"Castaneda's information, although written as though from a field interview, and presented in 1968 in The Teachings of Don Juan almost word for word, but much more casually and not credited, was way too structured in his 1960 paper anyway --- as if the information had been obtained from a formally educated academic or field research expert, which it was, rather than simply a native user or naturalist."
CLEMENT MEIGHAN, former UCLA Professor of
Anthropology.--In a personal interview, circa 1991.
"It's possible that his informant in his undergraduate paper was not Don Juan, but somebody else who outlined details of something that Don Juan repeated later. But Carlos acts as though it is all new in the first book, as though he'd never heard the Datura knowledge before"
MARGARET RUNYAN CASTANEDA: A Magical Journey With Carlos Castaneda
Over and over in Castaneda lore the question of his 1960s paper on Datura he turned in for a UCLA undergraduate class comes up.
According to Castaneda's ex-wife Margaret Runyan (1921-2011), in her book A Magical Journey (1996), as found in Chapter 14 Beginnings, Castaneda's paper included references to Datura's four heads, their different purposes, the significance of the roots, the cooking process and the ritual of preparation, all information that Castaneda supposedly learns later from Don Juan on visits between August 23 and Sept. 10, 1961, as described in THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968).
The paper was written as part of the assigned requirements for a spring semester class taught by Clement Meighan called "Methods in Field Archaeology." The reason the paper has developed an inordinate amount of interest and controversy is because it was, as part of the assignment for the class, turned in prior to the end of the spring semester, 1960. So what? Well, Castaneda, in his own writings says that he himself did not meet Don Juan Matus for the first time until the end of the summer of 1960 --- and then only for a few minutes, both too late and hardly enough time to have garnered any significant amount of information regarding Datura or any other sacred, medicinal, or hallucinogenic plants.
If such was the case, that is, that Castaneda wrote and turned in a paper with all of the information he supposedly gained through interaction with Don Juan months before he ever even heard of or met him, where or from whom, if NOT Don Juan, did the information come from?
Some have said the answer is easy because it is known Castaneda traveled several hours east of Los Angeles to interview tribal spiritual elders of the Cahuilla Band of Indians on the Morongo Reservation near Banning and the Agua Caliente reservation down the road near Palm Springs. It is also said he went to the Colorado River area, possibly venturing toward the Yuma, to interview Native Americans there. The thing is, even though Castaneda may have visited the tribal areas so mentioned, because of the short time for any in depth involvement, it is questionable that any forthcoming interviews would have been very productive.
Castaneda makes it clear he learned about Datura from an informant. There is no conflict or disagreement with that thesis UNTIL he frames his idea around the fact that the informant who taught him about Datura WAS Don Juan Matus. Don Juan Matus, real or imagined, may have been or become Castaneda's informant in Castaneda's books, but initially it was the person identified in The Informant and Carlos Castaneda that instructed him in the preparation and uses of all parts of the plant, roots, leaves, flowers and seeds --- although the answer from that source is not always taken seriously, often overlooked or ignored, criticized, and/or questioned as to the strength of its credibility.
Those with a bone to pick regarding Castaneda's informant, typically fall into one of two main camps. First, those that say Castaneda just sat around in the UCLA library and researched a ton of sources then simply used other people's information, plagiarizing it and/or re-presenting it with his own words. Therefore, if thus done, they say, there would be no need for anyone like a real-life Don Juan or an informant.
Secondly, those who say any firsthand hard-backup material specific to the content of the The Informant and Carlos Castaneda is lacking because so much depends on retelling what other people have said other people have said --- which, for the most part, on the surface of things, appears to be a good argrument.
The weakness borne across the argument of the first group is that Clement Meighan, whose ideas, thoughts and contributions have always been highly regarded and as a well respected and honest professor in his field, is on record for having praised Castaneda's 1960 paper and even suggesting it added a great deal to the academic literature. It is difficult to believe that a person of Meighan's caliber and depth of knowledge would not have grasped a disguised rewrite, no matter how covered up, of already available material compared to that of original research. In that Castaneda was at the time an undergraduate with no in depth background or breadth of knowledge in the subject equlivant to most graduates and anywhere close to that of Meighan, and yet he still was capable and able to write and come up with such a paper that received such praise, was enough on it's own one would think, to open up questions. However, it didn't. Instead it received praise.
The answer to the concerns of the second group is a little more lengthy and has to do with Clement Meighan himself. In April of 1998, before the existence or content of Castaneda's 1960s paper on Datura became widely known, Castaneda died. Any knowledge thereof came about mostly through Runyan's book. Until that time the contents and subject matter, or even that he wrote such a paper, was not very high up on anyone's radar. Even those who were making a full time living shredding every thought and word of Castaneda were not lambasting him with his paper.
Meighan retired in 1991 and died in 1997. Runyan's book did not come out until the very end of the year, 1996. Well before then, and especially through his retirement years, Meighan had tired of all the probing and questions regarding Castaneda and made it a point to avoid being sucked in by the constant bombardment of questions by using canned responses or making himself largely unavailable for comment anytime the topic came up. He did, however, make himself available to me. The paragraph in quotes at the top of the page, which appears in The Informant and Carlos Castaneda, albeit paraphrased from our original discussion, is a direct result of a personal face-to-face conversation between myself and Professor Meighan and NOT derived from any retelling what other people have said other people have said.
Even though Meighan made it a habit in his later years avoiding any serious, innovative, or groundbreaking Castaneda related interviews he opened his door to me for two main reasons. First, through me he discovered that the person who later turned out to be the informant in The Informant and Carlos Castaneda Meighan knew and had very fond memories of from the past. Secondly, it was from that knowledge of the informant, my Uncle, that I was able to breach the subject of two almost exact parallel near death experiences, Meighan and mine, that inturn opened the doors for ME to become a confidant.
In the Great Depression of the 1930s my uncle had been working as a artist creating a number of murals, paintings, and watercolors for the art portion of the Works Progress Administration, better known as the WPA, set up and described as follows:
"The Federal Arts Program was first suggested to President Franklin Roosevelt by George Biddle, who at one time, studied under the renown Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. In a letter to Roosevelt, Biddle suggested that a group of muralists work on the new Justice Department Building in Washington, D.C. Biddle's suggestion helped develop the Public Works of Art Project, known more popularly during the depression era as the WPA."(source)
During that period of his life my uncle met and worked with various artists also doing WPA works such as Jackson Pollock and Diego Rivera. In 1940-1941 Rivera had created and completed a series of murals in San Francisco. My uncle had received a personal invite from Rivera to attend the public unveiling, but, with money tight, although he had all honorable intentions, he was unable to make the opening. Shortly thereafter, yet still sometime in 1941, not wanting to slight the great muralist, my uncle caught up with Rivera while he was staying and working at the studio of an American sculptor by the name of Frances Rich in Santa Barbara, California. Rivera invited my uncle to visit him in Mexico the following year, setting a date, place and time.
The following year, 1942, even though Pearl Harbor had just been bombed a few months before and war had broken out all across the Pacific and in Europe, my uncle honored his invite by Rivera. In those days my uncle lived hand-to-mouth, project to project, one painting to the next. So said, on his trip to Mexico he went by train traveling 4th class. Fourth class was usually filled with the indigenous poor, baggage, and sometimes even animals. My uncle had traveled in Mexico several times by train but very seldom did he ever see other white Americans traveling less than 2nd class. However, on this trip and highly unusual, there was a young boy, quite clearly an American and appearing to be in his mid-teens or so, traveling in 4th class unaccompanied by any adults or family. Although the boy projected a certain strength in confidence he seemed somewhat uncomfortable in what was most likely unfamiliar surroundings. In turn, my uncle started up a conversation with him. The boy turned out to be a young Clement Meighan, recently graduated from high school (early), age 17 and traveling in Mexico on his own just to learn and for the experience before what he saw as the impending draft into the military the next year when he turned 18.
Several years before crossing paths with Meighan my uncle, the artist, was going through a slow but accelerating metamorphosis in his personal life and interests. Starting just after high school he began studying art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and the Art Student's League in New York City. Then, barely into his 20s, he decided to follow an important and well established artist he met and studied under named John Sloan to New Mexico. Sloan traveled to New Mexico each year for a few months to paint and relax. On my uncle's second or third trip, when Sloan returned to New York, my uncle stayed, having fallen in love with Santa Fe, the culture and the desert southwest. He was, if not more so, still a struggling artist and to stretch his limited funds and maintain his health he began fishing, hunting rabbits, and looking into the potential possibility of edible and medicinal plants indigenous to the desert. In doing so he was soon coming in contact with Native Americans. At first they found the white man foraging in the wilderness one day and painting pictures the next day a bit strange and kept their distance, but after awhile they discovered he was neither there to destroy the environment nor to exploit them. A few Indians, and then soon more and more, began to assist him, and in return he helped them with marketing their wares and making their art more commercially viable. He began looking into local plants, soils and rocks to enhance pigments and dyes. Overcoming many deep rooted apprehensions and suspicions he soon became accepted as one with the Earth and eventually many secrets and rituals that would otherwise not have been revealed were shared with him without concern.
Back then borders were just lines on paper, if that. As it was, most people didn't even have the paper. Arizona didn't exist as a state until only a few years before. In the desert wilderness traveling from New Mexico into Mexico into Arizona meant nothing. Tribal units pretty much kept to their traditional lands that basically just ran from their central operating core until they faded out with no specifically designated border. Although peoples of one group might interact with peoples of other groups they kept their secrets to themselves. My uncle went between tribal areas and cultures up and down and across the desert interacting and learning different ways and methods of either doing the same thing or not doing the same thing, giving him a much broader base of understanding. What might be poison to one group another found away around and a use. Where medicinal plants, Datura or peyote might be ignored by one group, one, the other, or all might be embraced by another group or clan. Learning and respecting local and traditional curing methods and rituals, over time what my uncle did was refine and synthesize, strengthening here, eliminating there.
On the train with the young Meighan my uncle soon learned that the boy had an avid interest in bugs and insects. Now, my uncle was not particularly versed in bugs and insects per se' but, because of his ever-growing interest as a bio-searcher he was continually coming in contact with a huge variety of bugs, so he thought he had enough of a working knowledge to discuss them at least at the same level as the 17 year old Meighan. He soon found out such was not the case. Covering his thinly veiled knowledge of insects my uncle reminded Meighan there was a whole lot more to the desert and the desert southwest than bugs. It was full of all kinds of plants and animals, fossils, ancient ruins and archaeological sites, mystical and spiritual places and deep secrets.
In those days the trains were pulled by steam locomotives, which meant they needed to stop and take on water at regular intervals. Those stops were usually fairly long, breaking any discussions between the two because the stops allowed time to disembark, stretch legs, haggle with the vendors and go to the bathroom. On one of those stops my uncle was approached by an American who had seen him speaking Spanish with a local and liked his more down to earth approach, asked him if he might help he and his wife, even though both spoke fluent Spanish, in negotiating a price with one of the merchants. Apparently pleased with the results of my uncle's negotiating skills he asked my uncle and Meighan to join he and his wife in their 1st class compartment. Which they did.
The man was a naval officer traveling on vacation with his wife who, my uncle said looked like a movie star --- and in fact, even though my uncle had not heard of her, she actually turned out to be one, Rochelle Hudson. When the trip ended in Mexico City everyone went their separate ways. My uncle never saw Meighan again that he could recall. He never caught up with Rivera that trip either as Rivera was not where he said he was going to be and nobody my uncle talked with seemed to know his whereabouts. However, just as the group was departing the train station and saying their goodbyes the naval officer told Meighan that if he was drafted or joined, if he was ever in Hawaii, regardless of rank, look him up.
In his later years my uncle all but forgot about his trip to Mexico and meeting Meighan. Except for the two of us getting together and going over our lives and travels in the years prior to his death, it might have never come up. My uncle told me although he never saw Meighan again following their trip in Mexico, after the war the movie star, Rochelle Hudson, and my uncle somehow crossed paths --- and had an interesting story to tell. He was reminded of the story after I told him the following regarding me flatlining while in the military:
"A onetime bottom-of-the-line GI everybody called 'the Cat,' who went on eventually to receive a bronze star, was a former or to-be 1st Air Cav medic on TDY doing routine corpse duty when he came across my partially unzipped body bag. In the process of closing the bag we BOTH somehow discovered I most likely no longer fell into the specifically dead category.
"Months later he told me that sometimes shift workers, when they find that a person has died on their shift, will put the body in the shower and let hot or warm water run on them --- sometimes for hours --- then, just before they go off shift, put the body back where it belonged for the next shift to find and deal with. The only thing is, in my case, this time the GIs who did it were caught. Even though my body had dropped quite a bit less than normal temperature, if not "warm" (because of the hot running water of the shower), my body was still at least supple. In the fact that I had absolutely no vital signs that anybody could tell --- and it had been previously noted that I flatlined --- I was hastily stuffed into the body bag without further checking. Hours later the Cat came across me no longer DOA and helped me out of the bag."(source)
The story Rochelle Hudson told, albeit involving Meighan, almost paralleled my story. As expected, when Meighan turned 18 he went into the service. In July 1944 during the battle for Saipan he was wounded by machine gun fire and evacuated. From the evacuation point he ended up in Hawaii. While recuperating the naval officer he met while traveling in Mexico came by to see him and Meighan told him, who in turn told his wife, the following story --- which I have recounted here by extrapolating from the more specific writings of Meighan's friend Brian D. Dillon, himself a well respected colleague in the field:
"Rescued under fire, Meighan was evacuated off Saipan. Triage doctors concluded he would not survive the night and not worth the trouble of operating on. Meighan was covered with his poncho and placed amongst the dead. But, it rained that night, reviving him, and in the morning when an orderly came to the field hospital with the news that there was space for one more casualty on the evacuation plane to Hawaii, Meighan threw off his poncho, literally rising from the dead, and ended up being the last wounded man put on the plane. Still only clinging to life, he celebrated his 20th birthday in the hospital in Honolulu."
By the time I started high school my uncle had long returned to the Santa Fe, Taos area while I ended up living with my grandmother. I went from a pre-teen to a job to having been in and out of the Army. Except for a several week interlude traveling with my uncle during the summer just before high school in which I met Albert Einstein, nearly eighteen years passed with only a couple of contacts. Those contacts were few and far between and all done through the mail, for instance to get my passport or tell him about the death of a relative or close family friend. Then a funny thing happened.
Sometime in latter half of 1967 a woman by the name of Mercedes De Acosta contacted me. She had been trying to search down a man she met years before at the ashram of the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by the name of Guy Hague. Her search led her to me. To most people De Acosta was most notably a socialite and consummate party goer, seen as not much more than say perhaps a present day Paris Hilton might be viewed. She was however, actually much more than that, being imbued deeply both intellectually and spiritually. She was a poet with three volumes of poetry published in the early 1920s, an accomplished playwright and costume designer as well as an author. De Acosta and I set a meeting at her place in New York City. However, on May 9, 1968, before we were actually able to finalize any arrangements, she died.
De Acosta was a good friend of the avant garde pop artist and film maker Andy Warhol. He and I were supposed to meet through De Acosta but because of her death I figured the meeting was off. However, within days of De Acosta's death I received a request from Warhol to meet anyway. The typically New York based Warhol just happened to have arrived in La Jolla, California, not far from where I lived at the time, to film a movie called San Diego Surf with a bunch his groupies --- not just a few of whom were seemingly experiencing the short and long term effects of west coast/Mexican mescaline for the first time.
The meeting fell right on the heels of De Acosta's death. Warhol had an obsession with both death and celebrities. One year before, in 1967, a man with a gun entered Warhol's studio and, according to Warhol's friend, Taylor Mead, the following ensued:
"(The gunman) put a girl's rain hat on Andy and had him kneel down-he had us all kneeling. And Nico and Paul Morrissey and Gerard were just sitting there like they were watching a movie. They did nothing. Then the gunman handed Paul Morrissey the gun, which he'd already shot at the wall. Paul insisted he wasn't going to give the gun back, but he was just barely holding onto it. The gunman went to grab the gun back, so I jumped him. It was like jumping a brick wall. The guy was very strong. I couldn't budge him. So I went to the window and hit it, and it exploded onto 47th Street. The YMCA was across the street and people poured out. The gunman ran down the stairs. He had another person waiting outside. They were going to put one of us in the trunk of the car. Andy probably."
Because De Acosta was our strongest mutual connection and she and her passing was on the forefront of almost every conversation, Warhol continued to bring up my near death experience and what happens to a person after death.
Interestingly enough, the topic of those conversations, almost as if in premonition, became more that just talk. Within days of his departure from California, on June 3, 1968, Warhol was shot in the chest at close range after arriving at his New York studio. The bullet ripped through one of his lungs, tore up his esophagus, then passed through his gall bladder, liver, spleen, and intestines before exiting his left side, leaving a huge hole in its wake. At the hospital Warhol was pronounced clinically dead. He remained dead for well over a minute pushing into two before the medical team was finally able to revive him.
Although an extremely long time had elapsed since I had been in contact with my uncle I felt that he, as an artist who had introduced me to any number of artists in the past, would be interested in the fact that I had met and talked with Andy Warhol over a period of several days. One of the things I told him was that Warhol spent a great deal of time going over and over my near death experience and that within days of returning to New York he himself was shot and flatlined before being revived.
My uncle, who always took months to respond, if at all, to anything I ever sent him, responded immediately. The primary thrust of his letter was not Warhol. Although he mentioned Warhol flatlining and, without mentioning his name, Meighan's near death experience in the context of several long pages and how close it related to mine, what he really wanted was for us to meet personally.
No sooner had I received the letter and even had a chance to respond, for the second time ever, my uncle called. He told me he wanted to meet me in Kingman, Arizona in the next few days --- Kingman being approximately halfway between where I lived in California and my uncle's abode near the Sangre de Christo mountains of New Mexico. After talking for nearly a half a day just as we were parting he gave me a small taped up cardboard box six or eight inches square and asked me to deliver it in person and only in person to a man in Laguna Beach, California --- and whatever I did, NOT give it to anybody else under any circumstances. When I arrived in Laguna Beach I found the man sequestered in a remote cave hidden in the hills above Laguna Canyon Road. The man, Dr. Timothy Leary. The contents of the box not known.
In the end the meeting in Kingman rekindled the relationship between my uncle and myself, ending in any number of memorable get-togethers and fun times right up to the time of his death. We spent hours talking and discussing our past adventures together and what happened during our time apart. We talked family, my dad, and childhood. We went over notes, letters, and papers he had stashed away relating to where we had gone and what we had done. One day the letter he sent me with the story told to him by Rochelle Hudson involving the young boy came up. When my uncle mentioned the boy's name, Clement Meighan, it meant nothing. However, around the same time we met and began our discussions in earnest, Castaneda's first book was published and took off like wild fire. It wasn't long until a copy ended up in my hands. Castaneda opened his book with acknowledgements, which wasn't unusual for a book, except his acknowledgements opened with the following sentence:
"I wish to express profound gratitude to Professor Clement Meighan, who started and set the course of my anthropological fieldwork."
There it was, Clement Meighan! With closer investigation, patterns began to develop between some of what Castaneda wrote and some of the discussions my uncle and I had. We discovered Castaneda's references to Datura's four heads, their different purposes, the significance of the roots, the cooking process and the ritual of preparation, etc., that Castanda attributed to Don Juan seemed to bare strongly my uncle's own signature. In Zen, the Buddha, and Shamanism I write:
"In later years (because of) my uncle's knowledge of sacred Datura and peyote, as well as other hallucinogens, he was interviewed by Carlos Castaneda, apparently on a road trip in the process of gathering information for future use in his series of books on the powerful shaman-sorcerer he eventually apprenticed under, Don Juan Matus. In 1960 or so Castaneda was an anthropology student at UCLA collecting information and specimens of medicinal type plants used by the Indians in the desert southwest when he and my uncle crossed paths. My uncle had field searched thousands and thousands of plants, herbs, and mushrooms, even to having had several previously undiscovered species named after him."
Putting two and two together it wasn't long until my uncle remembered most of the details. The intriguing part of it all was that when we compared the chronological order of events as presented by Castaneda, all of the information regarding Datura he learned was learned BEFORE he met Don Juan Matus. In The Informant and Carlos Castaneda I write:
"My uncle was always running into people that sought various amounts of information from him about natural desert plants and any effect they may have. Castaneda was just another in a long line of seekers and wasn't particularly memorable except for, in retrospect, a certain amount of persistence. Not to undercut Castaneda, but my uncle was surprised --- as well as pleased to a certain extent --- to find out THAT specific person who had tramped around the desert with him all those days and nights achieved the level of success he did and that he actually became 'somebody.' To his knowledge nobody he had ever come into contact in the past had. My uncle was quite pleased, regardless of how Castaneda may have presented it in his books and the public, that at least some or part of the information and knowledge he carried with him was not going to be simply lost forever to the winds and the rocks and sand of the desert."
My uncle died in 1989. In the two decades from the time of our meeting in Kingman until his death, although Castaneda came up every once in awhile in conversations --- and sometimes more in depth at times than others --- my uncle's opinion always remained aligned with the above quote. He never expressed concern that Castaneda never gave him credit or might have become rich over suggestions and information that he, my uncle, graciously shared and offered unfettered with no expectation of reciprocity or acknowledgment. He also never critiqued how accurate any of it was as Castaneda presented it.
After my uncle's death I found myself thinking about Castaneda, Don Juan, Datura, and my uncle and how it all fit together probably more than the two of us had ever discussed in tandom. Eventually I made a decision to talk with Castaneda personally. There were a whole host of things I was curious about, not only related to timing and Datura, but carved out caves, cars that wouldn't start because of the spark plugs, Flying Ointments, and turning into crows.
I had not seen Castaneda since the Nogales bus station. Although in the mid-1990s Castaneda resurfaced and began appearing in public, at the time we are talking about here he had, since 1973 or so, all but disappeared from the public eye, having become a recluse and secluding himself from all except a very small selective inner circle.
None of my old contacts had maintained any connections with Castaneda any more than I had. Anybody else who might have had even the slightest ability to put me past the wall he had built around himself were either being evasive or unresponsive. For sure I did not want to approach him "cold" at some party. However, in the time since I had seen him last, for me there transpired both Dark Luminosity and the experience with the mysterious hermit man of spells called an Obeah high in the mountains of Jamaica. I figured once we came in contact such experiences would override any potential distancing that might occur surrounding any interest I may have had regarding my uncle as Castaneda's informant or any barricades erected by his entourage. Even so, I felt I needed more than a few minutes bumping into him at some social event that at the most might lead to no more than a weak offer for a future meeting --- which in turn could easily be forgot to death or canceled by his handlers.
Enter Clement Meighan. Meighan retired in 1991. I caught up with him shortly thereafter. In my initial contact I didn't mention a thing about Castaneda. I told him I was the nephew of the man he traveled by train with in Mexico as a teenager, that my uncle had died a few years before and that I would like to talk with him about their time together. I also told him that Rochelle Hudson had told my uncle about his (i.e., Meighan's) hospital stay in Hawaii and how his near death experience paralleled my own. Meighan's response was most positive. After some minor logistics were worked out the rest was easy.
After awhile our conversations turned to Castaneda and I mentioned the seeming discrepancy in him learning all about Datura from my uncle in the spring of 1960 and presenting in his book as having learned it from Don Juan in August and September of 1961. Meighan was flabbergasted. It was then he remembered the paper Castaneda turned in, how good it was, and how, as he remembered it looking back, that it paralleled what Castaneda wrote Don Juan taught him. The thing is, in the beginning, Meighan was not specifically able to recall or pinpoint the timing of the paper or the class --- which would have transpired at the very least, thirty years earlier. He also did not know if the paper still existed and if it did, where it was. Typically he said, the paper would be turned back to the student and most likely that is what happened to Castaneda's paper. Several weeks after our final conversation a woman identifying herself as Judy Martin called saying she had worked in records at UCLA during the time Castaneda attended. Through contacts she informed me per Meighan's request, that the class in question was "Methods in Field Archaeology" and that the student in question took and passed the class with the letter grade "A" during the spring semester 1960.
What I speculate happened is that the paper was returned or picked up and, since it was Castaneda's "own" work, he extrapolated the information into his book. Runyan says she and Castaneda were married January 27, 1960 and lived together as husband and wife their first six months. That would have put her with Castaneda until the end of July, 1960. Before the end of that six month period Castaneda field researched the material via the informant, wrote the paper on the road, and turned in his paper.
During and after the end of the period Castaneda was in the desert southwest on the Road Trip that ended with Don Juan Matus and the infamous Nogales Bus Station Meeting. That road trip ended well into August and well after the end of the spring semester, which means the paper had already been turned in, graded AND returned. But, returned to who? Castaneda was in the desert. Runyan was, as far as we know, still at home. I think the paper either languished in the department office someplace or laid around their apartment with a bunch of other stuff gathering dust and, over time, simply fell into Margaret Runyan's hands somewhere along the way. Runyan's book was published in 1996. In Runyan's case, as with almost everybody else who writes a book, there is usually a significant lead time between the time a person starts writing a book and when it gets published. Since her book was published in 1996, that would have put the main thrust of Runyan's lead time at the exact same time that Meighan and I had our discussions. Because of those discussions, the 1960s Datura information would have been right on the forefront on Meighan's thoughts --- fully resolved and hacked out, where previously it had really never carried much weight. If Runyan contacted or interviewed Meighan regarding material for her book I wanted to know. It is quite the coincidence that the discussions Meighan and I had eventually showed up so strongly in her book AND, since publication, so many people have run with it where previously the depth of the concept laid fallow. In the end the quote at the top of the page from The Informant and Carlos Castaneda and presented again below holds true:
"Castaneda's information, although written as though from a field interview, and presented in 1968 in The Teachings of Don Juan almost word for word, but much more casually and not credited, was way too structured in his 1960 paper anyway --- as if the information had been obtained from a formally educated academic or field research expert, which it was, rather than simply a native user or naturalist."
That's why, in an attempt to clarify it all and get some answers, after interviewing Clement Meighan, I went to the other major source in the fall of 2005 and interviewed Margaret Runyan Castaneda myself personally.
CARLOS CASTANEDA: BEFORE DON JUAN
CARLOS CASTANEDA: TIMELINE
POWER OF THE SHAMAN
THE DEATH DEFIER
THE BEST OF
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WE DO NOT HAVE SHAMANS
The Case Against "Shamans" In the
North American Indigenous Cultures
THE DIRT BEFORE THE DIG
SO, DID THE WANDERLING FLY?
ON THE RAZOR'S
The following, regarding datura's four heads, their different purposes, the significance of the roots, the cooking process and the ritual of preparation as written by Castaneda in his first book THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, PART ONE, The Teachings, Chapter 3:
August 23, 1961
"She distorts men. She gives them a taste of power too soon without fortifying their hearts, and makes them domineering and unpredictable. She makes them weak in the middle of their great power."
"Isn't there any way to avoid that?"
"There is a way to overcome it, but not to avoid it. Whoever becomes the weed's ally must pay that price."
"How can one overcome that effect, don Juan?"
"The devil's weed has four heads: the root, the stem and leaves, the flowers, and the seeds. Each one of them is different, and whoever becomes her ally must learn about them in that order.
"The most important head is in the roots. The power of the devil's weed is conquered through the roots.
"The stem and leaves are the head that cures maladies; properly used, this head is a gift to mankind.
"The third head is in the flowers, and it is used to turn people crazy, or to make them obedient, or to kill them.
"The man whose ally is the weed never intakes the flowers, nor does he intake the stem and leaves, for that matter, except in cases of his own illness; but the roots and the seeds are always intaken; especially the seeds; they are the fourth head of the devil's weed and the most powerful of the four. My benefactor used to say the seeds are the 'sober head'; the only part that could fortify the heart of man.
"The devil's weed is hard with her protoges, he used to say, because she aims to kill them fast; a thing she ordinarily accomplishes before they can arrive at the secrets of the 'sober head'. There are, however, tales about men who have unravelled the secrets of the sober head. What a challenge for a man of knowledge!"
In Margaret Runyan Castaneda's book, "A Magical Journey With Carlos Castaneda," Chapter 14, Beginnings, she presents the following, which is presented in her book in quotes because it is from the words of Clement Meighan himself:
"'His informant knew a great deal about Datura, which was a drug used in initiating ceremonies in some California groups, but had been presumed by me and I think most other anthropologists to have passed out of the picture forty or fifty years ago,' Meighan recalls. 'So he found an informant who still actively knew something about this and still had used it. He turned in a term paper which had alot of information in it that wouldn't have been possible to get, unless you had an informant who was knowledgeable about this plant and material. It was a very good paper and I encouraged him to continue his research. He reported the fact that there was still an Indian who knew about the use and practice of Datura as a power plant. A lot of this came about in his first book. He talked about the fact that it is very important what part the root comes from. There's alot of symbolism and fantasy about the male and the female plants and whether it is a deep root. I doubt whether any of that had any pharmacological value whatsoever, although he investigated that. He went around and talked to various people about their beliefs. But that business about Datura, so far as I know, wasn't published in literature anywhere. I read most of the California stuff very carefully and that's where the resistance comes in, when you start asking people about a whole set of beliefs and use of a drug, when you start dealing with ceremonial knowledge and stuff that's hard to get and not supposed to be revealed. I was very impressed with his paper. Obviously, he was getting information that anthropologists had not gotten before.'"
MARGARET RUNYAN CASTANEDA: A Magical Journey With Carlos Castaneda
For more regarding the above please see The Informant and Carlos Castaneda.
THE FOLLOWING IS FOUND IN SACRED DATURA:
In that there are a number of species of Datura there is some confusion as to what Datura Castaneda may have used. According to Castaneda in THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge a shaman-sorcerer has an Ally contained in the Datura plants commonly known as jimson weed. Don Juan called that ally by one of the Spanish names of the plant, yerba del diablo (devil's weed), with the ally taking on the form of a sort of plant spirit. According to Don Juan, as he related it to Castaneda, ANY of the species of Datura was the container of the ally. However, the sorcerer had to grow his own patch, not only in the sense that the plants were his private property, but in the sense that they were personally identified with him.
As for the "separate" Daturas, more or less on an official basis --- but not necessarily on a common basis as the names, species and terms are usually intermixed (although it must be said, even plant taxonomist disagree amongst themselves whether D. stramonium and D. inoxia are different species while D. inoxia and D. metaloides are considered alternate names for the same species). Usually, D. stramonium is most often the Datura species refered to as jimson weed, while D. metaloides (also sometimes D. wrightii) is usually applied to Sacred Datura, and D. inoxia is Toloache. Don Juan's own plants belonged to the species inoxia, however there was no correlation between THAT fact and any differences that may have existed between any of the species of Datura accessible to him.
As to what happened, if anything, between Castaneda and the man he came to call Don Juan Matus at that bus station meeting --- or how long or short that first meeting between the two may have been --- in THE TEACHINGS OF DON JUAN: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968), Castaneda writes in his own words what transpired:
"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."
It seems apparent Castaneda did all the talking and Don Juan basically did no more than nod, look, and stand in silence during the time they were together. As short as the bus station meeting was it is quite clear, in his own words, Castaneda could NOT have garnered any significant amount of information during their time together because, for the most part, Don Juan said nothing.
The Nogales bus station meeting between Castaneda and Don Juan transpired at the end of the summer of 1960 and lasted not much more than a few minutes --- 15 to 20 minutes at the most. It was months later, at the end of the fall semester, during the UCLA winter break, on December 17, 1960, that Castaneda caught up with Don Juan and had any major or lengthy interaction with him. By then, of course, Castaneda had long before written and turned in his paper on Datura.
A woman by the name of Mary Joan (Joanie) Barker, often cited as Castaneda's girlfriend at the time, is the person that usually gets the lion's share of credit for originally taking Castaneda to the Morongo Indian Reservation near her childhood home of Banning, California.
The inference promulgated in Barker's home being near the Morongo Indian Reservation is that some sort of intimate connection had been established between herself and the Indians because of the proximity of her home --- say for example that she may have volunteered, rendered aid or assistance in some fashion over a period of time, or just hung out, thus being able to lay the groundwork for a long term mutual trust between herself and tribal members. However, although not meant to discount any such prospects from having transpired on her part, except for attending an annual festival related to the Indians like almost anybody who lived in the area might, no proof or personal statements by Barker or associates has been forthcoming that substantiates any such actions, either long term or short term, involving Barker.
In any case, over and over Barker is reputed to be the person to have taken Castaneda to the reservation for the first time easing the pathway for him to meet a number of Cahuilla tribal members and spiritual elders including Salvador Lopez. Some say it was because of that introduction to Lopez that Castaneda obtained the information he used in his 1960s paper on Datura.
The suggestion that Lopez or any Cahuilla tribal members was the source for Castaneda's Datura information would automatically infer then, that the meeting or meetings would have to had occurred BEFORE the end of the spring semester of 1960 for any of the information gained to have been used in his paper.
Therein lays the rub. UCLA professor Douglass Price-Williams, a one-time member of Castaneda's dissertation committee and who counted himself as a friend of Castaneda --- not discouraging strong rumors to the effect by let standing in a low-key fashion that he may have played a part in the initial meeting between Barker and Castaneda --- has been quoted as saying Barker was a librarian at UCLA sometime in the summer of 1960 and it was during that summer, July or August of 1960, that Castaneda and Barker met. If such was the case, any introduction by her involving Castaneda and the Cahuillas or Lopez would have transpired AFTER his paper was turned in --- once again opening up the "who was the informant" question.(see)
Castaneda married Margaret Runyan January 27, 1960 and lived together as husband and wife their first six months --- basically overlapping the exact same time as the spring semester of 1960 AND the exact same time Barker would had to have been taking Castaneda to the Morongo Indian Reservation for any information garnered through such actions to be valid. Runyan, in her book A Magical Journey (1996), writes:
"Carlos began leaving for hours at a time, and then days . . . . At first, I thought he had found another woman, but he denied that. Carlos said that he was making trips into the desert to study the use of medicinal plants by the Indians."
Castaneda's trips and interviews to the Cahuilla Indians on the Morongo Reservation near Banning, the Agua Caliente reservation near Palm Springs, and the Indians in the Colorado River area, if they were done at all, would needed to have been done DURING the spring semester of 1960. Otherwise, as pointed out, none of the information would have been learned in time to have made it into his paper.(see) Any of those meetings, according to Runyan, would also have been quick and short lived. As she says, hours at a time. The days at a time only began when Castaneda moved eastward beyond the Colorado River deeper into Arizona and meeting the anthropologists who were actually doing field work. That is when things should have really began to move --- except for one small hitch, the same hitch that impacted him adversely with the Cahuilla. To wit, the following, in Castaneda's own words, from THE ACTIVE SIDE OF INFINITY, A TREMOR IN THE AIR: A Journey To Power (1998):
"I went to Arizona to talk to anthropologists who were actually doing field work there. By then, I was ready to give up on the whole idea. I understood what the two professors were trying to tell me. I couldn't have agreed with them more. My attempts at doing fieldwork were definitely simpleminded.
"Yet I wanted to get my feet wet in the field. I didn't want to do only library research.
"In Arizona, I met with an extremely seasoned anthropologist who had written copiously on the Yaqui Indians of Arizona as well as those of Sonora, Mexico. He was extremely kind. He didn't run me down, nor did he give me any advice. He only commented that the Indian societies of the Southwest were extremely isolationist, and that foreigners, especially those of Hispanic origin, were distrusted, even abhorred, by those Indians.
"A younger colleague of his, however, was more outspoken. He said that I was better off reading herbalists' books. He was an authority in the field, and his opinion was that anything to be known about medicinal plants from the Southwest had already been classified and talked about in various publications.
"He went as far as to say that the sources of any Indian curer of the day were precisely those publications rather than any traditional knowledge. He finished me off with the assertion that if there still were any traditional curing practices, the Indians would not divulge them to a stranger."
And there it is. His attempts at doing fieldwork were definitely simpleminded. It was a known fact that foreigners, especially those of Hispanic origin, were distrusted, even abhorred, by native cultures, and as well, even though there was still the possibility of traditional curing practices, the Indians were not about to divulge them to a stranger --- of which, especially considering the short time he had, Castaneda was one.
It was only when, at the Arizona dig site, Castaneda crossed paths with a onetime former Pothunter turned reputable, albeit amateur archaeologist, he sometimes leaves unnamed in his writings and sometimes refers to as Bill that things turned around.
For more on the younger colleague of the extremely seasoned anthropologist who told Castaneda he would be better off reading herbalists' books in the library because Indian curers of the day used precisely the same publications AND the important role he played in the overall unfolding of events see Footnote .
SEE ALSO:CARLOS CASTANEDA: THE ROAD TRIP
MERCEDES DE ACOSTA AND ANDY WARHOL
Not everybody agrees how close De Acosta and Warhol were, some say not at all, others say they were very close. However, by the late 1950s it was quite clear De Acosta and Warhol had become friends, at least well enough for Warhol to hand draw the original for the Invitation to De Acosta's party celebrating the publication of her book Here Lies the Heart (1960).
Additionally, Hugo Vickers, in his book Loving Garbo writes that De Acosta was ill in the early months of 1963, and the following year underwent a painful leg operation. But, ever adventurous, she had become a friend of Andy Warhol, and regularly shared Thanksgiving with him and his friends. Vickers goes on to say Warhol once met Greta Garbo at a picnic with De Acosta and presented her with a drawing of a butterfly. She crumpled it up, but he rescued it, and had his mother write on it: 'Crumpled butterfly by Greta Garbo'.
In that De Acosta had told the Wanderling that she was going to introduce him to Warhol, it might be that she may have discussed the possibility with Warhol at some length in arrangement for the meeting. Upon De Acosta's death, Warhol, who just happened to be in California shortly thereafter, for whatever reason, requested the meeting to go forward, perhaps out of respect for De Acosta's wishes and their friendship, perhaps out of curiosity.
Somewhere along the way during Castaneda's weeks-into-months long zig-zagging across the desert southwest road trip with Bill, however AFTER his encounter with the informant but BEFORE the bus station encounter, Castaneda crossed paths with the so-called colleague who had told him somewhat earlier that he was better off reading herbalists' books than concentrating on field research.
Learning that the herbalist colleague was making a quick couple days roundtrip trip to Los Angeles, Castaneda convinced the colleague that he, Castaneda, had now, since their discussion, developed all honorable intentions of implementing his suggestions into doing nothing but library research on traditional curing instead of wasting any future time on field research. However, he told the herbalist colleague that in order to do so he would have to maintain a continued clear and unqualified enrollment at UCLA. For that to transpire, he told the colleague, would require him, Castaneda, to turn in all of his current field research papers and other classwork to the proper professors in an orderly and timely fashion prior to the end of the spring semester. Since the timing was right, the herbalist colleague, not grasping Castaneda's semi-deceitful stretching of the truth in regards to library research, but instead, only impressed with Castaneda's willingness to take his suggestions to heart, was more than happy ensure just such a thing would happen.
Now, if Castaneda returned personally to UCLA with his herbalist colleague on a couple day turn around and took care of business himself, OR, if the colleague dealt with it for him is not known (see below) --- it is known that Castaneda, gone two days or not, completed the Road Trip that eventually ended in Nogales towards the end of summer 1960 and he DID continue at UCLA --- albeit participating in field research and in doing so, eventually receiving a PhD.
AND NOW THIS:
Sometime in the mid to late 1960s, while staying a couple of days at the mining camp of an old Mojave Desert prospector friend of my father's named Walt Bickel, I was introduced to a man named Alex Apostolides. In those days Apostolides was doing a variety archaeological surveys and said to be a Field Director in archaeology for UCLA. In a general small talk sort of way I told him I knew a one-time undergraduate student at UCLA named Carlos Castaneda that had been doing field work in Arizona back in the early 60s. I also mentioned the last time I had seen him was in a bus station in Nogales at the end of the summer of 1960.
Apostolides, although he got to know Castaneda better later, didn't know him well in the early 1960s period we have been talking about. But he did tell me he had seen Castaneda at UCLA and actually met him for the first time just around that same time. He remembered it well because of the circumstances. Apostolides said he had gone to UCLA near the end of the semester for one reason or the other that he couldn't recall and Castaneda was either in the department office or going to or from a professor's office turning in papers when he bumped into him. The reason he remembers it so well is because Castaneda was traveling with a teacher's assistant and that the T.A., who Apostolides knew had a reputation for hating field work, told him that the two of them had just returned from participating in a dig in Arizona and, not only that, but the two of them would be going back in a couple of days to help shut down the dig for the summer.
Apostolides said at the time of that first meeting Castaneda was not, of course, the Castaneda people would eventually come to know. As a matter of fact, Apostolides related that their first meeting, in regards to Castaneda himself, that he was not very memorable at all. He said so because one day, two or three years after that meeting, basically out of the nowhere, Castaneda stepped up to him as though they were life long friends and it actually took Apostolides a few minutes to put together how they even knew each other. The main thrust of their first meeting was because Castaneda just happened to be traveling with the teaching assistant that day. Apostolides said he remembered the T.A. alright, and thus then eventually Castaneda. The T.A. told Apostolides that the two of them were on some archaeological dig in Arizona and that he, the T.A., "was running out of time academically" and was down there on "loan" to another professor from another university to pad his resume' with field work experience on UCLA's dime.
For more on Apostolides and any relation he may of or not had with Castaneda please see The Tree as well as Alex Apostolides.
There is often a question regarding Castaneda's UCLA classes, i.e. when did they start, when did they end, etc. There is a big difference in timing regarding the months and weeks as to when a spring semester starts as compared to when a spring quarter starts. The same holds true in regards to when they end. The problem is when Castaneda was attending UCLA as an undergraduate the university was on the semester system. By the time he received his PhD it was on the quarter system. Most people who do research on Castaneda typically assume the present day quarter system was in place in the Spring and Summer 1960 when most of the Don Juan material we are talking about here was in the process of unfolding. That assumption skews the data and why dealing with the dates and times of semesters and NOT quarters is so important. Castaneda had plenty of time to travel with his colleague, meet the informant and turn in his papers prior to the end of the spring semester 1960, then have the rest of the summer to finish the road trip. To wit:
The UCLA spring classes Castaneda enrolled in ran roughly from sometime mid-January to around the middle of June, 1960. His paper was due to be turned in at least by the end of that period, that is, not much later than two or three weeks into June at the most, perhaps somewhat earlier.
As well as:
Afterwards, taking advantage of the scheduled UCLA winter break at the completion of his Fall of 1960 classes, Castaneda left California for Arizona and Mexico searching for Don Juan, hoping for a meeting. On December 17, 1960, he eventually caught up with him at his home, their FIRST face-to-face meeting since their initial bus station encounter.
To clarify, UCLA has not always been on the quarter system. The undergraduate college adopted the quarter system in the mid-1960s. Before then, UCLA --- like Berkeley and much of the rest of the universities in the United States --- was a semester school. The following is from the UCLA Senate Calendar History:
A Brief History of UC's and UCLA's Academic Calendar: 1966 to 2001
Before 1966, all UC campuses were on the semester calendar.
1966: UC System changes to the quarter system calendar.
All campuses in the UC system changed from the semester to the quarter system in 1966-67 on the recommendation of the State Coordinating Council for Higher Education (the predecessor to the current State Postsecondary Education Commission) which believed that the quarter system was the best system for achieving year-round operations (four quarters: fall, winter, spring, summer). A summer quarter was operated in both 1968 and 1969
The original source in PDF format: PDF
FOOTNOTE : Kingman, Arizona
His phone call from New Mexico was the first time my uncle ever called me, at least long distance anyway, and I think the subject matter of that call was the primary reason my father put the kibosh on the two of us traveling together.
By the summer of 1952, me being under the guardianship of my uncle had long come to a screeching halt because of my father and Stepmother being out of the country then deciding to divorce by the time they got back.(see) Our de facto family dissolved and my uncle went back to the Taos, Santa Fe area and I went first to live with a foster couple, then after running away, my grandmother. However, only one short year later, at the end of May 1953, just a week or so before my first year in high school was about to end, my uncle called. He was all excited and without even thinking about school wanted to know if I thought my dad would let me catch a Greyhound bus as soon as I could and meet him in Kingman. He said it would be an adventure of a lifetime and that he expected all hell to break loose in a few weeks because the same thing that had happened out in the flatlands (i.e., Roswell) had happened in the desert near Kingman. He told me the news had filtered down to him through some Native Americans who had scouted the area. He said some Hualapai trackers who were part of the group could get us in through the back door. When I told my dad he blew his stack. He got on the phone and started yelling at my uncle that he was filling my mind with all kinds of "weird and useless shit" and to stay away from me and keep his "cock-and-bull stories" to himself. Needless to say that was the end of it and I didn't get to go. Instead, my dad sent me to my ex-stepmother's ranch for the summer and told the ranch foreman Leo, a hard drinking every other word was a cuss word preceded by the word "fucking," as in fucking asshole, who had been at one time, a World War II Pacific Fleet Navy boxing champion, to not let me "wander off."
All hell didn't break loose and everything mostly remained quiet for ten years after my uncle's request for me to join him. Matter of fact, it was clear up until April 1964 before information surfaced that something happened near Kingman, Arizona on May 20, 1953 and fell into the hands of a UFO researcher --- the date of the incident, May 1953, coincidently being just at the end of my freshman year when my uncle called me. The information, obtained by a UFOlogist named Richard Hall, was that a circular or disc-like object of unknown origin crashed in a remote area near Kingman. Hall's information did not gain much traction nor was it widely circulated. The story did take off after June 1973 when another UFO researcher, Raymond Fowler, became privy to a much stronger report that there had been an attempt of an UFO retrieval in the desert near Kingman during that same respective time period, May 19-21, 1953.
For more on the Kingman and my uncle's account of the incident please see the section on Kingman in Frank Edwards as well as the more detailed account in:
KINGMAN UFO 1953
JUDITH ANN WOOLCOTT
CASTANEDA, PRICE-WILLIAMS, AND JOANIE BARKER:
Continually in my works, as for example as presented in the main text above, I maintain that Castaneda's 1960s paper on Datura was turned in at the end of the spring semester of 1960, a paper that contained all the information that he supposedly learns over one full year later from Don Juan between August 23 and September 10, 1961. By the time Castaneda met Barker and received an introduction to Lopez, he had already turned in his paper and was yet to meet Don Juan Matus. Therefore, neither Lopez nor Don Juan could have had any instrumental impact.
Both the first meeting and the timing of the first meeting between Barker and Castaneda most usually rests on the oft repeated statement reportedly from Douglass Price-Williams that Barker was a librarian at UCLA sometime in the summer of 1960 and it was during that summer, July or August of 1960, that Castaneda and Barker met. The question is, from what source or under what circumstances did the facts behind the statement originate? I, of course, fully accept the Price-Williams timeline because it substantiates and strengthens MY thesis that it was the person called the Informant in Castaneda's works and by me that introduced him to Datura and the shamanistic rituals he later uses and bases his Don Juan stories on. Don Juan and Castanedaophiles, pro or con, selectively ignore or overlook what has been presented by me in The Informant and Carlos Castaneda even though it wasn't me that created the dates or timelines presented by Castaneda --- nor was it me who originally presented the Price-Williams statement in the wider media as being accurate or even existing.
For example, Corey Donovan, creator of the online Castaneda website and forum Sustained Action, in SALVADOR LOPEZ: One of Castaneda's Original Informants? writes:
"The Cahuilla reservations are near Palm Springs, and thus not far from Los Angeles. They are very near the place where Joanie Barker grew up, and she is known to regularly attend their annual festival. It has been speculated that Joanie, who first met up with Castaneda in the summer of 1960 and soon became his girlfriend, would have taken him out to the reservation she was familiar with when she learned he was taking a class (from Clement Meighan) on shamanism."(source)
The following, also found in Sustained Action, only this time in PRELUDE TO DON JUAN: Castaneda's Early Years, pretty much repeats the summer of 1960 meeting and cites Price-Williams specifically:
"Summer 1960 - Mary Joan Barker (Joanie), whom Castaneda later describes to the Sunday group as 'don Juan's first student,' becomes involved with Castaneda. [Douglass Price-Williams, a UCLA professor and friend of Castaneda (and, for a time in the early '70's, Florinda's dissertation adviser) remembers Joanie being first employed as a librarian at UCLA sometime in the summer of 1960. Douglass believes the two met up in July or August of 1960 (i.e., around the time of Castaneda's separation from Margaret Runyan)."(source)
Again, the question is, where did Cory Donovan and Sustained Action directly obtain the information of when and where Castaneda and Mary Joan Barker first met? I can tell you where I got mine.
In 1973 my former college roommate took a job with the City of Los Angeles working in some fashion in coordinating and mounting exhibits in the art gallery located on the upper floors of the L.A. City Hall among other things. Around the same time he bought a "fixer-upper" dump of a place in Venice, California. Along the way he discovered there was some sort of short-term effort between the perimeters of his job and the Israel Levin Center in Venice. He also discovered, since it was some distance to city hall in downtown Los Angeles and where he lived in Venice, that if he participated in whatever the project was being coordinated with the Center, he could either come in late a few days a week or not come in at all.
It just so happened that during that same period, although teaching full time at USC, Barbara Myerhoff was doing fieldwork regarding elderly Jews at the same Center supported by a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation given to the USC Andrus Gerontology Center. In pursuit of their separate endeavors my ex-roommate and Myerhoff soon crossed paths and it wasn't long after that their crossing of paths was brought to my attention.
Through their crossing of paths I was able to finagle or put into place what appeared on the surface to be, and was for all practical purposes, an impromtu meeting --- a meeting that inturn, led from casual conversation to a rather substantial discussion between Myerhoff and myself regarding some aspects of her knowledge of Castaneda that I was hoping to clarify for my own edification.
Ten years later, sometime in the fall of 1984 I found myself at the Ojai Foundation in Ojai, California at a talk given by a friend of my Uncle, the noted Huichol Indian shaman Don Jose Matsuwa --- probably age 94 or so at the time. After the talk, and this time genuinely so impromptu, I ran into Barbara Myerhoff, as well as, of all people, Professor Douglass Price-Williams, the two engaging in small talk as much as people of their ilk can engage in small talk. I had by then already experienced the events outlined elsewhere with the shaman man of spells high in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica called an Obeah, of which ended in somewhat startling results. Because of such, and because I was sure both saw me with Matsuwa after his talk, having been allowed into his inner circle to offer my respects after it became known the relationship with my uncle, I felt confident to be in a circle of such an exalted environment. To cut to the quick, although it was Myerhoff to whom I originally intended to speak, when I learned one of the people in the associated group she was talking with was Price-Williams, it was to him I directed my pointed question and it was Price-Williams who answered directly. He basically related that he knew Castaneda since shortly after he arrived at UCLA as a new transfer student from L.A. City College and most definitely before Barker ever entered the picture. That did not happen until the summer of 1960 when she took a job in the library at UCLA.
Douglass Price-Williams, born October 1, 1924 passed away October 10, 2014 in Oceanside, California.
DR TIMOTHY LEARY, MUSHROOMS, LSD, ET AL:
In the paragraph this footnote is referenced to, speaking of my uncle, I write:
"After talking for nearly a half a day just as we were parting he gave me a small taped up cardboard box six or eight inches square and asked me to deliver it in person and only in person to a man in Laguna Beach, California --- and whatever I did, NOT give it to anybody else under any circumstances. When I arrived in Laguna Beach I found the man sequestered in a remote cave hidden in the hills above Laguna Canyon Road. The man, Dr. Timothy Leary. The contents of the box not known."
To catch up with Leary my uncle sent me to a Laguna Beach establishment called Mystic Arts World, which, for all outward appearances looked like not much more than an early 60s head shop, with racks of tie-dyed shirts, the smell of burning incense, psychedelic posters, and bongs. It was actually the base of operations for a seemingly loosely organized albeit tightly knit outfit called The Brotherhood of Eternal Love. The Brotherhood dealt heavily in the movement and sale of marijuana, psychedelic mushrooms, and LSD --- reportedly with upwards of $200 million in sales in the late 60s. The organization began to fall apart shortly after its leader died of an overdose of synthetic psilocybin in August 1969 and the Mystic Arts World building burning to the ground following a mysterious fire that started just before midnight June 4, 1970, a fire widely viewed as arson. By 1974, following an August of 1972 multi-agency government raid, most of the remnants of the organization were dispersed, scattered, or gone.
However, prior to the raid, in 1971 the seminal book Be Here Now by Ram Dass, which Apple Computer mogul Steve Jobs, for example, mentioned as being highly influential in his life before Apple, was published. In the book, which became a wildly popular best seller and almost a bible in the counter-culture, Dass mentioned a deeply respected young white American he met in India called Bhagavan Das that was fully ingrained into the spiritual culture of India. The two of them traveled around the sub-continent together partaking of a variety of religious and spiritual undertakings as well as indulging in a lot of LSD. It just so happened Bhagavan Das was originally from Laguna Beach and because of his stature given him in the Ram Dass book, had become a growing sort of hero amongst the local LSD crowd associated with the Mystic Arts World and the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. In the milieu of Laguna Beach it wasn't long before Bhagavan Das was brought to my attention and I learned he had returned from India after six or seven years, living quietly as a civilian in the northern California bay area, most notedly, Santa Cruz and sometimes Berkeley.
Before the oncoming summer of 1974, at the request of my mentor who wanted my assist in helping him meet a friend who would soon be visiting from India, I headed north along the California coast slowly wending my way toward Sausalito, all the while crossing paths with a few friends and strangers along the way. One of the people I stopped to see was an old high school buddy who lived in San Jose and worked at IBM. While staying at his place I visited the Winchester Mystery House and, as outlined in what I have written about Steve Jobs in the link at the end of this footnote, I met the future to be computer genius in the garden there.
During our talk that afternoon he told me he was seriously contemplating going to India in an effort to find a guru. I mentioned Bhagavan Das to him saying there was a highly respected holy man just returned from India, now living in the area he should look up, a holy man that could give him all the ins-and-outs of a spiritual quest in India anybody would ever need or want. Jobs remembered Bhagavan Das almost immediately from having read about him in Be Here Now and seemed sort of excited about the prospect. However, if Jobs ever went to Bhagavan Das, whose given or birth name is Kermit Michael Riggs, I never learned, as neither ever mentioned it as far as I know.
AND NOW THIS:
During roughly the same passage of time as many of the above events, my dad, knowing he was nearing the end of his days, without leaving me many options, asked me to deliver an old locked trunk to his brother, my uncle, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The couple days I was in Santa Fe my uncle had to meet up with, for some undisclosed reason, beat poet Allen Ginsberg, who just happened to be in town during the same period and I went along. I wasn't introduced to or meet Ginsberg, staying off some distance milling around the car as requested by my uncle while the two of them talked. However, I was close enough to see Ginsberg was traveling with a couple of hangers-on, one of which was a woman about 30 with ultra-short dark hair the other a very tall young man with full beard and dreadlocks. The young man with full beard and dreadlocks, who just happened to be a good friend of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, was Bhagavan Das, age 27, only just returned from India.
I never met Ginsberg, that afternoon being the closest I came to an introduction. Although it was apparent my uncle and Ginsberg knew each other, why my uncle requested me to remain by the car while the two of them talked was never made clear. I could have easily overridden the whole thing if I so chose, and perhaps I should have. I carried a major ace-in-the-hole relative to Ginsberg that would have elevated me quickly with him had I selected to do so --- that ace being me having met a few years prior a major high-profile woman in his inner circle that had disappeared, a woman by the name of Hope Savage. She had been with the Beats ever since Ginsberg's top player Gregory Corso brought her into their circle. She had gone to Paris and Corso had went in search of her with no luck. Ginsberg ran into her in India a few years later and was the last to see her when the two of them said goodbyes in Calcutta in 1962. However, I had inadvertently crossed paths with her wandering in a remote section of the Himalayas since then. He would have flipped had he found out about it.
The three-photo strip below was taken at the 1972 meeting in Santa Fe. The first photo shows Alan Ginsberg. The center photo has Bhagavan Das and Ram Dass shown together. The third photo shows him with Ram Dass and Ginsberg. Ram Dass, again, IS Dr. Richard Alpert, the author of Be Here Now, the 1971 book that shot Bhagavan Das as well as both Ram Dass and Bhagavan Das' guru Neem Karoli Baba to fame.
BUDDHISM IN AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS
During the summer of 1952 and just barely into my teens, I packed up a few things and ran away from the foster couple I was living with --- ending up at my stepmother's ranch totally unannounced and out of the blue. In that she and my father had only just divorced, she wasn't really sure if he would go for the idea of me being there. Unable to reach him she contacted my dad's brother, my uncle, who said he was willing to take me until things could be worked out. In that my uncle lived in New Mexico and I was on my stepmother's ranch in the high desert of California and she felt time was at an essence, she arranged for me to be flown to Santa Fe. She had a pilot she knew fly into a close-by one-time, albeit long abandoned military airfield called Victory Field and pick me up. The pilot, a former P-47 Thunderbolt jockey was flying a two seat North American AT-6. It was the first time I had ever been off the ground and into the air in any kind of a World War II aircraft, so for me the trip to my uncle's was not only highly memorable, it was as well white-knuckle exciting. See:
THE NORMANDIE CLUB
EL REY CLUB: RESORT, CASINO, BROTHEL