(Magical Passes by Carlos Castaneda)
Don Juan said that inner silence was the state most avidly sought by the humans of ancient Mexico. He defined it as a natural state of human perception in which thoughts are blocked off and all of man’s faculties operate from a level of awareness which doesn’t require the utilization of our daily cognitive system.
Inner silence has always been associated with darkness, for the shamans of don Juan’s lineage, perhaps because human perception, deprived of its habitual companion, the internal dialogue, falls into something that resembles a dark pit. He said that the body functions as usual, but awareness becomes sharper. Decisions are instantaneous, and seem to stem from a special sort of knowledge which is deprived of thought, verbalizations.
Human perception functioning in a condition of inner silence, according to don Juan, is capable of reaching indescribable levels. Some of those levels of perception are worlds in themselves, and not at all like the worlds reached through dreaming. They are indescribable states, inexplicable in terms of the linear paradigms that the habitual state of human perception employs for explaining the universe.
Inner silence, in don Juan’s understanding, is the matrix for a gigantic step of evolution: silent knowledge, or the level of human awareness where knowing is automatic and instantaneous. Knowledge at this level is not the product of cerebral cogitation or logical induction and deduction, or of generalizations based on similarities and dissimilarities.
There is nothing a priori at the level of silent knowledge, nothing that could constitute a body of knowledge, for everything is imminently now. Complex pieces of information could be grasped without any cognitive preliminaries.
Don Juan believed that silent knowledge was insinuated to early man, but that early man was not really the possessor of silent knowledge. Such an insinuation was infinitely stronger than what modern man experiences, where the bulk of knowledge is the product of rote learning. It is a sorcerers’ axiom that although we have lost that insinuation, the avenue that leads to silent knowledge will always be open to man by means of inner silence.
Don Juan Matus taught the hard line of his lineage: that inner silence must be gained by a consistent pressure of discipline. It has to be accrued or stored, bit by bit, second by second. In other words, one has to force oneself to be silent, even if it is only for a few seconds. According to don Juan, it was common knowledge among sorcerers that if one persists in this, persistence overcomes habit, and thus, it is possible to arrive at a threshold of accrued seconds or minutes, which differs from person to person. If the threshold of inner silence is ten minutes for a given individual, for instance, then once this threshold is reached, inner silence happens by itself, of its own accord, so to speak.
I was warned beforehand that there was no possible way of knowing what my individual threshold might be, and that the only way of finding this out was through direct experience. This is exactly what happened to me. Following don Juan’s suggestion, I had persisted in forcing myself to remain silent, and one day, while walking at UCLA, I reached my mysterious threshold. I knew I had reached it because in one instant, I experienced something don Juan had described at length to me. He had called it stopping the world. In the blink of an eye, the world ceased to be what it was, and for the first time in my life, I became conscious that I was seeing energy as it flowed in the universe. I had to sit down on some brick steps. I knew that I was sitting on some brick steps, but I knew it only intellectually, through memory. Experientially I was resting on energy. I myself was energy, and so was everything around me. I had cancelled out my interpretation system.
After seeing energy directly, I realized something which became the horror of my day, something that no one could explain to me satisfactorily except don Juan. I became conscious that although I was seeing for the first time in my life, I had been seeing energy as it flows in the universe all my life, but I had not been conscious of it. To see energy as it flows in the universe was not the novelty. The novelty was the query that arose with such fury that it made me surface back into the world of everyday life. I asked myself what had been keeping me from realizing that I had been seeing energy as it flows in the universe all my life.
“There are two issues at stake here,” don Juan explained to me, when I asked him about this maddening contradiction. “One is general awareness. The other is particular, deliberate consciousness. Every human being in the world is aware, in general terms, of seeing energy as it flows in the universe. However, only sorcerers are particularly and deliberately conscious of it. To become conscious of something that you are generally aware of requires energy, and the iron-hand discipline needed to get it. Your inner silence, the product of discipline and energy, bridged the gap between general awareness and particular consciousness.”
Don Juan stressed, in every way he was able, the value of a pragmatic attitude in order to buttress the advent of inner silence. He defined a pragmatic attitude as the capacity to absorb any contingency that might appear along the way. He himself was, to me, the living example of such an attitude. There wasn’t any uncertainty or liability that his mere presence would not dispel.
He reiterated every time he could that the effects of inner silence were very unsettling, and that the only deterrent to this condition was the pragmatic attitude which was the product of a superbly pliable, agile, strong body. He said that for sorcerers, the physical body was the only entity that made any sense to them, and that there was no such thing as a dualism between body and mind. He further stated that the physical body involved both the body and the mind as we knew them, and that in order to counterbalance the physical body as a holistic unit, sorcerers considered another configuration of energy which was reached through inner silence: the energy body. He explained that what I had experienced at the moment in which I had stopped the world was the resurgence of my energy body, and that this configuration of energy was the one which had always been able to see energy as it flowed in the universe.
One of the most annoying feelings I had ever experienced was caused by the fact that don Juan Matus, although he could have been my grandfather, was infinitely younger than I. In comparison, I was stiff, opinionated, repetitious. I was senile. He, on the other hand, was fresh, inventive, agile, resourceful; in short, he possessed something which, although I was young, I did not: youth. He delighted in telling me repeatedly that youth was not in any way a deterrent to senility.
Following a burst of energy that seemed to explode inside me, I openly admitted my chagrin. “How is it possible, don Juan,” I said, “that you could be younger than I?”
“I have vanquished my mind,” he said, opening his eyes wide to denote bewilderment. “I don’t have a mind to tell me that it is time to be old. I don’t honor agreements in which I didn’t participate. Remember this: it is not a slogan for sorcerers to say that they do not honor agreements in which they did not participate. To be plagued by old age is one such agreement.”
We were silent for a long time. Don Juan seemed to be waiting, I thought, for the effect that his words might cause in me. What I thought to be my internal psychological unity was further ripped apart by a clearly dual response coming from me. On one level, I repudiated with all my might the nonsense that don Juan was verbalizing; on another level, however, I couldn’t fail to notice how accurate his remarks were. Don Juan was old, and yet, he wasn’t old at all. He was ages younger than I. He was free from encumbering thoughts and habit patterns. He was roaming at will in incredible worlds. He was free, while I was imprisoned by heavy patterns and habits, by petty and futile considerations about myself, which, I felt on that occasion, for the first time ever, weren’t even mine.
I finally broke the silence, when I had gained a modicum of control over my dual considerations. “How were those magical passes invented, don Juan?” I asked.
“Nobody invented them,” he said sternly. “To think that they were invented implies instantly the intervention of the mind, and this is not the case when it comes to those magical passes. Sorcerers of ancient times, through their dreaming practices, discovered that if they moved in a certain way, the flow of their thoughts and actions stopped.”
“The magical passes are the result of a state of mindlessness. Or rather yet, the result of having disconnected the mind . In order to dream, practitioners must exercise such a tremendous discipline over themselves that the result is ‘the fleeing of the mind.”‘
“What is this, don Juan, that you are referring to as the fleeing of the mind?”
“The grand trick of those sorcerers of ancient times was to burden their minds with discipline. They found out that if they taxed their minds with attention, especially the kind of attention that sorcerers call dreaming attention, the mind flees, giving to any one of the practitioners involved in this maneuver the total certainty of the mind’s foreign origin.”
I became genuinely agitated. I wanted to know more, and yet, a strange feeling in me clamored for me to stop. It alluded to dark results and punishment; something like the wrath of God descending on me for tampering with something veiled by God himself.
I made a supreme effort to allow my curiosity to win. “What do you mean? What – what – what do you mean,” I heard myself say, ”by taxing the mind?”
“Discipline taxes the mind,” he said, “but by discipline, I don’t mean harsh routines. Sorcerers understand discipline as the capacity to face with serenity odds that are not included in our expectations. For them, discipline is a volitional act that enables them to intake anything that comes their way without regrets or expectations. For sorcerers, discipline is an art: the art of facing infinity without flinching, not because they are filled with toughness, but because they are filled with awe. Summing it all up, I would say that discipline is the art of feeling awe. So, through their discipline, sorcerers vanquish their minds: the foreign installation.”