The Carlos Castaneda book series has had an effect on many people, for many different reasons. Starting in 1968 as a work of Anthropology, the series ends up turning into the story of a sorcerer’s apprentice. First, appealing to the drug culture of the time for it’s reported first hand account of the use of hallucinogenic agents in this sorcery initiation, and moving into the 1990’s, appealing to the mass search for spirituality catching on at that time.
Castaneda received rave reviews from large publications such as Time Magazine, The New York Times, Deepak Chopra, Life Magazine, The Los Angeles Times and many others. His books have been published in the millions under categories such as NONFICTION, OCCULTISM/PARAPSYCHOLOGY, BODY MIND AND SPIRIT. Castaneda ended up surrounded by scandal before he passed from this Earth. There was a significant amount of support to discredit the works of Carlos Castaneda and there are books and blogs all about compiling information against him. It seems that some people dedicated their life’s work to disgrace and dishonor his name.
So where does that leave the people who’s lives the Castaneda book series has affected? I myself have experienced and verified that the methods, practices and ideas presented in the books are true. There is still no way to prove that, other than by the accounts of people who have experienced it; Similar to when a person sees a UFO, and even though they can’t prove it, they now believe in UFO’s. Some would claim that this is all psychological, and that the brain is tricking the believer of the perceptual input. Others would say that magic is real and that it doesn’t matter if the books were made up by apes using sign language, as long as the information contained in the books has usefulness.
The twelve books in the series are summarized here for the sake of reference as to the contents of each work. Whether taken as a story, a curiosity, an idiotic fraud or a manual for life, I present to you: The Carlos Castaneda Book Series.
The first book: “The Teachings Of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way Of Knowledge” begins with Carlos meeting Don Juan. Amidst Carlos’s ramblings, Don Juan gives Carlos a look that numbs his thoughts and stops Carlos talking in mid sentence. Don Juan takes his leave and Carlos is left determined to find an explanation of the how and what of Don Juan’s look.
Carlos finds Don Juan and asks him to be his informant on peyote. Don Juan resists at first, but eventually allows Carlos to participate in a peyote ceremony. During the ceremony, don Juan receives an omen from the deity related to the peyote plant: “Mescalito”. Don Juan takes this omen as a sign from Mescalito that Carlos is to be Don Juan’s disciple. From there, Don Juan introduces Carlos to more hallucinogens as part of his initiation. Don Juan uses Peyote, Jimson Weed (Datura), and a psychotropic mushroom to introduce Carlos to the idea that reality is more than meets the eye. The wild hallucinations of Carlos, combined with commentary from Don Juan and his compatriots is highly thought provoking and in some cases, downright hilarious. This book comes to a conclusion when Don Juan pits Carlos against a powerful female sorcerer in order to spur him to learn more about the sorcerer’s path. This encounter proves to be too much for Carlos and he resigns from his apprenticeship – for now. The Teachings of Don Juan
A Separate Reality begins with Carlos returning to Don Juan after several years leave, in search of answers to questions that he had after publishing his first book. Coming back to Don Juan ushers Castaneda straight back into his sorcerer’s apprenticeship. This time Don Juan is focused on teaching Carlos to see and Carlos is resisting using hallucinogens, because he wants to record a sober and accurate account of the results.
Don Juan wins out on the argument that the hallucinogens are a necessity, not for every sorcery initiate, but for Carlos in particular. Book two in the series goes deep into the details of seeing: a perceptual tool used by the sorcerers of Don Juan’s lineage to interpret the universe. This book is full of adventure and insight, with pages and pages of questions about perception from Carlos and answers from the legendary seer Don Juan. Toward the end of the book, Don Juan enlists the help of his cohort in sorcery, the enigmatic Don Genaro, to help Carlos learn to see. The magic of the series really starts bubbling up with A Separate Reality.
The third book in the Carlos Castaneda book series, “Journey To Ixtlan” begins with Carlos explaining that he had edited his field notes to focus on the topics that he considered important at the time of his writing his first two books. Journey To Ixtlan is somewhat of a rehashing of Castaneda’s notes. This time, revealing what Don Juan had taught Carlos about a phenomenon known as “stopping the world”. Stopping the world consists of realizing that the reality we have been perceiving is merely a description of reality, taught to us and every other living being as a means to collaborate, get along with each other, and understand our world.
In order to elicit this act of stopping the world, Don Juan presents Carlos with a set of recommended activities and ideas to implement, which are revealed in this book. These ideas and activities are presented as: #1 Erasing personal history, #2 Losing self-importance and #3 Using death as an adviser. Treks into the wilderness, laced with sorcery shenanigans and encounters with the supernatural, continue into the heart of magic as Don Juan once again recruits his sorcery associate Don Genaro to teach Carlos about power, mystery and the discovery of the esoteric life of a man of knowledge. Journey To Ixtlan is a must read if you are at all curious about the Castaneda Series.
Tales of Power, Castaneda’s fourth book, picks up right where Journey to Ixtlan leaves off. This time, Don Juan has decided to teach Carlos about arriving at “the totality of oneself” and seeking the “sorcerer’s explanation”. This book starts right into perceptual strangeness when Carlos has “an appointment with knowledge” and is coached by Don Juan to use seeing in order to view a mushroom shaped representation of several people from the vantage point of the back porch of Don Juan’s house in Mexico.
Carlos in finally given the task of seeing Don Genaro, who appears right then and there, in the flesh. Don Genaro claims that he arrived by means of sorcery, when he noticed that Carlos was seeing him. From that point on, Don Genaro appears to Carlos again and again to show him amazing feats of perception, such as “the double”: a copy of himself arrived at through dreaming. Don Genaro’s double attempts to shake Carlos’s view of reality by showing him that perception is not a thing to be taken for granted.
Later in the book, Don Juan introduces Carlos to the idea of the Tonal and the Nagual, a basic dichotomy of all things inside and outside of existence. Don Juan’s efforts culminate into the end of the apprenticeship when Carlos must pass a test to complete the teachings. Carlos must jump straight off of a sheer cliff and use sorcery in order to “unfold the wings of his perception”, before he hits the ground, to save himself from being dashed against the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. Carlos must accomplish this feat before Don Juan and his party of sorcerers leave this world forever, in search of the incomprehensible, and the clock is ticking. One of the best reads in the entire collection, Tales Of Power is perhaps the definitive work of Castaneda to this day.
The Second Ring Of Power picks up two years after where Tales of Power left off. Carlos had taken a leap from a cliff and disappeared, while Don Juan and his party of sorcerers had left the world, never to return. Carlos finds himself conflicted as to whether or not he had actually jumped into an abyss. He returns to Mexico in search of answers, but in the absence of Don Juan, Carlos goes to the house of one of Don Genaro’s disciples: Pablito.
At Pablito’s house, waiting for Carlos, was Doña Soledad: Pablito’s mother. Doña Soledad was apparently trained by Don Juan to assassinate Castaneda and attempts to kill him when he comes to visit. After fighting off Soledad’s attack by the intervention of some miraculous force which comes out of the top of Castaneda’s head, Carlos finds himself in a deadly game with several more of Don Juan’s other disciples, known as the little sisters. When Castaneda fends off their attacks, he has officially passed Don Juan’s test.
Another disciple called La Gorda shows up and explains that Don Juan had set up the attacks in order to test Carlos and to signify that his training was complete. Explanations and extraordinary weirdness rolls in as Pablito, Nestor and Benigno (fellow sorcery apprentices of Carlos) enter the scene and La Gorda reveals the final pieces of Don Juan’s teachings. Taking on a whole new pace, The Second Ring Of Power transpires in just a few days time and sets a whole new premise for this form of Ancient Mexican Spirituality.
The Eagle’s Gift conveniently picks up from where The Second Ring Of Power leaves off. Carlos is working with the other apprentices of Don Juan and Don Genaro to tackle aspects of their teachings such as: losing the human form, stalking, dreaming and seeing.
The apprentices have accepted that they are now the new sorcerer’s party in Don Juan’s lineage of sorcerers. They reorganize amongst themselves with Carlos as their leader or their Nagual. Carlos teams up with La Gorda and they work together to hone their abilities at seeing and dreaming.
Through their work of dreaming together, they eventually realize that there were memories within them both; teachings and dealings with other members of Don Juan’s party of sorcerers that they had forgotten. These teachings were given to them in a special state called “heightened awareness” in which learning is deeply ingrained into the subconscious of the sorcery apprentice, to be recalled and reassembled at a later time.
The last part of The Eagle’s Gift entails the struggle of Carlos and La Gorda to remember these teachings and integrate them into the complete teachings that they were introduced to. The Eagle’s Gift brings about a whole new aspect of Don Juan’s teachings, which comprise the next three books of the Castaneda series: The task of remembering what was taught to them during their states of heightened awareness.
The Fire From Within goes into great detail about the origins of Don Juan’s knowledge. As the years go by and Carlos is able to recall more and more about what Don Juan taught him during his states in heightened awareness, Carlos Castaneda begins The Fire From Within with conversations about “The Old Seers” of ancient Mexico. Don Juan goes on to explain how the old seers stumbled upon hallucinogenic plants and began to examine their experiences and the effects that those plants had on their consciousness.
Over hundreds of years, these ancient seers discovered extraordinary ways to manipulate consciousness and developed a variety of systems which allowed them to achieve unbelievable feats. Through trials and tribulations, their knowledge evolved into the system which Don Juan and his party subscribe to and they now call themselves “The New Seers”. Their knowledge is comprised three major aspects: The mastery of awareness, the mastery of stalking and the mastery of intent. The Fire From Within deals with the mastery of awareness taught to Carlos in order to prepare him for his final test as Don Juan’s apprentice: the act of jumping into an abyss.
Carlos describes some very fascinating aspects of Don Juan’s knowledge including the assemblage point, dreaming, inorganic beings, the earth’s boost, the death defiers and eventually the fire from within. Apparently, the culmination of Don Juan’s teachings is to achieve a state of total awareness, where a person ignites, in one instant, all of the possible perceptions available to a human being. This simultaneous activation of all that can be perceived causes the person to burn with the energetic force of awareness, transforming them into pure consciousness, free from the constraints of corporeal convention. Burning with the fire from within leads the practitioner to a state of “Total Freedom”, liberating them and allowing a complete spiritual ascension beyond time, space and existence as we know it. The Fire From Within is a real page turner and takes the book series to a whole new level, which can leave the reader questioning more than just the nature of existence.
The Power Of Silence is another recounting of more of Don Juan’s teachings from heightened awareness. Where The Fire From Within deals with the mastery of awareness, The Power Of Silence is a compilation of the mastery of stalking and the mastery of intent, elucidated through sorcery stories. Don Juan tells Carlos stories about the Naguals of their sorcery lineage, demonstrating a pattern that the abstract, intent, or the spirit uses to reveal itself to human beings.
According to Don Juan’s sorcery stories, intent tries to reveal itself to everyone equally at all times. The reason that we don’t notice intent, is because we are all so busy being distracted by our daily concerns. Next, intent resorts to trickery in order to get our attention, thus bringing in the mastery of stalking. Each sorcery apprentice is therefore lead to their connection with intent through their sorcery benefactor’s mastery of stalking, in connection with intent. An abstract work of symbolic gestures, The Power Of Silence takes a somersault of thought into the unknown.
The Art Of Dreaming is more or less self explanatory by the title. This book is once again, further stories of teachings that have been recollected from earlier states of heightened awareness before Don Juan and his party of sorcerers left the world as we know it.
Carlos goes deep into the aspects of Lucid dreaming, guided by help from the female members of Don Juan’s party, and ends up dealing with forces from the realm of the Inorganic Beings. This work is full of mysteries and so called “easter eggs” from the knowledge of the sorcerers of ancient Mexico. The Art Of Dreaming is a great read for those who wish to take their dreaming to the next level, and beyond!
The active side of infinity is a collection of stories from Carlos Castaneda’s life. Carlos claims that he compiled these stories on Don Juan’s suggestion, as a means to redeploy unused energy from those events. If a sorcerer reorders the memorable events of their life into a collection, it can allow them a vehicle for the emotional and energetic adjustment needed to venture into the unknown.
The book coaxes the reader and hints about another mind within each of us. A mind that Don Juan refers to as a foreign installation. It is not until later in the book, in a chapter named “Mud Shadows” that Carlos reveals that Don Juan had shown him a special type of inorganic being known as the flyers. According to the sorcerers of Don Juan’s lineage, the flyers had given us their mind eons ago, thereby taking over total control of our lives. Our thoughts are their thoughts, and we are their food. They create emotional events in our reality to cause flare ups in our awareness, in order to feed on that energy. To learn more about the flyers, don’t miss out on The Active Side Of Infinity.
The Wheel Of Time is a collection of quotes selected from Castaneda’s first eight books. According to Castaneda, the collection of quotes began as an attempt to collect a series of quotes that would be interesting to read and ponder. Instead, the collection of quotes took on their own momentum, hinting at a deeper meaning. The quotes seemed to draw Carlos into a mood of the sorcerers of ancient times. Sorcerers who had razor sharp focus on a mysterious force that they called intent. By using this force, those ancient sorcerers were able to manipulate the wheel of time. Instead of being stuck perceiving time the way that average humans do, these ancient sorcerers were able to see time not only as it recedes from them, but also as it advances upon them, in the other direction.
The Wheel Of Time encapsulates another perspective of our world, set in motion by a force greater than human comprehension, and steeped in the struggle of the spiritual warrior. An ongoing work of human understanding is contained in this book.
Magical Passes is a whole different kind of book, set apart from the rest of the Carlos Castaneda series. This is a book full of hundreds of explanations and illustrations of a system of movements discovered by the shamans of ancient Mexico. The purpose of these magical passes is the redeployment of energy, which has been pushed away from our energetic vital centers during the stress of every day life. This energy, which has settled on the periphery of our luminous spheres, is agitated and redeployed back to our centers of vitality, through the performance of these magical movements. Think of Magical Passes as kind of like the sorcerer’s Tai Chi.
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8 thoughts on “What’s Inside The Carlos Castaneda Books?”
Thank you for compiling this information. I’ve read all of Castaneda’s books many times but it’s been a few years. Your descriptions here narrowed down my search for a few stories I’m trying to find. I really appreciated the effort.
Thank you, mission accomplished!
Hi, I was using the following search string: La Gorda and Nestor Magical Passes. This brought me to your website. You do have staff on Castaneda writings. You also got comments on Magical Passes by Carlos Castaneda. It was nice to see it. I also have all Carlos Castaneda books and his students’ books.. I got them from about 1968 through1998. But i began practicing Magical Passes since about July 1919. Here is a thing that I discovered only recently. it may excite your curiosity too. You might remember Don Juan Matus saying: “There is no Game without a Nagual”. He meant this as without A Nagual what his Lineage was teaching cannot be effectively taught. But here is a book.by Robert Abelar (1916, Amazon), Titled LINEAGE. It explains that La Gorda and Nestor were searching for teachers to complete their training under Castaneda and Don Juan, that they otherwise could not bring to completion under Carlos and Don Juan. They were able to fully complete their training without Nagual teachers. This included the ability of teleportation, seen and ever other skill mentioned in Castaneda Magical Passes. La Gorda and Nestor taught other in Europe. In particular, a Lady who called herself Florinda Grau, not the one mentioned in Castaneda books. Florinda Grau taught another Warriors Party to find Freedom. So it recently occurred to me that La Gorda and Nestor were teaching a more effective version of Magical Passes, than Don Juan taught.. This complete set may be published somewhere. It could be taught without a Nagual. It could possibly be self taught, should there be a text about it comparable in quality to Carlos Castaneda Magical Pass. That is why I chose the search string I mentioned in my comment above.
Love your comment, thank you for the information
“What’s Inside The Carlos Castaneda Books?” is a wonderful topic. For example, Carlos Castaneda mentioned in his volumes that several students of Don Juan and Carlos Castaneda were not able to complete their training under Don Juan and not under Castaneda. Among these students were La Gorda and Nestor. They are mentioned in Castaneda books. And La Gorda is of course mentioned in the above summary of Castaneda books by ALLTHINGSFORTHEWIN. Both La Gorda and Nestor appeared to have completed their training in Toltecs arts apparently gaining all the skills that Don Juan and Carlos taught them, but only after La Gorda and Nestor broke all contact with their teachers. This rumor as well as the ability of La Gorda and Nestor to teach others all the skills that Don Juan and Carlos has tried to transmit to La Gorda and Nestor has been written up in the book by Robert Abelar. That book is Titled “Lineage”, and it is sold by Amazon too. What is remarkable about that rumor concerning La Gorda and Nestor tis hat La Gorda and Nestor have not been taught by any Naguals. This is in contradiction with Don Juan Matus saying: “There is no Game without a Nagual”. Don Juan Matus meant that it is not possible to teach his Lineage skills in absence of Nagual teacher.
Very interesting indeed! Thank you and I will check into that book
Very nice article.
It is rare to find anyone who has read, appreciated and understood, Castaneda, deeply enough to make articulate, knowledgable comnents. Even to the shortend overview the artice required.
I am sure (hope) you have absorbed much more than your overview suggests.
Either way, thank you..
Thank you. I have a Youtube channel where I explore more of the detailed concepts of the books (among other things). Check it out if you like videos? https://www.youtube.com/c/Allthingsparanormal3000