(The Second Ring of Power by Carlos Castaneda)
“Tell me what else happened to Eligio,” I asked Nestor after they had calmed down again.
“After Eligio and Benigno jumped,” Nestor replied, “the Nagual made me look quickly over the edge, in order to catch the sign the earth gives when warriors jump into the abyss. If there is something like a little cloud, or a faint gust of wind, the warrior’s time on earth is not over yet.
The day Eligio and Benigno jumped I felt one puff of air on the side Benigno had jumped and I knew that his time was not up. But Eligio’s side was silent.”
“What do you think happened to Eligio? Did he die?”
All three of them stared at me. They were quiet for a moment. Nestor scratched his temples with both hands. Benigno giggled and shook his head. I attempted to explain but Nestor made a gesture with his hands to stop me.
“Are you serious when you ask us questions?” he asked me.
Benigno answered for me. When he was not clowning, his voice was deep and melodious. He said that the Nagual and Genaro had set us up so all of us had pieces of information that the others did not have.
“Well, if that’s the case we’ll tell you what’s what,” Nestor said, smiling as if a great load had been lifted off his shoulders. “Eligio did not die. Not at all.”
“Where is he now?” I asked.
They looked at one another again. They gave me the feeling that they were struggling to keep from laughing. I told them that all I knew about Eligio was what dona Soledad had told me. She had said that Eligio had gone to the other world to join the Nagual and Genaro. To me that sounded as if the three of them had died.
“Why do you talk like that. Maestro?” Nestor asked with a tone of deep concern. “Not even Pablito talks like that.”
I thought Pablito was going to protest. He almost stood up, but he seemed to change his mind.
“Yes, that’s right,” he said. “Not even I talk like that.”
“Well, if Eligio didn’t die, where is he?” I asked.
“Soledad already told you,” Nestor said softly. “Eligio went to join the Nagual and Genaro.”
I decided that it was best not to ask any more questions. I did not mean my probes to be aggressive, but they always turned out that way. Besides, I had the feeling that they did not know much more than I did.
Nestor suddenly stood up and began to pace back and forth in front of me. Finally he pulled me away from the table by my armpits. He did not want me to write. He asked me if I had really blacked out like Pablito had at the moment of jumping and did not remember anything. I told him that I had had a number of vivid dreams or visions that I could not explain and that I had come to see them to seek clarification. They wanted to hear about all the visions I had had.
After they had heard my accounts, Nestor said that my visions were of a bizarre order and only the first two were of great importance and of this earth; the rest were visions of alien worlds.
He explained that my first vision was of special value because it was an omen proper. He said that sorcerers always took a first event of any series as the blueprint or the map of what was going to develop subsequently.
In that particular vision I had found myself looking at an outlandish world. There was an enormous rock right in front of my eyes, a rock which had been split in two. Through a wide gap in it I could see a boundless phosphorescent plain, a valley of some sort, which was bathed in a greenish-yellow light. On one side of the valley, to the right, and partially covered from my view by the enormous rock, there was an unbelievable domelike structure. It was dark, almost a charcoal gray. If my size was what it is in the world of everyday life, the dome must have been fifty thousand feet high and miles and miles across. Such an enormity dazzled me. I had a sensation of vertigo and plummeted into a state of disintegration.
Once more I rebounded from it and found myself on a very uneven and yet flat surface. It was a shiny, interminable surface just like the plain I had seen before. It went as far as I could see. I soon realized that I could turn my head in any direction I wanted on a horizontal plane, but I could not look at myself. I was able, however, to examine the surroundings by rotating my head from left to right and vice versa. Nevertheless, when I wanted to turn around to look behind me, I could not move my bulk.
The plain extended itself monotonously, equally to my left and to my right. There was nothing else in sight but an endless, whitish glare. I wanted to look at the ground underneath my feet but my eyes could not move down. I lifted my head up to look at the sky; all I saw was another limitless, whitish surface that seemed to be connected to the one I was standing on. I then had a moment of apprehension and felt that something was just about to be revealed to me. But the sudden and devastating jolt of disintegration stopped my revelation. Some force pulled me downward. It was as if the whitish surface had swallowed me.
Nestor said that my vision of a dome was of tremendous importance because that particular shape had been isolated by the Nagual and Genaro as the vision of the place where all of us were supposed to meet them someday.
Benigno spoke to me at that point and said that he had heard Eligio being instructed to find that particular dome. He said that the Nagual and Genaro insisted that Eligio understand their point correctly. They always had believed Eligio to be the best; therefore, they directed him to find that dome and to enter its whitish vaults over and over again.
Pablito said that all three of them were instructed to find that dome if they could, but that none of them had. I said then, in a complaining tone, that neither don Juan nor don Genaro had ever mentioned anything like that to me. I had had no instruction of any sort regarding a dome.
Benigno, who was sitting across the table from me, suddenly stood up and came to my side.
He sat to my left and whispered very softly in my ear that perhaps the two old men had instructed me but I did not remember, or that they had not said anything about it so I would not fix my attention on it once I had found it.
“Why was the dome so important?” I asked Nestor.
“Because that’s where the Nagual and Genaro are now,” he replied.
“And where’s that dome?” I asked.
“Somewhere on this earth,” he said.
I had to explain to them at great length that it was impossible that a structure of that magnitude could exist on our planet. I said that my vision was more like a dream and domes of that height could exist only in fantasies. They laughed and patted me gently as if they were humoring a child.
“You want to know where Eligio is,” Nestor said all of a sudden. “Well, he is in the white vaults of that dome with the Nagual and Genaro.”
“But that dome was a vision,” I protested.
“Then Eligio is in a vision,” Nestor said. “Remember what Benigno just said to you. The Nagual and Genaro didn’t tell you to find that dome and go back to it over and over. If they had, you wouldn’t be here. You’d be like Eligio, in the dome of that vision. So you see, Eligio did not die like a man in the street dies. He simply did not return from his jump.”
Nestor’s assertions about Eligio came to my mind. I told la Gorda what he had said, and she asked me to narrate to them the visions of my journey between the tonal and the nagual which I had had upon jumping into the abyss. When I finished they all seemed frightened. La Gorda immediately isolated my vision of the dome.
“The Nagual told us that our second attention would someday focus on that dome,” she said.
“That day we will be all second attention, just like the Nagual and Genaro are, and that day we will join them.”
“Do you mean, Gorda, that we will go as we are?” I asked.
“Yes, we will go as we are. The body is the first attention, the attention of the tonal. When it becomes the second attention, it simply goes into the other world. Jumping into the abyss gathered all your second attention for a while. But Eligio was stronger and his second attention was fixed by that jump. That’s what happened to him and he was just like all of us. But there is no way of telling where he is. Even the Nagual himself didn’t know. But if he is someplace he is in that dome. Or he is bouncing from vision to vision, perhaps for a whole eternity.”
La Gorda said that in my journey between the tonal and the nagual I had corroborated on a grand scale the possibility that our whole being becomes all second attention, and on a much smaller scale when I got all of them lost in the world of that attention, earlier that day, and also when she transported us half a mile in order to flee from the allies. She added that the problem the Nagual had left for us as a challenge was whether or not we would be capable of developing our will, or the power of our second attention to focus indefinitely on anything we wanted.
We were quiet for a while. It seemed that it was time for me to leave, but I could not move.
The thought of Eligio’s fate had paralyzed me. Whether he had made it to the dome of our rendezvous, or whether he had gotten caught in the tremendum, the image of his journey was maddening. It took no effort at all for me to envision it, for I had the experience of my own journey.
The other world, which don Juan had referred to practically since the moment we met, had always been a metaphor, an obscure way of labeling some perceptual distortion, or at best a way of talking about some undefinable state of being. Even though don Juan had made me perceive indescribable features of the world, I could not consider my experiences to be anything beyond a play on my perception, a directed mirage of sorts that he had managed to make me undergo, either by means of psychotropic plants, or by means I could not deduce rationally. Every time that had happened I had shielded myself with the thought that the unity of the “me” I knew and was familiar with had been only temporarily displaced. Inevitably, as soon as that unity was restored, the world became again the sanctuary for my inviolable, rational self. The scope that la Gorda had opened with her revelations was terrifying.
(The Secret of the Plumed Serpent)
When I told my companions that I had decided to relate part of my experience of living with them in a new book, the Atocayo warned me about the dangers of fame and fortune. He said it was important to watch out lest my intention to help others should become the ultimate objective of my path.
“Many betray the intent of freedom,” he said, “for hope of wealth or desire to be famous, loved and admired by others.
The real warrior has an insatiable thirst for freedom and infinite curiosity about everything; he is thus always experimenting and learning. That keeps him on the straight path and makes him humble before this splendour in which we are immersed.
Even when sharing his achievements with others, the warrior does not get bogged down in the mire of personal importance, simply because he has no time to lose. He knows very well that Death is at his heels, urging him to keep experimenting and enjoying the world.”
He also told me I had to be extremely detached if I was planning on facing that challenge, and charged me never to reveal the identities of my companions in my writings.
“Opening up to people has a very high price.” he said, and gave me Carlos as an example. “Although he was a formidable warrior, he paid with his own life and perhaps even with his freedom for having become accessible.”
He made that comment because, according to some seers who had been in contact with him in the other world, Carlos had adopted ‘the emergency plan’. Once the deterioration of his physical body had begun, he joined the other seers of his lineage in the graveyard of the Naguals.
Carlos had previously touched very briefly on the topic of the graveyard of the Naguals, never completely clarifying the meaning of that elusive concept. I had been waiting long for an opportunity to ask him about it.
That afternoon, after he had finished with his commitments, we met in a restaurant with a few small tables on the pavement. After the meal, we went for a walk to a nearby park. When we got closer, I remained spellbound for a moment, watching water form a transparent dome as it gushed out of a fountain. I had to make a conscious effort to break its allure.
We sat down on a nearby bench and I asked hurriedly:
“Carlos, what is the real goal of sorcerers?”
As he began to speak, I realized I had forgotten my notebook in the restaurant, but I said nothing to Carlos lest I disturb the flow of the ideas he was expounding. In the course of his explanation, he mentioned that don Juan had given him a task the full details of which he did not wish to disclose at that particular time. Finally, he said that, should he fail in his task, his teacher had promised to try and come back from wherever he was to fetch him.
My face must have been showing anxiety because Carlos asked, as if reading my mind:
“Where are your notes?”
I confessed I had left them in the restaurant and asked him for permission to go and get them. I ran back and recovered the notes without any problems. On return, trying to recapture the thread of our conversation, I asked:
“And where do you believe don Juan might be now?”
“I’m sure that he and his warriors have gone to join the other seers of his lineage in the dome of the Naguals.” Seeing my inquisitive look, Carlos added:
“The last time we were together, I saw all of them dissolve into thin air. Don Juan had chosen a mountain top as the place from which to embark on his definitive journey; in that place, I and the other apprentices took our final leave of him.
After his departure I remained adrift for years, not knowing whether I was coming or going. Finally I started remembering everything that had transpired, and it took me many more years to be able to understand what I had remembered. Even now, new memories of the time under the Nagual Juan Matus’ tutelage keep cropping up.
At one time I was more than confused: can you imagine what it means to have two different memories of the same event? I was on the verge of losing my sanity when finally the answers came; after years of struggle, I managed to establish some order in the chaos of my memories.
If you look carefully, you’ll see that in my books I described some events from the point of view of different levels of awareness; I did that because on each level I saw and interpreted differently whatever was happening to me. That is the mystery of heightened awareness. In those moments one lives with such intensity that it takes one years to re-align the memory.”
Carlos reflected in silence for a moment and then went on:
“On one occasion, don Juan took me to a secluded place deep in the mountains and gave me his pipe to smoke. While I was under the power of the smoke, he showed me a colony of red insects. Extraordinary visions that at the time made no sense to me followed: I felt that I was flying towards a gigantic white dome.
Later, don Juan explained the meaning of what had happened. The seers of antiquity, he said, had created a refuge in the dreaming world, based on the structural organization of those bugs. He revealed to me that he and his group planned to go there after they left this world.”
I was astonished to hear Carlos say that. Until then, I had believed that his teacher and his party of warriors had gone to the third attention. A thousand questions came to my mind at that instant, but I did not know where to begin. I remained absorbed for a moment, considering the implications of what he had revealed.
Carlos must have noticed my amazement, because he opened his mouth wide in a caricature of my expression. Then he added, smiling:
“I was left gaping, too, when I heard that.
Don Juan told me that the ancients had discovered the form of existence created by those insects completely by chance during one of their gazing practices. Having thoroughly observed them, they got so intrigued that they ended up moving their assemblage points to the position of those little bugs, transforming physically into them. Thus they discovered that the social organization created by those beings was perfection itself. Consequently, they built a replica of that structure at a location in the other world.”
I was very interested to know how and when the ancient ones had created that place.
“The sorcerers of antiquity tell that, in their distant past, a very powerful Nagual pair existed; they, it is said, were the founders of our tradition. Those sorcerers were such teachers of dreaming that they managed to teach their art to their entire people.
They say that, with time, those people become so skilled at dreaming that, for them, there was no longer any difference between being awake and dreaming; they acted in both realms with equal control.
Under the supervision of the Nagual pair, that nation of dreamers managed to recreate their cities inside their visions of collective dreaming and, when the moment came, they chose to go and live in the world of their creation. One day, they simply vanished from the face of the earth.”
Having said that, Carlos kept looking at me as if assessing my reaction. I was fascinated by what he had told me and just wanted him to keep on speaking. After a moment, he continued:
“In the course of time, going to that place became a priority goal for many sorcerers. Whole lineages met up there. The place thus became known for many as ‘the refuge’ or ‘the sanctuary’. As the number of residents increased, their community transformed into an enormous bubble of collective dreaming maintained to this very day by the intent of a large number of sorcerers keeping their assemblage points fixed on that position in unison.”
“Where is that place?”
“They are placed somewhere out there, in that immensity,” he said and gestured with his arm, indicating the infinite space. “Dreamers who travel to that place see it as an enormous white dome.”
“But are they on another planet?”
He smiled slightly before answering.
“As I have told you, they exist in another position of the assemblage point. Over time, they transformed that place into a fantastic base where they accumulated their resources. Taking advantage of their inorganic existence, they venture from there through the entire cosmos, exploring the most incredible possibilities of perception.
They can do that because in their condition time passes differently and the known laws of space-time do not apply. That is how they managed to escape the wear and tear of biological existence and are still alive today. Because they’ve managed to link directly with the awareness of the Earth, they can go on existing for near-eternity, as long as our planet exists.”
“And why did they do that?”
“Their goal was to survive at any cost and, to defy death, they chose to transform themselves into a special type of inorganic being. However, aware of the predatory conditions that rule out there, they conspired to create a refuge in the other world.”
Staring fixedly into my eyes, he added:
“You already know that the Universe at large is predatory. Once you pass to the other side, you become subject to its laws and the groups of inorganics that rule there. On many occasions real battles have broken out among them for the awareness of the inhabitants.
By creating their ‘hive’, the ancient seers have managed to retain a high level of independence, and even if it does not free them completely from the influence of the inorganic kingdom, at least they are not its slaves.”