Selected quotes from Carlos Castaneda

Years ago in my 20s I started to read a Carlos Castaneda book; his writings had been referenced by other works to which I was drawn, so I figured there was much wisdom to gain from him. However, as I recall I did not really get what Carlos Castaneda was saying. At the time, I was apparently not ready for what he had to say – or perhaps more accurately, how he said it.

Now I am in my 40s. I happened to run across his book, The Wheel of Time, which consists of quotes from his previous books along with a commentary describing where he was at the time those books were written. While I still don’t claim to understand all of what Carlos Castaneda has to say, I did find quite a few Carlos Castaneda quotes to be worthwhile and applicable to my life experiences and present worldview.

I now realize that one of the main reasons I did not previously seem to comprehend his philosophy related to semantics relating to Toltec wisdom and spirituality. The Toltec spiritual tradition frequently uses words and phrases like “mitote,” “dreams” and “dreaming,” being a “warrior,” etc. to convey basic ideas for spiritual growth, and I simply did not get that during my early readings.

My proper exposure to Toltec spiritual teachings — a perfectly valid, transformative, wonderful set of spiritual teachings – did not occur until I began reading books by Miguel Ruiz, who has since become one of my all-time favorite spiritual teachers. I have read three (3) wonderful books by Miguel Ruiz:

  1. The Four Agreements
  2. The Voice of Wisdom
  3. The Mastery of Love

Here are a few of my favorite quotes, many of which I could appreciate only after I familiarized myself with the Toltec path.

Quotes from The Teachings of Don Juan

Power rests on the kind of knowledge that one holds. What is the sense of knowing things that are useless? They will not prepare us for our unavoidable encounter with the unknown.

Nothing in this world is a gift. Whatever has to be learned must be learned the hard way.

Dwelling upon the self too much produces a terrible fatigue. A man in that position is deaf and blind to everything else. The fatigue itself makes him cease to see the marvels all around him.

To be angry at people means that one considers their acts to be important. It is imperative to cease to feel that way. The acts of men cannot be important enough to offset our only viable alternative: our unchangeable encounter with infinity.

Quotes from A Separate Reality

Feeling important makes one heavy, clumsy and vain. To be a warrior one needs to be light and fluid.

A warrior lives by acting, not by thinking about acting, nor by thinking about what he will think when he has finished acting.

A warrior chooses a path with heart, any path with heart, and follows it; and then he rejoices and laughs. He knows because he sees that his life will be over altogether too soon. He sees that nothing is more important than anything else.

An average man is too concerned with liking people or with being liked himself. A warrior likes, that’s all. He likes whatever or whomever he wants, for the hell of it.

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.

Only the idea of death makes a warrior sufficiently detached so that he is capable of abandoning himself to anything. He knows his death is stalking him and won’t give him time to cling to anything, so he tries, without craving, all of everything.

The spirit of a warrior is not geared to indulging and complaining, nor is it geared to winning or losing. The spirit of a warrior is geared only to struggle, and every struggle is a warrior’s last battle on earth. Thus the outcome matters very little to him. In his last battle on earth a warrior lets his spirit flow free and clear. And as he wages his battle, knowing that his intent is impeccable, a warrior laughs and laughs.

We talk to ourselves incessantly about our world. In fact we maintain our world with our internal talk. And whenever we finish talking to ourselves about ourselves and our world, the world is always as it should be. We renew it, we rekindle it with life, we uphold it with our internal talk. Not only that, but we also choose our paths as we talk to ourselves. Thus we repeat the same choices over and over until the day we die, because we keep on repeating the same internal talk over and over until the day we die. A warrior is aware of this and strives to stop his internal talk.

The world is all that is encased here: life, death, people, and everything else that surrounds us. The world is incomprehensible. We won’t ever understand it; we won’t ever unravel its secrets. Thus we must treat the world as it is: a sheer mystery.

The things that people do cannot under any conditions be more important than the world. And thus a warrior treats the world as an endless mystery and what people do as an endless folly

Quotes from Journey to Ixtlan

One shouldn’t worry about taking pictures or making tape recordings. Those are superfluities of sedate lives. One should worry about the spirit, which is always receding.

Personal history must be constantly renewed by telling parents, relatives, and friends everything one does. On the other hand, for the warrior who has no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned with his acts. And above all, no one pins him down with their thoughts and their expectations.

When nothing is for sure we remain alert, perennially on our toes. It is more exciting not to know which bush the rabbit is hiding behind than to behave as though we knew everything.

Whenever a warrior decides to do something, he must go all the way, but he must take responsibility for what he does. No matter what he does, he must know first why he is doing it, and then he must proceed with his actions without having doubts or remorse about them.

In a world where death is the hunter, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions. It doesn’t matter what the decisions are. Nothing could be more or less serious than anything else. In a world where death is the hunter, there are no small or big decisions. There are only decisions that a warrior makes in the face of his inevitable death.

For a warrior, to be inaccessible means that he touches the world around him sparingly. And above all, he deliberately avoids exhausting himself and others. He doesn’t use and squeeze people until they have shriveled to nothing, especially the people he loves.

A warrior must learn to make every act count, since he is going to be here in this world for only a short while, in fact, too short for witnessing all the marvels of it.

A warrior must focus his attention on the link between himself and his death. Without remorse or sadness or worrying, he must focus his attention on the fact that he does not have time and let his acts flow accordingly. He must let each of his acts be his last battle on earth. Only under those conditions will his acts have their rightful power. Otherwise they will be. for as long as he lives, the acts of a fool.

A man, any man, deserves everything that is a man’s lot – joy, pain, sadness and struggle. The nature of his acts is unimportant as long as he acts as a warrior. If his spirit is distorted he should simply fix it – purge it, make it perfect – because there is no other task in our entire lives which is more worthwhile. Not to fix the spirit is to seek death, and that is the same as to seek nothing, since death is going to overtake us regardless of anything. To seek the perfection of the warrior’s spirit is the only task worthy of our temporariness, and our
manhood.

The hardest thing in the world is to assume the mood of a warrior. It is of no use to be sad and complain and feel justified in doing so, believing that someone is always doing something to us. Nobody is doing anything to anybody, much less to a warrior.

A warrior is a hunter. He calculates everything. That’s control. Once his calculations are over, he acts. He lets go. That’s abandon. A warrior is not a leaf at the mercy of the wind. No one can push him; no one can make him do things against himself or against his better judgment. A warrior is tuned to survive, and he survives in the best of all possible fashions.

It doesn’t matter how one was brought up. What determines the way one does anything is personal power. A man is only the sum of his personal power, and that sum determines how he lives and how he dies.

Personal power is a feeling. Something like being lucky. Or one may call it a mood. Personal power is something that one acquires by means of a lifetime of struggle.

A warrior acts as if he knows what he is doing, when in effect he knows nothing.

Quotes from Tales of Power

A warrior doesn’t know remorse for anything he has done, because to isolate one’s acts as being mean, or ugly, or evil is to place an unwarranted importance on the self. The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.

The self-confidence of the warrior is not the self-confidence of the average man. The average man seeks certainty in the eyes of the onlooker and calls that self-confidence. The warrior seeks impeccability in his own eyes and calls that humbleness. The average man is hooked to his fellow men, while the warrior is hooked only to infinity.

There are lots of things a warrior can do at a certain time which he couldn’t do years before. Those things themselves did not change; what changed was his idea of himself.

The internal dialogue is what grounds people in the daily world. The world is such and such or so and so, only because we talk to ourselves about its being such and such or so and so. The passageway into the world of shamans opens up after the warrior has learned to shut off his internal dialogue.

To change our idea of the world is the crux of shamanism. And stopping the internal dialogue is the only way to accomplish it.

When a warrior learns to stop the internal dialogue, everything becomes possible; the most far-fetched schemes become attainable.

A warrior takes his lot, whatever it may be, and accepts it in ultimate humbleness. He accepts in humbleness what he is, not as grounds for regret but as a living challenge.

The humbleness of a warrior is not the humbleness of the beggar. The warrior lowers his head to no one, but at the same time, he doesn’t permit anyone to lower his head to him. The beggar, on the other hand, falls to his knees at the drop of a hat and scrapes the floor for anyone he deems to be higher; but at the same time, he demands that someone lower than him scrape the floor for him.

The flaw with words is that they always make us feel enlightened, but when we turn around to face the world they always fail us and we end up facing the world as we always have, without enlightenment. For this reason, a warrior seeks to act rather than to talk, and to this effect, he gets a new description of the world – a new description where talking is not that important, and where new acts have new reflections.

A warrior considers himself already dead, so there is nothing for him to lose. The worst has already happened to him, therefore he’s clear and calm; judging him by his acts or by his words, one would never suspect that he has witnessed everything.

Whenever the internal dialogue stops, the world collapses, and extraordinary facets of ourselves surface, as though they had been kept heavily guarded by our words.

The world is unfathomable. And so are we, and so is every being that exists in this world.

Warriors do not win victories by beating their heads against walls, but by overtaking the walls. Warriors jump over walls; they don’t demolish them.

A warrior must cultivate the feeling that he has everything needed for the extravagant journey that is his life. What counts for a warrior is being alive. Life in itself is sufficient, self-explanatory and complete. Therefore, one may say without being presumptuous that the experience of experiences is being alive.

Their reason makes them forget that the description is only a description, and before they realize it, human beings have entrapped the totality of themselves in a vicious circle from which they rarely emerge in their lifetimes.

Human beings are perceivers, but the world that they perceive is an illusion: an illusion created by the description that was told to them from the moment they were born.

Only as a warrior can one withstand the path of knowledge. A warrior cannot complain or regret anything. His life is an endless challenge, and challenges cannot possibly be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges.

The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or as a curse.

The average man is aware of everything only when he thinks he should be; the condition of a warrior, however, is to be aware of everything at all times.

A rule of thumb for a warrior is that he makes his decisions so carefully that nothing that may happen as a result of them can surprise him, much less drain his power.

When a warrior makes the decision to take action, he should be prepared to die. If he is prepared to die, there shouldn’t be any pitfalls, any unwelcome surprises, any unnecessary acts. Everything should gently fall into place because he is expecting nothing.

A warrior, as a teacher, must first of all teach about the possibility of acting without believing, without expecting rewards – acting just for the hell of it. His success as a teacher depends on how well and how harmoniously he guides his wards in this specific respect.

In order to help his ward to erase personal history, the warrior as a teacher teaches three techniques: losing self-importance, assuming responsibility for one’s acts, and using death as an adviser. Without the beneficial effect of these three techniques, erasing personal history would involve being shifty, evasive and unnecessarily dubious about oneself and one’s actions.

A warrior acknowledges his pain but he doesn’t indulge in it. The mood of the
warrior who enters into the unknown is not one of sadness; on the contrary, he’s
joyful because he feels humbled by his great fortune, confident that his spirit is
impeccable, and above all, fully aware of his efficiency. A warrior’s joyfulness
comes from having accepted his fate, and from having truthfully assessed what lies
ahead of him.

Quotes from The Second Ring of Power

When one has nothing to lose, one becomes courageous. We are timid only when there
is something we can still cling to.

A warrior could not possibly leave anything to chance. He actually affects the outcome of events by the force of his awareness and his unbending intent.

If a warrior wants to pay back for all the favors he has received, and he has no one in particular to address his payment to, he can address it to the spirit of man. That’s always a very small account, and whatever one puts in it is more than enough.

The human form is a conglomerate of energy fields which exists in the universe, and which is related exclusively to human beings. Shamans call it the human form because those energy fields have been bent and contorted by a lifetime of habits and misuse.

Any habit needs all its parts in order to function. If some parts are missing, the habit is disassembled.

The world of people goes up and down and people go up and down with their world;
warriors have no business following the ups and downs of their fellow men.

The core of our being is the act of perceiving, and the magic of our being is the act of awareness. Perception and awareness are a single, functional, inextricable unit.

Human beings love to be told what to do, but they love even more to fight and not do what they are told, and thus they get entangled in hating the one who told them in the first place.

Quotes from The Eagle’s Gift

The recommendation for warriors is not to have any material things on which to focus their power, but to focus it on the spirit, on the true flight into the unknown, not on trivialities.
Everyone who wants to follow the warrior’s path has to rid himself of the compulsion to possess and hold onto things.

People’s actions no longer affect a warrior when he has no more expectations of any kind. A strange peace becomes the ruling force in his life. He has adopted one of the concepts of a warrior’s life – detachment.

All the faculties, possibilities, and accomplishments of shamanism, from the simplest to the most astounding, are in the human body itself.

A warrior is never under siege. To be under siege implies that one has personal possessions that could be blockaded. A warrior has nothing in the world except his impeccability, and impeccability cannot be threatened.

A warrior relaxes and abandons himself; he fears nothing. Only then will the powers that guide human beings open the road for a warrior and aid him.

When faced with odds that cannot be dealt with, warriors retreat for a moment. They let their minds meander. They occupy their time with something else. Anything would do. That is the fifth principle of the art of stalking.

Warriors compress time; this is the sixth principle of the art of stalking. Even an instant counts. In a battle for your life, a second is an eternity, an eternity that may decide the outcome. Warriors aim at succeeding, therefore they compress time. Warriors don’t waste an instant.

Applying these principles brings about three results. The first is that stalkers learn never to take themselves seriously; they learn to laugh at themselves. If they are not afraid of being a fool, they can fool anyone. The second is that stalkers learn to have endless patience. Stalkers are never in a hurry, they never fret. And the third is that stalkers learn to have an
endless capacity to improvise.

Self-importance is man’s greatest enemy. What weakens him is feeling offended by the deeds and misdeeds of his fellow men. Self-importance requires that one spend most of one’s life offended by something or someone.

One of the greatest forces in the lives of warriors is fear, because it spurs them to learn.

Once inner silence is attained, everything is possible. The way to stop talking to ourselves is to use exactly the same method used to teach us to talk to ourselves; we were taught compulsively and unwaveringly, and this is the way we must stop it: compulsively and unwaveringly.

Impeccability begins with a single act that has to be deliberate, precise, and sustained. If that act is repeated long enough, one acquires a sense of unbending intent, which can be applied to anything else. If that is accomplished the road is clear. One thing will lead to another until the warrior realizes his full potential.

The worst that could happen to us is that we have to die, and since that is already our unalterable fate, we are free: those who have lost everything no longer have anything to fear.

Source: Spiritual quotes from Casteneda’s s Wheel of Time at Scribd

Resources – Carlos Castaneda, Toltec wisdom

originally compiled by Stephen Frasier on Thursday, March 31, 2011

2 thoughts on “Selected quotes from Carlos Castaneda

  1. Elke Babiuk

    I am looking for ways to stop the internal dialogue and happened to come across your blog. Loved your quotes. Thanks for sharing. Greatly appreciated. It piqued my interest in shamanism.

    cheers, Elke

  2. Stephen Post author

    I know exactly what you mean, Elke. Meditation is a wonderfully powerful spiritual and personal improvement tool that I wish EVERYONE would practice; the world would be an even better place. In truth, basic meditation is almost too simple to grasp, as odd as that might sound! I will probably move this Carlos Castaneda post to a different blog, as this one does not often tackle the broad subject of spirituality. I’ll be adding lots of excellent spiritual content to greenism.org in the coming months; if you enjoy spiritual quotes, please check out the quotes page there.

    (Very interesting name, by the way! Also, I am a huge fan of Canada; my father and I have visited Banff and other places on our hiking trips.)

    Good times,
    S

Add your two cents here