The Second Group:
The Recapitulation

The recapitulation, according to what don Juan taught his disciples, was a technique discovered by the sorcerers of ancient Mexico, and used by every shaman practitioner from then on, to view and relive all the experiences of their lives, in order to achieve two transcendental goals: one, the abstract goal of fulfilling a universal code that demands that awareness must be relinquished at the moment of death; and two, the extremely pragmatic goal of acquiring perceptual fluidity.

He said that the formulation of their first goal was the result of observations that those sorcerers made by means of their capacity to see energy directly as it flows in the universe. They had seen that there exists in the universe a gigantic force, an immense conglomerate of energy fields which they called the Eagle, or the dark sea of awareness. They observed that the dark sea of awareness is the force that lends awareness to all living beings, from viruses to men. They believed that it tends awareness to a newborn being, and that this being enhances that awareness by means of its life experiences until a moment in which the force demands its return.

In the understanding of those sorcerers, all living beings die because they are forced to return the awareness lent to them. Sorcerers throughout the ages have understood that there is no way for what modem man calls our linear mode of thinking to explain such a phenomenon, because there is no room for a causeand-effect line of reasoning as to why and how awareness is lent and then taken back. The sorcerers of ancient Mexico viewed it as an energetic fact of the universe, a fact that can't be explained in terms of cause and effect, or in terms of a purpose which can be determined a priori.

The sorcerers of don Juan's lineage believed that to recapitulate meant to give the dark sea of awareness what it was seeking: their life experiences. They believed that by means of the recapitulation, however, they could acquire a degree of control that could permit them to separate their life experiences from their life force. For them, the two were not inextricably intertwined; they were joined only circumstantially.

Those sorcerers affirmed that the dark sea of awareness doesn't want to take the lives of human beings; it wants only their life experiences. Lack of discipline in human beings prevents them from separating the two forces, and in the end, they lose their lives, when it is meant that they lose only the force of their life experiences. Those sorcerers viewed the recapitulation as the procedure by which they could give the dark sea of awareness a substitute for their lives. They gave up their life experiences by recounting them, but they retained their life force.

The perceptual claims of sorcerers, when examined in terms of the linear concepts of our Western world, make no sense whatsoever. Western civilization has been in contact with the shamans of the New World for five hundred years, and there has never been a genuine attempt on the part of scholars to formulate a serious philosophical discourse based on statements made by those shamans. For instance, the recapitulation may seem to any member of the Western world to be congruous with psychoanalysis, something in the line of a psychological procedure, a sort of selfhelp technique. Nothing could be further from the truth.

According to don Juan Matus, man always loses by default. In the case of the premises of sorcery, he believed that Western man is missing a tremendous opportunity for the enhancement of his awareness, and that the way in which Western man relates himself to the universe, life, and awareness is only one of a multiplicity of options.

To recapitulate, for shaman practitioners, means to give to an incomprehensible force-the dark sea of awareness-the very thing it seems to be looking for: their life experiences, that is to say, the awareness that they have enhanced through those very life experiences. Since don Juan could not possibly explain these phenomena to me in terms of standard logic, he said that all that sorcerers could aspire to do was to accomplish the feat of retaining their life force without knowing how it was done. He also said that there were thousands of sorcerers who had achieved this. They had retained their life force after they had given the dark sea of awareness the force of their life experiences. This meant to don Juan that those sorcerers didn't die in the usual sense in which we understand death, but that they transcended it by retaining their life force and vanishing from the face of the earth, embarked on a definitive journey of perception.

The belief of the shamans of don Juan's lineage was that when death takes place in this fashion, all of our being is turned into energy, a special kind of energy that retains the mark of our individuality. Don Juan tried to explain this in a metaphorical sense, saying that we are composed of a number of single nations: the nation of the lungs, the nation of the heart, the nation of the stomach, the nation of the kidneys, and so on. Each of these nations sometimes works independently of the others, but at the moment of death, all of them are unified into one single entity. The sorcerers of don Juan's lineage called this state total freedom. For those sorcerers, death is a unifier, and not an annihilator, as it is for the average man.

"Is this state immortality, don Juan?" I asked.

"This is in no way immortality," he replied. "It is merely the entrance into an evolutionary process, using the only medium for evolution that man has at his disposal: awareness. The sorcerers of my lineage were convinced that man could not evolve biologically' any further; therefore, they considered man's awareness to be the only medium for evolution. At the moment of dying, sorcerers are not annihilated by death, but are transformed into inorganic beings: beings that have awareness, but not an organism. To be transformed into an inorganic being was evolution for them, and it meant that a new, indescribable type of awareness was tent to them, an awareness that would last for veritably millions of years, but which would also someday have to be returned to the giver: the dark sea of awareness."

One of the most important findings of the shamans of don Juan's lineage was that, like everything else in the universe, our world is a combination of two opposing, and at the same time complementary, forces. One of those forces is the world we know, which those sorcerers called the world of organic beings. The other force is something they called the world of inorganic beings.

"The world of inorganic beings," don Juan said, "is populated by beings that possess awareness, but not an organism. They are conglomerates of energy fields, just like we are. To the eye of a seer, instead of being luminous, as human beings are, they are rather opaque. They are not round, but long, candlelike energetic configurations. They are, in essence, conglomerates of energy fields which have cohesion and boundaries just like we do. They are held together by the same agglutinating force that holds our energy fields together."

"Where is this inorganic world, don Juan?" I asked.

"It is our twin world," he replied. "It occupies the same time and space as our world, but the type of awareness of our world is so different from the type of awareness of the inorganic world that we never notice the presence of inorganic beings, although they do notice ours."

"Are those inorganic beings human beings that have evolved?" I asked.

"Not at all!" he exclaimed. "The inorganic beings of our twin world have been intrinsically inorganic from the start, the same way that we have always been intrinsically organic beings, also from the start. They are beings whose consciousness can evolve just like ours, and it doubtlessly does, but I have no firsthand knowledge of how this happens. What I do know, however, is that a human being whose awareness has evolved is a bright, luminescent, round inorganic being of a special kind."

Don Juan gave me a series of descriptions of this evolutionary process, which I always took to be poetic metaphors. I singled out the one that pleased me the most, which was total freedom. I fancied a human being that enters into total freedom to be the most courageous, the most imaginative being possible. Don Juan said that I was not fancying anything at all-that to enter into total freedom, a human being must call on his or her sublime side, which, he said, human beings have, but which it never occurs to them to use.

Don Juan described the second, the pragmatic goal of the recapitulation as the acquisition of fluidity. The sorcerers' rationale behind this had to do with one of the most elusive subjects of sorcery: the assemblage point, a point of intense luminosity the size of a tennis ball, perceivable when sorcerers see a human being as a conglomerate of energy fields.

Sorcerers like don Juan see that trillions of energy fields in the form of fit, aments of light from the universe at large converge on the assemblage point and go through it. This confluence of filaments gives the assemblage point its brilliancy. The assemblage point makes it possible for a human being to perceive those trillions of energy filaments by turning them into sensorial data. The assemblage point then interprets this data as the world of everyday life, that is to say, in terms of human socialization and human potential.

To recapitulate is to relive every, or nearly every, experience that we have had, and in doing so to displace the assemblage point, ever so slightly or a great deal, propelling it by the force of memory to adopt the position that it had when the event being recapitulated took place. This act of going back and forth from previous positions to the current one gives the shaman practitioners the necessary fluidity to withstand extraordinary odds in their journeys into infinity. To the Tensegrity practitioners, the recapitulation gives the necessary fluidity to withstand odds which are not in any way part of their habitual cognition.

The recapitulation as a formal procedure was done in ancient times by recollecting every person the practitioners knew and every experience in which they had taken part. Don Juan suggested that in my case, which is the case of modern man, I make a written list of all the persons that I had met in my life, as a mnemonic device. Once I had written that list, he proceeded to tell me how to use it. I had to take the first person on the list, which went backwards in time from the present to the time of my very first life experience, and set up, in my memory, my last interaction with that first person on my list. This act is called arranging the event to be recapitulated.

A detailed recollection of minutiae is required as the proper means to hone one's capacity to remember. This recollection entails getting all the pertinent physical details, such as the surroundings where the event being recollected took place. Once the event is arranged, one should enter into the locale itself, as if actually going into it, paying special attention to any relevant physical configurations. If, for instance, the interaction took place in an office, what should be remembered is the floor, the doors, the walls, the pictures, the windows, the desks, the objects on the desks, everything that could have been observed in a glance and then forgotten.

The recapitulation as a formal procedure must begin by the recounting of events that have just taken place. In this fashion, the primacy of the experience takes precedence. Something that has just happened is something that one can remember with great accuracy. Sorcerers always count on the fact that human beings are capable of storing detailed information that they are not aware of, and that that detail is what the dark sea of awareness is after.

The actual recapitulation of the event requires that one breathe deeply, fanning the head, so to speak, very slowly and gently from side to side, beginning on one side, left or right, whichever. This fanning of the head was done as many times as needed, while remembering all the details accessible. Don Juan said that sorcerers talked about this act as breathing in all of one's own feelings spent in the event being recollected, and expelling all the unwanted moods and extraneous feelings that were left with us.

Sorcerers believe that the mystery of the recapitulation lies in the act of inhaling and exhaling. Since breathing is a life-sustaining function, sorcerers are certain that by means of it, one can also deliver to the dark sea of awareness the facsimile of one's life experiences. When I pressed don Juan for a rational explanation of this idea, his position was that things like the recapitulation could only be experienced, not explained. He said that in the act of doing, one can find liberation, and that to explain it was to dissipate our energy in fruitless efforts. His invitation was congruous with everything related to his knowledge: the invitation to take action.

The list of names is used in the recapitulation as a mnemonic device that propels memory into an inconceivable journey. Sorcerers' position in this respect is that remembering events that have just taken place prepares the ground for remembering events more distant in time with the same clarity and immediacy. To recollect experiences in this way is to relive them, and to draw from this recollection an extraordinary impetus that is capable of stirring energy dispersed from our centers of vitality, and returning it to them. Sorcerers refer to this redeployment of energy that the recapitulation causes as gaining fluidity after giving the dark sea of awareness what it is looking for.

On a more mundane level, the recapitulation gives practitioners the capacity to examine the repetition in their lives. Recapitulating can convince them, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that all of us are at the mercy of forces which ultimately make no sense, although at first sight they seem perfectly reasonable; such as being at the mercy of courtship. It seems that for some people, courtship is the pursuit of a lifetime. I have personally heard from people of advanced age that the only ideal that they had was to find a perfect companion, and that their aspiration was to have perhaps one year of happiness in love.

Don Juan Matus used to say to me, over my vehement protests, that the problem was that nobody really wanted to love anybody, but that every one of us wanted to be loved. He said that this obsession with courtship, taken at face value, was the most natural thing in the world to us. To hear a seventy-five-year-old man or woman say that they are still in search of a perfect companion is an affirmation of something idealistic, romantic, beautiful. However, to examine this obsession in the context of the endless repetitions of a lifetime makes it appear as it really is: something grotesque.

Don Juan assured me that if any behavioral change is going to be accomplished, it has to be done through the recapitulation, since it is the only vehicle that can enhance awareness by liberating one from the unvoiced demands of socialization, which are so automatic, so taken for granted, that they are not even noticed under normal conditions, much less examined.

The actual act of recapitulating is a lifetime endeavor. It takes years to exhaust the list of people, especially for those who have made the acquaintance of and have interacted with thousands of individuals. This list is augmented by the memory of impersonal events in which no people are involved, but which have to be examined because they are somehow related to the person being recapitulated.

Don Juan asserted that what the sorcerers of ancient Mexico sought avidly in recapitulating was the memory of interaction, because in interaction lie the deep effects of socialization, which they struggled to overcome by any means available.


The recapitulation affects something that don Juan called the energy body. He formally explained the energy body as a conglomerate of energy fields that are the mirror image of the energy fields that make up the human body when it is seen directly as energy. He said that in the case of sorcerers, the physical body and the energy body are one single unit. The magical passes for the recapitulation bring the energy body to the physical body, which are essential for navigating into the unknown.

13. Forging the Trunk of the Energy Body

Don Juan said that the trunk of the energy body was forged with three strikes delivered with the palms of the hands. The hands are held at the level of the ears with the palms facing forward, and from that position they strike forward, at the level of the shoulders, as if they were striking the shoulders of a well-developed body. The hands then move back to their original position around the cars, with the palms facing forward, and strike the midtrunk of that imaginary body at the level of the chest. The second strike is not as wide as the first one, and the third strike is much narrower, because it strikes the waistline of a triangular-shaped trunk (fig. 152).

14. Slapping the Energy Body

The left and the right hands each come down from above the head. The palm of each hand bears down, creating a current of energy that defines each arm, forearm, and hand of the energy body. The left hand hits across the body to strike the left hand of the energy body (fig. 153) and then the right hand does the same: it hits across the body to strike the right hand of the energy body.

This magical pass defines the arms and forearms, especially the hands, of the energy body.

Fig. 152

Fig. 153

15. Spreading the Energy Body Laterally

The wrists are crossed in the shape of a letter X in front of the body, almost touching it. The wrists are held bent backwards at a ninety-degree angle to the forearm, at the level of the solar plexus. The left wrist is on top of the right one (fig. 154). From there, the hands spread to the sides in unison, in a slow motion, as if they met with tremendous resistance (fig. 155). When the arms reach their maximum aperture, they are brought back to the center, with the palms turned at a ninety-degree angle in relation to the forearms, creating in this fashion the sensation of pushing solid matter from both sides to the center of the body. The left hand crosses on top of the right as the hands get ready for another lateral strike.

While the physical body as a conglomerate of energy fields has superdefined boundaries, the energy body lacks that feature. Spreading energy laterally gives the energy body the defined boundaries that it lacks.

Fig. 154

Fig. 155

16. Establishing the Core of the Energy Body

The forearms are held in a vertical position at the level of the chest, with the elbows kept in close to the body, at the width of the trunk. The wrists are snapped back gently, and then forward with great force, without moving the forearms (fig. 156).

The human body, as a conglomerate of energy fields, has not only super-defined boundaries, but a core of compact luminosity, which shamans call the band of man, or the energy fields with which man is most familiar. The idea of shamans is that within the luminous sphere, which is also the totality of man's energetic possibilities, there are areas of energy of which human beings are not at all aware. Those are the energy fields located at the maximum distance from the band of man. To establish the core of the energy body is to fortify the energy body in order for it to venture into those areas of unknown energy.

17. Forging the Heels and the Calves of the Energy Body

The left foot is held in front of the body with the heel raised to midcalf. The heel is turned out to a position perpendicular to the other leg. Then the left heel strikes to the right as if a kick with the heel were being delivered, about six or seven inches away from the shinbone of the right leg (figs. 157, 158).

The same movement is then executed with the other leg.

Fig. 156

Fig. 157

Fig. 158

18. Forging the Knees of the Energy Body

This magical pass has two facets. In the first facet the left knee is bent and raised to the level of the hips, or if possible even higher. The total weight of the body is placed on the right leg, which stands with the knee slightly bent forward. Three circles are drawn with the left knee, moving it inward toward the groin (fig. 159). The same movement is repeated with the right leg.

In the second facet of this magical pass, the movements are repeated again with each leg, but this time, the knee draws an outward circle (fig. 160).

19. Forging the Thighs of the Energy Body

Beginning with an exhalation, the body bends slightly at the knees as the hands slide down the thighs. The hands stop on top of the kneecaps, and then they are pulled back up the thighs to the level of the hips with an inhalation, as if they were drag. ging a solid substance. There is a slight quality of a claw to each hand. The body straightens as this part of the movement is executed (fig. 161).

With the opposite breathing pattern, the movement is repeated, inhaling as the knees bend and the hands go down to the tops of the kneecaps, and exhaling as they are pulled back.

Fig. 159

Fig. 160

Fig. 161

20. Stirring Up Personal History by Making It Flexible

This magical pass stretches the hamstring and relaxes it by bringing each leg, one at a time, bent at the knee, to strike the buttocks with a gentle tap of the heel (fig. 162). The left heel strikes the left buttock, and the right heel strikes the right one.

Shamans put an enormous emphasis on tightening the muscles of the backs of the thighs. They believe that the tighter those muscles, the greater the facility of the practitioner to identify and get rid of behavioral patterns that are useless.

21. Stirring Up Personal History with the Heel to the Ground by Tapping It Repeatedly

The right leg is set at a ninety-degree angle with the left. The left foot is placed as far as possible in front of the body as the body almost sits on the right leg. The tension and contraction of the back muscles of the right leg are maximum, as is the stretching of the back muscles of the left leg. The left leg taps the ground repeatedly with the heel (fig. 163).

The same movements are then executed with the other leg.

22. Stirring Up Personal History with the Heel to the Ground by Sustaining That Position

The same movements are executed in this magical pass as in the previous one, again with each leg, but instead of tapping with the heel, the body is kept at an even tension by holding the stretch of the leg (fig. 164).

The following four magical passes, since they entail deep inhalations and exhalations, have to be done sparingly.

Fig. 162

Fig. 163

Fig. 164

23. The Recapitulation Wings

A deep inhalation is taken as both forearms are raised to the level of the shoulders, with the hands at the level of the ears, palms facing forward. The forearms are held vertically and equidistant from each other. An exhalation follows as the forearms are pulled back as far as possible without slanting them in any direction (fig. 165). Another deep inhalation is taken. Within the duration of one long exhalation, both arms each draw a winglike semicircle, beginning with the left arm moving forward as far as it can be extended and then laterally, drawing a semicircle to the back as far as possible. The arm makes a curve at the end of this extension and returns to the front (fig. 166) to its initial resting position by the side of the body (fig. 167). Then the right arm follows the same pattern within the same exhalation. Once these movements are completed, a deep abdominal breath is taken.

Fig. 165

Fig. 166

Fig. 167

24. The Window of Recapitulation

The first part of this magical pass is exactly like the preceding one; a deep breath is taken with the hands raised to the ear level, with the palms facing forward. The forearms maintain a perfect verticality. This is followed by a long exhalation as the arms are pulled backwards. A deep inhalation is taken as the elbows are extended laterally at the level of the shoulders. The hands are bent at a ninety-degree angle in relation to the forearms, the fingers pointing upward. The hands are slowly pushed toward the center of the body until the forearms cross. The left arm is held closer to the body and the right arm is placed in front of the left. The hands create in this fashion what don Juan called the window of recapitulation: an opening in front of the eyes that looks like a small window, through which, don Juan affirmed, a practitioner could peer into infinity (fig. 168). A deep exhalation follows as the body straightens; the elbows are extended laterally and the hands are straightened out and kept at the same level as the elbows (fig. 169).

Fig. 168

Fig. 169

25. The Five Deep Breaths

The beginning of this magical pass is exactly like the previous two. At the second inhalation, the arms go down and cross at the level of the knees as the practitioner adopts a semi-squatting position. The hands are placed behind the knees; the right hand grabs the tendons in back of the left knee, and the left hand, with the left forearm on top of the right, grabs the tendons in back of the right knee. The index and middle fingers grab the outer tendons there and the thumb is wrapped around the inner part of the knee. The exhalation ends then, and a deep inhalation is taken, accompanied by pressing the tendon (fig. 170). Five breaths are taken in this fashion.

This magical pass causes the back to be straight and the head to be in alignment with the spine, and is used to take deep breaths that fill the top as well as the lower part of the lungs by pushing the diaphragm downward.

26. Drawing Energy from the Feet

The first part of this magical pass is exactly the same as the beginning of the other three of this series. On the second inhalation, the forearms go down and wrap around the ankles, going from the inside to the outside as the practitioner adopts a squatting position. The backs of the hands rest on top of the toes, and in this fashion, three deep inhalations and three deep exhalations are made (fig. 171). After the last exhalation, the body straightens as a deep inhalation is taken to finish the magical pass.

The only glow of awareness left in human beings is at the bottom of their luminous spheres, a fringe that extends in a circle and reaches the level of the toes. With this magical pass, that fringe is tapped with the backs of the fingers, and stirred with the breath.

Fig. 170

Fig. 171