Friday, September 25, 2015

Recapitulating Carlos Castaneda page 1


These Emerge Art fragments show the same motif, a person looking up through a window. The first two on the left were done on May 31st  2015 with approximately 1 minute 30 seconds between takes. The one on the right was taken September 18th 2015. With the first two on the left, I was doing a study of how water would react to the subject of shamanism by placing the bowl of water on books that illustrated how  ancient cultures used artistic expressions to channel healing forces from the invisible. The one on the right was realized to verify what the water could show us about the many encounters Carlos Castaneda had with Don Juan. I placed it beside a print of a few of the original book covers of Castaneda's work and on top of a book entitled Les Stratégies du Nagual, a group work written by apprentices who worked closely with him. As I look at the three images aligned this way, I hypothesize that the motif of a person appearing to look out of a window on the left side of the bowl from my perspective is the symbol water  uses to express shamanism. The two images on the left were placed on books that looked at shamanism of many cultures around the globe and there is a sense that the two characters are from different cultures. The one on the far left looks female and the one in the center looks like a man in uniform. The one on the right has a distinct Mexican flavor with the elaborate hat and Indian features. The shamanism that was studied by Castaneda was related to the Toltec culture, a close relative of the Aztec culture. Photos © Lena Ghio 2015
I found an article by Sam Keen in a 1972 Psychology Today Magazine, Seeing Castaneda. Reading it changed my life at once. It hit me like a bolt of lightning like The Tower card in the Tarot. Sam Keen asked some very pertinent questions about the existence of Don Juan and whether or not he was a real person or merely an invention; about what Don Juan was actually teaching the anthropology student, was he de-programming him or re-programming him. In the early 1970's people were experimenting with new ways of structuring their lives instead of being continuously repressed by hypocritical politicians and clergymen.

I was living in a hopeless world where I had absolutely no opportunities, I had grave health issues, I was desperately poor. There were no representatives of the religion my family brought me up in there to give me any kind of support. Doctors could not diagnose what I had. It was very bleak. When I read the article, the words of Castaneda gave me a starting point. He said that Don Juan told him that sorcerers like him know the world with their whole body, not just with their eyes like most modern western humans perceive. I was going to start by reclaiming a healthy body. I began practicing yoga everyday. I trimmed down. My practice was a source of direct happiness for me that I held onto for many years.

In the book The Wheel of Time, Castaneda describes that he structured the book by picking passages haphazardly. I think that the way I began reading Castaneda affected what I got out of his writing. The Sam Keen article is very sober and academic. That is the mood I have when I enjoy his books. I approach them with the knowledge I will find at least one phrase that will inspire and guide me. And I have never been let down. I love the way there is no dogma to bind me. I love the way he makes the most mundane acts, like walking or eating soup, magical and full of meaning!

The next time I read Castaneda was on a bus trip to Ottawa I took for my mother. She needed me to go pay an important bill. As I was waiting for the return bus I found a cheap paperback copy of Journey to Ixtlan at the depot.

to be continued...

The full pictures from which the above crops were taken. Photos © Lena Ghio 2015


  1. Whatdo you mean to be continued...where s the rest??

    1. I am recapitulating it. I am now breathing and recalling the impact Journey to Ixtlan had on me. For example I am remembering the bus ride back to Montreal. The trees that lined the roads formed a green fringe at the edge of my eyes that were plunged with delight in a powerful adventure. I was reading the introduction when Don Juan suggested a friend of CC who had problems with her child to take him to see a dead child at the morgue. My father was dying at that time. A truly sad affair. be continued