Thursday, June 19, 2008

Finding Castaneda’s Ixtlan

I have head before the name of the author and anthropologist Carlos Castaneda from friends and writers whom I usually read in newspaper columns. These people usually attributed Castaneda to the seminal work titled The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. The book, they described, talks about the psychedelic adventure of Castaneda when he came to be a student of a native Indian named don Juan Matus whom he was thought how to experience the use of psychotropic plants like peyote. One way or another, the platitudes about Castaneda and his work made me wonder what the book was really like when reading and what it really presents to the public. For a long time I kept within myself certain curiosity on what Castaneda deals with his works and books.

Unknown to me, the time when I can satisfy my curiosity about Castaneda would come when one day I strolled in a nearby mall and saw a book sale. Without anything to do, I flipped through the pages of some dusty books and scanned without order the spine of the books piled there. Then, lo and behold, the name Carlos Castaneda suddenly sprang up in one of the books and for 25 cents one of his unknown works titled Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan could be had. I quickly shelled up from my pocket the amount, grabbed the book and went to the cashier to pay for it. Upon reaching home, I locked myself up in my room and went on to devour the book anticipating something grandeur, something out of this world, something that would quench my curiosity about Carlos Castaneda.

There was nothing difficult in the text of Carlos Castaneda. The book was written in a clear, succinct narrative style that anybody with an interest in books can easily understand. There in the introduction of Castaneda, he explains how he had been hooked by the oddity of don Juan Matus, notoriously known in the old man’s community as somebody who had lost a screw in his head and showed deviant notion of reality when talk to.

The book is basically a semi-journal on the events that transpired from the perspective of Castaneda when he went under the tutelage of don Juan learning about sorcery and the esoteric wisdom of the native Indians. One lesson after another lesson, Castaneda is thought by the old man about the hidden and mysterious design of reality and on how to become a warrior and achieving this upon finding a worthy opponent. And this don Juan relays to Castaneda in somewhat funny, comical way that the former would deliver in sporadic attacks of laughter that usually would send him almost lying of the floor as he kicked in the air in utter display of astonishment on the naivety of Castaneda.

Throughout the book, Castaneda and don Juan make several journeys into the desert, on the hunt for a worthy opponent and a chance to view the mystical design of the universe. As I have mentioned earlier, the old man is always in a gleeful mood, almost always acting in a funny way and at the same time saying as truthful like this sentence: “…for me the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable; my interest has been to convince you (Castaneda) that you must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvelous world… that you must learn to make every act count, since you are going to be here for only a short while, in fact, too, short for witnessing all the marvels of it.”

If there ever was a book that astonished me beyond the power of words uttered in it, the mysticism of the subject and the different way as to how to see the world, then this book is it. At the same time, Journey to Ixtlan no matter how entertaining and happy don Magus is described, as somebody who has discovered the underlying design of the reality of the universe, is one of the saddest book I have ever read. It is the saddest book I have ever read because along side the gift of knowing the reality of the world there comes along with it the fact that you can no longer return to your own place, to your own city. This is the reason why the book is entitled Journey to Ixtlan. Ixtlan, as a place would still be there, but because your thoughts and experience have brought you to a different level of understanding, the place will no longer be the same old place. The journey to reach it will never end since there is no such thing as return to innocence.

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