Carlos Castaneda - Enigma of a Sorcerer
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A best-selling Author for 30 years, Carlos Castaneda inspired millions to break free from social dogma, fueling controversy over his work's authenticity and assertions of perceiving non-ordinary reality, during an apprenticeship with Yaqui sorcerer, don Juan Matus. Genius, guru, cult leader or fraud? No one really knows. Over three years in the making, this shocking expose' explores Castaneda's mythic impact, controversial teachings and cult following. Candid interviews backed with dazzling animation and experimental footage offer an intense visual and intellectual experience.
This engrossing movie gets full marks for including the voices of both Castaneda's friends and foes reflecting an ambivalent, still-unresolved attitude toward its subject, ultimately validated as an inspired thinker. A better lesson might be, if you meet a Buddha like Carlos Castaneda in the road -- run like hell in the other direction. --Gregg Rickman, SF Weekly
An interesting documentary that delves into the life of the reclusive writer, showing his flaws (he made up Don Juan) which only makes rational people shake our heads in amazement at the gullible believers. A fascinating tale… --Marc Mohan, Portland Oregonian
With tribal rave music and trippy images cascading in the background...this is both a troubling and enlightening documentary and a true must see for anyone who has ever read Castaneda s books. --Reverand Damuzi, Cannabis Culture
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For this reason I was very interested in watching this movie, but it was so poorly written and directed that I had to turn it off after about 30 minutes. It seemed to be nothing more than a series of talking heads, which would have been bad enough, but to make it worse, each interview subject was backed by psychedelic imagery that was distracting and unnecessary. And the music was mixed way too loud.
Perhaps the film got better after the first 30 minutes. I would like to think that it included some historical research on Toltec history, shamanic spirituality and other relevant information, and maybe some nice visuals (other than those lame psychedelic images) but I couldn't watch it long enough to find out.
Anyway, I was delighted to find this movie, but disappointed with it's execution. It was another of the spiritual talking heads documentaries with ambient music being played behind. But this one was worse than most because of the psychedelic and distracting color explosions and distortions of the very scant actual images. This could have been a better audio presentation. If you are new to the controversy surrounding Castaneda's books, there is much to learn here. I was hoping however for a compelling piece of art that touches deep and inspires an opening to expanding consciousness in much the same way that Carlos did it himself . . . but then, that was his genius of which I mentioned; the reason why we even care about all of this. The movie which captures a bit of the richness of Carlos' ideas and the convoluted twist of his personality still remains to be made.
Okay, it's no secret that I have always thought of deMille as a rather uninspired academician, and that opinion has not changed as a result of viewing this film. For someone who has essentially devoted a large part of his life to debunking Castaneda, all he has really come up with is that the dates cited in CC's books don't always coincide when he could have REALLY been in Mexico. That, and some dry observations about how Castaneda's books always seemed to come out shortly AFTER, and seemingly ECHO things written in other texts about shamanism. Ho hum. Trying to debunk the mystical with stale academic logic is rather like trying to stop the sun in its path with a wand.
If shamanism is a real thing, it stands to reason a lot of shamans are going to come to the same conclusions, as a result of the same experiences, at around the same point in time. I once was in the process of writing a science fiction story, only to have it appear in print about 5 minutes after I finished my first draft. The plot was virtually identical. The characters were virtually interchangeable from her story to mine. Did the other writer plagiarize me? Did I plagiarize her? Of course not. Sometimes a synchronicity really is just a synchronicity. Things may be "in the air" (which is a viable possibility in a quantum universe). Or we may all be Dreaming the same strange Dream, occasionally exchanging ideas and information in the outer limits of the twilight zone.
And yet, despite deMille, the film was quite enlightening and discussed some things I hadn't known before. I do find it ironic, however, that so many of the inner circle really and CLEARLY do not "get it" and never did. I was HIGHLY impressed with "Felix", but other than that, so many of them seemed to be lost followers who were now trying to rebuild the world CC shattered for them - a shattering that could have been a grand gift, but appeared to most of the interviewees to have been a great burden instead. Rather like Cypher, they just wanted to go back to the matrix, when the world made sense and could be shoved into neat little categories. And, of course, Carlos's primary goal seemed to be exactly the opposite - tear down the walls of the matrix and *see* the world for what it is.
I found this especially true of Corey's comments at certain points - though he made a valiant attempt to present himself as an unbiased commentator (and did a fairly good job of it most of the time), it was easy to see he is still hurting from, and forever changed by, whatever idea he was attached to that never manifested. In wanting Carlos to be all things, it became necessary for him & others to whittle "the man" down to "just a man". In other words - let's debunk the messenger so we don't have to consider the dire consequences of the message itself. And for anyone who has read Castaneda and actually understood it, those consequences are dire indeed. We are beings who are going to die and be forever lost to the universe and to ourselves unless we are successful in creating the sorcerer's double and inhabiting the assemblage point of the totality of ourselves.
My main complaint with this film was that it did nothing to really discuss the teachings of Castaneda - and focused more on "the man" and his shortcomings as a human being. That's unfortunate, since any one of Castaneda's books would be worthy of its own documentary.
Having read the Sustained Action website a few years ago, (and having been labeled a "true believer" and summarily dismissed because of failure to to agree that Carlos was a dangerous charlatan), I also still feel that a lot of the folks who were members of that inner circle were "followers" - and that alone explains their disappointment and disillusionment. The entirety of the Toltec teachings is about not following gurus, but learning instead to create our own foundation based wholly on experience - for it is only experience that may be processed into Knowledge. Warriors take the lessons we may gather from our Toltec teachers, but we recognize that the teachers themselves - yes, even so-called Naguals - are first and foremost human beings who are going to die.
And yet... one of the primary arguments for Carlos being a charlatan has always been that he seemingly did not "burn with the fire from within". While this was not specifically discussed in the film, it was a major issue with some of the folks at Sustained Action, and probably still is. And so, while the film spoke at length about how we are "beings who are going to die," it seemed oddly ironic that the man who wrote those words was expected to be a being who would not die - at least not in the manner of a human being.
Despite the somewhat annoying graphics at times, the film seemed to present a view of some people with real heart - whatever their opinion of Carlos ended up being in the end. As I say, "Felix" was quite amazing in the depth of his understanding, and I wouldn't mind talking to him one on one at some point. Amy Wallace seemed quite sincere, but it was also seemed to me that even if she might have been on a Toltec path at some point, her alignment and her love was more for Carlos than for the path. And there was something very touching and very human about that.
Are the witches dead? Who's to say? Is Tensegrity based on a series of ancient movements handed down directly from don Juan, or is it just some modified karate kata? Does it matter?
What I found interesting was that several of those who were interviewed had come to somewhat the same conclusion I have re the persona of don Juan. At least 2 of them ventured to say they did not believe don Juan ever existed as an extant persona. None ever went so far as to say don Juan may have been Castaneda's double, which is my personal theory - though Daniel Noel came close at one point when commenting on what is "real" - and coming around to saying that Don Juan is certainly real now. He has the power to change lives, after all, ad something "unreal" would have no such ability.
We have made don Juan real - by giving him our power and our attention and our love. Maybe that's what Carlos intended all along - for it is my contention that he had to actually BE a wily sorcerer in order to write ABOUT wily sorcerers in the manner he did. The Eagle's Gift could not have been written by anyone other than "don Juan" himself - the intricacies are simply too precise to have been created by someone who had not experienced these things directly - something I could not have said until I also had those same experiences as a result of my Intent. Before that, I might also have felt it was fiction. Having been there, I now Know it is Truth.
So, while the film has certain drawbacks,I would recommend it to anyone on a spiritual path as a reminder to all of us that our gurus and even our teachers are all only humans with feet of clay... but that doesn't for a moment detract from their message if one has the courage and the Intent to see beyond the foibles of the human and into the heart of the nagual.