Carlos Castaneda

Infobox Writer
name = Carlos Castaneda

imagesize = 250px
caption = Carlos Castenada 1962
pseudonym =
birthname =
birthdate = birth date|mf=yes|1925|12|25|mf=y
birthplace = Cajamarca, Perú
deathdate = death date and age|mf=yes|1998|4|27|1925|12|25|mf=y
deathplace = Los Angeles, California, U.S.
occupation = Anthropologist, Author
nationality = American
period = 20th-century
genre =
subject = Shamanism
movement =
notableworks =
influences =
influenced =

website =

Carlos Castaneda (December 25, 1925 – April 27, 1998) was a Peruvian-born American author. Starting with "The Teachings of Don Juan" in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that describe his purported training in traditional Mesoamerican shamanism. His 12 books have sold more than 8 million copies in 17 languages. The books and Castaneda, who rarely spoke in public about his work, have been controversial for many years. Supporters claim the books are either true or at least valuable works of philosophy and descriptions of practices which enable an increased awareness. Academic critics claim the books are works of fiction, citing the books' internal contradictions, discrepancies between the books and anthropological data, alternate sources for Castaneda's detailed knowledge of shamanic practices and lack of corroborating evidence.

In his books, Castaneda narrated in first person what he claimed were his experiences under the tutelage of a Yaqui shaman named don Juan Matus whom he met in 1960. Castaneda wrote that he was identified by don Juan Matus as having the energetic configuration of a "nagual", who, if the spirit chose, could become a leader of a party of seers. He also used the term "nagual" to signify that part of perception which is in the realm of the unknown yet still reachable by man, implying that, for his party of seers, don Juan was in some way a connection to that unknown. Castaneda often referred to this unknown realm as "nonordinary reality", which indicated that this realm was indeed a "reality", but radically different from the ordinary reality experienced by human beings who are well engaged in everyday activities as part of their social conditioning.


Immigration records for Carlos Cesar Arana Castaneda indicate that he was born on December 25, 1925 in Cajamarca, Perú. [The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Volume 5: 1997-1999. Charles Scribner's Sons, 2002.] Records show that his surname was given by his mother Susana Castañeda Navoa. His father was Cesar Arana Burungaray. His surname appears with the ñ in many Hispanic dictionaries, even though his famous published works display an anglicised version. He moved to the United States in the early 1950s and became a naturalized citizen in 1957. In 1960 he was married to Margaret Runyan in Tijuana, Mexico. They lived together for only six months, but their divorce was not finalized until 1973. He was educated at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) (B.A. 1962; Ph.D. 1973). [de Mille, Richard, "Castaneda's Journey, The Power and the Allegory" (Lincoln:, Inc., 2001 [1976] ) 27.]

Castaneda’s first three books, "", "A Separate Reality" and "Journey to Ixtlan", were written while Castaneda was an anthropology student at UCLA. He wrote these books as if they were his research log describing his apprenticeship with a traditional "Man of Knowledge" identified as "don Juan Matus", a Yaqui Indian from northern Mexico. Castaneda was awarded his bachelor's and doctoral degrees based on the work described in these books.

In March 1973 Castaneda was the subject of a cover article in "Time" [,10987,903890,00.html cover article] March 5, 1973 (Vol. 101 No. 10). The article described him as "an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a tortilla." Following that interview until the 1990s Castaneda disappeared from public view.

In 1974 his fourth book, "Tales of Power", was published. This book ended with Castaneda leaping from a cliff into an abyss, and signaled the end of his apprenticeship under the tutelage of don Juan. Despite an increasingly chilly reception from literary as well as anthropological writers, Castaneda continued to be popular with the reading public with subsequent publications. In all twelve books by Castaneda were published, two of them posthumously.

In the 1990s Castaneda once again began appearing in public to promote Tensegrity, a group of movements that he said had been passed down by 25 generations of Toltec shamans. On June 16, 1995 articles of incorporation executed by George Short were filed to create Cleargreen Incorporated. The Cleargreen statement of purpose says in part, "Cleargreen is a corporation that has a twofold purpose. First, it sponsors and organizes seminars and workshops on Carlos Castaneda's Tensegrity, and second, it is a publishing house." Cleargreen published three videos of Tensegrity movements while Castaneda was alive. Castaneda himself did not appear in these videos.

Castaneda died on April 27, 1998 in Los Angeles due to complications from hepatocellular cancer. [ [ Death Certificate] ] There was no public service, Castaneda was cremated and the ashes were sent to Mexico. It wasn't until nearly two months later, on June 19, 1998, that an obituary entitled "A Hushed Death for Mystic Author Carlos Castaneda" by staff writer J.R. Moehringer appeared in the Los Angeles Times. [ [ Castaneda Obituary] All Things Considered, June 19, 1998]

The Witches

After Castaneda dropped from public view in 1973, he bought a large house in Los Angeles which he shared with three of his female followers, who became known as the Witches. All of the women who lived with him and who were known by this title were said to be or have been his lovers at some point. [Lachman, Gary, 'Don Carlos and the Witches', Fortean Times 238, July 2008]

The Witches were required to break off their relationships with friends and family when they joined Castaneda's group. They also refused to be photographed and took new names - Regina Thal became Florinda Donner-Grau, Maryann Simko became Taisha Abelar and Kathleen Pohlman became Carol Tiggs.

According to Corey Donovan (aka Richard Jennings), creator of the Sustained Action website:

The use of the term "the Witches" to relate to the three women Castaneda was eventually to claim had also been apprentices of don Juan seems to date to the early nineties, when books by two of these women purporting to describe their experiences with don Juan and his party were published. These three women are Florinda Donner-Grau, Taisha Abelar and Carol Tiggs. All three of them appeared and sometimes lectured at many of the Tensegrity workshops that began in July 1993, and Florinda and Taisha appeared at book signings and gave occasional lectures or radio interviews as well.

Shortly after Carlos died, Florinda and Taisha disappeared, along with Patricia Partin (see the Blue Scout below). Talia Bey (Cleargreen president - born Amalia Marquez) and Tensegrity instructor Kylie Lundal had their phones disconnected and also disappeared. On August 2, 1998 Carol spoke at a workshop in Ontario. None of the Witches have been seen in public since. Spokespeople from Cleargreen have said only that they are "travelling", but not other information is available. It is speculated that they have committed suicide. [ The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda] page 4 from Salon magazine April 12, 2007]

Because the women had cut all ties with family and friends it was some time before people noticed they were missing. There has been no official investigation into the disappearances of Donner-Grau, Simko and Lundal. Luis Marquez, the brother of Talia Bey, went to the police in 1999 over his sister's disappearance, but was unable to convince them that her disappearance merited investigation. Their opinion changed in 2006 after the remains of Patricia Partin were identified, and the LAPD finally added Talia to their missing person database. [ The Charley Project] ]

The Chacmools

This extract from a Tensegrity workshop brochure was published in the "Nagualist Newsletter" in 1995.

Don Juan explained that the gigantic reclining figures called the chacmools, found in the pyramids of Mexico, were the representations of guardians. He said that the look of emptiness in their eyes and faces was due to the fact that they were dream-guards, guarding dreamers and dreaming sites.
Following don Juan's tradition, we call Kylie Lundahl, Reni Murez and Nyei Murez chacmools. The inherent energetic organization of their beings allows them to possess a single-minded purpose, a genuine fierceness and daring which make them the ideal guardians of anything they choose to guard, be it a person, an idea, a way of life, or whatever.
In the instance of our video, these three guardians demonstrate the techniques of Tensegrity because they are best qualified for the task, the three of them having completed the gigantic task of compiling the four individual strands of magical passes taught by don Juan and his people to us.
-Carlos Castaneda [|"The Nagualist Newsletter and Open Forum", Issue February 5 / March 1995]

The Blue Scout

In his book "The Art of Dreaming", Castaneda describes an encounter during a lucid dreaming session with a supposed conscious entity that was trapped by other inorganic beings. The trapped entity was named the Blue Scout because its "energy" appeared blueish and it was an energetic scout (meaning it was outside of its original realm). The Blue Scout was apparently bait used by the inorganic beings to trap Castaneda as well. But instead they (Castaneda and the Blue Scout) escaped by supposedly merging their energies.

The alleged result of merging their energies was that the Blue Scout followed Castaneda to our world. Furthermore, Castaneda claimed that he gave the Blue Scout a human physical body by helping Carol Tiggs give normal birth to her.

A real girl was brought forward at various public sessions Castaneda and Tiggs and introduced as the Blue Scout, and Tiggs was referenced as her mother. This is strange because that girl was someone named Patricia Partin who had real, known biological parents other than Castaneda and Tiggs.

The remains of Partin, sometimes referred to by Castaneda as "Blue Scout", "Nury Alexander" and/or "Claude", were found in 2003 near where her abandoned car had been discovered a few weeks after Castaneda's death in 1998, on the edge of Death Valley. Her remains were in a condition requiring DNA identification, which was made in 2006.Salon page 4]

Legal actions

On November 22, 1995 Castaneda, through his attorney Deborah Drooz, filed a complaint against Victor Sanchez and Bear & Company. [ Background on Castaneda's Lawsuit Against Victor Sanchez] by Corey Donovan, retrieved September 3, 2008]

Four months after Castaneda's death C. J. Castaneda, also known as Adrian Vashon, whose birth certificate claims Carlos Castaneda as his father, challenged Castaneda's will in probate court. For many years Castaneda had referred to Vashon as his son. The will was signed four days before Castaneda's death and Vashon challenged its authenticity. The challenge was ultimately unsuccessful. [ Mystery Man's Death Can't End the Mystery; Fighting Over Carlos Castaneda's Legacy] By Peter Applebome, NY Times, August 19, 1998, retrieved September 3, 2008]


His writings have been criticized by a number of academics, and have been seen by some as highly suspect in terms of anthropological fieldwork, particularly in relation to the extent to which he expropriates the research of Barbara Myerhoff without attribution, fictionalizing on the basis of her field research. Various critics have tried to reconcile Castaneda’s accounts with his own personal history and those of his fellow apprentices, with no success. Some hold that this is proof that the stories are fictitious but others believe that Castaneda made a strenuous personal effort to erase his own personal history, in accordance with the precepts he learned from the old nagual, don Juan Matus, who had embarked on a similar procedure earlier.

One conflicting aspect of his work is the description of the use of psychotropic plants as a means to induce altered states of awareness. In Castaneda's first two books, he describes the "Yaqui way of knowledge" using for assistance the use of powerful indigenous plants, such as peyote and datura. In his third book, "Journey to Ixtlan", he makes clear that the use of psychotropic plants ("power plants") or substances was not necessary to achieve heightened awareness, although his teacher advised their use was beneficial in helping to free the stubborn mind of some persons. He says that don Juan used them on him to demonstrate that experiences outside those known in day-to-day life are real and tangible.

In "Journey to Ixtlan," the third book in the series, he wrote:

My perception of the world through the effects of those psychotropics had been so bizarre and impressive that I was forced to assume that such states were the only avenue to communicating and learning what don Juan was attempting to teach me.

That assumption was erroneous.

According to Robert J. Wallis, in his 2003 book "Shamans/Neo-Shamans: Contested Ecstasies, Alternative Archaeologies, and Contemporary Pagans":

At first, and with the backing of academic qualifications and the UCLA anthropological department, Castaneda’s work was critically acclaimed. Notable old-school American anthropologists like Edward Spicer (1969) and Edmund Leach (1969) praised Castaneda, alongside more alternative and young anthropologists such as Peter Furst, Barbara Myerhoff and Michael Harner. The authenticity of don Juan was accepted for six years, until Richard de Mille and Daniel Noel both published their critical exposés of the don Juan books in 1976 (De Mille produced a further edited volume in 1980). Most anthropologists had been convinced of Castaneda’s authenticity until then — indeed, they had had little reason to question it — but De Mille’s meticulous analysis, in particular, disproved the veracity of Castaneda’s work.

Beneath the veneer of anthropological fact stood huge discrepancies in the data: the books "‘contradict one another in details of time, location, sequence, and description of events’" (Schultz in Clifton 1989:45). There are possible published sources for almost everything Carlos wrote (see especially Beals 1978), and at least one encounter is ethnographic plagiarism: Ramon Medina, a Huichol shaman-informant to Myerhoff (1974), displayed superhuman acrobatic feats at a waterfall and, according to Myerhoff, in the presence of Castaneda (Fikes 1993). Then, in "A Separate Reality", don Juan’s friend don Genaro makes a similar leap over a waterfall with the aid of supernatural power. In addition to these inconsistencies, various authors suggest aspects of the Sonoran desert Carlos describes are environmentally implausible, and, the ‘Yaqui shamanism’ he divulges is not Yaqui at all but a synthesis of shamanisms from elsewhere (e.g. Beals 1978).

As early as 1973 a Time Magazine article had questioned

"... 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."

Serious analytical criticism of Castaneda's books did not emerge until 1976 when Richard de Mille published "Castaneda's Journey: The Power and the Allegory", in which he argues, "Logical or chronological errors in the narrative constitute the best evidence that Castaneda's books are works of fiction. If no one has discovered these errors before, the reason must be that no one has listed the events of the first three books in sequence. Once that has been done, the errors are unmistakable." [ de Mille, Richard "Castaneda's Journey: The Power and the Allegory',' Capra Press, 1976, pp. 166]

The most damning instance of this, according to de Mille, is Castaneda's relations with a witch named 'la Catalina.'

In October 1965 Carlos-One went through an ordeal so unexpected and disturbing that he sadly withdrew from his apprenticeship and avoided don Juan for more than two years. The ordeal was a night-long confrontation with a powerful enemy who had assumed don Juan's bodily form though not his accustomed gait or speech....

Curiously, when Carlos-One begged don Juan to explain what had happened during the "special" event, 'the conversation began with speculations about the identity of a "female" person' (Castaneda's emphasis) who had snatched Carlos's soul and borrowed don Juan's form. The lady was not named, and the reader was left to wonder whether the galvanizing impersonatress was in fact a certain 'fiendish witch' called "la Catalina," who had been mentioned briefly on November 23, 1961, four years earlier. At that time don Juan had said he was harboring certain plans for finishing her off, about which he would tell Carlos-One 'someday.' Poor Carlos-One had to wait ten years to learn about those plans in "Tales of Power", but Table 2 reveals that Carlos-Two, traveling a parallel time track, carried out those plans with moderate success in the fall of 1962, when he met the magic lady six times in a row, once as a marauding but indistinct blackbird, once as a sailing silhouette, and four times face to face "in all her magnificent evil splendor" as a beautiful but terrifying young woman. Reacting to those encounters, he felt his ears bursting, his throat choking, his hands frozen, his body chilled, and his arms and legs rigid. The hair on his body literally stood on end. He shrieked and fell down to the ground. He was paralyzed. He began to run. And he lost his power of speech.

Here we are asked to believe that a flesh-and-blood anthropologist who enjoyed this tumultuous supernatural affair with a glorious witch in 1962 did not recall her name in 1965, did not make the connection between the last meeting and the previous six when sorting through his field notes in the safety of his apartment, did not put it all together when naming her in his first book, but found the memory "as vivid as if it had just happened" on May 22, 1968, a few pages into his second book. Even if we could credit this uncharacteristic amnesia, we would still have to account for don Juan's equal failure to name 'la Catalina' in 1965. The puzzle is easily solved by switching from the factual to the fictive model. The abrupt, unsatisfying ending to The Teachings is not a symptom of ethnographic battle fatigue, for our campaigner has already survived six such battles with colors flying. It is only a serialist's preparation for the next episode, a cliffhanger that makes us hungry for another book.

On these showings, one thing is certain. "The Teachings of Don Juan" and "Journey to Ixtlan" cannot both be factual reports. [de Mille, Richard, "Castaneda's Journey," 1976, pp. 170-171]

In the "The Power and the Allegory", De Mille compared "The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui way of Knowledge" with Castenada's library stack requests at the University of California. The stack requests documented that he was sitting in the library when his journal said he was squatting in don Juan's hut. One of the most memorable discoveries the De Mille made in his examination of the stack requests was that when Castaneda said he was participating in the traditional peyote ceremony -- the least fantastic episode of drug use -- he was not only sitting in the library, but he was reading someone else's description of their experience of the peyote ceremony.


Other creative works

* "Winds of Nagual" - A piece for Wind Ensemble by composer Michael Colgrass
* "Sorcerer" - A concept album of ambient music by Michael Stearns and Ron Sunsinger inspired by the late Castaneda
* "Carlos Castaneda: Enigma of a Sorcerer", a 2004 movie on DVD, reveals that his former inner circle of believers no longer believe Castaneda's books were based on anything more than his fertile imagination.

Related authors

* Two other authors, Taisha Abelar (born Maryann Simko) and Florinda Donner-Grau (born Regine Thal), wrote books in which they claimed to be from don Juan Matus' party of Toltec warriors. Both Abelar and Donner-Grau were endorsed by Castaneda as being legitimate students of don Juan Matus, whereas he dismissed all other writers as pretenders. The two women were part of Castaneda's inner circle, which he referred to as "The Brujas", and both assumed different names as part of their dedication to their new beliefs. They were originally both graduate students in anthropology at UCLA. [ "The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda"] , "Salon magazine", April 12, 2007]
* Donald Barthelme parodied Castaneda's books in his "The Teachings of Don B.: A Yankee Way of Knowledge", in which he substitutes "brujo" with "brillo."
* Anthropologist Victor Sanchez claims to have received similar teachings from the Wirrarika people in Mexico. [Victor Sanchez. "The Toltec Path of Recapitulation." (Bear & Company: Rochester, Vermont 2001), p. 7, ISBN 1-879181-60-6] Although he says he has met Castaneda, and that Castaneda's books were an inspiration for him, he emphasizes that Castaneda did not endorse his work. [ [ Castaneda Controversies] ]
* Martin J. Goodman claimed to have spent 2 days with a "reconstituted" Carlos, or Carlos' double, after the death of Carlos in his book "I Was Carlos Castaneda".
* Miguel Ángel Ruiz is known for bestselling book "The Four Agreements."
* Armando Torres wrote "Encounters with the Nagual: Conversations with Carlos Castaneda" five years after Castanda's death claiming he had been told to do so by Castaneda himself. In it he describes the Rule of Three-Pronged Nagual.

ee also

* Lucid dream
* Amalia Marquez
* Nagual (Castaneda)
* Neoshamanism
* New Age
* Recapitulation (Castaneda)
* Tensegrity (Castaneda)
* Toltec (Castaneda)


External links

* [ Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan's Teachings] , a 117,500 word book compiled from Carlos Castaneda's ten books
* [ Carlos Castaneda's Tensegrity] , site maintained by ClearGreen Inc., the direct apprentices of Carlos Castaneda, who also inherited his estate and currently conduct Tensegrity seminars and classes
* [ Nagualism] , collection of information, interviews and forum discussion on Carlos Castaneda, Nagualism, and Shamanism
* [ Sustained Action] , a website devoted to analysis and discussion of evidence and controversy about Carlos Castaneda
* [ The Skeptic's Dictionary on Castaneda]

NAME= Castaneda, Carlos
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Castañeda, Carlos
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Latin American writer
DATE OF BIRTH= December 25, 1931
PLACE OF BIRTH= Sao Paolo Brazil
DATE OF DEATH= April 27, 1998
PLACE OF DEATH= Los Angeles, California

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