Book 3: A Remarkable Journey of Lessons
Third set of
Concepts: 'Stopping the World', Hunter, 'Internal Dialog', Omens, Affirmations,
'personal history', self-importance, responsibility, disrupting routines, accessibility, mood,
not-doing, the rings of power, and worthy opponent.
SUMMARY OF KEY SENTENCES :
that make up the world have a flow is
congruous with the fact that they run uninterruptedly and are
rarely, if ever, open to question.
(Every being has a strong default tendency to conform to the existing perceptual
construct of the world, taught from birth by society and culture)
'Stopping the world' therefore is the first step to 'seeing'.
Erasing personal history
makes us free from the encumbering thoughts
of other people.
I personally like the ultimate freedom of being unknown.
He said that if I
really wanted to learn, I had to remodel most of my
Death is our eternal
companion, as it is always stalking us.
You, on the other hand, feel that you are immortal, and the decisions
of an immortal man can be cancelled or regretted or doubted.
In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is no time
for regrets or doubts. There is time only for decisions.
To assume the
responsibility for one's decisions means that
one is ready to die for them.
Being a hunter means that
one can see the world in different ways. In order to
be a hunter one must be in perfect balance with everything
Therein lies the secret of great hunters. To be available and unavailable at the
precise turn of the road.
To be inaccessible means that you touch the world around you sparingly. To be
unavailable means that you deliberately avoid exhausting yourself and others
A hunter uses his world
sparingly and with tenderness, regardless
of whether the world might be things, or plants, or animals, or
people, or power. A hunter deals intimately with his world and yet
he is inaccessible to that same world.
He is inaccessible because he is not squeezing his world out of
shape. He taps it lightly, stays for as long as he needs to, and then
swiftly moves away leaving hardly a mark.
Focus your attention on
the link between you and your death,
without remorse or sadness or worrying. Focus your attention
on the fact you don't have time and let your acts flow accordingly.
Let each of your acts be your last battle on earth. Only under those
conditions will your acts have their rightful power. Otherwise they
will be, for as long as you live, the acts of a timid man.
A warrior is an immaculate hunter
who hunts power ; he is not drunk,
or crazed, and he has neither the time nor the disposition to bluff, or
to lie to himself, or to make a wrong move. The stakes are too high
for that. The stakes are his trimmed orderly life which he has taken
so long to tighten and perfect. He is not going to throw that away
by making some stupid miscalculation, by taking something for
being something else.
needs the mood of a warrior for every single act," he said.
"Otherwise one becomes distorted and ugly. There is no power in a life
that lacks this mood. Look at yourself. Everything offends and upsets
you. You whine and complain and feel that everyone is making you
dance to their tune. You are a leaf at the mercy of the wind. There is
no power in your fife. What an ugly feeling that must be!
A warrior, on the other hand, is a hunter. He calculates everything.
That's control. But once his calculations are over, he acts. He lets go.
That's abandon. A warrior is not a leaf at the mercy of the wind. No
one can push him; no one can make him do things against himself or
against his better judgment. A warrior is tuned to survive, and he
survives in the best of all possible fashions."
To achieve the mood of a
warrior is not a simple matter.
It is a revolution.
Power is a very weird affair.
In order to have it and command
it one must have power to begin with. It's possible, however,
to store it, little by little, until one has enough to sustain
oneself in a battle of power.
And finally, one day when his time on earth is up and he feels the tap
of his death
on his left shoulder, his spirit, which is always ready, flies to the place of his
predilection and there the warrior dances to his death.
It doesn't matter how one was brought up. What determines
the way one does anything is personal power. A man is only the
sum of his personal power, and that sum determines how he
lives and how he dies.
It takes power to even conceive what power is.
your personal power. That's all one has in this whole mysterious world.
A warrior is impeccable when he trusts his personal power regardless of whether
it is small or enormous.
Take that rock for
instance. To look at it is doing, but to see it is not-doing. Not-doing
would be to proceed with that pebble as if it were something far beyond a mere rock.
If we wouldn't be
tricked, we would never learn. The same thing
happened to me, and it'll happen to anyone. The art of a benefactor
is to take us to the brink. A benefactor can only point the way and trick.
A man of knowledge,
on the other hand, develops another ring of power.
I would call it the ring of not-doing, because it is hooked to not-doing.
With that ring, therefore, he can spin another world.
We all have been
taught to agree about doing. You don't have any idea of
the power that that agreement brings with it. But, fortunately, not-doing
is equally miraculous, and powerful.
This time you will
have to learn a totally different doing, the doing of strategy.
Think of it this way. If you survive the onslaughts of "la Catalina" you will have
to thank her someday for having forced you to change your doing."
"What a terrible way of putting it!" I exclaimed. "What if I don't survive?"
"A warrior never indulges in thoughts like that," he said. "When he has
to act with his fellow men, a warrior follows the doing of strategy,
and in that doing there are no victories or defeats. In that doing there
are only actions."
It may hook you to
another doing and then you may realize that both
doings are lies, unreal, and that to hinge yourself to either one is a waste
of time, because the only thing that is real is the being in you that is going
to die. To arrive at that being is the not-doing of the self.
Only as a warrior
can one survive the path of knowledge,
because the art of a warrior is to balance the terror of
being a man with the wonder of being a man.
OVERVIEW and Introductory SUMMARY of Book 3:
The third book takes the reader away from psychedelic drugs into
deep insights of the "training".
These lessons have far and wider implications and applicability than a casual reading seems to indicate.
They are lessons that are very basic to being human, lessons that can improve everyone (except maybe
businessmen and scientists ) who takes them seriously and puts in the effort to make them work.
In other words, 'Journey to Ixtlan' has all the tools
for a committed person to become a warrior, in any
sphere of human action and achievement. Therefore, this book is the most generally pragmatic of all
the books. The best part is that it is full of stories and drama - the most heart wrenching one of course
is don Genaro's 'journey to Ixtlan'.
Overall, this book is very well organized and gives a
condensed and comprehensive account of the
training CC received in the initial years oriented towards seeing, sorcery and living the life of a
In many of the conversations, the word 'body' has been used (translated from
Spanish word), which can be quite misleading. Therefore in these conversations read 'psyche' instead
of 'body'. For example if DJ tells CC "your body likes this", it should be read as "your psyche likes this"
A warrior is a person who is constantly and consistently making a conscious effort (is at a
'war footing', so to speak) to improve the efficiency of his entire being in order to attain
impeccability of behavior and actions. A warrior is striving to acquire knowledge and
'power' so that all of his/her actions are impeccable, with total care and responsibility,
and in complete freedom.
Chapter 0. INTRODUCTION
In the previous book DJ tries all the experiments and
techniques, especially through power plants
so that CC can learn "seeing", and although CC himself makes all the efforts and attempts at "seeing"
he has only very limited success at that - meaning that CC does not have a natural predilection for
being a full fledged seer. In any case CC's focus and attention has been on 'talking' and taking notes.
'Seeing' is beyond the existing learning, the
cultural programming, the entrenched paradigms
science based education, (which are all roadblocks to 'seeing', since their operating hold on the mind
is almost complete) - these must be set aside or suspended for 'seeing' to take place. Power plants are
a shot in the dark - again suitable option for few persons. However they do give a 'kick start' or jolt
to most people and some like Eligio are able to ride the tidal wave.
My perception of the world through
the effects of those psycho-tropics had been so bizarre and
impressive that I was forced to assume that such states were the only avenue to communicating
and learning what don Juan was attempting to teach me.
That assumption was erroneous.
He pointed out that everyone who
comes into contact with a child is a teacher who incessantly
describes the world to him, until the moment when the child is capable of perceiving the world as
it is described. According to don Juan, we have no memory of that portentous moment, simply
because none of us could possibly have had any point of reference to compare it to anything else.
From that moment on, however, the child is a member. He knows the description of the world;
and his membership becomes full-fledged, I suppose, when he is capable of making all the proper
perceptual interpretations which, by conforming to that description, validate it. For don Juan, then,
the reality of our day-to-day life consists of an endless flow of perceptual interpretations which we,
the individuals who share a specific membership, have learned to make in common.
The idea that the perceptual interpretations that make up the world have a flow is congruous with
the fact that they run uninterruptedly and are rarely, if ever, open to question. In fact, the
reality of the world we know is so taken for granted that the basic premise of sorcery, that our
reality is merely one of many descriptions, could hardly be taken as a serious proposition.
Fortunately, in the case of my apprenticeship, don Juan was not concerned at all with whether
or not I could take his proposition seriously, and he proceeded to elucidate his points, in spite of
my opposition, my disbelief, and my inability to understand what he was saying. Thus, as a
teacher of sorcery, don Juan endeavored to describe the world to me from the very first time we
talked. My difficulty in grasping his concepts and methods stemmed from the fact that the units
of his description were alien and incompatible with those of my own.
His contention was that he was
teaching me how to see as opposed to merely "looking",
and that stopping the world was the first step to seeing.
Essentially, 'seeing' has to transcend the sensory
mode of perception and therefore the grip or
hold of the normal way of looking at things in which sensory perception totally dominates must be
halted, at least temporarily. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done - because the habits of
thought and reasoning acquired or developed through years are nearly impossible to break.
Such breaking of habits, and suspension of normal
modes of perception take place on when the
person is in a crisis or suffers a severe jolt - but that is a risky matter. DJ, on several occasions
sets up or simulates a crisis like condition for CC apart from the experiments with power plants.
In all cases, CC is terrified and almost scared to death, but DJ, being the master, is in control and
although CC suffers emotional roller-coasters, he is almost safe form a fatal outcome - again in
the sorcerer-seer-warrior realm, there are no guarantees. Heck, even in the normal life of a
person there are no guarantees !
The other thing is commitment apart from will or predilection. CC does willingly
but seems to be short in commitment - he wants his feet firmly planted on the ground - especially
the grounds of his home and favorite place - Los Angeles. CC's reluctance, even aversion to
acquiring an 'ally' is also part of his emotional ties to the "normal world" - which he does not
A total involvement in 'seeing' or sorcery is not his
cup of tea, and as we shall learn later his main
task will be the writing of the books.
However to 'see' is still an important part of his
training and so DJ persists on the two main counts
of the training: 'seeing' and living like a warrior. For 'seeing' DJ emphasizes that CC must be able
to 'stop the world'.
For years I had treated the idea of stopping the world as a cryptic metaphor that really did not
mean anything. It was only during an informal conversation that took place towards the end of
my apprenticeship that I came fully to realize its scope and importance as one of the main
propositions of don Juan's knowledge.
Now this phrase 'stopping the world' kind of sounds
quite silly to a reader because of the use of
the word 'world' here. For the global culture the 'world' is everything, and to almost everyone
it is inconceivable that the world can be 'stopped'. Here the terminology should have been
better - like 'stopping the mind' and maybe more readers could connect with the otherwise
simple language used.
KEY CONCEPT: STOPPING THE WORLD
Now the question that can arise here immediately by
anyone is : Why stop the world ?(actually one's operating
perceptions of the world, to be precise)
The answer to that is not that simple : To
be able to free the perception to
assemble new worlds,
or to be precise, to give wings to the perception, so that it is not trapped in the mechanical flow of
Thus the phrase 'stopping the world' should not be
taken literally, but a metaphor for suspending
our normal, habitual, sensory locked and learned mode of perception.
It would be relevant here to compare 'stopping the
world' with certain Eastern cultural practices
or meditative techniques in which the orientation is towards what is called 'emptying the mind'
which is not quite like 'stopping the mind'. The difference is that in 'emptying the mind' there is
also a cessation or renunciation of the will, whereas in 'stopping the mind' the whole point is that
an altogether contrasting process to the linear mind's operations (that of the intuitive mind) can
be initiated by the will of the person.
'Stopping the mind' entails that the linear process
that dominates the mind's operations and is
constantly engaged with the senses and intimately tied to the operation of the 'internal dialog',
must relinquish control, that is, cease the linear operation mode so that the non-linear, synthesis
operation can be initiated, and learn to be cultivated so that 'seeing' becomes possible depending
upon the will and predilection of the person.
CC then narrates a story about a problem child, and
queries DJ as to what would be the way out
for the father.
""I mean that if your friend were a warrior he would help his child to stop the world."
"How can my friend do that?"
"He would need personal power. He would need to be a sorcerer."
"But he isn't."
"In that case he must use ordinary means to help his son to change his idea of the world. It is
not stopping the world, but it will work just the same."
DJ suggests certain pragmatic ways to scare the child
so as to give him such a severe jolt that
leads to the child to stop the racket in which the child is stuck in, if not 'stop the world'. DJ makes
an important point that anyone, even a child can be stopped in their killing routines only by
some kind of shock.
"What if the fright injures him?"
"Fright never injures anyone. What injures the spirit is having someone always on your back,
beating you, telling you what to do and what not to do."
I realized then that throughout the
years of our association don Juan had been employing with
me, although on a different scale, the same tactics he was suggesting my friend should use with
his son. I asked him about it. He said that he had been trying all along to teach me how to stop the
"You haven't yet," he said, smiling. "Nothing seems to work, because you are very stubborn. If
you were less stubborn, however, by now you would probably have stopped the world with any
of the techniques I have taught you."
"What techniques, don Juan?"
"Everything I have told you to do was a technique for stopping the world."
A state of awareness in which the reality of everyday life is altered because the
flow of interpretation, which ordinarily runs uninterrupted, has been stopped
by a set of circumstances alien to that flow.
Don Juan's precondition for 'stopping the world'
was that one had to be convinced ;
in other words, one had to learn the new description in a total sense, for the purpose
of pitting it against the old one, and in that way break the dogmatic certainty, which
we all share, that the validity of our perceptions, or our reality of the world, is not to
After stopping the world the next step was seeing. By that don Juan meant what I
would like to categorize as responding to the perceptual solicitations of a world
outside the description we have learned to call reality."
PART 1: Stopping the World
Chapter 1. Reaffirmations From The World Around Us
CC gives another 'take' of his first meeting with DJ,
again emphasizing the 'effect' on him
on meeting the sorcerer. CC was simply "hooked".
It was at that moment that he
lifted his head and looked me squarely in the eyes. It was a
formidable look. Yet it was not menacing or awesome in any way. It was a look that went
through me. I became tongue-tied at once and could not continue with the harangues about
myself. That was the end of our meeting. Yet he left on a note of hope. He said that perhaps I
could visit him at his house someday.
It would be difficult to assess the
impact of don Juan's look if my inventory of experience is
not somehow brought to bear on the uniqueness of that event. When I began to study
anthropology and thus met don Juan, I was already an expert in 'getting around'. I had left my
home years before and that meant in my evaluation that I was capable of taking care of myself.
Whenever I was rebuffed I could usually cajole my way in or make concessions, argue, get angry,
or if nothing succeeded I would whine or complain; in other words, there was always something I
knew I could do under the circumstances, and never in my life had any human being stopped my
momentum so swiftly and so definitely as don Juan did that afternoon. But it was not only a
matter of being silenced; there had been times when I had been unable to say a word to my
opponent because of some inherent respect I felt for him, still my anger or frustration was
manifested in my thoughts. Don Juan's look, however, numbed me to the point that I could not
I became thoroughly intrigued with that stupendous look and decided to search for him.
CC "finds" DJ, and immediately the jokes start. CC wants to know all about plants but DJ takes
him for a long walk. CC wants data about plants, but DJ instead focuses on CC's attitudes about
plants, and wants CC to drop the attitude of treating plants as some inanimate objects about
which data is all that matters.
"Plants are very peculiar things,”
he said without looking at me. “They are
alive and they feel".
That plants "feel" anything is what a scientist will hotly contest and demand proof or evidence
DJ then makes a series of connections between the statements he makes and the happenings
around them and calls these "affirmations", but which sound ridiculous to CC, as ridiculous as
CC is not yet
aware that in the sorcerer's world however, events that seem to have no visible
or observable connections with each other are none-the-less synchronically connected depending
upon their relevance for a particular being and not subject to general consensus. Thus
"affirmations" or "omens" are vital indicators for a sorcerer.
example of an intriguing synchronicity is that DJ assures CC that he will be at
whenever CC comes. Only a highly accomplished sorcerer can give such assurances because he
is attuned to the 'intent' through which such synchronicity is possible.
"When will you be home?" I asked.
He scrutinized me.
"Whenever you come," he replied.
"I don't know exactly when I can come."
"Just come then and don't worry."
"What if you're not in?"
"I'll be there," he said, smiling, and walked away."
CC wants to keep a photo and taped record of their next meeting (as a much prized proof or
"evidence" to show to his peers), but DJ flatly refuses, and even sternly tells him not to ever
bring such "proof" devices if CC wants to meet him again. CC is upset at this because he sees
no "harm" in such instruments of "proof".
"Forget it," he said forcefully.
"And if you still want to see me don't ever mention it again."
I staged a weak final complaint. I said that pictures and recordings were indispensable to my
work. He said that there was only one thing which was indispensable for anything we did. He
called it "the spirit".
"One can't do without the spirit," he said. "And you don't have it. Worry about that
and not about pictures."
Chapter 2: ERASING PERSONAL HISTORY
"because that would make us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people."
I personally like the ultimate freedom of being unknown.
In the next meeting, CC wonders about the daily occupations of DJ.
I asked him if I was interfering
with his normal routine. He looked at me with a sort of frown
and said he had no routines, and that I could stay with him all afternoon if I wanted to.
CC wants to start with data about DJ's
antecedents, his parents, etc. but DJ is not going to
indulge CC in his data collection drive. Instead DJ uses this occasion to articulate a totally
alien idea to people in civilizations, who are mostly busy in building an elaborate artifice of
personal history in order to gain social status and social power. The conversation that follows
is brilliantly illustrative of the idea and it's application for a warrior or sorcerer. In very simple
terms and language, DJ stumps CC, for whom it is a totally bizarre idea.
"Don't waste your time with that
crap," he said softly but with unsuspected force.
I did not know what to say; it was as if someone else had uttered those words. A moment
before, he had been a fumbling stupid Indian scratching his head, and then in an instant he had
reversed the roles; I was the stupid one, and he was staring at me with an indescribable look that
was not a look of arrogance, or defiance, or hatred, or contempt. His eyes were kind and clear and
"I don't have any personal history," he said after a long pause. "One day I found out that
personal history was no longer necessary for me and, like drinking, I dropped it."
I did not quite understand what he meant by that. I suddenly felt ill at ease, threatened.
This lesson is a first lesson on the path of genuine
knowledge : to erase all unnecessary and
redundant ties with people so that their thoughts, expectations, demands and attention does
not have control over your thoughts and perception.
Plainly and simply : get rid of all junk ( unproductive relationships ) people in your life.
Very importantly : those that drain you of your energies in useless, pointless and wasteful
discussions and arguments.
"Perhaps you should tell me what you mean by dropping one's personal history," I said.
"To do away with it, that's what I mean," he replied cuttingly.
I insisted that I must not have understood the proposition.
"Take you for instance," I said. "You are a Yaqui. You can't change that."
"Am I?" he asked, smiling. "How do you know that?"
"True!" I said. "I can't know that with certainty, at this point, but you know it and that is what
counts. That's what makes it personal history."
I felt I had driven a hard nail in.
"The fact that I know whether I am a Yaqui or not does not make it personal history," he
replied. "Only when someone else knows that does it become personal history. And I assure you
that no one will ever know that for sure."
I had written down what he had said in a clumsy way. I stopped writing and looked at him. I
could not figure him out. I mentally ran through my impressions of him; the mysterious and
unprecedented way he had looked at me during our first meeting, the charm with which he had
claimed that he received agreement from everything around him, his annoying humour and his
alertness, his look of bona fide stupidity when I asked about his father and mother, and then the
unsuspected force of his statements which had snapped me apart.
"You don't know what I am, do you?" he said as if he were reading my thoughts. "You will
never know who or what I am, because I don't have a personal history."
He asked me if I had a father. I told him I did. He said that my father was an example of what
he had in mind. He urged me to remember what my father thought of me.
Your father knows everything about you," he said. "So he has you all figured out. He knows
who you are and what you do, and there is no power on earth that can make him change his mind
Don Juan said that everybody that knew me had an idea about me, and that I kept feeding that
idea with everything I did.
"Don't you see?" he asked dramatically. "You must renew your personal history by telling
your parents, your relatives, and your friends everything you do. On the other hand, if you
have no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned
with your acts. And above all no one pins you down with their thoughts."
To create a fog around yourself, till you yourself don't know who you are, to take nothing for
granted, to take nothing for certain, all these sound like anti-thetical to modern, scientific living.
The only way it can really be done is by cutting oneself off from people, or minimizing interaction
to a barely necessary level, where people barely know you.
Not having personal history was indeed an appealing concept, at least on the
intellectual level; it gave me, however, a sense of loneliness which I found threatening and
distasteful. I wanted to discuss my feelings with him, but I kept myself in check; something was
terribly incongruous in the situation at hand. I felt ridiculous trying to get into a philosophical
argument with an old Indian who obviously did not have the "sophistication" of a university
student. Somehow he had led me away from my original intention of asking him about his
"Is this idea of not having
personal history something that the Yaquis do?" I asked.
"It's something that I do."
"Where did you learn it?"
"I learned it during the course of my life."
"Did your father teach you that?"
"No. Let's say that I learned it by myself and now I am going to give you its secret, so you
won't go away empty-handed today."
He lowered his voice to a dramatic whisper. I laughed at his histrionics. I had to admit that he
was stupendous at that. The thought crossed my mind that I was in the presence of a born actor.
"Write it down," he said patronizingly. "Why not? You seem to be more comfortable writing."
I looked at him and my eyes must have betrayed my confusion. He slapped his thighs and
laughed with great delight.
"It is best to erase all personal history," he said slowly, as if giving me time to write it down in
my clumsy way, "because that would make us free from the encumbering thoughts of
I could not believe that he was actually saying that. I had a very confusing moment. He must
have read in my face my inner turmoil and used it immediately.
"Take yourself, for instance," he went on saying. "Right now you don't know whether you are
coming or going. And that is so, because I have erased my personal history. I have, little by little,
created a fog around me and my life. And now nobody knows for sure who I am or what I do."
"But you yourself know who you are, don't you?" I interjected.
"You bet I ... don't," he exclaimed
and rolled on the floor, laughing at my surprised look.
He had paused long enough to make me believe that he was going to say that he did know, as I
was anticipating it. His subterfuge was very threatening to me. I actually became afraid.
"That is the little secret I am going to give you today," he said in a low voice. "Nobody knows
my personal history. Nobody knows who I am or what I do. Not even I."
He squinted his eyes. He was not looking at me but beyond me over my right shoulder. He
was sitting cross-legged, his back was straight and yet he seemed to be so relaxed. At that
moment he was the very picture of fierceness. I fancied him to be an Indian chief, a "red-skinned
warrior" in the romantic frontier sagas of my childhood. My romanticism carried me away and
the most insidious feeling of ambivalence enveloped me. I could sincerely say that I liked him a
great deal and in the same breath I could say that I was deadly afraid of him.
He maintained that strange stare for a long moment.
"How can I know who I am, when I am all this?" he said, sweeping the surroundings with a
gesture of his head.
Then he glanced at me and smiled.
"Little by little you must create a fog around yourself; you must erase everything around you
until nothing can be taken for granted, until nothing is any longer for sure, or real. Your problem
now is that you're too real. Your endeavors are too real; your moods are too real. Don't take
things so for granted. You must begin to erase yourself."
"What for?" I asked belligerently.
It became clear to me then that he was prescribing behavior for me. All my life I had reached a
breaking point when someone attempted to tell me what to do; the mere thought of being told
what to do put me immediately on the defensive.
"Let's put it this way then," he went on. "If you want to learn about plants, since there is really
nothing to say about them, you must, among other things, erase your personal history."
"How?" I asked.
"Begin with simple things, such as not revealing what you really do. Then you must leave
everyone who knows you well. This way you'll build up a fog around yourself."
"But that's absurd," I protested. "Why shouldn't people know me? What's wrong with that?"
"What's wrong is that once they know you, you are an affair taken for granted and
from that moment on you won't be able to break the tie of their thoughts. I personally
like the ultimate freedom of being unknown. No one knows me with steadfast
certainty, the way people know you, for instance."
"But that would be lying."
"I'm not concerned with lies or truths," he said severely. "Lies are lies only if you have
I argued that I did not like to deliberately mystify people or mislead them. His reply was that I
misled everybody anyway.
The old man had touched a sore spot in my life. I did not pause to ask him what he meant by
that or how he knew that I mystified people all the time. I simply reacted to his statement,
defending myself by means of an explanation. I said that I was painfully aware that my family
and my friends believed I was unreliable, when in reality I had never told a lie in my life.
"You always knew how to lie," he said. "The only thing that was missing was that you didn't
know why to do it. Now you do."
"When one does not have personal
history," he explained, "nothing that one says can be taken
for a lie. Your trouble is that you have to explain everything to everybody, compulsively, and at
the same time you want to keep the freshness, the newness of what you do. Well, since you can't
be excited after explaining everything you've done, you lie in order to keep on going."
From now on," he said, "you must simply
show people whatever you care to show them,
without ever telling exactly how you've done it."
"I can't keep secrets!" I
exclaimed. "What you are saying is useless to me."
"Then change!" he said cuttingly and with a fierce glint in his eyes.
He looked like a strange wild animal. And yet he was so coherent in his thoughts and so
verbal. My annoyance gave way to a state of irritating confusion.
The other vital aspect of erasing personal history is
that of living in a state of alertness and
fluidity because then one's past does not hinder one's awareness and thought process in a
confined and determined manner and one is then open to new possibilities.
"You see," he went on, "we only have two alternatives; we either take everything for
sure and real, or we don't. If we follow the first, we end up bored to death with
ourselves and with the world. If we follow the second and erase personal history, we
create a fog around us, a very exciting and mysterious state in which nobody knows
where the rabbit will pop out, not even ourselves.
I contended that erasing personal
history would only increase our sensation of insecurity.
"When nothing is for sure we remain alert, perennially on our toes," he said. "It is more
exciting not to know which bush the rabbit is hiding behind than to behave as though
we know everything."
Chapter 3: Losing Self-Importance
Self-importance is another thing that
must be dropped, just like personal history.
This is a far tougher task to accomplish than erasing
personal history, but
follows from it, because unless one can cut off redundant relationships, there
is no way one can get rid of self importance. But on the path of knowledge,
the biggest stumbling block is self importance, something that is the grave
- yard of even the most so called religious people, particularly those who
make a business out of it.....something that many people in the eastern
cultures thrive on.
The really difficult thing about self importance is that
you can never be sure
you have got rid of it, unless you keep putting it to test continuously, although
a time may come when the results will make it apparent that it has been
sufficiently gotten rid of by being in control of one's life. To completely rid of
it is also not needed, unless one wants to become a monk.
I had the opportunity of discussing
my two previous visits to don Juan with the friend who had
put us in contact. It was his opinion that I was wasting my time. I related to him, in every detail,
the scope of our conversations. He thought I was exaggerating and romanticizing a silly old fogy.
There was very little room in me for romanticizing such a preposterous old man. I sincerely
felt that his criticisms about my personality had seriously undermined my liking him. Yet I had to
admit that they had always been apropos, sharply delineated, and true to the letter.
The crux of my dilemma at that point was my unwillingness to accept that don Juan was very
capable of disrupting all my preconceptions about the world, and my unwillingness to agree with
my friend who believed that "the old Indian was just nuts".
I felt compelled to pay him another visit before I made up my mind.
In the next meeting, DJ again takes CC for a long
walk, and this time gives instructions on how
to walk, and later on the use of a certain leaves to control thirst. CC is unaffected by these
He seemed to have read my thoughts
and explained that I had not felt the benefits of the "right
way of walking" or the benefits of chewing the leaves because I was young and strong and my
body did not notice anything because it was a bit stupid.
He corrected his previous statement, saying that my body was not really stupid but somehow
CC's annoyance builds up after DJ constantly attacks CC's attitudes, especially about plants and
also generally the attitudes of a man who considers himself superior to all that surrounds him:
the typical attitude of an educated man in a desert with a native - which DJ puts it all under a
blanket term of 'self-importance', although this according to me is more of a typical behavior
pattern of a 'civilized man', who has learned all through his life that the civilized ways are
those in which talking to plants is considered stupid, among several other attitudes that
come as a baggage with scientific education.
The clash is more of the cultural mindset: for DJ the plants must be approached with an
attitude of caring and personal relationship of friendship, whereas for CC its all about getting
the maximum amount of data about plants. DJ wants to demolish CC's attitudes and approach
towards plants specifically and the general attitude of superiority and flawed priorities or
He then recapitulated, as if to
refresh my memory, all he had said before on the topic of
"learning about plants". He stressed emphatically that if I really wanted to learn, I had to
remodel most of my behavior.
My sense of annoyance grew, until I had to make a supreme effort to even take notes.
"You take yourself too seriously," he said slowly. "You are too damn important in your own
mind. That must be changed! You are so goddamn important that you feel justified to be
annoyed with everything. You're so damn important that you can afford to leave if things
don't go your way. I suppose you think that shows you have character. That's nonsense!
You're weak, and conceited!"
"Now we are concerned with losing
self-importance. As long as you feel that you are the
most important thing in the world you cannot really appreciate the world around you.
You are like a horse with blinkers, all you see is yourself apart from everything else."
"It doesn't matter what you say to a plant," he said. "You can just as well make up words;
what's important is the feeling of liking it, and treating it as an equal."
"The world around us is a mystery,"
he said. "And men are no better than anything else. If a
little plant is generous with us we must thank her, or perhaps she will not let us go."
The way he looked at me when he said that gave me a chill. I hurriedly leaned over the
plants and said, "Thank you," in a loud voice.
He began to laugh in controlled and quiet spurts.
Chapter 4. Death is an Adviser
The issue of self-importance is dealt with in much
greater clarity and articulation in one later
book - The Fire from Within. An intense confrontation between CC and DJ is building up. The
thing that comes to mind is why was CC coming back to DJ again and again in spite of Dj's
constant attacks on CC's way of living, behaving and thinking? CC realizes that he himself
is a bit crazy - a person who is going beyond his set social norms of behavior. CC does not
realize it yet that they have been connected in a manner that can superficially be called
as fate, but is actually a far deeper connection. At this moment however, they are on a
collision path, and the stronger one in spirit is going to knock down the weaker one.
The idea had crept into my mind,
however, that perhaps I was a bit crazy myself when I
realized that I liked to be with him. His idea that my feeling of self-importance was an
obstacle had really made an impact on me. But all that was apparently only an intellectual
exercise on my part; the moment I was confronted with his odd behavior I began to
experience apprehension and I wanted to leave.
I said that I believed we were so
different that there was no possibility of our getting along.
"One of us has to change," he said, staring at the ground. "And you know who.
An intense interaction is going to take place that
will blow CC away by the force of
the Seer and Sorcerer's ability to see right through CC and his past - a somewhat
similar way to that of an hypnotist.
"He locked his gaze on me again and
commanded me to remember. He said with an
extraordinary conviction that he "knew" I had seen that look before.
My feelings of the moment were that the old man provoked me, against my honest desire,
every time he opened his mouth. I stared back at him in obvious defiance. Instead of getting
angry he began to laugh. He slapped his thigh and yelled as if he were riding a wild horse. Then
he became serious and told me that it was of utmost importance that I stop fighting him and
remember that funny bird he was talking about.
"Look into my eyes," he said.
His eyes were extraordinarily fierce. There was a feeling about them that actually reminded
me of something but I was not sure what it was. I pondered upon it for a moment and then I had a
sudden realization; it was not the shape of his eyes nor the shape of his head, but some cold
fierceness in his gaze that had reminded me of the look in the eyes of a falcon. At the very
moment of that realization he was looking at me askew and for an instant my mind experienced a
total chaos. I thought I had seen a falcon's features instead of don Juan's. The image was too
fleeting and I was too upset to have paid more attention to it.
In a very excited tone I told him that I could have sworn I had seen the features of a falcon on
his face. He had another attack of laughter.
I have seen the look in the eyes of falcons. I used to hunt them when I was a boy, and in the
opinion of my grandfather I was good. He had a Leghorn chicken farm and falcons were a
menace to his business. Shooting them was not only functional but also "right". I had forgotten
until that moment that the fierceness of their eyes had haunted me for years, but it was so far in
my past that I thought I had lost the memory of it.
"I used to hunt falcons," I said.
"I know it," don Juan replied matter-of-factly.
Perhaps what affected me was the
long wait, or perhaps it was the loneliness of the spot where the
bird and I were; I suddenly felt a chill up my spine and in an unprecedented action I stood up and
left. I did not even look to see if the bird had flown away.
Here CC actually gets a feeling of death - is touched by death, without being specifically
conscious of it. That feeling, along with the experience has been revisited, the memory
fully conscious now, has been interpreted by DJ as a "warning from your death".
I never attached any significance to my final act with the albino falcon. However, it was
terribly strange that I did not shoot it. I had shot dozens of falcons before. On the farm where I
grew up, shooting birds or hunting any kind of animal was a matter of course.
He said that a white bird like that was an omen, and that not shooting it down was the only
right thing to do.
"Your death gave you a little warning," he said with a mysterious tone. "It always comes as a
"What are you talking about?" I said nervously.
Once again that feeling has been brought forth - this
time much more strongly.
A chill ran through my body, the muscles of my abdomen contracted involuntarily and I
experienced a jolt, a spasm. After a moment I regained my composure and I explained away the
sensation of seeing the flickering shadow as an optical illusion caused by turning my head so
"Death is our eternal companion," don Juan said with a most serious air. "It is always to our
left, at an arm's length. It was watching you when you were watching the white falcon; it
whispered in your ear and you felt its chill, as you felt it today. It has always been watching you.
It always will until the day it taps you."
He extended his arm and touched me lightly on the shoulder and at the same time he made a
deep clicking sound with his tongue. The effect was devastating; I almost got sick to my stomach.
"You're the boy who stalked game and waited patiently, as death waits; you know very well
that death is to our left, the same way you were to the left of the white falcon."
His words had the strange power to plunge me into an unwarranted terror; my only defense
was my compulsion to commit to writing everything he said.
"How can anyone feel so important when we know that death is stalking us?" he asked.
I had the feeling my answer was not really needed. I could not have said anything anyway. A
new mood had possessed me.
"The thing to do when you're impatient," he proceeded, "is to turn to your left and ask advice
from your death. An immense amount of pettiness is dropped if your death makes a gesture to
you, or if you catch a glimpse of it, or if you just have the feeling that your companion is there
I told him that I believed him and that he did not have to press the issue any further, because I
was terrified. He had one of his roaring belly laughs.
He replied that the issue of our death was never pressed far enough. And I argued that it would
be meaningless for me to dwell upon my death, since such a thought would only bring discomfort
"You're full of crap!" he exclaimed. "Death is the only wise adviser that we have. Whenever
you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you're about to be annihilated,
turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you're wrong; that nothing
really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, "I haven't touched you yet".
He shook his head and seemed to be waiting for my reply. I had none. My thoughts were
running rampant. He had delivered a staggering blow to my egotism. The pettiness of being
annoyed with him was monstrous in the light of my death.
"Yes," he said softly after a long pause. "One of us here has to change, and fast. One of us
here has to learn again that death is the hunter, and that it is always to one's left. One of us here
has to ask death's advice and drop the cursed pettiness that belongs to men that live their lives as
if death will never tap them."
It is that feeling - the presence of one's death that makes for a powerful emotional state - in
which a being can get the best - the only appropriate advise about what the being must do.
Chapter 5: ASSUMING RESPONSIBILITY
To assume the responsibility for
one's decisions means that one
is ready to die for them.
"What was wrong with you when I saw you, and what is wrong with you now, is
don't like to take responsibility for what you do."
"When a man decides to do something he must go all the way," he said, "but he must take
responsibility for what he does. No matter what he does, he must know first why he is doing it,
and then he must proceed with his actions without having doubts or remorse about them."
"That's an impossibility!" I said.
He asked me why, and I said that perhaps ideally that was what everybody thought they
should do. In practice, however, there was no way to avoid doubts and remorse.
"Of course there is a way," he replied with conviction.
"Look at me," he said. "I have no doubts or remorse. Everything I do is my decision and my
responsibility. The simplest thing I do, to take you for a walk in the desert, for instance, may very
well mean my death. Death is stalking me. Therefore, I have no room for doubts or remorse. If I
have to die as a result of taking you for a walk, then I must die.
The hardest part is this. To assume
responsibility for each and every act
of ours. It is hard
because it seems not only unreasonable but also very much seemingly burdensome. The
difficulty is compounded by the fact that we are never trained to take responsibility.
Science says all our behavior follows definitive "laws of science". Religion says its all a
play of the god/s. In both cases the question of assuming responsibility does not arise.
Responsibility comes from making conscious,
definitive decisions with complete
acceptance of all possible outcomes of those decisions, including one's own
death as well.
You, on the other hand, feel that you
are immortal, and the decisions of an
immortal man can be cancelled or regretted or doubted.
In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is no time
for regrets or doubts. There is time only for decisions.
"You are complaining," he said softly. "You have been complaining all your
life because you
don't assume responsibility for your decisions. If you would have assumed responsibility for your
father's idea of swimming at six in the morning, you would have swum, by yourself if necessary,
or you would have told him to go to hell the first time he opened his mouth after you knew his
devices. But you didn't say anything. Therefore, you were as weak as your father.
To assume the responsibility of one's decisions means that one
is ready to die for them.
It doesn't matter what the decision is. Nothing could be more or
less serious than anything else. Don't you see ? In a world where
death is the hunter there are no small or big decisions. There are
only decisions that we make in the face of our inevitable death.
Chapter 6: Becoming a Hunter
As soon as I sat down I bombarded don Juan with questions.
He did nor answer me and made
an impatient gesture with his hand to be quiet. He seemed to be in a serious mood.
"I was thinking that you haven't changed at all in the time you've been trying to learn about plants"
He began reviewing in a loud voice all the changes of personality he had recommended I
should undertake. I told him that I had considered the matter very seriously and found that I could
not possibly fulfill them because each of them ran contrary to my core. He replied that to merely
consider them was not enough, and that whatever he had said to me was not said just for fun. I
again insisted that, although I had done very little in matters of adjusting my personal life to his
ideas, I really wanted to learn the uses of plants.
CC is finding it difficult to make the changes or rather transformations that DJ has told him to do.
DJ finds CC is very stubborn and resistant to change. Then DJ realizes, after having had 'seen' a
very important aspect of CC in his childhood - that CC had been a hunter. DJ then shifts the
emphasis form giving instructions to revive the hunting talents of CC, so that a transformative
change can take place in CC.
"You have a knack for
hunting," he said. "And that's what you should learn, hunting.
We are not going to talk about plants any more."
Then he proceeded to corroborate each of the points he had
made and finally he caught and
killed a large snake; he cut its head off, cleaned its viscera, skinned it, and roasted the meat.
His movements had such a grace and skill that it was a sheer pleasure just to be around him.
I had listened to him and watched him, spellbound. My concentration had been so complete
that the rest of the world had practically vanished for me.
spirit has returned to you," don Juan said suddenly and with a serious face.
"Now you're hooked."
"To be a hunter means that one knows a great deal," he went on. "It means that one can see the
world in different ways. In order to be a hunter one must be in perfect balance with everything
else, otherwise hunting would become a meaningless chore. For instance, today we took a little
snake. I had to apologize to her for cutting her life off so suddenly and so definitely; I did what I
did knowing that my own life will also be cut off someday in very much the same fashion,
suddenly and definitely. So, all in all, we and the snakes are on a par. One of them fed us today."
"I really think that you have a touch for hunting," he said, staring at me. "And we have been
barking up the wrong tree. Perhaps you will be willing to change your way of life in order to
become a hunter."
"Hunters must be
exceptionally tight individuals," he continued. "A hunter leaves very little to
chance. I have been trying all along to convince you that you must learn to live in a different way.
So far I have not succeeded. There was nothing you could've grabbed on to. Now it's different. I
have brought back your old hunter's spirit, perhaps through it you will change."
(the word 'tight' here is in context of self-control, in contrast to 'tight' as in plugged into definitive
I protested that I did not want to become a hunter. I reminded him that in the beginning I had
just wanted him to tell me about medicinal plants, but he had made me stray so far away from my
original purpose that I could not clearly recall any more whether or not I had really wanted to
learn about plants.
"Good," he said. "Really good. If you don't have such a clear picture of what you want, you
may become more humble.
"Let's put it this way. For your purposes it doesn't really matter whether you learn about plants
or about hunting. You've told me that yourself. You are interested in anything that anyone can tell
I had said that to him in trying to define the scope of anthropology and in order to draft him as
Don Juan chuckled, obviously aware of his control over the situation.
"I am a hunter," he said, as if he were reading my thoughts. "I leave very little to chance.
Perhaps I should explain to you that I learned to be a hunter. I have not always lived the way I do
now. At one point in my life I had to change. Now I'm pointing the direction to you. I'm guiding
you. I know what I'm talking about; someone taught me all this. I didn't figure it out for myself."
"I think that once
upon a time hunting was one of the greatest acts a man could perform," he
said. "All hunters were powerful men. In fact, a hunter had to be powerful to begin with in order
to withstand the rigors of that life.""
It means once upon a
time, or maybe it means now, today. It doesn't matter. At one time
everybody knew that a hunter was the best of men.
"Why are you doing all this for me, don Juan?" I asked.
He took off his hat and scratched his temples in feigned bafflement.
"I'm having a gesture with you," he said softly. "Other people have had a similar gesture with
you; someday you yourself will have the same gesture with others. Let's say that it is my turn.
One day I found out that if I wanted to be a hunter worthy of self-respect I had to change my way
of life. I used to whine and complain a great deal. I had good reasons to feel shortchanged. I am
an Indian and Indians are treated like dogs. There was nothing I could do to remedy that, so all I
was left with was my sorrow. But then my good fortune spared me and someone taught me to
hunt. And I realized that the way I lived was not worth living... so I changed it.
DJ is now going to provoke CC
to the extreme by asking him if they are equal and then showing CC
that they are poles apart in the way they lead their lives by stating certain startling facts about CC,
which CC is not even conscious of - that CC was fighting battles at the behest of and for unknown
people (of the scientific, academic realms). CC becomes 'furious', having been called a pimp, only to
be torn apart by the rhetoric and logic of DJ's words.
"No," he said calmly, "we are not."
"Why, certainly we are," I protested.
"No," he said in a soft voice. "We are not equals. I am a hunter and a warrior, and you are a
My mouth fell open. I could not believe that don Juan had actually said that. I dropped my
notebook and stared at him dumbfoundedly and then, of course, I became furious.
He looked at me with calm and collected eyes. I avoided his gaze. And then he began to talk.
He enunciated his words clearly. They poured out smoothly and deadly. He said that I was
pimping for someone else. That I was not fighting my own battles but the battles of some
unknown people. That I did not want to learn about plants or about hunting or about anything.
And that his world of precise acts and feelings and decisions was infinitely more effective than
the blundering idiocy I called "my life".
It was midnight when I finally realized
that he could and would stay motionless there in that
wilderness, in those rocks, perhaps forever if he had to. His world of precise acts and feelings and
decisions was indeed superior.
Chapter 7: Being Inaccessible
The life of a "hunter" is based upon
the learning of the routines of its prey inside out, as well as
not getting stuck in routines of one's own, so as to not become a prey oneself. It involves an
efficiency of the use of one's time and available resources to the extent that nothing is wasted
or abused. A hunter is a highly efficient creature.
DJ continues to teach hunting
and trapping to CC, and gives exquisite demonstrations of these.
He keeps the ones to eat and releases the others.
I said jokingly that if he would have left the matter up to me I would have cooked all
five of the quail, and that my barbecue would have tasted much better than his roast.
"No doubt," he said. "But if you would have done all that,
we might have never left this place
in one piece."
"What do you mean?" I asked. "What would have prevented us?"
"The shrubs, the quail, everything around would have pitched in."
"I never know when you are talking seriously," I said.
He made a gesture of feigned impatience and smacked his lips.
In this exchange, DJ is
being the impeccable hunter and warrior but CC is yet to learn how to
treat the world around him, and the resources in it with utmost respect.
"You have a weird notion of what it means to talk seriously," he said. "I laugh a great deal
because I like to laugh, yet everything I say is deadly serious, even if you don't understand it.
Why should the world be only as you think it is? Who gave you the authority to say so?"
"There is no proof that the world is otherwise," I said..
CC is demanding proof, just like any scientist would. DJ will give him another jolt instead.
Don Juan had the most insidious facility to shift me from
sheer enjoyment to sheer fright.
DJ makes CC aware of the wind and what omens a hunter can get from the movements of
the wind. CC is skeptical, and finds DJ's explanations silly.
"Damn it," he said. "The wind is looking for you."
"I can't buy that, don Juan," I said, laughing. "I really can't."
I was not being stubborn, I just found it impossible to endorse the idea that the wind had its
own volition and was looking for me, or that it had actually spotted us and rushed to us on top of
the hill. I said that the idea of a "willful wind" was a view of the world that was rather simplistic.
"What is the wind then?" he asked in a challenging tone.
I patiently explained to him that masses of hot and cold air produced different pressures and
that the pressure made the masses of air move vertically and horizontally. It took me a long while
to explain all the details of basic meteorology.
"You mean that all there is to the wind is hot and cold air?" he asked in a tone of bafflement.
"I'm afraid so," I said and silently enjoyed my triumph.
Don Juan seemed to be dumbfounded. But then he looked at me and began to laugh
"Your opinions are final opinions," he said with a note of sarcasm. "They are the last word,
aren't they? For a hunter, however, your opinions are pure crap. It makes no difference whether
the pressure is one or two or ten; if you would live out here in the wilderness you would know
that during the twilight the wind becomes power. A hunter that is worth his salt knows that, and
"How does he act?"
"He uses the twilight and that power hidden in the wind."
"If it is convenient to him, the hunter hides from the power by covering himself and remaining
motionless until the twilight is gone and the power has sealed him into its protection."
Don Juan made a gesture of enveloping something with his hands.
"Its protection is like a..."
He paused in search of a word and I suggested "cocoon".
"That is right," he said. "The protection of the power seals you like a cocoon. A hunter can
stay out in the open and no puma or coyote or slimy bug could bother him. A mountain lion could
come up to the hunter's nose and sniff him, and if the hunter does not move, the lion would leave.
I can guarantee you that.
"If the hunter, on the other hand, wants to be noticed all he has to do is to stand on a hilltop at
the time of the twilight and the power will nag him and seek him all night. Therefore, if a hunter
wants to travel at night or if he wants to be kept awake he must make himself available to the
"Therein lies the secret of great hunters. To be available and unavailable at the precise
turn of the road."
I felt a bit confused and asked him to recapitulate his point. Don Juan very patiently explained
that he had used the twilight and the wind to point out the crucial importance of the interplay
between hiding and showing oneself.
"You must learn to become deliberately available and unavailable," he said. "As your life goes
now, you are unwittingly available at all times."
I protested. My feeling was that my life was becoming increasingly more and more secretive.
He said I had not understood his point, and that to be unavailable did not mean to hide or to be
secretive but to be inaccessible.
"Let me put it in another way," he proceeded patiently. " It makes no difference to hide if
everyone knows that you are hiding.
"Your problems right now stem from that. When you are hiding, everyone knows that you are
hiding, and when you are not, you are available for everyone to take a poke at you."
I was beginning to feel threatened and hurriedly tried to defend myself.
"Don't explain yourself," don
Juan said dryly. 'There is no need. We are fools, all of us, and
you cannot be different. At one time in my life I, like you, made myself available over and over
again until there was nothing of me left for anything except perhaps crying. And that I did, just
Don Juan sized me up for a moment and then sighed loudly.
"I was younger than you, though," he went on, "but one day I had enough and I changed. Let's
say that one day, when I was becoming a hunter, I learned the secret of being available and
I told him that his point was bypassing me. I truly could not understand what he meant by
being available. He had used the Spanish idioms "ponerse al alcance" and "ponerse en el medio
del camino", "to put oneself within reach", and "to put oneself in the middle of a trafficked way".
"You must take yourself away," he explained. "You must retrieve yourself from the middle of
a trafficked way. Your whole being is there, thus it is of no use to hide; you would only imagine
that you are hidden. Being in the middle of the road means that everyone passing by watches your
comings and goings."
Here DJ is simply brilliant in his articulations - in the simplest words possible.
"To be inaccessible means that you touch
the world around you sparingly. You don't eat five
quail; you eat one. You don't damage the plants just to make a barbecue pit. You don't expose
yourself to the power of the wind unless it is mandatory. You don't use and squeeze people until
they have shriveled to nothing, especially the people you love.
To be inaccessible means that you touch the world around you sparingly. To be
unavailable means that you deliberately avoid exhausting yourself and others.
It means that you are not hungry and desperate like the poor bastard that feels
he will never eat again and devours all the food he can, all five quail!"
A hunter knows he will lure game
into his traps over and over again, so he does
not worry. To worry is to become accessible, unwittingly accessible. And once
you worry you cling to anything out of desperation ; and once you cling you are
bound to get exhausted or to exhaust whoever or whatever you are clinging to.
A hunter uses his world sparingly
and with tenderness, regardless
of whether the world might be things, or plants, or animals, or
people, or power. A hunter deals intimately with his world and yet
he is inaccessible to that same world.
He is inaccessible because he is
not squeezing his world out of
shape. He taps it lightly, stays for as long as he needs to, and then
swiftly moves away leaving hardly a mark.
Chapter 8: Disrupting the Routines of Life
key lesson: awareness of the routines that are tied only to maintain a
status-quo for survival and social engagement.
The idea of being a hunter is to attain a
certain flexibility of mind. To retain this flexibility,
it is also necessary not to get caught up in routines. The whole idea is to be in the world
and yet to adjust to the world as to be virtually invisible. To be available whenever necessary,
and unavailable the rest of the time, so as to avoid getting caught up in the trappings of the world.
To attain this fluidity and flexibility it is
then only logical to be aware of and if need be to get rid
of the superfluous routines. This is best done by disrupting the existing routines by a series of
deliberate actions that break the fixed patterns of behaving.
DJ unexpectedly makes a series
of movements and expressions that startle CC, and leaves
CC completely stumped - cc even thinks that DJ has gone crazy.
I was completely confused by
then. In a matter of minutes my fear mounted to an irresistible
desire to run away from the scene. I thought don Juan was crazy. I was about to flee when he slid
down from the rock and came to me, smiling.
"You think I'm crazy, don't you?" he asked.
I told him that he was frightening me out of my wits with his unexpected behavior.
He said that we were even. I did not understand what he meant. I was deeply preoccupied with
the thought that his acts seemed thoroughly insane. He explained that he had deliberately tried to
scare me out of my wits with the heaviness of his unexpected behavior because I myself was
driving him up the walls with the heaviness of my expected behavior. He added that my routines
were as insane as his blowing his whistle.
I was shocked and asserted
that I did not really have any routines. I told him that I believed
my life was in fact a mess because of my lack of healthy routines.
Don Juan laughed and signaled me to sit down by him. The whole situation had mysteriously
changed again. My fear had vanished as soon as he had begun to talk.
"What are my routines?" I asked.
"Everything you do is a routine."
"Aren't we all that way?"
"Not all of us. I don't do things out of routine."
"What prompted all this, don Juan? What did I do or what did I say that made you act the way
"You were worrying about lunch."
"I did not say anything to you; how did you know that I was worrying about lunch?"
"You worry about eating every day around noontime, and around six in the evening, and
around eight in the morning," he said with a malicious grin. "You worry about eating at those
times even if you're not hungry.
CC understands as routine is not the same as what DJ is trying to articulate as
to what he means.
DJ is using a broad context for routine: he is implying that routine means any pattern of behavior that
repeats itself in a mechanical manner - without the necessity for it to be repeated. This also includes
our ways of thinking (or operations of the mind) that operate mechanically, without second thought or
"All I had to do to show your routine spirit was to blow my whistle. Your spirit is trained to
work with a signal."
He stared at me with a question in his eyes. I could not defend myself.
"Now you're getting ready to make hunting into a routine," he went on. "You have already set
your pace in hunting; you talk at a certain time, eat at a certain time, and fall asleep at a certain
I had nothing to say. The way don Juan had described my eating habits was the pattern I used
for everything in my life. Yet I strongly felt that my life was less routine than that of most of my
friends and acquaintances.
"You know a great deal about hunting now," don Juan continued. "It'll be easy for you to
realize that a good hunter knows one thing above all - he knows the routines of his prey. That's
what makes him a good hunter.
"If you would remember the way I have proceeded in teaching you hunting, you would
perhaps understand what I mean. First I taught you how to make and set up your traps, then I
taught you the routines of the game you were after, and then we tested the traps against their
routines. Those parts are the outside forms of hunting.
"Now I have to teach you the final, and by far the most difficult, part. Perhaps years will pass
before you can say that you understand it and that you're a hunter."
To be a hunter is not just to trap
game, a hunter that is worth his
not catch game because he sets his traps, or because he knows the routines
of his prey, but because he himself has no routines. This is his advantage.
He is not at all like the animals he is after, fixed by heavy routines and
predictable quirks : he is free, fluid, unpredictable.
In order to be a hunter you must
disrupt the routines of your life.
routines of animals like the places they eat, the place, manner and time
they sleep ; where they nest ; how they walk. In fact everything they do
can be foreseen or reconstructed by a good hunter. These are the routines
I am pointing out to you so that you become aware of them in your own
You can see that you are like your
prey, easy to predict. All of us behave
like the prey we are after. That, of course, also makes us prey for
something or someone else. Now the concern of a hunter, who knows all
this, is to stop being a prey himself.
Chapter 9: The Last Battle On Earth
Time as the most valuable resource, death the most powerful force.
forces CC to focus on the most important resource anyone
has: time, and the point that no one can know how much of it is left.
Therefore every act may well be the last and final act that one is
doing. So why not do every act AS IF it was the last and final act -
because isn't the last act supposed to be the best, the most integral,
the most honest act one can do? If one does so, every act can turn
into a powerful act.
DJ starts with stating the existing nature of CC's acts:
You have never taken the responsibility
for being in this unfathomable
world , therefore you were never an artist and perhaps you'll never be a
"You're wrong again. You can
do better. There is one simple thing wrong
with you - you think you have plenty of time."
He paused and looked at me as if waiting for my reaction.
"You think you have plenty of time," he repeated.
"Plenty of time for what, don Juan?"
"You think your life is going to last forever."
"No. I don't."
"Then, if you don't think your life is going to last forever, what are you
waiting for? Why the hesitation to change?"
"Has it ever occurred to you, don Juan, that I may not want to change?"
"Yes, it has occurred to me. I did not want to change either, just like you.
However, I didn't like my life; I was tired of it, just like you. Now I don't
have enough of it."
For you the world is weird because if
you are not bored with it, you
are at odds with it. For me the world is weird because it is stupendous
awesome, mysterious, unfathomable ; my interest has been to convince
you that you must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvelous
world, in this marvelous desert, in this marvelous time. I wanted to
convince you that you must make every act count, since you are
going to be here for only a short while, in fact, too short for
witnessing all the marvels of it. If you do not respond to that
challenge you are as good as dead.
CC finds all these ideas as bizarre and
un-necessary demands being put
up on him by DJ.
You think you have plenty of time, and
that your life is going to last forever.
This, whatever you are doing now, may be your last act on earth.
It may well be your last battle.
"I know that," I said with contained anger.
"No. You don't. If you knew that you would be a hunter."
I contended that I was aware of my impending death but it was useless
to talk or think about it, since I could not do anything to avoid it. Don Juan
laughed and said I was like a comedian going mechanically through a routine.
"If this were your last battle on earth, I would say that you are an idiot,"
he said calmly. "You are wasting your last act on earth in some stupid mood..
"You must, instead of agreeing so easily, act upon it. Take the challenge. Change."
"Just like that?"
"That's right. The change I'm talking about never takes place by degrees; it
And you are not preparing yourself for that sudden act that will bring a total change."
I believed he was expressing a contradiction. I explained to him that if I were
preparing myself to change I was certainly changing by degrees.
"You haven't changed at all," he said. "That is why you believe you're changing
little by little.
Yet, perhaps you will surprise yourself someday by changing suddenly and without
a single warning. I know this is so, and thus I don't lose sight of my interest
in convincing you."
There are some people who are very
careful about the nature of
their acts. Their happiness is to act with the full knowledge that
they don't have time ; therefore their acts have a peculiar power.
Acts have power especially when the person acting knows that
those acts are his last battle. There is a strange consuming
happiness in acting with the full knowledge that whatever one
is doing may well be one's last act on earth. I recommend that
you reconsider your life and bring your acts into that light.
None of us has sufficient time,
and your continuity has no meaning
in this awesome, mysterious world. Your continuity only makes you
timid. Your acts cannot possibly have the flair, the power, the
compelling force of the acts performed by a man who knows he is
fighting his last battle on earth.
Again the idea of fighting the last battle
on earth is intimately tied
to the idea of death.
Focus your attention on the link
between you and your death,
without remorse or sadness or worrying. Focus your attention
on the fact you don't have time and let your acts flow accordingly.
Let each of your acts be your last battle on earth. Only under those
conditions will your acts have their rightful power. Otherwise they
will be, for as long as you live, the acts of a timid man.
Is it so terrible to be a timid man ?
No. It isn't if you are going to
be immortal, but if you are going to
die there is no time for timidity, simply because timidity makes you
cling to something that exists only in your thoughts. It soothes you
while everything is at a lull, but then the awesome, mysterious world
will open its mouth for you, and then you will realize that your sure
ways were not sure at all. Being timid prevents us from examining
and exploiting our lot as men.
Our death is waiting and this very
act we're performing now may
well be our last battle on earth. I call it a battle because it is a
struggle. Most people move from act to act without any struggle
or thought. A hunter, on the contrary, assesses every act ; and
since he has an intimate knowledge of his death, he proceeds
judiciously, as if every act were his last battle. Only a fool would
fail to notice the advantage a hunter has over his fellow men. A
hunter gives his last battle its due respect. It's only natural that
his last act on earth should be the best of himself. It's pleasurable
that way. It dulls the edge of his fright.
"Its just hard to accept "
It'll take years for you to
convince yourself and then it'll take years
for you to act accordingly. I only hope you have time left..
Chapter 10: Becoming Accessible to Power.
Having introduced certain key ideas, instructions and concepts
history, self importance, assuming responsibility, being inaccessible, disrupting
routines, learning to become like a hunter, and the most important of all - Death,
the learning converges from these various elements to the crux of it all - Power.
After becoming inaccessible to everything else, there are
only two forces left in
the life of a man of knowledge that he seeks to have access to - Death and Power.
Power is indeed the focal concept around which everything else revolves. This is
the one thing that distinguishes an ordinary man from a warrior. A warrior has
Power and an ordinary man does not. An ordinary man does not even have an
inkling of what power is, because it needs a bare minimum of power even to
conceive that there is such a thing as power.
A warrior therefore has to acquire power, and to do that the
first step is making a
condition of access to power, or becoming accessible to power, that is, positioning
oneself in a way that power 'finds' you.
DJ gives an example of what he
means by power in the episode of CC's first
encounter with Mescalito.
During the height of my hallucinatory experience I played
with a dog that
lived in the house where the peyote session took place. Don Juan interpreted
my interaction with the dog as a very special event. He contended that at
moments of power, such as the one I had been living then, the world of
ordinary affairs did not exist and nothing could be taken for granted, that
the dog was not really a dog but the incarnation of Mescalito, the power
or deity contained in peyote.
A warrior seeks power, and one of the
avenues to power is dreaming. You may
say that the difference between a hunter and a warrior is that a warrior
is on his way to power, while a hunter knows nothing or very little
Here is the first mention of
dreaming as an focused activity for development
of power. DJ also narrates the omens that pointed out to him that CC was to
be his prime apprentice. CC considers these 'omens' as absurd and bizarre.
decision as to who can be a warrior and who can only be a hunter is not up to
That decision is in the realm of the powers that guide men. That's why your playing
with Mescalito was such an important omen. Those forces guided you to me; they took
you to that bus depot, remember? Some clown brought you to me. A perfect omen,
a clown pointing you out. So, I taught you how to be a hunter. And then the other
perfect omen, Mescalito himself playing with you. See what I mean?"
DJ introduces dreaming as the
most effective technique for becoming accessible
to power, and as we shall see later that CC is not so adept at stalking, but the
other technique, that of dreaming is more in his line of capabilities.
His weird logic was overwhelming. His words created visions
of myself succumbing to
something awesome and unknown, something which I had not bargained for, and which
I had not conceived existed, even in my wildest fantasies.
"What do you propose I should do?" I asked.
"Become accessible to power; tackle your dreams," he replied, "You call them dreams
because you have no power. A warrior, being a man who seeks power, doesn't call
them dreams, he calls them real."
CC however has no idea that
dreaming can be a powerful activity, because dreams
are considered generally at par with hallucinating - an unreal realm. In modernity and
post-modernity, anything that cannot be verified for it's consistency and general
repeatability is automatically taken as 'unreal' or 'imaginary'. CC as per his training
in the civilized world considers dreams as unreal or non-reality. In Dj's dictionary,
all direct experiences are real, whether these experiences are happening in dreams,
or in the waking state. What he means is that experiences in dreaming can be potentially
more worthy than in the waking state in which one is locked onto the sensory reality.
It's what one learns from a particular experience that matters rather than
the mode of experiencing. Indulging in the technicalities of words like 'real'
versus 'dreams' so as to make objective qualifications is not going to make
one learn anything new.
"You mean he takes his dreams as being reality?"
"He doesn't take anything as being anything else. What you call dreams are real for a warrior.
You must understand that a warrior is not a fool. A warrior is an immaculate hunter who hunts
power; he's not drunk, or crazed, and he has neither the time nor the disposition to bluff,
or to lie to himself, or to make a wrong move. The stakes are too high for that. The stakes
are his trimmed orderly life which he has taken so long to tighten and perfect. He is not
going to throw that away by making some stupid miscalculation, by taking something
for being something else.
"Dreaming is real for a warrior because in it he can act deliberately, he can choose and reject,
he can select from a variety of items those which lead to power, and then he can manipulate them
and use them, while in an ordinary dream he cannot act deliberately."
"Do you mean then, don Juan, that dreaming is real?"
"Of course it is real."
"As real as what we are doing now?"
"If you want to compare things, I can say that it is perhaps more real. In dreaming you have
power, you can change things; you may find out countless concealed facts; you can control
whatever you want."
"From now on we're going to places of power; you're going
to learn how to make yourself accessible to power."
I again expressed my turmoil. I said I was not qualified for that endeavor.
"Come on, you're indulging in silly fears," he said in a low voice, patting me on the back and
smiling benevolently. "I've been catering to your hunter's spirit. You like to roam with me in this
beautiful desert. It's too late for you to quit."
I liked the sensation, which I experienced only in his company, that this was indeed an awesome,
mysterious, yet beautiful world. As he said, I was hooked.
Power is something a warrior deals with.
At first it's an incredible, far fetched
affair ; it is hard to even think about it. Then power becomes a serious matter
one may not have it, or one may not even fully realize that it exists, yet one
knows that something is there, something which was not noticeable before.
Next power is manifested as something uncontrollable that comes to oneself.
It is not possible for me to say how it comes or what it really is. It is nothing
and yet it makes marvels appear before your very eyes. And finally
power is something in oneself, something that controls one's acts
and yet obeys one's command.
"A man hunting for power has almost no limits in his dreaming."
you've done is no triumph," he said. "You've wasted a beautiful power,
a power that blew life into that dry twig."
He said that a real triumph would have been for me to let go and follow the
power until the world had ceased to exist. He did not seem to be angry with me
or disappointed with my performance. He repeatedly stated that this was only
the beginning, that it took time to handle power. He patted me on the shoulder
and joked that earlier that day I was the person who knew what was real and
what was not.
I felt embarrassed. I began to apologize for my tendency of always being so
sure of my ways.
"It doesn't matter," he said. "That branch was a real animal and it was alive at
the moment the power touched it. Since what kept it alive was power, the trick
was, like in dreaming, to sustain the sight of it. See what I mean?"
A controlled outburst and a controlled quietness were the mark of a warrior. He
said that properly I should have sustained the sight of the live monster for a while
longer. In a controlled fashion, without losing my mind or becoming deranged with
excitation or fear, I should have striven to "stop the world". He pointed out that
after I had run up the hill for dear life I was in a perfect state for "stopping the world".
Combined in that state were fear, awe, power and death; he said that
such a state would be pretty hard to repeat.
I whispered in his ear, "What do you mean by "stopping the world"?"
He gave me a ferocious look before he answered that it was a technique practiced by
those who were hunting for power, a technique by virtue of which the world as we
know it was made to collapse.
Chapter 11: The Mood of a Warrior
The mood of a warrior is an active state of a set of attitudes and feelings
in anticipation of being accessible to and encountering power so as to hunt power.
DJ points out certain places of
power where warriors can rejuvenate themselves, and on that
particular day, a crow gives him directions towards such a place - a place where warriors 'bury'
themselves for a night or maybe days.
at that circle of boulders," he said. "Fix it in your memory and then someday a
will lead you to another one of these places. The more perfect its roundness is, the greater its
"What do they bury themselves for, don Juan?"
"For enlightenment and for power."
experienced an extremely pleasant feeling of peace and satisfaction; the world
moment seemed at ease. The quietness was exquisite and at the same time unnerving. I was not
accustomed to that kind of silence. I tried to talk but he hushed me. After a while the tranquility
of the place affected my mood. I began to think of my life and my personal history and
experienced a familiar sensation of sadness and remorse. I told him that I did not deserve to be
there, that his world was strong and fair and I was weak, and that my spirit had been distorted by
the circumstances of my life.
He laughed and threatened to cover my head with dirt if I kept on talking in that vein. He said
that I was a man. And like any man I deserved everything that was a man's lot - joy, pain, sadness
and struggle - and that the nature of one's acts was unimportant as long as one acted as a warrior.
Lowering his voice to
almost a whisper, he said that if I really felt that my spirit was
distorted I should simply fix it - purge it, make it perfect - because there was no other
task in our entire lives which was more worthwhile. Not to fix the spirit was to seek
death, and that was the same as to seek nothing, since death was going to overtake
us regardless of anything.
hardest thing in the world is to assume the mood of a warrior," he said. "It is
use to be sad and complain and feel justified in doing so, believing that someone is always
doing something to us. Nobody is doing anything to anybody, much less to a warrior.
"You are here, with me, because you want to be here. You should have assumed full
responsibility by now, so the idea that you are at the mercy of the wind would be inadmissible."
He paused for a long
time and then he said with a tone of profound conviction,
"To seek the perfection of the warrior's spirit is the only task worthy of our manhood."
DJ here proceeds to give
instructions to CC how to setup dreaming. CC wonders what DJ is
doing to CC, who finds all these ideas like dreaming to be loony activities.
"You've been asking me
the same question over and over. I'm not doing anything to you.
You are making yourself accessible to power; you're hunting it and I'm just guiding you."
In the episode with the big
cat, CC is suspicious that DJ has setup an elaborate stage-managed drama
just to spur him on, and get him all excited - manufactured a mood, so to speak. DJ points out that
at the moment of experience and in the action of the moments what really mattered was that CC had
attained the proper mood of a warrior to the extent that he performed a daring and risky maneuver
in the dark, which under a 'normal mood' would have been almost impossible. And that is precisely
why when CC is in the 'normal mood', all he can do is doubt everything as just another trick
performance by DJ. CC is yet to make a magical transition into an attitude of turning every ordinary
or even a tricked situation into an extraordinary and challenging task or doing. This attitude is THE MOOD
of a warrior - which needs to be developed on a 'on call' basis, whereas, in CC's case it is briefly attained
under the presence of DJ.
Big deal. As usual, you are focusing your attention on the wrong
makes no difference
whatsoever whether it was a lion or my pants. Your feelings at that moment were what counted.
Don Juan listened patiently while I went over
the entire experience.
"Why the awe for the big cat?" he asked with an inquisitive expression. "You've been close to
most of the animals that live around here and you've never been so awed by them. Do you like
"No, I don't."
"Well, forget about it then. The lesson was not on how to hunt lions, anyway."
"What was it about?"
"The little crow pointed out that specific spot to me, and at that spot I saw the opportunity of
making you understand how one acts while one is in the mood of a warrior.
"Everything you did last night was done within a proper mood. You were controlled and at the
same time abandoned when you jumped down from the tree to pick up the cage and run up to me.
You were not paralyzed with fear. And then, near the top of the bluff, when the lion let out a
scream, you moved very well. I'm sure you wouldn't believe what you did if you looked at the
bluff during the daytime. You had a degree of abandon, and at the same time you had a degree of
control over yourself. You did not let go and wet your pants, and yet you let go and climbed that
wall in complete darkness. You could have missed the trail and killed yourself. To climb that wall
in darkness required that you had to hold on to yourself and let go of yourself at the same time.
That's what I call the mood of a warrior.
that whatever I had done that night was the product of my fear and not the
any mood of control and abandon.
know that," he said, smiling. "And I
wanted to show you that you can spur yourself beyond
your limits if you are in the proper mood. A warrior makes his own mood. You didn't know that.
Fear got you into the mood of a warrior, but now that you know about it, anything can serve to
get you into it."
I wanted to argue with him, but my reasons were not clear. I felt an inexplicable sense of
"It's convenient to always act in such a mood," he continued. "It cuts through the crap and
leaves one purified. It was a great feeling when you reached the top of the bluff. Wasn't it?"
I told him that I understood what he meant, yet I felt it would be idiotic to try to apply what he
was teaching me to my everyday life.
"One needs the mood of a warrior for every single act," he said. "Otherwise one becomes
distorted and ugly. There is no power in a life that lacks this mood. Look at yourself. Everything
offends and upsets you. You whine and complain and feel that everyone is making you dance to
their tune. You are a leaf at the mercy of the wind. There is no power in your fife. What an ugly
feeling that must be!
"A warrior, on the other hand, is a hunter. He calculates everything. That's control. But once
his calculations are over, he acts. He lets go. That's abandon. A warrior is not a leaf at the mercy
of the wind. No one can push him; no one can make him do things against himself or against
his better judgment. A warrior is tuned to survive, and he survives in the best of all possible fashions.
achieve the mood of a warrior is not a simple matter. It is a revolution."
Chapter 12: A Battle of Power
The chapter begins with DJ setting off to 'hunt power' - it's for CC of course. DJ repeatedly mentions
'feeling' when he talks about 'power', which means that 'power' cannot be understood or derived logically
but has to be 'felt'. It is through 'feeling' that 'power' must be actively sought (or hunted) and then also
'stored' through feeling. Thus there are no logical steps, no specific steps - it must be sought, 'fought for'
(battle of power) and stored through feelings and intuitions. Thus it has to be developed by bootstrapping
- which means that the initiation must be internally generated, although there may be (or may not be)
external help like the kind CC has from DJ. Also what one learns here is that 'power' is paradoxical in
Its here that DJ uses the phrase 'personal power' to mean that power that is under or over one's
command is personally acquired or stored, and is available or accessible individually, and
generalities don't apply - it is entirely one's own or personal responsibility as to how and when to
exercise it, i.e., to command it or to make oneself available to it's commands.
"There's no plan when it comes to hunting power. Hunting power or hunting game is the same.
A hunter hunts whatever presents itself to him. Thus he must always be in a state of readiness.
"Power is a very peculiar affair," he said. "It is impossible to pin it down and say what it really
is. It is a feeling that one has about certain things. Power is personal. It belongs to oneself alone.
My benefactor, for instance, could make a person mortally ill by merely looking at him. Women
would wane away after he had set eyes on them. Yet he did not make people sick all the time but
only when his personal power was involved."
"How did he choose who to make sick?"
"I don't know that. He didn't know it himself. Power is like that. It commands you and yet it
"A hunter of power entraps it and then stores it away as his personal finding. Thus, personal
power grows, and you may have the case of a warrior who has so much personal power that he
becomes a man of knowledge."
"How does one store power, don Juan?"
"That again is another feeling. It depends on what kind of a person the warrior is. My
benefactor was a man of violent nature. He stored power through that feeling. Everything he did
was strong and direct. He left me a memory of something crushing through things. And
everything that happened to him took place in that manner."
I told him I could not understand how power was stored through a feeling.
"There's no way to explain it,"
he said after a long pause.
"You have to do it yourself."
CC's questions DJ about his
remarkable physical agility, and DJ replies quite aptly that it is simply a
either storing power or dissipating it - again 'power' is the perfectly correct context here.
kiddingly asked don Juan how old he really was. I thought that in order to reach
the ledge the
way he had done it one had to be extremely fit and young.
"I'm as young as I want to be," he said. "This again is a matter of personal power. If you store
power your body can perform unbelievable feats. On the other hand, if you dissipate power you'll
be a fat old man in no time at all."
"A hunter of power watches everything," he went on. "And everything tells him some secret."
After the startling experience
of 'seeing' a bridge and the subsequent events, again CC is suspicious
that DJ has mixed something in the 'power meat"
"You are quite
cracked," he said, shaking his head in a gesture of disbelief. "You have an
tendency. You persist in trying to explain everything to your satisfaction. There is nothing in the
meat except power. The power was not put there by me or by any other man but by power itself.
It is the dry meat of a deer and that deer was a gift to me in the same way a certain rabbit was
a gift to you not too long ago. Neither you nor I put anything in the rabbit. I didn't ask you to dry
the rabbit's meat, because that act required more power than you had. However, I did tell you
to eat the meat. You didn't eat much of it, because of your own stupidity.
Again and again DJ has to
remind CC that the reality of the 'normal' state of perception is quite ordinary
compared to the synthetic perceptions which can be much more powerful - learning wise as well as acquiring
"because you think it
is very helpful to keep on doubting and nagging. It isn't, my friend. It
isn't. There are worlds upon worlds, right here in front of us. And they are nothing to laugh at.
Last night if I hadn't grabbed your arm you would have walked on that bridge whether you
wanted to or not. And earlier I had to protect you from the wind that was seeking you out."
"What would have happened if you hadn't protected me?"
"Since you don't have enough power, the wind would have made you lose your way and
perhaps even killed you by pushing you into a ravine. But the fog was the real thing last night.
Two things could have happened to you in the fog. You could have walked across the bridge to
the other side, or you could have fallen to your death. Either would have depended on power. One
thing, however, would have been for sure. If I had not protected you, you would have had to walk
on that bridge regardless of anything. That is the nature of power. As I told you before, it
commands you and yet it is at your command. Last night, for instance, the power would have
forced you to walk across the bridge and then it would have been at your command to sustain you
while you were walking. I stopped you because I know you don't have the means to use power,
and without power the bridge would have collapsed."
"Did you see the bridge yourself, don Juan?"
"No. I just saw power. It may have been anything. Power for you, this time, was a bridge. I
don't know why a bridge. We are most mysterious creatures."
"Have you ever seen a bridge in the fog, don Juan?"
"Never. But that's because I'm not like you. I saw other things. My battles of power are very
different from yours."
'What did you see, don Juan ? Can you tell me?"
"I saw my enemies during my first battle of power in the fog. You have no enemies. You don't
hate people. I did at that time. I indulged in hating people. I don't do that any more. I have
vanquished my hate, but at that time my hate nearly destroyed me.
"Your battle of power, on the other hand, was neat. It didn't consume you. You are consuming
yourself now with your own crappy thoughts and doubts. That's your way of indulging yourself.
"The fog was impeccable with you. You have an affinity with it. It gave you a stupendous
bridge, and that bridge will be there in the fog from now on. It will reveal itself to you over and
over, until someday you will have to cross it.
"Power is a very weird affair. In order to have it and command it one
must have power to begin with. It's possible, however, to store it, little
by little, until one has enough to sustain oneself in a battle of power."
What happens if one
doesn't have enough power?"
"Death is always waiting, and when the warrior's power wanes death simply taps him. Thus,
to venture into the unknown without any power is stupid. One will only find death."
"But why should I want power, don Juan?"
"You can't think of a reason now. However, if you would store enough power, the power itself
will find you a good reason. Sounds crazy, doesn't it?"
"Why did you want power yourself, don Juan?"
"I'm like you. I didn't want it. I couldn't find a reason to have it. I had all the doubts that you
have and never followed the instructions I was given, or I never thought I did; yet in spite of my
stupidity I stored enough power, and one day my personal power made the world collapse."
"But why would anyone wish to stop the world?"
"Nobody does, that's the point. It just happens. And once you know what it is like to stop the
world you realize there is a reason for it. You see, one of the arts of the warrior is to collapse the
world for a specific reason and then restore it again in order to keep on living."
I told him that perhaps the surest way to help me would be to give me an example of a specific
reason for collapsing the world.
He remained silent for some time. He seemed to be thinking what to say.
"I can't tell you that," he said. "It takes too much power to know that. Someday you will live
like a warrior, in spite of yourself; then perhaps you will have stored enough personal power to
answer that question yourself.
"I have taught you nearly everything a warrior needs to know in order to start off in the world,
storing power by himself. Yet I know that you can't do that and I have to be patient with you.
I know for a fact that it takes a lifelong struggle to be by oneself in the world of power."
Chapter 13: A Warrior's Last Stand
DJ takes CC on another long
trip by car and foot combined - to seek a specific omen about CC. Initially
there is none, then it is CC's 'seeing' a plant at an adjacent hill that gives DJ the omen. But it isn't where
CC has seen it. DJ figures out that this is the omen for CC's spot and place of power.
"Walk to the other
side of the hill," don Juan said. "You'll find the plant there."
I brought up the point that the other side of the hill had been outside my field of vision, that a
plant may be there, but that that did not mean anything.
After eating I felt
very sleepy. Don Juan urged me to use the technique of looking without
focusing in order to find a suitable spot to sleep on the hilltop where I had seen the bush.
DJ prepares the spot for cc, and CC finds it as extremely relaxing and invigorating.
I lay down again on
the mat of branches and strangely enough my apprehension vanished.
I again experienced a sense of quietness, an exquisite sense of well-being. It was an extremely
new sensation to me; my thoughts seemed to have been turned off. I was happy. I felt healthy.
A very quiet ebullience filled me. A soft wind was blowing from the west and swept over my
entire body without I making me cold. I felt it on my face and around my ears, like a gentle
wave of warm water that bathed me and then receded and bathed me again. It was a strange
state of being that had no parallel in my busy and dislocated life. I began to weep, not out
of sadness or self-pity but out of some ineffable, inexplicable joy.
unravels the omen to mean that CC is going to hunt power, and that all his
(psychic and energetic) are going to be stored here. And when time has run out for him,
he will perform his last 'dance' here, a dance that sums up his life, with death as the witness.
"Fix all this in your
memory," don Juan whispered in my ear. "This spot is yours. This
morning you saw, and that was the omen. You found this spot by seeing. The omen was
unexpected, but it happened. You are going to hunt power whether you like it or not. It is not a
human decision, not yours or mine.
"Now, properly speaking, this hilltop is your place, your beloved place; all that is around you
is under your care. You must look after everything here and everything will in turn look after
"But what can I do with this hill, don Juan?"
"'Fix every feature of it in your memory. This is the place where you will come in dreaming.
This is the place where you will meet with powers, where secrets will someday be revealed to
"You are hunting power and this is your place, the place where you will store your resources.
"This is the site of
your last stand," he said. "You will die here no matter where you are. Every
warrior has a place to die. A place of his predilection which is soaked with unforgettable
memories, where powerful events left their mark, a place where he has witnessed marvels, where
secrets have been revealed to him, a place where he has stored his personal power.
"A warrior has the obligation to go back to that place of his predilection every time he taps
power in order to store it there. He either goes there by means of walking or by means of
"And finally, one day when his time on earth is up and he feels the tap of his death on his left
shoulder, his spirit, which is always ready, flies to the place of his predilection and there the
warrior dances to his death.
"Every warrior has a specific form, a specific posture of power, which he develops throughout
his life. It is a sort of dance. A movement that he does under the influence of his personal power.
"If a dying warrior has limited power, his dance is short; if his power is grandiose, his dance is
magnificent. But regardless of whether his power is small or magnificent, death must stop to
witness his last stand on earth. Death cannot overtake the warrior who is recounting the toil of his
life for the last time until he has finished his dance."
DJ has this knack of turning
what would well be called as ordinary and mundane, into something
magical and powerful.
"Will I too dance to
my death, don Juan?"
"Certainly. You are hunting personal power even though you don't live like a warrior yet.
Today the sun gave you an omen. Your best production in your life's work will be done towards
the end of the day. Obviously you don't like the youthful brilliancy of early light. Journeying in
the morning doesn't appeal to you. But your cup of tea is the dying sun, old yellowish, and
mellow. You don't like the heat, you like the glow.
"And thus you will dance to your death here, on this hilltop, at the end of the day. And in your
last dance you will tell of your struggle, of the battles you have won and of those you have lost;
you will tell of your joys and bewilderments upon encountering personal power. Your dance will
tell about the secrets and about the marvels you have stored. And your death will sit here and
"The dying sun will glow on you without burning, as it has done today. The wind will be soft
and mellow and your hilltop will tremble. As you reach the end of your dance you will look at the
sun, for you will never see it again in waking or in dreaming, and then your death will point to
the south. To the vastness.
Chapter 14: The Gait of Power
The chapter opens with CC asking
DJ about death, and DJ explaining that just as power is personal, so
is death, and that 'personal power' and death are closely related. Rather DJ goes further by stressing
that everything in the life of a warrior depends upon his personal power, all his acts revolve around it,
and it his through his impeccable hunting skills that a warrior is able to enhance his personal power
so that it attains a critical threshold and a momentum of it's own and needs no more 'hunting'.
And thereafter, personal power itself guides a warrior in all his acts, without specific advance plans.
"It is the same for
every warrior that has a dance of power, and yet it is not.
Death witnesses a
warrior's last dance, but the manner in which a warrior sees his death is a personal matter. It could
be anything - a bird, a light, a person, a bush, a pebble, a piece of fog, or an unknown presence."
Don Juan's images of death disturbed me. I could not find adequate words to voice my
questions and I stammered. He stared at me, smiling, and coaxed me to speak up.
I asked him if the manner in which a warrior saw his death depended on the way he had been
brought up. I used the Yuma and Yaqui Indians as examples. My own idea was that culture
determined the way in which one would envision death.
"It doesn't matter how one was brought up," he said. "What determines
the way one does anything is personal power. A man is only the sum of
his personal power, and that sum determines how he lives and how
"What is personal power?"
"Personal power is a feeling," he said. "Something like being lucky. Or one may call it a
mood. Personal power is something that one acquires regardless of one's origin. I already have
told you that a warrior is a hunter of power, and that I am teaching you how to hunt and store it.
The difficulty with you, which is the difficulty with all of us, is to be convinced. You need to
believe that personal power can be used and that it is possible to store it, but you haven't been
convinced so far."
"It's funny the way
you sometimes remind me of myself," he went on. "I too did not want to
take the path of a warrior. I believed that all that work, was for nothing, and since we are all
going to die what difference would it make to be a warrior? I was wrong. But I had to find that
out for myself. Whenever you do realize that you are wrong, and that it certainly makes a world
of difference, you can say that you are convinced. And then you can proceed by yourself. And by
yourself you may even become a man of knowledge."
"A man of knowledge is
one who has followed truthfully the hardships of learning," he said.
"A man who has, without rushing or faltering, gone as far as he can in unraveling the secrets of
"Hunting power is a
very strange affair," he said. "There is no way to plan it ahead of time.
That's what's exciting about it. A warrior proceeds as if he had a plan though, because he trusts
his personal power. He knows for a fact that it will make him act in the most appropriate fashion.
I pointed out that his statements were somehow contradictory. If a warrior already had
personal power, why was he hunting for it?
Don Juan raised his
brows and made a gesture of feigned disgust.
"You're the one who is hunting personal power," he said. "And I am the warrior who already
has it. You asked me if I had a plan and I said that I trust my personal power to guide me and that
I don't need to have a plan."
"I suppose you could say that it was my power, although that is not really accurate. Power
does not belong to anyone. Some of us may gather it and then it could be given directly to
someone else. You see, the key to stored power is that it can be used only to help someone else
I asked him if that meant that his power was limited only to helping others. Don Juan patiently
explained that he could use his personal power however he pleased, in anything he himself
wanted, but when it came to giving it directly to another person, it was useless unless that person
utilized it for his own search of personal power.
"Everything a man does hinges on his personal power," don Juan went on. "Therefore, for one
who doesn't have any, the deeds of a powerful man are incredible. It takes power to even
conceive what power is. This is what I have been trying to tell you all along. But I know you
don't understand, not because you don't want to but because you have very little personal power."
"What should I do, don Juan?"
"Nothing. Just proceed as you are now. Power will find a way."
In this experiment DJ sets up a
situation in which CC has to depend entirely upon his instinctual abilities
to navigate in total darkness, and these instincts and the warrior's psychic abilities are activated only
by personal power under the appropriate conditions, which DJ sets up because CC is basically risk-averse.
"Trust your personal
power," he said in my ear. "That's all one has in this whole mysterious world."
You must let yourself go so your personal power will merge with the power of the night," he
said in my ear.
Don Juan put his hand
over my mouth and whispered that a warrior acted as if he knew what
he was doing, when in effect he knew nothing. He repeated one statement three or four times, as
if he wanted me to memorize it.
warrior is impeccable when he trusts his personal
power regardless of whether it is small or enormous."
My fear seemed to be a bodily sensation that had nothing to do with my thoughts. I found that
condition very unusual. In the course of my life, threatening social situations, or by people
behaving towards me in dangerous ways. This time, however, my fear was a true novelty.
It came from an unknown part of the world and hit me in an unknown part of myself.
You stumbled on some entities which are in the world, and which act on people. You know
nothing about them because you have never encountered them. Perhaps it would be more proper
to call them entities of the mountains; they don't really belong to the night. I call them entities of
the night because one can perceive them in the darkness with greater ease. They are here, around
us at all times. In daylight, however, it is more difficult to perceive them, simply because the
world is familiar to us, and that which is familiar takes precedence. In the darkness, on the other
hand, everything is equally strange and very few things take precedence, so we are more
susceptible to those entities at night."
"If you knew they were
so dangerous, why did you leave me alone there?""
There is only one way to learn, and that way is to get down to business.
To only talk about power is useless. If you want to know what power is,
and if you want to store it, you must tackle everything yourself.
"But how can I store personal power?"
"You are doing it by living the way I have recommended. Little by little you are plugging all
your points of drainage. You don't have to be deliberate about it, because power always finds a
way. Take me as an example. I didn't know I was storing power when I first began to learn the
ways of a warrior. Just like you, I thought I wasn't doing anything in particular, but that was not
so. Power has the peculiarity of being unnoticeable when it is being stored."
What I said makes no sense to you, simply because you still don't have enough personal power.
Yet you have more than when you started, so things have begun to happen to you. You already
had a powerful encounter with the fog and lightning. It is not important that you understand
what happened to you that night. What's important is that you have acquired the memory of it.
We are all different.
That's why I had to leave you by yourself last night,
although I knew it was
mortally dangerous; you had to test yourself against those entities. The reason I chose the owl's
cry was because owls are the entities messengers. To imitate the cry of an owl brings them out.
They became dangerous to you not because they are naturally malevolent but because you were
not impeccable. There is something in you that is very chintzy and I know what it is. You are just
humoring me. You have been humoring everybody all along and, of course, that places you
automatically above everyone and everything. But you know yourself that that cannot be so.
You are only a man, and your life is too brief to encompass all the wonders and all the horrors
of this marvelous world. Therefore, your humoring is chintzy; it cuts you down to a crappy size."
"What kind of opponent
are you going to find for me?" I asked.
"Unfortunately only our fellow men are our worthy opponents," he said. "Other entities have
no volition of their own and one must go to meet them and lure them out. Our fellow men, on the
contrary, are relentless.
"We have talked long enough," don Juan said in an abrupt tone and turned to me. "Before we
leave you must do one more thing, the most important of all. I am going to tell you something
right now to set your mind at ease about why you are here. The reason you keep on coming to see
me is very simple; every time you have seen me your body (psyche) has learned certain things, even
against your desire. And finally your body (psyche) now needs to come back to me to learn more.
Let's say that your body (psyche) knows that it is going to die, even though you never think about it.
So I've been telling your body (psyche) that I too am going to die and before I do I would like to
show your body (psyche) certain things, things which you cannot give to your body yourself. For
example, your body (Psyche) needs fright. It likes it. Your body (psyche) needs the darkness and
the wind. Your body (psyche) now knows the gait of power and can't wait to try it. Your body
(psyche) needs personal power and can't wait to have it. So let's say then that your body (psyche)
returns to see me because I am its friend."
He pointed to a large bush and told me to fix my attention not on the leaves but on the shadows
of the leaves. He said that running in the darkness did not have to be spurred by fear but could
be a very natural reaction of a jubilant body that knew how "to not do". He repeated over and
over in a whisper in my right ear that "to not do what I knew how to do' was the key to power.
In the case of looking at a tree, what I knew how to do was to focus immediately on the foliage.
The shadows of the leaves or the spaces in between the leaves were never my concern. His last
admonitions were to start focusing on the shadows of the leaves on one single branch and then
eventually work my way to the whole tree, and not to let my eyes go back to the leaves, because
the first deliberate step to storing personal power was to allow the body to not-do.
Chapter 15: Not-Doing
This peculiar concept of not-doing
is another form of stopping the world or disrupting the routines. As
also with the other concepts, the idea is to attain alternative modes of perception. In this case the idea is
not so much to stop the normal flow of perception, but to change gears, even reverse the gears of perception
- metaphorically speaking, because the first experience of not-doing by CC is perceiving a tree by not
focusing on the foliage of the tree but focusing upon the shadows and spaces between them, and thereby
'seeing' the tree in an alternative mode of perception.
The concept of not-doing is a powerful psychological tool presented by don Juan aimed at 'seeing'.
I have brought you here to teach you one thing," he said and paused. "You are going to learn
not-doing. We might as well talk about it because there is no other way for you to proceed. I
thought you might catch on to not-doing without my having to say anything. I was wrong."
"I don't know what you're talking about, don Juan."
"It doesn't matter," he said. "I am going to tell you about something that is very simple but
very difficult to perform; I am going to talk to you about not-doing, in spite of the fact that there
is no way to talk about it, because it is the body (instinct) that does it."
He stared at me in glances and then said that I had to pay the utmost attention to what he was
going to say.
I closed my notebook, but to my amazement he insisted that I should keep on writing.
"Not-doing is so difficult and so powerful that you should not mention it," he went on. "Not
until you have stopped the world; only then can you talk about it freely, if that's what you'd want
Don Juan looked around and then pointed to a large rock.
"That rock over there is a rock because of doing," he said.
We looked at each other and he smiled. I waited for an explanation but he remained silent.
Finally I had to say that I had not understood what he meant.
"That's doing!" he exclaimed.
"That's also doing."
"What are you talking about, don Juan?"
"Doing is what makes that rock a rock and that bush a bush. Doing is what makes you yourself
and me myself."
I told him that his explanation did not explain anything. He laughed and scratched his temples.
"That's the problem with talking," he said. "It always makes one confuse the issues. If one
starts talking about doing, one always ends up talking about something else. It is better to just act.
"Take that rock for instance. To look at it is doing, but to see it is not-doing."
I had to confess that his words were not making sense to me.
"Oh yes they do!" he exclaimed. "But you are convinced that they don't
because that is your doing. That is the way you act towards me and
He again pointed to the rock.
"That rock is a rock because of all the things you know how to do to it," he said. "I call that
doing. A man of knowledge, for instance, knows that the rock is a rock only because of doing, so
if he doesn't want the rock to be a rock all he has to do is not-doing. See what I mean?"
I did not understand him at all. He laughed and made another attempt at explaining.
"The world is the
world because you know the doing involved in making it so," he said.
" If you didn't know its doing, the world would be different."
He examined me with curiosity. I stopped writing. I just wanted to listen to him. He went
on explaining that without that certain doing there would be nothing familiar in the
"I say that you are making this into a pebble because you know the doing involved in it," he
said. "Now, in order to stop the world you must stop doing."
The idea of not-doing is very
comprehensively covered in the conversations - by the 'doing' of
talking. This can be very useful only if by experience and experiment the warrior can transform
the normal perception (doing) into extra-ordinary perception (not-doing). Not-doing is thus a
kind of reversal or counter-perception of normal and habitual mode of perception again aimed
at synthetic perception or 'seeing'.
Doing would be to
leave the pebble lying around because it is merely a small rock.
Not-doing would be to proceed with that pebble as if it were
something far beyond a mere rock.
In this case, that pebble has soaked in you for a long time and now it is you, and as such,
you cannot leave it lying around but must bury it. If you would have personal power,
however, not-doing would be to change that pebble into a power object.
"Can I do that now?"
"Your life is not tight enough to do that. If you would see, you would know that your heavy
concern has changed that pebble into something quite unappealing, therefore the best thing you
can do is to dig a hole and bury it and let the earth absorb its heaviness."
"Is all this true, don Juan?"
"To say yes or no to your question is doing. But since you are learning not-doing I have to tell
you that it really doesn't matter whether or not all this is true. It is here that a warrior has a point
of advantage over the average man. An average man cares that things are either true or false, but a
warrior doesn't. An average man proceeds in a specific way with things that he knows are true,
and in a different way with things that he knows are not true. If things are said to be true, he acts
and believes in what he does. But if things are said to be untrue, he doesn't care to act, or he
doesn't believe in what he does. A warrior, on the other hand, acts in both instances. If things are
said to be true, he would act in order to do doing. If things are said to be untrue, he still would act
in order to do not-doing. See what I mean?"
The most difficult part about the warrior's way is to realize that the world is a feeling. When one
is not-doing, one is feeling the world, and one feels the world through its lines."
"Not-doing is very
simple but very difficult," he said. "It is not a matter of understanding it but
of mastering it. Seeing, of course, is the final accomplishment of a man of knowledge, and seeing
is attained only when one has stopped the world through the technique of not-doing.
involuntarily. I had not understood what he meant.
"When one does something with people," he said, "the concern should be only with presenting
the case to their bodies (psyche). That's what I've been doing with you so far, letting your body
(psyche) know. Who cares whether or not you understand?"
"Shadows are like
doors, the doors of not-doing. A man of knowledge, for example, can tell
the innermost feelings of men by watching their shadows."
To believe that shadows are just shadows
is doing, he explained. That belief is somehow
stupid. Think about it this way: There is so much more to everything in the world that obviously
there must be more to shadows too. After all, what makes them shadows is merely our doing
"When you first started dreaming you were using my personal power, that's why it was easier,"
he said. "Now you are empty. But you must keep on trying until you have enough power of your
own. You see, dreaming is the not-doing of dreams, and as you progress in your not-
doing you will also progress in dreaming. The trick is not to stop looking for your hands, even if
you don't believe that what you are doing has any meaning. In fact, as I have told you before, a
warrior doesn't need to believe, because as long as he keeps on acting without believing he is
"This is not a matter of trusting anybody. This whole affair is a matter of a warrior's struggle;
and you will keep on struggling, if not under your own power, then perhaps under the impact of a
worthy opponent, or with the help of some allies, like the one which is already following you."
I made a jerky involuntary movement with my right arm. Don Juan said that my body knew
much more than I suspected, because the force that had been pursuing us was to my right.
"During the day shadows are the doors of not-doing," he said. “But at night, since very little
doing prevails in the dark, everything is a shadow, including the allies. I've already told you about
this when I taught you the gait of power."
"Everything I have taught you so far has been an aspect of not-doing," he went on. "A warrior
applies not-doing to everything in the world, and yet I can't tell you more about it than what I
have said today. You must let your own body discover the power and the feeling of not-doing."
"It is stupid for you to scorn the mysteries of the world simply because you know the doing of
scorn," he said with a serious face.
I assured him that I was not scorning anything or anyone, but that I was more nervous and
incompetent than he thought.
"I've always been that way," I said. "And yet I want to change, but I don't know how. I am so
"I already know that you think you are rotten," he said. "That's your doing. Now in order to
affect that doing I am going to recommend that you learn another doing. From now on, and for a
period of eight days, I want you to lie to yourself. Instead of telling yourself the truth, that you are
ugly and rotten and inadequate, you will tell yourself that you are the complete opposite, knowing
that you are lying and that you are absolutely beyond hope."
"But what would be the point of lying like that, don Juan?"
As usual, the end of every
lesson is the dramatic punch line - that the self is normally ensnared in
endless 'doings', and that the real self is obscured by these doings and that unless these are overcome
by not-doing, the real being who is acutely aware of death, cannot be reached.
"It may hook you to another doing and then you may realize that both
doings are lies, unreal, and that to hinge yourself to either one is a waste
of time, because the only thing that is real is the being in you that is going
to die. To arrive at that being is the not-doing of the self."
Chapter 16: The Ring of Power
'Doing' is based upon common
or shared perceptions - and therefore the normal sensory perception
is organized, taught and explained in every culture to it's 'members', and is based upon agreement
between the 'authoritative members' of that society and culture. Most of sensory perception is
uniformly perceived by humans, it is only in the developments in language and concepts peculiar
to that culture that complications begin to arise.
Agreements make a society or
culture more uniformly binding and therefore is powerful in
constructing edifices like cities and technologies. But that also comes at the cost of a loss of
individual autonomy of perception - an autonomous 'ring of power' that everyone is born with
"It's all very simple," he replied. "They were only disguises, because everything we do is in
some way merely a disguise. Everything we do, as I have told you, is a matter of doing. A man of
knowledge could hook himself to everyone's doing and come up with weird things. But they are
not weird, not really. They are weird only to those who are trapped in doing.
"Those four young men and yourself are not aware yet of not-doing, so it was easy to fool all
"But how did you fool us?"
"It won't make sense to you. There is no way for you to understand it."
"Try me, don Juan, please."
"Let's say that when every one of us is born we bring with us a little ring of power. That little
ring is almost immediately put to use. So every one of us is already hooked from birth and our
rings of power are joined to everyone else's. In other words, our rings of power are hooked to the
doing of the world in order to make the world."
'"Give me an example so I could understand it," I said.
"For instance, our rings of power, yours and mine, are hooked right now to the doing in this
room. We are making this room. Our rings of power are spinning this room into being at this very
"Wait, wait," I said. "This room is here by itself. I am not creating it. I have nothing to do with
Don Juan did not seem to be concerned with my argumentative protests. He very calmly
maintained that the room we were in was brought to being and was kept in place because of the
force of everybody's ring of power."
You see," he continued, "every one of us
knows the doing of rooms because, in one way or
another, we have spent much of our lives in rooms. A man of knowledge, on the
other hand, develops another ring of power. I would call it the ring of
not-doing, because it is hooked to not-doing.
With that ring, therefore, he can spin another world."
"Your difficulty is that you haven't yet
developed your extra ring of power and your
body doesn't know not-doing," he said.
"We all have been taught to agree about doing," he said softly.
"You don't have any idea of the power that that agreement brings
with it. But, fortunately, not-doing is equally miraculous, and
"This is your world," he said, pointing to the busy street outside the window. "You are a man
of that world. And out there, in that world, is your hunting ground. There is no way to escape the
doing of our world, so what a warrior does is to turn his world into his hunting ground. As a
hunter, a warrior knows that the world is made to be used. So he uses every bit of it. A warrior is
like a pirate that has no qualms in taking and using anything he wants, except that the warrior
doesn't mind or he doesn't feel insulted when he is used and taken himself.
Chapter 17: A Worthy Opponent
tell you something," he had finally said on that occasion.
"If we wouldn't be tricked,
we would never learn. The same thing happened to me, and it'll happen to anyone. The art of a
benefactor is to take us to the brink. A benefactor can only point the way and trick. I tricked you
before. You remember the way I recaptured your hunter's spirit, don't you? You yourself told me
that hunting made you forget about plants. You were willing to do a lot of things in order to be a
hunter, things you wouldn't have done in order to learn about plants. Now you must do a lot more
in order to survive."
"You're rational, all right," he said fiercely. "And that means you believe that you know a lot
about the world, but do you? Do you really? You have only seen the acts of people. Your
experiences are limited only to what people have done to you or to others. You know nothing
about this mysterious unknown world.
When a warrior encounters his opponent and the opponent is not an ordinary human
being, he must make his stand. That is the only thing that makes him invulnerable."
"What are you saying, don Juan?"
"I'm saying that you have had your third encounter with your worthy opponent. She's
following you around, waiting for a moment of weakness on your part. She almost bagged you
I felt a surge of anxiety and accused him of putting me in unnecessary danger. I complained
that the game he was playing with me was cruel.
"It would be cruel if this would have happened to an average man," he said. "But the instant
one begins to live like a warrior, one is no longer ordinary. Besides, I didn't find you a worthy
opponent because I want to play with you, or tease you, or annoy you. A worthy opponent might
spur you on; under the influence of an opponent like "la Catalina" you may have to make use of
everything I have taught you. You don't have any other alternative."
"Everything you did that night was clumsy," he said. "First of all, you went to the party to kill
time, as though there is any time to kill. That weakened you."
"You mean I shouldn't go to parties?"
"No, I don't mean that. You may go any place you wish, but if you do, you must assume the
full responsibility for that act. A warrior lives his life strategically. He would attend a party or a
reunion like that only if his strategy calls for it. That means, of course, that he would be in total
control and would perform all the acts that he deems necessary."
He looked at me fixedly and smiled, then covered his face and chuckled softly.
"You are in a terrible bind," he said. "Your opponent is on your trail and for the first time in
your life you cannot afford to act helter-skelter. This time you will have to learn a
totally different doing, the doing of strategy. Think of it this way. If you survive
the onslaughts of "la Catalina" you will have to thank her someday for having forced you to
change your doing."
"What a terrible way of putting it!" I exclaimed. "What if I don't survive?"
"A warrior never indulges in thoughts like that," he said. "When he has
to act with his fellow men, a warrior follows the doing of strategy,
and in that doing there are no victories or defeats. In that doing there
are only actions."
I asked him what the doing of strategy entailed.
"It entails that one is not at the mercy of people," he replied. "At that party, for instance, you
were a clown, not because it served your purposes to be a clown, but because you placed yourself
at the mercy of those people. You never had any control and thus you had to run away from
"What should I have done?"
"Not go there at all, or else go there to perform a specific act.
"After horsing around with the Mexicans you were weak and la Catalina used that
opportunity. So she placed herself in the road to wait for you.
Your body knew that something was out of place, though, and yet you spoke to her.
whispered in my ear that it was meaningless to say anything, and that
in order to survive la
Catalina's onslaughts I had to make use of everything he had taught me.
Part 2: Journey to Ixtlan
Chapter 18. The Sorcerer's Ring of Power
Don Genaro had clowned in front of me before, and every time he had done it don
asserted that I had been on the brink of seeing. My failure to see was a result of my insistence on
trying to explain every one of don Genaro's actions from a rational point of view.
The demonstrations done by don Genaro so that CC can 'see', work only partially. DJ and DG conclude
that CC is still too 'tight', that is, too tied up to his rationality to be able to cross the critical threshold
required for 'seeing' and so they gang up and perform an elaborate sorcerer's trick with CC by
making his car 'disappear', by 'hooking' CC's perception to their 'doings'. DJ reminds CC again and
again that a warrior must be 'fluid' enough and aware enough so that he is able to grasp the
opportunity that can pop up before him at any time.
"There is something you ought to be aware of by now," don Juan said. "I call it the cubic
centimeter of chance. All of us, whether or not we are warriors, have a cubic centimeter of chance
that pops out in front of our eyes from time to time. The difference between an average man and a
warrior is that the warrior is aware of this, and one of his tasks is to be alert, deliberately waiting,
so that when his cubic centimeter pops out he has the necessary speed, the prowess to pick it up.
Chance, good luck, personal power, or whatever you may call it, is a peculiar state of affairs.
It is like a very small stick that comes out in front of us and invites us to pluck it. Usually we are
too busy, or too preoccupied, or just too stupid and lazy to realize that that is our cubic centimeter
of luck. A warrior, on the other hand, is always alert and tight and has the spring, the gumption
necessary to grab it."
Chapter 19: Stopping the World
By now DJ and DG have given enough demonstrations and made CC do enough experiments for CC to
have learned to make his perception shift at will in order to 'see', that is, to have become a seer and sorcerer.
However CC wants to have everything explained in terms of his normal rationality, which to DJ is just
indulgence in CC's old ways. The critical threshold of transformation has not yet been attained.
DJ then issues an ultimatum -
CC must on his own go into the wilderness and stay there until he
is capable of 'seeing' by 'stopping the world'.
You are very clever, he finally said. You go back to where you have always been. This
time you are finished though. You have no place to go back to. I will not explain anything to you
any more. Whatever Genaro did to you yesterday he did it to your body (psyche), so let your
body (psyche) decide what's what.
Don Juan's tone was friendly but unusually detached and that made me
feel an overwhelming
loneliness. I expressed my feelings of sadness. He smiled. His fingers gently clasped the top of
"We both are beings who are going to die. There is no more time for what we used to do.
Now you must employ all the not-doing I have taught you and stop the world.
He clasped my hand again. His touch was firm and friendly; it was
like a reassurance that he
was concerned and had affection for me, and at the same time it gave me the impression of an
"This is my gesture for you," he said, holding the grip he had on my hand for an instant. "Now
you must go by yourself into those friendly mountains."
He pointed with his chin to the distant range of mountains towards the southeast.
He said that I had to remain there until my body told me to quit and then return to his house.
He let me know that he did not want me to say anything or to wait any longer by shoving me
gently in the direction of my car.
CC goes to the indicated
mountains and after spending one day without anything happening, the next
day has an experience in which he sees the 'lines of the world'. This is the first occasion that CC is able
to have an extraordinary experience without the presence of DJ as also without the use of power plants.
"Your body understood
for the first time. But you failed to recognize that it was not a coyote
to begin with and that it certainly was not talking the way you and I talk."
"But the coyote really talked, don Juan!"
"Now look who is talking like an idiot. After all these years of learning you should know
better. Yesterday you stopped the world and you might have even seen. A magical being told you
something and your body was capable of understanding it because the world had collapsed."
"The world was like it is today, don Juan."
"No, it wasn't. Today the coyotes do not tell you anything, and you cannot see the lines of the
world. Yesterday you did all that simply because something had stopped in you."
"What was the thing that stopped in me?"
"What stopped inside you yesterday was what people have been telling you the world is like.
You see, people tell us from the time we are born that the world is such and such and so and so,
and naturally we have no choice but to see the world the way people have been telling us it is.
"Yesterday the world became as sorcerers tell you it is," he went on. "In that world coyotes
talk and so do deer, as I once told you, and so do rattlesnakes and trees and all other living beings.
But what I want you to learn is seeing. Perhaps you know now that seeing happens only when one
sneaks between the worlds, the world of ordinary people and the world of sorcerers. You are now
smack in the middle point between the two. Yesterday you believed the coyote talked to you. Any
sorcerer who doesn't see would believe the same, but one who sees knows that to believe that is to
be pinned down in the realm of sorcerers. By the same token, not to believe that coyotes talk is to
be pinned down in the realm of ordinary men."
"Do you mean, don Juan, that neither the world of ordinary men nor the world of sorcerers is
"They are real worlds. They could act upon you. For example, you could have asked that
coyote about anything you wanted to know and it would have been compelled to give you an
answer. The only sad part is that coyotes are not reliable. They are tricksters. It is your fate not to
have a dependable animal companion."
Don Juan explained that the coyote was going to be my companion for life and that in the
world of sorcerers to have a coyote friend was not a desirable state of affairs. He said that it
would have been ideal for me to have talked to a rattlesnake, since they were stupendous
"If I were you," he added, "I would never trust a coyote. But you are different and you may
even become a coyote sorcerer."
"What is a coyote sorcerer?"
"One who draws a lot of things from his coyote brothers."
I wanted to keep on asking questions but he made a gesture to stop me.
"You have seen the lines of the world," he said. "You have seen a luminous being. You are
now almost ready to meet the ally. Of course you know that the man you saw in the bushes was
the ally. You heard its roar like the sound of a jet plane. He'll be waiting for you at the edge of a
plain, a plain I will take you to myself.
Chapter 20: Journey To Ixtlan
The next day DJ, DG, and
CC take another trip to the same mountains so that CC can tackle the ally
he has seen the day earlier. Here DG tells the story of his encounter and wrestling with his ally and
his 'journey' back to his home in Ixtlan. He clearly indicates that after taming his ally, everything
has changed, the whole world has changed, and everything near and dear to him have been left
behind, never to be met again.
Suddenly I realized
that I had an ally and that there was nothing that the phantoms could do
to me. I followed the boy down the trail. Other phantoms lurched out swiftly and tried to make
me trip over the precipices, but my will was stronger than they were. They must have sensed that,
because they stopped pestering me. After a while they simply stood by my path; from time to
time some of them would leap towards me but I stopped them with my will. And then they quit
bothering me altogether."
Don Genaro remained quiet for a long time.
Don Juan looked at me.
"What happened after that, don Genaro?" I asked.
"I kept on walking," he said factually.
It seemed that he had finished his tale and there was nothing he wanted to add.
I asked him why was the fact that they offered him food a clue to their being phantoms.
He did not answer. I probed further and asked whether it was a custom among Mazatec
Indians to deny that they had any food, or to be heavily concerned with matters of food.
He said that the tone of their voices, their eagerness to lure him out, and the manner in which
the phantoms talked about food were the clues - and that he knew that because his ally was
helping him. He asserted that by himself alone he would have never noticed those peculiarities.
"I said that they were no longer real. After my encounter with the ally nothing was real any
We were quiet for a long time.
"What was the final outcome of that experience, don Genaro?" I asked.
"I mean, when and how did you finally reach Ixtlan?"
Both of them broke into laughter at once.
"So that's the final outcome for you," don Juan remarked. "Let's put it this way then. There
was no final outcome to Genaro's journey. There will never be any final outcome. Genaro is still
on his way to Ixtlan!"
Don Genaro glanced at me with piercing eyes and then turned his head to look into the
distance, towards the south.
"I will never reach Ixtlan," he said.
His voice was firm but soft, almost a murmur.
"Yet in my feelings... in my feelings sometimes I think I'm just one step from reaching it. Yet I
never will. In my journey I don't even find the familiar landmarks I used to know. Nothing is any
longer the same."
Don Juan and don Genaro looked at each other. There saw something so sad about their look.
"In my journey to Ixtlan I find only phantom travelers," he said softly.
I looked at don Juan. I had not understood what don Genaro had meant.
"Everyone Genaro finds on his way to Ixtlan is only an ephemeral being," don Juan explained.
"Take you, for instance. You are a phantom. Your feelings and your eagerness are those of
people. That's why he says that he encounters only phantom travelers on his journey to Ixtlan."
I suddenly realized that don Genaro's journey was a metaphor.
"Your journey to Ixtlan is not real then," I said.
"It is real!" don Genaro interjected. "The travelers are not real."
He pointed to don Juan with a nod of his head and said emphatically, "This is the only one
who is real. The world is real only when I am with this one."
Don Juan smiled.
"Genaro was telling his story to you," don Juan said, "because yesterday you stopped the
world, and he thinks that you also saw, but you are such a fool that you don't know it yourself. I
keep on telling him that you are weird, and that sooner or later you will see. At any rate, in your
next meeting with the ally, if there is a next time for you, you will have to wrestle with it and
tame it. If you survive the shock, which I'm sure you will, since you're strong and have been
living like a warrior, you will find yourself alive in an unknown land. Then, as is natural to all of
us, the first thing you will want to do is to start on your way back to Los Angeles. But there is no
way to go back to Los Angeles. What you left there is lost forever. By then, of course, you will be
a sorcerer, but that's no help; at a time like that what's important to all of us is the fact that
everything we love or hate or wish for has been left behind. Yet the feelings in a man do not die
or change, and the sorcerer starts on his way back home knowing that he will never reach it,
knowing that no power on earth, not even his death, will deliver him to the place, the things, the
people he loved. That's what Genaro told you."
Don Juan's explanation was like a catalyst; the full impact of don Genaro's story hit me
suddenly when I began to link the tale to my own life.
"What about the people I love?" I asked don Juan. "What would happen to them?"
"They would all be left behind," he said.
That is the feeling
Genaro is talking about," don Juan said. "In order to be a sorcerer a man
must be passionate. A passionate man has earthly belongings and things dear to him - if nothing
else, just the path where he walks.
For an instant
I sensed a wave of agony and an indescribable loneliness engulfing the three of
us. I looked at don Genaro and I knew that, being a passionate man, he must have had so many
ties of the heart, so many things he cared for and left behind. I had the clear sensation that at that
moment the power of his recollection was about to landslide and that don Genaro was on the
verge of weeping.
I hurriedly moved my eyes away. Don Genaro's passion, his supreme loneliness, made me cry.
I looked at don Juan. He was gazing at me.
"Only as a warrior can one survive the path of knowledge," he said.
"Because the art of a warrior is to balance the terror of being a man
with the wonder of being a man."
"If you don't feel that this is your time yet, don't keep your appointment," he went on.
"Nothing is gained by forcing the issue. If you want to survive you must be crystal clear and
deadly sure of yourself."
This last story of the book is profound because of the effect it has - that of nostalgia and loneliness.
A warrior on the path of knowledge, after having crossed a critical threshold, is left all alone in the world.
This produces a strange mix of intense emotions - both terrifying in their implications as well as triggering
an acute sense of wonder. The art of the warrior then is to find the point where these emotive forces
can be fully present and balanced.
This marks the end of Book 3