Ouspensky's classic In Search of the Miraculous, reporting on Gurdjieff's private teachings
Celibacy: Comparing Castaneda and
by Corey Donovan
I would hope that none of us begrudge Castaneda having a sex life. I imagine, in fact, that most of us simply marvel at the ability of a seventy-something male to carry on the extremely active and promiscuous sex life that has come to light in recent months. There seems to have been a lot of ironic humor, too, on Castaneda's part, in the way he dealt with his sexual relationships within his inner circle. For example, having adopted his longtime lover--Nury Alexander--as his daughter a few years before his death, Castaneda seemed to take delight in shocking newcomers to his circle with the fact that he had a sexual relationship with the person they first got to know as "Castaneda's daughter."
Further "cognitive dissonance" comes into play when one recalls the many times Castaneda insisted in public settings that he was celibate, that he did not have time or energy to waste on sex, and, particularly, his tendency to criticize other "gurus" and teachers for not living by their own teachings. One is reminded, for example, of Castaneda's frequent condemnation of Alan Watts as someone who wrote about how to live a spiritual life, but whose sexual life was, at least in Castaneda's mind, contrary to those principles.
One way to reconcile Castaneda's public pronouncements about celibacy and his own sex life is as follows. Celibacy may be the stage that most of us must go through at some point in eliminating our prior sexual conditioning and in freeing ourselves in order to begin to use our sexuality in ways that can help generate energy and spark certain kinds of expanded awareness.
Castaneda did make reference to "non-bored fucks," i.e., those whose mothers were orgasmic at the time of their conception and who, as a result, were born with sufficient energy to have all the sex they wanted. Nonetheless, he insisted that most of us were "bored fucks," and that we should all proceed on the assumption that we had no energy to waste on sex. To my mind, Castaneda made this the basis of his "teachings" on sex because he did not trust his audience to give celibacy a try unless it was made virtually an absolute requirement for "seeing energy as it flows." (He certainly did not imagine we would be inspired to try celibacy if we knew how often he was having sex.) The problem with this is that Castaneda thereby created one of his many one-size-fits-all rules of sorcery, which, I think, flies in the face of the fact that there are a multitude of different energetic types among us.
This is one of many areas where I think Gurdjieff had the more sophisticated teaching, by emphasizing that what was appropriate for one type would not work for other types, and that before changing or adopting any particular behavior, one must first work to determine one's own particular makeup.
Gurdjieff commented on celibacy in particular in responding to a question about whether one needs to abstain from sex to form the "astral body" [in context, very similar to the concept of Castaneda's "energy body"] in Chapter 12 of Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous:
"'Here there is not one but a number of questions,' said G. 'In the first place sexual abstinence is necessary for transmutation [i.e., formation of the astral body] only in certain cases, that is, for certain types of people. For others it is not at all necessary. And with yet others it comes by itself when transmutation begins. I will explain this more clearly. For certain types a long and complete sexual abstinence is necessary for transmutation to begin; this means in other words that without a long and complete sexual abstinence transmutation will not begin. But once it has begun abstinence is no longer necessary. In other cases, that is, with other types, transmutation can begin in a normal sexual life -- and on the contrary, can begin sooner and proceed better with a very great outward expenditure of sex energy. In the third case the beginning of transmutation does not require abstinence, but, having begun, transmutation takes the whole of sexual energy and puts an end to normal sexual life or the outward expenditure of sex energy.'"
In the same chapter, Gurdjieff also notes:
"'[S]ex plays a tremendous role in maintaining the mechanicalness of life. Everything that people do is connected with "sex": politics, religion, art, the theater, music, is all "sex." Do you think people go to the theater or to church to pray or to see some new play? That is only for the sake of appearances. The principal thing in the theater as well as in church, is that there will be a lot of women or a lot of men. This is the center of gravity of all gatherings. What do you think brings people to cafes, to restaurants, to various fetes? One thing only. to various fetes? One thing only. Sex: it is the principal motive force of
Replica Watches Replica Watches
. . . . When sex is clearly conscious of itself and does not cover itself up by anything else it is not the mechanicalness about which I am speaking. On the contrary sex which exists by itself and is not dependent on anything else is already a great achievement. But the evil lies in this constant self-deception!'"
As I weave my way through the writings of Gurdjieff and those who knew him, I am constantly finding thoughtful explanations like this that make me feel that, in Castaneda's writings, either don Juan (if such a person existed) or Castaneda himself may have been a purveyor of "Gurdjieff lite."
Another factor in Castaneda's failure until close to the end to talk of his own sex life in a public setting (and then, to the Sunday group, only obliquely) was the basic prudishness with which young men of his social class were raised in the Latin America of the 20's and 30's. It was this same inhibition, in my view, that made him so appalled by men who dressed in shorts, or women who wore "revealing" outfits.
BTW I do think there is a lot more sexual activity hinted at in Castaneda and Florinda's books besides the seemingly constant episodes of exhibitionism they describe among the sorcerers of don Juan's party. Sexual energy is the most powerful energy we have, so if a band of sorcerers as audacious as that described in the books (or something like them) really existed, they must have worked with their sexuality in exploring other levels of awareness and energetic realities. The fact that Castaneda could not find a way to go beyond emphasizing celibacy in talking publicly about sex simply points up his limitations as a teacher.