(Encounters with the Nagual by Armando Torres)
One of Carlos’ characteristics was that he was unpredictable. Sometimes he arrived on time to his appointments, other times he was an hour late. The system had its advantages; it made the less interested stand up and leave, and forced the more committed to cultivate patience.
That afternoon the appointment was at the University of Mexico.
Among many other questions, he was asked if he believed in God. In answering, Carlos asked us not to confuse his words with a religious message.
“Sorcerers,” he said, “abide by their experience. They have changed ‘believing’ for seeing. They speak of the spirit, not because they believe in its existence, but because they have seen it. But they don’t see it as a loving father who watches over us from up above. For them, the spirit is something much more direct and immediate, a state of awareness which transcends reason.”
“Everything that reaches our senses is a sign. The only thing you need to have is the necessary speed to silence your mind and capture the message. By means of these indications, spirit talks to us in a very clear voice.”
One of the people present remarked that, even taken as a metaphor, the idea of listening to the spirit or speaking with it had an excessively religious air.
But Carlos was adamant in his definition:
“That voice is not a metaphor! It is literal! Sometimes it speaks in words, other times it just whispers, or presents a scene before our eyes, like a movie. In that way, the spirit transmits its commands to us, which can be summarized in a single expression: ‘Intent, intent!’.
“The voice of the spirit speaks equally to everyone, but we don’t realize it. We are so preoccupied with our thoughts that instead of making silence and listening, we prefer all kinds of subterfuges. That’s why the reminding voice exist.”
They asked him what the reminding voice was.
“It’s a resource of attention, a way of accessing another level of awareness. We can use almost anything to tune in to the spirit, because, finally, it is behind all that exists. But certain things attract us more than others.”
“In general, people have their prayers, their amulets, or elaborate rituals, private and collective. The ancient sorcerers were prone to mysticism; they used astrology, oracles and incantations, magical sticks, anything that could deceive the vigilance of reason.”
“But for the new seers, those resources are a waste and they hide a danger: They can deviate a person’s attention so that, instead of focusing on his immediate bond with the spirit, he becomes addicted to symbols. Today’s warriors prefer less ostentatious methods. Don Juan recommended intending inner silence directly.”
Emphasizing the words, he specified that sorcery is the art of silence.
“Silence is a passageway between worlds. When our mind stays silent, incredible aspects of our being emerge. Starting from that moment, a person becomes a vehicle of intent, and all his acts begin to ooze power.”
“During my apprenticeship, my benefactor showed me inexplicable feats which frightened me, but at the same time stirred up my ambition; I wanted to be as powerful as he was! I often asked him how I could learn his tricks, but he placed a finger on his lips and stared at me. It took years before I could appreciate the magnificent lesson of his answer. The key to sorcery is silence.”
One of the present asked him to define that concept.
“It is not definable. When you practice it, you perceive it. If you try to understand it, you block it. Don’t see it as something difficult or complex, because it is not something from another world; it is just silencing the mind.”
“I could tell you that silence is like a dock where ships arrive; if the dock is occupied, there is no space for anything new. That’s my image of the matter, but the truth is I don’t know how to speak about it.”
He explained that inner silence is not only the absence of thoughts. Rather, it is about suspending judgment, witnessing without interpreting. He maintained that entering silence could be defined, in the typically contradictory way of sorcerers, as learning ‘how to think without words.’
“For many of you, what I am saying doesn’t make sense, because you are accustomed to consult your mind about everything. The ironic thing is that, for starters, our thoughts are not even ours. They sound through us, which is different. And since they have been pestering us ever since we learnt to use our reason, we have ended up getting used to them.
“If you ask the mind, it will tell you that the purpose of sorcerers is nonsense, because it cannot be rationally demonstrated. Instead of advising you to go and verify that purpose honestly, it will order you to hide behind a solid block of interpretations. Therefore, if you want to have a chance, there is only one possible way out: Disconnect the mind!”
“Freedom is achieved without thinking.”
“I know people who were able to stop their internal dialogue, and they no longer interpret, they are pure perception; they are never disappointed or regretful, because everything they do starts from the center for decisions. They have learned to deal with their mind in terms of authority, and they live in the most authentic state of freedom.”
He continued by saying that silence is our natural condition.
“We were born from silence and there we will return. What contaminate us are all the superfluous ideas that percolate through us, due to our collective way of living.”
“Our relatives, the primates, have very ingrained social customs whose objective is to diminish the levels of tension inside the group. For example, they dedicate much of their time to caressing each other, smelling each other, or picking each other’s lice.”
“Those customs are genetic, so they have not died; they are here inside, within you and within me. It’s just that human beings have learned how to substitute them with the exchange of words. Every time we have an opportunity, we tranquillize each other by talking about something. After millennia of coexistence, we have internalized these exchanges to the point that, whether we are asleep or awake, our mind is never quiet, it is always talking to itself.”
“Don Juan affirmed that we are predatory animals who, by the power of domestication, have been converted into grass-eaters. We spend our lives regurgitating an endless list of opinions on almost everything. We receive thoughts in clusters; one connects with the other one, until the entire space of the mind is packed full. That noise has no use, because, practically in its entirety, it is devoted to the enlargement of the ego.”
“Because it goes against everything that we’ve been taught since we were children, silence should beattempted in a spirit of combat. At this time you have a great advantage: The experience of stalkers. Sorcerers nowadays recommend that we pass through the world without getting any attention, treating everything equally. A warrior stalker becomes the owner of the situation – for better or for worse, because there is something terribly effective about acting without the mind.”
They asked him to give us some practical exercises to achieve silence.
He answered that that was a very private matter, because the sources of the internal dialogue are fed by our personal history.
“However, through millennia of practice, sorcerers have observed that, deep down, we are very similar. And there are situations that have the effect of silencing all of us.”
“My teacher gave me various techniques to silence my mind which, well understood, can be reduced to one: Intent. Silence is intended crudely: making the effort. It is about insisting, over and over again. It does not mean to repress our thoughts, but rather learning how to control them.”
“Silence begins with a command, an act of will, which becomes the command of the Eagle. However, we must keep in mind that as long as we impose silence on ourselves, we will never truly be there, but in the imposition. We have to learn to transform will into intent.”
“Silence is calm, it is to yield, to let yourself go. It produces a sensation of absence, like the one a child feels when he stares at fire. How wonderful to remember that feeling, and know that it can be evoked again!”
“Silence is the fundamental condition of the path. I spent a lot of years battling to achieve it, but all I did was get entangled in my own attempt. In addition to the habitual conversation that was always going on in my mind, I began to blame myself for not being able to understand what it was that don Juan expected from me. Everything changed one day, while I was absent-mindedly contemplating some trees; silence came rushing from them like a wild beast, stopping my world and hurtling me into a paradoxical state, for it was new and at the same time well-known.”
“The technique of observation – that is, of contemplating the world without preconceived ideas – works very well with the elements. For example with flames, running water, cloud formations, or the sunset. The new seers call it ‘to deceive the machine’, because, in essence, it consists of learning to intend a new description.”
“We have to fight boldly to get it, but, after it happens, the new state of awareness is sustained naturally. You have a foot inside the door, the door is already open, and it is just a matter of accumulating enough energy to pass through to the other side.”
“It’s important that our intent is intelligent. The effort it takes to achieve silence would count for nothing, if we didn’t first create conditions favorable to sustaining it. Therefore, besides the training in observation of the elements, a warrior is forced to do something very simple, but very difficult: Ordering his life.”
“We all live in a chain of intensity which we call ‘time’. Since we can’t see its source, we never stop to think of its end. While we are young we feel eternal, and when we grow old, the only thing left is to complain about the ‘wasted time’. But that is an illusion, time is not wasted, we waste ourselves!”
“The idea that we have time is a misunderstanding that makes us waste energy on all kinds of commitments. When a man connects with inner silence, he puts a new value on his time. So another way to define it would be to say that silence is an acute awareness of the present.”
“An infallible method for reaching silence is not-doing, an activity that we program with our mind, but which has the virtue of silencing our thoughts once it is in motion. Don Juan called that kind of technique ‘to remove one thorn with another’.”
As examples of not-doings, he mentioned listening in the dark, changing the priority of our senses and the command that compels us to fall asleep as soon as we close our eyes. Also, to talk with plants, to stand on our heads, to walk backwards, to observe the shadows and the distance or spaces between the leaves of trees.
“All those activities are among the most effective to silence our internal dialogue, but they have a defect: We cannot sustain them for a long time. After a while, we are forced to return to our routines. A not-doing that is exaggerated will automatically lose its power and become a doing.”
“If what we want is to accumulate deep silence with a lasting effect, the best not-doing is solitude. Together with energy saving and abandoning those who consider us ‘facts’, learning how to be alone is the third practical principle of the path.”
“The warrior’s world is the most solitary thing there is. Even when several apprentices unite to travel the routes of power together, each one knows that he is alone, that he cannot expect anything from the others, nor can he depend on anybody. The only thing he can do is to share his path with those who accompany him.”
“To be alone requires a great effort, because we haven’t learned how to overcome the genetic command of socialization yet. In the beginning, an apprentice should be forced by his teacher, through traps if necessary. But after a while he learns how to enjoy it. It is normal that sorcerers look for silence in the solitude of mountains or in the desert, and that they live alone during long periods.”
Somebody commented that this was ‘a hideous perspective’.
“Hideous is to spend our old age like weeping children!”
“One of the ironies of modern life is that the more communication increases, the more solitary we feel. Ordinary man’s existence is one of harrowing loneliness. He looks for company, but cannot find himself. His love has been devaluated; his dream is pure fantasy. His natural curiosity has become a strictly personal concern, and the only thing he has left is his attachments.”
“On the other hand, the warrior’s solitude is like a lovers’ retreat, a place for those who seek a remote niche to write poems to their love. And the warrior’s love is everywhere, because it is this Earth, where he will wander for such a brief time. So, wherever he goes, the warrior surrenders to his romance. Naturally, he will sometimes avoid dealing with the world; inner silence is solitary.”
Carlos went on to say that the sorcerers of antiquity used power plants to stop the internal dialogue. But today’s warriors prefer less risky and more controlled conditions.
“The same results produced by power plants can be obtained when we are up against the wall. Facing extreme situations, like danger, fear, sensorial saturation, and aggression, something in us reacts and takes control: the mind becomes alert and automatically suspends its chatter. Deliberately creating that situation is called stalking.”
“However, the favorite method of warriors is recapitulation. Recapitulation stops the mind in a natural way.”
“The main detonators of our thoughts are pending matters, expectations, and defense of the ego. It is very difficult to find a person whose internal dialogue is sincere; usually, we hide our frustrations and go to the opposite extreme: The content of our mind turns into an ode to ‘me’.”
“To recapitulate puts an end to all that. After a time of sustained effort, something crystallizes there inside. The habitual dialogue becomes incoherent, uncomfortable; the only remedy is to stop it.”
“An apprentice in this phase will normally find himself facing a cross-fire. On the one hand is the homogenization of his assemblage point; and on the other, some enormous parentheses of silence which strain through his mind, breaking it into fragments.”
“When the inertia of the internal dialogue is broken, the world is made over and becomes new. The wave of energy feels like an unbearable vacuum opening under his feet. Because of this, a warrior may spend years in an unstable state of mind. The only thing that comforts him in such a situation is to keep the purpose of his path clear to himself, and not lose, under any circumstances, his perspective of freedom. An impeccable warrior never loses his sanity.”
“If, when applying some of these techniques, warriors feel that their minds shiver, and a voice that is not the habitual one begins to whisper things to them, that is normal and they should not be scared. They are not going mad, they are entering into the consensus of sorcerers.”
They asked him if moving the assemblage point also attracts silence.
“It is the opposite. Inner silence induces displacements of the assemblage point, and these displacements are cumulative. Once a certain threshold is reached, silence can move the point a great distance by itself, but not before.”
He explained that the force of collective consent creates a certain inertia that varies from person to person, according to their energetic characteristics. Resistance to the world’s description can vary from some seconds to one hour, or more, but it is not eternal. To conquer it by means of a sustained intent is what sorcerers call ‘arriving at the threshold of silence.’
“That rupture is felt physically, as a crack in the base of the skull or as the sound of a bell. From that starting point, it becomes a matter of how much power has been accumulated.”
“There are those who have stopped their dialogue for some seconds and immediately get scared, begin to wonder about things or describe what they feel to themselves. Others learn how to remain in that state for hours or days, and they even use it for useful activities. For example, there you have my books; on don Juan’s demand, I have written them from a basic state of silence. But experienced sorcerers go even further than that: They can enter the other world in a definite form.”
“I met a warrior who lived there almost permanently. When I asked him something, he answered by telling me what he was seeing, without caring if that answer was coherent with my question. He lived beyond my syntax. From my apprentice point of view, of course he was crazy!”
“In spite of its indefinable nature, we can measure silence through its results. Its final effect, the one that sorcerers look for with avidity, is that it brings us in tune with a magnificent dimension of our being, where we have access to an instantaneous and total knowledge that is not composed of reasons, but of certainties. Old traditions describe that state as ‘the kingdom of Heaven’, but sorcerers prefer to give it a less personal name: Silent knowledge.”
“You can say that a man who controls silence has cleansed his bond with the spirit, and power rains down on him in streams. A snap of the fingers, pow!, and the world is another. Don Juan referred to that state as ‘the deadly somersault of thought’, because we begin in the everyday world, but we never return there again.”
The strange power of fascination that Carlos’ talks had on me, made the mere idea of missing one of those encounters unbearably painful.
I remarked on it once, and he responded:
“You are already hooked! Don Juan always incited everyone who surrounded him to have a romance with knowledge.”
I asked him what he meant.
“It is the pure desire to know, not to feel apathy, to be vividly interested in what the spirit comes to tell you, without expecting anything from it. Having a passionate romance with knowledge is the only thing that can give us the power we need not to falter, when signs are pointing in the direction of the unknown.”
“When his path no longer corresponds to human expectations, when it takes him to situations that challenge his reason, then we can say that a warrior has begun an intimate relationship with knowledge.”
“You have had extraordinary luck silencing your mind for a moment and allowing power to point you out. But that is not enough; now you have to adjust yourself to its message, so that your life becomes the life of a warrior. From now on, your work will consist of cultivating an honest and clean bond with infinity.”