(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.”