The Eagle’s Gift

Being involved with the rule may be described as living a myth. Don Juan lived a myth, a myth that caught him and made him the Nagual.

Don Juan said that when the rule caught him he was an aggressive, unruly man living in exile, as thousands of other Yaqui Indians from northern Mexico lived at that time. He worked in the tobacco plantations of southern Mexico. One day after work, in a nearly fatal encounter with a fellow worker over matters of money, he was shot in the chest. When he regained consciousness an old Indian was leaning over him, poking the small wound in his chest with his fingers. The bullet had not penetrated the chest cavity but was lodged in the muscle against a rib. Don Juan fainted two or three times from shock, loss of blood, and in his own words, from fear of dying. The old Indian removed the bullet, and since don Juan had no place to stay, he took him to his own house and nursed him for over a month.

The old Indian was kind but severe. One day when don Juan was fairly strong, almost recovered, the old man gave him a sound blow on his back and forced him into a state of heightened awareness. Then, without any further preliminaries, he revealed to don Juan the portion of the rule which pertained to the Nagual and his role.

Don Juan did exactly the same thing with me, and with la Gorda; he made us shift levels of awareness and told us the rule of the Nagual in the following way:

The power that governs the destiny of all living beings is called the Eagle, not because it is an eagle or has anything to do with an eagle, but because it appears to the seer as an immeasurable jet-black eagle, standing erect as an eagle stands, its height reaching to infinity. As the seer gazes on the blackness that the Eagle is, four blazes of light reveal what the Eagle is like. The first blaze, which is like a bolt of lightning, helps the seer make out the contours of the Eagle’s body. There are patches of whiteness that look like an eagle’s feathers and talons. A second blaze of lightning reveals the flapping, wind-creating blackness that looks like an eagle’s wings. With the third blaze of lightning the seer beholds a piercing, inhuman eye. And the fourth and last blaze discloses what the Eagle is doing.

The Eagle is devouring the awareness of all the creatures that, alive on earth a moment before and now dead, have floated to the Eagle’s beak, like a ceaseless swarm of fireflies, to meet their owner, their reason for having had life. The Eagle disentangles these tiny flames, lays them flat, as a tanner stretches out a hide, and then consumes them; for awareness is the Eagle’s food. The Eagle, that power that governs the destinies of all living things, reflects equally and at once all those living things. There is no way, therefore, for man to pray to the Eagle, to ask favors, to hope for grace, The human part of the Eagle is too insignificant to move the whole. It is only from the Eagle’s actions that a seer can tell what it wants. The Eagle, although it is not moved by the circumstances of any living thing, has granted a gift to each of those beings. In its own way and right, any one of them, if it so desires, has the power to keep the flame of awareness, the power to disobey the summons to die and be consumed. Every living thing has been granted the power, if it so desires, to seek an opening to freedom and to go through it. It is evident to the seer who sees the opening, and to the creatures that go through it, that the Eagle has granted that gift in order to perpetuate awareness.

For the purpose of guiding living things to that opening, the Eagle created the Nagual. The Nagual is a double being to whom the rule has been revealed. Whether it be in the form of a human being, an animal, a plant, or anything else that lives, the Nagual by virtue of its doubleness is drawn to seek that hidden passageway.

————-

Excerpted from “The Eagle’s Gift”
by
Carlos Castañeda

Three-Pronged Naguals

“The Rule is final, but its design and configuration are in constant evolution. But unlike evolutionists, who view the adaptations of life as a haphazard accumulation of genetic mutations, seers know there is nothing random about the Rule. They see how a command of the Eagle, in the form of a wave of energy, shakes the lineages of power from time to time, producing new stages in sorcery.

“A more exact way of describing it, is to assume that all possible variations of the Rule are contained in a womb of potential, and what changes over time is the degree of knowledge the sorcerers have of that totality, and what emphasis they put on particular portions of it. Such periods of change are recurrent, and they are represented by the number three.”

“Why three?”

“Because the old Toltecs associated the number three with dynamics and renewal. They discovered that ternary formations – formations based on the number three – announce unexpected changes.

“The Rule dictates that, from time to time, a special kind of nagual will appear in the lineages; a nagual whose energy is not divided into four parts, but instead has only three compartments. Seers call them ‘three-pronged naguals.”

I asked him how they where different from the others. He answered:

“Their energy is volatile, they are always moving, and because of that they find it difficult to accumulate power. From the point of view of the lineage, their composition is faulty; they will never be true naguals. In compensation, they lack the timidity and reservation that characterize the classic naguals, and they possess an unusual capacity to improvise and communicate.

“We can say that three-pronged naguals are like the cuckoo birds incubated in other birds’ nests. They are opportunists, but they are necessary. Unlike the naguals of four points, whose freedom it is to pass unnoticed, those of three points are public personalities. They disclose secrets and cause fragmentation of the teachings, but without them, the lineages of power would have been extinguished a long time ago.

“Among the new seers, the Rule is that a nagual leaves a new party as a descendant. Some, due to their enormous energy surpluses, are able to help organizing a second or third generation of seers. For example, the nagual Elias Ulloa lived long enough to create his successor’s party and to have an influence on the following one. But this does not mean a fork in the lineage; all those groups were part of the same transmission line.

“On the other hand, the three-pronged nagual is authorized to transmit his knowledge radially, which does lead to a diversification of lineages. His luminous cocoon has a disintegrating effect on the group, which breaks the lineal structure of transmission and foments a desire for change and action in warriors, and an active disposition to be involved with their fellow men.”

“Was that what happened to you?”

“That’s what happened. Due to my luminous disposition, I don’t have any qualms about leaving kernels of knowledge behind, wherever I go. I know that I need an enormous quantity of energy to fulfill my task, and that I can only obtain it from masses. For that reason I am willing to broadcast the knowledge far and wide, and transform and redefine its paradigms.”

—-

Excerpted from “Encounters With The Nagual” – by Armando Torres

A conversation with Carlos Castaneda

don Genaro

The third day, however, was different. The three of us worked together, and don Juan asked don Genaro to teach me how to select certain plants. We returned around noon and the two old men sat for hours in front of the house, in complete silence, as if they were in a state of trance. Yet they were not asleep. I walked around them a couple of times; don Juan followed my movements with his eyes, and so did don Genaro.

“You must talk to the plants before you pick them,” don Juan said. He dropped his words casually and repeated his statement three times, as if to catch my attention. Nobody had said a word until he spoke.

“In order to see the plants you must talk to them personally,” he went on. “You must get to know them individually; then the plants can tell you anything you care to know about them.”

It was late in the afternoon. Don Juan was sitting on a flat rock facing the western mountains; don Genaro was sitting by him on a straw mat with his face toward the north. Don Juan had told me, the first day we were there, that those were their “positions” and that I had to sit on the ground at any place opposite to both of them. He added that while we sat in those positions I had to keep my face toward the southeast and look at them only in brief glances.

“Yes, that’s the way it is with plants, isn’t it?” don Juan said and turned to don Genaro, who agreed with an affirmative gesture.

I told him that the reason I had not followed his instructions was because I felt a little stupid talking to plants.

“You fail to understand that a sorcerer is not joking,” he said severely. “When a sorcerer attempts to see, he attempts to gain power.”

Don Genaro was staring at me. I was taking notes and that seemed to baffle him. He smiled at me, shook his head, and said something to don Juan. Don Juan shrugged his shoulders. To see me writing must have been quite odd for don Genaro. Don Juan was, I suppose, habituated to my taking notes, and the fact that I wrote while he spoke was no longer odd to him; he could carry on talking without appearing to notice my acts. Don Genaro, however, kept on laughing, and I had to stop writing in order not to disrupt the mood of the conversation.

Don Juan affirmed again that a sorcerer’s acts were not to be taken as jokes because a sorcerer played with death at every turn of the way. Then he proceeded to relate to don Genaro the story of how one night I had looked at the lights of death following me during one of our trips. The story proved to be utterly funny; don Genaro rolled on the ground laughing.

Don Juan apologized to me and said that his friend was given to explosions of laughter. I glanced at don Genaro, who I thought was still rolling on the ground, and saw him performing a most unusual act. He was standing on his head without the aid of his arms or hands, and his legs were crossed as if he were sitting.

The sight was so incongruous that it made me jump. When I realized he was doing something almost impossible, from the point of view of body mechanics, he had gone back again to a normal sitting position. Don Juan, however, seemed to be cognizant of what was involved and celebrated don Genaro’s performance with roaring laughter.

Don Genaro seemed to have noticed my confusion; he clapped his hands a couple of times and rolled on the ground again; apparently he wanted me to watch him. What had at first appeared to be rolling on the ground was actually leaning over in a sitting position, and touching the ground with his head.

He seemingly attained his illogical posture by gaining momentum, leaning over several times, until the inertia carried his body to a vertical stand, so that for an instant he “sat on his head.”

When their laughter subsided don Juan continued talking; his tone was very severe. I shifted the position of my body in order to be at ease and give him all my attention. He did not smile at all, as he usually does, especially when I try to pay deliberate attention to what he is saying.

Don Genaro kept looking at me as if he were expecting me to start writing again, but I did not take notes any more. Don Juan’s words were a reprimand for not talking to the plants I had collected, as he had always told me to do. He said the plants I had killed could also have killed me; he said he was sure they would, sooner or later, make me get ill. He added that if I became ill as a result of hurting plants, I would, however, slough it off and believe I had only a touch of the flu.

The two of them had another moment of mirth, then don Juan became serious again and said that if I did not think of my death, my entire life would be only a personal chaos. He looked very stern.

“What else can a man have, except his life and his death?” he said to me.

At that point I felt it was indispensable to take notes and I began writing again. Don Genaro stared at me and smiled. Then he tilted his head back a little and opened his nostrils. He apparently had remarkable control over the muscles operating his nostrils, because they opened up to perhaps twice their normal size.

What was most comical about his clowning was not so much his gestures as his own reactions to them. After he enlarged his nostrils he tumbled down, laughing, and worked his body again into the same, strange, sitting-on-his-head, upside-down posture.

Don Juan laughed until tears rolled down his cheeks. I felt a bit embarrassed and laughed nervously.

“Genaro doesn’t like writing,” don Juan said as an explanation.

I put my notes away, but don Genaro assured me that it was all right to write, because he did not really mind it. I gathered my notes again and began writing. He repeated the same hilarious motions and both of them had the same reactions again.

Don Juan looked at me, still laughing, and said that his friend was portraying me; that my tendency was to open my nostrils whenever I wrote; and that don Genaro thought that trying to become a sorcerer by taking notes was as absurd as sitting on one’s head and thus he had made up the ludicrous posture of resting the weight of his sitting body on his head.

“Perhaps you don’t think it’s funny,” don Juan said, “but only Genaro can work his way up to sitting on his head, and only you can think of learning to be a sorcerer by writing your way up.”

They both had another explosion of laughter and don Genaro repeated his incredible movement.

I liked him. There was so much grace and directness in his acts.

“My apologies, don Genaro,” I said, pointing to the writing pad.

“It’s all right,” he said and chuckled again.

I could not write any more. They went on talking for a very long time about how plants could actually kill and how sorcerers used plants in that capacity. Both of them kept staring at me while they talked, as if they expected me to write.

“Carlos is like a horse that doesn’t like to be saddled,” don Juan said. “You have to be very slow with him. You scared him and now he won’t write.”

Don Genaro expanded his nostrils and said in a mocking plea, frowning and puckering his mouth.

“Come on, Carlitos, write! Write until your thumb falls off.”

Don Juan stood up, stretching his arms and arching his back. In spite of his advanced age his body seemed to be powerful and limber. He went to the bushes at the side of the house and I was left alone with don Genaro. He looked at me and I moved my eyes away because he made me feel embarrassed.

“Don’t tell me you’re not even going to look at me?” he said with a most hilarious intonation.

He opened his nostrils and made them quiver; then he stood up and repeated don Juan’s movements, arching his back and stretching his arms but with his body contorted into a most ludicrous position; it was truly an indescribable gesture that combined an exquisite sense of pantomime and a sense of the ridiculous. It enthralled me. It was a masterful caricature of don Juan.

Don Juan came back at that moment and caught the gesture and obviously the meaning also. He sat down chuckling.

“Which direction is the wind?” don Genaro asked casually.

Don Juan pointed to the west with a movement of his head.

“I’d better go where the wind blows,” don Genaro said with a serious expression.

He then turned and shook his finger at me.

“And don’t you pay any attention if you hear strange noises,” he said. “When Genaro shits the mountains tremble.”

He leaped into the bushes and a moment later I heard a very strange noise, a deep, unearthly rumble. I did not know what to make of it. I looked at don Juan for a clue but he was doubled over with laughter.

—————————————————————————————————————————

 

“A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with don Juan” – Carlos Castaneda

Silvio Manuel

Zuleica very quietly led us to the patio. She whispered that there was someone out there
waiting to meet me. The patio was pitch black. I could hardly make out the silhouettes of the
others. Then I saw the dark outline of a man standing a few-feet away from me. My body
experienced an involuntary jolt.

Don Juan spoke to the man in a very low voice, saying that he had brought me to meet him.
He told the man my name. After a moment’s silence, don Juan said to me that the man’s name
was Silvio Manuel, and that he was the warrior of darkness and the actual leader of the whole
warrior’s party. Then Silvio Manuel spoke to me. I thought that he must have had a speech
disorder – his voice was muffled and the words came out of him like spurts of soft coughing.
He ordered me to come closer. As I tried to approach him, he receded, just as if he were
floating. He led me into an even darker recess of a hall, walking, it seemed, noiselessly
backwards.

He muttered something I could not understand. I wanted to speak; my throat itched
and was parched. He repeated something two or three times until it dawned on me that he was
ordering me to undress. There was something overpowering about his voice and the darkness
around him. I was incapable of disobeying. I took off my clothes and stood stark naked,
shivering with fear and cold.

It was so dark that I could not see if don Juan and the two women were around. I heard a soft
prolonged hissing from a source a few feet away from me; then I felt a cool breeze. I realized that Silvio Manuel was exhaling his breath all over my body.

He then asked me to sit on my clothes and look at a bright point which I could easily
distinguish in the darkness, a point that seemed to give out a faint amber light. I stared at it for
what seemed hours, until I suddenly realized that the point of brightness was Silvio Manuel’s left eye. I could then make out the contour of his whole face and his body. The hall was not as dark as it had seemed. Silvio Manuel advanced to me and helped me up. To see in the dark with such clarity enthralled me. I did not even mind that I was naked or that, as I then saw, the two women were watching me. Apparently they could also see in the dark; they were staring at me. I wanted to put on my pants, but Zoila snatched them out of my hands.

The two women and Silvio Manuel stared at me for a long time.

 

For my father-in-law who at ~80 liked Primal Scream and Screamadelica

A Frog From the Ocean

In the summer of 1960, while I was an anthropology student at the University of California, Los Angeles, I made several trips to the Southwest to collect information on the medicinal plants used by the Indians of the area. The events I describe here began during one of my trips.

I was waiting in a border town for a Greyhound bus talking with a friend who had been my guide and helper in the survey. Suddenly he leaned towards me and whispered that the man, a white-haired old Indian, who was sitting in front of the window was very learned about plants, especially peyote. I asked my friend to introduce me to this man.

My friend greeted him, then went over and shook his hand. After they had talked for a while, my friend signalled me to join them, but immediately left me alone with the old man, not even bothering to introduce us. He was not in the least embarrassed. I told him my name and he said that he was called Juan and that he was at my service. He used the Spanish polite form of address. We shook hands at my initiative and then remained silent for some time. It was not a strained silence, but a quietness, natural and relaxed on both sides.

Though his dark face and neck were wrinkled, showing his age, it struck me that his body was agile and muscular. I then told him that I was interested in obtaining information about medicinal plants. Although in truth I was almost totally ignorant about peyote, I found myself pretending that I knew a great deal, and even suggesting that it might be to his advantage to talk with me.

As I rattled on, he nodded slowly and looked at me, but said nothing. I avoided his eyes and we finished by standing, the two of us, in dead silence. Finally, after what seemed a very long time, don Juan got up and looked out of the window. His bus had come. He said good-bye and left the station.

———–

Carlos Castaneda

“The Teachings of Don Juan”

Being Offended

In our times, being offended by something or someone, is a common state. People are all uppity and offended about a whole bunch of stuff and now because of social media, all those huffs, all that indignation and self-important “hurt” can be shared globally. Many join in with the latest rant, the latest sense of outrage and offence. It is possible to be in a huff pretty much all of the time. Never before have there been so many “offended” people. The number density of these corelates well with the global self-importance epidemic. Life simply isn’t fair, and many seem to feel the need to share their indignation with how the world, the universe, does not comply with how they deem it should be.

One might have to walk on eggshells so as not to offend some precious being or other. Because there is a tendency for offended beings to seek revenge, to blame others for their lack of self-control at being offended. Selfie-culture has caused this proliferation of cranio-rectal disease, across the planet.

“Self-importance is our greatest enemy. Think about it – what weakens us is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of our fellowmen. Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone.”

― Carlos Castañeda

If a few words can send you off into high drama indignation and offence, then you are not centred, grounded, nor do you have equanimity or balance. Caught up in drama-queen-land one is at the mercy of a few syllables uttered into the wind.

At the merest hint, there is an apparent need to utter a rejoinder, a denial or strike back. And of course, we have self-important escalation where one offended person seeks to offend back and the stakes are raised in some bizarre tit-for-tat squabble. If you take a step back it is all a bit silly.

 

As a little exercise:

Keep a tally of each time you feel offended during a given week.

Make a short note to accompany it, giving the circumstances and subsequent behaviour.

At the end of the week sit down and figure out if being offended serves any purpose whatsoever.