Orlando was in manifestation
on this Earth, we met him in person only a handful of times.
The first occasion on which I
spoke with him was an unlikely setting in which to meet one’s
double – a post
office in a small town in southern California. It was a morning like any other,
early March of 1988. Nothing special. Nothing significant as I stood there at
the counter in my ratty yin/yang t-shirt, hair uncombed, waiting for the postal
clerk to process some packages.
It was only when I
looked up to see this dark enigma at the next window that I entertained the
immediate and unlikely thought,
“He’s not human.”
Without just cause, I
was instantly terrified – for in retrospect, I believe I knew even then that I
was standing at a crossroads which would forever alter the course of my life.
I could have turned and
walked away, and maybe that would have been the end of it – an isolated incident
I would have forgotten within a few hours. Instead, I found myself talking to
him before I realized I had spoken. Only in hindsight could I see that I was
compelled to speak to him because he was my teacher – not only that, but
a great deal more, though I could not have known that at the
time, and had I known, I would have turned and fled.
We spoke only
briefly that first day, yet there was an unsettling familiarity – a déjà vu
that was unnerving to someone who had always been poised and
self-confident even in the most extreme circumstances. What we talked about, I
barely recall. Every conversation
with him always had the feeling of a zip-file – something that appeared light
and manageable on the surface, but always seemed to have layers upon layers of
encoding that could only be discovered in hindsight.
I left the post
office feeling strangely disconnected. By the time I got home and told Wendy
about the encounter, there was an uncharacteristic emptiness in the pit of my
stomach. Though I had been in the middle of working enthusiastically on a
novel, the words wouldn’t come. I stared out the window most of the afternoon.
Even the purple
jacaranda sweeping her branches across the neighbor’s rooftop seemed to have a
Over the next few weeks, I
ran into Orlando around town several times. Casual, chance meetings. Or so it
seemed. At first, I fought the sense of destiny that had begun to haunt both
sleeping and waking hours. Without my knowledge or permission, he had already
hooked me with his will, and though I might have howled with
righteous indignation had I realized this at the time, in hindsight it is very
clear that no other course of action was possible on his part or mine. We were
both acting in accordance with our destiny – the
Nagual man and Nagual woman –
though he had the advantage of knowing that, whereas I had begun to feel
as if I were on a roller coaster that was running headlong without a track.
what he said, because sometimes he said very little. It was him.
It was an indefinable something that I could not figure out – something
which would not yield to any attempts on my part to either seduce him or
abandon him. I tried both. And both failed utterly. And all the while, he
just kept being there with that quiet but dangerous smile that seemed to conceal
some incredible mystery.
day-to-day life had been turned on its head. I couldn’t eat, sleep or work. It
wasn’t love. It wasn’t lust. He had
possessed me, yet it wasn’t the typical manner of obsession a woman might
have for a man. I didn’t particularly want to bed him.
I wanted to
was a strange realization, since I have always liked who I am just fine.
Whenever I met
Orlando, it was like looking into some warped funhouse mirror – seeing myself as
I might have been had I been born in another place and time, another gender and
I had told Wendy
of my initial encounter with Orlando at the post office, but she never met him
until several weeks later. I had hoped she would take one look at him and
pronounce that I was merely a foolish woman infatuated with a handsome man. But
instead, without so much as a polite introduction, he hooked her with his will
on their first encounter, just as he had done with me. And then,
instead of being my anchor to the real world, she became as hopelessly ensnared
the sorcerer’s world as I had become.
Over the course
of the next few weeks, he invited us to his home, where we began to first
discover that this “man” was far more than we had first believed. He knew
things about life. About the way the world is. About us. Sometimes, from one
day to the next, he didn’t even appear to be the same person. We joked that
there were two of him. We speculated as to which one was the evil twin. We
decided he could be an assassin, a fallen angel, a poet’s muse, or even an
immortal vampyre. He was a contradiction and a mystery, a living enigma – and
in hindsight, it is very clear to me that this was no accident.
This was the
lure, the energetic hook. This was the Nagual man.
His name was not
really Orlando, of course. I had toyed with the idea of calling him David or
Marcus or even Bob – but in the long run, he chose the name Orlando for reasons
he has never stated, though my suspicion is that it is a reference to a somewhat
obscure movie by the same name – a Virginia Woolf novel about an immortal’s
journey through time, space, gender and identity.
The first time we visited
Orlando at his home, he was wearing only a pair of shorts and a loose-fitting
tank top when we arrived. The view was distracting. He had not known we were
coming (at least not to our perceptions), as this had all been very casual. He
let us in, offered us a drink. I accepted; Wendy declined. I've always
suspected there was something in that drink – not some bogus mickey, but
something of magic.
When he handed
me the glass and our eyes met, his expression was one of amusement. “Jack
Daniels and water, on the rocks,” he said with a wicked smile. “A suicide.”
I took the glass
with as much bravado as I could muster. “The end of my world?” I asked, playing
with him the way a child might unknowingly tease a coiled serpent.
So I drank it
down, my mind flashing abruptly and without reason on the Baptist church I’d
attended as a little girl and the weird rituals enacted on Sunday mornings with
This is the cup of my blood. Drink of it so you may never
I never realized
at the time what an appropriate analogy my mind was drawing – not in some
quasi-religious sense, but far more literally than any priest or parishioner
It was his
Intent that we would eventually commit to the sorcerer’s journey, and because
he wasn’t entirely human – because he had an agenda we would not understand for
years to come, based on an energetic connection of Spirit that would take even
longer to comprehend – it is clear in hindsight that he chose the form and the
demeanor he knew would reel us in as surely as if the hook were sunk into flesh
and bone. Looking back on it now, I have no doubt that he could just as easily
have chosen the form of an old
brujo in Mexico much like
Carlos Castaneda's don Juan, a homeless
urchin on the streets of Athens, or an immortal plucked from the pages of Anne
exactly what I needed him to be –
the embodiment of the mystery I had been chasing all my life. Maybe that should
have been a warning.
As we sat there talking, he
began asking the kinds of questions normally reserved for midnight meanderings
between old friends. He pulled no punches, played no polite games, and showed
"Who are you?" he wanted to
know, looking at me with an intensity I could not recall ever having seen in
another living being.
I started to respond with
some pat rhetoric about how I was a professional writer, a martial artist, and
so on, my
self-importance running rampant at a time when I
believed all of those things mattered.
But he shook his head as if
not even listening, and held up one hand in a polite gesture meant to silence my
"That's not what I mean,” he
said very quietly. “I mean who are you? Who are you apart from what you
do? Who is Della? Who is Wendy? Why are you here on Earth at this particular
moment in time? What difference do you think it will make that you ever lived?”
I just sat there,
dumfounded, for it suddenly hit me that I had no answers to his questions, no
defenses against his psychic probe. In a matter of minutes, he had cut through
the shielding I had spent a lifetime building. This was not how it was
supposed to go, for I was used to being in control of any situation. I had
bullshitted my way into high-paying jobs with no qualifications; I had left home
at 17 and made my way in the world because I had to; I had seduced virgins and
concubines alike, and was used to having men eating out of my hand.
And yet, none
of it mattered one iota – for Orlando had shown me in a matter of moments that my entire
life had been an illusion, just a series of dramas played out by a series of
actresses. All of them had been me, yet none of them were me. I could not have
imagined how he accomplished such a drastic re-alignment of my perceptions in
such a short span of time – and, indeed, to someone who has never experienced
something of this magnitude, it may seem as if I’m rushing the story, omitting
details, or simply making it up as I go along.
In matters of sorcery at
this level, it must be noted that certain events appear to actually happen
outside of time – in between tick and tock. At the time all of this was
happening, it appeared to my
ordinary awareness that perhaps only
a few minutes or an hour had passed. And yet, even then, I could not deny the
sense of déjà vu that seemed to follow Orlando like some mysterious
vapor. I could not know at that time that there was a reason for this which
defies traditional rationality, and delves straight into the realms of quantum
ubiquitousness – where the self exists as a
singularity of consciousness
spanning the all of the space-time continuum and beyond.
Later, when I began reading
the books of Carlos Castaneda and other texts on Toltec shamanism, and
encountered the concept of
heightened awareness, there was a sense
of understanding exactly how Orlando had accomplished the task of cutting
so quickly through my defenses, but at the time it was happening, all I can say
is that it felt as if I had been picked up out of one life and instantaneously
set down in the middle of a different one.
For the first time, I was speechless.
This mysterious man was
asking us to define the meaning of our human lives. And even though I was well
educated in many aspects of metaphysics, I'd never really given a lot of thought
to those meaning-of-life questions from a personal standpoint – only from
a detached, academic perspective – words shoved inside the mouths of fictional
characters who appeared at my beck and call on a monochrome green monitor, and
could be silenced into oblivion with nothing more than a keystroke.
I fumbled. I squirmed.
“All I’ve ever really known
how to do is write,” I said at last, though even as I spoke the words I could
hear the actress in me – the character in her own drama who was always trying to
impress someone else, or perhaps only herself. Having become intensely aware of
it, I didn’t like it, but there it was. All I could do was try to follow
through – a rat running a familiar maze. “Maybe we’re just here to create,” I
That should impress him, the internal dialogue commented from
“I mean – some people try to save the world
with swords. Some try to do it with flowers in their hair. Hell, maybe I’ll
save the world with words!”
Bravo! Let him argue with that!
He didn’t argue. He just
sighed softly. “It’s too late to save the world,” he stated with a
matter-of-factness that raised gooseflesh on my arms, for he spoke as if from
personal knowledge rather than any ill-formed belief. “The world will fall –
whether in a year or ten thousand years.” He had stood up and begun to pace in
front of the living room window – a sleek, dangerous silhouette backlit by a lamp in the corner.
“Besides – the world as you’re referring to it is an illusion anyway. The only
thing you might be able to save is yourself.”
Wendy caught my eye with a
look that told me what I already knew. We were in over our heads. Indeed, what
is so obvious to me now was so alien to me at the time that I could
barely even fathom what Orlando was saying. The result was that I found myself
becoming defensive – typical, pre-programmed response of my own self-importance,
my own attachment to the programs I thought were real.
“Then what’s the point of
any of it?” I quipped, struggling to keep the sharp edge out of my voice.
Orlando stopped his pacing,
and turned to regard me with a cobra’s hypnotic gaze. “You have to
beyond the illusions before you can be beyond the illusions.”
It was one of those
enigmatic responses that made me want to avail myself of a dramatic and angry
exit, yet something in the way he spoke those words told me that if I did, it
would be over. He was trying to tell us something without coming out and saying
it directly – and whatever it was inside of me that recognized Truth told me in
no uncertain terms this was no game.
You have to see
beyond the illusions before you can be beyond the illusions.
His statement echoed in my ears,
and again I caught Wendy’s eye from across the room.
For a few minutes, we
fumbled around in a miasma of words. We even tried double-teaming him in our
efforts to convince him that there was meaning in life, purpose in creativity,
and identity in what we did. But in the end, it was all just a bunch of
self-indulgent clap-trap – and the mere act of attempting to verbalize those
lies we all tell ourselves brought into an ever-increasing awareness the fact
that they were lies. The illusion was right there in front of us and had
been all along. But we kept right on preaching it, as if singing it into being
would somehow make it real.
We were pathetic
Orlando continued drinking
his Jack Daniels, and watching us to see if we were capable of thinking or just
babbling the rhetoric we thought we should say because it sounded good
rolling off the tongue. Having run out of inventories of what I did, who I
knew, what I wrote, or my favorite restaurants, in desperation I decided to try
a different tact.
“Okay,” I conceded. “Let’s
say you’re right. It’s all just illusion. What about the human spirit?”
Yeah! the internal dialogue chimed in, my only cheering section.
you can’t dazzle him with brilliance, baffle him with bullshit!
wasn’t sure anymore just whose side she was on, but that didn’t phase me as I
ploughed ahead into a series of chaotic but, at the time, passionate thoughts.
“What about people who can read the future? If it’s all just dust in the wind
and nothing we do here on Earth matters, what about people who claim to remember
past lives? Doesn’t that mean we go on – beyond this one single lifetime?”
His eyes narrowed a bit. He
leaned forward in his chair, and I had the feeling he was studying me the way a
serpent studies his prey. "I don't believe in all that psychic mumbo jumbo,” he
said after a thoughtful silence, surprising me as always with his directness
that wasn’t rude or inconsiderate, just brutally honest. “In fact, I went to
see a psychic once – her name was Sonya Grey – but I didn't like what she was
telling me, so I just threw the money on the table and left."
He held my gaze with that
same unwavering intensity as he said this; and even at the time, I had a
reaction I could not quite put my finger on. A distant memory stirred –
something I should remember, but couldn’t quite grasp, like a dream from
years in the past struggling to the surface, only to dart back into the shadows
before it could be retrieved. For a single instant, everything stopped, and as
I sat there sunken down deep into that plush white chair, the very fabric of
time did a cartwheel that went into a backbend, then finally moved forward again
like some deranged tumbling exercise. I had almost remembered… something.
The sensation was baffling,
and sent another shiver racing down my back. Who
“So what was she telling you
that you didn’t want to hear?” Wendy asked boldly.
Orlando chuckled, then
turned his intensity on her, leaving me to feel almost relieved. “That the
world is made of illusions.”
My head spun. I tried to
blame it on the liquor. The
internal dialogue had reverted to running
inventories of the clothes in my closet, the items I needed at the store, what I
had to do tomorrow.
It was fear. A sense of
I said nothing.
The conversation moved on,
though I was in an almost trance-like state. By the end of the evening, we'd
discussed everything from the fallacies of religion to the potential end of the
world to the possible existence of an immortal soul. It was a blur of words, a
cyclone of energy – and yet I found myself oddly detached from it all, like an
observer lost in the balcony, a washed-up actress who had forgotten her lines.
In some secret, selfish
little way, I had hoped Orlando would disappoint me. I had hoped he would open
his mouth when we first came through the door that night, and say something
stupid. I had fantasized that he might even revert to some crude posturing and
suggest a ménage a trois – at which point I would have been validated in
self-righteously pronouncing that he was just another typical male.
Instead, he was not only a
gentleman, but a sage.
I was in serious trouble.
It was only
when we got back home that I began to get unbidden images of an event which had occurred
almost a year in the past. Just a glimpse at first. A few fleeting snippets of
memory, cut at random from the scrapbook of my life.
And then, quite
suddenly, it was all right there, tumbling out of the past like an avalanche
that threatened to bury me under the implications.
In June of 1987
– almost exactly nine months before – Wendy and I had gone to the county fair
with a good friend, Ellen. Throughout the day, we had been in high spirits;
and, independently, each of us had noticed that there was “something in the
air,” though none of us spoke of it until later in the afternoon. We referred
to it at the time as a feeling that something was going to happen – something
mysterious and wonderful and potentially life-altering.
And yet, even at
the time, I couldn’t help secretly believing I was just engaging in wishful
thinking. Though I had experienced the mysterious many times in my life, I was
at a crossroads where that excitement had begun to give way to a sense of
sameness, perhaps even the onset of a frustration for which I had no
explanation. Even in my satisfaction with life, I was restless, and so the
feeling that overcame the three of us that day was one to which I was almost
afraid to surrender.
In one way or another, I had been chasing
ghosts and walking on the razor’s edge of the
nagual all my life – yet whenever
it seemed I was about to catch the muse, tackle the mystery, get my hands on the
pulsing artery of the unknown, it would always slip away, back into the shadows,
always one step ahead, one step out of reach.
My mother’s voice echoed in
“Sometimes you have to be satisfied with the cards you’re dealt. Don’t get your
hopes up too high. Otherwise you’re just setting yourself up for
Not a philosophy
I would choose to live by, yet I wondered fleetingly if I had begun to
live in fear, refusing to open myself to the mysterious and magical unknown
because of some pre-conceived conclusion that it would always remain one
step out of reach. I focused again on the memory that was struggling to
surface, something about that day at the fair almost a year in the past.
just before we were going to leave the fairgrounds, we scouted out something to
eat. Fried something-or-other, with enough cholesterol to block every major
artery on the spot. The sun had finally set, leaving the western horizon an
abstract watercolor of purples, pinks and sea-grey. Somewhere in the distance,
steel drums clattered an eerie rendition of Stairway to Heaven
while screams from the midway echoed off of aging cinder-block buildings badly
in need of paint.
Sitting at a
wooden picnic table, we ate in silence, each of us lost in thought. Even though
the day was almost done, the feeling that there was something magical in the air
lingered. I wanted to hold my breath, to make the day go on just a little
hungry for something back then – hungry for that head-on collision with the
nagual that never seemed to come. I would have danced naked on Hollywood
Boulevard if I’d believed it would open that door. The thought made me
smile to myself as I recalled how the three of us had danced together at
the end of a dark road in the middle of the night once upon a time - a powerful
ritual engaged by three inebriated women, not unlike a scene borrowed from
The Witches of Eastwick.
We needed a
teacher, we had said that night - someone to show us the path. We had even
said to one another that we would see him at the fair.
And yet, in
hindsight, I know I didn't really believe any of it. It was something to
do, a way to externalize my fondest fantasies, but did I believe
it? As much as I might have wanted to, I was far too rooted in The Real
World to have any faith in the machinations of magick - and that was the
banana peel of my eventual downfall.
Only after a few
minutes did I realize I had been staring fixedly at a colorful tent at the
perimeter of the outdoor dining area at the fairgrounds. Though there were other vendor displays,
this one seemed to stand out, to the point that I was silently, unknowingly
mesmerized. My dinner was gone, though I had no memory of eating.
The evening air had turned cold. I shivered.
I had been
staring absent-mindedly at three people in the crowd – a young couple in their
late 20s, and the man accompanying them. Without my conscious awareness, this
man had held my attention for a full minute before I ever realized I was
watching him. At least 6’4”; raven black hair a couple of inches over the
collar; 5 o’clock shadow that gave him the outward appearance of a dangerous
rogue; and dark glasses even though the sun was only a fading memory in the
At this time in
my life, even though Wendy and I had been together as a couple for almost nine
years, I still enjoyed looking at handsome men. So did she, for that matter.
So I nudged her with my foot and nodded toward the man standing in
front of the pretty tent. Catching my eye, she grinned, and I realized that she
had been watching him, too, even before I pointed him out. That was his nature
– to command the attention of a room just by virtue of his existence.
The couple became preoccupied at a jewelry display, at which point the enigmatic
man walked inside the colorful tent and appeared to be talking to someone seated
behind a desk. As it was almost night, I could see candles burning inside.
The setting was alluring. Unexpectedly magical. His face was a study in angles and
shadows, flame-glow and curiosity. He stood there for only a few moments.
Then, reaching for his wallet, he pulled out a couple of bills, tossed them onto
the desk, and hastily left.
I thought very
little of it at the time.
He caught up to
the young couple, the three of them disappeared into an exhibit hall, and that
was the end of that...
months later, after that evening in Orlando’s house, when I abruptly knew what
it was I had been struggling to remember.
on the side of that tent had read:
Psychic Readings by Lady
When that memory came flooding back, when I realized
Orlando must have been intentionally baiting me with a forgotten incident nearly
a year in the past – an incident that had taken place at one isolated moment in
the course of an event that hosts well over a million people during its 2+ week
run at the fairgrounds – I literally sat on the edge of the bed in a state of
bewilderment and shock.
To the casual
observer, it could be easily explained away.
And yet, on a
level of pure intuition, I knew it was no mere happenso. Tumblers clicked.
There was a reason I had had such a strong reaction to Orlando at the post
office the day I first met him.
He isn’t human.
Those words rattled through my mind over and over as I sat there with the jagged
pieces of a complex puzzle in my hand, not knowing what to do with them, not
even knowing if all the pieces I was holding went to the same puzzle.
You have to see
beyond the illusions before you can be beyond the illusions.
That was the
night my life changed forever
Any rational being can
easily explain away the events I am attempting to describe. To anyone else,
perhaps the anecdote of my initial encounters with Orlando is nothing more than
a report of an ordinary event blown out of proportion.
And yet, that is
the preferred defense system of the consensual agreement. Literally anything
can be explained away if that is the intent of the perceiver – and it is no
coincidence that the agreement itself is set up in such a fashion as a means to maintain
its own status quo. It is designed to protect itself from change through a
complex system of denial, stasis, and the ongoing spiritual bankruptcy of its
and sorcerers have known this for centuries, so it stands to reason they have
been among the most persecuted individuals in a long and bloody human history.
That which does not support the status quo threatens it.
You will sleep
better if you close this book right now and tell yourself that the author is
clearly mad and the tales she is telling are only fabrications or exaggerations
of otherwise ordinary events.
amusing thing is that the nagual itself occasionally aids and abets the very
consensual reality to which it exists as antithesis. It stands to reason,
therefore, that Carlos Castaneda was never able to produce the mysterious don
Juan; no UFO has ever landed on the White House lawn to be photographed by
zealous paparazzi; and I can no more prove my story in a court of law than I
could sprout wings and fly.
This isn’t a
tale of faith. To those who have taken this journey for themselves, the bizarre
machinations of the sorcerer’s double are legendary, and perhaps even obvious.
To the uninformed – even those who may be yearning to embark on a spiritual path
– those machinations will appear bizarre, frightening, and perhaps even cause
the seeker to question her own sanity.
This is the