Don Juan Matus

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Don Juan Matus is the name used by anthropologist and author Carlos Castaneda to describe a Yaqui Mexican spiritual guide (teacher) in his series of books on Nagualism (although Castaneda repeatedly indicates that "Juan Matus" is pseudonym chosen by the author to protect the bearer's true identity). He is described as a Native American of Yaqui/Yuma parentage. Castaneda writes that he first met Matus at a bus depot in Nogales, Arizona, in the early 1960s. He is described by Castaneda as a 'Man of Knowledge' from a Toltec lineage of seers, who imparts much of his wisdom and clarity through his 'connection' with Castaneda. The knowledge is described as being passed on to Castaneda by means of actual experiences, simple exercises, talks, and much patience on the part of both, which ends in transforming Castaneda's view of the world. There is extensive scholarly debate whether Matus was a real person, an allegorical figure, or an invention by Castaneda.

Toltec seers worldview[edit]

The worldview of the Toltec seers is described in terms of energy or intent. The human body is said to appear to the seer as a luminous egg that receives its light from the "assemblage point of awareness" that is located somewhere on the inside of the egg. The world is said to consist of an infinite number of different energetic lines or filaments, called the emanations at large. The luminous body is composed of a finite number of identical emanations. The large emanations are traversing the total body but we are only aware of the ones that are bound together in the assemblage point of awareness. As the human body does not have counterparts for all emanations, we can not be aware of everything outside the energetic body. Seers learn to move and shift the assemblage point to be aware of (much) more of the world. Other human beings are said to be limited in their awareness of the world because of a fixation of the assemblage point caused by habits in perceiving. These habits are dictated by a world view.

A consequence of the ability to move the assemblage point is the discovery of many unknown aspects of reality. One of these is the dream body that seers learn to use and by which they actively engage in the practice of dreaming. Another discovery is the will, perceived as strong lines coming from the center of the body. Through the will the seers partake in the mystery of the universe, as it is "intent" that both forms the universe and guides the will. The will can not consciously be reached from the modern fixation of the assemblage point located on the center of reason. The fixation can be broken by learning to disengage the inner dialogue that binds it to viewing the world from only a reasonable standpoint. This is called the minimal change that a human being needs to achieve total freedom. Unique in the worldview of the Toltec seers is that they understand it to be a description of the world and consequently they are not looking for yet another habitual fixation of the assemblage point but remain fluid in their perceptions.

In the books by Carlos Castaneda[edit]

'Don Juan' is presented as an unmarried old man, of Yaqui/Yuma indigenous ancestry, with great strength and agility, who speaks both Spanish and English. He could portray different personalities, from an ordinary peasant to a wealthy investor.

Castaneda's memoirs are said to reflect his own "evolution" from a naive anthropology student to a "mid range nagual". The same experiences are analyzed several times as his awareness of what's going on increases. Thus, the first books are mostly "tales of power" but without the insight of the actual professed shamanic goals. Eventually Castaneda says he was identified by his teachers as a "three pronged nagual", an anomaly in the seers world indicating a change in the lineage. The energy of regular naguals is divided in four parts in their luminous body. The energy of other human beings is divided in two parts. A man whose energetic body is divided in four parts without nagual training is called a "double man". They are the ones that a seer may approach to be their apprentice for the nagual role, one of the roles in the world of the seer. In the case of Castaneda it went unnoticed for some time before the seers recognized him as a three pronged nagual.

Matus presents himself to Castaneda as a 'brujo' who had learned, through a lineage of teachers, an ancient Mesoamerican practice for vastly enhancing one's awareness of, and interaction with, the energies of the universe and its assorted beings.

Matus was an expert in the use of various psychotropic plants like psychedelic mushrooms, datura, and the peyote found in the Mexican deserts. These were used as aid to reach states of non-ordinary reality aimed to break Castaneda's "reality". In some of the late books, Matus tells Castaneda that psychotropics are not desirable or necessary. He only gave them to Castaneda because he was "stupidly fixed" and none of his other students had needed any except Eligio.

'For me there is only the traveling on the paths that have a HEART.. And the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length.
And, there I travel, looking, looking, breathlessly.'[1]

Castaneda's books featuring Don Juan Matus[edit]

In others' works[edit]

In their writings, Taisha Abelar and Florinda Donner, two of Castaneda's "witches", also included the character of don Juan Matus, although by different pseudonyms such as Mariano Aureliano. In all of these books don Juan Matus was a nagual who was the leader of a group of practitioners in the tradition of mystical self-actualization.

Real person or not?[edit]

Scholars have debated "whether Castaneda actually served as an apprentice to the Yaqui sorcerer don Juan Matus or if he invented the whole odyssey."[2] Castaneda's books are classified as non-fiction. Some consider them to be fictional.[3][4] In two books, Castaneda's Journey: The Power and the Allegory (Capra Press, 1976) and The Don Juan Papers (Ross-Erickson, 1981), Scientologist author and Castaneda critic Richard de Mille intimated that Don Juan was imaginary,[5] although de Mille's critiques have also been questioned.[6][7][8] Walter Shelburne contends that "the Don Juan chronicle cannot be a literally true account."[9] Other critics remain agnostic, contending that there is no proof either side of the matter.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, page 151
  2. ^ Baron, Larry (Spring 1983). "Slipping inside the Crack between the Worlds: Carlos Castaneda, Alfred Schutz, and the Theory of Multiple Realities". Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 23 (2): 52–69. doi:10.1177/0022167883232007. 
  3. ^ Clements, William M. (1985). "Carlos Castaneda's the Teachings of Don Juan: A Novel of Initiation". Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. 26 (3): 122–130. doi:10.1080/00111619.1985.9934668. 
  4. ^ Rosenthal, Caroline; Schafer, Stefanie (eds.) (2014). "Lochle, Stefan: "The Imposter as Trickster as innovator: A Rereading of Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan-cycle"". Fake Identity?: The Impostor Narrative in North American Culture. Campus Verlag GmbH. pp. 81–96. ISBN 978-3-593-50101-7. 
  5. ^ Siegel, Ronald K. (1982). "Book Review: The Don Juan Papers: Further Castaneda Controversies". Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 14 (3): 253–254. doi:10.1080/02791072.1982.10471937. 
  6. ^ Koote, Anton F. - University of Florida (2008). "A Critical Look At Castaneda's Critics". 
  7. ^ Desper, James L. Jr. (2012). "Castaneda - Debunking De Mille". 
  8. ^ Harner, Michael (1978). "Castaneda Controversy - Michael Harner's reply". 
  9. ^ Shelburne, Walter A. (Spring 1987). "Carlos Castaneda: If It Didn't Happen, What Does It Matter?". Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 27 (2): 217–227. doi:10.1177/0022167887272007.