Konu: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs

Download : https://yadi.sk/i/Fydv_KuxzsXzpQ


- No 2 : Theodore Rosak Radio Interview With Carlos Castaneda, 1968 CLICK HERE

- No 3 : ElectroPrint Graphics Carlos Castaneda Interview, 1968 CLICK HERE

- No 4 : Seeing Castaneda, by Sam Keen, Psychology Today, 1972 CLICK HERE

- No 5 : Carlos Castaneda Time Magazine Interview, 1973 CLICK HERE

- No 6 : Carlos Castaneda Magical Blend Interview (Part 1), 1985 CLICK HERE

- No 7 : Carlos Castaneda Magical Blend Interview (Part 2), 1985 CLICK HERE

- No 8 : You Only Live Twice, Carlos Castaneda, 1994 CLICK HERE

- No 10 : Carlos Castaneda Speaks, An interview by Keith Thompson, 1994 CLICK HERE

- No 11 : Carlos Castaneda Interview, La Jornada Newspaper (Part 1-Part 2), 1996 CLICK HERE

- No 12 : My lunch with Carlos Castaneda, 1996  CLICK HERE

- No 13 : "Tensegrity" and Magical Passes, Carlos Castaneda, 1997 CLICK HERE

- No 14 : Kindred Spirit Magazine, Carlos Castaneda Interview, 1997 CLICK HERE

- No 15 : Of Sorcery and Dreams: An Encounter With Carlos Castaneda, 1997 CLICK HERE

- No 16 : Being-in-Dream, Florinda Donner, 1992 CLICK HERE

- No 17 : Being-in-Dreaming: an introduction to Toltec Sorcery, Florinda Donner, 1992 CLICK HERE

- No 18 : An Exclusive Interview With Taisha Abelar, 1993 CLICK HERE

- No 19 : The Art Of Stalking True Freedom, Taisha Abelar (Part 1-Part 2), 1994 CLICK HERE

- No 20 : Interview with Florinda Donner-Grau, Taisha Abelar & Carol Tiggs, 1997 CLICK HERE


Cvp: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs

Theodore Rosak Radio Interview With Carlos Castaneda

Interviewer: For six years from 1960-66 Carlos Castaneda served as an apprentice to a Yaqui Indian brujo, or sorcerer named don Juan. During those years, Mr. Castaneda was a graduate student in Anthropology at UCLA. His experiences with don Juan lead him into a strange world of shamanistic lore and psychedelic experience and adventures in what Mr. Castaneda calls states of non ordinary reality, some of which were frightening in the extreme, and all of which are fascinating in the extreme. His experiences with don Juan are recounted in a book which has been published this year by the University of California Press called "The Teachings of don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge". Mr. Castaneda is with us here at KPFA today and has agreed to discuss the book and his experiences with don Juan.

Let me begin by asking you how you managed to meet this remarkable personality, don Juan, and can you give us some idea what sort of a person he is?

CC: I met don Juan in a rather fortuitous manner. I was doing, at the time in 1960, I was doing, I was collecting ethnographic data on the use of medicinal plants among the Arizona Indians. And a friend of mine who was my guide on that enterprise knew about don Juan. He knew that don Juan was a very learned man in the use of plants and he intended to introduce me to him, but he never got around to do that. One day when I was about to return to Los Angeles, we happened to see him at a bus station, and my friend went over to talk to him. Then he introduced me to the man and I began to tell him that my interests was plants, and that, especially about peyote, because somebody had told me that this old man was very learned in the use of peyote. And we talked for about 15 minutes while he was waiting for his bus, or rather I did all the talking and he didn't say anything at all. He kept on staring at me from time to time and that made me very uncomfortable because I didn't know anything about peyote, and he seemed to have seen through me. After about 15 minutes he got up and said that perhaps I could come to his house sometime where we could talk with more ease, and he just left. And I thought that the attempt to meet him was a failure because I didn't get anything out of him. And my friend thought that it was very common to get a reaction like that from the old man because he was very eccentric. But I returned again perhaps a month later and I began to search for him. I didn't know where he lived, but I found out later where his house was and I came to see him. He, at first, you know, I approached him as a friend. I liked, for some reason, I liked the way he looked at me at the bus depot. There was something very peculiar about the way he stares at people. And he doesn't stare, usually he doesn't look at anybody straight in the eye, but sometimes he does that and it's very remarkable. And it was more that stare which made me go to see him than my interest in anthropological work. So I came various times and we developed a sort of friendship. He has a great sense of humor and that eased the things up.

Q: About how old a man was he when you met him?

CC: Oh he was in his late 60's, 69, or something like that.

Q: Now, you identify him in the book as a brujo. Can you give us some idea of what this means and to what extent don Juan is connected, if at all, with some sort of an ethnic background, a tribal background or is he pretty much of a lone wolf?

CC: The word brujos, the Spanish conception, it could be translated in various ways, in English could render a sorcerer, witch, medicine man or herbalist or curer, and, of course, the technical word shaman. Don Juan does not relate, or does not define himself in any of those ways. He thinks of himself, perhaps he is a man of knowledge.

Q: That's the term he uses, man of knowledge?

CC: He uses man of knowledge or one who knows. He uses that interchangeably. In as far as his tribal allegiances, I think he, don Juan, is very much, I think his emotional ties are with the Yaquis of Sonora since his father was a Yaqui from one of the towns in Sonora, one of the Yaqui towns. But his mother was from Arizona. Thus he has sort of a divided origin which makes him very much a marginal man. At the present he has family in Sonora, but he doesn't live there. He lives there part of the time, perhaps I should say.

Q: Does he have any formal livelihood? How does he earn his way in the world?

CC: I wouldn't be able to, to, to discuss that, rather I don't think that I could at the moment.

Q: One point I'd like to clear up - it's something that I wondered about as I read the book. The book consisted in large part of recordings of your own experiences in using the herbs and mushrooms and so on that don Juan introduced you to, and long conversations with don Juan. How were you able, just as a technical problem, how were you able to keep track of your experiences over such a long period of time. How were you able to record all of this?

CC: It seems difficult, but since one of the items of the learning process of recapitulation of whatever you experience, in order to remember everything that happened, I had to make mental notes of all the steps, of all the things that I saw, all the events that occurred during the states of, let's say, expanded consciousness or whatever. And then it was easy to translate them into writing after, because I had them all meticulously filed, sort of, in my mind. That's as the experience itself goes, but then the questions and answers I simply wrote them down.

Q: You were able to take notes while you were....

CC: Not at the very beginning of our relationship I never took any notes. I took notes in the covert manner. I had a pad of paper inside my pockets, you know, big pockets on my jacket. I used to write inside my pockets. It's a technique ethnographers use sometimes that they convert notes and then, of course. you have to work very hard to decipher the way they're written. But it has to be done very quickly, very fast. As soon as you have time; you cannot postpone anything. You cannot let it go for the next day, cause you lose everything. Since I think I work compulsively, I was capable of writing down everything that took place very, very shortly after the events themselves.

Q: I must say that many of the dialogues are extremely fascinating documents. Don Juan, as you record his remarks has a certain amount of eloquence and imagination.

CC: Well one thing, he's very artful with usual words and he thinks of himself as a talker, although he doesn't like to talk. But he thinks that talking is his predilection, as other men of knowledge have all the predilections like movement, balance. His is talking. That is my good fortune to find a man that would have the same predilection that I have.

Q: Now, one of the things that's most impressive about the book is the remarkable chances that you seem to have taken under don Juan's tutelage; that is, he introduced you to various chemicals, substances, some of which, clearly I suppose could have been fatal if they had not been used carefully. How did you manage to work up sufficient trust in this man to down all of the concoctions that he put before you?

CC: The way the books present it seems to heighten some dramatic sequences, which is, I'm afraid, not true real life. There are enormous gaps in between in which ordinary things took place, that are not included. I didn't include in the book because they did not pertain to the system I wanted to portray, so I just simply took them away, you see. And that means that the gaps between those very height states, you know, whatever, says that I remove things that are continuous crescendos, in kind of sequence leading to a very dramatic solution. But in real life it was a very simple matter because it took years in between, months pass in between them, and in the meantime we did all kinds of things. We even went hunting. He told me how to trap things, set traps, very old, old ways of setting a trap, and how to catch rattlesnakes. He told me how to prepare rattlesnakes, in fact. And so that eases up, you see, the distrust or the fear.

Q: I see. So there was a chance for you to build up a tremendous amount of confidence in this man.

CC: Yes, we spent a lot of time together. He never told me what he was gonna do, anyways. By the time I realized, I was already too deep into to turn back.

Q: Now, the heart of the book, at least as far as my reading was concerned, certainly the most fascinating part of the book, has to do with your experiences with what you term non-ordinary reality, and many of these experiences as you recount them have a great deal of cogency to them; that is, they are experiences that seem to come very close to demonstrating the validity of practices like divination, and then on the other hand you have experiences that, at the time, seemed to have been tremendously vivid experiences of flight and of being transformed into various animal forms, and often you suggest a sense of some ultimate revelation taking place. What sense do you make of these experiences now as you look back on them all? What seems to have been valid about them and how was don Juan, do you feel, seem able to control or predict what these experiences would be?

CC: Well, in as far as making sense out of them, I think as an anthropologist, I think, the way I had done it, I could use them as grounds for, say, set up a problem in anthropology, but that doesn't mean that I understand them or use them in any way. I could just employ them to construct a system, perhaps. But if I will view them from the point of view of a non-European man, maybe shaman or perhaps a Yaqui, I think the experiences are, they are designed to produce the knowledge that reality of consensus is only a very small segment of the total range of what we could feel as real. If we could learn to code reality or stimuli the way a shaman does, perhaps we could elongate our range of what we call real.

Q: What do you mean by that, how does a shaman like don Juan code stimuli?

CC: For instance, in the idea that a man could actually turn into a cricket or a mountain lion or a bird, is to me, this is my personal conclusion, it's a way of intaking a stimuli and readapting it. I suppose the stimuli is there, anybody who would take a hallucinogenic plant or a chemical produced in a laboratory, I think will experience more or less the same distortion. We call it distortion of reality. But the shamans, I think, have learned through usage in thousands of years, perhaps, of practice, they have learned to reclassify the stimuli encoded in a different way. The only way we have to code it is as hallucination, madness. That's our system of codification. We cannot conceive that one could turn into a crow, for instance.

Q: This was your experience under don Juan's tutelage?

CC: Yes. As a European I refuse to believe that one could do it, you see. But...

Q: But it was a tremendously vivid experience when you had it...

CC: Well it was hard to say, it was real, that's my only way of describing it. But now you see the things over, if I would be allowed to analyze it, I think, you know, what he was trying to do was to teach me another way of coding reality, another way of putting it into a propitious frame that could turn into a different interpretation.

Q: I thought the passage in the book where these very different orientations toward reality that you had, and don Juan had, the point at which it came through most clearly to me, was the point in which you question him about your own experience of apparent flight. And you finally came around to asking if you had been chained to a rock, would don Juan feel that you still had flown, and his answer was, in that case you would have flown with the chain and the rock.

CC: He alludes, you know, that, I think what he means, what he meant to say is that one never really changes. As a European my mind is set, my cognitive units are set, in a sense. I would admit only a total change. For me to change would mean that a person mutates totally into a bird, and that's the only way I could understand it. But I think what he means is something else, something much more sophisticated than that. My system's very rudimentary, you see, it lacks the sophistication that don Juan has, but I cannot pinpoint actually what he means like, things like what he means that one never changes really, there's something else, another process is taking place.

Q: Yes, it is difficult to focus on this. I think I remember don Juan's line was, you flew as a man flies. But he insisted that you flew.

CC: Yes.

Q: There's another remarkable statement he makes. It is in a discussion of the reality of the episode. He says, that is all there is in reality, what you felt.

CC: Uh-huh. Yea, he, don Juan's a very sophisticated thinker, really, it's not easy to come to grips with him. You see, I had tried various times to wrestle with him intellectually and he always comes the victor, you know. He's very artful. He posed once the idea to me that the whole, the totality of the universe is just perception. It's how we perceive things. And there are no facts, only interpretations. And those are nearly, I'm merely paraphrasing him as close as I can. And perhaps he's right, the facts are nothing else but interpretations that our brain makes of stimuli. So that such whatever I felt was, of course, the important thing.

Q: Now, one of the aspects of what we normally call reality that seems most important to us is that of coherence or consistency from experience to experience, and I was impressed by the fact that the experiences you had under peyote seemed to have in your recordings a remarkable coherence from experience to experience. I'd like to question you about this. There is an image that appeared in the experiences which you called mescalito. And it seems as if this image appears again and again with great consistency, that the general sense of the experience, the sound of it, the feel of it, is very much the same from time to time. Am I accurate in saying that?

CC: Yes, very, very much.

Q: Well, how do you make sense of that fact?

CC: Well, I'd, its the, I'd have two interpretations. Mine being it's the product of the indoctrination I went through, those long periods of discussions, where instruction was given.

Q: Did don Juan every tell you how mescalito was to look?

CC: No, no not that level. Once I constructed, I think, the composite in my mind, the idea that it was a homogenous and totally a protector and a very sturdy deity, may have held me to maintain that, that mental composite, or perhaps the deity exists outside of ourselves as he says. Completely outside of me, as a man, as a feeler, and all it does is manifest itself.

Q: Now, I thought your description of this image, of mescalito, was very vivid and very impressive. Do you think you could possibly, just to draw out one aspect of the book, describe what this figure seemed like to you?

CC: It was truly an anthropomorphic composite as you say. It was not truly a man, but it looked like a cricket, and it was very large, perhaps larger than a man. It looked somehow like the surface of a cactus, the peyote cactus. And that was the top looked like a pointed head, but it had human features in the sense of eyes and a face. But it was not quite human either. It was something different about it and the movements, of course, were quite extraordinary because it hopped.

Q: Now, when you described this experience to don Juan, how did he deal with it, was this the right image.

CC: No, no. He didn't care at all about my description of the form. He's not interested at all. I never told him what the form, he discarded it all. I wrote it down because it was quite remarkable for me as the man who experienced it. It was just extraordinary. It was truly a shocking experience. And as I recalled everything that I experienced, but insofar as telling him, he didn't want to hear about it. He said that it was unimportant. All he want to hear was whether I had, how close he let me come in this anthropomorphic composite at the time I saw it, you know, let me come very close and nearly touch him. And that, in don Juan's system, I suppose, was a very good turn. And he was interested in knowing whether I was frightened or not. And I was very frightened. But insofar as the form, he never made any comment, or he didn't even show any interest in it.

Q: I'd like to ask about one particular set of experiences. We don't have to go into them in detail here. I think we might simply tempt the listeners to look at the book, and read the actual details of the experiences. But, your final experience with don Juan is one of extreme fearfulness. Why do you think he lead you into this final situation, at least final in your relationship with him in which, I mean, he very literally just scared the hell out of you. What was the purpose of that. It seemed almost as you record it, it seemed at points almost deliberate cruelty. What do you think he was up to when he did that?

CC: When he had previous to that last incident, or right before it, he taught me some position that it's proper of shamans to adopt at moments of great crises, the time of their death, perhaps. It's a form that they would adopt. And it's something that they would use, it's a sort of validation, a signature, or to prove that they have been men. Before they die they will face their death and do this dancing. And then they will yell at death and die. And I asked don Juan what could be important, you know, since we all have to die, what difference does it make whether we dance or we cry or scream or yell or run, and he felt that the question was very stupid because by having a form a man could validate his existence, he could really reaffirm that he was a man, because essentially that's all we have. The rest is unimportant. And at the very last moment, you see, the only thing that a man could do was to reassert that he was a man. So he taught me this form and in the course of the event, this very frightening set of circumstances, or actions, I was forced nearly to exercise this form and use it. It brought a great amount of vigor to me. And the event ended up there, "successfully". I was successful. And perhaps staying away from death, or something like. The next day, the next night he took me into the bushes, and what I was gonna do was, he was gonna teach me how to perfect this form, I thought was neat. And in the course of teaching me, I found myself alone. And that's when the horrendous fear attacked me really. I think what he had in mind was for me to use this form, this position, this posture that he had taught me. And he deliberately scared me, I suppose, in order for me to test that. And that was my failure, of course, cause I really succumbed to fear instead of standing and facing my death, as I was supposed to as a, let's say apprentice of this way of knowledge, I became a thorough European man and I succumbed to fear.

Q: How did things actually end then between you and don Juan?

CC: They ended that night I think, you know, I suffer a total ego collapse because the fear was just too great for my resources. And it took hours to pull me back. And it seems that we came to an impasse where I never talk ever again about his knowledge. That's almost 3 years ago, over 3 years ago.

Q: You feel then he had finally lead you up to an experience that was beyond your capacity to grapple with?

CC: I think so. I exhausted my resources and I couldn't go beyond that and its coherent with the American Indian idea that knowledge is power. See you cannot play around with it. Every new step, you see, is a trial and you have to prove that you're capable of going beyond that. So that was my end.

Q: Yes, and over the 6 year period don Juan lead you through a great number of terribly trying and difficult experiences.

CC: Yes, I should say, I would. But he does nothing that I haven't, that I finished, I don't know, by some strange reason he has never acted as though I'm through. He always thinks that this is a period of clarification.

Q: Did he ever make it really clear to you what it was about you that lead him to select you for this vigorous process.

CC: Well, he guides his acts by indications, by omens, if he sees something that is extraordinary, some event that he cannot incorporate into his, possibly his categorization scheme, if it doesn't fit in it, he calls it a portentous event or an extraordinary event and he considers that to be an omen. When I first took that cactus, the peyote, I play with a dog. It was very remarkable experience in which this dog and I understood each other very well. And that was interpreted by don Juan as an omen, that the deity, mescalito, peyote, had played with me, which was an event that he had never witnessed in his life. Nobody has ever, in his knowledge, nobody has ever played with the deity, he told me. That was extraordinary, and something was pointing me out, and he interpreted it as I was the right person to transmit his knowledge, or part it or whatever.

Q: Well, now after spending six years in apprenticeship to don Juan, what, may I ask, what difference this great adventure has made to you personally?

CC: Well it has, certainly has given me a different outlook in life. It's enlarged my sense of how important today is, I suppose. I think, you know, I have, I'm the product of my socialization, I, like any other person of the western world, I live very much for tomorrow, all my life. I sort of save myself up for a great future, something of that order. And it's only, it was only, with the, of course, with the terrible impact of don Juan's teaching that I came to realize how important it is to be here, now. And it renders the idea of entering into states of what I call non ordinary reality instead of disrupting the states of ordinary reality, they render them very meaningful. I didn't suffer any disruption or any disillusion of what goes on today. I don't think its a farce. While I'll say I tended to think that it was a farce before. I thought that I was disillusioned as I was an artist to do some work in art, and I felt, you know, that something was missing with my time, something is wrong. But as I see it, you know, nothing is wrong. Today I can't conceive what's wrong anymore. Cause it was vague to begin with, I never thought exactly what was wrong. But I alluded that there was a great area that was better than today. And I think that has been dispelled completely.

Q: I see. Do you have any plans of ever seeking out don Juan again?

CC: No, I see him as a friend. I see him all the time.

Q: Oh, you still do see him?

CC: Yes I do. I'm with him, I have been with him lots of times since the last experience that I write in the book. But as far as seeking his teachings, I don't think I would. I sincerely think that I don't have the mechanics.

Q: One final question: you make a heroic effort in the book to make sense of don Juan's world view. Do you have any idea of whether don Juan took any interest or takes any interest in your world, the one you're calling that of a European man?

CC: Well, no I think he's versed, don Juan's very versed in what we, the Europeans, stand for. He's not handicapped, in that sense, he makes use, he's a warrior and he makes use of his, he sets his life as in a strategic game, he makes use of everything that he can, he's very versed in that. My effort to make sense of his world is, it's my own way of, let's say, paying back to him for this grand opportunity. I think if I don't make the effort to render his world as coherent phenomena, he'll go by the way he has for hundreds of years, as nonsensical activity, when it is not nonsensical, it's not fraudulent, it's a very serious endeavor.

Q: Yes. Well the outcome of your experiences with don Juan is a really fascinating book and, after reading it myself, I can certainly recommend it to the Pacific audience. It is an adventure in a very different world than we ordinarily live in. I'd like to thank you, Mr. Castaneda, for making this time available to talk about the book and about your adventures. This is Theodore Rosack.

CC: Thank you.

This interview was transcribed from a tape produced by Audio-Forum for their "Sound Seminars" series of interview tapes, Jeffrey Norton Publications, Inc.


Cvp: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs

ElectroPrint Graphics Carlos Castaneda Interview

Don Juan's Teachings: Further Conversations with Carlos Castaneda, 1968.

I'm Jane Hellisoe of the University of California press, and I have here today, Carlos Castaneda, author of The Teachings of Don Juan. I'm assuming that most of you have read the book, you all look like you have. So I think just turn it over to Carlos and let it go from there. Carlos...

CC: O.K. Maybe you would like to ask me something that you want to know?

JH: How did you meet don Juan?

CC: The way I, uh, got to know him, was very uh, very fortuitous type of affair. I was not not interested in finding what he knew, because I didn't know what he knew. I was interested in collecting plants. And I met him in Arizona. There was an old man who lived somewhere around them hills, that knew a great deal about plants. And that was my interest, to collect information on plants. And uh, I uh, we went one day this friend and myself we went to look for him. And we were misguided by the Yuma Indians and we up in the hills and never found the old man. Um, it was later on when I was at the end of this first trip that I make to Arizona, at the end of the summer and I was ready to go back to Los Angeles, that I was waiting in the bus stop and the old man walked in. And that's how I met him. Uh, I talked to him for about a year, I used to visit him, periodically I visit him, because I like him, he's very friendly and very consistent. It's very nice to be around him. He has great sense of humor . . . and I like him, very much. And that's was my first guiding thought, I used to go seek his council because he very humorous and very funny. But I never suspected that he knew anything, beyond knowledgeable in the use of plants for medicinal purposes.

JH: Did you have a sense that he knew how to live?

CC: No, no, I didn't I couldn't respond? there was something strange about him, but anybody could tell that you know, there's something very uh, very strange. There are two people that I have taken down to the field, with me, and that they know him. They found that that . . . he has very haunting eyes when he looks at you, because most of the time he squints or he seems to be shifty. You would say that he's a shifty looking man. He's not looking, except sometimes when he looks, he's very, whenever he looks he's very forceful. You could acknowledge that he's looking at you. And I, but I never knew that he knew anything beyond that, I have no idea. When I went to do my fieldwork, I always I parted from the point of view that I was the anthropologist, in quotes, doing the fieldwork with uh, Indian, you know. And they were uh, I was the one who knew most everything and uh they didn't. But of course, that it was a great culture shock to find out that I didn't know anything. It's a great feeling that of arriving, a sense of uh, humbleness. Because we are the winners, the conquerors, you know, and whatever we do is great, is logical, it's, it's magnificent. We only the ones who are capable of anything noble, that's in the back of our mind. We cannot avoid that, we cannot avoid that. And whenever we tumble down from that stand, I feels it's great.

JH: What country are you from?

CC: I'm from Brazil, I was born in Brazil. My grandparents are Italian.

JH: Uh, do you still think that he manipulated you into the last part of your book into a situation in which you supposedly in danger of losing your soul?

CC: There, there are two explanations, you see, I prefer to think, that he was cueing me. It made me feel comfortable to think that this was an experience resulting from these manipulations or social cues. But maybe this witch was impersonating him. Every time I am in U.C.L.A. of course I pretend the position that he was, manipulating me. That's very coherent, cogent of the pursual of academia. But whenever I am in field, I think they were impersonating him. And that's incoherent with what takes place there. That's a very difficult transition to make. If you are going to dwelling in a University, if I would be a teacher, if I know that I'm going to be a teacher all my life, I could say anything you know, and it's nice, but I may wind up again in the field, very soon. I uh, made up my mind. I am going to go back, later maybe at the end of this month, and uh, I'm very serious about that.

JH: Could you describe the nature of your communication with don Juan, since you wrote the book?

CC: We're very good friends. He uh, uh he uh, he's capable always to baffle me me, by kidding me. He never takes anything seriously. I am very serious in the sense like, I feel that I have withdrawn from this apprenticeship. And I'm very serious about that, I believe that I have.

JH: He doesn't believe you?

CC: No....

JH: Do you find that your approach to uh, uh reality, or whatever, is any different since meeting don Juan?

CC: O yes, yes, very different. Very different as such. Well I don't take things too seriously anymore.

JH: Why did you write the second part of your book?

CC: Why? Essentially, I'm concerned with rescuing something that has been lost for five hundred years, because of superstition, we all know that. It's superstition, and it's been taken as such. Therefore, in order to render it, serious, to go beyond the revelation, that there must be something that could be distilled from the revelation period. And to me, the only way to do it, is by presenting it seriously, in format of the socialist position. Otherwise, it remains in the level of oddity. We have in the back of our minds, the idea that only we could be logical, only we could be sublime, noble. Somehow, I think, maybe I'm speaking for myself alone, but that's the end of character of our actions. In social science you see that. Every social scientist goes to the field, loaded with the idea that he's going examine something and know. And uh, that's not fair, that he so um, in that sense, I cannot escape that.

JH: Don Juan in the book, he mentioned that he asked you never to reveal the name that Mescalito gave to you, or to reveal the circumstances under which you met, yet you wrote this whole book of don Juan's to anyone who would read it.

CC: I asked him about that. I wanted to know before I ever, ever, in writing something like that, I asked him if it was alright. I didn't reveal anything that was not permitted. I didn't. I was interested in the logical system. It's a system of logical thought. It takes a long time, took a long time for me to discover, that this was a system of exhaustive, the best, presented in this, my world. This is what is appealing, is the order. And whatever, I reveal in it, has nothing to do with the things that were, let's say, taboo. I reveal only the order, only the system. So, as to make us realize that the Indians are very, very tenacious, they are persistent people and as intelligent as anybody.

[Voice overdub on tape]: I think it's significant how Carlos is bending over backwards to present a system of non-ordinary reality, non-linear reality in a conceptual framework so that it can be accepted by his peers at the University of California by the American public. It's almost as if Carlos had wasn't taking any chances that the psychedelic generation was really going to be there and ready to read the book, the psychedelic generation could get the message, be a large enough part of the readership to to pass the word. He's talking about people, he talks about non-people there's some really some really remarkable instances there where I remember the one where don Juan walks or Carlos walks off into the chaparral and he comes back and there are these three beings there who turn out later according to don Juan not to be even beings. Apparently, they don't have these fibers coming or they don't look like eggs. Do you have any insights into what these are, that aren't really people, from having listened to that? I'm not too much into that, that was part of so-called phantoms that Carlos was describing, but it wasn't very clear to me where they fit into the whole picture, except these were people you know, phantoms were entices that you had to look for, and be careful about. It seems also like only a sorcerer and a man-of- knowledge can tell who they are, because to Carlos it looked very much like real people, and Genero and Juan can recognize them and unless we're into that other kind of knowledge, I can't claim to be able to recognize them. Carlos talks about his experience with the datura plant, or the jimson weed, the devil weed in the first book and the second book which is dealing very heavily the need for the psychotropic plants. He drank the root extract and rubbed himself with the paste, and what followed was an extraordinary experience. Afterwards Don Juan discusses with him the lessons he learned. Carlos says there was a question I wanted to ask him. I knew he was going to evade it, so I waited for him to mention the subject; I waited all day. Finally, before I left that evening, I had to ask him, "Did I really fly, don Juan?" "That is what you told me. Didn't you?" "I know, don Juan. I mean, did my body fly? Did I take off like a bird?" "You always ask me questions I cannot answer. You flew. That is what the second portion of the devil's weed is for. As you take more of it, you will learn how to fly perfectly. It is not a simple matter. A man flies with the help of the second portion of the devil's weed. That is all I can tell you. What you want to know makes no sense. Birds fly like birds and a man who has taken the devil's weed flies as such ." "As birds do?" "No, he flies as a man who has taken the weed." "Then I didn't really fly, don Juan. I flew in my imagination, in my mind alone. Where was my body?" "In the bushes," he replied cuttingly, but immediately broke into laughter again. "The trouble with you is that you understand things in only one way. You don't think a man flies; and yet a brujo can move a thousand miles in one second to see what is going on. He can deliver a blow to his enemies long distances away. So, does he or doesn't he fly?" "You see, don Juan, you and I are differently oriented. Suppose, for the sake of argument, one of my fellow students had been here with me when I took the devil's weed. Would he have been able to see me flying?" "There you go again with your questions about what would happen if . . . It is useless to talk that way. If your friend, or anybody else, takes the second portion of the weed all he can do is fly. Now, if he had simply watched you, he might have seen you flying, or he might not. That depends on the man." "But what I mean, don Juan, is that if you and I look at a bird and see it fly, we agree that it is flying. But if two of my friends had seen me flying as I did last night, would they have agreed that I was flying?" "Well, they might have. You agree that birds fly because you have seen them flying. Flying is a common thing with birds. But you will not agree on other things birds do, because you have never seen birds doing them. If your friends knew about men flying with the devil's weed, then they would agree." "Let's put it another way, don Juan. What I meant to say is that if I had tied myself to a rock with a heavy chain I would have flown just the same, because my body had nothing to do with my flying." "If you tie yourself to a rock," he said, "I'm afraid you will have to fly holding the rock with its heavy chain."
[end of Voice overdub]

JH: Why did you leave?

CC: Why did I leave? I got too frightened. There is this assumption in all of us, that uh, we could give ourselves agreement that this is real. I'm sure that many humans have taken psychedelic substance like LSD, or something like that, the distortion that you suffer, under this psychedelic, is accountable, by saying I'm seeing such and such, and that and that, or this this and that because I have taken something, that's in the back of our mind - always. So, anything could be let's say, accounted for in a strange way. But, whenever you begin to lose that security, I think that's time to quit. That's my fear.

JH: But you haven't really quit.

CC: That's the problem.

JH: That several visions that you said you were more-or-less clairvoyant visions, that told you about the past, things that you supposedly didn't know about, other than the visions or examples that reported in the books. Did you ever check to find out what you saw was true or not?

CC: Well, that's sort of funny you know, there must be something. I've been involved in hunting treasures lately. Mexican came to me and told me that there was a house that uh, belonged to a man who apparently stored a lot of money and never used a bank, ever, in his life. He figure and calculated that there was at least $100,000 dollars and he asked if I could discover where the money was. So I thought that's an interesting proposition. So, um I followed this ritual. It was a minor ritual that produces in quotes, a vision, not as clear as a divination procedure. But it's a vision that could be interpreted. A fire that has to be made to attract whatever it is that has to be attracted. So this bunch of about four people and I, they did all the ritual they followed me they trusted me, I suppose and we waited for a vision but nothing came at all. And then the fact was that everybody was looking for this treasure under the house, the house on the still, very high, underneath the house and they and dug up the whole house. And uh, the guy who was digging up, was bitten by a black spider, a black widows spiders. And it was disastrous, they never found anything. So then I came into the picture, I have this vision, I have this dream. A dream in which the owner of the house was pointing to the ceiling. And I said, "Uh ha! It's not in the basement, it's in the ceiling." And we went, one day, tried to find it in the ceiling, but we didn't we couldn't find anything. It was disastrous though, because one of the Mexicans, very big, he weighs about 315 pounds. He's a big moose. There's a small hatch towards the ceiling and its' an old house constructed in the 20's probably and the ceilings paper thin. So I was kinda walking on the beams and this guy got very suspicious he thought that we were going to cheat him out of his money, we never did it. And came into the scene, he came up. He walked up to where I was, I was in the center of the house, center of the room, because that's the place I thought he had pointed in my vision, stood by me, and he went through the ceiling. He got hooked you know, the legs were hanging in the upper part.

JH: Did don Juan make any uh restrictions or any regulations that the circumstances in which you question yourself? . . .

CC: Yes, good very good. I went to see don Juan, and I told him this failure. And how you know very, and he said was very natural, whatever is left of a man, guards whatever he's hiding. I have my notes, you know that I took in the field that I treasure a great deal. I've become very possessive with my notes. And don Juan says, "will you leave your notes for any idiot to get?" No, I won't. That's the point. And what's the difference? A guy loves his money. And he's not going to let an idiot like me come and get it. Therefore, he sets all kinds of traps and obstructions. That's the turning point in my approach with don Juan. From then on, I never been able to think that I could trip him. He flipped me intellectually. I thought that that piece was very neat, very simple and coherent. From then on, I was not ever able to think of myself as the student of Anthropology the University student coming to look down on an Indian. He completely destroyed dislodged my affiliation to the intellectual man.

JH: He made you think yourself as a man?

CC: He made me think of myself as a man who doesn't know anything, in relation to what he knows. But I don't know what he means. All I've given you is what he gave me. I don't how fear could be vanquished. Because I haven't vanquished it myself. I have an idea, that perhaps applicable. I like to go into the field and test it. But that's another story that's very different.

JH: Did he vanquish fear?

CC: Well, he has. Yes . . .

JH: Entirely?

CC: Yes . . . it looks like it is very simple. Once you have the mechanics, I suppose, he is parting at all times from a different point of view. He set like uh , whatever is between the phenomena and that I am experiencing, and me, theres always an intermediate, it's a set of expectations, motivations, language, you name it. It's there, it's a whole set. But that's my, my heritage of the European. To use the set which is common to all of us. That's why understand each other. But don Juan has a different set, entirely different. That's the incapacity to understand him. Very difficult to understand what he's talking about. When he says that one could conquer fear. There's an interesting idea that occured to me now, that I would like to test in the field. I have attended recently a peyote meeting. It was a gathering, which I just took water to them. I didn't participate. I just went there to watch, to observe. Because I have this I have arrived to the conclusion that the consensus the agreement that he gave me, that I narrated in this book, a private agreement, special between the teacher and the student, but something else takes place. There's a collective agreement, a whole bunch of people agree upon things which cannot be seen, ordinarily. But I was thought that this agreement consisted in cueing the others. Therefore, there must be a leader I thought that could cue, you know, by twisting the eye, you know, something like that, you know, twist of the fingers, and therefore, they all say that they have agreed. Because one gives the cue. They believe that for instance in the matter of peyote, anybody who intakes peyote hears a buzzing in the ears. However the Indians believe that there a seventeen types of buzzing. And each one then will then respond to a precise nature of the visitation. The deity Mescalito, comes in a specific way. And it announces it, by buzzing. There must be an agreement among them a) ten people as to what buzzing is it in the first place and then the nature of it. How is the lesson going to be? Is it going to a ferocious lesson, very dramatic, very mild, amenable, depends on what is the, uh, I suppose the mood of the deity. That, I thought this agreement was accomplished by means of a code. So I went I asked don Juan to I could drive them, I took my car and drove a whole bunch of people. I made myself available in that form. And then I could serve, I said, you know, bringing water to them. So I watched. And I couldn't detect any code, at all. However in my effort to watch, I got involved, very deeply involved, and at that moment, I flipped. I walked into this experience, I had taken peyote, which I didn't. This is my stand, O.K.? I think what they do, is they hold judgment. They drop this set. And their capable of gaining the phenomena in a different level. Their capable of viewing it, in a level from what I do ordinarily, the way I do it ordinarily. So if I drop this set, whatever it is that is interfering, intermediate, the intermediate set between the phenomena and me, I arrive to this area of special agreement. Therefore, it's very simple to them to arrive to that. I thought that experience in distorted a whole series of days, five or six days in which they intake peyote. I thought the last day was the only day in which they agree. But they agree every day. I don't know. I have to go and find out. I know that it's possible to hold judgment.

JH: That girl asked you a question about fear, vanquishing fear entirely. At any, as I read it, or understand I, as I mean, as far as fear is no longer your enemy, doesn't mean you don't have it anymore. Because he said the man-of-knowledge goes to knowledge, and this could be anywhere along the line even after you vanquished fear. Would fear, respect, wide-awake and the four things, so fear is no longer your enemy, isn't that true?

CC: No, maybe, maybe, though perhaps we are afraid only because are judging. That's another possibility. Once we drop the prejudgment, what's there to fear? At the moment, like uh he used to cure years ago, that's before I met him. Today, he's not interested anymore in curing or bewitching. He says that he's beyond company or solitude. So, he just exists . . . he lives in central Mexico.

JH: What does he do with his time?

CC: Maybe he flies . . . I don't know. I really don't know. I feel, I always feel, I projected him, and I say, poor little old man, what does he do with his time? But that's me, you see, I, poor little old man, what do I do with my time? But that's a different set, you see, he has a different system, completely.

JH: You smoked mushrooms in the state of Oaxaca. I'm wondering what the names of those mushrooms.

CC: The mushrooms belong to the psilocybe family. I'm sure of that. And they grow in central Mexico. Then you make a journey to central Mexico. You collect them and then you take them to wherever you live. And wait for a year, before they are useable. They spend a year inside of a gourd. And they are utilized.

JH: Were these the ones where they from Oaxaca.?

CC: Their from central Mexico, that area, yeah, Oaxaca. They are fourteen species of psilocybe.

JH: Could you tell us about the need and nature for secrecy and mystical teachings such as don Juans?

CC: I don't know. He feels that in order to return from one of the trips, in quotes, you had to have a great degree of help and knowledge, without which you don't return. Maybe he's right, maybe he's right, maybe you need, the not so much the encouragement of the friendly man telling you everything's O.K. Joe, don't do it. More than that. Maybe you need another type of knowledge, that would render the experience utilizable, meaningful. And that cracks your mind, that really busts you.

JH: Do you discourage someone from using these drugs?

CC: I do, I do. I don't think they should. Because, perhaps they would get to know more about it. Otherwise, they become spearheads. And spearheads burn, period.

JH: Do you know what the psychoactive substances in datura?

CC: Atropine, And hyoscyamine. And there are two more substances, something like somebody called Scopolamine, but nobody knows what scopolamine was. It's very toxic, terribly toxic. Very, very harmful plant in that sense. Strychnine? Strychnine, peyote contains eight types of strychnine.

JH: Were there other men of knowledge considered to be like don Juan?

CC: Yes, Don Juan likes to think that his predilection is talking. He likes to talk. There are other men who has another type of predilection. There is a man who gives lessons in waterfalls. His predilection is balance and movement. And the other one I know dances, and he accomplishes the same thing.

JH: What about mushrooms in your book?

CC: There are no hallucinogenic mushrooms. Muscaria that's not in old world though.

JH: Yeah, yeah.... Datura is growing all over Berkeley.

CC: Well, it's a plant that grows anywhere, in the United States. The intake of Datura produces a terrible inflammation of the proxic glands. It's not desirable to use it. So uh, it's a very toxic plant.

JH: It happened to you?

CC: No, no after its prepared, it loses its toxicity. The American Indians I think learned a great deal in manipulating plants. And how they learned, perhaps like don Juan said you could arrive to a direct knowledge of complex procedures directly via tapping whatever you tap.

JH: What do you see any meaning in terms of good and bad or good and evil or . . . ?

CC: No, I don't know. They interpreted in any way, again as a state of special ordinary reality. He again I think manipulated me and uh, or perhaps it is possible to see colours. I have a friend who reported though to me that to me he saw magenta, he says. That was the only thing he say, he tried to do this at night, and uh, he was capable of arriving to this distortion of colours, whatever.

JH: One thing I noticed about reading the book, all these experiences take place at night.

CC: No, I think the night is very friendly, very amenable. It's warmer, for some reason. And the darkness is a covering, it's like a blanket. Very nice. On the other hand, the daytime is very active, it's too busy. It's not conducive to feeling for anything like that. I like the night, I don't know why, maybe I'm owl, something like that. I like very much, it's very amenable to me. I turn the lights in my house off all the time. I feel very funny, for some reason, it's very comfortable, it's dark, and very restless when there's much light.

JH: Could you tell more about Mescalito? Like what, what, how?

CC: First, of all the American Indians have a god not called Mescalito, it's called something else . . . They have different names, yes. Mescalito is a circumlocution, that he uses, like to say, little Joe, little Billy. Circumlocution is to mean William.

JH: Is he one of, one god, or is like a thousand million gods?

CC: That's power, it's a teacher. It's a teacher that lives outside of yourself. You never mention it by name. Because the name that he gives you is personal. Therefore, you use the name peyetero. Because peyetero means something else. It's not applicable to that. It's a word that's been used by Spaniards. Peyetero is a state, very much like datura, in the Mexican, Spanish use in Mexico. Datura is called toloache. Toloache is a people say toloache is a state of knowledge, related to the datura. It's not the plant, it's a state of knowledge. Ololiuhqui, Saghun, the Spanish priest was very concerned with. And people have identified it as the seeds of the Morning Glory. But that belongs to the datura also. But again it's a state, state of knowledge.

JH: Does don Juan or any of the other brujos have any difficulty with the Church, because of his . . .

CC: Well, I suppose they do. They couldn't care less one way or the other. They are capable of short-circuiting the works of the dominant society. Which is very, very appealing to me, at least, to be able to short circuit them and render them meaningless, and useless, and harmless. You see, don Juan is not trying to fight anybody, therefore nobody with him. He's very capable, he's a hunter. He's a hunter, he's a capable man, he does everything himself.

JH: He hunts animals for food?

CC: Many ways, metaphorically, and um, in a literally way. He hunts in his own way. He's a warrior, meaning he's alert on his toes consistently. He never lets anything beyond, by him. There's a great argument that I have with his grandson. His grandson says my grandfather is feeble minded. I said you know perhaps you're wrong. Do you think you could sneak up on him? And the young guy, Fernando, no, my grandfather, you cannot sneak on the grandfather, he's a brujo. It's absurd, you know, how could you that he's feeble minded and then you said that you could not sneak up on him. That's the idea, you see, he maintains everybody, under this this sort of control. He never lets me out of his sight. I'm always within his view. And its an automatic process, unconscious. He's not aware of it, but I'm always there, at all times. He's very alert. He's not isolated man. He's a hunter, a warrior. His life is a game of strategy. He's capable of rounding up his armies, and using them in a most efficient way. The most efficacious way. He's not a guy who cuts corners. But his great motto is efficacious. And that's totally opposed to my motto. My motto is waste, like all us, unfortunately. You see, I get caught in tremendous upheavals of meaning. And things split me. I begin to whine. You know, why, why, how did it happen to me? But if I could be able to live like don Juan, I could set up my life in way of strategy, set my armies strategically. Like he says, then if you lose, all you lose is a battle. That's all. You're very happy at that. But not with me, because if I lose they took me, they raped me, I've been taken, in my furor. You know, no end to my fury. Because I was not prepared for it. But what would happen if I was prepared? Then I was just defeated, and defeat is not so bad. But to be raped, that's terrible, that's horrendous, and that's what we all do. By one, we are raped by cigarettes. We can't stop smoking, ah, you know, people are raped by food, they can't stop eating. I have my own quirks, I get raped by certain things, I cannot mention them. Weak and feeble, and helpless. Don Juan thinks that and feels that it's an indulgence, and he cannot afford to. And he's not indulgent at all. He does not indulge, and yet his life is very harmonious. Terribly funny, and great. And I pondered, how in the devil can he do it? And I thinks it's by cutting his indulgence to nothing. And yet he lives very well. He doesn't deny himself anything, there's the trick. That's the funny trick. Its a normal semantic manipulation. Like he says, since he was six years old, he likes girls. He says that the reason why he likes girls, because when he was young he took one with datura, with the lizards, and the lizards bit him nearly to death. And he was sick for three months. He was in a coma for weeks and then his teacher told him not to worry about it, because from then on, he was going to be virile until the day he died. He says the lizards do that. You know, they bit you too hard, you become very virile. So I asked him, "how could I get a couple of bites?" He said, "you would need more than a couple of bites." He's not frugal in sense of denial, but he doesn't indulge. Maybe that doesn't make sense.

JH: Could you tell me more about the Yaquis?

CC: The Yaquis? The Yaquis are Christians, Catholics, nominal Catholics. They allowed the Catholic missionaries to come in 1773, voluntarily. And after 80 years of colonization, they killed all the missionaries. And no missionaries has ever come. They involved themselves in this war against the Mexicans. After the independence of Mexico. The Yaquis have been in war with the Mexican army for 100 years, of solid war. Solid. They raided the Mexican towns, they killed them. And finally, in 1908, at the beginning of the century, Mexico decided to put an end to this nonsense. They rounded them up, sending huge troops, armies, round up the Indians put them in trains in boats and ship them to the south, to Oaxaca, Veracruz and Yucatan, dispersed them completely and that was only the way to stop them. And then in 1940, after the war, he says, masses of people in Mexico being the avant garde of democracy of Latin America, they couldn't stand the things that they did to the Yaquis. So they rounded the Yaquis again, brought them back, they are again in Sonora now. They are seasoned warriors, they are very, very, very aggressive people. It is inconceivable that don Juan could enter into that society. It's a closed circuit. It's very aggressive. They wouldn't trust me, because I'm an Mexican. They see me as a Mexican. They would trust an American, much much better, much easier. They hate Mexicans, they call them the Yoris. Which means pigs, something like that. Because they have been so oppressed . . .

JH: Do you know about don Juan as brujo or don Juan as diablero?

CC: It's the same thing. A brujo is a diablero, those are two Spanish words, to denominate to design, they signify the same thing. Don Juan does not want to use that because it connotes a sense of evilness. So he uses the word man-of-knowledge, it's a Mazatec term. I concluded that whatever he learned from a Mazatec, because man-of-knowledge is one who knows. And one who knows is a Mazatec term. A brujo, a sorcerer, is one who knows. I hope that I arrive to that. I doubt very much that my makeup is one that is required to make a man-of-knowledge. I don't think I have the backbone.

JH: Well, Does don Juan agree with that?

CC: No, he never told me that, you know. He thinks that I have a very bad probably frank. I do think because I get get bored, which is pretty bad, terrible, suicidal nearly. Presented me the example of a man who was courageous. He found a woodcarver, who was very interested to in the idea of taking peyote. Don Juan took me to Sonora as a show, so he could convince his grandson that is was very desirable to take peyote. That it would change his life. His grandson is very handsome chap, terribly handsome. He wants to be a movie star. He wants me to bring him to Hollywood. And he always asks me, his name is Fernando, he always asks me, do you think I'm handsome Carlos? You're really handsome. And then he says, do you think I could work in the movies as a chief in a cowboy movie or something? He would, he would be a magnificent chief. He wants me to take him to Hollywood. He says just take me to the door, and leave me there. I never had the opportunity of bringing him to the door. But uh, however don Juan has the intention to turn his grandson to the use of peyote. And he failed everytime. And he took me one day as a show, and I told them my experiences, there were eight Indians and their listening. They said it, peyote causes madness, causes insanity. Don Juan says,"but that's not true, if that would be so, look at Carlos, he isn't mad." They said, maybe he should be.

JH: Do you think you could have found the level of understanding that you found now, by intaking the drugs without don Juan?

CC: No, I am very emphatic about that. I would be lost. I just talked to Timothy Leary. And he flipped. I'm sorry, that's my personal feeling. He cannot concentrate, and that's absurd.

JH: Is that the difference between he and Don Juan?

CC: Don Juan can concentrate. That's it. He could pinpoint things. He could exhaustively laugh at things, and kick one subject until its death. I don't know why, its very amenable to do that. He has a sense of humor. What he lacks is the tragedy of a western man. We're tragic figures. We're sublime beings ... grovelling in mud. Don Juan is not. He's a sublime being. He told me himself, I had a great discussion with him once about dignity. And I said I that I have dignity and if I'm going to live without dignity, I'll blow my head off. I mean it. I don't how I mean it, but I do mean it. He said, that's nonsense, I don't understand about dignity, I have no dignity, I am an Indian, I have only life. But that's his stand. And I argue with him, I said listen, please I want so desperately, to understand, what I mean by dignity, what happened to the Indians when the Spaniards came? They actually forced them to live a life that had no dignity. They forced them to take the path that had no heart. And then he said, that's not true. The Spaniards rounded up the Indians who had dignity. Only the Indians that had already dignity. Maybe he's right. They never rounded him up. I told don Juan when I met him, his guy who introduced me, said my name is so and so. In Spanish my name is spider, Charley Spider. If I told him my name is Charley Spider. He'd crack up. We kidded around. After that, I found that was my golden opportunity to make my entry. And I said, "listen, I understand that you know a great deal about peyote. I do too, I know a great deal about peyote, maybe to our mutual benefit we could get together and talk about." That was my presentation, I mean, my formal presentation, I used it over and over. And he looked at me, in a very funny way, I cannot portray. But I knew at that moment, that he knew I didn't know anything. I was just throwing the bull, you know, completely bluffing him. That's what bothered me very much, I never been looked at in that way, ever. That was enough for me to be very interested to go and see him. Nobody ever looked at me that way.

JH: The guidance of a teacher. What about people that don't have a person like don Juan?

CC: That's the real problem. I think, it's an untenable position. I placed myself in that position, by myself, an untenable position. I wouldn't know. It's like uh.... when I went to see him, um for instance, when the book came out, I took it to him, and I got a book, and pretended that it was the first book that ever came out of the presses, you know, and I wanted to take it to don Juan. Maybe it was the first book, I don't know, perhaps it was. I wanted to believe that it was, anyway, and I took it to him, I gave it it was very difficult to reach him in the first place, because he was way up in the central part of Mexico I had to wait for a couple of days. And then finally he came down to town and I gave him the book. I said, "don Juan look I finished a book," and he looked said, "very nice," he said, "a nice book", and in a state of passion I said , "I want you to have it want you to keep, I want you to have it." He said, "what can I do with a book," "you know what we do with paper in Mexico."

From a taped transcript


Cvp: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs

Seeing Castaneda, by Sam Keen

Psychology Today
Publication Date: Dec 1972

SAM KEEN: As I followed don Juan through your three books, I suspected, at times, that he was the creation of Carlos Castaneda. He is almost to good to be true--a wise old Indian whose knowledge of human nature is superior to almost everybody's.

CARLOS CASTANEDA: The idea that I concocted a person like don Juan is inconceivable. He is hardly the kind of figure my European intellectual tradition would have led me to invent. The truth is much stranger. I wasn't even prepared to make the changes in my life that my association with don Juan involved.

KEEN: How and where did you meet don Juan and become his apprentice?

CASTANEDA: I was finishing my undergraduate study at UCLA and was planning to go to graduate school in anthropology. I was interested in becoming a professor and thought I might begin in the proper way by publishing a short paper on medicinal plants. I couldn't have cared less about finding a weirdo like don Juan. I was in a bus depot in Arizona with a high-school friend of mine. He pointed out an old Indian man to me and said he knew about peyote and medicinal plants. I put on my best airs and introduced myself to don Juan and said: "I understand you know a great deal about peyote. I am one of the experts on peyote (I had read Weston La Barre's The Peyote Cult) and it might be worth your while to have lunch and talk with me." Well, he just looked at me and my bravado melted. I was absolutely tongue-tied and numb. I was usually very aggressive and verbal so it was a momentous affair to be silenced by a look. After that I began to visit him and about a year later he told me he had decided to pass on to me the knowledge of sorcery he had learned from his teacher.
KEEN: Then don Juan is not an isolated phenomenon. Is there a community of sorcerers that shares a secret knowledge?

CASTANEDA: Certainly. I know three sorcerers and seven apprentices and there are many more. If you read the history of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, you will find that the Catholic inquisitors tried to stamp out sorcery because they considered it the work of the devil. It has been around for many hundreds of years. Most of the techniques don Juan taught me are very old.

KEEN: Some of the techniques that sorcerers use are in wide use in other occult groups. Persons often use dreams to find lost articles, and they go on out-of-the-body journeys in their sleep. But when you told how don Juan and his friend don Genero made your car disappear in broad daylight I could only scratch my head. I know that a hypnotist can create an illusion of the presence or absence of an object. Do you think you were hypnotized?

CASTANEDA: Perhaps, something like that. But we have to begin by realizing, as don Juan says, that there is much more to the world than we usually acknowledge. Our normal expectations about reality are created by a social consensus. We are taught how to see and understand the world. The trick of socialization is to convince usthat the descriptions we agree upon define the limits of the real world. What we call reality is only one way of seeing the world, a way that is supported by a social consensus.

KEEN: Then a sorcerer, like a hypnotist, creates an alternative world by building up different expectations and manipulating cues to produce a social consensus.

CASTANEDA: Exactly. I have come to understand sorcery in terms of Talcott Parsons' idea of glosses. A gloss is a total system of perception and language. For instance, this room is a gloss. We have lumped together a series of isolated perceptions--floor, ceiling, window, lights, rugs, etc.--to make a totality. But we had to be taught to put the world together in this way. A child reconnoiters the world with few preconceptions until he is taught to see things in a way that corresponds to the descriptions everybody agrees on. The world is an agreement. The system of glossing seems to be somewhat like walking. We have to learn to walk, but once we learn we are subject to the syntax of language and the mode of perception it contains.

KEEN: So sorcery, like art, teaches a new system of glossing. When, for instance, van Gogh broke with the artistic tradition and painted "The Starry Night" he was in effect saying: here is a new way of looking at things. Stars are alive and they whirl around in their energy field.

CASTANEDA: Partly. But there is a difference. An artist usually just rearranges the old glosses that are proper to his membership. Membership consists of being an expert in the innuendoes of meaning that are contained within a culture. For instance, my primary membership like most educated Western men was in the European intellectual world. You can't break out of one membership without being introduced into another. You can only rearrange the glosses.

KEEN: Was don Juan resocializing you or desocializing you? Was he teaching you a new system of meanings or only a method of stripping off the old system so that you might see the world as a wondering child?

CASTANEDA: Don Juan and I disagree about this. I say he was reglossing me and he says he was deglossing me. By teaching me sorcery he gave me a new set of glosses, a new language and a new way of seeing the world. Once I read a bit of the linguistic philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein to don Juan and he laughed and said: "Your friend Wittgenstein tied the noose too tight around his neck so he can't go anywhere."

KEEN: Wittgenstein is one of the few philosophers who would have understood don Juan. His notion that there are many different language games--science, politics, poetry, religion, metaphysics, each with its own syntax and rules--would have allowed him to understand sorcery as an alternative system of perception and meaning.

CASTANEDA: But don Juan thinks that what he calls seeing is apprehending the world without any interpretation; it is pure wondering perception. Sorcery is a means to this end. To break the certainty that the world is the way you have always been taught you must learn a new description of the world--sorcery--and then hold the old and the new together. Then you will see that neither description is final. At that moment you slip between the descriptions; you stop the world and see. You are left with wonder; the true wonder of seeing the world without interpretation.

KEEN: Do you think it is possible to get beyond interpretation by using psychedelic drugs?

CASTANEDA: I don't think so. That is my quarrel with people like Timothy Leary. I think he was improvising from within the European membership and merely rearranging old glosses. I have never taken LSD, but what I gather from don Juan's teachings is that psychotropics are used to stop the flow of ordinary interpretations, to enhance the contradictions within the glosses, and to shatter certainty. But the drugs alone do not allow you to stop the world. To do that you need an alternative description of the world. That is why don Juan had to teach me sorcery.

KEEN: There is an ordinary reality that we Western people are certain is 'the' only world, and then there is is the separate reality of the sorcerer. What are the essential differences between them?

CASTANEDA: In European membership the world is built largely from what the eyes report to the mind. In sorcery the total body is used as a perceptor. As Europeans we see a world out there and talk to ourselves about it. We are here and the world is there. Our eyes feed our reason and we have no direct knowledge of things. According to sorcery this burden on the eyes in unnecessary. We know with the total body.

KEEN: Western man begins with the assumption that subject and object are separated. We're isolated from the world and have to cross some gap to get to it. For don Juan and the tradition of sorcery, the body is already in the world. We are united with the world, not alienated from it.

CASTANEDA: That's right. Sorcery has a different theory of embodiment. The problem in sorcery is to tune and trim your body to make it a good receptor. Europeans deal with their bodies as if they were objects. We fill them with alcohol, Bad food, and anxiety. When something goes wrong we think germs have invaded the body from outside and so we import some medicine to cure it. The disease is not a part of us. Don Juan doesn't believe that. For him disease is a disharmony between a man and his world. The body is an awareness and it must be treated impeccably.

KEEN: This sounds similar to Norman O. Brown's idea that children, schizophrenics, and those with the divine madness of the Dionysian consciousness are aware of things and of other persons as extensions of their bodies. Don Juan suggests something of the kind when he says the man of knowledge has fibers of light that connect his solar plexus to the world.

CASTANEDA: My conversation with the coyote is a good illustration of the different theories of embodiment. When he came up to me I said: "Hi, little coyote. How are you doing?" And he answered back: "I am doing fine. How about you?" Now, I didn't hear the words in the normal way. But my body knew the coyote was saying something and I translated it into dialogue. As an intellectual my relationship to dialogue is so profound that my body automatically translated into words the feeling that the animal was communicating with me. We always see the unknown in terms of the known.

KEEN: When you are in that magical mode of consciousness in which coyotes speak and everything is fitting and luminous it seems as if the whole world is alive and that human beings are in a communion that includes animals and plants. If we drop our arrogant assumptions that we are the only comprehending and communicating form of life we might find all kinds of things talking to us.  John Lilly talked talked to dolphins. Perhaps we would feel less alienated if we could believe we were not the only intelligent life.

CASTANEDA: We might be able to talk to any animal. For don Juan and the other sorcerers there wasn't anything unusual about my conversation with the coyote. As a matter of fact they said I should have gotten a more reliable animal for a friend. Coyotes are tricksters and are not to be trusted.

KEEN: What animals make better friends?

CASTANEDA: Snakes make stupendous friends?

KEEN: I once had a conversation with a snake. One night I dreamt there was a snake in the attic of house where I lived when I was a child. I took a stick and tried to kill it. In the morning I told the dream to a friend and she reminded me that it was not good to kill snakes, even if they were in the attic in a dream. She suggested that the next time a snake appeared in a dream I should feed it or do something to befriend it. About an hour later I was driving my motor scooter on a little-used road and there it was waiting for me--a four foot snake, stretched out sunning itself. I drove alongside it and it didn't move. After we had looked at each other for a while I decided I should make some gesture to let him know I repented for killing his brother in my dream. I reached over and touched his tail. He coiled up and indicated that I had rushed our intimacy. So I backed off and just looked. After about five minutes he went off into the bushes.

CASTANEDA: You didn't pick it up?


CASTANEDA: It was a very good friend. A man can learn to call snakes. But you have to be in very good shape, calm, collected--in a friendly mood, with no doubts or pending affairs.

KEEN: My snake taught me that I had always had paranoid feelings about nature. I considered animals and snakes dangerous. After my meeting I could never kill another snake and it began to be more plausible to me that we might be in some kind of living nexus. Our ecosystem might well include communication between different forms of life.

CASTANEDA: Don Juan has a very interesting theory about this. Plants, like animals, always affect you. He says that if you don't apologize to plants for picking them you are likely to get sick or have an accident.

KEEN: The American Indians had similar beliefs about animals they killed. If you don't thank the animal for giving up his life so you may live, his spirit may cause you trouble.

CASTANEDA: We have a commonality with all life. Something is altered every time we deliberately injure plant life or animal life. We take life in order to live but we must be willing to give up our lives without resentment when it is our time. We are so important and take ourselves so seriously that we forget that the world is a great mystery that will teach us if we listen.

KEEN: Perhaps psychotropic drugs momentarily wipe out the isolated ego and allow a mystical fusion with nature. Most cultures that have retained a sense of communion between man and nature also have made ceremonial use of psychedelic drugs. Were you using peyote when you talked with the coyote?

CASTANEDA: No. Nothing at all.

KEEN: Was this experience more intense than similar experiences you had when don Juan gave you psychotropic plants?

CASTANEDA: Much more intense. Every time I took psychotropic plants I knew I had taken something and I could always question the validity of my experience. But when the coyote talked to me I had no defenses. I couldn't explain it away. I had really stopped the world and, for a short time, got completely outside my European system of glossing.

KEEN: Do you think don Juan lives in this state of awareness most of the time?

CASTANEDA: Yes. He lives in magical time and occasionally comes into ordinary time. I live in ordinary time and occasionally dip into magical time.

KEEN: Anyone who travels so far from the beaten paths of consensus must be very lonely.

CASTANEDA: I think so. Don Juan lives in an awesome world and he has left routine people far behind. Once when I was with don Juan and his friend don Genaro I saw the loneliness they shared and their sadness at leaving behind the trappings and points of reference of ordinary society. I think don Juan turns his loneliness into art. He contains and controls his power, the wonder and the loneliness, and turns them into art.  His art is the metaphorical way in which he lives. This is why his teachings have such a dramatic flavor and unity. He deliberately constructs his life and his manner of teaching.

KEEN: For instance, when don Juan took you out into the hills to hunt animals was he consciously staging an allegory?

CASTANEDA: Yes. He had no interest in hunting for sport or to get meat. In the 10 years I have known him don Juan has killed only four animals to my knowledge, and these only at times when he saw that their death was a gift to him in the same way his death would one day be a gift to something. Once we caught a rabbit in a trap we had set and don Juan thought I should kill it because its time was up. I was desperate because I had the sensation that I was the rabbit. I tried to free him but couldn't open the trap. So I stomped on the trap and accidentally broke the rabbit's neck. Don Juan had been trying to teach me that I must assume responsibility for being in this marvelous world. He leaned over and whispered in my ear: "I told you this rabbit had no more time to roam in this beautiful desert." He consciously set up the metaphor to teach me about the ways of a warrior. The warrior is a man who hunts and accumulates personal power. To do this he must develop patience and will and move deliberately through the world. Don Juan used the dramatic situation of actual hunting to teach me because he was addressing himself to my body.

KEEN: In your most recent book, Journey to Ixtlan, you reverse the impression given in your first books that the use of psychotropic plants was the main method don Juan intended to use in teaching you about sorcery. How do you now understand the place of psychotropics in his teachings?

CASTANEDA: Don Juan used psychotropic plants only in the middle period of my apprenticeship because I was so stupid, sophisticated and cocky. I held on to my description of the world as if it were the only truth. Psychotropics created a gap in my system of glosses. They destroyed my dogmatic certainty. But I paid a tremendous price. When the glue that held my world together was dissolved, my body was weakened and it took months to recuperate. I was anxious and functioned at a very low level.

KEEN: Does don Juan regularly use psychotropic drugs to stop the world?

CASTANEDA: No. He can now stop it at will. He told me that for me to try to see without the aid of psychotropic plants would be useless. But if I behaved like a warrior and assumed responsibility I would not need them; they would only weaken my body.

KEEN: This must come as quite a shock to many of your admirers. You are something of a patron saint to the psychedelic revolution.

CASTANEDA: I do have a following and they have some strange ideas about me. I was walking to a lecture I was giving at California State, Long Beach the other day and a guy who knew me pointed me out to a girl and said: "Hey, that is Castaneda." She didn't believe him because she had the idea that I must be very mystical. A friend has collected some of the stories that circulate about me. The consensus is that I have mystical feet.

KEEN: Mystical feet?

CASTANEDA: Yes, that I walk barefooted like Jesus and have no calouses. I am supposed to be stoned most of the time. I have also committed suicide and died in several different places.  A college class of mine almost freaked out when I began to talk about phenomenology and membership and to explore perception and socialization. They wanted to be told too relax, turn on and blow their minds. But to me understanding is important.

KEEN: Rumors flourish in an information vacuum. We know something about don Juan but too little about Castaneda.

CASTANEDA: That is a deliberate part of the life of a warrior, To weasel in and out of different worlds you have to remain inconspicuous. The more you are known and identified, the more your freedom is curtailed. When people have definite ideas about who you are and how you will act, then you can't move. One of the earliest things don Juan taught me was that I must erase my personal history. If little by little you create a fog around yourself then you will not be taken for granted and you will have more room for change. That is the reason I avoid tape recordings when I lecture, and photographs.

KEEN: Maybe we can be personal without being historical. You now minimize the importance of the psychedelic experience connected with your apprenticeship. And you don't seem to go around doing the kind of tricks you describe as the sorcerer's stock-in-trade. What are the elements of don Juan's teachings that are important for you? Have you been changed by them?

CASTANEDA: For me the ideas of being a warrior and a man of knowledge, with the eventual hope of being able to stop the world and see, have been the most applicable. They have given me peace and confidence in my ability to control my life. At the time I met don Juan I had very little personal power. My life had been very erratic. I had come a long way from my birthplace in Brazil. Outwardly I was aggressive and cocky, but within I was indecisive and unsure of myself. I was always making excuses for myself. Don Juan once accused me of being a professional child because I was so full of self-pity. I felt like a leaf in the wind. Like most intellectuals, my back was against the wall. I had no place to go. I couldn't see any way of life that really excited me. I thought all I could do was make a mature adjustment to a life of boredom or find ever more complex forms of entertainment such as the use of psychedelics and pot and sexual adventures. All of this was exaggerated by my habit of introspection. I was always looking within and talking to myself. The inner dialogue seldom stopped. Don Juan turned my eyes outward and taught me to accumulate personal power.  I don't think there is any other way to live if one wants to be exuberant.

KEEN: He seems to have hooked you with the old philosopher's trick of holding death before your eyes. I was struck with how classical don Juan's approach was. I heard echoes of Plato's idea that a philosopher must study death before he can gain any access to the real world and of Martin Heidegger's definition of man as being-toward-death.

CASTANEDA: Yes, but don Juan's approach has a strange twist because it comes from the tradition in sorcery that death is physical presence that can be felt and seen. One of the glosses in sorcery is: death stands to your left. Death is an impartial judge who will speak truth to you and give you accurate advice. After all, death is in no hurry. He will get you tomorrow or the next week or in 50 years. It makes no difference to him. The moment you remember you must eventually die you are cut down to the right size.  I think I haven't made this idea vivid enough. The gloss--"death to your left"--isn't an intellectual matter in sorcery; it is perception. When your body is properly tuned to the world and you turn your eyes to your left, you can witness an extraordinary event, the shadowlike presence of death.

KEEN: In the existential tradition, discussions of responsibility usually follow discussion of death.

CASTANEDA: Then don Juan is a good existentialist. When there is no way of knowing whether I have one more minute of life. I must live as if this is my last moment. Each act is the warrior's last battle. So everything must be done impeccably. Nothing can be left pending. This idea has been very freeing for me. I am here talking to you and I may never return to Los Angeles. But that wouldn't matter because I took care of everything before I came.

KEEN: This world of death and decisiveness is a long way from psychedelic utopias in which the vision of endless time destroys the tragic quality of choice.

CASTANEDA: When death stands to your left you must create your world by a series of decisions. There are no large or small decisions, only decisions that must be made now. And there is no time for doubts or remorse. If I spend my time regretting what I did yesterday I avoid the decisions I need to make today.

KEEN: How did don Juan teach you to be decisive?

CASTANEDA: He spoke to my body with his acts. My old way was to leave everything pending and never to decide anything. To me decisions were ugly. It seemed unfair for a sensitive man to have to decide. One day don Juan asked me: "Do you think you and I are equals?" I was a university student and an intellectual and he was an old Indian but I condescended and said: "Of course we are equals." He said: "I don't think we are. I am a hunter and a warrior and you are a pimp. I am ready to sum up my life at any moment. Your feeble world of indecision and sadness is not equal to mine." Well, I was very insulted and would have left but we were in the middle of the wilderness. So I sat down and got trapped in my own ego involvement. I was going to wait until he decided to go home. After many hours I saw that don Juan would stay there forever if he had to. Why not? For a man with no pending business that is his power. I finally realized that this man was not like my father who would make 20 New Year's resolutions and cancel them all out. Don Juan's decisions were irrevocable as far as he was concerned. They could be canceled out only by other decisions. So I went over and touched him and he got up and we went home. The impact of that act was tremendous. It convinced me that the way of the warrior is an exuberant and powerful way to live.

KEEN: It isn't the content of decision that is important so much as the act of being decisive.

CASTANEDA: That is what don Juan means by having a gesture. A gesture is a deliberate act which is undertaken for the power that comes from making a decision. For instance, if a warrior found a snake that was numb and cold, he might struggle to invent a way to take the snake to a warm place without being bitten. The warrior would make the gesture just for the hell of it. But he would perform it perfectly.

KEEN: There seem to be many parallels between existential philosophy and don Juan's teachings. What you have said about decision and gesture suggests that don Juan, like Nietzsche or Sartre, believes that will rather than reason is the most fundamental faculty of man.

CASTANEDA: I think that is right. Let me speak for myself. What I want to do, and maybe I can accomplish it, is to take the control away from my reason. My mind has been in control all of my life and it would kill me rather than relinquish control. At one point in my apprenticeship I became profoundly depressed. I was overwhelmed with terror and gloom and thoughts about suicide. Then don Juan warned me this was one of reason's tricks to retain control. He said my reason was making my body feel that there was no meaning in life. Once my mind waged this last battle and lost, reason began to assume its proper place as a tool of the body.

KEEN: "The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of" and so does the rest of the body.

CASTANEDA: That is the point. The body has a will of its own. Or rather, the will is the voice of the body. That is why don Juan consistently put his teachings in dramatic form. My intellect could easily dismiss his world of sorcery as nonsense. But my body was attracted to his world and his way of life. And once the body took over, a new and healthier reign was established.

KEEN: Don Juan's techniques for dealing with dreams engaged me became they suggest the possibility of voluntary control of dream images. It is as though he proposes to establish a permanent, stable observatory within inner space. Tell me about don Juan's dream training.

CASTANEDA: The trick in dreaming is to sustain dream images long enough to look at them carefully. To gain this kind of control you need to pick one thing in advance and learn to find it in your dreams. Don Juan suggested that I use my hands as a steady point and go back and forth between them and the images. After some months I learned to find my hands and to stop the dream. I became so fascinated with the technique that I could hardly wait to go to sleep.

KEEN: Is stopping the images in dreams anything like stopping the world?

CASTANEDA: It is similar. But there are differences. Once you are capable of finding your hands at will, you realize that it is only a technique. What you are after is control. A man of knowledge must accumulate personal power. But that is not enough to stop the world. Some abandon also is necessary. You must silence the chatter that is going on inside your mind and surrender yourself to the outside world.

KEEN: Of the many techniques that don Juan taught you for stopping the world, which do you still practice?

CASTANEDA: My major discipline now is to disrupt my routines. I was always a very routinary person. I ate and slept on schedule. In 1965 I began to change my habits. I wrote in the quiet hours of the night and slept and ate when I felt the need. Now I have dismantled so many of my habitual ways of acting that before long I may become unpredictable and surprising even to myself.

KEEN: Your discipline reminds me of the Zen story of two disciples bragging about miraculous powers. One disciple claimed the founder of the sect to which he belonged could stand on one side of a river and write the name of Buddha on a piece of paper held by his assistant on the opposite shore. The second disciple replied that such a miracle was unimpressive. "My miracle," he said, "is that when I feel hungry I eat, and when I feel thirsty I drink"

CASTANEDA: It has been this element of engagement in the world that has kept me following the path which don Juan showed me. There is no need to transcend the world. Everything we need to know is right in front of us, if we pay attention. If you enter a state of nonordinary reality, as you do when you use psychotropic plants, it is only to draw back from it what you need in order to see the miraculous character of ordinary reality. For me the way to live--the path with heart--is not introspection or mystical transcendence but presence in the world. This world is the warrior's hunting ground.

KEEN: The world you and don Juan have pictured is full of magical coyotes, enchanted crows and a beautiful sorceress. It's easy to see how it could engage you. But what about the world of the modern urban person? Where is the magic there? If we could all live in the mountains we might keep wonder alive. But how is it possible when we are half a zoom from the freeway?

CASTANEDA: I once asked don Juan the same question. We were sitting in a cafe in Yuma and I suggested that I might be able to stop the world and to see, if I could come and live in the wilderness with him. He looked out the window at the passing cars and said: "That, out there, is your world." I live in Los Angeles now and I find I can use that world to accommodate my needs. It is a challenge to live with no set routines in a routinary world. But it can be done.

KEEN: The noise level and the constant pressure of the masses of people seem to destroy the silence and solitude that would be essential for stopping the world.

CASTANEDA: Not at all. In fact, the noise can be used. You can use the buzzing of the freeway to teach yourself to listen to the outside world. When we stop the world the world we stop is the one we usually maintain by our continual inner dialogue. Once you can stop the internal babble you stop maintaining your old world. The descriptions collapse. That is when personality change begins. When you concentrate on sounds you realize it is difficult for the brain to categories all the sounds, and in a short while you stop trying. This is unlike visual perception which keeps us forming categories and thinking. It is so restful when you can turn off the talking, categorizing, and judging.

KEEN: The internal world changes but what about the external one? We can revolutionize individual consciousness but still not touch the social structures that create our alienation. Is there any place for social or political reform in your thinking?

CASTANEDA: I came from Latin America where intellectuals were always talking about political and social revolution and where a lot of bombs were thrown. But revolution hasn't changed much. It takes little daring to bomb a building, but in order to give up cigarettes or to stop being anxious or to stop internal chattering, you have to remake yourself. This is where real reform begins. Don Juan and I were in Tucson not long ago when they were having Earth Week. Some man was lecturing on ecology and the evils of war in Vietnam. All the while he was smoking. Don Juan said, "I cannot imagine that he is concerned with other people's bodies when he doesn't like his own." Our first concern should be with ourselves. I can like my fellow men only when I am at my peak of vigor and am not depressed. To be in this condition I must keep my body trimmed. Any revolution must begin here in this body. I can alter my culture but only from within a body that is impeccably tuned-in to this weird world. For me, the real accomplishment is the art of being a warrior, which, as don Juan says, is the only way to balance the terror of being a man with the wonder of being a man.

© Copyright Psychology Today


Cvp: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs

Carlos Castaneda Time Magazine Interview
Don Juan and the Sorcerer's Apprentice
Publication Date: March 5th, 1973

Glendower: "I can call spirits from the vasty deep"
Hotspur: "Why so can I, or so can any man;"
"But will they come when you do not call for them?"
-- Henry IV, Part I

THE Mexican border is a great divide. Below it, the accumulated structures of Western "rationality" waver and plunge. The familiar shapes of society - landlord and peasant, priest and politician - are laid over a stranger ground, the occult Mexico, with its brujos and carismaticos, its sorcerers and diviners. Some of their practices go back 2,000 and 3,000 years to the peyote and mushroom and morning glory cults of the ancient Aztecs and Toltecs. Four centuries of Catholic repression in the name of faith and reason have reduced the old ways to a subculture, ridiculed and persecuted. Yet in a country of 53 million, where many village marketplaces have their sellers of curative herbs, peyote buttons or dried hummingbirds, the sorcerer's world is still tenacious. Its cults have long been a matter of interest to anthropologists. But five years ago, it could hardly have been guessed that a master's thesis on this recondite subject, published under the conservative imprint of the University of California Press, would become one of the bestselling books of the early '70s.

OLD YAQUI. The book was The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968). With its sequels, A Separate Reality (1971) and the current Journey to Ixtlan (1972), it has made U.S. cult figures of its author and subject an anthropologist named Carlos Castaneda and a mysterious old Yaqui Indian from Sonora called Juan Matus. In essence, Castaneda's books are the story of how a European rationalist was initiated into the practice of Indian sorcery. They cover a span of ten years, during which, under the weird, taxing and sometimes comic tutelage of Don Juan, a young academic labored to penetrate and grasp what he calls the "separate reality" of the sorcerer's world. The learning of enlightenment is a common theme in the favorite reading of young Americans today (example: Herman Hesse's novel Siddhartha). The difference is that Castaneda does not present his Don Juan cycle as fiction but as unembellished documentary fact.

The wily, leather-bodied old brujo and his academic straight man first found an audience in the young of the counterculture, many of whom were intrigued by Castaneda's recorded experiences with hallucinogenic (or psychotropic) plants: Jimson weed, magic mushrooms, peyote. The Teachings has sold more than 300,000 copies in paperback and is currently selling at a rate of 16,000 copies a week. But Castaneda's books are not drug propaganda, and now the middleclass middlebrows have taken him up. Ixtlan is a hardback bestseller, and its paperback sales, according to Castaneda's agent Ned Brown, will make its author a millionaire.

To tens of thousands of readers, young and old, the first meeting of Castaneda with Juan Matus which took place in. 1960 in a dusty Arizona bus depot near the Mexican border is a better known literary event than the encounter of Dante and Beatrice beside the Arno. For Don Juan's teachings have reached print at precisely the moment when more Americans than ever before are disposed to consider "non-rational" approaches to reality. This new openness of mind displays itself on many levels, from ESP experiments funded indirectly by the U.S. Government to the weeping throngs of California 13 year olds getting blissed out by the latest child guru off a chartered jet from Bombay. The acupuncturist now shares the limelight with Marcus Welby, M.D., and his needles are seen to work - nobody knows why. However, with Castaneda's increasing fame have come increasing doubts. Don Juan has no other verifiable witness, and Juan Matus is nearly as common a name among the Yaqui Indians as John Smith farther north. Is Castaneda real? If so, did he invent Don Juan? Is Castaneda just putting on the straight world?

Among these possibilities, one thing is sure. There is no doubt that Castaneda, or a man by that name, exists: he is alive and well in Los Angeles, a loquacious, nut-brown anthropologist, surrounded by such concrete proofs of existence as a Volkswagen minibus, a Master Charge card, an apartment in Westwood and a beach house. His celebrity is concrete too. It now makes it difficult for him to teach and lecture, especially after an incident at the University of California's Irvine campus last year when a professor named John Wallace procured a Xerox copy of the manuscript of Ixtlan, pasted it together with some lecture notes from a seminar on shamanism Castaneda was giving, and peddled the result to Penthouse magazine. This so infuriated Castaneda that he is reluctant to accept any major lecture engagements in the future. At present he lives "as inaccessibly as possible" in Los Angeles, refreshing his batteries from time to time at what he and Don Juan refer to as a "power spot" atop a mountain north of nearby Malibu: a ring of boulders overlooking the Pacific. So far he has fended off the barrage of film offers. "I don't want to see Anthony Quinn as Don Juan," he says with asperity. Anyone who tries to probe into Castaneda's life finds himself in a maze of contradictions. But to Castaneda's admirers, that scarcely matters. "Look at it this way," says one. "Either Carlos is telling the documentary truth about himself and Don Juan, in which case he is a great anthropologist. Or else it is an imaginative truth, and he is a great novelist. Heads or tails, Carlos wins."

Indeed, though the man is an enigma wrapped in mystery wrapped in a tortilla, the work is beautifully lucid. Castaneda's story unfolds with a narrative power unmatched in other anthropological studies. Its terrain studded with organpipe cacti, from the glittering lava massifs of the Mexican desert to the ramshackle interior of Don Juan's shack becomes perfectly real. In detail, it is as thoroughly articulated a world as, say, Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County. In all the books, but especially in Journey to Ixtlan , Castaneda makes the reader experience the pressure or mysterious winds and the shivver of leaves at twilight, the hunter's peculiar alertness to sound and smell, the rock bottom scrubbiness of Indian life, the raw fragrance of tequila and the vile, fibrous taste of peyote, the dust in the car and the loft of a crow's flight. It is a superbly concrete setting, dense with animistic meaning. This is just as well, in view of the utter weirdness of the events that happen in it.

The education of a sorcerer, as Castaneda describes it, is arduous. It entailed the destruction, by Don Juan, of the young anthropologist's interpretation of the world; of what can, and cannot be called "real." The Teachings describes the first steps in this process. They involved natural drugs. One was Lophophora williamsii, the peyote cactus, which, Don Juan promised, revealed an entity named Mescalito, a powerful teacher who "shows you the proper way of life." Another was Jimson weed, which Don Juan spoke of as an implacable female presence. The third was humito, "the little smoke" a preparation of dust from Psilocybe mushrooms that had been dried and aged for a year, and then mixed with five other plants, including sage. This was smoked in a ritual pipe, and used for divination.

Such drugs, Don Juan insisted, gave access to the "powers" or impersonal forces at large in the world that a "man of knowledge" - his term for sorcerer - must learn to use. Prepared and administered by Don Juan, the drugs drew Castaneda into one frightful or ecstatic confrontation after another. After chewing peyote buttons Castaneda met Mescalito successively as a black dog, a column of singing light, and a cricket like being with a green warty head. He heard awesome and uninterpretable rumbles from the dead lava hills. After smoking humito and talking to a bilingual coyote, he saw the "guardian of the other world" rise before him as a hundred-foot high gnat with spiky tufted hair and drooling jaws. After rubbing his body with an unguent made from datura, the terrified anthropologist experienced all the sensations of flying.

Through it all, Castaneda often had little idea of what was happening. He could not be sure what it meant or whether any of it had "really" happened at all. That interpretation had to be supplied by Don Juan.

Why, then, in an age full of descriptions of good and bad trips, should Castaneda's sensations be of any more interest than anyone else's? First, because they were apparently conducted within a system - albeit one he did not understand at the time - imposed with priestly and rigorous discipline by his Indian guide. Secondly, because Castaneda kept voluminous and extraordinarily vivid notes. A sample description of the effects of peyote: "In a matter of instants a tunnel formed around me, very low and narrow, hard and strangely cold. It felt to the touch like a wall of solid tinfoil...l remember having to crawl towards a sort of round point where the tunnel ended; when I finally arrived, if I did, I had forgotten all about the dog, Don Juan, and myself." Perhaps most important, Castaneda remained throughout a rationalist Everyman. His one resource was questions: a persistent, often fumbling effort to keep a Socratic dialogue going with Don Juan:

"'Did I take off like a bird?' "'You always ask me questions I cannot answer...What you want to know makes no sense. Birds fly like birds and a man who has taken the devil's weed flies as such.' "'Then I didn't really fly, Don Juan. I flew in my imagination. Where was my body?' " And so on.

By his account, the first phase of Castaneda's apprenticeship lasted from 1961 to 1965, when, terrified that he was losing his sense of reality - and by now possessing thousands of pages of notes - he broke away from Don Juan. In 1968, when The Teachings appeared, he went down to Mexico again to give the old man a copy. A second cycle of instruction then began. Gradually Castaneda realized that Don Juan's use of psychotropic plants was not an end in itself, and that the sorcerer's way could be traversed without drugs.

But this entailed a perfect honing of the will. A man of knowledge, Don Juan insisted, could only develop by first becoming a "warrior" not literally a professional soldier, but a man wholly at one with his environment, agile, unencumbered by sentiment or "personal history". The warrior knows that each act may be his last. He is alone. Death is the root of his life, and in its constant presence he always performs "impeccably." This existential stoicism is a key idea in the books. The warrior's aim in becoming a "man of knowledge" and thus gaining membership as a sorcerer, is to "see." "Seeing," in Don Juan's system, means experiencing the world directly, grasping its essence, without interpreting it. Castaneda's second book, A Separate Reality, describes Don Juan's efforts to induce him to "see" with the aid of mushroom smoke. Journey to Ixtlan, though many of the desert experiences it recounts predate Castaneda's introduction to peyote, datura and mushrooms, deals with the second stage: "seeing" without drugs.

"The difficulty." says Castaneda, "is to learn to perceive with your whole body, not just with your eyes and reason. The world becomes a stream of tremendously rapid, unique events. So you must trim your body to make it a good receptor; the body is an awareness, and it must be treated impeccably." Easier said than done. Part of the training involved minutely, even piously attuning the senses to the desert, its animals and birds, its sounds and shadows, the shifts in its wind, and the places in which a shaman might confront its spirit entities: spots of power, holes of refuge. When Castaneda describes his education as a hunter and plant gatherer learning about the virtues of herbs, the trapping of rabbits, the narrative is absorbing. Don Juan and the desert enable him, sporadically and without drugs, to "see" or, as the Yaqui puts it "to stop the world." But such a state of interpretation free experience eludes description even for those who believe in Castaneda wholeheartedly.

SAGES. Not everybody can, does or will. But in some quarters Castaneda's works are extravagantly admired as a revival of a mode of cognition that has been largely neglected in the West, buried by materialism and Pascal's despair, since the Renaissance. Says Mike Murphy, a founder of the Esalen Institute: "The essential lessons Don Juan has to teach are the timeless ones that have been taught by the great sages of India and the spiritual masters of modern times." Author Alan Watts argues that Castaneda's books offer an alternative to both the guilt-ridden Judaeo-Christian and the blindly mechanistic views of man: "Don Juan's way regards man as something central and important. By not separating ourselves from nature we return to a position of dignity."

But such endorsements and parallels do not in any way validate the more worldly claim to importance of Castaneda's books: to wit, that they are anthropology, a specific and truthful account of an aspect of Mexican Indian culture as shown by the speech and actions of one person, a shaman named Juan Matus. That proof hinges on the credibility of Don Juan as a being and Carlos Castaneda as a witness. Yet there is no corroboration beyond Castaneda's writings that Don Juan did what he is said to have done, and very little that he exists at all.

Ever since The Teachings appeared, would be disciples and counterculture tourists have been combing Mexico for the old man. One awaits the first Don Juan Prospectors' Convention in the Brujo Bar BQ of the Mescalito Motel. Young Mexicans are excited to the point where the authorities may not even allow Castaneda's books to be released there in Spanish translation. Said one Mexican student who is himself pursuing Don Juan: "If the books do appear, the search for him could easily turn into a gold-rush stampede."

His teacher, Castaneda asserts, was born in 1891, and suffered in the diaspora of the Yaquis all over Mexico from the 1890s until the 1910 revolution. His parents were murdered by soldiers. He became a nomad. This helps explain why the elements of Don Juan's sorcery are a combination of shamanistic beliefs from several cultures. Some of them are not at all "representative" of the Yaquis. Many Indian tribes, such as the Huichols, use peyote ritually, both north and south of the border - some in a syncretic blend of Christianity and shamanism. But the Yaquis are not peyote users.

Don Juan, then, might be hard to find because he wisely shuns his pestering admirers. Or maybe he is a composite Indian, a collage of others. Or he could be a purely fictional shaman concocted by Castaneda.

Opinions differ widely and hotly, even among deep admirers of Castaneda's writing. "Is it possible that these books are nonfiction?" Novelist Joyce Carol Oates asks mildly. "They seem to me remarkable works of art on the Hesse-like theme of a young man's initiation into 'another way' of reality. They are beautifully constructed. The character of Don Juan is unforgettable. There is a novelistic momentum, rising, suspenseful action, a gradual revelation of character."

GULLIVER. True, Castaneda's books do read like a highly orchestrated Bildungsroman. But anthropologists worry less about literary excellence than about the shaman's elusiveness, as well as his apparent disconnection from the Yaquis. "I believe that basically the work has a very high percentage of imagination," says Jesus Ochoa, head of the department of ethnography at Mexico's National Museum of Anthropology. Snaps Dr. Francis Hsu of Northwestern University: "Castaneda is a new fad. I enjoyed the books in the same way that I enjoy Gulliver's Travels." But Castaneda's senior colleagues at U.C.L.A., who gave their former student a Ph.D. for Ixtlan, emphatically disagree: Castaneda, as one professor put it, is "a native genius," for whom the usual red tape and bureaucratic rigmarole were waived; his truth as a witness is not in question.

At the very least, though, it is clear that "Juan Matus" is a pseudonym used to protect his teacher's privacy. The need to be inaccessible and elusive is a central theme in the books. Time and again, Don Juan urges Castaneda to emulate him and free himself not only of daily routines, which dull perception, but of the imprisoning past itself. "Nobody knows my personal history," the old man explains in Ixtlan. "Nobody knows who I am or what I do. Not even I...we either take everything for sure and real, or we don't. If we follow the first path, we get bored to death with ourselves and the world. If we follow the second and erase personal history, we create a fog around us, a very exciting and mysterious state."

Unhappily for anyone hot for certainties about Carlos Castaneda's life, Don Juan's apprentice has taken the lesson very much to heart. After The Teachings became an underground bestseller, it was widely supposed that its author was El Freako the Acid Academic, all buckskin fringe and pinball eye, his brain a charred labyrinth lit by mysterious alkaloids, tripping through the desert with a crow on his hat. But Castaneda means chestnut grove, and the man looks a bit like a chestnut: a stocky, affable Latin American, 5 ft. 5 in., 150 lbs. and apparently bursting with vitamins. The dark curly hair is clipped short, and the eyes glisten with moist alertness. In dress, Castaneda is conservative to the point of anonymity, decking himself either in dark business suits or in Lee Trevino-type sports shirts. His plumage is words, which pour from him in a ceaseless, self-mocking and mesmeric flow. "Oh, I am a bullshitter!" he cackles, spreading his stubby, calloused hands. "Oh, how I love to throw the bull around!"

FOG. Castaneda says he does not smoke or drink hard liquor; he does not use marijuana; even coffee jangles him. He says he does not use peyote any more, and his only drug experiences took place with Don Juan. His own encounters with the acid culture have been unproductive. Invited to a 1964 East Village party that was attended by such luminaries as Timothy Leary, he merely found the talk absurd: "They were children, indulging in incoherent revelations. A sorcerer takes hallucinogens for a different reason than heads do, and after he has gotten where he wants to go, he stops taking them."

Castaneda's presentation of himself as Mr. Straight, it should be noted, could not be better designed to foil those who seek to know his own personal history. What, in fact, is his background? The "historical" Carlos Castaneda, anthropologist and apprentice shaman, begins when he met Don Juan in 1960; the books and his well-documented career at U.C.L.A. account for his life since. Before that, a fog.

In spending many hours with Castaneda over a matter of weeks, TIME Correspondent Sandra Burton found him attractive, helpful and convincing - up to a point - but very firm about warning that in talking about his pre-don Juan life he would change names and places and dates without, however, altering the emotional truth of his life. "I have not lied or contrived," he told her. "To contrive would be to pull back and not say anything or give the assurances that everybody seeks." As the talks continued, Castaneda offered several versions of his life, which kept changing as Burton presented him with the fact that much of his information did not check out, emotionally or otherwise.

By his own account, Castaneda was not his original name. He was born, he said, to a "well-known" but anonymous family in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Christmas Day, 1935. His father, who later became a professor of literature, was then 17, and his mother 15. Because his parents were so immature, little Carlos was packed off to be raised by his maternal grandparents on a chicken farm in the back country of Brazil.

When Carlos was six, his story runs, his parents took their only child back and lavished guilty affection on him. "It was a hellish year," he says flatly, "because I was living with two children." But a year later his mother died. The doctors' diagnosis was pneumonia, but Castaneda's is accidie, a condition of numbed inertia, which he believes is the cultural disease of the West. He offered a touching memory: "She was morose, very beautiful and dissatisfied, an ornament. My despair was that I wanted to make her something else, but how could she listen to me? I was only six."

Now Carlos was left with his father, a shadowy figure whom he mentions in the books with a mixture of fondness and pity shaded with contempt. His father's weakness of will is the obverse to the "impeccability" of his adopted father, Don Juan. Castaneda describes his father's efforts to become a writer as a farce of indecision. But, he adds, "I am my father. Before I met Don Juan I would spend years sharpening my pencils, and then getting a headache every time I sat down to write. Don Juan taught me that's stupid. If you want to do something, do it impeccably, that's all that matters.''

Carlos was put in a "very proper" Buenos Aires boarding school, Nicolas Avellaneda. He says he stayed there till he was 15, acquiring the Spanish (he already spoke Italian and Portuguese) in which he would later interview Don Juan. But he became so unmanageable that an uncle, the family patriarch, had him placed with a foster family in Los Angeles. In 1951 he moved to the U.S. and enrolled at Hollywood High. Graduating about two years later, he tried a course in sculpture at Milan's Academy of Fine Arts, but "I did not have the sensitivity or the openness to be a great artist." Depressed, in crisis, he headed back to Los Angeles and started a course in social psychology at U.C.L.A, shifting later to an anthropology course. Says he: "I really threw my life out the window. I said to myself: If it's going to work, it must be new." In 1959 he formally changed his name to Castaneda.

BIOGRAPHY. Thus Castaneda's own biography. It creates an elegant consistency - the spirited young man moving from his academic background in an exhausted, provincial European culture toward revitalization by the shaman; the gesture of abandoning the past to disentangle himself from crippling memories. Unfortunately, it is largely untrue.

For between 1955 and 1959, Carlos Castaneda was enrolled, under that name, as a pre-psychology major at Los Angeles City College. His liberal arts studies included, in his first two years, two courses in creative writing and one in journalism. Vernon King, his creative writing professor at L.A.C.C., still has a copy of The Teachings inscribed "To a great teacher, Vernon King, from one of his students, Carlos Castaneda. "

Moreover, immigration records show that a Carlos Cesar Arana Castaneda did indeed enter the U.S., at San Francisco, when the author says he did: in 1951. This Castaneda too was 5 ft. 5 in., weighed 140 lbs. and came from Latin America. But he was Peruvian, born on Christmas Day, 1925, in the ancient Inca town of Cajamarca, which makes him 48, not 38, this year. His father was not an academic, but a goldsmith and watchmaker named Cesar Arana Burungaray. His mother, Susana Castaneda Navoa, died not when Carlos was six, but when he was 24. Her son spent three years in the local high school in Cajamarca and then moved with his family to Lima in 1948, where he graduated from the Colegio Nacional de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe and then studied painting and sculpture, not in Milan, but at the National Fine Arts School of Peru. One of his fellow students there Jose Bracamonte, remembers his pal Carlos as a resourceful blade who lived mainly off gambling (cards, horses, dice), and harbored "like an obsession" the wish to move to the U.S. "We all liked Carlos," recalls Bracamonte. "He was witty, imaginative, cheerful - a big liar and a real friend."

SISTER. Castaneda apparently wrote home sporadically, at least until 1969, the year after Don Juan came out. His Cousin Lucy Chavez, who was raised with him "like a sister," still keeps his letters. They indicate that he served in the U.S. Army, and left it after suffering a slight wound or "nervous shock" Lucy is not sure which. (The Defense Department, however, has no record of Carlos Arana Castaneda's service.)

When TIME confronted Castaneda with such details as the time and transposition of his mother's death, Castaneda was opaque. "One's feelings about one's mother," he declared, "are not dependent on biology or on time. Kinship as a system has nothing to do with feelings." Cousin Lucy recalls that when Carlos' mother did die, he was overwhelmed. He refused to attend the funeral, locked himself in his room for three days without eating. And when he came out announced he was leaving home. Yet Carlos' basic explanation of his lying generally is both perfect and totally unresponsive. "To ask me to verify my life by giving you my statistics," he says, "is like using science to validate sorcery. It robs the world of its magic and makes milestones out of us all." In short, Castaneda lays claim to an absolute control over his identity.

Well and good. But where does a writer's license, the "artistic self-representation" Castaneda lays claim to, end? How far does it permeate his story of Don Juan? As the books' sales mount, the resistance multiplies. Three parodies of Castaneda have appeared in New York magazines and papers lately indicating that the critics seem to be preparing to skewer Don Juan as a kind of anthropological Ossian, the legendary third century Gaelic poet whose works James Macpherson foisted upon 18th century British readers.

Castaneda fans should not panic, however. A strong case can be made that the Don Juan books are of a different order of truthfulness from Castaneda's pre-don Juan past. Where, for example, was the motive for an elaborate scholarly put on? The Teachings was submitted to a university press, an unlikely prospect for bestsellerdom. Besides, getting an anthropology degree from U.C.L.A. is not so difficult that a candidate would employ so vast a confabulation just to avoid research. A little fudging, perhaps, but not a whole system in the manner of The Teachings, written by an unknown student with, at the outset, no hope of commercial success.

For that was certainly Castaneda's situation in the summer of 1960: a young Peruvian student with limited ambitions. There is no reason to doubt his account of how the work began. "I wanted to enter graduate school and do a good job of being an academic, and I knew that if I could publish a little paper beforehand, I'd have it made." One of his teachers at U.C.L.A., Professor Clement Meighan, had interested him in shamanism. Castaneda decided the easiest field would be ethnobotany, the classification of psychotropic plants used by sorcerers. Then came Don Juan.

The visits to the Southwest and the Mexican desert gradually became the spine of Castaneda's life. Impressed by his work, the U.C.L.A. staff offered him encouragement. Recalls Professor Meighan: "Carlos was the type of student a teacher waits for." Sociology professor Harold Garfinkel, one of the fathers of ethnomethodology, gave Castaneda constant stimulus and harsh criticism. After his first peyote experience (August 1961), Castaneda presented Garfinkel with a long "analysis" of his visions. "Garfinkel said, "Don't explain to me. You are a nobody. Just give it to me straight and in detail, the way it happened. The richness of detail is the whole story of membership." The abashed student spent several years revising his thesis, living off odd jobs as taxi driver and delivery boy, and sent it in again. Garfinkel was still unimpressed. "He didn't like my efforts to explain Don Juan's behavior psychologically. 'Do you want to be the darling of Esalen?' he asked." Castaneda rewrote the thesis a third time.

Like the various versions of Castaneda's life, the books are an invitation to consider contradictory kinds of truth. At the core of his books and Don Juan's method is, of course, the assumption that reality is not an absolute. It comes to each of us culturally determined, packaged in advance. "The world has been rendered coherent by our description of it," Castaneda argues, echoing Don Juan. "From the moment of birth, this world has been described for us. What we see is just a description.'

MULTIVERSE. In short, what men take as reality, as well as their notions of the world's rational possibilities, is determined by consensus, in effect by a social contract that varies from culture to culture. Through history, the road has been hard for any person who questions its fine print - especially if, like Castaneda, he tries to persuade others to accept his vision.

Anthropology by its nature deals with different descriptions, and hence literally with separate realities, within different cultures. As Castaneda's colleague Edmund Carpenter of Adelphi College notes, "Native people have many separate realities. They believe in a multiverse, or a biverse, but not a universe as we do." Yet even this much scholarly relativism is indigestible for many people who like to reassure themselves that there is only one world and that the "validity" of a culture's interpretations can and should be measured only against this norm. Any myth, they would say, can conveniently be seen as an embryonic form of what the West accepts as linear history; a Hopi rain dance is merely an "inefficient" way of doing what cloud-seeding does well.

Castaneda's books insist otherwise. He is eloquent and convincing on how useless it is to explain or judge another culture entirely in terms of one's own particular categories. "Suppose there was a Navajo anthropologist," he says. "It would be very interesting to ask him to study us. He would ask extraordinary questions, like 'How many in your kinship group have been bewitched?' That's a terribly important question in Navajo terms. And of course, you'd say 'I don't know,' and think 'What an idiotic question.' Meanwhile the Navajo is thinking, 'My God, what a creep! What a primitive creep!' "

Turn the situation around, Castaneda argues, and there is your typical Western anthropologist in the field. Yet a "very simple" alternative exists: the crux of anthropology is acquisition of real membership. "It's a hell of a lot of work," he says, explaining the years he spent with Don Juan. "What Don Juan did with me was simply this: he was making his sorcery membership available, handing down the necessary steps." Professor Michael Harner of The New School for Social Research, a friend of Castaneda's and an authority on shamanism, explains: "Most anthropologists only give the result. Instead of synthesizing the interviews, Castaneda takes us through the process."

It is not those years of study but the nature of the revelation he offers that has run Castaneda afoul of rationalists. To join another man's consensus of reality, one's own must go, and since nobody can easily abandon his own accustomed description it must be forcibly broken up. The historical precedents, even in the West, are abundant. Ever since the ecstatic mystery religions of Greece, our culture has been continually challenged by the wish to escape its own dominant properties: the linear, the categorical, the fixed.

Whether Carlos Castaneda is, as some leading scholars think, a major figure in an evolution of anthropology or only a brilliant novelist with unique knowledge of the desert and Indian lore, his work is to be reckoned with. And it goes on. At present, he is finishing the fourth and last volume of the Don Juan series, Tales of Power, scheduled for publication next year.

"POWER SPOT." It may confront, more clearly than the first three books, the final purpose of Don Juan's painful teachings: a special case of the ancient desire to know, propitiate and, if possible, use the mysterious forces of the universe. In that pursuit, the splitting of the atom, the sin of Prometheus and Castaneda's search for a "power spot" near Los Angeles can all be remotely linked. A good deal of the magic Don Juan works on Castaneda in the books (making Carlos believe his car has disappeared, for instance) sounds like the kind of fakir rope trickery that gurus think frivolous. Yet all in all, the books communicate a primal sense of power running through the world, arranging our perceptions of reality like so many iron filings in a huge magnetic field.

A sorcerer's power, Castaneda insists, is "unimaginable," but the extent to which a sorcerer's apprentice can hope to use it is determined by, among other things, the degree of his commitment. The full use of power can only be acquired with the help of an "ally", a spirit entity which attaches itself to the student as a guide - of a dangerous sort. The ally challenges the apprentice when he learns to "see," as Castaneda did in the earlier books. The apprentice may duck this battle. For if he wrestles with the ally - like Jacob with the Angel - and loses, he will, in Don Juan's slightly enigmatic terms, "be snuffed out." But if he wins, his reward is "true power the final acquisition of sorcery membership, when all interpretation ceases."

Up to now, Castaneda claims, he has chosen to duck the final battle with an ally. He admits to an inner struggle on the matter. Sometimes, he says, he feels strongly tugged away from the commitment to sorcery and back into the mundane world. He has a very real urge to be a respected writer and anthropologist, and to use his new-found power of fame in tandem with the printed word to go on communicating glimpses of other realities to hungry readers.

APEX. Moreover, like most men who have explored mystical separate realities and returned, he seems to have reentry problems. According to the books, Don Juan taught him to abandon regular hours - for work or play - and even in his apartment in Los Angeles he apparently eats and sleeps as whim occurs, or slips off to the desert. But he often works at his writing as many as 18 hours a day. He has great skill at avoiding the public. No one can be sure where he will be at any given time of day, or year. "Carlos will call you from a phone booth," says Michael Korda, his editor at Simon & Schuster, "and say he is in Los Angeles. Then the operator will cut in for more change, and it turns out to be Yuma." His few good friends do not give his whereabouts away to would-be acolytes, in part because his own experience is mysterious and he can't explain it. He has a girl friend but not even his friends know her last name. He avoids photographers like omens of disaster. "I live in this inflow of very strange people that are waiting for a word from me. They expect something that I can't give at all. I had a class in Irvine that was very large, and it looked like they were just waiting for me to crack up."

At other moments he seems decided to be a true sorcerer or bust. "Power takes care of you," he says, "and you don't know how. Now I'm at the edge, and I have to change my whole format. Writing to get my Ph.D. was my accomplishment, my sorcery, and now I am at the apex of a cycle that includes the notoriety. But this is the last thing I will ever write about Don Juan. Now I am going to be a sorcerer for sure. Only my death could stop that." It is a romantic role, this anthropological gesture across a pit of entities which, in a different age, would have been called demons. Will Castaneda become the Dr. Faustus of Malibu Beach, attended by Mephistopheles in a sombrero? Stay tuned in for the next episode. In the meantime, his books have made it hard for readers ever to use the word primitive patronizingly again.

© Copyright Time Magazine


Cvp: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs

Carlos Castaneda Magical Blend Interview (Part 1)
By Graciela Corvalan, translated by Larry Towler
Publication Date: 1985

Magical Blend Magazine Issue #14

Carlos Castaneda is world reknowned as an author of seven best selling books on the Toltec system of sorcery. Some give him credit as being the crucial catalyst of mainstream awareness of metaphysics that has grown so in recent decades. Graciela Corvalan Ph.D. is a professor of Spanish at Webster College, in St Louis, Missouri. Graciela is currently working on a book consisting of a series of interviews with mystical thinkers in the Americas. A while back she wrote a letter to Carlos Castaneda asking for an interview. One night she received a phone call from Carlos accepting her request and explaining that he had a friend who collected his mail for him while he was away traveling. Upon his return he always reached into the mail sacks and pulled out two letters which he then acted upon. Hers had been one of the most recent two. He explained he was excited to be interviewed by her for she was not a member of the established press. He arranged to meet Graciela in California on the UCLA campus. He asked that the interview first be published in Spanish which Graciela has done, in the Argentinian magazine, Mutantian. Now we are honored to release an English translation. Graciela has obviously succeeded in capturing a flash of lightning over a desert night and showing us amazing insights into Carlos Castanada the Toltec Seer!

[Beginning of Corvalan Interview - Part 1]

At around 1:00 pm, my friend and I set course for the campus of UCLA. We had somewhat more than two hours of travel.

Following Castaneda's directions, we arrived without difficulty at the guard shack at the entrance to the parking lot of UCLA. It was about quarter to four. We stationed ourselves in a more or less shady place.

At exactly four o'clock, I looked up and saw him coming toward the car: Castaneda was wearing blue jeans and a pale cream colored open-collared jacket without pockets. I got out of the car and hastened to meet him. After the greetings and conventional courtesies, I asked him if he would permit me to use a tape recorder. We had one in the car in case he permitted us. No, it's better not to, he answered with a shrug of his shoulders. We showed him the way to the car to get the notes, notebooks and books.

Loaded with books and papers, we let Castaneda drive. He knew the route well. Over there, he said, pointing with his hand, there are some beautiful river banks.

From the beginning, Castaneda established the tone of the conversation and the themes which we were to deal with. I also realized that it wasn't necessary to have all those questions that I had so laboriously worked out. As I had anticipated from his telephone call, he wanted to speak to us about the project he was involved in, and the importance and seriousness of his investigations.

The conversation was conducted in Spanish, a language that he manages with fluidity and a great sense of humor. Castaneda is a master in the art of conversation. We spoke for seven hours. The time passed without his enthusiasm or our attention weakening. As he gradually became more comfortable, he made more use of typically Argentinian expressions so as to make use of his coastal ways such as a friendly gesture to us that we are all Argentinian.

It must be mentioned that although his Spanish is correct, it's evident that his language is English. He made abundant use of expressions and words in English for those which we give the equivalent of in Spanish. That his prime language would be English is manifested also in the syntactic structure of his phrases and sentences.

All that afternoon Castaneda strove to maintain the conversation on a level that wasn't intellectual. Even though he has obviously read a lot and knows the different currents of thought, at no time did he establish comparisons with other traditions of the past or the present. He transmitted to us the Toltec teachings by means of material images that, precisely for that reason, hindered their being interpreted speculatively. In this way Castaneda wasn't only obedient to his teachers but totally faithful in the route he has chosen-he didn't want to contaminate his teaching with anything extraneous to it.

Shortly after meeting us, he wanted to know the reasons for our interest in knowing him. He already knew about my possible outline and the projected book of interviews I was planning. Beyond all professionalism, we insisted on the importance of his books that had influenced us and many others so much. We had a profound interest in knowing the font of his teaching. Meanwhile, we arrived at the banks and, in the shade of the trees, sat down. Don Juan gave me everything, he began to say, when I met him I had no other interest than anthropology, but upon encountering him I changed. And what has happened to me I wouldn't change for anything!

Don Juan was present with us. Every time Castaneda mentioned or remembered him we felt his emotion. He told us that, from Don Juan, he had learned that there was one totality of exquisite intensity capable of giving himself everything in every present moment. Give your all in each moment is his principal, his rule, he said. That which Don Juan is like can't be explained and is rarely comprehended, it simply is.

In The Second Ring of Power Castaneda records one special characteristic of Don Juan and Don Genaro, that which all others lack. There he writes:

None of us is disposed to lend to another undivided attention in the way that Don Juan and Don Genaro did.

The Second Ring of Power had left me full of questions; the book interested me a lot, especially after the second reading, but I had heard unfavorable commentaries. I had certain doubts myself. I told him that I believed that I had enjoyed Journey to Ixtlan best without really knowing why. Castaneda listened to me and answered my words with a gesture which seemed to say, And me, what do I have to do with the taste of all? I continued speaking, looking for reasons and explanations.

Maybe my preference for Journey to Ixtlan is because of the love I perceived, I asserted. Castaneda made a face. He didn't like the word love. It's possible that the term might have connotations of romantic love, sentimentality, or weakness for him. Trying to explain myself, I insisted that the final scene of Journey to Ixtlan is bulging with intensity. There, said Castaneda. Yes, he would agree with that last statement. Intensity, yes, he said, that's the word.

Emphasizing the same book, I demonstrated to him that some scenes seemed to me definitely grotesque. I couldn't find justification for them. Castaneda was in agreement with me. Yes, the behavior of those women is monstrous and grotesque, but that vision was necessary to be able to enter into action, he said. Castaneda needed that shock.

Without an adversary we are nothing, he continued. The adversary belongs to human form. Life is war, is struggle. Peace is an anomaly. Referring to pacifism he qualified it as monstrosity because, according to him, men, are beings of success and struggles.

Without being able to restrain myself I told him that I couldn't accept pacifism as a monstrosity. What about Gandhi? I asked. How do you see Gandhi, for example?

Gandhi? he responded to me, Gandhi is not a pacifist. Gandhi is one of the most tremendous fighters that have existed. And what a fighter!

It was then that I understood the very special value that Castaneda gives to words. The pacifism that he had made reference to couldn't have been a pacifism of weakness; that of those who don't have enough guts to be, and consequently do something else, that of those who do nothing because they don't have objectives or energy in life; that pacifism reflects a completely self-indulgent and hedonistic attitude.

With a grand gesture which would include all of society without values, will, or energy, he replied, All drugged out...yes, hedonists!

Castaneda didn't clarify those concepts, and we didn't ask him to. I had understood that part of the aesthetic of the warrior was to free himself from the human nature, but the unusual comments of Castaneda had filled me with confusion. Little by little, however, I was getting to know that being, beings of success and struggles is the first level of the relationship. That is the raw material where they part. Don Juan, in the books, always referred to the good tone of a person. There begins the learning and one passes to another level. You can't pass to the other side without losing the human form, said Castaneda.

Insisting about other aspects of his book that hadn't made themselves clear to me, I asked him about the hollows that had remained with people by the simple act of having reproduced.

Yes, said Castaneda, there are differences between people who have had children and those who haven't. To pass on tiptoes in front of the eagle, you need to be whole. A person with 'hollows' can't pass.

He will explain to us the metaphor of the eagle a little later. For the moment I will pass by this almost without mentioning it because the focus of our attention was on another theme.

How do you explain the attitude of Dona Soledad with Pablito and that of la Gorda with her daughters? I wanted to know insistently. Taking from the children that edge which at birth they take from us was, in large measure, something inconceivable for me.

Castaneda agreed that he still doesn't have it all systematized. He insisted, still in the differences that exist between people who have reproduced and those who haven't.

Don Genero is crazy! Crazy! Don Juan, in a different way, is a serious crazy man. Don Juan goes slowly but arrives far away. In the end, the two of them arrive...

I, like Don Juan, he continued, have hollows; that is to say, I have to follow the route. The Genaros, on the other hand, have another model.

The Genaros, for example, have a special edge that we don't have. They are more nervous and of rapid motion...they are very fickle, nothing detains them.

Those who like la Gorda and I have had children have other characteristics that compensate for that loss. One is more settled and, although the road might be long and arduous, one arrives also. In general those who have had children know how to take care of others. It doesn't mean that people without children don't know how, but it's different...

In general one doesn't know what one is doing; one is unconscious of actions and later pays for it. I didn't know what I was doing, he exclaimed, referring, without a doubt, to his own personal life.

At birth, I took everything from my father and mother, he said. They were all bruised! To them I had to return that edge that I had taken from them. Now I have to recoup the edge that I lost.

It would seem that these hollows that have to be closed, have to do with biological adornment. We wanted to know if to have hollows is something irreparable. No, he responded, one can be cured. Nothing is irrevocable in life. It's always possible to return what doesn't belong to us and recoup what is ours.

This idea of recovery is coherent with a path of learning walk in which it doesn't suffice to know or practice one or more techniques but that requires an individual and profound transformation of being. It relates to everything-a coherent system of life with concrete and precise objectives.

After a short silence I asked him if The Second Ring of Power had been translated in Spanish. According to Castaneda, a Spanish publishing house had the right, but he wasn't sure if the book had come out or not.

The translation into Spanish was done by Juan Tovar, who is a good friend of mine. Juan Tovar used the notes in Spanish that Castaneda himself had furnished him, notes that some critics have put in doubt.

The translation into Portuguese seems to be very beautiful Yes, said Castaneda. This translation is based on the translation into French. Really, it's very well done.

In Argentina, his first two books have been banned. It seems that the reason given was the drug affair. Castaneda didn't know. Why he asked us without waiting for our answer. I imagine it's the work of the 'Mother Church'.

At the beginning of our conversation, Castaneda mentioned something about the Toltec teaching. Also in The Second Ring of Power it insists in the Toltecs and in being a Toltec. What does it mean to be a Toltec I asked him.

According to Castaneda, the word Toltec constitutes a wide meaning. It is said that someone is a Toltec in the same way that it can be said that one is a Democrat or a philosopher. In the way he uses it, this word doesn't have anything to do with its anthropological meaning. From the anthropological point of view the word makes reference to an Indian culture of the center and south of Mexico that was already extinct at the time of the conquest and colonization of America by Spain.

Toltec is one who knows the mysteries of watching and dreaming. All of them are Toltecs. It deals with a small group that has known how to maintain alive a tradition from more than 3,000 years B.C.

As I was working on mystic thought and had particular interest in establishing the fountain and the place of origin of the distinct traditions, I insisted, Do you believe that the Toltec tradition offers teaching that would be peculiar to America?

The Toltec nation maintains alive a tradition, that is, without a doubt, peculiar to America. Castaneda asserted that it is possible that the early Americans could have brought something upon crossing the Bering Straits, but all this was so many thousands of years ago that for the moment there are nothing more than theories.

In Stories of Power, Don Juan talks to Castaneda about the wizards about those men of knowledge that the conquest and colonization of the white man couldn't destroy because they didn't know about their existence nor notice all the incomprehensible ideas of their world.

Who forms the Toltec nation? Do they work together? Where do they do it? I asked.

Castaneda answered all of my questions. He is now in charge of a group of young people that lives in the area of Chaiapas, in the south of Mexico. They all moved to that area due to the fact that the woman who now teaches them was located there.

Then...you returned? I felt impelled to ask him to remember the last conversation between Castaneda and the little sisters at the end of The Second Ring of Power. Did you return right away like the Gorda asked you to?

No, I didn't return right away, but I did return, he answered me laughing. I returned to continue a task which I can't renounce.

The group consists of about 14 members. Even though the basic nucleus is 8 or 9 people, all are indispensable in the task that each does. If each one is sufficiently impeccable, a large number of people can be helped.

Eight is a magical number, he said at one moment. Also he insisted that the Toltec isn't saved alone but that he goes with the basic nucleus. Those who remain are indispensable in continuing and maintaining alive the tradition. It is not necessary that the group be big, but each one of those who are involved in the task is definitely necessary for the total.

La Gorda and I are responsible for the arrivals. Well...really I am the responsible one but she helps me intimately in this task, explained Castaneda.

He spoke to us later about the members of the group that we knew from his books. He told us that Don Juan was a Yaqui Indian, from the state of Sonora. Pablito, on the other hand, was a Mixteco Indian, Nestor was Mazatecan (from Mazatlan, in the province of Sinalea), and Benigno was Tzotzil. He stressed several times that Josefina was not Indian but was Mexican and that one of her grandparents was of French origin. La Gorda, as were Nestor and Don Genaro, was Maytec. When I met La Gorda she was an immense heavy woman brutalized by life, he said. None of those who knew her can today imagine that she now is the same person as before.

We wanted to know in what language he communicated with all the people of the group, and what was the language that they generally used among themselves. I reminded him that in his books there are references to some Indian languages.

We communicate in Spanish because it's the language we all speak, he responded. Besides, neither Josefina nor the Toltec woman are Indians. I only speak a little in the Indian language. Single phrases like greetings and some other expressions. I don't know enough to maintain a conversation. Taking advantage of his pause I asked him if the task which they are doing is accessible to all men or if it deals with something for only a few. As our questions began to point at discovering the relevancy of the Toltec teaching and the value of the experience of the group for the rest of humanity, Castaneda explained to us that each one of the members of the group has specific tasks to perform whether in the Yucatan zone, in other areas of Mexico, or in other places.

Performing tasks one discovers a large number of things that are directly applicable to concrete situations of daily life. doing tasks one learns a lot. The Genaros, for example, have a musical band with which they go through all the places of the frontier. You will imagine that they see and are in contact with many people. You a}ways have the possibility to transmit knowledge. It always helps. It helps with one word, with one little insinuation... each one, faithfully performing his task, does it. All humans can learn. All have the possibility to live as warriors.

Any person can undertake the task of warrior. The only requirement is to want to do it with an unshakeable desire; that is to say, one has to be unshakeable in the desire to be free. The way isn't easy. We constantly seek excuses and try to escape. It's possible that the mind obtains it but the body feels everything...the body learns rapidly and easily.

The Toltec can't waste energy in foolishness, he continued. I was one of those persons who can't be without friends...I can't even go to the movies alone. Don Juan in a resolute moment told him that he had to abandon all and, particularly, separate himself from all those friends with whom he had nothing in common. For a long time he resisted the idea until finally he got involved.

One time, returning to Los Angeles, I got out of the car a block before arriving home and telephoned. Naturally on that day, as always, my house was full of people. I asked one of my friends to prepare a satchel with some things and bring it to where I was. Also I told her that the rest of the things- books, records, etc.-could be distributed among them. It's clear that my friends didn't believe me and took everything as borrowed, clarified Castaneda.

The act of getting rid of the library and records is like cutting off everything in the past, a whole world of ideas and emotions.

My friends believed that I was crazy and kept hoping that I would return from my craziness. I didn't see them in about twelve years, he concluded. After twelve years passed, Castaneda would meet again with them. He first looked for one of his friends who put him in contact with the rest of them. They then planned to meet, and get together to eat dinner. That day they had a good time; they ate a lot and their friends got drunk.

To find myself with them after all those years was my way of showing my gratitude for the friendship that they had offered me before, said Castaneda Now all are grown. They all have their families, spouses, children...It was necessary, nevertheless, that I thank them. Only in that way could I definitely terminate with them and end a stage of my life.

It is possible that Castaneda's friends don't understand anything he is doing, but the fact that he wanted to thank them was something very beautiful. Castaneda didn't pretend anything with them. He sincerely thanked them for their friendship, and in doing so, freed himself internally from all that past. We then spoke of love, of that often mentioned love. He related to us several anecdotes about his Italian grandfather, always so lovesick, and about his father, so Bohemian, he. Oh, love! Love! he repeated several times. All his commentaries tended to destroy the ideas that one commonly has about love.

It cost me a lot to learn, he continued. I was also very lovesick. Don Juan had to work hard to make me understand that I had to cut off certain relationships. The way in which I finally cut off with one was the following. I invited her to dinner and we met in a restaurant. During the dinner the same thing happened as always. There was a big fight and she yelled at me and insulted me. At last I asked her if she had any money. She answered that she had. I took advantage of that to tell her that I had to go to the car to look for my wallet or something like that. I got up and didn't go back. Before leaving her, I wanted to be sure that she had enough money to take a taxi home. Since then I haven't seen her.

You aren't going to believe me, but the Toltecs are very ascetic, he insisted. Without doubting his word I commented that that idea couldn't be deduced from The Second Ring of Power. On the contrary, I stressed. I believe that in your book many scenes and attitudes present confusion.

How do you think I was going to say that clearly? he answered me. I couldn't say that the relations between them were pure because not only would nobody have believed me but nobody would have understood me.

For Castaneda, we live in a very bustful society. Of all that we had been speaking that afternoon, the majority hadn't been understood. It's that the same Castaneda is seen obligated to adapt to certain exigencies of the publishers who, at the time, would strive to satisfy the tastes of the reading public.

The people are into another thing, continued Castaneda. The other day, for example, I entered a bookstore here in Los Angeles and I began to leaf through the magazines on the counter. I found that there was a large amount of publications with photos of nude women...many also with men. I don't know what to tell you. In one of the photos there was a man fixing an electric cable while high on a ladder. He had on his protective helmet and a large belt full of tools. That was all. The rest was naked. Ridiculous! Something like that can't be possible! A woman is graceful...but, a man! As means of explanation he added that women have a lot of experience due to their long history in that type of thing. A role like that has no room for improvisation.

This is the first time I have heard of the idea that the behavior of women isn't improvised; it is something totally new for me, I responded. After listening to Castaneda, we were convinced that, for the Toltec, sex represents an immense draining away of energies that is needed for other tasks. His insistence is therefore understood about the totally ascetic relations that members of the group maintain.

In the point of view of the world, the life that the group carries and the relationships they maintain are something totally unacceptable and unheard of. That which I tell them isn't believable. It took me a long time to comprehend it, but I have finally been able to verify it.

Castaneda had told us earlier that when a person reproduces he loses a special edge. It appears that that edge is a force that children take from their parents by the mere act of birth. This hollow that remains with a person is that which must be filled or recovered. You have to recover the force which you have lost. He also made us understand that a prolonged sexual relationship of a couple ends with a decline. In a relationship differences surge up which make certain characteristics of one or the other progressively rejected. In consequence, for reproduction, it is selected from the other part that which one likes, but there is no guarantee that that which is chosen is necessarily the best. In the point of view of reproduction, he commented, the best is at random. Castaneda strove to explain to us these concepts better, but had to confess again that they are themes which he himself doesn't have clear yet.

Castaneda came to us describing a group whose requirements, for the average person, were extreme. We were very interested in knowing where all that vigor came from What is the sole objective of the Toltec? We wanted to know the sense of what Castaneda was telling us. What is the objective that you pursue? We insisted on bringing the question to a personal level.

The objective is to leave the living world; to leave with all that one is but with nothing more than what one is. The question is not to take anything nor leave anything. Don Juan left completely-from the world. Don Juan doesn't die because the Toltecs don't die. In The Second Ring of Power, La Gorda instructs Castaneda with respect to the dichotomy wizard-tonal. The domain of the second attention is only achieved after the warriors sweep totally the surface of the table...this second attention makes the two attentions form a unity and this unity is the totality of oneself. In the same book, La Gorda says to Castaneda, when the wizards learn to 'dream,' they tie together their two attentions and, therefore, there is no need for the center to push out.. .sorcerers don't die. . . I don't want to say that we don't die. We are nothing, we are nincompoops, stupid; we aren't either here nor there. They, on the other hand, have their attentions so united that maybe they never die. According to Castaneda, the idea that we are free is an illusion and an absurdity. He pushed to make us understand that common sense deceives us because ordinary perception only tells us a part of the truth.

Ordinary perception doesn't tell us all the truth. There has to be more than a mere passing through the earth, of only eating and reproducing, he said vehemently. With a gesture I interpreted as alluding to the unfeelingness of all and the immense tediousness of life in its everyday boredom, he asked us, What is all this that surrounds us? Common sense would be that accord to which we have arrived behind a long educative process that imposes on us ordinary perception as the only truth. Precisely. The art of the wizard, he said, consists of bringing learning to discover and destroy that perceptive prejudice.

According to Castaneda, Edmundo Husserl is the first one from the West who conceives of the possibility of suspending judgement. In Ideas for a pure phenomenology and a phenomenological philosophy (1913) Husserl dealt thoroughly with the era or phenomenological reduction. The phenomenological method doesn't deny but simply puts into parentheses those elements that sustain our ordinary perception.

Castaneda considers that phenomenology offers him the theoretical methodological framework to comprehend the teaching of Don Juan. For phenomenology, the act of knowing depends on intention and not on perception. Perception always varies according to history, that is to say, according to the subject with knowledge acquired and immersed in a determined tradition. The most important rule of the phenomenological method is that of toward the same things.

The task with which Don Juan fulfilled me, he insisted, was that of breaking, little by little, the perceptive prejudices until arriving at a total rupture. Phenomenology suspends judgement and is limited to the description of pure intentional acts. So, for example, I construct the object 'house.' The phenomenological reference is minimal. The 'intention' is what transforms reference into something concrete and singular.

Phenomenology, without a doubt, has, for Castaneda, a simple methodological value. Husserl never transcended the theoretical and, as a consequence, he didn't touch the human being in his life in all his days. For Castaneda, the most the western man-the European man-has arrived to is the political man. This political man would be the epitome of our civilization. Don Juan, he said, with his teaching is opening the door for another much more interesting man: a man who still lives in a magical world or universe.

Meditating about this idea of the political man a book by Eduardo Spranger named Forms of Life came to my memory, in which it says that the life of the political man is interwoven of relationships of power and rivalry. The political man is the man of dominion whose power controls as much of the concrete reality of the world as the beings that inhabit it.

The world of Don Juan, on the other hand, is a magical world populated with entities and forces.

The admirability of Don Juan, said Castaneda, is that even though in the world of days he appears to be crazy, nobody is capable of perceiving him. To the world, Don Juan offers a face that is necessarily temporal...one hour, one month, sixty years. Nobody would be able to catch him off guard! In this world Don Juan is impeccable because he always knew that what is here is only momentary and that which comes after...well...a beauty! Don Juan and Don Genaro intensely loved beauty.

The perception and conception which Don Juan has of reality and time are undoubtably very distinct from ours. If on the level of daily life Don Juan is always impeccable, this doesn't prevent you from knowing that from this side all is definitely fleeting.

Castaneda continued describing a universe polarized between two extremes: the right side and the left side. The right side would correspond to the tonal and the left side to the wizard.

In Stories of Power, Don Juan explains extensively to Castaneda about those two halves of the bubble of perception. He says that the last duty of the teacher consists of tediously cleaning a part of the bubble, and then reorganizing all that there is on the other side. The teacher is occupied in this hammering away at learning without pity until all his vision of the world stays in one half of the bubble. The other half, that which has remained clean, can therefore be reclaimed by something which the wizards call will. To explain all this is very difficult because at this level words are totally inadequate. Precisely, the left part of the universe implies the absence of words, and without words we cannot think. There are only actions. In that other world, said Castaneda, the body acts. The body doesn't need words to understand.

In the magical universe-as it's called-of Don Juan, certain entities exist that are called allies or fleeting shadows. These can be captured a number of times. For this kind of capture a large number of explanations have been sought, but, according to Castaneda, there is no doubt that these phenomena depend principally on the human anatomy. The important thing is to arrive at an understanding that there is a whole gamut of explanations that can give reasons for these fleeting shadows.

I asked him, then, about that knowing with the body that he speaks of in his books. Is it that, for you, the whole body is an organ of knowledge? I inquired.

Sure! The body knows, he responded to me. As an example, Castaneda told us of the many possibilities of that part of the leg that goes from the knee to the ankle where a memory center could be seated. It would appear that you can learn to use the body to capture those fleeting shadows. The teaching of Don Juan transforms the body into an electronic scanner, he said, looking for an adequate word in Spanish to compare the body to an electronic telescope. The body would have the possibility to perceive reality at distinct levels which, in their time, would reveal configurations of material also distinct. It was evident that for Castaneda the body had possibilities of movement and perception to which the majority of us are not accustomed. Standing up and pointing to the foot and the ankle, he spoke to us of the possibilities of that part of the body and of the little that we know about all of this. In the Toltec tradition, he affirmed, the apprentice is trained in the development of those possibilities. At this level Don Juan begins to construct.

Meditating on these words of Castaneda, I thought about the parallel with Tantric Yoga and the distinct centers or chakras through which the ritualist comes to awakening by means of certain ritual practices. In the book The Hermetic (impenetrable) Circle by Miguel Serrano one reads that the chakras are centers of conscience. In the same book, Karl Jung refers to a conversation that Serrano had with a Pueblo Indian chief named Ochwian Biano or Lake of the Mountain. He explained to me his impression of the whites-always so agitated, always looking for something, aspiring to something... According to Ochwian Biano, the whites were crazy; only crazy people affirm thinking with the head. This affirmation of the Indian chief produced great surprise in me and I asked him what he thought with. He answered me that he thought with the heart. (Miguel Serrano, The Impenetrable Circle, Buenos Aires: Ed. Kier, 1978)

The path of knowledge of the warrior is long, and requires total dedication. The warrior has a concrete objective and a very pure incentive.

What is the objective? I insist. It seems that the objective consists in passing consciously to the other side through the left flank of the universe. You have to try to come as near as possible to the eagle and strive to escape it without it devouring us. the objective, he said, is to leave on tiptoe by the left hand side of the eagle. I don't know if you know, he continued, seeking the way to clarify for us the image, that there is an entity that the Toltecs call the eagle. The visionary sees it as an immense blackness that extends to infinity; it is an immense blackness that ligthning crossed. For that reason it is called the eagle: it has black wings and back, and its chest is luminous.

The eye of the entity isn't a human eye. The eagle doesn't have pity. Everything that is alive is represented in the eagle. That entity encloses all-the beauty that man is capable of creating as well as all the bestiality that isn't the human being properly said. That which is appropriately human in the eagle is immensely small in comparison with all the rest. The eagle is excessively mass, bulk, blackness...in front of that little which is proper in a human being.

The eagle attracts all life force that is ready to disappear because it is nourished from that energy. The eagle is like an immense magnet that picks up all those beams of light that are the vital energy of that which is dying.

While Castaneda told us all this, his hand and fingers imitated, like hammers, the head of an eagle pecking space with an insatiable appetite. I only tell you that which Don Juan and the others say. They are all wizards and witches! he exclaimed. They are all involved in a metaphor that is incomprehensible for me.

What is 'the master' of man? What is it that claims us? he asked. I listened attentively and stopped talking because he had entered a terrain in which questions were possible.

The master of us can't be a man, he said. It seems that the Toltecs call master the mold of a man. Everything-- plants, animals and human beings --have a mold. The mold of man is the same for all human beings. My mold and yours, he continued explaining, is the same, but in each one it is manifested and acted on in a distinct form according to the development of the person.

Dividing the words of Castaneda, we interpreted that the human mold is that which doesn't reunite, that which unifies the force of life. The human form, on the other hand, could be that which impedes us from seeing the mold. It seems that while the human form isn't lost, we are, and this impedes us from changing.

In The Second Ring of Power, La Gorda instructs Castaneda about the human mold and the human form. In that book, the form is described as a luminous entity and Castaneda remembers that Don Juan described it as, the fount and origin of man. La Gorda, thinking about Don Juan, remembers that he told her that, if we arrive at having sufficient personal power we will be able to glimpse the pattern although we are not wizards; and that when this occurs we will say that we have seen God. She told me that if we call it God, it would be fit because the mold is God. (The translation and the italicization are ours.)

Many times that afternoon we returned to the theme of the human form and the mold of man. Surrounding the theme from distinct angles, each time it was becoming more evident that the human form is that hard shell of the person. that human form, he said, is like a towel that covers one from the armpits to the feet. Behind that towel there is a bright candle that is being consumed until it goes out. When the candle goes out, it is because one has died. Then, the eagle comes and devours it.

Seers, continued Castaneda are those beings capable of seeing the human being as a luminous egg. Inside of that sphere of light is a lit candle. If the seer sees that the candle is small even though the person appears strong, it means that it is already ended.

Castaneda had told us before that the Toltecs never die because to be Toltec implies having lost the human form. Only at that moment we comprehended: if the Toltec has lost the human form, there is nothing that the eagle could devour. He hadn't kept us in doubt either that the concepts master of man and mold of man as well as the image of the eagle referred to the same entity or were intimately related.

Several hours later, seated before hamburgers in a cafeteria on the corner of Westwood Boulevard and another street whose name I don remember, Castaneda reported to us his experience of losing the human form. According to what he said, his experience wasn't as strong as that of La Gorda (in The Second Ring of Power, La Gorda relates to Castaneda that when she lost the human form she began to see an eye always in front of her. That eye accompanied her all the time and almost ended in driving her crazy. Little by little she got used to it until, one day, the eye happened to form a part of her. Some day,...when I arrive at being a real being without form, I won't see that eye any more; the eye will be one with me...) who had symptoms similar to those of a heart attack In my case, said Castaneda, a simple phenomen of hyperventilation was produced. In that precise moment I felt a big pressure: a current energy entered through my head, passed through my chest and stomach and followed through my legs until it disappeared through my left leg. That was all.

To assure myself, he continued, I went to a doctor, but he didn't find anything. He only suggested that I breathe in a paper bag to diminish the amount of oxygen and to resist the phenomenon of hyperventilation.

According to the Toltecs, in some way you have to return or pay the eagle what belongs to it. Castaneda had already told us that the master of a man is the eagle, and that the eagle is all the nobility and beauty as well all the horror and ferocity which is found in all that is. Why is the eagle the master of man? the eagle is the master of man because it feeds from the call of life, of the vital energy that is loosened from all that is. And, making once more the gesture with his hands resembling the pecking head of the eagle, cleared the space of pecks with his arm, which he said, Like that! Like that! It devours everything!

The only way to escape the voracity of death is irrefutable and inescapable, the action begins. What does it consist of, how do you do this personal recapitulation? I wanted to know.

In the first place a list has to be made of all the people you have known in the length of your life, he responded, a list of all those who in one way or another have forced us to put the ego (that center of personal growth that later would be shown as a monster of 3,000 heads) on the table. We have to bring back all those who have collaborated so that we might enter into that game of they like me or they don't like me. A game that isn't anything else than upset living about we ourselves...Licking our own wounds!

The 'recapitulation' has to be total, he continued; it goes from Z to A, going backwards. It begins in the present moment and goes toward early infancy, until two or three years of age and even earlier if it were possible. Since we were born, everything is being engraved on our bodies. The 'recapitulation' requires a great training of the mind.

How do you do this 'recapitulation'? One goes carefully bringing up images and fixing them in front of yourself, then, with a movement of the head from right to left, every one of the images is blown out as if we were sweeping them from our vision... The breath is magic, he added.

With the end of the 'recapitulation,' ended also are all the tricks, games and the self feeling. It seems that in the end we know all our tricks and there isn't any way to put the ego on the table without our realizing immediately what we are pretending with it. With personal recapitulation you can divest yourself of everything. Then, only the task remains; the task in all its simplicity, purity and rawness.

The 'recapitulation' is possible for everyone, but requires an inflexible will. If you fluctuate or hesitate; you are lost because the eagle will eat you. In that terrain there's no room for doubt. In the first The Teachings of Don Juan, it says this: The thing that you have to learn is how to arrive at the crack between the worlds and how to enter into the other world. . . there is a place where the two worlds come together one over the other. The crack is there. It opens and closes like a door with the wind. To arrive there, a man must exert his will, must, I would say, develop an indomitable desire, a total dedication. But he must do it without the help of any power and of any man...

I don't know how to explain all of this well, but in the fulfillment and dedication to the task, you have to be compulsive without truly being so because the Toltec is a free being. The task asks all of one; however, it is freeing. Do you comprehend? If this is difficult to understand it is because, at its base, it deals with a paradox.

But to this recapitulation, added Castaneda, changing tone and posture, you have to put 'spice' on it. The characteristic of Don Juan and his 'pals' is that they are fickle. Don Juan cured me of being tiresome. He is not solemn, nothing formal. Within the seriousness of the task that they all perform there is always room for humor.

To illustrate in a concrete way the way that Don Juan taught him, Castaneda related to us a very interesting episode. It seems that he smoked a lot and that Don Juan resolved to cure him.

I smoked three packs a day. One after the other! I didn't let them go out. You see that now I don't have pockets, he said, showing his jacket that, lacked them. I eliminated pockets in them so as to remove from my body the possibility of feeling something on my left side, something that might remind me of the habit. In eliminating the pocket, I eliminated also the physical habit of carrying my hand in my pockets.

One time Don Juan told me that we were going to spend several days in the Chihuahua hills. I remember that he expressly told me not to forget to bring my cigarettes. He recommended to me, also, to bring provisions for two packs a day and no more. So I bought the packs of cigarettes, but instead of 20 I packed 40. I made up some divine packs that I covered with aluminum foil to protect my cargo from animals and the rain.

Well equipped and burdened with a knapsack, I followed Don Juan through the hills. There I walked, lighting cigarette after cigarette, and trying to catch my breath. Don Juan had tremendous vigor. With great patience he waited for me while observing me smoke and try to keep up with him through the hills. I wouldn't have had the patience that he had with me! he exclaimed. We arrived, at last, at a pretty high plateau, surrounded by cliffs and steep hillsides. There Don Juan invited me to try to descend. For a long time I probed from one side to the other until finally I had to desist from the purpose. I wasn't going to be able to do it.

We continued like that, for several days, until one morning I woke up, and the first thing I did was to look for my cigarettes. Where were my divine packages? I looked and looked, and I didn't find them. When Don Juan woke up, I wanted to know what was happening to me. He explained what was going on and told me, Don't worry Surely a coyote came and carried them away, but they can't be very far. Here! Look! There are the tracks of the coyote!

We spent all that day trailing the tracks of the coyote in search of the packs. There we were, when Don Juan sat on the ground and, pretending to be a little old man, very old, began to complain, This time I'm sure lost. . . I'm old. . .I can't any more. . . While he was saying this, he grabbed his head in his hands and made a great fuss.

Castaneda told us this whole story imitating Don Juan in his gestures and tone of voice. It was a spectacle seeing him. A little later, the same Castaneda would tell us that Don Juan used to make reference to his histrionic abilities. With all that walking around, continued Castaneda, I believe that 10 or 12 days had passed. I already didn't care about smoking! That is how I lost the desire to smoke. We had gone along like demons running through the hills! When the time came to return, you can imagine that Don Juan knew the way perfectly. We went down directly to the town. The difference was that, then, I already didn't have a need to buy cigarettes. From that episode, he said nostalgically, fifteen years have passed.

The line of not-doing, he commented, is precisely the opposite of the routine or the routines to which we are accustomed. Habits, like smoking for example, are those which have us tied up, in chains...in the sense of not-doing, on the other hand, all avenues are possible.

We were silent for a while. I finally broke it to ask about Dona Soledad. I said that she had impressed me as a grotesque figure; really, like a witch. Dona Soledad is Indian, he answered me. The history of her transformation is something incredible. She put such willpower into her transformation that in the end she achieved it. In that force her will developed to such an extreme that as a consequence she also developed too much personal pride. Precisely for this reason I don't believe that she can pass on tiptoes by the left side of the eagle. In whatever way, it's fantastic what she was capable of doing by herself! I don't know if you remember who she was...she was Pablito's 'mamacita.' She was always washing clothes, ironing, washing dishes... offering little meals to someone or another.

In relating this to us, Castaneda imitated in gestures and movements a little old lady. You have to see her now, he continued. Dona Soledad is a young strong woman. Now she is to be feared!

The 'recapitulation' took Dona Soledad seven years of her life. She hid herself in a cave and didn't leave there. She stayed there until she finished with everything. In seven years that's all she did. Even though she can't pass together with the eagle, Castaneda said, full of admiration, she'll never go back to being the poor old thing she was before.

After a pause, Castaneda reminded us that Don Juan and Don Genaro still weren't with them.

Now already everything is different, expressed Castaneda nostalgically. Don Juan and Don Genaro aren't there. The Toltec woman is with us. She asks tasks of us. La Gorda and I do tasks together. The others also have tasks to perform; distinct tasks, also in different places.

According to Don Juan, women have more talent than men. Women are more susceptible. In life, moreover, they wear out less and tire less than men. For this reason Don Juan has left me now in the hands of a woman. He has left me in the hands of the other side of the man woman unit. Furthermore, he has left me in the hands of women; of the little sisters and La Gorda

The woman who is teaching us now has no name. (Several months later La Gorda (Maria Tena) called me to send a message from Castaneda. In that conversation, she told me that Mrs. Toltec is named Dona Florinda, and that she is a very elegant, vivacious and anxious woman. Mrs. Toltec must be 50 years old.) She is simply the Toltec woman.

Mrs. Toltec is the one who teaches me now. She is responsible for everything. All the others, La Gorda and I, are nothing. We wanted to know if she knew that he was going to meet with us as well as his other plans.

Mrs. Toltec knows everything. She sent me to Los Angeles to converse with you, he responded, turning his attention to me. She knows about my projects and that I'm going to New York.

We also wanted to know what she was like. Is she young? Is she old? we asked him.

Mrs. Toltec is a very strong woman. Her muscles move in a very peculiar way. She is old, but one of those who shines with the strength of her makeup.

It was difficult to explain how she was. In his trying, Castaneda sought for a point of reference and reminded us of the movie Giant.

Do you remember, he asked us, that movie that James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor appeared in? There Taylor plays a mature woman although in reality she was very young. The Toltec woman causes the same impression in me: a face with the makeup of an old woman with a body still young. Also I could say that she acts old.

Do you know about the National Enquirer he casually continued, A friend of mine is in charge of saving them for me here in Los Angeles, and every time I come I read them. It's the only thing that I read here... Precisely in that newspaper recently I saw some photos of Elizabeth Taylor. Now she surely is large!

What did Castaneda want to transmit to us in making the comment about the National Enquirer is the only thing he reads? It's difficult to imagine that a sensationalist newspaper would be his fount of information.

That comment in some way synthesized his judgement with respect to the immense production of news that characterizes our era. That comment also encloses a judgement in respect to the values of the whole Western culture. Everything is on the level of the National Enquirer.

Nothing Castaneda said that afternoon was casual. The different fragments which he provided pointed at creating a determined impression on us. In this intention wasn't in any way wrong; on the contrary, his interest was to transmit the essential truth of the teaching they are involved in.

-- The second half of this interview will be printed in issue #15 of Magical Blend. Another partial translation has previously been printed in Seeds of Unfolding.

[End of Part 1 of the Interview]

© Copyright Magical Blend Magazine


Cvp: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs

Carlos Castaneda Magical Blend Interview (Part 2)
By Graciela Corvalan, translated by Larry Towler
Publication Date: 1985

Magical Blend Magazine Issue #15

During the planning stages for a book she is writing on mystical thinkers, Graciela Corvalan wrote a letter to Carlos Castaneda requesting an interview. She later received a phone call from Castaneda in which he accepted her request, explaining that he was excited to be interviewed by her since she was not a member of the established press. Castaneda asked her to meet him at a specified time and date on the UCLA campus. When Graciela and a few colleagues arrived for the interview, she was asked not to use the tape recorder she had brought along. So, for seven hours, loaded with books and papers, Graciela kept notes as the man, who some have credited as being the crucial catalyst of mainstream awareness of metaphysics, explained his tutelage under the Yaqui Sorcerer, Don Juan, his present tasks assigned to him by the fierce Toltec Woman, and the nature of the Toltec teachings.

In the first part of this interview, published in Magical Blend issue #14, Graciela explained that the interview was conducted in Spanish, noting that although Castaneda is fluent in Spanish, his native language is obviously English. Graciela found that Castaneda, though well read, was not intellectual in a bookish sense. At no time, says Graciela, did he establish comparisons with other traditions of the past or present. It was obvious that he did not wish to contaminate his teaching with anything extraneous to it.

Graciela found Castaneda a master in the art of conversation as he talked at length about his past and present.

At the time he met Don Juan, Castaneda's primary interest was anthropology, but, upon encountering him I changed.

Graciela remembers that, Don Juan was present with us. Every time Castaneda mentioned or remembered him, we felt his emotion.

From Don Juan, Castaneda learned the sorcerer's principle rule: Give your all in each moment. And through Don Juan, Castaneda became involved in the long process of freeing himself from his past, a process which included divesting himself of both possessions and friends. According to Castaneda, the life of the Toltec warrior requires an unshakeable desire to be free. In the course of the interview, Castaneda revealed himself to be every bit the warrior showing a distaste for pacifism and cheap sentiment. Without an adversary, he maintains, we are nothing.

In questioning Castaneda about the Toltec tradition, Graciela found that, from an anthropological perspective, the word Toltec makes reference to an Indian culture of the center and south of Mexico that was already extinct at the time of the conquest and colonization of America by Spain. But, according to Castaneda, Toltec is descriptive not so much of hereditary characteristics but rather of a way of life and a way of looking at life. Toltec, says Castaneda is one who knows the mysteries of watching and dreaming. It is a tradition that has been maintained for more than 3,000 years. Though Toltec colonies or civilizations may have been destroyed by the white man, the Toltec nation could not be destroyed, for it represented something incomprehensible to the white man to whom the dream world remained cut off, mysterious and unapproachable.

According to Castaneda, the objective of the Toltec is to leave the living world; to leave with all that one is, but with nothing more than what one is. Don Juan succeeded in this activity, but it was not, emphasizes Castaneda, death, because Toltecs don't die. In The Second Ring of Power, la Gorda says, when the wizards learn to 'dream' they tie together their two attentions and, therefore, there is no need for the center to push out...sorcerers...don't die.

Freedom, says Castaneda, is an illusion perpetrated by the snare of the senses. The art of the wizard consists of bringing learning to discover and destroy that perceptive prejudice. In transcending, or breaking, the tyranny of the senses, a door to a magical universe is opened. Castaneda describes the universe as being polarized between two extremes: the right side and the left side-The two halves of the bubble of perception. On the left side is action. Here there are no words. Here the mind does not conceptualize but rather the entire body realizes, without thoughts and without words. The duty of a teacher such as Don Juan is to move all vision of the world into the right side, so that the left side can remain clear for the magical practice of will.

Presiding over the universe is the Eagle, an immense blackness representative of all the beauty and all the bestiality in everything that's alive. According to Castaneda, that which can be called human is very small in comparison to the rest. As excessive mass, bulk, and blackness, the Eagle attracts and feeds on all life force that is ready to disappear. It is, he says, like an immense magnet that picks up all those beams of light that are the vital energy of that which is dying.

The key to escaping the Eagle is recapitulation which involves going backward from adult to infancy, clearing out the images of a lifetime, divesting oneself of everything until only the task remains and one arrives at the crack between the worlds. To arrive there, says Castaneda requires an indomitable desire, a total dedication. But one must do it without the help of any power and of any man.

According to Toltec tradition, all living things have a mold. The mold of man is the same for all human beings. In each individual it is developed and manifested according to the development of the person. The human form, on the other hand, impedes us from seeing the mold. In The Second Ring of Power, the form is described as a luminous entity. According to Don Juan, it is the fount and origin of man. The reason that Toltecs do not die is because, having lost the human form, they have nothing that the Eagle can devour.

In The Second Ring of Power, la Gorda relates that when she succeeded in losing the human form, she began to see an eye always in front of her which almost ended up driving her crazy. But someday she says, when I arrive at being a real being without form, I won't see that eye anymore; the eye will be one with me.

So, without further digression, we proudly present the second part of Graciela Corvalan's interview with Carlos Castaneda.

[Beginning of Corvalan Interview - Part 2]


By Graciela Corvalan, Ph.D.

We continued talking about the Toltec Woman and Castaneda told us that she's leaving soon. She's told us that in her place are going to come two women. The Toltec Woman is very strict, her demands are terrible! Now, if the Toltec Woman is fierce, it appears that the two who are coming are much worse. Let's hope that she's not leaving yet! One can't stop wanting nor can prevent the body from complaining and fearing the severity of the undertaking... Nevertheless, there's no way of altering destiny. So, there it grabbed me!

I don't have more liberty, he continued, than the impeccable one because only if I'm impeccable, I change my destiny; that is to say, I go on tiptoes by the left side of the eagle. If I'm not impeccable, I don't change my destiny and the eagle devours me.

The Nagual Juan Matos is a free man. He is free in fulfilling his destiny. Do you understand me? I don't know if you understand what I want to say, he asked worriedly.

Sure we understand! we retorted vehemently. We find a great similarity with what we feel and live daily in so much in this last section as in many other things that you have referred to us up to now.

Don Juan is a free man, he continued. He looks for liberty. His spirit looks for it.. Don Juan is free from that basic prejudice; the perceptive prejudice that prevent us from seeing reality.

The importance of all that which we came speaking about resides in the possibility of destroying the circle of routines: Don Juan made him practice numerous exercises so he would become conscious of his routines: exercises such as 'walking in the darkness' and the 'power walk.'

How to break that circle of routines ? How to break that perceptive arc that ties us to that ordinary vision of reality? That ordinary vision that our routines contribute to establishing is, precisely, that which Castaneda denominates the attention of the tonal or 'the first ring of attention.'

To break that perceptive arc isn't an easy task; it could take years. The difficulty with me, he affirmed laughing, is that I am very pigheaded. Quite unwillingly I went on learning: For this reason, in my case, Don Juan had to use drugs...and so I ended up...with my liver in the stream!

In the line of not-doing is achieved the destroying of routines and becoming conscious, explained Castaneda. While saying this he stood up and started to walk backwards while he remembered a technique that Don Juan had taught him: Walking backwards with the help of a mirror. Castaneda continued reporting to us that to facilitate the task he devised an artifact of metal (like a ring that in the style of a crown he bore on his head) in which the mirror was fastened. In that way, he could practice the exercise and have his hands free. Other examples of techniques of not-doing would be to put on your belt backwards and to wear your shoes on the opposite feet. All these techniques have as an objective to make one conscious of what one is doing at each moment. Destroying routines, he said, is the way we have of giving the body new sensations. The body knows...

Immediately Castaneda related to us some of the games that the Toltec youth practice for hours. They are games of not-doing, he explained. Games in which there are no fixed rules but rather they are generated as they play.

It seems that by not having fixed rules, the behavior of the players isn't foreseen and, consequently, everyone must be very attentive. One-of these games, he continued, consists in giving the adversary false signs. It's a game of pulling.

As he said, in that game of pulling, three persons participate and two posts and a rope are needed. With the rope you tie up one of the players and hang him from the posts. The other two players must pull on the ends of the rope and try to fool him giving him false signs. All have to be very attentive so that when one pulls, the other also does it and the person who is tied doesn't get twisted.

The techniques and games of not-doing develop attention: You can say that they are concentration exercises since they obligate those who practice them to be fully conscious of what they are doing. Castaneda commented that old age would consist in having remained shut in the perfect circle of routines.

The way of teaching of the Toltec Woman is to put us into situations. I believe that it's the best way because in putting us in situations we discover that we are nothing: The other way is that of self love, that of personal pride. The former way transforms us into detectives, always attentive to all that could happen or offend us. Detectives? Yes ! We spent time seeking evidence of love: if they love me or they love me not. Thus, centered in our ego we don't do anything but strengthen it. According to the Toltec Woman, the best is to begin considering that nobody loves us.

Castaneda told us that for Don Juan, personal pride resembles a monster of 3,000 heads. One destroys and knocks down heads but others always rise up... It's that one possesses all the tricks! he exclaimed. With the tricks it appears that we fool ourselves believing we are somebody.

I then reminded him of the image of catching weaknesses, as rabbits are caught in a trap, that appears in one of his books. Yes, he answered me, you constantly have to be on the lookout.

Changing position, Castaneda began to give us the history of the past three years. One of the many tasks was that of cook in those roadside cafes. La Gorda accompanied me that year as a waitress. For more than a year we lived there as Jose Cordoba and his wife! My complete name was Jose Luis Cordoba, at your service, he, said with a profound reverence. Without a doubt, everyone knew me as Joe Cordoba.

Castaneda didn't tell us the name or the location of the city in which they lived. It's possible that they had been in different places. It appears that at the beginning, he arrived with la Gorda and the Toltec Woman, who accompanied them for a while. The first thing was to find housing and work for Joe Cordoba, his wife, and his mother-in-law. That was how we presented ourselves, commented Castaneda, otherwise, the people wouldn't have understood.

For a long time they looked for work, until finally they found it in a roadside cafe. In that type of establishment you begin very early in the morning. At five a.m. you have to be already working.

Castaneda told us, laughing, that in those places the first thing they ask you is: Do you know how to make eggs? What could there be to making eggs? It appears that he delayed enough time in figuring out what they were trying to say until he finally discovered that they were talking about the diverse ways of preparing eggs for breakfast. In restaurants or cafes for truck drivers. 'Egg making' is very important.

They spent one year working there. Now I know how to 'make eggs', he affirmed laughing. All that you would want! La Gorda also worked a lot. She was such a good waitress that she ended up by taking care of all the girls there. At the end of a year, when the Toltec Woman told them, That's enough, you're finished with this task, the owner of the cafe didn't want us to leave. The truth is that we worked very hard there. A lot! From morning till night.

During that year, they had a significant encounter. It relates to the story of a girl named Terry who arrived at the cafe where they were asking for work waitressing. By then, Joe Cordoba had gained the confidence of the owner of the establishment and was the one in charge of contracting and watching over all the staff. As Terry told them, she was looking for Carlos Castaneda. How could she know that they were there? Castaneda didn't know.

This girl Terry, continued Castaneda with sadness and giving us to understand that she looked dirty and messy, is one of those 'hippies' who take drugs...a terrifying life. Poor thing! Later, Castaneda would tell us, that, even though he could never tell Terry who he was, Joe Cordoba and his wife helped her a lot during the months she spent with them. He told us that one day she came in very excited from the street saying that she had just seen Castaneda in a Cadillac parked in front of the cafe. He's there, she screamed to us; he's in the car, writing. Are you sure it's Castaneda? How can you be so convinced? I told her. But she continued, Yes, it's him, I'm sure.. . I then suggested to her that she go out to the car and ask him. She needed to get rid of that immense doubt. Hurry! Hurry! I insisted. She was afraid to speak to him because she said that she was very fat and very ugly. I encouraged her. But you look divine, hurry! Finally, she went, but came right back crying a river of tears. It seems that the man in the Cadillac hadn't looked at her, and had thrown her out telling her not to bother him. You can imagine that I tried to console her, said Castaneda It gave me so much pain that I almost told her who I was. La Gorda didn't let me; she protected me. Really, he couldn't tell her anything because he was performing a task in which he was Joe Cordoba and not Carlos Castaneda. He couldn't disobey.

As Castaneda told it, when Terry arrived she wasn't a good waitress. With passing months, without a doubt, they brought her to be good, clean and careful. La Gorda gave much advice to Terry. We cared for her a lot. She never imagined who she was with all that time.

In these last years they had passed moments of tremendous deprivation during which people maltreated and offended them. More than once he was at the point of revealing who he was, but... Who would have believed me! he said. Besides, the Toltec Woman is the one who decides.

That year, he continued, there were moments in which we were reduced to the minimum: we slept on the ground and we ate only one thing.

Hearing this, we wanted him to explain to us the ways of eating they had. Castaneda told us that Toltecs only eat one type of food at a time, but that they do it continually. Toltecs eat all day, he commented in a casual tone. (In this affirmation of Castaneda one can see his desire to break the image that people have of the sorcerer or wizard - beings with special powers who don't have the same needs as the rest of mortals. In saying that they eat all day, Castaneda united them with the rest of mankind.)

According to Castaneda, the mixing of foods, for example, eating meat with potatoes and vegetables, is very bad for your health. This mixture is very recent in the life of humanity, he affirmed. To eat one kind of food helps digestion and is better for the organism.

One time Don Juan accused me of always feeling sick. You can imagine that I defended myself! However, later I realized that he was right and I learned. Now I feel well, strong and healthy.

Also the way of sleeping that they have is different from that of the majority of us. The important thing is to realize that you can sleep in many ways. According to Castaneda, we have learned to go to sleep and to get up at a determined hour because that is what society wants from us. So, for example, said Castaneda, parents put the children to bed to get rid of them. We all laughed because there was some truth in his statement.

I sleep all day and all night, he continued, but if I add up the hours and minutes I sleep, I don't believe they come to more than five hours a day. To sleep in that way requires on the part of the person the ability to go directly into deep sleep.

Returning to Joe Cordoba and his wife, Castaneda told us that one day the Toltec Woman came and told them that they were not working enough. She ordered us, he said, to organize a pretty big business in landscaping, something like designing and arranging gardens. This new task of the Toltec Woman wasn't anything small. We had to contract a group of people to help us to do the work during the week while we were in the cafe. During the weekends we dedicated ourselves exclusively to the gardens. We had a lot of success.

La Gorda is a very enterprising person. That year we worked really hard. During the week we were in the Cafe and on the weekends always driving the truck and pruning trees. The demands of the Toltec Woman are very large.

I remember, continued Castaneda, that at a certain opportunity we were in the house of a friend when reporters arrived looking for Carlos Castaneda. They were reporters from The New York Times. So as to pass unnoticed, la Gorda and I put ourselves to planting trees in my friend's garden. In the distance we saw them enter and leave the house. That was when my friend yelled at us and mistreated us a lot in front of the reporters. It seemed that Joe Cordoba and his woman could be yelled at without consequence. None of those who were present there came to our defense. Who were we? There, only the poor people and dogs work in the sun!

So that was how between my friend and us we fooled the reporters. My body, however, I couldn't fool it. For three years we were involved in the task of giving experiences to the body to make it realize that, in truth, we are nothing. The truth is that the body isn't the only thing that suffers. The mind also is accustomed to constant stimuli. The warrior, however, doesn't have stimuli from the media; he doesn't need them. The best place, therefore, is that where we were! There nobody thinks!

Continuing with the story of his adventures, Castaneda commented that more than once he and la Gorda were kicked out in the street. Other times, going by truck down the highway, we were pushed to the edge of the road. What alternative did we have? It's best to let them pass!

Through all that Castaneda came telling us, it appears that the task of those years had to do with, learning to survive in adverse circumstances, and with surviving the experience of discrimination. This last, something very difficult to endure but very informative, he concluded with great calm.

The objective of the task consists in learning to remove oneself from the emotional impact which discrimination provokes. The important thing is not to react, not to get angry. If one reacts, he/she is lost One doesn't get offended by a tiger when it attacks, he explained, you move to the side and let it pass.

In another opportunity, la Gorda and I found work in a house, she as a maid and I as butler. You can't imagine how that ended! They kicked us out into the street without pay. Even more! To protect themselves from us in case we were to protest, they had called the local police. Can you imagine? We were jailed for nothing.

That year, la Gorda and I spent working very hard and suffering great privations. Many times we didn't have anything to eat. The worst thing was that we couldn't complain nor did we have the support of the group. In that task we were alone and we couldn't escape. In whatever way, even though we might have been able to say who we were, nobody would have believed us. The task is always total.

Truthfully, I am Joe Cordoba, continued Castaneda accompanying his words with his whole body; and this is very beautiful because you can't fall lower. I have already arrived at the bottom you can be. That is all that I am. And with these last words he touched the ground with his hands.

As I told you before, every one of us has different tasks to perform. The Genaros are quite bright; Benigno is now in Chiapas and he's doing very well. He has a musical group. Benigno possesses a marvelous gift of imitation; he imitates Tom Jones and many more. Pablito is the same as always; he's very lazy. Benigno is he who makes the noise and Pablito celebrates it. Benigno is the one who works and Pablito gathers the applause.

Now, he said in way of conclusion, we have all finished the tasks which we have been doing and we are preparing ourselves for new tasks. The Toltec Woman is the one who sends us.

The story of Joe Cordoba and his woman had impressed us a lot. It dealt with an experience very different from those of his books. We were interested in knowing whether he had written or was writing anything about Joe Cordoba.

I know that Joe Cordoba existed, said one of us; he had to exist. Why don't you write about him? From all that you have come telling us, Joe Cordoba and his woman is what has impacted me most.

I just brought a new manuscript to my agent, Castaneda answered us. In that manuscript, the Toltec Woman is she who teaches. It couldn't be any other way...The title might possibly be, The Stalking and the Art of Being in The World. [This book was published in 1981 as The Eagle's Gift.] There is all her teaching. She is the one responsible for that manuscript. A woman had to be the one who taught about the art of stalking. Women know it well because they have always lived with the enemy; that is to say, they have always walked 'on tiptoe' in the masculine world. Precisely for that reason, because women have long experience in that art, the Toltec Woman is she who has to give the principles of stalking.

In that last manuscript, however, there is nothing concrete about the life of Joe Cordoba and his woman. I can't write in detail about that experience because nobody would understand nor believe it. I can speak of these things with very few...Yes, the essence of the experience of the last three years is in the book.

Returning to the Toltec Woman and her nature, Castaneda told us that she was very different from Don Juan. She doesn't love me, he insisted, la Gorda, on the other hand, yes, she loves her! You can't ask the Toltec Woman anything. Before you speak to her she already knows what she has to say. Besides, you have to fear her; when she gets angry, she hits, he concluded making many gestures which indicated his fear.

We stayed in silence for a while. The sun had gone down and its rays reached us through the branches of the trees. I felt a little cold. It seemed to me that it was around 7 p.m.

Castaneda appeared also to become aware of the time. It's already late, he told us. What do you think about getting something to eat? I invite you.

We got up and began to walk. As one of those ironies, Castaneda took charge of my notes and books for part of the way. The best thing was to leave everything in the car. That's what we did. Free of our bundles, we walked for some blocks in animated conversation.

All that they had achieved requires years of preparation and practice. One example is the exercise of dreaming. That which seems so foolish, affirmed Castaneda emphatically, is very difficult to achieve.

The exercise consists in learning to dream at will and in a systematic way. You begin by dreaming about a hand that enters the visual field of the dreamer. Then, you see the whole arm. You continue in a progressive way until you can see yourself in the dream. The other step consists in learning to use dreams. That is to say, once you have achieved control over them, you have to learn to act on them. So, for example, Castaneda said, you dream about yourself that you leave the body and that you open the door and go out into the street. The street is something outrageous! Something in you leaves you; something that you achieve at will.

According to Castaneda, dreaming doesn't take much time. That is to say, dreams don't occur in the time of our watches. The time of the dream is something very compact.

Castaneda gave us to understand that in dreams an immense physical draining is produced. In dreams, you can live a lot, he said, but the body resents it. My body really feels it... Afterwards you feel like a truck has run over you.

Several times, touching upon that theme of dreaming, Castaneda would say that that which they do in dreams has a pragmatic value. In Tales of Power, you read that the experiences of dreams and those lived in one's waking hours acquire the same pragmatic valence, and that for sorcerers the criteria to differentiate a dream from reality becomes inoperative. (p. 18).

That of leaving or traveling outside of the physical body keenly caught our interest, and we wanted to know more about those experiences.

He answered us explaining that every one of them had achieved different experiences. La Gorda and I, for example, go together. She takes me by the forearm and. . .we go.

He explained to us also that the group has common journeys. They are all in constant training whose objective would be 'to become witnesses.' To arrive at being witnesses means, affirmed Castaneda, that you can't judge any more. That is to say, it relates to an internal sight which equals not having prejudices any more.

Josefina seems to have great abilities to journey in the body of dreaming. She wants to take you there and probes recounting marvels. La Gorda is the one who always rescues her.

Josefina has a great facility to break that arch of being able to reflect upon things. She's crazy, crazy! he exclaimed. Josefina flies very far, but she doesn't want to go alone and always returns. She returns and looks for me... She gives me reports that are marvelous.

According to Castaneda, Josefina is a being who cannot function in this world. Here, he said, she would have ended up in some institution.

Josefina is a being who cannot be held to the concrete; she is ethereal. In whatever moment she can definitively leave. La Gorda and he are, on the other hand, much more cautious in their flights. La Gorda, particularly, represents the stability and equilibrium that in some measure he lacks.

After a pause, I reminded him of that vision of an immense dome which in The Second Ring of Power is presented as the place of meeting and where Don Juan and Don Genaro would be waiting for them.

La Gorda also has that vision, he commented pensively. That which we see isn't an earthly horizon. It's something very smooth and arid in whose horizon we see rising an immense arch which covers all and which extends until it arrives at the zenith. In that point in the zenith, you can see a large brightness. You could say that it is something like a dome that emits an amber light.

We strove to press upon him questions so that he would give us more information about that dome. What is it? Where is it? we inquired.

Castaneda answered that by the size of what they see, it could be a planet. In the zenith, he added, there is like a great wind.

By the brevity of his answer, we realized that Castaneda didn't want to talk much about that topic. It is possible, also, that he couldn't find adequate words to express what they saw. No matter what, it is evident that those visions, those flights in the body dreaming, are a constant training for the definitive journey-that leaving through the left side of the eagle, that final leap which is called death, that giving an end to the recapitulation; that being able to say we are ready, in which we carry all that we are but nothing more than that what we are.

According to the Toltec Woman, Castaneda conferred to us, those visions are my aberrations: She thinks that that is my unconscious way of paralyzing my actions; that is to say, the way I have of saying that I don't want to leave the world. The Toltec Woman also says that with my attitude, I am detaining la Gorda from the possibilities of a more fertile or more productive flight.

Don Juan and Don Genaro were great dreamers. They had an absolute control of the art. I am surprised, immediately exclaimed Castaneda, raising his hand to his forehead, at the fact that nobody notices that don Juan is an outrageous dreamer. The same can be said of Don Genaro. Don Genaro, for example, is capable of bringing his body of dream to the every day life.

The great control of Don Juan and Don Genaro is evidenced in that of not being noted or passing by unnoticed. (In all his books, Castaneda has referred to that of not being noted and to go by unnoticed. In The Second Ring of Power, Castaneda records the times that Don Juan had ordered him to concentrate on not being obvious. Nestor, also, says that Don Juan and Don Genaro learned to not be noticed in the midst of all this. The two are masters of the art of stalking. Of Don Genaro, la Gorda says that he was in the body of dreaming most of the time, (p. 270). All that they do, he continued with enthusiasm, is worthy of praise. Of Don Juan, I admire immensely his great control, composure and serenity.

Of Don Juan, it can never be said that he is a senile old man. He isn't like other people. There is here on campus, for example, an old professor who when I was a young man was already famous. At that time, he was at the peak of his physical strength and intellectual creativity. Now, he's chewing his tongue of cork! Now I can see him as he is, as a senile old man. Of Don Juan, on the other hand, you will never be able to say something like that. His advantage in respect to me is always abysmal.

In the interview with Sam Keen, Castaneda says that one time Don Juan asked him if he thought the two were equals. Even though he really didn't think that they were, in a condescending tone he said yes. Don Juan listened to him, but he didn't accept his verdict. I don't think that we are, he said, because I am a hunter and a warrior and you are more like a pimp. I am ready at any moment to offer the recapitulation of my life. Your small world full of sadness and indecision can never be equal to mine. (Sam Keen, Voices and Visions (New York: Harper and Row, 1976), p. 122.)

In all that Castaneda had told us can be found parallels with other currents and traditions of mystical thinking. In his own books are cited authors and works of antiquity and of the present. I reminded him that, among others, there are references to The Egyptian Book of the Dead, to Tractatus by Wittgenstein, to Spanish poets like San Juan de la Cruz and Juan Ramon Jimenez, and to Latin American writers like the Peruvian Cesar Vallejo.

Yes, he responded, in my car there are always books, many books. Things that someone or another send me. He was accustomed to read sections of those books to Don Juan. He likes poetry. It's clear that he only likes the four first lines! According to him, that which follows is idiocy. He says that after the first verse it loses force, that it's pure repetition.

One of us asked him if he had read of or if he knew the yoga techniques and the descriptions of the different planes of reality which the sacred books of India offer. All that is marvelous, he said. I have had, moreover, pretty intimate relationships with people who work in Hatha Yoga.

In 1976, a doctor friend named Claudio Naranjo (Do you know him? he asked us.) connected me with a yoga teacher. That's how we went to visit him in his 'ashram' here in California. We communicated by means of a professor who acted as interpreter. I was trying to discover in that interview parallels with my own experiences of traveling outside of the body. There, however, he didn't speak of anything important. There was, yes, much show and ceremony, but he didn't say anything. Towards the end of the interview, this character took in his hands a metal watering can and began to wet me with a liquid whose color I didn't like at all. No sooner had he withdrawn, when I asked him what he had just thrown at me. Someone came near and explained to me that I should be very happy because he had given me his blessing. I insisted on knowing the contents of the container. Finally I was told that all the secretions of the teacher are saved: Everything that comes from him is sacred. You can imagine, he concluded in a tone between jocular and joking, that here concluded the conversation with the yoga master.

A year later, Castaneda had a similar experience with one of the disciples of Gurdjieff. He met with him in Los Angeles upon the insistence of one of his friends. It seems that the gentleman had imitated Gurdjieff in everything. He had shaven his head and had a huge mustache, he commented, indicating with his hands their size. We had just entered, when he energetically grabbed me by the throat and gave me some tremendous blows. Immediately after he told me to leave my master because I was wasting my time: According to him, in eight or nine classes, he was going to teach me everything I needed to know. Can you imagine? In a few classes he can teach someone everything.

Castaneda also told us that the disciple of Gurdjieff had mentioned the use of drugs to accelerate the learning process.

The interview didn't last long. It seems that Castaneda's friend realized right away the ridiculousness of the situation and the magnitude of his error. That friend had insisted that he see the disciple of Gurdjieff because he was convinced that Castaneda needed a teacher more serious than Don Juan. When the interview ended, Castaneda told us that his friend felt full of shame.

We continued walking some six or seven blocks. For a while we talked about circumstantial things. I remember that I commented to him that I had read in La Gaceta an article by Juan Tovar in which he mentions the possibility of filming the books. (See Juan Tovar. Encounter of Power, La Gaceta, F.C.E. (Mexico, December 1974).

Yes, he said. At one time that possibility was spoken of. He later told us the story of his encounter with the producer Joseph Levine, who would have intimidated him from behind an immense desk. The size of the desk and the producer's words hardly comprehensible because of the huge cigar he kept between his lips, were the things that had made the biggest impression on Castaneda. He was behind a desk like it was a dais, he explained, and I, there below, very small. Powerful! With his hands full of rings with very large stones.

Castaneda had already said to Juan Tovar that the last thing he wanted to see was an Anthony Quinn in the role of Don Juan. It seems that someone had proposed Mia Farrow for one of the roles... To conceive of such a movie was very difficult, he commented. It's neither ethnography nor fiction. The project in the end fell apart. The sorcerer Juan Matos told me that it wouldn't be possible to do it.

During that same time he was invited to participate in shows like Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett. In the end I couldn't accept things like that. What would I say to Johnny Carson, for example, if he asked me if I spoke to the coyote or not? What would I say? I'd say, yes... and then? Indubitably, the situation could have become very ridiculous.

Don Juan was the one who put me in charge of giving testimony of a tradition, said Castaneda. He himself insisted that I accept interviews and give conference to promote the books. Later he made me cut everything because that type of task burns a lot of energy. If you're into those things you have to give them force.

Castaneda explained clearly that with the production of his books, he is in charge of taking care of the expenses of the whole group. Castaneda allows everyone to eat.

Don Juan, he insisted, gave me the task of putting in writing all that the wizards and sorcerers said. My task doesn't consist in anything but in writing until one day they tell me, Enough, here you stop. The impact or not of my books, really is unknown to me because I'm not dealing with what's happening here. To Don Juan before and to the Toltec Woman now belong all the material in the books. They are responsible for all that is said there.

The tone of his voice and his gestures impressed us in a lively way. It was evident that in that terrain the task of Castaneda consists of obeying. His objective isn't anything but to be impeccable as receptor and transmitter of a tradition and of a teaching.

Personally, he continued after a pause, I am working on a kind of journal; it's something like a manual. For this work, yes, I am responsible. I would like a serious publisher to publish it and to be in charge of distributing it to interested persons and to centers of study.

He told us that he had worked out some 18 units in which he believes he has summarized all the teaching of the Toltec nation. To organize the work, he has made use of the phenomenology of E. Husserl as a theoretical framework to make comprehensible what they taught him.

Last week, he said, I was in New York. I brought the project to the editors of Simon and Schuster but I failed. It seems they got scared. It's that something like that can't have success.

Of those 18 units I am the only one responsible, he continued in a meditative tone, and, as you can see, I wasn't successful. Those 18 units are something like the 18 falls in which I was bumped hard on the head. I agree with the editors that it's a work of heavy reading, but there I am... Don Juan, Don Genaro, all the others are different. They are fickle! (According to what Castaneda communicated to us by telephone, Simon and Schuster finally decided to accept the project of the journal that had seemed to worry him so much.)

Why do I call them units? he asked, moving ahead of us. I call them that because each one of them claims to show one of the ways to break the unit of the familiar. That unique perceptive vision can be broken in different ways.

Castaneda, trying once again to clarify this, gave us the example of the map. Each time we want to arrive at some place we need a map with clear points of reference to not get lost. We can't find anything without a map, exclaimed Castaneda. What later occurs is that the only thing we see is the map. Instead of seeing what there is to see, we finish seeing the map we carry inside. Therefore, to break that arc of reflexibility, to constantly cut the bonds that lead us to the known points of reference, is the ultimate teaching of Don Juan.

Many times during that afternoon, Castaneda had to insist that he was just a contact to the world. All the knowledge of the books belongs to the Toltec nation. In the presence of his insistence, I couldn't but react and tell him that the labor of arranging the material from notes into coherent and well organized book must have been immense and difficult.

No, responded Castaneda. I don't have any work. My task consists, simply, in copying the page which is given me in dreams.

According to Castaneda, you can't create something from nothing. To pretend to create like that is an absurdity. To explain this to us, he brought up an episode in the life of his father. My father, he said, decided that he was going to be a great writer. With that idea, he resolved to fix his office. He needed to have an office that was perfect. He had to keep in mind the smallest detail, from the decorations of the wall to the type of light on his work table. Once the room was ready, he spent much time looking for a suitable desk for his task. The desk had to be of a determined measurement, wood, color, etc. Another such incident occurred with the selection of the chair on which he would sit. Later he had to select the suitable cover so as to not ruin the desk's wood. The cover could be plastic, glass, leather, cardboard. On this cover my father was going to rest the paper on which he would write his masterpiece. Then, seated at his chair, in front of the blank paper he didn't know what to write. That is my dad. He wants to begin writing the perfect phrase. Surely you can't write that way! One is always an instrument, an intermediary. I see each page in dreams, and the success of each one of those pages depends on the degree of fidelity with which I am capable of copying that model from the dream. Precisely, the page which impresses or impacts most is that in which I have achieved reproducing the original with most exactitude.

These commentaries of Castaneda reveal a particular theory of knowledge and of intellectual and artistic creation. (I thought immediately of Plato and of St. Augustine with his image of inner teacher. To know is to discover and to create is to copy. Neither knowledge or creation can ever be an undertaking of a personal nature.

While we ate dinner I mentioned to him some of the interviews which I had read. I told him that I had enjoyed greatly that which Sam Keen had done and which had been published first in Psychology Today. Castaneda was also satisfied with that interview. He has much appreciation for Sam Keen. During those years, he said, I knew many people with whom I would have liked to have continued being friends...one example is the theologian Sam Keen. Don Juan, however, said, Enough.

With respect to the interview in Time, Castaneda related to us that first a male reporter came to meet with him in Los Angeles. It seems it didn't go well, (he used some Argentine slang) and so he left. They then sent one of those girls that you can't turn down, he said making us all smile. It all came out well, and they understood each other magnificently. Castaneda had the impression that she understood what he had told her. In the end, however, she didn't do the article. The notes which she had taken were given to a reporter that I think is now in Australia, he added. It seems that this reporter did what he wanted with the notes they gave him.

Every time that for one reason or another, the Time interview was mentioned, his annoyance was evident. He had observed to Don Juan that Time was too powerful and important a magazine. Don Juan, on the other hand, had insisted that the interview be done. the interview was done, 'just in case' concluded Castaneda informally using once again a typically port area (Argentinian) expression.

We also spoke of the critics and of that which had been written about him and his books. I mentioned to him Richard deMille and others who had put in doubt the veracity of his works and the anthropological value of them.

The work that I have to do, affirmed Castaneda is free from all that the critics can say. My task consists of presenting that knowledge in the best way possible. Nothing they can say matters to me because I no longer am Carlos Castaneda, the writer. I am neither a writer, nor a thinker, nor a philosopher...in consequence, their attacks don't reach me. Now, I know that I am nothing; nobody can take anything from me because Joe Cordoba is nothing. There isn't in all this, any personal pride.

We live, he continued, on a level lower than the Mexican peasants, which is already saying a lot. We have touched ground and we can't fall lower. The difference between us and the peasant is that he has hopes, wants things, and works to one day have more than he has today. We, on the other hand, don't have anything and each time we will have less. Can you imagine this? Criticisms can't hit the target.

Never am I more full than when I am Joe Cordoba, he exclaimed vehemently standing up and opening his arms in a gesture of plentitude. Joe Cordoba, frying hamburgers all day with my eyes full of smoke...Do you understand me?

Not all the critics have been negative. Octavio Paz, for example, wrote a very good preface for the Spanish edition of The Teachings of Don Juan. To me his preface was most beautiful. Yes, Castaneda said feelingly, That preface is excellent. Octavio Paz is a complete gentleman. Maybe he is one of the last who remain.

The phrase, a complete gentleman doesn't refer to the undeniable qualities of Octavio Paz as thinker and writer. No! The phrase points to the intrinsic qualities of being, the value of a person as a human being. That Castaneda might point out that he is one of the last ones who remain accented the fact that he is relating to a species in danger of extinction.

Well, continued Castaneda trying to soften the impact, maybe there remain two gentlemen. The other is an old Mexican historian friend of his whose name wasn't familiar to us. He told us some anecdotes about him that reflected his physical vitality and intellectual vivacity.

At this juncture in the conversation Castaneda explained to us how he selects the letters that arrive to him. Do you want me to explain how I did it with yours? he asked directing himself to me.

He told us that a young friend receives them, puts them in a bag and keeps them until he arrives in Los Angeles. Once in Los Angeles, Castaneda always follows the same routine: First he dumps all the correspondence into a large box, like a toy box, and then he only takes out one letter. The letter he takes out is that which he reads and answers. Clearly nothing is done in writing. Castaneda doesn't leave tracks.

The letter I took out, he explained, was the first one that you wrote. Later I looked for the other one. You can't imagine how many problems I had to get your phone number! When I already believed that I wasn't going to have any luck, I obtained it by the intervention of the university. I had really already thought that I wasn't going to be able to speak with you.

I was very surprised to know all the inconveniences that he had had to get to me. It appears that once he had my letter m his hands, he had to try to exhaust all means. In the magical universe much importance is given to signs.

Here in Los Angeles, continued Castaneda casually, I have a friend who writes me a lot. Each time I come I read all his letters, one after the other as if it were a diary. One certain time, between the letters I bumped into another one that without realizing I had opened. Even though I immediately realized that it wasn't from my friend, I read it. The fact that it was in the pile was for me a sign.

That letter put him in contact with two people who reported a very interesting experience to him. It was night and they had to enter the San Bernardino Freeway. They knew that to meet it they had to continue ahead until the end of the street. Then they had to take a left and continue until they reached the freeway. So they did it, but after some 20 minutes they realized that they were in a strange place. It wasn't the San Bernardino Freeway. They resolved to get off and ask, but nobody helped them. At one of the houses where they knocked they were met with screaming.

Castaneda continued telling us that the two friends went back down the road until they reached a service station where they asked for directions. There they were told what they already knew. So they again repeated the same steps, and without any inconveniences arrived at the highway.

Castaneda met with them. Of the two of them, it seems that only one is truly interested in understanding the mystery.

On the earth, he said as means of explanation, there are sites, special places or openings, through which you can enter and pass through to something else. Here he stopped and offered to bring us. It's near here... in Los Angeles... If you want, I can take you, he said. The earth is something alive. Those places are the entrances from where the earth periodically receives force or energy from the cosmos. That energy is that which the warrior must store up. Maybe, if I am rigorously impeccable, I might get close to the eagle. May it be so!

Every 18 days a wave of energy falls upon the earth. Count, he suggested to us, starting on the third of next August. You will be able to perceive it. This wave of energy could be strong or not; it depends. When the earth receives very large waves of energy, it doesn't matter where you might be, it always reaches us. Before the magnitude of that force, the earth is small and the energy reaches all parts.

We were still animatedly conversing when the waitress approached and in a cutting tone asked if we were going to order anything else. As nobody wanted dessert or coffee, we had no other remedy than to get up. No sooner had the waitress moved away when Castaneda commented, It seems we are being thrown out. . .

Yes, we were being thrown out and, maybe, with reason. It was late. In surprise we checked the passing of time. We got up and left for the avenue.

It was night, the street and the people had the appearance of a fair. A mime dressed in tails and top hat was clowning around behind our backs. Everything we saw made us smile while our eyes searched for the plate that is always passed during those representations. To our right, under the eaves of an old theater, someone was trying another representation on a miniature stage. I believe I saw a cat ready for its function. Really there you could see everything. In other times; a man disguised as a bear tried to compete with a human orchestra. The question is to look for alternatives each time more extravagant, someone commented. While we walked, returning to the campus, Castaneda spoke about a prospective trip to Argentina.

There a cycle is closed, he told us. To return to Argentina is very important for me. I'm still not sure when I can do it, but I will go. For now I have things to do here. Just in August three years of tasks will be accomplished, and it's possible that then I might go.

That afternoon, Castaneda spoke to us a lot about Buenos Aires, about its streets, neighborhoods and sports clubs. He remembered nostalgically Florida Street with its elegant stores and the itinerant multitude. He was even reminded with precision of the famous street of cinemas. Lavalle Street, he said making memory.

Castaneda lived in Buenos Aires during his childhood. It seems he was enrolled in a downtown school. Of that era he remembers with sadness that it had been said that he was wider than he was tall words that when one is a child hurt a lot. I always looked with envy, he commented, on those Argentinians so tall and handsome.

You know that in Buenos Aires you always have to belong to some club, continued Castaneda. I was from Chacarita. To be from River Plate isn't surprising, right? Chacarita, on the other hand, is always one of the last.

In those times, Chacarita always came out last. It was touching to see him identified with those who lose, with the 'underdog.'

Surely La Gorda will come with me. She wants to travel. Clearly she wants to go to 'Parice', he declared. La Gorda buys now in Gucci, is elegant and wants to go to Paris. I always say to her, Gorda, why do you want to go to Paris? There there is nothing. She has a certain idea about Paris, 'the city of light' you know.

Many times that afternoon, La Gorda was named. With her, Castaneda brought us to an extraordinary person due to the fact that he, without a doubt, feels great respect and admiration for her. What would be the sense then, of all that circumstantial information that he gave us about her? I believe that with those commentaries, as well as those in which he referred to the way of eating and sleeping of the Toltecs, Castaneda tried to prevent us from forming a rigid image of what they are. The work that they are doing is very serious and their lives are austere, but they aren't rigid nor can they be squeezed into the traditional norms of society. The important thing is to liberate oneself from schemes, not to replace them with others.

Castaneda gave us to understand that he hasn't traveled much in Latin America, if you exclude Mexico. Lately I've only been in Venezuela, he said. As I've already told you, I have to go to Argentina soon. There a cycle is closed. After that I will be able to leave. Well. . . the truth is that I don't know if I want to leave yet. His last words were said smilingly, Who doesn't have things that hold him down.

He has traveled through Europe several times for business related to his books. In 1973, however, Don Juan sent me to Italy, he affirmed. My task consisted of going to Rome to obtain an audience with the Pope. I didn't claim to obtain a private audience but one of those audiences which are conferred on groups of persons. All I had to do in the interview was to kiss the hand of the Supreme Pontiff.

Castaneda did everything that Don Juan had asked him. He went to Italy, arrived in Rome and asked for the audience. It was one of those Wednesday audiences, after which the Pope officiates at a public mass in the plaza of San Pedro. They did confer on me an audience but.. . I couldn't go, he said. I didn't even arrive at the door.

That afternoon, Castaneda referred several times to his family and to his typically liberal and frankly anticlerical background education. In The Second Ring of Power, Castaneda also makes reference to the anticlerical heritage that he received. Don Juan, who doesn't seem to justify all his prejudices and battles against the Catholic Church, says: To conquer our own foolishness requires all our time and energy. This is the only thing that matters. The others lack consistency. Nothing that your grandfather and your father have said about the Church has made them happy. To be an impeccable warrior, on the other hand, will give you force, youth and power. Thus, the appropriate thing for you is to know how to choose. (p. 236) Castaneda didn't theorize about these themes. With respect to the disjunctive 'clericalism-anticlericalism' he only wanted us to receive a teaching with the example of his experience. That is to say, he makes us understand that it is very difficult to break the schemes which have been formed in youth.

© Copyright Magical Blend Magazine


Cvp: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs

by Bruce Wagner : Details magazine
Publication Date: March 1994.

With his vision of a separate reality, Carlos Castaneda transfixed a generation. In a rare interview, the legendary sorcerer talks to Bruce Wagner about don Juan, freedom, dreaming, and death-and the funny things that happen on the way to infinity.

Carlos Castaneda doesn't live here anymore. After years of rigorous discipline---years of warriorism---he has escaped the ratty theater of everyday life. He is an empty man, a funnel, a teller of tales and stories; not really a man at all, but a being who no longer has attachments to the world as we know it. He is the last nagual, the cork in a centuries---old lineage of sorcerers whose triumph was to break the "agreement" of normal reality. With the release of his ninth book, The Art of Dreaming, he has surfaced---for a moment, and in his way.


My name is Carlos Castaneda. I would like you to do something today. I would like you to suspend judgment. Please: don't come here armed with "common sense." People find out I'm going to be talking---however they hear---and they come to dis Castaneda. To hurt me. "I have read your books and they are infantile." "All of your later books are boring. Don't come that way. It's useless. Today I want to ask you, just for an hour, to open yourself to the option I'm going to present. Don't listen like honor students. I've spoken to honor students before; they're dead and arrogant. Common sense and idealities are what kill us. We hold onto them with our teeth---that's the "ape."

That's what don Juan Matus called us: insane apes. I have not been available for thirty years. I don't go and talk to people. For a moment, I'm here. A month, maybe two . . . then I'll disappear. We're not insular, not just now. We cannot be that way. We have an indebtedness to pay to those who took the trouble to show us certain things. We inherited this knowledge; don Juan told us not to be apologetic. We want you to see there are weird, pragmatic options that are not beyond your reach. I get exotic enjoyment at observing such flight---pure esotericism. It is for my eyes only. I'm not needy; I don't need anything. I need you like I need a hole in the head. But I am a voyager, a traveler. I navigate---out there. I would like others to have the possibility.


The navigator has spoken before groups in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and his cohorts---Florinda Donner-Grau, Taisha Abelar, and Carol Tiggs--- have given lectures ("Toltec Dreaming---The Legacy of Don Juan") in Arizona, Maui, and at Esalen. In the last two years, Donner-Grau's and Abelar's books (in which they discuss Castaneda and their tutelage under don Juan Matus) have entered the marketplace: Being-in-Dreaming and The Sorcerer's Crossing, respectively. The accounts of these two women are a phenomenological mother lode, bona fide chronicles of their initiation and training. They are also a great windfall, for never have readers of Castaneda had access to such direct illuminating reinforcement of his experience. ( "The women are in charge," he says. "It is their game. I am merely the Filipino chauffeur"). Donner-Grau describes the collective consensus of these works as "intersubjectivity among sorcerers"; each one is like a highly individualistic road map of the same city. They are 'energetic" enticements, a perceptual call to freedom rooted in a single, breathtaking premise--- We must take responsibility for the nonnegotiable fact that we are beings who are going to die. One is struck by the cogency of their case, and for good reason. The players, all Ph.D.'s from UCLA's department of anthropology, are stupendous methodologists whose academic disciplines are in fact oddly suited for describing the magical world they present---a configuration of energy called "the second attention." Not a place for the timid New Ager.


I do not lead a double life. I live this life: There is no gap between what I say and what I do. I am not here to pull your chain, or to be entertaining. What I am going to talk about today are not my opinions---they are those of don Juan Matus, the Mexican Indian who showed me this other world. So don't be offended! Juan Matus presented me with a working system backed by twenty seven generations of sorcerers. Without him I would be an old man, a book under my arm, walking with students on the quad. See, we always leave a safety valve; that's why we don't jump. "If all else fails, I can teach anthropology. " We are already losers with losers' scenarios. "I'm Dr. Castaneda . . . and this is my book, The Teachings of Don Juan. Did you know it's in paperback?" I would be the "one book" man---the burnt-out genius. "Did you know it's in a twelfth edition? It's just been translated into Russian."

Or maybe I'd be parking your car and mouthing platitudes: "It's too hot . . .it's fine, but it's too hot. It's too cold . . . it's fine, but it's too cold. I gotta go to the tropics . . . "


In 1960, Castaneda was a graduate student in anthropology at UCLA. While in Arizona researching the medicinal properties of plants, he met a Yaqui Indian who agreed to help. The young fieldworker offered five dollars an hour for the services of don Juan Matus, his picturesque guide. The usher refused. Unbeknownst to Castaneda, the old peasant in huaraches was a peerless sorcerer, a nagual who artfully drafted him as a player in the Myth of Energy (Abelar calls it Sorcery Action Theater). In payment for his services, don Juan asked for something different: Castaneda's "total attention."

The astonishing book born of this encounter---The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge---became an instant classic, neatly blowing the hinges off the doors of perception and electrifying a generation. Since then, he has continued "to peel away at the onion, adding journals of his experience, magisterial elucidations of nonordinary realities that erode the self. A sweeping title for the work might be The Disappearance of Carlos Castaneda.

We need to find a different word for sorcery," he says. "It's too dark. We associate it with medieval absurdities: ritual, evil. I like 'warriorism' or 'navigation.' That's what sorcerers do they navigate."

He has written that a working definition of sorcery is "to perceive energy directly." Sorcerers said that the essence of the universe resembled a matrix of energy shot through by incandescent strands of consciousness-actual awareness. Those strands formed "braids containing all-inclusive worlds, each as real as this ours is merely one among an infinity. The sorcerers call the world we know the "human band" or "the first attention."

They also saw the essence of the human form. It was not merely an apelike amalgamation of skin and bones, but an eggshaped ball of luminosity capable of traveling along those incandescent strands to other worlds. Then what held it back? The sorcerers' idea is we are entombed by social upbringing, tricked into perceiving the world as a place of hard objects and finalities. We go to our graves denying we are magical beings; our agenda is to service the ego instead of the spirit. Before we know it, the battle is over---we die squalidly shackled to the Self. Don Juan Matus made an intriguing proposition: What would happen if Castaneda redeployed his troops? if he freed the energy routinely engaged by the aggressions of courtship and mating? if he curtailed self-importance and withdrew from the "defense, maintenance, and presentation" of the ego---if he ceased to worry whether he was liked, acknowledged, or admired? Would he gain enough energy to see a crack in the world? And if he did, might he go through? The old Indian had hooked him on the "intent" of the sorcerers' world.

But what does Castaneda do during the day?

Talks to the crazy apes. For now, anyway---in private homes, ballet studios, bookstores. They make pilgrimages from the world over: icons of New Awareness past, present, and future, energy groupies, shrinks and shamans, lawyers, Deadheads, drummers, debunkers and lucid dreamers, scholars, socialites and seducers, channelers, meditators and moguls, even lovers and cronies "from 10,000 years ago." Furious note takers come, junior naguals in the making. Some will write books about him; the lazier ones, chapters. Others will give seminars---that is, for a fee. "They come to listen for a few hours, "he says, "and the next weekend they are giving lectures on Castaneda. That's the ape." He stands before them hours at a time enticing and exhorting their energy bodies," and the effect is hot and cold all at once, like dry ice. With numinous finesse, he wrests savage tales of freedom and power like scarves from the empty funnel---moving, elegant, obscene, hilarious, bloodcurdling, and surgically precise. Ask me anything! comes the entreaty. What would you like to know?

Why were Castaneda and Co. making themselves accessible? Why now? What was in it for them?


There is someone who goes into me unknown and waits for us to join her. She's called Carol Tiggs---my counterpart. She was with us, then vanished. Her disappearance lasted ten years. Where she went is inconceivable. It does not yield to rationality. So please suspend judgment! We were going to have bumper sticker.


Carol Tiggs went away. She was not living in the mountains of New Mexico, I assure you. One day I was giving a lecture at the Phoenix Bookstore and she materialized. My heart jumped out of my shirt fomp fomp fomp. I kept talking. I talked for two hours without knowing what I was saying. I took her outside and asked her where she had been---ten years! She became cagey and started to sweat. She had only vague recollections. She made jokes.

The reappearance of Carol Tiggs opened an enormous door---energetically--- through which we come and go. There's a huge entry where I can hook you to the intent of sorcery. Her return gave us a new ring of power; she brought with her a tremendous mass of energy that allows us to come out. That's why we are available at this moment. Someone was introduced to Carol Tiggs at a lecture. He said, "But you look so normal." Carol Tiggs said: "What did you expect? Lightning coming out of my tits?"


Who is Carlos Castaneda, and does he have a life?

It's 1994 already: Why doesn't he just get it over with? Tell us his age and have Avedon take the picture. Hasn't anyone told him that privacy is dead? That the revelation of details no longer diminishes? In exchange for our total attention, he's got to orient us. There are things one would like to know--- mundane, personal things. Like where does he live? What did he think of Sinatra's Duets? What has he done with the egregious profits from his books? Does he drive a turbo Bentley like all the big old Babas? Was that really him with Michael Jordan and Edmund White at uptown Barneys?

They've been trying to pin him down for years.

They even reconstructed his face from memories of old colleagues and dubious acquaintances; the absurd result looks like a police artist's rendering of benevolent Olmec man for Reader's Digest. In the '70s, a photo appeared in a Time cover story (only the eyes were visible)---when the magazine learned the model was a counterfeit, they never forgave him.

Around when Paul McCartney was declared dead, the rumor solidified. Carlos Castaneda was Margaret Mead.

His agent and lawyers are full-time hedges against the onslaught of correspondents and crazies, spiritual hang gliders, New Age movers and seekers, artists wishing to adapt his work--- famous and unknown, with or without permission---and bogus seminars replete with Carlos impersonators. After thirty years, there is still no price on his head. He has no interest in gurus or guruism; there will be no turbo Bentleys, no ranches of turbaned devotees, no guest-edit of Paris Vogue. There will be no Castaneda Institute, no Center for Advanced Sorcery Studies, no Academy of Dreaming---no infomercials, mushrooms, or Tantric sex. There will be no biographies and there will be no scandals. When he's invited to lecture, Castaneda receives no fee and offers to pay his travel fare. The gate is usually a few dollars, to cover rental of the hall. All that is asked of attendees is their total attention.

"Freedom is free," he says. "It cannot be bought or understood. With my books, I've tried to present an option---that awareness can be a medium for transportation or movement. I haven't been so convincing; they think I'm writing novels. If I were tall and handsome, things might be different---they would listen to the Big Daddy. People say, 'You're lying.' How could I be lying? You only lie to get something, to manipulate. I don't want anything from anyone --- only consensus. We'd like there to be consensus that there are worlds besides our own. If there's consensus to grow wings then there'll be flight. With consensus comes mass; with mass there will be movement."

Castaneda and his confederates are the energetic radicals of what may be the only significant revolution of our time --- nothing short of transforming the biological imperative into an evolutionary one. If the sovereign social order commands procreation, the fearless order of sorcerers (energetic pirates all) is after something less, well, terrestrial. Their startling, epochal intent is to leave the earth the way don Juan did twenty years before: as sheer energy, awareness intact. Sorcerers call this somersault "the abstract flight."


When I was young, I used to idolize Alan Watts. After I became "Carlos Castaneda," I had entree and went to him. He scared the living daylights out of me. He was not what he pretended to be---he asked me to bed. I said, "Hey Alan, what is this? "But Carlos," he said, "don't you see the beauty? That I'm able to understand perfection, yet cannot attain my beliefs? I am imperfect but embrace the weakness it means to be human." That's harseshit. I told him: "I know people who say the opposite; they do what they say. And they live to prove we a sublime." There is a woman, big spiritualist. Millions of dollars go though her hands---she's been doing it twenty years. I went to see he4r at someone' house and she was stroking the crotch of a man, right in front of where I stood. Was she doing it to impress me? To shock? I cannot be shocked. Later, I cornered her in the kitchen. I said, "What do you say to yourself when you're alone in the middle of the night?" Don Juan used to put that question to me. "What do you say when you're alone and you look in the mirror?" "Ah, Carlos," she said, "that's the secret. Never to be alone." Is that really the secret? Never to be alone? How horrendous. That's a shitty secret.

This Yaqui sorcerer asked me to suspend judgment for three days---to believe for three days that to be human was not to be weak, but to be sublime. Either one is true, yes…but how much more powerful to be sublime.! The ape is insane, but also exquisite. Don Juan was a frigging ape---but he was in impeccable warrior. He left the world, intact. He became energy; he burned from within.

He used to say, "I was born a dog…but I don't have to die like one. Do you want to live like your father?" He asked me that. "Do you want to die like your grandfather?" Then came the bit question: "What are you going to do to avoid dying that way?" I didn't answer---I didn't have to. The answer was: "Nothing." A terrifying moment. How that haunted me.


I met with Castaneda and "the witches" over a period of a week at restaurants, hotel rooms, and malls. They're attractive and vibrantly youthful. The women dress unobtrusively, with a touch of casual chic. You wouldn't notice them in a crowd, and that's the point.

I skimmed a New Yorker outside the cafe of the Regent Beverly Wilshire. The ad for Drambuie seemed particularly hideous: Inevitably, no matter how much we struggle, In one way or another, one day we become our parents. Instead of resisting this notion, we invite you to celebrate this rite of passage with an exquisite liquor ... Don Juan was laughing in his grave --- or out of it, which brought to mind a welter of questions: Where was he anyway? The same place Carol Tiggs came back from? If that were so, did that mean the old nagual was capable of such reentry? In The Fire From Within Castaneda wrote that don Juan and his party evanesced sometime in 1973---fourteen navigators gone, to the "second attention." What exactly was the second attention? It all seemed clear when I was reading the books. I searched my notes. I'd scrawled "second attention = heightened awareness" on the margin of a page, but that didn't help. Impatiently, I riffled through The Power of Silence, The Eagle's Gift, Journey to Ixtlan. Though there was much throughout I didn't understand, the basics had been thoroughly, coherently described. Why couldn't I hold any of it in my head?

I was failing Sorcery 101.

I ordered a cappuccino and waited. I let my mind drift. I thought about Donner-Grau and the Japanese monkeys. When I'd spoken to her on the phone to arrange an interview, she'd mentioned Imo. Every anthropology student knows about Imo, the famous macaque. One day Imo spontaneously washed off a sweet potato before eating it; in a short while, the macaques of the entire island followed suit. Anthropologists might call this "cultural" behavior, but Donner-Grau said it was a perfect example of critical mass---monkey intersubjectivity.

Castaneda appeared. He smiled broadly, shook my hand, and sat down. I was about to bring up the monkeys when he began to weep. The forehead crinkled; his entire body convulsed in lamentation. Soon he was gasping like a grouper thrown from the tank. His lower lip twitched, wet and electrified. His arm unfurled toward me, the hand palsied and trembling---then it opened like a night---blooming bud from Little Shop of Horrors, as if to receive alms.

"Please!" He declared a shaky truce with his facial muscles just to spit out the words. He bore down on me in needy supplication. "Please love me!"

Castaneda was sobbing again, a great broken, choking hydrant, his bathos effortless as he became an obscene weeping contraption. "That's what we are: apes with tin cups. So routinary, so weak. Masturbatory. We are sublime, but the insane ape lacks the energy to see---so the brain of the beast prevails. We cannot grab our window of opportunity, our 'cubic centimeter of chance.' How could we? We're too busy holding onto Mommy's hand. Thinking how wonderful we are, how sensitive, how unique. We are not unique! The scenarios of our lives have already been written," he said, grinning ominously, "by others. We know . . . but we don't care. Fuck it, we say. We are the ultimate cynics. Cono! Carajo! That's how we live! In a gutter of warm shit. What have they done to us? That's what don Juan used to say. He used to ask me, 'How's the carrot?' 'What do you mean?' 'The carrot they shoved up your ass.' I was terribly offended; he could really do it to me! That's when he said, 'Be grateful they haven't put a handle on it yet.' "

"But if we have a choice, why do we stay in the gutter?"

"It's too warm. We don't want to leave---we hate to say goodbye. And we worry---ooo-fa, how we worry---twenty-six hours a day! And what do you think we worry about?" He smiled again, a rubbery Cheshire cat. "About me! What about me? What's in it for me? What's gonna happen to me? Such egomania! So horrendous. But fascinating! "

I told him his views seemed a little harsh, and he laughed. "Yes," he said, in the ludicrously constipated, judgey tones of an academic. "Castaneda is a bitter and insane old man." His caricatures were drolly, brutally on target.

"The greedy ape reaches through a grate for a seed and cannot relinquish control. There are studies; nothing will make him drop that seed. The hand will cling even after you hack off the arm---we die holding onto mierda. But why? Is that all there is---like Miss Peggy Lee said? That cannot be; That's too horrendous. We have to learn how to let go. We collect memories and paste them in books, ticket stubs to a Broadway show ten years ago. We die holding onto souvenirs. To be a sorcerer is to have the energy, curiosity, and guts to let go, to somersault into the unknown---all one needs is some retooling, redefinition. We must see ourselves as beings who are going to die. Once you accept that, worlds open up for you. But to embrace this definition, you must have 'balls of steel.' "


When you say "mountain" or "tree" or "White House," you invoke a universe of detail with a single utterance; that's magic. See, we're visual creatures. You could lick the White House---smell it, touch it---and it wouldn't tell you anything. But one look, and you know everything there is to know: the "cradle of democracy," whatever. You don't even need to look, you already see Clinton sitting inside, Nixon on his knees praying---whatever. Our world is an agglutination of detail, an avalanche of glosses---we don't perceive, we merely interpret. And our interpretation system has made us lazy and cynical. We prefer to say "Castaneda's a liar" or "This business of perceptual options just isn't for me." What is for you? What's "real"? This hard, shitty, meaningless daily world? Are despair and senility what's real? That the world is "given" and "final" is a fallacious concept. From an early age we get "membership." One day, when we've learned the shorthand of interpretation, the world says "welcome." Welcome to what? To prison. Welcome to hell. What if it turns out that Castaneda is inventing nothing? If that's true, then you're in a very bad spot.

The interpretation system can be interrupted; it is not final. There are worlds within worlds, each as real as this. In that wall over there is a world, this room is a universe of detail. Autistics get caught, frozen in detail---they trace a finger on the crack until it bleeds. We get caught in the room of everyday life. There are options other than this world, as real as this room, places where you can live or die. Sorcerers do that---how exciting! To think that this is the only all---inclusive world . . .that's the epitome of arrogance. Why not open the door to another room? That's the natural heritage of sentient beings. It's time to interpret and construct new glosses. Go to a place where there's no a priori knowledge. Don't throw away your old system of interpretation---use it, from nine to five. After five? Magic hour.


But what does he mean by "magic hour"?

Their books are meticulously detailed evocations of the unknown, yet the irony remains; there's no real Lexicon for their experience. Magic hour isn't wordfriendly--- its surplus energies are experienced bodily. Whenever Castaneda left don Juan to return to Los Angeles, the old nagual liked to say he knew what his student would be up to. He could make a list, he said---maybe a long list, but still, a list---upon which Castaneda's thoughts and actions could inevitably be found. But it was impossible for Castaneda to do the same for his teacher. There was no intersubjectivity between the two men. Whatever it was the Indian did in the second attention could only be experienced , not conveyed. Back then, Castaneda had neither the energy nor the preparation it took for such consensus.

But the ape is possessed by words and syntax. He must understand, at all costs. And there must be regimen to his understanding.

"We are linear beings: dangerous creatures of habit and repetition. We need to know: There's the chicken place! There's the shoelace place! There's the car wash! If one day one of them isn't there---we go bananas." He insisted on paying for lunch. When the waiter returned with the slip, I had a sudden urge to grab the credit card and see if it was in his name. He caught my glance.

"A business manager tried to get me to do the old American Express ad: CARLOS CASTANEDA, MEMBER since 1968." He laughed gleefully, circling back to his theme. "We are heavy, heavy apes, very ritualistic. My friend Ralph used to see his grandmother on Monday nights. She died. And he said, 'Hey Joe---I was Joe then---'hey Joe, now we can get together on Monday nights. Are you free Mondays, Joe? 'You mean every Monday, Ralph?' 'Yes, yes! Every Monday. Won't it be great?' 'But every Monday? forever?' 'Yes, Joe! You and me on Mondays---forever!' "


I met a scientist at a party---a well---known man. Eminent. A luminary. "Dr. X." He wanted to dis me, heavily. He said, "I read your first book; the rest were boring. Look, I'm not interested in anecdotes. I'm interested in proof." Dr. X confronted me. He must have thought l was as important as he was. I said, "If I was to prove the law of gravity, wouldn't you need a degree of training to follow me? You'd need 'membership'--- maybe even equipment. You'd need to have taken Physics 1, 2, 16, maybe even Physics 23. You'd have already made tremendous sacrifices to learn: to go to school, to study long hours. You may even have stopped dating. " I told him if he wanted proof he'd have to take Sorcery 101. But he wouldn't do that; that takes preparation. He got angry and left the room. Sorcery is a flow, a process. Just as in physics you need certain knowledge to follow the flow of the equations, Dr. X would have had to do some very basic things to be in a position to have enough energy to understand the flow of sorcery. He would have had to "recapitulate" his life. So: the scientist wanted proof but didn't want to prepare. That's the way we are. We don't want to do the work---we want to be helicoptered to awareness, without getting mud in our shoesies. And if we don't like what we see, we want to be helicoptered back.


It is tiring being with this man. He's overly, ruthlessly present--- the fullness of his attention exhausts. He seems to respond to my queries with all he has; there's a liquid, eloquent urgency to his speech, dogged and final, elegant, elegiac. Castaneda said he feels time "advancing" upon him. You sense his weight, something foreign you can't identify, ethereal yet indolent, densely inert--- like a plug or buoy, a cork lying heavily on the waves.

We're walking in Boyle Heights. He stops to demonstrate a martial arts position called the horse---legs slightly bent, as if in the saddle. "They stood like this in Buenos Aires---in my day. Everything was very stylized. They were adopting the poses of men long dead. My grandfather stood this way. The muscle under here"---he points to the backside of his thigh---"that's where we store nostalgia. Self-pity is a most horrendous thing."

"What did you mean about 'time advancing' on you?"

'Don Juan had a metaphor. We stand in a caboose, watching the tracks of time recede. 'there I am a five years old! There I go ---' We have merely to turn around and let the time advance on us. That way, there are no a prioris. Nothing is presumed; nothing presupposed; nothing neatly packaged."

We sat on a bus bench. Across the street a beggar held a piece of cardboard for the motorists. Castaneda stared past him toward the horizon. "I don't have a tinge of tomorrow---and nothing from the past. The department of anthropology doesn't exist for me anymore. Don Juan used to say the first part of his life was a waste---he was in limbo. The second part of his life was absorbed in the future; the third, in the past, nostalgia. Only the last part of his life was now. That's where I am."

I decided to ask something personal and prepared to be rebuffed. For them, biographical evidence will mesmerize as surely as a crack in the wall---leaving everyone with bloody fingers.

"When you were a boy, who was the most important man in your life?"

"My grandfather --- he raised me." His hard eyes were glinting. "He had a stud pig called Rudy. Made a lot of money. Rudy had a little blond face---gorgeous. They used to put a hat on him, a vest. My grandfather made a tunnel from the sty to the showroom. There would come Rudy with his midget face, trailing this huge body behind! Rudy, with his screwdriver pincho; we watched that pig commit barbarities."

"What was he like---your grandfather.''

"I adored him. He was the one who made the agenda; I was going to carry his banner. That was my fate, but not my destiny. My grandfather was an amorous man. He schooled me in seduction at an early age. When I was twelve, I walked like him, talked like him---with a constricted larynx. He's the one who taught me to 'go in through the window.' He said women would run if I approached them head-on---I was too plain. He made me go up to little girls and say: 'You're so beautiful!' Then I'd turn and walk away. 'You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen!'---quickly walk away. After three or four times they'd say, 'Hey! Tell me your name.' That's how I got 'in through the window.’”

He got up and walked. The beggar was heading for the bushy dead zone that surrounded the freeway. When we got to his car, Castaneda opened the door and stood a moment.

"A sorcerer asked me a question, a long time ago: What kind of face does the bogeyman have, for you? I was intrigued. This thing I thought would be shadowy, murky, had a human face--- the bogeyman often has the face of something you think you love. For me, it was my grandfather. My grandfather, who I adored. I got in and he started the car. The last part of the beggar disappeared into the grubby hedgerow.”

"I was my grandfather. Dangerous, mercenary, conniving. petty, vindictive, filled with doubt---and immovable. Don Juan knew this."


At seventy-five, we're still looking for "love" and "companionship." My grandfather used to wake up in the middle of the night crying, "Do you think she loves me?" His last words were, "Here I go baby, here I go!" He had a big orgasm and died. For years I thought that was the greatest thing--- magnificent. Then don Juan said, "Your grandfather died like a pig. His life and death had no meaning."

Don Juan said death can't be soothing--- only triumph can. I asked him what he meant by triumph and he said freedom: when you break through the veil and take your life force with you. "But there's still so much that I want to do! "He said, "You mean there are still so many women you want to fuck." He was right. That's how primitive we are.

The ape will consider the unknown, but before he jumps he demands to know: What's in it for me? We're businessmen, investors, used to cutting our losses-- -it's a merchant's world. If we make an "investment," we want guarantees. We fall in love but only if we're loved back. When we don't love anymore, we cut the head off and replace it with another. Our "love" is merely hysteria. We are not affectionate beings, we are heartless.

I thought I knew how to love. Don Juan said, "How could you? They never taught you about love. They taught you how to seduce, to envy, to hate. You don't even love yourself---otherwise you wouldn't have put your body through such barbarities. You don't have the guts to love like a sorcerer. Could you love forever, beyond death? Without the slightest reinforcement---nothing in return? Could you love without investment, for the piss of it? You'll never know what it's like to love like that, relentlessly. Do you really want to die without knowing?"

No---I didn't. Before I die, I have to know what it's like to love like that. He hooked me that way. When I opened my eyes, I was already rolling down the hill. I'm still rolling.


I had too many Cokes and was paranoid.

Castaneda said sugar is as effective a killer as common sense. "We are not 'psychological' creatures. Our neuroses are by---products of what we put in our mouths.'--- I was certain he saw my "energy body" irradiating cola. I felt absurd, defeated---I decided I would binge that night on profiteroles. Such is the piquant, dark-chocolated shame of the picayune ape.

"I had a great love affair with Coke. My grandfather possessed a pseudosensuality.

'I gotta have that pussy! I need it! I need it now!' My grandfather thought he was the hottest dick in town. Most extravagant. I had the same thing--- everything went right to my balls, but it wasn't real. Don Juan told me, 'You're being triggered by sugar. You're too flimsy to have that kind of sexual energy.' Too fat to have this 'hot dick."

'Everyone's smoking in Universal CityWalk. Strange, sitting with Carlos Castaneda in this architectural approximation of middle-class Los Angeles--- this "agglutination of detail," this 'avalanche of glosses" that is a virtual city. There are no black people and nothing resembling heightened awareness; we've shifted from the human band to the band of MCA. We are inhabiting a perversely bland version of a familiar scene from his books, the one where he abruptly finds himself in a simulacrum of the everyday world.

"You said that if Dr. X had 'recapitulated his life,' he might have retrieved some energy. What did you mean?"

"The recapitulation is the most important thing we do. To begin, you make a list of everyone you ever knew. Everyone you ever spoke to or had dealings with."


"Yes. You go down the list, chronologically re-creating the scenes of exchange." "But that could take years."

"Sure. A thorough recapitulation takes a long time. And then you start over. We are never through recapitulating---that way there's no residue. See, there's no 'rest.' Rest is a middle-class concept---the idea that if you work hard enough, you've earned a vacation. Time to go four-wheeling in the Range Rover or fishing in Montana. That's horseshit."

"You re-create the scene ... "

"Start with sexual encounters. You see the sheets, the furniture, the dialogue. Then get to the person, the feeling. What were you feeling? Watch! Breathe in the energy you expended in the exchange; give back what isn't yours."

"It almost sounds like psychoanalysis."

"You don't analyze, you observe. The filigrees, the detail---you're hooking yourself to the sorcerers' intent. It's a maneuver, a magical act hundreds of years old, the key to restoring energy that will free you for other things."

"You move your head and breathe---"

"Go down the list until you get to mommy and daddy. By then you'll be shocked; you'll see patterns of repetition that will nauseate you. Who is sponsoring your insanity's? Who is making the agenda? The recapitulation will give you a moment of silence---it will allow you to vacate the premises and make room for something else. From the recapitulation you come up with endless tales of the Self, but you are no longer bleeding."


When I came to don Juan, I was already fucked to death; I'd exhausted myself that way. I'm not in the world anymore, not like that; sorcerers use that kind of energy to fly off, or to change. Fucking is our most important act, energetically. See, we've dispersed our best generals but don't try to call them back; we lose by default. That's why it's so important to recapitulate your life.

The recapitulation separates our commitment to the social order from our life force. The two are not inextricable. Once I was able to subtract the social being from my native energy, I could clearly see: I wasn't that "sexy."

Sometimes I talk to groups of psychiatrists. They want to know about the orgasm. When you're out there flying in the immensity's, you don't give a shit about the "Big O." Most of us are frigid; all this sensuality is mental masturbation. We are "bored fucks"---no energy at the moment of conception. Either we're first born and the parents didn't know how to do it, or last born and they're not interested anymore. We're fucked either way. We're just biological meat with bad habits and no energy. We are boring creatures, but instead we say, "I'm so bored."

Fucking is much more injurious for women ---men are drones. The universe is female. Women have total access, they're already there. It's just they're so stupidly socialized. Women are portentous fliers; they have a second brain, an organ they can use for unimaginable flight. They use their wombs for dreaming.

Do we have to stop fucking? The men ask Florinda that. She says, "Go ahead! Stick your little pee-pee wherever you want! " Oh, she's a horrible witch! She's worse with the women--- the weekend goddesses who paint their nipples and go on retreats. She says, "Yes, you're here being goddesses. But what do you do when you get home? You get fucked, like slaves! The men leave luminous worms in your pussy!"

A truly terrible witch!


Florinda Donner-Grau takes no prisoners. She is small-boned, charming, and aggressive--- like a jockey with a shiv.

When Donner-Grau first encountered don Juan and his circle, she thought they were unemployed circus workers who trafficked in stolen goods. How else to explain the Baccarat crystal, the exquisite clothes, the antiquarian jewelry? She felt adventurous around them--- by nature she was cocky, daring, vivacious. For a South American girl, her life had been freewheeling.

"I thought I was the most wonderful being who ever was---so bold, so special. I raced cars and dressed like a man. Then this old Indian said the only thing 'special' about me was my blonde hair and blue eyes in a country where those things were revered. I wanted to strike him---in fact, I think I did. But he was right, you know. This celebration of Self is totally insane. What the sorcerers do is kill the Self. You must die, in that sense, in order to live---not live in order to die."

Don Juan encouraged his students to have a "romance with knowledge." He wanted their minds sufficiently trained to view sorcery as an authentic philosophical system; in a delicious reversal distinctive to the sorcerer's world, fieldwork led to academia. The road to magic hour was funny that way.

She recalled the first time Castaneda took her to Mexico to see Don Juan. "We went via this long, snaky route---you know, the 'coyote trail.' I thought he was taking a weird route so we wouldn't be followed, but it was something else. You had to have enough energy to find that old Indian. After I don't know how long, there was someone on the road waving us in. I said to Carlos, 'Hey, aren't you going to stop?' He said, 'It isn't necessary.' See, we had crossed over the fog. "

We rocketed past Pepperdine. Someone was selling crystals by the road. I wondered if Shirley MacLaine's house had burned; I wondered if Dick Van Dyke had rebuilt. Maybe Van Dyke had moved into MacLaine's with the Sean Penns.

"What happens with people who are interested in your work---the ones who read your books and write letters? Do you help them?"

"People are intellectually curious, they're 'teased' or whatever. They stay until it gets too difficult. The recapitulation is very unpleasant; they want immediate results, instant gratification. For a lot of the New Agers, it's The Dating Game. They case the room---furtive, prolonged eye contact with potential partners. Or it's just shopping on Montana Avenue. When the thing becomes too expensive in terms of what they have to give of themselves, they don't want to pursue it. You see, we want minimal investment with maximal return. No one is really interested in doing the work."

"But they would be interested, if there was some kind of proof what you're saying---"

"Carlos has a great story. There was a woman he'd known for years. She called from Europe, in terrible shape. He said come to Mexico---you know, 'jump into my world.' She hesitated. Then she said, 'I'll come---as long as I know my huaraches are waiting on the other side of the river.' She wanted guarantees she'd land on her feet. Of course, there are no guarantees. We're all like that: We will jump, as long as we know our huaraches are waiting for us on the other side."

"What if you jump---as best you can---and it turns out it was only a fever dream?"

"Then have a good fever."


This is not a book for people.

That's what someone who has known him for years said about The Art of Dreaming. In fact, it is the crown of Castaneda's work, an instruction manual to an undiscovered country---the delineation of ancient techniques used by sorcerers to enter the second attention. Like his other books, it's lucid and unnerving, yet there's something haunting about this one. It smells like it was made somewhere else. I was curious how it all began.

"I used to take notes, with don Juan---thousands of notes. Finally, he said, 'Why don't you write a book?' I told him that was impossible. 'I'm not a writer. "But you could write a shitty book, couldn't you?' I thought to myself, Yes! I could write a shitty book. Don Juan laid down a challenge: 'Can you write this book, knowing it may bring notoriety? Can you remain impeccable? If they love you or hate you is meaningless. Can you write this book and not give in to what may come your way?' I agreed. Yes. I'll do it.

"And terrifying things came my way. But the panties didn't fit."

I told him I wasn't sure about the last remark, and he laughed.

"That's an old joke. A woman's car breaks down and a man repairs it. She has no money and offers him earrings. He tells her his wife wouldn't believe him. She offers her watch but he tells her bandits will steal it. Finally, she takes off her panties to give him. 'No, please,' he says. 'They're not my size.'"


I had never been alone until I met don Juan. He said, "Get rid of your friends. They will never allow you to act with independence--- they know you too well. You will never be able to come from left field with something. ..shattering." Don Juan told me to rent a room, the more sordid the better. Something with green floors and green curtains that reeked of piss and cigarettes. "Stay there," he said. "Be alone until you are dead." I told him I couldn't do it. I didn't want to leave my friends. He said, "Well, I can't talk to you ever again." He waved goodbye, big smile. Boy, was I relieved! This weird old man---this Indian---had thrown me out. The whole thing had tied itself up so neatly. The closer I got to L.A., the more desperate I became. I realized what I was going home to---my "friends." And for what? To have meaningless dialogue with those who knew me so well. To sit on the couch by the phone waiting to be invited to a party. Endless repetition. I went to the green room and called don Juan. "Hey, not that I'm going to do it--- but tell me, what is the criteria for being dead?" "When you no longer care whether you have company or whether you are alone. That is the criteria for being dead."

It took three months to be dead. I climbed the walls desperate for a friend to drop by. But I stayed. By the end, I'd gotten rid of assumptions; you don't go crazy being alone. You go crazy the way you're going, that's for sure. You can count on it.


We headed in his station wagon toward the cheap apartment house where Castaneda went to die.

"We could go to your old room," I said, "and knock on the door. For the hell of it." He said that might be taking things too far."

'What do you want out of life?' That's what Don Juan used to ask me. My classic response 'Frankly, Don Juan, I don't know.' That was my pose as the 'thoughtful' man--- the intellectual. Don Juan said, 'That answer would satisfy your mother, not me.' See, I couldn't think---I was bankrupt. And he was an Indian. Carajo, cono! God, you don't know what that means. I was polite, but I looked down on him. One day he asked if we were equals. Tears sprang to my eyes as I threw my arms around him. 'Of course we're equals, don Juan! How could you say such a thing!' Big hug; I was practically weeping. 'You really mean it?' he said. 'Yes, by God!' When I stopped hugging him he said, 'No, we are not equals. I am an impeccable warrior---and you are an asshole. I could sum up my whole life in a moment. You cannot even think." We pulled over and parked underneath some trees. Castaneda stared at the seedy building with an odd ebullience, shocked it was still there. He said it should have been torn down long ago---that its perseverance in the world was some kind of weird magic. Children were playing with a giant plastic fire engine. A homeless woman drifted past like a somnambulist. He made no move to get out. He began talking about what "dying in that green room" meant. By the time he left that place, Castaneda was finally able to listen unjaundiced to the old Indian's far-out premises.

Don Juan told him that when sorcerers see energy, the human form presents itself as a luminous egg. Behind the egg---roughly an arm's length from the shoulders---is the "assemblage point," where incandescent strands of awareness are gathered. The way we perceive the world is determined by the point's position. The assemblage point of mankind is fixed at the same point on each egg; such uniformity accounts for our shared view of everyday life. (Sorcerers call this arena of awareness "the first attention.") Our way of perceiving changes with the point's displacement by injury, shock, drugs---or in sleep, when we dream. "The art of dreaming" is to displace and fix the assemblage point in a new position, engendering the perception of alternate, all-inclusive worlds ("the second attention"). Smaller shifts of the point within the egg are still inside the human band and account for the hallucinations of delirium ---or the world encountered during dreams. Larger movements of the assemblage point, more dramatic, pull the "energy body" outside the human band to nonhuman realms. That is where don Juan and his party journeyed in 1973 when they "burned from within," fulfilling the unthinkable assertion of his lineage: evolutionary flight.

Castaneda learned that whole civilizations---a conglomerate of dreamers---had vanished in the same way.

He told me about a sorcerer of his lineage who had tuberculosis---and was able to shift his assemblage point away from death. That sorcerer had to remain impeccable; his illness hung over him like a sword. He could not afford an ego- --he knew precisely where his death lay, waiting for him.

Castaneda turned to me, smiling. "Hey . . ."

He had a strangely effusive look, and I was ready. For three weeks I'd been awash in his books and their contagious presentation of possibilities. Perhaps this was the moment in which I'd make my pact with Mescalito. Or had we already "crossed over the fog" without my knowing?

"Hey," he said again, his eyes fairly twinkling. "Do you want to get a hamburger?"


"That the assemblage point of man is fixed in one position is a crime."

I sat with Taisha Abelar on a bench in front of the art museum on Wilshire. She didn't sync up with my image of her. Castaneda said that as part of Abelar's training, she'd assumed different personas---one being the "Madwoman of Oaxaca," a lecherous, mud---smeared beggar woman---back in her days as a struggling actress in Sorcery Action Theater.

"I was going to call my book The Great Crossing but I thought that was too Eastern." "The Buddhist concept is pretty similar."

"There are lots of parallels. Our group has been crossing over for years but only recently have we compared notes---because our leaving is imminent. Seventy-five percent of our energy is there, 25 percent here. That's why we have to go."

"Is that where Carol Tiggs was? That 75 percent place?"

"You mean the Twilight Zone?"

She waited a deadpan beat, then laughed.

"We felt Carol Tiggs on our bodies when she was gone. She had tremendous mass. She was like a lighthouse; a beacon. She gave us hope---an incentive to go on. Because we knew she was there. Whenever I would become self-indulgent, I felt her tap me on the shoulder. She was our magnificent obsession."

"Why is it so difficult for the 'ape' to make his journey?"

"We perceive minimally; the more entanglements we have in this world, the harder it is to say goodbye. And we all have them---we all want fame, we want to be loved, to be liked. My gosh, some of us have children. Why would anyone want to leave? We wear a hood, cloaked . . . we have our happy moments that last us the rest of our lives. I know someone who was Miss Alabama. Is that enough to keep her from freedom? Yes. 'Miss Alabama' is enough to pin her down."

It was time to pose one of the Large Questions (there were a number of them): When they spoke of "crossing over," did that mean with their physical bodies? She replied that changing the Self didn't mean the Freudian ego but the actual, concrete Self---yes, the physical body. "When don Juan and his party left," she said, "they went with the totality of their beings. They left with their boots on."

She said dreaming was the only authentic new realm of philosophical discourse---that Merleau-Ponty was wrong when he said mankind was condemned to prejudge an a priori world. "There is a place of no a prioris---the second attention. Don Juan always said philosophers were 'sorcerers manques.' What they lacked was the energy to jump beyond their idealities.

"We all carry bags toward freedom: Drop the baggage. We even need to drop the baggage of sorcery."

"The baggage of sorcery?"

"We don't do sorcery; we do nothing. All we do is move the assemblage point. In the end, 'being a sorcerer' will trap you as sure as Miss Alabama."

A shabby, toothless woman shuffled toward us with postcards for sale---the Madwoman of the Miracle Mile. I picked one and gave her a dollar. I showed it to Abelar; it was a picture of Jesus, laughing.

"A rare moment," she said.


Where in this world is there left to explore?

It's all a priori---done and exhausted. We are slated for senility; it waits for us like magina, the river sickness. When I was a boy, I heard of it. A disease of memories and remembrance. It attacks people who live on the river shore. You become possessed of a longing that pushes you to move on and on---to roam without sense, endlessly. The river meanders; people used to say "the river is alive." When it reverses its course, it never remembers it was once flowing east to west. The river forgets itself.

There was a woman I used to visit at the convalescent home. She was there fifteen years. For fifteen years she prepared for a party she was throwing at the Hotel del Coronado. This was her delusion; she would ready herself each day but the guests would never come. She finally died. Who knows---maybe that was the day they finally arrived.


"How should I say you look?"

His voice became unctuously absurd. He was Fernando Rey, the bourgeois narcissist---with just a hint of Laurence Harvey.

"You may say I resemble Lee Marvin."

It was dusk in Roxbury Park. There was the steady, distant whomp of a tennis ball volleying against a concrete backstop.

"I read an article once in Esquire about California witchcraft. The first sentence went: 'Lee Marvin is scared.' Whenever something is not quite right, you can hear me: Lee Marvin is scared."

We agreed I would describe Castaneda as wheelchair-bound, with beautifully 'cut' arms and torso. I would say he wore fragrance by Bijan and long hair that delicately framed a face like the young Foucault.

He began to laugh. "I knew this woman once, she gives seminars now on Castaneda. When she felt depressed, she had a trick---a way to get out of it. She'd say to herself: 'Carlos Castaneda looks like a Mexican waiter' This is all it took to pull her up. Carlos Castaneda looks like a Mexican waiter!---instantly refreshed. Fascinating! How sad. But for her, it was good as Prozac! "

I'd been leafing through the books again and wanted to ask about "intent." It was one of the most abstract, prevalent concepts of their world. They spoke of intending freedom, of intending the energy body---they even spoke of intending intent.

"I don't understand intent."

"You don't understand anything." I was taken aback. "None of us do! We don't understand the world, we merely handle it---but we handle it beautifully. So when you say 'I don't understand,' that's just a slogan. You never understood anything to begin with."

I was feeling argumentative. Even sorcery had a "working definition." Why couldn't he give one for "intent"?

"I cannot tell you what intent is. I don't know myself. Just make it a new indexical category. We are taxonomists---how we love to keep indexes! Once, don Juan asked me: 'What is a university?' I told him it was a school for higher learning. He said, 'But what is a "school for higher learning"?' I told him it was a place where people met to learn. 'A park? A field?' He got me. I realized that 'university' had a different meaning for the taxpayer, for the teacher, for the student. We have no idea what 'university' is! It's an indexical category, like 'mountain' or 'honor.' You don't need to know what 'honor' is to move toward it. So move toward intent. Make intent an index. Intent is merely the awareness of a possibility---of a chance to have a chance. It's one of the perennial forces in the universe that we never call on---by hooking onto the intent of the sorcerer's world, you're giving yourself a chance to have a chance. You're not hooking onto the world of your father, the world of being buried six feet under. Intend to move your assemblage point. How? By intending! Pure sorcery."

"Move toward it, without understanding."

"Certainly! 'Intent' is just an index---most fallacious, but utterly utilizable. Just like 'Lee Marvin is scared."'


I meet people all the time who are dying to tell me their tales of sexual abuse. One guy told me when he was ten, his father grabbed his cock and said, "This is for fucking!" That traumatized him for ten years! He spent thousands on psychoanalysis. Are we that vulnerable? Bullshit. We've been around five billion years! But that defines him: He is a "sexual abuse victim." Mierda.

We are all poor babies.

Don Juan forced me to examine how I related to people wanted them to feel sorry for me. That was my "one trick." We have one trick that we learn early on and repeat until we die. If we are very imaginative, we have two. Turn on the television and listen to the talk shows: poor babies to the end.

We love Jesus---bleeding, nailed to the cross. That's our symbol. No one's interested in the Christ who was resurrected and ascended to Heaven. We want to be martyrs, losers; we don't want to succeed. Poor babies, praying to the poor baby. When Man fell to his knees, he became the asshole he is today. CONFESSIONS OF AN AWARENESS ADDICT Castaneda has long eschewed psychotropic drugs, yet they were an enormous part of his initiation into the nagual's world. I asked what that was about.

"Being male, I was very rigid---my assemblage point was immovable. Don Juan was running out of time, so he employed desperate measures.

"That's why he gave you the drugs? To dislodge your assemblage point?"

He nodded. "But with drugs, there's no control; it moves helter-skelter."

"Does that mean the time came when you were able to shift your assemblage point and dream without the use of drugs?"

"Certainly! That was don Juan's doing. You see, Juan Matus didn't give a fuck about 'Carlos Castaneda'. He was interested in that other being, the energy body ---what sorcerers call "the double". That's what he wanted to awaken. You use your Double to dream, to navigate in the second attention. That's what pulls you to freedom. 'I trust that the Double will do its duty,' he said. 'I will do anything for it---to help it awaken.' I got chills. These people were for real. They did not die crying for their mommies. Crying for pussy."

We were at a little cafe in the middle of the Santa Monica Airport. I went to the bright bathroom to wet my face and take it all in. I stared in the mirror and thought about the Double. I remembered something don Juan told Castaneda in The Art of Dreaming. "Your passion," he said , "is to jump without capriciousness or premeditation to cut someone else's chains."

On the way back, I formed a question.

"What was it like---I mean, the first time you shifted your assemblage point without drugs?"

He paused for a moment, then moved his head from side to side.

"Lee Marvin was very scared!" He laughed. "Once you start breaking the barriers of normal, historical perception, you believe you are insane. You need the nagual then, simply to laugh. He laughs your fears away."


I saw them go---don Juan and his group, a whole flock of sorcerers. They went to a place free from humanness and the compulsive worshipping of man. They burned from within. They made a movement as they went, they call it the "plumed serpent." They became energy; even their shoes. They made one last turn, one pass, to see this exquisite world for the last time. Ooh-woo-woo! I get chills---I shake. One last turn . . . for my eyes only.

I could have gone with him. When don Juan left he said, "It takes all my guts to go. I need all my courage, all my hope---no expectations. To stay behind, you will need all your hope and all your courage." I took a beautiful jump into the abyss and woke up in my office, near Tiny Naylor's. I interrupted the flow of psychological continuity: Whatever woke up in that office could not be the "me" that I knew linearly. That's why I'm the nagual.

The nagual is a nonentity---not a person. In place of the ego is something else, something very old. Something observant, detached--- and infinitely less committed to the Self. A man with an ego is driven by psychological desires. The nagual has none. He receives orders from some ineffable source that cannot be discussed. That's the final understanding: The nagual, in the end, becomes a tale, a story. He cannot be offended, jealous, possessive---he can't be anything. But he can tell tales of jealousy and passion.

The only thing the nagual fears is "ontological sadness." Not nostalgia for the good old days---that's egomania. Ontological sadness is something different. There's a perennial force that exists in the universe, like gravity, and the nagual feels it. It's not a psychological state. It is a confluence of forces that unite to clobber this poor microbe who has vanquished his ego. It is felt when there are no longer any attachments. You see it coming, then you feel it on top of you.


He used to love the movies, 10,000 years ago. Back when they showed allnighters at the Vista in Hollywood, back when he was learning the criteria for being dead. He doesn't go anymore, but the witches still do. It's a diversion from their freakish, epic activities---sort of like safe-sex dreaming. But not really.

"You know, there's a scene in Blade Runner that really got to us. The writer doesn't know what he's saying, but he hit something. The replicant is talking at the end: 'My eyes have seen inconceivable things.' He's talking about the constellations---'I have seen attack ships off of Orion'---nonsense, inanities. That was the only flaw for us, because the writer hasn't seen anything. But then the speech becomes beautiful. It's raining and the replicant says, 'What if all those moments will be lost in time . . .like tears in the rain?'

"This is a very serious question for us. They may be just tears in the rain--- yes. But you do your best, sir. You do your best and if your best isn't good enough, then fuck it. If your best isn't good enough, fuck God himself."
(continue to the next text)


Cvp: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs


Before I met him a final time, I was scheduled to see the mysterious Carol Tiggs for breakfast. Twenty years before, she had "jumped" with don Juan Matus's party into the unknown. Unimaginably, she had returned, somehow triggering a veritable road show of sorcerers. I was feeling more and more uneasy about our pending appointment. Each time the Large Question loomed ("Where the hell were you those ten years? " ), it evanesced . I felt like I was on the tracks; Carol Tiggs was waving from the caboose.

In a universe of dualities, Tiggs and Castaneda are energetic counterparts. They are not in the world together as man and wife. They have "double" energy; to a seer, their energetic bodies would appear as two luminous eggs instead of one. This doesn't make them "better" than Donner-Grau or Abelar or anyone---on the contrary. It gave them the predilection, as Juan Matus once said, to be "twice the asshole." Until now, Castaneda wrote exclusively about don Juan's world, never his own. But The Art of Dreaming is suffused with Carol Tiggs's dark, extraneous presence---and rife with hair-raising accounts of their excursions into the second attention, including the precipitous rescue of a "sentient being from another dimension" who takes the form of an angular, steely-eyed little girl called the Blue Scout.

I was just about to leave when the phone rang. I was sure it was Tiggs, calling to cancel. It was Donner-Grau.

I told her a dream I had that morning. I was with Castaneda in a gift shop called the Coyote Trail. She didn't care! She said normal dreams were just "meaningless masturbations." Cruel, heartless witch.

"I wanted to add something. People say to me, 'Here you are putting feminism down... the "leader" of this group was Juan Matus and now the new nagual is Carlos Castaneda---why is it always a male?' Well, the reason those males were 'leaders' was a matter of energy---not because they knew more or were 'better.' See, the universe truly is female; the male is pampered because he is unique. Carlos guides us not in what we do in the world, but in dreaming.

"Don Juan had this horrible phrase. He used to say women are 'cracked cunts'- --he wasn't being derogatory. It's precisely because we are 'cracked' that we have the facility for dreaming. Males are rigid through and through. But women have no sobriety, no structure, no context; in sorcery, that's what the male provides. The feminists become enraged when I say females are inherently complacent, but it's true! That's because we receive knowledge directly. We don't have to endlessly talk about it---that's the male process.

"Do you know what the nagual is? The myth of the nagual? That there are unlimited possibilities for all of us to be something else than what we are meant to be. You don't have to follow the route of your parents. Whether I'm going to succeed or not is immaterial."


Just after I hung up, the phone rang again. Carol Tiggs was calling to cancel. I expected to feel relief but it was a bringdown.

I'd spoken to people who had seen her lecture in Maui and Arizona. They said she was gorgeous; that she worked the room like a stand-up; that she did a mean Elvis. "I'm sorry we can't meet," she said. At least she sounded genuine. "I was looking forward to it."

"It's okay. I'll catch up with you at one of your lectures."

"Oh, I don't think I'll be doing that again for a while." There was a pause. "I have something for you."

"Is it the lightning from your tits?"

She hesitated a moment then broke into peals of laughter.

"Something much more dramatic." I felt a tug at the pit of my stomach. "You know, they always said people have this split between mind and body---this imbalance, this 'mindbody problem.' But the real dichotomy is between physical body and energy body. We die without having ever awakened that magical Double, and it hates us for that. It hates us so much it eventually kills us. That's the whole 'secret' of sorcery: accessing the Double for abstract flight. Sorcerers jump into the void of pure perception with their energy body."

Another pause. I wondered if that was all she was going to say. I was about to speak but something held my words in check.

"There's a song that don Juan thought was beautiful---he said the lyricist nearly got it right. Don Juan substituted one word to make it perfect. He put in freedom where the songwriter had written love."

Then the ghostly recitation began:

You only live twice
Or so it seems.
One life for yourself
And one for your dreams.
You drift through the years
And life seems tame.
'Til one dream appears
And Freedom is its name.
And Freedom's a stranger
Who'll beckon you on
Don't think of the danger
Or the stranger is gone.
This dream is for you
So pay the price.
Make one dream come true. . .*

* From "You Only Live Twice" by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse

She held back in silence a moment.

Then she said "Sweet dreams," parodied a witchy cackle, and hung up.


As the days became chillier it was easy to feel regret---about anything, even Prozac. What if it turns out Castaneda is inventing nothing? If that's true, then you are in a very bad spot.

We met for the last time on a cold day at the beach, by the pier. He said he couldn't stay long. He was sorry I wasn't able to meet Carol Tiggs. Some other time. I felt much the poor baby---Damnit, I just want to be loved. I was scared as Lee Marvin; I was Rutger Hauer with a tin cup; a shrieking Miracle Mile Jesus.

And Jesus looked down on all the people and said: I'm so bored.

We sat down on one of the benches on the bluff. I wanted to detain him, just for a moment. "Tell me the last time you felt nostalgia."

He answered without hesitation.

"When I had to say goodbye to my grandfather. He was long dead by then. Don Juan told me it was time to say goodbye: I was preparing for a long journey, no return. You have to say goodbye, he said, because you will never come back. I conjured my grandfather in front of me---saw him in perfect detail. A total vision of him. He had 'dancing eyes.' Don Juan said, 'Make your goodbye forever.' Oh, the anguish! It was time to drop the banner, and I did. My grandfather became a story. I've told it thousands of times."

We walked to his car.

"I feel an itch in my solar plexus---very exciting. I remember don Juan used to feel that, but I didn't understand what it meant. It means it will soon be time to go." He shivered with delight. "How exquisite!" As he drove off, he shouted at me through the window: Goodbye, illustrious gentleman!


I heard about a lecture in San Francisco. I was finished writing about them but decided to drive up. To put a cork in it, so to speak.

The auditorium was in an industrial park in Silicon Valley. His plane was late; when he walked in, the hall was filled. He spoke eloquently for three hours without a break. He answered questions with incitements, solicitations, and parries. No one moved.

At the end, he talked about killing the ego. Don Juan had a metaphor: " 'The lights are dimming, the musicians packing away their instruments. There is no more time for dancing: It is time to die.' Juan Matus said there was endless time, and no time at all---the contradiction is sorcery. Live it! Live it gorgeously.

A young man rose from the audience.

"But how can we do this without someone like don Juan? How can we do it without joining---"

"No one 'joins' us. There are no gurus. You don't need don Juan," he said emphatically. "I needed him---so I can explain it to you. If you want freedom, you need decision. We need mass in the world; we don't want to be masturbators. If you recapitulate, you'll gather the energy---we will find you. But you need a lot of energy. And for that, you have to work your balls off. So, suspend your judgment and take the option. Do it.

"Don Juan used to say, 'One of us is an asshole. And it isn't me.'" He paused a beat. "That's what I came to tell you today."

Everyone roared with laughter and rose in applause as Castaneda left through the back door.


Please love me! That would have been good for a laugh, anyway. But I forgot my tin cup.

I walked the sidewalk edges of the pond in darkness. A light wind scattered the brittle leaves on its border. One of our conversations came back---he'd been talking about love. I heard his voice and imagined myself on the caboose, slowly turning to face the words as they advanced...

"I fell in love when I was nine years old. Truly, I found my other Self. Truly. But it was not fated. Don Juan told me I would have been static, immobile. My fate was dynamic. One day, the love of my life---this nine-year old girl!--- moved away. My grandmother said, 'Don't be a coward! Go after her!' I loved my grandmother but never told her, because she embarrassed me---she had a speech impediment. She called me 'afor' instead of 'amor.' It was really just a foreign accent, but I was very young, I didn't know. My grandmother put a bunch of coins in my hand. 'Go and get her! We'll hide her and I'll raise her!' I took the money and started to go. Just then, my grandmother's lover whispered something in her ear. She turned to me with an empty look. 'Afor,' she said, 'afor, my precious darling . . .' and she took the money back. 'I am sorry, but we have just run out of time.' And I forgot about it---it took don Juan to put it together, years later.

"It haunts me. When I feel the itch---and the clock says quarter to twelve---I get chills! I shake, to this day!"

" 'Afor . . . my darling. We have just run out of time.' "

© Copyright Details Magazine


Cvp: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs

Carlos Castaneda Speaks,
An interview by Keith Thompson
Publication Date: March/April 1994
From New Age Journal

Literary agents are paid to hype their clients, but when the agent for Carlos Castaneda claimed that he was offering me "the interview of a lifetime," it was hard to disagree. After all, Castaneda's nine best-selling books describing his extraordinary apprenticeship to Yaqui Indian sorcerer don Juan Matus had inspired countless members of my generation to explore mysticism, psychedelic drugs, and new levels of consciousness. Yet even as his reputation grew, the author had remained a recluse, shrouding himself in mystery and intrigue. Aside from a few interviews given seemingly at random over the years, Castaneda never ventured into the public spotlight. Few people even know what he looks like. For this interview, his agent told me, there could be no cameras and no tape recorders. The conversation would have to be recorded by a stenographer, lest copies of Castaneda's taped voice fall into the wrong hands.

The interview -- perhaps timed to coincide with the publication of Castaneda's latest and most esoteric book, The Art of Dreaming -- took place in the conference room of a modest office in Los Angeles, after weeks of back-and-forth negotiations with Castaneda's agent. The arrangements were complicated, the agent said, by the fact that he had no way of contacting his client and could only confirm a meeting after speaking with him "whenever he decides to call . . . I never know in advance when that may be."

Upon my arrival at noon, an energetic, enthusiastic, broad- smiled man walked across the room, extended his hand, and greeted me unassumingly: "Hello, I am Carlos Castaneda. Welcome. We can begin our conversation when you are ready. Would you like coffee, or perhaps a soda? Please make yourself comfortable."

I had heard that Castaneda blends into the woodwork, or resembles a Cuban waiter; that his features are both European and Indian; that his skin is nut-brown or bronze; that his hair is black, thick, and curly. So much for rumor. His mane is now white, or largely so, short and mildly disheveled. If asked to guide a police artist in making a sketch, I would emphasize the eyes -- large, bright, lucid. They may have been gray.

I asked Castaneda about his schedule. "The entire afternoon is available. I should think we'll have all the time we need. When it's enough, we'll know." Our conversation lasted four hours, continuing through a meal of deli sandwiches that arrived midway.

My first exposure to Castaneda's work had been as much initiation as introduction. It was 1968. Police officers were clubbing demonstrators in the streets of Chicago. Assassins had taken Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools" topped the charts. All of this amidst an ocean of sandals, embroidered caftans, bell-bottoms, jangling bracelets, beads, and long hair for men and women alike.

Into all this stepped an enigmatic writer named Carlos Castaneda, toting a book called The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. I remember how it transformed me. The book I began reading was a curiosity; the book I held when I finished had become a manifesto, the kind of delirious cause celebre for which my psyche had been secretly training. What Castaneda seemed to be affirming -- the possibility of awesome personal spiritual experience -- was precisely what the Sunday-morning-only religion of my childhood had done its best to vaccinate me against.

Believing in Castaneda gave me faith that someday, some way, I might meet my very own don Juan Matus (don is a Spanish appellative denoting respect), the old Indian wise man/sorcerer who implores his protégé Carlos to get beyond looking -- simply perceiving the world in its usually accepted forms. To be a true "man of knowledge," Carlos has to learn the art of seeing, so that for the first time he can truly perceive the startling nature of the everyday world. "When you see," don Juan says, "there are no longer familiar features in the world. Everything is new. Everything has never happened before. The world is incredible!"

But, really -- who was this Castaneda? Where did he come from and what was he trying to prove, with his mysterious account of a realm that seemed to be of an entirely different order of reality?

Over the years, various answers to that question have been offered. Take your pick: (a) dissenting anthropologist; (b) sorcerer's apprentice; (c) psychic visionary; (d) literary genius; (e) original philosopher; (f) master teacher. For balance, let's not forget (g) perpetrator of one of the most spectacular hoaxes in the history of publishing.

Castaneda has responded to the bestowal of these conflicting ID tags with something like ironic amusement, as though he were an audience member enjoying the spectacle of a Chekhov comedy in which he himself may or may not be a character. The author has consistently declined -- over a span of nearly three decades -- to engage in the war of words about whether his books are authentic accounts of real-world encounters, as he maintains, or (as numerous critics have argued) fictional allegories in the spirit of Gulliver's Travels and Alice in Wonderland.

This strategic reticence was learned from don Juan himself. "To slip in and out of different worlds you have to remain inconspicuous," says Castaneda, who is rumored (his preferred status) to divide his time nowadays between Los Angeles, Arizona, and Mexico. "The more you are identified by people's ideas of who you are and how you will act, the greater the constraint on your freedom. Don Juan insisted upon the importance of erasing personal history. If little by little you create a fog around yourself, then you will not be taken for granted, and you will have more room for change."

Even so, scattered clearings in the fog offer glimpses of tracks left by the sorcerer's apprentice in the years before his life faded to myth.

The scholarly consensus, unconfirmed by the author himself, is that Carlos Cesar Arana Castaneda was born in Peru on Christmas day 1925 in the historic Andean town of Cajamarca. Upon graduating from the Colegio Nacional de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, he studied briefly at the National Fine Arts School of Peru. In 1948 his family moved to Lima and established a jewelry store. After the death of his mother a year later, Castaneda moved to San Francisco and soon enrolled at Los Angeles City College, where he took two courses in creative writing and one in journalism.

Castaneda received a B.A. in anthropology in 1962 from the University of California at Los Angeles. In 1968, five years before Castaneda received his Ph.D. in anthropology, the University of California Press published The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, which became a national best seller following an enthusiastic notice by Roger Jellinek in the New York Times Book Review:

"One can't exaggerate the significance of what Castaneda has done. He is describing a shamanistic tradition, a pre-logical cultural form that is no-one-knows how old. It has been described often. . . . But it seems that no other outsider, and certainly not a 'Westerner,' has ever participated in its mysteries from within; nor has anyone described them so well."

The fuse was lit. The Teachings sold 300,000 copies in a 1969 Ballantine mass edition. A Separate Reality and Journey to Ixtlan followed from Simon & Schuster in 1971 and 1972. The saga continued in Tales of Power (1974), The Second Ring of Power (1977), The Eagle's Gift (1981), The Fire from Within (1984), The Power of Silence (1987), and The Art of Dreaming (1993). (Bibliophiles may be interested to learn that Castaneda says he actually wrote a book about don Juan before The Teachings, titled The Crack Between Worlds, but lost the manuscript in a movie theater.)

In assessing the impact of his work, Castaneda's admirers credit him with introducing to popular culture the rich and varied traditions of shamanism, with their emphasis on entering nonordinary realms and confronting strange and sometimes hostile spirit-powers, in order to restore balance and harmony to body, soul, and society. Inspired by don Juan's use of peyote, jimsonweed, and other power plants to teach Castaneda the "art of dreaming," untold numbers of pioneers extended their own inner horizons through psychedelic inquiry -- with decidedly mixed results.

For their part, critics of Castaneda's "path of knowledge" dismiss his work as an ongoing pseudo-anthropological shenanigan, complete with fabricated shamans and sensationalized Native American religious practices. The writings, they claim, have netted an unscrupulous author tremendous wealth at the cost of denigrating the sacred lifeways of indigenous peoples through commercial exploitation. Castaneda's presentation, writes Richard de Mille in Castaneda's Journey, "appeals to the reader's hunger for myth, magic, ancient wisdom, true reality, self-improvement, other worlds, or imaginary playmates."

Appropriately, the Castaneda I encountered was a study in contrasts. His presence was informal, spontaneous, warmly animated, and at times contagiously mirthful. At the same time, his still heavily accented (Peruvian? Chilean? Spanish?) diction conveyed the patrician formality of an ambassador at court: deliberate and well-composed, serious and poised, earnest and resolute. Practiced.

The contradiction, like so much about the man, may strike some as a bothersome inconsistency. But it shouldn't. To reread Carlos Castaneda's books (as I did, astonishingly, all nine of them) is to see clearly -- perhaps for the first time -- that contradiction is the force that ties his literary Gordian knot. As the author had told me, intently, during our lunch break: "Only by pitting two views against each other can one weasel between them to arrive at the real world."

I had the sense he was letting me know his fortress was well guarded -- and daring me to storm it anyway.

Keith Thompson: As your books have made a character named Carlos world-famous, the author called Castaneda has retreated further and further from public view. There have been more confirmed sightings of Elvis than of Carlos Castaneda in recent years. Legend has you committing suicide on at least three occasions; there's the persistent story of your death in a Mexican bus crash two decades ago; and my search for a confirmed photo and audio tapes was fruitless. How can I be sure that you're truly Castaneda and not a Carlos impersonator from Vegas? Have you got any distinguishing birthmarks?

Carlos Castaneda: None! Just my agent vouches for me. That's his job. But you are free to ask me your questions and shine a bright light in my eyes and keep me here all night -- like in the old movies.

You're known for being unknown. Why have you agreed to talk now, after declining interviews for so many years?

Because I'm at the end of the trail that started over thirty years ago. As a young anthropologist, I went to the Southwest to collect information, to do fieldwork on the medicinal plants used by the Indians of the area. I intended to write an article, go on to graduate school, become a professional in my field. I hadn't the slightest interest in meeting a weird man like don Juan.

How exactly did your paths cross?

I was waiting for the bus at the Greyhound station in Nogales, Arizona, talking with an anthropologist who had been my guide and helper in my survey. My colleague leaned over and pointed to a white-haired old Indian across the room -- "Psst, over there, don't let him see you looking" -- and said he was an expert about peyote and medicinal plants. That was all I needed to hear. I put on my best airs and sauntered over to this man, who was known as don Juan, and told him I myself was an authority about peyote. I said that it might be worth his while to have lunch and talk with me -- or something unbearably arrogant to that effect.

The old power-lunch ploy. But you weren't really much of an authority, were you?

I knew next to nothing about peyote! But I continued rattling on -- boasting about my knowledge, intending to impress him. I remember that he just looked at me and nodded occasionally, without saying a word. My pretensions melted in the heat of that day. I was stunned at being silenced. There I stood in the abyss, until don Juan saw that his bus had come. He said good- bye, with the slightest wave of his hand. I felt like an arrogant imbecile, and that was the end.

Also the beginning.

Yes, that's when everything started. I learned that don Juan was known as a brujo, which means, in English, medicine man, curer, sorcerer. It became my task to discover where he lived. You know, I was very good at doing that, and I did. I found out, and I came to see him one day. We took a liking to each other and soon became good friends.

You felt like a moron in this man's presence, but you were eager to seek him out?

The way don Juan had looked at me there in the bus station was exceptional -- an unprecedented event in my life. There was something remarkable about his eyes, which seemed to shine with a light all their own. You see, we are -- unfortunately we don't want to accept this, but we are apes, anthropoids, simians. There's a primary knowledge that we all carry, directly connected with the two-million-year-old person at the root of our brain. And we do our best to suppress it, which makes us obese, cardiac, cancer-prone. It was on that archaic level that I was tackled by don Juan's gaze, despite my annoyance and irritation that he had seen through my pretense to expertise in the bus station.

Eventually you became don Juan's apprentice, and he your mentor. What was the transition?

A year passed before he took me into his confidence. We had gotten to know each other quite well, when one day don Juan turned to me and said he held a certain knowledge that he had learned from an unnamed benefactor, who had led him through a kind of training. He used this word "knowledge" more often than "sorcery," but for him they were one and the same. Don Juan said he had chosen me to serve as his apprentice, but that I must be prepared for a long and difficult road. I had no idea how astonishingly strange the road would be.

That's a consistent thread of your books -- your struggle to make sense of a "separate reality" where gnats stand a hundred feet tall, where human heads turn into crows, where the same leaf falls four times, where sorcerers conjure cars to disappear in broad daylight. A good stage hypnotist can produce astonishing effects. Is it possible that's what don Juan was up to? Did he trick you?

It's possible. What he did was teach me that there's much more to the world than we usually acknowledge -- that our normal expectations about reality are created by social consensus, which is itself a trick. We're taught to see and understand the world through a socialization process that, when working correctly, convinces us that the interpretations we agree upon define the limits of the real world. Don Juan interrupted this process in my life by demonstrating that we have the capacity to enter into other worlds that are constant and independent of our highly conditioned awareness. Sorcery involves reprogramming our capacities to perceive realms as real, unique, absolute, and engulfing as our daily so-called mundane world.

Don Juan is always trying to get you to put your explanations of reality and your assumptions about what's possible inside brackets, so you can see how arbitrary they are. Contemporary philosophers would call this "deconstructing" reality.

Don Juan had a visceral understanding of the way language works as a system unto itself -- the way it generates pictures of reality that we believe, mistakenly, to reveal the "true" nature of things. His teachings were like a club beating my thick head until I saw that my precious view was actually a construction, woven of all kinds of fixated interpretations, which I used to defend myself against pure wondering perception.

There's a contradiction in there, somewhere. On the one hand, don Juan desocialized you, by teaching you to see without preconceptions. Yet it sounds like he then resocialized you by enrolling you in a new set of meanings, simply giving you a different interpretation, a new spin on reality -- albeit a "magical" one.

That's something don Juan and I argued about all the time. He said in effect that he was despinning me and I maintained he was respinning me. By teaching me sorcery he presented a new lens, a new language, and a new way of seeing and being in the world. I was caught between my previous certainty about the world and a new description, sorcery, and forced to hold the old and the new together. I felt completely stalled, like a car slipping its transmission. Don Juan was delighted. He said this meant I was slipping between descriptions of reality -- between my old and new views.

Eventually I saw that all my prior assumptions were based on viewing the world as something from which I was essentially alienated. That day when I encountered don Juan in the bus station, I was the ideal academic, triumphantly estranged, conniving to prove my nonexistent expertise concerning psychotropic plants.

Ironically, it was don Juan who later introduced you to "Mescalito," the green-skinned spirit of peyote.

Don Juan introduced me to psychotropic plants in the middle period of my apprenticeship, because I was so stupid and so cocky, which of course I considered evidence of sophistication. I held to my conventional description of the world with incredible vengeance, convinced it was the only truth. Peyote served to exaggerate the subtle contradictions within my interpretative gloss, and this helped me cut through the typical Western stance of seeing a world out there and talking to myself about it. But the psychotropic approach had its costs -- physical and emotional exhaustion. It took months for me to come fully around.

If you could do it over again, would you "just say no"?

My path has been my path. Don Juan always told me, "Make a gesture." A gesture is nothing more than a deliberate act undertaken for the power that comes from making a decision. Ultimately, the value of entering a nonordinary state, as you do with peyote or other psychotropic plants, is to exact what you need in order to embrace the stupendous character of ordinary reality. You see, the path of the heart is not a road of incessant introspection or mystical flight, but a way of engaging the joys and sorrows of the world. This world, where each one of us is related at molecular levels to every other wondrous and dynamic manifestation of being -- this world is the warrior's true hunting ground.

Your friend don Juan teaches what is, how to know what is, and how to live in accord with what is -- ontology, epistemology, and ethics. Which leads many to say he's too good to be true, that you created him from scratch as an allegorical instrument of wise instruction.

The notion that I concocted a person like don Juan is preposterous. I'm a product of a European intellectual tradition to which a character like don Juan is alien. The actual facts are stranger: I'm a reporter. My books are accounts of an outlandish phenomenon that forced me to make fundamental changes in my life in order to meet the phenomenon on its own terms.

Some of your critics grow quite livid in their contention that Juan Matus sometimes speaks more like an Oxford don than a don Indian. Then there's the fact that he traveled widely and acquired his knowledge from sources not limited to his Yaqui roots.

Permit me to make a confession: I take much delight in the idea that don Juan may not be the "best" don Juan. It's probably true that I'm not the best Carlos Castaneda, either. Years ago I met the perfect Castaneda at a party in Sausalito, quite by accident. There, in the middle of the patio, was the most handsome man, tall, blond, blue-eyed, beautiful, barefoot. It was the early '70s. He was signing books, and the owner of the house said to me, "I'd like you to meet Carlos Castaneda." He was impersonating Carlos Castaneda, with an impressive coterie of beautiful women all around him. I said, "I am very pleased to meet you, Mister Castaneda." He responded, "Doctor Castaneda." He was doing a very good job. I thought, He presents a good way to be Castaneda, the ideal Castaneda, with all the benefits that go with the position. But time passes, and I'm still the Castaneda that I am, not very well suited to play the Hollywood version. Nor is don Juan.

Speaking of confessions: Did you ever contemplate downplaying the eccentricity of your teacher and presenting him as a more conventional character, to make him a better vehicle for his teachings?

I never considered such an approach. Smoothing rough edges to advance an agreeable plot is the luxury of the novelist. I'm not unfamiliar with the spoken and unspoken canon of science: "Be objective." Sometimes don Juan spoke in goofy slang -- the equivalent of "By golly!" and "Don't lose your marbles!" are two of his favorites. On other occasions he showed a superb command of Spanish, which permitted me to obtain detailed explanations of the intricate meanings of his system of beliefs and its underlying logic. To deliberately alter don Juan in my books so he would appear consistent and meet the expectations of this or that audience would bring "subjectivity" to my work, a demon that, according to my best critics, has no place in ethnographic writing.

Skeptics have challenged you to exorcise that demon once and for all, by presenting for public inspection the field notes based on your encounters with don Juan. Wouldn't that alleviate doubts about whether your writings are genuine ethnography or disguised fiction?

Whose doubts?

Fellow anthropologists, for starters.

The Senate Watergate Committee. Geraldo Rivera . . .

There was a time when requests to see my field notes seemed unencumbered by hidden ideological agendas. After The Teachings of Don Juan appeared I received a thoughtful letter from Gordon Wasson, the founder of the science of ethnomycology, the study of human uses of mushrooms and other fungi. Gordon and Valentina Wasson had discovered the existence of still-active shamanic mushroom cults in the mountains near Oaxaca, Mexico. Dr. Wasson asked me to clarify certain aspects of don Juan's use of psychotropic mushrooms. I gladly sent him several pages of field notes relevant to his area of interest, and met with him twice. Subsequently he referred to me as an "honest and serious young man," or words to that effect.

Even so, some critics proceeded to assert that any field notes produced by Castaneda must be assumed to be forgeries created after the fact. At that point I realized there was no way I could satisfy people whose minds were made up without recourse to whatever documentation I might provide. Actually, it was liberating to abandon the enterprise of public relations -- intrinsically a violation of my nature -- and return to my fieldwork with don Juan.

You must be familiar with the claim that your work has fostered the trivialization of indigenous spiritual traditions. The argument goes like this: A despicable cadre of non-Indian wannabees, commercial profiteers, and self-styled shamans has read your books and found them inspiring. How do you plead?

I didn't set out to write an exhaustive account of indigenous spirituality, so it's a fallacy to judge my work by that criterion. My books are instead a chronicle of specific experiences and observations in a particular context, reported to the best of my ability. But I do plead guilty to knowingly committing willful acts of ethnography, which is none other than translating cultural experience into writing. Ethnography is always writing. That's what I do. What happens when spoken words become written words, and written words become published words, and published words get ingested through acts of reading by persons unknown to the author? Let's agree to call it complex. I've been extremely fortunate to have a wide and diverse readership throughout much of the world. The entry requirement is the same everywhere: literacy. Beyond this, I'm responsible for the virtues and vices of my anonymous audience in the same way that every writer of any time and place is so responsible. The main thing is, I stand by my work.

What does don Juan think of your global notoriety?

Nada. Not a thing. I learned this definitively when I took him a copy of The Teachings of Don Juan. I said, "It's about you, don Juan." He surveyed the book -- up and down, back and front, flipped through the pages like a deck of cards -- then handed it back. I was crestfallen and told him I wanted him to have it as a gift. Don Juan said he had better not accept it, "because you know what we do with paper in Mexico." He added, "Tell your publisher to print your next book on softer stock."

Earlier you mentioned that don Juan deliberately made his teaching dramatic. Your writings reflect that. Much anthropological writing gives the impression of striving for dullness, as if banality were a mark of truth.

To have made my astonishing adventures with don Juan boring would have been to lie. It has taken me many years to appreciate the fact that don Juan is a master of using frustration, digression, and partial disclosure as methods of instruction. He strategically blended revelation and concealment in the oddest combinations. It was his style to assert that ordinary and nonordinary reality aren't separate, but instead are encompassed in a larger circle -- and then to reverse himself the next day by insisting that the line between different realities must be respected at all costs. I asked him why this must be so. He answered, "Because nothing is more important to you than keeping your personal world intact."

He was right. That was my top priority in the early days of the apprenticeship. Eventually I saw -- I saw -- that the path of the heart requires a full gesture, a degree of abandon that can be terrifying. Only then is it possible to achieve a sparkling metamorphosis.

I also realized the extent to which the teachings of don Juan could and would be dismissed as "mere allegory" by certain specialists whose sacramental mission is to reinforce the limits that culture and language place on perception.

This approaches the question of who gets to define "correct" cultural description. Nowadays some of Margaret Mead's critics declare she was "wrong" about Samoa. But why not say, less dogmatically, that her writings present a partial picture based on a unique encounter with an exotic culture? Obviously her discoveries mirrored the concerns of her time, including her own biases. Who has the authority to cordon off art from science?

The assumption that art, magic, and science can't exist in the same space at the same time is an obsolete remnant of Aristotelian philosophical categories. We've got to get beyond this kind of nostalgia in the social science of the twenty-first century. Even the term ethnography is too monolithic, because it implies that writing about other cultures is an activity specific to anthropology, whereas in fact ethnography cuts across various disciplines and genres. Furthermore, even the ethnographer isn't monolithic -- he or she must be reflexive and multifaceted, just like the cultural phenomena that are encountered as "other."

So the observer, the observed phenomenon, and the process of observation form an inseparable totality. From that perspective, reality isn't simply received, it's actively captured and rendered in different ways by different observers with different ways of seeing.

Just so. What sorcery comes down to is the act of embodying some specialized theoretical and practical premises about the nature of perception in molding the universe around us. It took me a long time to understand, intuitively, that there were three Castanedas: one who observed don Juan, the man and teacher; another who was the active subject of don Juan's training -- the apprentice; and still another who chronicled the adventures. "Three" is a metaphor to describe the sensation of endlessly changing boundaries. Likewise, don Juan himself was constantly shifting positions. Together we were traversing the crack between the natural world of everyday life and an unseen world, which don Juan called "the second attention," a term he preferred to "supernatural."

What you're describing isn't what comes to mind for most anthropologists when they think about their line of work, you know.

Oh, I'm certain you're right about that! Someone recently asked me, What does mainstream anthropology think of Carlos Castaneda? I don't suppose most of them think about me at all. A few may be a little bit annoyed, but they're sure that whatever I'm doing is not scientific and they don't trouble themselves. For most of the field, "anthropological possibility" means that you go to an exotic land, arrive at a hotel, drink your highball while a flock of indigenous people come and talk to you about the culture. They tell you all kinds of things, and you write down the various words for father and mother. More highballs, then you go home and put it all in your computer and tabulate for correlations and differences. That to them is scientific anthropology. For me, that would be living hell.

How do you actually write?

My conversations with don Juan throughout the apprenticeship were conducted primarily in Spanish. From the outset I tried to persuade don Juan to let me use a tape recorder, but he said relying on something mechanical only makes us more and more sterile. "It curtails your magic," he said. "Better to learn with your whole body so you'll remember with your whole body." I had no idea what he meant. Consequently I began keeping voluminous field notes of what he said. He found my industriousness amusing. As for my books, I dream them. I gather myself and my field notes -- usually in the afternoon but not always -- and go through all my notes and translate them into English. In the evening I sleep and dream what I want to write. When I wake up, I write in the quiet hours of the night, drawing upon what has arranged itself coherently in my head.

Do you rewrite?

It's not my practice to do so. Regular writing is for me quite dry and labored. Dreaming is best. Much of my training with don Juan was in reconditioning perception to sustain dream images long enough to look at them carefully. Don Juan was right about the tape recorder -- and in retrospect, right about the notes. They were my crutch, and I no longer need them. By the end of my time with don Juan, I learned to listen and watch and sense and recall in all the cells of my body.

Earlier you mentioned reaching the end of the road, and now you're talking about the end of your time with don Juan. Where is he now?

He's gone. He disappeared.

Without a clue?

Don Juan told me he was going to fulfill the sorcerer's dream of leaving this world and entering into "unimaginable dimensions." He displaced his assemblage point from its fixation in the conventional human world. We would call it combusting from the inside. It's an alternative to dying. Either they bury you six feet deep in the poor flowers or you burn. Don Juan chose burning.

I guess it's one way to erase personal history. Then this conversation is don Juan's obituary notice?

He had come to the end, deliberately. By intent. He wanted to expand, to join his physical body with his energy body. His adventure was there, where the tiny personal tide pool joins the great ocean. He called it the "definitive journey." Such vastness is incomprehensible to my mind, so I can only give up explaining. I've found that the explanatory principle will protect you from fear of the unknown, but I prefer the unknown.

You've traveled far and wide. Give it to me straight: Is reality ultimately a safe place?

I once asked don Juan something quite similar. We were alone in the desert -- nighttime, billions of stars. He laughed in a friendly and genuine way. He said, "Sure, the universe is benign. It may destroy you, but in the process it will teach you something worth knowing."

What's next for Carlos Castaneda?

I'll have to let you know. Next time.

Will there be a next time?

There's always a next time. ###

© Copyright New Age Journal


Cvp: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs

Carlos Castaneda Interview - La Jornada Newspaper (part 1)
Publication Date: January 29, 1996
English Translation of an article originally written in Spanish by Arturo Garcia Hernandez.

"Marcos? I don't know him... Excuse me. I don't know a bit..."
"We as human beings live in constant thirst and with fear to free ourselves" (Castaneda)

"It is necessary to cancel egomania and to discover our energy body", the shaman points out.

Carlos Castaneda doesn't know 'Marcos' neither knows about the EZLN; he doesn't read newspapers; he denies being a guru or a messianic man; he considers compassion and social concerns a lie that regenerates itself; he is a critic of gurus and God merchants; he assures that his mother was 'a communist and a pamphletist'. He approached these and other matters on a conversation with the media during a recess of the seminar 'The New Paths of Tensegrity', held from Friday till Sunday in Mexico City, and with which a stage begins of massive dissemination of his knowledge as sorcerer or shaman. For more than one hour, on Saturday night, the author of 'The Teachings of Don Juan' and 'Tales of Power' answered many different questions. With calm eloquence, often joking, always respectful of his interlocutors, restrainless, Castaneda went from one topic to another as the questions were fired from the eight journalists
around him. One thing, though: no cameras or tape recorders. Next there is a version of the talk, edited and put together from notes. It is convenient to
keep in mind that for Castaneda words are insufficient and limited to describe or explain his experiences as sorcerer; also, he assigns to them values and meanings that escape the linear logic in which we normally move.

"How do sorcerers consider spirituality and the sense of divinity?"

"I don't know how you understand spirituality. The opposite to the flesh?"

Not necessarily, but as a part of a whole, different.

"Well, in that sense, Juan Matus is pure spirit. The sorcerer believes in the spirit of man, not in spirituality. Don Juan used to say: 'I love my spirit. Man's is a beautiful spirit. If you think that you owe me something and cannot pay me, pay it to the spirit of man'. "As for divinity: "Shamans don't have a sense of prayer and don't kneel before divinity. There is no need for begging. They ask intent, the force capable of building and modifying everything, perennial force. But they don't beg."

"When you speak of the sorcerers of Ancient Mexico, who are you talking about? Because there were different cultures here: the Mayas, the Aztecs..."

"No. For Don Juan the ancient times of Mexico were about seven and ten thousand years ago."

"How was the process of your breakup with Don Juan?"

"I didn't break up. It is he who tells me. A time comes in which he realizes that I am so different to him that he can't go on with me. And he starts trapping me; he closes all my exits and leaves me only one."

"You know the Indians of Mexico. They live in very bad conditions and there are six thousand of them in jails; how much are you interested in the Indians of Mexico?"

"I am absolutely interested. I once made a question to Don Juan. Some time ago I wrote a book that couldn't be published, 'The Fame of Nacho Coronado'. Nacho was a Yaqui Indian who had tuberculosis and thought that with a bank loan he could buy 'Vitaminol' and would be cured. I asked Don Juan: 'Are you not worried about that? The premises of Nacho are my own'. He said: 'Yes, I'm very worried; but at the same time I worry about you. do you think you're better?... Of course, I'm also interested in them; but I'm interested in you. We are involved in a state of thirst that consumes us without giving us treuce, without giving us anything."

"What do you think about Marcos, about the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (Zapatist Army of National Liberation) and of the Indian rising in Chiapas?

"Who? Marcos? I don't know him. I don't have a clue. Puuuucha, I'm lost! Excuse me, I don't know a bit."

"What is your feeling regarding mankind?"

"It is a feeling of sadness. I work for mankind (...) Man is an extraordinary being, which implies a tremendous responsibility. But he is in the me, me, me, me, me, me. Why such homogeneity? Why does everything turn into a cult of the ego? Why the fear to free oneself?"

Freedom as understood by Castaneda encompasses the breaking of the 'perceptive prejudices', the cancellation of egomania; the achievement of Dreaming, which would allow each of us to discover our 'energy body'. And after all, eventually, to be in condition to begin an 'arduous but exquisite' path to other worlds.

"Within the logic of our everyday world, this freeing intention might be interpreted as messianic; and we already know what has happened with messianic experiences...

"No, no, no, no. That's too embarrassing. We are not that worthy. Messianic is new age and all the gurus of the new wave. We don't pretend anything. We don't offer hopes of something that we cannot give."

"How do you conciliate this concern about humankind with the lack of interest for issues like Bosnia, or Chiapas, in which there is a lot of human suffering?"

But, honey-pies (fam Sp: 'corazonzotes', 'big hearts' [TN]), please, suffering is everywhere, not just there! My mother was a communist, a pamphletist, a proletarian. I inherited that. But Don Juan told me: 'you're lying. You say that worries you and look how you treat yourself. Stop annihilating your body. Do you really feel compassion for your fellow man?' 'Yes', I replied. 'Enough to stop smoking?'. Noooo! My compassion was a deceit. The old bandit told me: "be very
careful with social entertainment. Those are placebi, they are the big sucker. It's a lie that regenerates itself'."

"Why don't you, as a man of your time, read newspapers?"

"For the simple reason that I am very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very hardened against topical things."

"You have written that the path of the warrior is a solitary path. Isn't there a contradiction in doing massive courses as the one on Tensegrity?"

"No. I am not here talking about hard things. Perhaps Tensegrity will give you the energy to talk about really hard things. But you have to start somewhere."

"'The Teachings of Don Juan' generated a cult for certain hallucinogenic plants, but now you disqualify that book; you say it's better to forget it. Why?"

"The idea of ingesting one of those plants without preparation will lead nowhere. At most, to a displacement of the assemblage point, but fleetingly. Now, when Don Juan gave them to me, that was the tune of the moment. I grew up convinced of the value of my grandfather's severity. My assemblage point was almost welded. Don Juan Matus told me: 'Your grandfather is an old fart'. My assemblage point was welded and he knew that he could only move it with hallucinogens. But he never did the same with others; he didn't even gave them coffee. The hallucinogens were of value to me, but I took it as a total index."

"What do you expect of the opening that is now beginning?"

"I don't know what will happen. Don Juan never told me what it is that will happen to me in front of the mass (...).

We were previously attentive to carry on in accordance with Don Juan's commands. He forbid us to be under the limelights. Now I want to teach like this, because it is a tremendous debt, which I cannot longer pay to him."

"Are you not afraid to become a guru?"

"No, because I have no ego; there is no way."

© Copyright La Jornada Newspaper
Publication Date: January 29, 1996


Carlos Castaneda Interview - La Jornada Newspaper (part 2)
Publication Date: January 30, 1996
English Translation of a Spanish Newspaper Article by Luis Enrique Ramirez

The Tensegrity Seminar ended.
"I am an idiot just like all of you": Carlos Castaneda.
"If there is energy, I will keep coming to Mexico".

There is nothing visible in Carlos Castaneda that allows to see a spiritual guide in him. He is very thin, short and homely. He is dark-skinned; he wears his white hair short and combs it forward. He wears a long-sleeved shirt and jeans without back pockets. On a platform, with a small microphone attached to his clothes, he acts loosely before his audience, 700 people gathered at the last of his three lectures about the new paths of Tensegrity in the Centro Asturiano. Either sitting or lying on the carpet, they listen to him anticipating his jokes, which they celebrate laughing out loud and sometimes with applause.

"Do you remember that joke I told you the other night? I will tell it to you again... what was I saying? I'm senile!."

Castaneda always puts humor ahead when he speaks, and thus he solves doubts or leave them as they were, making an effort not to intellectualize the talk.

"Make short, functional questions. Ask them out of desire to know, not because you want me to listen to you."

He does not read letters to avoid facing 'far-fetched questions', he says, and he mentions some of those his followers use to put forth:

"I dreamt I was a bird"

"Bird how? A Faggot, or what? It's a Chinese reply, but adequate."

"How can I know if I am double?"

"You are double, pendeja. Double pendeja." (Pendejo(a) is a Spanish profanity that means extremely stupid. [TN])

"How can I become what I have never been?"

"Well, I don't know. Pushing..."

"Give me a reason for reason to be reasonable. No, no! One must not be guided by intellect. These are questions that seem deep but are not. They are entertainment. Don Juan was so simple that scared me. He was a direct being. He did not get lost in convolutions that lead nowhere. Sorcerers are pragmatic beings. We are dilettanti. Our beliefs are unsustainable. The only way for us to sustain them is by getting angry: 'How can you say this is not true, you imbecile?'. And we go away, angry. There is a terrible truth: no one wants to be free. We are scared. What of? I do not know. We are scared. A brave chicken gets out of the coop and becomes an escapee, a fugitive. Forever?, a girl asked me. Honey pie, it's either the chicken-coop or freedom! I like freedom. I don't like the human-coop. There are things in the human-coop which are not mine."

He establishes: "I am not a guru. I cannot allow or disallow anything to anyone. That's too Hindu! I cannot tell anyone if he is a shaman or not; neither that he is in fact an idiot. Who am I to tell him that? They put me in unsustainable situations. I cannot wind anyone up because I find that to be totally disrespectful. That takes place in friendship. But I am nobody's friend. And the way I defend myself is not-seeing-anyone." He makes revelations about his identity that at another time would have been unthinkable: "I come from South America. Not from Yucatan. They asked me if I was from Campeche, because I am big-headed and short. No, I don't come from Campeche. I come from further down...

There is nothing intrinsical to transform me into something special. There isn't. I have made energetic inquiries and no, I don't have anything extraordinary. I am an idiot like all of you. The most important key learned from Don Juan was to achieve inner silence, to abolish the hegemony of the mind as a method to find freedom. That's silencing the mind. Don Juan told me that when I achieved 8 or 10 seconds of silence things were going to get interesting, and my question as a fart was: 'And how do I know it's eight seconds?'. No, honey-pie, it's not like that. I don't know what tells you it's eight seconds. Something
internal tells us. The point is to accumulate silence second by second. I suddenly got to that threshold without knowing it, accumulating second after second. There is no more mind. Just that silence. That silence is over thirty years old now. From that silence I speak to you."

"In this kind of seminars", he affirms, "I have seen things Don Juan never saw. People unknowingly attracting their energy bodies. The knowledge learned in 30 years comes in two seconds. Since august up until today I don't know what to think. I have seen a lot of energetic talent and I don't know what to do with it. I see the speed at which you learn. If I took you one at a time it would take me months to show you one fucking movement. How do you do it so
quickly together? I don't know. The mass... The group gives more strength..."

He insists on 'Unhooking the mind' and use the energy body.

"My mind is something very foreign to me. There is a layer within you which is what you really are. Unhook the mind and that will be you. This takes the righteousness away from oneself and transforms you into something functional: a being made for the fight."

He again combats the egocentrism.

"The ideology of the me is the most pernicious one. People live thinking only about themselves, going to the psychiatrist to talk about oneself. What a tragedy! I care about me and me and only me (he sings). We are not like that! Why do we defend postures that are not ours? They are mental masturbation. We don't question what they impose on us because we don't have energy. What could transform our actions is the energy body, and we don't have it. This is not
sorcerer paranoia. Sorcerers are too simple and direct, they don't wear a mask, they go straight to the answer."

He tells about his experience with a famous astrologist whom he went to see sometime ago. He introduced himself as Joe Cortez, Chicano, and she told him that his chakras were in bad shape.

"She left me very intrigued and I went back months later. She had already forgotten about me. I told her that I was Carlos Castaneda and now she exclaimed: 'So much light! So much light!'.

"He also says that Julio Iglesias approached him. "He's a darling". He revealed to him: 'I fuck everyday. Not very well, but everyday'.

Castaneda does not know the reason for this personal revelation, but he could only reply: 'Me too. You fuck, I cogitate.' (Pun. In Spanish, 'you fuck' is 'tu coges', and 'I cogitate' is 'yo cogito' [TN]).

He explains: "I'm a bored fuck. Don Juan turned me into an energy miser. I don't spend it. I don't do anything. But I do everything. What the hell is this sexual impulse when you don't feel anything? I know a woman called 'the bed-buster'. She never felt a thing, but she busted 11 beds."

He listens to the questions of his audience at this last lecture, which lasted about two hours. There are many doubts concerning Tensegrity and the series of physical exercises implied in it. Many address him as 'nagual'.

"How is the will strengthened?

"With energy. It's the only way."

"Is Intent enough?"

"Oh, honey-pie! Intent is everything. It's like saying 'Is life enough?'. Intent is a force in the Universe."

"Are we a part of one Intent?"

"We are the sum total of Intent."

"Is Tensegrity the only key?"

"It's the only one I know. And I've heard more than you. Thirty years as Carlos Castaneda... Oof! I have heard wonders."

"Can Tensegrity be done without shoes?"

"Do it naked, but do it."

"What's the right way of speaking?"

"Ah! We would have to talk about the right way of shitting. Don Juan spoke about a right way of chewing. 'What for?' I asked him. 'To avoid sins', he told me. (Apparently, another pun. Somewhere else, Castaneda says Don Juan had told him not to talk while he was eating to avoid farting. In Spanish, 'Pecados' (sins) and 'Pedos' (farts) are very similar words [TN]).

"I have practiced Tensegrity and I feel it's not enough."

"Enough for what?"

"Can we untie our children from the social order?"

"We are part of the social order. What we can do as parents is untie ourselves from so much bullshit of the social order".

"What would happen if a lot of people did what you say?"

"What would happen? How do I know? I can't speculate. Like Don Juan used to say: 'Ask the stars...'

"Will you keep coming to Mexico?"

"If there is energy, yes. We are going to build a company... Well, a small group of people who wants to know more about these things. They are the same people who organized this seminar... Mexico is filled with things that cannot be understood because we don't have the subtlety. We are full of things which are not feasible to find under these lines of behavior..."

The seminar ends and Castaneda steps down from the platform into a crowd wishing to approach him. He only signs one book. A young man asks him: 'Nagual, could you sign for me an autograph with your finger?'. He extends his right wrist for Castaneda to touch him but he says no, not that, and vanishes behind a door.

© Copyright La Jornada Newspaper


Cvp: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs

My lunch with Carlos Castaneda
Publication Date: Mar/Apr 1996

By: Benjamin Epstein
Summary: Focuses on writer Carlos Castaneda. Reputation; Works; Use of magical passes; Discussion on Tensegrity; Views about religion and life.

One of the most elusive figures of modern times, Castaneda recently materialized, to great surprise, at a small conference in Anaheim, California. Reporter Benjamin Epstein was on hand to score a coup.

He is the 20th century's own sorcerer's apprentice. He is the invisible man, ephemeral, evanescent: now you see him, now you don't. He is a navigator making his way through a living universe in exquisite flux. Or as Carlos Castaneda himself might say, he is a moron, an idiot, a fart. It's been said that Jesus Christ was either the Son of God or the greatest liar who ever lived. Carlos Castaneda, who may have a cult following but says deities are the last thing people need, presents a similar conundrum. Critics grapple for middle ground: One called him a "sham-man bearing gifts . . . He lied to bring us the truth."

The jury has been out ever since books such as The Teachings of Don Juan took the public and academia by storm in the 1960s and 70s, and it's still out. Castaneda has now produced nine books he claims are based on his supernatural experiences with Don Juan Matus, a Yaqui seer. To remain invisible, he says, is the sorcerer's way. He never allows photographs or a tape recording of his voice. He only rarely grants interviews. In the 80s, he effectively vanished altogether. But the books continue to sell (8 million in 17 countries) and have never been out of print. In 1993, he began to give occasional seminars, and the following year The Art of Dreaming appeared.

Despite ads promoting "Carlos Castaneda's Tensegrity," even event organizers didn't know whether Castaneda would actually show up at a recent weekend seminar near Disneyland in Anaheim. Yet 400 devotees from around the world--about a third from California--paid $250 each to attend, whether Castaneda showed or not. They came to learn a series of "magical passes," movements intended to heighten perception.

"It is a thinking universe, a living universe, an exquisite universe!" Castaneda said, exuberantly kicking off the seminar. "We have to balance the linearity of the known universe with the nonlinearity of the unknown universe." The charismatic Castaneda proved amazingly convincing when describing life among inorganic beings, with whom he apparently spends a great deal of time; the assemblage point, a place about an arm's length behind our shoulder blades that can be shifted to visit other realms; and a predatory universe in which "flyers" incessantly feed on mankind's awareness, taking the sheen off our luminous eggs and leaving only a rubble of self-absorption and egomania.

He invents none of this, he insists. I'm not insane, you know. Well, maybe a little insane. But not ridiculously insane!"

He is also charming, energetic, fit, and funny. And at the conclusion of his opening talk, Castaneda responded to a request for an interview by unexpectedly inviting the writer to lunch.

Sitting in a coffee shop in Anaheim opposite Castaneda was enough to realign anybody's assemblage point: The writer later took his nonlinearity to heart, slipping easily between lunch and workshop talks, and indulging in the conversational format that Castaneda often used to elucidate his master's ideas. After all, Castaneda had replaced Don Juan as nagual, the head sorcerer, a being with double luminous spheres, and if it was good enough for one nagual, it's good enough for another.

At the table were several Tensegrity staffers and the three women chacmools who helped Castaneda compile the movements and who taught them step-by-step at the seminar.

"Is this what you've been doing all this time, magical passes?" I asked Castaneda.

"Noooo . . . . I was very chubby," he said. "Don Juan recommended an obsessive use of magical passes to keep my body at an optimum. So in terms of physical activity, yes, this is what we do. The movements also force our awareness to focus on the idea that we are spheres of luminosity, a conglomerate of energy fields held together by special glue."

"Is Tensegrity the Toltec t'ai chi? Yaqui yoga?" I asked.

"To compare Tensegrity with yoga or t'ai chi is not possible. It has a different origin and a different purpose. The origin is shamanic, the purpose is shamanic. It has to do with our reason for being. Our reason for being is to face infinity

"We're all going to face infinity, at the moment of dying," he said. "Why face it when we are weakest, when we are broken? Why not when we are strong? Why not now? You have to face it pragmatically No idealities allowed."

"Where would Jesus fit into all this? Where would Buddha fit in?"

"They are idealities," Castaneda replied. "They are too big, too gigantic to be real. They are deities. One is the Prince of Buddhism, the other is the Son of God . . . . Idealities cannot be used in a pragmatic movement.

"Allowing your perception to break the interpretation system--a tree ceases to be a tree and becomes sheer energy--that is a pragmatic maneuver. The things shamans deal with are extremely practical. They break down parameters of normal historical reality Magical passes are just one aspect of that."

Castaneda is very negative about religion. But these aren't your usual diatribes: "Leave Jesus on the cross. He's very happy there! Don Juan said, 'Don't bother him, leave him alone. Don't ask him "why are you there crucified." He'd go bananas trying to explain to you why.' So I did that. He said hello to me, and goodbye."

The waiter arrived to take our lunch orders. The only choices under discussion seemed to be top sirloin, prime rib, and filet mignon, hardly the snuggest fit with most New Age disciplines.

"The sorcerers say that whether you're eating lettuce or a steak, it's a sentient being," chacmool Kylie Lundahl explained. As it turned out, the chacmools, named for the gigantic, reclining guardian figures of the Mexican pyramids, were quite literally here today, gone tomorrow. Castaneda relieved them of their duties at the end of the seminar, during his closing remarks. Nobody ever said the warrior's way would be easy.

Castaneda ordered a melted cheese on rye with a side of bacon and fries.

Don Juan was once described as "an enigma wrapped in mystery wrapped in a tortilla," and Castaneda followed suit. His agent, Tracy Kramer, and Cleargreen, Inc., which organizes the seminars, are based in Santa Monica. Where Castaneda spends his time is unclear. If a passing remark at the seminar was to be taken literally, he pays property taxes somewhere.

"I don't live here," Castaneda said. "I'm not here at all. I always use the euphemism 'I've been in Mexico.' All of us divide our time between being here and being pulled by something that is not describable but that makes us visitors into another realm. But you start talking about that and you start sounding like total nincompoops.

"I had once an interview. First thing the interviewer said was, "They tell me you turned into a crow. Is that true? Hahahaha.' I tried to explain to him about intersubjectivity. 'Pfhhhh,' he said, 'tell me yes or no.' I said no."

"Why don't you allow yourself to be photographed or tape-recorded?" I asked.

"Recording is a way of fixing you in time," Castaneda answered. "The stagnant word, the stagnant picture, those are the antithesis of the sorcerer . . . . Maybe you've seen a drawing of Carlos Castaneda [by Richard Oden for Psychology Today in December 1977]. There was no photograph, so he drew it. This was 30 years ago. No good. He decided to draw it again. It was a flop."

Photographs are not all that stand still. "The Word of God is unchanging," he said. "It is a living universe. What is in flux is what is alive. An unchanging word must by definition pertain to a dead world. In a universe that is forced to change there is a written word not forced to change? That is the world of a taxidermist."

When Castaneda's melted-cheese sandwich arrived, the rye was marbled with pumpernickel. "What is this, chocolate bread?" he asked before sending it back. My own mind was worlds away, perhaps on a bench in Oaxaca.

"According to your book The Eagle's Gift, Don Juan Matus didn't die, he left, he 'burned from within.' Will you leave or will you die?"

"Since I'm a moron, I'm sure I'll die," Castaneda replied. "I wish I would have the integrity to leave the way he did . . . . I have this terrible fear that I won't. But I wish. I work my head off--both heads--toward that."

I recalled an article from at least a decade ago calling Castaneda the "godfather of the New Age."

"It was 'grandfather'!" he protested. "And I thought, please call me the uncle, or cousin, not grandfather! Uncle Charlie will do. I feel like hell, being the grandfather of anything. I'm fighting age, senility and old age, like you couldn't believe. I was senile when I met Don Juan, I've fought for 35 years . . . .

"To be young and youthful is nothing," said Castaneda. "To be old and youthful, that is sorcery!"

Castaneda, for whom ambiguity is a way of life to be ruthlessly pursued, is both. And his age is as good a place as any to get a sense of the man.

According to Contemporary Authors, Castaneda lists his birth date and place as December 25, 1931, Sao Paulo, Brazil; immigration records say December 25, but 1925, and Cajamarca, Peru; other sources cite the late 1930s. One New York Times article put him at 66 years old in 1981.

So he's somewhere between 60 and 80, most likely 64. Or 70. Similarly, otherwise reliable sources variously list the year he earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA as 1970 and 1973. In other words, this is one slippery organic being.

I asked about inorganic beings.

"They are possessors of consciousness but not possessors of an organism," Castaneda responded. "Why should awareness be the exclusive possession of organisms?"

The Art of Dreaming ends with Castaneda recounting an episode in the mid-70s when he and Carol Tiggs were "dreaming" in a hotel room in Mexico City, and Tiggs disappeared into those dreams. (She was on a journey in the "second attention," a state of consciousness not devoured by the "flyers.") According to Castaneda, she reappeared 10 years later in a bookstore in Santa Monica, where he was giving a talk.

It was the reconstituted Tiggs who provided the impetus to compile the "magical passes" of Tensegrity, According to Castaneda, Don Juan taught four disciples separate lines of ever-changing magical passes. The other two, Florinda Donner-Grau and Taisha Abelar, have each published accounts of their apprenticeships, both markedly different from Castaneda's but endorsed by him.

Over the past 10 years, the group "fixed the passes," arriving at a consensus generic enough to be used by mankind. If the movements of Tensegrity (the name derives from an architectural term related to skeletal efficiency, happily combining "tension" and "integrity") often seem angular and fierce in character, they are intended to produce a jolt.

"I saw once a beautiful science fiction movie in which creatures from another planet appeared," Castaneda said, "veeeery slowly A change in perception is never like that. It is like this. Yank it out! You cancel the parameters of normal perception. You move into it like a robber bandit. Almost immediately, the robber bandit comes back. It's just a moment. But the moments get longer and longer."

The chacmools may have been erased, but not Tensegrity A new formation of warrior guardians were set to lead future seminars with lectures to be given by all four Don Juan disciples--and an inorganic being called the blue scout.

Don Juan's premise was that the world as we know it is only one version of reality, a set of culturally embedded "agreements" and "descriptions." Castaneda addressed the futility of the usual avenues of inquiry:

"If you seek with the mind, it will not take you anywhere, except to a tautological situation where you repeat the obvious. In science, the tautological questions prove themselves. That the art of our science. . . 'All these variables and nothing else.' We are champions of pseudo control--we reduce the problem to manageable science. What a fantasy!

"One day on my way to the cafeteria at UCLA, I didn't see people anymore, I saw energies, blobs, luminous spheres. It was dazzling. Before that, nothing existed except me, me, me. I went to talk to a psychiatrist I worked with. He very kindly prescribed a tranquilizer and said, 'Carlos, you're working too hard. Take two days off.' It was impossible to establish a dialogue with him."

Castaneda's own inquiries have led him from academic anthropology to practical hermeneutics, the science of interpretation; he launched a newsletter, The Warriors' Way: A Journal of Applied Hermeneutics, in January. Titles under consideration for a gigantic work in progress have included "Ethnohermeneutics" and "Phenomenological Anthropology."

"When sorcerers see, hermeneutics is the ultimate affair for us," Castaneda said. Seeing for the rest of us apparently involves only the visual sense, and then only minimally.

"When you look at me now, what do you see?" I asked.

"I have to be in a special mood to see," he said. "It is very difficult for me to see. I've got to get very somber, very heavy. If I'm lighthearted and I look at you I see nothing. Then I turn around and I see her, and what do I see? '1 joined the navy to see the world, and what do I see? I see the sea!'

"I know more than I want to know. It's hell, true hell. If you see too much, you become unbearable."

Castaneda ordered a cappuccino, then meticulously removed the foamed milk teaspoon by teaspoon.

According to Castaneda, most sorcerers must remain celibate in order to conserve energy. It all depends on the circumstances under which they were conceived."

Most of us are what we call BFs, the product of bored fucks," he explained. "How was I conceived? Was it in the middle of great sexual excitation, or was it nonsense, idiotic, pointless? Mine was stupid. The two people involved didn't know what they were doing. I was conceived behind a door, so I came out very nervous, watching. And this is the way I am, basically For me to make use of energy I don't have is lethal."

"What about married people?"

"That question has come up a lot. It's a question of energy," he said. "If you know you were not conceived in a state of real excitation, then no. On one level, it hasn't mattered if people are married. With the launching of Tensegrity, we don't really know what will happen."

"You don't know what is going to happen? Sounds irresponsible."

"How can you know?" he asked. "This is an implication of our syntactical system. Our syntax requires a beginning, development, and end. I was, I am, I will be. We are caught in that. How can we know what you will be capable of if you have sufficient energy?

"I am giving you a series of ideas, if you have the balls to take them seriously. Maybe you say this is idiotical, what kind of shit is this? Like the little boy victims [whining], 'But what is going to happen to me?' They'll never find out.

"The other three disciples--those farts--have balls; these are huge women with the biggest balls you've ever seen. Try to stop Taisha Abelar and see what happens. Try to stop Florinda."

The fourth disciple is no squeaker himself.

"Don Juan categorized people into three types," he said. "One was farts, like me, a smelly fart--very assertive, ready to tell you, 'Fuck you, are you sure that's the way to do it?' and Don Juan would very patiently assure me that, yes, he was sure. I don't have that patience myself. If somebody asks me am I sure, I go bananas because I'm not sure!

"The other, golden piss--the sweetest, wonderful beings. They could die for you, or so they say They won't, but they say it, which is very nice--nicer than the fart but then you die for him.

"The third type, puke. Not fart, not piss, just puke--the kind that doesn't have anything to give, but promises the world, and has you begging . . . .

"Fortunately I was fart. And Don Juan had a ball with this fart."

© Copyright Psychology Today


Cvp: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs

Publication Date: July 1997
Carlos Castaneda interviewed for The New Times by Clair Baron

More than thirty years ago, as an anthropologist doing fieldwork among the Yaqui Indians in the state of Sonora, Mexico, Carlos Castaneda met a Mexican Indian shaman named don Juan Matus. Don Juan became his anthropological informant, and then his teacher. He introduced Carlos Castaneda into the cognitive world of the shamans who lived in Mexico in ancient times, and who were the founders of his lineage of shamans.

Carlos Castaneda has written about his apprenticeship with don Juan in nine best-selling books, beginning with The Teachings of don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge in 1968, and most recently, The Art of Dreaming in 1993. All nine books are still in print, and have been translated into more than seventeen languages. Scheduled to appear in 1998 is a new book from HarperCollins by the author, entitled Magical Passes: The Practical Wisdom of the Shamans of Ancient Mexico. Here, Carlos Castaneda provides the reader with direct instruction on the magical passes, a series of bodily movements taught to him by don Juan Matus. Tensegrity is the name given to the modern version of these movements, and the name of a series of three videos which have appeared over the last year and a half, drawing enthusiasts to filled-to-capacity workshops on Tensegrity in the U.S., Mexico, South America and Europe.

Clair: What is Tensegrity?

Carlos: Among the infinitude of things that don Juan taught me were some bodily movements which were discovered and used by the shamans of ancient Mexico to foster states of profound physical and mental well-being. He said that those movements were called magical passes by the shamans who discovered them, because their effect on the practitioners was so astounding. Through practicing these movements, those shamans were able to achieve a superb physical and mental balance.

I have labored for ten years to make a synthesis of those movements. The result has been something I have called Tensegrity: the modern version of the magical passes. The word Tensegrity is a combination of tension and integrity, the two driving forces of the magical passes.

Clair: You say that those movements were "discovered"...

Carlos: Don Juan explained to me that in specific states of heightened awareness called dreaming, those men and women were able to reach levels of optimum physical balance. They were also able to discover - in dreaming - the exact movements that allowed them to replicate, in their hours of vigil, those same levels of optimum physical balance.

Clair: Why weren't these movements mentioned in your earlier books?

Carlos: The magical passes became the most prized possession for the shamans of Mexican antiquity who discovered them. They surrounded them with rituals and mystery and taught them only to their initiates in the midst of tremendous secrecy. This was the manner in which don Juan Matus taught them to his students: Taisha Abelar, Florinda Donner-Grau, Carol Tiggs and myself. I never touched on the subject of the magical passes because they were taught to me in secrecy and to aid me in my personal need; that is to say that the passes that I learned were designed for me alone, to fit my physical constitution.

Each of his other students has a set of magical passes taught exclusively to them, exclusively geared to each of their energetic configurations - to their personalities. The four of us, being the last link of his lineage, came to the unanimous conclusion that any further secrecy about the magical passes was counter to the interest that we had in making don Juan's world available to our fellow men and women.

We decided, therefore, after a lifetime of silence, to join forces to deal with the magical passes and to rescue them from their obscure state. After years of effort, we succeeded in merging our four highly individualistic lines of magical passes into modified units of movements applicable to any physical constitution, and all of us together arrived at composites that fulfilled our innermost expectations. We call these composites Tensegrity.

Clair: What is the difference between the magical passes of Tensegrity and other forms of exercise like aerobics or calisthenics?

Carlos: The difference between the magical passes and aerobics or calisthenics is that the latter are designed to exercise the surface muscles of the body, while the magical passes are the interplay of relaxation and tension at a deep bodily level. The magical passes go beyond the musculature to the glandular system: the base of energy in the body.

Don Juan said that the movements were viewed as magical passes from the first moment that they were formulated. He described the "magic" of the movements as a subtle change that the practitioners experience on executing them; an ephemeral quality that the movement brings to their physical and mental states, a kind of shine, a light in the eyes. He spoke of this subtle change as a "touch of the spirit"; as if practitioners, through the movements, reestablish an unused link with the life force that sustains them. He further explained that the movements were called magical passes because by means of practicing them, shamans were transported, in terms of perception, to other states of being in which they could sense the world in an indescribable manner.

Clair: What would you say to those who have never done the movements? When can one expect "results"?

Carlos: The positive results are almost immediate, if one practices meticulously and daily - increased energy generates calmness, efficiency and purpose. We all want instant enlightenment, instant expertise; that's the flaw. Don Juan used to say the collective malady of our day is our total lack of purpose. He repeated to us endlessly that without sufficient energy there is no way of conceiving any kind of genuine purpose in our lives. The magical passes, by helping us store energy, help us to grasp the idea of purposefulness in our thoughts and actions.

Next year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of The Teachings of don Juan; Simon and Schuster will publish a special thirtieth-year edition of the book, complete with a new preface from the author.

Copyright 1997 New Times
There is a new series of brief and intensive workshops on Tensegrity in various U.S. cities, beginning with a one-day workshop in Seattle on July 19. It will be conducted by a team of two Tensegrity instructors who have been working in close contact with Carlos Castaneda for at least ten years. Participants will practice the magical passes presented on the three Tensegrity videos, plus a number of magical passes conducive to relaxation, and, at the same time, alertness - two conditions needed for the keen attention required to deal with the limited time.

© Copyright The New Times


Cvp: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs

Kindred Spirit Magazine - Carlos Castaneda Interview
Publication Date: June - August 1997

In the early 1960's, Carlos Castaneda made a profound impact on the world when he published his first of nine books, "The Teachings of Don Juan - A Yaqui Way of Knowledge." In this work he related his experiences as a sorcerer's apprentice under the guidance of a Yaqui Indian from Sonora, Mexico. As an anthropology student as UCLA, he encountered don Juan Matus while collecting information for his Ph.D. about the hallucinogenic cactus peyote. From the moment of the book's publication, Castaneda became a cult figure. Although he barely gives interviews Castaneda spoke out in February this year, and we thought you'd like to see what he had to say.

Castaneda's works presented a vision of 'the warrior's way', living impeccably, erasing personal history, using death as one's advisor and losing self-importance. Castaneda's interactions with don Juan and his fellow teachers and apprentices are intimately portrayed, revealing a serious Western scholar who becomes the target of jeers and criticisms, then puts aside his social paradigm, and awakens to the mysteries of the unknown.

Besides its pragmatic value, Castaneda's work has an indisputable literary quality. It is filled with poetry, magic and beauty. His nine books have greatly surpassed the best seller category and are translated into all major languages.

Castaneda's companions, Taisha Abelar and Florinda Donner-Grau, have also related their experiences with don Juan in "The Sorcerer's Crossing" and "Being-In-Dreaming." Carol Tiggs, a protagonist in some of Castaneda's books, as yet remains unpublished.

Carlos Castaneda's Tensegrity: Magical Passes from the Shamans of ancient Mexico

At present, Carlos Castaneda and his companions Taisha Abelar, Florinda Donner-Grau and Carol Tiggs are interested in making don Juan's world more accessible. Recently they have come forth with a discipline of physical movements taught to them by don Juan Matus and which they call Tensegrity. This modernized version of some movements called "magical passes", developed by Indian shamans who lived in Mexico in times prior to the Spanish Conquest, are designed to enhance perception and to physically strengthen the body. Tensegrity borrows a term from architecture to represent the quintessence of tensing and relaxing the muscles and tendons of the body. When applied to the body, this term describes most appropriately the interplay of tension and integrity that drives the magical passes.

Tensegrity seminars, ranging in length from weekends to week-long workshops, dedicate several hours daily to these movements. Also three videos have been released for the individual learner: Volume 1, Twelve Basic Movements to Gather Energy and Promote Well-Being; Volume 2, Redistributing Dispersed Energy, and Volume 3, Energetically Crossing from One Phylum to Another, all available through Cleargreen, Incorporated, Santa Monica, California or through www.castaneda.com (www.webb.com/Castaneda). Cleargreen will also publish a book on Tensegrity by Carlos Castaneda later this year.

In February this year Castaneda answered the questions presented to him by Daniel Trujillo Rivas for the Chilean and Argentinean magazine Uno Mismo:

Facing Carlos Castaneda, this unclassifiable writer surrounded by 30 years of legend and myth, was a terrifying moment for me. He has become one of the most important literary phenomena of the century, revolutionizing ideas about pre-Colombian American culture.

After nine books I still had many of the same questions about Castaneda I had at the beginning, starting with: Who is he really? An anthropologist? A gifted writer? A sorcerer's apprentice? Or an accomplished shaman in his own right? Now being able to speak to him personally I hoped to have some of these questions answered.

Q. Mr. Castaneda, for years you've remained in absolute anonymity. What drove you to change this condition and talk publicly about the teachings that you and your three companions received from the nagual Juan Matus?

A. Carlos Castaneda: What compels us to disseminate don Juan Matus' ideas is a need to clarify what he taught us. For us, this is a task that can no longer be postponed. His other three students and I have reached the unanimous conclusion that the world to which don Juan Matus introduced us is within the perceptual possibilities of all human beings. We've discussed amongst ourselves what would be the appropriate road to take. To remain anonymous the way don Juan proposed to us? This option was not acceptable. The other available road was to disseminate don Juan's ideas: an infinitely more dangerous and exhausting choice, but the only one that, we believe, has the dignity don Juan imbued into all his teachings.

Q. Considering what you have said about the unpredictability of a warrior's actions, which we have corroborated for three decades, can we expect this public phase you're going through to last for a while? Until when?

A. There is no way for us to establish a temporal criteriA. We live according to the premises proposed by don Juan and we never deviate from them. Don Juan Matus gave us the formidable example of a man who lived according to what he said. And I say it is a formidable example because it is the most difficult thing to emulate; to be monolithic and at the same time have the flexibility to face anything. This was the way don Juan lived his life.

Within these premises, the only thing one can be is an impeccable mediator. One is not the player in this cosmic chess match, one is simply a pawn on the chessboard. What decides everything is a conscious impersonal force that sorcerers call Intent or the Spirit.

Q. As far as I've been able to corroborate, orthodox anthropology, as well as the alleged defenders of the cultural pre-Colombian cultural heritage of America, undermine the credibility of your work. The belief that your work is merely the product of your literary talent continues to exist today. There are also other sectors that accuse you of having a double standard because, supposedly, your lifestyle and your activities contradict what the majority expect from a shaman. How can you clear up these suspicions?

A. The cognitive system of the Western man forces us to rely on preconceived ideas. We base our judgments on something that is always a priori. For example, the idea of what is 'orthodox.' What is orthodox anthropology? The one taught in university lecture halls? What is a shaman's behavior? To wear feathers on one's head and dance to the spirits?

For thirty years, people have accused Carlos Castaneda of creating a literary character simply because what I report to them does not concur with the anthropological 'a priori' - the ideas established in the lecture halls or in the anthropological field work. However, what don Juan presented to me can only apply to a situation that calls for total action and, under such circumstances, very little or almost nothing of the preconceived occurs.

I have never been able to draw conclusions about shamanism because in order to do this one needs to be an active member in the shamans' world. For a social scientist, let's say a sociologist for example, it is very easy to arrive at sociological conclusions over any subject related to the Occidental world, because the sociologist is an active member of the Occidental world. But how can an anthropologist, who spends at the most two years studying other cultures, arrive at reliable conclusions about them? One needs a lifetime to be able to acquire membership in a cultural world. I've been working for more than thirty years in the cognitive world of the shamans of ancient Mexico and, sincerely, I don't believe I have acquired the membership that would allow me to draw conclusions or to even propose them.

I have discussed this with people from different disciplines and they always seem to understand and agree with the premises I'm presenting. But then they turn around and they forget everything they agreed upon and continue to sustain orthodox academic principles, without caring about the possibility of an absurd error in their conclusions. Our cognitive system seems to be impenetrable.

Q. Why do you not allow yourself to be photographed, have your voice recorded or make your biographical data known? Could this affect, and if so how, what you've achieved in your spiritual work? Don't you think it would be useful for some sincere seekers of truth to know who you really are, as a way of corroborating that it really is possible to follow the path you proclaim?

A. With reference to photographs and personal data, I and the other three disciples of don Juan follow his instructions. For a shaman like don Juan, the main idea behind refraining from giving personal data is very simple. It is imperative to leave aside what he called "personal history". To get away from the "me" is something extremely annoying and difficult. What the shamans like don Juan seek is a state of fluidity where the personal "me" does not count. He believed that an absence of photography and biographical data affects whoever enters into this field of action in a positive, though subliminal, way. We are endlessly accustomed to using photographs, recordings and biographical data, all of which spring from the idea of personal importance. Don Juan said it was better not to know anything about a shaman; in this way, instead of encountering a person, one encounters an idea that can be sustained. This is the opposite of what happens in the everyday world where we are faced with people with psychological problems and without ideas, all of these people filled to the brim with "me, me, me."

Q. How should your followers interpret the publicity and the commercial infrastructure - a side of your literary work - surrounding the knowledge you and your companions disseminate? What's your real relationship with Cleargreen Incorporated and the other companies such as Laugan Productions and Toltec Artists? I'm talking about a commercial link.

A. At this point in my work I needed someone able to represent me regarding the dissemination of don Juan Matus' ideas. Cleargreen is a corporation that has great affinity with our work, as do Laugan Productions and Toltec Artists. The idea of disseminating don Juan's teachings in the modern world implies the use of commercial and artistic media that are not within my individual reach. As corporations having an affinity with don Juan's ideas, Cleargreen Incorporated, Laugan Productions and Toltec Artists are capable of providing the means to disseminate what I want to disseminate.

There is always a tendency for impersonal corporations to dominate and transform everything that is presented to them and to adapt it to their own ideology. If it wasn't for the sincere interest of Cleargreen, Laugan Productions and Toltec Artists, everything don Juan said would have been transformed into something else by now.

Q. There are a great number of people who, in one way or another, 'cling' to you in order to acquire public notoriety. What's your opinion of the actions of Victor Sanchez, who has interpreted and reorganized your teachings in order to elaborate a personal theory? And what of Ken Eagle Feather's assertions that he has been chosen by don Juan to be his disciple, and that don Juan came back just for him?

A. There are a number of people who call themselves my students or don Juan's students, people I've never met and whom, I can guarantee, don Juan never met. Don Juan Matus was exclusively interested in the perpetuation of his lineage of shamans. He had four disciples who remain to this day. He had others who left with him. Don Juan was not interested in teaching his knowledge; he taught it to his disciples in order to continue his lineage. Due to the fact that they cannot continue don Juan's lineage, his four disciples have been forced to disseminate his ideas.

The concept of a teacher who teaches his knowledge is part of our cognitive system but it isn't part of the cognitive system of the shamans of ancient Mexico. To teach was absurd for them. To transmit this knowledge to those who were going to perpetuate their lineage was a different matter.

The fact that there are a number of individuals who insist on using my name or don Juan's name is simply an easy maneuver to benefit themselves without much effort.

Q. Let's consider the meaning of the word "spirituality" to be a state of consciousness in which human beings are fully capable of controlling the potentials of the species, something achieved by transcending the simple animal condition through a hard psychic, moral and intellectual training. Do you agree with this assertion? How is don Juan's world integrated into this context?

A. For don Juan Matus, a pragmatic and extremely sober shaman, "spirituality" was an empty ideality, an assertion without basis that we believe to be very beautiful because it is encrusted with literary concepts and poetic expressions, but which never goes beyond that.

Shamans like don Juan are essentially practical. For them there only exists a predatory universe where intelligence or awareness is the product of life and death challenges. He considered himself a navigator of infinity and said that in order to navigate into the unknown like a shaman does, one needs unlimited pragmatism, boundless sobriety and "guts of steel". In view of all this, don Juan believed that 'spirituality' is simply a description of something impossible to achieve within the patterns of the world of everyday life, and it is not a real way of acting.

Q. Do some of the concepts of your work, such as the assemblage point, the energetic filaments that make up the universe, the world of the inorganic beings, intent, stalking and dreaming, have an equivalent in Western knowledge? For example, there are some people who consider that man seen as a luminous egg is an expression of the aurA.

A. As far as I know, nothing of what don Juan taught us seems to have a counterpart in Western knowledge. Once, when don Juan was still here, I spent a whole year in search of gurus, teachers and wise men to give me an inkling of what they were doing. I wanted to know if there was something in the world of that time similar to what don Juan said and did. My resources were very limited and they only took me to meet the established masters who had millions of followers and, unfortunately, I couldn't find any similarity.

Q. One can find truly incredible episodes in your literary work. How could someone who's not an initiate verify that all those "separate realities" are real, as you claim?

A. It can be verified very easily by lending one's whole body instead of only one's intellect. One cannot enter don Juan's world intellectually, like a dilettante seeking fast and fleeting knowledge. Nor, in don Juan's world, can anything be verified absolutely. The only thing we can do is arrive at a state of increased awareness that allows us to perceive the world surrounding us in a more inclusive manner. In other words, the goal of don Juan's shamanism is to break the parameters of historical and everyday perception and to perceive the unknown. That's why he called himself a navigator of infinity. He asserted that infinity lies beyond the parameters of daily perception. To break these parameters was the aim of his life. Because he was an extraordinary shaman, he instilled that same desire in all four of us. He forced us to transcend the intellect and to embody the concept of breaking the boundaries of historical perception.

Q. You have recently presented a physical discipline called Tensegrity. Can you explain what it is exactly? What's its goal? What spiritual benefit can a person who practices it individually get?

A. According to what don Juan Matus taught us, the shamans who lived in ancient Mexico discovered a series of movements that when executed by the body brought about such physical and mental prowess that they decided to call those movements magical passes.

Don Juan told us that, through their magical passes, those shamans attained an increased level of awareness which allowed them to perform indescribable feats of perception.

Through generations, the magical passes were only taught to practitioners of shamanism. The movements were surrounded with tremendous secrecy and complex rituals. That is the way don Juan learned them and that is the way he taught them to his four disciples.

Our effort has been to extend the teachings of such magical passes to anyone who wants to learn them. We have called them Tensegrity, and we have transformed them from specific movements pertinent only to each of don Juan's four disciples, to general movements suitable for anyone.

Practicing Tensegrity, individually or collectively, promotes health, vitality, youth and a general sense of well-being. Don Juan said that practicing the magical passes helps accumulate the energy necessary to increase awareness and to expand the parameters of perception.

Q. Besides your three cohorts, the people who attend your seminars have met other people, like the Chacmools, the Energy Trackers, the Elements, the Blue Scout ... Who are they? Are they part of a new generation of seers guided by you? If this is the case, how could one become part of this group of apprentices?

A. Every one of these persons are defined beings whom don Juan Matus, as director of his lineage, asked us to wait for. He predicted the arrival of each one of them as an integral part of a vision. Since don Juan's lineage could not continue due to the energetic configuration of his four students, their mission was transformed from perpetuating the lineage into closing it, if possible with a golden clasp.

We are in no position to change such instructions. We can neither look for nor accept apprentices or active members of don Juan's vision. The only thing we can do is acquiesce to the designs of Intent.

The fact that the magical passes, guarded with such jealousy for so many generations, are now being taught, is proof that one can, indeed, in an indirect way, become part of this new vision through the practice of Tensegrity and by following the premises of the warrior's way.

Q. Here's a question that I've often asked myself: does the warriors' path include, like other disciplines do, spiritual work for couples?

A. The warriors' path includes everything and everyone. There can be a whole family of impeccable warriors. The difficulty lies in the terrible fact that individual relationships are based in emotional investments, and the moment the practitioner really practices what she/he learns the relationship crumbles. In the everyday world, emotional investments are not normally examined, and we live an entire lifetime waiting to be reciprocated. Don Juan said I was a diehard investor and that my way of living and feeling could be described simply: "I only give what others give me".

Q. What aspirations of possible advancement should someone have who wishes to work spiritually according to the knowledge disseminated in your books? What would you recommend for those who wish to practice don Juan's teachings by themselves?

A. There's no way to put a limit on what one may accomplish individually if the intent is an impeccable intent. Don Juan's teachings are not spiritual. I repeat this because the question has come up over and over. The idea of spirituality doesn't fit with the iron discipline of a warrior. The most important thing for a shaman like don Juan is the idea of pragmatism. When I met him, I believed I was a practical man, a social scientist filled with objectivity and pragmatism. He destroyed my pretensions and made me see that, as a true Western man, I was neither pragmatic nor spiritual. I came to understand that I only repeated the word "spirituality" to contrast it with the mercenary aspect of the world of everyday life. I wanted to get away from the mercantilism of everyday life and the eagerness to do this is what I called 'spirituality'. I realized don Juan was right when he demanded that I come to a conclusion: to define what I considered spirituality. I didn't know what I was talking about.

What I'm saying might sound presumptuous, but there's no other way to say it. What a shaman like don Juan wants is to increase awareness, that is, to be able to perceive with all the human possibilities of perception; this implies a colossal task and an unbending purpose, which cannot be replaced by the spirituality of the Western world.

© Copyright Kindred Spirit Magazine


Cvp: İnterviews - C.Castaneda, Florinda Donner, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs

Of Sorcery and Dreams: An Encounter With Carlos Castaneda
By Michael Brenan
Publication Date: September 1997
Published in "The Sun"

Dreaming was once an extraordinary affair for me. When I was thirteen, I had frequent conscious dreams and out-of-body experiences. Typically, just prior to sleep, when my body was completely relaxed, I would shift without warning into a remarkable state of alertness. My physical body would feel numb and heavy, yet I would be entirely awake. Somehow I knew that it was then possible for me to leave my body.

Nearly every night over the next three years, I would drift toward sleep, only to wake up and venture into dream worlds of breathtaking clarity and beauty. I was fully conscious, and tremendously curious about everything I encountered. I experimented endlessly with my senses, and with my ability to manipulate these strange environments. But I could never determine whether the worlds I entered were objectively real, or merely projections.

At age sixteen, I took part in a pioneering research study headed by Stephen LaBerge. Using laboratory equipment and a series of prearranged signals, LaBerge demonstrated that humans had the ability to be conscious within a physical state of sleep. He called the phenomenon "lucid dreaming." Yet even this scientific validation did not entirely dispel my uncertainty, because it didn't explain, for example, how I could sometimes be simultaneously aware within both my physical body and this "other" body. In the end, I decided my questions were unanswerable for the moment, and the answers didn't matter much anyway. The sense of exhilaration, freedom, and joy I encountered in those inner worlds was the true value of the experience.

Before long, that same heightened state of awareness began to carry over into my ordinary day-to-day existence, imbuing it with richness and magic. Life became a waking dream. As this sensibility grew, it came into conflict with everything I was being taught. The priests who schooled me seemed to believe that the age of miracles had ended two thousand years before. Science suggested that everything could be reduced to base mechanics. And contemporary society counseled a safe and bloodless course of birth, school, work, and death, interspersed with vapid consumerism.

By the time I was seventeen, I had begun to feel that there was something wrong with me. I was beset by the usual adolescent insecurities, but on top of that, my perception of the world did not match up with that of my peers. My fears overwhelmed the spirit of beauty that I longed to articulate. To compensate for my perceived cowardice, I embarked on a roguish course, taking up with a bad crowd and acting out the turmoil inside me. In so doing I betrayed everything that was sacred to me, and my anguish was enormous. Over the next fifteen years, I suffered extended bouts of addiction, homelessness, and incarceration in jails and asylums. My dreams had deserted me, only to be replaced by a waking nightmare. I was committing slow-motion suicide, a process that reached its conclusion seven years ago, when I shared bloody needles with two fellow addicts in a Lower East Side tenement in New York City.

Since then, my junkie companions on that occasion have both died of AIDS. Now, sitting on the cusp of death myself, I find an empty space within me. Oddly, this emptiness carries with it a certain abandon and a delicious sense of anticipation - I have nothing to lose. My imminent mortality seems to offer a slim chance of recouping what I've lost: my experience of the world as a waking dream of great beauty and mystery.

It is in this state of mind that I receive an invitation to attend an Oakland workshop given by associates of Carlos Castaneda, and to write about it as a journalist. The purpose of the workshop is to teach a magical discipline Castaneda purportedly learned from the Yaqui seer don Juan Matus. According to Castaneda, the seers of ancient Mexico experienced states of enhanced awareness while dreaming. They learned to recreate these states white awake using a collection of precise movements called "sorcery passes."

Shrouded in secrecy, this discipline was passed down through twenty-seven generations of sorcerers, of which don Juan Matus was the last. Now Castaneda and a few of his cohorts claim to be the contemporary stewards of this ancient sorcerers' art, which Castaneda has named "tensegrity," after an architectural term for opposing forces in balance.

Another perspective, offered by Castaneda's critics, is that he is the inventor of this discipline, and of the myth of don Juan Matus. According to them, Castaneda's myth has its origins not in the preconquest world of the Toltecs, but in the summer of 1961, when the then-thirty-seven-year-old UCLA anthropology student ventured into the Sonoran desert in search of his Ph.D. There, beneath the broiling Mexican sun, Castaneda presumably cooked up his engaging tales of sorcery.

Despite high praise for Castaneda from respectable academic, scientific, and literary quarters, skeptics remain troubled by chronological inconsistencies in his books, by his refusal to bring forth don Juan for public scrutiny, and by the author's own inaccessibility. In the end, don Juan Matus seems destined to haunt us like a phantom glimpsed at the edge of our vision, quickening our hearts with the possibility that sorcery still exists.

Six years ago, a new dimension to the controversy arose when two women - Florinda Donner-Grau and Taisha Abelar - wrote elegant, dreamlike books describing their own encounters with don Juan. Donner-Grau and Abelar revealed themselves to be colleagues of Castaneda. A third colleague, Carol Tiggs, was mentioned in Castaneda's latest book, The Art of Dreaming, in which he described how, while "dreaming together" with him in a Mexican hotel room, Tiggs disappeared from this world, borne on the wings of "intent." The "gales of infinity" blew her back to this dimension ten years later, when Castaneda discovered her wandering in a daze in Santa Monica's Phoenix Bookstore. Her improbable return had "ripped a hole in the fabric of the universe."

Castaneda, Donner-Grau, and Abelar were thoroughly disconcerted by the implications of this event. In the end, Tiggs persuaded her fellow travelers to adopt a radical new approach to their work: for the first time, they would present the teachings of don Juan openly, offering seekers the opportunity to explore in detail the legendary seer's fantastic practices.

They arrived at this unprecedented decision, they say, because they are the last of their lineage and will soon "ignite the fire from within and complete the somersault into the inconceivable." More, they are opening up their discipline out of gratitude to their teachers and benefactors, so that their ancient knowledge may live on.

Like many readers, I have been greatly moved and inspired by Castaneda's books - especially (for obvious reasons) his writings about the magical possibilities of dreams. At the same time, I have maintained a journalist's skepticism about the whole affair. But now the creatures molded by the myth of don Juan Matus have emerged from the fog of their inaccessibility and rustle through my awareness like windblown leaves. I go to hear their message bearing questions, doubts, anticipation, and a longing for magic to refute the soulless dreams of contemporary society.

The six female instructors, called "energy trackers," are standing in pairs atop three raised platforms in the Oakland Convention Center. They are dressed martial arts style, in loose-fitting pants and shirts, their hair cut short, all of them exuding an attractive strength and athleticism. They range in age from eleven to thirty-six, and come from Europe and America. Their manner is simultaneously friendly and no-nonsense. They are here to teach, and the three-hundred odd individuals surrounding them are here to learn.

Over the next two days the energy trackers demonstrate an elaborate series of movements - the "sorcery passes" Castaneda has written about. The movements have evocative names: Cracking a Nugget of Energy, Stepping over a Root of Energy, Shaking Off the Mud of Energy. I have years of hatha yoga practice, and can confirm some parallels between the two disciplines. Many movements also have a fierce, martial mood reminiscent of aikido and karate. But there are some unusual elements to the tensegrity system that I cannot place in any familiar context.

Among participants, there is an enormous mix of occupations - physicists, teachers, engineers, artists, laborers, biologists - and nationalities: Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, American, French. I speak to a variety of people, searching for testimony to the movements' effectiveness, and what I hear slowly begins to shake my doubts.

One man, who in his youth practiced karate for six years, says he finds the tensegrity movements uniquely powerful. "The more I'm exposed to tensegrity," he tells me, "the more I think that nobody could just make these movements up. There are too many of them, they're too sophisticated and systematic, and the results are just too powerful."

Mario, a Tarahumara Indian raised in northern Mexico who now lives in Los Angeles, says he and a group of Mexican and Indian friends have long gathered informally to practice strategies gleaned from Castaneda's books. Now, due to this more formal presentation of the teachings, they have increased their efforts. When Mario describes some of his dreaming adventures, I am struck by their evident similarity to the conscious dreams of my childhood.

"Recently, I found myself awake within a dream," Mario says. "I was beneath a tree on a hilltop; I am not sure where. My brother Joss, who lives in Oaxaca, was with me. He asked me what I had learned in the workshop I had attended. I told him, and we exchanged more information about our personal lives. I was fully conscious during the dream, but when I awoke I had forgotten something: Joss had told me something at the very end of the dream, and I could not recollect it.

"A week later, he called me from Mexico. Before I could speak he began describing the dream to me: the same hill, the same tree, the same conversation. I felt a chill, and a sense of awe. Then he asked if I remembered what he had told me at the end of our dream, Before he could say anything more, my ears began ringing loudly, and the forgotten scene replayed itself in a flash. He had thanked me for bringing him to this path."

Over the course of the weekend we hear from all three of Castaneda's fellow teachers. Speaking first, Florinda Donner-Grau looks out over the audience and smiles like a Cheshire cat. Her brush-cut blond hair and elegant cheekbones look strongly Teutonic, and she speaks with precise diction, as if each word were a delectable morsel:

"Don Juan Matus presented four faces to his four disciples. To Carlos Castaneda he was a fierce and fearsome presence of terrible import and beauty. To Taisha Abelar he was an enigmatic yet intensely familiar figure. For myself he was an abrupt intrusion into my world, at once unsettling and soothing. For Carol Tiggs he was a gentle, fatherly figure capable of tremendous affection."

She goes on to tell us that, in the world of sorcerers, women are gifted creatures by virtue of their affinity with the feminine nature of the universe. Using their womb, they are able to access universal energy and accomplish stupendous feats of transformation. But at the same time, women must contend with the immensely stupefying effects of their socialization. In short, they are trained from birth to be bimbos, and only by unyielding effort can they escape that fate.

"Don Juan asked me," Donner-Grau says, "in a very matter-of-fact tone, whether I wanted to be a stupid cunt for the rest of my life.... You must understand, I come from a very proper Spanish-German family. No one especially not a man - had ever used that word in my presence. I was horrified and insulted."

Given the delight with which she recounts the episode, I can only conclude that at some point she got over her mortification.

For me, the defining moment of her talk comes when she speaks of death:

"Death is your truest friend, and your most reliable advisor. If you have doubts about the course of your life, you have only to consult your death for the proper direction. Death will never lie to you.

Taisha Abelar is elegant yet energetic. I cannot place her accent, but her overall speech and appearance bring to mind a sixtyish Katharine Hepburn. I am intrigued by the differences between her dream experiences and mine.

"I was on the roof of a building," Abelar says,-"in the middle of a strange city. Suddenly, from above I heard a terrible racket, and I saw a black shape descending toward me out of the sky. I moved immediately, and as I did saw that the black shape was actually a helicopter, and the horrible noise was the sound of its blades slicing the air. If I had stayed another second on that roof, I would have been mincemeat."

At first I am puzzled by this, because in my conscious dreams I could manipulate the environment in extraordinary ways. I wonder why Abelar did not will the helicopter away, or make it burst into flames. Then it dawns on me: she's talking about transporting her physical body into those worlds.

For the next hour, she recounts wild tales that make me think her either insane or an accomplished liar. But everything in her manner suggests sobriety and sincerity, and I am forced to recognize a third, nearly inconceivable alternative: that she is faithfully reporting her experiences.

For her part, Carol Tiggs describes dreaming adventures every bit as bizarre and otherworldly as Abelar's, but most of her tales involve dreaming together with Carlos Castaneda. Like Castaneda, Tiggs identifies herself as a nagual, a Toltec term meaning "teacher" or "leader." The affinity that links a nagual woman and a nagual man and allows them to dream together is described in several of Castaneda's books. It is neither a romantic nor a sexual bond, but something much more profound.

Toward the end of her talk, Tiggs answers a question from the audience about Castaneda's health (word is that he's ill), and I sense the fierce affection between them. She grows still. Drawing a deep breath and releasing it slowly, she smiles as if through tears and says, "Our brother Carlos could not join us because he is battling an infection. We do not know the nature of his illness. A sorcerer cannot avail himself of traditional medicine; he must rely on the spirit, and on his own resources. Before a sorcerer reaches the threshold where his body no longer functions, he will choose, if he can, to kindle the awareness of his entire being, in order to leave this world intact and whole. And our brother Carlos has made a promise to include us in that final act. But we do not know if this is the time of his leaving."

She pauses, and when she speaks again, her voice is hushed with wonder. "We are here together, in a bubble outside of time, dreaming the dream of the ancient Toltecs. By your efforts, you have helped us to expand and accelerate into the unknown. We thank you, " she concludes softly, spreading her arms to the audience, "and we embrace you in the dream."

As I drive back to Portland Sunday night, I look for changes in myself and find instead that the discontent and emptiness that have plagued me for half my life have intensified tenfold. I remain outside the great mysteries, endlessly writing, endlessly doubting.

On top of this, my body erupts: my left testicle swells to twice its normal size, and chickenpox afflicts me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. I go to a traditional Chinese doctor whose wisdom is derived from a long historical lineage. He takes my pulses and examines my tongue, then sits back and nods his head repeatedly, like a thirsty crane dipping for water, all the while murmuring in Chinese. He prepares a complex concoction of herbs, which I consume, summoning what gratitude I can for the plants that have given their lives for mine.

A few weeks pass, and I regain my equilibrium, but my doubts about Carlos Castaneda, which have never really left me, become more insistent. I vacillate between my memories of the practical results reported by the tensegrity practitioners, and knowledge of our ability to interpret myths in the fashion most befitting our needs.

Everything comes down to the authenticity of don Juan and his Toltec predecessors. Was don Juan Matus a myth invented by Carlos Castaneda, or was he a flesh-and-blood sorcerer of mythic proportion? I am aware that only one person can answer that question for me.

Then the seemingly impossible happens: my silent wish is granted, and I receive an unexpected invitation to meet with and interview Carlos Castaneda.

Given my shortcomings - I have led a life of indulgence, have written no grand epics, barely graduated high school, and know nothing of science or anthropology - I should be enormously intimidated. But instead, from the moment the invitation is extended, I experience a profound and soothing sense of surety. If Castaneda is merely an inventive rogue, then I will have lost nothing but my illusions. But if he is a bona fide heir to the legacy of Toltec seers, then I will have gained a gift of incalculable value - the possibility of restoring magic to the remainder of my life.

A lovely quietude comes over me in the wake of this realization, bringing with it a tremulous sense of anticipation and - most remarkable for me - an overwhelming ease and confidence. Everything has come full circle. There seems nothing left to do but greet the unknown.

I look up from the four single-spaced pages of questions I have prepared and glimpse a party of three weaving their way toward me through the Santa Monica restaurant. The woman who arranged the interview for me is in front. She introduces me to one of the energy trackers from the workshop, and then to the little man behind her - Carlos Castaneda. The ease of the last few days does not abandon me, and I greet Castaneda with a relaxed mixture of respect, affection, and professional skepticism.

He is gracious and unpretentious, and rolls up the sleeves of his rumpled white shirt with Old World courtliness as we settle into our seats. I fuss with my notes and study him with covert glances. From my research I know that he is Peruvian-born and at least seventy-one years old. He appears, however, to be in his early sixties. He is perhaps five-foot-two, with skin the color of burnished copper, a thatch of salt-and-pepper hair, and an elfin frame. His face is handsome and weathered, a symphony of angles and furrows that suggest classic Spanish features. His eyes are sharp and lucid, his expression by turns thoughtful, friendly, and playful. He offers me some bottled water, and this small gesture seems to embody generosity. I feel as if I am among friends.

For the next three hours I ask sporadic questions from my lengthy list, but mostly I am absorbed in listening and taking notes.

"This discipline is an internal affair," Castaneda says at one point. "There are techniques, but they must be fortified by a decision, and by a feeling from within. You need to arrive at that decision and feeling yourself. For me, it is a matter of daily renewal."

Talk of discipline prompts me to ask about something he once said: that quitting smoking could be a revolutionary act.

"You don't smoke, do you?" he inquires, frankly curious.

"In honor of this occasion," I reply, "I have left my smokes at home."

He seems unperturbed by my admission, and by the banality of my problems.

"I started smoking when I was eight," he says. "I wanted to be like these older Argentinian guys. You should have seen them; they were the coolest guys in the world." With an absurdly suave pantomime he mimics the coolest guys in the world, squinting his left eye and tilting his head to blow an invisible cloud of smoke into the air. "One day, don Juan told me to stop smoking. I replied that I liked smoking and would stop when I was ready. Then I tried to quit and couldn't; not the first time, or the second time. Even all these years later, I still find myself patting my breast pocket for the cigarettes that are no longer there. These routines are difficult, but not impossible, to break," he concludes. "You merely have to jump the - "

His last word is lost to the lilt of his accent. I let it pass and listen as he describes a woman friend of his who was dying in a hospital. (I have said nothing of my own illness at this point, nor does my appearance give any clue.)

"I loved this woman dearly," he says. "She was a tremendous friend. I asked don Juan what I could do for her. He described a strategy to me, and I passed it on to her. I told her she must push her illness away with her hand, with her intent, repeatedly, for as long as it took. She replied that she was too weak to lift her arm. 'Then use your foot!' I cried. 'Use your heart; use your mind! Intend it out of you!' But she no longer had the energy to do so."

Without prompting on my part, he begins talking about his recent illness, which he describes as "a vicious viral infection." I am spooked by the parallel to my own life, and momentarily stop taking notes in order to observe him. He matter-of-factly describes a bout with a deadly infection, and how his discipline compelled him to refuse the conventional treatments offered by a doctor. The upshot - that his apparently life-threatening condition resolved itself - is obvious from the fact that he now sits across from me, a bundle of energy.

"I have been reading a book by the ex-wife of Carl Sagan," he continues. "She has this theory about the viral nature of the body. She theorizes that, physically, we are simply sacks of viruses. We live in a predatory universe, and nothing is more predatory than viruses.

"We are creatures who will die," he adds, almost as a non sequitur, and it is too much for me. I have come here under the guise of a journalist, but in fact I've known all along that I am seeking a healing of the heart before I leave this earth. My time seems short, and before I can stop myself, I rudely interrupt him.

"I have a personal question," I begin.

"Please, please," he says kindly, beckoning with his hands. "Ask anything you like."

"Well," I say, "I hate melodrama. So I will just say that I have a health condition. There is a lot of leeway with it, but the conventional wisdom is that . . ." I look away, loath to appear manipulative or needy.

"Perhaps a few more seasons," I murmur. "A few more blows to my system, and-"

I flick my wrist as if sweeping dust from the table: poof, swish, gone.

What I have done seems terribly unprofessional to me; yet, I think childishly, he started it, with his books, with his straightforward assertions that in this day and age we are still capable of experiencing the world as magic. I feel a sense of displaced anger and longing, as well as the anguish that I have carried since I first turned my back on all that was sacred to me.

Holding my gaze intently yet dispassionately, Castaneda launches into another lengthy tale, this one about an alcoholic friend of his. He regards me from beneath slightly lowered lids, as if squinting into the sun. His eyes are keen and bright, like slivers of obsidian, yet their effect is neither hypnotic nor overpowering. Rather, they seem to hold a kind of open challenge.

"So, " he concludes, like a professor summarizing his wisdom, "I would move. I would jump the - ."

Again, I lose his last word, and my anxiety must be apparent, because he repeats slowly, "I would jump the groove."

He pauses to lift an invisible needle from a turntable, his eyes never leaving mine.

"I would change the groove," he says. "I would move."

My adolescent journals are full of this same metaphor. At that time, the one-track groove that the stylus followed on a record symbolized for me the habitual nature of my mind. Changing the groove meant changing those habits that robbed me of my ability to experience ordinary life as full of beauty and wonder. The three routines I most sought to change were my habit of picking my nose, my adolescent temper. and - hardest of all my endless capacity for rehashing old events in my mind instead of simply letting go.

Now, at age thirty-six, I find it is only my temper that has mellowed. I still pick my nose, and I am still capable of endlessly justifying, defending, and excusing my past actions. To these insipid routines I have added, over the past seven years, the habitual momentum of dying. I have known from the moment I shared that needle that a part of me was conspiring in my own death. In the interim, that same part has come to view AIDS as a fitting punishment for my sins, or perhaps as the articulation of my spiritual barrenness.

Yet, throughout it all, something resilient within me has refused to die. I prefer to call that inviolate something "spirit," and it is that same spirit that is aroused in me now as I listen to Castaneda's prescription for change. Death is the one inexorable fact in our transitory lives. Perhaps I will die a doddering old fool; perhaps I will die before the sun sets tonight. But I will die - that much is certain. In the meantime, what remains within my control is the groove of my life, the track upon which I choose to walk between the exclamation of my coming and the ellipsis of my going. At its purest, this track is trackless, like a path covered by freshly fallen snow.

And trodding such virgin paths is the most enduring image of my adolescent dreams. By speaking directly to that memory, Castaneda has reawakened it within my heart. Given the perilously low ebb I have reached in life, I can only describe this feat as a genuine act of sorcery.

Ah, but what of don Juan Matus, the mythic Yaqui seer whose bones I have come to exhume? Does he sit before me now, a trickster-teacher weaving deceptive tales of wisdom, folly, and truth? I do not know, and cannot say.

Three hours have passed, and Castaneda is gently signaling the end of our meeting by unrolling the sleeves of his weathered cotton shirt. There is still time for that final and most compelling journalistic question, but something within me lets it pass.

And then, unexpectedly, the silence is broken once more by Castaneda's lovely accent. His gaze is fixed in the distance, and he speaks softly, his words like those of a man confronting an insoluble mystery. Again, I study him for evidence of deception and come away empty-handed.

"If I could ask don Juan one final question," he begins slowly, "I would ask, How did he move me so? How did he touch my spirit so that every beat of my heart is filled with the feeling of this path?"

"Every beat of my heart," he repeats quietly, and for a brief moment his words seem to hang in the air like fog. Then his whispered phrase is touched by time, and disappears into the mystery that surrounds us.

© Copyright The Sun