Florinda Donner (click on picture for full-size image)

A Regine Thal/Florinda Donner-Grau Chronology

"[U]nder the premises of the warrior’s path . . . 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." (Carlos Castaneda, from his Foreword to Florinda Donner’s The Witches Dream.)

Summary and Introduction

As the following chronology establishes, Florinda Donner-Grau (originally Regine Margarita Thal) has told numerous contradictory--and, in many cases demonstrably false--stories about her supposed apprenticeship to "don Juan." In fact, Florinda Donner was married and living with her husband in Manhattan Beach until mid-1972, so it is nearly impossible to fit the few trips and long sequences with don Juan and the women of his party described in Florinda's book Being-in-Dreaming into Florinda's real-life chronology for the period of mid-1972 to 1973 (the year don Juan's party supposedly departed from the world), especially considering that she was then attending UCLA full time. Conveniently, however, Florinda never once referred to her husband of five-and-a-half years in anything she wrote or said publicly. (Conveniently too, her ex-, Edward M. Steiner, died only a little more than a year after their divorce, at the age of 44.)

The fact is, Florinda did not hold herself out as a "disciple of don Juan" until late 1992. Even in a February 1992 Dimensions article, after her 1991 book Being-in-Dreaming purported to describe her introduction to don Juan's party and experiences up to and immediately after don Juan's party "left," Florinda explained: "Actually I'm not an apprentice of Don Juan. I was an apprentice of Castaneda who was an apprentice of Don Juan. And I am one of the 'sisters' who were actually of the women of Florinda [Matus], and she gave me her name."

This not-so-subtle change in Florinda's apprentice status takes on greater significance when one looks at all the stories that Florinda related at workshops between 1993 and 1998. In those workshops, Florinda described major experiences she supposedly had with don Juan that are strangely omitted from her 1991 book, or which directly contradict statements made there (e.g., whereas at the workshops she described being instructed on passes by don Juan in sessions that included Carol and Taisha, and claimed to have gone out to dinner simultaneously with Carol, Taisha and don Juan, in her book she complains about not having met the other women "who had been entrusted to" Castaneda by don Juan prior to don Juan's departure).

Some of the stories later told at workshops that are in no way mentioned in Being-in-Dreaming (despite the fact that that book seems aimed at detailing all of Florinda's relatively few encounters with don Juan during the period covered by that book) include:

  Replica Watches  Replica Watches

  1. Twice being taken up into the hills by don Juan (with Taisha on hand for at least one of these times) to disrobe and experience the "wind";
  2. Don Juan's request that Florinda "find out about intent for him," and her returning months later after exhaustively researching the subject, only to have him ask her, "Why do you want to be a stupid cunt all your life?";
  3. Being told by don Juan not to use other people for help with her research in the Amazon (when she had earlier claimed in The Witches' Dream that this instruction was given to her by Old Florinda long after don Juan was gone);
  4. Don Juan showing her his penis after instructing Old Florinda to "show me her pussy";
  5. Don Juan telling her that she should never wear panties, and that female "discharges" are only the result of "the womb [being] ill because of not using its second function";
  6. Don Juan giving her the "not-doings" of not wearing clothes, wearing different shoes on each foot, and adorning her naked body with insects or vegetables;
  7. Don Juan telling her to cut her long beautiful hair (although she had earlier claimed at a different workshop that the short length was the result of having lice and getting totally shaved following her trip to the Amazon, long after don Juan was gone);
  8. Asking don Juan about the female entity that grabbed Castaneda's VW van when she was driving it (with Taisha as passenger) in L.A.; and
  9. "Going out socially with don Juan," and once explaining peevishly to don Juan why she had turned down going out for dinner with don Juan, Castaneda, Taisha, Carol and Old Florinda.

Meanwhile, Shabono, Florinda's 1982 account of living for a year (in 1976? 1977?) with Yanoámo Indians in the Amazon, not only filches details, terminology and whole scenes from a real account of a white woman's experience of living with those Indians that was published in 1971, but is also impossible to fit within Florinda's known and documented presence in Los Angeles during the mid-seventies (so much so that her former doctoral committee published a letter in 1983 stating that they were "puzzled" how a graduate student, who did not leave UCLA until the fall of 1977, would never have mentioned to any of her advisors such harrowing and exciting anthropological experiences, which she variously indicated to interviewers took place in 1975-1976 or 1976-1977). And the account in her 1985 book The Witches' Dream of many months--immediately before the year in the Amazon--supposedly spent with traditional curers in Venezuela is similarly contradictory of the known facts of Florinda's life in Los Angeles during that period.

Florinda's credibility further suffers from the many other claims she made during the course of workshops that can readily be proven false. For example, she claimed that "Tycho Thal," the so-called "Orange Scout" was her natural daughter (from a liason with "a huge, fat Indian from Oaxaca," through a process "very much directed by don Juan"). In reality, the younger "Ms. Thal" is actually the former Premajyoti Galvez y Fuentes, who only got involved with Castaneda and company in the early '90s, and who filed to change her name to Tycho Thal in September 1993. Florinda also claimed that the "Blue Scout" was Carol's daughter; that Florinda had first met Kylie in Norway (where Kylie was supposedly from), when Kylie was actually from the midwest; and, in introductions of the "non-group" group on a couple of occasions in 1997, that Reni was "finishing her law degree," Zaia "had" her Ph.D., and that "Dr. Miles Reid" was a "surgeon." [Please note: This list is far from exhaustive, and should not be read as confirming that any other claims Florinda made about these people or herself are true--only that limited research has so far not turned up anything either to substantiate or refute many of those claims. And while those who discount these various fabrications as mere "stalking" are certainly free to do so, please note how many of these false statements seem intended to aggrandize the people referred to, seemingly in an effort to heighten their credibility as people having real "sorceric" teachings to impart.]

As the following chronology further details, Florinda failed at every opportunity to be honest with journalists as to the fact that she had never received a Ph.D. from UCLA. Along with Taisha, she permitted photos of her both to be taken and published in martial arts magazines in 1974 and 1975, despite Castaneda and company's repeated claim that don Juan instructed his apprentices not to allow their pictures to be taken. She responded to a 1997 question about the whereabouts of Josefina and the other Little Sisters by claiming that they had "left" in 1985, whereas on a few occasions at workshops in 1993, Florinda had described at length the then-current occupations of the Genaros and Little Sisters, whom she claimed they still interacted with. Finally, there is the story of Old Florinda and don Genaro trashing Florinda's brand new sports car by sending it down a hill into a ravine, which Florinda told at four different workshops from 1996 to 1997.

That story usually ended with the claim that Florinda no longer drove (except to back the car out of the driveway, or around the block) because of Old Florinda's injunction against her driving (purportedly both because her fast driving was endangering her life, and distracting her from her sorceric tasks). In reality, in the years before Florinda claimed to be a "disciple of don Juan," she admitted in a 1983 interview with the Los Angeles Times that she no longer drove because she had "accumulated too many tickets and forfeited her license." Research documented in the chronologies also shows that her four-year-old sports car was identified as her separate property when Florinda's divorce became final in November 1972.

The chronology-- an ordering of the key events of Florinda’s life, as discernable from public records, her books, and statements made in interviews and at workshops-- further identifies all of the documents linking Florinda with Castaneda that have been unearthed to date, including her aborted petition to change her name to "Cristina Casablanca" (a name that Castaneda later urged another girlfriend to take) in the fall of 1972, and her being one of the incorporators of Hermeneutics Unlimited, along with Castaneda, Taisha, Beverly Evans and Joanie Barker, on September 5, 1974. Florinda's marriage to Castaneda in 1993 (under their respective legal names) is also documented, along with her marriage the following year (apparently without the benefit of an intervening divorce) to Castaneda's agent and one-time Tensegrity "Element" Tracy Kramer. The chronology concludes with Florinda's departure, along with Castaneda's other four closest women associates, upon his death in April 1998, and Cleargreen's subsequent repeated invocation of her name as one of the three "supervising" the current workshops, along with their purported, but highly unlikely, stories about instructors' prior encounters with Florinda related to their teaching of Tensegrity.

--Corey Donovan

Go to Florinda Donner-Grau Chronology part I