Stories & Reflections
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.