Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan's Teachings
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A light and amenable disposition is needed in order to withstand the impact and the strangeness of the knowledge I am teaching you. Feeling important makes one heavy, clumsy, and vain. To be a man of knowledge one needs to be light and fluid.
One has to reduce to a minimum all that is unnecessary in one's life.
Once you decide something put all your petty fears away. Your decision should vanquish them. I will tell you time and time again, the most effective way to live is as a warrior. Worry and think before you make any decision, but once you make it, be on your way free from worries or thoughts; there will be a million other decisions still awaiting you. That's the warrior's way.
A warrior thinks of his death when things become unclear. The idea of death is the only thing that tempers our spirit.
To be a warrior you have to be crystal clear.
My acts are sincere but they are only the acts of an actor because everything I do is controlled folly. Everything I do in regard to myself and my fellow men is folly, because nothing matters.
Certain things in your life matter to you because they're important; your acts are certainly important to you, but for me, not a single thing is important any longer, neither my acts nor the acts of any of my fellow men. I go on living though, because I have my will . 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. My will controls the folly of my life.
Once a man learns to see he finds himself alone in the world with nothing but folly. Your acts, as well as the acts of your fellow men in general, appear to be important to you because you have learned to think they are important.
We learn to think about everything, and then we train our eyes to look as we think about the things we look at. We look at ourselves already thinking that we are important. And therefore we've got to feel important! But then when a man learns to see , he realizes that he can no longer think about the things he looks at, and if he cannot think about what he looks at everything becomes unimportant. Everything is equal and therefore unimportant.
We need to look with our eyes to laugh. When our eyes see , everything is so equal that nothing is funny. My laughter, as well as everything I do is real but it also is controlled folly because it is useless; it changes nothing and yet I still do it.
One must always choose the path with heart in order to be at one's best, perhaps so one can always laugh.
You don't understand me now because of your habit of thinking as you look and thinking as you think. By "thinking" I mean the constant idea that we have of everything in the world. Seeing dispels that habit and until you learn to see you will not really understand what I mean.
Our lot as men is to learn. I have learned to see and I tell you that nothing really matters. 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; he knows that he, as well as everybody else, is not going anywhere; he knows, because he sees , that nothing is more important than anything else. In other words, 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 his fellow men 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. Nothing being more important than anything else, a man of knowledge chooses any act, and acts it out as if it matters to him. His controlled folly makes him say that what he does matters and makes him act as if it did, and yet he knows that it doesn't; so when he fulfills his acts he retreats in peace, and whether his acts were good or bad, or worked or didn't, is in no way part of his concern.
You think about your acts, therefore you have to believe your acts are as important as you think they are, when in reality nothing of what one does is important. Nothing! But then if nothing really matters, as you ask me, how can I go on living? It would be simple to die; that's what you say and believe, because you're thinking about life, just as you're thinking now what seeing would be like. You want me to describe it to you so you can begin to think about it, the way you do with everything else. In the case of seeing , however, thinking is not the issue at all, so I cannot tell you what it is like to see . Now you want me to describe the reasons for my controlled folly and I can only tell you that controlled folly is very much like seeing ; it is something you cannot think about.
Our lot as men is to learn and, as I've said, one goes to knowledge as one goes to war; with fear, with respect, aware that one is going to war, and with absolute confidence in oneself. Put your trust in yourself. There's no emptiness in the life of a man of knowledge, everything is filled to the brim and everything is equal. For me there is no victory, or defeat, or emptiness. Everything is filled to the brim and everything is equal and my struggle is worth my while.
In order to become a man of knowledge one must be a warrior. One must strive without giving up, without a complaint, without flinching, until one sees , only to realize then that nothing matters. 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.
My controlled folly applies only to myself and to the acts I perform while in the company of my fellow men.
You must talk to the plants you're going to pick before you pick them. In order to see the plants you must talk to them personally, you must get to know them individually; then the plants can tell you anything you care to know about them.
You fail to understand that I am not joking. When a sorcerer attempts to see , he attempts to gain power.
You think everything in the world is simple to understand because everything you do is a routine that is simple to understand.
You have to have an unbending intent in order to become a man of knowledge.
A warrior takes responsibility for his acts; for the most trivial of his acts. He waits patiently, knowing that he is waiting, and knowing what he is waiting for. That is the warrior's way.
What makes us unhappy is to want. Yet if we would learn to cut our wants to nothing, the smallest thing we'd get would be a true gift. To be poor or wanting is only a thought; and so is to hate, or to be hungry, or to be in pain. They are only thoughts for me now, I have accomplished that feat. The power to do that is all we have, mind you, to oppose the forces of our lives; without that power we are dregs, dust in the wind.
It is up to us as single individuals to oppose the forces of our lives. Only a warrior can survive. A warrior knows that he is waiting and what he is waiting for; and while he waits he wants nothing and thus whatever little thing he gets is more than he can take. If he needs to eat he finds a way, because he is not hungry; if something hurts his body he finds a way to stop it, because he is not in pain. To be hungry or to be in pain means that the man has abandoned himself and is no longer a warrior; and the forces of his hunger and pain will destroy him.
* * *
The countless paths one traverses in one's life are all equal. Oppressors and oppressed meet at the end, and the only thing that prevails is that life was altogether too short for both.
You must act like a warrior. One learns to act like a warrior by acting, not by talking. A warrior has only his will and his patience and with them he builds anything he wants. You have no more time for retreats or for regrets. You only have time to live like a warrior and work for patience and will .
Will is something very special. It happens mysteriously. There is no real way of telling how one uses it, except that 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 . A warrior knows that and proceeds to wait for it.
A warrior knows that he is waiting and knows what he is waiting for. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for the average man to know what he is waiting for. A warrior, however, has no problems; he knows that he is waiting for his will .
Will is something very clear and powerful which can direct our acts. Will is something a man uses, for instance, to win a battle which he, by all calculations, should lose. It is not what we call courage. 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 and feared. Will , on the other hand, has to do with astonishing feats that defy our common sense. You may say that it is a kind of control.
Will is not what one calls "will power." Denying oneself certain things with "will power," is an indulgence and I don't recommend anything of the kind. The indulgence of denying is by far the worst; it forces us to believe we are doing great things, when in effect we are only fixed within ourselves.
Will is a power. And since it is a power it has to be controlled and tuned and that takes time. When I was your age I was as impulsive as you. Yet I have changed. Our will operates in spite of our indulgence. For example your will is already opening your gap, little by little.
There is a gap in us; like the soft spot on the head of a child which closes with age, this gap opens as one develops one's will . It's an opening. It allows a space for the will to shoot out, like an arrow. What a sorcerer calls will is a power within ourselves. It is not a thought, or an object, or a wish. An act of "will power" is not will because such an act needs thinking and wishing. Will is what can make you succeed when your thoughts tell you that you're defeated. Will is a force which is the true link between men and the world.
The world is whatever we perceive, in any manner we may choose to perceive. Perceiving the world entails a process of apprehending whatever presents itself to us. This particular perceiving is done with our senses and with our will . Will is a relation between ourselves and the perceived world.
What the average man calls 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. One can perceive the world with the senses as well as with the will .
An average man can "grab" the things of the world only with his hands, or his senses, but a sorcerer can grab them also with his will . I cannot really describe how it is done, but you yourself, for instance, cannot describe to me how you hear. It happens that I am also capable of hearing, so we can talk about what we hear, but not about how we hear. A sorcerer uses his will to perceive the world. That perceiving, however, is not like hearing. When we look at the world or when we hear it, we have the impression that it is out there and that it is real. When we perceive the world with our will we know that the world is not as "out there" or as "real" as we think.
Will is a force, a power. Seeing is not a force, but rather a way of getting through things. A sorcerer may have a very strong will and yet he may not see ; which means that only a man of knowledge perceives the world with his senses and with his will and also with his seeing .
Now you know you are waiting for your will . You still don't know what it is, or how it could happen to you. So watch carefully everything you do. The very thing that could help you develop your will is amidst all the little things you do.
* * *
When a man embarks on the paths of sorcery he becomes aware, in a gradual manner, that ordinary life has been forever left behind; that knowledge is indeed a frightening affair; that the means of the ordinary world are no longer a buffer for him; and that he must adopt a new way of life if he is going to survive. The first thing he ought to do, at that point, is to want to become a warrior. 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.
A 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 earth into magical power.
Thus to be a warrior a 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; detach yourself from everything. Only the idea of death makes a man sufficiently detached so he is incapable of abandoning himself to anything. Only the idea of death makes a man sufficiently detached so he can't deny himself anything. A man of that sort, however, does not crave, for he has acquired a silent lust for life and for all things of life. He knows his death is stalking him and won't give him time to cling to anything, so he tries, without craving, all of everything.
A detached man, who knows he has no possibility of fencing off his death, has only one thing to back himself with: the power of his decisions. He has to be, so to speak, the master of his choices. He must fully understand that his choice is his responsibility and once he makes it there is no longer time for regrets or recriminations. His decisions are final, simply because his death does not permit him time to cling to anything.
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 regrets and what he chooses is always strategically the best; and so he performs everything he has to with gusto and lusty efficiency.
When a man behaves in such a manner one may rightfully say that he is a warrior and has acquired patience. When a warrior has acquired patience he is on his way to will . He knows how to wait. His death sits with him on his mat, they are friends. His death advises him, in mysterious ways, how to choose, how to live strategically. And the warrior waits! I would say that the warrior learns without any hurry because he knows he is waiting for his will ; and one day he succeeds in performing something ordinarily quite impossible to accomplish. He may not even notice his extraordinary deed. But as he keeps on performing impossible acts, or as impossible things keep on happening to him, he becomes aware that a sort of power is emerging. A power that comes out of his body as he progresses on the path of knowledge. He notices that he can actually touch anything he wants with a feeling that comes out of his body from a spot right below or right above his navel. That feeling is the will , and when he is capable of grabbing with it, one can rightfully say that the warrior is a sorcerer, and that he has acquired will .
A man can go still further than that; a man can learn to see . Upon learning to see he no longer needs to live like a warrior, nor be a sorcerer. Upon learning to see a man becomes everything by becoming nothing. He, so to speak, vanishes and yet he's there. I would say that this is the time when a man can be or can get anything he desires. But he desires nothing, and instead of playing with his fellow men like they were toys, he meets them in the midst of their folly. The only difference between them is that a man who sees controls his folly, while his fellow men can't. A man who sees has no longer an active interest in his fellow men. Seeing has already detached him from absolutely everything he knew before.
Don't let the idea of being detached from everything you know give you the chills. The thing which should give you the chills is not to have anything to look forward to but a lifetime of doing that which you have always done. Think of the man who plants corn year after year until he's too old and tired to get up, so he lies around like an old dog. His thoughts and feelings, the best of him, ramble aimlessly to the only things he has ever done, to plant corn. For me that is the most frightening waste there is.
We are men and our lot is to learn and to be hurled into inconceivable new worlds. Seeing is for impeccable men. Temper your spirit now, become a warrior, learn to see , and then you'll know that there is no end to the new worlds for our vision.
When you see there are no longer familiar features in the world. Everything is new. Everything has never happened before. The world is incredible! Everything you gaze at becomes nothing!
Things don't disappear they don't vanish, they simply became nothing and yet they are still there. Seeing makes one realize the unimportance of everything.
Seeing is learned by seeing.
* * *
A warrior treats everything with respect and does not trample on anything unless he has to. He does not abandon himself to anything, not even to his death. He is not a willing partner and not available, and if he involves himself with something, you can be sure that he is aware of what he is doing. For a warrior there is nothing out of control. Life for a warrior is an exercise in strategy. But you want to find the meaning of life. A warrior doesn't care about meanings. He would set his life strategically. Thus if he couldn't avoid an accident he would find means to offset his handicap, or avoid its consequences, or battle against them. He would be battling to the end.
A warrior is never available; never is he standing on the road waiting to be clobbered. Thus he cuts to a minimum his chances of the unforeseen.
A warrior is never idle and never in a hurry.
* * *
When a man learns to see , not a single thing he knows prevails. Not a single one. Nothing is known; nothing remains as we used to know it when we didn't see .
A warrior lives strategically and never carries loads he cannot handle.
* * *
Nothing is pending in the world, nothing is finished, yet nothing is unresolved.
* * *
The path of knowledge is a forced one. In order to learn we must be spurred. In the path of knowledge we are always fighting something, avoiding something, prepared for something; and that something is always inexplicable, greater, more powerful than us. The inexplicable forces will come to you. Later on it'll be your own ally, so there is nothing you can do now but to prepare yourself for the struggle.
The world is indeed full of frightening things and we are helpless creatures surrounded by forces that are inexplicable and unbending. The average man, in ignorance, believes that those forces can be explained or changed; he doesn't really know how to do that, but he expects that the actions of mankind will explain them or change them sooner or later. A sorcerer, on the other hand, does not think of explaining or changing them; instead, he learns to use such forces by redirecting himself and adapting to their direction. That's his trick. There is very little to sorcery once you find out its trick. A sorcerer, by opening himself to knowledge, falls prey to those forces and has only one means of balancing himself, his will ; thus he must feel and act like a warrior. I will repeat this once more: Only as a warrior can one survive the path of knowledge. What helps a sorcerer live a better life is the strength of being a warrior.
It is my commitment to teach you to see . I am compelled, therefore, to teach you to feel and act like a warrior. To see without first being a warrior would make you weak; it would give you a false meekness, a desire to retreat; your body would decay because you would become indifferent. It is my personal commitment to make you a warrior so you won't crumble.
A warrior should be prepared only to battle. His spirit is not geared to indulging and complaining, nor is it geared to winning or losing. The spirit of a warrior is geared only to struggle, and every struggle is a warrior's last battle on earth. Thus the outcome matters very little to him. In his last battle on earth a warrior lets his spirit flow free and clear. And as he wages his battle, knowing that his will is impeccable, a warrior laughs and laughs.
A warrior selects the items that make his world. He selects deliberately, for every item he chooses is a shield that protects him from the onslaughts of the forces he is striving to use. The average man who is equally surrounded by those inexplicable forces is oblivious to them because he has other kinds of special shields to protect himself.
People are busy doing that which people do. Those are their shields. Whenever a sorcerer has an encounter with any of those inexplicable and unbending forces we will talk about, his gap opens, making him more susceptible to his death than he ordinarily is. We die through that gap, therefore if it is open one should have his will ready to fill it; that is, if one is a warrior. If one is not a warrior, like yourself, then one has no other recourse but to use the activities of daily life to take one's mind away from the fright of the encounter and thus to allow one's gap to close.
Act like a warrior and select the items of your world. You cannot surround yourself with things helter-skelter any longer. I tell you this in a most serious vein. A warrior encounters those inexplicable and unbending forces because he is deliberately seeking them, thus he is always prepared for the encounter. The first thing you must do, then, is be prepared. A warrior takes the responsibility of protecting his life. Then if any of those forces tap him and open his gap, he must deliberately strive to close it by himself. For that purpose he must have a selected number of things that give him great peace and pleasure, things which he can deliberately use to take his thoughts from his fright and close his gap and make him solid.
In his day-to-day life a warrior chooses to follow the path with heart. It is the consistent choice of the path with heart which makes a warrior different from the average man. He knows that a path has heart when he is one with it, when he experiences a great peace and pleasure traversing its length. The things a warrior selects to make his shields are the items of a path with heart. You must surround yourself with the items of a path with heart and you must refuse the rest.
* * *
You must stop talking to yourself. Every one of us does that. We carry on an internal talk. We talk about our world. In fact we maintain our world with our internal talk. Whenever we finish talking to ourselves the world is always as it should be. We renew it, we kindle it with life, we uphold it with our internal talk. Not only that, but we also choose our paths as we talk to ourselves. Thus we repeat the same choices over and over until the day we die, because we keep on repeating the same internal talk over and over until the day we die.
A warrior is aware of this and strives to stop his talking. This is the last point you have to know if you want to live like a warrior.
First of all you must use your ears to take some of the burden from your eyes. We have been using our eyes to judge the world since the time we were born. We talk to others and to ourselves mainly about what we see. A warrior is aware of that and listens to the world; he listens to the sounds of the world. He is aware that the world will change as soon as he stops talking to himself and he must be prepared for that monumental jolt.
The world is such-and-such or so-and-so only because we tell ourselves that that is the way it is. If we stop telling ourselves that the world is so-and-so, the world will stop being so-and-so. You must start slowly to undo the world.
Your problem is that you confuse the world with what people do. The things people do are the shields against the forces that surround us; what we do as people gives us comfort and makes us feel safe; what people do is rightfully very important, but only as a shield. We never learn that the things we do as people are only shields and we let them dominate and topple our lives. In fact I could say that for mankind, what people do is greater and more important than the world itself.
The world is all that is encased here; life, death, people, the allies, and everything else that surrounds us. The world is incomprehensible. We won't ever understand it; we won't ever unravel its secrets. Thus we must treat it as it is, a sheer mystery!
An average man doesn't do this, though. The world is never a mystery for him, and when he arrives at old age he is convinced he has nothing more to live for. An old man has not exhausted the world. He has exhausted only what people do. But in his stupid confusion he believes that the world has no more mysteries for him. What a wretched price to pay for our shields!
A warrior is aware of this confusion and learns to treat things properly. The things that people do cannot under any conditions be more important than the world. And thus a warrior treats the world as an endless mystery and what people do as an endless folly.
Focus all your attention on listening to sounds and do your best to find the holes between the sounds. Stay in complete alertness.
Everything is meaningful for a sorcerer. The sounds have holes in them and so does everything around you. Ordinarily a man does not have the speed to catch the holes, and thus he goes through life without protection. The worms, the birds, the trees, all of them can tell us unimaginable things if only one could have the speed to grasp their message.
Fright is something one can never get over. A warrior cannot indulge, thus he cannot die of fright. Your difficulty is that you want to understand everything, and that is not possible. If you insist on understanding you're not considering your entire lot as a human being. Your stumbling block is intact.
Understanding is only a very small affair, so very small--yet sober understanding is vital.
* * *
Only by acting can one become a sorcerer.
You now have the need to live like a warrior.