EUGENE, Ore. – On Saturday, May 22, 1971 – some 40 years ago – the famed Sixties writer Carlos Castaneda traveled to see Don Juan Matus, a Yaqui Indian teacher and a possible alien being, “with whom I had been associated since 1961,” writes Castaneda in the introduction of his bestseller “Journey to Ixtlan: The Lesson of Don Juan.”
Starting with “The Teachings of Don Juan” in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that are revered here in Eugene and throughout the world by Sixties-era fans that used the tutelage of a Yaqui “Man of Knowledge” named Don Juan Matus to “guide them on the journey of life." In turn, Castaneda -- who was born on Christmas Day in 1925 and who died at the age of 72 in 1998 -- said it was Don Juan who guided him on the important things in life.
Castaneda’s 12 books about his teacher Don Juan have sold more than 9 million copies in 17 languages. Fans of Castaneda here in Eugene – where he frequently lectured during the annual “Oregon Country Fair” -- mark 2011 as a “special anniversary year” because they say it was 50 years ago in 1961 that Castaneda met Don Juan, and 40 years ago this month that Castaneda took the Journey to Ixtlan.
Castaneda focused his art and literature on inner development
“I contended that I was aware of my impending death but it was useless to talk or think about it, since I could not do anything to avoid it. Don Juan laughed and said I was like a comedian going mechanically through a routine,” writes Castaneda in Journey to Ixtlan where he answers critics who’ve suggested that his books about Don Juan are fiction.
“If this were your last battle on Earth, I would say that you are an idiot,” Don Juan said calmly. “You are wasting your last act on Earth in some stupid mood,” added Castaneda of his teacher who he believed was “an alien being from outside Earth.”
For fans of Castaneda, “his books are a keeper,” says Eugene native Bennett who’s a self-proclaimed student of Castaneda’s and former Hippie. “For me, there’s no question that Don Juan was real, and a higher being from outside our world. If you’ve read the books, you also know that Castaneda shares a philosophy that’s aimed at increasing our awareness to nature and life around us.”
Castaneda’s far-out views from Don Juan are still read at universities
Bennett says you will find all of Castaneda’s books on the reference shelves of the famed Knight Library at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and at any other major university library in the U.S. or overseas. "For those who get Castaneda, his books are very special because they may have helped one open those doors of perception."
“Castaneda has created a new kind of literature that speaks to the soul," adds Bennett.
According to the Carlos Castaneda web site, the author and teacher “withdrew from public view in 1973 to work on his inner development” that’s based on his experiences with Don Juan, who many now believe was real and possibly an “alien being.”
Moreover, Castaneda claimed to have inherited from Don Juan the position of “nagual,” or leader of a party of seers -- that his friend Ken Kesey and others were a part of here in the Eugene area -- and, at the same time, where also active down in the southern California region near L.A. where Castaneda lived.
The “seers” or “naguals” were connected in some way to that unknown, adds Bennett of “this strange man whose made a lasting mark in American literature. Some consider Carlos one of the first self-help guru’s. “He wasn’t from India, but home-grown and one of us.”
While it’s been assumed that the “seers” found Don Juan and other high spiritual beings after taking Lophophora williamsii (known as peyote) or the hallucinogenic mushroom of the genus Psilocybe. But fans of Castaneda now view “these natural drugs” as not the only source of Don Juan’s insight.
For example, Bennett says: “There’s now a view – after detailed study of Castaneda’s books – that Don Juan was a naturally ‘high being’ from another planet who was here on Earth to share wisdom with Castaneda who, in turn, would share it with all of you.”
Submitted by Dave Masko on 2011-05-09
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