Carlos Castaneda (1925-1998) was the author of various books, of “Anthropology”, including Castaneda, Carlos. Journey to Ixtlan, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, A Separate Reality, The Art of Dreaming, and many other books.1
The other thing to remember about Carlos Castaneda is that he was a fraud and a liar. He said that he was doing research on Yaqui Shamanism who he called Don Juan. It is now very clear that Don Juan did not exist and that Carlos books are clear frauds in that they are not in any sense Ethnographic accounts of Yaqui Shamanism but fiction.2
Rather than go into a long dissertation about why Carlos Castaneda’s books are fraudulent, I will just mention a few facts.
Carlos Castaneda claimed that he was born in Sao Paulo Brazil in either 1931 or 1935. It appears that in fact he was born in 1925 in the city of Cajamarca Peru. He also claimed to have served in the Korean War, also a false claim.3
Further it appears that Carlos claim to describe Yaqui shamanism is completely bogus and his Don Juan nothing but an invention.4 Further Carlos accounts have such absurdities as Carlos wondering about with Don Juan in the desert for days in June with no mention of the heat. Those description of hiking about in the desert when the temperature soars to well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, are just stupid. We read descriptions of climbing up to the top of hills in August and resting in open spaces until noon. What!!5 We also learn that the Sonoran desert is crawling with Mountain lions (Pumas), despite that fact they have nearly been wiped out in the area and are solitary, among other absurdities.6
In 1973 When a lot of people were taking Carlos’ fantasies seriously even Time magazine in a generally positive cover story said:
However, with Castaneda's increasing fame have come increasing doubts. Don Juan has no other verifiable witness, and Juan Matus is nearly as common a name among the Yaqui Indians as John Smith farther north. Is Castaneda real? If so, did he invent Don Juan? Is Castaneda just putting on the straight world?
But such endorsements and parallels do not in any way validate the more worldly claim to importance of Castaneda's books: to wit, that they are anthropology, a specific and truthful account of an aspect of Mexican Indian culture as shown by the speech and actions of one person, a shaman named Juan Matus. That proof hinges on the credibility of Don Juan as a being and Carlos Castaneda as a witness. Yet there is no corroboration—beyond Castaneda's writings-that Don Juan did what he is said to have done, and very little that he exists at all.7
Castaneda's books has been under sustained attack for many years, right from the beginning, the refusal of the University of California to openly acknowledge this is a reflection on them but I guess they want to preserve the rather profitable sales of Castaneda's books. Its always hard to acknowledge you've been had especially when it makes you money. I note that vast legion of "alternative" Anthropologists, etc., who have been boosting Castaneda's books have been if anything even more loath to admit they've been had.
If they had followed a few simple rules, that my Prof's in Anthropology were required, and required, to produce Castaneda would never have gotten a Phd.
1, Prove that you went to where you say you went. (tickets, photos, etc.)
2, Turn over your notes to the Phd. committee.
4, Indicate in your bibliography a detailed knowledge of seminal and recent work on the "people" you are studying.
Carlos Castaneda was and remains a fraud because he invented Don Juan and his research on the Yaqui Indian Shamanism was bogus and false.
Carlos was however very attuned to the wave of New Age idiocy that was coming and decided to cash in on that wave by producing works awash in New Age glop and it helped make him rich and famous. Meanwhile it produced works of virtually no Anthropological value whatsoever.8
Some try to excuse Carlos on the grounds that his writing impart a “higher” truth, however Time magazine got it right so long ago when it compared Carlos’ writings to fiction:
I might be able to discuss the merits of Castaneda's books, (in my opinion minimal) if they had been published as fiction, and not as fact.
The difference is that Castaneda does not present his Don Juan cycle as fiction but as unembellished documentary fact.9
1. Journey to Ixtlan, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1972, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, University of California Press, Berkeley CA., 1998, A Separate Reality, Pocket Books, New York, 1971, The Art of Dreaming, HarperCollins, New York, 1993.
2. See for example De Mille, Richard, Castaneda’s Journey, Capra Press, Santa Barbara CA., 1976, De Mille, Richard, Editor, The Don Juan Papers, Ross-Erikson Pub., Santa Barbara, Ca., 1980, Kikes, Jay Courtney, Carlos Castaneda, Academic Opportunism and the Psychedelic Sixties, Millenia Press, Victoria BC., 1993, Churchill, Ward, Carlos Castaneda: The Greatest Hoax since Piltdown Man, in Fantasies of the Master Race, Common Courage Press, Monroe MA., 1992 pp. 43-64, Harris, Marvin, Return of the Witch, in Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches, Vintage Books, New York, 1974, pp. 208-222, and Cultural Materialism, Vintage Books, New York, 1979, pp. 319-324.
3. Churchill, p. 45, Wikipedia, Carlos Casteneda, Here.
4, De Mille, Richard, Sonoragate or Tales of Folly, in The Don Juan Papers, pp. 119-143, see also Harris, 1974.
5, Sebald, Hans, Roasting Rabbits in Tularemia or The Lion, the Witch, and the Horned Toad, in The Don Juan Papers, pp. 34-38, p. 35.
6. IBID, p. 36.
7, Time Magazine cover story, March 5, 1973, Don Juan and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, at Time, Here.
8, Gardner, Martin, Carlos Castaneda and New Age Anthropology, in Did Adam and Eve Have Navels?, W.W. Norton, New York, 2001, pp. 162-171, Harris, 1974 & 1979. For what Carlos was up too later in his life and its ill effects see Marshall, Robert, The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda, at Salon, Here.