By PAULO COELHO
Insights into the way the shamans of Mexico understood God and grappled with spiritual issues
THE GREAT majority of the existing spiritual traditions in the Americas has been able to keep its roots, even those that date back to before Colombus’s arrival. Among these traditions is Mexican Shamanism, which is still followed by local tribes and is one of the most studied ones.
Several anthropologists have studied the way the wizards understood the presence of God and the spiritual quest. Here are some of the aspects of this comprehension of the universe, taken from several sources.
The absence of a personal history: People stuck to their past, according to tradition, let themselves be governed by the way of thinking of their parents, or by the society they live in. That is why every initiate chooses a new name and seeks to get rid of his or her memories, good or bad.
Process of forgetfulness: To abandon the story they lived, wizards spend months recollecting, not missing any detail, the events that shaped their lives. Some traditions expect them to spend hours on end telling out loud everything they went through, each encounter with each person, to a full cup of water. That way, the experience leaves their memory and goes to the water — which is thrown into the river immediately thereafter. That way, their heads are emptied and can start being filled with new things.
Power of inner silence: Once freed from old thoughts, wizards concentrate on their inner silence and wait for the spirits to begin telling them the Universe’s true story.
An interconnected network: As they begin to understand their new universe, wizards go into a kind of trance and “ see” that everything around us is a gigantic network of luminous filaments, totally interconnected — that is, everything is one single thing, parting from the same energy. Carlos Castaneda explains this vision well in his book A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan.
Encounter with power: Watching the light of their own “ cosmic world egg,” wizards notice a spot that shall attract the luminous filaments capable of conducting the energy of power. This energy, although it can be used by the wizards, cannot be manipulated — they have to know how to conduct it softly to their apprenticeship. This manoeuvre is the initiation’s most difficult task, and demands silence, meditation and perseverance.
Negative energy channels: Some of these strands of light conduct destructive fluids emitted by other wizards, who do not seek knowledge, but the control of the souls of others.
The accommodation spot: There is always one event in our lives that is responsible for the fact that we stopped moving forward. A trauma, an especially bitter defeat or a heartbreak ends up intimidating us and keeping us from advancing. Shamans, Shamans, in the process of forgetting their personal history, need first to get rid of this “ accommodationism spot”. To the Mexican wizards ( and, curiously, to some Buddhist chains as well), death enters through a region near the navel. At this moment, the light of their “ cosmic world egg” dissolves and the filaments concentrated there mix with the energy of the universe, until they regroup again under a new shape.
Strength in Changing
A holy man gathered his friends. “ I am old,” he said.
“ And wise,” answered one of his friends. “ We have always seen you pray through all these years. What do you talk about with God?” “ In the beginning I had the enthusiasm of youth. I used to ask God to give me strength to change humanity. Slowly, I realised this was impossible, so I began to ask God for strength to change who was around me.” “ Now I am already old and my prayer is very simple. I ask God what I should have asked for all along.” “ What do you ask for?” insisted his friend.
“ I ask for strength so that I can change myself.”
Nothing Stays Behind
A novice was in the kitchen washing lettuce for lunch, when an old monk, known for his extreme austerity and to whom the novice pledged obedience, approached him.
“ Can you tell me what the monastery’s superior has said in the sermon today?” “ I can’t remember. But I liked it very much.” “ You, of all people, with such great desire to serve God, are unable to pay attention to the words of those who know the path better? That is why today’s generations are corrupted.
They no longer respect what the elders have to teach.” “ Watch what I am doing. I am washing lettuce leaves. Water cleans off its impurities. It does not stick to them: it ends up being eliminated through the sink’s pipe. Just as the purifying words, which are capable of washing my soul, but do not always stay in my memory.
“ I will not keep remembering everything I am told just to prove I am cultured and superior to the others. All what makes me lighter, as music and the words of God, ends up being kept in a secret retreat in my heart. There it stays forever, coming to surface only when I need help, joy or solace.”
– Translated by James Mulholland Courtesy: www.paulocoelhoblog.com