I’m Jane Hellisoe of the University of California press, and I have here today,
Carlos Castaneda, author of The Teachings of Don Juan.
I’m assuming that most of you have read the book, you all look like you have. So I think just turn it over to Carlos and let it go from there. Carlos…
CC: O.K. Maybe you would like to ask me something that you want to know?
JH: How did you meet don Juan?
CC: The way I, uh, got to know him, was very uh, very fortuitous type of affair. I
was not not interested in finding what he knew, because I didn’t know what he knew.
I was interested in collecting plants. And I met him in Arizona. There was an old
man who lived somewhere around them hills, that knew a great deal about plants. And
that was my interest, to collect information on plants. And uh, I uh, we went one
day this friend and myself we went to look for him. And we were misguided by the
Yuma Indians and we up in the hills and never found the old man. Um, it was later on
when I was at the end of this first trip that I make to Arizona, at the end of the
summer and I was ready to go back to Los Angeles, that I was waiting in the bus stop
and the old man walked in. And that’s how I met him. Uh, I talked to him for about a
year, I used to visit him, periodically I visit him, because I like him, he’s very
friendly and very consistent. It’s very nice to be around him. He has great sense of
humor . . . and I like him, very much. And that’s was my first guiding thought, I
used to go seek his council because he very humorous and very funny. But I never
suspected that he knew anything, beyond knowledgeable in the use of plants for
JH: Did you have a sense that he knew how to live?
CC: No, no, I didn’t I couldn’t respond? there was something strange about him,
but anybody could tell that you know, there’s something very uh, very strange. There
are two people that I have taken down to the field, with me, and that they know him.
They found that that . . . he has very haunting eyes when he looks at you, because
most of the time he squints or he seems to be shifty. You would say that he’s a
shifty looking man. He’s not looking, except sometimes when he looks, he’s very,
whenever he looks he’s very forceful. You could acknowledge that he’s looking at
you. And I, but I never knew that he knew anything beyond that, I have no idea. When
I went to do my fieldwork, I always I parted from the point of view that I was the
anthropologist, in quotes, doing the fieldwork with uh, Indian, you know. And they
were uh, I was the one who knew most everything and uh they didn’t. But of course,
that it was a great culture shock to find out that I didn’t know anything. It’s a
great feeling that of arriving, a sense of uh, humbleness. Because we are the
winners, the conquerors, you know, and whatever we do is great, is logical, it’s,
it’s magnificent. We only the ones who are capable of anything noble, that’s in the
back of our mind. We cannot avoid that, we cannot avoid that. And whenever we tumble
down from that stand, I feels it’s great.
JH: What country are you from?
CC: I’m from Brazil, I was born in Brazil. My grandparents are Italian.
JH: Uh, do you still think that he manipulated you into the last part of your book
into a situation in which you supposedly in danger of losing your soul?
CC: There, there are two explanations, you see, I prefer to think, that he was
cueing me. It made me feel comfortable to think that this was an experience
resulting from these manipulations or social cues. But maybe this witch was
impersonating him. Every time I am in U.C.L.A. of course I pretend the position that
he was, manipulating me. That’s very coherent, cogent of the pursual of academia.
But whenever I am in field, I think they were impersonating him. And that’s
incoherent with what takes place there. That’s a very difficult transition to make.
If you are going to dwelling in a University, if I would be a teacher, if I know
that I’m going to be a teacher all my life, I could say anything you know, and it’s
nice, but I may wind up again in the field, very soon. I uh, made up my mind. I am
going to go back, later maybe at the end of this month, and uh, I’m very serious
JH: Could you describe the nature of your communication with don Juan, since you
wrote the book?
CC: We’re very good friends. He uh, uh he uh, he’s capable always to baffle me me,
by kidding me. He never takes anything seriously. I am very serious in the sense
like, I feel that I have withdrawn from this apprenticeship. And I’m very serious
about that, I believe that I have.
JH: He doesn’t believe you?
JH: Do you find that your approach to uh, uh reality, or whatever, is any
different since meeting don Juan?
CC: O yes, yes, very different. Very different as such. Well I don’t take things
too seriously anymore.
JH: Why did you write the second part of your book?
CC: Why? Essentially, I’m concerned with rescuing something that has been lost for
five hundred years, because of superstition, we all know that. It’s superstition,
and it’s been taken as such. Therefore, in order to render it, serious, to go beyond
the revelation, that there must be something that could be distilled from the
revelation period. And to me, the only way to do it, is by presenting it seriously,
in format of the socialist position. Otherwise, it remains in the level of oddity.
We have in the back of our minds, the idea that only we could be logical, only we
could be sublime, noble. Somehow, I think, maybe I’m speaking for myself alone, but
that’s the end of character of our actions. In social science you see that. Every
social scientist goes to the field, loaded with the idea that he’s going examine
something and know. And uh, that’s not fair, that he so um, in that sense, I cannot
JH: Don Juan in the book, he mentioned that he asked you never to reveal the name
that Mescalito gave to you, or to reveal the circumstances under which you met, yet
you wrote this whole book of don Juan’s to anyone who would read it.
CC: I asked him about that. I wanted to know before I ever, ever, in writing
something like that, I asked him if it was alright. I didn’t reveal anything that
was not permitted. I didn’t. I was interested in the logical system. It’s a system
of logical thought. It takes a long time, took a long time for me to discover, that
this was a system of exhaustive, the best, presented in this, my world. This is what
is appealing, is the order. And whatever, I reveal in it, has nothing to do with the
things that were, let’s say, taboo. I reveal only the order, only the system. So, as
to make us realize that the Indians are very, very tenacious, they are persistent
people and as intelligent as anybody.
backwards to present a system of non-ordinary reality, non-linear reality in a
conceptual framework so that it can be accepted by his peers at the University of
California by the American public. It’s almost as if Carlos had wasn’t taking any
chances that the psychedelic generation was really going to be there and ready to
read the book, the psychedelic generation could get the message, be a large enough
part of the readership to to pass the word. He’s talking about people, he talks
about non-people there’s some really some really remarkable instances there where I
remember the one where don Juan walks or Carlos walks off into the chaparral and he
comes back and there are these three beings there who turn out later according to
don Juan not to be even beings. Apparently, they don’t have these fibers coming or
they don’t look like eggs. Do you have any insights into what these are, that aren’t
really people, from having listened to that? I’m not too much into that, that was
part of so-called phantoms that Carlos was describing, but it wasn’t very clear to
me where they fit into the whole picture, except these were people you know,
phantoms were entices that you had to look for, and be careful about. It seems also
like only a sorcerer and a man-of- knowledge can tell who they are, because to
Carlos it looked very much like real people, and Genero and Juan can recognize them
and unless we’re into that other kind of knowledge, I can’t claim to be able to
recognize them. Carlos talks about his experience with the datura plant, or the
jimson weed, the devil weed in the first book and the second book which is dealing
very heavily the need for the psychotropic plants. He drank the root extract and
rubbed himself with the paste, and what followed was an extraordinary experience.
Afterwards Don Juan discusses with him the lessons he learned. Carlos says there was
a question I wanted to ask him. I knew he was going to evade it, so I waited for him
to mention the subject; I waited all day. Finally, before I left that evening, I had
to ask him, “Did I really fly, don Juan?” “That is what you told me. Didn’t you?” “I
know, don Juan. I mean, did my body fly? Did I take off like a bird?” “You always
ask me questions I cannot answer. You flew. That is what the second portion of the
devil’s weed is for. As you take more of it, you will learn how to fly perfectly. It
is not a simple matter. A man flies with the help of the second portion of the
devil’s weed. That is all I can tell you. What you want to know makes no sense.
Birds fly like birds and a man who has taken the devil’s weed flies as such .” “As
birds do?” “No, he flies as a man who has taken the weed.” “Then I didn’t really
fly, don Juan. I flew in my imagination, in my mind alone. Where was my body?” “In
the bushes,” he replied cuttingly, but immediately broke into laughter again. “The
trouble with you is that you understand things in only one way. You don’t think a
man flies; and yet a brujo can move a thousand miles in one second to see what is
going on. He can deliver a blow to his enemies long distances away. So, does he or
doesn’t he fly?” “You see, don Juan, you and I are differently oriented. Suppose,
for the sake of argument, one of my fellow students had been here with me when I
took the devil’s weed. Would he have been able to see me flying?” “There you go
again with your questions about what would happen if . . . It is useless to talk
that way. If your friend, or anybody else, takes the second portion of the weed all
he can do is fly. Now, if he had simply watched you, he might have seen you flying,
or he might not. That depends on the man.” “But what I mean, don Juan, is that if
you and I look at a bird and see it fly, we agree that it is flying. But if two of
my friends had seen me flying as I did last night, would they have agreed that I was
flying?” “Well, they might have. You agree that birds fly because you have seen them
flying. Flying is a common thing with birds. But you will not agree on other things
birds do, because you have never seen birds doing them. If your friends knew about
men flying with the devil’s weed, then they would agree.” “Let’s put it another way,
don Juan. What I meant to say is that if I had tied myself to a rock with a heavy
chain I would have flown just the same, because my body had nothing to do with my
flying.” “If you tie yourself to a rock,” he said, “I’m afraid you will have to fly
holding the rock with its heavy chain.”
[end of Voice overdub]
JH: Why did you leave?
CC: Why did I leave? I got too frightened. There is this assumption in all of us,
that uh, we could give ourselves agreement that this is real. I’m sure that many
humans have taken psychedelic substance like LSD, or something like that, the
distortion that you suffer, under this psychedelic, is accountable, by saying I’m
seeing such and such, and that and that, or this this and that because I have taken
something, that’s in the back of our mind – always. So, anything could be let’s say,
accounted for in a strange way. But, whenever you begin to lose that security, I
think that’s time to quit. That’s my fear.
JH: But you haven’t really quit.
CC: That’s the problem.
JH: That several visions that you said you were more-or-less clairvoyant visions,
that told you about the past, things that you supposedly didn’t know about, other
than the visions or examples that reported in the books. Did you ever check to find
out what you saw was true or not?
CC: Well, that’s sort of funny you know, there must be something. I’ve been
involved in hunting treasures lately. Mexican came to me and told me that there was
a house that uh, belonged to a man who apparently stored a lot of money and never
used a bank, ever, in his life. He figure and calculated that there was at least
$100,000 dollars and he asked if I could discover where the money was. So I thought
that’s an interesting proposition. So, um I followed this ritual. It was a minor
ritual that produces in quotes, a vision, not as clear as a divination procedure.
But it’s a vision that could be interpreted. A fire that has to be made to attract
whatever it is that has to be attracted. So this bunch of about four people and I,
they did all the ritual they followed me they trusted me, I suppose and we waited
for a vision but nothing came at all. And then the fact was that everybody was
looking for this treasure under the house, the house on the still, very high,
underneath the house and they and dug up the whole house. And uh, the guy who was
digging up, was bitten by a black spider, a black widows spiders. And it was
disastrous, they never found anything. So then I came into the picture, I have this
vision, I have this dream. A dream in which the owner of the house was pointing to
the ceiling. And I said, “Uh ha! It’s not in the basement, it’s in the ceiling.” And
we went, one day, tried to find it in the ceiling, but we didn’t we couldn’t find
anything. It was disastrous though, because one of the Mexicans, very big, he weighs
about 315 pounds. He’s a big moose. There’s a small hatch towards the ceiling and
its’ an old house constructed in the 20’s probably and the ceilings paper thin. So I
was kinda walking on the beams and this guy got very suspicious he thought that we
were going to cheat him out of his money, we never did it. And came into the scene,
he came up. He walked up to where I was, I was in the center of the house, center of
the room, because that’s the place I thought he had pointed in my vision, stood by
me, and he went through the ceiling. He got hooked you know, the legs were hanging
in the upper part.
JH: Did don Juan make any uh restrictions or any regulations that the
circumstances in which you question yourself? . . .
CC: Yes, good very good. I went to see don Juan, and I told him this failure. And
how you know very, and he said was very natural, whatever is left of a man, guards
whatever he’s hiding. I have my notes, you know that I took in the field that I
treasure a great deal. I’ve become very possessive with my notes. And don Juan says,
“will you leave your notes for any idiot to get?” No, I won’t. That’s the point. And
what’s the difference? A guy loves his money. And he’s not going to let an idiot
like me come and get it. Therefore, he sets all kinds of traps and obstructions.
That’s the turning point in my approach with don Juan. From then on, I never been
able to think that I could trip him. He flipped me intellectually. I thought that
that piece was very neat, very simple and coherent. From then on, I was not ever
able to think of myself as the student of Anthropology the University student coming
to look down on an Indian. He completely destroyed dislodged my affiliation to the
JH: He made you think yourself as a man?
CC: He made me think of myself as a man who doesn’t know anything, in relation to
what he knows. But I don’t know what he means. All I’ve given you is what he gave
me. I don’t how fear could be vanquished. Because I haven’t vanquished it myself. I
have an idea, that perhaps applicable. I like to go into the field and test it. But
that’s another story that’s very different.
JH: Did he vanquish fear?
CC: Well, he has. Yes . . .
CC: Yes . . . it looks like it is very simple. Once you have the mechanics, I
suppose, he is parting at all times from a different point of view. He set like uh ,
whatever is between the phenomena and that I am experiencing, and me, theres always
an intermediate, it’s a set of expectations, motivations, language, you name it.
It’s there, it’s a whole set. But that’s my, my heritage of the European. To use the
set which is common to all of us. That’s why understand each other. But don Juan has
a different set, entirely different. That’s the incapacity to understand him. Very
difficult to understand what he’s talking about. When he says that one could conquer
fear. There’s an interesting idea that occured to me now, that I would like to test
in the field. I have attended recently a peyote meeting. It was a gathering, which I
just took water to them. I didn’t participate. I just went there to watch, to
observe. Because I have this I have arrived to the conclusion that the consensus the
agreement that he gave me, that I narrated in this book, a private agreement,
special between the teacher and the student, but something else takes place. There’s
a collective agreement, a whole bunch of people agree upon things which cannot be
seen, ordinarily. But I was thought that this agreement consisted in cueing the
others. Therefore, there must be a leader I thought that could cue, you know, by
twisting the eye, you know, something like that, you know, twist of the fingers, and
therefore, they all say that they have agreed. Because one gives the cue. They
believe that for instance in the matter of peyote, anybody who intakes peyote hears
a buzzing in the ears. However the Indians believe that there a seventeen types of
buzzing. And each one then will then respond to a precise nature of the visitation.
The deity Mescalito, comes in a specific way. And it announces it, by buzzing. There
must be an agreement among them a) ten people as to what buzzing is it in the first
place and then the nature of it. How is the lesson going to be? Is it going to a
ferocious lesson, very dramatic, very mild, amenable, depends on what is the, uh, I
suppose the mood of the deity. That, I thought this agreement was accomplished by
means of a code. So I went I asked don Juan to I could drive them, I took my car and
drove a whole bunch of people. I made myself available in that form. And then I
could serve, I said, you know, bringing water to them. So I watched. And I couldn’t
detect any code, at all. However in my effort to watch, I got involved, very deeply
involved, and at that moment, I flipped. I walked into this experience, I had taken
peyote, which I didn’t. This is my stand, O.K.? I think what they do, is they hold
judgment. They drop this set. And their capable of gaining the phenomena in a
different level. Their capable of viewing it, in a level from what I do ordinarily,
the way I do it ordinarily. So if I drop this set, whatever it is that is
interfering, intermediate, the intermediate set between the phenomena and me, I
arrive to this area of special agreement. Therefore, it’s very simple to them to
arrive to that. I thought that experience in distorted a whole series of days, five
or six days in which they intake peyote. I thought the last day was the only day in
which they agree. But they agree every day. I don’t know. I have to go and find out.
I know that it’s possible to hold judgment.
JH: That girl asked you a question about fear, vanquishing fear entirely. At any,
as I read it, or understand I, as I mean, as far as fear is no longer your enemy,
doesn’t mean you don’t have it anymore. Because he said the man-of-knowledge goes to
knowledge, and this could be anywhere along the line even after you vanquished fear.
Would fear, respect, wide-awake and the four things, so fear is no longer your
enemy, isn’t that true?
CC: No, maybe, maybe, though perhaps we are afraid only because are judging.
That’s another possibility. Once we drop the prejudgment, what’s there to fear? At
the moment, like uh he used to cure years ago, that’s before I met him. Today, he’s
not interested anymore in curing or bewitching. He says that he’s beyond company or
solitude. So, he just exists . . . he lives in central Mexico.
JH: What does he do with his time?
CC: Maybe he flies . . . I don’t know. I really don’t know. I feel, I always feel,
I projected him, and I say, poor little old man, what does he do with his time? But
that’s me, you see, I, poor little old man, what do I do with my time? But that’s a
different set, you see, he has a different system, completely.
CC: Maybe he flies . . . I don’t know. I really don’t know. I feel, I always feel,
I projected him, and I say, poor little old man, what does he do with his time? But
that’s me, you see, I, poor little old man, what do I do with my time? But that’s a
different set, you see, he has a different system, completely.
JH: You smoked mushrooms in the state of Oaxaca. I’m wondering what the names of
CC: The mushrooms belong to the psilocybe family. I’m sure of that. And they grow
in central Mexico. Then you make a journey to central Mexico. You collect them and
then you take them to wherever you live. And wait for a year, before they are
useable. They spend a year inside of a gourd. And they are utilized.
JH: Were these the ones where they from Oaxaca.?
CC: Their from central Mexico, that area, yeah, Oaxaca. They are fourteen species
JH: Could you tell us about the need and nature for secrecy and mystical teachings
such as don Juans?
CC: I don’t know. He feels that in order to return from one of the trips, in
quotes, you had to have a great degree of help and knowledge, without which you
don’t return. Maybe he’s right, maybe he’s right, maybe you need, the not so much
the encouragement of the friendly man telling you everything’s O.K. Joe, don’t do
it. More than that. Maybe you need another type of knowledge, that would render the
experience utilizable, meaningful. And that cracks your mind, that really busts you.
JH: Do you discourage someone from using these drugs?
CC: I do, I do. I don’t think they should. Because, perhaps they would get to know
more about it. Otherwise, they become spearheads. And spearheads burn, period.
JH: Do you know what the psychoactive substances in datura?
CC: Atropine, And hyoscyamine. And there are two more substances, something like
somebody called Scopolamine, but nobody knows what scopolamine was. It’s very toxic,
terribly toxic. Very, very harmful plant in that sense. Strychnine? Strychnine,
peyote contains eight types of strychnine.
JH: Were there other men of knowledge considered to be like don Juan?
CC: Yes, Don Juan likes to think that his predilection is talking. He likes to
talk. There are other men who has another type of predilection. There is a man who
gives lessons in waterfalls. His predilection is balance and movement. And the other
one I know dances, and he accomplishes the same thing.
JH: What about mushrooms in your book?
CC: There are no hallucinogenic mushrooms. Muscaria that’s not in old world though.
JH: Yeah, yeah…. Datura is growing all over Berkeley.
CC: Well, it’s a plant that grows anywhere, in the United States. The intake of
Datura produces a terrible inflammation of the proxic glands. It’s not desirable to
use it. So uh, it’s a very toxic plant.
JH: It happened to you?
CC: No, no after its prepared, it loses its toxicity. The American Indians I think
learned a great deal in manipulating plants. And how they learned, perhaps like don
Juan said you could arrive to a direct knowledge of complex procedures directly via
tapping whatever you tap.
JH: What do you see any meaning in terms of good and bad or good and evil or . . . ?
CC: No, I don’t know. They interpreted in any way, again as a state of special
ordinary reality. He again I think manipulated me and uh, or perhaps it is possible
to see colours. I have a friend who reported though to me that to me he saw magenta,
he says. That was the only thing he say, he tried to do this at night, and uh, he
was capable of arriving to this distortion of colours, whatever.
JH: One thing I noticed about reading the book, all these experiences take place
CC: No, I think the night is very friendly, very amenable. It’s warmer, for some
reason. And the darkness is a covering, it’s like a blanket. Very nice. On the other
hand, the daytime is very active, it’s too busy. It’s not conducive to feeling for
anything like that. I like the night, I don’t know why, maybe I’m owl, something
like that. I like very much, it’s very amenable to me. I turn the lights in my house
off all the time. I feel very funny, for some reason, it’s very comfortable, it’s
dark, and very restless when there’s much light.
JH: Could you tell more about Mescalito? Like what, what, how?
CC: First, of all the American Indians have a god not called Mescalito, it’s
called something else . . . They have different names, yes. Mescalito is a
circumlocution, that he uses, like to say, little Joe, little Billy. Circumlocution
is to mean William.
JH: Is he one of, one god, or is like a thousand million gods?
CC: That’s power, it’s a teacher. It’s a teacher that lives outside of yourself.
You never mention it by name. Because the name that he gives you is personal.
Therefore, you use the name peyetero. Because peyetero means something else. It’s
not applicable to that. It’s a word that’s been used by Spaniards. Peyetero is a
state, very much like datura, in the Mexican, Spanish use in Mexico. Datura is
called toloache. Toloache is a people say toloache is a state of knowledge, related
to the datura. It’s not the plant, it’s a state of knowledge. Ololiuhqui, Saghun,
the Spanish priest was very concerned with. And people have identified it as the
seeds of the Morning Glory. But that belongs to the datura also. But again it’s a
state, state of knowledge.
JH: Does don Juan or any of the other brujos have any difficulty with the Church,
because of his . . .
CC: Well, I suppose they do. They couldn’t care less one way or the other. They
are capable of short-circuiting the works of the dominant society. Which is very,
very appealing to me, at least, to be able to short circuit them and render them
meaningless, and useless, and harmless. You see, don Juan is not trying to fight
anybody, therefore nobody with him. He’s very capable, he’s a hunter. He’s a hunter,
he’s a capable man, he does everything himself.
JH: He hunts animals for food?
CC: Many ways, metaphorically, and um, in a literally way. He hunts in his own
way. He’s a warrior, meaning he’s alert on his toes consistently. He never lets
anything beyond, by him. There’s a great argument that I have with his grandson. His
grandson says my grandfather is feeble minded. I said you know perhaps you’re wrong.
Do you think you could sneak up on him? And the young guy, Fernando, no, my
grandfather, you cannot sneak on the grandfather, he’s a brujo. It’s absurd, you
know, how could you that he’s feeble minded and then you said that you could not
sneak up on him. That’s the idea, you see, he maintains everybody, under this this
sort of control. He never lets me out of his sight. I’m always within his view. And
its an automatic process, unconscious. He’s not aware of it, but I’m always there,
at all times. He’s very alert. He’s not isolated man. He’s a hunter, a warrior. His
life is a game of strategy. He’s capable of rounding up his armies, and using them
in a most efficient way. The most efficacious way. He’s not a guy who cuts corners.
But his great motto is efficacious. And that’s totally opposed to my motto. My motto
is waste, like all us, unfortunately. You see, I get caught in tremendous upheavals
of meaning. And things split me. I begin to whine. You know, why, why, how did it
happen to me? But if I could be able to live like don Juan, I could set up my life
in way of strategy, set my armies strategically. Like he says, then if you lose, all
you lose is a battle. That’s all. You’re very happy at that. But not with me,
because if I lose they took me, they raped me, I’ve been taken, in my furor. You
know, no end to my fury. Because I was not prepared for it. But what would happen if
I was prepared? Then I was just defeated, and defeat is not so bad. But to be raped,
that’s terrible, that’s horrendous, and that’s what we all do. By one, we are raped
by cigarettes. We can’t stop smoking, ah, you know, people are raped by food, they
can’t stop eating. I have my own quirks, I get raped by certain things, I cannot
mention them. Weak and feeble, and helpless. Don Juan thinks that and feels that
it’s an indulgence, and he cannot afford to. And he’s not indulgent at all. He does
not indulge, and yet his life is very harmonious. Terribly funny, and great. And I
pondered, how in the devil can he do it? And I thinks it’s by cutting his indulgence
to nothing. And yet he lives very well. He doesn’t deny himself anything, there’s
the trick. That’s the funny trick. Its a normal semantic manipulation. Like he says,
since he was six years old, he likes girls. He says that the reason why he likes
girls, because when he was young he took one with datura, with the lizards, and the
lizards bit him nearly to death. And he was sick for three months. He was in a coma
for weeks and then his teacher told him not to worry about it, because from then on,
he was going to be virile until the day he died. He says the lizards do that. You
know, they bit you too hard, you become very virile. So I asked him, “how could I
get a couple of bites?” He said, “you would need more than a couple of bites.” He’s
not frugal in sense of denial, but he doesn’t indulge. Maybe that doesn’t make
JH: Could you tell me more about the Yaquis?
CC: The Yaquis? The Yaquis are Christians, Catholics, nominal Catholics. They
allowed the Catholic missionaries to come in 1773, voluntarily. And after 80 years
of colonization, they killed all the missionaries. And no missionaries has ever
come. They involved themselves in this war against the Mexicans. After the
independence of Mexico. The Yaquis have been in war with the Mexican army for 100
years, of solid war. Solid. They raided the Mexican towns, they killed them. And
finally, in 1908, at the beginning of the century, Mexico decided to put an end to
this nonsense. They rounded them up, sending huge troops, armies, round up the
Indians put them in trains in boats and ship them to the south, to Oaxaca, Veracruz
and Yucatan, dispersed them completely and that was only the way to stop them. And
then in 1940, after the war, he says, masses of people in Mexico being the avant
garde of democracy of Latin America, they couldn’t stand the things that they did to
the Yaquis. So they rounded the Yaquis again, brought them back, they are again in
Sonora now. They are seasoned warriors, they are very, very, very aggressive people.
It is inconceivable that don Juan could enter into that society. It’s a closed
circuit. It’s very aggressive. They wouldn’t trust me, because I’m an Mexican. They
see me as a Mexican. They would trust an American, much much better, much easier.
They hate Mexicans, they call them the Yoris. Which means pigs, something like that.
Because they have been so oppressed . . .
JH: Do you know about don Juan as brujo or don Juan as diablero?
CC: It’s the same thing. A brujo is a diablero, those are two Spanish words, to
denominate to design, they signify the same thing. Don Juan does not want to use
that because it connotes a sense of evilness. So he uses the word man-of-knowledge,
it’s a Mazatec term. I concluded that whatever he learned from a Mazatec, because
man-of-knowledge is one who knows. And one who knows is a Mazatec term. A brujo, a
sorcerer, is one who knows. I hope that I arrive to that. I doubt very much that my
makeup is one that is required to make a man-of-knowledge. I don’t think I have the
JH: Well, Does don Juan agree with that?
CC: No, he never told me that, you know. He thinks that I have a very bad probably
frank. I do think because I get get bored, which is pretty bad, terrible, suicidal
nearly. Presented me the example of a man who was courageous. He found a woodcarver,
who was very interested to in the idea of taking peyote. Don Juan took me to Sonora
as a show, so he could convince his grandson that is was very desirable to take
peyote. That it would change his life. His grandson is very handsome chap, terribly
handsome. He wants to be a movie star. He wants me to bring him to Hollywood. And he
always asks me, his name is Fernando, he always asks me, do you think I’m handsome
Carlos? You’re really handsome. And then he says, do you think I could work in the
movies as a chief in a cowboy movie or something? He would, he would be a
magnificent chief. He wants me to take him to Hollywood. He says just take me to the
door, and leave me there. I never had the opportunity of bringing him to the door.
But uh, however don Juan has the intention to turn his grandson to the use of
peyote. And he failed everytime. And he took me one day as a show, and I told them
my experiences, there were eight Indians and their listening. They said it, peyote
causes madness, causes insanity. Don Juan says,”but that’s not true, if that would
be so, look at Carlos, he isn’t mad.” They said, maybe he should be.
JH: Do you think you could have found the level of understanding that you found
now, by intaking the drugs without don Juan?
CC: No, I am very emphatic about that. I would be lost. I just talked to Timothy
Leary. And he flipped. I’m sorry, that’s my personal feeling. He cannot concentrate,
and that’s absurd.
JH: Is that the difference between he and Don Juan?
CC: Don Juan can concentrate. That’s it. He could pinpoint things. He could
exhaustively laugh at things, and kick one subject until its death. I don’t know
why, its very amenable to do that. He has a sense of humor. What he lacks is the
tragedy of a western man. We’re tragic figures. We’re sublime beings … grovelling
in mud. Don Juan is not. He’s a sublime being. He told me himself, I had a great
discussion with him once about dignity. And I said I that I have dignity and if I’m
going to live without dignity, I’ll blow my head off. I mean it. I don’t how I mean
it, but I do mean it. He said, that’s nonsense, I don’t understand about dignity, I
have no dignity, I am an Indian, I have only life. But that’s his stand. And I argue
with him, I said listen, please I want so desperately, to understand, what I mean by
dignity, what happened to the Indians when the Spaniards came? They actually forced
them to live a life that had no dignity. They forced them to take the path that had
no heart. And then he said, that’s not true. The Spaniards rounded up the Indians
who had dignity. Only the Indians that had already dignity. Maybe he’s right. They
never rounded him up. I told don Juan when I met him, his guy who introduced me,
said my name is so and so. In Spanish my name is spider, Charley Spider. If I told
him my name is Charley Spider. He’d crack up. We kidded around. After that, I found
that was my golden opportunity to make my entry. And I said, “listen, I understand
that you know a great deal about peyote. I do too, I know a great deal about peyote,
maybe to our mutual benefit we could get together and talk about.” That was my
presentation, I mean, my formal presentation, I used it over and over. And he looked
at me, in a very funny way, I cannot portray. But I knew at that moment, that he
knew I didn’t know anything. I was just throwing the bull, you know, completely
bluffing him. That’s what bothered me very much, I never been looked at in that way,
ever. That was enough for me to be very interested to go and see him. Nobody ever
looked at me that way.
JH: The guidance of a teacher. What about people that don’t have a person like don
CC: That’s the real problem. I think, it’s an untenable position. I placed myself
in that position, by myself, an untenable position. I wouldn’t know. It’s like
uh…. when I went to see him, um for instance, when the book came out, I took it to
him, and I got a book, and pretended that it was the first book that ever came out
of the presses, you know, and I wanted to take it to don Juan. Maybe it was the
first book, I don’t know, perhaps it was. I wanted to believe that it was, anyway,
and I took it to him, I gave it it was very difficult to reach him in the first
place, because he was way up in the central part of Mexico I had to wait for a
couple of days. And then finally he came down to town and I gave him the book. I
said, “don Juan look I finished a book,” and he looked said, “very nice,” he said,
“a nice book”, and in a state of passion I said , “I want you to have it want you to
keep, I want you to have it.” He said, “what can I do with a book,” “you know what
we do with paper in Mexico.”