Carlos Castaneda was a graduate student in anthropology at the university of California, Los Angeles, gathering information on various medicinal herbs used by the Indians of Sonora, Mexico, when he met the old Yaqui Indian, Don Juan. He wrote a series of books outlining his apprenticeship to this Yaqui sorcerer who guided the young anthropologist on a magical journey into another world. Castaneda learned that for us to perceive any of the worlds that exist beside our own, not only do we have to covet them but we need to have sufficient energy to seize them.
Castaneda wrote twelve books, including a manual on the Magical Passes or ‘Tensegrity’ which was a series of movements which he claimed Don Juan had taught him over the course of his apprenticeship but which were never described in the books (but perhaps were alluded to).
- The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968). (Summer 1960 to October 1965.)
- A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan (1971). (April 1968 to October 1970.)
- Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan (1972). (Summer 1960 to May 1971.)
- Tales of Power (1974). (Autumn 1971 to the ‘Final Meeting’ with don Juan Matus in 1973.)
- The Second Ring of Power (1977). (Meeting his fellow apprentices after the ‘Final Meeting’.)
- The Eagle’s Gift (1981). (Continuing with his fellow apprentices; and then alone with La Gorda.)
- The Fire From Within (1984). (Don Juan’s ‘Second Attention’ teachings through to the ‘Final Meeting’ in 1973.)
- The Power of Silence: Further Lessons of Don Juan (1987). (The ‘Abstract Cores’ of don Juan’s lessons.)
- The Art of Dreaming (1993). (Review of don Juan’s lessons in dreaming.)
- Magical Passes: The Practical Wisdom of the Shamans of Ancient Mexico (1998). (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). (Selected quotations from the first eight books.)
- The Active Side of Infinity (1999). (Memorable events of his life.)
Castaneda gave several interviews including a radio interview with Theodore Roszak for KPFA, “DON JUAN THE SORCERER” – 30 Jan. 1969.(37 min.)
Corvalan, Graciela, Magical Blend #14, “A conversation with the elusive Carlos Castaneda”.
Corvalan, Graciela, Magical Blend #15, “Carlos Castaneda, part II”.
Burton, Sandra, Time Magazine, “Magic and Reality”. 1973.
Corvalan, Graciela, “Der Weg der Tolteken – Ein Gespräch mit Carlos Castaneda”, Fischer, 1987
Fort, Carmina, “Conversationes con Carlos Castaneda”. Madrid (Spain), 1991.
Keen, Sam, Psychology Today, “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. 1975.
Leviton, Richard, Yoga Journal, March/April 1994 #115, “The Art of Dreaming”.
Wagner, Bruce, Details, March 1994, “The Secret Life of Carlos Castaneda: You Only Live Twice”. http://www.fouryogas.com/details.pdf
Castaneda, over a six-year period from 1960 – 1965, underwent intensive training from Don Juan in Yaqui sorcery. Under don Juan’s tutelage, Castaneda took peyote, talked to coyotes, turned into a crow, and learned how to fly. This first cycle of his training ended in 1965, with Castaneda abandoning his attempt to learn Don Juan’s knowledge. But a second cycle commenced in 1968, when Castaneda returned to Mexico to visit Don Juan in order to show him a copy of his first book. In this second cycle Don Juan attempted to teach Carlos how to “see”, aided by Don Juan’s friend and fellow sorcerer Don Genaro. From this point other aspect of the knowledge were introduced including: “becoming inaccessible,” “erasing personal history” and “stopping the world.”
The goal of the teachings was to show Castaneda how to become a man of knowledge. Don Juan informed Castaneda that in order to become a man of knowledge one must endure the hardships of learning;
“Nothing in the world is a gift. Whatever there is to learn has to be learned the hard way. Turn my concepts into a viable way of life by a process of repetition. Everything new in our lives, such as the sorcerers’ concepts I am teaching you, must be repeated to us to the point of exhaustion before we open ourselves to it.” Don Juan Matus
The main premise of this arcane system of knowledge that Don Juan taught to Castaneda, which purportedly spanned 25 generations, was that shamans through the use of psychedelic substances, had gained the understanding that consensus reality was in fact a very small segment of that which is real. Don Juan took Castaneda through the use of such psychedelic substances; states of non ordinary reality as he called them. Through these experiences of non ordinary reality he proposed, it was possible to expand the realm of human consciousness by redefining reality. Don Juan insisted that the culmination of consensus reality was based on a description of the world taught to us from the moment of our birth. The only way of truly understanding the nature of the world was by ending this description. The practices that Don Juan taught were for this purpose, to end the description of the world.
He said that the world we perceive was maintained and upheld by our internal dialogue. Through a system called not doing, it was possible to suspend this internal dialogue and gain what is called a clear view. Through this practise of not doing it is also possible to gain personal power and to stop the world and ultimately to see. By expanding this experience of the world one is then able to understand and gain perception of the abstract; that being the spirit. The system is essentially divided into two main areas: stalking and dreaming.
Stalking is the means by which a warrior learns to enable himself to gain the maximum benefit from any situation in which he finds himself. He becomes a hunter of power by learning a set of procedures and attitudes and learns to act with what is called; controlled folly. Controlled folly is the idea that essentially nothing matters to the warrior, and that with this knowledge, he is best able to give account of himself. It is a means by which a warrior acts in ways not customary to himself in order to provide a jolt, to shift what is called the assemblage point.
The assemblage point is the place where the world is gathered on the surface of man’s luminosity. Only through seeing is a man able to come to an understanding of this point of assemblage. And through seeing it is realised that man is a collection of fibres that are arranged into a luminous ball or cocoon which forms the human being. One of the special talents of the seers of antiquity, according to Don Juan, was they were able to see man as a field of energy; this is what they referred to as the luminous egg.
Dreaming is essentially the not doing of sleep. During sleep the assemblage point moves, making a natural shift deep into the left side of awareness, which is The second attention or the “nagual”(pronounced Na’wahl). This is a place beyond the known. Dreaming is then an avenue to power as it is possible to transform ordinary dreams through this shift into something extraordinary by grabbing hold of items within the dream the warrior is able to perceive more than is normally possible. The warrior gains control of his dreams through the process of finding his hands within dreaming and then once this is possible the warrior is able to change items of a dream, or change dreaming locations entirely.
Don Juan described the worlds as consisting of the known, the unknown, and the unknowable. Only through the mastery of the arts of stalking and dreaming, could a warrior ever hope to glimpse the unknowable. The first attention described as, the tonal, is the world of reason, of rationality, the place of solid ideas and objects. The second attention is the unknown, also referred to as the “nagual”. The third of these points is intent, the world of silent knowledge, a place that the warrior reaches for, a place beyond our boundaries; “a somersault of thought into the inconceivable”.
Don Juan considered death his advisor. He spoke also of death as the worthy opponent or adversary. He also stated that in order to be able to face ones death first one had to defeat the Four Natural enemies of man, those being: fear, Clarity, power and old age. If one falls prey to fear one becomes a scared man, if to clarity then he becomes timid, if one fails to defeat power then he is destined to become sinister. And Old age can not be truly defeated but only its effect can be postponed, which is the way to defy death and become a sorcerer. Once the natural enemies have been dealt with then one becomes a man of knowledge. But the only way to accomplish this is to live like a warrior.
Castaneda, realised the ultimate goal of these teachings and as he stated; Don Juan and his fellow teachers “were not teaching me sorcery, but how to master three aspects of the ancient knowledge they possessed: awareness, stalking, and intent, and they were not sorcerers; they were seers.”