Letters to Sustained Action   [en Espaņol Cartas a Sustained Action ]

This is a collection of e-mail letters written to the website that we thought might be of interest to other readers of Sustained Action. Most of the mail we receive is in the form of brief questions prompted by material on the site, or short notes of appreciation (which, in turn, are much appreciated). The following are some of the more substantive pieces that deserved to be shared with the wider Sustained Action audience.

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Name: Kim Partin
Date: Thursday, November 11, 1999

Just read about my sister, Patty Partin. Glad to see she is being exposed for what she is - a complete and utter phoney, not to mention a con artist. Among her other "attributes", I consider her to be murderess. She kills people in her mind. She killed me and she killed my family. She had "false memories" of a horrible childhood that simply did not exist. To think that people had to hold themselves up to her as the "perfect being" is laughable. I could not think of a more twisted, hateful or sick "being", although the part about her not being human does ring true...

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Name: rina keppler
Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1999

This is mostly addressed to Corey, Cara, and Linda, whose posts have enlightened, shocked and validated direct personal experiences with CC& CO I have silently carried for 7 1/2 years.

I would prefer to make this an individual e-mail, but lacking addresses, I'll summarize (I did post a while ago but don't know how to access any responses -- advice appreciated). I met Taisha and Carol during an interview after Taisha's book came out (I'm a journalist/author). They invited me a few months later to LA for classes with Carlos (I met Kylie, Bruce, Tracy, the Blue Scout).

I spent 3 days there, lunch with the witches (not exactly an interrogation, but I was a nervous wreck, hoping and wondering, am I being admitted? Will I become a sorcerer's apprentice?), movie with Taisha, presents from Florinda and Taisha, dinner with the 16 over 3 nights, and 2 nights in the van talking with Carlos for hours.

In class I was put into the center, in front of Carlos. But the joke was on them, as I'd had 14 years of ballet and could do everything with quite a bit of ease. They were amazed.

I was given a lot of instruction, some of which I could not do (don't get cats, don't listen to rock & roll, don't eat sugar -- a lot of negatives, a lot of fear). And a lot of which I do today (live a professional life, don't waste energy being offended, watch where you put your energy, including gossip).

There was a definite, incredible connection with CC, and though I felt it was -- or could be -- sexual, I am married, and would never (I think!) have had sex with him, though I could definitely see how persuasive he could be. He never tried exactly. I don't want to get into details out of respect for myself.

Carlos went over each person in the group, telling me things about them, like Carol had a medical degree, Taisha was a financial wizard, Kylie searched the world for him, and another woman (don't remember her name) was his "fiancee" and had been cured of cancer through his movements.

CC promised to come back from Mexico from me; he said Taisha wanted to sponsor me. He told me he would do anything for me. He offered to do my astrological chart. He asked me to come back for a week. And nothing happened after that. I had a sense that I would never see him again, and there was a sadness in him ... never figured it out.

But in a dream, he courted sex, and I told him no, I wanted to learn from him but wouldn't have sex. I never dreamed him again, and they never contacted me again. My "privileges" to attend workshops gratis were revoked, and even though the witches always "seemed" pleased to see me, and warm towards me, it became more and more phoney. And one night Taisha actually RAN from me when I approached her.

These posts are invaluable to me. I met CC& Co when both of my parents were dying at the same time, 1200 miles away. CC told me I had no energy left and not to contact them for a few days. It was true in the sense I could have easily died for my exhaustion and depression, but I regret not calling my father for a few days, as he died three days after I returned from LA.

I guess my point here is just gratitude. I have found a path with heart, my own heart, and I value the books and the wisdom no matter what its source. I did love Carlos, I truly did, and I am so shocked by all of these posts, which validate my feelings of having been had in many ways - especially by the workshops. I THOUGHT this was a cult, and stopped going (happened right after Heaven's Gate -- the similarities were appalling).

So I'm just thanking you for your outpourings of honesty, for your courage to come forward. It is healing, it is positive, and I salute you for taking the time and effort to help us all get un-brainwashed. -- Rina

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Name: john caprara
Date: Monday, March 13, 2000

I touch base with this site every few weeks. I find it disturbing as well as refreshing. I, too, was, and maybe still am, a CC fan for many years, and I wanted to believe that there was some truth in what he wrote about.

Regardless of the truth, I always looked forward with great anticipation the next CC book. The books, except for the last three, took me away as I read them. I wanted to believe that there was something special about what he wrote, the stories, the people.

I never knew about Cleargreen and all the infighting etc until after CC's death. So in some ways I was much more fortunate that many other fans.

I am an adult now, as sad as that sounds, and I am faced with the all too real possibility that CC was a fraud from word one.

So, I must ask myself the question, did I waste a lot of time or did he have anything useful to say, is there anything I can take from his writings to help me be a better person or to live a better life. I think there is plenty. The first thing that comes to mind is the idea of "a Path with Heart". Whether this concept was thought up by him or someone else is irrelevant. Another is "using death as an advisor". These are some of the gems that he gave me (by alex cillo). I am sure other philosophers have had the same ideas, but I happen to stumble onto CC saying them to me first.

It would seem that I have my work cut out for me. But I want to thank you for printing the facts as well as other peoples' experiences. Now I have something to relate to.

I feel badly for those people who write with anger and disappointment. It is heartbreaking to know that you have been lied to. I can relate to that...Feels much like being the jilted lover. The expectation of freedom from a world of pain is overwhelming.

I do have a question, but I think I already know the answer, do you know of anyone who has ever seen any of CC's field notes.

Thanks for reading this.JOHN

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Subject: Comparing Castaneda and Gurdjieff
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 02:39:26 -080
From: Kevin Langdon

Dear Mr. Donovan,
A friend of mine alerted me to your Web site, which I have been purusing. Both my friend and I have been in the Gurdjieff Work for many years and also have a long-time interest in Castaneda.

I was particularly interested in the following:

> Celibacy: Comparing Castaneda and Gurdjieff
> by Corey Donovan
> I would hope that none of us begrudge Castaneda having a sex
> life.

When I was talking with the man who was my first contact with the Gurdjieff Work, I remember asking him whether there were objective tests for "promotion" within the organization, and he assured me that this was in fact the case. Well, of course, I was naive to think that there could be a complete absence of politics in any human endeavor, but his answer was, on the whole, not untruthful.

I think that this is an important consideration in contemplating devoting years of one's life to involvement in any group. If people are not told up front that the plums are being distributed nepotistically then they are being defrauded. It's not just a matter of vanity, wanting to be "important." There are certain energy relationships that exist between the leader of a group where real knowledge is transmitted and those in his charge.

Leading a group is a wonderful opportunity for one's own inner, personal work. This is why whether one is given the opportunities that one has earned objectively, in the sense of having, through effort, become the best choice for one task or another, is not just a matter involving the ego. But, of course, one cannot think of this in too short-term a way. One often doesn't know whether one is ready for a certain responsibility as well as the more senior people one is working with--and, of course, a man must not be lazy; sometimes one must create one's own opportunities.

As one who can easily put himself in the place of those gathered around Castaneda, I cannot help faulting him for allowing the members of his extended family to dominate everyone else, even to the point where people were afraid of a teenage girl.

> 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.

Given the other things that Carlos was able to do, this does not surprise me in the least.

> 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."

A certain amount of shedding of conventional morality is needed in order for a man to pay attention to his own work, not to always be thinking about what other people think. But the content of much of Castaneda's work doesn't so much shock as make one wonder why he's dwelling on this stuff and why he goes out of his way to rub our noses in it. Clearly, some of his people have learned this unpleasant trick themselves.

> 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.

Watts was making a name for himself popularizing Zen and the spiritual life, in a somewhat superficial way. Carlos may well have been irritated that Watts was cashing in--and he certainly found a way to do very well for himself in a similar way, though on a much more profound level.

> 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.

I doubt that. I've known people who have practiced celibacy for fairly long periods of time. In the cases I am familiar with, this seems to strengthen, rather than weaken, the sexual conditioning of the individuals involved, even in certainTibetan monks who are very advanced Buddhist practitioners.

> 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.

This reminds me of the non-empirical theories of Freud and L. Ron Hubbard about the etiology of certain mental disorders, which indicate more about the psychopathologies of their authors than they do about human psychology in general.

> 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.

In certain groups making use of Gurdjieff's name while distorting his teachings almost past recognition, people are encouraged to pigeonhole one another on the basis of what is said to be "type." In his groups, Gurdjieff always refused to be pinned down about how many types there are or to provide any ready-made system of types which could be a basis for wiseacring about this subject.

It is true that different types have different needs, but it takes a great deal of study to reach a point where one's knowledge of oneself is sufficient that the idea of types can reliably be made use of for understanding one's own states and behavior.

> 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.'"

There are two things that should be taken into account here. One is that the stage of work at which (more than occasional, accidental) transmutation ecomes possible is quite far along; a long preparatory work of self-observation and self-remembering must precede this. And another is that in another passage in In Sarch of the Miraculous Gurdjieff said that abstinence is useful only if it is in all the centers. If a man abstains from sexual intercourse but he is preoccupied with sexual imagination that will make things worse for him, not better.

"People have tried abstinence from times beyond memory. Sometimes, very rarely, it has led to something but in most cases what is called abstinence is simply exchanging normal sensations for abnormal, because the abnormal are more easily hidden." --In Search, p. 257

> . . . . 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."

There is no question but that Carlos was in contact with people in the Gurdjieff Work and there are many points of similarity in his books. The case for an influence from this source has been made for me.

> 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.

Western culture is out to lunch with regard to foreseeing the consequences of saturating the media with sexual associations and of useless sexual display in the course of ordinary life, but Puritanism in reaction to it isn't right, either.

> 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.

It would seem difficult to overlook that.

> 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.

But maybe also that he knew them. It is possible to cause a lot of trouble by upsetting the applecart of conventional sexual morality in the context of a spiritual group, as the members of such groups are ready to accept the idea that they are in touch with a higher dispensation. Are you familiar with the sad case of Osel Tendzin?

I have added a link to your site to my own Web site. Please check it out: http://www.polymath-systems.com My site is still under construction. I have a transcript of an interesting discussion about Castaneda that I organized and a number of items having to do with Gurdjieff that I will be posting soon.

It was a pleasure to find your site. I hope to hear from you.

Sincerely,

Kevin Langdon

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Name: EB
Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2000

Dear Corey,
Thanks for the information.I read Carlos's books for 35 years and for 35 years I believed every word I read, so it was a shock to realize he was as mortal as any "ordinary" man. I still believe there was a Don Juan but Carlitos just did not make the grade. When he realized he was going to die, he decided to teach Tensegrity in a desperate attempt to get energy from all of us, not for monetary gain or for power as I originally believed.

In order to con us he and his cohorts had to weave an increadibly deceptive yarn. I actually feel compassion for him and for those who still believe in the illusion he taught. For me he was a charismatic writer and from time to time I still read his books, now just to enjoy the writing. During the last Tensegrity seminar I attended

I realized he was terminally ill. Now you have given me hard evidence to dispel any doubts.

Please keep me updated and thanks again,

EB

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Name: Don Radick
Email: dradick@mindspring.com
Date: Wednesday, March 22, 2000

Hi Corey -Thanks a bunch for this web site. I'd just completed a review of all of the CC lit, and was thinking about attending some CG seminars, but after reading things here, have decided that personal energy and attention practice is the best way to proceed. I knew that there were some inconsistencies and gaps in the stories, but I had no clue that so much was made up from thin air.

One thing that is most interesting is how discussion is shifting to Oriental martial arts and Chi work. I am involved in Aikido, which has much Chi emphasis and some spiritual aspects, but I think that some of the spiritual stuff comes from Omoto Kyo. Unfortunately, the most powerful techniques in that (breath practice) are no longer being taught.

Thanks again.

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