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Tales of Power Paperback – January 1, 1991
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About the Author
Born in 1925 in Peru, anthropologist Carlos Castaneda wrote a total of 15 books, which sold 8 million copies worldwide and were published in 17 different languages. In his writing, Castaneda describes the teaching of Don Juan, a Yaqui sorcerer and shaman. His works helped define the 1960's and usher in the New Age movement. Even after his mysterious death in California in1998, his books continue to inspire and influence his many devoted fans.
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Top Customer Reviews
In the first volume Carlos describes the weird rituals and exercises that his teacher puts him through as he trains him in the ways of his line of sorcerers. It concludes with a quasi-scholarly analysis, really nothing more than an outline of the concepts of his teacher's world-view. This book focuses on the concept of living like a warrior and the book is structured as a question and answer sequence between student and teacher.
In the second book, whose time frame has a good deal of overlap with the first book, carlos' activites center around coming to believe that the world is an artifical construction of the human ego, a fantasy that we all choose to agree on. Don Juan batters Carlos with psychotropic drugs to break down his ego and force his consciousness over to the other side of awareness, beyond normal human perception.
The trilogy concludes with Carlos pursuing "stopping the world". This offering portrays the final challenge along the path to becoming a sorcerer. The apprentice will be faced with his own imminent death, and either stop the world, disassembling and reassembling "reality" in a way that ensures his survival, or accept death and enter the eternal realm. Obviously Carlos survives, as he wrote a book about it, and in the process spawned an immense controversy. What was all this bizarre stuff? Was it real? Was there a real Don Juan? A Don Genaro? The debate went on and still goes on, in a greatly diminished form, to this day.
The sixth book continues into the time after the cliff jump in book three, but it does a lot more than that. In this book, Don Juan explains to Carlos how it all works, why he was selected for this task, and what he's supposed to do from this point on. In typical thick-headed fashion, Carlos stumbles on, writing it all down, and seeming to still miss the real essential points that the teacher is making. What's good about this book is that it explains all of the goings on in the first three books, as well as how the sorcerers structure their view of reality. Very powerful stuff.
The remainder of Carlos' writings are very obscure, fastastical, and just downright strange, except for "The Active Side of Infinity", written towards the end of his life.
Don't get me wrong, I love CC, I've been reading him since 1971. I've read every book, multiple times, as well as his wife's book, and books by detractors and debunkers, and a great many articles and papers on him and his work. If you like it, read them all, it's great literature if nothing else. But if I could only have one. This is it.
in literary history, abetted by the fact that the author himself
swore to the truth of every fantastical event he described in their pages until his dying day. That Castaneda died an old,
frail man when the books promised an extraordinarily long and healthy life seemed to give lie to his words, but in fact this
does not take away from the philosophical beauty of works like
"Tales Of Power", which is my favorite of the six I have read
so far (there are ten in all).
The first book, "The Teachings Of Don Juan", is easily the
slightest--although it introduces the saga and provides the reader with some of the terminology, it is clear that Castaneda
had yet to grasp what was happening to him, and much of it is (as he later admits) a strange cross between far-fetched prose and overly-analytical text. "A Separate Reality" is a vast improvement, even as the stories get wilder and wilder; some readers have howled with laughter over tales of invisible 'allies' which guard the sorcerer, or of an astral
"yoke" which can give a man superhuman powers, but the imagery
is extraordinary and the philosophical lessons behind such
truly bizarre events are unique and important.
The third book, "Journey To Ixtlan", is the easiest to swallow for most people, since it concentrates on the self-help and ethical aspects of the teaching and keeps the wild stories to a bare minimum (as such, it is highly recommended). However, "Tales Of Power" picks up where "A Separate Reality" left off and ups the ante on both the crazy events (at one point Castaneda is teleported in time and space) and the overall
philosphical arc of the series, for it is in this volume that the all-important ideas of the 'tonal' and 'nagual' are introduced, discussed and exhibited. Although the concepts may sound like a souped-up version of Sartre-styled existentialism (anyone remember "Nausea"?) and Zen, there is nothing wrong with
this and, in fact, by presenting the ideas in these new terms
he makes them sound fresh and arguably easier to understand. His characterizations of Don Juan and Don Genaro are as meticulous as ever, and both men emerge in the book as spiritual
masters of a most peculiar order. Even if neither ever existed,
or if Casteneda made every word up out of thin air (and he didn't--researchers have verified his trips to Mexico on these
dates), it doesn't matter--the wisdom you will receive from these books is priceless.