the Wanderling

"I was waiting in a border town for a Greyhound bus talking with a friend who had been my guide and helper . . . . Suddenly he leaned toward me and whispered that the man, a white-haired old Indian, who was sitting in front of the window was very learned about plants, especially peyote. I asked my friend to introduce me to this man."

Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan (1968)

Over and over a variety of critics of Carlos Castaneda, as well as others, have gone to extraordinary lengths pointing out discrepancies, however large or small, in his various works, possibly it seems, in an effort to discredit him and what he has presented to his reading audience. The above somewhat benign quote contains one of those discrepancies critics most often cite.

While it is a given that there is a significant amount of controversy surrounding the question as to whether Don Juan Matus was an actual person or not and/or if Castaneda's works are fiction or not, in whole or in part --- if one considers the bulk of work he wrote over his lifetime (a dozen books over thirty years with hundreds if not thousands of total pages on shamanism, the occult, and tribal socerery), it borders on the ludicrous that in The Teachings of Don Juan (1968), as shown in the above quote, Castaneda writes that Don Juan "was sitting in front of the window" the first time he met him in the bus station and thirty years later in The Active Side of Infinity (1998) Don Juan was now no longer sitting in front of the window, but "sitting on the bench by the corner" and that somehow it really matters. [1]

In regards to Don Juan sitting in front of the window or the bench by the corner, in CARLOS CASTANEDA: Don Juan and the Nogales Bus Station Meeting, discussing the layout and design of the depot, the following observation by a person who visited the station is presented:

It is not at all contradictory for CC to have claimed that DJ was "seated on a bench by the corner" 30 years after claiming that he was "sitting in front of the window." This is because the seating area is all but surrounded by windows. There are windows on two sides, the counter on the third side, and a niche with vending machines and no seats on the fourth. In other words, ALL of the seats are near windows, regardless of whether they're in corners. Both front corners of the seats are near windows, as is one of the back corners, too. The only inconsistency I see is that there are no benches, but it seems very likely that the old benches were replaced with the rows of connected plastic seats within the last few decades.

Discrepancies not withstanding, the point that is trying to be made here is to bring to your attention that even though the introduction scenes below, as presented by Castaneda between himself and Don Juan Matus, vary in certain respects there is a major common theme that runs throughout ALL of them that does NOT change. That is, no matter what happens or how it is cited, Castaneda's Road Trip anthropologist colleague Bill, who others describe as no more than a lowly Pothunter but Castaneda describes as "a friend who had been my guide and helper," AND who, even though he is the one who puts the two of them together --- does NOT know Don Juan Matus OR his name OR the extent of his shamanistic abilities.

It is quite clear in most written accounts and interviews by Castandeda that his colleague Bill knows OF the old man, or at least had encountered him, albeit from a distance in the past or possibly face-to-face once. But it doesn't mean he knows the old man is or will come to be Castaneda's shaman-sorcerer Don Juan Matus. In A Separate Reality (1971) Castaneda, speaking of Bill, writes:

Bill said convincingly that he had encountered people like him before, people who gave the impression of knowing a great deal. In his judgment, he said, such people were not worth the trouble, because sooner or later one could obtain the same information from someone else who did not play hard to get. He said that he had neither patience nor time for old fogies, and that it was possible that the old man was only presenting himself as being knowledgeable about herbs, when in reality he knew as little as the next man.

As for Castaneda and his own knowledge of Don Juan and his abilities --- or any lack thereof as the case may be --- in his first book The Teachings of Don Juan Castaneda writes:

At first I saw Don Juan simply as a rather peculiar man who knew a great deal about peyote and who spoke Spanish remarkably well. But the people with whom he lived believed that he had some sort of secret knowledge, that he was a brujo. The Spanish word brujo means, in English, medicine man, curer, witch, sorcerer. It connotes essentially a person who has extraordinary, and usually evil, powers.

Notice Castaneda writes "But the people with whom he (i.e., Don Juan) lived believed that he had some sort of secret knowledge," which basically says that Castaneda did not know it to be so until the "people with whom he lived" told him so --- even then the people whom he lived hedged their bets saying only that they "believed" he had some sort of secret knowledge, not that he actually had it. Up until at least that time, Castaneda thought that Don Juan was simply no more than a "rather peculiar man who knew a great deal about Peyote and who spoke Spanish remarkably well." That time, by the way, was when Castandea went to Don Juan's house many months AFTER their initial bus station encounter.

In The Active Side of Infinity Castaneda writes:

I did remember Bill mentioning, in a very casual manner, but not in relation to the cloud shaman, that he knew about the existence of a mysterious old man who was a retired shaman, an old Indian misanthrope from Yuma who had once been a terrifying sorcerer.

The key to the above is what Castaneda says about Bill and the so-called terrifying sorcerer from Yuma --- which is construed by most people to mean none other than Don Juan Matus, BUT that I take and present a much different view of on in the paper about Don Juan's teacher, Julian Osorio. Castaneda writes that Bill "knew about the existence of," that is, not that Bill actually KNEW him --- only the "existence of" him. Besides, Bill is sitting right next to Castaneda in the bus station looking straight across the room at the old man and not once does he draw an inference or put together any sort of conclusion that the old man and the terrifying sorcerer from Yuma he knew the existence of were one and the same person. Instead he relates him to other old fogies he had met saying "it was possible that the old man was only presenting himself as being knowledgeable about herbs, when in reality he knew as little as the next man."

The reason I find the continuingly unchanged "common theme" regarding Bill's lack of knowledge surrounding the old man so interesting is because Castaneda could have written anything he wanted IF his works were total fiction. However, he didn't. He stuck to certain set of underlying facts. Sure he changed minor aspects here and there over time, but the major common theme does not change.

Before moving on to the four introduction scenes as written by Castaneda and presented in full below, there is one other major aspect to the whole introduction thing that should be brought to your attention. That being basically your awareness of the underlying and unaccounted antecedents that unfolded prior to the actual introductions. We are talking about the sort of tapestry of interwoven events of both a minor and major nature that seemingly arose and flowed into existance and then were somehow mysteriously put in play prior to the actual bus station encounter. To wit, in CARLOS CASTANEDA: The Shaman and the Power of the Omen I write:

It is my contention that just before he went on that Road Trip --- during the spring into the early part of the summer of 1960 with a colleague he calls Bill --- Castaneda found himself in a deep state of despondency. The depth and heaviness of that despondency, combined with one other factor, convinced Castaneda that if he was ever going to climb out of the academic quagmire he found himself in as well as find the answers to the questions he was seeking, he would have to follow through on the Road Trip. With an unknown outcome reeking with destiny, the trip, except possibly for Castaneda's non-understanding but unwavering sense of the Power of the Omen, started out relatively uneventful. However, as a large portion of the literate world knows now, the trip ended in the direct meeting between Carlos Castaneda and Don Juan Matus, the shaman-sorcerer he eventually apprenticed under.

As for my OWN introduction to Castaneda, please go to: CARLOS CASTANEDA: Before Don Juan as well as CARLOS CASTANEDA: Don Juan Matus and the Nogales Bus Station Meeting.

To see how Castaneda met his bus station colleague Bill in the first place as well as Castaneda's first and later encounters with he and Don Juan's main antagonist and arch nemesis, the witch sorceress 'la Catalina' please activate the 'la Catalina' link.

The Teachings of Don Juan (1968):

I was waiting in a border town for a Greyhound bus talking with a friend who had been my guide and helper . . . . Suddenly he leaned toward me and whispered that the man, a white-haired old Indian, who was sitting in front of the window was very learned about plants, especially peyote. I asked my friend to introduce me to this man.

My friend greeted him, then went over and shook his hand. After they had talked for a while, my friend signaled me to join them, but immediately left me alone with the old man, not even bothering to introduce us. He was not in the least embarrassed. I told him my name and he said that he was called Juan and that he was at my service. He used the Spanish polite form of address. We shook hands at my initiative and then remained silent for some time. It was not a strained silence, but a quietness, natural and relaxed on both sides. Though his dark face and neck were wrinkled, showing his age, it struck me that his body was agile and muscular.

I then told him that I was interested in obtaining information about medicinal plants. Although in truth I was almost totally ignorant about peyote, I found myself pretending that I knew a great deal, and even suggesting that it might be to his advantage to talk with me. As I rattled on, he nodded slowly and looked at me, but said nothing. I avoided his eyes and we finished by standing, the two of us, in dead silence. Finally, after what seemed a very long time, don Juan got up and looked out of the window.

His bus had come. He said good-bye and left the station.

A Separate Reality (1971):

I was sitting with Bill, a friend of mine, in a bus depot in a border town in Arizona. We were very quiet. In the late afternoon the summer heat seemed unbearable. Suddenly he leaned over and tapped me on the shoulder.

"There's the man I told you about," he said in a low voice.

He nodded casually toward the entrance. An old man had just walked in.

"What did you tell me about him?" I asked.

"He's the Indian that knows about peyote. Remember?"

I remembered that Bill and I had once driven all day looking for the house of an "eccentric" Mexican Indian who lived in the area. We did not find the man's house and I had the feeling that the Indians whom we had asked for directions had deliberately misled us. Bill had told me that the man was a "yerbero," a person who gathers and sells medicinal herbs, and that he knew a great deal about the hallucinogenic cactus, peyote. He had also said that it would be worth my while to meet him. Bill was my guide in the Southwest while I was collecting information and specimens of medicinal plants used by the Indians of the area.

Bill got up and went to greet the man. The Indian was of medium height. His hair was white and short, and grew a bit over his ears, accentuating the roundness of his head. He was very dark; the deep wrinkles on his face gave him the appearance of age, yet his body seemed to be strong and fit. I watched him for a moment. He moved around with a nimbleness that I would have thought impossible for an old man.

Bill signaled me to join them.

"He's a nice guy," Bill said to me. "But I can't understand him. His Spanish is weird, full of rural colloquialisms, I suppose."

The old man looked at Bill and smiled. And Bill, who speaks only a few words of Spanish, made up an absurd phrase in that language. He looked at me as if asking whether he was making sense, but I did not know what he had had in mind; he then smiled shyly and walked away. The old man looked at me and began laughing. I explained to him that my friend sometimes forgot that he did not speak Spanish.

"I think he also forgot to introduce us," I said, and I told him my name.

"And I am Juan Matus, at your service," he said.

Journey To Ixtlan (1972):

"I understand you know a great deal about plants, sir," I said to the old Indian in front of me.

A friend of mine had just put us in contact and left the room and we had introduced ourselves to each other. The old man had told me that his name was Juan Matus.

"Did your friend tell you that?" he asked casually.

"Yes, he did."

"I pick plants, or rather, they let me pick them," he said softly.

We were in the waiting room of a bus depot in Arizona. I asked him in very formal Spanish if he would allow me to question him. I said, "Would the gentleman [caballero] permit me to ask some questions?"

The Active Side of Infinity (1998):

Abruptly, he leaned over and pointed with a slight movement of his chin to the other side of the room. "I think that old man sitting on the bench by the corner over there is the man I told you about," he whispered in my ear.

"I am not quite sure because I've had him in front of me, face-to-face, only once."

"What man is that? What did you tell me about him?" I asked.

"When we were talking about shamans and shamans' transformations, I told you that I had once met a Cloud Shaman."

"Yes, yes, I remember that," I said. "Is that man the cloud shaman?"

"No," he said emphatically. "But I think he is a companion or a teacher of the cloud shaman. I saw both of them together in the distance various times, many years ago."

I did remember Bill mentioning, in a very casual manner, but not in relation to the cloud shaman, that he knew about the existence of a mysterious old man who was a retired shaman, an old Indian misanthrope from Yuma who had once been a terrifying sorcerer. The relationship of the old man to the cloud shaman was never voiced by my friend, but obviously it was foremost in Bill's mind, to the point where he believed that he had told me about him.

A strange anxiety suddenly possessed me and made me jump out of my seat. As if I had no volition of my own, I approached the old man and immediately began a long tirade on how much I knew about medicinal plants and shamanism among the American Indians of the Plains and their Siberian ancestors. As a secondary theme, I mentioned to the old man that I knew that he was a shaman.

I concluded by assuring him that it would be thoroughly beneficial for him to talk to me at length.

"If nothing else," I said petulantly, "we could swap stories. You tell me yours and I'll tell you mine."

The old man kept his eyes lowered until the last moment. Then he peered at me. "I am Juan Matus," he said, looking me squarely in the eyes."



Over and over people ask why is it that they should accept what I have written about Castaneda as having any amount of credibility?

For one thing I personally knew, met and interacted with Castaneda many times --- however, it was done so long before Castaneda became Castaneda. Matter of fact he was still a nobody student trying hard to obtain an AA degree from Los Angeles City College, working at Mattel Toy Company, and when I knew him, considered himself mostly as an aspiring artist rather than anything that remotely resembled an author or shaman. Secondly, and unrelated to he and I knowing each other, my uncle was the Informant that is so widely mentioned in Castaneda's works both by him and others, that introduced him to the rites and rituals of the use of the plant Sacred Datura that sent him into his initial experiences of altered states. Third, in an attempt on my part to confirm, clear up, or have them discount any number of things that have shown up or said about Castaneda and his life, things that have taken on a life of their own as fact because they have been repeated over and over so often, I interviewed, talked to, or conversed with a number of individuals that were prominent in his life --- especially so in areas that raise conflict when people read one thing about him and I write another.

Originally when I first started writing about Castaneda it was for one reason only. It had to do with help substantiating an incident in my life that revolved around what are known in Buddhism and Hindu spiritual circles under the ancient Sanskrit word Siddhis. Siddhis are supernormal perceptual states that once fully ingrained at a deep spiritual level can be utilized by a practitioner to initiate or inhibit incidents that are beyond the realm of typical everyday manifestation.

In that the incident that occurred in my life, although bordering on the edges of what is generally conceived in the west as Shamanism or possibly the occult, was actually deeply immersed on the eastern spiritual side of things.(see) To bridge the understanding between the eastern and western concepts I brought in for those who may have been so interested the legacy of one of the most well read practitioner of such crafts in the western world, Carlos Castaneda. Although highly controversial and most certainly not the fully unmitigated expert in the field, he is widely read and a known figure when mentioned, by camps both pro and con. So said, Castaneda has the highest profile in of all individuals to have claimed the ability through shamanistic rituals the ability to fly --- thus, for reasons as they related to me I used Castaneda in my works as an example. In doing so it opened a virtual Pandora's Box of never ending controversy, causing me to either ignore or substantiate what I presented. Hence, as questions were raised by me in my own writing or raised by those who read my material more pages were created to explain who, what, when, where, and why.

The following people were all major movers in the life of Carlos Castaneda, and at one time or the other I met and talked with them all, which is more than most people who write about Castaneda has ever done. And I only did so on and off over time primarily to clarify questions about Castaneda that I had read that just did not make sense. Most people who question what I have presented about Castaneda simply gather their information from the standard already in existence party line. Some of the people I've talked to in reference to Castaneda who after some discussion clarified a lot for me, after Castaneda himself of course, are people like C. Scott Littleton, Alex Apostolides, Barbara G. Myerhoff, Edward H. Spicer, Clement Meighan, who Castaneda dedicated his first book to, and Castaneda's ex-wife Margaret Runyan.

Interestingly enough, my interview with Runyan came about because before she married Castaneda, she had been engaged to another author, the cowboy and western writer, with over 100 books to his credit, Louis L'amour. It just so happened my uncle who, if you recall, was the Informant in Castaneda lore, just happened to know L'Amour. My uncle took me with him one day he went to see L'Amour. When I had a chance to meet Runyan years later I used me knowing L'Amour as the wedge to talk with her. As it was, and not many people know about it, my uncle, who was influential with Castaneda also, along with another man deeply seeped in Native American spiritual lore by the name of H. Jackson Clark, worked together funneling Native American spiritual facts to L'Amour used as a theme in two of his books that borderlined much of what Castaneda wrote about, titled The Californios and Haunted Mesa.


Let Me Travel Through the Air Like a Winged Bird


(please click)


<<< PREV ---- LIST ---- NEXT >>>

The Case Against "Shamans" In the
North American Indigenous Cultures

(please click)




(please click)