The Castaneda influence

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the influence of Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli on my book Cosmic Consciousness. Today, I would like to talk about the influence Carlos Castaneda’s books had on my life and my writing.

Around the age of twenty, I came across a book called “The teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui way of knowledge” by Carlos Castaneda. I wasn’t especially searching for anything spiritual or philosophical. I liked the title and the back cover whetted my curiosity, so I bought the book. Within a week, my outlook on life had drastically changed. Reading his book opened my eyes to a whole world that exists right next to ours. It made me realize there’s an infinite number of ways to explain our existence, that we can’t accept one single definition as the ultimate truth.

Before I go any further, let me address the elephant in the room. Castaneda’s writings have caused many disagreements in literary circles. His writings were presented as anthropological research, but over the years, many have accused him of writing a work of fiction and trying to pass it off as scientific. There’s some weight to the naysayers' claims, but I chose to look beyond that aspect. To know that the writings are real accounts or fictitious creations doesn’t make any difference to me. Because what I pulled out of those books was of such a personal nature and had such a positive effect on my life, I voluntarily ignored the fact they might be fictitious. Instead, I gleefully dived into his other books, hungry for this newfound philosophy.

What was most attractive for me was Don Juan, the shaman who teaches Castaneda the ways of the true spiritual warrior. His no-nonsense approach to the philosophy behind his teachings was extremely attractive to my young mind. Don Juan’s approach to spiritual pursuits appealed to me because it was different from most other books on spiritual pursuits. Most use an approach based on blind faith and hope, and the promise of a better tomorrow. But Don Juan was down to earth, which gave his teachings some weight, some substance.

When I started writing Cosmic Consciousness, I wanted my main character to represent what inspired me in Carlos Castaneda’s books. I voluntarily did not revisit the books so the memory of them remained hazy in the background. This way, the memory of the teachings I pulled from the books could be morphed into a spiritual envelope that could help me build the main character as well as her Yaqui mentor and fit all that in a fiction book.

Like I said, his writings were used loosely in my book. His teachings were used in a very personal manner. If you haven’t had the chance to read his books, I highly suggest you do. He isn’t the greatest of writers, but if you read the books with an open mind, I have no doubt you will benefit from them one way or another.

That’s it for me this week, don’t hesitate to c