THE RULE OF THE THREE-PRONGED NAGUAL
Please enjoy these first three chapters of
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
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.
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
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."