Richard deMille

deMille, Richard. Castaneda's Journey. Capra Press (1976).
Book Summary by Sandy McIntosh

Chapter Outlines

  1. The Day of the Coyote
  2. DeMille tells us that his approach to Castaneda's work will be neither to attack it nor side with it, where one approach excludes the other. Rather, "This is a deep, multifaceted subject, having both comic and sober sides. Like the dreamer and the dreamed, I expect to be on all sides at once." The chief reason for his approach is that "…I learned that Castaneda was kicking some very big true ideas around: There is more than one kind of reality. There is magic that is not illusion. The world is what comes of what can be. The world we know is something we are doing? Wow! I thought. This young UCLA anthropologist is plugged into the right channel." However, deMille sees the problem: "?[Castaneda] has a very noisy receiver. Along with the good stuff, it keeps giving out interference like: Woman is the scariest thing on earth. Nothing really matters. Nobody can be happy. Nobody can get close to anybody. You can love the world but not the people in it? What a mess!" Although deMille has heard rumors about Castaneda that glorify or condemn him, he is only troubled by one thing: "?people try very hard to make sense out of random signals. Often they succeed, but the sense is theirs, it's not in the signals. Castaneda's outpourings are not random, but they are sufficiently and artfully disordered to make the reader work hard pulling the whole thing together into a coherent picture. That's what novelists do, of course. They drop you right into the middle of the fun house and let you try to find your way out." DeMille looks for evidence in the text of Castaneda's books that betray their veracity. His nephew asserts that he can show where Castaneda has made blatant logical errors, such as putting himself in two locations at once without the benefit of magic. However, deMille finds nothing so obvious. "One man I talked to had spent a week with Castaneda. 'If you could sum up your impression of him in a word,? I said, 'what would it be?' 'Egnimatic [sic],' he said?'The story he tells. I couldn't get things straightened out.' 'The chronology?' I said. 'That's it,' he answered? Castaneda's time track is like a ball of string. The reader gets utterly confused about what-happened-when." DeMille then states his intention for the book: "We're going to straighten that string out ?till it twangs like a spirit-catcher."

  3. Carlos and Castaneda
  4. DeMille begins by drawing a line between Carlos and Castaneda, "[to] separate the seeds from the stems without throwing anything away?" He contends, and brings evidence to back his contentions that Castaneda had begun to obfuscate the facts of his past long before reportedly meeting don Juan. DeMille relates both a chronology that can be verified and a chronology based on statements Castaneda reportedly made over the years. "Sometimes, Margaret [Castaneda] says, Castaneda told her things about Carlos that probably weren't true, like his marriage to a gypsy girl, which may have been trumped up to make her jealous, or his U.S. Army wartime service in Spain. Margaret wondered just which war that could have been."

  5. Fact or Fiction
  6. "It makes no difference," deMille quotes Joseph Margolis, "whether the books are a record of an actual encounter or Castaneda is the author of a clever fiction." That is, he allows Margolis to clarify, it makes no difference to the truth of don Juan's philosophy, or to the books' power to entertain or inspire. However, he cautions, it is not possible to judge the value of Castaneda's work in terms of what Castaneda says it is "?without forming a definite opinion about whether his tale is true or false, in the ordinary sense of those terms. Never mind whether Carlos 'really flew.' What I want to know is, whom did Castaneda meet in the Nogales bus station? Where have the Spanish field notes been deposited? When can we listen to the tape recording of the conversation that took place in Lucio's house on the night of 4 September 1968?" Until now [1976], deMille suggests, no comprehensive assessment of Castaneda's work has been attempted. To date, criticisms launched against Castaneda by professional anthropologists and other scholars amount to vague dissatisfactions and suspicions. However, "[all] the evidence ever needed to prove a case of big-time fictioneering can be found in Castaneda's first three books. The secret is to make a chronological list of the events. After that, the case proves itself." DeMille outlines the chronologies he will later give us (see below). While Castaneda's first book seems to be a straight-ahead record, his second begins to confuse things. This book marks the appearance of 'la Catalina,' "the only significant woman walking, hopping, or sailing through the books?While the reader was delighted with 'la Catalina,' he couldn't help wondering just where she had gotten on the bus. In contrast with [Castaneda's] careful dating of every bag of groceries and evacuation in the chaparral, the lady blackbird flew into the story on no particular day. A long time before the recollection surely, but even the year was hard to figure out. Too hard for anybody but a puzzle addict?By the time we got to Journey to Ixtlan, however, we gave up trying to keep track of things. Castaneda had split that book into two parts, with a ten-year gap between them, and had started out by announcing that dull-witted Carlos had missed the whole point of his first two years in the desert, so now we had to go back and start the story over again." DeMille will show that "…the entire structure, the integral time frame, the action and progression of the third book conflicts with that of the first two. There is no way to get from the pair to the single, or back. 'Carlos-One and Carlos-Two' displays my finding that two different Carloses live in these books." (See also Episode of the Two Lizards, an excerpt from this chapter.)

  7. What Happened at UCLA?
  8. In its cover story on Castaneda Time magazine said, "Castaneda, as one professor put it, is 'a native genius,' for whom the usual red tape and bureaucratic rigmarole were waived; his truth as a witness is not in question." Castaneda received his Ph.D. for a dissertation entitled "Sorcery: A Description of the World" that, with some significant changes, is essentially the text of Journey to Ixtlan. While The Teachings?/i>with its scholarly second half would seem to have been a document more likely to please an academic doctoral committee, "Sorcery?quot; is so relaxed in structure that it does not even have the notation of dates on which events occurred that its published counterpart has. By this time, the analysis that concludes The Teachings?/i> had already received negative criticism from professional anthropologists because of its inadequacies as an academic effort. (DeMille suggests that, in fact, Castaneda meant it as mockery, a spoof of academic practices that he considered beneath contempt.) Did his committee have access to field notes, tape recordings or other things that could document Castaneda's fieldwork? In Castaneda's notes on his dissertation deMille finds that Castaneda stated that such documentary evidence was not available. "I was not allowed to tape record my interviews." Still, one would expect to see in any dissertation an "…appended academic analysis, [a] reference list, …archival deposits, [a] referee's testimony?" --none of which are to be found. So, why then, asks deMille, in the absence of the most rudimentary supporting documentation, did UCLA award Castaneda his doctorate? DeMille contacts the member's of Castaneda's doctoral committee, but few of their answers satisfied him. "When I asked one member of Castaneda's doctoral committee whether he had revised his estimate of how factual the fieldwork was, he replied: 'I refer all questions about Carlos Castaneda to Carlos Castaneda. The validity of his work is not determined by second-hand information nor taking a vote on it.' But the committee had voted affirmatively on the validity of the information that came to them second-hand from Castaneda. I was only asking if anyone had changed his vote in the meantime." DeMille answers his questions with theories, since he cannot get any factual evidence. The publication of Castaneda's first book, by its unexpected popularity and exposure, deMille theorizes, proved to be an embarrassment to its publisher, the UCLA Trustees, because of the respected academic critics who questioned Castaneda's methodology and essential truthfulness. However, the Trustees could not dismiss Castaneda because they lacked definite proof of his mendacity, and also because they did not want to publicly admit their mistake in publishing his book. They decided, instead, to award him his doctorate as quietly as possible and then, rather than appointing him to a full-time teaching position, "white-ball" him--that is, give him his degree but deny him the full-time teaching post he desired. In this way, they would remove the subject of their embarrassment from campus, letting time itself erase the academic world's memory of their blunder.

  9. A Man of Novels
  10. In the popular media, Castaneda's books have always been appreciated using the vocabulary normally employed when describing works of fiction, although Castaneda has not always been praised for his style. Novelist Joyce Carol Oates "compared his story-telling unfavorably with that of Jorge Luis Borges and doubted (for the moment) she would read a third. Time, in contrast found don Juan's world 'as thoroughly articulated as?Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County.' Ridiculous! retorted novelist William Kennedy; when he gets down to concrete details, Castaneda is as clumsy as a brick mason touching up the gold leaf on the Taj Mahal; his fluid but gawky dialogue can be tolerated only if you don't think it is supposed to be realistic; his descriptions of ordinary activities are thin and repetitious; wading though his silly prose you grow to like him not for his literary skill but for his intense commitment and mountainous labor." However, writers of fantasy, such as C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald or Charles Williams, though being "…repelled by Castaneda's impersonal and loveless nagual?quot; would feel instantly at home "…among the actors in his tale--the naïve, persistent seeker, the well-meaning common folk blind to supernatural signs, the good and evil wizards and witches, the familiar spirits, and the benevolent talking animals. Those three great religious fantasists would have rejoiced in Carlos's longing for illumination and his tireless search for transcendental reality. They would, in Christian charity, have hailed him as a lost sheep bleating to be rescued from ancient and modern heresies and from self-imposed spiritual exile."

    DeMille argues that Castaneda's books cannot help being appreciated as fiction because their situations cannot exist outside of the fiction narrative. Castaneda himself gives a hint of their origins: "'I dream my books,' Castaneda told Gwyneth Cravens. 'In the afternoon I go through the notebooks with all my field notes in them and translate them into English. Then I sleep in the early evening and dream what I want to write. When I wake up, I can work all night. Everything has arranged itself smoothly in my head, and I don't need to rewrite. My regular writing is actually very dry and labored.'" Castaneda gives a further hint to what underlies his actions: "'Writing to get my Ph.D. was…my sorcery,' Castaneda told Sandra Burton." "'Your notebook is the only sorcery you have,' don Juan said to Carlos. 'You started on the path of knowledge writing, and you will finish the same way.'" DeMille asserts that Castaneda "is a writer--one who cares little for style but much for content, a story-teller who tricks us into learning, a fantasist on a pedagogical mission, a mythmaker who has made himself a myth."

  11. Trickster Teacher
  12. DeMille retells some stories from the Trickster myth. Trickster, who can appear in many guises, plays tricks on people. Some of his tricks are funny, others are mean, while some are also helpful. Don Juan believes that Carlos and Trickster are akin: "Coyotes are not reliable. They are tricksters? I would never trust a coyote. But you are different and you may even become a coyote sorcerer." "Trickster is metamorphic, appearing in countless guises. Castaneda comes on as Carlos-Ethnographer, Carlos-One, Carlos-Two, Carlos-Apprentice, Carlos-Skeptic?Trickster is ageless, a boyish or childish Old Man. Castaneda…enjoys a movable birthdate? Both talk to, kill, eat, and may become, animals. Both have fragmented selves. Trickster's penis swims off to molest the chief's daughter?Both are shaped by public opinion. Indians make Trickster a fool by calling him one. Carlos and Castaneda erase personal history so that other people's expectations will not form their characters or direct their acts." Castaneda's ability as Trickster accounts for the many times that colleagues or others in the academic world have lent credence to his works. For example, Michael Harner, who had been studying the uses of Datura remembered in 1968 that he had queried Castaneda about the use of that drug and that Castaneda's response to his question had contributed to the understanding of that drug's use among the Yaquis. However, DeMille finds that Harner's memory must be mistaken. "If Harner queried Castaneda in or before 1963 [as he suggests he did], why did an eager, repetitious questioner like Carlos-Apprentice not once link Datura to Yaquis, Datura to flying, or Yaquis to flying before he flew, though don Juan himself had dropped a few hints about flying? My guess is that neither Carlos nor Castaneda had heard the Datura query because it didn't exist until Harner mythopoetically 'remembered' it around 1968 or later." Edward Spicer, another anthropologist and a specialist in Yaqui culture states: "I know of no information or reference concerning Yaquis using Datura."

    Replica Watches  Replica Watches

    "Through the dust of collapsing confidence we spy an impish stocky man wearing a naughty wolfish head, and we know at once it is he, Trickster-Academe, the Rogue who Teaches. Well pleased with himself, Coyote Ph.D. is going on his way now, leaving us to pick up the pieces?Under the world where Earthmaker lives there is another world just like it and of this world he, Trickster, is in charge."

  13. The Teachings of Don Juan
  14. "The central proposition in the teachings of don Juan," deMille says, "is the distinction between tonal and nagual--Aztec words?" DeMille argues that the philosophical confusion between and among the first four books is evidence that Castaneda is developing a philosophy for don Juan on the fly. "Don Juan's discourse on the totality of the self is not as clear as his diagram [of the eight points of man's totality], a difference that may betray the Man of Novels getting ready for a fifth, clarifying book, or Castaneda-Learner not quite having mastered the concepts he is working with. I suspect it is the latter. In spite of some fuzziness, however, the bubble of perception is a vivid metaphor persuading the reader to open his mind to what may be, whatever it may be? Often don Juan tells Carlos to stop his internal dialogue, so that the ordinary world will stop and another reality can present itself. This formula combines yoga and linguistics? The [Edward] Sapir-[Benjamin Lee] Whorf hypothesis suggests 'that all one's life one has been tricked, all unaware, by the structure of language into a certain way of perceiving reality, with the implication that awareness of this trickery will enable one to see the world with fresh insight.' Susanne Langer said the experiential world would collapse if language failed. Don Juan puts more emphasis on this technique than I think it deserves, since meditative inner silence is only the first of many steps, and since the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis unduly stresses the influence of language on perception." However, "[to] me the most interesting metaphysical question is: Where did all this come from? ?[When] you say the world comes out of an unspeakable void filled with potentiality you have not exactly told anybody how to get to the men's room. An answer like that is an ultimate question in disguise. When Castaneda made that question live in the minds of a million readers he earned our consideration as a Culture Hero despite all his tricks."

  15. The Power and the Allegory
  16. DeMille quotes Castaneda: "At the time I met don Juan I had very little personal power…my back was against the wall." Castaneda came from Cajamarca, Peru, a town in an obscure part of a country that had been, for the previous 500 years, ruled, pillaged and otherwise dominated by the Incas (who "superimposed their heavenly gods on ancient Peruvian shamanism") and by the Spanish under Pizarro. "In a land that reeked of power, ancient and modern, sacred and secular, young Arana had little of his own. The fountain of supernatural power for a person of his class would have been the Church, and the Castaneda we know today might have made an outstanding monsignor had not young Arana rejected everything Catholic save the untypical San Juan de la Cruz, who died imprisoned and accused of heresy? Castaneda recalled Carlos's childhood as an eternity of helplessness, a desert of loneliness, a jungle of fear, a trial of pain. Summers without the busyness of school were hot and suffocating. Boredom occasionally erupted into anger. Carlos was a violent fellow, don Juan would say, capable of frothing at the mouth, but we may imagine Carlitos dared not show his temper in father Arana's house any more than in the house of his Heavenly Father? At school he couldn't help picking on pesky little Joaquin and eventually broke his collarbone. Feelings of guilt were so strong that Carlos swore 'not ever to win again.'" DeMille theorizes that lifelong feelings of guilt, frustration (according to Margaret Castaneda, Castaneda was always ready to plot a revolution for the poor people of Peru), and an inability to sustain a loving adult relationship with anyone, male or female, for more than a short while, Castaneda invented don Juan. "Living a fantasy of mysterious danger, the perfect companion always by one's side--there is a cure for boredom and depression. If no one else can be trusted, it may be the only cure." As Castaneda's success as an author grew, so did his confidence in his personal power, "…but like magus Matus he consistently wielded a baton of mystery, evoking wonder from his listeners. The power of his hidden agenda was always felt. Leaders of secret causes fascinate their followers in the same way. They do not tell the whole plan, but everyone knows where the plan will come from when the moment of truth is at hand. Castaneda had not only a plan but a separate world."

    DeMille sees Castaneda as a survivor "[playing] various roles in life as well as in books." He adapts his performance to the needs of time and place. "His performance as colorless pedant qualified him as a sober, trustworthy student at the University. More important, if he had little or no imagination, he could hardly have invented don Juan." However, his real power lies in his ability to spin an allegory. "Describing one thing under the guise of another, philosophy as anthropology, separate as boss reality, daydreams as facts, he appeals to the reader's hunger for myth, magic, ancient wisdom, noble savages, true reality, self-improvement, other worlds, or imaginary playmates." But do his tales really have power? DeMille answers yes, they do. "Sometimes belief or intention makes things happen in the ordinary world without psychosomatic or other mechanical mediation. The separate reality merges with the boss reality." And though his stories of don Juan may have arisen from fiction, they are not lies, because they are "more real to him than the paper on which [they are] printed? When eventually recognized as other-saying, Castaneda's allegory still retains its power. Our commitment to his reality charges it with life. Sorcery turns out to have a social context after all."

  17. Journey to Caxamalca

DeMille develops his thesis that Castaneda created don Juan and his world both as a frame on which to build his allegory and as a means to mask his difficulties with intimate adult relationships. Consciously or unconsciously, deMille theorizes, Castaneda feels a strong kinship with the Catholic St. John of the Cross. Castaneda uses lines from a poem of this saint as the frontpiece for Tales of Power, but he attributes them to "'San Juan de la Cruz,' who many non-Catholic readers no doubt thought was another modern poet like Cesar Vallejo or Juan Ramon Jimenez." Significantly, Castaneda mistranslates the poem, changing words and phrases that affect the meaning. As St. John wrote it (and explained carefully and at length in his commentaries) it is a poem describing the love for God that a good Christian soul must vow; in Castaneda's mistranslation, it is a peon to the solitude, coldness and discipline of the Warrior's Way. "Some of San Juan's propositions fit into don Juan's teachings without change. Both teachers deprecate specific visions, which can mislead or distract the seeker, prescribing formless union instead, San Juan the oblivious union of the soul with her Husband [Christ], don Juan the sorcerer's metaphoric leap into the void." DeMille suggests that the name of the first woman to have appeared in don Juan's world was taken from San Juan's life history: la Catalina. DeMille contends that in Castaneda's fictional relationships with la Catalina, Pablito's sister, and others mirror the relationships Castaneda has had with the real women in his life. Women are dangerous; they will take you spinning into strange worlds; they will attack you. "Castaneda told [his] Irvine students he had never heard of a woman apprentice--'Maybe it's because sorcerers are chauvinistic male pigs'?He told funny stories in New York about [his] failures with women? He showed up with a bunch of girlie magazines in his hand, [although] he could've got laid easy at the party, Warren Farley rued, he just wasn't trying." "Castaneda travels the ordinary reality alone, but he travels the separate reality with his comrades by his side. Their love may not be truly human, but it is better than no love at all. Like the loneliness of a child whose playmates are imagined, a warrior's loneliness is real but not complete? New public companions are needed now for the separate reality, but the Sonora Spoofers will be a hard act to follow. What will happen to Carlos next? Various possibilities loom: Carlos influencing the dreams of UCLA volunteers, one of whom turns out to be a witch. Carlos-Sorcerer, arrived at last, instructing his own apprentice in the mountains of Malibu, or on Wilshire Boulevard in a building ornamented by a sculptured goddess. Carlos retracing the footsteps of Margaret Mead. Carlos in primal therapy. Castaneda writing his autobiography, telling it like it was--names dates, places, facts, history restored? Don Juan said the best work in Carlos's life would be done towards the end of the day."


Carlos-One and Carlos-Two
Go to the Blackbird
The Chicken or the Huevo

"Logical or chronological errors in the narrative constitute the best evidence that Castaneda's books are works of fiction. If no one has discovered these errors before, the reason must be that no one has listed the events of the first three books in sequence. Once that has been done, the errors are unmistakable."

Includes: Tables illustrating the sequence of drug experiments, sequences of non-drug nonordinary events, bilingual entries in The Teachings of Don Juan, and a comparison of Tovar's translation of the books from English to Spanish (these last language-related tables try to determine whether Castaneda's interview's with don Juan were actually conducted in Spanish.)

Detailed chronologies supporting the assertions made in the text.



Three Notes on the Summary of Castaneda's Journey

1.Richard deMille's writing style can be called "witty." It is that, but it is also wildly sarcastic, sometimes irritatingly so. When I first read the book in the year it was published I found to my relief that I could dismiss its message because of what I took to be his condescending attitude to "Carlitos," as he called him too often. This style was also picked up a year or so later by the poet, men's movement figure, and literary axe man, Robert Bly in his New York Times blast at The Second Ring of Power. Reading the book now, however, I can see the value of this off-putting technique. His mocking names for Castaneda & Co. are descriptive of the points he is raising, and they help keep the reader awake while he meticulously sifts through the first thousand pages of Castaneda's output.

2. I found one chapter of the book especially difficult to summarize. Chapter 7: "The Teachings of Don Juan" analyzes don Juan's cosmology as presented in the first four books. You'd think that this would be a piece of cake, summarizing-wise, but it wasn't. I discovered that the version of don Juan that deMille was using was (to put it in software terms) something approximating version1.1. In 1999, with The Active Side of Infinity, we've graduated to version 5.0, or better, which makes all previous versions obsolete. I hadn't realized how much don Juan's view of the All had evolved during the years since he left the world.

3. Early in his book, deMille writes "My contribution to understanding Castaneda will be a sorceredelic trip up the long road.... It will be a rough ride for believers, not because I want it that way but because the road is full of holes." I can't agree with him here: it will not be a rough ride for believers because believers, no matter what is said, won't take the ride. I know this from my experience in a Buddhist sect that became and is still, virtually, a cult. The way it works is, those who finally open their eyes do so in their own time and place, and you can't expect them to do it while you wait, and especially, while you watch. This was true for me, and true for my companions who eventually came around. For these many years de Mille's book has been on my bookshelf, and now, only when I'm prepared to listen to it, have I allowed it to find a voice.

Copyright ?1999, Sandy McIntosh