(Tales of Power by Carlos Castaneda)
I drove to don Juan’s house and arrived there in the early morning. I had spent the night in a motel on the way down so I would get to his house before noon.
Don Juan was in the back and came to the front when I called him. He gave me a warm greeting and the impression that he was pleased to see me. He made a comment that I thought was intended to put me at ease but produced the opposite effect.
“I heard you coming,” he said as he grinned. “And I ran to the back. I was afraid that if I had stayed here you would’ve been frightened.”
He casually remarked that I was somber and heavy. He said that I reminded him of Eligio, who was morbid enough to be a good sorcerer but too morbid to become a man of knowledge. He added that the only way to counteract the devastating effect of the sorcerers’ world was to laugh at it.
He was right in his assessment of my mood. I was indeed worried and frightened. We went for a long walk. It took hours for my feelings to ease up. Walking with him made me feel better than if he had attempted to talk me out of my somberness.
We returned to his house in the late afternoon. I was famished. After eating we sat under his ramada. The sky was clear. The afternoon light made me feel complacent. I wanted to talk.
“I’ve felt uneasy for months,” I said. “There was something truly awesome in what you and don Genaro said and did the last time I was here.”
Don Juan did not say anything. He got up and moved around the ramada.
“I’ve got to talk about this,” I said. “It obsesses me and I can’t stop pondering upon it.”
“Are you afraid?” he asked.
I was not afraid but baffled, overwhelmed by what I had heard and witnessed. The loopholes in my reason were so gigantic that either I had to repair them or I had to dispose of my reason altogether.
My comments made him laugh.
“Don’t throw away your reason yet,” he said. “It’s not time for it. It’ll happen though, but I don’t think that now is the moment.”
“Should I try to find an explanation for what happened, then?” I asked.
“Certainly!” he retorted. “It’s your duty to put your mind at ease. Warriors do not win victories by beating their heads against walls but by overtaking the walls. Warriors jump over the walls; they don’t demolish them.”
“How can I jump over this one?” I asked.
“First of all, I think it’s deadly wrong for you to regard anything in such a serious fashion,” he said as he sat down by my side. “There are three kinds of bad habits which we use over and over when confronted with unusual life situations. First, we may disregard what’s happening or has happened and feel as if it had never occurred. That one is the bigot’s way. Second, we may accept everything at its face value and feel as if we know what’s going on. That’s the pious man’s way. Third, we may become obsessed with an event because either we cannot disregard it or we cannot accept it wholeheartedly. That’s the fool’s way. Your way? There is a fourth, the correct one, the warrior’s way. A warrior acts as if nothing had ever happened, because he doesn’t believe in anything, yet he accepts everything at its face value. He accepts without accepting and disregards without disregarding. He never feels as if he knows, neither does he feel as if nothing had ever happened. He acts as if he is in control, even though he might be shaking in his boots. To act in such a manner dissipates obsession.”
We were quiet for a long time. Don Juan’s words were like a balm to me.
“Can I talk about don Genaro and his double?” I asked.
“It depends on what you want to say about him,” he replied. “Are you going to indulge in being obsessed?”
“I want to indulge in explanations,” I said. “I’m obsessed because I haven’t dared come to see you and I haven’t been able to talk about my qualms and doubts with anyone.”
“Don’t you talk with your friends?”
“I do, but how could they help me?”
“I never thought that you needed help. You must cultivate the feeling that a warrior needs nothing. You say you need help. Help for what? You have everything needed for the extravagant journey that is your life. I have tried to teach you that the real experience is to be a man, and that what counts is being alive; life is the little detour that we are taking now. Life in itself is sufficient, self-explanatory and complete.”
“A warrior understands this and lives accordingly; therefore, one may say without being presumptuous that the experience of experiences is being a warrior.”
He seemed to wait for me to say something. I hesitated for a moment. I wanted to select my words carefully.
“If a warrior needs solace,” he went on, “he simply chooses anyone and expresses to that person every detail of his turmoil. After all, the warrior is not seeking to be understood or helped; by talking he’s merely relieving himself of his pressure. That is, providing that the warrior is given to talking; if he’s not, he tells no one. But you’re not living like a warrior altogether. Not yet anyway. And the pitfalls that you encounter must be truly monumental. You have all my sympathy.”
He was not being facetious. Judging by the concern in his eyes, he seemed to be one who had been there himself. He stood up and patted me on the head. He walked back and forth the length of the ramada and looked casually to the chaparral around the house. His movements evoked a sensation of restlessness in me.
In order to relax I began to talk about my dilemma. I felt that it was inherently too late for me to pretend to be an innocent bystander. Under his guidance I had trained myself to achieve strange perceptions, such as “stopping the internal dialogue,” and controlling my dreams. Those were instances that could not be faked. I had followed his suggestions, although never to the letter, and had partially succeeded in disrupting daily routines, assuming responsibility for my acts, erasing personal history and had finally arrived at a point which years before I had dreaded; I was capable of being alone without disrupting my physical or emotional well-being. That was perhaps my single most astounding triumph. From the point of view of my former expectations and moods, to be alone and not “go out of my mind” was an inconceivable state. I was keenly aware of all the changes that had taken place in my life and in my view of the world, and I was also aware that it was somehow superfluous to be affected so profoundly by don Juan and don Genaro’s revelation about the double.
“What’s wrong with me, don Juan?” I asked.
“You indulge,” he snapped. “You feel that indulging in doubts and tribulations is the sign of a sensitive man. Well, the truth of the matter is that you’re the farthest thing from being sensitive. So why pretend? I told you the other day, a warrior accepts in humbleness what he is.”
“You make it sound as if I were confusing myself deliberately,” I said.
“We do confuse ourselves deliberately,” he said. “All of us are aware of our doings. Our puny reason deliberately makes itself into the monster it fancies itself to be. It’s too little for such a big mold, though.”
I explained to him that my dilemma was perhaps more complex than what he was making it out to be. I said that as long as he and don Genaro were men like myself their superior control made them models for my own behavior. But if they were in essence men drastically different than I, then I could not conceive of them any longer as models, but as oddities, which I could not possibly aspire to emulate.
“Genaro is a man,” don Juan said in a reassuring tone. “He’s no longer a man like yourself, true. But that’s his accomplishment and it shouldn’t give rise to fear on your part. If he’s different, the more reason to admire him.”
“But his difference is not a human difference,” I said.
“And what do you think it is? The difference between a man and a horse?”
“I don’t know. But he’s not like me.”
“He was at one time, though.”
“But can his change be understood by me?”
“Of course. You yourself are changing.”
“Do you mean that I will develop a double?”
“No one develops a double. That’s only a way of talking about it. You, for all the talking you do, are a sap for words. You get trapped by their meanings. Now you think that one develops a double through evil means, I suppose. All of us luminous beings have a double. All of us! A warrior learns to be aware of it, that’s all. There are seemingly insurmountable barriers protecting that awareness. But that’s expected; those barriers are what makes arriving at that awareness such a unique challenge.”
“Why am I so afraid of it, don Juan?”
“Because you’re thinking that the double is what the word says, a double, or another you. I chose those words in order to describe it. The double is oneself and cannot be faced in any other way.”
“What if I don’t want to have it?”
“The double is not a matter of personal choice. Neither is it a matter of personal choice who is selected to learn the sorcerers’ knowledge that leads to that awareness. Have you ever asked yourself, why you in particular?”
“All the time. I’ve asked you that question hundreds of times but you’ve never answered it.”
“I didn’t mean that you should ask it as a question that begs an answer, but in the sense of a warrior’s pondering on his great fortune, the fortune of having found a challenge.”
“To make it into an ordinary question is the device of a conceited ordinary man who wants to be either admired or pitied for it. I have no interest in that kind of question, because there is no way of answering it. The decision of picking you was a design of power; no one can discern the designs of power. Now that you’ve been selected, there is nothing that you can do to stop the fulfillment of that design.”
“But you yourself told me, don Juan, that one can always fail.”
“That’s true. One can always fail. But I think that you are referring to something else. You want to find a way out. You want to have the freedom to fail and quit on your own terms. Too late for that. A warrior is in the hands of power and his only freedom is to choose an impeccable life. There is no way to fake triumph or defeat. Your reason may want you to fail altogether in order to obliterate the totality of yourself. But there is a countermeasure which will not permit you to declare a false victory or defeat. If you think that you can retreat to the haven of failure, you’re out of your mind. Your body will stand guard and will not let you go either way.”
He began to chuckle softly.
“Why do you laugh?” I asked.
“You’re in a terrible spot,” he said. “It’s too late for you to retreat but too soon to act. All you can do is witness. You’re in the miserable position of an infant who cannot return to the mother’s womb, but neither can he run around and act. All an infant can do is witness and listen to the stupendous tales of action being told to him. You are at that precise point now. You cannot go back to the womb of your old world, but you cannot act with power either. For you there is only witnessing acts of power and listening to tales, tales of power.”
“The double is one of those tales. You know that, and that’s why your reason is so taken by it. You are beating your head against a wall if you pretend to understand. All that I can say about it, by way of explanation, is that the double, although it is arrived at through dreaming, is as real as it can be.”
“According to what you’ve told me, don Juan, the double can perform acts. Can the double then . . .?”
He did not let me continue with my line of reasoning. He reminded me that it was inappropriate to say that he had told me about the double, when I could say that I had witnessed it.
“Obviously the double can perform acts,” I said.
“Obviously!” he replied.
“But can the double act in behalf of the self?”
“It is the self, damn it!”
I found it very difficult to explain myself. I had in mind that if a sorcerer could perform two actions at once, his capacity for utilitarian production had to double. He could work two jobs, be in two places, see two persons, and so on, at once.
Don Juan listened patiently.
“Let me put it this way,” I said. “Hypothetically, can don Genaro kill someone hundreds of miles away by letting his double do it?”
Don Juan looked at me. He shook his head and moved his eyes away.
“You’re filled with tales of violence,” he said. “Genaro cannot kill anyone, simply because he no longer has any interest in his fellow men. By the time a warrior is capable of conquering seeing and dreaming and having the awareness of his luminosity, there is no such interest left in him.”
I pointed out that at the beginning of my apprenticeship he had made the statement that a sorcerer, aided by his ally, could be transported over hundreds of miles to deliver a blow to his enemies.
“I am responsible for your confusion,” he said. “But you must remember that on another occasion I told you that, with you, I was not following the steps my own teacher prescribed. He was a sorcerer and I should’ve properly plunged you into that world. I didn’t, because I am no longer concerned with the ups and downs of my fellow men. Yet, my teacher’s words stuck with me. I talked to you many times in the manner he himself would have talked.”
“Genaro is a man of knowledge. The purest of them all. His actions are impeccable. He’s beyond ordinary men, and beyond sorcerers. His double is an expression of his joy and his humor. Thus, he cannot possibly use it to create or resolve ordinary situations. As far as I know, the double is the awareness of our state as luminous beings. It can do anything, and yet it chooses to be unobtrusive and gentle.”
“It was my error to mislead you with borrowed words. My teacher was not capable of producing the effects Genaro does. For my teacher, unfortunately, certain things were, as they are for you, only tales of power.”
I was compelled to defend my point. I said that I was speaking in a hypothetical sense.
“There is no hypothetical sense when you speak about the world of men of knowledge,” he said. “A man of knowledge cannot possibly act towards his fellow men in injurious terms, hypothetically or otherwise.”
“But, what if his fellow men are plotting against his security and well-being? Can he then use his double to protect himself?”
He clicked his tongue in disapproval.
“What incredible violence in your thoughts,” he said. “No one can plot against the security and well-being of a man of knowledge. He sees, therefore he would take steps to avoid anything like that. Genaro, for example, has taken a calculated risk in joining you. But there is nothing that you could do to endanger his security. If there is anything, his seeing will let him know. Now, if there is something about you that is inherently injurious to him and his seeing cannot reach it, then it is his fate, and neither Genaro nor anyone else can avoid that. So, you see, a man of knowledge is in control without controlling anything.”
We were quiet. The sun was about to reach the top of the heavy tall bushes on the west side of the house. There were about two hours of daylight left.
“Why don’t you call Genaro?” don Juan said casually.
My body jumped. My initial reaction was to drop everything and run for my car. Don Juan broke into a belly laugh. I told him that I did not have to prove anything to myself, and that I was perfectly content to talk to him. Don Juan could not stop laughing. Finally he said that it was a shame that don Genaro was not there to enjoy a great scene.
“Look, if you’re not interested in calling Genaro, I am,” he said in a resolute tone. “I like his company.”
I had a terrible sour taste on the roof of my mouth. Beads of perspiration ran down from my brow and my upper lip. I wanted to say something but there was really nothing to say.
Don Juan gave me a long, scrutinizing look.
“Come on,” he said. “A warrior is always ready. To be a warrior is not a simple matter of wishing to be one. It is rather an endless struggle that will go on to the very last moment of our,lives. Nobody is born a warrior, in exactly the same way that nobody is born a reasonable being. We make ourselves into one or the other.”
“Pull yourself together. I don’t want Genaro to see you shivering like this.”
He stood up and paced back and forth on the clean floor of the ramada. I could not remain impassive. My nervousness was so intense that I could not write any more and I jumped to my feet.
Don Juan made me jog on the spot, facing the west. He had made me perform the same movements before on various occasions. The idea was to draw power from the impending twilight by raising one’s arms to the sky with the fingers stretched, like a fan, and then clasp them forcefully when the arms were in the mid point between the horizon and the zenith.
The exercise worked and I became almost instantly calm and collected. I could not avoid wondering, however, what had happened to the old “me” that could never have relaxed so completely by performing those simple and idiotic movements.
I wanted to focus all my attention on the procedure that don Juan was doubtlessly going to follow to call don Genaro. I anticipated some portentous acts. Don Juan stood on the edge of the ramada facing the southeast, cupped his hands around his mouth, and yelled, “Genaro! Come here!”
A moment later don Genaro emerged from the chaparral. Both of them were beaming. They practically danced in front of me.
Don Genaro greeted me effusively and then sat down on the milk crate.
There was something dreadfully wrong with me. I was calm, unruffled. Some incredible state of indifference and aloofness had taken over my entire being. It was almost as if I were watching myself from a hiding place. In a very nonchalant manner I proceeded to tell don Genaro that during my last visit he had nearly scared me to death, and that not even during my experiences with psychotropic plants had I been in such a complete state of chaos. Both of them celebrated my statements as if they were meant to be funny. I laughed with them.
They obviously were aware of my state of emotional numbness. They watched me and humored me as if I were drunk.
There was something inside me that fought desperately to turn the situation into something familiar. I wanted to be concerned and afraid.
Don Juan finally splashed some water on my face and urged me to sit down and take notes. He said, as he had done before, that either I took notes or I died. The mere act of putting down some words brought back my familiar mood. It was as if something became crystal clear again, something that a moment before had been opaque and numb.
The advent of my usual self also meant the advent of my usual fears. Strangely enough I was less afraid of being afraid than of being unafraid. The familiarity of my old habits, no matter how unpleasant they were, was a delightful respite.
I fully realized then that don Genaro had just emerged from the chaparral. My usual processes were beginning to function. I started by refusing to think or speculate about the event. I made the resolution of not asking him anything. I was going to be a silent witness this time.
“Genaro has come again, exclusively for you,” don Juan said.
Don Genaro was leaning against the wall of the house, resting his back against it while he sat on a tilted milk crate. He looked as if he were riding on horseback. His hands were in front of him, giving the impression that he was holding the reins of a horse.
“That’s right, Carlitos,” he said and brought the milk crate to rest on the ground.
He dismounted, whirling his right leg over an imaginary neck of a horse, and then jumped to the ground. His movements were so perfectly executed that he gave me the unquestionable sensation that he had arrived on horseback. He came to my side and sat down to my left.
“Genaro has come because he wants to tell you about the other,” don Juan said.
He made a gesture of giving don Genaro the floor. Don Genaro bowed. He turned slightly to face me.
“What would you like to know, Carlitos?” he asked in a high-pitched voice.
“Well, if you’re going to tell me about the double, tell me everything,” I said, feigning casualness.
Both of them shook their heads and glanced at each other.
“Genaro is going to tell you about the dreamer and the dreamed,” don Juan said.
“As you know, Carlitos,” don Genaro said with the air of an orator warming up, “the double begins in dreaming.“
He gave me a long look and smiled. His eyes swept from my face to my notebook and pencil.
“The double is a dream,” he said, scratched his arms and then stood up.
He walked to the edge of the ramada and stepped out into the chaparral. He stood by a bush showing three fourths of his profile to us; he was apparently urinating. After a moment I noticed that there seemed to be something wrong with him. He appeared to be trying desperately to urinate but could not. Don Juan’s laughter was the clue that don Genaro was clowning again. Don Genaro contorted his body in such a comical fashion that he had don Juan and me practically in hysterics.
Don Genaro came back to the ramada and sat down. His smile radiated a rare warmth.
“When you can’t, you just can’t,” he said and shrugged his shoulders.
Then after a moment’s pause he added, sighing, “Yes, Carlitos, the double is a dream.”
“Do you mean that he’s not real?” I asked.
“No. I mean that he is a dream,” he retorted.
Don Juan intervened and explained that don Genaro was referring to the first emergence of the awareness that we are luminous beings.
“Each one of us is different, and thus the details of our struggles are different,” don Juan said.
“The steps that we follow to arrive at the double are the same, though. Especially the beginning steps, which are muddled and uncertain.”
Don Genaro agreed and made a comment on the uncertainty that a sorcerer had at that stage.
“When it first happened to me, I didn’t know it had happened,” he explained. “One day I had been picking plants in the mountains. I had gone into a place that was worked by other herb collectors. I had two huge sacks of plants. I was ready to go home, but before I did I decided to take a moment’s rest. I lay down on the side of the trail in the shade of a tree and I fell asleep. I heard then the sound of people coming down the hill and woke up. I hurriedly ran for cover and hid behind some bushes a short distance across the road from where I had fallen asleep. While I hid there I had the nagging impression I had forgotten something. I looked to see if I had my two sacks of plants. I didn’t have them. I looked across the road to the place where I had been sleeping and I nearly dropped my pants with fright. I was still there asleep! It was me! I touched my body. I was myself! By that time the people that were coming down the hill were upon the me that was asleep, while the me that was fully awake looked helplessly from my hiding place. Damn it to hell! They were going to find me there and take my sacks away. But they went by me as if I were not there at all.”
“My vision had been so vivid that I went wild. I screamed and then I woke up again. Damn it! It had been a dream!”
Don Genaro stopped his account and looked at me as if waiting for a question or a comment.
“Tell him where you woke up the second time,” don Juan said.
“I woke up by the road,” don Genaro said, “where I had fallen asleep. But for one moment I didn’t quite know where I really was. I can almost say that I was still looking at myself waking up, then something pulled me to the side of the road and I found myself rubbing my eyes.”
There was a long pause. I did not know what to say.
“And what did you do next?” don Juan asked.
I realized, when both of them began to laugh, that he was teasing me. He was imitating my questions.
Don Genaro went on talking. He said that he was stunned for a moment and then went to check everything.
“The place where I had hid was there exactly as I had seen it,” he said. “And the people who had walked by me were down the road, a short distance away. I know it because I ran downhill after them. They were the same people I had seen. I followed them until they got to town. They must have thought I was mad. I asked them if they had seen my friend sleeping by the side of the road. They all said they hadn’t.”
“You see,” don Juan said, “all of us go through the same doubts. We are afraid of being mad; unfortunately for us, of course, all of us are already mad.”
“You are a tinge madder than us, though,” don Genaro said to me and winked. “And more suspicious.”
They teased me about my suspiciousness. And then don Genaro began to talk again.
“All of us are dense beings,” he said. “You’re not the only one, Carlitos. I was a bit shook up by my dream for a couple of days, but then I had to work for my living and take care of too many things and really had no time for pondering upon the mystery of my dreams. So I forgot about it in no time at all. I was very much like you.”
“But one day, a few months later, after a terribly tiring day, I fell asleep like a log in midafternoon. It had just started to rain and a leak in the roof woke me up. I jumped out of bed and climbed on top of the house to fix the leak before it began to pour. I felt so fine and strong that I finished in one minute and I didn’t even get wet. I thought that the snooze I had taken had done me a lot of good. When I was through I went back into the house to get something to eat and I realized that I could not swallow. I thought I was sick. I mashed some roots and leaves and wrapped them around my neck and went to my bed. And then again when I got to my bed I nearly dropped my pants. I was there in bed asleep! I wanted to shake myself and wake me up, but I knew that that was not the thing one should do. So I ran out of the house. I was panic-stricken. I roamed around the hills aimlessly. I had no idea where I was going and although I had lived all my life there I got lost. I walked in the rain and didn’t even feel it. It seemed that I couldn’t think. Then the lightning and thunder became so intense that I woke up again.”
He paused for a moment.
“Do you want to know where I woke up?” he asked me.
“Certainly,” don Juan answered.
“I woke up in the hills in the rain,” he said.
“But how did you know that you had woken up?” I asked.
“My body knew it,” he replied.
“That was a stupid question,” don Juan interjected. “You yourself know that something in the warrior is always aware of every change. It is precisely the aim of the warrior’s way to foster and maintain that awareness. The warrior cleans it, shines it, and keeps it running.”
He was right. I had to admit to them that I knew that there was something in me that registered and was aware of everything I did. And yet it had nothing to do with the ordinary awareness of myself. It was something else which I could not pin down. I told them that perhaps don Genaro could describe it better than I.
“You’re doing very well yourself,” don Genaro said. “It’s an inner voice that tells you what’s what. And at that time, it told me that I had woken up a second time. Of course, as soon as I woke up I became convinced that I must have been dreaming. Obviously it had not been an ordinary dream, but it hadn’t been dreaming proper either. So I settled for something else: walking in my sleep, half awake, I suppose. I could not understand it in any other way.”
Don Genaro said that his benefactor had explained to him that what he had gone through was not a dream at all, and that he should not insist on regarding it as walking in his sleep.
“What did he tell you that it was?” I asked.
They exchanged a glance.
“He told me it was the bogeyman,” don Genaro replied, affecting the tone of a small child. I explained to them that I wanted to know if don Genaro’s benefactor explained things in the same way they themselves did.
“Of course he did,” don Juan said.
“My benefactor explained that the dream in which one was watching oneself asleep,” don Genaro went on, “was the time of the double. He recommended that rather than wasting my power in wondering and asking myself questions, I should use the opportunity to act, and that when I had another chance I should be prepared.”
“My next chance took place at my benefactor’s house. I was helping him with the housework. I had lain down to rest and as usual I fell sound asleep. His house was definitely a place of power for me and helped me. I was suddenly aroused by a loud noise and awakened. My benefactor’s house was large. He was a wealthy man and had many people working for him. The noise seemed to be the sound of a shovel digging in gravel. I sat up to listen and then I stood up. The noise was very unsettling to me but I couldn’t figure out why. I was pondering whether to go and check it out when I noticed that I was asleep on the floor. This time I knew what to expect and what to do and I followed the noise. I walked to the back of the house. There was no one there. The noise seemed to come from beyond the house. I kept on following it. The more I followed it the quicker I could move. I ended up at a distant place, witnessing incredible things.”
He explained that at the time of those events he still was in the beginning stages of his apprenticeship and had done very little in the realm of dreaming, but that he had an uncanny facility to dream that he was looking at himself.
“Where did you go, don Genaro?” I asked.
“That was the first time that I had really moved in dreaming” he said. “I knew enough about it to behave correctly, though. I didn’t look at anything directly and ended up in a deep ravine where my benefactor had some of his power plants.”
“Do you think it works better if one knows very little about dreaming?” I asked.
“No!” don Juan interjected. “Each of us has a facility for something in particular. Genaro’s knack is for dreaming.”
“What did you see in the ravine, don Genaro?” I asked.
“I saw my benefactor doing some dangerous maneuvers with people. I thought I was there to help him and hid behind some trees. Yet I couldn’t have known how to help. I was not dumb, though, and I realized that the scene was there for me to watch, not to act in.”
“When and how and where did you wake up?”
“I don’t know when I woke up. It must have been hours later. All I know is that I followed my benefactor and the other men, and when they were about to reach my benefactor’s house the noise that they made, because they were arguing, woke me up. I was at the place where I had seen myself asleep.”
“Upon waking up, I realized that whatever I had seen and done was not a dream. I had actually gone some distance away, guided by the sound.”
“Was your benefactor aware of what you were doing?”
“Certainly. He had been making the noise with the shovel to help me accomplish my task. When he walked into the house he pretended to scold me for falling asleep. I knew that he had seen me. Later on, after his friends had left, he told me that he had noticed my glow hiding behind the trees.”
Don Genaro said that those three instances set him off on the path of dreaming, and that it took him fifteen years to have his next chance.
“The fourth time was a more bizarre and a more complete vision,” he said. “I found myself asleep in the middle of a cultivated field. I saw myself lying there on my side sound asleep. I knew that it was dreaming, because I had set myself to do dreaming every night. Usually, every time I had seen myself asleep, I was at the site where I had gone to sleep. This time I was not in my bed, and I knew I had gone to bed that night. In this dreaming it was daytime. So, I began to explore. I moved away from the place where I was lying and oriented myself. I knew where I was. I was actually not too far from my house, perhaps a couple of miles away. I walked around looking at every detail of the place. I stood in the shade of a big tree a short distance away and peered across a flat strip of land to some corn fields on the side of a hill. Something quite unusual struck me then; the details of the surroundings did not change or vanish no matter how long I peered at them. I got scared and ran back to where I was sleeping. I was still there exactly as I had been before. I began to watch myself. I had an eerie feeling of indifference towards the body I was watching.”
“Then I heard the sound of people approaching. People always seemed to be around for me. I ran up ahead to a small hill and carefully watched from there. There were ten people coming to the field where I was. They were all young men. I ran back to where I was lying and went through one of the most agonizing times of my life, while I faced myself, lying there snoring like a pig. I knew that I had to awaken me but I had no idea how. I also knew that it was deadly for me to awaken myself. But if those young men were to find me there they were going to be very upset. All those deliberations that were going through my mind were not really thoughts. They were more appropriately scenes in front of my eyes. My worrying, for instance, was a scene in which I looked at myself while I had the sensation of being boxed in. I call that worrying. It has happened to me a number of times after that first time.”
“Well, since I didn’t know what to do I stood looking at myself, waiting for the worst. A bunch of fleeting images went past me in front of my eyes. I hung on to one in particular, the sight of my house and my bed. The image became very clear. Oh, how I wished to be back in my bed! Something shook me then; it felt like someone was hitting me and I woke up. I was on my bed! Obviously, I had been dreaming. I jumped out of bed and ran to the place of my dreaming. It was exactly as I had seen it. The young men were working there. I watched them for a long time. They were the same ones I had seen.”
“I came back to the same place at the end of the day after everybody had gone and stood at the very spot where I had seen myself asleep. Someone had lain there. The weeds were crumpled!”
Don Juan and don Genaro were observing me. They looked like two strange animals. I felt a shiver in my back. I was on the verge of indulging in the very rational fear that they were not really men like myself, but don Genaro laughed.”
“In those days,” he said, “I was just like you, Carlitos. I wanted to check everything. I was as suspicious as you are.”
He paused, raised his finger and shook it at me. Then he faced don Juan.
“Weren’t you as suspicious as this guy?” he asked.
“Not a chance,” don Juan said. “He’s the champ.”
Don Genaro turned to me and made a gesture of apology.
“I think I was wrong,” he said. “I was not as suspicious as you.”
They chuckled softly as if they did not want to make noise. Don Juan’s body convulsed with muffled laughter.
“This is a place of power for you,” don Genaro said in a whisper. “You’ve written your fingers off right where you are sitting. Have you ever done some heavy dreaming here?”
“No, he hasn’t,” don Juan said in a low voice. “But he’s done some heavy writing.”
They doubled up. It seemed that they did not want to laugh out loud. Their bodies shook.
Their soft laughter was like a rhythmical cackle.
Don Genaro sat up straight and slid closer to me. He patted me on the shoulder repeatedly, saying that I was a rascal, then he pulled my left arm with great force towards him. I lost my balance and fell forward. I almost hit my face on the hard ground. I automatically put my right arm in front and buffered my fall. One of them held me down by pressing on my neck. I was not sure who. The hand that was holding me felt like don Genaro’s. I had a moment of devastating panic. I felt I was fainting, perhaps I did. The pressure in my stomach was so intense that I vomited. My next clear perception was that somebody was helping me to sit up. Don Genaro was squatting in front of me. I turned around to look for don Juan. He was nowhere in sight. Don Genaro had a beaming smile. His eyes were shiny. They were looking fixedly at mine. I asked him what he had done to me and he said that I was in pieces. His tone was reproachful and he seemed to be annoyed or dissatisfied with me. He repeated various times that I was in pieces and that I had to come together again. He tried to feign a severe tone but he laughed in the middle of his harangue. He was telling me that it was just terrible that I was spread all over the place, and that he would have to use a broom to sweep all my pieces into one heap. Then he added that I might get the pieces in the wrong places and end up with my penis where my thumb should be.
He cracked up at that point. I wanted to laugh and had a most unusual sensation. My body fell apart! It was as if I had been a mechanical toy that simply broke up into pieces. I had no physical feelings whatever, and neither had I any fear or concern. Coming apart was a scene that I witnessed from the point of view of the perceiver, and yet I did not perceive anything from a sensorial point of reference.
The next thing I became aware of was that don Genaro was manipulating my body. I then had a physical sensation, a vibration so intense that it made me lose sight of everything around me. I felt once more that someone was helping me to sit up. I again saw don Genaro squatting in front of me. He pulled me up by my armpits and helped me walk around. I could not figure out where I was. I had the feeling I was in a dream, and yet I had a complete sense of sequential time. I was keenly aware that I had just been with don Genaro and don Juan in the ramada of don Juan’s house.
Don Genaro walked with me, propping me by holding my left armpit. The scenery I was watching changed constantly. I could not determine, however, the nature of what I was observing. What was in front of my eyes was rather like a feeling or a mood; and the center from where all those changes radiated was definitely in my stomach. I had made that connection not as a thought or a realization but as a bodily sensation that suddenly became fixed and predominant. The fluctuations around me came from my stomach. I was creating a world, an endless run of feelings and images. Everything I knew was there. That in itself was a feeling, not a thought or a conscious assessment.
I tried to keep tabs for a moment because of my nearly invincible habit of assessing everything, but at a certain instant my processes of bookkeeping ceased and a nameless something enveloped me, feelings and images of every sort.
At one point something in me began again the tabulation and I noticed that one image kept on repeating itself: don Juan and don Genaro, who were trying to reach me. The image was fleeting, it passed by me fast. It was something comparable to seeing them from the window of a fast-moving vehicle. They seemed to be trying to catch me as I went by. The image became clearer and it lasted longer as it kept on recurring. I consciously realized at one point that I was
deliberately isolating it from among a myriad of other images. I sort of breezed through the rest to come to that particular scene. Finally I was capable of sustaining it by thinking about it. Once I had begun to think, my ordinary processes took over. They were not as defined as in my ordinary activities but clear enough to know that the scene or feeling I had isolated was that don Juan and don Genaro were in the ramada of don Juan’s house and were holding me by the armpits. I wanted to keep on fleeing through other images and feelings, but they would not let me. I struggled for a moment. I felt bouncy and happy. I knew that I liked both of them and I also knew then that I was not afraid of them. I wanted to joke with them; I did not know how and I kept on laughing and patting them on their shoulders. I had another peculiar awareness. I was certain that I was dreaming. If I focused my eyes on anything, it immediately became blurry.
Don Juan and don Genaro were talking to me. I could not keep their words straight and I could not distinguish which of them was talking. Don Juan then turned my body around and pointed to a lump on the ground. Don Genaro pulled me closer to it and made me go around it.
The lump was a man lying on the ground. He was lying on his stomach, his face turned to his right. They kept on pointing out the man to me as they spoke. They pulled me and twisted me around him. I could not focus my eyes on him at all, but finally I had a feeling of quietness and sobriety and I looked at the man. I had a slow awakening into the realization that the man lying on the ground was me. My realization did not bring any terror or discomfort. I simply accepted it without emotion. At that moment I was not completely asleep, but neither was I completely awake and in sober consciousness. I also became more aware of don Juan and don Genaro and could tell them apart when they talked to me. Don Juan said that we were going to go to the round power place in the chaparral. As soon as he said it the image of the place popped in my mind. I saw the dark masses of bushes around it. I turned to my right; don Juan and don Genaro were also there. I had a jolt and the feeling that I was afraid of them. Perhaps because they looked like two menacing shadows. They came closer to me. As soon as I saw their features my fears vanished. I liked them again. It was as if I were drunk and did not have a firm grip on anything.
They grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me in unison. They ordered me to wake up. I could hear their voices clearly and separately. I had then a unique moment. I held two images in my mind, two dreams. I felt that something in me was deeply asleep and was waking up and I found myself lying on the floor of the ramada with don Juan and don Genaro shaking me. But I also was at the power place and don Juan and don Genaro were still shaking me. There was one crucial instant in which I was neither in one place nor the other, but I was rather in both places as an observer seeing two scenes at once. I had the incredible sensation that at that instant I could have gone either way. All I had to do at that moment was to change perspective and rather than watch either scene from the outside, feel it from the point of view of the subject.
There was something very warm about don Juan’s house. I preferred that scene. I next had a terrifying seizure, so shocking that my entire ordinary awareness came back to me at once. Don Juan and don Genaro were pouring buckets of water on me. I was in the ramada of don Juan’s house.
Hours later we sat in the kitchen. Don Juan had insisted that I had to proceed as if nothing had happened. He gave me some food and said that I had to eat a great deal to compensate for my expenditure of energy.
It was after nine in the evening when I looked at my watch after we had sat down to eat. My experience had lasted several hours. From the point of view of my recollection, however, it seemed that I had just fallen asleep for a short while.
Even though I was completely myself, I still was numb. It was not until I had begun to write in my notebook that I regained my usual awareness. It was a surprise to me that taking notes could bring about instantaneous sobriety. The moment I was myself again a barrage of reasonable thoughts immediately came to my mind; they purported to explain the phenomenon I had
experienced. I “knew” on the spot that don Genaro had hypnotized me the moment he pinned me down on the ground, but I did not attempt to figure out how he had done it.
They both laughed hysterically when I expressed my thoughts. Don Genaro examined my pencil and said that the pencil was the key to wind up my mainspring. I felt quite belligerent. I was tired and irritable. I found myself practically yelling at them while their bodies shook with laughter.
Don Juan said that it was permissible to miss the boat, but not by such a wide margin, and that don Genaro had come exclusively to help me and show me the mystery of the dreamer and the dreamed.
My irritability came to a peak. Don Juan signaled don Genaro with a movement of his head. Both of them stood and took me around the house. There don Genaro demonstrated his great repertoire of animal grunts and cries. He asked me to choose one and he taught me how to reproduce it.
After hours of practice I got to the point where I could imitate it quite well. The end result was that they themselves had enjoyed my clumsy attempts and laughed until they were practically weeping, and I had released my tension by reproducing the loud cry of an animal. I told them that there was something truly awesome in my imitation. The relaxation of my body was unequaled.
Don Juan said that if I would perfect the cry I could turn it into an affair of power, or I could simply use it to relieve my tension whenever I needed to. He suggested I should go to sleep. But I was afraid to fall asleep. I sat with them by the kitchen fire for a while and then, quite unintentionally, I fell into a deep sleep.
I woke up at dawn. Don Genaro was sleeping by the door. He seemingly woke up at the same time I did. They had covered me up and folded my jacket as a pillow. I felt very calm and rested. I commented to don Genaro that I had felt exhausted the night before. He said that so had he. He whispered as if he were confiding in me and told me that don Juan was even more exhausted because he was older.
“You and I are young,” he said with a glint in his eyes. “But he’s old. He must be about three hundred now.”
I sat up hurriedly. Don Genaro covered his face with his blanket and roared with laughter. Don Juan came into the room at that moment.
I had a feeling of completeness and peace. For once, nothing really mattered. I was so at ease that I wanted to weep.
Don Juan said that the night before I had begun to be aware of my luminosity. He admonished me not to indulge in the sense of well-being I was having, because it would turn into complacency.
“At this moment,” I said, “I don’t want to explain anything. It doesn’t matter what don Genaro did to me last night.”
“I didn’t do anything to you,” don Genaro retorted. “Look, it’s me, Genaro. Your Genaro! Touch me!”
I embraced don Genaro and we both laughed like two children.
He asked me if I thought it was strange that I could embrace him then when last time I had seen him there I had been unable to touch him. I assured him that those issues were no longer pertinent to me.
Don Juan’s comment was that I was indulging in being broad-minded and good.
“Watch out!” he said. “A warrior never lets his guard down. If you keep on being so happy you’re going to drain the little power you have left.”
“What should I do?” I asked.
“Be yourself,” he said. “Doubt everything. Be suspicious.”
“But I don’t like to be that way, don Juan.”
“It is not a matter of whether you like it or not. What matters is, what can you use as a shield? A warrior must use everything avail able to him to close his mortal gap once it opens. So, it’s of no importance that you really don’t like to be suspicious or ask questions. That’s your only shield now.”
“Write, write. Or you’ll die. To die with elation is a crappy way of dying.”
“How should a warrior die, then?” don Genaro asked in exactly my own tone of voice.
“A warrior dies the hard way,” don Juan said. “His death must struggle to take him. A warrior does not give himself to it.”
Don Genaro opened his eyes to an enormous size and then blinked.
“What Genaro showed you yesterday is of utmost importance,” don Juan went on. “You can’t slough it off with piousness. Yesterday you told me that you had been driven wild with the idea of the double. But look at you now. You don’t care anymore. That’s the trouble with people that go wild, they go wild both ways. Yesterday you were all questions, today you are all acceptance.”
I pointed out that he always found a flaw in what I did, regardless of how I did it.
“That’s not true!” he exclaimed. “There is no flaw in the warrior’s way. Follow it and your acts cannot be criticized by anyone. Take yesterday as an example. The warrior’s way would have been, first, to ask questions without fear and without suspicion and then let Genaro show you the mystery of the dreamer; without fighting him, or draining yourself. Today, the warrior’s way would be to assemble what you’ve learned, without presumptuousness and without piousness. Do that and no one can find flaws in it.”
I thought by his tone that don Juan must have been terribly annoyed with my blunderings. But he smiled at me and then giggled as if his own words had made him laugh.
I told him that I was just holding back, not wanting to burden them with my probes. I was indeed overwhelmed by what don Genaro had done. I had been convinced – although it no longer mattered – that don Genaro had been waiting in the bushes for don Juan to call him. Then later on he had cashed in on my fright and used it to stun me. After being held forcibly on the ground, I must have undoubtedly passed out, and then don Genaro must have mesmerized me.
Don Juan argued that I was too strong to be subdued that easily.
“What took place then?” I asked him.
“Genaro came to see you to tell you something very exclusive,” he said. “When he came out of the bushes, he was Genaro the double. There is another way to talk about this that would explain it better, but I can’t use it now.”
“Why not, don Juan?”
“Because you are not ready yet to talk about the totality of oneself. For the time being I can only say that this Genaro here is not the double now.”
He pointed to don Genaro with a movement of his head. Don Genaro blinked repeatedly.
“The Genaro of last night was the double. And as I told you already, the double has inconceivable power. He showed you a most important issue. In order to do that he had to touch you. The double simply tapped you on the neck, on the same spot the ally walked over you years ago. Naturally, you went out like a light. And naturally too, you indulged like a son of a bitch. It took us hours to round you up. Thus, you dissipated your power and when the time came for you to accomplish a warrior’s feat you did not have enough sap.”
“What was that warrior’s feat, don Juan?”
“I told you that Genaro came to show you something, the mystery of luminous beings as dreamers. You wanted to know about the double. It begins in dreams. But then you asked, “What is the double?” And I said the double is the self. The self dreams the double. That should be simple, except that there is nothing simple about us. Perhaps the ordinary dreams of the self are simple, but that doesn’t mean that the self is simple. Once it has learned to dream the double, the self arrives at this weird crossroad and a moment comes when one realizes that it is the double who dreams the self.”
I had written down everything he had said. I had also paid attention to what he was saying but had failed to understand him.
Don Juan repeated his statements.
“The lesson last night, as I told you, was about the dreamer and the dreamed, or who dreams whom.”
“I beg your pardon,” I said.
Both of them broke into laughter.
“Last night,” don Juan proceeded, “you almost chose to wake up at the power place.”
“What do you mean, don Juan?”
“That would have been the feat. If you had not indulged in your stupid ways, you would have had enough power to tip the scales, and you would’ve, no doubt, scared yourself to death. Fortunately or unfortunately, as the case may be, you did not have enough power. In fact, you wasted your power in worthless confusion to the point that you almost didn’t have enough to survive.
“So, as you may very well understand, to indulge in your little quirks is not only stupid and wasteful but also injurious. A warrior that drains himself cannot live. The body is not an indestructible affair. You might have gotten gravely ill. You didn’t, simply because Genaro and I deviated some of your crap.”
The full impact of his words was beginning to take hold of me.
“Last night Genaro guided you through the intricacies of the double,” don Juan went on. “Only he can do that for you. And it was not a vision or a hallucination when you saw yourself lying on the ground. You could have realized that with infinite clarity if you had not gotten lost in your indulging, and you could have known then that you yourself are a dream, that your double is dreaming you, in the same fashion that you dreamed him last night.”
“But how can that be possible, don Juan?”
“No one knows how it happens. We only know that it does happen. That’s the mystery of us as luminous beings. Last night you had two dreams and you could have awakened in either one, but you didn’t have enough power even to understand that.”
They looked at me fixedly for a moment.
“I think he understands,” don Genaro said.