(Journal No. 1 Vol. 1)
Don Juan Matus told his disciples that human being as organisms perform a stupendous maneuver which, unfortunately, gives perception a false front; they take the influx of sheer energy and turn it into sensory data, which they interpret following a strict system of interpretation which sorcerers call the human form. This magical act of interpreting pure energy gives rise to the false front: the peculiar conviction on our part that our interpretation system is all that exists. Don Juan explained that a tree as we know tree is more interpretation than perception. He said that for us to deal with tree, all we need is a cursory glance that tells us hardly anything. The rest is a phenomena which he described as the calling of intent: the intent of tree, that is to say, the interpretation of sensory data pertaining to this specific phenomena that we call tree.
(The Fire from Within)
“What happens is that one form of life, the human form, meets another form of life. The old seers said that in this case, it is a creature from the first level of the fluidity of water.”
(Tales of Power)
Thus, a warrior can venture into the nagual and let his cluster arrange and rearrange itself in any way possible. I’ve said to you that the expression of the nagual is a personal matter. I meant that it is up to the individual warrior himself to direct the arrangement and rearrangements of that cluster. The human form or human feeling is the original one, perhaps it is the sweetest form of them all to us; there are, however, an endless number of alternative forms which the cluster may adopt. I’ve said to you that a sorcerer can adopt any form he wants. That is true. A sorcerer who is in possession of the totality of himself can direct the parts of his cluster to join in any conceivable way. The force of life is what makes all that shuffling possible. Once the force of life is exhausted there is no way to reassemble that cluster.
“I have called that cluster the bubble of perception. I have also said that it is sealed, closed tightly, and that it never opens until the moment of our death. Yet it could be made to open.
Sorcerers have obviously learned that secret, and although not all of them arrive at the totality of themselves, they know about the possibility of it. They know that the bubble opens only when one plunges into the nagual. Yesterday I gave you a recapitulation of all the steps that you have followed to arrive at that point.”
(The Eagle’s Gift by Carlos Castaneda)
For several weeks after my return to Los Angeles I had a sense of mild discomfort which I explained away as dizziness or a sudden loss of breath due to physical exertion. It reached a climax one night when I woke up terrified; unable to breathe. The physician I went to see diagnosed my trouble as hyperventilation; most likely caused by tension. He prescribed a tranquilizer and suggested breathing into a paper bag if the attack should ever occur again.
I decided to return to Mexico to seek la Gorda’s counsel. After I told her the doctor’s diagnosis, she calmly assured me that no illness was involved; that I was finally losing my shields; and that what I was experiencing was the “loss of my human form” and the entrance into a new state of separation from human affairs.
“Don’t fight it,” she said. “Our natural reaction is to struggle against it. In doing so we dispel it. Let go of your fear and follow the loss of your human form step by step.”
She added that in her case, the disintegration of her human form began in her womb with a severe pain and an inordinate pressure that shifted slowly in two directions; down her legs and up to her throat. She also said that the effects are felt immediately.
I wanted to record every nuance of my entrance into that new state. I prepared myself to write down a detailed account of whatever took place, but to my utter chagrin nothing more happened.
After a few days of fruitless expectation, I gave up on la Gorda’s explanation and concluded that the doctor had correctly diagnosed my condition. It was perfectly understandable to me. I was carrying a responsibility that generated unbearable tension. I had accepted the leadership that the apprentices believed belonged to me, but I had no idea how to lead.
The pressure in my life also showed in a more serious way. My usual level of energy was dropping steadily. Don Juan would have said that I was losing my personal power and that eventually I would lose my life. Don Juan had set me up to live exclusively by means of ‘personal power’; which I understood to be a state of being; a relationship of order between the subject and the universe; a relationship that cannot be disrupted without resulting in the subject’s death.
Since there was no foreseeable way to change my situation, I had concluded that my life was coming to an end. My feeling of being doomed seemed to infuriate all the apprentices. I decided to get away from them for a couple of days to dispel my gloom and their tension.
“If you would only rally your knowledge,” la Gorda said in a pleading tone. “You would know that losing the human form …”
She stopped in mid-sentence, My frown must have brought her up short. She was cognizant of my struggle. If there was any knowledge in me that I could have consciously rallied, I would have done it already.
“But we are luminous beings,” she said in the same pleading tone. “There is so much more to us. You are the Nagual. There is even more to you.”
“What do you think I should do?” I asked.
“You must let go of your desire to cling,” she said. “The very same thing happened to me. I held on to things, such as the food I liked, the mountains where I lived, the people I used to enjoy talking to, but most of all, I clung to the desire to be liked.”
I told her that her advice was meaningless to me for I was not aware of holding on to anything. She insisted that somehow I knew that I was putting up barriers to losing my human form.
“Our attention is trained to focus doggedly,” she went on. “That is the way we maintain the world. Your first attention has been taught to focus on something that’s quite strange to me, but very familiar to you.”
I told her that my mind dwells on abstractions- not abstractions like mathematics, for instance, but rather propositions of reasonableness.
“Now is the time to let go of all that,” she said. “In order to lose your human form you should let go of all that ballast. You counterbalance so hard that you paralyze yourself.”
I was in no mood to argue. What she called losing the human form was a concept too vague for immediate consideration. I was concerned with what we had experienced in that town. La Gorda did not want to talk about it.
“Maybe we should go back to our old discussion of losing the human form,” I said.
There was a look of annoyance in her eyes. I explained at length that, especially when foreign concepts were involved, meaning had to be continually clarified for me.
“What exactly do you want to know?” she asked.
“Anything that you may want to tell me,” I said.
“The Nagual told me that losing the human form brings freedom,” she said. “I believe it. But I haven’t felt that freedom, not yet.”
There was a moment of silence. She was obviously assessing my reaction.
“What kind of freedom is it, Gorda?” I asked.
“The freedom to remember your self,” she said. “The Nagual said that losing the human form is like a spiral. It gives you the freedom to remember and this in turn makes you even freer.”
“Why haven’t you felt that freedom yet?” I asked.
She clicked her tongue, and shrugged her shoulders. She seemed confused or reluctant to go on with our conversation.
“I’m tied to you,” she said. “Until you lose your human form in order to remember, I won’t be able to know what that freedom is. But perhaps you won’t be able to lose your human form unless you remember first. We shouldn’t be talking about this anyway. Why don’t you go and talk to the Genaros?”
Three months went by almost unnoticed. But one day while I was in Los Angeles, I woke up in the early morning hours with an unbearable pressure in my head. It was not a headache: It was rather a very intense weight in my ears. I felt it also on my eyelids and the roof of my mouth. I knew I was feverish, but the heat was only in my head. I made a feeble attempt to sit up. The thought crossed my mind that I was having a stroke. My first reaction was to call for help, but somehow I calmed down and tried to let go of my fear.
After a while, the pressure in my head began to diminish, but it also began to shift to my throat. I gasped for air- gagging and coughing for some time. The pressure moved slowly to my chest, then to my stomach, to my groin, to my legs, and to my feet before it finally left my body.
Whatever had happened to me had taken about two hours to unfold. During the course of those two grueling hours, it was as if something inside my body was actually moving downward; moving out of me. I fancied it to be rolling up like a carpet.
Another image that occurred to me was of a blob moving inside the cavity of my body. I discarded that image in favor of the first because the feeling was of something being coiled within itself. Just like a carpet being rolled up, it became heavier and thus more painful as it went down. The two areas where the pain became excruciating were my knees and my feet, especially my right foot which remained hot for thirty-five minutes after all the pain and pressure had vanished.
La Gorda, upon hearing my report, said that this time for certain I had lost my human form; that I had dropped all my shields, or most of them. She was right.
Without knowing how or even realizing what had happened, I found myself in a most unfamiliar state. I felt detached; unbiased.
It did not matter what la Gorda had done to me. It was not that I had forgiven her for her reproachable behavior with me. It was as if there had never been any betrayal. There was no overt or covert rancor left in me for la Gorda, or for anyone else.
What I felt was not a willed indifference, nor negligence to act. Neither was it alienation, nor even the desire to be alone. Rather, it was an alien feeling of aloofness; a capability of immersing myself in the moment, and of having no thoughts whatever about anything else.
People’s actions no longer affected me because I had no more expectations of any kind. A strange peace became the ruling force in my life. I felt I had somehow adopted one of the concepts of a warrior’s life: detachment.
La Gorda said that I had done more than adopt it: I had actually embodied it.
Don Juan and I had had long discussions on the possibility that someday I would do just that. He had said that detachment did not automatically mean wisdom, but that it was, nonetheless, an advantage because it allowed the warrior to pause momentarily to reassess situations; to reconsider positions. In order to use that extra moment consistently and correctly, however, he said that a warrior had to struggle unyieldingly for a lifetime.
I had despaired that I would never experience that feeling. As far as I could determine, there was no way to improvise it. It had been useless for me to think about its benefits, or to reason out the possibilities of its advent.
During the years I had known don Juan, I certainly experienced a steady lessening of personal ties with the world; but that had taken place on an intellectual plane. In my everyday life, I was unchanged until the moment I lost my human form.
I speculated with la Gorda that the concept of losing the human form refers to a bodily condition that besets the apprentice upon his reaching a certain threshold in the course of training.
Be that as it may, the end result of losing the human form for la Gorda and myself, oddly enough, was not only the sought-after and coveted sense of detachment, but also the fulfillment of our elusive task of remembering.
And again in this case, the intellect played a minimal part.
(The Second Ring of Power by Carlos Castaneda)
“You don’t know about the human mold and the human form, do you?” she asked.
I stared at her.
“I’ve just seen that you know nothing about them,” she said and smiled.
“You are absolutely right,” I said.
“The Nagual told me that the human form is a force,” she said. “And the human mold is. . . well. . . a mold. He said that everything has a particular mold. Plants have molds, animals have molds, worms have molds. Are you sure the Nagual never showed you the human mold?”
I told her that he had sketched the concept, but in a very brief manner, once when he had tried to explain something about a dream I had had. In the dream in question I had seen a man who seemed to be concealing himself in the darkness of a narrow gully. To find him there scared me. I looked at him for a moment and then the man stepped forward and made himself visible to me. He was naked and his body glowed. He seemed to be delicate, almost frail. I liked his eyes. They were friendly and profound. I thought that they were very kind. But then he stepped back into the darkness of the gully and his eyes became like two mirrors, like the eyes of a ferocious animal.
Don Juan said that I had encountered the human mold in “dreaming.” He explained that sorcerers have the avenue of their “dreaming” to lead them to the mold, and that the mold of men was definitely an entity, an entity which could be seen by some of us at certain times when we are imbued with power, and by all of us for sure at the moment of our death. He described the mold as being the source, the origin of man, since, without the mold to group together the force of life, there was no way for that force to assemble itself into the shape of man.
He interpreted my dream as a brief and extraordinarily simplistic glance at the mold. He said that my dream had restated the fact that I was a simpleminded and very earthy man.
La Gorda laughed and said that she would have said the same thing herself. To see the mold as an average naked man and then as an animal had been indeed a very simplistic view of the mold.
“Perhaps it was just a stupid, ordinary dream,” I said, trying to defend myself.
“No,” she said with a large grin. “You see, the human mold glows and it is always found in water holes and narrow gullies.”
“Why in gullies and water holes?” I asked.
“It feeds on water. Without water there is no mold,” she replied. “I know that the Nagual took you to water holes regularly in hopes of showing yon the mold. But your emptiness prevented you from seeing anything. The same thing happened to me. He used to make me lie naked on a rock in the very center of a particular dried-up water hole, but all I did was to feel the presence of something that scared me out of my wits.”
“Why does emptiness prevent one from seeing the mold?”
“The Nagual said that everything in the world is a force, a pull or a push. In order for us to be pushed or pulled we need to be like a sail, like a kite in the wind. But if we have a hole in the middle of our luminosity, the force goes through it and never acts upon us.
“The Nagual told me that Genaro liked you very much and tried to make you aware of the hole in your middle. He used to fly his sombrero as a kite to tease you; he even pulled you from that hole until you had diarrhea, but you never caught on to what he was doing.”
“Why didn’t they tell me as plainly as you have told me?”
“They did, but you didn’t notice their words.”
I found her statement impossible to believe. To accept that they had told me about it and I had not acknowledged it was unthinkable.
“Did you ever see the mold, Gorda?” I asked.
“Sure, when I became complete again. I went to that particular water hole one day by myself and there it was. It was a radiant, luminous being. I could not look at it. It blinded me. But being in its presence was enough. I felt happy and strong. And nothing else mattered, nothing. Just being there was all I wanted. The Nagual said that sometimes if we have enough personal power we can catch a glimpse of the mold even though we are not sorcerers; when that happens we say that we have seen God. He said that if we call it God it is the truth. The mold is God.
“I had a dreadful time understanding the Nagual, because I was a very religious woman. I had nothing else in the world but my religion. So to hear the Nagual say the things he used to say made me shiver. But then I became complete and the forces of the world began to pull me, and I knew that the Nagual was right. The mold is God. What do you think?”
“The day I see it I’ll tell you, Gorda,” I said.
She laughed, and said that the Nagual used to make fun of me, saying that the day I would see the mold I would probably become a Franciscan friar, because in the depths of me I was a religious soul.
“Was the mold you saw a man or a woman?” I asked.
“Neither. It was simply a luminous human. The Nagual said that I could have asked something for myself. That a warrior cannot let that chance pass. But I could not think of anything to ask for.
It was better that way. I have the most beautiful memory of it. The Nagual said that a warrior with enough power can see the mold many, many times. What a great fortune that must be!”
“But if the human mold is what puts us together, what is the human form?”
“Something sticky, a sticky force that makes us the people we are. The Nagual told me that the human form has no form. Like the allies that he carried in his gourd, it’s anything, but in spite of not having form, it possesses us during our lives and doesn’t leave us until we die. I’ve never seen the human form but I have felt it in my body.”
She then described a very complex series of sensations that she had had over a period of years that culminated in a serious illness, the climax of which was a bodily state that reminded me of descriptions I had read of a massive heart attack. She said that the human form, as the force that it is, left her body after a serious internal battle that manifested itself as illness.
“It sounds as if you had a heart attack,” I said.
“Maybe I did,” she replied, “but one thing I know for sure. The day I had it, I lost my human form. I became so weak that for days I couldn’t even get out of my bed. Since that day I haven’t had the energy to be my old self. From time to time I have tried to get into my old habits, but I didn’t have the strength to enjoy them the way I used to. Finally I gave up trying.”
“What is the point of losing your form?”
“A warrior must drop the human form in order to change, to really change. Otherwise there is only talk about change, like in your case. The Nagual said that it is useless to think or hope that one can change one’s habits. One cannot change one iota as long as one holds on to the human form. The Nagual told me that a warrior knows that he cannot change, and yet he makes it his business to try to change, even though he knows that he won’t be able to. That’s the only advantage a warrior has over the average man. The warrior is never disappointed when he fails to change.”
“But you are still yourself, Gorda, aren’t you?”
“No. Not anymore. The only thing that makes you think you are yourself is the form. Once it leaves, you are nothing.”
“But you still talk and think and feel as you always did, don’t you?”
“Not at all. I’m new.”
She laughed and hugged me as if she were consoling a child.
“Only Eligio and I have lost our form,” she went on. “It was our great fortune that we lost it while the Nagual was among us. You people will have a horrid time. That is your fate. Whoever loses it next will have only me as a companion. I already feel sorry for whoever it will be.”
“What else did you feel, Gorda, when you lost your form, besides not having enough energy?”
“The Nagual told me that a warrior without form begins to see an eye. I saw an eye in front of me every time I closed my eyes. It got so bad that I couldn’t rest anymore; the eye followed me wherever I went. I nearly went mad. Finally, I suppose, I became used to it. Now I don’t even notice it because it has become part of me.
“The formless warrior uses that eye to start dreaming. If you don’t have a form, you don’t have to go to sleep to do dreaming. The eye in front of you pulls you every time you want to go.”