Friday, August 1, 2008



To display the thought of Castaneda in an analytical manner, is somehow to betray it, once it has always emphasized the practical and irrational nature of the Toltec teachings. And it is a great initial difficulty to characterize the ideas of Castaneda, since his thinking is neither esoteric nor academic, but combines elements of both in sophisticated concepts – as 'point of perception amalgamation' or' inorganic beings' - without presenting them in a systematic manner. But in some rare moments, it is possible to discern his theoretical references.
In the journal “Lectores del Infinito- Un diário de Hermenéutica aplicada” Castaneda confesses his admiration for Phenomenology:
“Trató que la Fenomenologia fuera un método de acercamiento a la experiencia de la vida tal como ocurre em el espacio y en el tiempo. Es um tentativa de describir directamente nuestra experiencia tal y como ocurre, sin detenerse a considerar sus orígenes o sus explicaciones causales.”
One cannot classify the text of Castaneda as literary or sub-literary (in the sense of commercial item, or fad), however, it is clear that he uses autobiographical literary artifice to move its key concepts so subliminally. For example, Castaneda passes the image that he is stupid and too rational, leading their readers to underestimate him and imagine that they would be cleverer as apprentices of Don Juan. Behind this manipulation of devaluating his own confounded intellectuals, Castaneda, actually, slyly puts on sophisticated concepts in the mouth of Don Juan. He hides his theoretical effort emphasizing the pragmatic, relative and mysterious character of the world of witchcraft, but in fact, wedges ways to see and understand the witchcraft in a very abstract and precise way.
Another interesting trick is that Castaneda tells the same story in virtually every book, the story of his apprenticeship with Don Juan, but he always tells the same events with completely different frameworks and syntax. Within his purpose, this fact occurs due to late memories of events lived in another state of consciousness. This creates also an interesting literary effect, once, to understand the history, we must know its different versions, and at the same time, a consider a life experience research method, in which there is an extension of the syntax of his memory and of his way of interpreting reality.
Although few scientists acknowledge this, Castaneda is a milestone in anthropology. Moreover, anthropology could be subdivided into three main stages: the evolutionist and ethnocentric period, when anthropologists consider the other primitive people; the functionalist-structuralist period, where Franz Boas and Levi-Strauss, among others, were found equal to the tribes they study, and the ethno-anthropological period, in which, reversing the initial perspective, the anthropologist gets to psychologically and culturally know himself through the tradition that he studies. And in this sense, Castaneda theoretical effort of is still very poorly understood.
But, besides being a social scientist of the new paradigm of knowledge, Castaneda is also "the new nagual" (or the three points nagual), starting a new line of witches without fetishes.
And more: his theoretical interpretation of Mexican shamanism was made in a global environment, so that this knowledge was set apart from territorial issues spreading throughout the planet millions of groups with no cultural or physical relationship with the traditional lines. Among the various contradictions generated by this situation there is the fact Castaneda have become a 'invisible celebrity', that is, a public character that deleted his personal history (1).
Armando Torres notes that because of his strategy of becoming invisible, Castaneda had to revamp its relationship with the 'plants of power' (an essential part of Mexican´s shamanism), because it threatened his public image, making secondary the lessons he considered essential.
That said, remains to explain that here, rather than expose systematically the thought of Carlos Castaneda, our goal is to use his ideas to approach other thinkers again and formulate something different than what he thought and wrote. My intention is not to confirm or criticize but to move forward creatively into developing a new knowledge, in which science and tradition may dialogue.
There is a big difference in approach between the New Age esoterics (or new Gnosis) and the teachings of Castaneda and D. Juan: for them there is transcendence, platonism or permanent idea-images - similar to post-modern authors. There is nothing beyond this world (archetypes, spirits or dimensions) and the reality is just a description (actually, an inventory) done by the mind. Castaneda denies reincarnation and the law of karma? No. He believes them to be irrelevant to his strategic spiritual aims. He also does not deny the creation of an immortal soul, just acknowledge a conglomerate of selves fighting to unify.
By the way, I think that this spirituality 'without telos' is present in several contemporary authors (incorrectly identified as having been influenced by Buddhism and Eastern thought) (2). You can even say that these authors do not consider the trans-personal dimension of the psyche, which, to them, it is only illusion or ideology of institutionalized religions.
On the other hand, in the books by Armando Torres (disciple of Castaneda) and Merlyn Tunnshende (from Don Juan’s group), the characters Genaro and Soledad are very different. One is a healer and the other is a fortuneteller - something unthinkable for Castaneda´s warrior ethics. The emphasis on the struggle against self commiseration and self importance led to a little generous conception. Many accuse Castaneda to have reinterpreted the Toltec tradition in away too ... 'Post-modern'. (3)
The most shocking book is Amy Wallace´s, daughter of the famous writer Irving Wallace. The book, unlike others, does not deal with witchcraft, but with the development of her love affair with Castaneda, presenting him as immature and undisciplined person in matters of affection, womanizer, dominating and cruel leader. In addition to unmask many lies (4), the book brings a copy of the death certificate of Castaneda, to prove that he died of liver cancer (a shameful death for a warrior) and not turned into a ball of fire, giving a jump to the infinite, as some of his followers began to spread. Amy also believes that the three witches who followed the Nagual - Carol Tiggs, Taisha Abelar and Florinda Donner – had suicide. Some of Castaneda´s readers and one of his assistants (5) do not believe in Amy Wallace narrative. Moreover, consider that it may even be deliberately lying to conceal the true destination of Castaneda and the three witches - which certainly matches his ideas and his warrior strategy.
For us, however, none of this matters. What is relevant is the abstract ideas that we want to analyse, and not the gossip of ex-girlfriends or the beliefs of his admirers. But there's no way to deny the role that counter-information plays regarding everything that involves Castaneda.
It is as he worked his concepts so discreetly, as he suggested his ideas so delicately, that in the end there would be the doubt: "Well maybe this guy does not even exist, is just a quirk of the American book market, but who would have thought of all this? "
The concepts of Tonal and Nagual, for instance, represent both principles and perceptive fields that oppose and complement each other, in which the first is the order, the rational, the known, and last, the chaos, the irrational and the unknown.
The tonal is our ordinary perception (sensorial-mental) of the world as something formed by concrete objects, solid people and things. The nagual is when we realize that we are in a universe of relations, that everything is made of energy at different levels of organization and adaptation.
Actually, there are three perceptive positions: the known (first or tonal attention), the unknown (nagual or second attention) and the inconceivable or third attention, or Intento. Attention here understood as the ability to focus on what we want to discern.
“Three thousand years ago there was a human being, living near a city surrounded by mountains. (...) One day, while sleeping in a cave, he dreamed that he saw his own body sleeping. Out of the cave in a night of new moon. The sky was clear and he saw thousands of stars. (..) He looked to his hands, his body felt and heard his own voice saying: "I am made of light, I am made of stars." He looked back to the top and realized that it were not the stars that created the light but the light that created the stars. "Everything is made of light," he added, "and space in the middle is not empty." (...) So he realized that, although made of stars, it was not these stars. "I am that exists between them," he thought. Thus, called the stars of tonal and the space between the two nagual, and realized that the harmony and the space between the two were created by Life or Intention”.
RUIZ, Miguel, 2005: p. 13 and 14.
In many texts tonal is compared to an island (or bubble of perception) and the nagual to the ocean-universe that surrounds it: the dark sea of consciousness. In this context, to dream is the foundation of all cognitive experience: we are dreaming all the time, whereas we are sleeping or awake. The difference is in the sensorial framework that the state of vigil (or tonal) has over the perception of energy, without the sensorial reality of altered states of consciousness (or nagual). Moreover, perceptive fields can even compare the relationship between Tonal and the Nagual and between of algorithmic conscience and quantum conscience, in vogue among neurocientists.
It is also called Nagual the leader of a group of warriors in Shamanic Mexican tradition. In the groups, the warriors are subdivided into dreamers and stalkers, and the nagual is the only one who has the mastery in both arts. He is the leader because he has his second self rooted in the nagual field and has enough energy to the hit the "coup of nagual," that is, a discharge of energy in the middle of the warrior´s omoplate, where is the point of agglutination of warriors, moving their perception towards the nagual and making irreversible its further development. The 'coup' can also be an event (the death of a close relative or a fatal accident with the own person) that causes the unknown to emerge in the life of the stroked, changing its perception of time and its purpose in life.
There is also the 'Nagual rule', more than a set of standards of oral tradition, it is a particular energy configuration of shamanic lines that govern relations between the leader and the sixteen warrior group, with two dreamers and two stalkers for each cardinal point. Some practitioners call Nagualism the set of practices and ideas associated with this tradition. Moreover, the terms ‘Toltec Shamanism' - name most associated with the practice prior to Castaneda and to other groups parallels to the one of D. Juan, such as Miguel Ruiz - and 'tensegrity' - a term more associated with his successors, Florinda Donner, Carol Tiggs and Taisha Abelar - never appeared in his books.
The lesson taught by Mr. Carlos Castaneda is the “Art of Sorcery”, redefined as the art of accumulate and redistribute energy with the purpose of escaping the second death - regardless of the systems of beliefs, traditions or magic practices.
And wizardry is subdivided into two main parts: the Art of Stalking and the Art of Dreaming.
1. The art of stalking is the ability to consciously set the point of perception amalgamation through the ordinary cognition field, also called the first attention or tonal. This art presents different techniques and stages (the not-do, the little tyrant, the art of controlled madness through disguises, the recapitulation) and makes the practitioner released from his self-importance (or the improper use of his ego) through changes in behavior that reduce the waste of mental energy. To stalk means to consider everything a prey, including one’s own weaknesses, it involves acting in a strategic manner in relation to one´s own behaviour and its ongoing transformation. "The art of stalking is connected to the heart, as the mastery of consciousness is linked to mind, and mastery of intent to the spirit." It is a silent battle to "hit the target" the best way in each situation. The stalk can be applied to everything, but stalking the self is its finest and most valuable expression.
To stalk requires a purpose, to be impeccable, to get out of self-importance, to bannish habits and practice controlled madness (pretending to be immersed in action, but without being identified or either being noticed). The recapitulation is the strong point of the close observers because it is a specialized form of stalking internal routines. It is governed by seven principles (6) and has four steps of learning (merciless, cunning, patience and sweetness).
2. The art of dreaming consists in the ability of deliberately moving the point of amalgamation of perception through the field of extraordinary cognition, also called second attention or nagual. Through this art, the practitioner must build a 'second self' or Double, which could take other forms and persist to his physical disappearance.
This experience – of recognizing oneself as a conglomerate of energy fields - is called "to lose the human form" and it is considered an irreversible step in the development of dreamers which then get to see the universe as a living energy and thus losing all their social conditioning.
For Castaneda, we see only a consensual description of reality, a tonal island. To overcome the perceptive limits of this island one have to learn to see itself as an energy field, as another self or dreaming body, built through the consciousness development and different perception states.
This is the sorcerer manoeuvre, that is, to prepare the dreaming body to survive physical death and keep existing (similar to the suicidal soul, which is stuck in astral until the day they should really have died, but for an indefinite period and with materializing power among others) up to the moment to dive into the infinite and exchange the consciousness for freedom.
This idea is certainly what's different and more controversial about this lesson. Unlike the astral body, the ethereal Other, and other noticed (or imagined) bodies in traditional esoterism, the dreaming body of nagualism is an entity yet to be built. And the best way to build a dreaming body in the sense proposed by Castaneda and D. Juan is to obsessively seek to understand yourself.
Indeed, we must recognize that there exists a universal 'telos', a transcendence of dreaming. The truth is that the Jewish pray for the up coming of the messiah, the Christian want to be good to anticipate the social utopia, the Buddhists meditate because believe in nirvana and the Toltec persues a body that survive death and the formation of a group.
Everyone has a transcendence that gives meaning to their lives, even if they do not like to admit. Although Buddhism and Toltec nagualism believe to be empirical, the purpose that gives meaning to life of people who follow these systems is not better than those who believe in the regress of the messiah or the heavenly Jerusalem.
Through dreaming and stalking, which is, shifting the conscience focus to different points of perception stablishment, the practitioner travels through a vertical horizon through various aspects of a single reality. According to Taisha Abelar (7) there is 'nine ways to move the point of amalgamation’ that can be practiced separately or in combination with each other one. Tensegrity; Recapitulation; To not Do ( 'Do' meaning, essentially, not to use items from our old inventory); Small Tyrannous; techniques of the observer, the inner Silence; Discipline and impeccable actions; dream, and stalk. The nine types are listed in ascending order, in terms of the necessary energy to get to practice it properly. Thus begins up by passes, recapitulation and inventory; then one is able to meet the power challenges and, finally, you arrive at the energy level that allows to be current the pair to stalk-dream.
In fact, to move the point of the perception agglutination we need to fit together the required energy through two simultaneous and constant practices: recapitulation and magical passes.
"The redistribution of energy is a process that consists in carrying, from one place to another, the energy that already exists within us. That energy was shifted from vitality centers of the body, energy needed to produce a balance between the mental agility and physical dexterity." (CASTANEDA, 1999,14)
1. The magical passes are sequences of gestures, movements and breathings to intensify conscience, and also to stimulate and redistribute the energy of the physical body and help building the second self. The magical passes are also known as Tensegrity – another Castaneda’s sophisticated concept imported from architecture and biomechanics, where it is synonymous for tensional integrity, a property present in objects whose constituents use traction and compression on a combined basis in order to provide them stability and strength.
2. The Recapitulation is a special type of magical pass that is to review one´s own life with help from breathing aiming to rescue the energy stuck in the past. To recapitulate is to rescue and rid the energy spent with emotional wounds of the past, allowing to re-structure the memory, so that we can serve from the surplus energy to dream. This process is also called, particularly during the early nagual books, "erasing personal history." The recapitulation as a practice of memory re-organization and gradual expansion of consciousness that is more detailed in the books of Taisha Abelar and Victor Sanches than in those of Castaneda.
The purpose of these practices (of energy gain and redistribution) and the development of the Other and Mastery in transferring the point of perception agglutination (and in the stalk and in the dream) is to train to jump to the infinite into the third attention, to survive physical death.
Unlike the reencarnationism, Castaneda affirms that death may be a final end and that the vast majority of humanity, after having been sucked throughout life by Energy Predators, is destined to serve as food for Inorganic Beings – Demons or spirits of the earth and the moon which feed from the organic life in a parallel evolutionary scale.
Thus, we can say that the thought of Castaneda is doubly contrary to the humanist and anthropocentric vision of esoterism, which always saw the Human Being as small god in the apex of universe evolution, once it argues that beyond the existence of other creatures that are not morally higher nor lower than mankind, the goal of stopping being human is to not be food for these beings. Some individuals, however, after losing the human form and forge dreaming or Double bodies, survive and receive the Eagle´s Gift, the possibility to continue to develop and live in inorganic kingdoms of other evolutionary order. One of the direct consequences of this permanent conscience with death (eternal, as end of existence) is the Warrior´s Way and his struggle for impeccability. More than a simple code of behavioral conduct, the ethics of the warrior is a certain energetic configuration in which the practitioner, through his unbending purpose aligns itself to the Intention, an intelligent energy that can train and guide you towards your jump to infinity.
The Warrior must learn to act for acting, without hope or despair, to give the best of him without expecting retribution, to believe without believing, to live deliberately through constant challenges, to always choose the way of the heart, among other requirements.
There are still many more other practices (the inventory of beliefs, stopping internal dialogue or the world) and other concepts (Inner Silence, The Bright of Consciousness, the Emanations of the Eagle). We will not here detail all these terms and stages of development. For us, what is important is to realize that, if in one hand, there is a hidden metaphysics in the pragmatism of those who believe to be empirical and concreteness lovers (the illumination is the Buddhist and Osho´s escatology, the 'nagual rule' is the Toltec’s teleology tradition), on the other hand, we must also recognize that there is, in the lessons professed by Castaneda, a new syntax for perception (8), or at least, a new way to put on old issues.
For example, the difference between the dream and astral projection. There is a single cognitive activity or state of consciousness that is interpreted by different systems of thought. And from the practical point of view there are also differences on from there.
The first is that you can daydream and projection usually happens during sleep. Actually, we dream all the time, but during vigil we have a sensorial environment. Dreaming together is not only to meet during sleep, but above all having common goals in life. The dream and astral projection are just different ways to dream the dream, different interpretations on the scope of dream.
Another difference is that the dream of Castaneda has is another self with many possibilities (shamanic animals, dreaming to be someone else, be recognized as a ball of energy), during projection, there is another body (astral body) with the same self. In experiments related to astral projection there is continuity between the self from ordinary reality and the projected self. The term astral projection itself suggests continuity, extension. While in the experience of dreaming there is an interruption of the ordinary self and a different consciousness of daily life.
Another very important aspect in relation to the teachings of Castaneda, at least in my opinion, is the challenge of rationing radical autonomy (individual stalk) and dreaming together.
We are parts of networks of spiritual development. To be transformed, energy is required. Nobody can, alone, get away from relation nets of the relationships in which they got involved. When many people have a common purpose - transformation - the total energy is more than the sum of each individual energy. These energy profit provide each one to have more energy to accomplish transformation than if he had tried alone. That was called 'critic mass' by Castaneda. On the other hand, if people get organized into groups and / or in institutions, the initial energy gain has just become a collective capital and people become dependent one of the other, losing autonomy and entering neurosis.
There is a known passage where Castaneda becomes a crow. Than asks Don Juan: "Did I became a crow or had I imagined to have become one?". The Indian replied: "What's the difference?" As we know, every objectiveness is a subjective reading.
Not yet resigned, Castaneda also asked: "What if someone was by my side, he would see me as a crow or as a man who imagines to be crow?" And Don Juan explained that the point of perception amalgamation works by induction and that if anyone was there probably would have their connection point swiched to the same place, and not only see Castaneda as crow but also see himself as another crow.
If you believe to be a luminous egg, or if the group of people with whom you share an alternative way of seeing the world thinks so, one may really see himself as such. If we share images of shamanic animals or other archetypes, is with them that we will recognize ourselves. There is a cognitive pact that says that we are men. You can propose an alternative pact saying that we are eggs or a vermin, but alone, I am not able to say that I am nothing. We always depend on the energy of critical mass to be defined as something. That is why we keep always believing in spite of not really believing in anything. This is because we could not overcome the system of beliefs and dream a new dream, a new syntax. To try to systematize irrationalist thinkers appears to be walking in circles, always writing the same thing without ever being conclusive. But if there is any message in the teachings of Castaneda is that we need to change our point of collective perception agluttination, we have to change our dream of the planet. Besides, the period of 'invisible celebrity' and the sudden disappearance of the nagual and his group are part of this strategy to grow the critical mass around his ideas and, at the same time, erase his personal history.
[1] Biography and main interviews in portuguese :
[2] Indeed, the emphasis on spiritual immanence in the West (or the anti- platonic transcendentalism) has a long list of supporters, with emphasis on Spinoza and Nietzsche.
[3] Domingues Delgado, for example, distinguish “toltecness” from Casteneda thinking >
[4] One of Castaneda´s lies, and actually the most polemic, was the story of the Nagual woman (Carol Tiggs was really Muni Alexander, or Elizabetg Austin, or yet Kathleen A. Pohlman), who would have desapeard during “Second Attention” during 12 years, from 1973 to 1985. She was actually enrolled in a acupuncture school, and was married and divorced about the same time. To check Castenadas biography chronological contradictions see < >
[5] Both books can be purchased on < >
[6] To choose the battlefield, to enter the battle only when one knows everything there is to know about the battlefield, eliminate everything unnecessary, to be willing and ready to get to the last battle, anywhere and anytime, do not attach to oneself, not fear anything, to not be taken by tendency. Compress time, every second counts. Not waste any instant. Never expose the game, never expose yourself.
[7] Lecture from Tensegrity seminar, May 1995. Omega institute. Transcription from Rich Jennings notebook.
[8] Syntax is the structure of words in a sentence and sentences in a discourse. In both cases, the term syntax refers to the space organization of language in patterns. In contemporary linguistics, syntax is the analogic axis opposed to the repertory (or lexic) in language organization. That’s were Casteneda imported the term syntax, giving it a broader sense: the rules of the perception game. And swiching the word repertory to inventory.


ABELAR, Taisha A Travessia das Feiticeiras. Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1995.

CASTANEDA, Carlos. A Erva do Diabo (The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge - 1968). Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1972.

______________ Uma Estranha Realidade (A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan - 1971). Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1975.

______________ Viagem a Ixtlan (Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan - 1972) - Esse livro foi a tese de PhD de Castaneda na UCLA em 1973 com o título: "Sorcery: A Description of the World";. Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1977.

______________ Porta Para o Infinito (Tales of Power - 1975) Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1978.

______________ O Segundo Círculo do Poder (The Second Ring of Power - 1977). Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1980.

______________ O Presente da Águia (The Eagle's Gift - 1981). = Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1984.

______________ O Fogo Interior (The Fire from Within - 1984). Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1986.

______________ O Poder do Silêncio (The Power of Silence: Further Lessons of Don Juan - 1987). Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1987.

______________ A Arte do Sonhar (The Art of Dreaming - 1993). Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1996.

______________ Readers of Infinity: A Journal of Applied Hermeneutics - 1996 - Diários do trabalho de Castaneda com suas discípulas ainda não traduzido.

______________ Passes Mágicos (Magical Passes: The Practical Wisdom of the Shamans of Ancient Mexico - 1998). Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1999.

______________ O Lado Ativo do Infinito (The Active Side of Infinity - 1999). Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 2000a.

______________ Roda do Tempo (The Wheel Of Time: The Shamans Of Mexico - 2000) - uma antologia de citações comentadas. Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 2000b.

DONNER, Florinda. Sonhos Lúcidos. Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1993.

_______ Shabono. Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1994.

_______ A bruxa e a arte do sonhar. Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1998.
TORRES, Armando. Encontro com o Nagual. Tradução coletiva através da lista Ventania, 2003.

SANCHES, Victor. Os ensinamentos de Don Carlos – as aplicações práticas dos trabalhos de Carlos Castaneda. Rio de Janeiro: Record/Nova Era, 1997.

RUIZ, Miguel. Os Quatro compromissos. Rio de Janeiro: Best Seller, 2005.
WALLACE, Amy. Aprendiz de Feiticeira – minha vida com Carlos Castaneda. São Paulo: Nova Era, 2007.