Amy Wallace’s book, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, is about her years in a complicated relationship with Carlos Castaneda. It contains these words:
Carlos despised this association with drug use. He explained in books and lectures that don Juan had given him psychedelics in the beginning of the apprenticeship because his thinking was so rigid that “he needed to be blasted with dynamite.”
Wallace also says,
While Carlos eschewed recreational use of all psychedelics, he wrote in detail about how “power plants” had moved his assemblage point away from “me-me-me,” The great difficulty, he explained, was to maintain this shift when the drugs had worn off.
No matter how goofy some of his ideas were, this is one place where Castaneda is absolutely right. But the Beatles said it more elegantly–
How often have you been there?
Often enough to know.
What did you see when you were there?
Nothing that doesn’t show.
The sad thing is, whatever realms Castaneda visited, if what he brought back was any indication, they might be realms we had better stay out of. In personal relationships, he seems to have taken an attitude that anything he did was okay, because it was him doing it. Any act of psychic manipulation or mental cruelty could be justified by him, as part of the teaching process. His disciples were supposed to be grateful to be on the receiving end of the sorcerer’s stern attentions, his correction, mockery, and denigration.
He was not what we normally think of as a well-adjusted human being. For many who walk the paths of seekers, just to be functionally human would be enough. But for Castaneda and his associates, humanity was the booby prize. They aspired to be witches, sorcerers, Chacmools, and so forth. It’s no wonder they were weird. There is more about their leader’s seemingly unspiritual and often objectionable behavior on another page.
Castaneda is, of course, the subject of one of the chapters of Acid Heroes.