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Carlos Castaneda's fourth book, originally published in 1974. Tales of Power is an incredibly enjoyable read, much like his other books. If you found it hard to accept his previous tales as truth, you'll have an impossible time taking any of the "tales of power" seriously. Whether or not you want to believe, it's such a beautifully written book (in Castaneda's classic minimalistic style) that you should find it quite difficult to put down.

The book is so titled because before one can undergo true "acts of power" they must witness "tales of power." At the very beginning of the book, Carlos has an encounter with his ally, which takes the form of a moth (although Don Juan cautions him that it is not really a moth; this is simply the easiest way to explain its unbelievable appearance). Carlos is terrified by his ally, because he knows he will eventually be pitted against it in a fight for his life. Don Juan tells him that in previous encounters with the ally, it was displeased by Carlos' presence and feeble accomplishments. During this encounter, he decides that the ally is truly pleased with Carlos' progress. Indeed, this is the book where it is finally acknowledged that Carlos has lived "like a warrior" for years.

In this book Carlos learns how to see at will, having laboriously completed the three prerequisites (losing self-importance, eliminating routines from his life, and learning how to stop his obsessive "internal dialogue"). During an early excursion into seeing, don Juan has Carlos envision the "luminous egg" that represents (more accurately; IS) the physical energy of various acquaintances. All of his friends have the appearance of a mushroom, whereas don Juan's friends appear thin and tapered. This is because Carlos' friends don't live as warriors, and so they are literally "dragged down" by the world. When don Juan asks Carlos to see don Genaro, he promptly teleports into the scene. Don Juan explains that they are not truly talking to don Genaro, but rather his double. The "real" don Genaro is peacefully asleep, in a state of dreaming. As a matter of fact, of all of the encounters Carlos has had thus far with Genaro, he has only seen the "real" Genaro twice. Carlos comes to the realization that every time he wants to see don Juan he has no trouble finding him, and don Juan makes it clear that his perfect double has spent much time in his place. We are told that both the "double" and the "real self" are equally "real" and that they both experience feeling and memories. Once the "double" is reabsorbed into the self, the duplicate memories cannot be organized in chronlogical order, because they occurred simultaneously.

Carlos soon learns about "the totality of oneself," and is taught about the tonal and the nagual. The tonal is everything that can be reasoned out or described by words, whereas the nagual is everything else, including will, which we can give a name, but can't truly describe (this does not mean that all of the tonal can be described, but it includes all things that can be). The nagual is the source of true, limitless power, whereas the tonal is the source of order and coherence. The tonal only exists from birth to death, whereas the nagual is eternal and infinite. Don Juan describes these as the only true "opposites" in the Universe. Every other dichotomy, whether love/hate, matter/energy, body/mind, is merely the reason desperately trying to find the other half of the self. Humans strive to find their true halves, but can never do so unless they use more than their reason. Instead, they use reason to find opposites in everything else. Throughout the book and culminating towards the end we learn that "the totality of oneself" is actually hundreds of separate feelings that are bound and ordered by the the tonal into a cohesive being; this is "the sorceror's explanation." Before being allowed to experience this, Carlos and Genaro's apprentice, Pablito, must witness it firsthand, and in doing so they have an encounter with an ally in the shape of a large cat. Carlos later experiences the totality of oneself when he is thrown off of a cliff and "shatters" (in mid-air) into a thousand pieces, each with its own emotion and self-awareness.

As you can see, there's some crazy shit going on throughout the book, but it's so enjoyable to read that I really don't care that it's probably fiction (part of me doesn't want to claim with certainty that it is, despite its incredible nature). The concept of "having to believe" is discussed in one chapter, and Carlos learns that merely believing in something is not enough. Once one has to believe, anything is possible. How convenient, you might say... The will is not merely a concept but a truly powerful extension of the self; don Juan has such command of his will that he can use it to do just about anything. Once one can see, they become aware that everything is connected by infinitely long strings. Using the will (which is rather like a segment of a string), Juan can "grab" onto a string and use it to do his bidding, whether that means teleportation, vanquishing a foe (though he truly has none, even la Catalina of the first books is explained as a mere distraction to fool Carlos into gaining personal power), or flying.

As the end of the book Carlos finally experiences the nagual in all of its awesomeness, and must come to terms with the fact that he is "done" with don Juan. Don Juan is only his teacher, who is there to "clean up the island of the tonal." Don Genaro is his benefactor, who displays the power of the nagual in order to break down Carlos' stubborn worldview. He will never see either again. If you're one of many people who saw book three as the effective "end" of the series, perhaps it's time you picked up Tales of Power. Even if it is all just fiction, it's simply amazing that he was able to come up with so much creative material, and his books really are chock-full of great philosophical tidbits.

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