* * C
I really enjoyed Carlos Castaneda’s first two books, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge and A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan. Unfortunately, The Eagle’s Gift, Castaneda’s sixth book, is not nearly as good. Like his earlier works, it’s written autobiographically. In the Eagle’s gift, Carlos meets with the apprentices of his master Don Juan Matis.
The first half of the book is an account of Carlos and Don Juan’s other apprentices searching for a way into the third attention, a sort of Nirvana like afterlife. They begin to remember things that happened to them on the left side, an alternate reality. The second half of the book is a series of “remembered” experiences with Don Juan’s warriors that Carlos claims took place in this alternate reality and that he had lost all memory of.
Florinda, one of Don Juan’s warriors, gives a glimpse into Castaneda’s views on the differences between men and women:
“I am a woman, and that gives me a splendid advantage. I’m not accountable. Being a woman, I’m not compelled to secrecy.”
Through Florinda’s lips, he also tells you what he thinks of physical beauty:
“Beauty is a demon that breeds and proliferates when admired. If you … find those who are beautiful, you find the most wretched beings imaginable. Be unwilling to go along with their idea that they are beautiful and because of it, important. You’ll see what I mean.”
Castaneda is clearly reaching for the kind of mystical narrative that made his earlier books so fascinating, but The Eagle’s Gift for me falls flat. Much of it seems mundane, and the constant theme of “What is this? Oh now I remember all these things I’d forgotten” starts to feel like a trope. I haven’t read Castaneda’s third book, Journey to Ixtlan. Hopefully its more like the first two, which were really interesting.