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The Principles and Practices of Toltec Shamanism

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Like all ancient spiritual traditions, the Toltecs postulated that human beings are more than what meets the eye. In fact, they left behind a long standing tradition based upon the claims of perceiving directly the energetic matrix that forms the physical world and the bodies that populate it. The practices which they followed and taught to their apprentices are based upon that perception.

We will attempt to cast some light on the meanings of those perceptions and in the process translate to our language of the modern world, the conceptual structure of their teachings. Because information resulting from a direct perception of the "unseen", as we know it, will be necessarily vague and beyond our syntax, we will focus on the most basic principles and build upon that foundation toward the physical practices which mark the surface of their way of life. We may take some large bites in the process as well and suggest you allow some latitude. It will become clearer over time and practice and study.


Fundamental to Toltec philosophy is the idea that humans are far more than physical beings. In fact, the belief is crucial that we are far more unseen than seen. All the teachings that follow spring forth from this firm foundation. First to emerge from this conceptual structure is the idea that we, as a matter of nature, actually perceive far more of the unseen than we consciously realize. In modern terms we can extrapolate that the emergence of the unconscious into our daily lives is a good example of this. The unconscious input which drives most of us through our days, is very much a part of us and yet very much unseen. It lurks in the body's cells, it lurks in the energy field and it is projected outwards into the world we perceive with our physical senses. Each time we act out an unconscious desire (gorging for example, or refusing to deal with our feelings or a myriad of other examples), we are responding to the flow of the unseen. As we interact with the world at large we act upon the unseen as well, most often with no conscious awareness of the movements of energy and idea that we perceive at a level of consciousness beyond our waking awareness.

This unseen reality is none the less real. It acts upon us as the precursor to our conscious awareness. It impacts us with the flow of our thoughts and the passing of our moods. It touches us with the wispiness of intuition. It affects the timing of events and the attraction and repulsion of people and things which impact our lives. On a deeper level, the unseen is the creative force which builds the reality we do see. It is the realm where this creative force takes on identity and shape. The idea of things is the foundation upon which the physical reality of things is formed. Grasping and using the idea of things can drastically change our experience of reality. It is here that our intent as beings begins to become crystallized into form. It is here that we can begin to decide who we are in effective ways and affect the direction and flow of our lives.

This Unseen Reality which is the largest part of the universe we live in, as the subject of this philosophy, can be manipulated and affected directly. It is to this end that the practices of Toltec Shamanism were designed. Our acts in this world are at once the reflection of and the projection towards the unseen. Our acts can change the very structure of reality. The teachings of these people of knowledge, were aimed at creating this freedom. More than any other attribute of their system of knowledge was the quest for freedom, freedom from the power of human society to quash the spirit of the individual, freedom from the power of their own internal habits to quash their direct experience of the unseen, freedom to choose the shape and motion of the universe itself. These ancient Seers then turned their attention toward this quest and in doing so toward the direct manipulation of the unseen world. Their practices, passed down through their apprentices from generation to generation, are the result of this intense study. They hold keys to a larger knowledge of life and the opportunity to gain the freedom they sought and achieved.


It was their contention that the world around us is the direct product of the Intent of each of us as individuals and the mass of us as a species. their perception of energy showed them that our very physical shape was the product of this flow of intent into matter. These shamans taught that everything that became physical followed this flow of intent, including disease, viruses, cancers and so on. They were noted for their healing gifts because they had mastered this flow. They saw that conflicts in a person's intentions for themselves were always at the root of a physical illness. A person whose anger and shame left them feeling unworthy to live, placed a large conflict between this feeling and their intent to exist. The body would reflect this conflict with a life threatening illness. Smaller conflicts in the inner life would have smaller illness or injury to illustrate them.

As a result of this observation, these shamans focused upon techniques to gain a clarity of intention that would alleviate such conflicts. Through their practice of these techniques, they discovered that when their intent was unbendingly clear, they were able to make their wishes come true with remarkable swiftness. They found themselves able to manipulate the world around them in ways we would be forced to define as magical. All because they held no conflicts between what they wanted and what they were as human beings (unlimitedly large).


Among these techniques to clear away conflicting intentions were a series of physical movements that the shamans of ancient Mexico called Magical Passes. They have been recently catalogued and explained and passed along to modern people under the name of Tensegrity by Carlos Casteneda and other members of his party of apprentices. Casteneda chose the name from the writings of Buckminster Fuller who coined the term to describe a fundamental principle of architecture. The efficient strength of a structure, according to Fuller, is the result of "skeleton structures that employ continuous tension members and discontinuous compression members in such a way that each member operates with the maximum efficiency and economy." For the originators of this series of movements, the meaning was more simple and direct. These motions were the direct activity of manipulating the energy flow through the human being for the purpose of creating a clear and focused intent which aligns with the fundamental intent of the universe.

A large idea for such a simple group of motions. How could this possibly work? Firstly, it utilizes a principle of saturation. Using all of our resources to bring into sharp focus our most primal intention in life, be that learning or awareness or exploration or some other very basic desire, is the means by which our very being is inundated with this desire. The magical passes drive this desire into the very cells of the body. The motions are designed to affect the flow of energy through our being and move it in ways that align with this desire. People do not do these movements out of some whim to see what they do. People do these movements because they want to know. They want to know life, they want to know themselves as they really are. Holding these desires in the forefront of their minds while doing this direct manipulation of the energy field, drives the desire into concrete form. The rest of the being follows along into manifesting the outcome of those desires.

Because the movements are designed to affect the energy field directly, the unseen portions of ourselves become far more concrete and real to us. They become ingrained into our identities. No longer do we question that we are an energetic matrix densified into physical form. We gather great amount of evidence that proves that to us. We begin to see in genuine ways the flow of energy that becomes our bodies as we prod and move it about. We see direct relationships between our actions toward our energy field and the movement of life around us.

Our state of health and vitality is affected first. We immediately experience an increase in vigour as more energy is stirred into motion around us. Many experience a renewed desire to be in physical motion, to exercise or to engage life more vigorously. The world around us begins to change in subtle ways that make room for an increase of this sort.

Next, our emotional states begin to shift and grow more intense. We feel more of the life we live. The intensity of our experience grows. Our joy becomes larger and more inclusive. We gain access to more of our experience of life. This allows us to cast off the conflicts of intent that power our experiences of anger and sadness and pain. We simply have less of those feelings to live

through as a result. Our thinking, too, sharpens as we practice this focusing exercise. We see more direct connections between the events in our lives. We feel more power to change what we do not like about our lives. The flooding of our awareness which takes place in the exercises themselves creates an internal space in which we can access parts of our own being that have been hidden from our view before by layers of internal conversation that we have not even noticed. Each step toward greater clarity of purpose adds to our courage to make the next step and so we grow at fast pace towards the beings we choose to be.


This flow of energy is a natural part of human existence. Even though most of us are totally unaware of this constant movement of energy, nonetheless, it exists. Our unconscious covers up most of this knowledge as a matter of habit and training. As children we were aware and reasonably comfortable with a large part of this knowledge. We moved through the world much more gracefully than we do as adults because we flowed with our own energy fields. Children survive a myriad of activities which, as adults, we would never even attempt. We pass this off as "God protecting fools and little children." It is the internal comfort with ourselves as energetic beings that affords this protection.

The will to make this knowledge conscious once more changes everything. We can certainly remain unconscious and continue to exist. Our existence will be shortened and much less comfortable though. Our most basic desire (growth in our own personal way) will not be fulfilled either. We will experience an underlying unhappiness as a result of thwarting this basic desire.

The perception of ourselves as energetic beings takes place at such a subtle level of our awareness that at first we most often have to take this whole idea on faith. It is reasonable and so we might try it out to see if it works to achieve our goals in life. If we see evidence of its effectiveness in our lives, we will continue the pursuit. As our perceptions sharpen with practice, we will begin to notice our energy field in more direct ways. This reinforcement speeds up the learning curve greatly. The more we sift through the subtle layers of ourselves in our thoughts and feelings and bodily sensations, the more direct evidence of our energetic structure we acquire.

This becomes more overwhelming because the physical motions of the magical passes instill in us a greater ability to achieve states of inner silence. The motions themselves, once well learned, occupy our minds so totally that we enter meditative states while doing them. The interplay of inner silence and magical passes offers us a direct experience of ourselves in action. Interspersing the exercises with meditation periods increases the effectiveness of both. The more we experience ourselves directly in all of our largeness the more vast and wonderful a being we know ourselves to be.

What bars our way down this path of self awareness is a lifetime of training and indoctrination. From early in life we are told not to be silly, we don't really see that. We are told how the world works in spite of our experiences of it. We are told what to think, what to say, what to do and like good little boys and girls, that is precisely what we think and say and do. Our experience of reality ceases to be direct. It gets funnelled through the filter of all these messages. Anything beyond what is acceptable to our parents and teachers and siblings and so on gets pushed into the unconscious and we learn to keep it there through habit. We stop being able to access the information without an extreme effort. Sometimes, traumatic experience will bring it to the surface and sometimes, we can call it to the surface with such exercises as these magical passes. The latter method is truly less painful and more exciting.

Rebel! Take life into your own hands. That is the message of these ancient wise ones. Decide for yourself what life is about and how it works. Go looking for the answers to life's questions within yourself. Push the envelope of experience to see how things really tick. Take only your own truth as gospel and pursue that as well to see if it really is true. To their apprentices, these shamans pushed new experience to shake them from their concrete ideas about life. There exercises are also designed to push our experience of life to new depths.

Magical passes are also designed to create a balance between our physical selves and our non-physical selves. Indeed, this balance is at the root of their effectiveness. The need for physical awareness is as great in this developmental process as the need for awareness of the non-physical aspects of our selves. Otherwise, these exercises would be a play of the imagination solely and not have physical counterparts at all. Every foray into the unknown requires a commensurate balancing into the physical world, each new conceptual exploration requires grounding into physical reality to comprise reality itself. Therefore, the passes are used to sharpen and strengthen the body as well as move the mind into a larger sphere.

What makes these exercises magical is the fact that they are enacted in spite of rational concerns. Believing they are effective and meaningful movements is at first fairly unlikely. They look pretty silly and hardly meaningful at all. By acting on them as though they really are effective, they become so. That is the magic. By making the leap of faith that we can indeed affect our energetic selves through physical movements, we do so. Evidence of that effectiveness comes along afterwards. That is what the word magic means.


As we have stated previously, the shamans of ancient Mexico postulated that physical matter reflects the nature of the unseen reality. They extrapolated the obvious evidence of matter into a quest to discover how energy works. They observed through their direct perception that energy, like matter, has three fundamental states of being, solid, liquid and gaseous. These states of being determine how matter is created and how life is maintained. They also observed that the liquid form of energy is as ubiquitous as the liquid form of matter. In formulating the magical passes, they observed the effects of motion on the energy around the human body and saw that motion with intent changes the form of the energy around us. They saw that energy would crystallize or puddle with disuse. By striking the crystal abruptly and with intent, they saw it break up and begin to move once more. The puddles they observed could be stirred into motion once more and the pieces of crystallized energy within the puddles could be grabbed and moved into the energy field inside and outside the physical body to add to the vitality of the body.

These shamans also observed that by creating a habitual flow of energy in a patterned fashion through repetitive actions, they could learn to utilize this extra energy to change their perceptions of the universe and thus increase their knowledge of reality and how it works. This boost of energy affects every aspect of the human being. It liberates the physical vigor and emotional awareness as well as the mental acuity and speed needed to access a multidimensional universe.

So you see, magical passes are far more than mere exercises. They are a focus of our intent to grow and learn and become the being we most desire to be. They are magical in the extreme because they ground our most ethereal perceptions of reality into direct physical action. They reflect the most magical nature of the world around us by showing us evidence of the energetic matrix that forms that world. We become masters of our destiny by grabbing the reins of our own energy fields and moving it in ways determined by us instead of the haphazard ways of habit and training. Enjoy the adventure as you begin the practice of the most remarkable discipline known to humankind.

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