There is probably more baloney written about real witchcraft than any other topic on earth. Most books on the subjects of mysticism and magick, particularly those from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, are mostly empty talk. Many of the wiccan magick books you find on the New Age shelf at bookstores are lists of the trappings of magic without any of the core. They list spells for this and spells for that, but give no information on how to make a magick spell work. Fortunately, just in the past forty years, some very valuable books on magick have been published, largely from shamanic sources. The alpha and omega of modern witchcraft theory and practice are the oeuvres of Carlos Castaneda. Castaneda was a Peruvian anthropologist who, while working on his doctoral dissertation for UCLA in 1961, stumbled upon a Yaqui Indian magician named Don Juan Matus. Don Juan took Carlos as his apprentice and introduced him to ancient Toltec magick which has far-reaching implications for the future of the human race. This white witchcraft consists of training in an alternate form of cognition than that which we learn from our society, which is the first step in trying to learn witchcraft.
Castaneda’s work has sparked a firestorm of controversy. It has been thoroughly rejected by the academic community, which is not surprising considering the bigotry, intellectual persecution and rejection of real magick which characterize present-day academia. However, Castaneda has also split the New Age community into pro- and anti- factions. The things he says are so off-the-wall, and so alien to most people’s everyday experience of the world, that unless you yourself subscribe to white witchcraft and have had similar experiences (as I have had) it’s difficult to understand – much less accept – the premises of Castaneda’s teachings. Moreover, there are internal inconsistencies in the books which critics point out in the effort to discredit him, even though Castaneda himself said that part of what is witchcraft is erasing one’s personal history and covering one’s tracks. Also the fact that Castaneda was a womanizer is cited by his critics to deflect attention away from his message, although Castaneda himself certainly took no pains to hide that facet of his personality.
Everyone has to decide for themselves what they will believe and take as truth. Like many white witches, I pretty much take Castaneda at face value because everything in his books which I have been able to verify from my own experience has proven correct. My own spiritual path came out of discoveries I made while tripping on psychedelic drugs and plants. These experiences – together with my own personal discovery of witchcraft and spells - affected me profoundly and left me with lots of questions which I needed to resolve, and the only place I’ve found useful information on this subject is in Castaneda’s books. Moreover, my one meeting with Castaneda in person did more than impress me. It utterly floored me. I know for a fact, from my own experience with him, that this man was, at the very least, a most powerful magician; whereas all I’ve seen amongst his detractors and critics are phonies and liars. Wholly apart from the wicca magick, Castaneda’s books contain the most cogent analysis and critique of everyday life that I’ve ever seen. Most of the information about the nature of the self, reality, time and space, and the body given in my writing originates in Castaneda. The corpus of Castaneda’s works actually constitute a map – an indispensable map of magick for the spiritual traveler. This map describes the way stations (in Castaneda’s nomenclature, positions of the assemblage point) along the spiritual path. These are all places – or better said, peak moments in the life of anyone who wants to learn magick – when large parts of the lower self are shed and new facets of the higher self are revealed. At these moments the seeker permanently reaches new levels of wisdom and power. Some of these places, such as Stopping the World and Seeing the Human Mold, are well-known and are described elsewhere in spiritual literature under different names. For example, Stopping the World is known elsewhere as samadhi, satori, or kensho. However other places, such as the Place of No Pity, Losing the Human Form, and Silent Knowledge, are described nowhere else except in Castaneda’s books. I can aver the existence of some of these places from my own personal experience; others I am still shooting for. If you are going on a journey, it is helpful to have a clear map devised by those who have passed that way before. Castaneda’s books are the best map I have found. I trust the spiritual information they contain unreservedly. You would do well to do the same. My contacting spirit guides use Castaneda’s system as the basis for the training they have given me. They employ his concepts and nomenclature, but with their own slant on the subject and their own techniques. Castaneda’s training depended heavily upon the nagual teacher Don Juan’s presence. What my spirits are trying to do is to present a heuristic system which will enable people to work on their own, under the direction of spirit guides and nature spirits rather than a nagual teacher. Somebody, somewhere, some time, somehow has to stand up for the truth, no matter how unfashionable that is or how unpopular it makes the person. Castaneda was smeared and vilified for the precise same reason that Freud was smeared and vilified: what he says cuts too close to the truth. Freud and Castaneda pointed out certain vistas that society doesn’t want you to see. They realized certain facts which society doesn’t want you to realize. If the human race is to survive, it had better get to work fast on finding some new intent, because the intent it’s following now is the intent of self-destruction. What Castaneda has brought us is the most important new information which our civilization has received in the past several millennia. It will take the human race several centuries more to reconstruct the edifice of white magick which Don Juan described to Castaneda. It’s about time we stopped the endless, mindless babbling and posturing, and rolled up our sleeves and got to work; and Castaneda is the obvious place to begin.
If you’re only going to read one of the Castaneda books, or if you just want to dabble in learning witchcraft, I suggest reading the third book of the 10 book series, Journey to Ixtlan. This book presents the most important concepts for the general spiritual seeker. Otherwise, if you are serious about becoming a magician, you should read all the books in order, starting from The Teachings of Don Juan through The Active Side of Infinity. Additionally, Castaneda left behind an organization devoted to promulgating one aspect of Don Juan’s teachings which he calls Tensegrity. This is a set of physical exercises used to conserve and enhance one’s personal energy. I would describe them as similar to Tai Chi but more intense and angular. He wrote a book on this subject, Magical Passes, and sponsored some videos which illustrate how these exercises should be carried out.
The only other how-to books on white magick which I would recommend are those of Franz Bardon, particularly his first book Initiation into Hermetics, which is available as a New Age download from the Magical Almanac ezine files. This book is very much in the occidental tradition of magic and is more what the reader might expect of a book on magic – wands and pentacles and magic robes and circles and incantations and past life regressions and so forth. However, unlike most such books this one imparts a good grasp of the core concepts of magic – namely self-analysis and self-hypnosis. I would say that Bardon’s books are better for dreamers and my books are better for stalkers. Magic is such a personal issue, however, that it’s good to read different takes on the subject to create a praxis of one’s own.