Tag Archives: nagual

Thoughts on “Tales of Power” by Carlos Castaneda: Crossroads and Secrecy

This is the fourth book in Castaneda’s series detailing his apprenticeship with the Yaqui sorcerer don Juan Matus. The concepts presented in this volume are infinitely more complex than those addressed in the first three books. Castaneda goes deep into explanations of the nagual and the tonal, shamanic terms used to describe the levels of reality available to a sorcerer. This information is far too dense for me to cover in a short blog post, so I won’t even attempt to do so. Instead, I want to discuss a passage that resonated with me and that I think can be adequately explored in a post.

“At this precise point a teacher would usually say to his disciple that they have arrived at a final crossroad,” he continued. “To say such a thing is misleading, though. In my opinion there is no final crossroad, no final step to anything. And since there is no final step to anything, there shouldn’t be any secrecy about any part of our lot as luminous beings. Personal power decides who can or who cannot profit by a revelation; my experiences with my fellow men have proven to me that very, very few of them would be willing to listen; and of those who listen even fewer would be willing to act on what they listened to; and of those who are willing to act even fewer have enough personal power to profit by their acts. So, the matter of secrecy about the sorcerers’ explanation boils down to a routine, perhaps a routine as empty as any other routine.”

(p. 231)

The crossroads is one of my favorite symbols. In addition to representing a choice, it is also the intersection between the material and the spiritual planes. Combining these two interpretations, the crossroads can become a symbol for a choice as to whether to take a spiritual path or a material path. Echoing what don Juan says, there is never a final crossroad; every moment of your life provides you with an opportunity to make a decision which path you will follow. I will even be so bold as to assert that after taking your last breath, you are still at a crossroad where you will have to decide a path to take. Crossroads, like the circle, are infinite.

The other thing I found interesting in the cited passage is the secrecy associated with occult and mystical teachings. In the past, when certain teachings and ideas could land someone on a rack or in a bonfire, the need for secrecy was vital. But this is not the case anymore. Yet, some groups and societies still adhere to the practice of secrecy. I suspect this is habit or routine, as don Juan says, or out of greed for holding on to power, which I personally feel is the primary motivator. And I completely agree with the explanation that most people choose not to listen to esoteric teachings, and of those who do, few choose to practice and fewer still have the ability to be successful in the mystical pursuits. There is more information available for seekers than any one person can consume, and most of this is ignored or rejected.

I have been really enjoying rereading Castaneda’s works, but I think I am going to take a little break and catch up on some other reading before I dive into the fifth book: The Second Ring of Power. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.


Filed under Non-fiction, Spiritual

“The Unknown Mother” by Dielle Ciesco

UnknownMotherThis blog post marks a first for me; it is the first time that an author contacted me and solicited my review of a book. While I was deeply honored by the request, I also felt a twinge of trepidation. What if I hated the book? Would I be able to critique it honestly? I decided to accept the book and to give it an honest appraisal, because if you are a writer, you need to be able to take criticism. Thankfully, I liked the book.

The book is a New Age spiritual tale about a woman’s encounter with a mystical being (Matrina, the Goddess of Sound). Matrina instructs the protagonist on the spiritual use of sound. Stylistically, the book reminded me a lot of Carlos Castaneda’s works, where the magical person instructs the student, who doesn’t always grasp the ideas that quickly. In fact, references in The Unknown Mother to the nagual and impeccability made me feel fairly certain that Ciesco was influenced by Castaneda.

The book contains many interesting passages, but a couple really stood out for me. The first one addresses how the function of words has changed: “Words were originally intended to be tools for us to master. But at some point in our evolution, everything got turned upside-down and words became our masters.” (p. 43) This is spot-on. Words are symbols, used to represent things when we communicate. But as I look around, I see words being used to distort and alter reality. We have allowed words to dictate our interpretation of the world around us.

Another passage that resonated with me deals with the mystical power of music: “music is the key to a doorway you are only just now discovering. Music is the portal to the next world–one we create with our every thought, belief, and dream, with every word we speak and action we take.” (p. 100) As a musician, I am keenly aware of music’s ability to express the ineffable, as well as its ability to express pure emotion in a language without the need for words. Music can also aide in shifting one’s consciousness, which is why drumming and chanting are often incorporated into rituals.

If you are interested in New Age ideas, then you will definitely enjoy this book. For me personally, there wasn’t much here that I felt was new for me, but that was OK. Ideas tend to slip to the back of my mind, and reading a fresh expression of those ideas brings them back to the forefront. I now have things to contemplate… again.

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Filed under Spiritual