Kinda reminds me of what Betsy Chasse " Producer, Director, Screenwriter of the What the #$*! Do We Know?? move,"said to me.Castaneda's apologists say it doesn't matter, the books contain deep truths.
I spoke to Betsy shortly after the movie?s release, I pointed out that the movie was riddled with "bogus science"....
Yes I agree ?But...it gets people to think, she answered.
It?s amazing how fame and fortune can skew a person?s perception of ethics.
- Cecil Adams-
The Straight Dope:
Carlos Castaneda. I've been waiting for this one for a long time.
At least you frame the question properly. Except for a few lost souls, nobody really thinks that Castaneda turned into a crow, flew, fought with a diablera (witch) for his soul, etc. The issue is whether he hallucinated these events or simply invented them. There will always be disagreement, but the smart money is on the latter.
Teachings, published in 1968 by the University of California Press, purports to be the first-person account of a UCLA anthropology student who meets an old man named Juan Matus at a bus station on the Mexican border while on a field trip looking for medicinal plants. The student, Carlos Castaneda, strikes up a friendship with the old man, who eventually reveals himself to be a Yaqui Indian sorcerer. Don Juan decides to make Castaneda his apprentice and teach him the ways of a "man of knowledge." This consists mainly of giving cryptic answers to Castaneda's naive questions and instructing him in the use of hallucinogenic plants--peyote, jimsonweed, and a mushroom possibly containing psilocybin. One of these plants will become Castaneda's "ally," Don Juan says, and help him see the world as it is. (This theme, only hinted at in Teachings, is developed in later books.) Under Don Juan's tutelage, Castaneda takes several drug trips, which are alternately exhilarating and terrifying. Although he makes progress, he eventually becomes too frightened to continue his training. The story breaks off in 1965.
Despite its bizarre subject matter, the book is written in a lucid, matter-of-fact style that makes it believable. Each of Castaneda's encounters with Don Juan is precisely dated, and Don Juan's words are recounted in detail. The accounts of drug trips ring true. There's even a turgid "structural analysis" at the end, supporting the idea that this is a legit work of scholarship.
Appearing at the height of the psychedelic 60s, the book struck a chord and became a best-seller. It was followed by A Separate Reality (1971), Journey to Ixtlan (1972), and many others. These books were taken with surprising seriousness by the academic community: Walter Goldschmidt, a senior professor of anthropology at UCLA, wrote an enthusiastic foreword to Teachings, and when Castaneda submitted Journey to Ixtlan under a different title as his doctoral dissertation, UCLA awarded him a PhD.
But doubts soon surfaced. Experts pointed out that Don Juan's "teachings" bore little resemblance to actual Yaqui Indian religious beliefs. Hallucinogenic mushrooms didn't grow in the Sonoran Desert, where Don Juan supposedly lived. Anyone who'd gone walking for hours in the desert at the hottest time of the day, as Castaneda claimed he and Don Juan had done, would surely have died of sunstroke.
The precisely rendered dialogue, which lends credibility at first, has the opposite effect when the books are read in succession--no one could have accurately recorded so much talk without a tape recorder, which Castaneda says he was forbidden to use. Don Juan's manner changes from book to book. In Teachings he is stern, but in later books that cover much of the same time period he makes jokes and uses English colloquialisms, even though Castaneda says he spoke only Spanish. At one point Don Juan makes a pun on "pulling your leg" that would make sense only if he were speaking English. Richard de Mille, who wrote two books debunking Castaneda's work, prepared timelines of the first three books showing that their events couldn't plausibly have occurred in the order stated.
Skeptics demanded proof that Don Juan existed. Apart from 12 pages of "field notes," which apparently were from an early draft of the books, no such proof was forthcoming. Journalists discovered that Castaneda was a habitual teller of tall tales who, among other things, falsified his family background and his place and date of birth. Many early admirers were offended when he turned to the occult in his later work. Before his death from cancer in 1998 he gave $600-a-head seminars on "Tensegrity," full of New Age nonsense about "600 locations in the luminous egg of man."
Castaneda's apologists say it doesn't matter, the books contain deep truths. Fine, they contain deep truths. Nonetheless, after you review the evidence, the only reasonable conclusion is that Castaneda was a con man and his books are a hoax.
? Cecil Adams
The Straight Dope: Did Carlos Castaneda hallucinate that stuff in the Don Juan books or make it up?
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/rea ... make-it-up
One Man's Guru Is Another Man's Fraud, or Worse
by Sandy McIntosh
MANY OF US, myself included, lived through the 1960s and 1970s believing in the writings of Carlos Castaneda. Once called the grandfather of the New Age, he told in numerous best-selling books of meeting a Yaqui Indian sorcerer named Don Juan, who took him on as an apprentice, leading him on hair-raising forays into a "separate reality."
He described Don Juan and himself as "solitary birds" who stored the energy they needed for sorcoric tasks by being celibate and unavailable. "I'm nothing," he responded to expressions of awe at the miracles recorded in his books - flying, growing a beak and turning into a crow.
One of Castaneda's teachings was that instead of dying like an ordinary human, a sorcerer could choose to burn "with the fire from within," thus prolonging his life indefinitely in another dimension. He himself, he emphasized, would leave the world this way.
But when Castaneda actually departed in 1998, it was not as he had predicted. His physician, Angelica Duenas, whom I had befriended at one of his seminars and who signed the death certificate, told me what happened. "I have many patients," she said. "They die. He died like everyone else."
This was the beginning of my disenchantment with Castaneda. In the years since, Richard Jennings, a Los Angeles attorney and onetime devotee, has documented extensive evidence to show that Don Juan was pure fiction; that far from being celibate, Castaneda was a polygamist with an active harem of female initiates; that his philosophy was based, conveniently, on his personal quirks, abundant imagination and other writers' insights; and that he died miserably of liver cancer.
This is a pattern we see repeated over and over with too many figures like Castaneda, who become revered as gurus, supposedly leading us to spiritual enlightenment, only to be revealed later as frauds.
To outsiders, Castaneda's fictions might seem obvious. But many intelligent people were caught up in them, as others were in the criminal misdeeds of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in Oregon in the 1980s, or the murderous and suicidal activities of Jim Jones, who died along with more than 900 followers in the jungles of Guyana in 1978. Even such seemingly transparent religious teachers as Maharaj-Ji, the boy guru who claimed to have filled a mostly empty Astrodome with thousands of "invisible" disciples in the early 1970s, continue to have their true believers. Although his misdeeds are far worse, we might even think of Osama bin Laden in this category: a man who is able to inspire his educated young followers to become suicide bombers - in the name of Islam.
Some gurus, of course, are perfectly admirable. The best known is the Dalai Lama, the spiritual-leader-in-exile of the Tibetan people and winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. Another is Swami Vivekananda, the founder of the Vedanta Society. But why do so many use their followers for conquest and personal aggrandizement?
Len Oakes, an Australian psychologist who has studied gurus, says the answer has to do with their upbringing. According to Oakes, those who become gurus - or prominent leaders in any part of society - experience "baby worship" in childhood and develop a heightened sense of self-esteem and security.
If that support continues throughout their formative years, such children will grow into secure adults who can make positive contributions to the world. But if abandoned emotionally, they may retreat into a narcissistic fantasy world. Having believed since childhood that they are unique and superior, they become dedicated to establishing themselves as uncontested prophets.
We don't know how closely bin Laden's story fits this pattern, but according to a recent PBS documentary, bin Laden lost his father at age 13 and turned to the radical isolationist teachings of the Muslim Brotherhood, and later of Abdullah Azzam. An early marriage at 17 helped ensure his remoteness from the outside world, leaving him free to spin his own reality.
The Dalai Lama is one whose "specialness" was celebrated early on. He then was taken in hand by his Tibeten teachers, who gave him a rigorous Buddhist education that was not completed until he was 25. Rajneesh, by contrast, was recognized as "special" and raised by his grandfather, but later was abandoned. As a guru, he encouraged disciples to create their own municipality in Oregon (which he named Rajneesh), and engage in criminal activities, for which the U.S. government eventually deported him.
All of which leads to the question: How can spiritual seekers avoid becoming entangled in the snares of narcissistic gurus who ultimately defraud them or, in the worst cases, lead them to their deaths?
The answer, according to Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad, authors of the "The Guru Papers," lies in one's approach: "The age-old inquiry that asks 'Who am I?' looks inside for self-discovery ... Spiritual surrender involves letting go of self-defining images that limit who one is and can be," instead of allowing oneself to fall into a state of perpetual childish dependence.
In my experience with Castaneda, I continued to defend him, even after reading the critical articles, which I collected only to refute them. But after his death, I re-read the material and concluded that the damning evidence was overwhelming.
Not all supposed gurus leave a paper trail that would unmask them. How then to avoid the trap of the charismatic, narcissistic guru? As Kramer and Alstad suggest, the first step is to answer the question "Who am I?" A positive second step might be to keep in mind that other ancient injunction: "Know thyself."
Sandy McIntosh is managing editor of Confrontation, a magazine published by Long Island University, and a contributing writer to the Sustained Action Web site
One Man's Guru Is Another Man's Fraud, or Worse
Published on Sunday, October 21, 2001 in the Long Island, NY Newsday