(Magical Passes by Carlos Castaneda)
Don Juan taught his disciples that for the shamans who lived in Mexico in ancient times, the concept that a human being is composed of two complete functioning bodies, one on the left and one on the right, was fundamental to their endeavors as sorcerers. Such a classificatory scheme had nothing to do with intellectual speculations on the part of those sorcerers, or with logical conclusions about possibilities of distribution of mass in the body.
When don Juan explained this to me, I countered that modern biologists had the concept of bilateral symmetry, which means “a basic body plan in which the left and right sides of the organism can be divided into approximate mirror images of each other along the midline.”
“The classifications of the shamans of ancient Mexico,” don Juan replied, “were more profound than the conclusions of modem scientists, because they stemmed from perceiving energy directly as it flows in the universe. When the human body is perceived as energy, it is utterly patent that it is composed not of two parts, but of two different types of energy: two different currents of energy, two opposing and at the same time complementary forces that coexist side by side, mirroring, in this fashion, the dual structure of everything in the universe at large.”
The shamans of ancient Mexico accorded each one of these two different kinds of energy the stature of a total body, and spoke exclusively in terms of the left body and the right body. Their emphasis was on the left body, because they considered it to be the most effective, in terms of the nature of its energy configuration, for the ultimate goals of shamanism. The shamans of ancient Mexico, who depicted the two bodies as streams of energy, depicted the left stream as being more turbulent and aggressive, moving in undulating ripples and projecting out waves of energy. When illustrating what he was talking about, don Juan asked me to visualize a scene in which the left body was like half of the sun, and that all the solar flares happened on that half. The waves of energy projected out of the left body were like those solar flares-always perpendicular to the round surface from which they originated.
He depicted the stream of energy of the right body as not being turbulent at all on the surface. It moved like water inside a tank which was being slightly tilted back and forth. There were no ripples in it, but a continuous rocking motion. At a deeper level, however, it swirled in rotational circles in the form of spirals. Don Juan asked me to envision a very wide, peaceful-looking tropical river, where the water on the surface seemed barely to move, but which had shattering riptides below the surface. In the world of everyday life, these two currents are amalgamated into a single unit: the human body as we know it.
To the eye of the seer, however, the energy of the total body is circular. This meant to the sorcerers of don Juan’s lineage that the right body was the predominant force.
“What happens in the case of left-handed people?” I asked him once. “Are they more suitable for the endeavors of sorcerers?”
“Why do you think they should be?” he replied, seemingly surprised by my question.
“Because obviously, the left side is predominant,” I said.
“This predominance is of no importance whatsoever for sorcerers,” he said. “Yes, the left side predominates in the sense that they can hold a hammer with their left hand very effectively. They write with their left hand. They can hold a knife with their left hand, and do it very well. If they are leg shakers, they can certainly shake the left knee with great rhythm. In other words, they have rhythm in their left body, but sorcery is not a matter of that kind of predominance. The right body still rules them with a circular motion.”
“But does left-handedness have any advantages or disadvantages for sorcerers?” I asked. I was driven by the implication built into many of the Indo-European languages of the sinister quality of left-handedness.
“There are no advantages or disadvantages to my knowledge,” he said. “The division of energy between the two bodies is not measured by dexterity, or the lack of it. The predominance of the right body is an energetic predominance, which was encountered by the shamans of those ancient times. They never tried to explain why this predominance happened in the first place, nor did they try to further investigate the philosophical implications of it. For them, it was a fact, but a very special fact. It was a fact that could be changed.”
“Why did they want to change it, don Juan?” I asked.
“Because the predominant circular motion of the right body’s energy is too friggin’ boring!” he exclaimed. “That circular motion certainly takes care of any event of the daily world, but it does it circularly, if you know what I mean.”
“I don’t know what you mean, don Juan,” I said.
“Every situation in life is met in this circular fashion,” he replied, making a small circle with his hand. “On and on and on and on and on. It’s a circular movement that seems to draw the energy inward always, and turns it around and around in a centripetal motion. Under these conditions, there’s no expansion. Nothing can be new. There is nothing that cannot be inwardly accounted for. What a drag!”
“In what way can this situation be changed, don Juan?” I asked.
“It’s too late to be really changed,” he replied. “The damage is already done. The spiral quality is here to remain. But it doesn’t have to be ceaseless. Yes, we walk the way we do, we can’t change that, but we would also like to run, or to walk backward, or to climb a ladder; just to walk and walk and walk and walk is very effective, but meaningless. The contribution of the left body would make those centers of vitality more pliable. If they could undulate instead of moving in spirals, if only for an instant, different energy would get into them, with staggering results.”
I understood what he was talking about, at a level beyond thought, because there was really no way that I could have understood it linearly.
“The sensation that human beings have of being utterly bored with themselves,” he continued, “is due to this predominance of the right body. The only thing left for human beings to do, in a universal sense, is to find ways of ridding themselves of boredom. What they end up doing is finding ways of killing time: the only commodity no one has enough of. But what’s worse is the reaction to this unbalanced distribution of energy. The violent reactions of people are due to this unbalanced distribution. It seems that from time to time, helplessness builds furious currents of energy within the human body, which explode in violent behavior. Violence seems to be, for human beings, another way of killing time.”
“But why is it, don Juan, that the sorcerers of ancient Mexico never wanted to know why this situation happened?” I asked, bewildered. I found what I was feeling about this inward motion to be fascinating.
“They never tried to find out,” he said, “because the instant they formulated the question, they knew the answer.”
“So they knew why?” I asked.
“No, they didn’t know why, but they knew how it happened. But that’s another story.”
He left me hanging there, but throughout the course of my association with him, he explained this seeming contradiction.
“Awareness is the only avenue that human beings have for evolution,” he said to me once, “and something extraneous to us, something that has to do with the predatorial condition of the universe, has interrupted our possibility of evolving by taking possession of our awareness. Human beings have fallen prey to a predatorial force, which has imposed on them, for its own convenience, the passivity which is characteristic of the energy of the right body.”
Don Juan described our evolutionary possibility as a journey that our awareness takes across something the shamans of ancient Mexico called the dark sea of awareness: something which they considered to be an actual feature of the universe, an incommensurable element that permeates the universe, like clouds of matter, or light.
Don Juan was convinced that the predominance of the right body in this unbalanced merging of the right and left bodies marks the interruption of our journey of awareness. What seems for us to be the natural dominance of one side over the other was, for the sorcerers of his lineage, an aberration, which they strove to correct.
Those shamans believed that in order to establish a harmonious division between the left and the right bodies, practitioners needed to enhance their awareness. Any enhancement of human awareness, how. ever, had to be buttressed by the most exigent discipline. Otherwise, this enhancement, painfully accomplished, would turn into an obsession, resulting in anything from psychological aberration to energetic injury.
Don Juan Matus called the collection of magical passes which deal exclusively with the separation between the left body and the right body The Heat Group: the most crucial element in the training of the shamans of ancient Mexico. This was a nickname given to this collection of magical passes because it makes the energy of the right body a little more turbulent. Don Juan Matus used to joke about this phenomenon, saying that the movements for the left body put an enormous pressure on the right body, which has been accustomed from birth to ruling without opposition. The moment it is faced with opposition, it gets hot with anger. Don Juan urged all his disciples to practice the Heat Group assiduously, in order to use its aggressiveness to reinforce the weak left body.