The Second Ring of Power, by Carlos Castaneda

Every person is a philosopher by nature; however, we are quickly dissuaded from this delightful activity by those who call philosophy impractical. But there is nothing more practical than knowing who you are and what you think. Try it sometime.

Re: The Second Ring of Power, by Carlos Castaneda

Postby admin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:04 am

Part 2 of 2

Nestor's presence in the house lightened up the oppressive mood instantly. I asked him to join us in the kitchen.

"You came right in time," Pablito said to Nestor with an enormous smile as we sat down. "The Maestro and I were weeping here, remembering the Toltec devils."

"Were you really crying. Maestro?" Nestor asked with a malicious grin on his face.

"You bet he was," Pablito replied.

A very soft cracking noise at the front door made Pablito and Nestor stop talking. If I had been by myself I would not have noticed or heard anything. Pablito and Nestor stood up; I did the same. We looked at the front door; it was being opened in a most careful manner. I thought that perhaps la Gorda had returned and was quietly opening the door so as not to disturb us. When the door was finally opened wide enough to allow one person to go through, Benigno came in as if he were sneaking into a dark room. His eyes were shut and he was walking on the tips of his toes. He reminded me of a kid sneaking into a movie theater through an unlocked exit door in order to see a matinee, not daring to make any noise and at the same time not capable of seeing a thing in the dark.

Everybody was quietly looking at Benigno. He opened one eye just enough to peek out of it and orient himself and then he tiptoed across the front room to the kitchen. He stood by the table for a moment with his eyes closed. Pablito and Nestor sat down and signaled me to do the same. Benigno then slid next to me on the bench. He gently shoved my shoulder with his head; it was a light tap in order for me to move over to make room for him on the bench; then he sat down comfortably with his eyes still closed.

He was dressed in Levi's like Pablito and Nestor. His face had filled out a bit since the last time I had seen him, years before, and his hairline was different, but I could not tell how. He had a lighter complexion than I remembered, very small teeth, full lips, high cheekbones, a small nose and big ears. He had always seemed to me like a child whose features had not matured.

Pablito and Nestor, who had interrupted what they were saying to watch Benigno's entrance, resumed talking as soon as he sat down as though nothing had happened.

"Sure, he was crying with me," Pablito said.

"He's not a crybaby like you," Nestor said to Pablito.

Then he turned to me and embraced me.

"I'm so glad you're alive," he said. "We've just talked to la Gorda and she said that you were the Nagual, but she didn't tell us how you survived. How did you survive, Maestro?"

At that point I had a strange choice. I could have followed my rational path, as I had always done, and said that I did not have the vaguest idea, and I would have been truthful at that. Or I could have said that my double had extricated me from the grip of those women. I was measuring in my mind the possible effect of each alternative when I was distracted by Benigno. He opened one eye a little bit and looked at me and then giggled and buried his head in his arms.

"Benigno, don't you want to talk to me?" I asked.

He shook his head negatively.

I felt self-conscious with him next to me and decided to ask what was the matter with him.

"What's he doing?" I asked Nestor in a low voice.

Nestor rubbed Benigno's head and shook him. Benigno opened his eyes and then closed them again.

"He's that way, you know," Nestor said to me. "He's extremely shy. He'll open his eyes sooner or later. Don't pay any attention to him. If he gets bored he'll go to sleep."

Benigno shook his head affirmatively without opening his eyes.

"Well, how did you get out?" Nestor insisted.

"Don't you want to tell us?" Pablito asked.

I deliberately said that my double had come out from the top of my head three times. I gave them an account of what had happened.

They did not seem in the least surprised and took my account as a matter of course. Pablito became delighted with his own speculations that dona Soledad might not recover and might eventually die. He wanted to know if I had struck Lidia as well. Nestor made an imperative gesture for him to be quiet and Pablito meekly stopped in the middle of a sentence.

"I'm sorry. Maestro," Nestor said, "but that was not your double."

"But everyone said that it was my double."

"I know for a fact that you misunderstood la Gorda, because as Benigno and I were walking to Genaro's house, la Gorda overtook us on the road and told us that you and Pablito were here in this house. She called you the Nagual. Do you know why?"

I laughed and said that I believed it was due to her notion that I had gotten most of the Nagual's luminosity.

"One of us here is a fool!" Benigno said in a booming voice without opening his eyes.

The sound of his voice was so outlandish that I jumped away from him. His thoroughly unexpected statement, plus my reaction to it, made all of them laugh. Benigno opened one eye and looked at me for an instant and then buried his face in his arms.

"Do you know why we called Juan Matus the Nagual?" Nestor asked me.

I said that I had always thought that that was their nice way of calling don Juan a sorcerer.

Benigno laughed so loudly that the sound of his laughter drowned out everybody else's. He seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. He rested his head on my shoulder as if it were a heavy object he could no longer support.

"The reason we called him the Nagual," Nestor went on, "is because he was split in two. In other words, any time he needed to, he could get into another track that we don't have ourselves; something would come out of him, something that was not a double but a horrendous, menacing shape that looked like him but was twice his size. We call that shape the nagual and anybody who has it is, of course, the Nagual.

"The Nagual told us that all of us can have that shape coming out of our heads if we wanted to, but chances are that none of us would want to. Genaro didn't want it, so I think we don't want it, either. So it appears that you're the one who's stuck with it."

They cackled and yelled as if they were corraling a herd of cattle. Benigno put his arms around my shoulders without opening his eyes and laughed until tears were rolling down his cheeks.

"Why do you say that I am stuck with it?" I asked Nestor.

"It takes too much energy," he said, "too much work. I don't know how you can still be standing.

"The Nagual and Genaro split you once in the eucalyptus grove. They took you there because eucalyptuses are your trees. I was there myself and I witnessed when they split you and pulled your nagual out. They pulled you apart by the ears until they had split your luminosity and you were not an egg anymore, but two long chunks of luminosity. Then they put you together again, but any sorcerer that sees can tell that there is a huge gap in the middle."

"What's the advantage of being split?"

"You have one car that hears everything and one eye that sees everything and you will always be able to go an extra mile in a moment of need. That splitting is also the reason why they told us that you are the Maestro.

"They tried to split Pablito but it looks like it failed. He's too pampered and has always indulged like a bastard. That's why he's so screwed up now."

"What's a double then?"

"A double is the other, the body that one gets in dreaming. It looks exactly like oneself."

"Do all of you have a double?"

Nestor scrutinized me with a look of surprise.

"Hey, Pablito, tell the Maestro about our doubles," he said laughing.

Pablito reached across the table and shook Benigno.

"You tell him, Benigno," he said. "Better yet, show it to him."

Benigno stood up, opened his eyes as wide as he could and looked at the roof, then he pulled down his pants and showed me his penis.

The Genaros went wild with laughter.

"Did you really mean it when you asked that, Maestro?" Nestor asked me with a nervous expression.

I assured him that I was deadly serious in my desire to know anything related to their knowledge. I went into a long elucidation of how don Juan had kept me outside of their realm for reasons I could not fathom, thus preventing me from knowing more about them.

"Think of this," I said. "I didn't know until three days ago that those four girls were the Nagual's apprentices, or that Benigno was don Genaro's apprentice."

Benigno opened his eyes.

"Think of this yourself," he said. "I didn't know until now that you were so stupid."

He closed his eyes again and all of them laughed insanely. I had no choice but to join them.

"We were just teasing you. Maestro," Nestor said in way of an apology. "We thought that you were teasing us, rubbing it in. The Nagual told us that you see. If you do, you can tell that we are a sorry lot. We don't have the body of dreaming. None of us has a double."

In a very serious and earnest manner Nestor said that something had come in between them and their desire to have a double. I understood him as saying that a sort of barrier had been created since don Juan and don Genaro had left. He thought that it might be the result of Pablito flubbing his task. Pablito added that since the Nagual and Genaro had gone, something seemed to be chasing them, and even Benigno, who was living in the southernmost tip of Mexico at that time, had to return. Only when the three of them were together did they feel at ease.

"What do you think it is?" I asked Nestor.

"There is something out there in that immensity that's pulling us," he replied. "Pablito thinks it's his fault for antagonizing those women."

Pablito turned to me. There was an intense glare in his eyes.

"They've put a curse on me. Maestro," he said. "I know that the cause of all our trouble is me. I wanted to disappear from these parts after my fight with Lidia, and a few months later I took off for Veracruz. I was actually very happy there with a girl I wanted to marry. I got a job and was doing fine until one day I came home and found that those four mannish freaks, like beasts of prey, had tracked me down by my scent. They were in my house tormenting my woman. That bitch Rosa put her ugly hand on my woman's belly and made her shit in the bed, just like that. Their leader. Two Hundred and Twenty Buttocks, told me that they had walked across the continent looking for me. She just grabbed me by the belt and pulled me out. They pushed me to the bus depot to bring me here. I got madder than the devil but I was no match for Two Hundred and Twenty Buttocks. She put me on the bus. But on our way here I ran away. I ran through bushes and over hills until my feet got so swollen that I couldn't get my shoes off. I nearly died. I was ill for nine months. If the Witness hadn't found me, I would have died."

"I didn't find him," Nestor said to me. "La Gorda found him. She took me to where he was and between the two of us we carried him to the bus and brought him here. He was delirious and we had to pay an extra fare so that the bus driver would let him stay on the bus."

In a most dramatic tone Pablito said that he had not changed his mind; he still wanted to die.

"But why?" I asked him.

Benigno answered for him in a booming, guttural voice.

"Because his pecker doesn't work," he said.

The sound of his voice was so extraordinary that for an instant I had the impression that he was talking inside a cavern. It was at once frightening and incongruous. I laughed almost out of control.

Nestor said that Pablito had attempted to fulfill his task of establishing sexual relations with the women, in accordance with the Nagual's instructions. He had told Pablito that the four corners of his world were already set in position and all he had to do was to claim them. But when Pablito went to claim his first corner, Lidia, she nearly killed him. Nestor added that it was his personal opinion as a witness of the event that the reason Lidia rammed him with her head was because Pablito could not perform as a man, and rather than being embarrassed by the whole thing, she hit him.

"Did Pablito really get sick as a result of that blow or was he pretending?" I asked half in jest.

Benigno answered again in the same booming voice.

"He was just pretending!" he said. "All he got was a bump on the head! "

Pablito and Nestor cackled and yelled.

"We don't blame Pablito for being afraid of those women," Nestor said. "They are all like the Nagual himself, fearsome warriors. They're mean and crazy."

"Do you really think they're that bad?" I asked him.

"To say they're bad is only one part of the whole truth," Nestor said. "They're just like the Nagual. They're serious and gloomy. When the Nagual was around, they used to sit close to him and stare into the distance with half-closed eyes for hours, sometimes for days."

"Is it true that Josefina was really crazy a long time ago?" I asked.

"That's a laugh," Pablito said. "Not a long time ago; she's crazy now. She's the most insane of the bunch."

I told them what she had done to me. I thought that they would appreciate the humor of her magnificent performance. But my story seemed to affect them the wrong way. They listened to me like frightened children; even Benigno opened his eyes to listen to my account.

"Wow!" Pablito exclaimed. "Those bitches are really awful. And you know that their leader is Two Hundred and Twenty Buttocks. She's the one that throws the rock and then hides her hand and pretends to be an innocent little girl. Be careful of her, Maestro."

"The Nagual trained Josefina to be anything," Nestor said. "She can do anything you want: cry, laugh, get angry, anything."

"But what is she like when she is not acting?" I asked Nestor.

"She's just crazier than a bat," Benigno answered in a soft voice. "I met Josefina the first day she arrived. I had to carry her into the house. The Nagual and I used to tie her down to her bed all the time. Once she began to cry for her friend, a little girl she used to play with. She cried for three days. Pablito consoled her and fed her like a baby. She's like him. Both of them don't know how to stop once they begin."

Benigno suddenly began to sniff the air. He stood up and went over to the stove.

"Is he really shy?" I asked Nestor.

"He's shy and eccentric," Pablito answered. "He'll be that way until he loses his form. Genaro told us that we will lose our form sooner or later, so there is no point in making ourselves miserable in trying to change ourselves the way the Nagual told us to. Genaro told us to enjoy ourselves and not worry about anything. You and the women worry and try; we on the other hand, enjoy. You don't know how to enjoy things and we don't know how to make ourselves miserable. The Nagual called making yourself miserable, impeccability; we call it stupidity, don't we?"

"You are speaking for yourself, Pablito," Nestor said.

"Benigno and I don't feel that way." Benigno brought a bowl of food over and placed it in front of me. He served everyone. Pablito examined the bowls and asked Benigno where he had found them. Benigno said that they were in a box where la Gorda had told him she had stored them. Pablito confided in me that those bowls used to belong to them before their split.

"We have to be careful," Pablito said in a nervous tone. "These bowls are no doubt bewitched. Those bitches put something in them. I'd rather eat out of la Gorda's bowl."

Nestor and Benigno began to eat. I noticed then that Benigno had given me the brown bowl. Pablito seemed to be in a great turmoil. I wanted to put him at ease but Nestor stopped me.

"Don't take him so seriously," he said. "He loves to be that way. He'll sit down and eat. This is where you and the women fail. There is no way for you to understand that Pablito is like that. You expect everybody to be like the Nagual. La Gorda is the only one who's unruffled by him, not because she understands but because she has lost her form."

Pablito sat down to eat and among the four of us we finished a whole pot of food. Benigno washed the bowls and carefully put them back in the box and then all of us sat down comfortably around the table.

Nestor proposed that as soon as it got dark we should all go for a walk in a ravine nearby, where don Juan, don Genaro and I used to go. I felt somehow reluctant. I did not feel confident enough in their company. Nestor said that they were used to walking in the darkness and that the art of a sorcerer was to be inconspicuous even in the midst of people. I told him what don Juan had once said to me, before he had left me in a deserted place in the mountains not too far from there. He had demanded that I concentrate totally on trying not to be obvious. He said that the people of the area knew everyone by sight. There were not very many people, but those who lived there walked around all the time and could spot a stranger from miles away. He told me that many of those people had firearms and would have thought nothing of shooting me.

"Don't be concerned with beings from the other world," don Juan had said laughing. "The dangerous ones are the Mexicans."

"That's still valid," Nestor said. "That has been valid all the time. That's why the Nagual and Genaro were the artists they were. They learned to become unnoticeable in the middle of all this. They knew the art of stalking."

It was still too early for our walk in the dark. I wanted to use the time to ask Nestor my critical question. I had been avoiding it all along; some strange feeling had prevented me from asking. It was as if I had exhausted my interest after Pablito's reply. But Pablito himself came to my aid and all of a sudden he brought up the subject as if he had been reading my mind.

"Nestor also jumped into the abyss the same day we did," he said. "And in that way he became the Witness, you became the Maestro and I became the village idiot."

In a casual manner I asked Nestor to tell me about his jump into the abyss. I tried to sound only mildly interested. But Pablito was aware of the true nature of my forced indifference. He laughed and told Nestor that I was being cautious because I had been deeply disappointed with his own account of the event.

"I went over after you two did," Nestor said, and looked at me as if waiting for another question.

"Did you jump immediately after us?" I asked.

"No. It took me quite a while to get ready," he said. "Genaro and the Nagual didn't tell me what to do. That day was a test day for all of us."

Pablito seemed despondent. He stood up from his chair and paced the room. He sat down again, shaking his head in a gesture of despair.

"Did you actually see us going over the edge?" I asked Nestor.

"I am the Witness," he said. "To witness was my path of knowledge; to tell you impeccably what I witness is my task."

"But what did you really see?" I asked.

"I saw you two holding each other and running toward the edge," he said. "And then I saw you both like two kites against the sky. Pablito moved farther out in a straight line and then fell down. You went up a little and then you moved away from the edge a short distance, before falling down."

"But, did we jump with our bodies?" I asked.

"Well, I don't think there was another way to do it," he said, and laughed.

"Could it have been an illusion?" I asked.

"What are you trying to say. Maestro?" he asked in a dry tone.

"I want to know what really happened," I said.

"Did you by any chance black out, like Pablito?" Nestor asked with a glint in his eye.

I tried to explain to him the nature of my quandary about the jump. He could not hold still and interrupted me. Pablito intervened to bring him to order and they became involved in an argument. Pablito squeezed himself out of it by walking half seated around the table, holding onto his chair.

"Nestor doesn't see beyond his nose," he said to me. "Benigno is the same. You'll get nothing from them. At least you got my sympathy."

Pablito cackled, making his shoulders shiver, and hid his face with Benigno's hat.

"As far as I'm concerned, you two jumped," Nestor said to me in a sudden outburst. "Genaro and the Nagual had left you with no other choice. That was their art, to corral you and then lead you to the only gate that was open. And so you two went over the edge. That was what I witnessed. Pablito says that he didn't feel a thing; that is questionable. I know that he was perfectly aware of everything, but he chooses to feel and say that he wasn't."

"I really wasn't aware," Pablito said to me in an apologetic tone.

"Perhaps," Nestor said dryly. "But I was aware myself, and I saw your bodies doing what they had to do, jump."

Nestor's assertions put me in a strange frame of mind. All along I had been seeking validation for what I had perceived myself. But once I had it, I realized that it made no difference. To know that I had jumped and to be afraid of what I had perceived was one thing; to seek consensual validation was another. I knew then that one had no necessary correlation with the other. I had thought all along that to have someone else corroborate that I had taken that plunge would absolve my intellect of its doubts and fears. I was wrong. I became instead more worried, more involved with the issue.

I began to tell Nestor that although I had come to see the two of them for the specific purpose of having them confirm that I had jumped, I had changed my mind and I really did not want to talk about it anymore. Both of them started talking at once, and at that point we fell into a three-way argument. Pablito maintained that he had not been aware, Nestor shouted that Pablito was indulging and I said that I didn't want to hear anything more about the jump.

It was blatantly obvious to me for the first time that none of us had calmness and self-control. None of us Was willing to give the other person our undivided attention, the way don Juan and don Genaro did. Since I was incapable of maintaining any order in our exchange of opinions, I immersed myself in my own deliberations. I had always thought that the only flaw that had prevented me from entering fully into don Juan's world was my insistence on rationalizing everything, but the presence of Pablito and Nestor had given me a new insight into myself. Another flaw of mine was my timidity. Once I strayed outside the safe railings of common sense, I could not trust myself and became intimidated by the awesomeness of what unfolded in front of me. Thus, I found it was impossible to believe that I had jumped into an abyss.

Don Juan had insisted that the whole issue of sorcery was perception, and truthful to that, he and don Genaro staged, for our last meeting, an immense, cathartic drama on the flat mountaintop. After they made me voice my thanks in loud clear words to everyone who had ever helped me, I became transfixed with elation. At that point they had caught all my attention and led my body to perceive the only possible act within their frame of references: the jump into the abyss. That jump was the practical accomplishment of my perception, not as an average man but as a sorcerer.

I had been so absorbed in writing down my thoughts I had not noticed that Nestor and Pablito had stopped talking and all three of them were looking at me. I explained to them that there was no way for me to understand what had taken place with that jump.

"There's nothing to understand," Nestor said. "Things just happen and no one can tell how. Ask Benigno if he wants to understand."

"Do you want to understand?" I asked Benigno as a joke.

"You bet I do!" he exclaimed in a deep bass voice, making everyone laugh.

"You indulge in saying that you want to understand," Nestor went on. "Just like Pablito indulges in saying that he doesn't remember anything."

He looked at Pablito and winked at me. Pablito lowered his head.

Nestor asked me if I had noticed something about Pablito's mood when we were about to take our plunge. I had to admit that I had been in no position to notice anything so subtle as Pablito's mood.

"A warrior must notice everything," he said. "That's his trick, and as the Nagual said, there lies his advantage."

He smiled and made a deliberate gesture of embarrassment, hiding his face with his hat.

"What was it that I missed about Pablito's mood?" I asked him.

"Pablito had already jumped before he went over," he said. "He didn't have to do anything. He may as well have sat down on the edge instead of jumping."

"What do you mean by that?" I asked.

"Pablito was already disintegrating," he replied. "That's why he thinks he passed out. Pablito lies. He's hiding something."

Pablito began to speak to me. He muttered some unintelligible words, then gave up and slumped back in his chair. Nestor also started to say something. I made him stop. I was not sure I had understood him correctly.

"Was Pablito's body distegrating?" I asked.

He peered at me for a long time without saying a word. He was sitting to my right. He moved quietly to the bench opposite me.

"You must take what I say seriously," he said. "There is no way to turn back the wheel of time to what we were before that jump. The Nagual said that it is an honor and a pleasure to be a warrior, and that it is the warrior's fortune to do what he has to do. I have to tell you impeccably what I have witnessed. Pablito was disintegrating. As you two ran toward the edge only you were solid. Pablito was like a cloud. He thinks that he was about to fall on his face, and you think that you held him by the arm to help him make it to the edge. Neither of you is correct, and I wouldn't doubt that it would have been better for both of you if you hadn't picked Pablito up."

I felt more confused than ever. I truly believed that he was sincere in reporting what he had perceived, but I remembered that I had only held Pablito's arm.

"What would have happened if I hadn't interfered?" I asked.

"I can't answer that," Nestor replied. "But I know that you affected each other's luminosity. At the moment you put your arm around him, Pablito became more solid, but you wasted your precious power for nothing."

"What did you do after we jumped?" I asked Nestor after a long silence.

"Right after you two had disappeared," he said, "my nerves were so shattered that I couldn't breathe and I too passed out, I don't know for how long. I thought it was only for a moment. When I came to my senses again, I looked around for Genaro and Nagual; they were gone. I ran back and forth on the top of that mountain, calling them until my voice was hoarse. Then I knew I was alone. I walked to the edge of the cliff and tried to look for the sign that the earth gives when a warrior is not going to return, but I had already missed it. I knew then that Genaro and the Nagual were gone forever. I had not realized until then that they had turned to me after they had said good-bye to you two, and as you were running to the edge they waved their hands and said good-bye to me.

"Finding myself alone at that time of day, on that deserted spot, was more than I could bear. In one sweep I had lost all the friends I had in the world. I sat down and wept. And as I got more and more scared I began to scream as loud as I could. I called Genaro's name at the top of my voice. By then it was pitch-black. I could no longer distinguish any landmarks. I knew that as a warrior I had no business indulging in my grief. In order to calm myself down I began to howl like a coyote, the way the Nagual had taught me. After howling for a while I felt so much better that I forgot my sadness. I forgot that the world existed. The more I howled the easier it was to feel the warmth and protection of the earth.

"Hours must have passed. Suddenly I felt a blow inside of me, behind my throat, and the sound of a bell in my cars. I remembered what the Nagual had told Eligio and Benigno before they jumped. He said that the feeling in the throat came just before one was ready to change speed, and that the sound of the bell was the vehicle that one could use to accomplish anything that one needed. I wanted to be a coyote then. I looked at my arms, which were on the ground in front of me. They had changed shape and looked like a coyote's. I saw the coyote's fur on my arms and chest. I was a coyote! That made me so happy that I cried like a coyote must cry. I felt my coyote teeth and my long and pointed muzzle and tongue. Somehow, I knew that I had died, but I didn't care. It didn't matter to me to have turned into a coyote, or to be dead, or to be alive. I walked like a coyote, on four legs, to the edge of the precipice and leaped into it. There was nothing else for me to do.

"I felt that I was falling down and my coyote body turned in the air. Then I was myself again twirling in midair. But before I hit the bottom I became so light that I didn't fall anymore but floated. The air went through me. I was so light! I believed that my death was finally coming inside me. Something stirred my insides and I disintegrated like dry sand. It was peaceful and perfect where I was. I somehow knew that I was there and yet I wasn't. I was nothing. That's all I can say about it. Then, quite suddenly, the same thing that had made me like dry sand put me together again. I came back to life and I found myself sitting in the hut of an old Mazatec sorcerer. He told me his name was Porfirio. He said that he was glad to see me and began to teach me certain things about plants that Genaro hadn't taught me. He took me with him to where the plants were being made and showed me the mold of plants, especially the marks on the molds. He said that if I watched for those marks in the plants I could easily tell what they're good for, even if I had never seen those plants before. Then when he knew that I had learned the marks he said good-bye but invited me to come see him again. At that moment I felt a strong pull and I disintegrated, like before. I became a million pieces.

"Then I was pulled again into myself and went back to see Porfirio. He had, after all, invited me. I knew that I could have gone anywhere I wanted but I chose Porfirio's hut because he was kind to me and taught me. I didn't want to risk finding awful things instead. Porfirio took me this time to see the mold of the animals. There I saw my own nagual animal. We knew each other on sight. Porfirio was delighted to see such friendship. I saw Pablito's and your own nagual too, but they didn't want to talk to me. They seemed sad. I didn't insist on talking to them. I didn't know how you had fared in your jump. I knew that I was dead myself, but my nagual said that I wasn't and that you both were also alive. I asked about Eligio, and my nagual said that he was gone forever. I remembered then that when I had witnessed Eligio's and Benigno's jump I had heard the Nagual giving Benigno instructions not to seek bizarre visions or worlds outside his own. The Nagual told him to learn only about his own world, because in doing so he would find the only form of power available to him. The Nagual gave them specific instructions to let their pieces explode as far as they could in order to restore their strength. I did the same myself. I went back and forth from the tonal to the nagual eleven times. Every time, however, I was received by Porfirio who instructed me further. Every time my strength waned I restored it in the nagual until a time when I restored it so much that I found myself back on this earth."

"Dona Soledad told me that Eligio didn't have to jump into the abyss," I said.

"He jumped with Benigno," Nestor said. "Ask him, he'll tell you in his favorite voice."

I turned to Benigno and asked him about his jump.

"You bet we jumped together!" he replied in a blasting voice. "But I never talk about it."

"What did Soledad say Eligio did?" Nestor asked.

I told them that dona Soledad had said that Eligio was twirled by a wind and left the world while he was working in an open field.

"She's thoroughly confused," Nestor said. "Eligio was twirled by the allies. But he didn't want any of them, so they let him go. That has nothing to do with the jump. La Gorda said that you had a bout with allies last night; I don't know what you did, but if you had wanted to catch them or entice them to stay with you, you had to spin with them. Sometimes they come of their own accord to the sorcerer and spin him. Eligio was the best warrior there was so the allies came to him of their own accord. If any of us want the allies, we would have to beg them for years, and even if we did, I doubt that the allies would consider helping us.

"Eligio had to jump like everybody else. I witnessed his jump. He was paired with Benigno. A lot of what happens to us as sorcerers depends on what your partner does. Benigno is a bit off his rocker because his partner didn't come back. Isn't that so, Benigno?"

"You bet it is!" Benigno answered in his favorite voice.

I succumbed at that point to a great curiosity that had plagued me from the first time I had heard Benigno speak. I asked him how he made his booming voice. He turned to face me. He sat up straight and pointed to his mouth as if he wanted me to look fixedly at it.

"I don't know!" he boomed. "I just open my mouth and this voice comes out of it! "

He contracted the muscles of his forehead, curled up his lips and made a profound booing sound. I then saw that he had tremendous muscles in his temples, which had given his head a different contour. It was not his hairline that was different but the whole upper front part of his head.

"Genaro left him his noises," Nestor said to me. "Wait until he farts."

I had the feeling that Benigno was getting ready to demonstrate his abilities.

"Wait, wait, Benigno," I said, "it's not necessary."

"Oh, shucks!" Benigno exclaimed in a tone of disappointment. "I had the best one just for you."

Pablito and Nestor laughed so hard that even Benigno lost his deadpan expression and cackled with them.

"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."

His claim was staggering to me. I could not brush aside the memory of the vividness of the visions I had had, but for some strange reason I wanted to argue with him. Nestor, without giving me time to say anything, drove his point a notch further. He reminded me of one of my visions: the next to the last. That particular one had been the most nightmarish of them all. I had found myself being chased by a strange, unseen creature. I knew that it was there but I could not see it, not because it was invisible but because the world I was in was so incredibly unfamiliar that I could not tell what anything was. Whatever the elements of my vision were, they were certainly not from this earth. The emotional distress I experienced upon being lost in such a place was almost more than I could bear. At one moment, the surface where I stood began to shake. I felt that it was caving in under my feet and I grabbed a sort of branch, or an appendage of a thing that reminded me of a tree, which was hanging just above my head on a horizontal plane. The instant I touched it, the thing wrapped around my wrist, as if had been filled with nerves that sensed everything. I felt that I was being hoisted to a tremendous height. I looked down and saw an incredible animal; I knew it was the unseen creature that had been chasing me. It was coming out of a surface that looked like the ground. I could see its enormous mouth open like a cavern. I heard a chilling, thoroughly unearthly roar, something like a shrill, metallic gasp, and the tentacle that had me caught unraveled and I fell into that cavernous mouth, I saw every detail of that mouth as I was falling into it. Then it closed with me inside. I felt an instantaneous pressure that mashed my body.

"You have already died," Nestor said. "That animal ate you. You ventured beyond this world and found horror itself. Our life and our death are no more and no less real than your short life in that place and your death in the mouth of that monster. This life that we are having now is only a long vision. Don't you see?"

Nervous spasms ran through my body.

"I didn't go beyond this world," he went on, "but I know what I'm talking about. I don't have tales of horror like you. All I did was to visit Porfirio ten times. If it had been up to me I would've gone there forever, but my eleventh bounce was so powerful that it changed my direction. I felt that I had overshot Porfirio's hut, and instead of finding myself at his door, I found myself in the city, very close to the place of a friend of mine. I thought it was funny. I knew that I was journeying between the tonal and the nagual. Nobody had said to me that the journeys had to be of any special kind. So I got curious and decided to see my friend. I began to wonder if I really would get to see him. I came to his house and knocked on the door just as I had knocked scores of times. His wife let me in as she had always done and sure enough my friend was home. I told him that I had come to the city on business and he even paid me some money he owed me. I put the money in my pocket. I knew that my friend, and his wife, and the money, and his house, and the city were just like Porfirio's hut, a vision. I knew that a force beyond me was going to disintegrate me any moment. So I sat down to enjoy my friend to the fullest. We laughed and joked. And I dare say that I was funny and light and charming. I stayed there for a long time, waiting for the jolt; since it didn't come I decided to leave. I said good-bye and thanked him for the money and for his friendship. I walked away. I wanted to see the city before the force took me away. I wandered around all night. I walked all the way to the hills overlooking the city, and at the moment the sun rose a realization struck me like a thunderbolt. I was back in the world and the force that will disintegrate me was at ease and was going to let me stay for a while. I was going to see my homeland and this marvelous earth for a while longer. What a great joy. Maestro! But I couldn't say that I had not enjoyed Porfirio's friendship. Both visions are equal, but I prefer the vision of my form and my earth. It's my indulging perhaps."

Nestor stopped talking and all of them stared at me. I felt threatened as I had never been before. Some part of me was in awe of what he had said, another wanted to fight with him. I began to argue with him without any sense. My inane mood lasted for a few moments, then I became aware that Benigno was looking at me with a very mean expression. He had fixed his eyes on my chest. I felt that something ominous was suddenly pressing on my heart. I began to perspire as if a heater were right in front of my face. My ears began to buzz.

La Gorda walked up to me at that precise moment. She was a most unexpected sight. I was sure that the Genaros felt the same way. They stopped what they were doing and looked at her. Pablito was the first to recover from his surprise.

"Why do you have to come in like that?" he asked in a pleading tone. "You were listening from the other room, weren't you?"

She said that she had been in the house only a few minutes and then she stepped out to the kitchen. And the reason she stayed quiet was not so much to listen but to exercise her ability to be inconspicuous. Her presence had created a strange lull. I wanted to pick up again the flow of Nestor's revelations, but before I could say anything la Gorda said that the little sisters were on their way to the house and would be coming through the door any minute. The Genaros stood up at once as if they had been pulled by the same string. Pablito put his chair on his shoulder.

"Let's go for a hike in the dark. Maestro," Pablito said to me.

La Gorda said in a most imperative tone that I could not go with them yet because she had not finished telling me everything the Nagual had instructed her to tell me.

Pablito turned to me and winked.

"I've told you," he said. "They're bossy, gloomy bitches. I certainly hope you're not like that. Maestro."

Nestor and Benigno said good night and embraced me. Pablito just walked away carrying his chair like a backpack. They went out through the back.

A few seconds later a horribly loud bang on the front door made la Gorda and me jump to our feet. Pablito walked in again, carrying his chair.

"You thought I wasn't going to say good night, didn't you?" he asked me and left laughing.
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Re: The Second Ring of Power, by Carlos Castaneda

Postby admin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:05 am

Part 1 of 2

The Art of Dreaming

The next day I was by myself all morning. I worked on my notes, in the afternoon I used my car to help la Gorda and the little sisters transport the furniture from dona Soledad's house to their house.

In the early evening la Gorda and I sat in the dining area alone. We were silent for a while. I was very tired.

La Gorda broke the silence and said that all of them had been too complacent since the Nagual and Genaro had left. Each of them had been absorbed in his or her particular tasks. She said that the Nagual had commanded her to be an impassionate warrior and to follow whatever path her fate selected for her. If Soledad had stolen my power, la Gorda had to flee and try to save the little sisters and then join Benigno and Nestor, the only two Genaros who would have survived. If the little sisters had killed me, she had to join the Genaros because the little sisters would have had no more need to be with her. If I had not survived the attack of the allies and she did, she had to leave that area and be on her own. She told me, with a glint in her eye, that she had been sure that neither one of us would survive, and that that was why she had said goodbye to her sisters, to her house and to the hills.

"The Nagual told me that in case you and I survived the allies," she went on, "I have to do anything for you, because that would be my warrior's path. That was why I interfered with what Benigno was doing to you last night. He was pressing on your chest with his eyes. That is his art as a stalker. You saw Pablito's hand earlier yesterday; that was also part of the same art."

"What art is that, Gorda?"

"The art of the stalker. That was the Nagual's predilection and the Genaros are his true children at that. We, on the other hand, are dreamers. Your double is dreaming."

What she was saying was new to me. I wanted her to elucidate her statements. I paused for a moment to read what I had written in order to select the most appropriate question. I told her that I first wanted to find out what she knew about my double and then I wanted to know about the art of stalking.

"The Nagual told me that your double is something that takes a lot of power to come out," she said. "He figured that you might have enough energy to get it out of you twice. That's why he set up Soledad and the little sisters either to kill you or to help you."

La Gorda said that I had had more energy than the Nagual thought, and that my double came out three times. Apparently Rosa's attack had not been a thoughtless action; on the contrary, she had very cleverly calculated that if she injured me, I would have been helpless: the same ploy dona Soledad had tried with her dog. I had given Rosa a chance to strike me when I yelled at her, but she failed to injure me. My double came out and injured her instead. La Gorda said that Lidia had told her that Rosa did not want to wake up when all of us had to rush out of Soledad's house, so Lidia squeezed the hand that had been injured. Rosa did not feel any pain and knew in an instant that I had cured her, which meant to them that I had drained my power. La Gorda affirmed that the little sisters were very clever and had planned to drain me of power; to that effect they had kept on insisting that I cure Soledad. As soon as Rosa realized that I had also cured her, she thought that I had weakened myself beyond repair. All they had to do was to wait for Josefina in order to finish me off.

"The little sisters didn't know that when you cured Rosa and Soledad you also replenished yourself," la Gorda said, and laughed as if it were a joke. "That was why you had enough energy to get your double out a third time when the little sisters tried to take your luminosity."

I told her about the vision I had had of dona Soledad huddled against the wall of her room, and how I had merged that vision with my tactile sense and ended up feeling a viscous substance on her forehead.

"That was true seeing," la Gorda said. "You saw Soledad in her room although she was with me around Genaro's place, and then you saw your nagual on her forehead."

I felt compelled at that point to recount to her the details of my whole experience, especially the realization I had had that I was actually curing dona Soledad and Rosa by touching the viscous substance, which I felt was part of me.

"To see that thing on Rosa's hand was also true seeing," she said. "And you were absolutely right, that substance was yourself. It came out of your body and it was your nagual. By touching it, you pulled it back."

La Gorda told me then, as though she were unveiling a mystery, that the Nagual had commanded her not to disclose the fact that since all of us had the same luminosity, if my nagual touched one of them, I would not get weakened, as would ordinarily be the case if my nagual touched an average man.

"If your nagual touches us," she said, giving me a gentle slap on the head, "your luminosity stays on the surface. You can pick it up again and nothing is lost."

I told her that the content of her explanation was impossible for me to believe. She shrugged her shoulders as if saying that that was not any of her concern. I asked her then about her usage of the word nagual. I said that don Juan had explained the nagual to me as being the indescribable principle, the source of everything.

"Sure," she said smiling. "I know what he meant. The nagual is in everything."

I pointed out to her, a bit scornfully, that one could also say the opposite, that the tonal is in everything. She carefully explained that there was no opposition, that my statement was correct, the tonal was also in everything. She said that the tonal which is in everything could be easily apprehended by our senses, while the nagual which is in everything manifested itself only to the eye of the sorcerer. She added that we could stumble upon the most outlandish sights of the tonal and be scared of them, or awed by them, or be indifferent to them, because all of us could view those sights. A sight of the nagual, on the other hand, needed the specialized senses of a sorcerer in order to be seen at all. And yet, both the tonal and the nagual were present in everything at all times. It was appropriate, therefore, for a sorcerer to say that "looking" consisted in viewing the tonal which is in everything, and "seeing," on the other hand, consisted in viewing the nagual which also is in everything. Accordingly, if a warrior observed the world as a human being, he was looking, but if he observed it as a sorcerer, he was "seeing," and what he was "seeing" had to be properly called the nagual.

She then reiterated the reason, which Nestor had given me earlier, for calling don Juan the Nagual and confirmed that I was also the Nagual because of the shape that came out of my head.

I wanted to know why they had called the shape that had come out of my head the double. She said that they had thought they were sharing a private joke with me. They had always called that shape the double, because it was twice the size of the person who had it.

"Nestor told me that that shape was not such a good thing to have," I said.

"It's neither good nor bad," she said. "You have it and that makes you the Nagual. That's all. One of us eight had to be the Nagual and you're the one. It might have been Pablito or me or anyone."

"Tell me now, what is the art of stalking?" I asked.

"The Nagual was a stalker," she said, and peered at me. "You must know that. He taught you to stalk from the beginning."

It occurred to me that what she was referring to was what don Juan had called the hunter. He had certainly taught me to be a hunter. I told her that don Juan had shown me how to hunt and make traps. Her usage of the term stalker, however, was more accurate.

"A hunter just hunts," she said. "A stalker stalks anything, including himself."

"How does he do that?"

"An impeccable stalker can turn anything into prey. The Nagual told me that we can even stalk our own weaknesses."

I stopped writing and tried to remember if don Juan had ever presented me with such a novel possibility: to stalk my weaknesses. I could not recall him ever putting it in those terms.

"How can one stalk one's weaknesses, Gorda?"

"The same way you stalk prey. You figure out your routines until you know all the doing of your weaknesses and then you come upon them and pick them up like rabbits inside a cage."

Don Juan had taught me the same thing about routines, but in the vein of a general principle that hunters must be aware of. Her understanding and application of it, however, were more pragmatic than mine.

Don Juan had said that any habit was, in essence, a "doing, "and that a doing needed all its parts in order to function. If some parts were missing, a doing was disassembled. By doing, he meant any coherent and meaningful series of actions. In other words, a habit needed all its component actions in order to be a live activity.

La Gorda then described how she had stalked her own weakness of eating excessively. She said that the Nagual had suggested she first tackle the biggest part of that habit, which was connected with her laundry work; she ate whatever her customers fed her as she went from house to house delivering her wash. She expected the Nagual to tell her what to do, but he only laughed and made fun of her, saying that as soon as he would mention something for her to do, she would fight not to do it. He said that that was the way human beings are; they love to be told what to do, but they love even more to fight and not do what they are told, and thus they get entangled in hating the one who told them in the first place.

For many years she could not think of anything to do to stalk her weakness. One day, however, she got so sick and tired of being fat that she refused to eat for twenty-three days. That was the initial action that broke her fixation. She then had the idea of stuffing her mouth with a sponge to make her customers believe that she had an infected tooth and could not eat. The subterfuge worked not only with her customers, who stopped giving her food, but with her as well, as she had the feeling of eating as she chewed on the sponge. La Gorda laughed when she told me how she had walked around with a sponge stuffed in her mouth for years until her habit of eating excessively had been broken.

"Was that all you needed to stop your habit?" I asked.

"No. I also had to learn how to eat like a warrior."

"And how does a warrior eat?"

"A warrior eats quietly, and slowly, and very little at a time. I used to talk while I ate, and I ate very fast, and I ate lots and lots of food at one sitting. The Nagual told me that a warrior eats four mouthfuls of food at one time. A while later he eats another four mouthfuls and so on.

"A warrior also walks miles and miles every day. My eating weakness never let me walk. I broke it by eating four mouthfuls every hour and by walking. Sometimes I walked all day and all night. That was the way I lost the fat on my buttocks."

She laughed at her own recollection of the nickname don Juan had given her.

"But stalking your weaknesses is not enough to drop them," she said. "You can stalk them from now to doomsday and it won't make a bit of difference. That's why the Nagual didn't want to tell me what to do. What a warrior really needs in order to be an impeccable stalker is to have a purpose."

La Gorda recounted how she had lived from day to day, before she met the Nagual, with nothing to look forward to. She had no hopes, no dreams, no desire for anything. The opportunity to eat, however, was always accessible to her; for some reason that she could not fathom, there had been plenty of food available to her every single day of her life. So much of it, in fact, that at one time she weighed two hundred and thirty-six pounds.

"Eating was the only thing I enjoyed in life," la Gorda said. "Besides, I never saw myself as being fat. I thought I was rather pretty and that people liked me as I was. Everyone said that I looked healthy.

"The Nagual told me something very strange. He said that I had an enormous amount of personal power and due to that I had always managed to get food from friends while the relatives in my own house were going hungry.

"Everybody has enough personal power for something. The trick for me was to pull my personal power away from food to my warrior's purpose."

"And what is that purpose, Gorda?" I asked half in jest.

"To enter into the other world," she replied with a grin and pretended to hit me on top of my head with her knuckles, the way don Juan used to do when he thought I was indulging.

There was no more light for me to write. I wanted her to bring a lantern but she complained that she was too tired and had to sleep a bit before the little sisters arrived.

We went into the front room. She gave me a blanket, then wrapped herself in another one and fell asleep instantly. I sat with my back against the wall. The brick surface of the bed was hard even with four straw mats. It was more comfortable to lie down. The moment I did I fell asleep.

I woke up suddenly with an unbearable thirst. I wanted to go to the kitchen to drink some water but I could not orient myself in the darkness. I could feel la Gorda bundled up in her blanket next to me. I shook her two or three times and asked her to help me get some water. She grumbled some unintelligible words. She apparently was so sound asleep that she did not want to wake up. I shook her again and suddenly she woke up; only it was not la Gorda. Whoever I was shaking yelled at me in a gruff, masculine voice to shut up. There was a man there in place of la Gorda! My fright was instantaneous and uncontrollable. I jumped out of bed and ran for the front door. But my sense of orientation was off and I ended up out in the kitchen. I grabbed a lantern and lit it as fast as I could. La Gorda came out of the outhouse in the back at that moment and asked me if there was something wrong. I nervously told her what had happened. She seemed a bit disoriented herself. Her mouth was open and her eyes had lost their usual sheen. She shook her head vigorously and that seemed to restore her alertness. She took the lantern and we walked into the front room.

There was no one in the bed. La Gorda lit three more lanterns. She appeared to be worried. She told me to stay where I was, then she opened the door to their room. I noticed that there was light coming from inside. She closed the door again and said in a matter-of-fact tone not to worry, that it was nothing, and that she was going to make us something to eat. With the speed and efficiency of a short-order cook she made some food. She also made a hot chocolate drink with cornmeal. We sat across from each other and ate in complete silence.

The night was cold. It looked as if it was going to rain. The three kerosene lanterns that she had brought to the dining area cast a yellowish light that was very soothing. She took some boards that were stacked up on the floor, against the wall, and placed them vertically in a deep groove on the transverse supporting beam of the roof. There was a long slit in the floor parallel to the beam that served to hold the boards in place. The result was a portable wall that enclosed the dining area.

"Who was in the bed?" I asked.

"In bed, next to you, was Josefina, who else?" she replied as if savoring her words, and then laughed. "She's a master at jokes like that. For a moment I thought it was something else, but then I caught the scent that Josefina's body has when she's carrying out one of her pranks."

"What was she trying to do? Scare me to death?" I asked.

"You're not their favorite, you know," she replied. "They don't like to be taken out of the path they're familiar with. They hate the fact that Soledad is leaving. They don't want to understand that we are all leaving this area. It looks like our time is up. I knew that today. As I left the house I felt that those barren hills out there were making me tired. I had never felt that way until today."

"Where are you going to go?"

"I don't know yet. It looks as if that depends on you. On your power."

"On me? In what way, Gorda?"

"Let me explain. The day before you arrived the little sisters and I went to the city. I wanted to find you in the city because I had a very strange vision in my dreaming. In that vision I was in the city with you. I saw you in my vision as plainly as I see you now. You didn't know who I was but you talked to me. I couldn't make out what you said. I went back to the same vision three times but I was not strong enough in my dreaming to find out what you were saying to me. I figured that my vision was telling me that I had to go to the city and trust my power to find you there. I was sure that you were on your way."

"Did the little sisters know why you took them to the city?" I asked.

"I didn't tell them anything," she replied. "I just took them there. We wandered around the streets all morning."

Her statements put me in a very strange frame of mind. Spasms of nervous excitation ran through my entire body. I had to stand up and walk around for a moment. I sat down again and told her that I had been in the city the same day, and that I had wandered around the marketplace all afternoon looking for don Juan. She stared at me with her mouth open.

"We must have passed each other," she said and sighed. "We were in the market and in the park. We sat on the steps of the church most of the afternoon so as not to attract attention to ourselves."

The hotel where I had stayed was practically next door to the church. I remembered that I had stood for a long time looking at the people on the steps of the church. Something was pulling me to examine them. I had the absurd notion that both don Juan and don Genaro were going to be among those people, sitting like beggars just to surprise me.

"When did you leave the city?" I asked.

"We left around five o'clock and headed for the Nagual's spot in the mountains," she replied.

I had also had the certainty that don Juan had left at the end of the day. The feelings I had had during that entire episode of looking for don Juan became very clear to me. In light of what she had told me I had to revise my stand. I had conveniently explained away the certainty I had had that don Juan was there in the streets of the city as an irrational expectation, a result of my consistently finding him there in the past. But la Gorda had been in the city actually looking for me and she was the being closest to don Juan in temperament. I had felt all along that his presence was there. La Gorda's statement had merely confirmed something that my body knew beyond the shadow of a doubt.

I noticed a flutter of nervousness in her body when I told her the details of my mood that day.

"What would've happened if you had found me?" I asked.

"Everything would've been changed," she replied. "For me to find you would've meant that I had enough power to move forward. That's why I took the little sisters with me. All of us, you, me and the little sisters, would've gone away together that day."

"Where to, Gorda?"

"Who knows? If I had the power to find you I would've also had the power to know that. It's your turn now. Perhaps you will have enough power now to know where we should go. Do you see what I mean?"

I had an attack of profound sadness at that point. I felt more acutely than ever the despair of my human frailty and temporariness. Don Juan had always maintained that the only deterrent to our despair was the awareness of our death, the key to the sorcerer's scheme of things. His idea was that the a wareness of our death was the only thing that could give us the strength to withstand the duress and pain of our lives and our fears of the unknown. But what he could never tell me was how to bring that awareness to the foreground. He had insisted, every time I had asked him, that my volition alone was the deciding factor; in other words, I had to make up my mind to bring that awareness to bear witness to my acts. I thought I had done so. But confronted with la Gorda's determination to find me and go away with me, I realized that if she had found me in the city that day I would never have returned to my home, never again would I have seen those I held dear. I had not been prepared for that. I had braced myself for dying, but not for disappearing for the rest of my life in full awareness, without anger or disappointment, leaving behind the best of my feelings.

I was almost embarrassed to tell la Gorda that I was not a warrior worthy of having the kind of power that must be needed to perform an act of that nature: to leave for good and to know where to go and what to do.

"We are human creatures," she said. "Who knows what's waiting for us or what kind of power we may have?"

I told her that my sadness in leaving like that was too great. The changes that sorcerers went through were too drastic and too final. I recounted to her what Pablito had told me about his unbearable sadness at having lost his mother.

"The human form feeds itself on those feelings," she said dryly. "I pitied myself and my little children for years. I couldn't understand how the Nagual could be so cruel to ask me to do what I did: to leave my children, to destroy them and to forget them."

She said that it took her years to understand that the Nagual also had had to choose to leave the human form. He was not being cruel. He simply did not have any more human feelings. To him everything was equal. He had accepted his fate. The problem with Pablito, and myself for that matter, was that neither of us had accepted our fate. La Gorda said, in a scornful way, that Pablito wept when he remembered his mother, his Manuelita, especially when he had to cook his own food. She urged me to remember Pablito's mother as she was: an old, stupid woman who knew nothing else but to be Pablito's servant. She said that the reason all of them thought he was a coward was because he could not be happy that his servant Manuelita had become the witch Soledad, who could kill him like she would step on a bug.

La Gorda stood up dramatically and leaned over the table until her forehead was almost touching mine.

"The Nagual said that Pablito's good fortune was extraordinary," she said. "Mother and son fighting for the same thing. If he weren't the coward he is, he would accept his fate and oppose Soledad like a warrior, without fear or hatred. In the end the best would win and take all. If Soledad is the winner, Pablito should be happy with his fate and wish her well. But only a real warrior can feel that kind of happiness."

"How does dona Soledad feel about all this?"

"She doesn't indulge in her feelings," la Gorda replied and sat down again. "She has accepted her fate more readily than any one of us. Before the Nagual helped her she was worse off than myself. At least I was young; she was an old cow, fat and tired, begging for her death to come. Now death will have to fight to claim her."

The time element in dona Soledad's transformation was a detail that had puzzled me. I told la Gorda that I remembered having seen dona Soledad no more than two years before and she was the same old lady I had always known. La Gorda said that the last time I had been in Soledad's house, under the impression that it was still Pablito's house, the Nagual had set them up to act as if everything were the same. Dona Soledad greeted me, as she always did, from the kitchen, and I really did not face her. Lidia, Rosa, Pablito and Nestor played their roles to perfection in order to keep me from finding out about their true activities.

"Why would the Nagual go to all that trouble, Gorda?"

"He was saving you for something that's not clear yet. He kept you away from every one of us deliberately. He and Genaro told me never to show my face when you were around."

"Did they tell Josefina the same thing? "

"Yes. She's crazy and can't help herself. She wanted to play her pranks on you. She used to follow you around and you never knew it. One night when the Nagual had taken you to the mountains, she nearly pushed you down a ravine in the darkness. The Nagual found her in the nick of time. She doesn't do those things out of meanness, but because she enjoys being that way. That's her human form. She'll be that way until she loses it. I've told you that all six of them are a bit off. You must be aware of that so as not to be caught in their webs. If you do get caught, don't get angry. They can't help themselves."

She was silent for a while. I caught the almost imperceptible sign of a flutter in her body. Her eyes seemed to get out of focus and her mouth dropped as if the muscles of her jaw had given in. I became engrossed in watching her. She shook her head two or three times.

"I've just seen something," she said. "You're just like the little sisters and the Genaros."

She began to laugh quietly. I did not say anything. I wanted her to explain herself without my meddling.

"Everybody gets angry with you because it hasn't dawned on them yet that you're no different than they are," she went on. "They see you as the Nagual and they don't understand that you indulge in your ways just like they do in theirs."

She said that Pablito whined and complained and played at being a weakling. Benigno played the shy one, the one who could not even open his eyes. Nestor played to be the wise one, the one who knows everything. Lidia played the tough woman who could crush anyone with a look. Josefina was the crazy one who could not be trusted. Rosa was the bad-tempered girl who ate the mosquitoes that bit her. And I was the fool that came from Los Angeles with a pad of paper and lots of wrong questions. And all of us loved to be the way we were.

"I was once a fat, smelly woman," she went on after a pause. "I didn't mind being kicked around like a dog as long as I was not alone. That was my form.

"I will have to tell everybody what I have seen about you so they won't feel offended by your acts."

I did not know what to say. I felt that she was undeniably right. The important issue for me was not so much her accurateness but the fact that I had witnessed her arriving at her unquestionable conclusion.

"How did you see all that?" I asked.

"It just came to me," she replied.

"How did it come to you?"

"I felt the feeling of seeing coming to the top of my head, and then I knew what I've just told you."

I insisted that she describe to me every detail of the feeling of seeing that she was alluding to. She complied after a moment's vacillation and gave me an account of the same ticklish sensation I had become so aware of during my confrontations with dona Soledad and the little sisters. La Gorda said that the sensation started on the top of her head and then went down her back and around her waist to her womb. She felt it inside her body as a consuming ticklishness, which turned into the knowledge that I was clinging to my human form, like all the rest, except that my particular way was incomprehensible to them.

"Did you hear a voice telling you all that?" I asked.

"No. I just saw everything I've told you about yourself," she replied.

I wanted to ask her if she had had a vision of me clinging to something, but I desisted. I did not want to indulge in my usual behavior. Besides, I knew what she meant when she said that she "saw." The same thing had happened to me when I was with Rosa and Lidia. I suddenly "knew" where they lived; I had not had a vision of their house. I simply felt that I knew it.

I asked her if she had also felt a dry sound of a wooden pipe being broken at the base of her neck.

"The Nagual taught all of us how to get the feeling on top of the head," she said. "But not everyone of us can do it. The sound behind the throat is even more difficult. None of us has ever felt it yet. It's strange that you have when you're still empty."

"How does that sound work?" I asked. "And what is it?"

"You know that better than I do. What more can I tell you?" she replied in a harsh voice.

She seemed to catch herself being impatient. She smiled sheepishly and lowered her head.

"I feel stupid telling you what you already know," she said. "Do you ask me questions like that to test if I have really lost my form?"

I told her that I was confused, for I had the feeling that I knew what that sound was and yet it was as if I did not know anything about it, because for me to know something I actually had to be able to verbalize my knowledge. In this case, I did not even know how to begin verbalizing it. The only thing I could do, therefore, was to ask her questions, hoping that her answers would help me.

"I can't help you with that sound," she said.

I experienced a sudden and tremendous discomfort. I told her that I was habituated to dealing with don Juan and that I needed him then, more than ever, to explain everything to me.

"Do you miss the Nagual?" she asked.

I said that I did, and that I had not realized how much I missed him until I was back again in his homeland.

"You miss him because you're still clinging to your human form," she said, and giggled as if she were delighted at my sadness.

"Don't you miss him yourself, Gorda?"

"No. Not me. I'm him. All my luminosity has been changed; how could I miss something that is myself?"

"How is your luminosity different?"

"A human being, or any other living creature, has a pale yellow glow. Animals are more yellow, humans are more white. But a sorcerer is amber, like clear honey in the sunlight. Some women sorceresses are greenish. The Nagual said that those are the most powerful and the most difficult."

"What color are you, Gorda?"

"Amber, just like you and all the rest of us. That's what the Nagual and Genaro told me. I've never seen myself. But I've seen everyone else. All of us are amber. And all of us, with the exception of you, are like a tombstone. Average human beings are like eggs; that's why the Nagual called them luminous eggs. Sorcerers change not only the color of their luminosity but their shape. We are like tombstones; only we are round at both ends."

"Am I still shaped like an egg, Gorda?"

"No. You're shaped like a tombstone, except that you have an ugly, dull patch in your middle. As long as you have that patch you won't be able to fly, like sorcerers fly, like I flew last night for you. You won't even be able to drop your human form."

I became entangled in a passionate argument not so much with her as with myself. I insisted that their stand on how to regain that alleged completeness was simply preposterous. I told her that she could not possibly argue successfully with me that one had to turn one's back to one's own children in order to pursue the vaguest of all possible goals: to enter into the world of the nagual. I was so thoroughly convinced that I was right that I got carried away and shouted angry words at her. She was not in any way flustered by my outburst.

"Not everybody has to do that," she said. "Only sorcerers who want to enter into the other world. There are plenty of good sorcerers who see and are incomplete. To be complete is only for us Toltecs.

"Take Soledad, for instance. She's the best witch you can find and she's incomplete. She had two children; one of them was a girl. Fortunately for Soledad her daughter died. The Nagual said that the edge of the spirit of a person who dies goes back to the givers, meaning that that edge goes back to the parents. If the givers are dead and the person has children, the edge goes to the child who is complete. And if all the children are complete, that edge goes to the one with power and not necessarily to the best or the most diligent. For example, when Josefina's mother died, the edge went to the craziest of the lot, Josefina. It should have gone to her brother who is a hardworking, responsible man, but Josefina is more powerful than her brother. Soledad's daughter died without leaving any children and Soledad got a boost that closed half her hole. Now, the only hope she has to close it completely is for Pablito to die. And by the same token, Pablito's great hope for a boost is for Soledad to die."

I told her in very strong terms that what she was saying was disgusting and horrifying to me. She agreed that I was right. She affirmed that at one time she herself had believed that that particular sorcerers' stand was the ugliest thing possible. She looked at me with shining eyes. There was something malicious about her grin.

"The Nagual told me that you understand everything but you don't want to do anything about it," she said in a soft voice.

I began to argue again. I told her that what the Nagual had said about me had nothing to do with my revulsion for the particular stand that we were discussing. I explained that I liked children, that I had the most profound respect for them, and that I empathized very deeply with their helplessness in the awesome world around them. I could not conceive hurting a child in any sense, not for any reason.

"The Nagual didn't make the rule," she said. "The rule is made somewhere out there, and not by a man."

I defended myself by saying that I was not angry with her or the Nagual but that I was arguing in the abstract, because I could not fathom the value of it all.

"The value is that we need all our edge, all our power, our completeness in order to enter into that other world," she said. "I was a religious woman. I could tell you what I used to repeat without knowing what I meant. I wanted my soul to enter the kingdom of heaven. I still want that, except that I'm on a different path. The world of the nagual is the kingdom of heaven."

I objected to her religious connotation on principle. I had become accustomed by don Juan never to dwell on that subject. She very calmly explained that she saw no difference in terms of life-style between us and true nuns and priests. She pointed out that not only were true nuns and priests complete as a rule, but they did not even weaken themselves with sexual acts.

"The Nagual said that that is the reason they will never be exterminated, no matter who tries to exterminate them," she said. "Those who are after them are always empty; they don't have the vigor that true nuns and priests have. I liked the Nagual for saying that. I will always cheer for the nuns and priests. We are alike. We have given up the world and yet we are in the midst of it. Priests and nuns would make great flying sorcerers if someone would tell them that they can do it."

The memory of my father's and my grandfather's admiration for the Mexican revolution came to my mind. They mostly admired the attempt to exterminate the clergy. My father inherited that admiration from his father and I inherited it from both of them. It was a sort of affiliation that we had. One of the first things that don Juan undermined in my personality was that affiliation.

I once told don Juan, as if I were voicing my own opinion, something I had heard all my life, that the favorite ploy of the Church was to keep us in ignorance. Don Juan had a most serious expression on his face. It was as if my statements had touched a deep fiber in him. I thought immediately of the centuries of exploitation that the Indians had endured.

"Those dirty bastards," he said. "They have kept me in ignorance, and you too."

I caught his irony tight away and we both laughed. I had never really examined that stand. I did not believe it but I had nothing else to take its place. I told don Juan about my grandfather and my father and their views on religion as the liberal men they were.

"It doesn't matter what anybody says or does," he said. "You must be an impeccable man yourself. The fight is right here in this chest."

He patted my chest gently.

"If your grandfather and father would be trying to be impeccable warriors," don Juan went on, "they wouldn't have time for petty fights. It takes all the time and all the energy we have to conquer the idiocy in us. And that's what matters. The rest is of no importance. Nothing of what your grandfather or father said about the Church gave them well-being. To be an impeccable warrior, on the other hand, will give you vigor and youth and power. So, it is proper for you to choose wisely."

My choice was the impeccability and simplicity of a warrior's life. Because of that choice I felt that I had to take la Gorda's words in a most serious manner and that was more threatening to me than even don Genaro's acts. He used to frighten me at a most profound level. His actions, although certifying, were assimilated, however, into the coherent continuum of their teachings. La Gorda's words and actions were a different kind of threat to me, somehow more concrete and real than the other.

La Gorda's body shivered for a moment. A ripple went through it, making her contract the muscles of her shoulders and arms. She grabbed the edge of the table with an awkward rigidity. Then she relaxed until she was again her usual self.

She smiled at me. Her eyes and smile were dazzling. She said in a casual tone that she had just "seen" my dilemma.

"It's useless to close your eyes and pretend that you don't want to do anything or that you don't know anything," she said. "You can do that with people but not with me. I know now why the Nagual commissioned me to tell you all this. I'm a nobody. You admire great people; the Nagual and Genaro were the greatest of all."

She stopped and examined me. She seemed to be waiting for my reaction to what she said.

"You fought against what the Nagual and Genaro told you, all the way," she went on. "That's why you're behind. And you fought them because they were great. That's your particular way of being. But you can't fight against what I tell you, because you can't look up to me at all. I am your peer; I am in your cycle. You like to fight those who are better than you. It's no challenge to fight my stand. So, those two devils have finally bagged you through me. Poor little Nagual, you've lost the game."

She came closer to me and whispered in my ear that the Nagual had also said that she should never try to take my writing pad away from me because that would be as dangerous as trying to snatch a bone from a hungry dog's mouth.

She put her arms around me, resting her head on my shoulders, and laughed quietly and softly.

Her "seeing" had numbed me. I knew that she was absolutely right. She had pegged me to perfection. She bugged me for a long time with her head against mine. The proximity of her body somehow was very soothing. She was just like don Juan at that. She exuded strength and conviction and purpose. She was wrong to say that I could not admire her.

"Let's forget this," she said suddenly. "Let's talk about what we have to do tonight."

"What exactly are we going to do tonight, Gorda?"

"We have our last appointment with power."

"Is it another dreadful battle with somebody?"

"No. The little sisters are simply going to show you something that will complete your visit here. The Nagual told me that after that you may go away and never return, or that you may choose to stay with us. Either way, what they have to show you is their art. The art of the dreamer."

"And what is that art? "

"Genaro told me that he tried time and time again to acquaint you with the art of the dreamer. He showed you his other body, his body of dreaming; once he even made you be in two places at once, but your emptiness did not let you see what he was pointing out to you. It looks as if all his efforts went through the hole in your body.

"Now it seems that it is different. Genaro made the little sisters the dreamers that they are and tonight they will show you Genaro's art. In that respect, the little sisters are the true children of Genaro."

That reminded me of what Pablito had said earlier, that we were the children of both, and that we were Toltecs. I asked her what he had meant by that.

"The Nagual told me that sorcerers used to be called Toltecs in his benefactor's language," she replied.

"And what language was that, Gorda?"

"He never told me. But he and Genaro used to speak a language that none of us could understand. And here, between all of us, we understand four Indian languages."

"Did don Genaro also say that he was a Toltec?"

"His benefactor was the same man, so he also said the same thing."

From la Gorda's responses I could surmise that she either did not know a great deal on the subject or she did not want to talk to me about it. I confronted her with my conclusions. She confessed that she had never paid much attention to it and wondered why I was putting so much value on it. I practically gave her a lecture on the ethnography of central Mexico.

"A sorcerer is a Toltec when that sorcerer has received the mysteries of stalking and dreaming," she said casually. "The Nagual and Genaro received those mysteries from their benefactor and then they held them in their bodies. We are doing the same, and because of that we are Toltecs like the Nagual and Genaro.

"The Nagual taught you and me equally to be dispassionate. I am more dispassionate than you because I'm formless. You still have your form and are empty, so you get caught in every snag. One day, however, you'll be complete again and you'll understand then that the Nagual was right. He said that the world of people goes up and down and people go up and down with their world; as sorcerers we have no business following them in their ups and downs.

"The art of sorcerers is to be outside everything and be unnoticeable. And more than anything else, the art of sorcerers is never to waste their power. The Nagual told me that your problem is that you always get caught in idiocies, like what you're doing now. I'm sure that you're going to ask everyone of us about the Toltecs, but you're not going to ask anyone of us about our attention."

Her laughter was clear and contagious. I admitted to her that she was right. Small issues had always fascinated me. I also told her that I was mystified by her usage of the word attention.

"I've told you already what the Nagual told me about attention," she said. "We hold the images of the world with our attention. A male sorcerer is very difficult to train because his attention is always closed, focused on something. A female, on the other hand, is always open because most of the time she is not focusing her attention on anything. Especially during her menstrual period. The Nagual told me and then showed me that during that time I could actually let my attention go from the images of the world. If I don't focus my attention on the world, the world collapses."

"How is that done, Gorda?"

"It's very simple. When a woman menstruates she cannot focus her attention. That's the crack the Nagual told me about. Instead of fighting to focus, a woman should let go of the images, by gazing fixedly at distant hills, or by gazing at water, like a river, or by gazing at the clouds.

"If you gaze with your eyes open, you get dizzy and the eyes get tired, but if you half-close them and blink a lot and move them from mountain to mountain, or from cloud to cloud, you can look for hours, or days if necessary.

"The Nagual used to make us sit by the door and gaze at those round hills on the other side of the valley. Sometimes we used to sit there for days until the crack would open."

I wanted to hear more about it, but she stopped talking and hurriedly sat very close to me. She signaled me with her hand to listen. I heard a faint swishing sound and suddenly Lidia stepped out into the kitchen. I thought that she must have been asleep in their room and the sound of our voices had woken her up.

She had changed the Western clothes she had been wearing the last time I had seen her and had put on a long dress like the Indian women of the area wore. She had a shawl on her shoulders and was barefoot. Her long dress, instead of making her look older and heavier, made her look like a child clad in an older woman's clothes.

She walked up to the table and greeted la Gorda with a formal "Good evening, Gorda." She then turned to me and said, "Good evening, Nagual."

Her greeting was so unexpected and her tone so serious that I was about to laugh. I caught a warning from la Gorda. She pretended to be scratching the top of her head with the back of her left hand, which was clawed.

I answered Lidia the same way la Gorda had: "Good evening to you, Lidia."

She sat down at the end of the table to the right of me. I did not know whether or not to start up a conversation. I was about to say something when la Gorda tapped my leg with her knee, and with a subtle movement of her eyebrows signaled me to listen. I heard again the muffled sound of a long dress as it touched the floor. Josefina stood for a moment at the door before walking toward the table. She greeted Lidia, la Gorda and myself in that order. I could not keep a straight face with her. She was also wearing a long dress, a shawl and no shoes, but in her case the dress was three or four sizes larger and she had put a thick padding into it. Her appearance was thoroughly incongruous; her face was lean and young, but her body looked grotesquely bloated.

She took a bench and placed it at the left end of the table and sat down. All three of them looked extremely serious. They were sitting with their legs pressed together and their backs very straight.

I heard once more the rustle of a dress and Rosa come out. She was dressed just like the others and was also barefoot. Her greeting was as formal and the order naturally included Josefina. Everyone answered her in the same formal tone. She sat across the table facing me. All of us remained in absolute silence for quite a while.

La Gorda spoke suddenly, and the sound of her voice made everyone else jump. She said, pointing to me, that the Nagual was going to show them his allies, and that he was going to use his special call to bring them into the room.
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Re: The Second Ring of Power, by Carlos Castaneda

Postby admin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:05 am

Part 2 of 2

I tried to make a joke and said that the Nagual was not there, so he could not bring any allies. I thought they were going to laugh. La Gorda covered her face and the little sisters glared at me. La Gorda put her hand on my mouth and whispered in my ear that it was absolutely necessary that I refrain from saying idiotic things. She looked right into my eyes and said that I had to call the allies by making the moths' call.

I reluctantly began. But no sooner had I started than the spirit of the occasion took over and I found that in a matter of seconds I had given my maximum concentration to producing the sound. I modulated its outflow and controlled the air being expelled from my lungs in order to produce the longest possible tapping. It sounded very melodious.

I took an enormous gasp of air to start a new series. I stopped immediately. Something outside the house was answering my call. The tapping sounds came from all around the house, even from the roof. The little sisters stood up and huddled like frightened children around la Gorda and myself.

"Please, Nagual, don't bring anything into the house," Lidia pleaded with me.

Even la Gorda seemed a bit frightened. She gave me a strong command with her hand to stop. I had not intended to keep on producing the sound anyway. The allies, however, either as formless forces or as beings that were prowling outside the door, were not dependent on my tapping sound. I felt again, as I had felt two nights before in don Genaro's house, an unbearable pressure, a heaviness leaning against the entire house. I could sense it in my navel as an itch, a nervousness that soon turned into sheer physical anguish.

The three little sisters were beside themselves with fear, especially Lidia and Josefina. Both of them were whining like wounded dogs. All of them surrounded me and then clung to me. Rosa crawled under the table and pushed her head up between my legs. La Gorda stood behind me as calmly as she could. After a few moments the hysteria and fear of those three girls mounted to enormous proportions. La Gorda leaned over and whispered that I should make the opposite sound, the sound that would disperse them. I had a moment of supreme uncertainty. I really did not know any other sound. But then I had a quick sensation of ticklishness on the top of my head, a shiver in my body, and I remembered out of nowhere a peculiar whistling that don Juan used to perform at night and had endeavored to teach me. He had presented it to me as a means to keep one's balance while walking so as not to stray away from the trail in the darkness.

I began my whistling and the pressure in my umbilical region ceased. La Gorda smiled and sighed with relief and the little sisters moved away from my side, giggling as if all of it had been merely a joke. I wanted to indulge in some soulsearching deliberations about the abrupt transition from the rather pleasant exchange I was having with la Gorda to that unearthly situation. For an instant I pondered over whether or not the whole thing was a ploy on their part. But I was too weak. I felt I was about to pass out. My ears were buzzing. The tension around my stomach was so intense that I believed I was going to become ill right there. I rested my head on the edge of the table. After a few minutes, however, I was again relaxed enough to sit up straight.

The three girls seemed to have forgotten how frightened they had been. In fact, they were laughing and pushing each other as they each tied their shawls around their hips. La Gorda did not seem nervous nor did she seem relaxed. Rosa was pushed at one moment by the other two girls and fell off the bench where all three of them were sitting. She landed on her seat. I thought that she was going to get furious but she giggled. I looked at la Gorda for directions. She Was sitting with a very straight back. Her eyes were half-closed, fixed on Rosa. The little sisters were laughing very loudly, like nervous schoolgirls. Lidia pushed Josefina and sent her tumbling over the bench to fall next to Rosa on the floor. The instant Josefina was on the floor their laughter stopped. Rosa and Josefina shook their bodies, making an incomprehensible movement with their buttocks; they moved them from side to side as if they were grinding something against the floor. Then they sprang up like two silent jaguars and took Lidia by the arms. All three of them, without making the slightest noise, spun around a couple of times. Rosa and Josefina lifted Lidia by the armpits and carried her as they tiptoed two or three times around the table. Then all three of them collapsed as if they had springs on their knees that had contracted at the same time. Their long dresses puffed up, giving them the appearance of huge balls.

As soon as they were on the floor they became even more quiet. There was no other sound except the soft swishing of their dresses as they rolled and crawled. It was as if I were watching a three-dimensional movie with the sound turned off.

La Gorda, who had been quietly sitting next to me watching them, suddenly stood up and with the agility of an acrobat ran toward the door of their room at the corner of the dining area. Before she reached the door she tumbled on her right side and shoulder just enough to turn over once, then stood up, pulled by the momentum of her rolling, and flung open the door. She performed all her movements with absolute quietness.

The three girls rolled and crawled into the room like giant pill bugs. La Gorda signaled me to come over to where she was; we entered the room and she had me sit on the floor with my back against the frame of the door. She sat to my right with her back also against the frame. She made me interlock my fingers and then placed my hands over my belly button.

I was at first forced to divide my attention between la Gorda, the little sisters and the room. But once la Gorda had arranged my sitting position, my attention was taken up by the room. The three girls were lying in the middle of a large, white, square room with a brick floor. There were four gasoline lanterns, one on each wall, placed on built-in supporting ledges approximately six feet above the ground. The room had no ceiling. The supporting beams of the roof had been darkened and that gave the effect of an enormous room with no top. The two doors were placed on the very corners opposite each other. As I looked at the closed door across from where I was, I noticed that the walls of the room were oriented to follow the cardinal points. The door where we were was at the northwest corner.

Rosa, Lidia and Josefina rolled counterclockwise around the room several times. I strained to hear the swish of their dresses but the silence was absolute. I could only hear la Gorda breathing. The little sisters finally stopped and sat down with their backs against the wall, each under a lantern. Lidia sat at the east wall, Rosa, at the north and Josefina, at the west.

La Gorda stood up, closed the door behind us and secured it with an iron bar. She made me slide over a few inches, without changing my position, until I was sitting with my back against the door. Then she silently rolled the length of the room and sat down underneath the lantern on the south wall; her getting into that sitting position seemed to be the cue.

Lidia stood up and began to walk on the tips of her toes along the edges of the room, close to the walls. It was not a walk proper but rather a soundless sliding. As she increased her speed she began to move as if she were gliding, stepping on the angle between the floor and the walls. She would jump over Rosa, Josefina, la Gorda and myself every time she got to where we were sitting. I felt her long dress brushing me every time she went by. The faster she ran, the higher she got on the wall. A moment came when Lidia was actually running silently around the four walls of the room seven or eight feet above the floor. The sight of her, running perpendicular to the walls, was so unearthly that it bordered on the grotesque. Her long gown made the sight even more eerie. Gravity did not seem to have any effect on Lidia, but it did on her long skirt; it dragged downward. I felt it every time she passed over my head, sweeping my face like a hanging drape.

She had captured my attentiveness at a level I could not imagine. The strain of giving her my undivided attention was so great that I began to get stomach convulsions; I felt her running with my stomach. My eyes were getting out of focus. With the last bit of my remaining concentration, I saw Lidia walk down on the east wall diagonally and come to a halt in the middle of the room.

She was panting, out of breath, and drenched in perspiration like la Gorda had been after her flying display. She could hardly keep her balance. After a moment she walked to her place at the east wall and collapsed on the floor like a wet rag. I thought she had fainted, but then I noticed that she was deliberately breathing through her mouth.

After some minutes of stillness, long enough for Lidia to recover her strength and sit up straight, Rosa stood up and ran without making a sound to the center of the room, turned on her heels and ran back to where she had been sitting. Her running allowed her to gain the necessary momentum to make an outlandish jump. She leaped up in the air, like a basketball player, along the vertical span of the wall, and her hands went beyond the height of the wall, which was perhaps ten feet. I saw her body actually hitting the wall, although there was no corresponding crashing sound. I expected her to rebound to the floor with the force of the impact, but she remained hanging there, attached to the wall like a pendulum. From where I sat it looked as if she were holding a hook of some sort in her left hand. She swayed silently in a pendulum-like motion for a moment and then catapulted herself three or four feet over to her left by pushing her body away from the wall with her right arm, at the moment in which her swing was the widest. She repeated the swaying and catapulting thirty or forty times. She went around the whole room and then she went up to the beams of the roof where she dangled precariously, hanging from an invisible hook.

While she was on the beams I became aware that what I had thought was a hook in her left hand was actually some quality of that hand that made it possible for her to suspend her weight from it. It was the same hand she had attacked me with two nights before.

Her display ended with her dangling from the beams over the very center of the room. Suddenly she let go. She fell down from a height of fifteen or sixteen feet. Her long dress flowed upward and gathered around her head. For an instant, before she landed without a sound, she looked like an umbrella turned inside out by the force of the wind; her thin, naked body looked like a stick attached to the dark mass of her dress.

My body felt the impact of her plummeting down, perhaps more than she did herself. She landed in a squat position and remained motionless, trying to catch her breath. I was sprawled out on the floor with painful cramps in my stomach.

La Gorda rolled across the room, took her shawl and tied it around my umbilical region, like a band, looping it around my body two or three times. She rolled back to the south wall like a shadow.

While she had been arranging the shawl around my waist, I had lost sight of Rosa. When I looked up she was again sitting by the north wall. A moment later, Josefina quietly moved to the center of the room. She paced back and forth with noiseless steps, between where Lidia was sitting and her own spot at the west wall. She faced me all the time. Suddenly, as she approached her spot, she raised her left forearm and placed it right in front of her face, as if she wanted to block me from her view. She hid half of her face for an instant behind her forearm. She lowered it and raised it again, that time hiding her entire face. She repeated the movement of lowering and raising her left forearm countless times, as she paced soundlessly from one side of the room to the other. Every time she raised her forearm a bigger portion of her body disappeared from my view. A moment came when she had hidden her entire body, puffed up with clothes, behind her thin forearm.

It was as if by blocking her view of my body, sitting ten to twelve feet away from her, a thing she could have easily done with the width of her forearm, she also made me block the view of her body, a thing which could not possibly be done with just the width of her forearm.

Once she had hidden her entire body, all I was able to make out was a silhouette of a forearm suspended in midair, bouncing from one side of the room to the other, and at one point I could hardly see the arm itself.

I felt a revulsion, an unbearable nausea. The bouncing forearm depleted me of energy. I slid down on my side, unable to keep my balance. I saw the arm falling to the ground. Josefina was lying on the floor covered with garments, as if her puffed-up clothes had exploded. She lay on her back with her arms spread out.

It took a long time to get back my physical balance. My clothes were soaked in perspiration. I was not the only one affected. All of them were exhausted and drenched in sweat. La Gorda was the most poised, but her control seemed to be on the verge of collapsing. I could hear all of them, including la Gorda, breathing through their mouths.

When I was in full control again everybody sat on her spot. The little sisters were looking at me fixedly. I saw out of the corner of my eye that la Gorda's eyes were half-closed. She suddenly rolled noiselessly to my side and whispered in my ear that I should begin to make my moth call, keeping it up until the allies had rushed into the house and were about to take us.

I had a moment of vacillation. She whispered that there was no way to change directions, and that we had to finish what we had started. After untying her shawl from my waist, she rolled back to her spot and sat down.

I put my left hand to my lips and tried to produce the tapping sound. I found it very difficult at first. My lips were dry and my hands were sweaty, but after an initial clumsiness, a feeling of vigor and well-being came over me. I produced the most flawless tapping noise I had ever done. It reminded me of the tapping noise I had been hearing all along as a response to mine. As soon as I stopped to breathe, I could hear the tapping sound being answered from all directions.

La Gorda signaled me to go on with it. I produced three more series. The last one was utterly mesmeric. I did not need to intake a gulp of air and let it out in small spurts, as I had been doing all along. This time the tapping sound came out of my mouth freely. I did not even have to use the edge of my hand to produce it.

La Gorda suddenly rushed to me, lifted me up bodily by my armpits and pushed me to the middle of the room. Her action disrupted my absolute concentration. I noticed that Lidia was holding onto my right arm, Josefina to my left, and Rosa had backed up against the front of me and was holding me by the waist with her arms extended backward. La Gorda was in back of me. She ordered me to put my arms behind and grab onto her shawl, which she had looped around her neck and shoulders like a harness.

I noticed at that moment that something besides us was there in the room, but I could not tell what it was. The little sisters were shivering. I knew that they were aware of something which I was unable to distinguish. I also knew that la Gorda was going to try to do what she had done in don Genaro's house. All of a sudden, I felt the wind of the eye door pulling us. I grabbed onto la Gorda's shawl with all my strength while the little sisters grabbed onto me. I felt that we were spinning, tumbling and swaying from side to side like a giant, weightless leaf.

I opened my eyes and saw that we were like a bundle. We were either standing up or we were lying horizontally in the air. I could not tell which because I had no sensorial point of reference. Then, as suddenly as we had been lifted off, we were dropped. I sensed our falling in my midsection. I yelled with pain and my screams were united with those of the little sisters. The insides of my knees hurt. I felt an unbearable jolt on my legs; I thought I must have broken them.

My next impression was that something was getting inside my nose. It was very dark and I was lying on my back. I sat up. I realized then that la Gorda was tickling my nostrils with a twig.

I did not feel exhausted or even mildly tired. I jumped to my feet and only then was I stricken by the realization that we were not in the house. We were on a hill, a rocky, barren hill. I took a step and nearly fell down. I had stumbled over a body. It was Josefina. She was extremely hot to the touch. She seemed to be feverish. I tried to make her sit up, but she was limp. Rosa was next to her. As a contrast, her body was icy cold. I put one on top of the other and rocked them. That motion brought them back to their senses.

La Gorda had found Lidia and was making her walk. After a few minutes, all of us were standing. We were perhaps half a mile east of the house.

Years before don Juan had produced in me a similar experience but with the aid of a psychotropic plant. He seemingly made me fly and I landed a distance from his house. At the time, I had tried to explain the event in rational terms, but there was no ground for rational explanations and, short of accepting that I had flown, I had to fall back onto the only two avenues left open: I could explain it all by arguing that don Juan had transported me to the distant field while I was still unconscious under the effect of the psychotropic alkaloids of that plant; or by arguing that under the influence of the alkaloids I had believed what don Juan was ordering me to believe, that I was flying.

This time I had no other recourse but to brace myself for accepting, on its face value, that I had flown. I wanted to indulge in doubts and began to wonder about the possibilities of the four girls carrying me to that hill. I laughed loudly, incapable of containing an obscure delight. I was having a relapse of my old malady. My reason, which had been blocked off temporarily, was beginning to take hold of me again. I wanted to defend it. Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say, in light of the outlandish acts I had witnessed and performed since my arrival, that my reason was defending itself, independently of the more complex whole that seemed to be the "me" I did not know. I was witnessing, almost in the fashion of an interested observer, how my reason struggled to find suitable rationales, while another, much larger portion of me could not have cared less about explaining anything.

La Gorda made the three girls line up. She then pulled me to her side. All of them folded their arms behind their backs. La Gorda made me do the same. She stretched my arms as far back as they would go and then made me bend them and grab each forearm as tightly as possible as close to the elbows as I could. That created a great muscular pressure at the articulations of my shoulders. She pushed my trunk forward until I was almost stooping. Then she made a peculiar birdcall. That was a signal. Lidia started walking. In the darkness her movements reminded me of an ice skater. She walked swiftly and silently and in a few minutes she disappeared from my view.

La Gorda made two more birdcalls, one after the other, and Rosa and Josefina took off in the same manner Lidia had. La Gorda told me to follow close to her. She made one more birdcall and we both started walking.

I was surprised at the ease with which I walked. My entire balance was centered in my legs. The fact that I had my arms behind my back, instead of hindering my movements, aided me in maintaining a strange equilibrium. But above all what surprised me the most was the quietness of my steps.

When we reached the road we began to walk normally. We passed two men going in the opposite direction. La Gorda greeted them and they answered back. When we arrived at the house we found the little sisters standing by the door, not daring to go in. La Gorda told them that although I could not control the allies I could either call them or tell them to leave, and that the allies would not bother us any longer. The girls believed her, something I myself could not do in that instance.

We went inside. In a very quiet and efficient manner all of them undressed, drenched themselves with cold water and put on a fresh change of clothes. I did the same. I put on the old clothes I used to keep in don Juan's house, which la Gorda brought to me in a box.

All of us were in high spirits. I asked la Gorda to explain to me what we had done.

"We'll talk about that later," she said in a firm tone.

I remembered then that the packages I had for them were still in the car. I thought that while la Gorda was cooking some food for us it would be a good opportunity to distribute them. I went out and got them and brought them into the house. I placed them on the table. Lidia asked me if I had already assigned the gifts as she had suggested. I said that I wanted them to pick one they liked. She declined. She said that no doubt I had something special for Pablito and Nestor and a bunch of trinkets for them, which I would throw on the table with the intention that they fight over them.

"Besides, you didn't bring anything for Benigno," Lidia said as she came to my side and looked at me with mock seriousness. "You can't hurt the Genaros' feelings by giving two gifts for three."

They all laughed. I felt embarrassed. She was absolutely right in everything that she had said.

"You are careless, that's why I've never liked you," Lidia said to me, changing her smile into a frown. "You have never greeted me with affection or respect. Every time we saw each other you only pretended to be happy to see me."

She imitated my obviously contrived effusive greeting, a greeting I must have given her countless times in the past.

"Why didn't you ever ask me what I was doing here?" Lidia asked me.

I stopped writing to consider her point. It had never occurred to me to ask her anything. I told her that I had no excuse. La Gorda interceded and said that the reason that I had never said more than two words to either Lidia or Rosa each time I saw them was because I was accustomed to talking only to women that I was enamored of, in one way or another. La Gorda added that the Nagual had told them that if I would ask them anything directly they were supposed to answer my questions, but as long as I did not ask, they were not supposed to mention anything.

Rosa said that she did not like me because I was always laughing and trying to be funny. Josefina added that since I had never seen her, she disliked me just for fun, for the hell of it.

"I want you to know that I don't accept you as the Nagual," Lidia said to me. "You're too dumb. You know nothing. I know more than you do. How can I respect you?"

Lidia added that as far as she was concerned I could go back where I came from or go jump in a lake for that matter.

Rosa and Josefina did not say a word. Judging by the serious and mean expressions on their faces, however, they seemed to agree with Lidia.

"How can this man lead us?" Lidia asked la Gorda. "He's not a true nagual. He's a man. He's going to make us into idiots like himself."

As she was talking I could see the mean expressions on Rosa's and Josefina's faces getting even harder.

La Gorda intervened and explained to them what she had "seen" earlier about me. She added that since she had recommended to me not to get entangled in their webs, she was recommending the same thing to them, not to get entangled in mine.

After Lidia's initial display of genuine and well-founded animosity, I was flabbergasted to see how easily she acquiesced to la Gorda's remarks. She smiled at me. She even came and sat next to me.

"You're really like us, eh?" she asked in a tone of bewilderment.

I did not know what to say. I was afraid of blundering.

Lidia was obviously the leader of the little sisters. The moment she smiled at me the other two seemed to be infused instantly with the same mood.

La Gorda told them not to mind my pencil and paper and my asking questions and that in return I would not be flustered when they became involved in doing what they loved the most, to indulge in themselves.

The three of them sat close to me. La Gorda walked over to the table, got the packages and took them out to my car. I asked Lidia to forgive me for my inexcusable blunderings of the past and asked all of them to tell me how they had become don Juan's apprentices. In order to make them feel at ease I gave them an account of how I had met don Juan. Their accounts were the same as what dona Soledad had already told me.

Lidia said that all of them had been free to leave don Juan's world but their choice had been to stay. She, in particular, being the first apprentice, was given an opportunity to go away. After the Nagual and Genaro had cured her, the Nagual had pointed to the door and told her that if she did not go through it then, the door would close her in and would never open again.

"My fate was sealed when that door closed," Lidia said to me. "Just like what happened to you. The Nagual told me that after he had put a patch on you, you had a chance to leave but you didn't want to take it."

I remembered that particular decision more vividly than anything else. I recounted to them how don Juan had tricked me into believing that a sorceress was after him, and then he gave me the choice of either leaving for good or staying to help him wage a war against his attacker. It turned out that his alleged attacker was one of his confederates. By confronting her, on what I thought was don Juan's behalf, I turned her against me and she became what he called my "worthy opponent."

I asked Lidia if they had had a worthy opponent themselves.

"We are not as dumb as you are," she said. "We never needed anyone to spur us."

"Pablito is that dumb," Rosa said. "Soledad is his opponent. I don't know how worthy she is, though. But as the saying goes, if you can't feed on a capon, feed on an onion."

They laughed and banged on the table.

I asked them if any of them knew the sorceress don Juan had pitted me against, la Catalina.

They shook their heads negatively.

"I know her," la Gorda said from the stove. "She's from the Nagual's cycle, but she looks as if she's thirty."

"What is a cycle, Gorda?" I asked.

She walked over to the table and put her foot on the bench and rested her chin on her arm and knee.

"Sorcerers like the Nagual and Genaro have two cycles," she said. "The first is when they're human, like ourselves. We are in our first cycle. Each of us has been given a task and that task is making us leave the human form. Eligio, the five of us, and the Genaros are of the same cycle.

"The second cycle is when a sorcerer is not human anymore, like the Nagual and Genaro. They came to teach us, and after they taught us they left. We are the second cycle to them.

"The Nagual and la Catalina are like you and Lidia. They are in the same positions. She's a scary sorceress, just like Lidia."

La Gorda went back to the stove. The little sisters seemed nervous.

"That must be the woman who knows power plants," Lidia said to la Gorda.

La Gorda said that she was the one. I asked them if the Nagual had ever given them power plants.

"No, not to us three," Lidia replied. "Power plants are given only to empty people. Like yourself and la Gorda."

"Did the Nagual give you power plants, Gorda?" I asked loudly.

La Gorda raised two fingers over her head.

"The Nagual gave her his pipe twice," Lidia said. "And she went off her rocker both times."

"What happened, Gorda?" I asked.

"I went off my rocker," she said as she walked over to the table. "Power plants were given to use because the Nagual was putting a patch on our bodies. Mine hooked fast, but yours was difficult. The Nagual said that you were crazier than Josefina, and impossible like Lidia, and he had to give you a lot of them."

La Gorda explained that power plants were used only by sorcerers who had mastered their art. Those plants were such a powerful affair that in order to be properly handled, the most impeccable attention was needed on the part of the sorcerer. It took a lifetime to train one's attention to the degree needed. La Gorda said that complete people do not need power plants, and that neither the little sisters nor the Genaros had ever taken them, but that someday when they had perfected their art as dreamers, they would use them to get a final and total boost, a boost of such magnitude that it would be impossible for us to understand.

"Would you and I take them too?" I asked la Gorda.

"All of us," she replied. "The Nagual said that you should understand this point better than any of us."

I considered the issue for a moment. The effect of psychotropic plants had indeed been terrifying for me. They seemed to reach a vast reservoir in me, and extract from it a total world. The drawback in taking them had been the toll they took on my physical well-being and the impossibility of controlling their effect. The world they plunged me into was unamenable and chaotic. I lacked the control, the power, in don Juan's terms, to make use of such a world. If I would have the control, however, the possibilities would be staggering to the mind.

"I took them, myself," Josefina said all of a sudden. "When I was crazy the Nagual gave me his pipe, to cure me or kill me. And it cured me! "

"The Nagual really gave Josefina his smoke," la Gorda said from the stove and then came over to the table. "He knew that she was pretending to be crazier than she was. She's always been a bit off, and she's very daring and indulges in herself like no one else. She always wanted to live where nobody would bother her and she could do whatever she wanted. So the Nagual gave her his smoke and took her to live in a world of her liking for fourteen days, until she was so bored with it that she got cured. She cut her indulging. That was her cure."

La Gorda went back to the stove. The little sisters laughed and patted one another on the back.

I remembered then that at dona Soledad's house Lidia had not only intimated that don Juan had left a package for me but she had actually shown me a bundle that had made me think of the sheath in which don Juan used to keep his pipe. I reminded Lidia that she had said that they would give me that package when la Gorda was present.

The little sisters looked at one another and then turned to la Gorda. She made a gesture with her head. Josefina stood up and went to the front room. She returned a moment later with the bundle that Lidia had shown me.

I had a pang of anticipation in the pit of my stomach. Josefina carefully placed the bundle on the table in front of me. All of them gathered around. She began to untie it as ceremoniously as Lidia had done the first time. When the package was completely unwrapped, she spilled the contents on the table. They were menstruation rags.

I got flustered for an instant. But the sound of la Gorda's laughter, which was louder than the others', was so pleasing that I had to laugh myself.

"That's Josefina's personal bundle," la Gorda said. "It was her brilliant idea to play on your greed for a gift from the Nagual, in order to make you stay."

"You have to admit that it was a good idea," Lidia said to me.

She imitated the look of greed I had on my face when she was opening the package and then my look of disappointment when she did not finish.

I told Josefina that her idea had indeed been brilliant, that it had worked as she had anticipated, and that I had wanted that package more than I would care to admit.

"You can have it, if you want it," Josefina said and made everybody laugh.

La Gorda said that the Nagual had known from the beginning that Josefina was not really ill, and that that was the reason it had been so difficult for him to cure her. People who are actually sick are more pliable. Josefina was too aware of everything and very unruly and he had had to smoke her a great many times.

Don Juan had once said the same thing about me, that he had smoked me. I had always believed that he was referring to having used psychotropic mushrooms to have a view of me.

"How did he smoke you?" I asked Josefina.

She shrugged her shoulders and did not answer.

"The same way he smoked you," Lidia said. "He pulled your luminosity and dried it with the smoke from a fire that he had made."

I was sure that don Juan had never explained such a thing to me. I asked Lidia to tell me what she knew about the subject. She turned to la Gorda.

"Smoke is very important for sorcerers," la Gorda said. "Smoke is like fog. Fog is of course better, but it's too hard to handle. It's not as handy as smoke is. So if a sorcerer wants to see and know someone who is always hiding, like you and Josefina, who are capricious and difficult, the sorcerer makes a fire and lets the smoke envelop the person. Whatever they're hiding comes out in the smoke."

La Gorda said that the Nagual used smoke not only to "see" and know people but also to cure. He gave Josefina smoke baths; he made her stand or sit by the fire in the direction the wind was blowing. The smoke would envelop her and make her choke and cry, but her discomfort was only temporary and of no consequence; the positive effects, on the other hand, were a gradual cleansing of the luminosity.

"The Nagual gave all of us smoke baths," la Gorda said. "He gave you even more baths than Josefina. He said that you were unbearable, and you were not even pretending, like she was."

It all became clear to me. She was right; don Juan had made me sit in front of a fire hundreds of times. The smoke used to irritate my throat and eyes to such a degree that I dreaded to see him begin to gather dry twigs and branches. He said that I had to learn to control my breathing and feel the smoke while I kept my eyes closed; that way I could breathe without choking.

La Gorda said that smoke had helped Josefina to be ethereal and very elusive, and that no doubt it had helped me to cure my madness, whatever it was.

"The Nagual said that smoke takes everything out of you," la Gorda went on. "It makes you clear and direct."

I asked her if she knew how to bring out with the smoke whatever a person was hiding. She said that she could easily do it because of having lost her form, but that the little sisters and the Genaros, although they had seen the Nagual and Genaro do it scores of times, could not yet do it themselves.

I was curious to know why don Juan had never mentioned the subject to me, in spite of the fact that he had smoked me like dry fish hundreds of times.

"He did," la Gorda said with her usual conviction. "The Nagual even taught you fog gazing. He told us that once you smoked a whole place in the mountains and saw what was hiding behind the scenery. He said that he was spellbound himself."

I remembered an exquisite perceptual distortion, a hallucination of sorts, which I had had and thought was the product of a play between a most dense fog and an electrical storm that was occurring at the same time. I narrated to them the episode and added that don Juan had never really directly taught me anything about the fog or the smoke. His procedure had been to build fires or to take me into fog banks.

La Gorda did not say a word. She stood up and went back to the stove. Lidia shook her head and clicked her tongue.

"You sure are dumb," she said. "The Nagual taught you everything. How do you think you saw what you have just told us about?"

There was an abyss between our understanding of how to teach something. I told them that if I were to teach them something I knew, such as how to drive a car, I would go step by step, making sure that they understood every facet of the whole procedure.

La Gorda returned to the table.

"That's only if the sorcerer is teaching something about the tonal," she said. "When the sorcerer is dealing with the nagual, he must give the instruction, which is to show the mystery to the warrior. And that's all he has to do. The warrior who receives the mysteries must claim knowledge as power, by doing what he has been shown.

"The Nagual showed you more mysteries than all of us together. But you're lazy, like Pablito, and prefer to be confused. The tonal and the nagual are two different worlds. In one you talk, in the other you act."

At the moment she spoke, her words made absolute sense to me. I knew what she was talking about. She went back to the stove, stirred something in a pot and came back again.

"Why are you so dumb?" Lidia bluntly asked me.

"He's empty," Rosa replied.

They made me stand up and forced themselves to squint as they scanned my body with their eyes. All of them touched my umbilical region.

"But why are you still empty?" Lidia asked.

"You know what to do, don't you?" Rosa added.

"He was crazy," Josefina said to them. "He must still be crazy now."

La Gorda came to my aid and told them that I was still empty for the same reason they still had their form. All of us secretly did not want the world of the nagual. We were afraid and had second thoughts. In short, none of us was better than Pablito.

They did not say a word. All three of them seemed thoroughly embarrassed.

"Poor little Nagual," Lidia said to me with a tone of genuine concern. "You're as scared as we are. I pretend to be tough, Josefina pretends to be crazy, Rosa pretends to be ill-tempered and you pretend to be dumb."

They laughed, and for the first time since I had arrived they made a gesture of comradeship toward me. They embraced me and put their heads against mine.

La Gorda sat facing me and the little sisters sat around her. I was facing all four of them.

"Now we can talk about what happened tonight," la Gorda said. "The Nagual told me that if we survived the last contact with the allies we wouldn't be the same. The allies did something to us tonight. They have hurled us away."

She gently touched my writing hand.

"Tonight was a special night for you," she went on. "Tonight all of us pitched in to help you, including the allies. The Nagual would have liked it. Tonight you saw all the way through."

"I did?" I asked.

"There you go again," Lidia said, and everybody laughed.

"Tell me about my seeing, Gorda," I insisted. "You know that I'm dumb. There should be no misunderstandings between us."

"All right," she said. "I see what you mean. Tonight you saw the little sisters."

I said to them that I had also witnessed incredible acts performed by don Juan and don Genaro. I had seen them as plainly as I had seen the little sisters and yet don Juan and don Genaro had always concluded that I had not seen. I failed, therefore, to determine in what way could the acts of the little sisters be different.

"You mean you didn't see how they were holding onto the lines of the world?" She asked.

"No, I didn't."

"You didn't see them slipping through the crack between the worlds?"

I narrated to them what I had witnessed. They listened in silence. At the end of my account la Gorda seemed to be on the verge of tears.

"What a pity! " she exclaimed.

She stood up and walked around the table and embraced me. Her eyes were clear and restful. I knew she bore no malice toward me.

"It's our fate that you are plugged up like this," she said. "But you're still the Nagual to us. I won't hinder you with ugly thoughts. You can at least be assured of that."

I knew that she meant it. She was speaking to me from a level that I had witnessed only in don Juan. She had repeatedly explained her mood as the product of having lost her human form; she was indeed a formless warrior. A wave of profound affection for her enveloped me. I was about to weep. It was at the instant that I felt she was a most marvelous warrior that quite an intriguing thing happened to me. The closest way of describing it would be to say that I felt that my ears had suddenly popped. Except that I felt the popping in the middle of my body, right below my navel, more acutely than in my ears. Right after the popping everything became clearer; sounds, sights, odors. Then I felt an intense buzzing, which oddly enough did not interfere with my hearing capacity; the buzzing was loud but did not drown out any other sounds. It was as if I were hearing the buzzing with some part of me other than my ears. A hot flash went through my body. And then I suddenly recalled something I had never seen. It was as though an alien memory had taken possession of me.

I remembered Lidia pulling herself from two horizontal, reddish ropes as she walked on the wall. She was not really walking; she was actually gliding on a thick bundle of lines that she held with her feet. I remembered seeing her panting with her mouth open, from the exertion of pulling the reddish ropes. The reason I could not hold my balance at the end of her display was because I was seeing her as a light that went around the room so fast that it made me dizzy; it pulled me from the area around my navel.

I remembered Rosa's actions and Josefina's as well. Rosa had actually brachiated, with her left arm holding onto long, vertical, reddish fibers that looked like vines dropping from the dark roof. With her right arm she was also holding some vertical fibers that seemed to give her stability. She also held onto the same fibers with her toes. Toward the end of her display she was like a phosphorescence on the roof. The lines of her body had been erased.

Josefina was hiding herself behind some lines that seemed to come out of the floor. What she was doing with her raised forearm was moving the lines together to give them the necessary width to conceal her bulk. Her puffed-up clothes were a great prop; they had somehow contracted her luminosity. The clothes were bulky only for the eye that looked. At the end of her display Josefina, like Lidia and Rosa, was just a patch of light. I could switch from one recollection to the other in my mind.

When I told them about my concurrent memories the little sisters looked at me bewildered. La Gorda was the only one who seemed to be following what was happening to me. She laughed with true delight and said that the Nagual was right in saying that I was too lazy to remember what I had "seen"; therefore, I only bothered with what I had looked at.

Is it possible, I thought to myself, that I am unconsciously selecting what I recall? Or is it la Gorda who is creating all this? If it was true that I had selected my recall at first and then released what I had censored, then it also had to be true that I must have perceived much more of don Juan's and don Genaro's actions, and yet I could only recall a selective part of my total perception of those events.

"It's hard to believe," I said to la Gorda, "that I can remember now something I didn't remember at all a while ago."

"The Nagual said that everyone can see, and yet we choose not to remember what we see," she said. "Now I understand how right he was. All of us can see; some, more than others."

I told la Gorda that some part of me knew that I had found then a transcendental key. A missing piece had been handed down to me by all of them. But it was difficult to discern what it was.

She announced that she had just "seen" that I had practiced a good deal of "dreaming," and that I had developed my attention, and yet I was fooled by my own appearance of not knowing anything.

"I've been trying to tell you about attention," she proceeded, "but you know as much as we do about it."

I assured her that my knowledge was intrinsically different from theirs; theirs was infinitely more spectacular than mine. Anything they might say to me in relation to their practices, therefore, was a bonus to me.

"The Nagual told us to show you that with our attention we can hold the images of a dream in the same way we hold the images of the world," la Gorda said. "The art of the dreamer is the art of attention."

Thoughts came down on me like a landslide. I had to stand up and walk around the kitchen. I sat down again. We remained quiet for a long time. I knew what she had meant when she said that the art of dreamers was the art of attention. I knew then that don Juan had told me and showed me everything he could. I had not been able, however, to realize the premises of his knowledge in my body while he was around. He had said that my reason was the demon that kept me chained, and that I had to vanquish it if I wanted to achieve the realization of his teachings. The issue, therefore, had been how to vanquish my reason. It had never occurred to me to press him for a definition of what he meant by reason. I presumed all along that he meant the capacity for comprehending, inferring or thinking, in an orderly, rational way. From what la Gorda had said, I knew that to him reason meant attention.

Don Juan said that the core of our being was the act of perceiving, and that the magic of our being was the act of awareness. For him perception and awareness were a single, functional, inextricable unit, a unit which had two domains. The first one was the "attention of the tonal"; that is to say, the capacity of average people to perceive and place their awareness on the ordinary world of everyday life. Don Juan also called this form of attention our "first ring of power," and described it as our awesome but taken-for-granted ability to impart order to our perception of our daily world.

The second domain was the "attention of the nagual"; that is to say, the capacity of sorcerers to place their awareness on the nonordinary world. He called this domain of attention the "second ring of power," or the altogether portentous ability that all of us have, but only sorcerers use, to impart order to the nonordinary world.

La Gorda and the little sisters, in demonstrating to me that the art of dreamers was to hold the images of their dreams with their attention, had brought in the pragmatic aspect of don Juan's scheme. They were the practitioners who had gone beyond the theoretical aspect of his teachings. In order to give me a demonstration of that art, they had to make use of their "second ring of power," or the "attention of the nagual." In order for me to witness their art, I had to do the same. In fact it was evident that I had placed my attention on both domains. Perhaps all of us are continually perceiving in both fashions but choose to isolate one for recollection and discard the other or perhaps we file it away, as I myself had done. Under certain conditions of stress or acquiescence, the censored memory surfaces and we can then have two distinct memories of one event.

What don Juan had struggled to vanquish, or rather suppress in me, was not my reason as the capacity for rational thought, but my "attention of the tonal," or my awareness of the world of common sense. His motive for wanting me to do so was explained by la Gorda when she said that the daily world exists because we know how to hold its images; consequently, if one drops the attention needed to maintain those images, the world collapses.

"The Nagual told us that practice is what counts," la Gorda said suddenly. "Once you get your attention on the images of your dream, your attention is hooked for good. In the end you can be like Genaro, who could hold the images of any dream."

"We each have five other dreams," Lidia said. "But we showed you the first one because that was the dream the Nagual gave us."

"Can all of you go into dreaming any time you want?" I asked.

"No," la Gorda replied. "Dreaming takes too much power. None of us has that much power. The reason the little sisters had to roll on the floor so many times was that in rolling the earth was giving them energy. Maybe you could also remember seeing them as luminous beings getting energy from the light of the earth. The Nagual said that the best way of getting energy is, of course, to let the sun inside the eyes, especially the left eye."

I told her that I knew nothing about it, and she described a procedure that don Juan had taught them. As she spoke I remembered that don Juan had also taught the same procedure to me. It consisted in moving my head slowly from side to side as I caught the sunlight with my half-closed left eye. He said that one could not only use the sun but could use any kind of light that could shine on the eyes.

La Gorda said that the Nagual had recommended that they tie their shawls below their waists in order to protect their hipbones when they rolled.

I commented that don Juan had never mentioned rolling to me. She said that only women could roll because they had wombs and energy came directly into their wombs; by rolling around they distributed that energy over the rest of their bodies. In order for a man to be energized he had to be on his back, with his knees bent so that the soles of his feet touched each other. His arms had to be extended laterally, with his forearms raised vertically, and the fingers clawed in an upright position.

"We have been dreaming those dreams for years," Lidia said. "Those dreams are our best, because our attention is complete. In the other dreams that we have, our attention is still shaky."

La Gorda said that holding the images of dreams was a Toltec art. After years of consuming practice each one of them was able to perform one act in any dream. Lidia could walk on anything, Rosa could dangle from anything, Josefina could hide behind anything and she herself could fly. But they were only beginners, apprentices of the art. They had complete attention for only one activity. She added that Genaro was the master of "dreaming" and could turn the tables around and have attention for as many activities as we have in our daily life, and that for him the two domains of attention had the same value.

I felt compelled to ask them my usual question: I had to know their procedures, how they held the images of their dreams.

"You know that as well as we do," la Gorda said. "The only thing I can say is that after going to the same dream over and over, we began to feel the lines of the world. They helped us to do what you saw us doing."

Don Juan had said that our "first ring of power" is engaged very early in our lives and that we live under the impression that that is all there is to us. Our "second ring of power," the "attention of the nagual," remains hidden for the immense majority of us, and only at the moment of our death is it revealed to us. There is a pathway to reach it, however, which is available to every one of us, but which only sorcerers take, and that pathway is through "dreaming." "Dreaming" was in essence the transformation of ordinary dreams into affairs involving volition. Dreamers, by engaging their "attention of the nagual" and focusing it on the items and events of their ordinary dreams, change those dreams into "dreaming."

Don Juan said that there were no procedures to arrive at the attention of the nagual. He only gave me pointers. Finding my hands in my dreams was the first pointer; then the exercise of paying attention was elongated to finding objects, looking for specific features, such as buildings, streets and so on. From there the jump was to "dreaming" about specific places at specific times of the day. The final stage was drawing the "attention of the nagual" to focus on the total self. Don Juan said that that final stage was usually ushered in by a dream that many of us have had at one time or another, in which one is looking at oneself sleeping in bed. By the time a sorcerer has had such a dream, his attention has been developed to such a degree that instead of waking himself up, as most of us would do in a similar situation, he turns on his heels and engages himself in activity, as if he were acting in the world of everyday life. From that moment on there is a breakage, a division of sorts in the otherwise unified personality. The result of engaging the "attention of the nagual" and developing it to the height and sophistication of our daily attention of the world was, in don Juan's scheme, the other self, an identical being as oneself, but made in "dreaming."

Don Juan had told me that there are no definite standard steps for teaching that double, as there are no definite steps for us to reach our daily awareness. We simply do it by practicing. He contended that in the act of engaging our "attention of the nagual," we would find the steps. He urged me to practice "dreaming" without letting my fears make it into an encumbering production.

He had done the same with la Gorda and the little sisters, but obviously something in them had made them more receptive to the idea of another level of attention.

"Genaro was in his body of dreaming most of the time," la Gorda said. "He liked it better. That's why he could do the weirdest things and scare you half to death. Genaro could go in and out of the crack between the worlds like you and I can go in and out a door."

Don Juan had also talked to me at great length about the crack between the worlds. I had always believed that he was talking in a metaphorical sense about a subtle division between the world that the average man perceives and the world that sorcerers perceive.

La Gorda and the little sisters had shown me that the crack between the worlds was more than a metaphor. It was rather the capacity to change levels of attention. One part of me understood la Gorda perfectly, while another part of me was more frightened than ever.

"You have been asking where the Nagual and Genaro went," la Gorda said. "Soledad was very blunt and told you that they went to the other world; Lidia told you they left this area; the Genaros were stupid and scared you. The truth is that the Nagual and Genaro went through that crack."

For some reason, undefinable to me, her statements plunged me into profound chaos. I had felt all along that they had left for good. I knew that they had not left in an ordinary sense, but I had kept that feeling in the realm of a metaphor. Although I had even voiced it to close friends, I think I never really believed it myself. In the depths of me I had always been a rational man. But la Gorda and the little sisters had turned my obscure metaphors into real possibilities. La Gorda had actually transported us half a mile with the energy of her "dreaming."

La Gorda stood up and said that I had understood everything, and that it was time for us to eat. She served us the food that she had cooked. I did not feel like eating. At the end of the meal she stood up and came to my side.

"I think it's time for you to leave," she said to me.

That seemed to be a cue for the little sisters. They also stood up.

"If you stay beyond this moment, you won't be able to leave anymore," la Gorda went on. "The Nagual gave you freedom once, but you chose to stay with him. He told me that if we all survive the last contact with the allies I should feed all of you, make you feel good and then say good-bye to all of you. I figure that the little sisters and myself have no place to go, so there is no choice for us. But you are different."

The little sisters surrounded me and each said good-bye to me.

There was a monstrous irony in that situation. I was free to leave but I had no place to go. There was no choice for me, either. Years before don Juan gave me a chance to back out, I stayed because already then I had no place to go.

"We choose only once," he had said then. "We choose either to be warriors or to be ordinary men. A second choice does not exist. Not on this earth."
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Re: The Second Ring of Power, by Carlos Castaneda

Postby admin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:06 am

Part 1 of 2

The Second Attention

"You have to leave later on today," la Gorda said to me right after breakfast. "Since you have decided to go with us, you have committed yourself to helping us fulfill our new task. The Nagual left me in charge only until you came. He entrusted me, as you already know, with certain things to tell you. I've told you most of them. But there are still some I couldn't mention to you until you made your choice. Today we will take care of them. Right after that you must leave in order to give us time to get ready. We need a few days to settle everything and to prepare to leave these mountains forever. We have been here a very long time. It's hard to break away. But everything has come to a sudden end. The Nagual warned us of the total change that you would bring, regardless of the outcome of your bouts, but I think no one really believed him."

"I fail to see why you have to change anything," I said.

"I've explained it to you already," she protested. "We have lost our old purpose. Now we have a new one and that new purpose requires that we become as light as the breeze. The breeze is our new mood. It used to be the hot wind. You have changed our direction."

"You are talking in circles, Gorda."

"Yes, but that's because you're empty. I can't make it any clearer. When you return, the Genaros will show you the art of the stalker and right after that all of us will leave. The Nagual said that if you decide to be with us the first thing I should tell you is that you have to remember your bouts with Soledad and the little sisters and examine every single thing that happened to you with them, because everything is an omen of what will happen to you on your path. If you are careful and impeccable, you'll find that those bouts were gifts of power."

"What's dona Soledad going to do now?"

"She's leaving. The little sisters have already helped her to take her floor apart. That floor aided her to reach her attention of the nagual. The lines had power to do that. Each of them helped her gather a piece of that attention. To be incomplete is no handicap to reaching that attention for some warriors. Soledad was transformed because she got to that attention faster than any of us. She doesn't have to gaze at her floor anymore to go into that other world, and now that there is no more need for the floor, she has returned it to the earth where she got it."

"You are really determined to leave, Gorda, aren't you?"

"All of us are. That's why I'm asking you to go away for a few days to give us time to pull down everything we have."

"Am I the one who has to find a place for all of you, Gorda?"

"If you were an impeccable warrior you would do just that. But you're not an impeccable warrior, and neither are we. But still we will have to do our best to meet our new challenge."

I felt an oppressive sense of doom. I have never been one to thrive on responsibilities. I thought that the commitment to guide them was a crushing burden that I could not handle.

"Maybe we don't have to do anything," I said.

"Yes. That's right," she said, and laughed. "Why don't you tell yourself that over and over until you feel safe? The Nagual told you time and time again that the only freedom warriors have is to behave impeccably."

She told me how the Nagual had insisted that all of them understand that not only was impeccability freedom but it was the only way to scare away the human form.

I narrated to her the way don Juan made me understand what was meant by impeccability. He and I were hiking one day through a very steep ravine when a huge boulder got loose from its matrix on the rock wall and came down with a formidable force and landed on the floor of the canyon, twenty or thirty yards from where we were standing. The size of the boulder made its fall a very impressive event. Don Juan seized the opportunity to create a dramatic lesson. He said that the force that rules our destinies is outside of ourselves and has nothing to do with our acts or volition. Sometimes that force would make us stop walking on our way and bend over to tie our shoelaces, as I had just done. And by making us stop, that force makes us gain a precious moment. If we had kept on walking, that enormous boulder would have most certainly crushed us to death. Some other day, however, in another ravine the same outside deciding force would make us stop again to bend over and tie our shoelaces while another boulder would get loose precisely above where we are standing. By making us stop, that force would have made us lose a precious moment. That time if we had kept on walking, we would have saved ourselves. Don Juan said that in view of my total lack of control over the forces which decide my destiny, my only possible freedom in that ravine consisted in my tying my shoelaces impeccably.

La Gorda seemed to be moved by my account. For an instant she held my face in her hands from across the table.

"Impeccability for me is to tell you, at the right time, what the Nagual told me to tell you," she said. "But power has to time perfectly what I have to reveal to yon, or it won't have any effect."

She paused in a dramatic fashion. Her delay was very studied but terribly effective with me.

"What is it?" I asked desperately.

She did not answer. She took me by the arm and led me to the area just outside the front door. She made me sit on the hard-packed ground with my back against a thick pole about one and a half feet high that looked like a tree stump which had been planted in the ground almost against the wall of the house. There was a row of five such poles planted about two feet apart. I had meant to ask la Gorda what their function was. My first impression had been that a former owner of the house had tied animals to them. My conjecture seemed incongruous, however, because the area just outside the front door was a kind of roofed porch.

I told la Gorda my supposition as she sat down next to me to my left, with her back against another pole. She laughed and said that the poles were indeed used for tying animals of sorts, but not by a former owner, and that she had nearly broken her back digging the holes for them.

"What do you use them for?" I asked.

"Let's say that we tie ourselves to them," she replied. "And this brings me to the next thing the Nagual asked me to tell you. He said that because you were empty he had to gather your second attention, your attention of the nagual, in a way different than ours. We gathered that attention through dreaming and you did it with his power plants. The Nagual said that his power plants gathered the menacing side of your second attention in one clump, and that's the shape that came out of your head. He said that that's what happens to sorcerers when they are given power plants. If they don't die, the power plants spin their second attention into that awful shape that comes out of their heads.

"Now we're coming to what he wanted you to do. He said that you must change directions now and begin gathering your second attention in another way, more like us. You can't keep on the path of knowledge unless you balance your second attention. So far, that attention of yours has been riding on the Nagual's power, but now you are alone. That's what he wanted me to tell you."

"How do I balance my second attention?"

"You have to do dreaming the way we do it. Dreaming is the only way to gather the second attention without injuring it, without making it menacing and awesome. Your second attention is fixed on the awful side of the world; ours is on the beauty of it. You have to change sides and come with us. That's what you chose last night when you decided to go with us."

"Could that shape come out of me at any time?"

"No. The Nagual said that it won't come out again until you're as old as he is. Your nagual has already come out as many times as was needed. The Nagual and Genaro have seen to that. They used to tease it out of you. The Nagual told me that sometimes you were a hair away from dying because your second attention is very indulging. He said that once you even scared him; your nagual attacked him and he had to sing to it to calm it down. But the worst thing happened to you in Mexico City; there he pushed you one day and you went into an office and in that office you went through the crack between the worlds. He intended only to dispel your attention of the tonal; you were worried sick over some stupid thing. But when he shoved you, your whole tonal shrunk and your entire being went through the crack. He had a hellish time finding you. He told me that for a moment he thought you had gone farther than he could reach. But then he saw you roaming around aimlessly and he brought you back. He told me that you went through the crack around ten in the morn ing. So, on that day, ten in the morning became your new time."

"My new time for what?"

"For everything. If you remain a man you will die around that time. If you become a sorcerer you will leave this world around that time.

"Eligio also went on a different path, a path none of us knew about. We met him just before he left. Eligio was a most marvelous dreamer. He was so good that the Nagual and Genaro used to take him through the crack and he had the power to withstand it, as if it were nothing. He didn't even pant. The Nagual and Genaro gave him a final boost with power plants. He had the control and the power to handle that boost. And that's what sent him to wherever he is."

"The Genaros told me that Eligio jumped with Benigno. Is that true?"

"Sure. By the time Eligio had to jump, his second attention had already been in that other world. The Nagual said that yours had also been there, but that for you it was a nightmare because you had no control. He said that his power plants had made you lopsided; they had made you cut through your attention of the tonal and had put you directly in the realm of your second attention, but without any mastery over that attention. The Nagual didn't give power plants to Eligio until the very last."

"Do you think that my second attention has been injured, Gorda?"

"The Nagual never said that. He thought you were dangerously crazy, but that has nothing to do with power plants. He said that both of your attentions are unmanageable. If you could conquer them you'd be a great warrior."

I wanted her to tell me more on the subject. She put her hand on my writing pad and said that we had a terribly busy day ahead of us and we needed to store energy in order to withstand it. We had, therefore, to energize ourselves with the sunlight. She said that the circumstances required that we take the sunlight with the left eye. She began to move her head slowly from side to side as she glanced directly into the sun through her half-closed eyes.

A moment later Lidia, Rosa and Josefina joined us. Lidia sat to my right, Josefina sat next to her, while Rosa sat next to la Gorda. All of them were resting their backs against the poles. I was in the middle of the row.

It was a clear day. The sun was just above the distant range of mountains. They started moving their heads in perfect synchronization. I joined them and had the feeling that I too had synchronized my motion with theirs. They kept it up for about a minute and then stopped.

All of them wore hats and used the brims to protect their faces from the sunlight when they were not bathing their eyes in it. La Gorda had given me my old hat to wear.

We sat there for about half an hour. In that time we repeated the exercise countless times. I intended to make a mark on my pad for each time but la Gorda very casually pushed my pad out of reach.

Lidia suddenly stood up, mumbling something unintelligible. La Gorda leaned over to me and whispered that the Genaros were coming up the road. I strained to look but there was no one in sight. Rosa and Josefina also stood up and then went with Lidia inside the house.

I told la Gorda that I could not see anyone approaching. She replied that the Genaros had been visible at one point on the road and added that she had dreaded the moment when all of us would have to get together, but that she was confident that I could handle the situation. She advised me to be extra careful with Josefina and Pablito because they had no control over themselves. She said that the most sensible thing for me to do would be to take the Genaros away after an hour or so.

I kept looking at the road. There was no sign of anyone approaching.

"Are you sure they're coming?" I asked.

She said that she had not seen them but that Lidia had. The Genaros had been visible just for Lidia because she had been gazing at the same time she had been bathing her eyes. I was not sure what la Gorda had meant and asked her to explain.

"We are gazers," she said. "Just like yourself. We are all the same. There is no need to deny that you're a gazer. The Nagual told us about your great feats of gazing."

"My great feats of gazing! What are you talking about, Gorda?"

She contracted her mouth and appeared to be on the verge of being irritated by my question; she seemed to catch herself. She smiled and gave me a gentle shove.

At that moment she had a sudden flutter in her body. She stared blankly past me, then she shook her head vigorously. She said that she had just "seen" that the Genaros were not coming after all; it was too early for them. They were going to wait for a while before they made their appearance. She smiled as if she were delighted with the delay.

"It's too early for us to have them here anyway," she said. "And they feel the same way about us."

"Where are they now?" I asked.

"They must be sitting beside the road somewhere," she replied. "Benigno had no doubt gazed at the house as they were walking and saw us sitting here and that's why they have decided to wait. That's perfect. That will give us time."

"You scare me, Gorda. Time for what?"

"You have to round up your second attention today, just for us four."

"How can I do that?"

"I don't know. You are very mysterious to us. The Nagual has done scores of things to you with his power plants, but you can't claim that as knowledge. That is what I've been trying to tell you. Only if you have mastery over your second attention can you perform with it; otherwise you'll always stay fixed halfway between the two, as you are now. Everything that has happened to you since you arrived has been directed to force that attention to spin. I've been giving you instructions little by little, just as the Nagual told me to do. Since you took another path, you don't know the things that we know, just like we don't know anything about 'power plants. Soledad knows a bit more, because the Nagual took her to his homeland. Nestor knows about medicinal plants, but none of us has been taught the way you were. We don't need your knowledge yet. But someday when we are ready you are the one who will know what to do to give us a boost with power plants. I am the only one who knows where the Nagual's pipe is hidden, waiting for that day.

"The Nagual's command is that you have to change your path and go with us. That means that you have to do dreaming with us and stalking with the Genaros. You can't afford any longer to be where you are, on the awesome side of your second attention. Another jolt of your nagual coming out of you could kill you. The Nagual told me that human beings are frail creatures composed of many layers of luminosity. When you see them, they seem to have fibers, but those fibers are really layers, like an onion. Jolts of any kind separate those layers and can even cause human beings to die."

She stood up and led me back to the kitchen. We sat down facing each other. Lidia, Rosa and Josefina were busy in the yard. I could not see them but I could hear them talking and laughing.

"The Nagual said that we die because our layers become separated," la Gorda said. "Jolts are always separating them but they get together again. Sometimes, though, the jolt is so great that the layers get loose and can't get back together anymore."

"Have you ever seen the layers, Gorda?"

"Sure. I sou a man dying in the street. The Nagual told me that you also found a man dying, but you didn't see his death. The Nagual made me see the dying man's layers. They were like the peels of an onion. When human beings are healthy they are like luminous eggs, but if they are injured they begin to peel, like an onion.

"The Nagual told me that your second attention was so strong sometimes that it pushed all the way out. He and Genaro had to hold your layers together; otherwise you would've died. That's why he figured that you might have enough energy to get your nagual out of you twice. He meant that you could hold your layers together by yourself twice. You did it more times than that and now you are finished; you have no more energy to hold your layers together in case of another jolt. The Nagual has entrusted me to take care of everyone; in your case, I have to help you to tighten your layers. The Nagual said that death pushes the layers apart. He explained to me that the center of our luminosity, which is the attention of the nagual, is always pushing out, and that's what loosens the layers. So it's easy for death to come in between them and push them completely apart. Sorcerers have to do their best to keep their own layers closed. That's why the Nagual taught us dreaming. Dreaming tightens the layers. When sorcerers learn dreaming they tie together their two attentions and there is no more need for that center to push out."

"Do you mean that sorcerers do not die?"

"That is right. Sorcerers do not die."

"Do you mean that none of us is going to die?"

"I didn't mean us. We are nothing. We are freaks, neither here nor there. I meant sorcerers. The Nagual and Genaro are sorcerers. Their two attentions are so tightly together that perhaps they'll never die."

"Did the Nagual say that, Gorda?"

"Yes. He and Genaro both told me that. Not too long before they left, the Nagual explained to us the power of attention. I never knew about the tonal and the nagual until then."

La Gorda recounted the way don Juan had instructed them about that crucial tonal-nagual dichotomy. She said that one day the Nagual had all of them gather together in order to take them for a long hike to a desolate, rocky valley in the mountains. He made a large, heavy bundle with all kinds of items; he even put Pablito's radio in it. He then gave the bundle to Josefina to carry and put a heavy table on Pablito's shoulders and they all started hiking. He made all of them take turns carrying the bundle and the table as they hiked nearly forty miles to that high, desolate place. When they arrived there, the Nagual made Pablito set the table in the very center of the valley. Then he asked Josefina to arrange the contents of the bundle on the table. When the table was filled, he explained to them the difference between the tonal and the nagual, in the same terms he had explained it to me in a restaurant in Mexico City, except that in their case his example was infinitely more graphic.

He told them that the tonal was the order that we are aware of in our daily world and also the personal order that we carry through life on our shoulders, like they had carried that table and the bundle. The personal tonal of each of us was like the table in that valley, a tiny island filled with the things we are familiar with. The nagual, on the other hand, was the inexplicable source that held that table in place and was like the vastness of that deserted valley.

He told them that sorcerers were obligated to watch their tonals from a distance in order to have a better grasp of what was really around them. He made them walk to a ridge from where they could view the whole area. From there the table was hardly visible. He then made them go back to the table and had them all loom over it in order to show that an average man does not have the grasp that a sorcerer has because an average man is right on top of his table, holding onto every item on it.

He then made each of them, one at a time, casually look at the objects on the table, and tested their recall by taking something and hiding it, to see if they had been attentive. All of them passed the test with flying colors. He pointed out to them that their ability to remember so easily the items on that table was due to the fact that all of them had developed their attention of the tonal, or their attention over the table.

He next asked them to look casually at everything that was on the ground underneath the table, and tested their recall by removing the rocks, twigs or whatever else was there. None of them could remember what they had seen under the table.

The Nagual then swept everything off the top of the table and made each of them, one at a time, lie across it on their stomachs and carefully examine the ground underneath. He explained to them that for a sorcerer the nagual was the area just underneath the table. Since it was unthinkable to tackle the immensity of the nagual, as exemplified by that vast, desolate place, sorcerers took as their domain of activity the area directly below the island of the tonal, as graphically shown by what was underneath that table. That area was the domain of what he called the second attention, or the attention of the nagual, or the attention under the table. That attention was reached only after warriors had swept the top of their tables clean. He said that reaching the second attention made the two attentions into a single unit, and that unit was the totality of oneself.

La Gorda said that his demonstration was so clear to her that she understood at once why the Nagual had made her clean her own life, sweep her island of the tonal, as he had called it. She felt that she had indeed been fortunate in having followed every suggestion that he had put to her. She was still a long way from unifying her two attentions, but her diligence had resulted in an impeccable life, which was, as he had assured her, the only way for her to lose her human form. Losing the human form was the essential requirement for unifying the two attentions.

"The attention under the table is the key to everything sorcerers do," she went on. "In order to reach that attention the Nagual and Genaro taught us dreaming, and you were taught about power plants. I don't know what they did to you to teach you how to trap your second attention with power plants, but to teach us how to do dreaming, the Nagual taught us gazing. He never told us what he was really doing to us. He just taught us to gaze. We never knew that gazing was the way to trap our second attention. We thought gazing was just for fun. That was not so. Dreamers have to be gazers before they can trap their second attention.

"The first thing the Nagual did was to put a dry leaf on the ground and make me look at it for hours. Every day he brought a leaf and put it in front of me. At first I thought that it was the same leaf that he saved from day to day, but then I noticed that leaves are different. The Nagual said that when we realized that, we are not looking anymore, but gazing.

"Then he put stacks of dry leaves in front of me. He told me to scramble them with my left hand and feel them as I gazed at them. A dreamer moves the leaves in spirals, gazes at them and then dreams of the designs that the leaves make. The Nagual said that dreamers can consider themselves as having mastered leaf gazing when they dream the designs of the leaves first and then find those same designs the next day in their pile of dry leaves.

"The Nagual said that gazing at leaves fortifies the second attention. If you gaze at a pile of leaves for hours, as he used to make me do, your thoughts get quiet. Without thoughts the attention of the tonal wanes and suddenly your second attention hooks onto the leaves and the leaves become something else. The Nagual called the moment when the second attention hooks onto something stopping the world. And that is correct, the world stops. For this reason there should always be someone around when you gaze. We never know about the quirks of our second attention. Since we have never used it, we have to become familiar with it before we could venture into gazing alone.

"The difficulty in gazing is to learn to quiet down the thoughts. The Nagual said that he preferred to teach us how to do that with a pile of leaves because we could get all the leaves we needed any time we wanted to gaze. But anything else would do the same job.

"Once you can stop the world you are a gazer. And since the only way of stopping the world is by trying, the Nagual made all of us gaze at dry leaves for years and years. I think it's the best way to reach our second attention.

"He combined gazing at dry leaves and looking for our hands in dreaming. It took me about a year to find my hands, and four years to stop the world. The Nagual said that once you have trapped your second attention with dry leaves, you do gazing and dreaming to enlarge it. And that's all there is to gazing."

"You make it sound so simple, Gorda."

"Everything the Toltecs do is very simple. The Nagual said that all we needed to do in order to trap our second attention was to try and try. All of us stopped the world by gazing at dry leaves. You and Eligio were different. You yourself did it with power plants, but I don't know what path the Nagual followed with Eligio. He never wanted to tell me. He told me about you because we have the same task."

I mentioned that I had written in my notes that I had had the first complete awareness of having stopped the world only a few days before. She laughed.

"You stopped the world before any of us," she said. "What do you think you did when you took all those power plants? You've never done it by gazing like we did, that's all."

"Was the pile of dry leaves the only thing the Nagual made you gaze at?"

"Once dreamers know how to stop the world, they can gaze at other things; and finally when the dreamers lose their form altogether, they can gaze at anything. I do that. I can go into anything. He made us follow a certain order in gazing, though.

"First we gazed at small plants. The Nagual warned us that small plants are very dangerous. Their power is concentrated; they have a very intense light and they feel when dreamers are gazing at them; they immediately move their light and shoot it at the gazer. Dreamers have to choose one kind of plant to gaze at.

"Next we gazed at trees. Dreamers also have a particular kind of tree to gaze at. In this respect you and I are the same; both of us are eucalyptus gazers."

By the look on my face she must have guessed my next question.

"The Nagual said that with his smoke you could very easily get your second attention to work," she went on. "You focused your attention lots of times on the Nagual's predilection, the crows. He said that once, your second attention focused so perfectly on a crow that it flew away, like a crow flies, to the only eucalyptus tree that was around."

For years I had dwelled upon that experience. I could not regard it in any other way except as an inconceivably complex hypnotic state, brought about by the psychotropic mushrooms contained in don Juan's smoking mixture in conjunction with his expertise as a manipulator of behavior. He suggested a perceptual catharsis in me, that of turning into a crow and perceiving the world as a crow. The result was that I perceived the world in a manner that could not have possibly been part of my inventory of past experiences. La Gorda's explanation somehow had simplified everything.

She said that the Nagual next made them gaze at moving, living creatures. He told them that small insects were by far the best subject. Their mobility made them innocuous to the gazer, the opposite of plants which drew their light directly from the earth.

The next step was to gaze at rocks. She said that rocks were very old and powerful and had a specific light which was rather greenish in contrast with the white light of plants and the yellowish light of mobile, living beings. Rocks did not open up easily to gazers, but it was worthwhile for gazers to persist because rocks had special secrets concealed in their core, secrets that could aid sorcerers in their "dreaming."

"What are the things that rocks reveal to you?" I asked.

"When I gaze into the very core of a rock," she said, "I always catch a whiff of a special scent proper to that rock. When I roam around in my dreaming, I know where I am because I'm guided by those scents."

She said that the time of the day was an important factor in tree and rock gazing. In the early morning trees and rocks were stiff and their light was faint. Around noon was when they were at their best, and gazing at that time was done for borrowing their light and power. In the late afternoon and early evening trees and rocks were quiet and sad, especially trees. La Gorda said that at that hour trees gave the feeling that they were gazing back at the gazer.

A second series in the order of gazing was to gaze at cyclic phenomena: rain and fog. She said that gazers can focus their second attention on the rain itself and move with it, or focus it on the background and use the rain as a magnifying glass of sorts to reveal hidden features. Places of power or places to be avoided are found by gazing through rain. Places of power are yellowish and places to be avoided are intensely green.

La Gorda said that fog was unquestionably the most mysterious thing on earth for a gazer and that it could be used in the same two ways that rain was used. But it did not easily yield to women, and even after she had lost her human form, it remained unattainable to her. She said that the Nagual once made her "see" a green mist at the head of a fog bank and told her that was the second attention of a fog gazer who lived in the mountains where she and the Nagual were, and that he was moving with the fog. She added that fog was used to uncover the ghosts of things that were no longer there and that the true feat of fog gazers was to let their second attention go into whatever their gazing was revealing to them.

I told her that once while I was with don Juan I had seen a bridge formed out of a fog bank. I was aghast at the clarity and precise detail of that bridge. To me it was more than real. The scene was so intense and vivid that I had been incapable of forgetting it. Don Juan's comments had been that I would have to cross that bridge someday.

"I know about it," she said. "The Nagual told me that someday when you have mastery over your second attention you'll cross that bridge with that attention, the same way you flew like a crow with that attention. He said that if you become a sorcerer, a bridge will form for you out of the fog and you will cross it and disappear from this world forever. Just like he himself has done."

"Did he disappear like that, over a bridge?"

"Not over a bridge. But you witnessed how he and Genaro stepped into the crack between the worlds in front of your very eyes. Nestor said that only Genaro waved his hand to say good-bye the last time you saw them; the Nagual did not wave because he was opening the crack. The Nagual told me that when the second attention has to be called upon to assemble itself, all that is needed is the motion of opening that door. That's the secret of the Toltec dreamers once they are formless."

I wanted to ask her about don Juan and don Genaro stepping through that crack. She made me stop with a light touch of her hand on my mouth.

She said that another series was distance and cloud gazing. In both, the effort of gazers was to let their second attention go to the place they were gazing at. Thus, they covered great distances or rode on clouds. In the case of cloud gazing, the Nagual never permitted them to gaze at thunderheads. He told them that they had to be formless before they could attempt that feat, and that they could not only ride on a thunderhead but on a thunderbolt itself.

La Gorda laughed and asked me to guess who would be daring and crazy enough actually to try gazing at thunderheads. I could think of no one else but Josefina. La Gorda said that Josefina tried gazing at thunderheads every time she could when the Nagual was away, until one day a thunderbolt nearly killed her.

"Genaro was a thunderbolt sorcerer," she went on. "His first two apprentices, Benigno and Nestor, were singled out for him by his friend the thunder. He said that he was looking for plants in a very remote area where the Indians are very private and don't like visitors of any kind. They had given Genaro permission to be on their land since he spoke their language. Genaro was picking some plants when it began to rain. There were some houses around but the people were unfriendly and he didn't want to bother them; he was about to crawl into a hole when he saw a young man coming down the road riding a bicycle heavily laden with goods. It was Benigno, the man from the town, who dealt with those Indians. His bicycle got stuck in the mud and right there a thunderbolt struck him. Genaro thought that he had been killed. People in the houses had seen what happened and came out. Benigno was more scared than hurt, but his bicycle and all his merchandise were ruined. Genaro stayed with him for a week and cured him.

"Almost the same thing happened to Nestor. He used to buy medicinal plants from Genaro, and one day he followed him into the mountains to see where he picked his plants, so he wouldn't have to pay for them anymore. Genaro went very far into the mountains on purpose; he intended to make Nestor get lost. It wasn't raining but there were thunderbolts, and suddenly a thunderbolt struck the ground and ran over the dry ground like a snake. It ran right between Nestor's legs and hit a rock ten yards away.

"Genaro said that the bolt had charred the inside of Nestor's legs. His testicles were swollen and he got very ill. Genaro had to cure him for a week right in those mountains.

"By the time Benigno and Nestor were cured, they were also hooked. Men have to be hooked. Women don't need that. Women go freely into anything. That's their power and at the same time their drawback. Men have to be led and women have to be contained."

She giggled and said that no doubt she had a lot of maleness in her, for she needed to be led, and that I must have a lot of femaleness in me, for I needed to be contained.

The last series was fire, smoke and shadow gazing. She said that for a gazer, fire is not bright but black, and so is smoke. Shadows, on the other hand, are brilliant and have color and movement in them.

There were two more things that were kept separate, star and water gazing. Stargazing was done by sorcerers who have lost their human form. She said that she had fared very well at stargazing, but could not handle gazing at water, especially running water, which was used by formless sorcerers to gather their second attention and transport it to anyplace they needed to go.

"All of us are terrified of water," she went on. "A river gathers the second attention and takes it away and there is no way of stopping. The Nagual told me about your feats of water gazing. But he also told me that one time you nearly disintegrated in the water of a shallow river and that you can't even take a bath now."

Don Juan had made me stare at the water of an irrigation ditch behind his house various times while he had me under the influence of his smoking mixture. I had experienced inconceivable sensations. Once I saw myself all green as if I were covered with algae. After that he recommended that I avoid water.

"Has my second attention been injured by water?" I asked.

"It has," she replied. "You are a very indulging man. The Nagual warned you to be cautious, but you went beyond your limits with running water. The Nagual said that you could've used water like no one else, but it wasn't your fate to be moderate."

She pulled her bench closer to mine.

"That's all there is to gazing," she said. "But there are other things I must tell you before you leave."

"What things, Gorda?"

"First of all, before I say anything, you must round up your second attention for the little sisters and me."

"I don't think I can do that."

La Gorda stood up and went into the house. She came back a moment later with a small, thick, round cushion made out of the same natural fiber used in making nets. Without saying a word she led me again to the front porch. She said that she had made that cushion herself for her comfort when she was learning to gaze, because the position of the body was of great importance while one was gazing. One had to sit on the ground on a soft mat of leaves, or on a cushion made out of natural fibers. The back had to be propped against a tree, or a stump, or a flat rock. The body had to be thoroughly relaxed. The eyes were never fixed on the object, in order to avoid tiring them. The gaze consisted in scanning very slowly the object gazed at, going counterclockwise but without moving the head. She added that the Nagual had made them plant those thick poles so they could use them to prop themselves.

She had me sit on her cushion and prop my back against a pole. She told me that she was going to guide me in gazing at a power spot that the Nagual had in the round hills across the valley. She hoped that by gazing at it I would get the necessary energy to round up my second attention.

She sat down very close to me, to my left, and began giving me instructions. Almost in a whisper she told me to keep my eyelids half closed and stare at the place where two enormous round hills converged. There was a narrow, steep water canyon there. She said that that particular gazing consisted of four separate actions. The first one was to use the brim of my hat as a visor to shade off the excessive glare from the sun and allow only a minimal amount of light to come to my eyes; then to half-close my eyelids; the third step was to sustain the opening of my eyelids in order to maintain a uniform flow of light; and the fourth step was to distinguish the water canyon in the background through the mesh of light fibers on my eyelashes.

I could not follow her instructions at first. The sun was high over the horizon and I had to tilt my head back. I tipped my hat until I had blocked off most of the glare with the brim. That seemed to be all that was needed. As soon as I half closed my eyes, a bit of light that appeared as if it were coming from the tip of my hat literally exploded on my eyelashes, which were acting as a filter that created a web of light. I kept my eyelids half closed and played with the web of light for a moment until I could distinguish the dark, vertical outline of the water canyon in the background.

La Gorda told me then to gaze at the middle part of the canyon until I could spot a very dark brown blotch. She said that it was a hole in the canyon which was not there for the eye that looks, but only for the eye that "sees." She warned me that I had to exercise my control as soon as I had isolated that blotch, so that it would not pull me toward it. Rather, I was supposed to zoom in on it and gaze into it. She suggested that the moment I found the hole I should press my shoulders on hers to let her know. She slid sideways until she was leaning on me.

I struggled for a moment to keep the four actions coordinated and steady, and suddenly a dark spot was formed in the middle of the canyon. I noticed immediately that I was not seeing it in the way I usually see. The dark spot was rather an impression, a visual distortion of sorts. The moment my control waned it disappeared. It was in my field of perception only if I kept the four actions under control. I remembered then that don Juan had engaged me countless times in a similar activity. He used to hang a small piece of cloth from a low branch of a bush, which was strategically located to be in line with specific geological formations in the mountains in the background, such as water canyons or slopes. By making me sit about fifty feet away from that piece of cloth, and having me stare through the low branches of the bush where the cloth hung, he used to create a special perceptual effect in me. The piece of cloth, which was always a shade darker than the geological formation I was staring at, seemed to be at first a feature of that formation. The idea was to let my perception play without analyzing it. I failed every time because I was thoroughly incapable of suspending judgment, and my mind always entered into some rational speculation about the mechanics of my phantom perception.

This time I felt no need whatsoever for speculations. La Gorda was not an imposing figure that I unconsciously needed to fight, as don Juan had obviously been to me.

The dark blotch in my field of perception became almost black. I leaned on la Gorda's shoulder to let her know. She whispered in my ear that I should struggle to keep my eyelids in the position they were in and breathe calmly from my abdomen. I should not let the blotch pull me, but gradually go into it. The thing to avoid was letting the hole grow and suddenly engulf me. In the event that that happened I had to open my eyes immediately.

I began to breathe as she had prescribed, and thus I could keep my eyelids fixed indefinitely at the appropriate aperture.

I remained in that position for quite some time. Then I noticed that I had begun to breathe normally and that it had not disturbed my perception of the dark blotch. But suddenly the dark blotch began to move, to pulsate, and before I could breathe calmly again, the blackness moved forward and enveloped me. I became frantic and opened my eyes.

La Gorda said that I was doing distance gazing and for that it was necessary to breathe the way she had recommended. She urged me to start all over again. She said that the Nagual used to make them sit for entire days rounding up their second attention by gazing at that spot. He cautioned them repeatedly about the danger of being engulfed because of the jolt the body suffered.

It took me about an hour of gazing to do what she had delineated. To zoom in on the brown spot and gaze into it meant that the brown patch in my field of perception lightened up quite suddenly. As it became clearer I realized that something in me was performing an impossible act. I felt that I was actually advancing toward that spot; thus the impression I was having that it was clearing up. Then I was so near to it that I could distinguish features in it, like rocks and vegetation. I came even closer and could look at a peculiar formation on one rock. It looked like a roughly carved chair. I liked it very much; compared to it the rest of the rocks seemed pale and uninteresting.

I don't know how long I gazed at it. I could focus on every detail of it. I felt that I could lose myself forever in its detail because there was no end to it. But something dispelled my view; another strange image was superimposed on the rock, and then another one, and another yet. I became annoyed with the interference. At the instant I became annoyed I also realized that la Gorda was moving my head from side to side from behind me. In a matter of seconds the concentration of my gazing had been thoroughly dissipated.

La Gorda laughed and said that she understood why I had caused the Nagual such an intense concern. She had seen for herself that I indulged beyond my limits. She sat against the pole next to me and said that she and the little sisters were going to gaze into the Nagual's power place. She then made a piercing birdcall. A moment later the little sisters came out of the house and sat down to gaze with her.

Their gazing mastery was obvious. Their bodies acquired a strange rigidity. They did not seem to be breathing at all. Their stillness was so contagious that I caught myself half closing my eyes and staring into the hills.
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Re: The Second Ring of Power, by Carlos Castaneda

Postby admin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 5:06 am

Part 2 of 2

Gazing had been a true revelation to me. In performing it I had corroborated some important issues of don Juan's teachings. La Gorda had delineated the task in a definitely vague manner. "To zoom in on it" was more a command than a description of a process, and yet it was a description, providing that one essential requirement had been fulfilled; don Juan had called that requirement stopping the internal dialogue. From la Gorda's statements about gazing it was obvious to me that the effect don Juan had been after in making them gaze was to teach them to stop the internal dialogue. La Gorda had expressed it as "quieting down the thoughts." Don Juan had taught me to do that very same thing, although he had made me follow the opposite path; instead of teaching me to focus my view, as gazers did, he taught me to open it, to flood my awareness by not focusing my sight on anything. I had to sort of feel with my eyes everything in the 180 - degree range in front of me, while I kept my eyes unfocused just above the line of the horizon.

It was very difficult for me to gaze, because it entailed reversing that training. As I tried to gaze, my tendency was to open up. The effort of keeping that tendency in check, however, made me shut off my thoughts. Once I had turned off my internal dialogue, it was not difficult to gaze as la Gorda had prescribed.

Don Juan had asserted time and time again that the essential feature of his sorcery was shutting off the internal dialogue. In terms of the explanation la Gorda had given me about the two realms of attention, stopping the internal dialogue was an operational way of describing the act of disengaging the attention of the tonal.

Don Juan had also said that once we stop our internal dialogue we also stop the world. That was an operational description of the inconceivable process of focusing our second attention. He had said that some part of us is always kept under lock and key because we are afraid of it, and that to our reason, that part of us was like an insane relative that we keep locked in a dungeon. That part was, in la Gorda's terms, our second attention, and when it finally could focus on something the world stopped. Since we, as average men, know only the attention of the tonal, it is not too farfetched to say that once that attention is canceled, the world indeed has to stop. The focusing of our wild, untrained second attention has to be, perforce, terrifying. Don Juan was right in saying that the only way to keep that insane relative from bursting in on us was by shielding ourselves with our endless internal dialogue.

La Gorda and the little sisters stood up after perhaps thirty minutes of gazing. La Gorda signaled me with her head to follow them. They went to the kitchen. La Gorda pointed to a bench for me to sit on. She said that she was going up the road to meet the Genaros and bring them over. She left through the front door.

The little sisters sat around me. Lidia volunteered to answer anything I wanted to ask her. I asked her to tell me about her gazing into don Juan's power spot, but she did not understand me.

"I'm a distance and shadow gazer," she said. "After I became a gazer the Nagual made me start all over again and had me gaze this time at the shadows of leaves and plants and trees and rocks. Now I never look at anything anymore; I just look at their shadows. Even if there is no light at all, there are shadows; even at night there are shadows. Because I'm a shadow gazer I'm also a distance gazer. I can gaze at shadows even in the distance.

"The shadows in the early morning don't tell much. The shadows rest at that time. So it's useless to gaze very early in the day. Around six in the morning the shadows wake up, and they are best around five in the afternoon. Then they are fully awake."

"What do the shadows tell you?"

"Everything I want to know. They tell me things because they have heat, or cold, or because they move, or because they have colors. I don't know yet all the things that colors and heat and cold mean. The Nagual left it up to me to learn."

"How do you learn?"

"In my dreaming. Dreamers must gaze in order to do dreaming and then they must look for their dreams in their gazing. For example, the Nagual made me gaze at the shadows of rocks, and then in my dreaming I found out that those shadows had light, so I looked for the light in the shadows from then on until I found it. Gazing and dreaming go together. It took me a lot of gazing at shadows to get my dreaming of shadows going. And then it took me a lot of dreaming and gazing to get the two together and really see in the shadows what I was seeing in my dreaming. See what I mean? Everyone of us does the same. Rosa's dreaming is about trees because she's a tree gazer and Josefina's is about clouds because she's a cloud gazer. They gaze at trees and clouds until they match their dreaming"

Rosa and Josefina shook their heads in agreement.

"What about la Gorda?" I asked.

"She's a flea gazer," Rosa said, and all of them laughed.

"La Gorda doesn't like to be bitten by fleas," Lidia explained. "She is formless and can gaze at anything, but she used to be a rain gazer."

"What about Pablito?"

"He gazes at women's crotches," Rosa answered with a deadpan expression.

They laughed. Rosa slapped me on the back.

"I understand that since he's your partner he's taking after you," she said.

They banged on the table and shook the benches with their feet as they laughed.

"Pablito is a rock gazer," Lidia said. "Nestor is a rain and plant gazer and Benigno is a distance gazer. But don't ask me any more about gazing because I will lose my power if I tell you more."

"How come la Gorda tells me everything?"

"La Gorda lost her form," Lidia replied. "Whenever I lose mine I'll tell you everything too. But by then you won't care to hear it. You care only because you're stupid like us. The day we lose our form we'll all stop being stupid."

"Why do you ask so many questions when you know all this?" Rosa asked.

"Because he's like us," Lidia said. "He's not a true nagual. He's still a man."

She turned and faced me. For an instant her face was hard and her eyes piercing and cold, but her expression softened as she spoke to me.

"You and Pablito are partners," she said. "You really like him, don't you?"

I thought for a moment before I answered. I told her that somehow I trusted him implicitly. For no overt reason at all I had a feeling of kinship with him.

"You like him so much that you fouled him up," she said in an accusing tone. "On that mountaintop where you jumped, he was getting to his second attention by himself and you forced him to jump with you."

"I only held him by the arm," I said in protest.

"A sorcerer doesn't hold another sorcerer by the arm," she said. "Each of us is very capable. You don't need any of us three to help you. Only a sorcerer who sees and is formless can help. On that mountaintop where you jumped, you were supposed to go first. Now Pablito is tied to you. I suppose you intended to help us in the same way. God, the more I think about you, the more I despise you."

Rosa and Josefina mumbled their agreement. Rosa stood up and faced me with rage in her eyes. She demanded to know what I intended to do with them. I said that I intended to leave very soon. My statement seemed to shock them. They all spoke at the same time. Lidia's voice rose above the others. She said that the time to leave had been the night before, and that she had hated it the moment I decided to stay. Josefina began to yell obscenities at me.

I felt a sudden shiver and stood up and yelled at them to be quiet with a voice that was not my own. They looked at me horrified. I tried to look casual, but I had frightened myself as much as I had frightened them.

At that moment la Gorda stepped out to the kitchen as if she had been hiding in the front room waiting for us to start a fight. She said that she had warned all of us not to fall into one another's webs. I had to laugh at the way she scolded us as if we were children. She said that we owed respect to each other, that respect among warriors was a most delicate matter. The little sisters knew how to behave like warriors with each other, so did the Genaros among themselves, but when I would come into either group, or when the two groups got together, all of them ignored their warrior's knowledge and behaved like slobs.

We sat down. La Gorda sat next to me. After a moment's pause Lidia explained that she was afraid I was going to do to them what I had done to Pablito. La Gorda laughed and said that she would never let me help any of them in that manner. I told her that I could not understand what I had done to Pablito that was so wrong. I had not been aware of what I had done, and if Nestor had not told me I would never have known that I had actually picked Pablito up. I even wondered if Nestor had perhaps exaggerated a bit, or that maybe he had made a mistake.

La Gorda said that the Witness would not make a stupid mistake like that, much less exaggerate it, and that the Witness was the most perfect warrior among them.

"Sorcerers don't help one another like you helped Pablito," she went on. "You behaved like a man in the street. The Nagual had taught us all to be warriors. He said that a warrior had no compassion for anyone. For him, to have compassion meant that you wished the other person to be like you, to be in your shoes, and you lent a hand just for that purpose. You did that to Pablito. The hardest thing in the world is for a warrior to let others be. When I was fat I worried because Lidia and Josefina did not eat enough. I was afraid that they would get ill and die from not eating. I did my utmost to fatten them and I meant only the best. The impeccability of a warrior is to let them be and to support them in what they are. That means, of course, that you trust them to be impeccable warriors themselves."

"But what if they are not impeccable warriors?" I said.

"Then it's your duty to be impeccable yourself and not say a word," she replied. "The Nagual said that only a sorcerer who sees and is formless can afford to help anyone. That's why he helped us and made us what we are. You don't think that you can go around picking people up off the street to help them, do you?"

Don Juan had already put me face to face with the dilemma that I could not help my fellow beings in any way. In fact, to his understanding, every effort to help on our part was an arbitrary act guided by our own self-interest alone.

One day when I was with him in the city, I picked up a snail that was in the middle of the sidewalk and tucked it safely under some vines. I was sure that if I had left it in the middle of the sidewalk, people would sooner or later have stepped on it. I thought that by moving it to a safe place I had saved it.

Don Juan pointed out that my assumption was a careless one, because I had not taken into consideration two important possibilities. One was that the snail might have been escaping a sure death by poison under the leaves of the vine, and the other possibility was that the snail had enough personal power to cross the sidewalk. By interfering I had not saved the snail but only made it lose whatever it had so painfully gained.

I wanted, of course, to put the snail back where I had found it, but he did not let me. He said that it was the snail's fate that an idiot crossed its path and made it lose its momentum. If I left it where I had put it, it might be able again to gather enough power to go wherever it was going.

I thought I had understood his point. Obviously I had only given him a shallow agreement. The hardest thing for me was to let others be.

I told them the story. La Gorda patted my back.

"We're all pretty bad," she said. "All five of us are awful people who don't want to understand. I've gotten rid of most of my ugly side, but not all of it yet. We are rather slow, and in comparison to the Genaros we are gloomy and domineering. The Genaros, on the other hand, are all like Genaro; there is very little awfulness in them."

The little sisters shook their heads in agreement.

"You are the ugliest among us," Lidia said to me. "I don't think we're that bad in comparison to you."

La Gorda giggled and tapped my leg as if telling me to agree with Lidia. I did, and all of them laughed like children.

We remained silent for a long time.

"I'm getting now to the end of what I had to tell you," la Gorda said all of a sudden.

She made all of us stand up. She said that they were going to show me the Toltec warrior's power stand. Lidia stood by my right side, facing me. She grabbed my hand with her right hand, palm to palm, but without interlocking the fingers. Then she hooked my arm right above the elbow with her left arm and held me tightly against her chest. Josefina did exactly the same thing on my left side. Rosa stood face to face with me and hooked her arms under my armpits and grabbed my shoulders. La Gorda came from behind me and embraced me at my waist, interlocking her fingers over my navel.

All of us were about the same height and they could press their heads against my head. La Gorda spoke very softly behind my left ear, but loud enough for all of us to hear her. She said that we were going to try to put our second attention in the Nagual's power place, without anyone or anything prodding us. This time there was no teacher to aid us or allies to spur us. We were going to go there just by the force of our desire.

I had the invincible urge to ask her what I should do. She said that I should let my second attention focus on what I had gazed at.

She explained that the particular formation which we were in was a Toltec power arrangement. I was at that moment the center and binding force of the four corners of the world. Lidia was the east, the weapon that the Toltec warrior holds in his right hand; Rosa was the north, the shield harnessed on the front of the warrior; Josefina was the west, the spirit catcher that the warrior holds in his left hand; and la Gorda was the south, the basket which the warrior carries on his back and where he keeps his power objects. She said that the natural position of every warrior was to face the north, since he had to hold the weapon, the east, in his right hand. But the direction that we ourselves had to face was the south, slightly toward the east; therefore, the act of power that the Nagual had left for us to perform was to change directions.

She reminded me that one of the first things that the Nagual had done to us was to turn our eyes to face the southeast. That had been the way he had enticed our second attention to perform the feat which we were going to attempt then. There were two alternatives to that feat. One was for all of us to turn around to face the south, using me as an axis, and in so doing change around the basic value and function of all of them. Lidia would be the west, Josefina, the east, Rosa, the south and she, the north. The other alternative was for us to change our direction and face the south but without turning around. That was the alternative of power, and it entailed putting on out second face.

I told la Gorda that I did not understand what our second face was. She said that she had been entrusted by the Nagual to try getting the second attention of all of us bundled up together, and that every Toltec warrior had two faces and faced two opposite directions. The second face was the second attention.

La Gorda suddenly released her grip. All the others did the same. She sat down again and motioned me to sit by her. The little sisters remained standing. La Gorda asked me if everything was clear to me. It was, and at the same time it was not. Before I had time to formulate a question, she blurted out that one of the last things the Nagual had entrusted her to tell me was that I had to change my direction by summing up my second attention together with theirs, and put on my power face to see what was behind me.

La Gorda stood up and motioned me to follow her. She led me to the door of their room. She gently pushed me into the room. Once I had crossed the threshold, Lidia, Rosa, Josefina and she joined me, in that order, and then la Gorda closed the door.

The room was very dark. It did not seem to have any windows. La Gorda grabbed me by the arm and placed me in what I thought was the center of the room. All of them surrounded me. I could not see them at all; I could only feel them flanking me on four sides.

After a while my eyes became accustomed to the darkness. I could see that the room had two windows which had been blocked off by panels. A bit of light came through them and I could distinguish everybody. Then all of them held me the way they had done a few minutes before, and in perfect unison they placed their heads against mine. I could feel their hot breaths all around me. I closed my eyes in order to sum up the image of my gazing. I could not do it. I felt very tired and sleepy. My eyes itched terribly; I wanted to rub them, but Lidia and Josefina held my arms tightly.

We stayed in that position for a very long time. My fatigue was unbearable and finally I slumped. I thought that my knees had given in. I had the feeling that I was going to collapse on the floor and fall asleep right there. But there was no floor. In fact, there was nothing underneath me. My fright upon realizing that was so intense that I was fully awake in an instant; a force greater than my fright, however, pushed me back into that sleepy state again. I abandoned myself. I was floating with them like a balloon. It was as if I had fallen asleep and was dreaming and in that dream I saw a series of disconnected images. We were no longer in the darkness of their room. There was so much light that it blinded me. At times I could see Rosa's face against mine; out of the corner of my eyes I could also see Lidia's and Josefina's. I could feel their foreheads pressed hard against my ears. And then the image would change and I would see instead la Gorda's face against mine. Every time that happened she would put her mouth on mine and breathe. I did not like that at all. Some force in me tried to get loose. I felt terrified. I tried to push all of them away. The harder I tried, the harder they held me. That convinced me that la Gorda had tricked me and had finally led me into a death trap. But contrary to the others la Gorda had been an impeccable player. The thought that she had played an impeccable hand made me feel better. At one point I did not care to struggle any longer. I became curious about the moment of my death, which I believed was imminent, and I let go of myself. I experienced then an unequaled joy, an exuberance that I was sure was the herald of my end, if not my death itself. I pulled Lidia and Josefina even closer to me. At that moment la Gorda was in front of me. I did not mind that she was breathing in my mouth; in fact I was surprised that she stopped then. The instant she did, all of them also stopped pressing their heads on mine. They began to look around and by so doing they also freed my head. I could move it. Lidia, la Gorda and Josefina were so close to me that I could see only through the opening in between their heads. I could not figure out where we were. One thing I was certain of, we were not standing on the ground. We were in the air. Another thing I knew for sure was that we had shifted our order. Lidia was to my left and Josefina, to my right. La Gorda's face was covered with perspiration and so were Lidia's and Josefina's. I could only feel Rosa behind me. I could see her hands coming from my armpits and holding onto my shoulders.

La Gorda was saying something I could not hear. She enunciated her words slowly as if she were giving me time to read her lips, but I got caught up in the details of her mouth. At one instant I felt that the four of them were moving me; they were deliberately rocking me. That forced me to pay attention to la Gorda's silent words. I clearly read her lips this time. She was telling me to turn around. I tried but my head seemed to be fixed. I felt that someone was biting my lips. I watched la Gorda. She was not biting me but she was looking at me as she mouthed her command to turn my head around. As she talked, I also felt that she was actually licking my entire face or biting my lips and cheeks.

La Gorda's face was somehow distorted. It looked big and yellowish. I thought that perhaps since the whole scene was yellowish, her face was reflecting that glow. I could almost hear her ordering me to turn my head around. Finally the annoyance that the biting was causing me made me shake my head. And suddenly the sound of la Gorda's voice became clearly audible. She was in back of me and she was yelling at me to turn my attention around. Rose was the one who was licking my face. I pushed her away from my face with my forehead. Rosa was weeping. Her face was covered with perspiration. I could hear la Gorda's voice behind me. She said that I had exhausted them by fighting them and that she did not know what to do to catch our original attention. The little sisters were whining.

My thoughts were crystal clear. My rational processes, however, were not deductive. I knew things quickly and directly and there was no doubt of any sort in my mind. For instance, I knew immediately that I had to go back to sleep again, and that that would make us plummet down. But I also knew that I had to let them bring us to their house. I was useless for that. If I could focus my second attention at all, it had to be on a place that don Juan had given me in northern Mexico. I had always been able to picture it in my mind like nothing else in the world. I did not dare to sum up that vision. I knew that we would have ended up there.

I thought that I had to tell la Gorda what I knew, but I could not talk. Yet some part of me knew that she understood. I trusted her implicitly and I fell asleep in a matter of seconds. In my dream I was looking at the kitchen of their house. Pablito, Nestor and Benigno were there. They looked extraordinarily large and they glowed. I could not focus my eyes on them, because a sheet of transparent plastic material was in between them and myself. Then I realized that it was as if I were looking at them through a glass window while somebody was throwing water on the glass. Finally the glass shattered and the water hit me in the face.

Pablito was drenching me with a bucket. Nestor and Benigno were also standing there. La Gorda, the little sisters and I were sprawled on the ground in the yard behind the house. The Genaros were drenching us with buckets of water.

I sprang up. Either the cold water or the extravagant experience I had just been through had invigorated me. La Gorda and the little sisters put on a change of clothes that the Genaros must have laid out in the sun. My clothes had also been neatly laid on the ground. I changed without a word. I was experiencing the peculiar feeling that seems to follow the focusing of the second attention; I could not talk, or rather I could talk but I did not want to. My stomach was upset. La Gorda seemed to sense it and pulled me gently to the area in back of the fence. I became ill. La Gorda and the little sisters were affected the same way.

I returned to the kitchen area and washed my face. The coldness of the water seemed to restore my awareness. Pablito, Nestor and Benigno were sitting around the table. Pablito had brought his chair. He stood up and shook hands with me. Then Nestor and Benigno did the same. La Gorda and the little sisters joined us.

There seemed to be something wrong with me. My ears were buzzing. I felt dizzy. Josefina stood up and grabbed onto Rosa for support. I turned to ask la Gorda what to do. Lidia was falling backward over the bench. I caught her, but her weight pulled me down and I fell over with her.

I must have fainted. I woke up suddenly. I was lying on a straw mat in the front room. Lidia, Rosa and Josefina were sound asleep next to me. I had to crawl over them to stand up. I nudged them but they did not wake up. I walked out to the kitchen. La Gorda was sitting with the Genaros around the table.

"Welcome back," Pablito said.

He added that la Gorda had woken up a short while before. I felt that I was my old self again. I was hungry. La Gorda gave me a bowl of food. She said that they had already eaten. After eating I felt perfect in every respect except I could not think as I usually do. My thoughts had quieted down tremendously. I did not like that state. I noticed then that it was late afternoon. I had a sudden urge to jog in place facing the sun, the way don Juan used to make me do. I stood up and la Gorda joined me. Apparently she had had the same idea. Moving like that made me perspire. I got winded very quickly and returned to the table. La Gorda followed me. We sat down again. The Genaros were staring at us. La Gorda handed me my writing pad.

"The Nagual here got us lost," la Gorda said.

The moment she spoke I experienced a most peculiar bursting. My thoughts came back to me in an avalanche. There must have been a change in my expression, for Pablito embraced me and so did Nestor and Benigno.

"The Nagual is going to live! " Pablito said loudly.

La Gorda also seemed delighted. She wiped her forehead in a gesture of relief. She said that I had nearly killed all of them and myself with my terrible tendency to indulge.

"To focus the second attention is no joke," Nestor said.

"What happened to us, Gorda?" I asked.

"We got lost," she said. "You began to indulge in your fear and we got lost in that immensity. We couldn't focus our attention of the tonal anymore. But we succeeded in bundling up our second attention with yours and now you have two faces."

Lidia, Rosa and Josefina stepped out into the kitchen at that moment. They were smiling and seemed as fresh and vigorous as ever. They helped themselves to some food. They sat down and nobody uttered a word while they ate. The moment the last one had finished eating, la Gorda picked up where she had left off.

"Now you're a warrior with two faces," she went on. "The Nagual said that all of us have to have two faces to fare well in both attentions. He and Genaro helped us to round up our second attention and turned us around so we could face in two directions, but they didn't help you, because to be a true nagual you have to claim your power all by yourself. You're still a long way from that, but let's say that now you're walking upright instead of crawling, and when you've regained your completeness and have lost your form, you'll be gliding."

Benigno made a gesture with his hand of a plane in flight and imitated the roar of the engine with his booming voice. The sound was truly deafening.

Everybody laughed. The little sisters seemed to be delighted.

I had not been fully aware until then that it was late afternoon. I said to la Gorda that we must have slept for hours, for we had gone into their room before noon. She said that we had not slept long at all, that most of that time we had been lost in the other world, and that the Genaros had been truly frightened and despondent, because there was nothing they could do to bring us back.

I turned to Nestor and asked him what they had actually done or seen while we were gone. He stared at me for a moment before answering.

"We brought a lot of water to the yard," he said, pointing to some empty oil barrels. "Then all of you staggered into the yard and we poured water on you, that's all."

"Did we come out of the room?" I asked him.

Benigno laughed loudly. Nestor looked at la Gorda as if asking for permission or advice.

"Did we come out of the room?" la Gorda asked.

"No," Nestor replied.

La Gorda seemed to be as anxious to know as I was, and that was alarming to me. She even coaxed Nestor to speak.

"You came from nowhere," Nestor said. "I should also say that it was frightening. All of you were like fog. Pablito saw you first. You may have been in the yard for a long time, but we didn't know where to look for you. Then Pablito yelled and all of us saw you. We have never seen anything like that."

"What did we look like?" I asked.

The Genaros looked at one another. There was an unbearably long silence. The little sisters were staring at Nestor with their mouths open.

"You were like pieces of fog caught in a web," Nestor said. "When we poured water on you, you became solid again."

I wanted him to keep on talking but la Gorda said that there was very little time left, for I had to leave at the end of the day and she still had things to tell me. The Genaros stood up and shook hands with the little sisters and la Gorda. They embraced me and told me that they only needed a few days in order to get ready to move away. Pablito put his chair upside down on his back. Josefina ran to the area around the stove, picked up a bundle they had brought from dona Soledad's house and placed it between the legs of Pablito's chair, which made an ideal carrying device.

"Since you're going home you might as well take this," she said. "It belongs to you anyway."

Pablito shrugged his shoulders and shifted his chair in order to balance the load.

Nestor signaled Benigno to take the bundle but Pablito would not let him.

"It's all right," he said. "I might as well be a jackass as long as I'm carrying this damn chair."

"Why do you carry it, Pablito?" I asked.

"I have to store my power," he replied. "I can't go around sitting on just anything. Who knows what kind of a creep sat there before me?"

He cackled and made the bundle wiggle by shaking his shoulders.

After the Genaros left, la Gorda explained to me that Pablito began his crazy involvement with his chair to tease Lidia. He did not want to sit where she had sat, but he had gotten carried away, and since he loved to indulge he would not sit anywhere else except on his chair.

"He's capable of carrying it through life," la Gorda said to me with great certainty. "He's almost as bad as you. He's your partner; you'll carry your writing pad through life and he'll carry his chair. What's the difference? Both of you indulge more than the rest of us."

The little sisters surrounded me and laughed, patting me on the back.

"It's very hard to get into our second attention," la Gorda went on, "and to manage it when you indulge as you do is even harder. The Nagual said that you should know how difficult that managing is better than any of us. With his power plants, you learned to go very far into that other world. That's why you pulled us so hard today that we nearly died. We wanted to gather our second attention on the Nagual's spot, and you plunged us into something we didn't know. We are not ready for it, but neither are you. You can't help yourself, though; the power plants made you that way. The Nagual was right: all of us have to help you contain your second attention, and you have to help all of us to push ours. Your second attention can go very far, but it has no control; ours can go only a little bit, but we have absolute control over it."

La Gorda and the little sisters, one by one, told me how frightening the experience of being lost in the other world had been.

"The Nagual told me," la Gorda went on, "that when he was gathering your second attention with his smoke, you focused it on a gnat, and then the little gnat became the guardian of the other world for you."

I told her that that was true. At her request I narrated to them the experience don Juan had made me undergo. With the aid of his smoking mixture I had perceived a gnat as a hundredfoot-high, horrifying monster that moved with incredible speed and agility. The ugliness of that creature was nauseating, and yet there was an awesome magnificence to it.

I also had had no way to accommodate that experience in my rational scheme of things. The only support for my intellect was my deep-seated certainty that one of the effects of the psychotropic smoking mixture was to induce me to hallucinate the size of the gnat.

I presented to them, especially to la Gorda, my rational, causal explanation of what had taken place. They laughed.

"There are no hallucinations," la Gorda said in a firm tone. "If anybody suddenly sees something different, something that was not there before, it is because that person's second attention has been gathered and that person is focusing it on something. Now, whatever is gathering that person's attention might be anything, maybe it's liquor, or maybe it's madness, or maybe it's the Nagual's smoking mixture.

"You saw a gnat and it became the guardian of the other world for you. And do you know what that other world is? That other world is the world of our second attention. The Nagual thought that perhaps your second attention was strong enough to pass the guardian and go into that world. But it wasn't. If it had been, you might have gone into that world and never returned. The Nagual told me that he was prepared to follow you. But the guardian didn't let you pass and nearly killed you. The Nagual had to stop making you focus your second attention with his power plants because you could only focus on the awesomeness of things. He had you do dreaming instead, so you could gather it in another way. But he was sure your dreaming would also be awesome. There was nothing he could do about it. You were following him in his own footsteps and he had an awesome, fearsome side."

They remained silent. It was as if all of them had been engulfed by their memories.

La Gorda said that the Nagual had once pointed out to me a very special red insect, in the mountains of his homeland. She asked me if I remembered it.

I did remember it. Years before don Juan had taken me to an area unknown to me, in the mountains of northern Mexico. With extreme care he showed me some round insects, the size of a ladybug. Their backs were brilliantly red. I wanted to get down on the ground and examine them, but he would not let me. He told me that I should watch them, without staring, until I had memorized their shape, because I was supposed to remember them always. He then explained some intricate details of their behavior, making it sound like a metaphor. He was telling me about the arbitrary importance of our most cherished mores. He pointed out some alleged mores of those insects and pitted them against ours. The comparison made the importance of our beliefs look ridiculous.

"Just before he and Genaro left," la Gorda went on, "the Nagual took me to that place in the mountains where those little bugs lived. I had already been there once, and so had everyone else. The Nagual made sure that all of us knew those little creatures, although he never let us gaze at them.

"While I was there with him he told me what to do with you and what I should tell you. I've already told you most of what he asked me to, except for this last thing. It has to do with what you've been asking everybody about: Where are the Nagual and Genaro? Now I'll tell you exactly where they are. The Nagual said that you will understand this better than any of us. None of us has ever seen the guardian. None of us has ever been in that yellow sulfur world where he lives. You are the only one among us who has. The Nagual said that he followed you into that world when you focused your second attention on the guardian. He intended to go there with you, perhaps forever, if you would've been strong enough to pass. It was then that he first found out about the world of those little red bugs. He said that their world was the most beautiful and perfect thing one could imagine. So, when it was time for him and Genaro to leave this world, they gathered all their second attention and focused it on that world. Then the Nagual opened the crack, as you yourself witnessed, and they slipped through it into that world, where they are waiting for us to join them someday. The Nagual and Genaro liked beauty. They went there for their sheer enjoyment."

She looked at me. I had nothing to say. She had been right in saying that power had to time her revelation perfectly if it were going to be effective. I felt an anguish I could not express. It was as if I wanted to weep and yet I was not sad or melancholy. I longed for something inexpressible, but that longing was not mine. Like so many of the feelings and sensations I had had since my arrival, it was alien to me.

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.

She stood up and pulled me up off the bench. She said that I had to leave before the twilight set in. All of them walked with me to my car and we said good-bye.

La Gorda gave me a last command. She told me that on my return I should go directly to the Genaros' house.

"We don't want to see you until you know what to do," she said with a radiant smile. "But don't delay too long."

The little sisters nodded.

"Those mountains are not going to let us stay here much longer," she said, and with a subtle movement of her chin she pointed to the ominous, eroded hills across the valley.

I asked her one more question. I wanted to know if she had any idea where the Nagual and Genaro would go after we had completed our rendezvous. She looked up at the sky, raised her arms and made an indescribable gesture with them to point out that there was no limit to that vastness.
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