"Ordinarily, events that change our path are impersonal affairs, and yet extremely personal.
"My teacher, don Juan Matus, said this in guiding me as his apprentice to collect what I considered to be the memorable events of my life. Don Juan Matus was a Yaqui Indian shaman from Sonora, Mexico; he was a nagual, a leader of a group of fifteen men and women shamans who traced their lineage to the shamans who lived in Mexico in ancient times. Over the course of thirteen years, don Juan ushered me into the cognitive world of those shamans, a world which was, according to him, ruled by a different system of cognition than the one which rules our world of everyday life.
"Writing The Active Side of Infinity was a response to don Juan's directive to collect such an album of memorable events. Though it seemed at the time that don Juan had given me this instruction on the spur of the moment, as time went by he revealed to me that gathering such a collection was a traditional task given by the shamans of his lineage to their apprentices. Don Juan said that it was called a collection or an album because it was like an album of pictures made out of the recollection of events that had profound significance in the shaman's life, events that changed things for him, that illuminated his path. Don Juan stated that to formulate an album of this nature demanded such discipline and impartiality that it was, in essence, an act of war.
"Don Juan described the total goal of the shamanistic knowledge that he handled as the preparation for facing the definitive journey: the journey that every human being has to take at the end of his life. He said that what modern man referred to vaguely as 'life after death' was, for those shamans, a concrete region filled to capacity with practical affairs of a different order than the practical affairs of daily life, yet bearing a similar functional practicality. Don Juan considered that to collect the memorable events in their lives was, for shamans, the preparation for their entrance into that concrete region, which they called the a active side of infinity.
In this book written in the final years of preparation for his definitive journey, anthropologist and shaman Carlos Castaneda gives us his most autobiographical and intimately revealing work ever, the fruit of a lifetime of experience and perhaps the most moving volume in his oeuvre.