“When a man starts to learn, he is never clear about his objectives. His purpose is faulty; his intent vague. He hopes for rewards that will never materialize, for he knows nothing of the hardships of learning.

He slowly begins to learn–bit by bit at first, then in big chunks. And his thoughts soon clash. What he learns is never what he pictured, or imagined, and so he begins to be afraid. Learning is never what one expects. Every step of learning is a new task, and the fear the man is experiencing begins to mount mercilessly, unyieldingly. His purpose becomes a battlefield.

And thus he has stumbled upon the first of his natural enemies: Fear! A terrible enemy–treacherous and difficult to overcome. It remains concealed at every turn of the way, prowling, waiting. And if the man, terrified in its presence, runs away, his enemy will have put an end to his quest.”

“What happens to the man if he runs away in fear?”

“Nothing happens to him except that he will never learn. He will never become a man of knowledge. He will perhaps be a bully, or a harmless, scared man; at any rate, he will be a defeated man. His first enemy will have put an end to his cravings.”

“And what can he do to overcome fear?”

“The answer is very simple: he must not run away. He must defy his fear, and in spite of it he must take the next step in learning, and the next, and the next. He must be fully afraid, and yet he must not stop. That is the rule!

And a moment will come when his first enemy retreats. The man begins to feel sure of himself. His intent becomes stronger. Learning is no longer a terrifying task.

When this joyful moment comes, the man can say without hesitation that he has defeated his first natural enemy.”

“Does it happen at once, don Juan, or little by little?”

“It happens little by little, and yet the fear is vanquished suddenly and fast.”

“But won’t the man be afraid again if something new happens to him?”

“No. Once a man has vanquished fear, he is free from it for the rest of his life because, instead of fear, he has acquired clarity–a clarity of mind which erases fear. By then a man knows his desires; he knows how to satisfy those desires. He can anticipate the new steps of learning, and a sharp clarity surrounds everything. The man feels that nothing is concealed.”