(The Secret of the Plumed Serpent)
Living in the present does not imply disregarding past experiences; it means learning to see them as they really are: events outside time in the flow of the cosmic intent. That allows one to extract accurate lessons from them, and even gives one the capacity to modify them as required. That is what recapitulation is for; through recapitulation, you can literally intervene in the energy flow of the past.
Doña Lucrecia explained that this custom, based on the practice of sorcerers, served to remind the living that dying means sinking into the dark sea of awareness. To escape this fate, one must pay one’s debt to the spirit. Our life experience is what we owe, and the payment consists in unravelling every feeling, and every emotion we’ve had in our lifetime. That can be achieved by means of impeccable and thorough recapitulation. She said:
“Instead of collectively remembering the dead one day a year as ordinary people do, sorcerers evoke the day on which they are going to die. That day, which is as real as any other, is much more memorable than any other date one might celebrate. To flow with Death means to become one with it, learn to accept it in such a way that it becomes a friend, so that, when the moment comes for us to set off for the valley of shadows, there will be no fear in us because we’ll know how to cross the River of Oblivion. That is the only way to conquer Death.”
Smiling wickedly, doña Lucrecia glared at us with the eyes of the devil and said in a terrible voice:
“I’ve come to take you.”
We all laughed: the healers with total abandon, and the rest of us with total apprehension.
There is a saying among healers, “Until you have paid off your debts, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” To them, it means that one can only enter the other world if one has recovered the energy that has been scattered around. One achieves this by recapitulating one’s life in all its detail.
“The ultimate goal of all living things, whether they know it or not, is to preserve awareness. That is why death, or the idea of death, causes such fear. The reason for living is to acquire experience and be filled with knowledge and awareness. That is the food of the Eagle. At present, only sorcerers are aware of the possibility of disobeying the command to die and deliver their awareness to the Eagle, because they practise recapitulation
Once, while teaching us about keeping our energy layers tight, don Melchor spoke of something that in the language of the healers meant ‘shredding the basic components’ and could be translated as ‘genetic recapitulation’. The only way to revitalize our congenital energy and put it entirely at the disposal of our awareness was by compacting it, he said. To achieve this, it was first necessary to scrutinise it from the base up.
I remembered that Carlos had touched upon that topic in one of his talks. He said it was essential to know our energetic potential, and that it was therefore necessary to investigate our origins by discovering how our parents had made us. In one of his public lectures in which I assisted, he said:
“By finding out what mood our parents were in at the time of our conception, we can say for certain whether the act that brought us to this world was infiltrated by ethical or religious concerns. Through meticulous scrutiny it is possible to find out whether or not there was passion. Without passion, the act was mediocre and lacked the necessary strength.”
Carlos classified himself as the product of a bored fuck. He told us that because of our socialization, very few people had in fact issued from passionate relationships. Because of that, his teacher advised him to be very cautious with the use of his energy, and said that in his case all excesses were strictly forbidden. Don Genaro used to tease him, saying that his chilli was just for urinating and that he was allowed to give it only two shakes after peeing, because the third one, for him, would count as masturbation. It was Carlos’s custom to illustrate his teachings with jokes and funny comments.
On one occasion when the topic of sex was being discussed, he told us that until recently the Spanish did not even undress during sexual intercourse. The idea that it was a sin was so strong that, to rid themselves of the guilt for participating in so sinful an act, they would kneel beside the bed and in their prayers repeat the refrain, “Not as vice, not because it’s nice, but to place a son in Thy service.”
Carlos had spoken the invocation with an exaggerated Castilian accent, which provoked a wave of laughter in the audience. He then added more seriously:
“It is easy to predict the energy level of the creature that is being created in that kind of relationship.”
He added that in our case, it was possible to determine how we were made in two ways:
by directly asking our parents, or by using a specialized form of recapitulation, of which he gave no details on that occasion.
Answering a question, he said:
“A good recapitulation has no limits. It can take you back to the moment of your birth, and beyond. Since, for couples, sexual intercourse often turns into a mandatory event which must be performed regardless, it tends to become an ordinary, boring act in which the fire of passion has died, leaving daily routine in its place. The ones who pay the greatest price for this transformation are the children, born with an energy level so low that they are like old people from the day they are born.”
That is why Carlos once said of one person in the group that he was fortunate to have been a bastard. He explained that, in that type of relationship, there was at least a chance of there being enough passion during the act of procreation. It was doubtlessly due to this that the energy level of the person in question was higher than normal.
The healers’ tradition also uses those concepts. One of the speakers once commented on an extract from the Bible which said that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven meant to be born a second time. Don Melchor later explained what the passage was about, and confirmed that it contained a great truth. He said:
“It is not a metaphor but a literal truth. If we manage to unravel the events of our lives and arrive at the rudimental vibration which created us, the possibility of performing an energy miracle will open to us. By returning to our origins, we can compact the energy involved in that initial act of creation, and in that way rescue our integrity. Sorcerers take recapitulation seriously, because it not only helps one get rid of the burdens imposed upon us by daily life, it can also reverse the stigma of the original sin, which is to be born without energy.
That is how retracing the path helps us in a very profound way, effecting changes at the fundamental level. We are not only what we consciously and unconsciously decree. At birth, we acquire the heritage from the generations that preceded us.
By recapitulating and cancelling undesirable commands, it is possible to modify our basic structure and shape our character at will. It is the only way we can rid ourselves of unconscious repetitions, the only way we can prevent the onslaught of diseases and other conditions that may have been programmed into the heritage we got from our ancestors.
Only by returning to our origins can we correct any fault that may have been there at the moment of our formation. This is achieved by breaking the basic components of our character down to their minimum expression. The warrior then uses intent to reconsolidate himself as a whole, now free of external commands.
Although the revision of basic components as such has no power to cancel out our parents’ acts, it does help restore our totality as luminous beings. For sorcerers, constructing their energy body is a work of art that usually takes a lifetime to complete. That is why they are so meticulous about anything relating to that goal.”
I asked don Melchor how it was possible to recapitulate something that happened before we even existed. He replied:
“The memory we use in our daily lives is cerebral. Here, however, the type of recollection sorcerers seek has to do with our origins, when we did not have a description of the world around us. To be sure, our basic components, or the energy fibres that make us up, obviously had to be present at the moment of our creation. Those fibres recorded it all.”
Along the same line of thought, he clarified:
“I’m not referring only to the physical aspect of our birth but to the exact moment of our formation as units of luminosity. I am talking about luminous fibres, where the fusion of two segments in a given moment produces the spark of individual awareness.
To our luminous body, the passage of time means nothing, so much so that it is perfectly capable of activating those very same filaments that were employed at the exact moment of our creation. That is the warriors’ feat. Achieving it, one might even get to perceive oneself as one really is: a fibre of light aware of itself.
Every human being’s potential includes all the capacities of a warrior; it is just a matter of activating them. Everything begins with an initial act of will. If we then faithfully continue reviewing our actions, we successfully revive our link with the spirit.
A warrior, then, is someone who has literally been reborn, or rather, someone who has recreated himself and has been conceived anew, only this time fully, passionately and free from the fetters of socialization.
The complete history of our ancestors is stored in our basic components. Retrieving that history is an act of power through which we definitively disintegrate the illusion of ‘I’. That history is not composed of words or images, although it is entirely possible to realign with any of them in order to make the return journey.”
Continuing with his explanation, don Melchor clarified that point:
“The memories we usually access during our genetic recapitulation are in fact impressions that jolt the totality of our fibres, making us aware of why we are as we are, and why we react as we habitually do. Genetic recapitulation brings us into contact with the immense burden we carry, imprinted in us as the heritage from our ancestors.
As a result of this type of recapitulation, we introduce ourselves to a unique dimension where sensations hold priority over the mind, making it possible for us to perceive the forces acting upon us.
Every aware being in the universe is connected to a particular luminous fibre. The act of focusing on one of these lines is called aligning. To align, therefore, means to live a particular experience, past or present, contained in the vast ocean of awareness.”
One participant asked what the object of the exercise was, because it was bound to be hard work. Don Melchor replied:
“You cannot evaluate the results of that effort unless you personally commit to it. Anyone can understand that the practical results of that work are of enormous importance because it has to do with the reason for our existence: keeping the flame of awareness alight.
Every living being in the universe is fighting for the same thing, whether they know it or not. It is like a cosmic game where only those who manage to pass each evolutional stage can progress.
Recapitulation should be the main task of our life. One can’t know what one is missing if one’s never had a point of comparison. People have no idea how the transmission of the basic components affects them, and are therefore constantly exposed.”
Explaining the transmission of our personal characteristics by means of basic components, don Melchor said that this phenomenon occurred not only vertically, in the transmission from parents to children, but also horizontally, through other mechanisms of contact.
The way in which the presence of others affects us is a good example of this. He said that was why the saying “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are” was indisputably true.
“When our energy interacts with that of others, we receive something from them, and the other way round. That exchange of filaments is what needs to be reset, and only a good recapitulation can do it. That is why warriors go to extremes to save energy by strictly avoiding taking part in activities that might drain their personal power.”
He gave the way sorcerers interacted with ordinary people as an example:
“One can only deal with mundane people through acting, by dodging them to avoid being ensnared in their coils.”
What Carlos called the art of stalking, the healers called the art of acting.
Don Melchor said that in interacting with the people they were healing, the healers ran a calculated risk. It was therefore common for them to disappear from time to time to retrace their steps.
Consequently, whenever it was difficult to find someone in the group at a given moment, everyone would know that he or she had ‘retired’, and under no circumstances was to be disturbed. That is how they referred to someone who was busy recapitulating.
Don Melchor commented:
“That is the only way one can stay on top of things; otherwise you sink under the pressure of relationships, and end up acting like ordinary people do; such is the power of exchanging the basic components.”
Someone wanted to know how it affected the relationship between parents and children.
At the time of conception, don Melchor explained, parents fused their energy. Each parent donated a light fibre of his or her own energy to form the new life. The miracle of conception consisted of trapping a handful of filaments of the energy at large inside a new luminous cocoon. That is how new life was formed.
“Following the creation of a new being, the energies of parents and children inevitably remain intermingled because each is part of the other. But recapitulation is very useful even then because it minimizes the loss of energy.”
He told us about a custom of the ancients that was still observed in rural communities:
one never carried a child in front of one’s body, but mounted on the hip or on one’s back. Adults were also very careful not to embrace the child frontally. That practice came from the sorcerers who knew that affection for children was, in reality, concern, and that parents were energetically drained through that feeling. Frontal embraces increased the drainage, which is why they opted for carrying the child strapped to the back or seated on the hip.
“It is also a favour to the little one since it helps the child feel more independent and have self-confidence. It is all about saving every bit of energy possible. It is an effort similar to following a diet, and it is available to everyone. All one needs do is to make a commitment to oneself. Unfortunately, as with a diet, the main factor is discipline, and as even the simplest decision to change requires an extra amount of energy, most people are not even fit to embark on such an undertaking.
When people are told they need to reassess the aspects of their life which they are most attached to, they do an about-turn and leave the issue for another day, saying, ‘What? Me, stay single?’ or, ‘Me, give up smoking? No, anything but that!’
If we manage to solve the problem of energy we will have made a huge step; we will have entered another world. But how many of us are willing to pay the price?”
I remember being assigned a very special exercise during our training. The exercise consisted of walking backwards while treading in our own footsteps with precision. At first I thought it would be easy, but trying to do it, I realised it was much more difficult than I had thought. The level of concentration and physical control required was extremely intense, and the execution had to be perfect.
We spent months training before we were sufficiently skilled to do it. After a tiring day of practice, don Melchor came over to us and explained the finer points of the exercise. It was, he said, a representation of the sorcerers’ task called ohtli necuapalli, or retracing the steps.
Smiling, he turned to me, his index finger in the air, and in the professorial manner, as if expounding something very intellectual to his students, said Carlitos called it re-ca-pi-tu-la-tion.
Everyone turned to me and laughed. Don Melchor continued with his explanation:
“Sorcerers-healers also practise recapitulation, but we’ve added confessing our sins to Grandfather Fire to the technique. Also, in certain cases, one must undertake a return journey and return to the exact location where the recapitulated incident occurred, because there, with the help of correct breathing, one can recover one’s soul.
You may have heard that healers make return journeys to retrace their steps. That is meant literally. They return to every place they passed through and where they left energy smears. They collect every crumb they may have left scattered along the way.
The whole process requires a lot of preparation, as if getting ready to attend a very important event — the most important of all events, in fact: the recovery of the totality of oneself.
The warrior, then, prepares for the return journey, and, when he gets back to a place or meets people involved in the past events, he uses recovery techniques, and calls back the energy he’d left behind.”
“How do we recover lost energy? What is the procedure?” someone asked.
“For that you have to use intent. Having got to the place where his energy was compromised, the warrior gets ready to draw on his reverting power. The procedure for recovering energy is to make our hands into claws and, inhaling gently or hard as appropriate, grab the emotions we injected into the place. To get rid of any undesirable energy that may have been deposited in us there, one makes a gesture of rejection starting from the middle of the chest, and, while doing that, exhales.
In the case of recovering energy left in another person, all you have to do is touch them once with your left hand, and once with your right to give back the energy that has been left in you.”
“Is there a particular place on the other person’s body that one should touch?”
“In most cases a simple squeeze of hand will do, but sometimes it is necessary to touch the chest of the other person.”
I was able to verify for myself the efficacy of those procedures and can say that to recapitulate in conjunction with the healers’ practice of visiting the places where the events of one’s life took place greatly increases the power of ordinary recapitulation.
In my particular case, I was able to see the results when I tried to retrace my steps on the subject of my family history. It was not until I had recovered every fibre of my energy that I could get the full measure of the value of this procedure.
On another occasion, in a private conversation, don Melchor told me:
“Once we accept the challenge of being a warrior, the first thing we must do is retrace our steps, because that will give us the extra energy we’ll need to start making other changes. It is the only thing that can give an assistant an understanding of what he is doing. If one tries to become a healer without recapitulating, one is lost in endless doubts and hesitations.”
After a moment of silence, he added:
“Through recapitulation, one can even change appearance.”
“What does that mean, don Melchor?”
“I’m saying that sorcerers can change their appearance at will. Don Gabinito is an example. I’m mentioning it because you’ve often asked me how such transformations can be done. I can now tell you that everything starts with recapitulation.”
I told doña Silvia once that I was having difficulties with my recapitulation. To help me, she said, referring to her weaving:
“Our life is like this fabric. To retrace our steps, we must become aware of how our energy is interwoven. If one understands the tangle of one’s life, it is much easier to unravel it.”
That day she showed me a totally different recapitulation technique from the one I had been using so far. The system had no name, but I half-jokingly called it ‘recapitography’ because I had to write down the particulars of my recollection in detail on the bark of trees. The strips of bark were then exposed to the winds, after which they were ceremoniously burned, either privately or collectively.
“Retracing steps serves not only to resolve traumas but also as a powerful technique for improving the quality of life. It is something everyone should do as a discipline. The benefits of that exercise include improved memory and becoming more aware of oneself and one’s surroundings. We recover whatever was taken from us during energy attacks by people as well as by nasty mountain winds.”
Along one of the regular routes we used on our walks, there was a tree the locals of the area believed to be magical. It was an enormous ceiba about forty metres high, considered by many to be the mother of all the ceibas in that valley. It was rumoured to be very old, possibly a thousand years or more.
Stories of that tree’s power have even attracted pilgrims who had come from afar to drink from its life-giving fountain. From time to time, the healers would go there to fill their gourds with the blessed water. For sorcerers, however, the greatest gift that the tree gave them was none of the above but rather its very fine bark which they used for writing down the details of their personal recapitulation.
On one of our visits to the tree, doña Silvia told me:
“Long ago, a powerful sorcerer chose this tree as his dwelling place, and settled there to live in it. His spirit is still around.”
She suggested that I sit in the shade of the tree and verify its strength myself, and I did.
Whether through the power of her suggestion, or for some other reason, I really felt I was inside an unusually powerful field of awareness. While we were there, doña Silvia spoke about the bark-writing technique. She said:
“Each ceiba tree is sacred to the Indians, not only for being the guardian of water and staying green all year round, but also because those trees shed their bark which serves as a sort of paper for recording the events of their lives and their sins. It is, therefore, a sacred tree that helps us get rid of our crap. And that is exactly what you’re going to do. You need to collect a lot of this tree’s bark
and write down all your life on it.”
So I collected a thick stack of sheets of bark on which I recorded all the incidents of my life that I could remember. I was amazed at the number of important things I had previously forgotten. Finally, when doña Silvia felt that my life had been sufficiently reviewed, she ordered me to ceremonially burn the sheets.
On one occasion, doña Silvia asked me:
“How are you getting on with your dreaming?”
I answered that I was carefully recording every dream I had. She laughed and said it was good to do that. I added that keeping a written record of my dreams had initially helped me remember more easily to find my hands.
At one point the subject of dreaming became so important to me that I tackled it with true passion. I considered it a legitimate field for personal investigation.
Even before going through the first gate of dreaming, I had discovered that writing down experiences, common dreams as well as nightmares, dissipated the large part of one’s obsessions and morbidity. In my case, dreaming became much easier as I advanced in the exercise of recapitulation. My instructors would often repeat, “For warriors, recapitulation is not an option. It is mandatory.”
That morning I was helping doña Silvia shell corn off the dried cobs. I had to wear hide gloves to protect my hands from injury. As we worked, she said I was ready for a new phase of training.
With great seriousness, but without formality, she said, “It’s about a new manoeuvre to be performed in the world of dreaming.
You’ve learned to reach the other world, and you’ve managed to keep pretty good control of yourself, so now it’s time to embark on a new task: go and recapitulate in dreaming.”
That aspect of the recapitulation was new to me. I had never considered using dreaming to recapitulate. I laid my gloves aside and jotted down her words.
“If you practise recapitulation and dreaming in parallel, you’ll notice that with time what you experience in either of them will seem more and more alike to you. One reinforces the other, until eventually there is no difference whatsoever between them.
Recapitulating in dreaming is one of the most rewarding tasks for an apprentice. What makes this task so special is that not only do you remember an event; you totally and completely re-live it.”
I committed to the task. It was hard work at first, but when I chose beforehand what I wanted to recapitulate, things changed. I would enter the pre-programmed scene in my dreaming. I was impressed with the vividness of detail, and my visions were shaped by things I had no idea I had witnessed.
Once our life experience has passed through the filter of recapitulation again and again, details such as modes of behaviour, gestures and anecdotes emerge and we end up realizing we had not been experiencing life as fully as we thought we had. We become aware that behind everything we witness there is always more going on: perceptions of events which seemingly have not happened. They have, though, but in different states of awareness.
As one progresses with this exercise, one ends up recapitulating not just the world of daily affairs but also all the dreams one’s ever had. It is a magical activity that happens of its own accord and ends in the joining of the dreaming body and the physical body. A warrior who has reached this level has no need to go to bed and sleep in order to dream: he can do it awake.
One day I confronted don Melchor with the details of the Rule that Carlos had described in his books.
“What can you tell me about that type of warrior party?” I asked with great curiosity, remembering how pithy Carlos had been with that information. He explained:
“In an attempt to disobey the Eagle’s command which says that all living beings without exception must die, the seers organized groups of explorers and examined all the available possibilities. They saw that the command was indeed final, but as they went deeper into the matter, they realized that to die was the transitional stage between this world and the other one, before the complete disintegration of the self and its union with the whole.
In the investigations that followed, the seers discovered that it was possible to outmanoeuvre death and keep awareness intact. Recapitulation helps achieve that goal by stimulating memory.
As you know, the Universe as such is a huge collective memory containing the totality of all that was, is and will be. We are like its neurons, or perhaps even less than that. Perhaps one should say a particle orbiting a nucleus. The point is that this little electron or whatever suddenly gains awareness of itself and, in order to know its place in the grand scheme, performs its task so impeccably that it attains freedom.”
Don Melchor laughed at his analogy and said that actually the most important thing anyone could do was to get busy with the task of recapitulation because that was what guaranteed the survival of awareness after the end of our organic time.
I had always marvelled at his erudition. In fact, the healers were very well informed of all the advances in science. Don Gabinito even received magazines with news about science.
Regarding traditional warrior parties, don Melchor said:
“The Rule for those parties postulates the pyramid structure, designed so that four-pronged Naguals are directed by its square base. The four sides are the four cardinal directions with the four winds associated with them. From that starting point, depending on their interests, the warriors of each pyramid group can draw any kind of interpretation.”
“Could you tell me more about the general Rule?”
“The Rule manifests itself in everything that exists: colours, sound, the sciences: mathematics, geometry, astronomy, genetics, everything! We call modern scientists ‘the discoverers of the Rule’, because that is what modern science does: it discovers aspects of the universal Rule.
The Rule of the Nagual has diverse portions.” And don Melchor went on to list the different areas where the Rule applied in respect of warrior parties. “There are Rules for each individual warrior, according to his direction or inclinations. We have already discussed the Rule for Naguals; there also exist normative Rules for the planet of dreamers and for that of stalkers, for the party as a whole, for the lineage and, finally, the Rule is present in each minute aspect of the entire process that has been taking place since the forming of the parties, including the rules for the behaviour of warriors.
“What are the rules for warrior’s behaviour?” I asked.
“To be impeccable,” don Melchor replied.
I grumblingly told him that his answer did not explain anything. I had expected a list of things one could and could not do.
“Ah, but it does explain things!” he retorted. “Impeccability is like a multi-use tool that fits any occasion. For example, between good and excellent, a warrior always chooses what is better. And when he has to choose between a bad egg and a completely rotten one, the warrior always strategically chooses the one which will cause the least possible damage.”
He laughed at his own words, and then added:
“Impeccability means always giving the best of yourself, all the time, in everything you do, even when the situation is not the most favourable.”
I begged him for more details, but he told me that I would discover them for myself over the time, as my association with the healers meant I had to observe every facet of the Rule.