(Encounters with the Nagual by Armando Torres)
“How is your recapitulation going?”
His question caught me unaware. I answered that I had still not tried the exercise, because I was waiting for conditions at home to be favorable.
He gave me a very serious, almost reproachful look and commented that, for sorcerers, the totality of a path can be summed up in its first step.
“That means that the ideal conditions are here and now.”
Softening the tone of his voice, he granted:
“It happens to everyone at first. To observe our life is an agitating exercise, because to get to the bottom of things scares us, and it is easy to postpone it from one day to the next. But, if we insist, after a time of scrutiny we begin to discover that what we always found to be obvious and correct ways of thinking are in fact implanted beliefs.
“The ideas we become addicted to are made up of the densest matter in our mental contamination. In general, they all start from a defect of syntax. If the way we speak changes, they stop making sense and are substituted by new ideas. That’s why there are so many belief systems in the world.
“From the center of silent knowledge we all know that, that’s why we are so rarely willing to practice our beliefs. We can spend a lifetime speaking of loving our fellow man, or turning the other cheek, but who dares to actually do it? There you have the wars for religion motives, where people are killed because of the peculiar way they pronounce God’s name.
“Sorcerers know that beliefs based on ideas are false.”
He explained to me that the starting point of our convictions is usually something that someone told us in an imperative or persuasive tone when we were children, before we had our own inventory of experiences for comparison. Or it is one of the effects of the massive and subliminal propaganda to which modern man is subjected. Frequently, they come from a sudden and deep emotional outburst, like that suffered by those who allow themselves to be swept away by religious hysteria. That modality of belief is merely associative.
“At the core of each one of our actions, customs, or reactions, there is a hidden belief. Therefore, the initial task on the path of knowledge is to make an inventory of all those things we have placed our faith in.”
He suggested that I dedicate a new notebook to that exercise, where I should write down all my beliefs. He assured me that this practice would help to make a map of my motivations and attachments.
“In each case,” he said, “you should look for the source of your beliefs, and make a profound analysis of each one. Determine when and why it arose, what was there before that, how you felt, and how much your faith has changed over the years. The intention is not to justify anything, but rather simply to get things clear. This exercise is called ‘stalking the believer’.”
He predicted that the result of the practice would be to liberate me of my second-hand convictions, and emphasized that in the world of sorcerers, only direct experimentation is valid.
I accepted the exercise because I found it inoffensive. For a couple of weeks, I was devoted to classifying everything with which I felt mentally identified. I hoped my inventory would be simple and clear, but I was soon surprised to find that an endless list of thought patterns appeared, sometimes not very coherent in relation to each other.
For example, one of my beliefs was that only when something can be proven and demonstrated can it be called ‘certain’. At the same time, another of my beliefs was that a supreme reality, a divine being beyond all experimentation, exists. No matter how much I tried, I could not resolve that contradiction.
In the field of non-beliefs I also had my surprises. The most unpleasant was to discover the way a simple suggestion had blocked an enormous area of possibilities for me. When I began to investigate why it was not honestly possible for me to accept Carlos’ statements regarding how, through dreams, you can access other real and complete worlds, I remembered that when I was a child and had a nightmare, my mother used to repeat the refrain of a children’s story which said: “Dreams are just dreams.”
When we met again, I gave him a superficial account of the results of my investigations. Carlos told me that it was enough; there was already sufficient material to attack the second part of the exercise. Then he suggested that I select the most important one of my beliefs, which served as a base to all the other ones, and stop believing it for a moment. I should do this with each one of them, according to their degree of importance.
“I assure you that it is not difficult!” he added, seeing my bewildered face. “And above all, it won’t harm your faith. Remember, it is only an exercise.”
I protested. In a decisive tone, I told him that the basis of my principles was my certainty that God exists, and that I was not willing to question it or even analyze that point.
“It is not true!” he screamed. “Your most ingrained conviction is that you are sinful and for that reason you are justified! You can make mistakes, squander your energy, and give in to anger, lasciviousness, whims and fear; after all, you are human, and God always forgives you!”
“Don’t fool yourself. Either you choose your belief, or it chooses you. In the first case, it is authentic, it is your ally, it sustains you, and it allows you to manipulate it at will. In the second case, it is an imposition and not worthwhile.”
I replied that the exercise that he proposed – treating my faith as casually as a man changing his shirt – was not only blasphemous and mercenary, but the practice would probably end up throwing me into a state of internal confusion.
“You don’t have to be clear to enter the world of sorcerers!”
“Our idea that truth goes hand-in-hand with clarity is a trap, because the spirit is too inaccessible to be understood with our fragile human mind. As you well know, the essence of religion is not clarity, but faith. But faith is worth nothing in comparison with experience!”
“Sorcerers are practical; from their point of view, what we believe or stop believing is absolutely irrelevant. The stories that we tell ourselves don’t matter in the least; what matters is the spirit. When there’s power, the content of the mind is something secondary.
A sorcerer can be an atheist or a believer, Buddhist, Muslim or Christian, and yet cultivate impeccability – which automatically brings him to power.”
His words irritated me beyond reason. When I realized it, I was surprised to find how deeply the Catholic doctrines I learned during my childhood had penetrated. Now that Carlos questioned them, it felt as if he was unfairly robbing me of something very valuable.
He noticed my dilemma and began to laugh.
“Don’t confuse things,” he told me. “Religions are not remedies, but consequences of the pitiful state of awareness man is in. They are replete with good intentions, but very few people are prepared to fulfill them. If their commitment meant anything of real value, the world would be full of saints, not sinners!”
“The moment ideologies – including nagualism – become widespread, they become cultural mafias, schools to make people sleepy. No matter how subtle their postulates are, and no matter how much they try to validate them with personal corroboration, they end up conditioning our actions according to some form of reward or punishment, and by doing that, they pervert the very essence of the search. If the pillar of my faith is a salary, what merit does it have?”
“Sorcerers love the purity of the abstract. For them, the value of the path with heart is not so much where it takes us but how intensely we enjoy it. Faith certainly has value in an ordinary life, but it is useless against death. Our only hope when facing the inevitable is the warrior’s path.”
“Sorcerers call the ability to manipulate their mental attachments ‘ believing without believing’. They have perfected that art to the point where they can identify sincerely with any idea, live it, love it, and discard it if it comes to that, without remorse. And inside that freedom of choice, they ask sorcerers’ questions. For example, why accept myself as a sinner, if I can be impeccable?”
After some resistance, I agreed with Carlos that there could not be anything wrong with subjecting my beliefs to a shake.
What I found to be the main effect of the technique of “believing without believing,” was that it showed how incredibly fragile my catalog of ideas was. It was prone to disintegrate at the slightest blow. I understood why Don Juan claimed that the world we live in is a magic fabric, the magic of ‘the first ring of power’.