A review of Paco Mitchell’s new book
“Caborca” is the name of a town in the Mexican Desert. And in this book, “Caborca” is so much more: this name also refers to something else governing a pattern of events that occurred “randomly” to the author over fifty years. This pattern, or meaning, came into focus only slowly for Paco Mitchell as he increasingly “agreed” to participate in the process of becoming the Paraclete of Caborca. “Paraclete” refers to a spiritual advocate or comforter. Paco thus takes us on a journey of initiation in which one life is swept away suddenly and catastrophically and a new one is born, nurtured slowly, and knitted together into a whole, piece by piece—much like one face pre-emptively shatters in order to give way to another face that knits slowly together over the years. This second face is that of the Paraclete who advocates for a reality “looming up” behind the veil of the ordinary.
In order for this second face to emerge into real life, i.e. to become actual, the Paraclete needs something from the human being. Drawing from Henri Corbin, Paco describes a process of “feeding the angel with our substance”. What can this enigmatic statement mean, now in the 21st century, in a technological civilisation hurtling towards its last days? This book is a careful, detailed description of what “feeding the angel” means in today’s world.
First, to feed the angel, Paco shows that we need to be able to “see” the angel, or at least his footprint appearing in our lives. This means in effect that we must begin to notice anomalies that occur in our lives in a new way, taking them seriously as “messengers” from a hidden world that interpenetrates our ordinary material world, sometimes in shocking ways, sometimes in more subtle, joy-bringing ways. We may need to undergo, as Paco did, a terrible sacrifice in order to open that eye of “seeing”—a sacrifice made worse by its unconsciousness. Paco literally had no clue of what was coming towards him out of the unknown future, as he set out on a youthful adventure to Caborca as a young man.
Second, it is not enough to only “see” these anomalies, which come to Paco in the form of dreams, visions, and empirical events, over the years. In order to feed the angel with our substance, we need also to act! Concrete action in the real, contingent world, as a gesture of love towards the angel secretly driving one into a destiny, is also required. And this book shows us the human cost in unsparing detail as Paco makes increasingly conscious choices to act in the world on behalf of the Paraclete who wishes to incarnate into the context of an ordinary human life. Through episode after episode we can see the gradual, simultaneous emergence of a spiritual being into actuality and the slow turning of a human being from living a life of “random chance” as Paco says, to one of great meaning and service to the hidden centre around which his life is turning:
Most of what was revealed to me took place over many years in dreams and synchronistic events, interspersed with scattered passages read in many books. Thus I use the term haphazard—so much “chance” was involved. It would be up to me to connect the dots, to find the needles of necessity buried in the haystacks of chance.
Perhaps one last word on the manner in which individual human beings are so often drafted into service of the spiritual other. The angel finds entry through the wound, not though any heroic gesture of the will. Paco learned about this necessity in an uncompromising manner during his journey to Caborca. One particularly compelling dream also taught him this lesson, I think. He met “Heron-man” in a dream and this figure demanded to be fed. When Paco refused, “I don’t have anything to give you”, the bird-man struck at his wound. This image clearly pairs woundedness with a calling, as well as the consequences of refusing the call.
Pairing wound and call generates a question for me—how can we live with trauma? Our modern world has a collective answer: define yourself as a victim and live your life accordingly! Paco gives us his alternative answer, which he found through the creative living of his life. He raises the possibility of shifting from a life of victimhood to a life of service to the mysterious other who can enter our lives through the trauma and demand “to be fed”. He quotes Jesus:
If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.