Conversations with Tom

Carlos Castaneda
© Copyright Tom Dark, all rights reserved

In 1984 Carlos Castaneda admitted to a newspaper that he had made most of his "Don Juan" stories up. He said this in an interview with a reporter from the Los Angeles Times. I read it. I remember him quoted: "Oh, I am a terrible bullshitter," he told a reporter.

By this time Castaneda had gathered many followers and sold many books. His books stopped selling as his followers realized they had been defrauded. Castaneda began holding "workshops" to make up for the lost income. Castaneda is no mystic. He is a guilty man who took too many drugs.

I had already quit reading Castaneda's work at "The Eagle's Gift." It had become clear to me that he was making up stories. They had grown ridiculous.

Sorcerers and sorceresses don't try to kill each other in special rooms specially designed to steal each others' "power" during sex. Besides this, Mexicans as well as "Yaqui" indians have words that mean "to f---," just like any other language -- even though Castaneda's supposed dangerous sorceress supposedly didn't know words for "let's f--- now." I put the book down and abandoned Castaneda then and there.

Reading his material had never been much more than entertainment value for me in the first place. I had not only looked at my hands in a dream one night, I looked at my hands and thought to myself, "okay, I looked at my hands, so what?" and I continued dreaming normally by choice.

I didn't miss anything. I was already whizzing around out of body whenever the impulse to do that came up anyhow. That experience is just one reason I find the material on this site silly and ludicrous -- and concerned for the gullibility of people who spend money on his "workshops".

Carlos Castaneda's books were of high interest to the hippie generation because of all the drugs he took and told about.

Some indian, that is, Native American, tribes, have traditional ceremonies that involve consuming different plants for their psychotropic effects to enhance the experience of passing on old tribal knowledge. All of these plants, including marijuana where it may be used for that, have one thing basically in common: they affect the nervous system so as to induce a state of suggestibility, or hypnosis.

In that state of trance suggestibility, one can more easily alter one's perceptions according to given suggestions. The suggestions are given to the tribal initiate in traditional ways. One will perceive the ancient local tribal gods, and illuminate the given traditional lore for himself, all in this state of suggestibility.

Some of these plants are poisonous. They act on the nervous system so as to put it in a sort of state of emergency; as the body alters its energies to counteract the poisons, a trance effect is triggered, for the ordinary ego functions must be put on "hold". Drugs are not necessary, as even Don Juan supposedly pointed out to Castaneda. Overdosages can make one ill to the point of death. Some can kill. Some leave permanent damage.

These ceremonies are organized carefully according to the traditional tribal beliefs about the nature of their world. Deadly plants are not passed out indiscriminately to the tribal members; they aren't told merely to "look for their hands in a dream."

I can't say which of the ceremonies Castaneda described in his first book are true, and which are false embellishments he made up to make the story more interesting than it otherwise would have been. I can only tell you that he admitted making stories up.

I never could have been a devoted fan of Castaneda's work, but I met some former followers of his in 1985. A man told me, still crestfallen it seemed, that he had looked into Castaneda's remarks himself and that "the whole story was a lie. All of it." I assumed that as devoted a follower as he was, he had spent some passionate energies looking into the matter beyond the Los Angeles Times article.

Carlos Castaneda met Don Juan at a bus station here in Tucson, Arizona, where I live, some time in the 1960s. The so-called Yaqui indians, or Tohono O'odham people, as they prefer to be called ("Yaqui" is rather like calling them "nigger" in their own eyes), are the peoples from whom young Castaneda hoped to learn about these ceremonies -- mainly for the purpose of taking the drugs.

Castaneda did this "research" for a Doctoral paper he was working on in, if I remember, sociology. He didn't understand what he was getting into. He was an ambitious young man from a poor family, looking to get ahead in the world. He was enthusiastic about trying out the drugs like most kids of his day. His only "other worldly" background would have been what he had been taught by the Catholic Church, as it predominated here in the Southwestern United States.

If you read Castaneda carefully, you will find old Catholic teachings entertwined with supposedly esoteric knowledge of the mysterious "Yaqui Brujo." The idea about overcoming "self-importance," for example, is nothing but the old Catholic distortion of the words of Saint Paul, who was supposed to have written "I am as nothing."

Because his books were popular, Carlos Castaneda was often the subject of articles in Sunday newspapers here. Until he was exposed as a fraud, he was treated as an example of the mystical and mysterious side of a generation of youths. I remember a New York Times article that oohed and aahed over a tremendous feat Castaneda, with all his years of drugs and adventures and "Wise Old Indian Guides," had performed: he actually... dot dot dot...

visited a friend of his during a dream!

Poopsie, this is fraudulent crap. Do you remember how we met? I saw your writing and I suggested you try to dream of me. You did. You dreamed details about me that were correct. It was easy. And I dreamed a couple things about you.

And since then, we've played meeting-in-dreams and you've seen others dreaming of each other, all in play. You even dreamed a lovely dream of Teltan. Just because someone reminded you that it's possible, you used your ability to dream-navigate. It is natural. It does not require paid "workshops" held by frauds.

And his friend, the article reported, remembered seeing... vaguely recalled dreaming something-or- other about Carlos Castaneda.

Carlos Castaneda was in the newspapers again last year. He had "disappeared." He left his house and told no one where he would be found. Once again the old newspaper trick, Mister Mysterious. It was nothing but a publicity stunt. Perhaps shame has finally overcome him and he has committed suicide. I doubt it, but it would be handy to have an "Afterlife Communication Device" around to ring his number, wouldn't it? Do you suppose the line would be busy?