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The Greatest Hoax Since the Piltdown Man

Sunday, February 24, 2008 11:57 am Leave a comment Go to comments

Why would I even mention Carlos Castaneda? That obscure writer with a huge cult following who believe that his semi-fictious stories about Don Juan and the indigenous peoples of Mexico hold the keys to power and enlightenment. Ninja is a skeptic. She doesn’t believe in any of that rot – but they are best books being peddled as non-fiction that I have ever read.

Years ago, I caught an edition of “Imprint” on our local public television station TVO. The host, Daniel Richler, was leading a panel discussion about native spirituality and its literature. At one point during the discussion Richler held up a copy of Carlos Castaneda’s first book The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. He said with great confidence and certainty that Castaneda’s works about the Yaqui Indians of Mexico represented the greatest hoax since the Piltdown Man. With that, he seemed to dismiss the book out of hand. I had already, if truth be known, dismissed Castaneda as a new age phony long ago so I too moved right along with Richler to the next item of discussion. I was surprised then when one of the panel members, Medicine Grizzly Bear Adams, brought the discussion back to Castaneda. He said that Castaneda must have really been trained under a traditional man of knowledge, (as Castaneda referred to don Juan). Otherwise,Adams insisted, he must be “one of the greatest philosophers or genius’ of your time…” to be able to synthesize the information he presents in his books from his sources, whatever they may be.

That made me revisit the body of work Castaneda wrote, and since then I have read all the books about his so called tutelage under the nagual, Don Juan. They are most entertaining and thought provoking and many quotes from the book have come down to us into the popular culture. The most well-known of these is has come down as something in the form of following a path with heart.

“…a warrior must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if he feels that he should not follow it, he must not stay with it under any conditions. His decision to keep on that path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. He must look at every path closely and deliberately. There is a question that a warrior has to ask: ‘Does this path have a heart?'”

There are many more gems like this in the books. He was a spiritual genius. Whether or not he made it up, he weaved the work into a self-contained reality in its own right.

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