The term "Toltec" is used in the works of writer Carlos Castaneda to denote a person who was recruited into a band of sorcerers with a tradition that had its origin in the Native American culture of that name.
The nagual Juan described the Toltecs to Castaneda as a guild of sorcerers that began in Southern Mexico 10,000 years ago, originally based on harnessing the changes of perception and perspective brought about by working with power plants. [The Fire From Within – The New Seers] The primary purpose of the Toltec sorcerers is to prevent the disintegration of the self, which normally happens at death. To achieve that purpose, they evolved a set of techniques and developed a body of knowledge that enables the sorcerer to transform into a high-speed inorganic being with an endless lifespan (not unlike the spiritual notion of Ascending the body, but without the baggage).
Castaneda makes it clear that his use of the term Toltec is specialized, so that it is not directly equivalent to the Toltec people or culture referred to in the ethnohistory and mythology of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. The ongoing Toltec tradition had its beginning in the Toltec culture, but now those who are recruited are chosen for their suitability, rather than on ethnic or cultural lines.
Castaneda recounts that he was recruited in 1960, and paints a word-picture of the methods and concepts in the guise of conversations with his teacher, who he calls Don Juan in the series of 14 books he wrote on the subject. The books are written in a narrative style, in which Castaneda frequently ridicules himself for his inept and inappropriate reactions to disclosures and the associated perceptions induced in his apprenticeship.
Castaneda’s accounts are largely dismissed as being fiction, largely because the Toltec reality map is an uncompromising contradiction of conventional spiritual and secular beliefs.
Anthropologists and other researchers, along with other less-qualified individuals, have made various claims of fraud.
Secrecy and strategic misdirection of potential threats is a necessary theme in Toltec education. The Spanish Inquisition hunted to near-extinction the lineages that had managed to survive being overrun by the Aztecs, and the church remains eternally hostile to non-compliance with dubious doctrine. So it should surprise nobody that Castaneda's sources proved elusive. Castaneda's unprecedented success with published recollections of his training implicitly confirms that Mescalito (who sponsored him as an apprentice to the nagual Juan, as recounted in "The Teachings of Don Juan") wants the knowledge propagated worldwide, the seeding of mankind with concepts necessary to the evolution of our species.
In addition, there are indications that the teachers of these traditions do not feel there is a value in presenting this body of knowledge as a textbook, as they believe there are active forces detracting from the ability of the student to directly absorb knowledge. The knowledge is therefore presented as a series of hints requiring the apprentice or student to struggle for understanding; the understanding is thus of greater value.
The opinions expressed about Castaneda seem to have a notable echo in the opinions about Sophists in ancient Greek. The most significant argument leveled against them were that they were not entirely truthful in their depictions and arguments. Carlos Castenada was not particularly concerned by truth and justice either, as he considered reality to be subjective. However, unlike conventional mystics, he held that it was very difficult, albeit possible, for a single individual to make use of this fact because of the overwhelming forces of social order. Within the context of this definition, the sequence of steps and training that he underwent when he believed he was learning sorcery, if viewed in this light, could be defined as nothing more or less than a personal secession from the social orders. Alternately, he held that one may modify the social order itself by being a man or woman whose assemblage point was securely centered on the exact spot of reason, as defined in his discussion about the two one-way bridges. Similarly, sorcery training can also be viewed as training the apprentice to affix one's assemblage on the exact spot of reason.
An overwhelming sense of justice would out of necessity force one to hold only one particular world view. In this context, the tragedy would be that one would be constrained from witnessing and experiencing other modes of thought. Castaneda held this flexibility to be the inherent heritage of mankind.
The Toltec civilization is based in an entirely different perspective and sense of purpose from the scientific understanding that has risen to ideological world dominance on the tide of evolving technology. Whereas the scientific method needs repeatability under controlled circumstances, the shamanism described dealt with transient phenomenon that were not repeatable under controlled circumstances and yet still suggested repeatable methodologies to take advantage of beneficial situations that might arise.
The main focus of the Toltec is the mastery of awareness, through working on tasks that cannot be done using the conventional mindset. This requires a high level of skill in both reason and personal discipline.
Other first-hand accounts of Toltec training and culture have been published by Taisha Abelar and Florinda Donna. These complement the disclosures made by Castaneda, and contain information that is specific to the women’s perspective and training. It is impossible to know whether these disclosures represent accurate information as they have yet not been corroborated by independent witnesses. Insofar as they represent a description of a world view, they can be evaluated on the basis of accuracy and value to the holder.