Carlos Castaneda — "Journey to Ixtlan"


     On Saturday, May 22, 1971, I went  to Sonora,  Mexico, to see  don Juan
Matus, a Yaqui Indian sorcerer,  with whom I had been associated since 1961.
I thought that my visit on that day was going to be in no way different from
the scores of times I had gone to see him in the ten  years I  had been  his
apprentice.  The events that took  place on that  day and on  the  following
days, however, were momentous to me. On that occasion my apprenticeship came
to an end. This was not an arbitrary withdrawal on my part but  a bona  fide
     I have  already presented the case of my apprenticeship in two previous
works: The Teachings of Don Juan and A Separate Reality.
     My basic assumption in both books has been that the articulation points
in  learning  to  be  a  sorcerer  were the states  of  non-ordinary reality
produced by the ingestion of psychotropic plants.
     In this respect don Juan was an expert in the use of three such plants:
Datura inoxia, commonly known as jimson weed;  Lofihophora williamsii, known
as peyote; and a hallucinogenic mushroom of the genus Psilocybe.
     My perception of the  world through the  effects of those psychotropics
had been  so bizarre  and impressive that I  was forced to  assume that such
states were the only avenue to communicating and learning what don Juan  was
attempting to teach me. That assumption was erroneous.
     For the purposes  of avoiding any  misunderstandings about my work with
don Juan I would like to clarify the following issues at this point.
     So far I  have  made no  attempt  whatsoever  to place don  Juan  in  a
cultural  milieu. The  fact  that he considers himself  to be a Yaqui Indian
does not mean that  his knowledge of sorcery is known to or practiced by the
Yaqui Indians in general.
     All  the conversations that  don  Juan  and I  have  had throughout the
apprenticeship were conducted in  Spanish, and only because of  his thorough
command of that language was  I capable of obtaining complex explanations of
his system of beliefs.
     I  have maintained the practice  of referring to that system as sorcery
and I  have  also  maintained  the practice of referring  to don Juan  as  a
sorcerer, because these were categories he himself used.
     Since  I was  capable  of  writing down most  of  what  was said in the
beginning of the apprenticeship, and everything  that was said in the  later
phases  of it,  I gathered voluminous field notes. In order to  render those
notes  readable  and  still  preserve  the  dramatic  unity  of  don  Juan's
teachings, I have  had to edit them, but what  I have deleted is, I believe,
immaterial to the points I want to raise.
     In the case  of my work with don Juan I have limited my efforts  solely
to viewing him as a sorcerer and to acquiring membership in his knowledge.
     For  the purpose  of  presenting my  argument I must  first explain the
basic premise of sorcery as don Juan presented it to me.  He said that for a
sorcerer,  the  world of everyday  life  is not real,  or  out  there, as we
believe  it is. For a sorcerer, reality, or the world we all know, is only a
     For the sake of validating this premise  don Juan concentrated the best
of his efforts into leading  me to a genuine  conviction that what I held in
mind  as  the  world  at  hand  was merely  a  description of the  world;  a
description that had been pounded into me from the moment I was born.
     He  pointed out that everyone who  comes into contact with a child is a
teacher who  incessantly describes  the world to him, until the moment  when
the  child is capable of perceiving  the world as it is described. According
to  don Juan,  we have no  memory of that portentous moment, simply  because
none of us could possibly have had any point of reference  to compare  it to
anything else. From that moment on, however, the child is a member. He knows
the description  of  the world; and his  membership  becomes fullfledged,  I
suppose,  when  he  is   capable   of   making  all  the  proper  perceptual
interpretations which, by conforming to that description, validate it.
     For don Juan, then,  the reality of our day-to-day life consists  of an
endless flow  of perceptual  interpretations  which we,  the individuals who
share a specific membership, have learned to make in common.
     The idea that  the perceptual interpretations  that make  up the  world
have a flow is congruous with the fact that they run uninterruptedly and are
rarely, if ever, open to question. In fact, the reality of the world we know
is  so taken for granted that the basic premise of sorcery, that our reality
is merely one  of  many  descriptions,  could hardly be  taken as a  serious
     Fortunately,  in  the  case  of  my  apprenticeship,  don Juan  was not
concerned at all with whether or not I could take his proposition seriously,
and he proceeded to elucidate  his  points, in spite  of  my opposition,  my
disbelief, and my inability to understand  what  he  was saying. Thus, as  a
teacher of sorcery, don Juan endeavored to describe the world to me from the
very  first time  we talked.  My  difficulty in  grasping  his  concepts and
methods stemmed from the  fact that  the units of his description were alien
and incompatible with those of my own.
     His  contention was that  he was teaching me how to "see" as opposed to
merely "looking,  "  and that  "stopping  the world"  was the first step  to
     For years  I had treated the idea of "stopping  the world" as a cryptic
metaphor  that really did not mean anything. It was only during an  informal
conversation  that took place towards the end of  my  apprenticeship  that I
came  to fully  realize  its  scope  and  importance  as  one  of  the  main
propositions of donJuan's knowledge.
     Don Juan and I had been talking about different things in a relaxed and
unstructured manner. I  told him about a friend of mine and his dilemma with
his nine  year old son. The  child, who had been living with the mother  for
the past four years, was  then  living  with my friend, and the  problem was
what  to do with him?  According to my friend,  the child  was a  misfit  in
school; he lacked concentration and  was not interested in anything.  He was
given to tantrums, disruptive behavior, and to running away from home.
     "Your friend certainly does have a problem, " don Juan said, laughing.
     I wanted to keep on telling him all the "terrible" things the child had
done, but he interrupted me.
     "There  is no  need to  say any more about that poor  little boy,  " he
said. "There  is no  need for  you or  for  me to regard  his actions in our
thoughts one way or another."
     His manner was abrupt and his tone was firm, but then he smiled.
     "What can my friend do?" I asked.
     "The worst thing he could do is to force that child to agree with him,"
don Juan said.
     "What do you mean?"
     "I mean  that that child shouldn't be spanked  or scared by  his father
when he doesn't behave the way he wants him to."
     "How can he teach him anything if he isn't firm with him?"
     "Your friend should let someone else spank the child."
     "He can't let anyone else touch his little boy!" I  said,  surprised at
his suggestion.
     Don Juan seemed to enjoy my reaction and giggled.
     "Your friend is  not a warrior, " he said.  "If he were, he would  know
that the worst thing one can do is to confront human beings bluntly."
     "What does a warrior do, don Juan?"
     "A warrior proceeds strategically."
     "I still don't understand what you mean."
     "I mean that if your friend  were a warrior he would help his child  to
stop the world."
     "How can my friend do that?"
     "He would need personal power. He would need to be a sorcerer."
     "But he isn't."
     "In that case  he must use ordinary means to help his son to change his
idea of the world. It is  not stopping the world, but it will work just  the
     I asked him to explain his statements.
     "If  I were  your friend, "  don  Juan said, "I  would  start by hiring
someone  to spank the little guy. I would go to  skid row and hire the worst
looking man I could find."
     "To scare a little boy?"
     "Not  just to scare a little  boy, you fool. That little fellow must be
stopped, and being beaten by his father won't do it.
     "If one  wants to  stop our fellow  men  one must always be outside the
circle that presses them. That way one can always direct the pressure."
     The idea was preposterous, but somehow it was appealing to me.
     Don Juan  was resting his chin on  his  left  palm.  His left  arm  was
propped  against his chest on a  wooden box that served as  a low table. His
eyes were closed but his eyeballs moved. I felt he was looking at me through
his closed eyelids. The thought scared me.
     "Tell me more about what my  friend should do with his  little boy, " I
     "Tell him  to go to skid row and very carefully select an ugly  looking
derelict, " he went on. "Tell him to get a young one. One who still has some
strength left in him."
     Don  Juan then delineated a strange  strategy.  I was  to  instruct  my
friend to have  the man follow him or wait for him at a place where he would
go with his son. The man, in response to a prearranged cue to be given after
any objectionable  behavior on the part of the  child, was  supposed to leap
from  a hiding place, pick the child up, and spank the living  daylights out
of him.
     "After the man scares him, your  friend must help the little boy regain
his confidence, in any  way  he can.  If  he follows this procedure three or
four times  I assure you  that  that  child  will  feel  differently towards
everything.  He will change  his idea of the  world."' "What  if  the fright
injures him?"
     "Fright never injures anyone. What injures the spirit is having someone
always on your back, beating you, telling you what to do and what not to do.
     "When that  boy is more contained you must tell  your friend to do  one
last thing for him. He must find some way to get to a dead child, perhaps in
a hospital, or at the office  of a doctor.  He must take  his son  there and
show the dead child to him. He must let him touch the corpse  once with  his
left hand, on any place except  the corpse's  belly. After the boy does that
he will be renewed. The world will never be the same for him."
     I realized then that  throughout the years of our association  don Juan
had been employing with me, although on a different  scale, the same tactics
he was suggesting my friend should  use with his son. I asked  him about it.
He said that he had been  trying  all  along  to  teach me how to  "stop the
     "You haven't  yet, " he said, smiling. "Nothing seems to work,  because
you are very stubborn. If you were  less stubborn, however, by now you would
probably  have  stopped the world with any of the  techniques I have  taught
     "What techniques, don Juan?"
     "Everything I  have told  you to do was  a  technique  for stopping the
     A  few months after that conversation don Juan accomplished what he had
set out to do, to teach me to "stop the world."
     That monumental  event  in my life compelled me to re-examine in detail
my  work of ten years. It became evident to  me that my original  assumption
about  the  role of psychotropic  plants was erroneous.  They were  not  the
essential feature of the  sorcerer's description of the world, but were only
an  aid to cement, so to speak,  parts  of the description which  I had been
incapable  of  perceiving otherwise.  My  insistence on  holding  on  to  my
standard version of reality  rendered me almost deaf and blind to don Juan's
aims. Therefore, it  was  simply my  lack of sensitivity  which had fostered
their use.
     In reviewing the  totality of my field notes  I  became aware that  don
Juan had  given me the bulk of the new description at  the very beginning of
our association in what he called "techniques for stopping the world." I had
discarded those parts of my field notes in my earlier works because they did
not  pertain  to  the  use of  psychotropic plants.  I  have now  rightfully
reinstated them in the total scope of don Juan's teachings and they comprise
the  first  seventeen chapters of this work. The last three chapters are the
field notes covering the events that culminated in my "stopping the world."
     In summing up I can say that when I began the apprenticeship, there was
another reality,  that is  to  say,  there was a sorcery  description of the
world, which I did not know.
     Don Juan, as a sorcerer and a teacher, taught me  that description. The
ten year apprenticeship I have undergone consisted, therefore, in setting up
that unknown reality by unfolding  its description, adding increasingly more
complex parts as I went along.
     The termination of  the  apprenticeship meant that I had learned  a new
description of the world in a convincing and authentic manner and thus I had
become capable of eliciting a new perception of the world, which matched its
new description. In other words, I had gained membership.
     Don Juan stated that in order to arrive  at  "seeing" one first  had to
"stop the  world." "Stopping the world" was indeed an appropriate  rendition
of  certain  states of  awareness in  which  the reality of everyday life is
altered  because  the   flow  of  interpretation,   which  ordinarily   runs
uninterruptedly, has  been stopped by  a set of  circumstances alien to that
flow. In  my  case  the  set  of circumstances alien  to my  normal  flow of
interpretations was  the  sorcery  description  of  the  world.  Don  Juan's
precondition for "stopping the world" was that  one had to be convinced;  in
other words, one had to learn the new description in  a total sense, for the
purpose  of  pitting  it  against the  old  one, and in  that way break  the
dogmatic  certainty,  which  we  all  share,  that   the  validity  of   our
perceptions, or our reality of the world, is not to be questioned.
     After "stopping the world" the next step was "seeing." By that don Juan
meant what  I  would like  to categorize as "responding  to  the  perceptual
solicitations of  a world outside the  description  we have learned  to call
     My contention is  that all  these steps can only be understood in terms
of the description to which they belong; and since it was a description that
he  endeavored to  give me from the beginning, I must then let his teachings
be the only source of entrance into  it. Thus, I have left don  Juan's words
to speak for themselves.



     "I understand you know a great deal about plants, sir, " I said to  the
old Indian in front of me.
     A friend of mine had just put us  in contact and  left the  room and we
had introduced  ourselves to each other.  The  old man had  told me that his
name was Juan Matus.
     "Did your friend tell you that?" he asked casually.
     "Yes, he did."
     "I pick plants, or rather, they let me pick them, " he said.
     We were in  the waiting room  of a bus depot in Arizona. I asked him in
very formal Spanish if he would allow me to question him. I said, "Would the
gentleman [caballero] permit me to ask some questions?"
     "Caballero,  "  which  is  derived  from  the  word  "caballo,"  horse,
originally meant horseman or a nobleman on horseback.
     He looked at me inquisitively.
     "I'm a horseman without a horse, " he said with a big smile and then he
added, "I've told you that my name is Juan Matos."
     I liked his smile.  I thought  that, obviously  he was a man that could
appreciate directness and I decided to boldly tackle him with a request.
     I  told  him I was  interested  in collecting  and  studying  medicinal
plants. I said that my special interest was the uses  of  the hallucinogenic
cactus,  peyote,  which  I had studied at  length  at  the university in Los
     I  thought that my presentation was very serious.  I was very contained
and sounded perfectly credible to myself.
     The old man  shook his head slowly,  and  I, encouraged by his silence,
added that it would no doubt be profitable for  us to get together and  talk
about peyote.
     It was at that moment that he lifted his head and looked me squarely in
the eyes. It was a formidable look. Yet it was  not  menacing or awesome  in
any way. It was a  look that went  through me. I became  tongue tied at once
and  could not continue with the harangues about myself. That was the end of
our  meeting. Yet he  left on a note  of hope.  He said that perhaps I could
visit him at his house someday.
     It would be difficult  to assess the  impact of  don Juan's look  if my
inventory of experience is not  somehow brought to bear on the uniqueness of
that event. When I began  to study anthropology and thus met don Juan, I was
already  an expert  in "getting around." I had left my home years before and
that  meant in my evaluation that I was capable  of taking care  of  myself.
Whenever I  was rebuffed could usually cajole my way in or make concessions,
argue,  get angry,  or  if nothing succeeded I would  whine or complain;  in
other  words,  there  was  always something  I  knew  I could  do  under the
circumstances, and never in my life had any human being  stopped my momentum
so swiftly and  so definitely as don Juan did that afternoon. But it was not
only a matter of being silenced; there had been times when I had been unable
to say  a word to my opponent because  of some inherent respect  I  felt for
him, still my anger or frustration was manifested in my thoughts. Don Juan's
look, however, numbed me to the point that I could not think coherently.
     I  became thoroughly intrigued with that stupendous look and decided to
search for him.
     I prepared myself for six months, after  that first meeting, reading up
on  the uses  of  peyote  among  the American Indians, especially about  the
peyote cult  of the  Indians of the Plains. I  became acquainted with  every
work available, and when I felt I was ready I went back to Arizona.

     Saturday, December 17, 1960

     I found his  house  after  making long  and taxing  inquiries among the
local Indians.  It was early afternoon when I arrived and parked in front of
it. I saw him sitting on a  wooden milk crate. He seemed to recognize me and
greeted me as I got out of my car.
     We exchanged social courtesies for  a while and then, in plain terms, I
confessed that I had been very devious with him the first time we had met. I
had boasted that I knew a  great  deal about peyote, when in reality  I knew
nothing about it. He stared at me. His eyes were very kind.
     I told him that for six months I had been reading to prepare myself for
our meeting and that this time I really knew a great deal more.
     He  laughed.  Obviously, there was  something in my statement which was
funny to him. He was laughing at me and I felt a bit confused and offended.
     He apparently noticed  my discomfort and assured me that although I had
had good  intentions  there  was really  no way  to prepare myself  for  our
     I wondered if  it would have been  proper to ask whether that statement
had any  hidden meaning,  but I did not; yet he seemed  to be attuned  to my
feelings and proceeded to  explain  what  he had  meant.  He  said  that  my
endeavors  reminded him of  a  story  about some people a  certain king  had
persecuted  and killed  once upon a  time.  He  said that in  the story  the
persecuted people were indistinguishable from their persecutors, except that
they insisted on pronouncing  certain words in a peculiar manner proper only
to them; that flaw, of course, was the giveaway. The  king posted roadblocks
at critical points where an  official would  ask  every  man  passing by  to
pronounce  a  key  word.  Those  who could  pronounce  it the  way  the king
pronounced it would  live,  but  those who could not were immediately put to
death.  The point  of the  story was  that  one day a young  man  decided to
prepare himself for passing the roadblock by  learning to pronounce the test
word just as the king liked it.
     Don Juan said, with a  broad smile, that in fact  it took the young man
"six months" to  master such  a  pronunciation. And then came the day of the
great  test; the young  man  very confidently came  upon  the  roadblock and
waited for the official to ask him to pronounce the word.
     At  that  point don Juan  very  dramatically stopped his recounting and
looked at me. His pause was very studied and seemed a bit corny to me, but I
played along. I  had heard the theme of the  story before. It had to do with
Jews in  Germany and the way one could tell  who was a Jew  by the  way they
pronounced  certain words.  I also knew the  punch  line: the  young man was
going to  get caught because the  official  had  forgotten the key word  and
asked him  to pronounce  another word which was very  similar  but which the
young man had not learned to say correctly.
     Don Juan seemed to be waiting for me to ask what happened, so I did.
     "What  happened to him?" I asked, trying to  sound naive and interested
in the story.
     "The  young man, who was  truly foxy,  "  he  said, "realized that  the
official had forgotten the key  word, and before the man could say  anything
else he confessed that he had prepared himself for six months."
     He made another pause and looked at me with  a mischievous glint in his
eyes. This  time he had turned the tables  on me. The young man's confession
was a new element and I no longer knew how the story would end.
     "Well, what happened then?" I asked, truly interested.
     "The young man  was killed  instantly, of course,  " he said  and broke
into a roaring laughter.
     I liked  very  much the way  he  had entrapped my interest; above all I
liked the way he had linked that story to my own case. In fact, he seemed to
have constructed it to fit me. He was making fun of me  in a very subtle and
artistic manner. I laughed with him.
     Afterwards I told him that no matter how stupid I sounded I  was really
interested in learning something about plants.
     "I like to walk a great deal, " he said.
     I  thought  he was deliberately changing the  topic of  conversation to
avoid answering me. I did not want to antagonize him with my insistence.
     He asked me if I wanted to go with him on a short hike in the desert. I
eagerly told him that I would love to walk in the desert.
     "This is no picnic, " he said in a tone of warning.
     I told him that I wanted very seriously to work with him. I said that I
needed information, any kind of information, on the uses of medicinal herbs,
and that I was willing to pay him for his time and effort.
     "You'll be working for me, " I said. "And I'll pay you wages."
     "How much would you pay me?" he asked.
     I detected a note of greed in his voice.
     "Whatever you think is appropriate, " I said.
     "Pay me for my time . . . with your time, " he said.
     I  thought  he was  a  most  peculiar  fellow. I  told  him I  did  not
understand  what he meant. He  replied that there was nothing  to  say about
plants, thus to take my money would be unthinkable for him.
     He looked at me piercingly.
     "What are  you  doing  in  your pocket?" he asked,  frowning. "Are  you
playing with your whanger?"
     He was referring to my taking notes on a minute pad inside the enormous
pockets of my windbreaker.
     When I told him what I was doing he laughed heartily.
     I said that I did not want to disturb him by writing in front of him.
     "If you want to write, write, " he said. "You don't disturb me."
     We hiked in the surrounding desert until it was almost dark. He did not
show  me  any plants nor did  he talk about  them  at all. We  stopped for a
moment to rest by some large bushes.
     "Plants are very  peculiar  things,  " he said without  looking at  me.
"They are alive and they feel."
     At the very moment he  made  that statement a strong gust of wind shook
the desert chaparral around us. The bushes made a rattling noise.
     "Do you hear that?" he asked  me, putting his  right hand to his ear as
if  he  were aiding his hearing. "The  leaves and the wind are agreeing with
     I laughed. The friend who had put us in  contact had already told me to
watch out, because the old man  was very eccentric. I thought the "agreement
with the leaves" was one of his eccentricities.
     We walked for a while longer but he  still  did not show me any plants,
nor  did he pick any of them.  He simply breezed through the bushes touching
them  gently. Then he came to a  halt and sat down on a  rock and told me to
rest and look around.
     I insisted on talking. Once more I let him know that I wanted very much
to learn about plants,  especially peyote. I  pleaded  with him to become my
informant in exchange for some sort of monetary reward.
     "You don't have  to  pay me, " he said.  "You can ask  me anything  you
want. I will tell you what I know and then I will tell you what  to  do with
     He asked me if I agreed with the arrangement. I was delighted.  Then he
added  a cryptic statement: "Perhaps there is nothing to learn about plants,
because there is nothing to say about them."
     I did not understand what he had said or what he had meant by it.
     "What did you say?" I asked.
     He repeated  the  statement  three  times and then the  whole area  was
shaken by the roar of an Air Force jet flying low.
     "There! The world has just agreed with me, " he  said, putting his left
hand to his ear.
     I found him very amusing. His laughter was contagious.
     "Are you  from  Arizona, don Juan?" I asked, in  an  effort to keep the
conversation centered around his being my informant.
     He looked at me  and nodded affirmatively. His eyes seemed to be tired.
I could see the white underneath his pupils.
     "Were you born in this locality?"
     He  nodded his head  again without  answering me.  It  seemed  to be an
affirmative  gesture,  but it also seemed to be the nervous head shake  of a
person who is thinking.
     "And where are you from yourself?" he asked.
     "I come from South America, " I said.
     "That's a big place. Do you come from all of it?"
     His eyes were piercing again as he looked at me.
     I began to  explain the circumstances of  my birth, but he  interrupted
     "We  are alike  in this respect, " he said. "I  live here now  but  I'm
really a Yaqui from Sonora."
     "Is that so! I myself come from-"
     He did not let me finish.
     "I know, I  know,  " he said.  "You are who you  are, from wherever you
are, as I am a Yaqui from Sonora."
     His eyes were very shiny and his laughter was  strangely unsettling. He
made  me  feel  as if he had caught me in  a  lie. I experienced  a peculiar
sensation of guilt.  I had the feeling he  knew something I did not know  or
did not want to tell.
     My strange embarrassment grew. He must have noticed it, for he stood up
and asked me if I wanted to go eat in a restaurant in town.
     Walking  back  to his home  and  then driving  into town  made me  feel
better, but I was not quite relaxed. I somehow  felt  threatened, although I
could not pinpoint the reason.
     I wanted to buy him some beer in the  restaurant. He said that he never
drank, not even beer. I laughed to myself. I did not believe him; the friend
who had put us in contact had told me that "the old man was plastered out of
his  mind most of the time." I really  did not mind  if  he  was lying to me
about not drinking. I liked him; there was something very soothing about his
     I must  have had  a look of doubt on  my  face, for he then went on  to
explain  that  he used to  drink  in  his  youth, but that one day he simply
dropped it.
     "People hardly ever  realize that we  can cut  anything from our lives,
any time, just like that." He snapped his fingers.
     "Do you think that  one can  stop smoking or  drinking  that easily?" I
     "Sure!"  he  said  with  great conviction.  "Smoking  and drinking  are
nothing. Nothing at all if we want to drop them."
     At that very moment the water that was boiling in the coffee percolator
made a loud perking sound.
     "Hear that!"  don Juan exclaimed with a shine in his eyes. "The boiling
water agrees with me."
     Then he added after a pause, "A man can get  agreements from everything
around him."
     At that  crucial  instant the  coffee  percolator  made a truly obscene
gurgling sound.
     He  looked at the percolator  and softly said, "Thank you, "nodded  his
head, and then broke into a roaring laughter.
     I was taken aback. His laughter was a bit too loud, but I was genuinely
amused by it all.
     My first real session with my  "informant" ended then. He said  goodbye
at the door  of the  restaurant. I told him  I had to visit some friends and
that I would like to see him again at the end of the following week.
     "When will you be home?" I asked.
     He scrutinized me.
     "Whenever you come, " he replied.
     "I don't know exactly when I can come."
     "Just come then and don't worry."
     "What if you're not in?"
     "I'll be there, " he said, smiling, and walked away.
     I ran after him  and  asked him if he would mind my  bringing  a camera
with me to take pictures of him and his house.
     "That's out of the question, " he said with a frown.
     "How about a tape recorder? Would you mind that?"
     "I'm afraid there's no possibility of that either."
     I became annoyed  and began to fret. I said I saw no logical reason for
his refusal.
     Don Juan shook his head negatively.
     "Forget  it,  " he  said  forcefully.  "And if you still want to see me
don't ever mention it again."
     I staged a weak  final complaint. I  said  that pictures and recordings
were indispensable  to my work. He said that  there was only one thing which
was indispensable for anything we did. He called it "the spirit."
     "One can't  do without the  spirit, " he said. "And  you don't have it.
Worry about that and not about pictures."
     "What do you . . . ?"
     He  interrupted me  with a movement of  his hand and walked backwards a
few steps.
     "Be sure to come back, " he said softly and waved goodbye.


     Thursday, December 22, 1960

     Don Juan  was sitting on the floor, by the  door of his house, with his
back  against the wall. He turned over a  wooden  milk crate and asked me to
sit down  and make  myself  at home. I  offered him some cigarettes.  I  had
brought a carton of them. He said he did not smoke but he accepted the gift.
We talked about the coldness  of the desert nights and other ordinary topics
of conversation.
     I asked  him if I was interfering with his normal routine. He looked at
me with a sort of frown  and said he had no routines, and that  I could stay
with him all afternoon if I wanted to.
     I had prepared some genealogy and  kinship charts that I wanted to fill
out with his help.  I had also compiled, from the ethnographic literature, a
long list of culture traits that were purported to belong  to the Indians of
the area.  I wanted to  go through the  list with him and mark all the items
that were familiar to him.
     I began with the kinship charts.
     "What did you call your father?" I asked.
     "I called him Dad, " he said with a very serious face.
     I felt a little bit annoyed, but  I proceeded on the assumption that he
had not understood.
     I showed him the  chart and explained that one space was for the father
and another space was for  the mother. I gave  as an  example  the different
words used in English and in Spanish for father and mother.
     I thought that perhaps I should have taken mother first.
     "What did you call your mother?" I asked.
     "I called her Mom, " he replied in a naive tone.
     "I mean what other words  did you use  to call  your father and mother?
How did you call them?" I said, trying to be patient and polite.
     He scratched his head and looked at me with a stupid expression.
     "Golly!" he said. "You got me there. Let me think."
     After a moment's  hesitation he seemed to remember something and I  got
ready to write.
     "Well, " he said, as if  he were involved in serious thought, "how else
did I call them? I called them Hey, hey, Dad! Hey, hey, Mom!"
     I laughed against my desire. His expression was  truly  comical  and at
that moment I did not know whether he was a preposterous  old man pulling my
leg or whether  he  was really a simpleton. Using all the patience  I had, I
explained to him that these were very serious questions and that it was very
important for my work to fill out the forms. I  tried to make him understand
the idea of a genealogy and personal history.
     "What were the names of your father and mother?" I asked.
     He looked at me with clear kind eyes. "Don't  waste your time with that
crap, "  he said  softly but with unsuspected force. I did not know what  to
say; it was as if someone else had  uttered those words. A moment before, he
had  been a fumbling  stupid  Indian  scratching his head,  and then, in  an
instant he had  reversed the roles; I was the stupid one, and he was staring
at  me  with an indescribable  look  that was  not  a look of  arrogance, or
defiance,  or  hatred,  or  contempt. His  eyes  were  kind  and  clear  and
     "I don't have any personal history,  " he said after a long pause. "One
day I  found out  that personal history was no longer necessary for  me and,
like drinking, I dropped it."
     I  did not quite understand what he meant by that. I suddenly  felt ill
at ease, threatened. I reminded him that he had assured me  that it was  all
right to ask him questions. He reiterated that he did not mind at all.
     "I  don't have  personal history  any more, " he said and looked  at me
probingly. "I dropped it one day when I felt it was no longer necessary."
     I stared at him, trying to detect the hidden meanings of his words.
     "How can one drop one's personal history?"  I asked in an argumentative
     "One  must first  have the desire  to drop it, " he said. "And then one
must proceed harmoniously to chop it off, little by little."
     "Why should anyone have such a desire?" I exclaimed.
     I  had a terribly strong attachment  to my personal history. My  family
roots were deep. I honestly felt that without them my life had no continuity
or purpose.
     "Perhaps  you should tell me what you mean by  dropping one's  personal
history, " I said.
     "To do away with it, that's what I mean, " he replied cuttingly.
     I insisted that I must not have understood the proposition.
     "Take you for instance, " I  said. "You  are a  Yaqui. You can't change
     "Am I?" he asked, smiling. "How do you know that?"
     "True!" I said. "I can't know that with  certainty,  at this point, but
you know it and that is what counts. That's what makes it personal history."
     I felt I had driven a hard nail in.
     "The  fact that I know whether I  am a  Yaqui or not  does not  make it
personal history, "  he replied. "Only when someone else knows  that does it
become personal history.  And I  assure you that no one will  ever know that
for sure."
     I had written down what he had said  in a clumsy way. I stopped writing
and looked at him. I could not figure him  out. I  mentally ran  through  my
impressions of him; the mysterious and unprecedented way he had looked at me
during  our  first meeting,  the charm  with  which he had claimed  that  he
received agreement  from everything around  him, his  annoying humor and his
alertness, his look of bona fide stupidity when I asked about his father and
mother, and then the unsuspected force of  his statements which had  snapped
me apart.
     "You don't know what I  am, do you?" he  said  as if he were reading my
thoughts. "You  will never know who or  what  I  am, because I don't have  a
personal history."
     He asked me if I had a father. I told him I did. He said that my father
was  an  example of what he  had  in mind. He urged me to  remember  what my
father thought of me.
     "Your father knows everything about you, " he said. "So he has you  all
figured out. He  knows who you are and what you do, and there is no power on
earth that can make him change his mind about you."
     Don Juan said that everybody that  knew me had an  idea  about  me, and
that I  kept feeding that  idea with everything  I did. "Don't you  see?" he
asked dramatically. "You  must renew your personal  history by  telling your
parents, your relatives, and your friends everything  you  do.  On the other
hand, if you have no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is
angry or disillusioned with your acts.  And above all  no one pins  you down
with their thoughts."
     Suddenly the  idea  became  clear in  my  mind.  I  had almost known it
myself, but I had never examined  it. Not having personal history was indeed
an appealing  concept,  at  least on  the intellectual level;  it  gave  me,
however, a sense of loneliness which I found threatening  and distasteful. I
wanted  to  discuss  my  feelings with  him,  but I  kept  myself in  check;
something  was  terribly  incongruous  in  the  situation at  hand.  I  felt
ridiculous trying to  get into  a philosophical argument with an old  Indian
who obviously did not  have the "sophistication"  of  a university  student.
Somehow he had led me away from my original  intention  of  asking him about
his genealogy.
     "I don't  know how we ended up talking about this when all I wanted was
some names for my charts, " I said, trying to steer the conversation back to
the topic I wanted.
     "It's terribly simple, " he said. "The way we ended up talking about it
was because  I said that to ask  questions  about  one's past is  a bunch of
     His tone was  firm. I felt there  was no  way to  make him  budge, so I
changed my tactics.
     "Is this idea of not  having personal history something that the Yaquis
do?" I asked.
     "It's something that I do."
     "Where did you learn it?"
     "I learned it during the course of my life."
     "Did your father teach you that?"
     "No. Let's  say that I learned it by myself  and now I am going to give
you its secret, so you won't go away empty-handed today."
     He  lowered  his  voice  to  a  dramatic  whisper.  I  laughed  at  his
histrionics.  I  had to admit that he  was  stupendous  at that. The thought
crossed my mind that I was in the presence of a born actor.
     "Write it down, " he said patronizingly. "Why not? You  seem to be more
comfortable writing."
     I looked at him and my eyes must have betrayed my confusion. He slapped
his thighs and laughed with great delight.
     "It is  best to  erase all  personal history, "  he said  slowly, as if
giving me time to write it down  in  my clumsy way, "because that would make
us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people."
     I  could not  believe that he was  actually saying that.  I had a  very
confusing moment. He must have read in my face my inner turmoil  and used it
     "Take yourself, for instance, " he went on saying. "Right now you don't
know whether you are coming or going. And  that is so, because I have erased
my personal history. I have,  little by little, created a  fog around me and
my life. And now nobody knows for sure who I am or what I do."
     "But, you yourself know who you are, don't you?" I interjected.
     "You bet I ... don't,  " he exclaimed and rolled on the floor, laughing
at my surprised look.
     He had paused long enough to  make  me believe that he was going to say
that  he  did  know,  as  I was  anticipating  it. His  subterfuge  was very
threatening to me. I actually became afraid.
     "That is the little secret I am going to give you today, " he said in a
low voice. "Nobody knows my personal history. Nobody knows who I  am or what
I do. Not even I."
     He squinted his  eyes. He was not  looking at me but beyond me over  my
right shoulder. He  was  sitting cross-legged, his back was straight and yet
he seemed to  be  so  relaxed. At that moment  he  was  the  very picture of
fierceness. I fancied him to be an Indian  chief, a "red-skinned warrior" in
the romantic frontier sagas  of my childhood. My romanticism carried me away
and  the  most  insidious  feeling  of ambivalence  enveloped  me.  I  could
sincerely say that I liked him a great deal  and in  the same breath I could
say that I was deadly afraid of him.
     He maintained that strange stare for a long moment.
     "How  can  I know  who I am, when I am all this?" he said, sweeping the
surroundings with a gesture of his head. Then he glanced at me and smiled.
     "Little by little you must create a fog around yourself; you must erase
everything around you until nothing can be taken for granted, until  nothing
is any longer for  sure, or real. Your problem  now is that you're too real.
Your endeavors are  too real; your moods are too real. Don't take things  so
for granted. You must begin to erase yourself."
     "What for?" I asked belligerently.
     It became clear to me then that he was prescribing behavior for me. All
my  life I  had reached a breaking point when someone  attempted  to tell me
what  to do; the mere thought of being told what to do put me immediately on
the defensive.
     "You said that you wanted  to learn about plants, " he said calmly. "Do
you want to get something for nothing?  What do you think this is? We agreed
that you would ask me questions  and I'd tell you what I  know. If you don't
like it, there is nothing else we can say to each other."
     His  terrible  directness made  me  feel  peeved,  and  begrudgingly  I
conceded that he was right.
     "Let's  put it this way then, " he went on. "If you want to learn about
plants, since there is  really  nothing to  say  about them, you must, among
other things, erase your personal history."
     "How?" I asked.
     "Begin with simple things, such  as not revealing  what you  really do.
Then you must leave everyone who knows  you well. This way you'll build up a
fog around yourself."
     "But  that's  absurd, " I  protested. "Why  shouldn't  people know  me?
What's wrong with that?"
     "What's  wrong is that once they know you, you are an affair  taken for
granted and from that moment on  you won't be able to break the tie of their
thoughts. I personally like  the  ultimate freedom of being  unknown. No one
knows me with steadfast certainty, the way people know you, for instance."
     "But that would be lying."
     "I'm not  concerned  with lies or truths, " he said severely. "Lies are
lies only if  you have  personal history." I argued that  I did  not like to
deliberately mystify people or mislead them. His reply  was  that  I  misled
everybody anyway.
     The old man had touched a sore spot in my life. I did not pause to  ask
him what he meant  by that  or how he knew  that I  mystified people all the
time.  I  simply  reacted to his statement, defending myself by  means of an
explanation. I said that I was painfully aware that my family and my friends
believed I was  unreliable, when in reality I had never  told  a  lie in  my
     "You  always knew  how to lie,  "  he said.  "The only thing  that  was
missing was that you didn't know why to do it. Now you do."
     I  protested. "Don't you see that I'm really sick and  tired  of people
thinking that I'm unreliable?" I said.
     "But you are unreliable, " he replied with conviction.
     "Damn it to hell, man, I am not!" I exclaimed.
     My  mood, instead  of forcing  him  into  seriousness, made  him  laugh
hysterically.  I  really  despised  the  old  man  for  all  his  cockiness.
Unfortunately he was right about me.
     After a while I calmed down and he continued talking.
     "When one does not have personal history, " he explained, "nothing that
one says  can be taken for a  lie. Your trouble is that  you have to explain
everything to everybody, compulsively, and at the same time you want to keep
the freshness, the newness  of what you do. Well, since you can't be excited
after explaining everything you've done, you lie in order to keep on going."
     I was truly bewildered by the  scope of our  conversation. I wrote down
all the details  of our exchange in the best way I  could, concentrating  on
what he was saying rather than pausing to deliberate  on my prejudices or on
his meanings.
     "From now on, " he said, "you must simply show people whatever you care
to show them, but without ever telling exactly how you've done it."
     "I can't keep secrets!" I exclaimed. "What you are saying is useless to
     "Then change!" he said cuttingly and with a fierce glint in his eyes.
     He looked like a strange wild animal. And yet he was so coherent in his
thoughts  and so verbal.  My  annoyance  gave way  to a  state of irritating
     "You see, " he went on, "we only have two alternatives;  we either take
everything for sure and real, or we don't. If we follow the first, we end up
bored to death  with  ourselves and with the world. If we  follow the second
and erase personal history, we create a fog around us, a  very  exciting and
mysterious  state in which nobody knows  where the rabbit  will pop out, not
even ourselves."
     I  contended  that erasing personal  history  would  only increase  our
sensation of insecurity.
     "When nothing is for sure we remain alert, perennially on our toes," he
said.  "It is more  exciting not  to know  which  bush  the rabbit is hiding
behind than to behave as though we know everything."
     He did not say another  word for a very long time; perhaps an hour went
by in complete  silence. I did  not know what to ask. Finally he  got up and
asked me to drive him to the nearby town.
     I  did not  know why but our conversation  had drained me. I felt  like
going  to sleep. He asked me to stop on the way and told me that if I wanted
to relax, I had to climb to the flat top of a small hill on  the side of the
road and lie down on my stomach with my head towards the east.
     He seemed to  have a feeling of  urgency.  I did not want  to  argue or
perhaps I was too tired to even speak. I climbed the hill and did as he  had
     I slept  only two or  three minutes, but it was  sufficient  to have my
energy renewed. We drove to the center of town, where he  told me to let him
     "Come back, " he said as he stepped  out  of the  car. "Be sure to come
     I had the opportunity of discussing  my two previous visits to Don Juan
with  the friend who had put us in  contact.  It was his opinion that I  was
wasting my  time.  I  related  to him, in  every  detail,  the scope of  our
conversations. He thought I was  exaggerating and romanticizing a  silly old
     There was very little room in  me for romanticizing such a preposterous
old man. I  sincerely  felt  that  his  criticisms about my  personality had
seriously undermined my  liking him. Yet I had to admit that they had always
been apropos, sharply delineated, and true to the letter.
     The crux of  my  dilemma at that point  was my unwillingness to  accept
that don Juan was very capable of disrupting all my preconceptions about the
world, and my unwillingness  to agree with  my friend who believed that "the
old Indian was just nuts." I felt compelled to pay  him another visit before
I made up my mind.

     Wednesday, December 28, 1960

     Immediately  after I  arrived at his house he took me for a walk in the
desert  chaparral.  He did not even look at the bag  of groceries that I had
brought him. He seemed to have been waiting for me.
     We walked for hours.  He did not collect or show me any plants. He did,
however, teach  me an "appropriate form of walking."  He said that I  had to
curl my fingers gently as I walked so I would keep my attention on the trail
and  the  surroundings.  He  claimed  that  my  ordinary way of walking  was
debilitating and that one should ever carry anything in the hands. If things
had to be  carried one should use a knapsack  or any sort of carrying net or
shoulder  bag.  His  idea  was  that  by forcing  the  hands into a specific
position one was capable of greater stamina and greater awareness.
     I saw no  point in arguing and  curled my  fingers as he had prescribed
and kept  on  walking.  My  awareness was in  no way  different,  nor was my
     We started our hike  in the morning and we stopped to rest around noon.
I was perspiring and tried  to drink  from my canteen, but he  stopped me by
saying  that it was better to  have only a  sip of water. He cut some leaves
from a small yellowish bush and  chewed them.  He gave me some  and remarked
that  they were  excellent,  and  if I  chewed them slowly  my thirst  would
vanish. It did not, but I was not uncomfortable either.
     He seemed to have  read my thoughts and explained that  I  had not felt
the  benefits of the  "right way of  walking or the benefits of chewing  the
leaves because I was young and  strong and my  body did not  notice anything
because it was a bit stupid.
     He laughed. I was not in  a laughing  mood and that seemed to amuse him
even more. He corrected his previous statement, saying that  my body was not
really stupid but somehow dormant.
     At that moment an enormous crow flew right over us cawing That startled
me and I began  to laugh.  I thought that the  occasion called for laughter,
but to  my utter amazement he shook my arm vigorously  and hushed me up.  He
had a most serious expression.
     "That was  not a joke,  "  he said severely, as if I knew  what  he was
talking about.
     I  asked for an explanation. I told him that it was incongruous that my
laughing at the crow had made him angry  when we had laughed at  the  coffee
     "What you saw was not just a crow!" he exclaimed.
     "But I saw it and it was a crow, " I insisted.
     "You saw nothing, you fool, " he said in a gruff voice.
     His rudeness was uncalled for. I told him that  I did not  like to make
people angry and that perhaps it would be better if I left, since he did not
seem to be in a mood to have company. He laughed uproariously, as if I  were
a  clown  performing  for  him.  My  annoyance  and  embarrassment  grew  in
proportion. "You're very violent, "  he  commented  casually. "You're taking
yourself too seriously."
     "But  weren't  you  doing the same?"  I  interjected. "Taking  yourself
seriously when you got angry at me?"
     He said that to get angry  at me was the farthest  thing from his mind.
He looked at me piercingly.
     "What you saw was not an agreement  from  the world, " he  said. "Crows
flying or cawing are never an agreement. That was an omen!"
     "An omen of what?"
     "A very important indication about you, " he replied cryptically.
     At that very instant  the wind blew the  dry branch  of a bush right to
our feet.
     "That  was an agreement!" he exclaimed and looked at me with shiny eyes
and broke into a belly laugh.
     I had the feeling that he  was teasing me by making up the rules of his
strange game  as we went along, thus it was all right  for him to laugh, but
not for me. My annoyance mushroomed  again and I  told him what I thought of
     He was not cross or offended at all. He laughed and his laughter caused
me even more anguish  and frustration.  I thought  that he was  deliberately
humiliating me. I decided right then that I had had my fill of "field work."
     I stood up  and said that I wanted  to start  walking back to his house
because I had to leave for Los Angeles.
     "Sit down!" he said imperatively. "You get peeved like an old lady. You
cannot leave now, because we're not through yet."
     I hated him. I thought he was a contemptuous man.
     He  began  to  sing  an idiotic  Mexican  folk song.  He  was obviously
imitating some popular singer. He elongated certain syllables and contracted
others and made the song into a most farcical affair. It was so comical that
I ended up laughing.
     "You see, you laugh at  the  stupid song, " he said. "But  the man  who
sings it that way and those who pay to listen to him are  not laughing; they
think it is serious."
     "What do you mean?" I asked.
     I thought he had deliberately concocted the  example  to tell me that I
had laughed at the crow because I had not taken it seriously, the same way I
had not  taken the song  seriously. But he baffled me again. He said  I  was
like the singer and the  people  who  liked his songs,  conceited and deadly
serious about some nonsense that no one in his right mind should give a damn
     He  then  recapitulated, as if to refresh my  memory, all  he  had said
before  on the  topic  of "learning about  plants." He stressed emphatically
that if I really wanted to learn, I had to remodel most of my behavior.
     My sense  of  annoyance  grew, until I  had to make a supreme effort to
even take notes.
     "You take yourself too seriously,  "  he said slowly. "You are too damn
important in  your  own  mind.  That  must  be changed! You are  so  goddamn
important that you feel justified to be annoyed  with everything. You're  so
dam important that  you  can afford to  leave if things don't go your way. I
suppose you  think that  shows you  have character.  That's nonsense! You're
weak, and conceited!"
     I tried to stage a protest but he did not budge. He pointed out that in
the course of my life I had not ever finished anything because of that sense
of disproportionate importance that I attached to myself.
     I was flabbergasted at the certainty with which he made his statements.
They  were  true, of course, and that made me  feel not only  angry but also
     "Self-importance is  another  thing that  must  be  dropped, just  like
personal history, " he said in a dramatic tone.
     I  certainly did not want to argue  with him. It was obvious that I was
at a terrible disadvantage; he was not going to walk-back to his house until
he was ready and I did not know the way. I had to stay with him.
     He  made a strange  and  sudden  movement, he sort  of sniffed the  air
around him, his head shook slightly and rhythmically.
     He seemed to be  in a state  of unusual alertness. He turned and stared
at me with a look of  bewilderment and curiosity. His eyes swept up and down
my  body  as if  he were looking for  something  specific; then he  stood up
abruptly and began  to  walk fast. He was almost running. I followed him. He
kept a very accelerated pace for nearly an hour.
     Finally he stopped by a rocky hill and we  sat in the shade of  a hush.
The trotting had exhausted me completely although my mood was better. It was
strange the way I had changed.
     I  felt  almost  elated, but when  we  had  started to trot,  after our
argument, I was furious with him.
     "This is very weird, " I said, "but I feel really good."
     I heard  the cawing of a  crow in the distance. He lifted his finger to
his right ear and smiled.
     "That was an omen, " he said.
     A small rock tumbled downhill and made a crashing sound when  it landed
in the chaparral.
     He laughed  out  loud and  pointed  his finger in the direction  of the
     "And that was an agreement, " he said.
     He then asked me if  I was  ready to talk  about my self importance.  I
laughed; my feeling  of anger seemed  so  far away  that I  could  not  even
conceive how I had become so cross with him.
     "I  can't understand what's happening to me, " I said. "I got angry and
now I don't know why I am not angry any more."
     "The world around us is very  mysterious, "  he said. "It doesn't yield
its secrets easily."
     I liked his cryptic statements. They were challenging and mysterious. I
could not determine whether they were filled with hidden meanings or whether
they were just plain nonsense.
     "If you ever come back to the desert here, " he said,  "stay  away from
that rocky hill where we stopped today. Avoid it like the plague."
     "Why? What's the matter?"
     "This is not  the time to explain  it, " he said. "Now we are concerned
with  losing self importance. As  long as  you  feel that you  are the  most
important thing in the  world you cannot really appreciate  the world around
you. You are like a horse with blinders, all  you see is yourself apart from
everything else."
     He examined me for a moment.
     "I am going to talk to my little friend here, "  he said, pointing to a
small plant. He kneeled in front of it and began to caress it and to talk to
it. I did not understand what he was saying at first, but then  he  switched
languages and talked  to  the  plant in Spanish. He babbled inanities  for a
while. Then he stood up.
     "It doesn't matter what you say to a plant, " he said. "You can just as
well  make up words; what's  important  is  the  feeling  of liking  it, and
treating  it as  an equal." He explained that a man who  gathers plants must
apologize  every time for taking them and must assure them that  someday his
own body  will serve  as food  for  them.  "So,  all in all, the  plants and
ourselves  are even,  " he  said. "Neither  we  nor  they  are more  or less
     "Come on,  talk to the little plant, "  he urged me. "Tell it  that you
don't feel important any more."
     I went as  far as  kneeling in front of the plant but I could not bring
myself to  speak to it.  I  felt ridiculous  and  laughed. I was  not angry,
however. Don Juan patted me on the back and said that it was all right, that
at least I had contained my temper.
     "From now on talk to the little plants," he said. "Talk until you  lose
all sense  of importance.  Talk to  them until  you  can do it  in  front of
     "Go to those hills over  there and practice by yourself." I asked if it
was all right  to talk to the plants  silently, in  my mind.  He laughed and
tapped my head.
     "No!"  he said. "You must talk to them in a loud and clear voice if you
want them to answer you."
     I walked  to  the  area  in  question,  laughing  to  myself about  his
eccentricities. I even tried to  talk to the plants, but my feeling of being
ludicrous was overpowering.
     After what I thought was  an appropriate wait I  went back to where don
Juan was. I had the  certainty that he knew I had not talked to  the plants.
He  did not look  at  me.  He signaled  me  to sit down  by him.  "Watch  me
carefully, " he said. "I'm going to have a talk with my little friend."
     He kneeled down in  front  of a small plant  and  for  a few minutes he
moved and contorted his body, talking and  laughing. I thought he was out of
his mind.
     "This little plant told me to  tell  you that she is good to eat,  " he
said as he got up from  his kneeling  position. "She said  that a handful of
them would keep  a man healthy. She also said that there  is a batch of them
growing  over there." Don Juan pointed  to an area on a hillside perhaps two
hundred yards away.
     "Let's go and find out, " he said.
     I laughed  at  his  histrionics. I  was sure we  would find the plants,
because  he was an  expert in the terrain  and  knew  where  the  edible and
medicinal plants were. As we walked towards the area  in question he told me
casually that  I should take notice of  the plant because it was both a food
and a  medicine. I asked him, half in  jest, if the plant  had just told him
that. He stopped walking and examined me  with an air of disbelief. He shook
his head from side to side.
     "Ah!"  he  exclaimed, laughing.  "Your cleverness makes you  more silly
than I thought. How can the little  plant tell me now what I've known all my
     He  proceeded  then to  explain that  he  knew all along the  different
properties of that specific plant, and that the plant had just told him that
there was a  batch  of them growing  in the area he had pointed to, and that
she did not mind if he told me that.
     Upon arriving at  the  hillside I  found a  whole  cluster of  the same
plants. I wanted to laugh but he did not give me time. He wanted me to thank
the  batch of plants. I felt  excruciatingly self  conscious  and could  not
bring  myself to  do  it. He  smiled benevolently  and  made  another of his
cryptic statements. He repeated it three or four times as if to give me time
to figure out its meaning.
     "The world around us is a mystery, " he  said. "And  men are  no better
than anything else. If a little plant is generous with us we must thank her,
or perhaps she will not let  us go." The way he  looked  at  me when he said
that gave me a chill.
     I hurriedly  leaned over the plants and said, "Thank you,  " in  a loud
     He began to laugh in controlled and quiet spurts. We walked for another
hour  and then started on our way back to his house.  At a  certain  time  I
dropped behind and he had to  wait for me. He checked my fingers to see if I
had curled  them.  I had not. He told me imperatively that whenever I walked
with him I had to observe and copy his mannerisms or not come along at all.
     "I can't  be waiting for you as though  you're  a child, " he said in a
scolding tone. That statement  sunk me into the depths of  embarrassment and
bewilderment.  How could it be  possible that such  an old man could walk so
much better than I? I thought  I was  athletic and strong,  and  yet he  had
actually had to wait for me to catch up with him.
     I  curled my  fingers  and  strangely enough  I was  able  to keep  his
tremendous  pace without any effort. In  fact, at times I felt that my hands
were  pulling me forward. I felt elated. I  was quite happy walking  inanely
with the strange old Indian. I began to  talk  and  asked  repeatedly  if he
would show me some peyote plants. He looked at me but did not say a word.


     Wednesday, January 25, 1961

     "Would  you teach me someday about peyote?" I asked. He did not  answer
and, as he had done before, simply looked at me as if I were crazy.
     I had mentioned the topic to him, in casual conversation, various times
already,  and  every time  he  frowned  and  shook his  head. It was  not an
affirmative or a negative gesture; it was rather a  gesture of  despair  and
     He stood up abruptly. We had been sitting on the ground in front of his
house.  An almost  imperceptible  shake of  his head  was  the invitation to
follow him. We went into the desert chaparral in a southerly direction.
     He mentioned  repeatedly as we  walked that I had  to  be aware  of the
uselessness of my self importance and of my personal history.
     "Your friends, " he said, turning to me abruptly. "Those who have known
you  for a long  time, you must leave them quickly." I thought he  was crazy
and his insistence was idiotic, but I did not say  anything. He peered at me
and began to laugh.
     After a long hike we came to a  halt. I was about to sit  down and rest
but he told me to go some twenty yards away and talk 10 a batch of plants in
a  loud  and  clear voice. I felt ill  at ease  and apprehensive. His  weird
demands were more  than  I could bear and I  told him once more that I could
not speak to plants, because I felt ridiculous. His only comment was that my
feeling of self  importance was immense. He  seemed to  have  made a  sudden
decision and said that I should not  try to talk to plants until I felt easy
and natural about it.
     "You want to learn about  them and yet you don't want to do any work, "
he said accusingly. "What are you trying to do?
     My explanation was  that I wanted bona fide information  about the uses
of plants,  thus I had asked  him to be my informant. I had  even offered to
pay him for his time and trouble.
     "You should  take the  money,  " I said.  "This  way we both wouId feel
better. I could then ask you anything I want to because you would be working
for me and I would pay you for it. What do you think of that?"
     He  looked  at me  contemptuously and  made  an obscene sound with  his
mouth, making his lower  lip and his tongue vibrate  by  exhaling with great
     "That's  what I think  of it, " he said and laughed hysterically at the
look of utmost surprise that I must have had on my face.
     It was obvious to me that he was not a man I could easily contend with.
In spite of his age, he was ebullient and unbelievably strong. I had had the
idea that,  being so old, he could have been the perfect "informant" for me.
Old people, I had been led to believe, made the best informants because they
were  too feeble  to  do anything else except  talk. Don  Juan, on the other
hand, was a miserable subject. I felt he was unmanageable and dangerous. The
friend who had introduced us was right.  He was an eccentric old Indian; and
although he was not plastered out of his mind most of the time, as my friend
had told me, he was worse yet, he was crazy. I again felt the terrible doubt
and apprehension I had experienced before. I thought I had overcome that. In
fact,  I had had no trouble  at all convincing myself that I wanted to visit
him again. The  idea had crept into my  mind, however, that perhaps I  was a
bit crazy myself when I realized that I  liked to be with him. His idea that
my feeling of self importance was an obstacle  had really made an impact  on
me. But  all that was apparently only an intellectual exercise on  my  part;
the moment I  was  confronted with his  odd behavior,  I began to experience
apprehension and I wanted to leave.
     I  said  that  I  believed we were  so  different  that  there  was  no
possibility of our getting along.
     "One of us has to change, " he said, staring at  the  ground. "And  you
know who."
     He began humming a Mexican folk song and then lifted his  head abruptly
and looked at me. His eyes were fierce and burning. I wanted to look away or
close  my eyes,  but to  my utter amazement I could not break away  from his
     He asked me to tell him what I had seen in his eyes. I said that I  saw
nothing, but he insisted that I had to voice what his eyes had  made me feel
aware of.  I struggled to  make him understand that  the only thing his eyes
made me aware of was my embarrassment, and that the way he was looking at me
was very discomforting.
     He did  not let  go. He  kept a steady  stare.  It was not  an outright
menacing or mean look; it was rather a mysterious but unpleasant gaze.
     He asked me if he reminded me of a bird.
     "A bird?" I exclaimed.
     He giggled like a child and moved his eyes away from me.
     "Yes, " he said softly. "A bird, a very funny bird!"
     He  locked his gaze  on me  again and commanded me to remember. He said
with an extraordinary conviction that he "knew" I had seen that look before.
     My feelings of the moment were that the old man provoked me, against my
honest desire, every time he opened his mouth.
     I stared back  at him in  obvious defiance. Instead of getting angry he
began to laugh. He slapped his thigh and yelled as  if he were riding a wild
horse.  Then he became serious and told me that it was  of utmost importance
that I stop  fighting him and remember that funny bird he was talking about.
"Look into my eyes, " he said.
     His eyes were extraordinarily fierce. There  was a  feeling  about them
that actually  reminded me of  something but I was  not sure what it  was. I
pondered upon  it for a moment and then I  had a sudden realization; it  was
not  the  shape  of his eyes  nor the  shape of  his  head,  but  some  cold
fierceness  in  his  gaze that had reminded  me of the look in the eyes of a
falcon. At the very moment  of that realization he was looking at me and for
an  instant  my  mind  experienced  a total chaos.  I thought  I had seen  a
falcon's features instead of don Juan's.
     The  image  was  too  fleeting  and I was too  upset  to have paid more
attention to it.
     In a very excited tone  I told him  that  I could have sworn I had seen
the features of a falcon on his face. He had another attack of laughter.
     I have seen the look in the eyes of falcons. I used to hunt them when I
was a boy, and in the opinion of my grandfather I was good. He had a Leghorn
chicken farm and falcons were  a menace  to his  business. Shooting them was
not only functional but also "right." I had forgotten until that moment that
the fierceness of their eyes had haunted me for years,  but it was so far in
my past that I thought I had lost the memory of it.
     "I used to hunt falcons, " I said.
     "I know it, " don Juan replied matter-of-factly.
     His  tone carried such a certainty that I began to laugh. I  thought he
was a preposterous fellow. He  had the  gall to  sound  as  if he knew I had
hunted falcons. I felt supremely contemptuous of him.
     "Why do you get so angry?" he asked in a tone of genuine concern.
     I did not  know why. He  began to probe me in a very unusual manner. He
asked me to  look at him again and tell him about  the  "very funny bird" he
reminded me of. I  struggled against him and out of contempt said that there
was nothing to talk  about. Then I felt compelled to ask him why he had said
he knew I  used to hunt falcons. Instead  of answering me he again commented
on my behavior. He said I was a violent fellow that was capable of "frothing
at  the mouth" at the drop of a hat. I protested that that  was  not true; I
had always had the idea I was rather congenial and easy going. I said it was
his fault for  forcing me  out of  control  with  his  unexpected words  and
     "Why the anger?" he asked.
     I took stock of my feelings and reactions. I really had  no need to  be
angry with him. He again insisted that I should look into his  eyes and tell
him  about  the "strange  falcon." He had changed his  wording;  he had said
before, "a  very funny bird, " then he substituted it with "strange falcon."
The  change in  wording summed up a  change  in  my own mood. I had suddenly
become sad.
     He  squinted  his  eyes until they  were  two slits and said in an over
dramatic voice that he was "seeing" a very strange falcon.
     He  repeated his statement three times as if he were actually seeing it
there in front of him.
     "Don't you remember it?" he asked.
     I did not remember anything of the sort.
     "What's strange about the falcon?" I asked.
     "You must tell me that, " he replied.
     I  insisted  that I had  no  way of  knowing what he  was referring to,
therefore I could not tell him anything.
     "Don't fight me!" he said. "Fight your sluggishness and remember."
     I  seriously struggled for a moment to figure him out. It did not occur
to me that I could just as well have tried to remember.
     "There was a time  when you saw a  lot of  birds, "  he said as  though
cueing me. I told him that when I was a child I had lived on  a farm and had
hunted hundreds of birds.
     He said  that  if  that was the  case I should  not have any difficulty
remembering all the funny birds I had hunted.
     He looked at me with a question in his eyes, as if he had just given me
the last clue. "I have hunted so many birds, " I said, "that I  can't recall
anything about them."
     "This  bird is special, " he replied almost in a whisper. "This bird is
a falcon."
     I became involved  again in figuring out what he was driving at. Was he
teasing  me? Was  he  serious?  After a long  interval he urged me again  to
remember. I felt that it was useless for me to try to end his play; the only
other thing I could do was to join him.
     "Are you talking about a falcon that I have hunted?" I asked.
     "Yes, " he whispered with his eyes closed.
     "So this happened when I was a boy?"
     "Yes." .
     "But you said you're seeing a falcon in front of you now."
     "I am."
     "What are you trying to do to me?"
     "I'm trying to make you remember."
     "What? For heaven's sakes!"
     "A falcon swift as light, " he said, looking at me in the eyes.
     I felt my heart had stopped.
     "Now look at me, " he said.
     But I  did not.  I heard  his voice  as  a faint sound. Some stupendous
recollection had taken me wholly. The white falcon!
     It all  began with my  grandfather's  explosion of anger upon taking  a
count of his young Leghorn chickens. They had been disappearing in a  steady
and  disconcerting  manner.  He  personally  organized  and  carried  out  a
meticulous  vigil, and after days of  steady watching  we finally  saw a big
white  bird flying away with a young Leghorn  chicken in its claws. The bird
was fast and apparently  knew its route.  It  swooped  down from behind some
trees, grabbed the chicken  and  flew  away  through an opening between  two
branches. It happened so fast that my grandfather had hardly seen  it, but I
did and I knew that it was indeed a falcon. My grandfather said that if that
was the case it had to be an albino.
     We  started a campaign against  the albino falcon and twice I thought I
had gotten it. It even  dropped its prey, but it got  away.  It was too fast
for me. It was  also very intelligent; it  never  came  back to  hunt  on my
grandfather's farm.
     I  would have forgotten  about  it had my grandfather not needled me to
hunt the bird. For two months I chased the albino falcon all over the valley
where  I lived. I learned its habits and I  could almost intuit its route of
flight, yet its  speed  and the suddenness of  its  appearance  would always
baffle me.
     I could boast  that I had  prevented  it from taking  its prey, perhaps
every time we had met, but I could never bag it.
     In the two months that I  carried on the strange war against the albino
falcon I came close to it only once. I had been chasing it all day and I was
tired. I had sat down to rest and fell  asleep under a tall eucalyptus tree.
The sudden cry of a falcon woke me  up. I opened my eyes without  making any
other movement and I saw  a whitish  bird perched in the highest branches of
the eucalyptus tree. It was the  albino falcon. The  chase was  over. It was
going to  be a difficult shot; I was  lying  on my back and the bird had its
back turned to me. There was a sudden gust of wind and I used  it  to muffle
the noise  of lifting my .22 long rifle to take aim. I  wanted to wait until
the bird had turned or until it had begun to fly so I would not miss it.
     But the albino bird remained motionless. In order to take a better shot
I would have needed to move and the falcon was too fast  for that. I thought
that my best alternative was  to wait. And I did, a long, interminable time.
Perhaps what affected me was the long wait, or perhaps it was the loneliness
of the spot where  the bird and I were; I  suddenly felt a chill up my spine
and in an  unprecedented action I stood up and left. I  did not even look to
see if the bird had flown away.
     I never  attached any  significance to my  final  act  with  the albino
falcon. However, it was terribly strange that I did not shoot it. I had shot
dozens  of falcons before.  On the farm  where I grew up, shooting  birds or
hunting  any kind  of animal  was  a  matter  of  course. Don  Juan listened
attentively as I told him the story of the albino falcon.
     "How did you know about the white falcon?" I asked when I had finished.
     "I saw it, " he replied.
     "Right here in front of you."
     I was not in an argumentative mood any more.
     "What does all this mean?" I asked.
     He  said that a white bird like that was an omen, and that not shooting
it down was the only right thing to do.
     "Your  death gave  you a  little warning, " he said  with  a mysterious
tone. "It always comes as a chill."
     "What are you talking about?" I said nervously.
     He really made me nervous with his spooky talk.
     "You know a lot about  birds, " he  said.  "You've  killed too many  of
them. You  know how to wait.  You  have waited patiently for  hours. I  know
that. I am seeing it."
     His words caused a great  turmoil in me. I thought that what annoyed me
the  most  about him  was  his certainty.  I  could not stand  his  dogmatic
assuredness about issues in my own life that  I  was  not sure  of myself. I
became engulfed in my feelings  of dejection  and I did  not see him leaning
over  me until  he  actually  had  whispered  something in  my  ear.  I  did
not-understand  at first  and  he  repeated  it. He told  me to turn  around
casually and look at a  boulder to my left. He said that my  death was there
staring  at me and  if I turned when he signaled me I might  be  capable  of
seeing it.
     He signaled me with his eyes. I turned and I thought I saw a flickering
movement  over the boulder. A chill ran  through my body,  the muscles of my
abdomen contracted involuntarily  and I experienced a jolt, a spasm. After a
moment I regained my composure and I explained away the sensation of  seeing
the  flickering  shadow as an optical illusion caused by turning my head  so
     "Death is our  eternal companion, " don  Juan said  with a most serious
air. "It is always to our left, at an arm's length. It was watching you when
you were  watching the white falcon; it whispered in  your ear and  you felt
its chill,  as you felt it today. It has always been watching you. It always
will until the day it taps you."
     He extended his arm and  touched me lightly on the shoulder and  at the
same time he  made a deep clicking  sound  with  his tongue. The effect  was
devastating; I almost got sick to my stomach.
     "You're the boy who stalked  game and waited patiently, as death waits;
you know very well that death is to our left,  the same way you were to  the
left of the white falcon."
     His  words had  the  strange  power  to plunge  me into an  unwarranted
terror; my only defense was my compulsion to commit to writing everything he
     "How can anyone feel so important when  we know that death  is stalking
us?" he asked.
     I had the feeling my answer  was not  really  needed. I  could not have
said anything anyway. A new mood had possessed me.
     "The thing to do  when you're impatient, " he proceeded, "is to turn to
your left and ask  advice from your death. An immense amount of pettiness is
dropped if  your death makes  a gesture to you, or if you catch a glimpse of
it, or  if you just have the feeling  that your companion  is there watching
     He leaned over  again  and whispered in my  ear that if I  turned to my
left  suddenly, upon seeing his signal, I could again see  my death  on  the
boulder. His eyes gave me an almost imperceptible signal, but I did not dare
to look.
     I  told him  that I believed him and that he did not have  to press the
issue any further, because I was terrified. He had one of his roaring  belly
laughs. He replied that the issue of our death was never pressed far enough.
And  I argued  that it would  be meaningless for me  to dwell upon my death,
since such a thought would only bring discomfort and fear.
     "You're full of crap!"  he exclaimed.  "Death is the  only wise advisor
that we  have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going
wrong and you're about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that
is  so. Your  death  will  tell you  that you're wrong; that nothing  really
matters outside its touch. Your death will tell  you, 'I haven't touched you
yet.' "
     He shook his head and seemed to be waiting for my reply. I had none. My
thoughts  were running rampant.  He had  delivered a  staggering  blow to my
egotism. The pettiness of being annoyed with him was monstrous in the  fight
of my death.
     I had the feeling he was  fully aware  of  my  change of  mood. He  had
turned the tide in his  favor. He smiled  and  began to hum a Mexican  tune.
"Yes,  " he said softly after a long  pause. "One of us here  has to change,
and fast.  One of  us  here has to learn again that death is the hunter, and
that it is  always  to one's left. One of us here has to ask  death's advice
and drop the cursed  pettiness that  belongs to men that live their lives as
if death will never tap them."
     We remained quiet for more than an hour, then we started walking again.
We meandered in the desert chaparral for hours. I did not ask  him  if there
was any purpose to it; it did  not matter. Somehow he had made  me recapture
an  old  feeling, something  I  had quite  forgotten,  the sheer joy of just
moving around without attaching any intellectual purpose to it. I wanted him
to let me catch a glimpse of whatever I had seen on the boulder.
     "Let me see that shadow again, " I said.
     "You mean  your death, don't you?" he replied with a touch of irony  in
his voice. For a moment I felt reluctant to voice it.
     "Yes, " I finally said. "Let me see my death once again."
     "Not now, " he said. "You're too solid."
     "I beg your pardon?"
     He  began  to  laugh and  for  some unknown reason his  laughter was no
longer offensive and insidious, as it had been in the past. I did  not think
that it was different, from the point of view of its pitch, or its loudness,
or the  spirit of it; the  new element was my  mood. In view of my impending
death my fears and annoyance were nonsense.
     "Let me talk to plants then, " I said.
     He roared  with  laughter. "You're  too  good now,  "  he  said,  still
laughing. "You  go from one extreme to the other. Be still. There is no need
to talk to plants unless  you want to know  their secrets, and for that  you
need the  most unbending intent. So save your good  wishes. There is no need
to see your death either. It is sufficient that you feel its presence around


     Tuesday, April, 1961

     I arrived at don Juan's house in the early morning on Sunday, April 9.
     "Good morning, don Juan;" I said. "Am I glad to see you!"
     He looked at me and broke into a soft laughter. He had walked to my car
as I was parking it and held the door open while I gathered some packages of
food that I had brought for him.
     We walked to the house  and sat  down by  the  door. This was the first
time I had been really aware of what I was doing there. For  three  months I
had actually  looked  forward  to going back to the "field." It  was as if a
time bomb  set  within  myself  had exploded  and  suddenly I had remembered
something transcendental to me. I  had remembered that once in my life I had
been very patient and very efficient.
     Before don Juan could  say anything I asked him  the  question that had
been pressing hard in my mind. For three months I had been obsessed with the
memory of the albino falcon.  How  did he know  about  it when I myself  had
forgotten? He laughed but did not answer. I pleaded with him to tell me.
     "It was  nothing,  " he  said with his  usual conviction. "Anyone could
tell that you're strange. You're just numb, that's all."
     I felt  that he was again getting me  off guard and pushing me  into  a
corner in which I did not care to be.
     "Is it possible to see our death?" I asked, trying to remain within the
     "Sure, " he said, laughing. "It is here with us."
     "How do you know that?"
     "I'm an old man; with age one learns all kinds of things."
     "I know lots of old  people, but they have never learned this. How come
you did?"
     "Well, let's say that I know all kinds of things because I don't have a
personal  history, and  because  I don't feel more  important than  anything
else, and because my death is sitting with me right here."
     He extended his left arm and moved his fingers as if he  were  actually
petting something.
     I  laughed. I knew where he was leading me. The old  devil was going to
clobber me again, probably with my  self importance, but I did not mind this
time. The memory that once I had had a  superb patience had filled me with a
strange,  implicit  euphoria  that  had  dispelled  most of  my  feelings of
nervousness and  intolerance towards don  Juan;  what I felt instead  was  a
sensation of wonder about his acts.
     "Who are you, really?" I asked.
     He seemed surprised. He opened his eyes to an enormous size and blinked
like a bird, closing  his eyelids as  if they were a shutter. They came down
and went  up again and his eyes remained in  focus. His maneuver startled me
and I recoiled, and l laughed with childlike abandon.
     "For  you, I am  Juan Matus, and I am  at your  service, " he said with
exaggerated politeness.
     I  then asked  my other burning question: "What did  you  do  to me the
first day we met?"
     I was referring to the look he had given me.
     "Me? Nothing, " he replied with a tone of innocence.
     I described to him the way I had felt  when he had looked at me and how
incongruous  it had  been for me to be  tongue tied by it.  He laughed until
tears rolled down his cheeks. I again felt a surge of animosity towards him.
I thought that  I was being so  serious and thoughtful  and  he was being so
"Indian" in his coarse ways.
     He apparently detected my mood and stopped  laughing  all of a  sudden.
After a long hesitation I told him that his laughter had  annoyed me because
I was seriously trying to understand what had happened to me.
     "There is nothing  to understand, " he replied, undisturbed. I reviewed
for him the sequence of unusual events that  had taken place since I had met
him,  starting with the mysterious look he had given  me, to remembering the
albino falcon and seeing on the boulder the shadow he had said was my death.
     "Why are you doing all this to me?" I asked.
     There was no belligerence in  my question. I was only curious as to why
it was me in particular.
     "You asked me  to tell  you what  I know  about plants, "  he  said.  I
noticed a tinge  of sarcasm in his voice. He sounded  as if he were humoring
     "But what you have  told me  so far has nothing to do with plants, "  I
     His  reply was  that it took time to  learn about them. My feeling  was
that it was useless to argue  with him. I realized then the total  idiocy of
the  easy and absurd resolutions  I  had  made.  While I  was at  home I had
promised  myself  that I was never going  to lose my temper  or feel annoyed
with don Juan. In the actual situation, however, the minute he rebuffed me I
had  another  attack  of peevishness. I  felt  there was no  way for  me  to
interact with him and that angered me.
     "Think of  your death now, "  don Juan said suddenly. "It is  at  arm's
length. It may tap you  any moment,  so really you  have no time  for crappy
thoughts and moods. None of us have time for that.
     "Do you want to know what I did to you the first day we met? I saw you,
and  I saw  that you thought  you  were lying to  me.  But  you weren't, not
     I told him that his explanation confused me even more.  He replied that
that  was  the  reason  he did  not  want  to explain  his  acts,  and  that
explanations were not  necessary. He said that  the only  thing that counted
was action, acting instead of talking.
     He pulled out a straw  mat  and  lay down,  propping his head up with a
bundle.  He  made  himself comfortable  and then he told me  that there  was
another thing I had to perform if I
     really wanted to learn about plants.
     "What was wrong  with you  when I saw you, and  what is wrong  with you
now, is that you  don't  like to take  responsibility for what you do,  " he
said slowly, as if to give me time
     to understand  what he was saying. "When you were  telling me all those
things in the bus depot  you were aware  that  they were lies.  Why were you
     I explained that my objective had been to find a "key informant" for my
     Don Juan smiled  and began humming a Mexican  tune. "When a man decides
to do something he must go all  the  way,  "  he  said, "but  he  must  take
responsibility for what he
     does. No  matter what  he does, he must know  first why he is doing it,
and then he must proceed with his  actions without having doubts  or remorse
about them."
     He  examined me.  I  did not know what to  say.  Finally  I ventured an
opinion, almost as a protest. "That's an impossibility!" I said.
     He  asked  me  why,  and  I said  that  perhaps ideally  that  was what
everybody thought they should do.  In practice, however, there was no way to
avoid doubts and remorse.
     "Of course there is a way, " he replied with conviction.
     "Look at me, " he said.  "I have no doubts or remorse. Everything  I do
is my decision  and my responsibility. The  simplest thing I do, to take you
for  a walk in the desert, for instance, may very well  mean my death. Death
is stalking me.  Therefore, I have no room for doubts or  remorse. If I have
to die as a result of taking you for a walk, then I must die.
     "You, on the other hand, feel that you  are immortal, and the decisions
of an immortal man can be canceled or regretted or doubted. In a world where
death is the  hunter,  my friend, there  is  no time  for regrets or doubts.
There is only time for decisions."
     I argued, in sincerity, that in  my  opinion  that was an unreal world,
because it was  arbitrarily made by taking an idealized form of behavior and
saying that that was the way to proceed.
     I told him the story of my father, who used to give me endless lectures
about the wonders  of a healthy mind in  a  healthy  body, and how young men
should  temper  their  bodies  with  hardships  and  with feats of  athletic
competition.  He was  a young  man; when I was  eight years old  he was only
twenty seven. During the summertime, as a rule, he would come from the city,
where  he  taught  school,  to  spend  at  least  a  month  with  me  at  my
grandparents' farm, where I lived. It was a hellish month for me. I told don
Juan one instance  of my father's behavior that I thought would apply to the
situation at  hand. Almost  immediately  upon arriving at the farm my father
would insist on  taking  a long walk  with me  at his side, so we could talk
things  over, and while we were  talking he would  make  plans for us to  go
swimming,  every  day at  six  a.m. At  night he  would set  the  alarm  for
five-thirty to have plenty of time, because at six sharp we had to be in the
water. And when the  alarm would go off in the morning, he would jump out of
bed, put on his glasses, go to the window and look out. I had even memorized
the ensuing monologue.
     "Uhm ...  A  bit cloudy today. Listen, I'm going  to lie down again for
just five minutes. O.K.? No more than five!  I'm just going  to  stretch  my
muscles and fully wake up."
     He would invariably fall asleep again until ten, sometimes until noon.
     I told don Juan  that  what  annoyed me  was his refusal to give up his
obviously phony resolutions. He would repeat this ritual every morning until
I would finally hurt his feelings by refusing to set the alarm clock.
     "They were  not  phony resolutions,  " don  Juan said, obviously taking
sides with  my father. "He just  didn't know how  to get out of  bed, that's
     "At any rate, " I said, "I'm always leery of unreal resolutions."
     "What would be a resolution  that is real then?" don Juan asked  with a
coy smile.
     "If my  father would have said to himself that he could not go swimming
at six in the morning but perhaps at three in the afternoon."
     "Your resolutions  injure  the  spirit," don Juan said  with an  air of
great seriousness.
     I thought I even detected a note of sadness in  his tone. We were quiet
for a long time. My peevishness had vanished. I thought of my father.
     "He didn't want to swim at three in the afternoon.  Don't you see?" don
Juan said. His words made me jump.
     I told him that my father was weak, and so was his world of unreal acts
that he never performed. I was almost shouting.
     Don Juan did not say  a word. He shook his  head slowly in a rhythmical
way.  I felt terribly sad.  Thinking of my father always gave me a consuming
     "You think you were stronger, don't you?" he asked in a casual tone.
     I said I did, and I began to tell him all the emotional turmoil that my
father had put me through, but he interrupted me.
     "Was he mean to you?" he asked.
     "Was he petty with you?"
     "Did he do all he could for you?"
     "Then what was wrong with him?"
     Again  I began  to  shout that  he  was weak, but I  caught myself  and
lowered my voice. I felt a bit ludicrous being cross examined by don Juan.
     "What are you doing all this  for?" I said.  "We  were  supposed  to be
talking about plants."
     I felt more annoyed and despondent than ever. I told him that he had no
business or the remotest qualifications to pass judgment on my behavior, and
he exploded into a belly laugh.
     "When you get angry you always feel righteous,  don't you?" he said and
blinked like a bird.
     He was right. I  had the  tendency to  feel  justified at  being angry.
"Let's  not  talk about my father, "  I said, feigning a happy mood.  "Let's
talk about plants."
     "No, let's talk about your father, " he insisted. "That is the place to
begin today. If you think that you were so much stronger than he, why didn't
you go swimming at six in the morning in his place?"
     I told him that I could not believe he  was seriously asking me that. I
had  always thought that swimming at  six  in the  morning  was my  father's
business and not mine.
     "It was also your business from the moment you accepted his idea, " don
Juan snapped at me.
     I said that I had never accepted it, that I  had always known my father
was not  truthful to himself. Don  Juan asked me matter-of-factly why  I had
not voiced my opinions at the time.
     "You don't tell  your  father  things  like  that,  " I said as a  weak
     "Why not?"
     "That was not done in my house, that's all."
     "You  have done worse things in your house, " he  declared like a judge
from the bench. "The only thing you never did was to shine your spirit."
     There  was such a devastating force in his words that they echoed in my
mind. He brought all my defenses down. I could not argue  with him.  I  took
refuge in writing my notes. I tried a last  feeble explanation and said that
all my  life I had encountered people of my  father's kind, who had, like my
father,  hooked  me somehow into their schemes,  and as a rule  I had always
been left dangling.
     "You are complaining, " he said softly. "You have been complaining  all
your life because you don't assume responsibility for your decisions. If you
would have assumed  responsibility for your father's idea of swimming at six
in the morning, you would have swum, by yourself  if necessary, or you would
have told him to  go to  hell  the first time he opened  his mouth after you
knew his devices.  But you didn't say anything. Therefore, you were as  weak
as your father."
     "To assume the  responsibility of one's decisions  means  that  one  is
ready to die for them."
     "Wait, wait!" I said. "You are twisting this around." He did not let me
finish. I was going to tell him that I had used my father only as an example
of an unrealistic way of acting, and that nobody  in his right mind would be
willing to die for such an idiotic thing.
     "It doesn't  matter what  the decision is, " he said. "Nothing could be
more  or less serious than anything else. Don't  you  see? In  a world where
death  is the hunter  there  are no small  or big decisions. There are  only
decisions that we make in the face of our inevitable death." I could not say
anything. Perhaps an hour went by. Don Juan was  perfectly motionless on his
mat although he was not sleeping.
     "Why do you tell me all this, don  Juan?" I asked. "Why are  you  doing
this to me?"
     "You  came  to  me,  "  he said.  "No,  that was not the case, you were
brought to me. And I have had a gesture with you."
     "I beg your pardon?"
     "You could have had a gesture with your father by swimming for him, but
you  didn't,  perhaps because you  were too young. I have  lived longer than
you. I have nothing pending. There is no hurry  in  my life, therefore I can
properly have a gesture with you."
     In  the  afternoon  we went for  a  hike. I easily kept  his  pace  and
marveled again at  his stupendous physical prowess. He walked so  nimbly and
with such sure steps that  next to  him I was  like  a child. We went in  an
easterly direction.  I noticed then  that he did  not like  to talk while he
walked. If I spoke to him he would stop walking in order to answer me.
     After a couple of hours we came to a hill; he sat down and signaled  me
to sit  by him. He announced in a mock  dramatic tone that  he was going  to
tell  me a story. He said that once upon  a time there  was  a  young man, a
destitute Indian who lived among the white men in a city. He had no home, no
relatives, no friends. He had come into the city to find his fortune and had
found only  misery and pain. From time to time  he made  a few cents working
like a mule, barely  enough for  a morsel; otherwise  he had to beg or steal
food. Don Juan said that one day the young man went  to the market place. He
walked up and down  the  street in a haze, his eyes wild upon seeing all the
good things that were gathered there. He was so frantic that  he did not see
where he was walking, and ended up tripping over some baskets and falling on
lap of an old man.
     The old man was carrying four enormous  gourds and had just sat down to
rest and eat. Don Juan smiled knowingly and  said that the old man found  it
quite  strange that the young man had  stumbled on him. He  was not angry at
being disturbed but amazed  at  why this particular young man had  fallen on
top of him. The young  man, on the other hand, was angry and told him to get
out of his way. He was not concerned at all  about the  ultimate  reason for
their meeting. He had not noticed that their paths had actually crossed.
     Don Juan mimicked the motions of someone going after something that was
rolling over. He said that the old man's  gourds had  turned  over and  were
rolling down the street. When the young man saw the gourds he thought he had
found his food for the day. He helped the old man up and insisted on helping
him carry  the heavy gourds.  The old man told him that he was on his way to
his home in the mountains  and the young man insisted  on going with him, at
least part of the way.
     The old man  took  the road to the mountains and as they  hiked he gave
the young man part of the  food he  had bought  at the market. The young man
ate  to  his heart's  content and when  he was  quite satisfied he began  to
notice how heavy the gourds were and clutched them tightly.
     Don Juan opened  his eyes  and smiled  with a devilish grin a said that
the young man asked,  "What  do you carry in these gourds?" The old  man did
not answer but told him that  he was going to show him a companion or friend
who could alleviate his  sorrows  and give him  advice and wisdom  about the
ways of the world.
     Don Juan made a majestic gesture with both hands and  said that the old
man summoned the most beautiful  deer that the young man had  ever seen. The
deer was so tame that it came to him and walked around him. It glittered and
shone.  The young  man was spellbound and  knew  right away  that  it  was a
"spirit  deer." The  old man  told him then that  if  he wished to have that
friend and its wisdom all he had to do was to let go of the gourds.
     Don Juan's grin portrayed ambition; he said that  the young man's petty
desires were pricked  upon  hearing such a request. Don Juan's  eyes  became
small and devilish as he voiced  the young man's question: "What do you have
in these four enormous gourds?"
     Don Juan said  that  the old man very  serenely  replied that,  he  was
carrying food: "pinole" and water. He stopped narrating the story and walked
around in a circle a couple of times. I did not know what he was doing.  But
apparently  it  was  part  of the story. The  circle seemed  to portray  the
deliberations of the young man. Don Juan said that, of course, the young man
had not  believed  a word.  He  calculated  that  if  the old man,  who  was
obviously a wizard, was willing to give a "spirit deer" for his gourds, then
the gourds must have been filled with power beyond belief.
     Don Juan contorted his face again into a  devilish grin and  said  that
the young man declared that he wanted to have  the gourds. There was a  long
pause that seemed to mark the end of the story. Don Juan remained quiet, yet
I was sure he wanted me to ask about it, and I did.
     "What happened to the young man?"
     "He took the gourds, " he replied with a smile of satisfaction.
     There was another long pause. I laughed. I thought that this had been a
real "Indian story." Don Juan's eyes were shining as he smiled at  me. There
was an air of innocence about him. He  began  to  laugh  in soft  spurts and
asked me, "Don't you want to know about the gourds?"
     "Of course I want to know. I thought that was the end of the story."
     "Oh no, "  he said with a mischievous light in his eyes. "The young man
took his gourds and ran away to an isolated place and opened them."
     "What did he find?" I asked.
     Don Juan glanced at me and I had the feeling  he was aware of my mental
gymnastics. He shook his head and chuckled.
     "Well, " I urged him. "Were the gourds empty?"
     "There was only food and water inside the gourds," he said.
     "And the young man, in a fit of anger, smashed them against the rocks."
     I  said that his reaction was only natural-anyone in his position would
have done the same. Don Juan's reply was that the  young  man was a fool who
did not know what he was looking for.  He did not  know what "power" was, so
he  could  not  tell  whether  or not he had found  it.  He  had  not  taken
responsibility for his decision, therefore he was angered by his blunder. He
expected to gain something and got nothing instead. Don Juan speculated that
if I were the young  man and if I had followed  my inclinations I would have
ended up angry and remorseful, and  would,  no doubt, have spent the rest of
my life feeling sorry for myself for what I had lost.
     Then he explained the behavior of  the old man. He had cleverly fed the
young man so as to give him the "daring of a satisfied stomach,  " thus  the
young  man  upon finding  only food in  the gourds smashed them in  a fit of
     "Had he been aware of his decision and assumed responsibility for it, "
don  Juan said, "he would  have taken the  food and would've been more  than
satisfied with it. And  perhaps lie might even  have realized that the  food
was power too."


     Friday, June 23, 1961

     As soon as I sat  down I bombarded don Juan with questions. He  did not
answer me and made an impatient gesture with his hand to be quiet. He seemed
to be in a serious mood. "I was thinking that  you haven't changed at all in
the time you've been trying to learn about plants, " he said in  an accusing
     He began  reviewing in a loud voice  all the changes of  personality he
had  recommended  I should  undertake. I  told him that I had considered the
matter  very seriously and found  that I  could  not possibly  fulfill  them
because each of them  ran contrary to  my core.  He  replied  that to merely
consider them was not enough,  and that whatever he  had said  to me was not
said just for fun. I again insisted that, although I had done very little in
matters of adjusting my personal life to his ideas, I really wanted to learn
the uses of plants.
     After  a long, uneasy silence I boldly  asked  him, "Would you teach me
about peyote, don Juan?"
     He  said that my intentions  alone were  not  enough,  and that to know
about  peyote-he called  it  "Mescalito"  for the first  time-was a  serious
matter. It seemed that there was nothing else to say.
     In the early evening, however, he set up a test for me;  he put forth a
problem  without giving  me any  clues to its solution: to find a beneficial
place or spot  in the area right in front of his door where we always sat to
talk, a spot where I  could allegedly feel perfectly happy and  invigorated.
During  the course of the night,  while I attempted  to  find the "spot"  by
rolling  on  the ground,  I twice  detected  a change of  coloration on  the
uniformly dark dirt floor of the designated area.
     The problem exhausted me and I fell asleep on one of the places where I
had  detected the change in color.  In the morning don  Juan woke  me up and
announced that I had had a very successful experience.  Not only had I found
the beneficial spot I was looking for, but I had also found its opposite, an
enemy or negative spot and the colors associated with both.

     Saturday, June 24, 1961

     We  went  into the desert chaparral in the early morning. As we walked,
don Juan explained to me that finding a "beneficial"  or an "enemy" spot was
an important  need  for a man  in the wilderness.  I  wanted  to  steer  the
conversation to the topic of peyote, but he flatly refused to talk about it.
He  warned me  that  there should be no  mention  of it,  unless he  himself
brought up the subject.
     We sat down to rest in the  shade  of  some tall bushes in an  area  of
thick vegetation. The desert chaparral around us  was not quite  dry yet; it
was a warm day and the flies kept on  pestering me but they  did not seem to
bother don Juan.  I wondered whether he  was just ignoring  them  but then I
noticed they were not landing on his face at all.
     "Sometimes it is necessary to  find  a  beneficial spot quickly, out in
the open, " don Juan went on. "Or maybe it is necessary to determine quickly
whether  or not the spot where one is about to rest is a bad  one. One time,
we sat to rest by some hill and you  got very angry and upset. That spot was
your enemy. A little crow gave you a warning, remember?"
     I remembered  that he had made a point of telling me to avoid that area
in the future. I also remembered that I had become angry because he had  not
let me laugh. "I thought that the crow that flew overhead was an omen for me
alone, " he said. "I would never have suspected that the crows were friendly
towards you too."
     "What are you talking about?"
     "The crow was an omen, " he went on. "If you knew about crows you would
have  avoided the  place like  the plague. Crows are not always available to
give warning though, and you must learn to find, by yourself, a proper place
to camp or to rest."
     After a long pause don Juan suddenly  turned  to  me  and said  that in
order to find the proper place to rest all I had to do was to cross my eyes.
He gave me a knowing look and in a confidential tone told me that I had done
precisely that when I was rolling on his porch,  and thus I had been capable
of finding two  spots and their colors. He let me know that he was impressed
by my accomplishment.
     "I really don't know what I did, " I said.
     "You  crossed your eyes, " he said emphatically. "That's the technique;
you must have done that, although you don't remember it."
     Don Juan then  described the  technique, which  he said took  years  to
perfect, and which consisted of gradually forcing the eyes to see separately
the same image. The lack of image conversion entailed a double perception of
the  world; this double perception, according to  don Juan, allowed one  the
opportunity of judging  changes  in the surroundings,  which the  eyes  were
ordinarily incapable of perceiving.
     Don Juan coaxed me to try  it. He  assured me that it was not injurious
to  the  sight.  He said that I should begin by looking  in  short  glances,
almost with the corners of my eyes. He pointed to a large bush and showed me
how. I  had a strange feeling, seeing don Juan's eyes taking incredibly fast
glances at the bush. His  eyes reminded me  of those of a shifty animal that
cannot look straight.
     We walked for  perhaps an  hour while I  tried not to focus my sight on
anything. Then don Juan asked me to start separating the images perceived by
each of my eyes. After another  hour or so I got a terrible headache and had
to stop.
     "Do you  think you could find,  by yourself, a proper  place  for us to
rest?" he asked.
     I had no idea what the criterion for a "proper place" was. He patiently
explained that looking in short glances allowed the eyes to pick out unusual
sights. "Such as what?" I asked.
     "They  are not  sights proper, " he said. "They are more like feelings.
If you look at  a bush or a tree or a rock where  you may like to rest, your
eyes can make you feel whether or not that's the best resting place."
     I again urged him  to describe what those feelings  were but  he either
could not describe them or he simply did not want to. He said  that I should
practice by picking  out a place and then he would tell me whether or not my
eyes were working.
     At one  moment  I caught  sight  of what I thought was  a pebble  which
reflected light.  I could not see it if  I  focused  my eyes on it, but if I
swept the area with fast glances I  could detect a sort of faint  glitter. I
pointed out the place to don Juan.
     It  was in the middle  of  an  open unshaded flat  area devoid of thick
bushes. He  laughed  uproariously  and then  asked me why I  had picked that
specific spot. I explained that I was seeing a glitter.
     "I  don't  care  what  you  see, "  he  said. "You  could  be seeing an
elephant. How you feel is the important issue."
     I did not feel anything at all. He gave me a mysterious look  and  said
that he wished he could oblige me and sit down to rest with me there, but he
was going to sit somewhere else while I tested my choice.
     I sat down while he looked at me curiously from a distance of thirty or
forty  feet away. After a few  minutes he began to laugh loudly. Somehow his
laughter made me nervous. It put me on edge. I felt he was making  fun of me
and I got angry. I began to question my motives  for being  there. There was
definitely  something wrong in the way  my total endeavor with  don Juan was
proceeding. I felt that I was just a pawn in his clutches.
     Suddenly don Juan charged  at me,  at full speed, and pulled me by  the
arm, dragging me bodily for ten or twelve feet. He helped me to stand up and
wiped  some  perspiration  from his  forehead. I  noticed then that  he  had
exerted himself to his limit. He patted me on the  back and  said that I had
picked  the wrong place and  that he had  had to rescue  me in a real hurry,
because he saw that the spot where I was sitting was about to  take  over my
entire feelings.  I laughed. The image  of don Juan charging at me was  very
funny.  He had actually run like  a young  man. His feet moved as if he were
grabbing the  soft  reddish dirt of the desert in order to catapult  himself
over me.
     I  had seen him laughing at me and then in a matter of seconds  he  was
dragging me by the arm.
     After a while he  urged me  to continue looking for a  proper place  to
rest. We kept  on walking but I did not detect  or  "feel" anything  at all.
Perhaps if I had been more relaxed I would have noticed or felt something. I
had ceased, however, to  be angry with him. Finally he pointed to some rocks
and we  came to a halt. "Don't feel disappointed, " don Juan said. "It takes
a long time to train the eyes properly."
     I  did  not  say anything. I  was not  going to be  disappointed  about
something  I did not understand at all. Yet, I had to admit that three times
already since I  had begun to visit don Juan I had become very angry and had
been agitated to the point of being nearly ill while sitting on  places that
he called bad.
     "The trick is to feel with your eyes, " he  said. "Your problem  now is
that you don't know what to feel. It'll come to you, though, with practice."
     "Perhaps you should tell me, don Juan, what I am supposed to feel."
     "That's impossible."
     "No one can tell  you what you are supposed to feel. It is not heat, or
light, or glare, or color. It is something else."
     "Can't you describe it?"
     "No. All I can do is give you the technique. Once you learn to separate
the images  and see two of everything, you must focus your  attention in the
area between the two images. Any  change worthy  of notice would take  place
there, in that area."
     "What kind of changes are they?"
     "That is not important. The feeling that  you get is what counts. Every
man  is different. You saw glitter today, but  that  did  not mean anything,
because  the feeling was missing.  I can't  tell you  how to  feel. You must
learn that yourself."
     We rested  in silence for some time. Don Juan covered his face with his
hat and remained  motionless as  if he  were  asleep.  I became  absorbed in
writing my notes, until he made a  sudden movement that made me jolt. He sat
up abruptly  and faced me, frowning.  "You have a  knack  for  hunting, " he
said. "And that's what you should learn,  hunting. We are not going to  talk
about plants any more." He puffed out his jaws for an instant, then candidly
added, "I don't think we ever have, anyway, have we?" and laughed.
     We  spent the rest of the day walking in every  direction while he gave
me an unbelievably  detailed explanation about rattlesnakes.  The  way  they
nest, the  way  they move  around, their  seasonal  habits, their  quirks of
behavior.  Then  he  proceeded to corroborate each of the points he had made
and finally he caught and killed a large snake; he cut its head off, cleaned
its viscera,  skinned  it, and  roasted the  meat. His movements  had such a
grace and skill that  it was a sheer pleasure just to be  around him. I  had
listened to him and watched him, spellbound.  My  concentration had been  so
complete that the rest of the world had practically vanished for me.
     Eating the snake was a hard reentry into the world of ordinary affairs.
I  felt nauseated when I began to chew  a bite  of snake meat. It was an ill
founded queasiness, as the meat was delicious, but  my stomach  seemed to be
rather an  independent unit.  I could hardly swallow  at  all. I thought don
Juan would have a heart attack from laughing so hard.
     Afterwards we sat down for a leisurely rest in the shade of some rocks.
I began to work on my notes, and the quantity  of them made me realize  that
he had given me an astonishing amount of information about rattlesnakes.
     "Your hunter's spirit has returned to you, " don Juan said suddenly and
with a serious face. "Now you're hooked."
     "I beg your pardon?"
     I wanted him to  elaborate on his statement that I  was hooked, but  he
only laughed and repeated it.
     "How am I hooked?" I insisted.
     "Hunters will always hunt, " he said. "I am a hunter myself."
     "Do you mean you hunt for a living?"
     "I  hunt  in  order to live. I can live  off  the  land,  anywhere." He
indicated the total surroundings with his hand.
     "To be a hunter  means  that  one knows a great deal, " he went on. "It
means that one can see the world in different ways. In  order to be a hunter
one must be in perfect balance with everything else, otherwise hunting would
become a meaningless  chore.  For  instance, today we took a little snake. I
had  to apologize  to  her  for cutting her  life  off  so  suddenly and  so
definitely; I did what I did knowing that  my own life will also be  cut off
someday in very  much the  same fashion, suddenly and definitely. So, all in
all, we and the snakes are on a par. One of them fed us today."
     "I had never conceived a balance of that kind when I used  to hunt, " I
     "That's not true. You didn't just kill animals. You and your family all
ate the game."
     His statements carried the conviction of someone who had been there. He
was,  of  course,  right.  There  had  been times when  I had  provided  the
incidental wild meat for my family.
     After a moment's hesitation I asked, "How did you know that?"
     "There are certain  things that I just know,  " he said.  "I can't tell
you how though."
     I told him  that my aunts and uncles  would very seriously call all the
birds I would bag "pheasants."
     Don Juan  said he  could easily imagine them  calling a sparrow a "tiny
pheasant" and  added a  comical rendition  of  how they  would chew it.  The
extraordinary movements of his jaw gave  me the feeling that he was actually
chewing a whole bird, bones and all.
     "I really think that  you have a  touch for hunting, " he said, staring
at me.  "And we have been barking  up the wrong tree.  Perhaps  you will  be
willing to change your way of life in order to become a hunter."
     He reminded me  that I had found out, with just a little exertion on my
part, that in the world there were good and bad spots for me; he  added that
I had also found out the specific colors associated with them.
     "That  means that you have a  knack for  hunting,  " he declared.  "Not
everyone  who  tries  would find their colors and their spots  at  the  same
time."  To  be  a hunter  sounded very  nice  and  romantic, but  it was  an
absurdity to me, since I did not particularly care to hunt.
     "You don't have to  care  to  hunt or  to like  it,  " he replied to my
complaint. "You  have a natural  inclination. I think the best hunters never
like hunting; they do it well, that's all."
     I  had the  feeling  don Juan was capable  of arguing  his  way  out of
anything, and yet he maintained that he did not like to talk at all.
     "It is like  what I have told  you about hunters,  "  he said. "I don't
necessarily like  to talk.  I just have a  knack for  it  and  I do it well,
that's all." I found his mental agility truly funny.
     "Hunters  must be exceptionally  tight  individuals, " he continued. "A
hunter  leaves  very  little  to  chance.  I have been trying all  along  to
convince  you that you must learn to  live in a different way. So far I have
not succeeded.  There was  nothing  you could've  grabbed  on  to.  Now it's
different. I have brought back your old hunter's spirit, perhaps  through it
you will change."
     I protested that I did not want to become a hunter. I reminded him that
in the beginning I had just  wanted him to tell me  about medicinal  plants,
but he had made me  stray so far away from my original purpose that  I could
not clearly recall any more whether or not I had really wanted to learn
     about plants.
     "Good, " he  said. "Really good. If you don't have such a clear picture
of  what  you want, you may become more humble. "Let's put it this way.  For
your purposes  it  doesn't really matter whether  you learn  about plants or
about hunting. You've told me that yourself. You  are interested in anything
that anyone can tell you. True?" I  had said that to him in trying to define
the scope of anthropology  and  in order  to draft  him as my informant. Don
Juan chuckled, obviously aware of his control over the situation.
     "I am a hunter, " he said, as if he were reading my thoughts.
     "I leave very little to chance. Perhaps I should explain to you that  I
learned to be  a hunter. I have not always  lived the  way I  do now. At one
point in my life I had to change. Now I'm pointing the direction to you. I'm
guiding you. I know what  I'm talking about;  someone  taught me all this. I
didn't figure it out for myself."
     "Do you mean that you had a teacher, don Juan?"
     "Let's say that someone taught  me to  hunt the way I want to teach you
now, " he said and quickly changed the topic.
     "I think that once  upon a time hunting was one of the greatest acts  a
man could  perform,  " he said. "All  hunters were  powerful men. In fact, a
hunter had to be powerful to begin with in order  to withstand the rigors of
that life."
     Suddenly I became  curious. Was he referring to a time perhaps prior to
the Conquest? I began to probe him.
     "When was the time you are talking about?"
     "Once upon a time."
     "When? What does 'once upon a time' mean?"
     "It means once upon a time, or maybe it means now, today.
     It doesn't matter. At one time  everybody knew  that  a hunter was  the
best of men. Now  not everyone knows that, but there are a sufficient number
of people who do. I know it, someday you will. See what I mean?"
     "Do the Yaqui Indians feel that way  about hunters? That's what I  want
to know."
     "Not necessarily."
     "Do the Pima Indians?"
     "Not all of them. But some."
     I  named  various  neighboring  groups.  I wanted  to commit him  to  a
statement  that hunting was a shared  belief and  practice of some  specific
people. But he avoided answering me directly, so I changed the subject.
     "Why are you doing all this for me, don Juan?" I asked.
     He took off his hat and scratched his temples in feigned bafflement.
     "I'm having a gesture  with you, "  he  said softly. "Other people have
had  a similar  gesture with  you; someday you  yourself will have  the same
gesture with others. Let's say that it is my turn. One day I  found out that
if I wanted to be a hunter worthy of  self-respect I had to change my way of
     I used to whine and complain a  great deal. I had good  reasons to feel
shortchanged.  I  am an Indian and Indians are treated like  dogs. There was
nothing I could do to remedy that, so all I was left with was my sorrow. But
then my good fortune spared me and someone taught me to hunt. And I realized
that the way I lived was not worth living ... so I changed it."
     "But  I  am happy with my life, don Juan. Why should  I have to  change
     He began to sing a Mexican song, very softly, and then hummed the tune.
His head bobbed up and down as he followed the beat of the song.
     "Do you think that you and I are equals?" he asked in a sharp voice.
     His question  caught me off guard.  I experienced a peculiar buzzing in
my ears as though he had actually shouted his words, which  he had not done;
however, there had been a metallic sound in his voice that was reverberating
in my ears.
     I scratched the inside of my left ear with the small  finger of my left
hand. My ears  itched  all the time and I had developed a rhythmical nervous
way of rubbing the inside of them with the  small finger of either hand. The
movement was more properly  a shake of my  whole arm.  Don  Juan watched  my
movements with apparent fascination.
     "Well . . . are we equals?" he asked.
     "Of course we're equals, " I said.
     I  was,  naturally,  being  condescending. I felt very warm towards him
even though at times I did not know what to do with him; yet I still held in
the  back of my  mind, although I would  never voice it, the belief  that I,
being  a university student,  a man of the sophisticated Western world,  was
superior to an Indian.
     "No, " he said calmly, "we are not."
     "Why, certainly we are, " I protested.
     "No, " he said in a soft voice. "We are not equals. I am a hunter and a
warrior, and you are a pimp."
     My mouth fell open. I could not believe that don Juan had actually said
that. I dropped  my notebook  and stared at him dumbfoundedly  and  then, of
course, I became furious.
     He looked at me with calm and collected eyes. I  avoided his gaze.  And
then he began to talk.  He enunciated  his  words  clearly.  They poured out
smoothly and deadly. He said that I was pimping for someone else. That I was
not fighting my  own battles but the battles of  some unknown people. That I
did not want  to learn  about plants or about hunting or about anything. And
that his world of  precise acts and  feelings and  decisions  was infinitely
more effective than the blundering idiocy I called "my life."
     After  he  finished  talking   I  was   numb.  He  had  spoken  without
belligerence or conceit but with such power, and  yet such  calmness, that I
was not even  angry  any more.  We remained silent. I  felt  embarrassed and
could not think  of anything appropriate to  say. I  waited for him to break
the silence. Hours went by. Don Juan became motionless by degrees, until his
body had acquired a  strange,  almost frightening  rigidity;  his silhouette
became  difficult to make out  as it got dark, and finally when it was pitch
black around us he seemed to have merged into  the  blackness of the stones.
His state of motionlessness was so  total that it was as if he did not exist
any longer. It was midnight when I finally realized that he could  and would
stay motionless there in that wilderness, in those rocks, perhaps forever if
he had  to. His world of precise acts and feelings and decisions  was indeed
superior. I quietly touched his arm and tears flooded me.


     Thursday, June 29, 1961

     Again don  Juan, as he had done every  day for nearly  a week,  held me
spellbound  with his knowledge of specific  details  about  the  behavior of
game. He first explained and then corroborated a number  of hunting  tactics
based on what he called "the quirks of quails." I became so utterly involved
in  his  explanations that  a whole  day went by  and I had not  noticed the
passage of  time. I even forgot to eat  lunch.  Don Juan made joking remarks
that it  was quite unusual for me to miss  a meal. By the end  of the day he
had caught five  quail  in a most ingenious trap,  which he had taught me to
assemble and set up.
     "Two are enough for us, " he said and let three of them loose.
     He then taught  me how to roast quail. I had wanted to  cut some shrubs
and make a barbecue pit, the way  my grandfather used to make it, lined with
green branches and leaves and sealed with dirt, but don Juan said that there
was no need to injure the shrubs, since we had already injured the quail.
     After we finished eating we walked very leisurely towards a rocky area.
We  sat on  a sandstone hillside and I  said jokingly that if  he would have
left the matter up to me I would have cooked all five of the quail, and that
my barbecue  would have tasted much better  than his roast. "No doubt,  " he
said.  "But if you would have done all  that we might have never  left  this
place in one piece."
     "What do you mean?" I asked. "What would have prevented us?"
     "The shrubs, the quail, everything around would have pitched in."
     "I never know when you are talking seriously, " I said.
     He made a gesture of feigned impatience and smacked his lips.
     "You have a weird notion of what it means to talk seriously, " he said.
"I laugh a great deal because I like to laugh yet everything I say is deadly
serious, even if you don't  understand it. Why should the  world be only  as
you think it is? Who gave you the authority to say so?"
     "There is no proof that the world is otherwise, " I said.
     It was getting dark. I was wondering if  it was time to  go back to his
house, but he did not seem to be in a hurry and I was enjoying myself.
     The  wind  was cold. Suddenly he stood  up  and  told me that we had to
climb to the hilltop and stand up on an area clear of shrubs.
     "Don't be afraid, " he said. "I'm your friend and I'll see that nothing
bad happens to you."
     "What do you mean?" I asked, alarmed.
     Don  Juan had  the most insidious  facility  to  shift  me  from  sheer
enjoyment to sheer fright.
     "The world is very strange at this time of the day, " he  said. "That's
what I mean. No matter what you see, don't be afraid."
     "What am I going to see?"
     "I don't know  yet, " he said, peering into  the  distance  towards the
     He  did not seem to be worried.  I  also  kept on looking in  the  same
     Suddenly he  perked  up and  pointed with his  left hand towards a dark
area in the desert shrubbery.
     "There it is,  " he said, as if he had been waiting for something which
had suddenly appeared.
     "What is it?" I asked.
     "There it is, " he repeated. "Look! Look!"
     I did not see anything, just the shrubs.
     "It is here now, " he said with great urgency in his voice.
     "It is here."
     A sudden  gust of wind hit me at  that instant and made my eyes burn. I
stared towards the area in question. There was absolutely nothing out of the
     "I can't see a thing, " I said.
     "You just felt it, "  he replied. "Right now. It got into your eyes and
kept you from seeing."
     "What are you talking about?"
     "I have deliberately  brought you to a hilltop, " he said. "We are very
noticeable here and something is coming to us."
     "What? The wind?"
     "Not just the  wind, " he said sternly. "It may seem to be wind to you,
because wind is all you know."
     I  strained my  eyes  staring into the  desert  shrubs.  Don Juan stood
silently  by me for a  moment  and then walked into the nearby chaparral and
began to tear some big  branches  from the surrounding shrubs;  he  gathered
eight of  them  and made  a bundle.  He ordered  me to  do  the same and  to
apologize to the plants in a loud voice for mutilating them. When we had two
bundles  he  made me  run with them to the hilltop  and lie down on my  back
between two large rocks.
     With tremendous speed he arranged the branches of my bundle to cover my
entire  body, then  he  covered himself  in  the  same manner  and whispered
through the leaves that I should watch how the so-called wind would cease to
blow once we had become unnoticeable.
     At one moment, to my utter amazement, the wind  actually ceased to blow
as don Juan had predicted. It happened so gradually that I would have missed
the change had I not been deliberately waiting for it. For a while the  wind
had hissed through  the  leaves over my  face and  then gradually  it became
quiet all around us.
     I whispered to don Juan that the wind had stopped and he whispered back
that I  should not  make any  overt noise or movement,  because what  I  was
calling  the  wind was not wind at all but something  that had a volition of
its own and could actually recognize us. I laughed out of nervousness.
     In a muffled voice don Juan called my attention to the quietness around
us  and  whispered that he was going to stand  up and I  should  follow him,
putting the branches aside very gently with my left hand.
     We stood up at the  same  time. Don Juan stared  for a moment into  the
distance towards  the  south  and then turned around-abruptly and  faced the
     "Sneaky. Really sneaky, " he muttered, pointing to  an area towards the
     "Look! Look!" he urged me.
     I  stared with all the intensity  I was  capable  of.  I wanted  to see
whatever  he  was referring to,  but  I did not notice anything at  all.  Or
rather I  did not  notice anything I  had not  seen before; there were  just
shrubs which seemed to be agitated by a soft wind; they rippled.
     "It's here, " don Juan said.
     At that  moment I felt  a  blast of air in my face. It  seemed that the
wind had actually begun to blow after we stood up.  I could not  believe it;
there had to be a logical explanation for it.
     Don Juan  chuckled  softly and  told me not to  tax my brain  trying to
reason it out.
     "Let's go gather the shrubs once more, " he said. "I hate to do this to
these little plants, but we must stop you."
     He  picked up  the branches we  had  used to cover ourselves  and piled
small rocks  and dirt  over them.  Then, repeating the same movements we had
made before,  each of  us gathered  eight new branches.  In the meantime the
wind kept on blowing ceaselessly. I could  feel it ruffling the  hair around
my ears.
     Don Juan whispered that  once he  had covered  me I should not make the
slightest movement or sound. He very quickly  put the branches over my  body
and then he lay down and covered himself.
     We stayed  in that position  for about twenty  minutes and  during that
time a most extraordinary phenomenon occurred; the wind again changed from a
hard continuous gust to a mild vibration.
     I  held my breath, waiting for  don Juan's signal. At a given moment he
gently shoved off the branches. I did the same and  we stood up. The hilltop
was very quiet.  There was only  a  slight, soft vibration of leaves in  the
surrounding chaparral.
     Don Juan's eyes were fixedly staring at an area in the  shrubs south of
us.  "There it is again!"  he  exclaimed in  a loud  voice.  I involuntarily
jumped, nearly  losing my  balance, and he ordered me in  a  loud imperative
voice to look.
     "What am I supposed to see?" I asked desperately.
     He said that it, the wind or whatever, was like a cloud or a whorl that
was quite a  ways above the shrubs, twirling its way to the hilltop where we
were. I saw a ripple forming on the bushes in the distance.
     "There it comes, " don Juan said  in my ear.  "Look how it is searching
for us."
     Right then  a strong  steady gust of wind hit my face, as it had hit it
before. This time, however, my  reaction was different.  I  was terrified. I
had not seen what don  Juan had described, but I had seen  a most eerie wave
rippling the shrubs.
     I  did not want to succumb to my fear and deliberately sought any  kind
of suitable explanation. I said to myself that there must be continuous  air
currents  in  the area, and  don Juan, being thoroughly acquainted with  the
whole region, was  not  only  aware  of that but  was  capable  of  mentally
plotting their occurrence. All he had to do was to lie down, count, and wait
for the wind to taper off;  and once  he stood  up he had only to wait again
for its reoccurrence.
     Don  Juan's  voice shook me  out  of  my mental deliberations.  He  was
telling me that it was time to leave.  I stalled; I  wanted to  stay to make
sure that the wind would taper off.
     "I didn't see anything, don Juan, " I said.
     "You noticed something unusual though."
     "Perhaps you should tell me again what I was supposed to see."
     "I've already  told you, " he said. "Something that hides in  the  wind
and looks like a whorl, a cloud, a mist, a face that twirls around."
     Don Juan made  a  gesture with his hands to depict a  horizontal  and a
vertical motion. "It moves in a specific direction, " he went on. "It either
tumbles  or  it  twirls. A  hunter must know  all  that  in  order  to  move
correctly."  I wanted to  humor him, but he seemed to be  trying so hard  to
make his point that I did not dare. He looked at me for a moment and I moved
my eyes away.
     "To believe that the  world is only as you think it is, is stupid, " he
said. "The world is a mysterious place. Especially in the twilight."
     He pointed towards the wind with a movement of his chin.
     "This can follow us, " he said. "It  can make us tired or it might even
kill us."
     "That wind?"
     "At this time of the day, in the twilight, there is no wind.
     At this time there is only power."
     We sat on the  hilltop for an  hour. The wind blew hard and  constantly
all that time.

     Friday, June 30, 1961

     In the late afternoon, after  eating,  don Juan and I moved to the area
in front of his door. I sat  on my "spot" and began working  on my notes. He
lay down on  his back  with his hands folded over his stomach. We had stayed
around the  house all day on account of the "wind."  Don Juan explained that
we had disturbed the wind deliberately and  that it was better  not to  fool
around with it. I had even had to sleep covered with branches.
     A sudden  gust  of wind made don Juan get up in  one  incredibly  agile
jump. "Damn it, " he said. "The wind is looking for you." "I can't buy that,
don  Juan, " I said, laughing. "I really can't." I was not being stubborn, I
just found it impossible to  endorse  the  idea  that  the wind had its  own
volition  and was looking  for me, or  that it  had actually  spotted us and
rushed  to  us on top of the hill. I said that the idea  of a "willful wind"
was a view of the world that was rather simplistic.
     "What is the wind then?" he  asked  in a challenging tone.  I patiently
explained  to him  that  masses  of  hot  and  cold air  produced  different
pressures and  that  the pressure made the masses of air move vertically and
horizontally. It took  me a long while  to explain all the details  of basic
     "You mean that all there is to the wind is  hot and cold air?" he asked
in a tone of bafflement.
     "I'm afraid so, " I said and silently enjoyed my triumph.
     Don Juan seemed to be dumbfounded. But  then he looked at me  and began
to laugh uproariously.
     "Your opinions are  final  opinions, " he said  with a note of sarcasm.
"They are the  last  word, aren't they? For a hunter, however, your opinions
are pure crap. It makes no difference whether  the pressure is one or two or
ten; if you would live out here in the wilderness you would know that during
the twilight  the wind becomes power. A hunter that is worth  his salt knows
that, and acts accordingly."
     "How does he act?"
     "He uses the twilight and that power hidden in the wind."
     "If  it  is  convenient to  him,  the  hunter hides from  the  power by
covering himself and remaining motionless until the twilight is gone and the
power has sealed him into its protection."
     Don Juan made a gesture of enveloping something with his hands.
     "Its protection is like a ..."
     He paused in search of a word and I suggested "cocoon."
     "That is right, " he said. "The protection of the power seals  you like
in a cocoon. A hunter  can  stay  out  in the open and no  puma or coyote or
slimy bug could bother him. A  mountain  lion  could come up to the hunter's
nose and sniff him, and if the hunter does not move, the lion would leave. I
can guarantee you that.
     "If the hunter, on the other hand, wants to be noticed all he has to do
is to stand on a hilltop at the time of the twilight and the power will  nag
him and seek him all night. Therefore, if a hunter  wants to travel at night
or if he wants to be kept awake he must make himself available to the wind.
     "Therein lies  the  secret  of  great  hunters.  To  be  available  and
unavailable at the precise turn of the road."
     I felt a bit confused and asked him to recapitulate his point.
     Don Juan very patiently explained that he had used the twilight and the
wind to point out the crucial importance of the interplay between hiding and
showing oneself.
     "You must learn to become deliberately  available and unavailable, " he
said. "As your life goes now, you are unwittingly available at all times."
     I protested. My feeling was that my life was becoming increasingly more
and more secretive. He said I had not  understood his  point, and that to be
unavailable did not mean to hide or to be secretive but to be inaccessible.
     "Let  me put it in another way, " he  proceeded patiently. "It makes no
difference to hide if everyone knows that you are hiding.
     "Your problems right now  stem from that. When you are hiding, everyone
knows  that  you are hiding,  and  when you are not,  you  are available for
everyone to take a poke at you."
     I  was beginning  to  feel threatened  and  hurriedly  tried to  defend
myself. "Don't explain yourself, "don Juan said dryly. "There is no need. We
are fools, all of us, and you cannot be different. At one time in my life I,
like you, made myself available over and over again  until there was nothing
of  me left for anything except perhaps  crying. And  that  I did, just like
     Don Juan sized me up for a moment and then sighed loudly.
     "I  was  younger than you, though,  "  he went  on,  "but one day I had
enough and I changed. Let's say that  one day, when I was becoming a hunter,
I learned the secret of being available and unavailable."
     I  told  him  that  his point  was  bypassing  me.  I  truly  could not
understand what he meant by being  available. He had used the Spanish idioms
"ponerse al alcance" and  "ponerse en el  del camino, "to put oneself within
reach, and to put oneself in the middle of a trafficked way.
     "You  must  take  yourself  away,  " he explained.  "You must  retrieve
yourself from  the  middle of a trafficked way.  Your whole  being is there,
thus it is of no  use to hide; you  would only  imagine that you are hidden.
Being in the middle of the road means that  everyone passing by watches your
comings and goings."
     His metaphor was interesting, but at the same time it was also obscure.
     "You are talking in riddles, " I said.
     He stared at me fixedly for a long moment and then began to hum a tune.
I straightened my back and sat attentively. I knew that when don Juan hummed
a Mexican tune he was about to clobber me.
     "Hey, " he said, smiling, and peered at  me. "Whatever happened to your
blond friend? That girl that you used to really like." I must have looked at
him like a confounded idiot.  He laughed with great  delight. I did not know
what to say.
     "You told me about her, " he said reassuringly.
     "But I did not remember ever telling him about anybody, much less about
a blond girl.
     "I've never mentioned anything like that to you, " I said.
     "Of course you have, " he said as if dismissing the argument.
     I wanted to protest, but he  stopped me, saying that it  did not matter
how he knew about her, that the important issue was that I had liked her.
     I sensed a surge of animosity towards him building up within myself.
     "Don't stall,  " don Juan said dryly.  "This is a time when  you should
cut off your feelings of importance.
     "You  once had a woman, a  very dear woman, and  then one day  you lost
     I  began  to  wonder if I had  ever talked  about her  to  don. Juan. I
concluded that there had never been an opportunity.
     Yet I  might  have. Every time he  drove with  me we had always  talked
incessantly about everything.  I  did not remember everything  we had talked
about because I could not take notes  while driving. I felt somehow appeased
by  my conclusions.  I  told him  that he was  right. There had  been a very
important blond girl in my life.
     "Why isn't she with you?" he asked.
     "She left."
     "There were many reasons;"
     "There were not so many reasons. There was only one.
     You made yourself too available."
     I earnestly  wanted to know what he meant. He again had touched me.  He
seemed to be cognizant  of the effect of his touch and puckered up his  lips
to hide a mischievous smile.
     "Everyone knew about you two, " he said with unshaken conviction.
     "Was it wrong?"
     "It was deadly wrong. She was a fine person."
     I expressed the sincere feeling that his fishing in the dark was odious
to me,  especially the  fact  that  he  always made his  statements with the
assurance of someone who had been at the scene and had seen it all.
     "But that's true,  " he said with a disarming candor.  "I have  seen it
all. She was a fine person."
     I knew  that it was meaningless to  argue, but I was angry with him for
touching that sore spot in my life and  I said that the girl in question was
not such a fine person after all, that in my opinion she was rather weak.
     "So are you, "  he said calmly. "But that is not important. What counts
is that you have looked for her everywhere; that makes her a  special person
in your world, and for a special person one should have only fine words."
     I felt embarrassed; a great sadness had begun to engulf me.
     "What  are you doing to me, don Juan?" I asked. "You always  succeed in
making me sad. Why?"
     "You are now indulging in sentimentality, " he said accusingly.
     "What is the point of all this, don Juan?"
     "Being inaccessible is the  point,  " he  declared. "I  brought up  the
memory of this person only as  a means to show you directly what I  couldn't
show you with the wind.
     "You lost her because you were accessible; you  were  always within her
reach and your life was a routine one."
     "No!" I said. "You're wrong. My life was never a routine."
     "It was and it  is a routine, " he said dogmatically. "It is an unusual
routine and that  gives you the impression that  it  is not a routine, but I
assure you it is."
     I wanted to sulk and get lost in  moroseness, but somehow his eyes made
me feel restless; they seemed to push me on and on.
     "The art of a hunter is to become inaccessible, " he said. "In the case
of that blond  girl  it would've meant that you  had  to become a hunter and
meet her sparingly. Not the way  you did. You stayed with her day after day,
until the only feeling that remained was boredom. True?" I did not answer. I
felt I did not have to. He was right.
     "To  be  inaccessible  means  that  you  touch  the  world  around  you
sparingly.  You  don't  eat five quail; you  eat one.  You don't  damage the
plants  just to make a barbecue pit. You  don't expose yourself to the power
of the wind unless  it is mandatory. You don't  use and squeeze people until
they have shriveled to nothing, especially the people you love."
     "I have never used anyone, " I said sincerely.
     But don Juan maintained that I had, and thus I could bluntly state that
I became tired and bored with people.
     "To  be  unavailable  means  that  you  deliberately  avoid  exhausting
yourself  and others,  " he continued. "It means that you are not hungry and
desperate,  like  the  poor bastard that  feels he will never  eat again and
devours all the food he can, all five quail!"
     Don Juan was definitely hitting me below the belt. I laughed  and  that
seemed to please him. He touched my back lightly.
     "A hunter knows he will  lure  game into his traps over and over again,
so  he  doesn't  worry.  To  worry  is  to  become  accessible,  unwittingly
accessible. And once you worry you cling to anything out of desperation; and
once  you  cling  you  are  bound to get exhausted or to  exhaust whoever or
whatever you are clinging to."
     I told him  that  in my  day-to-day  life  it  was inconceivable to  be
inaccessible.  My  point  was  that in order to function I had to  be within
reach of everyone that had something to do  with me. "I've told you  already
that to be inaccessible does not mean to hide or to be  secretive, " he said
calmly. "It doesn't mean  that you cannot deal with people either.  A hunter
uses his  world sparingly and with tenderness,  regardless  of  whether  the
world might be things, or plants, or animals, or people, or power.  A hunter
deals  intimately with his world  and yet  he is inaccessible  to that  same
     "That's a contradiction, " I said. "He cannot be inaccessible if  he is
there in his world, hour after hour, day after day."
     "You did not understand, " don Juan said patiently. "He is inaccessible
because he's not squeezing his world out of shape. He taps it lightly, stays
for as long as  he  needs to, and then  swiftly moves away  leaving hardly a


     Sunday July 16, 1961

     We  spent  all  morning  watching  some  rodents that looked  like  fat
squirrels;  don Juan called them water  rats. He pointed out that  they were
very  fast in getting out of  danger, but after they had outrun any predator
they had the terrible habit  of stopping, or even  climbing a rock, to stand
on their hind legs to look around and groom themselves.
     "They  have very good  eyes, " don Juan said. "You must move only  when
they are on  the run, therefore, you must learn  to  predict when  and where
they will stop, so you would also stop at the same time."
     I  became engrossed in observing them and I had  what would have been a
field day  for hunters  as  I spotted so  many of them. And finally I  could
predict their movements almost every time.  Don Juan then  showed me  how to
make  traps  to catch  them. He explained that a hunter had  to take time to
observe their eating  or their nesting places in order to determine where to
locate his traps; he would then set them during the night and all he had  to
do the next day was to scare  them off so  they would scatter away  into his
catching devices.
     We   gathered   some  sticks  and   proceeded  to   build  the  hunting
contraptions. I had mine almost finished and was excitedly wondering whether
or  not it would work when suddenly don Juan stopped and looked at  his left
wrist, as if he were  checking a watch which he had never had, and said that
according to  his  timepiece it was  lunchtime. I was  holding a long stick,
which I  was trying  to make  into  a  hoop  by bending it  in  a circle.  I
automatically put it  down with  the  rest of  my hunting paraphernalia. Don
Juan looked at me with an expression of curiosity.
     Then  he made the  wailing  sound of a factory siren at  lunch  time. I
laughed.  His siren sound was perfect. I walked towards him and noticed that
he was staring at me. He shook his head from side to side.
     "I'll be damned, " he said.
     "What's wrong?" I asked.
     He again made the long wailing sound of a factory whistle.
     "Lunch is over, " he said. "Go back to work."
     I felt confused for an instant, but then I thought that he was  joking,
perhaps because  we  really had nothing to  make lunch with.  I had been  so
engrossed with the  rodents that  I  had forgotten we had  no provisions.  I
picked up the stick again  and tried to  bend it.  After  a moment  don Juan
again blew his "whistle."
     "Time to go home, " he said.
     He examined his imaginary watch and then looked at me and winked.
     "It's  five  o'clock,  "  he said  with an  air of someone revealing  a
secret. I thought that  he had suddenly become fed  up with  hunting and was
calling the whole thing  off.  I simply put everything down and began to get
ready to leave. I did not look at him. I presumed that he also was preparing
his gear.
     When I was through I looked  up and saw  him sitting crosslegged a  few
feet away.
     "I'm through, " I said. "We can go anytime."
     He got up and climbed a rock. He  stood  there, five or six  feet above
the ground, looking at me.  He put his hands on either side of his mouth and
made  a very prolonged and piercing sound.  It was like a  magnified factory
siren. He turned around in a complete circle, making the wailing sound.
     "What are you doing, don Juan?" I asked.
     He said that he was giving the signal for the whole world to go home. I
was  completely  baffled. I  could  not figure out whether he was  joking or
whether he had simply flipped his lid.  I watched him  intently and tried to
relate what he was doing to something he may have said before. We had hardly
talked at all during the  morning  and  I could  not  remember  anything  of
importance. Don Juan was still standing on top of the rock. He looked at me,
smiled and winked again. I suddenly became alarmed.
     Don  Juan put his hands on both sides of  his mouth and let out another
long whistle-like sound.
     He said that  it was eight o'clock in the morning and that I had to set
up my gear again because we had a whole day ahead of us.
     I  was completely confused  by  then. In  a  matter of minutes my  fear
mounted to an irresistible  desire to run away from the scene. I thought don
Juan was crazy. I was about to flee when he slid down from the rock and came
to me, smiling.
     "You think I'm crazy, don't you?" he asked.
     I  told  him  that  he  was frightening  me out of  my  wits  with  his
unexpected behavior.
     He said that  we were even. I did not understand what he  meant. I  was
deeply preoccupied with the thought that his acts seemed thoroughly  insane.
He explained that he had deliberately tried to scare me out of my  wits with
the heaviness of his unexpected behavior because I myself was driving him up
the  walls with the heaviness  of my  expected behavior. He  added  that  my
routines were as insane as his blowing his whistle.
     I was shocked and asserted that  I did not  really have any routines. I
told  him that I believed my life was in fact a mess because  of my lack  of
healthy routines. Don Juan laughed and signaled me  to sit down by  him. The
whole situation had mysteriously changed again. My fear had vanished as soon
as he had begun to talk.
     "What are my routines?" I asked.
     "Everything you do is a routine."
     "Aren't we all that way?"
     "Not all of us. I don't do things out of routine."
     "What prompted all this, don Juan? What did I do or what did I say that
made you act the way you did?"
     "You were worrying about lunch."'
     "I did  not say anything to you;  how did  you know that I was worrying
about lunch?"
     "You  worry  about eating every  day around noontime, and around six in
the evening, and around eight in the morning, "
     He  said with a  malicious grin. "You worry about eating at those times
even if you're not hungry.
     "All I  had to do to show your  routine spirit  was to blow my whistle.
Your spirit  is  trained to  work  with  a  signal." He stared  at me with a
question in his eyes. I could not defend myself.
     "Now you're getting ready to make hunting into a routine, " He went on.
"You have already set your pace in hunting, you talk  at a certain time, eat
at a certain time, and fall asleep at a certain time."
     I had nothing to say. The  way don Juan  had described my eating habits
was the pattern I used for everything in my life.
     Yet  I strongly felt that my life was less routine than that of some of
my friends and acquaintances.
     "You know a great deal about hunting now, "  don Juan continued. "It'll
be easy for you to realize that a  good  hunter knows one thing above all-he
knows the routines of his prey. That's what makes him a good hunter.
     "If  you  would  remember  the  way  I have proceeded  in teaching  you
hunting, you would perhaps understand what I mean. First I taught you how to
make and set up your  traps, then  I taught you the routines of the game you
were after, and then we tested the traps against their routines. Those parts
are the outside forms of hunting.
     "Now I have to  teach you  the  final, and by far the  most  difficult,
part. Perhaps years will pass before you can say that you understand  it and
that you're a hunter."
     Don Juan paused as if to give me time. He took off his hat and imitated
the  grooming movements of the  rodents we had been observing. It  was  very
funny to me. His round head made him look like one of those rodents.
     "To be a hunter is not just to trap game, " he went on.  "A hunter that
is worth his salt does not catch game  because he sets his traps, or because
he knows the  routines of his  prey, but because he himself has no routines.
This is his advantage.
     He is not at all like the animals he is after, fixed by heavy  routines
and predictable quirks; he is free, fluid, unpredictable."
     What don Juan was saying sounded to me like an arbitrary and irrational
idealization.  I  could not conceive of a life without routines. I wanted to
be very honest with him and not just agree or disagree with him. I felt that
what he had in mind was not possible to accomplish by me or by anyone.
     "I  don't care how you feel,  " he  said. "In order  to be a hunter you
must disrupt the  routines of your life. You have  done well in hunting. You
have learned quickly  and now you can see that you  are like your prey, easy
to predict."
     I asked him to be specific and give me concrete examples.
     "I  am  talking about  hunting, "  he  said  calmly.  "Therefore  I  am
concerned  with the things animals  do; the places  they eat; the place, the
manner, the time they  sleep; where they  nest; how they walk. These are the
routines  I am pointing out to you so you can  become aware  of them in your
own being.
     "You  have observed the habits  of  animals in the  desert. They eat or
drink  at  certain places,  they  nest  at specific spots, they leave  their
tracks  in specific  ways; in fact, everything  they do  can  be foreseen or
reconstructed by a good hunter.
     "As I told you before, in my eyes you behave like your prey. Once in my
life someone pointed out the same thing to me, so you're not unique in that.
All of us behave like the prey  we are after. That, of course, also makes us
prey for something or someone else. Now, the  concern of a hunter, who knows
all this, is to stop being a prey himself. Do  you see what I mean?" I again
expressed the opinion that his proposition was unattainable.
     "It takes  time,  " don Juan said. "You could begin by not eating lunch
every  single  day   at  twelve  o'clock."  He  looked  at  me   and  smiled
benevolently. His expression was  very funny and  made me laugh.  "There are
certain animals, however, that are impossible to track, " he went on. "There
are certain types  of deer, for  instance, which a fortunate hunter might be
able to come across, by sheer luck, once in his lifetime."
     Don Juan paused dramatically  and looked at me piercingly. He seemed to
be waiting for a question, but I did not have any.
     "What do  you think makes them  so difficult to find and so unique?" he
     I shrugged my shoulders because I did not know what to say.
     "They have no routines, " he said in a tone of revelation.
     "That's  what makes  them magical." "A deer  has to sleep at night, " I
said. "Isn't that a routine?"
     "Certainly,  if the deer sleeps every night at  a specific time  and in
one specific  place. But  those magical beings do not behave  like  that. In
fact, someday you may  verify this  for yourself. Perhaps it'll be your fate
to chase one of them for the rest of your life."
     "What do you mean by that?"
     "You like  hunting;  perhaps someday, in some place in the world,  your
path may cross the path of a magical being and you might go after it.
     "A magical being is a sight to behold. I was fortunate enough to  cross
paths with one. Our encounter took place after I had learned and practiced a
great  deal of hunting. Once  I  was  in a forest  of  thick  trees  in  the
mountains of central Mexico when suddenly I  heard a sweet  whistle.  It was
unknown to  me; never in  all  my years  of roaming in the wilderness had  I
heard  such  a sound. I could not place it in the terrain; it seemed to come
from different places. I  thought that perhaps I was surrounded by a herd or
a pack of some unknown animals.
     "I heard  the  tantalizing  whistle once  more; it seemed  to come from
everywhere. I realized then my good fortune. I knew it was a  magical being,
a deer. I also knew that a magical deer is aware of the routines of ordinary
men and the routines of hunters.
     "It  is very  easy to figure out what an  average  man  would  do  in a
situation like that. First of all his fear would immediately turn him into a
prey. Once he becomes  a prey he has two  courses of  action left. He either
flees or  he makes his stand. If he  is not armed he would  ordinarily  flee
into  the open  field to run for his  life. If he  is armed he would get his
weapon ready and would then make his stand either by freezing on the spot or
by dropping to the ground.
     "A hunter, on the  other hand, when he stalks in  the wilderness  would
never  walk into any  place without figuring out his points  of  protection,
therefore he would immediately take cover.  He might drop his poncho  on the
ground  or he might hang it from a  branch as a decoy and then he would hide
and wait until the game makes its next move.
     "So, in the presence of the magical deer I didn't behave like either. I
quickly stood on my head and began to wail softly; I actually wept tears and
sobbed  for such  a long  time that I was about to faint. Suddenly I felt  a
soft breeze; something was sniffing my hair behind my right ear.  I tried to
turn my head  in sec what it was, and I  tumbled  down and sat up in time to
see a radiant creature staring at me. The deer looked at me and I told him I
would not harm him. And the deer talked to me. Don  Juan  stopped and looked
at  me.  I  smiled involuntarily. The  idea  of  a  talking deer  was  quite
incredible, to put it mildly. "He talked to me, " don Juan said with a grin.
     "The deer talked?"
     "He did."
     Don Juan stood and picked up his bundle of hunting paraphernalia.
     "Did it really talk?" I asked in a tone of perplexity.
     Don Juan roared with laughter.
     "What did it say?" I asked half in jest.
     I thought he was pulling my leg. Don Juan was quiet for a moment, as if
he  were trying to remember, then his eyes brightened as he told me what the
deer had said.
     "The magical deer said, 'Hello friend.', don Juan went on.
     "And I answered, 'Hello.' Then he asked me, 'Why are you crying?' and I
said,  'Because  I'm sad.' Then the magical creature came to my ear and said
as clearly as I am speaking now, 'Don't be sad.'"
     Don Juan stared into my eyes. He had a glint of sheer mischievous ness.
He  began to laugh uproariously. I  said that his dialogue with the deer had
been sort of dumb. "What did  you expect?" he asked, still laughing. "I'm an
     His sense of humor was so outlandish that all I could do was laugh with
     "You don't believe that a magical deer talks, do you?"
     "I'm  sorry but I just can't believe  things like that can happen,  " I
     "I don't  blame you,  " he said reassuringly. "It's one of the darndest


     Monday, July 24, 1961

     Around mid-afternoon, after we had roamed for hours in the desert,  don
Juan chose a place to rest in a shaded area. As soon as we sat down he began
talking. He said that I had learned a  great deal about  hunting, but I  had
not changed as much as he had wished.
     "It's not enough to know how to  make and  set  up traps, " he said. "A
hunter  must live  as  a  hunter in order to draw the  most out of his life.
Unfortunately, changes  are difficult  and happen very  slowly; sometimes it
takes  years for a man to become convinced of the need to change. It took me
years, but maybe I didn't have a  knack for hunting. I think for me the most
difficult thing was to really want to change."
     I assured him that I  understood his point. In fact, since he had begun
to teach me how to hunt I also had begun to reassess my actions. Perhaps the
most dramatic discovery for me was that I liked don Juan's ways. I liked don
Juan as a person.
     There  was something  solid  about his  behavior; the way  he conducted
himself left no doubts about his mastery, and yet He had never exercised his
advantage  to demand anything from me. His interest in  changing  my way  of
life,  I felt, was akin to an impersonal suggestion, or perhaps it was  akin
to an authoritative commentary on my failures. He had made me very aware  of
my failings, yet I could not see how his ways would remedy anything in me. I
sincerely believed  that,  in light of what  I wanted  to do in my life, his
ways would have only brought me misery and hardship, hence the impasse.
     However,  I had learned to respect  his mastery, which had  always been
expressed in terms of beauty and precision.
     "I have decided to shift my tactics, " he said.
     I asked  him to explain; his statement was  vague  and  I  was not sure
whether or not  he  was referring to me. "A good hunter  changes his ways as
often as he needs, " he replied. "You know that yourself."
     "What do you have in mind, don Juan?"
     "A hunter must not only know about the habits of his prey, he also must
know  that  there  are powers  on this earth that guide men  and animals and
everything that is living."
     He stopped talking. I waited  but  he seemed to have come to the end of
what he wanted to say.
     "What kind of  powers  are you talking  about?"  I  asked after a  long
     "Powers that guide our lives and our deaths."
     Don Juan stopped talking and  seemed to be having tremendous difficulty
in deciding what to say. He rubbed his hands and shook his head, puffing out
his  jaws. Twice he  signaled  me to  be  quiet  as I started to ask him  to
explain his cryptic statements.
     "You won't be able to stop yourself easily, " he finally said.
     "I  know that  you're stubborn,  but  that  doesn't  matter.  The  more
stubborn you  are the better it'll be when  you finally succeed in  changing
     "I am trying my best, " I said.
     "No. I disagree.  You're  not trying  your  best.  You  just said  that
because it sounds good to you;  in  fact, you've been saying  the same thing
about everything you do. You've been trying your best for years to no avail.
Something must be done to remedy that."
     I felt compelled, as usual, to  defend myself. Don Juan  seemed to aim,
as  a rule, at my  very weakest points. I remembered  then that every time I
had attempted to defend myself against his criticisms I had ended up feeling
like a fool, and I stopped myself in the midst of a long explanatory speech.
     Don Juan examined me with curiosity and laughed. He said in a very kind
tone that  he had already  told me  that all of us were  fools. I was not an
     "You  always feel  compelled to explain your acts, as  if you were  the
only man  on earth who's  wrong,  " he  said.  "It's  your  old  feeling  of
importance.  You  have too  much  of  it; you  also have too  much  personal
history.  On the other hand, you don't assume responsibility for  your acts;
you're  not  using  your death as  an adviser,  and  above all, you  are too
accessible. In  other words,  your life is  as messy  as it was before I met
     Again I had  a genuine surge of pride  and wanted  to argue that he was
wrong. He gestured me to be quiet.
     "One must assume  responsibility for being in a weird world, " he said.
"We are in a weird world, you know."
     I nodded  my  head affirmatively.  "We're not  talking  about the  same
thing,  " he said. "For you  the world is weird because  if you're not bored
with  it you're at odds  with it. For me the  world is  weird because it  is
stupendous,  awesome, mysterious,  unfathomable;  my  interest has  been  to
convince  you that  you must assume  responsibility for being  here, in this
marvelous world, in this marvelous desert,  in this marvelous time. I wanted
to convince you that you  must learn to make every act count,  since you are
going to be here  for only a short while, in fact, too  short for witnessing
all the marvels of it."
     I insisted that to be bored with the world or to be at odds with it was
the human  condition. "So,  change it, " he  replied  dryly.  "If you do not
respond to that challenge you are as good as dead."
     He dared  me to name an issue, an item in my life  that had engaged all
my thoughts. I said art. I had always wanted to be an artist and for years I
had tried my hand at that. I still had the painful memory of my failure.
     "You have never taken the responsibility for being in this unfathomable
world, " he said in an indicting tone. "Therefore, you were never an artist,
and perhaps you'll never be a hunter."
     "This is my best, don Juan."
     "No. You don't know what your best is."
     "I am doing all I can."
     "You're wrong again. You can do better. There is one simple thing wrong
with you-you think you have plenty of time."  He  paused and looked at me as
if waiting for my reaction.
     "You think you have plenty of time," he repeated.
     "Plenty of time for what, don Juan?"
     "You think your life is going to last forever."
     "No. I don't."
     "Then, if  you don't think your life is going to last forever, what are
you waiting for? Why the hesitation to change?"
     "Has it ever occurred to you, don Juan, that I may not want to change?"
     "Yes, it has occurred to me. I did not want to change either, just like
you. However, I didn't like my life; I was tired of it, just like you. Now I
don't have enough of it."
     I vehemently asserted that his insistence about changing my way of life
was  frightening and arbitrary.  I said that I really agreed  with him, at a
certain level, but the mere fact that he was always the  master that  called
the shots made the situation untenable for me.
     "You don't have  time for this display, you fool, " he said in a severe
tone. "This,  whatever you're doing now, may be your last act  on earth.  It
may very well be your last battle.
     There is no power which could guarantee that you are going to  live one
more minute."
     "I know that, " I said with contained anger.
     "No. You don't. If  you knew that you would be a  hunter." I  contended
that I was aware of my impending death but it was  useless to talk  or think
about  it,  since I could not  do anything to avoid it. Don Juan laughed and
said I was like a comedian going mechanically through a routine.
     "If  this were  your  last battle on earth, I would say that you are an
idiot, " he said  calmly.  "You  are wasting your last act on earth  in some
stupid mood."
     We were quiet for a  moment. My thoughts ran rampant. He  was right, of
course. "You have no time, my friend,  no time.  None of us have  time, " he
said. "I agree, don Juan, but-"
     "Don't just agree with me, " he snapped. "You must, instead of agreeing
so easily, act upon it. Take the challenge. Change."
     "Just like that?"
     "That's  right. The  change  I'm  talking  about  never takes place  by
degrees;  it happens suddenly.  And you are not  preparing yourself for that
sudden act that will bring a total change."
     I believed he was  expressing a contradiction. I  explained to him that
if I were preparing myself to change I was certainly changing by degrees.
     "You haven't changed at all, " he said. "That is why you believe you're
changing little by little.  Yet, perhaps you will surprise yourself  someday
by changing  suddenly and without  a single  warning. I know this is so, and
thus  I  don't lose sight  of  my interest  in convincing  you." I could not
persist in my arguing. I was not sure of what I really wanted  to say. After
a moment's pause don Juan went on explaining his point.
     "Perhaps  I  should put  it in  a different  way,  " he said.  "What  I
recommend you to do is to notice that we do not have  any assurance that our
lives will go on indefinitely. I have  just said  that change comes suddenly
and unexpectedly, and so does death. What do you think we can do about it?"
     I thought  he was asking  a rhetorical  question, but he made a gesture
with his eyebrows urging me to answer.
     "To live as happily as possible, " I said.
     "Right! But do you know anyone who lives happily?"
     My first  impulse was  to say yes; I  thought I could use a  number  of
people  I knew  as examples. On second thought, however,  I  knew  my effort
would only be an empty attempt at exonerating myself.
     "No, " I said. "I really don't."
     "I  do,  " don Juan said.  "There are some people who are  very careful
about  the  nature of their  acts. Their happiness  is to act with  the full
knowledge that they don't have time;  therefore, their acts have a  peculiar
power; their acts have a sense of . . ."
     Don Juan seemed to be at a loss for words. He scratched his temples and
smiled.  Then  suddenly  he  stood  up  as  if  he  were  through  with  our
conversation.  I beseeched him to finish what he was telling me. He sat down
and puckered up his lips.
     "Acts have  power, " he said.  "Especially when the person acting knows
that those acts are his last battle. There is a  strange consuming happiness
in acting with the  full knowledge that whatever  one is doing may very well
be  one's last act on  earth. I  recommend that you reconsider your life and
bring your acts into that light."
     I disagreed with him. Happiness  for me was to assume that there was an
inherent continuity to my  acts and that I would be able  to continue doing,
at will, whatever  I  was doing at the moment, especially if  I was enjoying
it. I told him that my disagreement was not a banal one but stemmed from the
conviction that the world and myself had a determinable continuity. Don Juan
seemed to be amused by my efforts to make sense. He laughed, shook his head,
scratched  his  hair,  and  finally  when I  talked  about  a  "determinable
continuity" threw his hat to the ground and stomped on it.
     I ended up laughing at his clowning. "You don't have time, my friend, "
he said. "That is the misfortune of human beings. None of us have sufficient
time, and  your continuity has no meaning in this awesome, mysterious world.
"Your continuity only makes you timid, " he said. "Your acts cannot possibly
have  the flair,  the power, the compelling force of the acts performed by a
man who knows that he is fighting his last battle on earth.  In other words,
your continuity does not make you happy or powerful." I admitted that I  was
afraid of  thinking I was going to  die  and I accused him  of causing great
apprehension in me with his constant talk and concern about death.
     "But we are all going to die, " he said.
     He pointed towards some hills in the distance.
     "There is something out there waiting for me, for sure; and I will join
it, also for sure. But perhaps you're different and death is not waiting for
you at all."
     He laughed at my gesture of despair.
     "I don't want to think about it, don Juan."
     "Why not?"
     "It is  meaningless.  If it is out there waiting  for  me  why should I
worry about it?"
     "I didn't say that you have to worry about it."
     "What am I supposed to do then?"
     "Use it. Focus your attention  on the link between you and  your death,
without remorse or sadness or worrying. Focus your attention on the fact you
don't have time and let your acts flow accordingly. Let each of your acts be
your last battle on  earth. Only under those conditions  will your acts have
their rightful power.  Otherwise  they will be, for as long as you live, the
acts of a timid man."
     "Is it so terrible to be a timid man?"
     "No. It  isn't if you are going to be immortal, but if you are going to
die there is  no time  for timidity, simply because timidity makes you cling
to  something  that  exists  only  in your thoughts. It  soothes  you  while
everything is at a lull,  but  then the awesome, mysterious  world will open
its mouth  for you, as it  will open for every one of us, and then you  will
realize that your sure ways were  not  sure at  all. Being timid prevents us
from examining and exploiting our lot as men."
     "It is not natural to live with the  constant  idea of  our  death, don
     "Our death is waiting and  this very act we're  performing now may well
be our last battle on earth,  " he replied in a solemn voice.  "I call it  a
battle because it is a struggle. Most people move  from  act  to act without
any struggle or thought. A hunter, on the contrary, assesses every  act; and
since he has an intimate knowledge of his death, he proceeds judiciously, as
if  every act  were his last  battle. Only a  fool would  fail to notice the
advantage a hunter has over his  fellow men. A hunter gives his  last battle
its due respect. It's only natural  that his last act on earth should be the
best  of  himself.  It's  pleasurable that way.  It  dulls  the  edge of his
     "You are right, " I conceded. "It's just hard to accept."
     "It'll take years for  you to  convince yourself and  then  it'll  take
years for you to act accordingly. I only hope you have time left."
     "I get scared when you say that, " I said.
     Don Juan examined me with a serious expression on his face.
     "I've  told you,  this is a  weird world, " he  said.  "The forces that
guide men are  unpredictable, awesome, yet  their splendor  is something  to
     He stopped talking and looked at me again. He seemed to be on the verge
of revealing something to me, but he checked himself and smiled.
     "Is there something that guides us?" I asked.
     "Certainly. There are powers that guide us."
     "Can you describe them?"
     "Not  really,  except  to call  them forces,  spirits, airs,  winds, or
anything like that."
     I wanted to probe him further, but before  I could ask anything else he
stood up. I stared at him,  flabbergasted.  He  had stood up  in  one single
movement; his body simply jerked up and he was on his feet.
     I was  still  pondering upon the  unusual skill that would be needed in
order to move with such speed when he  told me  in a dry tone of command  to
stalk a rabbit, catch it, kill it, skin  it, and  roast the meat  before the
     He looked up at the sky and said that I might have enough time.
     I  automatically started off, proceeding the way  I had done  scores of
times.  Don  Juan  walked  beside  me  and  followed  my  movements  with  a
scrutinizing look. I was very calm and moved carefully and I had no  trouble
at all in catching a male rabbit.
     "Now kill it, " don Juan said dryly.
     I reached  into the trap to grab hold  of  the rabbit. I had it by  the
ears and was pulling it  out when a sudden sensation  of terror invaded  me.
For the first time since  don Juan had begun to teach me to hunt it occurred
to me that  he had never taught me how to  kill game. In the scores of times
we had roamed in the desert he himself had only killed one rabbit, two quail
and one rattlesnake.
     I dropped the rabbit and looked at don Juan.
     "I can't kill it, " I said.
     "Why not?"
     "I've never done that."
     "But you've killed hundreds of birds and other animals."
     "With a gun, not with my bare hands."
     "What difference does it make? This rabbit's time is up."
     Don Juan's tone shocked me; it was so authoritative, so  knowledgeable,
it left no doubts in my mind that he knew that the rabbit's time was up.
     "Kill it!" he commanded with a ferocious look in his eyes.
     "I can't."
     He yelled at me that the rabbit had to die. He said that its roaming in
that beautiful  desert had  come  to an end. I  had  no  business  stalling,
because the  power or the spirit that guides rabbits had led that particular
one into my trap, right at the edge of the twilight.
     A series  of confusing  thoughts and  feelings overtook  me, as  if the
feelings had been  out there  waiting for me.  I felt with agonizing clarity
the rabbit's tragedy, to have fallen into my trap. In a matter of seconds my
mind  swept across the most crucial moments of my own life, the many times I
had been the rabbit myself.
     I looked at it, and it looked at me. The  rabbit had backed up  against
the side of the cage; it was almost curled up, very quiet and motionless. We
exchanged a somber glance, and that glance, which I fancied to be  of silent
despair, cemented a complete identification on my part. "The hell with it, "
I said loudly. "I won't kill anything. That rabbit goes free."
     A profound emotion made me  shiver. My arms trembled as I tried to grab
the  rabbit by  the ears; it moved fast  and  I  missed.  I  again tried and
fumbled once  more. I became  desperate. I had the sensation  of  nausea and
quickly kicked the trap in order to smash it and let the rabbit go free. The
cage  was unsuspectedly strong and did not  break  as I thought it would. My
despair mounted to an  unbearable feeling of anguish. Using all my strength,
I stomped on the  edge of the cage with  my right foot.  The sticks  cracked
loudly.  I  pulled the rabbit  out.  I had  a  moment of  relief, which  was
shattered to bits in the next instant. The rabbit hung limp in  my  hand. It
was dead. I did not know what to  do. I became preoccupied  with finding out
how it had died. I turned to don Juan. He was
     staring at me. A feeling of terror sent a chill through my body.
     I sat down  by some rocks. I had a terrible headache. Don Juan put  his
hand  on my  head and whispered in my ear  that I had to skin the rabbit and
roast it before the twilight was over.
     I felt nauseated. He very patiently talked to me as if he were  talking
to a child. He said  that the powers that guided men or animals had led that
particular rabbit to me, in the same way they will lead  me to my own death.
He said the rabbit's death had been a gift for me in exactly the same way my
own death will be a gift for something or someone else.
     I  was dizzy. The simple events of that day had crushed  me. I tried to
think that it was only a rabbit; I could not, however, shake off the uncanny
identification I had had with it.
     Don Juan said that I needed to eat some of its meat, if only morsel, in
order to validate my finding.
     "I can't do that, " I protested meekly.
     "We  are dregs in the  hands of those  forces, "  he snapped at me. "So
stop  your  self-importance  and use this gift  properly." I  picked up  the
rabbit; it was warm.
     Don Juan leaned over and whispered in  my ear, "Your trap  was his last
battle  on earth. I told  you, he had no more time to roam in this marvelous


     Thursday, August 11, 1961

     As soon  as I got out of my car I complained to don Juan that I was not
feeling well.
     "Sit down, sit down, " he said softly  and almost led me by the hand to
his porch. He smiled and patted me on the back.
     Two weeks before, on August 4th, don Juan, as he  had said, changed his
tactics  with me and allowed me  to ingest  some peyote buttons. During  the
height  of my hallucinatory experience I played with a dog that lived in the
house  where  the  peyote  session  took  place.  Don  Juan  interpreted  my
interaction with  the dog  as  a very  special event. He  contended  that at
moments of  power,  such as  the one I had  been living then,  the world  of
ordinary affairs did not exist and  nothing could be taken for granted, that
the dog was not really a dog  but the incarnation of Mescalito, the power or
deity contained in peyote.
     The post-effects of that experience were a general sense of fatigue and
melancholy, plus the incidence of exceptionally vivid dreams and nightmares.
     "Where's your writing gear?" don Juan asked as I sat down on the porch.
     I had left my notebooks in  my car. Don Juan walked back to the car and
carefully pulled out my briefcase and brought it to my side.
     He asked if I usually carried my briefcase when I walked. I said I did.
     "That's madness, "  he said. "I've told  you never to carry anything in
your hands when you walk. Get a knapsack."
     I laughed. The idea of carrying my notes in a knapsack was ludicrous. I
told him that ordinarily I wore a  suit and  a  knapsack over a  three-piece
suit would be a preposterous sight.
     "Put  your  coat on over  the  knapsack,"  he said. "It is better  that
people think you're a hunchback  than  to ruin your body  carrying  all this
around." He urged  me  to  get out  my  notebook and  write. He seemed to be
making a deliberate effort to put  me at ease.  I complained again about the
feeling of physical discomfort  and the  strange  sense of unhappiness I was
experiencing. Don Juan laughed and said, "You're beginning to learn."
     We then had a long conversation. He said that Mescalito, by allowing me
to play with him, had pointed me out as a "chosen man" and that, although he
was baffled by the omen because I was not an Indian, he was going to pass on
to me some secret knowledge. He said that he had had a "benefactor" himself,
who taught him how to become a "man of knowledge."
     I sensed  that something dreadful was about  to  happen. The revelation
that I was  his chosen man, plus the unquestionable strangeness of his  ways
and the devastating  effect that  peyote had had on me, created  a state  of
unbearable apprehension and indecision. But don Juan disregarded my feelings
and recommended that I should only think of the wonder of Mescalito  playing
with me.
     "Think  about nothing else, " he  said. "The  rest will come to you  of
     He stood up  and  patted me gently on  the head and said in a very soft
voice, "I am going to teach you how to become a warrior in the same manner I
have taught you how to hunt. I  must warn you,  though, learning how to hunt
has not made you  into a hunter,  nor would learning how to become a warrior
make you one."
     I experienced  a  sense  of frustration,  a  physical  discomfort  that
bordered on  anguish. I complained about the  vivid  dreams and nightmares I
was having.  He  seemed  to deliberate  for a  moment  and sat  down  again.
"They're weird dreams, " I said.
     "You've always had weird dreams, " he retorted.
     "I'm telling you, this time they  are  truly more  weird  than anything
I've ever had."
     "Don't concern yourself. They are only  dreams.  Like the dreams of any
ordinary dreamer, they don't have power. So what's the use of worrying about
them or talking about them?"
     "They  bother me,  don  Juan.  Isn't  there something I can do to  stop
     "Nothing. Let them  pass, "  he said. "Now it's time for you to  become
accessible to power, and you are going to begin by tackling dreaming."
     The tone of voice he used when he said "dreaming" made me think that he
was  using  the word in a very particular fashion.  I was  pondering about a
proper question to ask when he began to talk again.
     "I've never told  you about dreaming,  because  until  now  I  was only
concerned with teaching you how to be a hunter, " he said. "A hunter  is not
concerned with  the  manipulation  of power, therefore his dreams  are  only
dreams. They might be poignant but they are not dreaming.
     "A warrior, on the  other  hand, seeks power, and one of the avenues to
power  is dreaming. You may say that  the  difference between a hunter and a
warrior is that a warrior is on his
     way to power, while a hunter knows nothing or very little about it.
     "The decision as to who can be a warrior and  who  can only be a hunter
is not up to us. That decision is in the realm of the powers that guide men.
That's  why  your  playing with Mescalito was such  an important omen. Those
forces guided you to  me; they took you to that bus  depot,  remember?  Some
clown  brought  you  to me. A perfect omen, a clown  pointing you out. So, I
taught you  how  to be a hunter.  And then the other perfect omen, Mescalito
himself playing with you. See what I mean?"
     His weird  logic was overwhelming. His words  created visions of myself
succumbing to  something  awesome  and  unknown, something which  I  had not
bargained  for, and which I had  not  conceived existed, even in my  wildest
     "What do you propose I should do?" I asked.
     "Become accessible  to  power;  tackle your dreams,  " he replied. "You
call them dreams because you have no power. A warrior, being a man who seeks
power, doesn't call them dreams, he calls them real."
     "You mean he takes his dreams as being reality?"
     "He doesn't  take anything as being anything else. What you call dreams
are real for a warrior. You must understand  that a warrior is not a fool. A
warrior is an immaculate hunter who hunts power; he's not  drunk, or crazed,
and he has neither the  time nor  the disposition  to  bluff,  or to  lie to
himself,  or to make a  wrong move.  The stakes  are  too high for that. The
stakes  are his trimmed orderly life  which  he has taken so long to tighten
and perfect.  He  is not  going  to throw  that away  by  making some stupid
miscalculation, by taking something for being something else.
     "Dreaming is real for a  warrior because in it he can act deliberately,
he can choose and  reject, he can select from a variety of items those which
lead to power, and  then he can manipulate them and use  them,  while in  an
ordinary  dream he cannot  act deliberately." "Do  you  mean then, don Juan,
that dreaming is real?"
     "Of course it is real."
     "As real as what we are doing now?"
     "If you want to compare things, I can say that it is perhaps more real.
In  dreaming  you  have  power;  you  can  change things; you may  find  out
countless concealed facts; you can control whatever you want."
     Don  Juan's premises  always had  appealed to me at a certain  level. I
could easily understand his liking the idea that  one  could  do anything in
dreams, but  I  could not take him seriously. The jump  was  too  great.  We
looked at  each other  for a moment. His statements were  insane  and yet he
was,  to the  best of  my knowledge,  one of the most level-headed men I had
ever met.
     I told him that I could  not believe  he took his dreams to be reality.
He chuckled as if he knew the  magnitude  of my untenable  position, then he
stood up without saying a word and walked inside his house.
     I sat for a long time in  a state of stupor  until he  called me to the
back of his house. He had made some corn gruel and handed me a bowl. I asked
him about  the time when one  was awake. I  wanted to  know if he  called it
anything in particular. But he did not understand or did not want to answer.
     "What do you  call this,  what we're  doing now?" I asked, meaning that
what we were doing was reality as opposed to dreams.
     "I call it eating, " he said and contained his laughter.
     "I call it reality, " I said.  "Because  our eating  is actually taking
     "Dreaming  also takes  place,  "  he replied,  giggling. "And  so  does
hunting, walking, laughing."
     I did not persist in arguing. I could not, however, even if I stretched
myself beyond my limits, accept his premise.  He seemed to be delighted with
my despair.
     As soon as we had finished eating he casually stated that we were going
to go for a hike, but we were not going to roam in the desert  in the manner
we had done before. "It's different this time, " he said. "From now on we're
going  to  places  of power; you're going  to  learn  how to  make  yourself
accessible  to  power." I  again expressed  my  turmoil.  I said I  was  not
qualified for that endeavor.
     "Come on, you're indulging  in silly fears, " he said in  a low  voice,
patting me on the back and smiling benevolently. "I've been catering to your
hunter's spirit. You like to roam with me in this beautiful desert. It's too
late for you to quit."
     He began to  walk  into the desert  chaparral. He signaled me  with his
head to follow him. I could have walked  to my car and left, except  that  I
liked  to  roam in  that beautiful desert  with him. I liked the  sensation,
which I experienced only in  his  company,  that this was indeed an awesome,
mysterious, yet beautiful world. As he said, I was hooked.
     Don Juan led me to the  hills towards the east. It was a  long hike. It
was  a  hot  day;  the  heat,  however,  which  ordinarily would  have  been
unbearable to me,  was somehow unnoticeable. We walked  for quite a distance
into a canyon until don Juan  came to a halt and sat  down in  the  shade of
some boulders. I took some crackers out of my knapsack but he told me not to
bother with them.
     He said that I should sit in a prominent place.  He pointed to a single
almost  round boulder ten or  fifteen  feet away and helped me climb to  the
top.  I thought he was also  going to sit there, but instead he just climbed
part of the way in order to hand me some pieces of dry meat. He told me with
a deadly serious expression that it was power meat and should be chewed very
slowly and should not be mixed with  any other food. He then  walked back to
the  shaded area  and  sat down  with  his  back against a  rock. He  seemed
relaxed,  almost  sleepy. He  remained  in the  same  position  until I  had
finished eating. Then he sat up straight and tilted his head to the right.
     He seemed to  be listening attentively. He  glanced  at me two or three
times, stood up abruptly, and began to scan the surroundings with  his eyes,
the way a hunter would do.  I automatically froze on the spot and only moved
my eyes in order  to follow his movements. Very  carefully he stepped behind
some rocks, as if he were  expecting game  to  come into  the area  where we
were. I realized then that we were in a round covelike bend in the dry water
canyon, surrounded by sandstone boulders.
     Don Juan suddenly came out  from behind the rocks and smiled at me.  He
stretched his arms, yawned, and  walked  towards the boulder  where I was. I
relaxed my tense position and sat down.
     "What happened?" I asked in a whisper.
     He answered me, yelling, that there was  nothing  around there to worry
     I felt  an  immediate jolt in my stomach.  His answer was inappropriate
and it  was inconceivable to me that he would yell, unless he had a specific
reason for it. I began to slide down from the boulder, but he yelled that  I
should stay there a while longer. "What are you doing?" I asked.
     He sat down and concealed himself between two  rocks at the base of the
boulder where I was, and then he said in a very loud voice that he had  only
been looking around because he thought he had heard something.
     I asked if he had heard a large animal. He put  his hand to his ear and
yelled that  he was  unable to hear me  and that I should shout my words.  I
felt  ill at ease  yelling, but  he urged me in a loud voice  to speak up. I
shouted that  I  wanted to know what was going on, and  he shouted back that
there was  really  nothing around there.  He  yelled, asking if I  could see
anything unusual from the top of the boulder. I said no,  and he asked me to
describe to him the terrain towards the south.
     We shouted back and forth  for a while and then he  signaled me to come
down. I joined him and he whispered in my ear that the yelling was necessary
to make our presence known, because I had to make  myself  accessible to the
power of that specific water hole.
     I  looked around but could not see the water hole. He  pointed  that we
were standing on it. "There's water  here, " he said in a whisper, "and also
power.  There's a spirit here  and we have to lure it out;  perhaps it  will
come after you."
     I wanted to  know  more  about the alleged  spirit, but he insisted  on
total  silence. He advised  me to stay  perfectly  still and  not let out  a
whisper or make the slightest movement to betray our presence.
     Apparently  it  was easy for  him to remain in complete  immobility for
hours; for me,  however, it was sheer torture. My  legs fell asleep, my back
ached, and tension  built up  around  my neck  and shoulders. My entire body
became numb and cold. I was in great discomfort when don  Juan finally stood
up. He just sprung to his feet and extended his hand to me to  help me stand
     As  I  was  trying to  stretch  my  legs I  realized the  inconceivable
easiness with  which  don Juan had jumped up after hours  of  immobility. It
took quite  some time for  my  muscles to regain the  elasticity needed  for
     Don Juan headed back for  the house. He walked extremely slowly. He set
up a  length  of  three paces as the distance I should observe in  following
him. He meandered around the regular route and crossed it four or five times
in different directions; when we finally arrived at his  house it  was  late
     I tried to question him  about the events of the day. He explained that
talking was unnecessary. For  the time being,  I had to  refrain from asking
questions until  we were  in  a place of power. I was dying to know what  he
meant  by that and tried  to whisper  a question, but he reminded me, with a
cold severe look, that he meant business.
     We sat on his porch  for hours. I worked on my notes. From time to time
he handed me a piece of dry meat; finally  it was too dark to write. I tried
to think about the new developments, but  some part of myself refused to and
I fell asleep.

     Saturday, August 19, 1961

     Yesterday morning don Juan and I drove  to town  and ate breakfast at a
restaurant. He  advised  me  not to change my eating habits too drastically.
"Your  body  is  not used to power  meat, " he said. "You'd get  sick if you
didn't  eat your food." He  himself ate heartily. When I  joked about  it he
simply said, "My body likes everything."
     Around  noon we hiked back  to the water canyon.  We  proceeded to make
ourselves noticeable to  the spirit by "noisy talk" and by  a forced silence
which lasted hours.  When we left the place, instead of  heading back to the
house, don Juan took off in the direction  of the mountains. We reached some
mild slopes first and then we climbed to the top of some  high hills. There,
don  Juan picked out a spot to rest in the  open unshaded  area.  He told me
that  we had  to wait until dusk , and that  I should conduct myself in  the
most natural fashion, which included asking all the questions I wanted.
     "I know that  the spirit is out there lurking, " he said in a  very low
     "Out there, in the bushes."
     "What kind of spirit is it?"
     He looked at me with a quizzical expression and retorted,
     "How many kinds are there?"
     We both laughed. I was asking questions out of nervousness.
     "It'll come out at dusk, " he said.  "We just have to wait." I remained
quiet. I had run out of questions.
     "This  is the time when we must keep on talking, "  he said. "The human
voice  attracts spirits. There's  one lurking out there now.  We are  making
ourselves available to it, so keep on talking."
     I  experienced  an  idiotic  sense  of  vacuity.  I  could not think of
anything to say. He laughed and patted me on the back.
     "You're truly  a pill, " he said. "When you have to talk, you lose your
tongue. Come on, beat your gums."
     He made a hilarious gesture of beating  his gums together, opening  and
closing his mouth with great speed.
     "There are certain things we will talk about from now on only at places
of power, " he went on. "I have brought you here, because this is your first
trial. This is a place of power, and here we can talk only about power."
     "I really don't know what power is, " I said.
     "Power is something a warrior deals with, " he  said. "At first it's an
incredible, far-fetched  affair; it is hard to even think  about it. This is
what's happening to you now. Then  power  becomes a  serious matter; one may
not have it, or one may not even fully realize that it exists, yet one knows
that  something is there,  something  which was not noticeable before.  Next
power is manifested as something uncontrollable that comes to oneself. It is
not possible for me to say how  it comes or what it really is. It is nothing
and yet it makes marvels appear before your very eyes. And finally  power is
something in oneself, something that controls one's acts and yet obeys one's
     There was a short pause. Don Juan asked me if  I had understood. I felt
ludicrous saying I did. He seemed to have noticed my dismay and chuckled.
     "I am going  to teach you right here the first step to power, " he said
as if  he were dictating a letter to me. "I am going to teach you how to set
up dreaming."
     He looked at me and  again asked me if I knew what he meant. I did not.
I was  hardly  following  him at all. He explained that to "set up dreaming"
meant  to have a concise and pragmatic control over the general situation of
a dream, comparable to the control  one  has over  any choice in the desert,
such as climbing up a hill or remaining in the shade of a water canyon.
     "You must start by doing something very simple, " he said.
     "Tonight  in your dreams you  must look  at your hands." I  laughed out
loud. His tone  was so factual that  it  was as  if he were telling me to do
something commonplace.
     "Why do you laugh?" he asked with surprise.
     "How can I look at my hands in my dreams?"
     "Very simple, focus your eyes on them just like this." He bent his head
forward and  stared  at his hands with  his mouth open.  His gesture  was so
comical that I had to laugh.
     "Seriously, how can you expect me to do that?" I asked.
     "The  way I've  told you, " he snapped.  "You  can, of course, look  at
whatever you goddamn  please-your toes, or your belly, or  your pecker,  for
that matter. I said your hands because that was the easiest thing for  me to
look at. Don't think it's a joke. Dreaming is  as serious as seeing or dying
or any other thing in this awesome, mysterious world.
     "Think   about  it  as   something  entertaining.   Imagine   all   the
inconceivable  things  you could  accomplish. A  man  hunting  for power has
almost no limits in his dreaming."
     I asked him to give me some pointers.
     "There aren't any pointers, " he said. "Just look at your hands."
     "There must be more that you could tell me, " I insisted.
     He  shook  his  head and  squinted  his  eyes, staring  at me  in short
     "Every  one  of  us is different, " he  finally  said. "What  you  call
pointers would only be what I myself did when I was learning. We are not the
same; we aren't even vaguely alike."
     "Maybe anything you'd say would help me."
     "It would be simpler for you just to start looking at your hands."
     He  seemed  to be organizing his thoughts  and bobbed his  head up  and
     "Every time you  look at anything in your dreams it changes shape, " he
said  after a long silence. "The  trick in  learning  to set up  dreaming is
obviously  not just  to look  at  things but to sustain the sight  of  them.
Dreaming is real when one has succeeded  in bringing everything  into focus.
Then there is no difference between what you do  when you sleep and what you
do when you are not sleeping. Do you see what I mean?"
     I confessed that although I understood what he had said I was incapable
of accepting his premise.  I brought up  the point that in a civilized world
there were scores of people who had delusions and could not distinguish what
took place in the real world from what took place in their fantasies. I said
that such persons were undoubtedly mentally ill, and my uneasiness increased
every time he would recommend I should act like a crazy man.
     After my long explanation don Juan made a comical gesture of despair by
putting  his hands to his  cheeks and sighing loudly.  "Leave your civilized
world alone, " he said. "Let it  be! Nobody is asking you to  behave like  a
madman. I've  already told you, a warrior has to be perfect in order to deal
with  the powers he hunts; how can you conceive that a warrior would  not be
able to tell things apart?
     "On the  other hand, you, my friend, who  know what the real  world is,
would fumble and die in no  time at all  if you would have to depend on your
ability for telling what is real and what is not."
     I obviously  had not expressed what I really had in mind. Every time  I
protested I was simply voicing the  unbearable frustration  of being  in  an
untenable position.
     "I am  not trying to make you into a sick, crazy man, " don  Juan  went
on. "You can do that yourself without my help.
     But the  forces  that guide  us  brought you to me,  and  I  have  been
endeavoring  to  teach you  to change your  stupid  ways and live the strong
clean life of  a hunter. Then  the forces guided you again and told  me that
you  should learn to  live the impeccable life  of a warrior. Apparently you
can't.  But  who can  tell?  We  are  as mysterious  and as awesome as  this
unfathomable world, so who can tell what you're capable of?"
     There was an underlying tone of  sadness in  don Juan's voice. I wanted
to apologize, but he began to talk again.
     "You don't have to look at your hands, " he said. "Like I've said, pick
anything at all. But pick one thing in advance and find it in your dreams. I
said your hands because they'll always be there.
     "When they begin  to  change  shape you must move  your sight away from
them and pick something else, and then look at your hands again. It takes  a
long time to perfect this technique."
     I had become so involved in  writing that I had not noticed that it was
getting dark. The sun had already disappeared  over the horizon. The sky was
cloudy  and  the  twilight was imminent. Don Juan stood  up and gave furtive
glances towards the south.
     "Let's go, " he said. "We must walk south until the spirit of the water
hole shows itself."
     We walked for perhaps half an hour. The terrain changed abruptly and we
came to a barren  area. There was a large round hill where the chaparral had
burnt. It  looked like a bald head. We walked towards it. I thought that don
Juan was going  to climb the mild slope, but he stopped instead and remained
in a very  attentive position. His  body  seemed  to have tensed as a single
unit and shivered for an  instant. Then he relaxed again and stood limply. I
could not figure out how his body could remain erect while his muscles  were
so relaxed.
     At that  moment a very  strong gust of wind jolted me. Don  Juan's body
turned in the direction of the  wind, towards the west. He  did not  use his
muscles to turn, or at least he did not use them the way I would use mine to
turn. Don Juan's body seemed rather to have been pulled from the outside. It
was as if someone else had arranged his body to face a new direction.
     I kept on staring at him.  He looked at me from  the corner of his eye.
The expression  on  his face was  one of  determination, purpose. All of his
being was attentive, and I stared at him in wonder. I had never been in  any
situation that called for such a strange concentration.
     Suddenly his body shivered as  though he  had been splashed by a sudden
shower of cold water. He  had another jolt and then he started to walk as if
nothing had happened.
     I followed him. We flanked  the  naked  hills on the east side until we
were at the middle part of it; he stopped there, turning to face the west.
     From where we stood, the top of the hill was not so round and smooth as
it had seemed to be from the distance. There was a cave, or a hole, near the
top. I  looked  at it  fixedly because don  Juan was doing the same. Another
strong  gust of wind sent a chill up  my spine. Don Juan turned  towards the
south and scanned the area with his eyes.
     "There!" he said in a whisper and pointed to an object on the ground.
     I strained  my  eyes to see. There was something on the ground, perhaps
twenty  feet away. It was light brown and as I looked at  it, it shivered. I
focused all my attention on it.
     The object was almost round and seemed to be curled; in fact, it looked
like a curled up dog.
     "What is it?" I whispered to don Juan.
     "I  don't  know, " he  whispered back as he peered at the object. "What
does it look like to you?"
     I told him that it seemed to be a dog.
     "Too large for a dog, " he said matter-of-factly.
     I  took a couple of steps towards it, but don Juan stopped me gently. I
stared at it again.  It was definitely some animal that was either asleep or
dead. I could almost see  its head; its ears  protruded like the  ears  of a
wolf.  By  then  I  was  definitely  sure that it  was a curled-up animal. I
thought that it could have been a  brown calf. I whispered that to don Juan.
He answered  that it  was  too compact to  be a calf, besides its ears  were
     The animal shivered again and then I noticed that it was alive. I could
actually  see  that  it was  breathing, yet  it  did  not  seem  to  breathe
rhythmically.  The breaths that it  took were more like irregular shivers. I
had a sudden realization at that moment.
     "It's an animal that is dying, " I whispered to don Juan.
     "You're right, " he whispered back. "But what kind of an animal?"
     I could not make out  its  specific features. Don Juan took a couple of
cautious steps towards  it. I followed him. It was quite dark by then and we
had to take two more steps in order to keep the animal in view.
     "Watch out, " don Juan whispered in my ear. "If it is a dying animal it
may leap on us with its last strength."
     The  animal,  whatever  it  was, seemed to  be on its  last  legs;  its
breathing was irregular, its body shook spasmodically, but it did not change
its curled-up position.  At a  given  moment, however,  a  tremendous  spasm
actually lifted the animal off the ground. I heard an inhuman shriek and the
animal  stretched its  legs; its claws were more than frightening, they were
nauseating. The  animal tumbled on its  side  after stretching its legs  and
then rolled on its back.  I  heard a formidable growl  and  don Juan's voice
     "Run for your life!"
     And  that was exactly what I  did. I scrambled  towards  the top of the
hill with unbelievable  speed and agility. When  I was halfway  to the top I
looked back and saw don Juan standing in the  same place. He signaled  me to
come down. I ran down the hill.
     "What happened?" I asked, completely out of breath.
     "I think the animal is dead, " he said.
     We advanced cautiously towards the animal. It was sprawled on its back.
As  I came closer to it I nearly yelled with fright.  I realized that it was
not  quite  dead yet. Its body  was  still trembling.  Its legs,  which were
sticking up in the  air, shook wildly. The animal was definitely in its last
gasps. I walked in front of don Juan. A new jolt moved the animal's body and
I could see its head. I turned  to don Juan,  horrified. Judging by its body
the animal was obviously a mammal, yet it had a beak, like a bird.
     I  stared  at it  in  complete and absolute horror. My  mind refused to
believe it. I was dumbfounded. I could not even articulate  a word. Never in
my  whole  existence  had  I witnessed  anything  of  that nature. Something
inconceivable  was  there  in  front of my very  eyes. I wanted  don Juan to
explain  that  incredible  animal  but I could  only  mumble to him. He  was
staring  at  me. I  glanced at  him  and glanced  at  the  animal,  and then
something in me arranged the world and I knew at once what the animal was. I
walked over to it and picked it up. It was a large branch of a bush.  It had
been  burnt, and possibly the  wind  had blown  some burnt debris which  got
caught in  the  dry branch and thus gave the appearance  of a  large bulging
round animal. The  color  of the burnt  debris made it look  light brown  in
contrast with the green vegetation.
     I  laughed at  my idiocy  and excitedly explained to don Juan  that the
wind blowing through it  had  made it look like  a live animal. I thought he
would  be pleased with the way  I  had  resolved the  mystery, but he turned
around and began  walking to the top of the hill. I followed him. He crawled
inside  the  depression  that looked like a  cave. It was  not  a hole but a
shallow dent in the sandstone.
     Don  Juan  took some small branches and used  them to scoop up the dirt
that had accumulated in the bottom of the depression.
     "We have to get rid of the ticks, " he said. He signaled me to sit down
and  told me  to make myself comfortable because we were going to  spend the
night there. I began to talk about the branch, but he hushed me up.
     "What you've  done is no triumph, " he said. "You've wasted a beautiful
power,  a power that blew life  into that dry  twig." He  said that  a  real
triumph would  have  been for me  to let go and  follow the  power until the
world had ceased to exist.
     He  did  not  seem  to  be  angry  with  me  or  disappointed  with  my
performance. He repeatedly stated that  this was only the beginning, that it
took time to handle  power.  He patted me  on the  shoulder  and  joked that
earlier that day I was the person who knew what was real and what was not.
     I felt embarrassed. I  began  to  apologize for my tendency  of  always
being so sure of my ways.
     "It  doesn't matter, " he said. "That  branch was a real  animal and it
was alive at  the moment the power touched it.  Since what kept it alive was
power, the trick was, like in dreaming, to sustain the sight of it. See what
I mean?"
     I  wanted to  ask something else, but he hushed me up  and said  that I
should remain completely  silent but awake all night and that  he alone  was
going to talk for a while.
     He said that the  spirit,  which knew his voice, might  become  subdued
with the sound of it  and  leave us  alone. He explained  that  the  idea of
making  oneself  accessible  to  power had  serious  overtones. Power was  a
devastating  force  that  could easily lead  to  one's death and  had  to be
treated  with  great  care.  Becoming  available to  power  had  to  be done
systematically, but always with great caution.
     It involved making  one's  presence obvious  by a contained display  of
loud talk or  any other type of noisy activity, and then it was mandatory to
observe  a  prolonged  and  total  silence.  A  controlled  outburst  and  a
controlled  quietness were the  mark of a  warrior.  He said that properly I
should have sustained the sight of the live monster for a while longer. In a
controlled  fashion, without  losing  my  mind  or  becoming  deranged  with
excitation or fear, I should have  striven to "stop  the world."  He pointed
out that after  I had run up the hill for dear life I was in a perfect state
for "stopping the world."
     Combined in that  state were fear, awe, power and death;  he  said that
such a state would be pretty hard to repeat.
     I whispered in his ear, "What do you mean by 'stopping the world'?"
     He gave me a ferocious look  before he answered that it was a technique
practiced  by those  who  were hunting for  power, a technique by  virtue of
which the world as we know it was made to collapse.


     I drove up to don Juan's house on Thursday, August 31, 1961, and before
I even had a chance to greet  him he stuck his head through the window of my
car, smiled at me, and said, "We must  drive quite a  distance to a place of
power and it's almost noon."
     He  opened the door of my car, sat down  next to me in  the front seat,
and directed me to drive south for about seventy miles; we  then turned east
onto a  dirt road  and followed  it until we had  reached the slopes of  the
mountains.  I parked  my  car off the road  in a  depression don Juan picked
because  it  was deep  enough to hide  the car from view. From there we went
directly to the top of the low hills, crossing a vast flat desolate area.
     When  it  got  dark don Juan selected  a  place to  sleep. He  demanded
complete silence.
     The next  day we ate frugally  and continued our journey in an easterly
direction.  The  vegetation  was  no longer desert shrubbery but thick green
mountain bushes and trees. Around  mid-afternoon we climbed  to the top of a
gigantic  bluff of  conglomerate rock which looked like a wall. Don Juan sat
down and signaled me to sit down also. "This is a place of power, "  he said
after a moment's pause.
     "This is the place where warriors were buried a long time ago."
     At that instant a  crow flew right above  us, cawing. Don Juan followed
its flight with a fixed gaze.
     I  examined the rock and  was wondering how and  where the warriors had
been buried when he tapped me on the shoulder.
     "Not here, you fool, " he said, smiling. "Down there."
     He pointed  to  the field right below us at  the  bottom of  the bluff,
towards the east; he explained that the field in  question was surrounded by
a  natural corral of boulders. From where  I was sitting I saw an area which
was  perhaps a hundred  yards in diameter and  which  looked like a  perfect
     Thick bushes  covered its surface,  camouflaging the boulders.  I would
not have noticed its perfect roundness if don Juan had not pointed it out to
me. He said that there were scores of such places scattered in the old world
of the Indians. They were not exactly places of power, like certain hills or
land formations  which  were  the abode  of  spirits, but  rather places  of
enlightenment where one could be taught, where one could  find solutions  to
     "All you have to do is come here, " he said.  "Or spend  the  night  on
this rock in order to rearrange your feelings."
     "Are we going to spend the night here?"
     "I thought so, but a  little crow just told me not to do that." I tried
to  find  out more about  the  crow but  he hushed me  up with an  impatient
movement of his hand.
     "Look at that circle of boulders, " he said. "Fix it in your memory and
then someday a crow will lead you to another one of these  places.  The more
perfect its roundness is, the greater its power."
     "Are the  warriors' bones still buried  here?"  Don Juan made a comical
gesture of puzzlement and then smiled broadly.
     "This is not a cemetery, " he said. "Nobody is buried here.
     I said  warriors were once buried here. I meant they used to come  here
to bury themselves for  a night, or for two days,  or for whatever length of
time they needed to. I did not mean dead people's bones are buried here. I'm
not concerned with cemeteries. There  is no power in them. There is power in
the bones of a warrior, though, but they are never in cemeteries.
     And there is even more power in the bones of a man of knowledge, yet it
would be practically impossible to find them."
     "Who is a man of knowledge, don Juan?"
     "Any warrior  could become a man of knowledge. As I told you, a warrior
is  an  impeccable hunter that hunts power. If he succeeds in his hunting he
can be a man of knowledge."
     "What do you . . ."
     He  stopped my  question with  a  movement of  his  hand. He  stood up,
signaled me to follow, and began descending on  the  steep east side  of the
bluff. There was a definite  trail in the almost perpendicular face, leading
to the round area.
     We slowly  worked  our way down the perilous path, and when we  reached
the bottom floor don Juan, without stopping at all, led me through the thick
chaparral to the middle of the circle. There he used some thick dry branches
to sweep a clean spot for us to sit. The spot was also perfectly round.
     "I intended to bury you here all night, " he said. "But I know now that
it is  not time yet.  You don't have power. I'm going to bury you only for a
short while."
     I became very nervous with the idea of  being enclosed and asked how he
was  planning to  bury me. He  giggled like a child and began collecting dry
branches. He did not let me help him and said I should sit down and wait.
     He threw the branches  he was collecting inside the clean circle.  Then
he made me lie down with my  head towards the east, put my  jacket under  my
head, and made a cage around  my body.  He constructed it by sticking pieces
of branches about two  and a  half  feet  in length  in the  soft dirt;  the
branches, which ended in forks, served as supports for some long sticks that
gave the cage a frame and the  appearance of an  open coffin. He closed  the
box  like cage  by  placing small  branches and leaves over the long sticks,
encasing me from the shoulders down. He let my head stick out with my jacket
as a pillow.
     He  then took a thick piece  of dry  wood and,  using it  as a  digging
stick,  he loosened the dirt around me and  covered  the  cage with it.  The
frame  was so  solid and the leaves were so well  placed  that no dirt  came
inside. I could move my legs freely and could actually slide in and out.
     Don  Juan said  that ordinarily a warrior would construct the  cage and
then slip into  it and seal it from  the inside. "How about the animals?"  I
asked. "Can they scratch the surface  dirt and sneak into the  cage and hurt
the man?"
     "No, that's not a worry for a warrior. It's a worry for you because you
have  no power. A  warrior,  on  the other hand, is guided by  his unbending
purpose and can fend off anything. No rat, or  snake, or mountain lion could
bother him."
     "What do they bury themselves for, don Juan?"
     "For enlightenment and for power."
     I experienced an extremely pleasant  feeling of peace and satisfaction;
the world at that moment seemed at ease. The quietness was exquisite and  at
the same  time unnerving.  I was not accustomed to that  kind of silence.  I
tried to talk but he hushed me.  After a  while the tranquility of the place
affected my mood. I began  to think of my life  and my  personal history and
experienced a familiar sensation  of sadness and remorse. I told him  that I
did not  deserve  to  be there, that his world was strong and fair and I was
weak, and that my spirit had been distorted by the circumstances of my life.
     He laughed and  threatened to  cover  my head with dirt  if I  kept  on
talking  in that vein. He said that I was a man. And like any man I deserved
everything that was a man's-lot-joy, pain, sadness and struggle-and that the
nature of one's acts was unimportant as long as one acted as a warrior.
     Lowering his voice to almost a whisper, he said that  if  I really felt
that  my  spirit  was  distorted I  should simply fix it  purge it,  make it
perfect-because there was no other task in our entire  lives which was  more
worthwhile. Not to fix the  spirit was to seek death, and  that was the same
as to  seek  nothing, since  death  was going to  overtake us  regardless of
     He  paused for a long  time  and then he said with  a tone of  profound
conviction, "To seek the perfection of the warrior's spirit is the only task
worthy of our manhood."
     His words acted as a catalyst. I felt the weight of my  past actions as
an unbearable and hindering load. I admitted that there was no hope  for me.
I began to  weep, talking about my life.  I said that I had been roaming for
such a  long  time that  I had become callous to pain and sadness, except on
certain occasions when I would realize my aloneness and my helplessness.
     He did not say anything. He grabbed me by the armpits and pulled me out
of  the cage. I sat  up when he  let  go of me. He  also sat down. An uneasy
silence set in  between  us. I thought  he  was  giving  me  time to compose
myself. I took my notebook and scribbled out of nervousness.
     "You feel like a leaf at the mercy of the wind, don't you?"  he finally
said, staring at me.
     That was exactly the  way I felt. He  seemed  to empathize with  me. He
said that my mood reminded him  of a song  and  began to sing in a low tone;
his  singing voice was very pleasing and the lyrics carried me away: "I'm so
far  away from  the sky  where  I  was  born.  Immense nostalgia  invades my
thoughts. Now that I am so  alone and sad like a leaf in the wind, sometimes
I want to weep,  sometimes  I want to laugh with longing." (Que  lejos estoy
del  cielo  donde he nacido. Inmensa  nostalgia invade mi pensamiento. Ahora
que estoy tan solo y triste  cual hoja al viento,  quisiera llorar, quisiera
reir de sentimiento.)
     We did not speak for a long while. He finally broke the silence.
     "Since  the day  you  were born, one way or  another, someone has  been
doing something to you, " he said.
     "That's correct, " I said.
     "And they have been doing something to you against your will."
     "And by now you're helpless, like a leaf in the wind."
     "That's correct. That's the way it is."
     I  said  that  the  circumstances  of  my   life  had   sometimes  been
devastating. He listened attentively but I  could  not figure out whether he
was just being agreeable or genuinely  concerned until I noticed that he was
trying to hide a smile.
     "No matter  how much you like  to feel sorry for yourself,  you have to
change that, " he said in  a  soft tone. "It doesn't jibe with the life of a
     He laughed and  sang  the  song again  but contorted  the intonation of
certain words; the result was a ludicrous lament. He  pointed  out  that the
reason I had liked the  song was because  in my  own life I had done nothing
else but find flaws with everything and lament. I could not  argue with him.
He  was correct. Yet  I  believed  I had  sufficient reasons  to  justify my
feeling of being like a leaf in the "wind.
     "The  hardest thing in the  world is to assume the mood of a warrior, "
he said. "It is of no use to be sad and complain and feel justified in doing
so, believing that someone is always doing something to us.  Nobody is doing
anything to anybody, much less to a warrior.
     "You  are here, with me, because you want to be  here. You should  have
assumed full responsibility by now, so the idea that you are at the mercy of
the wind would be inadmissible."
     He stood up and began to disassemble the cage. He scooped the dirt back
to where he had gotten it from and carefully scattered all the sticks in the
chaparral. Then he covered the clean circle with debris, leaving the area as
if nothing had ever touched it.
     I commented on his proficiency. He said  that  a good hunter would know
that we had been there no matter how careful he had been, because the tracks
of men could not be completely erased.
     He sat cross-legged and told me to sit down as comfortably as possible,
facing the  spot  where  he  had buried me,  and stay put until  my  mood of
sadness had dissipated.
     "A  warrior  buries himself  in  order to find power,  not to weep with
self-pity, " he said.
     I  attempted  to explain but he made me stop with an impatient movement
of his head. He said that  he  had to pull  me  out of the  cage in  a hurry
because  my mood was intolerable  and  he was  afraid  that the place  would
resent my softness and injure me.
     "Self-pity  doesn't  jibe with power, " he said. "The mood of a warrior
calls  for control over himself and at the same time it calls for abandoning
     "How can that be?" I  asked. "How can he control and abandon himself at
the same time?"
     "It is a difficult technique, " he said.
     He seemed to deliberate whether or not to continue talking.
     Twice  he was on the  verge of saying  something but he checked himself
and smiled.
     "You're not over your  sadness yet, " he said. "You still feel weak and
there is no point in talking about the mood of a warrior now."
     Almost an  hour went by in complete  silence. Then he abruptly asked me
if I had succeeded in learning the "dreaming" techniques he had taught me. I
had  been  practicing  assiduously and  had  been able,  after a  monumental
effort,  to obtain  a degree of control  over my  dreams. Don Juan  was very
right  in   saying  that  one  could  interpret  the   exercises   as  being
entertainment. For the first  time in  my life I had been looking forward to
going to sleep.
     I gave him  a detailed report of  my progress. It  had  been relatively
easy for me to learn to sustain the image of my hands after I had learned to
command myself  to look at them. My visions, although not always  of my  own
hands, would last  a seemingly long time, until I would finally lose control
and  would  become  immersed  in  ordinary  unpredictable dreams.  I had  no
volition whatsoever over when  I would give myself the command to look at my
hands, or to look at  other items of the dreams.  It would just happen. At a
given moment I would remember that I had to look at my hands and then at the
surroundings.  There were  nights,  however, when I could not recall  having
done it at all.
     He seemed to be satisfied  and wanted to know what were the usual items
I  had  been  finding  in  my visions.  I  could not  think  of anything  in
particular  and started  elaborating  on a nightmarish dream I  had  had the
night before.
     "Don't get so fancy, " he said dryly.
     I told  him that  I had been  recording  all  the details of my dreams.
Since I had begun to practice looking  at my hands my dreams had become very
compelling and  my sense of  recall had increased to the point that  I could
remember  minute details. He  said that to follow them was a waste of  time,
because details and vividness were in no way important.
     "Ordinary  dreams get  very  vivid  as  soon  as  you begin to  set  up
dreaming" he said. "That vividness and clarity  is a formidable barrier  and
you are worse off than anyone I have ever met in my life. You have the worst
mania. You write down everything you can."
     In all fairness, I believed what I was doing was appropriate. Keeping a
meticulous  record of my dreams was giving me  a degree of clarity about the
nature of the visions I had while sleeping.
     "Drop it!" he said imperatively. "It's not helping anything. All you're
doing is distracting yourself from the purpose of dreaming, which is control
and power."
     He  lay down and  covered  his  eyes with  his  hat and talked  without
looking at me.
     "I'm going to remind you  of all the techniques you must practice, " he
said.  "First you must focus your gaze on your hands  as the starting point.
Then shift your gaze to other items and look at them in brief glances. Focus
your  gaze on as  many  things as you can. Remember that if you only  glance
briefly the images do not shift. Then go back to your hands.
     "Every time  you look  at  your hands  you  renew the  power needed for
dreaming, so in the beginning don't look at too many things. Four items will
suffice every time. Later on, you may enlarge  the scope until you can cover
all  you want, but as soon as the images begin to shift and you feel you are
losing control go back to your hands.
     "When you feel you  can gaze at things  indefinitely  you will be ready
for a new  technique. I'm going to teach you this  new  technique now, but I
expect you to put it to use only when you are ready."
     He was quiet for about fifteen minutes. Finally he sat up and looked at
     "The next step in setting up dreaming is to learn to travel, " he said.
"The same way you have learned to  look at your hands you can will  yourself
to  move, to go places. First you have to establish a place you  want  to go
to. Pick a  well known spot-perhaps  your school, or  a park, or  a friend's
house then, will yourself to go there.
     "This technique is very difficult. You must perform two tasks: You must
will yourself to go to the specific locale; and then, when you have mastered
that  technique, you  have  to  learn  to control  the  exact  time of  your
     As I wrote  down his  statements I  had  the feeling that I  was really
nuts. I was actually taking down insane instructions, knocking myself out in
order to follow them. I experienced a surge of remorse and embarrassment.
     "What are you doing to me, don Juan?" I asked, not really meaning it.
     He seemed surprised. He stared at me for an instant and then smiled.
     "You've been asking  me the same question over and over. I'm not  doing
anything to you. You are making yourself accessible to power; you're hunting
it and I'm just guiding you."
     He tilted his head to the side and studied me. He held my chin with one
hand and the back of  my head with the other and then moved my head back and
forth. The muscles of my neck were very tense and moving my head reduced the
     Don Juan  looked  up  to the sky  for  a moment  and seemed to  examine
something in it.  "It's time to leave,  "  he said  dryly and stood  up.  We
walked in an easterly direction until we came upon a patch of small trees in
a  valley  between  two large hills. It  was  almost five p.m. by  then.  He
casually  said that  we  might  have  to spend  the night in that  place. He
pointed to the trees and said that there was water around there.
     He tensed his body and began sniffing the air like an animal.
     I  could see the muscles of  his stomach contracting in very fast short
spasms as he blew and inhaled through his nose in rapid succession. He urged
me to do the same and find out  by myself where the water was. I reluctantly
tried  to imitate  him. After  five or six  minutes of  fast breathing I was
dizzy,  but my nostrils had cleared out in an extraordinary way and  I could
actually  detect  the  smell  of river willows. I  could not tell where they
were, however.
     Don  Juan told me to  rest for  a few  minutes  and then he  started me
sniffing again. The second round was more intense.
     I could  actually  distinguish a  whiff  of river willow coming from my
right. We headed in that direction and found, a good quarter of a mile away,
a swamp like  spot with stagnant  water. We walked around it to  a  slightly
higher flat mesa. Above and around the mesa the chaparral was very thick.
     "This place is crawling with mountain lions  and other smaller cats,  "
don Juan  said casually, as if  it were a commonplace  observation. I ran to
his side and he broke out laughing.
     "Usually I wouldn't come here at  all, " he said. "But the crow pointed
out this direction. There must be something special about it."
     "Do we really have to be here, don Juan?"
     "We do. Otherwise I would avoid this place."
     I had  become  extremely nervous. He told  me  to listen attentively to
what he had to say. "The only thing one can do  in this place is hunt lions,
" he said. "So I'm going to teach you how to do that.
     "There is a special way of constructing a trap for water rats that live
around water  holes. They serve as  bait. The  sides of the cage are made to
collapse  and  very sharp spikes  are put along the  sides. The  spikes  are
hidden when the trap is up  and they do not affect anything unless something
falls on the cage, in which case the sides  collapse  and the  spikes pierce
whatever hits the trap."
     I  could  not understand  what  he meant but he made a diagram  on  the
ground and showed me  that  if  the side sticks of the  cage were placed  on
pivot  like hollow  spots on the frame, the cage would collapse  onto either
side if something pushed its top.
     The spikes were pointed sharp slivers  of  hard wood, which were placed
all around the frame and fixed to it.
     Don Juan said that usually a heavy  load of rocks was placed over a net
of sticks, which were connected to the cage and hung way above it. When  the
mountain lion came  upon  the  trap baited with  the water  rats,  it  would
usually try to break it by pawing it with all  its  might;  then the slivers
would  go  through  its  paws  and the  cat,  in  a  frenzy, would jump  up,
unleashing an avalanche of rocks on top of him.
     "Someday you might need to catch a mountain lion, " he said. "They have
special powers. They are terribly smart and the only way to catch them is by
fooling them with pain and with the smell of river willows."
     With astounding speed  and skill  he assembled a  trap and after a long
wait he caught three chubby squirrel like rodents.
     He  told me to pick a handful of willows from the edge of the swamp and
made me rub  my  clothes  with  them.  He  did the same.  Then, quickly  and
skillfully, he wove  two simple  carrying nets  out  of reeds, scooped up  a
large clump  of green plants and mud from the  swamp, and carried it back to
the mesa,  where  he  concealed  himself. In  the meantime the squirrel-like
rodents had begun to squeak very loudly.
     Don Juan spoke to me from his hiding place and told me to use the other
carrying net, gather a good chunk of  mud and plants, and climb to the lower
branches of a tree  near the trap where the rodents were. Don Juan said that
he did not want to hurt  the cat or the rodents, so he was going to hurl the
mud at the lion if it came  to  the trap. He told  me to be on the alert and
hit  the  cat with  my bundle  after he had, in order to  scare it  away. He
recommended  I should be extremely careful not to fall out of  the tree. His
final instructions were to be so still that I would merge with the branches.
     I could not see where don Juan was. The squealing of the rodents became
extremely loud and  finally  was so dark that I could hardly distinguish the
general  features  of the terrain. I heard a sudden and close  sound of soft
steps and  a muffled  catlike  exhalation, then  a very  soft growl  and the
squirrel-like rodents  ceased to  squeak. It  was right  then that I saw the
dark mass of an animal right under the tree where I was.
     Before I  could  even be sure  that it was  a mountain  lion it charged
against  the  trap, but  before it reached it  something hit  it and made it
recoil. I hurled my bundle, as don Juan had told me to do. I missed,  yet it
made  a  very loud  noise. At  that  instant  don Juan let out a  series  of
penetrating  yells  that  sent chills through my  spine,  and the  cat, with
extraordinary agility, leaped to the mesa and disappeared.
     Don Juan kept on making the penetrating noises a while longer and  then
he told me to come down from the tree, pick up the  cage with the squirrels,
run up to the mesa, and get to where he was as fast as I could.
     In an incredibly short period of time I was standing next to don  Juan.
He  told me to imitate his yelling as close as possible in order to keep the
lion off while he dismantled the cage and
     let the rodents free. I  began to yell but  could not produce  the same
effect. My voice was raspy because of the excitation.
     He said I had to abandon myself and yell with real feeling, because the
lion was still around. Suddenly I fully realized the situation. The lion was
real. I let out a magnificent series of
     piercing yells. Don Juan roared with laughter.
     He let me yell for a moment and then he said we had to leave  the place
as quietly  as  possible,  because  the lion was  no fool and  was  probably
retracing its steps back to where we were.
     "He'll  follow us for sure,  " he said. "No matter how careful  we  are
we'll leave a trail as wide as the Pan American highway."
     I walked very close to don Juan. From time to time he would stop for an
instant and listen. At one moment he began to run in the dark and I followed
him with my hands  extended in  front of  my eyes to protect myself from the
     We finally got to the base  of the bluff where we had been earlier. Don
Juan said that  if we succeeded  in climbing to the top without being mauled
by the lion we were safe. He went up first to show me the way. We started to
climb  in the dark. I did not know  how,  but I followed him  with dead sure
     When we were near the top I heard a peculiar animal cry.  It was almost
like the mooing of  a cow, except that it was a bit longer and coarser. "Up!
Up! "don Juan yelled.
     I  scrambled to the top in  total  darkness ahead of  don Juan. When he
reached the flat top of the bluff I was already  sitting catching my breath.
He rolled on  the ground. I thought for a second that the exertion had  been
too great for him, but he was laughing at my speedy climb.
     We sat in  complete silence  for a couple of  hours and then we started
back to my car.

     Sunday, September 3, 1961

     Don  Juan was not  in  the house when I woke up. I worked over my notes
and had time to get some  firewood from the surrounding  chaparral before he
returned. I was eating when he walked into the house. He began to  laugh  at
what  he called my routine of eating at  noon, but he  helped himself to  my
     I  told him that what had happened with the mountain lion  was baffling
to me. In retrospect, it all seemed unreal. It was as if everything had been
staged  for my benefit. The succession of  events had been so  rapid  that I
really had not had time  to be afraid. I had had enough time to act, but not
to  deliberate  upon my  circumstances.  In writing my notes the question of
whether I had really seen the mountain lion came to mind. The dry branch was
still fresh in my memory.
     "It was a mountain lion, " don Juan said imperatively.
     "Was it a real flesh and blood animal?"
     "Of course."
     I  told him that my suspicions had been  roused because of the easiness
of the total event. It was as if the lion had been waiting out there and had
been trained to do exactly what don Juan had planned.
     He was unruffled by my barrage of skeptical remarks. He laughed at me.
     "You're a funny fellow, " he  said. "You  saw and heard the cat. It was
right under the  tree where  you were.  He didn't  smell you and jump at you
because of the river willows. They kill  any other smell, even for cats. You
had a batch of them in your lap."
     I said that it was not that I doubted him, but that everything that had
happened that night was extremely foreign to the events of my everyday life.
For  a while, as I was writing my notes, I even had had the feeling that don
Juan may have  been playing the role of the  lion. However, I had to discard
the idea because  I had  really seen  the dark shape of a four legged animal
charging at the cage and then leaping to the mesa.
     "Why do you make such a fuss?" he said.  "It was just  a big cat. There
must be thousands of cats in those mountains.  Big  deal. As usual, you  are
focusing your attention on the wrong item. It makes no difference whatsoever
whether it was a lion  or my pants.  Your feelings at that moment were  what
     In my entire life I had never seen or heard a big wildcat on the prowl.
When I thought  of it, I could not get over the fact that I had been only  a
few  feet  away from one. Don Juan listened patiently while I went over  the
entire experience.
     "Why the awe for the big cat?" he asked with an inquisitive expression.
"You've been close to most  of the animals  that live around here and you've
never been so awed by them. Do you like cats?"
     "No, I don't."
     "Well, forget about it then. The lesson was not on how to  hunt  lions,
     "What was it about?"
     "The little crow pointed out that specific spot to me, and at that spot
I saw the opportunity  of making you understand how one acts while one is in
the mood of a warrior.
     "Everything you did last night was done within a proper mood. You  were
controlled and at the same time abandoned when you jumped down from the tree
to pick up the cage and run up to me. You were not paralyzed  with fear. And
then, near the top of the bluff, when the  lion let out a  scream, you moved
very well. I'm sure you wouldn't believe  what you did  if you looked at the
bluff during the daytime. You had a degree of abandon, and  at the same time
you had a  degree of control over yourself.  You did not let go and wet your
pants, and  yet you  let go and climbed that wall in complete  darkness. You
could have missed the trail and killed yourself.
     To climb  that wall in  darkness  required that you  had  to hold on to
yourself and let  go of yourself  at the  same time. That's what I call  the
mood of a warrior."
     I said that whatever I had done that night  was the product  of my fear
and not the result of any mood of control and abandon.
     "I know that,  " he said, smiling.  "And I wanted to show you  that you
can spur  yourself  beyond  your  limits  if you are  in the proper mood.  A
warrior makes his own mood. You didn't know that. Fear got you into the mood
of a warrior,  but now that you know about it, anything can serve to get you
into it." I wanted to argue with him, but my reasons were  not clear. I felt
an inexplicable sense of annoyance.
     "It's convenient to always act in such a mood, " he continued. "It cuts
through the  crap  and  leaves one purified. It was a great feeling when you
reached the top of the bluff. Wasn't it?"
     I told  him  that I understood what he meant,  yet  I  felt it would be
idiotic to try to apply what he was teaching me to my everyday life.
     "One needs  the  mood of  a warrior for every  single act,  "  he said.
"Otherwise one becomes distorted and ugly. There is  no power in a life that
lacks  this  mood. Look at  yourself. Everything offends and upsets you. You
whine and complain and feel that everyone is making you dance to their tune.
You  are  a leaf at the  mercy of the wind. There is  no power in your life.
What an ugly feeling that must be!
     "A warrior, on the other hand,  is  a hunter. He calculates everything.
That's control. But  once his . calculations are over, he acts.  He lets go.
That's abandon. A warrior is not a leaf at the mercy of the wind. No one can
push  him; no one  can  make him do things  against  himself  or against his
better judgment. A warrior is tuned to survive,  and he survives in the best
of all possible fashions."
     I liked his stance although I thought it was unrealistic. It seemed too
simplistic for the complex world in which I lived.
     He laughed at my  arguments and I insisted  that the  mood of a warrior
could  not  possibly help  me overcome  the  feeling  of being  offended  or
actually  being  injured  by  the  actions  of  my  fellow  men,  as  in the
hypothetical  case of being  physically harassed  by  a cruel and  malicious
person  placed  in  a  position of  authority.  He  roared with laughter and
admitted the example was apropos.
     "A warrior could be injured but not offended, " he said. "For a warrior
there is nothing  offensive about the acts of his fellow  men as long as  he
himself is acting within the proper mood.
     "The  other night  you  were not offended by the lion. The fact that it
chased us did not anger you. I did not hear you cursing it, nor  did I  hear
you  say that he had no right to follow us. It  could have been a  cruel and
malicious lion for all you know. But that was not  a consideration while you
struggled to avoid it. The only thing that was pertinent was to survive. And
that you did very well.
     "If you  would have been alone and the lion had  caught up with you and
mauled you to  death, you would  have never even considered  complaining  or
feeling offended by its acts. "The mood of a  warrior  is not so far-fetched
for  yours  or  anybody's world. You need it in  order  to cut  through  all
     I explained my way of reasoning. The lion and my fellow men were not on
a par, because I knew the intimate quirks of men while I knew nothing  about
the  lion.  What offended  me  about  my  fellow  men was  that  they  acted
maliciously and knowingly.
     "I know, I know, "  don Juan said patiently. "To achieve  the mood of a
warrior  is not  a simple matter. It is a revolution. To regard the lion and
the  water rats and  our fellow men as  equals is a magnificent act  of  the
warrior's spirit. It takes power to do that."


     Thursday, December 28, 1961

     We started on  a journey very  early in the morning. We drove south and
then east to the mountains. Don Juan had brought gourds with food and water.
We ate in my car before we started walking.
     "Stick  close  to  me, " he said. "This is an unknown region to you and
there is  no  need to  take chances. You  are  going in search of  power and
everything  you do counts. Watch the wind, especially towards the end of the
day.  Watch when  it changes directions, and shift your  position  so that I
always shield you from it."
     "What are we going to do in these mountains, don Juan?"
     "You're hunting power."
     "I mean what are we going to do in particular?"
     "There's  no  plan  when it comes  to hunting power. Hunting  power  or
hunting game is the same. A hunter  hunts whatever  presents itself to  him.
Thus he must always be in a state of readiness.
     "You know  about  the wind, and now  you may hunt  power in the wind by
yourself.  But there are other  things  you don't know about which are, like
the wind, the center of power at certain times and at certain places.
     "Power is a very peculiar affair,  " he said. "It is impossible  to pin
it down and say what it  really  is.  It is  a  feeling  that one has  about
certain  things.  Power  is  personal.  It  belongs  to  oneself  alone.  My
benefactor, for instance, could make a person mortally ill by merely looking
at him. Women would wane away after he had set  eyes on them. Yet he did not
make  people  sick  all  the  time  but  only when  his  personal power  was
     "How did he choose who to make sick?"
     "I don't know that. He didn't know  it himself. Power  is like that. It
commands you and yet it obeys you.
     "A  hunter of power entraps it and then stores  it away as his personal
finding. Thus, personal power  grows, and you may have the case of a warrior
who has so much personal power that he becomes a man of knowledge."
     "How does one store power, don Juan?"
     "That again is another feeling. It depends on what kind of a person the
warrior is.  My benefactor  was  a  man of  violent nature. He  stored power
through that feeling.  Everything he did was strong and direct. He left me a
memory of something crushing through things. And everything that happened to
him took place in that manner."
     I  told  him  I could  not understand  how power  was stored through  a
     "There's no way to explain it, " he said after a long pause.
     "You have to do it yourself."
     He picked  up the gourds with food  and fastened  them to  his back. He
handed me a string with eight  pieces of dry meat strung on it  and made  me
hang it from my neck.
     "This is power food, " he said.
     "What makes it power food, don Juan?"
     "It is the  meat of an animal that had power. A deer, a unique deer. My
personal power brought it to me. This meat will sustain us for weeks, months
if need be.  Chew little bits  of it at a time,  and chew it thoroughly. Let
the power sink slowly into your body."
     We began to  walk. It  was almost eleven a.m. Don Juan reminded me once
more of the procedure to follow.
     "Watch the wind, " he  said. "Don't let it  trip you. And  don't let it
make you  tired. Chew your power food and hide from the wind behind my body.
The  wind won't hurt me; we know each other very well." He led me to a trail
that went straight  to the high  mountains.  The day was cloudy and  it  was
about to rain. I could see low rain clouds and fog up above in the mountains
descending into the area where we were.
     We  hiked  in  complete  silence  until  about  three  o'clock  in  the
afternoon.  Chewing the dry  meat was indeed invigorating. And  watching for
sudden changes in the direction of the wind became  a mysterious  affair, to
the point  that my entire body  seemed to sense changes before they actually
happened. I  had the feeling that I could detect waves of wind as a  sort of
pressure on my upper chest, on my bronchial tubes. Every time I was about to
feel a gust of wind my chest and throat would itch.
     Don Juan stopped  for a moment and  looked  around. He  appeared to  be
orienting  himself and then he turned  to the right. I  noticed  that he was
also chewing dry meat. I felt very fresh and was not  tired at all. The task
of being aware  of shifts in the wind had been so consuming that  I  had not
been aware of time.
     We walked into a deep ravine and then up one side to a small plateau on
the sheer side of an enormous mountain. We  were  quite high, almost  to the
top  of the mountain. Don Juan climbed a huge rock at the end of the plateau
and helped me up to it. The rock was placed in such a  way as to look like a
dome on top of precipitous  walls. We slowly walked around it. Finally I had
to move around the rock on my seat, holding on to the  surface with my heels
and hands.
     I was  soaked  in perspiration and had to dry my hands repeatedly. From
the  other side I could see  a very large  shallow cave  near the top of the
mountain. It looked like a hall that had been carved out of the rock. It was
sandstone which had been weathered into a sort of balcony with two pillars.
     Don Juan said that we were going to camp there, that it was a very safe
place because  it  was  too  shallow to  be  a  den for lions or  any  other
predators,  too open  to be a nest for rats,  and too windy for insects.  He
laughed and said that it was an ideal  place  for men, since no other living
creatures could stand it.
     He climbed up to it like a mountain  goat. I marveled at his stupendous
     I slowly dragged myself down the rock on my seat and then  tried to run
up the side of the  mountain in order to reach the ledge. The last few yards
completely exhausted me. I kiddingly asked don Juan how old he really was. I
thought that in  order to  reach the ledge the way he had done it one had to
be extremely fit and young.
     "I'm as young  as I  want to be, " he  said. "This again is a matter of
personal power. If you store power your body can perform unbelievable feats.
On the other hand, if you dissipate power you'll be a fat old man in no time
at all."
     The length of the ledge was oriented  along an east-west line. The open
side of the balcony-like formation was to the south.
     I  walked  to  the  west  end.  The  view  was  superb.  The  rain  had
circumvented us.  It  looked like  a sheet of transparent material hung over
the low land. Don Juan said that we had enough time to  build  a shelter. He
told me  to  make a  pile of as many rocks  as  I could carry onto the ledge
while he gathered some branches for a roof.
     In an hour he had  built  a wall about a foot thick on the east  end of
the ledge. It was about two feet long and three feet  high. He wove and tied
some  bundles of branches he had collected and made a roof, securing it onto
two long poles  that  ended  in forks. There  was another pole of  the  same
length  that was affixed to the  roof itself and  which  supported it on the
opposite side of the wall. The structure looked like a high table with three
     Don Juan sat cross-legged under it, on the very edge of the balcony. He
told me to sit next to him, to his right. We remained quiet for a while. Don
Juan  broke the silence.  He said in  a  whisper that  we  had  to act as if
nothing was  out  of  the ordinary.  I  asked  if  there  was  something  in
particular that I should do. He said that I  should get busy writing  and do
it in such a way that it would be as if I were at my desk with no worries in
the  world except writing. At a  given  moment he was  going to nudge me and
then I should look where he was pointing with his eyes.
     He warned me that no matter what I saw I  should  not  utter  a  single
word.  Only he could talk with  impunity because  he  was known  to  all the
powers in those mountains. I followed his instructions and wrote for over an
hour. I became immersed in my task. Suddenly I felt a soft tap on my arm and
saw don  Juan's  eyes  and head  move  to  point out a bank of fog about two
hundred yards away  which was descending  from the top of the  mountain. Don
Juan  whispered in my ear with a tone  barely audible  even  at  that  close
     "Move your eyes back  and  forth along the bank of fog, " he said. "But
don't look at it directly. Blink your eyes and don't focus them  on the fog.
When  you see a green spot on the bank of fog, point  it out to me with your
     I  moved my eyes  from left  to right  along the bank  of fog that  was
slowly coming down to us. Perhaps half an hour went by. It was getting dark.
The fog moved extremely slowly. At one moment I had the  sudden feeling that
I had detected a faint glow to my right. At first I thought  that I had seen
a  patch of green  shrubbery through the fog. When I looked at it directly I
did not notice anything, but when I looked without focusing I could detect a
vague greenish area.
     I pointed it out to don Juan. He squinted his eyes and stared at it.
     "Focus your eyes on that spot, " he whispered in my ear.  "Look without
blinking until you see."
     I wanted to ask what I was supposed to see but he glared at me as if to
remind me that I should not talk.  I stared  again. The bit of  fog that had
come down from above  hung  as if  it  were a piece of solid matter.  It was
lined up  right at the spot where I had noticed the green  tint.  As my eyes
became  tired  again  and  I  squinted, I  saw  at  first  the  bit  of  fog
superimposed on  the fog bank, and then I saw a thin strip of fog in between
that looked like a thin unsupported structure, a bridge joining the mountain
above me and the bank of  fog in front of me. For a moment I thought I could
see the  transparent fog, which was being  blown down from the  top  of  the
mountain, going by the bridge without disturbing it. It was as if the bridge
were  actually solid.  At one instant the mirage  became so complete that  I
could actually distinguish the darkness of the part under the bridge proper,
as opposed to the light sandstone color of its side.
     I stared at the bridge, dumbfounded. And then I either lifted myself to
its level, or the bridge lowered itself to mine. Suddenly I was looking at a
straight beam in front of me. It  was an  immensely long, solid beam, narrow
and without railings, but  wide enough to walk on. Don Juan  shook me by the
arm vigorously.  I  felt my head bobbing up and down and then I noticed that
my eyes itched terribly. I rubbed them quite unconsciously. Don Juan kept on
shaking me until I opened my eyes again. He poured some water from his gourd
into the hollow of his hand and sprinkled my face with it. The sensation was
very unpleasant. The  coldness of the  water was  so  extreme that the drops
felt like sores on my skin. I noticed then that my body was very warm.
     I was feverish.
     Don  Juan hurriedly gave me some water to drink and then splashed water
on my ears and neck.
     I heard a  very loud, eerie and-prolonged  bird cry. Don Juan  listened
attentively for an instant and then pushed the rocks of  the wall  with  his
foot and collapsed  the  roof. He threw the  roof into the shrubs and tossed
all the rocks, one by one, over the side.
     He  whispered in  my ear, "Drink  some water and chew your dry meat. We
cannot  stay here. That cry was not  a  bird." We climbed down the ledge and
began  to walk  in an easterly direction. In  no time at all it was so  dark
that it was as if there were a curtain in front of my eyes. The fog was like
an impenetrable barrier. I  had never realized how  crippling the fog was at
night. I could not conceive how don Juan walked. I  held oh to his arm as if
I were blind.
     Somehow I had the feeling I  was walking on the edge of a precipice. My
legs refused to  move on. My  reason  trusted don Juan and I  was rationally
willing to go on, but my body was not, and don Juan had  to drag me in total
     He  must have known the terrain to ultimate perfection. He stopped at a
certain point and made me sit  down. I  did not dare let go of  his arm.  My
body felt, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I was sitting on a barren dome
like  mountain  and if I moved  an inch to my right I would  fall beyond the
tolerance  point into  an  abysm. I was  absolutely  sure I was sitting on a
curved  mountainside, because  my  body moved unconsciously to the right.  I
thought it did so in order to keep its verticality, so I tried to compensate
by leaning to the left against don Juan, as far as I could.
     Don Juan suddenly moved  away from  me and without  the support  of his
body  I fell on  the ground.  Touching  the  ground  restored  my  sense  of
equilibrium. I was lying on a flat area. I began to reconnoiter my immediate
surroundings by touch.
     I  recognized  dry  leaves  and  twigs.  There  was a  sudden  flash of
lightning that illuminated the whole area  and tremendous thunder. I saw don
Juan standing to my left. I saw huge trees and a cave a few feet behind him.
     Don Juan told  me to get into the hole. I crawled into  it and sat down
with my back against the rock.
     I felt  don  Juan  leaning over to  whisper  that I had to  be  totally
silent. There were three flashes of lightning, one after the other.
     In a glance I  saw don Juan sitting cross  legged to my left.  The cave
was a concave formation big enough for  two  or three persons to sit in. The
hole  seemed to have been carved at the bottom of  a boulder. I felt that it
had indeed been  wise of  me to have crawled into it,  because if I had been
walking I would have knocked my head against the rock.
     The brilliancy of the lightning gave me an idea of  how thick the  bank
of  fog  was. I noticed  the  trunks of enormous  trees  as dark silhouettes
against the opaque light gray mass of the fog.
     Don  Juan whispered that the fog and the lightning were in cahoots with
each  other and I had to keep an exhausting vigil because I was engaged in a
battle of power. At that moment a stupendous flash of lightning rendered the
whole scenery phantasmagorical. The fog was like a white filter that frosted
the light of the electrical discharge and diffused it uniformly; the fog was
like a  dense whitish substance hanging between the tall trees, but right in
front  of  me  at  the  ground  level  the fog was  thinning out.  I plainly
distinguished the  features  of the terrain. We were in a  pine forest. Very
tall trees surrounded us. They were so extremely big that I could have sworn
we were in the redwoods if I had not previously known our whereabouts.
     There was a barrage  of  lightning that lasted  several  minutes.  Each
flash made the features I  had  already observed more  discernible. Right in
front of me I saw a definite trail. There was no vegetation on it. It seemed
to end in an area clear of trees.
     There were so many flashes of  lightning that I could not keep track of
where  they were  coming from.  The scenery, however, had been so  profusely
illuminated that I felt  much more at  ease. My  fears and uncertainties had
vanished as soon as there had been enough light to lift the heavy curtain of
darkness. So when  there was a long pause between the flashes of lightning I
was no longer disoriented by the blackness around me.
     Don Juan whispered that I had probably done enough watching, and that I
had  to focus  my  attention  on the  sound of  thunder. I  realized  to  my
amazement that I had not  paid any attention to thunder at all, in  spite of
the fact  that  it had really been  tremendous. Don Juan added that I should
follow the sound and look in the direction where I thought it came from.
     There  were  no  longer  barrages of lightning  and  thunder  but  only
sporadic  flashes of intense  light and sound. The  thunder seemed to always
come from my right. The fog was lifting  and I, already being  accustomed to
the pitch  black, could distinguish masses of  vegetation. The lightning and
thunder continued and  suddenly the whole right  side opened up and  I could
see the sky.
     The electrical storm  seemed to be moving  towards my right.  There was
another flash of lightning and I saw a distant mountain to my extreme right.
The  light illuminated the back ground,  silhouetting the bulky mass of  the
mountain.  I saw trees on top  of it; they  looked like  neat  black cutouts
superimposed on the brilliantly white  sky. I  even saw cumulus  clouds over
the mountains.
     The fog had cleared completely around us. There was a steady wind and I
could hear  the  rustling  of  leaves  in  the  big trees  to  my  left. The
electrical  storm  was too distant to illuminate  the  trees, but their dark
masses remained discernible.
     The light of the storm allowed me to establish, however, that there was
a range of distant mountains to my right  and that the forest was limited to
the left side. It seemed that I was
     looking down into a dark valley, which I could not see at all.
     The range  over which the electrical storm was  taking place was on the
opposite side of the valley.
     Then  it began to  rain. I  pressed back against  the rock as far as  I
could. My hat served as a good protection. I was sitting with my knees to my
chest and only  my calves and shoes got wet. It rained  for a long time. The
rain was lukewarm. I felt it on my feet. And then I fell asleep.
     The  noises of  birds woke me up.  I looked around for don Juan. He was
not there; ordinarily I  would have  wondered whether he had left  me  there
alone, but the shock of seeing the surroundings nearly paralyzed me.
     I stood up. My  legs were soaking wet, the brim of my hat was soggy and
there was still  some water in it that spilled over me. I was not in  a cave
at all,  but under some thick bushes. I experienced a moment of unparalleled
confusion. I  was standing on  a flat piece of land  between two  small dirt
hills covered  with  bushes. There were no trees to my left and no valley to
my  right. Right  in front of me, where  I had  seen the path in the forest,
there was a gigantic bush.
     I refused to believe what I was witnessing. The  incongruency of my two
versions of reality made me grapple for any kind of explanation. It occurred
to  me that it was perfectly possible that  I had slept so soundly that  don
Juan might have "carried me on his back to another place without waking me.
     I examined the spot  where I had been  sleeping. The  ground  there was
dry, and  so was the ground on the spot next to it, where don Juan had been.
I called him  a  couple  of  times and  then  had an  attack of anxiety  and
bellowed his name as loud as I could. He came out from behind some bushes. I
immediately became aware  that he knew  what was  going on. His smile was so
mischievous that I ended up smiling myself.
     I did not want to  waste any time in playing games  with him. I blurted
out what was the matter with me. I explained as carefully as  possible every
detail of my night long hallucinations. He listened without interrupting. He
could not, however,  keep  a  serious  face and started to laugh a couple of
times, but he regained his composure right away.
     I asked for his comments three or four times; he only shook his head as
if  the  whole  affair  was also incomprehensible  to him.  When I ended  my
account he looked at me  and said, "You  look awful. Maybe you need to go to
the bushes." He cackled for a moment and then added that  I should  take off
my clothes and wring them out so they would dry.
     The sunlight was brilliant. There were very few clouds. It was a  windy
brisk day. Don Juan walked away,  telling me that he was going  to look  for
some plants and that I should compose  myself and eat something and not call
him until I was calm and strong.
     My clothes were really wet. I sat  down in the sun to dry. I  felt that
the only  way  for me  to relax was to get out my notebook and  write. I ate
while I worked on my notes. After a couple of hours I was more relaxed and I
called don Juan. He answered from  a place near the top of  the mountain. He
told  me to gather  the gourds and climb up to  where he was. When I reached
the  spot, I  found him sitting on  a smooth rock. He  opened the gourds and
served himself some food. He handed me two big pieces of meat.
     I  did not know  where to  begin. There were so many things I wanted to
ask. He seemed to be aware of my mood and laughed with sheer delight.
     "How do you feel?" he asked in a facetious tone.
     I did not want to say anything. I was still upset. Don Juan urged me to
sit down on the  flat  slab.  He said that  the stone was a power object and
that I would be renewed after being there for a while.
     "Sit down, " he commanded me  dryly. He did  not smile.  His  eyes were
piercing. I automatically sat down.
     He said  that I  was being careless with power by acting  morosely, and
that I had to put an end to it or power would turn against both of us and we
would never leave those desolate hills alive.
     After  a  moment's pause he casually asked, "How  is your  dreaming?" I
explained to  him  how difficult it  had become  for me  to give  myself the
command to look at  my hands. At first it had  been relatively easy, perhaps
because of  the newness  of  the  concept. I  had  had no trouble at all  in
reminding myself that I had to look at my hands. But the excitation had worn
off and some nights I could not do it at all.
     "You must wear a headband to sleep, " he said. "Getting a headband is a
tricky maneuver. I cannot give you one, because you yourself have to make it
from scratch. But you cannot make one until you have had a vision  of  it in
dreaming. See what  I mean? The headband  has  to  be made  according to the
specific vision. And it must have a strip across it that fits
     tightly on  top of the head. Or it may very well be like  a  tight cap.
Dreaming  is  easier when one  wears a power  object on top of the head. You
could  wear your hat  or put on  a cowl, like a friar, and  go to sleep, but
those items would only cause intense dreams, not dreaming."
     He  was silent  for a  moment and then proceeded to tell  me in a  fast
barrage of words that the vision of the headband did not have to  occur only
in "dreaming"  but could happen in states of wakefulness and as a  result of
any far-fetched and totally unrelated  event, such as watching the flight of
birds, the movement of water, the clouds, and so on.
     "A  hunter of power watches  everything, " he  went on. "And everything
tells him some secret."
     "But how can one be sure that things are telling secrets?" I asked.
     I thought he  may have had a specific formula that allowed him to  make
"correct" interpretations.
     "The only way  to be  sure is by following  all the instructions I have
been giving you, starting from the first day you  came to see me, " he said.
"In order to have power one must live with power."
     He  smiled benevolently. He seemed to have lost his fierceness; he even
nudged me lightly on the arm.
     "Eat your power food, " he urged me.
     I  began  to chew  some  dry meat  and at  that moment I had the sudden
realization that perhaps the  dry meat  contained  a psychotropic substance,
hence the hallucinations. For a moment I felt almost relieved. If he had put
something in  the meat my mirages were perfectly understandable. I asked him
to tell me if there was anything at all in the "power meat."
     He laughed but  did not answer  me directly.  I insisted, assuring  him
that I  was not angry or  even annoyed, but  that  I  had to know so I could
explain the events of  the previous  night to my  own  satisfaction. I urged
him, coaxed him, and finally begged him to tell me the truth.
     "You  are quite cracked, " he said, shaking his  head  in a gesture  of
disbelief. "You have an insidious tendency. You persist in trying to explain
everything to your satisfaction. There is nothing in the  meat except power.
The power was not put there by  me or by any other man but  by power itself.
It is the dry meat  of a deer and that deer was a gift to me in the same way
a  certain rabbit was a gift to you not too long  ago. Neither you nor I put
anything in the rabbit. I didn't ask  you to dry the rabbit's  meat, because
that  act required more  power  than you had. However, I did tell you to eat
the meat. You didn't eat much of it, because of your own stupidity.
     "What  happened to you last night was neither  a joke nor a  prank. You
had  an  encounter  with power.  The  fog, the darkness, the lightning,  the
thunder  and the rain were all  part of a great battle of power. You had the
luck of a fool. A warrior would give anything to have such a battle."
     My argument was that  the whole  event could not be a battle  of  power
because it had not been real.
     "And what is real?" don Juan asked me very calmly.
     "This,  what  we're looking at  is  real,  "  I  said, pointing to  the
     "But so was the  bridge  you saw last night, and  so was the forest and
everything else."
     "But if they were real where are they now?"
     "They are here. If you had enough power you could call them back. Right
now  you cannot  do that because you think  it is  very helpful  to  keep on
doubting and nagging. It isn't, my
     friend.  It isn't. There are worlds upon worlds, right here in front of
us.  And they are  nothing to laugh  at. Last night if I hadn't grabbed your
arm you would  have walked on  that bridge whether you wanted to or not. And
earlier I had to protect you from the wind that was seeking you out."
     "What would have happened if you hadn't protected me?"
     "Since you  don't have enough power, the wind would have made you  lose
your way and perhaps  even killed you by pushing you  into a ravine. But the
fog was the real thing last night.
     Two things could have happened to you in the fog. You could have walked
across the  bridge to  the  other side, or you  could have  fallen  to  your
death." Either would have depended on  power. One thing, however, would have
been for  sure.  If I had not protected  you,  you would have had to walk on
that bridge regardless of anything. That  is the nature of power.  As I told
you before, it  commands you and yet it is at your command. Last  night, for
instance, the power would have forced you to walk across the bridge and then
it would have been at your command to sustain you while you were walking.  I
stopped  you  because  I know you don't have  the means  to  use power,  and
without power the bridge would have collapsed."
     "Did you see the bridge yourself, don Juan?"
     "No. I  just saw power. It may have been anything. Power for  you, this
time, was  a  bridge. I  don't  know  why a  bridge. We are most  mysterious
     "Have you ever seen a bridge in the fog, don Juan?"
     "Never.  But that's because I'm not like  you. I  saw  other things. My
battles of power are very different than yours."
     "What did you see, don Juan? Can you tell me?"
     "I saw my enemies during  my first battle of power in the fog. You have
no enemies. You  don't hate people. I did at that time. I indulged in hating
people. I don't do  that  any  more. I  have vanquished my hate, but at that
time my hate nearly destroyed me.  "Your battle of power, on the other hand,
was neat. It  didn't  consume you.  You are consuming yourself now with your
own crappy thoughts and doubts. That's your way of indulging yourself."
     "The fog was impeccable with you. You have an affinity with it. It gave
you  a stupendous bridge, and that bridge will be there in the  fog from now
on. It will reveal itself to you  over and over, until someday you will have
to cross it.
     "I strongly recommend that from  this day on you don't  walk into foggy
areas by yourself until you know what you're doing.
     "Power  is a  very weird affair. In order to have it and command it one
must have power  to begin with. It's possible, however,  to store it, little
by little, until one has enough to sustain oneself in a battle of power."
     "What is a battle of power?"
     "What happened  to you  last  night was the  beginning  of a battle  of
power. The scenes  that you beheld were the seat of power. Someday they will
make sense to you; those scenes are most meaningful."
     "Can you tell me their meaning yourself, don Juan?"
     "No. Those scenes are your own personal conquest which you cannot share
with  anyone. But  what  happened  last night  was  only  the  beginning,  a
skirmish. The real battle will take place when you cross that bridge. What's
on the other side?
     Only you  will know  that. And only  you will know what's at the end of
that  trail through the forest. But all  that  is some thing that may or may
not  happen to  you.  In order to journey  through those  unknown trails and
bridges one must have enough power of one's own."
     "What happens if one doesn't have enough power?"
     "Death is always  waiting,  and when the  warrior's power  wanes  death
simply  taps him.  Thus, to venture  into the unknown without  any  power is
stupid. One will  only find death." I  was not really  listening.  I kept on
playing with the  idea that the  dry meat  may have been the  agent that had
caused the hallucinations. It appeased me to indulge in that thought.
     "Don't  tax yourself trying to figure it out, " he  said as if he  were
reading my thoughts. "The world is a mystery.  This, what you're looking at,
is not all there is to it. There is much more to the world, so much more, in
fact, that it is endless. So when you're trying to figure it out, all you're
really doing is trying to make the world familiar. You and I are right here,
in the  world that you call real, simply because we both know it. You  don't
know the  world  of power,  therefore  you cannot make  it  into a  familiar
     "You know that I really can't argue your point, " I said.
     "But my mind can't accept it either."
     He laughed and touched my head lightly.
     "You're  really crazy, " he  said. "But  that's  all right. I  know how
difficult it  is  to live  like a warrior.  If  you  would  have followed my
instructions and performed all the  acts I have taught you, you would by now
have enough power to cross  that bridge. Enough power to see and to stop the
     "But why should I want power, don Juan?"
     "You can't think of a reason now. However, if you would
     store  enough  power, the  power  itself will  find you  a good reason.
Sounds crazy, doesn't it?"
     "Why did you want power yourself, don Juan?"
     "I'm like you. I didn't want it. I couldn't find a reason to have it. I
had all the doubts  that you have and never followed the  instructions I was
given,  or I  never  thought  I did;  yet in spite of  my stupidity I stored
enough power, and one day my personal power made the world collapse."
     "But why would anyone wish to stop the world?"
     "Nobody does, that's the point. It just happens. And once you know what
it is like to stop the world you realize  there is a reason for it. You see,
one of the  arts of the  warrior is  to  collapse  the  world for a specific
reason and then restore it again in order to keep on living."
     I told  him that perhaps the surest way to help  me would be to give me
an example of a specific reason for collapsing the world.
     He remained silent for some time. He seemed to be thinking what to say.
     "I  can't tell  you  that, "  he said. "It takes too much power to know
that. Someday you  will live like  a warrior,  in  spite  of yourself;  then
perhaps you  will have stored enough  personal power to answer that question
     "I have taught you  nearly everything a warrior needs to  know in order
to  start off in the world, storing power by himself.  Yet I  know that  you
can't do that and I  have to be patient with you. I know for a fact that  it
takes a lifelong struggle to be by oneself in the world of power."
     Don  Juan looked  at the sky and  the mountains. The sun was already on
its descent towards the west and rain  clouds  were  rapidly  forming on the
mountains. I did not know  the time;  I  had forgotten to  wind  my watch. I
asked if  he could tell the time  of the day  and he  had such an  attack of
laughter that he rolled off the slab into the bushes.
     He stood up and  stretched his arms, yawning. "It is early, "  he said.
"We must wait until the fog gathers on top of the mountain and then you must
stand  alone on this slab and thank the fog for its favors. Let  it come and
envelop you. I'll be nearby to assist, if need be."
     Somehow the prospect of staying  alone  in the fog terrified me. I felt
idiotic for reacting in such an irrational manner.
     "You cannot leave these  desolate mountains without saying your thanks,
" he said in a firm tone.  "A warrior never turns his back to  power without
atoning for the favors received."
     He  lay down on his back with his hands behind his head and covered his
face with his hat.
     "How should I wait for the fog?" I asked. "What should I do?"
     "Write!" he said through his  hat. "But  don't close your eyes or  turn
your  back to it." I tried to write but  I could not concentrate. I stood up
and moved around  restlessly. Don Juan lifted his hat  and looked at me with
an air of annoyance. "Sit  down!" he ordered me. He said that  the battle of
power had not  yet ended, and that I had to teach my spirit to be impassive.
Nothing of  what  I did should betray my feelings, unless I wanted to remain
trapped in those mountains.
     He  sat  up and moved his hand in a gesture of  urgency. He said that I
had to act as if nothing  was out of  the ordinary, because places of power,
such as  the one in which we were, had the potential of draining  people who
were disturbed. And thus one could develop strange and injurious ties with a
     "Those ties anchor a man to a place of power, sometimes for a lifetime,
" he said. "And this is not the place for you. You did not find it yourself.
So tighten your belt and don't lose your pants."
     His admonitions  worked liked a spell on me. I  wrote for hours without
interruption. Don Juan went back to sleep and  did not wake up until the fog
was perhaps a hundred yards away,  descending from the top of  the mountain.
He stood up and examined the  surroundings.  I looked around without turning
my  back.  The fog had  already invaded the lowlands,  descending  from  the
mountains to my  right. On my left  side  the  scenery was clear;  the wind,
however, seemed to be coming from my right and was pushing the fog into  the
lowlands as if to surround us.
     Don Juan whispered that I should remain impassive, standing where I was
without  closing my  eyes,  and that I should not  turn around  until  I was
completely surrounded by the fog;  only  then was it  possible to  start our
descent. He took cover at the foot of some rocks a few feet behind me.
     The  silence in those  mountains was  something magnificent and at  the
same time  awesome.  The  soft wind  that  was  carrying the fog gave me the
sensation  that  the  fog was hissing  in  my ears. Big chunks  of fog  came
downhill like  solid clumps of  whitish matter rolling down on me. I smelled
the fog. It was a peculiar mixture of a pungent and fragrant smell. And then
I  was enveloped  in it.  I had  the impression  the fog  was working on  my
     They felt  heavy and  I wanted to close my eyes. I was  cold. My throat
itched and I wanted  to cough but I did not dare. I lifted  my  chin up  and
stretched my neck to ease the cough, and as I  looked up I had the sensation
I could  actually see the thickness of  the fog bank. It  was as  if my eyes
could assess the thickness by going through it. My eyes began to close and I
could not  fight  off  the desire to  fall  asleep.  I felt I  was  going to
collapse on  the ground any moment. At that  instant  don Juan jumped up and
grabbed me  by the  arms and  shook me. The  jolt  was enough to restore  my
     He whispered  in my ear that I had to run downhill as  fast as I could.
He was going to follow behind because he did not want to  get smashed by the
rocks that I might  turn over in my path. He  said that  I  was  the leader,
since  it was  my battle  of power, and that I had  to be  clear headed  and
abandoned in order to guide us safely out of there.
     "This is it, " he said in a loud voice. "If you don't have the  mood of
a warrior, we may never leave the fog."
     I hesitated for a moment. I was not sure I could  find my way down from
those  mountains.  "Run, rabbit, run!" don Juan yelled  and shoved me gently
down the slope.


     Sunday, January 28, 1962

     Around ten a.m.  don  Juan  walked  into his house. He had left at  the
crack of dawn.  I greeted him. He chuckled and in  a clowning mood he  shook
hands with me and greeted me ceremoniously.
     "We're going to go on a little trip, " he said. "You're  going to drive
us to a very  special place in  search of power." He unfolded  two  carrying
nets and placed two gourds filled with  food in each of them, tied them with
a thin rope, and handed me a net.
     We leisurely drove north some four hundred miles and then  we left  the
Pan American highway and took a gravel road towards the west. My car  seemed
to have been the only  car on  the  road for hours. As we kept on  driving I
noticed  that I could not see through my windshield. I  strained desperately
to look  at the surroundings  but it was  too  dark  and  my windshield  was
overlaid with crushed insects and dust.
     I told don Juan that I had to stop to clean my windshield.
     He ordered me to go on driving even if I had to  crawl at two miles  an
hour, sticking my head out of the window to see ahead. He said that we could
not stop until we had reached our destination.
     At a certain place he told  me to turn to the right. It was so dark and
dusty that even the headlights  did not help much. I drove off the road with
great trepidation. I was afraid  of  the soft  shoulders, but  the  dirt was
     I drove  for  about one  hundred  yards  at  the lowest possible speed,
holding the door open to look out. Finally don Juan told me to stop. He said
that I had parked right  behind a huge rock  that would  shield my  car from
     I got  out of the car and walked around,  guided  by  the headlights. I
wanted to examine the surroundings because I  had no idea where I  was.  But
don Juan turned  off the lights.  He said loudly that there was  no  time to
waste, that I should lock my car so we could start on our way.
     He handed  me my net  with  gourds. It was so dark that I stumbled  and
nearly dropped them.  Don  Juan ordered me in a  soft firm  tone to sit down
until my eyes  were accustomed  to the darkness.  But  my eyes were  not the
problem. Once I got out  of my  car I could see fairly  well. What was wrong
was a peculiar nervousness that made me  act  as if  I were absent minded. I
was glossing over everything.
     "Where are we going?"  I asked. "We're going  to hike in total darkness
to a special place, " he said.
     "What for?"
     "To find out  for  sure whether or not you're capable  of continuing to
hunt power."
     I asked him if what  he was  proposing was a test, and if  I failed the
test would he still talk to me  and tell me about his knowledge. He listened
without  interrupting. He said that what  we were doing was not a test, that
we  were waiting for  an omen, and if  the omen did not  come the conclusion
would be that I had not succeeded in hunting power, in which case I would be
free from any further  imposition, free to be as stupid as I wanted. He said
that no matter what happened he was my
     friend and he would always talk to me.
     Somehow I knew I was going to fail.
     "The omen will not come, " I said jokingly. "I know it. I have a little
power."  He laughed and patted me  on the back gently. "Don't you worry," he
retorted.  "The  omen will come. I know it. I have more  power than you." He
found  his statement hilarious. He slapped his thighs  and clapped his hands
and roared with laughter.
     Don Juan tied my carrying  net to my back and  said that I should  walk
one step behind him and step in his tracks as much as possible.
     In a  very dramatic tone he whispered,  "This is a  walk for  power, so
everything counts." He said that if I would walk in his  footsteps the power
that he was dissipating as he walked would be transmitted to me. I looked at
my watch; it was eleven p.m.
     He made me line up like a soldier at attention. Then he pushed my right
leg to the front and made me stand as if I had just taken a step forward. He
lined up in  front of me in the same position and then began to walk,  after
repeating  the  instructions  that  I should try to  match his  footsteps to
perfection. He said in a clear whisper that I should not concern myself with
anything else except  stepping in his tracks; I  should not look ahead or to
the side but at the ground where he was walking.
     He  started  off at  a very  relaxed  pace.  I  had no  trouble at  all
following him; we were walking on relatively hard ground.
     For about thirty yards  I maintained his  pace and  I matched his steps
perfectly; then I glanced to the  side  for an instant  and the next thing I
knew I had bumped into him. He giggled and assured me that I had not injured
his  ankle at all when I had stepped  on it with my big shoes, but if I were
going to  keep on  blundering one of us would be  a cripple by  morning.  He
said, laughing, in a very low but firm voice, that  he did not intend to get
hurt by my stupidity and lack of  concentration and that if I stepped on him
again I would have to walk barefoot.
     "I can't walk without  shoes, "  I said in a loud raspy voice. Don Juan
doubled up with laughter and we had to wait until he had stopped. He assured
me again that he had meant what he said. We were journeying to tap power and
things had to be perfect.
     The prospect of walking  in  the desert without  shoes scared me beyond
belief. Don Juan joked that my family were probably the type of farmers that
did not take off  their shoes even to go to bed. He  was right, of course. I
had never walked barefoot and to walk in the desert without shoes would have
been suicidal for me.
     "This desert is oozing power, " don Juan whispered in my ear. "There is
no time for being timid." We started  walking again.  Don Juan kept  an easy
     After a  while I  noticed  that we had  left the  hard ground  and were
walking on soft sand. Don Juan's feet sank into it and left deep tracks.
     We walked  for  hours before don Juan came to a halt. He  did  not stop
suddenly but warned me ahead of  time  that he was  going to stop so I would
not bump into him. The terrain had  become hard again and it seemed that  we
were going up an incline.
     Don Juan said  that if I needed  to go  to the bushes I should  do  it,
because from then on we had a solid stretch without a single pause. I looked
at my watch; it was one a.m.
     After a  ten- or fifteen-minute rest  don Juan  made me line up and  we
began to  walk again. He was right,  it  was a dreadful stretch. I had never
done anything  that  demanded so much  concentration. Don Juan's pace was so
fast and the tension of watching every  step mounted to such heights that at
a  given  moment I could not feel that I  was walking any more. I could  not
feel my feet or  my legs. It  was as if I were walking on air and some force
were carrying me  on and on. My concentration  had been so total that I  did
not notice the gradual change in light. Suddenly I became aware that I could
see don Juan in front of me. I could see his feet and his tracks  instead of
half guessing as I had done most of the night.
     At a given moment he unexpectedly jumped  to  the side  and my momentum
carried me for  about twenty yards further. As I slowed down my legs  became
weak and started to shake until finally I collapsed on  the ground. I looked
up at don Juan, who was calmly examining me. He did  not seem to be tired. I
was panting for breath and soaked in cold perspiration.
     Don  Juan twirled me around in  my lying position by pulling me  by the
arm. He said that  if  I wanted  to regain my strength I had to lie  with my
head towards the east. Little by little I relaxed and rested my aching body.
Finally I had enough  energy to stand up. I wanted to look at  my watch, but
he prevented me by  putting his hand over my wrist. He very gently turned me
around to  face the east  and said that  there was no need for my confounded
timepiece, that  we were on magical time, and that we were going to find out
for sure whether or not I was capable of pursuing power.
     I looked around. We were on top  of a very large high hill. I wanted to
walk towards something that  looked like an edge or  a crevice in the  rock,
but don Juan jumped and held me down.
     He ordered me imperatively to stay on  the place I had fallen until the
sun had come  out  from behind some black mountain  peaks  a short  distance
     He pointed  to  the  east and  called my  attention to a heavy  bank of
clouds over the horizon. He said that it would be a  proper omen if the wind
blew the clouds away in time for the first rays of the sun to hit my body on
the hilltop.
     He  told me  to stand still with my  right leg in front, as  if  I were
walking, and not to look directly  at the horizon but look without focusing.
My  legs became very stiff and my calves hurt.  It was an agonizing position
and  my  leg muscles  were  too sore to support me. I held on  as  long as I
could. I was about to collapse.
     My legs were shivering  uncontrollably when  don Juan  called the whole
thing off. He helped me to sit down.
     The bank  of  clouds had not moved and  we had not seen the  sun rising
over the horizon. Don Juan's only comment was,  "Too bad." I did not want to
ask right off what the real implications of my failure were, but knowing don
Juan, I  was  sure he had to follow the  dictum of  his omens. And there had
been no omen that morning. The pain in my calves vanished and I  felt a wave
of. wellbeing.  I began to trot in order to loosen  up my muscles. Don  Juan
told me very softly to run up an adjacent hill and gather some leaves from a
specific bush and rub my legs in order to alleviate the muscular pain.
     From where I stood  I could very plainly see a large  lush green  bush.
The leaves seemed  to be very moist. I had used  them before. I  never  felt
that they had helped me, but don Juan  had always maintained that the effect
of really friendly plants was so subtle that one could hardly notice it, yet
they always produced the results they  were supposed to. I ran down the hill
and  up the other. When  I got to  the top I realized that the  exertion had
almost been too much  for me.  I had a hard  time catching my breath  and my
stomach was upset. I  squatted and  then  crouched over for a moment until I
felt relaxed. Then  I stood up  and reached  over  to pick the leaves he had
asked me to. But I could  not find the bush.  I looked around. I was  sure I
was on the right spot,  but there was nothing  in  that  area of the hilltop
that even  vaguely resembled that particular plant.  Yet that had  to be the
spot where I had  seen it. Any other place would have  been out of range for
anyone looking from where don Juan was standing.
     I  gave up the search and  walked to  the other  hill. Don Juan  smiled
benevolently as I explained my mistake.  "Why do you call  it a mistake?" he
asked. "Obviously the bush is not there, " I said.
     "But you saw it, didn't you?"
     "I thought I did."
     "What do you see in its place now?"
     There was  absolutely  no vegetation on the spot  where I thought I had
seen  the  plant.  I  attempted to  explain  what  I had seen  as  a  visual
distortion, a sort of mirage. I had really been exhausted, and because of my
exhaustion I may have easily believed I was seeing something that I expected
to be there but which was not there at all.
     Don Juan chuckled softly and stared at me for a brief moment.
     "I see no mistake, " he said. "The plant is there on that hilltop."
     It was my turn to laugh. I scanned the whole area carefully. There were
no such  plants in  view  and what I had experienced was,  to the best of my
knowledge, a hallucination. Don Juan very  calmly began to  descend the hill
and signaled me  to follow. We  climbed  together  to the other hilltop  and
stood right where I thought I had seen the bush.
     I chuckled with  the  absolute  certainty I  was right.  Don Juan  also
     "Walk to the other  side of the hill, " don Juan said. "You'll find the
plant there."
     I brought up the point that the other side of the hill had been outside
my field of vision, that  a plant may  be there, but that that did  not mean
     Don  Juan  signaled me with  a  movement of his head to follow  him. He
walked  around the top  of the hill instead of  going directly  across,  and
dramatically stood by a green bush without looking at it.
     He turned and looked at me. It was a peculiarly piercing glance.
     "There must be hundreds of such plants around  here, " I said. Don Juan
very patiently descended the other side of the hill, with me trailing along.
We looked  everywhere for a  similar bush. But there was none in  sight.  We
covered about a quarter of a mile before we came upon another plant.
     Without  saying a word, don Juan led  me back to  the first hilltop. We
stood there for a moment and then he guided me on  another excursion to look
for the plant but  in  the opposite direction. We combed the  area and found
two  more bushes, perhaps a mile away. They had grown together and stuck out
as a patch of  intense rich green, more lush  than all the other surrounding
     Don Juan looked at me with a serious expression. I did not know what to
think of it. "This is a very strange omen, " he said.
     We  returned  to the first  hilltop, making  a wide  detour in order to
approach  it from a  new direction. He  seemed to be going out of his way to
prove  to  me that there were very few  such plants around there. We did not
find  any  of  them  on our way. When we reached the hilltop we  sat down in
complete silence. Don Juan untied his gourds.
     "You'll  feel  better after eating, "  he said. He  could not hide  his
delight. He  had  a  beaming  grin  as  he  patted  me  on the head. I  felt
disoriented. The new developments were disturbing, but I was too hungry  and
tired to really ponder upon them.
     After eating I felt very sleepy. Don Juan urged me to use the technique
of looking without focusing in order to find a suitable spot to sleep on the
hilltop where I had seen the bush. I  selected one. He  picked up the debris
from the spot and made  a circle with it the size of my body. Very gently he
pulled  some fresh branches from the bushes and  swept the  area  inside the
circle.  He only went through the motions  of  sweeping, he  did not  really
touch the  ground with the branches.  He then removed all the surface  rocks
from  the area  inside  the circle  and  placed  them in  the  center  after
meticulously sorting them by size into two piles of equal number.
     "What are you doing with those rocks?" I asked.
     "They are not rocks, " he said. "They are strings.  They will hold your
spot suspended." He took the smaller rocks  and marked the circumference  of
the circle with them. He spaced them evenly  and with  the aid of a stick he
secured each rock firmly in the ground as if he were a mason. He did not let
me come inside the circle but told me to walk  around and watch what he did.
He counted eighteen rocks, following a counterclockwise direction.
     "Now run  down to the bottom of  the hill  and wait,  " he said. "And I
will come to the edge and see if you are standing in the appropriate spot."
     "What are you going to do?"
     "I'm going to toss each of these strings to you, " he said, pointing to
the pile of bigger rocks. "And you  have to place them in  the ground at the
spot I will indicate in the same manner I have placed the other ones.
     "You  must  be infinitely careful. When one is dealing with  power, one
has to be perfect. Mistakes are deadly here.  Each of these is  a string,  a
string that could kill us if  we leave it around loose; so  you simply can't
make any mistakes. You  must fix your gaze on  the spot  where I, will throw
the string. If you get distracted by anything at all, the string will become
an ordinary rock and you won't be able to tell it apart from the other rocks
lying around."
     I suggested that it would be easier if I carried the "strings" downhill
one at a time.
     Don Juan laughed and  shook his  head negatively. "These are strings, "
he insisted. "And they have to be tossed by me  and have  to be picked up by
you."  It took hours to fulfill the task. The degree of concentration needed
was excruciating. Don Juan reminded me every time to be attentive and  focus
my gaze. He  was right in doing so. To pick  out a  specific rock  that came
hurtling downhill, displacing other rocks in its way, was indeed a maddening
     When I  had  completely  closed the  circle  and  walked  to the top, I
thought I was  about to drop dead.  Don Juan had  picked some small branches
and  had matted the circle. He handed me some leaves and told me to put them
inside my pants, against the skin of my umbilical region. He  said that they
would keep me  warm and I would  not need a blanket to sleep. I tumbled down
inside  the  circle. The branches made a fairly  soft bed and  I fell asleep
     It  was  late  afternoon  when I woke up. It was windy  and cloudy. The
clouds overhead were compact cumulus clouds, but towards the west  they were
thin cirrus clouds and the sun shone on the land from time to time.
     Sleeping had renewed me. I felt invigorated and happy. The wind did not
bother me.  I  was not cold. I propped my  head up with  my arms and  looked
around.  I had not  noticed before but the hilltop was quite high.  The view
towards the  west was impressive. I  could see a vast area  of low hills and
then the desert. There was a  range of dark brown mountain peaks towards the
north and east, and towards  the south an endless expanse of land  and hills
and distant blue mountains.
     I sat up. Don Juan was not anywhere in sight.  I had a sudden attack of
fear. I thought he  may have left me there alone, and I did not know the way
back to my car. I lay down again on the mat of branches and strangely enough
my  apprehension  vanished. I  again experienced  a sense of  quietness,  an
exquisite  sense  of well being. It was an extremely new sensation to me; my
thoughts seemed to have been turned off. I was happy. I felt healthy. A very
quiet ebullience filled me. A  soft wind was blowing from the west and swept
over my  entire body without making me cold. I felt it on my face and around
my ears, like  a gentle  wave of  warm water that bathed me and then receded
and bathed me again. It was a strange state of being that had no parallel in
my busy and dislocated
     life. I began to weep,  not out of sadness or self-pity but out of some
ineffable, inexplicable joy.
     I wanted to stay in that spot forever and I  may have, had don Juan not
come and yanked me out of the place.
     "You've had enough rest, " he said  as he  pulled me up. He led me very
calmly on a walk around the periphery of  the hilltop.  We walked slowly and
in  complete  silence.  He seemed to be interested  in making me observe the
scenery all around us. He pointed to clouds and mountains with a movement of
his eyes or with a movement of his chin.
     The  scenery in the late afternoon was superb. It evoked  sensations of
awe and despair in me. It  reminded me of sights in my childhood. We climbed
to  the highest point of the hilltop,  a peak  of igneous rock, and sat down
comfortably with  our backs against the rock, facing the  south. The endless
expanse of land towards the south was truly majestic.
     "Fix all  this in  your  memory, " don Juan whispered  in my ear. "This
spot  is yours. This morning you saw, and that  was the omen. You found this
spot  by  seeing. The omen was unexpected, but it happened. You are going to
hunt power whether you like it or not. It is not a human decision, not yours
or mine.
     "Now,  properly speaking,  this  hilltop  is  your place,  your beloved
place; all  that is  around  you  is  under your  care. You must look  after
everything here and everything will in turn look after you."
     In a  joking way I asked if everything was mine. He said yes in a  very
serious tone. I laughed and told him that what we were  doing reminded me of
the story of how the Spaniards that conquered the New World had  divided the
land in the name  of their king. They used to climb to the top of a mountain
and claim all the land they could see in any specific direction.
     "That's a good idea, " he said. "I'm going to give you all the land you
can see, not in one  direction but all around you." He stood up  and pointed
with his extended hand, turning his body around to cover a  complete circle.
"All this land is yours, " he said. I laughed out loud.
     He giggled and asked me, "Why not? Why can't I give you this land?"
     "You don't own this land, " I said.
     "So  what?  The Spaniards  didn't own it either and yet they divided it
and gave it away. So why can't you take possession of it in the same vein?"
     I  scrutinized  him to see if I could  detect the real mood behind  his
smile. He had an explosion of laughter and nearly fell of the rock.
     "All this land, as  far as  you can see, is yours, " he went  on, still
smiling. "Not to use but to remember. This hilltop, however, is yours to use
for the rest of your life. I am giving it to you because  you have  found it
yourself. It is yours. Accept it."
     I laughed, but don Juan seemed to be very serious. Except for his funny
smile,  he appeared to actually believe that he could  give me that hilltop.
"Why  not?" he asked as  if he  were  reading my thoughts. "I accept it, " I
said half in jest. His smile disappeared. He squinted his eyes as  he looked
at me.
     "Every rock and pebble and bush on this hill, especially on the top, is
under your care, " he said. "Every worm that lives here is your  friend. You
can use them and they can use you."
     We remained  silent  for a  few  minutes.  My  thoughts  were unusually
scarce. I vaguely felt  that his sudden change of mood was foreboding to me,
but I was not afraid or apprehensive. I just did  not want to talk any more.
Somehow, words seemed  to  be  inaccurate and their  meanings  difficult  to
pinpoint.  I had  never  felt that way about talking,  and upon realizing my
unusual mood I hurriedly began to talk.
     "But what can I do with this hill, don Juan?"
     "Fix  every feature of it  in your memory. This is the place  where you
will come in dreaming. This is  the place where  you will meet with  powers,
where secrets will someday be revealed to you.
     "You are hunting power and this is your place, the place where you will
store your resources.
     "It doesn't make sense to you now. So let it be a piece of nonsense for
the time being."
     We climbed down the rock and he led me to a small bowl like  depression
on the west side  of  the  hilltop. We sat down and ate  there.  Undoubtedly
there was something indescribably pleasant for  me on that  hilltop. Eating,
like resting, was an unknown exquisite sensation.
     The light  of  the setting sun had a rich,  almost copperish, glow, and
everything in the surroundings seemed to be dabbed with a golden  hue. I was
given totally to observing the scenery; I did not even want to think.
     Don Juan spoke to me  almost in a whisper. He  told  me  to watch every
detail  of  the surroundings,  no  matter  how small  or  seemingly trivial.
Especially  the  features  of the  scenery that  were most  prominent  in  a
westerly direction. He  said that  I should look at the sun without focusing
on it until it had disappeared over the horizon.
     The last minutes of  light, right before the  sun hit  a blanket of low
clouds or fog,  were, in a  total sense,  magnificent. It  was as if the sun
were inflaming the earth, kindling it like a bonfire. I  felt a sensation of
redness in my face.
     "Stand up!" don Juan shouted as he pulled me up. He jumped away from me
and ordered me in an imperative but urging voice to trot on the spot where I
was standing.  As  I  jogged  on the same spot, I  began  to feel  a  warmth
invading my body. It was a  copperish warmth. I felt it in my palate  and in
the "roof"  of my eyes. It was  as if  the top part of my head were  burning
with a cool fire that radiated a copperish glow.
     Something in myself made me trot  faster and faster as the sun began to
disappear.  At a given moment I truly felt I was so light that  I could have
flown  away.  Don Juan  very  firmly  grabbed my right wrist. The  sensation
caused by the  pressure of his  hand brought back  a sense  of  sobriety and
     I plunked down on the ground and he sat down by me. After a few minutes
rest he  quietly  stood  up, tapped  me on the shoulder, and signaled  me to
follow him. We climbed back again to  the  peak of igneous rock where we had
sat before. The rock shielded  us from the cold  wind. Don  Juan  broke  the
     "It was a fine omen, " he said. "How strange! It happened at the end of
the day. You and I are so different. You are more a creature of the night. I
prefer the young brilliancy of  the morning. Or rather the brilliancy of the
morning sun  seeks  me, but it shies  away from you. On the other  hand, the
dying sun bathed you. Its flames scorched you without burning you.
     How strange!"
     "Why is it strange?"
     "I've never seen  it happen. The omen, when it happens, has always been
in the realm of the young sun."
     "Why is it that way, don Juan?"
     "This is not the time to talk about it," he said cuttingly.
     "Knowledge is power. It  takes  a long time to harness enough power  to
even talk about it." I tried to insist, but he  changed  the topic abruptly.
He asked me about my progress in "dreaming."
     I had begun to dream about specific places, such as  the school and the
houses of a few friends.
     "Were you at  those places  during  the  day  or  during the night?" he
     My dreams corresponded to the time of  the day  when  I ordinarily  was
accustomed to being at  those places - in  the  school during the day, at my
friends' houses at night.
     He suggested that I should try "dreaming" while I took a nap during the
daytime and find out if I  could actually visualize  the chosen place as  it
was at the time I was "dreaming."
     If I were "dreaming" at  night, my visions  of the locale should  be of
night  time.  He said that  what  one  experiences in "dreaming"  has to  be
congruous  with the  time of  the  day  when "dreaming"  was  taking  place;
otherwise  the  visions  one  might  have were not "dreaming"  but  ordinary
     "In  order  to help  yourself you  should pick  a  specific object that
belongs to the place  you  want to go and focus your attention on  if,  " he
went on. "On this  hilltop here, for  instance, you now have a specific bush
that you must observe until it has a place in your memory. You can come back
here while dreaming simply by recalling that bush, or by recalling this rock
where we are sitting, or by recalling  any other thing here. It is easier to
travel in dreaming when you can focus on a place of power, such as this one.
But if you don't  want to come here you may use any other place. Perhaps the
school  where you go  is a place  of  power  for you.  Use  it.  Focus  your
attention on any object there and then find it in dreaming.
     "From the specific object  you  recall, you must go back to  your hands
and then to another object and so on.
     "But  now you must  focus your attention on everything that  exists  on
this hilltop, because this is the most important place of your life."
     He  looked at  me as if  judging the effect of his words. "This  is the
place where you will die, " he said in a soft voice.
     I  fidgeted nervously,  changing  sitting positions,  and he smiled. "I
will have  to come with you over and over to this  hilltop,  " he said. "And
then you will have to come by yourself until you're saturated with it, until
the hilltop is oozing you.
     You will know the time when you are filled with it. This hilltop, as it
is now, will then be the place of your last dance."
     "What do you mean by my last dance, don Juan?"
     "This is the site  of your last stand, " he said. "You will die here no
matter  where you  are. Every  warrior has a  place to die. A place  of  his
predilection  which  is  soaked with  unforgettable memories, where powerful
events  left their mark, a  place  where  he has  witnessed  marvels,  where
secrets have been revealed to him, a place where he  has stored his personal
     "A  warrior  has  the  obligation  to  go back to  that  place  of  his
predilection every time he  taps power in order to store it there. He either
goes there by means of walking or by means of dreaming.
     "And finally, one day when his time on earth is up and he feels the tap
of his death on his  left shoulder, his spirit, which is always ready, flies
to the place of his predilection and there the warrior dances to his death.
     "Every warrior has a specific  form, a specific posture of power, which
he develops  throughout his life. It  is a sort of dance. A movement that he
does under the influence of his personal power.
     "If a dying warrior has limited power, his dance is short; if his power
is grandiose,  his dance is magnificent. But regardless of whether his power
is small or magnificent, death must stop to witness his last stand on earth.
Death cannot overtake the warrior who is recounting the toil of his life for
the last time until he has finished his dance."
     Don  Juan's  words made  me shiver. The  quietness,  the  twilight, the
magnificent scenery, all seemed to have been placed there as  props for  the
image of a warrior's last dance of power.
     "Can you teach me that dance even though I am not a warrior?" I asked.
     "Any  man that hunts  power has to learn  that dance, " he said. "Yet I
cannot  teach you now. Soon you may have  a worthy  opponent and I will show
you then the first  movement of  power. You  must add  the  other  movements
yourself as  you  go on  living. Every  new  one must  be obtained during  a
struggle  of power.  So,  properly  speaking,  the  posture,  the form of  a
warrior,  is  the story  of  his life, a  dance that grows as  he  grows  in
personal power."
     "Does death really stop to see a warrior dance?"
     "A warrior is only a man. A humble man. He cannot change the designs of
his  death.  But  his  impeccable  spirit,  which  has  stored  power  after
stupendous  hardships, can  certainly hold his  death for a moment, a moment
long enough to let him rejoice for  the last time in recalling his power. We
may say that that  is a gesture which  death  has  with  those  who have  an
impeccable spirit."
     I  experienced  an overwhelming anxiety and I talked just  to alleviate
it.  I  asked  him if  he had known warriors that had died, and in  what way
their last dance had affected their dying.
     "Cut it out, " he said dryly. "Dying is a monumental affair. It is more
than kicking your legs and becoming stiff."
     "Will I too dance to my death, don Juan?"
     "Certainly. You are hunting personal  power  even though you don't live
like a warrior yet.  Today the sun gave you an omen. Your best production in
your  life's work  will  be done towards  the  end of the day. Obviously you
don't like the youthful brilliancy of early light. Journeying in the morning
doesn't appeal to you. But your cup of tea  is the dying sun, old yellowish,
and mellow. You don't like the heat, you like the glow.
     "And thus  you will dance to your  death here, on this hilltop,  at the
end of the day. And in your  last dance you will  tell of your struggle,  of
the battles you have won and of  those you have lost; you will tell of  your
joys and bewilderments upon  encountering  personal  power. Your dance  will
tell about the secrets and about the marvels you have stored. And your death
will sit here and watch you.
     "The dying sun will glow on you without burning, as it has done  today.
The wind will be soft and mellow and your hilltop will tremble. As you reach
the end  of your  dance you will look at  the sun, for you will never see it
again in waking or in dreaming, and then your death will point to the south.
To the vastness."


     Saturday, April 8, 1962

     "Is  death  a personage, don Juan?" I asked as I sat down on the porch.
There was an air of bewilderment in don Juan's look. He was holding a bag of
groceries I had  brought him. He carefully placed them on the ground and sat
down in  front  of me. I felt encouraged and explained that I wanted to know
if death was  a person, or like a  person, when it watched  a warrior's last
     "What difference does it make?" don Juan asked.
     I told him that the image was fascinating to  me and  I  wanted to know
how he  had  arrived  at it.  How  he knew that that was so. "It's all  very
simple, " he said. "A man of knowledge knows that  death is the last witness
because he sees."
     "Do you mean that you have witnessed a warrior's last dance yourself?"
     "No. One cannot  be such a witness.  Only death can do that. But I have
seen  my  own  death watching me and I have danced to it  as  though I  were
dying.  At  the end of my dance death did not point in any direction, and my
place of  predilection did not shiver  saying goodbye  to me. So my time  on
earth was not  up  yet and I did not die.  When  all that took  place, I had
limited power and I did not  understand the designs of my own  death, thus I
believed I was dying."
     "Was your death like a person?"
     "You're a funny bird. You  think you are going  to understand by asking
questions. I don't think you will, but who am I to say?
     "Death is not like a person. It is rather a presence. But one may  also
choose to say that it is nothing and yet it is everything. One will be right
on every count. Death is whatever one wishes.
     "I am at ease with people, so death is a person for me. I am also given
to mysteries, so death has hollow eyes for me. I can look through them. They
are  like two windows and yet  they move, like eyes move. And  so  I can say
that death with its hollow  eyes looks at a warrior while he  dances for the
last time on earth."
     "But  is that so only for you,  don  Juan, or is it the  same for other
     "It is the same for every warrior that has a dance of power, and yet it
is  not. Death witnesses a warrior's last dance,  but the manner  in which a
warrior sees his death is a personal matter. It could be anything-a  bird, a
light, a person, a bush, a pebble, a piece of fog, or an unknown presence."
     Don  Juan's  images of  death disturbed me.  I could not  find adequate
words  to voice my questions and I stammered. He stared at me, smiling,  and
coaxed  me to speak up. I asked him if the manner in which a warrior saw his
death depended on the way he had been brought up. I  used the Yuma and Yaqui
Indians as examples.  My  own idea was that culture determined  the  way  in
which one would envision death.
     "It doesn't matter how one was brought up, " he said.
     "What determines the way one  does anything is personal power. A man is
only the sum of his personal power, and that sum determines how he lives and
how he dies."
     "What is personal power?"
     "Personal power is  a feeling, " he said. "Something like  being lucky.
Or  one may  call it  a mood. Personal power is  something that one acquires
regardless of  one's origin. I  already have told  you  that  a warrior is a
hunter of power, and that I am teaching  you how to hunt and  store  it. The
difficulty  with  you, which  is the difficulty  with  all of  us, is to  be
     You need  to believe  that  personal power can be  used and that  it is
possible to store it, but you haven't been convinced so far."
     I told him that he had made his  point and that I was as convinced as I
would ever be. He laughed. "That is not the type of conviction I am  talking
about," he said.
     He tapped my shoulder with  two or three  soft punches and added with a
cackle, "I don't need to be humored, you know."
     I felt obliged to assure him that I was serious.
     "I  don't doubt  it, " he said. "But to be convinced means that you can
act by yourself. It will still take you a  great deal of  effort to do that.
Much more has to be done. You have just begun."
     He was quiet for a moment. His face acquired a placid expression.
     "It's funny the way you sometimes remind me of myself," he went on.  "I
too  did not want  to take the path of  a warrior. I  believed that all that
work  was for  nothing, and  since we are  all going to die  what difference
would it make to be a warrior? I was wrong. But I had to  find that out  for
     Whenever you do realize that you are wrong, and that it certainly makes
a world  of difference, you can say that you are convinced. And then you can
proceed  by  yourself. And  by  yourself  you  may  even  become  a  man  of
     I asked him to explain what he meant by a man of knowledge.
     "A man of knowledge is one who has followed truthfully the hardships of
learning,  " he said. "A man who has, without  rushing or faltering, gone as
far as he can in unraveling the secrets of personal power."
     He discussed the concept in  brief terms and  then  discarded  it  as a
topic of conversation, saying that I should only be concerned with  the idea
of storing personal power. "That's incomprehensible, " I protested. "I can't
really figure out  what you are driving  at."  "Hunting power  is a peculiar
event," he said. "It first has to be an idea, then it has to be set up, step
by step, and then, bingo! It happens."
     "How does it happen?"
     Don Juan  stood up. He began stretching his arms  and  arching his back
like a cat. His bones, as usual, made  a  series of cracking  sounds. "Let's
go, " he said. "We have a long journey ahead of us."
     "But there are so many things I want to ask you, " I said.
     "We are going to a place  of power, " he said as he  stepped inside his
house. "Why don't  you save your questions for the time we are there? We may
have an opportunity to talk." I thought we were going  to drive, so  I stood
up and  walked to my car, but don Juan called me from the house and told  me
to pick  up my net with gourds.  He was waiting for  me  at the edge of  the
desert chaparral behind his house.
     "We  have to  hurry up,  "  he said. We reached the lower slopes of the
western Sierra Madre mountains around three p.m. It had been  a warm day but
towards the late afternoon the wind became cold. Don Juan sat down on a rock
and signaled me to do likewise.
     "What are we going to do here this time, don Juan?"
     "You know very well that we're here to hunt power."
     "I know that. But what are we going to do here in particular?"
     "You know that I don't have the slightest idea."
     "Do you mean that you never follow a plan?"
     "Hunting power is a very strange affair, " he said. "There is no way to
plan it  ahead of time. That's what's  exciting about it. A warrior proceeds
as  if he  had a plan though, because he trusts his personal power. He knows
for a fact that it will make him act in the most appropriate fashion."
     I  pointed  out that his statements were  somehow  contradictory. If  a
warrior already had personal power, why was he hunting for it?
     Don Juan raised his brows and made a gesture of feigned disgust.
     "You're the one who is hunting personal power, " he said.
     "And I am the warrior who already has it. You asked me if I had a  plan
and I said  that I trust my personal power to guide me and that I don't need
to have a plan."
     We remained quiet for a moment and then began walking again. The slopes
were very steep and  climbing them  was very difficult and  extremely tiring
for me. On  the other hand, there seemed to be no end to don Juan's stamina.
He did not run or hurry. His walking was steady and tireless. I noticed that
he was not even perspiring, even after having climbed an enormous and almost
vertical slope. When  I reached the top  of it, don Juan was  already there,
waiting for me. As I sat down next to him I felt that my heart  was about to
burst out of my chest. I  lay on my  back and perspiration  literally poured
from my brows.
     Don Juan laughed out loud and rolled me back and forth for a while. The
motion helped  me catch my breath. I  told him that I was simply awed by his
physical prowess.
     "I've been trying to draw your attention to it all along, " he said.
     "You're not old at all, don Juan!"
     "Of course not. I've been trying to make you notice it."
     "How do you do it?"
     "I  don't do  anything. My body feels  fine, that's all. I treat myself
very well, therefore, I have  no reason to  feel tired or ill  at  ease. The
secret is not in what you do to yourself but rather in what you don't do." I
waited  for  an  explanation. He  seemed  to  be aware of  my  incapacity to
understand. He smiled knowingly and stood up.
     "This is a place of power, " he said. "Find a place for us to camp here
on this hilltop." I began to protest. I wanted him to explain what I  should
not do to my body. He made an imperative gesture.
     "Cut the  guff, " he said softly. "This time just act for a  change. It
doesn't  matter  how long  it takes you to find a suitable place to rest. It
might take you all night. It is not important that you find the spot either;
the important issue is that you try to find it."
     I put away my writing pad and stood up. Don Juan reminded me, as he had
done countless times, whenever he had asked me to find a resting place, that
I had to look without  focusing on any particular  spot,  squinting my  eyes
until my view was blurred.
     I began to walk, scanning the ground with my half-closed eyes. Don Juan
walked a few feet to my right and a couple of steps behind me.
     I covered the  periphery of the hilltop first. My intention was to work
my way in a  spiral to the center. But once I  had covered the circumference
of the hilltop, don  Juan made me stop. He said I was letting  my preference
for routines take over.
     In  a sarcastic tone he  added that I was certainly covering  the whole
area systematically, but in such a stagnant  way that I would not be able to
perceive the suitable place. He added that he himself knew where it  was, so
there was no chance for improvisations on my part.
     "What should I be doing instead?" I asked.
     Don Juan made me sit down. He then plucked  a single leaf from a number
of bushes  and  gave them to  me. He ordered  me to lie down on  my back and
loosen my belt and place the leaves against the skin of my umbilical region.
He supervised my movements and instructed me to  press the leaves against my
body with both hands. He then ordered me to close my eyes and warned me that
if I wanted perfect results I should not lose hold of the leaves, or open my
eyes, or try to sit up when he shifted my body to a position of power.
     He  grabbed me  by the right  armpit  and  swirled me around. I  had an
invincible desire to  peek through my half-closed  eyelids, but don Juan put
his  hand over  my  eyes.  He commanded  me  to concern myself only with the
feeling of warmth that was going to come from the leaves.
     I lay motionless for a moment and then I began  to  feel a strange heat
emanating  from the leaves. I first sensed it with  the palms  of  my hands,
then the warmth extended  to my abdomen, and finally it literally invaded my
entire body. In a matter of minutes my feet were burning up with a heat that
reminded me of times when I had had a high temperature.
     I  told  don Juan about the unpleasant sensation and  my desire to take
off my shoes. He said  that he was  going to help me stand up, that I should
not  open my eyes until he told me  to, and that I  should keep pressing the
leaves to my stomach until I had found the suitable spot to rest.
     When I was  on  my feet  he whispered in my  ear that I  should open my
eyes, and that I should walk without a plan, letting the power of the leaves
pull me and guide me.
     I  began  to walk aimlessly. The heat of my  body was  uncomfortable. I
believed I was  running a high temperature, and I became absorbed  in trying
to conceive by what  means don Juan had  produced it. Don Juan walked behind
me.  He  suddenly let out a  scream that nearly paralyzed me. He  explained,
laughing, that abrupt noises scare away unpleasant  spirits.  I squinted  my
eyes  and walked back  and forth  for about half an  hour. In that time  the
uncomfortable  heat  of  my  body  turned  into  a   pleasurable  warmth.  I
experienced a sensation of lightness as  I paced up and  down the hilltop. I
felt  disappointed,  however; I had somehow expected to detect  some kind of
visual phenomenon,  but there were no changes whatsoever in the periphery of
my field of vision, no unusual colors, or glare, or dark masses.
     I  finally became  tired of squinting my  eyes and opened  them.  I was
standing in front of  a  small ledge of sandstone, which was one  of the few
barren rocky places on the hilltop;  the  rest was  dirt with widely  spaced
small  bushes. It  seemed that the vegetation had burned sometime before and
the new growth was not fully mature yet.  For some  unknown reason I thought
that  the sandstone ledge was beautiful. I stood in front  of it  for a long
time.  And then I simply sat  down  on it.  "Good! Good!" don Juan  said and
patted me on the back.
     He then told me  to carefully pull the leaves from under my clothes and
place them on the rock.
     As soon as  I had taken the leaves away from  my skin  I  began to cool
off. I took my pulse. It seemed to be normal.
     Don Juan laughed and  called me "doctor Carlos" and asked me if I could
also take his  pulse.  He said  that  what I had felt was the  power  of the
leaves, and that that  power had cleared me and had enabled me to fulfill my
     I asserted in all sincerity that I had done nothing in particular,  and
that I  sat down on that place because  I  was tired and because I found the
color of the sandstone very appealing.
     Don Juan did not say anything. He was standing a few feet away from me.
Suddenly he jumped back and with incredible agility ran and leaped over some
bushes to a high crest of rocks some distance away.
     "What's the matter?" I asked, alarmed.
     "Watch the  direction in  which the wind will blow  your leaves,  "  he
said.  "Count them quickly. The  wind is coming. Keep half  of them and  put
them back against your belly."
     I counted  twenty leaves. I stuck ten under my shirt  and then a strong
gust  of wind scattered the other  ten in a  westerly direction.  I  had the
eerie feeling as I  saw the leaves being blown  off that  a real  entity was
deliberately sweeping them into the amorphous mass of green shrubbery.
     Don  Juan  walked back to where I was  and sat down next  to me,  to my
left, facing the south.
     We did not speak  a word for a long time. I did not know what to say. I
was exhausted.  I wanted to close my eyes, but I did not dare. Don Juan must
have noticed my state and said that it was all right to fall asleep. He told
me to place my hands on my abdomen, over the leaves, and try to feel that  I
was lying suspended on the  bed  of "strings" that he had made for me on the
"place of my  predilection. "I  closed my eyes and a memory of the peace and
plenitude I had experienced while sleeping on that other hilltop invaded me.
I wanted to find out  if I could actually feel I  was suspended  but  I fell
asleep. I  woke up  just  before  the sunset.  Sleeping  had  refreshed  and
invigorated me.  Don Juan had also fallen asleep. He opened his  eyes at the
same  time I did. It was  windy but I did  not  feel cold. The  leaves on my
stomach seemed to have acted as a furnace, a heater of some sort.
     I examined the surroundings.  The place I had selected to rest was like
a small basin. One could actually sit on it as on  a  long couch;  there was
enough of a rock wall to serve as a backrest. I also found out that don Juan
had  brought my writing pads and placed them underneath my head. "You  found
the right place, " he said, smiling. "And the whole operation took  place as
I had  told you it would. Power guided you here without  any  plan  on  your
     "What kind of leaves did you give me?" I asked.
     The warmth that had radiated from the leaves and had  kept me in such a
comfortable  state, without any blankets or extra thick clothing, was indeed
an absorbing phenomenon for me.
     "They were just leaves, " don Juan said.
     "Do  you mean  that  I  could grab leaves from  any bush and they would
produce the same effect on me?"
     "No. I don't mean that you  yourself can do that. You  have no personal
power. I mean  that any kind of leaves would  help  you,  providing that the
person who  gives them to you has power.  What helped you today was  not the
leaves but power."
     "Your power, don Juan?"
     "I  suppose  you could say that it was my  power, although that  is not
really accurate. Power does not belong to anyone.
     Some of us may gather it and then it could be given directly to someone
else. You see, the key to stored power is that  it can be used only to  help
someone else store power."
     I asked him if that  meant that his power was limited  only  to helping
others. Don Juan patiently explained that he could  use  his personal  power
however  he  pleased, in anything  he  himself wanted,  but  when it came to
giving  it directly  to  another person,  it was useless unless  that person
utilized it for his own search of personal power.
     "Everything a man does hinges on his personal power," don Juan went on.
"Therefore,  for one who doesn't have any, the  deeds of a powerful man  are
incredible. It  takes power to even conceive what power is. This  is  what I
have been trying to tell you all along. But I know you don't understand, not
because you don't want to but because you have very little personal power."
     "What should I do, don Juan?"
     "Nothing. Just proceed as you are now. Power will find a way."
     He  stood  up and  turned  around  in  a  complete  circle,  staring at
everything in  the surroundings. His body  moved at the  same  time his eyes
moved; the total effect was that of a hieratic mechanical toy that turned in
a complete circle in a precise and unaltered movement.
     I looked at  him  with  my mouth open. He hid a smile, cognizant of  my
     "Today you are going to hunt power in the darkness of the day," he said
and sat down.
     "I beg your pardon?"
     "Tonight you'll venture into those unknown hills.  In the darkness they
are not hills."
     "What are they?"
     "They are something else. Something unthinkable for you, since you have
never witnessed their existence."
     "What  do  you  mean,  don Juan?  You always scare me with  that spooky
     He laughed and kicked my calf softly.
     "The world  is  a  mystery, "  he  said. "And it  is not at all  as you
picture it."
     He seemed to  reflect for a moment. His  head bobbed up and down with a
rhythmical shake, then he smiled and added, "Well, it is also as you picture
it, but that's not all there is to the world; there is  much more to it. You
have been  finding that out all along,  and perhaps tonight you will add one
more piece."
     His tone sent a chill through my body. "What are you planning to do?" I
     "I don't  plan anything. All  is decided by the same power that allowed
you to find this spot."
     Don  Juan  got up  and  pointed to something in the distance. I assumed
that he  wanted  me to  stand  up and look. I  tried to jump to my feet, but
before I had fully stood up, don Juan pushed me down with great force.
     "I didn't  ask you to follow  me,  " he said in a severe voice. Then he
softened his tone and added, "You're going to have a difficult time tonight,
and you will need all the personal power you can muster. Stay where you  are
and save yourself for later."
     He explained that he was not pointing at anything  but just making sure
that  certain things were out there. He  assured me that  everything was all
right and said that I should sit quietly and  get busy, because I had  a lot
of time to write before total darkness  had set in  the land. His smile  was
contagious and very comforting.
     "But what are we going to do, don Juan?"
     He  shook his  head  from side to side  in  an  exaggerated gesture  of
     "Write!" he commanded me and turned his back to me.
     There was nothing else for me to  do. I worked on my notes until it was
too dark to write.
     Don  Juan maintained the  same position all the time I  was working. He
seemed to  be absorbed in staring into the distance towards the west. But as
soon  as  I  stopped he turned to me and said in a joking tone that the only
ways to shut  me up were to give me  something to eat,  or make me write, or
put me to sleep.
     He took a small bundle from his knapsack and ceremoniously  opened  it.
It contained pieces of dry meat.  He handed me a piece and took  another for
himself  and began to chew on it. He casually informed me that  it was power
food, which  both of us needed on that occasion. I  was too hungry to  think
about the possibility that  the dry meat may have  contained  a psychotropic
substance. We  ate  in complete silence until there was no more meat, and by
that time it was quite dark.
     Don  Juan stood up  and  stretched his  arms and  back. He  suggested I
should do  the same. He said it  was  a  good practice to stretch the entire
body after sleeping, sitting, or walking.  I followed his advice and some of
the  leaves I  had kept under my shirt slid through the legs of  my pants. I
wondered  if  I should try to pick them up, but he  said to forget about it,
that  there was no longer  any need for them and that I should let them fall
as they might.
     Then don Juan came very close to me and whispered in my right  ear that
I was supposed to follow him at  very close range and  imitate everything he
did. He said  that we were safe on the spot where we stood, because we were,
so to speak, at the edge of the night.
     "This  is not the night,  " he whispered, stomping on the rock where we
were standing. "The night is out there."
     He pointed to the darkness all around us.
     He then  checked my carrying  net to  see  if  the food gourds  and  my
writing pads were  secured and in a soft  voice said that a  warrior  always
made sure  that everything was in proper order, not because he believed that
he  was going to survive the ordeal he  was  about to undertake, but because
that was part of his impeccable behavior.
     Instead  of  making  me  feel  relieved,  his admonitions  created  the
complete certainty that my doom was approaching. I  wanted to weep. Don Juan
was, I was sure, completely aware of the effect of his words.
     "Trust your personal power, " he said in my ear. "That's all one has in
this whole mysterious world."
     He  pulled me  gently and we started to walk. He took the lead a couple
of steps  ahead  of me. I  followed  him with my eyes  fixed on  the ground.
Somehow I did not dare to look around,  and focusing my sight on the  ground
made me feel strangely calm; it almost mesmerized me. After a short walk don
Juan  stopped. He  whispered  that  total darkness was near  and that he was
going to get ahead of me, but was going to give me his position by imitating
the cry of a specific small owl. He reminded me that I already knew that his
particular imitation was raspy at the beginning and then it became as mellow
as the cry of a real owl. He warned me to be deadly aware of other owl cries
which did not bear that mark.
     By the  time don Juan finished  giving me all those  instructions I was
practically panic stricken. I grabbed him by  the arm and would not  let go.
It  took  two  or  three minutes for  me to calm myself  enough  so  I could
articulate  my words. A nervous ripple ran along  my stomach and abdomen and
kept me from talking coherently.
     In a calm  soft voice he urged me  to  get  hold of myself, because the
darkness was like the  wind, an unknown  entity at large that could trick me
if  I was not careful. And I had to  be perfectly calm in order to deal with
     "You must  let yourself  go so your personal  power will merge with the
power of the night, " he said in my ear.
     He said he was  going to move ahead  of me and I  had another attack of
irrational fear.
     "This  is  insane,  "  I  protested. Don  Juan  did  not get  angry  or
impatient. He laughed quietly and said something  in my ear  which I did not
quite understand.
     "What did you say?" I said loudly through chattering teeth.
     Don Juan put his hand over my mouth and whispered  that a warrior acted
as if he knew what he was doing, when in effect he knew nothing. He repeated
one  statement three  or  four times, as if he wanted me to memorize it.  He
said, "A warrior  is impeccable when he trusts his personal power regardless
of whether it is small or enormous."
     After a short wait he asked me if I was all right. I nodded and he went
swiftly out of sight with hardly a sound.
     I tried to  look around. I  seemed to be standing in an  area of  thick
vegetation.  All I could distinguish was the dark mass of shrubs, or perhaps
small  trees.  I  concentrated  my attention  on  sounds,  but  nothing  was
outstanding. The whizzing of the wind muffled every other  sound except  the
sporadic piercing cries of large owls and the whistling of other birds.
     I waited for a while  in a state of utmost attention. And then came the
raspy prolonged cry of a small owl.  I had no doubt it was don Juan. It came
from a place behind me. I turned around and began to walk in that direction.
I moved slowly because I felt inextricably encumbered by the darkness.
     I  walked for  perhaps ten  minutes. Suddenly some  dark mass jumped in
front of me. I screamed and fell backward on my seat. My ears began buzzing.
The fright  was  so great  that it  cut  my wind. I had to open my  mouth to
     "Stand up, " don Juan said softly. "I  didn't mean to scare you. I just
came to  meet  you."  He said that he had been watching  my  crappy  way  of
walking and that when I moved in the darkness  I  looked like a crippled old
lady trying  to tiptoe  between  mud  puddles. He found this image funny and
laughed out loud.
     He  then  proceeded  to  demonstrate a  special way of walking  in  the
darkness,  a way which  he called "the  gait of power."  He  stooped over in
front of me and  made me run my hands  over his  back and knees, in order to
get an  idea of the position of his body. Don Juan's trunk was slightly bent
forward,  but his spine was straight. His knees were  also slightly bent. He
walked slowly in front of me so I could take notice that he raised his knees
almost to his chest every time he took a  step. And then he actually ran out
of sight and came back again. I could not conceive how he could run in total
     "The gait of power is for running at night, " he whispered in my ear.
     He urged me to try it myself. I told him  that I was sure I would break
my legs falling into a crevice or against a rock.
     Don Juan very calmly said that the "gait of power" was completely safe.
     I pointed out  that the only way I  could  understand his acts  was  by
assuming  he  knew  those hills  to perfection  and  thus  could  avoid  the
     Don Juan took my head in  his  hands and whispered forcefully, "This is
the night! And it is power!"
     He let go of my head and then added in a soft voice that  at night  the
world was different, and that his ability to run in the darkness had nothing
to do with his knowledge  of  those hills. He said that the key to it was to
let one's personal power flow out freely, so  it could merge with  the power
of the night, and that  once that  power took over there was no chance for a
slip-up. He added, in a tone of utmost seriousness,  that if I doubted it  I
should consider for a moment what was taking place. For  a man of his age to
run in those hills at  that hour would be suicidal if the power of the night
was not guiding him.
     "Look!"  he said and ran swiftly out  into  the darkness and  came back
     The way his body moved  was so extraordinary  that  I could not believe
what I  was seeing.  He sort of jogged on the same spot  for a  moment.  The
manner  in  which he  lifted  his  legs reminded  me  of  a  sprinter  doing
preliminary warm-up exercises.
     He  then told me to  follow  him. I  did it with  utter constraint  and
uneasiness.  With extreme care I tried to look where I  was  stepping but it
was impossible to judge distance.
     Don Juan came back  and jogged by my  side. He whispered that I  had to
abandon  myself to  the  power of  the  night  and trust the  little  bit of
personal power that I  had, or I  would never be able to move with  freedom,
and that the darkness  was encumbering only because I relied on my sight for
everything I did, not knowing that another way to move was to let  power  be
the guide.
     I tried various times without any success. I simply  could not let  go.
The fear  of injuring my legs was overpowering. Don  Juan ordered me to keep
on moving in the same  spot and  to try  to feel as if I were actually using
the "gait of power."
     He then said that he was going to run ahead and  that I should wait for
his owl's cry. He disappeared in the darkness before I could say anything. I
closed my  eyes at times and jogged on the same spot with my knees and trunk
bent for perhaps an hour. Little by little my tension began to ease up until
I was fairly comfortable. Then I heard don Juan's cry.
     I ran five  or  six yards  in the  direction where the cry  came  from;
trying to "abandon myself, " as don Juan had suggested. But stumbling into a
bush immediately brought back my feelings of insecurity.
     Don Juan was waiting  for me and  corrected  my posture. He  insisted I
should first  curl my fingers against my palms, stretching out the thumb and
index of each hand. Then he said that in his  opinion  I was just  indulging
myself in my feelings of inadequacy, since  I knew for a fact I could always
see fairly  well, no matter how dark the night was, if  I did not  focus  on
anything but kept scanning the ground right in front of me.
     The "gait of power" was similar to finding a place to rest.
     Both  entailed a sense of abandon, and a sense  of trust. The  "gait of
power"  required that one keep  the eyes  on  the ground  directly in front,
because even a glance to either side would produce an alteration in the flow
of  movement. He  explained that  bending the trunk forward was necessary in
order to  lower the eyes, and the reason for lifting the  knees  up  to  the
chest was because the steps had to be very short and safe. He warned me that
I was going to stumble a great deal  at  first but  he assured me that  with
practice I could run as swiftly and as safely as I could in the daytime.
     For hours I  tried to imitate his movements and  get into  the mood  he
recommended. He would very patiently jog on the same spot in front of me, or
he would take  off in a short run and return to where I was, so I could  see
how he moved. He would even push me and make me run a few yards.
     Then he took  off  and  called me with a  series of owl cries. In  some
inexplicable way I moved with an unexpected degree of self confidence. To my
knowledge I had done nothing to warrant that  feeling, but my body seemed to
be cognizant of things without thinking about them. For example, I could not
really see the jagged rocks in my way, but my body always managed to step on
the edges and never in the crevices, except for a few mishaps when I lost my
balance because I  became distracted. The degree  of concentration needed to
keep scanning the  area directly  in front had to be total. As don  Juan had
warned me, any slight glance to the side or too far ahead altered the flow.
     I  located don Juan after  a  long search. He was sitting  by some dark
shapes that seemed to be trees. He came towards me and said that I was doing
very  well, but  it was time to quit because  he had  been using his whistle
long enough and was sure that by then it could be imitated by others.
     I  agreed that  it  was time  to stop. I  was  nearly exhausted  by  my
attempts. I felt relieved and asked him who would imitate his cry.
     "Powers,  allies,  spirits,  who  knows?"  he  said in  a  whisper.  He
explained that  those  "entities  of the night" usually  made very melodious
sounds but were  at a  great disadvantage  in reproducing the  raspiness  of
human  cries or bird  whistlings. He cautioned me to always stop moving if I
ever heard such a sound and to keep in mind all he had said, because at some
other  time I might need to  make the proper identification. In a reassuring
tone he said that I had a very good idea what the "gait of  power" was like,
and that in order  to master it  I needed only a slight  push, which I could
get on another occasion when we  ventured again into the night. He patted me
on the shoulder and announced that he was ready to leave.
     "Let's get out of here, " he said and began running.
     "Wait! Wait!" I screamed frantically. "Let's walk."
     Don Juan stopped and took off his hat.
     "Golly!"  he said in a tone  of perplexity. "We're in a  fix. You  know
that I  cannot walk  in the  dark. I can only  run.  I'll break my legs if I
     I had the feeling he  was grinning when he said that, although  I could
not see his face.
     He added in a confidential tone  that he  was  too old to walk  and the
little  bit of the "gait  of power" that  I had learned that night had to be
stretched to meet the occasion.
     "If  we don't use the 'gait of power' we will be mowed down like grass,
" he whispered in my ear.
     "By whom?"
     "There are things in the night  that act on people, " he whispered in a
tone  that sent chills through my body. He  said  that it was not  important
that I keep up with him, because  he  was going to give  repeated signals of
four owl cries at a time so I could follow him.  I  suggested that we should
stay  in those  hills  until dawn and  then leave.  He  retorted in  a  very
dramatic tone that to stay there would  be suicidal; and even if we came out
alive, the  night would have drained our personal power to the point that we
could not avoid being the victims of the first hazard of the day.
     "Let's not waste any more time, " he said with a note of urgency in his
voice. "Let's get out of here."
     He reassured  me  that he would try  to go as slowly as  possible.  His
final instructions were  that I should try not to utter a  sound, not even a
gasp, no  matter what happened. He  gave me  the general direction  we  were
going to go in and  began running at a markedly slower pace. I followed him,
but no matter how slow he  moved  I could not keep up with him, and he  soon
disappeared in the darkness ahead of me.
     After I was alone I became aware that I  had adopted a fairly fast walk
without realizing it. And that came as  a shock  to me. I tried  to maintain
that pace for a long while and then I heard don  Juan's call a little bit to
my right. He whistled four times in succession.
     After a very short while I again heard his owl cry, this time to my far
right. In order to follow it I had to make a forty five degree turn. I began
to move in the  new direction, expecting that the  other three  cries of the
set would give me a better orientation.
     I heard a new whistle,  which placed don Juan almost  in the  direction
where we had started. I  stopped and listened. I heard  a very sharp noise a
short distance  away. Something like  the  sound  of two rocks  being struck
against each  other.  I strained  to listen  and detected a  series  of soft
noises,  as if two rocks were being  struck  gently. There was another owl's
cry  and then I  knew  what don Juan  had meant. There was  something  truly
melodious  about it. It was  definitely longer and even  more mellow than  a
real  owl's. I felt a strange sensation of fright.  My stomach contracted as
if  something were pulling me down from the middle part of my body. I turned
around and started to semi-jog in the opposite direction.
     I heard a faint owl cry  in the distance. There was  a rapid succession
of three more cries.  They were don Juan's. I ran in their direction. I felt
that he must have  then been a good quarter of a mile away and if he kept up
that pace  I  would soon be inextricably alone in those hills.  I  could not
understand why don Juan would run ahead, when  he could have run  around me,
if he needed to keep that pace.
     I noticed then that there  seemed to be something moving with me  to my
left. I could almost  see it  in the extreme periphery of my visual field. I
was about to panic,  but  a  sobering thought crossed  my mind. I could  not
possibly see anything in the dark. I wanted to stare in that direction but I
was afraid to lose my momentum.
     Another  owl cry  jolted me out  of my  deliberations. It  came from my
left. I did not follow it because it was without  a doubt the most sweet and
melodious cry I  had ever heard.  It did not frighten  me  though. There was
something very appealing, or perhaps haunting, or even sad about it.  Then a
very swift dark mass crossed from left to  right ahead of me. The suddenness
of its movements made me look ahead, I lost  my  balance and crashed noisily
against some shrubs. I fell down on my  side  and then I heard the melodious
cry  a few steps to my left.  I  stood up,  but before I could  start moving
forward again there was another cry, more demanding and  compelling than the
first. It was as if something there wanted  me to stop and listen. The sound
of  the owl cry was so prolonged and gentle that it eased my  fears. I would
have actually stopped had I not heard at that precise moment don Juan's four
raspy  cries. They seemed to  be nearer.  I  jumped  and took  off  in  that
     After a  moment  I  noticed  again  a certain flicker or a wave in  the
darkness  to my left. It was  not a sight proper, but rather a  feeling, and
yet I was almost sure I was perceiving it with my eyes. It moved faster than
I did, and again  it crossed from left to right, making  me lose my balance.
This time I did not fall down, and strangely enough not falling down annoyed
me. I suddenly became angry  and  the incongruency of  my feelings threw  me
into true  panic. I tried to accelerate my pace. I wanted to give out an owl
cry myself to let don Juan know where I was, but  I did not dare to  disobey
his instructions.
     At  that  moment some  gruesome thing came  to my attention. There  was
actually something like  an animal to my left, almost touching  me. I jumped
involuntarily and veered to my right. The fright almost suffocated me. I was
so intensely gripped  by  fear that there  were  no thoughts in my mind as I
moved  in the darkness  as fast as  I could. My fear seemed to be  a  bodily
sensation that had nothing to do with my thoughts.
     I found that condition very unusual. In the course of my life, my fears
had always been mounted on an intellectual matrix and had been engendered by
threatening social situations, or by people behaving towards me in dangerous
ways. This  time, however, my  fear  was  a  true novelty. It came  from  an
unknown part of the world and hit me in an unknown part of myself.
     I  heard  an  owl cry very close and slightly  to my left.  I could not
catch the  details of its pitch, but it seemed to be don Juan's.  It was not
melodious. I slowed down. Another cry  followed. The raspiness of don Juan's
whistles was  there, so I  moved faster. A  third  whistle  came from a very
short distance away. I  could distinguish a  dark  mass of rocks or  perhaps
trees. I heard another owl's cry and I thought that don Juan was waiting for
me  because we were out of the field of danger. I  was almost at the edge of
the  darker area when  a fifth cry  froze me on the spot. I  strained to see
ahead into  the  dark  area, but a sudden rustling sound to  my left made me
turn around in time to notice a black object, blacker than the surroundings,
rolling or sliding by  my side. I gasped and jumped away. I heard a clicking
sound, as if someone were smacking his lips, and then a very large dark mass
lurched out of the darker area. It was square, like a door, perhaps eight to
ten feet high.
     The suddenness of its appearance made me scream. For a moment my fright
was all out of proportion, but a second later I found myself awesomely calm,
staring at  the dark  shape. My reactions were, as far  as I  was concerned,
another total novelty. Some part  of myself seemed  to  pull  me towards the
dark area with an eerie insistence, while another  part  of me resisted.  It
was as if I wanted to find out for sure on the one hand, and on the  other I
wanted to run hysterically out of there.
     I barely heard don Juan's  owl  cries. They seemed to  be very close by
and they seemed to  be  frantic; they were longer and raspier,  as though he
was whistling while lie ran towards me. Suddenly I  seemed to regain control
of  myself  and was able  to turn around  and for a moment I ran just as don
Juan had been wanting me to.
     "Don Juan!" I shouted when I found him.
     He put  his hand on my mouth and  signaled  me  to  follow and  we both
jogged at a very comfortable pace until we came to the sandstone ledge where
we had been  before. We sat in  absolute  silence on the ledge  for about an
hour,  until  dawn. Then we ate food from the gourds.  Don Juan said that we
had to remain on the ledge until midday, and that we were not going to sleep
at all but were going to talk as if nothing was out of the ordinary.
     He asked me to relate in detail everything that had happened to me from
the moment he had left me. When I concluded my narration he stayed quiet for
a long time. He seemed to be immersed in deep thought.
     "It  doesn't look  too good, " he finally said.  "What happened to  you
last night was  very serious,  so serious  that  you cannot venture into the
night alone any more.  From now on the entities of the night won't leave you
     "What happened to me last night, don Juan?"
     "You stumbled on some entities which are in the world, and which act on
people. You know nothing about them because you have never encountered them.
Perhaps it would be more proper to call them entities of the mountains; they
don't really belong to the night. I call them entities of the  night because
one can  perceive  them  in the darkness  with greater ease.  They are here,
around us  at  all  times. In daylight, however, it  is  more  difficult  to
perceive them, simply because the world is familiar to us, and that which is
familiar takes precedence. In the darkness, on the other hand, everything is
equally  strange  and  very few  things  take  precedence,  so  we  are more
susceptible to those entities at night."
     "But are they real, don Juan?"
     "Of  course!  They  are  so  real  that  ordinarily  they kill  people,
especially those who stray into the wilderness and have no personal power."
     "If you knew they were so dangerous, why did you leave me alone there?"
     "There  is only  one way  to  learn, and that  way  is to  get  down to
business.  To only  talk about power is useless. If  you want  to know  what
power is, and if you want to store it, you must tackle everything yourself.
     "The road of knowledge and power  is very difficult and very  long. You
may have noticed  that I  have  not let  you  venture into the  darkness  by
yourself until last night. You did not have enough power to do that. Now you
do have enough  to wage a good battle, but not enough to stay in the dark by
     "What would happen if I did?"
     "You'll die. The entities of the night will crush you like a bug."
     "Does that mean that I cannot spend a night by myself?"
     "You can  spend the  night  by  yourself  in  your  bed, but not in the
     "What about the flatlands?"
     "It applies only to the wilderness, where  there are no  people around,
especially the wilderness in high mountains. Since the natural abodes of the
entities of the night are rocks and crevices, you cannot go to the mountains
from now on unless you have stored enough personal power."
     "But how can I store personal power?"
     "You are doing  it  by  living  the  way I have  recommended. Little by
little you are  plugging all  your points of drainage. You don't have  to be
deliberate about it,  because  power  always  finds  a way.  Take  me  as an
example. I didn't know I was storing  power when I  first began to learn the
ways of a
     warrior.  Just  like   you,  I  thought  I  wasn't  doing  anything  in
particular,  but  that was  not  so.  Power  has  the  peculiarity  of being
unnoticeable when  it is being stored." I asked  him to  explain how  he had
arrived at the conclusion that it was  dangerous for me to stay by myself in
the darkness.
     "The entities of the night moved along your left, " he said. "They were
trying to merge with your death. Especially the door that you saw. It was an
opening, you know, and it would have pulled you until you had been forced to
cross it. And that would have been your end."
     I  mentioned,  in  the best way I  could, that I thought  it  was  very
strange that things always happened when he  was around, and that  it was as
if he had been concocting all the events himself. The times I had been alone
in the wilderness at night had always been perfectly normal  and uneventful.
I had never experienced shadows or strange noises. In fact, I had never been
frightened by anything.
     Don  Juan  chuckled  softly and said  that everything  was proof he had
enough personal power to call a myriad of things to his aid.
     I had the feeling he perhaps was hinting that he actually had called on
some  people as his confederates. Don Juan seemed to  have read my  thoughts
and laughed out loud.
     "Don't tax yourself with explanations, " he said. "What I said makes no
sense to you, simply because you still don't have enough personal power. Yet
you have more than when you  started, so things have begun to happen to you.
You already had a powerful encounter with the fog and lightning.
     It  is  not  important that  you understand what happened  to you  that
night. What's  important is that you  have acquired the  memory  of it.  The
bridge and everything else you saw that night will be repeated someday  when
you have enough personal power."
     "For what purpose would all that be repeated, don Juan?"
     "I don't know. I  am not you.  Only  you  can answer  that. We  are all
different. That's why I had to leave you by yourself last night, although  I
knew it  was  mortally dangerous; you  had  to  test yourself against  those
entities.  The  reason  I  chose  the  owl's cry  was  because owls  are the
entities'  messengers. To  imitate  the  cry of an owl brings them out. They
became  dangerous  to  you not  because  they are naturally  malevolent  but
because  you  were not impeccable. There  is something in you that  is  very
chintzy  and I know  what it is.  You  arc just humoring  me.  You have been
humoring  everybody all along and,  of course, that places you automatically
above everyone and everything. But you know yourself that that cannot be so.
You are only a man, and  your life is too brief to encompass all the wonders
and  all the horrors of this marvelous  world. Therefore,  your humoring  is
chintzy; it cuts you down to a crappy size."
     I wanted to protest. Don Juan  had nailed me,  as he had done dozens of
times before. For a  moment I became angry. But, as it had happened  before,
writing detached me enough so I could remain impassive.
     "I  think  I have  a cure  for it,  " don Juan  went on  after  a  long
interval. "Even you  would agree with me  if you could remember what you did
last night. You ran as fast  as any sorcerer only when  your opponent became
unbearable. We  both  know that and I believe I have already found a  worthy
opponent for you."
     "What are you going to do, don Juan?"
     He did  not  answer.  He stood up and stretched his body. He seemed  to
contract every muscle. He ordered me to do the same.
     "You must stretch your body many times during the day,"
     he said. "The  more times  the better, but only after a  long period of
work or a long period of rest."
     "What kind of opponent are you going to find for me?" I asked.
     "Unfortunately only our fellow men are our worthy opponents, " he said.
"Other entities have no volition of  their own  and one must go to meet them
and lure them out. Our fellow men, on the contrary, are relentless.
     "We have talked  long enough,  "  don Juan  said in  an abrupt tone and
turned  to  me.  "Before  we  leave  you must do  one more thing,  the  most
important of all. I am  going  to  tell  you something right now to set your
mind at ease about why you are here. The reason you keep on coming to see me
is very simple; every time you have seen  me your  body  has learned certain
things, even against  your desire.  And finally  your body now needs to come
back to me to learn more. Let's say that your body knows that it is going to
die, even  though you never think about it. So  I've been telling your  body
that I too am going to die and before I do  I  would like to show  your body
certain  things,  things which you cannot give to  your  body  yourself. For
example, your body needs  fright.  It likes it. Your body needs the darkness
and the wind. Your  body now knows the  gait of power and can't  wait to try
it. Your body needs personal power and  can't wait to  have it. So let's say
then that your body returns to see me because I am its friend."
     Don Juan remained  silent for a long while. He seemed to be  struggling
with his thoughts.
     "I've told you that  the secret of a  strong body is not in what you do
to it but in what you don't do, " he finally said.
     "Now it is time for you not to do what you always do. Sit here until we
leave and not-do."
     "I don't follow you, don Juan."
     He put his hands over my notes and took them away from me. He carefully
closed the  pages of my notebook, secured it with  its rubber band, and then
threw it like a disk far into the chaparral.
     I was  shocked and began to protest but he put his hand over  my mouth.
He pointed to a large bush and told me to fix my attention not on the leaves
but on the shadows of the leaves.
     He said that running in the darkness did not have to be spurred by fear
but could be a very natural  reaction  of  a jubilant body that knew how "to
not do." He repeated over and over in a whisper in my right ear that "to not
do what I knew  how to do" was the key to power. In the case of looking at a
tree, what I knew  how  to  do was to focus immediately on  the foliage. The
shadows  of the  leaves or the spaces  in between the  leaves were never  my
concern. His last admonitions were to start focusing on the  shadows  of the
leaves on one  single  branch and  then eventually work my way to  the whole
tree,  and  not to let my  eyes go  back  to the  leaves, because the  first
deliberate step to storing personal power was to allow the body to "not-do."
     Perhaps it was because of my fatigue or my  nervous excitation,  but  I
became so immersed in  the  shadows of  the leaves that by the time don Juan
stood up I could almost group the dark masses of shadows as effectively as I
normally  grouped  the foliage. The total  effect was startling. I  told don
Juan that I would like to stay longer. He laughed and patted me on my hat.
     "I've told you, " he  said. "The body likes things  like this." He then
said that I should  let  my stored  power  guide me through the bushes to my
notebook. He gently pushed  me into the chaparral. I walked  aimlessly for a
moment and  then I came upon it. I thought that  I  must  have unconsciously
memorized the direction  in which don Juan had thrown  it.  He explained the
event, saying that I went directly to the notebook because my body had  been
soaked for hours in "not-doing."


     Wednesday, April 12, 1962

     Upon returning to his house,  don Juan recommended  that  I work on  my
notes  as if  nothing had  happened to me,  and not to  mention or  even  be
concerned with  any of the events I had  experienced. After a day's rest  he
announced that we  had to leave the area  for  a  few days  because  it  was
advisable to put distance between us and those "entities." He said that they
had affected me deeply, although I was not noticing their effect yet because
my  body was not  sensitive  enough. In a short while, however, I would fall
seriously ill if I did not go  to my "place of predilection" to  be cleansed
and restored.
     We left before dawn and drove north, and after  an exhausting drive and
a fast hike we arrived at the hilltop in the late afternoon. Don Juan, as he
had done before, covered the spot where I had once slept with small branches
and leaves.  Then he gave me a handful of leaves to put against the  skin of
my abdomen  and  told me to  lie down and rest. He fixed  another place  for
himself slightly to my left, about five feet away from my head, and also lay
     In a matter of minutes I began to feel an exquisite warmth and a  sense
of  supreme well-being. It was  a sense  of physical comfort, a sensation of
being  suspended in mid-air. I could fully  agree  with don Juan's statement
that  the  "bed  of strings"  would  keep  me floating.  I commented  on the
unbelievable  quality of my sensory experience. Don Juan  said in a  factual
tone that the "bed" was made for that purpose.
     "I can't believe that this is possible!" I  exclaimed. Don Juan took my
statement  literally and scolded me. He said he was tired of my acting as an
ultimately important being that has to be given proof over and over that the
world is unknown and marvelous.
     I  tried to explain that a rhetorical exclamation  had no significance.
He retorted  that if that were so I could have chosen another  statement. It
seemed that he was seriously annoyed with me.  I sat up halfway and began to
apologize, but he laughed and, imitating my manner of speaking, suggested  a
series of hilarious  rhetorical  exclamations I could  have  used instead. I
ended  up  laughing at  the  calculated absurdity of some  of  his  proposed
alternatives.  He  giggled  and in a soft tone  reminded  me  that I  should
abandon myself to the sensation of floating.
     The soothing feeling of peace and plenitude  that I experienced in that
mysterious place aroused some deeply buried emotions in  me. I began to talk
about my life. I confessed that I had never respected or liked anybody,  not
even myself, and that I  had always  felt I was inherently evil, and thus my
attitude towards others was always veiled with a certain bravado and daring.
     "True, " don  Juan  said. "You don't like yourself at  all." He cackled
and told me that he had been "seeing" while I talked. His recommendation was
that I should not have remorse for anything I  had done, because to  isolate
one's  acts  as being  mean,  or  ugly, or evil was to place  an unwarranted
importance on the self.
     I moved nervously and the bed of leaves made a rustling sound. Don Juan
said that if I wanted to rest I should not make my leaves feel agitated, and
that I should imitate him and lie without making a single movement. He added
that in his "seeing" he had come across one  of my moods. He struggled for a
moment, seemingly to find a  proper word, and said that the mood in question
was a frame of mind I continually lapsed  into. He described it as a sort of
trap door that opened at unexpected times and swallowed me.
     I  asked him to be more specific. He replied that it was  impossible to
be  specific about "seeing." Before I could say anything else  he told me  I
should relax, but not fall  asleep,  and be in a state  of  awareness for as
long as I could. He said that  the "bed of strings" was  made exclusively to
allow a warrior to arrive at  a certain state of peace and well-being. In  a
dramatic  tone don Juan  stated that well-being was a  condition one  had to
groom, a condition one had to become acquainted with in order to seek it.
     "You don't  know what well-being is, because you have never experienced
it, " he  said. I  disagreed  with him. But  he continued arguing  that well
being was an achievement one had to deliberately seek. He said that the only
thing  I  knew  how  to  seek was a sense of  disorientation, ill-being, and
     He  laughed mockingly  and  assured me that  in order to accomplish the
feat of making myself miserable I had to work in a most intense fashion, and
that it was absurd I had never realized I could work just the same in making
myself  complete and strong. "The trick is in what one emphasizes," he said.
"We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount
of work is the same."
     I closed my eyes  and relaxed again and  began to feel I was  floating;
for a short while it was as if I were actually moving  through space, like a
leaf. Although it was utterly pleasurable,  the  feeling somehow reminded me
of times when I had  become sick  and dizzy and would experience a sensation
of spinning. I  thought  perhaps I had eaten something bad. I heard don Juan
talking to me but I did not really make an effort to listen. I was trying to
make a mental inventory of all  the things I had eaten that day, but I could
not become interested in it. It did not seem to matter.
     "Watch the way the sunlight changes," he said.
     His voice was clear. I thought it was like water, fluid and warm.
     The sky was totally  free  of clouds towards the  west and the sunlight
was  spectacular. Perhaps the fact  that  don Juan  was cueing  me made  the
yellowish glow of the afternoon sun truly magnificent.
     "Let that glow kindle you,  " don Juan said.  "Before the sun goes down
today you must be perfectly calm and restored, because  tomorrow or  the day
after, you are going to learn not-doing."
     "Learn not doing what?" I asked.
     "Never  mind  now,  " he  said.  "Wait  until  we  are  in  those  lava
     He pointed to some distant jagged, dark, menacing-looking peaks towards
the north.

     Thursday, April 13, 1962

     We reached  the  high  desert  around  the lava  mountains in  the late
afternoon.  In  the distance the  dark brown  lava  mountains  looked almost
sinister.  The sun was very low on the horizon and shone on the western face
of the solidified lava, tinting its  dark brownness with a dazzling array of
yellow reflections. I  could not keep my eyes away.  Those  peaks were truly
     By the end of the day the bottom slopes of the mountains were in sight.
There was very  little vegetation on the high  desert; all  I could see were
cacti and a kind of tall grass that grew in tufts.
     Don  Juan stopped to  rest.  He sat down,  carefully propped  his  food
gourds against a rock, and said that we  were going to camp on that spot for
the night. He had picked a relatively high place. From where I stood I could
see quite a distance away, all around us.
     It was a  cloudy day and  the twilight quickly  enveloped  the area.  I
became involved in watching the speed with which the  crimson  clouds on the
west faded into a uniform thick dark gray. Don Juan  got up and  went to the
bushes. By the time he  came back the silhouette of the lava mountains was a
dark mass. He sat down next to me and called my attention to  what seemed to
be a natural formation on the mountains towards the northeast. It was a spot
which had a  color much lighter than its surroundings. While the whole range
of lava mountains looked  uniformly dark brown in the  twilight, the spot he
was pointing at was actually yellowish or dark beige. I could not figure out
what it could be. I stared at it for a long time. It  seemed to be moving; I
fancied it to be pulsating.
     When I squinted my eyes it actually rippled as  if the wind were moving
     "Look at it fixedly!" don Juan commanded me.
     At  one moment,  after  I had maintained my stare for  quite a while, I
felt that the whole  range of mountains was moving towards  me. That feeling
was  accompanied by an unusual  agitation  in  the  pit  of  my stomach. The
discomfort became so acute that I stood up.
     "Sit down!" don Juan yelled, but  I was already on my feet. From my new
point  of  view  the  yellowish  formation was  lower on  the  side  of  the
mountains, I sat down again, without taking my eyes away,  and the formation
shifted to  a  higher  place. I stared  at it for  an instant and suddenly I
arranged everything into the correct perspective. I realized that what I had
been  looking at was not in the  mountains at all  but was really a piece of
yellowish green cloth hanging from a tall cactus in front of me.
     I  laughed  out loud and  explained to  don  Juan that the twilight had
helped  to  create  an  optical illusion. He got up and  walked to the place
where the piece  of cloth was hanging, took  it down,  folded it, and put it
inside his pouch. "What are you doing that for?" I asked.
     "Because  this piece  of  cloth has power, " he  said casually.  "For a
moment you were doing fine with it and  there  is no way of knowing what may
have happened if you had remained seated."

     Friday, April 14, 1962

     At  the  crack  of  dawn  we   headed  for  the  mountains.  They  were
surprisingly far  away. By midday we  walked  into one of the canyons. There
was  some water in shallow pools. We sat to  rest in  the shade of a hanging
cliff. The mountains  were clumps of  a monumental lava flow. The solidified
lava had weathered over the millennia into a porous dark brown rock. Only  a
few sturdy weeds grew between the rocks and in the cracks.
     Looking  up at  the  almost perpendicular walls of the canyon,  I had a
weird  sensation in  the pit of my stomach. The walls were hundreds  of feet
high  and gave me the  feeling that they were closing in on me. The  sun was
almost overhead, slightly towards the southwest. "Stand up here, "  don Juan
said  and maneuvered my body until I was looking towards the sun. He told me
to look fixedly  at the mountain  walls above me. The sight was  stupendous.
The magnificent height of the lava flow staggered my imagination. I began to
wonder what a volcanic upheaval it must have been. I  looked up and down the
sides of  the  canyon  various  times. I became immersed  in the richness of
color  in the rock wall.  There were specks  of every conceivable hue. There
were patches of  light  gray moss  or lichen in  every rock.  I looked right
above my head and noticed that the sunlight was producing the most exquisite
reflections when it hit the brilliant specks of the solidified lava.
     I stared at an  area  in the mountains  where  the  sunlight  was being
reflected.  As  the  sun  moved,  the  intensity diminished,  then it  faded
completely. I  looked across  the canyon and  saw another  area of the  same
exquisite light refractions. I told don  Juan what was happening, and then I
spotted another  area of  light, and then another in a different  place, and
another, until the whole canyon was blotched with big patches of light.
     I felt dizzy; even if  I closed my eyes I could still see the brilliant
lights. I held my  head in my  hands and tried  to crawl  under  the hanging
cliff,  but don Juan grabbed my  arm firmly and imperatively told me to look
at the walls of the mountains and try to figure out spots  of heavy darkness
in the midst of the fields of light.
     I did not want to look, because the glare bothered my eyes. I said that
what was happening to  me was similar to staring into a sunny street through
a window  and then seeing the  window frame  as a dark silhouette everywhere
else. Don Juan shook his head from side to side and began to chuckle. He let
go of my arm and we sat down again under the hanging cliff.
     I  was jotting  down my impressions of the surroundings when  don Juan,
after a long silence, suddenly spoke in a dramatic tone. "I have brought you
here to  teach you one thing, " he said and paused.  "You are going to learn
not-doing. We might as well talk about it  because there is no other way for
you to proceed. I thought  you might catch on to not-doing without my having
to say anything. I was wrong."
     "I don't know what you're talking about, don Juan."
     "It doesn't matter, " he said. "I am going  to tell you about something
that is very simple but very difficult to perform; I am going to talk to you
about not-doing, in spite of the fact that there is no way to talk about it,
because it is the body that does it."
     He  stared  at me in glances and then said that I had to pay the utmost
attention to what  he was  going to say.  I closed  my notebook, but  to  my
amazement he insisted that I should keep on writing.
     "Not-doing is so difficult and  so powerful that you should not mention
it, "  he went on. "Not until you have stopped  the world; only then can you
talk about it freely, if that's what you'd want to do."
     Don  Juan looked around  and then pointed  to a  large rock. "That rock
over there is a rock because of doing" he said.
     We looked at each other  and he smiled. I waited for an explanation but
he remained silent. Finally I had  to say that I had  not understood what he
     "That's doing!" he exclaimed.
     "Pardon me?"
     "That's also doing."
     "What are you talking about, don Juan?"
     "Doing is what  makes that  rock a rock and that  bush a bush. Doing is
what makes you yourself and me myself."
     I told him that  his explanation did  not explain  anything. He laughed
and scratched his temples.
     "That's  the  problem  with talking,  "  he said.  "It always makes one
confuse  the issues. If one starts  talking  about doing, one always ends up
talking about something else. It is better to just act.
     "Take that rock for instance. To look at it is doing, but  to see it is
     I  had  to confess that his words were not making sense to me. "Oh  yes
they do!" he exclaimed. "But you are convinced that they don't  because that
is your doing. That is the way you act towards me and the world."
     He again pointed  to the rock. "That rock is a rock because  of all the
things  you know  how  to do to it, " he said. "I call  that doing. A man of
knowledge, for  instance,  knows  that the rock is  a  rock  only because of
doing, so  if he  doesn't  want  the  rock to be a  rock all he has to do is
not-doing. See what I mean?"
     I did not understand him at all. He laughed and made another attempt at
     "The world is the world because you know the  doing involved in  making
it  so, "  he  said. "If  you didn't know  its  doing, the  world  would  be
     He examined me  with  curiosity.  I  stopped writing. I  just wanted to
listen to him. He went on explaining that without that certain "doing" there
would be nothing familiar in the  surroundings. He leaned over and picked up
a small rock  between the thumb and  index of  his left  hand and held it in
front of my eyes.
     "This is a pebble because you know the doing involved in making it into
a pebble, " he said.
     "What are you saying?" I asked with a feeling of bona fide confusion.
     Don Juan smiled. He seemed to be trying to hide a mischievous delight.
     "I  don't  know why  you are so confused,  " he  said.  "Words are your
predilection. You should be in heaven."
     He gave me a mysterious look  and raised his brows two or three  times.
Then he pointed again to the small rock he was holding in front of my eyes.
     "I say  that  you  are  making this  into a pebble because you know the
doing involved in it, "  he said. "Now, in  order to stop the world you must
stop doing." He  seemed to know that I still had not understood  and smiled,
shaking his head. He then took a twig  and pointed to the uneven edge of the
     "In the case of this little rock, " he went  on, "the first thing which
doing does to it is to shrink  it to this  size. So the proper thing  to do,
which a  warrior does if he wants to stop  the world, is to enlarge a little
rock, or any other thing, by not-doing."
     He stood up  and placed the pebble  on a boulder and then  asked  me to
come closer and examine it. He  told me to look at the holes and depressions
in the pebble and try to pick out the minute detail in them. He said that if
I could pick out the detail, the holes and depressions would disappear and I
would understand what "not-doing" meant.
     "This damn pebble is going to drive you crazy today, " he said.
     I must have had a look  of bewilderment on my face. He looked at me and
laughed uproariously. Then he pretended to get angry with the pebble and hit
it two or three times with his hat.
     I urged him to clarify his point. I argued that it was possible for him
to explain anything he wanted to if he made an effort.
     He  gave me a  sly glance  and  shook his head as if the situation were
     "Sure  I can explain  anything,  "  he said, laughing. "But  could  you
understand  it?"  I was taken  aback by  his insinuation.  "Doing  makes you
separate the pebble from the larger boulder, " he continued. "If you want to
learn not-doing, let's say that you have to join them."
     He pointed to the small shadow that the pebble cast on the  boulder and
said that it  was not a shadow but a glue which bound them together. He then
turned around and walked away, saying that he was coming back to check on me
later.  I stared  at  the  pebble for a  long  time. I could  not  focus  my
attention on the minute detail  in the holes and  depressions, but  the tiny
shadow that the pebble cast on the boulder became a  most interesting point.
Don Juan was right; it was like a  glue.  It moved  and shifted. I  had  the
impression it was being squeezed from underneath the pebble.
     When don Juan returned I related to him what I had  observed about  the
     "That's  a good beginning, " he said. "A warrior can  tell all kinds of
things from  the shadows."  He then suggested  that I should take the pebble
and bury it somewhere.
     "Why?" I asked.
     "You've been watching it for a long time,"  he  said. "It has something
of you  now. A warrior always tries to affect the force of doing by changing
it into not-doing. Doing would be to leave the pebble  lying around  because
it is merely a small rock. Not-doing would be to proceed with that pebble as
if it were something far beyond  a mere rock.  In this case, that pebble has
soaked in you for  a  long time and now  it is you,  and as such, you cannot
leave  it lying  around but must bury it. If you would have personal  power,
however, not-doing would be to change that pebble into a power object."
     "Can I do that now?"
     "Your life is not tight  enough to do that. If you would see, you would
know  that your heavy  concern has changed that  pebble into something quite
unappealing,  therefore the best thing you can do is  to dig a hole and bury
it and let the earth absorb its heaviness."
     "Is all this true, don Juan?"
     "To say yes or no to your question is doing. But since you are learning
not-doing  I have to  tell you that it  really doesn't matter whether or not
all this is true.  It is  here that a warrior has a point of  advantage over
the average man. An average man cares that  things are either true or false,
but a warrior doesn't. An average man proceeds in a specific way with things
that he knows are true, and in a different way with things that he knows are
not true. If  things are  said to be true,  he acts and  believes in what he
does. But if things are said to  be untrue, he doesn't care to  act,  or  he
doesn't believe in what he does. A warrior, on the other hand,  acts in both
instances. If things are said to be true, he would act in order to do doing.
     If things  are  said to be  untrue, he still would  act in order  to do
not-doing. See what I mean?"
     "No, I don't see what you mean at all, "  I said. Don Juan's statements
put me in a belligerent mood. I could not make sense of what he  was saying.
I told him it  was  gibberish, and he mocked me and said that I did not even
have an impeccable spirit in what I liked to do the most, talking.
     He  actually made fun  of  my  verbal command and found  it faulty  and
     "If you are going  to be  all mouth,  be a mouth warrior, " he said and
roared with laughter. I felt  dejected. My ears were buzzing.  I experienced
an uncomfortable heat in  my head. I was actually embarrassed and presumably
red  in  the face.  I  stood  up  and went into the chaparral and buried the
     "I was  teasing  you a little bit, "  don Juan said when I returned and
sat down again. "And yet I know that if you don't talk you don't understand.
Talking is doing for you,  but talking is not appropriate and if you want to
know what I mean by not-doing you have to do a simple exercise. Since we are
concerned with not-doing it doesn't matter whether  you do the exercise  now
or ten years from now."
     He made me lie down and took my right arm and bent it at my elbow. Then
he turned my  hand until the palm was facing the front; he curved my fingers
so my hand looked as if I were holding a doorknob, and then he began to move
my  arm back and forth with a  circular  motion  that resembled  the act  of
pushing and pulling a lever attached to a wheel.
     Don  Juan  said  that a warrior executed that  movement every  time  he
wanted to  push something out of his body,  something  like a disease  or an
unwelcome feeling. The idea was to push and pull an imaginary opposing force
until one felt a heavy  object, a solid body, stopping the free movements of
the hand. In the case of the exercise, "not-doing" consisted in repeating it
until one felt the heavy body with the hand,  in  spite of the fact that one
could never believe it was possible to feel it. I began moving my arm and in
a short  while  my  hand  became ice cold. I had  begun  to feel  a sort  of
mushiness around my hand.  It was as  if I were paddling  through some heavy
viscous liquid matter.
     Don Juan made a sudden movement  and grabbed my arm to stop the motion.
My  whole  body  shivered  as  though  stirred  by  some  unseen  force.  He
scrutinized me as  I sat up, and then walked  around me before  he  sat back
down on the place where he had been.
     "You've done  enough, " he said. "You  may do this  exercise some other
time, when you have more personal power."
     "Did I do something wrong?"
     "No. Not-doing is only for very strong warriors and you  don't have the
power to deal with it yet.  Now you will  only trap  horrendous things  with
your hand. So do it  little by little, until your  hand doesn't get cold any
more. Whenever your hand remains  warm  you can actually feel  the lines of.
the world with it."
     He  paused as  if to give me  time to ask about the lines. But before I
had a chance  to, he started explaining that there were infinite numbers  of
lines that joined us to  things.  He  said that the  exercise of "not-doing"
that he had just described would  help anyone to feel a line  that  came out
from  the moving hand, a  line  that one could  place or  cast wherever  one
wanted to. Don Juan said  that  this was only an exercise, because the lines
formed  by  the hand were not  durable  enough  to  be  of  real  value in a
practical situation.
     "A man of knowledge  uses  other  parts of  his body to produce durable
lines, " he said.
     "What parts of the body, don Juan?"
     "The most durable  lines that a man of knowledge produces come from the
middle of the body," he said. "But he can also make them with his eyes."
     "Are they real lines?"
     "Can you see them and touch them?"
     "Let's say that you can feel them.  The  most  difficult part about the
warrior's  way  is  to realize  that  the  world is a feeling. When  one  is
not-doing, one  is  feeling the world, and  one  feels the world through its
     He  paused  and  examined me with  curiosity.  He raised  his brows and
opened his  eyes and  then  blinked.  The effect was like the eyes of a bird
blinking.   Almost  immediately   I  felt  a  sensation  of  discomfort  and
queasiness.  It was actually as if something  was  applying  pressure  to my
     "See what I mean?" don Juan asked and moved his eyes away.
     I  mentioned  that I felt nauseated and he replied in  a matter-of-fact
tone that he knew it, and  that he  was  trying to make me feel the lines of
the world with his  eyes. I  could not accept the  claim that he himself was
making  me feel that way.  I voiced my doubts. I could  hardly  conceive the
idea  that he was causing my feeling of  nausea, since  he  had not, in  any
physical way, impinged on me. "Not-doing is very simple  but very difficult,
" he said. "It is not  a  matter  of understanding it but  of mastering  it.
Seeing, of course, is the final accomplishment of  a man  of knowledge, .and
seeing is attained only when one has stopped the world through the technique
of not-doing."
     I smiled  involuntarily.  I had not understood what he meant. "When one
does something  with people, " he said,  "the concern  should  be  only with
presenting the case to their bodies. That's what I've been doing with you so
far, letting your body know. Who cares whether or not you understand?"
     "But  that's  unfair,  don  Juan.  I  want  to  understand  everything,
otherwise coming here would be a waste of my time."
     "A waste of  your time!" he  exclaimed parodying my tone of voice. "You
certainly are conceited." He stood up and told me that we were going to hike
to  the top of the lava peak to  our  right.  The  ascent  to the top was an
excruciating affair. It was actual mountain climbing, except that there were
no ropes  to aid  and protect  us. Don Juan repeatedly told  me  not to look
down;  and he had to actually pull  me up bodily a couple of times, after  I
had begun to slide down the rock. I felt terribly embarrassed that don Juan,
being so  old, had to  help  me. I  told  him  that I  was  in poor physical
condition  because I was too lazy to do  any exercise.  He replied that once
one  had arrived  at  a certain  level  of personal  power, exercise  or any
training of that  sort  was unnecessary,  since all one  needed, to be in an
impeccable form, was to engage oneself in "not-doing."
     When we arrived  at  the  top I lay  down. I was  about  to be sick. He
rolled me back and forth with his foot as he had done once before. Little by
little the motion restored  my balance. But I felt nervous. It  was as if  I
were somehow waiting for the sudden appearance of something. I involuntarily
looked two or three  times to each side. Don Juan  did not say a word but he
also looked in the direction I was looking.
     "Shadows are  peculiar  affairs, " he said all of  a  sudden. "You must
have noticed that there is one following us."
     "I haven't noticed anything of the sort, " I protested in a loud voice.
     Don  Juan said  that my body had noticed our  pursuer,  in spite of  my
stubborn  opposition, and assured me  in  a  confident  tone  that there was
nothing unusual about being followed by a shadow.
     "It is just a power, " he said. "These  mountains are filled with them.
It is just like one of those entities that scared you the other night."
     I wanted to know if  I could  actually perceive it myself. He  asserted
that in the daytime I could only feel its presence. I wanted an  explanation
of why he called it a  shadow when obviously it was not like the shadow of a
boulder. He replied  that  both had  the  same  lines,  therefore  both were
     He pointed to a long boulder standing directly in front of us.
     "Look  at  the  shadow of that  boulder, "He  said. "The shadow  is the
boulder, and yet it isn't. To observe  the boulder in order to know what the
boulder is, is doing, but to observe its shadow is not-doing.
     "Shadows  are like doors,  the doors of not-doing.  A man of knowledge,
for  example, can tell  the  innermost  feelings  of men  by  watching their
     "Is there movement in them?" I asked.
     "You may say that  there is movement  in them, or you may  say that the
lines of the world are shown in them, or you may say that feelings come from
     "But how could feelings come out of shadows, don Juan?"
     "To believe that shadows are just shadows is doing" he explained. "That
belief is somehow stupid. Think about it this way: There is so much more  to
everything in the world  that obviously there  must  be more to shadows too.
After all, what makes them shadows is merely our doing."
     There was a long silence. I did not know what else to say.
     "The  end of the day  is approaching, "  don  Juan said, looking at the
sky. "You have to use this brilliant sunlight to perform one last exercise."
     He  led me to  a place where  there were  two  peaks the size of a  man
standing parallel  to each other, about four or five  feet  apart.  Don Juan
stopped ten yards away from them, facing  the  west. He marked a spot for me
to stand on and told me to look at the shadows of  the peaks. He said that I
should watch  them and cross my eyes in the same manner I ordinarily crossed
them when scanning the ground for a place to rest.
     He clarified his directions by saying that when searching for a resting
place one had to look without  focusing but in observing shadows  one had to
cross the eyes  and yet keep a sharp image in focus. The idea was to let one
shadow be superimposed on the  other by crossing the eyes. He explained that
through that process one could  ascertain  a  certain feeling which emanated
from shadows. I commented on his vagueness, but he maintained that there was
really no way of describing what he meant.
     My attempt to  carry  out the exercise was futile. I  struggled until I
got a headache.  Don Juan was  not at  all concerned  with  my  failure.  He
climbed to  a dome like peak and yelled from the top, telling me to look for
two small long  and narrow pieces of rock. He showed with his hands the size
rock he wanted. I  found two  pieces and handed them to him. Don Juan placed
each rock about a  foot apart  in  two crevices,  made me stand  above  them
facing the west, and told me to do the same exercise with their shadows.
     This  time it was an altogether different affair.  Almost immediately I
was capable of crossing  my eyes and perceiving their individual  shadows as
if  they  had  merged into  one. I  noticed  that the act of looking without
converging the images  gave the single shadow I had  formed  an unbelievable
depth and a sort of transparency. I stared at it, bewildered. Every hole  in
the rock, on  the  area where my eyes  were focused, was neatly discernible;
and the composite shadow, which was superimposed on them, was like a film of
indescribable transparency.
     I did  not  want to  blink,  for fear  of  losing the  image  I  was so
precariously holding. Finally my sore eyes forced me to blink, but I did not
lose the view of the detail at all.  In fact, by remoistening my  cornea the
image became even clearer. I noticed at that point that it was as if I  were
looking  from an  immeasurable height at a world  I had never seen before. I
also noticed that I could scan the surroundings of the shadow without losing
the  focus of my visual perception. Then, for an instant,  I lost the notion
that I  was looking  at a  rock.  I felt that I was landing in a world, vast
beyond  anything I had ever  conceived. This extraordinary perception lasted
for  a second and then everything was turned off. I  automatically looked up
and saw  don Juan  standing directly above  the  rocks,  facing  me. He  had
blocked the sunlight with his body. I described the unusual sensation I  had
had,  and he explained  that he had been forced to  interrupt it because  he
"saw"  that I  was  about to get lost in  it. He added that it was a natural
tendency  for all of  us  to indulge ourselves when feelings of  that nature
occur,  and that by indulging myself in it I  had  almost turned "not-doing"
into  my  old  familiar "doing." He said that what I should have done was to
maintain  the view  without succumbing to it, because in a way "doing" was a
manner of succumbing.
     I complained that he should have told  me beforehand what to expect and
what to do, but he  pointed out that he had no way of knowing whether or not
I would succeed in merging the shadows.
     I had to confess I  was more mystified than ever about "not-doing." Don
Juan's  comments  were that I should be  satisfied with  what  I  had  done,
because for once I had proceeded correctly, that by reducing the world I had
enlarged it, and that, although I had been far from feeling the lines of the
world, I  had  correctly  used the shadow  of  the  rocks  as  a  door  into
     The statement that I had enlarged the world by reducing it intrigued me
to  no  end. The  detail of the porous rock, in the small area where my eyes
were  focused, was so  vivid and  so  precisely defined that the top of  the
round  peak  became a vast  world for me;  and yet it  was really  a reduced
vision of  the  rock. When  don  Juan blocked  the light and I found  myself
looking as I normally  would  do, the precise detail became dull,  the  tiny
holes in the porous  rock  became bigger, the brown color of the  dried lava
became opaque, and everything lost the shiny transparency that made the rock
into a real world.
     Don Juan then took the two rocks, laid them gently into a deep crevice,
and sat down cross-legged  facing the west, on the spot  where the rocks had
been. He patted a spot next to him to his left and told me to sit down.
     We did not speak for a long time.  Then we ate, also in silence. It was
only  after the  sun had set that he  suddenly turned and asked me about  my
progress in "dreaming." I told him  that it had been easy  in the beginning,
but that at  the  moment  I  had ceased altogether  to  find my hands  in my
     "When  you  first  started dreaming  you were using my  personal power,
that's why  it was easier, " he said. "Now you  are empty. But you must keep
on trying until you have enough power of your own. You  see, dreaming is the
not-doing of  dreams, and as you progress  in your not -doing you  will also
progress in dreaming. The trick is  not to stop looking for your hands, even
if you don't believe that what you are doing has any meaning. In fact,  as I
have told you before,  a warrior doesn't need to believe, because as long as
he keeps on  acting without believing he is not-doing."  We  looked  at each
other for a moment.
     "There  is nothing else I can tell  you about dreaming." he  continued.
"Everything I may say  would only be not-doing.  But if you tackle not-doing
directly, you yourself would know what to do in dreaming. To find your hands
is essential, though, at this time, and I  am sure you will." "I don't know,
don Juan. I don't trust myself."
     "This  is not  a  matter  of trusting anybody. This whole affair  is  a
matter  of  a warrior's struggle; and  you will keep  on struggling, if  not
under your own power, then perhaps under the impact of a worthy opponent, or
with the help of some allies, .like the one which is already following you."
I made a jerky involuntary movement with my right arm.
     Don Juan said that my body knew much more than I suspected, because the
force that had been pursuing us was to my right.  He confided in  a low tone
of  voice that twice that day the  ally had come so close to me that he  had
had to step in and stop it.
     "During the  day shadows  are the doors of not-doing" he  said. "But at
night, since very little doing prevails in the dark, everything is a shadow,
including the allies. I've already told you about this when I taught you the
gait of power." I laughed out loud and my own laughter scared me.
     "Everything I have taught you so  far has been an  aspect of not-doing"
he went on. "A warrior applies not-doing to everything in the world, and yet
I can't tell  you  more about  it than what I  have said today. You must let
your  own  body discover the power  and the  feeling of  not-doing."  I  had
another fit of nervous cackling.
     "It is  stupid for  you to  scorn  the  mysteries  of  the world simply
because you know the doing of scorn," he said with a serious face. I assured
him  that I was not scorning anything or anyone, but that I was more nervous
and incompetent than he thought. "I've  always been that way, " I said. "And
yet I want to change, but I don't know how. I am so inadequate."
     "I already know that you think you are rotten, " he said.
     "That's  your doing. Now in order to  affect that  doing  I am going to
recommend that you learn another doing. From  now  on,  and for a period  of
eight days, I want you to lie to yourself.  Instead of telling  yourself the
truth, that you  are ugly and  rotten and inadequate, you will tell yourself
that  you are the complete opposite, knowing that you are lying and that you
are absolutely beyond hope."
     "But what would be the point of lying like that, don Juan?"
     "It may hook you to another  doing and  then you  may realize that both
doings are lies, unreal, and that to hinge yourself to either one is a waste
of time, because the only thing  that is  real is the being  in  you that is
going to die. To arrive at that being is the not-doing of the self."


     Saturday, April 15, 1962

     Don  Juan  felt  the weight of  our gourds  and  concluded that  we had
exhausted our  food supply and  that  it was time to return home. I casually
mentioned that it was going to  take us at least a couple of days to  get to
his  house. He said he was not going back to  Sonora but  to  a  border town
where he had some business to take care of. I thought we were going to start
our descent through a water canyon but don Juan headed towards the northwest
on the high plateaus of the lava mountains. After  about an  hour of walking
he led me into a deep ravine, which  ended at a point where two peaks almost
joined. There was a slope there, going almost  to  the top of  the  range, a
strange slope  which looked like a  slanted concave bridge between  the  two
peaks. Don Juan pointed to an area on the face of the slope.
     "Look there fixedly, " he said. "The sun is almost right."
     He  explained that at midday the light of the  sun could  help me  with
"not-doing." He then gave me  a  series of commands: to loosen all the tight
garments I had on, to sit in  a cross-legged  position, and to look intently
at the spot he had specified.
     There were very few clouds in the sky and none towards the west. It was
a hot  day  and  the sunlight beamed on the solidified lava. I  kept  a very
close watch over the area in question.
     After a long vigil I asked  what,  specifically, I was supposed to look
for. He made me be quiet with an impatient gesture of his hand. I was tired.
I wanted to  go to  sleep.  I  half closed  my eyes; they were itching and I
rubbed  them,  but my  hands were clammy and the sweat made my eyes sting. I
looked at the lava peaks through half-closed eyelids and suddenly  the whole
mountain was lit up.
     I told don Juan that if I squinted my eyes I could see the  whole range
of mountains as an intricate array of light fibers.
     He told me to breathe as  little  as possible in order to maintain  the
view  of the light fibers, and  not to  stare intently into it  but to  look
casually at a point on the  horizon  right above the  slope. I  followed his
instructions and was able to  hold the view  of  an  interminable  extension
covered with a web of light.
     Don  Juan said  in a very soft voice that I should try to isolate areas
of darkness within the field of light fibers, and that right after finding a
dark spot I should open my eyes and check where that spot was on the face of
the slope.
     I was incapable  of  perceiving any dark areas.  I squinted my eyes and
then opened them up various times. Don Juan drew closer to me and pointed to
an area to my right, and then to smother  one  right in front of me. I tried
to change the position of  my body; I thought that  perhaps if I shifted  my
perspective I would be able to perceive the supposed area of darkness he was
pointing to, but don  Juan shook my arm and told me in a severe tone to keep
still and be patient.
     I again squinted  my eyes and once more saw the web  of light fibers. I
looked at it for a moment and then I opened my eyes wider. At that instant I
heard  a faint rumble -  it could have easily been explained  as the distant
sound of a jet plane - and  then, with  my  eyes wide open, I saw  the whole
range of  mountains  in front  of me  as an enormous  field  of tiny dots of
light.  It  was  as  if  for  a  brief  moment  some  metallic specks in the
solidified  lava were reflecting the sunlight in  unison.  Then the sunlight
grew dim and was suddenly turned off and the mountains became a mass of dull
dark brown rock and at the same time it also became windy and cold.
     I wanted  to turn  around  to see if the  sun had disappeared behind  a
cloud but don Juan held my  head  and did not let me move. He said that if I
turned I might catch a glimpse  of an entity of the mountains, the ally that
was following us. He assured me  that I did not  have the necessary strength
to stand a sight of that nature, and then he added in a calculated tone that
the rumble I had heard was the  peculiar way in  which an  ally heralded its
presence.  He  then  stood  up and announced  that  we were  going  to start
climbing up the side of the slope.
     "Where are we going?" I asked.
     He  pointed to  one  of the  areas  he had  isolated as being a spot of
darkness. He explained  that "not-doing" had allowed him to single out  that
spot as  a  possible  center  of power, or  perhaps  as  a place where power
objects might be found.
     We  reached  the spot  he  had in mind after a painful climb. He  stood
motionless for a moment a few feet in front of me. I tried to come closer to
him but  he signaled  me with his hand to stop. He seemed  to  be  orienting
himself. I could see the back of his head  moving as if he were sweeping his
eyes  up and down the mountain,  then with sure  steps he  led the way to  a
ledge. He sat down and began to wipe some loose dirt off  the ledge with his
hand. He dug with his fingers around a small piece of rock that was sticking
out, cleaning the dirt around it. Then he ordered me to dig it out.
     Once I had  dislodged the piece of rock,  he told me to immediately put
it  inside my shirt because  it was  a  power object that belonged to me. He
said that he  was giving it to me to keep, and that I should polish and care
for it.
     Right after that we began our descent into a water canyon, and a couple
of hours later we were in the high desert at the foot of the lava mountains.
Don Juan walked about ten feet ahead of  me and kept up a very good pace. We
went south until just before  sunset.  A  heavy bank of  clouds in  the west
prevented  us  from seeing  the  sun but we paused  until it had  presumably
disappeared over the horizon.
     Don  Juan changed directions then and  headed towards the southeast. We
went over a hill and as we got to the top I spotted  four men coming towards
us from the south. I looked at  don Juan. We had never encountered people in
our excursions and I did not know what to do in a case like that. But he did
not seem to be concerned. He kept on walking as if nothing had happened. The
men moved as if they were  not  in a hurry; they meandered  towards where we
were  in a  leisurely way.  When they were closer to  us I noticed that they
were four young Indians.
     They seemed  to recognize don Juan. He talked to them  in Spanish. They
were very soft spoken and treated him with great deference. Only one of them
spoke to me. I asked don Juan in a whisper if I  could also talk to them and
he  nodded his head affirmatively. Once I engaged them in conversation  they
were  very friendly  and communicative,  especially  the  one who  had first
spoken  to  me.  They  told  me they were there  in  search  of power quartz
crystals. They said that they had been wandering  around the  lava mountains
for several days but they had not had any luck.
     Don Juan looked around and  pointed to a rocky  area  about two hundred
yards away.
     "That's a good place to camp for a while, "  he said. He  began to walk
towards the rocks and we all followed him. The area he had selected was very
rugged.  There  were  no bushes on  it. We sat  down on the  rocks. Don Juan
announced that he was going  to go  back  into the  chaparral to gather  dry
branches for a fire. I wanted to help him, but he whispered to me that  this
was a special fire for those brave young men and he did not need my help.
     The young men sat down around me in a close cluster.  One  of them  sat
with his back against mine. I felt a bit embarrassed. When don Juan returned
with a pile of sticks,  he commended them  for their carefulness and told me
that  the young men were  a sorcerer's apprentices, and that it was the rule
to make a  circle and have two people back to back in  the center when going
on hunting parties for power objects.
     One of the young men asked me if I had ever found any crystals  myself.
I  told  him that  don Juan had  never taken  me  to look for them. Don Juan
selected a place close to a big boulder and started to make a fire.  None of
the young men moved  to help him but watched  him  attentively. When all the
sticks were burning,  don Juan  sat  with his  back against the boulder. The
fire was to his right.
     The young men apparently knew what was going on, but I did not have the
faintest  idea about  the  procedure to follow  when one  was  dealing  with
sorcerer's apprentices.
     I watched the  young men. They sat facing don  Juan,  making  a perfect
half circle. I noticed then that don Juan was directly facing me and two  of
the young men had sat to my left and the other two to my right.
     Don Juan began  telling them that I was in the lava mountains to  learn
"not-doing" and that an ally had  been following us. I thought that that was
a very dramatic beginning and  I was right. The young  men changed positions
and sat  with  their left legs tucked  under their seats. I had not observed
how they were sitting before. I had assumed that they were sitting  the same
way I was, cross-legged. A casual glance at don Juan revealed to  me that he
was  also sitting  with his left leg tucked in. He made a barely perceptible
gesture with his chin to point at  my sitting position. I casually tucked in
my left leg.
     Don Juan had once told  me that that was  the  posture that  a sorcerer
used when things were uncertain. It had always proved, however, to be a very
tiring position for  me. I felt it was going to be  a terrible imposition on
me  to remain seated  in that fashion for the duration of his talk. Don Juan
seemed  to be  thoroughly aware  of  my handicap and  in  a succinct  manner
explained to the young men that  quartz  crystals could be found  in certain
specific spots in that area,  and that once they  were found they had to  be
coaxed to  leave their  abode by means of special techniques.  The  crystals
then became the man himself, and their power went beyond our understanding.
     He  said that ordinarily  quartz crystals  were found  in clusters, and
that it  was  up to the man who had found them to choose five of the longest
and  best-looking blades of quartz and  sever  them  from  their matrix. The
finder was responsible for carving and polishing them in order to  make them
pointed and  to make them fit perfectly to the size and shape of the fingers
of  his right hand. Then  he told us that  the quartz crystals  were weapons
used for  sorcery, that they  were usually  hurled  to kill, and  that  they
penetrated the enemy's  body  and  then returned  to their owner's  hand  as
though they had never left it.
     Next he  talked about  the  search for the  spirit  that would turn the
ordinary  crystals into weapons and said that the first  thing one had to do
was to find a propitious place to lure out the spirit. That place  had to be
on  a hilltop  and was  found  by  sweeping  the hand, with the  palm turned
towards the earth, until a certain heat  was detected  with  the palm of the
hand. A fire  had to be  made on that spot. Don Juan explained that the ally
was attracted  by the  flames  and  manifested  itself  through a series  of
consistent  noises. The  person  searching  for  an  ally had  to follow the
direction of the noises until the ally revealed itself, and then  wrestle it
to the ground in  order to overpower it. It was at that point that one could
make the ally touch the crystals to imbue them with power.
     He  warned  us  that  there were  other forces at  large  in those lava
mountains, forces which did  not  resemble the allies; they did not make any
noise, but appeared only as fleeting shadows, and did  not have any power at
     Don  Juan  added  that a  brilliantly  colored  feather or some  highly
polished quartz crystals  would attract the attention of an ally, but in the
long  run  any object  whatever  would  be  equally  effective,  because the
important part was not to find the objects but to find the force  that would
imbue them with power.
     "What's the use of having  beautifully  polished crystals if you  never
find the spirit  giver of power?" he said. "On the other hand, if  you don't
have  the crystals but do find the spirit you may put anything in his way to
be touched. You could put your dicks in the way if you can't find anything
     The young men giggled. The  most daring of  them, the one who talked to
me first,  laughed loudly. I noticed  that don Juan had crossed his legs and
was sitting in a  relaxed manner. All  the  young men had also crossed their
legs. I tried to slip casually into a more relaxed posture, but my left knee
seemed  to have  a pinched nerve or  a sore muscle and I had to stand up and
jog on the spot for a few minutes.
     Don Juan made a joking comment. He said I was  out of practice kneeling
down, because I had not been  to confession in years, ever since I had begun
running around with him.
     That produced  a great commotion among  the  young men. They laughed in
spurts. Some of them covered their faces and giggled nervously.
     "I'm going to show  you  fellows something,  " don Juan  said  casually
after  the young men had stopped laughing. My guess was that he was going to
let us see some power objects he had in his pouch. For an  instant I thought
the  young men were  going to cluster  around him, for  they  made a  sudden
movement in unison.  All of them bent forward a little bit, as if they  were
going to stand up, but then they all tucked their left legs in and went back
to that mysterious position that was so hard on my knees.
     I tucked my left leg  in as casually as possible. I found that if I did
not sit on  my left foot, that is, if I  kept  a  half kneeling position, my
knees  did  not hurt as much.  Don Juan stood up and walked  around the  big
boulder until he was out of sight. He must have fed the fire before he stood
up, while  I  was  tucking  in my  leg, for the new sticks  chirped as  they
ignited and  long flames spurted out. The effect was extremely dramatic. The
flames grew  twice  as big.  Don  Juan suddenly  stepped out from behind the
boulder and stood where he had been sitting. I had a moment of bewilderment.
Don  Juan had put on  a  funny black hat.  It had peaks on the side,  by the
ears,  and it  was round on top.  It occurred to me that  it was  actually a
pirate's hat. He  was wearing a long black coat with  tails, fastened with a
single shiny metallic button, and he had a peg leg.
     I  laughed  to myself.  Don  Juan  really looked  silly in his pirate's
costume. I began to wonder where he had gotten that  outfit out there in the
wilderness.  I  assumed that  it must  have been hidden  behind  the rock. I
commented to myself that all don Juan needed was a patch over  his eye and a
parrot on his shoulder to be the perfect stereotype of a pirate.
     Don Juan looked at every member of the  group, sweeping his eyes slowly
from right to left. Then he  looked up above us and stared into the darkness
behind us. He remained in that position for a moment and then he went around
the boulder  and  disappeared. I did not notice how he walked. Obviously  he
must have had his knee bent in order to depict a man with a wooden leg; when
he turned around to walk behind the boulder I should have seen his bent leg,
but  I  was  so mystified by  his  acts that  I did not pay any attention to
     The flames lost their strength  at the very moment don Juan went around
the  boulder. I  thought  that  his timing had  been superb;  he  must  have
calculated how long it would take for the sticks he had added to the fire to
burn and had arranged his appearance and exit according to that calculation.
     The  change in the  intensity of the  fire  was very  dramatic  for the
group; there was a ripple of nervousness among  the young men. As the flames
diminished in size the  young  men  went back  in  unison to a  cross-legged
sitting position.
     I expected don Juan  to step out from behind the boulder right away and
sit down  again  but  he  did  not.  He  remained  out of  sight.  I  waited
impatiently.  The  young men  were  sitting with an impassive look  on their
     I  could not understand  what  don  Juan had  intended with  all  those
histrionics.  After  a long wait I  turned to the  young man on my right and
asked him in a low voice if any of the items don Juan had put on - the funny
hat and the long tail coat - and the fact he was standing on  a peg  leg had
any meaning to him.
     The  young  man looked at me with a funny  blank expression. He  seemed
confused. I repeated my question and  the other young man next to him looked
at me attentively in order to listen. They looked at each other seemingly in
utter confusion. I said that to me the  hat  and the stump and the coat made
him  into a pirate.  By then  all four young  men had  come closer  together
around me. They giggled softly and fretted nervously. They seemed to be at a
loss for words. The most daring of them finally  spoke to me. He  said  that
don  Juan  did  not have  a hat  on, was  not wearing a  long coat,  and was
certainly not standing on  a stump, but  that he had  a black  cowl or shawl
over  his head and a jet  black tunic, like a friar's, that went all the way
to the ground.
     "No!" another young man exclaimed softly. "He didn't have a cowl."
     "That's right, " the others said.
     The young man who had spoken first looked  at me with an  expression of
total disbelief.
     I told  them that we had to review what had happened very carefully and
very  quietly, and that I was sure don Juan had wanted us to  do so and thus
he had left us alone.
     The young  man who  was  to my  extreme right said that don Juan was in
rags.  He had on  a tattered poncho, or some sort of Indian coat, and a most
beat-up sombrero. He  was holding a basket with things in it, but he was not
sure what those things were. He added  that don Juan was  not really dressed
as  a beggar  but rather as a  man who was  coming back from an interminable
journey loaded with strange things.
     The  young man who had seen don Juan with a black cowl said that he had
nothing in his hands but that his hair was long  and wild, as  if he were  a
wild man that  had just killed a friar and  had put on his clothes but could
not hide his wildness.
     The young man to my left chuckled softly and commented on the weirdness
of it all. He said  that don Juan was  dressed  as an important man who  had
just gotten off his horse. He had leather leggings for horseback riding, big
spurs, a whip that he  kept beating on his left palm, a Chihuahua hat with a
conical crown, and two .45-caliber automatic pistols. He  said that don Juan
was the picture of a well-to-do "ranchero."
     The young man to my extreme left laughed shyly and did not volunteer to
reveal what  he had seen. I coaxed him,  but the others did  not seem to  be
interested. He appeared to be rather too shy to talk.
     The  fire  was about  to  be  extinguished when don Juan came out  from
behind  the boulder. "We  better leave the  young men to their  doings, " he
said to me.  "Bid  them goodbye." He did not look at  them. He began to walk
away slowly to give me time to say goodbye. The young men embraced me.
     There were no flames in  the fire, but the live  coals reflected enough
glare. Don  Juan was like  a dark shadow a  few feet away  and the young men
were a circle of neatly defined static silhouettes. They were like a row  of
jet black statues set in a background of darkness. It was at that point that
the total event had an impact on  me. A chill ran up my  spine. I  caught up
with don Juan. He told me in a  tone of great urgency not to  turn around to
look at the young men, because at that moment they were a circle of shadows.
     My stomach felt  a force coming from  the outside. It was  as if a hand
had grabbed me. I screamed involuntarily. Don Juan whispered  that there was
so  much  power in that  area that it would be very easy for me to  use  the
"gait  of power."  We  jogged for hours.  I fell  down five  times. Don Juan
counted out loud every time I lost my balance. Then he came to a  halt. "Sit
down, huddle against the rocks, and cover  your belly with  your hands, " he
whispered in my ear.

     Sunday, April 16, 1962

     As soon  as there was enough light  in the  morning we started walking.
Don Juan guided me  to the place where I had left my car. I was hungry but I
felt otherwise invigorated and well rested.
     We ate some crackers and drank some bottled mineral water that I had in
my car. I wanted to ask him some questions that were overwhelming me, but he
put his  finger to his lips.  By  mid-afternoon we  were in  the border town
where he wanted  me to leave him. We went  to a restaurant to eat lunch. The
place was empty; we sat at  a table by a window looking out at the busy main
street and ordered our food.  Don Juan seemed relaxed; his eyes shone with a
mischievous  glint. I felt  encouraged and began  a barrage of questions.  I
mainly wanted to know about his disguise.
     "I showed you a little bit of my not-doing" he said and his eyes seemed
to glow.
     "But none of us saw the same disguise, " I said. "How did you do that?"
     "It's all very simple, " he replied. "They were only disguises, because
everything we do  is in some way merely a  disguise. Everything we  do, as I
have told you, is a matter of doing. A  man of knowledge could  hook himself
to everyone's doing and come up with weird things. But  they  are not weird,
not really. They are weird only to those who are trapped in doing.
     "Those four young men and yourself  are  not aware yet of not-doing, so
it was easy to fool all of you."
     "But how did you fool us?"
     "It won't make sense to you. There is no way for you to understand it."
     "Try me, don Juan, please."
     "Let's say that when every one of us is born  we bring with us a little
ring of power.  That  little ring is almost immediately put to use. So every
one of us is already hooked  from birth and our rings of power are joined to
everyone else's. In other words, our rings of power are hooked to the  doing
of the world in order to make the world."
     "Give me an example so I could understand it, " I said.
     "For instance, our rings of power, yours and mine, are hooked right now
to the doing in  this room. We are making this  room. Our rings of power are
spinning this room into being at this very moment."
     "Wait, wait, " I said. "This room is  here by itself. I am not creating
it. I have nothing to do with it."
     Don Juan  did not  seem to be concerned with my argumentative protests.
He very calmly maintained  that the room we were in was brought to being and
was kept in place because of the force of everybody's ring of power.
     "You see,  " he continued, "every  one  of us  knows the doing of rooms
because, in one way or another, we  have spent much of our lives in rooms. A
man of knowledge, on the other hand, develops another ring of power. I would
call it the ring of  not-doing, because it is hooked to not-doing. With that
ring, therefore, he can spin another world."
     A  young waitress brought our food  and  seemed to be suspicious of us.
Don Juan whispered  that I should pay  her  to  show her that I  had  enough
     "I  don't blame her  for  distrusting you,  " he  said  and roared with
laughter. "You look like hell."
     I paid the woman and tipped her, and when she left us alone I stared at
don  Juan, trying to find a way to recapture the thread of our conversation.
He came to  my  rescue.  "Your difficulty  is that you haven't yet developed
your extra ring of power and your body doesn't know not-doing." he said.
     I did  not understand what he had said. My  mind was locked  in quite a
prosaic concern. All  I wanted  to know was whether  or  not he had put on a
pirate's outfit.
     Don Juan  did  not answer but  laughed  uproariously.  I  begged him to
     "But I've just explained it to you, " he retorted.
     "You mean, that you didn't put on any disguise?" I asked.
     "All I did was to hook my ring of  power to your own doing, "  he said.
"You yourself did the rest and so did the others."
     "That's incredible!" I exclaimed.
     "We  all have been taught to agree about doing, " he  said softly. "You
don't have any  idea  of the power that that agreement  brings with it. But,
fortunately, not-doing is equally miraculous, and powerful."
     I   felt  an   uncontrollable  ripple  in  my  stomach.  There  was  an
unbridgeable abysm between  my first-hand experience and his explanation. As
an ultimate defense I ended up, as I had always done, with a tinge of  doubt
and distrust and with the question, "What if don Juan was  really in cahoots
with the young men and he himself had set it all up?"
     I changed the subject and asked him about the four apprentices.
     "Did you tell me that they were shadows?" I asked.
     "That's right."
     "Were they allies?"
     "No. They were apprentices of a man I know."
     "Why did you call them shadows?"
     "Because  at that  moment  they  had  been  touched  by  the  power  of
not-doing, and  since they  are not as stupid as you are,  they shifted into
something  quite different from what you  know. I didn't want you to look at
them for  that reason. It would  have only injured you." I did  not have any
more questions. I was not hungry either.
     Don Juan ate heartily and seemed to be in an excellent mood. But I felt
dejected. Suddenly a consuming fatigue  possessed me.  I  realized  that don
Juan's  path was  too  arduous for me.  I commented that  I did not have the
qualifications to become a sorcerer.
     "Perhaps another meeting with Mescalito will help you, " he said.
     I assured him that that was the farthest thing from my mind, and that I
would not even consider the possibility. "Very drastic things have to happen
to  you in  order for you to allow your body  to  profit from all  you  have
learned," he said. I ventured the  opinion that since I was not an Indian  I
     not really qualified to live the unusual life of a sorcerer.
     "Perhaps if I  could disentangle myself from all my commitments I could
fare in your world a little better, " I said.
     "Or if I would go into the wilderness with you and live there.
     As it is now, the fact I have a foot in both worlds makes me useless in
     He stared at me for a long moment.
     "This is your world, " he said, pointing to the busy street outside the
window. "You  are a man of that world. And out there, in that world, is your
hunting ground. There is no way to escape the doing of our world,  so what a
warrior  does is to  turn his world into his hunting  ground. As a hunter, a
warrior knows that the world is made to be used. So he uses every bit of it.
A warrior is like a pirate that has  no qualms in taking and  using anything
he  wants, except that the warrior doesn't mind or he doesn't feel  insulted
when he is used and taken himself."


     Tuesday, December 11, 1962

     My  traps  were  perfect;  the setting  was  correct;  I  saw  rabbits,
squirrels  and  other rodents,  quail,  and  birds,  but I  could  not catch
anything at  all during the whole day. Don Juan had told me,  as we left his
house in the early  morning, that I  had  to wait  that  day for  a "gift of
power,"  an exceptional animal that might be  lured into my traps and  whose
flesh I could dry for "power food." Don Juan seemed to be in a pensive mood.
He did not make a single suggestion  or comment.  Near the end of the day he
finally made a statement.
     "Someone is interfering with your hunting, " he said.
     "Who?" I asked, truly surprised.
     He  looked  at  me  and smiled  and  shook his  head in  a  gesture  of
     "You act as  if you didn't  know who, " he  said. "And you've known who
all day."
     I was going to protest but I saw no point in it. I knew he was going to
say "la Catalina, " and if  that  was the kind of  knowledge he  was talking
about, then he was right, I did know who.
     "We either go home now, " he continued, "or we wait until  dark and use
the twilight to catch her."
     He appeared to be  waiting for my  decision. I wanted to leave. I began
to gather some thin rope that I was using  but before I could  voice my wish
he stopped me with a direct command.
     "Sit down, " he said. "It would be a simpler and more sober decision to
just leave now, but  this is a peculiar case and  I think we must stay. This
show is just for you."
     "What do you mean?"
     "Someone is interfering with you,  in particular, so that makes it your
show. I know who and you also know who."
     "You scare me, " I said.
     "Not  me,  " he  replied, laughing.  "That  woman,  who  is  out  there
prowling, is scaring you." He paused as if he were waiting for the effect of
his words to show  on me. I had to admit that I was  terrified. Over a month
before,  I had  had  a horrendous  confrontation with a sorceress called "la
Catalina." I  had  faced her at the  risk  of  my  life because don Juan had
convinced me that she was
     after his life and that he was incapable of fending off her onslaughts.
After I had come in contact with her,  don Juan disclosed to me that she had
never really been of any danger to him, and that the whole affair had been a
trick, not in the sense of a malicious prank but in  the  sense of a trap to
ensnare  me. His  method was so  unethical to me that  I became furious with
     Upon hearing my angry outburst don Juan had begun to sing  some Mexican
tunes. He imitated popular crooners and his renditions were so comical  that
I had ended up  laughing like a  child. He entertained me for hours. I never
knew he had such a repertoire of idiotic songs. "Let me tell you  something,
" he had finally said on that occasion. "If we wouldn't be tricked, we would
never learn.
     The same thing happened to me, and it'll happen to anyone. The art of a
benefactor is to  take us to the  brink. A benefactor can only point the way
and trick. I tricked you before.
     You remember  the way I recaptured your hunter's spirit, don't you? You
yourself told me that hunting made you forget about plants. You were willing
to do a lot of things in order to be a hunter, things you wouldn't have done
in order to learn  about plants. Now  you must do  a  lot more in  order  to
     He stared at me and broke into a fit of laughter.
     "This is all crazy, " I said. "We are rational beings."
     "You're rational, " he retorted. "I am not."
     "Of course you are, " I insisted. "You are one of the most rational men
I have ever met."
     "All right!" he exclaimed. "Let us not argue. I am rational, so what?"
     I involved him in the argument of why it was necessary for two rational
beings to proceed in such an insane way, as we  had  proceeded with the lady
     "You're rational, all right, "  he  said fiercely. "And that  means you
believe that you know a lot  about the world, but do you? Do you really? You
have only seen the acts of people. Your experiences are limited only to what
people have done to you or to others. You know nothing about this mysterious
unknown world."
     He signaled  me to follow  him to  my car and we  drove  to  the  small
Mexican town nearby.
     I  did not ask what we were going to do.  He made me park  my car  by a
restaurant and then we  walked  around the bus depot and  the general store.
Don Juan walked on  my right side, leading me. Suddenly I  became aware that
someone else was walking side by side with me to  my left, but before  I had
time to turn to  look, don  Juan made a fast and sudden movement; he  leaned
forward, as if he  were picking something from the ground, and then  grabbed
me by the armpit when
     I nearly stumbled over him. He dragged me  to my car and did not let go
of my arm even to allow me to unlock the door. I fumbled with the keys for a
moment.  He shoved me  gently into  the car and then got  in himself. "Drive
slowly and stop in front of the store, " he said.
     When  I had stopped, don Juan signaled  me  with a nod of  his  head to
look. "La Catalina" was standing at the place where don Juan had grabbed me.
I recoiled involuntarily. The woman  took a couple of steps  towards the car
and  stood there  defiantly. I scrutinized her carefully and  concluded that
she was a beautiful  woman. She was  very  dark and had a plump body but she
seemed to be strong and  muscular.  She  had  a  round  full face with  high
cheekbones and two long braids of jet black hair. What surprised me the most
was her youth.
     She was at the most in her early  thirties. "Let her come closer if she
wants, " don Juan whispered.
     She took three or  four  steps towards my car and  stopped  perhaps ten
feet away. We looked at each other. At that moment I  felt there was nothing
threatening about her. I smiled and waved at her. She giggled as if she were
a shy little girl and covered her mouth. Somehow I felt delighted. I  turned
to don Juan to comment on her appearance and behavior, and he scared me half
to death with a yell.
     "Don't  turn your back  to that  woman, damn it!" he said in a forceful
     I quickly turned to  look at the woman. She had taken another couple of
steps towards my  car and was standing  barely five feet away  from my door.
She was smiling;  her teeth  were big and white and  very clean.  There  was
something eerie  about  her  smile, however.  It was not friendly;  it was a
contained grin; only her mouth smiled. Her eyes were black and cold and were
staring at me  fixedly.  I experienced  a chill all  over my  body. Don Juan
began to  laugh  in a rhythmical cackle;  after  a  moment's wait the  woman
slowly backed away and disappeared among people.
     We drove away and  don Juan speculated that if  I did not tighten up my
life and learn, she was going  to step on me as  one steps  on a defenseless
     "She is the worthy opponent I told you I had found for you, " he said.
     Don Juan said that we had to wait for an omen before we knew what to do
with the woman who was interfering with my hunting.
     "If we see or hear a  crow, we'll  know for  sure that we can wait, and
we'll also know where to wait, " he added.
     He  slowly  turned  around  in  a  complete  circle, scanning  all  the
     "This is not the place to wait, " he said in a whisper.
     We began to walk towards the east. It was already fairly dark. Suddenly
two crows flew  out from  behind some  tall  bushes and disappeared behind a
hill. Don Juan said that the hill was our destination.
     Once  we arrived  there he  circled it  and  chose a  place facing  the
southeast at the bottom of the hill. He cleaned the dry twigs and leaves and
other debris from a circular spot five or six feet  in diameter. I attempted
to  help him, but he refused  me with a strong movement of his  hand. He put
his finger over his lips and made a gesture of silence. When he had finished
he pulled me to the  center of  the circle, made me face the south away from
the hill, and whispered in my ear that I
     had  to  imitate  his movements. He began  a  sort  of dance, making  a
rhythmical  thump with his right  foot;  it consisted  of seven  even  beats
spaced by a cluster of three fast thumps.
     I tried to adapt myself to his rhythm and after a few clumsy attempts I
was more or less capable of reproducing the same thumping.
     "What's this for?" I whispered in his ear.
     He told me, also in  a whisper, that I  was  thumping like a rabbit and
that sooner or later the prowler would  be  attracted by the noise and would
show  up to see what was going on. Once I had copied  the  rhythm, don  Juan
ceased to  thump  himself  but had  me  continue,  marking  the pace with  a
movement of his hand.
     From time to  time he would listen attentively, with his head  slightly
tilted to  the right, seemingly to pick out  noises in the chaparral. At one
point he signaled me to stop  and he remained in a most  alert position;  it
was  as  if  he  were ready  to spring up and jump on an unknown and  unseen
     Then  he  motioned  me to  continue  the thumping and after a  while he
stopped me again. Every time I stopped he listened with such a concentration
that every fiber in his body seemed to be tense to the point of bursting.
     Suddenly he jumped to my side and whispered in my ear that the twilight
was at its full power.
     I looked around. The chaparral was a dark  mass, and so  were the hills
and the  rocks.  The sky  was dark blue and  I could not see the  clouds any
more.  The whole world seemed to be a uniform mass of dark silhouettes which
did  not  have  any visible boundaries. I  heard the eerie distant cry of an
animal, a coyote or perhaps a night bird. It happened so suddenly that I did
not pay  attention  to it. But  don  Juan's body jerked a bit.  I  felt  its
vibration as he stood next to me.
     "Here we go, " he whispered. "Thump again and be ready.
     She's here."
     I began  to  thump furiously  and don  Juan  put his foot over mine and
signaled me frantically to relax and thump rhythmically.
     "Don't  scare her away, " he whispered in  my ear. "Calm down and don't
lose your marbles."
     He again began to mark the  pace of  my thumping, and after  the second
time he made  me stop I heard the same cry again. This time it seemed to  be
the cry of a bird which was flying over the hill.
     Don  Juan made me  thump once  more and just when  I stopped I heard  a
peculiar rustling  sound to my left. It  was the sound a heavy  animal would
make while moving about in the dry underbrush. The thought of a bear crossed
my mind,  but then  I  realized that  there were no  bears in  the desert. I
grabbed on to don Juan's arm  and he smiled at me and put his  finger to his
mouth in a gesture of silence. I stared into the  darkness towards my  left,
but he signaled me not to. He repeatedly pointed directly above  me and then
he made me turn around slowly and silently until  I was facing the dark mass
of  the hill. Don Juan kept  his finger leveled  at a  certain  point on the
     I kept my eyes glued to that spot and suddenly, as if in a nightmare, a
dark shadow leaped at me. I shrieked and fell down to the ground on my back.
For a moment the dark silhouette was  superimposed against the dark blue sky
and  then it sailed through the  air and landed  beyond us, in the bushes. I
heard the sound of a  heavy body crashing into the  shrubs and then an eerie
     Don Juan helped me  up and guided me in the darkness to the place where
I  had left  my  traps. He made me gather and disassemble  them and  then he
scattered  the pieces  away in all directions. He performed all this without
saying a single word.
     We did not speak at all on our way back to his house.
     "What do you  want me  to say?"  don Juan  asked after I had urged  him
repeatedly to explain the events I had witnessed a few hours before.
     "What was it? "I asked.
     "You  know damn well who it  was,  " he said. "Don't water it down with
'what was it?' It is who it was that is important."
     I had worked out  an explanation that seemed to suit me.  The figure  I
had seen looked very much like a kite that someone had let out over the hill
while someone else, behind us, had pulled it
     to the ground, thus the effect of a dark silhouette sailing through the
air perhaps fifteen or twenty yards.
     He listened  attentively to my explanation and then laughed until tears
rolled down his cheeks.
     "Quit  beating around the bush, " he said. "Get to the point. Wasn't it
a woman?"
     I had to  admit  that when  I fell  down and  looked up I  saw the dark
silhouette of a  woman with  a long skirt  leaping  over me  in a very  slow
motion; then something seemed to have pulled the dark silhouette and it flew
over me with great speed and crashed into the bushes. In fact, that movement
was what had given me the idea of a kite.
     Don Juan refused to discuss the incident any further.  The next  day he
left  to fulfill some  mysterious  errand  and I  went to  visit some  Yaqui
friends in another community.

     Wednesday, December 12, 1962

     As soon  as  I arrived at the Yaqui community, the Mexican  storekeeper
told me that he had rented a record player and twenty records from an outfit
in Ciudad Obregon  for the "fiesta"  he  was planning to give that  night in
honor of the Virgin of  Guadalupe. He had already told everybody that he had
made all the necessary  arrangements through  Julio, the traveling  salesman
who came to the Yaqui settlement twice a  month to collect installments on a
layaway  plan for  cheap articles  of  clothing  which  he  had succeeded in
selling to  some Yaqui Indians. Julio brought the record player early in the
afternoon and  hooked it to  the dynamo  that  provided  electricity for the
store. He made sure that it  worked; then he turned up  the  volume  to  its
maximum, reminded the storekeeper not to touch any knobs, and  began to sort
the twenty  records.  "I know how many scratches  each of them has, "  Julio
said to the storekeeper.
     "Tell that to my daughter, " the storekeeper replied.
     "You're responsible, not your daughter."
     "Just the same, she's the one who'll be changing the records."
     Julio insisted that it did not make  any difference to  him whether she
or  someone else was going to actually handle  the record player  as long as
the  storekeeper paid  for  any records  that were damaged. The  storekeeper
began to argue with Julio. Julio's face  became red. He turned from  time to
time to the large  group of Yaqui Indians congregated  in front  of the More
and made signs of despair  or frustration by moving  his hands or contorting
his  face in a grimace.  Seemingly as  a  final  resort, he demanded a  cash
deposit.  That precipitated  another long argument  about what constituted a
damaged record. Julio  Mured with authority that any broken record had to be
paid  for in full,  as  if it were  new.  The storekeeper became angrier and
began to pull out his  extension  cords. He seemed bent  upon  unhooking the
record  player  and  canceling  the party. He made  it clear to his  clients
congregated in front of the More that he had tried his best to come to terms
with Julio. For a moment  it seemed that the party was going to fail  before
it had started. lilas,  the old Yaqui Indian  in whose  house I was staying,
made some derogatory comments in  a  loud voice about the Yiiquis' sad state
of  affairs that  they could not even celebrate their most revered religious
festivity,  the  day of the Virgin of Guadalupe.  I  wanted to intervene and
offer my help, but Bias stopped me. He said that if I were to  make the cash
deposit, the storekeeper himself would smash the records.
     "He's worse  than  anybody,  " he said.  "Let  him pay the deposit.  He
bleeds us, so why shouldn't he pay?"
     After a long  discussion in  which,  strangely enough, everyone present
was  in favor of Julio,  the storekeeper  hit upon terms which were mutually
agreeable. He did not pay a cash deposit but accepted responsibility for the
records and the record player.
     Julio's motorcycle  left a trail  of dust as he headed  for some of the
more  remote  houses in the locality. Bias said that he was trying to get to
his customers before they came to the store and spent all their money buying
booze.  As he was saying this a  group  of Indians emerged  from behind  the
store. Bias  looked  at them  and began to  laugh and so  did  everyone else
     Bias told  me that  those Indians  were Julio's  customers and had been
hiding behind the store waiting for him to leave.
     The party  began early. The storekeeper's  daughter put a record on the
turntable and brought  the arm down; there was a terrible loud screech and a
high-pitched  buzz  and then  came  a blasting sound  of a trumpet and  some
     The party consisted of playing the records at full volume.
     There were four young Mexican men who danced with the storekeeper's two
daughters and  three other young Mexican women.  The Yaquis did  not  dance;
they  watched  with apparent delight every movement the  dancers made.  They
seemed to  be  enjoying  themselves  just  watching and gulping  down  cheap
     I bought individual drinks  for everybody I knew. I wanted to avoid any
feelings of  resentment. I circulated  among the numerous Indians and talked
to them and then offered them  drinks.  My pattern of behavior  worked until
they realized I  was not drinking at all.  That seemed to annoy everyone  at
once. It was as if  collectively they had discovered that I  did  not belong
there. The Indians became very gruff and gave me sly looks.
     The Mexicans, who were as drunk as the Indians,  also realized  at  the
same time that I had not danced; and that appeared to offend them even more.
They became  very aggressive. One  of them forcibly took me  by the  arm and
dragged  me closer  to the record  player; another served  me a  full cup of
tequila  and wanted me to  drink it all in one gulp and prove  that I  was a
     I tried to stall  them and laughed idiotically  as  if I  were actually
enjoying the situation. I said that  I  would  like  to dance first and then
drink. One of the young  men called out  the name  of a song.  The  girl  in
charge of the record  player began  to  search  in the pile  of records. She
seemed  to be  a little tipsy,  although  none of the  women had openly been
drinking, and  had trouble fitting a  record on the  turntable.  A young man
said that the record she had selected was not a  twist; she fumbled with the
pile,  trying to find the suitable one,  and everybody closed in around  her
and  left  me.  That  gave me  time to run  behind the store, away from  the
lighted area, and out of sight.
     I stood about thirty yards away in  the darkness of some bushes  trying
to decide what to do. I was  tired. I felt it was time to get  in my car and
go back  home. I began to  walk to Bias's  house, where my car was parked. I
figured that if I drove slowly no  one would notice that I was leaving.  The
people in charge of the record player  were apparently still looking for the
record - all I could hear was  the highpitched  buzzing of the loudspeaker -
but  then came  the blasting sound of a twist. I laughed out  loud, thinking
that they  had probably turned to where  I had been and found out that I had
     I  saw  some  dark  silhouettes  of  people  walking  in  the  opposite
direction, going  towards the store. We passed each other and they  mumbled,
"Buenas noches." I recognized them  and  spoke to them. I  told them that it
was a great party.
     Before  I came to  a  sharp  bend in  the road  I encountered two other
people, whom I  did not recognize, but I greeted them  anyway. The  blasting
sound of the record player was almost as loud there on the road as it was in
front of  the  store. It was a dark  starless  night, but the glare from the
store  lights  allowed me to have  a fairly  good  visual  perception  of my
     Bias's  house was very near and I  accelerated my pace. I  noticed then
the dark shape  of a person, sitting or perhaps squatting to my left, at the
bend  of the road. I thought for an instant that it might  have  been one of
the people from the party who had left before I had. The person seemed to be
defecating on the side of the road. That seemed odd. People in the community
went into the thick bushes to perform their bodily functions. I thought that
whoever it was in front of me must have been drunk.
     I  came to the bend and said,  "Buenas noches." The  person answered me
with an eerie, gruff, inhuman howl. The  hair on my  body literally stood on
end. For a second I was paralyzed. Then I began to walk fast. I took a quick
glance. I saw that the dark silhouette had stood up halfway; it was a woman.
She was stooped over, leaning forward; she walked in that position for a few
yards  and  then  she hopped. I began to run, while the woman  hopped like a
bird by my side, keeping up with  my speed. By the time  I arrived at Bias's
house she  was cutting in front of me  and we  had almost touched. I  leaped
across  a small  dry ditch in  front  of  the house and crashed  through the
flimsy door. Bias  was  already in  the house and seemed unconcerned with my
     "They pulled a  good  one on you, " he said reassuringly. "The  Indians
take delight  in teasing foreigners."  My  experience had been  so unnerving
that the next day I drove to don Juan's house instead of going home as I had
planned to do.
     Don Juan returned in the late afternoon. I did not give him time to say
anything but blurted out  the whole story,  including Bias's commentary. Don
Juan's face became somber. Perhaps it was only my imagination, but I thought
he was worried. "Don't put so much stock in what Bias told you, " he said in
a serious tone. "He knows nothing of the struggles between sorcerers.
     "You should  have  known that  it was something  serious the moment you
noticed that the shadow was to your left. You shouldn't have run either."
     "What was I supposed to do? Stand there?"
     "Right. When  a warrior encounters his opponent and the opponent is not
an ordinary human being, he must make his stand. That is the only thing that
makes him invulnerable."
     "What are you saying, don Juan?"
     "I'm  saying that you have had  your third  encounter with your  worthy
opponent.  She's following you around,  waiting for a moment of weakness  on
your part. She almost bagged you this time."
     I felt a surge of anxiety and accused him of putting me in  unnecessary
danger. I complained that the game he was playing with me was cruel.
     "It would be cruel if  this would have happened to an average man, " he
said. "But the instant one begins to live  like a warrior, one  is no longer
ordinary.  Besides, I didn't  find you  a worthy  opponent because I want to
play with you, or tease  you, or annoy you. A worthy opponent might spur you
on; under the influence of an  opponent like 'la  Catalina' you  may have to
make  use  of  everything  I  have  taught  you. You  don't  have any  other
     We  were  quiet for  a  while.  His  words  had  aroused  a  tremendous
apprehension in me.  He then wanted  me to imitate  as close as possible the
cry I had heard after I had said "Buenas noches."
     I  attempted to reproduce the sound and came up with some weird howling
that scared  me. Don  Juan must have found  my rendition  funny;  he laughed
almost uncontrollably.
     Afterwards he asked me to reconstruct the  total sequence; the distance
I ran, the distance the woman was from me at the time I encountered her, the
distance  she  was  from me at the time  I reached the  house, and the place
where she had  begun hopping. "No fat Indian woman could  hop that way, " he
said  after assessing all those  variables.  "They  could  not even run that
     He made me hop. I could not cover more than four feet each time, and if
I were correct in my perception, the woman had hopped at least ten feet with
each leap. "Of course, you know that from now on you must be on the lookout,
" he  said in a tone of great urgency. "She will try to tap you on your left
shoulder during a moment when you are unaware and weak."
     "What should I do? "I asked.
     "It is meaningless to complain, " he said.  "What's important from this
point  on is  the  strategy of your life." I could not concentrate at all on
what he  was  saying. I took  notes automatically. After  a  long silence he
asked if I had any pain behind my ears or in the nape of my neck. I said no,
and  he  told me  that if I had  experienced  an  uncomfortable sensation in
either  of  those two areas  it would have meant that I had been clumsy  and
that  "la  Catalina"  had  injured  me.  "Everything  you did that night was
clumsy,  " he said. "First  of  all, you went  to the party to kill time, as
though there is any time to  kill. That weakened you." "You mean I shouldn't
go to parties?" "No, I don't mean  that. You may go  any place you wish, but
if you do, you must assume the  full  responsibility for that act. A warrior
lives his life strategically. He would attend a party or a reunion like that
only if his strategy calls for it. That  means,  of course, that he would be
in total control and would perform all the acts that he deems necessary." He
looked at me fixedly and smiled, then covered his face and chuckled softly.
     "You are in a terrible bind, " he said. "Your opponent is on your trail
and for the first time in your life you cannot afford to act helter-skelter.
This time you  will  have  to learn  a totally different doing, the doing of
strategy.  Think  of it  this way.  If you survive  the  onslaughts  of  'la
Catalina' you will have to thank her someday for having forced you to change
your doing."
     "What  a terrible  way  of putting it!" I exclaimed.  "What if  I don't
     "A warrior never indulges in thoughts like that, " he said.
     "When he has to act with his fellow men, a warrior follows the doing of
strategy, and in that doing there are no victories or defeats. In that doing
there are only actions."
     I asked him what the  doing  of strategy entailed. "It entails that one
is not at  the mercy of people, "  he replied. "At that party, for instance,
you were  a  clown, not  because it  served your purposes to be a clown, but
because you placed yourself at the mercy of those people. You  never had any
control and thus you had to run away from them."
     "What should I have done?"
     "Not go there at all, or else go there to perform a specific act.
     "After horsing around with the Mexicans you were weak and 'la Catalina'
used that opportunity. So she placed herself in the road to wait for you.
     "Your  body knew that something was out  of place,  though, and yet you
spoke  to her. That was  terrible. You must  not utter a single word to your
opponent during one of those encounters. Then you  turned your back  to her.
That  was even worse. Then  you ran away from  her,  and that was the  worst
thing you  could  have done! Apparently  she is clumsy. A sorcerer  that  is
worth his salt would have mowed you down right then,  the instant you turned
your back and ran away.
     "So far your only defense is to stay put and do your dance."
     "What dance are you talking about?" I asked.
     He  said  that  the "rabbit  thumping"  he had taught me was the  first
movement  of the dance that a  warrior groomed  and enlarged  throughout his
life, and then executed in his last stand on earth.
     I had a moment of strange sobriety and a series of thoughts occurred to
me. On one level it was clear  that what had taken place between me  and "la
Catalina" the first time  I had confronted her  was real.  "La Catalina" was
real, and  I  could  not  discard  the  possibility  that  she  was actually
following  me.  On the  other  level  I  could not  understand  how  she was
following me, and this gave rise to the faint suspicion  that don Juan might
be tricking me, and that he  himself was somehow producing the weird effects
I had witnessed. Don Juan suddenly looked  at the sky and told me that there
was still  time to go and check the  sorceress. He reassured me that we were
running  very little  danger, because  we  were only going  to  drive by her
house. "You must confirm  her shape, " don  Juan said. "Then there  won't be
any doubts left in your mind, one way or the other."
     My hands began to sweat profusely and I had to dry them repeatedly with
a towel. We got in my car and don Juan directed me to the  main  highway and
then to a wide unpaved  road. I drove  in the center of it; heavy trucks and
tractors had carved deep trenches and my car was too low to go on either the
left  or the right side  of the road. We went  slowly amid a  thick cloud of
dust. The coarse gravel which was used to  level  the road  had lumped  with
dirt during the rains, and chunks of dry mud rocks bounced against the metal
underside of my car, making loud explosive sounds.
     Don  Juan told  me  to  slow down as we  were coming to a small bridge.
There were four Indians sitting there and  they waved  at us. I was not sure
whether or not I knew them. We passed the bridge and the road curved gently.
     "That's the  woman's  house, " don Juan whispered to me as  he  pointed
with his eyes  to  a white house with a high bamboo fence  all around it. He
told me to make a U-turn and stop in the middle of the road  and wait to see
if the woman became suspicious enough to show her face.
     We  stayed there perhaps ten minutes. I thought  it was an interminable
time. Don Juan did not say a word. He sat motionless, looking at the  house.
"There she  is, " he said,  and his body gave a sudden  jump. I saw the dark
foreboding silhouette of a woman  standing inside the house, looking through
the open door.  The room was dark and that only accentuated  the darkness of
the woman's silhouette.
     After  a few  minutes the woman stepped out of the darkness of the room
and  stood in  the doorway and watched us. We looked at her for a moment and
then don Juan told me to drive on. I was speechless. I could have sworn that
she was the woman I had seen hopping by the road in the darkness. About half
an  hour later, when we had turned onto the paved highway, don Juan spoke to
     "What do you say?" he asked. "Did you recognize the shape?"
     I  hesitated  for a  long time before answering.  I  was  afraid of the
commitment entailed in saying yes. I carefully worded my reply and said that
I thought it had been too dark to be completely sure.
     He laughed and tapped me gently on my head.
     "She was the one, wasn't she?" he asked.
     He  did not  give me time to  reply. He put a finger to his mouth  in a
gesture  of silence  and whispered in my ear that it  was meaningless to say
anything, and that in order to survive  "la Catalina's" onslaughts  I had to
make use of everything he had taught me.


     In May of  1971, 1 paid don Juan the last visit of my apprenticeship. I
went  to see him on that  occasion in the same  spirit I had gone to see him
during the  ten years of our association; that is  to say, I was once  again
seeking the amenity  of his company. His friend don Genaro, a Mazatec Indian
sorcerer, was with him. I had seen both of them during my previous visit six
months  earlier. I was considering whether or  not to ask them if  they  had
been together all that time, when  don Genaro  explained  that he liked  the
northern desert so much that he had returned just in time to see me. Both of
them laughed as if they knew a secret.
     "I came back just for you, " don Genaro said.
     "That's true, " don Juan echoed.
     I reminded don Genaro that the last time I had been there, his attempts
to  help  me  to "stop the  world" had  been disastrous for me. That was  my
friendly way  of letting  him know  that  I was  afraid  of him.  He laughed
uncontrollably, shaking his body and kicking his legs like a child. Don Juan
avoided looking at me and also laughed. "You're not going to try  to help me
any more, are you, don
     Genaro?" I asked.
     My question  threw both of them  into  spasms of laughter.  Don  Genaro
rolled on the ground, laughing, then lay on his stomach and began to swim on
the  floor. When I saw him doing  that I  knew I was lost. At that moment my
body somehow became aware that I had arrived at the end. I did not know what
that  end  was.  My  personal tendency  to  dramatization  and  my  previous
experience with don Genaro made me believe that  it might be  the end  of my
life. During my  last visit to them, don Genaro had attempted to push  me to
the brink  of "stopping the  world." His  efforts had been  so  bizarre  and
direct  that  don  Juan  himself had had  to tell me to leave.  Don Genaro's
demonstrations of "power" were  so extraordinary and so  baffling that  they
forced me to a total reevaluation of myself. I went home, reviewed the notes
that I had taken in the very beginning of my apprenticeship, and a whole new
feeling mysteriously set in on me, although I had not been fully aware of it
until I saw don Genaro swimming on the floor.
     The act of swimming  on  the  floor,  which  was congruous  with  other
strange  and bewildering acts he  had  performed  in front of my  very eyes,
started as he was lying  face  down. He was  first laughing so hard that his
body shook  as  in a convulsion,  then he  began kicking,  and  finally  the
movement  of his  legs  became coordinated with a  paddling movement of  his
arms, and don Genaro started to slide on the ground as if he were lying on a
board  fitted with ball  bearings. He changed  directions various times  and
covered the entire area of the front of don Juan's house, maneuvering around
me and don Juan.
     Don Genaro had clowned in  front  of me before, and  every  time he had
done it don  Juan had asserted that  I had been on the brink of "seeing." My
failure to "see"  was  a result of my insistence on trying to explain  every
one  of don Genaro's actions from a  rational point of view. This time I was
on guard  and  when  he began to  swim  I  did  not  attempt  to  explain or
understand  the event.  I simply watched  him. Yet I  could  not  avoid  the
sensation of  being dumbfounded. He was  actually sliding on his stomach and
chest.  My  eyes began  to  cross  as I  watched him.  I  felt  a  surge  of
apprehension. I was convinced that if I did not explain what was happening I
would  "see," and  that thought filled  me with an extraordinary anxiety. My
nervous anticipation was so great that in  some way  I  was back at the same
point,  locked  once more in some rational endeavor. Don Juan must have been
watching me. He suddenly tapped me; I automatically turned to face him,  and
for  an instant I  took my eyes away  from don Genaro. When  I looked at him
again  he was  standing  by  me with  his  head slightly tilted and his chin
almost resting  on my right shoulder. I had a delayed startled  reaction.  I
looked at him for a second and then I jumped back. His expression of feigned
surprise was so comical that I  laughed hysterically. I could not help being
aware, however, that my laughter  was unusual.  My body  shook  with nervous
spasms originating  from  the middle part of my stomach.  Don Genaro put his
hand on my stomach and the convulsion-like ripples ceased.
     "This  little Carlos  is always so exaggerated!"  he exclaimed as if he
were a  fastidious man.  Then  he added,  imitating  don  Juan's  voice  and
mannerisms, "Don't  you  know that  a  warrior never laughs  that way?"  His
caricature of don Juan was so perfect that I laughed even harder.
     Then both of them left together and were gone for over two hours, until
about midday. When they returned they sat in the area in front of don Juan's
house.  They  did not say a  word. They  seemed to be  sleepy, tired, almost
absent-minded. They stayed motionless for a long time, yet they seemed to be
so comfortable and relaxed. Don Juan's mouth was slightly opened,  as if  he
were really asleep,  but his hands were  clasped over his lap and his thumbs
moved rhythmically.  I  fretted and  changed sitting positions for  a while,
then  I began to feel a soothing  placidity.  I must have fallen asleep. Don
Juan's  chuckle woke me  up. I opened my eyes. Both of  them were staring at
     "If you don't talk, you fall asleep, " don Juan said, laughing.
     "I'm afraid I do, " I said.
     Don  Genaro lay on  his back and began to  kick  his legs in the air. I
thought  for a  moment that he was going  to start  his  disturbing clowning
again, but he went back right away to his cross-legged sitting position.
     "There is something you ought to  be aware of  by now, " don Juan said.
"I call it the cubic centimeter of chance.  All of us, whether or not we are
warriors, have a cubic centimeter of chance that pops  out in front  of  our
eyes from time to time. The difference between an average  man and a warrior
is that the warrior  is aware of this, and one of his tasks is to  be alert,
deliberately waiting, so that when  his cubic centimeter pops out he has the
necessary speed, the prowess to pick it up.
     "Chance, good luck, personal power,  or whatever  you may call it, is a
peculiar state of  affairs. It is like a very small stick that  comes out in
front  of  us and invites us  to pluck it. Usually we are too  busy, or  too
preoccupied, or just too stupid  and  lazy to realize that that is our cubic
centimeter of luck. A warrior, on the other hand,  is always alert and tight
and has the spring, the gumption necessary to grab it."
     "Is your life very tight?" don Genaro asked me abruptly.
     "I think it is, " I said with conviction.
     "Do you think that you can  pluck your cubic  centimeter of luck?"  don
Juan asked me with a tone of incredulity. "I believe I do that all the time,
" I said.
     "I think you are only alert about things you know, " don Juan said.
     "Maybe I'm kidding myself,  but I  do believe that  nowadays I am  more
aware than at  any other time in my life, " I said and really  meant it. Don
Genaro nodded his head in approval. "Yes, " he said  softly,  'as if talking
to himself. "Little Carlos is really tight, and absolutely alert."
     I felt that they were humoring me. I thought that perhaps  my assertion
about my alleged condition of tightness may have annoyed them.
     "I didn't mean to brag, " I said.
     Don Genaro arched his eyebrows and enlarged his nostrils.
     He glanced at my notebook and pretended to be writing.
     "I think Carlos is tighter than ever, " don Juan said to don Genaro.
     "Maybe he's too tight, " don Genaro snapped.
     "He may very well be, " don Juan conceded.
     I did not know what to interject at that point so I remained quiet.
     "Do you  remember the  time  when  I  jammed your car?" don  Juan asked
     His  question was  abrupt and unrelated  to  what we had  been  talking
about. He was referring to  a  time when I could not start the engine of  my
car  until he  said I could. I remarked that  no  one  could forget  such an
event. "That was nothing, " don Juan asserted in a factual tone.
     "Nothing at all. True, Genaro?"
     "True, " don Genaro said indifferently.
     "What do you mean?" I said in a tone of protest. "What you did that day
was something truly beyond my comprehension."
     "That's not saying much, " don Genaro retorted.
     They both laughed loudly and then don Juan patted me on the back.
     "Genaro can do  something much better than jamming your car, " he  went
on. "True, Genaro?"
     "True, " don Genaro replied, puckering up his lips like a child.
     "What can he do?" I asked, trying to sound unruffled.
     "Genaro can take your whole car away!" don  Juan exclaimed in a booming
voice; and then he added in the same tone, "True, Genaro?"
     "True!" don Genaro retorted in the loudest human tone I had ever heard.
     I jumped involuntarily. My  body was convulsed by three or four nervous
     "What do you mean, he can take my whole car away?" I asked.
     "What did I mean, Genaro?" don Juan asked.
     "You meant that I can get into his car, turn  the motor  on, and  drive
away, " don Genaro replied with unconvincing seriousness.
     "Take the car away, Genaro, " don Juan urged him in a joking tone.
     "It's  done!" don  Genaro said,  frowning  and looking  at  me askew. I
noticed that as he frowned his eyebrows rippled, making the look in his eyes
mischievous and penetrating.
     "All right!" don Juan said calmly. "Let's go down there and examine the
     "Yes!" don Genaro echoed. "Let's go down there and examine the car."
     They stood up, very slowly. For an instant I did not  know what to  do,
but  don Juan signaled me to stand up. We began walking up the small hill in
front of don Juan's house. Both of them flanked me, don Juan to my right and
don Genaro  to my  left. They were  perhaps six or seven feet  ahead  of me,
always within my full field of vision.
     "Let's examine the car, " don Genaro said again.
     Don Juan moved  his hands as  if  he were spinning an invisible thread;
don Genaro did likewise and repeated, "Let's examine  the car."  They walked
with a sort  of bounce. Their steps were longer than  usual, and their hands
moved as though  they  were whipping or  batting  some invisible objects  in
front of them. I  had never seen don Juan clowning like that and felt almost
embarrassed to look at him.
     We reached  the top  and I looked down to  the area  at the foot of the
hill,  some  fifty  yards  away,  where  I  had parked  my  car.  My stomach
contracted with a jolt. The  car  was not there! I ran down the hill. My car
was  not anywhere in sight. I experienced a moment of great confusion. I was
disoriented. My car had been  parked there since I  had arrived early in the
morning. Perhaps half an hour before,  I  had come  down to get a new pad of
writing paper.  At  that  time  I  had thought of leaving  the windows  open
because of the excessive heat, but the number of mosquitoes and other flying
insects that abounded in the area had made me change my mind, and I had left
the car
     locked as usual.
     I looked all around again. I refused to believe that my car was gone. I
walked to the  edge of the cleared  area.  Don Juan and don Genaro joined me
and stood  by me, doing exactly  what I was doing, peering into the distance
to see if the car was  somewhere in sight. I  had a moment of euphoria  that
gave way to a disconcerting sense of  annoyance. They seemed to have noticed
it and began to walk around  me, moving their  hands as if they were rolling
dough in them.
     "What do you  think happened to  the car, Genaro?"  don Juan asked in a
meek tone.
     "I drove it away, " don Genaro said and made the most astounding motion
of shifting gears and steering. He bent his  legs as though he were sitting,
and remained in that position for a few moments, obviously sustained only by
the  muscles of his legs; then he  shifted  his  weight to his right leg and
stretched his left foot to mimic the action on the clutch. He made the sound
of a motor with  his lips; and  finally, to top  everything, he pretended to
have  hit a bump in the road  and bobbed up and down, giving me the complete
sensation of an inept driver that bounces without letting go of the steering
     Don Genaro's pantomime was stupendous.  Don Juan  laughed until he  was
out of  breath. I wanted  to join them in their  mirth but  I was  unable to
relax. I felt  threatened and ill at ease. An anxiety that had no precedence
in my life  possessed me. I felt I was burning up  inside and  began kicking
small rocks on the ground and ended up hurling  them with an unconscious and
unpredictable  fury.  It was as if the wrath  was actually outside of myself
and had suddenly enveloped me.
     Then  the feeling of annoyance left me, as mysteriously  as it  had hit
me.  I took a  deep  breath and felt better. I did  not dare to look  at don
Juan. My display of anger  embarrassed me, but at the same time  I wanted to
laugh. Don  Juan came to my side and patted me on the back.  Don Genaro  put
his arm on my shoulder.
     "It's all right!" don Genaro said. "Indulge yourself. Punch yourself in
the nose and  bleed. Then you can get a rock and knock your teeth out. It'll
feel  good!  And  if  that doesn't help, "| you can mash your balls with the
same  rock on that  big boulder over there."  Don Juan giggled. I  told them
that  I  was ashamed of myself for having  behaved so poorly. I did not know
what had gotten into me. Don Juan said that he was sure I knew  exactly what
was going on, that I was pretending not to know, and that it was  the act of
pretending that made me angry.
     Don Genaro was unusually comforting; he patted my back repeatedly.
     "It happens to all of us, " don Juan said.
     "What do you mean by  that, don  Juan?" don Genaro  asked, imitating my
voice, mocking my habit of asking don Juan questions.
     Don Juan said some absurd things like "When the world is upside down we
are  right side up, but when  the world is right side up we are upside down.
Now when the world and we are right side up, we think we are  upside down. .
. ." He  went  on  and on, talking gibberish while don  Genaro  mimicked  my
taking notes. He wrote on an invisible  pad, enlarging  his nostrils  as  he
moved his hand, keeping his eyes wide open and fixed on don Juan. Don Genaro
had caught on to my efforts
     to  write  without looking  at  my  pad in  order to avoid altering the
natural flow of conversation. His portrayal was genuinely hilarious.
     I suddenly felt very at ease, happy. Their laughter was soothing. For a
moment  I let go and had a belly laugh. But then my mind entered into a  new
state of apprehension, confusion, and annoyance. I thought that whatever was
taking place there was  impossible; in fact, it was  inconceivable according
to  the logical order by which I am accustomed  to judge the  world at hand.
Yet, as the perceiver,  I perceived that my car was not  there.  The thought
occurred to me, as it always had happened when  don Juan  had confronted  me
with inexplicable phenomena, that I was being  tricked by ordinary means. My
mind had always, under stress,  involuntarily  and consistently repeated the
same construct. I began to consider how many  confederates don  Juan and don
Genaro would have needed in order to lift my car and remove it from where  I
had  parked it. I was  absolutely sure that I  had  compulsively locked  the
doors; the handbrake was on; it  was  in  gear; and the steering  wheel  was
locked. In order to move  it they would have  had to lift it up bodily. That
task would have  required a labor force that I was convinced neither of them
could  have  brought  together.  Another  possibility  was that  someone  in
agreement with them had broken into my car, wired it, and driven it away. To
do  that  would have required  a specialized knowledge that was beyond their
means.  The  only  other possible  explanation  was that  perhaps they  were
mesmerizing me. Their movements were so novel to me and so suspicious that I
entered into  a spin  of  rationalizations.  I  thought  that  if  they were
hypnotizing me I was then in a state of altered consciousness.
     In my experience with don Juan I had noticed that in such states one is
incapable  of keeping a  consistent  mental record of the  passage  of time.
There had never  been  an enduring order,  in matters of passage of time, in
all the states of nonordinary reality I had  experienced,  and my conclusion
was that if  I kept myself  alert a moment would come when  I would lose  my
order of  sequential time. As if, for example, I were looking at  a mountain
at a given  moment, and then  in my next moment of awareness I  found myself
looking  at a  valley in the opposite  direction,  but  without  remembering
having turned around. I felt that  if something of that  nature would happen
to me I could then explain what  was taking place with my car as, perhaps, a
case of hypnosis.  I  decided that  the only thing I  could do  was to watch
every detail with excruciating thoroughness.
     "Where's my car?" I asked, addressing both of them.
     "Where's the  car, Genaro?"  don  Juan asked  with  a  look  of  utmost
     Don Genaro began  turning over small rocks and looking underneath them.
He worked feverishly over the whole flat area where  I had parked my car. He
actually turned over every rock. At times he would pretend to  get angry and
I would hurl the rock into the bushes.
     Don  Juan  seemed to  enjoy  the scene beyond  words.  He  giggled  and
chuckled and was almost oblivious to my presence.
     Don  Genaro  had just  finished hurling a  rock  in  a display of  sham
frustration when he came upon a good-sized boulder, the only large and heavy
rock in the parking area. He attempted to turn it over but  it was too heavy
and too deeply imbedded in the ground. He  struggled and puffed until he was
perspiring. Then  he sat on the rock  and  called don  Juan to help him. Don
Juan turned to me with a beaming smile and said, "Come on, let's give Genaro
a hand."
     "What's he doing?" I asked.
     "He's looking  for your  car, " don Juan said in a casual  and  factual
     "For heaven's sake! How can he find it under the rocks?" I protested.
     "For heaven's  sake,  why  not?" don Genaro retorted  and both of  them
roared with laughter.
     We could not budge the rock. Don Juan suggested that we go to the house
and look for a thick piece of wood to use as a lever.
     On  our  way to the  house  I told them that their acts were absurd and
that whatever they were doing to me was unnecessary.
     Don  Genaro peered at  me. "Genaro is a very thorough man,  " don  Juan
said with a serious expression. He's  as thorough and meticulous as you are.
You yourself said  that  you never leave  a stone  unturned.  He's doing the
same." Don Genaro patted me on the shoulder and said that don
     Juan  was absolutely right and that, in fact, he wanted to be like  me.
He looked at me with an insane glint and opened his nostrils.
     Don  Juan clapped his hands and threw  his hat to the  ground.  After a
long search around the house for a thick piece of wood, don  Genaro found  a
long  and fairly thick tree trunk, a part of a house beam. He put  it across
his shoulders and we started back to the place where my car had been.
     As we were going up  the small hill and were  about to reach a bend  in
the  trail  from where  I would see the  flat parking area,  I had a  sudden
insight. It occurred to me that I was going to find my car  before they did,
but when I looked down, there  was  no car at the foot of the hill. Don Juan
and don Genaro must have understood what I had had in mind and ran after me,
laughing uproariously.
     Once we  got to the bottom of the hill they immediately went to work. I
watched  them for a few moments. Their acts were incomprehensible. They were
not  pretending that they were working, they  were actually immersed in  the
task of turning over a boulder to see if my car was underneath. That was too
much for me and  I joined them. They puffed and yelled and don Genaro howled
like  a  coyote. They were soaked  in  perspiration. I  noticed how terribly
strong their bodies were, especially don Juan's. Next to them I was a flabby
young man.
     Very  soon I  was  also  perspiring copiously.  Finally we succeeded in
turning  over the  boulder  and don Genaro examined the dirt underneath  the
rock with the most maddening patience and thoroughness.
     "No. It isn't here, " he announced.
     That statement brought both of them down to the ground with laughter. I
laughed nervously. Don Juan seemed to have true spasms of pain  and  covered
his face and lay down  as  his body shook with laughter. "In which direction
do we go  now?" don Genaro asked after a long rest. Don  Juan pointed with a
nod of his head.
     "Where are we going?" I asked.
     "To look for your car!" don Juan said and did not crack a smile.
     They again flanked me as we walked into the brush. We had only  covered
a few yards when don  Genaro signaled us to stop. He tiptoed to a round bush
a few steps away, looked in  the inside branches for a few moments, and said
that the car was not there.
     We kept on walking for a while and  then don Genaro made a gesture with
his hand  to  be  quiet.  He arched his back as  he stood  on  his  toes and
extended  his arms over his head. His  fingers were contracted like a  claw.
From where  I  stood, don  Genaro's body  had  the shape  of a letter S.  He
maintained that position for an instant and then virtually plunged headfirst
on a long twig with  dry  leaves.  He carefully lifted it up and examined it
and again remarked that the car was not there.
     As we walked  into the  deep  chaparral  he looked  behind  bushes  and
climbed small paloverde  trees to look into their foliage, only  to conclude
that the car was not there either.
     Meanwhile I  kept a  most  meticulous  mental  record of  everything  I
touched or saw. My sequential and orderly view of the world around me was as
continuous as it had always been. I touched rocks, bushes, trees.  I shifted
my view from the foreground to the background by looking out of one eye  and
then out of the other. By all calculations I was walking in the chaparral as
I had done scores of times during my ordinary life.
     Next don Genaro lay down on his stomach and asked us to do likewise. He
rested his  chin on his clasped hands. Don Juan did the same.  Both  of them
stared at  a series  of small protuberances  on the  ground that looked like
minute  hills. Suddenly  don Genaro  made a sweeping movement with his right
hand and clasped something. He hurriedly stood  up and so did don Juan.  Don
Genaro held  his  clasped hand in front of us and signaled us to come closer
and look. Then he slowly began to open his hand. When it was half open a big
black object flew away.  The motion was so sudden and the  flying object was
so big that  I  jumped back and nearly lost my balance. Don  Juan propped me
     "That wasn't the car,  " don  Genaro complained. "It was a goddamn fly.
Sorry!" Both of  them scrutinized me. They were standing  in front of me and
were not looking directly at me but out of the corners of their eyes. It was
a prolonged look.
     "It was a fly, wasn't it?" don Genaro asked me.
     "I think so, " I said.
     "Don't think, " don Juan ordered me imperiously. "What did you see?"
     "I saw something as big as a crow flying out of his hand," I said.
     My  statement  was  congruous  with what  I  had perceived and  was not
intended as a joke, but they took it as perhaps the most hilarious statement
that  anyone had made that day. Both of them jumped  up and down and laughed
until they  choked.  "I think Carlos has  had enough,  " don Juan said.  His
voice sounded hoarse from laughing.
     Don Genaro said that he  was about to find my car, that the feeling was
getting hotter and hotter. Don Juan said we were in  a rugged area  and that
to find the car there was not a desirable thing. Don Genaro took off his hat
and rearranged the  strap  with  a piece  of  string from his pouch, then he
attached his woolen belt to a yellow tassel affixed to the brim of the hat.
     "I'm making a kite out of my hat, " he said to me.
     I  watched him and  I  knew that he was joking. I had always considered
myself to be an expert on kites. When I was a child I used to  make the most
complex kites and I knew that the brim of the straw hat  was  too brittle to
resist the  wind. The hat's crown, on  the  other hand, was too deep and the
wind would circulate inside it, making it impossible to lift the hat off the
     "You don't think it'll fly, do you?" don Juan asked me.
     "I know it won't, " I said.
     Don Genaro was unconcerned and finished attaching a long string  to his
kite-hat. It was a windy day and  don Genaro ran  downhill as don  Juan held
his hat, then don Genaro pulled the string and the damn thing actually flew.
     "Look,  look at  the kite!"  don  Genaro yelled.  It bobbed a couple of
times but it remained in the air.
     "Don't take  your eyes  off of the kite, " don Juan said firmly. For  a
moment  I felt dizzy. Looking at the kite, I had had a complete recollection
of another time; it was  as if I  were flying  a kite myself,  as I used to,
when it was windy in the hills of my home town.
     For a brief moment the recollection engulfed me and I lost my awareness
of the passage of time.
     I heard don Genaro  yelling something and I saw the hat bobbing  up and
down  and then  falling  to the ground, where my  car was. It all took place
with such speed that I did not have a clear picture of what  had happened. I
became dizzy and absent-minded. My mind held on to a very confusing image. I
either saw  don Genaro's  hat turning  into my car, or I saw the hat falling
over on top of the car. I  wanted to believe the latter, that don Genaro had
used his hat to point at my car. Not that it  really mattered, one thing was
as awesome  as the other, but just the same my mind hooked on that arbitrary
detail in order  to keep my original  mental balance. "Don't  fight it,  " I
heard don Juan saying. I felt that something inside me was about to surface.
Thoughts and images  came in  uncontrollable  waves as  if  I  were  falling
asleep. I stared at the car dumbfounded. It was sitting on a rocky flat area
about a  hundred feet away. It actually looked as if someone had just placed
it there. I ran towards it and began to examine it.
     "Goddammit!"  don  Juan exclaimed.  "Don't stare  at the car. Stop  the
     Then as in a dream I heard him yelling, "Genaro's hat! Genaro's hat!"
     I looked at them. They were  staring  at  me directly. Their  eyes were
piercing. I felt a  pain in my stomach. I had an  instantaneous headache and
got  ill. Don Juan  and don  Genaro looked at me curiously. I sat by the car
for a while  and then, quite  automatically, I unlocked the door and let don
Genaro get  in the back seat. Don  Juan followed him and sat next  to him. I
thought that was strange because he usually sat in the  front seat.  I drove
my car  to  don Juan's house  in a sort of haze. I was not myself at all. My
stomach  was  very  upset,  and  the feeling of  nausea  demolished  all  my
sobriety. I drove mechanically.
     I heard don Juan and don Genaro in the back seat laughing and  giggling
like children. I  heard don Juan asking me, "Are we getting closer?" It  was
at that  point that I took deliberate notice of the  road. We were  actually
very close to  his house.  "We're  about  to get  there, " I muttered.  They
howled  with laughter. They clapped their hands  and slapped  their  thighs.
When we  arrived at the house  I  automatically jumped  out  of  the car and
opened the door for them.  Don Genaro stepped out first and congratulated me
for what he  said was the nicest and smoothest ride he had ever taken in his
life. Don Juan said the same. I did not pay much attention to them. I locked
my car  and barely made  it  to the house.  I heard don Juan  and don Genaro
roaring with laughter before I fell asleep. The next day as soon  as  I woke
up I began asking don Juan questions. He was cutting firewood in the back of
his  house, but  don Genaro  was nowhere  in sight.  He said  that there was
nothing to talk about. I pointed out that I had succeeded in remaining aloof
and had observed  don Genaro's "swimming  on  the  floor" without wanting or
demanding any  explanation whatsoever, but my restraint had not helped me to
understand what was taking place. Then, after  the disappearance of the car,
I became automatically locked in seeking a logical explanation, but that did
not  help  me  either.  I  told  don  Juan  that  my insistence  on  finding
explanations  was  not something that I had arbitrarily devised myself, just
to  be  difficult, but  was  something  so deeply ingrained  in me  that  it
overruled every other consideration. "It's like a disease, " I said.
     "There  are  no  diseases, "  don Juan replied calmly.  "There is  only
indulging.  And  you  indulge  yourself  in trying  to  explain  everything.
Explanations are no longer necessary in your case."
     I  insisted that I  could  function only  under conditions of order and
understanding. I reminded him that I had drastically changed my  personality
during  the time  of our association,  and that the condition that had  made
that change possible was that I had been capable of explaining to myself the
reasons for that change.
     Don Juan laughed softly. He did not speak for a long time.
     "You are very clever, " he finally said. "You go back to where you have
always been. This time you are finished though. You have no place to go back
to. I will not explain anything to you  any more. Whatever Genaro did to you
yesterday he did it to your body, so let your body decide what's what."
     Don Juan's  tone was  friendly but unusually detached and that  made me
feel  an  overwhelming loneliness. I expressed my  feelings  of  sadness. He
smiled.  His fingers gently clasped the top of my hand.  "We both are beings
who are going to die, " he said softly. "There is  no  more time for what we
used to do. Now you must employ all the not-doing I have taught you and stop
the world."
     He clasped my hand  again. His touch was firm and friendly; it was like
a reassurance  that  he was concerned  and had affection for me, and  at the
same time it gave me the impression  of  an unwavering  purpose. "This is my
gesture  for you,  " he said, holding the  grip  he had on  my  hand for  an
instant.  "Now you must  go by  yourself into those  friendly mountains." He
pointed  with  his  chin  to  the distant  range  of  mountains towards  the
southeast. He said  that I had to remain there until my body told me to quit
and then return to his house. He let me know that he did not  want me to say
anything or to wait any  longer by shoving me gently  in the direction of my
car. "What am I supposed to do there?" I asked. He did not answer but looked
at me, shaking his head.
     "No more of that, " he finally said. Then he pointed his finger to  the
     "Go there,  " he said cuttingly. I drove south and then east, following
the roads I had  always taken when  driving with  don  Juan. I parked my car
around the place  where the  dirt road ended and then I  hiked on a familiar
trail until  I reached a high  plateau. I had no  idea  what to do there.  I
began to meander, looking for a resting place. Suddenly I  became aware of a
small area to my left. It  seemed that the chemical  composition of the soil
was  different on  that spot,  yet when I  focused my eyes on  it there  was
nothing visible that would  account  for the  difference. I stood a few feet
away and tried  to "feel" as don Juan had always recommended I  should do. I
stayed  motionless  for perhaps an hour.  My thoughts  began to  diminish by
degrees until I  was no longer  talking to myself. I then had a sensation of
annoyance.  The  feeling seemed to  be confined to  my  stomach and was more
acute  when I faced the  spot in question. I  was  repulsed  by  it and felt
compelled to move away from it.  I began scanning the area with crossed eyes
and after a short walk I came upon a large flat rock. I stopped in front  of
it. There was  nothing in particular about the rock that attracted me. I did
not detect  any  specific color or any shine on it,  and yet I  liked it. My
body felt good.  I experienced a sensation of physical  comfort and sat down
for a while.
     I meandered in the high  plateau and the surrounding  mountains all day
without knowing what to do or what  to expect. I came back  to the flat rock
at dusk. I knew that if I  spent  the night there I would be safe. The  next
day  I ventured farther  east into  the high mountains. By late afternoon  I
came to another even higher plateau.
     I thought I had been there before. I looked around to orient myself but
I  could  not  recognize any  of  the  surrounding  peaks.  After  carefully
selecting a suitable place I sat down to rest at the edge of a  barren rocky
area.  I  felt very warm and peaceful  there.  I tried to pour out some food
from my gourd, but it was empty. I drank some water. It was  warm and stale.
I thought that I had nothing else to do  but to  return to don  Juan's house
and began to wonder whether or not I should start on my way back right away.
I  lay down on my  stomach  and rested my head on my  arm. I felt uneasy and
changed positions various times until I found myself facing the west.
     The sun  was  already low. My  eyes  were  tired. I  looked down at the
ground and caught sight of a large black beetle. It came out  from  behind a
small rock, pushing a ball of dung twice its size. I followed its  movements
for a long  time. The insect seemed unconcerned with my presence and kept on
pushing  its  load over rocks,  roots, depressions, and protuberances on the
ground.  For all I knew, the  beetle was not aware  that  I  was  there. The
thought occurred to me that I could not possibly be sure that the insect was
not  aware of me;  that thought  triggered a  series of rational evaluations
about the nature  of the insect's world as opposed to mine. The beetle and I
were  in the same world and obviously the world was not the same for both of
us. I  became immersed in watching it and marveled at the gigantic  strength
it needed to carry its load over rocks and down crevices.
     I observed  the insect  for a long  time and then I became aware of the
silence around me. Only the  wind hissed between the branches and  leaves of
the chaparral. I looked up, turned  to  my  left in  a quick and involuntary
fashion, and caught a glimpse of a faint shadow or a flicker on a rock a few
feet away. At first I paid  no attention to it but then I realized that that
flicker had been to my left. I turned again suddenly and was able to clearly
perceive a shadow on  the rock. I had  the  weird sensation that  the shadow
instantly  slid down  to the ground and  the soil  absorbed it  as a blotter
dries an ink blotch.  A chill  ran down my back. The thought crossed my mind
that death was watching me and the beetle. I looked for the insect again but
I could  not find it. I thought that it must have arrived at its destination
and  then  had dropped its load into a hole  in the  ground.  I put my  face
against a smooth rock.
     The beetle emerged from a deep hole and  stopped a few inches away from
my face.  It  seemed  to look at  me and for a  moment I felt that it became
aware  of my presence, perhaps as I was aware of the presence of my death. I
experienced a shiver. The beetle and I were not that different after all.
     Death, like a shadow, was stalking  both of us from behind the boulder.
I had an  extraordinary moment  of elation. The beetle and I were on a  par.
Neither of us was better than the other.
     Our death made us equal. My elation and joy were so overwhelming that I
began to weep. Don Juan was right. He had always been right. I was living in
a most  mysterious world and, like  everyone  else, I was a most  mysterious
being, and yet I was no more important than a beetle. I wiped my eyes and as
I  rubbed them with the back  of my hand I saw a man, or something which had
the shape  of a man.  It was to my right about fifty  yards  away. I  sat up
straight  and  strained to see.  The  sun was almost on the horizon  and its
yellowish glow  prevented me  from getting a clear view. I heard  a peculiar
roar at  that moment. It was  like the  sound  of a  distant jet plane. As I
focused my attention on it, the roar increased to a prolonged sharp metallic
whizzing  and then it softened  until it was a mesmerizing, melodious sound.
The melody  was like  the vibration of an electrical current. The image that
came  to my mind was that  two electrified  spheres were coming together, or
two square blocks of  electrified metal were rubbing  against each other and
then coming to rest with a thump when  they were perfectly leveled with each
other. I again strained to see if I could distinguish the person that seemed
to be hiding from me,  but I  could  only detect  a dark  shape  against the
bushes. I shielded my eyes by placing my hands above them. The brilliancy of
the sunlight changed  at that moment and  then  I  realized that what  I was
seeing was only an optical illusion, a play of shadows and foliage.
     I  moved my eyes  away and  I  saw a coyote calmly trotting across  the
field. The coyote was around the spot where I thought I had seen the man. It
moved about fifty yards  in  a  southerly  direction  and  then it  stopped,
turned, and began walking towards me. I yelled a couple of times to scare it
away, but it  kept on coming. I had a moment of apprehension. I thought that
it might be  rabid  and  I even  considered gathering some  rocks  to defend
myself in  case of an attack. When the animal was ten to fifteen feet away I
noticed that  it  was,  not agitated in  any way; on the contrary, it seemed
calm and unafraid. It slowed down its  gait, coming to a halt barely four or
five feet from me. We looked at each other,  and then the coyote  came  even
closer. Its brown  eyes were friendly and clear. I sat down on the rocks and
the coyote stood almost touching me. I was  dumbfounded. I had  never seen a
wild  coyote that  close, and  the only thing that occurred  to  me at  that
moment  was to talk to it. I began  as one would talk to a friendly dog. And
then  I thought  that the  coyote "talked"  back to me. I had  the  absolute
certainty that  it had said something.  I felt confused  but  I did not have
time to ponder upon my  feelings, because the  coyote "talked" again. It was
not that the animal was voicing words the  way  I am accustomed  to  hearing
words being voiced by human beings, it was  rather  a  "feeling" that it was
talking. But it  was not  like a feeling that one has  when a  pet  seems to
communicate  with its master either. The coyote  actually said something; it
relayed a thought and that communication came out in something quite similar
to a sentence. I had said, "How are you, little coyote?" and I thought I had
heard the animal respond, "I'm all right, and you?" Then the coyote repeated
the sentence and  I  jumped  to my feet.  The animal did not make  a  single
movement.  It was not even startled by my sudden  jump. Its eyes were  still
friendly  and clear.  It lay down  on  its stomach  and  tilted its head and
asked,  "Why are you  afraid?" I  sat down facing  it and  I  carried on the
weirdest  conversation I had ever  had. Finally it asked me what I was doing
there and I said I had come there to "stop the world." The coyote said, "Que
bueno!" and then I  realized  that it was a bilingual  coyote. The nouns and
verbs  of   its  sentences  were   in  English,  but  the  conjunctions  and
exclamations were in Spanish. The thought crossed my mind that  I was in the
presence of  a Chicano coyote.  I began to laugh at the  absurdity of it all
and I laughed so hard that I became almost hysterical. Then  the full weight
of  the  impossibility of what was happening struck  me and my mind wobbled.
The  coyote stood  up and  our eyes met. I stared fixedly into them.  I felt
they were pulling me and  suddenly the animal became iridescent; it began to
glow. It was as if  my mind were replaying the memory of another event  that
had taken  place  ten years  before,  when under the influence of  peyote  I
witnessed the  metamorphosis  of  an  ordinary  dog  into  an  unforgettable
iridescent   being.  It  was  as  though   the  coyote   had  triggered  the
recollection, and the memory of that  previous event was summoned and became
superimposed on the coyote's shape; the coyote was a fluid, liquid, luminous
being. Its luminosity was dazzling.  I wanted to cover my eyes with my hands
to protect them, but I could not move. The luminous being touched me in some
undefined  part  of  myself  and  my  body  experienced  such  an  exquisite
indescribable  warmth and well-being that it was as if the touch had made me
explode. I became transfixed.  I could not feel my feet, or  my legs, or any
part of my body, yet something was sustaining me erect.
     I have no idea how long I stayed in that position. In the meantime, the
luminous coyote and the hilltop where I stood melted away. I had no thoughts
or  feelings. Everything  had  been turned  off  and I was floating  freely.
Suddenly I felt that my body had been struck and then it became enveloped by
something that kindled me. I became aware then that the sun  was shining  on
me.  I  could vaguely distinguish a  distant range of  mountains towards the
west. The sun was almost over the horizon. I was  looking directly  into  it
and  then I saw  the "lines  of  the world."  I  actually perceived the most
extraordinary  profusion  of  fluorescent  white  lines  which  crisscrossed
everything around me. For a moment I thought that I was perhaps experiencing
sunlight as it was  being refracted by my  eyelashes. I blinked  and  looked
again. The  lines were  constant  and  were superimposed on  or  were coming
through everything  in  the  surroundings. I turned around and  examined  an
extraordinarily  new  world. The  lines  were  visible and  steady even if I
looked away from the sun.
     I stayed on the hilltop in  a state of ecstasy for what appeared  to be
an  endless  time, yet the whole event may have lasted  only a  few minutes,
perhaps only as long as the sun shone  before it reached the horizon, but to
me it seemed an endless time. I felt something warm and soothing oozing  out
of the world and out of my own body. I  knew I had  discovered a  secret. It
was so simple. I experienced an unknown flood of feelings. Never  in my life
had I had such a divine euphoria, such  peace, such  an encompassing  grasp,
and  yet I could  not  put  the  discovered secret into words,  or even into
thoughts, but my body knew it. Then I either fell asleep  or I fainted. When
I again  became  aware of myself  I was lying on the rocks. I stood up.  The
world was  as I had always seen it. It was getting dark and I  automatically
started  on  my  way back to my car. Don Juan was alone in the house  when I
arrived the next morning. I asked him about don Genaro and  he  said that he
was somewhere in  the  vicinity,  running an errand. I  immediately began to
narrate to  him the  extraordinary experiences  I had had. He  listened with
obvious interest. "You have simply stopped the world, " he commented after I
had finished my account. We remained  silent for a  moment and then don Juan
said that  I  had  to  thank don  Genaro  for helping  me.  He  seemed to be
unusually pleased with me. He patted my back repeatedly and chuckled.
     "But it is inconceivable that a coyote could talk, " I said.
     "It wasn't talk, " don Juan replied.
     "What was it then?"
     "Your body understood  for the first  time. But you failed to recognize
that it was not a coyote to begin with and that it certainly was not talking
the way you and I talk."
     "But the coyote really talked, don Juan!"
     "Now look who is  talking like  an  idiot.  After all  these  years  of
learning  you  should know  better. Yesterday  you stopped the world and you
might have even seen.  A magical being told you something and your  body was
capable of understanding it because the world had collapsed."
     "The world was like it is today, don Juan."
     "No, it  wasn't. Today the coyotes  do  not tell you anything,  and you
cannot see the lines of the world. Yesterday you did all that simply because
something had stopped in you."
     "What was the thing that stopped in me?"
     "What stopped inside you  yesterday was what people  have  been telling
you the world is like.  You see, people tell  us from  the time we are  born
that the world is  such and  such  and  so and so, and naturally we  have no
choice but to see the world the way people have been telling us it is."
     We looked at each other.
     "Yesterday the world became as sorcerers tell  you it is, " he went on.
"In  that world coyotes talk and  so do deer, as I once told you, and  so do
rattlesnakes and trees  and all other living  beings. But what I want you to
learn  is seeing.  Perhaps you  know now that seeing  happens only  when one
sneaks between the  worlds, the  world of ordinary  people and the  world of
sorcerers. You are now smack in the  middle point between the two. Yesterday
you believed the coyote talked to you.
     Any sorcerer who  doesn't see would believe the same,  but one who sees
knows that to  believe that is to be pinned down in the  realm of sorcerers.
By the same token, not to believe  that coyotes talk is to be pinned down in
the realm of ordinary men."
     "Do you mean, don Juan, that neither the world of  ordinary men nor the
world of sorcerers is real?"
     "They are real worlds. They  could act upon you. For example, you could
have asked that coyote  about anything  you wanted to know and it would have
been compelled  to give you an answer. The only sad part is that coyotes are
not reliable. They are tricksters. It is your fate not to have  a dependable
animal companion."
     Don Juan  explained that the coyote  was  going  to be my companion for
life and that in the world of sorcerers  to  have a coyote friend was  not a
desirable state of affairs. He said that it would have been ideal for  me to
have talked to a rattlesnake, since they were stupendous companions.
     "If I were you, " he added, "I would never trust a coyote.  But you are
different and you may even become a coyote sorcerer."
     "What is a coyote sorcerer?"
     "One who  draws a lot of things  from his coyote brothers." I wanted to
keep on asking questions but he made a gesture to stop me.
     "You  have  seen the  lines  of the world,  " he said. "You have seen a
luminous  being. You are now almost ready  to meet the  ally. Of course  you
know  that the man  you saw  in the bushes was  the ally. You heard its roar
like the sound  of a jet plane.  He'll  be waiting for you at the edge  of a
plain, a plain I will take you to myself."
     We were quiet for a long time. Don Juan had his hands  clasped over his
stomach. His thumbs moved almost imperceptibly. "Genaro will also have to go
with us  to that valley,  " he said all of a sudden.  "He is the one who has
helped you to stop the world."
     Don Juan looked  at me  with  piercing eyes. "I will tell you  one more
thing, " he said and laughed. "It really does matter now. Genaro never moved
your car from the world of ordinary  men the other day. He simply forced you
to look at the world like sorcerers do, and  your car was not in that world.
Genaro wanted to soften  your certainty. His clowning told your  body  about
the absurdity of trying to understand everything. And when he  flew his kite
you almost  saw. You found your  car and you were in both worlds. The reason
we  nearly split our  guts laughing was because you really  thought you were
driving us back from where you thought you had found your car."
     "But how did he force me to see the world as sorcerers do?"
     "I was with him. We both know that world. Once one knows that world all
one needs to bring it  about is  to use that extra ring of power I have told
you sorcerers have. Genaro can do that as easily as snapping his fingers. He
kept  you busy  turning  over rocks  in order to distract your thoughts  and
allow your body to see."
     I told him  that the  events  of  the  last three days  had  done  some
irreparable damage to my idea of the world. I said that during the ten years
I had been associated  with him I had never been so moved,  not  even during
the times I had ingested psychotropic plants. "Power plants are only an aid,
" don Juan said. "The real thing is when the body  realizes that it can see.
Only then is one capable  of knowing that  the world we look at every day is
only a description. My intent has been to show you that.
     Unfortunately  you have very little  time left before the ally  tackles
     "Does the ally have to tackle me?"
     "There is no way to avoid it. In order  to see one must  learn  the way
sorcerers  look at the world and thus the ally has to be summoned,  and once
that is done it comes."
     "Couldn't you have taught me to see without summoning the ally?"
     "No. In order to see one must learn to look at the world in  some other
fashion, and the only other fashion I know is the way of a sorcerer."
     Don Genaro returned around noon  and at don Juan's suggestion the three
of us drove  down to the range of mountains where I had been the day before.
We hiked on  the same trail I had taken  but instead of stopping in the high
plateau, as I had done, we kept on climbing until we reached the top  of the
lower range of mountains, then we began to descend into a flat valley.
     We stopped to rest on top of a high hill. Don Genaro picked the spot. I
automatically sat  down, as I have  always done in their  company, with  don
Juan  to my right and don Genaro  to my left, making a triangle. The  desert
chaparral had acquired  an exquisite  moist sheen. It was brilliantly  green
after a short spring shower.
     "Genaro is going to tell you something, " don Juan said to me  all of a
sudden. "He is going to tell you the story of  his first  encounter with his
ally. Isn't that so, Genaro?"
     There was a tone of coaxing  in don Juan's voice. Don  Genaro looked at
me and  contracted  his lips until his mouth looked  like a round  hole.  He
curled his tongue against  his  palate and opened and closed his mouth as if
he were having spasms.
     Don Juan looked at him and  laughed loudly. I did not know what to make
out of it.
     "What's he doing?" I asked don Juan.
     "He's a hen! "he said.
     "A hen?"
     "Look, look at  his mouth. That's the hen's ass and it is about  to lay
an egg."
     The  spasms of don Genaro's mouth seemed to increase. He had a strange,
crazy look in his eyes. His mouth  opened up as if  the spasms were dilating
the round hole. He made a croaking sound in his throat, folded his arms over
his chest with his hands bent inward, and then unceremoniously spat out some
     "Damn  it! It wasn't  an egg,  " he said with a  concerned look on  his
     The  posture  of  his  body and  the  expression  on his  face were  so
ludicrous that I could not help laughing.
     "Now  that Genaro almost laid  an egg maybe he will tell you about  his
first encounter with his ally, " don Juan insisted.
     "Maybe, " don Genaro said, uninterested. I pleaded with him to tell me.
     Don Genaro  stood  up,  stretched his arms  and back. His bones made  a
cracking sound. Then he sat down again. "I was young when I first tackled my
ally, "  he finally said. "I  remember that it was in the early afternoon. I
had been in the fields since daybreak and I was returning to my house.
     Suddenly, from behind  a bush, the ally came out and blocked my way. He
had been waiting for me and was inviting me to wrestle him.  I began to turn
around in order to  leave him alone but  the thought came to my mind  that I
was strong  enough to tackle him. I was  afraid though. A  chill ran  up  my
spine  and my neck became stiff  as a board. By the way, that is  always the
sign that you're ready, I mean, when your neck gets hard."
     He opened up his shirt and showed me his back. He stiffened the muscles
of  his  neck,  back,  and  arms.  I  noticed  the  superb  quality  of  his
musculature. It was  as if the  memory of the encounter had  activated every
muscle in his torso. "In such  a situation, " he continued, "you must always
close your mouth."
     He turned to don Juan and said, "Isn't that so?"
     "Yes, " don Juan  said calmly. "The jolt that one gets from grabbing an
ally is  so great that one might bite off one's tongue or knock one's  teeth
out. One's  body must be  straight and well-grounded, and the feet must grab
the ground." Don Genaro stood up and showed me the proper position: his body
slightly bent  at the knees, his  arms hanging at his sides with the fingers
curled  gently. He seemed relaxed and  yet  firmly  set  on the  ground.  He
remained in that position for an instant, and when I thought he was going to
sit down  he suddenly lunged  forward in one stupendous  leap, as if he  had
springs attached to his heels. His movement was so sudden that
     I  fell down on my back; but as  I fell I had the clear impression that
don Genaro had grabbed a man, or something which had the shape of a man.
     I  sat  up again. Don Genaro was still maintaining a tremendous tension
all over his  body,  then he relaxed his  muscles  abruptly and went back to
where he had been sitting before and sat down.
     "Carlos just  saw your ally right  now,  " don  Juan remarked casually,
"but he's still weak and fell down."
     "Did you?" don Genaro asked in a naive tone and enlarged his nostrils.
     Don Juan assured him that I had "seen" it.
     Don  Genaro leaped forward again with such a force  that  I fell  on my
side. He  executed his jump so fast that I really could not tell how  he had
sprung to his feet from a sitting position in order to lunge forward.
     Both of them laughed loudly and then  don  Genaro changed his  laughter
into a howling indistinguishable from a coyote's.
     "Don't think that you have to jump  as well  as Genaro in order to grab
your  ally, " don  Juan  said in a  cautioning tone.  "Genaro  jumps so well
because he  has  his ally to help him.  All you have to  do  is to be firmly
grounded in order to sustain the impact. You have to stand  just like Genaro
did before he jumped, then you have to leap forward and grab the ally."
     "He's got to kiss his medallion first, " don Genaro interjected.
     Don Juan, with feigned severity, said that I had no medallions.
     "What  about  his  notebooks?" don Genaro  insisted.  "He's got  to  do
something with his  notebooks - put them down somewhere  before he jumps, or
maybe he'll use his notebooks to beat the ally."
     "I'll be  damned!" don Juan said with  seemingly  genuine  surprise. "I
have never thought of that. I bet it'll be the first time an ally is  beaten
down to the ground with notebooks."
     When don Juan's laughter and  don Genaro's coyote howlings subsided  we
were all in a very fine mood. "What happened when you grabbed your ally, don
Genaro?" I  asked. "It was a powerful  jolt,  "  don  Genaro  said  after  a
moment's hesitation. He seemed to have been putting his thoughts in order.
     "Never would I have imagined it was going to be like that," he went on.
"It was something, something, something . . . like nothing I can tell. After
I grabbed it we began  to spin. The ally made me twirl, but I didn't let go.
We spun through  the air with  such speed  and force that I couldn't see any
more. Everything was foggy. The spinning went on, and on, and on. Suddenly I
felt that  I was standing on the ground again. I looked at  myself. The ally
had not killed me.  I was in one piece. I was myself! I knew then that I had
succeeded. At long  last I had  an ally. I jumped up and  down with delight.
What a feeling! What a feeling it was!
     "Then I  looked around to find  out where I was. The  surroundings were
unknown to  me. I thought that  the ally must have taken  me through the air
and dumped me somewhere very far from the place where we  started to spin. I
oriented myself. I thought that my home must be towards the east, so I began
to walk in that direction. It was still early. The encounter  with the  ally
had not taken too long. Very  soon I found a trail and then I saw a bunch of
men  and  women coming  towards me. They were Indians.  I  thought they were
Mazatec Indians. They surrounded me and asked me where I was going. Tm going
home to Ixtlan, ' I said to them. 'Are you lost?'  someone asked. 'I am, ' I
said.  'Why?' 'Because  Ixtlan is not  that way.  Ixtlan is  in the opposite
direction. We ourselves  are  going there,  ' someone  else said. 'Join us!'
they all said. 'We have food!'"
     Don  Genaro stopped talking and looked at me as if he were  waiting for
me to ask a question.
     "Well, what happened?" I asked. "Did you join them?"
     "No.  I didn't, " he said. "Because they were not real. I knew it right
away, the  minute they  came to me. There was something  in their voices, in
their  friendliness  that gave them  away, especially  when they asked me to
join them.  So I  ran away. They called me and begged me to come back. Their
pleas became haunting, but I kept on running away from them."
     "Who were they?" I asked.
     "People, " don Genaro  replied  cuttingly.  "Except that they  were not
     "They were like apparitions, " don Juan explained. "Like phantoms."
     "After walking  for a while,  "  don  Genaro went  on,  "I  became more
confident. I knew that  Ixtlan was  in the direction I was going. And then I
saw two men coming down the trail towards me. They also seemed to be Mazatec
Indians. They had  a  donkey  loaded with  firewood.  They  went  by  me and
mumbled, 'Good afternoon.'
     "'Good afternoon!'  I said  and kept  on walking. They did not  pay any
attention to me and  went  their  way.  I  slowed down my gait  and casually
turned around to  look at them. They were walking away unconcerned with  me.
They  seemed  to be real. I  ran after them and yelled, 'Wait, wait!'  "They
held their  donkey and stood  on either side of the animal, as  if they were
protecting the load. "I am lost in these mountains, ' I said to them. 'Which
way is Ixtlan?' They pointed in the direction they were going.
     'You're very far, ' one of them said. 'It is on the other side of those
mountains. It'll take you  four or five days to get there.' Then they turned
around and kept on walking. I felt that those were real Indians and I begged
them  to  let me join them. "We walked together for a while and  then one of
them got his bundle of food and offered me some. I froze on the  spot. There
was  something terribly strange in the way he offered  me his food.  My body
felt frightened, so I jumped back and began to run away. They both said that
I would die in the mountains if I did not go with them  and tried to coax me
to join them. Their pleas were also very haunting, but I  ran away from them
with all  my might. "I kept on walking. I knew then that I was  on the right
way to Ixtlan and that those phantoms were trying to lure me out of my way.
     "I   encountered  eight  of   them;  they  must  have  known  that   my
determination was unshakable. They stood  by the road and looked  at me with
pleading  eyes.  Most of them  did  not say a word;  the women  among  them,
however, were more daring  and  pleaded with me. Some of them even displayed
food  and other  goods that they were supposed to be selling,  like innocent
merchants by the side of the road. I did not stop nor did I look at them.
     "By late afternoon I came to a valley that I seemed  to  recognize.  It
was somehow familiar. I thought I had been there before, but if that was  so
I  was  actually south of Ixtlan.  I began to look for landmarks to properly
orient myself and correct  my route  when I saw a little Indian boy  tending
some goats.
     He was perhaps seven years old and  was dressed the way I had been when
I  was  his age. In fact, he reminded me of myself tending  my father's  two
goats.  "I  watched  him for some time; the  boy was talking to himself, the
same way I used to, then he would talk to his goats. From  what I knew about
tending goats  he  was really good at it. He  was  thorough and  careful. He
didn't pamper his goats, but he wasn't cruel to them either.
     "I decided to call him. When I talked  to him in a loud voice he jumped
up  and ran away to  a ledge and  peeked  at me from behind  some  rocks. He
seemed to be ready  to run for his life. I liked him. He seemed to be afraid
and yet he still found time to herd his goats out of my sight.
     "I talked to him for a long time; I said that I was lost and that I did
not know my way to Ixtlan. I asked the name of the place where we  were  and
he said it was the place I had  thought it  was.  That made me very happy. I
realized I was no longer lost and pondered on the power  that my ally had in
order to transport my whole body that far in less time than it  takes to bat
an eyelash.
     "I thanked the boy  and began to walk away. He casually came out of his
hiding place  and herded his  goats into an almost  unnoticeable trail.  The
trail seemed  to lead down into the valley. I called the boy and he did  not
run away. I walked towards him and he jumped into the bushes when I came too
close.  I  commended  him  on being so  cautious  and  began to ask him some
     'Where does this  trail lead?' I asked. 'Down, ' he said. 'Where do you
live?' 'Down  there.' 'Are there lots of houses down there?' 'No, just one.'
'Where are  the other houses?' The boy pointed towards the other side of the
valley with indifference, the way boys his age do. Then he began to  go down
the trail with his goats.
     "Wait, ' I said to the boy. 'I'm very tired and hungry. Take me to your
     "I have no folks, ' the little  boy said and that  jolted  me.  I don't
know  why  but his voice made me hesitate. The boy,  noticing my hesitation,
stopped and turned to me. 'There's nobody at my  house, ' he said. 'My uncle
is gone  and his wife  went to the fields. There is plenty of  food. Plenty.
Come with  me. "I almost felt sad.  The boy was also a phantom. The  tone of
his voice and his eagerness had betrayed him. The phantoms were out there to
get me but  I wasn't afraid. I  was still numb from  my  encounter  with the
ally.  I wanted to  get mad  at  the ally or at the phantoms but  somehow  I
couldn't get angry like I used to, so I gave up trying. Then I wanted to get
sad, because I had liked that little  boy,  but I couldn't, so I  gave up on
that too.
     "Suddenly I realized that I had an ally and that there was nothing that
the  phantoms  could do to me. I  followed  the boy  down the  trail.  Other
phantoms  lurched out swiftly and tried to make me trip over the precipices,
but my will was stronger than they were. They must have sensed that, because
they stopped pestering me. After a while they simply stood by  my path; from
time to time some of them  would leap towards me but I stopped them  with my
will. And then they quit bothering me altogether." Don Genaro remained quiet
for a long time. Don Juan looked at me.
     "What happened after that, don Genaro?" I asked.
     "I kept on walking, " he said factually.
     It seemed that he had finished his tale and there was nothing he wanted
to add.  I asked him why was the  fact that they offered him food a  clue to
their being phantoms. He did not answer. I probed further  and asked whether
it was a custom among Mazatec Indians to deny  that they had any food, or to
be heavily  concerned with matters  of  food. He said that the tone of their
voices,  their  eagerness  to  lure him  out, and  the  manner in  which the
phantoms talked about food were the clues-and that he  knew that because his
ally was helping  him. He asserted that by himself alone he would have never
noticed  those  peculiarities.  "Were those phantoms  allies, don Genaro?" I
     "No. They were people."
     "People? But you said they were phantoms."
     "I said that they were no longer real. After my encounter with the ally
nothing was real any more."
     We were quiet for a long time.
     "What was the final outcome of that experience, don Genaro?" I asked.
     "Final outcome?"
     "I mean, when and how did you finally reach Ixtlan?"
     Both of them broke into laughter at once.
     "So that's the final outcome for you, " don Juan remarked.
     "Let's put it this  way  then. There was no final  outcome  to Genaro's
journey. There will never be any final  outcome. Genaro is still on  his way
to Ixtlan!" Don Genaro glanced  at me with piercing eyes and then turned his
head to look into the distance, towards the south.
     "I will never reach  Ixtlan, "  he  said.  His voice was firm but soft,
almost a murmur. "Yet in my feelings . . . in my feelings sometimes  I think
I'm just one step from reaching it. Yet I never will. In my journey  I don't
even find the familiar landmarks I used to know. Nothing  is any  longer the
     Don Juan and  don Genaro looked at  each other. There  was something so
sad about their look.
     "In my I find only phantom travelers," he said softly. I  looked at don
Juan. I had not understood what don Genaro had meant.
     "Everyone Genaro finds on his way to Ixtlan is only an ephemeral being,
"  don Juan explained. "Take  you,  for  instance.  You  are a phantom. Your
feelings and your eagerness are those  of people. That's why he says that he
encounters only phantom travelers on his."
     I suddenly realized that don Genaro's journey was  a metaphor. "Your is
not real then, " I said.
     "It is real!" don Genaro interjected. "The travelers are not real."
     He pointed to  don Juan with a  nod of his head  and said emphatically,
"This is the only  one  who is  real. The world is real  only when I am with
this one." Don Juan smiled. "Genaro was telling his story to you, " don Juan
said, "because yesterday  you stopped the world, and he thinks that you also
saw,  but  you  are such a fool that  you don't know it yourself. I keep  on
telling  him  that you are weird, and that sooner or later you will see.  At
any rate, in your next meeting  with the ally, if there is  a  next time for
you, you will have to wrestle with it and tame it. If you survive the shock,
which I'm  sure you will,  since  you're strong  and have been living like a
warrior, you  will  find yourself  alive  in an unknown  land.  Then, as  is
natural to all  of us, the first thing you will want to  do is  to  start on
your way back to Los Angeles. But there is no way to go back to Los Angeles.
What  you  left there  is  lost forever. By  then, of course, you will  be a
sorcerer, but that's no help; at a time like that what's important to all of
us is the  fact  that everything we love or hate  or wish for  has been left
behind.  Yet the feelings  in a  man do not die  or change, and the sorcerer
starts on  his  way back  home knowing that he will never  reach it, knowing
that no power  on earth,  not even his death, will deliver him to the place,
the things, the people he loved. That's what Genaro told you."
     Don  Juan's  explanation was  like  a catalyst; the full  impact of don
Genaro's story hit me suddenly when I began to link the tale to my own life.
     "What about the people I love?" I asked don Juan. "What would happen to
     "They would all be left behind, " he said.
     "But  is  there no way I  could retrieve them? Could I rescue them  and
take them with me?"
     "No. Your ally will spin you, alone, into unknown worlds."
     "But I could go back to Los  Angeles,  couldn't I? I could take the bus
or a plane and go there. Los Angeles would still be there, wouldn't it?"
     "Sure, " don Juan said, laughing. "And so will Manteca and Temecula and
     "And Tecate, " don Genaro added with great seriousness.
     "And Piedras Negras and Tranquitas, " don Juan said, smiling.
     Don Genaro added more  names  and  so  did  don  Juan;  and they became
involved in  enumerating a  series of the  most hilarious  and  unbelievable
names of cities and towns.
     "Spinning with your ally will change your idea of the world, " don Juan
said. "That  idea  is  everything; and  when that changes, the world  itself
     He reminded  me that  I had read  a  poem to him once  and wanted me to
recite it. He cued me with  a few words of it and I recalled having read  to
him some poems of Juan Ramon Jimenez.  The particular one he had in mind was
entitled "El Viaje Definitivo" (The Definitive Journey). I recited it.

     and I will leave. But the birds will stay, singing:
     and my garden will stay, with its green tree,
     with its water well.
     Many afternoons the skies will be blue and placid,
     and the bells in the belfry will chime,
     as they are chiming this very afternoon.
     The people who have loved me will pass away,
     and the town will burst anew every year.
     But my spirit will always wander nostalgic
     in the same recondite corner of my flowery garden.

     "That  is the feeling Genaro  is  talking about,  " don Juan said.  "In
order  to  be a  sorcerer  a  man must be passionate. A  passionate  man has
earthly belongings  and  things dear to him -if nothing else, just  the path
where he walks. "What Genaro told you in his story is precisely that. Genaro
left his passion in  Ixtlan: his home,  his  people, all the things he cared
for. And now he wanders  around in his feelings; and sometimes, as  he says,
he  almost reaches Ixtlan.  All of us have that  in common. For Genaro it is
Ixtlan; for you it will  be Los Angeles; for me ..." I did not want don Juan
to tell me about himself. He paused as if he had read my mind. Genaro sighed
and paraphrased the first lines of the poem.  "I left. And the birds stayed,
singing."  For  an instant  I sensed  a wave  of agony and  an indescribable
loneliness engulfing the three  of us. I  looked at  don  Genaro and I  knew
that, being a passionate man, he must have had so many ties of the heart, so
many things he cared for and left behind. I had the clear sensation that  at
that moment  the  power of his recollection was about to landslide and  that
don Genaro was on the verge of weeping. I  hurriedly moved my eyes away. Don
Genaro's passion, his supreme loneliness, made me cry.
     I looked at don Juan. He was  gazing at me.  "Only as a warrior can one
survive  the path of knowledge, " he said. "Because  the art of a warrior is
to balance the  terror of being a  man  with the wonder of  being a man."  I
gazed at the two of them, each in turn. Their eyes  were clear and peaceful.
They had summoned a wave of  overwhelming nostalgia, and when they seemed to
be on the verge of exploding into passionate tears, they held back the tidal
wave. For  an  instant  I  think  I saw.  I saw the loneliness of  man as  a
gigantic  wave which  had been  frozen in  front  of me,  held back  by  the
invisible wall of a metaphor.
     My sadness was  so overwhelming that  I felt euphoric. I embraced them.
Don Genaro  smiled  and  stood up. Don Juan also stood up and gently put his
hand on  my shoulder.  "We are going to  leave you here, " he said. "Do what
you think is proper. The  ally will be waiting  for you at the edge  of that
     He  pointed to a  dark valley in  the distance. "If you don't feel that
this is your time yet, don't keep your  appointment, " he went  on. "Nothing
is gained by forcing  the issue. If you  want to survive you must be crystal
clear and deadly sure of yourself."
     Don  Juan walked away without looking at me,  but don  Genaro  turned a
couple of times and urged  me with  a wink and  a movement of his head to go
forward. I looked  at them until they disappeared in the distance and then I
walked to my car and drove away. I knew that it was not my time, yet.

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