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Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Time Event
Not what you'd expect ...
Carlos Castaneda's The Wheel of Time: The Shamans of Ancient Mexico, Their Thoughts About Life, Death and the Universe is a book that sort of "willed itself" into existence. Castaneda had been wanting to do some collection of the actual sayings of Don Juan, and had started to extract them from his various books. He had intended to do something of an encyclopedia of the teachings, arranged by topic, subject, etc., but found that the quotes were "too slippery" to be able to satisfactorily organize that way. However, when he read through them in chronological order, they appeared to have their own inner organization, and so he ended up just going with that. Each of the first eight books have their own chapter, with one quote per page, followed by a few pages of Castaneda putting that "phase of the teachings" into context. This makes for a fascinating presentation, something of a Yaqui Shaman's Tao Te Ching!

I suppose I should offer up a significant caveat, however ... I have read all of the source books from which The Wheel of Time draws, so the narratives where these originally appeared are, to a greater or lesser extent, familiar to me, thus making Castaneda's commentaries on them more cogent to me than they would likely be to somebody coming to the material "cold". That said, this may very well be able to stand on its own as "a book of Yaqui wisdom" in a way that the previous book I reviewed failed to do (despite its stated intents) for the wisdom of the Q'ero!

Now, I have been studying Shamanism for a long time (although I've never personally worked with any Yaqui/"Toltec" practitioners), so I have a certain set of "filters" through which the material processes. One particular quote stood out as a "universal (shamanic) truth", that I figured I'd share here ... this is from the section taken from The Eagle's Gift:

"All the faculties, possibilities, and accomplishments of shamanism, from the simplest to the most astounding, are in the human body itself."
This is an important point that I think gets glossed over too frequently when dealing with "comparative shamanism", how the "internal states" of shamanic practitioners, from the Arctic to the Amazon, from Tibet to Teotihuacan, all have a core "base reality" that is common despite the myriad of outer trappings of ritual, entheogens, or cultural-specific myth. This suggests to me that the "mystical plane" accessed by shamanic practitioners is somehow hard-wired into the human nervous/energetic architecture and what the world knows as "religion" is simply the hollow shells of one-time direct perceptions of the ultimate and/or divine reality, hijacked by priests, politicians, and every variation of "church ladies" to suppress and control mankind.

Anyway, with the caveat outlined above, I would recommend this book to all and sundry. It is a "book of wisdom" from a tradition that doesn't have its own surviving historical version, and seems to have willed itself into being ... who's gonna argue with that? The Wheel of Time does seem to be still in print in a paperback edition (and would thereby possibly be found at your local bookstore), but "like new" copies of the hardcover (which is what I have) can be had from Amazon's new/used vendors for just over five bucks. Hey, a nice hardcover edition of a self-generated book of wisdom, with shipping for under $9 ... why not go for it?

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