Friday, June 19th, 1998, it was reported in the San Jose Mercury News
and many other papers that Carlos Castaneda had died some two months
earlier, on April 27th, at his home in Los Angeles. According to the
article (which first appeared in the Los Angeles Time), written by J.R.
Castaneda, the self-proclaimed "sorcerer" and bestselling
author whose tales of drug-induced mental adventures with a Yaqui Indian
shaman named Don Juan once fascinated the world, apparently died two
months ago I the same way that he lived: quietly, secretly, mysteriously.
believed to be 72 ...
Though he had millions of followers around the world, and though his
10 books continue to sell in 17 different languages, and though he once
appeared on the cover of Time magazine, he died without public notice,
without the briefest mention in a newspaper or on television.
his mystic image, he seemingly vanished into thin air.
enough, the picture that accompanied his obituary was, obviously, a
fake. Not only the presence of a "halo" surrounding the head
of whoever's picture it actually was, but also the crooked neck angle,
and a number of other features, immediately gives it away as a falsified
Enlightenment.Com host called the San Jose Mercury News to ask them
if they knew that they had published a falsified photograph of Castaneda,
and they said, "Yes, we know. And we don't know whose picture it
actually is. And other papers, including the Los Angeles Times, also
published the same picture."
marvelous! The man who stressed the importance of releasing from, and
erasing, personal history has managed to elude us to the end. His well-known
dislike for having his picture taken served his own ends well, and to
this day I personally, and many others, still do not know what Carlos
Castaneda actually looked like.
of course, he is not dead. Perhaps this was just a trick, a fake-out,
by a master of tricks and fake-outs. If so, we will probably never know.
Anyone clever enough to have major newspapers publishing the wrong obituary
photograph is certainly clever enough to keep the truth from us in other
ways as well.
other mysteries also surround Castaneda. Was his mentor, Don Juan, real?
Did Castaneda really change into animals and do such things as fly,
or was that all just novelized subjective drug-induced experiences?
Was Castaneda a cross between a journalist and a cultural anthropologist,
or just a terrific writer capable of spellbinding our minds and hearts?
answers to these questions are, by and large, unknowable. What is known
is that Castaneda imparted a profound wisdom -- a state of knowingness
and the belief that a different type of wisdom was possible -- to those
who read him with an open mind, and that many of his techniques and
teachings are still quite valuable.
Castaneda was, undoubtedly, one of the greatest consciousness writers
of the past half century. His eerie books, written over a span of some
25 years, profoundly affected untold numbers of readers. He brought
us into his strange world of sorcery, mystery, and enchantment, and
in doing so, better prepared us -- in the long run -- to address the
unknowable in our own lives. Thank you, Carlos, and may your impeccability
allow you to avoid the Eagle's reach.
(previously Castañeda) was born in Peru on December 25, 1925
and died in Los Angeles on April 27, 1998. In the US, he wrote a controversial
series of books that claimed to describe his training in traditional
Native American Shamanism.
met the Yaqui shaman Don Juan Matus in 1960, which inspired the partly
autobiographical works for which he is known. He inherited from this
figure the position of nagual, or leader of a party of seers.
works contain descriptions of paranormal experiences, several psychological
techniques, Toltec magic rituals, shamanism and experiences with psychoactive
drugs (e.g. peyote). Carlos Castaneda's works have sold more than 8
million copies in 17 languages.
that he was born in São Paulo, Brazil on Christmas Day in 1931,
but immigration records show that he was born 6 years earlier in Cajamarca,
Peru. He anglicized his name by changing the "ñ" (in
Castañeda) into "n". He moved to the United States
in the early 1950s and became a naturalized citizen in 1957. He was
educated at the University of California, Los Angeles (B.A. 1962; Ph.D.
three books, The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui way of knowledge, A
Separate Reality and Journey to Ixtlan were written while Castaneda
was an Anthropology student at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Castaneda wrote these books as if they were his research log describing
his studies under a traditional shaman he identified as Don Juan. Castaneda
was granted his Masters and PhD degrees for the work described in these
first two books were written during a time when the use of psycho-active
drugs was popular, and was seen as a technological shortcut to the kinds
of spiritual insights eastern mystics required decades of devoted work
to achieve. In Castaneda's first two books he describes that the Yaqui
way of knowledge also required the heavy use of powerful psycho-active
drugs -- natural ones, like peyote and datura. Many young people used
the apparent authoritative endorsement of psycho-active drug use to
justify their own use of psycho-active drugs.
In his third
book, Journey to Ixtlan, he essentially reverses this apparent endorsement
of drug use. In this book he describes Don Juan telling him he only
needed to use drugs with Carlos, because he was so dumb. In this book
the way of knowledge that Don Juan describes was perceived by some as
resembling the newly popular New Age movement. Castaneda, however, emphatically
denied any real similarity between them in several lectures.
was a popular enough phenomenon for Time magazine to do a cover article
on Castaneda on March 5 1973 (Vol. 101 No. 10) that was five or six
book, Tales of Power, ended with Castaneda preparing to leap off a cliff
that would mark his graduation from disciple to full-fledged Shaman.
Since he recorded, in Journey to Ixtlan, that a man of knowledge didn't
write about the activities of Shamanism, some writers thought this must
necessarily mark the end of his series. They were very surprised to
see he continued to produce more books. Despite an increasingly critical
reception Castaneda continued to be very popular with the reading public.
Castaneda went on to write fourteen books in all, three published posthumously.
In 1997 Castaneda
launched a law suit against his ex-wife, Margaret Runyon Castaneda,
over her book, 'A Magical Journey with Carlos Castaneda'; but this was
dropped when Castaneda died.
died on April 27 1998 from liver cancer. Little is known about his death.
There was no public service, Castaneda was apparently cremated and the
ashes were sent to Mexico.
His books can be read as a philosophical/pragmatical text that express
a world view by which a person can live one's life. There is a growing
movement world-wide of practitioners of this philosophy.
view is unlike either traditional Western or Eastern culture. Though
some precepts can be said to resemble Eastern "Zen" in terms
of the disciplines taught and techniques used, the underlying structure
is fundamentally different.
to Castaneda, the most significant facts in a person's life are his
possession of awareness and its impending termination at death. The
primary goal of a Toltec "Warrior" is the continuation of
his awareness after bodily death - to "dart past the Eagle and
be free", in the words of the tradition, where the Eagle is the
force which consumes the awareness of all living beings.
death in this way requires all of the discipline and procedures that
constitute the Warrior's way of life. These practices are devised to
maximise the Warrior's personal power, or energy. The condition of not
wasting this energy is known as "impeccability".
personal power leads to the mastery of awareness, chiefly the controlled
movement of what is known as the "assemblage point". This
is an artifact of the tradition's description of another world underlying
what we perceive as ordinary reality. In this description men are glowing
cocoons of awareness inhabiting a universe consisting of the Eagle's
"emanations", described euphemistically as all-pervading filaments
are intersected throughout by these filaments, producing perception,
but we filter our perceptions by concentrating on only a small bundle.
The assemblage point is the focusing lens which selects from the emanations.
In its accustomed position, the assemblage point produces what we perceive
as the daily world of human beings. Movement of the assemblage point
permits perception of the world in different ways; small movements lead
to small changes in perception and large movements to radical changes.
For example, dreaming is presented as the result of a movement of the
assemblage point; "power plants" such as Peyote, used in the
early stages of Castaneda's apprenticeship, produce powerfully altered
states of mind through such movement.
describes complex and bizarre worlds experienced through the controlled
movement of the assemblage point in dreaming; his premise is that the
world of the dreams of a warrior is no less real than the world of daily
life. This follows logically from the description of both worlds as
being simply the result of positions of the assemblage point. He depicts
complex interactions with unearthly beings in dream worlds and describes
his fear of being physically trapped by these malicious but charismatic
various practices of a warrior, Tensegrity, a series of meditative stretching
and posing techniques, is introduced in Castaneda's final works. The
term is borrowed from architecture - "tensional integrity".
Tensegrity is promoted by Cleargreen, Inc, a company founded in the
90s, closely affiliated with Castaneda, which runs workshops and sells
various materials relating to Castaneda's work. There are many individual
and group practitioners around the world. Tensegrity and much of Castaneda's
other work are the subject of a variety of recurring disputes.
and criticism (the Castaneda controversy)
Many critics doubt the existence of Don Juan, citing inconsistencies
in Don Juan's personality across the books and in the sequence of events
in the books. Many Castaneda supporters claim in turn that the very
fact of handling awareness and perception accounts for this; and that
the actual existence per se of Don Juan is irrelevant, since the important
matter is the theme that Don Juan presents.
What is easily
understood is the fact that the writing style changes greatly from the
first to the last of the "Don Juan" books. The Teachings of
Don Juan is an anthropologist's journal containing a lot of seemingly
irrelevant, non-fiction information. The Eagle's Gift (eighth book)
is a novel-like work with specific characters on a journey towards what
they call "Total Freedom", and where the words of Don Juan
seem more like those of a scientist.
was very elusive, and because his works were taken up by young people
at a time when mystical and shamanic traditions were in fashion, many
professionals cast doubt on the authenticity of contents of his works.
When he followed up The Teachings of Don Juan with a series of equally
popular books, including A Separate Reality (1971), Journey to Ixtlan
(1972), and Tales of Power (1975), even more questions were raised as
to how much of his work was true anthropology and how much was his own
to read the books is as a sort of game, almost like a detective novel.
Depending upon one's approach, they could be either accepted at face-value
in their entirety, or discarded. Some of the material could be considered
true, some fictional; and some of the events described probably appeared
to be real at the time, but could be interpreted as hallucinations.
It is up to the reader to decide.
characters In Castaneda's works
This is a list of characters, claimed to be real persons, mentioned
in Castaneda's works. Castaneda makes it clear that these are not the
persons' real names (ostensibly to protect their identity). In denoting
their function within each generation of practitioners, terms are used
which can only be understood by reading Castaneda's writings:
event in the lineage
• The nagual Sebastian's encounter in the 1700s with an ancient
seer, the "death defier", also referred to as the "tenant".
That encounter dramatically altered their lineage and was what separates
the "old" seers from the "new" seers. Castaneda
stated that the death defier met with every nagual since Sebastien,
including with Carlos.
By way of
introduction, it would be foolish to present a biographical account
of Carlos Castaneda without being very tentative. Not only was he a
very private man, but also his writings are full of ambiguity. However,
here goes ..
Arana Castaneda was born on Christmas Day 1925 in Sao Paolo, Brazil
or Cajamarca, Peru (accounts conflict).
suggested his mother died when he was seven and he was raised by his
father, a professor of literature; however, it appears that his father
was actually a goldsmith and his mother died when he was 24.
In 1951 Carlos
Castaneda emigrated to the United States. As an anthropology graduate
at UCLA he wrote his master's thesis about his journey through the Arizona-Mexico
desert. Casteneda said he stopped in an Arizona border town, Nogales,
and in a Greyhound bus depot, he met an old Yaqui Indian from Sonora,
Mexico named Juan Matus.
was a sorcerer, or shaman, and under his tutelage over many years Castaneda
experimented with hallucinogens to achieve 'states of nonordinary reality'.
was published as 'The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge'
in 1968 and became an international bestseller.
In 1997 Castaneda
launched a law suit against his ex-wife, Margaret Runyon Castaneda,
over her book, 'A Magical Journey with Carlos Castaneda.' This was dropped
when Castaneda died.
is known about his death. There was no public service, and apparently
Castaneda was cremated and the ashes sent to Mexico. According to Deborah
Drooz, the executor of his estate, Castaneda died on April 27 1998 from
works have sold more than 8 million copies in 17 languages.