|Born||December 25, 1925|
|Died||April 27, 1998 (aged 72)|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Subject||Anthropology, ethnography, shamanism|
Carlos Castaneda (December 25, 1925[nb 1] – April 27, 1998) was an American author. Starting with The Teachings of Don Juan in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that purport to describe training in shamanism that he received under the tutelage of a supposed Yaqui "Man of Knowledge" named don Juan Matus. Doubts about the veracity of Castaneda's work existed from their original publication. There is now consensus that Castenda's books are works of fiction, and that it is unlikely that don Juan Matus existed.
Although Castaneda claimed that he was born in São Paolo, Brazil in 1931 and that Castaneda was a surname he adopted later, immigration records show that he was born on December 25, 1925, in Cajamarca, Peru, and that his full name was then Carlos Arana Castaneda.  Castaneda moved to the United States in the early 1950s and became a naturalized citizen on June 21, 1957.
Castaneda married Margaret Runyan in Mexico in 1960, according to Runyan's memoirs. Castaneda is listed as the father on the birth certificate of Runyan's son C.J. Castaneda even though the biological father was a different man.
In an interview Margaret said they were married from 1960 to 1973, however Castaneda obscured whether their marriage even happened, and his death certificate even stated he had never been married.
Castaneda's first three books—The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, A Separate Reality, and Journey to Ixtlan—were written while he was an anthropology student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He claimed that these books were ethnographic accounts describing his apprenticeship with a traditional "Man of Knowledge" identified as don Juan Matus, allegedly a Yaqui Indian from northern Mexico. The veracity of these books was doubted from their original publication, and they are now widely considered to be fictional. Castaneda was awarded his bachelor's and doctoral degrees based on the work described in these books.
In 1974 his fourth book, Tales of Power, was published and chronicled the end of his apprenticeship under the tutelage of Matus. Castaneda continued to be popular with the reading public with subsequent publications that unfolded further aspects of his training with don Juan.
Castaneda wrote that don Juan recognized him as the new nagual, or leader of a party of seers of his lineage. Matus also used the term nagual to signify that part of perception which is in the realm of the unknown yet still reachable by man, implying that, for his own party of seers, Matus was a connection to that unknown. Castaneda often referred to this unknown realm as "nonordinary reality."
While Castaneda was a well-known cultural figure, he rarely appeared in public forums. He was the subject of a cover article in the March 5, 1973 issue of Time which described him as "an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a tortilla". There was controversy when it was revealed that Castaneda may have used a surrogate for his cover portrait. Correspondent Sandra Burton, apparently unaware of Castaneda's principle of freedom from personal history, confronted him about discrepancies in his account of his life. Castaneda responded: "To ask me to verify my life by giving you my statistics ... is like using science to validate sorcery." Following that interview, Castaneda completely retired from public view.
Don Juan Matus
Scholars have debated "whether Castaneda actually served as an apprentice to the alleged Yaqui sorcerer don Juan Matus or if he invented the whole odyssey." Castaneda's books are classified as non-fiction by their publisher, although there is consensus that they are largely, if not completely, fictional.
Author and Castaneda critic Richard de Mille published two books—Castaneda's Journey: The Power and the Allegory and The Don Juan Papers—in which he argued that don Juan was imaginary, based on a number of arguments, including that Castaneda didn't report on the Yaqui name of a single plant he learned about, and that he and don Juan "go quite unmolested by pests that normally torment desert hikers." Castaneda's Journey also includes 47 pages that show quotes which Castaneda attributed to don Juan were actually from a variety of other sources, including anthropological journal articles and even well known writers like Ludwig Wittgenstein and C. S. Lewis. De Mille's work has also come under some criticism of its own, however. Walter Shelburne contends that "the Don Juan chronicle cannot be a literally true account."
In the 1990s, Castaneda once again began appearing in public to promote Tensegrity, which was described in promotional materials as "the modernized version of some movements called magical passes developed by Indian shamans who lived in Mexico in times prior to the Spanish conquest."[clarification needed]
Castaneda, along with Carol Tiggs, Florinda Donner-Grau and Taisha Abelar, created Cleargreen Incorporated in 1995. The organization's stated purpose is "carrying out the instruction and publication of Tensegrity". Tensegrity seminars, books, and other merchandise were sold through Cleargreen.
Castaneda died on April 27, 1998 in Los Angeles due to complications from hepatocellular cancer. There was no public service; Castaneda was cremated and the ashes were sent to Mexico. His death was unknown to the outside world until nearly two months later, on 19 June 1998, when an obituary entitled "A Hushed Death for Mystic Author Carlos Castaneda" by staff writer J. R. Moehringer appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
Four months after Castaneda's death, C. J. Castaneda, also known as Adrian Vashon, whose birth certificate shows Carlos Castaneda as his father, challenged the authenticity of Castaneda's will in probate court. The challenge was ultimately unsuccessful. Carlos' death certificate states metabolic encephalopathy for 72 hours prior to his death, yet the will was purportedly signed 48 hours before Castaneda's death.
After Castaneda stepped away from public view in 1973, he bought a large multi-dwelling property in Los Angeles which he shared with some of his followers. Among those who lived there were Taisha Abelar (formerly Maryann Simko) and Florinda Donner-Grau (formerly Regine Thal). Like Castaneda, Taisha Abelar and Florinda Donner-Grau were students of anthropology at UCLA. Each went on to write books that explored the experience of being followers of Castaneda's teachings from a feminist perspective.
Around the time Castaneda died in April 1998, his companions Donner-Grau, Abelar and Patricia Partin informed friends they were leaving on a long journey. Amalia Marquez (also known as Talia Bey) and Tensegrity instructor Kylie Lundahl also left Los Angeles. Weeks later, Partin's red Ford Escort was found abandoned in Death Valley. Luis Marquez, the brother of Talia Bey, went to police in 1999 over his sister's disappearance, but was unable to convince them that it merited investigation.
In 2006, Partin's sun-bleached skeleton was discovered by a pair of hikers in Death Valley's Panamint Dunes area and was identified by DNA testing. The investigating authorities ruled Partin's death as undetermined. However, Castaneda often talked about suicide, and associates believe that these women killed themselves in the wake of Castaneda's death.
The veracity of Castaneda's work has been doubted since their original publication, even while reviewers praised the writing and storytelling. For example, while Edmund Leach praised The Teachings of Don Juan as "a work of art," he doubted its factual authenticity. Anthropologist E. H. Spicer offered a somewhat mixed review of the book, highlighting Castaneda's expressive prose and his vivid depiction of his relationship with Don Juan. However, Spicer noted that the events described in the book were not consistent with other ethnographic accounts of Yaqui cultural practices, concluding it was unlikely that don Juan had ever participated in Yaqui group life. Spicer also stated: "[It is] wholly gratuitous to emphasize, as the subtitle does, any connection between the subject matter of the book and the cultural traditions of the Yaquis."
In a series of articles, R. Gordon Wasson, the ethnobotanist who made psychoactive mushrooms famous, similarly praised Castaneda's work, while expressing doubts regarding the accuracy of some of the claims. An early unpublished review by anthropologist Weston La Barre was more critical. La Barre questioned the book's accuracy, calling it a "pseudo-profound deeply vulgar pseudo-ethnography." The review, initially commissioned by The New York Times Book Review, was rejected and replaced by a more positive review from anthropologist Paul Riesman.
More pointed criticism
Those who had familiarity with Yaqui culture also began to question Castaneda's accounts. For example, anthropologist Jane Holden Kelley questioned the accuracy of Castaneda's work. Other criticisms of Castaneda's work include the total lack of Yaqui vocabulary or terms for any of his experiences, and his refusal to defend himself against the accusation that he received his PhD from UCLA through deception. Stephen C. Thomas notes that Muriel Thayer Painter gives examples of Yaqui vocabulary associated with spirituality in her book, for example, seataka "spiritual power," a word which is "fundamental to Yaqui thought and life." Thomas goes on to say that, "It is hard to believe that Castaneda's benefactor, a self-professed Yaqui, would fail to employ these native expressions throughout the apprenticeship. In omitting such intrinsically relevant terms from his ethnography, Castaneda critically undermines his portrait of Don Juan as a bona fide Yaqui sorcerer."
John Dedrick, a Protestant missionary who lived among the Yaqui Indians of Vicam, Sonora, from 1940 to 1979 said that, "I've only read The Teachings of Don Juan, and before I got to the third part of the book I knew that he [Castaneda] did know of the Yaquis and that he had not been to the Rio Yaqui river, or that there is no terminology in the Yaqui language for any of the instructions and explanations that "Don Juan" was giving it to him [Castaneda]. Clement Woodward Meighan and Stephen C. Thomas point out that, for the most part, the books do not describe Yaqui culture at all, with its emphasis on Catholic upbringing and conflict with the Federal State of Mexico, but rather focus on the international movements and life of Don Juan, who was described in the books as traveling and having many connections, and abodes, in the Southwestern United States (Arizona), Northern Mexico, and Oaxaca.
According to William W. Kelly, chair of the anthropology department at Yale University:
I doubt you'll find an anthropologist of my generation who regards Castaneda as anything but a clever con man. It was a hoax, and surely don Juan never existed as anything like the figure of his books. Perhaps to many it is an amusing footnote to the gullibility of naive scholars, although to me it remains a disturbing and unforgivable breach of ethics.
David Silverman sees value in the work even while considering it fictional. In Reading Castaneda he describes the apparent deception as a critique of anthropology field work in general – a field that relies heavily on personal experience, and necessarily views other cultures through a lens. According to Silverman, not only the descriptions of peyote trips but also the fictional nature of the work are meant to place doubt on other works of anthropology.
- Octavio Paz, Nobel laureate, poet, and diplomat. Paz wrote the prologue to the Spanish language edition of The Teachings of Don Juan.
- Michael Korda, editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster, was Castaneda's editor for his first eight books and discusses their work together in an essay in Another Life: A Memoir of Other People.
- George Lucas has stated that Yoda and Luke Skywalker were inspired in part by don Juan and Castaneda.
- Taisha Abelar and Florinda Donner-Grau, both students of don Juan Matus and colleagues of Castaneda, wrote memoirs of their experiences. Their books were endorsed by Castaneda as authentic works.
- Amy Wallace wrote Sorcerer's Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda, an account of her personal experiences with Castaneda and his followers.
- Brazilian writer Lui Morais analyzes the work of Castaneda, its cultural implications, and its continuation in other authors in Carlos Castaneda e a Fenda entre os Mundos – Vislumbres da Filosofia Ānahuacah no Século XXI.
- The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, 1968. ISBN 0-520-21757-8. (Summer 1960 to October 1965.)
- A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan, 1971. ISBN 0-671-73249-8. (April 1968 to October 1970.)
- Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan, 1972. ISBN 0-671-73246-3. (Summer 1960 to May 1971.)
- Tales of Power, 1974. ISBN 0-671-73252-8. (Autumn 1971 to the 'Final Meeting' with don Juan Matus in 1973.)
- The Second Ring of Power, 1977. ISBN 0-671-73247-1. (Meeting his fellow apprentices after the 'Final Meeting'.)
- The Eagle's Gift, 1981. ISBN 0-671-73251-X. (Continuing with his fellow apprentices; and then alone with La Gorda.)
- The Fire From Within, 1984. ISBN 0-671-73250-1. (Don Juan's 'Second Attention' teachings through to the 'Final Meeting' in 1973.)
- The Power of Silence: Further Lessons of Don Juan, 1987. ISBN 0-671-73248-X. (The 'Abstract Cores' of don Juan's lessons.)
- The Art of Dreaming, 1993. ISBN 0-06-092554-X. (Review of don Juan's lessons in dreaming.)
- Magical Passes: The Practical Wisdom of the Shamans of Ancient Mexico, 1998. ISBN 0-06-017584-2. (Body movements for breaking the barriers of normal perception.)
- The Wheel of Time: Shamans of Ancient Mexico, Their Thoughts About Life, Death and the Universe, 1998. ISBN 0-9664116-0-9. (Selected quotations from the first eight books.)
- The Active Side of Infinity, 1999. ISBN 0-06-019220-8. (Memorable events of his life.)
- Castaneda's birth name, as well as the date and location of his birth, are uncertain. According to a 1973 article in Time, U.S. immigration records indicates that Castaneda was born Carlos Cesar Arana Castaneda on December 25, 1925 in Cajamarca, Peru. In the article, Castaneda himself claimed that he had adopted the surname "Castaneda" later in life and that he had been born in São Paulo, Brazil. He also reported his date of birth as December 25, 1935. In other accounts he gave his date of birth as December 25, 1931. A 1981 article in The New York Times stated that Castaneda "was born Carlos Arana in a Peruvian mountain town 66 years ago", indicating a 1915 birth. Most sources tend to favor the Peruvian birth and 1925 date.
- Burton, Sandra; et al. (March 5, 1973). "Don Juan and the Sorcerer's Apprentice". Time. 101 (10). Archived from the original on June 27, 2006. Retrieved 2011-12-23.
- Epstein, Benjamin (March 1, 1996). "My Lunch With Carlos Castaneda". Psychology Today. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
- Applebome, Peter (June 20, 1998). "Carlos Castaneda, Mystical and Mysterious Writer, Dies". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 14 March 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
- Walters, Ray (January 11, 1981). "Paperback Talk". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 23 February 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
- Chávez Candelaria, Cordelia; Garcia, Peter J.; Aldama, Arturo J. (2004). Encyclopedia of Latino Popular Culture, Volume One. Greenwood. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-313-32215-0. Archived from the original on 26 February 2018. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
- United States of America Department of Justice Petition for Naturalization no. 199531, filed April 26 1957.
- Woo, Elaine (January 30, 2012). "Margaret Runyan Castaneda, Carlos Castaneda's ex-wife, dies at 90". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 6 June 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2016.
- Marshall, Robert (April 12, 2007). "The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda". Salon. Salon Media Group. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
- 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. S2CID 143993277.
- 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.
- 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.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- 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.
- De Mille, Richard (1976). Castaneda's Journey: The Power and the Allegory. Capra Press. ISBN 978-0-88496-067-6.
- Koote, Anton F. - University of Florida (2008). "A Critical Look At Castaneda's Critics".
- Desper, James L. Jr. (2012). "Castaneda – Debunking De Mille".
- Harner, Michael (1978). "Castaneda Controversy – Michael Harner's reply". Archived from the original on 2017-09-16. Retrieved 2018-07-22.
- 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. S2CID 143666251.
- Applebome, Peter (August 19, 1998). "Mystery Man's Death Can't End the Mystery; Fighting Over Carlos Castaneda's Legacy". New York Times. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
- "Carlos Castaneda's Tensegrity". Retrieved 17 April 2016..
- "ABOUT US". Carlos Castaneda's Tensegrity. Archived from the original on 2018-02-16. Retrieved 2018-07-18.
- "Castaneda Obituary". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. June 19, 1998. Archived from the original on 7 August 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
- County of Los Angeles Department of Health Services (1998). Carlos Castaneda death certificate
- Flinchum, Robin (2006-02-10). "Remains of guru's disciple identified". Pahrump Valley Times. Archived from the original on 2015-05-13. Retrieved 2015-02-22.
- Leach, Edmund (June 5, 1969). "High School". The New York Review of Books. ISSN 0028-7504. Archived from the original on October 13, 2012. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
- Spicer, Edward H. (April 1969). "Review: The Teaching of Don Jaun: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge". American Anthropologist. 71 (2): 320–322. doi:10.1525/aa.1969.71.2.02a00250.
- Wasson, R. Gordon. 1969. (Bk. Rev.). Economic Botany vol. 23(2):197. A review of Carlos Castaneda's "The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.", Wasson, R. Gordon. 1972a. (Bk. Rev.). Economic Botany vol. 26(1):98–99. A review of Carlos Castaneda's "A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan."; Wasson, R. Gordon. 1973a. (Bk. Rev.). Economic Botany vol. 27(1):151–152. A review of Carlos Castaneda's "Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan."; Wasson, R. Gordon. . 1974. (Bk. Rev.). Economic Botany vol. 28(3):245–246. A review of Carlos Castaneda's "Tales of Power."; Wasson, R. Gordon. 1977a. (Mag., Bk. Rev). Head vol. 2(4):52–53, 88–94. November.
- Kelley, Jane Holden (1978). Yaqui Women: Contemporary Life Histories. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 24–25. ISBN 978-0-8032-0912-1.
- Harris, Marvin (2001). Cultural materialism: the struggle for a science of culture. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. p. 322.
- Thomas, Stephen (2008-01-10). "Shamans and Charlatans: Assessing Castaneda's Legacy". Archived from the original on 18 June 2016. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
- Painter, Muriel Thayer (1986). With Good Heart: Yaqui Beliefs and Ceremonies in Pascua Village. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. pp. 11, 43–44.
- Fikes, Jay Courtney (1993). Carlos Castaneda: Academic Opportunism and the Psychedelic Sixties. Millenia Press. pp. 55–56. ISBN 978-0969696001.
- David Silverman. Reading Castaneda: A Prologue to the Social Sciences. ISBN 978-0-7100-8146-9
- Donald Wieve. "Does Understanding Religion Require Religious Understanding?" In Russel T. McCutcheon (ed.), The Insider/Outsider Problem in the Study of Religion. New York: Bath Press, 1999. p. 263.
- Rothman, Joshua (17 December 2014). "The Crazy History of "Star Wars"". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 25 July 2017 – via www.newyorker.com.
- Amy Wallace (2007). Sorcerer's Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda. North Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-58394-206-2. Archived from the original on 2017-02-16. Retrieved 2015-11-12.
- Morais Junior, Luis Carlos de Lui Morais. Carlos Castaneda e a Fresta entre os Mundos: Vislumbres da Filosofia Ānahuacah no Século XXI (Carlos Castaneda and the Crack Between the Worlds: Glimpses of Ānahuacah Philosophy in the 21st Century). Rio de Janeiro: Litteris Editora, 2012.
- Sanchez, Victor. The Teachings of Don Carlos: Practical Applications of the Works of Carlos Castaneda. Bear & Company, 1995. ISBN 1-879181-23-1 (Note: Castaneda won a law case requiring Sanchez to alter his book covers and clarify he was not Castaneda's student.)
- Williams, Donald. Border Crossings: A Psychological Perspective on Carlos Castaneda's Path of Knowledge Inner City Books, 1981.
- Collier, Richard "The River That God Forgot" (Background on Julio Cesar Arana, despotic rubber baron, Carlos Castaneda's paternal grandfather) E.P. Dutton & Co., N.Y., 1968. Library of Congress CATALOG CARD NUMBER:68-12451
- Torres, Armando "Encounters with the Nagual: Conversations with Carlos Castaneda" First Light Press, 2004.
- Torres, Armando "The Secret of the Plumed Serpent: Further Conversations with Carlos Castaneda" Hade Publishing, 2014 (First published in Spanish as "El Secreto de la Serpiente Emplumada" by Editora Alba, 2010)
- Desper Jr., James "The End Of History: A Commentary On The Warrior's Way: A System Of Knowledge First Reported In The Books Of Carlos Castaneda" Third Attention Publishing, 2012.
- An Original: Richard de Mille, Carlos Castaneda, Literary Quackery — Science-Based Medicine – Wallace Sampson
- "BBC Four – Tales from the Jungle, Series 1, Carlos Castaneda, What happens when anthropology goes bad?". bbc.co.uk. 29 November 2007. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
- "Carlos Castaneda, Mystical and Mysterious Writer, Dies By PETER APPLEBOME". nytimes.com. 20 June 1998. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
- "Mystery Man's Death Can't End the Mystery; Fighting Over Carlos Castaneda's Legacy By PETER APPLEBOME". nytimes.com. 19 August 1998. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
- "To Carlos Castaneda, Wherever You Are By Keith Thompson". bbc.co.uk. 27 June 1998. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
- transcript: Carlos Castaneda Interviewed by Jane Hellisoe of the University of California Press, 1968, UCLA
- youtube audio: Carlos Castaneda Interviewed by Jane Hellisoe of the University of California Press, 1968, UCLA
- "Carlos Castaneda Interviews and Articles Archive – 1968 to 1998". federaljack.com. 5 October 2007. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
- "Total Freedom – Toltec – Articles and Interviews Archive – Text (or Audio when specified)". great-grandma.com. 24 July 2012. Archived from the original on 3 July 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2013.
- Robert Marshall, "The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda," Salon, Thursday, Apr 12, 2007.