Welcome to ‘Bonus Musings’ – because there is no ‘Week 3’ journal requirement for my course. However, it’s kinda implied that you need to do some extra thinking. So I am going to take this as an opportunity to rant about some books I’ve read. Every week I’m not required to do anything I’ll do another one. Get some sort of chronological flow around here, so we’re not jumping from week 2 to week 7. Sound good? Okay then.
Alright then. First up, Carlos Castaneda’s The Eagle’s Gift.
To put it simply, it’s a book about a bunch of people out in the desert practicing magic. The sixth in a series of books narrated by an apprentice to the Yaqui shaman don Juan Matus. This book opens with don Juan already dead, and now the narrator is expected to become the new Nagual – the leader of his group of believers in abnormal reality.
The interesting part of all this is that the author is the narrator, and claims the entire story to be one hundred percent factual. He describes the wisdom of multiple selves, the art of dreaming – all the usual psychic babble. But it gets pretty outlandish. One of his associates tells a story in which she picks up a magic rock, is possessed by the fear of the man who last held it, and subsequently chased through her dreams by his cannibalistic murderer. She is cured when don Juan buries her underground for nine days. Carlos Castaneda himself describes an experience on a beach wherein he looks around and sees all the people as giant glowing cocoons of light. And this is just one book. I haven’t read the earlier ones, but I hear stories about flying across canyons while you sleep and so on. I am immensely curious to read something with the enigmatic don Juan actually in it. He sounds quite the character.
It’s pretty openly stated that don Juan and Castaneda were smoking a lot of peyote – but these stories are probably not even drug related. Researchers have found that at times Castaneda claimed in his journal to be involved in peyote-smoking activities, he was actually sitting in a library reading about someone else’s experiences with said drugs.
So essentially it’s all crap. Carlos Castaneda was just a plastic shaman. But this guy and his followers really did exist. He had three women living in his home dubbed ‘The Witches’ by locals. After Castaneda’s death, they all mysteriously disappeared. The book talks about a ‘family’ called the Genaros, who live out in the desert with him and they seem to argue a lot. But it turns out they’re all living together as some sort of metaphorical rattlesnake’s intestines, so it’s okay.
Seriously. That’s a key point of the plot. Some of them are just a metaphor for snake intestines. Let’s run with it.
The Eagle’s Gift describes Castaneda’s coming-to-be, his beginning to take power of his psycho-mystical abilities. It spins a fantastic web of what could pretty easily be described as a cult. There’s a whole mythology here. A magical train of meditation and wisdom that – apparently – ends in a singular form of enlightement.
When you reach the ultimate ‘Third Awareness’ and are one with the universe… You explode.
That’s what happened to don Juan as far as can be told.
In short, it’s impossible to tell whether Castaneda actually believed all this stuff, or just his followers, or whether it was all just a huge con. He got a masters for his first three books submitted as his ‘anthropology analysis.’ And sold a lot of books. So I guess it was all a massive success.
The Eagle’s Gift is the story of a bunch of people hanging out in the mexican deserts talking about their magical powers. It’s pretty funny on a skeptical level – and if you let yourself slip just for a second into a ‘well, what if‘ kind of mood… pretty mind-bending stuff.
So yeah. I’ll see you magical glow-cocoons next week.