An abridged excerpt from
DIARY OF A NAGUAL WOMAN...
One night in the summer of
1997, I drove to a look-out point high in the mountains of Joshua Tree National
Park. The road was
long, dark, and fraught with shadows, and I couldn’t help drawing the analogy
between that road and the spiritual path I had been following. Disturbed over financial uncertainty,
problems with a new business, and
essentially wrapped up in the machinations of the consensual reality, I was
finally driven to seek some sort of solace alone in the night, and Keys View
was as close to a personal retreat as any place on Earth I had ever known, the
kind of place Carlos Castaneda would have called a "power
climbed to the lookout point where a lone bench looks out over the Salton Sea – an irregular blotch of blacker black
against the southeastern horizon – and before I knew it I was involved in a
deep conversation with Orlando. I did
not know how he came to be there, and any rational explanation
would be pointless in matters of
mystical experience. But personal reality
is simply what it is at any given moment, and when I tried asking him how he
had known I would come to this remote location, and how he himself had gotten
there – since there were no other cars in the tiny parking lot – he only smiled
a little, stretched out his long legs, and slouched down on that cold metal
bench to stare up at the stars.
“You’re predictable,” he said as if I
should have already known. “I’m here
because this is where you always come when you’re mad at the world.”
I tried to engage him in a
conversation of just exactly how he knew I was mad at the world, since I’d
had no direct contact with him in quite some time, not even a letter, nothing
to give him any hint of what was going on in my everyday life. But even as I
began spelling all of that out to him, he brushed my words aside with an easy
“Do you want to talk or do you want to
waste time looking for logical explanations for every magickal thing that ever
happens?” he asked. “That’s what’s
wrong with the world, you know. Instead
of embracing the mysteries the universe has to offer and trying to determine
how they might open a crack in their humdrum, pre-programmed existence,
people waste their entire lives explaining it all away, attaching labels to it,
filing and categorizing it until it loses any meaning.” He sighed softly, sadly.
He had a point. And I’d already been inundated with enough
mysteries to know that some things simply had no explanation humans could
understand. ‘Magick is only science
not yet understood’. Words he
had said to us in a letter more than a year before rattled through my mind up
there in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, looking down on a
distant world that seemed far more unreal to me at that moment than the world Orlando
had been trying to teach me to see.
He was there. Whether
physically, in some spirit-form manifestation, or only in my imagination is
ultimately of no importance whatsoever, for in the sorcerer’s world there is no
difference between body and spirit, and in any world, perception is
reality. I did perceive him, and
what he said to me is of greater importance than how he came to be waiting for
me in that desolate location high above the civilized world.
“Sometimes the silence up here is
absolutely deafening,” he mused, more than a simple observation.
I listened. At first I couldn’t hear it above the noisy chatter of my own
thoughts, but as I gradually stopped the internal dialogue and settled into that
place of pure existence, observation and silent awareness of gnosis, I began to hear what Orlando had intended me to
hear. Not a cricket nor an owl
disturbed the stillness. The lights of
Palm Springs and Indio were only distant glitterings, the line of traffic
crawling along I-10 nothing more than an illumined ant trail, so distant the
movement of the cars could not even be perceived. Just a line of lights in the middle of the desert, a phantasm, a
chimera, a miasma of lost souls rushing headlong through the night, yet seeming
to stand still. A fitting paradox.
But above it all, penetrating all of it, permeating the very air –
deeper than the air, and into the fabric of the cosmos itself – a shrill,
high-pitched scream. At first, my mind
scrambled around for its usual rational explanation. In the absence of any real external sound, I told myself,
remembering some old prattle from a high school biology class or some other
ancient source of information I had always accepted as The Voice of the Real
World, the ear drums began to actually pick up the sounds of one’s own
body. That scream, I told myself
adamantly, was nothing more than the blood rushing through my own arteries, or
perhaps even the electrical synapse of the brain itself as it was deprived of one
of its ordinary senses. It was the silence
a deaf man might hear, I rationalized.
It was the silence of Beethoven’s last years, the melancholy of his
There are no
words to describe it, yet most of us have heard it at some time or another in
our lives – at least those who have been fortunate enough to find a place of
solitude where that silence can exist, a place away from all the background
noises we normally tune out in the course of living. We’re surrounded by the noise of the hive. As I
sit here in my office, there are literally dozens of noises. The hum of the computer. The clack of the plastic keys. A whine of tires on asphalt. Barking dogs. The call of a raven.
Other sounds I can no longer directly perceive, for they are so much a
part of my reality that they are simply accepted as natural. Noise. Sometimes when a
black-out occurs, we get a glimpse of that silence for a moment or two, when
the normally-unnoticed hum of the refrigerator stops and the motor on
the fish tank is stilled and the subliminal murmur of all the digital clocks and
such are finally silenced. Maybe then,
if we can stop our own internal dialogue and just listen, we can catch
an edge of that deafening silent scream.
if hearing my very thoughts. “It’s the
scream nobody wants to hear,” he said, though I didn’t care what
he said, for ultimately he was right.
That silent screaming was so loud and so permeating to the very core of
my cells that all I wanted in that moment was to drown it out, distract myself
For a moment or
an eternity, I found myself back in my old life, back in the identity I had
inhabited before I ever embarked on this strange journey. There was always noise in the house,
I recalled. ‘Background noise,’ I had
called it then. I’d turn on the t.v.
for company. If the t.v. was off, the
CD player was gnawing on Credence or Enya or The Moody Blues. If all else failed, I could always pick up the phone and lose
myself in mindless prattle with friends for hours. Back then, I’d thought of it all as just normal. We lived in a technological world, so what
was the harm of having it all? The only
thing I ever did in silence back then was my writing, and even that could hardly
be called silence, for the very act of writing requires an active and cohesive
I wanted to mention all of this to Orlando,
but I had become so engulfed by that silent screaming – which was growing
progressively louder as we sat there with our gazes fixed on the flickering
lights far, far below – that I was completely unable to speak. At times, there would be lulls in that
scream. Then it would start up again,
fade, return. Occasionally, there would
be true silence, but as I listened and began to try to analyze the phenomenon,
I realized it had no particular pattern.
Indeed, it didn’t seem to be one silent scream at all, but
literally millions – billions – of screams all laid down on top of one
another like tracks of music.
But more than
that, it was as if that scream was imbedded with a despair so heavy that it
reminded me of a black star – a gravitational field so dense that not even
light could escape.
that?” I whispered, filled with awe and terror at once, for when I delved
beyond the surface explanations and the rational analysis and all the other
consensual reality-checks one does when faced with something one does not
immediately recognize as part of the ordinary reality continuum, I came to
realize that what I was hearing was not at all explainable in any terms I had
ever called normal. It was a normal
experience – available to anyone willing to find a place silent enough to
actually listen – but it did not conform to the normal explanations we
have been taught to believe. It was not
the rushing of blood through my own ears, for it was external as much as
internal. It was not the synapse
of my awestruck brain. It was not the
sound of one hand clapping.
think it is?” Orlando asked, his voice a welcome intrusion into the darkness and
the dread and the realization that something utterly profound was happening.
I knew perfectly
well what it was, but I was afraid to say it, not only because the answer
wasn’t rational according to the standards of the society
in which I lived, but because I didn’t want to believe it. That dreadful, despairing scream, I knew,
was the death scream of every living creature who had ever walked the
earth. It was the wail of horror and
despair choked out at the moment of death before being forever fragmented back into
the fabric of the night that never ends.
It was the realization of the businessman that he had sold his life to a
corporation that could do nothing to save his soul. It was the last-breath comprehension of the devoted wife and
mother that she had lived her entire life vicariously, through the
accomplishments and failures of others.
It was the lonely weeping of the film star or the well-loved novelist
who understood only when it was too late that the adoration of others could do
nothing to launch one’s consciousness across the abyss and into some possible
That scream was the final moment of
awareness of The True Believer that there was nothing out there in the darkness but
darkness itself, no God and no devil waiting to harvest his soul, for ultimately
it was the eye-opening, deathbed awareness that the soul itself does not and cannot
exist unless one has devoted more than passing and passive interest to one’s
true identity – the “I Am” that can only be made cohesive and viable by the real
efforts of each and every individual human being.
was, as simply as can be stated, the final moment of awareness that overcomes a
consciousness just before that awareness is brutally but impersonally snuffed
out for good. It was the horror of
finally understanding that no external force can offer salvation or
damnation – but far worse than that, it was the moment of realizing that one’s
own life had been nothing more than a series of illusions piled one on top of
the other like so many blankets, none of them real, none of them having any
meaning beyond the existence of its own self-contained play. And, finally, it was the horrific comprehension
that one had willingly bought into that play, put on one’s costume for the
entirety of one’s life, and had essentially done nothing more than recite the
lines required by The Husband, The Father, The Wife, The
Mother, The Daughter, The Son, The Christian or the Atheist, The Republican or
It was, in the end, the
scream that resulted when one finally realizes one has been lied to, duped,
misled, and literally programmed to serve the very social organism which
perpetuates the program in the first place. And, most appalling of all, that
final scream was the wail of understanding that one really wasn’t a victim and
never had been. It had always been a
choice to live within the program or take the first step to start climbing
outside of the program in an effort to get to know the consciousness that
resides above and beyond the reflection in one’s own mirror.
The scream, then,
was the outraged despair of those who had never taken that step.
The struggle to
see beyond the programs we have been fitted with merely by virtue of being
human is the most difficult struggle one will ever undertake. By virtue of living in certain societies,
certain beliefs are more or less automatic.
Until fairly recently, if one lived in the United States, it was an
automatic assumption that one was Christian and that one celebrated
Christmas. Only within the past couple
of decades do we begin to see Hannukah cards or Kwanzaa greetings, or any sort
of acknowledgement that perhaps – just perhaps – there are belief
systems that do not necessarily agree with our own intrinsic program. In short, we accept the reality with which
we are presented. Simply by virtue of
being human, for example, we accept that “all things die”. But instead of going against that program,
that belief system, we weave pretty fables within the belief
system itself to offer comfort to ourselves.
We weave tales of heaven and hell, and blame all our woes on the myth of
Adam and Eve, never stopping to consider that each of us is Adam and each of us
is Eve – we have free will, too, and we can choose to go on living in
the blind ignorance of our fantasy garden, or we can take that forbidden fruit
of real Knowledge and claim responsibility for our own salvation.
This path is
Do-able, I thought, trying to find some hope, some comfort that didn’t
require blind faith in external forces.
I thought of the experiences of the past few years, since Orlando’s first
letter showed up in November of 1994.
The things I had learned weren’t dependent on faith or any church or
even on Orlando himself. What I knew I
knew from personal experience – the only real source of Knowledge. I could answer the first question: who are you? At the very least, I could answer it better than I had been able
to when that question was first asked back in 1988. It was the
only question that ultimately had any meaning, for within that question was the
path of discovery that would last a lifetime and beyond.
The scream, I
knew, was the scream of all the men and women who had never asked that
question. Or if they ever did, they
went looking for the answer in what they did for a living and the belief systems they uploaded into their lives like so much
changeable, obsolete software. It was
all the regrets of all the human beings who had ever lived a meaningless life
or died a pointless death, that last-moment realization that all of it
had been in vain, regardless of what we have all been taught to believe, the
program instilled into us since birth.
It was the
inability to answer the first question - "Who are you?"
That was what the scream really was.
thoughts went tumbling through my head as I sat there listening to that
terrible, unending scream. It was all
the ugliness of the truth we choose to turn away from, and it was the reason
for all the noise in the world – the noise we used to distract ourselves from
hearing that scream, the inner dialogue we had instilled within ourselves to
keep ourselves forever deafened to that one hideous, horrible, inescapable
truth that no one ever wanted to look at:
our own mortality.
I cannot stress
enough that the scream was real. More
real than the stars overhead or the breath in my own insignificant mortal
lungs. And I most certainly cannot
stress adequately how desperately I did not want to believe it, for to
believe it meant having to accept complete and total responsibility for my own
soul, my own continuity beyond death, my own answer to the first question. I wanted it to be otherwise. I wanted to believe in God or
goodness or even evil, for any of those external forces would have offered an
explanation that would have exonerated me from that responsibility for which
there is no outline or set of instructions readily available.
I thought of
something a close friend has said on and off throughout this journey - that it
causes her to see the world in an ugly perspective, and that she has often
considered turning away from the ongoing journey in the hopes of re-embracing
some of the beauty she once found so prevalent in life. Personally, I have never had that particular
reaction, and indeed I have found the removing of the blinders to be the most
beautiful experience of a lifetime, but each of us sees the world through
different glasses. To me, seeing what the world can be apart
from the roles, the programs and the illusions is the beauty of it.
When we drag ourselves beyond the programs and finally
to take a look at the truth, the truth is that nature is a relentless but
impersonal bastard. We are born mortal
and we will return to the dust if nature is allowed to take the path of least
resistance. The only alternative
to that is the alternative nature has provided. Evolution itself.
But even that thought was too
overwhelming that night overlooking the human world, because at that time I
couldn’t begin to fathom how to
go about forging an “I Am” identity that might have a chance of assembling
itself into some form of ongoing cohesive sentience beyond my mortal death. I
didn’t even have the words at that time to formulate that concept, only a vague
sense that there must be a way, but a lingering anger that it
wasn’t immediately and easily revealed to me.
And so, for that reason alone – that I didn’t know how to begin the real work – I wanted nothing more than to throw up a wall
of stubborn denial and disbelief, fall right back into the consensual reality’s
program, and pretend like hell I never heard that scream at the edge of the
Orlando sighed as if I had said something of great significance even though I never
spoke out loud. “Now you’re beginning
to see how reality is really built.
When the average man encounters something he doesn’t want to
believe, he will spare no expense of time, energy and money – even wars and
blood – to spin a more palatable story in which he does want to
believe. Why do you think there are so
many religions in the world, so many different beliefs that are all really the
same belief system just re-dressed over and over again? More than a savior, Man’s been looking for a
scapegoat since he first crawled out of the primordial soup and reared up on
his hind legs.”
A satellite was
passing overhead, a silent, lonely star with technological agendas I could not
fathom. Orlando’s words made me
irritable, for the insinuation was that I was trying to throw up a wall of
stubborn denial and disbelief and fall back into the consensual reality’s
between us, but I knew I would never hear the silence the same way again. I wanted to blame him for that. I scuffled my feet to interrupt that
terrible screaming, but it wasn’t enough.
I couldn’t obliterate it. The
screaming and the despair, was like something out of Milton, I thought. The real Hell was that there was
nothing and no one out there to blame.
There was only life, death, and perception. No god. No devil. Not even good and evil, which are only
I didn’t like it
one bit. It wasn’t pretty. Against the backdrop of the jagged,
unforgiving terrain all around me, I was insignificant and small. Fragile.
Out there in the desert alone at night, I could tumble off a cliff and
break my neck, or simply drop dead of a heart attack or a stroke. And in the end, it wouldn’t matter much –
not really. Not in the big picture,
which was spread out before me – a blanket of stars dropped down over the Earth
from light-years away. I was seeing the
past in those stars – the light that I was perceiving having been transmitted
years or even centuries in the past.
Nothing was real. Not even
time. For all I really knew, all the
stars had already burned out.
“We talk about
this evolution of consciousness all the time, Orlando,” I finally said, not
liking the complaining tone in my own voice, but unable to filter it out just
then. “But the truth is that I
don’t know what to do or how to do it!
My friends all think I’m certifiable, and half the time I don’t even
know who I am anymore!”
He was thoughtful
for a moment, then I heard him sigh, a soft sound of amusement. “Good,” he said at last.
disbelieving. “But I don’t know who I
I exploded, surprised by my own outburst, wondering if he hadn’t heard me the
“At least you now
know who you are not,” he replied, looking at me intently. "At
least you have shed the false identities you spent the first 35 years of your
life trying on, yes?"
Not up to his
scrutiny, I stood up and walked to the stone wall that marked the
edge of the path. Beyond it lay a
series of rock formations and jagged cliffs, 6,000 feet of space between me and
the glistening lights spread out in the distant country club valleys
below. Though it was August, a strong,
cold wind drafted up from those forbidding rocks, whistling eerily through the
crannies, momentarily obliterating that awful screaming silence.
I closed my eyes,
taking a breath of the darkness and the night.
A voice in my mind whispered, “You can stay if you want.” The image that accompanied the invitation
was an unformed idea of lingering like a ghost on that stone wall for all of
eternity, watching the tourists come and go, listening to their conversations,
tossing sand in their beer cans in the guise of the wind. It was an invitation that was both appealing
and unnerving, for I wasn’t at all sure what I was being offered.
I turned to say
something to Orlando, but the bench was empty again. I thought I heard footsteps on the path leading back to the
parking lot, but when I looked, the only sign of movement was a lone coyote
walking soundlessly down the road, a silver ghost in fading moonglow. For a single moment, the coyote turned and
met my eyes, and there was something in his gaze – something haunted
and hungry and real – that told me he, too, heard the screams.
The Message & the Messenger
FORWARD to The Dark