(The Fire from Within)
The next day I repeatedly asked don Juan to explain our hasty departure from Genaro’s house. He refused even to mention the incident. Genaro was no help either. Every time I asked him he winked at me, grinning like a fool.
In the afternoon, don Juan came to the back patio of his house, where I was talking with his apprentices. As if on cue, all the young apprentices left instantly.
Don Juan took me by the arm, and we began to walk along the corridor. He did not say anything; for a while we just strolled around, very much as if we were in the public square.
Don Juan stopped walking and turned to me. He circled me, looking over my entire body. I knew that he was seeing me. I felt a strange fatigue, a laziness I had not felt until his eyes swept over me. He began to talk all of a sudden.
“The reason Genaro and I didn’t want to focus on what happened last night,” he said, “was that you had been very frightened during the time you were in the unknown. Genaro pushed you, and things happened to you in there.”
“What things, don Juan?”
“Things that are still difficult if not impossible to explain to you now,” he said. “You don’t have enough surplus energy to enter into the unknown and make sense of it. When the new seers arranged the order of the truths about awareness, they saw that the first attention consumes all the glow of awareness that human beings have, and not an iota of energy is left free. That’s your problem now. So, the new seers proposed that warriors, since they have to enter into the unknown, have to save their energy. But where are they going to get energy, if all of it is taken? They’ll get it, the new seers say, from eradicating unnecessary habits.”
He stopped talking and solicited questions. I asked him what eradicating unnecessary habits did to the glow of awareness.
He replied that it detaches awareness from self-reflection and allows it the freedom to focus on something else.
“The unknown is forever present,” he continued, “but it is outside the possibility of our normal awareness. The unknown is the superfluous part of the average man. And it is superfluous because the average man doesn’t have enough free energy to grasp it.”
“After all the time you’ve spent in the warrior’s path, you have enough free energy to grasp the unknown, but not enough energy to understand it or even to remember it.”
He explained that at the site of the flat rock, I had entered very deeply into the unknown. But I indulged in my exaggerated nature and became terrified, which was about the worst thing anyone can do. So I had rushed out of the left side, like a bat out of hell; unfortunately, taking a legion of strange things with me.
I told don Juan that he was not getting to the point, that he should come out and tell me exactly what he meant by a legion of strange things.
He took me by the arm and continued strolling around with me.
“In explaining awareness,” he said, “I am presumably fitting everything or nearly everything into place. Let’s talk a little bit about the old seers. Genaro, as I’ve told you, is very much like them.”
He led me then to the big room. We sat down there and he began his elucidation.
“The new seers were simply terrified by the knowledge that the old seers had accumulated over the years,” don Juan said. “It’s understandable. The new seers knew that that knowledge leads only to total destruction. Yet they were also fascinated by it – especially by the practices.”
“How did the new seers know about those practices?” I asked.
“They are the legacy of the old Toltecs,” he said. “The new seers learn about them as they go along. They hardly ever use them, but the practices are there as part of their knowledge.”
“What kind of practices are they, don Juan?”
“They are very obscure formulas, incantations, lengthy procedures that have to do with the handling of a very mysterious force. At least it was mysterious to the ancient Toltecs, who masked it and made it more horrifying than it really is.”
“What is that mysterious force?” I asked.
“It’s a force that is present throughout everything there is,” he said. “The old seers never attempted to unravel the mystery of the force that made them create their secret practices; they simply accepted it as something sacred. But the new seers took a close look and called it will, the will of the Eagle’s emanations, or intent.”
Don Juan went on explaining that the ancient Toltecs had divided their secret knowledge into five sets of two categories each: the earth and the dark regions, fire and water, the above and the below, the loud and the silent, the moving and the stationary. He speculated that there must have been thousands of different techniques, which became more and more intricate as time passed.
“The secret knowledge of the earth,” he went on, “had to do with everything that stands on the ground. There were particular sets of movements, words, unguents, potions that were applied to people, animals, insects, trees, small plants, rocks, soil.”
“These were techniques that made the old seers into horrid beings. And their secret knowledge of the earth was employed either to groom or to destroy anything that stands on the ground.”
“The counterpart of the earth was what they knew as the dark regions. These practices were by far the most dangerous. They dealt with entities without organic life. Living creatures that are present on the earth and populate it together with all organic beings.”
“Doubtlessly, one of the most worthwhile findings of the ancient seers, especially for them, was the discovery that organic life is not the only form of life present on this earth.”
I did not quite comprehend what he had said. I waited for him to clarify his statements.
“Organic beings are not the only creatures that have life,” he said and paused again as if to allow me time to think his statements over.
I countered with a long argument about the definition of life and being alive. I talked about reproduction, metabolism, and growth, the processes that distinguish live organisms from inanimate things.
“You’re drawing from the organic,” he said. “But that’s only one instance. You shouldn’t draw all you have to say from one category alone.”
“But how else can it be?” I asked.
“For seers, to be alive means to be aware,” he replied. “For the average man, to be aware means to be an organism. This is where seers are different. For them, to be aware means that the emanations that cause awareness are encased inside a receptacle.”
“Organic living beings have a cocoon that encloses the emanations. But there are other creatures whose receptacles don’t look like a cocoon to a seer. Yet they have the emanations of awareness in them and characteristics of life other than reproduction and metabolism.”
“Such as what, don Juan?”
“Such as emotional dependency, sadness, joy, wrath, and so forth and so on. And I forgot the best yet, love; a kind of love man can’t even conceive.”
“Are you serious, don Juan?” I asked in earnest.
“Inanimately serious,” he answered with a deadpan expression and then broke into laughter. “If we take as our clue what seers see,” he continued, “life is indeed extraordinary.”
“If those beings are alive, why don’t they make themselves known to man?” I asked.
“They do, all the time. And not only to seers but also to the average man. The problem is that all the energy available is consumed by the first attention. Man’s inventory not only takes it all, but it also toughens the cocoon to the point of making it inflexible. Under those circumstances there is no possible interaction.”
He reminded me of the countless times, in the course of my apprenticeship with him, when I had had a firsthand view of inorganic beings. I retorted that I had explained away nearly every one of those instances. I had even formulated the hypothesis that his teachings, through the use of hallucinogenic plants, were geared to force an agreement, on the part of the apprentice, about a primitive interpretation of the world. I told him that I had not formally called it primitive interpretation but in anthropological terms I had labeled it a “world view more proper to hunting and gathering societies.”
Don Juan laughed until he was out of breath.
“I really don’t know whether you’re worse in your normal state of awareness or in a heightened one,” he said. “In your normal state you’re not suspicious, but boringly reasonable. I think I like you best when you are way inside the left side, in spite of the fact that you are terribly afraid of everything, as you were yesterday.”
Before I had time to say anything at all, he stated that he was pitting what the old seers did
against the accomplishments of the new seers, as a sort of counterpoint, with which he intended to give me a more inclusive view of the odds I was up against.
He continued then with his elucidation of the practices of the old seers. He said that another of their great findings had to do with the next category of secret knowledge: fire and water. They discovered that flames have a most peculiar quality; they can transport man bodily, just as water does.
Don Juan called it a brilliant discovery. I remarked that there are basic laws of physics that would prove that to be impossible. He asked me to wait until he had explained everything before drawing any conclusions. He remarked that I had to check my excessive rationality, because it constantly affected my states of heightened awareness. It was not a case of reacting every which way to external influences, but of succumbing to my own devices.
He went on explaining that the ancient Toltecs, although they obviously saw, did not understand what they saw. They merely used their findings without bothering to relate them to a larger picture. In the case of their category of fire and water, they divided fire into heat and flame, and water into wetness and fluidity. They correlated heat and wetness and called them lesser properties. They considered flames and fluidity to be higher, magical properties, and they used them as a means for bodily transportation to the realm of non-organic life. Between their knowledge of that kind of life and their fire and water practices, the ancient seers became bogged down in a quagmire with no way out.
Don Juan assured me that the new seers agreed that the discovery of non-organic living beings was indeed extraordinary, but not in the way the old seers believed it to be. To find themselves in a one-to-one relation with another kind of life gave the ancient seers a false feeling of invulnerability, which spelled their doom.
I wanted him to explain the fire and water techniques in greater detail. He said that the old seers’ knowledge was as intricate as it was useless and that he was only going to outline it. Then he summarized the practices of the above and the below. The above dealt with secret knowledge about wind, rain, sheets of lightning, clouds, thunder, daylight, and the sun. The knowledge of the below had to do with fog, water of underground springs, swamps, lightning bolts, earthquakes, the night, moonlight, and the moon.
The loud and the silent were a category of secret knowledge that had to do with the manipulation of sound and quiet. The moving and the stationary were practices concerned with mysterious aspects of motion and motionlessness.
I asked him if he could give me an example of any of the techniques he had outlined. He replied that he had already given me dozens of demonstrations over the years. I insisted that I had rationally explained away everything he had done to me.
He did not answer. He seemed to be either angry at me for asking questions or seriously involved in searching for a good example. After a while he smiled and said that he had visualized the proper example.
“The technique I have in mind has to be put in action in the shallow depths of a stream,” he said. “There is one near Genaro’s house.”
“What will I have to do?”
“You’ll have to get a medium-size mirror.”
I was surprised at his request. I remarked that the ancient Toltecs did not know about mirrors.
“They didn’t,” he admitted, smiling. “This is my benefactor’s addition to the technique. All the ancient seers needed was a reflecting surface.”
He explained that the technique consisted of submerging a shiny surface into the shallow water of a stream. The surface could be any flat object that had some capacity to reflect images.
“I want you to construct a solid frame made of sheet metal for a medium-size mirror,” he said. “It has to be waterproof, so you must seal it with tar. You must make it yourself with your own hands. When you have made it, bring it over and we’ll proceed.”
“What’s going to happen, don Juan?”
“Don’t be apprehensive. You yourself have asked me to give you an example of an ancient Toltec practice. I asked the same thing of my benefactor. I think everybody asks for one at a certain moment. My benefactor said that he did the same thing himself. His benefactor, the nagual Elias, gave him an example; my benefactor in turn gave the same one to me, and now I am going to give it to you.”
“At the time my benefactor gave me the example I didn’t know how he did it. I know now. Someday you yourself will also know how the technique works; you will understand what’s behind all this.”
I thought that don Juan wanted me to go back home to Los Angeles and construct the frame for the mirror there. I commented that it would be impossible for me to remember the task if I did not remain in heightened awareness.
“There are two things out of kilter with your comment,” he said. “One is that there is no way for you to remain in heightened awareness, because you won’t be able to function unless I or Genaro or any of the warriors in the nagual’s party nurse you every minute of the day, as I do now. The other is that Mexico is not the moon. There are hardware stores here. We can go to Oaxaca and buy anything you need.”
We drove to the city the next day and I bought all the pieces for the frame. I assembled it myself in a mechanic’s shop for a minimal fee. Don Juan told me to put it in the trunk of my car. He did not so much as glance at it.
We drove back to Genaro’s house in the late afternoon and arrived there in the early morning. I looked for Genaro. He was not there. The house seemed deserted.
“Why does Genaro keep this house?” I asked don Juan. “He lives with you, doesn’t he?”
Don Juan did not answer. He gave me a strange look and went to light the kerosene lantern. I was alone in the room in total darkness. I felt a great tiredness that I attributed to the long, tortuous drive up the mountains. I wanted to lie down. In the darkness, I could not see where Genaro had put the mats. I stumbled over a pile of them. And then I knew why Genaro kept that house; he took care of the male apprentices Pablito, Nestor, and Benigno, who lived there when they were in their state of normal awareness.
I felt exhilarated; I was no longer tired. Don Juan came in with a lantern. I told him about my realization, but he said that it did not matter, that I would not remember it for too long.
He asked me to show him the mirror. He seemed pleased and remarked about its being light yet solid. He noticed that I had used metal screws to affix an aluminum frame to a piece of sheet metal that I had used as a backing for a mirror eighteen inches long by fourteen inches wide.
“I made a wooden frame for my mirror,” he said. “This looks much better than mine. My frame was too cumbersome and at the same time frail.”
“Let me explain what we’re going to do,” he continued after he had finished examining the mirror. “Or perhaps I should say, what we’re going to attempt to do. The two of us together are going to place this mirror on the surface of the stream near the house. It is wide enough and shallow enough to serve our purposes.”
“The idea is to let the fluidity of the water exert pressure on us and transport us away.”
Before I could make any remarks or ask any questions, he reminded me that in the past I had utilized the water of a similar stream and accomplished extraordinary feats of perception. He was referring to the aftereffects of ingesting hallucinogenic plants, which I had experienced various times while being submerged in the irrigation ditch behind his house in northern Mexico.
“Save any questions until I explain to you what the seers knew about awareness,” he said. “Then you’ll understand everything we’re doing in a different light. But first let’s go on with our procedure.”
We walked to the nearby stream, and he selected a place with flat, exposed rocks. He said that there the water was shallow enough for our purposes.
“What do you expect to happen?” I asked in the midst of a gripping apprehension.
“I don’t know. All I know is what we are going to attempt. We will hold the mirror very carefully, but very firmly. We will gently place it on the surface of the water and then let it submerge. We will then hold it on the bottom. I’ve checked it. There is enough silt there to allow us to dig our fingers underneath the mirror to hold it firmly.”
He asked me to squat on a flat rock above the surface in the middle of the gentle stream and made me hold the mirror with both hands, almost at the corners on one side. He squatted facing me and held the mirror the same way I did. We let the mirror sink and then we held it by plunging our arms in the water almost to our elbows.
He commanded me to empty myself of thoughts and stare at the surface of the mirror. He repeated over and over that the trick was not to think at all. I looked intently into the mirror. The gentle current mildly disarranged the reflection of don Juan’s face and mine. After a few minutes of steady gazing into the mirror it seemed to me that gradually the image of his face and mine became much clearer. And the mirror grew in size until it was at least a yard square. The current seemed to have stopped, and the mirror looked as clear as if it were placed on top of the water.
Even more odd was the crispness of our reflections, it was as if my face had been magnified, not in size but in focus. I could see the pores in the skin of my forehead.
Don Juan gently whispered not to stare at my eyes or his, but to let my gaze wander around without focusing on any part of our reflections.
“Gaze fixedly without staring!” he repeatedly ordered in a forceful whisper.
I did what he said without stopping to ponder about the seeming contradiction. At that moment something inside me was caught in that mirror and the contradiction actually made sense. “It is possible to gaze fixedly without staring,” I thought, and the instant that thought was formulated another head appeared next to don Juan’s and mine. It was on the lower side of the mirror, to my left.
My whole body trembled. Don Juan whispered to calm down and not show fear or surprise. He again commanded me to gaze without staring at the newcomer. I had to make an unimaginable effort not to gasp and release the mirror. My body was shaking from head to toe.
Don Juan whispered again to get hold of myself. He nudged me repeatedly with his shoulder. Slowly I got my fear under control. I gazed at the third head and gradually realized that it was not a human head, or an animal head either. In fact, it was not a head at all. It was a shape that had no inner mobility. As the thought occurred to me, I instantly realized that I was not thinking it myself. The realization was not a thought either. I had a moment of tremendous anxiety and then something incomprehensible became known to me. The thoughts were a voice in my ear!
“I am seeing!” I yelled in English, but there was no sound.
“Yes, you’re seeing,” the voice in my ear said in Spanish.
I felt that I was encased in a force greater than myself. I was not in pain or even anguished. I felt nothing. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt, because the voice was telling me so, that I could not break the grip of that force by an act of will or strength. I knew I was dying. I lifted my eyes automatically to look at don Juan, and at the instant our eyes met the force let go of me. I was free. Don Juan was smiling at me as if he knew exactly what I had gone through. I realized that I was standing up. Don Juan was holding the mirror edgewise to let the water drip off.
We walked back to the house in silence.
“The ancient Toltecs were simply mesmerized by their findings,” don Juan said.
“I can understand why,” I said.
“So can I,” don Juan retorted.
The force that had enveloped me had been so powerful as to incapacitate me for speech, even for thought, for hours afterward. It had frozen me with a total lack of volition. And I had thawed out only by tiny degrees.
“Without any deliberate intervention on our part,” don Juan continued, “this ancient Toltec technique has been divided into two parts for you. The first was just enough to familiarize you with what takes place. In the second, we will try to accomplish what the old seers pursued.”
“What really took place out there, don Juan?” I asked.
“There are two versions. I’ll give you the old seers’ version first. They thought that the reflecting surface of a shiny object submerged in water enlarges the power of the water. What they used to do was gaze into bodies of water, and the reflecting surface served them as an aid to accelerate the process. They believed that our eyes are the keys to entering into the unknown; by gazing into water, they were allowing the eyes to open the way.”
Don Juan said that the old seers observed that the wetness of water only dampens or soaks, but that the fluidity of water moves. It runs, they surmised, in search of other levels underneath us. They believed that water had been given to us not only for life, but also as a link, a road to the other levels below.
“Are there many levels below?” I asked.
“The ancient seers counted seven levels,” he replied.
“Do you know them yourself, don Juan?”
“I am a seer of the new cycle, and consequently I have a different view,” he said. “I am just showing you what the old seers did and I’m telling you what they believed.”
He asserted that just because he had different views did not mean the old seers’ practices were invalid; their interpretations were wrong, but their truths had practical value for them. In the instance of the water practices, they were convinced that it was humanly possible to be transported bodily by the fluidity of water anywhere between this level of ours and the other seven levels below; or to be transported in essence anywhere on this level, along the watercourse of a river in either direction. They used, accordingly, running water to be transported on this level of ours and the water of deep lakes or that of waterholes to be transported to the depths.
“What they pursued with the technique I’m showing you was twofold,” he went on. “On the one hand they used the fluidity of the water to be transported to the first level below. On the other, they used it to have a face-to-face meeting with a living being from that first level. The head-like shape in the mirror was one of those creatures that came to look us over.”
“So, they really exist!” I exclaimed.
“They certainly do,” he retorted.
He said that ancient seers were damaged by their aberrant insistence on staying glued to their procedures, but that whatever they found was valid. They found out that the surest way to meet one of those creatures is through a body of water. The size of the body of water is not relevant; an ocean or a pond serves the same purpose. He had chosen a small stream because he hated to get wet. We could have gotten the same results in a lake or a large river.
“The other life comes to find out what’s going on when human beings call,” he continued. “That Toltec technique is like a knock on their door. The old seers said the shiny surface on the bottom of the water served as a bait and a window. So humans and those creatures meet at a window.”
“Is that what happened to me there?” I asked.
“The old seers would’ve said that you were being pulled by the power of the water and the power of the first level, plus the magnetic influence of the creature at the window.”
“But I heard a voice in my ear saying that I was dying,” I said.
“The voice was right. You were dying, and you would have if I hadn’t been there. That is the danger of practicing the Toltecs’ techniques. They are extremely effective but most of the time they are deadly.”
I told him that I was ashamed to confess that I was terrified. Seeing that shape in the mirror and having the sensation of an enveloping force around me had proved too much for me the day before.
“I don’t want to alarm you,” he said, “but nothing has happened to you yet. If what happened to me is going to be the guideline of what will happen to you, you’d better prepare yourself for the shock of your life. It’s better to shake in your boots now than to die of fright tomorrow.”
My fear was so terrifying that I couldn’t even voice the questions that came to my mind. I had a hard lime swallowing. Don Juan laughed until he was coughing. His face got purple. When I got my voice back, every one of my questions prompted another attack of coughing laughter.
“You have no idea how funny this all is to me,” he finally said. “I’m not laughing at you. It’s just the situation. My benefactor made me go through the same motions, and looking at you I can’t help seeing myself.”
I told him that I felt sick to my stomach. He said that that was fine, that it was natural to be scared, and that to control fear was wrong and senseless. The ancient seers got trapped by suppressing their terror when they should have been scared out of their wits. Since they did not want to stop their pursuits or abandon their comforting constructs they controlled their fear instead.
“What else are we going to do with the mirror?” I asked.
“That mirror is going to be used for a face-to-face meeting between you and that creature you only gazed at yesterday.”
“What happens in a face-to-face meeting?”
“What happens is that one form of life, the human form, meets another form of life. The old seers said that in this case, it is a creature from the first level of the fluidity of water.”
He explained that the ancient seers surmised that the seven levels below ours were levels of the fluidity of water. For them a spring had untold significance, because they thought that in such a case the fluidity of water is reversed and goes from the depth to the surface. They took that to be the means whereby creatures from other levels, these other forms of life, come to our plane to peer at us, to observe us.
“In this respect those old seers were not mistaken,” he went on. “They hit the nail right on the head. Entities that the new seers call allies do appear around waterholes.”
“Was the creature in the mirror an ally?” I asked.
“Of course. But not one that can be utilized. The tradition of the allies, which I have acquainted you with in the past, comes directly from the ancient seers. They did wonders with allies, but nothing they did was worth anything when the real enemy came along: their fellow men.”
“Since those creatures are allies, they must be very dangerous,” I said.
“As dangerous as we men are, no more, no less.”
“Can they kill us?”
“Not directly, but they certainly can frighten us to death. They can cross the boundaries themselves, or they can just come to the window. As you may have realized by now, the ancient Toltecs didn’t stop at the window, either. They found weird ways to go beyond it.”
The second stage of the technique proceeded very much as had the first except that it took perhaps twice as long for me to relax and stop my internal turmoil. When that was done, the reflection of don Juan’s face and mine became instantly clear. I gazed from his reflection to mine for perhaps an hour. I expected the ally to appear any moment, but nothing happened. My neck hurt. My back was stiff and my legs were numb. I wanted to kneel on the rock to relieve the pain in my lower back. Don Juan whispered that the moment the ally showed its shape my discomfort would vanish.
He was absolutely right. The shock of witnessing a round shape appear on the edge of the mirror dispelled every discomfort of mine.
“What do we do now?” I whispered.
“Relax and don’t focus your gaze on anything, not even for an instant,” he replied. “Watch everything that appears in the mirror. Gaze without staring.”
I obeyed him. I glanced at everything within the frame of the mirror. There was a peculiar buzzing in my ears. Don Juan whispered that I should move my eyes in a clockwise direction if I felt that I was being enveloped by an unusual force; but under no circumstances, he stressed, should I lift my head to look at him.
After a moment I noticed that the mirror was reflecting more than the reflection of our faces and the round shape. Its surface had become dark. Spots of an intense violet light appeared. They grew large. There were also spots of jet blackness. Then it turned into something like a flat picture of a cloudy sky at night, in the moonlight. Suddenly, the whole surface came into focus, as if it were a moving picture. The new sight was a three-dimensional, breathtaking view of the depths.
I knew that it was absolutely impossible for me to fight off the tremendous attraction of that sight. It began to pull me in.
Don Juan whispered forcefully that I should roll my eyes for dear life. The movement brought immediate relief. I could again distinguish our reflections and that of the ally. Then the ally disappeared and reappeared again on the other end of the mirror.
Don Juan commanded me to grip the mirror with all my might. He warned me to be calm and not make any sudden movements.
“What’s going to happen?” I whispered.
“The ally will try to come out,” he replied.
As soon as he had said that I felt a powerful tug. Something jerked my arms. The tug was from underneath the mirror. It was like a suction force that created a uniform pressure all around the frame.
“Hold the mirror tightly but don’t break it,” don Juan ordered. “Fight the suction. Don’t let the ally sink the mirror too deep.”
The force pulling down on us was enormous. I felt that my fingers were going to break or be crushed against the rocks on the bottom. Don Juan and I both lost our balance at one point and had to step down from the flat rocks into the stream. The water was quite shallow, but the thrashing of the ally’s force around the frame of the mirror was as frightening as if we had been in a large river. The water around our feet was being swirled around madly, but the images in the mirror were undisturbed.
“Watch out!” don Juan yelled. “Here it comes!”
The tugging changed into a thrust from underneath. Something was grabbing the edge of the mirror; not the outer edge of the frame where we were holding it, but from the inside of the glass. It was as if the glass surface were indeed an open window and something or somebody were just climbing through it.
Don Juan and I fought desperately either to push the mirror down when it was being thrust up or pull it up when it was being tugged downward. In a stooped-over position we slowly moved downstream from the original spot. The water was deeper and the bottom was covered with slippery rocks.
“Let’s lift the mirror out of the water and shake him loose,” don Juan said in a harsh voice.
The loud thrashing continued unremittingly. It was as if we had caught an enormous fish with our bare hands and it was swimming around wildly.
It occurred to me that the mirror was in essence a hatch. A strange shape was actually trying to climb up through it. It was leaning on the edge of the hatch with a mighty weight and was big enough to displace the reflection of don Juan’s face and mine. I could not see us anymore. I could only distinguish a mass trying to push itself up.
The mirror was not resting on the bottom anymore. My fingers were not compressed against the rocks. The mirror was in mid-depth, held by the opposing forces of the ally’s tugs and ours.
Don Juan said he was going to extend his hands underneath the mirror and that I should very quickly grab them in order to have a better leverage to lift the mirror with our forearms. When he let go it tilted to his side. I quickly reached for his hands but there was nothing underneath. I vacillated a second too long and the mirror flew out of my hands.
“Grab it! Grab it!” don Juan yelled.
I caught the mirror just as it was going to land on the rocks. I lifted it out of the water, but not quickly enough. The water seemed to be like glue. As I pulled the mirror out, I also pulled a portion of a heavy rubbery substance that simply pulled the mirror out of my hands and back into the water.
Don Juan, displaying extraordinary nimbleness, caught the mirror and lifted it up edgewise without any difficulty.
Never in my life had I had such an attack of melancholy. It was a sadness that had no precise foundation; I associated it with the memory of the depths I had seen in the mirror. It was a mixture of pure longing for those depths plus an absolute fear of their chilling solitude.
Don Juan remarked that in the life of warriors it was extremely natural to be sad for no overt reason. Seers say that the luminous egg, as a field of energy, senses its final destination whenever the boundaries of the known are broken. A mere glimpse of the eternity outside the cocoon is enough to disrupt the coziness of our inventory. The resulting melancholy is sometimes so intense that it can bring about death.
He said that the best way to get rid of melancholy is to make fun of it. He commented in a mocking tone that my first attention was doing everything to restore the order that had been disrupted by my contact with the ally. Since there was no way of restoring it by rational means, my first attention was doing it by focusing all its power on sadness.
I told him that the fact remained the melancholy was real. Indulging in it, moping around, being gloomy, were not part of the feeling of aloneness that I had felt upon remembering those depths.
“Something is finally getting through to you,” he said. “You’re right. There is nothing more lonely than eternity. And nothing is more cozy for us than to be a human being. This indeed is another contradiction – how can man keep the bonds of his humanness and still venture gladly and purposefully into the absolute loneliness of eternity? Whenever you resolve this riddle, you’ll be ready for the definitive journey.”
I knew then with total certainty the reason for my sadness. It was a recurrent feeling with me, one that I would always forget until I again realized the same thing: the puniness of humanity against the immensity of that thing-in-itself which I had seen reflected in the mirror.
“Human beings are truly nothing, don Juan,” I said.
“I know exactly what you’re thinking,” he said. “Sure, we’re nothing, but that’s exactly what makes it the ultimate challenge, that we nothings could actually face the loneliness of eternity.”
He abruptly changed the subject, leaving me with my mouth open, my next question unsaid.
He began to discuss our bout with the ally. He said that first of all, the struggle with the ally had been no joke. It had not really been a matter of life or death, but it had not been a picnic either.
“I chose that technique,” he went on, “because my benefactor showed it to me. When I asked him to give me an example of the old seers’ techniques, he nearly split a gut laughing; my request reminded him so much of his own experience. His benefactor, the nagual Elias, had also given him a harsh demonstration of the same technique.”
Don Juan said that as he had made the frame for his mirror out of wood, he should have asked me to do the same, but he wanted to know what would happen if the frame was sturdier than his or his benefactor’s. Both of their frames broke, and both times the ally came out.
He explained that during his own bout the ally ripped the frame apart. He and his benefactor were left holding two pieces of wood while the mirror sank and the ally climbed out of it. His benefactor knew what kind of trouble to expect. In the reflection of mirrors, allies are not really frightening because one sees only a shape, a mass of sorts. But when they are out, besides being truly fearsome-looking things, they are a pain in the neck. He remarked that once the allies get out of their level it is very difficult for them to go back. The same prevails for man. If seers venture into a level of those creatures, chances are they are never heard of again.
“My mirror was shattered with the ally’s force,” he said. “There was no more window and the ally couldn’t go back, so it came after me. It actually ran after me, rolling on itself. I scrambled on all fours at top speed, screaming with terror. I went up and down hills like a possessed man. The ally was inches away from me the whole time.”
Don Juan said that his benefactor ran after him, but he was too old and could not move fast enough; he had the good sense, however, to tell don Juan to back-track, and in that way was able to take measures to get rid of the ally. He shouted that he was going to build a fire and that don Juan should run in circles until everything was ready. He went ahead to gather dry branches while don Juan ran around a hill, driven mad with fear.
Don Juan confessed that the thought had occurred to him, as he ran around in circles, that his benefactor was actually enjoying the whole thing. He knew that his benefactor was a warrior capable of finding delight in any conceivable situation. Why not also in this one? For a moment he got so angry at his benefactor that the ally stopped chasing him, and don Juan, in no uncertain terms, accused his benefactor of malice. His benefactor didn’t answer, but made a gesture of genuine horror as he looked past don Juan at the ally, which was looming over the two of them.
Don Juan forgot his anger and began running around in circles again.
“My benefactor was indeed a devilish old man,” don Juan said, laughing. “He had learned to laugh internally. It wouldn’t show on his face, so he could pretend to be weeping or raging when he was really laughing. That day, as the ally chased me in circles, my benefactor stood there and defended himself from my accusations. I only heard bits of his long speech every time I ran by him. When he was through with that, I heard bits of another long explanation: that he had to gather a great deal of wood, that the ally was big, that the fire had to be as big as the ally itself, that the maneuver might not work.
“Only my maddening fear kept me going. Finally he must have realized that I was about to drop dead from exhaustion; he built the fire and with the flames he shielded me from the ally.”
Don Juan said that they stayed by the fire for the entire night. The worst time for him was when his benefactor had to go away to look for more dry branches and left him alone. He was so afraid that he promised to God that he was going to leave the path of knowledge and become a farmer.
“In the morning, after I had exhausted all my energy, the ally managed to shove me into the fire, and I was badly burned,” don Juan added.
“What happened to the ally?” I asked.
“My benefactor never told me what happened to it,” he replied. “But I have the feeling that it is still running around aimlessly, trying to find its way back.”
“And what happened to your promise to God?”
“My benefactor said not to worry, that it had been a good promise, but that I didn’t know yet that there is no one to hear such promises, because there is no God. All there is is the Eagle’s emanations, and there is no way to make promises to them.”
“What would have happened if the ally had caught you?” I asked.
“I might have died of fright,” he said. “If I had known what was entailed in being caught I would’ve let it catch me. At that time I was a reckless man. Once an ally catches you, you either have a heart attack and die or you wrestle with it. Then after a moment of thrashing around in sham ferocity, the ally’s energy wanes. There is nothing that an ally can do to us, or vice versa. We are separated by an abyss.”
“The ancient seers believed that at the moment the ally’s energy dwindles the ally surrenders its power to man. Power, my eye! The old seers had allies coming out of their ears and their allies’ power didn’t mean a thing.”
Don Juan explained that once again it had been up to the new seers to straighten out this confusion. They had found that the only thing that counts is impeccability, that is, freed energy. There were indeed some among the ancient seers who were saved by their allies, but that had had nothing to do with the allies’ power to fend off anything; rather, it was the impeccability of the men that had permitted them to use the energy of those other forms of life.
The new seers also found out the most important thing yet about the allies: what makes them useless or usable to man. Useless allies, of which there are staggering numbers, are those that have emanations inside them for which we have no match inside ourselves. They are so different from us as to be thoroughly unusable. Other allies, which are remarkably few in number, are akin to us, meaning that they possess occasional emanations that match ours.
“How is that kind utilized by man?” I asked.
“We should use another word instead of “utilize”,” he replied. “I’d say that what takes place between seers and allies of this kind is a fair exchange of energy.”
“How does the exchange take place?” I asked.
“Through their matching emanations,” he said. “Those emanations are, naturally, on the left-side awareness of man; the side that the average man never uses. For this reason, allies are totally barred from the world of the right-side awareness, or the side of rationality.”
He said that the matching emanations give both a common ground. Then, with familiarity, a deeper link is established, which allows both forms of life to profit. Seers seek the allies’ ethereal quality; they make fabulous scouts and guardians. Allies seek the greater energy field of man, and with it they can even materialize themselves.
He assured me that experienced seers play those shared emanations until they bring them into total focus; the exchange lakes place at that time. The ancient seers did not understand this process, and they developed complex techniques of gazing in order to descend into the depths that I had seen in the mirror.
“The old seers had a very elaborate tool to help them in their descent,” he went on. “It was a rope of special twine that they tied around their waist. It had a soft butt soaked in resin which fitted into the navel itself, like a plug. The seers had an assistant or a number of them who held them by the rope while they were lost in their gazing. Naturally, to gaze directly into the reflection of a deep, clear pond or lake is infinitely more overwhelming and dangerous than what we did with the mirror.”
“But did they actually descend bodily?” I asked.
“You’d be surprised what men are capable of, especially if they control awareness,” he replied.
“The old seers were aberrant. In their excursions to the depths they found marvels. It was routine for them to encounter allies.
“Of course, by now you realize that to say the depths is a figure of speech. There are no depths, there is only the handling of awareness. Yet the old seers never made that realization.”
I told don Juan that from what he had said about his experience with the ally, plus my own subjective impression on feeling the ally’s thrashing force in the water, I had concluded that allies are very aggressive.
“Not really,” he said. “It is not that they don’t have enough energy to be aggressive, but rather that they have a different kind of energy. They are more like an electric current. Organic beings are more like heat waves.”
“But why did it chase you for such a long time?” I asked.
“That’s no mystery,” he said. “They are attracted to emotions. Animal fear is what attracts them the most; it releases the kind of energy that suits them. The emanations inside them are rallied by animal fear. Since my fear was relentless the ally went after it, or rather, my fear hooked the ally and didn’t let it go.”
He said that it was the old seers who found out that allies enjoy animal fear more than anything else. They even went to the extreme of purposely feeding it to their allies by actually scaring people to death. The old seers were convinced that the allies had human feelings, but the new seers saw it differently. They saw that allies are attracted to the energy released by emotions; love is equally effective, as well as hatred, or sadness.
Don Juan added that if he had felt love for that ally, the ally would have come after him anyway, although the chase would have had a different mood. I asked him whether the ally would have stopped going after him if he had controlled his fear. He answered that controlling fear was a trick of the old seers. They learned to control it to the point of being able to parcel it out. They hooked their allies with their own fear and by gradually doling it out like food, they actually held the allies in bondage.
“Those old seers were terrifying men,” don Juan continued. “I shouldn’t use the past tense – they are terrifying even today. Their bid is to dominate, to master everybody and everything.”
“Even today, don Juan?” I asked, trying to get him to explain further.
He changed the subject by commenting that I had missed the opportunity of being really scared beyond measure. He said that doubtless the way I had sealed the frame of the mirror with tar had prevented the water from seeping behind the glass. He counted that as the deciding factor that had kept the ally from smashing the mirror.
“Too bad,” he said. “You might even have liked that ally. By the way, it was not the same one that came the day before. The second one was perfectly akin to you.”
“Don’t you have some allies yourself, don Juan?” I asked.
“As you know, I have my benefactor’s allies,” he said. “I can’t say that I have the same feeling for them that my benefactor did. He was a serene but thoroughly passionate man, who lavishly gave away everything he possessed, including his energy. He loved his allies. To him it was no sweat to allow the allies to use his energy and materialize themselves. There was one in particular that could even take a grotesque human form.”
Don Juan went on to say that since he was not partial to allies, he had never given me a real taste of them, as his benefactor had done to him while he was still recovering from the wound in his chest. It all began with the thought that his benefactor was a strange man. Having barely escaped from the clutches of the petty tyrant, don Juan suspected that he had fallen into another trap. His intention was to wait a few days to get his strength back and then run away when the old man was not home. But the old man must have read his thoughts, because one day, in a confidential tone, he whispered to don Juan that he ought to get well as quickly as possible so that the two of them could escape from his captor and tormentor. Then, shaking with fear and impotence, the old man flung the door open and a monstrous fish-faced man came into the room, as if he had been listening behind the door. He was a grayish-green, had only one huge unblinking eye, and was as big as a door. Don Juan said that he was so surprised and terrified that he passed out, and it took him years to get out from under the spell of that fright.
“Are your allies useful to you, don Juan?” I asked.
“That’s a very difficult thing to decide,” he said.
“In some way, I love the allies my benefactor gave me. They are capable of giving back inconceivable affection. But they are incomprehensible to me. They were given to me for companionship in case I am ever stranded alone in that immensity that is the Eagle’s emanations.”
(The Second Ring of Power)
“I think it’s time to go to our appointment,” she said, out of breath. “My flying opened us both. You felt my flying in your belly; that means you are open and ready to meet the four forces.”
“What four forces are you talking about?”
“The Nagual’s and Genaro’s allies. You’ve seen them. They are horrendous. Now they are free from the Nagual’s and Genaro’s gourds. You heard one of them around Soledad’s house the other night. They are waiting for you. The moment the darkness of the day sets in, they’ll be uncontainable. One of them even came after you in the daytime at Soledad’s place. Those allies now belong to you and me. We will take two each. I don’t know which ones. And I don’t know how, either. All the Nagual told me was that you and I would have to tackle them by ourselves.”
“Wait, wait! ” I shouted.
She did not let me speak. She gently put her hand over my mouth. I felt a pang of terror in the pit of my stomach. I had been confronted in the past with some inexplicable phenomena which don Juan and don Genaro had called their allies. There were four of them and they were entities, as real as anything in the world. Their presence was so outlandish that it would create an unparalleled state of fear in me every time I perceived them. The first one I had encountered was don Juan’s; it was a dark, rectangular mass, eight or nine feet high and four or five feet across. It moved with the crushing weight of a giant boulder and breathed so heavily that it reminded me of the sound of bellows. I had always encountered it at night, in the darkness. I had fancied it to be like a door that walked by pivoting on one corner and then on the other.
The second ally I came across was don Genaro’s. It was a long-faced, bald-headed, extraordinarily tall, glowing man, with thick lips and enormous, droopy eyes. He always wore pants that were too short for his long, skinny legs.
I had seen those two allies a great many times while in the company of don Juan and don Genaro. The sight of them would invariably cause an irreconcilable separation between my reason and my perception. On the one hand, I had no rational ground whatsoever to believe that what was happening to me was actually taking place, and on the other hand, there was no possible way of discarding the truthfulness of my perception.
Since they had always appeared while don Juan and don Genaro were around, I had filed them away as products of the powerful influence that those two men had had on my suggestible personality. In my understanding it was either that, or that don Juan and don Genaro had in their possession forces they called their allies, forces which were capable of manifesting themselves to me as those horrendous entities.
A feature of the allies was that they never allowed me to scrutinize them thoroughly. I had tried various times to focus my undivided attention on them, but every time I would get dizzy and disassociated.
The other two allies were more elusive. I had seen them only once, a gigantic black jaguar with yellow glowing eyes, and a ravenous, enormous coyote. The two beasts were ultimately aggressive and overpowering. The jaguar was don Genaro’s and the coyote was don Juan’s.
La Gorda crawled out of the cave. I followed her. She led the way. We walked out of the gully and reached a long, rocky plain. She stopped and let me step ahead. I told her that if she was going to let me lead us I was going to try to get to the car. She shook her head affirmatively and clung to me. I could feel her clammy skin. She seemed to be in a state of great agitation. It was perhaps a mile to where we had left the car, and to reach it we had to cross the deserted, rocky plain. Don Juan had shown me a hidden trail among some big boulders, almost on the side of the mountain that flanked the plain toward the east. I headed for that trail. Some unknown urge was guiding me; otherwise I would have taken the same trail we had taken before when we had crossed the plain on the level ground.
La Gorda seemed to be anticipating something awesome. She grabbed onto me. Her eyes were
“Are we going the right way?” I asked.
She did not answer. She pulled her shawl and twisted it until it looked like a long, thick rope. She encircled my waist with it, crossed over the ends and encircled herself. She tied a knot and thus had us bound together in a band that looked like a figure eight.
“What did you do this for?” I asked.
She shook her head. Her teeth chattered but she could not say a word. Her fright seemed to be extreme. She pushed me to keep on walking. I could not help wondering why I was not scared out of my wits myself.
As we reached the high trail the physical exertion began to take its toll on me. I was wheezing and had to breathe through my mouth. I could see the shape of the big boulders. There was no moon but the sky was so clear that there was enough light to distinguish shapes. I could hear la Gorda also wheezing.
I tried to stop to catch my breath but she pushed me gently as she shook her head negatively. I wanted to make a joke to break the tension when I heard a strange thumping noise. My head moved involuntarily to my right to allow my left ear to scan the area. I stopped breathing for an instant and then I clearly heard that someone else besides la Gorda and myself was breathing heavily. I checked again to make sure before I told her. There was no doubt that that massive shape was there among the boulders. I put my hand on la Gorda’s mouth as we kept on moving and signaled her to hold her breath. I could tell that the massive shape was very close. It seemed to be sliding as quietly as it could. It was wheezing softly.
La Gorda was startled. She squatted and pulled me down with her by the shawl tied around my waist. She put her hands under her skirt for a moment and then stood up; her hands were clasped and when she snapped her fingers open a volley of sparks flew from them.
“Piss in your hands,” la Gorda whispered through clenched teeth.
“Hub?” I said, unable to comprehend what she wanted me to do.
She whispered her order three or four times with increasing urgency. She must have realized I did not know what she wanted, for she squatted again and showed that she was urinating in her hands. I stared at her dumbfounded as she made her urine fly like reddish sparks.
My mind went blank. I did not know which was more absorbing, the sight la Gorda was creating with her urine, or the wheezing of the approaching entity. I could not decide on which of the two stimuli to focus my attention; both were enthralling.
“Quickly! Do it in your hands!” la Gorda grumbled between her teeth.
I heard her, but my attention was dislocated. With an imploring voice la Gorda added that my sparks would make the approaching creature, whatever it was, retreat. She began to whine and I began to feel desperate. I could not only hear but I could sense with my whole body the approaching entity. I tried to urinate in my hands; my effort was useless. I was too self-conscious and nervous. I became possessed by la Gorda’s agitation and struggled desperately to urinate. I finally did it. I snapped my fingers three or four times, but nothing flew out of them.
“Do it again,” la Gorda said. “It takes a while to make sparks.”
I told her that I had used up all the urine I had. There was the most intense look of despair in her eyes.
At that instant I saw the massive, rectangular shape moving toward us. Somehow it did not seem menacing to me, although la Gorda was about to faint out of fear.
Suddenly she untied her shawl and leaped onto a small rock that was behind me and hugged me from behind, putting her chin on my head. She had practically climbed on my shoulders. The instant that we adopted that position the shape ceased moving. It kept on wheezing, perhaps twenty feet away from us.
I felt a giant tension that seemed to be focused in my midsection. After a while I knew without the shadow of a doubt that if we remained in that position we would have drained our energy and fallen prey to whatever was stalking us.
I told her that we were going to run for our lives. She shook her head negatively. She seemed to have regained her strength and confidence. She said then that we had to bury our heads in our arms and lie down with our thighs against our stomachs. I remembered then that years before don Juan had made me do the same thing one night when I was caught in a deserted field in northern Mexico by something equally unknown and yet equally real to my senses. At that time don Juan had said that fleeing was useless and the only thing one could do was to remain on the spot in the position la Gorda had just prescribed.
I was about to kneel down when I had the unexpected feeling that we had made a terrible mistake in leaving the cave. We had to go back to it at any cost.
I looped la Gorda’s shawl over my shoulders and under my arms. I asked her to hold the tips above my head, climb to my shoulders and stand on them, bracing herself by pulling up the ends of the shawl and fastening it like a harness. Years before don Juan had told me that one should meet strange events, such as the rectangular shape in front of us, with unexpected actions. He said that once he himself stumbled upon a deer that “talked” to him, and he stood on his head for the duration of that event, as a means of assuring his survival and to ease the strain of such an encounter.
My idea was to try to walk around the rectangular shape, back to the cave, with la Gorda standing on my shoulders.
She whispered that the cave was out of the question. The Nagual had told her not to remain there at all. I argued, as I fixed the shawl for her, that my body had the certainty that in the cave we would be all right. She replied that that was true, and it would work except that we had no means whatever to control those forces. We needed a special container, a gourd of some sort, like those I had seen dangling from don Juan’s and don Genaro’s belts.
She took off her shoes and climbed on my shoulders and stood there. I held her by her calves. As she pulled on the ends of the shawl I felt the tension of the band under my armpits. I waited until she had gained her balance. To walk in the darkness carrying one hundred and fifteen pounds on my shoulders was no mean feat. I went very slowly. I counted twenty-three paces and I had to put her down. The pain on my shoulder blades was unbearable. I told her that although she was very slender, her weight was crushing my collarbone.
The interesting part, however, was that the rectangular shape was no longer in sight. Our strategy had worked. La Gorda suggested that she carry me on her shoulders for a stretch. I found the idea ludicrous; my weight was more than what her small frame could stand. We decided to walk for a while and see what happened.
There was a dead silence around us. We walked slowly, bracing each other. We had moved no more than a few yards when I again began to hear strange breathing noises, a soft, prolonged hissing like the hissing of a feline. I hurriedly helped her to get back on my shoulders and walked another ten paces.
I knew we had to maintain the unexpected as a tactic if we wanted to get out of that place. I was trying to figure out another set of unexpected actions we could use instead of la Gorda standing on my shoulders, when she took off her long dress. In one single movement she was naked. She scrambled on the ground looking for something. I heard a cracking sound and she stood up holding a branch from a low bush. She manoeuvred her shawl around my shoulders and neck and made a sort of riding support where she could sit with her legs wrapped around my waist, like a child riding piggyback. She then put the branch inside her dress and held it above her head. She began to twirl the branch, giving the dress a strange bounce. To that effect she added a whistle, imitating the peculiar cry of a night owl.
After a hundred yards or so I heard the same sounds coming from behind us and from the sides. She changed to another birdcall, a piercing sound similar to that made by a peacock. A few minutes later the same birdcalls were echoing all around us.
I had witnessed a similar phenomenon of birdcalls being answered, years before with don Juan. I had thought at the time that perhaps the sounds were being produced by don Juan who was hiding nearby in the darkness, or even by someone closely associated with him, such as don Genaro, who was aiding him in creating an insurmountable fear in me, a fear that made me run in total darkness without even stumbling. Don Juan had called that particular action of running in darkness the gait of power.
I asked la Gorda if she knew how to do the gait of power. She said yes. I told her that we were going to try it, even though I was not at all sure I could do it. She said that it was neither the time nor the place for that and pointed in front of us. My heart, which had been beating fast all along, began to pound wildly inside my chest. Right ahead of us, perhaps ten feet away, and smack in the middle of the trail was one of don Genaro’s allies, the strange glowing man, with the long face and the bald head. I froze on the spot. I heard la Gorda’s shriek as though it were coming from far away. She frantically pounded on my sides with her fists. Her action broke my fixation on the man. She turned my head to the left and then to the right. On my left side, almost touching my leg, was the black mass of a giant feline with glaring yellow eyes. To my right I saw an enormous phosphorescent coyote. Behind us, almost touching la Gorda’s back, was the dark rectangular shape.
The man turned his back to us and began to move on the trail. I also began to walk. La Gorda kept on shrieking and whining. The rectangular shape was almost grabbing her back. I heard it moving with crushing thumps. The sound of its steps reverberated on the hills around us. I could feel its cold breath on my neck. I knew that la Gorda was about to go mad. And so was I. The feline and the coyote were almost rubbing my legs. I could hear their hissing and growling increasing in volume. I had, at that moment, the irrational urge to make a certain sound don Juan had taught me. The allies answered me. I kept on frantically making the sound and they answered me back. The tension diminished by degrees, and before we reached the road I was part of a most extravagant scene. La Gorda was riding piggyback, happily bouncing her dress over her head as if nothing had ever happened, keeping the bounces in rhythm with the sound I was making, while four creatures of another world answered me back as they moved at my pace, flanking us on all four sides. We got to the road in that fashion. But I did not want to leave. There seemed to be something missing. I stayed motionless with la Gorda on my back and made a very special tapping sound don Juan had taught me. He had said that it was the call of moths. In order to
produce it one had to use the inside edge of the left hand and the lips.
As soon as I made it everything seemed to come to rest peacefully. The four entities answered me, and as they did I knew which were the ones that would go with me.
I then walked to the car and eased la Gorda off my back onto the driver’s seat and pushed her over to her side. We drove away in absolute silence. Something had touched me somewhere and my thoughts had been turned off.
La Gorda suggested that we go to don Genaro’s place instead of driving to her house. She said that Benigno, Nestor ami Pablito lived there but they were out of town. Her suggestion appealed to me.
Once we were in the house la Gorda lit a lantern. The place looked just as it had the last time I had visited don Genaro. We sat on the floor. I pulled up a bench and put my writing pad on it. I was not tired and I wanted to write but I could not do it. I could not write at all.
“What did the Nagual tell you about the allies?” I asked.
My question seemed to catch her off guard. She did not know how to answer.
“I can’t think,” she finally said.
It was as though she had never experienced that state before. She paced back and forth in front of me. Tiny beads of perspiration had formed on the tip of her nose and on her upper lip.
She suddenly grabbed me by the hand and practically pulled me out of the house. She led me to a nearby ravine and there she got sick.
My stomach felt queasy. She said that the pull of the allies had been too great and that I should force myself to throw up. I stared at her, waiting for a further explanation. She took my head in her hands and stuck her finger down my throat, with the certainty of a nurse dealing with a child, and actually made me vomit. She explained that human beings had a very delicate glow around the stomach and that that glow was always being pulled by everything around. At times when the pull was too great, as in the case of contact with the allies, or even in the case of contact with strong people, the glow would become agitated, change color or even fade altogether. In such instances the only thing one could do was simply to throw up.
I felt better but not quite myself yet. I had a sense of tiredness, of heaviness around my eyes. We walked back to the house. As we reached the door la Gorda sniffed the air like a dog and said that she knew which allies were mine. Her statement, which ordinarily would have had no other significance than the one she alluded to, or the one I myself read into it, had the special quality of a cathartic device. It made me explode into thoughts. All at once, my usual intellectual deliberations came into being. I felt myself leaping in the air, as if thoughts had an energy of their own.
The first thought that came to my mind was that the allies were actual entities, as I had suspected without ever daring to admit it, even to myself. I had seen them and felt them and communicated with them. I was euphoric. I embraced la Gorda and began to explain to her the crux of my intellectual dilemma. I had seen the allies without the aid of don Juan or don Genaro and that act made all the difference in the world to me. I told la Gorda that once when I had reported to don Juan that I had seen one of the allies he had laughed and urged me not to take myself so seriously and to disregard what I had seen.
I had never wanted to believe I was having hallucinations, but I did not want to accept that there were allies, either. My rational background was unbending. I could not bridge the gap. This time, however, everything was different, and the thought that there were actually beings on this earth that were from another world without being aliens to the earth was more than I could bear. I said to la Gorda, half in jest, that secretly I would have given anything to be crazy. That would have absolved some part of me from the crushing responsibility of revamping my understanding of the world. The irony of it was that I could not have been more willing to revamp my understanding of the world, on an intellectual level, that is. But that was not enough. That had never been enough. And that had been my insurmountable obstacle all along, my deadly flaw. I had been willing to dally in don Juan’s world in a semi-convinced fashion; therefore, I had been a quasi-sorcerer. All my efforts had been no more than my inane eagerness to fence with the intellect, as if I were in academia where one can do that very thing from 8:00 a. m. to 5: 00p. m., at which time, duly tired, one goes home. Don Juan used to say as a joke that, after arranging the world in a most beautiful and enlightened manner, the scholar goes home at five o’clock in order to forget his beautiful arrangement.
While la Gorda made us some food I worked feverishly on my notes. I felt much more relaxed after eating. La Gorda was in the best of spirits. She clowned, the way don Genaro used to, imitating the gestures I made while I wrote.
“What do you know about the allies, Gorda?” I asked.
“Only what the Nagual told me,” she replied. “He said that the allies were forces that a sorcerer learns to control. He had two inside his gourd and so did Genaro.”
“How did they keep them inside their gourds?”
“No one knows that. All the Nagual knew was that a tiny, perfect gourd with a neck must be found before one could harness the allies.”
“Where can one find that kind of gourd?”
“Anywhere. The Nagual left word with me, in case we survived the attack of the allies, that we should start looking for the perfect gourd, which must be the size of the thumb of the left hand. That was the size of the Nagual’s gourd.”
“Have you seen his gourd?”
“No. Never. The Nagual said that a gourd of that kind is not in the world of men. It’s like a little bundle that one can distinguish hanging from their belts. But if you deliberately look at it you will see nothing.”
“The gourd, once it is found, must be groomed with great care. Usually sorcerers find gourds like that on vines in the woods. They pick them and dry them and then they hollow them out. And then they smooth them and polish them. Once the sorcerer has his gourd he must offer it to the allies and entice them to live there. If the allies consent, the gourd disappears from the world of men and the allies become an aid to the sorcerer. The Nagual and Genaro could make their allies do anything that needed to be done. Things they themselves could not do. Such as, for instance, sending the wind to chase me or sending that chicken to run inside Lidia’s blouse.”
I heard a peculiar, prolonged hissing sound outside the door. It was the exact sound I had heard in dona Soledad’s house two days before. This time I knew it was the jaguar. The sound did not scare me. In fact, I would have stepped out to see the jaguar had la Gorda not stopped me.
“You’re still incomplete,” she said. “The allies would feast on you if you go out by yourself. Especially that daring one that’s prowling out there now.”
“My body feels very safe,” I protested.
She patted my back and held me down against the bench on which I was writing.
“You’re not a complete sorcerer yet,” she said. “You have a huge patch in your middle and the force of those allies would yank it out of place. They are no joke.”
“What are you supposed to do when an ally comes to you in this fashion?”
“I don’t bother with them one way or another. The Nagual taught me to be balanced and not to seek anything eagerly. Tonight, for instance, I knew which allies would go to you, if you can ever get a gourd and groom it. You may be eager to get them. I’m not. Chances are I’ll never get them myself. They are a pain in the neck.”
“Because they are forces and as such they can drain you to nothing. The Nagual said that one is better off with nothing except one’s purpose and freedom. Someday when you’re complete, perhaps we’ll have to choose whether or not to keep them.”
I told her that I personally liked the jaguar even though there was something overbearing about it. She peered at me. There was a look of surprise and bewilderment in her eyes.
“I really like that one,” I said.
“Tell me what you saw,” she said.
I realized at that moment that I had automatically assumed that she had seen the same things I had. I described in great detail the four allies as I had seen them. She listened more than attentively; she appeared to be spellbound by my description.
“The allies have no form,” she said when I had finished. “They are like a presence, like a wind, like a glow. The first one we found tonight was a blackness that wanted to get inside my body. That’s why I screamed. I felt it reaching up my legs. The others were just colors. Their glow was so strong, though, that it made the trail look as if it were daytime.”
Her statements astounded me. I had finally accepted, after years of struggle and purely on the basis of our encounter with them that night, that the allies had a consensual form, a substance which could be perceived equally by everyone’s senses.
I jokingly told la Gorda that I had already written in my notes that they were creatures with form.
“What am I going to do now?” I asked in a rhetorical sense.
“It’s very simple,” she said. “Write that they are not.”
I thought that she was absolutely right.
“Why do I see them as monsters?” I asked.
“That’s no mystery,” she said. “You haven’t lost your human form yet. The same thing happened to me. I used to see the allies as people; all of them were Indian men with horrible faces and mean looks. They used to wait for me in deserted places. I thought they were after me as a woman. The Nagual used to laugh his head off at my fears. But still I was half dead with fright.
One of them used to come and sit on my bed and shake it until I would wake up. The fright that that ally used to give me was something that I don’t want repeated, even now that I’m changed. Tonight I think I was as afraid of the allies as I used to be.”
“You mean that you don’t see them as human beings anymore?”
“No. Not anymore. The Nagual told you that an ally is formless. He is right. An ally is only a presence, a helper that is nothing and yet it is as real as you and me.”
“Have the little sisters seen the allies?”
“Everybody has seen them one time or another.”
“Are the allies just a force for them too?”
“No. They are like you; they haven’t lost their human form yet. None of them has. For all of them, the little sisters, the Genaros and Soledad, the allies are horrendous things; with them the allies are malevolent, dreadful creatures of the night. The sole mention of the allies sends Lidia and Josefina and Pablito into a frenzy. Rosa and Nestor are not that afraid of them, but they don’t want to have anything to do with them, either. Benigno has his own designs so he’s not concerned with them. They don’t bother him, or me, for that matter. But the others are easy prey for the allies, especially now that the allies are out of the Nagual’s and Genaro’s gourds. They come all the time looking for you.”
“The Nagual told me that as long as one clings to the human form, one can only reflect that form, and since the allies feed directly onto our life-force in the middle of the stomach, they usually make us sick, and then we see them as heavy, ugly creatures.”
“Is there something that we can do to protect ourselves, or to change the shape of those creatures?”
“What all of you have to do is lose your human forms.”