XIII - Florinda Donner, Being-In-Dreaming
XIV - Florinda Donner-Grau,
The Witch's Dream
XV - Interviews
XIII - Florinda Donner, Being-In-Dreaming
Florinda Donner, Being-In-Dreaming,
An Initiation into the Sorcerers' World
Harper Odysseys, Harper San Francisco, First Edition, 1991
What I haven't mentioned is the world of magic from which those Yaqui leaders
operated. To them, the actions of wind and shadows, of animals and plants were
as important as the doings of men. [e13]
“All of us here are bound together by our struggle, by our deep affection
for one another, and by the realization that without one another nothing is
possible,” she said. [e32]
“No. She's not a magician,” Delia said.
“She's a sorceress.” ....
“Magicians are in a show,” she explained, gazing at me pointedly.
“Sorcerers are in the world without being part of the
“I wouldn't dare call you a liar,” Delia pronounced rather
pompously. “I'd call you a dreamer.” ....
“The sorcerers who reared me told me that it doesn't matter what one may say
as long as one has the power to say it.” Her voice conveyed such enthusiasm
and approval that I was sure someone was behind one of the doors listening to
us. “And the way to get that power is from dreaming. You don't know this
because you do it naturally, but when you are in a pinch, your mind goes
instantly into dreaming.” ....
“.... one should never lie to be believed.”
“Why should one lie then?” I asked.
“For the sheer pleasure of it,” Delia promptly retorted .... “Do you know
the saying, `If you are not lying to be believed, you can say anything you
want, regardless of what anybody thinks of you'?” [e40f]
“The woman who taught me to dream could maintain two hundred dreams.” ....
“Women are extremely practical. In order to sustain a dream, one must be
practical, because the dream must pertain to practical aspects of oneself. My
teacher's favorite dream was to dream of herself as a hawk. Another was to
dream of herself as an owl. So depending on the time of the day, she could
dream about being either one, and since she was dreaming while she was awake,
she was really and absolutely a hawk or an owl.” [e46]
The secret of a woman's strength is her womb [e47]
“The sorcerers, on the contrary, understand freedom as the capacity to do the
impossible, the unexpected - to dream a dream that has no basis, no reality in
everyday life.” Her voice again became but a whisper as she added, “The
knowledge of sorcerers is what is exciting and new. Imagination is what a woman
needs to change the self and become a dreamer.” [e48]
“The womb is the center of our creative energy,” she explained, “to the
point that, if there would be no more males in the world, women could continue
to reproduce. And the world would then be populated by the female of the human
species only.” She added that women reproducing unilaterally could only
reproduce clones of themselves .... “Women, having then the ability and the
organs for reproducing life, have also the ability to produce dreams with those
same organs .... So, in a true woman's fashion, I act. I dream and leave the
explanations to men.”
Esperanza claimed that originally the sorcerers she had told me about used to
pass their knowledge on to their biological descendants or to people of their
private choice, but the results had been catastrophic. Instead of enhancing
this knowledge, these new sorcerers, who had been selected by arbitrary
favoritism, confabulated to enhance themselves. They were finally destroyed,
and their destruction nearly obliterated their knowledge. The few sorcerers who
were left then decided that their knowledge should never again be passed on to
their descendants or to people of their choice but to those selected by an
impersonal power, which they called the spirit. [e49f]
Cautiousness blinds as surely as recklessness [e108]
“What makes people so vulnerable to his charm is that he is a generous man,”
I went on. “And generosity is perhaps the only virtue that none of us can
resist, because we are dispossessed, regardless of our background.” [e123]
“I'm your mother, not your dreaming teacher .... All that concerns you now is
that remembering dreams has to do with physical pressure on the specific spot
where a vision is stored.” ....
“Dreams are doors into the unknown,” Florinda said, stroking my head.
“Naguals lead by means of dreams. And the act of dreaming with purpose is the
art of sorcerers. The Nagual Mariano Aureliano has helped you to get into
dreams that all of us dreamed.” ....
As the memory of that dream became clear in my mind, it also became clear that
among those women no one was more, no one was less than the other. That one
woman in each group was the leader was in no way a matter of power, of
prestige, of accomplishment, but simply a matter of efficiency. I didn't know
why, but I was convinced that all that mattered to them was the deep affection
they had for each other. [e126f]
Normally, I slept in the nude, regardless of the climate [e130]
“How can I find them if I don't know them? It's impossible.”
“Not for a witch,” she remarked casually. “As I already said, you don't
resemble them physically, but the glow inside you is as bright as the glow
inside them. You will recognize them by that glow.” Her eyes were fixed on me
intently, as if she could indeed see the glow inside me. “It's the glow of the
sorcerers .” Her face was grave, her voice unusually low. [e135]
A rescuing thought suddenly occured to me, as if someone had just whispered it
in my ear: when in doubt, one must separate the two tracks, the track for
ordinary affairs and the track for dreams, since each has a different state of
awareness. I felt elated, for I knew that the first track one should test is
the track of dreams; if the situation at hand doesn't fit that track, then one
is not dreaming.
My elation quickly vanished when I tried to test the track for dreams. I had
no inkling of how to go about it or of what the track for dreams was, for that
matter. And worse, I couldn't remember who had told me about it.
“I did,” Esperanza said just behind me. “You have moved a great deal in the
realm of dreams. You nearly remembered what I told you last year, the day after
the picnic. I said to you then that, when in doubt about whether you are in a
dream or whether you are awake, you should test the track where dreams run on
- meaning the awareness we have in dreams - by feeling the thing you are in
contact with. If you are dreaming, your feeling comes back to you as an echo.
If it doesn't come back, then you are not dreaming.” [e150]
“Dreaming-awake is the most sophisticated state humans can attain.” [e151]
“Nothing will ever be the same for me again,” I said softly.
Esperanz nodded. “You'll return to the world, but not to your world, to your
old life,” she said, rising from the mat with the abrupt majesty small people
command. She rushed toward the door, only to come to a sudden halt. “It's
wildly exciting to do something without knowing why we are doing it,” she
said, turning to look at me. “And it's even more exciting to set out to do
something without knowing what the end result will be.”....
“Freedom is terribly frightening.” She spoke harshly, and before I had a
chance to respond, she added gently, “Freedom requires spontaneous acts. You
have no idea what it is to abandon yourself spontaneously .... ”
.... “Of course you didn't deliberate about it. But your acts of spontaneity
are due to a lack of thought rather than to an act of abandon.” She stomped
her foot to prevent me from interrupting her again. “A real spontaneous act is
an act in which you abandon yourself completely but only after profound
deliberation,” she went on. “An act where all the pros and cons have been
taken into consideration and duly discarded, for you expect nothing, you regret
nothing. With acts of that nature, sorcerers beckon freedom.” [e156]
All thought of my turmoil vanished as I gazed into his ominous left eye, with
its terrible, merciless gaze. At that moment it no longer mattered what was the
authentic truth and what was the illusion, the dream within a dream. I laughed
out loud, feeling as light as the wind. I could feel an unbearable weight
being lifted off my shoulders as I kept staring into his wizard's eye. I
recognized it. Florinda, Mariano Aureliano, Esperanza, and the caretaker all
had such an eye. Preordained for all time to be without feeling, without
emotion, that eye mirrors emptiness. As if it had revealed enough, an inside
lid - as in a lizard's eye - shut over the left pupil. [e163]
“We don't know what our fellow men would exactly do,” he explained patiently,
“but we could write down a list of possibilities which would hold true. A very
long list, I grant you, yet a finite list. In order to write down this list, we
don't have to ask our fellow men for their preferences. All we have to do is
place ourselves in their position and write down the possibilities pertinent to
us. They'll be true to everybody, because we share them. Our subjective states
are shared by all of us.” He said that our subjective knowledge of the world
is known to us as common sense. It might be slightly different from group to
group, from culture to culture, yet in spite of all these differences, common
sense is sufficiently homogeneous to warrant the statement that the everyday
world is an intersubjective world. [e165f]
“I don't know what they did to me,” I said. “I'm not quite sure whether I'm
awake or dreaming even now. Florinda kept telling me that I was
Isidoro Baltazar nodded, then said softly, “The Nagual Juan Matus refers to it
as heightened awareness.” [e167]
~~A sorcerer is not only aware of different realities,” he went on, “but he
uses that knowledge in practicalities. Sorcerers know - not only
intellectually but also practically - that reality, or the world as we know
it, consists only of an agreement extracted out of every one of us. That
agreement could be made to collapse, since it's only a social phenomenon. And
when it collapses, the whole world collapses with it.”
Seeing that I couldn't follow his argument, he tried to present it from another
angle. He said that the social world defines perception to us in proportion to
its usefulness in guiding us through the complexity of experience in everyday
life. The social world sets limits to what we perceive, sets limits to what we
are capable of perceiving. “To a sorcerer, perception can go beyond these
agreed-upon parameters,” he stressed. “These parameters are constructed and
buttressed by words, by language, by thoughts. That is, by agreement.” [e169]
“Contrary to what people believe,” he explained, “sorcerers are not
practitioners of obscure esoteric rituals but stand ahead of our times. And the
mode of our time is reason. We are reasonable men as a whole. Sorcerers,
however, are men of reason, which is a different matter altogether.
Sorcerers have a romance with ideas; they have cultivated reason to its limits,
for they believe that only by fully understanding the intellect can they embody
the principles of sorcery without losing sight of their own sobriety and
integrity. This is where sorcerers differ drastically from us. We have very
little sobriety and even less integrity.” [e170]
“There are no accidential meetings in the sorcerers' world” [e175]
“My help is exempt from calculation,” he continued. “I cannot invest in you,
and neither, of course, can you invest in me or in the sorcerers' world. This
is the basic premise of that world: nothing is done in it that might be
construed as useful; only strategic acts are permitted. This is what the nagual
Juan Matus taught me and the way I live: a sorcerer practices what he or she
preaches. And yet nothing is done for practical reasons. When you get to
understand and practice this, you will have closed the door behind you.”
“The world of sorcerers is a dream, a myth, yet it is as real as the everyday
world,” Florinda proceeded. “In order to perceive and to function in the
sorcerers' world, we have to take off the everyday mask that has been strapped
to our faces since the day we were born and put on the second mask, the mask
that enables us to see ourselves and our surroundings for what we really are:
breathtaking events that bloom into transitory existence once and are never to
be repeated again.
“You'll have to make that mask yourself.” She settled more comfortably on the
bed and, cupping her hands around the mug, which I had refilled, took noisy
“How do I make this mask?” I asked.
“By dreaming your other self,” she murmured. “Certainly not by just having a
new address, new clothes, new books.” [e183]
“The hardest thing to grasp about the sorcerers' world is that it offers total
freedom.” She turned to face me and added softly, “But freedom is not
“What does freedom cost?”
“Freedom will cost you the mask you have on,” she said. “The mask that feels
so comfortable and is so hard to shed off, not because it fits so well but
because you have been waring it for so long.” She stopped pacing about the
room and came to stand in front of the card table.
“Do you know what freedom is?” she asked rethorically. “Freedom is the total
absence of concern about yourself,” she said, sitting beside me on the bed.
“And the best way to quit being concerned with yourself is to be concerned
about others.” [e184]
“Sorcerers are bound to their world solely through their impeccability.” A
definite gleam appeared in her eyes as she added, “Sorcerers have no interest
to convert anyone to their views. There are no gurus or wise men among
sorcerers, only naguals. They are the leaders, not because they know more or
because they are in many way better sorcerers, but simply because they have
more energy. I'm not necessarily referring to physical strength,” she
qualified, “but to a certain configuration of their being that permits them to
help anyone break the parameters of perception.” [e185]
“He will not tell you what you want to hear. He will not tell you how to
behave, for, as you already know, there are neither rules nor regulations in
the sorcerers' world.” She giggled gleefully, seemingly enjoying my growing
frustration. “Always remember, there are only improvisations,” ....
Without opening her eyes, Florinda said, “If you watch him carefully, you'll
see that Isidoro Baltazar doesn't seek love or approval. You'll see that he
remains impassive under any conditions. He doesn't demand anything, yet he is
willing to give anything of himself. He avidly seeks a signal from the spirit
in the form of a kind word, an appropriate gesture, and when he gets it, he
expresses his thanks by redoubling his efforts.
“Isidoro Baltazar doesn't judge. He fiercely reduces himself to nothing in
order to listen, to watch, so that he can conquer and be humbled by his
conquest or be defeated and enhanced by his defeat.
“If you watch carefully, you'll see that Isidoro Baltazar doesn't surrender.
He may be vanquished, but he'll never surrender. And above all, Isidoro
Baltazar is free.” ....
Following one of those flashes of intuition, I decided to feel with my seat the
bed I was sitting on. And to my dumbfounded surprise, my buttocks felt as if
they had sunk into the bed itself. For an instant, I was the bed, and the bed
was reaching out to my buttocks. I relished this sensation for quite some
time. I knew then that I was dreaming, and I understood with complete clarity
that I had just felt what Esperanza had described as “my feeling being thrown
back at me.” And then my whole being melted, or better yet, it exploded.
The other planet - the dreamers - was composed of the other four women:
Zuleica, Nélida, Hermelinda, and Clara. They had a more ethereal quality.
It was not that they were less forceful or less energetic; it was rather that
their energy was simply less apparent. They projected a sense of
otherworldliness even when engaged in the most mundane activities. They were
the specialists on another peculiar state of awareness they called “dreaming
in worlds other than this world.” I was told that this was the most complex
state of awareness women could reach. [e190]
According to the caretaker, this was the natural condition of power food: One
could never get enough of it. He said that he cooked his own food - rice and
beans with either chunks of pork, beef, or chicken - and ate only once a day
but never at the same hour. [e197]
The Nagual Isidoro Baltazar, nevertheless, warned me about the fallaciousness
of clear-cut goals and emotionally charged realizations. He said that they
were worthless, because the real arena of a sorcerer is the day-to-day life,
and there, superficial rationales do not withstand pressure. [e211]
And I realized that they were, of course, totally right in refusing to play our
favourite intellectual game, that of pretending to be interested by asking
so-called soul-searching questions, which usually have no meaning to us
whatsoever. And the reason they have no meaning to us is that we don't have the
energy to do anything about the answer we might hear, except to agree or
disagree with it. [e213]
In the presence and company of any of those sorceresses, I experienced the most
peculiar feeling that I was on a perpetual holiday. But that was but a mirage.
They were on a perpetual warpath. And the enemy was the idea of the self
I had always considered myself an energetic person. However, I could not keep
up with him. He was always in motion - or so it appeared - agile and active,
ever ready to undertake some project. His vigor was simply incredible.
It was much later that I fully understood that the source of Isidoro Baltazar's
boundless energy was his lack of concern with himself. It was his unwavering
support, his imperceptible yet masterful machinations, that helped me stay on
the right track. There was a lightheartedness in him, a pure delight in his
subtle yet forceful influence, that made me change without my noticing that I
was being led along a new path, a path on which I no longer had to play games
or needed to pretend or use my womanly wiles to get my way. ....
There was only one condition he insisted upon: I was to work for no particular
goal other than the edifying and pleasurable process of thinking. A startling
proposition! I had never considered thinking in those terms or in any others
He believed that the thinking process was a private, almost secret rite and
could not possibly occur outdoors in public view. He compared the process of
thinking with leavened dough. It can only rise inside a room.
“The best way to understand anything, of course, is in bed,” he said to me
once. He stretched out on his bed, propped his head against several pillows,
and crossed the right leg over the left, resting the ankle on the raised knee
of the left leg. ....
At those times, I asked Isidoro Baltazar about intuitive knowledge, about that
sudden flash of insight, of understanding, that sorcerers are supposed to
cultivate above all else.
He always said to me at those times that to know something only intuitively is
meaningless. Flashes of insight need to be translated into some coherent
thought, otherwise they are purposeless. He compared flashes of insight to
sightings of inexplicable phenomena. Both wane as swiftly as they come. If they
are not constantly reinforced, doubt and forgetfulness will ensue, for the mind
has been conditioned to be practical and accept only that which is verifiable
He explained that sorcerers are men of knowledge rather than men of reason. As
such, they are a step ahead of Western intellectual men who assume that reality
- which is often equated with truth - is knowable through reason. A sorcerer
claims that all that is knowable through reason is our thought processes but
that it is only by understanding our total being, at its most sophisticated and
intricate level, that can we eventually erase the boundaries with which reason
defines reality ....
Again and again, Isidoro Baltazar stressed that for one to silence one's
rational side one first has to understand his or her thought process at its
most sophisticated and intricate level. He believed that philosophy, beginning
with classical Greek thought, provided the best way of illuminating this
thought process. He never tired of repeating that, whether we are scholars or
laymen, we are nonetheless members and inheritors of our Western intellectual
tradition. And that means that regardless of our level of education and
sophistication, we are captives of that intellectual tradition and the way it
interprets what reality is.
Only superficially, Isidoro Baltazar claimed, are we willing to accept that
what we call reality is a culturally determined construct. And what we need is
to accept at the deepest level possible that culture is the product of a long,
cooperative, highly selective, high developed, and, last but not least, highly
coercive process that culminates in an agreement that shields us from other
possibilities. Sorcerers actively strive to unmask the fact that reality is
dictated and upheld by our reason; that ideas and thoughts stemming from reason
become regimes of knowledge that ordain how we see and act in the world; and
that incredible pressure is put on all of us to make certain ideologies
acceptable to ourselves ....
Sorcerers teach that perception takes place in a place outside the sensorial
realm. Sorcerers know that something more vast exists than what we have agreed
our senses can perceive ....
Isidoro Baltazar said that sorcerers actively strive, all their lives, to break
that frail blanket of human assumptions. However, sorcerers don't plunge into
the darkness blindly. They are prepared. They know that whenever they leap into
the unknown, they need to have a well-developed rational side. Only then will
they be able to explain and make sense of whatever they might bring forth from
their journeys into the unknown.
He added that I wasn't to understand sorcery through reading the works of
philosophers. Rather, I was to see that both philosophy and sorcery are highly
sophisticated forms of abstract knowledge ....
Isidoro Baltazar believed that philosophers are intellectual sorcerers. However,
their probings and their pursuits always remain mental endeavors. Philosophers
cannot act upon the world they understand and explain so well except in the
culturally agreed-upon manner. Philosophers add to an already existing body of
knowledge .... However, nothing of what they do philosophically will change
their sensorial perception of the world, for philosophers work from within the
social order. They uphold the social order even if intellectually they don't
agree with it. Philosophers are sorcerers manqué.
Sorcerers also build upon an existing body of knowledge. However, they don't
build upon this knowledge by accepting what has already been established and
proven by other sorcerers. Sorcerers have to prove to themselves anew that that
which already stands as accepted does indeed exist, does indeed yield to
perceiving. To accomplish this monumental task, sorcerers need an extraordinary
amount of energy, which they obtain by detaching themselves from the social
order without retreating from the world. Sorcerers break the agreement that
has defined reality, without breaking up in the process themselves. [e216ff]
If sorcerers were watching us, I thought dejectedly, they would know that
something is wrong. They would know that Isidoro Baltazar and I are not equals.
I am factual and final about my actions and decisions. For him, actions and
decisions are fluid, whatever their outcome, and their finality is measured in
that he assumes full responsibility for them, regardless of how trivial or how
significant they are. [e222]
“If you want to draw strength from the sorcerers' world,” he said, “you can
no longer work under such premises. Ulterior motives are not acceptable in this
magical world of ours. If you want to be a graduate student, then you have to
behave like a warrior, not like a woman who has been trained to please. You
know, even when you are bestially
nasty, you strive to please. Now, whenever
you write, since you were not trained to do writing, you can certainly adapt a
new mood: the warrior's mood.” ....
“You have to fight yourself. Every inch of the way. And you have to do it so
artfully and so cleverly that no one will notice your struggle.” ....
Smiling, he shook his head. “Didn't you notice how I did it?” he asked, then
proceeded to answer his own question. “I picked the thoughts out of thin air.
I simply stretched my energy fibers and hooked those thoughts, as one hooks
fish with a fishing line, from the immeasurable ocean of thoughts and ideas
that is out there.” He made a wide gesture with his arms, as though to
encompass the very air around him. [e234]
“Sorcerers break time's flux,” Florinda answered my thoughts. “Time, in the
fashion we measure it, doesn't exist when one dreams the way sorcerers dream.
Sorcerers stretch or compress time at will. For sorcerers, time is not a matter
of minutes or hours or days but an altogether different matter ....
She added that time is always a factor of consciousness; that is, to be aware
of time is a psychological state that we automatically transform into physical
measurements. It is so ingrained in us that we can hear, even when we are not
consciously aware of it, a clock ticking inside us, subliminally keeping track
“In dreaming-awake, that capacity is absent,” she emphasized. “A thoroughly
new, unfamiliar structure, which somehow is not to be understood or interpreted
as we normally do with time, takes over.”
.... “Once you become adept at entering heightened awareness, as Mariano
Aureliano calls it, you'll be aware then of whatever you wish because sorcerers
are not involved in measuring time. They are involved in using it, in
stretching or compressing it at will.” ....
“Are you implying that I might be dreaming-awake now?” I asked, knowing the
answer before she responded. “If I am, what did I do to reach this state? What
steps did I take?”
“The simplest step imaginable,” Florinda said. “You didn't let yourself be
your usual self. That is the key that opens doors. We have told you many times
and in many ways that sorcery is not at all what you think it is. To say that
to stop yourself from being your usual self is sorcery's most complex secret
sounds like idiocy, but it isn't. It is the key to power, therefore the most
difficult thing a sorcerer does. And yet, it isn't something complex or
impossible to understand. It doesn't boggle the mind, and for that reason no
one can even suspect its importance or take it seriously ....” [e242f]
“There are no shortcuts to writing good term papers,” Esperanza said. “Not
even with the aid of sorcery. You should know that without the preliminary
reading, the note taking, and the writing and rewriting, you would never have
been able to recognize the structure and order of your term paper in
“To do that took all the strength you had,” Nélida maintained. “While
dreaming-awake, you channeled all your energy into a single purpose. All your
concern and effort went into finishing your paper. Nothing else mattered to you
at the moment. You had no other thoughts to interfere with your endeavor.”
“When dreaming-awake, we have access to direct knowledge.” [e246]
“Did you know that one of the basic differences between males and females is
how they approach knowledge?” ....
“Men build knowledge step by step,” she explained, her pencil poised on the
figure crowned with a cone. “Men reach up; they climb toward knowledge.
Sorcerers say that men cone toward the spirit; they cone up toward knowledge.
This coning process limits men on how far they can reach.” She retracted the
cone on the first figure . “As you can see, men can only reach a certain
height. Their path toward knowledge ends up in a narrow point: the tip of the
She looked at me sharply. “Pay attention,” she warned me and pointed her
pencil to the second figure, the one with the inverted cone on its head. “As
you can see, the cone is upside down, open like a funnel. Women are able to
open themselves directly to the source, or rather, the source reaches them
directly, in the broad base of the cone. Sorcerers say that women's connection
to knowledge is expansive. On the other hand, men's connection is quite
“Men are close to the concrete,” she proceeded, “and aim at the abstract.
Women are close to the abstract and yet try to indulge themselves with the
“Why are women, being so open to knowledge or the abstract, considered
inferior?” I interrupted her.
Esperanza gazed at me with rapt fascination. She rose swiftly, stretched like a
cat until all her joints cracked, then sat down again.
“That women are considered inferior, or, at the very best, that female traits
are equated as complementary to the male's, has to do with the manner in which
males and females approach knowledge,” she explained. “Generally speaking,
women are more interested in power over themselves than over others, a power
which is clearly what males want.”
“Even among sorcerers,” Nélida interjected, and the women all laughed.
Esperanza went on to say that she believed that originally women saw no need to
exploit their facility to link themselves broadly and directly to the spirit.
They saw no necessity to talk about or intellectualize this natural capacity of
theirs, for it was enough for them to put it in actio and to know that they had
“Men's incapacity to link themselves directly to the spirit was what drove
them to talk about the process of reaching knowledge,” she stressed. “They
haven't stopped talking about it. And it is precisely this insistence on
knowing how they strive toward the spirit, this insistence on analyzing the
process, that gave them the certainty that being rational is a typically male
“Women still have a direct link with the spirit. They have only forgotten how
to use it, or rather, they have copied men's condition of not having it at all.
For thousands of years, men have struggled to make sure that women forget it.
Take the Holy Inquisition, for example. That was a systematic purge to
eradicate the belief that women have a direct link to the spirit. All organized
religion is nothing but a very successful maneuver to put women in a lower
place. Religions invoke a divine law that says that women are inferior.”
“What is the feminine side of reason, Esperanza?”
“Many things. One of them is definitely dreaming.” ....
“You need to act on your magical side,” she said.
“And what is that?”
“The womb.” she said this so distantly and calmly, as if she were not
interested in my reaction, that I almost missed hearing it. Then suddenly,
realizing the absurdity of her remark, I straightened up and looked at the
“The womb!” Esperanza repeated. “The womb is the ultimate feminine organ.
It is the womb that gives women that extra edge, that extra force to channel
She explained that men, in their quest for supremacy, have succeeded in
reducing woman's mysterious power, her womb, to a strictly biological
organ, whose only function is to reproduce, to carry man's seed.
As if obeying a cue, Nélida rose, walked around the table, and came to
stand behind me. “Do you know the story of the Annunciation?” she whispered
in my ear.
Giggling, I turned to face her. “I don't.”
In the same confidential whisper, she proceeded to tell me that in the
Judeo-Christian tradition, men are the only ones who hear the voice of God.
Women have been excluded from that privilege, with the exception of the virgin
Nélida said that an angel whispering to Mary was, of course, natural. What
wasn't natural was the fact that all the angel had to say to Mary was that she
would bear the son of God. The womb did not receive knowledge but rather the
promise of God's seed. A male god, who engendered another male god in turn.
I wanted to think, to reflect on all that I had heard, but my mind was in a
confused whirl. “What about male sorcerers?” I asked. “They don't have a
womb, yet they are clearly connected to the spirit.”
Esperanza regarded me with undisguised pleasure, then looked over her shoulder,
as though she were afraid to be overheard, and whispered, “Sorcerers are able
to align themselves to intent, to the spirit, because they have given up what
specifically defines their masculinity. And they are no longer males.”
“Since dreaming, for a woman, is a matter of having energy at her disposal,
the important thing is to convince her of the need to modify her deep
socialization in order to acquire that energy. The act of making use of this
energy is automatic; women dream sorcerers' dreams the instant they have the
“Dreaming is only for courageous women,” she whispered in my ear. Then she
burst into loud laughter and added, “Or for those women who have no other
choice, because their circumstances are unbearable - a category to which most
women belong, without even knowing it.” [e259]
“You're not dreaming, my dear. This is the real me. I am your dreaming
teacher. I am Zuleica. Esperanza is my other self. Sorcerers call it the
dreaming body.” [e262]
There was an undeniable gleam of hardness but also of kindness in her eyes. It
came to me in a flash, as if I had known it before, that her ruthlessness was,
more than anything else, an inner discipline. Her relentless self-control had
stamped her whole being with a most appealing elusiveness and secretiveness,
not the secretiveness of covert and furtive behavior, but the secretiveness of
the mysterious, the unknown. That was the reason I followed her around,
whenever I saw her, like a puppy dog.
“You've had two transitions today,” Zuleica explained. “One from being
normally awake to dreaming-awake and the other from dreaming-awake to being
normally awake. The first was smooth and unnoticeable; the second was
nightmarish. That's the normal state of affairs. All of us experience those
transitions just like that.” ....
There was a glint in her eyes. “What is ordinarily done,” she said, “is to
start dreaming by sleeping in a hammock or in some kind of a strapping
contraption hanging from a roof beam or a tree. Suspended in that fashion, we
don't have any contact with the ground. The ground grounds us, remember that.
In that suspended position, a beginning dreamer can learn how energy shifts
from being awake to dreaming and from dreaming a dream to dreaming-awake.
“In there, we find fluency and continuity as we do
in the world of everyday life. In both states, the practical is dominant.
We act efficiently in both states. What we can't do in the second attention,
however, is to break what we experience into pieces so we can handle it,
so we can feel secure, so we can understand it.” ....
“In the second attention,” she continued, “or as I prefer to call it, when
dreaming-awake, one has to believe that the dream is as real as the everyday
world. In other words, one has to acquiesce. For sorcerers, all worldly or
otherworldly pursuits are ruled by irreproachable acts, and in back of all
irreproachable acts lies acquiescence. And acquiescence is not acceptance.
Acquiescence involves a dynamic element; it involves action.” Her voice was
very soft, and there was a feverish gleam in her eyes as she finished. “The
moment one begins dreaming-awake, a world of enticing, unexplored
possibilities opens up. A world where the ultimate audacity becomes a reality.
Where the unexpected is expected. That's the time when man's definive
adventure begins. The world becomes limitless with possibilities and wonder.”
“Zuleica is a surem from the Bacatate Mountains,”
I said with absolute conviction. “I've known about these creatures all
along.” Seeing the astonishment in Florinda's face, I went on daringly,
“Zuleica wasn't born like an ordinary human being. She was established. She's
“No,” Florinda contradicted me emphatically. “Zuleica was born. Esperanza
wasn't.” She smiled down into my face and added, “This should be a worthy
riddle for you.”
“I think I understand,” I murmured, “but I am too insensitive and can't
formulate what I understand.”
“You're doing fine,” she chuckled softly. “Being as insensitive as you
normally are, you must wait until you are really, really awake, 100 percent in
order to understand. Now you are only 50 percent awake. The trick is to remain
in heightened awareness. In heightened awareness, nothing is impossible to
comprehend for us.” [e266ff]
His gaze told me that he didn't care if I gave in to either anger or tears.
To know that I had no audience gave me an instantaneous sense of equanimity.
“I'll never see Isidoro Baltazar?” I asked, hardly able to speak through my
“I can't lie to you to spare your feelings. No, he'll never be back. Isidoro
Baltazar was only a moment of sorcery. A dream that passed after being dreamed.
Isidoro Baltazar, as the dream, is gone already.”
A small, almost wistful smile curved her lips. “What I don't know yet,”
she continued, “is if the man, the new Nagual, is gone forever as well. You
understand, of course, that even if he returns, he won't be Isidoro Baltazar.
He'll be someone else you have to meet all over again.”
“Would he be unknown to me?” I asked, not quite sure wether I wanted to
“I don't know, my child,” she said with the weariness of uncertainty. “I
simply don't know. I am a dream myself. And so is the new Nagual. Dreams like
us are impermanent, for it is our impermanence that allows us to exist. Nothing
holds us, except the dream.”
Blinded by my tears, I could barely see her.
“To ease your pain, sink deeper into yourself,” she said softly. “Sit up
with your knees raised and grab your ankles with crossed arms, right ankle with
the left hand. Put your head on your knees and let the sadness go.
“Let the earth soothe your pain. Let the earth's healing force come to
I sat on the ground in exactly the manner she prescribed. Within moments my
sadness vanished. A deep bodily sensation of wellbeing replaced my anguish. I
lost sight of myself, in any context except the context of the moment at hand.
Without my subjective memory I had no pain. [e272f]
“Women are very cagey. Remember, being reared to be a servant makes you
extremely shifty and clever.” [e274]
“It's very hard to teach something so unsubstantial as dreaming,” Esperanza
said. “Especially to women. We are extremely coy and clever. After all, we've
been slaves all our lives; we know how to precisely manipulate things when we
don't want anything to upset we have worked so hard to obtain: our status
“Do you mean that men don't?”
“They certainly do, but they are more overt. Women fight underhandedly. Their
preferred fighting technique is the slave's maneuver: to turn the mind off.
They hear without paying attention, and they look without seeing.” She added
that to instruct women was an accomplishment worth of praise.
“We like the openness of your fighting,” she went on. “There is high hope
for you. What we fear the most is the agreeable woman who doesn't mind the new
and does everything you ask her to do and then turns around and denounces you
as soon as she gets tired or bored with the newness.” ....
We walked in silence for a while, and then she said that the difference between
a sorcerer and an ordinary person was that the former could enter into a state
of dreaming-awake at will. She tapped my arm repeatedly, as if to emphasize
her point, and in a confidential tone added, “And you are dreaming-awake
because, in order to help you hone your energy, we have created a bubble around
you since the first night you arrived.”
She went on to say that from the moment they first met me, they had nicknamed
me Fosforito, little match. “You burn too fast and uselessly.” She
gestured for me to remain quiet and added that I didn't know how to focus my
energy. “It's deployed to protect and uphold the idea of yourself.” Again she
motioned me to be silent, and said that what we think is our personal self is,
in actuality, only an idea. She claimed that the bulk of our energy is consumed
in defending that idea.
Esperanza's eyebrows lifted a little, an elated grin spreading across her face.
“To reach a point of detachment, where the self is just an idea that can be
changed at will, is a true act of sorcery and the most difficult of all,” she
explained. “When the idea of the self retreats, sorcerers have the energy to
align themselves with intent and be more than what we believe is normal.
“Women, because they have a womb, can focus their attention with great
facility on something outside their dreams while dreaming,” she explained.
“That's precisely what you have been doing all along, unbeknownst to yourself.
That object becomes a bridge that connects you to intent.”
“And what object do I use?”
There was a flicker of impatience in her eyes. Then she said that it was usually
a window or a light or even the bed. “You're so good at it, that's second
nature with you,” she assured me. “That's why you have nightmares. I told you
all this when you were in a deep state of dreaming-awake, and you understood
that as long as you refuse to focus your attention on any object, prior to
sleeping, you don't have bad dreams.
“You are cured, aren't you?” she asked.
My initial reaction, of course, was to contradict her. However, upon a moment's
thought, I couldn't but agree with her. After my meeting with them in Sonora, I
had been fairly free from nightmares.
“You'll never be really free from them as long as you persist in being
yourself,” she pronounced. “What you should do, of course, is to exploit your
dreaming talents deliberately and intelligently. That's why you're here. And
the first lesson is that a woman must, through her womb, focus her attention on
an object. Not an object from the dream itself, but an independent one, one
from the world prior to the dream.
“Yet, it isn't the object that matters,” she hastened to point out. “What's
important is the deliberate act of focusing on it, at will, prior to the dream
and while continuing the dream.” She warned me that although it sounded simple
enough, it was a formidable task that might take me years to accomplish. “What
normally happens is that one awakens the instant one focuses one's attention on
the outside object,” she said.
“What does it mean to use the womb?” I interjected. “And how is it done?”
“You are a woman,” Esperanza said softly. “You know how to feel with your
I wanted to contradict her, to explain that I didn't know any such thing.
Before I could do so, she went on to explain that, in a woman, feelings
originate in the womb.
“In men,” she claimed, “feelings originate in the brain.” She poked me in
the stomach and added, “Think about it. A woman is heartless except with her
brood because her feelings are coming from her womb.
“In order to focus your attention with your womb, get an object and put it on
your belly or rub it on your genitalia.” She laughed uproariously at my look
of dismay, then, in between fits of laughter, chided me. “I wasn't that bad. I
could have said that you need to smear the object with your juices, but I
“Once you establish a deep familiarity with the object,” she continued, her
tone serious again, “it'll always be there to serve you as a bridge.” ....
“There is no more time for you to waste,” she said. “It's very natural that
in our stupidity we screw things up. Sorcerers know this better than anyone
else. But they also know that there are no second chances. You must learn
control and discipline because you have no more leeway for mistakes ....”
Every night since my arrival I dreamt the same dream, which I had forgotten
about until that very moment. I dreamt that all the women sorcerers came to my
room and drilled me in the sorcerers' rationales. They told me, on and on, that
dreaming is the secondary function of the womb - the primary being
reproduction and whatever is related to it. They told me that dreaming is a
natural function in women, a pure corollary of energy. Given enough energy,
the body of a woman by itself will awake the womb's secondary functions, and
the woman will dream inconceivable dreams.
That needed energy, however, is like aid to an underdeveloped country: it never
arrives. Something in the overall order of our social structures prevents that
energy from being free so women can dream.
Were that energy free, the women sorcerers told me, it would simply overthrow
the “civilized” order of things. But women's great tragedy is that their
social conscience completely dominates their individual conscience. Women fear
being different and don't want to stray too far from the comforts of the known.
The social pressures put upon them not to deviate are simply too overpowering,
and rather than change, they acquiesce to what has been ordained: women exist
to be at the service of man. Thus they can never dream sorcery dreams, although
they have the organic disposition for it.
Womanhood has destroyed women's chances. Whether it be tinted with a religious
or a scientific slant, it still brands women with the same seal: their main
function is to reproduce, and whether they have achieved a degree of political,
social, or economic equality is ultimately immaterial. [e280]
Standing on the exact same spot where the caretaker had stood was Esperanza;
she was stark naked.
“Where is the caretaker?” I shouted in a panic-stricken voice.
“I am the caretaker,” she said. [e284]
“The sorcerers' world has a natural barrier that dissuades timid souls,” she
explained. “Sorcerers need tremendous strength to handle it. You see, it's
populated by monsters, flying dragons, and demonic beings, which, of course,
are nothing but impersonal energy. We, driven by our fears, make that
impersonal energy into hellish creatures.” [e285]
“You and I were dreaming in a different world. That's why you didn't feel the
water. That's the world where the nagual Elías found all his inventions.
In that world, I can be either a man or a woman. And just like the nagual
Elías brought his inventions to this world, I bring either Esperanza or
the caretaker. Or rather, my impersonal energy does that.” [e286]
The nagual Mariano Aureliano had once told me that sorcerers, when they talk
among themselves, speak of sorcery as a bird; they call it the bird of freedom.
They say that the bird of freedom only flies in a straight line and never comes
around twice. They also say that it is the nagual who lures the bird of
freedom. It is he who entices the bird to shed its shadow on the warrior's
path. Without that shadow, there is no direction. [e289]
The old Nagual and his party of sorcerers were ready, but I didn't know it.
They had been preparing themselves nearly all their lives for the ultimate
audacity: to dream-awake that they sneak past death - as we ordinarily know
death to be - and cross over into the unknown, enhancing, without breaking,
the unity of their total energy. [e290]
“I'm going to be with you only for a moment,” she said. “I'll come back
I turned around and poured out all the anguish and despair that had accumulated
Florinda stared at me. Her face reflected an immeasurable sadness. There were
sudden tears in her eyes, tears that were gone as fast as they had come ....
“Tears are meaningless for sorcerers,” she said in her deep, husky voice.
“When you joined the sorcerers' world you were made to understand that the
designs of fate, no matter what they are, are merely challenges that a sorcerer
must face without resentment or self-pity .... It is your challenge to rise
above this. And as you know, challenges are not discussed or resented.
Challenges are actively met. Sorcerer either succeed in meeting their
challenges or they fail at it. And it doesn't really matter which, as long as
they are in command .... Why don't you heed my suggestion and behave impeccably
regardless of your feelings,” she retorted sternly .... “You don't need the
Nagual to be an impeccable sorceress,” she remarked. “Your impeccability
should lead you to him even if he's no longer in the world. To live impeccably
within your circumstances is your challenge. Whether you see Isidoro Baltazar
tomorrow or in a year or a the end of your life should make no difference to
“I didn't go with the Nagual Mariano Aureliano and his party. And neither did
Zuleica. Do you know why?”
Numb with anticipation and fear, I stared at her, openmouthed. “No, Florinda.
I don't,” I finally managed to say.
“We are here because we don't belong to that party of sorcerers,” she said,
her voice now low and soft. “We do, but then we don't really. Our feelings are
with another Nagual, the Nagual Julián, our teacher. The Nagual Mariano
Aureliano is our cohort, and the Nagual Isidoro Baltazar, our pupil.
“Like yourself, we've been left behind. You, because you were not ready to get
with them; we, because we need more energy to take a greater jump and join
perhaps another band of warriors, a much older band. The Nagual
I could feel Florinda's aloneness and solitude like a fine mist settling all
around me. I barely dared to breathe lest she stop talking. [e293]
“The world of sorcerers is a world of solitariness, yet in it, love is
forever. Like my love for the Nagual Julián. We move in the world of
sorcerers all by ourselves, accounting only for our acts, our feelings, our
impeccability.” She nodded, as if to underline her words. “I've no longer any
feelings. Whatever I had went away with the Nagual Julián. All I have left
is my sense of will, of duty, of purpose ....” [e294]
“Where is your impeccable purpose? What happened to all the things you've
learned with us?” [e295]
“To be in the sorcerers' world one has to dream superbly.” She looked away.
An almost full moon hung over the distant mountains. “Most people don't have
the wits nor the size of spirit to dream. They cannot help but see the world as
ordinary and repetitious. And do you know why?” she asked, fixing me with her
keen gaze. “Because if you don't fight to avoid it, the world is indeed
ordinary and repetitious. Most people are so involved with themselves that they
have become idiotic. Idiots have no desire to fight to avoid ordinariness and
Zuleica rose from the bench and put on her sandals. She tied her shawl around
her waist so her long skirt wouldn't drag, and walked to the middle of the
patio. And I knew what she was going to do before she even started. She was
going to spin. She was going to perform a dance in order to gather cosmic
energy. Women sorcerers believe that by moving their bodies they can get the
strength necessary to dream. [e297]
Everywhere they went, they carried the feeling, the mood of the house in their
hearts. And that feeling and mood, whatever they were for each of them, gave
them the strength to face the everyday world with wonder and delight. [e298]
“Myths are dreams of extraordinary dreamers,” she said. “You need a great
deal of courage and concentration in order to maintain them. And above all, you
need a great deal of imagination. You are living a myth, a myth that has been
handed down to you for savekeeping.”
She spoke in a tone that was almost reverent. “You cannot be the recipient of
this myth unless you are irreproachable. If you are not, the myth will simply
move away from you.” ....
“Don't you remember that we share one another's dreams?” she whispered,
pushing me back onto the mat. “I'm the one who brings you dreams.” [e299]
“Only if the Nagual is supported and upheld by his fellow dreamers can he lead
them into other viable worlds from which he can entice the bird of freedom.”
Her words faded in the shadows of the room as she added that the support
Isidoro Baltazar needed was dreaming energy, not worldly feelings and
After a long silence, she spoke again. “You have witnessed how the old
Nagual, as well as Isidoro Baltazar, by their mere presence, affect whoever is
around them, be it their fellow sorcerers or just bystanders, making them aware
that the world is a mystery where nothing can be taken for granted under any
I nodded in agreement.
For a long time I had been at a loss to understand how Naguals could, by there
mere presence, make such a difference. After careful observation, comparing
opinions with others, and endless introspection, I concluded that their
influence stemmed from their renunciation of worldly concerns. In our daily
world, we also have examples of men and women who have left worldly concerns
behind. We call them mystics, saints, religious people. But Naguals are neither
mystics nor saints and are certainly not religious men. Naguals are worldly men
without a shred of worldly concerns.
At a subliminal level, this contradiction has the most tremendous effect on
whoever is around them. The minds if those who are around a Nagual can't grasp
what is affecting them, yet they feel the impact in their bodies as a strange
anxiety, an urge to break loose, or as a sense of inadequacy, as if something
transcendental is taking place somewhere else, and they can't get to it.
But the Naguals' built-in capacity to affect others doesn't only depend on
their lack of worldly concerns or on the force of their personalities but
rather on the force of their unreproachful behaviour. Naguals are unreproachful
in their actions and feelings, regardless of the ambushes - worldly or
otherworldly - placed on their interminable path. It isn't that Naguals follow
a prescribed pattern of rules and regulations in order to have unreproachful
behavior, for there are none. But rather, they use their imaginations for
adopting or adapting to whatever it takes to make their actions fluid.
For their deeds, Naguals, unlike average men, don't seek approval, respect,
praise, or any kind of acknowledgement from anyone, including their fellow
sorcerers. All they seek is their own sense of flawlessness, of innocence, of
It is this that makes a Nagual's company addictive. One becomes dependent on
his freedom as one would to a drug. To a Nagual, the world is always brand new.
In his company, one begins to look at the world as if it had never happened
“That's because Naguals have broken the mirror of self-reflection,” Zuleica
said, as if she had followed my train of thoughts. “Naguals are able to see
themselves in the mirror of fog, which reflects only the unknown. It is a
mirror that no longer reflects our normal humanity, expressed in repetition,
but reveals the face of infinity.
“Sorcerers believe that when the face of self-reflection and the face of
infinity merge, a Nagual is totally ready to break the boundaries of reality
and disappear as though he wasn't made of solid matter. Isidoro Baltazar had
been ready for a long time.”
“He can't leave me behind!” I cried out. “That would be too unfair.”
“It's downright foolish to think in terms of fairness and unfairness,”
Zuleica said. “In the sorcerers' world, there is only power. Didn't every one
of us teach you that?”
“There are many things I learned,” I conceeded gloomily. After a few moments,
I mumbled under my breath, “But they are not worth anything at the moment.”
“They are worth the most now,” she contradicted me. “If you have learned one
thing, it's that at the bleakest moments warriors rally their power to carry
on. A warrior doesn't succumb to despair.” ....
“Florinda is right,” Zuleica pronounced. “Our magical world has nothing to
do with chants and incantations, with rituals and bizarre behavior. Our magical
world, which is a dream, is willed into being by the concentrated desire of
those who participate in it. It is held intact at every moment by the
sorcerers' tenacious wills. The same way the everyday world is held together by
everybody's tenacious will.” ....
“To dream your dream, you have to be dead.” ....
“No, no. To die means to cancel all your holdings, to drop everything you
have, everything you are.”
“That's nothing new,” I said. “I did that the moment I joined your
“Obviously you didn't. Otherwise you wouldn't be in such a mess. If you had
died the way sorcery demands, you would feel no anguish now.”
“What would I feel, then?”
“My anguish has nothing to do with my sense of purpose,” I shouted. “It's
apart, independent. I am alive and feel sadness and love. How can I avoid
“You're not supposed to avoid it,” Zuleica clarified, “but to overcome it.
If warriors have nothing, they feel nothing.”
“What kind of an empty world is that?” I asked defiantly.
“Empty is the world of indulging, because indulging cuts off everything else
except indulging.” She gazed at me eagerly, as if expecting me to aggree with
her statement. “So it's a lopsided world. Boring, repetitious. For sorcerers,
the antidote of indulging is dying. And they don't just think about it, they do
A cold shiver went up my back. I swallowed and remained silent, looking at the
splendid sight of the moon shining through the window. “I really don't
understand what you're saying, Zuleica.”
“You understand me perfectly well,” she maintained. “Your dream began when
you met me. Now it's time for another dream. But this time, dream dead. Your
error was to dream alive.”
“What does that mean?” I asked restlessly. “Don't torment me with riddles.
You, yourself, told me that only male sorcerers drive themselves nuts with
riddles. You're doing the same to me now.”
Zuleica's laughter echoed from wall to wall. It rustled like dry leaves pushed
by the wind. “To dream alive means to have hope. It means that you hold on to
your dream for dear life. To dream dead means that you dream without hope. You
dream without holding on to your dream.”
Not trusting myself to speak, all I could do was to nod.
Florinda had told me that freedom is a total absence of concern about oneself,
a lack of concern achieved when the imprisoned bulk of energy within ourselves
is untied. She had said that this energy is released only when we can arrest
the exalted conception we have of ourselves, of our importance, an importance
we feel must not be violated or mocked.
Zuleica's voice was clear but seemed to come from a great distance as she
added, “The price of freedom is very high. Freedom can only be attained by
dreaming without hope, by being willing to lose all, even the dream.
“For some of us, to dream without hope, to struggle with no goal in mind,
is the only way to keep up the bird of freedom.” [e300ff]
XIV - Florinda Donner-Grau, The Witch's Dream
Florinda Donner-Grau, The Witch's Dream, A Healer's Way of Knowledge
Arcana, Penguin Books, 1997,
First published by Simon & Schuster, 1985
With a Foreword by Carlos Castaneda
If there is something inside us that we don't know about, such as hidden
resources, unsuspected guts and cunning, or nobility of the spirit in the face
of sorrow and pain, it will come out if we are confronted by the unknown while
we are alone, without friends, without familiar boundaries, without support. If
nothing comes out of us under those circumstances, it's because we have
nothing. And before you say you really care for the nagual's quest, you must
first find out for yourself whether there ist something inside you. I demand
that you do that. [e15]
“I don't go for seemingly orderly arrangements of thought and deed. For
me, order is different from arranging things neatly, I don't give a damn about
stupidity and I have no patience. That's the mood.
.... Being in the nagual's world has nothing to do with my impatience,” she
said, making a humorous, hopeless gesture. “You see, I'm impeccably
impatient .... It means that I am, for instance, perfectly conscious that you
are boring me now with your stupid insistence on having detailed instructions.
My impatience tells me that I should stop you. But it is my impeccability that
will make you shut up at once.
.... Males can build bridges with their words; women can't. You're imitating
males now. Women have to make the bridge with their acts.
.... How can I give you instructions about something that doesn't yet exist?
I'll give you, instead, instructions on how to arrange your thoughts, feelings,
and reactions. With that in hand, you'll take care of any eventuality that
might arise.” [e18f]
She made it clear that I was wrong, because healing, she said, depended on the
practitioner and not on a body of knowledge. She maintained that there was no
such thing as non-Western healing practices, since healing, unlike medicine,
was not a formalized discipline.
.... Florinda was convinced that a person who successfully restored health,
whether a doctor or a folk healer, was someone who could alter the body's
fundamental feelings about itself and its links with the world - that is,
someone who offered the body, as well as the mind, new possibilities so that
the habitual mold to which body and mind had learned to conform could be
systematically broken down. Other dimensions of awareness would then become
accessible, and the commonsense expectations of disease and health could become
transformed as new bodily meanings became crystalized. [e25f]
Luck and strength are all that count in everything .... [e28]
“Those are unanswerable questions,” doña Mercedes replied. “But let's go
to the kitchen and ask Candelaria. She's got more sense than the two of us
together. I'm too old to have sense, and you're too educated.” [e65f]
“He had very little strength; that's why he was caught by that mysterious
something I talked to you about; that something more mysterious than fate.
Witches call it a witch's shadow.
.... When people are fading away, especially at the moment they die, they
create with that mysterious something a link with other persons, a sort of
continuity,” doña Mercedes explained. “That's why children turn out just
like their parents. Or those who take care of old people follow into the steps
of their wards.” [e67]
“Only by following in the spiritual footsteps of a healer can you be a healer
yourself. That's what's called a junction, a link. Doña Mercedes has
already told you that witches call it a shadow.
“Shadows are true for everything,” she continued, “and there is only one
heir to anyone who has real knowledge. Victor Julio had real knowledge about
killing dogs and made an unwitting link for Octavio Cantú. I've said to you
that Octavio sat too long in Victor Julio's shadow and that doña Mercedes
is giving me her shadow. By letting certain people tell you their stories, she
is trying to put you, for an instant, under the shadow of all those people, so
that you'll feel how the wheel of chance turns and how a witch helps that wheel
.... “When a witch intervenes, we say it's the witch's shadow that turns the
wheel of chance,” .... [e81f]
“Victor Julio also made a link, and he also moved the wheel of chance, but
since Victor Julio wasn't a witch, the dream of Octavio Cantú - although
it is both real and unreal as Miconi's dream - is longer and more painful.”
“How did Candelaria intervene?”
“Certain children,” doña Mercedes explained, “have the strength to wish
something with great passion for a long period of time.” She settled back in
her seat and closed her eyes. “Candelaria was such a child. She was born that
way. She wished her father to stay, and she wished it without a single doubt.
That dedication, that determination, is what witches call a witch's shadow. It
was that shadow that wouldn't let Miconi go.”
.... “How did Miconi have such a detailed dream?”
“Miconi never wanted to leave, not really,” doña Mercedes replied. “So
that offered an opening to Candelaria's unwavering wish. The details of the
dream itself, well, that part had nothing to do with the witch's intervention;
that was Miconi's imagination.” [e94f]
Compared to Florinda - and I could not avoid making the comparison -
doña Mercedes and Candelaria were more simple pragmatists. They did not
have an overall encompassing understanding of their actions. [e126]
“We can make our own link with one single act. It doesn't have to be as violent
and desperate as Benito Santos' act, but it has to be as final. If that act is
followed by a desire of tremendous strength, sometimes, like Benito Santos, we
can be placed outside of morality.” [e157f]
“During a séance, chronological time is suspended,” he murmured in a
slow, tired voice. “Spiritual time is a time of equilibrium that is neither
reality nor a dream. Yet, it is a time that exists in space.” He emphasized
that I had been plummeted into an event that had happened a long time ago.
“The past has no time sequence,” he continued. “Today can be joined up with
yesterday, with events of many years ago.” [e165f]
“Witchcraft is precisely the act of persuading reason to rise above itself or,
if you wish, to move below itself.” ....
“A sorcerer chooses to be different from what he was raised to be,”
he continued. “He has to understand that witchcraft is a lifelong task. A
sorcerer, through witchcraft, weaves patterns like webs. Patterns that transmit
invoked powers to some superior mystery. Human actions have an endless,
spreading network of results; he accepts and reinterprets these results in a
magical way.” He brought his face even closer to mine and lowered his voice to
a soft whisper. “A sorcerer's hold on reality is absolute. His grip is so
powerful, he can bend reality every which way in the service of his art. But he
never forgets what reality is or was.” [e208]
“My pregnant belly was broad instead of pointed. My hair began to fall out.
Blotches and blemishes appeared on my skin. My legs swelled. Those are the
symptoms of carrying a girl.” [e212]
“I've had that gun for almost thirty years,” she went on. “I was going to
kill Federico Mueller with it.”
“And you should do it now!” Candelaria hissed through clenched teeth.
.... “You brought Federico Mueller to my door,” she said to me. “And now I
know that there is nothing to forgive. Nothing to understand. And he came back
to make me realize just that. This is why I'll never mention what he did. He
was dead, but he's not now.”
... And thus, Federico Mueller became part of the household. Doña Mercedes
pampered him. She indulged him. [e231f]
“This place holds all their memories, all their feelings. Here, the three
women can set back the clock to an ideal time that never was. The shadows of
the past will dim the present and erase their frustrations.” [e280]
“Put on your yellow dress. Yellow suits you. It'll give you strength. Change
quickly. You need nothing else. When you came to El Rincón you had
only one dress; you should leave the same way.” [e280f]
“A witch has to have luck and strength to move the wheel of chance. Strength
can be groomed, but luck can't be beckoned. It cannot be enticed. Luck,
independent of witchcraft or human arrangements, makes its own choice.”
She ran her fingers through my hair and over my face, feeling rather than
seeing me, than added, “That's why witches are so attracted to
With those stories, doña Mercedes proposed to show me that witches, or even
ordinary people, are capable of using extraordinary forces that exist in the
universe to alter the course of events, or the course of their lives, or the
lives of other people. The course of events, she called “the wheel of
chance”, and the process of affecting it, she called “the witch's shadow.”
She claimed that we can alter anything without directly intruding upon the
process; and sometimes without even knowing that we are doing so.
.... In contrast, the stories selected by doña Mercedes make us aware of
something that we not familiar with: They point to the incomprehensible
possibility that without directly mediating, we can be more influential than we
think in shaping the course of events.
.... “There are many ways of behaving when one is in a normal setting,”
Florinda commented, “but when one is alone, in danger, in darkness, there is
only one way: the warrior's way.”
Florinda said that I had discoverd the value of the warrior's way and the
meaning of all it's premises. Under the impact of an unfamiliar life situation,
I had found out that not to surrender means freedom, that not to feel
selfimportant breeds an indomitable fierceness, and that to vanquish moral
judgements brings an all-soothing humbleness that is not servitude. [e286f]
XV - Interviews
NOTE: Das Buch
Graciela Corvalán, Der Weg der Tolteken, Ein Gespräch mit
Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt, 1987, 103 Seiten
wurde hier nicht aufgenommen (keine Anmerkungen gefunden)
[CARLOS CASTANEDA'S TENSEGRITY]
in the original html-file: [Image]
Navigating Into the Unknown: An Interview with Carlos Castaneda for the
magazine Uno Mismo,
Chile and Argentina, February, 1997, by Daniel Trujillo Rivas
Translated from Spanish. [Reprinted here with permission from
Uno Mismo. Copyright 1997 Laugan Productions]
[deutsche Version steht am 31mar2015 unter
See the January/February '98 issue of Utne Reader for excerpts from
this interview and from another interview with Carlos Castaneda
entitled “The World of Waking Dreams”,
written by Michael Brennan
Question: Mr. Castaneda, for years you've remained in absolute
anonymity. What drove you to change this condition and talk publicly
about the teachings that you and your three companions received from
the Nagual Juan Matus?
Answer: What compels us to disseminate don Juan Matus's ideas is a need
to clarify what he taught us. For us, this is a task that can no longer
be postponed. His other three students and I have reached the unanimous
conclusion that the world to which Don Juan Matus introduced us is
within the perceptual possibilities of all human beings. We've
discussed among us what would be the appropriate road to take. To
remain anonymous the way don Juan proposed to us? This option was not
acceptable. The other road available was to disseminate don Juan's
ideas: an infinitely more dangerous and exhausting choice, but the only
one that, we believe, has the dignity don Juan imbued all his teachings
Q: Considering what you have said about the unpredictability of a
warrior's actions, which we have corroborated for three decades, can we
expect this public phase you're going through to last for a while?
A: There is no way for us to establish a temporal criteria. We live
according to the premises proposed by don Juan and we never deviate
from them. Don Juan Matus gave us the formidable example of a man who
lived according to what he said. And I say it is a formidable example
because it is the most difficult thing to emulate; to be monolithic and
at the same time have the flexibility to face anything. This was the
way don Juan lived his life.
Within these premises, the only thing one can be is an impeccable
mediator. One is not the player in this cosmic match of chess, one is
simply a pawn on the chessboard. What decides everything is a conscious
impersonal energy that sorcerers call intent or the Spirit.
Q: As far as I've been able to corroborate, orthodox anthropology, as
well as the alleged defenders of the pre-Colombian cultural heritage of
America, undermine the credibility of your work. The belief that your
work is merely the product of your literary talent, which, by the way,
is exceptional, continues to exist today. There are also other sectors
that accuse you of having a double standard because, supposedly, your
lifestyle and your activities contradict what the majority expect from
a shaman. How can you clear up these suspicions?
A: The cognitive system of the Western man forces us to rely on
preconceived ideas. We base our judgments on something that is always
“a priori,” for example the idea of what is “orthodox.” What is
orthodox anthropology? The one taught at university lecture halls? What
is a shaman's behavior? To wear feathers on one's head and dance to the
For thirty years, people have accused Carlos Castaneda of
creating a literary character simply because what I report to them does
not concur with the anthropological “a priori,” the ideas established
in the lecture halls or in the anthropological field work. However,
what don Juan presented to me can only apply to a situation that calls
for total action and, under such circumstances, very little or almost
nothing of the preconceived occurs.
I have never been able to draw conclusions about shamanism
because in order to do this one needs to be an active member in the
shamans' world. For a social scientist, let's say for example a
sociologist, it is very easy to arrive at sociological conclusions over
any subject related to the Occidental world, because the sociologist is
an active member of the Occidental world. But how can an
anthropologist, who spends at the most two years studying other
cultures, arrive at reliable conclusions about them? One needs a
lifetime to be able to acquire membership in a cultural world. I've
been working for more than thirty years in the cognitive world of the
shamans of ancient Mexico and, sincerely, I don't believe I have
acquired the membership that would allow me to draw conclusions or to
even propose them.
I have discussed this with people from different disciplines and
they always seem to understand and agree with the premises I'm
presenting. But then they turn around and they forget everything they
agreed upon and continue to sustain “orthodox” academic principles,
without caring about the possibility of an absurd error in their
conclusions. Our cognitive system seems to be impenetrable.
Q: What's the aim of you not allowing yourself to be photographed,
having your voice recorded or making your biographical data known?
Could this affect what you've achieved in your spiritual work, and if
so how? Don't you think it would be useful for some sincere seekers of
truth to know who you really are, as a way of corroborating that it is
really possible to follow the path you proclaim?
A: With reference to photographs and personal data, the other three
disciples of don Juan and myself follow his instructions. For a shaman
like don Juan, the main idea behind refraining from giving personal
data is very simple. It is imperative to leave aside what he called
“personal history”. To get away from the “me” is something extremely
annoying and difficult. What shamans like don Juan seek is a state of
fluidity where the personal “me” does not count. He believed that an
absence of photographs and biographical data affects whomever enters
into this field of action in a positive, though subliminal way. We are
endlessly accustomed to using photographs, recordings and biographical
data, all of which spring from the idea of personal importance. Don
Juan said it was better not to know anything about a shaman; in this
way, instead of encountering a person, one encounters an idea that can
be sustained; the opposite of what happens in the everyday world where
we are faced only with people who have numerous psychological problems
but no ideas, all of these people filled to the brim with “me, me, me.”
Q: How should your followers interpret the publicity and the commercial
infrastructure a side of your literary work surrounding the knowledge
you and your companions disseminate? What's your real relationship with
Cleargreen Incorporated and the other companies (Laugan Productions,
Toltec Artists)? I'm talking about a commercial link.
A: At this point in my work I needed someone able to represent me
regarding the dissemination of don Juan Matus's ideas. Cleargreen is a
corporation that has great affinity with our work, as are Laugan
Productions and Toltec Artists. The idea of disseminating don Juan's
teachings in the modern world implies the use of commercial and
artistic media that are not within my individual reach. As corporations
having an affinity with don Juan's ideas, Cleargreen Incorporated,
Laugan Productions and Toltec Artists are capable of providing the
means to disseminate what I want to disseminate.
There is always a tendency for impersonal corporations to
dominate and transform everything that is presented to them and to
adapt it to their own ideology. If it weren't for Cleargreen's, Laugan
Productions' and Toltec Artists' sincere interest, everything don Juan
said would have been transformed into something else by now.
Q: There are a great number of people who, in one way or another,
“cling” to you in order to acquire public notoriety. What's your
opinion on the actions of Victor Sanchez, who has interpreted and
reorganized your teachings in order to elaborate a personal theory? And
of Ken Eagle Feather's assertions that he has been chosen by don Juan
to be his disciple, and that don Juan came back just for him?
A: Indeed there are a number of people who call themselves my students
or don Juan's students, people I've never met and whom, I can
guarantee, don Juan never met. Don Juan Matus was exclusively
interested in the perpetuation of his lineage of shamans. He had four
disciples who remain to this day. He had others who left with him. Don
Juan was not interested in teaching his knowledge; he taught it to his
disciples in order to continue his lineage. Due to the fact that they
cannot continue don Juan's lineage, his four disciples have been forced
to disseminate his ideas.
The concept of a teacher who teaches his knowledge is part of our
cognitive system but it isn't part of the cognitive system of the
shamans of ancient Mexico. To teach was absurd for them. To transmit
his knowledge to those who were going to perpetuate their lineage was a
The fact that there are a number of individuals who insist in
using my name or don Juan's name is simply an easy maneuver to benefit
themselves without much effort.
Q: Let's consider the meaning of the word “spirituality” to be a state
of consciousness in which human beings are fully capable of controlling
the potentials of the species, something achieved by transcending the
simple animal condition through a hard psychic, moral and intellectual
training. Do you agree with this assertion? How is don Juan's world
integrated into this context?
A: For don Juan Matus, a pragmatic and extremely sober shaman,
“spirituality” was an empty ideality, an assertion without basis that
we believe to be very beautiful because it is encrusted with literary
concepts and poetic expressions, but which never goes beyond that.
Shamans like don Juan are essentially practical. For them there
only exists a predatory universe in which intelligence or awareness is
the product of life and death challenges. He considered himself a
navigator of infinity and said that in order to navigate into the
unknown like a shaman does, one needs unlimited pragmatism, boundless
sobriety and guts of steel.
In view of all this, don Juan believed that “spirituality” is
simply a description of something impossible to achieve within the
patterns of the world of everyday life, and it is not a real way of
Q: You have pointed out that your literary activity, as well as Taisha
Abelar's and Florinda Donner-Grau's, is the result of don Juan's
instructions. What is the objective of this?
A: The objective of writing those books was given by don Juan. He
asserted that even if one is not a writer one still can write, but
writing is transformed from a literary action into a shamanistic
action. What decides the subject and the development of a book is not
the mind of the writer but rather a force that the shamans consider the
basis of the universe, and which they call intent. It is intent which
decides a shaman's production, whether it be literary or of any other
According to don Juan, a practitioner of shamanism has the duty
and the obligation of saturating himself with all the information
available. The work of shamans is to inform themselves thoroughly about
everything that could possibly be related to their topic of interest.
The shamanistic act consists of abandoning all interest in directing
the course the information takes. Don Juan used to say, “The one who
arranges the ideas that spring from such a well of information is not
the shaman, it is intent. The shaman is simply an impeccable conduit.”
For don Juan writing was a shamanistic challenge, not a literary task.
Q: If you allow me to assert the following, your literary work presents
concepts that are closely related with Oriental philosophical
teachings, but it contradicts what is commonly known about the Mexican
indigenous culture. What are the similarities and the differences
between one and the other?
A: I don't have the slightest idea. I'm not learned in either one of
them. My work is a phenomenological report of the cognitive world to
which don Juan Matus introduced me. From the point of view of
phenomenology as a philosophical method, it is impossible to make
assertions that are related to the phenomenon under scrutiny. Don Juan
Matus' world is so vast, so mysterious and contradictory, that it isn't
suitable for an exercise in linear exposition; the most one can do is
describe it, and that alone is a supreme effort.
Q: Assuming that don Juan's teachings have become part of occult
literature, what's your opinion about other teachings in this category,
for example Masonic philosophy, Rosicrucianism, Hermeticism and
disciplines such as the Cabala, the Tarot and Astrology when we compare
them to nagualism? Have you ever had any contact with or maintain any
contact with any of these or with their devotees?
A: Once again, I don't have the slightest idea of what the premises
are, or the points of view and subjects of such disciplines. Don Juan
presented us with the problem of navigating into the unknown, and this
takes all of our available effort.
Q: Do some of the concepts of your work, such as the assemblage point,
the energetic filaments that make up the universe, the world of the
inorganic beings, intent, stalking and dreaming, have an equivalent in
Western knowledge? For example, there are some people who consider that
man seen as a luminous egg is an expression of the aura
A: As far as I know, nothing of what don Juan taught us seems to have a
counterpart in Western knowledge.
Once, when don Juan was still here, I spent a whole year in
search of gurus, teachers and wise men to give me an inkling of what
they were doing. I wanted to know if there was something in the world
of that time similar to what don Juan said and did.
My resources were very limited and they only took me to meet the
established masters who had millions of followers and, unfortunately, I
couldn't find any similarity.
Q: Concentrating specifically on your literary work, your readers find
different Carlos Castanedas. We first find a somewhat incompetent
Western scholar, permanently baffled at the power of old Indians like
don Juan and don Genaro (mainly in The Teachings Of Don Juan, A
Separate Reality, A Journey To Ixtlan, Tales Of Power, and The Second
Ring Of Power.) Later we find an apprentice versed in shamanism (in The
Eagle's Gift, The Fire from Within, The Power of Silence and,
particularly, The Art Of Dreaming.) If you agree with this assessment,
when and how did you cease to be one to become the other?
A: I don't consider myself a shaman, or a teacher, or an advanced
student of shamanism; nor do I consider myself an anthropologist or a
social scientist of the Western world. My presentations have all been
descriptions of a phenomenon which is impossible to discern under the
conditions of the linear knowledge of the Western world. I could never
explain what don Juan was teaching me in terms of cause and effect.
There was no way to foretell what he was going to say or what was going
to happen. Under such circumstances, the passage from one state to
another is subjective and not something elaborated, or premeditated, or
a product of wisdom.
Q: One can find episodes in your literary work that are truly
incredible for the Western mind. How could someone who's not an
initiate verify that all those “separate realities” are real, as you
A: It can be verified very easily by lending one's whole body instead
of only one's intellect. One cannot enter don Juan's world
intellectually, like a dilettante seeking fast and fleeting knowledge.
Nor, in don Juan's world, can anything be verified absolutely. The only
thing we can do is arrive at a state of increased awareness that allows
us to perceive the world around us in a more inclusive manner. In other
words, the goal of don Juan's shamanism is to break the parameters of
historical and daily perception and to perceive the unknown. That's why
he called himself a navigator of infinity. He asserted that infinity
lies beyond the parameters of daily perception. To break these
parameters was the aim of his life. Because he was an extraordinary
shaman, he instilled that same desire in all four of us. He forced us
to transcend the intellect and to embody the concept of breaking the
boundaries of historical perception.
Q: You assert that the basic characteristic of human beings is to be
“perceivers of energy.” You refer to the movement of the assemblage
point as something imperative to perceiving energy directly. How can
this be useful to a man of the 21st century? According to the concept
previously defined, how can the attainment of this goal help one's
A: Shamans like don Juan assert that all human beings have the capacity
to see energy directly as it flows in the universe. They believe that
the assemblage point, as they call it, is a point that exists in man's
total sphere of energy. In other words, when a shaman perceives a man
as energy that flows in the universe, he sees a luminous ball. In that
luminous ball, the shaman can see a point of greater brilliance located
at the height of the shoulder blades, approximately an arm's length
behind them. Shamans maintain that perception is assembled at this
point; that the energy that flows in the universe is transformed here
into sensory data, and that the sensory data is later interpreted,
giving as a result the world of everyday life. Shamans assert that we
are taught to interpret, and therefore we are taught to perceive.
The pragmatic value of perceiving energy directly as it flows in
the universe for a man of the 21st century or a man of the 1st century
is the same. It allows him to enlarge the limits of his perception and
to use this enhancement within his realm. Don Juan said that to see
directly the wonder of the order and the chaos of the universe would be
Q: You have recently presented a physical discipline called Tensegrity.
Can you explain what is it exactly? What is its goal? What spiritual
benefit can a person who practices it individually get?
A: According to what don Juan Matus taught us, the shamans who lived in
ancient Mexico discovered a series of movements that when executed by
the body brought about such physical and mental prowess that they
decided to call those movements magical passes.
Don Juan told us that, through their magical passes, those
shamans attained an increased level of consciousness which allowed them
to perform indescribable feats of perception.
Through generations, the magical passes were only taught to
practitioners of shamanism. The movements were surrounded with
tremendous secrecy and complex rituals. That is the way don Juan
learned them and that is the way he taught them to his four disciples.
Our effort has been to extend the teachings of such magical
passes to anyone who wants to learn them. We have called them
Tensegrity, and we have transformed them from specific movements
pertinent only to each of don Juan's four disciples, to general
movements suitable to anyone.
Practicing Tensegrity, individually or in groups, promotes
health, vitality, youth and a general sense of well-being. Don Juan
said that practicing the magical passes helps accumulate the energy
necessary to increase awareness and to expand the parameters of
Q: Besides your three cohorts, the people who attend your seminars have
met other people, like the Chacmools, the Energy Trackers, the
Elements, the Blue Scout . . . Who are they? Are they part of a new
generation of seers guided by you? If this is the case, how could one
become part of this group of apprentices?
A: Every one of these persons are defined beings who don Juan Matus, as
director of his lineage, asked us to wait for. He predicted the arrival
of each one of them as an integral part of a vision. Since don Juan's
lineage could not continue, due to the energetic configuration of his
four students, their mission was transformed from perpetuating the
lineage into closing it, if possible, with a golden clasp.
We are in no position to change such instructions. We can neither
look for nor accept apprentices or active members of don Juan's vision.
The only thing we can do is acquiesce to the designs of intent.
The fact that the magical passes, guarded with such jealousy for
so many generations, are now being taught, is proof that one can,
indeed, in an indirect way, become part of this new vision through the
practice of Tensegrity and by following the premises of the warriors'
Q: In Readers of Infinity, you've utilized the term “navigating” to
define what sorcerers do. Are you going to hoist the sail to begin the
definitive journey soon? Will the lineage of Toltec warriors, the
keepers of this knowledge, end with you?
A: Yes, that is correct, don Juan's lineage ends with us.
Q: Here's a question that I've often asked myself: Does the warriors'
path include, like other disciplines do, spiritual work for couples?
A: The warriors' path includes everything and everyone. There can be a
whole family of impeccable warriors. The difficulty lies in the
terrible fact that individual relationships are based in emotional
investments, and the moment the practitioner really practices what she
or he learns, the relationship crumbles. In the everyday world,
emotional investments are not normally examined, and we live an entire
lifetime waiting to be reciprocated. Don Juan said I was a diehard
investor and that my way of living and feeling could be described
simply: “I only give what others give me.”
Q: What aspirations of possible advancement should someone have who
wishes to work spiritually according to the knowledge disseminated in
your books? What would you recommend for those who wish to practice don
Juan's teachings by themselves?
A: There's no way to put a limit on what one may accomplish
individually if the intent is an impeccable intent. Don Juan's
teachings are not spiritual. I repeat this because the question has
come to the surface over and over. The idea of spirituality doesn't fit
with the iron discipline of a warrior. The most important thing for a
shaman like don Juan is the idea of pragmatism. When I met him, I
believed I was a practical man, a social scientist filled with
objectivity and pragmatism. He destroyed my pretensions and made me see
that, as a true Western man, I was neither pragmatic nor spiritual. I
came to understand that I only repeated the word “spirituality” to
contrast it with the mercenary aspect of the world of everyday life. I
wanted to get away from the mercantilism of everyday life and the
eagerness to do this is what I called spirituality. I realized don Juan
was right when he demanded that I come to a conclusion; to define what
I considered spirituality. I didn't know what I was talking about.
What I'm saying might sound presumptuous, but there's no other
way to say it. What a shaman like don Juan wants is to increase
awareness, that is, to be able to perceive with all the human
possibilities of perception; this implies a colossal task and an
unbending purpose, which can not be replaced by the spirituality of the
Q: Is there anything you would like to explain to the South American
people, especially to the Chileans? Would you like to make any other
statement besides your answers to our questions?
A: I don't have anything to add. All human beings are at the same
level. At the beginning of my apprenticeship with don Juan Matus, he
tried to make me see how common man's situation is. I, as a South
American, was very involved, intellectually, with the idea of social
reform. One day I asked don Juan what I thought was a deadly question:
How can you remain unmoved by the horrendous situation of your fellow
men, the Yaqui Indians of Sonora?
I knew that a certain percentage of the Yaqui population suffered
from tuberculosis and that, due to their economic situation, they
couldn't be cured.
“Yes,” don Juan said, “It's a very sad thing but, you see, your
situation is also very sad, and if you believe that you are in better
condition than the Yaqui Indians you are mistaken. In general the human
condition is in a horrifying state of chaos. No one is better off than
another. We are all beings that are going to die and, unless we
acknowledge this, there is no remedy for us.”
This is another point of the shaman's pragmatism: to become aware
that we are beings that are going to die. They say that when we do
this, everything acquires a transcendental order and measure.
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[MAIN] [INTRODUCTION] [UPDATES] [SEMINARS] [TENSEGRITY] [PUBLICATIONS]
Original Information © Copyright 1997-1999 Laugan Productions,
All rights reserved.
[CARLOS CASTANEDA'S TENSEGRITY]
in the original html-file: [Image]
Excerpt from an Interview with Florinda Donner-Grau, Taisha Abelar and
by Concha Labarta
Translated from Spanish. First appeared in Mas Alla, April 1, 1997,
[deutsche Version steht am 31mar2015 unter
All the answers were given by Carol Tiggs, Taisha Abelar and Florinda
Question: You were, along with Carlos Castaneda, students of don Juan
Matus and his sorcerer cohorts. However, you remained in anonymity for
years, and it was not until recently that you decided to speak about
your own apprenticeship with don Juan. Why this long silence? And
what's the reason for this change?
Answer: First of all, we would like to clarify that each one of us met
the man Carlos Castaneda calls the Nagual don Juan Matus under a
different name: Melchior Yaoquizque, John Michael Abelar and Mariano
Aureliano. To avoid confusion, we always call him the old Nagual; not
old in the sense of old age but in the sense of seniority, and above
all, to differentiate him from the new Nagual, Carlos Castaneda.
Discussing our apprenticeship with the old Nagual wasn't at all
part of the task he conceived for us. That's why we remained in
The return of Carol Tiggs in 1985 marked a total change in our
goals and aspirations. She was traditionally in charge of guiding us
through something which, for modern man, could be translated as space
and time, but which, for the shamans of ancient Mexico, meant
awareness. They conceived a journey through something they called the
dark sea of awareness.
Traditionally, Carol Tiggs' role was to guide us to make that
crossing. When she returned, she automatically transformed the insular
goal of our private journey into something more far-reaching. That's
why we decided to end our anonymity and teach the magical passes of the
shamans of ancient Mexico.
Q: Was the instruction you received from don Juan similar to that of
Carlos Castaneda? If it wasn't, what were the differences? How would
each of you describe don Juan and his male and female cohorts?
A: The instruction given to us was not at all similar to that given to
Carlos Castaneda for the simple reason that we are women. We have
organs that men don't have: the ovaries and the uterus, organs of
tremendous importance. The old Nagual's instruction for us consisted of
pure action. Regarding the description of the old Nagual's male and
female cohorts, all we can say at this moment in our lives is that they
were exceptional beings. To talk about them as people of the everyday
world would be inane for us at this time.
The least we can say is that all of them, and they were sixteen
including the old Nagual, were in a state of exquisite vitality and
youth. They were all old and yet at the same time, they weren't. When,
out of curiosity and amazement, we asked the old Nagual what was the
reason for their exorbitant vigor, he told us that what rejuvenated
them every step of the way was their link with infinity.
Q: While many modern psychological and sociological trends advocate
putting an end to the distance between the masculine and the feminine,
we have read in your books that there are notable differences between
men and women in the way they each access knowledge. Could you
elucidate on this subject? How are you, and your experiences as female
sorcerers, different from those of Carlos Castaneda?
A: The difference between male and female sorcerers in the lineage of
the old Nagual is the simplest thing in the world. Like every other
woman in the world, we have a womb. We have different organs from men:
the uterus and the ovaries, which, according to sorcerers, make it easy
for women to enter into exotic areas of awareness. According to
sorcerers, there is a colossal force in the universe; a constant,
perennial force which fluctuates but which doesn't change. They call
this force awareness or the dark sea of awareness. Sorcerers assert
that all living beings are attached to this force. They call this point
of union the assemblage point. Sorcerers maintain that, due to the
presence of the womb inside the body, women have the facility to
displace the assemblage point to a new position.
We would like to emphasize that sorcerers believe that the
assemblage point of every human being is located in the same place;
three feet behind the shoulder blades. When sorcerers see human beings
as energy, they perceive this point as a conglomerate of energy fields
in the form of a luminous ball.
Sorcerers say that since the male sexual organs are outside the
body, men don't have the same facility. Therefore, it would be absurd
for sorcerers to try to erase or cloud these energetic differences.
Regarding the behavior of male and female sorcerers in the social
order, it is almost the same. The energetic difference makes the
practitioners, men and women, behave in different ways. In the case of
sorcerers, these differences are complementary. The female sorcerers'
great facility to displace the assemblage point serves as a base for
male sorcerers' actions, which are characterized by greater endurance
and more unyielding purpose.
Q: We also have read in your books that Florinda Donner-Grau and Taisha
Abelar each represent a different category in the world of shamanism.
One of you is a dreamer and the other a stalker. These are attractive
and exotic terms but many people use them indiscriminately and
interpret them in their own way. What's the real significance of such
classifications? When it comes to action, what are the implications for
Florinda Donner-Grau to be a dreamer and for Taisha Abelar to be a
A: Once again, as in the preceding question, the difference is very
simple because it is dictated by each of our energies.
Florinda Donner-Grau is a dreamer because she has an
extraordinary facility to displace the assemblage point. According to
sorcerers, when the assemblage point, which is our point of attachment
to the dark sea of awareness, is displaced, a new conglomerate of
energy fields is assembled, a conglomerate similar to the habitual one,
but different enough to guarantee the perception of another world which
is not the world of everyday life.
The gift of Taisha Abelar as a stalker is her facility to fix the
assemblage point in the new position to which it has been displaced.
Without this facility to fix the assemblage point, the perception of
another world is too fleeting; something very similar to the effect
produced by certain hallucinogenic drugs: a profusion of images without
rhyme or reason. Sorcerers believe that the effect of hallucinogenic
drugs is to displace the assemblage point, but only in a very chaotic
and temporary manner.
Q: In your most recent books, Being-In-Dreaming and The Sorcerers'
Crossing, you talk about personal experiences that are difficult to
accept. Accessing other worlds, traveling into the unknown, making
contact with inorganic beings, are all experiences which challenge
reason. The temptation is either not to believe such accounts at all,
or to consider you as beings that are beyond good and evil, beings that
are not touched by sickness, old age or death. What's the everyday
reality for a female sorcerer? And how does living in chronological
time fit with living in magical time?
A: Your question, Miss Labarta, is too abstract and farfetched. Please
forgive our frankness. We are not intellectual beings and are not in
any way capable of taking part in exercises in which the intellect
engages words which in reality don't have any meaning. None of us,
under any agreement, are beyond good and evil, sickness, or old age.
What happened to us was that we were convinced, by the old
Nagual, that there are two categories of human beings. The great
majority of us are beings which sorcerers call (in a pejorative manner,
we would add) “the immortal ones.” The other category is the category
of beings that are going to die.
The old Nagual told us that, like immortal beings, we never take
death as a point of reference, and we therefore allow ourselves the
inconceivable luxury of living our entire lives involved in words,
descriptions, polemics, agreements and disagreements.
The other category is the category of sorcerers, of beings that
are going to die, who cannot, at any time and or under any
circumstances, allow themselves the luxury of making intellectual
assertions. If we are anything, we are beings without any importance.
And if we have anything, it is our conviction that we are beings that
are going to die and that someday, we will have to face infinity. Our
preparation is the simplest thing in the world: we prepare ourselves
twenty-four hours a day to face this encounter with infinity.
The old Nagual succeeded in erasing in us our confounded idea of
immortality and our indifference to life, and he convinced us that, as
beings that are going to die, we can enlarge our options in life.
Sorcerers maintain that human beings are magical beings, capable of
stupendous actions and accomplishments once they rid themselves of
ideologies that turn them into ordinary human beings.
Our accounts are, in reality, phenomenological descriptions of
feats of perception that are available to all of us, especially to
women, feats that are bypassed due to our habit of self-reflection.
Sorcerers assert that the only thing that exists for us human beings,
is Me, ME, and only ME. Under such conditions, the only thing possible
is whatever concerns Me. And by definition whatever concerns Me, the
personal `I', can lead only to anger and resentment.
Q: The physical presence of a teacher may not be indispensable but, in
any case, it is of great help. You received direct instruction from don
Juan and his cohorts to guide you into the world of shamanism. Do you
really think that that world is accessible to anyone, even when they
don't have a personal teacher?
A: In a way, the insistence on having a teacher is an aberration. The
idea of the old Nagual was that he was helping us to break away from
the dominion of the Me. With his jokes, and his terrifying sense of
humor, he succeeded in making us laugh at ourselves. In this sense, we
firmly believe that change is possible for anyone, a change similar to
ours, for example, by practicing Tensegrity, without the need for a
particular and personal teacher.
The old Nagual wasn't interested in teaching his knowledge. He
was never a teacher or a guru. He couldn't have cared less about being
one. The old Nagual was interested in perpetuating his lineage. If he
guided us personally, it was to inculcate in us all the premises of
sorcery that would allow us to continue his lineage. He expected that
someday, it would be our turn to do the same.
Circumstances outside of our volition, or his, conspired to
prevent the continuation of his lineage. In view of the fact that we
cannot carry out the traditional function of continuing a sorceric
lineage, we want to make this knowledge available. Since the Tensegrity
practitioners are not called upon to perpetuate any shamanistic
lineage, they have the possibility of accomplishing what we have
accomplished, but via a different path.
Q: The possibility of an alternative form of death is one of the most
striking points of don Juan Matus' teachings. According to what you
have told us, he and his group attained that alternative death. What is
your own interpretation of their disappearance, when they transformed
themselves into awareness?
A: This may seem like a simple question, but it is very difficult to
answer. We are practitioners of the teachings of the old Nagual. It
appears to us that, with your question, you are soliciting a
psychological justification, an explanation equivalent to the
explanations of modern science.
Unfortunately we cannot give you an explanation outside of what
we are. The old Nagual and his cohorts died an alternative death, which
is possible for any one of us, if we have the necessary discipline.
All we can tell you is that the old Nagual and his people lived
life professionally, meaning that they were responsible for all their
acts, even the most minute ones, because they were extremely aware of
everything they did. Under such conditions, to die an alternative death
is not such a farfetched possibility.
Q: Do you feel ready to face the last jump? What do you expect in that
universe, which you regard as impersonal, cold and predatorial?
A: What we expect is an endless fight and the possibility of witnessing
infinity, either for a second or for five billion years.
Q: Some readers of Carlos Castaneda's literary works have reproached
him for the lack of a bigger spiritual presence in his books, for never
having used words like “love.” Is the world of a warrior really that
cold? Don't you feel human emotions? Or do you perhaps give a different
meaning to those emotions?
A: Yes, we give them a different meaning, and we don't use words like
“love” or “spirituality” because the old Nagual convinced us that they
are empty concepts. Not love or spirituality themselves, but the use of
these two words. His line of argument was as follows: if we really
consider ourselves immortal beings who can afford the luxury of living
amongst gigantic contradictions and endless selfishness; if all that
counts for us is immediate gratification, how can we make love or
spirituality something authentic? For the old Nagual these concepts
were manqué, lifeless, words that nobody is prepared to back up. He
said that every time we are confronted with these contradictions, we
solve them by saying that, as human beings, we are weak.
The old Nagual told us that, as a general rule, we human beings
were never taught to love. We were taught only to feel gratifying
emotions, pertinent exclusively to the personal Me. Infinity is sublime
and without pity, he said, and there's no room for fallacious concepts,
no matter how pleasant they may seem to us.
Q: It seems that the key to expanding our capabilities for perception
lies in the amount of energy we have at our disposal, and that the
energetic condition of modern man is very meager. What would be the
essential premise for storing energy? Is this possible for someone who
has to take care of a family, go to work every day, and participate
fully in the social world? And what about celibacy as a way of saving
energy, one of the most controversial points in your books?
A: Celibacy is recommended, the old Nagual told us, for the majority of
us. Not for moral reasons, but because we don't have enough energy. He
made us see how the majority of us have been conceived in the midst of
marital boredom. As a pragmatic sorcerer, the old Nagual maintained
that conception is something of final importance. He said that if the
mother wasn't able to have an orgasm at the moment of conception, the
result was something he called “a bored conception.” There is no energy
under such conditions. The old Nagual recommended celibacy for those
who have been conceived under such circumstances.
Another thing he recommended as a means of storing energy was the
dissolution of patterns of behavior that lead to chaos, such as the
incessant preoccupation with romantic courtship; the presentation and
defense of the self in everyday life; excessive routines and, above
all, the tremendous insistence on the concerns of the self.
If these points are achieved, any one of us can have the
necessary energy to use time, space and the social order more
Q: The magical passes of Tensegrity, which you consider to be of great
importance, are your most recent contribution to those interested in
don Juan Matus' world. What can Tensegrity bring to those who practice
it? Can this be equated with any other physical discipline, or does it
have its own characteristics?
A: What Tensegrity brings to those who practice it is energy. The
difference between Tensegrity and any other system of physical
exercises is that the intent of Tensegrity is something dictated by the
shamans of ancient Mexico. This intent is the liberation of the being
that is going to die.
Copyright 1997, Laugan Productions, reprinted with permission of Mas Alla
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