The Teaching of Juan Matus
Translated from Russian by M.Shafeyev
The Teaching of Juan Matus was described in detail by Carlos
Castaneda — our contemporary from Los Angeles. His books known
to us were published in the period from 1966 to 1987. We also
know the book by D.C.Noel Seeing Castaneda, which contains
interviews with him.
It must be noted right away that in his books Castaneda describes
the period of his relationship with don Juan that lasted for
about three decades. Over this period it was not only Castaneda
who advanced in his development, but also don Juan himself.
Reading Castaneda’s books one can see both the early and the
later personal spiritual quest of don Juan, which was not free
from mistakes. This is why the spiritual concept of the School
must be evaluated not based on what don Juan spoke and did over
these decades, but on what he attained by the end of his earthly
So, the future author of bestsellers about the School of
Juan Matus, Carlos Castaneda was an undergraduate student at
a university in USA, majoring in anthropology. He had to collect
material for his thesis, so he went to Mexico in order to study
the experience of Indians of that area in using medicinal and
psychotropic plants. Upon arrival to Mexico with his car, he
started searching for people competent in this issue. He was
introduced to an Indian, whose name was Juan Matus and who agreed
to provide Castaneda with the data he needed free of charge.
So, they got acquainted and their joint work began. In due
course Castaneda found out that don Juan possesses not only
knowledge about qualities of plants, but also the ancient art
of the Toltec Indians’ sorcery. Moreover, don Juan turned out
to be a sorcerer himself. For the first time in his life, Castaneda
came across the things that were absolutely beyond the scope
of his usual secular and religious notions. So, lizards appeared
able of speaking with human voices, people could fly with their
bodies, extract various things “out of nowhere”, and so on.
Castaneda found himself captivated by all this and also increasingly
interested as a scientist in this new, for him, area of knowledge.
Once, don Juan invited Castaneda to a meeting, where his
associates were taking self-made psychedelics. Castaneda tried
them as well. And then occurred that, which for the first time
made don Juan to view Castaneda as a promising disciple.
Don Juan was a mystic, and he perceived the whole world in
a mystic way. In particular, he attached great importance to
so called “signs” coming to him from the “separate reality”.
It happened that Castaneda, upon swallowing a few pills of
peyote, started playing a strange game with a dog. They began
to urinate on each other... It was the dog’s behavior, absolutely
unusual for a dog that had significance there. It was interpreted
by don Juan as a sign from God (Who was referred to as Power
in this school) indicating the significance of non-Indian Castaneda
for the school. Since that moment Castaneda became a full member
of the party (that is, the group) of don Juan’s disciples. And
don Juan started to gradually initiate him into the secret knowledge
of his school.
So what was the conceptual outlook of the school?
The whole world consists of two “parallel” worlds, the first
of which is called the tonal (that is, the world of material
things) and the second — the nagual (the non-material
We communicate with the world of matter through the so-called
first attention, i.e. that carried out through the sense
organs of physical body.
To become able of cognizing the nagual, one has to develop
the second attention, that is, clairvoyance.
There is also the third attention, by means of which
one perceives the Creator and His Radiance, which don Juan called
According to mythology shared by don Juan’s predecessors,
the world is governed by the universal divine Eagle. This was
their notion of God. However fantastic it seems, it is monotheistic.
This Eagle feeds on souls that leave human bodies. But the
Eagle also confers the chance on some people to “skip” past
His beak after their death and to obtain immortality, provided
that during their lives they acquired skills necessary for this
and developed themselves as consciousnesses to the due degree,
gained the required power of the consciousness, and the ability
to act with it the multidimensional world.
This concept contained a frightening element, which was supposed
to force a person to make efforts on self-perfection. But, like
Jesus Christ, don Juan strongly opposed this attitude toward
God, which was based on fear. He said that in order to approach
God, one has to take the “path with heart” — that is the path
of Love. It is interesting that don Juan arrived at this understanding
independently of the influence of other spiritual traditions.
He was not familiar with the Teaching of either Krishna or Jesus
Christ, nor has he ever read Sufi or Taoist books. It is evident
that he did not read the New Testament; otherwise he would quote
it for sure.
A person who resolved to lay claim to immortality, first,
has to become a “hunter”. But not that hunter who kills game,
but that for knowledge, who walks the “path of heart” — caring,
loving both the Earth and beings that live on it.
Having mastered the stage of “hunter”, he can then become
a “warrior” — that is the one who “traces” Power (God), striving
to “stalk” and cognize It.
Don Juan taught Castaneda and his other apprentices often
while walking in the desert and the mountains — in most natural
conditions of direct contact with the multiform world that surrounds
For instance, once they caught a wild rabbit. Don Juan knew
that this rabbit’s life on the Earth was coming to an end, according
to its destiny. And he suggested that Castaneda killed this
rabbit with his own hands. Castaneda exclaimed, ‘I cannot do
this!’ Don Juan objected, ‘But you have killed animals before!’
Castaneda replied, ‘But I killed them with my rifle, from a
distance, without having to see them die...’
Castaneda refused to commit killing, for the first time he
questioned his ethic right to do this, he thought of the sufferings
of the creature being killed.
However, the rabbit died by himself before Castaneda’s eyes,
because the time of his stay on the Earth had really run out.
Once don Juan and Castaneda were walking down the street
and saw a snail crossing the road. And don Juan used this example
to explain the philosophy of the role of a person in the destinies
of other creatures.
In such a way Castaneda, who at the beginning was very proud
of his being a learned and civilized person, became increasingly
convinced that true wisdom belongs not to him, but to the old
Indian, a great spiritual Seeker and Teacher, who lived a life
of a hunter and a warrior in harmony with the world around him.
After his disciples had mastered the basics of ethics and
wisdom, don Juan would proceed to teaching them psychoenergetic
It should be noted here that only a very limited number of
students were enrolled into the don Juan’s school. A criterion
of selection was the level of development of the energy structures
of the organism — chakras. Of course, Indians did not use such
words as chakras and dantyans. But they spoke of segments in
the energy cocoon of man. And only disciples with developed
chakras were considered to be promising and able to withstand
the path of a hunter and warrior.
So, those enrolled in the school had a big experience in
psychoenergetic work acquired in their previous lives on the
Earth. That is, they were ready for serious work from the psychoenergetic
This allowed them to start psychoenergetic training not with
cleansing and developing of meridians and chakras, but immediately
with development of the main power structure of the organism
— hara (the lower dantyan).
When the work with hara was completed, the next stage followed:
the division of the cocoon into two parts: the upper
and the lower bubbles of perception. Why “bubbles”? —
Because these parts of the cocoon seen by means of clairvoyance
look like swimming bladders of some kinds of fish. Why “of perception”?
— Because one can perceive the tonal and the nagual from them,
Division of the cocoon into two bubbles of perception
was regarded as an important transitional step to further stages
of psychoenergetic self-perfection. And one had to master concentration
of the consciousness in both “poles” of the cocoon divided
in such a way.
Further work was performed in order to develop the lower
bubble of perception. But it was started only after the
consciousness had been properly refined, or, as it was called
in the don Juan’s school, after the luminosity of the cocoon
had been cleansed.
That is, as in all other advanced spiritual schools, the
techniques aimed at the refining of the consciousness preceded
the large-scale process of its crystallization. However,
Castaneda does not describe methods of “cleansing the luminosity”
except the one, which can be viewed rather as a joke, namely
— inhaling the smoke of a campfire.
Thanks to the refining of the consciousness and the work
with the lower bubble of perception, disciples attained
the state of Nirvana (though they were not acquainted with this
term). First, they mastered the static variation of Nirvana
in Brahman, and after this — the dynamic one.
Once don Juan clapped Castaneda on the back with his palm
(he often used this technique so that to shift the assemblage
point, that is the zone of distribution of the disciple’s
consciousness) — and Castaneda, prepared for this by preceding
exercises, entered the static variation of Nirvana. At that
moment, he for the first time experienced the state of deep
peace, for the first time he perceived God; he perceived that
God is indeed Love…
But suddenly he heard don Juan’s voice who was saying that
this state was, though fine — not that, to which he had to aspire
now. He had to advance further! “Do not think that this is the
limit of your abilities...” With these words don Juan called
on Castaneda, who had cognized the supreme bliss of Nirvana,
not to “get attached” to it, but to keep on going further...
At first, Castaneda got offended and angry at don Juan, but
the latter was unbending: further advance is necessary!...
And what is further? Further is the dynamic aspect of Nirvana
when the crystallized consciousness acts in the subtle
eons. In this state one can touch with the consciousness any
being within the bounds of Earth and around it; everything that
is required — just information about this being.
Then disciples of Juan Matus also mastered the state of Nirodhi,
known in all developed schools of buddhi yoga. This state don
Juan also described in endemic terms, which were specific to
his school. Disciples were taught that there exist energy waves,
which are constantly rolling on all living creatures, and from
which we are shielded by our cocoons. And that there
is a possibility to use the power of these waves to transfer
oneself into the unknown worlds with their help. These unknown
worlds are other spatial dimensions. To make it happen, the
rolling force had to be allowed to flood the cocoon.
Then a person turned into “nothing”, his “I” died.
And it s is only after attaining the state of disappearance
in Brahman that it became possible to cognize Ishvara — and
disappear in Him forever, having conquered one’s death. That
is, as don Juan understood, one has to not “skip past the Eagle’s
beak”, but to merge into the universal God-Power.
It should be noted that with the help of the Fire it is possible
to master dematerialization of the physical body. This is what
Juan Matus and his companions performed.
So, we have considered the principal stages of work in the
buddhi yoga school of Juan Matus. They turn out to be common
for all school of buddhi yoga, regardless of the location of
these schools on the Earth’s surface, whether they are connected
with each other or not, as well as the languages spoken in these
schools and the terms used by them. This is so due to the fact
that it is according to the same laws that God guides the people
who devoted their lives to Him.
And now, let us consider in detail the specific methods of
work in the school of Juan Matus — which have been described
by Castaneda in detail and which we can apply to ourselves.
They can be divided into two groups: preliminary and basic
The first of the preliminary methods is the recapitulation.
In essence, this is the same as repentance, which is one of
the major practices in all major religions. Disciples had to
— mainly in seclusion that lasted several days — recall all
the mistakes they had made in their lives, and to re-live those
situations anew, this time correctly. So that disciples had
more “personal interest” in this very hard work, they were told
that during recapitulation they would regain the energy
wasted as a result of their incorrect emotional reactions. The
quality of penitential work did not deteriorate because of this
trick, since its major goal — to learn to react in the ethically
correct way and to avoid sin — was achieved with due efforts.
They also had to destroy the feeling of “self-importance”
and “self-pity” — as those qualities that result in the tremendous
waste of the person’s energy. Indeed, if one views oneself so
too important and someone else encroaches on this importance
with their disrespectful attitude, the person reacts with emotional
discharge of resentment, anger, and so forth. In this process
the energy of the organism is intensively wasted.
Here is an interesting and instructive fact of the Castaneda’s
biography: when his study in don Juan’s school came to an end,
he and his closest companion, la Gorda — though Castaneda became
a millionaire after his books had been published and they could
lead a life free from material limitations — in spite of this,
they got hired under other people’s names as servants in the
house of a rich man and suffered humiliations from rudeness
and treachery of other servants. They resorted to this in order
to completely destroy the feeling of “self-importance”, to erase
their own “personal history” from their memories — so that to
attain humility. Truly, everything that happens to a warrior
on the physical plane, as Castaneda put it — does not matter;
the only thing that matters is the state of the consciousness.
Indeed, it is of no importance compared to the Supreme Goal!
And what is of principal significance is the ability to be naught,
the ability not to protect oneself when someone is unjust to
one, but to be protected — so taught don Juan. And the state
of being protected comes only when “there is no myself”, when
there is only God.
One of the most essential preparatory elements of work in
the school of Juan Matus was “sweeping of the tonal”, which
corresponds to observance of aparigraha in the ethics of Hindu
We have already discussed don Juan’s wise ability to explain
most complicated philosophical matters in an easy to understand
manner using natural examples from the everyday life. This time
he did the same, explaining this principle to his disciples.
Once don Juan assembled his disciples, took a sack and put
into it the radio, the tape recorder and several other things
that he found in the house of one of them, then he put the sack
on that man’s back, put a table on another disciple’s back and
took them to the mountains. In the middle of the valley, he
told them to put the table down and emptied the contents of
the sack onto it. Then he took the disciples away and offered
them to say what they saw?
They started to tell that they see a radio set... and so
on and so forth...
Then don Juan came to the table and whisked all the things
off from it. “Take another look and tell me what you see now?”,
he said. Only then disciples understood don Juan: he wanted
them to see not only the things on the table, but the table
itself, and moreover, — the space around the table. But the
things on the table prevented them from seeing this by drawing
their attention to themselves.
In this way don Juan demonstrated to his disciples that in
order to cognize the nagual, and then also — God, one has to
cleanse the tonal around oneself.
Perhaps, it would be appropriate to recall the example of
observance of the same principle in the history of Christianity:
beside icons and a few books monks had a coffin in their cells,
in which they slept, so that to constantly remember of their
inevitable death, which urges those who remember about it to
intensify their spiritual efforts.
Also, don Juan taught to destroy stiff patterns of material
life, as for instance, strict observance of one’s routines.
For what purpose? In order to attain freedom. Destruction of
unreasonable patterns of behavior, thinking, and reacting, inculcated
in the process of upbringing by traditions and morality, should
result in the “loss of the human form”, that is, attaining the
state when we learn to act not according to our reflexes or
because it is customary to act so, but in accordance with objective
expediency. The “loss of the human form” is not a short-term
mechanic action, as some disciples of don Juan fantasized, but
a prolonged process, accompanying the man’s gradual approaching
God. This process comes to an end when an aspirant learns to
look at all situations with the eyes of the Creator.
But attaining the “loss of the human form” does not mean
in the least that man starts to behave “not like everyone else”
in the society. Otherwise, firstly, inevitable conflicts with
other people would prevent him from fulfilling his main duty.
Secondly, the conduct, which is “defiant” by form, in many cases
turns out to be a breach of the basic laws of objective ethics
— the non-harming of other living beings. This is why disciples
were prescribed to observe conventional norms of behavior, sometimes
secretly ridiculing them and resorting to the so-called “controlled
To illustrate this, don Juan once astounded Castaneda by
taking off his usual Indian garment and putting on an immaculate
European suit during his trip to the town.
In connection with this, don Juan also taught his disciples
to talk to people in the language that they can understand.
So, once he and Castaneda were sitting on the bench near the
Catholic church and saw how two not too old ladies, after coming
out from the church were too hesitant to descend a few steps.
Then don Juan elegantly jumped up to them, helped them go down,
and advised them that in case some time in the future they fall,
they should by no means move until the doctor arrives! The ladies
were sincerely grateful to him for this advice.
The next most essential methodical technique is remembering
about one’s own death.
The majority of people today are accustomed to fighting the
thought of their death. And even when we come across facts of
passing away of other people, we by no means try to imagine
ourselves in their place. We assure ourselves that even if this
is going to happen to us, it is still very long time ahead.
But, if each of us asks oneself now: “When will I die?” —
the dates will be very far-off, although theoretically everyone
knows that people die at any age.
So, don Juan suggested that we imagine that our personified
death is always by our side. And if one looks back quickly over
the left shoulder — one can spot it as a shade that has flashed.
“At the moment, death is sitting next to you on the same mat,
waiting for your mistake”, he said to Castaneda. And no one
is aware of the moment when he is going to die, that is why
we should not have any unfinished affairs.
Below is what don Juan said about death.
“…How can anyone feel so important when we know that death
is stalking us?
… The thing to do when you’re impatient is to turn to your
left and ask advice from your death. An immense amount of pettiness
is dropped if your death makes a gesture to you, or if you catch
a glimpse of it, or if you just have the feeling that your companion
is there watching you.
Death is the …wise adviser that we have… One… has to ask
death’s advice and drop the cursed pettiness that belongs to
men that live their lives as if death will never tap them.
If you do not think of your death, all your life will be
just personal chaos.
(A warrior) knows his death is stalking him and won’t give
him time to cling to anything… And thus with an awareness of
his death,… and with the power of his decisions a warrior sets
his life in a strategic manner… and what he chooses is always
strategically the best; and so he performs everything he has
to with gusto and lusty efficiency.
Life for a warrior is an exercise in strategy.
Without the awareness of death everything is ordinary, trivial.
It is only because death is stalking us that the world is an
You have little time and no time for crap. A wonderful state!
The best of us always comes out when we are against the wall,
when we feel the sword dangling overhead. …I wouldn’t have it
any other way.”
Another important aspect of the work with disciples was mastering
the mental pause or, in other words, stoppage of “internal
dialogue” (the first term is preferable whereas besides “internal
dialogues” there are also “internal monologues”).
This is an absolutely necessary prerequisite for mastering
the nagual, because the nagual is mastered by means of meditation,
and meditation, as Rajneesh put it nicely, is the state of “non-mind”.
That is, to learn to immerse the consciousness into the nagual,
one has to learn to stop, to switch off the mind.
For the purpose of attaining the mental pause don
Juan employed the following techniques:
1. Psychedelics. But it should be noted that, firstly, don
Juan used this method only at the very beginning of their joint
work and later he gave it up. Secondly, Castaneda complained
afterwards that though he was immensely grateful to don Juan
for everything that he had done for him, but nonetheless his
(Castaneda’s) liver was still marked with scars. Hence, it is
absolutely unadvisable to follow his example as to using psychedelics.
All the more, there is other, far more effective and harmless
means of mastering the mental pause at our disposal.
2. “Gazing”. One had to look at some object for long time
and in fixed manner, for example, at a ravine, flowing water,
and so on. As a result the first attention got exhausted
and switched off leaving room for the second attention.
3. Prolonged suspension of one’s body on devices like a swing.
The training mentioned above resulted in attaining the state
that in Chinese yoga is called “wu-wei” — “not-doing”, that
is being inactive on the physical plane, when one’s mind (manas,
in Sanskrit) stops, and one gets the opportunity for directed
meditation, for activity of the consciousness (in Sanskrit,
Manas and buddhi are in reciprocal relations: they cannot
act simultaneously, at any moment either one or the other operates.
(That does not mean that a person without a body or in the state
of meditation loses reason. No. Developed crystallized
consciousness can think. But it thinks in another way, not in
the “earthly” manner).
And one more unique technique that was developed in this
school by don Juan’s predecessors: intentional interaction with
people-tyrants. The technique was employed for attainment of
“impeccability of warrior”, that is the ability to follow ethical
principles and adhere to strategy of objectively valid behavior
in situations of urgency. Some time in the past don Juan himself
was sent by his teacher to a fierce overseer-tyrant for such
training. In Mexico such ones were considered to be very rare,
and to find one was regarded a big luck by warriors. (In contrast
to Mexico, in our country ruled by the Communist Party it was
much easier with finding tyrants).
Now let us list the methods of psychoenergetic work used
in the don Juan’s school:
1. Cleansing of the inner luminosity (i.e. refinement of
2. Use of places of power — energetically significant
zones favorable for mastering particular meditations...
3. Dreaming, which was given much attention. What
is this? Many people, having read Castaneda’s books, try to
use their night sleep for this purpose, and without success.
No, this is not the way it must be done. Dreaming is
the synonym of the word meditation. Due to being unfamiliar
with the terms commonly accepted in other countries, Central
American Indians had to find their own words to denote some
key techniques, phenomena, and objects of spiritual practice.
This is how the term dreaming was born, since meditative
images sometimes really bear similarity to the images one sees
Special training in dreaming allowed disciples, getting
detached from the body, to run on the walls, climb along energy
beams (“the lines of the world”), and so on.
4. Learning to act in extreme magic situations, created by
the preceptor on purpose. For this purpose, ethical vices of
disciples were used. For example, when a disciple still had
an inclination toward selfish attacks on other people, he was
suggested to take part in a deliberately losing magic fight,
which turned out beneficial for all its participants.
5. The technique of shifting the assemblage point
as a result of energetic impact of the preceptor (this was called
“the nagual’s blow”; the term nagual had another meaning
in this case: a leader who has mastered the nagual and is capable
of acting in it and from it).
6. Practice of meditative leveling-off of the energetic
emanations inside the cocoon in accordance with
outer emanations of the highest spatial dimensions.
7. Work with hara aimed at developing the power aspect.
8. Employment of allies (that is, spirits). This was
done in two variants.
The first one — “taming” of spirits who had to, according
to the plan, become assistants and protectors of the sorcerer.
Both don Juan and his friend Genaro had such allies in
the beginning of their spiritual quest.
But everyone should be warned that this is an erroneous and
dangerous practice, which we in no way should try imitating.
By the way, both don Juan and Genaro themselves gave up this
practice later on.
The other variant of the work with allies consisted
in hunting them. No wonder that such tendency was created by
Indians who lived in a constant communion with wildlife. So,
disciples were told that at some moment they were sure to come
across some ally in the male human form who would challenge
them to a combat. One can lose in this combat, giving way to
fear, but it is also possible to win. In the latter case the
warrior acquires the power of that spirit.
And disciples prepared themselves for such a fight, which
could take place any moment, by developing alertness (readiness)
and other necessary qualities of the warriors.
On the basis of this educational game, disciples performed,
in particular, the work for developing the lower bubble of
… To sum up the above said, we will point out basic aspects
of this Teaching, which is exceptionally rich in terms of most
valuable theoretical and practical elements. Don Juan pointed
out three sections in it: a) the art of stalking, b) the art
of intent, and c) the art of consciousness.
In the history of this Indian spiritual tradition, the art
of stalking initially consisted in the ability to sneak, to
stalk unnoticed among the people who do not understand you (that
is, people of lower stages of psychogenesis) — and to achieve
But afterwards, owing, in particular, to personal contribution
of don Juan, this trend was considerably expanded to include
also stalking one’s own vices. We have discussed this enough.
Let me just quote one brilliant formula, given by don Juan:
God (in his parlance, Power) provides according to our impeccability.
That is, God gives us an opportunity to approach Him, to immerse
into increasing happiness of mergence with Him — as we perfect
The second section — the art of intent. Intent is
the same as aspiration to the Supreme Goal, or, according
to Gurdjieff, the correct magnetic center. A true warrior,
in don Juan’s sense of the word, — is a person with the correctly
The lifestyle of a warrior would bring him or her to the
“totality” of oneself, that is the state of being “non-split”
regarding the major and the minor things, the “integrity” in
devoting himself only to the Supreme Goal.
The third aspect is the art of consciousness — which is what
buddhi yoga is.
So, we could see once again, that God leads all people who
have attained a certain level of maturity in their psychogenesis,
irrespective of the country and religious culture they live
in, using the common methodological pattern. We should study
these principles and trends and apply them to ourselves and
to the people who follow us.
1. Carlos Castaneda
— The Teaching of Don Juan. N.Y., "Pocket books", 1966.
2. Carlos Castaneda
— A Separate Reality. N.Y., "Pocket books", 1973.
3. Carlos Castaneda
— Journey to Ixtlan. N.Y., "Pocket books", 1976.
4. Carlos Castaneda
— Tales of Power. N.Y., "Pocket books", 1978.
5. Carlos Castaneda
— The Second Ring of Power. N.Y., "Pocket books", 1980.
6. Carlos Castaneda
— The Eagle's Gift. N.Y. "Pocket books", ", 1982.
7. Carlos Castaneda
— The Fire From Within. N.Y. "Simon & Schuster", 1984.
8. Carlos Castaneda
— The Power of Silence. N.Y. "Simon & Schuster", 1987.
9. Noel D.C. —
Seeing Castaneda: Reactions to the "Don Juan" Writings of Carlos Castaneda. N.Y., "Putnam", 1976.
10. Uspensky P.D. — In
Search of the Miraculous. N.Y. "Harcourt", 1949.