Carlos Castañeda (December 25, 1925[nb 1] – April 27, 1998) was an American writer. Starting with The Teachings of Don Juan in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that purport to describe training in shamanism that he received under the tutelage of a Yaqui "Man of Knowledge" named don Juan Matus.
|Born||Carlos César Salvador Arana|
December 25, 1925
|Died||April 27, 1998 (aged 72)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Education||UCLA (BA, PhD)|
|Subject||Anthropology, ethnography, shamanism|
Castaneda's first three books—The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, A Separate Reality, and Journey to Ixtlan—were written while he was an anthropology student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He wrote that these books were ethnographic accounts describing his apprenticeship with a traditional "Man of Knowledge" identified as don Juan Matus, a Yaqui Indian from northern Mexico. The veracity of these books was doubted from their original publication, and they are now widely considered to be fictional. Castaneda was awarded his bachelor's and doctoral degrees based on the work described in these books.
At the time of his death in 1998, Castaneda's books had sold more than eight million copies and had been published in 17 languages.
According to his birth record, Carlos Castañeda was born Carlos César Salvador Arana, on December 25, 1925, in Cajamarca, Peru, son of César Arana and Susana Castañeda, both of them single. Immigration records confirm the birth record's date and place of birth. Castaneda moved to the United States in 1951 and became a naturalized citizen on June 21, 1957.
Castaneda's first three books—The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, A Separate Reality, and Journey to Ixtlan—were written while he was an anthropology student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He wrote that these books were ethnographic accounts describing his apprenticeship with a traditional "Man of Knowledge" identified as don Juan Matus, an Indigenous Yaqui from northern Mexico. The veracity of these books was doubted from their original publication, and they are now widely considered to be fictional. Castaneda was awarded his bachelor's and doctoral degrees based on the work described in these books.
In 1974 his fourth book, Tales of Power, chronicled the end of his apprenticeship with Matus. Castaneda continued to be popular with the reading public, and subsequent publications appeared describing further aspects of his training with don Juan.
Castaneda wrote that don Juan recognized him as the new nagual, or leader of a party of seers of his lineage. Matus 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 own party of seers, Matus was a connection to that unknown. Castaneda often referred to this unknown realm as "nonordinary reality."
While Castaneda was a well-known cultural figure, he rarely appeared in public forums. He was the subject of a cover article in the March 5, 1973 issue of Time, which described him as "an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a tortilla". There was controversy when it was revealed that Castaneda might have used a surrogate for his cover portrait. Correspondent Sandra Burton, apparently unaware of Castaneda's principle of freedom from personal history, confronted him about discrepancies in his account of his life. He responded: "To ask me to verify my life by giving you my statistics ... is like using science to validate sorcery. It robs the world of its magic and makes milestones out of us all." Following that interview, Castaneda completely retired from public view until the 1990s.
Don Juan Matus
Scholars have debated "whether Castaneda actually served as an apprentice to the alleged Yaqui sorcerer don Juan Matus or if he invented the whole odyssey." Castaneda's books are classified as non-fiction by their publisher, although there is consensus among critics that they are largely, if not completely, fictional.
Author and Castaneda critic Richard de Mille published two books—Castaneda's Journey: The Power and the Allegory and The Don Juan Papers—in which he argued that don Juan was imaginary, based on a number of arguments, including that Castaneda did not report on the Yaqui name of a single plant he learned about, and that he and don Juan "go quite unmolested by pests that normally torment desert hikers." Castaneda's Journey also includes 47 pages of quotes Castaneda attributed to don Juan which were actually from a variety of other sources, including anthropological journal articles and even well known writers like Ludwig Wittgenstein and C. S. Lewis. De Mille's work has also come under criticism of its own, however. Walter Shelburne contends that "the Don Juan chronicle cannot be a literally true account."
According to Jay Fikes's research in Mexico, Castaneda spent some time with Ramón Medina Silva, a Huichol mara'akame (shaman) and artist who may have inspired the don Juan character. Silva was murdered during a brawl in 1971.
In the 1990s, Castaneda once again began appearing in public to promote Tensegrity, described in promotional materials as "the modernized version of some movements called magical passes developed by Indigenous shamans who lived in Mexico in times prior to the Spanish conquest."
Castaneda, with Carol Tiggs, Florinda Donner-Grau and Taisha Abelar, created Cleargreen Incorporated in 1995, whose stated purpose was "to sponsor Tensegrity workshops, classes and publications.". Tensegrity seminars, books, and other merchandise were sold through Cleargreen.
Castaneda married Margaret Runyan in Mexico in 1960, according to Runyan's memoirs. He is listed as the father on the birth certificate of Runyan's son C.J. Castaneda, even though the biological father was a different man.
In an interview, Runyan said she and Castaneda were married from 1960 to 1973; however, Castaneda obscured whether the marriage occurred, and his death certificate stated he had never been married.
Castaneda died on April 27, 1998 in Los Angeles due to complications from hepatocellular cancer. There was no public service; he was cremated and the ashes were sent to Mexico. His death was unknown to the outside world until nearly two months later, on 19 June 1998, when an obituary, "A Hushed Death for Mystic Author Carlos Castaneda" by staff writer J. R. Moehringer appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
Four months after Castaneda's death, C. J. Castaneda, also known as Adrian Vashon, whose birth certificate shows Carlos Castaneda as his father, challenged the authenticity of Castaneda's will in probate court. The challenge was ultimately unsuccessful. Carlos' death certificate states metabolic encephalopathy for 72 hours prior to his death, yet the will was purportedly signed 48 hours before Castaneda's death.
After Castaneda stepped away from public view in 1973, he bought a large multi-dwelling property in Los Angeles which he shared with some of his followers, including Taisha Abelar (formerly Maryann Simko) and Florinda Donner-Grau (formerly Regine Thal). Like Castaneda, Abelar and Donner-Grau were students of anthropology at UCLA. Each subsequently wrote books about their experiences of Castaneda's teachings from a feminist perspective that Castaneda endorsed as authentic.
Around the time Castaneda died, his companions Donner-Grau, Abelar and Patricia Partin informed friends they were leaving on a long journey. Amalia Marquez (also known as Talia Bey) and Tensegrity instructor Kylie Lundahl also left Los Angeles. Weeks later, Partin's red Ford Escort was found abandoned in Death Valley. Luis Marquez, Bey's brother, went to police in 1999 over his sister's disappearance, but could not convince them that it merited investigation.
In 2003, Partin's sun-bleached skeleton was discovered by a pair of hikers in Death Valley's Panamint Dunes area and identified in 2006 by DNA testing. The investigating authorities ruled the cause of death as undetermined. However, Castaneda often talked about suicide, and associates believe the women killed themselves in the wake of Castaneda's death.
The veracity of Castaneda's work has been doubted since their original publication, even while reviewers praised the writing and storytelling. For example, while Edmund Leach praised The Teachings of Don Juan as "a work of art," he doubted its factual authenticity. Anthropologist E. H. Spicer offered a somewhat mixed review of the book, highlighting Castaneda's expressive prose and his vivid depiction of his relationship with don Juan. However, Spicer noted that the events described in the book were not consistent with other ethnographic accounts of Yaqui cultural practices, concluding it was unlikely that don Juan had ever participated in Yaqui group life. Spicer also wrote, "[It is] wholly gratuitous to emphasize, as the subtitle does, any connection between the subject matter of the book and the cultural traditions of the Yaquis."
In a series of articles, R. Gordon Wasson, the ethnobotanist who made psychoactive mushrooms famous, similarly praised Castaneda's work, while expressing doubts regarding some of the claims' accuracy.
An early unpublished review by anthropologist Weston La Barre was more critical. He questioned the book's accuracy, calling it a "pseudo-profound deeply vulgar pseudo-ethnography." The review, initially commissioned by The New York Times Book Review, was rejected and replaced by a more positive review from anthropologist Paul Riesman.
More pointed criticism
Those familiar with Yaqui culture also questioned Castaneda's accounts, including anthropologist Jane Holden Kelley. Other criticisms of Castaneda's work include the total lack of Yaqui vocabulary or terms for any of his experiences, and his refusal to defend himself against the accusation that he received his PhD from UCLA through deception.
John Dedrick, a Protestant missionary who lived among the Yaqui Indians of Vicam, Sonora, from 1940 to 1979 said that, "I've only read The Teachings of Don Juan, and before I got to the third part of the book I knew that he [Castaneda] did know of the Yaquis and that he had not been to the Rio Yaqui river, or that there is no terminology in the Yaqui language for any of the instructions and explanations that "Don Juan" was giving it to him [Castaneda].
According to William W. Kelly, chair of the anthropology department at Yale University:
I doubt you'll find an anthropologist of my generation who regards Castaneda as anything but a clever con man. It was a hoax, and surely don Juan never existed as anything like the figure of his books. Perhaps to many it is an amusing footnote to the gullibility of naive scholars, although to me it remains a disturbing and unforgivable breach of ethics.
David Silverman sees value in the work even while considering it fictional. In Reading Castaneda he describes the apparent deception as a critique of anthropology field work in general—a field that relies heavily on personal experience, and necessarily views other cultures through a lens. He said that the descriptions of peyote trips and the work's fictional nature were meant to place doubt on other works of anthropology.
- Octavio Paz, Nobel laureate, poet, and diplomat. Paz wrote the prologue to the Spanish language edition of The Teachings of Don Juan.
- Michael Korda, editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster, was Castaneda's editor for his first eight books and discusses their work together in an essay in Another Life: A Memoir of Other People.
- George Lucas has stated that Yoda and Luke Skywalker were inspired in part by don Juan and Castaneda.
- Amy Wallace wrote Sorcerer's Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda, an account of her personal experiences with Castaneda and his followers.
- Brazilian writer Lui Morais analyzes Castaneda's work, its cultural implications, and its continuation in other authors in Carlos Castaneda e a Fenda entre os Mundos: Vislumbres da Filosofia Ānahuacah no Século XXI.
- The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, 1968. ISBN 978-0-520-21757-7. (Summer 1960 to October 1965.)
- A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan, 1971. ISBN 978-0-671-73249-3. (April 1968 to October 1970.)
- Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan, 1972. ISBN 978-0-671-73246-2. (Summer 1960 to May 1971.)
- Tales of Power, 1974. ISBN 978-0-671-73252-3. (Autumn 1971 to the 'Final Meeting' with don Juan Matus in 1973.)
- The Second Ring of Power, 1977. ISBN 978-0-671-73247-9. (Meeting his fellow apprentices after the 'Final Meeting'.)
- The Eagle's Gift, 1981. ISBN 978-0-671-73251-6. (Continuing with his fellow apprentices; and then alone with La Gorda.)
- The Fire From Within, 1984. ISBN 978-0-671-73250-9. (Don Juan's 'Second Attention' teachings through to the 'Final Meeting' in 1973.)
- The Power of Silence: Further Lessons of Don Juan, 1987. ISBN 978-0-671-73248-6. (The 'Abstract Cores' of don Juan's lessons.)
- The Art of Dreaming, 1993. ISBN 978-0-06-092554-3. (Review of don Juan's lessons in dreaming.)
- Magical Passes: The Practical Wisdom of the Shamans of Ancient Mexico, 1998. ISBN 978-0-06-017584-9. (Body movements for breaking the barriers of normal perception.)
- The Wheel of Time: Shamans of Ancient Mexico, Their Thoughts About Life, Death and the Universe, 1998. ISBN 978-0-9664116-0-7. (Selected quotations from the first eight books.)
- The Active Side of Infinity, 1999. ISBN 978-0-06-019220-4. (Memorable events of his life.)
- Castaneda's birth name, as well as the date and location of his birth, are uncertain. According to a 1973 article in Time, U.S. immigration records indicate that Castaneda was born Carlos Cesar Arana Castaneda on December 25, 1925 in Cajamarca, Peru. In the article, Castaneda was cited as saying that he had adopted the surname "Castaneda" later in life and that he had been born in São Paulo, Brazil. He also reported his date of birth as December 25, 1935. In other accounts he gave his date of birth as December 25, 1931. A 1981 article in The New York Times stated that Castaneda "was born Carlos Arana in a Peruvian mountain town 66 years ago", indicating a 1915 birth. Most sources tend to favor the Peruvian birth and 1925 date.
- Burton, Sandra; et al. (March 5, 1973). "Don Juan and the Sorcerer's Apprentice". Time. Vol. 101, no. 10. Retrieved 2021-09-15.
- Epstein, Benjamin (March 1, 1996). "My Lunch With Carlos Castaneda". Psychology Today. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
- Applebome, Peter (June 20, 1998). "Carlos Castaneda, Mystical and Mysterious Writer, Dies". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 14 March 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
- Walters, Ray (January 11, 1981). "Paperback Talk". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
- Chávez Candelaria, Cordelia; Garcia, Peter J.; Aldama, Arturo J. (2004). Encyclopedia of Latino Popular Culture, Volume One. Greenwood. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-313-32215-0. Archived from the original on 26 February 2018. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
- Marshall 2007.
- "Castañeda's birth certificate". astro.com. Retrieved 14 August 2021.
- "U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992". ancestry.com. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
- Applebome, Peter (August 19, 1998). "Mystery Man's Death Can't End the Mystery; Fighting Over Carlos Castaneda's Legacy". New York Times. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
- Baron, Larry (Spring 1983). "Slipping inside the Crack between the Worlds: Carlos Castaneda, Alfred Schutz, and the Theory of Multiple Realities". Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 23 (2): 52–69. doi:10.1177/0022167883232007. S2CID 143993277.
- Clements, William M. (1985). "Carlos Castaneda's the Teachings of Don Juan: A Novel of Initiation". Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. 26 (3): 122–130. doi:10.1080/00111619.1985.9934668.
- Rosenthal, Caroline; Schafer, Stefanie (2014). "Lochle, Stefan: "The Imposter as Trickster as innovator: A Rereading of Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan-cycle"". Fake Identity?: The Impostor Narrative in North American Culture. Campus Verlag GmbH. pp. 81–96. ISBN 978-3-593-50101-7.
- Siegel, Ronald K. (1982). "Book Review: The Don Juan Papers: Further Castaneda Controversies". Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 14 (3): 253–254. doi:10.1080/02791072.1982.10471937.
- De Mille 1976, p. [page needed]
- Koote, Anton F. - University of Florida (2008). "A Critical Look At Castaneda's Critics".
- Harner, Michael (May 7, 1978). "To the Editor". The New York Times. Retrieved 2023-01-12.
- Shelburne, Walter A. (Spring 1987). "Carlos Castaneda: If It Didn't Happen, What Does It Matter?". Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 27 (2): 217–227. doi:10.1177/0022167887272007. S2CID 143666251.
- "A Tribute to Ramon Medina Silva, Carlos the Coyote and Maria Sabina". dhushara.com. Retrieved 2021-08-14.
- Fikes 1993, p. [page needed].
- Bruce Rimmel (2014-05-22). "A Tribute to Ramón Medina Silva". visionaryartexhibition.com. Retrieved 2021-08-14.
- "Carlos Castaneda's Tensegrity". Retrieved 17 April 2016..
- "ABOUT US". Carlos Castaneda's Tensegrity. Archived from the original on 2018-02-16. Retrieved 2018-07-18.
- Woo, Elaine (January 30, 2012). "Margaret Runyan Castaneda, Carlos Castaneda's ex-wife, dies at 90". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 6 June 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
- Applebome, Peter (20 June 1998). "Carlos Castaneda, Mystical and Mysterious Writer, Dies". The New York Times.
- "Castaneda Obituary". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. June 19, 1998. Archived from the original on 7 August 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
- County of Los Angeles Department of Health Services (1998). Carlos Castaneda death certificate
- Donner-Grau 1982; Donner-Grau 1985; Donner 1991; Abelar 1992.
- Flinchum, Robin (2006-02-10). "Remains of guru's disciple identified". Pahrump Valley Times. Archived from the original on 2015-05-13. Retrieved 2015-02-22.
- Leach, Edmund (June 5, 1969). "High School". The New York Review of Books. ISSN 0028-7504. Archived from the original on October 13, 2012. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
- Spicer, Edward H. (April 1969). "Review: The Teaching of Don Jaun: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge". American Anthropologist. 71 (2): 320–322. doi:10.1525/aa.1969.71.2.02a00250.
- Wasson, R. Gordon. 1969. (Bk. Rev.). Economic Botany vol. 23(2):197. A review of Carlos Castaneda's "The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.", Wasson, R. Gordon. 1972a. (Bk. Rev.). Economic Botany vol. 26(1):98–99. A review of Carlos Castaneda's "A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan."; Wasson, R. Gordon. 1973a. (Bk. Rev.). Economic Botany vol. 27(1):151–152. A review of Carlos Castaneda's "Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan."; Wasson, R. Gordon. . 1974. (Bk. Rev.). Economic Botany vol. 28(3):245–246. A review of Carlos Castaneda's "Tales of Power."; Wasson, R. Gordon. 1977a. (Mag., Bk. Rev). Head vol. 2(4):52–53, 88–94. November.
- Kelley 1978, pp. 24–25.
- Harris 2001, p. 322.
- Fikes 1993, pp. 55–56.
- David Silverman. Reading Castaneda: A Prologue to the Social Sciences. ISBN 978-0-7100-8146-9
- Donald Wieve. "Does Understanding Religion Require Religious Understanding?" In Russel T. McCutcheon (ed.), The Insider/Outsider Problem in the Study of Religion. New York: Bath Press, 1999. p. 263.
- Castenada, Carlos (2014). Las enseñanzas de don Juan : una forma yaqui de conocimiento (Spanish : 2ª ed., 13ª reimp ed.). Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Económica. ISBN 9789681662356. OCLC 1123017633. Retrieved 19 May 2022.
- Rothman, Joshua (17 December 2014). "The Crazy History of "Star Wars"". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 25 July 2017 – via www.newyorker.com.
- Amy Wallace (2007). Sorcerer's Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda. North Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-58394-206-2. Archived from the original on 2017-02-16. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- De Morais 2012.
- De Morais, Luis Carlos, Jr. (2012). Carlos Castaneda e a Fresta entre os Mundos: Vislumbres da Filosofia Ānahuacah no Século XXI [Carlos Castaneda and the Crack Between the Worlds: Glimpses of Ānahuacah Philosophy in the 21st Century] (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro: Litteris Editora. ISBN 978-8537401767.
- Critical works
- De Mille, Richard (1976). Castaneda's Journey: The Power and the Allegory. Capra Press. ISBN 978-0-88496-067-6.
- Fikes, Jay Courtney (1993). Carlos Castaneda: Academic Opportunism and the Psychedelic Sixties. Millenia Press. ISBN 978-0-9696960-0-1.
- Harris, Marvin (2001). Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
- Kelley, Jane Holden (1978). Yaqui Women: Contemporary Life Histories. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-0912-1.
- Marshall, Robert (April 12, 2007). "The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda". Salon. Salon Media Group. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
- Works by students
- Abelar, Taisha (1992). The Sorcerer's Crossing. Viking Arkana. ISBN 978-0670842728.
- Donner-Grau, Florinda (1982). Shabono: A Visit to a Remote and Magical World in the South American Rain Forest. ISBN 978-0440078289.
- Donner-Grau, Florinda (1985). The Witch's Dream. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0671551988.
- Donner, Florinda (1991). Being-In-Dreaming: An Initiation into the Sorcerers' World. HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 978-0062502339.
- Collier, Richard (1968). The River That God Forgot. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co. LCCN 68-12451. Background on Julio Cesar Arana, despotic rubber baron, Carlos Castaneda's paternal grandfather.
- Patterson, William Patrick (2008). Allen, Barbara C. (ed.). The Life & Teachings of Carlos Castaneda. Fairfax, CA: Arete Communications. ISBN 978-1879514966.
- Sanchez, Victor (1995). The Teachings of Don Carlos: Practical Applications of the Works of Carlos Castaneda. Bear & Company. ISBN 978-1-879181-23-6.
- Williams, Donald (1981). Border Crossings: A Psychological Perspective on Carlos Castaneda's Path of Knowledge. Inner City Books.
- Castaneda, Margaret Runyan (1996). A Magical Journey with Carlos Castaneda. Victoria: Millenia Press. ISBN 978-0-9696960-1-8.
- de Mille, Richard (1990) . The Don Juan Papers: Further Castaneda Controversies. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company. ISBN 0-534-12150-0.
- Noel, Daniel (1976). Seeing Castaneda: Reactions to the Don Juan Writings of Carlos Castañeda. Perigee Books.
- Sampson, Wallace (June 25, 2009). "An Original: Richard de Mille, Carlos Castaneda, Literary Quackery". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved 2023-01-13.
- Barthelme, Donald (February 11, 1973). "The Teachings Of Don B.: A Yankee Way Of Knowledge". New York Times Magazine. pp. 14–15, 66–67.
This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. (January 2023)
- "BBC Four – Tales from the Jungle, Series 1, Carlos Castaneda, What happens when anthropology goes bad?". bbc.co.uk. 29 November 2007. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
- "To Carlos Castaneda, Wherever You Are By Keith Thompson". bbc.co.uk. 27 June 1998. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
- transcript: Carlos Castaneda Interviewed by Jane Hellisoe of the University of California Press, 1968, UCLA
- youtube audio: Carlos Castaneda Interviewed by Jane Hellisoe of the University of California Press, 1968, UCLA
- "Carlos Castaneda Interviews and Articles Archive – 1968 to 1998". federaljack.com. 5 October 2007. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
- "Total Freedom – Toltec – Articles and Interviews Archive – Text (or Audio when specified)". great-grandma.com. 24 July 2012. Archived from the original on 3 July 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2013.