By Carlos Castaneda
HarperCollins Publishers; 1998
From the Chapter entitled Mud Shadows; Pages 218-227
Excerpted by Jack Allis
“The sorcerers of ancient Mexico saw those shadows, and saw them as energy that flows in the universe. And they did discover something transcendental.”
“They discovered that we have a companion for life,” he said. “We have a predator that came from the depths of the cosmos, and took over the rule of our lives. Human beings are its prisoners. The predator is our lord and master. It has rendered us docile, helpless. If we want to protest, it suppresses our protest. If we want to act independently, it demands that we don’t do so.”
“You have arrived, by your effort alone, at what the shamans of ancient Mexico called the topic of topics,” Don Juan said. “I have been beating around the bush all this time, insinuating to you that something is holding us prisoner. Indeed we are held prisoner! This was an energetic fact for the sorcerers of ancient Mexico.”
“Why has this predator taken over in this fashion, don Juan?” I asked. “There must be a logical explanation.”
“There is an explanation,” Don Juan replied, “which is the simplest explanation in the world. They took over because we are food for them, and they squeeze us mercilessly because we are their sustenance. Just as we rear chickens in chicken coops, the predators rear us in human coops. Therefore, their food is always available to them.”
“No, no, no, no,” I heard myself saying. “This is absurd, Don Juan. What you’re saying is something monstrous. It simply can’t be true, for sorcerers or for average men, or for anyone.”
“Well,” he said, “you haven’t heard all the claims yet. Wait a bit longer and see how you feel. I’m going to subject you to a blitz. That is, I’m going to subject your mind to tremendous onslaughts, and you cannot get up and leave because you’re caught. Not because I’m holding you prisoner, but because something in you will prevent you from leaving, while another part of you is going to go completely berserk. So brace yourself!”
“I want to appeal to your analytical mind,” Don Juan said. “Think for a moment, and tell me how you would explain the contradiction between man the engineer and the stupidity of his systems of beliefs, or the stupidity of his contradictory behavior. Sorcerers believe that the predators have given us our systems of belief, our ideas of good and evil, our social mores. They are the ones who set up our hopes and expectations and dreams of success and failure. They have given us covetousness, greed, and cowardice. It is the predators who make us complacent, routinary, and egomaniacal.”
“But how can they do this, Don Juan?” I asked. “Do they whisper all that in our ears while we sleep?”
“No, they don’t do it that way. That’s idiotic!” Don Juan said, smiling. “They are infinitely more efficient and organized than that. In order to keep us obedient and meek and weak, the predators engaged themselves in a stupendous manoeuvre – stupendous, of course, from the point of view of a fighting strategist. A horrendous manoeuvre from the point of view of those who suffer it. They gave us their mind! Do you hear me! The predators give us their mind, which becomes our mind. The predator’s mind is baroque, contradictory, morose, filled with fear of being discovered any minute now.”
“I know that even though you have never experienced hunger,” he went on, “you have food anxiety, which is none other than the anxiety of the predator who fears that any minute now its manoeuvre is going to be uncovered and food is going to be denied. Through the mind, which, after all, is their mind, the predators inject into the lives of human beings whatever is convenient for them. And they ensure, in this manner, a degree of security to act as a buffer against their fear.”
He explained that sorcerers see infant human beings as strange luminous balls of energy, covered from the top to the bottom with a glowing coat, something like a plastic cover that is adjusted tightly over their cocoon of energy. He said that that glowing coat of awareness was what the predators consumed, and that when a human being reached adulthood, all that was left of that glowing coat of awareness was a narrow fringe that went from the ground to the top of the toes. That fringe permitted mankind to continue living, but only barely.
He then made the most damaging statement he had made so far. He said that this narrow fringe of awareness was the epicenter of self-reflection, where man is irremediably caught. By playing on our self-refection, which is the only point of awareness left to us, the predators create flares of awareness that they proceed to consume in a ruthless, predatory fashion. They give us inane problems that force those flares of awareness to rise, and in this manner they keep us alive in order for them to be fed with the energetic flare of our pseudo concerns.
“But why is it that the sorcerers of ancient Mexico and all sorcerers today, although they see the predators, don’t do anything about it?” I asked.
“There’s nothing that you and I can do about it,” Don Juan said in a grave, sad voice. “All we can do is discipline ourselves to the point where they will not touch us. How can you ask your fellow men to go through those rigors of discipline? They’ll laugh and make fun of you, and the more aggressive ones will beat the shit out of you. And not so much because they don’t believe it. Down in the depths of every human being, there’s an ancestral, visceral knowledge about the predators’ existence.”
“The sorcerers of ancient Mexico,” he said, “saw the predator. The called it the flyer because it leaps through the air. It is a not a pretty sight. It is a big shadow, impenetrably dark, a black shadow that jumps through the air. Then, it lands flat on the ground. The sorcerers of ancient Mexico were quite ill at ease with the idea of when it made its appearance on Earth. They reasoned that man must have been a complete being at one point, with stupendous insights, feats of awareness that are mythological legends nowadays. And then everything seems to disappear, and we have now a sedated man.”
“What I’m saying is that what we have against us is not a simple predator. It is very smart, and organized. It follows a methodical system to render us useless. Man, the magical being that he is destined to be, is no longer magical. He’s an average piece of meat. There are no more dreams for man but the dreams of an animal who is being raised to become a piece of meat: trite, conventional, imbecilic.”
“This predator is not altogether invisible to us. I think as children we do see it and decide it’s so horrific that we don’t want to think about it. Children, of course, could insist on focusing on the sight, but everybody else around them dissuades them from doing so.”
“The only alternative left for mankind, ” he continued, “is discipline. Discipline is the only deterrent. But by discipline I don’t mean harsh routines. I don’t mean waking up every morning at five-thirty and throwing cold water on yourself until you’re blue. Sorcerers understand discipline as the capacity to face with serenity odds that are not included in our expectations. For them, discipline is an art: the art of facing infinity without flinching, not because they are strong and tough but because they are filled with awe.”
“Sorcerers say that discipline makes the glowing coat of awareness unpalatable to the flyer,” Don Juan said, scrutinizing my face as if to discover any signs of disbelief. “The result is that the predators become bewildered. An inedible glowing coat of awareness is not part of their cognition, I suppose. After being bewildered, they don’t have any recourse other than refraining from continuing their nefarious task.”
“If the predators don’t eat our glowing coat of awareness for a while, ” he went on, “it’ll keep on growing. Simplifying this matter to the extreme, I can say that sorcerers, by means of their discipline, push the predators away long enough to allow their glowing coat of awareness to grow beyond the level of the toes. Once it goes beyond the level of the toes, it grows back to it’ natural size. The sorcerers of ancient Mexico used to say that the glowing coat of awareness is like a tree. If it is not pruned, it grows to its natural size and volume. As awareness reaches levels higher than the toes, tremendous manoeuvres of perception become a matter of course.”
“The grand trick of those sorcerers of ancient times,” Don Juan continued, “was to burden the flyers’ mind with discipline. They found out that if they taxed the flyers’ mind with inner silence, the foreign installation would flee; giving to any one of the practitioners involved in this manoeuvre the total certainty of the mind’s foreign origin. The foreign installation comes back, I assure you, but not as strong, and a process begins in which the fleeing of the flyers’ mind becomes routine, until one day it flees permanently. A sad day indeed! That’s the day when you have to rely on your own devices, which are nearly zero. There’s no one to tell you what to do. There’s no mind of foreign origin to dictate the imbecilities you’re accustomed to.”
“My teacher, the nagual Julian, used to warn all his disciples,” don Juan continued, “that this was the toughest day in a sorcerer’s life, for the real mind that belongs to us, the sum total of our experience, after a lifetime of domination has been rendered shy, insecure, and shifty. Personally, I would say that the real battle of sorcerers begins at that moment. The rest is merely preparation.”
“Discipline taxes the foreign mind no end,” he replied. “So, through their discipline, sorcerers vanquish the foreign installation.”
“I am going to give the flyer’s mind, which you carry inside you, one more jolt. I am going to reveal to you one of the most extraordinary secrets of sorcery. I am going to describe to you a finding that took sorcerers thousands of years to verify and consolidate.”
He looked at me and smiled maliciously. “The flyer’s mind flees forever,” he said, “when a sorcerer succeeds in grabbing on to the vibrating force that holds us together as a conglomerate of energy fields. If a sorcerer maintains that pressure long enough, the flyer’s mind flees in defeat. And that’s exactly what you are going to do: Hold on to the energy that binds you together.”
“You’re being torn by an internal struggle,” Don Juan said. “Down in the depths of you, you know that you are incapable of refusing the agreement that an indispensable part of you, your glowing coat of awareness, is going to serve as an incomprehensible source of nourishment to, naturally, incomprehensible entities. And another part of you will stand against this situation with all its might.”
“The sorcerers’ revolution,” he continued, “is that they refuse to honor agreements in which they did not participate. Nobody ever asked me if I would consent to be eaten by beings of a different kind of awareness. My parents just brought me into this world to be food, like themselves, and that’s the end of the story.