Florinda Donner-Grau Chronology Part III [1985 - 1990]

?July 4, 1985 - La Gorda allegedly dies of a brain aneurysm at Castaneda and the Witches¡¯ compound in Westwood. [At a December 1995 Sunday session, Castaneda gave the date as July 4, at 4 PM. A review of all death certificates for females on that date in L.A. County failed to turn up any that matched the information given to date for la Gorda.] Castaneda, Taisha and Florinda are all on hand, and later sometimes attribute la Gorda¡¯s death to "egomania." At the Rim Institute in 1993, they explained that la Gorda "got tired of waiting around for Carlos and tried to leap by herself. She died as a result and we buried her." A participant at another early workshop reported Florinda describing how la Gorda grabbed her by the arm, telling her they were going to leave together. Castaneda, at a Sunday session, said, "Taisha never lost her cool, and told la Gorda to ¡®change channels.¡¯ She even blew on her ear to try to move her to change channels, but la Gorda was too locked into her compulsion. Florinda and I ¡®went to pieces.¡¯" According to Castaneda, "another fatso," Cecilia, had to be admitted to a mental institution following la Gorda¡¯s death. Castaneda blamed himself for not seeing that la Gorda had an ego fixation. He subsequently traveled to Mexico City where, according to a lecture he gave in Mexico City in 1996, he encountered a former female associate of don Juan.

[July 8, 1985 - Cecilia Evans, a.k.a. Beverly Evans, nominates and appoints Anna Marie Carter as "the conservator of my person in the event the Court finds it necessary to appoint such a conservator in my behalf. Regine Thal signs as the process server. A hearing was scheduled for Aug. 22, 1985. Case No. P 700369]

1985 - Old Florinda "burns with the fire from within" following La Gorda¡¯s death. [At Omega in 1995, Florinda describes watching her from her kitchen window, seeing the orange tree in blossom behind her--clearly a description of the Westwood compound. Old Florinda was allegedly wearing a white dress and sunbonnet.]

1985? - Florinda attends the wedding of Jacques Barzaghi [longtime aide to former Gov. Jerry Brown] and sees Celeste Fremon (who had written an interview with Castaneda for Seventeen Magazine under the name Gwyneth Cravens, and spent considerable time with him in 1972, whom Florinda had not seen since attending a Barzaghi party with Castaneda in 1982). Florinda confides to Celeste that "all of the apprentices are in a terrible emotional state," describing how "one of their sorcery teachers had turned old before their eyes. Like the picture of Dorian Gray. It was like something you¡¯d imagine seeing in a science-fiction movie, but we actually saw it happen," according to Florinda. She also said that Carlos was very ill and living in Arizona. "We don¡¯t know what to do," she said. "We are waiting for him to lead us. But he doesn¡¯t know what to do either, so we just have to wait." [From July 3, 1998, L.A. Weekly remembrance of Castaneda by Celeste Fremon.]

October 3, 1985 - Castaneda executes an 11-page will in Beverly Hills leaving his estate in four equal shares to Mary Joan Baker, Regina Thal (a.k.a. Florinda Donner), Annamarie Carter and Nuri Alexander. Barry R. Wilk and Jerome A. Ward are named as co-executors. He "expressly and intentionally omitted" Adrian Gerritsen, Jr., a.k.a. C.J. Castaneda, and Maria del Rosario ("Charo") Peters. (Barry R. Wilk was Castaneda's lawyer at the time, and in a declaration in the 1999 probate proceedings he states that he began to represent Castaneda in 1975, and that he counseled Castaneda "on his purchase of the Westwood property where he and members of his household resided for the past two and a half decades.")

  Replica Watches  Replica Watches

October 4, 1985 - Regine Margarita Thal files for change of name to Florinda Donner. She lists her place of birth as Amberg, Germany; current residence as 11343 Missouri Ave.; states that her parents are both deceased [not true] and that their names were Rudolph Thal and Carolina Claussnitzer. She lists her nearest living relative as "Annamarie Carter, sister," residing at 10429 Eastborne Ave. Change is effective Nov. 22, 1985. [C568735].

1985 - Florinda¡¯s The Witch's Dream, with a Foreword by Carlos Castaneda, is published by Simon and Schuster. [Castaneda writes, in his two-page foreword: "The work of Florinda Donner has a most special significance for me. It is, in fact, in agreement with my own work, and at the same time it deviates from it. Florinda Donner is my co-worker. We are both involved with the same pursuit; both of us belong to the world of don Juan Matus. . . . . This proximity to Florinda Donner under any other circumstance would unavoidably engender a sense of loyalty rather than one of ruthless examination. But under the premises of the warrior¡¯s path, which we both follow, loyalty is expressed only in terms of demanding the best of ourselves. That best, for us, entails total examination of whatever we do. Following don Juan¡¯s teachings, I have applied the warrior¡¯s premise of ruthless examination to Florinda Donner¡¯s work. I find that for me there are three different levels, three distinct spheres, of appreciation in it. The first is the rich detail of her descriptions and narrative. . . . . The minutiae of daily life, which is commonplace in the cultural setting of the characters she describes, is something thoroughly unknown to us. The second has to do with art. . . . . The third is the honesty, simplicity, and directness of the work. . . . . I can¡¯t help having a warrior¡¯s sense of admiration and respect for Florinda Donner, who in solitude and against terrifying odds has maintained her equanimity, has remained faithful to the warrior¡¯s path, and has followed don Juan¡¯s teachings to the letter."]

Florinda explains in her author¡¯s note that, "In the midseventies, I made a trip to [the northeastern Venezuelan state of] Miranda. Being at that time an anthropology student interested in healing practices, I worked with a woman healer. To honor her request for anonymity, I have given her the name Mercedes Peralta, and I have called her town Curmina." Florinda further claims she recorded everything about her dealings with and observations of Peralta in a field diary, and that this book "consists of portions of my field diary and the stories of those patients who were selected by Mercedes Peralta herself. The parts taken from my field diary are written in the first person. I have, however, rendered the patient¡¯s stories into the third person. This is the only liberty I have taken with the material, other than changing the names and the personal data of the characters of the stories."

Chapter 1 summarizes Florinda¡¯s exposure to don Juan and "nagualism." She explains: "Naguals take off the mask that makes us see ourselves and the world we live in as ordinary, lusterless, predictable, and repetitious and put on the second mask, the one that helps us see ourselves¡ªand our surroundings¡ªfor what we really are¡ªbreathtaking events that bloom into transitory existence once and are never to be repeated again." (Paperback edition, p. 4.) She explains that this book "is not a story about that nagual . . . It is not my task to write about him or even to name him. There are others in his group who do that." Id. She then relates that this nagual "took me to Mexico to meet a strange, striking woman," Florinda Matus, and that this story is "of one of the many things she made me do." [This is different from what she later says happened in Being-in-Dreaming, where she writes that she met the Nagual and Florinda on the same day, and interacted with them together. According to her account there, she was taken down to meet both of those people by another woman, Delia Flores.] The rest of this chapter and the next relate Florinda Donner¡¯s attempts to get Old Florinda to give her greater specificity regarding the following suggested task: "You don¡¯t have to follow it, but if you do, you should go alone to the place where you were born. . . . . Go there and take your chances, whatever they may be." (Page 6.)

In Chapter 2, Florinda claims, "Years later, following Florinda¡¯s suggestions, I finally went to Venezuela, the country of my birth." (Page 8.) She further claims that Old Florinda had admonished her not to "seek counsel from anyone around me during the trip. Knowing that I was in college, she strongly advised me not to use the trappings of academic life while in the field. I should not ask for a grant, have academic supervisors . . . ." Florinda states that her arranging to go to Venezuela on an informal visit followed the original suggestion "[y]ears later." On the very same page, however, she claims "[Old] Florinda praised me for my speed and thoroughness." 

During the course of Florinda¡¯s increasingly desperate attempts to get more guidance on the details of her "task" from Old Florinda, Old Florinda remonstrates her confusingly, "I¡¯m not your teacher; I¡¯m not your mentor; I¡¯m not responsible for you. . . . . I took you under my wing because you have a natural ability to see things as they are . . . ." (Pages 12-13.) Having been stood up by Old Florinda at the airport, where Old Florinda had promised to give her more "specific detailed information" on what she should do on her trip, Florinda finds a note from Old Florinda when she ultimately unpacks her suitcase that "instructs" her more "specifically": "Your plans should be as follows. Pick anything and call that the beginning. Then go and face the beginning. Once you are face to face with the beginning, let it take you wherever it may. . . . . Be realistic and frugal, so as to select wisely. Do it now! P.S.: Anything would do for a start." (p. 14.)

In her Caracas hotel room, Florinda claims "I came to experience first hand the solitariness Florinda had talked about. . . . . I even thought of taking the plane back to Los Angeles. My parents were not in Venezuela at the time, and I had been unable to contact my brothers by telephone." An ex-Jesuit priest at a party she happens to be invited to urges her to go to the town of "Curmina," and specifically to look up "Mercedes Peralta" there, telling her, "I don¡¯t know how I know it, but I know you¡¯re dying to be with the witches of Curmina." p. 16.

Florinda explains: "Under [Old] Florinda¡¯s guidance, I had met and worked with spiritualists, sorcerers, witches, and healers in northern Mexico and among the Latino population of southern California." She relates Old Florinda¡¯s classification of such people as either spiritualists, sorcerers and witches, or healers, or a combination of all three. She claims, "[Old] Florinda was convinced that a person who successfully restored health, whether a doctor or a folk healer, was someone who could alter the body¡¯s fundamental feelings about itself and its link with the world¡ªthat is, someone who offered the body, as well as the mind, new possibilities so that the habitual mold to which body and mind had learned to conform could be systematically broken down. Other dimensions of awareness would then become accessible, and the commonsense expectations of disease and health could become transformed as new bodily meanings became crystallized." p. 17. Florinda tracks down Peralta in "Curmina," and easily succeeds in getting her to take her in, and to let her document her healing methods. When Florinda responds to Peralta¡¯s invitation to stay with her by telling her she had "planned to stay at least six months in the area," Peralta tells her that as far as she was concerned, "I could stay for years." p. 22.

As Florinda gets to know Peralta, Peralta lets her in on a secret: "I am a medium, a witch, and a healer. Of the three, I like the second because witches have a particular way of understanding the mysteries of fate." p. 45. Later, regarding family attachments, Candelaria, an associate of Peralta¡¯s, tells Florinda "witches have very little attachment to parents or children. Yet, they love them with all their might but only when they are facing them, never when they turn their backs." p. 71. She is also told that "When a witch intervenes [in someone¡¯s fate], we say it¡¯s the witch¡¯s shadow that turns the wheel of chance . . . ." p. 79. Florinda is also told that the "dedication" or "determination" to wish something "without a single doubt . . . is what witches call a witch¡¯s shadow." p. 94. Florinda notes that Old Florinda would have explained this in terms of "intent: a universal, abstract force responsible for molding everything in the world we live in" that, "under special circumstances . . . allows itself to be manipulated." p. 127. Most of the book is then devoted to relating the haunting stories Peralta introduces her to, as "concrete examples of ways of manipulating something nameless." Peralta supposedly called the "act of manipulating it . . . a witch¡¯s shadow," and the "result of that manipulation she called a link, a continuity, a turn of the wheel of chance." p. 128. [Interestingly, in view of the disdain don Juan and Castaneda seemingly had for "love" and personal attachment, a number of these stories involve passionate attachments and overpowering, if not mystical, tales of love.]

Florinda is told about a type of witch, "curiosas," that sound a lot like don Juan¡¯s purported associates: "[C]uriosas were witches who were no longer concerned with the obvious aspects of sorcery: symbolic paraphernalia, rituals, and incantations. ¡®Curiosas," she whispered, "are beings preoccupied with things of the eternal. They are like spiders, spinning fine, invisible threads between the known and the unknown." (p. 199.)

A male clairvoyant friend of Peralta¡¯s explains, "Clairvoyants have glimpses of things they don¡¯t understand and then make up the rest." (p. 210.) This same gentleman starts to sound a lot like don Juan when he tells Florinda, "A sorcerer chooses to be different from what he was raised to be . . . . He has to understand that witchcraft is a lifelong task. A sorcerer, through witchcraft, weaves patterns like webs. Patterns that transmit invoked powers to some superior mystery. Human actions have an endless, spreading network of results; he accepts and reinterprets these results in a magical way. . . . . A sorcerer¡¯s hold on reality is absolute. His grip is so powerful, he can bend reality every which way in the service of his art. But he never forgets what reality is or was." (p. 216.)

The story of a man who kills his wife and child, and ends up devoting himself to his love of the sea leads to the explanation: "We can make our own link with one single act. It doesn¡¯t have to be as violent and desperate as Benito Santos¡¯ act, but it has to be as final. If that act is followed by a desire of tremendous strength, sometimes, like Benito Santos, we can be placed outside of morality." (p. 160.)

At the end of the book, Florinda returns to Los Angeles, "and then I went to Mexico to face [Old] Florinda." (p. 303.) Old Florinda urges her to see if she can use her "numerous tapes to write my dissertation." Florinda thinks she has intellectually mastered Peralta¡¯s system of interpretation and the way healers see themselves, but "after transcribing, translating, and analyzing my tapes and notes, I began to doubt my intellectual mastery of healing." (p. 304.) She finds that her notes "were ridden with inconsistencies and contradictions, and my knowledge of healing could not fill in the gaps." Id. So, "[Old] Florinda then made a cynical suggestion: either alter the data to fit my theories or forget about the dissertation altogether; I forgot about the dissertation." Id. But Florinda notes that, "[Old] Florinda has always urged that I look beneath the surface of things." Following that advice with respect to her experiences with Peralta, Florinda realizes she is left "with a document about human values . . . that witches, or even ordinary people, are capable of using extraordinary forces that exist in the universe to alter the course of events, or the course of their lives, or the lives of other people." She summarizes that Peralta referred to the course of events as "the wheel of chance" [remarkably similar in concept and terminology to what Castaneda, toward the end of his workshop and literary career, referred to as "the wheel of time"], and the process of affecting it as "the witch¡¯s shadow." Id.]

[Late Fall [?] 1985 -- Carol is supposedly reunited with Castaneda at a lecture at Phoenix Bookstore in Santa Monica. (See description from Bruce Wagner¡¯s March 1994 Details Magazine piece.)]

1985 or 86? - Kylie Lundahl purportedly nurses Florinda at an art gallery in Oslo, Norway (where Kylie was allegedly from), when Florinda vomits "after eating too many French chocolates on the plane." A year later, Kylie supposedly follows Florinda to Los Angeles, showing up at their agent¡¯s office. [From Florinda¡¯s lecture at Omega.] [Kylie¡¯s change of name in 1989 lists her birthplace as Webster City, Iowa. Her October 30, 1997, declaration in Castaneda¡¯s suit against Victor Sanchez states that she has "been working with Carlos Castaneda since 1986," that she was employed in 1994 by Toltec Artists, and that Castaneda put her in charge of "copyright surveillance" in 1993.]

1988 - Carmina Fort meets several times with Castaneda and Florinda Donner (per Carmina Fort¡¯s Conversationes con Carlos Castaneda published in 1991 in Madrid).

[July 30, 1988 - Tracy Kramer, Castaneda's agent, marries Katherine McCubbney Palmer-Collins - Cert. #1988 0 22519.]

[January 30, 1990 - Tracy Kramer files for divorce against Katherine Ann Kramer. Final judgment was filed Aug. 16, 1990. D 261187.]

[1990 ¨C A revised edition of De Mille¡¯s The Don Juan Papers: Further Castaneda Controversies is published. In a footnote, de Mille notes Castaneda¡¯s blurb praising Florinda¡¯s Shabono, and Rebecca B. De Holmes¡¯s critique of the book as probable plagiarism. He also notes that Castaneda and Florinda had the same literary agents and, in 1972, had been fellow graduate students in the UCLA Dept. of Anthropology, "where Donner¡¯s 1976 doctoral committee would include professors Price-Williams, Edgerton, and Langness."]

Go to Florinda Donner-Grau Chronology part IV