Carlos Castaneda on Human Will
The Will project
Carlos Castaneda (25 December 1925 – 27 April 1998) was a Peruvian-born American anthropologist and author. Starting with The Teachings of Don Juan in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that describe his purported training in traditional Mesoamerican shamanism. His 12 books have sold more than 8 million copies in 17 languages. The books and Castaneda, who rarely spoke in public about his work, have been controversial for many years.
In his books, Castaneda narrated in first person what he claimed were his experiences under the tutelage of a Yaqui shaman named don Juan Matus whom he met in 1960. Castaneda wrote that he was identified by don Juan Matus as having the energetic configuration of a “nagual”, who, if the spirit chose, could become a leader of a party of seers. He also used the term “nagual” to signify that part of perception which is in the realm of the unknown yet still reachable by man, implying that, for his party of seers, don Juan was in some way a connection to that unknown. Castaneda often referred to this unknown realm as nonordinary reality, which indicated that this realm was indeed a reality, but radically different from the ordinary reality experienced by human beings who are well engaged in everyday activities as part of their social conditioning. Ordinary reality as experienced by humans was simply a “description” that had been pounded into their awareness since they were infants.
For further biographical details see the Carlos Castaneda Wikipedia entry.
Carlos Castaneda’s Concept of the Will
From A Separate Reality:
You must act like a warrior. One learns to act like a warrior by acting, not by talking. A warrior has only his will and his patience and with them he builds anything he wants. You have no more time for retreats or for regrets. You only have time to live like a warrior and work for patience and will . Will is something very special. It happens mysteriously. There is no real way of telling how one uses it, except that the results of using the will are astounding. Perhaps the first thing that one should do is to know that one can develop the will. A warrior knows that and proceeds to wait for it. A warrior knows that he is waiting and knows what he is waiting for. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for the average man to know what he is waiting for. A warrior, however, has no problems; he knows that he is waiting for his will. Will is something very clear and powerful which can direct our acts. Will is something a man uses, for instance, to win a battle which he, by all calculations, should lose. It is not what we call courage. Courage is something else. Men of courage are dependable men, noble men perennially surrounded by people who flock around them and admire them; yet very few men of courage have will . Usually they are fearless men who are given to performing daring common-sense acts; most of the time a courageous man is also fearsome and feared. Will , on the other hand, has to do with astonishing feats that defy our common sense. You may say that it is a kind of control. Will is not what one calls “will power.” Denying oneself certain things with “will power,” is an indulgence and I don’t recommend anything of the kind. The indulgence of denying is by far the worst; it forces us to believe we are doing great things, when in effect we are only fixed within ourselves. Will is a power. And since it is a power it has to be controlled and tuned and that takes time. When I was your age I was as impulsive as you. Yet I have changed. Our will operates in spite of our indulgence. For example your will is already opening your gap, little by little. There is a gap in us; like the soft spot on the head of a child which closes with age, this gap opens as one develops one’s will . It’s an opening. It allows a space for the will to shoot out, like an arrow. What a sorcerer calls will is a power within ourselves. It is not a thought, or an object, or a wish. An act of “will power” is not will because such an act needs thinking and wishing. Will is what can make you succeed when your thoughts tell you that you’re defeated. Will is a force which is the true link between men and the world. The world is whatever we perceive, in any manner we may choose to perceive. Perceiving the world entails a process of apprehending whatever presents itself to us. This particular perceiving is done with our senses and with our will . Will is a relation between ourselves and the perceived world. What the average man calls will is character and strong disposition. What a sorcerer calls will is a force that comes from within and attaches itself to the world out there. One can perceive the world with the senses as well as with the will. An average man can “grab” the things of the world only with his hands, or his senses, but a sorcerer can grab them also with his will . I cannot really describe how it is done, but you yourself, for instance, cannot describe to me how you hear. It happens that I am also capable of hearing, so we can talk about what we hear, but not about how we hear. A sorcerer uses his will to perceive the world. That perceiving, however, is not like hearing. When we look at the world or when we hear it, we have the impression that it is out there and that it is real. When we perceive the world with our will we know that the world is not as “out there” or as “real” as we think. Will is a force, a power. Seeing is not a force, but rather a way of getting through things. A sorcerer may have a very strong will and yet he may not see ; which means that only a man of knowledge perceives the world with his senses and with his will and also with his seeing. Now you know you are waiting for your will . You still don’t know what it is, or how it could happen to you. So watch carefully everything you do. The very thing that could help you develop your will is amidst all the little things you do.
When a man behaves in such a manner one may rightfully say that he is a warrior and has acquired patience. When a warrior has acquired patience he is on his way to will . He knows how to wait. His death sits with him on his mat, they are friends. His death advises him, in mysterious ways, how to choose, how to live strategically. And the warrior waits! I would say that the warrior learns without any hurry because he knows he is waiting for his will ; and one day he succeeds in performing something ordinarily quite impossible to accomplish. He may not even notice his extraordinary deed. But as he keeps on performing impossible acts, or as impossible things keep on happening to him, he becomes aware that a sort of power is emerging. A power that comes out of his body as he progresses on the path of knowledge. He notices that he can actually touch anything he wants with a feeling that comes out of his body from a spot right below or right above his navel. That feeling is the will , and when he is capable of grabbing with it, one can rightfully say that the warrior is a sorcerer, and that he has acquired will .
From Tales of Power:
Storing sufficient personal power will enable you to turn your will into a functioning unit. As I’ve said, will is a force that emanates from the umbilical region through an unseen opening below the navel, an opening called the gap . Will is cultivated only by sorcerers and gives them the capacity to perform extraordinary acts. The will develops in a warrior in spite of every opposition of the reason. You are the one who’s learning, therefore you yourself must claim knowledge as power. You must find out whether or not your will works. You must prove to yourself that you are in the position to claim knowledge as power. In other words, you yourself have to be convinced that you can exercise your will. The body must be perfection before the will is a functioning unit.
The secret of the 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 . You must learn to let yourself perceive whether the description is upheld by your reason or by your will. That is the only way for you to use your daily world as a challenge and a vehicle to accumulate enough personal power in order to get to the totality of yourself.
Let’s say that the warrior learns to tune his will , to direct it to a pinpoint, to focus it wherever he wants. It is as if his will , which comes from the midsection of his body, is one single luminous fiber, a fiber that he can direct at any conceivable place. That fiber is the road to the nagual . Or I could also say that the warrior sinks into the nagual through that single fiber. Once he has sunk, the expression of the nagual is a matter of his personal temperament.
You are a nameless cluster of feelings. There is another center of assemblage, the will , through which it is possible to judge or assess and use the extraordinary effects of the nagual. One can reflect the nagual through the will, although one can never explain it.
From The Second Ring of Power:
Anything is possible if one wants it with unbending intent and you don’t let your thoughts interfere.
The problem for you as a challenge is whether or not you will be capable of developing your will , or the power of your second attention to focus indefinitely on anything you want.
From The Eagle’s Gift:
To elucidate the control of the second attention, I’ve presented the idea of will . Will can be described as the maximum control of the luminosity of the body as a field of energy; or it can be described as a level of proficiency, as a state of being that comes abruptly into the daily life of a warrior at any given time. It is experienced as a force that radiates out of the middle part of the body following a moment of the most absolute silence, or a moment of sheer terror, or profound sadness. Those things afford the warrior the concentration needed to use the luminosity of the body and turn it into silence. For a human being sadness is as powerful as terror. Both can bring the moment of silence. Or the silence comes of itself, because the warrior tries for it throughout his life. It is a moment of blackness, a moment still more silent than the moment of shutting off the internal dialogue. That blackness, that silence, gives rise to the intent to direct the second attention, to command it, to make it do things. This is why it’s called will . The intent and the effect are will ; they are tied together. We don’t feel our will because we think that it should be something we know for sure that we are doing or feeling, like getting angry, for instance. Will is very quiet, unnoticeable. Will belongs to the other self. We are in our other selves when we do dreaming. Will is such a complete control of the second attention that it is called the other self.
From The Power of Silence:
The universe is made up of energy fields which defy description or scrutiny. They resemble filaments of ordinary light, except that light is lifeless compared to the Indescribable Force ‘s emanations, which exude awareness. Normal perception occurs when intent , which is pure energy, lights up a portion of the luminous filaments inside our cocoon, and at the same time brightens a long extension of the same luminous filaments extending into infinity outside our cocoon. Extraordinary perception, seeing , occurs when by the force of intent , a different cluster of energy fields energizes and lights up. When a crucial number of energy fields are lit up inside the luminous cocoon, a sorcerer is able to see the energy fields themselves. Awareness takes place when the energy fields inside our luminous cocoon are aligned with the same energy fields outside. Only a very small portion of the total number of luminous filaments inside the cocoon are energized while the rest remain unaltered. The filaments do not need to be aligned to be lit up, because the ones inside our cocoon are the same as those outside. Whatever energizes them is definitely an independent force. We can’t call it awareness because awareness is the glow of the energy fields being lit up. The force that lites up the fields is named will. Will is the force that keeps the Indescribable Force’s emanations separated and is not only responsible for our awareness, but also for everything in the universe. This force has total consciousness and it springs from the very fields of energy that make the universe. Intent is a more appropriate name for it than will . In the long run, however, the name proves disadvantageous, because it does not describe its overwhelming importance nor the living connection it has with everything in the universe. Our great collective flaw is that we live our lives completely disregarding that connection. The busyness of our lives, our relentless interests, concerns, hopes, frustrations, and fears take precedence, and on a day-to-day basis we are unaware of being linked to everything else.
Being cast out from the Garden of Eden sounds like an allegory for losing our silent knowledge, our knowledge of intent . sorcery, then, is a going back to the beginning, a return to paradise. The spirit is the force that sustains the universe. Intent is not something one might use or command or move in any way–nevertheless, one could use it, command it, or move it as one desires. This contradiction is the essence of sorcery. To fail to understand it has brought generations of sorcerers unimaginable pain and sorrow. Modern-day naguals, in an effort to avoid paying this exorbitant price in pain, have developed a code of behavior called the warrior’s way, or the impeccable action, which prepares sorcerers by enhancing their sobriety and thoughtfulness.
Sorcerers concern themselves exclusively with the capacity that their individual connecting link with intent has to set them free to light the fire from within. All modern-day sorcerers have to struggle fiercely to gain soundness of mind. Sorcery is an attempt to reestablish our knowledge of intent and regain use of it without succumbing to it. The abstract cores of the sorcerer stories are shades of realization, degrees of our being aware of intent.
From The Fire From Within:
This is one of the most extraordinary things that the new seers found out: that our command can become the Indescribable Force ‘s command. The internal dialogue stops in the same way it begins: by an act of will . After all, we are forced to start talking to ourselves by those who teach us. As they teach us, they engage their will and we engage ours, both without knowing it. As we learn to talk to ourselves, we learn to handle will . We will ourselves to talk to ourselves. The way to stop talking to ourselves is to use exactly the same method: we must will it, we must intend it.
They began by seeing how the glow of awareness increases in size and intensity as the emanations inside the cocoon are aligned with the emanations at large. They used that observation as a springboard, just as they had done with stalking , and went on to develop a complex series of techniques to handle that alignment of emanations. At first they referred to those techniques as the mastery of alignment. Then they realized that what is involved is much more than alignment; what is involved is the energy that comes out of the alignment of emanations. They called that energy will. Will became the second basis. The new seers understood it as a blind, impersonal, ceaseless burst of energy that makes us behave in the ways we do. Will accounts for our perception of the world of ordinary affairs, and indirectly, through the force of that perception, it accounts for the placement of the assemblage point in its customary position. The new seers examined how the perception of the world of everyday life takes place and saw the effects of will. They saw that alignment is ceaselessly renewed in order to imbue perception with continuity. To renew alignment every time with the freshness that it needs to make up a living world, the burst of energy that comes out of those very alignments is automatically rerouted to reinforce some choice alignments. This new observation served the new seers as another springboard that helped them reach the third basis of the set. They called it intent , and they described it as the purposeful guiding of will, the energy of alignment.
To see the Indescribable Force ‘s emanations you must first move your assemblage point until you see the cocoon of man.
Alignment is a unique force because it either helps the assemblage point shift, or it keeps it glued to its customary position. The aspect of alignment that keeps the point stationary is will ; and the aspect that makes it shift is intent . One of the most haunting mysteries is how will , the impersonal force of alignment, changes into intent , the personalized force, which is at the service of each individual. The strangest part of this mystery is that the change is so easy to accomplish. But what is not so easy is to convince ourselves that it is possible. There, right there, is our safety catch. We have to be convinced. And none of us wants to be.
- The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968) ISBN 0-520-21757-8.
- A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan (1971) ISBN 0-671-73249-8.
- Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan (1972) ISBN 0-671-73246-3.
- Tales of Power (1974) ISBN 0-671-73252-8.
- The Second Ring of Power (1977) ISBN 0-671-73247-1.
- The Eagle’s Gift (1981) ISBN 0-671-73251-X.
- The Fire From Within (1984) ISBN 0-671-73250-1.
- The Power of Silence: Further Lessons of Don Juan (1987) ISBN 0-671-73248-X.
- The Art of Dreaming (1993) ISBN 0-06-092554-X.
- Magical Passes: The Practical Wisdom of the Shamans of Ancient Mexico (1998) ISBN 0-06-092882-4.
- The Active Side of Infinity (1999) ISBN 0-06-092960-X.
- The Wheel of Time: The Shamans Of Mexico (2000) ISBN 0-14-019604-8.