Sustained Reaction (current discussions)Filming Castaneda New Age Frauds and Plastic Shamans
Who was Carlos Castaneda?
Castaneda was a self-styled shaman and "Nagual," who claimed to have been the inheritor of a specific sorceric lineage spanning 27 generations, of which he was assertedly the last, and final, leader. Castaneda’s legacy exists primarily in the twelve books that he authored (beginning with the Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, which was first published in 1968); books authored by his companions, Taisha Abelar and Florinda Donner-Grau (see below), which also purported to describe their apprenticeship with don Juan’s band of sorcerers; and a series of public workshops, beginning in 1993, that were devoted primarily to the teaching of "Tensegrity," a collection of movements Castaneda claimed had been passed down through his lineage of sorcerers and which allegedly originated with the "sorcerers of ancient Mexico."
Since Castaneda’s books first appeared, many critics have doubted their authenticity. Books and articles have been published over the years attacking Castaneda’s claims from a variety of standpoints (e.g., passages that have remarkable similarities to descriptions by other anthropologists; descriptions of flora and fauna unlikely to be found in the Sonoran desert; the unlikelihood that Castaneda’s purported teacher, a relatively unschooled Yaqui shaman, would be conversant with sophisticated philosophies that sound remarkably similar to those of Nietzsche and Gurdjieff, among others; and basic internal inconsistencies in dates and events among the books). [See A Bibliography of Castaneda Criticism.] Such criticism became so vociferous by the late seventies and early eighties, and Castaneda so steadfastly avoided responding to his various critics, that the climate was ripe for what was to become a pervasive myth about Castaneda: that he himself had recanted the extraordinary tale described in the books. In fact, Castaneda never admitted during his lifetime that the books were anything but his best attempt to describe his training by don Juan and his party to learn to perceive other worlds and "energy, as it flows in the universe."
Nonetheless, following Castaneda’s death in Los Angeles on or about April 27, 1998, and especially since that death was officially announced on June 19, 1998 (as the result of calls to the press from Castaneda’s putative "adopted" son, sometimes known as Carlton Jeremy Castaneda, after he received notice of the probating of Castaneda’s estate), disclosures have surfaced that have begun to cast greater doubt than ever on many of the tales Castaneda told in his books and the true origin of the techniques and philosophy that he taught. Information that has come to light since Castaneda's death has especially cast extreme doubt on the validity of stories he told and wrote about regarding the origin of others in his group who were also claimed to have been involved with don Juan and his party. [See, e.g., the Carol Tiggs Chronology.]
The use of the term "the Witches" to relate to the three women Castaneda was eventually to claim had also been disciples of don Juan seems to date to the early nineties, when books by two of these women purporting to describe their experiences with don Juan and his party were published. These three women are Florinda Donner-Grau, Taisha Abelar and Carol Tiggs. All three of them appeared and sometimes lectured at many of the Tensegrity workshops that began in July 1993, and Florinda and Taisha appeared at book signings and gave occasional lectures or radio interviews as well.
Florinda Donner's The Witch's Dream was published in 1985. Although it consists mainly of stories she allegedly learned or observed through curanderos in Venezuela, there are references to her having met "a nagual . . . an Indian from northern Mexico" and to a Florinda Matus, who gives her the instructions that lead to her curandero adventures. The book also contains a foreword by Carlos Castaneda that refers to Florinda as "my co-worker" and claims that "both of us belong to the world of don Juan Matus." In 1991, Florinda Donner's book, Being-in-Dreaming: An Initiation in the Sorcerer's World, was published, relating in detail her introduction to and purported experiences with don Juan and his party. The next year, Taisha Abelar's book, The Sorcerers' Crossing: A Woman's Journey, was published, with a confirmatory foreword by Carlos Castaneda.
A Nagual woman, and the name "Carol," are referred to in some of Castaneda's earlier works, but lengthy descriptions of Carol Tiggs and her supposed bodily departure for ten years into "the second attention"--beginning at about the same time as don Juan's party "burned with the fire from within" in 1973--are contained in Castaneda's 1993 book The Art of Dreaming.
That book also describes, for the first time, the entry of a fourth female personage into don Juan's world, first as a "scout" or energetic entity that Castaneda "rescues" from another world, a young girl called the Blue Scout. This person was referred to beginning with the first Tensegrity workshop in 1993. She first spoke at a workshop in November 1995. Although she seemed to change names periodically at workshops, her legal name during the course of the workshops was Nury Alexander.
What is the Sustained Action Mailing List? (now discontinued)
Sustained Action is an internet mailing list that was launched on January 1, 1999, to explore and work in depth with the legacy of Carlos Castaneda. Many on the list were involved in weekly meetings with Castaneda over a period of nearly two years (the so-called "Sunday sessions"), while others on the list had contact with Castaneda and/or his cohorts at other times, have attended multiple Tensegrity workshops (since Castaneda and his cohorts began publicly teaching this material in 1993), and/or have been delving into the "path of the warrior" as described in his books over a period of years. Subscriptions to the list have, up to now, been by invitation only, but those wishing to inquire about membership on the list are welcome to address their e-mail inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What's the purpose of this website?
This website has been established as a way of sharing with the larger community of Tensegrity practitioners and persons interested in the work of Carlos Castaneda some of the insights, facts and other material currently informing the discussion on Sustained Action. We expect this site to be updated and revised periodically, as our understanding grows and as more and better information becomes available.
In summary, the purpose of the list, and of this site as its adjunct and ongoing "summary," is to delve into the questions presented by Castaneda’s legacy – i.e., what is authentic, what may have been merely "stories" designed to "trap our attention," what works and what doesn’t work, and what may be better described and taught by other energetic disciplines. This site will hopefully serve as an information sharing forum to help each person who is interested in these questions come to their own best understanding of what parts, if any, of the so-called "Warrior’s Way" they want to pursue in their lives. A further purpose of the list and this site is the exploration of other means of expanding awareness and perception. [See, e.g., Explorations.]
What is Cleargreen, Incorporated, and what relationship does it have to this site?
Cleargreen, Incorporated, is the for-profit organization Castaneda established in 1995 to organize and promote Tensegrity workshops. Its shareholders were and are the members of Castaneda's inner circle, some of whom (like Taisha Abelar and Florinda Donner-Grau), lived and worked closely with Castaneda since at least the early seventies.
This website has absolutely no connection whatsoever to Cleargreen. It should, in fact, be noted that in the few weeks since members of Sustained Action started discussing the advisability of establishing a website to share some of our tentative conclusions and directions of thought with the larger Castaneda-oriented community, Cleargreen seemingly reacted to information being discussed on Sustained Action by issuing bulletins on its website aimed at discouraging people from attempting to check on the veracity of statements previously made at Cleargreen-sponsored workshops regarding Castaneda and his colleagues. [For a point-by-point response to a recent Cleargreen bulletin, click here.] Hence, this website may be one of the few places available where people interested in this material can get straightforward, uncensored information about Castaneda and his legacy, including summaries of private sessions in which he discussed topics and techniques never mentioned in any of his books [see, e.g., Sunday Session notes].
--Corey Donovan (founder, Sustained Action)