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Carlos Castaņeda

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Carlos Castaņeda (December 25, 1925 - April 27, 1998) was an American writer, primarily known for his Don Juan book series (12 books and many shorter works). He claimed to have been born in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Christmas Day in 1931, but immigration records show that he was born 6 years earlier in Cajamarca[?], Peru. He was educated at the University of California, Los Angeles (B.A. 1962; Ph.D. 1970).

In 1960, he met the Yaqui shaman Don Juan Matus[?], and learning from him, Castaņeda wrote the partly autobiographical works for which he is known.

Notable works include:

Although they started out with the premise of anthropology, his works became a mixture of story, religion and philosophy.

Castaņeda's works contain descriptions of paranormal experiences, several psychological techniques (such as neurolinguistic programming), Toltec magic rituals, shamanism and experiences with psychoactive drugs (e.g. peyote).

Criticism

Many critics doubt the existence of Don Juan, citing inconsistencies in Don Juan's personality across the books; flaws in the sequence of events in the books; the lack of correspondence between Don Juan's teachings and actual Yaqui Indian religious beliefs and practices; and Don Juan's not infrequent use of English colloquialisms and puns, even though he supposedly speaks no English. Many Castaneda supporters claim in turn that the actual existence per se of Don Juan is irrelevant, and the important matter is the themes that Don Juan presents.

As Castaņeda was very elusive, and because his works were taken up by young people at a time when mystical and shamanic traditions were in fashion, many professionals cast doubt on the authenticity of contents of his works. When he followed up The Teachings of Don Juan with a series of equally popular books, including A Separate Reality (1971) and Tales of Power (1975), even more questions were raised as to how much of his work was true anthropology and how much was his own creation.

Another way to read the books is as a sort of game, almost like a detective novel[?]. Some of the material is likely to be true, some is likely to be fictional, and some of the events described probably appeared to be real at the time, but were actually hallucinations; it is up to the reader to decide which is which.



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