Encounters with the Nagual  -  Conversations with Carlos Castaneda

includes the Rule of the Three-Pronged Nagual

Book Cover


Please enjoy these first three chapters of  THE RULE:
    The Omen
    What is the Rule


From an early age, the reflective bent of my character made me seek an explanation of who I am and what my purpose in life might be. Knowing of my search, a fellow student came to me once and told me that Carlos Castaneda was giving a private talk in his house, and that I could come if I wanted. I had waited for an opportunity like this for a long time, and was enchanted by the invitation.
Castaneda was a famous anthropologist, the author of several books on the culture of the Mexican sorcerers of the ancient past. In his books, he describes how, while still a student at the University of California, he did some work among the Yaqui Indians in northern Mexico, in order to learn about the medicinal plants they used.   

On one of these trips, he met an old herbalist, famed as a sorcerer, who called himself Juan Matus. In time, the old man took him on as an apprentice, and introduced him to a completely unknown dimension for modern man: The traditional wisdom of the old Toltec seers, commonly known as ‘sorcery’ or ‘nagualism’.    

In a dozen books, Carlos describes a teacher/apprentice relationship that lasted for thirteen years. In the course of that time, he underwent an arduous training that led him to personally corroborate the foundations of that strange culture. The experiences he acquired during his apprenticeship ended up making the young anthropologist succumb to his fascination with the knowledge, and he was absorbed by the system of beliefs he was studying. This outcome shifted him a great distance away from his original goals.  

‘Nagualism’ was the name sorcerers from prehispanic Mexico gave to their system of belief. According to history, those men were profoundly concerned with their relationship to the universe, to such a degree that they dedicated themselves to the task of investigating the limits of perception through the use of hallucinogenic plants which allowed them to change levels of awareness. After practicing for generations, some of them learned how to see, in other words, to perceive the world, not as an interpretation, but as a constant flow of energy.  

Nagualism consists of a group of techniques designed to alter our everyday perception, producing psychic and physical phenomena of extraordinary interest. For example, the Mexican tradition claims that a nagual is able to transform himself into an animal, because he has learned how to dream himself in a different form than that of a human being. Behind this popular belief is the fact that sorcerers explore their subconscious with the purpose of throwing light on unknown aspects of our being.  

Nagualism was a socially accepted practice for thousands of years, comparable to our religion or science. In time, its postulates grew in abstraction and synthesis, becoming a kind of philosophical proposition, the practitioners of which took the name Toltecs.   

The Toltecs were not what we ordinarily think of as ‘sorcerers’, that is, individuals who use supernatural forces to damage others, but rather extremely disciplined men and women who were interested in complex aspects of consciousness.  

In his books, Carlos made a talented effort to adapt the knowledge of naguals to our time, lifting it out of its rural atmosphere and making it accessible to people with a Western background. Starting from Don Juan's teachings, he defined the premises of the path of the warrior, or the path of impeccable behavior, consistent in control, discipline, and sustained effort. Once internalized, these principles carry the practitioner to other more complex techniques whose object is to perceive the world in a new way.   

Having achieved this, the student is in a position to move in a voluntary and conscious way in the environment of dreams, in just the same way as he moves in his daily life. This technique is supplemented with what Don Juan called ‘the art of stalking’, or the art of knowing oneself, and with a daily exercise called ‘recapitulation’ because it consists of reviewing events of our personal history to find their hidden plot.   

Dreaming and recapitulation together make it possible to create what is called ‘the energetic double’, a practically indestructible entity, able to act on its own accord.  

One of the most significant discoveries of the Toltec seers was that human beings possess a luminous configuration, or energy field, around the physical body. They also saw that some were equipped with a special configuration, divided into two parts. These were called naguals, that is, ‘duplicated people’. Because of their particular configuration, a nagual has greater resources than most people. They also saw that, because of their double and exceptional energy, they are natural leaders.  

Starting from these discoveries, it was inevitable that seers would settle down according to the commands of energy, organizing harmonious groups whose participants complemented each other. Warriors of these groups were committed to the search for new levels of awareness. In time, they began to realize that behind their practices and organizational forms, there was an impersonal Rule.  

In their sense of the word, the Rule is the description of the design and the means by which various luminous configurations of the human species can become united, eventually to integrate into a single organism called ‘the party of the nagual’. The goal of these groups is total freedom; the evolution of awareness to the point of enabling them to travel through the ocean of cosmic energy, perceiving all that is accessible to us.   

There is a special section of the Rule that describes how generations of warriors are intertwined, forming lineages, and how these lineages are renewed every once in a while.  

The fate of Carlos was to live through one of those stages of renewal. However, he did not understand what that meant before he received a message which guided him towards the popularization of the teachings.  

When I met him, he still had great reservations about the public domain and tried to keep his distance from people. Our relationship was mainly through talks he gave to small groups, and private conversations.   

He demanded that I should pass unnoticed among the others, so that I would keep my personal history under a measure of control. Later, he admitted that this request also had a deeper motive: I had a commitment to the spirit, and should execute my task four years after Carlos’ departure.   

When I asked him why, he told me that he knew that his work would be obstructed by detractors who would try to frustrate the plan designed by Don Juan for a revolution of awareness. My function would be to give testimony of the message that I had received.

The Omen

One time, after giving a talk in the private dining room of a restaurant where he invited all of us to dine, Carlos asked me to come with him to another place. Minutes later, we both left, while the others were still in the middle of a lively conversation.   
On the way, we had to cross a large avenue. To get ahead of the cars, I ran towards a triangular traffic island in the middle of the street, believing that Carlos was right behind me. But when I got there, I realized that he was still waiting on the other side.   

Then something unexpected happened; a great gust of wind came rushing down the avenue, so strong that I had to hold on to the metal post of a traffic sign. Before I had time to protect myself, a cloud of dust got into my eyes and throat, making me cough and leaving me blind for a moment.  

When I recovered, Carlos was at my side, looking at me with a radiantly happy face. He patted my back and made a very strange comment:  

"I know what to do with you!"  

I looked questioningly at him, and he explained:  
"That was the same wind, it is after you."  

His words made me remember the moment we met, when an autumn wind had forced us to hastily close the windows of the room where a group of friends were waiting for him.  

"On that occasion, you saw it as a strong wind, but I knew that it was the spirit making whirls over your head. It was a sign, and now I know why it pointed you out."  

I asked him to explain this enigmatic statement, but his answer was even more obscure:  
"I am heir to certain information. It is an aspect of the teachings that concerns me so deeply that I can’t explain it to the others. It should be said through a messenger. While I was watching how the spirit danced with you on the edge of the avenue, I knew that the messenger is you."  

I insisted he must tell me more, but he said this was neither the time nor the appropriate place.  

 What is the Rule?
Some time later, we were walking to the Alameda park. Near the Palace of Fine Arts, he signaled to me that we should sit down on a bench, miraculously empty, on one side of the square. The bench was made of wrought iron. Its location - right in front of the main door of an old church built from blocks of red and black lava - had the virtue of slightly blocking my internal dialogue, which transported me to an oasis of serenity amid the bustle of cars and people passing by.

As it turned out, Carlos had foreseen this impact and its didactic function. He commented that it was Don Juan's favorite bench, which I found very moving. Rubbing his hands together, he assured me that it was time to get to the point.  

"Do you know what the Rule is?" he asked.  

Although I had read something about it in one of his books, I had not understood much, so I shook my head no.  

He went on:  
"It is the name that seers have given to the guide of a party of sorcerers, a kind of navigational chart, or a sample book of a warrior's assignments and duties within the framework of his practices.   

"After exhaustive verifications, the sorcerers of ancient Mexico came to the conclusion that, just as all live beings possess a defined biological pattern which allows reproducing and evolving, we also have an energy pattern responsible for our development as luminous beings.  

"The mold of a species extracts its energy from the Rule. The Rule is a kind of womb, it contains an evolutionary plan for every living being, not only on Earth, but also in any corner of the universe where there is awareness. Nobody can break away from it. The most we can do is ignore that it exists, in which case we won't reach the stage where we can be what we truly are: Live mass in the service of a purpose that we don't understand.  

"Said in sorcerers' terms, the Rule is the diagram of the Eagle’s commands, an equation which correlates the effectiveness of actions with the saving of energy. In the practical sphere, such a combination cannot produce anything but a warrior.   

"The Rule is complete, and covers all facets of the warrior’s way. It describes how a nagual party is created and nurtured, how generations are connected to form a lineage, and it guides them towards freedom. But in order to use it as a key to power, we have to verify it for ourselves."  

"How can you verify it?"  

"The Rule is self-evident to the sorcerer who sees. For a beginner like you, the best way of attesting its functionality consists of detecting its intrusion in the course of your life."


First Light Press