The Native American Heritage
In 1968 Carlos Castenada published The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Kno1wledge. The book purported to be based upon Castenada's field notes taken during his four years of participant-observer research into Yaqui Indian beliefs and practices. Initially published through a university press, the book seemed destined to sell only a few hundred copies to scholars and research libraries. As it turned out, however, Castenada's book became a phenomenal commercial success and the lead volume in a best-selling series that initially included A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan ( 1971) and Journey to Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan ( 1972).1 These three volumes were later followed by others with titles such as Tales of Power, The Fire from Within, and The Power of Silence. By the mid-1970s Castenada had sold more than eight million books purporting to introduce American reading audiences to the esoteric wisdom he had learned directly from a Native American "man of knowledge."
What Americans learned from Castenada's books was that Native American culture relied heavily upon hallucinogenic drugs to gain "insight into a world not merely other than our own, but an entirely different order of reality."2Castenada explained in detail how his spiritual mentor, Don Juan, used psychoactive plants to open "the doors of perception to a world of 'non-ordinary reality' completely beyond the concepts of western civilization."3 More specifically, Don Juan was adept at using peyote (Lophophora williamsii), jimson weed (Datura stramonium), and a hallucinogenic mushroom (Psilocybe mexicana). Under Don Juan's tutelage, Castenada also learned to use these drugs to journey beyond the boundaries of normal