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Carlos Castaneda

I've long used Carlos Castaneda as a touchstone for assessing people's gullibility. Whenever I come across a book in which Castaneda is cited with a straight face I at once label the author in my mind as naive and uncritical. It's been evident for a long time (from the first appearance of Castaneda in print, really) that the whole Don Juan as shaman business was made up, an elaborate confidence trick.

Last night BBC4 had a documentary on Castaneda (with the obligatory semi-dramatized bits thrown in, naturally) which filled in a few gaps in the story. It appears that there may have been some kind of model for Don Juan although the man in question did not, of course, do any of the things that Don Juan is said by Castaneda to have done and would have decisively rejected his claims. Quite a lot of the Yaqui sage's pseudo-profound remarks appear to have been lifted by Casteneda from older books.

Inevitably, one commentator who liked Casteneda's books said that even if they were not strictly factual they nevertheless contained many pearls of wisdom. This is always said on such occasions; nobody likes to admit they've been fooled.

In later life Castaneda set himself up as a guru and attracted a considerable number of devotees to him, especially female devotees. At the end of his life he was apparently living in a harem with six of these ladies. After his death, from cancer, five of them seem to have committed suicide, although only one body has been found. The sixth is still alive and well and turned up in the programme.

If you didn't see this programme last night, watch out for a repeat; it's worth seeing.

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movay on :

i met carlos and knew the peop[le in the doco. its all true actually, what carlos wrote.

july elicierto on :

I think your views on Castaneda are rather limited and
greatly biased like most people who failed to understand his works. I came from another culture and I can say that there are things he wrote that ran parallel to some of the sorcery practices of my culture and other cultures ,which, I wiuldn't say he invented, copied, or researched. Just because the world cannot validate the basis of his works does not mean there's no truth in them. You must understand that even today, the practice of sorcery is shrouded in secrecy and trickery.

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