“A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war, wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance. Going to knowledge or going to war in any other manner is a mistake, and whoever makes it will live to regret his steps.” – Don Juan
FOREWORD: I just finished the book, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. As mentioned earlier, I only post about books that offer a unique perspective or relate in some way to Team MB&S’s metaphysical and physical slow crawl across South America. Though this real life story took place in the 1960s Mexico the idea that every human is on a path toward knowledge is timeless and universal—it’s our happy place when things get difficult along the way.
Born in 1925 in Peru, anthropologist Carlos Castaneda wrote 15 books that sold eight million copies and were published in 17 different languages. The Teachings of Don Juan brought him international acclaim for how he approached shamanic rituals as an academic. Over the period of several years Castaneda apprenticed with Yaqui sorcerer Don Juan, ingesting hallucinogenic plants and participating in traditional rituals in order to understand his master’s ancient learning system.
Below I share an excerpt in which Don Juan explains how to conquer the first of our four natural enemies, fear. If you want to learn how to overcome the other three, you’ll have to read the book….there is no easy path to knowledge :)
Saturday, April 8, 1962
“A man of knowledge is one who has followed truthfully the hardships of learning,” he said. “A man who has, without rushing or without faltering, gone as far as he can in unraveling the secrets of power and knowledge.”
“Can anyone be a man of knowledge?”
“No, not anyone.”
“Then what must a man do to become a man of knowledge?”
“He must challenge and defeat this four natural enemies.”
Sunday, April 15, 1962
As I was getting ready to leave, I decided to ask him once more about the enemies of a man of knowledge….
He hesitated for a while, but then began to talk.
“When a man starts to learn, he is never clear about his objectives. His purpose is faulty; his intent is vague. He hopes for rewards that will never materialize for he knows nothing of the hardships of learning.
“He slowly begins to learn—bit by bit at first, then in big chunks. And his thoughts soon clash. What he learns is never what he pictured, or imagined, and so he begins to be afraid. Learning is never what one expects. Every step of learning is a new task, and the fear the man is experiencing begins to mount mercilessly, unyieldingly. His purpose becomes a battlefield.
“And thus he has stumbled upon the first of his natural enemies: Fear! A terrible enemy—treacherous, and difficult to overcome. It remains concealed at every turn of the way, prowling, waiting. And if the man, terrified in its presence runs away, his enemy will have put an end to his quest.”
“What happens to the man if he runs away in fear?”
“Nothing happens to him except that he will never learn. He will never become a man of knowledge. He will perhaps be a bully, or a harmless, scared man; at any rate, he will be a defeated man. His first enemy will have put an end to his cravings.”
“And what can he do to overcome fear?”
“The answer is very simple. He must not run away. He must defy his fear, and in spite of it he must take the next step in learning, and the next, and the next. He must be fully afraid, and yet he must not stop. This is the rule! And a moment will come when his enemy retreats. The man begins to feel sure of himself. His intent becomes stronger. Learning is no longer a terrifying task.
“When this joyful moment comes, the man can say without hesitation that he has defeated his first natural enemy.”
“Does it happen at once, don Juan, or little by little?”
“It happens little by little, and yet the fear is vanquished suddenly and fast.”
“But won’t the man be afraid again if something new happens to him?”
“No. Once a man has vanquished fear, he is free from it the rest of his life because, instead of fear, he has acquired clarity—a clarity of mind which erases fear. By then a man knows his desires; he knows how to satisfy those desires. He can anticipate the new steps of learning, and a sharp clarity surrounds everything. The man feels that nothing is concealed.”