Carlos Castaneda

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Carlos (César Salvador Arana) Castaneda[1] (anglicized from Castañeda; 25 December 1925 – 27 April 1998) was a Peruvian-born American anthropologist and author. Starting with The Teachings of Don Juan in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that describe his alleged training in traditional Mesoamerican shamanism. His 12 books have sold more than 8 million copies in 17 languages. The books and Castaneda, who rarely spoke in public about his work, have been controversial for many years. Supporters claim the books are either true or at least valuable works of philosophy and descriptions of practices which enable an increased awareness. For several years, anthropologists considered his work authentic and important, but then a number of exposés questioned Castaneda's veracity. Academic critics now claim the books are works of fiction, citing the books' internal contradictions, discrepancies between the books and anthropological data, alternate sources for Castaneda's detailed knowledge of shamanic practices, apparent sources of plagiarism, and lack of corroborating evidence.

In his books, Castaneda narrated in first person what he claimed were his experiences under the tutelage of a Yaqui shaman named Don Juan Matus whom he met in 1960. Castaneda wrote that he was identified by don Juan Matus as having the energetic configuration of a "nagual", who, if the spirit chose, could become a leader of a party of warriors. He also used the term "nagual" to signify that part of perception which is in the realm of the unknown yet still reachable by man, implying that, for his party of seers, don Juan was in some way a connection to that unknown. Castaneda often referred to this unknown realm as nonordinary reality, which indicated that this realm was indeed a reality, but radically different from the ordinary reality experienced by human beings who are well engaged in everyday activities as part of their social conditioning. Ordinary reality as experienced by humans was simply a "description" that had been pounded into their awareness since they were infants.

Castaneda dropped out of public view in 1973, living in a large house with three women ("chacmools") who had cut their ties to family and changed their names. He founded Cleargreen, an organization that promoted tensegrity, purportedly a traditional Toltec regimen of spiritually powerful exercises. Immediately after he died in 1998, five women connected with Castaneda disappeared.[2]

Contents

Biography

Immigration records for Carlos Cesar Arana Castaneda indicate that he was born on 25 December 1925 in Cajamarca, Perú.[3] Records show that his surname was given by his mother Susana Castañeda Navoa. His father was Cesar Arana Burungaray. His surname appears with the ñ in many Hispanic dictionaries, even though his famous published works display an anglicized version. He moved to the United States in the early 1950s and became a naturalized citizen in 1957. In 1960 he was married to Margaret Runyan in Tijuana, Mexico. They lived together for only six months, but their divorce was not finalized until 1973. He was educated at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) (B.A. 1962; Ph.D. 1973).[4]

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