(The Power of Silence by Carlos Castaneda)
Returning to his story, don Juan said that the nagual used Tulio, the unsociable member of his household, to deliver a new shattering blow to his psychological continuity.
Don Juan said that all the apprentices, including himself, had never been in total agreement about anything except that Tulio was a contemptibly arrogant little man. They hated Tulio because he either avoided them or snubbed them. He treated them all with such disdain that they felt like dirt. They were all convinced that Tulio never spoke to them because he had nothing to say; and that his most salient feature, his arrogant aloofness, was a cover for his timidity.
Yet in spite of his unpleasant personality, to the chagrin of all the apprentices, Tulio had undue influence on the household – especially on the nagual Julian, who seemed to dote on him.
One morning the nagual Julian sent all the apprentices on a day-long errand to the city. The only person left in the house, besides the older members of the household, was don Juan.
Around midday the nagual Julian headed for his study to do his daily bookkeeping. As he was going in, he casually asked don Juan to help him with the accounts.
Don Juan began to look through the receipts and soon realized that to continue he needed some information that Tulio, the overseer of the property, had, and had forgotten to note down.
The nagual Julian was definitely angry at Tulio’s oversight, which pleased don Juan. The nagual impatiently ordered don Juan to find Tulio, who was out in the fields supervising the workers, and ask him to come to the study.
Don Juan, gloating at the idea of annoying Tulio, ran half a mile to the fields, accompanied, of course, by a field hand to protect him from the monstrous man. He found Tulio supervising the workers from a distance, as always. Don Juan had noticed that Tulio hated to come into direct contact with people and always watched them from afar.
In a harsh voice and with an exaggeratedly imperious manner, don Juan demanded that Tulio accompany him to the house because the nagual required his services. Tulio, his voice barely audible, replied that he was too busy at the moment, but that in about an hour he would be free to come.
Don Juan insisted, knowing that Tulio would not bother to argue with him and would simply dismiss him with a turn of his head. He was shocked when Tulio began to yell obscenities at him.
The scene was so out of character for Tulio that even the farm workers stopped their labor and looked at one another questioningly. Don Juan was sure they had never heard Tulio raise his voice, much less yell improprieties. His own surprise was so great that he laughed nervously, which made Tulio extremely angry. He even hurled a rock at the frightened don Juan, who fled.
Don Juan and his bodyguard immediately ran back to the house. At the front door they found Tulio. He was quietly talking and laughing with some of the women. As was his custom, he turned his head away, ignoring don Juan. Don Juan began angrily to chastise him for socializing there when the nagual wanted him in his study. Tulio and the women looked at don Juan as if he had gone mad.
But Tulio was not his usual self that day. Instantly he yelled at don Juan to shut his damned mouth and mind his own damned business. He blatantly accused don Juan of trying to put him in a bad light with the nagual Julian.
The women showed their dismay by gasping loudly and looking disapprovingly at don Juan.
They tried to calm Tulio. Don Juan ordered Tulio to go to the nagual’s study and explain the accounts. Tulio told him to go to hell.
Don Juan was shaking with anger. The simple task of asking for the accounts had turned into a nightmare. He controlled his temper. The women were watching him intently, which angered him all over again. In a silent rage he ran to the nagual’s study. Tulio and the women went back to talking and laughing quietly as though they were celebrating a private joke.
Don Juan’s surprise was total when he entered the study and found Tulio sitting at the nagual’s desk absorbed in his bookkeeping. Don Juan made a supreme effort and controlled his anger. He smiled at Tulio. He no longer had the need to confront Tulio. He had suddenly understood that the nagual Julian was using Tulio to test him, to see if he would lose his temper. He would not give him that satisfaction.
Without looking up from his accounts, Tulio said that if don Juan was looking for the nagual, he would probably find him at the other end of the house.
Don Juan raced to the other end of the house to find the nagual Julian walking slowly around the patio with Tulio at his side. The nagual appeared to be engrossed in his conversation with Tulio. Tulio gently nudged the nagual’s sleeve and said in a low voice that his assistant was there.
The nagual matter-of-factly explained to don Juan everything about the account they had been working on. It was a long, detailed, and thorough explanation. He said then that all don Juan had to do was to bring the account book from the study so that they could make the entry and have Tulio sign it.
Don Juan could not understand what was happening. The detailed explanation and the nagual’s matter-of-fact tone had brought everything into the realm of mundane affairs. Tulio impatiently ordered don Juan to hurry up and fetch the book, because he was busy. He was needed somewhere else.
By now don Juan had resigned himself to being a clown. He knew that the nagual was up to something; he had that strange look in his eyes which don Juan always associated with his beastly jokes. Besides, Tulio had talked more that day than he had in the entire two years don Juan had been in the house.
Without uttering a word, don Juan went back to the study. And as he had expected, Tulio had gotten there first. He was sitting on the corner of the desk, waiting for don Juan, impatiently tapping the floor with the hard heel of his boot. He held out the ledger don Juan was after, gave it to him, and told him to be on his way.
Despite being prepared, don Juan was astonished. He stared at the man, who became angry and abusive. Don Juan had to struggle not to explode. He kept saying to himself that all this was merely a test of his attitude. He had visions of being thrown out of the house if he failed the test.
In the midst of his turmoil, he was still able to wonder about the speed with which Tulio managed always to be one jump ahead of him.
Don Juan certainly anticipated that Tulio would be waiting with the nagual. Still, when he saw him there, although he was not surprised, he was incredulous. He had raced through the house, following the shortest route. There was no way that Tulio could run faster than he. Furthermore, if Tulio had run, he would have had to run right alongside don Juan.
The nagual Julian took the account book from don Juan with an air of indifference. He made the entry; Tulio signed it. Then they continued talking about the account, disregarding don Juan, whose eyes were fixed on Tulio. Don Juan wanted to figure out what kind of test they were putting him through. It had to be a test of his attitude, he thought. After all, in that house, his attitude had always been the issue.
The nagual dismissed don Juan, saying he wanted to be alone with Tulio to discuss business.
Don Juan immediately went looking for the women to find out what they would say about this strange situation. He had gone ten feet when he encountered two of the women and Tulio. The three of them were caught up in a most animated conversation. He saw them before they had seen him, so he ran back to the nagual. Tulio was there, talking with the nagual.
An incredible suspicion entered don Juan’s mind. He ran to the study; Tulio was immersed in his bookkeeping and did not even acknowledge don Juan. Don Juan asked him what was going on. Tulio was his usual self this time: he did not answer or look at don Juan.
Don Juan had at that moment another inconceivable thought. He ran to the stable, saddled two horses and asked his morning bodyguard to accompany him again. They galloped to the place where they had seen Tulio earlier. He was exactly where they had left him. He did not speak to don Juan. He shrugged his shoulders and turned his head when don Juan questioned him.
Don Juan and his companion galloped back to the house. He left the man to care for the horses and rushed into the house. Tulio was lunching with the women. And Tulio was also talking to the nagual. And Tulio was also working on the books.
Don Juan sat down and felt the cold sweat of fear. He knew that the nagual Julian was testing him with one of his horrible jokes. He reasoned that he had three courses of action. He could behave as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening; he could figure out the test himself; or, since the nagual had engraved in his mind that he was there to explain anything don Juan wanted, he could confront the nagual and ask for clarification.
He decided to ask. He went to the nagual and asked him to explain what was being done to him. The nagual was alone then, still working on his accounts. He put the ledger aside and smiled at don Juan. He said that the twenty-one not-doings he had taught don Juan to perform were the tools that could sever the three thousand heads of self-importance, but that those tools had not been effective with don Juan at all. Thus, he was trying the second method for destroying self-importance which meant putting don Juan into the state of being called the place of no pity.
Don Juan was convinced then that the nagual Julian was utterly mad. Hearing him talk about not-doings or about monsters with three thousand heads or about places of no pity, don Juan felt almost sorry for him. The nagual Julian very calmly asked don Juan to go to the storage shed in the back of the house and ask Tulio to come out.
Don Juan sighed and did his best not to burst out laughing. The nagual’s methods were too obvious. Don Juan knew that the nagual wanted to continue the test, using Tulio.
Don Juan stopped his narration and asked me what I thought about Tulio’s behavior. I said that, guided by what I knew about the sorcerers’ world, I would say that Tulio was a sorcerer and somehow he was moving his own assemblage point in a very sophisticated manner to give don Juan the impression that he was in four places at the same time.
“So what do you think I found in the shed?” don Juan asked with a big grin.
“I would say either you found Tulio or you didn’t find anybody,” I replied.
“But if either of these had happened, there would have been no shock to my continuity,” don Juan said.
I tried to imagine bizarre things and I proposed that perhaps he found Tulio’s dreaming body. I reminded don Juan that he himself had done something similar to me with one of the members of his party of sorcerers.
“No,” don Juan retorted. “What I found was a joke that has no equivalent in reality. And yet it was not bizarre; it was not out of this world. What do you think it was?”
I told don Juan I hated riddles. I said that with all the bizarre things he had made me experience, the only things I could conceive would be more bizarreness, and since that was ruled out, I gave up guessing.
“When I went into that shed I was prepared to find that Tulio was hiding,” don Juan said. “I was sure that the next part of the test was going to be an infuriating game of hide-and-seek. Tulio was going to drive me crazy hiding inside that shed.”
“But nothing I had prepared myself for happened. I walked into that shed and found four Tulios.”
“What do you mean, four Tulios?” I asked.
“There were four men in that shed,” don Juan replied. “And all of them were Tulio. Can you imagine my surprise? All of them were sitting in the same position, their legs crossed and pressed tightly together. They were waiting for me. I looked at them and ran away screaming.”
“My benefactor held me down on the ground outside the door. And then, truly horrified, I saw how the four Tulios came out of the shed and advanced toward me. I screamed and screamed while the Tulios pecked me with their hard fingers, like huge birds attacking. I screamed until I felt something give in me and I entered a state of superb indifference. Never in all my life had I felt something so extraordinary. I brushed off the Tulios and got up. They had just been tickling me. I went directly to the nagual and asked him to explain the four men to me.”
What the nagual Julian explained to don Juan was that those four men were the paragons of stalking. Their names had been invented by their teacher, the nagual Elias, who, as an exercise in controlled folly, had taken the Spanish numerals uno, dos, tres, cuatro, added them to the name of Tulio, and obtained in that manner the names Tuliuno, Tuliodo, Tulitre, and Tulicuatro.
The nagual Julian introduced each in turn to don Juan. The four men were standing in a row.
Don Juan faced each of them and nodded, and each nodded to him. The nagual said the four men were stalkers of such extraordinary talent, as don Juan had just corroborated, that praise was meaningless. The Tulios were the nagual Elias’s triumph; they were the essence of unobtrusiveness. They were such magnificent stalkers that, for all practical purposes, only one of them existed. Although people saw and dealt with them daily, nobody outside the members of the household knew that there were four Tulios.
Don Juan understood with perfect clarity everything the nagual Julian was saying about the men. Because of his unusual clarity, he knew he had reached the place of no pity. And he understood, all by himself, that the place of no pity was a position of the assemblage point, a position which rendered self-pity inoperative. But don Juan also knew that his insight and wisdom were extremely transitory. Unavoidably, his assemblage point would return to its point of departure.
When the nagual asked don Juan if he had any questions, he realized that he would be better off paying close attention to the nagual’s explanation than speculating about his own foresightedness.
Don Juan wanted to know how the Tulios created the impression that there was only one person. He was extremely curious, because observing them together he realized they were not really that alike. They wore the same clothes. They were about the same size, age, and configuration. But that was the extent of their similarity. And yet, even as he watched them he could have sworn that there was only one Tulio.
The nagual Julian explained that the human eye was trained to focus only on the most salient features of anything, and that those salient features were known beforehand. Thus, the stalkers’ art was to create an impression by presenting the features they chose, features they knew the eyes of the onlooker were bound to notice. By artfully reinforcing certain impressions, stalkers were able to create on the part of the onlooker an unchallengeable conviction as to what their eyes had perceived.
The nagual Julian said that when don Juan first arrived dressed in his woman’s clothes, the women of his party were delighted and laughed openly. But the man with them, who happened to be Tulitre, immediately provided don Juan with the first Tulio impression. He half turned away to hide his face, shrugged his shoulders disdainfully, as if all of it was boring to him, and walked away – to laugh his head off in private – while the women helped to consolidate that first impression by acting apprehensive, almost annoyed, at the unsociability of the man.
From that moment on, any Tulio who was around don Juan reinforced that impression and further perfected it until don Juan’s eye could not catch anything except what was being fed to him. Tuliuno spoke then and said that it had taken them about three months of very careful and consistent actions to have don Juan blind to anything except what he was guided to expect. After three months, his blindness was so pronounced that the Tulios were no longer even careful. They acted normal in the house. They even ceased wearing identical clothes, and don Juan did not notice the difference.
When other apprentices were brought into the house, however, the Tulios had to start all over again. This time the challenge was hard, because there were many apprentices and they were sharp.
Don Juan asked Tuliuno about Tulio’s appearance. Tuliuno answered that the nagual Elias maintained appearance was the essence of controlled folly, and stalkers created appearance by intending them, rather than by producing them with the aid of props. Props created artificial appearances that looked false to the eye. In this respect, intending appearances was exclusively an exercise for stalkers.
Tulitre spoke next. He said appearances were solicited from the spirit. Appearances were asked, were forcefully called on; they were never invented rationally. Tulio’s appearance had to be called from the spirit. And to facilitate that the nagual Elias put all four of them together into a very small, out-of-the-way storage room, and there the spirit spoke to them. The spirit told them that first they had to intend their homogeneity. After four weeks of total isolation, homogeneity came to them.
The nagual Elias said that intent had fused them together and that they had acquired the certainty that their individuality would go undetected. Now they had to call up the appearance that would be perceived by the onlooker. And they got busy, calling intent for the Tulios’ appearance don Juan had seen. They had to work very hard to perfect it. They focused, under the direction of their teacher, on all the details that would make it perfect.
The four Tulios gave don Juan a demonstration of Tulio’s most salient features. These were: very forceful gestures of disdain and arrogance; abrupt turns of the face to the right as if in anger; twists of their upper bodies as if to hide part of the face with the left shoulder; angry sweeps of a hand over the eyes as if to brush hair off the forehead; and the gait of an agile but impatient person who is too nervous to decide which way to go.
Don Juan said that those details of behavior and dozens of others had made Tulio an unforgettable character. In fact, he was so unforgettable that in order to project Tulio on don Juan and the other apprentices as if on a screen, any of the four men needed only to insinuate a feature, and don Juan and the apprentices would automatically supply the rest.
Don Juan said that because of the tremendous consistency of the input, Tulio was for him and the others the essence of a disgusting man. But at the same time, if they searched deep inside themselves, they would have acknowledged that Tulio was haunting. He was nimble, mysterious, and gave, wittingly or unwittingly, the impression of being a shadow.
Don Juan asked Tuliuno how they had called intent. Tuliuno explained that stalkers called intent loudly. Usually intent was called from within a small, dark, isolated room. A candle was placed on a black table with the flame just a few inches before the eyes; then the word intent was voiced slowly, enunciated clearly and deliberately as many times as one felt was needed. The pitch of the voice rose or fell without any thought.
Tuliuno stressed that the indispensable part of the act of calling intent was a total concentration on what was intended. In their case, the concentration was on their homogeneity and on Tulio’s appearance. After they had been fused by intent, it still took them a couple of years to build up the certainty that their homogeneity and Tulio’s appearance would be realities to the onlookers.