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The Fire and the Flower

M.S. Srinivasan

Editor's note

This is the recreation of a dialogue between the American anthropologist Carlos Castaneda with his Red Indian guru, Don Juan. The names are changed to indicate that it is a free recreation of the episode.

That day I went to see Marquis; he was in his garden, standing, gazing upwards into the sky, with his tall, massive and shapely body glistening with a golden glow in the sunlight. As I went near him, he turned and looked at me for a long time with his large, eagle eyes, which always squinted with a tinge of mischief. He placed his muscular arm over my shoulders and said:

“Louis, I want you to know the exact condition of your emotional nature. I am not interested in your thoughts. Do not bother about your thoughts. It is very easy to be noble in your thoughts and deceive yourself that you are a saint. This is something, which all your Western thinkers who write endless books on ‘positive thinking’ do not understand. Positive thinking will only lead to delusion and fantasy. Thought, however positive and noble, can never master life and nature. The inner weapons which bring mastery over self and nature are feelings like the fiery petals of a flower and a will which is like a sword made of lightning and thunder. So, for the next three days, just watch your emotions. Watch them vigilantly as they are, without meddling with them. Be extra vigilant when you come into contact with something unpleasant or in conflict with someone. Do not bother about your thoughts; try to feel the emotional content of your thought. Do this for three days and tell me what you have found”.

I did what Marquis said and was totally disgusted with what I discovered about myself. I found my emotional being full of violent lust and rage. I was aware of my passionate nature but was not as concretely conscious as I was in these three days, of the intensity of violence it was capable of. So I went again to Marquis’s house very much disturbed.

Marquis was doing his morning physical exercises and it was an amazing thing to watch. For a big man, towering above six and a half feet, and built like a heavyweight boxer, his body was astonishingly supple, plastic and flexible and the movements were swift, agile, and rhythmic. He had probably been exercising for some time, perhaps more than half an hour. He was sweating profusely but there was not the slightest trace of tiredness in his face or breath. When people exercise, they soon become tired and when they speak during or after the exercise they gasp for breath. There was none of these in Marquis. He stopped his exercises for a few minutes and turning towards me, asked, “So what have you found, Louis?” His breath was slow, even and relaxed, as if he had just come out from meditation, and his voice was steady, clear, metallic and thundering. “You seem to be disturbed”, said Marquis looking at me. “Tell me what happened”, and went back to his exercise. I muttered, “It was very disturbing, Marquis”. Marquis, without stopping his exercise spoke, “Do not weep and lament like a child. Just say what you have observed”. I said, “Marquis, my emotional being is full of fiery passion and violence”. Marquis finished his exercises, stood still with closed eyes for a few minutes, and took a deep breath. I felt for the first time a mighty and formidable presence and a tremendous force and energy around him, filling the whole atmosphere. I felt physically and psychologically very small before the titanic presence of this Red Indian shaman. But it was not a threatening presence; it was a friendly, smiling and benevolent presence.

Marquis opened his eyes and said, “This is nothing to be disturbed about. But tell me precisely how intense your emotions are.” I replied, “Very intense Marquis, it comes with a ferocious violence”. Marquis laughed and said heartily, “Not bad, my dear little scientist, you have the stuff of a warrior”. I shook my head and said, “I do not understand”. “You have the Fire”, said Marquis, “but not the Flower in your heart”. “Be clear, Marquis” I said impatiently, “Do not confound me with your mystical language”. Marquis smiled and said, “Well, let me see whether I can put it in your dry scientific language.” He explained: “There are two aspects to the development of the emotional being. First is the Fire which means force, intensity, energy and passion. Second is the Flower which is compassion, tenderness, love, kindness and generosity. Both are needed for the perfection of the emotional being. The Fire without the Flower results in the fanatic and maniac: religious, sexual, etc. On the other hand, the Flower without the Fire may create the poet, artist, reformer or philanthropist but not be effective for the mastery of self and life.”

“But how to get the Flower?” I asked.

“For you it has to be through the Fire”.

“But how?”

“Whenever you have an intense emotion, love or hatred, anger or affection, do not identify yourself with the outer form of the emotion but with the fiery energy behind it. Identify with that energy of which all emotions are made and, using your will, turn it upwards. Do not focus the energy on anything but identify with it, turn it upwards and just be a flaming energy burning upwards. If you are able to do this every time you get an intense emotion, then soon you will find all the negative emotions get burnt. Your heart will become vast and impersonal, capable of fiery as well as flowery feelings depending on the needs of the moment. It can be fiery in fighting the inner and the outer enemy, soft and tender when the occasion arises, passionate to your lover, delicate in handling or appreciating a flower. At the height of emotional development, there will be a perfect reconciliation of all contradictory emotions in a great synthesis of feelings. In fact, much of the emotional contradictions are due to social morality. For example, you can feel romantic love and sisterly affection for the same woman without any contradiction, if you are able to get rid of the moral notion that it cannot be or should not be.”

Thus began the years of my training under this fiery yet utterly gentle man.

Mr. M.S. Srinivasan has been working in the field of business management at SAIRSS.

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Violent lust and rage