Early Book Inconsistencies
by Jeremy Donovan
About Castaneda and his early work. Some of this stuff will be obvious to many.
In his first book, Castaneda claimed that the first year don Juan knew him they were just friends who saw each other occasionally, and he makes it clear that don Juan had not let him in on his "knowledge" or started to teach him until he "finds his spot."
"I had known don Juan for a whole year before he took me into his confidence."
In the first book, he claimed his first real session with don Juan was in June 1961.
Of course, I have already detailed how, according to Margaret, the previous year Castaneda had written a paper for Meighan that contained a lot of the SAME information on Datura which later showed up in his first book as Datura sessions which supposedly happened later, 1961-1963.
He says he found his "spot" in late June 1961 and says: "that was the occasion when the teachings began."
But in Journey to Ixtlan, he changes that claim dramatically, saying that don Juan started teaching him from the moment they met, back in 1960. In fact, in his new description don Juan overtly acts like a mentor toward him right from the beginning. Indeed, the second time Castaneda went to his house, he alleges that at one point don Juan even forcefully commanded him to "change!"
The obvious point is that right from the very beginning, Castaneda is changing his story at every turn. And the implication is that you simply cannot trust a single word he says.
Where before Castaneda had acted like don Juan had just been a friend he saw upon occasion, for a year, until after he "found his spot," now, 12 years later, in Journey to Ixtlan, he is revealing that PRIOR to this event don Juan had supposedly taught him regarding MANY, MANY crucial subjects, including: agreements and omens, the spirit, erasing personal history (including outright commanding him to leave all his friends), losing self-importance, the right way of walking, not taking yourself too seriously, talking to plants (even insisting Castaneda do this), assuming responsibility for one's actions and decisions, treating the world as an endless mystery, using death as an advisor, actually seeing death to one's left, acting without regrets or remorse, having a gesture with another person, "spirit creatures," the idea of "power," and here's the best part:
Only about a month after Castaneda reports first going to don Juan's house, Castaneda claims don Juan demonstrated an amazing feat of seeing into Castaneda's past, telling him all about how he used to hunt the albino falcon. To me it is inconceivable that Castaneda would have left such a dramatic event completely out of his first two books. Indeed, he included another similar event in A Separate Reality (the promise to Joaquin the little boy he injured), but THAT feat of seeing supposedly happened SEVEN years later, in 1968.
In connection with this same incident, Castaneda also claims to have had the experience of don Juan engaging him in a "stare" that he was completely unable to break away from. That would also have been quite bizarre to say the least. So there were allegedly TWO quite remarkable things associated with this event, allegedly occurring a month after going to this don Juan fellow's house for the first time, yet Castaneda does not even mention it in his first two books. This seems terribly unlikely.
There is another scene which is incredible in Ixtlan, the scene about when Castaneda, not even on drugs or anything, see this whole phantasmagorial scene in the raging battle in the fog, including a magical bridge which "power" tries to force him to walk on, and in the morning the whole scene is gone, the surrounding landscape totally different than he imagined it. This is another very dramatic and amazing scene which, for some odd reason, he had left completely out of his first two books.
I can understand Castaneda leaving purely "philosophical topics" out of the first two books, but not outright magical experiences. Why would he do that? Why would he include things like don Juan lecturing a bunch of drunks, Genaro taking him through ten booms of the world, and stories of diableros going to the land of the dead, and yet NOT report direct "magical experiences"? It's hard to believe.
In Ixtlan, instead of it being a year before don Juan teaches him anything significant, after just a few months don Juan is even allegedly talking to him about seeing:
"Do you want to know what I did to you the first day we met? I saw you, and I saw that you thought you were lying to me."
Indeed all through the Ixtlan material (allegedly from the early 60's), "don Juan" refers to seeing, but seeing per se is not mentioned in the first book (covering the same time frame), and in A Separate Reality, Castaneda acts like he did not get any kind of detailed explanations of seeing until 1968 when he resumed his apprenticeship after a three year break. This is bizarre, because in several places in the Ixtlan material (again, supposedly occurring SEVEN years earlier), Castaneda has don Juan using the term seeing as if Castaneda already knows what it means. Castaneda does not even ask "don Juan" questions about seeing in the Ixtlan material, confirming that apparently he knows what it means. Yet in A Separate Reality (allegedly SEVEN years LATER), every time "don Juan" mentions the term, Castaneda seems curious about what the heck "don Juan" is talking about.
Very fishy, to say the least.
At first Castaneda claimed don Juan taught him from 1961-1965, sporadically, on school breaks and weekends. Then he quit for three years. Then Castaneda says don Juan taught him again from 1968-1973. If you add back in the first year Castaneda later goes back on, then that is a MAXIMUM of ten years during which he supposedly was taught by "don Juan."
I would like to point out that during all of those years, Castaneda was involved in his work at the university, mostly as a student, and sometimes even as a teacher. During the first half of those years he was struggling and poor, working part-time jobs. During the second half of those years, he published THREE books and must have been working on the fourth (Tales of Power, published in 1974), and he also had to interact frequently with agents, publishers, professors, his doctoral committee etc. In those latter years he also made all kinds of appearances as a known author/lecturer. Apparently, all this time he was also spending time seducing women, as was evidently his custom.
What I am driving at is ... in a TEN year period, max, first on a student's budget and schedule, largely on weekends and breaks (making big trips to Mexico all the time? -- I don't think so...), then later as a busy working author, student, teacher, lecturer, celebrity, etc. ... HOW oh HOW, did he ever find much time to SPEND with "don Juan" and his "lineage" or actually PRACTICE the teachings?? Castaneda keeps cramming his later books with all kinds of extra teachings, supposedly from never completely documented, never dated sessions with "don Juan" which are alleged to have transpired partly
in normal awareness and partly in "heightened awareness." But when you read accounts of his real life back then, it is anecdote after anecdote of interacting with people in one context or another, and girl friends keep popping up here and there. Thus, what I've begun to wonder about is ... WHEN could he really have done all that stuff with "don Juan"? Not only that but ... WHEN could he have done all of HIS Tensegrity, HIS recapitulation, all that warrior jazz??
When pressed, Castaneda claimed that in his books he had just recorded the exciting stuff, leaving out dull repetition, and a certain amount of just plain old everyday living type stuff which transpired around "don Juan." But ... again ... WHEN would all that have taken place?? When was there all that much time in his life to have interacted significantly with "don Juan" -- enough to fill book after book with just the best parts, leaving out the more ordinary living stuff? You guys remember how long it took them to teach us all that Tensegrity, teaching us EVERY Sunday for more than a year and a half?? So ... when did Castaneda ever have time to do anything like that, hmmmm?
It is much more likely that he made up a great deal of the "don Juan" stuff, perhaps having brief contacts with real shamans, and making lots of trips to the library for "supplemental" ideas, taking martial arts classes in LA after he became famous (I recall an early article claiming that Castaneda practiced karate). I still think it would be fantastic if we could somehow get a list of every book Castaneda and the witches ever checked out of the UCLA library. Such a list might make tracing the teachings of "don Juan" considerably easier.
In A Separate Reality, Castaneda has "don Juan" first describe the luminous egg of a man. But the description is really rather different than the "hard shell cocoon" version Castaneda would later give us as students. Here is the first account:
Fibers of Light. Fibers, like white cobwebs. Very fine threads that circulate from the head to the navel. Thus a man looks like an egg of circulating fibers. And his arms and legs are like luminous bristles, bursting out in all directions...
Is that the way everyone looks?
Besides, every man is in touch with everything else, not through his hands, though, but through a bunch of fibers that shoot out from the center of his abdomen. Those fibers join a man to his surroundings..."
Now we compare this account with his claimed incidents of "seeing" about 12 years later, in The Eagle's Gift:
(First he described seeing the women as "amorphous blobs of light" with "indentations" or "depressions" in certain places, and we later learn that he kicked "indentations" in their thighs of all places?? but we will discount that account...)
And recall, I have already described how Castaneda continually reports the luminous eggs always in the plural, as if he is seeing a GROUP of them (a thing he later claimed was impossible). Back to the account...
"the blobs of white light became oblong luminous eggs...," "Another thing that intrigued me was that I could not detect any legs...," "Their luminosity shook up and down almost imperceptibly...." "Many of those luminous eggs had black spots on them, huge spots below the midsection."
(He has "La Gorda" seeing filaments which turn inwards at the genitals of women which she calls "roots.")
So they see "roots" and "black spots," but ... NEITHER of them see long fibers coming out of the abdominal region. NEITHER of them see "fine threads of circulating fibers." NEITHER of them see "bristles for arms and legs," in fact, Castaneda even notes the complete nonexistence of legs, and continually speaks of the shapes as if they are smooth glowing eggs. Neither note anything which could be remotely construed as an "assemblage point," and the original accounts of "don Juan" do not either. NONE of don Juan's original accounts of luminous eggs mention an AP, and that would be ... very
strange, given its alleged vital importance later.
Next, we move on to The Fire From Within, published at least 4 years after the alleged "seeing" in The Eagle's Gift:
Here, Castaneda simply refers to us as having "cocoons," with hard "shells." And he has don Juan describe the assemblage point as a feature of our cocoons. He says when the AP moves by being pushed into the egg it creates a "dent" in our "shell." (So what the heck would it do if we dropped it down between our toes, then up to our navel, like Castaneda said we were going to? That oughta make quite a "dent." :-) )
Replica Watches Replica Watches
This is Castaneda's next account of seeing:
"That afternoon, I saw ten luminous beings in slow motion... There was a vertical band with a stronger amber glow on the right side of those egglike luminous creatures, perhaps one-tenth of the total volume of the cocoon ... man's band of awareness ... a dot with an intense shine ... high on the oblong shapes, almost on the crest of them, on the surface of the cocoon. ... When I saw each luminous creature in profile ... it's egglike shape was like ... an almost round pot that was resting on its side with its lid on. The part that looked like a lid was the front plate; it was perhaps one-fifth the thickness of the total cocoon."
Later Castaneda has don Juan saying:
"I've talked many times about a gap that man has below his navel ... in the cocoon, at the height of the navel. The gap is more like a dent, a natural flaw in the otherwise smooth cocoon."
So here again, is a different description. A bright dot on a vertical glowing amber band, instead of bright eggs with dull black spots. A thick front plate with a little dent below the abdomen, instead of circulating white cobwebs, with luminous fibers shooting out, connecting a man with his surroundings.
In ASR, don Juan makes a plain description of this abdominal phenomenon several
..".a set of long fibers that come out of the area around the navel.." And don Juan said those fibers are of "utmost importance in the life of a man."
In Tales of Power, Castaneda uses those "fibers" to jump to the bottom of a canyon.
But in latter year books (after 1974), it is never mentioned that way again, and Castaneda never talked about it that way in the Sunday sessions that I recall. All he ever talked about in latter years was the "assemblage point."
Castaneda describes "luminous eggs" differently every single time he talks about them in his books. I'll look for more descriptions, but that's all I have right now.
Back to A Separate Reality:
"He said that the darkness -- and he called it the darkness of the day -- was the best time to "see." He stressed the word "see" with a peculiar inflection. I wanted to know what he meant by that, but he said it was too late to go into it then." ASR (36)
But in the section of the book just before this segment, supposedly about a month before this incident, don Juan had explained to Carlos what "seeing" was. The very next day, don Juan had even mentioned "seeing" again, and Castaneda had acted like he knew what was meant.
What's more, in Ixtlan, which supposedly took place SEVEN years earlier (but PUBLISHED a year AFTER A Separate Reality), don Juan uses the term seeing right and left, and Castaneda never asks him to explain it, as if he understands.
Supposedly in January of 1962, Castaneda finds his hillside that don Juan gives him for his own power place. And here is what don Juan says:
"This spot is yours. This morning you saw, and that was the omen. You found this spot by seeing."
Castaneda accepts this usage, without asking questions, and naturally so it seems, for don Juan had long been using the term in Ixtlan, almost from the beginning of their association, and there are many other examples of don Juan overtly referring to seeing in Ixtlan without ever being questionedabout it by Castaneda (almost as if Castaneda has forgotten that he didn't explain seeing until ASR using accounts from 1968 sessions). There are NO references to seeing in the first book (which supposedly covers
1961-1965), and in ASR, Castaneda devoted an entire section of the book to having don Juan explain what seeing is, as if he had never heard it explained before, even though the accounts in A Separate Reality supposedly happened in 1968, many years after the accounts in the first part of Journey to Ixtlan supposedly happened.
Gotta call bullshit. It seems plain that he's making up stuff as he goes along, and failing to even keep track of his own stories. The only question is how much, if any, is related to real experiences, and what was the true nature of the real experiences.
Carol gave herself away once in a lecture by saying she was with Castaneda when he encountered the allies while planting plants given to him by Vicente, a story told in ASR. If such an incident ever happened, it had to take place in ordinary awareness (since Castaneda put it in his early book), and in the book Castaneda acted as if it had happened prior to 1968. Carol blew the shit out of her role here, because Castaneda was not supposed to know she was alive in ordinary awareness at this point.
In ASR, don Juan tells Carlos that when you really see an ally it looks just like what it is pretending to be. That is absurd for two reasons.
One, seeing is supposed to be apprehending the fundamental energy of a being, so obviously it cannot be any illusory human form. Two, in the later books, don Juan tells it the other way around, saying that when you first encounter allies they may have any form, but when you really see them, they are just a blob of energy, or a candle-like shape or some such thing.
Another interesting point is that in these early books, don Juan tells Carlos there are lots of allies wandering around pretending to be people. In the later books, allies are separated from us by existing at different "speeds," and only come through in our dreaming, or in special states of consciousness. But in interviews clear up through the seventies we have accounts of Carlos making a big deal out of meeting allies here and there (and I'll be posting some of this, when I write up that entertaining Penthouse interview Corey gave me recently).
Something a bit odd. In 1968, Castaneda was apparently still smoking cigarettes. (page 67, ASR) So here he is, it's only FIVE more years until his famous teacher leaves the world forever, and this guy is so "affected" by the magical teachings he's seen that he's still puffing the ciggies every day. This is amazing to me because it implies that the first FIVE years of being taught by this magical brujo did not even make enough impact for Castaneda to quit smoking, even though one of the earliest teachings had supposedly been "disrupting routines." Not only is smoking an obvious routine, it is a deadly one.
Castaneda later claimed again and again that don Juan did not care a fig about his fellow man, but in ASR records (supposedly even tape records) a passage of don Juan practically PREACHING to everyone, a bunch of drunks no less, trying to turn them all on to Mescalito and to "knowledge":
Esquere: "For years I've been listening to you say we have to know. What do we have to know?"
No shit, don Juan practically preaches a sermon to these guys (and he's been doing it "for years"?).
Don Juan talks about Sacateca as another local Indian who is a "man of knowledge." This is many years before Castaneda came out with his "lineages" thing. My point is that in later years, Castaneda insisted that these "lineages," and "men of knowledge" were so rare as to practically never be encountered, but here is another one, who just happened to be among the other local Indians in the area.
In ASR, in a story Castaneda has been accused of copying from another anthropologist who told it before he did, don Juan tells Castaneda about how Genaro crosses the waterfall by wrapping the luminous tentacles from his abdomen around rocks. The thing which interests me here is how he has these features of his luminous being interacting directly with ordinary physical features in the environment. That doesn't stack up with the luminous body being a different "level" of reality altogether. How does one "grab onto"
some "assembled virtual component" using the luminous fibers? This could be a major metaphysical problem for the system. :-) (and I never heard Castaneda talk about doing this, while he was teaching us in latter days...)
One of my favorite pieces of gibberish from don Juan:
"If he needs to eat he finds a way, because he is not hungry."
Hmmm... he needs to eat because he is not hungry. Brilliant. Be sure not to be hungry, man, that might be some kind of a sin. :-)
..".if something hurts his body he finds a way to stop it, because he is not in pain."
Yep... something hurts his body, but he is not in pain. Amazing logic.
What the author, through his magic man don Juan, seems to be trying to say, in a very clumsy way, is that one should not abandon oneself to being paralyzed by needs or emotions, but he takes this to the extreme of implying one should not even HAVE them, which in my opinion is purely absurd, but perhaps revealing. Perhaps the guru does try to dehumanize to the point that people really are supposed to squash ALL needs and emotions.
In ASR, supposedly in May 1969 (we're counting down folks, don Juan has only FOUR
years left on earth), when don Juan tells Castaneda to "act like a warrior," Castaneda replies, "How?" Then Castaneda acts like he doesn't have any idea what that entails and
asks: "What can I do to live like a warrior?"
But wait, in 1972, Castaneda published Journey to Ixtlan, and in it he revealed lessons which were supposedly from back in 1960 and 1961, where don Juan supposedly gave him ALL KINDS of fundamental tenets of living like a "warrior." Here, when he asks, allegedly EIGHT YEARS LATER, don Juan tells him a few things, about being aware of impending death, the power of his decisions, and being detached and waiting for his will, but he does not reiterate many of the basic points from Ixtlan, nor does don Juan indicate that he has already told Carlos all the most important principles of living like a warrior, including the ones he mentions. What's the deal?
The most probable "deal" is that ALL this stuff is some kind of creative collage of fact and fiction.