Magical Passes

The first time don Juan talked to me at length about magical passes was when he made a derogatory comment about my weight.

"You are way too chubby," he said, looking at me from head to toe and shaking his head in disapproval. "You are one step from being fat. Wear and tear is beginning to show in you. Like any other member of your race, you are developing a lump of fat on your neck, like a bull. It's time that you take seriously one of the sorcerers' greatest findings: the magical passes."

"What magical passes are you talking about, don Juan?" I asked. "You have never mentioned this topic to me before. Or, if you have, it must have been so lightly that I can't recall anything about it."

"Not only have I told you a great deal about magical passes," he said, "you know a great number of them already. I have been teaching them to you all along."

As far as I was concerned, it wasn't true that he had taught me any magical passes all along. I protested vehemently.

"Don't be so passionate about defending your wonderful self," he joked, making a ridiculous gesture of apology with his eyebrows. "What I meant to say is that you imitate everything I do, so I have been cashing in on your imitation capacity. I have shown you various magical passes, all along, and you nave always taken them to be my delight in cracking my joints. I like the way you interpret them: cracking my joints! We are going to keep on referring to them in that manner.

"I have shown you ten different ways of cracking my joints," he continued. "Each one of them is a magical pass that fits to perfection my body and yours. You could say that those ten magical passes are in your line and mine. They belong to us personally and individually, as they belonged to other sorcerers who were just like the two of us in the twenty-five generations that preceded us."

The magical passes don Juan was referring to, as he himself had said, were ways in which I thought he cracked his joints. He used to move his arms, legs, torso, and hips in specific ways, I thought, in order to create a maximum stretch of his muscles, bones, and ligaments. The result of these stretching movements, from my point of view, was a succession of cracking sounds which I always thought that he was producing for my amazement and amusement. He, indeed, had asked me time and time again to imitate him. In a challenging manner, he had even dared me to memorize the movements and repeat them at home until I could get my j oints to make cracking noises, just like his.

I had never succeeded in reproducing the sounds, yet I had definitely but unwittingly learned all the movements. I know now that not achieving that cracking sound was a blessing in disguise, because the muscles and tendons of the arms and back should never be stressed to that point. Don Juan was born with a facility to crack the joints of his arms and back, just as some people have the facility to crack their knuckles.

"How did the old sorcerers invent those magical passes, don Juan?" I asked.

"Nobody invented them," he said sternly. "To think that they were invented implies instantly the intervention of the mind, and this is not the case when it comes to those magical passes. They were, rather, discovered by the old shamans. I was told that it all began with the extraordinary sensation of well-being that those shamans experienced when they were in shamanistic states of heightened awareness. They felt such tremendous, enthralling vigor that they struggled to repeat it in their hours of vigil.

"At first," don Juan explained to me once, " those shamans believed that it was a mood of well-being that heightened awareness created in general. Soon, they found out that not all the states of shamanistic heightened awareness which they entered produced in them the same sensation of well-being. A more careful scrutiny revealed to them that whenever that sensation of well-being occurred, they had always been engaged in some specific kind of bodily movement. They realized that while they were in states of heightened awareness, their bodies moved involuntarily in certain ways, and that those certain ways were indeed the cause of that unusual sensation of physical and mental plenitude."

Don Juan speculated that it had always appeared to him that the movements that the bodies of those shamans executed automatically in heightened awareness were a sort of hidden heritage of mankind, something that had been put in deep storage, to be revealed only to those who were looking for it. He portrayed those sorcerers as deep-sea divers, who without knowing it, reclaimed it.

Don Juan said that those sorcerers arduously began to piece together some of the movements they remembered. Their efforts paid off. They were capable of re-creating movements that had seemed to them to be automatic reactions of the body in a state of heightened awareness. Encouraged by their success, they were capable of re-creating hundreds of movements, which they performed without ever attempting to classify them into an understandable scheme. Their idea was that in heightened awareness, the movements happened spontaneously, and that there was a force that guided their effect, without the intervention of their volition.

Don Juan commented that the nature of their findings always led him to believe that the sorcerers of ancient times were extraordinary people, because the movements that they discovered were never revealed in the same fashion to modem shamans who also entered into heightened awareness. Perhaps this was because modem shamans had learned the movements beforehand, in some fashion or another, from their predecessors, or perhaps because the sorcerers of ancient times had more energetic mass.

'What do you mean, don Juan, that they had more energetic mass?" I asked. 'Were they bigger men?"

"I don't think they were physically any bigger," he said, "but energetically, they appeared to the eye of a seer as an oblong shape. They called themselves luminous eggs. I have never seen a luminous egg in my life. All I have seen are luminous balls. It is presumable, then, that man has lost some energetic mass over the generations."

Don Juan explained to me that to a seer, the universe is composed of an infinite number of energy fields. They appear to the eye of the seer as luminous filaments that shoot out every which way. Don Juan said that those filaments crisscross through the luminous balls that human beings are, and that it was reasonable to assume that if human beings were once oblong shapes, like eggs, they were much higher than a ball. Therefore, energy fields that touched human beings at the crown of the luminous egg are no longer touching them now that they are luminous balls. Don Juan felt that this meant to him a loss of energy mass, which seemed to have been crucial for the purpose of reclaiming that hidden treasure: the magical passes.

"Why are the passes of the old shamans called magical passes, don Juan?" I asked him on one occasion.

"They are not just called magical passes," he said, "they are magical! They produce an effect that cannot be accounted for by means of ordinary explanations. These movements are not physical exercises or mere postures of the body; they are real attempts at reaching an optimal state of being.

"The ~c of the movements," he went on, "is a subtle change that the practitioners experience on executing them. It is an ephemeral quality that the movement brings to their physical and mental states, a kind of shine, a light in the eyes. This subtle change is a touch of the spirit. It is as if the practitioners, through the movements, reestablish an unused link with the life force that sustains them."

He further explained that another reason that the movements are called magical passes is that by means of practicing them, shamans are transported, in terms of perception, to other states of being in which they can sense the world in an indescribable manner.

"Because of this quality, because of this magic," don Juan said to me, "the passes must be practiced not as exercises, but as a way of beckoning power.

"But can they be taken as physical movements, although they have never been taken as such?" I asked.

"You can practice them any way you wish," don Juan replied. "The magical passes enhance awareness, regardless of how you take them. The intelligent thing would be to take them as what they are: magical passes that on being practiced lead the practitioner to drop the mask of socialization."

"What is the mask of socialization?" I asked.

"The veneer that all of us defend and die for," he said. "The veneer we acquire in the world. The one that prevents us from reaching all our potential. The one that makes us believe we are immortal. The intent of thousands of sorcerers permeates these movements. Executing them, even in a casual way, makes the mind come to a halt."

"What do you mean that they make the mind come to a halt?" I asked.

"Everything that we do in the world," he said, "we recognize and identify by converting it into lines of similarity, lines of things that are strung together by purpose. For example, if I say to you fork, this immediately brings to your mind the idea of spoon, knife, tablecloth, napkin, plate, cup and saucer, glass of wine, chili con came, banquet, birthday, fiesta. You could certainly go on naming things strung together by purpose, nearly forever. Everything we do is strung like this. The strange part for sorcerers is that they see that all these lines of affinity, all these lines of things strung together by purpose, are associated with man's idea that things are unchangeable and forever, like the word of God."

"I don't see, don Juan, why you bring the word of God into this elucidation. What does the word of God have to do with what you are trying to explain?"

"Everything!" he replied. "It seems to be that in our minds, the entire universe is like the word of God: absolute and unchanging. This is the way we conduct ourselves. In the depths of our minds, there is a checking device that doesn't permit us to stop to examine that the word of God, as we accept it and believe it to be, pertains to a dead world. A live world, on the other hand, is in constant flux. It moves. It changes. It reverses itself.

"The most abstract reason why the magical passes of the sorcerers of my lineage are magical," he went on, "is that in practicing them, the body of the practitioner realizes that everything, instead of being an unbroken chain of objects that have affinity for each other, is a current, a flux. And if everything in the universe is a flux, a current, that current can be stopped. A dam can be put on it, and in this manner, its flux can be halted or deviated."

Don Juan explained to me on one occasion the overall effect that the practice of the magical passes had on the sorcerers of his lineage, and correlated this effect with what would happen to modem practitioners.

"The sorcerers of my lineage," he said, "were shocked half to death upon realizing that practicing their magical passes brought about the halt of the otherwise uninterrupted flux of things. They constructed a series of metaphors to describe this halt, and in their effort to explain it, or reconsider it, they flubbed it. They lapsed into ritual and ceremony. They began to enact the act of halting the flux of things. They believed that if certain ceremonies and rituals were focused on a definite aspect of their magical passes, the magical passes themselves would beckon a specific result. Very soon, the number and complexity of their rituals and ceremonies became more encumbering than the number of their magical passes.

"It is very important," he went on, "to focus the attention of the practitioner on some definite aspect of the magical passes. However, that fixation should be light, funny, void of morbidity and grimness. It should be done for the hell of it, without really expecting returns."

He gave the example of one of his cohorts, a sorcerer by the name of Silvio Manuel, whose delight and predilection was to adapt the magical passes of the sorcerers of ancient times to the steps of his modem dancing. Don Juan described Silvio Manuel as a superb acrobat and dancer who actually danced the magical passes.

"The nagual Elias Ulloa," don Juan continued, "was the most prominent innovator of my lineage. He was the one who threw all the ritual out the window, so to speak, and practiced the magical passes exclusively for the purpose for which they were originally used at one time in the remote past: for the purpose of redeploying energy.

"The nagual Julian Osorio, who came after him," don Juan continued, "was the one who gave ritual the final death blow. Since he was a bona fide professional actor who at one time had made his living acting in the theater, he put enormous stock into what sorcerers called the shamanistic theater. He called it the theater of infinity, and into it, he poured all the magical passes that were available to him. Every movement of his characters was imbued to the gills with magical passes. Not only that, but he turned the theater into a new avenue for teaching them. Between the nagual Julian, the actor of infinity, and Silvio Manuel, the dancer of infinity, they had the whole thing pegged down. A new era was on the horizon! The era of pure redeployment!"

Don Juan's explanation of redeployment was that human beings, perceived as conglomerates of energy fields, are sealed energetic units that have definite boundaries which don't permit the entrance or the exit of energy. Therefore, the energy existing within that conglomerate of energy fields is all that each human individual can count on.

"The natural tendency of human beings," he said, "is to push energy away from the centers of vitality, which are located on the right side of the body, right at the edge of the rib cage on the area of the liver and gallbladder; on the left side of the body, again, at the edge of the rib cage, on the area of the pancreas and spleen; on the back, right behind the other two centers, around the kidneys, and right above them, on the area of the adrenal glands; at the base of the neck on the V spot made by the sternum and clavicle; and around the uterus and ovaries in women."

"How do human beings push this energy away, don Juan?" I asked.

"By worrying," he replied. "By succumbing to the stress of everyday life. The duress of daily actions takes its toll on the body."

"And what happens to this energy, don Juan?" I asked.

"It gathers on the periphery of the luminous ball," he said, "sometimes to the point of making a thick barklike deposit. The magical passes relate to the total human being as a physical body, and as a conglomerate of energy fields. They agitate the energy that has been accumulated in the luminous ball and return it to the physical body itself. The magical passes engage both the body itself as a physical entity that suffers the dispersion of energy, and the body as an energetic entity which is capable of redeploying that dispersed energy.

"Having energy on the periphery of the luminous ball," he continued, it energy that is not being redeployed, is as useless as not having any energy at all. It is truly a terrifying situation to have a surplus of energy stashed away, inaccessible for all practical purposes. It is like being in the desert, dying of dehydration, while you carry a tank of water that you cannot open, because you don't have any tools. In that desert, you can't even find a rock to bang it with."

The true magic of the magical passes is the fact that they cause crusted-down energy to enter again into the centers of vitality, hence the feeling of well-being and prowess which is the practitioner's experience. The sorcerers of don Juan's lineage, before they entered into their excessive ritualism and ceremony, had formulated the basis for this redeployment. They called it saturation, meaning that they inundated their bodies with a profusion of magical passes, in order to allow the force that binds us together to guide those magical passes to cause the maximum redeployment of energy.

"But don Juan, are you telling me that every time you crack your joints, or every time I try to imitate you, we are really redeploying energy?" I asked him once, without really meaning to be sarcastic.

"Every time we execute a magical pass," he replied, "we are indeed altering the basic structures of our beings. Energy which is ordinarily crusted down is released and begins to enter into the vortexes of vitality of the body. Only by means of that reclaimed energy can we put up a dike, a barrier to contain an otherwise uncontainable and always deleterious flow."

I asked don Juan to give me an example of putting a dam on what he was calling a deleterious flow. I told him that I wanted to visualize it in my mind.

"I'll give you an example," he said. "For instance, at my age, I should be prey to high blood pressure. If I went to see a doctor, the doctor, upon seeing me, would assume that I must be an old Indian, plagued with uncertainties, frustrations, and bad diet; all of this, naturally, resulting in a most expected and predictable condition of high blood pressure: an acceptable corollary of my age.

"I don't have any problems with high blood pressure," he went on, "not because I am stronger than the average man or because of my genetic frame, but because my magical passes have made my body break through any patterns of behaviour that result in high blood pressure. I can truthfully say that every time I crack my joints, following the execution of a magical pass, I am blocking off the flow of expectations and behaviour that ordinarily result in high blood pressure at my age.

"Another example I can give you is the agility of my knees," he continued. "Haven't you noticed how much more agile I am than you? When it comes to moving my knees, I'm a kid! With my magical passes, I put a dam on the current of behaviour and physicality that makes the knees of people, both men and women, stiff with age."

One of the most annoying feelings I had ever experienced was caused by the fact that don Juan Matus, although he could have been my grandfather, was infinitely younger than I. In comparison, I was stiff, opinionated, repetitious. I was senile. He, on the other hand, was fresh, inventive, agile, resourceful. In short, he possessed something which, although I was young, I did not: youth. He delighted in telling me repeatedly that young age was not youth, and that young age was in no way a deterrent to senility. He pointed out that if I watched my fellowmen carefully and dispassionately, I would be able to corroborate that by the time they reached twenty years of age, they were already senile, repeating themselves inanely.

"How is it possible, don Juan," I said, "that you could be younger than l?"

"I have vanquished my mind," he said, opening his eyes wide to denote bewilderment. "I don't have a mind to tell me that it is time to be old. I don't honor agreements in which I didn't participate. Remember this: It is not just a slogan for sorcerers to say that they do not honor agreements in which they did not participate. To be plagued by old age is one such agreement."

We were silent for a long time. Don Juan seemed to be waiting, I thought, for the effect that his words might cause in me. What I thought to be my psychological unity was further ripped apart by a clearly dual response on my part. On one level, I repudiated with all my might the nonsense that don Juan was verbalizing; on another level, however, I couldn't fail to notice how accurate his remarks were. Don Juan was old, and yet he wasn't old at all. He was ages younger than I. He was free from encumbering thoughts and habit patterns. He was roaming around in incredible worlds. He was free, while I was imprisoned by heavy thought patterns and habits, by petty and futile considerations about myself, which I felt, on that occasion, for the first time ever, weren't even mine.

I asked don Juan on another occasion something that had been bothering me for a long time. He had stated that the sorcerers of ancient Mexico discovered the magical passes, which were some sort of hidden treasure, placed in storage for man to find. I wanted to know who would put something like that in storage for man. The only idea that I could come up with was derived from Catholicism. I thought of God doing it, or a guardian angel, or the Holy Spirit.

"It is not the Holy Spirit," he said, "which is only holy to you, because you're secretly a Catholic. And certainly it is not God, a benevolent father as you understand God. Nor is it a goddess, a nurturing mother, watching over the affairs of men, as many people believe to be the case. It is rather an impersonal force that has endless things in storage for those who dare to seek them. It is a force in the universe, like light or gravity. It is an agglutinating factor, a vibratory force that joins the conglomerate of energy fields that human beings are into one concise, cohesive unit. This vibratory force is the factor that doesn't allow the entrance or the exit of energy from the luminous ball.

"The sorcerers of ancient Mexico," he went on, "believed that the performance of their magical passes was the only factor that prepared and led the body to the transcendental corroboration of the existence of that agglutinating force."

From don Juan's explanations, I derived the conclusion that the vibratory force he spoke about, which agglutinates our fields of energy, is apparently similar to what modern-day astronomers believe must happen at the core of all the galaxies that exist in the cosmos. They believe that there, at their cores, a force of incalculable strength holds the stars of galaxies in place. This force, called a "black hole," is a theoretical construct which seems to be the most reasonable explanation as to why stars do not fly away, driven by their own rotational speeds.

Don Juan said that the old sorcerers knew that human beings, taken as conglomerates of energy fields, are held together not by energetic wrappings or energetic ligaments, but by some sort of vibration that Tenders everything at once alive and in place. Don Juan explained that those sorcerers, by means of their practices and their discipline, became capable of handling that vibratory force once they were fully conscious of it. Their expertise in dealing with it became so extraordinary that their actions were transformed into legends, mythological events that existed only as fables. For instance, one of the stories that don Juan told about the ancient sorcerers was that they were capable of dissolving their physical mass by merely placing their full consciousness and intent on that force.

Don Juan stated that, although they were capable of actually going through a pinhole if they deemed it necessary, they were never quite satisfied with the result of this maneuver of dissolving their mass. The reason for their discontent was that once their mass was dissolved, their capacity to act vanished. They were left with the alternative of only witnessing events in which they were incapable of participating. Their ensuing frustration, the result of being incapacitated to act, turned, according to don Juan, into their damning flaw: their obsession with uncovering the nature of that vibratory force, an obsession driven by their concreteness, which made them want to hold and control that force. Their fervent desire was to strike from the ghostlike condition of masslessness, something which don Juan said could not ever be accomplished.

Modern-day practitioners, cultural heirs of those sorcerers of antiquity, having found out that it is not possible to be concrete and utilitarian about that vibratory force, have opted for the only rational alternative: to become conscious of that force with no other purpose in sight except the elegance and well-being brought about by knowledge.

"The only permissible time," don Juan said to me once, "when modern-day sorcerers use the power of this vibratory agglutinating force, is when they burn from within, when the time comes for them to leave this world. It is simplicity itself for sorcerers to place their absolute and total consciousness on the binding force with the intent to bum, and off they go, like a puff of air."