Castaneda8 - Carlos Castaneda - "The
Teachings of Don Juan"
КАСТАНЭДА "Учения Дон Хуана"
In the summer
of 1960, while I was an anthropology student at the
University of California, Los Angeles, I made several trips to the
Southwest to collect information on the
medicinal plants used by the Indians of the area. The events I describe
here began during one of my trips. I was waiting in a border town for a
Greyhound bus talking with a
friend who had been my guide and helper in the survey. Suddenly he
leaned towards me and whispered that the
man, a white-haired old Indian, who was sitting in front of the window
was very learned about plants,
especially peyote. I asked my friend to introduce me to this man. My
friend greeted him, then went over and shook his hand. After they
had talked for a while, my friend signalled me to join them, but
immediately left me alone with the old
man, not even bothering to introduce us. He was not in the least
embarrassed. I told him my name and he said
that he was called Juan and that he was at my service. He used the
Spanish polite form of address. We shook hands
at my initiative and then remained silent for some time. It was not a
strained silence, but a quietness,
natural and relaxed on both sides. Though his dark face and neck were
wrinkled, showing his age, it struck
me that his body was agile and muscular. I then told him that I was
interested in obtaining
information about medicinal plants. Although in truth I was almost
totally ignorant about peyote, I found myself pretending
that I knew a great deal, and even suggesting that it might be to his
advantage to talk with me. As I rattled on, he nodded slowly and looked
at me, but said nothing.
avoided his eyes and we finished by standing, the two of us, in dead
silence. Finally, after what seemed a
very long time, don Juan got up and looked out of the window. His bus
had come. He said good-bye and left the
station. I was annoyed at having talked nonsense to him, and at being
through by those remarkable eyes. When my friend returned he tried to
console me for my failure to learn
anything from don Juan. He explained that the old man was often silent
or noncommittal, but the disturbing effect of
this first encounter was not so easily dispelled. I made a point of
finding out where don Juan lived, and later visited
him several times. On each visit I tried to lead him to discuss peyote,
but without success. We became,
nonetheless, very good friends, and my scientific investigation was
forgotten or was at least redirected into channels
that were worlds apart from my original
intention. The friend who had introduced me to don Juan explained later
old man was not a native of Arizona, where we met, but was a Yaqui
Indian from Sonora, Mexico.
At first I saw don Juan simply as a rather peculiar man who knew a
great deal about peyote and who spoke Spanish remarkably well. But the
people with whom he lived believed
that he had some sort of "secret knowledge", that he was a "brujo". The
Spanish word brujo means, in
English, medicine man, curer, witch, sorcerer. It connotes essentially
a person who has extraordinary, and
usually evil, powers. I had known don Juan for a whole year before he
took me into his
confidence. One day he explained that he possessed a certain knowledge
that he had learned from a teacher, a
"benefactor" as he called him, who had directed him in a kind of
apprenticeship. Don Juan had, in turn, chosen
me to serve as his apprentice, but he warned me that I would have to
make a very deep commitment and that the
training was long and arduous. In describing his teacher, don Juan used
the word "diablero". Later I
learned that diablero is a term used only by the Sonoran Indians. It
refers to an evil person who practises
black sorcery and is capable of transforming himself into an animal - a
bird, a dog, a coyote, or any
other creature. On one of my visits to Sonora I had a peculiar
illustrated the Indians' feeling about diableros. I was driving at
night in the company of two Indian friends
when I saw an animal that seemed to be a dog crossing the highway. One
of my companions said it was not a dog,
but a huge coyote. I slowed down and
pulled to the side of the road to get a good look at the animal.
stayed within range of the headlights a few seconds longer and then ran
into the chaparral. It was unmistakably a
coyote, but it was twice the ordinary size. Talking excitedly, my
friends agreed that it was a very unusual animal,
and one of them suggested that it might be a diablero. I decided to use
an account of the experience to
question the Indians of that area about their beliefs in the existence
of diableros. I talked with many people, telling them
the story and asking them questions. The three conversations that
follow indicate what they felt.
"Do you think it was a coyote, Choy?" I asked a young man after he had
heard the story.
"Who knows? A dog, no doubt. Too large for a coyote."
"Do you think it may have been a diablero?"
"That's a lot of bull. There are no such things."
"Why do you say that, Choy?"
"People imagine things. I bet if you had caught that animal you would
have seen that it was a dog. Once I had some business in another town
and got up before daybreak and
saddled up a horse. As I was leaving I came upon a dark shadow on the
road which looked like a huge animal. My
horse reared, throwing me off the saddle. I was pretty scared too, but
it turned out that the shadow was a woman
who was walking to town."
"Do you mean, Choy, that you don't believe there are diableros?"
"Diableros! What's a diablero? Tell me what a diablero is!"
"I don't know, Choy. Manuel, who was riding with me that night, said
the coyote could have been a diablero. Maybe you could tell me what a
"A diablero, they say, is a brujo who changes into any form he wants to
adopt. But everybody knows that is pure bull. The old people here are
full of stories about diableros. You
won't find that among us younger people."
"What kind of animal do you think it was, dona Luz?" I asked a
"Only God knows that for sure, but I think it was not a coyote. There
are things that appear to be coyotes, but are not. Was the coyote
running, or was it eating?"
"It was standing most of the time, but when I first saw it, I think it
was eating something."
"Are you sure it was not carrying something in its mouth?"
"Perhaps it was. But tell me, would that make any difference?"
"Yes, it would. If it was carrying something in its mouth it was not a
"What was it then?"
"'It was a man or a woman."
"What do you call such people, dona Luz?"
She did not answer. I questioned her for a while longer, but without
success. Finally she said she did not know. I asked her if such people
were called diableros, and she
answered that "diablero" was one of the names given to them.
"Do you know any diableros" I asked.
"I knew one woman," she replied. "She was killed. It happened when I
was a little girl. The woman, they said, used to turn into a female
dog. And one night a dog went into the
house of a white man to steal cheese. The white man killed the dog with
a shotgun, and at the very moment the dog
died in the house of the white man the woman died in her own hut. Her
kin got together and went to the white
man and demanded payment. The white man paid good money for having
"How could they demand payment if it was only a dog he killed?"
"They said that the white man knew it was not a dog, because other
people were with him, and they all saw that the dog stood up on its
legs like a man and reached for the
cheese, which was on a tray hanging from the roof. The men were waiting
for the thief because the white man's cheese
was being stolen every night. So the man killed the thief knowing it
was not a dog."
"Are there any diableros nowadays, dona Luz?"
"Such things are very secret. They say there are no more diableros, but
I doubt it, because one member of a
diablero's family has to learn what the diablero knows. Diableros have
their own laws, and one of them is that a
diablero has to teach his secrets to one of his kin."
"What do you think the animal was, Genaro?" I asked a very old man.
"A dog from one of the ranches of that area. What else?"
"It could have been a diablero."
"A diablero? You are crazy! There are no diableros."
"Do you mean that there are none today, or that there never were any?"
"At one time there were, yes. It is common knowledge. Everybody knows
that. But the people were very
afraid of them and had them all killed."
"Who killed them, Genaro?"
"All the people of the tribe. The last diablero I knew about was S. He
killed dozens, maybe even hundreds of
people with his sorcery. We couldn't put up with that and the people
got together and took him by surprise one
night and burned him alive."
"How long ago was that, Genaro?"
"In nineteen forty-two."
"Did you see it yourself?"
"No, but people still talk about it. They say that there were no ashes
left, even though the stake was made of
fresh wood. All that was left at the end was a huge pool of grease."
Although don Juan categorized his benefactor as a diablero, he never
mentioned the place where he had
acquired his knowledge, nor did he identify his teacher. In fact, don
Juan disclosed very little about his personal
life. All he said was that he had been born in the Southwest in 1891;
that he had spent nearly all his life in
Mexico; that in 1900 his family was exiled by the Mexican government to
central Mexico along with thousands
of other Sonoran Indians; and that he had lived in central and southern
Mexico until 1940. Thus, as don Juan had
traveled a great deal, his knowledge may have been the product of many
influences. And although he regarded
himself as an Indian from Sonora, I was not sure whether to place the
context of his knowledge totally in the
culture of the Sonoran Indians. But it is not my intention here to
determine his precise cultural milieu.
I began to serve my apprenticeship to don Juan in June 1961. Prior to
that time I had seen him on various
occasions, but always in the capacity of an anthropological observer.
During these early conversations I took
notes in a covert manner. Later, relying on my memory, I reconstructed
the entire conversation. When I began to
participate as an apprentice, however, that method of taking notes
became very difficult, because our
conversations touched on many different topics. Then don Juan allowed
me - under strong protest, however - to
record openly anything that was said. I would also have liked to take
photographs and make tape recordings, but
he would not permit me to do so.
I carried out the apprenticeship first in Arizona and then in Sonora,
because don Juan moved to Mexico
during the course of my training. The procedure I employed was to see
him for a few days every so often. My
visits became more frequent and lasted longer during the summer months
of 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1964. In
retrospect, I believe this method of conducting the apprenticeship
prevented the training from being successful,
because it retarded the advent of the full commitment I needed to
become a sorcerer. Yet the method was
beneficial from my personal standpoint in that it allowed me a modicum
of detachment, and that in turn fostered
a sense of critical examination which would have been impossible to
attain had I participated continuously,
without interruption. In September 1965, I voluntarily discontinued the
Several months after my withdrawal, I considered for the first time the
idea of arranging my field notes in a
systematic way. As the data I had collected were quite voluminous, and
included much miscellaneous
information, I began by trying to establish a classification system. I
divided the data into areas of related
concepts and procedures and arranged the areas hierarchically according
to subjective importance - that is, in
terms of the impact that each of them had had on me. In that way I
arrived at the following classification: uses of
hallucinogenic plants; procedures and formulas used in sorcery;
acquisition and manipulation of power objects;
uses of medicinal plants; songs and legends.
Reflecting upon the phenomena I had experienced, I realized that my
attempt at classification had produced
nothing more than an inventory of categories; any attempt to refine my
scheme would therefore yield only a
more complex inventory. That was not what I wanted. During the months
following my withdrawal from the
apprenticeship, I needed to understand what I had experienced, and what
I had experienced was the teaching of a
coherent system of beliefs by means of a pragmatic and experimental
method. It had been evident to me from the
very first session in which I had participated that don Juan's
teachings possessed an internal cohesion. Once he
had definitely decided to communicate his knowledge to me, he proceeded
to present his explanations in orderly
steps. To discover that order and to understand it proved to be a most
difficult task for me.
My inability to arrive at an understanding seems to have been traceable
to the fact that, after four years of
apprenticeship, I was still a beginner. It was clear that don Juan's
knowledge and his method of conveying it
were those of his benefactor; thus my difficulties in understanding his
teachings must have been analogous to
those he himself had encountered. Don Juan alluded to our similarity as
beginners through incidental comments
about his incapacity to understand his teacher during his own
apprenticeship. Such remarks led me to believe
that to any beginner, Indian or non-Indian, the knowledge of sorcery
was rendered incomprehensible by the
outlandish characteristics of the phenomena he experienced. Personally,
as a Western man, I found these
characteristics so bizarre that it was virtually impossible to explain
them in terms of my own everyday life, and I
was forced to the conclusion that any attempt to classify my field data
in my own terms would be futile.
Thus it became obvious to me that don Juan's knowledge had to be
examined in terms of how he himself
understood it; only in such terms could it be made evident and
convincing. In trying to reconcile my own views
with don Juan's, however, I realized that whenever he tried to explain
his knowledge to me, he used concepts
that would render it "intelligible" to him. As those concepts were
alien to me, trying to understand his knowledge
in the way he did placed me in another untenable position. Therefore,
my first task was to determine his order of
conceptualization. While working in that direction, I saw that don Juan
himself had placed particular emphasis
on a certain area of his teachings - specifically, the uses of
hallucinogenic plants. On the basis of this realization,
I revised my own scheme of categories.
Don Juan used, separately and on different occasions, three
hallucinogenic plants: peyote (Lophophora
williamsii), Jimson weed (Datura inoxia syn. D. meteloides), and a
mushroom (possibly Psilocybe mexicana).
Since before their contact with Europeans, American Indians have known
the hallucinogenic properties of these
three plants. Because of their properties, the plants have been widely
employed for pleasure, for curing, for
witchcraft, and for attaining a state of ecstasy. In the specific
context of his teachings, don Juan related the use of
Datura inoxia and Psilocybe mexicana to the acquisition of power, a
power he called an "ally". He related the
use of Lophophora williamsii to the acquisition of wisdom, or the
knowledge of the right way to live.
The importance of the plants was, for don Juan, their capacity to
produce stages of peculiar perception in a
human being. Thus he guided me into experiencing a sequence of these
stages for the purpose of unfolding and
validating his knowledge. I have called them "states of non-ordinary
reality", meaning unusual reality as
opposed to the ordinary reality of everyday life. The distinction is
based on the inherent meaning of the states of
non ordinary reality. In the context of don Juan's knowledge they were
considered as real, although their reality
was differentiated from ordinary reality.
Don Juan believed the states of non-ordinary reality to be the only
form of pragmatic learning and the only
means of acquiring power. He conveyed the impression that other parts
of his teachings were incidental to the
acquisition of power. This point of view permeated don Juan's attitude
toward everything not directly connected
with the states of non-ordinary reality. Throughout my field notes
there are scattered references to the way don
Juan felt. For example, in one conversation he suggested that some
objects have a certain amount of power in
themselves. Although he himself had no respect for power objects, he
said they were frequently used as aids by
lesser brujos. I often asked him about such objects, but he seemed
totally uninterested in discussing them. When
the topic was raised again on another occasion, however, he reluctantly
consented to talk about them.
"There are certain objects that are permeated with power," he said.
"There are scores of such objects which
are fostered by powerful men with the aid of friendly spirits. These
objects are tools - not ordinary tools, but
tools of death. Yet they are only instruments; they have no power to
teach. Properly speaking, they are in the
realm of war objects designed for strife; they are made to kill, to be
"What kind of objects are they, don Juan?"
"They are not really objects; rather, they are types of power."
"How can one get those types of power, don Juan?"
"That depends on the kind of object you want."
"How many kinds are there?"
"As I have already said, there are scores of them. Anything can be a
"Well, which are the most powerful, then?"
"The power of an object depends on its owner, on the kind of man he is.
A power object fostered by a lesser
brujo is almost a joke; on the other hand, a strong, powerful brujo
gives his strength to his tools."
"Which power objects are most common, then? Which ones do most brujos
"There are no preferences. They are all power objects, all just the
"Do you have any yourself, don Juan?"
He did not answer; he just looked at me and laughed. He remained quiet
for a long time, and I thought my
questions were annoying him.
"There are limitations on those types of powers," he went on. "But such
a point is, I am sure,
incomprehensible to you. It has taken me nearly a lifetime to
understand that, by itself, an ally can reveal all the
secrets of these lesser powers, rendering them rather childish. I had
tools like that at one time, when I was very
"What power objects did you have?"
"Maiz-pinto, crystals and feathers."
"What is maiz-pinto, don Juan?"
"It is a small kernel of corn which has a streak of red colour in its
"Is it a single kernel?"
"No. A brujo owns forty-eight kernels."
"What do the kernels do, don Juan?"
"Each one of them can kill a man by entering into his body."
"How does a kernel enter into a human body?"
"It is a power object and its power consists, among other things, in
entering into the body."
"What does it do when it enters into the body?"
"It immerses itself in the body; it settles on the chest, or on the
intestines. The man becomes ill, and unless
the brujo who is tending him is stronger than the bewitcher, he will
die within three months from the moment the
kernel entered into his body."
"Is there any way of curing him?"
"The only way is to suck the kernel out, but very few brujos would dare
to do that. A brujo may succeed in
sucking the kernel out, but unless he is powerful enough to repel it,
it will get inside him and will kill him
"But how does a kernel manage to enter into someone's body?"
"To explain that I must tell you about corn witchcraft, which is one of
the most powerful witchcrafts I know.
The witchcraft is done by two kernels. One of them is put inside a
fresh bud of a yellow flower. The flower is
then set on a spot where it will come into contact with the victim: the
road on which he walks every day, or any
place where he is habitually present. As soon as the victim steps on
the kernel, or touches it in any way, the
witchcraft is done. The kernel immerses itself in the body."
"What happens to the kernel after the man has touched it?"
"All its power goes inside the man, and the kernel is free. It becomes
just another kernel. It may be left at the
site of the witchcraft, or it may be swept away; it does not matter. It
is better to sweep it away into the
underbrush, where a bird will eat it."
"Can a bird eat it before the man touches it?"
"No. No bird is that stupid, I assure you. The birds stay away from it."
Don Juan then described a very complex procedure by which such power
kernels can be obtained.
"You must bear in mind that maiz-pinto is merely an instrument, not an
ally," he said. "Once you make that
distinction you will have no problem. But if you consider such tools to
be supreme, you will be a fool."
"Are the power objects as powerful as an ally?" I asked.
Don Juan laughed scornfully before answering. It seemed that he was
trying hard to be patient with me.
"Maiz-pinto, crystals, and feathers are mere toys in comparison with an
ally," he said. "These power objects
are necessary only when a man does not have an ally. It is a waste of
time to pursue them, especially for you.
You should be trying to get an ally; when you succeed, you will
understand what I am telling you now. Power
objects are like a game for children."
"Don't get me wrong, don Juan," I protested. "I want to have an ally,
but I also want to know everything I
can. You yourself have said that knowledge is power."
"No!" he said emphatically. "Power rests on the kind of knowledge one
holds. What is the sense of knowing
things that are useless?"
In don Juan's system of beliefs, the acquisition of an ally meant
exclusively the exploitation of the states of
non-ordinary reality he produced in me through the use of
hallucinogenic plants. He believed that by focusing on
these states and omitting other aspects of the knowledge he taught I
would arrive at a coherent view of the
phenomena I had experienced.
I have therefore divided this book into two parts. In the first part I
present selections from my field notes
dealing with the states of non-ordinary reality I underwent during my
apprenticeship. As I have arranged my
notes to fit the continuity of the narrative, they are not always in
proper chronological sequence. I never wrote
my description of a state of non-ordinary reality until several days
after I had experienced it, waiting until I was
able to treat it calmly and objectively. My conversations with don
Juan, however, were taken down as they
occurred, immediately after each state of non-ordinary reality. My
reports of these conversations, therefore,
sometimes antedate the full description of an experience.
My field notes disclose the subjective version of what I perceived
while undergoing the experience. That
version is presented here just as I narrated it to don Juan, who
demanded a complete and faithful recollection of
every detail and a full recounting of each experience. At the time of
recording these experiences, I added
incidental details in an attempt to recapture the total setting of each
state of non-ordinary reality. I wanted to
describe the emotional impact I had experienced as completely as
My field notes also reveal the content of don Juan's system of beliefs.
I have condensed long pages of
questions and answers between don Juan and myself in order to avoid
reproducing the repetitiveness of
conversation. But as I also want to reflect accurately the overall mood
of our exchanges, I have deleted only
dialogue that contributed nothing to my understanding of his way of
knowledge. The information don Juan gave
me about his way of knowledge was always sporadic, and for every spurt
on his part there were hours of probing
on mine. Nevertheless, there were innumerable occasions on which he
freely expounded his knowledge.
My notes on my first session with don Juan are dated 23 June 1961. That
was the occasion when the
teachings began. I had seen him several times previously in the
capacity of an observer only. At every
opportunity I had asked him to teach me about peyote. He ignored my
request every time, but he never
completely dismissed the subject, and I interpreted his hesitancy as a
possibility that he might be inclined to talk
about his knowledge with more coaxing.
In this particular session he made it obvious to me that he might
consider my request provided I possessed
clarity of mind and purpose in reference to what I had asked him. It
was impossible for me to fulfill such a
condition, for I had asked him to teach me about peyote only as a means
of establishing a link of communication
with him. I thought his familiarity with the subject might predispose
him to be more open and willing to talk,
thus allowing me an entrance into his knowledge on the properties of
plants. He had interpreted my request
literally, however, and was concerned about my purpose in wishing to
learn about peyote.
Friday, 23 June 1961
"Would you teach me about peyote, don Juan?"
"Why would you like to undertake such learning?"
"I really would like to know about it. Is not just to want to know a
"No! You must search in your heart and find out why a young man like
you wants to undertake such a task
"Why did you learn about it yourself, don Juan?"
"Why do you ask that?"
"Maybe we both have the same reasons."
"I doubt that. I am an Indian. We don't have the same paths."
"The only reason I have is that I want to learn about it, just to know.
But I assure you, don Juan, my
intentions are not bad."
"I believe you. I've smoked you."
"I beg your pardon!"
"It doesn't matter now. I know your intentions."
"Do you mean you saw through me?"
"You could put it that way."
"Will you teach me, then?"
"Is it because I'm not an Indian?"
"No. It is because you don't know your heart. What is important is that
you know exactly why you want to
involve yourself. Learning about "Mescalito" is a most serious act. If
you were an Indian your desire alone
would be sufficient. Very few Indians have such a desire."
Sunday, 25 June 1961
I stayed with don Juan all afternoon on Friday. I was going to leave
about 7 p.m. We were sitting on the
porch in front of his house and I decided to ask him once more about
the teaching. It was almost a routine
question and I expected him to refuse again. I asked him if there was a
way in which he could accept just my
desire to learn, as if I were an Indian. He took a long time to answer.
I was compelled to stay because he seemed
to be trying to decide something.
Finally he told me that there was a way, and proceeded to delineate a
problem. He pointed out that I was
very tired sitting on the floor, and that the proper thing to do was to
find a "spot" (sitio) on the floor where I
could sit without fatigue. I had been sitting with my knees up against
my chest and my arms locked around my
calves. When he said I was tired, I realized that my back ached and
that I was quite exhausted.
I waited for him to explain what he meant by a "spot", but he made no
overt attempt to elucidate the point. I
thought that perhaps he meant that I should change positions, so I got
up and sat closer to him. He protested at
my movement and clearly emphasized that a spot meant a place where a
man could feel naturally happy and
strong. He patted the place where he sat and said it was his own spot,
adding that he had posed a riddle I had to
solve by myself without any further deliberation.
What he had posed as a problem to be solved was certainly a riddle. I
had no idea how to begin or even what
he had in mind. Several times I asked for a clue, or at least a hint,
as to how to proceed in locating a point where
I felt happy and strong. I insisted and argued that I had no idea what
he really meant because I couldn't conceive
the problem. He suggested I walk around the porch until I found the
I got up and began to pace the floor. I felt silly and sat down in
front of him.
He became very annoyed with me and accused me of not listening, saying
that perhaps I did not want to
learn. After a while he calmed down and explained to me that not every
place was good to sit or be on, and that
within the confines of the porch there was one spot that was unique, a
spot where I could be at my very best. It
was my task to distinguish it from all the other places. The general
pattern was that I had to "feel" all the
possible spots that were accessible until I could determine without a
doubt which was the right one.
I argued that although the porch was not too large (twelve by eight
feet), the number of possible spots was
overwhelming, and it would take me a very long time to check all of
them, and that since he had not specified
the size of the spot, the possibilities might be infinite. My arguments
were futile. He got up and very sternly
warned me that it might take me days to figure it out, but that if I
did not solve the problem, I might as well leave
because he would have nothing to say to me. He emphasized that he knew
where my spot was, and that therefore
I could not lie to him; he said this was the only way he could accept
my desire to learn about Mescalito as a valid
reason. He added that nothing in his world was a gift, that whatever
there was to learn had to be learned the hard
He went around the house to the chaparral to urinate. He returned
directly into his house through the back.
I thought the assignment to find the alleged spot of happiness was his
own way of dismissing me, but I got
up and started to pace back and forth. The sky was clear. I could see
everything on and near the porch. I must
have paced for an hour or more, but nothing happened to reveal the
location of the spot. I got tired of walking
and sat down; after a few minutes I sat somewhere else, and then at
another place, until I had covered the whole
floor in a semi-systematic fashion. I deliberately tried to "feel"
differences between places, but I lacked the
criteria for differentiation. I felt I was wasting my time, but I
stayed. My rationalization was that I had come a
long way just to see don Juan, and I really had nothing else to do.
I lay down on my back and put my hands under my head like a pillow.
Then I rolled over and lay on my
stomach for a while. I repeated this rolling process over the entire
floor. For the first time I thought I had
stumbled upon a vague criterion. I felt warmer when I lay on my back.
I rolled again, this time in the opposite direction, and again covered
the length of the floor, lying face down
on all the places where I had lain face up during my first rolling
tour. I experienced the same warm and cold
sensations, depending on my position, but there was no difference
Then an idea occurred to me which I thought to be brilliant: don Juan's
spot! I sat there, and then lay, face
down at first, and later on my back, but the place was just like all
the others. I stood up. I had had enough. I
wanted to say good-bye to don Juan, but I was embarrassed to wake him
up. I looked at my watch. It was two
o'clock in the morning! I had been rolling for six hours.
At that moment don Juan came out and went around the house to the
chaparral. He came back and stood at
the door. I felt utterly dejected, and I wanted to say something nasty
to him and leave. But I realized that it was
not his fault; that it was my own choice to go through all that
nonsense. I told him I had failed; I had been rolling
on his floor like an idiot all night and still couldn't make any sense
of his riddle.
He laughed and said that it did not surprise him because I had not
proceeded correctly. I had not been using
my eyes. That was true, yet I was very sure he had said to feel the
difference. I brought that point up, but he
argued that one can feel with the eyes, when the eyes are not looking
right into things. As far as I was concerned,
he said, I had no other means to solve this problem but to use all I
had - my eyes.
He went inside. I was certain that he had been watching me. I thought
there was no other way for him to
know that I had not been using my eyes.
I began to roll again, because that was the most comfortable procedure.
This time, however, I rested my chin
on my hands and looked at every detail.
After an interval the darkness around me changed. When I focused on the
point directly in front of me, the
whole peripheral area of my field of vision became brilliantly coloured
with a homogeneous greenish yellow.
The effect was startling. I kept my eyes fixed on the point in front of
me and began to crawl sideways on my
stomach, one foot at a time.
Suddenly, at a point near the middle of the floor, I became aware of
another change in hue. At a place to my
right, still in the periphery of my field of vision, the greenish
yellow became intensely purple. I concentrated my
attention on it. The purple faded into a pale, but still brilliant,
colour which remained steady for the time I kept
my attention on it.
I marked the place with my jacket, and called don Juan. He came out to
the porch. I was truly excited; I had
actually seen the change in hues. He seemed unimpressed, but told me to
sit on the spot and report to him what
kind of feeling I had.
I sat down and then lay on my back. He stood by me and asked me
repeatedly how I felt; but I did not feel
anything different. For about fifteen minutes I tried to feel or to see
a difference, while don Juan stood by me
patiently. I felt disgusted. I had a metallic taste in my mouth.
Suddenly I had developed a headache. I was about
to get sick. The thought of my nonsensical endeavours irritated me to a
point of fury. I got up.
Don Juan must have noticed my profound frustration. He did not laugh,
but very seriously stated that I had
to be inflexible with myself if I wanted to learn. Only two choices
were open to me, he said: either to quit and go
home, in which case I would never learn, or to solve the riddle.
He went inside again. I wanted to leave immediately, but I was too
tired to drive; besides, perceiving the
hues had been so startling that I was sure it was a criterion of some
sort, and perhaps there were other changes to
be detected. Anyway, it was too late to leave. So I sat down, stretched
my legs back, and began all over again.
During this round I moved rapidly through each place, passing don
Juan's spot, to the end of the floor, and
then turned around to cover the outer edge. When I reached the centre,
I realized that another change in
colouration was taking place, again on the edge of my field of vision.
The uniform chartreuse I was seeing all
over the area turned, at one spot to my right, into a sharp verdigris.
It remained for a moment and then abruptly
metamorphosed into another steady hue, different from the other one I
had detected earlier. I took off one of my
shoes and marked the point, and kept on rolling until I had covered the
floor in all possible directions. No other
change of colouration took place.
I came back to the point marked with my shoe, and examined it. It was
located five to six feet away from the
spot marked by my jacket, in a southeasterly direction. There was a
large rock next to it. I lay down there for
quite some time trying to find clues, looking at every detail, but I
did not feel anything different. I decided to try
the other spot. I quickly pivoted on my knees and was about to lie down
on my jacket when I felt an unusual
apprehension. It was more like a physical sensation of something
actually pushing on my stomach. I jumped up
and retreated in one movement. The hair on my neck pricked up. My legs
had arched slightly, my trunk was bent
forward, and my arms stuck out in front of me rigidly with my fingers
contracted like a claw. I took notice of my
strange posture and my fright increased.
I walked back involuntarily and sat down on the rock next to my shoe.
From the rock, I slumped to the floor.
I tried to figure out what had happened to cause me such a fright. I
thought it must have been the fatigue I was
experiencing. It was nearly daytime. I felt silly and embarrassed. Yet
I had no way to explain what had
frightened me, nor had I figured out what don Juan wanted.
I decided to give it one last try. I got up and slowly approached the
place marked by my jacket, and again I
felt the same apprehension. This time I made a strong effort to control
myself. I sat down, and then knelt in order
to lie face down, but I could not lie in spite of my will. I put my
hands on the floor in front of me. My breathing
accelerated; my stomach was upset. I had a clear sensation of panic,
and fought not to run away. I thought don
Juan was perhaps watching me. Slowly I crawled back to the other spot
and propped my back against the rock. I
wanted to rest for a while to organize my thoughts, but I fell asleep.
I heard don Juan talking and laughing above my head. I woke up.
"You have found the spot," he said.
I did not understand him at first, but he assured me again that the
place where I had fallen asleep was the
spot in question. He again asked me how I felt lying there. I told him
I really did not notice any difference.
He asked me to compare my feelings at that moment with what I had felt
while lying on the other spot. For
the first time it occurred to me that I could not possibly explain my
apprehension of the preceding night. He
urged me in a kind of challenging way to sit on the other spot. For
some inexplicable reason I was actually afraid
of the other place, and did not sit on it. He asserted that only a fool
could fail to see the difference.
I asked him if each of the two spots had a special name. He said that
the good one was called the sitio and
the bad one the enemy; he said these two places were the key to a man's
wellbeing, especially for a man who was
pursuing knowledge. The sheer act of sitting on one's spot created
superior strength; on the other hand, the
enemy weakened a man and could even cause his death. He said I had
replenished my energy, which I had spent
lavishly the night before, by taking a nap on my spot.
He also said that the colours I had seen in association with each
specific spot had the same overall effect
either of giving strength or of curtailing it.
I asked him if there were other spots for me like the two I had found,
and how I should go about finding
them. He said that many places in the world would be comparable to
those two, and that the best way to find
them was by detecting their respective colours.
It was not clear to me whether or not I had solved the problem, and in
fact I was not even convinced that
there had been a problem; I could not avoid feeling that the whole
experience was forced and arbitrary. I was
certain that don Juan had watched me all night and then proceeded to
humour me by saying that wherever I had
fallen asleep was the place I was looking for. Yet I failed to see a
logical reason for such an act, and when he
challenged me to sit on the other spot I could not do it. There was a
strange cleavage between my pragmatic
experience of fearing the 'other spot' and my rational deliberations
about the total event.
Don Juan, on the other hand, was very sure I had succeeded, and, acting
in accordance with my success, let
me know he was going to teach me about peyote.
"You asked me to teach you about Mescalito," he said. "I wanted to find
out if you had enough backbone to
meet him face to face. Mescalito is not something to make fun of. You
must have command over your resources.
Now I know I can take your desire alone as a good reason to learn."
"You really are going to teach me about peyote?"
"I prefer to call him Mescalito. Do the same."
"When are you going to start ?"
"It is not so simple as that. You must be ready first."
"I think I am ready."
"This is not a joke. You must wait until there is no doubt, and then
you will meet him."
"Do I have to prepare myself?"
"No. You simply have to wait. You may give up the whole idea after a
while. You get tired easily. Last night
you were ready to quit as soon as it got difficult. Mescalito requires
a very serious intent."
Monday, 7 August 1961
I arrived at don Juan's house in Arizona about seven o'clock on Friday
night. Five other Indians were sitting
with him on the porch of his house. I greeted him and sat waiting for
them to say something. After a formal
silence one of the men got up, walked over to me, and said, "Buenas
noches." I stood up and answered, "Buenas
noches." Then all the other men got up and came to me and we all
mumbled 'Buenas noches' and shook hands
either by barely touching one another's finger-tips or by holding the
hand for an instant and then dropping it
We all sat down again. They seemed to be rather shy - at a loss for
words, although they all spoke Spanish.
It must have been about half past seven when suddenly they all got up
and walked towards the back of the
house. Nobody had said a word for a long time. Don Juan signaled me to
follow and we all got inside an old
pickup truck parked there. I sat in the back with don Juan and two
younger men. There were no cushions or
benches and the metal floor was painfully hard, especially when we left
the highway and got onto a dirt road.
Don Juan whispered that we were going to the house of one of his
friends who had seven mescalitos for me.
I asked him, "Don't you have any of them yourself, don Juan?"
"I do, but I couldn't offer them to you. You see, someone else has to
"Can you tell me why?"
"Perhaps you are not agreeable to "him" and "he" won't like you, and
then you will never be able to know
"him" with affection, as one should; and our friendship will be broken."
"Why wouldn't he like me? I have never done anything to him."
"You don't have to do anything to be liked or disliked. He either takes
you, or throws you away."
"But, if he doesn't take me, isn't there anything I can do to make him
The other two men seemed to have overheard my question and laughed.
"No! I can't think of anything one can do," don Juan said.
He turned half away from me and I could not talk to him any more.
We must have driven for at least an hour before we stopped in front of
a small house. It was quite dark, and
after the driver had turned off the headlights I could make out only
the vague contour of the building.
A young woman, a Mexican, judging by her speech inflection, was yelling
at a dog to make him stop
barking. We got out of the truck and walked into the house. The men
mumbled "Buenas noches" as they went by
her. She answered back and went on yelling at the dog.
The room was large and was stacked up with a multitude of objects. A
dim light from a very small electric
bulb rendered the scene quite gloomy. There were quite a few chairs
with broken legs and sagging seats leaning
against the walls. Three of the men sat down on a couch, which was the
largest single piece of furniture in the
room. It was very old and had sagged down all the way to the floor; in
the dim light it seemed to be red and
dirty. The rest of us sat in chairs. We sat in silence for a long time.
One of the men suddenly got up and went into another room. He was
perhaps in his fifties, tall, and husky.
He came back a moment later with a coffee jar. He opened the lid and
handed the jar to me; inside there were
seven odd-looking items. They varied in size and consistency. Some of
them were almost round, others were
elongated. They felt to the touch like the pulp of walnuts, or the
surface of cork. Their brownish colour made
them look like hard, dry nutshells. I handled them, rubbing their
surfaces for quite some time.
"This is to be chewed [esto se masca]," Don Juan said in a whisper.
I had not realized that he had sat next to me until he spoke. I looked
at the other men, but no one was looking
at me; they were talking among themselves in very low voices. This was
a moment of acute indecision and fear.
I felt almost unable to control myself.
"I have to go to the bathroom," I said to him. "I'll go outside and
take a walk."
He handed me the coffee jar and I put the peyote buttons in it. I was
leaving the room when the man who hid
given me the jar stood up, came to me, and said he had a toilet bowl in
the other room.
The toilet was almost against the door. Next to it, nearly touching the
toilet, was a large bed which occupied
more than half of the room. The woman was sleeping there. I stood
motionless at the door for a while, then I
came back to the room where the other men were.
The man who owned the house spoke to me in English: "Don Juan says
you're from South America. Is there
any mescal there?"
I told him that I had never even heard of it.
They seemed to be interested in South America and we talked about the
Indians for a while. Then one of the
men asked me why I wanted to eat peyote. I told him that I waited to
know what it was like. They all laughed
Don Juan urged me softly, "Chew it, chew it [Masca, masca]."
My hands were wet and my stomach contracted. The jar with the peyote
buttons was on the floor by the
chair. I bent over, took one at random, and put it in my mouth. It had
a stale taste. I bit it in two and started to
chew one of the pieces. I felt a strong, pungent bitterness; in a
moment my whole mouth was numb. The
bitterness increased as I kept on chewing, forcing an incredible flow
of saliva. My gums and the inside of my
mouth felt as if I had eaten salty, dry meat or fish, which seems to
force one to chew more. After a while I
chewed the other piece and my mouth was so numb I couldn't feel the
bitterness any more. The peyote button
was a bunch of shreds, like the fibrous part of an orange or like
sugarcane, and I didn't know whether to swallow
it or spit it out. At that moment the owner of the house got up and
invited everybody to go out to the porch.
We went out and sat in the darkness. It was quite comfortable outside,
and the host brought out a bottle of
The men were seated in a row with their backs to the wall. I was at the
extreme right of the line. Don Juan,
who was next to me, placed the jar with the peyote buttons between my
legs. Then he handed me the bottle,
which was passed down the line, and told me to take some of the tequila
to wash away the bitterness.
I spat out the shreds of the first button and took a sip. He told me
not to swallow it, but to just rinse out my
mouth with it to stop the saliva. It did not help much with the saliva,
but it certainly helped to wash away some
of the bitterness.
Don Juan gave me a piece of dried apricot, or perhaps it was a dried
fig - I couldn't see it in the dark, nor
could I taste it - and told me to chew it thoroughly and slowly,
without rushing. I had difficulty swallowing it; it
felt as if it would not go down.
After a short pause the bottle went around again. Don Juan handed me a
piece of crispy dried meat. I told
him I did not feel like eating.
"This is not eating," he said firmly.
The pattern was repeated six times. I remember having chewed six peyote
buttons when the conversation
became very lively; although I could not distinguish what language was
spoken, the topic of the conversation, in
which everybody participated, was very interesting, and I attempted to
listen carefully so that I could take part.
But when I tried to speak I realized I couldn't; the words shifted
aimlessly about in my mind.
I sat with my back propped against the wall and listened to what the
men were saying. They were talking in
Italian, and repeated over and over one phrase about the stupidity of
sharks. I thought it was a logical, coherent
topic. I had told don Juan earlier that the Colorado River in Arizona
was called by the early Spaniards "el rio de
los tizones [the river of charred wood]'; and someone misspelled or
misread "tizones", and the river was called
'el rio de los tiburones [the river of the sharks]'. I was sure they
were discussing that story, yet it never occurred
to me to think that none of them could speak Italian.
I had a very strong desire to throw up, but I don't recall the actual
act. I asked if somebody would get me
some water. I was experiencing an unbearable thirst.
Don Juan brought me a large saucepan. He placed it on the ground next
to the wall. He also brought a little
cup or can. He dipped it into the pan and handed it to me, and said I
could not drink but should just freshen my
mouth with it.
The water looked strangely shiny, glossy, like a thick varnish. I
wanted to ask don Juan about it and
laboriously I tried to voice my thoughts in English, but then I
realized he did not speak English. I experienced a
very confusing moment, and became aware of the fact that although there
was a clear thought in my mind, I
could not speak. I wanted to comment on the strange quality of the
water, but what followed next was not
speech; it was the feeling of my unvoiced thoughts coming out of my
mouth in a sort of liquid form. It was an
effortless sensation of vomiting without the contractions of the
diaphragm. It was a pleasant flow of liquid
I drank. And the feeling that I was vomiting disappeared. By that time
all noises had vanished and I found I
had difficulty focusing my eyes. I looked for don Juan and as I turned
my head I noticed that my field of vision
had diminished to a circular area in front of my eyes. This feeling was
neither frightening nor discomforting, but,
quite to the contrary, it was a novelty; I could literally sweep the
ground by focusing on one spot and then
moving my head slowly in any direction. When I had first come out to
the porch I had noticed it was all dark
except for the distant glare of the city lights. Yet within the
circular area of my vision everything was clear. I
forgot about my concern with don Juan and the other men, and gave
myself entirely to exploring the ground with
my pinpoint vision.
I saw the juncture of the porch floor and the wall. I turned my head
slowly to the right, following the wall,
and saw don Juan sitting against it. I shifted my head to the left in
order to focus on the water. I found the bottom
of the pan; I raised my head slightly and saw a medium-size black dog
approaching. I saw him coming towards
the water. The dog began to drink. I raised my hand to push him away
from my water; I focused my pinpoint
vision on the dog to carry on the movement, and suddenly I saw him
become transparent. The water was a shiny,
viscous liquid. I saw it going down the dog's throat into his body. I
saw it flowing evenly through his entire
length and then shooting out through each one of the hairs. I saw the
iridescent fluid traveling along the length of
each individual hair and then projecting out of the hairs to form a
long, white, silky mane.
At that moment I had the sensation of intense convulsions, and in a
matter of instants a tunnel formed around
me, very low and narrow, hard and strangely cold. It felt to the touch
like a wall of solid tinfoil. I found I was
sitting on the tunnel floor. I tried to stand up, but hit my head on
the metal roof, and the tunnel compressed itself
until it was suffocating me. I remember having to crawl toward a sort
of round point where the tunnel ended;
when I finally arrived, if I did, I had forgotten all about the dog,
don Juan, and myself. I was exhausted. My
clothes were soaked in a cold, sticky liquid. I rolled back and forth
trying to find a position in which to rest, a
position where my heart would not pound so hard. In one of those shifts
I saw the dog again.
Every memory came back to me at once, and suddenly all was clear in my
mind. I turned around to look for
don Juan, but I could not distinguish anything or anyone. All I was
capable of seeing was the dog becoming
iridescent; an intense light radiated from his body. I saw again the
water flowing through him, kindling him like
a bonfire. I got to the water, sank my face in the pan, and drank with
him. My hands were in front of me on the
ground and, as I drank, I saw the fluid running through my veins
setting up hues of red and yellow and green. I
drank more and more. I drank until I was all afire; I was all aglow. I
drank until the fluid went out of my body
through each pore and projected out like fibers of silk, and I too
acquired a long, lustrous, iridescent mane. I
looked at the dog and his mane was like mine. A supreme happiness
filled my whole body, and we ran together
toward a sort of yellow warmth that came from some indefinite place.
And there we played. We played and
wrestled until I knew his wishes and he knew mine. We took turns
manipulating each other in the fashion of a
puppet show. I could make him move his legs by twisting my toes, and
every time he nodded his head I felt an
irresistible impulse to jump. But his most impish act was to make me
scratch my head with my foot while I sat;
he did it by flapping his ears from side to side. This action was to me
utterly, unbearably funny. Such a touch of
grace and irony; such mastery, I thought. The euphoria that possessed
me was indescribable. I laughed until it
was almost impossible to breathe.
I had the clear sensation of not being able to open my eyes; I was
looking through a tank of water. It was a
long and very painful state filled with the anxiety of not being able
to wake up and yet being awake. Then slowly
the world became clear and in focus. My field of vision became again
very round and ample, and with it came an
ordinary conscious act, which was to turn around and look for that
marvelous being. At this point I encountered
the most difficult transition. The passage from my normal state had
taken place almost without my realizing it: I
was aware; my thoughts and feelings were a corollary of that awareness;
and the passing was smooth and clear.
But this second change, the awakening to serious, sober consciousness,
was genuinely shocking. I had forgotten
I was a man! The sadness of such an irreconcilable situation was so
intense that I wept.
Saturday, 5 August 1961
Later that morning, after breakfast, the owner of the house, don Juan,
and I drove back to don Juan's place. I
was very tired, but I couldn't go to sleep in the truck. Only after the
man had left did I fall asleep on the porch of
don Juan's house.
When I woke up it was dark; don Juan had covered me up with a blanket.
I looked for him, but he was not in
the house. He came later with a pot of fried beans and a stack of
tortillas. I was extremely hungry.
After we had finished eating and were resting he asked me to tell him
all that had happened to me the night
before. I related my experience in great detail and as accurately as
When I had finished he nodded his head and said, "I think you are fine.
It is difficult for me to explain now
how and why. But I think it went all right for you. You see, sometimes
he is playful, like a child; at other times
he is terrible, fearsome. He either frolics, or he is dead serious. It
is impossible to know beforehand what he will
be like with another person. Yet, when one knows him well - sometimes.
You played with him tonight. You are
the only person I know who has had such an encounter."
"In what way does my experience differ from that of others?"
"You're not an Indian; therefore it is hard for me to figure out what
is what. Yet he either takes people or
rejects them, regardless of whether they are Indians or not. That I
know. I have seen numbers of them. I also
know that he frolics, he makes some people laugh, but never have I seen
him play with anyone."
"Can you tell me now, don Juan, how does peyote protect..."
He did not let me finish. Vigorously he touched me on the shoulder.
"Don't you ever name him that way. You haven't seen enough of him yet
to know him."
"How does Mescalito protect people?"
"He advises. He answers whatever questions you ask."
"Then Mescalito is real? I mean he is something you can see?"
He seemed to be baffled by my question. He looked at me with a sort of
"What I meant to say, is that Mescalito..."
"I heard what you said. Didn't you see him last night?"
I wanted to say that I saw only a dog, but I noticed his bewildered
"Then you think what I saw last night was him?"
He looked at me with contempt. He chuckled, shook his head as though he
couldn't believe it, and in a very
belligerent tone he added, "A poco crees que era tu - mama [Don't tell
me you believe it was your - mama] ?"
He paused before saying "mama" because what he meant to say was "tu
chingada madre", an idiom used as
a disrespectful allusion to the other party's mother. The word "mama"
was so incongruous that we both laughed
for a long time.
Then I realized he had fallen asleep and had not answered my question.
Sunday, 6 August 1961
I drove don Juan to the house where I had taken peyote. On the way he
told me that the name of the man
who had "offered me to Mescalito" was John. When we got to the house we
found John sitting on his porch with
two young men. All of them were extremely jovial. They laughed and
talked with great ease. The three of them
spoke English perfectly. I told John that I had come to thank him for
having helped me.
I wanted to get their views on my behavior during the hallucinogenic
experience, and told them I had been
trying to think of what I had done that night and that I couldn't
remember. They laughed and were reluctant to
talk about it. They seemed to be holding back on account of don Juan.
They all glanced at him as though waiting
for an affirmative cue to go on. Don Juan must have cued them, although
I did not notice anything, because
suddenly John began to tell me what I had done that night.
He said he knew I had been "taken" when he heard me puking. He
estimated that I must have puked thirty
times. Don Juan corrected him and said it was only ten times.
John continued: "Then we all moved next to you. You were stiff, and
were having convulsions. For a very
long time, while lying on your back, you moved your mouth as though
talking. Then you began to bump your
head on the floor, and don Juan put an old hat on your head and you
stopped it. You shivered and whined for
hours, lying on the floor. I think everybody fell asleep then; but I
heard you puffing and groaning in my sleep.
Then I heard you scream and I woke up. I saw you leaping up in the air,
screaming. You made a dash for the
water, knocked the pan over, and began to swim in the puddle.
"Don Juan brought you more water. You sat quietly in front of the pan.
Then you jumped up and took off all
your clothes. You were kneeling in front of the water, drinking in big
gulps. Then you just sat there and stared
into space. We thought you were going to be there forever. Nearly
everybody was asleep, including don Juan,
when suddenly you jumped up again, howling, and took after the dog. The
dog got scared and howled too, and
ran to the back of the house. Then everybody woke up.
"We all got up. You came back from the other side still chasing the
dog. The dog was running ahead of you
barking and howling. I think you must have gone twenty times around the
house, running in circles, barking like
a dog. I was afraid people were going to be curious. There are no
neighbors close, but your howling was so loud
it could have been heard for miles."
One of the young men added, "You caught up with the doe and brought it
to the porch in your arms."
John continued: "Then you began to play with the dog. You wrestled with
him, and the dog and you bit each
other and played. That, I thought, was funny. My dog does not play
usually. But this time you and the dog were
rolling on each other."
"Then you ran to the water and the dog drank with you," the young man
said. "You ran five or six times to
the water with the dog."
"How long did this go on?" I asked.
"Hours," John said. "At one time we lost sight of you two. I think you
must have run to the back. We just
heard you barking and groaning. You sounded so much like a dog that we
couldn't tell you two apart."
"Maybe it was just the dog alone," I said.
They laughed, and John said, "You were barking there, boy!"
"What happened next?"
The three men looked at one another and seemed to have a hard time
deciding what happened next. Finally
the young man who had nor yet said anything spoke up.
"He choked," he said, looking at John.
"Yes, you certainly choked. You began to cry very strangely, and then
you fell to the floor. We thought you
were biting your tongue; don Juan opened your jaws and poured water on
your face. Then you started shivering
and having convulsions all over again. Then you stayed motionless for a
long time. Don Juan said it was all over.
By then it was morning, so we covered you with a blanket and left you
to sleep on the porch."
He stopped there and looked at the other men who were obviously trying
not to laugh. He turned to don Juan
and asked him something. Don Juan smiled and answered the question.
John turned to me and said, "We left you
here on the porch because we were afraid you were going to piss all
over the rooms."
They all laughed very loudly.
"What was the matter with me?" I asked. "Did I..."
"Did you?" John sort of mimicked me. "We were not going to mention it,
but don Juan says it is all right.
You pissed all over my dog!'
"What did I do?"
"You don't think the dog was running because he was afraid of you, do
you? The dog was running because
you were pissing on him."
There was general laughter at this point. I tried to question one of
the young men, but they were all laughing
and he didn't hear me.
John went on: "My dog got even though; he pissed on you too!"
This statement was apparently utterly funny because they all roared
with laughter, including don Juan. When
they had quieted down, I asked in all earnestness, "Is it really true?
This really happened ?"
Still laughing, John replied: "I swear my dog really pissed on you."
Driving back to don Juan's place I asked him: "Did all that really
happen, don Juan?"
"Yes," he said, "but they don't know what you saw. They don't realize
you were playing with "him". That is
why I did not disturb you."
"But is this business of the dog and me pissing on each other true?"
"It was not a dog! How many times do I have to tell you that? This is
the only way to understand it. It's the
only way! It was "he" who played with you."
"Did you know all this was happening before I told you about it?"
He vacillated for an instant before answering.
"No, I remembered, after you told me about it, the strange way you
looked. I just suspected you were doing
fine because you didn't seem scared."
"Did the dog really play with me as they say?"
"Goddammit! It was not a dog!"
Thursday, 17 August 1961
I told don Juan how I felt about my experience. From the point of view
of my intended work it had been a
disastrous event. I said I did not care for another similar "encounter"
with Mescalito. I agreed that everything
that had happened to me had been more than interesting, but added that
nothing in it could really move me
towards seeking it again. I seriously believed that I was not
constructed for that type of endeavor. Peyote had
produced in me, as a post-reaction, a strange kind of physical
discomfort. It was an indefinite fear or
unhappiness; a melancholy of some sort, which I could not define
exactly. And I did not find that state noble in
Don Juan laughed and said, "You are beginning to learn."
"This type of learning is not for me. I am not made for it, don Juan."
"You always exaggerate."
"This is not exaggeration."
"It is. The only trouble is that you exaggerate the bad points only."
"There are no good points so far as I am concerned. All I know is that
it makes me afraid."
"There is nothing wrong with being afraid. When you fear, you see
things in a different way."
"But I don't care about seeing things in a different way, don Juan. I
think I am going to leave the learning
about Mescalito alone. I can't handle it, don Juan. This is really a
bad situation for me."
"Of course it is bad - even for me. You are not the only one who is
"Why should you be baffled, don Juan?"
"I have been thinking about what I saw the other night Mescalito
actually played with you. That baffled me,
because it was an indication [omen]."
"What kind of - indication, don Juan?"
"Mescalito was pointing you out to me."
"It wasn't clear to me then, but now it is. He meant you were the
"chosen man" [escogido]. Mescalito
pointed you out to me and by doing that he told me you were the chosen
"Do you mean I was chosen among others for some task, or something of
"No. What I mean is, Mescalito told me you could be the man I am
"When did he tell you that, don Juan?"
"By playing with you, he told me that. This makes you the chosen man
"What does it mean to be the chosen man?"
"There are some secrets I know [Tengo secretos]. I have secrets I won't
be able to reveal to anyone unless I
find my chosen man. The other night when I saw you playing with
Mescalito it was clear to me you were that
man. But you are not an Indian. How baffling!"
"But what does it mean to me, don Juan? What do I have to do?"
"I've made up my mind and I am going to teach you the secrets that make
up the lot of a man of knowledge."
"Do you mean the secrets about Mescalito?"
"Yes, but those are not all the secrets I know. There are others, of
different kind, which I would like to give
to someone. I had a teacher myself, my benefactor, and I also became
his chosen man upon performing a certain
feat. He taught me all I know."
I asked him again what this new role would require of me; he said
learning was the only thing involved,
learning in the sense of what I had experienced in the two sessions
The way in which the situation had evolved was quite strange. I had
made up my mind to tell him I was
going to give up the idea of learning about peyote, and then before I
could really make my point, he offered to
teach me his "knowledge". I did not know what he meant by that, but I
felt that this sudden turn was very
serious. I argued I had no qualifications for such a task, as it
required a rare kind of courage which I did not
have. I told him that my bent of character was to talk about acts
others performed. I wanted to hear his views and
opinions about everything. I told him I could be happy if I could sit
there and listen to him talk for days. To me,
that would be learning.
He listened without interrupting me. I talked for a long time. Then he
"All this is very easy to understand. Fear is the first natural enemy a
man must overcome on his path to
knowledge. Besides, you are curious. That evens up the score. And you
will learn in spite of yourself; that's the
I protested for a while longer, trying to dissuade him. But he seemed
to be convinced there was nothing else
I could do but learn.
"You are not thinking in the proper order," he said. "Mescalito
actually played with you. That's the point to
think about. Why don't you dwell on that instead of on your fear?"
"Was it so unusual?"
"You are the only person I have ever seen playing with him. You are not
used to this kind of life; therefore
the indications [omens] bypass you. Yet you are a serious person, but
your seriousness is attached to what you
do, not to what goes on outside you. You dwell upon yourself too much.
That's the trouble. And that produces a
"But what else can anyone do, don Juan?"
"Seek and see the marvels all around you. You will get tired of looking
at yourself alone, and that fatigue
will make you deaf and blind to everything else."
"You have a point, don Juan, but how can I change?"
"Think about the wonder of Mescalito playing with you. Think about
nothing else. The rest will come to you
Sunday, 20 August 1961
Last night don Juan proceeded to usher me into the realm of his
knowledge. We sat in front of his house in
the dark. Suddenly, after a long silence, he began to talk. He said he
was going to advise me with the same
words his own benefactor had used the first day he took him as his
apprentice. Don Juan had apparently
memorized the words, for he repeated them several times, to make sure I
did not miss any:
"A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war, wide-awake, with fear, with
respect, and with absolute
assurance. Going to knowledge or going to war in any other manner is a
mistake, and whoever makes it will live
to regret his steps."
I asked him why was it so and he said that when a man has fulfilled
those four requisites there are no
mistakes for which he will have to account; under such conditions his
acts lose the blundering quality of a fool's
acts. If such a man fails, or suffers a defeat, he will have lost only
a battle, and there will be no pitiful regrets
Then he said he intended to teach me about an "ally" in the very same
way his own benefactor had taught
him. He put strong emphasis on the words "very same way", repeating the
phrase several times.
An "ally", he said, is a power a man can bring into his life to help
him, advise him, and give him the strength
necessary to perform acts, whether big or small, right or wrong. This
ally is necessary to enhance a man's life,
guide his acts, and further his knowledge. In fact, an ally is the
indispensable aid to knowing. Don Juan said this
with great conviction and force. He seemed to choose his words
carefully. He repeated the following sentence
"An ally will make you see and understand things about which no human
being could possibly enlighten
"Is an ally something like a guardian spirit?"
"It is neither a guardian nor a spirit. It is an aid."
"Is Mescalito your ally?"
"No! Mescalito is another kind of power. A unique power! A protector, a
"What makes Mescalito different from an ally?"
"He can't be tamed and used as an ally is tamed and used. Mescalito is
outside oneself. He chooses to show
himself in many forms to whoever stands in front of him, regardless of
whether that person is a brujo or a farm
Don Juan spoke with deep fervour about Mescalito's being the teacher of
the proper way to live. I asked him
how Mescalito taught the "proper way of life", and don Juan replied
that Mescalito showed how to live.
"How does he show it?" I asked.
"He has many ways of showing it. Sometimes he shows it on his hand, or
on the rocks, or the trees, or just in
front of you."
"Is it like a picture in front of you?"
"No. It is a teaching in front of you."
"Does Mescalito talk to the person?"
"Yes. But not in words."
"How does he talk, then?"
"He talks differently to every man."
I felt my questions were annoying him. I did not ask any more. He went
on explaining that there were no
exact steps to knowing Mescalito; therefore no one could teach about
him except Mescalito himself. This quality
made him a unique power; he was not the same for every man.
On the other hand, the acquiring of an ally required, don Juan said,
the most precise teaching and the
following of stages or steps without a single deviation. There are many
such ally powers in the world, he said,
but he was familiar with only two of them. And he was going to lead me
to them and their secrets, but it was up
to me to choose one of them, for I could have only one. His
benefactor's ally was in la yerba del diablo (devil's
weed), he said, but he personally did not like it, even though his
benefactor had taught him its secrets. His own
ally was in the humito (the little smoke), he said, but he did not
elaborate on the nature of the smoke.
I asked him about it. He remained quiet. After a long pause I asked him:
"What kind of a power is an ally?"
"It is an aid. I have already told you."
"How does it aid?"
"An ally is a power capable of carrying a man beyond the boundaries of
himself. This is how an ally can
reveal matters no human being could."
"But Mescalito also takes you out of the boundaries of yourself.
Doesn't that make him an ally?"
"No. Mescalito takes you out of yourself to teach you. An ally takes
you out to give you power."
I asked him to explain this point to me in more detail, or to describe
the difference in effect between the two.
He looked at me for a long time and laughed. He said that learning
through conversation was not only a waste,
but stupidity, because learning was the most difficult task a man could
undertake. He asked me to remember the
time I had tried to find my spot, and how I wanted to find it without
doing any work because I had expected him
to hand out all the information. If he had done so, he said, I would
never have learned. But, knowing how
difficult it was to find my spot, and, above all, knowing that it
existed, would give me a unique sense of
confidence. He said that while I remained rooted to my "good spot"
nothing could cause me bodily harm,
because I had the assurance that at that particular spot I was at my
very best. I had the power to shove off
anything that might be harmful to me. If, however, he had told me where
it was, I would never have had the
confidence needed to claim it as true knowledge. Thus, knowledge was
Don Juan said then that every time a man sets himself to learn he has
to labor as hard as I did to find that
spot, and the limits of his learning are determined by his own nature.
Thus he saw no point in talking about
knowledge. He said that certain kinds of knowledge were too powerful
for the strength I had, and to talk about
them would only bring harm to me. He apparently felt there was nothing
else he wanted to say. He got up and
walked towards his house. I told him the situation overwhelmed me. It
was not what I had conceived or wanted
it to be.
He said that fears are natural; that all of us experience them and
there is nothing we can do about it. But on
the other hand, no matter how frightening learning is, it is more
terrible to think of a man without an ally, or
In the more than two years that elapsed between the time don Juan
decided to teach me about the ally powers
and the time he thought I was ready to learn about them in the
pragmatic, participatory form he considered as
learning, he gradually denned the general features of the two allies in
question. He prepared me for the
indispensable corollary of all the verbalizations, and the
consolidation of all the teachings, the states of nonordinary reality.
At first he talked about the ally powers in a very casual manner. The
first references I have in
my notes are interjected between other topics of conversation.
Wednesday, 23 August 1961
"The devil's weed [Jimson weed] was my benefactor's ally. It could have
been mine also, but I didn't like
"Why didn't you like the devil's weed, don Juan?"
"She has a serious drawback."
"Is she inferior to other ally powers?"
"No. Don't get me wrong. She is as powerful as the best of allies, but
there is something about her which I
personally don't like."
"Can you tell me what it is?"
"She distorts men. She gives them a taste of power too soon without
fortifying their hearts and makes them
domineering and unpredictable. She makes them weak in the middle of
their great power."
"Isn't there any way to avoid that?"
"There is a way to overcome it, but not to avoid it. Whoever becomes
the weed's ally must pay that price."
"How can one overcome that effect, don Juan?"
"The devil's weed has four heads: the root, the stem and leaves, the
flowers, and the seeds. Each one of them
is different, and whoever becomes her ally must learn about them in
that order. The most important head is in the
roots. The power of the devil's weed is conquered through the roots.
The stem and leaves are the head that cures
maladies; properly used, this head is a gift to mankind. The third head
is in the flowers, and it is used to turn
people crazy, or to make them obedient, or to kill them. The man whose
ally is the weed never intakes the
flowers, nor does he intake the stem and leaves, for that matter,
except in cases of his own illness; but the roots
and the seeds are always intaken; especially the seeds; they are the
fourth head of the devil's weed and the most
powerful of the four.
"My benefactor used to say the seeds are the "sober head" - the only
part that could fortify the heart of man.
The devil's weed is hard with her protégés, he used to say, because she
aims to kill them fast, a thing she
ordinarily accomplishes before they can arrive at the secrets of the
"sober head". There are, however, tales about
men who have unraveled the secrets of the sober head. What a challenge
for a man of knowledge!"
"Did your benefactor unravel such secrets?"
"No, he didn't."
"Have you met anyone who has done it?"
"No. But they lived at a time when that knowledge was important."
"Do you know anyone who has met such men ?"
"No, I don't."
"Did your benefactor know anyone?"
"Why didn't he arrive at the secrets of the sober head?"
"To tame the devil's weed into an ally is one of the most difficult
tasks I know. She never became one with
me, for example, perhaps because I was never fond of her."
"Can you still use her as an ally in spite of not being fond of her?"
"I can; nevertheless, I prefer not to. Maybe it will be different for
"Why is it called the devil's weed?"
Don Juan made a gesture of indifference, shrugged his shoulders, and
remained quiet for some time. Finally
he said that "devil's weed" was her temporary name [su nombre de
leche]. He also said there were other names
for the devil's weed, but they were not to be used, because the calling
of a name was a serious matter, especially
if one was learning to tame an ally power. I asked him why the calling
of a name was so serious a matter. He
said names were reserved to be used only when one was calling for help,
in moments of great stress and need,
and he assured me that such moments happen sooner or later in the life
of whoever seeks knowledge.
Sunday, 3 September 1961
Today, during the afternoon, don Juan collected two Datura plants from
Quite unexpectedly he brought the subject of the devil's weed into our
conversation, and then asked me to go
with him to the hills and look for one.
We drove to the nearby mountains. I got a shovel out of the trunk and
walked into one of the canyons. We
walked for quite a while, wading through the chaparral, which grew
thick in the soft, sandy dirt. He stopped
next to a small plant with dark-green leaves, and big, whitish,
"This one," he said.
Immediately he started to shovel. I tried to help him but he refused
with a strong shake of the head, and went
on to dig a circular hole around the plant: a hole shaped like a cone,
deep toward the outer edge and sloping into
a mound in the centre of the circle. When he stopped digging he knelt
close to the stem and with his fingers
cleared the soft dirt around it, uncovering about four inches of a big,
tuberous, forked root whose width
contrasted markedly with the width of the stem, which was frail in
Don Juan looked at me and said the plant was a "male" because the root
forked out from the exact point
where it joined the stem. Then he stood up and started to walk away,
looking for something.
"What are you looking for, don Juan?"
"I want to find a stick."
I began to look around, but he stopped me.
"Not you! You sit over there." He pointed to some rocks twenty feet
away. "I will find it."
He came back after a while with a long, dry branch. Using it as a
digging stick, he loosened the dirt carefully
along the two diverging branches of the root. He cleaned around them to
a depth of approximately two feet. As
he dug deeper the dirt became so hard-packed that it was practically
impossible to penetrate it with the stick.
He came to a halt and sat down to catch his breath. I sat next to him.
We did not talk for a long time.
"Why don't you dig it out with the shovel?" I asked.
"It could cut and injure the plant. I had to get a stick that belonged
to this area so that, if I had struck the root,
the injury wouldn't have been as bad as one caused by a shovel or a
"What kind of a stick did you get?"
"Any dry branch of the paloverde tree would do. If there are no dry
branches you have to cut a fresh one."
"Can you use the branches of any other tree?"
"I told you, only paloverde and not any other."
"Why is that so, don Juan?"
"Because the devil's weed has very few friends, and paloverde is the
only tree in this area which agrees with
her - the only thing that grabs or hooks onto it [lo unico que prende].
If you damage the root with a shovel she
will not grow for you when you replant her, but if you injure her with
such a stick, chances are the plant will not
even feel it."
"What are you going to do with the root now?"
"I'm going to cut it. You must leave me. Go find another plant and wait
until I call you."
"Don't you want me to help you?"
"You may help me only if I ask you!"
I walked away and started to look for another plant in order to fight
the strong desire to sneak around and
watch him. After some time he joined me.
"Let us look for the female now," he said.
"How do you tell them apart?"
"The female is taller and grows above the ground so it really looks
like a small tree. The male is large and
spreads out near the ground and looks more like a thick bush. Once we
dig the female out you will see it has a
single root going for quite a way before it becomes a fork. The male,
on the other hand, has a forked root joined
to the stem."
We looked together through the field of daturas. Then, pointing to a
plant, he said, "That's a female." And he
proceeded to dig it out as he had done the other. As soon as he had
cleared the root I was able to see that the root
conformed to his prediction. I left him again when he was about to cut
When we got to his house he opened the bundle in which he had put the
Datura plants. He took the larger
one, the male, first and washed it in a big metal tray. Very carefully
he scrubbed all the dirt from the root, stem,
and leaves. After that meticulous cleaning, he severed the stem from
the root by making a superficial incision
around the width of their juncture with a short, serrated knife and by
cracking them apart. He took the stem and
separated every part of it by making individual heaps with leaves,
flowers, and the prickly seedpods. He threw
away everything that was dry or had been spoiled by worms, and kept
only those parts that were complete. He
tied together the two branches of the root with two pieces of string,
cracked them in half after making a
superficial cut at the joint, and got two pieces of root of equal size.
He then took a piece of rough burlap cloth and placed in it first the
two pieces of root tied together; on top of
them he put the leaves in a neat bunch, then the flowers, the seedpods,
and the stem. He folded the burlap and
made a knot with the corners.
He repeated exactly the same steps with the other plant, the female,
except that when he got to the root,
instead of cutting it, he left the fork intact, like an upside-down
letter Y. Then he placed all the parts in another
cloth bundle. When he finished, it was already dark.
Wednesday, 6 September 1961
Today, late in the afternoon, we returned to the topic of the devil's
"I think we should start with that weed again," don Juan said suddenly.
After a polite silence I asked him, "What are you going to do with the
"The plants I dug out and cut are mine," he said. "It is as though they
were myself; with them I'm going to
teach you the way to tame the devil's weed."
"How will you do that?"
"The devil's weed is divided into portions [partes]. Each one of these
portions is different; each has its
unique purpose and service."
He opened his left hand and measured on the floor from the tip of his
thumb to the tip of his fourth finger.
"This is my portion. You will measure yours with your own hand. Now, to
establish dominion over the
devil's weed, you must begin by taking the first portion of the root.
But since I have brought you to her, you must
take the first portion of the root of my plant. I have measured it for
you, so it is really my portion that you must
take at the beginning."
He went inside the house and brought out one of the burlap bundles. He
sat down and opened it. I noticed it
was the male plant. I also noticed there was only one piece of root. He
took the piece that was left from the
original set of two and held it in front of my face.
"This is your first portion," he said. "I give it to you. I have cut it
myself for you. I have measured it as my
own; now I give it to you."
For an instant, the thought that I would have to chew it like a carrot
crossed my mind, but he placed it inside
a small, white, cotton bag.
He walked to the back of the house. He sat there on the floor with his
legs crossed, and with a round mano
began to mash the root inside the bag. He worked it over a flat slab
which served as a mortar. From time to time
he washed the two stones, and kept the water in a small, flat, wooden
As he pounded he sang an unintelligible chant, very softly and
monotonously. When he had mashed the root
into a soft pulp inside the bag, he placed it in the wooden basin. He
again placed the slab mortar and the pestle
into the basin, filled it with water, and then carried it to a son of
rectangular pig's trough set against the back
He said the root had to soak all night, and had to be left outside the
house so it would catch the night air (el
sereno). "If tomorrow is a sunny, hot day, it will be an excellent
omen," he said.
Sunday, 10 September 1961
Thursday, 7 September was a very clear and hot day. Don Juan seemed
very pleased with the good omen and
repeated several times that the devil's weed had probably liked me. The
root had soaked all night, and about
10:00 a.m. we walked to the back of the house. He took the basin out of
the trough, placed it on the ground, and
sat next to it. He took the bag and rubbed it on the bottom of the
basin. He held it a few inches above the water
and squeezed its contents, then dropped the bag into the water. He
repeated the same sequence three more times,
then discarded the bag, tossing it into the trough, and left the basin
in the hot sun.
We came back to it two hours later. He brought with him a medium-size
kettle with boiling, yellowish water.
He tipped the basin very carefully and emptied the top water,
preserving the thick silt that had accumulated on
the bottom. He poured the boiling water on the silt and left the basin
in the sun again.
This sequence was repeated three times at intervals of more than an
hour. Finally he poured out most of the
water from the basin, tipped it to an angle to catch the late afternoon
sun, and left it.
When we returned hours later, it was dark. On the bottom of the basin
there was a layer of gummy
substance. It resembled a batch of half-cooked starch, whitish or light
grey. There was perhaps a full teaspoon of
it. He took the basin inside the house, and while he put some water on
to boil I picked out pieces of dirt the wind
had blown into the silt. He laughed at me.
"That little dirt won't hurt anybody."
When the water was boiling he poured about a cup of it into the basin.
It was the same yellowish water he
had used before. It dissolved the silt, making a sort of milky
"What kind of water is that, don Juan?"
"Water of fruits and flowers from the canyon."
He emptied the contents of the basin into an old clay mug that looked
like a flowerpot. It was still very hot,
so he blew on to it to cool it. He took a sip and handed me the mug.
"Drink now!" he said.
I took it automatically, and without deliberation drank all the water.
It tasted somewhat bitter, although the
bitterness was hardly noticeable. What was very outstanding was the
pungent odour of the water. It smelled like
Almost immediately I began to sweat. I got very warm, and blood rushed
to my ears. I saw a red spot in
front of my eyes, and the muscles of my stomach began to contract in
painful cramps. After a while, even though
I felt no more pain, I began to get cold and perspiration literally
Don Juan asked me if I saw blackness or black spots in front of my
eyes. I told him I was seeing everything
My teeth were chattering because of an uncontrollable nervousness that
came to me in waves, as if radiating
out from the middle of my chest.
Then he asked me if I was afraid. His questions seemed meaningless to
me. I told him that I was obviously
afraid, but he asked me again if I was afraid of her. I did not
understand what he meant and I said yes. He
laughed and said that I was not really afraid. He asked if I still saw
red. All I was seeing was a huge red spot in
front of my eyes.
I felt better after a while. Gradually the nervous spasms disappeared,
leaving only an aching, pleasant
tiredness and an intense desire to sleep. I couldn't keep my eyes open,
although I could still hear don Juan's
voice. I fell asleep. But the sensation of my being submerged in a deep
red persisted all night. I even had dreams
I woke up on Saturday about 3:00 p.m. I had slept almost two days. I
had a mild headache and an upset
stomach, and very sharp, intermittent pains in my intestines. Except
for that, everything else was like an ordinary
waking. I found don Juan sitting in front of his house dozing. He
smiled at me.
"Everything went fine the other night," he said. "You saw red and
that's all that is important."
"What would have happened if I had not seen red?"
"You would have seen black, and that is a bad sign."
"Why is it bad?"
"When a man sees black it means he is not made for the devil's weed,
and he vomits his entrails out, all
green and black."
"Would he die?"
"I don't think anyone would die, but he would be sick for a long time."
"What happens to those who see red?"
"They do not vomit, and the root gives them an effect of pleasure,
which means they are strong and of
violent nature something that the weed likes. That is the way she
entices. The only bad point is that men end up
as slaves to the devil's weed in return for the power she gives them.
But those are matters over which we have no
control. Man lives only to learn. And if he learns it is because that
is the nature of his lot, for good or bad."
"What shall I do next, don Juan?"
"Next you must plant a shoot [brote] that I have cut from the other
half of the first portion of root. You took
half of it the other night, and now the other half must be put into the
ground. It has to grow and seed before you
can undertake the real task of taming the plant."
"How will I tame her?"
"The devil's weed is tamed through the root. Step by step, you must
learn the secrets of each portion of the
root. You must intake them in order to learn the secrets and conquer
"Are the different portions prepared in the same way you did the first
"No, each portion is different"
"What are the specific effects of each portion?"
"I already said, each teaches a different form of power. What you took
the other night is nothing yet. Anyone
can do that. But only the brujo can take the deeper portions. I can't
tell you what they do because I don't know
yet whether she will take you. We must wait."
"When will you tell me, then?"
"Whenever your plant has grown and seeded."
"If the first portion can be taken by anyone, what is it used for?"
"In a diluted form it is good for all the matters of manhood, old
people who have lost their vigour, or young
men who are seeking adventures, or even women who want passion."
"You said the root is used for power only, but I see it's used for
other matters besides power. Am I correct?"
He looked at me for a very long time, with a steadfast gaze that
embarrassed me. I felt my question had
made him angry, but I couldn't understand why.
"The weed is used only for power," he finally said in a dry, stern
tone. "The man who wants his vigour back,
the young people who seek to endure fatigue and hunger, the man who
wants to kill another man, a woman who
wants to be in heat — they all desire power. And the weed will give it
"Do you feel you like her?" he asked after a pause.
"I feel a strange vigour," I said, and it was true. I had noticed it on
awakening and I felt it then. It was a very
peculiar sensation of discomfort, or frustration; my whole body moved
and stretched with unusual lightness and
strength. My arms and legs itched. My shoulders seemed to swell; the
muscles of my back and neck made me
feel like pushing, or rubbing, against trees. I felt I could demolish a
wall by ramming it.
We did not speak any more. We sat on the porch for a while.
I noticed that don Juan was falling asleep; he nodded a couple of
times, then he simply stretched his legs, lay
on the floor with his hands behind his head, and went to sleep. I got
up and went to the back of the house where I
burned up my extra physical energy by clearing away the debris; I
remembered his mentioning that he would
like me to help him clean up at the back of his house.
Later, when he woke up and came to the back, I was more relaxed.
We sat down to eat, and in the course of the meal he asked me three
times how I felt. Since this was a rarity I
finally asked, "Why do you worry about how I feel, don Juan? Do you
expect me to have a bad reaction from
drinking the juice?"
He laughed. I thought he was acting like a mischievous boy who has set
up a prank and checks from time to
time for the results. Still laughing, he said:
"You don't look sick. A while ago you even talked rough to me."
"I did not, don Juan," I protested. "I don't ever recall talking to you
like that." I was very serious on that
point because I did not remember that I had ever felt annoyed with him.
"You came out in her defence," he said.
"In whose defence?"
"You were defending the devil's weed. You sounded like a lover already."
I was going to protest even more vigorously about it, but I stopped
"I really did not realize I was defending her."
"Of course you did not. You don't even remember what you said, do you?"
"No, I don't. I must admit it."
"You see. The devil's weed is like that. She sneaks up on you like a
woman. You are not even aware of it.
All you care about is that she makes you feel good and powerful: the
muscles swelling with vigour, the fists
itching, the soles of the feet burning to run somebody down. When a man
knows her he really becomes full of
cravings. My benefactor used to say that the devil's weed keeps men who
want power, and gets rid of those who
can't handle it. But power was more common then; it was sought more
avidly. My benefactor was a powerful
man, and according to what he told me, his benefactor, in turn, was
even more given to the pursuit of power. But
in those days there was good reason to be powerful."
"Do you think there is no reason for power nowadays?"
"Power is all right for you now. You are young. You are not an Indian.
Perhaps the devil's weed would be in
good hands. You seem to have liked it. It made you feel strong. I felt
all that myself. And yet I didn't like it."
"Can you tell me why, don Juan?"
"I don't like its power! There is no use for it any more. In other
times, like those my benefactor told me
about, there was reason to seek power. Men performed phenomenal deeds,
were admired for their strength and
feared and respected for their knowledge. My benefactor told me stories
of truly phenomenal deeds that were
performed long, long ago. But now we, the Indians, do not seek that
power any more. Nowadays, the Indians use
the weed to rub themselves. They use the leaves and flowers for other
matters; they even say it cures their boils.
But they do not seek its power, a power that acts like a magnet, more
potent and more dangerous to handle as the
root goes deeper into the ground. When one arrives to a depth of four
yards - and they say some people have -
one finds the seat of permanent power, power without end. Very few
humans have done this in the past, and
nobody has done it today. I'm telling you, the power of the devil's
weed is no longer needed by us, the Indians.
Little by little, I think we have lost interest, and now power does not
matter any more. I myself do not seek it,
and yet at one time, when I was your age, I too felt its swelling
inside me. I felt the way you did today, only five
hundred times more strongly. I killed a man with a single blow of my
arm. I could toss boulders, huge boulders
not even twenty men could budge. Once I jumped so high I chopped the
top leaves off the highest trees. But it
was all for nothing! All I did was frighten the Indians - only the
Indians. The rest who knew nothing about it did
not believe it. They saw either a crazy Indian, or something moving at
the top of the trees."
We were silent for a long time. I needed to say something.
"It was different when there were people in the world," he proceeded,
"people who knew a man could
become a mountain lion, or a bird, or that a man could simply fly. So I
don't use the devil's weed any more. For
what? To frighten the Indians? [ Para que? Para asustar a los indios?]"
And I saw him sad, and a deep empathy filled me. I wanted to say
something to him, even if it was a
"Perhaps, don Juan, that is the fate of all men who want to know."
"Perhaps," he said quietly.
Thursday, 23 November 1961
I didn't see don Juan sitting on his porch as I drove in. I thought it
was strange. I called to him out loud and
his daughter-in-law came out of the house.
"He's inside," she said.
I found he had dislocated his ankle several weeks before. He had made
his own cast by soaking strips of
cloth in a mush made with cactus and powdered bone. The strips, wrapped
tightly around his ankle, had dried
into a light, streamlined cast. It had the hardness of plaster, but not
"How did it happen?" I asked.
His daughter-in-law, a Mexican woman from Yucatan, who was tending him,
"It was an accident! He fell and nearly broke his foot!"
Don Juan laughed and waited until the woman had left the house before
"Accident, my eye! I have an enemy nearby. A woman. "La Catalina!" She
pushed me during a moment of
weakness and I fell."
"Why did she do that?"
"She wanted to kill me, that's why."
"Was she here with you?"
"Why did you let her in?"
"I didn't. She flew in."
"I beg your pardon!"
"She is a blackbird [chanate]. And so effective at that. I was caught
by surprise. She has been trying to
finish me off for a long while. This time she got real close."
"Did you say she is a blackbird? I mean, is she a bird?"
"There you go again with your questions. She is a blackbird! The same
way I'm a crow. Am I a man or a
bird? I'm a man who knows how to become a bird. But going back to "la
Catalina", she is a fiendish witch! Her
intent to kill me is so strong that I can hardly fight her off. The
blackbird came all the way into my house and I
couldn't stop it."
"Can you become a bird, don Juan?"
"Yes! But that's something we'll take up later."
"Why does she want to kill you?"
"Oh, there's an old problem between us. It got out of hand and now it
looks as if I will have to finish her off
before she finishes me."
"Are you going to use witchcraft?" I asked with great expectations.
"Don't be silly. No witchcraft would ever work on her. I have other
plans! I'll tell you about them some day."
"Can your ally protect you from her?"
"No! The little smoke only tells me what to do. Then I must protect
"How about Mescalito? Can he protect you from her?"
"No! Mescalito is a teacher, not a power to be used for personal
"How about the devil's weed?"
"I've already said that I must protect myself, following the directions
of my ally the smoke. And as far as I
know, the smoke can do anything. If you want to know about any point in
question, the smoke will tell you. And
it will give you not only knowledge, but also the means to proceed.
It's the most marvellous ally a man could
"Is the smoke the best possible ally for everybody?"
"It's not the same for everybody. Many fear it and won't touch it, or
even get close to it. The smoke is like
everything else; it wasn't made for all of us."
"What kind of smoke is it, don Juan?"
"The smoke of diviners!"
There was a noticeable reverence in his voice - a mood I had never
"I will begin by telling you exactly what my benefactor said to me when
he began to teach me about it.
Although at that time, like yourself now, I couldn't possibly have
understood. "The devil's weed is for those who
bid for power. The smoke is for those who want to watch and see." And
in my opinion, the smoke is peerless.
Once a man enters into its field, every other power is at his command.
It's magnificent! Of course, it takes a
lifetime. It takes years alone to become acquainted with its two vital
parts: the pipe and the smoke mixture. The
pipe was given to me by my benefactor, and after so many years of
fondling it, it has become mine. It has grown
into my hands. To turn it over to your hands, for instance, will be a
real task for me, and a great accomplishment
for you - if we succeed! The pipe will feel the strain of being handled
by someone else; and if one of us makes a
mistake there won't be any way to prevent the pipe from bursting open
by its own force, or escaping from our
hands to shatter, even if it falls on a pile of straw. If that ever
happens, it would mean the end of us both.
Particularly of me. The smoke would turn against me in unbelievable
"How could it turn against you if it's your ally?"
My question seemed to have altered his flow of thoughts. He didn't
speak for a long time.
"The difficulty of the ingredients," he proceeded suddenly, "makes the
smoke mixture one of the most
dangerous substances I know. No one can prepare it without being
coached. It is deadly poisonous to anyone
except the smoke's protégé! Pipe and mixture ought to be treated with
intimate care. And the man attempting to
learn must prepare himself by leading a hard, quiet life. Its effects
are so dreadful that only a very strong man
can stand the smallest puff. Everything is terrifying and confusing at
the outset, but every new puff makes things
more precise. And suddenly the world opens up anew! Unimaginable! When
this happens the smoke has become
one's ally and will resolve any question by allowing one to enter into
"This is the smoke's greatest property, its greatest gift. And it
performs its function without hurting in the
least. I call the smoke a true ally!"
As usual, we were sitting in front of his house, where the dirt floor
is always clean and packed hard; he
suddenly got up and went inside the house. After a few moments he
returned with a narrow bundle and sat down
"This is my pipe," he said.
He leaned over towards me and showed me a pipe he drew out of a sheath
made of green canvas. It was
perhaps nine or ten inches long. The stem was made of reddish wood; it
was plain, without ornamentation. The
bowl also seemed to be made of wood; but it was rather bulky in
comparison with the thin stem. It had a sleek
finish and was dark grey, almost charcoal.
He held the pipe in front of my face. I thought he was handing it over
to me. I stretched out my hand to take
it, but he quickly drew it back.
"This pipe was given to me by my benefactor," he said. "In turn I will
pass it on to you. But first you must
get to know it. Every time you come here I will give it to you. Begin
by touching it. Hold it very briefly, at first,
until you and the pipe get used to each other. Then put it in your
pocket, or perhaps inside your shirt. And finally
put it to your mouth. All this should be done little by little in a
slow, careful way. When the bond has been
established [la amistad esta hecha] you will smoke from it. If you
follow my advice and don't rush, the smoke
may become your preferred ally too."
He handed me the pipe, but without letting go of it. I stretched my
right arm towards it.
"With both hands," he said.
I touched the pipe with both hands for a very brief moment. He did not
extend it to me all the way so that I
could grasp it, but only far enough for me to touch it. Then he pulled
"The first step is to like the pipe. That takes time!"
"Can the pipe dislike me?"
"No. The pipe cannot dislike you, but you must learn to like it so that
when the time of smoking comes for
you, the pipe will help you to be unafraid."
"What do you smoke, don Juan?"
He opened his collar and exposed to view a small bag he kept under his
shirt, which hung from his neck like
a medallion. He brought it out, untied it, and very carefully poured
some of its contents into the palm of his
As far as I could tell, the mixture looked like finely shredded tea
leaves, varying in colour from dark brown
to light green, with a few specks of bright yellow.
He returned the mixture to the bag, closed the bag, tied it with a
leather string, and put it under his shirt
"What kind of mixture is it?"
"There are lots of things in it. To get all the ingredients is a very
difficult undertaking. One must travel afar.
The little mushrooms [los honguitos] needed to prepare the mixture grow
only at certain times of the year, and
only in certain places."
"Do you have a different mixture for each type of aid you need?"
"No! There is only one smoke, and there is no other like it."
He pointed to the bag hanging against his chest, and lifted the pipe
which was resting between his legs.
"These two are one! One cannot go without the other. This pipe and the
secret of this mixture belonged to
my benefactor. They were handed down to him in the same way my
benefactor gave them to me. The mixture,
although difficult to prepare, is replenishable. Its secret lies in its
ingredients, and in the way they are treated and
mixed. The pipe, on the other hand, is a lifetime affair. It must be
looked after with infinite care. It is hardy and
strong, but it should never be struck or knocked about. It should be
handled with dry hands, never when the
hands are sweaty, and should be used only when one is alone. And no
one, absolutely no one, should ever see it,
unless you mean to give it to somebody. That is what my benefactor
taught me, and that is the way I have dealt
with the pipe all my life."
"What would happen if you should lose or break the pipe?"
He shook his head, very slowly, and looked at me.
"I would die!"
"Are all the sorcerers' pipes like yours?"
"Not all of them have pipes like mine. But I know some men who do."
"Can you yourself make a pipe like this one, don Juan?" I insisted.
"Suppose you did not have it, how could
you give me one if you wanted to do so?"
"If I didn't have the pipe, I could not, nor would I, want to give one.
I would give you something else
He seemed to be somehow cross at me. He placed his pipe very carefully
inside the sheath, which must have
been lined with a soft material because the pipe, which fitted tightly,
slid in very smoothly. He went inside the
house to put his pipe away.
"Are you angry at me, don Juan?" I asked when he returned. He seemed
surprised at my question.
"No! I'm never angry at anybody! No human being can do anything
important enough for that. You get
angry at people when you feel that their acts are important. I don't
feel that way any longer."
Tuesday, 26 December 1961
The specific time to replant the "shoot", as don Juan called the root,
was not set, although it was supposed to
be the next step in taming the plant-power.
I arrived at don Juan's house on Saturday, 23 December, early in the
afternoon. We sat in silence for some
time, as usual. The day was warm and cloudy. It had been months since
he had given me the first portion.
"It is time to return the weed to the earth," he said suddenly. "But
first I am going to fix a protection for you.
You will keep it and guard it, and it is for you alone to see. Since I
am going to fix it I will also see it. That is not
good, because, as I told you, I am not fond of the devil's weed. We are
not one. But my memory will not live
long; I am too old. You must keep it from the eyes of others, however,
for so long as their memory of having
seen it lasts, the power of the protection is harmed."
He went into his room and pulled three burlap bundles out from under an
old straw mat. He came back to the
porch and sat down.
After a long silence he opened one bundle. It was the female Datura he
had collected with me; all the leaves,
flowers, and seedpods that he had stacked up before were dry. He took
the long piece of root shaped like the
letter Y and tied the bundle again.
The root had dried and shrivelled and the bars of the fork had become
more widely separated and more
contorted. He put the root on his lap, opened his leather pouch, and
pulled out his knife. He held the dry root in
front of me.
"This part is for the head," he said, and made the first incision on
the tail of the Y, which in an upside-down
position resembled the shape of a man with his legs spread out.
"This is for the heart," he said, and cut close to the joint of the Y.
Next he chopped the tips of the root,
leaving about three inches of wood on each bar of the Y. Then, slowly
and patiently he carved the shape of a
The root was dry and fibrous. In order to carve it, don Juan made two
incisions and peeled the fibres
between them to the depth of the cuts. Nevertheless, when he came to
details, he chiselled the wood, as when he
shaped the arms and the hands. The final product was a wiry figurine of
a man, arms folded over the chest and
hands in a clasping position.
Don Juan got up and walked to a blue agave growing in front of the
house, next to the porch. He took the
hard thorn of one of the centre, pulpy leaves, bent it, and rotated it
three or four times. The circular motion
almost detached it from the leaf; it hung loose. He bit on it, or
rather, he held it between his teeth, and yanked it
out. The thorn came out from the pulp, bringing with it a white tail,
two feet long. Still holding the thorn
between his teeth, don Juan twisted the fibres together between the
palms of his hands and made a string, which
he wrapped around the figurine's legs to bring them together. He
encircled the lower part of the body until the
string was all used up; then very skillfully he worked the thorn like
an awl inside the front part of the body under
the folded arms, until the sharp tip emerged as though popping out of
the figurine's hands. He used his teeth
again and, by pulling gently, brought the thorn nearly all the way out.
It looked like a long spear protruding from
the figure's chest. Without looking at the figure any more, don Juan
placed it inside his leather pouch. He seemed
exhausted from the effort. He lay down on the floor and fell asleep.
It was already dark when he woke up. We ate the groceries I had brought
him and sat on the porch for a
while longer. Then don Juan walked to the back of the house, carrying
the three burlap bundles. He cut twigs and
dry branches and started a fire. We sat in front of it comfortably, and
he opened all three bundles. Besides the
one containing the dry pieces of the female plant, there was another
with all that was left of the male plant, and a
third, bulky one containing green, freshly cut pieces of Datura.
Don Juan went to the pig's trough and came back with a stone mortar, a
very deep one that looked more like
a pot whose bottom ended in a soft curve. He made a shallow hole and
set the mortar firmly on the ground. He
put more dry twigs on the fire, then took the two bundles with the dry
pieces of male and female plants and
emptied them into the mortar all at once. He shook the burlap to make
sure that all the debris had fallen into the
mortar. From the third bundle he extracted two fresh pieces of Datura
"I am going to prepare them just for you," he said.
"What kind of a preparation is it, don Juan?"
"One of these pieces comes from a male plant, the other from a female
plant. This is the only time the two
plants should be put together. The pieces come from a depth of one
He mashed them inside the mortar with even strokes of the pestle. As he
did so, he chanted in a low voice,
which sounded like a rhythmless, monotonous hum. The words were
unintelligible to me. He was absorbed in
When the roots were completely mashed he took some Datura leaves from
the bundle. They were clean and
freshly cut, and all were intact and free of wormholes and cuts. He
dropped them into the mortar one at a time.
He took a handful of Datura flowers and dropped them also into the
mortar in the same deliberate manner. I
counted fourteen of each. Then he got a bunch of fresh, green seedpods
which had all their spikes and were not
open. I could not count them because he dropped them into the mortar
all at once, but I assumed that there were
also fourteen of them. He added three stems of Datura without any
leaves. They were dark red and clean and
seemed to have belonged to large plants, judging by their multiple
After all these items had been put into the mortar, he mashed them to a
pulp with the same even strokes. At a
certain moment he tipped the mortar over, and with his hand scooped the
mixture into an old pot. He stretched
out his hand to me, and I thought he wanted me to dry it. Instead, he
took my left hand and with a very fast
motion separated the middle and fourth fingers as far as he could.
Then, with the point of his knife, he stabbed
me right in between the two fingers and ripped downwards on the skin of
the fourth finger. He acted with so
much skill and speed that when I jerked my hand away it was deeply cut,
and the blood was flowing abundantly.
He grabbed my hand again, placed it over the pot, and squeezed it to
force more blood out.
My arm got numb. I was in a state of shock - strangely cold and rigid,
with an oppressive sensation in my
chest and ears. I felt I was sliding down on my seat. I was fainting!
He let go my hand and stirred the contents of
the pot. When I recovered from the shock I was really angry with him.
It took me quite some time to regain my
He set up three stones around the fire and placed the pot on top of
them. To all the ingredients he added
something that I took to be a big chunk of carpenter's glue and a pot
of water, and let all that boil. Datura plants
have, by themselves, a very peculiar odour. Combined with the
carpenter's glue, which gave off a strong odour
when the mixture began to boil, they created so pungent a vapour that I
had to fight not to vomit.
The mix boiled for a long time as we sat there motionless in front of
it. At times, when the wind blew the
vapour in my direction, the stench enveloped me, and I held my breath
in an effort to avoid it.
Don Juan opened his leather pouch and took the figurine out; he handed
it to me carefully and told me to
place it inside the pot without burning my hands. I let it slip gently
into the boiling mush. He got out his knife,
and for a second I thought he was going to slash me again; instead, he
pushed the figurine with the tip of the
knife and sank it.
He watched the mush boil for a while longer, and then began to clean
the mortar. I helped him. When we
had finished he set the mortar and pestle against the fence. We went
inside the house, and the pot was left on the
stones all night.
The next morning at dawn don Juan instructed me to pull the figurine
out of the glue and hang it from the
roof facing the east, to dry in the sun. At noon it was stiff as a
wire. The heat had sealed the glue, and the green
colour of the leaves had mixed with it. The figurine had a glossy,
Don Juan asked me to get the figurine down. Then he handed me a leather
pouch he had made out of an old
suede jacket I had brought for him some time before. The pouch looked
like the one he owned himself. The only
difference was that his was made of soft, brown leather.
"Put your "image" inside the pouch and close it," he said.
He did not look at me, and deliberately kept his head turned away. Once
I had the figurine inside the pouch
he gave me a carrying net, and told me to put the clay pot inside the
He walked to my car, took the net from my hands, and fastened it onto
the open lid of the glove
"Come with me," he said.
I followed him. He walked around the house, making a complete clockwise
circle. He stopped at the porch
and circled the house again, this time going counterclockwise and again
returning to the porch. He stood
motionless for some time, and then sat down.
I was conditioned to believe that everything he did had some meaning. I
was wondering about the
significance of circling the house when he said, "Hey! I have forgotten
where I put it."
I asked him what he was looking for. He said he had forgotten where he
had placed the shoot I was to
replant. We walked around the house once more before he remembered
where it was.
He showed me a small glass jar on a piece of board nailed to the wall
below the roof. The jar contained the
other half of the first portion of the Datura root. The shoot had an
incipient growth of leaves at its top end. The
jar contained a small amount of water, but no soil.
"Why doesn't it have any soil?" I asked.
"All soils are not the same, and the devil's weed must know only the
soil on which she will live and grow.
And now it is time to return her to the ground before the worms damage
"Can we plant her here near the house?" I asked.
"No! No! Not around here. She must be returned to a place of your
"But where can I find a place of my liking?"
"I don't know that. You can replant her wherever you want. But she must
be cared for and looked after,
because she must live so that you will have the power you need. If she
dies, it means that she does not want you,
and you must not disturb her further. It means you won't have power
over her. Therefore, you must care for her,
and look after her, so that she will grow. You must not pamper her,
"Because if it is not her will to grow, it is of no use to entice her.
But, on the other hand, you must prove that
you care. Keep the worms away and give her water when you visit her.
This must be done regularly until she
seeds. After the first seeds bud out, we will be sure that she wants
"But, don Juan, it is not possible for me to look after the root the
way you wish."
"If you want her power, you must do it! There is no other way!"
"Can you take care of her for me when I am not here, don Juan?"
"No! Not I! I can't do that! Each one must nourish his own shoot. I had
my own. Now you must have yours.
And not until she has seeded, as I told you, can you consider yourself
ready for learning."
"Where do you think I should replant her?"
"That is for you alone to decide! And nobody must know the place, not
even I! That is the way the replanting
must be done. Nobody, but nobody, can know where your plant is. If a
stranger follows you, or sees you, take
the shoot and run away to another place. He could cause you
unimaginable harm through manipulating the shoot.
He could cripple or kill you. That's why not even I must know where
your plant is."
He handed me the little jar with the shoot.
"Take it now."
I took it. Then he almost dragged me to my car.
"Now you must leave. Go and pick the spot where you will replant the
shoot. Dig a deep hole, in soft dirt,
next to a watery place. Remember, she must be near water in order to
grow. Dig the hole with your hands only,
even if they bleed. Place the shoot in the centre of the hole and make
a mound [pilon] around it. Then soak it
with water. When the water sinks, fill the hole with soft dirt. Next,
pick a spot two paces away from the shoot, in
that direction [pointing to the southeast]. Dig another deep hole
there, also with your hands, and dump into it
what is in the pot. Then smash the pot and bury it deep in another
place, far from the spot where your shoot is.
When you have buried the pot go back to your shoot and water it once
more. Then take out your image, hold it
between the fingers where the flesh wound is, and, standing on the spot
where you have buried the glue, touch
the shoot lightly with the sharp needle. Circle the shoot four times,
stopping each time in the same spot to touch
"Do I have to follow a specific direction when I go around the root?"
"Any direction will do. But you must always remember in what direction
you buried the glue, and what
direction you took when you circled the shoot. Touch the shoot lightly
with the point every time except the last,
when you must thrust it deep. But do it carefully; kneel for a more
steady hand because you must not break the
point inside the shoot. If you break it, you are finished. The root
will be of no use to you."
"Do I have to say any words while I go around the shoot?"
"No, I will do that for you."
Saturday, 27 January 1962
As soon as I got to his house this morning don Juan told me he was
going to show me how to prepare the
smoke mixture. We walked to the hills and went quite a way into one of
the canyons. He stopped next to a tall,
slender bush whose colour contrasted markedly with that of the
surrounding vegetation. The chaparral around
the bush was yellowish, but the bush was bright green.
"From this little tree you must take the leaves and the flowers," he
said. "The right time to pick them is All
Souls' Day [el dia de las animus]."
He took out his knife and chopped off the end of a thin branch. He
chose another similar branch and also
chopped off its tip. He repeated this operation until he had a handful
of branch tips. Then he sat down on the
"Look here," he said. "I have cut all the branches above the fork made
by two or more leaves and the stem.
Do you see? They are all the same. I have used only the tip of each
branch, where the leaves are fresh and tender.
Now we must look for a shaded place."
We walked until he seemed to have found what he was looking for. He
took a long string from his pocket
and tied it to the trunk and the lower branches of two bushes, making a
kind of clothesline on which he hung the
branch tips upside down. He arranged them along the string in a neat
fashion; hooked by the fork between the
leaves and the stem, they resembled a long row of green horsemen.
"One must see that the leaves dry in the shade," he said. "The place
must be secluded and difficult to get to.
That way the leaves are protected. They must be left to dry in a place
where it would be almost impossible to
find them. After they have dried, they must be put in a bundle and
He picked up the leaves from the string and threw them into the nearby
shrubs. Apparently he had intended
only to show me the procedure.
We continued walking and he picked three different flowers, saying they
were part of the ingredients and
were supposed to be gathered at the same time. But the flowers had to
be put in separate clay pots and dried in
darkness; a lid had to be placed on each pot so the flowers would turn
mouldy inside the container. He said the
function of the leaves and the flowers was to sweeten the smoke mixture.
We came out of the canyon and walked towards the riverbed. After a long
detour we returned to his house.
Late in the evening we sat in his own room, a thing he rarely allowed
me to do, and he told me about the final
ingredient of the mixture, the mushrooms.
"The real secret of the mixture lies in the mushrooms," he said. "They
are the most difficult ingredient to
collect. The trip to the place where they grow is long and dangerous,
and to select the right variety is even more
perilous. There are other kinds of mushrooms growing alongside which
are of no use; they would spoil the good
ones if they were dried together. It takes time to know the mushrooms
well in order not to make a mistake.
Serious harm will result from using the wrong kind - harm to the man
and to the pipe. I know of men who have
dropped dead from using the foul smoke.
"As soon as the mushrooms are picked they are put inside a gourd, so
there is no way to recheck them. You
see, they have to be torn to shreds in order to make them go through
the narrow neck of the gourd."
"How long do you keep the mushrooms inside the gourd?"
"For a year. All the other ingredients are also sealed for a year. Then
equal parts of them are measured and
ground separately into a very fine powder. The little mushrooms don't
have to be ground because they become a
very fine dust by themselves; all one needs to do is to mash the
chunks. Four parts of mushrooms are added to
one part of all the other ingredients together. Then they are all mixed
and put into a bag like mine." He pointed
to the little sack hanging under his shirt.
"Then all the ingredients are gathered again, and after they have been
put to dry you are ready to smoke the
mixture you have just prepared. In your own case, you will smoke next
year. And the year after that, the mixture
will be all yours because you will have gathered it by yourself. The
first time you smoke I will light the pipe for
you. You will smoke all the mixture in the bowl and wait. The smoke
will come. You will feel it. It will set you
free to see anything you want to see. Properly speaking, it is a
matchless ally. But whoever seeks it must have an
intent and a will beyond reproach. He needs them because he has to
intend and will his return, or the smoke will
not let him come back. Second, he must intend and will to remember
whatever the smoke allowed him to see,
otherwise it will be nothing more than a piece of fog in his mind."
Saturday, 8 April 1962
In our conversations, don Juan consistently used or referred to the
phrase "man of knowledge", but never
explained what he meant by it. I asked him about it.
"A man of knowledge is one who has followed truthfully the hardships of
learning," he said. "A man who
has, without rushing or without faltering, gone as far as he can in
unravelling the secrets of power and
"Can anyone be a man of knowledge?"
"No, not anyone."
"Then what must a man do to become a man of knowledge?"
"He must challenge and defeat his four natural enemies."
"Will he be a man of knowledge after defeating these four enemies?"
"Yes. A man can call himself a man of knowledge only if he is capable
of defeating all four of them."
"Then, can anybody who defeats these enemies be a man of knowledge?"
"Anybody who defeats them becomes a man of knowledge"
"But are there any special requirements a man must fulfill before
fighting with these enemies?"
"No. Anyone can try to become a man of knowledge; very few men actually
succeed, but that is only natural.
The enemies a man encounters on the path of learning to become a man of
knowledge are truly formidable; most
men succumb to them."
"What kind of enemies are they, don Juan?"
He refused to talk about the enemies. He said it would be a long time
before the subject would make any
sense to me. I tried to keep the topic alive and asked him if he
thought I could become a man of knowledge. He
said no man could possibly tell that for sure. But I insisted on
knowing if there were any clues he could use to
determine whether or not I had a chance of becoming a man of knowledge.
He said it would depend on my battle
against the four enemies - whether I could defeat them or would be
defeated by them - but it was impossible to
foretell the outcome of that fight.
I asked him if he could use witchcraft or divination to see the outcome
of the battle. He flatly stated that the
result of the struggle could not be foreseen by any means, because
becoming a man of knowledge was a
temporary thing. When I asked him to explain this point, he replied:
"To be a man of knowledge has no permanence. One is never a man of
knowledge, not really. Rather, one
becomes a man of knowledge for a very brief instant, after defeating
the four natural enemies."
"You must tell me, don Juan, what kind of enemies they are."
He did not answer. I insisted again, but he dropped the subject and
started to talk about something else.
Sunday, 15 April 1962
As I was getting ready to leave, I decided to ask him once more about
the enemies of a man of knowledge. I
argued that I could not return for some time, and it would be a good
idea to write down what he had to say and
then think about it while I was away.
He hesitated for a while, but then began to talk.
"When a 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.
And his thoughts soon clash. What he
learns is never what he pictured, or imagined, and so he begins to be
afraid. Learning is never what one expects.
Every step of learning is a new task, and the fear the man is
experiencing begins to mount mercilessly,
unyieldingly. His purpose becomes a battlefield.
"And thus he has tumbled upon the first of his natural enemies: Fear! A
terrible enemy - treacherous, and
difficult to overcome. It remains concealed at every turn of the way,
prowling, waiting. And if the man, terrified
in its presence, runs away, his enemy will have put an end to his
"What will happen to the man if he runs away in fear?"
"Nothing happens to him except that he will never learn. He will never
become a man of knowledge. He will
perhaps be a bully or a harmless, scared man; at any rate, he will be a
defeated man. His first enemy will have
put an end to his cravings."
"And what can he do to overcome fear?"
"The answer is very simple. He must not run away. He must defy his
fear, and in spite of it he must take the
next step in learning, and the next, and the next. He must be fully
afraid, and yet he must not stop. That is the
rule! And a moment will come when his first enemy retreats. The man
begins to feel sure of himself. His intent
becomes stronger. Learning is no longer a terrifying task.
"When this joyful moment comes, the man can say without hesitation that
he has defeated his first natural
"Does it happen at once, don Juan, or little by little?"
"It happens little by little, and yet the fear is vanquished suddenly
"But won't the man be afraid again if something new happens to him?"
"No. Once a man has vanquished fear, he is free from it for the rest of
his life because, instead of fear, he has
acquired clarity - a clarity of mind which erases fear. By then a man
knows his desires; he knows how to satisfy
those desires. He can anticipate the new steps of learning, and a sharp
clarity surrounds everything. The man
feels that nothing is concealed.
"And thus he has encountered his second enemy: Clarity! That clarity of
mind, which is so hard to obtain,
dispels fear, but also blinds.
"It forces the man never to doubt himself. It gives him the assurance
he can do anything he pleases, for he
sees clearly into everything. And he is courageous because he is clear,
and he stops at nothing because he is
clear. But all that is a mistake; it is like something incomplete. If
the man yields to this make-believe power, he
has succumbed to his second enemy and will fumble with learning. He
will rush when he should be patient, or he
will be patient when he should rush. And he will fumble with learning
until he winds up incapable of learning
"What becomes of a man who is defeated in that way, don Juan? Does he
die as a result?"
"No, he doesn't die. His second enemy has just stopped him cold from
trying to become a man of
knowledge; instead, the man may turn into a buoyant warrior, or a
clown. Yet the clarity for which he has paid
so dearly will never change to darkness and fear again. He will be
clear as long as he lives, but he will no longer
learn, or yearn for anything."
"But what does he have to do to avoid being defeated?"
"He must do what he did with fear: he must defy his clarity and use it
only to see, and wait patiently and
measure carefully before taking new steps; he must think, above all,
that his clarity is almost a mistake. And a
moment will come when he will understand that his clarity was only a
point before his eyes. And thus he will
have overcome his second enemy, and will arrive at a position where
nothing can harm him any more. This will
not be a mistake. It will not be only a point before his eyes. It will
be true power.
"He will know at this point that the power he has been pursuing for so
long is finally his. He can do with it
whatever he pleases. His ally is at his command. His wish is the rule.
He sees all that is around him. But he has
also come across his third enemy: Power!
"Power is the strongest of all enemies. And naturally the easiest thing
to do is to give in; after all, the man is
truly invincible. He commands; he begins by taking calculated risks,
and ends in making rules, because he is a
"A 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."
"Will he lose his power?"
"No, he will never lose his clarity or his power."
"What then will distinguish him from a man of knowledge?"
"A man who is defeated by power dies without really knowing how to
handle it. Power is only a burden
upon his fate. Such a man has no command over himself, and cannot tell
when or how to use his power."
"Is the defeat by any of these enemies a final defeat?"
"Of course it is final. Once one of these enemies overpowers a man
there is nothing he can do."
"Is it possible, for instance, that the man who is defeated by power
may see his error and mend his ways?"
"No. Once a man gives in he is through."
"But what if he is temporarily blinded by power, and then refuses it?"
"That means his battle is still on. That means he is still trying to
become a man of knowledge. A man is
defeated only when he no longer tries, and abandons himself."
"But then, don Juan, it is possible that a man may abandon himself to
fear for years, but finally conquer it."
"No, that is not true. If he gives in to fear he will never conquer it,
because he will shy away from learning
and never try again. But if he tries to learn for years in the midst of
his fear, he will eventually conquer it
because he will never have really abandoned himself to it."
"How can he defeat his third enemy, don Juan?"
"He has to defy it, deliberately. He has to come to realize the power
he has seemingly conquered is in reality
never his. He must keep himself in line at all times, handling
carefully and faithfully all that he has learned. If he
can see that clarity and power, without his control over himself, are
worse than mistakes, he will reach a point
where everything is held in check. He will know then when and how to
use his power. And thus he will have
defeated his third enemy.
"The man will be, by then, at the end of his journey of learning, and
almost without warning he will come
upon the last of his enemies: Old age! 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 a man has no more fears, no more impatient
clarity of mind - a time when all his
power is in check, but also the time when he has an unyielding desire
to rest. If he gives in totally to his desire to
lie down and fforget, 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
"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."
Don Juan seldom spoke openly about Mescalito. Every time I questioned
him on the subject he refused to
talk, but he always said enough to create an impression of Mescalito,
an impression that was always
anthropomorphic. Mescalito was a male, not only because of the
mandatory grammatical rule that gives the word
a masculine gender, but also because of his constant qualities of being
a protector and a teacher. Don Juan
reaffirmed these characteristics in various forms every time we talked.
Sunday, 24 December 1961
"The devil's weed has never protected anyone. She serves only to give
power. Mescalito, on the other hand,
is gentle, like a baby."
"But you said Mescalito is terrifying at times."
"Of course he is terrifying, but once you get to know him, he is gentle
"How does he show his kindness?"
"He is a protector and a teacher."
"How does he protect?"
"You can keep him with you at all times and he will see that nothing
bad happens to you."
"How can you keep him with you at all times?"
"In a little bag, fastened under your arm or around your neck with a
"Do you have him with you?"
"No, because I have an ally. But other people do."
"What does he teach?"
"He teaches you to live properly."
"How does he teach?"
"He shows things and tells what is what [enzena las cosas y te dice
"You will have to see for yourself."
Tuesday, 30 January 1962
"What do you see when Mescalito takes you with him, don Juan?"
"Such things are not for ordinary conversation. I can't tell you that."
"Would something bad happen to you if you told?"
"Mescalito is a protector, a kind, gentle protector; but that does not
mean you can make fun of him. Because
he is a kind protector he can also be horror itself with those he does
"I do not intend to make fun of him. I just want to know what he makes
other people do or see. I described to
you all that Mescalito made me see, don Juan."
"With you it is different, perhaps because you don't know his ways. You
have to be taught his ways as a
child is taught how to walk."
"How long do I still have to be taught?"
"Until he himself begins to make sense to you."
"Then you will understand by yourself. You won't have to tell me
anything any more."
"Can you just tell me where Mescalito takes you?"
"I can't talk about it."
"All I want to know is if there is another world to which he takes
"Is it heaven?" (The Spanish word for heaven is cielo, but that also
"He takes you through the sky [cielo]."
"I mean, is it heaven [cielo] where God is?"
"You are being stupid now. I don't know where God is."
"Is Mescalito God - the only God ? Or is he one of the gods?"
"He is just a protector and a teacher. He is a power."
"Is he a power within ourselves?"
"No. Mescalito has nothing to do with ourselves. He is outside us."
"Then everyone who takes Mescalito must see him in the same form."
"No, not at all. He is not the same for everybody"
Thursday, 12 April 1962
"Why don't you tell me more about Mescalito, don Juan?"
"There is nothing to tell."
"There must be thousands of things I should know before I encounter him
"No. Perhaps for you there is nothing you have to know. As I have
already told you, he is not the same for
"I know, but still I'd like to know how others feel about him."
"The opinion of those who care to talk about him is not worth much. You
will see. You will probably talk
about him up to a certain point, and from then on you will never
"Can you tell me about your own first experiences?"
"Then I'll know how to behave with Mescalito"
"You already know more than I do. You actually played with him. Someday
you will see how kind the
protector was with you. That first time I am sure he told you many-many
things, but you were deaf and blind."
Saturday, 14 April 1962
"Does Mescalito take any form when he shows himself?"
"Yes, any form."
"Then, which are the most common forms you know?"
"There are no common forms."
"Do you mean, don Juan, that he appears in any form, even to men who
know him well?"
"No. He appears in any form to those who know him only a little, but to
those who know him well, he is
"How is he constant?"
"He appears to them sometimes as a man, like us, or as a light."
"Does Mescalito ever change his permanent form with those who know him
"Not to my knowledge."
Friday, 6 July 1962
Don Juan and I started on a trip late in the afternoon of Saturday 23
June. He said we were going to look for
honguitos (mushrooms) in the state of Chihuahua. He said it was going
to be a long, hard trip. He was right. We
arrived in a little mining town in northern Chihuahua at 10:00 p.m. on
Wednesday 27 June. We walked from the
place I had parked the car at the outskirts of town, to the house of
his friends, a Tarahumara Indian and his wife.
We slept there.
The next morning the man woke us up around five. He brought us gruel
and beans. He sat and talked to don
Juan while we ate, but he said nothing concerning our trip.
After breakfast the man put water into my canteen, and two sweet-rolls
into my knapsack. Don Juan handed
me the canteen, fixed the knapsack with a cord over his shoulders,
thanked the man for his courtesies, and,
turning to me, said, "It is time to go."
We walked on the dirt road for about a mile. From there we cut through
the fields and in two hours we were
at the foot of the hills south of town. We climbed the gentle slopes,
in a southwesterly direction. When we
reached the steeper inclines, don Juan changed directions and we
followed a high valley to the east. Despite his
advanced age, don Juan kept up a pace so incredibly fast that by midday
I was completely exhausted. We sat
down and he opened the bread sack.
"You can eat all of it, if you want," he said.
"How about you?"
"I am not hungry, and we won't need this food later on."
I was very tired and hungry and took him up on his offer. I felt this
was a good time to talk about the
purpose of our trip, and quite casually I asked, "Do you think we are
going to stay here for a long time?"
"We are here to gather some Mescalito. We will stay until tomorrow."
"Where is Mescalito?"
"All around us."
Cacti of many species were growing in profusion all through the area,
but I could not distinguish peyote
We started to hike again and by three o'clock we came to a long, narrow
valley with steep side hills. I felt
strangely excited at the idea of finding peyote, which I had never seen
in its natural environment. We entered the
valley and must have walked about four hundred feet when suddenly I
spotted three unmistakable peyote plants.
They were in a cluster a few inches above the ground in front of me, to
the left of the path. They looked like
round, pulpy, green roses. I ran towards them, pointing them out to don
He ignored me and deliberately kept his back turned as he walked away.
I knew I had done the wrong thing,
and for the rest of the afternoon we walked in silence, moving slowly
on the flat valley floor, which was covered
with small, sharp-edged rocks. We moved among the cacti, disturbing
crowds of lizards and at times a solitary
bird. And I passed scores of peyote plants without saying a word.
At six o'clock we were at the bottom of the mountains that marked the
end of the valley. We climbed to a
ledge. Don Juan dropped his sack and sat down.
I was hungry again, but we had no food left; I suggested that we pick
up the Mescalito and head back for
town. He looked annoyed and made a smacking sound with his lips. He
said we were going to spend the night
We sat quietly. There was a rock wall to the left, and to the right was
the valley we had just crossed. It
extended for quite a distance and seemed to be wider than, and not so
flat as, I had thought. Viewed from the
spot where I sat, it was full of small hills and protuberances.
"Tomorrow we will start walking back," don Juan said without looking at
me, and pointing to the valley.
"We will work our way back and pick him as we cross the field. That is,
we will pick him only when he is in our
way. He will find us and not the other way around. He will find us - if
he wants to."
Don Juan rested his back against the rock wall and, with his head
turned to his side, continued talking as
though another person were there besides myself. "One more thing. Only
I can pick him. You will perhaps carry
the bag, or walk ahead of me — I don't know yet. But tomorrow you will
not point at him as you did today!"
"I am sorry, don Juan."
"It is all right. You didn't know."
"Did your benefactor teach you all this about Mescalito?"
"No! Nobody has taught me about him. It was the protector himself who
was my teacher."
"Then Mescalito is like a person to whom you can talk?"
"No, he isn't."
"How does he teach, then?"
He remained silent for a while.
"Remember the time when you played with him? You understood what he
meant, didn't you?"
"That is the way he teaches. You did not know it then, but if you had
paid attention to him, he would have
talked to you."
"When you saw him for the first time."
He seemed to be very annoyed by my questioning. I told him I had to ask
all these questions because I
wanted to find out all I could.
"Don't ask me!" He smiled maliciously. "Ask him. The next time you see
him, ask him everything you want
"Then Mescalito is like a person you can talk..."
He did not let me finish. He turned away, picked up the canteen,
stepped down from the ledge, and
disappeared around the rock. I did not want to be alone there, and even
though he had not asked me to go along,
I followed him. We walked for about five hundred feet to a small creek.
He washed his hands and face and filled
up the canteen. He swished water around in his mouth, but did not drink
it. I scooped up some water in my hands
and drank, but he stopped me and said it was unnecessary to drink.
He handed me the canteen and started to walk back to the ledge. When we
got there we sat again facing the
valley with our backs to the rock wall I asked if we could build a
fire. He reacted as if it was inconceivable to
ask such a thing. He said that for that night we were Mescalito's
guests and he was going to keep us warm.
It was already dusk. Don Juan pulled two thin, cotton blankets from his
sack, threw one into my lap, and sat
crosslegged with the other one over his shoulders. Below us the valley
was dark, with its edges already diffused
in the evening mist.
Don Juan sat motionless facing the peyote field. A steady wind blew on
"The twilight is the crack between the worlds," he said softly, without
turning to me.
I didn't ask what he meant. My eyes became tired. Suddenly I felt
elated; I had a strange, overpowering
desire to weep!
I lay on my stomach; the rock floor was hard and uncomfortable, and I
had to change my position every few
minutes. Finally I sat up and crossed my legs, putting the blanket over
my shoulders. To my amazement this
position was supremely comfortable, and I fell asleep.
When I woke up, I heard don Juan talking to me. It was very dark. I
could not see him well. I did not
understand what he said, but I followed him when he started to go down
from the ledge. We moved carefully, or
at least I did, because of the darkness. We stopped at the bottom of
the rock wall. Don Juan sat down and
signaled me to sit at his left. He opened up his shirt and took out a
leather sack, which he opened and placed on
the ground in front of him. It contained a number of dried peyote
After a long pause he picked up one of the buttons. He held it in his
right hand, rubbing it several times
between the thumb and the first finger as he chanted softly. Suddenly
he let out a tremendous cry.
It was weird, unexpected. It terrified me. Vaguely I saw him place the
peyote button in his mouth and begin
to chew it. After a moment he picked up the whole sack, leaned towards
me, and told me in a whisper to take the
sack, pick out one mescalito, put the sack in front of us again, and
then do exactly as he did.
I picked a peyote button and rubbed it as he had done. Meanwhile he
chanted, swaying back and forth. I tried
to put the button into my mouth several times, but I felt embarrassed
to cry out. Then, as in a dream, an
unbelievable shriek came out of me: Ahiiii! For a moment I thought it
was someone else. Again I felt the effects
of a nervous shock in my stomach. I was falling backwards. I was
fainting. I put the peyote button into my
mouth and chewed it. After a while don Juan picked up another from the
sack.. I was relieved to see that he put it
into his mouth after a short chant. He passed the sack to me, and I
placed it in front of us again after taking one
button. This cycle went on five times before I noticed any thirst. I
picked up the canteen to drink, but don Juan
told me just to wash my mouth, and not to drink or I would vomit.
I swished the water around in my mouth repeatedly. At a certain moment
drinking was a formidable
temptation, and I swallowed a bit of water. Immediately my stomach
began to convulse. I expected to have a
painless and effortless flowing of liquid from my mouth, as had
happened during my first experience with
peyote, but to my surprise I had only the ordinary sensation of
vomiting. It did not last long, however.
Don Juan picked up another button and handed me the sack, and the cycle
was renewed and repeated until I
had chewed fourteen buttons. By this time all my early sensations of
thirst, cold, and discomfort had
disappeared. In their place I felt an unfamiliar sense of warmth and
excitation. I took the canteen to freshen my
mouth, but it was empty.
"Can we go to the creek, don Juan?"
The sound of my voice did not project out, but hit the roof of my
palate, bounced back into my throat, and
echoed to and from between them. The echo was soft and musical, and
seemed to have wings that flapped inside
my throat. Its touch soothed me. I followed its back-and-forth
movements until it had vanished.
I repeated the question. My voice sounded as though I was talking
inside a vault.
Don Juan did not answer. I got up and turned in the direction of the
creek. I looked at him to see if he was
coming, but he seemed to be listening attentively to something.
He made an imperative sign with his hand to be quiet.
"Abuhtol [ ? ] is already here!" he said.
I had never heard that word before, and I was wondering whether to ask
him about it when I detected a noise
that seemed to be a buzzing inside my ears. The sound became louder by
degrees until it was like the vibration
caused by an enormous bullroarer. It lasted for a brief moment and
subsided gradually until everything was quiet
again. The violence and the intensity of the noise terrified me. I was
shaking so much that I could hardly remain
standing, yet I was perfectly rational. If I had been drowsy a few
minutes before, this feeling had totally
vanished, giving way to a state of extreme lucidity. The noise reminded
me of a science fiction movie in which a
gigantic bee buzzed its wings coming out of an atomic radiation area. I
laughed at the thought. I saw don Juan
slumping back into his relaxed position. And suddenly the image of a
gigantic bee accosted me again. It was
more real than ordinary thoughts. It stood alone surrounded by an
extraordinary clarity. Everything else was
driven from my mind. This state of mental clearness, which had no
precedents in my life, produced another
moment of terror.
I began to perspire. I leaned toward don Juan to tell him I was afraid.
His face was a few inches from mine.
He was looking at me, but his eyes were the eyes of a bee. They looked
like round glasses that had a light of
their own in the darkness. His lips were pushed out, and from them came
a pattering noise: "Pehtuh-peh-tuh-pettuh." I jumped backward, nearly
crashing into the rock wall. For a seemingly endless time I experienced
unbearable fear. I was panting and whining. The perspiration had frozen
on my skin, giving me an awkward
rigidity. Then I heard don Juan's voice saying, "Get up! Move around!
The image vanished and again I could see his familiar face.
"I'll get some water," I said after another endless moment. My voice
cracked. I could hardly articulate the
words. Don Juan nodded yes. As I walked away I realized that my fear
had gone as fast and as mysteriously as it
Upon approaching the creek I noticed that I could see every object in
the way. I remembered I had just seen
don Juan clearly, whereas earlier I could hardly distinguish the
outlines of his figure. I stopped and looked into
the distance, and I could even see across the valley. Some boulders on
the other side became perfectly visible. I
thought it must be early morning, but it occurred to me that I might
have lost track of time. I looked at my watch.
It was ten to twelve! I checked the watch to see if it was working. It
couldn't be midday; it had to be midnight! I
intended to make a dash for the water and come back to the rocks, but I
saw don Juan coming down and I waited
for him. I told him I could see in the dark.
He stared at me for a long time without saying a word; if he did speak,
perhaps I did not hear him, for I was
concentrating on my new, unique ability to see in the dark. I could
distinguish the very minute pebbles in the
sand. At moments everything was so clear it seemed to be early morning,
or dusk. Then it would get dark; then it
would clear again. Soon I realized that the brightness corresponded to
my heart's diastole, and the darkness to its
systole. The world changed from bright to dark to bright again with
every beat of my heart.
I was absorbed in this discovery when the same strange sound that I had
heard before became audible again.
My muscles stiffened.
"Anuhctal [as I heard the word this time] is here," don Juan said.
I fancied the roar so thunderous, so overwhelming, that nothing else
mattered. When it had subsided, I
perceived a sudden increase in the volume of water. The creek, which a
minute before had been less than a foot
wide, expanded until it was an enormous lake. Light that seemed to come
from above it touched the surface as
though shining through thick foliage. From time to time the water would
glitter for a second - gold and black.
Then it would remain dark, lightless, almost out of sight, and yet
I don't recall how long I stayed there just watching, squatting on the
shore of the black lake. The roar must
have subsided in the meantime, because what jolted me back (to
reality?) was again a terrifying buzzing. I turned
around to look for don Juan. I saw him climbing up and disappearing
behind the rock ledge. Yet the feeling of
being alone did not bother me at all; I squatted there in a state of
absolute confidence and abandonment. The roar
again became audible; it was very intense, like the noise made by a
high wind. Listening to it as carefully as I
could, I was able to detect a definite melody. It was a composite of
high-pitched sounds, like human voices,
accompanied by a deep bass drum. I focused all my attention on the
melody, and again noticed that the systole
and diastole of my heart coincided with the sound of the bass drum, and
with the pattern of the music.
I stood up and the melody stopped. I tried to listen to my heartbeat,
but it was not detectable. I squatted
again, thinking that perhaps the position of my body had caused or
induced the sounds! But nothing happened!
Not a sound! Not even my heart! I thought I had had enough, but as I
stood up to leave, I felt a tremor of the
earth. The ground under my feet was shaking. I was losing my balance. I
fell backwards and remained on my
back while the earth shook violently. I tried to grab a rock or a
plant, but something was sliding under me. I
jumped up, stood for a moment, and fell down again. The ground on which
I sat was moving, sliding into the
water like a raft. I remained motionless, stunned by a terror that was,
like everything else, unique, uninterrupted,
I moved through the water of the black lake perched on a piece of soil
that looked like an earthen log. I had
the feeling I was going in a southerly direction, transported by the
current. I could see the water moving and
swirling around. It felt cold, and oddly heavy, to the touch. I fancied
There were no distinguishable shores or landmarks, and I can't recall
the thoughts or the feelings that must
have come to me during this trip. After what seemed like hours of
drifting, my raft made a right-angle turn to the
left, the east. It continued to slide on the water for a very short
distance, and unexpectedly rammed against
something. The impact threw me forward. I closed my eyes and felt a
sharp pain as my knees and my
outstretched arms hit the ground. After a moment I looked up. I was
lying on the dirt. It was as though my
earthen log had merged with the land. I sat up and turned around. The
water was receding! It moved backward,
like a wave in reverse, until it disappeared.
I sat there for a long time, trying to collect my thoughts and resolve
all that had happened into a coherent
unit. My entire body ached. My throat felt like an open sore; I had
bitten my lips when I "landed". I stood up.
The wind made me realize I was cold. My clothes were wet. My hands and
jaws and knees shook so violently
that I had to lie down again. Drops of perspiration slid into my eyes
and burned them until I yelled with pain.
After a while I regained a measure of stability and stood up. In the
dark twilight, the scene was very clear. I
took a couple of steps. A distinct sound of many human voices came to
me. They seemed to be talking loudly. I
followed the sound; I walked for about fifty yards and came to a sudden
stop. I had reached a dead end. The
place where I stood was a corral formed by enormous boulders. I could
distinguish another row, and then
another, and another, until they merged into the sheer mountain. From
among them came the most exquisite
music. It was a fluid, uninterrupted, eerie flow of sounds.
At the foot of one boulder I saw a man sitting on the ground, his face
turned almost in profile. I approached
him until I was perhaps ten feet away; then he turned his head and
looked at me. I stopped - his eyes were the
water I had just seen! They had the same enormous volume, the sparkling
of gold and black. His head was
pointed like a strawberry; his skin was green, dotted with innumerable
warts. Except for the pointed shape, his
head was exactly like the surface of the peyote plant. I stood in front
of him, staring; I couldn't take my eyes
away from him. I felt he was deliberately pressing on my chest with the
weight of his eyes. I was choking. I lost
my balance and fell to the ground. His eyes turned away. I heard him
talking to me. At first his voice was like
the soft rustle of a light breeze. Then I heard it as music - as a
melody of voices - and I "knew" it was saying,
"What do you want?"
I knelt before him and talked about my life, then wept. He looked at me
again. I felt his eyes pulling me
away, and I thought that moment would be the moment of my death. He
signaled me to come closer. I vacillated
for an instant before I took a step forward. As I came closer he turned
his eyes away from me and showed me the
back of his hand. The melody said, "Look!" There was a round hole in
the middle of his hand. "Look!" said the
melody again. I looked into the hole and I saw myself. I was very old
and feeble and was running stooped over,
with bright sparks flying all around me. Then three of the sparks hit
me, two in the head and one in the left
shoulder. My figure, in the hole, stood up for a moment until it was
fully vertical, and then disappeared together
with the hole.
Mescalito turned his eyes to me again. They were so close to me that I
"heard" them rumble softly with that
peculiar sound I had heard many times that night. They became peaceful
by degrees until they were like a quiet
pond rippled by gold and black flashes.
He turned his eyes away once more and hopped like a cricket for perhaps
fifty yards. He hopped again and
again, and was gone.
The next thing I remember is that I began to walk. Very rationally I
tried to recognize landmarks, such as
mountains in the distance, in order to orient myself. I had been
obsessed by cardinal points throughout the whole
experience, and I believed that north had to be to my left. I walked in
that direction for quite a while before I
realized that it was daytime, and that I was no longer using my "night
vision". I remembered I had a watch and
looked at the time. It was eight o'clock.
It was about ten o'clock when I got to the ledge where I had been the
night before. Don Juan was lying on
the ground asleep.
"Where have you been?" he asked.
I sat down to catch my breath.
After a long silence he asked, "Did you see him?"
I began to narrate to him the sequence of my experiences from the
beginning, but he interrupted me saying
that all that mattered was whether I had seen him or not. He asked how
close to me Mescalito was. I told him I
had nearly touched him.
That part of my story interested him. He listened attentively to every
detail without comment, interrupting
only to ask questions about the form of the entity I had seen, its
disposition, and other details about it. It was
about noon when don Juan seemed to have had enough of my story. He
stood up and strapped a canvas bag to
my chest; he told me to walk behind him and said he was going to cut
Mescalito loose and I had to receive him
in my hands and place him inside the bag gently.
We drank some water and started to walk. When we reached the edge of
the valley he seemed to hesitate for
a moment before deciding which direction to take. Once he had made his
choice we walked in a straight line.
Every time we came to a peyote plant, he squatted in front of it and
very gently cut off the top with his short,
serrated knife. He made an incision level with the ground, and,
sprinkled the "wound", as he called it, with pure
sulfur powder which he carried in a leather sack. He held the fresh
button in his left hand and spread the powder
with his right hand. Then he stood up and handed me the button, which I
received with both hands, as he had
prescribed, and placed inside the bag.
"Stand erect and don't let the bag touch the ground or the bushes or
anything else," he said repeatedly, as
though he thought I would forget.
We collected sixty-five buttons. When the bag was completely filled, he
put it on my back and strapped a
new one to my chest.
By the time we had crossed the plateau we had two full sacks,
containing one hundred and ten peyote
buttons. The bags were so heavy and bulky that I could hardly walk
under their weight and volume.
Don Juan whispered to me that the bags were heavy because Mescalito
wanted to return to the ground. He
said it was the sadness of leaving his abode which made Mescalito
heavy; my real chore was not to let the bags
touch the ground, because if I did Mescalito would never allow me to
take him again.
At one particular moment the pressure of the straps on my shoulders
became unbearable. Something was
exerting tremendous force in order to pull me down. I felt very
apprehensive. I noticed that I had started to walk
faster, almost at a run; I was in a way trotting behind don Juan.
Suddenly the weight on my back and chest diminished. The load became
spongy and light. I ran freely to
catch up with don Juan, who was ahead of me. I told him I did not feel
the weight any longer. He explained that
we had already left Mescalito's abode.
Tuesday, 3 July 1962
"I think Mescalito has almost accepted you," don Juan said.
"Why do you say he has almost accepted me, don Juan?"
"He did not kill you, or even harm you. He gave you a good fright, but
not a really bad one. If he had not
accepted you at all, he would have appeared to you as monstrous and
full of wrath. Some people have learned
the meaning of horror upon encountering him and not being accepted by
"If he is so terrible, why didn't you tell me about it before you took
me to the field ?"
"You do not have the courage to seek him deliberately. I thought it
would be better if you did not know."
"But I might have died, don Juan!"
"Yes, you might have. But I was certain it was going to be all right
for you. He played with you once. He did
not harm you. I thought he would also have compassion for you this
I asked him if he really thought Mescalito had had compassion for me.
The experience had been terrifying; I
felt that I had nearly died of fright.
He said Mescalito had been most kind to me; he had shown me a scene
that was an answer to a question.
Don Juan said Mescalito had given me a lesson. I asked him what the
lesson was and what it meant. He said it
would be impossible to answer that question because I had been too
afraid to know exactly what I asked
Don Juan probed my memory as to what I had said to Mescalito before he
showed me the scene on his hand.
But I could not remember. All I remembered was my falling on my knees
and "confessing my sins" to him.
Don Juan seemed uninterested in talking about it any more. I asked him,
"Can you teach me the words to the
songs you chanted?"
"No, I can't. Those words are my own, the words the protector himself
taught me. The songs are my songs. I
can't tell you what they are."
"Why can't you tell me, don Juan?"
"Because these songs are a link between the protector and myself. I am
sure some day he will teach you your
own songs. Wait until then; and never, absolutely never, copy or ask
about the songs that belong to another
"What was the name you called out? Can you tell me that, don Juan?"
"No. His name can never be voiced, except to call him."
"What if I want to call him myself?"
"If some day he accepts you, he will tell you his name. That name will
be for you alone to use, either to call
him loudly or to say quietly to yourself. Perhaps he will tell you his
name is Jose. Who knows?"
"Why is it wrong to use his name when talking about him?"
"You have seen his eyes, haven't you? You can't fool around with the
protector. That is why I can't get over
the fact that he chose to play with you!"
"How can he be a protector when he hurts some people?"
"The answer is very simple. Mescalito is a protector because he is
available to anyone who seeks him."
"But isn't it true that everything in the world is available to anyone
who seeks it?"
"No, that is not true. The ally powers are available only to the
brujos, but anyone can partake of Mescalito."
"But why then does he hurt some people?"
"Not everybody likes Mescalito; yet they all seek him with the idea of
profiting without doing any work.
Naturally their encounter with him is always horrifying."
"What happens when he accepts a man completely?"
"He appears to him as a man, or as a light. When a man has won this
kind of acceptance, Mescalito is
constant. He never changes after that. Perhaps when you meet him again
he will be a light, and someday he may
even take you flying and reveal all his secrets to you."
"What do I have to do to arrive at that point, don Juan?"
"You have to be a strong man, and your life has to be truthful."
"What is a truthful life?"
"A life lived with deliberateness, a good, strong life."
Don Juan inquired periodically, in a casual way, about the state of my
Datura plant. In the year that had
elapsed from the time I replanted the root, the plant had grown into a
large bush. It had seeded and the seedpods
had dried. And don Juan judged it was time for me to learn more about
the devil's weed.
Sunday, 27 January 1963
Today don Juan gave me the preliminary information on the "second
portion" of the Datura root, the second
step in learning the tradition. He said the second portion of the root
was the real beginning of learning; in
comparison with it, the first portion was like child's play. The second
portion had to be mastered; it had to be in
taken at least twenty times, he said, before one could go on to the
I asked, "What does the second portion do?"
"The second portion of the devil's weed is used for seeing. With it, a
man can soar through the air to see
what is going on at any place he chooses."
"Can a man actually fly through the air, don Juan?"
"Why not? As I have already told you, the devil's weed is for those who
seek power. The man who masters
the second portion can use the devil's weed to do unimaginable things
to gain more power."
"What kind of things, don Juan?"
"I can't tell you that. Every man is different."
Monday, 28 January 1963
Don Juan said: "If you complete the second step successfully, I can
show you only one more step. In the
course of learning about the devil's weed, I realized she was not for
me, and I did not pursue her path any
"What made you decide against it, don Juan?"
"The devil's weed nearly killed me every time I tried to use her. Once
it was so bad I thought I was finished.
And yet, I could have avoided all that pain."
"How? Is there a special way to avoid pain?"
"Yes, there is a way."
"Is it a formula, a procedure, or what?"
"It is a way of grabbing onto things. For instance, when I was learning
about the devil's weed I was too
eager. I grabbed onto things the way kids grab onto candy. The devil's
weed is only one of a million paths.
Anything is one of a million paths [un camino entre cantidades de
caminos]. 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."
Sunday, 21 April 1963
On Tuesday afternoon, 16 April, don Juan and I went to the hills where
his Datura plants are. He asked me
to leave him alone there, and wait for him in the car. He returned
nearly three hours later carrying a package
wrapped in a red cloth. As we started to drive back to his house he
pointed to the bundle and said it was his last
gift for me.
I asked if he meant he was not going to teach me any more. He explained
that he was referring to the fact
that I had a plant fully mature and would no longer need his plants.
Late in the afternoon we sat in his room; he brought out a smoothly
finished mortar and pestle. The bowl of
the mortar was about six inches in diameter. He untied a large package
full of small bundles, selected two of
them, and placed them on a straw mat by my side; then he added four
more bundles of the same size from the
pack he had carried home. He said they were seeds, and I had to grind
them into a fine powder. He opened the
first bundle and poured some of its contents into the mortar. The seeds
were dried, round and caramel yellow in
I began working with the pestle; after a while he corrected me. He told
me to push the pestle against one side
of the mortar first, and then slide it across the bottom and up against
the other side. I asked what he was going to
do with the powder. He did not want to talk about it.
The first batch of seeds was extremely hard to grind. It took me four
hours to finish the job. My back ached
because of the position in which I had been sitting. I lay down and
wanted to go to sleep right there, but don Juan
opened the next bag and poured some of the contents into the mortar.
The seeds this time were slightly darker
than the first ones, and were lumped together. The rest of the bag's
contents was a sort of powder, made of very
small, round, dark granules.
I wanted something to eat, but don Juan said that if I wished to learn
I had to follow the rule, and the rule
was that I could only drink a little water while learning the secrets
of the second portion.
The third bag contained a handful of live, black, grain weevils. And in
the last bag were some fresh white
seeds, almost mushy soft, but fibrous and difficult to grind into a
fine paste, as he expected me to do. After I had
finished grinding the contents of the four bags, don Juan measured two
cups of a greenish water, poured it into a
clay pot, and put the pot on the fire. When the water was boiling he
added the first batch of powdered seeds. He
stirred it with a long, pointed piece of wood or bone which he carried
in his leather pouch. As soon as the water
boiled again he added the other substances one by one, following the
same procedure. Then he added one more
cup of the same water, and let the mixture simmer over a low fire.
Then he told me it was time to mash the root. He carefully extracted a
long piece of Datura root from the
bundle he had carried home. The root was about sixteen inches long. It
was thick, perhaps an inch and a half in
diameter. He said it was the second portion, and again he had measured
the second portion himself, because it
was still his root. He said the next time I tried the devil's weed I
would have to measure my own root.
He pushed the big mortar towards me, and I proceeded to pound the root
in exactly the same way he had
mashed the first portion. He directed me through the same steps, and
again we left the mashed root soaking in
water, exposed to the night air. By that time the boiling mixture had
solidified in the clay pot. Don Juan took the
pot from the fire, placed it inside a hanging net, and hooked it to a
beam in the middle of the room.
About eight o'clock in the morning of 17 April, don Juan and I began to
leach the root extract with water. It
was a clear, sunny day, and don Juan interpreted the fine weather as an
omen that the devil's weed liked me; he
said that with me around he could remember only how bad she had been
The procedure we followed in leaching the root extract was the same I
had observed for the first portion. By
late afternoon, after pouring out the top water for the eighth time,
there was a spoonful of a yellowish substance
in the bottom of the bowl.
We returned to his room where there were still two little sacks he had
not touched. He opened one, slid his
hand inside, and wrinkled the open end around his wrist with the other
hand. He seemed to be holding
something, judging by the way his hand moved inside the bag. Suddenly,
with a swift movement, he peeled the
bag off his hand like a glove, turning it inside out, and shoved his
hand close to my face. He was holding a
lizard. Its head was a few inches from my eyes. There was something
strange about the lizard's mouth. I gazed at
it for a moment, and then recoiled involuntarily. The lizard's mouth
was sewed up with rude stitches. Don Juan
ordered me to hold the lizard in my left hand. I clutched it; it
wriggled against my palm. I felt nauseated. My
hands began to perspire.
He took the last bag, and, repeating the same motions, he extracted
another lizard. He also held it close to
my face. I saw that its eyelids were sewed together. He ordered me to
hold this lizard in my right hand.
By the time I had both lizards in my hands I was almost sick. I had an
overpowering desire to drop them and
get out of there.
"Don't squeeze them!" he said, and his voice brought me a sense of
relief and direction. He asked what was
wrong with me. He tried to be serious, but couldn't keep a straight
face and laughed. I tried to easy my grip, but
my hands were sweating so profusely that the lizards began to wriggle
out of them. Their sharp little claws
scratched my hands, producing an incredible feeling of disgust and
nausea. I closed my eyes and clenched my
teeth. One of the lizards was already sliding onto my wrist; all it
needed was to yank its head from between my
fingers to be free. I had a peculiar sensation of physical despair, of
supreme discomfort. I growled at don Juan,
between my teeth, to take the damn things off me. My head shook
involuntarily. He looked at me curiously. I
growled like a bear, shaking my body. He dropped the lizards into their
bags and began to laugh. I wanted to
laugh also, but my stomach was upset. I lay down.
I explained to him that what had affected me was the sensation of their
claws on my palms; he said there
were lots of things that could drive a man mad, especially if he did
not have the resolution, the purpose, required
for learning; but when a man had a clear, unbending intent, feelings
were in no way a hindrance, for he was
capable of controlling them.
Don Juan waited awhile and then, going through the same motions, handed
me the lizards again. He told me
to hold their heads up and rub them softly against my temples, as I
asked them anything I wanted to know.
I did not understand at first what he wanted me to do. He told me again
to ask the lizards about anything I
could not find out for myself. He gave me a whole series of examples: I
could find out about persons I did not
see ordinarily, or about objects that were lost, or about places I had
not seen. Then I realized he was talking
about divination. I got very excited. My heart began to pound. I felt
that I was losing my breath.
He warned me not to ask about personal matters this first time; he said
I should think rather of something
that had nothing to do with me. I had to think fast and clearly because
there would be no way of reversing my
I tried frantically to think of something I wanted to know. Don Juan
urged me on imperiously, and I was
astonished to realize I could think of nothing I wanted to "ask" the
After a painfully long wait I thought of something. Some time earlier a
large number of books had been
stolen from a reading room. It was not a personal matter, and yet I was
interested in it. I had no preconceived
ideas about the identity of the person, or persons, who had taken the
books. I rubbed the lizards against my
temples, asking them who the thief was.
After a while don Juan put the lizards inside their bags, and said that
there were no deep secrets about the
root and the paste. The paste was made to give direction; the root made
things clear. But the real mystery was the
lizards. They were the secret of the whole sorcery of the second
portion, he said. I asked whether they were a
special kind of lizard. He said they were. They had to come from the
area of one's own plant; they had to be
one's friends. And to have lizards as friends, he said, required a long
period of grooming. One had to develop a
strong friendship with them by giving them food and speaking kind words
I asked why their friendship was so important. He said the lizards
would allow themselves to be caught only
if they knew the man, and whoever took the devil's weed seriously had
to treat the lizards seriously. He said that,
as a rule, the lizards should be caught after the paste and the root
had been prepared. They should be caught in
the late afternoon. If one was not on intimate terms with the lizards,
he said, days could be spent trying to catch
them without success; and the paste lasts only one day. He then gave me
a long series of instructions concerning
the procedure to follow after the lizards had been caught.
"Once you have caught the lizards, put them in separate bags. Then take
the first one and talk to her.
Apologize for hurting her, and beg her to help you. And with a wooden
needle sew up her mouth. Use the fibers
of agave and one of the thorns of a choya to do the sewing. Draw the
stitches tight. Then tell the other lizard the
same things and sew her eyelids together. By the time night begins to
fall you will be ready. Take the lizard with
the sewed-up mouth and explain to her the matter you want to know
about. Ask her to go and see for you; tell
her you had to sew up her mouth so she would hurry back to you and not
talk to anyone else. Let her scramble in
the paste after you have rubbed it on her head; then put her on the
ground. If she goes in the direction of your
good fortune, the sorcery will be successful and easy. If she goes in
the opposite direction, it will be
unsuccessful. If the lizard moves towards you (south), you can expect
more than ordinary good luck; but if she
moves away from you (north), the sorcery will be terribly difficult.
You may even die! So if she moves away
from you, that is a good time to quit. At this point you can make the
decision to quit. If you do, you will lose
your capacity to command the lizards, but that is better than losing
your life. On the other hand, you may decide
to go ahead with the sorcery in spite of my warning. If you do, the
next step is to take the other lizard and tell her
to listen to her sister's story, and then describe it to you."
"But how can the lizard with the sewed-up mouth tell me what she sees?
Wasn't her mouth closed to prevent
her from talking?"
"Sewing up her mouth prevents her from telling her story to strangers.
People say lizards are talkative; they
will stop anywhere to talk. Anyway, the next step is to smear the paste
on the back of her head, and then rub her
head against your right temple, keeping the paste away from the centre
of your forehead. At the beginning of
your learning it is a good idea to tie the lizard by its middle to your
right shoulder with a string. Then you won't
lose her or injure her. But as you progress and become more familiar
with the power of the devil's weed, the
lizards learn to obey your commands and will stay perched on your
shoulder. After you have smeared the paste
on your right temple with the lizard, dip the fingers of both hands
into the gruel; first rub it on both temples and
then spread it all over both sides of your head. The paste dries very
fast, and can be applied as many times as
necessary. Begin every time by using the lizard's head first and then
your fingers. Sooner or later the lizard that
went to see comes back and tells her sister all about her journey, and
the blind lizard describes it to you as
though you were her kind. When the sorcery is finished, put the lizard
down and let her go, but don't watch
where she goes. Dig a deep hole with your bare hands and bury
everything you used in it."
About 6:00 p.m. don Juan scooped the root extract out of the bowl onto
a flat piece of shale; there was less
than a teaspoon of a yellowish starch. He put half of it into a cup and
added some yellowish water. He rotated
the cup in his hand to dissolve the substance. He handed me the cup and
told me to drink the mixture. It was
tasteless, but it left a slightly bitter flavor in my mouth. The water
was too hot and that annoyed me. My heart
began pounding fast, but soon I was relaxed again.
Don Juan got the other bowl with the paste. The paste looked solid, and
had a glossy surface. I tried to poke
the crust with my finger, but don Juan jumped toward me and pushed my
hand away from the bowl. He became
very annoyed; he said it was very thoughtless of me to try that, and if
I really wanted to learn there was no need
to be careless. This was power, he said, pointing to the paste, and
nobody could tell what kind of power it really
was. It was bad enough that we had to tamper with it for our own
purposes - a thing we cannot help doing
because we are men, he said - but we should at least treat it with the
proper respect. The mixture looked like
oatmeal. Apparently it had enough starch to give it that consistency.
He asked me to get the bags with the
lizards. He took the lizard with the sewed-up mouth and carefully
handed it over to me. He made me take it with
my left hand and told me to get some of the paste with my ringer and
rub it on the lizard's head and then put the
lizard into the pot and hold it there until the paste covered its
Then he told me to remove the lizard from the pot. He picked up the pot
and led me to a rocky area not too
far from his house. He pointed to a large rock and told me to sit in
front of it, as if it were my Datura plant, and,
holding the lizard in front of my face, to explain to her again what I
wanted to know, and beg her to go and find
the answer for me. He advised me to tell the lizard I was sorry I had
to cause her discomfort, and to promise her
I would be kind to all lizards in return. And then he told me to hold
her between the third and fourth fingers of
my left hand, where he had once made a cut, and to dance around the
rock doing exactly what I had done when I
replanted the root of the devil's weed; he asked me if I remembered all
I had done at that time. I said I did. He
emphasized that everything had to be just the same, and if I did not
remember I had to wait until everything was
clear in my mind. He warned me with great urgency that if I acted too
quickly, without deliberation, I was going
to get hurt. His last instruction was that I was to place the lizard
with the sewed-up mouth on the ground and
watch where she went, so that I could determine the outcome of the
experience. He said I was not to take my
eyes away from the lizard, even for an instant, because it was a common
trick of lizards to distract one and then
It was not quite dark yet. Don Juan looked at the sky. "I will leave
you alone," he said, and walked away.
I followed all his instructions and then placed the lizard on the
ground. The lizard stood motionless where I
had put it. Then it looked at me, and ran to the rocks towards the east
and disappeared among them.
I sat on the ground in front of the rock, as though I were facing my
plant. A profound sadness overtook me. I
wondered about the lizard with its sewed-up mouth. I thought of its
strange journey and of how it looked at me
before it ran away. It was a weird thought, an annoying projection. In
my own way I too was a lizard,
undergoing another strange journey. My fate was, perhaps, only to see;
at that moment I felt that I would never
be able to tell what I had seen. It was very dark by then. I could
hardly see the rocks in front of me. I thought of
don Juan's words: "The twilight - there's the crack between the worlds!"
After long hesitation I began to follow the steps prescribed. The
paste, though it looked like oatmeal, did not
feel like oatmeal. It was very smooth and cold. It had a peculiar,
pungent smell. It produced a sensation of
coolness on the skin and dried quickly. I rubbed my temples eleven
times, without noticing any effect. I tried
very carefully to take account of any change in perception or mood, for
I did not even know what to anticipate.
As a matter of fact, I could not conceive the nature of the experience,
and kept on searching for clues.
The paste had dried up and scaled off my temples. I was about to rub
some more of it on when I realized I
was sitting on my heels in Japanese fashion. I had been sitting
cross-legged and did not recall changing
positions. It took some time to realize fully that I was sitting on the
floor in a sort of cloister with high arches. I
thought they were brick arches, but upon examining them I saw they were
This transition was very difficult. It came so suddenly that I was not
ready to follow. My perception of the
elements of the vision was diffused, as if I were dreaming. Yet the
components did not change. They remained
steady, and I could stop alongside any one of them and actually examine
it. The vision was not so clear or so real
as one induced by peyote. It had a misty character, an intensely
pleasing pastel quality.
I wondered whether I could get up or not, and the next thing I noticed
was that I had moved. I was at the top
of a stairway and H., a friend of mine, was standing at the bottom. Her
eyes were feverish. There was a mad
glare in them. She laughed aloud with such intensity that she was
terrifying. She began coming up the stairs. I
wanted to run away or take cover, because "she'd been off her rocker
once”. That was the thought that came to
my mind. I hid behind a column and she went by without looking. “She's
going on a long trip now," was another
thought that occurred to me then; and finally the last thought I
remembered was,"She laughs every time she's
ready to crack up."
Suddenly the scene became very clear; it was no longer like a dream. It
was like an ordinary scene, but I
seemed to be looking at it through window glass. I tried to touch a
column but all I sensed was that I couldn't
move; yet I knew I could stay as long as I wanted, viewing the scene. I
was in it and yet I was not part of it.
I experienced a barrage of rational thoughts and arguments. I was, so
far as I could judge, in an ordinary
state of sober consciousness. Every element belonged in the realm of my
normal processes. And yet I knew it
was not an ordinary state.
The scene changed abruptly. It was night-time. I was in the hall of a
building. The darkness inside the
building made me aware that in the earlier scene the sunlight had been
beautifully clear. Yet it had been so
commonplace that I did not notice it at the time. As I looked further
into the new vision I saw a young man
coming out of a room carrying a large knapsack on his shoulders. I
didn't know who he was, although I had seen
him once or twice. He walked by me and went down the stairs. By then I
had forgotten my apprehension, my
"Who's that guy?" I thought. "Why did I see him?"
The scene changed again and I was watching the young man deface books;
he glued some of the pages
together, erased markings, and so on. Then I saw him arranging the
books neatly in a wooden crate. There was a
pile of crates. They were riot in his room, but in a storage place.
Other images came to my mind, but they were
not clear. The scene became foggy. I had a sensation of spinning.
Don Juan shook me by the shoulders and I woke up. He helped me to stand
and we walked back to his
house. It had been three and a half hours from the moment I began
rubbing the paste on my temples to the time I
woke up, but the visionary state could not have lasted more than ten
minutes. I had no ill effects whatsoever. I
was just hungry and sleepy.
Thursday, 18 April 1963
Don Juan asked me last night to describe my recent experience, but I
was too sleepy to talk about it. I could
not concentrate. Today, as soon as I woke up, he asked me again.
"Who told you this girl H. had been off her rocker?" he asked when I
finished my story.
"Nobody. It was just one of the thoughts I had."
"Do you think they were your thoughts?"
I told him they were my thoughts, although I had no reason to think
that H. had been sick. They were strange
thoughts. They seemed to pop up in my mind from nowhere. He looked at
me inquisitively. I asked him if he did
not believe me; he laughed and said that it was my routine to be
careless with my acts.
"What did I do wrong, don Juan?"
"You should have listened to the lizards."
"How should I have listened?"
"The little lizard on your shoulder was describing to you everything
her sister was seeing. She was talking to
you. She was telling you everything, and you paid no attention.
Instead, you believed the lizard's words were
your own thoughts."
"But they were my own thoughts, don Juan."
"They were not. That is the nature of this sorcery. Actually, the
vision is to be listened to, rather than looked
at. The same thing happened to me. I was about to warn you when I
remembered my benefactor had not warned
"Was your experience like mine, don Juan?"
"No. Mine was a hellish journey. I nearly died."
"Why was it hellish?"
"Maybe because the devil's weed did not like me, or because I was not
clear about what I wanted to ask.
Like you yesterday.
You must have had that girl in mind when you asked the question about
"I can't remember it."
"The lizards are never wrong; they take every thought as a question.
The lizard came back and told you
things about H. no one will ever be able to understand, because not
even you know what your thoughts were."
"How about the other vision I had?"
"Your thoughts must have been steady when you asked that question. And
that is the way this sorcery should
be conducted, with clarity."
"Do you mean the vision of the girl is not to be taken seriously?"
"How can it be taken seriously if you don't know what questions the
little lizards were answering?"
"Would it be more clear to the lizard if one asked only one question?"
"Yes, that would be clearer. If you could hold one thought steadily."
"But what would happen, don Juan, if the one question was not a simple
"As long as your thought is steady, and does not go into other things,
it is clear to the little lizards, and then
their answer is clear to you."
"Can one ask more questions of the lizards as one goes along in the
"No. The vision is to look at whatever the lizards are telling you.
That is why I said it is a vision to hear
more than a vision to see. That is why I asked you to deal with
impersonal matters. Usually, when the question is
about people, your longing to touch them or talk to them is too strong,
and the lizard will stop talking and the
sorcery will be dispelled. You should know much more than you do now
before trying to see things that concern
you personally. Next time you must listen carefully. I am sure the
lizards told you many, many things, but you
were not listening."
Friday, 19 April 1963
"What were all the things I ground for the paste, don Juan?"
"Seeds of devil's weed and the weevils that live off the seeds. The
measure is one handful of each." He
cupped his right hand to show me how much.
I asked him what would happen if one element was used by itself,
without the others. He said that such a
procedure would only antagonize the devil's weed and the lizards.
"You must not antagonize the lizards," he said, "for the next day,
during the late afternoon, you must return
to the site of your plant. Speak to all lizards and ask the two that
helped you in the sorcery to come out again.
Search all over until it is quite dark. If you can't find them, you
must try it once more the next day. If you are
strong you will find both of them, and then you have to eat them, right
there. And you will be endowed forever
with the capacity to see the unknown. You will never need to catch
lizards again to practice this sorcery. They
will live inside you from then on."
"What do I do if I find only one of them?"
"If you find only one of them you must let her go at the end of your
search. If you find her the first day, don't
keep her, hoping you will catch the other one the next day. That will
only spoil your friendship with them."
"What happens if I can't find them at all?"
"I think that would be the best thing for you. It implies that you must
catch two lizards every time you want
their help, but it also implies that you are free."
"What do you mean, free?"
"Free from being the slave of the devil's weed. If the lizards are to
live inside you, the devil's weed will
never let you go."
"Is that bad?"
"Of course it is bad. She will cut you off from everything else. You
will have to spend your life grooming
her as an ally. She is possessive. Once she dominates you, there is
only one way to go - her way."
"What if I find that the lizards are dead?"
"If you find one or both of them dead, you must not attempt to do this
sorcery for some time. Lay off for a
"I think this is all I need to tell you; what I have told you is the
rule. Whenever you practice this sorcery by
yourself, you must follow all the steps I have described while you sit
in front of your plant. One more thing. You
must not eat or drink until the sorcery is finished."
The next step in don Juan's teachings was a new aspect of mastering the
second portion of the Datura root.
In the time that elapsed between the two stages of learning don Juan
inquired only about the development of my
Thursday, 27 June 1963
"It is a good practice to test the devil's weed before embarking fully
on her path," don Juan said.
"How do you test her, don Juan?"
"You must try another sorcery with the lizards. You have all the
elements that are needed to ask one more
question of the lizards, this time without my help."
"Is it very necessary that I do this sorcery, don Juan?"
"It is the best way to test the feelings of the devil's weed towards
you. She tests you all the time, so it is only
fair that you test her too, and if you feel anywhere along her path
that for some reason you should not go on, then
you must simply stop."
Saturday, 29 June 1963
I brought up the subject of the devil's weed. I wanted don Juan to tell
me more about it, and yet I did not
want to be committed to participate.
"The second portion is used only to divine, isn't that so, don Juan?" I
asked to start the conversation.
"Not only to divine. One learns the sorcery of the lizards with the aid
of the second portion, and at the same
time one tests the devil's weed; but in reality the second portion is
used for other purposes. The sorcery of the
lizards is only the beginning."
"Then what is it used for, don Juan?"
He did not answer. He abruptly changed the subject, and asked me how
big were the Datura plants growing
around my own plant. I made a gesture of size.
Don Juan said, "I have taught you how to tell a male from a female.
Now, go to your plants and bring me
both. Go first to your old plant and watch carefully the watercourse
made by the rain. By now the rain must have
carried the seeds far away. Watch the crevices [zanjitas] made by the
run-off, and from them determine the
direction of the flow. Then find the plant that is growing at the
farthest point from your plant. All the devil's
weed plants that are growing in between are yours. Later, as they seed,
you can extend the size of your territory
by following the watercourse from each plant along the way."
He gave me meticulous instructions on how to procure a cutting tool.
The cutting of the root, he said, had to
be done in the following way. First, I had to select the plant I was to
cut and clear away the dirt around the place
where the root joined the stem. Second, I had to repeat exactly the
same dance I had performed when I replanted
the root. Third, I had to cut the stem off, and leave the root in the
ground. The final step was to dig out sixteen
inches of root. He admonished me not to talk or to betray any feeling
during this act.
"You should carry two pieces of cloth," he said. "Spread them on the
ground and place the plants on them.
Then cut the plants into parts and stack them up. The order is up to
you; but you must always remember what
order you used, because that is the way you must always do it. Bring
the plants to me as soon as you have them."
Saturday, 6 July 1963
On Monday 1 July, I cut the Datura plants don Juan had asked for. I
waited until it was fairly dark to do the
dancing around the plants because I did not want anybody to see me. I
felt quite apprehensive. I was sure
someone was going to witness my strange acts. I had previously chosen
the plants I thought were a male and a
female. I had to cut off sixteen inches of the root of each one, and
digging to that depth with a wooden stick was
not an easy task. It took me hours. I had to finish the job in complete
darkness, and when I was ready to cut them
I had to use a flashlight. My original apprehension that somebody would
watch me was minimal compared with
the fear that someone would spot the light in the bushes.
I took the plants to don Juan's house on Tuesday 2 July. He opened the
bundles and examined the pieces. He
said he still had to give me the seeds of his plants. He pushed a
mortar in front of me. He took a glass jar and
emptied its contents - dried seeds lumped together - into the mortar.
I asked him what they were, and he said they were seeds eaten by
weevils. There were quite a few bugs
among the seeds - little black grain weevils. He said they were special
bugs, and that we had to take them out
and put them into a separate jar. He handed me another jar, one-third
full of the same kind of weevils. A piece of
paper was stuffed into the jar to keep the weevils from escaping.
"Next time you will have to use the bugs from your own plants," don
Juan said. "What you do is to cut the
seedpods that have tiny holes; they are full of bugs. Open the pod and
scrape everything into a jar. Collect one
handful of bugs and put them into another container. Treat them rough.
Don't be considerate or delicate with
them. Measure one handful of the lumped seeds that the bugs have eaten
and one handful of the bugs' powder,
and bury the rest any place in that direction [here he pointed
southeast] from your plant. Then gather good, dry
seeds and store them separately. You can gather all you want. You can
always use them. It is a good idea to get
the seeds out of the pods there so that you can bury everything at
Next don Juan told me to grind the lumped seeds first, then the weevil
eggs, then the bugs, and last the good,
When all of them were mashed into a fine powder don Juan took the
pieces of Datura I had cut and stacked
up. He separated the male root and wrapped it gently in a piece of
cloth. He handed me the rest, and told me to
cut everything into little pieces, mash them well, and then put every
bit of the juice into a pot. He said I had to
mash them in the same order in which I had stacked them up.
After I had finished he told me to measure one cup of boiling water and
stir it with everything in the pot, and
then to add two more cups. He handed me a smoothly finished bone stick.
I stirred the mush with it and put the
pot on the fire. Then he said we had to prepare the root, and for that
we had to use the larger mortar because the
male root could not be cut at all. We went to the back of the house. He
had the mortar ready, and I proceeded to
pound the root as I had done before. We left the root soaking in water,
exposed to the night air, and went inside
I woke up when don Juan got up. The sun was shining in a clear sky. It
was a hot, dry day. Don Juan
commented again that he was sure the devil's weed liked me.
We proceeded to treat the root, and at the end of the day we had quite
a bit of yellowish substance in the
bottom of the bowl. Don Juan poured off the top water. I thought that
was the end of the procedure, but he filled
the bowl with boiling water again.
He brought down the pot with the mush from under the roof. The mush
seemed to be almost dry. He took the
pot inside the house, placed it carefully on the floor, and sat down.
Then he began to talk.
"My benefactor told me it was permissible to mix the plant with lard.
And that is what you are going to do.
My benefactor mixed it with lard for me, but, as I have already said, I
never was very fond of the plant and never
really tried to become one with her. My benefactor told me that for
best results, for those who really want to
master the power, the proper thing is to mix the plant with the lard of
a wild boar. The fat of the intestines is the
best. But it is for you to choose. Perhaps the turn of the wheel will
decide that you take the devil's weed as an
ally, in which case I will advise you, as my benefactor advised me, to
hunt a wild boar and get the fat from the
intestines [sebo de tripa]. In other times, when the devil's weed was
tops, brujos used to go on special hunting
trips to get fat from wild boars. They sought the biggest and strongest
males. They had a special magic for wild
boars; they took from them a special power, so special that it was hard
to believe, even in those days. But that
power is lost. I don't know anything about it. And I don't know any man
who knows about it. Perhaps the weed
herself will teach you all that."
Don Juan measured a handful of lard, dumped it into the bowl containing
the dry gruel, and scraped the lard
left on his hand onto the edge of the pot. He told me to stir the
contents until they were smooth and thoroughly
I whipped the mixture for nearly three hours. Don Juan looked at it
from time to time and thought it was not
done yet. Finally he seemed satisfied. The air whipped into the paste
had given it a light grey colour and the
consistency of jelly. He hung the bowl from the roof next to the other
bowl. He said he was going to leave it
there until the next day because it would take two days to prepare this
second portion. He told me not to eat
anything in the meantime. I could have water, but no food at all.
The next day, Thursday 4 July, don Juan directed me to leach the root
four times. By the last time I poured
the water out of the bowl it had already become dark. We sat on the
porch. He put both bowls in front of him.
The root extract measured a teaspoon of a whitish starch. He put it
into a cup and added water. He rotated the
cup in his hand to dissolve the substance and then handed the cup to
me. He told me to drink all that was in the
cup. I drank it fast and then put the cup on the floor and slumped
back. My heart began pounding; I felt I could
not breathe. Don Juan ordered me, matter-of-factly, to take off all my
clothes. I asked him why, and he said I had
to rub myself with the paste. I hesitated. I did not know whether to
undress. Don Juan urged me to hurry up. He
said there was very little time to fool around. I removed all my
He took his bone stick and cut two horizontal lines on the surface of
the paste, thus dividing the contents of
the bowl into three equal parts. Then, starting at the centre of the
top line, he cut a vertical line perpendicular to
the other two, dividing the paste into five parts. He pointed to the
bottom right area, and said that was for my left
foot. The area above it was for my left leg. The top and largest part
was for my genitals. The next one below, on
the left side, was for my right leg, and the area at the bottom left
was for my right foot. He told me to apply the
part of the paste designated for my left foot to the sole of my foot
and rub it thoroughly. Then he guided me in
applying the paste on the inside part of my whole left leg, on my
genitals, down the inside of my whole right leg,
and finally on the sole of my right foot.
I followed his directions. The paste was cold and had a particularly
strong odour. When I had finished
applying it I straightened up. The smell from the mixture entered my
nostrils. It was suffocating me. The
pungent odour was actually choking me. It was like a gas of some sort.
I tried to breathe through my mouth and
tried to talk to don Juan, but I couldn't.
Don Juan kept staring at me. I took a step towards him. My legs were
rubbery and long, extremely long. I
took another step. My knee joints felt springy, like a vault pole; they
shook and vibrated and contracted
elastically. I moved forward. The motion of my body was slow and shaky;
it was more like a tremor forward and
up. I looked down and saw don Juan sitting below me, way below me. The
momentum carried me forward one
more step, which was even more elastic and longer than the preceding
one. And from there I soared. I remember
coming down once; then I pushed up with both feet, sprang backwards,
and glided on my back. I saw the dark
sky above me, and the clouds going by me. I jerked my body so I could
look down. I saw the dark mass of the
mountains. My speed was extraordinary. My arms were fixed, folded
against my sides. My head was the
directional unit. If I kept it bent backwards I made vertical circles.
I changed directions by turning my head to
the side. I enjoyed such freedom and swiftness as I had never known
before. The marvelous darkness gave me a
feeling of sadness, of longing, perhaps. It was as if I had found a
place where I belonged - the darkness of the
night. I tried to look around, but all I sensed was that the night was
serene, and yet it held so much power.
Suddenly I knew it was time to come down; it was as if I had been given
an order I had to obey. And I began
descending like a feather with lateral motions. That type of movement
made me very ill. It was slow and jerky,
as though I were being lowered by pulleys. I got sick. My head was
bursting with the most excruciating pain. A
kind of blackness enveloped me. I was very aware of the feeling of
being suspended in it.
The next thing I remember is the feeling of waking up. I was in my bed
in my own room. I sat up. And the
image of my room dissolved. I stood up. I was naked! The motion of
standing made me sick again.
I recognized some of the landmarks. I was about half a mile from don
Juan's house, near the place of his
Datura plants. Suddenly everything fitted into place, and I realized
that I would have to walk all the way back to
his house, naked. To be deprived of clothes was a profound
psychological disadvantage, but there was nothing I
could do to solve the problem. I thought of making myself a skirt with
branches, but the thought seemed
ludicrous and, besides, it was soon going to be dawn, for the morning
twilight was already clear. I forgot about
my discomfort and my nausea and started to walk towards the house. I
was obsessed with the fear of being
discovered. I watched for people and dogs. I tried to run, but I hurt
my feet on the small, sharp stones. I walked
slowly. It was already very clear. Then I saw somebody coming up the
road, and I quickly jumped behind the
bushes. My situation seemed so incongruous to me. A moment before I had
been enjoying the unbelievable
pleasure of flying; the next minute I found myself hiding, embarrassed
by my own nakedness. I thought of
jumping out on the road again and running with all my might past the
person who was coming. I thought he
would be so startled that by the time he realized it was a naked man I
would have left him far behind. I thought
all that, but I did not dare to move.
The person coming up the road was just upon me and stopped walking. I
heard him calling my name. It was
don Juan, and he had my clothes. As I put them on he looked at me and
laughed; he laughed so hard that I
wound up laughing too.
The same day, Friday 5 July, late in the afternoon, don Juan asked me
to narrate the details of my
experience. As carefully as I could, I related the whole episode.
"The second portion of the devil's weed is used to fly," he said when I
had finished. "The unguent by itself is
not enough. My benefactor said that it is the root that gives direction
and wisdom, and it is the cause of flying.
As you learn more, and take it often in order to fly, you will begin to
see everything with great clarity. You can
soar through the air for hundreds of miles to see what is happening at
any place you want, or to deliver a fatal
blow to your enemies far away. As you become familiar with the devil's
weed, she will teach you how to do such
things. For instance, she has taught you already how to change
directions. In the same manner, she will teach
you unimaginable things."
"Like what, don Juan?"
"That I can't tell you. Every man is different. My benefactor never
told me what he had learned. He told me
how to proceed, but never what he saw. That is only for oneself."
"But I tell you all I see, don Juan."
"Now you do. Later you will not. The next time you take the devil's
weed you will do it by yourself, around
your own plants, because that is where you will land, around your
plants. Remember that. That is why I came
down here to my plants to look for you."
He said nothing more, and I fell asleep. When I woke up in the evening,
I felt invigorated. For some reason I
exuded a sort of physical contentment. I was happy, satisfied.
Don Juan asked me, "Did you like the night? Or was it frightful?"
I told him that the night was truly magnificent.
"How about your headache? Was it very bad?" he asked.
"The headache was as strong as all the other feelings. It was the worst
pain I have ever had," I said.
"Would that keep you from wanting to taste the power of the devil's
"I don't know. I don't want it now, but later I might. I really don't
know, don Juan."
There was a question I wanted to ask him. I knew he was going to evade
it, so I waited for him to mention
the subject; I waited all day. Finally, before I left that evening, I
had to ask him, "Did I really fly, don Juan?"
"That is what you told me. Didn't you?"
"I know, don Juan. I mean, did my body fly? Did I take off like a bird?"
"You always ask me questions I cannot answer. You flew. That is what
the second portion of the devil's
weed is for. As you take more of it, you will learn how to fly
perfectly. It is not a simple matter. A man flies with
the help of the second portion of the devil's weed. That is all I can
tell you. What you want to know makes no
sense. Birds fly like birds and a man who has taken the devil's weed
flies as such [el enyerbado vuela asi]."
"As birds do? [Asi como los pajaros?]."
"No, he flies as a man who has taken the weed [No, asi como los
"Then I didn't really fly, don Juan. I flew in my imagination, in my
mind alone. Where was my body?"
"In the bushes," he replied cuttingly, but immediately broke into
laughter again. "The trouble with you is that
you understand things in only one way. You don't think a man flies; and
yet a brujo can move a thousand miles
in one second to see what is going on. He can deliver a blow to his
enemies long distances away. So, does he or
doesn't he fly?"
"You see, don Juan, you and I are differently oriented. Suppose, for
the sake of argument, one of my fellow
students had been here with me when I took the devil's weed. Would he
have been able to see me flying?"
"There you go again with your questions about what would happen if ...
It is useless to talk that way. If your
friend, or anybody else, takes the second portion of the weed all he
can do is fly. Now, if he had simply watched
you, he might have seen you flying, or he might not. That depends on
"But what I mean, don Juan, is that if you and I look at a bird and see
it fly, we agree that it is flying. But if
two of my friends had seen me flying as I did last night, would they
have agreed that I was flying?"
"Well, they might have. You agree that birds fly because you have seen
them flying. Flying is a common
thing with birds. But you will not agree on other things birds do,
because you have never seen birds doing them.
If your friends knew about men flying with the devil's weed, then they
"Let's put it another way, don Juan. What I meant to say is that if I
had tied myself to a rock with a heavy
chain I would have flown just the same, because my body had nothing to
do with my flying."
Don Juan looked at me incredulously. "If you tie yourself to a rock,"
he said, "I'm afraid you will have to fly
holding the rock with its heavy chain."
Collecting the ingredients and preparing them for the smoke mixture
formed a yearly cycle. The first year
don Juan taught me the procedure. In December of 1962, the second year,
when the cycle was renewed, don Juan
merely directed me; I collected the ingredients myself, prepared them,
and put them away until the next year.
In December 1963, a new cycle started for the third time. Don Juan then
showed me how to combine the
dried ingredients I had collected and prepared the year before. He put
the smoking mixture into a small leather
bag, and we set out once again to collect the different components for
the following year.
Don Juan seldom mentioned the "little smoke" during the year that
elapsed between the two gatherings.
Every time I went to see him, however, he gave me his pipe to hold, and
the procedure of "getting familiar" with
the pipe developed in the way he had described. He put the pipe in my
hands very gradually. He demanded
absolute and careful concentration on that action, and gave me very
explicit directions. Any fumbling with the
pipe would inevitably result in his or my death, he said.
As soon as we had finished the third collecting and preparing cycle,
don Juan began to talk about the smoke
as an ally for the first time in more than a year.
Monday, 23 December 1963
We were driving back to his house after collecting some yellow flowers
for the mixture. They were one of
the necessary ingredients. I made the remark that this year we did not
follow the same order in collecting the
ingredients as we had the year before. He laughed and said the smoke
was not moody or petty, as the devil's
weed was. For the smoke, the order of collecting was unimportant; all
that was required was that the man using
the mixture had to be accurate and exact.
I asked don Juan what we were going to do with the mixture he had
prepared and given me to keep. He
replied that it was mine, and added that I had to use it as soon as
possible. I asked how much of it was needed
each time. The small bag he had given me contained approximately three
times the amount a small tobacco bag
would hold. He told me I would have to use all the contents of my bag
in one year, and how much I needed each
time I smoked was a personal matter.
I wanted to know what would happen if I never finished the bag. Don
Juan said that nothing would happen;
the smoke did not require anything. He himself did not need to smoke
any more, and yet he made a new mixture
each year. He then corrected himself and said that he rarely had to
smoke. I asked what he did with the unused
mixture, but he did not answer. He said the mixture was no longer good
if not used in one year.
At this point we got into a long argument. I did not phrase my
questions correctly and his answers seemed
confusing. I wanted to know if the mixture would lose its
hallucinogenic properties, or power, after a year, thus
making the yearly cycle necessary; but he insisted that the mixture
would not lose its power at any time. The
only thing that happened, he said, was that a man did not need it any
more because he had made a new supply;
he had to dispose of the remaining old mixture in a specific way, which
don Juan did not want to reveal to me at
Tuesday, 24 December 1963
"You said, don Juan, you don't have to smoke any more."
"Yes, because the smoke is my ally I don't need to smoke any more. I
can call him any time, any place."
"Do you mean he comes to you even if you do not smoke?"
"I mean I go to him freely."
"Will I be able to do that, too?"
"If you succeed in getting him as your ally, you will."
Tuesday, 31 December 1963
On Thursday 26 December I had my first experience with don Juan's ally,
the smoke. All day I drove him
around and did chores for him. We returned to his house in the late
afternoon. I mentioned that we had had
nothing to eat all day. He was completely unconcerned over that;
instead he began to tell me it was imperative
for me to become familiar with the smoke. He said I had to experience
it myself to realize how important it was
as an ally.
Without giving me an opportunity to say anything, don Juan told me he
was going to light his pipe for me,
right then. I tried to dissuade him, arguing that I did not believe I
was ready. I told him I felt I had not handled
the pipe for a long enough time. But he said there was not much time
left for me to learn, and I had to use the
pipe very soon. He brought the pipe out of its sack and fondled it. I
sat on the floor next to him and frantically
tried to get sick and pass out - to do anything to put off this
The room was almost dark. Don Juan had lighted the kerosene lamp and
placed it in a comer. Usually the
lamp kept the room in a relaxing semi-darkness, its yellowish light
always soothing. This time, however, the
light seemed dim and unusually red; it was unnerving. He untied his
small bag of mixture without removing it
from the cord fastened around his neck. He brought the pipe close to
him, put it inside his shirt, and poured some
of the mixture into the bowl. He made me watch the procedure, pointing
out that if some of the mixture spilled it
would fall inside his shirt.
Don Juan filled three-fourths of the bowl, then tied the bag with one
hand while holding the pipe in the
other. He picked up a small clay dish, handed it to me, and asked me to
get some small charcoals from the fire
outside. I went to the back of the house and scooped a bunch of
charcoals from the adobe stove. I hurried back to
his room. I felt deep anxiety. It was like a premonition.
I sat next to don Juan and gave him the dish. He looked at it and
calmly said the charcoals were too big. He
wanted smaller ones that would fit inside the pipe bowl. I went back to
the stove and got some. He took the new
dish of charcoals and put it before him. He was sitting with his legs
crossed and tucked under him. He glanced at
me out of the corner of his eye and leaned forward until his chin
nearly touched the charcoals. He held the pipe
in his left hand, and with an extremely swift movement of his right
hand picked up a burning piece of charcoal
and put it into the bowl of the pipe; then he sat up straight and,
holding the pipe with both hands, put it to his
mouth and puffed three times. He stretched his arms to me and told me
in a forceful whisper to take the pipe
with both hands and smoke.
The thought of refusing the pipe and running away crossed my mind for
an instant; but don Juan demanded
again - still in a whisper - that I take the pipe and smoke. I looked
at him. His eyes were fixed on me. But his
stare was friendly, concerned. It was clear that I had made the choice
a long time before; there was no alternative
but to do what he said.
I took the pipe and nearly dropped it. It was hot! I put it to my mouth
with extreme care because I imagined
its heat would be intolerable on my lips. But I felt no heat at all.
Don Juan told me to inhale. The smoke flowed into my mouth, and seemed
to circulate there. It was heavy! I
felt as though I had a mouthful of dough. The simile occurred to me
although I had never had a mouthful of
dough. The smoke was also like menthol, and the inside of my mouth
suddenly became cold. It was a refreshing
sensation. "Again! Again!" I heard don Juan whispering. I felt the
smoke seep inside my body freely, almost
without my control. I needed no more urging from don Juan. Mechanically
I kept inhaling.
Suddenly don Juan leaned over and took the pipe from my hands. He
tapped the ashes gently on the dish
with the charcoals, then he wet his finger with saliva and rotated it
inside the bowl to clean its sides. He blew
through the stem repeatedly. I saw him put the pipe back into its
sheath. His actions held my interest.
When he had finished cleaning the pipe and putting it away, he stared
at me, and I realized for the first time
that my whole body was numb, mentholated. My face felt heavy and my
jaws hurt. I could not keep my mouth
closed, but there was no saliva flow. My mouth was burning dry, and yet
I was not thirsty. I began to sense an
unusual heat all over my head. A cold heat! My breath seemed to cut my
nostrils and upper lip every time I
exhaled. But it didn't burn; it hurt like a piece of ice.
Don Juan sat next to me, to my right, and without moving held the pipe
sheath against the floor as though
keeping it down by force. My hands were heavy. My arms sagged, pulling
my shoulders down. My nose was
running. I wiped it with the back of my hand, and my upper lip was
rubbed off! I wiped my face, and all the
flesh was wiped off! I was melting! I felt as if my flesh was actually
melting. I jumped to my feet and tried to
grab hold of something - anything - with which to support myself. I was
experiencing a terror I had never felt
before. I held onto a pole that don Juan keeps stuck on the floor in
the centre of his room. I stood there for a
moment, then I turned to look at him. He was still sitting motionless,
holding his pipe, staring at me. My breath
was painfully hot (or cold?). It was choking me. I bent my head forward
to rest it on the pole, but apparently I
missed it, and my head kept on moving downward beyond the point where
the pole was. I stopped when I was
nearly down to the floor. I pulled myself up. The pole was there in
front of my eyes! I tried again to rest my head
on it. I tried to control myself and to be aware, and kept my eyes open
as I leaned forward to touch the pole with
my forehead. It was a few inches from my eyes, but as I put my head
against it I had the queerest feeling that I
was going right through it.
In a desperate search for a rational explanation I concluded that my
eyes were distorting depth, and that the
pole must have been ten feet away, even though I saw it directly in
front of my face. I then conceived a logical,
rational way to check the position of the pole. I began moving sideways
around it, one little step at a time. My
argument was that in walking around the pole in that way I couldn't
possibly make a circle more than five feet in
diameter; if the pole was really ten feet away from me, or beyond my
reach, a moment would come when I
would have my back to it. I trusted that at that moment the pole would
vanish, because in reality it would be
I then proceeded to circle the pole, but it remained in front of my
eyes as I went around it. In a fit of
frustration I grabbed it with both hands, but my hands went through it.
I was grabbing the air. I carefully
calculated the distance between the pole and myself. I figured it must
be three feet. That is, my eyes perceived it
as three feet. I played for a moment with the perception of depth by
moving my head from one side to the other,
focusing each eye in turn on the pole and then on the background.
According to my way of judging depth, the
pole was unmistakably before me, possibly three feet away. Stretching
out my arms to protect my head, I
charged with all my strength. The sensation was the same - I went
through the pole. This time I went all the way
to the floor. I stood up again. And standing up was perhaps the most
unusual of all the acts I performed that
night. I thought myself up! In order to get up I did not use my muscles
and skeletal frame in the way I am
accustomed to doing, because I no longer had control over them. I knew
it the instant I hit the ground. But my
curiosity about the pole was so strong I "thought myself up" in a kind
of reflex action. And before I fully realized
I could not move, I was up.
I called to don Juan for help. At one moment I yelled frantically at
the top of my voice, but don Juan did not
move. He kept on looking at me, sideways, as though he didn't want to
turn his head to face me fully. I took a
step toward him, but instead of moving forward I staggered backward and
fell against the wall. I knew I had
rammed against it with my back, yet it did not feel hard; I was
completely suspended in a soft, spongy substance
- it was the wall. My arms were stretched out laterally, and slowly my
whole body seemed to sink into the wall. I
could only look forward into the room. Don Juan was still watching me,
but he made no move to help me. I
made a supreme effort to jerk my body out of the wall, but it only sank
deeper and deeper. In the midst of
indescribable terror, I felt that the spongy wall was closing in on my
face. I tried to shut my eyes but they were
I don't remember what else happened. Suddenly don Juan was in front of
me, a short distance away. We
were in the other room. I saw his table and the dirt stove with the
fire burning, and with the corner of my eye I
distinguished the fence outside the house. I could see everything very
clearly. Don Juan had brought the
kerosene lantern and hung it from the beam in the middle of the room. I
tried to look in a different direction, but
my eyes were set to see only straight forward. I couldn't distinguish,
or feel, any part of my body. My breathing
was undetectable. But my thoughts were extremely lucid. I was clearly
aware of whatever was taking place in
front of me. Don Juan walked towards me, and my clarity of mind ended.
Something seemed to stop inside me.
There were no more thoughts. I saw don Juan coming and I hated him. I
wanted to tear him apart. I could have
killed him then, but I could not move. At first I vaguely sensed a
pressure on my head, but it also disappeared.
There was only one thing left - an overwhelming anger at don Juan. I
saw him only a few inches from me. I
wanted to claw him apart. I felt I was groaning. Something in me began
to convulse. I heard don Juan talking to
me. His voice was soft and soothing, and, I felt, infinitely pleasing.
He came even closer and started to recite a
"Lady Saint Ana, why does the baby cry? For an apple he has lost. I
will give you one. I will give you two.
One for the boy and one for you [Senora Santa Ana, porque llora el
nino? Por una manzana que se le ha
perdido. Yo le dare una. Yo le dare dos. Una para el nino y otra para
A warmth pervaded me. It was a warmth of heart and feelings. Don Juan's
words were a distant echo. They
recalled the forgotten memories of childhood.
The violence I had felt before disappeared. The resentment changed into
a longing - a joyous affection for
don Juan. He said I must struggle not to fall asleep; that I no longer
had a body and was free to turn into anything
I wanted. He stepped back. My eyes were at a normal level as though I
were standing in front of him. He
extended both his arms towards me and told me to come inside them.
Either I moved forward, or he came closer to me. His hands were almost
on my face - on my eyes, although I
did not feel them.
"Get inside my chest," I heard him say.
I felt I was engulfing him. It was the same sensation of the sponginess
of the wall.
Then I could hear only his voice commanding me to look and see. I could
not distinguish him any more. My
eyes were apparently open for I saw flashes of light on a red field; it
was as though I was looking at a light
through my closed eyelids. Then my thoughts were turned on again. They
came back in a fast barrage of images
- faces, scenery. Scenes without any coherence popped up and
disappeared. It was like a fast dream in which
images overlap and change. Then the thoughts began to diminish in
number and intensity, and soon they were
gone again. There was only an awareness of affection, of being happy. I
couldn't distinguish any shapes or light.
All of a sudden I was pulled up. I distinctly felt I was being lifted.
And I was free, moving with tremendous
lightness and speed in water or air. I swam like an eel; I contorted
and twisted and soared up and down at will. I
felt a cold wind blowing all around me, and I began to float like a
feather back and forth, down, and down, and
Saturday, 28 December 1963
I woke up yesterday late in the afternoon. Don Juan told me I had slept
peacefully for nearly two days. I had
a splitting headache. I drank some water and got sick. I felt tired,
extremely tired, and after eating I went back to
Today I felt perfectly relaxed again. Don Juan and I talked about my
experience with the little smoke.
Thinking that he wanted me to tell the whole story the way I always
did, I began to describe my impressions, but
he stopped me and said it was not necessary. He told me I had really
not done anything, and that I had fallen
asleep right away, so there was nothing to talk about.
"How about the way I felt? Isn't that important at all?" I insisted.
"No, not with the smoke. Later on, when you learn how to travel, we
will talk; when you learn how to get
"Does one really get into things?"
"Don't you remember? You went into and through that wall."
"I think I really went out of my mind."
"No, you didn't."
"Did you behave the same way I did when you smoked for the first time,
don Juan ?"
"No, it wasn't the same. We have different characters."
"How did you behave?"
Don Juan did not answer. I rephrased the question and asked it again.
But he said he did not remember his
experiences, and that my question was comparable to asking a fisherman
how he felt the first time he fished.
He said the smoke as an ally was unique, and I reminded him that he had
also said Mescalito was unique. He
argued that each was unique, but that they differed in quality.
"Mescalito is a protector because he talks to you and can guide your
acts," he said. "Mescalito teaches the
right way to live. And you can see him because he is outside you. The
smoke, on the other hand, is an ally. It
transforms you and gives you power without ever showing its presence.
You can't talk to it. But you know it
exists because it takes your body away and makes you as light as air.
Yet you never see it. But it is there giving
you power to accomplish unimaginable things, such as when it takes your
"I really felt I had lost my body, don Juan."
"You mean, I really didn't have a body?"
"What do you think yourself?"
"Well, I don't know. All I can tell you is what I felt."
"That is all there is in reality - what you felt."
"But how did you see me, don Juan? How did I appear to you?"
"How I saw you does not matter. It is like the time when you grabbed
the pole. You felt it was not there and
you went around it to make sure it was there. But when you jumped at it
you felt again that it was not really
"But you saw me as I am now, didn't you?"
"No! You were NOT as you are now!"
"True! I admit that. But I had my body, didn't I, although I couldn't
"No! Goddammit! You did not have a body like the body you have today!"
"What happened to my body then?"
"I thought you understood. The little smoke took your body."
"But where did it go?"
"How in hell do you expect me to know that?"
It was useless to persist in trying to get a "rational" explanation. I
told him I did not want to argue or to ask
stupid questions, but if I accepted the idea that it was possible to
lose my body I would lose all my rationality.
He said that I was exaggerating, as usual, and that I did not, nor was
I going to, lose anything because of the
Tuesday, 28 January 1964
I asked don Juan what he thought of the idea of giving the smoke to
anyone who wanted the experience.
He indignantly replied that to give the smoke to anyone would be just
the same as killing him, for he would
have no one to guide him. I asked don Juan to explain what he meant. He
said I was there, alive and talking to
him, because he had brought me back. He had restored my body. Without
him I would never have awakened.
"How did you restore my body, don Juan?"
"You will learn that later, but you will have to learn to do it all by
yourself. That is the reason I want you to
learn as much as you can while I am still around. You have wasted
enough time asking stupid questions about
nonsense. But perhaps it is not in your destiny to learn all about the
"Well, what shall I do, then?"
"Let the smoke teach you as much as you can learn."
"Does the smoke also teach?"
"Of course it teaches."
"Does it teach as Mescalito does?"
"No, it is not a teacher as Mescalito is. It does not show the same
"But what does the smoke teach, then?"
"It shows you how to handle its power, and to learn that you must take
it as many times as you can."
"Your ally is very frightening, don Juan. It was unlike anything I ever
experienced before. I thought I had
lost my mind."
For some reason this was the most poignant image that came to my mind.
I viewed the total event from the
peculiar stand of having had other hallucinogenic experiences from
which to draw a comparison, and the only
thing that occurred to me, over and over again, was that with the smoke
one loses one's mind.
Don Juan discarded my simile, saying that what I felt was its
unimaginable power. And to handle that
power, he said, one has to live a strong life. The idea of the strong
life not only pertains to the preparation
period, but also entails the attitude of the man after the experience.
He said the smoke is so strong one can match
it only with strength; otherwise, one's life would be shattered to bits.
I asked him if the smoke had the same effect on everyone. He said it
produced a transformation, but not in
"Then, what is the special reason the smoke produced the transformation
in me?" I asked.
"That, I think, is a very silly question. You have followed obediently
every step required. It is no mystery
that the smoke transformed you."
I asked him again to tell me about my appearance. I wanted to know how
I looked, for the image of a
bodiless being he had planted in my mind was understandably unbearable.
He said that to tell the truth he was afraid to look at me; he felt the
same way his benefactor must have felt
when he saw don Juan smoking for the first time.
"Why were you afraid ? Was I that frightening ?" I asked.
"I had never seen anyone smoking before."
"Didn't you see your benefactor smoke?"
"You have never seen even yourself?"
"How could I?"
"You could smoke in front of a mirror."
He did not answer, but stared at me and shook his head. I asked him
again if it was possible to look into a
mirror. He said it would be possible, although it would be useless
because one would probably die of fright, if of
I said, "Then one must look frightful."
"I have wondered all my life about the same thing," he said. "Yet I did
not ask, nor did I look into a mirror. I
did not even think of that."
"How can I find out then?"
"You will have to wait, the same way I did, until you give the smoke to
someone else - if you ever master it,
of course. Then you will see how a man looks. That is the rule."
"What would happen if I smoked in front of a camera and took a picture
"I don't know. The smoke would probably turn against you. But I suppose
you find it so harmless you feel
you can play with it."
I told him I did not mean to play, but that he had told me before that
the smoke did not require steps, and I
thought there would be no harm in wanting to know how one looked. He
corrected me, saying that he had meant
there was no necessity to follow a specific order, as there is with the
devil's weed; all that was needed with the
smoke was the proper attitude, he said. From that point of view one had
to be exact in following the rule. He
gave me an example, explaining that it did not matter what ingredient
for the mixture was picked first, so long as
the amount was correct.
I asked if there would be any harm in my telling others about my
experience. He replied that the only secrets
never to be revealed were how to make the mixture, how to move around,
and how to return; other matters
concerning the subject were of no importance.
My last encounter with Mescalito was a cluster of four sessions which
took place within four consecutive
days. Don Juan called this long session a mitote. It was a peyote
ceremony for peyoteros and apprentices. There
were two older men, about don Juan's age, one of whom was the leader,
and five younger men including myself.
The ceremony took place in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, near the
Texas border. It consisted of singing
and of ingesting peyote during the night. In the daytime women
attendants, who stayed outside the confines of
the ceremony site, supplied each man with water, and only a token of
ritual food was consumed each day.
Saturday, 12 September 1964
During the first night of the ceremony, Thursday 3 September, I took
eight peyote buttons. They had no
effect on me, or if they did, it was a very slight one. I kept my eyes
closed most of the night. I felt much better
that way. I did not fall asleep, nor was I tired. At the very end of
the session the singing became extraordinary.
For a brief moment I felt uplifted and wanted to weep, but as the song
ended the feeling vanished.
We all got up and went outside. The women gave us water. Some of the
men gargled it; others drank it. The
men did not talk at all, but the women chatted and giggled all day
long. The ritual food was served at midday. It
was cooked corn.
At sundown on Friday 4 September, the second session began. The leader
sang his peyote song, and the
cycle of songs and intake of peyote buttons began once again. It ended
in the morning with each man singing his
own song, in unison with the others.
When I went out I did not see as many women as had been there the day
before. Someone gave me water,
but I was no longer concerned with my surroundings. I had ingested
eight buttons again, but the effect had been
It must have been towards the end of the session that the singing was
greatly accelerated, with everybody
singing at once. I perceived that something or somebody outside the
house wanted to come in. I couldn't tell
whether the singing was done to prevent "it" from bursting in, or to
lure it inside.
I was the only one who did not have a song. They all seemed to look at
me questioningly, especially the
young men. I grew embarrassed and closed my eyes.
Then I realized I could perceive what was going on much better if I
kept my eyes closed. This idea held my
undivided attention. I closed my eyes, and saw the men in front of me.
I opened my eyes, and the image was
unchanged. The surroundings were exactly the same for me, whether my
eyes were open or closed.
Suddenly everything vanished, or crumbled, and there emerged in its
place the manlike figure of Mescalito I
had seen two years before. He was sitting some distance away with his
profile towards me. I stared fixedly at
him, but he did not look at me; not once did he turn.
I believed I was doing something wrong, something that kept him away. I
got up and walked towards him to
ask him about it. But the act of moving dispelled the image. It began
to fade, and the figures of the men I was
with were superimposed upon it. Again I heard the loud, frantic singing.
I went into the nearby bushes and walked for a while. Everything stood
out very clearly. I noticed I was
seeing in the darkness, but it mattered very little this time. The
important point was, why did Mescalito avoid
I returned to join the group, and as I was about to enter the house I
heard a heavy rumbling and felt a tremor.
The ground shook. It was the same noise I had heard in the peyote
valley two years before.
I ran into the bushes again. I knew that Mescalito was there, and that
I was going to find him. But he was not
there. I waited until morning, and joined the others just before the
The usual procedure was repeated on the third day. I was not tired, but
I slept during the afternoon.
In the evening of Saturday 5 September, the old man sang his peyote
song to start the cycle once more.
During this session I chewed only one button and did not listen to any
of the songs, nor did I pay attention to
anything that went on. From the first moment my whole being was
uniquely concentrated on one point. I knew
something terribly important for my well-being was missing.
While the men sang I asked Mescalito, in a loud voice, to teach me a
song. My pleading mingled with the
men's loud singing. Immediately I heard a song in my ears. I turned
around and sat with my back to the group
and listened. I heard the words and the tune over and over, and I
repeated them until I had learned the whole
song. It was a long song in Spanish. Then I sang it to the group
several times. And soon afterwards a new song
came to my ears. By morning I had sung both songs countless times. I
felt I had been renewed, fortified.
After the water was given to us, don Juan gave me a bag, and we all
went into the hills. It was a long,
strenuous walk to a low mesa. There I saw several peyote plants. But
for some reason I did not want to look at
them. After we had crossed the mesa, the group broke up. Don Juan and I
walked back, collecting peyote buttons
just as we had done the first time I helped him.
We returned in the late afternoon of Sunday 6 September. In the evening
the leader opened the cycle again.
Nobody had said a word but I knew perfectly well it was the last
gathering. This time the old man sang a new
song. A sack with fresh peyote buttons was passed around. This was the
first time I had tasted a fresh button. It
was pulpy but hard to chew. It resembled a hard, green fruit, and was
sharper and more bitter than the dried
buttons. Personally, I found the fresh peyote infinitely more alive.
I chewed fourteen buttons. I counted them carefully. I did not finish
the last one, for I heard the familiar
rumble that marked the presence of Mescalito. Everybody sang
frantically, and I knew that don Juan, and
everybody else, had actually heard the noise. I refused to think that
their reaction was a response to a cue given
by one of them merely to deceive me.
At that moment I felt a great surge of wisdom engulfing me. A
conjecture I had played with for three years
turned then into a certainty. It had taken me three years to realize,
or rather to find out, that whatever is contained
in the cactus Lophophora williamsii had nothing to do with me in order
to exist as an entity; it existed by itself
out there, at large. I knew it then.
I sang feverishly until I could no longer voice the words. I felt as if
my songs were inside my body, shaking
me uncontrollably. I needed to go out and find Mescalito, or I would
explode. I walked towards the peyote field.
I kept on singing my songs. I knew they were individually mine - the
unquestionable proof of my singleness. I
sensed each one of my steps. They resounded on the ground; their echo
produced the indescribable euphoria of
being a man.
Each one of the peyote plants on the field shone with a bluish,
scintillating light. One plant had a very bright
light. I sat in front of it and sang my songs to it. As I sang
Mescalito came out of the plant - the same manlike
figure I had seen before. He looked at me. With great audacity, for a
person of my temperament, I sang to him.
There was a sound of flutes, or of wind, a familiar musical vibration.
He seemed to have said, as he had two
years before, "What do you want?"
I spoke very loudly. I said that I knew there was something amiss in my
life and in my actions, but I could
not find out what it was. I begged him to tell me what was wrong with
me, and also to tell me his name so that I
could call him when I needed him. He looked at me, elongated his mouth
like a trumpet until it reached my ear,
and then told me his name.
Suddenly I saw my own father standing in the middle of the peyote
field; but the field had vanished and the
scene was my old home, the home of my childhood. My father and I were
standing by a fig tree. I embraced my
father and hurriedly began to tell him things I had never before been
able to say. Every one of my thoughts was
concise and to the point. It was as if we had no time, really, and I
had to say everything at once. I said staggering
things about my feelings towards him, things I would never have been
able to voice under ordinary
My father did not speak. He just listened and then was pulled, or
sucked, away. I was alone again. I wept
with remorse and sadness.
I walked through the peyote field calling the name Mescalito had taught
me. Something emerged from a
strange, starlike light on a peyote plant. It was a long shiny object -
a stick of light the size of a man. For a
moment it illuminated the whole field with an intense yellowish or
amber light; then it lit up the whole sky
above, creating a portentous, marvellous sight. I thought I would go
blind if I kept on looking; I covered my eyes
and buried my head in my arms.
I had a clear notion that Mescalito told me to eat one more peyote
button. I thought, "I can't do that because I
have no knife to cut it."
"Eat one from the ground," he said to me in the same strange way.
I lay on my stomach and chewed the top of a plant. It kindled me. It
filled every corner of my body with
warmth and directness. Everything was alive. Everything had exquisite
and intricate detail, and yet everything
was so simple. I was everywhere; I could see up and down and around,
all at the same time.
This particular feeling lasted long enough for me to become aware of
it. Then it changed into an oppressive
terror, terror that did not come upon me abruptly, but somehow swiftly.
At first my marvelous world of silence
was jolted by sharp noises, but I was not concerned. Then the noises
became louder and were uninterrupted, as if
they were closing in on me. And gradually I lost the feeling of
floating in a world undifferentiated, indifferent,
and beautiful. The noises became gigantic steps. Something enormous was
breathing and moving around me. I
believed it was hunting for me.
I ran and hid under a boulder, and tried to determine from there what
was following me. At one moment I
crept out of my hiding place to look, and whoever was my pursuer came
upon me. It was like sea kelp. It threw
itself on me. I thought its weight was going to crush me, but I found
myself inside a pipe or a cavity. I clearly
saw that the kelp had not covered all the ground surface around me.
There remained a bit of free ground
underneath the boulder. I began to crawl underneath it. I saw huge
drops of liquid falling from the kelp. I "knew"
it was secreting digestive acid in order to dissolve me. A drop fell on
my arm; I tried to rub off the acid with dirt,
and applied saliva to it as I kept on digging. At one point I was
almost vaporous. I was being pushed up towards
a light. I thought the kelp had dissolved me. I vaguely detected a
light which grew brighter; it was pushing from
under the ground until finally it erupted into what I recognized as the
sun coming out from behind the
Slowly I began to regain my usual sensorial processes. I lay on my
stomach with my chin on my folded arm.
The peyote plant in front of me began to light up again, and before I
could move my eyes the long light emerged
again. It hovered over me. I sat up. The light touched my whole body
with quiet strength, and then rolled away
out of sight.
I ran all the way to the place where the other men were. We all
returned to town. Don Juan and I stayed one
more day with don Roberto, the peyote leader. I slept all the time we
were there. When we were about to leave,
the young men who had taken part in the peyote sessions came up to me.
They embraced me one by one, and
laughed shyly. Each one of them introduced himself. I talked with them
for hours about everything except the
Don Juan said it was time to leave. The young men embraced me again.
"Come back," one of them said.
"We are already waiting for you," another one added.
I drove away slowly trying to see the older men, but none of them was
Thursday, 10 September 1964
To tell don Juan about an experience always forced me to recall it step
by step, to the best of my ability. This
seemed to be the only way to remember everything.
Today I told him the details of my last encounter with Mescalito. He
listened to my story attentively up to
the point when Mescalito told me his name. Don Juan interrupted me
"You are on your own now," he said. "The protector has accepted you. I
will be of very little help to you
from now on. You don't have to tell me anything more about your
relationship with him. You know his name
now; and neither his name, nor his dealings with you, should ever be
mentioned to a living being."
I insisted that I wanted to tell him all the details of the experience,
because it made no sense to me. I told
him I needed his assistance to interpret what I had seen. He said I
could do that by myself, that it was better for
me to start thinking on my own. I argued that I was interested in
hearing his opinions because it would take me
too long to arrive at my own, and I did not know how to proceed.
I said, "Take the songs for instance. What do they mean?"
"Only you can decide that," he said. "How could I know what they mean?
The protector alone can tell you
that, just as he alone can teach you his songs. If I were to tell you
what they mean, it would be the same as if you
learned someone else's songs."
"What do you mean by that, don Juan ?"
"You can tell who are the phonies by listening to people singing the
protector's songs. Only the songs with
soul are his and were taught by him. The others are copies of other
men's songs. People are sometimes as
deceitful as that. They sing someone else's songs without even knowing
what the songs say."
I said that I had meant to ask for what purpose the songs were used. He
answered that the songs I had
learned were for calling the protector, and that I should always use
them in conjunction with his name to call
him. Later Mescalito would probably teach me other songs for other
purposes, don Juan said.
I asked him then if he thought the protector had accepted me fully. He
laughed as if my question were
foolish. He said the protector had accepted me and had made sure I knew
that he had accepted me by showing
himself to me as a light, twice. Don Juan seemed to be very impressed
by the fact that I had seen the light twice.
He emphasized that aspect of my encounter with Mescalito.
I told him I could not understand how it was possible to be accepted by
the protector, yet terrified by him at
the same time.
He did not answer for a very long time. He seemed bewildered. Finally
he said, "It is so clear. What he
wanted is so clear that I don't see how you can misunderstand."
"Everything is still incomprehensible to me, don Juan."
"It takes time really to see and understand what Mescalito means; you
should think about his lessons until
they become clear."
Friday, 11 September 1964
Again I insisted upon having don Juan interpret my visionary
experiences. He stalled for a while. Then he
spoke as if we had already been carrying on a conversation about
"Do you see how stupid it is to ask if he is like a person you can talk
to?" don Juan said. "He is like nothing
you have ever seen. He is like a man, but at the same time he is not at
all like one. It is difficult to explain that to
people who know nothing about him and want to know everything about him
all at once. And then, his lessons
are as mysterious as he is himself. No man, to my knowledge, can
predict his acts. You ask him a question and
he shows you the way, but he does not tell you about it in the same
manner you and I talk to each other. Do you
understand now what he does?"
"I don't think I have trouble understanding that. What I can't figure
out is his meaning."
"You asked him to tell you what's wrong with you, and he gave you the
full picture. There can be no
mistake! You can't claim you did not understand. It was not
conversation - and yet it was. Then you asked him
another question, and he answered you in exactly the same manner. As to
what he meant, I am not sure I
understand it, because you chose not to tell me what your question was."
I repeated very carefully the questions I remembered having asked; I
put them in the order in which I had
voiced them: "Am I doing the right thing? Am I on the right path? What
should I do with my life?"
Don Juan said the questions I had asked were only words; it was better
not to voice the questions, but to ask
them from within. He told me the protector meant to give me a lesson;
and to prove that he meant to give me a
lesson and not to scare me away, he showed himself as a light twice.
I said I still could not understand why Mescalito terrorized me if he
had accepted me. I reminded don Juan
that, according to his statements, to be accepted by Mescalito implied
that his form was constant and did not
shift from bliss to nightmare. Don Juan laughed at me again and said
that if I would think about the question I
had had in my heart when I talked to Mescalito, then I myself would
understand the lesson.
To think about the question I had had in my "heart" was a difficult
problem. I told don Juan I had had many
things in mind. When I asked if I was on the right path, I meant: Do I
have one foot in each of two worlds?
Which world is the right one? What course should my life take?
Don Juan listened to my explanations and concluded that I did not have
a clear view of the world, and that
the protector had given me a beautifully clear lesson.
He said, "You think there are two worlds for you - two paths. But there
is only one. The protector showed
you this with unbelievable clarity. The only world available to you is
the world of men, and that world you
cannot choose to leave. You are a man! The protector showed you the
world of happiness where there is no
difference between things because there is no one there to ask about
the difference. But that is not the world of
men. The protector shook you out of it and showed you how a man thinks
and fights. That is the world of man!
And to be a man is to be condemned to that world. You have the vanity
to believe you live in two worlds, but
that is only your vanity. There is but one single world for us. We are
men, and must follow the world of men
contentedly. I believe that was the lesson."
Don Juan seemed to want me to work with the devil's weed as much as
possible. This stand was incongruous
with his alleged dislike of the power. He explained himself by saying
that the time when I had to smoke again
was near, and by then I ought to have developed a better knowledge of
the power of the devil's weed.
He suggested repeatedly that I should at least test the devil's weed
with one more sorcery with the lizards. I
played with the idea for a long time. Don Juan's urgency increased
dramatically until I felt obliged to heed his
demand. And one day I made up my mind to divine about some stolen
Monday, 28 December 1964
On Saturday 19 December I cut the Datura root. I waited until it was
fairly dark to do my dancing around
the plant. I prepared the root extract during the night and on Sunday,
about 6:00 a.m., I went to the site of my
Datura. I sat in front of the plant. I had taken careful notes on don
Juan's teachings about the procedure. I read
my notes again, and realized I did riot have to grind the seeds there.
Somehow just being in front of the plant
gave me a rare kind of emotional stability, a clarity of thought or a
power to concentrate on my actions which I
I followed all the instructions meticulously, calculating my time so
that the paste and the root were ready by
late afternoon. About five o'clock I was busy trying to catch a pair of
lizards. For an hour and a half I tried every
method I could think of, but I failed in every attempt.
I was sitting in front of the Datura plant trying to figure out an
expedient way of accomplishing my purpose
when I suddenly remembered that don Juan had said the lizards had to be
talked to. At first I felt ludicrous
talking to the lizards. It was like being embarrassed by talking in
front of an audience. The feeling soon vanished
and I went on talking. It was almost dark. I lifted a rock. A lizard
was under it. It had the appearance of being
numb. I picked it up. And then I saw that there was another stiff
lizard under another rock. They did not even
The sewing of the mouth and eyes was the most difficult task. I noticed
that don Juan had imparted a sense
of irrevocability to my acts. His stand was that when a man begins an
act there is no way to stop. If I had wanted
to stop, however, there was nothing to prevent me. Perhaps I did not
want to stop.
I set one lizard free and it went in a northeasterly direction — the
omen of a good, but difficult, experience. I
tied the other lizard to my shoulder and smeared my temples as
prescribed. The lizard was stiff; for a moment I
thought it had died, and don Juan had never told me what to do if that
happened. But the lizard was only numb.
I drank the potion and waited awhile. I felt nothing out of the
ordinary. I began rubbing the paste on my
temples. I applied it twenty-five times. Then quite mechanically, as if
I were absentminded, I spread it repeatedly
all over my forehead. I realized my mistake and hurriedly wiped the
paste off. My forehead was sweaty; I
became feverish. Intense anxiety gripped me, for don Juan had strongly
advised me not to rub the paste on my
forehead. The fear changed into a feeling of absolute loneliness, a
feeling of being doomed. I was there by
myself. If something harmful was going to happen to me, there was no
one there to help me. I wanted to run
away. I had an alarming sensation of indecision, of not knowing what to
do. A flood of thoughts rushed into my
mind, flashing with extraordinary speed. I noticed that they were
rather strange thoughts; that is, they were
strange in the sense that they seemed to come in a different way from
ordinary thoughts. I am familiar with the
way I think. My thoughts have a definite order that is my own, and any
deviation is noticeable.
One of the alien thoughts was about a statement made by an author. It
was, I vaguely remember, more like a
voice, or something said somewhere in the background. It happened so
fast that it startled me. I paused to
consider it, but it changed into an ordinary thought. I was certain I
had read the statement, but I could not think
of the author's name. I suddenly remembered that it was Alfred Kroeber.
Then another alien thought popped up
and "said" that it was not Kroeber, but Georg Simmel, who had made the
statement. I insisted that it was
Kroeber, and the next thing I knew I was in the midst of an argument
with myself. And had forgotten about my
feeling of being doomed.
My eyelids were heavy, as though I had taking sleeping pills. Although
I had never taken any, it was the
image that came to my mind. I was falling asleep. I wanted to go to my
car and crawl in, but I couldn't move.
Then, quite suddenly, I woke up, or rather, clearly felt that I had. My
first thought was about the time of day.
I looked around. I was not in front of the Datura plant. Nonchalantly I
accepted the fact that I was undergoing
another divinatory experience. It was 12:35 by a clock above my head. I
knew it was afternoon.
I saw a young man carrying a stack of papers. I was nearly touching
him. I saw the veins of his neck
pulsating and heard the fast beating of his heart. I had become
absorbed in what I was seeing and had not been
aware, so far, of the quality of my thoughts. Then I heard a "voice" in
my ear describing the scene, and I realized
that the "voice" was the alien thought in my mind.
I became so engrossed in listening that the scene lost its visual
interest for me. I heard the voice at my right
ear above my shoulder. It actually created the scene by describing it.
But it obeyed my will, because I could stop
it at any time and examine the details of what it said at my leisure. I
"heard-saw" the entire sequence of the
young man's actions. The voice went on explaining them in minute
detail, but somehow the action was not
important. The little voice was the extraordinary issue. Three times
during the course of the experience I tried to
turn around to see who was talking. I tried to turn my head all the way
to the right, or just whirl around
unexpectedly to see if somebody was there. But every time I did it, my
vision became blurry. I thought: "The
reason I cannot turn around is because the scene is not in the realm of
ordinary reality." And that thought was my
From then on I concentrated my attention on the voice alone. It seemed
to come from my shoulder. It was
perfectly clear, although it was a small voice. It was, however, not a
child's voice or a falsetto voice, but a
miniature man's voice. It wasn't my voice either. I presumed it was
English that I heard. Whenever I tried
deliberately to trap the voice, it subsided altogether or became vague
and the scene faded. I thought of a simile.
The voice was like the image created by dust particles in the
eyelashes, or the blood vessels in the cornea of the
eye, a wormlike shape that can be seen as long as one is not looking at
it directly; but the moment one tries to
look at it, it shifts out of sight with the movement of the eyeball.
I became totally disinterested in the action. As I listened the voice
became more complex. What I thought to
be a voice was more like something whispering thoughts into my ear. But
that was not accurate. Something was
thinking for me. The thoughts were outside myself. I knew that was so,
because I could hold my own thoughts
and the thoughts of the "other" at the same time.
At one point the voice created scenes acted out by the young man, which
had nothing to do with my original
question about the lost objects. The young man performed very complex
acts. The action had become important
again and I paid no more attention to the voice. I began to lose
patience; I wanted to stop. "How can I end this?"
I thought. The voice in my ear said I should go back to the canyon. I
asked how, and the voice answered that I
should think of my plant.
I thought of my plant. Usually I sat in front of it. I had done it so
many times that it was quite easy for me to
visualize it. I believed that seeing it, as I did at that moment, was
another hallucination, but the voice said I was
"back"! I strained to listen. There was only silence. The Datura plant
in front of me seemed as real as everything
else I had seen, but I could touch it, I could move around.
I stood up and walked towards my car. The effort exhausted me, and I
sat down and closed my eyes. I felt
dizzy and wanted to vomit. There was a buzzing in my ears.
Something slid on my chest. It was the lizard. I remembered don Juan's
admonition about setting it free. I
went back to the plant and untied the lizard. I did not want to see
whether it was dead or alive. I broke the clay
pot with the paste and kicked some dirt over it. I got into my car and
Thursday, 24 December 1964
Today I narrated the whole experience to don Juan. As usual, he
listened without interrupting me. At the end
we had the following dialogue.
"You did something very wrong."
"I know it. It was a very stupid error, an accident."
"There are no accidents when you deal with the devil's weed. I told you
she would test you all the way. As I
see it, either you are very strong or the weed really likes you. The
centre of the forehead is only for the great
brujos who know how to handle her power."
"What usually happens when a man rubs his forehead with the paste, don
"If the man is not a great brujo he will never come back from the
"Have you ever rubbed the paste on your forehead, don Juan?"
"Never! My benefactor told me very few people return from such a
journey. A man could be gone for
months, and would have to be tended by others. My benefactor said the
lizards could take a man to the end of the
world and show him the most marvelous secrets upon request."
"Do you know anybody who has ever taken that journey?"
"Yes, my benefactor. But he never taught me how to return."
"Is it so very difficult to return, don Juan?"
"Yes. That is why your act is truly astonishing to me. You had no steps
to follow, and we must follow
certain steps, because it is in the steps where man finds strength.
Without them we are nothing."
We remained silent for hours. He seemed to be immersed in very deep
Saturday, 26 December 1964
Don Juan asked me if I had looked for the lizards. I told him I had,
but that I couldn't find them. I asked him
what would have happened if one of the lizards had died while I was
holding it. He said the death of a lizard
would be an unfortunate event. If the lizard with the sewed-up mouth
had died at any time there would have
been no sense in pursuing the sorcery, he said. It would also have
meant that the lizards had withdrawn their
friendship, and I would have had to give up learning about the devil's
weed for a long time.
"How long, don Juan?" I asked.
"Two years or more."
"What would have happened if the other lizard had died?"
"If the second lizard had died, you would have been in real danger. You
would have been alone, without a
guide. If she died before you started the sorcery, you could have
stopped it; but if you had stopped it, you would
also have to give up the devil's weed for good. If the lizard had died
while she was on your shoulder, after you
had begun the sorcery, you would have had to go ahead with it, and that
would truly have been madness."
"Why would it have been madness?"
"Because under such conditions nothing makes sense. You are alone
without a guide, seeing terrifying,
"What do you mean by "nonsensical things"?"
"Things we see by ourselves. Things we see when we have no direction.
It means the devil's weed is trying
to get rid of you, finally pushing you away."
"Do you know anyone who ever experienced that?"
"Yes. I did. Without the wisdom of the lizards I went mad."
"What did you see, don Juan?"
"A bunch of nonsense. What else could I have seen without direction?"
Monday, 28 December 1964
"You told me, don Juan, that the devil's weed tests men. What did you
mean by that?"
"The devil's weed is like a woman, and like a woman she flatters men.
She sets traps for them at every turn.
She did it to you when she forced you to rub the paste on your
forehead. She will try it again, and you will
probably fall for it. I warn you against it. Don't take her with
passion; the devil's weed is only one path to the
secrets of a man of knowledge. There are other paths. But her trap is
to make you believe that hers is the only
way. I say it is useless to waste your life on one path, especially if
that path has no heart."
"But how do you know when a path has no heart, don Juan?"
"Before you embark on it you ask the question: Does this path have a
heart? If the answer is no, you will
know it, and then you must choose another path."
"But how will I know for sure whether a path has a heart or not?"
"Anybody would know that. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and
when a man finally realizes that he
has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At
that point very few men can stop to deliberate,
and leave the path."
"How should I proceed to ask the question properly, don Juan?"
"Just ask it."
"I mean, is there a proper method, so I would not lie to myself and
believe the answer is yes when it really is
"Why would you lie?"
"Perhaps because at the moment the path is pleasant and enjoyable."
"That is nonsense. A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have
to work hard even to take it. On the
other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at
Don Juan suddenly changed the direction of the conversation and bluntly
confronted me with the idea that I
liked the devil's weed. I had to admit that I had at least a preference
for it. He asked me how I felt about his ally,
the smoke, and I had to tell him that just the idea of it frightened me
out of my senses.
"I have told you that to choose a path you must be free from fear and
ambition. But the smoke blinds you
with fear, and the devil's weed blinds you with ambition."
I argued that one needs ambition even to embark on any path, and that
his statement that one had to be free
from ambition did not make sense. A person has to have ambition in
order to learn.
"The desire to learn is not ambition," he said. "It is our lot as men
to want to know, but to seek the devil's
weed is to bid for power, and that is ambition, because you are not
bidding to know. Don't let the devil's weed
blind you. She has hooked you already. She entices men and gives them a
sense of power; she makes them feel
they can do things that no ordinary man can. But that is her trap. And,
the next thing, the path without a heart
will turn against men and destroy them. It does not take much to die,
and to seek death is to seek nothing."
In the month of December 1964 don Juan and I went to collect the
different plants needed to make the
smoking mixture. It was the fourth cycle. Don Juan merely supervised my
actions. He urged me to take time, to
watch, and to deliberate before I picked any of the plants. As soon as
the ingredients had been gathered and
stored, he prompted me to meet with his ally again.
Thursday, 31 December 1964
"Now that you know a bit more about the devil's weed and the smoke, you
can tell more clearly which of the
two you like better," don Juan said.
"The smoke really terrifies me, don Juan. I don't know exactly why, but
I don't have a good feeling about it."
"You like flattery, and the devil's weed flatters you. Like a woman,
she makes you feel good. The smoke, on
the other hand, is the most noble power; he has the purest heart. He
does not entice men or make them prisoners,
nor does he love or hate. All he requires is strength. The devil's weed
also requires strength, but of a different
kind. It is closer to being virile with women. On the other hand, the
strength required by the smoke is strength of
the heart. You don't have that! But very few men have it. That is why I
recommend that you learn more about the
smoke. He reinforces the heart. He is not like the devil's weed, full
of passions, jealousies, and violence. The
smoke is constant. You don't have to worry about forgetting something
along the line."
Wednesday, 27 January 1965
On Tuesday 19 January, I smoked again the hallucinogenic mixture. I had
told don Juan I felt very
apprehensive about the smoke, and that it frightened me. He said I had
to try it again to evaluate it with justice.
We walked into his room. It was almost two o'clock in the afternoon. He
brought out the pipe. I got the
charcoals, then we sat facing each other. He said he was going to warm
up the pipe and awaken her, and if I
watched carefully I would see how she glowed. He put the pipe to his
lips three or four times, and sucked
through it. He rubbed it tenderly. Suddenly he nodded, almost
imperceptibly, to signal me to look at the pipe's
awakening. I looked, but I couldn't see it.
He handed the pipe to me. I filled the bowl with my own mixture, and
then picked a burning charcoal with a
pair of tweezers I had made from a wooden clothespin and had been
saving for this occasion. Don Juan looked at
my tweezers and began to laugh. I vacillated for a moment, and the
charcoal stuck to the tweezers. I was afraid
to tap them against the pipe bowl, and I had to spit on the charcoal to
put it out.
Don Juan turned his head away and covered his face with his arm. His
body shook. For a moment I thought
he was crying, but he was laughing silently.
The action was interrupted for a long time; then he swiftly picked up a
charcoal himself, put it in the bowl,
and ordered me to smoke. It required quite an effort to suck through
the mixture; it seemed to be very compact.
After the first try I felt I had sucked the fine powder into my mouth.
It numbed my mouth immediately. I saw the
glow in the bowl, but I never felt the smoke as the smoke of a
cigarette is felt. Yet I had the sensation of inhaling
something, something that filled my lungs first and then pushed itself
down to fill the rest of my body.
I counted twenty inhalations, and then the count did not matter any
longer. I began to sweat; don Juan
looked at me fixedly and told me not to be afraid and to do exactly as
he said. I tried to say "all right", but
instead I made a weird, howling sound. It went on resounding after I
had closed my mouth. The sound startled
don Juan, who had another attack of laughter. I wanted to say "yes"
with my head, but I couldn't move.
Don Juan opened my hands gently and took the pipe away. He ordered me
to lie down on the floor, but not
to fall asleep. I wondered if he was going to help me lie down but he
did not. He just stared at me
uninterruptedly. All of a sudden I saw the room tumbling, and I was
looking at don Juan from a position on my
side. From that point on the images became strangely blurry, as in a
dream. I can vaguely recall hearing don Juan
talk to me a great deal during the time I was immobilized.
I did not experience fear, or unpleasantness, during the state itself,
nor was I sick upon awakening the next
day. The only thing out of the ordinary was that I could not think
clearly for some time after waking up. Then
gradually, in a period of four or five hours, I became myself again.
Wednesday, 20 January 1965
Don Juan did not talk about my experience, nor did he ask me to relate
it to him. His sole comment was that
I had fallen asleep too soon.
"The only way to stay awake is to become a bird, or a cricket, or
something of the sort," he said.
"How do you do that, don Juan?"
"That is what I am teaching you. Do you remember what I said to you
yesterday while you were without
"I can't recall clearly."
"I am a crow. I am teaching you how to become a crow. When you learn
that, you will stay awake, and you
will move freely; otherwise you will always be glued to the ground,
wherever you fall."
Sunday, 7 February 1965
My second attempt with the smoke took place about midday on Sunday 31
January. I woke up the following
day in the early evening. I had the sensation of possessing an unusual
power to recollect whatever don Juan had
said to me during the experience. His words were imprinted on my mind.
I kept on hearing them with
extraordinary clarity and persistence. During this attempt another fact
became obvious to me: my entire body
had become numb soon after I began to swallow the fine powder, which
got into my mouth every time I sucked
the pipe. Thus I not only inhaled the smoke, but also ingested the
I tried to narrate my experience to don Juan; he said I had done
nothing important. I mentioned that I could
remember everything that had happened, but he did not want to hear
about it. Every memory was precise and
unmistakable. The smoking procedure had been the same as in the
previous attempt. It was almost as if the two
experiences were perfectly juxtaposable, and I could start my
recollection from the time the first experience
ended. I clearly remembered that from the time I fell to the ground on
my side I was completely devoid of
feeling or thought. Yet my clarity was not impaired in any way. I
remember thinking my last thought at about
the time the room became a vertical plane: "I must have clunked my head
on the floor, yet I don't feel any pain."
From that point on I could only see and hear. I could repeat every word
don Juan had said. I followed each
one of his directions. They seemed clear, logical, and easy. He said
that my body was disappearing and only my
head was going to remain, and in such a condition the only way to stay
awake and move around was by
becoming a crow. He commanded me to make an effort to wink, adding that
whenever I was capable of winking
I would be ready to proceed. Then he told me that my body had vanished
completely and all I had was my head;
he said the head never disappears because the head is what turns into a
He ordered me to wink. He must have repeated this command, and all his
other commands countless times,
because I could remember all of them with extraordinary clarity. I must
have winked, because he said I was
ready and ordered me to straighten up my head and put it on my chin. He
said that in the chin were the crow's
legs. He commanded me to feel the legs and observe that they were
coming out slowly. He then said that I was
not solid yet, that I had to grow a tail, and that the tail would come
out of my neck. He ordered me to extend the
tail like a fan, and to feel how it swept the floor.
Then he talked about the crow's wings, and said they would come out of
my cheekbones. He said it was hard
and painful. He commanded me to unfold them. He said they had to be
extremely long, as long as I could stretch
them, otherwise I would not be able to fly. He told me the wings were
coming out and were long and beautiful,
and that I had to flap them until they were real wings.
He talked about the top of my head next and said it was still very
large and heavy, and its bulk would
prevent my flying. He told me that the way to reduce its size was by
winking; with every wink my head would
become smaller. He ordered me to wink until the top weight was gone and
I could jump freely. Then he told me
I had reduced my head to the size of a crow, and that I had to walk
around and hop until I had lost my stiffness.
There was one last thing I had to change, he said, before I could fly.
It was the most difficult change, and to
accomplish it I had to be docile and do exactly as he told me. I had to
learn to see like a crow. He said that my
mouth and nose were going to grow between my eyes until I had a strong
beak. He said that crows see straight to
the side, and commanded me to turn my head and look at him with one
eye. He said that if I wanted to change
and look with the other eye I had to shake my beak down, and that that
movement would make me look through
the other eye. He ordered me to shift from one eye to the other. And
then he said I was ready to fly, and that the
only way to fly was to have him toss me into the air.
I had no difficulty whatsoever eliciting the corresponding sensation to
each one of his commands. I had the
perception of growing bird's legs, which were weak and wobbly at first.
I felt a tail coming out of the back of my
neck and wings out of my cheekbones. The wings were folded deeply. I
felt them coming out by degrees. The
process was hard but not painful. Then I winked my head down to the
size of a crow. But the most astonishing
effect was accomplished with my eyes. My bird's sight!
When don Juan directed me to grow a beak, I had an annoying sensation
of lack of air. Then something
bulged out and created a block in front of me. But it was not until don
Juan directed me to see laterally that my
eyes actually were capable of having a full view to the side. I could
wink one eye at a time and shift the focusing
from one eye to the other. But the sight of the room and all the things
in it was not like an ordinary sight. Yet it
was impossible to tell in what way it was different. Perhaps it was
lopsided, or perhaps things were out of focus.
Don Juan became very big and glowy. Something about him was comforting
and safe. Then the images blurred;
they lost their outlines, and became sharp abstract patterns that
flickered for a while.
Sunday, 28 March 1965
On Thursday 18 March I smoked again the hallucinogenic mixture. The
initial procedure was different in
small details. I had to refill the pipe bowl once. After I had finished
the first batch, don Juan directed me to clean
the bowl, but he poured the mixture into the bowl himself because I
lacked muscular co-ordination. It took a
great deal of effort to move my arms. There was enough mixture in my
bag for one refill. Don Juan looked at the
bag and said this was my last attempt with the smoke until the next
year because I had used up all my provisions.
He turned the little bag inside out and shook the dust into the dish
that held the charcoals. It burned with an
orange glow, as if he had placed a sheet of transparent material over
the charcoals. The sheet burst into flame,
and then it cracked into an intricate pattern of lines. Something
zigzagged inside the lines at high speed. Don
Juan told me to look at the movement in the lines. I saw something that
looked like a small marble rolling back
and forth in the glowing area. He leaned over, put his hand into the
glow, picked out the marble, and placed it in
the pipe bowl. He ordered me to take a puff. I had a clear impression
that he had put the small ball into the pipe
so that I would inhale it. In a moment the room lost its horizontal
position. I felt a profound numbness, a
sensation of heaviness.
When I awakened, I was lying on my back at the bottom of a shallow
irrigation ditch, immersed in water up
to my chin. Someone was holding my head up. It was don Juan. The first
thought I had was that the water in the
channel had an unusual quality; it was cold and heavy. It slapped
lightly against me, and my thoughts cleared
with every movement it made. At first the water had a bright green
halo, or fluorescence, which soon dissolved,
leaving only a stream of ordinary water.
I asked don Juan about the time of day. He said it was early morning.
After a while I was completely awake,
and got out of the water.
"You must tell me all you saw," don Juan said when we got to his house.
He also said he had been trying to
"bring me back" for three days, and had had a very difficult time doing
I made numerous attempts to describe what I had seen, but I could not
concentrate. Later on, during the early
evening, I felt I was ready to talk with don Juan, and I began to tell
him what I remembered from the time I had
fallen on my side, but he did not want to hear about it. He said the
only interesting part was what I saw and did
after he "tossed me into the air and I flew away".
All I could remember was a series of dreamlike images or scenes. They
had no sequential order. I had the
impression that each one of them was like an isolated bubble, floating
into focus and then moving away. They
were not, however, merely scenes to look at. I was inside them. I took
part in them. When I tried to recollect
them at first, I had the sensation that they were vague, diffused
flashes, but as I thought about them I realized
that each one of them was extremely clear although totally unrelated to
ordinary seeing - hence, the sensation of
vagueness. The images were few and simple.
As soon as don Juan mentioned that he had "tossed me into the air" I
had a faint recollection of an absolutely
clear scene in which I was looking straight at him from some distance
away. I was looking at his face only. It
was monumental in size. It was flat and had an intense glow. His hair
was yellowish, and it moved. Each part of
his face moved by itself, projecting a sort of amber light.
The next image was one in which don Juan had actually tossed me up, or
hurled me, in a straight onward
direction. I remember I "extended my wings and flew". I felt alone,
cutting through the air, painfully moving
straight ahead. It was more like walking than like flying. It tired my
body. There was no feeling of flowing free,
Then I remembered an instant in which I was motionless, looking at a
mass of sharp, dark edges set in an
area that had a dull, painful light; next I saw a field with an
infinite variety of lights. The lights moved and
flickered and changed their luminosity. They were almost like colours.
Their intensity dazzled me.
At another moment, an object was almost against my eye. It was a thick,
pointed object; it had a definite
pinkish glow. I felt a sudden tremor somewhere in my body and saw a
multitude of similar pink forms coming
towards me. They all moved on me. I jumped away.
The last scene I remembered was three silvery birds. They radiated a
shiny, metallic light, almost like
stainless steel, but intense and moving and alive. I liked them. We
Don Juan did not make any comments on my recounting.
Tuesday, 23 March 1965
The following conversation took place the next day, after the
recounting of my experience.
Don Juan said: "It does not take much to become a crow. You did it and
now you will always be one."
"What happened after I became a crow, don Juan? Did I fly for three
"No, you came back at nightfall as I had told you to."
"But how did I come back?"
"You were very tired and went to sleep. That is all."
"I mean did I fly back?"
"I have already told you. You obeyed me and came back to the house. But
don't concern yourself with that
matter. It is of no importance."
"What is important, then?"
"In your whole trip there was only one thing of great value — the
"What was so special about them? They were just birds."
"Not just birds - they were crows."
"Were they white crows, don Juan?"
"The black feathers of a crow are really silvery. The crows shine so
intensely that they are not bothered by
"Why did their feathers look silvery?"
"Because you were seeing as a crow sees. A bird that looks dark to us
looks white to a crow. The white
pigeons, for instance, are pink or bluish to a crow; seagulls are
yellow. Now, try to remember how you joined
I thought about it, but the birds were a dim, disassociated image which
had no continuity. I told him I could
remember only that I felt I had flown with them. He asked me whether I
had joined them in the air or on the
ground, but I could not possibly answer that. He became almost angry
with me. He demanded that I think about
it. He said: "All this will not mean a damn; it will be only a mad
dream unless you remember correctly."
I strained myself to recollect, but I could not.
Saturday, 3 April 1965
Today I thought of another image in my "dream" about the silvery birds.
I remembered seeing a dark mass
with myriads of pinholes. In fact, the mass was a dark cluster of
little holes. I don't know why I thought it was
soft. As I was looking at it, three birds flew straight at me. One of
them made a noise; then all three of them were
next to me on the ground.
I described the image to don Juan. He asked me from what direction the
birds had come. I said I couldn't
possibly determine that. He became quite impatient and accused me of
being inflexible in my thinking. He said I
could very well remember if I tried to, and that I was afraid to let
myself become less rigid. He said that I was
thinking in terms of men and crows, and that I was neither a man nor a
crow at the time that I wanted to
He asked me to remember what the crow had said to me. I tried to think
about it, but my mind played on
scores of other things instead. I couldn't concentrate.
Sunday, 4 April 1965
I took a long hike today. It got quite dark before I reached don Juan's
house. I was thinking about the crows
when suddenly a very strange "thought" crossed my mind. It was more
like an impression or a feeling than a
thought. The bird that had made the noise said they were coming from
the north and were going south, and when
we met again they would be coming the same way.
I told don Juan what I had thought up, or maybe remembered. He said,
"Don't think about whether you
remembered it or made it up. Such thoughts fit men only. They do not
fit crows, especially those you saw, for
they are the emissaries of your fate. You are already a crow. You will
never change that. From now on the crows
will tell you with their flight about every turn of your fate. In which
direction did you fly with them?"
"I couldn't know that, don Juan!"
"If you think properly you will remember. Sit on the floor and tell me
the position in which you were when
the birds flew to you. Close your eyes and make a line on the floor."
I followed his suggestion and determined the point.
"Don't open your eyes yet!" He proceeded, "In which direction did you
all fly in relation to that point?"
I made another mark on the ground.
Taking these points of orientation as a reference, don Juan interpreted
the different patterns of flight the
crows would observe to foretell my personal future or fate. He set up
the four points of the compass as the axis
of the crows' flight.
I asked him whether the crows always followed the cardinal points to
tell a man's fate. He said that the
orientation was mine alone; whatever the crows did in my first meeting
with them was of crucial importance. He
insisted on my recalling every detail, for the message and the pattern
of the "emissaries" were an individual,
There was one more thing he insisted I should remember and that was the
time of day when the emissaries
left me. He asked me to think of the difference in the light around me
between the time when I "began to fly"
and the time when the silvery birds "flew with me". When I first had
the sensation of painful flight, it was dark.
But when I saw the birds, everything was reddish light red, or perhaps
He said: "That means it was late in the day; the sun was not down yet.
When it is completely dark a crow is
blind with whiteness and not with darkness, the way we are at night.
This indication of the time places your last
emissaries at the end of the day. They will call you, and as they fly
above your head, they will become silvery
white; you will see them shining against the sky, and it will mean your
time is up. It will mean you are going to
die and become a crow yourself."
"What if I see them during the morning?"
"You won't see them in the morning!"
"But crows fly all day."
"Not your emissaries, you fool!"
"How about your emissaries, don Juan?"
"Mine will come in the morning. There will also be three of them. My
benefactor told me that one could
shout them back to black if one does not want to die. But now I know it
can't be done. My benefactor was given
to shouting, and to all the clatter and violence of the devil's weed. I
know the smoke is different because he has
no passion. He is fair. When your silvery emissaries come for you,
there is no need to shout at them. Just fly
with them as you have already done. After they have collected you they
will reverse directions, and there will be
four of them flying away."
Saturday, 10 April 1965
I had been experiencing brief flashes of disassociation, or shallow
states of non-ordinary reality.
One element from the hallucinogenic experience with the mushrooms kept
recurring in my thoughts: the
soft, dark mass of pinholes. I continued to visualize it as a grease or
an oil bubble which began to draw me to its
centre. It was almost as if the centre would open up and swallow me,
and for very brief moments I experienced
something resembling a state of nonordinary reality. As a result I
suffered moments of profound agitation,
anxiety, and discomfort, and I willfully strove to end the experiences
as soon as they began.
Today I discussed this condition with don Juan. I asked for advice. He
seemed to be unconcerned and told
me to disregard the experiences because they were meaningless, or
rather valueless. He said the only experiences
worth my effort and concern would be those in which I saw a crow; any
other kind of "vision" would be merely
the product of my fears. He reminded me again that in order to partake
of the smoke it was necessary to lead a
strong, quiet life. Personally I seemed to have reached a dangerous
threshold. I told him I felt I could not go on;
there was something truly frightening about the mushrooms.
In going over the images I recalled from my hallucinogenic experience,
I had come to the unavoidable
conclusion that I had seen the world in a way that was structurally
different from ordinary vision. In other states
of non-ordinary reality I had undergone, the forms and the patterns I
had visualized were always within the
confines of my visual conception of the world. But the sensation of
seeing under the influence of the
hallucinogenic smoke mixture was not the same. Everything I saw was in
front of me in a direct line of vision;
nothing was above or below that line of vision.
Every image had an irritating flatness, and yet, disconcertingly, a
profound depth. Perhaps it would be more
accurate to say that the images were a conglomerate of unbelievably
sharp details set inside fields of different
light; the light in the fields moved, creating an effect of rotation.
After probing and exerting myself to remember, I was forced to make a
series of analogies or similes in
order to "understand" what I had "seen". Don Juan's face, for instance,
looked as if he had been submerged in
water. The water seemed to move in a continuous flow over his face and
hair. It so magnified them that I could
see every pore in his skin or every hair on his head whenever I focused
my vision. On the other hand, I saw
masses of matter that were flat and full of edges, but did not move
because there was no fluctuation in the light
that came from them.
I asked don Juan what were the things that I had seen. He said that
because this was the first time I was
seeing as a crow the images were not clear or important, and that later
on with practice I would be able to
I brought up the issue of the difference I had detected in the movement
"Things that are alive", he said, "move inside, and a crow can easily
see when something is dead, or about to
die, because the movement has stopped or is slowing down to a stop. A
crow can also tell when something is
moving too fast, and by the same token a crow can tell when something
is moving just right."
"What does it mean when something is moving too fast, or just right?"
"It means a crow can actually tell what to avoid and what to seek. When
something is moving too fast inside,
it means it is about to explode violently, or to leap forward, and a
crow will avoid it. When it moves inside just
right, it is a pleasing sight and a crow will seek it."
"Do rocks move inside?"
"No, not rocks or dead animals or dead trees. But they are beautiful to
look at. That is why crows hang
around dead bodies. They like to look at them. No light moves inside
"But when the flesh rots, doesn't it change or move?"
"Yes, but that is a different movement. What a crow sees then is
millions of things moving inside the flesh
with a light of their own, and that is what a crow likes to see. It is
truly an unforgettable sight."
"Have you seen it yourself, don Juan?"
"Anybody who learns to become a crow can see it. You will see it
At this point I asked don Juan the unavoidable question.
"Did I really become a crow? I mean would anyone seeing me have thought
I was an ordinary crow?"
"No. You can't think that way when dealing with the power of the
allies. Such questions make no sense, and
yet to become a crow is the simplest of all matters. It is almost like
frolicking; it has little usefulness. As I have
already told you, the smoke is not for those who seek power. It is only
for those who crave to see. I learned to
become a crow because these birds are the most effective of all. No
other birds bother them, except perhaps
larger, hungry eagles, but crows fly in groups and can defend
themselves. Men don't bother crows either, and
that is an important point. Any man can distinguish a large eagle,
especially an unusual eagle, or any other large,
unusual bird, but who cares about a crow? A crow is safe. It is ideal
in size and nature. It can go safely into any
place without attracting attention. On the other hand, it is possible
to become a lion or a bear, but that is rather
dangerous. Such a creature is too large; it takes too much energy to
become one. One can also become a cricket,
or a lizard, or even an ant, but that is even more dangerous, because
large animals prey on small creatures."
I argued that what he was saying meant that one really changed into a
crow, or a cricket, or anything else.
But he insisted I was misunderstanding.
"It takes a very long time to learn to be a proper crow," he said. "But
you did not change, nor did you stop
being a man. There is something else."
"Can you tell me what the something else is, don Juan?"
"Perhaps by now you know it yourself. Maybe if you were not so afraid
of becoming mad, or of losing your
body, you would understand this marvelous secret. But perhaps you must
wait until you lose your fear to
understand what I mean."
The last event I recorded in my field notes took place in September
1965. It was the last of don Juan's
teachings. I called it "a special state of non-ordinary reality"
because it was not the product of any of the plants I
had used before. It seemed that don Juan elicited it by means of a
careful manipulation of cues about himself;
that is to say, he behaved in front of me in so skillful a manner that
he created the clear and sustained impression
that he was not really himself, but someone impersonating him. As a
result I experienced a profound sense of
conflict; I wanted to believe it was don Juan, and yet I could not be
sure of it. The concomitant of the conflict
was a conscious terror, so acute that it impaired my health for several
weeks. Afterwards I thought it would have
been wise to end my apprenticeship then. I have never been a
participant since that time, yet don Juan has not
ceased to consider me an apprentice. He has regarded my withdrawal only
as a necessary period of
recapitulation, another step of learning, which may last indefinitely.
Since that time, however, he has never
expounded on his knowledge.
I wrote the detailed account of my last experience almost a month after
it happened, although I had already
written copious notes on its salient points on the following day during
the hours of great emotional agitation
which preceded the highest point of my terror.
Friday, 29 October 1965
On Thursday 30 September 1965, I went to see don Juan. The brief,
shallow states of non-ordinary reality
had been persisting in spite of my deliberate attempts to end them, or
slough them off as don Juan had suggested.
I felt that my condition was getting worse, for the duration of such
states was increasing. I became sharply aware
of the noise of airplanes. The sound of their motors going overhead
would unavoidably catch my attention and
fix it, to the point where I felt I was following the plane as if I
were inside it, or flying with it. This sensation was
very annoying. My inability to shake it off produced a deep anxiety in
Don Juan, after listening attentively to all the details, concluded
that I was suffering from a loss of soul. I
told him I had been having these hallucinations ever since the time I
had smoked the mushrooms, but he insisted
that they were a new development. He said that earlier I had been
afraid, and had just "dreamed nonsensical
things", but that now I was truly bewitched. The proof was that the
noise of the flying airplanes could carry me
away. Ordinarily, he said, the noise of a brook or a river can trap a
bewitched man who has lost his soul and
carry him away to his death. He then asked me to describe all my
activities during the time prior to experiencing
the hallucinations. I listed all the activities I could remember. And
from my account he deduced the place where
I had lost my soul.
Don Juan seemed to be overly preoccupied, a state that was quite
unusual for him. This naturally increased
my apprehension. He said he had no definite idea as to who had trapped
my soul, but whoever it was intended
without doubt to kill me or make me very ill. Then he gave me precise
instructions about a "fighting form", a
specific bodily position to be maintained while I remained on my
beneficial spot. I had to maintain this posture
he called a form [una forma para pelear].
I asked him what all that was for, and whom I was going to fight. He
replied that he was going away to see
who had taken my soul, and to find out if it was possible to get it
back. In the meantime, I was supposed to stay
on my spot until his return. The fighting form was actually a
precaution, he said, in case something happened
during his absence, and it had to be used if I was attacked. It
consisted of clapping the calf and thigh of my right
leg and stomping my left foot in a kind of dance I had to do while
facing the attacker.
He warned me that the form had to be adopted only in moments of extreme
crisis, but so long as there was
no danger in sight I should simply sit cross-legged on my spot. Under
circumstances of extreme danger,
however, he said I could resort to one last means of defence — hurling
an object at the enemy. He told me that
ordinarily one hurls a power object, but since I did not possess any I
was forced to use any small rock that would
fit into the palm of my right hand, a rock I could hold by pressing it
against my palm with my thumb. He said
that such a technique should be used only if one was indisputably in
danger of losing one's life. The hurling of
the object had to be accompanied by a war cry, a yell that had the
property of directing the object to its mark. He
emphatically recommended that I be careful and deliberate about the
outcry and not use it at random, but only
under "severe conditions of seriousness".
I asked what he meant by "severe conditions of seriousness". He said
that the outcry or war cry was
something that remained with a man for the duration of his life; thus
it had to be good from the very beginning.
And the only way to start it correctly was by holding back one's
natural fear and haste until one was absolutely
filled with power, and then the yell would burst out with direction and
power. He said these were the conditions
of seriousness needed to launch the yell.
I asked him to explain about the power that was supposed to fill one
before the outcry. He said that was
something that ran through the body coming from the ground where one
stood; it was a kind of power that
emanated from the beneficial spot, to be exact. It was a force that
pushed the yell out. If such a force was
properly managed, the battle cry would be perfect.
I asked him again if he thought something was going to happen to me. He
said he knew nothing about it and
admonished me dramatically to stay glued to my spot for as long as it
was necessary, because that was the only
protection I had against anything that might happen.
I began to feel frightened; I begged him to be more specific.
He said all he knew was that I should not move under any circumstances;
I was not to go into the house or
into the bush. Above all, he said, I should not utter a single word,
not even to him. He said I could sing my
Mescalito songs if I became too frightened, and then he added that I
knew already too much about these matters
to have to be warned like a child about the importance of doing
His admonitions produced a state of profound anguish in me. I was sure
he was expecting something to
happen. I asked him why he recommended that I sing the Mescalito songs,
and what he believed was going to
frighten me. He laughed and said I might become afraid of being alone.
He walked into the house and closed the
door behind him. I looked at my watch. It was 7:00 p.m. I sat quietly
for a long time. There were no sounds
corning from don Juan's room. Everything was quiet. It was windy. I
thought of making a dash for my car to get
my windbreaker, but I did not dare to go against don Juan's advice. I
was not sleepy, but tired; the cold wind
made it impossible for me to rest.
Four hours later I heard don Juan walking around the house. I thought
he might have left through the back to
urinate in the bushes. Then he called me loudly.
"Hey boy! Hey boy! I need you here," he said.
I nearly got up to go to him. It was his voice, but not his tone, or
his usual words. Don Juan had never called
me "Hey boy!" So I stayed where I was. A chill went up my back. He
began to yell again using the same, or a
I heard him walking around the back of his house. He stumbled on a
woodpile as if he did not know it was
there. Then he came to the porch and sat next to the door with his back
against the wall. He seemed heavier than
usual. His movements were not slow or clumsy, just heavier. He plunked
down on the floor, instead of sliding
nimbly as he usually did. Besides, that was not his spot, and don Juan
would never under any circumstances sit
Then he talked to me again. He asked me why I refused to come when he
needed me. He talked loudly. I did
not want to look at him, and yet I had a compulsive urge to watch him.
He began to swing slightly from side to
side. I changed my position, adopted the fighting form he had taught
me, and turned to face him. My muscles
were stiff and strangely tense. I do not know what prompted me to adopt
the fighting form, but perhaps it was
because I believed don Juan was deliberately trying to scare me by
creating the impression that the person I saw
was not really himself. I felt he was very careful about doing the
unaccustomed in order to establish doubt in my
mind. I was afraid, but still I felt I was above it all, because I was
actually taking stock of and analysing the
At that point don Juan got up. His motions were utterly unfamiliar. He
brought his arms in front of his body,
and pushed himself up, lifting his backside first; then he grabbed the
door and straightened out the top part of his
body. I was amazed about how deeply familiar I was with his movements,
and what an awesome feeling he had
created by letting me see a don Juan who did not move like don Juan.
He took a couple of steps towards me. He held the lower part of his
back with both hands as if he were
trying to straighten up, or as if he were in pain. He whined and
puffed. His nose seemed to be stuffed up. He said
he was going to take me with him, and ordered me to get up and follow
him. He walked towards the west side of
the house. I shifted my position to face him. He turned to me. I did
not move from my spot; I was glued to it.
He bellowed, "Hey boy! I told you to come with me. If you don't come
I'll drag you!"
He walked towards me. I began beating my calf and thigh, and dancing
fast. He got to the edge of the porch
in front of me and nearly touched me. Frantically I prepared my body to
adopt the hurling position, but he
changed directions and moved away from me, towards the bushes to my
left. At one moment, as he was walking
away, he turned suddenly, but I was facing him.
He went out of sight. I retained the fighting posture for a while
longer, but as I did not see him any more I
sat cross-legged again with my back to the rock. By then I was really
frightened. I wanted to run away, yet that
thought terrified me even more. I felt I would have been completely at
his mercy if he had caught me on the way
to my car. I began to sing the peyote songs I knew. But somehow I felt
they were impotent there. They served
only as a pacifier, yet they soothed me. I sang them over and over.
About 2:45 a.m. I heard a noise inside the house. I immediately changed
my position. The door was flung
open and don Juan stumbled out. He was gasping and holding his throat.
He knelt in front of me and moaned. He
asked me in a high, whining voice to come and help him. Then he
bellowed again and ordered me to come. He
made gargling sounds. He pleaded with me to come and help him because
something was choking him. He
crawled on his hands and knees until he was perhaps four feet away. He
extended his hands to me. He said,
"Come here!" Then he got up. His arms were extended towards me. He
seemed ready to grab me. I stomped my
foot on the ground and clapped my calf and thigh. I was beside myself
He stopped and walked to the side of the house and into the bushes. I
shifted my position to face him. Then I
sat down again. I did not want to sing any more. My energy seemed to be
waning. My entire body ached; all my
muscles were stiff and painfully contracted. I did not know what to
think. I could not make up my mind whether
to be angry at don Juan or not. I thought of jumping him, but somehow I
knew he would have cut me down, like
a bug. I really wanted to cry. I experienced a profound despair; the
thought that don Juan was going all the way
out to frighten me made me feel like weeping. I was incapable of
finding a reason for his tremendous display of
histrionics; his movements were so artful that I became confused. It
was not as if he was trying to move like a
woman; it was as if a woman was trying to move like don Juan. I had the
impression that she was really trying to
walk and move with don Juan's deliberation, but was too heavy and did
not have the nimbleness of don Juan.
Whoever it was in front of me created the impression of being a
younger, heavy woman trying to imitate the
slow movements of an agile old man.
These thoughts threw me into a state of panic. A cricket began to call
loudly, very close to me. I noticed the
richness of its tone; I fancied it to have a baritone voice. The call
started to fade away. Suddenly my whole body
jerked. I assumed the fighting position again and faced the direction
from which the cricket's call had come. The
sound was taking me away; it had begun to trap me before I realized it
was only cricket-like. The sound got
closer again. It became terribly loud. I started to sing my peyote
songs louder and louder. Suddenly the cricket
stopped. I immediately sat down, but kept on singing. A moment later I
saw the shape of a man running towards
me from the direction opposite to that of the cricket's call. I clapped
my hands on my thigh and calf and stomped
vigorously, frantically. The shape went by very fast, almost touching
me. It looked like a dog. I experienced so
dreadful a fear that I was numb. I cannot recollect anything else I
felt or thought.
The morning dew was refreshing. I felt better. Whatever the phenomenon
was, it seemed to have withdrawn.
It was 5:48 a.m. when don Juan opened the door quietly and came out. He
stretched his arms, yawning, and
glanced at me. He took two steps towards me, prolonging his yawning. I
saw his eyes looking through halfclosed eyelids. I jumped up; I knew
then that whoever, or whatever, was in front of me was not don Juan.
I took a small, sharp-edged rock from the ground. It was next to my
right hand. I did not look at it; I just held
it by pressing it with my thumb against my extended fingers. I adopted
the form don Juan had taught me. I felt a
strange vigour filling me, in a matter of seconds. Then I yelled and
hurled the rock at him. I thought it was a
magnificent outcry. At that moment I did not care whether I lived or
died. I felt the cry was awesome in its
potency. It was piercing and prolonged, and it actually directed my
aim. The figure in front wobbled and
shrieked and staggered to the side of the house and into the bushes
It took me hours to calm down. I could not sit any more; I kept on
trotting on the same place. I had to
breathe through my mouth to take in enough air.
At 11:00 a.m. don Juan came out again. I was going to jump up, but the
movements were his. He went
directly to his spot and sat down in his usual familiar way. He looked
at me and smiled. He was don Juan! I went
to him, and instead of being angry, I kissed his hand. I really
believed then that he had not acted to create a
dramatic effect, but that someone had impersonated him to cause me harm
or to kill me.
The conversation began with speculations about the identity of a female
person who had allegedly taken my
soul. Then don Juan asked me to tell him about every detail of my
I narrated the whole sequence of events in a very deliberate manner. He
laughed all the way, as if it were a
joke. When I had finished he said, "You did fine. You won the battle
for your soul. But this matter is more
serious than I thought; Your life wasn't worth two hoots last night. It
is fortunate you learned something in the
past. Had you not had a little training you would be dead by now,
because whoever you saw last night meant to
finish you off."
"How is it possible, don Juan, that she could take your form?"
"Very simple. She is a diablera and has a good helper on the other
side. But she was not too good in
assuming my likeness, and you caught on to her trick."
"Is a helper on the other side the same as an ally?"
"No, a helper is the aid of a diablero. A helper is a spirit that lives
on the other side of the world and helps a
diablero to cause sickness and pain. It helps him to kill."
"Can a diablero also have an ally, don Juan?"
"It is the diableros who have the allies, but before a diablero can
tame an ally, he usually has a helper to aid
him in his tasks."
"How about the woman who took your form, don Juan? Does she have only a
helper and not an ally?"
"I don't know whether she has an ally or not. Some people do not like
the power of an ally and prefer a
helper. To tame an ally is hard work. It is easier to get a helper on
the other side."
"Do you think I could get a helper?"
"To know that, you have to learn much more. We are again at the
beginning, almost as on the first day you
came over and asked me to tell you about Mescalito, and I could not
because you would not have understood.
That other side is the world of diableros. I think it would be best to
tell you my own feelings in the same way my
benefactor told me his. He was a diablero and a warrior; his life was
inclined towards the force and the violence
of the world. But I am neither of them. That is my nature. You have
seen my world from the start. As to showing
you the world of my benefactor, I can only put you at the door, and you
will have to decide for yourself; you will
have to learn about it by your effort alone. I must admit now that I
made a mistake. It is much better, I see now,
to start the way I did, myself. Then it is easier to realize how simple
and yet how profound the difference is. A
diablero is a diablero, and a warrior is a warrior. Or a man can be
both. There are enough people who are both.
But a man who only traverses the paths of life is everything. Today I
am neither a warrior nor a diablero. For me
there is only the traveling on the paths that have a heart, on any path
that may have a heart. There I travel, and
the only worthwhile challenge for me is to traverse its full length.
And there I travel - looking, looking,
He paused. His face revealed a peculiar mood; he seemed to be unusually
serious. I did not know what to ask
or to say. He proceeded:
"The particular thing to learn is how to get to the crack between the
worlds and how to enter the other world.
There is a crack between the two worlds, the world of the diableros and
the world of living men. There is a place
where the two worlds overlap. The crack is there. It opens and closes
like a door in the wind. To get there a man
must exercise his will. He must, I should say, develop an indomitable
desire for it, a single-minded dedication.
But he must do it without the help of any power or any man. The man by
himself must ponder and wish up to a
moment in which his body is ready to undergo the journey. That moment
is announced by prolonged shaking of
the limbs and violent vomiting. The man usually cannot sleep or eat,
and wanes away. When the convulsions do
not stop the man is ready to go, and the crack between the worlds
appears right in front of his eyes, like a
monumental door, a crack that goes up and down. When the crack opens
the man has to slide through it. It is
hard to see on the other side of the boundary. It is windy, like a
sandstorm. The wind whirls around. The man
then must walk in any direction. It will be a short or a long journey,
depending on his willpower. A strong-willed
man journeys shortly. An undecided, weak man journeys long and
precariously. After this journey the man
arrives at a sort of plateau. It is possible to distinguish some of its
features clearly. It is a plane above the ground.
It is possible to recognize it by the wind, which there becomes even
more violent, whipping, roaring all around.
On top of that plateau is the entrance to that other world. And there
stands a skin that separates the two worlds;
dead men go through it without a noise, but we have to break it with an
outcry. The wind gathers strength, the
same unruly wind that blows on the plateau. When the wind has gathered
enough force, the man has to yell and
the wind will push him through. Here his will has to be inflexible,
too, so that he can fight the wind. All he needs
is a gentle shove; he does not need to be blown to the ends of the
other world. Once on the other side, the man
will have to wander around. His good fortune would be to find a helper
nearby - not too far from the entrance.
The man has to ask him for help. In his own words he has to ask the
helper to teach him and make him a
diablero. When the helper agrees, he kills the man on the spot, and
while he is dead he teaches him. When you
make the trip yourself, depending on your luck, you may find a great
diablero in the helper who will kill you and
teach you. Most of the time, though, one encounters lesser brujos who
have very little to teach. But neither you
nor they have the power to refuse. The best instance is to find a male
helper lest one become the prey of a
diablera, who will make one suffer in an unbelievable manner. Women are
always like that. But that depends on
luck alone, unless one's benefactor is a great diablero himself, in
which event he will have many helpers in the
other world, and can direct one to see a particular helper. My
benefactor was such a man. He directed me to
encounter his spirit helper. After your return, you will not be the
same man. You are committed to come back to
see your helper often. And you are committed to wander farther and
farther from the entrance, until finally one
day you will go too far and will not be able to return. Sometimes a
diablero may catch a soul and push it through
the entrance and leave it in the custody of his helper until he robs
the person of all his willpower. In other cases,
like yours for instance, the soul belongs to a strong-willed person,
and the diablero may keep it inside his pouch,
because it is too hard to carry otherwise. In such instances, as in
yours, a fight may resolve the problem - a fight
in which the diablero either wins all, or loses all. This time she lost
the combat and had to release your soul. Had
she won she would have taken it to her helper, for keeps."
"But how did I win?"
"You did not move from your spot. Had you moved one inch away you would
have been demolished. She
chose the moment I was away as the best time to strike, and she did it
well. She failed because she did not count
on your own nature, which is violent, and also because you did not
budge from the spot on which you are
"How would she have killed me if I had moved?"
"She would have hit you like a thunderbolt. But above all she would
have kept your soul and you would
have wasted away."
"What is going to happen now, don Juan?"
"Nothing. You won your soul back. It was a good battle. You learned
many things last night."
Afterwards we began to look for the stone I had hurled. He said if we
could find it we could be absolutely
sure the affair had ended. We looked for nearly three hours. I had the
feeling I would recognize it. But I could
That same day in the early evening don Juan took me into the hills
around his house. There he gave me long
and detailed instructions on specific fighting procedures. At one
moment in the course of repeating certain
prescribed steps I found myself alone. I had run up a slope and was out
of breath. I was perspiring freely, and yet
I was cold. I called don Juan several times, but he did not answer, and
I began to experience a strange
apprehension. I heard a rustling in the underbrush as if someone was
coming towards me. I listened attentively,
but the noise stopped. Then it came again, louder and closer. At that
moment it occurred to me that the events of
the preceding night were going to be repeated. In a matter of a few
seconds my fear grew out of all proportion.
The rustle in the underbrush got closer, and my strength waned. I
wanted to scream or weep, run away or faint.
My knees sagged; I fell to the ground, whining. I could not even close
my eyes. After that, I remember only that
don Juan made a fire and rubbed the contracted muscles of my arms and
I remained in a state of profound distress for several hours.
Afterwards don Juan explained my
disproportionate reaction as a common occurrence. I said I could not
figure out logically what had caused my
panic, and he replied that it was not the fear of dying, but rather the
fear of losing my soul, a fear common
among men who do not have unbending intent.
That experience was the last of don Juan's teachings. Ever since that
time I have refrained from seeking his
lessons. And, although don Juan has not changed his benefactor's
attitude towards me, I do believe that I have
succumbed to the first enemy of a man of knowledge.
A Structural Analysis
The following structural scheme, abstracted from the data on the states
of non-ordinary reality presented in
the foregoing part of this work, is conceived as an attempt to disclose
the internal cohesion and the cogency of
don Juan's teachings. The structure, as I assess it, is composed of
four concepts which are the main units: (1)
man of knowledge; (2) a man of knowledge had an ally; (3) an ally had a
rule; and (4) the rule was corroborated
by special consensus. These four units are in turn composed of a number
of subsidiary ideas; thus the total
structure comprises all the meaningful concepts that were presented
until the time I discontinued the
apprenticeship. In a sense, these units represent successive levels of
analysis, each level modifying the preceding
Because this conceptual structure is completely dependent on the
meaning of all its units, the following
clarification seems to be pertinent at this point: Throughout this
entire work, meaning has been rendered as I
understood it. The component concepts of don Juan's knowledge as I have
presented them here could not be the
exact duplicate of what he said himself. In spite of all the effort I
have put forth to render these concepts as
faithfully as possible, their meaning has been deflected by my own
attempts to classify them. The arrangement
of the four main units of this structural scheme is, however, a logical
sequence which appears to be free from the
influence of extraneous classificatory devices of my own. But, insofar
as the component ideas of each main unit
are concerned, it has been impossible to discard my personal influence.
At certain points extraneous
classificatory items are necessary in order to render the phenomena
understandable. And, if such a task was to be
accomplished here, it had to be done by zigzagging back and forth from
the alleged meanings and classificatory
scheme of the teacher to the meanings and classificatory devices of the
*For outline of the units of my structural analysis, see Appendix B.
The Operative Order
The First Unit
Man of knowledge
At a very early stage of my apprenticeship, don Juan made the statement
that the goal of his teachings was
"to show how to become a man of knowledge". I use that statement as a
point of departure. It is obvious that to
become a man of knowledge was an operational goal. And it is also
obvious that every part of don Juan's orderly
teachings was geared to fulfill that goal in one way or another. My
line of reasoning here is that under the
circumstances 'man of knowledge', being an operational goal, must have
been indispensable to explaining some
"operative order". Then, it is justifiable to conclude that, in order
to understand that operative order, one has to
understand its objective: man of knowledge.
After having established "man of knowledge" as the first structural
unit, it was possible for me to arrange
with assurance the following seven concepts as its proper components:
(1) to become a man of knowledge was a
matter of learning; (2) a man of knowledge had unbending intent; (3) a
man of knowledge had clarity of mind;
(4) to become a man of knowledge was a matter of strenuous labour; (5)
a man of knowledge was a warrior; (6)
to become a man of knowledge was an unceasing process; and (7) a man of
knowledge had an ally.
These seven concepts were themes. They ran through the teachings,
determining the character of don Juan's
entire knowledge. Inasmuch as the operational goal of his teachings was
to produce a man of knowledge,
everything he taught was imbued with the specific characteristics of
each of the seven themes. Together they
construed the concept "man of know ledge" as a way of conducting
oneself, & way of behaving that was the end
result of a long and hazardous training. "Man of knowledge", however,
was not a guide to behaviour, but a set of
principles encompassing all the un-ordinary circumstances pertinent to
the knowledge being taught.
Each one of the seven themes was composed, in turn, of various other
concepts, which covered their
From don Juan's statements it was possible to assume that a man of
knowledge could be a diablero, that is, a
black sorcerer. He stated that his teacher was a diablero and so was he
in the past, although he had ceased to be
concerned with certain aspects of the practice of sorcery. Since the
goal of his teaching was to show how to
become a man of knowledge, and since his knowledge consisted of being a
diablero, there may have been an
inherent connexion between man of knowledge and diablero. Although don
Juan never used the two terms
interchangeably, the likelihood that they were connected raised the
possibility that "man of knowledge" with its
seven themes and their component concepts covered, theoretically, all
the circumstances that might have arisen
in the course of becoming a diablero.
To become a man of knowledge was a matter of learning.
The first theme made it implicit that learning was the only possible
way of becoming a man of knowledge,
and that in turn implied the act of making a resolute effort to achieve
an end. To become a man of knowledge
was the end result of a process, as opposed to an immediate acquisition
through an act of grace or through
bestowal by supernatural powers. The plausibility of learning how to
become a man of knowledge warranted the
existence of a system for teaching one how to accomplish it.
The first theme had three components: (1) there were no overt
requirements for becoming a man of
knowledge; (2) there were some covert requirements; (3) the decision as
to who could learn to become a man of
knowledge was made by an impersonal power.
Apparently there were no overt prerequisites that would have determined
who was, or who was not,
qualified to learn how to become a man of knowledge. Ideally, the task
was open to anybody who wished to
pursue it. Yet, in practice, such a stand was inconsistent with the
fact that don Juan as a teacher selected his
In fact, any teacher under the circumstances would have selected his
apprentices by means of matching them
against some covert prerequisites. The specific nature of these
prerequisites was never formalized; don Juan only
insinuated that there were certain clues one had to bear in mind when
viewing a prospective apprentice. The
clues he alluded to were supposed to reveal whether or not the
candidate had a certain disposition of character,
which don Juan called "unbending intent".
Nevertheless, the final decision in matters of who could learn to
become a man of knowledge was left to an
impersonal power that was known to don Juan, but was outside his sphere
of volition. The impersonal power
was credited with pointing out the right person by allowing him to
perform a deed of extraordinary nature, or by
creating a set of peculiar circumstances around that person. Hence,
there was never a conflict between the
absence of overt prerequisites and the existence of undisclosed, covert
The man who was singled out in that manner became the apprentice. Don
Juan called him the escogido, the
"one who was chosen". But to be an escogido meant more than to be a
mere apprentice. An escogido, by the
sheer act of being selected by a power, was considered already to be
different from ordinary men. He was
considered already to be the recipient of a minimum amount of power
which was supposed to be augmented by
But learning was a process of unending quest, and the power that made
the original decision, or a similar
power, was expected to make similar decisions on the issue of whether
an escogido could continue learning or
whether he had been defeated. Those decisions were manifested through
omens that occurred at any point of the
teachings. In that respect, any peculiar circumstances surrounding an
apprentice were considered to be such
A man of knowledge had unbending intent.
The idea that a man of knowledge needed unbending intent referred to
the exercise of volition. Having
unbending intent meant having the will to execute a necessary procedure
by maintaining oneself at all times
rigidly within the boundaries of the knowledge being taught. A man of
knowledge needed a rigid will in order to
endure the obligatory quality that every act possessed when it was
performed in the context of his knowledge.
The obligatory quality of all the acts performed in such a context, and
their being inflexible and
predetermined, were no doubt unpleasant to any man, for which reason a
modicum of unbending intent was
sought as the only covert requirement needed by a prospective
Unbending intent was composed of (1) frugality, (2) soundness of
judgement, and (3) lack of freedom to
A man of knowledge needed frugality because the majority of the
obligatory acts dealt with instances or with
elements that were either outside the boundaries of ordinary everyday
life, or were not customary in ordinary
activity, and the man who had to act in accordance with them needed an
extraordinary effort every time he took
action. It was implicit that one could have been capable of such an
extraordinary effort only by being frugal with
any other activity that did not deal directly with such predetermined
Since all acts were predetermined and obligatory, a man of knowledge
needed soundness of judgement. This
concept did not imply common sense, but did imply the capacity to
assess the circumstances surrounding any
need to act. A guide for such an assessment was provided by bringing
together, as rationales, all the parts of the
teachings which were at one's command at the given moment in which any
action had to be carried out. Thus,
the guide was always changing as more parts were learned; yet it always
implied the conviction that any
obligatory act one may have had to perform was, in fact, the most
appropriate under the circumstances.
Because all acts were pre-established and compulsory, having to carry
them out meant lack of freedom to
innovate. Don Juan's system of imparting knowledge was so well
established that there was no possibility of
altering it in any way.
A man of knowledge had clarity of mind.
Clarity of mind was the theme that provided a sense of direction. The
fact that all acts were predetermined
meant that one's orientation within the knowledge being taught was
equally predetermined; as a consequence,
clarity of mind supplied only a sense of direction. It reaffirmed
continuously the validity of the course being
taken through the component ideas of (1) freedom to seek a path, (2)
knowledge of the specific purpose, and (3)
It was believed that one had freedom to seek a path. Having the freedom
to choose was not incongruous with
the lack of freedom to innovate; these two ideas were not in opposition
nor did they interfere with each other.
Freedom to seek a path referred to the liberty to choose among
different possibilities of action which were
equally effective and usable. The criterion for choosing was the
advantage of one possibility over others, based
on one's preference. As a matter of fact, the freedom to choose a path
imparted a sense of direction through the
expression of personal inclinations.
Another way to create a sense of direction was through the idea that
there was a specific purpose for every
action performed in the context of the knowledge being taught.
Therefore, a man of knowledge needed clarity of
mind in order to match his own specific reasons for acting with the
specific purpose of every action. The
knowledge of the specific purpose of every action was the guide he used
to judge the circumstances surrounding
any need to act.
Another facet of clarity of mind was the idea that a man of knowledge,
in order to reinforce the performance
of his obligatory actions, needed to assemble all the resources that
the teachings had placed at his command.
This was the idea of being fluid. It created a sense of direction by
giving one the feeling of being malleable and
resourceful. The compulsory quality of all acts would have imbued one
with a sense of stiffness or sterility had it
not been for the idea that a man of knowledge needed to be fluid.
To become a man of knowledge was a matter of strenuous labour.
A man of knowledge had to possess or had to develop in the course of
his training an all-around capacity for
exertion. Don Juan stated that to become a man of knowledge was a
matter of strenuous labour. Strenuous labour
denoted a capacity (1) to put forth dramatic exertion; (2) to achieve
efficacy; and (3) to meet challenge.
In the path of a man of knowledge drama was undoubtedly the outstanding
single issue, and a special type of
exertion was needed for responding to circumstances that required
dramatic exploitation; that is to say, a man of
knowledge needed dramatic exertion. Taking don Juan's behaviour as an
example, at first glance it may have
seemed that his dramatic exertion was only his own idiosyncratic
preference for histrionics. Yet his dramatic
exertion was always much more than acting; it was rather a profound
state of belief. He imparted through
dramatic exertion the peculiar quality of finality to all the acts he
performed. As a consequence, then, his acts
were set on a stage in which death was one of the main protagonists. It
was implicit that death was a real
possibility in the course of learning because of the inherently
dangerous nature of the items with which a man of
knowledge dealt; then, it was logical that the dramatic exertion
created by the conviction that death was a
ubiquitous player was more than histrionics.
Exertion entailed not only drama, but also the need of efficacy.
Exertion had to be effective; it had to possess
the quality of being properly channelled, of being suitable. The idea
of impending death created not only the
drama needed for overall emphasis, but also the conviction that every
action involved a struggle for survival, the
conviction that annihilation would result if one's exertion did not
meet the requirement of being efficacious.
Exertion also entailed the idea of challenge, that is, the act of
testing whether, and proving that, one was
capable of performing a proper act within the rigorous boundaries of
the knowledge being taught.
A man of knowledge was a warrior.
The existence of a man of knowledge was an unceasing struggle, and the
idea that he was a warrior, leading
a warrior's life, provided one with the means for achieving emotional
stability. The idea of a man at war
encompassed four concepts: (1) a man of knowledge had to have respect;
(2) he had to have fear; (3) he had to
be wide-awake; (4) he had to be self-confident. Hence, to be a warrior
was a form of self-discipline which
emphasized individual accomplishment; yet it was a stand in which
personal interests were reduced to a
minimum, as in most instances personal interest was incompatible with
the rigour needed to perform any
predetermined, obligatory act.
A man of knowledge in his role of warrior was obligated to have an
attitude of deferential regard for the
items with which he dealt; he had to imbue everything related to his
knowledge with profound respect in order to
place everything in a meaningful perspective. Having respect was
equivalent to having assessed one's
insignificant resources when facing the Unknown.
If one remained in that frame of thought, the idea of respect was
logically extended to include oneself, for
one was as unknown as the Unknown itself. The exercise of so sobering a
feeling of respect transformed the
apprenticeship of this specific knowledge, which may otherwise have
appeared to be absurd, into a very rational
Another necessity of a warrior's life was the need to experience and
carefully to evaluate the sensation of
fear. The ideal was that, in spite of fear, one had to proceed with the
course of one's acts. Fear was supposed to
be conquered and there was an alleged time in the life of a man of
knowledge when it was vanquished, but first
one had to be conscious of being afraid and duly to evaluate that
sensation. Don Juan asserted that one was
capable of conquering fear only by facing it.
As a warrior, a man of knowledge also needed to be wide-awake. A man at
war had to be on the alert in
order to be cognizant of most of the factors pertinent to the two
mandatory aspects of awareness: (1) awareness
of intent and (2) awareness of the expected flux.
Awareness of intent was the act of being cognizant of the factors
involved in the relationship between the
specific purpose of any obligatory act and one's own specific purpose
for acting. Since all the obligatory acts had
a definite purpose, a man of knowledge had to be wide-awake; that is,
he needed to be capable at all times of
matching the definite purpose of every obligatory act with the definite
reason that he had in mind for desiring to
A man of knowledge, by being aware of that relationship, was also
capable of being cognizant of what was
believed to be the expected flux. What I have called here the
"awareness of the expected flux" referred to the
certainty that one was capable of detecting at all times the important
variables involved in the relationship
between the specific purpose of every act and one's specific reason for
acting. By being aware of the expected
flux one was supposed to detect the most subtle changes. That
deliberate awareness of changes accounted for the
recognition and interpretation of omens and of other un-ordinary events.
The last aspect of the idea of a warrior's behaviour was the need for
self-confidence, that is, the assurance
that the specific purpose of an act one may have chosen to perform was
the only plausible alternative for one's
own specific reasons for acting. Without self-confidence, one would
have been incapable of fulfilling one of the
most important aspects of the teachings: the capacity to claim
knowledge as power.
To become a man of knowledge was an unceasing process.
Being a man of knowledge was not a condition entailing permanency.
There was never the certainty that, by
carrying out the predetermined steps of the knowledge being taught, one
would become a man of knowledge. It
was implicit that the function of the steps was only to show how to
become a man of knowledge. Thus,
becoming a man of knowledge was a task that could not be fully
achieved; rather, it was an unceasing process
comprising (1) the idea that one had to renew the quest of becoming a
man of knowledge; (2) the idea of one's
impermanency; and (3) the idea that one had to follow the path with
The constant renewal of the quest of becoming a man of knowledge was
expressed in the theme of the four
symbolic enemies encountered on the path of learning: fear, clarity,
power, and old age. Renewing the quest
implied the gaining and the maintenance of control over oneself. A true
man of knowledge was expected to
battle each of the four enemies, in succession, until the last moment
of his life, in order to keep himself actively
engaged in becoming a man of knowledge. Yet, despite the truthful
renewal of the quest, the odds were
inevitably against man; he would succumb to his last symbolic enemy.
This was the idea of impermanency.
Off-setting the negative value of one's impermanency was the notion
that one had to follow the "path with
heart". The path with heart was a metaphorical way of asserting that in
spite of being impermanent one still had
to proceed and had to be capable of finding satisfaction and personal
fulfillment in the act of choosing the most
amenable alternative and identifying oneself completely with it.
Don Juan synthesized the rationale of his whole knowledge in the
metaphor that the important thing for him
was to find a path with heart and then travel its length, meaning that
the identification with the amenable
alternative was enough for him. The journey by itself was sufficient;
any hope of arriving at a permanent
position was outside the boundaries of his knowledge.
The Second Unit
A man of knowledge had an ally
The idea that a man of knowledge had an ally was the most important of
the seven component themes, for it
was the only one that was indispensable to explaining what a man of
knowledge was. In don Juan's classificatory
scheme a man of knowledge had an ally, whereas the average man did not,
and having an ally was what made
him different from ordinary men.
Don Juan described an ally as being ' a power capable of transporting a
man beyond the boundaries of
himself; that is, an ally was a power that allowed one to transcend the
realm of ordinary reality. Consequently, to
have an ally implied having power; and the fact that a man of knowledge
had an ally was by itself proof that the
operational goal of the teachings had been fulfilled. Since that goal
was to show how to become a man of
knowledge, and since a man of knowledge was one who had an ally,
another way of describing the operational
goal of don Juan's teachings was to say that they also showed how to
obtain an ally. The concept "man of
knowledge", as a sorcerer's philosophical frame, had meaning for anyone
who wanted to live within that frame
only insofar as he had an ally.
I have classified this last component theme of man of knowledge as the
second main structural unit because
of its indispensability for explaining what a man of knowledge was.
In don Juan's teachings, there were two allies. The first was contained
in the Datura plants commonly
known as Jimson weed. Don Juan called that ally by one of the Spanish
names of the plant, yerba del diablo
(devil's weed). According to him any species of Datura was the
container of the ally. Yet every sorcerer had to
grow a patch of one species which he called his own, not only in the
sense that the plants were his private
property, but in the sense that they were personally identified with
Don Juan's own plants belonged to the species inoxia; there seemed to
be no correlation, however, between
that fact and differences that may have existed between the two species
of Datura accessible to him.
The second ally was contained in a mushroom I identified as belonging
to the genus Psilocybe; it was
possibly Psilocybe mexicana, but the classification was only tentative
because I was incapable of procuring a
specimen for laboratory analysis.
Don Juan called this ally humito (little smoke), suggesting that the
ally was analogous to smoke or to the
smoking mixture he made with the mushroom. The smoke was referred to as
if it were the real container, yet he
made it clear that the power was associated with only one species of
Psilocybe; thus special care was needed at
the time of collecting in order not to confuse it with any of a dozen
other species of the same genus which grew
in the same area.
An ally as a meaningful concept included the following ideas and their
ramifications: (1) an ally was
formless; (2) an ally was perceived as a quality; (3) an ally was
tamable; (4) an ally had a rule.
An ally was formless
An ally was believed to be an entity existing outside and independent
of oneself, yet in spite of being a
separate entity an ally was believed to be formless. I have established
"formlessness" as a condition that is the
opposite of "having definite form", a distinction made in view of the
fact that there were other powers similar to
an ally which had a definitely perceivable form. An ally's condition of
formlessness meant that it did not possess
a distinct, or a vaguely defined, or even a recognizable, form; and
such a condition implied that an ally was not
visible at any time.
An ally was perceived as a quality
A sequel to an ally's formlessness was another condition expressed in
the idea that an ally was perceived
only as a quality of the senses; that is to say, since an ally was
formless its presence was noticed only by its
effects on the sorcerer. Don Juan classified some of those effects as
having anthropomorphic qualities. He
depicted an ally as having the character of a human being, thus
implying that an individual sorcerer was in the
position of choosing the most suitable ally by matching his own
character with an ally's alleged anthropomorphic
The two allies involved in the teachings were presented by don Juan as
having a set of antithetical qualities.
Don Juan categorized the ally contained in Datura inoxia as having two
qualities: it was woman-like, and it was
a giver of superfluous power. He thought these two qualities were
thoroughly undesirable. His statements on the
subject were definite, but he indicated at the same time that his value
judgement on the matter was merely a
The most important characteristic was undoubtedly what don Juan called
its woman-like nature. The fact
that it was depicted as being woman-like did not mean, however, that
the ally was a female power. It seemed that
the analogy of a woman may have been only a metaphorical way don Juan
used to describe what he thought to
be the unpleasant effects of the ally. Besides, the Spanish name of the
plant, yerba, because of its feminine
gender, may have also helped to create the female analogy. At any rate,
the personification of this ally as a
woman-like power ascribed to it the following anthropomorphic
qualities: (1) it was possessive; (2) it was
violent; (3) it was unpredictable; and (4) it had deleterious effects.
Don Juan believed that the ally had the capacity to enslave the men who
became its followers; he explained
this capacity as the quality of being possessive, which he correlated
with a woman's character. The ally
possessed its followers by bestowing power on them, by creating a
feeling of dependency, and by giving them
physical strength and well-being.
This ally was also believed to be violent. Its woman-like violence was
expressed in its forcing its followers
to engage in disruptive acts of brute force. And this specific
characteristic made it best suited for men of fierce
natures who wanted to find in violence a key to personal power.
Another woman-like characteristic was unpredictability. For don Juan it
meant that the ally's effects were
never consistent; rather, they were supposed to change erratically, and
there was no discernible way of predicting
them. The ally's inconsistency was to be counteracted by the sorcerer's
meticulous and dramatic care of every
detail of its handling. Any unfavourable turn that was unaccountable,
as a result of error or mishandling, was
explained as a result of the ally's woman like unpredictability.
Because of its possessiveness, violence, and unpredictability, this
ally was thought to have an overall
deleterious effect on the character of its followers. Don Juan believed
that the ally willfully strove to transmit its
woman-like characteristics, and that its effort to do so actually
But, alongside its woman-like nature, this ally had another facet which
was also perceived as a quality: it
was a giver of superfluous power. Don Juan was very emphatic on this
point, and he stressed that as a generous
giver of power the ally was unsurpassable. It was purported to furnish
its followers with physical strength, a
feeling of audacity, and the prowess to perform extraordinary deeds. In
don Juan's judgement, however, so
exorbitant a power was superfluous; he stated that, for himself at
least, there was no need of it any more.
Nevertheless, he presented it as a strong incentive for a prospective
man of knowledge, should the latter have a
natural inclination to seek power.
Don Juan's idiosyncratic point of view was that the ally contained in
Psilocybe mexicana, on the other hand,
had the most adequate and most valuable characteristics: (1) it was
male-like, and (2) it was a giver of ecstasy.
He depicted this ally as being the antithesis of the one contained in
Datura plants. He considered it to be
male-like, manly. Its condition of masculinity seemed to be analogous
to the female-like condition of the other
ally; that is, it was not a male power, but don Juan classified its
effects in terms of what he considered to be
manly behaviour. In this instance, too, the masculine gender of the
Spanish word humito may have suggested the
analogy to a male power.
The anthropomorphic qualities of this ally which don Juan judged to be
proper to a man were the following:
(1) it was dispassionate; (2) it was gentle; (3) it was predictable;
and (4) it had beneficial effects.
Don Juan's idea of the dispassionate nature of the ally was expressed
in the belief that it was fair, that it
never actually demanded extravagant acts from its followers. It never
made men its slaves, because it did not
bestow easy power on them; on the contrary, Humito was hard, but just,
with its followers.
The fact that the ally did not elicit overt violent behaviour made it
gentle. It was supposed to induce a
sensation of bodilessness, and thus don Juan presented it as being
calm, gentle, and a giver of peace.
It was also predictable. Don Juan described its effects on all its
individual followers and in the successive
experiences of any single man as being constant; in other words, its
effects did not vary or, if they did, they were
so similar that they were counted as being the same.
As a consequence of being dispassionate, gentle, and predictable, this
ally was thought to have another
manly characteristic: a beneficial effect on the character of its
followers. Humito's manliness was supposed to
create a very rare condition of emotional stability in them. Don Juan
believed that under the ally's guidance one
would temper one's heart and acquire balance.
A corollary of all the ally's manly characteristics was believed to be
a capacity to give ecstasy. This other
facet of its nature was perceived also as a quality. Humito was
credited with removing the body of its followers,
thus allowing them to execute specialized forms of activity pertinent
to a state of bodilessness. And don Juan
maintained that those specialized forms of activity led unavoidably to
a condition of ecstasy. The ally contained
in the Psilocybe was said to be ideal for men whose natures predisposed
them to seek contemplation.
An ally was tamable
The idea that an ally was tamable implied that as a power it had the
potential of being used. Don Juan
explained it as an ally's innate capacity of being utilizable; after a
sorcerer had tamed an ally he was thought to
be in command of its specialized power which meant that he could
manipulate it to his own advantage. An ally's
capacity of being tamed was counterposed to the incapacity of other
powers, which were similar to an ally
except that they did not yield to being manipulated.
The manipulation of an ally had two aspects: (1) an ally was a vehicle;
(2) an ally was a helper.
An ally was a vehicle in the sense that it served to transport a
sorcerer into the realm of non-ordinary reality.
Insofar as my personal knowledge was concerned, the allies both served
as vehicles, although the function had
different implications for each of them.
The overall undesirable qualities of the ally contained in Datura
inoxia, especially its quality of
unpredictability, turned it into a dangerous, undependable vehicle.
Ritual was the only possible protection
against its inconsistency, but that was never enough to ensure the
ally's stability; a sorcerer using this ally as a
vehicle had to wait for favourable omens before proceeding.
The ally contained in Psilocybe mexicana, on the other hand, was
thought to be a steady and predictable
vehicle as a result of all its valuable qualities. As a consequence of
its predictability, a sorcerer using this ally did
not need to engage in any kind of preparatory ritual.
The other aspect of an ally's manipulability was expressed in the idea
that an ally was a helper. To be a
helper meant that an ally, after serving a sorcerer as a vehicle, was
again usable as an aid or a guide to assist him
in achieving whatever goal he had in mind in going into the realm of
In their capacity as helpers, the two allies had different, unique
properties. The complexity and the
applicability of these properties increased as one advanced on the
learning path. But, in general terms, the ally
contained in Datura inoxia was believed to be an extraordinary helper,
and this capacity was thought to be a
corollary of its facility to give superfluous power. The ally contained
in Psilocybe mexicana, however, was
considered to be an even more extraordinary helper. Don Juan thought it
was matchless in the function of being
a helper, which he regarded as an extension of its overall valuable
The Third Unit
An ally had a rule
Alone among the components of the concept "ally", the idea that an ally
had a rule was indispensable for
explaining what an ally was. Because of that indispensability I have
placed it as the third main unit in this
The rule, which don Juan called also the law, was the rigid organizing
concept regulating all the actions that
had to be executed and the behaviour that had to be observed throughout
the process of handling an ally. The
rule was transmitted verbally from teacher to apprentice, ideally
without alteration, through the sustained
interaction between them. The rule was thus more than a body of
regulations; it was, rather, a series of outlines
of activity governing the course to be followed in the process of
manipulating an ally.
Undoubtedly many elements would have fulfilled don Juan's definition of
an ally as a "power capable of
transporting a man beyond the boundaries of himself". Anyone accepting
that definition could reasonably have
conceived that anything possessing such a capability would be an ally.
And logically, even bodily conditions
produced by hunger, fatigue, illness, and the like could have served as
allies, for they might have possessed the
capacity of transporting a man beyond the realm of ordinary reality.
But the idea that an ally had a rule
eliminated all these possibilities. An ally was a power that had a
rule. All the other possibilities could not be
considered as allies because they had no rule.
As a concept the rule comprehended the following ideas and their
various components: (1) the rule was
inflexible; (2) the rule was non-cumulative; (3) the rule was
corroborated in ordinary reality; (4) the rule was
corroborated in non-ordinary reality; and (5) the rule was corroborated
by special consensus.
The rule was inflexible
The outlines of activity forming the body of the rule were unavoidable
steps that one had to follow in order
to achieve the operational goal of the teachings. This compulsory
quality of the rule was rendered in the idea that
it was inflexible. The inflexibility of the rule was intimately related
to the idea of efficacy. Dramatic exertion
created an incessant battle for survival, and under those conditions
only the most effective act that one could
perform would ensure one's survival. As individualistic points of
reference were not permitted, the rule
prescribed the actions constituting the only alternative for survival.
Thus the rule had to be inflexible; it had to
require a definite compliance to its dictum.
Compliance with the rule, however, was not absolute. In the course of
the teachings I recorded one instance
in which its inflexibility was cancelled out. Don Juan explained that
example of deviation as a special favour
stemming from direct intervention of an ally. In this instance, owing
to my unintentional error in handling the
ally contained in Datura inoxia, the rule had been breached. Don Juan
extrapolated from the occurrence that an
ally had the capacity to intervene directly and withhold the
deleterious, and usually fatal, effect resulting from
noncompliance with its rule. Such evidence of flexibility was thought
to be always the product of a strong bond
of affinity between the ally and its follower.
The rule was non-cumulative
The assumption here was that all conceivable methods of manipulating an
ally had already been used.
Theoretically, the rule was non-cumulative; there was no possibility of
augmenting it. The idea of the noncumulative nature of the rule was
also relative to the concept of efficacy. Since the rule prescribed the
effective alternative for one's personal survival, any attempt to
change it or to alter its course by innovation was
considered to be not only a superfluous act, but a deadly one. One had
only the possibility of adding to one's
personal knowledge of the rule, either under the teacher's guidance or
under the special guidance of the ally
itself. The latter was considered to be an instance of direct
acquisition of knowledge, not an addition to the body
of the rule.
The rule was corroborated in ordinary reality
Corroboration of the rule meant the act of verifying it, the act of
attesting to its validity by confirming it
pragmatically in an experimental manner. Because the rule dealt with
situations of ordinary and of non-ordinary
reality, its corroboration took place in both areas.
The situations of ordinary reality with which the rule dealt were most
often remarkably uncommon
situations, but, no matter how unusual they were, the rule was
corroborated in ordinary reality. For that reason it
has been considered to fall beyond the scope of this work, and should
properly be the realm of another study.
That part of the rule concerned the details of the procedures employed
in recognizing, collecting, mixing,
preparing, and caring for the power plants in which the allies were
contained, the details of other procedures
involved in the uses of such power plants, and other similar minutiae.
The rule was corroborated in non-ordinary reality
The rule was also corroborated in non-ordinary reality, and the
corroboration was carried out in the same
pragmatic, experimental manner of validation as would have been
employed in situations of ordinary reality. The
idea of a pragmatic corroboration involved two concepts: (1) meetings
with the ally, which I have called the
states of non-ordinary reality; and (2) the specific purposes of the
The states of non-ordinary reality.
The two plants in which the allies were contained, when used in
conformity with the allies' respective rules,
produced states of peculiar perception which don Juan classified as
meetings with the ally. He placed
extraordinary emphasis on eliciting them, an emphasis summed up in the
idea that one had to meet with the ally
as many times as possible in order to verify its rule in a pragmatic,
experimental manner. The assumption was
that the proportion of the rule that was likely to be verified was in
direct correlation with the number of times
one met with the ally.
The exclusive method of inducing a meeting with the ally was,
naturally, through the appropriate use of the
plant in which the ally was contained. Nonetheless, don Juan hinted
that at a certain advanced stage of learning
the meetings could have taken place without the use of the plant; that
is to say, they could have been elicited by
an act of volition alone.
I have called the meetings with the ally states of non-ordinary
reality. I chose the term "non-ordinary reality"
because it conformed with don Juan's assertion that such meetings took
place in a continuum of reality, a reality
that was only slightly different from the ordinary reality of everyday
life. Consequently, non-ordinary reality had
specific characteristics that could have been assessed in presumably
equal terms by everyone. Don Juan never
formulated these characteristics in a definite manner, but his
reticence seemed to stem from the idea that each
man had to claim knowledge as a matter of personal nature.
The following categories, which I consider the specific characteristics
of non-ordinary reality, were drawn
from my personal experience. Yet, in spite of their seemingly
idiosyncratic origin, they were reinforced and
developed by don Juan under the premises of his knowledge; he conducted
his teachings as if these
characteristics were inherent in non-ordinary reality: (1) nonordinary
reality was utilizable; (2) non-ordinary
reality had component elements.
The first characteristics - that non-ordinary reality was utilizable -
implied that it was fit for actual service.
Don Juan explained time and time again that the encompassing concern of
his knowledge was the pursuit of
practical results, and that such a pursuit was pertinent in ordinary as
well as in non-ordinary reality. He
maintained that in his knowledge there were the means of putting
non-ordinary reality into service, in the same
way as ordinary reality. According to that assertion, the states
induced by the allies were elicited with the
deliberate intention of being used. In this particular instance don
Juan's rationale was that the meetings with the
allies were set up to learn their secrets, and this rationale served as
a rigid guide to screen out other personalistic
motives that one may have had for seeking the states of non-ordinary
The second characteristic of non-ordinary reality was that it had
component elements. Those component
elements were the items, the actions, and the events that one
perceived, seemingly with one's senses, as being the
content of a state of non-ordinary reality. The total picture of
non-ordinary reality was made up of elements that
appeared to possess qualities both of the elements of ordinary reality
and of the components of an ordinary
dream, although they were not on a par with either one.
According to my personal judgment, the component elements of
non-ordinary reality had three unique
characteristics: (1) stability, (2) singularity, and (3) lack of
ordinary consensus. These qualities made them stand
on their own as discrete units possessing an unmistakable individuality.
The component elements of non-ordinary reality had stability in the
sense that they were constant. In this
respect they were similar to the component elements of ordinary
reality, for they neither shifted nor disappeared,
as would the component elements of ordinary dreams. It seemed as if
every detail that made up a component
element of non-ordinary reality had a concreteness of its own, a
concreteness I perceived as being extraordinarily
stable. The stability was so pronounced that it allowed me to establish
the criterion that, in non-ordinary reality,
one always possessed the capacity to come to a halt in order to examine
any of the component elements for what
appeared to be an indefinite length of time. The application of this
criterion permitted me to differentiate the
states of non-ordinary reality used by don Juan from other states of
peculiar perception which may have
appeared to be non-ordinary reality, but which did not yield to this
The second exclusive characteristic of the component elements of
non-ordinary reality - their singularity -
meant that every detail of the component elements was a single,
individual item; it seemed as if each detail was
isolated from others, or as if details appeared one at a time. The
singularity of the component elements seemed
further to create a unique necessity, which may have been common to
everybody: the imperative need, the urge,
to amalgamate all isolated details into a total scene, a total
composite. Don Juan was obviously aware of that
need and used it on every possible occasion.
The third unique characteristic of the component elements, and the most
dramatic of all, was their lack of
ordinary consensus. One perceived the component elements while being in
a state of complete solitude, which
was more like the aloneness of a man witnessing by himself an
unfamiliar scene in ordinary reality than like the
solitude of dreaming. As the stability of the component elements of
non-ordinary reality enabled one to stop and
examine any of them for what appeared to be an indefinite length of
time, it seemed almost as if they were
elements of everyday life; however, the difference between the
component elements of the two states of reality
was their capacity for ordinary consensus. By ordinary consensus I mean
the tacit or the implicit agreement on
the component elements of everyday life which fellow men give to one
another in various ways. For the
component elements of non-ordinary reality, ordinary consensus was
unattainable. In this respect non-ordinary
reality was closer to a state of dreaming than to ordinary reality. And
yet, because of their unique characteristics
of stability and singularity, the component elements of non-ordinary
reality had a compelling quality of realness
which seemed to foster the necessity of validating their existence in
terms of consensus.
The specific purpose of the rule.
The other component of the concept that the rule was verified in
non-ordinary reality was the idea that the
rule had a specific purpose. That purpose was the achievement, by using
an ally, of a utilitarian goal. In the
context of don Juan's teachings, it was assumed that the rule was
learned by corroborating it in ordinary and nonordinary reality. The
decisive facet of the teachings was, however, corroboration of the rule
in the states of nonordinary reality; and what was corroborated in the
actions and elements perceived in non-ordinary reality was
the specific purpose of the rule. That specific purpose dealt with the
ally's power, that is, with the manipulation
of an ally first as a vehicle and then as a helper, but don Juan always
treated each instance of the specific purpose
of the rule as a single unit implicitly covering these two areas.
Because the specific purpose referred to the manipulation of the ally's
power, it had an inseparable sequel -
the manipulatory techniques. The manipulatory techniques were the
actual procedures, the actual operations,
undertaken in each instance involving the manipulation of an ally's
power. The idea that an ally was
manipulatable warranted its usefulness in the achievement of pragmatic
goals, and the manipulatory techniques
were the procedures that supposedly rendered the ally usable.
Specific purpose and manipulatory techniques formed a single unit which
a sorcerer had to know exactly in
order to command his ally with efficacy.
Don Juan's teachings included the following specific purposes of the
two allies' rules. I have arranged them
here in the same order in which he presented them to me.
The first specific purpose that was verified in non-ordinary reality
was testing with the ally contained in
Datura inoxia. The manipulatory technique was ingesting a potion made
with a section of the root of the Datura
plant. Ingesting that potion produced a shallow state of non-ordinary
reality, which don Juan used for testing me
in order to determine whether or not, as a prospective apprentice, I
had affinity with the ally contained in the
plant. The potion was supposed to produce either a sensation of
unspecified physical well-being or a feeling of
great discomfort, effects that don Juan judged to be, respectively, a
sign of affinity or of the lack of it.
The second specific purpose was divination. It was also part of the
rule of the ally contained in Datura
inoxia. Don Juan considered divination to be a form of specialized
movement, on the assumption that a sorcerer
was transported by the ally to a particular compartment of non-ordinary
reality where he was capable of divining
events that were otherwise unknown to him.
The manipulatory technique of the second specific purpose was a process
of ingestion-absorption. A potion
made with Datura root was ingested, and an unguent made with Datura
seeds was rubbed on the temporal and
frontal areas of the head. I had used the term "ingestion-absorption"
because ingestion might have been aided by
skin absorption in producing a state of non-ordinary reality, or skin
absorption might have been aided by
This manipulatory technique required the utilization of other elements
besides the Datura plant, in this
instance two lizards. They were supposed to serve the sorcerer as
instruments of movement, meaning here the
peculiar perception of being in a particular realm in which one was
capable of hearing a lizard talk and then of
visualizing whatever it had said. Don Juan explained such phenomena as
the lizards answering the questions that
had been posed for divination.
The third specific purpose of the rule of the ally contained in the
Datura plants dealt with another
specialized form of movement, bodily flight. As don Juan explained, a
sorcerer using this ally was capable of
flying bodily over enormous distances; the bodily flight was the
sorcerer's capacity to move through nonordinary
reality and then to return at will to ordinary reality.
The manipulatory technique of the third specific purpose was also a
process of ingestion-absorption. A
potion made with Datura root was ingested, and an unguent made with
Datura seeds was rubbed on the soles of
the feet, on the inner part of both legs, and on the genitals.
The third specific purpose was not corroborated in depth; don Juan
implied that he had not disclosed other
aspects of the manipulatory technique which would permit a sorcerer to
acquire a sense of direction while
The fourth specific purpose of the rule was testing, the ally being
contained in Psilocybe mexicana. The
testing was not intended to determine affinity or lack of affinity with
the ally, but rather to be an unavoidable
first trial, or the first meeting with the ally.
The manipulatory technique for the fourth specific purpose utilized a
smoking mixture made of dried
mushrooms mixed with different parts of five other plants, none of
which was known to have hallucinogenic
properties. The rule placed the emphasis on the act of inhaling the
smoke from the mixture; the teacher thus used
the word humito (little smoke) to refer to the ally contained in it.
But I have called this process ^ingestioninhalation" because it was a
combination of ingesting first and then of inhaling. The mushrooms,
because of their
softness, dried into a very fine dust which was rather difficult to
burn. The other ingredients turned into shreds
upon drying. These shreds were incinerated in the pipe bow] while the
mushroom powder, which did not burn so
easily, was drawn into the mouth and ingested. Logically, the quantity
of dried mushrooms ingested was larger
than the quantity of shreds burned and inhaled.
The effects of the first state of non-ordinary reality elicited by
Psilocybe mexicana gave rise to don Juan's
brief discussion of the fifth specific purpose of the rule. It was
concerned with movement - moving with the help
of the ally contained in Psilocybe mexicana into and through inanimate
objects or into and through animate
beings. The complete manipulatory technique may have included hypnotic
suggestion besides the process of
ingestion-inhalation. Because don Juan presented this specific purpose
only as a brief discussion which was not
further verified, it was impossible for me to assess correctly any of
The sixth specific purpose of the rule verified in non-ordinary
reality, also involving the ally contained in
Psilocybe mexicana, dealt with another aspect of movement - moving by
adopting an alternate form. This aspect
of movement was subjected to the most intensive verification. Don Juan
asserted that assiduous practice was
needed in order to master it. He maintained that the ally contained in
Psilocybe mexicana had the inherent
capacity to cause the sorcerer's body to disappear; thus the idea of
adopting an alternate form was a logical
possibility for achieving movement under the conditions of
bodilessness. Another logical possibility for
achieving movement was, naturally, moving through objects and beings,
which don Juan had discussed briefly.
The manipulatory technique of the sixth specific purpose of the rule
included not only ingestion-inhalation
but also, according to all indications, hypnotic suggestion. Don Juan
had put forth such a suggestion during the
transitional stages into nonordinary reality, and also during the early
part of the states of non-ordinary reality. He
classified the seemingly hypnotic process as being only his personal
supervision, meaning that he had not
revealed to me the complete manipulatory technique at that particular
The adoption of an alternate form did not mean that a sorcerer was free
to take, on the spur of the moment,
any form he wanted to take; on the contrary, it implied a lifelong
training to achieve a preconceived form. The
preconceived form don Juan had preferred to adopt was that of a crow,
and consequently he emphasized that
particular form in his teachings. He made it very clear, nonetheless,
that a crow was his personal choice, and that
there were innumerable other possible preconceived forms.
The Fourth Unit
The rule was corroborated by special consensus
Among the component concepts forming the rule, the one that was
indispensable for explaining it was the
idea that the rule was corroborated by special consensus; all the other
component concepts were insufficient by
themselves for explaining the meaning of the rule.
Don Juan made it very clear that an ally was not bestowed on a
sorcerer, but that a sorcerer learned to
manipulate the ally through the process of corroborating its rule. The
complete learning process involved
verification of the rule in non-ordinary reality as well as in ordinary
reality. Yet the crucial facet of don Juan's
teachings was corroboration of the rule in a pragmatic and experimental
manner in the context of what one
perceived as being the component elements of non-ordinary reality. But
those component elements were not
subject to ordinary consensus, and if one was incapable of obtaining
agreement on their existence, their
perceived realness would have been only an illusion. As a man would
have to be by himself in non-ordinary
reality, by reason of his solitariness whatever he perceived would have
to be idiosyncratic. The solitariness and
the idiosyncrasies were a consequence of the assumed fact that no
ffellow man could give one ordinary consensus
on one's perceptions.
At this point don Juan brought in the most important constituent part
of his teachings: he provided me with
special consensus on the actions and the elements I had perceived in
nonordinary reality, actions and elements
that were believed to corroborate the rule. In don Juan's teachings,
special consensus meant tacit or implicit
agreement on the component elements of non-ordinary reality, which he,
in his capacity as teacher, gave me as
the apprentice of his knowledge. This special consensus was not in any
way fraudulent or spurious, such as the
one two persons might give each other in describing the component
elements of their individual dreams. The
special consensus don Juan supplied was systematic, and to provide it
he may have needed the totality of his
knowledge. With the acquisition of systematic consensus the actions and
the elements perceived in non-ordinary
reality became consensually real, which meant, in don Juan's
classificatory scheme, that the rule of the ally had
been corroborated. The rule had meaning as a concept, then, only
inasmuch as it was subject to special
consensus, for without special agreement about its corroboration the
rule would have been a purely idiosyncratic
Because of its indispensability for explaining the rule, I have made
the idea that the rule was corroborated by
special consensus the fourth main unit of this structural scheme. This
unit, because it was basically the interplay
between two individuals, was composed of (1) the benefactor, or the
guide into the knowledge being taught, the
agent who supplied special consensus; (2) the apprentice, or the
subject for whom special consensus was
Failure or success in achieving the operational goal of the teachings
rested on this unit. Thus, special
consensus was the precarious culmination of the following process: A
sorcerer had a distinctive feature,
possession of an ally, which differentiated him from ordinary men. An
ally was a power that had the special
property of having a rule. And the unique characteristic of the rule
was its corroboration in non-ordinary reality
by means of special consensus.
The benefactor was the agent without whom the corroboration of the rule
would have been impossible. In
order to provide special consensus, he performed the two tasks of (1)
preparing the background for special
consensus on the corroboration of the rule, and (2) guiding special
Preparing special consensus
The benefactor's first task was to set the background necessary for
bringing forth special consensus on
corroboration of the rule. As my teacher, don Juan made me (1)
experience other states of non-ordinary reality
which he explained as being quite apart from those elicited to
corroborate the rule of the allies; (2) participate
with him in certain special states of ordinary reality which he seemed
to have produced himself; and (3)
recapitulate ; each experience in detail. Don Juan's task of preparing
special consensus consisted of
strengthening and confirming the corroboration of the rule by giving
special consensus on the component
elements of these new states of non-ordinary reality, and on the
component elements of the special states of
The other states of non-ordinary reality which don Juan made me
experience were induced by the ingestion
of the cactus Lophophora williamsii, commonly known as peyote. Usually
the top part of the cactus was cut off
and stored until it had dried, and then it was chewed and ingested, but
under special circumstances the top part
was ingested while it was fresh. Ingestion, however, was not the only
way to experience a state of nonordinary
reality with Lophophora williamsii. Don Juan suggested that spontaneous
states of non-ordinary reality occurred
under unique conditions, and he categorized them as gifts from or
bestowals by the power contained in the plant.
Non-ordinary reality induced by Lophophora williamsii had three
distinctive features: (1) it was believed to
be produced by an entity called "Mescalito"; (2) it was utilizable; and
(3) it had component elements.
Mescalito was purported to be a unique power, similar to an ally in the
sense that it allowed one to transcend
the boundaries of ordinary reality, but also quite different from an
ally. Like an ally, Mescalito was contained in
a definite plant, the cactus Lophophora williamsii. But unlike an ally,
which was merely contained in a plant,
Mescalito and this plant in which it was contained were the same; the
plant was the centre of overt
manifestations of respect, the recipient of profound veneration. Don
Juan firmly believed that under certain
conditions, such as a state of profound acquiescence to Mescalito, the
simple act of being contiguous to the
cactus would induce a state of non-ordinary reality.
But Mescalito did not have a rule, and for that reason it was not an
ally even though it was capable of
transporting a man outside the boundaries of ordinary reality. Not
having a rule not only barred Mescalito from
being used as an ally, for without a rule it could not conceivably be
manipulated, but also made it a power
remarkably different from an ally.
As a direct consequence of not having a rule, Mescalito was available
to any man without the need of a long
apprenticeship or the commitment to manipulatory techniques, as with an
ally. And because it was available
without any training, Mescalito was said to be a protector. To be a
protector meant that it was accessible to
anyone. Yet Mescalito as a protector was not accessible to every man,
and with some individuals it was not
compatible. According to don Juan, such incompatibility was caused by
the discrepancy between Mescalito's
"unbending morality" and the individual's own questionable character.
Mescalito was also a teacher. It was supposed to exercise didactic
functions. It was a director, a guide to
proper behaviour. Mescalito taught the right way. Don Juan's idea of
the right way seemed to be a sense of
propriety, which consisted, not of righteousness in terms of morality,
but of a tendency to simplify behavioural
patterns in terms of the efficacy promoted by his teachings. Don Juan
believed Mescalito taught simplification of
Mescalito was believed to be an entity. And as such it was purported to
have a definite form that was usually
not constant or predictable. This quality implied that Mescalito was
perceived differently not only by different
men, but also by the same man on different occasions. Don Juan
expressed this idea in terms of Mescalito's
ability to adopt any conceivable form. For individuals with whom it was
compatible, however, it adopted an
unchanging form after they had partaken of it over a period of years.
The non-ordinary reality produced by Mescalito was utilizable, and in
this respect was identical with that
induced by an ally. The only difference was the rationale don Juan used
in his teachings for eliciting it: one was
supposed to seek "Mescalito's lessons on the right way".
The non-ordinary reality produced by Mescalito also had component
elements, and here again the states of
non-ordinary reality induced by Mescalito and by an ally were
identical. In both, the characteristics of the
component elements were stability, singularity, and lack of consensus.
The other procedure don Juan used to prepare the background for special
consensus was to make me the coparticipant in special states of
ordinary reality. A special state of ordinary reality was a situation
that could be
described in terms of the properties of everyday life, except that it
might have been impossible to obtain ordinary
consensus on its component elements. Don Juan prepared the background
for the special consensus on the
corroboration of the rule by giving special consensus on the component
elements of the special states of ordinary
reality. These component elements were elements of everyday life whose
existence could be confirmed only by
don Juan through special agreement. This was a supposition on my part,
because as co-participant in the special
state of ordinary reality I believed that only don Juan, as the other
co-participant, would know which component
elements made up the special state of ordinary reality.
In my own personal judgement, the special states of ordinary reality
were produced by don Juan, although he
never claimed to have done so. It seemed that he produced them through
a skilful manipulation of hints and
suggestions to guide my behaviour. I have called that process the
"manipulation of cues".
It had two aspects: (1) cuing about the environment, and (2) cuing
During the course of the teachings don Juan made me experience two such
states. He may have produced the
first through the process of cuing about the environment. Don Juan's
rationale for producing it was that I needed
a test to prove my good intentions, and only after he had given me
special consensus on its component elements
did he consent to begin his teachings. By "cuing about the environment"
I meant that don Juan led me into a
special state of ordinary reality by isolating, through subtle
suggestions, component elements of ordinary reality
which were part of the immediate physical surroundings. Elements
isolated in such a manner created in this
instance a specific visual perception of colour, which don Juan tacitly
The second state of ordinary reality may have been produced by the
process of cuing about behaviour. Don
Juan, through close association with me and through the exercise of a
consistent way of behaving, had succeeded
in creating an image of himself, an image that served me as an
essential pattern by which I could recognize him.
Then, by performing certain specific choice responses, which were
irreconcilable with the image he had created,
don Juan was capable of distorting this essential pattern of
recognition. The distortion may in turn have changed
the normal configuration of elements associated with the pattern into a
new and incongruous pattern which could
not be subjected to ordinary consensus; don Juan, as the co-participant
of that special state of ordinary reality,
was the only person who knew which the component elements were, and
thus he was the only person who could
give me agreement on their existence.
Don Juan set up the second special state of ordinary reality also as a
test, as a sort of recapitulation of his
teachings. It seemed that both special states of ordinary reality
marked a transition in the teachings. They seemed
to be points of articulation. And the second state may have marked my
entrance into a new stage of learning
characterized by more direct co-participation between teacher and
apprentice for purposes of arriving at special
The third procedure that don Juan employed to prepare special consensus
was to make me render a detailed
account of what I had experienced as an aftermath of each state of
nonordinary reality and each special state of
ordinary reality, and then to stress certain choice units which he
isolated from the content of my account. The
essential factor was directing the outcome of the states of
non-ordinary reality, and my implicit assumption here
was that the characteristics of the component elements of non-ordinary
reality - stability, singularity, and lack of
ordinary consensus - were inherent in them and were not the result of
don Juan's guidance. This assumption was
based on the observation that the component elements of the first state
of non-ordinary reality I underwent
possessed the same three characteristics, and yet don Juan had hardly
begun his directing. Assuming, then, that
these characteristics were inherent in the component elements of
non-ordinary reality in general, don Juan's task
consisted of utilizing them as the basis for directing the outcome of
each state of non-ordinary reality elicited by
Datura inoxia, Psilocybe mexicana, and Lophophora williamsii.
The detailed account that don Juan made me render as the aftermath of
each state of non-ordinary reality was
a recapitulation of the experience. It entailed a meticulous verbal
rendition of what I had perceived during the
course of each state. A recapitulation had two facets: (1) the
recollection of events and (2) the description of
perceived component elements. The recollection of events was concerned
with the incidents I had seemingly
perceived during the course of the experience I was narrating: that is,
the events that seemed to have happened
and the actions I seemed to have performed. The description .of the
perceived component elements was my
account of the specific form and the specific detail of the component
elements I seemed to have perceived.
From each recapitulation of the experience don Juan selected certain
units by means of the processes of (1)
attaching importance to certain appropriate areas of my account and (2)
denying all importance to other areas of
my account. The interval between states of non-ordinary reality was the
time when don Juan expounded on the
recapitulation of the experience,
I have called the first process "emphasis" because it entailed a
forceful speculation on the distinction
between what don Juan had conceived as the goals I should have
accomplished in the state of non-ordinary
reality and what I had perceived myself. Emphasis meant, then, that don
Juan isolated an area of my narrative by
centering on it the bulk of his speculation. Emphasis was either
positive or negative. Positive emphasis implied
that don Juan was satisfied with a particular item I had perceived
because it conformed with the goals he had
expected me to achieve in the state of non-ordinary reality. Negative
emphasis meant that don Juan was not
satisfied with what I had perceived because it may not have conformed
with his expectations or because he
judged it insufficient. Nonetheless, he still placed the bulk of
speculation on that area of my recapitulation in
order to emphasize the negative value of my perception.
The second selective process that don Juan employed was to deny all
importance to some areas of my
account. I have called it "lack of emphasis" because it was the
opposite and the counterbalance of emphasis. It
seemed that by denying importance to the parts of my account pertaining
to component elements which don Juan
judged to be completely superfluous to the goal of his teachings, he
literally obliterated my perception of the
same elements in the successive states of non-ordinary reality.
Guiding special consensus
The second aspect of don Juan's task as a teacher was to guide special
consensus by directing the outcome of
each state of nonordinary reality and each special state of ordinary
reality. Don Juan directed that outcome
through an orderly manipulation of the extrinsic and the intrinsic
levels of non-ordinary reality, and of the
intrinsic level of the special states of ordinary reality.
The extrinsic level of non-ordinary reality pertained to its operative
arrangement. It involved the mechanics,
the steps leading into non-ordinary reality proper. The extrinsic level
had three discernible aspects: (1) the
preparatory period, (2) the transitional stages, and (3) the teacher's
The preparatory period was the time that elapsed between one state of
non-ordinary reality and the next. Don
Juan used it to give me direct instructions and to develop the general
course of his teachings. The preparatory
period was of critical importance in setting up the states of
non-ordinary reality, and because it pivoted on them
it had two distinct facets: (1) the period prior to non-ordinary
reality, and (2) the period following nonordinary
The period prior to non-ordinary reality was a relatively short
interval of time, twenty-four hours at the most.
In the states of non-ordinary reality induced by Datura inoxia and
Psilocybe mexicana the period was
characterized by don Juan's dramatic and accelerated direct
instructions on the specific purpose of the rule and
on the manipulatory techniques I was supposed to corroborate in the
oncoming state of non-ordinary reality.
With Lophophora williamsii the period was essentially a time of ritual
behaviour, since Mescalito had no rule.
The period following non-ordinary reality, on the other hand, was a
long span of time; usually lasting for
months, it allowed time for don Juan's discussion and clarification of
the events that had taken place during the
preceding state of non-ordinary reality. This period was especially
important after the use of Lophophora
williamsii. Because Mescalito did not have a rule, the goal pursued in
non-ordinary reality was the verification of
Mescalito's characteristics; don Juan delineated those characteristics
during the long interval following each state
of nonordinary reality.
The second aspect of the extrinsic level was the transitional stages,
which meant the passage from a state of
ordinary reality into a state of non-ordinary reality, and vice versa.
The two states of reality overlapped in these
transitional stages, and the criterion I used to differentiate the
latter from either state of reality was that their
component elements were blurred. I was never able to perceive them or
to recollect them with precision.
In terms of perceived time, the transitional stages were either abrupt
or slow. In the instance of Datura
inoxia, ordinary and non-ordinary states were almost juxtaposed, and
the transition from one to the other took
place abruptly. The most noticeable were the passages into non-ordinary
reality. Psilocybe mexicana, on the
other hand, elicited transitional stages that I perceived to be slow.
The passage from ordinary into non-ordinary
reality was specially long-drawn-out and perceivable. I was always more
aware of it, perhaps because of my
apprehension about forthcoming events.
The transitional stages elicited by Lophophora williamsii seemed to
combine features of the other two. For
one thing, both the passages into and out of non-ordinary reality were
very noticeable. The entering into nonordinary reality was slow, and I
experienced it with hardly any impairment of my faculties; but
into ordinary reality was an abrupt transitional stage, which I
perceived with clarity, but with less facility to
assess every detail of it.
The third aspect of the extrinsic level was the teacher's supervision
or the actual help that I, as the
apprentice, received in the course of experiencing a state of
non-ordinary reality. I have set up- supervision as a
category by itself because it was implied that the teacher would have
to enter non-ordinary reality with his
apprentice at a certain point of the teachings.
During the states of non-ordinary reality elicited by Datura inoxia I
received minimal supervision. Don Juan
placed heavy stress on fulfilling the steps of the preparatory period,
but after I had complied with that
requirement he let me proceed by myself.
In the non-ordinary reality induced by Psilocybe mexicana, the degree
of supervision was the complete
opposite, for here, according to don Juan, the apprentice needed the
most extensive guidance and help. The
corroboration of the rule necessitated the adoption of an alternate
form, which seemed to suggest that I had to
undergo a series of very specialized adjustments in perceiving the
surroundings. Don Juan produced those
necessary adjustments through verbal commands and suggestions during
the transitional stages into non-ordinary
reality. Another aspect of his supervision was to direct me during the
early part of the states of non-ordinary
reality by commanding me to focus my attention on certain component
elements of the preceding state of
ordinary reality. The items he focused upon were apparently chosen at
random, as the important issue was the
act of perfecting the adopted alternate form. The final aspect of
supervision was restoring me back to ordinary
reality. It was implicit that this operation also required maximal
supervision from don Juan, although I could not
recall the actual procedure.
The supervision necessary for the states induced by Lophophora
williamsii was a blend of the other two.
Don Juan remained at my side for as long as he could, yet he did not
attempt in any way to direct me into or out
of non-ordinary reality.
The second level of differentiative order in non-ordinary reality was
the seemingly internal standards or the
seemingly internal arrangement of its component elements. I have called
it the "intrinsic level", and I have
assumed here that the component elements were subject to three general
processes, which seemed to be the
product of don Juan's guidance: (1) a progression towards the specific;
(2) a progression towards a more
extensive range of appraisal; and (3) a progression towards a more
pragmatic use of non-ordinary reality.
The progression towards the specific was the apparent advance of the
component elements of each
successive state of non ordinary reality towards being more precise,
more specific. It entailed two separate
aspects: (1) a progression towards specific single forms; and (2) a
progression towards specific total results.
The progression towards specific single forms implied that the
component elements were amorphously
familiar in the early states of non-ordinary reality, and became
specific and unfamiliar in the late states. The
progression seemed to encompass two levels of change in the component
elements of non-ordinary reality: (1) a
progressive complexity of perceived detail; and (2) a progression from
familiar to unfamiliar forms.
Progressive complexity of detail meant that in each successive state of
non-ordinary reality, the minute
particulars I perceived as constituting the component elements became
more complex. I assessed complexity in
terms of my being aware that the structure of the component elements
grew more complicated, yet the details did
not become exceedingly or perplexingly entangled. The increasing
complexity referred rather to the harmonious
increase of perceived detail, which ranged from my impressions of vague
forms during the early states to my
perception of massive, elaborate arrays of minute particulars in the
The progression from familiar to unfamiliar forms implied that at first
the forms of the component elements
either were familiar forms found in ordinary reality, or at least
evoked the familiarity of everyday life. But in
successive states of nonordinary reality the specific forms, the
details making up the form, and the patterns in
which the component elements were combined became progressively
unfamiliar, until I could not put them on a
par with, nor could they even evoke, in some instances, anything I had
ever perceived in ordinary reality.
The progression of the component elements towards specific total
results was the gradually closer
approximation of the total result I accomplished in each state of
non-ordinary reality to the total result don Juan
sought, in matters of corroborating the rule; that is, non-ordinary
reality was induced to corroborate the rule, and
the corroboration grew more specific in each successive attempt.
The second general process of the intrinsic level of non ordinary
reality was the progression towards a more
extensive range of appraisal. In other words, it was the gain I
perceived in each successive state of non-ordinary
reality towards the expansion of the area over which I could have
exercised my capacity to focus attention. The
point in question here was either that there existed a definite area
that expanded, or that my capacity to perceive
seemed to increase in each successive state. Don Juan's teachings
fostered and reinforced the idea that there was
an area that expanded, and I have called that alleged area the "range
of appraisal". Its progressive expansion
consisted of a seemingly sensorial appraisal I made of the component
elements of non ordinary reality which fell
within a certain range. I evaluated and analysed these component
elements, it seemed, with my senses, and to all
appearances I perceived the range in which they occurred as being more
extensive, more encompassing, in each
The range of appraisal was of two kinds: (1) the dependent range and
(2) the independent range. The
dependent range was an area in which the component elements were the
items of the physical environment
which had been within my awareness in the preceding state of ordinary
reality. The independent range, on the
other hand, was the area in which the component elements of
non-ordinary reality seemed to come into existence
by themselves, free of the influence of the physical surroundings of
the preceding ordinary reality.
Don Juan's clear allusion in matters of the range of appraisal was that
each of the two allies and Mescalito
possessed the property of inducing both forms of perception. Yet it
seemed to me that Datura inoxia had a
greater capacity to induce an independent range, although in the facet
of bodily flight, which I did not perceive
long enough to assess it, the range of appraisal was implicitly a
dependent one. Psilocybe mexicana had the
capacity to produce a dependent range; Lophophora williamsii had the
capacity to produce both.
My assumption was that don Juan used those different properties in
order to prepare special consensus. In
other words, in the states produced by Datura inoxia the component
elements lacking ordinary consensus existed
independently of the preceding ordinary reality. With Psilocybe
mexicana, lack of ordinary consensus involved
component elements that depended on the environment of the preceding
ordinary reality. And with Lophophora
williamsii, some component elements were determined by the environment,
whereas others were independent of
the environment. Thus the use of the three plants together seemed to
have been designed to create a broad
perception of the lack of ordinary consensus on the component elements
of non-ordinary reality.
The last process of the intrinsic level of non-ordinary reality was the
progression I perceived in each
successive state towards a more pragmatic use of non-ordinary reality.
This progression seemed to be correlated
with the idea that each new state was a more complex stage of learning,
and that the increasing complexity of
each new stage required a more inclusive and pragmatic use of
non-ordinary reality. The progression was most
noticeable when Lophophora williamsii was used; the simultaneous
existence of a dependent and an independent
range of appraisal in each state made the pragmatic use of non-ordinary
reality more extensive, for it covered
both ranges at once.
Directing the outcome of the special states of ordinary reality seemed
to produce an order in the intrinsic
level, an order characterized by the progression of the component
elements towards the specific; that is to say,
the component elements were more numerous and were isolated more easily
in each successive special state of
ordinary reality. In the course of his teachings, don Juan elicited
only two of them, but it was still possible for
me to detect that in the second it was easier for don Juan to isolate a
large number of component elements, and
that facility for specific results affected the rapidity with which the
second special state of ordinary reality was
The Conceptual Order
The apprentice was the last unit of the operative order. The apprentice
was in his own right the unit that
brought don Juan's teachings into focus, for he had to accept the
totality of the special consensus given on the
component elements of all the states of non-ordinary reality and all
the special states of ordinary reality, before
special consensus could become a meaningful concept. But special
consensus, by force of being concerned with
the actions and elements perceived in non-ordinary reality, entailed a
peculiar order of conceptualization, an
order that brought such perceived actions and elements into accordance
with corroboration of the rule. Therefore
the acceptance of special consensus meant for me, as the apprentice,
the adoption of a certain point of view
validated by the totality of don Juan's teachings; that is, it meant my
entrance into a conceptual level, a level
comprising an order of conceptualization that would render the
teachings understandable in their own terms. I
have called it the "conceptual order" because it was the order that
gave meaning to the unordinary phenomena
that formed don Juan's knowledge; it was the matrix of meaning in which
all individual concepts brought out in
his teachings were embedded.
*For the process of validating special consensus, see Appendix A.
Taking into account, then, that the apprentice's goal consisted of
adopting that order of conceptualization, he
had two alternatives: he could either fail in his efforts or he could
The first alternative, failure to adopt the conceptual order, meant
also that the apprentice had failed to
achieve the operational goal of the teachings. The idea of failure was
explained in the theme of the four symbolic
enemies of a man of knowledge; it was implicit that failure was not
merely the act of discontinuing pursuit of the
goal, but the act of abandoning the quest completely under the pressure
created by any one of the four symbolic
enemies. The same theme also made it clear that the first two enemies -
fear and clarity - were the cause of a
man's defeat at the apprentice's level, that defeat at that level
signified failure to learn how to command an ally,
and that as a consequence of such failure the apprentice had adopted
the conceptual order in a shallow, fallacious
manner. That is, his adoption of the conceptual order was fallacious in
the sense of being a fraudulent affiliation
with or commitment to the meaning propounded by the teachings. The idea
was that upon being defeated an
apprentice, besides being incapable of commanding an ally, would be
left with only the knowledge of certain
manipulatory techniques, plus the memory of the perceived component
elements of non-ordinary reality, but he
would not identify with the rationale that might have made them
meaningful in their own terms. Under these
circumstances any man might be forced to develop his own explanations
for idiosyncratically chosen areas of the
phenomena he had experienced, and that process would entail the
fallacious adoption of the point of view
propounded by don Juan's teachings. Fallacious adoption of the
conceptual order, however, was apparently not
restricted to the apprentice alone. In the theme of the enemies of a
man of knowledge, it was also implicit that a
man, after having achieved the goal of learning to command an ally,
could still succumb to the onslaughts of his
other two enemies - power and old age. In don Juan's categorization
scheme, such a defeat implied that a man
had fallen into a shallow or fallacious adoption of the conceptual
order, as had the defeated apprentice.
The successful adoption of the conceptual order, on the other hand,
meant that the apprentice had achieved
the operational goal - a bona fide adoption of the point of view
propounded in the teachings. That is, his
adoption of the conceptual order was bona fide in that it was a
complete affiliation with, a complete commitment
to, the meaning expressed in that order of conceptualization.
Don Juan never clarified the exact point at which, or the exact way in
which, an apprentice ceased to be an
apprentice, although the allusion was clear that once he had achieved
the operational goal of the system - that is,
once he knew how to command an ally - he would no longer need the
teacher for guidance. The idea that the
time would come when a teacher's directions would be superfluous
implied that the apprentice would succeed in
adopting the conceptual order, and in so doing he would acquire the
capacity to draw meaningful inferences
without the teacher's aid.
Insofar as don Juan's teachings were concerned, and until I
discontinued my apprenticeship, the acceptance
of special consensus seemed to entail the adoption of two units of the
conceptual order: (1) the idea of a reality
of special consensus; (2) the idea that the reality of ordinary,
everyday-life consensus, and the reality of special
consensus, had an equally pragmatic value.
Reality of special consensus
The main body of don Juan's teachings, as he himself stated, concerned
the use of the three hallucinogenic
plants with which he induced states of non-ordinary reality. The use of
these three plants seems to have been a
matter of deliberate intent on his part. He seems to have employed them
because each of them possessed
different hallucinogenic properties, which he interpreted as the
different inherent natures of the powers contained
in them. By directing the extrinsic and intrinsic levels of non
ordinary reality, don Juan exploited the different
hallucinogenic properties until they created in me, as the apprentice,
the perception that non-ordinary reality was
a perfectly defined area, a realm separate from ordinary, everyday life
whose inherent properties were revealed
as I went along.
Nevertheless, it was also possible that the allegedly different
properties might have been merely the product
of don Juan's own process of directing the intrinsic order of
non-ordinary reality, although in his teachings he
exploited the idea that the power contained in each plant induced
states of non-ordinary reality which differed
from one another. If the latter was true, their differences in terms of
the units of this analysis seem to have been
in the range of appraisal which one could perceive in the states
elicited by each of the three. Owing to the
peculiarities of their range of appraisal, all three contributed to
producing the perception of a perfectly defined
area or realm, consisting of two compartments: the independent range,
called the realm of the lizards, or of
Mescalito's lessons; and the dependent range, referred to as the area
where one could move by one's own means.
I use the term "non-ordinary reality", as already noted, in the sense
of extraordinary, uncommon reality. For
a beginner apprentice such a reality was by all means unordinary, but
the apprenticeship of don Juan's
knowledge demanded my compulsory participation and my commitment to
pragmatic and experimental practice
of whatever I had learned. That meant that I, as the apprentice, had to
experience a number of states of non
ordinary reality, and that firsthand knowledge would, sooner or later,
make the classifications "ordinary" and
"non-ordinary" meaningless for me. The bona fide adoption of the first
unit of the conceptual order would have
entailed, then, the idea that there was another separate, but no longer
unordinary, realm of reality, the "reality of
Accepting as a major premise that the reality of special consensus was
a separate realm would have
explained meaningfully the idea that the meetings with the allies or
with Mescalito took place in a realm that was
The reality of special consensus had pragmatic value
The same process of directing the extrinsic and intrinsic levels of
non-ordinary reality, which seemed to
have created the recognition of the reality of special consensus as a
separate realm, appeared also to have been
responsible for my perception that the reality of special consensus was
practical and usable. The acceptance of
special consensus on all the states of non-ordinary reality, and on all
the special states of ordinary reality, was
designed to consolidate the awareness that it was equal to the reality
of ordinary, everyday-life consensus. This
equality was based on the impression that the reality of special
consensus was not a realm that could be equated
with dreams. On the contrary, it had stable component elements that
were subject to special agreement. It was
actually a realm where one could perceive the surroundings in a
deliberate manner. Its component elements were
not idiosyncratic or whimsical, but concise items or events whose
existence was attested to by the whole body of
The implication of the equality was clear in the treatment don Juan
accorded to the reality of special
consensus, a treatment that was utilitarian and matter of course; not
at any time did he refer to it, nor was I
required to behave towards it in any but a utilitarian,
matter-of-course way. The fact that the two areas were
considered equal, however, did not mean that at any moment one could
have behaved in exactly the same way in
either area. On the contrary, a sorcerer's behaviour had to be
different since each area of reality had qualities that
rendered it utilizable in its own way. The defining factor in terms of
meaning seems to have been the idea that
such an equality could be measured on the grounds of practical utility.
Thus, a sorcerer had to believe that it was
possible to shift back and forth from one area to the other, that both
were inherently utilizable, and that the only
dissimilarity between the two was their different capacity for being
used, that is, the different purposes they
Yet their separateness seemed to be only an appropriate arrangement
that was pertinent to my particular
level of apprenticeship, which don Juan used for making me aware that
another realm of reality could exist. But
from his acts, more than from his statements, I was led to believe that
for a • sorcerer there was but one single
continuum of reality which had two, or perhaps more than two, parts
from which he drew inferences of
pragmatic value. The bona fide adoption of the idea that the reality of
special consensus had pragmatic value
would have given a meaningful perspective to movement.
If I had accepted the idea that the reality of special consensus was
usable because it possessed inherently
utilizable properties which were as pragmatic as those of the reality
of everyday consensus, then it would have
been logical for me to understand why don Juan exploited the notion of
movement in the reality of special
consensus at such great length. After accepting the pragmatic existence
of another reality, the only thing a
sorcerer had to do would be to learn the mechanics of movement.
Naturally, movement in that instance had to be
specialized because it was concerned with the inherent, pragmatic
properties of the reality of special consensus.
The issues of my analysis have been the following:
1. The fragment of don Juan's teachings which I have presented here
consisted of two aspects: the operative
order or the meaningful sequence in which all the individual concepts
of his teachings were linked to one
another, and the conceptual order or the matrix of meaning in which all
the individual concepts of his teaching
2. The operative order had four main units with their respective
component ideas: (1) the concept "man of
knowledge"; (2) the idea that a man of knowledge had the aid of a
specialized power called an ally; (3) the idea
that an ally was governed by a body of regulations called the rule; and
(4) the idea that the corroboration of the
rule was subject to special consensus.
3. These four units were related to one another in the following
manner: the goal of the operative order was
to teach one how to become a man of knowledge; a man of knowledge was
different from ordinary men because
he had an ally; an ally was a specialized power, which had a rule; one
could acquire or tame an ally through the
process of verifying its rule in the realm of non-ordinary reality and
through obtaining special consensus on that
4. In the context of don Juan's teachings, becoming a man of knowledge
was not a permanent
accomplishment, but rather a process. That is to say, the factor that
made a man of knowledge was not solely the
possession of an ally, but the man's lifelong struggle to maintain
himself within the boundaries of a system of
beliefs. Don Juan's teachings, however, were aimed at practical
results, and his practical goal, in relation to
teaching how to become a man of knowledge, was to teach how to acquire
an ally through learning its rule. Thus
the goal of the operative order was to provide one with special
consensus on the component elements perceived
in non-ordinary reality, which were considered to be the corroboration
of the ally's rule.
5. In order to provide special consensus on the corroboration of the
ally's rule, don Juan had to provide
special consensus on the component elements of all the states of
non-ordinary reality and the special states of
ordinary reality elicited in the course of his teachings. Special
consensus, therefore, dealt with unordinary
phenomena, a fact that permitted me to assume that any apprentice, by
accepting special consensus, was led into
adopting the conceptual order of the knowledge being taught.
6. From the point of view of my personal stage of learning, I could
deduce that up to the time when I
withdrew from the apprenticeship don Juan's teachings had fostered the
adoption of two units of the conceptual
order: (1) the idea that there was a separate realm of reality, another
world, which I have called the "reality of
special consensus"; (2) the idea that the reality of special consensus,
or that other world, was as utilizable as the
world of everyday life.
Nearly six years after I had begun the apprenticeship, don Juan's
knowledge became a coherent whole for the
first time. I realized that he had aimed at providing a bona fide
consensus on my personal findings, and although
I did not continue because I was not, nor will I ever be, prepared to
undergo the rigours of such a training, my
own way to meet his standards of personal exertion was my attempt to
understand his teachings. I felt it was
imperative to prove, if only to myself, that they were not an oddity.
After I had arranged my structural scheme, and was capable of
discarding many data that were superfluous
to my initial effort of uncovering the cogency of his teachings, it
became clear to me that they had an internal
cohesion, a logical sequence that enabled me to view the entire
phenomenon in a light that dispelled the sense of
bizarreness which was the mark of all I had experienced. It was obvious
to me then that my apprenticeship had
been only the beginning of a very long road. And the strenuous
experiences I had undergone, which were so
overwhelming to me, were but a very small fragment of a system of
logical thought from which don Juan drew
meaningful inferences for his day-today life, a vastly complex system
of beliefs in which inquiry was an
experience leading to exultation.
The process of validating special consensus
Validating special consensus involved, at every point, the cumulation
of don Juan's teachings. For the
purpose of explaining the cumulative process, I have arranged the
validation of special consensus according to
the sequence in which the states of non ordinary reality and special
ordinary reality occurred. Don Juan did not
seem to have fixed the process of directing the intrinsic order of
non-ordinary and special ordinary reality in an
exact manner; he seemed to have isolated the units for direction in a
rather fluid way.
Don Juan began to prepare the background for special consensus by
producing the first special state of
ordinary reality through the process of manipulating cues about -the
environment. He isolated by that method
certain component elements from the range of ordinary reality, and by
isolating them, he directed me to perceive
a progression towards the specific, in this instance the perception of
colours that seemed to emanate from two
small areas on the ground. Upon being isolated those areas of
colouration became deprived of ordinary
consensus; it seemed that only I was capable of seeing them, and thus
they created a special state of ordinary
Isolating those two areas on the ground by depriving them of ordinary
consensus served to establish the first
link between ordinary and non-ordinary reality. Don Juan directed me to
perceive a portion of ordinary reality in
an unaccustomed manner; that is, he changed certain ordinary elements
into items that needed special consensus.
The aftermath of the first special state of ordinary reality was my
recapitulation of the experience; from it
don Juan selected the perception of different areas of colouration as
the units for positive emphasis. He isolated
for negative emphasis the account of my fear and fatigue, and the
possibility of my lacking persistence.
During the subsequent preparatory period he placed the bulk of
speculation on the units he had isolated, and
he carried over the idea that it was possible to detect in the
surroundings more than the usual. From the units
drawn from my recapitulation don Juan also introduced some of the
component concepts of man of knowledge.
As the second step in preparing special consensus on the corroboration
of the rule, don Juan induced a state
of non-ordinary reality with Lophophora williamsii. The total content
of that first state of non-ordinary reality
was rather vague and disassociated, yet the component elements were
very well defined; I perceived its
characteristics of stability, singularity, and lack of ordinary
consensus almost as clearly as in later states. These
characteristics were not so obvious, perhaps because of my lack of
proficiency; it was the first time I had
experienced nonordinary reality.
It was impossible to ascertain the effect of don Juan's previous
directing on the actual course of the
experience; however, his mastery in directing the outcome of subsequent
states of nonordinary reality was very
clear from that point on.
From my recapitulation of the experience, he selected the units to
direct the progression towards specific
single forms and specific total results. He took the account of my
actions with a dog and connected it with the
idea that Mescalito was a visible entity. It was capable of adopting
any form; above all it was an entity outside
The account of my actions also served don Juan in setting the
progression towards a more extensive range of
appraisal; in this instance the progression was towards a dependent
range. Don Juan placed positive emphasis on
the notion that I had moved and acted in non-ordinary reality almost as
I would have in everyday life.
The progression towards a more pragmatic use of nonordinary reality was
set by giving negative emphasis to
the account of my incapacity to pay logical attention to the perceived
component elements. Don Juan hinted that
it would have been possible for me to examine the elements with
detachment and accuracy; this idea brought
forth two general characteristics of non-ordinary reality, that it was
pragmatic and that it had component
elements that could be assessed seasonally.
The lack of ordinary consensus for the component elements was brought
forth dramatically by an interplay
of positive and negative emphasis placed on the views of onlookers who
observed my behaviour during the
course of that first state of non ordinary reality.
The preparatory period following the first state of non ordinary
reality lasted more than a year. Don Juan
employed that time to introduce more component concepts of man of
knowledge, and to disclose some parts of
the rule of the two allies. He elicited also a shallow state of
non-ordinary reality in order to test my affinity with
the ally contained in Datura, inoxia. Don Juan used whatever vague
sensations I had in the course of that
shallow state to delineate the general characteristics of the ally by
contrasting it with what he had isolated as
Mescalito's perceivable characteristics.
The third step in preparing the special consensus on the corroboration
of the rule was to elicit another state
of non-ordinary reality with Lophophora williamsii. Don Juan's previous
directing seems to have guided me to
perceiving this second state of non-ordinary reality in the following
The progression towards the specific created the possibility of
visualizing an entity whose form had changed
remarkably, from the familiar shape of a dog in the first state to the
completely unfamiliar form of an
anthropomorphic composite that existed, seemingly, outside myself.
The progression towards a more extensive range of appraisal was evident
in my perception of a journey. In
the course of that journey the range of appraisal was both dependent
and independent, although a majority of the
component elements depended on the environment of the preceding state
of ordinary reality.
The progression towards a more pragmatic use of nonordinary reality
was, perhaps, the most outstanding
feature of my second state. It became evident to me, in a complex and
detailed manner, that one could move
around in non-ordinary reality.
I also examined the component elements with detachment and accuracy. I
perceived their stability,
singularity, and lack of consensus very clearly.
From my recapitulation of the experience, don Juan emphasized the
following: For the progression towards
the specific he gave positive emphasis to my account that I had seen
Mescalito as an anthropomorphic
composite. The bulk of speculation on this area was centred on the idea
that Mescalito was capable of being a
teacher, and also a protector.
In order to direct the progression towards a more extensive range of
appraisal, don Juan placed positive
emphasis on the account of my journey, which obviously had taken place
in the dependent range; he also put
positive emphasis on my version of the visionary scenes I viewed on the
hand of Mescalito, scenes that seemed
to be independent of the component elements of the preceding ordinary
The account of my journey, and the scenes viewed on Mescalito's hand,
also enabled don Juan to direct the
progression towards a more pragmatic use of non-ordinary reality. He
first put forth the idea that it was possible
to obtain direction; second he interpreted the scenes as lessons
concerning the right way to live.
Some areas of my recapitulation which dealt with the perception of
superfluous composites were not
emphasized at all, because they were not useful for setting the
direction of the intrinsic order.
The next state of non-ordinary reality, the third one, was induced for
the corroboration of the rule with the
ally contained in Datura inoxia. The preparatory period was important
and noticeable for the first time. Don
Juan presented the manipulatory techniques and disclosed that the
specific purpose I had to corroborate was
His previous directing of the three aspects of the intrinsic order
seemed to have produced the following
results: The progression towards the specific was manifested in my
capacity to perceive an ally as a quality; that
is, I verified the assertion that an ally was not visible at all. The
progression towards the specific also produced
the peculiar perception of a series of images very similar to those I
had viewed on Mescalito's hand. Don Juan
interpreted these scenes as divination, or the corroboration of the
specific purpose of the rule.
Perceiving that series of scenes entailed also a progression towards a
more extensive range of appraisal. This
time the range was independent of the environment of the preceding
ordinary reality. The scenes did not appear
to be superimposed on the component elements, as had the images I
viewed on Mescalito's hand; in fact, there
were no other component elements besides those that were part of the
scenes. In other words, the total range of
appraisal was independent.
The perception of a completely independent range also exhibited
progression towards a more pragmatic use
of nonordinary reality. Divining implied that one could give a
utilitarian value to whatever had been seen.
For the purpose of directing the progression towards the specific, don
Juan put positive emphasis on the idea
that it was impossible to move by one's own means in the independent
range of appraisal. He explained
movement there as being indirect, and as being accomplished, in this
particular instance, by the lizards as
instruments. In order to set the direction of the second aspect of the
intrinsic level, the progression towards a
more extensive range of appraisal, he centred the bulk of speculation
on the idea that the scenes I had perceived,
which were the answers to divination, could have been examined and
extended for as long as I wanted. For
guiding the progression towards a more pragmatic use of non-ordinary
reality, don Juan placed positive
emphasis on the idea that the topic to be divined had to be simple and
direct in order to obtain a result that could
The fourth state of non-ordinary reality was elicited also for the
corroboration of the rule of the ally
contained in Datura inoxia. The specific purpose of the rule to be
corroborated had to do with bodily flight as
another aspect of movement.
A result of directing the progression towards the specific may have
been the perception of soaring bodily
through the air. That sensation was acute, although it lacked the depth
of all the earlier perceptions of acts that I
had presumably performed in nonordinary reality. Bodily flight appeared
to have taken place in a dependent
range of appraisal, and it appeared to have entailed moving by one's
own power, which may have been the result
of a progression towards a wider range of appraisal.
Two other aspects of the sensation of soaring through the air may have
been the product of directing the
progression towards a more pragmatic use of non-ordinary reality. They
were, first, the perception of distance, a
perception that created the feeling of an actual flight, and second,
the possibility of acquiring direction in the
course of that alleged movement.
During the subsequent preparatory period don Juan speculated on the
supposedly deleterious nature of the
ally contained in Datura inoxia. And he isolated the following areas of
my account: For directing the
progression towards the specific, he placed positive emphasis on my
recollection of having soared through the
air. Although I did not perceive the component elements of that state
of non-ordinary reality with the clarity that
was customary by then, my sensation of movement was very definite, and
don Juan used it to reinforce the
specific result of movement. The progression towards a more pragmatic
use of non-ordinary reality was
established by centering the bulk of speculation on the idea that
sorcerers could fly over enormous distances, a
speculation that gave rise to the possibility that one could move in
the dependent range of appraisal and then
switch such movement over into ordinary reality.
The fifth state of non-ordinary reality was produced by the ally
contained in Psilocybe mexicana. It was the
first time that the plant was used, and the state that ensued was more
in line with a test than with an attempt to
corroborate the rule. In the preparatory period don Juan presented only
a manipulatory technique; as he did not
disclose the specific purpose to be verified I did not believe the
state was elicited to corroborate the rule. Yet the
direction of the intrinsic level of non-ordinary reality set earlier
appeared to have terminated in the following
Directing the progression towards specific total results produced in me
the perception that the two allies
were different from each other, and that each was different from
Mescalito. I perceived the ally contained in
Psilocybe mexicana as a quality - formless and invisible, and producing
a sensation of bodilessness. The
progression towards a more extensive range of appraisal resulted in the
sensation that the total environment of
the preceding ordinary reality, which remained within my awareness, was
usable in non-ordinary reality; that is,
the expansion of the dependent range seemed to have covered everything.
The progression towards a more
pragmatic use of non-ordinary reality produced the peculiar perception
that I could go through the component
elements within the dependent range of appraisal, in spite of the fact
that they appeared to be ordinary elements
of everyday life.
Don Juan did not demand the usual recapitulation of the experience; it
was as if the absence of a specific
purpose had made this state of non-ordinary reality only a prolonged
transitional stage. During the subsequent
preparatory period, however, he speculated on certain observations he
had made on my behaviour during the
course of the experience.
He placed negative emphasis on the logical impasse that prevented my
believing that one could go through
things or beings. With that speculation he directed the progression
towards a specific total result of movement
through the component elements of non-ordinary reality perceived within
the dependent range of appraisal. Don
Juan used those same observations to direct the second aspect of the
intrinsic level, a more extensive range of
appraisal. If movement through things and beings was possible, then the
dependent range had to expand
accordingly; it had to cover the total environment of the preceding
ordinary reality which was within one's
awareness at any given time, since movement entailed a constant change
of surroundings. In the same
speculation it was also implicit that non-ordinary reality could have
been used in a more pragmatic manner.
Moving through objects and beings implied a definite point of advantage
which was inaccessible to a sorcerer in
Don Juan next used a series of three states of non-ordinary reality,
elicited by Lophophora williamsii, to
prepare further the special consensus on the corroboration of the rule.
These three states have here been treated
as a single unit because they took place during four consecutive days,
and during the few hours in between them
I had no communication whatsoever with don Juan. The intrinsic order of
the three estates has also been
considered a single unit with the following characteristics. The
progression towards the specific produced the
perception of Mescalito as a visible, anthropomorphic entity capable of
teaching. The ability to give lessons
implied that Mescalito was capable of acting towards people.
The progression towards a more extensive range of appraisal reached a
point where I perceived both ranges
at the same time, and I was incapable of establishing the difference
between them except in terms of movement.
In the dependent range it was possible for me to move by my own means
and volition, but in the independent
range I was able to move only with the aid of Mescalito as an
instrument. For example, Mescalito's lessons
comprised a series of scenes that I could only watch. The progression
towards a more pragmatic use of nonordinary reality was implicit in the
idea that Mescalito could actually deliver lessons on the right way to
During the preparatory period that followed the last state of
non-ordinary reality in this series, don Juan
selected the following units. For the progression towards the specific,
he placed positive emphasis on the ideas
that Mescalito was instrumental in moving one through the independent
range of appraisal, and that Mescalito
was a didactic entity capable of delivering lessons by allowing one to
enter into a visionary world. He also
speculated on the implication that Mescalito had voiced its name and
had supposedly taught me some songs;
those two instances were constructed as examples of Mescalito's
capacity to be a protector. And the fact that I
had perceived Mescalito as a light was emphasized as the possibility
that it might at last have adopted an
abstract, permanent form for me.
Stressing these same units also served don Juan in directing the
progression towards a more extensive range
of appraisal. During the course of the three states of non-ordinary
reality I clearly perceived that the dependent
range and the independent range were two separate aspects of
non-ordinary reality which were equally
important. The independent range was the area where Mescalito delivered
its lessons, and since these states of
non-ordinary reality were supposed to have been elicited only to seek
such lessons, the independent range was,
logically, an area of special importance. Mescalito was a protector and
a teacher, which meant that it was visible;
yet its form had nothing to do with the preceding state of ordinary
reality. On the other hand, one was supposed
to journey, to move in non-ordinary reality, in order to seek
Mescalito's lessons, an idea that implied the
importance of the dependent range.
The progression towards a more pragmatic use of nonordinary reality was
set by devoting the bulk of
speculation to Mescalito's lessons. Don Juan constructed these lessons
as being indispensable to a man's life; it
was a clear inference that nonordinary reality could have been used in
a more pragmatic manner to draw points
of reference which had value in ordinary reality. It was the first time
don Juan had verbalized such an
The subsequent state of non-ordinary reality, the ninth in the
teachings, was induced in order to corroborate
the rule of the ally contained in Datura inoxia. The specific purpose
to be corroborated in that state was
concerned with divination, and the previous direction of the intrinsic
level ended in the following points. The
progression towards a specific total result created the perception of a
coherent set of scenes, which were
purported to be the voice of the lizard narrating the events to be
divined, and the sensation of a voice that
actually described such scenes. The progression towards an independent
range of appraisal resulted in the
perception of an extensive and clear independent range that was free
from the extraneous influence of ordinary
reality. The progression towards a more pragmatic use of nonordinary
reality ended in the utilitarian possibilities
of exploiting the independent range. That particular trend was set up
by don Juan's speculation on the possibility
of drawing points of reference from the independent range and using
them in ordinary reality. Thus the
divinatory scenes had an obvious pragmatic value, for they were thought
to represent a view of acts performed
by others, acts to which one would have had no access by ordinary means.
In the following preparatory period, don Juan emphasized more of the
component themes of man of
knowledge. He seemed to be getting ready to shift to the pursuit of
only one of the two allies, the ally humito.
Yet he gave positive emphasis to the idea that I had a close affinity
with the ally contained in Datura inoxia,
because it had allowed me to witness an incidence of flexibility of the
rule when I had made an error in
performing a manipulatory technique. My assumption that don Juan was
ready to abandon teaching the rule of
the ally contained in Datura inoxia was fostered by the fact that he
did not isolate any areas of my recapitulation
of the experience to account for directing the intrinsic level of the
subsequent states of nonordinary reality.
Next was a series of three states of non-ordinary reality elicited to
corroborate the rule of the ally contained
in Psilocybe mexicana. They have been treated here as a single unit.
And although a considerable time elapsed in
between them, during those intervals don Juan made no attempt to
speculate on any aspect of their intrinsic
The first state of the series was vague; it ended rapidly and its
component elements were not precise. It had
the appearance of being more like a transitional stage than like a
state of nonordinary reality proper.
The second state had more depth. I perceived the transitional stage
into non-ordinary reality separately for
the first time. During the course of that first transitional stage don
Juan revealed that the specific purpose of the
rule, which I had to corroborate, dealt with another aspect of
movement, an aspect requiring his exhaustive
supervision; I have rendered it as "moving by adopting an alternate
form". As a consequence, two aspects of the
extrinsic level of non-ordinary reality became evident for the first
time: the transitional stages, and the teacher's
Don Juan used his supervision during that first transitional stage to
pinpoint the subsequent direction of three
aspects of the intrinsic level. His efforts were channelled, in the
first place, to produce a specific total result by
guiding me to experience the precise sensation of having adopted the
shape of a crow.
The possibility of adopting an alternate form in order to achieve
movement in non-ordinary reality entailed
in turn an expansion of the dependent range of appraisal, the only area
where such movement could take place.
The pragmatic use of non-ordinary reality was determined by directing
me to focus my attention on certain
component elements of the dependent range, in order to use them as
points of reference for moving.
During the preparatory period that followed the second state of the
series, don Juan refused to speculate on
any "part of my experience. He treated the second state as if it had
been merely another prolonged transitional
The third state of the series, however, was paramount in the teachings.
It was a state in which the process of
directing the intrinsic level culminated in the following results: The
progression towards the specific created the
easy perception that I had adopted an alternative form so completely
that it even induced precise adjustments in
the way I focused my eyes and in my way of seeing. A result of those
adjustments was my perception of a new
facet of the dependent range of appraisal - the minutiae that formed
the component elements - and that
perception definitely enlarged the range of appraisal. The progression
towards a more pragmatic use of nonordinary reality culminated in my
awareness that it was possible to move in the dependent range as
pragmatically as one walks in ordinary reality.
In the preparatory period following the last state of nonordinary
reality, don Juan introduced a different type
of recapitulation. He selected the areas for recollection before he had
heard my account; that is, he demanded to
hear only the accounts that pertained to the pragmatic use of
non-ordinary reality and to movement.
From such accounts he set the progression towards the specific by
giving positive emphasis to the version of
how I had exploited the crow's form. Yet he attached importance only to
the idea of moving after having adopted
that form. Movement was the area of my recapitulation on which he
placed an interplay of positive and negative
emphasis. He gave the account positive emphasis when it enhanced the
idea of the pragmatic nature of nonordinary reality, or when it dealt
with the perception of component elements which had permitted me to
general sense of orientation, while seemingly moving in the dependent
range of appraisal. He placed negative
emphasis on my incapacity to recollect with precision the nature or the
direction of such movement.
In directing the progression towards a wider range of appraisal, don
Juan centred his speculation on my
account of the peculiar way in which I had perceived the minutiae that
formed the component elements that were
within the dependent range. His speculation led me to the assumption
that, if it were possible to see the world as
a crow does, the dependent range of appraisal had to expand in depth
and had to extend to cover the whole
spectrum of ordinary reality.
To direct the progression towards a more pragmatic use of non-ordinary
reality, don Juan explained my
peculiar way of perceiving the component elements as being a crow's way
of seeing the world. And, logically,
that way of seeing presupposed entrance into a range of phenomena
beyond normal possibilities in ordinary
The last experience recorded in my field notes was a special state of
ordinary reality; don Juan produced it
by isolating component elements of ordinary reality through the process
of cuing about his own behaviour.
The general processes used in directing the intrinsic level of
non-ordinary reality produced the following
results during the course of the second special state of ordinary
reality. The progression towards the specific
resulted in the easy isolation of many elements of ordinary reality. In
the first special state of ordinary reality, the
very few component elements that were isolated through the process of
cuing about the environment were also
transformed into unfamiliar forms deprived of ordinary consensus;
however, in the second special state of
ordinary reality its component elements were numerous, and, although
they did not lose their quality of being
familiar elements, they may have lost their capacity for ordinary
consensus. Such component elements covered,
perhaps, the total environment that was within my awareness.
Don Juan may have produced this second special state in order to
strengthen the link between ordinary and
non-ordinary reality by developing the possibility that most, if not
all, of the component elements of ordinary
reality could lose their capacity to have ordinary consensus.
From my own point of view, however, that last special state was the
final summation of my apprenticeship.
The formidable impact of terror on the level of sober consciousness had
the peculiar quality of undermining the
certainty that the reality of everyday life was implicitly real, the
certainty that I, in matters of ordinary reality,
could provide myself with consensus indefinitely. Up to that point the
course of my apprenticeship seemed to
have been a continuous building towards the collapse of that certainty.
Don Juan used every facet of his dramatic
exertion to accomplish the collapse during that last special state, a
fact prompting me to believe that complete
collapse of that certainty would have removed the last barrier that
kept me from accepting the existence of a separate reality: the
reality of special consensus.