THE OLD MAN IN THE DESERT



"We were on one of our excursions deep into a remote part of the southern New Mexico desert to visit a very strange man my Uncle was somehow associated with. After arrival the two sat together in the shade outside the man's shack and talked for a good part of the day while I either played with the dogs or sat in the cab of the truck fiddling with the radio."

The Wanderling, from The Boy and the Giant Feather


Was the old man I met in the desert --- who had tuberculosis not unlike Julian Osorio, the teacher of Don Juan Matus --- AND Osorio, the actor who according to Carlos Castaneda during one of his theatrical tours met Elias Ulloa, and who inturn, transmitted to Osorio the knowledge of his lineage of sorcerers and thus then down to Don Juan and onto Castaneda --- ONE and the SAME person?


The old man in the desert attested to in the above was neither Native American nor American Indian like the Navajo or Hopi I had been used to interacting with in most of the travels I participated in with my Uncle in the desert southwest. Neither was he brown Mexican or Anglo white. However, as the ten year old boy that I was, I still thought he was an Indian, primarily because he looked like one --- although he spoke Spanish instead of any Indian dialect I was familar with. As I look back now there is a chance the old man may have been Yaqui or possibly of strong Mesoamerican heritage. To be truthful, at the time, my sophistication in such matters were just not refined enough to assimilate all the subtle nuances.


I bring it up because of what Carlos Castaneda himself says about Osorio in POWER OF SILENCE: Further Lessons of Don Juan (1987). In a section called "The First Abstract Core," Castaneda, who never met Osorio, is, in the description, actually quoting the words of Don Juan and in doing so, in an alarmingly uncanny sort of way uses almost the exact same words that I have in my description of the old man in the desert. Castaneda writes:


"He was not Indian or even a brown Mexican, but he was not Anglo white either. In fact, his complexion seemed to be like no one else's, especially in his later years when his ever-changing complexion shifted constantly from dark to very light and back again to dark. When I first met him he was a light-brown old man, then as time went by, he became a light-skinned young man, perhaps only a few years older than me. I was twenty at that time."


If you have followed the thread of the story from Ken Eagle Feather or some of the other links listed below, you may recall that Osorio was around 40 years old when he first crossed paths with Don Juan and somewhere near half that age when he first met Ulloa, making Osorio at the time of that meeting about 20 years old or so. I also write that when Ulloa first saw Osorio during that meeting Osorio was laying face down in a field bleeding to death through his mouth, having lost so much blood that Ulloa thought the young actor was going to die. Yet when Don Juan met Osorio twenty years later he was described as very slim and muscular. His hair was black, thick, and wavy. He had a long, fine nose, strong big white teeth, an oval face, strong jaw, and shiny dark-brown eyes and a light-skinned young man, perhaps only a few years older than Don Juan who himself was 20 years old at the time. A fairly remarkable recovery for a 40 year old man found dying face down in his own blood with tuberculosis twenty years before.

In my opinion the old man in the desert was the actual, real honest-to-goodness teacher of whoever the genuine person the Don Juan Matus character represents. I am speaking, of course, about the Diablero of Yaqui or Yuma descent that Don Juan sought out AFTER leaving Osorio following Ulloa's death --- and that Castaneda was never able to meet or confirm. In A Separate Reality (1971) Castaneda writes:


"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."


Castaneda says he and his colleague Bill had spent a whole day looking for the house of an "eccentric" Mexican Indian who lived in the area. At the time of the above quote he and Bill were sitting in the Nogales Greyhound Bus Station --- the implication being that the area was somewhere adjacent to Nogales. Since the two of them had just returned from their Road Trip around the desert southwest, and it ended in Nogales rather than several hundred miles further toward the west than say, Yuma, then more than likely they had just come in from New Mexico or the general northeastern Sonora region. In The Active Side of Infinity (1998) in a section titled "A Journey of Power" Castaneda presents what was said in a discussion between he and Bill during the time they were both still at the bus station in Nogales:


"Bill obviously didn't believe me. He accused me of holding out on him. "I know the people around this area," he said belligerently, "and that old man is a very strange fart. He doesn't talk to anybody, Indians included. Why would he talk to you; a perfect stranger?"

"Do you know where his house is?" I asked him.

"I haven't the foggiest idea," he answered curtly. "I have heard people from this area say that he doesn't live anywhere, that he just appears here and there unexpectedly, but that's a lot of horse-shit. He probably lives in some shack in Nogales, Mexico."


In the third book of his series, Journey to Ixtlan (1972), Castaneda writes that after returning to Los Angeles he "prepared himself for six months" and when he "felt ready" he went back looking for Don Juan, however NOT seeking out a "shack in Nogales, Mexico," as suggested as a possibility by Bill --- or to or around Nogales, Arizona where they met Don Juan --- but Yuma, Arizona. Citing a date during the winter recess at the end of the fall semester 1960 (i.e., Saturday, December 17, 1960), after allowing a full six months to lapse without ever seeing or talking with Don Juan in any way shape or form since their initial bus station encounter in Nogales, Castaneda goes, for whatever reason, to Yuma. Castaneda writes of his experience:


"I found his house after making long and taxing inquiries among the local Indians. It was early afternoon when I arrived and parked in front of it. I saw him sitting on a wooden milk crate. He seemed to recognize me and greeted me as I got out of my car."


So, Castaneda and his experienced driving around the southwest guide, Bill, drove around a whole day six months before and could not find "the house of an 'eccentric' Mexican Indian who lived in the area" (Nogales/Sonora), but Castaneda on his own, after simply asking a couple local Indians in a effort that he calls taxing inquiries, drove right up in front of Don Juan's house in Yuma.


Noticeably, where I mention in my writings about an "excursion deep into a remote part of the southern New Mexico desert" making it (the location) possibly difficult to find, Castaneda writes about a town (Yuma) that you can drive right up in front of Don Juan's house and park. It leads me to believe we are talking about two different places and most likely two different people.[1]

In The Active Side of Infinity (1998), only this time in a section titled "Who Was Don Juan Matus, Really?" Castaneda describes Don Juan, albeit inadvertently backing up in his OWN words MY thesis of two different men by interjecting the possibility of a seeming difference between the person he met in Nogales and the man he met in Yuma. Castaneda writes:


"When I finally had don Juan in front of me again, the first thing I noticed about him was that he didn't look at all as I had imagined him during all the time I had tried to find him. I had fabricated an image of the man I had met at the bus depot, which I perfected every day by allegedly remembering more details.


Then Castaneda goes on to say over a number of paragraphs:


"In my mind, he was an old man, still very strong and nimble, yet almost frail. The man facing me was muscular and decisive. He moved with agility, but not nimbleness. His steps were firm, and, at the same time, light. He exuded vitality and purpose.

"My composite memory was not at all in harmony with the real thing. I thought he had short, white hair and an extremely dark complexion. His hair was longer, and not as white as I had imagined. His complexion was not that dark either. I could have sworn that his features were birdlike, because of his age. But that was not so either. His face was full, almost round. In one glance, the most outstanding feature of the man looking at me was his dark eyes, which shone with a peculiar, dancing glow.

"Something that had bypassed me completely in my prior assessment of him was the fact that his total countenance was that of an athlete. His shoulders were broad, his stomach flat. He seemed to be planted firmly on the ground. There was no feebleness to his knees, no tremor in his upper limbs. I had imagined detecting a slight tremor in his head and arms, as if he were nervous and unsteady. I had also imagined him to be about five feet six inches tall, three inches shorter than his actual height."


What Carlos Castaneda did, as a writer, was to implement the so-called writer's literary license, and shuffle together bits and pieces of information regarding Don Juan's REAL teacher gleaned from discussions over time and apply it to the actor and non-diablero Shaman-sorcerer, Osorio (i.e., at least tuberculosis; not so clear on long, fine nose, etc.), in turn eliminating his real teacher from the equation. That is why by the time The Active Side of Infinity (1998) was written Castaneda had moved the "eccentric Mexican Indian," albeit correctly indentified now as a "terrifying sorcerer," from Nogales to the town of Yuma. To wit:


"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."


Why would Castaneda do such a thing? He had to give his readers something. Don Juan was highly reluctant to share or reveal in real life to anybody, Castaneda included, who his actual teacher was --- because by doing so, in that his teacher was still alive, it could set into motion the possibility of eroding away or wilting his teacher's powers, white light shields, etc., making him vunerable to potential enemies such as predatory organic, inorganic, and other negatives. So said, in conversations with Castaneda, Don Juan was much more forthcoming regarding Osorio, but, because of his concerns, reluctant to divulge any amount of anything regarding his real teacher --- so Castaneda simply meshed the two together.


AND NOW THIS:


Some people say there never was a Don Juan Matus. Others say he was composite of several people, most often being named the revered Cahuilla spiritual elder Salvador Lopez and the Mazatec curandera Maria Sabina. Others, such as Tezlcazi Guitimea Cachora have claimed outright to BE Don Juan Matus. Still others say someone like Alex Apostolides, of whom I address the possibility, or lack of same, in The Tree, if not Don Juan was the role model for him. Then there are those like Ken Eagle Feather who say they met, knew and actually studied under him. However, even the staunchest critic against Don Juan existing, that is, if he was real or not, would not go as far to say that Castaneda wasn't. He went to UCLA, got his PhD, and did all the events leading up to the bus station meeting in Nogales. After that, no matter how one mixes it, berates it, or whether any of it is true or false, real or imagined, the following still plays out:


"(If) Don Juan was an actual person, a composite of several people, a total fabrication or a figment of Castaneda's imagination, the events leading up to meeting Don Juan and the various interactions with people, places, and things don't necessarily have to be discarded. Then again, if the informant was used as a model by Castaneda for Don Juan, or if aspects of his manners or abilities seeped into the characterization of Don Juan, I can't really say as he was neither Yaqui, Native American, Mexican-Indian nor Mesoamerican or Hispanic. Except for a possible hint in the closing paragraph of Cloud Shaman, relating to the fact cited above where the informant "cloaked by shimmering desert heat waves, simply seemed to evaporate into the rocks and sagebrush without a trace," it was never made clear to me specifically if he himself was a Shaman." (source)


the Wanderling


LINKS TO THE KEY PLAYERS IN THE ABOVE:

CARLOS CASTANEDA

DON JUAN MATUS

JULIAN OSORIO

ELIAS ULLOA

BILL



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TEZLCAZI GUITIMEA CACHORA: Yaqui Shaman


Tezlcazi Guitimea Cachora, who would be well into his 90s by now, is a Yaqui shaman known as Grandfather Cachora, that has indicated he IS the actual, real Don Juan Matus, the person who taught Carlos Castaneda. There are, however, rather stark differences between what he says about himself and his background and what Castaneda has written and made clear about Don Juan and Don Juan's background.

Corey Donovan (aka Richard Jennings), a former student of Carlos Castaneda and creator of the most excellent Castaneda internet site Sustained Action, attended a talk by Grandfather Cachora in September, 2000. At that talk Donovan asked when it was Castaneda studied with Cachora. Bernyce Barlow, author of Sacred Sites of the West and Sacred Sites and Shaman's Flights, a member of Cachora's immediate entourage and sitting at his feet during the talk, responded for him with, "In the early 70s." Donovan asked again, "Not in the 60s?" After looking at Cachora, Barlow responded with "Once maybe in '69."

Castaneda says he met Don Juan in the late summer of 1960 as stated in the now infamous Nogales Bus Station Meeting. Eight years later, Castaneda's first book on Don Juan was published. If Cachora did not meet Castaneda until 1970 --- or possibly 1969 --- who was the person Castaneda met in 1960?

Other discrepancies exist as well such as Cachora saying he was born in approximately 1912. Castaneda makes it quite clear in a number of places throughout his series of Don Juan books that Don Juan was born in 1891. In THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968), Introduction, Castaneda writes, speaking of Don Juan:


"All he said was that he had been born in the Southwest in 1891; that he had spent nearly all his life in Mexico; that in 1900 his family was exiled by the Mexican government to central Mexico along with thousands of other Sonoran Indians; and that he had lived in central and southern Mexico until 1940."


The following is found in DON JUAN MATUS: Real or Imagined:


"(In) the tenth book into his series, titled Magical Passes (1998), Castaneda offers his strongest clarification of Don Juan's chronology, some of which of course, had been spattered here and there throughout each of his previous books over time as well. Don Juan is described as being born in Yuma, Arizona Territory, to a Yaqui Indian father from Sonora, Mexico and a Yuma Indian mother from the Territory of Arizona. The three of them lived together in Arizona Territory until Don Juan was ten years old, whereupon, for reasons not known or undisclosed by Castaneda, he was taken by his father to Sonora, Mexico. There they were unintentionaly caught up in the Mexican government war against the Yaquis. His father was killed, and Don Juan ended up in southern Mexico, where he grew up with Yaquis that had been uprooted previously by the Mexican government and sent to areas of Mexico well beyond the confines of Sonora --- places such as Oaxaca, Vera Cruz, and the Yucatan." (source)


I can attest to the fact myself that in 1960 when Castaneda allegedly met Don Juan Matus for the first time and described him as a a white-haired old Indian (Don Juan would have just been turning into his 70s) that Cachora, who I met outside the Mexican town of Tecate a few months before the Castaneda/Don Juan meeting, following a healing ceremony being held for a dying man, appeared to me to be, at the time, no more than in his late forties or early fifties at the most --- and most surely in those days, nowhere near being a a white-haired old Indian. (see)


Moving on, Cachora himself has stated through discussion that his mother's parents were from Asia, most notably, Mongolia. So too, he states that his father, named Javali, was a Yaqui and, like how Castaneda writes Don Juan Matus out to be, a Nagual or "man of knowledge." Cachora also states that his mother's parents passed their apparently Mongolian shaman traditions on to him. Why such a suggestion would be made if it was not so I cannot say --- other than by inference Siberian shamans such as Tserin Zarin Boo carry such a strong notion of real shamanism ahead of themselves that their North American counterparts do not.

Now, while in the overall scheme of things, to learn that a female offspring of Mongolian parents (i.e., Cachora's mother) would grow up to find herself in an actual physical situation that would allow her to be able to marry and/or procreate with a Yaqui Indian from Mexico (i.e., Cachora's father) seems questionable at best, I guess it would not be totally beyond comprehension either. However, as Castaneda writes, and I have presented above, Castaneda makes it quite clear that Don Juan's mother was of Yuma extraction. He also makes it quite clear in other places that Don Juan learned his man of knowledge craft from another man of knowledge, a man that was NOT of Indian, Yaqui, or Mongolian background. That man was Julian Osorio. Osorio, interestingly enough, as written by Castaneda, was NOT of Indian extraction at all, but the son of European immigrants to Mexico. In turn Osorio had inherited everything from his teacher, Elias Ulloa. Elias had learned from Rosendo; he from Lujan; Lujan from Santisteban; and Santisteban from Sebastian. Before Sebastian there were eight others, but, according to Don Juan, they were quite different. They had a different attitude toward sorcery as well as a different concept of it, although they were still directly related to his line of sorcery. It wasn't until Sebastian's encounter and eventual alliance with the Death Defier that the lineage truly changed.


AND NOW THIS:

I may come across seeming a tad bit facetious in my remarks about a potential hook-up between a full-bred Mongolian offspring and a Yaqui --- however, as odd and as remote a possibility as it may seem and I personally question the concept in it's overall viability, again, it is NOT fully or totally out of the question.

Some of you may recall that some days prior to unexpectantly running into Carlos Castaneda in the Nogales bus station on the same day Castaneda met Don Juan (linked above), I was in Mexico in the town of Magdalena, somewhat south of Nogales. In Magdalena I met a man by the name of Maldonado and he inturn, in passing conversation told me, since I was from California at the time, that he had a relative, a brick maker, that lived in Pomona, California, a then small community east of Los Angeles. In that conversation, for no apparent reason except maybe to fluff up his own feathers, he said that his namesake relative, the brick maker, was a direct inline descendent of the great Yaqui warrior and general, Juan Maria Maldonado, known in Yaqui history as Tetabiate.

At the time, except as small talk, none of it meant anything to me one way or the other. Later on, as all of the Castaneda and Yaqui stuff came to the forefront I remembered the story about the brick maker being a Yaqui and living in Pomona, so one day, just for the heck of it, I sought him out.

Most of what he told me about Yaquis and General Maldonado did not seem to come first hand, but what he had formulated and learned over the years as he told the various stories over and over. However, he did tell me something I knew was from personal experience that made my jaw drop --- here, this basically uneducated, broken-english speaking, up from Sonora Yaqui had been to Siberia! Never in my life would I ever have thought of such a thing. What happened was, during the years 1918 to 1920 troops were sent into Siberia from the U.S. and a number of other places in what was called America's Undeclared War to guard segments of the railway between Vladivostok and Nikolsk-Ussuriski. In an almost amazing story, the brick maker got caught up in it and ended up in Siberia. Now, while it is true it was in the 1918-1920 period well AFTER the 1912 birth of Tezlcazi Guitimea Cachora and NOT Mongolia, it still remains at least one Yaqui got as far as Siberia in the early 1900s, which, albeit pushing it, opens the possibility --- at least for me and however remote --- possibly in either direction, of other potential defusional transgressions.

For more on Don Juan's father and if there was a Yuma Indian woman in the picture or not as the mother of Don Juan, please see Footnote [1] to Albert Franklin Banta.

















The following is found in the main body of the final paragraphs of CARLOS CASTANEDA: Don Juan Matus and the Nogales Greyhound Bus Station Meeting:


"I would like to add however, that sometime shortly after crossing the border into Mexico my buddy and I stopped at a small cantina just outside Tecate to eat. The eating area was separated from the bar by a wall with a double-wide arched opening between the rooms about midway down. A rather loud discussion on the bar side degenerated into a fight between two men ending with one of the men stabbing the other. The stabbed man stumbled into the eating area basically falling across our table, dying. Everybody scrambled to get out. Someone in broken english told us we should get the hell out before the authorities arrived. Just as we started to move cop types were coming in the front door on the bar side. Some guy running by motioned us to follow him. We dashed through the kitchen and out into a darkened dirt alley behind the cantina. Dogs were barking. The street had a muddy center gutter I had to jump. Someone pulled us through a door of a building across the way that was lit only by a dim lantern --- which was instantly blown out and the door locked behind us from the inside. Before the room went dark I could just barely make out a dozen or more people squatted along the walls and below the windows. We waited the longest time. Finally the dogs stopped barking and people began leaving. A smattering of people stayed and my buddy, who could speak and understand a little spanish, said he had been told it would probably be best if we stuck around a little longer as well.

"If the man that was stabbed died of his wounds that night or if the man that did the stabbing joined us in the room across the alley I never learned. There was though, a sort of strange man, about 45 or 50 years old that was insisted on by others in joining us on our drive to the coast the next morning. A man that, when we stopped along the road to pee a couple of hours into our trip, just wandered off into the desert and did not come back. My buddy told me while I was dozing off the night before the man had performed some kind of a doctoring or healing ritual over the stabbed man in a room adjacent the room we hid in. In so many words, as best my buddy was able to translate it, the man said he was a Yaqui, and a shaman of sorts, who called himself Abeulo Cachora Matorral, abeulo being the spanish word for grandfather --- a rather funny word to ascribe to oneself when one is only 45 or 50 years old. Although I did not know it at the time, in an interesting turn of fate, the man turned out to be Tezlcazi Guitimea Cachora, Grandfather Cachora, a man who thought by many to be the "real" Don Juan Matus. I can say for certain though, that he was NOT, that is not, the old man mentioned above I saw at the bus station."


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