Interview 1968 Castaneda, Jane Hellisoe
ElectroPrint Graphics Carlos Castaneda Interview 1968
Don Juan's Teachings: Further Conversations with Carlos Castaneda, 1968.
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 medicinal purposes.
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 about that.
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 escape that.
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.
[Voice overdub on tape]: I think it's significant how Carlos is bending over 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 intellectual man.
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.
JH: You smoked mushrooms in the state of Oaxaca. I'm wondering what the names of those mushrooms.
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 of psilocybe.
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 at night.
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 sense.
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 backbone.
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 Juan?
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."
From a taped transcript 1968