I came across the teachings of the ancient Toltecs of Mexico through the books of Carlos Castaneda. And the lessons of Don Juan were a beacon in my search for knowledge. But in 2001, I came across derogatory information about Castaneda which cast a shadow on his credibility and proved conclusively that many of his claims (and to a great extent his work with Don Juan) were fraudulent.
Furthermore, it had been claimed that Castaneda had left this world in full consciousness taking his body with him, and the turmoil and utter disappointment that Castaneda's ordinary death (due to cancer of the liver) caused in many of his closest followers made me realize how blind human beings can be, and how ready we are to miss a point and become either judges or victims.
In fact, in Castaneda's work, as in the many works of many other teachers, the main and recurring theme is our destructive egomania. And it behooves us to do our own research and confirm the damaging effects of the ego, for being the bane of humankind its study is worthy of our consideration.
In an article I once came across in a monthly magazine, I read about a six-year-old boy who died after breaking his neck under an extremely heavy load, too heavy for the child to carry. The article also said that he had been a slave all his life. The author knew this because archeologists are trained to read bones. And the child's bones, together with other bones (a mass grave for slaves) had been found while excavating somewhere in New York City (of all places) to lay the foundation for a new building.
His bones not only told this archeologist how he had died but also how he had lived. They told him that he had been overworked all his life, that he had been malnourished, that he probably never had a loving arm around him. His bones finally told the archeologist that that heavy load killed him at the tender age of six years old.
Should I ever feel sorry for myself? But actually, a more pertinent question would be, should I ever be sorry for that little boy? For just like that little boy I am going to die, and although longer, my life might well end up being much more miserable than his was.
For only by reducing my self-importance to the lowest can I claim to be different from his captors and murderers; there is such a thing as a collective responsibility, a social contract. We all endorse a social contract that thrives in egomania, an egomania that causes the suffering of humanity by refusing to see the Whole.
Carlos Castaneda is dead now, but his controversial legacy remains.
Rio Guzman is the owner of The Network and the author of A Vagabond in Mexico published originally by Nomads Press in 1993; he is currently working on his second book, The Eye of the Dragon: Stalking Castaneda. To know more please visit Rio Guzman's Journal or Rio Guzman's Blog. Rio Guzman Copyright 2009. This article may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.