Carlos Castañeda – Shaman’s Folly

Posted: September 15, 2011 by Murdock in Book Extracts

A warrior must know first that his acts are useless, and yet, he must proceed as if he didn’t know it. In other words, a warrior must know he is unimportant, but act as if he is important. That’s a shaman’s controlled folly. Nothing being more important than anything else, a warrior chooses any act, and acts it out as if it mattered to him.

A warrior has no honor, no dignity, no family, no name, no country; he has only life to be lived, and under these circumstances, his only tie to his fellow men is his controlled folly. In order to become a man of knowledge one must be a warrior. One must strive without giving up, without a complaint, without flinching, until one sees, only to realize then that nothing matters. You’re too concerned with liking people or with being liked yourself. A man of knowledge likes, that’s all. He likes whatever or whoever he wants, but he uses his controlled folly to be unconcerned about it.

Thus a man of knowledge endeavours, and sweats, and puffs, and if one looks at him he is just like any ordinary man, except that the folly of his life is under control. Nothing being more important than anything else, a man of knowledge chooses any act, and acts it out as if it matters to him. His controlled folly makes him say that what he does matters and makes him act as if it did, and yet he knows that it doesn’t; so when he fulfills his acts, he retreats in peace, and whether his acts were good or bad, or worked or didn’t, is in no way part of his concern. A warrior may choose to remain totally impassive and never act, and behave as if being impassive really mattered to him; he would be rightfully true at that too, because that would also be his controlled folly. A warrior takes responsibility for his acts, for the most trivial of his acts. An average man acts out his thoughts, and never takes responsibility for what he does.

Stop explaining yourself so much. Sorcerers say that in every explanation there is a hidden apology. So, when you are explaining why you cannot do this or that, you’re really apologizing for your shortcomings, hoping that whoever is listening to you will have the kindness to understand them. Every one of us, young and old alike, is making figures in front of a mirror in one way or another. Tally what you know about people. Think of any human being on this earth, and you will know, without a shadow of a doubt, that no matter who they are, or what they think of themselves, or what they do, the result of their actions is always the same: senseless figures in front of a mirror. That is the folly I mean.

My acts are sincere but they are only the acts of an actor because everything I do is controlled folly. Everything I do in regard to myself and my fellow men is folly, because nothing matters. Certain things in your life matter to you because they’re important; your acts are certainly important to you, but for me, not a single thing is important any longer, neither my acts nor the acts of any of my fellow men. I go on living though, because I have my will. Because I have tempered my will throughout my life until it’s neat and wholesome and now it doesn’t matter to me that nothing matters. My will controls the folly of my life.

Once a man learns to see he finds himself alone in the world with nothing but folly. Your acts, as well as the acts of your fellow men in general, appear to be important to you because you have learned to think they are important. Our lot as men is to learn. I have learned to see and I tell you that nothing really matters. A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting, nor by thinking about what he will think when he has finished acting. A man of knowledge chooses a path with heart and follows it; and then he looks and rejoices and laughs; and then he sees and knows. He knows that his life will be over altogether too soon; he knows that he, as well as everybody else, is not going anywhere; he knows, because he sees, that nothing is more important than anything else.

You think about your acts, therefore you have to believe your acts are as important as you think they are, when in reality nothing of what one does is important. Nothing! But then if nothing really matters, as you ask me, how can I go on living? It would be simple to die; that’s what you say and believe, because you’re thinking about life, just as you’re thinking now what seeing would be like. You want me to describe it to you so you can begin to think about it, the way you do with everything else. In the case of seeing, however, thinking is not the issue at all, so I cannot tell you what it is like to see. Now you want me to describe the reasons for my controlled folly and I can only tell you that controlled folly is very much like seeing; it is something you cannot think about.

Our lot as men is to learn and, as I’ve said, one goes to knowledge as one goes to war; with fear, with respect, aware that one is going to war, and with absolute confidence in oneself. Put your trust in yourself. There’s no emptiness in the life of a man of knowledge, everything is filled to the brim and everything is equal. For me there is no victory, or defeat, or emptiness. Everything is filled to the brim and everything is equal and my struggle is worth my while.

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