Carlos describes his first meeting with of don Juan (1960) and describes how he goofed trying to convince him that he was knowledgeable about Peyote. He feels that don Juan knew that he was bluffing and remembers the shine in his eyes. He remarks on don Juan's apparent strength, fitness and his nimble movement. He was not weak and helpless. In the first few meetings Carlos becomes most impressed by the silent consistency of don Juan's actions.

About knowledge don Juan stresses not academic knowledge but direct knowledge of the world and asks Carlos if he ever feels the world around him. - "You must feel everything otherwise the world loses it's sense."

Carols says he does not have to taste the soup in order to know the recipe, or get an electric shock to know about electricity.

Don Juan: You make it sound stupid... You want to cling to your arguments despite the fact that they bring nothing to you, you want to remain the same even at the cost of your well being... You are not complete, you have no peace... You are plagued with problems. Why?

Carlos: "I am only a man" - despairingly, meaning he was weak and helpless.

Don Juan: You think about yourself too much, and that gives you a strange fatigue that makes you shut off from the world around you and cling to your arguments. Therefore all you have is problems.

After a year don Juan discloses that he is a sorcerer and for the next four years Carlos becomes his apprentice.

The term sorcerer is rendered from the Spanish brujo, which also has connotations of medicine man, or curer. {also recently Shaman}. Don Juan used the term sorcerer informally, in more serious elucidations he would use the term 'man of knowledge'.

Three psychotropic plants are used: Peyote (- Cactus, 'Mescalito'), Jimson Weed ('Devil's Weed'), and Mushroom (- genus Psilocybe, ' the little smoke' ). The term non-ordinary reality is use in preference to hallucination.

A major premise is that the altered states are taken as real.

Don Juan understood and explained the plants as being vehicles that would conduct or lead man to certain impersonal forces or 'powers' and the states that they produced as being meetings that a sorcerer had to have with these powers in order to gain control over them.

Mescalito - Benevolent teacher and protector of men. Teaches the right way to live. Lessons sought at gatherings of sorcerers (called 'mitotes').

Jimson Weed and Mushrooms are 'allies'. A sorcerer draws his strength from manipulating an ally. Don Juan's preference was for the 'little smoke'.

In order to become a man of knowledge one had to meet with the ally as many times as possible; one had to become familiar with it.

The method of teaching required an extraordinary effort on the part of the apprentice. In fact the degree of participation and involvement needed was so strenuous that by the end of 1965 Carlos felt he had to withdraw from the apprenticeship. At the time, don Juan's teachings had begun to pose a serious threat to Carlo's 'idea of the world'. He had begun to lose the certainty that the reality of everyday life is something we can take for granted.

However, in April 1968 Carlos felt compelled to show don Juan a copy of his first book based on his apprenticeship (The Teachings of don Juan ). This initiated a second cycle apprenticeship.

Carlos felt that the mood of don Juan's teachings were more relaxed. He laughed and made Carlos laugh a great deal. It seemed a deliberate attempt to minimise seriousness in general. He clowned during crucial situations and helped Carlos to overcome moments which could easily have become obsessive. His premise was that a light an amenable disposition was needed in order to withstand the strangeness of the knowledge he was teaching .

"The reason you got scared and quit is because you felt too damn important. Feeling important makes one heavy clumsy and vain. To be a man of knowledge one needs to be light and fluid."

Don Juan's particular interest in the second cycle apprenticeship was to teach Carlos to 'see'. Seeing is distinct from looking. Looking is the ordinary way in which we perceive the world. Seeing is the way a man of knowledge perceives the essence of things

Carlos introduces his book as a presentation of the intricacies of this learning processes. His condensation of long question answer sessions from the original field notes is aimed at making the notes flow, as conversation flows, to communicate the drama and directness of the field situation. The chapters reflect sessions with don Juan. The dramatic tone of chapter endings reflects a device proper of don Juan's oral tradition, not Carlos' own literary construction. A mnemonic device that helps retain the dramatic quality and importance of the lessons.

During the second cycle apprenticeship the smoking mixture was used as an indispensable prerequisite to seeing.

"Only the smoke can give you the necessary speed to catch a glimpse of a fleeting world."


The main feature of the states of non-ordinary reality was a condition of inapplicability. What was perceived in the altered states was incomprehensible by means of everyday understanding. The condition of inapplicability entailed a cessation of the pertinence of an everyday worldview. Don Juan used this condition to introduce a series of new units of meaning. For example the loss of motor control induced by the smoke was interpreted by don Juan so as 'to remove the body of the practitioner.'  The units were used to create a 'sensible interpretation'.

Don Juan, in order to make his system accessible, sought to disarrange the certainty that 'commonsense' views of the world are final. With the use of psychotropic substances and well directed contacts with an alien system he pointed out that world cannot be final because it is only an interpretation.

For the Native American, for thousands of years, the vague phenomenon we might call sorcery has been a serious practice comparable with our science.

Don Juan: I like seeing, only by seeing can a man of knowledge know.

Carlos: I think I see.

Don Juan: No you don't. You only look at the surface of things. My predilection is to see and to know. Others do other things. Take Sacateca, he is a man of knowledge and his predilection is dancing. So he dances and he knows.

Carlos: But how can dancing help Sacateca to know?

Don Juan: One can say that he dances with all that he has. It's hard to explain. It is a peculiar way of dancing that he does when he wants to know. All I can say about it is that, unless you understand the ways of a man who knows, it is impossible to talk about dancing or seeing.

Carlos knew who Sacateca was. They had met once and Carlos had been told to feel free to stop at his house anytime. This Carlos did on 14th May 1962, but was not warmly received. Sacateca stood before him with half closed eyes and said that Don Juan could teach him everything he wanted to know. When he opened his eyes it was as though he was looking past him. He moved strangely, tapping the toe of one foot behind the heel of the other, raising his arm, letting his hand wobble before bringing it in front of Carlos' face, saying a few words then remaining motionless before tapping his foot again rhythmically and gently until Carlos turned and left.

On asking don Juan what really happened: ..."Sacateca danced ! He saw you then he danced. He did not like you and stopped you by tossing a word at you. He stopped you with his will."

This did not make much sense to Carlos at the time, he says that this or any event that occurred within this alien system could be understood only terms of units of meaning proper to that system. He says that this book is a reportage and that the system recorded was incomprehensible to him, thus the pretence to anything other than reporting would be misleading and impertinent. "In this respect I have adopted the phenomenological method and have striven to deal with sorcery solely as phenomena that were presented to me. I, as the perceiver, recorded what I perceived, and at the moment of recording endeavored to suspend judgment".