The recapitulation, according to what don Juan taught his disciples, was a technique discovered by the sorcerers of ancient Mexico, and used by every shaman practitioner from then on, to view and relive all the experiences of their lives, in order to achieve two transcendental goals: one, the abstract goal of fulfilling a universal code that demands that awareness must be relinquished at the moment of death; and two, the extremely pragmatic goal of acquiring perceptual fluidity.
He said that the formulation of their first goal was the result of observations that those sorcerers made by means of their capacity to see energy directly as it flows in the universe. They had seen that there exists in the universe a gigantic force, an immense conglomerate of energy fields which they called the Eagle, or the dark sea of awareness. They observed that the dark sea of awareness is the force that lends awareness to all living beings, from viruses to men. They believed that it lends awareness to a newborn being, and that this being enhances that awareness by means of its life experiences until a moment in which the force demands its return.
In the understanding of those sorcerers, all living beings die because they are forced to return the awareness lent to them. Sorcerers throughout the ages have understood that there is no way for what modem man calls our linear mode of thinking to explain such a phenomenon, because there is no room for a cause-and-effect line of reasoning as to why and how awareness is lent and then taken back. The sorcerers of ancient Mexico viewed it as an energetic fact of the universe, a fact that can’t be explained in terms of cause and effect, or in terms of a purpose which can be determined a priori.
The sorcerers of don Juan’s lineage believed that to recapitulate meant to give the dark sea of awareness what it was seeking: their life experiences. They believed that by means of the recapitulation, however, they could acquire a degree of control that could permit them to separate their life experiences from their life force. For them, the two were not inextricably intertwined; they were joined only circumstantially.
Those sorcerers affirmed that the dark sea of awareness doesn’t want to take the lives of human beings; it wants only their life experiences. Lack of discipline in human beings prevents them from separating the two forces, and in the end, they lose their lives, when it is meant that they lose only the force of their life experiences. Those sorcerers viewed the recapitulation as the procedure by which they could give the dark sea of awareness a substitute for their lives. They gave up their life experiences by recounting them, but they retained their life force.
The perceptual claims of sorcerers, when examined in terms of the linear concepts of our Western world, make no sense whatsoever. Western civilization has been in contact with the shamans of the New World for five hundred years, and there has never been a genuine attempt on the part of scholars to formulate a serious philosophical discourse based on statements made by those shamans. For instance, the recapitulation may seem to any member of the Western world to be congruous with psychoanalysis, something in the line of a psychological procedure, a sort of selfhelp technique. Nothing could be further from the truth.
According to don Juan Matus, man always loses by default. In the case of the premises of sorcery, he believed that Western man is missing a tremendous opportunity for the enhancement of his awareness, and that the way in which Western man relates himself to the universe, life, and awareness is only one of a multiplicity of options.
To recapitulate, for shaman practitioners, means to give to an incomprehensible force-the dark sea of awareness-the very thing it seems to be looking for: their life experiences, that is to say, the awareness that they have enhanced through those very life experiences. Since don Juan could not possibly explain these phenomena to me in terms of standard logic, he said that all that sorcerers could aspire to do was to accomplish the feat of retaining their life force without knowing how it was done. He also said that there were thousands of sorcerers who had achieved this. They had retained their life force after they had given the dark sea of awareness the force of their life experiences. This meant to don Juan that those sorcerers didn’t die in the usual sense in which we understand death, but that they transcended it by retaining their life force and vanishing from the face of the earth, embarked on a definitive journey of perception.
The belief of the shamans of don Juan’s lineage was that when death takes place in this fashion, all of our being is turned into energy, a special kind of energy that retains the mark of our individuality. Don Juan tried to explain this in a metaphorical sense, saying that we are composed of a number of single nations: the nation of the lungs, the nation of the heart, the nation of the stomach, the nation of the kidneys, and so on. Each of these nations sometimes works independently of the others, but at the moment of death, all of them are unified into one single entity. The sorcerers of don Juan’s lineage called this state total freedom. For those sorcerers, death is a unifier, and not an annihilator, as it is for the average man.
“Is this state immortality, don Juan?” I asked.
“This is in no way immortality,” he replied. “It is merely the entrance into an evolutionary process, using the only medium for evolution that man has at his disposal: awareness. The sorcerers of my lineage were convinced that man could not evolve biologically’ any further; therefore, they considered man’s awareness to be the only medium for evolution. At the moment of dying, sorcerers are not annihilated by death, but are transformed into inorganic beings: beings that have awareness, but not an organism. To be transformed into an inorganic being was evolution for them, and it meant that a new, indescribable type of awareness was tent to them, an awareness that would last for veritably millions of years, but which would also someday have to be returned to the giver: the dark sea of awareness.”
One of the most important findings of the shamans of don Juan’s lineage was that, like everything else in the universe, our world is a combination of two opposing, and at the same time complementary, forces. One of those forces is the world we know, which those sorcerers called the world of organic beings. The other force is something they called the world of inorganic beings.
“The world of inorganic beings,” don Juan said, “is populated by beings that possess awareness, but not an organism. They are conglomerates of energy fields, just like we are. To the eye of a seer, instead of being luminous, as human beings are, they are rather opaque. They are not round, but long, candlelike energetic configurations. They are, in essence, conglomerates of energy fields which have cohesion and boundaries just like we do. They are held together by the same agglutinating force that holds our energy fields together.”
“Where is this inorganic world, don Juan?” I asked.
“It is our twin world,” he replied. “It occupies the same time and space as our world, but the type of awareness of our world is so different from the type of awareness of the inorganic world that we never notice the presence of inorganic beings, although they do notice ours.”
“Are those inorganic beings human beings that have evolved?” I asked.
“Not at all!” he exclaimed. “The inorganic beings of our twin world have been intrinsically inorganic from the start, the same way that we have always been intrinsically organic beings, also from the start. They are beings whose consciousness can evolve just like ours, and it doubtlessly does, but I have no firsthand knowledge of how this happens. What I do know, however, is that a human being whose awareness has evolved is a bright, luminescent, round inorganic being of a special kind.”
Don Juan gave me a series of descriptions of this evolutionary process, which I always took to be poetic metaphors. I singled out the one that pleased me the most, which was total freedom. I fancied a human being that enters into total freedom to be the most courageous, the most imaginative being possible. Don Juan said that I was not fancying anything at all-that to enter into total freedom, a human being must call on his or her sublime side, which, he said, human beings have, but which it never occurs to them to use.
Don Juan described the second, the pragmatic goal of the recapitulation as the acquisition of fluidity. The sorcerers’ rationale behind this had to do with one of the most elusive subjects of sorcery: the assemblage point, a point of intense luminosity the size of a tennis ball, perceivable when sorcerers see a human being as a conglomerate of energy fields.
Sorcerers like don Juan see that trillions of energy fields in the form of filaments of light from the universe at large converge on the assemblage point and go through it. This confluence of filaments gives the assemblage point its brilliancy. The assemblage point makes it possible for a human being to perceive those trillions of energy filaments by turning them into sensorial data. The assemblage point then interprets this data as the world of everyday life, that is to say, in terms of human socialization and human potential.
To recapitulate is to relive every, or nearly every, experience that we have had, and in doing so to displace the assemblage point, ever so slightly or a great deal, propelling it by the force of memory to adopt the position that it had when the event being recapitulated took place. This act of going back and forth from previous positions to the current one gives the shaman practitioners the necessary fluidity to withstand extraordinary odds in their journeys into infinity. To the Tensegrity practitioners, the recapitulation gives the necessary fluidity to withstand odds which are not in any way part of their habitual cognition.
The recapitulation as a formal procedure was done in ancient times by recollecting every person the practitioners knew and every experience in which they had taken part. Don Juan suggested that in my case, which is the case of modern man, I make a written list of all the persons that I had met in my life, as a mnemonic device. Once I had written that list, he proceeded to tell me how to use it. I had to take the first person on the list, which went backwards in time from the present to the time of my very first life experience, and set up, in my memory, my last interaction with that first person on my list. This act is called arranging the event to be recapitulated.
A detailed recollection of minutiae is required as the proper means to hone one’s capacity to remember. This recollection entails getting all the pertinent physical details, such as the surroundings where the event being recollected took place. Once the event is arranged, one should enter into the locale itself, as if actually going into it, paying special attention to any relevant physical configurations. If, for instance, the interaction took place in an office, what should be remembered is the floor, the doors, the walls, the pictures, the windows, the desks, the objects on the desks, everything that could have been observed in a glance and then forgotten.
The recapitulation as a formal procedure must begin by the recounting of events that have just taken place. In this fashion, the primacy of the experience takes precedence. Something that has just happened is something that one can remember with great accuracy. Sorcerers always count on the fact that human beings are capable of storing detailed information that they are not aware of, and that that detail is what the dark sea of awareness is after.
The actual recapitulation of the event requires that one breathe deeply, fanning the head, so to speak, very slowly and gently from side to side, beginning on one side, left or right, whichever. This fanning of the head was done as many times as needed, while remembering all the details accessible. Don Juan said that sorcerers talked about this act as breathing in all of one’s own feelings spent in the event being recollected, and expelling all the unwanted moods and extraneous feelings that were left with us.
Sorcerers believe that the mystery of the recapitulation lies in the act of inhaling and exhaling. Since breathing is a life-sustaining function, sorcerers are certain that by means of it, one can also deliver to the dark sea of awareness the facsimile of one’s life experiences. When I pressed don Juan for a rational explanation of this idea, his position was that things like the recapitulation could only be experienced, not explained. He said that in the act of doing, one can find liberation, and that to explain it was to dissipate our energy in fruitless efforts. His invitation was congruous with everything related to his knowledge: the invitation to take action.
The list of names is used in the recapitulation as a mnemonic device that propels memory into an inconceivable journey. Sorcerers’ position in this respect is that remembering events that have just taken place prepares the ground for remembering events more distant in time with the same clarity and immediacy. To recollect experiences in this way is to relive them, and to draw from this recollection an extraordinary impetus that is capable of stirring energy dispersed from our centers of vitality, and returning it to them. Sorcerers refer to this redeployment of energy that the recapitulation causes as gaining fluidity after giving the dark sea of awareness what it is looking for.
On a more mundane level, the recapitulation gives practitioners the capacity to examine the repetition in their lives. Recapitulating can convince them, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that all of us are at the mercy of forces which ultimately make no sense, although at first sight they seem perfectly reasonable; such as being at the mercy of courtship. It seems that for some people, courtship is the pursuit of a lifetime. I have personally heard from people of advanced age that the only ideal that they had was to find a perfect companion, and that their aspiration was to have perhaps one year of happiness in love.
Don Juan Matus used to say to me, over my vehement protests, that the problem was that nobody really wanted to love anybody, but that every one of us wanted to be loved. He said that this obsession with courtship, taken at face value, was the most natural thing in the world to us. To hear a seventy-five-year-old man or woman say that they are still in search of a perfect companion is an affirmation of something idealistic, romantic, beautiful. However, to examine this obsession in the context of the endless repetitions of a lifetime makes it appear as it really is: something grotesque.
Don Juan assured me that if any behavioral change is going to be accomplished, it has to be done through the recapitulation, since it is the only vehicle that can enhance awareness by liberating one from the unvoiced demands of socialization, which are so automatic, so taken for granted, that they are not even noticed under normal conditions, much less examined.
The actual act of recapitulating is a lifetime endeavor. It takes years to exhaust the list of people, especially for those who have made the acquaintance of and have interacted with thousands of individuals. This list is augmented by the memory of impersonal events in which no people are involved, but which have to be examined because they are somehow related to the person being recapitulated.
Don Juan asserted that what the sorcerers of ancient Mexico sought avidly in recapitulating was the memory of interaction, because in interaction lie the deep effects of socialization, which they struggled to overcome by any means available.
The recapitulation affects something that don Juan called the energy body. He formally explained the energy body as a conglomerate of energy fields that are the mirror image of the energy fields that make up the human body when it is seen directly as energy. He said that in the case of sorcerers, the physical body and the energy body are one single unit. The magical passes for the recapitulation bring the energy body to the physical body, which are essential for navigating into the unknown.
(The Sorcerer’s Crossing)
We can be young and vibrant like this stream, or old and ominous like the lava mountains in Arizona. It’s up to us.”
I surprised myself by asking her, as if I believed what she was saying, if there was a way I could gain that balance.
She nodded. “You most certainly can,” she said. “And you will, by practicing the unique exercise I’m going to teach you: the recapitulation.”
“I can’t wait to practice it,” I said excitedly, putting on my boots.
Then for no explicable reason, I became so agitated that I jumped up and said, “Shouldn’t we be on our way again?”
“We’ve already arrived,” Clara announced, and pointed to a small cave on the side of a hill.
As I gazed at it, my excitement drained out of me.
There was something ominous and foreboding about the gaping hole; but inviting, too. I had a definite urge to explore it, yet at the same time I was afraid of what I might find inside.
I suspected we were somewhere in the proximity of her house; a thought I found comforting.
Clara informed me that this was a place of power, a spot the ancient geomancers from China, the practitioners of feng-shui, would have undoubtedly picked as a temple site.
“Here, the elements of water, wood and air are in perfect harmony,” she said. “Here, energy circulates in abundance.
“You’ll see what I mean when you get inside the cave.
“You must use the energy of this unique spot to purify yourself.”
“Are you saying that I have to stay here?”
“Didn’t you know that in the ancient Orient, monks and scholars used to retreat to caves?” she asked. “Being surrounded by the earth helped them to meditate.”
She urged me to crawl inside the cave.
Daringly, I eased myself in, putting all thoughts of bats and spiders out of my mind.
It was dark and cool, and there was room for only one person.
Clara told me to sit cross-legged, leaning my back against the wall.
I hesitated, not wanting to dirty my jacket, but once I leaned back, I was relieved to be able to rest.
Even though the ceiling was close to my head and the ground pressed hard against my tailbone, it wasn’t claustrophobic.
A mild, almost imperceptible current of air circulated in the cave.
I felt invigorated, just as Clara had said I would. I was about to take off my jacket and sit on it when Clara, squatting at the mouth of the cave, spoke.
“The apex of the special art I want to teach you,” she began, “is called the abstract flight, and the means to achieve it we call the recapitulation.”
She reached inside the cave and touched the left and right sides of my forehead. “Awareness must shift from here to here,” she said:
“As children, we can easily do this, but once the seal of the body has been broken through wasteful excesses, only a special manipulation of awareness, right living, and celibacy can restore the energy that has drained out; energy needed to make the shift.”
I definitely understood everything she said.
I even felt that awareness was like a current of energy that could go from one side of the forehead to the other, and I visualized the gap in between the two points as a vast space; a void that impedes the crossing.
I listened intently as she continued talking. “The body must be tremendously strong,” she said, “so that awareness can be keen and fluid in order to jump from one side of the abyss to the other in the blink of an eye.”
As she voiced her statements, something extraordinary happened.
I became absolutely certain that I would be staying with Clara in Mexico.
What I wanted to feel was that I would be returning to Arizona in a few days; but what I actually felt was that I would not be going back.
I also knew that my realization was not merely the acceptance of what Clara had had in mind from the start; but that I was powerless to resist her intentions because the force that was maneuvering me was not hers alone.
“From now on, you have to lead a life in which awareness has top priority,” she said, as if she knew I had made the tacit commitment of remaining with her.
“You must avoid anything that is weakening and harmful to your body or your mind.
“Also, it is essential, for the time being, to break all physical and emotional ties with the world.”
“Why is that so important?”
“Because before anything else, you must acquire unity.”
Clara explained that we are convinced that a dualism exists in us; that the mind is the insubstantial part of ourselves, and the body is the concrete part. This division keeps our energy in a state of chaotic separation, and prevents it from coalescing.
“Being divided is our human condition,” she admitted. “But our division is not between the mind and the body, but between the body, which houses the mind or the self, and the double, which is the receptacle of our basic energy.”
She said that before birth, man’s imposed duality doesn’t exist, but that from birth on, the two parts are separated by the pull of mankind’s intent.
One part turns outward and becomes the physical body; the other, inward and becomes the double.
At death the heavier part, the body, returns to the earth to be absorbed by it, and the light part, the double, becomes free.
But unfortunately, since the double was never perfected, it experiences freedom for only an instant, before it is scattered into the universe.
“If we die without erasing our false dualism of body and mind, we die an ordinary death,” she said.
“How else can we die?”
Clara peered at me with one eyebrow raised.
Rather than answer my question, she revealed in a confiding tone that we die because the possibility that we could be transformed hasn’t entered our conception.
She stressed that this transformation must be accomplished during our lifetime, and that to succeed in this task is the only true purpose a human being can have.
All other attainments are transient since death dissolves them into nothingness.
“What does this transformation entail?” I asked.
“It entails a total change,” she said. “And that is accomplished by the recapitulation: the cornerstone of the art of freedom.
“The art I am going to teach you is called the art of freedom; an art infinitely difficult to practice, but even more difficult to explain.”
Clara said that every procedure she was going to teach me, or every task she might ask me to perform, no matter how ordinary it might seem to me, was a step toward fulfilling the ultimate goal of the art of freedom: the abstract flight.
“What I’m going to show you first are simple movements that you must do daily,” she continued. “Regard them always as an indispensable part of your life.
“First, I’ll show you a breath that has been a secret for generations. This breath mirrors the dual forces of creation and destruction, of light and darkness, of being and not-being.”
She told me to move outside of the cave, then directed me, by gentle manipulation, to sit with my spine curved forward and to bring my knees to my chest as high as I could.
While keeping my feet on the ground, I was to wrap my arms around my calves and firmly clasp my hands in front of my knees, or if I wished I could clasp each elbow. She gently eased my head down until my chin touched my chest.
I had to strain the muscles of my arms to keep my knees from pushing out sideways. My chest was constricted and so was my abdomen. My neck made a cracking sound as I tucked my chin in.
“This is a powerful breath,” she said. “It may knock you out or put you to sleep.
“If it does, return to the house when you wake up.
“By the way, this cave is just behind the house. Follow the path and you’ll be there in two minutes.”
Clara instructed me to take short, shallow breaths.
I told her that her request was redundant since that was the only way I could breathe in that position.
She said that even if I only partially released the arm pressure I was creating with my hands, my breath would return to normal.
But this wasn’t what she was after. She wanted me to continue the shallow breaths for at least ten minutes.
I stayed in that position for perhaps half an hour, all the while taking shallow breaths as she had instructed.
After the initial cramping in my stomach and legs subsided, the breaths seemed to soften my insides and dissolve them.
Then after an excruciatingly long time, Clara gave me a push that made me roll backward so I was lying on the ground, but she didn’t permit me to release the pressure of my arms.
I felt a moment of relief when my back touched the ground, but it was only when she instructed me to unclasp my hands and stretch out my legs that I felt complete release in my abdomen and chest.
The only way of describing what I felt is to say that something inside me had been unlocked by that breath and had been dissolved or released.
As Clara had predicted, I became so drowsy that I crawled back inside the cave and fell asleep.
I must have slept for at least a couple of hours in the cave. And judging from the position I was lying in when I woke up, I hadn’t moved a muscle.
I believed that that was probably because there wasn’t any room in the cave for me to toss and turn in my sleep, but it could also have been because I was so totally relaxed, I didn’t need to move.
I walked back to the house, following Clara’s directions.
She was on the patio, sitting in a rattan armchair.
I had the impression that another woman had been sitting there with her, and when she heard me coming, she had quickly gotten up and left.
“Ah, you look much more relaxed now,” Clara said. “That breath and posture does wonders for us.”
Clara said that if this breath is performed regularly, with calmness and deliberation, it gradually balances our internal energy.
Before I could tell her how invigorated I felt, she asked me to sit down because she wanted to show me one other body maneuver crucial for erasing out false dualism.
She asked me to sit with my back straight and my eyes slightly lowered so that I would be gazing at the tip of my nose.
“This breath should be done without the constraints of clothing,” she began. “But rather than having you strip naked in the patio in broad daylight, we’ll make an exception.
“First, you inhale deeply, bringing in the air as if you were breathing through your vagina. Pull in your stomach and draw the air up along your spine, past the kidneys, to a point between the shoulder blades. Hold the air there for a moment, then raise it even further up to the back of the head, then over the top of your head to the point between your eyebrows.”
She said that after holding it there for a moment, I was to exhale through the nose as I mentally guided the air down the front of my body, first to the point just below the navel, and then to my vagina, where the cycle had begun.
I began to practice the breathing exercise.
Clara brought her hand to the base of my spine, then traced a line up my back, over my head, and gently pressed the spot between my eyebrows.
“Try to bring the breath here,” she said. “The reason you keep your eyes halfway open is so that you can concentrate on the bridge of your nose as you circulate the air up your back and over your head to this point; and also so you can use your gaze to guide the air down the front of your body, returning it to your sexual organs.”
Clara said that circulating the breath in such a fashion creates an impenetrable shield that prevents outside disruptive influences from piercing the body’s field of energy: It also keeps vital inner energy from dispersing outwardly.
She stressed that the inhalation and exhalation should be inaudible, and that the breathing exercise could be done while one is standing, sitting or lying down; although in the beginning it is easier to do it while sitting on a cushion or on a chair.
“Now,” she said, pulling her chair closer to mine, “let’s talk about what we began discussing this morning: the recapitulation.”
A shiver went through me.
I told her that although I had no conception of what she was talking about, I knew it was going to be something monumental and I wasn’t sure I was prepared to hear it.
She insisted that I was nervous because some part of me sensed that she was about to disclose perhaps the most important technique of self-renewal.
Patiently she explained that the recapitulation is the act of calling back the energy we have already spent in past actions.
To recapitulate entails recalling all the people we have met, all the places we have seen, and all the feelings we have had in our entire lives; starting from the present and going back to the earliest memories; then sweeping them clean, one by one, with the sweeping breath.
I listened, intrigued, although I couldn’t help feeling that what she said was more than nonsensical to me.
Before I could make any comments at all, she firmly took my chin in her hands and instructed me to inhale through the nose as she turned my head to the left, and then exhale as she turned it to the right.
Next, I was to turn my head to the left and right in a single movement without breathing. She said that this is a mysterious way of breathing and the key to the recapitulation, because inhaling allows us to pull back energy that we lost; while exhaling permits us to expel foreign, undesirable energy that has accumulated in us through interacting with our fellow men.
“In order to live and interact, we need energy,” Clara went on. “Normally, the energy spent in living is gone forever from us.
“Were it not for the recapitulation, we would never have the chance to renew ourselves. Recapitulating our lives and sweeping our past with the sweeping breath work as a unit.”
Recalling everyone I had ever known and everything I had ever felt in my life seemed to me an absurd and impossible task. “That can take forever,” I said, hoping that a practical remark might block Clara’s unreasonable line of thought.
“It certainly can,” she agreed. “But I assure you, Taisha, you have everything to gain by doing it, and nothing to lose.”
I took a few deep breaths, moving my head from left to right imitating the way she had shown me to breathe in order to placate her, and let her know I had been paying attention.
With a wry smile, she warned me that recapitulating is not an arbitrary or capricious exercise.
“When you recapitulate, try to feel some long stretchy fibers that extend out from your midsection,” she explained:
“Then align the turning motion of your head with the movement of these elusive fibers. They are the conduits that will bring back the energy that you’ve left behind.
“In order to recuperate our strength and unity, we have to release our energy trapped in the world and pull it back to us.”
She assured me that while recapitulating, we extend those stretchy fibers of energy across space and time to the persons, places and events we are examining.
The result is that we can return to every moment of our lives and act as if we were actually there.
This possibility sent shivers through me.
Although intellectually I was intrigued by what Clara was saying, I had no intention of returning to my disagreeable past, even if it was only in my mind.
If nothing else, I took pride in having escaped an unbearable life situation. I was not about to go back and mentally relive all the moments I had tried so hard to forget.
Yet Clara seemed to be so utterly serious and sincere in explaining the recapitulation technique to me, that for a moment, I put my objections aside, and concentrated on what she was saying.
I asked her if the order in which one recollects the past matters. She said that the important point is to re-experience the events and feelings in as much detail as possible, and to touch them with the sweeping breath, thereby releasing one’s trapped energy.
“Is this exercise part of the Buddhist tradition?” I asked.
“No, it isn’t,” she replied solemnly. “This is part of another tradition. Someday, soon, you’ll find out what that tradition is.”
The Secret of the Plumed Serpent
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 basics components affects them, and are therefore constantly exposed.”
Explaining the transmission of our personal characteristics by means of basics 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.
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.