THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A YAQUI WAY OF KNOWLEDGE
THE SECOND UNIT
The idea that a man of knowledge had an ally was the most important of the seven component themes, for it was the only one that was indispensable to explaining what a man of knowledge was. In don Juan's classificatory scheme a man of knowledge had an ally, whereas the average man did not, and having an ally was what made him different from ordinary men.
Don Juan described an ally as being "a power capable of transporting a man beyond the boundaries of himself"; that is, an ally was a power that allowed one to transcend the realm of ordinary reality. Consequently, to have an ally implied having power; and the fact that a man of knowledge had an ally was by itself proof that the operational goal of the teachings had been fulfilled. Since that goal was to show how to become a man of knowledge, and since a man of knowledge was one who had an ally, another way of describing the operational goal of don Juan's teachings was to say that they also showed how to obtain an ally. The concept "man of knowledge," as a sorcerer's philosophical frame, had meaning for anyone who wanted to live within that frame only insofar as he had an ally.
I have classified this last component theme of man of knowledge as the second main structural unit because of its indispensability for explaining what a man of knowledge was.
In don Juan's teachings, there were two allies. The first was contained in the Datura plants commonly known as jimson weed. Don Juan called that ally by one of the Spanish names of the plant, yerba del diablo (devil's weed). According to him any species of Datura was the container of the ally. Yet every sorcerer had to grow a patch of one species which he called his own, not only in the sense that the plants were his private property, but in the sense that they were personally identified with him.
Don Juan's own plants belonged to the species inoxia; there seemed to be no correlation, however, between that fact and differences that may have existed between the two species of Datura accessible to him.
The second ally was contained in a mushroom I identified as belonging to the genus Psilocybe; it was possibly Psilocybe mexicana, but the classification was only tentative because I was incapable of procuring a specimen for laboratory analysis.
Don Juan called this ally humito (little smoke), suggesting that the ally was analogous to smoke or to the smoking mixture he made with the mushroom. The smoke was referred to as if it were the real container, yet he made it clear that the power was associated with only one species of Psilocybe; thus special care was needed at the time of collecting in order not to confuse it with any of a dozen other species of the same genus which grew in the same area.
An ally as a meaningful concept included the following ideas and their ramifications: (1) an ally was formless; (2) an ally was perceived as a quality; (3) an ally was tamable; (4) an ally had a rule.
An Ally Was Formless
An ally was believed to be an entity existing outside and independent of oneself, yet in spite of being a separate entity an ally was believed to be formless. I have established "formlessness" as a condition that is the opposite of "having definite form," a distinction made in view of the fact that there were other powers similar to an ally which had a definitely perceivable form. An ally's condition of formlessness meant that it did not possess a distinct, or a vaguely defined, or even a recognizable, form; and such a condition implied that an ally was not visible at any time.
An Ally Was Perceived as a Quality
A sequel to an ally's formlessness was another condition expressed in the idea that an ally was perceived only as a quality of the senses; that is to say, since an ally was formless its presence was noticed only by its effects on the sorcerer. Don Juan classified some of those effects as having anthropomorphic qualities. He depicted an ally as having the character of a human being, thus implying that an individual sorcerer was in the position of choosing the most suitable ally by matching his own character with an ally's alleged anthropomorphic characteristics. The two allies involved in the teachings were presented by don Juan as having a set of antithetical qualities.
Don Juan categorized the ally contained in Datura inoxia as having two qualities: it was woman- like, and it was a giver of superfluous power. He thought these two qualities were thoroughly undesirable. His statements on the subject were definite, but he indicated at the same time that his value judgment on the matter was merely a personalistic choice.
The most important characteristic was undoubtedly what don Juan called its woman-like nature. The fact that it was depicted as being woman-like did not mean, however, that the ally was a female power. It seemed that the analogy of a woman may have been only a metaphorical way don Juan used to describe what he thought to be the unpleasant effects of the ally. Besides, the Spanish name of the plant, yerba, because of its feminine gender, may have also helped to create the female analogy. At any rate, the personification of this ally as a woman-like power ascribed to it the following anthropomorphic qualities: (1) it was possessive; (2) it was violent; (3) it was unpredictable; and (4) it had deleterious effects.
Don Juan believed that the ally had the capacity to enslave the men who became its followers; he explained this capacity as the quality of being possessive, which he correlated with a woman's character. The ally possessed its followers by bestowing power on them, by creating a feeling of dependency, and by giving them physical strength and well-being.
This ally was also believed to be violent. Its woman-like violence was expressed in its forcing its followers to engage in disruptive acts of brute force. And this specific characteristic made it best suited for men of fierce natures who wanted to find in violence a key to personal power.
Another woman-like characteristic was unpredictability. For don Juan it meant that the ally's effects were never consistent; rather, they were supposed to change erratically, and there was no discernible way of predicting them. The ally's inconsistency was to be counteracted by the sorcerer's meticulous and dramatic care of every detail of its handling. Any unfavorable turn that was unaccountable, as a result of error or mishandling, was explained as a result of the ally's woman- like unpredictability.
Because of its possessiveness, violence, and unpredictability, this ally was thought to have an overall deleterious effect on the character of its followers. Don Juan believed that the ally willfully strove to transmit its woman-like characteristics, and that its effort to do so actually succeeded.
But, alongside its woman-like nature, this ally had another facet which was also perceived as a quality: it was a giver of superfluous power. Don Juan was very emphatic on this point, and he stressed that as a generous giver of power the ally was unsurpassable. It was purported to furnish its followers with physical strength, a feeling of audacity, and the prowess to perform extraordinary deeds. In Don Juan's judgment, however, so exorbitant a power was superfluous; he stated that, for himself at least, there was no need of it anymore. Nevertheless, he presented it as a strong incentive for a prospective man of knowledge, should the latter have a natural inclination to seek power.
Don Juan's idiosyncratic point of view was that the ally contained in Psilocybe mexicana, on the other hand, had the most adequate and most valuable characteristics: (1) it was male-like, and (2) it was a giver of ecstasy.
He depicted this ally as being the antithesis of the one contained in Datura plants. He considered it to be male-like, manly. Its condition of masculinity seemed to be analogous to the female-like condition of the other ally; that is, it was not a male power, but don Juan classified its effects in terms of what he considered to be manly behavior. In this instance, too, the masculine gender of the Spanish word humito may have suggested the analogy to a male power.
The anthropomorphic qualities of this ally which don Juan judged to be proper to a man were the following: (1) it was dispassionate; (2) it was gentle; (3) it was predictable; and (4) it had beneficial effects.
Don Juan's idea of the dispassionate nature of the ally was expressed in the belief that it was fair, that it never actually demanded extravagant acts from its followers. It never made men its slaves, because it did not bestow easy power on them; on the contrary, Humito was hard, but just, with its followers.
The fact that the ally did not elicit overt violent behavior made it gentle. It was supposed to induce a sensation of bodilessness, and thus don Juan presented it as being calm, gentle, and a giver of peace.
It was also predictable. Don Juan described its effects on all its individual followers and in the successive experiences of any single man as being constant; in other words, its effects did not vary or, if they did, they were so similar that they were counted as being the same.
As a consequence of being dispassionate, gentle, and predictable, this ally was thought to have another manly characteristic: a beneficial effect on the character of its followers. Humito's manliness was supposed to create a very rare condition of emotional stability in them. Don Juan believed that under the ally's guidance one would temper one's heart and acquire balance.
A corollary of all the ally's manly characteristics was believed to be a capacity to give ecstasy. This other facet of its nature was perceived also as a quality. Humito was credited with removing the body of its followers, thus allowing them to execute specialized forms of activity pertinent to a state of bodilessness. And don Juan maintained that those specialized forms of activity led unavoidably to a condition of ecstasy. The ally contained in the Psilocybe was said to be ideal for men whose natures predisposed them to seek contemplation.
An Ally Was Tamable
The idea that an ally was tamable implied that as a power it had the potential of being used. Don Juan explained it as an ally's innate capacity of being utilizable; after a sorcerer had tamed an ally he was thought to be in command of its specialized power which meant that he could manipulate it to his own advantage. An ally's capacity of being tamed was counterposed to the incapacity of other powers, which were similar to an ally except that they did not yield to being manipulated.
The manipulation of an ally had two aspects: (1) an ally was a vehicle; ( 2) an ally was a helper.
An ally was a vehicle in the sense that it served to transport a sorcerer into the realm of nonordinary reality. Insofar as my personal knowledge was concerned, the allies both served as vehicles, although the function had different implications for each of them.
The overall, undesirable qualities of the ally contained in Datura inoxia, especially its quality of unpredictability, turned it into a dangerous, undependable vehicle. Ritual was the only possible protection against its inconsistency, but that was never enough to ensure the ally's stability; a sorcerer using this ally as a vehicle had to wait for favorable omens before proceeding.
The ally contained in Psilocybe mexicana, on the other hand, was thought to be a steady and predictable vehicle as a result of all its valuable qualities. As a consequence of its predictability, a sorcerer using this ally did not need to engage in any kind of preparatory ritual.
The other aspect of an ally's manipulability was expressed in the idea that an ally was a helper. To be a helper meant that an ally, after serving a sorcerer as a vehicle, was again usable as an aid or a guide to assist him in achieving whatever goal he had in mind in going into the realm of nonordinary reality.
In their capacity as helpers, the two allies had different, unique properties. The complexity and the applicability of these properties increased as one advanced on the learning path. But, in general terms, the ally contained in Datura inoxia was believed to be an extraordinary helper, and this capacity was thought to be a corollary of its facility to give superfluous power. The ally contained in Psilocybe mexicana, however, was considered to be an even more extraordinary helper. Don Juan thought it was matchless in the function of being a helper, which he regarded as an extension of its overall valuable qualities.