Stories & Reflections
By Paulo Coelho
The great majority of spiritual traditions present in the Americas before Columbus’s arrival, has managed – by some miracle! – to preserve its roots. In other words, they were stronger than the civilizations which were here, and which soon succumbed to the conquistadors. Among them, Mexican shamanism, which is still practiced by many local tribes, is one of the most widely studied; various anthropologists have carried out serious studies about the way in which the sorcerers understood God’s presence and their spiritual search. Here are some of the aspects of this understanding of the universe, drawn from various sources:
1] The absence of the personal story: in order for magical rites to pass from generation to generation, the sorcerer (shaman) must forget all he learned before his initiation into magic. According to tradition, a man or women who is tied to his past, will in the end allow himself to be governed by his parents’ way of thinking, or that of the society in which he lives. This is why all those who are initiated choose a new name and seek to free themselves from their memories, both good and bad.
2] The process of forgetting: in order to abandon the story he lived in, the sorcerer spends months on end remembering in detail each of the events of his life. Some traditions require him to spend hour after hour speaking out loud to a glass filled with water, reciting everything which happened at each meeting with each person; thus, the experience is removed from the memory and enters the water – which is then thrown into a river. In this way, the head is left “empty”, and can begin to be filled with new things.
3] Interior silence: once free of his old thoughts, the sorcerer concentrates on his inner silence, and waits for the spirits to begin telling the true story of the Universe. This silence, together with the absence of memories of the past, gives the sorcerer the sensation of total freedom to understand a new world.
4] The web: when he begins understanding his new universe, he enters a sort of trance, and “sees” that everything around us is a giant web of luminous fibers, all linked – in other words, it is a unique object, and part of the same energy. Sometimes, these luminous fibers are condensed in an egg shape, and this means that there is the soul of a human being. (Carlos Castaneda explains this vision very well in his book A Separate Reality).
5] The encounter with power: looking at his own “egg of light”, the sorcerer notices a point, which must join with the luminous fibers capable of conducting the energy of power. This energy, although it can be used by the sorcerer, cannot be manipulated – he must know how to gently lead it to his apprenticeship. Approaching this pointing of joining up is the most difficult work during initiation, and requires silence, meditation and perseverance.
6] The negative energy: some of these fibers of light conduct destructive fluid issued by other sorcerers – who seek not knowledge but control over the souls of others.
7] The “disturbance”: there is always an event in our lives which is responsible for the fact that we ceased to progress. A trauma, an especially bitter defeat, an amorous disappointment, these all lead us towards a cowardly attitude, and we refuse to go on. The shaman, during the process of forgetting his personal history, must first free himself of this “disturbance point”.
According to Mexican sorcerers (and also, curiously, to some Buddhist thinking), death enters through the region of the navel. At this moment, the “egg of light” disintegrates, and the fibers which were there blend with the energy of the universe, until they regroup again in a new form.
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