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CARLOS CASTANEDA:
ENIGMA OF A SORCERER

A movie review by Della Van Hise

Finally got around to watching the DVD of CARLOS CASTANEDA: Enigma of a Sorcerer - the film that was making the rounds last year for a brief time, but never seemed to play in a theater near me. 

Overall, it was an interesting documentary, primarily interviews with some of Castaneda's so-called "inner circle" - including but not limited to Amy Wallace, Corey Donovan (Sustained Action), "Felix", and some others.  Also interviewed were Daniel Noel (Seeing Castaneda) and Richard DeMille (The Don Juan Papers).  The music was memorable, and though there obviously wasn't much of a budget for location shooting, it seemed the film makers did a good job with the resources available.

Okay, it's no secret that I have always thought of deMille as a rather uninspired academician, and that opinion has not changed as a result of viewing this film.  For someone who has essentially devoted a large part of his life to debunking Castaneda, all he has really come up with is that the dates cited in CC's books don't always coincide when he could have REALLY been in Mexico.  That, and some stale observations about how Castaneda's books always seemed to come out shortly AFTER, and seemingly ECHO things written in other texts about shamanism.  Ho hum.  Trying to debunk the mystical with stale academic logic is rather like trying to stop the sun in its path with a wand.    If shamanism is a "real" thing, it stands to reason a lot of shamans are going to come to the same conclusions, as a result of the same experiences, at around the same point in time.  I once was in the process of writing a science fiction story, only to have it appear in print about 5 minutes after I finished my first draft.  The plot was virtually identical.  The characters were virtually interchangeable from her story to mine.  Did the other writer plagiarize me?  Did I plagiarize her?  Of course not.  Sometimes a synchronicity really is just a synchronicity.  Things may be "in the air".  Or we may all be Dreaming the same strange Dream, occasionally exchanging ideas and information in the outer limits of the twilight zone.

And yet, despite deMille, the film was quite enlightening and actually discussed some things I hadn't known before.  I do find it ironic, however, (still and always) that so many of the inner circle really and CLEARLY do not "get it" and never did.  I was HIGHLY impressed with "Felix", but other than that, so many of them seemed to be lost followers who were now trying to rebuild the world CC shattered for them - a shattering that could have been a grand gift, but appeared to most of the interviewees to have been a great burden instead.

I found this especially true of Corey's comments at certain points - though he made a valiant attempt to present himself as an unbiased commentator (and did a fairly good job of it most of the time), it was easy to see he is still hurting from, and forever changed by, whatever idea he was attached to that never manifested.  In wanting Carlos to be all things, it became necessary, perhaps, for him & others to whittle "the man" down to "just a man".  In other words - let's debunk the messenger so we don't have to consider the dire consequences of the message itself.

Having read the Sustained Action website a few years ago, (and having been labeled a "true believer" and summarily dismissed because of failure to to agree that Carlos was a dangerous charlatan), I also still feel that a lot of the folks who were members of that inner circle were "followers" - and that alone explains their disappointment and disillusionment.  The entirety of the Toltec teachings is about not following gurus, but learning instead to create our own foundation based wholly on experience - for it is only experience that may be processed into Knowledge.  Warriors take the lessons we may gather from our Toltec teachers, but we recognize that the teachers themselves - yes, even so-called Naguals - are first and foremost human beings who are going to die.

And yet... one of the primary arguments for Carlos being a charlatan has always been that he seemingly did not "burn with the fire from within".  While this was not specifically discussed in the film, it was a major issue with some of the folks at Sustained Action, and probably still is.  And so, while the film spoke at length about how we are "beings who are going to die," it seemed oddly ironic that the man who wrote those words was expected to be a being who would not die - at least not in the manner of a human being.

Despite the somewhat annoying graphics at times, the film seemed to present a view of some people with real heart - whatever their opinion of Carlos ended up being in the end.  As I say, "Felix" was quite amazing in the depth of his understanding, and I wouldn't mind talking to him one on one at some point.  Amy Wallace seemed quite sincere, but it was also seemed to me that even if she might have been on a Toltec path at some point, her alignment and her love was more for Carlos than for the path.  And there was something very touching and very human about that.

Are the witches dead?  Who's to say? Is Tensegrity based on a series of ancient movements handed down directly from don Juan, or is it just some modified karate kata?  Does it matter?

What I found interesting was that several of those who were interviewed had come to somewhat the same conclusion I have re the persona of don Juan.  At least 2 of them ventured to say they did not believe don Juan ever existed as an extant persona.  None ever went so far as to say don Juan may have been Castaneda's double, which is my personal theory - though Daniel Noel came close at one point when commenting on what is "real" - and coming around to saying that Don Juan is certainly real now.  He has the power to change lives, after all, ad something "unreal" would have no such ability.

We have made don Juan real - by giving him our power and our attention and our love.  Maybe that's what Carlos intended all along - for it is my contention that he had to actually BE a wily sorcerer in order to write ABOUT wily sorcerers in the manner he did.  The Eagle's Gift could not have been written by anyone other than "don Juan" himself - the intricacies are simply too precise to have been created by someone who had not experienced these things directly - something I could not have said until I also had those same experiences as a result of my Intent.  Before that, I might also have felt it was fiction.  Having been there, I now Know it is Truth.

So, while the film has certain drawbacks,I would recommend it to anyone on a spiritual path as a reminder to all of us that our gurus and even our teachers are all only humans with feet of clay... but that doesn't for a moment detract from their message if one has the courage and the Intent to see beyond the foibles of the human and into the heart of the nagual. 

January, 2006

 

 


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