Message #197
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 

Date:		Fri, 19 Jun 1998 16:56:48 MST
Subject:	Carlos Casteneda Passes (?)

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

Friday June 19 2:14 PM EDT
Author Carlos Castaneda reported dead

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Carlos Castaneda, the
best-selling author whose tales of drug-induced
mental adventures with a Yaqui Indian shaman once
fascinated the world, apparently died two months
ago, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
Castaneda, believed to be 72, died April 27 at his
home in the Westwood section of Los Angeles,
according to entertainment lawyer Deborah Drooz,
the Times said. The cause of death was liver cancer.
Castaneda wrote 10 books. He once appeared on a
Time magazine cover as a leader of America's
spiritual renaissance, but he died without public
notice. He immigrated to the United States in 1951.
He was born in Sao Paolo, Brazil, or Cajamarca,
Peru, depending on which version of his
autobiographical accounts are to be believed. His
ex-wife, Margaret Runyan Castaneda, wrote in a 1997
memoir: "Much of the Castaneda mystique is based on
the fact that even his closest friends aren't sure
who he is." "He didn't like attention," Drooz told
he Times. "He always made sure people did not take
his picture or record his voice. He didn't like the
spotlight. Knowing that, I didn't take it upon myself
to issue a press release." No funeral was held and
no public service of any kind took place. The body
was cremated, and his ashes were taken to Mexico,
according to the Culver City mortuary that handled
his remains. 

He leaves behind a will, due to be probated in
Los Angeles next month, and a death certificate
fraught with dubious information. The few people
who may benefit from his rich copyrights were told
of the death, Drooz said, but none chose to alert
the media. The doctor who attended him in his final
days, Angelica Duenas, would not discuss her
secretive patient. Even those who counted Castaneda
a good friend were unaware of his death and
wouldn't comment when told, choosing to honor his
disdain for publicity, no matter what realm of
reality he now inhabits. "I've made it a lifetime
practice never to discuss Carlos Castaneda with
anyone in the newspaper business," said author
Michael Korda, who was once Castaneda's editor at
Simon & Schuster Inc. Castaneda's literary agent
in Los Angeles, Tracy Kramer, would not return
phone calls about the Thomas Pynchon-esque author's
death but issued this statement: "In the tradition
of the shamans of his lineage, Carlos Castaneda left
this world in full awareness." 

Carlos Ce'sar Arana Castaneda immigrated to the U.S.
in 1951. He was born Christmas Day 1925 in Sao
Paolo, Brazil, or Cajamarca, Peru, depending on
which version of his autobiographical accounts can
be believed. He was an inveterate and unrepentant
liar about the statistical details of his life,
from his birthplace to his birth date, and even his
given name remains in some doubt. "Much of the
Castaneda mystique is based on the fact that even
his closest friends aren't sure who he is," wrote
his ex-wife, Margaret Runyan Castaneda, in a 1997
memoir that Castaneda tried to keep from being
published. Whoever he was, whatever his background,
Castaneda galvanized the world 30 years ago. As an
anthropology graduate student at UCLA, he wrote his
master's thesis about a remarkable journey he made
to the Arizona-Mexico desert. Hoping to study the
effects of certain medicinal plants, Castaneda said
he stopped in an Arizona border town and there, in
a Greyhound bus depot, met an old Yaqui Indian from
Sonora, Mexico, named Juan Matus, a brujo, or
sorcerer, or shaman, who used powerful hallucinogens
to initiate the student into an occult world with
origins dating back more than 2,000 years. Under
Don Juan's strenuous tutelage, which lasted
several years, Castaneda experimented with peyote,
jimson weed and dried mushrooms, undergoing moments
of supreme ecstasy and stark panic, all in an
effort to achieve varying "states of nonordinary
reality." Wandering through the desert, with Don
Juan as his psychological and pharmacological
guide, Castaneda said he saw giant insects, learned
to fly, grew a beak, became a crow and ultimately
reached a plateau of higher consciousness, a
hard-won wisdom that made him a "man of knowledge"
like Don Juan. The thesis, published in 1968 by the
University of California Press, became an
international bestseller, striking just the right
note at the peak of the psychedelic 1960s. A
strange alchemy of anthropology, allegory,
parapsychology, ethnography, Buddhism and perhaps
great fiction, "The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui
Way of Knowledge" made Don Juan a household name
and Castaneda a cultural icon. Many still consider
him the godfather of America's New Age movement.
In one of the few profiles with which Castaneda
cooperated, Time magazine wrote: "To tens of
thousands of readers, young and old, the first
meeting of Castaneda with Juan a
better-known literary event than the encounter of
Dante and Beatrice beside the Arno." After his
stunning debut, Castaneda followed with a string
of bestsellers, including "A Separate Reality" and
"Journey to Ixtlan." Soon, readers were flocking
to Mexico, hoping to become apprentices at Don
Juan's feet. But the old Indian could not be found,
which set off widespread speculation that Castaneda
was the author of an elaborate, if ingenious, hoax.
"Is it possible that these books are nonfiction?"
author Joyce Carol Oates asked in 1972. "I realize
that everyone accepts them as anthropological
studies, but they seem to me remarkable works of
art, on the Hesse-like theme of a young man's
initiation into 'another way' of reality. They are
beautifully constructed. The dialogue is faultless.
The character of Don Juan is unforgettable. There
is a novelistic momentum." Such concerns have all
but discredited Castaneda in academia. "At the
moment, [his books] have no presence in
anthropology," said Clifford Geertz, an influential
anthropologist. But Castaneda's penchant for lying
and the disputed existence of Don Juan never
dampened the enthusiasm of his admirers. "It isn't
necessary to believe to get swept up in Castaneda's
otherworldly narrative," wrote Joshua Gilder in the
Saturday Review. "Like myth, it works a strange and
beautiful magic beyond the realm of belief...
Sometimes, admittedly, one gets the impression of a
con artist simply glorifying in the game. Even so,
it is a con touched by genius." Drooz agreed,
saying it was an honor to represent a man with
Castaneda's high moral purpose and impish charm.
"I'm a very cynical, skeptical, atheistic lawyer,
and I was deeply, deeply touched by Castaneda," she
said. To the end, Castaneda stubbornly insisted
that the events he described in his books were not
only real but meticulously documented. "I invented
nothing," he told 400 people attending a 1995
seminar that he conducted in Anaheim. "I'm not
insane, you know. Well, maybe a little insane."
Even his death certificate, apparently, is not free
of misinformation. His occupation is listed as
teacher, his employer the Beverly Hills School
District. But school district records don't show
Castaneda teaching there. Also, though he was said
to have no family, the death certificate lists a
niece, Talia Bey, who is president of Cleargreen
Inc., a company that organizes Castaneda seminars
on "Tensegrity," a modern version of ancient shaman
practices, part yoga, part ergonomic exercises.
Bey was unavailable for comment. Further, the death
certificate lists Castaneda as "Nev. Married,"
though he was married from 1960 to 1973 to Margaret
Runyan Castaneda, of Charleston, W.Va., who said
Castaneda once lied in court, swearing he was the
father of her infant son by another man, then
helped her raise the boy. The son, now 36 and
living in suburban Atlanta, also claims to have a
birth certificate listing Castaneda as his father.
"I haven't been notified" of Castaneda's death,
said Margaret Runyan Castaneda, 76, audibly upset.
"I had no idea." When he wasn't writing about how
to better experience this life, Castaneda was
preoccupied by death. In 1995, he told the Anaheim
seminar: "We are all going to face infinity,
whether we like it or not. Why do we do it when we
are weakest, when we are broken, at the moment of
dying? Why not when we are strong? Why not now?"
But when interviewed by Time in 1973, he was more
succinct about the end, directing the reporter to
a favorite piece of graffiti in Los Angeles that
summed up his view: "Death is the greatest kick
of all. That's why they save it for last."