- “The first precept of the rule is that everything that surrounds us is an unfathomable mystery."
- “The second precept of the rule is that we must try to unravel these mysteries, but without ever hoping to accomplish this."
- “The third, that a warrior, aware of the unfathomable mystery that surrounds him and aware of his duty to try to unravel it, takes his rightful place among mysteries and regards himself as one. Consequently, for a warrior there is no end to the mystery of being, whether being means being a pebble, or an ant, or oneself. That is a warrior’s humbleness. One is equal to everything.”
Detachment and Mindfulness
Castaneda describes his capacity for detachment when he says, “I had learned to enter into a state of total quietness. I was able to turn off my internal dialogue and remain as if I were inside a cocoon, peeking out of a hole. In that state I could . . . remain passive, thoughtless, and without desires.”
In a further description of the state of detachment, he gives more detail and begins to tie it to mindfulness. “It was rather an alien feeling of aloofness, a capability of immersing myself in the moment and having no thoughts whatever about anything else. People’s actions no longer affected me, for I had no more expectations of any kind. A strange peace had become the ruling force in my life.”
What I appreciate most is Castaneda’s insight, as we see in the next quotation, that detachment is not in itself a sign of spiritual advancement. It is simply another state of consciousness we can train ourselves to hold. On its own it has benefits but it is not the goal. “[D]etachment,” he explains, “did not automatically mean wisdom, but . . . was nonetheless an advantage because it allowed the warrior to pause momentarily to reassess situations, to reconsider positions. In order to use that extra moment consistently and correctly, however, . . . a warrior had to struggle unyieldingly for a lifetime.”
It is unclear from this book, at least to me, how we should use the pause to our best advantage.
Georg Feuerstein said detachment must be balanced by compassion. Compassion is the arrow on the moral compass that allows detachment and mindfulness to make us more human.
Perhaps that gets to the issue I have with Castaneda. His view of spiritual advancement, like so many others, is exclusively about transcendence, "losing the human form," and becoming pure energy. Maybe that is behind his literary and actual treatment of women, with our blood and birth and milk making us oh so very embodied. We represent everything that holds humanity in its animal form.
I personally don’t want to overcome being human. I want to come to peace with it, to integrate the various aspects of this existence and experience that sacred wholeness. And this opens up the discussion about the difference between transcendent and integral forms of spiritual understanding, which will have to happen on another day.
In the end, there is indeed a useful reminder here. First we must be humble, see ourselves as equal to the dirt of the earth. When we can cease to see ourselves as special and realize we are just as mysterious and as ordinary as everyone and everything else, it becomes easier to relax our grip on the relationships and attachments that tether us to the past and to the future. When we release them and becoem detached, then we can completely inhabit the present moment. That is the order: humility, detachment, mindfulness.
Further than that, Castaneda does not seem ready to go in this book. In fact, he appears to think it is enough in itself, if we gauge from this pivotal “incantation” he recites at a time when his inner world was in cataclysmic turmoil.
“I am already given to the power that rules my fate.
And I cling to nothing, so I will have nothing to defend.
I have no thoughts, so I will see.
I fear nothing, so I will remember myself.
Detached and at ease,
I will dart past the Eagle to be free.”
Do you think it is enough?