Don Jose Ruiz and Don Miguel Ruiz: The Nagual Spirit

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Fifth Agreement" by Don Miguel Ruiz. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What do don Miguel Ruiz and don Jose Ruiz teach? How do they pass down Toltec tradition?

Don Miguel Ruiz and don Jose Ruiz are often referred to as “the naguals.” Naguals, sometimes described as dreamers, masters, or scholars, act as a conduit between the spirit and the world. They pass on the teachings of the Toltec—whom the Ruizes say were the intellectual and cultural predecessors of the Aztec. To them, a Toltec is an artist of the spirit: a master storyteller who paints his own reality.

Keep reading to learn more about don Miguel Ruiz and don Jose Ruiz.

Who Are Don Miguel Ruiz and Don Jose Ruiz?

Don Miguel Ruiz is a Mexican author and Toltec nagual whose works focus on personal authenticity and freedom. He’s published multiple international bestsellers, including The Four Agreements, The Mastery of Love, The Voice of Knowledge, and The Circle of Fire, under the banner of “The Toltec Wisdom Series.” He also appears on talk shows, podcasts, and YouTube, and he’s considered a “national treasure” in his home country.

In his younger years, Ruiz graduated from medical school in Mexico City and became a practicing neurosurgeon in Tijuana before changing the trajectory of his life after a near-fatal car crash. He describes the accident as an enlightening revelation, saying that he rediscovered the truth of life—that we are not our physical body, that the gift we’re given is life itself, and that our only mission is to enjoy that life. Following his recovery, he left medicine to study under his mother, following her nagual teachings and coming to a deep understanding of the physical universe and the virtual reality of the mind. As a result, he says, he has “an attitude of love.

Connect with don Miguel Ruiz:

Appearances by don Miguel Ruiz:

Don Jose Ruiz, son of don Miguel Ruiz, began his journey of becoming a nagual at a young age, guided by his parents, grandmother, and other naguals. Like his father, don Jose is dedicated to sharing the Toltec culture’s wisdom, combining ancient spirituality with modern insights. He teaches, lectures, and hosts workshops and power journeys (a type of spiritual retreat focused on self-awareness) around the United States and worldwide. Occasionally, he appears on podcasts or on his father’s YouTube channel. 

Don Jose has also released an album of meditation music in concert with a collective of artists called The Circle of Shadows, as well as a meditative, spoken-word dream journal.

Other Books by don Jose Ruiz:

My Good Friend the Rattlesnake (2014)
The Wisdom of the Shamans (2018)
The Medicine Bag (2020)
Shamanic Power Animals (2021)

Connect with don Jose Ruiz:

What The Naguals Teach

The Fifth Agreement was published by Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc. in 2010 as an expanded sequel to The Four Agreements (1997). It contains the entirety of The Four Agreements as well as a new fifth agreement, several chapters discussing the stages of the progressive journey toward personal freedom, and a new afterword.

The Four Agreements was published as part of don Miguel Ruiz’s Toltec Wisdom series; it sold over 10 million copies in the US and was a New York Times bestseller for over a decade.

Don Miguel Ruiz’s Books

Don Miguel Ruiz’s other books in the Toltec Wisdom series explore the same underlying philosophy in more depth, each with a different focus. His foundational theme, which he describes in most detail in The Voice of Knowledge, revolves around the conflict—in our world and within ourselves—between truth and lies. Everything we learn that teaches us to believe we’re not enough, to self-hate and self-criticize, is a lie, he says; to be happy, we must reject those lies and return to the truth of being what we are. It’s a simple concept, and he uses it to explain our struggles in many areas.

In The Voice of Knowledge, he includes the four agreements as a means of challenging self-criticism. The goal of following the agreements, he says here, is to return to the childish freedom of existing without thought, of just feeling what we feel and experiencing what we experience. This is, essentially, enlightenment.

In The Mastery of Love, Ruiz focuses on the lies we learn about love. He explains that our false beliefs lead us to seek—or just accept—controlling, abusive relationships. We actually deserve real, unconditional connections, Ruiz says, but—as he notes in The Fifth Agreement—we can’t have what we really deserve until we stop chasing what we’re taught to think we deserve.

Don Jose Ruiz’s Books

Don Jose Ruiz takes a similar tack in his own work; the foundational principles of truth versus lies and reality versus dream remain core to his philosophy. don Jose explores these principles from the perspective of shamanism. In Wisdom of the Shamans, he explains that each of us is a part of a greater whole. In the same way an oak tree relies on the existence of the earth, water, and sun to be what it is, so are we reliant on the world we’re part of—remove any major aspect of that world, and we become unable to exist as we are.

To him, each of us is connected to a universal force—this is a common philosophical idea; some call that universal force life, light, God, unity, or the Tao, while others are content to call it “the universe.” Regardless of the name you choose for it, Ruiz says, a shaman is one who has awoken to that connection and is therefore able to engage with his world on his own terms. His books, The Wisdom of the Shamans, The Medicine Bag, and Shamanic Power Animals, teach the reader how to find and make use of that connection.

Don Jose Ruiz and Don Miguel Ruiz: The Nagual Spirit

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Don Miguel Ruiz's "The Fifth Agreement" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Fifth Agreement summary:

  • The five “agreements” to make with yourself that adjust your outlook
  • How to rediscover your true self and recapture the freedom you felt as a child
  • A five-step process to escape the mirage of “the real world”

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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