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Carlos Castaneda Interview - La Jornada

Newspaper (part 1)
English Translation of an article originally written in Spanish by Arturo Garcia Hernandez.

"Marcos? I don't know him... Excuse me. I don't know a bit..."


"We as human beings live in constant thirst and with fear to free ourselves" (Castaneda)

"It is necessary to cancel egomania and to discover our energy body", the shaman points out.

Carlos Castaneda doesn't know 'Marcos' neither knows about the EZLN; he doesn't read
newspapers; he denies being a guru or a messianic man; he considers compassion and social
concerns a lie that regenerates itself; he is a critic of gurus and God merchants; he assures that
his mother was 'a communist and a pamphletist'. He approached these and other matters on a
conversation with the media during a recess of the seminar 'The New Paths of Tensegrity',
held from Friday till Sunday in Mexico City, and with which a stage begins of massive
dissemination of his knowledge as sorcerer or shaman. For more than one hour, on Saturday
night, the author of 'The Teachings of Don Juan' and 'Tales of Power' answered many
different questions. With calm eloquence, often joking, always respectful of his interlocutors,
restrainless, Castaneda went from one topic to another as the questions were fired from the
eight journalists
around him. One thing, though: no cameras or tape recorders. Next there is a version of the
talk, edited and put together from notes. It is convenient to
keep in mind that for Castaneda words are insufficient and limited to describe or explain his
experiences as sorcerer; also, he assigns to them values and meanings that escape the linear
logic in which we normally move.

"How do sorcerers consider spirituality and the sense of divinity?"

"I don't know how you understand spirituality. The opposite to the flesh?"

Not necessarily, but as a part of a whole, different.

"Well, in that sense, Juan Matus is pure spirit. The sorcerer believes in the spirit of man, not
in spirituality. Don Juan used to say: 'I love my spirit. Man's is a beautiful spirit. If you think
that you owe me something and cannot pay me, pay it to the spirit of man'. "As for divinity:
"Shamans don't have a sense of prayer and don't kneel before divinity. There is no need for
begging. They ask intent, the force capable of building and modifying everything, perennial
force. But they don't beg."

"When you speak of the sorcerers of Ancient Mexico, who are you talking about?
Because there were different cultures here: the Mayas, the Aztecs..."

"No. For Don Juan the ancient times of Mexico were about seven and ten thousand years
ago."

"How was the process of your breakup with Don Juan?"


"I didn't break up. It is he who tells me. A time comes in which he realizes that I am so
different to him that he can't go on with me. And he starts trapping me; he closes all my exits
and leaves me only one."

"You know the Indians of Mexico. They live in very bad conditions and there are six
thousand of them in jails; how much are you interested in the Indians of Mexico?"

"I am absolutely interested. I once made a question to Don Juan. Some time ago I wrote a
book that couldn't be published, 'The Fame of Nacho Coronado'. Nacho was a Yaqui Indian
who had tuberculosis and thought that with a bank loan he could buy 'Vitaminol' and would
be cured. I asked Don Juan: 'Are you not worried about that? The premises of Nacho are my
own'. He said: 'Yes, I'm very worried; but at the same time I worry about you. do you think
you're better?... Of course, I'm also interested in them; but I'm interested in you. We are
involved in a state of thirst that consumes us without giving us treuce, without giving us
anything."

"What do you think about Marcos, about the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional
(Zapatist Army of National Liberation) and of the Indian rising in Chiapas?

"Who? Marcos? I don't know him. I don't have a clue. Puuuucha, I'm lost! Excuse me, I don't
know a bit."

"What is your feeling regarding mankind?"

"It is a feeling of sadness. I work for mankind (...) Man is an extraordinary being, which
implies a tremendous responsibility. But he is in the me, me, me, me, me, me. Why such
homogeneity? Why does everything turn into a cult of the ego? Why the fear to free oneself?"

Freedom as understood by Castaneda encompasses the breaking of the 'perceptive


prejudices', the cancellation of egomania; the achievement of Dreaming, which would allow
each of us to discover our 'energy body'. And after all, eventually, to be in condition to begin
an 'arduous but exquisite' path to other worlds.

"Within the logic of our everyday world, this freeing intention might be interpreted as
messianic; and we already know what has happened with messianic experiences...

"No, no, no, no. That's too embarrassing. We are not that worthy. Messianic is new age and
all the gurus of the new wave. We don't pretend anything. We don't offer hopes of something
that we cannot give."

"How do you conciliate this concern about humankind with the lack of interest for
issues like Bosnia, or Chiapas, in which there is a lot of human suffering?"

But, honey-pies (fam Sp: 'corazonzotes', 'big hearts' [TN]), please, suffering is everywhere,
not just there! My mother was a communist, a pamphletist, a proletarian. I inherited that. But
Don Juan told me: 'you're lying. You say that worries you and look how you treat yourself.
Stop annihilating your body. Do you really feel compassion for your fellow man?' 'Yes', I
replied. 'Enough to stop smoking?'. Noooo! My compassion was a deceit. The old bandit told
me: "be very
careful with social entertainment. Those are placebi, they are the big sucker. It's a lie that
regenerates itself'."

"Why don't you, as a man of your time, read newspapers?"

"For the simple reason that I am very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very hardened
against topical things."

"You have written that the path of the warrior is a solitary path. Isn't there a
contradiction in doing massive courses as the one on Tensegrity?"

"No. I am not here talking about hard things. Perhaps Tensegrity will give you the energy to
talk about really hard things. But you have to start somewhere."

"'The Teachings of Don Juan' generated a cult for certain hallucinogenic plants, but
now you disqualify that book; you say it's better to forget it. Why?"

"The idea of ingesting one of those plants without preparation will lead nowhere. At most, to
a displacement of the assemblage point, but fleetingly. Now, when Don Juan gave them to
me, that was the tune of the moment. I grew up convinced of the value of my grandfather's
severity. My assemblage point was almost welded. Don Juan Matus told me: 'Your
grandfather is an old fart'. My assemblage point was welded and he knew that he could only
move it with hallucinogens. But he never did the same with others; he didn't even gave them
coffee. The hallucinogens were of value to me, but I took it as a total index."

"What do you expect of the opening that is now beginning?"

"I don't know what will happen. Don Juan never told me what it is that will happen to me in
front of the mass (...).

We were previously attentive to carry on in accordance with Don Juan's commands. He forbid
us to be under the limelights. Now I want to teach like this, because it is a tremendous debt,
which I cannot longer pay to him."

"Are you not afraid to become a guru?"

"No, because I have no ego; there is no way."

© Copyright La Jornada Newspaper


Publication Date: January 29, 1996

Carlos Castaneda Interview - La Jornada


Newspaper (part 2)
English Translation of a Spanish Newspaper Article by Luis Enrique Ramirez

The Tensegrity Seminar ended.


"I am an idiot just like all of you": Carlos Castaneda.
"If there is energy, I will keep coming to Mexico".

There is nothing visible in Carlos Castaneda that allows to see a spiritual guide in him. He is
very thin, short and homely. He is dark-skinned; he wears his white hair short and combs it
forward. He wears a long-sleeved shirt and jeans without back pockets. On a platform, with a
small microphone attached to his clothes, he acts loosely before his audience, 700 people
gathered at the last of his three lectures about the new paths of Tensegrity in the Centro
Asturiano. Either sitting or lying on the carpet, they listen to him anticipating his jokes, which
they celebrate laughing out loud and sometimes with applause.

"Do you remember that joke I told you the other night? I will tell it to you again... what was I
saying? I'm senile!."

Castaneda always puts humor ahead when he speaks, and thus he solves doubts or leave them
as they were, making an effort not to intellectualize the talk.

"Make short, functional questions. Ask them out of desire to know, not because you want me
to listen to you."

He does not read letters to avoid facing 'far-fetched questions', he says, and he mentions some
of those his followers use to put forth:

"I dreamt I was a bird"

"Bird how? A Faggot, or what? It's a Chinese reply, but adequate."

"How can I know if I am double?"

"You are double, pendeja. Double pendeja." (Pendejo(a) is a Spanish profanity that means
extremely stupid. [TN])

"How can I become what I have never been?"

"Well, I don't know. Pushing..."

"Give me a reason for reason to be reasonable. No, no! One must not be guided by intellect.
These are questions that seem deep but are not. They are entertainment. Don Juan was so
simple that scared me. He was a direct being. He did not get lost in convolutions that lead
nowhere. Sorcerers are pragmatic beings. We are dilettanti. Our beliefs are unsustainable. The
only way for us to sustain them is by getting angry: 'How can you say this is not true, you
imbecile?'. And we go away, angry. There is a terrible truth: no one wants to be free. We are
scared. What of? I do not know. We are scared. A brave chicken gets out of the coop and
becomes an escapee, a fugitive. Forever?, a girl asked me. Honey pie, it's either the chicken-
coop or freedom! I like freedom. I don't like the human-coop. There are things in the human-
coop which are not mine."

He establishes: "I am not a guru. I cannot allow or disallow anything to anyone. That's too
Hindu! I cannot tell anyone if he is a shaman or not; neither that he is in fact an idiot. Who am
I to tell him that? They put me in unsustainable situations. I cannot wind anyone up because I
find that to be totally disrespectful. That takes place in friendship. But I am nobody's friend.
And the way I defend myself is not-seeing-anyone." He makes revelations about his identity
that at another time would have been unthinkable: "I come from South America. Not from
Yucatan. They asked me if I was from Campeche, because I am big-headed and short. No, I
don't come from Campeche. I come from further down...

There is nothing intrinsical to transform me into something special. There isn't. I have made
energetic inquiries and no, I don't have anything extraordinary. I am an idiot like all of you.
The most important key learned from Don Juan was to achieve inner silence, to abolish the
hegemony of the mind as a method to find freedom. That's silencing the mind. Don Juan told
me that when I achieved 8 or 10 seconds of silence things were going to get interesting, and
my question as a fart was: 'And how do I know it's eight seconds?'. No, honey-pie, it's not like
that. I don't know what tells you it's eight seconds. Something
internal tells us. The point is to accumulate silence second by second. I suddenly got to that
threshold without knowing it, accumulating second after second. There is no more mind. Just
that silence. That silence is over thirty years old now. From that silence I speak to you."

"In this kind of seminars", he affirms, "I have seen things Don Juan never saw. People
unknowingly attracting their energy bodies. The knowledge learned in 30 years comes in two
seconds. Since august up until today I don't know what to think. I have seen a lot of energetic
talent and I don't know what to do with it. I see the speed at which you learn. If I took you one
at a time it would take me months to show you one fucking movement. How do you do it so
quickly together? I don't know. The mass... The group gives more strength..."

He insists on 'Unhooking the mind' and use the energy body.

"My mind is something very foreign to me. There is a layer within you which is what you
really are. Unhook the mind and that will be you. This takes the righteousness away from
oneself and transforms you into something functional: a being made for the fight."

He again combats the egocentrism.

"The ideology of the me is the most pernicious one. People live thinking only about
themselves, going to the psychiatrist to talk about oneself. What a tragedy! I care about me
and me and only me (he sings). We are not like that! Why do we defend postures that are not
ours? They are mental masturbation. We don't question what they impose on us because we
don't have energy. What could transform our actions is the energy body, and we don't have it.
This is not
sorcerer paranoia. Sorcerers are too simple and direct, they don't wear a mask, they go straight
to the answer."

He tells about his experience with a famous astrologist whom he went to see sometime ago.
He introduced himself as Joe Cortez, Chicano, and she told him that his chakras were in bad
shape.

"She left me very intrigued and I went back months later. She had already forgotten about me.
I told her that I was Carlos Castaneda and now she exclaimed: 'So much light! So much
light!'.

"He also says that Julio Iglesias approached him. "He's a darling". He revealed to him: 'I fuck
everyday. Not very well, but everyday'.
Castaneda does not know the reason for this personal revelation, but he could only reply: 'Me
too. You fuck, I cogitate.' (Pun. In Spanish, 'you fuck' is 'tu coges', and 'I cogitate' is 'yo
cogito' [TN]).

He explains: "I'm a bored fuck. Don Juan turned me into an energy miser. I don't spend it. I
don't do anything. But I do everything. What the hell is this sexual impulse when you don't
feel anything? I know a woman called 'the bed-buster'. She never felt a thing, but she busted
11 beds."

He listens to the questions of his audience at this last lecture, which lasted about two hours.
There are many doubts concerning Tensegrity and the series of physical exercises implied in
it. Many address him as 'nagual'.

"How is the will strengthened?

"With energy. It's the only way."

"Is Intent enough?"

"Oh, honey-pie! Intent is everything. It's like saying 'Is life enough?'. Intent is a force in the
Universe."

"Are we a part of one Intent?"

"We are the sum total of Intent."

"Is Tensegrity the only key?"

"It's the only one I know. And I've heard more than you. Thirty years as Carlos Castaneda...
Oof! I have heard wonders."

"Can Tensegrity be done without shoes?"

"Do it naked, but do it."

"What's the right way of speaking?"

"Ah! We would have to talk about the right way of shitting. Don Juan spoke about a right way
of chewing. 'What for?' I asked him. 'To avoid sins', he told me. (Apparently, another pun.
Somewhere else, Castaneda says Don Juan had told him not to talk while he was eating to
avoid farting. In Spanish, 'Pecados' (sins) and 'Pedos' (farts) are very similar words [TN]).

"I have practiced Tensegrity and I feel it's not enough."

"Enough for what?"

"Can we untie our children from the social order?"

"We are part of the social order. What we can do as parents is untie ourselves from so much
bullshit of the social order".
"What would happen if a lot of people did what you say?"

"What would happen? How do I know? I can't speculate. Like Don Juan used to say: 'Ask the
stars...'

"Will you keep coming to Mexico?"

"If there is energy, yes. We are going to build a company... Well, a small group of people who
wants to know more about these things. They are the same people who organized this
seminar... Mexico is filled with things that cannot be understood because we don't have the
subtlety. We are full of things which are not feasible to find under these lines of behavior..."

The seminar ends and Castaneda steps down from the platform into a crowd wishing to
approach him. He only signs one book. A young man asks him: 'Nagual, could you sign for
me an autograph with your finger?'. He extends his right wrist for Castaneda to touch him but
he says no, not that, and vanishes behind a door.

© Copyright La Jornada Newspaper


Publication Date: January 30, 1996

My lunch with Carlos Castaneda


By: Benjamin Epstein
Summary: Focuses on writer Carlos Castaneda. Reputation; Works; Use of magical passes;
Discussion on Tensegrity; Views about religion and life.

One of the most elusive figures of modern times, Castaneda recently materialized, to great
surprise, at a small conference in Anaheim, California. Reporter Benjamin Epstein was on
hand to score a coup.

He is the 20th century's own sorcerer's apprentice. He is the invisible man, ephemeral,
evanescent: now you see him, now you don't. He is a navigator making his way through a
living universe in exquisite flux. Or as Carlos Castaneda himself might say, he is a moron, an
idiot, a fart. It's been said that Jesus Christ was either the Son of God or the greatest liar who
ever lived. Carlos Castaneda, who may have a cult following but says deities are the last thing
people need, presents a similar conundrum. Critics grapple for middle ground: One called him
a "sham-man bearing gifts . . . He lied to bring us the truth."

The jury has been out ever since books such as The Teachings of Don Juan took the public
and academia by storm in the 1960s and 70s, and it's still out. Castaneda has now produced
nine books he claims are based on his supernatural experiences with Don Juan Matus, a Yaqui
seer. To remain invisible, he says, is the sorcerer's way. He never allows photographs or a
tape recording of his voice. He only rarely grants interviews. In the 80s, he effectively
vanished altogether. But the books continue to sell (8 million in 17 countries) and have never
been out of print. In 1993, he began to give occasional seminars, and the following year The
Art of Dreaming appeared.
Despite ads promoting "Carlos Castaneda's Tensegrity," even event organizers didn't know
whether Castaneda would actually show up at a recent weekend seminar near Disneyland in
Anaheim. Yet 400 devotees from around the world--about a third from California--paid $250
each to attend, whether Castaneda showed or not. They came to learn a series of "magical
passes," movements intended to heighten perception.

"It is a thinking universe, a living universe, an exquisite universe!" Castaneda said,


exuberantly kicking off the seminar. "We have to balance the linearity of the known universe
with the nonlinearity of the unknown universe." The charismatic Castaneda proved amazingly
convincing when describing life among inorganic beings, with whom he apparently spends a
great deal of time; the assemblage point, a place about an arm's length behind our shoulder
blades that can be shifted to visit other realms; and a predatory universe in which "flyers"
incessantly feed on mankind's awareness, taking the sheen off our luminous eggs and leaving
only a rubble of self-absorption and egomania.

He invents none of this, he insists. I'm not insane, you know. Well, maybe a little insane. But
not ridiculously insane!"

He is also charming, energetic, fit, and funny. And at the conclusion of his opening talk,
Castaneda responded to a request for an interview by unexpectedly inviting the writer to
lunch.

Sitting in a coffee shop in Anaheim opposite Castaneda was enough to realign anybody's
assemblage point: The writer later took his nonlinearity to heart, slipping easily between
lunch and workshop talks, and indulging in the conversational format that Castaneda often
used to elucidate his master's ideas. After all, Castaneda had replaced Don Juan as nagual, the
head sorcerer, a being with double luminous spheres, and if it was good enough for one
nagual, it's good enough for another.

At the table were several Tensegrity staffers and the three women chacmools who helped
Castaneda compile the movements and who taught them step-by-step at the seminar.

"Is this what you've been doing all this time, magical passes?" I asked Castaneda.

"Noooo . . . . I was very chubby," he said. "Don Juan recommended an obsessive use of
magical passes to keep my body at an optimum. So in terms of physical activity, yes, this is
what we do. The movements also force our awareness to focus on the idea that we are spheres
of luminosity, a conglomerate of energy fields held together by special glue."

"Is Tensegrity the Toltec t'ai chi? Yaqui yoga?" I asked.

"To compare Tensegrity with yoga or t'ai chi is not possible. It has a different origin and a
different purpose. The origin is shamanic, the purpose is shamanic. It has to do with our
reason for being. Our reason for being is to face infinity

"We're all going to face infinity, at the moment of dying," he said. "Why face it when we are
weakest, when we are broken? Why not when we are strong? Why not now? You have to face
it pragmatically No idealities allowed."

"Where would Jesus fit into all this? Where would Buddha fit in?"
"They are idealities," Castaneda replied. "They are too big, too gigantic to be real. They are
deities. One is the Prince of Buddhism, the other is the Son of God . . . . Idealities cannot be
used in a pragmatic movement.

"Allowing your perception to break the interpretation system--a tree ceases to be a tree and
becomes sheer energy--that is a pragmatic maneuver. The things shamans deal with are
extremely practical. They break down parameters of normal historical reality Magical passes
are just one aspect of that."

Castaneda is very negative about religion. But these aren't your usual diatribes: "Leave Jesus
on the cross. He's very happy there! Don Juan said, 'Don't bother him, leave him alone. Don't
ask him "why are you there crucified." He'd go bananas trying to explain to you why.' So I did
that. He said hello to me, and goodbye."

The waiter arrived to take our lunch orders. The only choices under discussion seemed to be
top sirloin, prime rib, and filet mignon, hardly the snuggest fit with most New Age
disciplines.

"The sorcerers say that whether you're eating lettuce or a steak, it's a sentient being,"
chacmool Kylie Lundahl explained. As it turned out, the chacmools, named for the gigantic,
reclining guardian figures of the Mexican pyramids, were quite literally here today, gone
tomorrow. Castaneda relieved them of their duties at the end of the seminar, during his
closing remarks. Nobody ever said the warrior's way would be easy.

Castaneda ordered a melted cheese on rye with a side of bacon and fries.

Don Juan was once described as "an enigma wrapped in mystery wrapped in a tortilla," and
Castaneda followed suit. His agent, Tracy Kramer, and Cleargreen, Inc., which organizes the
seminars, are based in Santa Monica. Where Castaneda spends his time is unclear. If a passing
remark at the seminar was to be taken literally, he pays property taxes somewhere.

"I don't live here," Castaneda said. "I'm not here at all. I always use the euphemism 'I've been
in Mexico.' All of us divide our time between being here and being pulled by something that
is not describable but that makes us visitors into another realm. But you start talking about
that and you start sounding like total nincompoops.

"I had once an interview. First thing the interviewer said was, "They tell me you turned into a
crow. Is that true? Hahahaha.' I tried to explain to him about intersubjectivity. 'Pfhhhh,' he
said, 'tell me yes or no.' I said no."

"Why don't you allow yourself to be photographed or tape-recorded?" I asked.

"Recording is a way of fixing you in time," Castaneda answered. "The stagnant word, the
stagnant picture, those are the antithesis of the sorcerer . . . . Maybe you've seen a drawing of
Carlos Castaneda [by Richard Oden for Psychology Today in December 1977]. There was no
photograph, so he drew it. This was 30 years ago. No good. He decided to draw it again. It
was a flop."

Photographs are not all that stand still. "The Word of God is unchanging," he said. "It is a
living universe. What is in flux is what is alive. An unchanging word must by definition
pertain to a dead world. In a universe that is forced to change there is a written word not
forced to change? That is the world of a taxidermist."

When Castaneda's melted-cheese sandwich arrived, the rye was marbled with pumpernickel.
"What is this, chocolate bread?" he asked before sending it back. My own mind was worlds
away, perhaps on a bench in Oaxaca.

"According to your book The Eagle's Gift, Don Juan Matus didn't die, he left, he 'burned from
within.' Will you leave or will you die?"

"Since I'm a moron, I'm sure I'll die," Castaneda replied. "I wish I would have the integrity to
leave the way he did . . . . I have this terrible fear that I won't. But I wish. I work my head
off--both heads--toward that."

I recalled an article from at least a decade ago calling Castaneda the "godfather of the New
Age."

"It was 'grandfather'!" he protested. "And I thought, please call me the uncle, or cousin, not
grandfather! Uncle Charlie will do. I feel like hell, being the grandfather of anything. I'm
fighting age, senility and old age, like you couldn't believe. I was senile when I met Don Juan,
I've fought for 35 years . . . .

"To be young and youthful is nothing," said Castaneda. "To be old and youthful, that is
sorcery!"

Castaneda, for whom ambiguity is a way of life to be ruthlessly pursued, is both. And his age
is as good a place as any to get a sense of the man.

According to Contemporary Authors, Castaneda lists his birth date and place as December 25,
1931, Sao Paulo, Brazil; immigration records say December 25, but 1925, and Cajamarca,
Peru; other sources cite the late 1930s. One New York Times article put him at 66 years old in
1981.

So he's somewhere between 60 and 80, most likely 64. Or 70. Similarly, otherwise reliable
sources variously list the year he earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA as 1970 and
1973. In other words, this is one slippery organic being.

I asked about inorganic beings.

"They are possessors of consciousness but not possessors of an organism," Castaneda


responded. "Why should awareness be the exclusive possession of organisms?"

The Art of Dreaming ends with Castaneda recounting an episode in the mid-70s when he and
Carol Tiggs were "dreaming" in a hotel room in Mexico City, and Tiggs disappeared into
those dreams. (She was on a journey in the "second attention," a state of consciousness not
devoured by the "flyers.") According to Castaneda, she reappeared 10 years later in a
bookstore in Santa Monica, where he was giving a talk.

It was the reconstituted Tiggs who provided the impetus to compile the "magical passes" of
Tensegrity, According to Castaneda, Don Juan taught four disciples separate lines of ever-
changing magical passes. The other two, Florinda Donner-Grau and Taisha Abelar, have each
published accounts of their apprenticeships, both markedly different from Castaneda's but
endorsed by him.

Over the past 10 years, the group "fixed the passes," arriving at a consensus generic enough to
be used by mankind. If the movements of Tensegrity (the name derives from an architectural
term related to skeletal efficiency, happily combining "tension" and "integrity") often seem
angular and fierce in character, they are intended to produce a jolt.

"I saw once a beautiful science fiction movie in which creatures from another planet
appeared," Castaneda said, "veeeery slowly A change in perception is never like that. It is like
this. Yank it out! You cancel the parameters of normal perception. You move into it like a
robber bandit. Almost immediately, the robber bandit comes back. It's just a moment. But the
moments get longer and longer."

The chacmools may have been erased, but not Tensegrity A new formation of warrior
guardians were set to lead future seminars with lectures to be given by all four Don Juan
disciples--and an inorganic being called the blue scout.

Don Juan's premise was that the world as we know it is only one version of reality, a set of
culturally embedded "agreements" and "descriptions." Castaneda addressed the futility of the
usual avenues of inquiry:

"If you seek with the mind, it will not take you anywhere, except to a tautological situation
where you repeat the obvious. In science, the tautological questions prove themselves. That
the art of our science. . . 'All these variables and nothing else.' We are champions of pseudo
control--we reduce the problem to manageable science. What a fantasy!

"One day on my way to the cafeteria at UCLA, I didn't see people anymore, I saw energies,
blobs, luminous spheres. It was dazzling. Before that, nothing existed except me, me, me. I
went to talk to a psychiatrist I worked with. He very kindly prescribed a tranquilizer and said,
'Carlos, you're working too hard. Take two days off.' It was impossible to establish a dialogue
with him."

Castaneda's own inquiries have led him from academic anthropology to practical
hermeneutics, the science of interpretation; he launched a newsletter, The Warriors' Way: A
Journal of Applied Hermeneutics, in January. Titles under consideration for a gigantic work in
progress have included "Ethnohermeneutics" and "Phenomenological Anthropology."

"When sorcerers see, hermeneutics is the ultimate affair for us," Castaneda said. Seeing for
the rest of us apparently involves only the visual sense, and then only minimally.

"When you look at me now, what do you see?" I asked.

"I have to be in a special mood to see," he said. "It is very difficult for me to see. I've got to
get very somber, very heavy. If I'm lighthearted and I look at you I see nothing. Then I turn
around and I see her, and what do I see? '1 joined the navy to see the world, and what do I
see? I see the sea!'
"I know more than I want to know. It's hell, true hell. If you see too much, you become
unbearable."

Castaneda ordered a cappuccino, then meticulously removed the foamed milk teaspoon by
teaspoon.

According to Castaneda, most sorcerers must remain celibate in order to conserve energy. It
all depends on the circumstances under which they were conceived."

Most of us are what we call BFs, the product of bored fucks," he explained. "How was I
conceived? Was it in the middle of great sexual excitation, or was it nonsense, idiotic,
pointless? Mine was stupid. The two people involved didn't know what they were doing. I
was conceived behind a door, so I came out very nervous, watching. And this is the way I am,
basically For me to make use of energy I don't have is lethal."

"What about married people?"

"That question has come up a lot. It's a question of energy," he said. "If you know you were
not conceived in a state of real excitation, then no. On one level, it hasn't mattered if people
are married. With the launching of Tensegrity, we don't really know what will happen."

"You don't know what is going to happen? Sounds irresponsible."

"How can you know?" he asked. "This is an implication of our syntactical system. Our syntax
requires a beginning, development, and end. I was, I am, I will be. We are caught in that. How
can we know what you will be capable of if you have sufficient energy?

"I am giving you a series of ideas, if you have the balls to take them seriously. Maybe you say
this is idiotical, what kind of shit is this? Like the little boy victims [whining], 'But what is
going to happen to me?' They'll never find out.

"The other three disciples--those farts--have balls; these are huge women with the biggest
balls you've ever seen. Try to stop Taisha Abelar and see what happens. Try to stop Florinda."

The fourth disciple is no squeaker himself.

"Don Juan categorized people into three types," he said. "One was farts, like me, a smelly
fart--very assertive, ready to tell you, 'Fuck you, are you sure that's the way to do it?' and Don
Juan would very patiently assure me that, yes, he was sure. I don't have that patience myself.
If somebody asks me am I sure, I go bananas because I'm not sure!

"The other, golden piss--the sweetest, wonderful beings. They could die for you, or so they
say They won't, but they say it, which is very nice--nicer than the fart but then you die for
him.

"The third type, puke. Not fart, not piss, just puke--the kind that doesn't have anything to give,
but promises the world, and has you begging . . . .

"Fortunately I was fart. And Don Juan had a ball with this fart."
© Copyright Psychology Today
Publication Date: Mar/Apr 1996

Seeing Castaneda, by Sam Keen


Psychology Today

SAM KEEN: As I followed don Juan through your three books, I suspected, at times,
that he was the creation of Carlos Castaneda. He is almost to good to be true--a
wise old Indian whose knowledge of human nature is superior to almost everybody's.
CARLOS CASTANEDA: The idea that I concocted a person like don Juan is inconceivable.
He is hardly the kind of figure my European intellectual tradition would have led me
to invent. The truth is much stranger. I wasn't even prepared to make the changes in
my life that my association with don Juan involved.

KEEN: How and where did you meet don Juan and become his apprentice?

CASTANEDA: I was finishing my undergraduate study at UCLA and was planning to go to


graduate school in anthropology. I was interested in becoming a professor and
thought I might begin in the proper way by publishing a short paper on medicinal
plants. I couldn't have cared less about finding a weirdo like don Juan. I was in a
bus depot in Arizona with a high-school friend of mine. He pointed out an old Indian
man to me and said he knew about peyote and medicinal plants. I put on my best airs
and introduced myself to don Juan and said: "I understand you know a great deal
about peyote. I am one of the experts on peyote (I had read Weston La Barre's The
Peyote Cult) and it might be worth your while to have lunch and talk with me." Well,
he just looked at me and my bravado melted. I was absolutely tongue-tied and numb. I
was usually very aggressive and verbal so it was a momentous affair to be silenced
by a look. After that I began to visit him and about a year later he told me he had
decided to pass on to me the knowledge of sorcery he had learned from his teacher.

KEEN: Then don Juan is not an isolated phenomenon. Is there a community of sorcerers
that shares a secret knowledge?

CASTANEDA: Certainly. I know three sorcerers and seven apprentices and there are
many more. If you read the history of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, you will find
that the Catholic inquisitors tried to stamp out sorcery because they considered it
the work of the devil. It has been around for many hundreds of years. Most of the
techniques don Juan taught me are very old.

KEEN: Some of the techniques that sorcerers use are in wide use in other occult
groups. Persons often use dreams to find lost articles, and they go on
out-of-the-body journeys in their sleep. But when you told how don Juan and his
friend don Genero made your car disappear in broad daylight I could only scratch my
head. I know that a hypnotist can create an illusion of the presence or absence of
an object. Do you think you were hypnotized?
CASTANEDA: Perhaps, something like that. But we have to begin by realizing, as don
Juan says, that there is much more to the world than we usually acknowledge. Our
normal expectations about reality are created by a social consensus. We are taught
how to see and understand the world. The trick of socialization is to convince us
that the descriptions we agree upon define the limits of the real world. What we
call reality is only one way of seeing the world, a way that is supported by a
social consensus.

KEEN: Then a sorcerer, like a hypnotist, creates an alternative world by building up


different expectations and manipulating cues to produce a social consensus.

CASTANEDA: Exactly. I have come to understand sorcery in terms of Talcott Parsons'


idea of glosses. A gloss is a total system of perception and language. For instance,
this room is a gloss. We have lumped together a series of isolated
perceptions--floor, ceiling, window, lights, rugs, etc.--to make a totality. But we
had to be taught to put the world together in this way. A child reconnoiters the
world with few preconceptions until he is taught to see things in a way that
corresponds to the descriptions everybody agrees on. The world is an agreement. The
system of glossing seems to be somewhat like walking. We have to learn to walk, but
once we learn we are subject to the syntax of language and the mode of perception it
contains.

KEEN: So sorcery, like art, teaches a new system of glossing. When, for instance,
van Gogh broke with the artistic tradition and painted "The Starry Night" he was in
effect saying: here is a new way of looking at things. Stars are alive and they
whirl around in their energy field.

CASTANEDA: Partly. But there is a difference. An artist usually just rearranges the
old glosses that are proper to his membership. Membership consists of being an
expert in the innuendoes of meaning that are contained within a culture. For
instance, my primary membership like most educated Western men was in the European
intellectual world. You can't break out of one membership without being introduced
into another. You can only rearrange the glosses.

KEEN: Was don Juan resocializing you or desocializing you?


Was he teaching you a new system of meanings or only a method of stripping off the
old system so that you might see the world as a wondering child?

CASTANEDA: Don Juan and I disagree about this. I say he was reglossing me and he
says he was deglossing me. By teaching me sorcery he gave me a new set of glosses, a
new language and a new way of seeing the world. Once I read a bit of the linguistic
philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein to don Juan and he laughed and said: "Your friend
Wittgenstein tied the noose too tight around his neck so he can't go anywhere."

KEEN: Wittgenstein is one of the few philosophers who would have understood don
Juan. His notion that there are many different language games--science, politics,
poetry, religion, metaphysics, each with its own syntax and rules--would have
allowed him to understand sorcery as an alternative system of perception and
meaning.
CASTANEDA: But don Juan thinks that what he calls seeing is apprehending the world
without any interpretation; it is pure wondering perception. Sorcery is a means to
this end. To break the certainty that the world is the way you have always been
taught you must learn a new description of the world--sorcery--and then hold the old
and the new together. Then you will see that neither description is final. At that
moment you slip between the descriptions; you stop the world and see. You are left
with wonder; the true wonder of seeing the world without interpretation.

KEEN: Do you think it is possible to get beyond interpretation by using psychedelic


drugs?

CASTANEDA: I don't think so. That is my quarrel with people like Timothy Leary. I
think he was improvising from within the European membership and merely rearranging
old glosses. I have never taken LSD, but what I gather from don Juan's teachings is
that psychotropics are used to stop the flow of ordinary interpretations, to enhance
the contradictions within the glosses, and to shatter certainty. But the drugs alone
do not allow you to stop the world. To do that you need an alternative description
of the world. That is why don Juan had to teach me sorcery.

KEEN: There is an ordinary reality that we Western people are certain is 'the' only
world, and then there is is the separate reality of the sorcerer. What are the
essential differences between them?

CASTANEDA: In European membership the world is built largely from what the eyes
report to the mind. In sorcery the total body is used as a perceptor. As Europeans
we see a world out there and talk to ourselves about it. We are here and the world
is there. Our eyes feed our reason and we have no direct knowledge of things.
According to sorcery this burden on the eyes in unnecessary. We know with the total
body.

KEEN: Western man begins with the assumption that subject and object are separated.
We're isolated from the world and have to cross some gap to get to it. For don Juan
and the tradition of sorcery, the body is already in the world. We are united with
the world, not alienated from it.

CASTANEDA: That's right. Sorcery has a different theory of embodiment. The problem
in sorcery is to tune and trim your body to make it a good receptor. Europeans deal
with their bodies as if they were objects. We fill them with alcohol, Bad food, and
anxiety. When something goes wrong we think germs have invaded the body from outside
and so we import some medicine to cure it. The disease is not a part of us. Don Juan
doesn't believe that. For him disease is a disharmony between a man and his world.
The body is an awareness and it must be treated impeccably.

KEEN: This sounds similar to Norman O. Brown's idea that children, schizophrenics,
and those with the divine madness of the Dionysian consciousness are aware of things
and of other persons as extensions of their bodies. Don Juan suggests something of
the kind when he says the man of knowledge has fibers of light that connect his
solar plexus to the world.

CASTANEDA: My conversation with the coyote is a good illustration of the different


theories of embodiment. When he came up to me I said: "Hi, little coyote. How are
you doing?" And he answered back: "I am doing fine. How about you?" Now, I didn't
hear the words in the normal way. But my body knew the coyote was saying something
and I translated it into dialogue. As an intellectual my relationship to dialogue is
so profound that my body automatically translated into words the feeling that the
animal was communicating with me. We always see the unknown in terms of the known.

KEEN: When you are in that magical mode of consciousness in which coyotes speak and
everything is fitting and luminous it seems as if the whole world is alive and that
human beings are in a communion that includes animals and plants. If we drop our
arrogant assumptions that we are the only comprehending and communicating form of
life we might find all kinds of things talking to us.
John Lilly talked talked to dolphins. Perhaps we would feel less alienated if we
could believe we were not the only intelligent life.

CASTANEDA: We might be able to talk to any animal. For don Juan and the other
sorcerers there wasn't anything unusual about my conversation with the coyote. As a
matter of fact they said I should have gotten a more reliable animal for a friend.
Coyotes are tricksters and are not to be trusted.

KEEN: What animals make better friends?

CASTANEDA: Snakes make stupendous friends?

KEEN: I once had a conversation with a snake. One night I dreamt there was a snake
in the attic of a house where I lived when I was a child. I took a stick and tried
to kill it. In the morning I told the dream to a friend and she reminded me that it
was not good to kill snakes, even if they were in the attic in a dream. She
suggested that the next time a snake appeared in a dream I should feed it or do
something to befriend it. About an hour later I was driving my motor scooter on a
little-used road and there it was waiting for me--a four foot snake, stretched out
sunning itself. I drove alongside it and it didn't move. After we had looked at each
other for a while I decided I should make some gesture to let him know I repented
for killing his brother in my dream. I reached over and touched his tail. He coiled
up and indicated that I had rushed our intimacy. So I backed off and just looked.
After about five minutes he went off into the bushes.

CASTANEDA: You didn't pick it up?

KEEN: No.

CASTANEDA: It was a very good friend. A man can learn to call snakes. But you have
to be in very good shape, calm, collected--in a friendly mood, with no doubts or
pending affairs.

KEEN: My snake taught me that I had always had paranoid feelings about nature. I
considered animals and snakes dangerous. After my meeting I could never kill another
snake and it began to be more plausible to me that we might be in some kind of
living nexus. Our ecosystem might well include communication between different forms
of life.
CASTANEDA: Don Juan has a very interesting theory about this. Plants, like animals,
always affect you. He says that if you don't apologize to plants for picking them
you are likely to get sick or have an accident.

KEEN: The American Indians had similar beliefs about animals they killed. If you
don't thank the animal for giving up his life so you may live, his spirit may cause
you trouble.

CASTANEDA: We have a commonality with all life. Something is altered every time we
deliberately injure plant life or animal life. We take life in order to live but we
must be willing to give up our lives without resentment when it is our time. We are
so important and take ourselves so seriously that we forget that the world is a
great mystery that will teach us if we listen.

KEEN: Perhaps psychotropic drugs momentarily wipe out the isolated ego and allow a
mystical fusion with nature. Most cultures that have retained a sense of communion
between man and nature also have made ceremonial use of psychedelic drugs. Were you
using peyote when you talked with the coyote?

CASTANEDA: No. Nothing at all.

KEEN: Was this experience more intense than similar experiences you had when don
Juan gave you psychotropic plants?

CASTANEDA: Much more intense. Every time I took psychotropic plants I knew I had
taken something and I could always question the validity of my experience. But when
the coyote talked to me I had no defenses. I couldn't explain it away. I had really
stopped the world and, for a short time, got completely outside my European system
of glossing.

KEEN: Do you think don Juan lives in this state of awareness most of the time?

CASTANEDA: Yes. He lives in magical time and occasionally comes into ordinary time.
I live in ordinary time and occasionally dip into magical time.

KEEN: Anyone who travels so far from the beaten paths of consensus must be very
lonely.

CASTANEDA: I think so. Don Juan lives in an awesome world and he has left routine
people far behind. Once when I was with don Juan and his friend don Genaro I saw the
loneliness they shared and their sadness at leaving behind the trappings and points
of reference of ordinary society. I think don Juan turns his loneliness into art. He
contains and controls his power, the wonder and the loneliness, and turns them into
art.
His art is the metaphorical way in which he lives. This is why his teachings have
such a dramatic flavor and unity. He deliberately constructs his life and his manner
of teaching.

KEEN: For instance, when don Juan took you out into the hills to hunt animals was he
consciously staging an allegory?

CASTANEDA: Yes. He had no interest in hunting for sport or to get meat. In the 10
years I have known him don Juan has killed only four animals to my knowledge, and
these only at times when he saw that their death was a gift to him in the same way
his death would one day be a gift to something. Once we caught a rabbit in a trap we
had set and don Juan thought I should kill it because its time was up. I was
desperate because I had the sensation that I was the rabbit. I tried to free him but
couldn't open the trap. So I stomped on the trap and accidentally broke the rabbit's
neck. Don Juan had been trying to teach me that I must assume responsibility for
being in this marvelous world. He leaned over and whispered in my ear: "I told you
this rabbit had no more time to roam in this beautiful desert." He consciously set
up the metaphor to teach me about the ways of a warrior. The warrior is a man who
hunts and accumulates personal power. To do this he must develop patience and will
and move deliberately through the world. Don Juan used the dramatic situation of
actual hunting to teach me because he was addressing himself to my body.

KEEN: In your most recent book, Journey to Ixtlan, you reverse the impression given
in your first books that the use of psychotropic plants was the main method don Juan
intended to use in teaching you about sorcery. How do you now understand the place
of psychotropics in his teachings?

CASTANEDA: Don Juan used psychotropic plants only in the middle period of my
apprenticeship because I was so stupid, sophisticated and cocky. I held on to my
description of the world as if it were the only truth. Psychotropics created a gap
in my system of glosses. They destroyed my dogmatic certainty. But I paid a
tremendous price. When the glue that held my world together was dissolved, my body
was weakened and it took months to recuperate. I was anxious and functioned at a
very low level.

KEEN: Does don Juan regularly use psychotropic drugs to stop the world?

CASTANEDA: No. He can now stop it at will. He told me that for me to try to see
without the aid of psychotropic plants would be useless. But if I behaved like a
warrior and assumed responsibility I would not need them; they would only weaken my
body.

KEEN: This must come as quite a shock to many of your admirers. You are something of
a patron saint to the psychedelic revolution.

CASTANEDA: I do have a following and they have some strange ideas about me. I was
walking to a lecture I was giving at California State, Long Beach the other day and
a guy who knew me pointed me out to a girl and said: "Hey, that is Castaneda." She
didn't believe him because she had the idea that I must be very mystical. A friend
has collected some of the stories that circulate about me. The consensus is that I
have mystical feet.

KEEN: Mystical feet?

CASTANEDA: Yes, that I walk barefooted like Jesus and have no calouses. I am
supposed to be stoned most of the time. I have also committed suicide and died in
several different places.
A college class of mine almost freaked out when I began to talk about phenomenology
and membership and to explore perception and socialization. They wanted to be told
too relax, turn on and blow their minds. But to me understanding is important.

KEEN: Rumors flourish in an information vacuum. We know something about don Juan but
too little about Castaneda.

CASTANEDA: That is a deliberate part of the life of a warrior, To weasel in and out
of different worlds you have to remain inconspicuous. The more you are known and
identified, the more your freedom is curtailed. When people have definite ideas
about who you are and how you will act, then you can't move. One of the earliest
things don Juan taught me was that I must erase my personal history. If little by
little you create a fog around yourself then you will not be taken for granted and
you will have more room for change. That is the reason I avoid tape recordings when
I lecture, and photographs.

KEEN: Maybe we can be personal without being historical. You now minimize the
importance of the psychedelic experience connected with your apprenticeship. And you
don't seem to go around doing the kind of tricks you describe as the sorcerer's
stock-in-trade. What are the elements of don Juan's teachings that are important for
you? Have you been changed by them?

CASTANEDA: For me the ideas of being a warrior and a man of knowledge, with the
eventual hope of being able to stop the world and see, have been the most
applicable. They have given me peace and confidence in my ability to control my
life. At the time I met don Juan I had very little personal power. My life had been
very erratic. I had come a long way from my birthplace in Brazil. Outwardly I was
aggressive and cocky, but within I was indecisive and unsure of myself. I was always
making excuses for myself. Don Juan once accused me of being a professional child
because I was so full of self-pity. I felt like a leaf in the wind. Like most
intellectuals, my back was against the wall. I had no place to go. I couldn't see
any way of life that really excited me. I thought all I could do was make a mature
adjustment to a life of boredom or find ever more complex forms of entertainment
such as the use of psychedelics and pot and sexual adventures. All of this was
exaggerated by my habit of introspection. I was always looking within and talking to
myself. The inner dialogue seldom stopped. Don Juan turned my eyes outward and
taught me to accumulate personal power.
I don't think there is any other way to live if one wants to be exuberant.

KEEN: He seems to have hooked you with the old philosopher's trick of holding death
before your eyes. I was struck with how classical don Juan's approach was. I heard
echoes of Plato's idea that a philosopher must study death before he can gain any
access to the real world and of Martin Heidegger's definition of man as
being-toward-death.

CASTANEDA: Yes, but don Juan's approach has a strange twist because it comes from
the tradition in sorcery that death is physical presence that can be felt and seen.
One of the glosses in sorcery is: death stands to your left. Death is an impartial
judge who will speak truth to you and give you accurate advice. After all, death is
in no hurry. He will get you tomorrow or the next week or in 50 years. It makes no
difference to him. The moment you remember you must eventually die you are cut down
to the right size.
I think I haven't made this idea vivid enough. The gloss--"death to your
left"--isn't an intellectual matter in sorcery; it is perception. When your body is
properly tuned to the world and you turn your eyes to your left, you can witness an
extraordinary event, the shadowlike presence of death.

KEEN: In the existential tradition, discussions of responsibility usually follow


discussion of death.

CASTANEDA: Then don Juan is a good existentialist. When there is no way of knowing
whether I have one more minute of life. I must live as if this is my last moment.
Each act is the warrior's last battle. So everything must be done impeccably.
Nothing can be left pending. This idea has been very freeing for me. I am here
talking to you and I may never return to Los Angeles. But that wouldn't matter
because I took care of everything before I came.

KEEN: This world of death and decisiveness is a long way from psychedelic utopias in
which the vision of endless time destroys the tragic quality of choice.

CASTANEDA: When death stands to your left you must create your world by a series of
decisions. There are no large or small decisions, only decisions that must be made
now.
And there is no time for doubts or remorse. If I spend my time regretting what I did
yesterday I avoid the decisions I need to make today.

KEEN: How did don Juan teach you to be decisive?

CASTANEDA: He spoke to my body with his acts. My old way was to leave everything
pending and never to decide anything. To me decisions were ugly. It seemed unfair
for a sensitive man to have to decide. One day don Juan asked me: "Do you think you
and I are equals?" I was a university student and an intellectual and he was an old
Indian but I condescended and said: "Of course we are equals." He said: "I don't
think we are. I am a hunter and a warrior and you are a pimp. I am ready to sum up
my life at any moment. Your feeble world of indecision and sadness is not equal to
mine." Well, I was very insulted and would have left but we were in the middle of
the wilderness. So I sat down and got trapped in my own ego involvement. I was going
to wait until he decided to go home. After many hours I saw that don Juan would stay
there forever if he had to. Why not? For a man with no pending business that is his
power. I finally realized that this man was not like my father who would make 20 New
Year's resolutions and cancel them all out. Don Juan's decisions were irrevocable as
far as he was concerned. They could be canceled out only by other decisions. So I
went over and touched him and he got up and we went home. The impact of that act was
tremendous. It convinced me that the way of the warrior is an exuberant and powerful
way to live.

KEEN: It isn't the content of decision that is important so much as the act of being
decisive.
CASTANEDA: That is what don Juan means by having a gesture. A gesture is a
deliberate act which is undertaken for the power that comes from making a decision.
For instance, if a warrior found a snake that was numb and cold, he might struggle
to invent a way to take the snake to a warm place without being bitten. The warrior
would make the gesture just for the hell of it. But he would perform it perfectly.

KEEN: There seem to be many parallels between existential philosophy and don Juan's
teachings. What you have said about decision and gesture suggests that don Juan,
like Nietzsche or Sartre, believes that will rather than reason is the most
fundamental faculty of man.

CASTANEDA: I think that is right. Let me speak for myself. What I want to do, and
maybe I can accomplish it, is to take the control away from my reason. My mind has
been in control all of my life and it would kill me rather than relinquish control.
At one point in my apprenticeship I became profoundly depressed. I was overwhelmed
with terror and gloom and thoughts about suicide. Then don Juan warned me this was
one of reason's tricks to retain control. He said my reason was making my body feel
that there was no meaning in life. Once my mind waged this last battle and lost,
reason began to assume its proper place as a tool of the body.

KEEN: "The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of" and so does the rest
of the body.

CASTANEDA: That is the point. The body has a will of its own. Or rather, the will is
the voice of the body. That is why don Juan consistently put his teachings in
dramatic form. My intellect could easily dismiss his world of sorcery as nonsense.
But my body was attracted to his world and his way of life. And once the body took
over, a new and healthier reign was established.

KEEN: Don Juan's techniques for dealing with dreams engaged me became they suggest
the possibility of voluntary control of dream images. It is as though he proposes to
establish a permanent, stable observatory within inner space. Tell me about don
Juan's dream training.

CASTANEDA: The trick in dreaming is to sustain dream images long enough to look at
them carefully. To gain this kind of control you need to pick one thing in advance
and learn to find it in your dreams. Don Juan suggested that I use my hands as a
steady point and go back and forth between them and the images. After some months I
learned to find my hands and to stop the dream. I became so fascinated with the
technique that I could hardly wait to go to sleep.

KEEN: Is stopping the images in dreams anything like stopping the world?

CASTANEDA: It is similar. But there are differences. Once you are capable of finding
your hands at will, you realize that it is only a technique. What you are after is
control. A man of knowledge must accumulate personal power. But that is not enough
to stop the world. Some abandon also is necessary. You must silence the chatter that
is going on inside your mind and surrender yourself to the outside world.
KEEN: Of the many techniques that don Juan taught you for stopping the world, which
do you still practice?

CASTANEDA: My major discipline now is to disrupt my routines. I was always a very


routinary person. I ate and slept on schedule. In 1965 I began to change my habits.
I wrote in the quiet hours of the night and slept and ate when I felt the need. Now
I have dismantled so many of my habitual ways of acting that before long I may
become unpredictable and surprising even to myself.

KEEN: Your discipline reminds me of the Zen story of two disciples bragging about
miraculous powers. One disciple claimed the founder of the sect to which he belonged
could stand on one side of a river and write the name of Buddha on a piece of paper
held by his assistant on the opposite shore. The second disciple replied that such a
miracle was unimpressive. "My miracle," he said, "is that when I feel hungry I eat,
and when I feel thirsty I drink"

CASTANEDA: It has been this element of engagement in the world that has kept me
following the path which don Juan showed me. There is no need to transcend the
world. Everything we need to know is right in front of us, if we pay attention. If
you enter a state of nonordinary reality, as you do when you use psychotropic
plants, it is only to draw back from it what you need in order to see the miraculous
character of ordinary reality. For me the way to live--the path with heart--is not
introspection or mystical transcendence but presence in the world. This world is the
warrior's hunting ground.

KEEN: The world you and don Juan have pictured is full of magical coyotes, enchanted
crows and a beautiful sorceress. It's easy to see how it could engage you. But what
about the world of the modern urban person? Where is the magic there? If we could
all live in the mountains we might keep wonder alive. But how is it possible when we
are half a zoom from the freeway?

CASTANEDA: I once asked don Juan the same question. We were sitting in a cafe in
Yuma and I suggested that I might be able to stop the world and to see, if I could
come and live in the wilderness with him. He looked out the window at the passing
cars and said: "That, out there, is your world." I live in Los Angeles now and I
find I can use that world to accommodate my needs. It is a challenge to live with no
set routines in a routinary world. But it can be done.

KEEN: The noise level and the constant pressure of the masses of people seem to
destroy the silence and solitude that would be essential for stopping the world.

CASTANEDA: Not at all. In fact, the noise can be used. You can use the buzzing of
the freeway to teach yourself to listen to the outside world. When we stop the world
the world we stop is the one we usually maintain by our continual inner dialogue.
Once you can stop the internal babble you stop maintaining your old world. The
descriptions collapse. That is when personality change begins. When you concentrate
on sounds you realize it is difficult for the brain to categories all the sounds,
and in a short while you stop trying. This is unlike visual perception which keeps
us forming categories and thinking. It is so restful when you can turn off the
talking, categorizing, and judging.
KEEN: The internal world changes but what about the external one? We can
revolutionize individual consciousness but still not touch the social structures
that create our alienation. Is there any place for social or political reform in
your thinking?

CASTANEDA: I came from Latin America where intellectuals were always talking about
political and social revolution and where a lot of bombs were thrown. But revolution
hasn't changed much. It takes little daring to bomb a building, but in order to give
up cigarettes or to stop being anxious or to stop internal chattering, you have to
remake yourself. This is where real reform begins. Don Juan and I were in Tucson not
long ago when they were having Earth Week. Some man was lecturing on ecology and the
evils of war in Vietnam. All the while he was smoking. Don Juan said, "I cannot
imagine that he is concerned with other people's bodies when he doesn't like his
own." Our first concern should be with ourselves. I can like my fellow men only when
I am at my peak of vigor and am not depressed. To be in this condition I must keep
my body trimmed. Any revolution must begin here in this body. I can alter my culture
but only from within a body that is impeccably tuned-in to this weird world. For me,
the real accomplishment is the art of being a warrior, which, as don Juan says, is
the only way to balance the terror of being a man with the wonder of being a man.

© Copyright Psychology Today


Publication Date: Dec 1972

Of Sorcery and Dreams:


An Encounter With Carlos Castaneda
By Michael Brenan
Published in "The Sun"

Dreaming was once an extraordinary affair for me. When I was thirteen, I had
frequent conscious dreams and out-of-body experiences. Typically, just prior to
sleep, when my body was completely relaxed, I would shift without warning into a
remarkable state of alertness. My physical body would feel numb and heavy, yet I
would be entirely awake. Somehow I knew that it was then possible for me to leave my
body.

Nearly every night over the next three years, I would drift toward sleep, only to
wake up and venture into dream worlds of breathtaking clarity and beauty. I was
fully conscious, and tremendously curious about everything I encountered. I
experimented endlessly with my senses, and with my ability to manipulate these
strange environments. But I could never determine whether the worlds I entered were
objectively real, or merely projections.

At age sixteen, I took part in a pioneering research study headed by Stephen


LaBerge. Using laboratory equipment and a series of prearranged signals, LaBerge
demonstrated that humans had the ability to be conscious within a physical state of
sleep. He called the phenomenon "lucid dreaming." Yet even this scientific
validation did not entirely dispel my uncertainty, because it didn't explain, for
example, how I could sometimes be simultaneously aware within both my physical body
and this "other" body. In the end, I decided my questions were unanswerable for the
moment, and the answers didn't matter much anyway. The sense of exhilaration,
freedom, and joy I encountered in those inner worlds was the true value of the
experience.

Before long, that same heightened state of awareness began to carry over into my
ordinary day-to-day existence, imbuing it with richness and magic. Life became a
waking dream. As this sensibility grew, it came into conflict with everything I was
being taught. The priests who schooled me seemed to believe that the age of miracles
had ended two thousand years before. Science suggested that everything could be
reduced to base mechanics. And contemporary society counseled a safe and bloodless
course of birth, school, work, and death, interspersed with vapid consumerism.

By the time I was seventeen, I had begun to feel that there was something wrong with
me. I was beset by the usual adolescent insecurities, but on top of that, my
perception of the world did not match up with that of my peers. My fears overwhelmed
the spirit of beauty that I longed to articulate. To compensate for my perceived
cowardice, I embarked on a roguish course, taking up with a bad crowd and acting out
the turmoil inside me. In so doing I betrayed everything that was sacred to me, and
my anguish was enormous. Over the next fifteen years, I suffered extended bouts of
addiction, homelessness, and incarceration in jails and asylums. My dreams had
deserted me, only to be replaced by a waking nightmare. I was committing slow-motion
suicide, a process that reached its conclusion seven years ago, when I shared bloody
needles with two fellow addicts in a Lower East Side tenement in New York City.

Since then, my junkie companions on that occasion have both died of AIDS. Now,
sitting on the cusp of death myself, I find an empty space within me. Oddly, this
emptiness carries with it a certain abandon and a delicious sense of anticipation -
I have nothing to lose. My imminent mortality seems to offer a slim chance of
recouping what I've lost: my experience of the world as a waking dream of great
beauty and mystery.

It is in this state of mind that I receive an invitation to attend an Oakland


workshop given by associates of Carlos Castaneda, and to write about it as a
journalist. The purpose of the workshop is to teach a magical discipline Castaneda
purportedly learned from the Yaqui seer don Juan Matus. According to Castaneda, the
seers of ancient Mexico experienced states of enhanced awareness while dreaming.
They learned to recreate these states white awake using a collection of precise
movements called "sorcery passes."

Shrouded in secrecy, this discipline was passed down through twenty-seven


generations of sorcerers, of which don Juan Matus was the last. Now Castaneda and a
few of his cohorts claim to be the contemporary stewards of this ancient sorcerers'
art, which Castaneda has named "tensegrity," after an architectural term for
opposing forces in balance.

Another perspective, offered by Castaneda's critics, is that he is the inventor of


this discipline, and of the myth of don Juan Matus. According to them, Castaneda's
myth has its origins not in the preconquest world of the Toltecs, but in the summer
of 1961, when the then-thirty-seven-year-old UCLA anthropology student ventured into
the Sonoran desert in search of his Ph.D. There, beneath the broiling Mexican sun,
Castaneda presumably cooked up his engaging tales of sorcery.

Despite high praise for Castaneda from respectable academic, scientific, and
literary quarters, skeptics remain troubled by chronological inconsistencies in his
books, by his refusal to bring forth don Juan for public scrutiny, and by the
author's own inaccessibility. In the end, don Juan Matus seems destined to haunt us
like a phantom glimpsed at the edge of our vision, quickening our hearts with the
possibility that sorcery still exists.

Six years ago, a new dimension to the controversy arose when two women - Florinda
Donner-Grau and Taisha Abelar - wrote elegant, dreamlike books describing their own
encounters with don Juan. Donner-Grau and Abelar revealed themselves to be
colleagues of Castaneda. A third colleague, Carol Tiggs, was mentioned in
Castaneda's latest book, The Art of Dreaming, in which he described how, while
"dreaming together" with him in a Mexican hotel room, Tiggs disappeared from this
world, borne on the wings of "intent." The "gales of infinity" blew her back to this
dimension ten years later, when Castaneda discovered her wandering in a daze in
Santa Monica's Phoenix Bookstore. Her improbable return had "ripped a hole in the
fabric of the universe."

Castaneda, Donner-Grau, and Abelar were thoroughly disconcerted by the implications


of this event. In the end, Tiggs persuaded her fellow travelers to adopt a radical
new approach to their work: for the first time, they would present the teachings of
don Juan openly, offering seekers the opportunity to explore in detail the legendary
seer's fantastic practices.

They arrived at this unprecedented decision, they say, because they are the last of
their lineage and will soon "ignite the fire from within and complete the somersault
into the inconceivable." More, they are opening up their discipline out of gratitude
to their teachers and benefactors, so that their ancient knowledge may live on.

Like many readers, I have been greatly moved and inspired by Castaneda's books -
especially (for obvious reasons) his writings about the magical possibilities of
dreams. At the same time, I have maintained a journalist's skepticism about the
whole affair. But now the creatures molded by the myth of don Juan Matus have
emerged from the fog of their inaccessibility and rustle through my awareness like
windblown leaves. I go to hear their message bearing questions, doubts,
anticipation, and a longing for magic to refute the soulless dreams of contemporary
society.

The six female instructors, called "energy trackers," are standing in pairs atop
three raised platforms in the Oakland Convention Center. They are dressed martial
arts style, in loose-fitting pants and shirts, their hair cut short, all of them
exuding an attractive strength and athleticism. They range in age from eleven to
thirty-six, and come from Europe and America. Their manner is simultaneously
friendly and no-nonsense. They are here to teach, and the three-hundred odd
individuals surrounding them are here to learn.
Over the next two days the energy trackers demonstrate an elaborate series of
movements - the "sorcery passes" Castaneda has written about. The movements have
evocative names: Cracking a Nugget of Energy, Stepping over a Root of Energy,
Shaking Off the Mud of Energy. I have years of hatha yoga practice, and can confirm
some parallels between the two disciplines. Many movements also have a fierce,
martial mood reminiscent of aikido and karate. But there are some unusual elements
to the tensegrity system that I cannot place in any familiar context.

Among participants, there is an enormous mix of occupations - physicists, teachers,


engineers, artists, laborers, biologists - and nationalities: Spanish, Italian,
German, Russian, American, French. I speak to a variety of people, searching for
testimony to the movements' effectiveness, and what I hear slowly begins to shake my
doubts.

One man, who in his youth practiced karate for six years, says he finds the
tensegrity movements uniquely powerful. "The more I'm exposed to tensegrity," he
tells me, "the more I think that nobody could just make these movements up. There
are too many of them, they're too sophisticated and systematic, and the results are
just too powerful."

Mario, a Tarahumara Indian raised in northern Mexico who now lives in Los Angeles,
says he and a group of Mexican and Indian friends have long gathered informally to
practice strategies gleaned from Castaneda's books. Now, due to this more formal
presentation of the teachings, they have increased their efforts. When Mario
describes some of his dreaming adventures, I am struck by their evident similarity
to the conscious dreams of my childhood.

"Recently, I found myself awake within a dream," Mario says. "I was beneath a tree
on a hilltop; I am not sure where. My brother Joss, who lives in Oaxaca, was with
me. He asked me what I had learned in the workshop I had attended. I told him, and
we exchanged more information about our personal lives. I was fully conscious during
the dream, but when I awoke I had forgotten something: Joss had told me something at
the very end of the dream, and I could not recollect it.

"A week later, he called me from Mexico. Before I could speak he began describing
the dream to me: the same hill, the same tree, the same conversation. I felt a
chill, and a sense of awe. Then he asked if I remembered what he had told me at the
end of our dream, Before he could say anything more, my ears began ringing loudly,
and the forgotten scene replayed itself in a flash. He had thanked me for bringing
him to this path."

Over the course of the weekend we hear from all three of Castaneda's fellow
teachers. Speaking first, Florinda Donner-Grau looks out over the audience and
smiles like a Cheshire cat. Her brush-cut blond hair and elegant cheekbones look
strongly Teutonic, and she speaks with precise diction, as if each word were a
delectable morsel:

"Don Juan Matus presented four faces to his four disciples. To Carlos Castaneda he
was a fierce and fearsome presence of terrible import and beauty. To Taisha Abelar
he was an enigmatic yet intensely familiar figure. For myself he was an abrupt
intrusion into my world, at once unsettling and soothing. For Carol Tiggs he was a
gentle, fatherly figure capable of tremendous affection."

She goes on to tell us that, in the world of sorcerers, women are gifted creatures
by virtue of their affinity with the feminine nature of the universe. Using their
womb, they are able to access universal energy and accomplish stupendous feats of
transformation. But at the same time, women must contend with the immensely
stupefying effects of their socialization. In short, they are trained from birth to
be bimbos, and only by unyielding effort can they escape that fate.

"Don Juan asked me," Donner-Grau says, "in a very matter-of-fact tone, whether I
wanted to be a stupid cunt for the rest of my life.... You must understand, I come
from a very proper Spanish-German family. No one especially not a man - had ever
used that word in my presence. I was horrified and insulted."

Given the delight with which she recounts the episode, I can only conclude that at
some point she got over her mortification.

For me, the defining moment of her talk comes when she speaks of death:

"Death is your truest friend, and your most reliable advisor. If you have doubts
about the course of your life, you have only to consult your death for the proper
direction. Death will never lie to you.

Taisha Abelar is elegant yet energetic. I cannot place her accent, but her overall
speech and appearance bring to mind a sixtyish Katharine Hepburn. I am intrigued by
the differences between her dream experiences and mine.

"I was on the roof of a building," Abelar says,-"in the middle of a strange city.
Suddenly, from above I heard a terrible racket, and I saw a black shape descending
toward me out of the sky. I moved immediately, and as I did saw that the black shape
was actually a helicopter, and the horrible noise was the sound of its blades
slicing the air. If I had stayed another second on that roof, I would have been
mincemeat."

At first I am puzzled by this, because in my conscious dreams I could manipulate the


environment in extraordinary ways. I wonder why Abelar did not will the helicopter
away, or make it burst into flames. Then it dawns on me: she's talking about
transporting her physical body into those worlds.

For the next hour, she recounts wild tales that make me think her either insane or
an accomplished liar. But everything in her manner suggests sobriety and sincerity,
and I am forced to recognize a third, nearly inconceivable alternative: that she is
faithfully reporting her experiences.

For her part, Carol Tiggs describes dreaming adventures every bit as bizarre and
otherworldly as Abelar's, but most of her tales involve dreaming together with
Carlos Castaneda. Like Castaneda, Tiggs identifies herself as a nagual, a Toltec
term meaning "teacher" or "leader." The affinity that links a nagual woman and a
nagual man and allows them to dream together is described in several of Castaneda's
books. It is neither a romantic nor a sexual bond, but something much more profound.

Toward the end of her talk, Tiggs answers a question from the audience about
Castaneda's health (word is that he's ill), and I sense the fierce affection between
them. She grows still. Drawing a deep breath and releasing it slowly, she smiles as
if through tears and says, "Our brother Carlos could not join us because he is
battling an infection. We do not know the nature of his illness. A sorcerer cannot
avail himself of traditional medicine; he must rely on the spirit, and on his own
resources. Before a sorcerer reaches the threshold where his body no longer
functions, he will choose, if he can, to kindle the awareness of his entire being,
in order to leave this world intact and whole. And our brother Carlos has made a
promise to include us in that final act. But we do not know if this is the time of
his leaving."

She pauses, and when she speaks again, her voice is hushed with wonder. "We are here
together, in a bubble outside of time, dreaming the dream of the ancient Toltecs. By
your efforts, you have helped us to expand and accelerate into the unknown. We thank
you, " she concludes softly, spreading her arms to the audience, "and we embrace you
in the dream."

As I drive back to Portland Sunday night, I look for changes in myself and find
instead that the discontent and emptiness that have plagued me for half my life have
intensified tenfold. I remain outside the great mysteries, endlessly writing,
endlessly doubting.

On top of this, my body erupts: my left testicle swells to twice its normal size,
and chickenpox afflicts me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. I go
to a traditional Chinese doctor whose wisdom is derived from a long historical
lineage. He takes my pulses and examines my tongue, then sits back and nods his head
repeatedly, like a thirsty crane dipping for water, all the while murmuring in
Chinese. He prepares a complex concoction of herbs, which I consume, summoning what
gratitude I can for the plants that have given their lives for mine.

A few weeks pass, and I regain my equilibrium, but my doubts about Carlos Castaneda,
which have never really left me, become more insistent. I vacillate between my
memories of the practical results reported by the tensegrity practitioners, and
knowledge of our ability to interpret myths in the fashion most befitting our needs.

Everything comes down to the authenticity of don Juan and his Toltec predecessors.
Was don Juan Matus a myth invented by Carlos Castaneda, or was he a flesh-and-blood
sorcerer of mythic proportion? I am aware that only one person can answer that
question for me.

Then the seemingly impossible happens: my silent wish is granted, and I receive an
unexpected invitation to meet with and interview Carlos Castaneda.

Given my shortcomings - I have led a life of indulgence, have written no grand


epics, barely graduated high school, and know nothing of science or anthropology - I
should be enormously intimidated. But instead, from the moment the invitation is
extended, I experience a profound and soothing sense of surety. If Castaneda is
merely an inventive rogue, then I will have lost nothing but my illusions. But if he
is a bona fide heir to the legacy of Toltec seers, then I will have gained a gift of
incalculable value - the possibility of restoring magic to the remainder of my life.

A lovely quietude comes over me in the wake of this realization, bringing with it a
tremulous sense of anticipation and - most remarkable for me - an overwhelming ease
and confidence. Everything has come full circle. There seems nothing left to do but
greet the unknown.

I look up from the four single-spaced pages of questions I have prepared and glimpse
a party of three weaving their way toward me through the Santa Monica restaurant.
The woman who arranged the interview for me is in front. She introduces me to one of
the energy trackers from the workshop, and then to the little man behind her -
Carlos Castaneda. The ease of the last few days does not abandon me, and I greet
Castaneda with a relaxed mixture of respect, affection, and professional skepticism.

He is gracious and unpretentious, and rolls up the sleeves of his rumpled white
shirt with Old World courtliness as we settle into our seats. I fuss with my notes
and study him with covert glances. From my research I know that he is Peruvian-born
and at least seventy-one years old. He appears, however, to be in his early sixties.
He is perhaps five-foot-two, with skin the color of burnished copper, a thatch of
salt-and-pepper hair, and an elfin frame. His face is handsome and weathered, a
symphony of angles and furrows that suggest classic Spanish features. His eyes are
sharp and lucid, his expression by turns thoughtful, friendly, and playful. He
offers me some bottled water, and this small gesture seems to embody generosity. I
feel as if I am among friends.

For the next three hours I ask sporadic questions from my lengthy list, but mostly I
am absorbed in listening and taking notes.

"This discipline is an internal affair," Castaneda says at one point. "There are
techniques, but they must be fortified by a decision, and by a feeling from within.
You need to arrive at that decision and feeling yourself. For me, it is a matter of
daily renewal."

Talk of discipline prompts me to ask about something he once said: that quitting
smoking could be a revolutionary act.

"You don't smoke, do you?" he inquires, frankly curious.

"In honor of this occasion," I reply, "I have left my smokes at home."

He seems unperturbed by my admission, and by the banality of my problems.

"I started smoking when I was eight," he says. "I wanted to be like these older
Argentinian guys. You should have seen them; they were the coolest guys in the
world." With an absurdly suave pantomime he mimics the coolest guys in the world,
squinting his left eye and tilting his head to blow an invisible cloud of smoke into
the air. "One day, don Juan told me to stop smoking. I replied that I liked smoking
and would stop when I was ready. Then I tried to quit and couldn't; not the first
time, or the second time. Even all these years later, I still find myself patting my
breast pocket for the cigarettes that are no longer there. These routines are
difficult, but not impossible, to break," he concludes. "You merely have to jump the
-"

His last word is lost to the lilt of his accent. I let it pass and listen as he
describes a woman friend of his who was dying in a hospital. (I have said nothing of
my own illness at this point, nor does my appearance give any clue.)

"I loved this woman dearly," he says. "She was a tremendous friend. I asked don Juan
what I could do for her. He described a strategy to me, and I passed it on to her. I
told her she must push her illness away with her hand, with her intent, repeatedly,
for as long as it took. She replied that she was too weak to lift her arm. 'Then use
your foot!' I cried. 'Use your heart; use your mind! Intend it out of you!' But she
no longer had the energy to do so."

Without prompting on my part, he begins talking about his recent illness, which he
describes as "a vicious viral infection." I am spooked by the parallel to my own
life, and momentarily stop taking notes in order to observe him. He matter-of-factly
describes a bout with a deadly infection, and how his discipline compelled him to
refuse the conventional treatments offered by a doctor. The upshot - that his
apparently life-threatening condition resolved itself - is obvious from the fact
that he now sits across from me, a bundle of energy.

"I have been reading a book by the ex-wife of Carl Sagan," he continues. "She has
this theory about the viral nature of the body. She theorizes that, physically, we
are simply sacks of viruses. We live in a predatory universe, and nothing is more
predatory than viruses.

"We are creatures who will die," he adds, almost as a non sequitur, and it is too
much for me. I have come here under the guise of a journalist, but in fact I've
known all along that I am seeking a healing of the heart before I leave this earth.
My time seems short, and before I can stop myself, I rudely interrupt him.

"I have a personal question," I begin.

"Please, please," he says kindly, beckoning with his hands. "Ask anything you like."

"Well," I say, "I hate melodrama. So I will just say that I have a health condition.
There is a lot of leeway with it, but the conventional wisdom is that . . ." I look
away, loath to appear manipulative or needy.

"Perhaps a few more seasons," I murmur. "A few more blows to my system, and-"

I flick my wrist as if sweeping dust from the table: poof, swish, gone.
What I have done seems terribly unprofessional to me; yet, I think childishly, he
started it, with his books, with his straightforward assertions that in this day and
age we are still capable of experiencing the world as magic. I feel a sense of
displaced anger and longing, as well as the anguish that I have carried since I
first turned my back on all that was sacred to me.

Holding my gaze intently yet dispassionately, Castaneda launches into another


lengthy tale, this one about an alcoholic friend of his. He regards me from beneath
slightly lowered lids, as if squinting into the sun. His eyes are keen and bright,
like slivers of obsidian, yet their effect is neither hypnotic nor overpowering.
Rather, they seem to hold a kind of open challenge.

"So, " he concludes, like a professor summarizing his wisdom, "I would move. I would
jump the - ."

Again, I lose his last word, and my anxiety must be apparent, because he repeats
slowly, "I would jump the groove."

He pauses to lift an invisible needle from a turntable, his eyes never leaving mine.

"I would change the groove," he says. "I would move."

My adolescent journals are full of this same metaphor. At that time, the one-track
groove that the stylus followed on a record symbolized for me the habitual nature of
my mind. Changing the groove meant changing those habits that robbed me of my
ability to experience ordinary life as full of beauty and wonder. The three routines
I most sought to change were my habit of picking my nose, my adolescent temper. and
- hardest of all my endless capacity for rehashing old events in my mind instead of
simply letting go.

Now, at age thirty-six, I find it is only my temper that has mellowed. I still pick
my nose, and I am still capable of endlessly justifying, defending, and excusing my
past actions. To these insipid routines I have added, over the past seven years, the
habitual momentum of dying. I have known from the moment I shared that needle
that a part of me was conspiring in my own death. In the interim, that same part has come
to view AIDS as a fitting punishment for my sins, or perhaps as the articulation of
my spiritual barrenness.

Yet, throughout it all, something resilient within me has refused to die. I prefer
to call that inviolate something "spirit," and it is that same spirit that is
aroused in me now as I listen to Castaneda's prescription for change. Death is the
one inexorable fact in our transitory lives. Perhaps I will die a doddering old
fool; perhaps I will die before the sun sets tonight. But I will die - that much is
certain. In the meantime, what remains within my control is the groove of my life,
the track upon which I choose to walk between the exclamation of my coming and the
ellipsis of my going. At its purest, this track is trackless, like a path covered by
freshly fallen snow.

And trodding such virgin paths is the most enduring image of my adolescent dreams.
By speaking directly to that memory, Castaneda has reawakened it within my heart.
Given the perilously low ebb I have reached in life, I can only describe this feat
as a genuine act of sorcery.

Ah, but what of don Juan Matus, the mythic Yaqui seer whose bones I have come to
exhume? Does he sit before me now, a trickster-teacher weaving deceptive tales of
wisdom, folly, and truth? I do not know, and cannot say.

Three hours have passed, and Castaneda is gently signaling the end of our meeting by
unrolling the sleeves of his weathered cotton shirt. There is still time for that
final and most compelling journalistic question, but something within me lets it
pass.

And then, unexpectedly, the silence is broken once more by Castaneda's lovely
accent. His gaze is fixed in the distance, and he speaks softly, his words like
those of a man confronting an insoluble mystery. Again, I study him for evidence of
deception and come away empty-handed.

"If I could ask don Juan one final question," he begins slowly, "I would ask, How
did he move me so? How did he touch my spirit so that every beat of my heart is
filled with the feeling of this path?"

"Every beat of my heart," he repeats quietly, and for a brief moment his words seem
to hang in the air like fog. Then his whispered phrase is touched by time, and
disappears into the mystery that surrounds us.

© Copyright The Sun


Publication Date: September 1997

Interview with the Instructors of the


Magical Passes
This interview is the answer of tensegrity instructors to a series of questions sent by Mexico
City practitioners in October, 1999. It is probable that not all the questions reflect everyone’s
concerns, but undoubtedly all the answers are for everyone. The students of Carlos Castaneda
referred to this questionnaire as the first part of a series, and left the door opened to questions
of practitioners everywhere.

Do you have a clear awareness, in the tonal, of the new course, or new direction that
instruction of the magical passes is taking? Do you read this in infinity or how do you
know?

We are navigating. The Nagual compared this to being at the front of a train, facing the
oncoming time. This train is a bit different than most, because there are no tracks -we find
them as we go. We read energy and follow where it is flowing today- not where it flowed
yesterday. How do we know if we’re following that flow? Because when we go in that
direction, it works. If it doesn’t work, we don’t go there -or we shift direction immediately.
The Nagual gave us certain guidelines. He imbued each of his apprentices with a specific
facet of his knowledge; this means none of us can see the direction we are moving by
ourselves; we have to work together; and yet each of us has to pull his or her own weight, and
be what the nagual called energetically available, watching at the front of the train. “Be my
eyes and ears!” he would tell us. Now we each have to be the eyes and ears for the others.

Infinity is the one who points out the direction to take. Following its flow is the challenge that
all of us face -practitioners and instructors alike. The female students of don Juan are guiding
us in this effort, as Florinda Matus did with don Juan’s four students after don Juan left.

Participating in a Tensegrity practice group is one way for practitioners to push themselves to
the front of the train. We are accustomed to having a leader who gives orders. So in working
together without that leader, we are entering new terrain; we are moving our assemblage
points.

This is not an easy path to take. The Nagual told us that it takes guts of steel to sustain one’s
purpose without a person in charge, telling us personally what to do. We are just dying to
have an authority figure around, interpreting things for us, taking care of details, giving
orders.

There is much longing for the presence of the witches which manifests itself in many
ways, from doubts to sadness. Is there any possibility that we will see them again?

The female students of don Juan told us that anyone who wants to can meet them in the place
of no pity. This doesn’t mean harshness; rather, it means no self-pity, or pity for someone else
based on the idea that we are better off than they are. It also means we are standing side by
side, not looking to be carried or rescued, but looking in the same direction: toward infinity.

They said it is our time; they can only guide us -we are the ones who have to act.

As a unified body of practitioners, we are entering the unknown. Each of us has to decide
whether they want do this -to run joyfully after the bird of freedom, with no guarantees, no
assurances. For us, that’s something exquisite.

The proposal of Infinity, is it a concept, or a real possibility?

Several of us asked the Nagual this question at one time or another. “Don’t take my word for
it,” he said. “Don’t journey only in your mind. Find out for yourself!”

We know that the task of celibacy is individual, but–are there magical passes or breaths
that would facilitate the change of direction when the hormones become overwhelming?

The Nagual told us that there is no way to get rid of our longing, nor could we leave behind
socialization. We move around it, and also, we use it to our advantage. Why not work
together as male and female to enhance our awareness, rather than to keep ourselves locked
into rigid roles and behaviors that keep us from dreaming?
It’s much more challenging to interact with each other without trying to control each other, or
possess each other, than it is to follow the track of courtship. It takes much more imagination.
Seers recommend celibacy for young practitioners because we are trained to approach
sexuality from the standpoint of an investor. “I’ll do this for you if you do that for me.” Or “I
love you madly and forever until you look at someone else.” Carlos Castaneda considered this
to be a travesty—to merge the best of your energy with another being as an investment? No,
he said. For seers, the only way to have a sexual union with another being was from the
position of total affection, without expectations. This takes guts of steel, he said, and is not for
baby warriors.

In the sexual act, there are lines of energy -lines of affection- that are created between the two
partners. Unless the two are free of personal expectations, these lines become broken, and
cause turmoil in the body, especially for the female. Add two or three sexual partners, or even
more, and you have a real problem here.

All the magical passes help us to be more aware of the nature of our longing -which according
to seers, is really the longing for the energy body- the energetic counterpart of the physical
body. The magical passes, and impeccable actions, help us to entice the energy body.

Are there any specific strategies to maintain the focus during the recapitulation. How do
we break our resistance to recapitulate?

In recapitulating, we are lightening our burden, letting go of our personal history, and our
habits, rendering our assemblage points fluid. How could this be boring, or burdensome?
Because we are approaching the task with our old opinions, which lead us to believe we find
reward only through deep suffering. The Nagual suggested that we could just as easily enjoy
the recapitulation.

If we approach the recapitulation as a magical passa seers’ technique for enhancing


awareness, found in the second attention, our resistance breaks down. Don Juan’s four
students have told us that we resist recapitulating because our view of past events is clouded
by fear, or deep sadness, or personal disgust, or enchantment with the self. The detached view
of the second attention cancels out these feelings, making it possible for us to see patterns in
our behavior and interactions we weren’t aware of.

Anytime we were telling a story from our lives and we ended up weeping with shame or pity,
or puffing up with pride, then the Nagual let us know: you haven’t really recapitulated that
event. Otherwise, we would not feel such personal attachment. He told us that by
recapitulating, we turn our life events into stories. Those stories may be funny, or
embarrassing, or deeply moving, or just boring -what they have in common is that they have
lost their personal sting.

The Nagual told us that a navigator uses everything around him that can help him to see his or
her life from this detached view-films, interactions, memories, foods, daydreams. Each of
them, he said is like a snapshot that can help us to see our own patterns. What moved you in
that film? What did someone else notice that you missed? What bothered you in the
conversation you had at lunch today? These are definite signals to guide us in seeing our own
actions. Before we judge the director of the movie, or a co-worker, or a friend, we have the
discipline to take a look at ourselves and see what we are doing.
To cultivate the dreaming attention, is it required to maintain the attention between the
eyebrows -there are coincidences to certain geographic areas. How do you deal with
this?

You can place the attention on a number of areas of the body, such as the calves, for example.
We explore this avenue in a series of magical passes called Mapping the Body.

On a more basic level, the attention of daily life has a direct affect on the dreaming attention.
If we are worried about what our boss thinks of us, or whether she likes him better than me,
we can’t even find a cup in our dreams, much less enter into full-fledged dreaming.

On the other hand, if we live artistically in our daily lives, then we will find ourselves
dreaming artistically.

The practice of Tensegrity has facilitated perceiving with our bodies. But sometimes the
linear mind interrupts the flow. How can we reestablish that flow?

The Nagual told us that this is the vice of the bored conception: to doubt. He told us that one
of the simplest cures for our bored-conception state was to breathe -to allow the body to
connect with the air outside it and the new perceptions that it brings in. “You have to hone the
body,” he said, “so that the intent to perceive can prevail over the intent to doubt.”

He said there’s no way to doubt and to dream at the same time. He said that we never get rid
of doubt. We just put it on the back burner, so to speak, so it’s not in charge.

We would like a clarification of how to approach the magical passes for crossing phyla.
Are these about converting oneself into an insect? Some of us understood them as having
to do with the alignment of perception and the way in which insects -on aligning
perception as a whole- work as a group, like an organism, one single being, in order to
survive, and that gives them other possibilities of evolution.

What a delightful question. The magical passes that involve energetically crossing phyla are
practiced to bring us the new view that comes with a new position of the assemblage point.
The truth is, we don’t know all the implications of what these magical passes bring. We are
finding out as we practice them. The Nagual warned us about too much speculation about the
effects of the magical passes. He said that we loved to try to make things familiar, like tourists
bringing all the comforts of home into the jungle. Much more valuable than speculation, he
said, was direct experience. Just do the magical passes, he told us, and find out where they
take you.

The magical passes of Olinda in a form called The Amber-Blue Dust of Infinity, bring us a
strange awareness of a moth-like being that seers refer to as the guardian of the second
attention, an awareness that requires a new syntax to describe. The Nagual told us, “You may
notice a new line of thought that comes through as you practice this series. You might find
yourselves making sentences that are unlike any you’ve formulated before.”

We could find ourselves communicating with each other, as a body of practitioners, in a


different syntax. Insects do have a syntax, and for seers, human beings haven’t done that well
using their own. We don’t need to abandon what we’ve learned, but why not learn some
others, and be fluent in many languages?
Many practitioners have asked us what we mean by “unified body of practitioners,” or “group
dream.” Whoever is available energetically is in the dream that the Nagual had for us, in
which we are sending signals of awareness to each other, finding our way together. These
signals can be sent from anywhere -we don’t need geographic proximity to hear each other.
We just need discipline: the art of feeling awe.

© Copyright Fractalum Magazine


Publication Date: April 2000