“For me the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable; my interest has been to convince you that you must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvelous world, in this marvelous desert, in this marvelous time. I wanted to convince you that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while; in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it.” DON JUAN
Carlos Castaneda’s “Journey to Ixtlan” pales in comparison to “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge” and “A Separate Reality”, the books he wrote while he was an anthropology student at the University of California, but “Journey to Ixtlan” and the lesson the Peruvian-American author has given the readers present an awesome vision of the world that is both a literary masterpiece and the gateway to a new and more profound way of thinking about ourselves, of living our own lives.
Castaneda’s third book is about an alleged apprenticeship to the Yaqui “shaman,” Don Juan. It is the record of Castaneda’s initiation into the mysteries of sorcery–of becoming a “man of knowledge”–at the hands of one of the most remarkable personalities ever to emerge from anthropological investigation: don Juan, the Yaqui brujo (sorcerer).
Don Juan’s profound insight into the nature of things and his deep, disturbing knowledge of human nature made “The Teachings of Don Juan” and “A Separate Reality” immediate classics. His brooding, powerful and vivid presence has haunted, perplexed and illuminated the lives of several hundred thousand readers.
The two earlier books were concerned with the use of hallucinogens in don Juan’s sorcery and recorded Castaneda’s experiences, sometimes searing and terrifying, as he underwent the long and ardous apprenticeship of becoming a “man of knowledge.” Journey to Ixtlan transcends these experiences to show the reader the means by which a “man of power” sees, as opposed to merely looking, and how by his concentrated “seeing” he can, indeed must, “stop the world.”
Castaneda reaches for power in a series of startling encounters with the unknown–a confrontation with death and the past in the form of an albino falcon; with the twilight wind that is really power; with a flesh-and-blood mountain lion that Don Juan attracts by using Castaneda as the bait in a test of courage; with a mountain fog that brings visions and terror in the high mountains and in the bright, arid desert.
These visions and experiences from the lessons of don Juan, the techniques and concentration and compassion of the hunter–the man who is “without routines, free, fluid, unpredictable”–finding in the world around him the power that he has learned see, use and control.
The title of this book is taken from an allegory that is recounted to Castaneda by his “benefactor” who is known to Carlos as Don Genaro ( Genaro Flores ), a close friend of his teacher don Juan Matus. “Ixtlan” turns out to be a metaphorical hometown (or place /position of being ) to which the “sorcerer” or warrior or man of knowledge without reason or thoughts is drawn to return. This is because his elevated perspective leaves him little in common with ordinary people, who now seem no more substantial to him than “phantoms.” The point of the story is that a man of knowledge, or sorcerer, is a changed being, or a Human closer to his true state of Being, and for that reason he can never truly go “home” to his old lifestyle again.
In Journey to Ixtlan Castaneda essentially reevaluates the teachings up to that point. He discusses information that was apparently missing from the first two books regarding stopping the world which previously he had only regarded as a metaphor.
He also finds that psychotropic plants, knowledge of which was a significant part of his apprenticeship to Yaqui shaman don Juan Matus, are not as important in the world view as he had previously thought.
The book shows a progression between different states of learning, from hunter, to warrior, to man of knowledge or sorcerer, the difference said to be one of skill level and the type of thing hunted, “…a warrior is an impeccable hunter that hunts power. If he succeeds in his hunting he becomes a man of knowledge.”
Throughout the book Castaneda portrays himself as skeptical and reserved in his explanations of the phenomena at hand, but by the end of the book Castaneda’s rationalist worldview is seen to be breaking down in the face of an onslaught of experiences that he is unable to explain logically.