The Nagual Elias and the second chance

Carlos Castaneda tells of how his master’s master, Julian Osório, became a Nagual – a type of sorcerer according to certain Mexican traditions.

Julian worked as a actor in a traveling theater in the interior of Mexico. But his artistic life was only a pretext to flee the conventions imposed by his tribe: in fact, what Julian liked most was to drink and seduce the women – any type of woman, those he encountered during his theatrical performances. He overdid things and demanded so much of his health, that in the end he contracted tuberculosis.

Elias, a very well-known sorcerer among Iaque indians, was taking his evening walk when he found Julian lying in a field: his mouth was bleeding so much that Elias – who could see the spiritual world, could see that the young actor’s death was near.

Using some herbs he had in his pocket, he managed to stop the bleeding. Then he turned to Julian:

– I cannot save you – he said. – I have done everything I can. Your death is very close now.

– I don’t want to die, I’m too young – replied Julian.

Elias, like all Nagual men, was more interested in behaving like a warrior – concentrating his energy on the battle of life – than helping someone who had never respected the miracle of our existence. However, without being able to explain why, he resolved to answer the request.

– At five in the morning I shall depart for the mountains – he said. – Wait for me on the edge of the village, without fail. If you do not come, you shall die sooner than you think: your only chance is to accept my invitation. I will never be able to repair the damage you have inflicted on your body, but I can deviate your approach to the cliffs of death. All human beings fall into this abyss, sooner or later; you are a few steps from it, and I cannot bring you back from it.

– So what can you do?

– I can make you walk along the edge of the abyss. I shall mark your paces so that you follow the enormous length of the margin between life and death; you may go to the right or to the left, but as long as you don’t fall down, you shall remain alive.

The Nagual Elias didn’t expect much from the actor, a lazy, libertine and cowardly man. He was surprised when, at five o’clock the next morning, he found him waiting at one end of the village. He took him to the mountains, taught him the secrets of the ancient Mexican Naguas, and with time Julian Osório became one of the most respected iaque sorcerers. He was never cured of his tuberculosis, but lived to the age of 107, always walking along the edge of the abyss.

When the right time came, he started taking disciples, and was responsible for the training of Don Juan Matus, who in turn taught Carlos Castaneda the ancient traditions. Castaneda, with his series of books, ended up making these traditions popular the world over.

One afternoon, talking to another of D. Juan’s disciples, Florinda, she commented:

– It is important for all of us to examine the path of Nagual Julian along the edge of the abyss. It makes us understand that we all have a second chance, even if we are very close to giving up.

Castaneda agreed: to examine Julian’s path meant understanding his extraordinary fight to stay alive. He understood that this battle was fought by the second, tireless one against bad habits and self-pity. It wasn’t a sporadic battle, but a constant, disciplined effort to keep his balance; any distraction or momentary debility might cast him into the abyss of death.

There was only one way of overcoming the temptations of his past life: to focus all his attention on the edge of the abyss, concentrate on every step, keep calm, and not become attached to anything but the present moment.

In my opinion, these lessons apply to each and every one of us.


  1. oracle says:

    Hello,ladies and gentlemen,
    Allow me to introduce myself:I am The Nagual Woman-she who is described in Carlos Castaneda’s books,under the name “Carol Tiggs”.I am still alive as of today.
    Peace from the heart of The Goddess.

  2. […] Lynne on October 17, 2008 Reading Paulo Coelho’s blog this morning in which he tells the story about how the nagual Julian found the warrior’s […]

  3. aditya says:

    Hi paulo

    wasn’t Carlos Castaneda also a best selling author ?

    Hi Jessica

    “Now a huge question ..
    Can we ever be fully trained and what happens then? Can we reach Nirvana, and is that the ultimate goal ?”

    yup ! huge question indeed. there is no situation when anyone can say anything about being fully trained, no one can ever be, or u can be this very moment, just drop this insistance on knowing everything, accept that somethings may remain a mystery for ever and u r OK with it, such an accepatnce is not as innocuous as it seems, it is not possible without taking a huge blow to one’s ego.

    u know nirvana is when u are not desiring even for nirvana, nirvana is when u are living each moment in heartfelt gratitude afterall most of us cannot ‘justify’ or own existnace ! it is grace bestowed on us.

    dalai lama and all, yes they too set aside some time for meditation, that is mostly to enjoy some quietitude; otherwise they are constantly in a meditative state.

    u are doing just fine, just stop looking for any rewards, let teh acts be rewards in themselves, and ….godspeed !

    sorry, if u were waiting for any response from paulo and i just barged in, going by experince paulo may not participate. i shared what i felt like, if u like it thnaks, if u don’t well leave it and ;-)


  4. Savita Vega says:

    This story reminds me of the traditional element of the “zig-zag bridge” in Zen meditation-garden design. A zig-zag bridge is usually built of long planks (though sometimes of stone slabs) supported by posts. The planks are joined at right angles, such that at the end of every plank, the passer is required to make a sharp turn to the left or to the right. Furthermore, these types of bridges are generally very narrow and have no railings whatsoever. Thus, it is very easy for one who is not paying proper attention to simply walk right off the end of a plank and fall into the water. Because the elements in these gardens are functional (designed as aids to proper meditation) and not merely decorative, there is a logic behind the zig-zag bridge that transcends its sheer beauty. One who is passing over the bridge in walking meditation must remain one-pointed, completely focused on the here and now, lest they walk right off the end of a plank and tumble headlong into the water.

    For a beautiful photo:

    The zig-zag bridge, as it is employed in zen meditation gardens, is, I think, very reflective of that razor’s-edge of the abyss which Julian had to walk, and ultimately, which we all have to walk if we are to become Warriors of the Light.

    One more interesting note, concerning the zig-zag bridge: It is also believed in many Eastern traditions that evil does not follow a straight path. Thus, the zig-zag bridge is also a sort of escape-hatch, just in case one is being chased by evil spirits or the like. While the attentive individual can pass, with ease, over the zig-zag bridge, the pursuing evil has no means of navigating such a path. It drops right off the edge, to be drowned in the waters below.

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful story with us, Paulo Coelho.

    With Love and Light!
    Savita Vega

  5. Alexandra says:

    Very interesting.I noticed the power of fear,the approach of death forced the rebbel young man to behave in the propper manner.Also a great luck to encounter in the last moment the sorcerer.He chosed the right path in a moment of great importance.Never is too late,or better later than never

  6. Mirela Baron says:

    Thank you for This great Advice and help!
    It seems to be convenient to the moment energetic quality.It seems to be convnient to my own small and big dificulties .

    love Mirela(the woman in elevator)

  7. Lynne says:

    I so resonate with this story of the nagual Julian! I spent some time back in the seventies under the guidance of an Indian medicine man. I owned nothing and home was wherever I found myself in that moment. Solitary forays into the desert were part of my “training” … I found Castenada’s writing during that time too …. and it has continued to hold much meaning for me.
    I am reminded here of one of Don Juan’s reminders to Casteneda … to walk through life with Death sitting on his left shoulder, as his chief advisor. Having been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness provided me with exactly that … the opportunity to come into a living relationship with Death … allowing me to live this moment as if it is the last. I’ve found this to be KEY to staying in the NOW.
    Thanks for sharing nagual wisdom with us.

  8. Awareness, attention… “The enormous length of the margin between life and death.” Balance. Intent. I find meditating on Julian’s statement enormously stilling and calming, thanks for bringing it to my awareness again from another source.

  9. Pepper says:

    I read Castenada many years ago with great interest. Thank you for bringing his writing to my attention again as it will be good to pull some of his books out of my bookcase and reread!

  10. Heart says:

    Talking about drinking and seducing women, or getting a second chance…let me write down a fun riddle (if I can remember it right), shows how often our weaknesses actually is more of a group thing than being an individuals.

    Be as sober as the Irish
    as technical as the Portuguese
    as amorous as the English
    as disciplined as the Italians
    and as humorous as the Germans…

    Attaching to the present moment helps, and God can turn our weaknesses into strengths and help us laugh a bit about being silly human beings full of shortcomings.

  11. THELMA says:

    To live the present moment, remembering the mistakes of the past and with the new knowledge acquired during our journey to proceed full of energy, enthusiam and hope. To use our acquired Wisdom with the Love of our Heart in every instant for the .. rest of our Way, LIFE.
    A moment, a person or a sparkle, may act as a catalyst and we will become ..Golden, Light.