This material selected from the first chapter of The Teachings of Don Carlos, summarizes key elements of don Juan's view of reality that have been useful to my understanding. Added emphasis appears in red, and my reactions are enclosed in a box: (Note 37)

The Description of the World

At the moment of birth, babies do not perceive the world in the same way as do adults. Their attention is not yet functioning as the first attention, therefore they do not share the same perceptual world of those around them. . . . This they will have to achieve, little by little, as they grow and assimilate the description of the world provided by their elders. Anyone, especially an adult, who comes into contact with an infant, in effect becomes a teacher - in most cases unconsciously - who incessantly describes the world to the child. . . .

I watched this process with my granddaughter. A part of me wanted to scream: No - No don't get caught up in an illusion that may take the rest of your life to reconcile. But she too, as the rest of us, must first fall asleep to awaken again to the mystery of life.

It is valid to say that what we perceive daily is the same description flowing constantly from ourselves toward the outside world. . . . If the flow is suspended, our perception of the world collapses, resulting in what is known in the writings of Castaneda as "stopping the world." Seeing refers to the capacity to perceive the world as it appears once the flow of the description has been interrupted. . . .

When I encountered "stopping the world" in Castaneda's writings, my mind was arrested. Some part of me sought the paradoxical truth suggested by that phrase. How could I stop the world?

The Internal Dialogue

The internal dialogue is the mental conversation that we sustain constantly with ourselves and is the most immediate expression of reality assimilated by everyone. . . . This can come to such extremes that we accustom ourselves to substitute thoughts in place of reality. We look at the world, the things, the people, or ourselves, at the same time thinking about what we see, and finish by taking our thoughts for the real thing. . . .

For much of my life, substituted thoughts represented the only reality. Castaneda's work suggested that need not be my experience. As Korzybski so clearly stated: "Words ARE NOT the things they represent." What a tragic flaw of the internal dialogue!


One way in which the first ring (internal dialogue) can be blocked is by performing actions foreign to our ordinary description of the world - what is known as not-doing. The ordinary description of the world compels us to behave always according to the terms it indicates; therefore, all actions emanate from said description and subsequently tend to revalidate it. These actions are what is known as "doing" and in combination with the description that nourishes them, they make up a system that is virtually self-sustaining. Any action that is not congruent with the description of the world would constitute a form of "not-doing."

Not-doing is Taoism pure and simple. Chinese wei wu wei translates as "doing not-doing." Ancient Chinese sages and descendents of the pre-Colombian Toltec culture came to the same principle of reality though separated by half a planet.

Not-doing interrupts the flow of the description, and this interruption in turn suspends the doing of the world of the known. Not-doing is the medium that opens the way to the unknown side of reality and of oneself. In other words, it provides access to the nagual - what is referred to in the case of the world as the separate reality, or in the case of an individual as the awareness of the other self. . . .

The other self resides at the core of my being. I have come to know this as The Intuitive Self - the informing theme for this web site.

The Ego as Part of the Description

When by means of the not-doings of the personal self, we interrupt the flow of the description of our own person, we free ourselves from the enchantment of the ego - which wants us to believe that it represents the only reality. . . . Starting from that moment, we can take on the task of reinventing ourselves in an intentional and voluntary fashion, able to respond in novel ways to new situations that each moment provides for us. . . .

The Intuitive Self knows everything necessary to be in the world. Encountering the moment, The Intuitive Self does the right thing. This does not mean seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. If the moment evokes the experience of pain, my core should accept this without judgment as it would pleasure.

The Tonal and Nagual

Castaneda makes his most detailed exposition of the tonal and the nagual in Tales of Power. There he reveals to us the two aspects of the tonal: as the space in which the average person exists during the duration of life; and as the organizer that gives meaning and significance to everything having to do with awareness. . . .

The nagual then would be all that remaining outside the tonal. It is that about which it is not possible to think. Castaneda presents the tonal as an island upon which is passed the whole of life. No one knows anything about what lies beyond the borders of the island. The nagual would be all that space of unfathomable mystery surrounding it.

Although the nagual cannot be understood or verbalized - since understanding and words belong to the tonal - it nevertheless can be witnessed and experienced. That is one of the prime objectives of a sorcerer. It is not important to try to understand or rationalize the experience of the nagual; the sorcerer is interested only in the pragmatic possibilities it puts within his or her reach.

Living with The Intuitive Self along with The Rational Self, naugal being complements tonal doing. Experiencing epiphanies in naugal being intimates "that art thou" as the Upanishads prophesied.