(The Universal Spiderweb by Armando Torres)
On one occasion I was seated at the table in doña Silvia’s kitchen eating a quesadilla as she talked about the divinatory arts. Suddenly, I felt that one of her midwives was coming to visit her; it was an unusual sensation, something difficult to describe; it came together with a vision in my head, in which I saw-felt how that person was walking on the pathway in the direction of the house. I could even describe the clothes that she was wearing.
I commented to her about my perception; she closed her eyes for an instant, and she agreed. Immediately she got up, put water on to boil for tea, and put some corn pastelillos on the table; she said that the person wouldn’t take too long to arrive, and that turned out to true. We found her outside the house as I said goodbye.
I had already noticed that every time I visited doña Silvia, she was always all prepared, as if she was waiting for me. The next time I went to see her, I commented about it, and she said that she also could perceive when somebody comes to visit, and that she was happy for me because that day I had taken a further step in the path.
I wanted to know about my supposed advance, since from my point of view, my act of “divination” was not a big deal. She told me that what I had done was a feat, but that I still was not aware of it. She explained that I had opened up enough to have a glimmer of remote vision. I remembered that don Juan called that special state of divided perception of “being here and here at the same time”.
The most curious thing was that the more I advanced I became in my tasks, the more inept I felt; the same act of higher awareness that allowed me to have a glimpse of the infinite also made me feel that in fact we’re nothing, that there was no hope. What’s out there is something truly overwhelming; I had the sensation that it was something that was beyond my ken, and I didn’t believe myself be able to cope with it. There was a time during my apprenticeship in which I entered a deep desperation and became pessimistic about the real possibility that I could some day fly free.
The pressure caused by the uncertainty was so great that I looked for all possible means to get an answer; I even went to find out my fortune, consulting doña Silvia’s auguries, but the results were always vague and in the end didn’t clarify my doubts. Aware of my frustration, one day she told me to discuss my problem with don Gabinito, and that perhaps he would agree to help me.
Since I had become aware of the double identity of don Melchor, never again could I treat don Gabinito in the same way. Before, it was simple to speak with him, believing that he was a little crazy; I was conditioned to not take him very seriously; but later, the fear and respect that I felt for don Melchor extended automatically to don Gabinito even though he continued to treat me the same as always. I found don Gabinito in the back patio feeding the chickens. I explained to him my dilemma; he listened attentively and suggested to me that about that topic, it would be best if I talked with “Chon,” which was what he called don Melchor. He said it very naturally, as if it was about another person. Even knowing that they were the same, I had to admit that the difference between them was so great that there was no doubt in my mind that in fact they were two different people.
I found it strange to speak of these topics with don Melchor since he didn’t tolerate consultations of that type, but I followed his advice and when the occasion was presented, I told him about my conflicts. I commented that I would like to know about the future. He looked at me with a grave air and with a dramatic intonation, he said that “in matters of that nature, only the oracle of the times can reveal the truth.”
I didn’t know what to say, since I didn’t have any idea what he was talking about; I wasn’t aware that they were accustomed to consulting an oracle. I looked at him questioningly, waiting for an explanation; when I saw that he wasn’t going to explain what it was about, I interrogated him, but with his habitual cutting tone, he told me that we would speak about that on another occasion. I didn’t insist; I was already used to his sharp and direct manner.
Soon after that time, we were in his house in Veracruz when he warned that I must get ready because the next morning we would leave on a trip, and that I should pack provisions and water because our trip could last several days.
We left at dawn and entered the forest in the south of the state. Walking, we crossed plains and mountains; the heat and humidity were oppressive; we had to walk through swamps full of mosquitos and wade through rivers. I was haunted by my fear of crocodiles, and, advancing in that way, we reached what I believe is the state of Tabasco.
On the occasions that I tried to talk to him, he just gestured that I should keep walking. At a certain point, when we stopped in a clearing to eat and to rest, I took advantage of the opportunity to ask about the reason for the trip and where we were going.
He told me that we were looking for the temple of the sages, and that there, maybe I could find the answer to my questions. I remembered about our pending appointment with the oracle, but I never thought that it resided so deep in the jungle.
Talking with don Melchor was never easy; everybody respected him; one didn’t come to him with nonsense, so I took advantage of the moment to clarify my doubts about internal silence. At that time, I was obsessed with reaching that goal; I’d already had a glimmer of it, but I was not yet was able to anchor myself there. So I asked him about it again. In the past, when I asked him about that, he only looked at me without saying anything, but on this occasion, he said:
“There are several types of silence, or maybe we should call it different levels of attention –”
I interrupted him. “What does that mean, don Melchor?”
“In his fight to reach silence, the warrior passes through different stages,” he answered. “The first thing is when he decides to stop talking; for modern man it’s almost impossible to conceive that one can stop talking. The truth is that the everyday chatter, and, even more, the need for participation and being the center of attention, together form the biggest obstacle to reaching real silence.” He paused and then continued:
“Once you’ve succeeded in closing your mouth comes the fight for mental silence because the mind keeps chattering even when you don’t speak. When there are no more words, the next challenge is to observe the images or ideas that appear in your mind, but” – he paused for emphasis – “without explaining, justifying or condemning them; in fact, without thinking about them at all. It feels like flowing in the here and now. When you achieve that, it’s only a matter of waiting. At some moment, and without any intervention from the intellect or even the personal will, true silence arrives.”
“It’s very difficult to describe since the experience is different for each person. My personal description would be that it’s like a dream, with the difference that you’re still awake. The everyday world becomes extraordinary; you begin to perceive things that are not commonly perceived, and the voice of seeing takes control.”
I was about to ask him another question, but with a forceful gesture he stopped me; he said that I should look fixedly at the fire without thinking. As always, it was difficult for me at first, but after some time observing the fire and fighting to maintain control over my thoughts, he suddenly put his hands on my shoulders, as if to keep me from falling back. I felt it as a jolt of energy, as if it had liberated me of something; it was like breaking a membrane, and suddenly everything in our surroundings made sense; it was as if suddenly everything exuded life. It was a wonderful sensation of being connected to everything; the curious thing is that everything continued being the same, but it was no longer the same.
As we continued walking, we finally left the dense forest, and suddenly arrived at a vantage point where an immense forest opened up before us; it seemed like a colossal green sheet covering the earth, flanked by two mountain chains that converged some kilometers ahead of us, turning the valley into a narrow canyon. We walked amid the brush until we arrived at a neck with high walls on both sides that got narrower and narrower as we advanced. They reminded me of streets in big cities, with tall buildings on both sides; I fancied that the caves and protuberances were windows and balconies full of flowers and vegetation. The walk became more and more difficult; we had to trek a good distance among stones that seemed to have been loosened from the walls, forming an extremely irregular path. At certain points, due to the vegetation, the branches and lianas, we had to open a passageway with our machetes.
Suddenly, don Melchor indicated to me to leave the main path and take a lateral, almost imperceptible, passage that was on our right side. It was another arm of the canyon, but it was so completely camouflaged by the vegetation that it was almost invisible; it took us time and effort to advance even a few meters, but then suddenly we arrived in a cleaing; it was a small stream that was dry at that moment, but it was obvious that it bore water in the rainy season. Then we arrived at a ravine that seemed to be the end of the road.
I was dying of curiosity to meet the oracle-seer, but at the same time, I remained very alert because I suspected that I was going to be a victim of some kind of joke, as they were wont to play on people. How could somebody live in a place like that?
Don Melchor hurried to clear the entrance of a grotto that was so hidden among the overgrowth that, if not for him, I never would have seen it. I helped him in the task, and, as we went on clearing, the vision of a beautiful sculpture gradually appeared: it was an enormous head sculpted in a type of stone that I didn’t recognize; it was more than two meters high.
When we finished preparing the place, I could appreciate the beauty of the sculpture in all its splendor. I could see that the cave was in fact a kind of a niche, a sanctuary with symbols engraved in the rocks. It was obvious that this was a sacred place; surrounding it there were vestiges of offerings and the remains of old candles.
I was aware that big stone heads like that were relics of the Olmec civilization, one of the most enigmatic cultures in Mexico. There is very little information about them. Many consider them the oldest tribe that inhabited this continent; some anthropologists calculate that their ancestors lived in this region ten thousand years ago, up until a hundred years before our era. Among their legacies, they left a great quantity of magnificent heads sculpted in rock; although nobody knows for sure their purpose, the mystery of their existence continues to attract multitudes to admire them in the country’s museums.
For me, the most impressive thing that I noticed about them was the similarities to oriental and even negroid features in some of these sculptures, even though we’re taught that in antiquity there supposedly were no men of the black race in this continent.
While we were preparing the place for the ceremony, I commented on these observations with don Melchor; he said, “We’re not the first ones here, and we surely won’t be the last.”
His cryptic sentence aroused my curiosity; I asked him what he meant. He said:
“Before the white man and even before the Indians, there were others. Who knows how many others have already passed here before us? Our civilization is the last of a long line, but now is not the moment to talk about such things.”
With that, he put an end to my desire to keep pursuing the topic. After arranging everything, we sat down there for a while. I was already falling sleep when he broke the silence with a monotonous song. He used a rattle to mark the rhythm; that was the signal that the ritual had begun; soon after that, he started a small fire that he prepared quickly with dry branches from the surroundings. I offered to help, but he refused with a hand gesture.
As he continued singing in a very low voice, he poured some water into a bowl made from a gourd, and from his haversack he took out a fistful of corn. Whispering some words, he put them in front of the sculpture, he lit some candles, and on the altar he placed some feathers, jade and obsidian stones; then he picked up some coals from the fire and put them in a natural hole in the stone, and over it he put some pearls of aromatic copal, a natural incense taken from the petrified sap of certain trees.
He gave me a little flask with a rancid-smelling ointment, saying that I should apply it to my temples with my fingers, and that while I did it, I should concentrate on my question and nothing else. Then, from his shoulder bag he took out a curious pair of large rings made from jade stones, and said that I should put them on as if they were eyeglasses.
At a certain moment he began to invoke the spirit of the rock. He did it in their language, but somehow I understood everything he said; then he spoke in another strange language, but it was so full of harmony and grace that I fancied it was a dancing fountain of words. He ordered me to calm my thoughts and then formulate again my question about what I wanted to know.
I proceeded to relax, and after a while felt as if I was entering a dream, and in that state, I formulated my question. I made it in my mind: I wanted to know about my possibilities as a warrior, and about the destiny of mankind as well.
Suddenly the earth began to shake; it seemed as if the mountain was about to fall onto us. Alarmed, I rose, but don Melchor made signs for me to calm down, and after a moment the tremors abated, until they stopped completely. Only the great head continued resounding; the sound resembled an avalanche of rocks rolling. I was still terrified; then my bewilderment was total when THE HEAD SPOKE!
I was astonished, absolutely dumbstruck; I had never expected anything like that. I was still stunned when the head spoke again. It asked me:
“What is that you want to know?”
It was a guttural, rocky voice; it’s not that the statue moved its mouth to speak; it was rather as if a stony voice was exploding inside my head. With great effort, I controlled my fear, knelt down before the head, and, in a loud and clear voice I related my doubts and fears to it.
Suddenly, I saw everything around me transformed; I could feel don Melchor’s presence, but the compelling nature of the vision was so great that I had forgotten him. I noticed that the vision was the product of the description of the Head; the clarity of the image was very attractive, and I placed all my attention on what I was seeing. I felt like a speck of dust floating in front of an immense honeycomb of images that seemed frozen, but that, when I focused my attention on any of them, became images of a lively scene, as if it was a projection in a three-dimensional movie theater.
Suddenly, I began to see scenes of destruction: seaquakes, volcanos, and explosions that demolished everything. I wanted to know when all this would take place, but I couldn’t speak; however, the oracle somehow knew my questions because it told me about the suns and their times. It said that we were approaching the end of the fifth sun. It predicted that then the portal of the times would open up and that those who were there at that precise moment could pass. It affirmed that this event repeats only once each twenty-five thousand years, and told me that each sun has a duration of about five thousand years.
The Oracle also told me that from the year of gwan, the assemblage point of the earth would begin to move and that, starting from there, a new era would arise, but that it would take some time to happen. It didn’t give me an exact date, but by my calculations, those who speak of the year 2012 as the beginning of the new era are correct. It prophesied that it would be an era of knowledge and wisdom for the human race.
It also said that the time would come when technology would be developed to the point that it would allow men of reason to communicate with beings of other dimensions, entities that live on the other side. Communication with those who had already left and with other beings that are not from this world would initiate a new stage in the history of humanity, and humankind would retake its evolutionary path.
Then there were visions of people traveling in space, disseminating their seed among the worlds, becoming in this way a stellar species that finds the answers that it was looking for. In the end, the vision became an immense whirl, where everything turned on itself and only darkness was left.
Once again the voice became audible; it told me that now I could receive the answer to my question. It talked to me about what I wanted to know, but I no longer cared; the triviality of my rational fears as an individual were truly insignificant in comparison to what I had just witnessed.
Finally, I asked it, “How do you know what you know?”
“I’m very old”, the oracle answered with its rocky voice. “I come from the beginning of time, from what was and what will be again; I already existed long before the oldest of your people carved me in this form.”
The vision concluded and what I’d thought was only a few minutes was actually hours. We finished the ceremony; we gave thanks to the Oracle, picked up everything, and left the place the same way we found it. After pulling the curtain of plants closed, the sanctuary was once again completely hidden from view.
We began the arduous way back in the darkness, but when we arrived in a sheltered spot, we stayed there to rest and to see the sunrise. I took advantage of the moment to ask don Melchor what he thought about the times that the head called the “suns.” He said:
“Our ancestors were very pragmatic; they had to be if they wanted to survive. They had a much more realistic conception of time than modern man has; their calendar system was based on the movement of the stars, not on some human events.
“The system of counting time is something of great importance because it defines the tonal of a time. It’s inconceivable that modern scientists who are people of reason continue to accept without questioning the arbitrary and inefficient system of counting time that is currently in use. As long as this persists, we’ll continue living in the Christian era.
“The new cycle will only arrive when we cut all our ties; only then will the human being be able to be truly free.” On another matter he said:
“Those visions were for you alone; you should meditate on what you saw.”
That night, I received instructions from the oracle that I still apply in my life. To be able to consult the oracle was undoubtedly a great gift that I received from the spirit.