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A MYTHICAL ANALYSIS OF A YAQUI WAY OF KNOWLEDGE

4-11-95

In the summer of 1960, Carlos Casteneda, a UCLA anthropology student traveled to the

southwest to do research on medicinal plants. While at a bus station, he met an extraordinary

man. His name was don Juan Mateus, but I will refer to him as don Juan. Don Juan, a Yaqui

“brujo” or shaman, decides to teach Carlos the “Yaqui way of knowledge.” It is not known if

these stories are fiction or non-fiction and many critics still debate over his writings. I interpret his

books as modern mythological stories for several reasons. The “Heroic Journey Archetype” and

shamanistic ideologies, and also the general moral, explainative, and philosophical content of his

writings indicate that these stories can be viewed as “modern myth”.

Throughout Casteneda’s stories you can see the “Heroic Journey Archetype”. Carlos goes

through a restless stage and breaks ties with his studies and professors at school. He moves

forward with the help of don Juan, whose shamanic wisdom enlightens and guides Carlos along

his spiritual path. He also faces death many times in his quest to become a warrior. Finally, after

many years, he “passes through”. This mythological archetype is one of the main reasons I

believe his stories are mythical in nature.

There are also many shamanistic idealogies that run throughout his stories. Views of the

natural world including plant life, animal life, and elements are all personified. Everything is

embodied with spirit. Concepts of reality are altered through drug induced states. Mushrooms

and peyote are mainly used in rituals that don Juan uses to teach Carlos his way of knowledge:

Mescalito, the “spirit” of the peyote plant, indicated to don Juan that Carlos was the “chosen” one,

the person to whom don Juan should pass on his knowledge(CLC,87). Don Juan speaks of many

different spirits and separate realities. His teaching’s gave an explanation to man’s view of

existence and his ignorance resulting from attachment to the material world.

Mythological proof is also found in don Juan’s teachings, which compare Indian folklore,

mysticism, and philosophy. Don Juan explains that there are many different planes of reality and

that a warrior must detach himself with the aid of an ally. Carlos’s ally is “Mescalito” or the spirit

of the peyote plant. Don Juan’s ally is “the little smoke”; a mixture made from hallucinogenic

mushrooms. He explains that all life is made up of controlled folly and attachment to the material

world causes ignorance and blindness. A warrior must learn to “see” and an ally helps achieve

these states of non-ordinary “seeing.” Don Juan’s teachings are closely related to Buddhist

philosophy. By achieving these states of non-ordinary reality a warrior learns how to live

correctly without any material distractions.

Carlos Casteneda’s stories contain many mythical elements. “Heroic Archetype”,

shamanistic ideals, and eastern philosophical ideals are just a few. His views of reality and the

spiritual journey to true knowledge are remarkable. “For me there is only the traveling on paths

that have heart, on any path that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile

challenge is to transverse its full length. And there I travel, looking, looking, breathlessly.”-Don

Juan

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 12

The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way Of Knowledge

Carlos Casteneda

Washington Square Press Copy. 1968

The Tall Candle, The Personal Chronicle of a Yaqui Indian

Rosalio Moises, Jane Kelly, William Holden

University of Nebraska Press Copy. 1971

A MYTHICAL ANALYSIS OF A YAQUI WAY OF KNOWLEDGE

4-11-95

In the summer of 1960, Carlos Casteneda, a UCLA anthropology student traveled to the

southwest to do research on medicinal plants. While at a bus station, he met an extraordinary

man. His name was don Juan Mateus, but I will refer to him as don Juan. Don Juan, a Yaqui

“brujo” or shaman, decides to teach Carlos the “Yaqui way of knowledge.” It is not known if

these stories are fiction or non-fiction and many critics still debate over his writings. I interpret his

books as modern mythological stories for several reasons. The “Heroic Journey Archetype” and

shamanistic ideologies, and also the general moral, explainative, and philosophical content of his

writings indicate that these stories can be viewed as “modern myth”.

Throughout Casteneda’s stories you can see the “Heroic Journey Archetype”. Carlos goes

through a restless stage and breaks ties with his studies and professors at school. He moves

forward with the help of don Juan, whose shamanic wisdom enlightens and guides Carlos along

his spiritual path. He also faces death many times in his quest to become a warrior. Finally, after

many years, he “passes through”. This mythological archetype is one of the main reasons I

believe his stories are mythical in nature.

There are also many shamanistic idealogies that run throughout his stories. Views of the

natural world including plant life, animal life, and elements are all personified. Everything is

embodied with spirit. Concepts of reality are altered through drug induced states. Mushrooms

and peyote are mainly used in rituals that don Juan uses to teach Carlos his way of knowledge:

Mescalito, the “spirit” of the peyote plant, indicated to don Juan that Carlos was the “chosen” one,

the person to whom don Juan should pass on his knowledge(CLC,87). Don Juan speaks of many

different spirits and separate realities. His teaching’s gave an explanation to man’s view of

existence and his ignorance resulting from attachment to the material world.

Mythological proof is also found in don Juan’s teachings, which compare Indian folklore,

mysticism, and philosophy. Don Juan explains that there are many different planes of reality and

that a warrior must detach himself with the aid of an ally. Carlos’s ally is “Mescalito” or the spirit

of the peyote plant. Don Juan’s ally is “the little smoke”; a mixture made from hallucinogenic

mushrooms. He explains that all life is made up of controlled folly and attachment to the material

world causes ignorance and blindness. A warrior must learn to “see” and an ally helps achieve

these states of non-ordinary “seeing.” Don Juan’s teachings are closely related to Buddhist

philosophy. By achieving these states of non-ordinary reality a warrior learns how to live

correctly without any material distractions.

Carlos Casteneda’s stories contain many mythical elements. “Heroic Archetype”,

shamanistic ideals, and eastern philosophical ideals are just a few. His views of reality and the

spiritual journey to true knowledge are remarkable. “For me there is only the traveling on paths

that have heart, on any path that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile

challenge is to transverse its full length. And there I travel, looking, looking, breathlessly.”-Don

Juan

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vol. 12

The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way Of Knowledge

Carlos Casteneda

Washington Square Press Copy. 1968

The Tall Candle, The Personal Chronicle of a Yaqui Indian

Rosalio Moises, Jane Kelly, William Holden

University of Nebraska Press Copy. 1971

A MYTHICAL ANALYSIS OF A YAQUI WAY OF KNOWLEDGE

4-11-95

In the summer of 1960, Carlos Casteneda, a UCLA anthropology student traveled to the

southwest to do research on medicinal plants. While at a bus station, he met an extraordinary

man. His name was don Juan Mateus, but I will refer to him as don Juan. Don Juan, a Yaqui

“brujo” or shaman, decides to teach Carlos the “Yaqui way of knowledge.” It is not known if

these stories are fiction or non-fiction and many critics still debate over his writings. I interpret his

books as modern mythological stories for several reasons. The “Heroic Journey Archetype” and

shamanistic ideologies, and also the general moral, explainative, and philosophical content of his

writings indicate that these stories can be viewed as “modern myth”.

Throughout Casteneda’s stories you can see the “Heroic Journey Archetype”. Carlos goes

through a restless stage and breaks ties with his studies and professors at school. He moves

forward with the help of don Juan, whose shamanic wisdom enlightens and guides Carlos along

his spiritual path. He also faces death many times in his quest to become a warrior. Finally, after

many years, he “passes through”. This mythological archetype is one of the main reasons I

believe his stories are mythical in nature.

There are also many shamanistic idealogies that run throughout his stories. Views of the

natural world including plant life, animal life, and elements are all personified. Everything is

embodied with spirit. Concepts of reality are altered through drug induced states. Mushrooms

and peyote are mainly used in rituals that don Juan uses to teach Carlos his way of knowledge:

Mescalito, the “spirit” of the peyote plant, indicated to don Juan that Carlos was the “chosen” one,

the person to whom don Juan should pass on his knowledge(CLC,87). Don Juan speaks of many

different spirits and separate realities. His teaching’s gave an explanation to man’s view of

existence and his ignorance resulting from attachment to the material world.

Mythological proof is also found in don Juan’s teachings, which compare Indian folk


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