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Customer Review

on January 1, 2009
Wallace's memoir of her years inside Castaneda's inner circle is a fascinating and terrifying portrait of the attraction of charismatic leaders and cults, and their ability to ensnare anyone in their mind games. This book provides a fitting postscript to the first Castaneda critique published in 1976, Richard de Mille's Castaneda's Journey: The Power and the Allegory.

Those who took Castaneda and Don Juan at face value will experience extreme cognitive dissonance reading this book. Intentionally or not, Wallace demolishes the myth of Castaneda as the 'impeccable Nagual sorcerer', provoking doubt as to whether Don Juan even existed or was just the product of Castenada's imagination and some inspired writing. Instead, she reveals a paranoid, manipulative old man surrounded by a secretive cult of true believers who actively aided in his deception. Three decades after The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge was published, it's clear that Castaneda's writings should be lumped with fabulists like Lobsang Rampa and L Ron Hubbard rather than treated as any sort of metaphysical or anthropological revelation.

Since this book was published in 2003, Wallace's speculation about the suicides of the five witches after Castenada's death in 1998 has been confirmed. The remains of Patricia Partin (aka The Blue Scout) found in Death Valley were identified by DNA analysis in 2006, elevating Castenada from mystic phony to the ranks of the Heaven's Gate UFO cult and Jim Jones People's Temple.

Some Castaneda believers remain in denial, clinging to his writings and the absurd Tensegrity system promoted by Cleargreen, ignoring the reality of his ordinary death and the suicides of his inner circle. In the final analysis, Castaneda's engaging mystical nonsense proved to be more toxic and lethal than anyone could have imagined.
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