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Journey to Ixtlan
Carlos Castaneda
The Lessons of Don Juan
Published by Simon&Schuster in 1972

A Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002


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In the first book in this series, Teachings of don Juan, Carlos was led by don Juan into the "crack between worlds" by means of datura (jimson weed), peyote, and psilocybe mushrooms. In the second book, A Separate Reality, don Juan focused on getting Carlos to learning "seeing" by which he could perceive things he had never perceived before, in effect, the essence of the world that existed beyond Carlos's academic maps of reality. Here, at the beginning of the third book, Carlos shares with us his thoughts about the use of drugs to broach new realities.

[page 7] My perception of the world through the effects of those psychotropics had been so bizarre and impressive that I was forced to assume that such states were the only avenue to communicating and learning what don Juan was attempting to teach me. That assumption was erroneous.

[page 13] My insistence on holding on to my standard version of reality rendered me almost deaf and blind to don Juan's aims. Therefore, it was simply my lack of sensitivity which had fostered their [the psychotropic drugs] use.

This was a sobering message for the young of the 1970s who were experimenting with all kinds of psychotropic drugs in order to enter what was popularly called "alternated states of realities." What don Juan told Carlos was, "For a sorcerer, reality, or the world we all know, is only a description." A description that, in the words of the song from the musical, South Pacific, we all had to be "carefully taught." Our sense of time and our sense of place are descriptions. We are taught what time is, what place is. And yet we all have the capability inside of us in the blink of the millisecond we call "now" to transcend time, place or both. To help explain that, I wrote Matherne's Rules 37 and 38 which state as follows: MR37: Time has no meaning. And MR38: Place has no meaning. What I am referring to the lack of an intrinsic meaning of either; that what meaning time and place have are indoctrinated into us from an early age, and that meaning is only something we attach to time and place by virtue of our early teachers in life. Carlos had such early teachers and when he stumbled onto don Juan, he was in for a shock, in fact, one shock after another, as don Juan shattered his illusions of time, place, and what is possible for a human being to do in the world.

[page 9] He [don Juan] pointed out that everyone who comes into contact with a child is a teacher who incessantly describes the world to him, until the moment when the child is capable of perceiving the world as it is described. According to don Juan, we have no memory of that portentous moment, simply because none of us could possibly have had any point of reference to compare it to anything else. From that moment on, however, the child is a member. . . . For don Juan, then, the reality of our day-to-day life consists of an endless flow of perceptual interpretations which we, the individuals who share a specific membership, have learned to make in common.

What I have learned in my research into the science of doyletics is that we rarely have cognitive memories, what we commonly call memories, before the memory transition age of five years old. And yet, every caregiver, every person who was in our presence before five was responsible for storing doylic memories in us upon which our very belief in reality itself would come to be based as we matured. Doylic memories are the physical body states (doyles) that we experienced in the presence of other people and that were stored in doylic memory, which, before five years old, was the only kind of memory we had available for storage. Unable to store visual and auditory information because our cognitive memory capability was not quite ready yet, we stored physical body states of such things as: bodily movements (walking), vocal cord movements (speech), manipulating (hand movements), and all imaginable internal organismic homeostatic settings of our bodily organs (respiration rate, heart rate, kidney function, liver function, pancreas function, spleen function, skin feelings such as goose bumps, tingling, etc). In short, we were carefully taught. And we grew up with many of the same feelings, and emotions, and responses to stimuli as our peers by virtue of having stored many of the same doyles. This may have led us into the blithe belief that everyone has the same set of basic emotions, but that would be utterly false, while seemingly true as a generalization for many. If it were true, then everyone would be afraid of the same things, like the same foods, and enjoy the same past-times. Practical experience itself plus a little thought can put the lie to the comfortable concept of "basic emotions." What I learned is that doyles are the substrate of emotions and feelings and healing states of human beings. And everyone has a unique set of doyles. And the doyles that one doesn't want, one can easily remove with a simple memory technique called the speed trace.

But I digress with a purpose. It was over 25 years ago when I read the first four books of don Juan and his teachings of Carlos. But for these books, I might never have considered trying the software that Doyle Henderson had created for removing unwanted feelings. I would have considered that to be impossible and have ignored his claims. The very existence of the science of doyletics owes something to don Juan and his student, creator, biographer, fictionalizer (choose one) Carlos Castaneda.

Naturally Carlos was reluctant to believe that reality as he understood it could be simply a description that he introjected as a child. He says on page 10, "For years I had treated the idea of 'stopping the world' as a cryptic metaphor that really did not mean anything." Then he was talking to don Juan one day, as you or I might talk to one another about a friend's child. "The child is a misfit in school; he lacks concentration and is not interested in anything. He is given to tantrums, disruptive behavior and to running away from home." And don Juan stopped him, said he'd heard enough, that no amount of browbeating or physical beating by the father was going to change the child. He instructed Carlos to tell his friend to find a derelict, a young one with still some fight in him, arrange things so that when the child did some objectionable behavior, the derelict would jump out of a hiding place and "spank the living daylights out of him." Do this three or four times and the child's view of the world will change. This procedure was so reminiscent of some homework that Milton Erickson, famous hypnotherapist of the time, might have given a client, that some of us students of Erickson wondered if don Juan weren't possibly Milton himself fictionalized. But Carlos responded to this suggestion, "What if the fright injures him?"

[page 12] "Fright never injures anyone. What injures the spirit is having someone always on your back, beating you, telling you what to do and what not to do."

After the child has these experiences, the father, don Juan tells Carlos, must take the child to where a dead child is, and to have his child touch the dead child anywhere but on his belly with his left hand. "After the boy does that he will be renewed. The world will never be the same for him." This episode caused Carlos to realize that this "stopping the world" was a technique that don Juan had long been using on him. [paraphrased from page 12]

The next technique of changing personal history intrigued me and soon after the time I first read about it in this book, I was studying with Bandler and Grinder and they taught me to change personal history as an exercise one afternoon. Say you've never been to Paris here's how you change your personal history so that you have been to Paris. You imagine yourself arriving at De Gaulle airport, taking a taxi to your hotel, walking down the Champs d'Elysee, visiting the American drugstore and listening to a CNN broadcast there in English on the television set. By progressively filling in all the modalities of visual, sound, kinesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory, you build up a personal history that allows you to congruently believe and say, "Yes, I was in Paris once."

So this subject comes up between don Juan and Carlos and the first time the conversation ended with don Juan telling Carlos that "to ask questions about one's past is a bunch of crap." But, before I go on, let me digress to discuss this matter of don Juan's personal history. It seems to be a bone of contention with the present Carlos's of the world that are still enchanted by the magical spell of personal history. Here is an example of how they think, "A French newspaper made an investigation a few years ago. It seems that Carlos Castaneda really existed, but probably not Don Juan. The Yaqui unlike other indigenous people, do not, according to the newspaper have much occult tradition."

At one point in this conversation on personal history, Carlos tells don Juan, "You are a Yaqui. You can't change that." To which don Juan pursues Carlos with a series of questions on the theme of how do you know that? Carlos admits that he doesn't for sure, but that don Juan knows for sure and "that is what counts. That's what makes it personal history." Carlos said he felt as though he had driven a nail in, but don Juan merely extracts it and pins Carlos like a butterfly on a specimen board with his own nail.

[page 30] "The fact that I know whether I am a Yaqui or not does not make it personal history," he replied. "Only when someone else knows that does it become personal history. And I assure you that no one will ever know for sure."

Given the personal power of don Juan, which one cannot help but experience in the course of the first two books, any careful reader of the don Juan books will know unimpeachably that the investigation and subsequent report in the French newspaper was a complete folly, and not worthy of consideration or even comment. A sorcerer simply has no use for personal history; if he did, he might be as limited as Carlos was by his holding on to his own personal history. Here's don Juan explaining the implications of this to Carlos.

[page 30] "Your father knows everything about you," he said. "So he has you all figured out. He knows who you are and what you do, and there is no power on earth can make him change his mind about you." . . . "You must renew your personal history by telling your parents, your relatives, your friends everything you do. On the other hand, if you have no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned with your acts. And above all no one pins you down with their thoughts."

This dialogue goes on for several pages (32 through 36) and every sentence is a treasure to anyone who feels stultified in their life. Chances are they have been pinned on that specimen board of life by their friends and they have been become emptied of life in the process, up until now. A pinned butterfly is consistent the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I first encountered the virtue of inconsistency in the words of my first tutor, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who came to my bedside in the North Stadium dormitory at LSU in the fall of 1958, and has never really left my side since. Here's his words that hummed the future in my ears, from his essay, Self-Reliance :

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.

This paragraph will list the strong draughts of don Juan's medicine for Carlos. After stopping the world, erasing his personal history, Carlos went on in this book to lose his self-importance, take on death as his adviser, assuming responsibility for all his actions, becoming a hunter, being inaccessible, disrupting the routines of his life, becoming accessible to power, taking on the mood of a warrior, fighting a battle for power, learning the gait of power and the doing of not-doing, finding the ring of power and finally undertaking his eponymous journey to Ixtlan. I cannot take you on Carlos's journey in this review you will have to undertake this on your own. Be prepared to lose all those whom you currently call your friends they cannot accompany you on this journey. Like the tape which plays Mr. Phelps' voice, they will self-destruct in five minutes.

As all journeys into understanding, this is a treacherous one. Travel light don Juan on one shoulder; death on the other de rigeur for the trip.


Any questions about this review, Contact: Bobby Matherne


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