Carlos Castaneda (December 25, 1925 - April 27, 1998) was a US writer of Peruvian origin, primarily known for his Don Juan book series (12 books and many shorter works).

He claimed to have been born in So Paulo, Brazil on Christmas Day in 1931, but immigration records show that he was born 6 years earlier in Cajamarca, Peru. He anglicized his name by changing "" (Castaeda) into "n". 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, Castaneda wrote the partly autobiographical works for which he is known.

Notable works include:

  • The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968) ISBN 0-520217578
  • A Separate Reality (1971) ISBN 0-671732498
  • Journey to Ixtlan (1972) ISBN 0-671732463
  • Tales of Power (1975) ISBN 0-671732528
  • The Second Ring of Power (1977) ISBN 0-671732471
  • The Eagle's Gift (1981) ISBN 0-67173251X
  • The Fire from Within (1984) ISBN 0-671732501
  • The Power of Silence (1987) ISBN 0-67173248X
  • The Art of Dreaming (1993) ISBN 0-06092554X
  • Magical Passes (1999) ISBN 0-060928824
  • The Active Side of Infinity (1999) ISBN 0-06092960X
  • The Wheel Of Time : The Shamans Of Mexico (2000) ISBN 0140196048

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

Castaneda'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).

Table of contents
1 Criticism
2 Castaneda's Proposed Philosophy
3 External links


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 Castaneda 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.

Castaneda's Proposed Philosophy

His books can be read as a philosophical text that express a world view by which a person can live one's life. There is a growing movement world-wide of practicioners of this philosophy.

One major premise of Castaneda's proposed world view is that lucid dreaming can be cultivated as a way to refine one's "awareness" to a point where extraordinary feats of perception can be achieved. Similarly, breaking routines and acting in new ways is recommended as a way to understand one's true relationship to the perceivable world. The combination of dreaming cultivation and controlled behavior is said by Carlos to eventually give someone the ability to transform themselves into a higher state of perception (perhaps analogous to Eastern philosophical states such as satori in Zen Buddhism).

As a physical support to these practices, a series of meditative stretching and posing techniques are practiced. This is called "Tensegrity" (a term borrowed from architecture) and has individual and group practicioners around the world.

Related authors

Two other authors, Taisha Abelar and Florinda Donner-Grau have also written books claiming to be from the same tradition, in fact the same "team" of Don Juan Matus' disciples, as Carlos Castaneda. Both Abelar and Donner-Grau were endorsed by Castaneda as being legitimate students of Don Juan Matus; whereas many other authors who also claim to have studied under Don Juan Matus have been dismissed by Castaneda.

Significant characters In Castaneda's works

This is a list of characters, claimed to be real persons, mentioned in Castaneda's works. Castaneda makes it clear that these are not the persons' real names (obstensibly to protect their identity). In denoting their function within each generation of practicioners terms are used which can only be understood by reading Castaneda's writings:

Generation Of Practioners Peer To Castaneda

  • Florinda Donner-Grau -- "Northerly" "dreamer" in Castaneda's generation of practioners
  • Taisha Abelar -- "Easterly" "dreamer" in Castaneda's generation of practioners
  • Carol Tiggs -- "nagual woman" in Castaneda's generation of practioners

Generation Of Practioners Preceding Castaneda
  • Don Juan Matus -- leader or nagual man to a generation of practioners, teacher to Castaneda
  • Carol -- nagual woman in Don Juan's generation of practicioners
  • Genaro Flores -- the "man of action" and "master of awareness" in Don Juan's generation of practicioners, benefactor to Castaneda
  • Vincente -- herbalist in Don Juan's generation of practicioners
  • Silvio Manuel -- "master of intent" and purported to be permanently in a state of "heightened awareness" in Don Juan's generation of practicioners
  • Juan Tuma -- "scout" in Don Juan's generation of practicioners
  • Florinda Grau -- "Northerly" "dreamer" in Don Juan's generation of practicioners
  • Nelida Abelar -- "Northerly" "stalker" in Don Juan's generation of practicioners
  • Marta -- "Southerly" "dreamer"? in Don Juan's generation of practicioners
  • Zoila Abelar -- "Westerly" "stalker" in Don Juan's generation of practicioners
  • Zuleica Grau -- "Westerly" "dreamer" in Don Juan's generation of practicioners
  • Delia Abelar -- "Easterly" "stalker" in Don Juan's generation of practicioners
  • Celia Grau -- "Easterly" "dreamer" in Don Juan's generation of practicioners

Generation of Practioners Preceding Juan Matus
  • Elias Grau -- leader or nagual man to a generation of practioners, teacher to Juan Matus

Generation of Practioners Preceding Elias Grau
  • Julian Abelar -- leader or nagual man to a generation of practioners, teacher to Elias Grau, benefactor to Juan Matus
  • Talia Abelar -- "Northerly" "stalker" in Julian Abelar's generation of practioners.

External links