Carlos Castaneda gets a lot of criticism for his books, especially concerning whether or not don Juan was a real person. Regardless, we can learn a lot when don Juan teaches Carlos.

For example, in The Teachings of don Juan, don Juan explains to Carlos about the four enemies he must fight to become a man of knowledge. Obviously, this refers to women as well as men.

The first enemy is Fear. If we run away from it, then learning stops. We defeat this enemy by not running away. We take the next small step to learn. Then we take the next small step, etc. After a long while, there comes a time when fear retreats, making us feel confident. Fear is replaced by clarity. It’s then that we meet the second enemy: Clarity.

Clarity dispels fear, but also blinds us; we don’t doubt ourselves. We think we can do anything we please because we see clearly into everything. We fight clarity by doubting what we think we know. A time will come when we understand that clarity was only a point before our eyes. It’s then that we defeat this second enemy. The power we’ve pursued for so long will finally be ours. We can use our power for whatever we please. And thus, we’ve met the third enemy: Power.

Power is the strongest of all enemies. The easiest thing to do is give in to it. We feel invincible, take risks, and make rules because we think we’re the master. We hardly notice this enemy closing in on us. Suddenly, without knowing, we’ve lost the battle. We turn into cruel, capricious people. We have no command over ourselves because we don’t know appropriate ways to use our power. We defeat this enemy by defying it deliberately. We understand that power without self control is worse than a mistake. With that awareness, we’re able to know how to use our power appropriately. And thus, we defeat this third enemy.

We’ll then be at the end of our journeys and almost without warning we’ll come up against the last enemy: Old Age. This is the cruelest of all, which we can’t defeat completely. We can only continue our fight. We have an unyielding desire to rest in old age. If we lie down and forget all we’ve learned, then we lose the battle. Our desire to retreat will overrule our knowledge. But, if we slough off our tiredness, live our fate through, we can be called a man of knowledge, even if only for a brief moment.

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  1. Jo

    This is crazy! I read all of Carlos Castaneda’s books (all of which I could get hold on Kindle, anyways) – I was hooked, everything that he writes about there’s always something to learn, a reason behind it, a big picture. Always wished he’s still alive so that I could talk to him and ask him all sorts of questions, and of course whether or not Don Juan is a real person – it feels like he is considering how “real” the writing felt!

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