The teachings of Don Juan as interpreted by Carlos Castaneda are one of the most inspirational pieces of wisdom produced by humanity. Among my favorite excerpts is the one on the “enemies of a man of knowledge”. Although taught (and practiced!) by the ancient Native Mexican peoples, these ideas are still (or even more) relevant and applicable in the modern world.
Don Juan reveals four such enemies for the author (Castaneda). I am listing them below adding my own understanding, interpretation and experience.
This is one of the strongest enemies. Indeed all sorts of fears cause a lot of trouble for men and women across the planet, and I consider fear to be one of the biggest sins. Most importantly, fear impedes action and therefore knowledge, as action and knowledge are inseparable from each other. Learning means always facing fears, that’s just the way it is. Don Juan advises the following on how to overcome the 1st enemy:
The answer is very simple. He must not run away. He must defy his fear, and in spite of it he must take the next step in learning, and the next, and the next. He must be fully afraid, and yet he must not stop.
There’s not much that can be added to that. My own recipe for overcoming fear is very similar, yet I still can’t boast removing this enemy completely from my life.
The second obstacle to knowledge is clarity. Indeed, once you think you know everything, you stop learning. A man of knowledge must be always ready to change his world view if there are contradicting evidence or facts; he must be always open to the world. This is a true process of obtaining knowledge. After all, if everything is clear, where are the wonders and riddles of the universe? 🙂
This is the third enemy for those seeking knowledge. This is very closely connected with clarity. The sense of clarity brings the sense of power and omnipotence. In modern life many of the people reaching high (especially politicians, as life proves) tend to forget that power is not ever-lasting. Moreover, power can even corrupt people. On a daily basis, those who have reached a solid level of knowledge in something end to make more mistakes. This sounds as a paradox, yet it happens as people become less aware with more knowledge and power. Thus, statistics show that experienced electricians get an electric shock more often than apprentices.
In my opinion, three things are indispensable with regard to the “power enemy” – self-control, awareness and humility. “I am powerful (strong, clever, whatever), and I am aware of that, yet I will my abilities with precaution” – this is a type of thinking that needs to be embraced.
Finally, old age is the cruelest of all enemies on the way to knowledge as it cannot never be defeated completely. Don Juan says the following in this regard:
This is the time when a man has no more fears, no more impatient clarity of mind – a time when all his power is in check, but also the time when he has an unyielding desire to rest. If he gives in totally to his desire to lie down and forget, if he soothes himself in tiredness, he will have lost his last round, and his enemy will cut him down into a feeble old creature. His desire to retreat will overrule all his clarity, his power, and his knowledge.
Well, as already mentioned several times, action is life, and life is action. The active way of life and thinking can an should be maintained till the last days of our lives. Otherwise we’ll stop learning and subdue to the last enemy even if defeating the first three.
In conclusion, another interesting approach to knowledge is given by Paulo Coelho in “The Diary of a Magician”. This one will be covered and compared with Don Juan’s teachings in the next post.