BOOK 1: Teachings of Don Juan:
The First Concept:
MAN OF KNOWLEDGE
Man lives only to learn. And if he learns it is because that is the nature
of his lot, for good or bad.
The limits of learning are determined by one's own nature.
CC: Carlos Castaneda DJ: Don Juan
Overview & Summary of Book 1:
A Man of Knowledge, his path with heart and the enemies on the path.
The reader of Castaneda's books must start with the first book and with the understanding that the focus in this first book is centered upon psychedelic plants, but which have been de-emphasized in the later books. Don Juan, in the later books makes it clear that psychedelics were (apart from the indigenous users) a sort of last resort for people who were stuck and centered in only one cultural world-view in which matter and rationality were all pervasive, and therefore don Juan decides, based upon the omens, that these were the necessary first steps for Castaneda, who as DJ correctly interprets, was at that point of time stuck and entrenched in the academic world of anthropology, based on science, whereas what DJ wants to make possible for CC is a learning wherein scientific knowledge, methodology, assumptions and thinking are not only of no use, but also a sort of obstruction or even anti-thesis to this kind of learning. It is therefore best for any reader to proceed chronologically and not jump straight to the later books. In spite of the fact that the lineage of don Juan had long ago given up reliance upon 'power plants', these were still considered as aids for some people, depending upon their predilection or affinity towards a particular 'power plant'.( For ex. the mushroom for don Juan himself personally). It was pointed out repeatedly by don Juan that engaging with any power plant required serious intent and clear purpose (also very useful, although not absolutely necessary is having someone to guide one's navigation into the realm of a particular 'power plant').
All the narrated experiences and conversations throw up questions that come up about the nature of non-ordinary perception about which modern/post-modern man has lost knowledge of. Questions like What happened to my body?, What did an observer in normal senses see? etc, only seem to be profound questions from our 'normal rational' or a scientific point of inquiry but are meaningless or unimportant in the states of non-ordinary perception. It is not really a problem unless one insists that the normal rationality of our time and day is the only rationality or understanding that is available or possible. It becomes easier if one does not remain stuck in the realm of consensus rationality, because these are essentially personal experiences which have to be tackled or understood by one's own reasoning and understanding with the aid of the guide.
I asked don Juan what he thought of the
idea of giving the smoke to anyone who
wanted the experience.
He indignantly replied that to give the smoke to anyone would be just the same as killing him, for he would
have no one to guide him. I asked don Juan to explain what he meant. He said I was there, alive and talking to
him, because he had brought me back. He had restored my body. Without him I would never have awakened.
"How did you restore my body, don Juan?"
"You will learn that later, but you will have to learn to do it all by yourself. That is the reason I want you to
learn as much as you can while I am still around. You have wasted enough time asking stupid questions about
nonsense. But perhaps it is not in your destiny to learn all about the little smoke.
Just for the sake of an unusual experience may well result only in nonsense and confusion.
"Why would it have been madness?"
"Because under such conditions nothing makes sense. You are alone without a guide, seeing terrifying, "nonsensical things."
"What do you mean by "nonsensical things"?"
"Things we see by ourselves. Things we see when we have no direction. It means the devil's weed is trying
to get rid of you, finally pushing you away."
"Do you know anyone who ever experienced that?"
"Yes. I did. Without the wisdom of the lizards I went mad."
"What did you see, don Juan?"
"A bunch of nonsense. What else could I have seen without direction?"
The important focus therefore is to develop and proceed with
an attitude of respect with caution for these naturally available aids to
perception and consciousness, and depending upon individual predilection,
develop a relationship in which these aids can be useful in knowledge and
learning. In engaging with 'power plants' don Juan warns repeatedly of keeping
one's focus and intent clear and not be distracted by weird experiences that end
up confusing oneself. He insists upon Castaneda to find and proceed on a 'path
with a heart'. There are certain passages where some of the concepts have been
illustrated with brilliant insights about those concepts and these are really
the heart of the first book. This concept of 'a path with a heart' along with
the central concept in the first book of 'a man of knowledge' makes for the
summation of the first book in the
A man of knowledge is one who has traversed fully a path with a heart, on any path that has a heart, having defeated the four enemies of a man of knowledge - fear, clarity, power and old age. The last one is actually invincible, and can only be defeated briefly, and that moment of clarity and power are enough.
Introduction: Meeting the Sorcerer
The first book opens with the introduction in which Castaneda 'meets' Don Juan. The first impression Castaneda is exposed to is that Don Juan is some kind of 'Brujo' or 'Diabelero', which means 'witch' or 'sorcerer'. These are of course inadequate terms to describe the persona of Don Juan but there are no other terms in the Western culture, having suppressed and discarded all phenomena related to non-physical reality and also the concepts related to these which are also dismissed as non-sense or delusions of a long bygone era. The other common view point in all civilizations was that such people were 'evil' or up to no good, and therefore has to be eliminated - the subliminal fear is that such people or practitioners of such powers threaten the social order in civilizations - which have been built on rational constructions and physical powers seemingly under control by science and technology.
"Maybe you could tell me what a diablero
"A diablero, they say, is a brujo who changes into any form he wants to adopt. But everybody knows that is
pure bull. The old people here are full of stories about diableros. You won't find that among us younger people."
"Such things are very secret. They say
there are no more diableros, but I doubt it, because one member of a
diablero's family has to learn what the diablero knows. Diableros have their own laws, and one of them is that a
diablero has to teach his secrets to one of his kin."
"A diablero? You are crazy! There are no
"Do you mean that there are none today, or that there never were any?"
"At one time there were, yes. It is common knowledge. Everybody knows that. But the people were very
afraid of them and had them all killed." (3, 4)
This is thus the first enticement of Castaneda, who is apparently fascinated by these terms and whether such people are still around, although his primary focus is on getting 'data' on medicinal plants - particularly peyote, apparently since this plant has become sort of sacred among the North Native Americans in their modified form of 'religious ceremonies'. Also the fact that in the 1960's psychedelics were becoming the 'rage' of not only the 'counter-culture' but just about everyone - including scientists.
“Use of peyote by North Native Americans is not
traditional but 'imported' from Mesoamerican cultures where the use of natural
psychedelics was well mapped and explored from thousands of years. North Native
Americans relied on 'vision quest' as their primary religious quest and was not
'ceremonial' but individual and private.
Once the conditions of the vision quest were no longer there, the North Native Americans had to fall back on vision inducing plants as a substitute, which has become 'ceremonial' - sort of quasi-social rather than individual.
Use of psychedelics in order to be meaningful requires a serious intention, and usually requires the presence of guides or those knowledgeable about the possible effects/side effects/distractions etc.”.....G RYDER comment in HuffPost
The attitude of Castaneda is however that of a scientist - an observer who without getting involved personally, wants to collect data - to take this 'objective' data back to his 'world of academic anthropology' as a prize or achievement of sorts so as to become a 'Doctor' - a person of some authority in the mass culture of the world defined by the Western civilization.
In retrospect, I believe this method of conducting the apprenticeship (by taking notes) prevented the training from being successful, because it retarded the advent of the full commitment I needed to become a sorcerer. Yet the method was beneficial from my personal standpoint in that it allowed me a modicum of detachment, and that in turn fostered a sense of critical examination which would have been impossible to attain had I participated continuously, without interruption. In September 1965, I voluntarily discontinued the apprenticeship. (p4)
Learning 'sorcery' was no easy task for Castaneda - he was inhibited by his own education, cultural background, available skill or talent, etc. He persisted because he was intrigued as well as 'lured' by the exotic and the esoteric, but at this stage was in no way willing to give up his Western, rational world view or have it threatened by anything, however exotic. He was also comforted by the fact that it was a arduous apprentice-ship even for Don Juan himself.
Don Juan alluded to our similarity as beginners through incidental comments about his incapacity to understand his teacher during his own apprenticeship. Such remarks led me to believe that to any beginner, Indian or non-Indian, the knowledge of sorcery was rendered incomprehensible by the outlandish characteristics of the phenomena he experienced. Personally, as a Western man, I found these characteristics so bizarre that it was virtually impossible to explain them in terms of my own everyday life, and I was forced to the conclusion that any attempt to classify my field data in my own terms would be futile. Thus it became obvious to me that don Juan's knowledge had to be examined in terms of how he himself understood it; only in such terms could it be made evident and convincing. In trying to reconcile my own views with don Juan's, however, I realized that whenever he tried to explain his knowledge to me, he used concepts that would render it "intelligible" to him. As those concepts were alien to me, trying to understand his knowledge in the way he did placed me in another untenable position. Therefore, my first task was to determine his order of conceptualization. (p5)
'Sorcery' is a term that has been rendered meaningless in the post-modern era simply because there are no related concepts that can explain what the term stands for or signifies, as all our energies are focused on the 'senses' or the physical - where newer machines and technology continue to grab our attention completely. In order to clarify, the following definition is used here:
Is the talent or developed ability of a person to attain an altered state of
perception in which the
ordinary mode of sensory perception becomes suspended or becomes altered at the Will of the person in order to 'see'
or perceive in different ways than those programmed by society and culture. The perceptions in this state are synthesized
or created perceptions through the force of Will. Notice that this could also come close to what can be called the process
of Art. That's why I have called Sorcery as an exceptional Art - the power or ability to create magic and 'objects of art'
spontaneously, 'on the fly'.
Among the topmost
arts is the art of sorcery : this was so well appreciated by the lineage of Don
Juan, for they knew
that a man of knowledge was nowhere near achieving his quest for knowledge and power unless the art of sorcery
was learned. But what is sorcery ? In the simplest of terms it is the art and ability of the sorcerer to alter the state of
perception at Will so as to perceive beyond the ordinary, physical senses, and thereby to "see" into aspects of reality
that are normally concealed, and thereby to acquire the knowledge and power to use or manipulate the forces that
control or act upon the Sorcerer's own perception as well as that of other sentient beings.
Sorcery can be distinguished from Witchcraft in the basic difference in the motivations of the person : A Sorcerer is
a genuine seeker of knowledge of realms ordinarily concealed, and in the process of learning, acquires the
power to maneuver in these realms at Will, within the limits of his talent and abilities, whereas the Witch seeks only
the power to manipulate the consciousness of other sentient beings so as to become more and more powerful, and
has no interest in genuine knowledge - only that knowledge that enhances the manipulative ability of the Witch.
For someone who has no idea what Sorcery or Witchcraft is, they appear identical and equally evil - so is the norm
of our time.
The person who can become a Sorcerer must have an inherent talent or Will to become one - must be an artist of
some sort or at the very least have the desire or yearning to be one. Any artist when he or she produces an exceptional
piece of work tends to become a Sorcerer. Sorcery in its widest sense is an exceptional art, and a Sorcerer is an artist
par excellence in all aspects of life : experience, initiative, action, contemplation and finally : expression.
In the conventional sense, Sorcerers sought certain entities or powers of the non-physical realms which they could
command or use to maneuver their perception or make them act upon the perception of others. This kind of entity
was called "ally" - meaning a force or power that aided the Sorcerer to perform tasks that were ordinarily
The ability and control over
one's faculties and resources that have to be put to use in the
development and application of knowledge appropriate to one's predilection, will and talents. Power, like
knowledge has both positive (creative) as well as negative (destructive) connotations.
Therefore it should be clear at the outset that Sorcery is art that cannot be 'taught' or explained by general methods or techniques but is specific to the situation in which the talent and will of both the teacher and the learner are what really matter. Because of Castaneda's (academic) interest in hallucinogenic plants by which perception can most easily be altered, Don Juan interprets this interest as the first and natural step for Castaneda to take in the initiation to 'Sorcery'.
Because of their properties, the plants have been widely employed for pleasure, for curing, for witchcraft, and for attaining a state of ecstasy. In the specific context of his teachings, don Juan related the use of Datura inoxia and Psilocybe mexicana to the acquisition of power, a power he called an "ally". He related the use of Lophophora williamsii to the acquisition of wisdom, or the knowledge of the right way to live. The importance of the plants was, for don Juan, their capacity to produce stages of peculiar perception in a human being. Thus he guided me into experiencing a sequence of these stages for the purpose of unfolding and validating his knowledge. I have called them "states of non-ordinary reality", meaning unusual reality as opposed to the ordinary reality of everyday life. Don Juan believed the states of non-ordinary reality to be the only form of pragmatic learning and the only means of acquiring power.
He conveyed the impression that other parts of his teachings were incidental to
the acquisition of power. (p6)
Right here one of the key concepts related to sorcery has been injected without any elaboration - 'power'. This word which is on the surface a simple word, but not easily comprehended, will be used in most of the initial books for signifying the ability of a person (personal power) to forcefully apply 'knowledge', but which in the later books this concept (more or less) undergoes further abstraction as 'spirit' or 'intent'. Thus learning is the development of 'knowledge' (of sorcery or altered perception) into 'power' - the forceful and appropriate application of 'knowledge'. Since Castaneda does not as yet comprehend the significance of this key concept of 'power', he is more interested in the superficial and distracting idea of 'power objects', but which Don Juan clarifies:
"Yet they are only instruments; they have no power to teach. Properly speaking, they are in the realm of war objects designed for strife; they are made to kill, to be hurled."..p6
crystals, and feathers are mere toys in comparison with an ally," he said.
"These power objects are necessary only when a man does not have an ally. It is
a waste of time to pursue them, especially for you. You should be trying to get
an ally; when you succeed, you will understand what I am telling you now. Power
objects are like a game for children."..p7
"Don't get me wrong, don Juan," I protested. "I want to have an ally, but I also want to know everything I can. You yourself have said that knowledge is power." p7
"No!" he said emphatically. "Power rests
on the kind of knowledge one holds. What is the sense of knowing things that are
This is one of the most profound and key opening dialogs in which Castaneda is clearly yet to realize that 'knowledge' is NOT an accumulation of information of a general kind that can be applied in any physical situation (which is the context of science), but rather 'knowledge' in this context of sorcery is that 'knowing' which through personal interaction and 'using' it appropriately, is developed into 'power' - that is, it becomes 'knowledge at command' and for 'use at will'.
The other related concept is
that of an 'Ally': a non-physical entity or power that can be accessed at will
the aid of organizing, focusing and directing synthetic perceptions. 'Power plants' were also a sort of 'ally' in the
aid of sorcery. Such perceptions were termed by Castaneda as non-ordinary reality in order to distinguish it from
sensory or ordinary perceptions.
Chapter 1: Encounter with Mescalito
Castaneda wants immediately to learn about the plant peyote, but Don Juan instead insists upon Castaneda examining his motivations and purpose in wanting to learn about peyote, and at that time the only 'motivation' Castaneda has is to get hold of some exclusive 'data' that he can take back to his academic superiors so that he can establish himself as a 'doctor' of anthropology. The dialog which follows is simple but focused on Castaneda's genuine motivations, as also certain motivations that have not yet been realized consciously by Castaneda but 'seen' through by Don Juan by having 'smoked' him. 'Smoked' here is an obvious reference to Don Juan having tapped his ally, his 'little smoke': the psilocybin mushroom - a favorite of Don Juan, to 'see into' or get some idea about what Castaneda was up to.
Castaneda cannot explain his desire to learn about peyote so Don Juan sets up a pragmatic test for him, so that he can focus his energies towards accomplishing that task and thereby make it clearer for Don Juan that Castaneda has some seriousness of purpose, some capacity to learn sorcery and that his intent is genuine, not just some socially driven desire to collect 'data'.
Castaneda proceeds as if it is some kind of 'scientific' test
: "I argued that although the porch was not too large (twelve by eight feet),
the number of possible spots was overwhelming, and it would take me a very long
time to check all of them, and that since he had not specified the size of the
spot, the possibilities might be infinite"
Don Juan warns him to be serious and makes it clear that any learning requires a committed effort.
He added that nothing in his world was a gift, that whatever there was to learn had to be learned the hard way.... p10
Don Juan has made it clear that if Castaneda fails or quits,
he should not come back and their relationship will be over and done with. This
prompts Castaneda to take the task seriously, which anyway is for his own good,
as subsequent events prove. Castaneda, perhaps for the first time, uses his
non-ordinary perceptual ability to find the right 'spot', although he is
suspicious that the whole thing was a sham because it does not fit in well with
his 'reason' and 'scientific' training. This was one of the first instances
where Castaneda's reasoning comes in conflict with his experience and intuition
even though he has the assurance of his 'guide'.
It was not clear to me whether or not I had solved the problem, and in fact I was not even convinced that there had been a problem; I could not avoid feeling that the whole experience was forced and arbitrary. I was certain that don Juan had watched me all night and then proceeded to humor me by saying that wherever I had fallen asleep was the place I was looking for. Yet I failed to see a logical reason for such an act, and when he challenged me to sit on the other spot I could not do it. There was a strange cleavage between my pragmatic experience of fearing the 'other spot' and my rational deliberations about the total event. Don Juan, on the other hand, was very sure I had succeeded, and, acting in accordance with my success, let me know he was going to teach me about peyote. p12
However, Don Juan wants to wait for some time more before he can be sure of Castaneda's intent.
You simply have
to wait. You may give up the whole idea after a while. You get tired easily.
Last night you were ready to quit as soon as it got difficult. Mescalito
requires a very serious intent. p12
Chapter 2: Mescalito plays with Castaneda
The 'teaching' about peyote is without theory or 'data' or 'information': Castaneda has to encounter Mescalito himself by directly experiencing the 'effects' of ingesting peyote. Don Juan is uncertain about how Castaneda's encounter with Mescalito will turn out and hedges his bets by having Mescalito offered to Castaneda by someone else. Castaneda wants to know what he can do to make Mescalito like him and this invokes laughter amongst the other Indians present - obviously the cultural perceptions, expectations, and the implications of an 'encounter' with a 'power plant' is very strikingly different.
CC is hesitant, anxious and fearful about the encounter, wants to keep an 'objective' distance, but goes ahead because DJ leads him as he knows that the only way to learn is by direct experience, and besides, there is nothing to 'teach' about peyote as such. Again, when asked about it by the other Indians, he can only reply 'I wanted to know what it was like'
Then one of the men asked me why I wanted to eat peyote. I told him that I wanted to know what it was like. They all laughed shyly.
The fear is palpable - fear of the unknown.
My hands were wet and my stomach contracted.
The encounter, despite the physical discomfort, is quite remarkable in experience - CC is 'taken' by Mescalito into the realm, into the 'matrix' of Mescalito, and in this realm the visual excursions take him to an extreme state of ecstasy with Mescalito.
A supreme happiness filled my whole
body, and we ran together toward a sort of yellow warmth that came from some
indefinite place. And there we played. We played and wrestled until I knew his
wishes and he knew mine.
The euphoria that possessed me was indescribable. I laughed until it was almost impossible to breathe.
But then comes the downer: CC has to come back into the world of the 'senses' and that brings the emotional roller coaster down to earth - to the other extreme - of sadness.
I had the clear sensation of not being able to open my eyes; I was looking through a tank of water. It was a long and very painful state filled with the anxiety of not being able to wake up and yet being awake. Then slowly the world became clear and in focus. My field of vision became again very round and ample, and with it came an ordinary conscious act, which was to turn around and look for that marvelous being. At this point I encountered the most difficult transition. The passage from my normal state had taken place almost without my realizing it: I was aware; my thoughts and feelings were a corollary of that awareness; and the passing was smooth and clear. But this second change, the awakening to serious, sober consciousness, was genuinely shocking. I had forgotten I was a man! The sadness of such an irreconcilable situation was so intense that I wept.(p15)
CC cannot at this stage make much sense of the encounter. The shock of coming back to 'senses' and the extreme sadness along with it does not fit well with his reason, especially when there was nothing tangible there to be taken back for his academic career. DJ however finds CC's encounter to be full of significance and omens - especially DJ's interpretation that Mescalito 'played' with CC.
It is impossible to know beforehand what he will be like with another person. Yet, when one knows him well - sometimes. You played with him tonight. You are the only person I know who has had such an encounter.
You're not an Indian; therefore it is
hard for me to figure out what is what. Yet he either takes people or rejects
them, regardless of whether they are Indians or not. That I know. I have seen
numbers of them. I also know that he frolics, he makes some people laugh, but
never have I seen him play with anyone."(p16)
But CC is unable to comprehend the significance of his experience with Mescalito, which according to his thinking was just a hallucination, and therefore unreal. The very idea of what is real or not is at stake here with CC, but he wants to stick to his 'science educated' mode of what is real.
"Then Mescalito is real? I mean he is something you can see?"
He seemed to be baffled by my question. He looked at me with a sort of blank expression.
"What I meant to say, is that Mescalito..."
"I heard what you said. Didn't you see him last night?"
I wanted to say that I saw only a dog, but I noticed his bewildered look.
"Then you think what I saw last night was him?"
He looked at me with contempt. He chuckled, shook his head as though he couldn't believe it. (p16)
DJ is utterly disappointed in CC.
CC goes back to the Indians so as to get a description of what
they saw happen to CC during his encounter, and finds that the his experience
and the description of the others was quite divergent.
CC fails to understand
that in the experience with Mescalito, he was in a very different realm than the
ordinary realm of the senses. The two realms cannot be converged into a
consensual reality, which is what CC wants as a anthropologist. CC is convinced
he played with a dog, whereas DJ insists that it was no dog, but Mescalito
himself, but for CC the dog is real whereas Mescalito is a hallucination.
"Did all that really happen, don Juan?"
"Yes," he said, "but they don't know what you saw. They don't realize you were playing with "him". That is why I did not disturb you"
"But is this business of the dog and me pissing on each other true?"
"It was not a dog! How many times do I have to tell you that? This is the only way to understand it. It's the
only way! It was "he" who played with you."
"Did the dog really play with me as they say?"
"Goddammit! It was not a dog!"
CC concludes that the encounter was not what he was looking for at all and does not want another encounter.
the point of view of my intended work it had been a disastrous event. I said I
did not care for another similar "encounter" with Mescalito.
I seriously believed that I was not constructed for that type of endeavor. Peyote had produced in me, as a post-reaction, a strange kind of physical discomfort. It was an indefinite fear or unhappiness; a melancholy of some sort, which I could not define exactly.
More importantly, CC's sense of physical security and 'concreteness' is threatened and he says as much. The world in which he has been brought up and grown with is now looking shaky and rattled. CC wants to play 'safe'. DJ, on the other hand insists that CC is beginning to learn, but is focusing on the bad points. Here DJ points out that CC just wants to avoid fear, and that fear is important because it gives a different viewpoint than the ordinary - which is the crux of sorcery, that is, seeing things from a different perspective.
"There are no good points so far as I am
concerned. All I know is that it makes me afraid."
"There is nothing wrong with being afraid. When you fear, you see things in a different way."
Sadly, CC wants to only see some concrete data which he can formulate for his thesis....
But I don't care about seeing things in
a different way, don Juan. . I think I am going to leave the learning
about Mescalito alone. I can't handle it, don Juan. This is really a bad situation for me."
Here is when DJ reveals the significance of the omen of
Mescalito playing with CC
"Of course it is bad - even for me. You are not the only one who is baffled."
"Why should you be baffled, don Juan?"
"I have been thinking about what I saw the other night . Mescalito actually played with you. That baffled me,
because it was an indication [omen]."
"What kind of - indication, don Juan?"
"Mescalito was pointing you out to me."
"It wasn't clear to me then, but now it is. He meant you were the "chosen man" [escogido]. Mescalito
pointed you out to me and by doing that he told me you were the chosen man."
"Do you mean I was chosen among others for some task, or something of the sort?"
"No. What I mean is, Mescalito told me you could be the man I am looking for."
"When did he tell you that, don Juan?"
"By playing with you, he told me that. This makes you the chosen man for me."
"What does it mean to be the chosen man?"
"There are some secrets I know [Tengo secretos]. I have secrets I won't be able to reveal to anyone unless I
find my chosen man. The other night when I saw you playing with Mescalito it was clear to me you were that
man. But you are not an Indian. How baffling!"
"But what does it mean to me, don Juan? What do I have to do?"
"I've made up my mind and I am going to teach you the secrets that make up the lot of a man of knowledge."
Now CC is intrigued, but wants to be cautious so that he does not get 'involved' in further strange situations that could scare or terrify him. He just wants to talk. CC is quite candid about his capabilities.
I argued I had no qualifications for such a task, as it required a rare kind of courage which I did not have. I told him that my bent of character was to talk about acts others performed. I wanted to hear his views and opinions about everything. I told him I could be happy if I could sit there and listen to him talk for days. To me, that would be learning.
DJ is again sure of his interpretation when he sees that although CC is scared and reluctant, he is also curious.
"All this is very easy to understand. Fear is the first natural enemy a man must overcome on his path to knowledge. Besides, you are curious. That evens up the score. And you will learn in spite of yourself; that's the rule."
Don Juan then conveys the very first rule, the very first
command, the very first conscious step on the path of knowledge:
He said he was going to advise me with the same words his own benefactor had used the first day he took him as his apprentice. Don Juan had apparently memorized the words, for he repeated them several times, to make sure I did not miss any:
"A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war, wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance. Going to knowledge or going to war in any other manner is a mistake, and whoever makes it will live to regret his steps."
DJ then tells CC that an 'ally' (certain points of power capable of being within one's command) is indispensable for knowledge, although this explanation based upon this word 'ally' is somewhat archaic like the word sorcery. Here is the gist of what DJ is conveying although the two 'ally's are for him the Jimson weed and the Humito mushroom .
KEY CONCEPT: Sorcery and Ally
Although DJ's explanations of 'ally' in a more general sense are far from satisfactory, at one point he makes it clear enough. In general he says an 'ally' is:
"An ally is a power capable of carrying a man beyond the boundaries of himself.
This is how an ally can reveal matters no human being could."
He said that fears are natural; that all of us experience them and there is nothing we can do about it. But on the other hand, no matter how frightening learning is, it is more terrible to think of a man without an ally, or without knowledge.
Chapter 3: The Devil's Weed
In order to keep CC's interest alive, and to keep feeding his
curiosity, DJ proceeds with the use of 'power plants', since DJ knows that CC is
best enticed with the exotic effects of these as well as they serve to shake up
the rigid rationality of CC.
This chapter is all about the Devil's weed, and CC is engaged by DJ at the conscious level with these so called 'ally's since CC is curious about the use of these consciousness-perception altering plants as psychedelics are the rage with the masses in the 60's. However, as we shall learn later, there is a parallel engagement that is taking place at a level of consciousness that is not in the present conscious memory of CC, and which is much more significant than the 'learning' with these plants.
Most of the conversation is about how the plant is to be treated and used for it's potential 'effects', so only that part which is significant about human nature is reiterated here.
Note that in the conversations about this plant, the context
in which the word 'power' is used has shifted, and is being talked about in a
more concrete, physical sense than in the abstract sense. It is the kind of
power in which DJ says the Indians have lost interest in because the conditions
have changed. DJ is yet to be more articulate about 'power' in a more abstract
DJ : The root gives them an effect of pleasure, which means they are strong and of violent nature - something that the weed likes That is the way that she entices. The only bad point is that men end up as slaves to the devil's weed in return for the power that she gives them. But those are matters over which we have no control. man lives only to learn. And if he learns, it is because that is the nature of his lot, for good or bad.
CC: You said the root is used for power only, but I see it's used for other matters besides power. Am I correct ?
He looked at me for a very long time, with a steadfast gaze that embarrassed me. I felt my question had made him angry, but I couldn't understand why.
DJ : The weed is used only for power, ( he finally said in a dry, stern tone ). The man who wants his vigour back, the young people who seek to endure fatigue and hunger, the man who wants to kill another man, the woman who wants to be in heat -they all desire power. And the weed will give it to them. Do you feel you like her ?
"I don't like its power! There is no use for it any more. In other times, like those my benefactor told me about, there was reason to seek power. Men performed phenomenal deeds, were admired for their strength and feared and respected for their knowledge. My benefactor told me stories of truly phenomenal deeds that were performed long, long ago. But now we, the Indians, do not seek that power any more."
"It was different when there were people
in the world," he proceeded, "people who knew a man could become a mountain
lion, or a bird, or that a man could simply fly. So I don't use the devil's weed
any more. For what? To frighten the Indians? [ Para que? Para asustar a los
And I saw him sad, and a deep empathy filled me. I wanted to say something to him, even if it was a platitude.
"Perhaps, don Juan, that is the fate of all men who want to know."
"Perhaps," he said quietly. (p27)
DJ knows that CC is presently more interested in 'witchcraft'
and sets up another element in the practice of 'witchcraft' - that of an
adversary against whom the 'witchcraft' is to be tested. In a more general
sense,`it is part of engaging CC in another kind of learning in which humans
beings have an adversarial relationship in the process of learning. This is
where 'La Catalina' enters the stage setup for CC.
In trying to confront the adversary, there is a remarkable discussion about the use of the 'ally' plants :
"How about Mescalito? Can he protect you
"No! Mescalito is a teacher, not a power to be used for personal reasons."
"How about the devil's weed?"
"I've already said that I must protect myself, following the directions of my ally the smoke. And as far as I
know, the smoke can do anything. If you want to know about any point in question, the smoke will tell you. And
it will give you not only knowledge, but also the means to proceed. It's the most marvelous ally a man could
"Is the smoke the best possible ally for everybody?"
"It's not the same for everybody. Many fear it and won't touch it, or even get close to it.
The smoke is like everything else; it wasn't made for all of us."
"What kind of smoke is it, don Juan?"
"The smoke of diviners!"p28
The 'smoke' is of course DJ's favorite 'ally' and he is very lucid about it and it's usefulness for him personally.
Everything is terrifying
and confusing at the outset, but every new puff makes things more precise. And
suddenly the world opens up anew! Unimaginable! When this happens the smoke has
become one's ally and will resolve any question by allowing one to enter into
There follows pages of details of how the Datura plant is to treated and the ingredients prepared.
Finally we get the conversation about A Man of Knowledge KEY CONCEPT
To become a man of knowledge one must challenge and defeat his four natural enemies.
"A man of knowledge is one who has followed truthfully the hardships of learning, a man who has without rushing or without faltering, gone as far as he can in unraveling the secrets of power and knowledge. To be a man of knowledge has no permanence . One is never a man of knowledge, not really. Rather, one becomes a man of knowledge for a very brief instant, after defeating the four natural enemies. The enemies a man encounters on the path of learning to become a man of knowledge are truly formidable ; most men succumb to them.
The results of this struggle cannot be foreseen by any means. "
The concept of knowledge that Don Juan alludes to is not what is commonly understood as knowledge. The common concept of knowledge is in the knowing of facts, information, data etc, especially scientific facts. But Don Juan's use of "knowledge" means a different kind of knowing. A knowing that is not dependent upon facts and information, rather it is quite independent of facts, information and data.
What is of utmost significance is what we mean by "knowledge" itself. If all we mean by knowledge is knowing of something, then that by itself is as good as just data or information. For example we can say that a computer is informative, but we cannot say that a computer is knowledgeable. Because how the information is going to be processed, analyzed and handled are all programmed externally by human beings, although it can get quite complex. The meaning of knowledge therefore is not only incomplete without the application or applicability of knowing something, but also that without this application, knowledge becomes just data or information without any value. And then again this applicability is for what purpose and what end is the other criteria without which knowledge again becomes meaningless. Since application and the purpose or direction of this application are criteria that are attributes of an individual being, then knowledge in its complete meaning is purely individual. This is a total antithesis of "scientific knowledge" that is presumed to be necessarily "objective", which implies - independent of individual considerations.
Knowledge is therefore always new and unexpected.
A man of knowledge, as we have understood so far, is one who willfully seeks knowledge that corresponds to his predilections and abilities, tests and develops the knowledge as power, that is, knowledge that is forcefully and pragmatically applicable to whatever situation presents itself, or is sought for, or by a man of knowledge. Don Juan further identifies four distinct stages that are crossed in this process, each stage itself becomes a limitation, a hurdle, an enemy, that has to be overcome to develop to the next stage.
FEAR - The First Enemy
"When a man starts to learn, he is never clear about his objectives. His purpose is faulty; his intent is vague.
He hopes for rewards that will never materialize, for he knows nothing of the hardships of learning.
"He slowly begins to learn - bit by bit at first, then in big chunks. And his thoughts soon clash. What he
learns is never what he pictured, or imagined, and so he begins to be afraid. Learning is never what one expects. Every step of learning is a new task, and the fear the man is experiencing begins to mount mercilessly, unyieldingly. His purpose becomes a battlefield.
Thus with the process of knowledge are also involved strong emotions apart from the struggle: fear, ecstasy, joy, sadness, exuberance, shock....even a touch of madness - because the habitual and socially acceptable is being shaken, even shattered.
And thus he has tumbled upon the first of his natural enemies: Fear! A terrible enemy - treacherous, and difficult to overcome. It remains concealed at every turn of the way, prowling, waiting.
Here Don Juan has nailed the key driver emotion for a man seeking personal knowledge : Fear. That there can be no genuine knowledge without fear as the indispensable emotion, is the most profound premises of this work. This is not recognized either by science or religion, their teaching methods focus on removing fear altogether or on insulating one from fear. But insulating oneself from the most primary of all emotions like fear, or pain, is to completely lose touch and become ignorant of one side of nature and human existence. Genuine learning is not acquiring and practicing well known facts and data about the world, rather the stuffing of one's limited resources and faculties with useless general facts and data, actually hinders genuine learning. Thus the statement that learning is always a new task, almost never according to what one expects is a very accurate statement. Personal knowledge is always new and unexpected, because no one else can teach it ; it has to be self-developed. No one else can positively and definitely tell how a person should respond to a given situation facing that person. The person has to learn that himself. And when a man sets the first foot forward towards knowledge, he has no clue as to what to expect, and when the unexpected happens, fear is the natural emotion that builds up that has to be confronted head on.
Science and religion both try to assimilate and consolidate upon the known. Both are incapable of dealing instantaneously with the unknown. Both try to fortify and defend man from the fear of the unknown. For with a sufficient quantum of known, we feel secure because we can control and predict ( or at least are deluded into thinking that) the near future. We feel confident and secure, for example, that basic things like food, shelter, clothing etc are things that we will never fall short of, so we are not scared that a life threatening situation is likely to happen in the near future. The scientific and religious pundits assure us that. Science and technology have assured us of a comfortable lifestyle, fortified by the known of the material world, so much so that even nuclear weapons do not terrify us anymore. And if we are comfortable and secure, who wants to know anything further anymore ? The unknown, if anything at all, is something to be avoided at best.
But when a person exposes oneself to the unknown, wherefrom knowledge arises, all such securities have to be foregone. The assurance and security of lasting even one more day as a stable and secure person, is a luxury that a man on the road to knowledge cannot afford to rest on. Knowledge is available only to those who have put something on stake in order to bid for knowledge. Personal knowledge is never free, at least not risk free. It is only by exposing one's positions and beliefs that the limits of these are tested. Without which one comes to a dead end on this road to knowledge. To expose oneself to knowledge is to expose oneself to the unknown, and fear is the natural, indispensable emotion.
And if the man,
terrified in its presence, runs away, his enemy will have put an end to his quest and he
will never learn. He will never become a man of knowledge. He will perhaps be a bully, or
a harmless, scared man; at any rate, he will be a defeated man. His first enemy will have
put an end to his cravings.
It is not possible for a man to abandon himself to fear for years, then finally conquer it?
If he gives in to fear he will never conquer it, because he will shy away from learning and never try again. But if he tries to learn for years in the midst of his fear, he will eventually conquer it because he will never have really abandoned himself to it.
Therefore he must not run away. He must defy his fear, and in spite of it he must take the next step in learning, and the next, and the next. He must be fully afraid, and yet he must not stop. That is the rule! And a moment will come when his first enemy retreats. The man begins to feel sure of himself. His intent becomes stronger. Learning is no longer a terrifying task.
When this joyful moment comes, the man can say without hesitation that he has defeated his first natural enemy. It happens little by little, and yet the fear is vanquished suddenly and fast.
Fear and its upgraded version - terror is the constant companion of a man of knowledge. To attenuate fear completely is no doubt possible - but to do so also means to lose the drive to go further up the endless road of knowledge. Unless, of course one decides that one has had enough of it, or has reached the limit of one's capacity to travel further. So fear is there all along but is brought under control to the extent that it does not become an impediment on the path of knowledge. The negative fallout of fear is balanced by clarity, and thereafter, fear and clarity go hand in hand.
Both science and religion work to overcome man's fears, but then, not only they do overcome fear, but actually end up in an overkill by eradicating fear, whereby the importance of fear itself is undervalued and even denied. It has to be shunned and completely eradicated, like a pest, because it has been replaced by clarity - the clarity of God and the clarity of the Atom/Quantum.
Once a man has vanquished fear, he is free from it for the rest of his life because, instead of fear, he has acquired clarity--a clarity of mind which erases fear. By then a man knows his desires; he knows how to satisfy those desires. He can anticipate the new steps of learning and a sharp clarity surrounds everything. The man feels that nothing is concealed
THE SECOND ENEMY - CLARITY
To vanquish fear so that it does not overcome a man on the road to knowledge is an important milestone, for it gives the necessary boost required to acquire clarity - a clarity of direction, capabilities and purpose. But its only the first step and if one makes the mistake of overvaluing this accomplishment, the gains made will eventually be frittered away.......
And thus he has encountered his second enemy: Clarity! That clarity of mind, which is so hard to obtain, dispels fear, but also blinds. It forces the man never to doubt himself. It gives him the assurance he can do anything he pleases, for he sees clearly into everything. And he is courageous because he is clear, and he stops at nothing because he is clear. But all that is a mistake; it is like something incomplete. If the man yields to this make-believe power, he has succumbed to his second enemy and will be patient when he should rush or rush when he should be patient. And he will fumble with learning until he winds up incapable of learning anything more. His second enemy has just stopped him cold from trying to become a man of knowledge. Instead, the man may turn into a buoyant warrior, or a clown. Yet the clarity for which he has paid so dearly will never change to darkness and fear again. He will be clear as long as he lives, but he will no longer learn, or yearn for, anything.
Yes, clarity is the hardest to attain and ironically, hardest to let go of. Most people fall for this trap. A clarity of mind once attained is the toughest to defy. Who wants to push aside that which takes nearly half a lifetime of effort ? The trappings of clarity are so enticing that one easily comes to a conclusion that this is all there is to knowledge.
But how does one defy clarity, when clarity itself has taken one thus far?
He must do what he did with fear: he must defy his
clarity and use it only to see, and wait patiently and measure carefully before taking new
steps; he must think, above all, that
his clarity is almost a mistake. And a moment will
come when he will understand that his clarity was only a point before his eyes.
he will have overcome his second enemy, and will arrive at a position where nothing can
harm him anymore. This will not be a mistake. It will not be only a point before his eyes.
It will be true power.
It is in our nature as human beings that when certain aspects of reality become clear, we tend to dwell and secure ourselves on these only and try to ignore, oppose or shut out altogether those aspects that seem to threaten this clarity. Since that clarity has been obtained by a lot of striving, our nature is to cling to it, lest, we fear, that it is lost. And that is what makes clarity itself such a formidable trap. It is here that a man on the road to knowledge faces the the most difficult stage to cross : to be able to defy clarity, like he has defied fear. Unfortunately, most men deify (worship) rather than defy clarity and end up as men of religion or science. A men who continues further on the road to knowledge has to understand that clarity is not something to cling to but only to be used to see, as and when a situation calls for. Otherwise, clarity is only one point before his eyes and if he focuses only on that point, the rest of reality slips outside his grasp.
Only a point before his eyes....Only a point before his eyes....
I guess that needed repetition. Such a clear point and yet so difficult to understand !. But Oh ! how vital it is to understand that it is necessary to cross this minefield called clarity. Very few people get past it. Instead they build temples and start preaching. The graveyard of all men of religion and science. So clear they are about what they see that they insist that there is nothing else beyond what they see. Men of science are blind to the fact that science emerges out of man's desire to conquer nature, only to be destructive to mankind itself. Men of religion are blind to the fact that merely believing and having faith in a fixed indoctrination or conversion of people can never lead to a just social order - only to social degeneration. History's repeated lessons are totally ignored. The farces and tragedies only multiply exponentially. Cults of mysticism become the last refuge of all these clarity borne people of science and religion. They never even get an inkling that beyond clarity lies power. They don't even have an iota of an idea of what power is. It takes at least a little bit of it even to have the slightest inkling of what it is.
THE THIRD ENEMY - POWER
If clarity is the most difficult to defy, power is the toughest to handle and behold.
He will know at this point that the power he has been
pursuing for so long is finally his. He can do with it whatever he pleases. His ally is at
his command. His wish is the rule. He sees all that is around him. But he has also come
across his third enemy: Power!
Power is the strongest of all enemies. And naturally the easiest thing to do is to give in; after all, the man is truly invincible. He commands; he begins by taking calculated risks, and ends in making rules, because he is a master.
A man at this stage hardly notices his third enemy closing in on him. And suddenly, without knowing, he will certainly have lost the battle. His enemy will have turned him into a cruel, capricious man, but he will never lose his clarity or his power.
A man who is defeated by power dies without really knowing how to handle it. Power is only a burden upon his fate. Such a man has no command over himself, and cannot tell when or how to use his power.
Once one of these enemies overpowers a man there is nothing he can do. It is not possible, for instance, that a man who is defeated by power may see his error and mend his ways.
Once a man gives in he is through. If, however, he is
temporarily blinded by power, and then refuses it, his battle is still on. That means he
is still trying to become a man of knowledge. A man is defeated only when he no longer
tries, and abandons himself.
He has to come to realize that the power he has seemingly conquered is in reality never his. He must keep himself in line at all times, handling carefully and faithfully all that he has learned. If he can see that clarity and power, without his control over himself, are worse than mistakes, he will reach a point where everything is held in check. He will know then when and how to use his power. And thus he will have defeated his third enemy.
Power is the toughest to handle in words too. Power is such a personal affair, that it becomes meaningless in linguistic terms. Yet in simple words Don Juan has quite admirably tried to show a glimmer of what it is. The biggest challenge in the art of linguistic communication is to express power in words. The words of Don Juan are poetic when he talks about power. Power in the positive sense is manifest Spirit. Power is the developed ability to act decisively and rightly, express forcefully and meaningfully one's Will at the right time and place. To not exercise power rightly and appropriately is to lose the Spirit in the power. That's what makes it an even more deadly trap than clarity. One mistake here and one never comes to know when one has lost control over it, and thus lost control over oneself. But to be forewarned and aware of this trap is the essential element that must be a constantly active part of oneself in order to keep control over oneself and one's power. This is what Don Juan warns of.
THE LAST ENEMY - OLD AGE
Here don Juan is very
lucid and concise.
The man will be, by then, at the end of his journey of learning, and almost without warning he will come upon the last of his enemies: Old age! This enemy is the cruelest of all, the one he won't be able to defeat completely, but only fight away.
This is the time when a man has no more fears, no more impatient clarity of mind--a time when all his power is in check, but also the time when he has an unyielding desire to rest. If he gives in totally to his desire to lie down and forget, if he soothes himself in tiredness, he will have lost his last round, and his enemy will cut him down into a feeble old creature. His desire to retreat will overrule all his clarity, his power, and his knowledge.
But if the man sloughs off his tiredness, and lives his fate though, he can then be called a man of knowledge, if only for the brief moment when he succeeds in fighting off his last, invincible enemy. That moment of clarity, power, and knowledge is enough.
Chapter 4: Second Encounter with Mescalito
Mescalito is back in
discussion, and CC wants to elicit more 'information' about him. Even with two
encounters, CC is still groping in the dark. Even the simplest of aspects about
Mescalito are elusive to him. CC is looking for some magic formula -something
concrete that can be presented in a scientific manner and objectively verified.
"What do you see when Mescalito takes you with him, don Juan?"
"Such things are not for ordinary conversation. I can't tell you that."
"Would something bad happen to you if you told?"
"Mescalito is a protector, a kind, gentle protector; but that does not mean you can make fun of him. Because
he is a kind protector he can also be horror itself with those he does not like."
"I do not intend to make fun of him. I just want to know what he makes other people do or see. I described to
you all that Mescalito made me see, don Juan."
"With you it is different, perhaps because you don't know his ways.
You have to be taught his ways as a child is taught how to walk."
"How long do I still have to be taught?"
"Until he himself begins to make sense to you."
"Then you will understand by yourself. You won't have to tell me anything any more."
"Can you just tell me where Mescalito takes you?"
"I can't talk about it."
"All I want to know is if there is another world to which he takes people."
"Is it heaven?" (The Spanish word for heaven is cielo, but that also means "sky".)
"He takes you through the sky [cielo]."
"I mean, is it heaven [cielo] where God is?"
"You are being stupid now. I don't know where God is."
"Is Mescalito God - the only God ? Or is he one of the gods?"
"He is just a protector and a teacher. He is a power."
"Is he a power within ourselves?"
"No. Mescalito has nothing to do with ourselves. He is outside us."
"Then everyone who takes Mescalito must see him in the same form."
"No, not at all. He is not the same for everybody"
"Can you teach me the words to the songs you
"No, I can't. Those words are my own, the words the protector himself taught me. The songs are my songs. I
can't tell you what they are."
"Why can't you tell me, don Juan?"
"Because these songs are a link between the protector and myself. I am sure some day he will teach you your
own songs. Wait until then; and never, absolutely never, copy or ask about the songs that belong to another
"What was the name you called out? Can you tell me that, don Juan?"
"No. His name can never be voiced, except to call him."
"What if I want to call him myself?"
"If some day he accepts you, he will tell you his name. That name will be for you alone to use, either to call
him loudly or to say quietly to yourself. Perhaps he will tell you his name is Jose. Who knows?"
"You have seen his eyes,
haven't you? You can't fool around with the protector. That is why I can't get
the fact that he chose to play with you!"
"How can he be a protector when he hurts some people?"
"The answer is very simple. Mescalito is a protector because he is available to anyone who seeks him."
"But isn't it true that everything in the world is available to anyone who seeks it?"
"No, that is not true. The ally powers are available only to the brujos, but anyone can partake of Mescalito."
"But why then does he hurt some people?"
"Not everybody likes Mescalito; yet they all seek him with the idea of profiting without doing any work.
Naturally their encounter with him is always horrifying."
"What happens when he accepts a man completely?"
"He appears to him as a man, or as a light. When a man has won this kind of acceptance, Mescalito is
constant. He never changes after that. Perhaps when you meet him again he will be a light, and someday he may
even take you flying and reveal all his secrets to you."
"What do I have to do to arrive at that point, don Juan?"
"You have to be a strong man, and your life has to be truthful."
"What is a truthful life?"
"A life lived with deliberateness, a good, strong life.".
Chapter 5: A PATH WITH A HEART: Every man is different.
Don Juan wants to emphasize the fact that every man has a unique predisposition or predilection towards certain kind of knowledge, skills, talents and paths. Fully acknowledging and appreciating this fact is a fundamental premise for becoming a man of knowledge. This is alluded to in several books, mostly indirectly.
To attempt to become a man of knowledge is to first sense the predilection of one's heart.
The devil's weed is for those who seek power . A man who masters the second portion can use the devil's weed to do unimaginable things to gain more power. "What kind of things, Don Juan ? "
I can't tell you that. Every man is
different. In the course of learning about the devil's weed, I
realised she was not for me, and I did not pursue her path any further. The devil's weed
nearly killed me every time I tried to use her. And yet I could have avoided all that
"How? is there a special way to avoid pain ?"
Yes, there is a way. It is a way of grabbing on to things. For instance, when I was learning about the devil's weed I was too eager. I grabbed onto things the way kids grab onto candy.
Every one of us is different. What you call pointers would only be what I myself did when I was learning. We are not the same ; we aren't even vaguely alike. ( Ixtlan )
A Million Paths
The devil's weed is only one of a
Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you
must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it,
you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a
disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path and there is no
affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to
do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or
ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many
times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question.
This question is one that only a very old man asks. Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn't. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.
For me there is only the traveling on paths that
have heart, on any path that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile
challenge is to traverse its full length. And there I travel looking, looking,
Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path.
"But how will I know for sure whether a path has a heart or not ?"
Anybody would know
that. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a man finally realizes that
he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few
men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path. A path without a heart is never
enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is
easy; it does not make you work at liking it.
I have told you that to choose a path you must be free from fear and ambition. The desire to learn is not ambition. It is our lot as men to want to know.
The path without a heart will turn against men and destroy them. It does not take much to die, and to seek death is to seek nothing.
Any path is only a path. All paths are the same - they lead nowhere: these simple statements are so true, but seemingly difficult to accept by those who insist on one particular path for all and alike. Both science and religion would hotly contest these and deny any truth in these statements. The common understanding is that if you follow 'the path', it will automatically lead to a the designated end, again only defined by conventional wisdom. But that's to be expected. Both science and religion emphasize upon 'the path' : methods, procedures, rituals - to be followed rigorously. But what is the end of these paths, they fail to enlighten. Religion does make a blanket statement : the end is union with God, Reality, Flow etc. But that does not explain why this so much desired and sought union became fragmented in the first place : why were we kicked out of God's domain, in the first place ?
A path, any path therefore is only a means towards an end, not an end in itself : a journey, rather than a destination. Here Don Juan wants to make clear that both the path and the end must be sought and defined by the seeker of knowledge himself/herself.
The witchcraft with the lizards initially disgusts CC. He is excited only when some exotic event is going to happen, but where his own safety is not threatened.
realized he was talking about divination. I got very excited. My heart began to
pound. I felt that I was losing my breath.
DJ is very clear that although the lizards are being used in this witchcraft, but is acceptable only if they are treated in a respectful manner, as he also does so with the plants. To a Western, scientific, educated man this is contradictory and even ridiculous, but would make sense to a native person. Contrast this with the indifference with which scientific experiments are carried out with animals. Imagine a scientist developing friendship with a rat and apologizing to it for conducting experiments on it that could torture it or even kill it! He would become the laughing stock of the entire academia!
They had to
come from the area of one's own plant;
they had to be one's friends. And to have lizards as friends, he said,
required a long period of grooming. One had to develop a strong friendship with
them by giving them food and speaking kind words to them I asked why their
friendship was so important. He said the lizards would allow themselves to be
caught only if they knew the man, and whoever took the devil's weed seriously
had to treat the lizards seriously. He said that, as a rule, the lizards should
be caught after the paste and the root had been prepared. They should be caught
in the late afternoon. If one was not on intimate terms with the lizards, he
said, days could be spent trying to catch them without success; and the paste
lasts only one day. He then gave me a long series of instructions concerning
the procedure to follow after the lizards had been caught.
Once you have caught the lizards, put them in separate bags. Then take the first one and talk to her. Apologize for hurting her, and beg her to help you.
He advised me to tell the lizard I was sorry I had to cause her discomfort, and to promise her I would be kind to all lizards in return.
CC's divination experiments with the lizards do eventually produce results although initially he is not clear. These conversations below have an extrapolated general indication to a person in the quest of knowledge: that the questions one asks must first be well articulated, clear and focused, and only then can one get credible and coherent answers from reality.
That is the nature of this sorcery.
Actually, the vision is to be listened to, rather than looked
at. The same thing happened to me. I was about to warn you when I remembered my
benefactor had not warned
"Was your experience like mine, don Juan?"
"No. Mine was a hellish journey. I nearly died."
"Why was it hellish?"
"Maybe because the devil's weed did not like me, or because I was not clear about what I wanted to ask.
Like you yesterday.
"Would it be more clear to the lizard if one asked only one question?"
"Yes, that would be clearer. If you could hold one thought steadily."
"But what would happen, don Juan, if the one question was not a simple one?"
"As long as your thought is steady, and does not go into other things, it is clear to the little lizards, and then
their answer is clear to you."
"Can one ask more questions of the lizards as one goes along in the vision?"
"No. The vision is to look at whatever the lizards are telling you. That is why I said it is a vision to hear
more than a vision to see. That is why I asked you to deal with impersonal matters. Usually, when the question is
about people, your longing to touch them or talk to them is too strong, and the lizard will stop talking and the
sorcery will be dispelled. You should know much more than you do now before trying to see things that concern
you personally. Next time you must listen carefully. I am sure the lizards told you many, many things, but you
were not listening."
DJ also warns CC about the possessiveness of some of the power plants, particularly the Devil's weed.
"Of course it is bad. She will cut you
off from everything else. You will have to spend your life grooming
her as an ally. She is possessive. Once she dominates you, there is only one way to go - her way."
Chapter 6 Flying with the Devil's Weed
In this chapter, the experience of 'flying' after taking the Devil's weed produces a condition of perplexity in CC, because he cannot rationally reconcile the experiential realm with the objective. physical reality determined by agreement or consensus.
Did I take off like a bird?
"You always ask me questions I cannot answer. You flew. That is what the second portion of the devil's
weed is for. As you take more of it, you will learn how to fly perfectly. It is not a simple matter. A man flies with
the help of the second portion of the devil's weed. That is all I can tell you. What you want to know makes no
sense. Birds fly like birds and a man who has taken the devil's weed flies as such [el enyerbado vuela asi]."
"As birds do? [Asi como los pajaros?].""No, he flies as a man who has taken the weed [No, asi como los enyerbados]."
"Then I didn't really fly, don Juan. I flew in my imagination, in my mind alone. Where was my body?"
"In the bushes," he replied cuttingly, but immediately broke into laughter again. "The trouble with you is that
you understand things in only one way. You don't think a man flies; and yet a brujo can move a thousand miles in one second to see what is going on. He can deliver a blow to his enemies long distances away. So, does he or
doesn't he fly?"
"You see, don Juan, you and I are differently oriented. Suppose, for the sake of argument, one of my fellow
students had been here with me when I took the devil's weed. Would he have been able to see me flying?"
"There you go again with your questions about what would happen if ... It is useless to talk that way. If your
friend, or anybody else, takes the second portion of the weed all he can do is fly. Now, if he had simply watched
you, he might have seen you flying, or he might not. That depends on the man."
"But what I mean, don Juan, is that if you and I look at a bird and see it fly, we agree that it is flying. But if
two of my friends had seen me flying as I did last night, would they have agreed that I was flying
Well, they might have. You agree that birds fly because you have seen them flying. Flying is a common
thing with birds. But you will not agree on other things birds do, because you have never seen birds doing them.
If your friends knew about men flying with the devil's weed, then they would agree."
"Let's put it another way, don Juan. What I meant to say is that if I had tied myself to a rock with a heavy
chain I would have flown just the same, because my body had nothing to do with my flying."
Don Juan looked at me incredulously. "If you tie yourself to a rock," he said, "I'm afraid you will have to fly
holding the rock with its heavy chain."
Chapter7 The Smoke
In this chapter the most interesting
conversation is about the sorcerer having made a strong bond with an ally, does
to use the physical substance any longer, and can 'see' or learn at will from it's realm.
"You said, don Juan, you don't have to
smoke any more."
"Yes, because the smoke is my ally I don't need to smoke any more. I can call him any time, any place."
"Do you mean he comes to you even if you do not smoke?"
"I mean I go to him freely."
"Will I be able to do that, too?"
"If you succeed in getting him as your ally, you will."
Once again CC is obsessed with what happens to his body in the experience with the smoke, and what an 'observer' would see happening to CC's body in that state. CC is extremely concerned with the 'solidity' of his physical existence in the 'out of body experiences' with the smoke, even speculating about what a camera would record or how he would appear to himself in a mirror - something which even DJ finds dangerous to do in that state - and is concerned with the attitude that CC adopts.
I asked him again to tell me about my
appearance. I wanted to know how I looked,
for the image of a
bodiless being he had planted in my mind was understandably unbearable.
He said that to tell the truth he was afraid to look at me; he felt the same way his benefactor must have felt
when he saw don Juan smoking for the first time.
"Why were you afraid ? Was I that frightening ?" I asked.
"I had never seen anyone smoking before."
"Didn't you see your benefactor smoke?"
"You have never seen even yourself?"
"How could I?"
"You could smoke in front of a mirror."
He did not answer, but stared at me and shook his head. I asked him again if it was possible to look into a
mirror. He said it would be possible, although it would be useless because one would probably die of fright, if of
I said, "Then one must look frightful."
"I have wondered all my life about the same thing," he said. "Yet I did not ask, nor did I look into a mirror. I
did not even think of that."
"How can I find out then?"
"You will have to wait, the same way I did, until you give the smoke to someone else - if you ever master it,
of course. Then you will see how a man looks. That is the rule."
"What would happen if I smoked in front of a camera and took a picture of myself?"
"I don't know. The smoke would probably turn against you. But I suppose you find it so harmless you feel you can play with it."
Chapter 8: The Last Encounter with Mescalito
In this encounter which is in a group, CC
calls out to Mescalito to teach him some songs, and Mescalito obliges him by
teaching him two songs, and then later on, tells CC his name. Then follows the
ecstasy again and then the terror. CC can't
figure out the terror, so he asks DJ the meaning of the two extreme experiences.
When I asked if I was on the right path,
I meant: Do I have one foot in each of two worlds?
Which world is the right one? What course should my life take?
Don Juan listened to my explanations and concluded that I did not have a clear view of the world, and that
the protector had given me a beautifully clear lesson.
He said, "You think there are two worlds for you - two paths. But there is only one. The protector showed
you this with unbelievable clarity. The only world available to you is the world of men, and that world you
cannot choose to leave. You are a man! The protector showed you the world of happiness where there is no
difference between things because there is no one there to ask about the difference. But that is not the world of
men. The protector shook you out of it and showed you how a man thinks and fights. That is the world of man!
And to be a man is to be condemned to that world. You have the vanity to believe you live in two worlds, but
that is only your vanity. There is but one single world for us. We are men, and must follow the world of men
contentedly. I believe that was the lesson.
Chapter 9 Divining with the Devil's Weed
CC performs his divination experiments with the lizards on his own this time, with mixed results. The conversation with DJ turns to whether the Devil's weed is the right path for CC.
"You told me, don Juan, that the devil's
weed tests men. What did you mean by that?"
"The devil's weed is like a woman, and like a woman she flatters men. She sets traps for them at every turn.
She did it to you when she forced you to rub the paste on your forehead. She will try it again, and you will
probably fall for it. I warn you against it. Don't take her with passion; the devil's weed is only one path to the
secrets of a man of knowledge. There are other paths. But her trap is to make you believe that hers is the only
way. I say it is useless to waste your life on one path, especially if that path has no heart."
"But how do you know when a path has no heart, don Juan?"
"Before you embark on it you ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will
know it, and then you must choose another path."
"But how will I know for sure whether a path has a heart or not?"
"Anybody would know that. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path."
"I have told you that to choose a path
you must be free from fear and ambition. But the smoke blinds you
with fear, and the devil's weed blinds you with ambition."
I argued that one needs ambition even to embark on any path, and that his statement that one had to be free
from ambition did not make sense. A person has to have ambition in order to learn.
"The desire to learn is not ambition," he said. "It is our lot as men to want to know, but to seek the devil's
weed is to bid for power, and that is ambition, because you are not bidding to know. Don't let the devil's weed
blind you. She has hooked you already. She entices men and gives them a sense of power; she makes them feel
they can do things that no ordinary man can. But that is her trap. And, the next thing, the path without a heart
will turn against men and destroy them. It does not take much to die, and to seek death is to seek nothing."
Chapter 10 Becoming a Crow
DJ teaches CC how to become a 'crow' with
the aid of the smoke ally - this is a maneuver of perception by which the normal
perception is transformed into the perceptual realm of crows. (As we shall learn
later DJ himself has been taught by an 'expert' in this area.) CC even at this
stage is however obsessed with the 'physical' details.
"What happened after I became a crow, don Juan? Did I fly for three days?"
"No, you came back at nightfall as I had told you to."
"But how did I come back?"
"You were very tired and went to sleep. That is all."
"I mean did I fly back?"
"I have already told you. You obeyed me and came back to the house. But don't concern yourself with that
matter. It is of no importance."
The mushrooms don't seem to have an
affinity for CC as he seems to suffer physically and mentally from its 'side
This is the typical condition of a person to whom some thing, substance or path does not fit well or is suitable. Since the smoke is DJ's suitable ally, he wants CC also to persist with it, hoping that the smoke will become CC's ally too. Surprisingly DJ ignores CC discomfort and bad side effects of the smoke with CC, and I feel this is a over-reach on the part of DJ, although DJ's task here is to make all possibilities and paths available to CC.
One element from the hallucinogenic
experience with the mushrooms kept recurring in my thoughts: the
soft, dark mass of pinholes. I continued to visualize it as a grease or an oil bubble which began to draw me to its
centre. It was almost as if the centre would open up and swallow me, and for very brief moments I experienced
something resembling a state of non-ordinary reality. As a result I suffered moments of profound agitation,
anxiety, and discomfort, and I willfully strove to end the experiences as soon as they began.
DJ explains what it means to transform into the perception of a crow with the use of the smoke, the main use of which is to 'see' form a different perspective as well as to 'see through' or at a distance/place or time. The crow experience again makes CC full of doubts about what it was 'really'. (Really can also be split as: re ally!)
"Did I really become a crow? I mean
would anyone seeing me have thought I was an ordinary crow?"
"No. You can't think that way when dealing with the power of the allies. Such questions make no sense, and
yet to become a crow is the simplest of all matters. It is almost like frolicking; it has little usefulness. As I have
already told you, the smoke is not for those who seek power. It is only for those who crave to see. I learned to
become a crow because these birds are the most effective of all. No other birds bother them, except perhaps
larger, hungry eagles, but crows fly in groups and can defend themselves. Men don't bother crows either, and
that is an important point. Any man can distinguish a large eagle, especially an unusual eagle, or any other large,
unusual bird, but who cares about a crow? A crow is safe. It is ideal in size and nature. It can go safely into any
place without attracting attention. On the other hand, it is possible to become a lion or a bear, but that is rather
dangerous. Such a creature is too large; it takes too much energy to become one. One can also become a cricket,
or a lizard, or even an ant, but that is even more dangerous, because large animals prey on small creatures."
I argued that what he was saying meant that one really changed into a crow, or a cricket, or anything else. But he insisted I was misunderstanding.
"It takes a very long time to learn to be a proper crow," he said. "But you did not change, nor did you stop
being a man. There is something else."
"Can you tell me what the something else is, don Juan?"
"Perhaps by now you know it yourself. Maybe if you were not so afraid of becoming mad, or of losing your
body, you would understand this marvelous secret. But perhaps you must wait until you lose your fear to
understand what I mean."
Chapter 11 The Terror
DJ constructs a setup of a scenario in which CC is put in a situation where terror is inevitable - where his physical and mental state is put under stress and anxiety, and where CC is made to face the situation alone - entirely at his own resources. This is deliberately done so as to firstly push CC to the edge - so that he experiences 'the terror of being a man' as well as setup a period of break or gap in the process of training an apprentice. This is part of the script of the abstract, as we shall learn much later.
It seemed that don Juan elicited it by means of a careful manipulation of cues about himself; that is to say, he behaved in front of me in so skillful a manner that he created the clear and sustained impression that he was not really himself, but someone impersonating him. As a result I experienced a profound sense of conflict; I wanted to believe it was don Juan, and yet I could not be sure of it. The concomitant of the conflict was a conscious terror, so acute that it impaired my health for several weeks. Afterwards I thought it would have been wise to end my apprenticeship then. I have never been a participant since that time, yet don Juan has not ceased to consider me an apprentice. He has regarded my withdrawal only as a necessary period of recapitulation, another step of learning, which may last indefinitely. Since that time, however, he has never expounded on his knowledge.
Here DJ also digresses into an obscure story of how the 'soul' of a person can be stolen by a diabelero - another artifice used by DJ to scare CC along with the setup to simulate an attack on CC.
Don Juan, after listening attentively to
all the details, concluded that I was suffering from a loss of soul. I
told him I had been having these hallucinations ever since the time I had smoked the mushrooms, but he insisted
that they were a new development. He said that earlier I had been afraid, and had just "dreamed nonsensical
things", but that now I was truly bewitched. The proof was that the noise of the flying airplanes could carry me
away. Ordinarily, he said, the noise of a brook or a river can trap a bewitched man who has lost his soul and
carry him away to his death. He then asked me to describe all my activities during the time prior to experiencing
the hallucinations. I listed all the activities I could remember. And from my account he deduced the place where
I had lost my soul.
Although CC is fairly successful in warding off these simulated attacks, but since he has no way to know for sure that these are actually simulated, he is s terrified into a state of almost complete panic even though it seems that CC doesn't actually buy the story of DJ about the stealing of souls. In any case, it was a rare but controlled occasion where CC's capacity to act on his own, with his own resources, is being tested fully by DJ.
Then I yelled and hurled the rock at him. I thought it was a magnificent outcry. At that moment I did not care whether I lived or died. I felt the cry was awesome in its potency. It was piercing and prolonged, and it actually directed my aim. The figure in front wobbled and shrieked and staggered to the side of the house and into the bushes again.
The power plants, ally and diabeleros training of CC is almost over by this stage and DJ reveals his own predilections on this:
We are again at the beginning, almost as
on the first day you came over and asked me to tell you about Mescalito, and I
could not because you would not have understood. That other side is the world of
diableros. I think it would be best to tell you my own feelings in the same way
my benefactor told me his. He was a diablero and a warrior; his life was
inclined towards the force and the violence of the world. But I am neither of
them. That is my nature. You have seen my world from the start. As to showing
you the world of my benefactor, I can only put you at the door, and you will
have to decide for yourself; you will have to learn about it by your effort
alone. I must admit now that I made a mistake. It is much better, I see now, to
start the way I did, myself. Then it is easier to realize how simple and yet how
profound the difference is. A diablero is a diablero, and a warrior is a
warrior. Or a man can be both. There are enough people who are both.
But a man who only traverses the paths of life is everything. Today I am neither a warrior nor a diablero. For me there is only the traveling on the paths that have a heart, on any path that may have a heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge for me is to traverse its full length. And there I travel - looking, looking, breathlessly."
Here don Juan indicates and summarizes his own reflections on where he stands as an individual human being who is not stuck on one path only, and is open in his heart for whatever challenges he faces - and as having lived a fulfilling life of traveling on 'paths that have a heart'.
On this note this review, rewrite or reader's guide of the first book ends. The structural analysis by CC is worth one read..
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