The Enemies of Knowledge


“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 a curse.”

Carlos Castañeda

In the wonderful book The Teachings of Don Juan, young anthropologist, Carlos Castañeda, search of the  path to the Yaqui wisdom and tries desperately to find the formula to become a wise man and a warrior.

At a certain moment, Carlos asks his teacher, Don Juan, about the path humans need to travel to become wise. Don Juan finally accepts to share the steps in the journey, and explains which are the enemies that wise people will face in their lives: the four great battles.

“The first enemy one will face is fear”.  Everybody will face fear at some point in their lives. And when this happens we have two options: avoid or confront. Those who decide to face it and overcome the battle, will be choosing the path of the wise ones. From the developmental approach perspective, this means owning our responsibility. Castañeda’s teacher suggests that the few who succeed against fear will not come across it again. I personally believe that when people overcome their fears, they will actually face it again, but when fear arises, they know they can overcome it. We could understand this from the developmental perspective as a process of “include and transcend”.

According to Don Juan, once the person has defeated fear, they achieve clarity. They achieve it because they understand that fear is an emotion that resides within the person, which is independent from that which produces fear. For example, some of us get paralyzed when being close to a dog on the street; and others of us who, because we live with dogs, just don’t . It is not the dog that produces fear, but the person’s experience facing the dog which produces this emotion.

So when “one faces and defeats fear, he will gain clarity, and clarity becomes the second enemy”, continues Don Juan. The teacher explains that he or she who has achieved clarity in their path understands and can see that facts are separate from emotions. Once fear is defeated and integrated, it allows us to see the situation with much more clarity. Now, from all the people who are able to defeat fear and win clarity, only few become aware that now clarity is the next enemy. They actually believe the world is how they see it. We are not scared anymore and we are certain that things are only as we see them.  However, for the few that realize that clarity is now the enemy, consciousness expands. Winning the second battle then becomes imperative. We could say that the first battle is an act of courage and the second, an act of consciousness.

“Those who face clarity gain Power and even less become aware that now Power is the third enemy”, the teacher goes on explaining.  We are brave in front of fear and we have created consciousness. This creates a sensation of absolute freedom as we face life’s circumstances,  we stand in the world certain and with character.

Nevertheless, very few become aware that power has become the new enemy: power inhibits fear and clarity. Very few face it and conquer it. Few win the battle against fear, the battle that we win by letting go, by un-attachment. Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges, as being attached to power and what it brings to one’s life is not only seductive, but intrinsic to the place we have conquered. Letting go of power produces anxiety as we have identified ourselves with it. “I am powerful”.

Last, continues the teacher “for the very few that realize that power has become the enemy and they succeed, the last enemy will be waiting: time.  And this would be the one that only wise people will face and battle, and just a handfull will suceed. When this enemy appears we are old and tired”.

This last enemy is the one that moves me the most. First, because it connects me with the wisdom of older people who have traveled the path and who have, in several occasions, acknowledged that it’s too late to make amends. And secondly, because as I ponder on my present, I become aware that this is the only time I have to overcome fear, clarity and power.

When I read The Teachings of Don Juan, a path of knowledge was imprinted in me. More than a step by step process, what I see is a cycle. From the developmental point of view, this path to become a wise being could be repeated multiple times in a lifetime. And even though it is easy to understand, it is, in fact,  hard to do.

Within the different developmental paths there are similarities. They all concur on the capacity we need to face and respond battles that are presented; and in that doing it consciously implies responsibility and integrity. This is what allows us to evolve and amplify our capacity of response for the next challenges to come.

Let’s not lose time… let’s instead use it.

The Enemies of Knowledge

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