Carlos Castaneda, previously Castaneda, (December 25, 1925- April 27, 1998) was an author of a controversial series of books that claimed to describe his training in traditional Native American shamanism (ancient Toltec sorcery).
Castaneda claimed to have met a Yaqui shaman named Don Juan Matus in 1960. Castaneda's experiences with Don Juan allegedly inspired the works for which he is known. He claimed to have inherited from don Juan the position of nagual, or leader of a party of seers. He also used the term "nagual" to signify that which is unknowable, neither known nor knowable; implying that, for his party of seers, don Juan was a connection in some way to that unknowable. The term has been used by anthropologists to mean a shaman or sorcerer who is capable of shapeshifting, or changing to an animal form, and also to mean the form to which such a person might shift.
Castaneda's works contain descriptions of paranormal or magical experiences, several psychological techniques, Toltec magic rituals, shamanism and experiences with psychoactive drugs (e.g. peyote). Carlos Castaneda's works have sold more than 8 million copies in 17 languages.
He wrote that he was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Christmas Day in 1931, but immigration records show that he was born 6 years earlier in Cajamarca, Peru. He moved to the United States in the early 1950s and became a naturalized citizen in 1957. He was educated at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) (B.A. 1962; Ph.D. 1970). Castaneda was later stripped of the Ph.D. on the grounds that he presented fiction in the place of proper ethnographic research.
His first three books, Journey To Ixtlan were written while Castaneda was an anthropology student at UCLA. Castaneda wrote these books as if they were his research log describing his studies under a traditional shaman he identified as don Juan (used the name Juan Matus, but not the man's 'real' name). Castaneda was granted his masters and doctoral degrees for the work described in these books, although he later had his Ph.D taken away for pretending his fiction was actual anthropological research.
In Castaneda's first two books he describes that the Yaqui way of knowledge also required the heavy use of powerful psychoactive or entheogenic plants, such as peyote and datura. In his third book, Journey to Ixtlan, he essentially reverses his emphasis on 'power plants'. In this book he describes don Juan telling him he only needed to use drugs with Carlos because Carlos was so dumb. In this book the way of knowledge that don Juan describes was perceived by some as resembling the newly popular New Age movement. Castaneda, however, emphatically denied any real similarity between them in several lectures.
Castaneda was a popular enough phenomenon for Time magazine to do a cover article on Castaneda on March 5, 1973 (Vol. 101 No. 10) that was five or six pages long.
His fourth book, Tales Of Power, ended with Castaneda leaping off a cliff marking his graduation from disciple to man of knowledge (actually a leap from the tonal into the unknown). Some writers thought this must necessarily mark the end of his series. They were very surprised to see he continued to produce more books. Despite an increasingly critical reception Castaneda continued to be very popular with the reading public. Twelve books by Castaneda have been published, and 3 videos released.
In 1997 Castaneda launched a lawsuit against his ex-wife, Margaret Runyon Castaneda, over her book, A Magical Journey with Carlos Castaneda; but this was dropped when Castaneda died.
The official story is that Castaneda died on April 27, 1998 from liver cancer in Los Angeles. Little is known about his death. There was no public service, Castaneda was apparently cremated and the ashes were sent to Mexico.
Castaneda's account of Toltec knowledge
There are three main elements to Castaneda's description of Toltec beliefs:
* a. mastery of awareness- nagual (2nd attention) and tonal (1st attention), art of dreaming, description of the seers perception of luminous energy and bubbles of energy around living things (luminous cocoon) and ultimately the source of these energetic lines which are consciousness itself.
* b. art of self-stalking- dealing with the world and actions in it.
* c. mastery of intent- dealing with the primary force of the universe or the spirit or the means to move the assemblage point.
Castaneda's books can be read as a philosophical/pragmatical text that express a world view by which a person can live one's life. There is a movement world-wide of practitioners of this philosophy, applying Castaneda's published ideas either independently or through consultation with Castaneda's associates.
This school of applied shamanism, sometimes called "nagualismo", purports to be unlike either traditional Western or Eastern culture. Castaneda's ideas, insofar as they can be called a "system", share some similarities with Eastern mysticism, Zen, Taoism, or Tibetan Buddhism in terms of the inherent order (or chaos) of the universe, disciplines taught and techniques used, but the underlying structure is fundamentally different.
According to Castaneda, the most significant facts in a person's life are his possession of awareness and its impending termination at death. The primary goal of a Toltec "Warrior" is the continuation of his awareness after bodily death: to "dart past the Eagle and be free", in the words of the tradition, where the Eagle is the force which consumes the awareness of all living beings.
To cheat death in this way requires all of the discipline and procedures that constitute the Warrior's way of life. These practices are devised to maximise the Warrior's personal power, or energy. The condition of not wasting this energy is known as "impeccability".
Sufficient personal power leads to the mastery of awareness, chiefly the controlled movement of what is known as the "assemblage point". This is an artifact of the tradition's description of another world underlying what we perceive as ordinary reality. In this description men are glowing cocoons of awareness inhabiting a universe consisting of the Eagle's "emanations", described euphemistically as all-pervading filaments of light.
Humans' cocoons are intersected throughout by these filaments, producing perception, but they filter our perceptions by concentrating on only a small bundle. The assemblage point is the focusing lens which selects from the emanations. In its accustomed position, the assemblage point produces what humans perceive as everyday, 'normal' reality. Movement of the assemblage point permits perception of the world in different ways; small movements lead to small changes in perception and large movements to radical changes. For example, dreaming is presented as the result of a movement of the assemblage point; "power plants" such as Peyote, used in the early stages of Castaneda's apprenticeship, produce powerfully altered states of mind through such movement.
Castaneda describes complex and bizarre worlds experienced through the controlled movement of the assemblage point in dreaming; his premise is that the world of the dreams of a warrior is no less real than the world of daily life. This follows logically from the description of both worlds as being simply the result of positions of the assemblage point. He depicts complex interactions with unearthly beings in dream worlds and describes his fear of being physically trapped by these malicious but charismatic beings.
Amongst the various practices of a warrior, Tensegrity, a series of meditative stretching and posing techniques, is introduced in Castaneda's tenth work, Magical Passes. The term is borrowed from architecture-"tensional integrity". Tensegrity is promoted by Cleargreen, Inc., a company founded in the 1990s, closely affiliated with Castaneda, which runs workshops and sells various materials relating to Castaneda's work. There are many individual and group practitioners around the world. Tensegrity and much of Castaneda's other work are the subject of a variety of recurring disputes.
Brief Description of Books
1. The Teachings Of Don Juan, A Yaqui Way of Knowledge- description of plant allies and way towards knowledge: mescalito (peyote cactus)- the protector of man, seeing beings as liquid colors; mushrooms- learning to handle, fly, and perceive as animal form; datura (weed)- female spirit, hard to handle, gives strength, lengthy procedure. This book was unique of the series in that the last part included a detailed scholarly "Structural Analysis" of the teachings.
2. A Separate Reality- Discusses the ideas of will, controlled folly, and seeing (as opposed to looking) as tools a warrior uses to be a man/person of knowledge.
3. Journey to Ixtlan- lessons about the warriors way, or stalking the world, routines, personal history, self-importance, death as an advisor, not-doing, dreaming
4. Tales of Power- description of points of perception in body or luminous cocoon, tonal or toñal (1st attention, known, right side awareness, [possibly the left-brain]) and nagual (2nd attention, unknown, left side awareness, right-brain), dreaming double
5. The Second Ring of Power- describes events after don Juan's departure, experiences with the women warriors of the original nagual's party, 2nd attention (second ring of power), losing "human 'form"', human mold, dreaming, gazing
6. The Eagle's Gift- description of the force that creates, destroys, and rules the universe (or at least the 48 bands of earth), also source of emanations themselves, description of the eagle's command to man, the rule of the nagual, various levels of petty tyrants, and way towards freedom, self-stalking and dreaming, power spots. Note that don Juan described the energy-structure/entity called eagle a thing that is not what we call an eagle, but rather a thing so vast as to be incomprehensible.
7. The Fire From Within- step by step (actually chapter by chapter) elucidation of the mastery of awareness or the new seers' knowledge: everything is energy (the Eagle's emanations or luminous emanations), the luminous cocoon and assemblage point(glow of awareness), the known (1st attention or tonal), unknown (2nd attention or nagual), unknowable (outside luminous cocoon), petty tyrants as a way to move assemblage point and foster warrior's way, twin worlds of organic and inorganic ( more correctly matter-beings and non-matter-bound beings- carbon-based/not carbon based wasn't what was meant), shifting the assemblage point and other bands of awareness, bundles of emanations that are the basis for the different species source of awareness and forms/molds, the human mold, the rolling force or tumbler (that hits luminous cocoon), the death defier, self-stalking, intent, and dreaming.
8. The Power of Silence- stories about essentially the mastery of intent, set into what were called sorcery cores.
9. The Art Of Dreaming - steps to mastering control and consciousness of dreams.
10. Magical Passes- descriptions with photos of sorcery-based physical movements intended to increase well-being, a system which became known as Tensegrity
11. The Active Side of Infinity- recapitulation, making a log of significant life events (as seen by the spirit)
12. The Wheel of Time- recollection of the mood in which each previous book was written; significant quotes from each previous book.
Interpretation and criticism (the Castaneda controversy)
Many critics doubt the existence of don Juan, citing inconsistencies in don Juan's personality across the books and in the sequence of events in the books. Many Castaneda supporters claim in turn that the very fact of handling awareness and perception accounts for this; and that the actual existence of don Juan is irrelevant, since the important matter is the theme that don Juan presents.
What is easily understood is the fact that the writing style changes greatly from the first to the last of the "don Juan" books. The Eagle's Gift (sixth book) is a novel-like work with specific characters on a journey towards what they call "Total Freedom", and where the words of don Juan seem more like those of a scientist. This could be the result of changes in the mind of Carlos Castaneda.
As Castaneda was very elusive, and because his works were taken up by young people at a time when mystical and shamanic traditions were in fashion, many professionals cast doubt on the authenticity of contents of his works. When he followed up Tales of Power (1975), even more questions were raised as to how much of his work was true anthropology and how much was his own creation.
Another way to read the books is as a sort of game, almost like a detective novel. Depending upon one's approach, they could be either accepted at face-value in their entirety, or discarded. Some of the material could be considered true, some fictional; and some of the events described probably appeared to be real at the time, but could be interpreted as hallucinations. The vividness and plausibility of Castaneda's early works argue for their essential truth. Accounts of Castaneda'a early life and the memoir "A magical journey with Carlos Castaneda", by his former wife Margaret Runyan Castaneda, exhibit many conflicts with what Castaneda said about himself, and point the other way.
As in all matters literary, one needs to consider that we (the reader) are but distant viewers of the events described by the words on the page. In reading the words of Castenada it is certainly important to decide why one is reading these books. Confirming and/or denying the veracuty of who Carlos Castenada was and if anything he wrote actually happened, is not entirely unlike reading the Bible and other religious bodies of literature; the average reader will never verify truth or fiction of the events recorded, but take the texts and their "message" on faith, as the truth.
The only possible way to ascertain the Truth of the words of Carlos Castenada are to take the words as a complete body of work from the beginning to end, and then incorporate the concepts illucidated there into ones daily routine to see if they "hold any water". As we now live in a society, world wide, that is marked by instant gratification and easy platitudes as regards the truth, it is highly unlikely than any such in-depth exploration of Castenadas words will ever be performed by any institution examining the concepts put forth in his works. In other words, it is highly unlikely to ever encounter a totally objective evauation of Castenadas words, either confirming or denying what truth they may contain.
Individuals may pursue these concepts in their daily lives, however, if they do confirm that words written in Castenada's works do contain some truth or "the truth", then who will they share this experience with? Certainly not with an institution seeking "Scientific Independent Verification".
Significant characters In Castaneda's works
This is a list of characters, claimed to be real persons, mentioned in Castaneda's works. Castaneda makes it clear that these are not the persons' real names (ostensibly to protect their identity). In denoting their function within each generation of practitioners, terms are used which can only be understood by reading Castaneda's writings:
Generation of practitioners peer to Castaneda (Compact group for "three-pronged Nagual")
* Florinda Donner-Grau- "Northerly" "dreamer" in Castaneda's generation of practitioners
* Taisha Abelar-"Westerly" "self-stalker" in Castaneda's generation of practitioners
* Carol Tiggs- "nagual woman" in Castaneda's generation of practitioners
Generation of practitioners peer to Castaneda (Original group for "four-pronged Nagual")
* Pablito- the "man of action" in Carlos' generation of practitioners
* Nestor- the "scholarly man" in Carlos' generation of practitioners
* Benigno- the "master of intent" in Carlos' generation of practitioners
* Eligio- a "courier" who ultimately joined previous generation due to Carlos' lack of ability to follow his explorations of awareness, apparently a manifestation of Carlos not being a four-pronged nagual
* La Gorda- "Northerly" "dreamer" who was originally thought to be the "Southerly" "dreamer", this was apparently a manifestation of Carlos not being a four-pronged nagual
* Rosa- "Northerly" "dreamer" in Carlos' generation of practitioners
* Lidia- "Easterly" "dreamer" in Carlos' generation of practitioners
* Josephina -- "Westerly" "dreamer" in Carlos' generation of practitioners
* Doña Soledad -- "Northerly" "self-stalker" in Carlos' generation of practitioners
Generation of practitioners preceding Castaneda
* Don Juan Matus -- leader or nagual man to a generation of practitioners, teacher to Castaneda
* Genaro Flores -- the "man of action" and "master of awareness" in Don Juan's generation of practitioners, benefactor to Castaneda
* Vicente Medrano -- "scholarly man" and herbalist in Don Juan's generation of practitioners
* Silvio Manuel -- "master of intent" and purported to be permanently in a state of "heightened awareness" in Don Juan's generation of practitioners
* Juan Tuma -- "scout" in Don Juan's generation of practitioners
* Florinda Grau -- "Northerly" "dreamer" in Don Juan's generation of practitioners
* Nelida Abelar -- "Northerly" "self-stalker" in Don Juan's generation of practitioners
* Marta -- "Southerly" "dreamer"? in Don Juan's generation of practitioners
* Zoila Abelar -- "Westerly" "self-stalker" in Don Juan's generation of practitioners
* Zuleica Grau -- "Westerly" "dreamer" in Don Juan's generation of practitioners
* Delia Abelar -- "Easterly" "self-stalker" in Don Juan's generation of practitioners
* Celia Grau -- "Easterly" "dreamer" in Don Juan's generation of practitioners
Generation of practitioners preceding Juan Matus
* Julián Osorio -- leader or nagual man to a generation of practitioners, teacher to Juan Matus
Generation of practitioners preceding Julián Osorio
* Elias Ulloa -- leader or nagual man to a generation of practitioners, teacher to Julián Osorio, and to Juan Matus as well.
Significant event in the lineage
* The nagual Sebastian's encounter in the 1700s with an ancient seer, the "death defier", also referred to as the "tenant". That encounter dramatically altered their lineage and was what separates the "new" seers from the "old" seers. Castaneda stated that the death defier met with every nagual since Sebastien, including with Carlos. The death defier also met and possessed Carol Tiggs. Capable of taking male or female form, existing or not existing corporeally in this world.
Two other authors, Taisha Abelar and Florinda Donner-Grau, have also written books in which they claim to be from Don Juan Matus' party of Toltec warriors. Both Abelar and Donner-Grau were endorsed by Castaneda as being legitimate students of Don Juan Matus, whereas he has dismissed many other pretenders. Another author of note is Victor Sanchez; Sanchez claims to have had similar teachings, and met Castaneda, but emphasizes in his books that Castaneda does not endorse his work. Martin Goodman claimed to have met a "reconsituted" Carlos after the death of Carlos in his book "I Was Carlos Castaneda"
"Castaneda's information, although written as though from a field interview, and presented in 1968 in The Teachings of Don Juan almost word for word, but much more casually and not credited, was way too structured in his 1960 paper anyway --- as if the information had been obtained from a formally educated academic or field research expert, which it was, rather than simply a native user or naturalist."
CLEMENT MEIGHAN, former UCLA Professor of
Anthropology.--In a personal interview, circa 1991.
"It's possible that his informant in his undergraduate paper was not Don Juan, but somebody else who outlined details of something that Don Juan repeated later. But Carlos acts as though it is all new in the first book, as though he'd never heard the datura knowledge before"
MARGARET RUNYAN CASTANEDA: A Magical Journey With Carlos Castaneda
Over and over in Castaneda lore the question of his 1960s paper on datura he turned in for a UCLA undergraduate class comes up.
According to Castaneda's ex-wife Margaret Runyan (1921-2011), in her book A Magical Journey (1996), as found on pages 83-91, Castaneda's paper included references to datura's four heads, their different purposes, the significance of the roots, the cooking process and the ritual of preparation, all information that Castaneda supposedly learns later from Don Juan on visits between August 23 and Sept. 10, 1961, as described in THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968).
The paper was written as part of the assigned requirements for a spring semester class taught by Clement Meighan called "Methods in Field Archaeology." The reason the paper has developed an inordinate amount of interest and controversy is because it was, as part of the assignment for the class, turned in prior to the end of the spring semester, 1960. So what? Well, Castaneda, in his own writings says that he himself did not meet Don Juan Matus for the first time until the end of the summer of 1960 --- and then only for a few minutes, both too late and hardly enough time to have garnered any significant amount of information regarding datura or any other sacred, medicinal, or hallucinogenic plants.
If such was the case, that is, that Castaneda wrote and turned in a paper with all of the information he supposedly gained through interaction with Don Juan months before he ever even heard of or met him, where or from whom, if NOT Don Juan, did the information come from?
Some have said the answer is easy because it is known Castaneda traveled several hours east of Los Angeles to interview tribal spiritual elders of the Cahuilla Band of Indians on the Morongo Reservation near Banning and the Agua Caliente reservation down the road near Palm Springs. It is also said he went to the Colorado River area, possibly venturing toward the Yuma, to interview Native Americans there. The thing is, even though Castaneda may have visited the tribal areas so mentioned, because of the short time for any indepth involvement, it is questionable that any forthcoming interviews would have been very productive.
Castaneda makes it clear he learned about datura from an informant. There is no conflict or disagreement with that thesis UNTIL he frames his idea around the fact that the informant who taught him about datura WAS Don Juan Matus. Don Juan Matus, real or imagined, may have been or become Castaneda's informant in Castaneda's books, but initially it was the person identified in The Informant and Carlos Castaneda that instructed him in the preparation and uses of all parts of the plant, roots, leaves, flowers and seeds --- although the answer from that source is not always taken seriously, often overlooked or ignored, criticized, and/or questioned as to the strength of its credibility.
Those with a bone to pick regarding Castaneda's informant, typically fall into one of two main camps. First, those that say Castaneda just sat around in the UCLA library and researched a ton of sources then simply used other people's information, plagiarizing it and/or re-presenting it with his own words. Therefore, if thus done, they say, there would be no need for anyone like a real-life Don Juan or an informant.
Secondly, those who say any firsthand hard-backup material specific to the content of the The Informant and Carlos Castaneda is lacking because so much depends on retelling what other people have said other people have said --- which, for the most part, on the surface of things, appears to be a good agrument.
The weakness borne across the argument of the first group is that Clement Meighan, whose ideas, thoughts and contributions have always been highly regarded and as a well respected and honest professor in his field, is on record for having praised Castaneda's 1960 paper and even suggesting it added a great deal to the academic literature. It is difficult to believe that a person of Meighan's caliber and depth of knowledge would not have grasped a disguised rewrite, no matter how covered up, of already available material compared to that of original research. In that Castaneda was at the time an undergraduate with no indepth background or breadth of knowledge in the subject equlivant to most graduates and anywhere close to that of Meighan, and yet he still was capable and able to write and come up with such a paper that received such praise, was enough on it's own one would think, to open up questions. However, it didn't. Instead it received praise.
The answer to the concerns of the second group is a little more lengthy and has to do with Clement Meighan himself. In April of 1998, before the existence or content of Castaneda's 1960s paper on datura became widely known, Castaneda died. Any knowledge thereof came about mostly through Runyan's book. Until that time the contents and subject matter, or even that he wrote such a paper, was not very high up on anyone's radar. Even those who were making a full time living shredding every thought and word of Castaneda were not lambasting him with his paper.
Meighan retired in 1991 and died in 1997. Runyan's book did not come out until the very end of the year, 1996. Well before then, and especially through his retirement years, Meighan had tired of all the probing and questions regarding Castaneda and made it a point to avoid being sucked in by the constant bombardment of questions by using canned responses or making himself largely unavailable for comment anytime the topic came up. He did, however, make himself available to me. The paragraph in quotes at the top of the page, which appears in The Informant and Carlos Castaneda, albeit paraphrased from our original discussion, is a direct result of a personal face-to-face conversation between myself and Professor Meighan and NOT derived from any retelling what other people have said other people have said.
Even though Meighan made it a habit in his later years avoiding any serious, innovative, or groundbreaking Castaneda related interviews he opened his door to me for two main reasons. First, through me he discovered that the person who later turned out to be the informant in The Informant and Carlos Castaneda Meighan knew and had very fond memories of from the past. Secondly, it was from that knowledge of the informant, my Uncle, that I was able to breach the subject of two almost exact parallel near death experiences, Meighan and mine, that inturn opened the doors for ME to become a confidant.
In the Great Depression of the 1930s my uncle had been working as a artist creating a number of murals, paintings, and watercolors for the art portion of the Works Progress Administration, better known as the WPA, set up and described as follows:
"The Federal Arts Program was first suggested to President Franklin Roosevelt by George Biddle, who at one time, studied under the renown Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. In a letter to Roosevelt, Biddle suggested that a group of muralists work on the new Justice Department Building in Washington, D.C. Biddle�s suggestion helped develop the Public Works of Art Project, known more popularly during the depression era as the WPA."(source)
During that period of his life my uncle met and worked with various artists also doing WPA works such as Jackson Pollock and Diego Rivera. In 1940-1941 Rivera had created and completed a series of murals in San Francisco. My uncle had received a personal invite from Rivera to attend the public unveiling, but, with money tight, although he had all honorable intentions, he was unable to make the opening. Shortly thereafter, yet still sometime in 1941, not wanting to slight the great muralist, my uncle caught up with Rivera while he was staying and working at the studio of an American sculptor by the name of Frances Rich in Santa Barbara, California. Rivera invited my uncle to visit him in Mexico the following year, setting a date, place and time.
The following year, 1942, even though Pearl Harbor had just been bombed a few months before and war had broken out all across the Pacific and in Europe, my uncle honored his invite by Rivera. In those days my uncle lived hand-to-mouth, project to project, one painting to the next. So said, on his trip to Mexico he went by train traveling 4th class. Fourth class was usually filled with the indiginous poor, baggage, and sometimes even animals. My uncle had traveled in Mexico several times by train but very seldom did he ever see other white Americans traveling less than 2nd class. However, on this trip and highly unusual, there was a young boy, quite clearly an American and appearing to be in his mid-teens or so, traveling in 4th class unaccompanied by any adults or family. Although the boy projected a certain strength in confidence he seemed somewhat uncomfortable in what was most likely unfamiliar surroundings. Inturn, my uncle started up a conversation with him. The boy turned out to be a young Clement Meighan, recently graduated from high school (early), age 17 and traveling in Mexico on his own just to learn and for the experience before what he saw as the impending draft into the military the next year when he turned 18.
Several years before crossing paths with Meighan my uncle, the artist, was going through a slow but accelerating metamorphosis in his personal life and interests. Starting just after high school he began studying art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and the Art Student's League in New York City. Then, barely into his 20s, he decided to follow an important and well established artist he met and studied under named John Sloan to New Mexico. Sloan traveled to New Mexico each year for a few months to paint and relax. On my uncle's second or third trip, when Sloan returned to New York, my uncle stayed, having fallen in love with Santa Fe, the culture and the desert southwest. He was, if not more so, still a struggling artist and to stretch his limited funds and maintain his health he began fishing, hunting rabbits, and looking into the potential possibility of edible and medicinal plants indigenous to the desert. In doing so he was soon coming in contact with Native Americans. At first they found the white man foraging in the wilderness one day and painting pictures the next day a bit strange and kept their distance, but after awhile they discovered he was neither there to destroy the environment nor to exploit them. A few Indians, and then soon more and more, began to assist him, and in return he helped them with marketing their wares and making their art more commercially viable. He began looking into local plants, soils and rocks to enhance pigments and dyes. Overcoming many deep rooted apprehensions and suspicions he soon became accepted as one with the Earth and eventually many secrets and rituals that would otherwise not have been revealed were shared with him without concern.
Back then borders were just lines on paper, if that. As it was, most people didn't even have the paper. Arizona didn't exist as a state until only a few years before. In the desert wilderness traveling from New Mexico into Mexico into Arizona meant nothing. Tribal units pretty much kept to their traditional lands that basically just ran from their central operating core until they faded out with no specifically designated border. Although peoples of one group might interact with peoples of other groups they kept their secrets to themselves. My uncle went between tribal areas and cultures up and down and across the desert interacting and learning different ways and methods of either doing the samething or not doing the samething, giving him a much broader base of understanding. What might be poison to one group another found away around and a use. Where medicinal plants, datura or peyote might be ignored by one group, one, the other, or all might be embraced by another group or clan. Learning and respecting local and traditional curing methods and rituals, over time what my uncle did was refine and synthesize, strengthening here, eliminating there.
On the train with the young Meighan my uncle soon learned that the boy had an avid interest in bugs and insects. Now, my uncle was not particularly versed in bugs and insects per se' but, because of his ever-growing interest as a bio-searcher he was continually coming in contact with a huge variety of bugs, so he thought he had enough of a working knowledge to discuss them at least at the same level as the 17 year old Meighan. He soon found out such was not the case. Covering his thinly veiled knowledge of insects my uncle reminded Meighan there was a whole lot more to the desert and the desert southwest than bugs. It was full of all kinds of plants and animals, fossils, ancient ruins and archaeological sites, mystical and spritual places and deep secrets.
In those days the trains were pulled by steam locomotives, which meant they needed to stop and take on water at regular intervals. Those stops were usually fairly long, breaking any discussions between the two because the stops allowed time to disembark, strech legs, haggle with the vendors and go to the bathroom. On one of those stops my uncle was approached by an American who had seen him speaking spanish with a local and liked his more down to earth approach, asked him if he might help he and his wife, even though both spoke fluent Spanish, in negotiating a price with one of the merchants. Apparently pleased with the results of my uncle's negotiating skills he asked my uncle and Meighan to join he and his wife in their 1st class compartment. Which they did.
The man was a naval officer traveling on vacation with his wife who, my uncle said looked like a movie star --- and in fact, even though my uncle had not heard of her, she actually turned out to be one, Rochelle Hudson. When the trip ended in Mexico City everyone went their separate ways. My uncle never saw Meighan again that he could recall. He never caught up with Rivera that trip either as Rivera was not where he said he was going to be and nobody my uncle talked with seemed to know his whereabouts. However, just as the group was departing the train station and saying their goodbyes the naval officer told Meighan that if he was drafted or joined, if he was ever in Hawaii, regardless of rank, look him up.
In his later years my uncle all but forgot about his trip to Mexico and meeting Meighan. Except for the two of us getting together and going over our lives and travels in the years prior to his death, it might have never come up. My uncle told me although he never saw Meighan again following their trip in Mexico, after the war the movie star, Rochelle Hudson, and my uncle somehow crossed paths --- and had an interesting story to tell. He was reminded of the story after I told him the following regarding me flatlining while in the military:
"A onetime bottom-of-the-line GI everybody called "the Cat," who went on eventually to receive a bronze star, was a former or to-be 1st Air Cav medic on TDY doing routine corpse duty when he came across my partially unzipped body bag. In the process of closing the bag we BOTH somehow discovered I most likely no longer fell into the specifically dead catagory.
"Months later he told me that sometimes shift workers, when they find that a person has died on their shift, will put the body in the shower and let hot or warm water run on them --- sometimes for hours --- then, just before they go off shift, put the body back where it belonged for the next shift to find and deal with. The only thing is, in my case, this time the GIs who did it were caught. Even though my body had dropped quite a bit less than normal temperature, if not "warm" (because of the hot running water of the shower), my body was still at least supple. In the fact that I had absolutely no vital signs that anybody could tell --- and it had been previously noted that I flatlined --- I was hastily stuffed into the body bag without further checking. Hours later the Cat came across me no longer DOA and helped me out of the bag."(source)
The story Rochelle Hudson told, albeit involving Meighan, almost paralleled my story. As expected, when Meighan turned 18 he went into the service. In July 1944 during the battle for Saipan he was wounded by machine gun fire and evacuated. From the evacuation point he ended up in Hawaii. While recuperating the naval officer he met while traveling in Mexico came by to see him and Meighan told him, who inturn told his wife, the following story --- which I have recounted here by extrapolating from the more specific writings of Meighan's friend Brian D. Dillon, himself a well respected colleague in the field:
"Rescued under fire, Meighan was evacuated off Saipan. Triage doctors concluded he would not survive the night and not worth the trouble of operating on. Meighan was covered with his poncho and placed amongst the dead. But, it rained that night, reviving him, and in the morning when an orderly came to the field hospital with the news that there was space for one more casualty on the evacuation plane to Hawaii, Meighan threw off his poncho, literally rising from the dead, and ended up being the last wounded man put on the plane. Still only clinging to life, he celebrated his 20th birthday in the hospital in Honolulu."
By the time I started high school my uncle had long returned to the Santa Fe, Taos area while I ended up living with my grandmother. I went from a pre-teen to a job to having been in and out of the Army. Except for a several week interlude traveling with my uncle during the summer just before high school in which I met Albert Einstein, nearly eighteen years passed with only a couple of contacts. Those contacts were few and far between and all done through the mail, for instance to get my passport or tell him about the death of a relative or close family friend. Then a funny thing happened.
Sometime in latter half of 1967 a woman by the name of Mercedes De Acosta contacted me. She had been trying to search down a man she met years before at the ashram of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by the name of Guy Hague. Her search led her to me. To most people De Acosta was most notably a socialite and consummate party goer, seen as not much more than say perhaps a present day Paris Hilton might be viewed. She was however, actually much more than that, being imbued deeply both intellectually and spiritually. She was a poet with three volumes of poetry published in the early 1920s, an accomplished playwright and costume designer as well as an author. De Acosta and I set a meeting at her place in New York City. However, on May 9, 1968, before we were actually able to finalize any arrangements, she died.
De Acosta was a good friend of the avant garde pop artist and film maker Andy Warhol. He and I were supposed to meet through De Acosta but because of her death I figured the meeting was off. However, within days of De Acosta's death I received a request from Warhol to meet anyway. The typically New York based Warhol just happened to have arrived in La Jolla, California, not far from where I lived at the time, to film a movie called San Diego Surf with a bunch his groupies --- not just a few of whom were seemingly experiencing the short and long term effects of west coast/Mexican mescaline for the first time.
The meeting fell right on the heels of De Acosta's death. Warhol had an obsession with both death and celebrities. One year before, in 1967, a man with a gun entered Warhol's studio and, according to Warhol's friend, Taylor Mead, the following ensued:
"(The gunman) put a girl's rain hat on Andy and had him kneel down-he had us all kneeling. And Nico and Paul Morrissey and Gerard were just sitting there like they were watching a movie. They did nothing. Then the gunman handed Paul Morrissey the gun, which he'd already shot at the wall. Paul insisted he wasn't going to give the gun back, but he was just barely holding onto it. The gunman went to grab the gun back, so I jumped him. It was like jumping a brick wall. The guy was very strong. I couldn't budge him. So I went to the window and hit it, and it exploded onto 47th Street. The YMCA was across the street and people poured out. The gunman ran down the stairs. He had another person waiting outside. They were going to put one of us in the trunk of the car. Andy probably."
Because De Acosta was our strongest mutual connection and she and her passing was on the forefront of almost every conversation, Warhol continued to bring up my near death experience and what happens to a person after death.
Interestingly enough, the topic of those conversations, almost as if in premonition, became more that just talk. Within days of his departure from California, on June 3, 1968, Warhol was shot in the chest at close range after arriving at his New York studio. The bullet ripped through one of his lungs, tore up his esophagus, then passed through his gall bladder, liver, spleen, and intestines before exiting his left side, leaving a huge hole in its wake. At the hospital Warhol was pronounced clinically dead. He remained dead for well over a minute pushing into two before the medical team was finally able to revive him.
Although an extremely long time had elasped since I had been in contact with my uncle I felt that he, as an artist who had introduced me to any number of artists in the past, would be interested in the fact that I had met and talked with Andy Warhol over a period of several days. One of the things I told him was that Warhol spent a great deal of time going over and over my near death experience and that within days of returning to New York he himself was shot and flatlined before being revived.
My uncle, who always took months to respond, if at all, to anything I ever sent him, responded immediately. The primary thrust of his letter was not Warhol. Although he mentioned Warhol flatlining and, without mentioning his name, Meighan's near death experience in the context of several long pages and how close it related to mine, what he really wanted was for us to meet personally.
No sooner had I received the letter and even had a chance to respond, for the second time ever, my uncle called. He told me he wanted to meet me in Kingman, Arizona in the next few days --- Kingman being approximately halfway between where I lived in California and my uncle's abode near the Sangre de Christo mountains of New Mexico. After talking for nearly a half a day just as we were parting he gave me a small taped up cardboard box six or eight inches square and asked me to deliver it in person and only in person to a man in Laguna Beach, California --- and whatever I did, NOT give it to anybody else under any circumstances. When I arrived in Laguna Beach I found the man sequestered in a remote cave hidden in the hills above Laguna Canyon Road. The man, Dr. Timothy Leary. The contents of the box not known.
In the end the meeting in Kingman rekindled the relationship between my uncle and myself, ending in any number of memorable get-togethers and fun times right up to the time of his death. We spent hours talking and discussing our past adventures together and what happened during our time apart. We talked family, my dad, and childhood. We went over notes, letters, and papers he had stashed away relating to where we had gone and what we had done. One day the letter he sent me with the story told to him by Rochelle Hudson involving the young boy came up. When my uncle mentioned the boy's name, Clement Meighan, it meant nothing. However, around the same time we met and began our discussions in earnest, Castaneda's first book was published and took off like wild fire. It wasn't long until a copy ended up in my hands. Castaneda opened his book with acknowledgements, which wasn't unusual for a book, except his acknowledgements opened with the following sentence:
"I wish to express profound gratitude to Professor Clement Meighan, who started and set the course of my anthropological fieldwork."
There it was, Clement Meighan! With closer investigation, patterns began to develop between some of what Castaneda wrote and some of the discussions my uncle and I had. We discovered Castaneda's references to datura's four heads, their different purposes, the significance of the roots, the cooking process and the ritual of preparation, etc., that Castandea attributed to Don Juan seemed to bare strongly my uncle's own signature. In Zen, the Buddha, and Shamanism I write:
"In later years (because of) my uncle's knowledge of sacred datura and peyote, as well as other halluciogens, he was interviewed by Carlos Castaneda, apparently on a road trip in the process of gathering information for future use in his series of books on the powerful shaman-sorcerer he eventually apprenticed under, Don Juan Matus. In 1960 or so Castaneda was an anthropology student at UCLA collecting information and specimens of medicinal type plants used by the Indians in the desert southwest when he and my uncle crossed paths. My uncle had field searched thousands and thousands of plants, herbs, and mushrooms, even to having had several previously undiscovered species named after him."
Putting two and two together it wasn't long until my uncle remembered most of the details. The intriguing part of it all was that when we compared the chronological order of events as presented by Castaneda, all of the information regarding datura he learned was learned BEFORE he met Don Juan Matus. In The Informant and Carlos Castaneda I write:
"My uncle was always running into people that sought various amounts of information from him about natural desert plants and any effect they may have. Castaneda was just another in a long line of seekers and wasn't particularly memorable except for, in retrospect, a certain amount of persistance. Not to undercut Castaneda, but my uncle was surprised --- as well as pleased to a certain extent --- to find out THAT specific person who had tramped around the desert with him all those days and nights achieved the level of success he did and that he actually became 'somebody.' To his knowledge nobody he had ever come into contact in the past had. My uncle was quite pleased, regardless of how Castaneda may have presented it in his books and the public, that at least some or part of the information and knowledge he carried with him was not going to be simply lost forever to the winds and the rocks and sand of the desert."
My uncle died in 1989. In the two decades from the time of our meeting in Kingman until his death, although Castaneda came up every once in awhile in conversations --- and sometimes more indepth at times than others --- my uncle's opinion always remained aligned with the above quote. He never expressed concern that Castaneda never gave him credit or might have become rich over suggestions and information that he, my uncle, graciously shared and offered unfettered with no expectation of reciprocity or acknowledgment. He also never critiqued how accurate any of it was as Castaneda presented it.
After my uncle's death I found myself thinking about Castaneda, Don Juan, datura, and my uncle and how it all fit together probably more than the two of us had ever discussed in tandom. Eventually I made a decision to talk with Castaneda personally. There were a whole host of things I was curious about, not only related to timing and datura, but carved out caves, cars that wouldn't start because of the spark plugs, Flying Ointments, and turning into crows.
I had not seen Castaneda since the Nogales bus station. Although in the mid-1990s Castaneda resurfaced and began appearing in public, at the time we are talking about here he had, since 1973 or so, all but disappeared from the public eye, having become a recluse and secluding himself from all except a very small selective inner circle.
None of my old contacts had maintained any connections with Castaneda any more than I had. Anybody else who might have had even the slightest ability to put me past the wall he had built around himself were either being evasive or unresponsive. For sure I did not want to approach him "cold" at some party. However, in the time since I had seen him last, for me there transpired both Dark Luminosity and the experience with the mysterious hermit man of spells called an Obeah high in the mountains of Jamaica. I figured once we came in contact such experiences would override any potential distancing that might occur surrounding any interest I may have had regarding my uncle as Castaneda's informant or any barricades erected by his entourage. Even so, I felt I needed more than a few minutes bumping into him at some social event that at the most might lead to no more than a weak offer for a future meeting --- which in turn could easily be forgot to death or canceled by his handlers.
Enter Clement Meighan. Meighan retired in 1991. I caught up with him shortly thereafter. In my initial contact I didn't mention a thing about Castaneda. I told him I was the nephew of the man he traveled by train with in Mexico as a teenager, that my uncle had died a few years before and that I would like to talk with him about their time together. I also told him that Rochelle Hudson had told my uncle about his (i.e., Meighan's) hospital stay in Hawaii and how his near death experience paralleled my own. Meighan's response was most positive. After some minor logistics were worked out the rest was easy.
After awhile our conversations turned to Castaneda and I mentioned the seeming discrepancy in him learning all about datura from my uncle in the spring of 1960 and presenting in his book as having learned it from Don Juan in August and September of 1961. Meighan was flabergasted. It was then he remembered the paper Castaneda turned in, how good it was, and how, as he remembered it looking back, that it paralleled what Castaneda wrote Don Juan taught him. The thing is, in the beginning, Meighan was not specifically able to recall or pinpoint the timing of the paper or the class --- which would have transpired at the very least, thirty years earlier. He also did not know if the paper still existed and if it did, where it was. Typically he said, the paper would be turned back to the student and most likely that is what happened to Castaneda's paper. Several weeks after our final conversation a woman identifying herself as Judy Martin called saying she had worked in records at UCLA during the time Castaneda attended. Through contacts she informed me per Meighan's request, that the class in question was "Methods in Field Archaeology" and that the student in question took and passed the class with the letter grade "A" during the spring semester 1960.
What I speculate happened is that the paper was returned or picked up and, since it was Castaneda's "own" work, he extrapolated the information into his book. Runyan says she and Castaneda were married January 27, 1960 and lived together as husband and wife their first six months. That would have put her with Castaneda until the end of July, 1960. Before the end of that six month period Castaneda field researched the material via the informant, wrote the paper on the road, and turned in his paper. During and after the end of that period Castaneda was in the desert southwest on the Road Trip that ended with Don Juan Matus and the infamous Nogales Bus Station Meeting. That road trip ended well into August and well after the end of the spring semester, which means the paper had already been turned in, graded AND returned. But, returned to who? Castaneda was in the desert. Runyan was, as far as we know, still at home. I think the paper either languished in the department office someplace or layed around their apartment with a bunch of other stuff gathering dust and, over time, simply fell into Margaret Runyan's hands somewhere along the way. Runyan's book was published in 1996. In Runyan's case, as with almost everybody else who writes a book, there is usually a significant lead time between the time a person starts writing a book and when it gets published. Since her book was published in 1996, that would have put the main thrust of Runyan's lead time at the exact same time that Meighan and I had our discussions. Because of those discussions, the 1960s datura information would have been right on the forefront on Meighan's thoughts --- fully resolved and hacked out, where previously it had really never carried much weight. If Runyan contacted or inteviewed Meighan regarding material for her book I wanted to know. It is quite the coincidence that the discussions Meighan and I had eventually showed up so strongly in her book AND, since publication, so many people have run with it where previously the depth of the concept layed fallow. In the end the quote at the top of the page from The Informant and Carlos Castaneda and presented again below holds true:
"Castaneda's information, although written as though from a field interview, and presented in 1968 in The Teachings of Don Juan almost word for word, but much more casually and not credited, was way too structured in his 1960 paper anyway --- as if the information had been obtained from a formally educated academic or field research expert, which it was, rather than simply a native user or naturalist."
That's why, in an attempt to clarify it all and get some answers, after interviewing Clement Meighan, I went to the other major source in the fall of 2005 and interivewed Margaret Runyan Castaneda myself personally.