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Full Review
Carlos Castaneda's don Juan Series
by Carlos Castaneda
Univ. of California Press, Simon & Schuster 
1968, 1973 
Book Reviews
Reviewed by Erowid, 4/11/1998

We didn’t provide a rating of this series at the top of the page. It doesn’t really fit easily into a 1-5 scale. It’s a classic. In many ways, this is one of the best series we’ve ever read. In other ways, it’s a series of cheap romance novels. Highly Recommended.


  1. There are no better books for a person who wishes to pursue knowledge. There is so much power within these chronicles that I suggest reading them slowly. Absorb it all. Take a break when you need to, (even if it takes 5 years). There is very little fluff to bog down the content, which means one should be careful when reading. The best part about these books is the wisdom Don Juan departs to Castaneda, who in turn gives it to the modern world, which truly, truly needs this perspective.

    Comment by Noah — 3/27/2005 @ 1:35 pm

  2. Years ago, I loved these books. They opened my mind to a whole new realm of spiritual exploration. They introduced me to shamanism before I even knew what it was. They taught me to respect and listen to all our animal, plant, and other teachers. What I am in my practice of paganism and in my continuing exploration of shamanism grew very much out of my love of these books. But, having said that, what we know now about Castaneda, the extent to which he outright stole so much of his work from First Nations peoples, the extent to which he defrauded his followers, the extent to which he established himself as the sole authority of what can be at least defined as a cult-like following, and the extent to which the consequences of his teachings are such that, after his death, some of his followers descended into alcoholism and suicide: I have to weigh his teachings with much care and concern. Despite the extent to which one must inevitably conclude that his writings are more fiction than fact, I still believe Castaneda’s books are a great source of inspiration that I hope will propel the reader to explore native teachings, specifically shamanism, from more legitimate sources. I recommend Michael Harner, for one, as a great starting place for more in-depth and serious exploration. I also recommend Sarangerel for her work in Mongolian shamanism as well. Namaste!

    Comment by Biran Sefar — 4/27/2005 @ 1:13 pm

  3. The original review stated that “It doesn’t fit easilily into a 1-5 scale…classic…in many ways one of the best series…other ways, it’s a series of cheap romance novels…” My opinion of Carlos Castaneda generally falls into the latter comments given. I think his books are trashy, feel goody, new age rubbish. While I appreciate the way he drew people into anthropology and introduced readers to an nearly exinct culture of people. It just seems everything is overblown, not in a profound way, but like an annoying melodramatic soap opera or romance novel. I think there are better factual accounts of shamanistic practices. While some still take Castaneda’s writings as factual, many people well learned in the subject think otherwise. This book reminds me of a certain new age,90’s hippy stereotype. This book makes me think of power crystals, Yanni and Kenny G. playing in the backround, sandles, and incense in a corny yuppy apartment.

    Comment by monoamine — 5/13/2005 @ 8:44 pm

  4. I first read the series when my dad suggested them to me, I was 9 (not sure, could be 8 could be 10) at the time, and I loved them, although I had a great deal of difficulty describing them to my friends. I knew nothing of psychedelic culture at the time, and the books didnt spark any interest, but the alternate mode of reality described in the series was a formative experience. Many years later, I have dabbled in psychedelic culture and developed a great interest in it. Upon rereading the series (I just started them for the second time, 1/2 way through a separate reality) I am enjoying them in a new light. I am certainly not a shamanist in my belief system, in many ways I am everything about Carlos that Don Juan tells him he must abandon, but nonetheless I think there is great wisdom in Don Juan’s teachings for ordinary people in a nonmagical world.

    Classics. Not for everyone, but few classics are for everyone.

    Comment by 21stCenturySchizoidMan — 6/5/2005 @ 11:12 pm

  5. I first read [the teachings]in 1977,to say that it totally captivated my mind is an understatement.The search for truth and knowledge is the primary purpose we seek as individuals.This series of books is about perception and reality,it is not about the use of drugs or the drug culture.[In one of the books,Don Juan tells Carlos that the only reason he used any drugs at all was to open his perception]If you open your mind to the life of Don Juans’ world,you would see that he is only showing us a better way to live and be free.

    Comment by khelms — 6/10/2005 @ 6:49 am

  6. I am Sooooooooooo glad, this website even talks about the Carlos Castaneda series. I first stumbled upon these books back in 2000 from a buddhist message board, they were talking about stuff that was other-worldy, and the moderaters told them they weren’t allowed to talk about such deep subjects because of how controversial they were. Anyway, I started reading them without having a clue as to what they were about. Last year I finished the last book. I took 8 month breaks at certain times, because I had to just absorb the information, and remember what it was like to live a ‘normal’ life. These books have forever changed my life, and I beleive are a big influence on the massive change of consciousness that now stands imminent. I have learned so much, I have since reading these books, become a more experienced dreamer, and have received knowledge from my dreams that I can bring back to the waking world. It is to the point that I can contact anyone I wish to from the dead through my dreams. I do it on a regular basis, before I go to sleep I can ask a question about anything under the sun, and my dreams will reveal the answer to me. Dreams are only one angle of this multi-faceted WORLD of knowledge. And for those that don’t like Castaneda, or want to discredit him, there ARE other students of Don Juan that wrote books, just off-hand I can think of “Florinda Donner” (something like that) and “Ken Eagle Feather”, and there are a few more, I think. The guy above is right, the only reason Carlos even took hallucinogens was so that his mind could “get up to speed” as don juan put it, and I could not agree more, I have eaten as many mushrooms as I can, and am now to the point where I have sworn off ALL hallucinogens, because I feel I may go crazy from the excess, my mind definately works at a faster pace, and considers and insights a lot more about nature and people. I have had dreams that reveal to me the nature of this world, gawd, I can go on and on, but the best thing to do is pick up the first book for yourself, if you don’t like it, dont read the rest, otherwise, you will be sucked into this world just like I was. In retrospect, its a mixed bag, both a blessing and a curse. In the ultimate end, I’m sure it will be a blessing, the curse was just the hard work to reach true freedom of perception.

    Comment by Dream Traveler — 6/15/2005 @ 10:16 pm

  7. i have to disagree with the term “cheap romance novels”, i cannot understand how one could use such words to describe the works of Castaneda.
    I, and all my friends to whom i introduced the series, was really shaken by these books and actually stopped reading them in the middle of “Fire Within” because it was simply too much for me.
    I think these are fictionnal works, in fact i am convinced they are simply because no mention of the thousands of pages which he supposedly wrote is made anywhere ; nobody saw them and i think that if they existed he would have released them after his death just as Don Juan told him when he asks him in the 2nd book if he should keep his knowledge secret or not.
    That being said i just cannot understand how one mind could produce such a constant (at least up until the 4th or 5th book) system and introduce so many concepts without outside influence, especially since he was an academic sort of guy, more rational than irrational.
    Castaneda introduced to westerners concepts that are completely obliterated by the individualistic, capitalistic and moralist system in which we live.
    Wether he was a fraud or not does not matter to me, the truth is he got a phD with those writings so either he fooled the biggest “rational” institution that exists or his work is simply too intense to be apprehended as truth.
    I think everybody should at least read not the 1st (which is definately hippy”oooh drugs are crazy man!”-oriented but it was released in 68 so…) but the 2nd which is really where the system of the Toltecs takes form and the practical methods begin to be presented to the reader.

    Note to admins:
    English not being my native language feel free to reword my comment if necessary but please don’t change the meaning!
    I know you wont you guys rock and i take this opportunity to thank you for having made erowid because it avoided me many unnecessary hassles through my psychonautik exploration of the world.

    Comment by b0bk — 10/3/2005 @ 10:13 am

  8. I have been reading the series for 28 years now, ever since a mate threw the first book at me with the comment’here this is your kind of sh** I cant get my head around it’ Ive just aquired the missing book from my set ‘the Power of Silence’.Like a lot of people I found them fascinating unnerving and didn’t know whether they were fact or fiction, eventually I settled for fact and started to absorb the knowledge,each book has taken several readings to fully understand the implications imparted in them, and as I aquired each book I reread the previous books to keep it all in context. After a while you learn to strip off the meaningless stuff like the drug taking etc which from a personal viewpoint was entertaining having partaken of certain substances both natural and man made.However their purpose is to point us all in the direction of personal freedom not to take us there, Mr Castanedas job was to just tell the world of the possibilities within our reach.In turn I have endeavoured to pass on the lessons to like minded friends and that in itself has helped me to understand the meaning and reasoning behind a lot of it.
    keep on reading Noah, namaste Biran, Dream on traveller see you around maybe, 21stCman you,re giving your age away, b0bk your the first to mention the toltecs in a long time, be a warrior khelms, monoamine I was tempted to be cutting but then I realised you’r a petty tyrant,thanks .
    I WILL cheat the eagle my friends love you all Aukmune

    Comment by aukmune — 2/1/2006 @ 4:22 pm

  9. These books must be read with caution and respect. I think it is common for people to read these books and then go out and eat as many crazy drugs as possible thinking they are accessing the spirit world, and gaining an ally and such. I proper reading of the books shows that this just isn’t how it works. You will not be able to read these books and put the shamnistic rituals into practice. It is even in the text. “the person who seeks to become a man of knowledge is like a cracked gourd. It looks good, but it will leak as soon as you put water in it.” How many times did don juan pull castaneda from the brink of death? And people think they can just wing it? Eat a bunch of peyote and become naguals?
    There is a lot of highly valuable thought in the books, but people need to take it all with a big grain of salt. Even assuming it is all true (maybe), in one of the later books don juan reveals that the vast majority of his teachings up to that point had actually been nothing but a ditraction for castaneda’s “ego,” or tonal, while don juan did the real work on castaneda’s luminous cacoon, or more specifically, his assemblage point. So, unless you happen to have a nagual to be your benefactor, you probably won’t get this benefit. In the odd chance that you did manage to scratch the surface of his knowledge, you would undoubtedly simply die.
    The most valuable stuff in the series for us ordinary men is the first 5 chapters of Journey to ixtlan. Especially the chapter on accepting responsibilty. There are parts that are so beautiful and true that they make me laugh and cry at the same time.
    Useful excerpt from the teaching of don juan: a yaqui way of knowldge. “I grabbed onto things the way a kid graps onto candy… [But] anything is [only] one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions.” so on. Damn genius.
    I’ve often said, if the books are all true, then they have staggering implications about the nature of reality. If they are all fiction, then castaneda is one of the greatest fiction writers and philosophers in the history of mankind. Either way I can be only thankful that the books exist. They largely shaped my entire appraoch to life.

    Comment by alex — 3/9/2006 @ 1:02 pm

  10. These books aren’t to take for real…

    Anything can be taken for real thing, just find your reality. The stories bout that knowledge (Don Juan’s) could be taken to get just some theories bout “the real world”, to explore your own world.

    Don’t waste your time thinking what would you do if you were a “wizard” like Don Juan, I mean it. Just use these stories to find yourself….The books are great anyways

    Comment by Yvan — 5/12/2009 @ 8:26 pm

  11. i have loved castaneda’s books more deeply than i should. no one even begins to understand dreaming like he did! if you get caught up in the fact vs fiction drama of his works, then practice his dreaming exercises and you will find he is dead on accurate. take responsibility for your actions and use death as your advisor…

    Comment by narendrabox — 6/17/2009 @ 10:09 pm

  12. Castaneda’s books have changed my life completely. Whether the knowledge is true or false isn’t really important. The important thing is that they make you think about your life, your views of the world. I have never thought about my life with the depth that is in those books. Who are we to say that it’s true or false? In fact we know very little about our awareness. I’ve been following this path for 15 years and I don’t have any regrets. As a matter of fact, I’m feeling better than ever. I’m also a Tensegrity (Magical Passes) practitioner. Before that, I practiced Aikido. With Aikido you can also achieve great spiritual states of being as with many other forms of martial arts. Today are modern days, we are modern warriors and we don’t have to use any kind of hallucinogenic herbs to alter our awareness. Through dreaming, tensegrity and the principles to live like a warrior our awareness definitely being enhanced. After reading the art of dreaming I immediately started to practice. Two years later I found myself aware in my own dream. Today I have almost 4 times a week a lucid dream. It takes a lot of practice but it can be done. Okay lets say the knowledge is all false. Still there are plenty of scientific proofs that a lot of his knowledge is true. The assemblage point is recently discovered and can even be move with special modern equipment. Lucid dreaming, again scientifically proven that anyone can learn this skill. Tensegrity, well it gives your body energy and you feel it! Recapitulation? I can only speak for myself but after practicing this for a couple of years it’s started to become a non volitional act and then the magic happens! Castaneda’s books have changed my life completely.

    Comment by Alexander E — 8/6/2010 @ 7:53 pm

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