Just as a disease can announce itself suddenly, healing can also arrive in an instant. A sudden illness is called unfortunate, while a sudden healing is called a miracle. However, both take part in the same essence: they are forms of the language of the subconscious.
Psychomagic is about saving time, accelerating the gaining of awareness. However, if the client does not put in as much effort as the therapist, no mental mutation will be achieved; all the work will do nothing more than calm the symptoms, seeming to eliminate the pain but leaving unhealed the wound that invades the entire individual with its distressing shadow. The client, at the same time that he or she is seeking help, rejects it.
The therapeutic act is a strange fight: we struggle mightily to help someone who puts up all possible barriers and tries to steer the healing toward failure. In a way, the healer is the hope of salvation for the sick person, but at the same time an enemy. He who suffers, fearing that the source of his ill health will be revealed to him, wants to be put to sleep, wants to be made insensible to pain, but wants in no way to change, in no way to be shown that his problems are the protesting of a soul locked in the cell of a false identity.
An Innate Wish to Die?
Many clients have come to see me because, despite having achieved what they wanted to achieve—success in love, in material life, in social events—for no apparent reason, they want to die. Some triumphant people die in senseless accidents; others, apparently healthy, succumb to chronic diseases. Astute businessmen are ruined every day.
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Tranquil beings, surrounded by loving families, commit suicide. Why? When a mother, consciously or not, wants to get rid of the fetus for some powerful reason (because the couple has economic or emotional problems, because the father has fled or died, because the woman became pregnant by accident, because ancestors have died in childbirth, or for many other anxiety-related reasons), then this desire for elimination, for death, is embedded in the intrauterine memory of the new being and acts as an order during his or her earthly life.
Without realizing it rationally, the individual feels that she is an intruder who has no right to live. Even if the woman becomes the best of mothers after the birth, the damage is already done. Her son or daughter, even if everything that others consider happiness is at his or her disposal, will have to battle against incessant desires to die.
The Need to Be Protected, Nurtured, and Loved
Moreover, even if the mother joyously accepts the pregnancy, she may not want a real child but an imaginary one who will carry out the family’s plans, even if those plans have nothing to do with the child’s true nature. The offspring is expected to be equal to his progenitor, or to achieve something that the adult could not achieve.
Because humans are warm-blooded mammals, in the depths of their animal nature they carry the need to be protected, nurtured, and sheltered from cold by the bodies of their fathers and mothers. If this contact is lacking, the offspring is doomed to perish. A human being’s greatest fear is to be unloved by his or her mother, father, or both. If this happens, the soul is marked by a wound that never stops festering.
I had a French friend who when asked, “Hello, how are you?” would reply with a smirk, “Not too bad.” Between two evils, the brain chooses the lesser one. Since the greatest evil is not being loved, the individual does not recognize this lack of love, and rather than enduring the atrocious pain of becoming conscious of it, prefers to be depressed, to create a disease, to be ruined, to fail. Because of these unbearable symptoms, the client starts therapy. If the healer wants to heal the wound at its core, a wide range of defenses must be deployed.
The Power to Heal Through Belief
On my trip to Temuco, a city in Chile a thousand kilometers from the capital, I had the opportunity to accompany a kind ethnologist on the muddy roads that wind through the mountains. In a tiny valley between three peaks we found a modest hut surrounded by a garden with small trees and medicinal plants, where pigs, chickens, three dogs, and four children roamed about. Very near the door was a rehue, a sacred altar.
The woman, who was pregnant, wore a simple skirt and sweater vest. Over these humble clothes she wore a long silver necklace and spiked silver bracelets on her wrists.
The ethnologist had told me that this woman, Pachita, married very young to a man who was a heavy drinker, had dreamed one night that a white serpent came to her and gave her the power to heal. She woke up distraught, feeling ignorant, too burdened by the weight of her husband and children to deal with the ills of so many people. But her body started to become paralyzed, and she found it more and more difficult to breathe, until she was at the point of dying in atrocious pain.
The white serpent came to her in a dream again, and this time she told it that she would agree to be a machi. The snake immediately gave her the power to recognize the healing value of plants and taught her to heal using ancestral rites. She awoke speaking the mysterious language of the machis, and the first thing she did was to cure her husband of his vices and make him her assistant.
The Healing Session and the Chicken
She allowed us to attend a healing session. She received a sick man covered with a wool blanket who was carried in the arms of his wife and his mother. He was pale, with fever and pain in his stomach and liver, and his legs were so weak that he was unable to walk.
“An envious man, we’ll soon see who, has paid a sorcerer to send you this ill. I will chase it off of you,” the machi said to him as she laid him down on his back on a small rectangular table, with his feet flat on the dirt floor on each side. She struck the kultrung, a small drum with cosmic significance, and while hitting it began an incantation to each of the four cardinal points. Then, apparently in a trance, she flogged the air around the sick man with a handful of herbs, as if banishing invisible entities.
“Evil spirits, leave this place! Leave this poor man alone!” Then, in a resounding voice she said, “Bring me the white hen!”
Her husband, a broad-chested, short-legged man, his face embellished by respectful love, brought her the bird. The healer tied its legs and folded its wings so that it could not flutter or escape. She put the hen on the patient’s chest. “Look well, poor man. The life you see in those eyes is your life. The heart that beats is your heart. Those lungs that breathe are your lungs. Do not blink; do not stop looking at her.”
She struck the drum rhythmically, crying with surprising authority, “Get out, bad bile! Get out, devil fever! Get out, stomach pain! Set free this good man, this brave man, this handsome man.” Then, gently, she took the white hen and showed it to the sick man and his family, who trembled in surprise. The hen was dead!
“The evil in your husband, your son, passed into this hen. She died so that you might live. You are healed. Go to the yard, gather dry wood, and burn her.”
Seeing that his illness had passed to the hen, the sick man’s imagination allowed him to believe that he was healthy. His fever and pains vanished. He got up without any help, went smiling out to the garden, gathered dry twigs, skillfully lit a fire, and burned the bird.
For my part, I imagined several ways in which the machi could have managed to kill the bird surreptitiously. Perhaps she thrust one of the spikes on her bracelet into its neck, pressed on a nerve center, or, in complicity with her husband, poisoned it beforehand.
What did it matter? The point was that she was able to affect the patient’s mind, making him believe that his illness had been removed. Are all diseases a manifestation of the imagination, a kind of organic dream?
Psychoshamanism: The Priest and the Nervous Tic
Some time later in a course that I taught to doctors and therapists in Sanary, in the south of France, I applied this primitive concept to the removal of evil from the body, coming closer to what I call “psychoshamanism,” taking a few minutes to cure a woman of a tic that she had had for forty years. Constantly, every two or three seconds, in a broken rhythm, she would shake her head from side to side.
I called her up in front of a hundred students and proceeded to interrogate her, using a friendly voice that instantly made me a paternal archetype for her. Applying Pachita’s technique, despite her forty-eight years, I spoke to her like a child. “Tell me, little girl, how old are you?”
She fell into a trance and replied in a childlike voice, “Eight years old.”
“Tell me, little one, who are you saying no to all the time with your head?”
“What did this priest do to you?”
“When I went to confess to prepare for my first communion, he asked me if had sinned mortally. Since I did not know what a mortal sin was, I said no. He insisted, asking me if I had touched myself between my legs. I had done it without knowing it was wrong. It gave me great shame, and I lied with a resounding ‘No.’ He kept on insisting, and I kept denying it. I left there and received the sacred host feeling that I was a liar, in a state of mortal sin, condemned forever.”
“My poor child, you have kept on denying for forty years. You have to understand that this priest was sick, that you did not have to feel guilty: it is normal for children to investigate their bodies and touch themselves; the sex organs are not the seat of evil. I will remove the useless ‘No!’ from your head . . .”
I had the woman write “NO!” on masking tape with a black marker and stuck it to her forehead. I asked her to lie on her back on a table and shook my outstretched hands all around her body as if severing invisible bonds, shouting, “Go away, you stupid priest; leave this innocent child alone! Out! Out!” Then, acting as if it was a great effort, I began to tear the tape with the “NO!” off her forehead. I pretended that it was very difficult. I exclaimed, “It has deep roots! Push! Push it out! Help me, girl!” She began to push, screaming in pain.
Finally, I triumphantly pulled off the masking tape. She covered her face with her hands and burst into tears. When she raised her head, she no longer had the tic. I told her to go out to the garden and burn the “NO!” I told her to take some of the ashes, dissolve them in honey, and swallow it. She did. Her head shaking never returned.
From Subconscious and Symbolic to the Reality of Healing
This successful “operation” opened up a vast field of experimentation. I came to the conclusion that everything that Pachita, machis, Filipino doctors, quacks, and shamans achieve in a primitive, superstitious setting could also be achieved, without deception or illusory effects, with patients born into a rational culture.
Just as the subconscious accepts symbolic acts as realities, the body also accepts as real the metaphorical operations to which it is submitted, even if reason rejects them.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Park Street Press,
an imprint of Inner Traditions Inc. www.innertraditions.com
©2001 by Alejandro Jodorowsky. English translation ©2014.
The Dance of Reality: A Psychomagical Autobiography
by Alejandro Jodorowsky.
About the Author
Alejandro Jodorowsky is a playwright, filmmaker, composer, mime, psychotherapist, and author of many books on spirituality and tarot, and over thirty comic books and graphic novels. He has directed several films, including The Rainbow Thief and the cult classics El Topo and The Holy Mountain. Visit his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/alejandrojodorowsky
Watch a video (in French with English subtitles): Awakening our Consciousness, by Alejandro Jodorowsky