on 17 March 2002
There are lots of interesting ideas in this book, echoing the great philosophers and psychoanalysists, shedding new light on both. I did not grasp the full significance of the 'tonal' and the 'nagual' until I read 'The Fire From Within', which explains that they correllate to 'first attention' and 'second attention'. The more I read of these books the more convinced I am that they contain a powerful and profound message.
on 27 November 2009
The stories about sorcerers who are determined to outwit death and to `merge with the intent of infinity,' as related in the several books by Carlos Castaneda, could be said to be a reflection of the wave of popular interest in exploration of the boundaries of consciousness that was somewhat characteristic of sophisticated Western society some forty or so years ago. Whether the accounts are really true or fabricated has been a matter of heated debate from the first. Whilst they certainly tend to stretch credibility almost to snapping point, there is a curiously attractive element that invites one to believe in the characters and their extraordinary adventures. The reported death of Carlos Castaneda in Los Angeles (1998) from an ugly disease must have been something of a blow for those readers who had no trouble believing in the stories.
Their relevance today? Well, whatever one cares to believe about the veracity of the story itself the work contains, through implication, a thorough critique of the human ethos. So skilfully is it woven into the texture of the tales that it may well have passed unnoticed, intentionally or otherwise, by millions of readers. Concealed in the romance of sorcery and magic is a totally disenchanted view of human society. The characters in the story simply turn their backs on humanity, occupying themselves instead with their all-absorbing interest: 'the mastery of awareness,' the abandonment of the `inner dialogue' and the exploration of dimensions outside ordinary perception. Though the implied critique of humanity is easy to overlook or ignore, it interestingly amounts to a complete dismissal: why should anyone so passionately desire to leave forever the comfort and reassurances of normal association to travel the relatively lonely and often deeply disturbing path of sorcery?
Further, it appears that these stories are specifically to do with ways and means of leaving the repetitious cycles of the human world; the characters are wholly concerned with such departure and are not concerned with the global doings and importance of humankind--except in so far as human conditioning is considered to be the most serious impediment to the way of infinite freedom.
The `mastery of awareness' is deemed necessary in order to attain complete freedom from the binding conception of the known world, not so as to impress other people with acquired personal powers but in order to achieve freedom or `the totality of oneself.' The sole concession to what might be called 'social consciousness' is to know how to behave so as not to attract unwanted attention and interference. The adepts-in-training simultaneously set about extricating themselves from society: this is the first step to being free, because as far as society is concerned, its patterns amount to the only known truth and no-one can escape its obsessive documentation. It is therefore seen to be vitally necessary to ease oneself out of the grip of the belief in social truth. Obviously this is an arduous task, due to a host of pressing survival concerns, such as bills, responsibilities, commitments, fears and unsatisfied desires.
The character of don Juan is, through Carlos' relative slow-wittedness and his reluctant curiosity, able to reflect accurately the quality of being human in all its complexity and deviousness. That humanity is not a worthwhile investment for the free spirit is regarded by don Juan as self-evident. That one should use every possible means to dissolve one's hapless fixation is unquestionably the only right thing to do!
It is likely that more than a few readers of these books have actually journeyed to the Mexican desert, particularly from the neighbouring US, in search of characters like those described or in order somehow to find their own way to fulfillment. This reviewer doesn't think that going anywhere in particular or trying to secure ideal conditions can awaken an interest in the infinite mystery that surrounds us and in the source of awareness: that must happen from `within,' as it were, regardless of circumstances. To encourage us all, we have these exhuberant, joyful, whimsically humorous stories centering on the play of `power' among some of the most engaging characters ever to have left the earth for inconceivable adventures.
on 13 October 2015
Bought this for a young friend. Read it myself years ago along with the other Casteneda books. You either 'love reading Casteneda or hate him'? I loved reading him. It was an education with regard to understanding the ritualistic and ceremonial nature of shamanism. I did not end up believing everything I read - far from it. But in a sense that was the point. I was embarked on trying to sort illusion from reality, and I believe his writings were instrumental in that regard. They also helped - in a roundabout way, explain some of the phenomena I experienced in altered states.
In that regard I do not and cannot recommend taking drugs, but in a historical context many if not most civilizations have accomodated their use and invented ceremonies and rituals and care provisions to ensure greater safety for users, or should I say 'seekers', for in most instances they were used in the pursuit of truth and knowledge rather than taken for pleasure.
I do not believe Casteneda's writings are the answer, but they are now classic literature and in reading them one will at least become conversant with one perspective, like one language among the many. Hope this helps?
on 14 November 2001
In this book, Castaneda's apprentiship with don Juan has been finished, and now don Juan is gone, leaving Carlos alone in the world of sorcerers. He meets a number of female and male sorcerers, which were also apprentices of Juan and Genaro and he falls in a trap designed to kill him or give him power. Carlos for the first time realizes the meanings of don Juan's and Genaro's teachings. The book is an amazing encounter with the reality of the world of sorcerers, and explains marvellous things that humans can do when their perception is changed.
on 13 August 2013
Very insightful into how one should live their life, it gives a different view of the world and challenges the ideas and beliefs that we have be taught whilst also providing simple methods to changing your thinking and behaviours with how we interact with the world on a day to day basis.
I really enjoy reading these series of books, they go far deeper to answering the questions about our purpose than anything else that I have ever read.