.  Tulio's appearance  had to be called from the  spirit.  And  to
facilitate that the nagual Elias put all four  of  them together into a very
small, out-of-the-way  storage room, and there the spirit spoke to them. The
spirit told them that first they had to intend their homogeneity. After four
weeks of total isolation, homogeneity came to them.
     The nagual Elias said that intent had fused them together and that they
had acquired the certainty that their individuality would go undetected. Now
they had to call up the appearance that  would be perceived by the onlooker.
And they got busy, calling  intent for the Tulios' appearance  don Juan  had
seen.  They had to  work very  hard to perfect it. They  focused,  under the
direction of their teacher, on all the details that would make it perfect.
     The  four Tulios  gave don Juan a demonstration of Tulio's most salient
features. These  were:  very  forceful  gestures of  disdain and  arrogance;
abrupt turns of the face to the right as if in anger; twists of  their upper
bodies as if to hide part of  the face  with the left shoulder; angry sweeps
of a hand over the  eyes as if to brush hair off  the forehead; and the gait
of an agile but  impatient person who is too nervous to decide which  way to
     Don Juan  said that those details  of behavior and dozens of others had
made Tulio an unforgettable character. In fact, he was so unforgettable that
in order/to project Tulio on don Juan and the  other apprentices as if on  a
screen, any of the four men needed only to insinuate a feature, and don Juan
and the apprentices would automatically supply the rest.
     Don Juan said that because  of the tremendous consistency of the input,
Tulio was for him and the others the
     essence  of a  disgusting man.  But at the same time,  if they searched
deep  inside  themselves,  they  would  have  acknowledged  that  Tulio  was
haunting. He was nimble, mysterious, and gave, wittingly or unwittingly, the
impression of being a shadow.
     Don Juan  asked Tuliuno how  they had called intent.  Tuliuno explained
that stalkers called intent loudly. Usually intent was  called from within a
small, dark, isolated room. A candle was placed on  a  black table  with the
flame just  a  few inches before the  eyes;  then the word intent was voiced
slowly,  enunciated clearly and deliberately  as many times as one  felt was
needed. The pitch of the voice rose or fell without any thought.
     Tuliuno stressed that the indispensable  part  of  the act  of  calling
intent was a total  concentration  on what was  intended. In their case, the
concentration was on their homogeneity and on Tulio's appearance. After they
had been fused by intent, it still took them a couple of years  to build  up
the  certainty  that  their  homogeneity  and  Tulio's  appearance would  be
realities to the onlookers.
     I asked don Juan what he thought of their way of calling intent. And he
said that  his  benefactor, like the nagual Elias,  was a bit  more given to
ritual than he  himself was, therefore, they preferred paraphernalia such as
candles, dark closets, and black tables.
     I casually  remarked that I was terribly  attracted to ritual behavior,
myself.  Ritual seemed to me essential in focusing one's attention. Don Juan
took my remark  seriously.  He  said he had seen that my body, as an  energy
field, had  a feature which he  knew all the sorcerers of ancient times  had
had and avidly sought in others: a  bright area  in the  lower right side of
the luminous cocoon. That brightness was associated with resourcefulness and
a bent toward morbidity. The dark sorcerers  of those times took pleasure in
harnessing that coveted feature and attaching it to man's dark side.
     "Then there is  an evil  side  to man," I  said jubilantly. "You always
deny it. You always say that evil doesn't exist, that only power exists."
     I  surprised myself with this outburst. In one instant, all my Catholic
background was  brought to  bear on me  and  the  Prince  of Darkness loomed
larger than life.
     Don Juan laughed until he was coughing.
     "Of course,  there is a  dark side to us," he said. "We  kill wantonly,
don't  we?  We  burn people in  the name of  God. We destroy  ourselves;  we
obliterate life  on this planet; we  destroy the earth. And then we dress in
robes and the Lord speaks directly to us. And what does the Lord tell us? He
says that  we should be  good boys or he is going to punish us. The Lord has
been threatening us for centuries and  it doesn't make any  difference.  Not
because we are evil, but because we are  dumb. Man has a dark side, yes, and
it's called stupidity."
     I did not say anything else, but silently  I applauded and thought with
pleasure that don Juan was a masterful debater. Once again he was turning my
words back on me.
     After  a moment's  pause, don Juan  explained that in the same  measure
that ritual  forced  the average  man to construct  huge churches  that were
monuments  to  self-importance,  ritual also forced  sorcerers  to construct
edifices of morbidity and obsession. As a result, it  was the  duty of every
nagual to guide awareness so it would fly toward the abstract, free of liens
and mortgages.
     "What do you mean, don Juan, by liens and mortgages?" I asked.
     "Ritual can trap our attention better than anything I can think of," he
said, "but it also demands a very high price.
     That  high price is morbidity; and  morbidity could  have the  heaviest
liens and mortgages on our awareness."
     Don Juan  said that human awareness was like an immense  haunted house.
The awareness  of everyday life  was like being sealed in one room  of  that
immense  house  for life. We  entered the  room through  a  magical opening:
birth. And we exited through another such magical opening: death.
     Sorcerers, however,  were capable of finding still another opening  and
could leave  that sealed  room while still alive.  A superb attainment.  But
their astounding accomplishment was that when they escaped  from that sealed
room they  chose freedom.  They  chose to leave that  immense, haunted house
entirely instead of getting lost in other parts of it.
     Morbidity was the antithesis of the surge of energy awareness needed to
reach freedom. Morbidity made sorcerers lose their way and become trapped in
the intricate, dark byways of the unknown.
     I asked don Juan if there was any morbidity in the Tulios.
     "Strangeness is not morbidity" he replied. "The Tulios  were performers
who were being coached by the spirit itself."
     "What was the nagual Elias's reason for training the Tulios as he did?"
I asked.
     Don Juan peered at me and laughed loudly. At that instant the lights of
the  plaza were  turned  on. He got up from his favorite bench and rubbed it
with the palm of his hand, as if it were a pet.
     "Freedom,"  he  said.  "He   wanted  their   freedom   from  perceptual
convention.  And  he taught them to  be  artists.  Stalking is an art. For a
sorcerer, since he's not a patron  or a  seller of  art,  the  only thing of
importance about a work of art is that it can be accomplished."
     We  stood by the bench, watching the  evening strollers milling around.
The story of  the  four  Tulios had left me with  a sense of foreboding. Don
Juan suggested that I  return home; the long drive to  L.A., he  said, would
give my assemblage  point a  respite  from all the moving it had done in the
past few days.
     "The  nagual's company  is very tiring,"  he  went on. "It  produces  a
strange fatigue; it could even be injurious."
     I assured him that I  was  not tired  at all,  and that his company was
anything but  injurious  to me. In  fact,  his  company  affected me  like a
narcotic - I couldn't do without it. This sounded  as  if I  were flattering
him, but I really meant what I said.
     We strolled around the plaza three or four times in complete silence.
     "Go home and  think about the basic cores of the sorcery  stories," don
Juan said  with a  note of finality  in his voice.  "Or rather, don't  think
about  them, but make your assemblage  point move toward the place of silent
knowledge. Moving the assemblage  point is everything, but it  means nothing
if  it's   not  a  sober,  controlled  movement.  So,  close  the  door   of
self-reflection. Be impeccable and you'll have the energy to reach the place
of silent knowledge."

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