By Ina Woolcott
‘Carlos Castaneda is one the most profound and influential thinkers of his century. His insights are paving the way for the future evolution of human consciousness. We should all be deeply indebted to him’. ~ DEEPAK CHOPRA
Carlos Castaneda became the student of a Yaqui Shaman, Don Juan, from 1961 till the Autumn of 1965 in Mexico, inspiring him to write 12 books and several academic articles, plus three videos, that portrayed his active participation and experiences, knowledge and skills gained whilst under the tuition of the Yaqui Shamans, primarily Don Juan. Yaqui shamans are indigenous to central parts of Mexico. He was trained in traditional Mesoamerican Shamanism. Castaneda sometimes called this sorcery. Sorcery can be described as having the power to influence events, objects, people, and physical reality. Castaneda to start with used various amounts and types of hallucinogenic herbs and medicinal plants including Jimson Weed, Peyote and Datura to enlarge his vision of reality. Once he understood how to access parallel realities he no longer required hallucinogens. They were to kick start him in the right direction and to open his mind. In his early books he describes how he received the position of nagual from Don Juan. Nagual meaning leader, shape shifter or witch/sorcerer. He went on to lead a party of 3 female seers. Castaneda states that some of his daily perception was focused in a realm accessible, but not easily reachable, by ‘ordinary’ men/women and hinted that he was a connection to this realm, which he named nonordinary reality, for his party of seers. This suggests this reality was real, but completely different to the reality experienced by the masses.
CC claimed to have been born on the 25th December 1931 and supposedly died on April 27th 1998 of liver cancer. Immigration records show that he was born in 1925. Having read his first 5 books so far (I have all 12) I personally think that if he DID say he was born in 1925, this was to erase his personal history. Erasing personal history is described in his 3rd book: Journey to Ixtlan, The Lessons of Don Juan. This is a method that Don Juan taught him. I highly recommend that you read his books, they are awe inspiring and captivating. Ones begun it is hard to put them down!
Receiving his education at the University of California Los Angeles he went on to gain B.A. 1962, and a Ph.D. in 1970. His first 3 books were written whilst an anthropology student and were written as a research log of the time he was an apprentice of Don Juan. He was awarded his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees for these books.
Like with most great people there are those that doubt his work, there are critics who try to debunk his work, saying that his books are fictitious, that he wrote in the traditional way of storytellers, known as ethnopoetics, found among many Native Indian Cultures. Some have tried to assure the certainty and validity of his work with his personal history and that of his apprentices, his party of seers Florinda Donner-Grau, Taisha Abelar and Carol Tiggs. I believe wholeheartedly that he was not just storyteller and what he countered was true, others may not. It was his truth that he uncovered and decided to share with us, a profound one at that. We all have our own truths to uncover. Even IF not true, does it matter? If his writings have helped to enrich and transform peoples lives for the better, like mine, this is all that matters. These books are a definite must read for anyone interested in shamanism, the old ways and the Native Indian Cultures. They offer insights, knowledge and lessons that will hopefully ring true to you, like they did me.