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How Carlos Castaneda found me
Last November, when I did my “No Internet November” experiment I got few books from my relative aunt – retired psychology professor. And among those there was “The Teachings of Don Juan and A Separate Reality” merged book written by anthropologist Carlos Castaneda. I will try to fill the book review section more often. Because the ones that end up in my long read list are usually worth summarizing and recommending. So this is a quick review of Carlos Castaneda book The Teachings of Don Juan and A Separate Reality.
The Teacher – Don Juan
Not that Don Juan, you dirty minded… There are better teachers in seduction nowadays, however in 1960-1970’s Carlos Castaneda has been studying a lot more complicated stuff that how to get laid. Carlos’ teacher – Don Juan is was a Yaqui tribe Indian, magician practitioner and wise old dude with tons of psychedelic experience. And throughout the span of 10 years Don Juan guides Carlos through the traps of his psyche into the general wisdom on leading a decent life that is worthwhile and most importantly – conscious. Lost? You should be.
Carlos Castaneda wants to know more about plants used by Indians during shamanism rituals, namely: peyote, (mescaline), hierba del diablo and humido (my understanding – psilocybin). He gets introduced to Don Juan and he accepts Carlos as a pupil on a way to understand Life itself eventually (in my estimation). On more literal sense – just to study herbs and their affect on human perception.
After first sessions it becomes evident study of these psychoactive plants is worthless without taking them and there Carlos enters the Dimensions of his Teacher Don Juan. It was in goddamn 1960’s and you can feel the upper class conservative, first world representative Carlos’ fright when he gets introduced into the world of altered states of consciousness. Carlos makes a fundamental error and tries to explain everything he encounters out there with logic. And he fails hard, which seems to postpone his learning endlessly. When reading I admired Don Juan’s never patience answering continuous stream of questions and excellence in guiding Carlos through never before experienced valleys of consciousness and world of magic – a true mark of a Great Teacher.
The Real Value of Words by Don Juan
I am sure we possess answers to unasked questions. We act out some part of our subconscious desires, morality, etc. without us even noticing. In The Teachings of Don Juan as well as A Separate reality Carlos poses a lot of questions. Don Juan’s answers or remarks could often be seen as nonsensical and not related, however what he does – is leveling with Carlos and challenging his Mind to play on the field of Mind he previously never examined before.
Don Juan’s remarks are often multilayered and this often confuses poor pupil. However if you challenge your mind to see through Don Juan’s perspective everything fits and makes perfect sense. Furthermore – you will gain some of new found wisdom.
Takeaways from The Teachings of Don Juan part
As far as I remember first part key takeaways are as follows:
- The noble and meaningful purpose of life is to become a Man of Knowledge.
- When you walk through life, endless amount of paths (decision outcomes) will be open to you. If a path has heart – it is a good path and worth going for. If it does not – it will deplete you. You and only you know (subconsciously at first) which of these is your path.
Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question. This question is one that only a very old man asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young, and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I do understand it. I will tell you what it is: Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths, but I am not anywhere. My benefactor’s question has meaning now. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.
Quotes from A Separate Reality
In the second half of the joint book “A Separate Reality” I started to mark pages, ’cause stuff was just too profound at times to miss out.
[after car had stopped following during a long night driving] Death never stops. Sometimes it turns out headlights – that is it.
“You believe that because you’re thinking. You’re thinking about life,” don Juan said with a
glint in his eyes. “You’re not seeing.”
“Would I feel differently if I could see?” I asked.
“Once a man learns to see he finds himself alone in the world with nothing but folly,” don
Juan said cryptically.
He paused for a moment and looked at me as if he wanted to judge the effect of his words.
“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.”
He used the word “learned” with such a peculiar inflection that it forced me to ask what he
meant by it.
He stopped handling his plants and looked at me.
“We learn to think about everything,” he said, “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.”
to train the eyes only to look was, in his opinion, an unnecessary loss
You don’t understand me now because of your habit of thinking as you look and thinking as you think.
“I still have so many things pending in my life,” I said. “So many things unresolved.”
Don Juan chuckled softly.
“Nothing is pending in the world,” he said. “Nothing is finished, yet nothing is unresolved. Go to sleep.”
“Your problem is that you confuse the world with what people do. Again you’re not unique at that. Every one of us does that. 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.”
“What do you call the world?”
“The world is all that is encased here,” he said, and stomped the ground.
“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.”
Your problem 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 Therefore, you have done almost nothing in all these years. You have been shaken out of your total slumber, true, but that could have been accomplished anyway by other circumstances.
The last words Don Juan tells Carlos when he’s about to leave for the last time after 10 years of teaching (A Separate Reality ending):
Nothing has really changed in you
This again taps onto idea that we posses wisdom in the subconscious. Wisdom given to us by archetypes if you will.
The first volume of the Book (The Teachings of Don Juan) ends with Carlos’ attempt to logically structure the teaching. That section is dreadful. Other than that a book offers great value to whoever is interested in topics of psychology, ethnography, psychedelics, magic, shamanism, subconscious and conscious living style. Book also suggests meta wisdom on leading a decent life and valuable perspective. One of the strongest esoteric type books I grabbed in recent years. Hats off to Carlos Castaneda for introducing this authentic wisdom to Western World.
I found English PDF’s online, if you are interested (right click>save as…):
- Carlos Castaneda – Teachings of Don Juan ebook (PDF)
- Carlos Castaneda – A Separate Reality ebook (PDF)
Carlos Castaneda "The Teachings of Don Juan" and "A Separate Reality"
Title: The Teachings of Don Juan (vol. 1) and A Separate Reality (vol.2)
Author: Carlos Castaneda
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