Cleansing the Second Soul

when the Dowbrigade was a rambunctious young refugee from Ivy academics
we  served an extended apprenticeship
with a middle aged San Pedro shaman in a tiny seafront town in the middle
of the Atacames desert on the Pacific coast of South America.

Eduardo Calderon was the name of the Shaman, but he
went by the Nom de Mago of "El Tuno". He was an accomplished master of
an amazing gamut of traditional knowledge of plants, marine biology,
and states of consciousness.  Like most accomplished masters he
was highly secretive and jealously possessive of his arcane lore, loved
to play tricks and jokes on supplicants, patients and patrons alike,
and believed that acolytes must suffer years of demeaning mindless physical
toil before proving themselves worthy of enlightenment.

As you can probably imagine, the Dowbrigade made a lousy
disciple.  Despite an undeniable natural inclination towards the
mystical arts and a demented sense of humor that El Tuno seemed to enjoy,
we were an utter failure at things like mental discipline, unwavering
focus and the aforementioned demeaning physical work.  But we wanted
very much to learn the secrets behind the Shaman’s undeniable power,
and so we hung around, and hung on to El Tuno’s every utterance searching
for scraps of wisdom.

One of the difficulties was that it was hard to tell
when the Master was being profound, and when he was joking around or
being intentionally misleading, or simply mundane.  But one thing
he said repeatedly stuck in our mind, and over the years we came to see
it as the key to enter a whole world of metaphysical truth.

"Never forget, my son, that the most dangerous part
of cleansing yourself is the second soul."

What, we wondered, is the "second soul"? Why is cleaning
it so important? Try as we would, we could not remember any mention of
a "second soul" in the canonized teaching the mage had been doling out,
bit by bit, over the months.  Nor could we remember a mention in
the seemingly random, trance-induced ramblings which escaped his lips
when he drank the cactus juice or the flower powder, or the vine extract
he used in his magic. Of course, this only convinced us that the second
soul was a master-level concept, understanding of which would elevate
us from our lowly accolytehood to a more exalted and advanced station.

However, as the months ran on it became clear that mastering
the mystical arts and gaining enlightenment was going to take longer
than Anthro 348, (Shamanistic Practices in the Americas), the year-long
survey course that had led us to El Tuno in the first place, a. Eventually,
our resolution weakened by Coca-Cola deprivation and some scented letters
from old girlfriends
back in Boston, we bid a heartfelt farewell to our teacher and abandoned
the pursuit of esoteric knowledge for a while.

We never forgot about the second soul, however. It haunted
our dreams, our meditations and out prayers.  Every epiphany, every
breakthrough, every life crisis we went through, we tried to relate it
to the second soul.  We literally spend years, cumulatively, trying
to crack the nut El Tuno had left us with.

Finally, about five years ago, we returned to Peru to
speak at a conference and look up old friends, we took a chance and headed
out to the desert again to look for out old mentor.  To our surprise,
we found him exactly where we had left him, in a decaying blue cement
structure at the foot of a cliff, hard up against the rolling waves of
the Pacific. It was a low, one-story frame, painted a faded blue, with
no doors in the doorframes or glass in the windows, euphemistically
painted with the legend Restarante California. Incredibly, he remembered

After an hour of reminiscing and a fantastic sea snail
cebiche prepared by his latest student, a young woman named "Sirena",
we got down to business.  "Tuno," we began, trying not to whine,
we have spent the last 15 years thinking about one of the things you
told us all those years ago, and we finally think we understand the meaning
of the second soul."

"It must mean that after the seeker for truth overcomes
all of his past indiscretion, all of his pride, conceit, base instincts
and wrong thinking, and truly opens and cleans out his soul, he is still
not ready for enlightenment.  For within the soul of man there is
a secret, second soul, invisible to the outside world, and even to himself.  Only
by complete surrender to the ultimate power can that power do what no
individual human being can do on his own – clean the second soul. Absolute
faith and submission are necessary for this, and absent them the soul
can be destroyed in the process – hence the danger."

We looked at our old teacher hopefully, wanting, after
all these years his approval and blessing.  He looked back at us
with a mixture of wonder and pity.

"Once again, my son, you have completely missed the
point.  If you will remember, I only passed on this advice when
you were overdue for a shower, damp and dirty from the heat and the tasks
you were performing. I was referring to the task of bathing yourself.
In the shower a man first washes his face and his hands, then his arms
and his torso, then his genitals and finally his legs."

Only then does he get around to the essential task of
cleansing the feet, which requires him to stand on one foot at a time.
First he lifts up one foot, and carefully soaps and washes it over and
under. Here is the danger.  If the first foot is not completely
rinsed off, putting it down to raise the other foot for washing can appreciate
a tragedy, For if that foot is soapy an slippery, you will surely fall
and hurt yourself while "cleansing the second sole."

No wonder we didn’t make it as a Shaman…..

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