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6: The Nagual Julian Didn’t Care About Anyone, That’s Why He Could Help People; Don’t Count on Emotional Realizations; One of the Great Maneuvers of Stalkers is to Pit the Mystery Against the Stupidity In Each Of Us; The Two Basic Qualities of Warriors: Sustained Effort and Unbending Intent

(The Fire from Within by Carlos Castaneda)

There was a strange excitement in the house. All the seers of don Juan’s party seemed to be so elated that they were actually absentminded, a thing that I had never witnessed before. Their usual high level of energy appeared to have increased. I became very apprehensive. I asked don Juan about it. He took me to the back patio. We walked in silence for a moment. He said that the time was getting closer for all of them to leave. He was pressing his explanation in order to finish it in time.

“How do you know that you are closer to leaving?” I asked.

“It is an internal knowledge,” he said. “You’ll know it someday yourself. You see, the nagual Julian made my assemblage point shift countless times, just as I have made yours shift. Then he left me the task of realigning all those emanations which he had helped me align through these shifts. That is the task that every nagual is left to do.”

“At any rate, the job of realigning all those emanations paves the way for the peculiar maneuver of lighting up all the emanations inside the cocoon. I have nearly done that. I am about to reach my maximum. Since I am the nagual, once I do light up all the emanations inside my cocoon we will all be gone in an instant.”

I felt I should be sad and weep, but something in me was so overjoyed to hear that the nagual Juan Matus was about to be free that I jumped and yelled with sheer delight. I knew that sooner or later I would reach another state of awareness and I would weep with sadness. But that day I was filled with happiness and optimism.

I told don Juan how I felt. He laughed and patted my back.

“Remember what I’ve told you,” he said. “Don’t count on emotional realizations. Let your assemblage point move first, then years later have the realization.”

We walked to the big room and sat down to talk. Don Juan hesitated for a moment. He looked out of the window. From my chair I could see the patio. It was early afternoon; a cloudy day. It looked like rain. Thunderhead clouds were moving in from the west. I liked cloudy days. Don Juan did not. He seemed restless as he tried to find a more comfortable sitting position.

Don Juan began his elucidation by commenting that the difficulty in remembering what takes place in heightened awareness is due to the infinitude of positions that the assemblage point can adopt after being loosened from its normal setting. Facility in remembering everything that takes place in normal awareness, on the other hand, has to do with the fixity of the assemblage point on one spot, the spot where it normally sets.

He told me that he commiserated with me. He suggested that I accept the difficulty of recollecting and acknowledge that I might fail in my task and never be able to realign all the emanations that he had helped me align.

“Think of it this way,” he said, smiling. “You may never be able to remember this very conversation that we are having now, which at this moment seems to you so commonplace, so taken for granted.”

“This indeed is the mystery of awareness. Human beings reek of that mystery; we reek of darkness, of things which are inexplicable. To regard ourselves in any other terms is madness. So don’t demean the mystery of man in you by feeling sorry for yourself or by trying to rationalize it. Demean the stupidity of man in you by understanding it. But don’t apologize for either; both are needed.”

“One of the great maneuvers of stalkers is to pit the mystery against the stupidity in each of us.”

He explained that stalking practices are not something one can rejoice in; in fact, they are downright objectionable. Knowing this, the new seers realize that it would be against everybody’s interest to discuss or practice the principles of stalking in normal awareness.

I pointed out to him an incongruity. He had said that there is no way for warriors to act in the world while they are in heightened awareness, and he had also said that stalking is simply behaving with people in specific ways. The two statements contradicted each other.

“By not teaching it in normal awareness I was referring only to teaching it to a nagual,” he said. “The purpose of stalking is twofold: first, to move the assemblage point as steadily and safely as possible, and nothing can do the job as well as stalking: second, to imprint its principles at such a deep level that the human inventory is bypassed, as is the natural reaction of refusing and judging something that may be offensive to reason.”

I told him that I sincerely doubted I could judge or refuse anything like that. He laughed and said that I could not be an exception, that I would react like everyone else once I heard about the deeds of a master stalker, such as his benefactor, the nagual Julian.

“I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the nagual Julian was the most extraordinary stalker I have ever met,” don Juan said. “You have already heard about his stalking skills from everybody else. But I’ve never told you what he did to me.”

I wanted to make it clear to him that I had not heard anything about the nagual Julian from anyone, but just before I voiced my protest a strange feeling of uncertainty swept over me. Don Juan seemed to know instantly what I was feeling. He chuckled with delight.

“You can’t remember, because will is not available to you yet,” he said. “You need a life of impeccability and a great surplus of energy, and then will might release those memories.

“I am going to tell you the story of how the nagual Julian behaved with me when I first met him. If you judge him and find his behavior objectionable while you are in heightened awareness, think of how revolted you might be with him in normal awareness.”

I protested that he was setting me up. He assured me that all he wanted to do with his story was to illustrate the manner in which stalkers operate and the reasons why they do it.

“The nagual Julian was the last of the old-time stalkers,” he went on. “He was a stalker not so much because of the circumstances of his life but because that was the bent of his character.”

Don Juan explained that the new seers saw that there are two main groups of human beings: those who care about others and those who do not. In between these two extremes they saw an endless mixture of the two. The nagual Julian belonged to the category of men who do not care; don Juan classified himself as belonging to the opposite category.

“But didn’t you tell me that the nagual Julian was generous, that he would give you the shirt off his back?” I asked.

“He certainly was,” don Juan replied. “Not only was he generous; he was also utterly charming, winning. He was always deeply and sincerely interested in everybody around him. He was kind and open and gave away everything he had to anyone who needed it, or to anyone he happened to like. He was in turn loved by everyone, because being a master stalker, he conveyed to them his true feelings: he didn’t give a plugged nickel for any of them.”

I did not say anything, but don Juan was aware of my sense of disbelief or even distress at what he was saying. He chuckled and shook his head from side to side.

“That’s stalking,” he said. “You see, I haven’t even begun my story of the nagual Julian and you are already annoyed.”

He exploded into a giant laugh as I tried to explain what I was feeling.

“The nagual Julian didn’t care about anyone,” he continued. “That’s why he could help people. And he did; he gave them the shirt off his back, because he didn’t give a fig about them.”

“Do you mean, don Juan, that the only ones who help their fellow men are those who don’t give a damn about them?” I asked, truly miffed.

“That’s what stalkers say,” he said with a beaming smile. “The nagual Julian, for instance, was a fabulous curer. He helped thousands and thousands of people, but he never took credit for it. He let people believe that a woman seer of his party was the curer.”

“Now, if he had been a man who cared for his fellow men, he would’ve demanded acknowledgment. Those who care for others care for themselves and demand recognition where recognition is due.”

Don Juan said that he, since he belonged to the category of those who care for their fellow men, had never helped anyone: he felt awkward with generosity; he could not even conceive being loved as the nagual Julian was, and he would certainly feel stupid giving anyone the shirt off his back.

“I care so much for my fellow man,” he continued, “that I don’t do anything for him. I wouldn’t know what to do. And I would always have the nagging sense that I was imposing my will on him with my gifts.”

“Naturally, I have overcome all these feelings with the warriors’ way. Any warrior can be successful with people, as the nagual Julian was, provided he moves his assemblage point to a position where it is immaterial whether people like him, dislike him, or ignore him. But that’s not the same.”

Don Juan said that when he first became aware of the stalkers’ principles, as I was then doing, he was as distressed as he could be. The nagual Elias, who was very much like don Juan, explained to him that stalkers like the nagual Julian are natural leaders of people. They can help people do anything.

“The nagual Elias said that these warriors can help people to get cured,” don Juan went on, “or they can help them to get ill. They can help them to find happiness or they can help them to find sorrow. I suggested to the nagual Elias that instead of saying that these warriors help people, we should say that they affect people. He said that they don’t just affect people, but that they actively herd them around.”

Don Juan chuckled and looked at me fixedly. There was a mischievous glint in his eyes.

“Strange, isn’t it?” he asked. “The way stalkers arranged what they see about people?”

Then don Juan started his story about the nagual Julian. He said that the nagual Julian spent many, many years waiting for an apprentice nagual. He stumbled on don Juan one day while returning home after a short visit with acquaintances in a nearby village. He was, in fact, thinking about an apprentice nagual as he walked on the road when he heard a loud gunshot and saw people scrambling in every direction. He ran with them into the bushes by the side of the road and only came out from his hiding place at the sight of a group of people gathered around someone wounded, lying on the ground.

The wounded person was, of course, don Juan, who had been shot by the tyrannical foreman. The nagual Julian saw instantly that don Juan was a special man whose cocoon was divided into four sections instead of two; he also realized that don Juan was badly wounded. He knew that he had no time to waste. His wish had been fulfilled, but he had to work fast, before anyone sensed what was going on. He held his head and cried, “They’ve shot my son!”

He was traveling with one of the female seers of his party, a husky Indian woman, who always officiated publicly as his mean shrewish wife. They were an excellent team of stalkers. He cued the woman seer, and she also started weeping and wailing for their son, who was unconscious and bleeding to death. The nagual Julian begged the onlookers not to call the authorities but rather to help him move his son to his house in the city, which was some distance away. He offered money to some strong young men if they would carry his wounded, dying son.

The men carried don Juan to the nagual Julian’s house. The nagual was very generous with them and paid them handsomely. The men were so touched by the grieving couple, who had cried all the way to the house, that they refused to take the money, but the nagual Julian insisted that they take it to give his son luck.

For a few days, don Juan did not know what to think about the kind couple who had taken him into their home. He said that to him, the nagual Julian appeared as an almost senile old man. He was not an Indian, but was married to a young, irascible, fat Indian wife, who was as physically strong as she was ill-tempered. Don Juan thought that she was definitely a curer, judging by the way she treated his wound and by the quantities of medicinal plants stashed away in the room where they had put him.

The woman also dominated the old man and made him tend to don Juan’s wound every day. They had made a bed for don Juan out of a thick floor mat, and the old man had a terrible time kneeling down to reach him. Don Juan had to fight not to laugh at the comical sight of the frail old man trying his best to bend his knees. Don Juan said that while the old man washed his wound, he would mumble incessantly; he had a vacant look in his eyes; his hands shook, and his body trembled from head to toe.

When he was down on his knees, he could never get up by himself. He would call his wife, yelling in a raspy voice, filled with contained anger. The wife would come into the room and both of them would get into a horrible argument. Often she would walk out, leaving the old man to get up by himself.

Don Juan assured me that he had never felt so sorry for anyone as he felt for that poor, kind old man. Many times he wanted to rise and help him up, but he could hardly move himself. Once the old man spent half an hour cursing and yelling, as he puffed and crawled like a slug, before he dragged himself to the door and painfully lifted himself up to a standing position.

He explained to don Juan that his poor health was due to advanced age, broken bones that had not mended properly, and rheumatism. Don Juan said that the old man raised his eyes toward heaven and confessed to don Juan that he was the most wretched man on earth; he had come to the curer for help and had ended up marrying her and becoming a slave.

“I asked the old man why he didn’t leave,” don Juan continued. “The old man’s eyes widened with fear. He choked on his own saliva trying to hush me and then he went rigid and fell down like a log on the floor, next to my bed, trying to make me stop talking.”

“You don’t know what you’re saying; you don’t know what you’re saying. Nobody can run away from this place,” the old man kept on repeating with a wild expression in his eyes.

“And I believed him. I was convinced that he was more miserable, more wretched than I had ever been myself. And with every day that passed I became more and more uncomfortable in that house. The food was great and the woman was always out curing people, so I was left with the old man. We talked a lot about my life. I liked to talk to him. I told him that I had no money to pay him for his kindness, but that I would do anything to help him. He told me that he was beyond help, that he was ready to die, but that if I really meant what I said, he would appreciate it if I would marry his wife after he died.

“Right then I knew the old man was nuts. And right then I also knew that I had to run away as soon as possible.”

Don Juan said that when he was well enough to walk around unaided, his benefactor gave him a chilling demonstration of his ability as a stalker. Without any warning or preamble he put don Juan face to face with an inorganic living being. Sensing that don Juan was planning to run away, he seized the opportunity to scare him with an ally that was somehow able to look like a monstrous man.

“The sight of that ally nearly drove me insane,” don Juan continued. “I couldn’t believe my eyes, and yet the monster was right in front of me. And the frail old man was next to me whimpering and begging the monster to spare his life. You see, my benefactor was like the old seers; he could dole out his fear, a piece at a time, and the ally was reacting to it. I didn’t know that. All I could see with my very own eyes was a horrendous creature advancing on us, ready to tear us apart, limb from limb.”

“The moment the ally lurched onto us, hissing like a serpent, I passed out cold. When I came to my senses again, the old man told me that he had made a deal with the creature.”

He explained to don Juan that the man had agreed to let both of them live, provided don Juan enter the man’s service. Don Juan apprehensively asked what was involved in the service. The old man replied that it would be slavery, but pointed out that don Juan’s life had nearly ended a few days back when he had been shot. Had not he and his wife come along to stop the bleeding, don Juan would surely have died, so there was really very little to bargain with, or to bargain for. The monstrous man knew that and had him over a barrel. The old man told don Juan to stop vacillating and accept the deal, because if he refused, the monstrous man, who was listening behind the door, would burst in and kill them both on the spot and be done with it.

“I had enough nerve to ask the frail old man, who was shaking like a leaf, how the man would kill us,” don Juan went on. “He said that the monster planned to break all the bones in our bodies, starting with our feet, as we screamed in unspeakable agony, and that it would take at least five days for us to die.”

“I accepted that man’s conditions instantly. The old man, with tears in his eyes, congratulated me and said that the deal wasn’t really that bad. We were going to be more prisoners than slaves of the monstrous man, but we would eat at least twice a day; and since we had life, we could work for our freedom; we could plot, connive, and fight our way out of that hell.”

Don Juan smiled and then broke into laughter. He had known beforehand how I would feel about the nagual Julian.

“I told you you’d be upset,” he said.

“I really don’t understand, don Juan,” I said. “What was the point of putting on such an elaborate masquerade?”

“The point is very simple,” he said, still smiling. “This is another method of teaching, a very good one. It requires tremendous imagination and tremendous control on the part of the teacher. My method of teaching is closer to what you consider teaching. It requires a tremendous amount of words. I go to the extremes of talking. The nagual Julian went to the extremes of stalking.”

Don Juan said that there were two methods of teaching among the seers. He was familiar with both of them. He preferred the one that called for explaining everything and letting the other person know the course of action beforehand. It was a system that fostered freedom, choice, and understanding. His benefactor’s method, on the other hand, was more coercive and did not allow for choice or understanding. Its great advantage was that it forced warriors to live the seers’ concepts directly with no intermediary elucidation.

Don Juan explained that everything his benefactor did to him was a masterpiece of strategy. Every one of the nagual Julian’s words and actions was deliberately selected to cause a particular effect. His art was to provide his words and actions with the most suitable context, so that they would have the necessary impact.

“That’s the stalkers’ method,” don Juan went on. “It fosters not understanding but total realization. For instance, it took me a lifetime to understand what he had done to me by making me face the ally, although I realized all that without any explanation as I lived that experience.”

“I’ve told you that Genaro, for example, doesn’t understand what he does, but his realization of what he is doing is as keen as it can be. That’s because his assemblage point was moved by the stalkers’ method.”

He said that if the assemblage point is forced out of its customary setting by the method of explaining everything, as in my case, there is always the need for someone else not only to help in the actual dislodging of the assemblage point, but in dispensing the explanations of what is going on. But if the assemblage point is moved by the stalkers’ method, as in his own case, or Genaro’s, there is only a need for the initial catalytic act that yanks the point from its location.

Don Juan said that when the nagual Julian made him face the monstrous-looking ally his assemblage point moved under the impact of fear. So intense a fright as that, caused by the confrontation, coupled with his weak physical condition, was ideal for dislodging his assemblage point.

In order to offset the injurious effects of fright, its impact had to be cushioned, but not minimized. Explaining what was happening would have minimized fear. What the nagual Julian wanted was to make sure that he could use that initial catalytic fright as many times as he needed it, but he also wanted to make sure that he could cushion its devastating impact; that was the reason for his masquerade. The more elaborate and dramatic his stories were, the greater their cushioning effect. If he, himself, seemed to be in the same boat with don Juan, the fright would not be as intense as if don Juan were alone.

“With his penchant for drama,” don Juan went on, “my benefactor was able to move my assemblage point enough to imbue me right away with an overpowering feeling for the two basic qualities of warriors: sustained effort and unbending intent. I knew that in order to be free again someday, I would have to work in an orderly and steady fashion and in cooperation with the frail old man, who in my opinion needed my help as much as I needed his. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that that was what I wanted to do more than anything else in life.”

I did not get to talk to don Juan again until two days later. We were in Oaxaca, strolling in the main square, in the early morning. There were children walking to school, people going to church, a few men sitting on the benches, and taxi drivers waiting for tourists from the main hotel.

“It goes without saying that the most difficult thing in the warriors’ path is to make the assemblage point move,” don Juan said. “That movement is the completion of the warriors’ quest. To go on from there is another quest; it is the seers’ quest proper.”

He repeated that in the warriors’ way, the shift of the assemblage point is everything. The old seers absolutely failed to realize this truth. They thought the movement of the point was like a marker that determined their positions on a scale of worth. They never conceived that it was that very position which determined what they perceived.

“The stalkers’ method,” don Juan went on, “in the hands of a master stalker like the nagual Julian, accounts for stupendous shifts of the assemblage point. These are very solid changes; you see, by buttressing the apprentice, the stalker-teacher gets the apprentice’s full cooperation and full participation. To get anybody’s full cooperation and full participation is about the most important outcome of the stalkers’ method; and the nagual Julian was the best at getting both of them.”

Don Juan said that there was no way for him to describe the turmoil that he went through as he found out, little by little, about the richness and the complexity of the nagual Julian’s personality and life. As long as don Juan faced a scared, frail old man who seemed helpless, he was fairly at ease, comfortable. But one day, soon after they had made the deal with what don Juan thought of as a monstrous-looking man, his comfort was shot to pieces when the nagual Julian gave don Juan another unnerving demonstration of his stalking skills.

Although don Juan was quite well by then, the nagual Julian still slept in the same room with him in order to nurse him. When he woke up that day, he announced to don Juan that their captor was gone for a couple of days, which meant that he did not have to act like an old man. He confided to don Juan that he only pretended to be old in order to fool the monstrous-looking man.

Without giving don Juan time to think, he jumped up from his mat with incredible agility; he bent over and dunked his head in a pot of water and kept it there for a while. When he straightened up, his hair was jet black, the gray hair had washed away, and don Juan was looking at a man he had never seen before, a man perhaps in his late thirties. He flexed his muscles, breathed deeply, and stretched every part of his body as if he had been too long inside a constricting cage.

“When I saw the nagual Julian as a young man, I thought that he was indeed the devil,” don Juan went on. “I closed my eyes and knew that my end was near. The nagual Julian laughed until he was crying.”

Don Juan said that the nagual Julian then put him at ease by making him shift back and forth between the right side and the left side awareness.

“For two days the young man pranced around the house,” don Juan continued. “He told me stories about his life and jokes that sent me reeling around the room with laughter. But what was even more astounding was the way his wife had changed. She was actually thin and beautiful. I thought she was a completely different woman. I raved about how complete her change was and how beautiful she looked. The young man said that when their captor was away she was actually another woman.”

Don Juan laughed and said that his devilish benefactor was telling the truth. The woman was really another seer of the nagual’s party.

Don Juan asked the young man why they pretended to be what they were not. The young man looked at don Juan, his eyes filled with tears, and said that the mysteries of the world are indeed unfathomable. He and his young wife had been caught by inexplicable forces and had to protect themselves with that pretense. The reason why he carried on the way he did, as a feeble old man, was that their captor was always peeking in through cracks in the doors. He begged don Juan to forgive him for having fooled him.

Don Juan asked who that monstrous-looking man was. With a deep sigh, the young man confessed that he could not even guess. He told don Juan that although he himself was an educated man, a famous actor from the theater in Mexico City, he was at a loss for explanations.

All he knew was that he had come to be treated for the consumption that he had suffered from for many years. He was near death when his relatives brought him to meet the curer. She helped him to get well, and he fell madly in love with the beautiful young Indian and married her. His plans were to take her to the capital so they could get rich with her curing ability.

Before they started on the trip to Mexico City, she warned him that they had to disguise themselves in order to escape a sorcerer. She explained to him that her mother had also been a curer, and had been taught curing by that master sorcerer, who had demanded that she, the daughter, stay with him for life. The young man said that he had refused to ask his wife about that relationship. He only wanted to free her, so he disguised himself as an old man and disguised her as a fat woman.

Their story did not end happily. The horrible man caught them and kept them as prisoners. They did not dare to take off their disguise in front of that nightmarish man, and in his presence they carried on as if they hated each other; but in reality, they pined for each other and lived only for the short times when that man was away.

Don Juan said that the young man embraced him and told him that the room where don Juan was sleeping was the only safe place in the house. Would he please go out and be on the lockout while he made love to his wife?

“The house shook with their passion,” don Juan went on, “while I sat by the door feeling guilty for listening and scared to death that the man would come back any minute. And sure enough, I heard him coming into the house. I banged on the door, and when they didn’t answer, I walked in.

The young woman was asleep naked and the young man was nowhere in sight. I had never seen a beautiful naked woman in my life. I was still very weak. I heard the monstrous man rattling outside. My embarrassment and my fear were so great that I passed out.”

The story about the nagual Julian’s doings annoyed me no end. I told don Juan that I had failed to understand the value of the nagual Julian’s stalking skills. Don Juan listened to me without making a single comment and let me ramble on and on.

When we finally sat down on a bench, I was very tired. I did not know what to say when he asked me why his account of the nagual Julian’s method of teaching had upset me so much.

“I can’t shake off the feeling that he was a prankster,” I finally said.

“Pranksters don’t teach anything deliberately with their pranks,” don Juan retorted. “The nagual Julian played dramas, magical dramas that required a movement of the assemblage point.”

“He seems like a very selfish person to me,” I insisted.

“He seems like that to you because you are judging,” he replied. “You are being a moralist. I went through all that myself. If you feel the way you do on hearing about the nagual Julian, think of the way I must have felt myself living in his house for years. I judged him, I feared him, and I envied him, in that order.

“I also loved him, but my envy was greater than my love. I envied his ease, his mysterious capacity to be young or old at will; I envied his flair and above all his influence on whoever happened to be around. It would drive me up the walls to hear him engage people in the most interesting conversation. He always had something to say; I never did, and I always felt incompetent, left out.”

Don Juan’s revelations made me feel ill at ease. I wished that he would change the subject, for I did not want to hear that he was like me. In my opinion, he was indeed unequaled. He obviously knew how I felt. He laughed and patted my back.

“What I am trying to do with the story of my envy,” he went on, “is to point out to you something of great importance, that the position of the assemblage point dictates how we behave and how we feel.”

“My great flaw at that time was that I could not understand this principle. I was raw. I lived through self-importance, just as you do, because that was where my assemblage point was lodged. You see, I hadn’t learned yet that the way to move that point is to establish new habits, to will it to move. When it did move, it was as if I had just discovered that the only way to deal with peerless warriors like my benefactor is not to have self-importance, so that one can celebrate them unbiasedly.”

He said that realizations are of two kinds. One is just pep talk, great outbursts of emotion and nothing more. The other is the product of a shift of the assemblage point; it is not coupled with an emotional outburst but with action. The emotional realizations come years later after warriors have solidified, by usage, the new position of their assemblage points.

“The nagual Julian tirelessly guided all of us to that kind of shift,” don Juan went on. “He got from all of us total cooperation and total participation in his bigger-than-life dramas. For instance, with his drama of the young man and his wife and their captor he had my undivided attention and concern. To me the story of the old man who was young was very consistent. I had seen the monstrous-looking man with my very own eyes, which meant that the young man got my undying affiliation.”

Don Juan said that the nagual Julian was a magician, a conjurer who could handle the force of will to a degree that would be incomprehensible to the average man. His dramas included magical characters summoned by the force of intent, like the inorganic being that could adopt a grotesque human form.

“The nagual Julian’s power was so impeccable,” don Juan went on, “that he could force anyone’s assemblage point to shift and align emanations that would make him perceive whatever the nagual Julian wanted. For example, he could look very old or very young for his age, depending on what he wanted to accomplish. And all anyone who knew the nagual could say about his age was that it fluctuated. During the thirty-two years that I knew him he was at times not much older than you are now, and at other times he was so wretchedly old that he could not even walk.”

Don Juan said that under his benefactor’s guidance his assemblage point moved unnoticeably and yet profoundly. For instance, out of nowhere one day he realized that he had a fear that on the one hand made no sense to him at all, and on the other made all the sense in the world.

“My fear was that through stupidity I would lose my chance to be free and I would repeat my father’s life.

“There was nothing wrong with my father’s life, mind you. He lived and died no better and no worse than most men; the important point is that my assemblage point had moved and I realized one day that my father’s life and death hadn’t amounted to a hill of beans, either to others or to himself.

“My benefactor told me that my father and mother had lived and died just to have me, and that their own parents had done the same for them. He said that warriors were different in that they shift their assemblage points enough to realize the tremendous price that has been paid for their lives. This shift gives them the respect and awe that their parents never felt for life in general, or for being alive in particular.”

Don Juan said that not only was the nagual Julian successful in guiding his apprentices to move their assemblage points, but that he enjoyed himself tremendously while doing it.

“He certainly entertained himself immensely with me,” don Juan went on. “When the other seers of my party began to come, years later, even I looked forward to the preposterous situations that he created and developed with each one of them.”

“When the nagual Julian left the world, delight went away with him and never came back. Genaro delights us sometimes, but no one can take the nagual Julian’s place. His dramas were always bigger than life. I assure you we didn’t know what enjoyment was until we saw what he did when some of those dramas backfired on him.”

Don Juan rose from his favorite bench. He turned to me. His eyes were brilliant and peaceful.

“If you are ever so dumb as to fail in your task,” he said, “you must have at least enough energy to move your assemblage point in order to come to this bench. Sit down here for an instant, free of thoughts and desires; I will try to come here from wherever I am and collect you. I promise you that I will try.”

He then broke into a great laugh, as if the scope of his promise was too ludicrous to be believed.

“These words should be said in the late afternoon,” he said, still laughing. “Never in the morning. The morning makes one feel optimistic and such words lose their meaning.”


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