Critical Essay Sample: “Journey to Ixtlan” by Carlos Castaneda

Stop! Before we say anything about the book, I have to give some explanations. In the case of this author, like Castaneda, it just needs to have not understood me correctly.

First: I am not adept teachings Castaneda. That is all. Everything that I have read of his literary heritage – a “Journey to Ixtlan” and “Wheel of Time” (latest book is a collection of quotes from his earlier works). I am not going to continue reading his books (at least not yet). Quite possible – almost certain – that I do not understand the position of his teachings. In addition, most of all, I do not understand anything. However, I am interested in the personality of Castaneda and bothered to read some research on his life and work. So do not expect me to appeal to embark on the path of the warrior – “Journey to Ixtlan” is of interest to me more like a pattern of unusual and cleverly written literary work. On the other hand, I do not put a goal to disprove or discredit the teachings of Castaneda: I do not have sufficient competence to do so. My task – to write a review of the book, which I liked.

Second: I am not a fan at all esoteric. I am quite satisfied with the modern scientific picture of the world (except in so far unresolved oddities like the collapse of the wave function). However, esoteric literature, I sometimes read – in fact, to paraphrase one of the hero of the film, we know the truth: the world is simple, the world is miserable, completely devoid of magic. Nevertheless, being able to deceive themselves just for seconds, we can see something unusual … not still pore over textbooks of physics and look great news on national television, is not it?


Following these important observations can finally begin to consider the actual book and its author.

Carlos Castaneda, if someone does not know – one of the most enigmatic figures of the twentieth century. No one for sure does not know where he was born, grew up like I did. Opinions diverge even in the question of how he died. The fame he received after the release of his book, written in the form of diaries, autobiographies. In them he describes his training at the Indian shaman Don Juan Matus, who lives somewhere in Mexico. There are reasonable doubts as to whether Don Juan really existed, since no evidence of its existence is not revealed. Castaneda’s wife suggested in his memoirs that it was nevertheless combined image, which has incorporated the features of a few people with whom he was familiar Castaneda. Anyway, in the books of Castaneda’s Don Juan is presented as a real person who is trying to instill Castaneda unusual teachings based on the traditions of Mexican Indians. Castaneda met him when looking for an expert on the properties of the hallucinogenic plants of Mexico for his anthropological studies. Actually, the first two books of Castaneda’s Don Juan, who came to the peak years of the hippie movement in the United States, describes his experience with these plants. However, in the third book Castaneda actually disowned them, saying that he had previously understood the teachings of Don Juan is fundamentally wrong. In his quest to explore psychedelics, he did not notice the forest for the trees and miss the main essence of the doctrine, which does not apply to plants. Castaneda’s third book – just “Journey to Ixtlan” where he sets out the basic elements of the teachings of Don Juan in a new interpretation.

Entries Castaneda begins the moment when he – a typical representative of the white civilization and staunch materialist – first came to Don Juan for information about peyote cactus that contains mescaline. Don Juan agrees to answer his questions, but, to the surprise of Castaneda, is not in a hurry to tell him about the plants, instead constantly diverting the conversation to other topics. At the same time in terms of the behavior of the interlocutor Castaneda looks extremely eccentric. He often offends Castaneda or generally ceases to pay attention to him. At some point, the author even questioned whether he is talking to a lunatic, and wants to leave home. However, the natural charisma of Don Juan and some of his apt observations about Castaneda himself forced him to stay and continue to communicate. Over time, between Don Juan and the author tied relationship of trust, and Castaneda he begins to listen to strange at first speeches Indian old man and walk with him on long trips into the desert, where he became a witness of strange phenomena that make him doubt the stability of his worldview.

I will not paint the situation teachings of Don Juan – my review of the book is how the assessment works of literary and storytelling can be considered for the spoiler. However, the style of the letters speak for Castaneda. According to him, during conversations with Don Juan, he simply wrote down everything he says, because he was trained in stenography. Don Juan did not mind. The core of the book – these dialogues, complemented by the author’s description of the circumstances in which it took place. The whole resembles a typical product in the genre of “travel notes” when traveling in exotic countries, the author, is not deprived of literary talent, keeps a diary, in which he describes his experiences. Nevertheless, at the same time do not underestimate the importance of the art of framing “Journey to Ixtlan”: in addition to the dialogues in the book fair amount impressively beautiful descriptions, reflections, and internal conversations with the author himself. It does not lack story and entertaining action game, when Castaneda under the leadership of Don Juan observed an unusual phenomenon. At these moments, “documentary” of the text noticeably thinner, and the book increasingly beginning to resemble a novel feature.

The main plus of “Journey to Ixtlan” – this is his fascination, not inferior to other adventure novels. From the first chapter of the intrigue created around the figure of Don Juan, and the reader is waiting for explanations and revelations. However, Don Juan is in no hurry to give everything to the surface, playing a kind of game with Castaneda, and through it – with the reader. Don Juan Castaneda constantly alludes to the defectiveness of his perception of the world – and, intrigued by the fact that the Indian shaman offers in return, the author follows dutifully behind him, dragging along at least the interested reader. I do not undertake to judge, because of the events described was true, and that fiction, but what Castaneda expertly created narrative structure that cannot be denied. At the end of it all, a reason because the book became an international bestseller. However, after half of the book, some repeated dogmas and thoughts began to catch up to me a little bored…

I would not recommend the “Journey to Ixtlan” for compulsory reading not the kind of this literature. Nevertheless, if you are interested in less mundane facets of our existence than the daily routine or you want to have a good exercises his imagination, it is a book worthy of your attention. If this is for you means anything, then it is one of the few books of this kind that I have not abandoned after the first ten pages of a sour face.