Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Death of the Guru

For the past week or so I have have been struggling to read a book about the death of Carlos Castaneda. He died in 1998. The book I just read was published in 2003. You might wonder why there was a gap of five years but I think I know why. I believe that it took the author five (four?) years to recover from her experiences with the cult activities of Mr. Castaneda's 'sorcery ' group. The author describes her years associated with this group in painful anecdotes full of cultish mind control and mixed messages. I had scanned the book when it first came out and was shocked by its content. The author claimed to have sex with Carlos (many times) and claimed that he had sex with countless women. I could not believe it. Not Carlos, the spiritual heir to the mythic Don Juan Mateus - the man who said celibacy was the key to obtaining the energy needed to break the veil of this life.
For me, the message was hard to bear because I had read all the Carlos Castaneda books and they touched me. (At least the first four did. The fifth book I found weird and strange mainly because Don Juan was not in it.) After a period of ten or so years, Carlos began writing about Don Juan again. These three books had Don Juan in them and revealed other aspects about his time with Carlos. They were not as good as the first four but they were helpful to me. i was going through a period of change and unsettledness at that time and those books helped give me something to hang onto, an anchor of sorts. Something to believe in.
Then the last set of Carlos books came out in the '90s. They were beyond strange and they were meaningless (to me). I had wondered why I felt that way. Now reading this book, the Sorcerer's Apprentice by Amy Wallace, I knew why. Carlos had strayed from his path with heart and fell headlong into debauchery. Without anyone to guide him, he began forming a cult of groupies around him. I guess that is the temptation of all leaders.
Strangely enough reading this book stirred up a bunch of emotions inside of me (some that had been lying dormant for years). I had considered myself cult material once because I felt that there was nothing for me in the 'ordinary woorld'. I wanted to run away, I wanted somebody to take care of me. I wanted to belong, I wanted to learn the secret knowledge, whatever that was.
I don't think of myself that way anymore. I have discovered that one has to love oneself before looking for that love in the world. Like attracts like. Love attracts love.
I want to thank the author of that book for her brave recount of the goings on that she admits she fell into. She helped me with my own recapitulation of my guru, Carlos. Thanks I want to say, I needed that.


Soulsearcher said...

Although I have never read anything by Carlos Castaneda, I am aware of the danger of cults and gurus. It seems that you have developed new insights into yourself, love, etc. As a spiritual director I would encourage you to keep searching inside yourself. You have the answers within you and only you can discover them. Use others as mirrors to your own inner truth. I enjoy reading your reflections.

Lin said...

I can see why people land into cults--life is tough and here is someone offering to control everything for you. Glad you are finding your true self. It is a lifelong journey, but one that is both rewarding and challenging. I believe my friend Katz has been doing the same. You ought to check him out sometime. :)

butterfly woman said...

I've read the earlier books of Carlos C and was quite captivated by them. I do not want that bubble of imaginative possibilities to burst so will not read this current book. But I will say the teacher (or book) is always there when it is needed. I watch you following your own heart now and am blessed to be by your side to witness it.

About Me

I am a crabby old man who hates everything
I am a tiny wonderer in a large world
I am a young hippie tree-hugger
I am a mid-life crisis disaster area.
I am an attitude of stillness waiting for a wind.
I have not decided yet.