by Bruce Wagner : Details magazine

With his vision of a separate reality, Carlos Castaneda transfixed a generation. In a rare interview, the legendary sorcerer talks to Bruce Wagner about don Juan, freedom, dreaming, and death-and the funny things that happen on the way to infinity.

Carlos Castaneda doesn't live here anymore. After years of rigorous discipline---years of warriorism---he has escaped the ratty theater of everyday life. He is an empty man, a funnel, a teller of tales and stories; not really a man at all, but a being who no longer has attachments to the world as we know it. He is the last nagual, the cork in a centuries---old lineage of sorcerers whose triumph was to break the "agreement" of normal reality. With the release of his ninth book, The Art of Dreaming, he has surfaced---for a moment, and in his way.


My name is Carlos Castaneda. I would like you to do something today. I would like you to suspend judgment. Please: don't come here armed with "common sense." People find out I'm going to be talking---however they hear---and they come to dis Castaneda. To hurt me. "I have read your books and they are infantile." "All of your later books are boring. Don't come that way. It's useless. Today I want to ask you, just for an hour, to open yourself to the option I'm going to present. Don't listen like honor students. I've spoken to honor students before; they're dead and arrogant. Common sense and idealities are what kill us. We hold onto them with our teeth---that's the "ape."

That's what don Juan Matus called us: insane apes. I have not been available for thirty years. I don't go and talk to people. For a moment, I'm here. A month, maybe two . . . then I'll disappear. We're not insular, not just now. We cannot be that way. We have an indebtedness to pay to those who took the trouble to show us certain things. We inherited this knowledge; don Juan told us not to be apologetic. We want you to see there are weird, pragmatic options that are not beyond your reach. I get exotic enjoyment at observing such flight---pure esotericism. It is for my eyes only. I'm not needy; I don't need anything. I need you like I need a hole in the head. But I am a voyager, a traveler. I navigate---out there. I would like others to have the possibility.


The navigator has spoken before groups in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and his cohorts---Florinda Donner-Grau, Taisha Abelar, and Carol Tiggs--- have given lectures ("Toltec Dreaming---The Legacy of Don Juan") in Arizona, Maui, and at Esalen. In the last two years, Donner-Grau's and Abelar's books (in which they discuss Castaneda and their tutelage under don Juan Matus) have entered the marketplace: Being-in-Dreaming and The Sorcerer's Crossing, respectively. The accounts of these two women are a phenomenological mother lode, bona fide chronicles of their initiation and training. They are also a great windfall, for never have readers of Castaneda had access to such direct illuminating reinforcement of his experience. ( "The women are in charge," he says. "It is their game. I am merely the Filipino chauffeur"). Donner-Grau describes the collective consensus of these works as "intersubjectivity among sorcerers"; each one is like a highly individualistic road map of the same city. They are 'energetic" enticements, a perceptual call to freedom rooted in a single, breathtaking premise--- We must take responsibility for the nonnegotiable fact that we are beings who are going to die. One is struck by the cogency of their case, and for good reason. The players, all Ph.D.'s from UCLA's department of anthropology, are stupendous methodologists whose academic disciplines are in fact oddly suited for describing the magical world they present---a configuration of energy called "the second attention." Not a place for the timid New Ager.


I do not lead a double life. I live this life: There is no gap between what I say and what I do. I am not here to pull your chain, or to be entertaining. What I am going to talk about today are not my opinions---they are those of don Juan Matus, the Mexican Indian who showed me this other world. So don't be offended! Juan Matus presented me with a working system backed by twenty seven generations of sorcerers. Without him I would be an old man, a book under my arm, walking with students on the quad. See, we always leave a safety valve; that's why we don't jump. "If all else fails, I can teach anthropology. " We are already losers with losers' scenarios. "I'm Dr. Castaneda . . . and this is my book, The Teachings of Don Juan. Did you know it's in paperback?" I would be the "one book" man---the burnt-out genius. "Did you know it's in a twelfth edition? It's just been translated into Russian."

Or maybe I'd be parking your car and mouthing platitudes: "It's too hot . . .it's fine, but it's too hot. It's too cold . . . it's fine, but it's too cold. I gotta go to the tropics . . . "


In 1960, Castaneda was a graduate student in anthropology at UCLA. While in Arizona researching the medicinal properties of plants, he met a Yaqui Indian who agreed to help. The young fieldworker offered five dollars an hour for the services of don Juan Matus, his picturesque guide. The usher refused. Unbeknownst to Castaneda, the old peasant in huaraches was a peerless sorcerer, a nagual who artfully drafted him as a player in the Myth of Energy (Abelar calls it Sorcery Action Theater). In payment for his services, don Juan asked for something different: Castaneda's "total attention."

The astonishing book born of this encounter---The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge---became an instant classic, neatly blowing the hinges off the doors of perception and electrifying a generation. Since then, he has continued "to peel away at the onion, adding journals of his experience, magisterial elucidations of nonordinary realities that erode the self. A sweeping title for the work might be The Disappearance of Carlos Castaneda.

We need to find a different word for sorcery," he says. "It's too dark. We associate it with medieval absurdities: ritual, evil. I like 'warriorism' or 'navigation.' That's what sorcerers do they navigate."

He has written that a working definition of sorcery is "to perceive energy directly." Sorcerers said that the essence of the universe resembled a matrix of energy shot through by incandescent strands of consciousness-actual awareness. Those strands formed "braids containing all-inclusive worlds, each as real as this ours is merely one among an infinity. The sorcerers call the world we know the "human band" or "the first attention."

They also saw the essence of the human form. It was not merely an apelike amalgamation of skin and bones, but an eggshaped ball of luminosity capable of traveling along those incandescent strands to other worlds. Then what held it back? The sorcerers' idea is we are entombed by social upbringing, tricked into perceiving the world as a place of hard objects and finalities. We go to our graves denying we are magical beings; our agenda is to service the ego instead of the spirit. Before we know it, the battle is over---we die squalidly shackled to the Self. Don Juan Matus made an intriguing proposition: What would happen if Castaneda redeployed his troops? if he freed the energy routinely engaged by the aggressions of courtship and mating? if he curtailed self-importance and withdrew from the "defense, maintenance, and presentation" of the ego---if he ceased to worry whether he was liked, acknowledged, or admired? Would he gain enough energy to see a crack in the world? And if he did, might he go through? The old Indian had hooked him on the "intent" of the sorcerers' world.

But what does Castaneda do during the day?

Talks to the crazy apes. For now, anyway---in private homes, ballet studios, bookstores. They make pilgrimages from the world over: icons of New Awareness past, present, and future, energy groupies, shrinks and shamans, lawyers, Deadheads, drummers, debunkers and lucid dreamers, scholars, socialites and seducers, channelers, meditators and moguls, even lovers and cronies "from 10,000 years ago." Furious note takers come, junior naguals in the making. Some will write books about him; the lazier ones, chapters. Others will give seminars---that is, for a fee. "They come to listen for a few hours, "he says, "and the next weekend they are giving lectures on Castaneda. That's the ape." He stands before them hours at a time enticing and exhorting their energy bodies," and the effect is hot and cold all at once, like dry ice. With numinous finesse, he wrests savage tales of freedom and power like scarves from the empty funnel---moving, elegant, obscene, hilarious, bloodcurdling, and surgically precise. Ask me anything! comes the entreaty. What would you like to know?

Why were Castaneda and Co. making themselves accessible? Why now? What was in it for them?


There is someone who goes into me unknown and waits for us to join her. She's called Carol Tiggs---my counterpart. She was with us, then vanished. Her disappearance lasted ten years. Where she went is inconceivable. It does not yield to rationality. So please suspend judgment! We were going to have bumper sticker.


Carol Tiggs went away. She was not living in the mountains of New Mexico, I assure you. One day I was giving a lecture at the Phoenix Bookstore and she materialized. My heart jumped out of my shirt fomp fomp fomp. I kept talking. I talked for two hours without knowing what I was saying. I took her outside and asked her where she had been---ten years! She became cagey and started to sweat. She had only vague recollections. She made jokes.

The reappearance of Carol Tiggs opened an enormous door---energetically--- through which we come and go. There's a huge entry where I can hook you to the intent of sorcery. Her return gave us a new ring of power; she brought with her a tremendous mass of energy that allows us to come out. That's why we are available at this moment. Someone was introduced to Carol Tiggs at a lecture. He said, "But you look so normal." Carol Tiggs said: "What did you expect? Lightning coming out of my tits?"


Who is Carlos Castaneda, and does he have a life?

It's 1994 already: Why doesn't he just get it over with? Tell us his age and have Avedon take the picture. Hasn't anyone told him that privacy is dead? That the revelation of details no longer diminishes? In exchange for our total attention, he's got to orient us. There are things one would like to know--- mundane, personal things. Like where does he live? What did he think of Sinatra's Duets? What has he done with the egregious profits from his books? Does he drive a turbo Bentley like all the big old Babas? Was that really him with Michael Jordan and Edmund White at uptown Barneys?

They've been trying to pin him down for years.

They even reconstructed his face from memories of old colleagues and dubious acquaintances; the absurd result looks like a police artist's rendering of benevolent Olmec man for Reader's Digest. In the '70s, a photo appeared in a Time cover story (only the eyes were visible)---when the magazine learned the model was a counterfeit, they never forgave him.

Around when Paul McCartney was declared dead, the rumor solidified. Carlos Castaneda was Margaret Mead.

His agent and lawyers are full-time hedges against the onslaught of correspondents and crazies, spiritual hang gliders, New Age movers and seekers, artists wishing to adapt his work--- famous and unknown, with or without permission---and bogus seminars replete with Carlos impersonators. After thirty years, there is still no price on his head. He has no interest in gurus or guruism; there will be no turbo Bentleys, no ranches of turbaned devotees, no guest-edit of Paris Vogue. There will be no Castaneda Institute, no Center for Advanced Sorcery Studies, no Academy of Dreaming---no infomercials, mushrooms, or Tantric sex. There will be no biographies and there will be no scandals. When he's invited to lecture, Castaneda receives no fee and offers to pay his travel fare. The gate is usually a few dollars, to cover rental of the hall. All that is asked of attendees is their total attention.

"Freedom is free," he says. "It cannot be bought or understood. With my books, I've tried to present an option---that awareness can be a medium for transportation or movement. I haven't been so convincing; they think I'm writing novels. If I were tall and handsome, things might be different---they would listen to the Big Daddy. People say, 'You're lying.' How could I be lying? You only lie to get something, to manipulate. I don't want anything from anyone --- only consensus. We'd like there to be consensus that there are worlds besides our own. If there's consensus to grow wings then there'll be flight. With consensus comes mass; with mass there will be movement."

Castaneda and his confederates are the energetic radicals of what may be the only significant revolution of our time --- nothing short of transforming the biological imperative into an evolutionary one. If the sovereign social order commands procreation, the fearless order of sorcerers (energetic pirates all) is after something less, well, terrestrial. Their startling, epochal intent is to leave the earth the way don Juan did twenty years before: as sheer energy, awareness intact. Sorcerers call this somersault "the abstract flight."


When I was young, I used to idolize Alan Watts. After I became "Carlos Castaneda," I had entree and went to him. He scared the living daylights out of me. He was not what he pretended to be---he asked me to bed. I said, "Hey Alan, what is this? "But Carlos," he said, "don't you see the beauty? That I'm able to understand perfection, yet cannot attain my beliefs? I am imperfect but embrace the weakness it means to be human." That's harseshit. I told him: "I know people who say the opposite; they do what they say. And they live to prove we a sublime." There is a woman, big spiritualist. Millions of dollars go though her hands---she's been doing it twenty years. I went to see he4r at someone' house and she was stroking the crotch of a man, right in front of where I stood. Was she doing it to impress me? To shock? I cannot be shocked. Later, I cornered her in the kitchen. I said, "What do you say to yourself when you're alone in the middle of the night?" Don Juan used to put that question to me. "What do you say when you're alone and you look in the mirror?" "Ah, Carlos," she said, "that's the secret. Never to be alone." Is that really the secret? Never to be alone? How horrendous. That's a shitty secret.

This Yaqui sorcerer asked me to suspend judgment for three days---to believe for three days that to be human was not to be weak, but to be sublime. Either one is true, yes…but how much more powerful to be sublime.! The ape is insane, but also exquisite. Don Juan was a frigging ape---but he was in impeccable warrior. He left the world, intact. He became energy; he burned from within.

He used to say, "I was born a dog…but I don't have to die like one. Do you want to live like your father?" He asked me that. "Do you want to die like your grandfather?" Then came the bit question: "What are you going to do to avoid dying that way?" I didn't answer---I didn't have to. The answer was: "Nothing." A terrifying moment. How that haunted me.


I met with Castaneda and "the witches" over a period of a week at restaurants, hotel rooms, and malls. They're attractive and vibrantly youthful. The women dress unobtrusively, with a touch of casual chic. You wouldn't notice them in a crowd, and that's the point.

I skimmed a New Yorker outside the cafe of the Regent Beverly Wilshire. The ad for Drambuie seemed particularly hideous: Inevitably, no matter how much we struggle, In one way or another, one day we become our parents. Instead of resisting this notion, we invite you to celebrate this rite of passage with an exquisite liquor ... Don Juan was laughing in his grave --- or out of it, which brought to mind a welter of questions: Where was he anyway? The same place Carol Tiggs came back from? If that were so, did that mean the old nagual was capable of such reentry? In The Fire From Within Castaneda wrote that don Juan and his party evanesced sometime in 1973---fourteen navigators gone, to the "second attention." What exactly was the second attention? It all seemed clear when I was reading the books. I searched my notes. I'd scrawled "second attention = heightened awareness" on the margin of a page, but that didn't help. Impatiently, I riffled through The Power of Silence, The Eagle's Gift, Journey to Ixtlan. Though there was much throughout I didn't understand, the basics had been thoroughly, coherently described. Why couldn't I hold any of it in my head?

I was failing Sorcery 101.

I ordered a cappuccino and waited. I let my mind drift. I thought about Donner-Grau and the Japanese monkeys. When I'd spoken to her on the phone to arrange an interview, she'd mentioned Imo. Every anthropology student knows about Imo, the famous macaque. One day Imo spontaneously washed off a sweet potato before eating it; in a short while, the macaques of the entire island followed suit. Anthropologists might call this "cultural" behavior, but Donner-Grau said it was a perfect example of critical mass---monkey intersubjectivity.

Castaneda appeared. He smiled broadly, shook my hand, and sat down. I was about to bring up the monkeys when he began to weep. The forehead crinkled; his entire body convulsed in lamentation. Soon he was gasping like a grouper thrown from the tank. His lower lip twitched, wet and electrified. His arm unfurled toward me, the hand palsied and trembling---then it opened like a night---blooming bud from Little Shop of Horrors, as if to receive alms.

"Please!" He declared a shaky truce with his facial muscles just to spit out the words. He bore down on me in needy supplication. "Please love me!"

Castaneda was sobbing again, a great broken, choking hydrant, his bathos effortless as he became an obscene weeping contraption. "That's what we are: apes with tin cups. So routinary, so weak. Masturbatory. We are sublime, but the insane ape lacks the energy to see---so the brain of the beast prevails. We cannot grab our window of opportunity, our 'cubic centimeter of chance.' How could we? We're too busy holding onto Mommy's hand. Thinking how wonderful we are, how sensitive, how unique. We are not unique! The scenarios of our lives have already been written," he said, grinning ominously, "by others. We know . . . but we don't care. Fuck it, we say. We are the ultimate cynics. Cono! Carajo! That's how we live! In a gutter of warm shit. What have they done to us? That's what don Juan used to say. He used to ask me, 'How's the carrot?' 'What do you mean?' 'The carrot they shoved up your ass.' I was terribly offended; he could really do it to me! That's when he said, 'Be grateful they haven't put a handle on it yet.' "

"But if we have a choice, why do we stay in the gutter?"

"It's too warm. We don't want to leave---we hate to say goodbye. And we worry---ooo-fa, how we worry---twenty-six hours a day! And what do you think we worry about?" He smiled again, a rubbery Cheshire cat. "About me! What about me? What's in it for me? What's gonna happen to me? Such egomania! So horrendous. But fascinating! "

I told him his views seemed a little harsh, and he laughed. "Yes," he said, in the ludicrously constipated, judgey tones of an academic. "Castaneda is a bitter and insane old man." His caricatures were drolly, brutally on target.

"The greedy ape reaches through a grate for a seed and cannot relinquish control. There are studies; nothing will make him drop that seed. The hand will cling even after you hack off the arm---we die holding onto mierda. But why? Is that all there is---like Miss Peggy Lee said? That cannot be; That's too horrendous. We have to learn how to let go. We collect memories and paste them in books, ticket stubs to a Broadway show ten years ago. We die holding onto souvenirs. To be a sorcerer is to have the energy, curiosity, and guts to let go, to somersault into the unknown---all one needs is some retooling, redefinition. We must see ourselves as beings who are going to die. Once you accept that, worlds open up for you. But to embrace this definition, you must have 'balls of steel.' "


When you say "mountain" or "tree" or "White House," you invoke a universe of detail with a single utterance; that's magic. See, we're visual creatures. You could lick the White House---smell it, touch it---and it wouldn't tell you anything. But one look, and you know everything there is to know: the "cradle of democracy," whatever. You don't even need to look, you already see Clinton sitting inside, Nixon on his knees praying---whatever. Our world is an agglutination of detail, an avalanche of glosses---we don't perceive, we merely interpret. And our interpretation system has made us lazy and cynical. We prefer to say "Castaneda's a liar" or "This business of perceptual options just isn't for me." What is for you? What's "real"? This hard, shitty, meaningless daily world? Are despair and senility what's real? That the world is "given" and "final" is a fallacious concept. From an early age we get "membership." One day, when we've learned the shorthand of interpretation, the world says "welcome." Welcome to what? To prison. Welcome to hell. What if it turns out that Castaneda is inventing nothing? If that's true, then you're in a very bad spot.

The interpretation system can be interrupted; it is not final. There are worlds within worlds, each as real as this. In that wall over there is a world, this room is a universe of detail. Autistics get caught, frozen in detail---they trace a finger on the crack until it bleeds. We get caught in the room of everyday life. There are options other than this world, as real as this room, places where you can live or die. Sorcerers do that---how exciting! To think that this is the only all---inclusive world . . .that's the epitome of arrogance. Why not open the door to another room? That's the natural heritage of sentient beings. It's time to interpret and construct new glosses. Go to a place where there's no a priori knowledge. Don't throw away your old system of interpretation---use it, from nine to five. After five? Magic hour.


But what does he mean by "magic hour"?

Their books are meticulously detailed evocations of the unknown, yet the irony remains; there's no real Lexicon for their experience. Magic hour isn't wordfriendly--- its surplus energies are experienced bodily. Whenever Castaneda left don Juan to return to Los Angeles, the old nagual liked to say he knew what his student would be up to. He could make a list, he said---maybe a long list, but still, a list---upon which Castaneda's thoughts and actions could inevitably be found. But it was impossible for Castaneda to do the same for his teacher. There was no intersubjectivity between the two men. Whatever it was the Indian did in the second attention could only be experienced , not conveyed. Back then, Castaneda had neither the energy nor the preparation it took for such consensus.

But the ape is possessed by words and syntax. He must understand, at all costs. And there must be regimen to his understanding.

"We are linear beings: dangerous creatures of habit and repetition. We need to know: There's the chicken place! There's the shoelace place! There's the car wash! If one day one of them isn't there---we go bananas." He insisted on paying for lunch. When the waiter returned with the slip, I had a sudden urge to grab the credit card and see if it was in his name. He caught my glance.

"A business manager tried to get me to do the old American Express ad: CARLOS CASTANEDA, MEMBER since 1968." He laughed gleefully, circling back to his theme. "We are heavy, heavy apes, very ritualistic. My friend Ralph used to see his grandmother on Monday nights. She died. And he said, 'Hey Joe---I was Joe then---'hey Joe, now we can get together on Monday nights. Are you free Mondays, Joe? 'You mean every Monday, Ralph?' 'Yes, yes! Every Monday. Won't it be great?' 'But every Monday? forever?' 'Yes, Joe! You and me on Mondays---forever!' "


I met a scientist at a party---a well---known man. Eminent. A luminary. "Dr. X." He wanted to dis me, heavily. He said, "I read your first book; the rest were boring. Look, I'm not interested in anecdotes. I'm interested in proof." Dr. X confronted me. He must have thought l was as important as he was. I said, "If I was to prove the law of gravity, wouldn't you need a degree of training to follow me? You'd need 'membership'--- maybe even equipment. You'd need to have taken Physics 1, 2, 16, maybe even Physics 23. You'd have already made tremendous sacrifices to learn: to go to school, to study long hours. You may even have stopped dating. " I told him if he wanted proof he'd have to take Sorcery 101. But he wouldn't do that; that takes preparation. He got angry and left the room. Sorcery is a flow, a process. Just as in physics you need certain knowledge to follow the flow of the equations, Dr. X would have had to do some very basic things to be in a position to have enough energy to understand the flow of sorcery. He would have had to "recapitulate" his life. So: the scientist wanted proof but didn't want to prepare. That's the way we are. We don't want to do the work---we want to be helicoptered to awareness, without getting mud in our shoesies. And if we don't like what we see, we want to be helicoptered back.


It is tiring being with this man. He's overly, ruthlessly present--- the fullness of his attention exhausts. He seems to respond to my queries with all he has; there's a liquid, eloquent urgency to his speech, dogged and final, elegant, elegiac. Castaneda said he feels time "advancing" upon him. You sense his weight, something foreign you can't identify, ethereal yet indolent, densely inert--- like a plug or buoy, a cork lying heavily on the waves.

We're walking in Boyle Heights. He stops to demonstrate a martial arts position called the horse---legs slightly bent, as if in the saddle. "They stood like this in Buenos Aires---in my day. Everything was very stylized. They were adopting the poses of men long dead. My grandfather stood this way. The muscle under here"---he points to the backside of his thigh---"that's where we store nostalgia. Self-pity is a most horrendous thing."

"What did you mean about 'time advancing' on you?"

'Don Juan had a metaphor. We stand in a caboose, watching the tracks of time recede. 'there I am a five years old! There I go ---' We have merely to turn around and let the time advance on us. That way, there are no a prioris. Nothing is presumed; nothing presupposed; nothing neatly packaged."

We sat on a bus bench. Across the street a beggar held a piece of cardboard for the motorists. Castaneda stared past him toward the horizon. "I don't have a tinge of tomorrow---and nothing from the past. The department of anthropology doesn't exist for me anymore. Don Juan used to say the first part of his life was a waste---he was in limbo. The second part of his life was absorbed in the future; the third, in the past, nostalgia. Only the last part of his life was now. That's where I am."

I decided to ask something personal and prepared to be rebuffed. For them, biographical evidence will mesmerize as surely as a crack in the wall---leaving everyone with bloody fingers.

"When you were a boy, who was the most important man in your life?"

"My grandfather --- he raised me." His hard eyes were glinting. "He had a stud pig called Rudy. Made a lot of money. Rudy had a little blond face---gorgeous. They used to put a hat on him, a vest. My grandfather made a tunnel from the sty to the showroom. There would come Rudy with his midget face, trailing this huge body behind! Rudy, with his screwdriver pincho; we watched that pig commit barbarities."

"What was he like---your grandfather.''

"I adored him. He was the one who made the agenda; I was going to carry his banner. That was my fate, but not my destiny. My grandfather was an amorous man. He schooled me in seduction at an early age. When I was twelve, I walked like him, talked like him---with a constricted larynx. He's the one who taught me to 'go in through the window.' He said women would run if I approached them head-on---I was too plain. He made me go up to little girls and say: 'You're so beautiful!' Then I'd turn and walk away. 'You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen!'---quickly walk away. After three or four times they'd say, 'Hey! Tell me your name.' That's how I got 'in through the window.’”

He got up and walked. The beggar was heading for the bushy dead zone that surrounded the freeway. When we got to his car, Castaneda opened the door and stood a moment.

"A sorcerer asked me a question, a long time ago: What kind of face does the bogeyman have, for you? I was intrigued. This thing I thought would be shadowy, murky, had a human face--- the bogeyman often has the face of something you think you love. For me, it was my grandfather. My grandfather, who I adored. I got in and he started the car. The last part of the beggar disappeared into the grubby hedgerow.”

"I was my grandfather. Dangerous, mercenary, conniving. petty, vindictive, filled with doubt---and immovable. Don Juan knew this."


At seventy-five, we're still looking for "love" and "companionship." My grandfather used to wake up in the middle of the night crying, "Do you think she loves me?" His last words were, "Here I go baby, here I go!" He had a big orgasm and died. For years I thought that was the greatest thing--- magnificent. Then don Juan said, "Your grandfather died like a pig. His life and death had no meaning."

Don Juan said death can't be soothing--- only triumph can. I asked him what he meant by triumph and he said freedom: when you break through the veil and take your life force with you. "But there's still so much that I want to do! "He said, "You mean there are still so many women you want to fuck." He was right. That's how primitive we are.

The ape will consider the unknown, but before he jumps he demands to know: What's in it for me? We're businessmen, investors, used to cutting our losses-- -it's a merchant's world. If we make an "investment," we want guarantees. We fall in love but only if we're loved back. When we don't love anymore, we cut the head off and replace it with another. Our "love" is merely hysteria. We are not affectionate beings, we are heartless.

I thought I knew how to love. Don Juan said, "How could you? They never taught you about love. They taught you how to seduce, to envy, to hate. You don't even love yourself---otherwise you wouldn't have put your body through such barbarities. You don't have the guts to love like a sorcerer. Could you love forever, beyond death? Without the slightest reinforcement---nothing in return? Could you love without investment, for the piss of it? You'll never know what it's like to love like that, relentlessly. Do you really want to die without knowing?"

No---I didn't. Before I die, I have to know what it's like to love like that. He hooked me that way. When I opened my eyes, I was already rolling down the hill. I'm still rolling.


I had too many Cokes and was paranoid.

Castaneda said sugar is as effective a killer as common sense. "We are not 'psychological' creatures. Our neuroses are by---products of what we put in our mouths.'--- I was certain he saw my "energy body" irradiating cola. I felt absurd, defeated---I decided I would binge that night on profiteroles. Such is the piquant, dark-chocolated shame of the picayune ape.

"I had a great love affair with Coke. My grandfather possessed a pseudosensuality.

'I gotta have that pussy! I need it! I need it now!' My grandfather thought he was the hottest dick in town. Most extravagant. I had the same thing--- everything went right to my balls, but it wasn't real. Don Juan told me, 'You're being triggered by sugar. You're too flimsy to have that kind of sexual energy.' Too fat to have this 'hot dick."

'Everyone's smoking in Universal CityWalk. Strange, sitting with Carlos Castaneda in this architectural approximation of middle-class Los Angeles--- this "agglutination of detail," this 'avalanche of glosses" that is a virtual city. There are no black people and nothing resembling heightened awareness; we've shifted from the human band to the band of MCA. We are inhabiting a perversely bland version of a familiar scene from his books, the one where he abruptly finds himself in a simulacrum of the everyday world.

"You said that if Dr. X had 'recapitulated his life,' he might have retrieved some energy. What did you mean?"

"The recapitulation is the most important thing we do. To begin, you make a list of everyone you ever knew. Everyone you ever spoke to or had dealings with."


"Yes. You go down the list, chronologically re-creating the scenes of exchange." "But that could take years."

"Sure. A thorough recapitulation takes a long time. And then you start over. We are never through recapitulating---that way there's no residue. See, there's no 'rest.' Rest is a middle-class concept---the idea that if you work hard enough, you've earned a vacation. Time to go four-wheeling in the Range Rover or fishing in Montana. That's horseshit."

"You re-create the scene ... "

"Start with sexual encounters. You see the sheets, the furniture, the dialogue. Then get to the person, the feeling. What were you feeling? Watch! Breathe in the energy you expended in the exchange; give back what isn't yours."

"It almost sounds like psychoanalysis."

"You don't analyze, you observe. The filigrees, the detail---you're hooking yourself to the sorcerers' intent. It's a maneuver, a magical act hundreds of years old, the key to restoring energy that will free you for other things."

"You move your head and breathe---"

"Go down the list until you get to mommy and daddy. By then you'll be shocked; you'll see patterns of repetition that will nauseate you. Who is sponsoring your insanity's? Who is making the agenda? The recapitulation will give you a moment of silence---it will allow you to vacate the premises and make room for something else. From the recapitulation you come up with endless tales of the Self, but you are no longer bleeding."


When I came to don Juan, I was already fucked to death; I'd exhausted myself that way. I'm not in the world anymore, not like that; sorcerers use that kind of energy to fly off, or to change. Fucking is our most important act, energetically. See, we've dispersed our best generals but don't try to call them back; we lose by default. That's why it's so important to recapitulate your life.

The recapitulation separates our commitment to the social order from our life force. The two are not inextricable. Once I was able to subtract the social being from my native energy, I could clearly see: I wasn't that "sexy."

Sometimes I talk to groups of psychiatrists. They want to know about the orgasm. When you're out there flying in the immensity's, you don't give a shit about the "Big O." Most of us are frigid; all this sensuality is mental masturbation. We are "bored fucks"---no energy at the moment of conception. Either we're first born and the parents didn't know how to do it, or last born and they're not interested anymore. We're fucked either way. We're just biological meat with bad habits and no energy. We are boring creatures, but instead we say, "I'm so bored."

Fucking is much more injurious for women ---men are drones. The universe is female. Women have total access, they're already there. It's just they're so stupidly socialized. Women are portentous fliers; they have a second brain, an organ they can use for unimaginable flight. They use their wombs for dreaming.

Do we have to stop fucking? The men ask Florinda that. She says, "Go ahead! Stick your little pee-pee wherever you want! " Oh, she's a horrible witch! She's worse with the women--- the weekend goddesses who paint their nipples and go on retreats. She says, "Yes, you're here being goddesses. But what do you do when you get home? You get fucked, like slaves! The men leave luminous worms in your pussy!"

A truly terrible witch!


Florinda Donner-Grau takes no prisoners. She is small-boned, charming, and aggressive--- like a jockey with a shiv.

When Donner-Grau first encountered don Juan and his circle, she thought they were unemployed circus workers who trafficked in stolen goods. How else to explain the Baccarat crystal, the exquisite clothes, the antiquarian jewelry? She felt adventurous around them--- by nature she was cocky, daring, vivacious. For a South American girl, her life had been freewheeling.

"I thought I was the most wonderful being who ever was---so bold, so special. I raced cars and dressed like a man. Then this old Indian said the only thing 'special' about me was my blonde hair and blue eyes in a country where those things were revered. I wanted to strike him---in fact, I think I did. But he was right, you know. This celebration of Self is totally insane. What the sorcerers do is kill the Self. You must die, in that sense, in order to live---not live in order to die."

Don Juan encouraged his students to have a "romance with knowledge." He wanted their minds sufficiently trained to view sorcery as an authentic philosophical system; in a delicious reversal distinctive to the sorcerer's world, fieldwork led to academia. The road to magic hour was funny that way.

She recalled the first time Castaneda took her to Mexico to see Don Juan. "We went via this long, snaky route---you know, the 'coyote trail.' I thought he was taking a weird route so we wouldn't be followed, but it was something else. You had to have enough energy to find that old Indian. After I don't know how long, there was someone on the road waving us in. I said to Carlos, 'Hey, aren't you going to stop?' He said, 'It isn't necessary.' See, we had crossed over the fog. "

We rocketed past Pepperdine. Someone was selling crystals by the road. I wondered if Shirley MacLaine's house had burned; I wondered if Dick Van Dyke had rebuilt. Maybe Van Dyke had moved into MacLaine's with the Sean Penns.

"What happens with people who are interested in your work---the ones who read your books and write letters? Do you help them?"

"People are intellectually curious, they're 'teased' or whatever. They stay until it gets too difficult. The recapitulation is very unpleasant; they want immediate results, instant gratification. For a lot of the New Agers, it's The Dating Game. They case the room---furtive, prolonged eye contact with potential partners. Or it's just shopping on Montana Avenue. When the thing becomes too expensive in terms of what they have to give of themselves, they don't want to pursue it. You see, we want minimal investment with maximal return. No one is really interested in doing the work."

"But they would be interested, if there was some kind of proof what you're saying---"

"Carlos has a great story. There was a woman he'd known for years. She called from Europe, in terrible shape. He said come to Mexico---you know, 'jump into my world.' She hesitated. Then she said, 'I'll come---as long as I know my huaraches are waiting on the other side of the river.' She wanted guarantees she'd land on her feet. Of course, there are no guarantees. We're all like that: We will jump, as long as we know our huaraches are waiting for us on the other side."

"What if you jump---as best you can---and it turns out it was only a fever dream?"

"Then have a good fever."


This is not a book for people.

That's what someone who has known him for years said about The Art of Dreaming. In fact, it is the crown of Castaneda's work, an instruction manual to an undiscovered country---the delineation of ancient techniques used by sorcerers to enter the second attention. Like his other books, it's lucid and unnerving, yet there's something haunting about this one. It smells like it was made somewhere else. I was curious how it all began.

"I used to take notes, with don Juan---thousands of notes. Finally, he said, 'Why don't you write a book?' I told him that was impossible. 'I'm not a writer. "But you could write a shitty book, couldn't you?' I thought to myself, Yes! I could write a shitty book. Don Juan laid down a challenge: 'Can you write this book, knowing it may bring notoriety? Can you remain impeccable? If they love you or hate you is meaningless. Can you write this book and not give in to what may come your way?' I agreed. Yes. I'll do it.

"And terrifying things came my way. But the panties didn't fit."

I told him I wasn't sure about the last remark, and he laughed.

"That's an old joke. A woman's car breaks down and a man repairs it. She has no money and offers him earrings. He tells her his wife wouldn't believe him. She offers her watch but he tells her bandits will steal it. Finally, she takes off her panties to give him. 'No, please,' he says. 'They're not my size.'"


I had never been alone until I met don Juan. He said, "Get rid of your friends. They will never allow you to act with independence--- they know you too well. You will never be able to come from left field with something. ..shattering." Don Juan told me to rent a room, the more sordid the better. Something with green floors and green curtains that reeked of piss and cigarettes. "Stay there," he said. "Be alone until you are dead." I told him I couldn't do it. I didn't want to leave my friends. He said, "Well, I can't talk to you ever again." He waved goodbye, big smile. Boy, was I relieved! This weird old man---this Indian---had thrown me out. The whole thing had tied itself up so neatly. The closer I got to L.A., the more desperate I became. I realized what I was going home to---my "friends." And for what? To have meaningless dialogue with those who knew me so well. To sit on the couch by the phone waiting to be invited to a party. Endless repetition. I went to the green room and called don Juan. "Hey, not that I'm going to do it--- but tell me, what is the criteria for being dead?" "When you no longer care whether you have company or whether you are alone. That is the criteria for being dead."

It took three months to be dead. I climbed the walls desperate for a friend to drop by. But I stayed. By the end, I'd gotten rid of assumptions; you don't go crazy being alone. You go crazy the way you're going, that's for sure. You can count on it.


We headed in his station wagon toward the cheap apartment house where Castaneda went to die.

"We could go to your old room," I said, "and knock on the door. For the hell of it." He said that might be taking things too far."

'What do you want out of life?' That's what Don Juan used to ask me. My classic response 'Frankly, Don Juan, I don't know.' That was my pose as the 'thoughtful' man--- the intellectual. Don Juan said, 'That answer would satisfy your mother, not me.' See, I couldn't think---I was bankrupt. And he was an Indian. Carajo, cono! God, you don't know what that means. I was polite, but I looked down on him. One day he asked if we were equals. Tears sprang to my eyes as I threw my arms around him. 'Of course we're equals, don Juan! How could you say such a thing!' Big hug; I was practically weeping. 'You really mean it?' he said. 'Yes, by God!' When I stopped hugging him he said, 'No, we are not equals. I am an impeccable warrior---and you are an asshole. I could sum up my whole life in a moment. You cannot even think." We pulled over and parked underneath some trees. Castaneda stared at the seedy building with an odd ebullience, shocked it was still there. He said it should have been torn down long ago---that its perseverance in the world was some kind of weird magic. Children were playing with a giant plastic fire engine. A homeless woman drifted past like a somnambulist. He made no move to get out. He began talking about what "dying in that green room" meant. By the time he left that place, Castaneda was finally able to listen unjaundiced to the old Indian's far-out premises.

Don Juan told him that when sorcerers see energy, the human form presents itself as a luminous egg. Behind the egg---roughly an arm's length from the shoulders---is the "assemblage point," where incandescent strands of awareness are gathered. The way we perceive the world is determined by the point's position. The assemblage point of mankind is fixed at the same point on each egg; such uniformity accounts for our shared view of everyday life. (Sorcerers call this arena of awareness "the first attention.") Our way of perceiving changes with the point's displacement by injury, shock, drugs---or in sleep, when we dream. "The art of dreaming" is to displace and fix the assemblage point in a new position, engendering the perception of alternate, all-inclusive worlds ("the second attention"). Smaller shifts of the point within the egg are still inside the human band and account for the hallucinations of delirium ---or the world encountered during dreams. Larger movements of the assemblage point, more dramatic, pull the "energy body" outside the human band to nonhuman realms. That is where don Juan and his party journeyed in 1973 when they "burned from within," fulfilling the unthinkable assertion of his lineage: evolutionary flight.

Castaneda learned that whole civilizations---a conglomerate of dreamers---had vanished in the same way.

He told me about a sorcerer of his lineage who had tuberculosis---and was able to shift his assemblage point away from death. That sorcerer had to remain impeccable; his illness hung over him like a sword. He could not afford an ego- --he knew precisely where his death lay, waiting for him.

Castaneda turned to me, smiling. "Hey . . ."

He had a strangely effusive look, and I was ready. For three weeks I'd been awash in his books and their contagious presentation of possibilities. Perhaps this was the moment in which I'd make my pact with Mescalito. Or had we already "crossed over the fog" without my knowing?

"Hey," he said again, his eyes fairly twinkling. "Do you want to get a hamburger?"


"That the assemblage point of man is fixed in one position is a crime."

I sat with Taisha Abelar on a bench in front of the art museum on Wilshire. She didn't sync up with my image of her. Castaneda said that as part of Abelar's training, she'd assumed different personas---one being the "Madwoman of Oaxaca," a lecherous, mud---smeared beggar woman---back in her days as a struggling actress in Sorcery Action Theater.

"I was going to call my book The Great Crossing but I thought that was too Eastern." "The Buddhist concept is pretty similar."

"There are lots of parallels. Our group has been crossing over for years but only recently have we compared notes---because our leaving is imminent. Seventy-five percent of our energy is there, 25 percent here. That's why we have to go."

"Is that where Carol Tiggs was? That 75 percent place?"

"You mean the Twilight Zone?"

She waited a deadpan beat, then laughed.

"We felt Carol Tiggs on our bodies when she was gone. She had tremendous mass. She was like a lighthouse; a beacon. She gave us hope---an incentive to go on. Because we knew she was there. Whenever I would become self-indulgent, I felt her tap me on the shoulder. She was our magnificent obsession."

"Why is it so difficult for the 'ape' to make his journey?"

"We perceive minimally; the more entanglements we have in this world, the harder it is to say goodbye. And we all have them---we all want fame, we want to be loved, to be liked. My gosh, some of us have children. Why would anyone want to leave? We wear a hood, cloaked . . . we have our happy moments that last us the rest of our lives. I know someone who was Miss Alabama. Is that enough to keep her from freedom? Yes. 'Miss Alabama' is enough to pin her down."

It was time to pose one of the Large Questions (there were a number of them): When they spoke of "crossing over," did that mean with their physical bodies? She replied that changing the Self didn't mean the Freudian ego but the actual, concrete Self---yes, the physical body. "When don Juan and his party left," she said, "they went with the totality of their beings. They left with their boots on."

She said dreaming was the only authentic new realm of philosophical discourse---that Merleau-Ponty was wrong when he said mankind was condemned to prejudge an a priori world. "There is a place of no a prioris---the second attention. Don Juan always said philosophers were 'sorcerers manques.' What they lacked was the energy to jump beyond their idealities.

"We all carry bags toward freedom: Drop the baggage. We even need to drop the baggage of sorcery."

"The baggage of sorcery?"

"We don't do sorcery; we do nothing. All we do is move the assemblage point. In the end, 'being a sorcerer' will trap you as sure as Miss Alabama."

A shabby, toothless woman shuffled toward us with postcards for sale---the Madwoman of the Miracle Mile. I picked one and gave her a dollar. I showed it to Abelar; it was a picture of Jesus, laughing.

"A rare moment," she said.


Where in this world is there left to explore?

It's all a priori---done and exhausted. We are slated for senility; it waits for us like magina, the river sickness. When I was a boy, I heard of it. A disease of memories and remembrance. It attacks people who live on the river shore. You become possessed of a longing that pushes you to move on and on---to roam without sense, endlessly. The river meanders; people used to say "the river is alive." When it reverses its course, it never remembers it was once flowing east to west. The river forgets itself.

There was a woman I used to visit at the convalescent home. She was there fifteen years. For fifteen years she prepared for a party she was throwing at the Hotel del Coronado. This was her delusion; she would ready herself each day but the guests would never come. She finally died. Who knows---maybe that was the day they finally arrived.


"How should I say you look?"

His voice became unctuously absurd. He was Fernando Rey, the bourgeois narcissist---with just a hint of Laurence Harvey.

"You may say I resemble Lee Marvin."

It was dusk in Roxbury Park. There was the steady, distant whomp of a tennis ball volleying against a concrete backstop.

"I read an article once in Esquire about California witchcraft. The first sentence went: 'Lee Marvin is scared.' Whenever something is not quite right, you can hear me: Lee Marvin is scared."

We agreed I would describe Castaneda as wheelchair-bound, with beautifully 'cut' arms and torso. I would say he wore fragrance by Bijan and long hair that delicately framed a face like the young Foucault.

He began to laugh. "I knew this woman once, she gives seminars now on Castaneda. When she felt depressed, she had a trick---a way to get out of it. She'd say to herself: 'Carlos Castaneda looks like a Mexican waiter' This is all it took to pull her up. Carlos Castaneda looks like a Mexican waiter!---instantly refreshed. Fascinating! How sad. But for her, it was good as Prozac! "

I'd been leafing through the books again and wanted to ask about "intent." It was one of the most abstract, prevalent concepts of their world. They spoke of intending freedom, of intending the energy body---they even spoke of intending intent.

"I don't understand intent."

"You don't understand anything." I was taken aback. "None of us do! We don't understand the world, we merely handle it---but we handle it beautifully. So when you say 'I don't understand,' that's just a slogan. You never understood anything to begin with."

I was feeling argumentative. Even sorcery had a "working definition." Why couldn't he give one for "intent"?

"I cannot tell you what intent is. I don't know myself. Just make it a new indexical category. We are taxonomists---how we love to keep indexes! Once, don Juan asked me: 'What is a university?' I told him it was a school for higher learning. He said, 'But what is a "school for higher learning"?' I told him it was a place where people met to learn. 'A park? A field?' He got me. I realized that 'university' had a different meaning for the taxpayer, for the teacher, for the student. We have no idea what 'university' is! It's an indexical category, like 'mountain' or 'honor.' You don't need to know what 'honor' is to move toward it. So move toward intent. Make intent an index. Intent is merely the awareness of a possibility---of a chance to have a chance. It's one of the perennial forces in the universe that we never call on---by hooking onto the intent of the sorcerer's world, you're giving yourself a chance to have a chance. You're not hooking onto the world of your father, the world of being buried six feet under. Intend to move your assemblage point. How? By intending! Pure sorcery."

"Move toward it, without understanding."

"Certainly! 'Intent' is just an index---most fallacious, but utterly utilizable. Just like 'Lee Marvin is scared."'


I meet people all the time who are dying to tell me their tales of sexual abuse. One guy told me when he was ten, his father grabbed his cock and said, "This is for fucking!" That traumatized him for ten years! He spent thousands on psychoanalysis. Are we that vulnerable? Bullshit. We've been around five billion years! But that defines him: He is a "sexual abuse victim." Mierda.

We are all poor babies.

Don Juan forced me to examine how I related to people wanted them to feel sorry for me. That was my "one trick." We have one trick that we learn early on and repeat until we die. If we are very imaginative, we have two. Turn on the television and listen to the talk shows: poor babies to the end.

We love Jesus---bleeding, nailed to the cross. That's our symbol. No one's interested in the Christ who was resurrected and ascended to Heaven. We want to be martyrs, losers; we don't want to succeed. Poor babies, praying to the poor baby. When Man fell to his knees, he became the asshole he is today. CONFESSIONS OF AN AWARENESS ADDICT Castaneda has long eschewed psychotropic drugs, yet they were an enormous part of his initiation into the nagual's world. I asked what that was about.

"Being male, I was very rigid---my assemblage point was immovable. Don Juan was running out of time, so he employed desperate measures.

"That's why he gave you the drugs? To dislodge your assemblage point?"

He nodded. "But with drugs, there's no control; it moves helter-skelter."

"Does that mean the time came when you were able to shift your assemblage point and dream without the use of drugs?"

"Certainly! That was don Juan's doing. You see, Juan Matus didn't give a fuck about 'Carlos Castaneda'. He was interested in that other being, the energy body ---what sorcerers call "the double". That's what he wanted to awaken. You use your Double to dream, to navigate in the second attention. That's what pulls you to freedom. 'I trust that the Double will do its duty,' he said. 'I will do anything for it---to help it awaken.' I got chills. These people were for real. They did not die crying for their mommies. Crying for pussy."

We were at a little cafe in the middle of the Santa Monica Airport. I went to the bright bathroom to wet my face and take it all in. I stared in the mirror and thought about the Double. I remembered something don Juan told Castaneda in The Art of Dreaming. "Your passion," he said , "is to jump without capriciousness or premeditation to cut someone else's chains."

On the way back, I formed a question.

"What was it like---I mean, the first time you shifted your assemblage point without drugs?"

He paused for a moment, then moved his head from side to side.

"Lee Marvin was very scared!" He laughed. "Once you start breaking the barriers of normal, historical perception, you believe you are insane. You need the nagual then, simply to laugh. He laughs your fears away."


I saw them go---don Juan and his group, a whole flock of sorcerers. They went to a place free from humanness and the compulsive worshipping of man. They burned from within. They made a movement as they went, they call it the "plumed serpent." They became energy; even their shoes. They made one last turn, one pass, to see this exquisite world for the last time. Ooh-woo-woo! I get chills---I shake. One last turn . . . for my eyes only.

I could have gone with him. When don Juan left he said, "It takes all my guts to go. I need all my courage, all my hope---no expectations. To stay behind, you will need all your hope and all your courage." I took a beautiful jump into the abyss and woke up in my office, near Tiny Naylor's. I interrupted the flow of psychological continuity: Whatever woke up in that office could not be the "me" that I knew linearly. That's why I'm the nagual.

The nagual is a nonentity---not a person. In place of the ego is something else, something very old. Something observant, detached--- and infinitely less committed to the Self. A man with an ego is driven by psychological desires. The nagual has none. He receives orders from some ineffable source that cannot be discussed. That's the final understanding: The nagual, in the end, becomes a tale, a story. He cannot be offended, jealous, possessive---he can't be anything. But he can tell tales of jealousy and passion.

The only thing the nagual fears is "ontological sadness." Not nostalgia for the good old days---that's egomania. Ontological sadness is something different. There's a perennial force that exists in the universe, like gravity, and the nagual feels it. It's not a psychological state. It is a confluence of forces that unite to clobber this poor microbe who has vanquished his ego. It is felt when there are no longer any attachments. You see it coming, then you feel it on top of you.


He used to love the movies, 10,000 years ago. Back when they showed allnighters at the Vista in Hollywood, back when he was learning the criteria for being dead. He doesn't go anymore, but the witches still do. It's a diversion from their freakish, epic activities---sort of like safe-sex dreaming. But not really.

"You know, there's a scene in Blade Runner that really got to us. The writer doesn't know what he's saying, but he hit something. The replicant is talking at the end: 'My eyes have seen inconceivable things.' He's talking about the constellations---'I have seen attack ships off of Orion'---nonsense, inanities. That was the only flaw for us, because the writer hasn't seen anything. But then the speech becomes beautiful. It's raining and the replicant says, 'What if all those moments will be lost in time . . .like tears in the rain?'

"This is a very serious question for us. They may be just tears in the rain--- yes. But you do your best, sir. You do your best and if your best isn't good enough, then fuck it. If your best isn't good enough, fuck God himself."


Before I met him a final time, I was scheduled to see the mysterious Carol Tiggs for breakfast. Twenty years before, she had "jumped" with don Juan Matus's party into the unknown. Unimaginably, she had returned, somehow triggering a veritable road show of sorcerers. I was feeling more and more uneasy about our pending appointment. Each time the Large Question loomed ("Where the hell were you those ten years? " ), it evanesced . I felt like I was on the tracks; Carol Tiggs was waving from the caboose.

In a universe of dualities, Tiggs and Castaneda are energetic counterparts. They are not in the world together as man and wife. They have "double" energy; to a seer, their energetic bodies would appear as two luminous eggs instead of one. This doesn't make them "better" than Donner-Grau or Abelar or anyone---on the contrary. It gave them the predilection, as Juan Matus once said, to be "twice the asshole." Until now, Castaneda wrote exclusively about don Juan's world, never his own. But The Art of Dreaming is suffused with Carol Tiggs's dark, extraneous presence---and rife with hair-raising accounts of their excursions into the second attention, including the precipitous rescue of a "sentient being from another dimension" who takes the form of an angular, steely-eyed little girl called the Blue Scout.

I was just about to leave when the phone rang. I was sure it was Tiggs, calling to cancel. It was Donner-Grau.

I told her a dream I had that morning. I was with Castaneda in a gift shop called the Coyote Trail. She didn't care! She said normal dreams were just "meaningless masturbations." Cruel, heartless witch.

"I wanted to add something. People say to me, 'Here you are putting feminism down... the "leader" of this group was Juan Matus and now the new nagual is Carlos Castaneda---why is it always a male?' Well, the reason those males were 'leaders' was a matter of energy---not because they knew more or were 'better.' See, the universe truly is female; the male is pampered because he is unique. Carlos guides us not in what we do in the world, but in dreaming.

"Don Juan had this horrible phrase. He used to say women are 'cracked cunts'- --he wasn't being derogatory. It's precisely because we are 'cracked' that we have the facility for dreaming. Males are rigid through and through. But women have no sobriety, no structure, no context; in sorcery, that's what the male provides. The feminists become enraged when I say females are inherently complacent, but it's true! That's because we receive knowledge directly. We don't have to endlessly talk about it---that's the male process.

"Do you know what the nagual is? The myth of the nagual? That there are unlimited possibilities for all of us to be something else than what we are meant to be. You don't have to follow the route of your parents. Whether I'm going to succeed or not is immaterial."


Just after I hung up, the phone rang again. Carol Tiggs was calling to cancel. I expected to feel relief but it was a bringdown.

I'd spoken to people who had seen her lecture in Maui and Arizona. They said she was gorgeous; that she worked the room like a stand-up; that she did a mean Elvis. "I'm sorry we can't meet," she said. At least she sounded genuine. "I was looking forward to it."

"It's okay. I'll catch up with you at one of your lectures."

"Oh, I don't think I'll be doing that again for a while." There was a pause. "I have something for you."

"Is it the lightning from your tits?"

She hesitated a moment then broke into peals of laughter.

"Something much more dramatic." I felt a tug at the pit of my stomach. "You know, they always said people have this split between mind and body---this imbalance, this 'mindbody problem.' But the real dichotomy is between physical body and energy body. We die without having ever awakened that magical Double, and it hates us for that. It hates us so much it eventually kills us. That's the whole 'secret' of sorcery: accessing the Double for abstract flight. Sorcerers jump into the void of pure perception with their energy body."

Another pause. I wondered if that was all she was going to say. I was about to speak but something held my words in check.

"There's a song that don Juan thought was beautiful---he said the lyricist nearly got it right. Don Juan substituted one word to make it perfect. He put in freedom where the songwriter had written love."

Then the ghostly recitation began:

You only live twice
Or so it seems.
One life for yourself
And one for your dreams.
You drift through the years
And life seems tame.
'Til one dream appears
And Freedom is its name.
And Freedom's a stranger
Who'll beckon you on
Don't think of the danger
Or the stranger is gone.
This dream is for you
So pay the price.
Make one dream come true. . .*

* From "You Only Live Twice" by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse

She held back in silence a moment.

Then she said "Sweet dreams," parodied a witchy cackle, and hung up.


As the days became chillier it was easy to feel regret---about anything, even Prozac. What if it turns out Castaneda is inventing nothing? If that's true, then you are in a very bad spot.

We met for the last time on a cold day at the beach, by the pier. He said he couldn't stay long. He was sorry I wasn't able to meet Carol Tiggs. Some other time. I felt much the poor baby---Damnit, I just want to be loved. I was scared as Lee Marvin; I was Rutger Hauer with a tin cup; a shrieking Miracle Mile Jesus.

And Jesus looked down on all the people and said: I'm so bored.

We sat down on one of the benches on the bluff. I wanted to detain him, just for a moment. "Tell me the last time you felt nostalgia."

He answered without hesitation.

"When I had to say goodbye to my grandfather. He was long dead by then. Don Juan told me it was time to say goodbye: I was preparing for a long journey, no return. You have to say goodbye, he said, because you will never come back. I conjured my grandfather in front of me---saw him in perfect detail. A total vision of him. He had 'dancing eyes.' Don Juan said, 'Make your goodbye forever.' Oh, the anguish! It was time to drop the banner, and I did. My grandfather became a story. I've told it thousands of times."

We walked to his car.

"I feel an itch in my solar plexus---very exciting. I remember don Juan used to feel that, but I didn't understand what it meant. It means it will soon be time to go." He shivered with delight. "How exquisite!" As he drove off, he shouted at me through the window: Goodbye, illustrious gentleman!


I heard about a lecture in San Francisco. I was finished writing about them but decided to drive up. To put a cork in it, so to speak.

The auditorium was in an industrial park in Silicon Valley. His plane was late; when he walked in, the hall was filled. He spoke eloquently for three hours without a break. He answered questions with incitements, solicitations, and parries. No one moved.

At the end, he talked about killing the ego. Don Juan had a metaphor: " 'The lights are dimming, the musicians packing away their instruments. There is no more time for dancing: It is time to die.' Juan Matus said there was endless time, and no time at all---the contradiction is sorcery. Live it! Live it gorgeously.

A young man rose from the audience.

"But how can we do this without someone like don Juan? How can we do it without joining---"

"No one 'joins' us. There are no gurus. You don't need don Juan," he said emphatically. "I needed him---so I can explain it to you. If you want freedom, you need decision. We need mass in the world; we don't want to be masturbators. If you recapitulate, you'll gather the energy---we will find you. But you need a lot of energy. And for that, you have to work your balls off. So, suspend your judgment and take the option. Do it.

"Don Juan used to say, 'One of us is an asshole. And it isn't me.'" He paused a beat. "That's what I came to tell you today."

Everyone roared with laughter and rose in applause as Castaneda left through the back door.


Please love me! That would have been good for a laugh, anyway. But I forgot my tin cup.

I walked the sidewalk edges of the pond in darkness. A light wind scattered the brittle leaves on its border. One of our conversations came back---he'd been talking about love. I heard his voice and imagined myself on the caboose, slowly turning to face the words as they advanced...

"I fell in love when I was nine years old. Truly, I found my other Self. Truly. But it was not fated. Don Juan told me I would have been static, immobile. My fate was dynamic. One day, the love of my life---this nine-year old girl!--- moved away. My grandmother said, 'Don't be a coward! Go after her!' I loved my grandmother but never told her, because she embarrassed me---she had a speech impediment. She called me 'afor' instead of 'amor.' It was really just a foreign accent, but I was very young, I didn't know. My grandmother put a bunch of coins in my hand. 'Go and get her! We'll hide her and I'll raise her!' I took the money and started to go. Just then, my grandmother's lover whispered something in her ear. She turned to me with an empty look. 'Afor,' she said, 'afor, my precious darling . . .' and she took the money back. 'I am sorry, but we have just run out of time.' And I forgot about it---it took don Juan to put it together, years later.

"It haunts me. When I feel the itch---and the clock says quarter to twelve---I get chills! I shake, to this day!"

" 'Afor . . . my darling. We have just run out of time.' "

© Copyright Details Magazine
Publication Date: March 1994.