Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan, by Carlos Castan

Every person is a philosopher by nature; however, we are quickly dissuaded from this delightful activity by those who call philosophy impractical. But there is nothing more practical than knowing who you are and what you think. Try it sometime.

Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan, by Carlos Castan

Postby admin » Fri Apr 27, 2018 9:10 pm

Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan
by Carlos Castaneda
© 1972, by Carlos Castaneda




Table of Contents:

1. Reaffirmations from the World Around Us
2. Erasing Personal History
3. Losing Self-Importance
4. Death Is an Adviser
5. Assuming Responsibility
6. Becoming a Hunter
7. Being Inaccessible
8. Disrupting the Routines of Life
9. The Last Battle on Earth
10. Becoming Accessible to Power
11. The Mood of a Warrior
12. A Battle of Power
13. A Warrior's Last Stand
14. The Gait of Power
15. Not-Doing
16. The Ring of Power
17. A Worthy Opponent
18. The Sorcerer's Ring of Power
19. Stopping the World
20. Journey to Ixtlan
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Re: Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan, by Carlos Ca

Postby admin » Fri Apr 27, 2018 9:14 pm

"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 learn to 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."

-- Don Juan

"We are incredibly fortunate to have Carlos Castaneda's books. Taken together, they form a work which is among the best that the science of anthropology has produced. The story they tell is so good, and the descriptions so vivid, that I was utterly fascinated as I read."

-- Paul Riesman, The New York Times Book Review

"Staggeringly beautiful reading. Itself timeless, Journey to Ixtlan is one of the important statements of our time."

-- Barry Corbert, Book World


ON SATURDAY, MAY 22, 1971, I went to Sonora, Mexico, to see don Juan Matus, a Yaqui Indian sorcerer, with whom I had been associated since 1961. I thought that my visit on that day was going to be in no way different from the scores of times I had gone to see him in the ten years I had been his apprentice. The events that took place on that day and on the following days, however, were momentous to me. On that occasion my apprenticeship came to an end. This was not an arbitrary withdrawal on my part but a bona fide termination.

I have already presented the case of my apprenticeship in two previous works: The Teachings of Don Juan and A Separate Reality.

My basic assumption in both books has been that the articulation points in learning to be a sorcerer were the states of nonordinary reality produced by the ingestion of psychotropic plants.

In this respect don Juan was an expert in the use of three such plants: Datura inoxia, commonly known as jimson weed; Lophophora williamsii, known as peyote; and a hallucinogenic mushroom of the genus Psilocybe.

My perception of the world through the effects of those psychotropics 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. For the purpose of avoiding any misunderstandings about my work with don Juan I would like to clarify the following issues at this point.

So far I have made no attempt whatsoever to place don Juan in a cultural milieu. The fact that he considers himself to be a Yaqui Indian does not mean that his knowledge of sorcery is known to or practiced by the Yaqui Indians in general.

All the conversations that don Juan and I have had throughout the apprenticeship were conducted in Spanish, and only because of his thorough command of the language was I capable of obtaining complex explanations of his system of beliefs.

I have maintained the practice of referring to that system as sorcery and I have also maintained the practice of referring to don Juan as a sorcerer, because these were categories he himself used.

Since I was capable of writing down most of what he said in the beginning of the apprenticeship, and every thing that was said in the later phases of it, I gathered voluminous field notes. In order to render those notes readable and still preserve the dramatic unity of don Juan's teachings, I have had to edit them, but what I have deleted is, I believe, immaterial to the points I want to raise.

In the case of my work with don Juan I have limited my efforts solely to viewing him as a sorcerer and to acquiring membership in his knowledge.

For the purpose of presenting my argument I must first explain the basic premise of sorcery as don Juan presented it to me. He said that for a sorcerer, the world of everyday life is not real, or out there, as we believe it is. For a sorcerer, reality, or the world we all know, is only a description.

For the sake of validating this premise don Juan concentrated the best of his efforts into leading me to a genuine conviction that what I held in mind as the world at hand was merely a description of the world; a description that had been pounded into me from the moment I was born.

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 dis-belief, 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."

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 to fully realize its scope and importance as one of the main propositions of don Juan's knowledge.

Don Juan and I had been talking about different things in a relaxed and unstructured manner. I told him about a friend of mine and his dilemma with his nine-year-old son. The child, who had been living with the mother for the past four years, was then living with my friend, and the problem was what to do with him? According to my friend, the child was a misfit in school; he lacked concentration and was not interested in anything. He was given to tantrums, disruptive behavior, and to running away from home.

"Your friend certainly does have a problem," don Juan said, laughing.

I wanted to keep on telling him all the "terrible" things the child had done, but he interrupted me.

"There is no need to say any more about that poor little boy," he said.

"There is no need for you or for me to regard his actions in our thoughts one way or another."

His manner was abrupt and his tone was firm, but then he smiled.

"What can my friend do?" I asked.

"The worst thing he could do is to force the child to agree with him," don Juan said.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that that child shouldn't be spanked or scared by his father when he doesn't behave the way he wants him to."

"How can he teach him anything if he isn't firm with him?"

"Your friend should let someone else spank the child."

"He can't let anyone else touch his little boy!" I said, surprised at his suggestion.

Don Juan seemed to enjoy my reaction and giggled.

"Your friend is not a warrior," he said. "If he were, he would know that the worst thing one can do is to confront human beings bluntly."

"What does a warrior do, don Juan?"

"A warrior proceeds strategically."

"I still don't understand what you mean."

"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."

I asked him to explain his statements.

"If I were your friend," don Juan said, "I would start by hiring someone to spank the little guy. I would go to skid row and hire the worst-looking man I could find."

"To scare a little boy?"

"Not just to scare a little boy, you fool. That little fellow must be stopped, and being beaten by his father won't do it.

"If one wants to stop our fellow men one must always be outside the circle that presses them. That way one can always direct the pressure."

The idea was preposterous, but somehow it was appealing to me.

Don Juan was resting his chin on his left palm. His left arm was propped against his chest on a wooden box that served as a low table. His eyes were closed but his eyeballs moved. I felt he was looking at me through his eyelids. The thought scared me.

"Tell me more about what my friend should do with his little boy," I said.

"Tell him to go to skid row and very carefully select an ugly-looking derelict," he went on. "Tell him to get a young one. One who still has some strength left in him."

Don Juan then delineated a strange strategy. I was to instruct my friend to have the man follow him or wait for him at a place where he would go with his son. The man, in response to a prearranged cue to be given after any objectionable behavior on the part of the child, was supposed to leap from a hiding place, pick the child up, and spank the living daylights out of him.

"After the man scares him, your friend must help the little boy regain his confidence, in any way he can. If he follows this procedure three or four times I assure you that that child will feel differently toward everything. He will change his idea of the world."

"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.

"When that boy is more contained you must tell your friend to do one last thing for him. He must find some way to get to a dead child, perhaps in a hospital, or at the office of a doctor. He must take his son there and show the dead child to him. He must let him touch the corpse once with his left hand, on any place except the corpse's belly. After the boy does that he will be renewed. The world will never be the same for him."

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 world."

"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 few months after that conversation don Juan accomplished what he had set out to do, to teach me to "stop the world."

That monumental event in my life compelled me to reexamine in detail my work of ten years. It became evident to me that my original assumption about the role of psychotropic plants was erroneous. They were not the essential feature of the sorcerer's description of the world, but were only an aid to cement, so to speak, parts of the description which I had been incapable of perceiving otherwise. My insistence on holding on to my standard version of reality rendered me almost deaf and blind to don Juan's aims. Therefore, it was simply my lack of sensitivity which had fostered their use.

In reviewing the totality of my field notes I became aware that don Juan had given me the bulk of the new description at the very beginning of our association in what he called "techniques for stopping the world." I had discarded those parts of my field notes in my earlier works because they did not pertain to the use of psychotropic plants. I have now rightfully reinstated them in the total scope of don Juan's teachings and they comprise the first seventeen chapters of this work. The last three chapters are the field notes covering the events that culminated in my "stopping the world."

In summing up I can say that when I began the apprenticeship, there was another reality, that is to say, there was a sorcery description of the world, which I did not know.

Don Juan, as a sorcerer and a teacher, taught me that description. The ten-year apprenticeship I have undergone consisted, therefore, in setting up that unknown reality by unfolding its description, adding increasingly more complex parts as I went along.

The termination of the apprenticeship meant that I had learned a new description of the world in a convincing and authentic manner and thus I had become capable of eliciting a new perception of the world, which matched its new description. In other words, I had gained membership.

Don Juan stated that in order to arrive at "seeing" one first had to "stop the world." "Stopping the world" was indeed an appropriate rendition of certain states of awareness in which the reality of everyday life is altered because the flow of interpretation, which ordinarily runs uninterruptedly, has been stopped by a set of circumstances alien to that flow. In my case the set of circumstances alien to my normal flow of interpretations was the sorcery description of the world. 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 be questioned.

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."

My contention is that all these steps can only be understood in terms of the description to which they belong; and since it was a description that he endeavored to give me from the beginning, I must then let his teachings be the only source of entrance into it. Thus, I have left don Juan's words to speak for themselves.

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Re: Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan, by Carlos Ca

Postby admin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:30 am


"Stopping the World"



"I understand you know a great deal about plants, sir," I said to the old Indian in front of me.

A friend of mine had just put us in contact and left the room and we had introduced ourselves to each other. The old man had told me that his name was Juan Matus.

"Did your friend tell you that?" he asked casually.

"Yes, he did."

"I pick plants, or rather, they let me pick them," he said softly.

We were in the waiting room of a bus depot in Arizona. I asked him in very formal Spanish if he would allow me to question him. I said, "Would the gentleman [caballero] permit me to ask some questions?"

"Caballero," which is derived from the word "caballo," horse, originally meant horseman or a nobleman on horseback.

He looked at me inquisitively.

"I'm a horseman without a horse," he said with a big smile and then he added, "I've told you that my name is Juan Matus."

I liked his smile. I thought that, obviously he was a man that could appreciate directness and I decided to boldly tackle him with a request.

I told him I was interested in collecting and studying medicinal plants. I said that my special interest was the uses of the hallucinogenic cactus, peyote, which I had studied at length at the university in Los Angeles.

I thought that my presentation was very serious. I was very contained and sounded perfectly credible to myself.

The old man shook his head slowly, and I, encouraged by his silence, added that it would no doubt be profitable for us to get together and talk about peyote.

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 think coherently.

I became thoroughly intrigued with that stupendous look and decided to search for him.

I prepared myself for six months, after that first meeting, reading up on the uses of peyote among the American Indians, especially about the peyote cult of the Indians of the Plains. I became acquainted with every work available, and when I felt I was ready I went back to Arizona.

Saturday, December 17, 1960

I found his house after making long and taxing inquiries among the local Indians. It was early afternoon when I arrived and parked in front of it. I saw him sitting on a wooden milk crate. He seemed to recognize me and greeted me as I got out of my car.

We exchanged social courtesies for a while and then, in plain terms, I confessed that I had been very devious with him the first time we had met. I had boasted that I knew a great deal about peyote, when in reality I knew nothing about it. He stared at me. His eyes were very kind.

I told him that for six months I had been reading to prepare myself for our meeting and that this time I really knew a great deal more.

He laughed. Obviously, there was something in my statement which was funny to him. He was laughing at me and I felt a bit confused and offended.

He apparently noticed my discomfort and assured me that although I had had good intentions there was really no way to prepare myself for our meeting.

I wondered if it would have been proper to ask whether that statement had any hidden meaning, but I did not; yet he seemed to be attuned to my feelings and proceeded to explain what he had meant. He said that my endeavors reminded him of a story about some people a certain king had persecuted and killed once upon a time. He said that in the story the persecuted people were indistinguishable from their persecutors, except that they insisted on pronouncing certain words in a peculiar manner proper only to them; that flaw, of course, was the giveaway. The king posted roadblocks at critical points where an official would ask every man passing by to pronounce a key word. Those who could pronounce it the way the king pronounced it would live, but those who could not were immediately put to death. The point of the story was that one day a young man decided to prepare himself for passing the roadblock by learning to pronounce the test word just as the king liked it.

Don Juan said, with a broad smile, that in fact it took the young man "six months" to master such a pronunciation. And then came the day of the great test; the young man very confidently came upon the roadblock and waited for the official to ask him to pronounce the word.

At that point don Juan very dramatically stopped his recounting and looked at me. His pause was very studied and seemed a bit corny to me, but I played along. I had heard the theme of the story before. It had to do with Jews in Germany and the way one could tell who was a Jew by the way they pronounced certain words. I also knew the punch line: the young man was going to get caught because the official had forgotten the key word and asked him to pronounce another word which was very similar but which the young man had not learned to say correctly.

Don Juan seemed to be waiting for me to ask what happened, so I did.

"What happened to him?" I asked, trying to sound naive and interested in the story.

"The young man, who was truly foxy," he said, "realized that the official had forgotten the key word, and before the man could say anything else he confessed that he had prepared himself for six months."

He made another pause and looked at me with a mischievous glint in his eyes. This time he had turned the tables on me. The young man's Confession was a new element and I no longer knew how the story would end.

"Well, what happened then?" I asked, truly interested.

"The young man was killed instantly, of course," he said and broke into a roaring laughter.

I liked very much the way he had entrapped my interest; above all I liked the way he had linked that story to my own case. In fact, he seemed to have constructed it to fit me. He was making fun of me in a very subtle and artistic manner. I laughed with him.

Afterwards I told him that no matter how stupid I sounded I was really interested in learning something about plants.

"I like to walk a great deal," he said.

I thought he was deliberately changing the topic of conversation to avoid answering me. I did not want to antagonize him with my insistence.

He asked me if I wanted to go with him on a short hike in the desert. I eagerly told him that I would love to walk in the desert.

"This is no picnic," he said in a tone of warning.

I told him that I wanted very seriously to work with him. I said that I needed information, any kind of information, on the uses of medicinal herbs, and that I was willing to pay him for his time and effort.

"You'll be working for me," I said. "And I'll pay you wages."

"How much would you pay me?" he asked.

I detected a note of greed in his voice.

"Whatever you think is appropriate," I said.

"Pay me for my time ... with your time," he said.

I thought he was a most peculiar fellow. I told him I did not understand what he meant. He replied that there was nothing to say about plants, thus to take my money would be unthinkable for him.

He looked at me piercingly.

"What are you doing in your pocket?" he asked, frowning. "Are you playing with your whanger?"

He was referring to my taking notes on a minute pad inside the enormous pockets of my windbreaker.

When I told him what I was doing he laughed heartily.

I said that I did not want to disturb him by writing in front of him.

"If you want to write, write," he said. "You don't disturb me."

We hiked in the surrounding desert until it was almost dark. He did not show me any plants nor did he talk about them at all. We stopped for a moment to rest by some large bushes.

"Plants are very peculiar things," he said without looking at me. "They are alive and they feel."

At the very moment he made that statement a strong gust of wind shook the desert chaparral around us. The bushes made a rattling noise.

"Do you hear that?" he asked me, putting his right hand to his ear as if he were aiding his hearing. "The leaves and the wind are agreeing with me."

I laughed. The friend who had put us in contact had already told me to watch out, because the old man was very eccentric. I thought the "agreement with the leaves" was one of his eccentricities.

We walked for a while longer but he still did not show me any plants, nor did he pick any of them. He simply breezed through the bushes touching them gently. Then he came to a halt and sat down on a rock and told me to rest and look around.

I insisted on talking. Once more I let him know that I wanted very much to learn about plants, especially peyote. I pleaded with him to become my informant in exchange for some sort of monetary reward.

"You don't have to pay me," he said. "You can ask me anything you want. I will tell you what I know and then I will tell you what to do with it."

He asked me if I agreed with the arrangement. I was delighted. Then he added a cryptic statement: "Perhaps there is nothing to learn about plants, because there is nothing to say about them."

I did not understand what he had said or what he had meant by it.

"What did you say?" I asked.

He repeated the statement three times and then the whole area was shaken by the roar of an Air Force jet flying low.

"There! The world has just agreed with me," he said, putting his left hand to his ear.

I found him very amusing. His laughter was contagious.

"Are you from Arizona, don Juan?" I asked, in an effort to keep the conversation centered around his being my informant.

He looked at me and nodded affirmatively. His eyes seemed to be tired. I could see the white underneath his pupils.

"Were you born in this locality?"

He nodded his head again without answering me. It seemed to be an affirmative gesture, but it also seemed to be the nervous headshake of a person who is thinking.

"And where are you from yourself?" he asked.

"I come from South America," I said.

"That's a big place. Do you come from all of it?"

His eyes were piercing again as he looked at me.

I began to explain the circumstances of my birth, but he interrupted me.

"We are alike in this respect," he said. "I live here now but I'm really a Yaqui from Sonora."

"Is that so! I myself come from"

He did not let me finish.

"I know, I know," he said. "You are who you are, from wherever you are, as I am a Yaqui from Sonora."

His eyes were very shiny and his laughter was strangely unsettling. He made me feel as if he had caught me in a lie. I experienced a peculiar sensation of guilt. I had the feeling he knew something I did not know or did not want to tell.

My strange embarrassment grew. He must have noticed it, for he stood up and asked me if I wanted to go eat in a restaurant in town.

Walking back to his home and then driving into town made me feel better, but I was not quite relaxed. I somehow felt threatened, although I could not pinpoint the reason.

I wanted to buy him some beer in the restaurant. He said that he never drank, not even beer. I laughed to myself. I did not believe him; the friend who had put us in contact had told me that "the old man was plastered out of his mind most of the time." I really did not mind if he was lying to me about not drinking. I liked him; there was something very soothing about his person.

I must have had a look of doubt on my face, for he then went on to explain that he used to drink in his youth, but that one day he simply dropped it.

"People hardly ever realize that we can cut anything from our lives, any time, just like that." He snapped his fingers.

"Do you think that one can stop smoking or drinking that easily?" I asked.

"Sure!" he said with great conviction. "Smoking and drinking are nothing. Nothing at all if we want to drop them."

At that very moment the water that was boiling in the coffee percolator made a loud perking sound.

"Hear that!" don Juan exclaimed with a shine in his eyes. "The boiling water agrees with me."

Then he added after a pause, "A man can get agreements from everything around him."

At that crucial instant the coffee percolator made a truly obscene gurgling sound.

He looked at the percolator and softly said, "Thank you," nodded his head, and then broke into a roaring laughter.

I was taken aback. His laughter was a bit too loud, but I was genuinely amused by it all.

My first real session with my "informant" ended then. He said goodbye at the door of the restaurant. I told him I had to visit some friends and that I would like to see him again at the end of the following week.

"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.

I ran after him and asked him if he would mind my bringing a camera with me to take pictures of him and his house.

"That's out of the question," he said with a frown.

"How about a tape recorder? Would you mind that?"

"I'm afraid there's no possibility of that either."

I became annoyed and began to fret. I said I saw no logical reason for his refusal.

Don Juan shook his head negatively.

"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."

"What do you. ..?"

He interrupted me with a movement of his hand and walked backwards a few steps.

"Be sure to come back," he said softly and waved good bye.
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Re: Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan, by Carlos Ca

Postby admin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:33 am


Thursday, December 22, 1960

Don Juan was sitting on the floor, by the door of his house, with his back against the wall. He turned over a wooden milk crate and asked me to sit down and make myself at home. I offered him some cigarettes. I had brought a carton of them. He said he did not smoke but he accepted the gift. We talked about the coldness of the desert nights and other ordinary topics of conversation.

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.

I had prepared some genealogy and kinship charts that I wanted to fill out with his help. I had also compiled from the ethnographic literature, a long list of culture traits that were purported to belong to the Indians of the area. I wanted to go through the list with him and mark all the items that were familiar to him.

I began with the kinship charts.

"What did you call your father?" I asked.

"I called him Dad," he said with a very serious face.

I felt a little bit annoyed, but I proceeded on the assumption that he had not understood.

I showed him the chart and explained that one space was for the father and another space was for the mother. I gave as an example the different words used in English and in Spanish for father and mother.

I thought that perhaps I should have taken mother first.

"What did you call your mother?" I asked.

"I called her Mom," he replied in a naive tone.

"I mean what other words did you use to call your father and mother? How did you call them?" I said, trying to be patient and polite.

He scratched his head and looked at me with a stupid expression.

"Golly!" he said. "You got me there. Let me think."

After a moment's hesitation he seemed to remember something and I got ready to write.

"Well," he said, as if he were involved in serious thought, "how else did I call them? 1 called them Hey, hey, Dad! Hey, hey, Mom!"

I laughed against my desire. His expression was truly comical and at that moment I did not know whether he was a preposterous old man pulling my leg or whether he was really a simpleton. Using all the patience I had, I explained to him that these were very serious questions and that it was very important for my work to fill out the forms. I tried to make him understand the idea of a genealogy and personal history.

"What were the names of your father and mother?" I asked.

He looked at me with clear kind eyes.

"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 penetrating.

"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. I reminded him that he had assured me that it was all right to ask him questions. He reiterated that he did not mind at all.

"I don't have personal history any more," he said and looked at me probingly. "I dropped it one day when I felt it was no longer necessary."

I stared at him, trying to detect the hidden meanings of his words.

"How can one drop one's personal history?" I asked in an argumentative mood.

"One must first have the desire to drop it," he said. "And then one must proceed harmoniously to chop it off, little by little."

"Why should anyone have such a desire?" I exclaimed.

I had a terribly strong attachment to my personal history. My family roots were deep. I honestly felt that without them my life had no continuity or purpose.

"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 humor 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 about you."

Don Juan said that everybody that knew me had an idea about me, and that I kept feeding the 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."

Suddenly the idea became clear in my mind. I had almost known it myself, but I had never examined it. 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 genealogy.

"I don't know how we ended up talking about this when all I wanted was some names for my charts," I said, trying to steer the conversation back to the topic I wanted.

"It's terribly simple," he said. "The way we ended up talking about it was because I said that to ask questions about one's past is a bunch of crap."

His tone was firm. I felt there was no way to make him budge, so I changed my tactics.

"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 other people."

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 do to put me immediately on the defensive.

"You said that you wanted to learn about plants," he said calmly. "Do you want to get something for nothing? What do you think this is? We agreed that you would ask me questions and I'd tell you what I know. If you don't like it, there is nothing else we can say to each other."

His terrible directness made me feel peeved, and begrudgingly I conceded that he was right.

"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 personal history."

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."

I protested.

"Don't you see that I'm really sick and tired of people thinking that I'm unreliable?" I said.

"But you are unreliable," he replied with conviction.

"Damn it to hell, man, I am not!" I exclaimed.

My mood, instead of forcing him into seriousness, made him laugh hysterically. I really despised the old man for all his cockiness. Unfortunately he was right about me.

After a while I calmed down and he continued talking.

"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."

I was truly bewildered by the scope of our conversation. I wrote down all the details of our exchange in the best way I could, concentrating on what he was saying rather than pausing to deliberate on my prejudices or on his meanings.

"From now on, " he said, "you must simply show people whatever you care to show them, but 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.

"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."

He did not say another word for a very long time; perhaps an hour went by in complete silence. I did not know what to ask. Finally he got up and asked me to drive him to the nearby town.

I did not know why but our conversation had drained me. I felt like going to sleep. He asked me to stop on the way and told me that if I wanted to relax, I had to climb to the flat top of a small hill on the side of the road and lie down on my stomach with my head towards the east.

He seemed to have a feeling of urgency. I did not want to argue or perhaps I was too tired to even speak. I climbed the hill and did as he had prescribed.

I slept only two or three minutes, but it was sufficient to have my energy renewed.

We drove to the center of town, where he told me to let him off.

"Come back," he said as he stepped out of the car. "Be sure to come back."
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Re: Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan, by Carlos Ca

Postby admin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:34 am


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 conversation. 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 criticism 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.

Wednesday, December 28,1960

Immediately after I arrived at his house he took me for a walk in the desert chaparral. He did not even look at the bag of groceries that I had brought him. He seemed to have been waiting for me.

We walked for hours. He did not collect or show me any plants. He did, however, teach me an "appropriate form of walking." He said that I had to curl my fingers gently as I walked so I would keep my attention on the trail and the surroundings. He claimed that my ordinary way of walking was debilitating and that one should never carry anything in the hands. If things had to be carried one should use a knapsack or any sort of carrying net or shoulder bag. His idea was that by forcing the hands into a specific position one was capable of greater stamina and greater awareness.

I saw no point in arguing and curled my fingers as he had prescribed and kept on walking. My awareness was in no way different, nor was my stamina.

We started our hike in the morning and we stopped to rest around noon. I was perspiring and tried to drink from my canteen, but he stopped me by saying that it was better to have only a sip of water. He cut some leaves from a small yellowish bush and chewed them. He gave me some and remarked that they were excellent, and if I chewed them slowly my thirst would vanish. It did not, but I was not uncomfortable either.

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 laughed. I was not in a laughing mood and that seemed to amuse him even more. He corrected his previous statement, saying that my body was not really stupid but somehow dormant.

At that moment an enormous crow flew right over us, cawing. That startled me and I began to laugh. I thought that the occasion called for laughter, but to my utter amazement he shook my arm vigorously and hushed me up. He had a most serious expression.

"That was not a joke," he said severely, as if I knew what he was talking about.

I asked for an explanation. I told him that it was incongruous that my laughing at the crow had made him angry when we had laughed at the coffee percolator.

"What you saw was not just a crow!" he exclaimed.

"But I saw it and it was a crow," I insisted.

"You saw nothing, you fool," he said in a gruff voice.

His rudeness was uncalled for. I told him that I did not like to make people angry and that perhaps it would be better if I left, since he did not seem to be in a mood to have company.

He laughed uproariously, as if I were a clown performing for him. My annoyance and embarrassment grew in proportion.

"You're very violent," he commented casually. "You're taking yourself too seriously."

"But weren't you doing the same?" I interjected. "Taking yourself seriously when you got angry at me?"

He said that to get angry at me was the farthest thing from his mind. He looked at me piercingly.

"What you saw was not an agreement from the world," he said. "Crows flying or cawing are never an agreement. That was an omen!"

"An omen of what?"

"A very important indication about you," he replied cryptically.

At that very instant the wind blew the dry branch of a bush right to our feet.

"That was an agreement!" he exclaimed and looked at me with shiny eyes and broke into a belly laugh.

I had the feeling that he was teasing me by making up the rules of his strange game as we went along, thus it was all right for him to laugh, but not for me. My annoyance mushroomed again and I told him what I thought of him.

He was not cross or offended at all. He laughed and his laughter caused me even more anguish and frustration. I thought that he was deliberately humiliating me. I decided right then that I had had my fill of "field work."

I stood up and said that I wanted to start walking back to his house because I had to leave for Los Angeles.

"Sit down!" he said imperatively: "You get peeved like an old lady. You cannot leave now, because we're not through yet."

I hated him. I thought he was a contemptuous man.

He began to sing an idiotic Mexican folk song. He was obviously imitating some popular singer. He elongated certain syllables and contracted others and made the song into a most farcical affair. It was so comical that I ended up laughing.

"You see, you laugh at the stupid song," he said. "But the man who sings it that way and those who pay to listen to him are not laughing; they think it is serious."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

I thought he had deliberately concocted the example to tell me that I had laughed at the crow because I had not taken it seriously, the same way I had not taken the song seriously. But he baffled me again: He said I was like the singer and the people who liked his songs, conceited and deadly serious about some nonsense that no one in his right mind should give a damn about.

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!"

I tried to stage a protest but he did not budge. He pointed out that in the course of my life I had not ever finished anything because of that sense of disproportionate importance that I attached to myself.

I was flabbergasted at the certainty with which he made his statements. They were true, of course, and that made me feel not only angry but also threatened.

"Self-importance is another thing that must be dropped, just like personal history," he said in a dramatic tone.

I certainly did not want to argue with him. It was obvious that I was at a terrible disadvantage; he was not going to walk back to his house until he was ready and I didn't not know the way. I had to stay with him.

He made a strange and sudden movement, he sort of sniffed the air around him, his head shook slightly and rhythmically. He seemed to be in a state of unusual alertness. He turned and stared at me with a look of bewilderment and curiosity. His eyes swept up and down my body as if he were looking for something specific; then he stood up abruptly and began to walk fast. He was almost running. I followed him. He kept a very accelerated pace for nearly an hour.

Finally he stopped by a rocky hill and we sat in the shade of a bush. The trotting had exhausted me completely although my mood was better. It was strange the way I had changed. I felt almost elated, but when we had started to trot, after our argument, I was furious with him.

"This is very weird," I said, "but I feel really good."

I heard the cawing of a crow in the distance. He lifted his finger to his right ear and smiled.

"That was an omen," he said.

A small rock tumbled downhill and made a crashing sound when it landed in the chaparral.

He laughed out loud and pointed his finger in the direction of the sound.

"And that was an agreement," he said.

He then asked me if I was ready to talk about my self importance. I laughed; my feeling of anger seemed so far away that I could not even conceive how I had become so cross with him.

"I can't understand what's happening to me," I said. "I got angry and now I don't know why I am not angry any more."

"The world around us is very mysterious," he said, "It doesn't yield its secrets easily."

I liked his cryptic statements. They were challenging and mysterious. I could not determine whether they were filled with hidden meanings or whether they were just plain nonsense.

"If you ever come back to the desert here," he said, "stay away from that rocky hill where we stopped today. Avoid it like the plague."

"Why? What's the matter?"

"This is not the time to explain it," he said. "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 blinders, all you see is yourself apart from everything else."

He examined me for a moment.

"I am going to talk to my little friend here," he said, pointing to a small plant.

He kneeled in front of it and began to caress it and to talk to it. I did not understand what he was saying at first, but then he switched languages and talked to the plant in Spanish. He babbled inanities for a while. Then he stood up.

"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."

He explained that a man who gathers plants must apologize every time for taking them and must assure them that someday his own body will serve as food for them.

"So, all in all, the plants and ourselves are even," he said. "Neither we nor they are more or less important.

"Come on, talk to the little plant," he urged me. "Tell it that you don't feel important any more."

"I went as far as kneeling in front of the plant but I could not bring myself to speak to it I felt ridiculous and laughed. I was not angry, however.

Don Juan patted me on the back and said that it was all right, that at least I had contained my temper.

"From now on talk to the little plants," he said. "'Talk until you lose all sense of importance. Talk to them until you can do it in front of others.

"Go to those hills over there and practice by yourself."

I asked if it was all right to talk to the plants silently, in my mind.

He laughed and tapped my head.

"No'" he said. "You must talk to them in a loud and clear voice if you want them to answer you."

I walked to the area in question, laughing to myself about his eccentricities. I even tried to talk to the plants, but my feeling of being ludicrous was overpowering.

After what I thought was an appropriate wait I went back to where don Juan was. I had the certainty that he knew I had not talked to the plants.

He did not look at me. He signaled me to sit down by him.

"Watch me carefully," he said. "I'm going to have a talk with my little friend."

He kneeled down in front of a small plant and for a few minutes he moved and contorted his body, talking and laughing.

I thought he was out of his mind.

"This little plant told me to tell you that she is good to eat," he said as he got up from his kneeling position. "She said that a handful of them would keep a man healthy. She also said that there is a batch of them growing over there."

Don Juan pointed to an area on a hillside perhaps two hundred yards away.

"Let's go and find out," he said.

I laughed at his histrionics. I was sure we would find the plants, because he was an expert in the terrain and knew where the edible and medicinal plants were.

As we walked towards the area in question he told me casually that I should take notice of the plant because it was both a food and a medicine.

I asked him, half in jest, if the plant had just told him that. He stopped walking and examined me with an air of disbelief. He shook his head from side to side.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, laughing. "Your cleverness makes you more silly than I thought. How can the little plant tell me now what I've known all my life?"

He proceeded then to explain that he knew all along the different properties of that specific plant, and that the plant had just told him that there was a batch of them growing in the area he had pointed to, and that she did not mind if he told me that.

Upon arriving at the hillside I found a whole cluster of the same plants. I wanted to laugh but he did not give me time. He wanted me to thank the batch of plants. I felt excruciatingly self-conscious and could not bring my self to do it.

He smiled benevolently and made another of his cryptic statements. He repeated it three or four times as if to give me time to figure out its meaning.

"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.

We walked for another hour and then started on our way back to his house. At a certain time I dropped behind and he had to wait for me. He checked my fingers to see if I had curled them. I had not. He told me imperatively that whenever I walked. with him I had to observe and copy his mannerisms or not come along at all.

"I can't be waiting for you as though you're a child," he said in a scolding tone.

That statement sunk me into the' depths of embarrassment and bewilderment. How could it be possible that such an old man could walk so much better than I. I thought 1 was athletic and strong, and yet he had actually had to wait for me to catch up with him.

I curled my fingers and strangely enough I was able to keep his tremendous pace without any effort. In fact, at times I felt that my hands were pulling me forward.

I felt elated. I was quite happy walking inanely with the strange old Indian. I began to talk and asked repeatedly if he would show me some peyote plants. He looked at me but did not say a word.
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Re: Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan, by Carlos Ca

Postby admin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:34 am


Wednesday, January 25, 1961

"Would you teach me someday about peyote?" I asked.

He did not answer and, as he had done before, simply looked at me as if I were crazy.

I had mentioned the topic to him, in casual conversation, various times already, and every time he frowned and shook his head. It was not an affirmative or a negative gesture; it was rather a gesture of despair and disbelief.

He stood up abruptly. We had been sitting on the ground in front of his house. An almost imperceptible shake of his head was the invitation to follow him.

We went into the desert chaparral in a southerly direction. He mentioned repeatedly as we walked that I had to be aware of the uselessness of my self-importance and of my personal history.

"Your friends," he said, turning to me abruptly." "Those who have known you for a long time, you must leave them quickly."

I thought he was crazy and his insistence was idiotic, but I did not say anything. He peered at me and began to laugh.

After a long hike we came to a halt. I was about to sit down to rest but he told me to go some twenty yards away and talk to a batch of plants in a loud and clear voice. I felt ill at ease and apprehensive. His weird demands were more than I could bear and I told him once more that I could not speak to plants, because I felt ridiculous. His only comment was that my feeling of self- importance was immense. He seemed to have made a sudden decision and said that I should not try to talk to plants until I felt easy and natural about it.

"You want to learn about them and yet you don't want to do any work," he said accusingly. "What are you trying to do?"

My explanation was that I wanted bona fide information about the uses of plants, thus I had asked him to be my informant. I had even offered to pay him for his time and trouble.

"You should take the money," I said. "This way we both would feel better. I could then ask you anything I want to because you would be working for me and I would pay you for it. What do you think of that?"

He looked at me contemptuously and made an obscene sound with his mouth, making his lower lip and his tongue vibrate by exhaling with great force.

"That's what I think of it," he said and laughed hysterically at the look of utmost surprise that I must have had on my face.

It was obvious to me that he was not a man I could easily contend with. In spite of his age, he was ebullient and unbelievably strong. I had had the idea that, being so old, he could have been the perfect "informant" for me. Old people, I had been led to believe, made the best informants because they were too feeble to do anything else except talk. Don Juan, on the other hand, was a miserable subject. I felt he was unmanageable and dangerous. The friend who had introduced us was right. He was an eccentric old Indian; and although he was not plastered out of his mind most of the time, as my friend had told me, he was worse yet, he was crazy. I again felt the terrible doubt and apprehension I had experienced before. I thought I had overcome that. In fact, I had had no trouble at all convincing myself that I wanted to visit him again. 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."

He began humming a Mexican folk song and then lifted his head abruptly and looked at me. His eyes were fierce and burning. I wanted to look away or close my eyes, but to my utter amazement I could not break away from his gaze.

He asked me to tell him what I had seen in his eyes. I said that I saw nothing, but he insisted that I had to voice what his eyes had made me feel aware of. I struggled to make him understand that the only thing his eyes made me aware of was my embarrassment, and that the way he was looking at me was very discomforting.

He did not let go. He kept a steady stare. It was not an outright menacing or mean look; it was rather a mysterious but unpleasant gaze.

He asked me if he reminded me of a bird.

"A bird?" I exclaimed.

He giggled like a child and moved his eyes away from me.

"Yes," he said softly. A bird, a very funny bird!"

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 Ithought I had lost the memory of it.

"I used to hunt falcons," I said.

"I know it," don Juan replied matter-of-factly.

His tone carried such a certainty that I began to laugh. I thought he was a preposterous fellow. He had the gall to sound as if he knew I had hunted falcons. I felt supremely contemptuous of him.

"Why do you get so angry?" he asked in a tone of genuine concern.

I did not know why. He began to probe me in a very unusual manner. He asked me to look at him again and tell him about the "very funny bird" he reminded me of. I struggled against him and out of contempt said that there was nothing to talk about. Then I felt compelled to ask him why he had said he knew I used to hunt falcons. Instead of answering me he again commented on my behavior. He said I was a violent fellow that was capable of "frothing at the mouth" at the drop of a hat. I protested that that was not true; I had always had the idea I was rather congenial and easygoing. I said it was his fault for forcing me out of control with his unexpected words and actions.

"Why the anger?" he asked.

I took stock of my feelings and reactions. I really had no need to be angry with him.

He again insisted that I should look into his eyes and tell him about the "strange falcon." He had changed his wording; he had said before, "a very funny bird," then he substituted it with "strange falcon." The change in wording summed up a change in my own mood. I had suddenly become sad.

He squinted his eyes until they were two slits and said in an overdramatic voice that he was "seeing" a very strange falcon. He repeated his statement three times as if he were actually seeing it there in front of him.

"Don't you remember it?" he asked.

I did not remember anything of the sort.

"What's strange about the falcon?" I asked.

"You must tell me that," he replied.

I insisted that I had no way of knowing what he was referring to, therefore I could not tell him anything.

"Don't fight me!" he said. "Fight your sluggishness and remember."

I seriously struggled for a moment to figure him out. It did not occur to me that I could just as well have tried to remember.

"There was a time when you saw a lot of birds," he said as though cuing me.

I told him that when I was a child I bad lived on a farm and had hunted hundreds of birds.

He said that if that was the case I should not have any difficulty remembering all the funny birds I bad hunted.

He looked at me with a question in his eyes, as if he had just given me the last clue.

"I have hunted so many birds," I said, "that I can't recall anything about them."

"This bird is special," be replied almost in a whisper. "This bird is a falcon."

I became involved again in figuring out what he was driving at. Was he teasing me? Was he serious? After a long interval he urged me again to remember. I felt that it was useless for me to try to end his play; the only other thing I could do was to join him.

"Are you talking about a falcon that I have hunted?" I asked.

"Yes," he whispered with his eyes closed.

"So this happened when I was a boy?"


"But you said you're seeing a falcon in front of you now."

"I am."

"What are you trying to do to me?"

"I'm trying to make you remember."

"What? For heaven's sakes!"

"A falcon swift as light," he said, looking at me in the eyes. I felt my heart had stopped.

"Now look at me," he said.

But I did not. I heard his voice as a faint sound. Some stupendous recollection had taken me wholly. The white falcon!

It all began with my grandfather's explosion of anger upon taking a count of his young Leghorn chickens. They had been disappearing in a steady and disconcerting manner. He personally organized and carried out a meticulous vigil, and after days of steady watching we finally saw a big white bird flying away with a young Leghorn chicken in its claws. The bird was fast and apparently knew its route. It swooped down from behind some trees, grabbed the chicken and flew away through an opening between two branches. It happened so fast that my grandfather had hardly seen it, but I did and I knew that it was indeed a falcon. My grandfather said that if that was the case it had to be an albino.

We started a campaign against the albino falcon and twice I thought I had gotten it. It even dropped its prey, but it got away. It was too fast for me. It was also very intelligent; it never came back to hunt on my grandfather's farm.

I would have forgotten about it had my grandfather not needed me to hunt the bird. For two months I chased the albino falcon all over the valley where I lived. I learned its habits and I could almost intuit its route of flight, yet its speed and the suddenness of its appearance would always baffle me. I could boast that I had prevented it from taking its prey, perhaps every time we had met, but I could never bag it.

In the two months that I carried on the strange war against the albino falcon I came close to it only once. I had been chasing it all day and I was tired. I had sat down to rest and fell asleep under a tall eucalyptus tree. The sudden cry of a falcon woke me up. I opened my eyes without making any other movement and I saw a whitish bird perched in the highest branches of the eucalyptus tree. It was the albino falcon. The chase was over. It was going to be a difficult shot; I was lying on my back and the bird had its back turned to me. There was a sudden gust of wind and I used it to muffle the noise of lifting my .22 long rifle to take aim. I wanted to wait until the bird had turned or until it had begun to fly so I would not miss it. But the albino bird remained motionless. In order to take a better shot I would have needed to move and the falcon was too fast for that. I thought that my best alternative was to wait. And I did, a long, interminable time. 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.

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.

Don Juan listened attentively as I told him the story of the albino falcon.

"How did you know about the white falcon?" I asked when I had finished.

"I saw it," he replied.


"Right here in front of you."

I was not in an argumentative mood any more.

"What does all this mean?" I asked.

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 chill."

"What are you talking about?" I said nervously.

He really made me nervous with his spooky talk.

"You know a lot about birds," he said. "You've killed too many of them. You know how to wait. You have waited patiently for hours. I know that. I am seeing it."

His words caused a great turmoil in me. I thought that what annoyed me the most about him was his certainty. I could not stand his dogmatic assuredness about the issues in my own life that I was not sure of myself. I became engulfed in my feelings of dejection and I did not see him leaning over me until he actually had whispered something in my ear. I did not understand at first and he repeated it. He told me to turn around casually and look at a boulder to my left. He said that my death was there staring at me and if I turned when he signaled me I might be capable of seeing it.

He signaled me with his eyes. I turned and I thought I saw a flickering movement over the boulder. 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 abruptly.

"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 watching you."

He leaned over again and whispered in my ear that if I turned to my left suddenly, upon seeing his signal, I could again see my death on the boulder.

His eyes gave me an almost imperceptible signal, but I did not dare to look.

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 and fear.

"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.

I had the feeling he was fully aware of my change of mood. He had turned the tide in his favor. He smiled and began to hum a Mexican tune.

"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."

We remained quiet for more than an hour, then we started walking again. We meandered in the desert chaparral for hours. I did not ask him if there was any purpose to it; it did not matter. Somehow he had made me recapture an old feeling, something I had quite forgotten, the sheer joy of just moving around without attaching any intellectual purpose to it.

I wanted him to let me catch a glimpse of whatever I had seen on the boulder.

"Let me see that shadow again," I said.

"You mean your death, don't you?" he replied with a touch of irony in his voice.

For a moment I felt reluctant to voice it.

"Yes," I finally said. "Let me see my death once again. "

"Not now," he said. "You're too solid."

"I beg your pardon?"

He began to laugh and for some unknown reason his laughter was no longer offensive and insidious, as it had been in the past. I did not think that it was different, from the point of view of its pitch, or its loudness, or the spirit of it; the new element was my mood. In view of my impending death my fears and annoyance were nonsense.

"Let me talk to plants then," I said.

He roared with laughter.

"You're too good now," he said, still laughing. "You go from one extreme to the other. Be still. There is no need to talk to plants unless you want to know their secrets, and for that you need the most unbending intent. So save your good wishes. There is no need to see your death either. It is sufficient that you feel its presence around you."
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Re: Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan, by Carlos Ca

Postby admin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:34 am


Tuesday, April 11, 1961.

I arrived at don Juan's house in the early morning on Sunday, April 9.

"Good morning, don Juan," I said. "Am I glad to see you!"

He looked at me and broke into a soft laughter. He had walked to my car as I was parking it and held the door open while I gathered some packages of food that I had brought for him.

We walked to the house and sat down by the door.

This was the first time I had been really aware of what I was doing there. For three months I had actually looked forward to going back to the "field." It was as if a time bomb set within myself had exploded and suddenly I had remembered something transcendental, to me. I had remembered that once in my life I had been very patient and very efficient.

Before don Juan could say anything I asked him the question that had been pressing hard in my mind. For three months I had been obsessed with the memory of the albino falcon. How did he know about it when I myself had forgotten?

He laughed but did not answer. I pleaded with him to tell me.

"It was nothing," he said with his usual conviction. "Anyone could tell that you're strange. You're just numb, that's all."

I felt that he was again getting me off guard and pushing me into a corner in which I did not care to be.

"Is it possible to see our death?" I asked, trying to remain within the topic.

"Sure," he said, laughing. "It is here with us."

"How do you know that?"

"I'm an old man; with age one learns all kinds of things."

"I know lots of old people, but they have never learned this. How come you did?"

"Well, let's say that I know all kinds of things because I don't have a personal history, and because I don't feel more important than anything else, and because my' death is sitting with me right here."

He extended his left arm and moved his fingers as if he were actually petting something.

I laughed. I knew where he was leading me. The old devil was going to clobber me again, probably with my self-importance, but I did not mind this time. The memory that once I had had a superb patience had filled me with a strange, quiet euphoria that had dispelled most of my feelings of nervousness and intolerance towards don Juan; what I felt instead was a sensation of wonder about his acts.

"Who are you, really?" I asked.

He seemed surprised. He opened his eyes to an enormous size and blinked like a bird, closing his eyelids as if they were a shutter. They came down and went up again and his eyes remained in focus. His maneuver startled me and I recoiled, and he laughed with childlike abandon.

"For you I am Juan Matus, and I am at your service," he said with exaggerated politeness.

I then asked my other burning question: "'What did you do to me the first day we met?"

I was referring to the look he had given me.

"Me? Nothing," he replied with a tone of innocence.

I described to him the way I had felt when he had looked at me and how incongruous it had been for me to be tongue-tied by it.

He laughed until tears rolled down his cheeks. I again felt a surge of animosity towards him. I thought that I was being so serious and thoughtful and he was being so "Indian" in his coarse ways.

He apparently detected my mood and stopped laughing all of a sudden.

After a long hesitation I told him that his laughter had annoyed me because I was seriously trying to understand what had happened to me.

"There is nothing to understand," he replied, undisturbed.

I reviewed for him the sequence of unusual events that had taken place since I had met him, starting with the mysterious look he had given me, to remembering the albino falcon and seeing on the boulder the shadow he had said was my death.

"Why are you doing all this to me?" I asked.

There was no belligerence in my question. I was only curious as to why it was me in particular.

"You asked me to tell you what I know about plants," he said.

I noticed a tinge of sarcasm in his voice. He sounded as if he were humoring me.

"But what you have told me so far has nothing to do with plants," I protested.

His reply was that it took time to learn about them.

My feeling was that it was useless to argue with him. I realized then the total idiocy of the easy and absurd resolutions I had made. While I was at home I had promised myself that I was never going to lose my temper or feel annoyed with don Juan. In the actual situation, however, the minute he rebuffed me I had another attack of peevishness. I felt there was no way for me to interact with him and that angered me.

"Think of your death now," don Juan said suddenly. "It is at arm's length: It may tap you any moment, so really you have no time for crappy thoughts and moods. None of us have time for that.

"Do you want to know what I did to you the first day we met? I saw you, and I saw that you thought you were lying to me. But you weren't, not really."

I told him that his explanation confused me even more. He replied that that was the reason he did not want to explain his acts, and that explanations were not necessary. He said that the only thing that counted was action, acting instead of talking.

He pulled out a straw mat and lay down, propping his head up with a bundle. He made himself comfortable and then he told me that there was another thing I had to perform if I really wanted to learn about plants.

"What was wrong with you when I saw you, and what is wrong with you now, is that you don't like to take responsibility for what you do," he said slowly, as if to give me time to understand what he was saying. "When you were telling me all those things in the bus depot you were aware that they were lies. Why were you lying?"

I explained that my objective had been to find a "key informant" for my work.

Don Juan smiled and began humming a Mexican tune.

"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."

He examined me. I did not know what to say. Finally I ventured an opinion, almost as a protest.

"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.

"You, on the other hand, feel that you are immortal, and the decisions of an immortal man can be canceled or regretted or doubted. In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is not time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions."

I argued, in sincerity, that in my opinion that was an unreal world, because it was arbitrarily made by taking an idealized form of behavior and saying that that was the way to proceed.

I told him the story of my father, who used to give me endless lectures about the wonders of a healthy mind in a healthy body, and how young men should temper their bodies with hardships and with feats of athletic competition. He was a young man; when I was eight years old he was only twenty-seven. During the summertime, as a rule, he would come from the city, where he taught school, to spend at least a month with me at my grandparents' farm, where I lived. It was a hellish month for me. I told don Juan one instance of my father's behavior that I thought would apply to the situation at hand.

Almost immediately upon arriving at the farm my father would insist on taking a long walk with me at his side, so we could talk things over, and while we were talking he would make plans for us to go swimming, every day at six A.M. At night he would set the alarm for five- thirty to have plenty of time, because at six sharp we had to be in the water. And when the alarm would go off in the morning, he would jump out of bed, put on his glasses, go to the window and look out.

I had even memorized the ensuing monologue.

"Uhm ...A bit cloudy today. Listen, I'm going to lie down again for just five minutes. O.K.? No more than five! I'm just going to stretch my muscles and fully wake up."

He would invariably fall asleep again until ten, sometimes until noon.

I told don Juan that what annoyed me was his refusal to give up his obviously phony resolutions. He would repeat this ritual every morning until I would finally hurt his feelings by refusing to set the alarm clock.

"They were not phony resolutions," don Juan said, obviously taking sides with my father. "He just didn't know how to get out of bed, that's all.''

"At any rate," I said, "I'm always leery of unreal resolutions."

"What would be a resolution that is real then?" don Juan asked with a coy smile.

"If my father would have said to himself that he could not go swimming at six in the morning but perhaps at three in the afternoon."

"Your resolutions injure the spirit," don Juan said with an air of great seriousness.

I thought I even detected a note of sadness in his tone. We were quiet for a long time. My peevishness had vanished. I thought of my father.

"He didn't want to swim at three in the afte:rnoon. Don't you see?" don Juan said.

His words made me jump.

I told him that my father was weak, and so was his world of ideal acts that he never performed. I was almost shouting.

Don Juan did not say a word. He shook his head slowly in a rhythmical way. I felt terribly sad. Thinking of my father always gave me a consuming feeling.

"You think you were stronger, don't you?" he asked in a casual tone.

I said I did, and I began to tell him all the emotional turmoil that my father had put me through, but he interrupted me.

"Was he mean to you?" he asked.


"Was he petty with you?"


"Did he do all he could for you?"


"Then what was wrong with him?"

Again I began to shout that he was weak, but I caught myself and lowered my voice. I felt a bit ludicrous being cross-examined by don Juan.

"What are you doing all this for?" I said. "We were supposed to be talking about plants."

I felt more annoyed and despondent than ever. I told him that he had no business or the remotest qualifications to pass judgment on my behavior, and he exploded into a belly laugh.

"When you get angry you always feel righteous, don't you?" he said and blinked like a bird.

He was right. I had the tendency to feel justified at being angry.

"Let's not talk about my father," I said, feigning a happy mood. "Let's talk about plants."

"No, let's talk about your father," he insisted. "That is the place to begin today. If you think that you were so much stronger than he, why didn't you go swimming at six in the morning in his place?"

I told him that I could not believe he was seriously asking me that. I had always thought that swimming at six in the morning was my father's business and not mine.

"It was also your business from the moment you accepted his idea," don Juan snapped at me.

I said that I had never accepted it, that I had always known my father was not truthful to himself. Don Juan asked me matter-of-factly why I had not voiced my opinions at the time.

"You don't tell your father things like that," I said as a weak explanation.

"Why not?"

"That was not done in my house, that's all."

"You have done worse things in your house," he declared like a judge from the bench. "The only thing yon never did was to shine your spirit."

There was such a devastating force in his words that they echoed in my mind. He brought all my defenses down. I could not argue with him. I took refuge in writing my notes.

I tried a last feeble explanation and said that all my life I had encountered people of my father's kind, who had, like my father, hooked me somehow into their schemes, and as a rule I had always been left dangling.

"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."

"Wait, wait!" I said. "You are twisting this around."

He did not let me finish. I was going to tell him that I had used my father only as an example of an unrealistic way of acting, and that nobody in his right mind would be willing to die for such an idiotic thing.

"It doesn't matter what the decision is," he said. "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."

I could not say anything. Perhaps an hour went by. Don Juan was perfectly motionless on his mat although he was not sleeping.

"Why do you tell me all this, don Juan?" I asked. "Why are you doing this to me?"

"You came to me," he said. "No, that was not the case, you were brought to me. And I have had a gesture with you."

"I beg your pardon?"

"You could have had a gesture with your father by swimming for him, but you didn't, perhaps because you were too young. I have lived longer than you. I have nothing pending. There is no hurry in my life, therefore I can properly have a gesture with you."

In the afternoon we went for a hike. I easily kept his pace and marveled again at his stupendous physical prowess. He walked so nimbly and with such sure steps that next to him I was like a child. We went in an easterly direction. I noticed then that he did not like to talk while he walked. If I spoke to him he would stop walking in order to answer me.

After a couple of hours we came to a hill; he sat down and signaled me to sit by him. He announced in a mock-dramatic tone that he was going to tell me a story.

He said that once upon a time there was a young man, a destitute Indian who lived among the white men in a city. He had no home, no relatives, no friends. He had come into the city to find his fortune and had found only misery and pain. From time to time he made a few cents working like a mule, barely enough for a morsel; otherwise he had to beg or steal food.

Don Juan said that one day the young man went to the market place. He walked up and down the street in a haze, his eyes wild upon seeing all the good things that were gathered there. He was so frantic that he did not see where he was walking, and ended up tripping over some baskets and falling on top of an old man.

The old man was carrying four enormous gourds and had just sat down to rest and eat. Don Juan smiled knowingly and said that the old man found it quite strange that the young man had stumbled on him. He was not angry at being disturbed but amazed at why this particular young man had fallen on top of him. The young man, on the other hand, was angry and told him to get out of his way. He was not concerned at all about the ultimate reason for their meeting. He had not noticed that their paths had actually crossed.

Don Juan mimicked the motions of someone going after something that was rolling over. He said that the old man's gourds had turned over and were rolling down the street. When the young man saw the gourds he thought he had found his food for the day.

He helped the old man up and insisted on helping him carry the heavy gourds. The old man told him that he was on his way to his home in the mountains and the young man insisted on going with him, at least part of the way.

The old man took the road to the mountains and as they walked he gave the young man part of the food he had bought at the market. The young man ate to his heart's content and when he was quite satisfied he began to notice how heavy the gourds were and clutched them tightly.

Don Juan opened his eyes and smiled with a devilish grin and said that the young man asked, "What do you carry in these gourds?" The old man did not answer but told him that he was going to show him a companion or friend who could alleviate his sorrows and give him advice and wisdom about the ways of the world.

Don Juan made a majestic gesture with both hands and said that the old man summoned the most beautiful deer that the young man had ever seen. The deer was so tame that it came to him and walked around him. It glittered and shone. The young man was spellbound and knew right away that it was a "spirit deer." The old man told him then that if he wished to have that friend and its wisdom all he had to do was to let go of the gourds.

Don Juan's grin portrayed ambition; he said that the young man's petty desires were pricked upon hearing such a request. Don Juan's eyes became small and devilish as he voiced the young man's question: "What do you have in these four enormous gourds?"

Don Juan said that the old man very serenely replied that he was carrying food: "pinole" and water. He stopped narrating the story and walked around in a circle a couple of times. I did not know what he was doing. But apparently it was part of the story. The circle seemed to portray the deliberations of the young man.

Don Juan said that, of course, the young man had not believed a word. He calculated that if the old man, who was obviously a wizard, was willing to give a "spirit deer" for his gourds, then the gourds must have been filled with power beyond belief.

Don Juan contorted his face again into a devilish grin and said that the young man declared that he wanted to have the gourds. There was a long pause that seemed to mark the end of the story. Don Juan remained quiet, yet I was sure he wanted me to ask about it, and I did.

"What happened to the young man?"

"He took the gourds," he replied with a smile of satisfaction.

There was another long pause. I laughed. I thought that this had been a real "Indian story."

Don Juan's eyes were shining as he smiled at me. There was an air of innocence about him. He began to laugh in soft spurts and asked me, "Don't you want to know about the gourds?"

"Of course I want to know. I thought that was the end of the story."

"Oh no," he said with a mischievous light in his eyes. "The young man took his gourds and ran away to an isolated place and opened them."

"What did he find?" I asked.

Don Juan glanced at me and I had the feeling he was aware of my mental gymnastics. He shook his head and chuckled.

"Well," I urged him. "Were the gourds empty?"

"There was only food and water inside the gourds," he said. "And the young man, in a fit of anger, smashed them against the rocks."

I said that his reaction was only natural--anyone in his position would have done the same.

Don Juan's reply was that the young man was a fool who did not know what he was looking for. He did not know what "power" was, so he could not tell whether or not he had found it. He had not taken responsibility for his decision, therefore he was angered by his blunder. He expected to gain something and got nothing instead. Don Juan speculated that if I were the young man and if I had followed my inclinations I would have ended up angry and remorseful, and would, no doubt, have spent the rest of my life feeling sorry for myself for what I had lost.

Then he explained the behavior of the old man. He had cleverly fed the young man so as to give him the "daring of a satisfied stomach," thus the young man upon finding only food in the gourds smashed them in a fit of anger.

"Had he been aware of his decision and assumed responsibility for it," don Juan said, "he would have taken the food and would've been more than satisfied with it. And perhaps he might even have realized that that food was power too."
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Re: Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan, by Carlos Ca

Postby admin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:35 am


Friday, June 23, 1961

As soon as I sat down I bombarded don Juan with questions. He did not 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 said in an accusing tone.

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.

After a long, uneasy silence I boldly asked him, "'Would you teach me about peyote, don Juan?"

He said that my intentions alone were not enough, and that to know about peyote--he called it "Mescalito" for the first time--was a serious matter. It seemed that there was nothing else to say.

In the early evening, however, he set up a test for me; he put forth a problem without giving me any clues to its solution: to find a beneficial place or spot in the area right in front of his door where we always sat to talk, a spot where I could allegedly feel perfectly happy and invigorated. During the course of the night, while I attempted to find the "spot" by rolling on the ground, I twice detected a change of coloration on the uniformly dark dirt floor of the designated area.

The problem exhausted me and I fell asleep on one of the places where I had detected the change in color. In the morning don Juan woke me up and announced that I had had a very successful experience. Not only had I found the beneficial spot I was looking for, but I had also found its opposite, an enemy or negative spot and the colors associated with both.

Saturday, June 24, 1961

We went into the desert chaparral in the early morning. As we walked, don Juan explained to me that finding a "beneficial" or an "enemy" spot was an important need for a man in the wilderness. I wanted to steer the conversation to the topic of peyote, but he flatly refused to talk about it. He warned me that there should be no mention of it, unless he himself brought up the subject.

We sat down to rest in the shade of some tall bushes in an area of thick vegetation. The desert chaparral around us was not quite dry yet; it was a warm day and the flies kept on pestering me but they did not seem to bother don Juan. I wondered whether he was just ignoring them but then I noticed they were not landing on his face at all.

"Sometimes it is necessary to find a beneficial spot quickly, out in the open," don Juan went on. "Or maybe it is necessary to determine quickly whether or not the spot where one is about to rest is a bad one. One time, we sat to rest by some hill and you got very angry and upset. That spot was your enemy. A little crow gave you a warning, remember?"

I remembered that he had made a point of telling me to avoid that area in the future. I also remembered that I had become angry because he had not let me laugh.

"I thought that the crow that flew overhead was an omen for me alone," he said. "I would never have suspected that the crows were friendly towards you too."

"What are you talking about?"

"The crow was an omen," he went on. "If you knew about crows you would have avoided the place like the plague. Crows are not always available to give warning though, and you must learn to find, by yourself, a proper place to camp or to rest."

After a long pause don Juan suddenly turned to me and said that in order to find the proper place to rest all I had to do was to cross my eyes. He gave me a knowing look and in a confidential tone told me that I had done precisely that when I was rolling on his porch, and thus I had been capable of finding two spots and their colors. He let me know that he was impressed by my accomplishment.

"I really don't know what I did, " I said.

"You crossed your eyes," he said emphatically. "That's the technique; you must have done that, although you don't remember it."

Don Juan then described the technique, which he said took years to perfect, and which consisted of gradually forcing the eyes to see separately the same image. The lack of image conversion entailed a double perception of the world; this double perception, according to don Juan, allowed one the opportunity of judging changes in the surroundings, which the eyes were ordinarily incapable of perceiving.

Don Juan coaxed me to try it. He assured me that it was not injurious to the sight. He said that I should begin by looking in short glances, almost with the corners of my eyes. He pointed to a large bush and showed me how. I had a strange feeling, seeing don Juan's eyes taking incredibly fast glances at the bush. His eyes reminded me of those of a shifty animal that cannot look straight.

We walked for perhaps an hour while I tried not to focus my sight on anything. Then don Juan asked me to start separating the images perceived by each of my eyes. After another hour or so I got a terrible headache and had to stop.

"Do you think you could find, by yourself, a proper place for us to rest?" he asked.

I had no idea what the criterion for a "proper place" was. He patiently explained that looking in short glances allowed the eyes to pick out unusual sights.

"Such as what?" I asked.

"They are not sights proper," he said. "They are more like feelings. If you look at a bush or a tree or a rock where you may like to rest, your eyes can make you feel whether or not that's the best resting place."

I again urged him to describe what those feelings were but he either could not describe them or he simply did not want to. He said that I should practice by picking out a place and then he would tell me whether or not my eyes were working.

At one moment I caught sight of what I thought was a pebble which reflected light. I could not see it if I focused my eyes on it, but if I swept the area with fast glances 1 could detect a sort of faint glitter. I pointed out the place to don Juan. It was in the middle of an open unshaded flat area devoid of thick bushes. He laughed uproariously and then asked me why I had picked that specific spot. I explained that I was seeing a glitter.

"I don't care what you see," he said. "You could be seeing an elephant. How you feel is the important issue."

I did not feel anything at all. He gave me a mysterious look and said that he wished he could oblige me and sit down to rest with me there; but he was going to sit somewhere else while I tested my choice.

I sat down while he looked at me curiously from a distance of thirty or forty feet away. After a few minutes he began to laugh loudly. Somehow his laughter made me nervous. It put me on edge. I felt he was making fun of me and I got angry. I began to question my motives for being there. There was definitely something wrong in the way my total endeavor with don Juan was proceeding. I felt that I was just a pawn in his clutches.

Suddenly don Juan charged at me, at full speed, and pulled me by the arm, dragging me bodily for ten or twelve feet. He helped me to stand up and wiped some perspiration from his forehead. I noticed then that he had exerted himself to his limit. He patted me on the back and said that I had picked the wrong place and that he had to rescue me in a real hurry, because he saw that the spot where I was sitting was about to take over my entire feelings. I laughed. The image of don Juan charging at me was very funny. He had actually run like a young man. His feet moved as if he were grabbing the soft reddish dirt of the desert in order to catapult himself over me. I had seen him laughing at me and then in a matter of seconds he was dragging me by the arm.

After a while he urged me to continue looking for a proper place to rest. We kept on walking but I did not detect or "feel" anything at all. Perhaps if I had been more relaxed I would have noticed or felt something. I had ceased, however, to be angry with him. Finally he pointed to some rocks and we came to a halt.

"Don't feel disappointed," don Juan said. "It takes a long time to train the eyes properly."

I did not say anything. I was not going to be disappointed about something I did not understand at all. Yet, I had to admit that three times already since I had begun to visit don Juan I had become very angry and had been agitated to the point of being nearly ill while sitting on places that he called bad.

"The trick is to feel with your eyes," he said. "Your problem now is that you don't know what to feel. It'll come to you, though, with practice."

"Perhaps you should tell me, don Juan, what I am supposed to feel."

"That's impossible."


"No one can tell you what you are supposed to feel. It is not heat, or light, or glare, or color. It is something else."

"Can't you describe it?"

"No. All I can do is give you the technique. Once you learn to separate the images and see two of everything, you must focus your attention in the area between the two images. Any change worthy of notice would take place there, in that area."

"What kind of changes are they?"

"That is not important. The feeling that you get is what counts. Every man is different. You saw glitter today, but that did not mean anything, because the feeling was missing. I can't tell you how to feel. You must learn that yourself."

We rested in silence for some time. Don Juan covered his face with his hat and remained motionless as if he were asleep. I became absorbed in writing my notes, until he made a sudden movement that made me jolt. He sat up abruptly and faced me, frowning.

"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."

He puffed out his jaw for an instant, then candidly added, "I don't think we ever have, anyway, have we?" and laughed.

We spent the rest of the day walking in every direction while he gave me an unbelievably detailed explanation about rattlesnakes. The way they nest, the way they move around, their seasonal habits, their quirks of behavior. 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 with him.

"It is like what I have told you about hunters," he said. "I don't necessarily like to talk. I just have a knack for it and I do it well, that's all."

I found his mental agility truly funny.

"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."

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 you. True?"

I had said that to him in trying to define the scope of anthropology and in order to draft him as my informant.

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."

"Do you mean that you had a teacher, don Juan?"

"Let's say that someone taught me to hunt the way I want to teach you now," he said and quickly changed the topic.

"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."

Suddenly I became curious. Was he referring to a time perhaps prior to the Conquest? I began to probe him.

When was the time you are talking about?"

"Once upon a time.

'"When? What does 'once upon a time' mean?"

"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. Now not everyone knows that, but there are a sufficient number of people who do. I know it, someday you will. See what I mean?"

"Do the Yaqui Indians feel that way about hunters? That's what I want to know."

"Not necessarily."

"Do the Pima Indians?"

"Not all of them. But some."

I named various neighboring groups. I wanted to commit him to a statement that hunting was a shared belief and practice of some specific people. But he avoided answering me directly, so I changed the subject

"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."

"But I am happy with my life, don Juan. Why should I have to change it?"

He began to sing a Mexican song, very softly, and then hummed the tune. His head bobbed up and down as he followed the beat of the song.

"Do you think that you and I are equals?" he asked in a sharp voice.

His question caught me off guard. I experienced a peculiar buzzing in my ears as though he had actually shouted his words, which he had not done; however, there had been a metallic sound in his voice that was reverberating in my ears.

I scratched the inside of my left ear with the small finger of my left hand. My ears itched all the time and I had developed a rhythmical nervous way of rubbing the inside of them with the small finger of either hand. The movement was more properly a shake of my whole arm.

Don Juan watched my movements with apparent fascination.

"Well . . . are we equals?" he asked.

"Of course we're equals," I said.

I was, naturally, being condescending. I felt very warm towards him even though at times I did not know what to do with him; yet I still held in the back of my mind, although I would never voice it, the belief that I, being a university student, a man of the sophisticated Western world, was superior to an Indian.

"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 pimp."

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."

After he finished talking I was numb. He had spoken without belligerence or conceit but with such power, and yet such calmness, that I was not even angry any more.

We remained silent. I felt embarrassed and could not think of anything appropriate to say. I waited for him to break the silence. Hours went by. Don Juan became motionless by degrees, until his body had acquired a strange, almost frightening rigidity; his silhouette became difficult to make out as it got dark, and finally when it was pitch black around us he seemed to have merged into the blackness of the stones. His state of motionlessness was so total that it was as if he did not exist any longer.

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.

I quietly touched his arm and tears flooded me.
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Re: Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan, by Carlos Ca

Postby admin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:35 am


Thursday, June 29, 1961

Again don Juan, as he had done every day for nearly a week, held me spellbound with his knowledge of specific details about the behavior of game. He first explained and then corroborated a number of hunting tactics based on what he called "the quirks of quails." I became so utterly involved in his explanations that a whole day went by and I had not noticed the passage of time. I even forgot to eat lunch. Don Juan made joking remarks that it was quite unusual for me to miss a meal.

By the end of the day he had caught five quail in a most ingenious trap, which he had taught me to assemble and set up.

"Two are enough for us," he said and let three of them loose.

He then taught me how to roast quail. I had wanted to cut some shrubs and make a barbecue pit, the way my grandfather used to make it, lined with green branches and leaves and sealed with dirt, but don Juan said that there was no need to injure the shrubs, since we had already injured the quail.

After we finished eating we walked very leisurely towards a rocky area. We sat on a sandstone hillside and 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?" 1 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.

"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.

It was getting dark. I was wondering if it was time to go back to his house, but he did not seem to be in a hurry and I was enjoying myself.

The wind was cold. Suddenly he stood up and told me that we had to climb to the hilltop and stand up on an area clear of shrubs.

"Don't be afraid," he said. "I'm your friend and I'll see that nothing bad happens to you."

"What do you mean?" I asked, alarmed.

Don Juan had the most insidious facility to shift me from sheer enjoyment to sheer fright.

"The world is very strange at this time of the day," he said. "That's what I mean. No matter what you see, don't be afraid."

"What am I going to see?"

"I don't know yet," he said, peering into the distance towards the south.

He did not seem to be worried. I also kept on looking in the same direction.

Suddenly he perked up and pointed with his left hand towards a dark area in the desert shrubbery.

"There it is," he said, as if he had been waiting for something which had suddenly appeared.

"What is it?" I asked.

"There it is," he repeated. "Look! Look!"

I did not see anything; just the shrubs.

"It is here now," he said with great urgency in his voice. "It is here."

A sudden gust of wind hit me at that instant and made my eyes burn. I stared towards the area in question. There was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.

"I can't see a thing," I said.

"You just felt it," he replied. "Right now. It got into your eyes and kept you from seeing."

"What are you talking about?"

"I have deliberately brought you to a hilltop,"', he said. "We are very noticeable here and something is coming to us."

"What? The wind?"

"Not just the wind," he said sternly. "It may seem to be wind to you, because wind is all you know."

I strained my eyes staring into the desert shrubs. Don Juan stood silently by me for a moment and then walked into the nearby chaparral and began to tear some big branches from the surrounding shrubs; he gathered eight of them and made a bundle. He ordered me to do the same and to apologize to the plants in a loud voice for mutilating them.

When we had two bundles he made me run with them to the hilltop and lie down on my back between two large rocks. With tremendous speed he arranged the branches of my bundle to cover my entire body, then he covered himself in the same manner and whispered through the leaves that I should watch how the so-called wind would cease to blow once we had become unnoticeable.

At one moment, to my utter amazement, the wind actually ceased to blow as don Juan had predicted. It happened so gradually that I would have missed the change had I not been deliberately waiting for it. For a while, the wind had hissed through the leaves over my face and then gradually it became quiet all around us.

I whispered to don Juan that the wind had stopped and he whispered back that I should not make any overt noise or movement, because what I was calling the wind was not wind at all but something that had a volition of its own and could actually recognize us.

I laughed out of nervousness.

In a muffled voice don Juan called my attention to the quietness around us and whispered that he was going to stand up and I should follow him, putting the branches aside very gently with my left hand.

We stood up at the same time. Don Juan stared for a moment into the distance towards the south and then turned around abruptly and faced the west.

"Sneaky. Really sneaky," he muttered, pointing to an area towards the southwest.

"Look! Look!" he urged me.

I stared with all the intensity I was capable of. I wanted to see whatever he was referring to, but I did not notice anything at all. Or rather I did not notice anything I had not seen before; there were just shrubs which seemed to be agitated by a soft wind; they rippled.

"It's here," don Juan said.

At that moment I felt a blast of air in my face. It seemed that the wind had actually begun to blow after we stood up. I could not believe it; there had to be a logical explanation for it.

Don Juan chuckled softly and told me not to tax my brain trying to reason it out.

"Let's go gather the shrubs once more," he said. "I hate to do this to these little plants, but we must stop you."

He picked up the branches we had used to cover ourselves and piled small rocks and dirt over them. Then, repeating the same movements we had made before, each of us gathered eight new branches. In the meantime the wind kept on blowing ceaselessly. I could feel it ruffling the hair around my ears. Don Juan whispered that once he had covered me I should not make the slightest movement or sound. He very quickly put the branches over my body and then he lay down and covered himself.

We stayed in that position for about twenty minutes and during that time a most extraordinary phenomenon occurred; the wind again changed from a hard continuous gust to a mild vibration.

I held my breath, waiting for don Juan's signal. At a given moment he gently shoved off the branches. I did the same and we stood up. The hilltop was very quiet. There was only a slight, soft vibration of leaves in the surrounding chaparral.

Don Juan's eyes were fixedly staring at an area in the shrubs south of us.

"There it is again!" he exclaimed in a loud voice.

I involuntarily jumped, nearly losing my balance, and he ordered me in a loud imperative voice to look.

"What am I supposed to see?" I asked desperately.

He said that it, the wind or whatever, was like a cloud or a whorl that was quite a ways above the shrubs, twirling its way to the hilltop where we were.

I saw a ripple forming on the bushes in the distance.

"There it comes," don Juan said in my ear. "Look how it is searching for us."

Right then a strong steady gust of wind hit my face, as it had hit it before. This time, however, my reaction was different. I was terrified. I had not seen what don Juan had described, but I had seen a most eerie wave rippling the shrubs. I did not want to succumb to my fear and deliberately sought any kind of suitable explanation. I said to myself that there must be continuous air currents in the area, and don Juan, being thoroughly acquainted with the whole region, was not only aware of that but was capable of mentally plotting their occurrence. All he had to do was to lie down, count, and wait for the wind to taper off; and once he stood up he had only to wait again for its reoccurrence.

Don Juan's voice shook me out of my mental deliberations. He was telling me that it was time to leave. I stalled; I wanted to stay to make sure that the wind would taper off.

"I didn't see anything, don Juan," I said.

"You noticed something unusual though."

"Perhaps you should tell me again what I was supposed to see."

"I've already told you," he said. "Something that hides in the wind and looks like a whorl, a cloud, a mist, a face that twirls around."

Don Juan made a gesture with his hands to depict a horizontal and a vertical motion.

"It moves in a specific direction," he went on. "It either tumbles or it twirls. A hunter must know all that in order to move correctly."

I wanted to humor him, but he seemed to be trying so hard to make his point that I did not dare. He looked at me for a moment and I moved my eyes away.

"To believe that the world is only as you think it is, is stupid," he said. "The world is a mysterious place. Especially in the twilight."

He pointed towards the wind with a movement of his chin.

"This can follow us," he said. "It can make us tired or it might even kill us."

"That wind?"

"At this time of the day, in the twilight, there is no wind. At this time there is only power."

We sat on the hilltop for an hour. The wind blew hard and constantly all that time.

Friday, June 30, 1961

In the late afternoon, after eating, don Juan and I moved to the area in front of his door. I sat on my "spot" and began working on my notes. He lay down on his back with his hands folded over his stomach. We had stayed around the house all day on account of the "wind." Don Juan explained that we had disturbed the wind deliberately and that it was better not to fool around with it. I had even had to sleep covered with branches.

A sudden gust of wind made don Juan get up in one incredibly agile jump.

"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 uproariously.

"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 acts accordingly."

"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 in 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 wind.

"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 like yourself."

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 unavailable."

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."

His metaphor was interesting, but at the same time it was also obscure.

"You are talking in riddles," I said.

He stared at me fixedly for a long moment and then began to hum a tune. I straightened my back and sat attentively. I knew that when don Juan hummed a Mexican tune he was about to clobber me.

"Hey," he said, smiling, and peered at me. "Whatever happened to your blond friend? That girl that you used to really like."

I must have looked at him like a confounded idiot. He laughed with great delight. I did not know what to say.

"You told me about her," he said reassuringly.

But I did not remember ever telling him about anybody, much less about a blond girl.

"I've never mentioned anything like that to you," I said.

"Of course you have," he said as if dismissing the argument.

I wanted to protest, but he stopped me, saying that it did not matter how he knew about her, that the important issue was that I had liked her.

I sensed a surge of animosity towards him building up within myself.

"Don't stall," don Juan said dryly. "This is a time when you should cut off your feelings of importance.

"You once had a woman, a very dear woman, and then one day you lost her."

I began to wonder if I had ever talked about her to don Juan. I concluded that there had never been an opportunity. Yet I might have. Every time he drove with me we had always talked incessantly about everything. I did not remember everything we had talked about because I could not take notes while driving. I felt somehow appeased by my conclusions. I told him that he was right. There had been a very important blond girl in my life.

"Why isn't she with you?" he asked.

"She left."


"There were many reasons."

"There were not so many reasons. There was only one. You made yourself too available."

I earnestly wanted to know what he meant. He again had touched me. He seemed to be cognizant of the effect of his touch and puckered up his lips to hide a mischievous smile.

"Everyone knew about you two," he said with unshaken conviction.

"Was it wrong?"

"It was deadly wrong. She was a fine person."

I expressed the sincere feeling that his fishing in the dark was odious to me, especially the fact that he always made his statements with the assurance of someone who had been at the scene and had seen it all.

"But that's true," he said with a disarming candor. "I have seen it all. She was a fine person."

I knew that it was meaningless to argue, but I was angry with him for touching that sore spot in my life and I said that the girl in question was not such a fine person after all, that in my opinion she was rather weak.

"So are you," he said calmly. "But that is not important. What counts is that you have looked for her everywhere; that makes her a special person in your world, and for a special person one should have only fine words."

I felt embarrassed; a great sadness had begun to engulf me.

"What are you doing to me, don Juan?" I asked. "You always succeed in making me sad. Why?"

"You are now indulging in sentimentality," he said accusingly.

"What is the point of all this, don Juan?"

"Being inaccessible is the point," he declared. "I brought up the memory of this person only as a means to show you directly what I couldn't show you with the wind.

"You lost her because you were accessible; you were always within her reach and your life was a routine one."

"No!" I said. "You're wrong. My life was never a routine.

"It was and it is a routine," he said dogmatically. "It is an unusual routine and that gives you the impression that it is not a routine, but I assure you it is."

I wanted to sulk and get lost in moroseness, but somehow his eyes made me feel restless; they seemed to push me on and on.

"The art of a hunter is to become inaccessible," he said. "In the case of that blond girl it would've meant that you had to become a hunter and meet her sparingly. Not the way you did. You stayed with her day after day, until the only feeling that remained was boredom. True?"

I did not answer. I felt I did not have to. He was right.

"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."

"I have never used anyone," I said sincerely.

But don Juan maintained that I had, and thus I could bluntly state that I became tired and bored with people.

"To be unavailable means that you deliberately avoid exhausting yourself and others," he continued. "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!"

Don Juan was definitely hitting me below the belt. I ] laughed and that seemed to please him. He touched my back lightly.

"A hunter knows he will lure game into his traps over and over again, so he doesn't 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."

I told him that in my day-to-day life it was inconceivable to be inaccessible. My point was that in order to function I had to be within reach of everyone that had something to do with me.

"I've told you already that to be inaccessible does not mean to hide or to be secretive," he said calmly. "It doesn't mean that you cannot deal with people either. A hunter uses his world sparingly and with tenderness, regardless of whether the world might be things, or plants, or animal, or people, or power. A hunter deals intimately with his world and yet he is inaccessible to that same world."

"That's a contradiction," I said. "He cannot be inaccessible if he is there in his world, hour after hour, day after day."

"You did not understand," don Juan said patiently. "He is inaccessible because he's 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."
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Re: Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan, by Carlos Ca

Postby admin » Mon Apr 30, 2018 4:35 am


Sunday, July 16,1961

We spent all morning watching some rodents that looked like fat squirrels; don Juan called them water rats. He pointed out that they were very fast in getting out of danger, but after they had outrun any predator they had the terrible habit of stopping, or even climbing a rock, to stand on their hind legs to look around and groom themselves.

"They have very good eyes," don Juan said. "You must move only when they are on the run, therefore, you must learn to predict when and where they will stop, so you would also stop at the same time."

I became engrossed in observing them and I had what would have been a field day for hunters as I spotted so many of them. And finally I could predict their movements almost every time.

Don Juan then showed me how to make traps to catch them. He explained that a hunter had to take time to observe their eating or their nesting places in order to determine where to locate his traps; he would then set them during the night and all he had to do the next day was to scare them off so they would scatter away into his catching devices.

We gathered some sticks and proceeded to build the hunting contraptions. I had mine almost finished and was excitedly wondering whether or not it would work when suddenly don Juan stopped and looked at his left wrist, as if he were checking a watch which he had never had, and said that according to his timepiece it was lunchtime. I was holding a long stick, which I was trying to make into a hoop by bending it in a circle. I automatically put it down with the rest of my hunting paraphernalia.

Don Juan looked at me with an expression of curiosity. Then he made the wailing sound of a factory siren at lunchtime. I laughed. His siren sound was perfect. I walked towards him and noticed that he was staring at me. He shook his head from side to side.

"I'll be damned," he said.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

He again made the long wailing sound of a factory whistle.

"Lunch is over," he said. "Go back to work."

I felt confused for an instant, but then I thought that he was joking, perhaps because we really had nothing to make lunch with. I had been so engrossed with the rodents that I had forgotten we had no provisions. I picked up the stick again and tried to bend it. After a moment don Juan again blew his "whistle."

"Time to go home," he said.

He examined his imaginary watch and then looked at me and winked.

"It's five o'clock," he said with an air of someone revealing a secret. I thought that he had suddenly become fed up with hunting and was calling the whole thing off. I simply put everything down and began to get ready to leave. I did not look at him. I presumed that he also was preparing his gear. When I was through I looked up and saw him sitting cross-legged a few feet away.

"I'm through," I said. "We can go anytime."

He got up and climbed a rock. He stood there, five or six feet above the ground, looking at me. He put his hands on either side of his mouth and made a very prolonged and piercing sound. It was like a magnified factory siren. He turned around in a complete circle, making the wailing sound.

"What are you doing, don Juan?" I asked.

He said that he was giving the signal for the whole world to go home. I was completely baffled. I could not figure out whether he was joking or whether he had simply flipped his lid. I watched him intently and tried to relate what he was doing to something he may have said before. We had hardly talked at all during the morning and I could not remember anything of importance.

Don Juan was still standing on top of the rock. He looked at me, smiled and winked again. I suddenly became alarmed. Don Juan put his hands on both sides of his mouth and let out another long whistlelike sound.

He said that it was eight o'clock in the morning and that I had to set up my gear again because we had a whole day ahead of us.

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 did?"

"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."

"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 time."

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."

Don Juan paused as if to give me time. He took off his hat and imitated the grooming movements of the rodents we had been observing. It was very funny to me. His round head made him look like one of those rodents.

"To be a hunter is not just to trap game," he went on. "A hunter that is worth his salt does 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."

What don Juan was saying sounded to me like an arbitrary and irrational idealization. I could not conceive of a life without routines. I wanted to be very honest with him and not just agree or disagree with him. I felt that what he had in mind was not possible to accomplish by me or by anyone.

"I don't care how you feel," he said. "In order to be a hunter you must disrupt the routines of your life. You have done well in hunting. You have learned quickly and now you can see that you are like your prey, easy to predict."

I asked him to be specific and give me concrete examples.

"I am talking about hunting," he said calmly. "Therefore I am concerned with the things animals do; the places they eat; the place, the manner, the time they sleep; where they nest; how they walk. These are the routines I am pointing out to you so you can become aware of them in your own being.

"You have observed the habits of animals in the desert. They eat and drink at certain places, they nest at specific spots, they leave their tracks in specific ways; in fact, everything they do can be foreseen or reconstructed by a good hunter.

"As I told you before, in my eyes you behave like your prey. Once in my life someone pointed out the same thing to me, so you're not unique in that. 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. Do you see what I mean?"

I again expressed the opinion that his proposition was unattainable.

"It takes time," don Juan said. "You could begin by not eating lunch every single day at twelve o'clock."

He looked at me and smiled benevolently. His expression was very funny and made me laugh.

"There are certain animals, however, that are impossible to track," he went on. "There are certain types of deer, for instance, which a fortunate hunter might be able to come across, by sheer luck, once in his lifetime."

Don Juan paused dramatically and looked at me piercingly. He seemed to be waiting for a question, but I did not have any.

"What do you think makes them so difficult to find and so unique?" he asked.

I shrugged my shoulders because I did not know what to say.

"They have no routines," he said in a tone of revelation. "That's what makes them magical."

"A deer has to sleep at night," I said. "Isn't that a routine?"

"Certainly, if the deer sleeps every night at a specific time and in one specific place. But those magical beings do not behave like that. In fact, someday you may verify this for yourself. Perhaps it'll be your fate to chase one of them for the rest of your life. "

"What do you mean by that?"

"You like hunting; perhaps someday, in some place in the world, your path may cross the path of a magical being and you might go after it.

"A magical being is a sight to behold. I was fortunate enough to cross paths with one. Our encounter took place after I had learned and practiced a great deal of hunting. Once I was in a forest of thick trees in the mountains of central Mexico when suddenly I heard a sweet whistle. It was unknown to me; never in all my years of roaming in the wilderness had I heard such a sound. I could not place it in the terrain; it seemed to come from different places. I thought that perhaps I was surrounded by a herd or a pack of some unknown animals.

"I heard the tantalizing whistle once more; it seemed to come from everywhere. I realized then my good fortune. I knew it was a magical being, a deer. I also knew that a magical deer is aware of the routines of ordinary men and the routines of hunters.

"It is very easy to figure out what an average man would do in a situation like that. First of all his fear would immediately turn him into a prey. Once he becomes a prey he has two courses of action left. He either flees or he makes his stand. If he is not armed he would ordinarily flee into the open field to run for his life. If he is armed he would get his weapon ready and would then make his stand either by freezing on the spot or by dropping to the ground.

"A hunter, on the other hand, when he stalks in the wilderness would never walk into any place without figuring out his points of protection, therefore he would immediately take cover. He might drop his poncho on the ground or he might hang it from a branch as a decoy and then he would hide and wait until the game makes its next move.

"So, in the presence of the magical deer I didn't behave like either. I quickly stood on my head and began to wail softly; I actually wept tears and sobbed for such a long time that I was about to faint. Suddenly I felt a soft breeze; something was sniffing my hair behind my right ear. I tried to turn my head to see what it was, and I tumbled down and sat up in time to see a radiant creature staring at me. The deer looked at me and I told him I would not harm him. And the deer talked to me."

Don Juan stopped and looked at me. I smiled involuntarily. The idea of a talking deer was quite incredible, to put it mildly.

"He talked to me," don Juan said with a grin.

"The deer talked?"

"He did."

Don Juan stood and picked up his bundle of hunting paraphernalia.

"Did it really talk?" I asked in a tone of perplexity.

Don Juan roared with laughter.

"What did it say?" I asked half in jest.

I thought he was pulling my leg. Don Juan was quiet for a moment, as if he were trying to remember, then his eyes brightened as he told me what the deer had said.

"The magical deer said, 'Hello friend,'" don Juan went on. "And I answered, 'Hello.' Then he asked me, 'Why are you crying?' and I said, 'Because I'm sad.' Then the magical creature came to my ear and said as clearly as I am speaking now, 'Don't be sad.'"

Don Juan stared into my eyes. He had a glint of sheer mischievousness. He began to laugh uproariously.

I said that his dialogue with the deer had been sort of dumb.

"What did you expect?" he asked, still laughing. "I'm an Indian."

His sense of humor was so outlandish that all I could do was laugh with him.

"You don't believe that a magical deer talks, do you?"

"I'm sorry but I just can't believe things like that can happen," I said.

"I don't blame you," he said reassuringly. "'It's one of the darndest things."
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