THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A YAQUI WAY OF KNOWLEDGE
THE FOURTH UNIT
Among the component concepts forming the rule, the one that was indispensable for explaining it was the idea that the rule was corroborated by special consensus; all the other component concepts were insufficient by themselves for explaining the meaning of the rule.
Don Juan made it very clear that an ally was not bestowed on a sorcerer, but that a sorcerer learned to manipulate the ally through the process of corroborating its rule. The complete learning process involved verification of the rule in nonordinary reality as well as in ordinary reality. Yet the crucial facet of don Juan's teachings was corroboration of the rule in a pragmatic and experimental manner in the context of what one perceived as being the component elements of nonordinary reality. But those component elements were not subject to ordinary consensus, and if one was incapable of obtaining agreement on their existence, their perceived realness would have been only an illusion. As a man would have to be by himself in nonordinary reality, by reason of his solitariness whatever he perceived would have to be idiosyncratic. The solitariness and the idiosyncrasies were a consequence of the assumed fact that no fellowman could give one ordinary consensus on one's perceptions.
At this point don Juan brought in the most important constituent part of his teachings: he provided me with special consensus on the actions and the elements I had perceived in nonordinary reality, actions and elements that were believed to corroborate the rule. In don Juan's teachings, special consensus meant tacit or implicit agreement on the component elements of nonordinary reality, which he, in his capacity as teacher, gave me as the apprentice of his knowledge. This special consensus was not in any way fraudulent or spurious, such as the one two persons might give each other in describing the component elements of their individual dreams. The special consensus don Juan supplied was systematic, and to provide it he may have needed the totality of his knowledge. With the acquisition of systematic consensus the actions and the elements perceived in nonordinary reality became consensually real, which meant, in don Juan's classificatory scheme, that the rule of the ally had been corroborated. The rule had meaning as a concept, then, only inasmuch as it was subject to special consensus, for without special agreement about its corroboration the rule would have been a purely idiosyncratic construct.
Because of its indispensability for explaining the rule, I have made the idea that the rule was corroborated by special consensus the fourth main unit of this structural scheme. This unit, because it was basically the interplay between two individuals, was composed of (1) the benefactor, or the guide into the knowledge being taught, the agent who supplied special consensus; (2) the apprentice or the subject for whom special consensus was provided.
Failure or success in achieving the operational goal of the teachings rested on this unit. Thus, special consensus was the precarious culmination of the following process: A sorcerer had a distinctive feature, possession of an ally, which differentiated him from ordinary men. An ally was a power that had the special property of having a rule. And the unique characteristic of the rule was its corroboration in nonordinary reality by means of special consensus.
The benefactor was the agent without whom the corroboration of the rule would have been impossible. In order to provide special consensus, he performed the two tasks of (1) preparing the background for special consensus on the corroboration of the rule, and (2) guiding special consensus.
Preparing Special Consensus
The benefactor's first task was to set the background necessary for bringing forth special consensus on corroboration of the rule. As my teacher, don Juan made me (1) experience other states of nonordinary reality which he explained as being quite apart from those elicited to corroborate the rule of the allies; (2) participate with him in certain special states of ordinary reality which he seemed to have produced himself; and (3) recapitulate each experience in detail. Don Juan's task of preparing special consensus consisted of strengthening and confirming the corroboration of the rule by giving special consensus on the component elements of these new states of nonordinary reality, and on the component elements of the special states of ordinary reality.
The other states of nonordinary reality which don Juan made me experience were induced by the ingestion of the cactus Lophophora williamsii, commonly known as peyote. Usually the top part of the cactus was cut off and stored until it had dried, and then it was chewed and ingested, but under special circumstances the top part was ingested while it was fresh. Ingestion, however, was not the only way to experience a state of nonordinary reality with Lophophora williamsii. Don Juan suggested that spontaneous states of nonordinary reality occurred under unique conditions, and he categorized them as gifts from or bestowals by the power contained in the plant.
Nonordinary reality induced by Lophophora williamsii had three distinctive features: (1) it was believed to be produced by an entity called "Mescalito"; (2) it was utilizable; and (3) it had component elements.
Mescalito was purported to be a unique power, similar to an ally in the sense that it allowed one to transcend the boundaries of ordinary reality, but also quite different from an ally. Like an ally, Mescalito was contained in a definite plant, the cactus Lophophora williamsii. But unlike an ally, which was merely contained in a plant, Mescalito and the plant in which it was contained were the same; the plant was the center of overt manifestations of respect, the recipient of profound veneration. Don Juan firmly believed that under certain conditions, such as a state of profound acquiescence to Mescalito, the simple act of being contiguous to the cactus would induce a state of nonordinary reality.
But Mescalito did not have a rule, and for that reason it was not an ally even though it was capable of transporting a man outside the boundaries of ordinary reality. Not having a rule not only barred Mescalito from being used as an ally, for without a rule it could not conceivably be manipulated, but also made it a power remarkably different from an ally.
As a direct consequence of not having a rule, Mescalito was available to any man without the need of a long apprenticeship or the commitment to manipulatory techniques, as with an ally. And because it was available without any training, Mescalito was said to be a protector. To be a protector meant that it was accessible to anyone. Yet Mescalito as a protector was not accessible to every man, and with some individuals it was not compatible. According to don Juan, such incompatibility was caused by the discrepancy between Mescalito's "unbending morality" and the individual's own questionable character.
Mescalito was also a teacher. It was supposed to exercise didactic functions. It was a director, a guide to proper behavior. Mescalito taught the right way. Don Juan's idea of the right way seemed to be a sense of propriety, which consisted, not of righteousness in terms of morality, but of a tendency to simplify behavioral patterns in terms of the efficacy promoted by his teachings. Don Juan believed Mescalito taught simplification of behavior.
Mescalito was believed to be an entity. And as such it was purported to have a definite form that was usually not constant or predictable. This quality implied that Mescalito was perceived differently not only by different men, but also by the same man on different occasions. Don Juan expressed this idea in terms of Mescalito's ability to adopt any conceivable form. For individuals with whom it was compatible, however, it adopted an unchanging form after they had partaken of it over a period of years.
The nonordinary reality produced by Mescalito was utilizable, and in this respect was identical with that induced by an ally. The only difference was the rationale don Juan used in his teachings for eliciting it: one was supposed to seek "Mescalito's lessons on the right way."
The nonordinary reality produced by Mescalito also had component elements, and here again the states of nonordinary reality induced by Mescalito and by an ally were identical. In both, the characteristics of the component elements were stability, singularity, and lack of consensus.
The other procedure don Juan used to prepare the background for special consensus was to make me the coparticipant in special states of ordinary reality. A special state of ordinary reality was a situation that could be described in terms of the properties of everyday life, except that it might have been impossible to obtain ordinary consensus on its component elements. Don Juan prepared the background for the special consensus on the corroboration of the rule by giving special consensus on the component elements of the special states of ordinary reality. These component elements were elements of everyday life whose existence could be confirmed only by don Juan through special agreement. This was a supposition on my part, because as coparticipant in the special states of ordinary reality I believed that only don Juan, as the other coparticipant, would know which component elements made up the special state of ordinary reality.
In my own personal judgment, the special states of ordinary reality were produced by don Juan, although he never claimed to have done so. It seemed that he produced them through a skillful manipulation of hints and suggestions to guide my behavior. I have called that process the "manipulation of cues." It had two aspects: (1) cuing about the environment, and (2) cuing about behavior.
During the course of the teachings don Juan made me experience two such states. He may have produced the first through the process of cuing about the environment. Don Juan's rationale for producing it was that I needed a test to prove my good intentions, and only after he had given me special consensus on its component elements did he consent to begin his teachings. By "cuing about the environment" I meant that don Juan led me into a special state of ordinary reality by isolating, through subtle suggestions, component elements of ordinary reality which were part of the immediate physical surroundings. Elements isolated in such a manner created in this instance a specific visual perception of color, which don Juan tacitly verified.
The second state of ordinary reality may have been produced by the process of cuing about behavior. Don Juan, through close association with me and through the exercise of a consistent way of behaving, had succeeded in creating an image of himself, an image that served me as an essential pattern by which I could recognize him. Then, by performing certain specific choice responses, which were irreconcilable with the image he had created, don Juan was capable of distorting this essential pattern of recognition. The distortion may in turn have changed the normal configuration of elements associated with the pattern into a new and incongruous pattern which could not be subjected to ordinary consensus; don Juan, as the coparticipant of that special state of ordinary reality, was the only person who knew which the component elements were, and thus he was the only person who could give me agreement on their existence.
Don Juan set up the second special state of ordinary reality also as a test, as a sort of recapitulation of his teachings. It seemed that both special states of ordinary reality marked a transition in the teachings. They seemed to be points of articulation. And the second state may have marked my entrance into a new stage of learning characterized by more direct coparticipation between teacher and apprentice for purposes of arriving at special consensus.
The third procedure that don Juan employed to prepare special consensus was to make me render a detailed account of what I had experienced as an aftermath of each state of nonordinary reality and each special state of ordinary reality, and then to stress certain choice units which he isolated from the content of my account. The essential factor was directing the outcome of the states of nonordinary reality, and my implicit assumption here was that the characteristics of the component elements of nonordinary reality -- stability, singularity, and lack of ordinary consensus -- were inherent in them and were not the result of don Juan's guidance. This assumption was based on the observation that the component elements of the first state of nonordinary reality I underwent possessed the same three characteristics, and yet don Juan had hardly begun his directing. Assuming, then, that these characteristics were inherent in the component elements of nonordinary reality in general, don Juan's task consisted of utilizing them as the basis for directing the outcome of each state of nonordinary reality elicited by Datura inoxia, Psilocybe mexicana, and Lophophora wilhamsii.
The detailed account that don Juan made me render as the aftermath of each state of nonordinary reality was a recapitulation of the experience. It entailed a meticulous verbal rendition of what I had perceived during the course of each state. A recapitulation had two facets: (1) the recollection of events and (2) the description of perceived component elements. The recollection of events was concerned with the incidents I had seemingly perceived during the course of the experience I was narrating: that is, the events that seemed to have happened and the actions I seemed to have performed. The description of the perceived component elements was my account of the specific form and the specific detail of the component elements I seemed to have perceived.
From each recapitulation of the experience don Juan selected certain units by means of the processes of (1) attaching importance to certain appropriate areas of my account and (2) denying all importance to other areas of my account. The interval between states of nonordinary reality was the time when don Juan expounded on the recapitulation of the experience.
I have called the first process "emphasis" because it entailed a forceful speculation on the distinction between what don Juan had conceived as the goals I should have accomplished in the state of nonordinary reality and what I had perceived myself. Emphasis meant, then, that don Juan isolated an area of my narrative by centering on it the bulk of his speculation. Emphasis was either positive or negative. Positive emphasis implied that don Juan was satisfied with a particular item I had perceived because it conformed with the goals he had expected me to achieve in the state of nonordinary reality. Negative emphasis meant that don Juan was not satisfied with what I had perceived because it may not have conformed with his expectations or because he judged it insufficient. Nonetheless, he still placed the bulk of speculation on that area of my recapitulation in order to emphasize the negative value of my perception.
The second selective process that don Juan employed was to deny all importance to some areas of my account. I have called it "lack of emphasis" because it was the opposite and the counterbalance of emphasis. It seemed that by denying importance to the parts of my account pertaining to component elements which don Juan judged to be completely superfluous to the goal of his teachings, he literally obliterated my perception of the same elements in the successive states of nonordinary reality.
Guiding Special Consensus
The second aspect of don Juan's task as a teacher was to guide special consensus by directing the outcome of each state of nonordinary reality and each special state of ordinary reality. Don Juan directed that outcome through an orderly manipulation of the extrinsic and the intrinsic levels of nonordinary reality, and of the intrinsic level of the special states of ordinary reality.
The extrinsic level of nonordinary reality pertained to its operative arrangement. It involved the mechanics, the steps leading into nonordinary reality proper. The extrinsic level had three discernible aspects: (1) the preparatory period, (2) the transitional stages, and (3) the teacher's supervision.
The preparatory period was the time that elapsed between one state of nonordinary reality and the next. Don Juan used it to give me direct instructions and to develop the general course of his teachings. The preparatory period was of critical importance in setting up the states of nonordinary reality, and because it pivoted on them it had two distinct facets: (1) the period prior to nonordinary reality, and (2) the period following nonordinary reality.
The period prior to nonordinary reality was a relatively short interval of time, twenty-four hours at the most. In the states of nonordinary reality induced by Datura inoxia and Psilocybe mexicana the period was characterized by don Juan's dramatic and accelerated direct instructions on the specific purpose of the rule and on the manipulatory techniques I was supposed to corroborate in the oncoming state of nonordinary reality. With Lophophora wilhamsii the period was essentially a time of ritual behavior, since Mescalito had no rule.
The period following nonordinary reality, on the other hand, was a long span of time; usually lasting for months, it allowed time for don Juan's discussion and clarification of the events that had taken place during the preceding state of nonordinary reality. This period was especially important after the use of Lophophora williamsii. Because Mescalito did not have a rule, the goal pursued in nonordinary reality was the verification of Mescalito's characteristics; don Juan delineated those characteristics during the long interval following each state of nonordinary reality.
The second aspect of the extrinsic level was the transitional stages, which meant the passage from a state of ordinary reality into a state of nonordinary reality, and vice versa. The two states of reality overlapped in these transitional stages, and the criterion I used to differentiate the latter from either state of reality was that their component elements were blurred. I was never able to perceive them or to recollect them with precision.
In terms of perceived time, the transitional stages were either abrupt or slow. In the instance of Datura inoxia, ordinary and nonordinary states were almost juxtaposed, and the transition from one to the other took place abruptly. The most noticeable were the passages into nonordinary reality. Psilocybe mexicana, on the other hand, elicited transitional stages that I perceived to be slow. The passage from ordinary into nonordinary reality was specially long-drawn-out and perceivable. I was always more aware of it, perhaps because of my apprehension about forthcoming events.
The transitional stages elicited by Lophophora williamsii seemed to combine features of the other two. For one thing, both the passages into and out of nonordinary reality were very noticeable. The entering into nonordinary reality was slow, and I experienced it with hardly any impairment of my faculties; but reverting back into ordinary reality was an abrupt transitional stage, which I perceived with clarity, but with less facility to assess every detail of it.
The third aspect of the extrinsic level was the teacher's supervision or the actual help that I, as the apprentice, received in the course of experiencing a state of nonordinary reality. I have set up supervision as a category by itself because it was implied that the teacher would have to enter nonordinary reality with his apprentice at a certain point of the teachings.
During the states of nonordinary reality elicited by Datura inoxia I received minimal supervision. Don Juan placed heavy stress on fulfilling the steps of the preparatory period, but after I had complied with that requirement he let me proceed by myself.
In the nonordinary reality induced by Psilocybe mexicana, the degree of supervision was the complete opposite, for here, according to don Juan, the apprentice needed the most extensive guidance and help. The corroboration of the rule necessitated the adoption of an alternate form, which seemed to suggest that I had to undergo a series of very specialized adjustments in perceiving the surroundings. Don Juan produced those necessary adjustments through verbal commands and suggestions during the transitional stages into nonordinary reality. Another aspect of his supervision was to direct me during the early part of the states of nonordinary reality by commanding me to focus my attention on certain component elements of the preceding state of ordinary reality. The items he focused upon were apparently chosen at random, as the important issue was the act of perfecting the adopted alternate form. The final aspect of supervision was restoring me back to ordinary reality. It was implicit that this operation also required maximal supervision from don Juan, although I could not recall the actual procedure.
The supervision necessary for the states induced by Lophophora wilhamsii was a blend of the other two. Don Juan remained at my side for as long as he could, yet he did not attempt in any way to direct me into or out of nonordinary reality.
The second level of differentiative order in non ordinary reality was the seemingly internal standards or the seemingly internal arrangement of its component elements. I have called it the "intrinsic level," and I have assumed here that the component elements were subject to three general processes, which seemed to be the product of don Juan's guidance: (1) a progression toward the specific; (2) a progression toward a more extensive range of appraisal; and (3) a progression toward a more pragmatic use of nonordinary reality.
The progression toward the specific was the apparent advance of the component elements of each successive state of nonordinary reality toward being more precise, more specific. It entailed two separate aspects: (1) a progression toward specific single forms; and (2) a progression toward specific total results.
The progression toward specific single forms implied that the component elements were amorphously familiar in the early states of nonordinary reality, and became specific and unfamiliar in the late states. The progression seemed to encompass two levels of change in the component elements of non ordinary reality: (1) a progressive complexity of perceived detail; and (2) a progression from familiar to unfamiliar forms.
Progressive complexity of detail meant that in each successive state of nonordinary reality, the minute particulars I perceived as constituting the component elements became more complex. I assessed complexity in terms of my being aware that the structure of the component elements grew more complicated, yet the details did not become exceedingly or perplexingly entangled. The increasing complexity referred rather to the harmonious increase of perceived detail, which ranged from my impressions of vague forms during the early states to my perception of massive, elaborate arrays of minute particulars in the late states.
The progression from familiar to unfamiliar forms implied that at first the forms of the component elements either were familiar forms found in ordinary reality, or at least evoked the familiarity of everyday life. But in successive states of nonordinary reality the specific forms, the details making up the form, and the patterns in which the component elements were combined became progressively unfamiliar, until I could not put them on a par with, nor could they even evoke, in some instances, anything I had ever perceived in ordinary reality.
The progression of the component elements toward specific total results was the gradually closer approximation of the total result I accomplished in each state of nonordinary reality to the total result don Juan sought, in matters of corroborating the rule; that is, nonordinary reality was induced to corroborate the rule, and the corroboration grew more specific in each successive attempt.
The second general process of the intrinsic level of nonordinary reality was the progression toward a more extensive range of appraisal. In other words, it was the gain I perceived in each successive state of nonordinary reality toward the expansion of the area over which I could have exercised my capacity to focus attention. The point in question here was either that there existed a definite area that expanded, or that my capacity to perceive seemed to increase in each successive state. Don Juan's teachings fostered and reinforced the idea that there was an area that expanded, and I have called that alleged area the "range of appraisal." Its progressive expansion consisted of a seemingly sensorial appraisal I made of the component elements of nonordinary reality which fell within a certain range. I evaluated and analyzed these component elements, it seemed, with my senses, and to all appearances I perceived the range in which they occurred as being more extensive, more encompassing, in each successive state.
The range of appraisal was of two kinds: (1) the dependent range and (2) the independent range. The dependent range was an area in which the component elements were the items of the physical environment which had been within my awareness in the preceding state of ordinary reality. The independent range, on the other hand, was the area in which the component elements of nonordinary reality seemed to come into existence by themselves, free of the influence of the physical surroundings of the preceding ordinary reality.
Don Juan's clear allusion in matters of the range of appraisal was that each of the two allies and Mescalito possessed the property of inducing both forms of perception. Yet it seemed to me that Datura inoxia had a greater capacity to induce an independent range, although in the facet of bodily flight, which I did not perceive long enough to assess it, the range of appraisal was implicitly a dependent one. Psilocybe mexicana had the capacity to produce a dependent range; Lophophora williamsii had the capacity to produce both.
My assumption was that don Juan used those different properties in order to prepare special consensus. In other words, in the states produced by Datura inoxia the component elements lacking ordinary consensus existed independently of the preceding ordinary reality. With Psilocybe mexicana, lack of ordinary consensus involved component elements that depended on the environment of the preceding ordinary reality. And with Lophophora williamsii, some component elements were determined by the environment, whereas others were independent of the environment. Thus the use of the three plants together seemed to have been designed to create a broad perception of the lack of ordinary consensus on the component elements of nonordinary reality.
The last process of the intrinsic level of nonordinary reality was the progression I perceived in each successive state toward a more pragmatic use of nonordinary reality. This progression seemed to be correlated with the idea that each new state was a more complex stage of learning, and that the increasing complexity of each new stage required a more inclusive and pragmatic use of nonordinary reality. The progression was most noticeable when Lophophora williamsii was used; the simultaneous existence of a dependent and an independent range of appraisal in each state made the pragmatic use of nonordinary reality more extensive, for it covered both ranges at once.
Directing the outcome of the special states of ordinary reality seemed to produce an order in the intrinsic level, an order characterized by the progression of the component elements toward the specific; that is to say, the component elements were more numerous and were isolated more easily in each successive special state of ordinary reality. In the course of his teachings, don Juan elicited only two of them, but it was still possible for me to detect that in the second it was easier for don Juan to isolate a large number of component elements, and that facility for specific results affected the rapidity with which the second special state of ordinary reality was produced. *
* For the process of validating special consensus, see Appendix A.