The existential shamanism
of Carlos Castaneda
After taking part in a basic course in shamanism with the late Michael Harner in southern Sweden in 1983 my own shamanic journey brought me into different paths of wisdom; among them the Nordic tradition of Rune Magic and the strange world of Carlos Castaneda’s books. Many enthralling experiences and synchronicities convinced me that these different paths in mystical ways were quite entangled. So how is it that a shamanic tradition from Scandinavia has so much in common with the world of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican sorcerers? The longer and deeper that I have worked with rune magic, the more I have understood of Castaneda’s writings and the more I have been able to extract workable shamanic methods from the long expositions of Castaneda’s teacher don Juan Matus.
The authenticity of don Juan’s teachings have been questioned but to me it is crystal clear that they stem from ancient Mesoamerican traditions. This is corroborated e.g. by the new book by Carl Johan Calleman on the cosmological implications of Maya spirituality – Quantum Science of Psychedelics. The Mayan macrocosmic quantum theories fit very well with Castaneda’s view of the cosmos as a dynamic flow of vibrating fibres. To Castaneda this flow has its origin in what he calls the Eagle, or The Active Side of Infinity, and this is very close to what Calleman (and the Maya) calls The Tree of Life, or the Place of Creation. The origin of the runes is described in similar ways as the Great Void, Ginnungagap, a dimension that alchemists call Unus Mundus.
This understanding of the origin and essence of cosmos as a dynamic flow of formless energy which manifests in manifold ways in ordinary reality is the basis of everything that Castaneda wrote. His 12 books are filled with remarkable experiences and stories of how to achieve balance with this cosmic flow in order to gain knowledge and power; something that ultimately might lead to what Castaneda calls total freedom. My 90-page book on Castaneda is an effort to extract workable shamanic methods from his vast and overwhelming sea of words and, at the same time, keep him at arm’s length, since he harbors some very obvious and treacherous trickster qualities.
The main constituent of Castaneda’s path of knowledge is how to move one’s assemblage point, i.e. the receiving area on one’s energy body of flowing fibres in order to see and experience the essence of everything. A prerequisite of this is to dethrone one’s self-importance, erase one’s personal history, disrupt the routines of life, take full responsibility for one’s actions, achieve inner silence, become inaccessible and utilize death as an adviser (“our only true friend”). The aim of Castaneda’s path is to become a warrior, a man of knowledge, and when that happens all that counts is “energetic facts”. A man, or woman, of knowledge touches the world sparingly but with quality.
Castaneda’s way might seem very individualistic but that is an illusion. The warrior is part of everything else, being neither more nor less important than anything else, and he/she is in deep love with Mother Earth. Castaneda describes this in a wonderful scene where don Juan’s cohort don Genaro after an exhausting show of bodily tricks is lying on his stomach embracing the earth. She is his mother, his teacher and his conveyor of cosmic energy flowing from the active side of infinity. To me this means that the shaman’s knowledge and power is very much an outflow of the earth and the shaman’s freedom implies the freedom of Mother Earth.
My books The Active Side of Infinity: Castaneda and Shamanism and Rune Magic and Shamanism can be ordered from Amazon or directly from firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was originally published in the May 2020 issue of The Echo World http://theechoworld.com/