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Tales of Power
Carlos Castaneda
Book 4 of the don Juan Series
Published by Simon&Schuster in 1974

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 into new realities by ingesting jimson weed, peyote buttons, and psilocybe mushrooms. In the second book, A Separate Reality, don Juan focused on getting Carlos to learn "seeing." In the third book, Journey to Ixtlan, Carlos was introduced to a plethora of techniques such as erasing personal history, death as adviser, becoming accessible to power, the mood of a warrior, the gait of power, not-doing, and the ring of power. In this book, Carlos becomes a witness to acts of power, learns about the tonal and the nagual, and receives the sorcerer's explanation.

Early in the book don Juan tells Carlos that he doesn't have "enough power yet to seek the sorcerer's explanation." If you analyze his statement you find some interesting presuppositions: "not enough power" presupposes Carlos has some. The qualifier yet presupposes that Carlos will acquire it later. The words seek the sorcerer's explanation presuppose that, one, there is a sorcerer's explanation and, two, it is something that Carlos can and should seek. When I finished a week long hypnosis seminar with Richard Bandler back in 1981, I realized in no uncertain terms that if I expected hypnosis to be preceded by someone waving a pendulum in front of my face, I could expect to remain in the consensual trance of our culture indefinitely. Those four above presuppositions will act on Carlos as four very powerful post-hypnotic suggestions to seek and find the sorcerer's explanation during the course of this book. Carlos' response to the trance induction by don Juan is to ask for more information, what Milton Erickson would call ratifying the trance state.

[page 14] "Then there is a sorcerer's explanation!"
"Certainly. Sorcerers are men. We're creatures of thought. We seek clarifications."
"I was under the impression that my great flaw was to seek explanations."
"No. Your flaw was to seek convenient explanations, explanations that fit you and your world. What I object to is your reasonableness. A sorcerer explains things in his world too, but he's not as stiff as you."

So, naturally, Carlos must acquire more personal power and then he will "slide with great ease into the sorcerer's explanation." To demonstrate the requirement for personal power, don Juan lowers his voice a bit and utters what he calls "the greatest piece of knowledge anyone can voice."

[page 17] "Do you know that at this very moment you are surrounded by eternity? And do you know that you can use that eternity, if you so desire?"

Carlos is even more confused than he was before, and considering the two new presuppositions that he was hit by, it's no wonder. How long does it take for one to recover from a presupposition? [Matherne's Rule #39] Carlos was speechless, and don Juan stared him and continued:

[page 17] "You didn't have this knowledge before," he said, smiling. "Now you do. I have revealed it to you, but it doesn't make a bit of difference, because you don't have enough personal power to utilize my revelation. Yet if you did have enough power, my words alone would serve as the means for you to round up the totality of yourself and to get the crucial part of it out of the boundaries in which it is contained.

Next Carlos was asked about his "dreaming" experiences. This was a practice that don Juan had suggested to Carlos which involved finding one's hands while one is dreaming. When the sight of his hands changed into something else, Carlos was supposed to shift his glance to any other element in his surroundings. This constituted what don Juan called "dreaming." Then he was led to walking with eyes slightly defocused without any internal dialogue. Internal dialogue, don Juan told him, "is how you stayed grounded." Shutting off that internal dialogue was necessary to becoming a sorcerer. Carlos went for a short walk in this manner, the “gait of power,” and when he reported that he encountered a man and a huge bird, don Juan corrected him.

[page 25] "If you want to be accurate in sorcerer's terms, but very ridiculous in your own terms, you could say that tonight you had an appointment with a moth. Knowledge is a moth. "

Carlos began an extended exercise in "seeing" during which he brought some 32 friends before him as he and don Juan sat in the night of the desert. Each one appeared in colors and configurations that were unique. Eligio's form seemed to leap out at him, something a talented apprentice might be able to do. Then don Juan asked Carlos to call don Genaro, "the real McCoy." Carlos went in his "seeing" mode again and reported,

[page 43] "The golden bubbles engulfed me and then in one of them I saw don Genaro himself. He was standing in front of me, holding his hat in his hand. He was smiling. I hurriedly opened my eyes and was about to speak to don Juan, but before I could say a word my body stiffened like a board, my hair stood on end and for a moment I did not know what to do or say. Don Genaro was standing right in front of me. In person!"

What took Carlos aback was that he and don Juan had been alone for a long time and don Genaro was supposed to be in central Mexico. When Carlos shared his astonishment at don Genaro popping up out of nowhere, the two sorcerers broke out into raucous laughter. Carlos was completely unable to explain how the clothes that he saw in his vision of don Genaro in the "golden bubble" matched exactly the clothes he later appeared in the flesh wearing.

Carlos had learned that he had just met don Genaro's double. At one point he asked don Juan, "Are you yourself or are you your double?" and don Juan replied, "My double." Carlos was terrified. Don Juan said, "I'm just kidding." This constant keeping of Carlos off balance went on whenever don Genaro and don Juan were around, almost as if it were for their amusement.

Don Genaro told Carlos about several episodes of "dreaming" - the first one happened as don Genaro was picking up plants in the mountains and laid down to take a nap.

[page 68] "I heard then the sound of people coming down the hill and I woke up. I hurriedly ran for cover and hid behind some bushes a short distance across the road from where I had fallen asleep. While I hid there I had the nagging impression I had forgotten something. I looked to see if I had my two sacks of plants. I didn't have them. I looked across the road to the place where I had been sleeping and I nearly dropped my pants with fright. I was still there asleep!"

Seemed that don Genaro had forgotten to take his body along. The process of "dreaming" is intimately connected with that of the double, as Carlos found out when a similar thing later happened to him. "The double is a dream." Maybe that's who Carlos called when he conjured up Genaro from his home in central Mexico, he called his double. Sometimes the explanations of the events are weirder than the events themselves, e. g.:

[page 82] . . . if you had not gotten lost in your indulging, you could have known that you yourself are a dream, that your double is dreaming you, in the same fashion that you dreamed him last night.

Carlos was always writing down things in his notepad, something don Juan and don Genaro teased him about all the time. His description of the world, the one he wrote down on his pad, and the one he kept going in his head as internal dialogue were both reason-based descriptions, descriptions based in what Rudolf Steiner called the Intellectual Soul. But to put will into thinking is the hallmark of the Consciousness Soul at work. In the next passage, don Juan seems to be talking specifically about the power of the Consciousness Soul with its will over the Intellectual Soul with its reason.

[page 101] "We, the luminous beings, are born with two rings of power, but we use only one to create the world. That ring, which is hooked very soon after we are born, is reason, and its companion is talking. Between the two they concoct and maintain the world.

"So, in essence, the world that your reason wants to sustain is the world created by a description and its dogmatic and inviolable rules, which the reason learns to accept and defend.

"The secret of luminous beings is that they have another ring of power which is never used, the will. The trick of the sorcerer is the same trick of the average man. Both have a description; one, the average man, upholds it with his reason; the other, the sorcerer, upholds it with his will. Both descriptions have their rules and the rules are perceivable, but the advantage of the sorcerer is that will is more engulfing than reason.

"The suggestion that I want to make at this point is that from now on you should let yourself perceive whether the description is upheld by your reason or by your will.

In the middle part of the book, don Juan introduces Carlos to the tonal and the nagual, which are pronounced ton-nahl and nah-wahl. The tonal is the left-brain, reason-based, descriptive parts of social humankind - think of it as consisting of maps at all levels of maps. The nagual is the territory, the pure What Is Going On [WIGO] of Alfred O. Korzybski, for which no map will ever be sufficient. Each level of map is at least one level of abstraction separated from the WIGO. Don Juan says at one point, "It is the nagual that is responsible for creativity." Naturally what we can get from the tonal is only more description, but from the nagual we can extract the exciting possibilities that we call by the name creativity.

At one point don Juan and don Genaro simultaneously talked into Carlos's ears, don Juan into his right ear, and don Genaro into his left ear. In Bandler and Grinder's early seminars they would sometime use this "double-induction" technique, with one talking in one's left ear and the other into the right ear. Or they would simply alternate talking, sometimes talking over one another, to the entire audience and we would experience a splitting of our left and right brains similar to what Carlos experienced with the two dons.

[page 184] After that my perceptions became dull. They either lacked precision, or they were too many and I had no way of sorting them. The next batch of discernible apperceptions were a series of sounds that happened at the end of a long tubelike formation. The tube was myself and the sounds were don Juan and don Gernaro, again talking to me through each of my ears. The more they talked the shorter the tube became until the sounds were in a range I recognized. That is to say, the sounds of do Juan and don Genaro's words reached my normal range of perception: the sounds were first recognizable as noises, then as words yelled, and finally as words whispered in my ears.

In the end of the book, one early evening don Genaro was lying on the ground, moving his arms and legs as if he were swimming. Don Juan said he was hugging the Earth, and that "Only the love for this splendorous being can give freedom to a warrior's spirit; and freedom is joy, efficiency, and abandon in the face of any odds." He then reminded the two new warriors, Carlos and Pablito, that "twilight is the crack between the worlds, the door to the unknown" and swept his hand over the northern edge of the mesa on which they were standing saying, "This is the plateau in front of that door." With those words don Juan and don Genaro faded away behind them as Pablito held Carlos' forearm and they said goodbye to each other. Then, in a moment like in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" they began running together and jumped from the northern edge of the mesa into the door to the unknown as the book comes to an end with this sentence:

[page 287] I felt his arm holding me as we jumped and then I was alone.


Any questions about this review, Contact: Bobby Matherne


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