Efficiency and Efficacy
(Armando Torres – The Secret of the Plumed Serpent)
In the course of another conversation, I told Carlos that I had started a regime of rising at five o’clock in the morning, taking a cold shower and then doing the exercises he had taught us. I thought Carlos would congratulate me on this achievement, but he did not welcome my news, saying that all I was doing was putting myself in danger of catching pneumonia. He added:
“What you’re doing is neither very efficient nor very effective. Forcing yourself in this fashion will achieve nothing, which means you’re wearing yourself out to no purpose.”
I felt he was threatening my routines, so I tried to change the topic. I told him that the terms efficiency and efficacy he had just used seemed redundant to me.
He then explained that, for sorcerers, it is very important not to confuse the means with the ends.
“Superficially, the two concepts seem to refer to the same thing, but they don’t. In practice, they are separated by an abyss and the narrow passage across that abyss is the impeccability of the warrior’s path. The warrior’s path is an art of balance.
Efficacy is the achievement of our aims. Efficiency, on the other hand, is the way of accomplishing that achievement while using the least possible amount of energy. For example, a shaman is efficacious when he succeeds in seeing energy, and he is efficient when that achievement does not waste his whole life – when he uses that power to increase his awareness rather than his self-importance.
The ancient seers were very efficient at gathering power. However, they used the gifts they acquired to exercise control over others. When the moment of truth came, they remained caught as prisoners in the world of the inorganic beings, completely defenceless. They were very efficient; yes, but very inefficacious.
By learning to stalk, a warrior learns how to refine his levels of efficiency. Every drop of energy counts, every movement is decisive. The difference between the toltec warrior artist and charlatan sorcerer of the streets is that, for the former, the detail is of the utmost importance. The beauty of his art is revealed in every step he takes. For him, life is an exercise in strategy, while that other type of sorcerer becomes so seduced by the idea of efficacy – that is to say, by the attainment of his personal goals – that he throws himself at his objective like a fly at a glass window and generally does not accomplishes anything. His life is not a work of art.
The efficiency of the warrior depends on the depth of his commitment to the path, but he must never allow himself to be confounded by understanding. He needs to be patient and accumulate power little by little, like a battery charging slowly. That is the only way he’ll be able to resist the blinding effect of clarity.
It is common for the apprentice to wonder why his benefactor takes so much time to teach him what he needs to know. Everything seems to be doled out drop by drop. That is so because the apprentice has not yet acquired patience. He doesn’t know that a straight line is not always the shortest way.
One handles efficiency by applying the art of stalking. When you’ve learned to plan every step whilst remaining sufficiently flexible to improvise in an instant, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
Learning how to create strategies is of supreme importance on the warrior’s path. At a certain stage of my path, I got obsessed with strategies to the point that I avoided interacting with people.”
“And how did you manage to overcome that?” I asked.
“I didn’t do anything special; the changes happened by themselves. At a certain moment, I acquired a strange self-confidence. I felt I could do anything I set my mind on.
The warrior’s goal is to overcome the limits we impose on perception. To achieve this, he uses all the available techniques, enhancing each one by his own determination and creativity.
Thus our greatest achievement is not moving the assemblage point as such since we do it inconsistently all the time: it is to anchor it in a new position through discipline. That is why I say that efficacy, for a sorcerer, means to achieve control of the dreaming body and then journey into that immensity out there.”