(A Separate Reality)
“You have started learning the ways of sorcerers. You have no more time for retreats or for regrets. You only have time to live like a warrior and work for patience and will, whether you like it or not.”
“How does a warrior work for them?”
Don Juan thought for a long time before answering.
“I think there is no way of talking about it,” he finally said. “Especially about will. Will is something very special. It happens mysteriously. There is no real way of telling how one uses it, except that the results of using the will are astounding. Perhaps the first thing that one should do is to know that one can develop the will. A warrior knows that and proceeds to wait for it. Your mistake is not to know that you are waiting for your will.”
“My benefactor told me that a warrior knows that he is waiting and knows what he is waiting for. In your case, you know that you’re waiting. You’ve been here with me for years, yet you don’t know what you are waiting for. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for the average man to know what he is waiting for. A warrior, however, has no problems; he knows that he is waiting for his will.”
“What exactly is the will? Is it determination, like the determination of your grandson Lucio to have a motorcycle?”
“No,” don Juan said softly and giggled. “That’s not will. Lucio only indulges. Will is something else, some-thing very clear and powerful which can direct our acts. Will is something a man uses, for instance, to win a battle which he, by all calculations, should lose.”
“Then will must be what we call courage,” I said.
“No. Courage is something else. Men of courage are dependable men, noble men perennially surrounded by people who flock around them and admire them; yet very few men of courage have will. Usually they are fearless men who are given to performing daring common-sense acts; most of the time a courageous man is also fearsome and feared. Will, on the other hand, has to do with astonishing feats that defy our common sense.”
“Is will the control we may have over ourselves?” I asked.
“You may say that it is a kind of control.”
“Do you think I can exercise my will, for instance, by denying myself certain things?”
“Such as asking questions?” he interjected.
He said it in such a mischievous tone that I had to stop writing to look at him. We both laughed.
“No,” he said. “Denying yourself is an indulgence and I don’t recommend anything of the kind. That is the reason why I let you ask all the questions you want. If I told you to stop asking questions, you might warp your will trying to do that. The indulgence of denying is by far the worst; it forces us to believe we are doing great things, when in effect we are only fixed within ourselves. To stop asking questions is not the will I’m talking about. Will is a power. And since it is a power it has to be controlled and tuned and that takes time. I know that and I’m patient with you. When I was your age I was as impulsive as you. Yet I have changed. Our will operates in spite of our indulgence. For example, your will is already opening your gap, little by little.”
“What gap are you talking about?”
“There is a gap in us; like the soft spot on the head of a child which closes with age, this gap opens as one develops one’s will.”
“Where is that gap?”
“At the place of your luminous fibers,” he said, pointing to his abdominal area.
“What is it like? What is it for?”
“It’s an opening. It allows a space for the will to shoot out, like an arrow.”
“Is the will an object? Or like an object?”
“No. I just said that to make you understand. What a sorcerer calls will is a power within ourselves. It is not a thought, or an object, or a wish. To stop asking questions is not will because it needs thinking and wishing. Will is what can make you succeed when your thoughts tell you that you’re defeated. Will is what makes you invulnerable. Will is what sends a sorcerer through a wall; through space; to the moon, if he wants.”
There was nothing else I wanted to ask. I was tired and somewhat tense. I was afraid don Juan was going to ask me to leave and that annoyed me.
“Let’s go to the hills,” he said abruptly, and stood up.
On the way he started talking about will again and laughed at my dismay over not being able to take notes.
He described will as a force which was the true link between men and the world. He was very careful to establish that the world was whatever we perceive, in any manner we may choose to perceive. Don Juan maintained that “perceiving the world” entails a process of apprehending whatever presents itself to us. This particular “perceiving” is done with our senses and with our will.
I asked him if will was a sixth sense. He said it was rather a relation between ourselves and the perceived world. I suggested that we halt so I could take notes. He laughed and kept on walking.
He did not make me leave that night, and the next day after eating breakfast he himself brought up the subject of will.
“What you yourself call will is character and strong disposition,” he said. “What a sorcerer calls will is a force that comes from within and attaches itself to the world out there. It comes out through the belly, right here, where the luminous fibers are.”
He rubbed his navel to point out the area.
“I say that it comes out through here because one can feel it coming out.”
“Why do you call it will?”
“I don’t call it anything. My benefactor called it will, and other men of knowledge call it will.”
“Yesterday you said that one can perceive the world with the senses as well as with the will. How is that possible?”
“An average man can ‘grab’ the things of the world only with his hands, or his eyes, or his ears, but a sorcerer can grab them also with his nose, or his tongue, or his will, especially with his will. I cannot really describe how it is done, but you yourself, for instance, cannot describe to me how you hear. It happens that I am also capable of hearing, so we can talk about what we hear, but not about how we hear. A sorcerer uses his will to perceive the world. That perceiving, however, is not like hearing. When we look at the world or when we hear it, we have the impression that it is out there and that it is real. When we perceive the world with our will we know that it is not as ‘out there’ or ‘as real’ as we think.”
“Is will the same as seeing?”
“No. Will is a force, a power. Seeing is not a force, but rather a way of getting through things. A sorcerer may have a very strong will and yet he may not see; which means that only a man of knowledge perceives the world with his senses and with his will and also with his seeing.”
I told him that I was more confused than ever about how to use my will to forget the guardian. That statement and my mood of perplexity seemed to delight him.
“I’ve told you that when you talk you only get confused,” he said and laughed. “But at least now you know you are waiting for your will. You still don’t know what it is, or how it could happen to you. So watch carefully everything you do. The very thing that could help you develop your will is amidst all the little things you do.”
Don Juan was gone all morning; he returned in the early afternoon with a bundle of dry plants. He signaled me with his head to help him and we worked in complete silence for hours, sorting the plants. When we finished we sat down to rest and he smiled at me benevolently.
I said to him in a very serious manner that I had been reading my notes and I still could not understand what being a warrior entailed or what the idea of will meant.
“Will is not an idea,” he said.
This was the first time he had spoken to me the whole day.
After a long pause he continued: “We are different, you and I. Our characters are not alike. Your nature is more violent than mine. When I was your age I was not violent but mean; you are the opposite. My benefactor was like that; he would have been perfectly suited to be your teacher. He was a great sorcerer but he did not see; not the way I see or the way Genaro sees. I understand the world and live guided by my seeing. My benefactor, on the other hand, had to live as a warrior. If a man sees he doesn’t have to live like a warrior, or like anything else, for he can see things as they really are and direct his life accordingly. But, considering your character, I would say that you may never learn to see, in which case you will have to live your entire life like a warrior.”
“My benefactor said that when a man embarks on the paths of sorcery he becomes aware, in a gradual manner, that ordinary life has been forever left behind; that knowledge is indeed a frightening affair; that the means of the ordinary world are no longer a buffer for him; and that he must adopt a new way of life if he is going to survive.”
“The first thing he ought to do, at that point, is to want to become a warrior, a very important step and decision.”
“The frightening nature of knowledge leaves one no alternative but to become a warrior.”
“By the time knowledge becomes a frightening affair the man also realizes that death is the irreplaceable partner that sits next to him on the mat. Every bit of knowledge that becomes power has death as its central force.
Death lends the ultimate touch, and whatever is touched by death indeed becomes power.”
“A man who follows the paths of sorcery is confronted with imminent annihilation every turn of the way, and unavoidably he becomes keenly aware of his death. Without the awareness of death he would be only an ordinary man involved in ordinary acts. He would lack the necessary potency, the necessary concentration that transforms one’s ordinary time on earth into magical power.”
“Thus to be a warrior a man has to be, first of all, and rightfully so, keenly aware of his own death. But to be concerned with death would force any one of us to focus on the self and that would be debilitating. So the next thing one needs to be a warrior is detachment. The idea of imminent death, instead of becoming an obsession, becomes an indifference.”
Don Juan stopped talking and looked at me. He seemed to be waiting for a comment.
“Do you understand?” he asked.
I understood what he had said but I personally could not see how anyone could arrive at a sense of detachment. I said that from the point of view of my own apprenticeship I had already experienced the moment when knowledge became such a frightening affair. I could also truthfully say that I no longer found support in the ordinary premises of my daily life. And I wanted, or perhaps even more than wanted, I needed, to live like a warrior.
“Now you must detach yourself,” he said.
“Detach yourself from everything.”
“That’s impossible. I don’t want to be a hermit.”
“To be a hermit is an indulgence and I never meant that. A hermit is not detached, for he willfully abandons himself to being a hermit.”
“Only the idea of death makes a man sufficiently detached so he is incapable of abandoning himself to anything. Only the idea of death makes a man sufficiently detached so he can’t deny himself anything. A man of that sort, however, does not crave, for he has acquired a silent lust for life and for all things of life. He knows his death is stalking him and won’t give him time to cling to anything, so he tries, without craving, all of everything.”
“A detached man, who knows he has no possibility of fencing off his death, has only one thing to back himself with: the power of his decisions. He has to be, so to speak, the master of his choices. He must fully understand that his choice is his responsibility and once he makes it there is no longer time for regrets or recriminations. His decisions are final, simply because his death does not permit him time to cling to anything.”
“And thus with an awareness of his death, with his detachment, and with the power of his decisions a warrior sets his life in a strategical manner. The knowledge of his death guides him and makes him detached and silently lusty; the power of his final decisions makes him able to choose without regrets and what he chooses is always strategically the best; and so he performs everything he has to with gusto and lusty efficiency.”
“When a man behaves in such a manner one may rightfully say that he is a warrior and has acquired patience!”
Don Juan asked me if I had anything to say, and I remarked that the task he had described would take a lifetime.
He said I protested too much in front of him and that he knew I behaved, or at least tried to behave, in terms of a warrior in my day-to-day life.
“You have pretty good claws,” he said, laughing. “Show them to me from time to time. It’s good practice.”
I made a gesture of claws and growled, and he laughed. Then he cleared his throat and went on talking. “When a warrior has acquired patience he is on his way to will. He knows how to wait. His death sits with him on his mat, they are friends. His death advises him, in mysterious ways, how to choose, how to live strategically. And the warrior waits! I would say that the warrior learns without any hurry because he knows he is waiting for his will; and one day he succeeds in performing something ordinarily quite impossible to accomplish.”
“He may not even notice his extraordinary deed. But as he keeps on performing impossible acts, or as impossible things keep on happening to him, he becomes aware that a sort of power is emerging. A power that conies out of his body as he progresses on the path of knowledge. At first it is like an itching on the belly, or a warm spot that cannot be soothed; then it becomes a pain, a great discomfort. Sometimes the pain and discomfort are so great that the warrior has convulsions for months, the more severe the convulsions the better for him. A fine power is always heralded by great pain.”
“When the convulsions cease the warrior notices he has strange feelings about things. He notices that he can actually touch anything he wants with a feeling that comes out of his body from a spot right below or right above his navel. That feeling is the will, and when he is capable of grabbing with it, one can rightfully say that the warrior is a sorcerer, and that he has acquired will.”
Don Juan stopped talking and seemed to await my comments or questions. I had nothing to say. I was deeply concerned with the idea that a sorcerer had to experience pain and convulsions but I felt embarrassed about asking him if I also had to go through that. Finally, after a long silence, I asked him, and he giggled as if he had been anticipating my question. He said that pain was not absolutely necessary; he, for example, had never had it and will had just happened to him.
“One day I was in the mountains,” he said, “and I stumbled upon a puma, a female one; she was big and hungry. I ran and she ran after me. I climbed a rock and she stood a few feet away ready to jump. I threw rocks at her. She growled and began to charge me. It was then that my will fully came out, and I stopped her with it before she jumped on me.”
“I caressed her with my will. I actually rubbed her tits with it. She looked at me with sleepy eyes and lay down and I ran like a son of a bitch before she got over it.”
Don Juan made a very comical gesture to portray a man running for dear life, holding onto his hat. I told him that I hated to think I had only female mountain lions or convulsions to look forward to, if I wanted will.
“My benefactor was a sorcerer of great powers,” he went on. “He was a warrior through and through. His will was indeed his most magnificent accomplishment. But a man can go still further than that; a man can learn to see. Upon learning to see he no longer needs to live like a warrior, nor be a sorcerer. Upon learning to see a man becomes everything by becoming nothing. He, so to speak, vanishes and yet he’s there. I would say that this is the time when a man can be or can get anything he desires. But he desires nothing, and instead of playing with his fellow men like they were toys, he meets them in the midst of their folly. The only difference between them is that a man who sees controls his folly, while his fellow men can’t. A man who sees has no longer an active interest in his fellow men. Seeing has already detached him from absolutely everything he knew before.”
“The sole idea of being detached from everything I know gives me the chills,” I said.
“You must be joking! The thing which should give you the chills is not to have anything to look forward to but a lifetime of doing that which you have always done. Think of the man who plants corn year after year until he’s too old and tired to get up, so he lies around like an old dog. His thoughts and feelings, the best of him, ramble aimlessly to the only things he has ever done, to plant corn. For me that is the most frightening waste there is.”
“We are men and our lot is to learn and to be hurled into inconceivable new worlds.”
“Are there any new worlds for us really?” I asked half in jest.
“We have exhausted nothing, you fool,” he said imperatively.
“Seeing is for impeccable men. Temper your spirit now, become a warrior, learn to see, and then you’ll know that there is no end to the new worlds for our vision.”
Don Juan had once told me that a man of knowledge had predilections. I asked him to explain his statement.
“My predilection is to see,” he said.
“What do you mean by that?”
“I like to see” he said, “because only by seeing can a man of knowledge know.”
“What kind of things do you see?”
“But I also see everything and I’m not a man of knowledge.”
“No. You don’t see.
“I think I do.”
“I tell you, you don’t.”
“What makes you say that, don Juan?”
“You only look at the surface of things.”
“Do you mean that every man of knowledge actually sees through everything he looks at?”
“No. That’s not what I mean. I said that a man of knowledge has his own predilections; mine is just to see and to know; others do other things.”
“What other things, for example?”
“Take Sacateca, he’s a man of knowledge and his predilection is dancing. So he dances and knows.”
“Is the predilection of a man of knowledge something he does in order to know?”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“But how could dancing help Sacateca to know?”
“One can say that Sacateca dances with all he has.”
“Does he dance like I dance? I mean like dancing?”
“Let’s say that he dances like I see and not like you may dance.”
“Does he also see the way you see?”
“Yes, but he also dances.”
“How does Sacateca dance?”
“It’s hard to explain that. It is a peculiar way of dancing he does when he wants to know. But all I can say about it is that, unless you understand the ways of a man who knows, it is impossible to talk about dancing or seeing.”
“Have you seen him doing his dancing?”
“Yes. However, it is not possible for everyone who looks at his dancing to see that it is his peculiar way of knowing.”
I knew Sacateca, or at least I knew who he was. We had met and once I had bought him a beer. He was very polite and told me I should feel free to stop at his house anytime I wanted to. I toyed for a long time with the idea of visiting him but I did not tell don Juan. On the afternoon of May 14, 1962, I drove up to Sacateca’s house; he had given me directions how to get there and I had no trouble finding it. It was on a corner and had a fence all around it. The gate was closed. I walked around it to see if I could peek inside the house. It appeared to be deserted.
“Don Elias,” I called out loud. The chickens got frightened and scattered about cackling furiously. A small dog came to the fence. I expected it to bark at me; instead, it just sat there looking at me. I called out once again and the chickens had another burst of cackling.
An old woman came out of the house. I asked her to call don Elias.
“He’s not here,” she said.
“Where can I find him?”
“He’s in the fields.”
“Where in the fields?”
“I don’t know. Come back in the late afternoon. Hell be here around five.”
“Are you don Elias wife?”
“Yes, I’m his wife,” she said and smiled.
I tried to ask her about Sacateca but she excused herself and said that she did not speak Spanish well. I got into my car and drove away.
I returned to the house around six o’clock. I drove to the door and yelled Sacateca’s name. This time he came out of the house. I turned on my tape recorder, which in its brown leather case looked like a camera hanging from my shoulder. He seemed to recognize me.
“Oh, it’s you,” he said, smiling. “How’s Juan?”
“He’s fine. But how are you, don Elias?”
He did not answer. He seemed to be nervous. Overtly he was very composed, but I felt that he was ill at ease.
“Has Juan sent you here on some sort of errand?”
“No. I came here by myself.”
“What in the world for?”
His question seemed to betray very bona fide surprise.
“I just wanted to talk to you,” I said, hoping to sound as casual as possible. “Don Juan has told me marvelous things about you and I got curious and wanted to ask you a few questions.”
Sacateca was standing in front of me. His body was lean and wiry. He was wearing khaki pants and shirt. His eyes were half-closed; he seemed to be sleepy or perhaps drunk. His mouth was open a bit and his lower lip hung. I noticed that he was breathing deeply and seemed to be almost snoring. The thought came to me that Sacateca was undoubtedly plastered out of his mind. But that thought seemed to be very incongruous because only a few minutes before, when he came out of his house, he had been very alert and aware of my presence.
“What do you want to talk about?” he finally said.
His voice was tired; it was as though his words dragged after each other. I felt very uneasy. It was as if his tiredness was contagious and pulling me.
“Nothing in particular,” I answered. “I just came to chat with you in a friendly way. You once asked me to come to your house.”
”Yes, I did, but it’s not the same now.”
“Why isn’t it the same?”
“Don’t you talk with Juan?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Then what do you want with me?”
“I thought maybe I could ask you some questions?”
“Ask Juan. Isn’t he teaching you?”
“He is, but just the same I would like to ask you about what he is teaching me, and have your opinion. This way I’ll be able to know what to do.”
“Why do you want to do that? Don’t you trust Juan?”
“Then why don’t you ask him to tell you what you want to know?”
“I do. And he tells me. But if you could also tell me about what don Juan is teaching me, perhaps I will understand better.”
“Juan can tell you everything. He alone can do that. Don’t you understand that?”
“I do, but then I’d like to talk with people like you, don Elias. One does not find a man of knowledge every day.”
“Juan is a man of knowledge.”
“I know that.”
“Then why are you talking to me?”
“I said I came to be friends,”
“No, you didn’t. There is something else about you this time.”
I wanted to explain myself and all I could do was mumble incoherently. Sacateca did not say anything. He seemed to listen attentively. His eyes were half-closed again but I felt he was peering at me. He nodded almost imperceptibly. Then his lids opened and I saw his eyes. He seemed to be looking past me. He casually tapped the floor with the tip of his right foot, just behind his left heel. His legs were slightly arched; his arms were limp against his sides. Then he lifted his-right arm; his hand was open with the palm turned perpendicular to the ground; his fingers were extended and pointing toward me. He let his hand wobble a couple of times before he brought it to my face level. He held it in that position for an instant and then he said a few words to me. His voice was very clear, yet the words dragged.
After a moment he dropped his hand to his side and remained motionless, taking a strange position. He was standing, resting on the ball of his left foot. His right foot was crossed behind the heel of the left foot and he was tapping the floor rhythmically and gently with the tip of his right foot. I felt an unwarranted apprehension, a form of restlessness. My thoughts seemed to be dissociated. I was thinking unrelated nonsensical thoughts that had nothing to do with what was going on. I noticed my discomfort and tried to steer my thoughts back to the situation at hand, but I couldn’t in spite of a great struggle. It was as if some force was keeping me from concentrating or thinking relevant thoughts.
Sacateca had not said a word, and I didn’t know what else to say or do. Quite automatically, I turned around and left.
Later on I felt compelled to tell don Juan about my encounter with Sacateca. Don Juan roared with laughter.
“What really took place there?” I asked.
“Sacateca danced!” don Juan said. “He saw you, then he danced.”
“What did he do to me? I felt very cold and dizzy.”
“He apparently didn’t like you and stopped you by tossing a word at you.”
“How could he possibly do that?” I exclaimed incredulously.
“Very simple; he stopped you with his will.”
“What did you say?”
“He stopped you with his will!”