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Home » Features » The Freedom of Don Juan

The Freedom of Don Juan
A Conversation with CARLOS CASTANEDA
by Graciela Corvalan (translation from Spanish by Alina Rivero)

About 20 years ago, Graciela Corvalan, a professor of Spanish and Latin American literature at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, had the good fortune to interview the legendary Carlos Castaneda. (Just how she was chosen for this privilege by the enigmatic Castaneda is revealed in the following pages.) The reader may be wondering why Seeds of Unfolding is republishing this "vintage" interview when updated information on Castaneda is readily available on the internet as well as through many other sources. The editors of Seeds believe that the interview is a worthwhile read, still fresh in its message, and that it offers compelling testimony on an alternative life choice. Yet we also acknowledge that this belief, by itself, is not the only reason for choosing to republish. The truth is that the interview sheds light on one person's quest to follow his road and pursue his destiny perfectly. Until the end. Such commitment is rare in these days of many choices. Castaneda's words are provocative in the measure they can still affect us and make us re-examine our lives. Castaneda walked his road; are we walking ours?

Below are the original introduction and conversation, reprinted from Seeds of Unfolding, Vol.1, No. 4, 1983.

I wrote to Carlos Castaneda in connection with a series of interviews I am preparing with contemporary mystical thinkers in the Americas. He telephoned me in Saint Louis and we agreed that I would call him when I was in California in the summer. I contacted him later, as planned, and it was arranged that three friends and I would meet with him in Los Angeles.

The directions Castaneda gave us over the phone led us to the UCLA parking lot entrance. At exactly 4 p.m., the time specified by Castaneda, a short, dark-haired man wearing blue jeans and a cream-colored jacket walked toward us. It couldn't have been anyone but Carlos Castaneda.

My friends had planned to leave me working with him, and to come later to pick me up. But he asked them to stay. He wanted to be with all of us as friends, rather than to do an interview with a professional writer.

From the beginning it was clear that Castaneda wanted to talk about the work he had been doing for the last year. He ignored many of the questions we asked him, mocking, mimicking and indulging in humorous histrionics throughout. In spite of his infectious good spirits and entertaining anecdotes, there was little casual or careless conversation. Castaneda wanted to produce a specific impression and make us realize the seriousness of the work he was doing.

He did not choose a comparative framework for discussion, even though he has read much and is thoroughly familiar with other traditions. Since Toltec teachings have been transmitted only by way of concrete images, which prevent their interpretation on a more abstract, speculative level, Carlos Castaneda used anecdotes and stories to exemplify his work. He remained faithful to his teachers and to the Toltec tradition.

He contends he is neither charlatan nor guru. True, the road he has chosen requires constant training and rigorous exercises which few people can endure. But it is a road, he believes, that offers a real possibility for those who have an unbending desire to be free.

 

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