Selected Excerpts from the Works of Carlos Castaneda

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Selected Excerpts from the Works of Carlos Castaneda*

The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge

When man starts to learn, he is never clear about his objectives. His purpose is faulty; his intent is vague. He hopes for rewards that will never materialize, for he knows nothing of the hardships of learning.

He slowly begins to learn — bit by bit at first, then in big chunks… What he learns is never what he pictured, or imagined, and so he begins to be afraid. Learning is never what one expects… His purpose becomes a battlefield. And thus he has tumbled upon the first of his natural enemies: fear… And if the man, terrified in its presence, runs away, his enemy will have put an end to his quest…

He must be fully afraid, and yet he must not stop. And a moment will come when his first enemy retreats. The man begins to feel sure of himself… Once the man has vanquished fear, he is free from it for the rest of his life, because, instead of fear, he has acquired clarity — a clarity of mind which erases fear.

By then the man knows his desires; he knows how to satisfy those desires. He can anticipate the new steps of learning, and a sharp clarity surrounds everything. The man feels that nothing is concealed. And thus he has encountered his second enemy.

That clarity of mind, which is so hard to obtain, dispels fear, but also blinds. It forces the man never to doubt himself… If the man yields to this make-believe power, he has succumbed to his second enemy and will fumble with learning… The man may turn into a buoyant warrior, or a clown…, but he will no longer learn, or yearn for, anything.

(If he defeats this enemy,) he will know at this point that the power he has been pursuing for so long is finally his. His wish is the rule. He sees all that is around him. But he has also come across his third enemy — power. The man at this stage hardly notices his third enemy closing in on him. And suddenly, without knowing, he will certainly have lost the battle. His enemy will have turned him into a cruel, capricious man.

The man who is defeated by power dies without really knowing how to handle it. Power is only a burden upon his fate.

He has to defy it, deliberately. He has to come to realize the power he has seemingly conquered is in reality never his. If he can see that clarity and power, without his control over himself, are worse than mistakes, he will know then when and how to use his power. And thus he will have defeated his third enemy.

(The fourth enemy is) — old age! It attacks almost without warning. This enemy is the cruelest of all. The one he won’t be able to defeat completely, but only fight away. This is the time when he has an unyielding desire to rest. If he gives in totally to his desire to lie down and forget, if he soothes himself in tiredness, he will have lost his last round, and his enemy will cut him down into a feeble old creature. His desire to retreat will overrule all his clarity, his power, and his knowledge. But if the man sloughs off his tiredness, and lives his fate through, he can then be called a man of knowledge, if only for the brief moment when he succeeds in fighting off his last, invincible enemy. That moment of clarity, power, and knowledge is enough.

A Separate Reality. Further Conversations with Don Juan

Power rests on the kind of knowledge one holds. What is the sense knowing things that are useless?

I am never angry at anybody! No human being can do anything important enough for that. You get angry at people when you feel their acts are important. I don’t feel that way any longer.

(The path without heart)* entices men and gives them a sense of power; it makes them feel they can do things that no ordinary man can. But that is its trap. And, the next thing, the path without heart will turn against men and destroy them.

One must live strong, calm life.

To come into contact with allies* is dangerous, because they can provoke the worst in man.

The apprenticeship can be long and hard, because one has to reduce to a minimum all that is unnecessary in one’s life.

Feeling important makes one heavy, clumsy, and vain. To become a man of knowledge, one needs to be light and fluid.

… I go on living, because I have tempered my will throughout my life until it’s neat and wholesome. And now it doesn’t matter to me that nothing matters. Once man learns to see*, he finds himself alone in the world with nothing but folly.

I don’t know what to change in the people around and for what purpose. Probably some day you will be able to see people from other plane and understand that there is no way to change anything in them*.

We need to look with our eyes to laugh. Because only when we look at the things, we can catch their funny edge. On the other hand, when we see*, everything is so equal that nothing is funny. Perhaps, there are men of knowledge who never laugh, but I know no one of them. Those I know see, but also they look and laugh. I don’t like to be sad, so when I observe something which would make me sad, I simply shift my sight and see instead of looking at it. But when I come across something funny, I look at it and laugh. I am happy, because I choose to look at things that make me happy, and then my eyes catch their funny edge, and I laugh.

One must always choose the path with heart in order to be at one’s best, perhaps so one can always laugh.

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting, nor by thinking about what he will think when he has finished acting. A man of knowledge chooses a path with heart and follows it; and then he looks and rejoices and laughs; and then he sees and knows. He knows that his life will be over altogether too soon. A man of knowledge has no honor, no dignity, no family, no name, no country, but only life to be lived, and under these circumstances his only tie to people is his controlled folly. Thus a man of knowledge endeavors, and sweats, and puffs, and if one looks at him, he is just like any ordinary man, except that the folly of his life is under control. Whether his acts were good or bad, or worked or didn’t, is in no way part of his concern.

It is the same to be a winner or to be defeated.

You’re too concerned with liking people or with being liked yourself. A man of knowledge likes, that’s all. He likes whatever or whoever he wants, but he uses his controlled folly to be unconcerned about it. This is in opposite to what you are doing now. To like people and be liked by them is far from all that man can do.

Our lot as men is to learn. And one must go to knowledge as one goes to war; with respect, aware that one is going to war, and with absolute confidence in oneself. Put your trust in yourself, not in me.

In the life of a man of knowledge, everything is filled to the brim. In order to become a man of knowledge, one must be a warrior, not a whimpering child.

If you do not think of your death, all your life will be just personal chaos.

People win or suffer defeat, and consequently they became persecutors or victims.

While (someone) thinks that he was a victim, his life is a hell.

That which makes us unhappy is our (“earthly”) desires.

The results of using the will are astounding. Perhaps the first thing that one should do is to know that one can develop the will… Will is something very clear and powerful which can direct our acts. Will is something man uses, for instance, to win a battle which he, by all calculations, should lose.

Courage is something else. Men of courage are dependable men, noble men perennially surrounded by people who flock around them and admire them; yet very few men of courage have will. Usually they are fearless men who are given to performing daring common-sense acts; most of the time a courageous man is also fearsome. Will, on the other hand, has to do with astonishing feats that defy our common sense. Will is a power. Will is what can make you succeed when your thoughts tell you that you’re defeated. Will is what makes you invulnerable. Will is what allows a sorcerer to go through a wall, space, to the Moon, if he desires. Will is a force which is the true link between men and the world. What you call will is character and strong disposition. What a sorcerer calls will is a force that comes from within and attaches itself to the world out there. It comes from within through the abdomen…

The frightening nature of knowledge leaves one no alternative but to become a warrior. By the time knowledge becomes a frightening affair, the man also realizes that death is the irreplaceable partner that sits next to him on the mat. Every bit of knowledge that becomes power has death as its central force. Death lends the ultimate touch, and whatever is touched by death indeed becomes power.

Man who follows the paths of sorcery is confronted with imminent annihilation every turn of the way, and unavoidably he becomes keenly aware of his death. Without the awareness of death he would be only an ordinary man involved in ordinary acts. He would lack the necessary potency, the necessary concentration that transforms one’s ordinary time on the Earth into magical power.

Thus to be a warrior, man has to be, first of all, and rightfully so, keenly aware of his own death. But to be concerned with death would force any one of us to focus on the self, and that would be debilitating. So, the next thing one needs to be a warrior is detachment. The idea of imminent death, instead of becoming an obsession, becomes an indifference. Now you must detach yourself from everything… Only the idea of death makes man sufficiently detached…

And thus with an awareness of his death, with his detachment, and with the power of his decisions a warrior sets his life in a strategical manner. The knowledge of his death guides him and makes him detached and silently lusty; the power of his final decisions makes him able to choose without regret

carlito santo's picture

Thank you so much, great

Thank you so much, great collection of a valuable resource (Castaneda).

I once thoughts that Castaneda's books are all about taking Payote and ferry tales. Later, I discovered that it's actually a precious gem of wisdom and guidance.

carlito santo | Sun, 08/17/2014 - 06:34