Death as Advisor
In the years he spent with Don Juan Matus, Carlos Castaneda was often reminded about mortality. This was not introduced on a conceptual basis, but as an experiential glimpse into the reality of death’s presence in our day-to-day existence. What is essential here is an understanding of who we are at our core, deep beneath the layers of assumption and societal programming that we wear like overcoats around our more fragile centers.
The programming we all have around death is inescapable and often impenetrable. It’s fused together with many viscous elements, including – but not limited to – religious beliefs, fear, television and media programming, personal and familial trauma and aversion programming, societal and material addictions and distractions. These incessant and ongoing programs fuse us into a living a robotic ‘DisneyLand’ script of unfocused consumerism that becomes our life blood, our purpose, and our hiding place. Unconsciously, we weave a perceptive illusion that marries the denial of mortality with the false assumption of immortality.
Even the word “death” is impregnated with fear, avoidance, dark colors, melancholy and the well-rehearsed dour solemnity of funeral rites. If we examine and “unpack” some of our own programming around death, we can begin to see the layers of discomfort and avoidance we have around the mere subject, set aside our reactions to the reality of people passing away.
Kahlil Gibran’s insight on death, as an answer “The Prophet” gave to an inquiry on the nature of death, was to seek the answer – not in the ‘hereafter’, but in the heart of life itself. In Castaneda’s learnings, Don Juan ushered him into the heart of conscious living, aware of the deep energies that penetrate our core: their flow, their nature – and the unmasked song of mortality itself, which is playing hand-in-hand with life.
Don Juan Matus referred to death as a presence that lingers just behind our left shoulder. Castaneda became aware of it as a palpable entity, a fleeting shadow that one could perceive out of the corner of their eye. The sense of gravity in this this imbued in an apprentice could be described as “sobriety”… and this stands in direct contrast to the nature of modern, deluded man: drunken on his assumed grandeur, and his façade of immortality. These elements of both sobriety and humility were part of the inherent character of “men of knowledge”, warriors, masters of awareness. They were not in the game of flaunting their attributes or their abilities, they were there to surrender to the deeper callings of the spirit – of intent – of the flow of energy that moves unhindered through the boundaries of both life and death.
“Sobriety has to mature and become a force in itself before
warriors can break the barrier of perception with impunity.”
~ Don Juan Matus, The Fire From Within