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The Spanish-language word nagual derives from the Nahuatl nahualli or nawalli, a term that itself has several meanings, namely: one facile with words, witch, shapeshifter, and animal co-essence. The last is a name for an entity, to which refers a widespread and ancient Mesoamerican belief that one part of the souls of humans (or human-like figures, such as gods), manifests itself as a sort of animal (or phenomenon, such as lightning) of a spiritual character. The Mayan term is way. The belief is still current in many parts of Mesoamerica, though the term may vary. Nagual has found its way into the Mexican Spanish idiom, with the meaning lie or trick.

'Nagual' (pronounced Naw-Hal or Nahal) is also a term used in the books by Carlos Castaneda to describe a personTemplate:Fact who is able to lead people to new areas of consciousness. Also, Nagual is considered by Castaneda's followers to be related to Eastern concepts of Tao, meditation, or infinity. As Castaneda's teacher says: "We cannot understand the Nagual, we can only see for ourselves that it exists". Even the term 'Nagual' exists only as a very inaccurate way of talking about 'what really isn't any-thing at all.'

Anyone who has experienced left-brain-dominance AND right-brain-dominance will recognize Don Juan's left-side == Nagual ( left-side crossing-over neurologically to right-brain ) and right-side == Tonal mind as simply different modes-of-knowing.

Left-field-of-view is processed by right-brain, and that means a non-words, totality mode-of-knowing.

Right-field-of-view is processed by left-brain, and that means words, and words-cognition, controlling what one can-know.

Recent tests of colour-identification in right-field-of-view vs left-field-of-view has proven that words control our perceptions at a low-level.

Working through The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (by Betty Edwards) ISBN 0874774241, one gets to experience the fundamental difference between Tonal-knowing and Nagual-knowing directly.

The Nagual is also considered as a side of our awareness, as opposed to the Tonal, which can roughly be linked to the concept of Ego. To the Toltec of Castaneda the Tonal is often associated with the masculine aspect of the universe and the Nagual to the feminine. Like the Gnostics the Toltec of today often consider women not only equal to men but in some ways more spiritually intelligent.

A Nagual is the "benefactor" of an apprentice in Castaneda's system and is also the great unnameable Spirit. A Nagual is said to help an apprentice obtain that which is called Total Freedom.

One becomes a Nagual (Manifestation of the Cosmic Spirit) by the act of Alternate Death, a process in which the seeker's awareness dies, becomes formless, and is imprinted with the qualities of the five elements in the following fashion:

  • Earth (white, north) sinking into Water (Green, West) Enemy: Fear
  • Water (Green, West) sinking into Fire (Red, South) Enemy: Clarity
  • Fire (Red, South) sinking into Air (Blue, East) Enemy: Power
  • Air (Blue, East) sinking into Space (infinite expansion in all ten directions) Enemy: Old Age
  • Space sinking into mind (Infinite contraction) Enemy: Death

Also known as the Grand Banishing followed by

  • Air sinking into Fire (life)
  • Fire sinking into Water (liberty)
  • Water sinking into Earth (love)
  • Earth sinking into Space (light)
  • Space sinking into Mind (Atonement)

Also known as the Grand Invocation

This is the process through which the Nagual produces the energy necessary to administer the "Nagual's Blow". Nagual's Blow refers to the shamanic act of causing a state of Heightened Awareness.

The word nagual has in recent years come to mean a spiritual leader. This is a modern incorrect usage of the word originating in California and Arizona New Age groups. Like the modern perversion of the term Shaman this has created a lot of confusion. A nagual is not a spiritual leader. The original meaning of the word “nagual” comes from the Nahuatl language and it is the counterpart of “tonal.” Nahuatl was the language spoken by the Toltecs, Aztecs and other native peoples of Mexico and parts of Central America. Together, tonal and nagual are the two sides of the duality present in the view of the world shared by many indigenous peoples of the region.

However, sources show that Nagual and Nagualism were associated with "men of knowledge" long before the new age movement and Carlos Castaneda. During the conquest and inquisition, many priests and explorers recorded the use of the word Nahuatl being used to represent both a language, a culture and people, as well as the act of knowing itself, and those specialized in dealing with this direct knowing were called nagualists. In 1894 a noted archaeologist, linguist and ethnologist named Daniel Griffin Brinton wrote a book called "Nagualism: A Study in Native-American Folklore and History" which chronicled historical interpretations of the word and those who practiced nagualism. The book is publicly available here

External links


  • Nagualism (Collection of information, interviews and forum discussion on Nagualism, Carlos Castaneda, and Shamanism)
  • Carlos Castaneda (site maintained by ClearGreen Inc., the direct apprentices of Carlos Castaneda, who also inherited his estate and currently conduct Tensegrity seminars and classes)
  • Introduction to Nagualism
  • Nagualism (A Study in Native-American Folklore and History, by Daniel G Brinton)
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