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Carlos Castaneda Hoax - Is It Dangerous?

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posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 08:13 AM

It is likely that this Carlos Castaneda hoax has been discussed here before. But I am very worried about this, since a relative of mine is still heavily into Castaneda.

Since going into Castaneda my relative has become emotionally very cold and often has very negative opinions about people and issues. An average new age practitioner would probably become excessively hippy and positive, but this one becomes more angry and gloomy every year.

I just cannot understand how somebody can believe in an obvious hoax for 20 years! It has to be almost like joining the Scientologists. Maybe Castaneda is not as bad as L.Ron Hubbard, but the similarities are there.

My question is: Do you think the Cult of Castaneda is a dangerous one, or is it just a harmless hoax? And what to do if a relative becomes a member of a dangerous cult? Hire a deprogrammer?

Now, I have to tell you I think that interest in alternative subjects like shamanism, parapsychology and UFOs is healthy, since we really don't know the truth. There may be UFOs and there may be "supernatural" phenomena. But if somebody believes in something that has been proved as a hoax it is a sign of pure insanity.

This article on Saloon pretty much sums the whole Castaneda Hoax thing: The Dark Legacy of Carlos Castaneda

Just a couple of quotations from the article. After Castaneda's death some of his followers disappeared, apparently having committed suicide:

Jennings, Wallace and Geuter believe the missing women likely committed suicide. Wallace told me about a phone call to Donner-Grau's parents not long after the women disappeared. Donner-Grau had been one of the few allowed to maintain contact with her family. "They were weeping," Wallace said, "because there was no goodbye. They didn't know what had happened. This was after decades of being in touch with them."

At one stage Castaneda suddenly invented his own form of tai chi (yes, this is completely ridiculous):

Castaneda investigated the possibility of incorporating as a religion, as L. Ron Hubbard had done with Scientology. Instead, he chose to develop Tensegrity, which, Jennings believes, was to be the means through which the new faith would spread. Tensegrity is a movement technique that seems to combine elements of a rigid version of tai chi and modern dance. In all likelihood the inspiration came from karate devotees Donner-Grau and Abelar, and from his years of lessons with martial arts instructor Howard Lee. Documents found by Geuter show him discussing a project called "Kung Fu Sorcery" with Lee as early as 1988. The more elegant "Tensegrity" was lifted from Buckminster Fuller, for whom it referred to a structural synergy between tension and compression. Castaneda seems to have just liked the sound of it.

Wikipedia also has some nice information about the man, the hoax, and the cult.

In the The Power and the Allegory, De Mille compared The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui way of Knowledge with Castenada's library stack requests at the University of California. The stack requests documented that he was sitting in the library when his journal said he was squatting in don Juan's hut. One of the most memorable discoveries that De Mille made in his examination of the stack requests was that when Castañeda said he was participating in the traditional peyote ceremony -- the least fantastic episode of drug use -- he was not only sitting in the library, but he was reading someone else's description of his experience of the peyote ceremony.

So what is the Cult of Castaneda? A huge literary hoax. An attempt to get people to gamble on their sanity and use psychedelic drugs. An attempt to counterfeit and exploit Native American culture. An attempt to make business on some kind of a pirate copy of Tai Chi.

What do you think?

posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 09:15 AM
cult of castenada? really? i had no idea.

i think he and his wok is harmless. i also think it is silly to blame your friend / family members poor character traits on castenada.

his work is a literary expression of his own spiritual outlook on life, take it or leave it; or more accurately take what works for you and leave the rest...

i enjoyed the few books i read of his, they did not teach me anything that was life changing but they did offer me some nice things to think about and to incorporate into my life.

i had no idea he created tensegrity, and i dont care really. i also dont care that he was not where he said he was in the don juan book because i took it largely as fantasy any way.

IMHO castenada is harmless.

posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 09:27 AM
reply to post by Etsivä Romppainen

Carlos Castanedas books are just that books. I've read them all three times over at least. I read a Yaqui Way of Knowledge when I was a teen in the sixties with no ill effects by the same token I've never heard of a Carlos Castaneda cult. I don't know if his stories were a hoax but I do know that I've gotten allot of reading pleasure out of his books. At any rate I wouldn't put too much stock your relatives change in behaviour stemming from C.C's books. I would think there may be another reason for your relatives behaviour. I've just never heard anything like this. At any rate good luck. Peace and have a good day

posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 09:34 AM
Hi there,
You have obviously never read the books yourself. Its kind of arrogant saying that all of what Castaneda wrote is a hoax just because your friend after allegedly reading all of Castaneda's books (all of them not just the first couple right?) became depressed,sad and gloomy as you say. This maybe simply his fault, maybe he misinterpreted things from the books, you cant generalize things like that.
In his books Castaneda writes about his experiences, mostly he wrote about the teachings of Don Juan who is a "shaman" that he met in Mexico while on a quest to study peyote. In no way this is some kind of Cult, this is nothing like any cult, religion or anything of that nature. This is a personal exploration of ones self and a door to a different perception of life. Many people especially "intelligent" people will disagree with most things he says (don juan says) because it contradicts their understandings of life and rational explanations. Many read it as a work of fiction and still gain from it. But its virtually impossible for me to explain it to you since you already have developed this view of a Cult and negativity. I recommend that you read the books yourself, start from the third one. Most people only read the first book and automatically associate Castaneda's work with use of drugs hence the negativity. The reason Don Juan let Castaneda to use drugs (peyote and some hallucinogenic mushrooms) is to attain other states of perception because Castanedas mind was so dense he could have not understood any of Don Juan's teachings. Later on it is explained that the drugs are not needed to attain other states of reality. Its all inside of you, drugs where only needed to help some people who had their views of reality so solidified that they had no energy to be able to look at things differently.

And about Tensegrity. I do believe partly that the creation of Tensegrity is only for the sake of gaining money. Castaneda wasn't perfect after all. I heard many people say Tensegrity is not giving you anything, but who am i to say, maybe they are doing it wrong and i personally haven't tried it so i cant say much on that. But what I can say is that in no way Castaneda is a hoax, he did live, he did exist and he did a great job at bringing those books to the world.

posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 09:35 AM
Wow thats quiet some slant you have on that, interesting.

Firstly i would say that the reason most of what Carlos says is still widely respected within lit circles is because much of what he says is very clever and interesting, I never bothered to look too far into the history and counter-history of his life and doings mostly because it doesn't really matter - he had just as much claim to the knowledge he offered as anyone and the shamanic dialog is an interesting way to present his case- i don't need to know Orwell was or wasn't an inner party memeber, if heinlein #was# a stranger in a strange land or if Voltaire ever visited Eldorada.

To those who try to track down missing gods through Castaneda's work or to find forgotten super powers, well to be honest you just aren't getting it. No one that wanted to do a serious study of belief structures in south america aren't going to look at Castaneda, if not only because he interviews an unreliable witness and talks at length about his own psychological problems - this is not an anthropology book (i could suggest some good ones if you like) it is a complex and illuminating diatribe on the human experience, a philosophic look at the changing world and as such is a very valuable book.

I could wax lyrical about the suggested meanings and lessons related to altered perception as described in the book but as this is ATS i better not...

The ideas he covers aren't really dangerous, they aren't even really very new but he does explain them rather well - i could start listing more dangerous and offensively dangerous books such as, oh i don't know The Bible but i'm sure its all beside the point.

Oh one last thing, people invent new forms of 'tai-chi' all the time -the original form was vastly different to any of the many modern forms, the todays most common combative forms of Taichi Chuan; Chen Style and Wudang both start with an enigmatic old guy coming up with it on his own in secret (note, this clearly isn't true) then proving it the strongest - the non-violent styles such as Taoist taichi again all claim to come from a wise and practiced old man (or group of old men) who formed a 'perfect' form of exercise. I really don't see why Carlos isn't aloud to come up with his own exercise routine, certainly being of western decent a chinese practitioner would likely tell him due to body differences he might have to do some things differently (in fact one of the important points of taichi has always been to do what feels right and develop yourown form) but then so many times now has the name been franchised and sold as prepackaged and boxed 'styles' that it's name has almost totally lost it's meaning - haha not that it's name was ever much more than an idle boast to attract students to a school, it means 'supreme ultimate fist'

posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 10:04 AM

Originally posted by tehdreamer
You have obviously never read the books yourself

Actually I did read them in the nineties. And took them as fantasy, in which form they are not dangerous. But if you take it as fact it will become dangerous. After all, you are supposed to take peyote and jump off a cliff to become a good shaman.

But some people are building a religion and a business on it. I think what might not have been harmful if it was correctly presented as fiction has become a cult. And it is never good to believe in hoaxers.

Carlos Castaneda presented his works as "anthropology", and it has been shown numerous times that it faux anthropology at best. Some accuse him of counterfeiting and profiting off Native American beliefs.

See what another controversial figure, Ward Churchill, says of Castaneda:

In Fantasies of the Master Race (1992), Churchill examines the portrayal of American Indians and the use of American Indian symbols in popular American culture. He focuses on such phenomena as Tony Hillerman's mystery novels, the film Dances with Wolves, and the New Age movement, finding examples of cultural imperialism and exploitation. Churchill calls author Carlos Castaneda's claims of revealing the teachings of a Yaqui Indian shaman, the "greatest hoax since Piltdown Man."

Ward Churchill is sucha hoaxer himself he has to recognize one when he sees one.

posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 12:18 PM
As someone who has studied the occult for about 20 years I have to say that if Carlos made it all up then he must be an advanced shaman himself. This is of course why I DO NOT believe he made it up.

Enlightenment is a very dangerous game. Someone attempting it by themself may very well go through some emotionally hard times but this is normal. But you are correct that there are dangers to ones mental health. Personally I think that anyone seeking enlightenment without a guru should regularly see a therapist of a similar philosophical leaning(actually I think all humans should regularly see a therapist).


posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 12:36 PM
reply to post by Etsivä Romppainen

Im pretty familiar not only with Castanedas works but also know some of the people that surrounded him before he died personally.

I would not necessarily say they are a cult but certainly that some of the teachings can appear to make someone gloomy/unhappy. If someone adopts the belief-system that society and life are an unimportant illusion and everyone but themselves are idiots, a sort of apathy-of-mood can be the result. Which is why Im not a follower of the teachings myself. However, Castaneda did uncover some things one could consider "secrets of the Universe".

Some might find this site, which is critical of Castaneda, informative:

posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 01:00 PM
reply to post by Etsivä Romppainen

Not everybody is capable to study and learn spirituality without stumbling into streets with no exit and the dark alleys.

I read Carlos when I was 14 and I was fine. It was mesmerizing and profound (just as Siddhartha and many others were) experience which thought me many things...

Even though many spiritual people consider Atheists like me "too dumb to understand" spirituality I do not find Castaneda's spiritual experience a hoax and neither I find anyones experience as a hoax, it is what it is, his personal story of enlightenment, it is up to you to believe it or not.

I actually find it more interesting and plausible read than Bible-Jesus story

I have feeling that your friend took it too seriously, because, after all:

"All paths are the same, leading nowhere."

"A warrior chooses a path with heart, any path with heart, and follows it; and then he rejoices and laughs. He knows because he sees that his life will be over altogether too soon. He sees that nothing is more important than anything else."

- Carlos Castaneda


posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 01:00 PM
As an Anthro undergrad I spent a lot of time in Northern Mexico.

Not all of Castaneda's teachings are literary fantasy. However T&C prevents me from detailing my own research.

However adopting any guru and becoming a devotee; is dangerous.

posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 01:04 PM

Originally posted by whaaa
However T&C prevents me from detailing my own research.


Same here, I really did a LOT of research too

posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 01:16 PM

Originally posted by 5thElement

Originally posted by whaaa
However T&C prevents me from detailing my own research.


Same here, I really did a LOT of research too

I hear you, suffice to say "Mescalito is REAL"

posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 07:43 PM
The greatest thing that i have learnt from Castaneda is to let go of the feeling of self importance, feeling that you are more important than anything else/anyone else. If you achieve this which is in fact can be quite difficult you realize many things, life becomes beautiful and you enjoy every second of it, everything makes sense.
In fact this is the first door to most of the teachings, if you cant achieve this then the rest is pretty much impossible.
You need all that energy you waste on feelings like anger, hatred etc. which all infact originate from the feeling of self importance, its all quite simple yet difficult to achieve.

posted on Jun, 5 2009 @ 08:24 PM
Seems to me that spiritual inspiration can come to all of us no matter where we are. We can be sitting in a library, or kneeling before a shaman. Do you really believe that moses stood before a burning bush? I heard lots of people say he was at the liquor yurt at the time he claimed to be on that mountain. Doesnt mean what they wrote has any less truth. Nothing that we read in spiritual pursuits should be taken as literary truth, because you cant convey "truth" through a book or the written word....all you can do is delineate "A" path.

Do i believe that all castenada said was truth? No, few people are so fortunate to find a true guru in such a way. Do i believe there is truth in his writings? Absolumo.

posted on Jun, 28 2009 @ 09:31 AM
Cult of Casteneda? lol... I enjoyed his books when I was younger and I don't see anything wrong with most of the practices that happened in them...

Also in my opionon most the stuff in his books books is MUCH more plausible and believable than anything in the bible or the koran or anything like that. And people actually follow that stuff! Millions of brainwashed people blindly following christianity or islam... its sad. Those people are the real cults. I've never heard about ANYONE really following what casteneda says... and I've never really heard of anyone who takes what he says literally. But there are MILLIONS of people who take the bible literal and believe everything in it... now whos really the cult?

All the people I've ever known that were really into castenda where in general extremely happy "hippy" type people, I see nothing wrong with that. So I have no idea at all where you are going with this cult thing.

If I remember correctly most those books were about pscyedelic experiences and peyote experiences, right? What is so wrong with that? These are SACRED practices to many different "indian" cultures. A lot of these practices have been around WAY WAY longer then christianity or most "modern" religions.

I know tons of people who read and have read casteneda and I don't know anyone who really "follows" him... what is this cult you are talking about?

Does all of this come down to you not agreeing with the use of hallucinogens or not agreeing with some of the stuff they do in the books? So you deem it a cult?

Do you know ANYTHING about what shamans do? I'm willing to bet you know nothing. I'm wililng to bet you are a closed minded christian and think everyone who has different beliefs than you is evil.

I don't understand what you mean by hoax? What has carlos casteneda said that was a hoax? This makes no sense to me... all he did in his books was talking about the experience that thousands of shamans around the world have... etc. Although I havent read the books in 20 years or more, thats the basis of all his books if I remember correctly..

Wheres the hoax? lol

I see NOTHING similiar between casteneda and l ron hubbard... I HATE AND CAN NOT STAND L RON HUBBARD. But I like and enjoy castenedas, writings, although I take it as just entertainment (as do probably 90 percent of the people that read his stuff)...

The person that originally got me into casteneda was my hippy aunt.. I read all his books when I was like 14 and I'm perfectly fine. I went through my hippy phase when I was a teenager, but I'm over that now, and most people I know that were into that stuff are over it now too (although theres nothing wrong with that stuff, what I do find problems with is people like you who judge everyone who is different than you).

Is that what you are saying? Are there people somewhere forming a religion outta his writings or something? (although most of his writings where already based on ANCIENT "indian" practices).

Its also good to see by reading this thread that NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON agrees with you. lmao.

[edit on 28-6-2009 by The7thSeer]

[edit on 28-6-2009 by The7thSeer]

posted on Jan, 30 2015 @ 09:12 AM
a reply to: Etsivä Romppainen

Hi - I wanted to reply to you since I very recently lost my loved one to this belief system and I know exactly how desperate you must have felt. I have witnessed the exact same changes in the one I loved. He used to be the most fun loving person ever, laughing all the time, seeing the positive in everything and then he got into the books and rituels and got involved in a group who is obsessed with "living the CC way" and before I knew, I had lost him forever. That man has left and a bitter, negative, angry guy with dull eyes & misery came. He started to feel physically ill and always tired & depressed.

Before people go ahead and judge, I would like you to please sympathise with people who go through these things. Just because you haven't experienced the same things doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Have I read the books? Yes. Did I benefit from them? Yes. Because I had the common sense to know what was fiction and what was genuine and I left it at that. But not everyone can do that. The question here is not how accurate the books are anymore, it's the effects on certain people and how much harm it can do on people's lives. I felt the need to consult a professional psychologist friend about the effects of the book on him and she saw clear signs of "paranoid personality disorder" and going towards "schizophrenia" thanks to many enclosures with inorganic beings. And these are the effects with no drugs involved. Surely it shows that he had the tendency to go that direction but CC's books have triggered it is all I'm saying.

I have lost him forever now. Because like I said, it's a changed man and therefore everything we had in common, starting with enjoying life to its fullest and laughing stopped. CC has written these books almost devilishly brilliant. I think he had made his reserch on psychology as well cause whatever questions that may come to one's mind about rationality & believing the whole thing, he gave a "shamanicaly rational answer".



posted on May, 20 2015 @ 08:40 AM
I´m sorry you have lost so good friend, everseaching!

This is old thread, though it would be interesting to know how it has been going with OP´s relative.

I never liked Castaneda´s teachings much, but I didn´t think anything bad about them either in the past. But I had a friend who was follower of this belief system. Now, looking back to our relationship in the past, I have understood, that she was emotionally abusive person and very good manipulator. It was very stressful relationship and hurt me quite a bit, but she managed to manipulate me to believe that I am the stupid and bad part (I was a lot younger, I looked up to her and acutally took the false blame).
And she was also cold. Sometimes it was fun and interesting to talk to her, but if she had a personal problem she´d become very emotionally cold, blaiming, overly criticising and projecting.
She said she don´t care is Castaneda´s stories real or not, she found these teachings helpful to become stronger. But it´s sad if becoming stronger means becoming cold, detached and abusive.

I don´t like Castaneda´s teachings anymore at all. There are some concepts similar to cults, mind control and abusive relationships (detachment from others, loved ones, your own identity) and it´s very self-centered. Everything revolves around you and your development, warriors are better than "ordinary people" etc.
I prefer teachings where compassion and ethics are important.

posted on May, 21 2015 @ 05:08 PM
If your friend has a problem it's probably not Castaneda, but perhaps the drugs, most people who read him were into hallucinogenics. He was pretty interesting to read an transmits a certain amount of information, but a good phase to get into after Castaneda would be to try meditation and get in touch with those who are travelling the upper path.

a reply to: Etsivä Romppainen

posted on Jul, 12 2016 @ 04:02 AM
I'll go to Mexico, myself... then through south America... to disprove every book I have ever read.
Cool thread.
edit on 12-7-2016 by peppycat because: traveling there soon

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