Carlos Castanada

Las enseñanzas de Don Juan
Las enseñanzas de Don Juan: arugatse / Geronimo De Francesco via Flickr

Carlos Castanada (1925-1998) was a Peruvian born anthropologist and author who immigrated to California hoping to attain an academic career.

For his master thesis, he published the book The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968).

The book was promoted as an anthropological account of Castanada’s encounter with a wise, benevolent Yaqui sorcerer in Mexico. It sold very well and Castanada continued with a series of best-sellers, all making the same claim of authenticity.

Critics of Castanada’s work point out that he took no real field notes and is elusive about his past, suggesting that his books are cleverly crafted fiction.

Whether they be fictional, embellished facts, or factual, these widely acclaimed stories outline a belief in interactive fields of reality. In the broadest sense these fields could be differentiated as ordinary and non-ordinary worlds, or as Mircea Eliade put it, mundane and supramundane realities.

But Don Juan’s teachings involve more than a simple “this or that” cosmology. Schematically, his vision is not unlike the mathematical fractal. The sorcerer is said to control interactive fields of power. Accordingly, he or she may exert influence from one power region to another to bring about an ethically good outcome.

Yaqui indians
Yaqui indians (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An apparent physical illness, for instance, could be healed by inwardly perceiving spiritual disturbances or fields that are interacting with a patient’s bodily organs. Don Juan claimed that, by focusing awareness and exerting the will, the sorcerer can correct a seemingly isolated physical disturbance.

This is now called distance healing. And in Don Juan’s story, distance healing could be a single or complex, multi-layered event.

This approach might seem fanciful to some, but semiotics wedded to subatomic physics seems to point in a similar direction. Leading physicists and modern science writers say that matter and energy are two humanly constructed concepts. As such, the ideas of matter and energy apparently represent two forms of one underlying essence.

Interestingly, Castanada criticized the beatnik, drug guru Timothy Leary for suggesting that psychotropic drugs, alone, could cure. For Castanada, ingesting drugs was only an initial step in a complicated inner journey requiring a great deal of prolonged training and personal discipline.



  1. Hi .. thanks for your sublime expérience of the yaquis .
    i’am a friend of mind .
    we ‘re going the gold years . sincerely muchas gracias ,to be came on my way.
    06 42 08 83 58 Gracias spiritual hermano


  2. I have been a fan of Carlos castanada for some time. I have got a lot of self-awarness from his words. The concept of the ego is not a new one but I find it a bit strange I have heard no one talk of the parallells between Carlos and Eckhart Tolle. It is obvious to me the are speaking the same truth.


  3. I am very qurious of my family history, an have questions to ask of anyone interested.I was born in Trinidad 1968 and left in 1977 for Scotland UK. Ivy is the name of my especially beautiful grandmother, an old colonial lady, born 1929.Mamy whom she is fondly known as throughout the islands has a sad story to tell, her grandfather whom I know only as ‘Po’, a major plantation owner at the time had only one daughter my great grandmother a long blond haired slight but beautiful spanish woman of whom ‘mamy refuses to speak her name’,who died a silent death after the foreman slave she loved ‘Edwards’ married her apon his freedom. Only to brutalise and humiliate her in the market selling wares. Mamy was the youngest of 3, she had 2 elder brothers, both of which she outlived, or so we were lead to believe. I have strong memories of the younger, his name I presently forget. But we all CASTANADA women especially do have an extraordinary insight, not only to life and love, but we believe we have inherent values of humility and compassion. There is now 5th generation Castanada and I have no doubt Carlos is a family member and would be gratefull for any info.


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