All of the stories in this collection were written with an ulterior motive, though not necessarily the same one for each story.
Spiritual Development in Oklahoma, Parentage, On Becoming Tsalagi, and Golden Eagle were written as stalking exercises, with no thought of publication during the writing.
A Toltec stalking exercise is one in which you recapitulate some significant event of your life, to neutralize the residue of trauma or neurosis you may have picked up.
Eventually I sent Spiritual Dev and Parentage to some friends, most of whom were writers. One was also an editor, Judith Moore of the San Diego READER. She did not reply with comment. She sent acceptances.
I couldn’t figure out why anybody who didn’t know me would be particularly interested in my personal problems, but I took the money. I also took those acceptances as a high compliment. Judith may well have been the best writer I knew, and she had set a high literary standard for the READER.
Later she suggested I write something on women, so I did Observations.
The pieces on don Miguel, Jose Luis, and Teotihuacan were done for the READER as one long piece. They grew out of a desire to meet an actual Toltec shaman and see if there really was anything to that Castaneda stuff. I knew the teachings were valid, but I still wasn’t sure that he hadn’t done research on various spiritual traditions and then funneled it into a series of fiction books that he used to scam a Ph.D. and a lot of money.
It was okay with me if he had. I had learned a lot from those books. But I wanted to know if there was anything to his tales of the Toltec spirituality.
Sure enough there was. But the modern Toltecs have library cards and computers like everyone else, so Toltec spirituality as it’s taught today is influenced by the teachings of Jesus, Tibetan Buddhism, and many other traditions. I see that as a good thing. Influenced or not, the core of those teachings really does go back thousands of years, and is found today in the practices of the Huichol, Tarahumara, and Waririka Indians of Mexico, as well as those of a range of healers and Brujos.
Originally I intended to put together another anthology of military stories, and I thought about sneaking some of this material into it. I figured young troopers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan would need a hook into a spiritual life, and I was going to see if I could get to them in that way.
But one morning I woke to the realization that this material was really a separate book, and it was cheating to sneak it into a book on modern conflict.
That left the question of whether anything as personal as these stalking exercises would be helpful to anyone else. And, would New Age readers be interested in the spiritual insights of someone who had led troops in combat, charged ambushes, and almost died a few times?
The protagonist of the last story, Golden Eagle, is a very different guy from the angry loner in the first, Spiritual Development in Oklahoma, and much happier. There may be value in learning how he got that way.
It grieves me to report that Judith has died. We were friends since I was nineteen and she sixteen. We met as clerks in a bookstore in Oklahoma City, and our friendship was the best memory I have of that time. I don’t think there will ever be a day that I don’t miss her, her brilliant writing, her throaty chuckle, and that dry, sardonic voice on the telephone. Judith was the only warm and kindhearted cynic I have ever known.
I think she’d have liked this book. But I queried another wise friend, Laurie Saffrance, to see what she thought. She thought a lot of folks would get it, and profit from it. She even congratulated me on having the courage to expose myself in this way for the benefit of others.
I hope she’s right. This stuff is too personal to show somebody else unless it’s going to do them some good.