The Teachings of Juan Matus were described in detail by Carlos Castaneda -- our contemporary from Los Angeles. His books known to us were published in the period from 1966 to 1987. We also know the book by D.C.Noel Seeing Castaneda, which contains interviews with him.
It must be noted right away that in his books Castaneda describes the period of his relationship with don Juan that lasted for about three decades. Over this period, it was not only Castaneda who advanced in his development but also don Juan himself. Reading Castaneda’s books, one can see both the early and the later personal spiritual quest of don Juan, which was not free from mistakes. This is why the spiritual concept of this School must be evaluated not based on what don Juan spoke and did over these decades, but on what he attained by the end of his earthly life.
So, the future author of bestsellers about the School of Juan Matus, Carlos Castaneda was an undergraduate student in a university in the USA, majoring in anthropology. He had to collect material for his thesis, so he went to Mexico to study the experience of Indians in using medicinal and psychotropic plants. Upon arrival to Mexico, he started searching for people competent in this issue. He was introduced to an Indian, whose name was Juan Matus and who agreed to provide Castaneda with the data he needed free of charge.
They got acquainted, and their joint work began. In due course, Castaneda discovered that don Juan possessed the knowledge not only about the qualities of plants but also about the ancient art of Toltec Indians’ sorcery. Moreover, don Juan turned out to be a sorcerer himself. For the first time in his life, Castaneda came across phenomena that were beyond his secular and religious beliefs. For example, it turned out that lizards could talk, people could fly with their bodies, extract various things “out of nowhere”, and so on. Castaneda found himself captivated by all these and interested as a scientist in this, new for him, area of knowledge.
Once don Juan invited Castaneda to a meeting where his associates were taking self-made psychedelics. Castaneda tried them as well. And what happened then made don Juan, for the first time, view Castaneda as a promising disciple.
Don Juan was a mystic; he perceived the whole world in a mystical way. In particular, he attached great importance to so-called signs coming to him from the separate reality.
It happened that Castaneda, upon swallowing a few pills of peyote, started playing a strange game with a dog. They began to urinate on each other… It was the dog’s behavior, absolutely unusual for a dog, that was of significance there. It was interpreted by don Juan as a sign from God (Who was called the Power in this tradition) indicating the significance of non-Indian Castaneda for the School. Since that moment, Castaneda became a member of the party (that is, the group) of don Juan’s disciples. And don Juan started to initiate him gradually into the secret knowledge of his School.
What was the worldview concept of the School?
The universe consists of two “parallel” worlds; the first of them is called the tonal (that is, the world of material things), and the second -- the nagual (the non-material world).
We communicate with the world of matter through the so-called first attention, i.e. the attention carried out through the organs of sense of the physical body.
To become able of cognizing the nagual, one has to develop the second attention, that is, clairvoyance.
There is also the third attention, by means of which one perceives the Creator and His Manifestation, which don Juan referred to as the Fire.
According to the mythology shared by don Juan’s predecessors, the world is governed by the universal divine Eagle. This was their concept of God. However fantastic it seems, it is monotheistic.
This Eagle feeds on souls that leave human bodies. But the Eagle also confers the chance on some people to “skip” past His beak after death and to achieve immortality, provided that during their life in the body they acquired skills necessary for this, developed themselves as consciousnesses to the required degree, and gained the required power.
This concept contained a frightening element, which was supposed to force a person to make efforts on self-perfection. But, like Jesus Christ, don Juan strongly opposed this attitude toward God, which was based on fear. He said that in order to approach God, one has to take the path of heart -- that is the path of Love. It is interesting that don Juan came to this understanding independently of the influence of other spiritual traditions. He was not familiar with the Teachings of either Krishna or Jesus Christ, nor has he ever read Sufi or Taoist books. It is obvious that he did not read the New Testament; otherwise he would quote it for sure.
A person resolved to achieve immortality, first has to become a “hunter”. Not a hunter who kills game, but that for knowledge, who walks the path of heart -- caring, loving both the Earth and beings that live on it.
Having mastered the stage of spiritual “hunter”, one can become a spiritual “warrior” -- that is the one who “traces” Power (God), striving to “stalk” It and to cognize It.
Don Juan often taught Castaneda and his other disciples when they walked in the desert and in the mountains -- in most natural conditions of direct contact with the world that surrounds us.
For instance, once they caught a wild rabbit. Don Juan knew that the life of this rabbit on the Earth was coming to an end, according to its destiny. And he suggested that Castaneda killed this rabbit with his own hands. Castaneda exclaimed, “I cannot do this!” Don Juan objected, “But you have killed animals before!” Castaneda replied, “Yes, but I killed them with my rifle, from a distance, without having to see them die…”
Castaneda refused to commit killing; for the first time he thought about his ethic right to do this, about the suffering of the creature being killed.
However, the rabbit died by itself before Castaneda’s eyes, because the time of its stay on the Earth had really run out.
Once don Juan and Castaneda were walking down the street and saw a snail crossing the road. And don Juan used this example to explain the philosophy of the role of a person in the destinies of other creatures.
In such a way Castaneda, who at the beginning was very proud of his being a learned and civilized person, became increasingly convinced that true wisdom belongs not to him, but to this old Indian, a great spiritual Seeker and Teacher, who lived the life of a hunter and a warrior in harmony with the world around him.
… After his disciples had mastered the basics of ethics and wisdom, don Juan would proceed to teaching them psychoenergetical methods.
It should be noted here that only a very limited number of students were accepted into the don Juan’s School. The criterion of selection was the level of the development of the energy structures of the organism -- the chakras. Of course, Indians did not use such words as chakras and dantyans. But they spoke of segments in the energy cocoon of man. And only disciples with the developed chakras were considered to be promising and able to withstand on the path of a hunter and warrior.
Therefore, those enrolled in the School had a big experience in psychoenergetical work acquired in their previous lives on the Earth. That is, they were ready for serious work from the psychoenergetical standpoint.
This allowed them to start psychoenergetical training not with cleansing and development of the meridians and chakras, but immediately with development of the main power structure of the organism -- hara (the lower dantyan).
When the work with hara was completed, the next stage followed: the division of the cocoon into two parts: the upper and the lower bubbles of perception. It is from these bubbles that one perceives the tonal and the nagual, respectively.
Division of the cocoon into two bubbles of perception was regarded as an important intermediate step toward further stages of psychoenergetical self-perfection. One had to master concentration of the consciousness in both “poles” of the cocoon divided in such a way.
Then, further work was performed in order to develop the lower bubble of perception. But it was started only after the consciousness had been properly refined, or, as it was called in the don Juan’s School, after cleansing the luminosity of the cocoon.
That is, as in all other advanced spiritual Schools, the techniques aimed at the refinement of the consciousness preceded the large-scale process of its crystallization. However, Castaneda does not describe the methods of “cleansing the luminosity” except the one, which can be viewed only as a joke, namely -- inhaling the smoke of a fire.
Thanks to the refinement of the consciousness and the work with the lower bubble of perception, including mastering the state of Nirodhi, the disciples attained the state of Nirvana (though, they did not know this Sanskrit term). First, they mastered the static variation of Nirvana in Brahman, and after this -- the dynamic one, when the crystallized consciousness acts in subtle eons. In this state, one can easily touch with the consciousness any being within the Earth or near it, provided one has information about this being.
Once don Juan slapped Castaneda on the back with his hand (he often used this technique to shift the assemblage point, that is the zone of distribution of disciple’s consciousness) -- and Castaneda, prepared for this by preceding exercises, entered the static variation of Nirvana in one of the Brahmanic states. At that moment, he for the first time experienced the state of deep peace; for the first time he perceived God; he perceived that God is Love indeed…
But suddenly he heard the voice of don Juan saying that this state was, though fine, -- not that to which he had to aspire now. You have to advance further! Do not think that this is the limit of your abilities… With these words don Juan suggested to Castaneda, who had cognized the supreme bliss of Nirvana, not to “get attached” to this bliss, but to keep on going further… At first, Castaneda felt offended and angry with don Juan, but the latter was unbending: one must advance further!…
And what is further? It is the dynamic aspect of Nirvana when the crystallized consciousness acts in the subtle eons. In this state, one can touch with the consciousness any being within the Earth and around it; in order to do this, one needs just to have information about this being.
The state of Nirodhi, known in all developed Schools of buddhi yoga, don Juan described also in endemic terms specific to this School. The disciples were taught that there exist energy waves, which constantly roll on all living creatures and from which we are shielded by our cocoons. And that one can use the power of these waves for transferring oneself with their help into unknown worlds. (These unknown worlds are other spatial dimensions). To make it happen, one has to allow the rolling force to flood the cocoon. Then one turns into “nothing”; one’s “I” dies.
It is only after attaining the state of disappearance in Brahman that it becomes possible to cognize Ishvara -- and to disappear in Him forever, having conquered death. That is, as don Juan understood, one must not “skip past the Eagle’s beak” but to merge into universal God-Power.
It should be noted that with the help of the Fire one can master dematerialization of the physical body. Juan Matus and his companions performed this.
… So, we have considered the principal stages of work in the buddhi yoga School of Juan Matus. They turn out to be common for all Schools of buddhi yoga, regardless of the location of these Schools on the Earth’s surface or whether they are connected with each other or not, and regardless the languages spoken in these Schools and the terms used in them. It is so because God guides people, who devote their lives to Him, according to the same laws of spiritual development.
And now, let us consider in more detail the specific methods of work in the School of Juan Matus, which have been described by Castaneda and which we can apply to ourselves.
They can be divided into two groups: preliminary and basic ones.
The first of the preliminary methods is recapitulation. In essence, this is the same as repentance, which is present in all major religions. The disciples had to recall -- mainly in seclusion which lasted for several days -- all the mistakes they had made in their lives, and to re-live those situations anew, this time correctly. To make the disciples more “interested” in this very hard work, they were told that during recapitulation they regain the energy wasted as a result of their incorrect emotional reactions. The quality of the penitential work did not deteriorate because of this trick, since its major goal -- to learn to react in the ethically correct way and to avoid sinning -- was achieved, provided that the disciples make due efforts.
They also had to destroy the feeling of self-importance and self-pity -- since these qualities result in tremendous waste of one’s personal energy. Indeed, if one views oneself very important and someone else encroaches on this importance with their disrespectful attitude, one reacts with emotional outburst of resentment, anger, and so forth. In this process, the energy of the organism is intensively wasted.
Here is an interesting fact of the Castaneda’s biography: when his study in don Juan’s School came to an end, he and his closest companion, la Gorda -- though Castaneda became a millionaire thanks to his books and could live a life free from material concerns -- in spite of this, he and la Gorda got hired under different names as servants to a rich man and suffered humiliations from rudeness and treachery of other servants. They resorted to this in order to destroy completely the feeling of self-importance, to erase from their memories their own personal history -- so that to attain humility. Since everything that happens to the warrior on the physical plane, as Castaneda put it, does not matter; the only thing that matters is the state of the consciousness.
And it is of no importance indeed, compared to the Supreme Goal! That which is of principal importance is the ability to be naught, the ability not to defend yourself when someone is unjust to you, but to be protected -- so taught don Juan. And the state of being protected comes only when “there is no myself”, when there is only God.
One of the most essential preparatory elements of the work in the School of Juan Matus was “sweeping of the tonal”, which is called observance of aparigraha in the ethics of Hindu yoga.
We have already mentioned wise don Juan’s ability to explain the most complicated philosophical matters in an easy-to-understand manner using natural examples from everyday life. He did it, for example, when explaining this principle to his disciples.
Once don Juan assembled the disciples, took a sack and put into it a radio, a tape recorder, and several other things found in the house of one of the disciples. Then he gave this sack to one disciple to carry, gave a table to another disciple to carry, and took them to the mountains. In the middle of a valley, he told them to put the table down and emptied the contents of the sack onto it. Then he took the disciples at some distance from the table and asked them what they see.
They told that they see a radio… and so on and so forth…
Then don Juan came to the table and whisked everything off it. “Take another look and tell me what do you see now?”, he said. Only then the disciples understood don Juan: he wanted them to see not only the things on the table, but the table itself and more -- the space around the table. But the things on the table prevented the disciples from seeing the world around by drawing their attention to themselves.
In this way don Juan demonstrated to his disciples that in order to cognize the nagual, and then -- God, one has to cleanse the tonal around oneself.
Perhaps, it is appropriate to recall the example of observance of the same principle in the history of Christianity: monks had in their cells, besides icons and few books, a coffin in which they slept -- so that to remember constantly of the inevitable death, which urges those who remember about it to intensify their spiritual efforts.
Also, don Juan taught the disciples to destroy stereotypes of material life, as for instance, strict observance of one’s routines. For what purpose? In order to attain freedom. The destruction of unreasonable patterns of behavior, thinking, and reacting, instilled in us in the process of our upbringing, must result in the “loss of the human form”, that is, in attaining the state when we learn to act not according to our reflexes or because it is customary to act so, but in accordance with advisability.
The “loss of the human form” is not a short-term mechanic action, as some disciples of don Juan fantasized, but a prolonged process, accompanying the man’s gradual approaching God. This process comes to an end when the seeker learns to look at all situations with the eyes of the Creator.
But attaining the “loss of the human form” does not mean that man starts to behave “not like everyone else” in the society, because, first, inevitable conflicts with other people would prevent him from fulfilling his main duty. Second, the conduct, which is “defiant” by form, in many cases turns out to be a breach of the basic law of objective ethics -- making no harm to other living beings. This is why the disciples were suggested to observe conventional norms of behavior, sometimes secretly laughing at them and resorting to the so-called “controlled folly”.
To illustrate this, don Juan once astounded Castaneda by taking off his usual Indian garments and putting on an immaculate modern suit for his trip to the town!
In connection with this, don Juan also taught his disciples to talk to people in the language people can understand. For example, once he and Castaneda were sitting on a bench near a church and saw how two not very old ladies came out from a church and hesitated about descending several steps. Then don Juan came and helped them to go down, and advised them that if they fall, they should not move until doctor arrives. The ladies were sincerely grateful to him for this advice.
The next very important methodical technique is remembering about one’s own death.
The majority of people today are accustomed to banishing the thought of their death. And even when we come across the facts of other people passing away, we never try to imagine ourselves in their place. We assure ourselves that even if this is going to happen to us, it is a very long time ahead.
If each of us asks oneself now: “When will I die?” -- the dates will be very distant, though theoretically everyone knows that people die at any age.
So, don Juan suggested that we imagine that personified death is always with us. And if one quickly looks back over the left shoulder, then it is possible to catch a glimpse of the death. “At that moment, death is sitting next to you on the same mat, waiting for your mistake”, he said to Castaneda. And no one is aware of the moment when he or she is going to die; this is why we should not have any unfinished works.
Let me cite these remarkable words of don Juan, for it is one of his best theoretical developments:
“… How can anyone feel so important when we know that death is stalking us?
“… The thing to do when you are impatient is turn to your left and ask advice from your death. An immense amount of pettiness is dropped if your death makes a gesture to you, or if you catch a glimpse of it, or if you just have the feeling that your companion is there watching you.
“Death is a wise adviser that we have… One… has to ask death’s advice and drop the cursed pettiness that belongs to men that live their lives as if death will never tap them!
“If you do not think of your death, all your life will be just personal chaos!
“(The warrior) knows his death is stalking him and won’t give him time to cling to anything… And thus with an awareness of his death,… and with the power of his decisions a warrior sets his life in a strategic manner… and what he chooses is always strategically the best; and so he performs everything he has to with gusto and lusty efficiency!
“Life for a warrior is an exercise in strategy.
“Without the awareness of death everything is ordinary, trivial. It is only because death is stalking us that the world is an unfathomable mystery.
“You have little time and no time for crap. A wonderful state! The best of us always comes out when we are against the wall, when we feel the sword dangling overhead. … I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Another important aspect of working with disciples was mastering the mental pause or, in other words, stoppage of “inner dialogue” (the first term is preferable because besides “inner dialogues” there are also “inner monologues”).
This is an absolutely necessary prerequisite for mastering the nagual, because the nagual is mastered by means of meditation, and meditation, as Rajneesh put it nicely, is the state of non-mind. That is, to learn to immerse the consciousness into the nagual, one has to learn to stop, to switch off the mind.
For the purpose of attaining the mental pause, don Juan used the following techniques:
1. Psychedelics. It should be noted, however, that don Juan used this method only in the very beginning of their joint work, and later on he gave it up. Second, Castaneda complained afterwards that though he was immensely grateful to don Juan for everything that he had done for him, but nonetheless his (Castaneda’s) liver was still marked with scars. Hence, it is absolutely unadvisable to follow their example as to using psychedelics. All the more, there are other, far more effective and harmless means of mastering the mental pause at our disposal.
2. “Gazing”. One had to look at some object for a long time and in fixed manner, for example, at a ravine, flowing water, and so on. As a result, the first attention got exhausted and switched off leaving room for the second attention.
3. Prolonged suspension of one’s body on devices like a swing.
The training mentioned above resulted in attaining the state that in Chinese yoga is called wu-wei -- non-doing, that is non-doing on the physical plane, when the mind (manas) stops, and we get the opportunity for directed meditation, for the activity of the buddhi. Manas and buddhi are in reciprocal relations: they cannot act simultaneously; at any point in time only one of them operates. (That does not mean that a person without a body or in the state of meditation loses reason. No. A developed crystallized consciousness thinks. But it thinks in another way, not in the “earthly” manner).
Another unique technique developed in this School by don Juan’s predecessors is intentional interaction with people-tyrants. The technique was employed for attainment of impeccability of warrior, that is the ability to follow ethical principles and adhere to strategy of objectively valid behavior in situations of urgency. Some time in the past don Juan himself was sent by his teacher to a fierce foreman-tyrant for such training. In Mexico such people were considered very rare, and to find one was regarded a big luck by warriors.
… Now let us list the methods of psychoenergetical work used in the don Juan’s School:
1. Cleansing of the inner luminosity (i.e. the refinement of the consciousness).
2. Use of places of power -- energetically significant zones favorable for mastering particular meditations.
3. Dreaming, which was given much attention in the work of the School. What is it? Many people, having read Castaneda’s books, try to use their night sleep for this purpose without success. No, this is not the way it must be done. Dreaming is a synonym of the word meditation. Due to being unfamiliar with the terms commonly accepted in other countries, Central American Indians had to find their own words to denote techniques, phenomena, and objects of spiritual practice. This is how the term dreaming was born, since meditative images sometimes are really similar to the images one sees in dreams.
Special training in dreaming allowed the disciples, in the state of being detached from the body, to run on the walls, to climb along energy beams (the lines of the world), and so on.
4. Learning to act in extreme magical situations, intentionally created by the preceptor. For this purpose, ethical vices of the disciples were used. For example, if a disciple had an inclination to attack selfishly other people, he was suggested to take part in a magical fight that he would lose for sure. And it turned out beneficial for all the participants.
5. The technique of shifting the assemblage point as a result of energetic impact of the preceptor (this was called Nagual’s blow; the term Nagual had another meaning in this case: a leader who mastered the nagual and is capable of acting in it and from it).
6. Practice of meditative leveling-off of the energy emanations inside the cocoon in accordance with the outer emanations of the highest spatial dimensions.
7. Work with hara aimed at the development of the power aspect.
8. Use of allies (that is, spirits). It was done in two ways.
The first one -- “taming” of spirits who had to, according to the plan, become assistants and protectors of the sorcerer. Both don Juan and his friend Genaro had such allies in the beginning of their spiritual quest.
But everyone must be warned that this is an erroneous and dangerous practice, which we in no way should try imitating. By the way, both don Juan and Genaro gave up this practice later on.
The other way of working with allies consisted in hunting them. No wonder such a tendency existed among Indians who lived in constant contact with wildlife. So, the disciples were told that at some moment they were sure to come across some ally in male human form who would challenge them to a fight. One can lose in this combat, giving way to fear, or one can win. In the latter case, one acquires the power of that spirit.
And the disciples prepared themselves for such a fight, which could take place any moment, by developing alertness (readiness) and other necessary qualities of warriors.
On the basis of this educational game, the disciples performed, in particular, the work on the development of the lower bubble of perception.
… To sum up the above said, let us consider the basic aspects of these Teachings, which are extremely rich of most valuable theoretical and practical elements.
Don Juan pointed out three directions in the Teachings: a) the art of stalking, b) the art of intent, and c) the art of consciousness.
In the history of this Indian spiritual tradition, the art of stalking initially consisted in the ability to sneak, to stalk unnoticed among people who do not understand you (that is, people of lower stages of psychogenesis) -- and to achieve your Goal.
But later on, owing in particular to personal contribution of don Juan, this trend was significantly expanded and included also the stalking of one’s own vices. We have discussed this already. Let me just quote one brilliant formula, given by don Juan: God (in his parlance, Power) provides according to our impeccability. That is, God gives us an opportunity to approach Him, to immerse into increasing happiness of Mergence with Him -- as we perfect ourselves ethically.
The second direction is the art of intent. Intent, in this context, is the same as aspiration to the Supreme Goal. A true warrior, in don Juan’s meaning of this word, is a person with the correctly developed intent.
The lifestyle of the warriors brought them to the “totality” of themselves, that is to the state of being “non-split” regarding major and minor things, the “integrity” in devoting themselves only to the Supreme Goal.
The third direction is the art of consciousness -- it is what buddhi yoga is.
So, we could see once again, that God leads all people, who have attained a certain level of maturity in their psychogenesis, irrespective of the country and religious culture they live in, using the common methodological pattern. We should study these principles and trends and apply them to ourselves and to the people who follow us.
Author Bio :
Vladimir Antonov, Ph.D. (in biology), author of many books and articles on spiritual development. See works of Dr.Antonov on Divine Way of Spiritual Heart and Native American Spirituality. Path of Heart.