Carlos Castaneda was an Latin-American author whose best-selling explorations of mystical and pharmacological frontiers in the 1960s, captured the mind of many fans who found his viewpoints distinctive.
Starting with The Teachings of Don Juan in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that describe his training in shamanism, particularly with a group whose lineage descended from the Toltecs.
The books, narrated in the first person, relate his experiences under the tutelage of a man that Castaneda claimed was a Yaqui “Man of Knowledge” named don Juan Matus. His 12 books have sold more than 28 million copies in 17 languages.
Critics have suggested that they are works of fiction; supporters claim the books are either true or at least valuable works of philosophy.
In this guide, however, our aim is to provide you with a one-stop shop to find information about Carlos Castaneda, his books, videos and other relevant information.
A Brief Biography
Carlos Castaneda was born Carlos César Salvador Arana, on December 25, 1925, in Cajamarca, Peru according to his birth records. He would later challenge this, saying that he was born in São Paulo, Brazil in 1931. He moved to the United States in the early 1950s and became a naturalized citizen on June 21, 1957.
He wrote his first three books, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, A Separate Reality, and Journey to Ixtlan, while he was an anthropology student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Castaneda was awarded his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees based on the work described in his first 3 books.
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.
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 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.
The teachings of don Juan is the story of a remarkable journey: the first awesome steps on the road to becoming a “man of knowledge” — the road that continues with A Separate Reality and Journey to Ixtlan.
“For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length. And there I travel, looking, looking, breathlessly.” — Don Juan.
In 1961, a young anthropologist subjected himself to an extraordinary apprenticeship with Yaqui Indian spiritual leader don Juan Matus to bring back a fascinating glimpse of a Yaqui Indian’s world of “non-ordinary reality” and the difficult and dangerous road a man must travel to become “a man of knowledge.”
Yet on the bring of that world, challenging to all that we believe, he drew back. Then in 1968, Carlos Castaneda returned to Mexico, to don Juan and his hallucinogenic drugs, and to a world of experience no man from our Western civilization had ever entered before.
In Journey to Ixtlan, Carlos Castaneda introduces readers to this new approach for the first time and explores, as he comes to experience it himself, his own final voyage into the teachings of don Juan, sharing with us what it is like to truly “stop the world” and perceive reality on his own terms.
Originally drawn to Yaqui Indian spiritual leader don Juan Matus for his knowledge of mind-altering plants, bestselling author Carlos Castaneda immersed himself in the sorcerer’s magical world entirely.
Ten years after his first encounter with the shaman, Castaneda examines his field notes and comes to understand what don Juan knew all along—that these plants are merely a means to understanding the alternative realities that one cannot fully embrace on one’s own.
Carlos Castaneda takes the reader into the very heart of sorcery, challenging both imagination and reason, shaking the very foundations of our belief in what is “natural” and “logical.”
Don Juan concludes the instruction of Castaneda with his most powerful and mysterious lesson in the sorcerer’s art—a dazzling series of visions that are at once an initiation and a deeply moving farewell.
Back from the abyss, Castaneda encounter his greatest test on the journey towards impeccability and freedom: to outwit and overpower the sorcery of Doña Soledad, herself transformed from a defeated and meaningless life to a warrior, a hunter and a “stalker of power.”
Now the combat will begin. Now the journey will continue. Till the last danger is faced…the final paradox embraced.
His landscape is full of terrors and mysterious forces, as sharply etched as a flash of lightning on the deserts and mountains where don Juan takes him to pursue the sorcerer’s knowledge—the knowledge that it is the Eagle that gives us, at our births, a spark of awareness, that it expects to reclaim at the end of our lives and which the sorcerer, through his discipline, fights to retain.
Castaneda describes how don Juan and his party, left thisworld—”the warriors of don Juan’s party had caught me for an eternal instant, before they vanished into the total light, before the Eagle let them go through”—and how he, himself, upon witnessing such a sight, jumped into the abyss.
Fire from Within is the author’s most brilliant thought-provoking and unusual book, one in which Castaneda, under the tutelage of don Juan and his “disciples,” at last constructs, from the teachings of don Juan and his own experiences, a stunning portrait of the “sorcerer’s world” that is crystal-clear and dizzying in its implications.
Each of Carlos Castaneda’s books is a brilliant and tantalizing burst of illumination into the depths of our deepest mysteries, like a sudden flash of light, like a burst of lightning over the desert at night, which shows us a world that is both alien and totally familiar—the landscape of our dreams.
The Power of Silence is Castaneda’s most astonishing book to date—a brilliant flash of knowledge that illuminates the far reaches of the human mind. Through don Juan’s mesmerizing stories, the true meaning of sorcery and magic is finally revealed.
Honed in the desert of Sonora, the visions of don Juan give us the vital secrets of belief and self-realization that are transcendental and valid for us all. It is Castaneda’s unique genius to show us that all wisdom, strength, and power lie within ourselves—unleashed with marvelous energy and imaginative force in the teachings of don Juan—and in the writings of his famous pupil, Carlos Castaneda.
Magical Passes offers readers the key to the energetic conditioning for the first time. In his revolutionary new book, Castaneda reveals a series of body positions and physical movements that have enabled various shamans and their apprentices to navigate their own sorceric journeys.
By sharing this centuries-old wisdom, from a tradition that stretches back more than 27 generations, Castaneda makes it possible for readers to travel to some of these other realms, which are as real, unique, absolute and engulfing as our own world. He offers both a philosophical history of magical passes and an innovative, easy-to-understand instructional format.
Originally drawn to Yaqui Indian spiritual leader don Juan Matus for his knowledge of mind-altering plants, bestselling author Carlos Castaneda soon immersed himself in the sorcerer’s magical world entirely.
Ten years after his first encounter with the shaman, Castaneda examines his field notes and comes to understand what don Juan knew all along—that these plants are merely a means to understanding the alternative realities that one cannot fully embrace on one’s own. In Journey to Ixtlan, Carlos Castaneda introduces readers to this new approach for the first time and explores, as he comes to experience it himself, his own final voyage into the teachings of don Juan, sharing with us what it is like to truly “stop the world” and perceive reality on his own terms.
“Ordinarily, events that change our path are impersonal affairs, and yet extremely personal. My teacher, don Juan Matsus, said this in guiding me as his apprentice to collect what I considered to be the memorable events of my life…. Don Juan described the total goal of the shamanistic knowledge that he handled as the preparation for facing the definitive journey: the journey that every human being has to take at the end of his life.
He said that what modern man referred to vaguely as life after death was, for those shamans, a concrete region filled to capacity with practical affairs of a different order than the practical affairs of daily life, yet bearing a similar functional practicality. Don Juan considered that to collect the memorable events in their lives was, for shamans, the preparation for their entrance into that concrete region, which they called the active side of infinity.”
Carlos Castaneda Interview with Theodore Roszak (1969)
Pacifica Radio Archives recently made this interview available to the public that features Carlos Castaneda in conversation with Theodore Roszak in 1969.
Pacifica Radio Archives (PRA) is considered by historians and scholars to be one of the oldest and most important audio collections in the world.
Chronicling the political, cultural and artistic movements of the second half of the 20th century, Pacifica radio programs include documentaries, performances, discussions, debates, drama, poetry readings, commentaries and radio arts.
BBC Documentary on Carlos Castaneda (2006)
The following one-hour documentary was released in 2006 by BBC and features some of the highlights of his life and teachings. It also has Spanish subtitles.
There is also an interview available publicly where Kenneth Lincoln, an English professor at UCLA and a founder of American Indian studies at UCLA discusses Carlos Castaneda’s “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge” and “Journey To Ixtlan,” which were both written while he was a graduate student at UCLA in the 1960s. You can view it here.
Some say he was a breakthrough academic and visionary shaman. Others say he was a sham. Either way, Carlos Castaneda shaped a generation of mystical thinkers and magic mushroom eaters.
In 1968, at the height of the psychedelic age, Castaneda published The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, the first of twelve books describing his apprenticeship to an Indian shaman, and his journeys to the “separate reality” of the sorcerers’ worlds.
Like Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf and Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, The Teachings of Don Juan and its sequels became essential reading for legions of truth seekers. Castaneda himself became a cult figure—seldom seen, nearly mythological, a cross between Timothy Leary and L. Ron Hubbard: a short, dapper, Buddha-with-an-attitude who likened his own appearance to that of a “Mexican bellhop.”
Though Castaneda had more than ten million books in print in seventeen languages, he lived in wily anonymity for nearly thirty years, doing his best, in his own words, to become “as inaccessible as possible.” Most people figured he had a house somewhere in the Sonoran Desert, where he’d studied with his own teacher, a leathery old Indian brujo named Don Juan Matus.
In truth, Castaneda lived and wrote for most of that time in Westwood Village, a neighborhood of students and professors in Los Angeles, not far from UCLA and Beverly Hills. Upon his death in 1998, things became even more murky.
A year-long investigation into the mysterious life and impeccable death of Carlos Castaneda, as told by his wife, his adopted son, his mistresses, and his followers.
In 1968 Carlos Castaneda burst onto the scene with his blockbuster story about his apprenticeship with an awesome, authentic Mexican sorcerer, don Juan.
Roaming the deserts of Mexico, he participated in the cultivation and use of ‘power plants’, psychedelic drugs he felt were making him lose his mind. As an apprentice of sorcery practised for thousands of years, he survived a leap from a cliff and watched a sorcerer dance across a waterfall. Along the way, he shared with us long-lost secrets about death, dreaming, our other self, and the vast and inexplicable forces of the universe.
Or did Castaneda deceive us all? With 12 books written over 30 years, this bestselling American author, philosopher and anthropologist opened a window into another world and era. Writing detailed depictions of practices and beliefs of an ancient civilization, he revealed unexpected, exciting and frightening events with compelling believability.
Revered by followers and reviled by critics, Castaneda, the author and character, and all his works are given a new, comprehensive interpretation in Getting Castaneda.
Sorcerer’s Apprentice opens with Amy Wallace’s first meeting with Carlos Castaneda, the infamous anthropologist-turned-shaman, whose books described meetings with Yaqui Indian spiritual teacher don Juan. Castaneda’s rise was meteoric in the late 1960s as he wrote massive bestsellers, inspired many to experiment with psychedelics, and was dubbed “the Godfather of the New Age.”
The possibility that Castaneda’s experiences may have been fabricated did little to compromise his legend.As the daughter of best-selling novelist Irving Wallace, Amy was rarely shy around famous people. When her father insisted she meet Castaneda, she at first demurred. Little did she know that a delightful first meeting would begin a 20-year friendship, followed by her descent into the dramatic and deeply troubled affair chronicled in this book.
Sorcerer’s Apprentice unblinkingly reveals the inner workings of the “Cult of Carlos,” run by a charismatic authoritarian in his sixties who controlled his young female followers through emotional abuse, mind games, bizarre rituals, dubious teachings, and sexual excess. Wallace’s story is both specific and universal, a captivating cautionary tale about the dangers of giving up one’s power to a tyrant–and about surviving assaults on body and spirit.
Action Animation Series
“The Spot“ is a live action animation series based on Carlos Castaneda books made by fans. The first episode is equal to the 1-st chapter of the “The teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge” book about a challenge given by Don Juan to Carlos to find a spot, a special place where a man can feel good, strong and at peace.
Here’s an overview of the first episode:
Carlos Castaneda’s books have conquered the world. Fifty years after the publication of his first book, “The Teachings of Don Juan”, his work is still being translated into other languages, and continues to be found on the shelves of bookstores around the world.. Many of us have dreamed of seeing his story on the big screen. In due time, such a film could turn into a classic of world cinema. However, time passed, and it seemed that these hopes were not destined to come true.
Therefore, we decided to take the situation into our own hands – to create the film that millions of fans around the world have been waiting for all these years. “The Spot“ is the first episode of the animation series based on Carlos Castaneda books made by fans. The first episode is equal to the 1-st chapter of the “The teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge” book about a challenge given by Don Juan to Carlos to find the spot, a special place where a man can feel good, strong and at peace.
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