THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A YAQUI WAY OF KNOWLEDGE
Alone among the components of the concept "ally," the idea that an ally had a rule was indispensable for explaining what an ally was. Because of that indispensability I have placed it as the third main unit in this structural scheme.
The rule, which don Juan called also the law, was the rigid organizing concept regulating all the actions that had to be executed and the behavior that had to be observed throughout the process of handling an ally. The rule was transmitted verbally from teacher to apprentice, ideally without alteration, through the sustained interaction between them. The rule was thus more than a body of regulations; it was, rather, a series of outlines of activity governing the course to be followed in the process of manipulating an ally.
Undoubtedly many elements would have fulfilled don Juan's definition of an ally as a "power capable of transporting a man beyond the boundaries of himself." Anyone accepting that definition could reasonably have conceived that anything possessing such a capability would be an ally. And logically, even bodily conditions produced by hunger, fatigue, illness, and the like could have served as allies, for they might have possessed the capacity of transporting a man beyond the realm of ordinary reality. But the idea that an ally had a rule eliminated all these possibilities. An ally was a power that had a rule. All the other possibilities could not be considered as allies because they had no rule.
As a concept the rule comprehended the following ideas and their various components: (1) the rule was inflexible; (2) the rule was non-cumulative; (3) the rule was corroborated in ordinary reality; (4) the rule was corroborated in non ordinary reality; and (5) the rule was corroborated by special consensus.
The Rule Was Inflexible
The outlines of activity forming the body of the rule were unavoidable steps that one had to follow in order to achieve the operational goal of the teachings. This compulsory quality of the rule was rendered in the idea that it was inflexible. The inflexibility of the rule was intimately related to the idea of efficacy. Dramatic exertion created an incessant battle for survival, and under those conditions only the most effective act that one could perform would ensure one's survival. As individualistic points of reference were not permitted, the rule prescribed the actions constituting the only alternative for survival. Thus the rule had to be inflexible; it had to require a definite compliance to its dictum.
Compliance with the rule, however, was not absolute. In the course of the teachings I recorded one instance in which its inflexibility was canceled out. Don Juan explained that example of deviation as a special favor stemming from direct intervention of an ally. In this instance, owing to my unintentional error in handling the ally contained in Datura inoxia, the rule had been breached. Don Juan extrapolated from the occurrence that an ally had the capacity to intervene directly and withhold the deleterious, and usually fatal, effect resulting from noncompliance with its rule. Such evidence of flexibility was thought to be always the product of a strong bond of affinity between the ally and its follower.
The Rule Was Noncumulative
The assumption here was that all conceivable methods of manipulating an ally had already been used. Theoretically, the rule was noncumulative; there was no possibility of augmenting it. The idea of the noncumulative nature of the rule was also related to the concept of efficacy. Since the rule prescribed the only effective alternative for one's personal survival, any attempt to change it or to alter its course by innovation was considered to be not only a superfluous act, but a deadly one. One had only the possibility of adding to one's personal knowledge of the rule, either under the teacher's guidance or under the special guidance of the ally itself. The latter was considered to be an instance of direct acquisition of knowledge, not an addition to the body of the rule.
The Rule Was Corroborated in Ordinary Reality
Corroboration of the rule meant the act of verifying it, the act of attesting to its validity by confirming it pragmatically in an experimental manner. Because the rule dealt with situations of ordinary and of nonordinary reality, its corroboration took place in both areas.
The situations of ordinary reality with which the rule dealt were most often remarkably uncommon situations, but, no matter how unusual they were, the rule was corroborated in ordinary reality. For that reason it has been considered to fall beyond the scope of this work, and should properly be the realm of another study. That part of the rule concerned the details of the procedures employed in recognizing, collecting, mixing, preparing, and caring for the power plants in which the allies were contained, the details of other procedures involved in the uses of such power plants, and other similar minutiae.
The Rule Was Corroborated in Nonordinary Reality
The rule was also corroborated in nonordinary reality, and the corroboration was carried out in the same pragmatic, experimental manner of validation as would have been employed in situations of ordinary reality. The idea of a pragmatic corroboration involved two concepts: (1) meetings with the ally, which I have called the states of nonordinary reality; and (2) the specific purposes of the rule.
The states of nonordinary reality. -- The two plants in which the allies were contained, when used in conformity with the allies' respective rules, produced states of peculiar perception which don Juan classified as meetings with the ally. He placed extraordinary emphasis on eliciting them, an emphasis summed up in the idea that one had to meet with the ally as many times as possible in order to verify its rule in a pragmatic, experimental manner. The assumption was that the proportion of the rule that was likely to be verified was in direct correlation with the number of times one met with the ally.
The exclusive method of inducing a meeting with the ally was, naturally, through the appropriate use of the plant in which the ally was contained. Nonetheless, don Juan hinted that at a certain advanced stage of learning the meetings could have taken place without the use of the plant; that is to say, they could have been elicited by an act of volition alone.
I have called the meetings with the ally states of nonordinary reality. I chose the term "nonordinary reality" because it conformed with don Juan's assertion that such meetings took place in a continuum of reality, a reality that was only slightly different from the ordinary reality of everyday life. Consequently, nonordinary reality had specific characteristics that could have been assessed in presumably equal terms by everyone. Don Juan never formulated these characteristics in a definite manner, but his reticence seemed to stem from the idea that each man had to claim knowledge as a matter of personal nature.
The following categories, which I consider the specific characteristics of nonordinary reality, were drawn from my personal experience. Yet, in spite of their seemingly idiosyncratic origin, they were reinforced and developed by don Juan under the premises of his knowledge; he conducted his teachings as if these characteristics were inherent in nonordinary reality: (1) nonordinary reality was utilizable; (2) nonordinary reality had component elements.
The first characteristic -- that nonordinary reality was utilizable -- implied that it was fit for actual service. Don Juan explained time and time again that the encompassing concern of his knowledge was the pursuit of practical results, and that such a pursuit was pertinent in ordinary as well as in nonordinary reality. He maintained that in his knowledge there were the means of putting nonordinary reality into service, in the same way as ordinary reality. According to that assertion, the states induced by the allies were elicited with the deliberate intention of being used. In this particular instance don Juan's rationale was that the meetings with the allies were set up to learn their secrets, and this rationale served as a rigid guide to screen out other personalistic motives that one may have had for seeking the states of nonordinary reality.
The second characteristic of nonordinary reality was that it had component elements. Those component elements were the items, the actions, and the events that one perceived, seemingly with one's senses, as being the content of a state of nonordinary reality. The total picture of nonordinary reality was made up of elements that appeared to possess qualities both of the elements of ordinary reality and of the components of an ordinary dream, although they were not on a par with either one.
According to my personal judgment, the component elements of nonordinary reality had three unique characteristics; (1) stability, (2) singularity, and (3) lack of ordinary consensus. These qualities made them stand on their own as discrete units possessing an unmistakable individuality.
The component elements of nonordinary reality had stability in the sense that they were constant. In this respect they were similar to the component elements of ordinary reality, for they neither shifted nor disappeared, as would the component elements of ordinary dreams. It seemed as if every detail that made up a component element of nonordinary reality had a concreteness of its own, a concreteness I perceived as being extraordinarily stable. The stability was so pronounced that it allowed me to establish the criterion that, in nonordinary reality, one always possessed the capacity to come to a halt in order to examine any of the component elements for what appeared to be an indefinite length of time. The application of this criterion permitted me to differentiate the states of nonordinary reality used by don Juan from other states of peculiar perception which may have appeared to be nonordinary reality, but which did not yield to this criterion.
The second exclusive characteristic of the component elements of nonordinary reality -- their singularity -- meant that every detail of the component elements was a single, individual item; it seemed as if each detail was isolated from others, or as if details appeared one at a time. The singularity of the component elements seemed further to create a unique necessity, which may have been common to everybody: the imperative need, the urge, to amalgamate all isolated details into a total scene, a total composite. Don Juan was obviously aware of that need and used it on every possible occasion.
The third unique characteristic of the component elements, and the most dramatic of all, was their lack of ordinary consensus. One perceived the component elements while being in a state of complete solitude, which was more like the aloneness of a man witnessing by himself an unfamiliar scene in ordinary reality than like the solitude of dreaming. As the stability of the component elements of nonordinary reality enabled one to stop and examine any of them for what appeared to be an indefinite length of time, it seemed almost as if they were elements of everyday life; however, the difference between the component elements of the two states of reality was their capacity for ordinary consensus. By ordinary consensus I mean the tacit or the implicit agreement on the component elements of everyday life which fellow-men give to one another in various ways. For the component elements of nonordinary reality, ordinary consensus was unattainable. In this respect nonordinary reality was closer to a state of dreaming than to ordinary reality. And yet, because of their unique characteristics of stability and singularity, the component elements of nonordinary reality had a compelling quality of realness which seemed to foster the necessity of validating their existence in terms of consensus.
The specific purpose of the rule. The other component of the concept that the rule was verified in nonordinary reality was the idea that the rule had a specific purpose. That purpose was the achievement, by using an ally, of a utilitarian goal. In the context of don Juan's teachings, it was assumed that the rule was learned by corroborating it in ordinary and nonordinary reality. The decisive facet of the teachings was, however, corroboration of the rule in the states of nonordinary reality; and what was corroborated in the actions and elements perceived in nonordinary reality was the specific purpose of the rule. That specific purpose dealt with the ally's power, that is, with the manipulation of an ally first as a vehicle and then as a helper, but don Juan always treated each instance of the specific purpose of the rule as a single unit implicitly covering these two areas.
Because the specific purpose referred to the manipulation of the ally's power, it had an inseparable sequel -- the manipulatory techniques.
The manipulatory techniques were the actual procedures, the actual operations, undertaken in each instance involving the manipulation of an ally's power. The idea that an ally was manipulatable warranted its usefulness in the achievement of pragmatic goals, and the manipulatory techniques were the procedures that supposedly rendered the ally usable.
Specific purpose and manipulatory techniques formed a single unit which a sorcerer had to know exactly in order to command his ally with efficacy.
Don Juan's teachings included the following specific purposes of the two allies' rules. I have arranged them here in the same order in which he presented them to me.
The first specific purpose that was verified in nonordinary reality was testing with the ally contained in Datura inoxia. The manipulatory technique was ingesting a potion made with a section of the root of the Datura plant. Ingesting that potion produced a shallow state of nonordinary reality, which don Juan used for testing me in order to determine whether or not, as a prospective apprentice, I had affinity with the ally contained in the plant. The potion was supposed to produce either a sensation of unspecified physical well-being or a feeling of great discomfort, effects that don Juan judged to be, respectively, a sign of affinity or of the lack of it.
The second specific purpose was divination. It was also part of the rule of the ally contained in Datura inoxia. Don Juan considered divination to be a form of specialized movement, on the assumption that a sorcerer was transported by the ally to a particular compartment of nonordinary reality where he was capable of divining events that were otherwise unknown to him.
The manipulatory technique of the second specific purpose was a process of ingestion-absorption. A potion made with Datura root was ingested, and an unguent made with Datura seeds was rubbed on the temporal and frontal areas of the head. I have used the term "ingestion-absorption" because ingestion might have been aided by skin absorption in producing a state of nonordinary reality, or skin absorption might have been aided by ingestion.
This manipulatory technique required the utilization of other elements besides the Datura plant, in this instance two lizards. They were supposed to serve the sorcerer as instruments of movement, meaning here the peculiar perception of being in a particular realm in which one was capable of hearing a lizard talk and then of visualizing whatever it had said. Don Juan explained such phenomena as the lizards answering the questions that had been posed for divination.
The third specific purpose of the rule of the ally contained in the Datura plants dealt with another specialized form of movement, bodily flight. As don Juan explained, a sorcerer using this ally was capable of flying bodily over enormous distances; the bodily flight was the sorcerer's capacity to move through nonordinary reality and then to return at will to ordinary reality.
The manipulatory technique of the third specific purpose was also a process of ingestion-absorption. A potion made with Datura root was ingested, and an unguent made with Datura seeds was rubbed on the soles of the feet, on the inner part of both legs, and on the genitals.
The third specific purpose was not corroborated in depth; don Juan implied that he had not disclosed other aspects of the manipulatory technique which would permit a sorcerer to acquire a sense of direction while moving.
The fourth specific purpose of the rule was testing, the ally being contained in Psilocybe mexicana. The testing was not intended to determine affinity or lack of affinity with the ally, but rather to be an unavoidable first trial, or the first meeting with the ally.
The manipulatory technique for the fourth specific purpose utilized a smoking mixture made of dried mushrooms mixed with different parts of five other plants, none of which was known to have hallucinogenic properties. The rule placed the emphasis on the act of inhaling the smoke from the mixture; the teacher thus used the word humito (little smoke) to refer to the ally contained in it. But I have called this process "ingestion-inhalation" because it was a combination of ingesting first and then of inhaling. The mushrooms, because of their softness, dried into a very fine dust which was rather difficult to burn. The other ingredients turned into shreds upon drying. The shreds were incinerated in the pipe bowl while the mushroom powder, which did not burn so easily, was drawn into the mouth and ingested. Logically, the quantity of dried mushrooms ingested was larger than the quantity of shreds burned and inhaled.
The effects of the first state of nonordinary reality elicited by Psilcocybe mexicana gave rise to don Juan's brief discussion of the fifth specific purpose of the rule. It was concerned with movement -- moving with the help of the ally contained in Psilocybe mexicana into and through inanimate objects or into and through animate beings. The complete manipulatory technique may have included hypnotic suggestion besides the process of ingestion-inhalation. Because don Juan presented this specific purpose only as a brief discussion which was not further verified, it was impossible for me to assess correctly any of its aspects.
The sixth specific purpose of the rule verified in nonordinary reality, also involving the ally contained in Psilocybe mexicana, dealt with another aspect of movement -- moving by adopting an alternate form. This aspect of movement was subjected to the most intensive verification. Don Juan asserted that assiduous practice was needed in order to master it. He maintained that the ally contained in Psilocybe mexicana had the inherent capacity to cause the sorcerer's body to disappear; thus the idea of adopting an alternate form was a logical possibility for achieving movement under the conditions of bodilessness. Another logical possibility for achieving movement was, naturally, moving through objects and beings, which don Juan had discussed briefly.
The manipulatory technique of the sixth specific purpose of the rule included not only ingestion-inhalation but also, according to all indications, hypnotic suggestion. Don Juan had put forth such a suggestion during the transitional stages into nonordinary reality, and also during the early part of the states of nonordinary reality. He classified the seemingly hypnotic process as being only his personal supervision, meaning that he had not revealed to me the complete manipulatory technique at that particular time.
The adoption of an alternate form did not mean that a sorcerer was free to take, on the spur of the moment, any form he wanted to take; on the contrary, it implied a lifelong training to achieve a preconceived form. The preconceived form don Juan had preferred to adopt was that of a crow, and consequently he emphasized that particular form in his teachings. He made it very clear, nonetheless, that a crow was his personal choice, and that there were innumerable other possible preconceived forms.