Beginning “Tales of power”

The two biggest themes so far in the book seem to be:


The physical and magical feats of adepts/sorcerers, like moving great distances at will, making objects appear, moving very quickly




The nagual/tonal


Tonal and nagual:


So far these correspond somewhat to the idea of ego and subconscious, but not exactly. Tonal is the ordinary consciousness that also somehow contains everything. In this regard, it’s similar to Trungpa Rinpoche‘s idea of ego (esp in that it contains things we’re not totally conscious of). At the same time, the idea of presence and lungta figure in- the tonal can be damaged or strong, intact or not. People with a damaged or messed up tonal (in the book, two old women who seem frail and timid, and an alcoholic vagrant) are contrasted with people who have a good “vibe” as it were (Indians who seem childlike and kind, and pleasant, and a woman who seems very attractive and together).


This ties into the other big idea so far, power. In fact, it’s pretty easy to, skeptically, make an argument that Castaneda is obsessed with power. The word comes up it seems at least once a page. This is very appealing and intriguing in its own way, but also a warning sign, I think. People reading spiritual books with a lust for power, or “siddhi” are probably prone to certain issues. Not that everyone isn’t, just that there are particular issues at play there.

So the nagual is somehow beyond even the most buried and hidden parts of the nagual. It’s the realm of power. Power “hovers” there. While tonal needs to be maintained, and reflects one’s lifestyle and state of mind, and also effects those, the nagual is more mysterious. It cannot be used consciously, as far as I can tell. It is infinite. At the same time, Don Juan talks about “his nagual” acting on Carlos.


Wrapping up “A separate reality”

Guardian and ally


Navigating altered states of consciousness




Death- appearance, action, contemplations


Warrior vs. sorcerers ways




Laughing- Don Juan and Genaro laugh a lot, in various odd ways, including but not limited to mocking and teasing the author, seem to use laughter as a way to enact specific techniques (which also seem related to shapeshifting and animal forms)




Listening and stopping discursive thoughts


Reactions to magical events in stomach area- connects to ideas about will and luminous body



Key concepts, idea of the blog

The idea of the blog is this: looking through key ideas in Carlos Castenada’s books through the lens of Buddhism. I’ll especially be focusing on Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings and how these relate to Castenada’s concepts. I started reading the “Don Juan” books before I was actively practicing Buddhism, and found them addictive and fascinating. Rereading them now, I find a few things. There are some parts of the books that seem compelling, and some parts not so compelling. Some ideas seem fascinating, still, and some ideas seem flat or not fully realized. The books are still addictively readable, though, at least for me.

On the “Chronicles of Chogyam Trungpa” website, a seminar Trungpa gave on Castenada is being posted. There are two talks up already, I think.

I’ve been rereading “A Separate Reality.” Here are some key ideas from that one. I will probably flesh out my interpretations more later. For now, just a list.



Seeing vs. looking


The author’s constant questions and talking

Controlled folly

The luminous egg/energy structures

Being a warrior

Responsibility for actions

Unimportance of things/equality

Physical movements/feats and sorcerers


Talking to plants

Spirits in natural world

Connection between teacher and student

Danger of practices, interacting with “men of knowledge”