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I really like books that show the world from an unusual perspective. This is the (allegedly) true account of the apprenticeship of Carlos Castaneda, an anthropology student, to a Yaqui Shaman named Don Juan. It is well read and enjoyable.
What I liked best was the contrast of cultures. So, after Castaneda is scared witless by an encounter with the peyote god "Mescalito" who "teaches a man how to live", the following day he keeps asking "does Mescalito really exist?".
For Don Juan this question is totally missing the point "did you not see Mescalito?" His concern is on what Mescalito communicated and the significance of the encounter for a "man of knowledge". It is the clash of modern rational science with aboriginal religion, in a still enchanted world. In the end it becomes too much for the young student and, fearing he is going mad, he terminates his apprenticeship.
This is a book of its time, written in the early 1960s when people were experimenting with altered states and strange religions. It does give a glimpse of an aboriginal worldview populated by spirits and "powers" who can be called on for help as allies or must be confronted and overcome as adversaries.
I very much enjoyed the narrative section of the book, which raised many questions for me about religion, science and reality - and purpose in life. Sadly the "analysis" section at the end of the book avoids these ontological questions, attributing Casteneda's experiences to "suggestion" combined with the effect of powerful psychoactive plants, and thus is much less interesting, though luckily short.
I will be getting the next in the series, when he returns to his apprenticeship, but not for a while. Overall it is a thought provoking book, very well narrated, but a little strange.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of The Teachings of Don Juan to be better than the print version?
have not read the book
What did you like best about this story?
being on a spiritual / shamanic path I have come across this book several times in the past and have considered reading it but have been put off by the bad reviews. I decided that alot of books especially on these type of topics have some bad reviews. These bad reviews are normally from academics or people from a religious back ground who are ignorant to the topic that they are criticising. Sometimes the bad reviews are from people who are not happy about outsiders wrting about a topic that they were not born into. I do not know if the story in this book is real or fictional. I do however know that I learned alot from the book and have come away with a much better understanding of the world of a Yaqui shaman. This book is great for someone who is on a shamanic path and wants to understand the heart and discipline that is required to be a true shaman. Most of us in the west may become shamanic practitioners but this is on a whole other level.
The second part of the book is more for a student of anthropolgy or someone who wants to know the ins and outs of the plants used in the book. There will not be many readers in that category who have the patience or understanding for this. This does not mean I will review this part of the book badly. I am glad I have finally bought this book and will definitely buy the other books from this author
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to The Teachings of Don Juan the most enjoyable?
The narrator is great. Story is amazing. The wisdom is so unique and one of kind.
What other book might you compare The Teachings of Don Juan to and why?
So unique it's hard to compare to anything else.
What does Luis Moreno bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
TONE!! Luis has an amazing ability to transition between characters so well. So far he is the best narrator I've heard.
What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?
The extent a person is willing to go to acquire knowledge. Reminds me of me.
Any additional comments?
An absolute must for all students of shamanic culture.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
I was very fortunate to have actually met the author. This was sometime in the late seventies or early eighties. I was living with my teacher, who was a native american medicine person. When this odd sort of person just showed up one day and stayed for... somewhere around one or two weeks. He would always sit away from the main group and simply watch, listen, and write. I do not wish to elaborate here, but I have to say that the personal experiences I had when I would notice him were enough to make me believe that Mr. Castaneda did indeed have a spiritual gift and that he had also received some very real training. He ended up leaving a notebook behind when he left and I did read what he had written. One page included an unpublished declaration of release, by Don Juan. To this very day, I still use it!
34 of 41 people found this review helpful