Carlos Castaneda Was Lying But His Jimsonweed Lizards Accurately Predicted His Future

castaneda_booksFrom The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968):

“The paste [datura or Jimsonweed, aka loco weed] had dried up and scaled off my temples. I was about to rub some more of it on [using a live lizard’s head as an applicator] when I realized I was sitting on my heels in Japanese fashion. I had been sitting cross-legged and did not recall changing positions. It took some time to realize fully that I was sitting on the floor in a sort of cloister with high arches. I thought they were brick arches, but upon examining them I saw they were stone.

“This transition was very difficult. It came so suddenly that I was not ready to follow. My perception of the elements of the vision was diffused, as if I were dreaming. Yet the components did not change…

“…the next thing I noticed was that I had moved. I was at the top of a stairway and H., a friend of mine, was standing at the bottom. Her eyes were feverish. There was a mad glare in them. She laughed aloud with such intensity that she was terrifying. She began coming up the stairs. I wanted to run away or take cover, because ‘she had been off her rocker once’. That was the thought that came to my mind.

“I hid behind a column and she went by without looking. ‘She is going on a long trip now,’ was another thought that occurred to me then; and finally the last thought I remembered was, ‘She laughs every time she is ready to crack up.’

“….The scene changed abruptly. It was night-time. I was in the hall of a building. The darkness inside the building made me aware that in the earlier scene the sunlight had been beautifully clear; yet it had been so commonplace that I did not notice it at the time.

“As I looked further into the new vision I saw a young man coming out of a room carrying a large knapsack on his shoulders. I did not know who he was, although I had seen him once or twice. He walked by me and went down the stairs. By then I had forgotten my apprehension, my rational dilemmas.

” ‘Who is that guy?’ I thought. ‘Why did I see him?’ “

“The scene changed again and I was watching the young man deface books; he glued some of the pages together, erased markings, and so on. Then I saw him arranging the books neatly in a wooden crate. There was a pile of crates. They were not in his room, but in a storage place. Other images came to my mind, but they were not clear. The scene became foggy. I had a sensation of spinning.

“Don Juan shook me by the shoulders, and I woke up….”

THE INTERPRETATION:

Both components of the vision are about Castaneda’s ultimate destiny. The stone edifice or structure symbolizes both academia and the world of money and comfort. Carlos’s “colleagues” in this edifice are a bunch of “wild-eyed” women, deranged with laughter and nearing total breakdown. They come after him and he must hide–this obviously symbolizes the “witches” etc. (see links below)

The final component–the man tearing out pages from books, someone Castaneda had seen around campus, but did not know–symbolizes the total rejection of Castaneda’s work by academia. In anthropology, Castaneda is now un-quotable except as a foil, a counter-example, which is a fate worse than death to a scholar. The geeky nobody in Carlos’ vision that he barely recognizes symbolizes the diligent academic scholars who went on to less sexy careers than Castaneda, but who in the end collectively decide whose writings are in and whose are out of the un/official libraries of modern anthropology.

As don Juan told Castaneda afterwards:

“The lizards are never wrong.”

POSTSCRIPT:  For background on Castaneda’s deceptions here are two links:

print:   http://www.salon.com/2007/04/12/castaneda/

video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXl95ZaYe3Q   (part of the Tales from the Jungle Series–British documentaries on anthropology’s dirty laundry)

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