Revised January 14, 2005; October 26, 2007; May 29, 2013; and May 4, 2017.
Copyright 1998-2017 by John W. Allen.

A page devoted to newspaper clippings, unusual articles some psilocybian mushroom trivia

Hello and welcome to our Scholarly Articles Archives. In this section you will find a wide variety of Rare and hard to find News Items and Articles relating to the visionary mushrooms. I first started to catalogue these articles back in 1976.

Carlos Castaneda: Fact or Fiction

The Seattle Times. Friday June 19, 1998

'Don Juan' Author Castaneda has Died

Los Angeles
Carlos Castaneda, the self-proclaimed “sorcerer” and best-selling author, apparently died two months ago in the same way he lived: quietly, secretly, mysteriously.

His tales of drug-induced mental adventures with a Yaqui Indian named Don Juan once fascinated the world. And though his 10 books continue to sell in 17 languages, he died without public notice on April 27 at his home in Westwood.

The cause was liver cancer; he was believed to have been 72.

As befitting his mystical image, he seemingly vanished into thin air.

“He didn’t like attention,” said lawyer Deborah Drooz, a friend of Castaneda’s and the executor of his estate. “He always made sure people did not take his picture or record his voice. He didn’t like the spotlight. Knowing that, I didn’t take it upon myself to issue a press release.”

No funeral was held; no public service of any kind took place. The author was cremated at once and his ashes were spirited away to Mexico, according to the Culver City mortuary that handled his remains.

He left behind a will, to be probated in Los Angeles next month, and a death certificate fraught with dubious information. The few people who may benefit from his rich copyrights were told of his death, Drooz said, but none chose to alert the media.

Even those who counted Castaneda a good friend were unaware of his death and wouldn’t comment when told, choosing to honor his disdain for publicity, no matter what realm of reality he now inhabits.

Details of his birth are in dispute.

Carlos Cesar Arana Castaneda immigrated to the United States in 1951. He was born Christmas Day 1925 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, or Cajamarca, Peru, depending on which version of his autobiographical accounts can be believed. He was an inveterate and unrepentant liar about the statistical details of his life, from his birthplace to his birth date, and even his given name is in some doubt.

“Much of the Castaneda mystique is based on the fact that even his closest friends aren’t sure who he is,” wrote his ex-wife, Margaret Runyan Castaneda, in a 1997 memoir that Castaneda tried to suppress.

Whoever he was, whatever his background, Castaneda galvanized the world 30 years ago. As an anthropology graduate student at UCLA, he wrote his master’s thesis about a remarkable journey he made to the Arizona-Mexico desert. Hoping to study the effects of certain medicinal plants, Castaneda said he stopped in an Arizona border town and there, in a Greyhound bus depot, met an old Yaqui Indian from Sonora, Mexico, named Juan Matus, a “brujo” -a sorcerer or shaman - who used powerful hallucinogens to initiate the student into a world with origins dating back more than 2,000 years.

Under Don Juan’s strenuous tutelage, which lasted several years, Castaneda experimented with peyote, jimson weed and dried mushrooms, undergoing moments of supreme ecstasy and stark panic, all in an effort to achieve varying “states of nonordinary reality.” Wandering through the desert, with Don Juan as his psychological and pharmacological guide, Castaneda said he saw giant insects, learned to fly, grew a beak, became a crow and ultimately reached a plateau of higher consciousness, a hard-won wisdom that made him a “man of knowledge” like Don Juan.

The Thesis, published in 1968 by the University of California Press, became an international bestseller, striking just the right note at the peak of the psychedelic 1960s. A strange alchemy of anthropology, allegory, parapsychology, ethnography, Buddhism and perhaps fiction, “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge” made Don Juan a household name.

After his stunning debut, Castaneda followed with a string of best sellers, including “A Separate Reality” and "Journey to Ixtlán.” Soon, readers were flocking to Mexico, hoping to become apprentices at Don Juan’s feet.

The old Indian could not be found, which set off widespread speculation that Castaneda was the author of an elaborate, if ingenious hoax.

Such concerns have all but discredited Castaneda in Academia.

“At the moment (his books) have no response in anthropology,” said Clifford Geertz, an influential anthropologist. But Castaneda’s penchant for lying and the disputed existence of Don Juan never dampened the enthusiasm of his admirers.

“It isn’t necessary to believe to get swept up in Castaneda’s otherworldly narrative,” wrote Joshua Gilder in the Saturday Review. “Like myth, it works a strange and beautiful magic beyond the realm of belief . . . Sometimes, admittedly, one gets the impression of a con artist simply glorifying in the game. Even so, it is a con touched by genius.”

To the end, Castaneda stubbornly insisted that the events he described in his books were not only real but meticulously documented.

Even his death certificate is not free of misinformation. His occupation is listed as teacher, his employer the Beverly Hills School District. But School district records don’t show Castaneda teaching there.

Also, although he as said to have no family, the death certificate lists a niece, Talia Bey, who is president of Cleargreen, a company that organizes Castaneda’s seminars on “Tensegrity,” a modern version of ancient shamanic practices, part yoga, part ergonomic exercises. Bey was unavailable for comment.

Further, the death certificate lists Castaneda as “Nev. Married,” although he was married from 1960 to 1973 to Margaret Runyan Castaneda, of Charleston, West Virginia, who said Castaneda once lied in court, swearing he was the father of her infant son by another man, then helped her raise the boy.”

The son, now 36 and living in Suburban Atlanta, also claims to have a birth certificate listing Castaneda as his father.

“I haven’t been notified” of Castaneda’s death, said Margaret Runyan Castaneda, 76. “I had no idea.”

When he wasn’t writing about how to better experience this life, Castaneda was preoccupied by death.

In 1995, he told a seminar: “We are all going to face infinity, whether we like it or not. Why do we do it when we are weakest, when we are broken, at the moment of dying? Why not when we are strong? Why Not Now?


De Mille, Richard. 1976. Castaneda's Journey. Capra Press. Santa Barbara, Ca.

------. Carlos Castaneda-Fact or Fiction. High Times. vol. 20:44-49, 84-96. April.

------. The Shaman of Academie: Carlos Castaneda. Horizon vol. 22(4):64-70.

------. The Don Juan Papers: Further Castaneda Controversies. Ross-Erikson. Santa Barbara, Ca.

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