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don Juan Matus: an empirical overview of the Yaqui shaman’s physical and mental way to

higher states of consciousness

Teresa Frisch, RN 2.13.09

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” -Arthur Clarke

Whenever new technology is presented to a more primitive culture it will seem magical, but “primitive”
by whose standards and on occasion, in which direction? Carlos Castaneda introduced the world to don
Juan Matus in 1968 when he gave us The Teachings of don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.ii In 1998
he gave us an anniversary edition with new commentary, and that new commentary contains
information which bears a striking resemblance to what in 2008, could be termed as a discussion of the
human biofield and quantum physics.

A bit of basic background in energy medicine and energy fields is helpful we compare cultural
descriptors to scientific ones (see areas within this website, or NCCAM / energy medicine). The lack of a
common language to describe the events has been, and still is, a key issue. As a result each human
observer has been left to flounder on their own, inventing their own terminology and letting the chips
fall where they may. So, with no common language, how do we compare and evaluate an experience?
How do we begin to identify and separate, observe, then re-associate and correlate descriptive events
and look for patterns?

Drop the language. Forget the language. Across time, across culture, across region, and even gender, it
won’t match. Convert the information you are being given about the experience into pictures and / or
symbols. Look at it from a fresh perspective and then, and only then begin to evaluate the situation.
Begin to branch out, look at it from the outside, then the inside, and then the inside out. What does it
look like? What does it feel like? What does it smell like, sound like, taste like?

That being said, let’s look at a brief summary of the specific information in “New Commentary” section
of The Teachings of don Juan. Please note that all italicized terms are sourced directly from the New
Commentary. What picture is the don painting for us?

As explained by the don to Castaneda, the shamans were able to see and perceive energy as it flowed
through the universe, labeling it energetic facts. The ability to perceive energy in this way allowed them
to observe human beings as energy fields with the appearance of luminous balls. Each of the luminous
balls was connected to a mass of energy of inconceivable proportions, which they labeled the dark sea
of awareness, and the point of attachment was even more brilliant than the ball itself. This point of
attachment was called the assemblage point, and this is where perception converts energy to sensorial
Let’s look at that again. The sensorial data is then reassembled in the human mind and interpreted
according to the lifelong frames of reference built by that individual. In other words, they mentally
assembled the sensory information being given to them from the dark sea of awareness and converted
it into cognition: a working version of a mental image, they recognized it and gave it a name, a label.
Once a “tree” was mentally defined, it was forever a “tree.” In the future it could have variations but it
was, forever, a “tree.” According to Castaneda, these Yaqui shaman were the first to see individual
vibratory energy in this way.

Being able to see the dark sea of awareness gave them the ability to see that the universe was filled with
infinite, huge clusters of luminous filaments. They also saw the universe of intent, and for them intent
meant intelligence. The don described the assemblage point , where the data from the energy field was
transformed into sensory perceptions and translated into the world as they knew it, is “located at the
same place on the energetic luminous spheres: at the height of the shoulder blades, an arm’s length
behind them, against the boundary of the luminous ball.” You will find a similar description of energy
and shoulder blades in Aesthetic Emotion: Abby’s Story,iii another Empirical Vignette here on Aesthetic

There is more information in the New Commentary than what I have given you in this short empirical
vignette. Descriptions and definitions about concepts and working realities, such as infinity, and
animate and inanimate energy. As the study of quantum physics, non locality and biofields continues to
emerge, historical human observations such as this could be very valuable. Especially when the don
goes on to describe that intending the movement of the assemblage point allowed the shaman to move
into other worlds, where different sensory data presented entirely different perspectives, analysis and
outcomes. “Other worlds” merely inches away, if we only knew where to find the key and how to fit it
into the lock. Imagine what that might look like. I am.

Revised tlf 3.27.09

Clarke, Arthur C., Profiles Of The Future, New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1963
Castaneda, Carlos, The Teachings of Don Juan, A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA:
University of California Press, 1972, Deluxe 10 Anniversary Edition With a New Author Commentary, 1998, xi - xix
Frisch, T. “Aesthetic Emotion: Abby’s Story.” Aesthetic Impact. aestheticimpact.com 13 Feb 2009.