January 15th, 2008

My Two-Cents on Carlos Castaneda

People have been talking about Carlos Castaneda on the AODA list. When I was 16-20 in '76-80, I was really into Castaneda, mostly _Journey to Ixtlan_, and then _Tales of Power_. The other books didn't do that much for me.

I did apply things I learned in those books, such as gazing, using death as an advisor, night running, not carrying things in the hand but instead on one's back, finding one's "spot", etc. I can say all the things I did, worked. Let me give you two examples.

1. There was a prickly pear and gopher hole pockmarked plains behind an old man's house on the edge of Helena (now the area has been turned into a gas station and casino, after the old man's death many years ago). I did night running there at night: full-speed, knees high, leaning forward, running at night out in the plains...and never stepped on a cactus or in a hole, which I could never repeat in the daytime, and my speed and endurance was much greater at night.

2. When I first went to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, I had only a large trunk and a dufflebag. I arrived at night, and nothing was open, no dorms, no motels etc. So I had to sleep somewhere. I decided to "find my spot" and "gazed" for it, and it was not in any sheltered area, but out in the middle of the lawn, about 6 feet from a concrete walkway. There was a "purple-ness" in my gazing there, and the spot was unremarkable in any way. I laid down in the middle of the lawn by the path, wrapped in my blanket. I slept well. I got up in the morning and began to walk around. I encountered the security guard, and he asked me where I had slept. He had heard my snoring, but could never find me, even though the path was 6 feet away, there were no bushes, only lawn, and the lamppost was perhaps 50 feet away.

Take those incidents for what they are worth.

Although Castaneda focused on entheogens in the first two books, his Don Juan character said that medicines like that are for breaking open one's world view initially, and that was their main purpose. Once your worldview shifts, you don't need them. It is like having a broken leg. You only need a crutch until it heals, and then you throw away the crutch. You have to throw away the crutch, or you will never walk right on your own. I didn't need to have my worldview broken open; my problem in many ways was the opposite.

I have never done any mind-altering stuff other than drinking alcohol, and once taking peyote in my youth (I am Native American, and we did it legally as part of the Native American Church). I have never even done pot or 'shrooms, standard fare for the era of my youth, when everyone did it. I was very much a square. I didn't need to do those things, to "see things." Those things were not compatible with much of modern ways. I didn't even really drink much until my late 20s, in trying to block what I saw. TV and sex also works to block those things. I saw many things in my youth, but not anymore.

I had attended a Native American Church ceremony in my 20s, and in the context of a traditional Cheyenne prayer meeting, I took the medicine (peyote). Mainly, I threw up and got very sick, which is why I never wanted to do it again. But some odd things did happen. The main thing is that for a brief time, perhaps an hour that night, I understood the Cheyenne language as if it were my own language. I am not Cheyenne, I know perhaps 6-7 words is all, but I understood the old men around the tipi speaking it as if it was my own native language. I asked them about certain things they said the next day, and they were startled, confirmed what they had been saying in Cheyenne, and then happy to learn of that blessing.

I know Castaneda is a proven fraud, and have read the exposees. Castaneda is essentially Trickster, which means he lies and tells the truth; in his lies are truths, and his truths are lies. I don't have any use for the various rip-off "products" like tensegrity and stuff his "sorceror/followers" try to shill, but there is something there to learn about daimonic reality in some of his books (_Ixtlan_ and _Power_ are recommended), I have no doubt, stolen from anthro literature or other sources.

But don't buy the products or take workshops. Read those two books and see what comes to you.

Lance Foster

The Man Who Planted Trees

Perhaps my favorite short animated film of all time, it is about the restoration of an entire forest...tree by tree...year by year. "The Man Who Planted Trees" is an allegorical tale by French author Jean Giono, published in 1953. It is the story of a landscape ruined by mankind...and restored by one man's faithful humanity. The exquisite art and animation is by the Frédéric Back, and the wonderful narration is by Christopher Plummer. Produced by Radio-Canada in 1987, it won the Academy Award for best animated short film that year.

Read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Who_Planted_Trees.