After the work of "stopping", his changed perspective leaves him little in common with ordinary people, who now seem no more substantial to him than "phantoms. In Journey to Ixtlan Castaneda essentially reevaluates the teachings up to that point. He discusses information that was apparently missing from the first two books regarding stopping the world which previously he had only regarded as a metaphor. He also finds that psychotropic plants , knowledge of which was a significant part of his apprenticeship to Yaqui shaman don Juan Matus, are not as important in the world view as he had previously thought. In the introduction he writes: My basic assumption in both books has been that the articulation points in learning to be a sorcerer were the states of nonordinary reality produced by the ingestion of psychotropic plants
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His chosen area of study was medicinal plants used by the Indian people in the deserts of southwest United States and Mexico. On one of his trips he found himself at a bus station near the border. A colleague introduced him to an old Yaqui Indian man who had extensive knowledge of these plants. So began a ten-year apprenticeship into the way of a brujo medicine man or sorcerer that forced Castaneda to ditch the idea that he was a scientist reporting the facts for some dissertation.
However, by Journey to Ixtlan, the third book in the series, Castaneda had realized that natural chemicals were only a spur to spiritual development. The seemingly endless trials and weird experiences that the author goes through makes for gripping reading.
Castaneda does not at first understand such strange ideas, but is willing to humor the old man. Don Juan admits he has created a fog around his life on purpose, because there is great freedom in being anonymous.
In contrast, his younger charge is fully known and therefore taken for granted. The thoughts of other people continue to shape his identity, and everything he does he must explain to others. He seems to know a lot about Castaneda that the author has never revealed to him, such as the fact that he still regrets the loss of a girlfriend. Don Juan suggests that she left him because he was always available to her, which led to routine and boredom.
He needs to adopt the mindset of a hunter, who is never a slave to routine. If a hunter knows the routines of their prey, they have them cornered. To avoid becoming prey ourselves, we must break our routines - become less easily placed. In his eyes, the younger man has committed two interrelated sins: he has little appreciation of the mystery of the universe, and consequently is too obvious a person.
To help him get rid of his self-importance, don Juan makes him talk to plants - they are, after all, his equals. His self-importance has prevented him from really seeing the world: "You are like a horse with blinders", Don Juan tells him, "all you see is yourself apart from everything else.
If he has this awareness, he will live differently. Out in the desert, put through various trials by his mentor, Castaneda cannot be blamed for being almost driven mad. But he comes round to the idea that death can be his best adviser, admitting: "The pettiness of being annoyed with him was monstrous in the light of my death.
This will make him love life. Thinking he had plenty of time had turned him into a timid half-man. We have the bodies of adults but not the mind of a real man or woman.
The great sin, don Juan teaches us, is ever to think that life itself is not good. Whether in failure or success, we must never take our eyes from the fact that it is an amazing world, and we must rise to its challenges and love life. There has been much controversy over whether don Juan was a real person and whether the don Juan books were based on real events.
Castaneda maintained that they were not fiction, yet because their contents seem so unreal, they could easily be taken as such. You are unlikely to understand everything in the Castaneda books, but they stir something in us, a reminder of a body of learning that predates the written word. Sorcery harks back to a time in human history when people were ironically more open, willing to accept that there may be realities beyond those that we perceive before our eyes.
I wanted to convince you that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while; in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it.
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I want to convince you that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while, in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it. Not even I. Help for what? You have everything needed for the extravagant journey that is your life.
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Journey to Ixtlan