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The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda

This book records the experiences of an anthropology student who becomes the apprentice of don Juan, a Yaqui indian "man of knowledge" who is also a "diablero", a black sorcerer.  It is a profoundly disturbing book since it opens up areas and ideas we usually dismiss or deny.  Don Juan, over a period of five years, teaches the author a little of his knowledge. He teaches through giving his apprentice various psycho-active plants: peyote, datura, and a mixture of psilocybin mushrooms, genista canariensis, and other plants. Each of these plants has its own way of teaching, its own demands and its own kind of power.  For those of us who thought we understood psychedelic effects this book reveals the rudimentary state of our knowledge.  For those of us who have dismissed magic as a combination of hypnotism and stage effects we are confronted with powerful and effective magic which seems irrefutable.

Don Juan himself appears as a powerful, indecipherable, wise man whose knowledge is both extensive and alien to our own. He offers to each of us the possibility of dealing with other realities, but he makes it clear that all these ways are dangerous, difficult and once entered, cannot be put aside as simply another experience.

The goal of his teaching is partially expressed as follows:

The particular thing to learn is how to get to the crack between the worlds and how to enter the other world. There is a crack between the two worlds, the world of the diableros and the world of living men. There is a place where these two worlds overlap. The crack is there.  It opens and closes like a door in the wind. To get there a man must exercise his will.  He must, I should say, develop an indomitable desire for it, a single-minded dedication.  But he must do it without the help of any power or any man...",

"Don't get me wrong, Don Juan," I protested. "I want to have an ally, but I also want to know everything I can.  You yourself have said that knowledge is power."

"No!" he said emphatically. "Power rests on the kind of knowledge one holds. What is the sense of knowing things that are useless?"

He looked at me a long time and laughed. He said that learning was not only a waste, but stupidity, because learning was the most difficult task a man could undertake. He asked me to remember the time I had tried to find my spot, and how I wanted to find it without doing any work because I had expected him to hand out all the information. If he had done so, he said, I would never have learned.  But, knowing how difficult it was to find my spot, and above all, knowing that it existed, would give of confidence. He said that while I remained rooted to my "good spot" nothing could cause me bodily harm, because I had the assurance that at that particular spot I was at my very best. I had the power to shove off anything that might be harmful to me.  if however, he had told me where it was, I would never had the confidence needed to claim it as true knowledge.  Thus knowledge was indeed power.

Once a man has vanquished fear, he is free from it for the rest of his
life because instead of fear, he has acquired clarity of mind which erases fear. By then a man knows his desires; he knows how to satisfy those desires. He can anticipate the new steps of learning, and a sharp clarity surrounds everything. The man feels that nothing is concealed.

And thus he has encountered his second enemy: Clarity!  That clarity of mind, which is so hard to obtain, dispels fear, but also blinds.

"I say it is useless to waste your life on one path, especially if that path has no heart."

"But how do you know when a path has no heart, Don Juan?"

"Before you embark on it you ask the question, Does this path have a
heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose
another path."

"But how will I know for sure whether a Path has a heart or not?"

Anybody would know that. The trouble is nobody asks the- question; and when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path."

"How should I proceed to ask the question properly, don Juan?"

"Just ask it."

"I mean, is there a proper method, so I would not lie to myself and
believe the answer is yes when it really is no?"

"Why would you lie?"

"Perhaps because at the moment the path is pleasant and enjoyable."

"That is nonsense. A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; ft does not make you work at liking it.

You have the vanity to believe you live in two worlds, but that is only your vanity. There is but one single world for us. We are men, and must follow the world of men contentedly.

"But is this business of the dog and me pissing on each other true?" "It was not a dog!  How many times do I have to tell you that? This is the only way to understand it. It's the only way. - It was 'he' who played with you."    .

"Let's put it another way, Don Juan. What I meant to say is that if I had tied myself to a rock with a heavy chain I would have flown just the same, because my body had nothing to do with my flying.' Don looked at me incredulously. "If you tie yourself to a rock," he said, "I'm afraid you will have to fly holding the rock with its heavy chain."

ISBN: 0520256387

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