This is the fourth book in Castaneda’s series detailing his apprenticeship with the Yaqui sorcerer don Juan Matus. The concepts presented in this volume are infinitely more complex than those addressed in the first three books. Castaneda goes deep into explanations of the nagual and the tonal, shamanic terms used to describe the levels of reality available to a sorcerer. This information is far too dense for me to cover in a short blog post, so I won’t even attempt to do so. Instead, I want to discuss a passage that resonated with me and that I think can be adequately explored in a post.
“At this precise point a teacher would usually say to his disciple that they have arrived at a final crossroad,” he continued. “To say such a thing is misleading, though. In my opinion there is no final crossroad, no final step to anything. And since there is no final step to anything, there shouldn’t be any secrecy about any part of our lot as luminous beings. Personal power decides who can or who cannot profit by a revelation; my experiences with my fellow men have proven to me that very, very few of them would be willing to listen; and of those who listen even fewer would be willing to act on what they listened to; and of those who are willing to act even fewer have enough personal power to profit by their acts. So, the matter of secrecy about the sorcerers’ explanation boils down to a routine, perhaps a routine as empty as any other routine.”
The crossroads is one of my favorite symbols. In addition to representing a choice, it is also the intersection between the material and the spiritual planes. Combining these two interpretations, the crossroads can become a symbol for a choice as to whether to take a spiritual path or a material path. Echoing what don Juan says, there is never a final crossroad; every moment of your life provides you with an opportunity to make a decision which path you will follow. I will even be so bold as to assert that after taking your last breath, you are still at a crossroad where you will have to decide a path to take. Crossroads, like the circle, are infinite.
The other thing I found interesting in the cited passage is the secrecy associated with occult and mystical teachings. In the past, when certain teachings and ideas could land someone on a rack or in a bonfire, the need for secrecy was vital. But this is not the case anymore. Yet, some groups and societies still adhere to the practice of secrecy. I suspect this is habit or routine, as don Juan says, or out of greed for holding on to power, which I personally feel is the primary motivator. And I completely agree with the explanation that most people choose not to listen to esoteric teachings, and of those who do, few choose to practice and fewer still have the ability to be successful in the mystical pursuits. There is more information available for seekers than any one person can consume, and most of this is ignored or rejected.
I have been really enjoying rereading Castaneda’s works, but I think I am going to take a little break and catch up on some other reading before I dive into the fifth book: The Second Ring of Power. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.
4 responses to “Thoughts on “Tales of Power” by Carlos Castaneda: Crossroads and Secrecy”
I appreciate your choosing this particular passage and your personal analysis. This post evokes two separate thoughts from me:
The crossroad is also the precise intersection of past and future. As I reflect on the decisions I have had to make over the decades, how I agonized over some of them, now, from this comfortable seat in the distant future I can see how their seemingly inevitable ripples affected me, and now continue to affect generation after generation. Now it becomes clear why those decisions were so monumentally important at the time, although the reasons were invisible then.
Reflecting on a 40-plus year career with its successes and failures, it is clear to me that those who used secrecy to enhance their own power or rung on the corporate ladder were operating from a false (and weak) position. The filters through which information is described in the passage you chose were evident to me early on, and I chose to spread information widely… those who had the capacity to listen and act gained from it.
Thank you for spreading the wisdom you discover, and your unique points of view.
Hi Jerry. I do hope you and the family are well.
Thank you for your thoughtful and eloquent response. I agree with everything you said. I’m grateful that we are still in touch and that we have a platform to discuss ideas and such. Hopefully on my next trip back east we can meet for lunch. Cheers.
In some societies, the secret and the sacred are united out of respect. For example, the Pueblo tribes in New Mexico share very little of their religion with outsiders. Visitors are invited to one annual feast and dance, welcomed into homes for meals, but not told the sacred meaning or stories. What goes on in the kivas is sacred/secret. I can see why, with all the spiritual tourists and well-meaning seekers. Too much exposure would weaken the power, and I don’t mean power in a greedy way, but in a positive sense. At a Buffalo Dance at Ohkay Owingeh many years ago, I watched as the as dancers entered a house on the plaza, and the glimpse through the window sent a surge of something through me. A woman standing near me quietly told me we were not supposed to look through the windows. I lowered my gaze and the current ceased. I’d been taking a little of what needed to concentrated within the ceremony, and I appreciated her guidance.
You bring up a really important point, Amber. Cultural appropriation is a big problem, especially for Native Americans. Many years back I attended a sweat lodge hosted by a non-Native American, unaware at the time of the issues. Thankfully, I had some Native American friends who enlightened me. Anyway, thank you for taking the time to share your insights. Stay safe.