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196: One cannot enter don Juan’s world intellectually. Infinity lies beyond the parameters of daily perception.

(Kindred Spirit Issue 39 Summer 1997)

One cannot enter don Juan’s world intellectually, like a dilettante seeking fast and fleeting knowledge. Nor, in don Juan’s world, can anything be verified absolutely. The only thing we can do is arrive at a state of increased awareness that allows us to perceive the world surrounding us in a more inclusive manner. In other words, the goal of don Juan ‘s shamanism is to  break the  parameters of historical and everyday perception and to perceive the unknown. That’s why he called himself a navigator of infinity. He asserted that infinity lies beyond the parameters of daily perception. To  break these parameters was the aim of his life. Because he was an extraordinary shaman, he instilled that same desire in all four of us. He forced us to transcend the intellect and to embody the concept of breaking the boundaries of historical perception.


According to what don Juan Matus taught us, the shamans who lived in ancient Mexico discovered a series of movements that, when executed by the body, brought about such physical and mental prowess that they decided to call those movements magical passes.

Don Juan told us that, through their magical passes, those shamans attained an increased level of awareness which allowed them to perform indescribable feats of perception. Through generations, the magical passes were only taught to practitioners of shamanism.

The movements were surrounded with tremendous secrecy and complex rituals. That is the way don Juan learned them and that is the way he taught them to his four disciples.


There’s no way to put a limit on what one may accomplish individually if the intent is an impeccable intent. Don Juan’s teachings are not spiritual. I repeat this because the question has come up over and over. The idea of spirituality doesn’t fit with the iron discipline of a warrior. The most important thing for a shaman like don Juan is the idea of pragmatism. When I met him, I believed I was a practical man, a social scientist filled with objectivity and pragmatism. He destroyed my pretensions and made me see that, as a true Western man, I was neither pragmatic nor spiritual. I came to understand that I only repeated the word “spirituality” to contrast it with the mercenary aspect of  the world of everyday life. I wanted to get away from the mercantilism of everyday life and the eagerness to do this is what  I called ‘spirituality’. I realized don Juan was right when he demanded that I come to a conclusion: to define what I considered spirituality. I didn’t know what I was talking about. What I’m saying might sound presumptuous, but there’s no other way to say it. What a shaman like don Juan wants is to increase awareness, that is, to be able to perceive with all the human possibilities of perception; this implies a colossal task and an unbending purpose, which cannot be replaced by the spirituality of the Western world.


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