Born: 25 December 1925
Died: 27 April 1998
Birthplace: Cajamarca, Peru
Best known as: Author of The Teachings of don Juan
Carlos Castaneda was the enigmatic author of several best-selling books about the mystical teachings of don Juan Matus, a Yaqui Indian shaman from Sonora, Mexico, first introduced to audiences in 1968's The Teachings of don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Castaneda's other books continued the story, with don Juan (or his companion, don Genaro) playing the wise descendant of ancient Mexican shamans and Castaneda playing the dim but earnest student. The short version: Castaneda met don Juan at a bus station in Arizona in 1960 and learned that getting stoned in the desert opened doors to new perspectives on reality. Castaneda, though, had a tough time overcoming his Western rationalism and grasping ancient Mexican mystical stuff. His books about don Juan were originally presented as a scholarly anthropological study, but Castaneda's credibility gradually came to be called into question. To this day the debate goes on -- was Castaneda a brilliant anthropologist and philosopher, or was he a world class charlatan? He kept his own life story a mystery, but it is generally accepted that he was born in Peru, immigrated to the United States in the early 1950s, attended college in Los Angeles and became a naturalized citizen in 1957. His experiences in the early '60s, on which the first books are based, remain clouded in mystery. The only thing that is certain is that his books, true or not, struck a chord with the public. His best-selling books include A Separate Reality (1971), The Eagle's Gift (1981), The Fire From Within (1984) and The Art of Dreaming (1993).
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