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The Life & Teachings of Carlos Castaneda by…
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The Life & Teachings of Carlos Castaneda

by William Patrick Patterson

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If you´re a fan of Castaneda, want to know more about him, but don´t mind being disillusioned about the level of his character and spiritual development, this is the book for you!

I was sorry to learn about these negative aspects of Castaneda´s personality, but then it saves me from having to read further books about or by him, though I may do, nonetheless.

The author tells us about the sources of Castaneda´s teachings, including the similarity of his teachings with those of Gurdjieff, recounts the events of his life and provides information about his “witches”. We are given definitions of the basic terms used in his books, and a summary of his intrinsic ideas/beliefs.

The universe is composed not only of energy but will, intent. “The ´human mould´ is the conditional matrix of self-belief in which all humanity is born, lives and dies, except for the few who have the power to break the mould.” To do so one must be able to “stop the world”, that is, to stop the internal dialogue “so that the ´world´ one is always telling oneself about stops”. “One strives to be impeccable, that is, to give full attention to whatever and whomever we are engaged with.”

To stop the world, there must be intent, and the “purposeful guiding of will”. In stopping the world “one comes to the totality of oneself and experiences inner silence”. Inner silence is the stand from which everything stems in sorcery.

As regards Don Juan, we are not really enlightened as to whether he actually existed. Margaret Runyon, one of C´s wives, claimed that there was a real Don Juan, but that the Don Juan of his books “became a different creature --- made up of equal parts real Indian, pure Castaneda imagination, library research”, etc. etc.

Castaneda was a short, dark man with black curly hair who could “charm your soul”. He was a “curandero, a shaman, a magician”. One person said that he was a “big liar and a real friend”.

He was a tyrant in his relationships with the “witches”. He had an obsession with body odour, so the “witches” had to be “well-bathed” and to use identical bath products. All body hair had to be removed and pubic hair shaved in prescribed ways. He hated body fat so the women did hours of daily exercise. All their jewelry was to be given to him, and their best clothing were to be shredded – to destroy their self-importance. Words like “love”, “friendship”, “family” and “need” were forbidden.

Though C proclaimed his celibacy at seminars, he was a sexaholic. He “was intent on bedding every woman he met”. However, his female students were not allowed to have sex with anyone but him. The men were to live entirely celibate lives. When he grew tired of having sex with any of the women, he insisted that they be celibate but also pimp for him.

He constantly demanded attention and drove Florinda, one of the witches, “crazy with his neediness” (though neediness was forbidden in his teachings).

His lover, Amy Wallace, said:
“Carlos had begun as a genuine seeker – but ended as a tyrant watching over a cult of terrified followers”. Spirits were crushed, people were humiliated publicly. There were malevolence, breakdowns, illness and anguish,

I was disappointed that C was thus in no way spiritually developed, and neither were the “witches” and other students, otherwise they would not have accepted C´s tyranny.

C developed glaucoma, diabetes and liver cancer. He did not use his knowledge to heal himself, but underwent conventional medical treatments.

According to C., the death of the average human being is a termination of their awareness, while with sorcerers awareness remains.

His so-called “path of heart” had nothing to do with compassion, but only courage, fearlessness and resoluteness.

When C died, two of the “witches” disappeared, as did two others from his company; they had planned to commit suicide when he died, and it looked as though they did. The Nagual woman, Carol Tiggs, remained alive, but then again, she was the “Death defier”.

To sum up, I found the book to be well-written, informative, detailed about C´s sources, beliefs, relationships and life as a whole. It just didn´t provide information I wanted to hear, ha, ha! But it is a useful contribution to the understanding of the mythical and near-archetypal person, Carlos Castaneda. Read it, if you don´t mind being disillusioned. ( )
  IonaS | Mar 29, 2015 |
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