(The Fire from Within by Carlos Castaneda)
Don Juan said then that in the strategic inventories of warriors, self-importance figures as the activity that consumes the greatest amount of energy, hence, their effort to eradicate it.
“One of the first concerns of warriors is to free that energy in order to face the unknown with it,” don Juan went on. “The action of rechanneling that energy is impeccability.”
He said that the most effective strategy was worked out by the seers of the Conquest, the unquestionable masters of stalking. It consists of six elements that interplay with one another.
Five of them are called the attributes of warriorship: control, discipline, forbearance, timing, and will. They pertain to the world of the warrior who is fighting to lose self-importance. The sixth element, which is perhaps the most important of all, pertains to the outside world and is called the petty tyrant.
He looked at me as if silently asking me whether or not I had understood.
“I’m really mystified,” I said. “You keep on saying that la Gorda is the petty tyrant of my life. Just what is a petty tyrant?”
“A petty tyrant is a tormentor,” he replied. “Someone who either holds the power of life and death over warriors or simply annoys them to distraction.”
Don Juan had a beaming smile as he spoke to me. He said that the new seers developed their own classification of petty tyrants; although the concept is one of their most serious and important findings, the new seers had a sense of humor about it. He assured me that there was a tinge of malicious humor in every one of their classifications, because humor was the only means of counteracting the compulsion of human awareness to take inventories and to make cumbersome classifications.
The new seers, in accordance with their practice, saw fit to head their classification with the primal source of energy, the one and only ruler in the universe, and they called it simply the tyrant. The rest of the despots and authoritarians were found to be, naturally, infinitely below the category of tyrant. Compared to the source of everything, the most fearsome, tyrannical men are buffoons; consequently, they were classified as petty tyrants, pinches tiranos.
He said that there were two subclasses of minor petty tyrants. The first subclass consisted of the petty tyrants who persecute and inflict misery but without actually causing anybody’s death. They were called little petty tyrants, pinches tiranitos. The second consisted of the petty tyrants who are only exasperating and bothersome to no end. They were called small-fry petty tyrants, repinches tiranitos, or teensy-weensy petty tyrants, pinches tiranitos chiquititos.
I thought his classifications were ludicrous. I was sure that he was improvising the Spanish terms. I asked him if that was so.
“Not at all,” he replied with an amused expression. “The new seers were great ones for classifications. Genaro is doubtless one of the greatest; if you’d observe him carefully, you’d realize exactly how the new seers feel about their classifications.”
He laughed uproariously at my confusion when I asked him if he was pulling my leg.
“I wouldn’t dream of doing that,” he said, smiling. “Genaro may do that, but not I, especially when I know how you feel about classifications. It’s just that the new seers were terribly irreverent.”
He added that the little petty tyrants are further divided into four categories. One that torments with brutality and violence. Another that does it by creating unbearable apprehension through deviousness. Another which oppresses with sadness. And the last, which torments by making warriors rage.
“La Gorda is in a class of her own,” he added. “She is an acting, small-fry petty tyrant. She annoys you to pieces and makes you rage. She even slaps you. With all that she is teaching you detachment.”
“That’s not possible!” I protested.
“You haven’t yet put together all the ingredients of the new seers’ strategy,” he said. “Once you do that, you’ll know how efficient and clever is the device of using a petty tyrant. I would certainly say that the strategy not only gets rid of self-importance; it also prepares warriors for the final realization that impeccability is the only thing that counts in the path of knowledge.”
He said that what the new seers had in mind was a deadly maneuver in which the petty tyrant is like a mountain peak and the attributes of warriorship are like climbers who meet at the summit.
“Usually, only four attributes are played,” he went on. “The fifth, will, is always saved for an ultimate confrontation, when warriors are facing the firing squad, so to speak.”
“Why is it done that way?”
“Because will belongs to another sphere, the unknown. The other four belong to the known, exactly where the petty tyrants are lodged. In fact, what turns human beings into petty tyrants is precisely the obsessive manipulation of the known.”
Don Juan explained that the interplay of all the five attributes of warriorship is done only by seers who are also impeccable warriors and have mastery over will. Such an interplay is a supreme maneuver that cannot be performed on the daily human stage.
“Four attributes are all that is needed to deal with the worst of petty tyrants,” he continued. “Provided, of course, that a petty tyrant has been found. As I said, the petty tyrant is the outside element, the one we cannot control and the element that is perhaps the most important of them all. My benefactor used to say that the warrior who stumbles on a petty tyrant is a lucky one. He meant that you’re fortunate if you come upon one in your path, because if you don’t, you have to go out and look for one.”
He explained that one of the greatest accomplishments of the seers of the Conquest was a construct he called the three-phase progression. By understanding the nature of man, they were able to reach the incontestable conclusion that if seers can hold their own in facing petty tyrants, they can certainly face the unknown with impunity, and then they can even stand the presence of the unknowable.
“The average man’s reaction is to think that the order of that statement should be reversed,” he went on. “A seer who can hold his own in the face of the unknown can certainly face petty tyrants. But that’s not so. What destroyed the superb seers of ancient times was that assumption. We know better now. We know that nothing can temper the spirit of a warrior as much as the challenge of dealing with impossible people in positions of power. Only under those conditions can warriors acquire the sobriety and serenity to stand the pressure of the unknowable.”
I vociferously disagreed with him. I told him that in my opinion tyrants can only render their victims helpless or make them as brutal as they themselves are. I pointed out that countless studies had been done on the effects of physical and psychological torture on such victims.
“The difference is in something you just said,” he retorted. “They are victims, not warriors. Once I felt just as you do. I’ll tell you what made me change, but first let’s go back again to what I said about the Conquest. The seers of that time couldn’t have found a better ground. The Spaniards were the petty tyrants who tested the seers’ skills to the limit; after dealing with the conquerors, the seers were capable of facing anything. They were the lucky ones. At that time there were petty tyrants everywhere.”
“After all those marvelous years of abundance things changed a great deal. Petty tyrants never again had that scope; it was only during those times that their authority was unlimited. The perfect ingredient for the making of a superb seer is a petty tyrant with unlimited prerogatives.”
“In our times, unfortunately, seers have to go to extremes to find a worthy one. Most of the time they have to be satisfied with very small fry.”
(Encounters with the Nagual)
He went on saying that since the problem of self-importance is a personal matter, each warrior should adapt the teachings to his own conditions. Therefore, the stalking techniques are extremely flexible. But the training is the same for everyone, and concerns getting rid of superfluous routines and acquiring enough discipline to recognize the signs of intent. Both achievements constitute true feats of character.
“The best way of acquiring that degree of discipline is to deal actively with a petty tyrant.”
In response to my queries, he explained that a petty tyrant is somebody who makes our life impossible. In past times, this kind of people could hurt us physically or even kill us; nowadays, that kind of petty tyrants practically don’t exist. However, due to the high level of importance that we grant ourselves, anyone in a position of bothering us works as a petty tyrant. Far from avoiding it, we should face, not the petty tyrant, but our own stupidity.
“The petty tyrant is necessary because most of us are too lazy to change by ourselves. He moves the fixation of ‘me’, making our weaknesses appear. He makes us see the truth – that we are not important – and he is willing to demonstrate it with actions. To learn how to treat him is the only really effective way to refine stalking.”
“A petty tyrant is so important for the task that it can become an obsession for an apprentice to look for one and get in touch with him. A sincere gratitude is the only appropriate feeling for a warrior who has found one to fit his measure.”
“Petty tyrants are plentiful, what is not plentiful is the guts to look for them, establish a connection with them by means of stalking, and cause their anger, putting oneself within their reach and, at the same lime, scheming devastating strategies. Instead, we spend our life running away from situations that produce pain, irritation, fear, or confusion. In that way, we lose one of the most valuable tools that spirit has put in our path.”
“What is the strategy to confront that kind of enemies?”
“Above all, don’t see them as enemies; they are involuntary allies in your own cause. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the battle is not fought for the ego, but for energy. The important thing is to win, not that the other one loses. A petty tyrant doesn’t know that, and that is his weakness.”