Does anyone remember Carlos Casteneda these days? A very popular author in the 70’s, I knew some folks in the early 20th century who took his accounts of magico-mystic technologies dead seriously and worked them enthusiastically. If you’re among his adherents — groovy. If not, CrimeReads.com published some excerpts from a book on the gent The Mysterious Life and Impeccable Death of Carlos Castaneda, by Mike Sager. To wit:
“A powerful book, simply written yet deeply affecting to some, The Teachings was the first of what would grow into a series of twelve—a groovy trip into the heady netherworld of psychedelic drugs and alternative realities; think Kerouac does psychotropics.
“Classified as nonfiction anthropology, the book was issued first by UCLA’s University Press. Shortly thereafter, it was purchased and reissued by Simon & Schuster. Though the book professed to be nonfiction, it read more like a novel, a combination of Hemingway’s bland staccato and García Márquez’s magical realism.
“Regardless of its genre—about which there would eventually be much debate—the book was perfectly suited to its times, an era of sex and drugs and flower power, of back-to-the-land innocence and marvelous cosmic yearnings. Offered in the form of journal entries, the story is set in a hard scrabble desert landscape of organ pipe cacti and glittering massifs. The story centers around the strange, difficult, and sometimes antic apprenticeship of a skeptical, slightly annoying young academic to a wily old Yaqui Indian sorcerer named Don Juan Matus, whom Castaneda said he met through a friend in the waiting room of a Greyhound bus station, on the Arizona side of the Mexican border, approximately six months a!er his marriage to Margaret Runyan.
“Peopled with indigenous Indians, anthropomorphic incarnations, and spirits both playful and malevolent, the book evokes mysterious winds and terrifying sounds, the shiver of leaves at twilight, the loftiness of a crow in flight, the raw fragrance of tequila, the vile, fibrous taste of peyote. Castaneda writes extensively of his meetings with Mescalito, who comes to him disguised successively as a playful black dog, a column of singing light, and a cricket-like being with a warty green head.”