Acid Heroes

May 30, 2011

Carlos Castaneda and the Suicide Women

If Castaneda has not been on your radar screen up until now, “The dark legacy of Carlos Castaneda” by Robert Marshall is a basic though unflattering introduction.There is biographical information– the early marriage, and, even though the marriage ended, Castaneda’s adoption of the son his wife already had from another man. We are told that he worked on The Teachings of Don Juan for seven years. The editor at the University of California Press had serious doubts, but the UCLA anthropology department convinced him to publish the book in 1968, and the Carlos Castaneda myth was off and running.

30 years later, the death of Carlos Castaneda was shrouded in mystery. A woman named Gaby Geuter wanted to become a member of Castaneda’s inner circle, but was constantly rebuffed. By 1996 she realized it wasn’t going to happen, so she and her husband Greg Mamishian started following the teacher and filming his activities whenever possible. Borrowing from the technique of government agents and A. J. Weberman, they became garbagologists and retrieved many interesting documents from Castaneda’s trash. The Gaby & Greg website was shut down in 2008 but it included a photo captioned, “Carlos being helped to the house, less than a month before he died. This was the last time we saw him…” Immediately after the sorcerer’s death, four women disappeared. An associate, Daniel Lawton, wrote,

I had telephone numbers for four of the ones who left at the same time, which were all disconnected on the same day. This, and the strange mood of the May 2 one-day workshop, led me to make certain inquiries that resulted in me learning that he was gone.

Another female member of Castaneda’s intimate group fell off the map a few weeks later. The five suicide women included two witches, a chacmool, the president of Castaneda’s company, and his adopted daughter/paramour. This is enough intrigue for anyone’s biography.

Richard Jennings (aka Corey Donovan) started a website after Castaneda’s death. Sustained Action is “devoted to exploring and evaluating the legacy of Carlos Castaneda, and to investigating other possibilities for increased awareness and expanded perception.” The webmaster did research on the women who had been so close to Castaneda and then disappeared. His records started with 1947 and ended up in 1999, tracking the lives of the fancifully re-named female disciples. In a piece called “Sex, Lies and Guru Ploys,” Donovan/Jennings gives a succinct capsule description of Castaneda:

He claimed to be the last of an ancient lineage that supposedly held the secrets not only to traveling bodily into other worlds or dimensions, but which also offered the promise of a form of immortality–evading death by keeping one’s awareness intact. He claimed to have a unique “energetic configuration”—one that he and his colleagues purportedly had not seen in any of the thousands of people they had interacted with over the past few decades—that gave him special abilities and capacities as the “Nagual.”

Amy Wallace was enthralled by Castaneda for many years and later wrote a book, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, about her experiences as a member of his inner circle. When she first got involved with him, her life was headquartered in Berkeley, so at least there was some protective distance between them. When she talked about relocating to Castaneda’s realm in Los Angeles, one of his close female companions (a witch) warned her,

Don’t move to Los Angeles. Those that do the best are the ones who take his work, use it and make it their own, and stay far away from here – the stress is too great.

But Wallace did not heed. Of course, given what she later learned of the intrigues enmeshing the sorcerer, what sounded like a warning about grave spiritual danger could have been merely a jealous reaction from a concubine already forced to share her beloved’s attention. The last thing an established favorite wanted, was another cute young college girl moving in.

Kylie Lundahl

Wallace became the confidant of Kylie Lundahl, the tall gaunt Scandanavian instructor of magical passes, or Tensegrity. (In Sorcerer’s Apprentice, she is called Astrid.) In Castaneda’s universe, Kylie Lundahl was a chacmool–a fierce guardian warrior–but it’s too complicated to go into here.

The point is, in Castaneda’s last days, Lundahl warned him that some of his people might commit suicide. To fill the emptiness, she recommended that he assign people specific tasks to carry out, once he was dead. She was talking about not only the tight inner group, but the followers who ran and worked for his organization, Cleargreen. It must have surprised Lundahl when the boss told her he didn’t care what happened to Cleargreen. But she managed to change his mind to an extent, and he did assign jobs to people as she had suggested. It kind of makes a person wonder. If he had not taken Lundahl’s advice, how many more suicides would have occurred?

In an online discussion group, Wallace talked about the final weeks of Castaneda’s life. Apparently when the witches, chacmool, and adopted daughter left, one of the other followers, Carol Tiggs, stayed behind, thinking to take on the leadership post. She told Wallace the ones who had left were “Dead, dead, dead!”

Carlos Castaneda in Acid Heroes

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