Beyond Castaneda: A Brief History of Psychedelics in Anthropology – Part 1 1859-1950

2013 Vol.1 illustrated by Lucy BrowmThis article was written by Jack Hunter – author of Why People Believe in Spirits, Ghosts and Magic – and appeared in the PsypressUK 2013: Anthology of Pharmacography. PsypressUK 2014 is out now and available here.

By now the image of the adventurous anthropologist boldly experimenting with the psychoactive substances of their native informants is something of a cliché. Images from Carlos Castaneda’s influential series of books, in which a young anthropologist is initiated into the world of Yaqui sorcery through extraordinary psychedelic experiences, immediately springs to mind when the subject comes up. But there is a history of serious anthropological inquiry beyond Castaneda’s popularization (and possible fictionalization) of anthropology’s involvement with psychoactive substances. This two-part article will aim to give a brief chronological summary of developments within this field of research, from the Nineteenth Century to the present day, through presenting snapshots of key figures and their research. These will include, in order of appearance, J.G. Frazer, Weston La Barre, Richard Evans Schultes, Napoleon Chagnon, Carlos Castaneda, Marlene Dobkin de Rios, Michael Harner, Zeljko Jokic and others. This article will cover the period 1859-1950. The next installment, appears in PsypressUK 2013 Vol. 2, and explores developments from 1950 to the present day.

Evolutionism and Armchair Anthropology

Anthropology, like most of the sciences, came into its own as a distinct discipline in the mid-Nineteenth Century. Spurred by the success of Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory in biology, which first emerged in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, many thinkers interested in the study of human society began to construct elaborate evolutionist schemes of social and cultural development: beginning with so-called ‘primitive’ tribal societies and typically culminating with European society as the most highly developed. For the most part early anthropologists were library based researchers, fully reliant on the firsthand reports of explorers, adventurers, travel writers and religious missionaries (including all of their associated cultural assumptions), for their research data.

Sir James George Frazer was a typical armchair anthropologist. In his epic series of books The Golden Bough, a vast collection of traditional rites, rituals, folklore and mythology from around the globe, Frazer refers on several occasions to the use of certain plants for the purpose of producing ‘temporary inspiration.’ He describes the prophetess of Apollo’s consumption of, and fumigation with, laurel leaves before she prophesied, and explained how the traditional Ugandan priest would smoke a pipe of tobacco ‘fiercely till he works himself into a frenzy,’ his loud voice then being recognized as ‘the voice of the god speaking through him.’ The widespread use of consciousness altering substances was, therefore, clearly noted by early anthropologists, though their researches rarely went much further than describing (or re-describing), practices observed by missionaries and explorers, barely managing to scratch the surface of particularly complex socio-psycho-cultural phenomena. Indeed, the evolutionist paradigm within which scholars like Frazer were operating essentially blocked any kind of deeper understanding of the role of such substances in different cultures. For Frazer, for example, spirit possession practices involving tobacco, or the use of laurel smoke for inducing prophetic states, were little more than ‘primitive’ evolutionarily redundant superstitions, already replaced by the ostensibly superior scientific worldview. In other words, beliefs about the efficacy of such substances to put the imbiber in contact with spiritual realities were simply confused interpretations of essentially meaningless experiences of intoxication. From the very outset, therefore, such substances were not permitted to have any deeper meaning or value, and were certainly not considered as important in any way.

By the beginning of the Twentieth Century, however, anthropology was starting to change.

Cultural Relativism and Fieldwork

As anthropological thought developed in the early Twentieth Century, participant observation, following the lead of the British-Polish anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, became anthropology’s key tool in the quest to understand culture and society. Malinowski had suggested that the only way to understand a culture was to live in it as completely as possible; to participate in everyday life and, while doing so, to make detailed observations of it. It was only through this kind of immersive research, so Malinowski argued, that a culture could truly be understood. Writing along similar lines the American ethnographer Franz Boas emphasized the importance of attempting to interpret different cultural systems through their own categories, without the imposition of the ethnographer’s own cultural assumptions. This was to be a particularly influential idea in Twentieth Century anthropology that would become known as cultural relativism. Naturally, this new emphasis on understanding cultural systems from an insider (or at least near-insider) perspective would have a significant effect on the anthropological understanding of the role of psychoactive plants in different cultures. Unlike the evolutionist paradigm of the Nineteenth Century, with its view of non-Western cultures as primitive and outmoded, the relativist paradigm of the early Twentieth Century would begin to reveal the complexities and inner logics of other cultures, which were now understood not as somehow beneath the Euro-American scientific worldview, but as parallel to it.

by Lorna Johnson

by Lorna Johnson

It was not until the 1930s that a concerted effort to investigate the cultural use of psychoactive plants was finally undertaken, with the aim of developing a more complete, and nuanced, understanding than had previously been achieved during the Nineteenth Century. One of the earliest such studies was published in 1938 by the American ethnographer Weston La Barre in his book The Peyote Cult, based on his own doctoral research amongst the various tribes of the American plains. In the book, La Barre describes the many uses of the peyote cactus (hikuri) as a tool for prophecy and divination, as an apotropaic charm of protection to ward off witchcraft and attacks from rival tribes, as well describing its ‘technological’ use as a medicine for the healing of wounds, curing of snake bites, bruises and many other common afflictions. He even describes the use of the cactus as a cure for blindness. In addition to these technological uses, La Barre also explored the ritual use of peyote amongst the Huichol and Tarahumari peoples. He describes the traditional pilgrimage of the Huichol to gather peyote as a sacred journey to Wirikuta, the primordial origin of the world, ‘since formerly the gods went out to seek peyote and now are met with in the shape of mountains, stones and springs.’ When the Huichol pilgrims arrive at the mesa where the peyote grow, a ritual is performed in which the peyote cactuses are hunted like deer. The Huichol men fire their arrows over the top of the cactuses, symbolically missing their targets, so that the cactuses may be brought home alive. Rituals, feasts and festivities follow the return of the peyote pilgrims. La Barre emphasized the fundamental role of the peyote cactus as a central pillar of Huichol culture, in terms of structuring the ritual year, providing access to spiritual realms and as a medicinal technology.

In 1940 the ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, a colleague of La Barre, published an account of his research into teonanacatl, an hallucinogenic plant used by the Aztecs and described by Spanish chroniclers in the Eighteenth Century. In the Nineteenth Century debates had raged amongst scholars concerned with identifying teonanacatl, with many assuming that the plant must have been the peyote cactus. But Schultes’ reading of the historical documents suggested otherwise, indeed they suggested that teonanacatl was in fact a mushroom. However, in order to prove his theory Schultes still needed to identify which particular mushroom teonanacatl referred to. With this aim in mind, therefore, he embarked on an excursion to conduct fieldwork amongst the Mazatec Indians of the Oaxaca region of Mexico. In 1938 Schultes tracked down the mushroom Paneolus campanulatus var. Sphinctrinus in Huautla de Jimenez, referred to by the Mazatec as t-hana-sa (meaning ‘unknown’), she-to (‘pasture mushroom’) and to-shka (‘intoxicating mushroom’). The mushroom grows during the rainy season in boggy spots. Mazatec diviners used the mushroom in order to locate stolen property, discover secrets and to give advice to those in need, the mushroom was also used in witchcraft. Schultes describes how consumption of the mushroom induces a ‘semi-conscious state accompanied by mild delirium’ that lasts approximately three hours, over the course of which the subject passes through a period of feeling generally good, a stage of hilarity and incoherence and finally experiences ‘fantastic visions and brilliant colours,’ similar in many ways to the peyote experience. Schultes had found the fabled teonanacatl mushroom. Through conducting ethnographic fieldwork amongst contemporary Mazatec Indians, rather than relying solely on the reports of missionaries and explorers, Schultes was able to solve an anthropological puzzle and open the doors for further research on the contemporary use of the mushroom amongst the Mazatec.


The anthropological understanding of the use of psychoactive plants gradually changed with the development of the discipline’s underlying paradigm. Nineteenth Century approaches were limited by the assumptions of the evolutionist paradigm, according to which non-Western cultures were somehow ‘primitive,’ ‘superstitious’ and already superseded by the Euro-American scientific worldview. By the beginning of the Twentieth Century this assumption was being questioned, with non-Western cultures beginning to be seen as parallel with, rather than subordinate to, Western culture. Fieldworkers like Weston La Barre and Richard Evans Schultes demonstrated the complex role played by psychoactive substances in Native American cultural systems as socially, culturally, spiritually and technologically significant, and by no means primitive. The cultural relativist paradigm would lay the foundations for further developments in anthropological approaches to the study of psychoactive plants, which will be explored in the next instalment.


Castaneda, Carlos. The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1976.

Frazer, James George. The Golden Bough: A Study of Magic and Religion. London: Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 1993.

La Barre, Weston. The Peyote Cult. New York: Schocken Books, 1969.

Schultes, Richard Evans. “Teonanacatl: The Narcotic Mushroom of the Aztecs.” American Anthropologist 42.3 (1940): 429-443.

Bio: Jack Hunter is a PhD candidate in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol. His research takes the form of an ethnographic study of contemporary trance and physical mediumship in Bristol, focusing on themes of personhood, performance, altered states of consciousness and anomalous experience. In 2010 he established “Paranthropology: Journal of Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal” as a means to promote an interdisciplinary dialogue on issues of the paranormal. In 2010 he was awarded the Eileen J. Garrett Scholarship by the Parapsychology Foundation, and in 2011 he received the Gertrude Schmeidler Award from the Parapsychological Association.

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10 Responses

  1. Brian Akers says:

    (2nd submission – for reply posting please)

    About this: “Castaneda’s popularization (and possible fictionalization) of anthropology’s involvement with …”

    ‘Fictionalization’ strikes a discordant note in such reference, as a dubious euphemism for – fraud. After all, Castaneda’s expertise was fabrication, impersonating ethnography. He was an impostor, nothing else, and a particularly reprehensible one. From the first, he concocted stories submitted as field reports toward a Ph.D. in anthropology, which became commercially published as Nonfiction – for the interest of trusting readers unaware.

    Since when is prevarication, the academic equivalent of perjury – a ‘research paradigm’ or methodology – in ethnography? Or any other disciplinary field? When did deceit and fraud for fun and profit become a ‘contribution’ to something, anything?

    As a matter of basic distinction and principle, both substantive and ethical, I’d plead that fiction not be cheerfully conflated with fraud, nor vice versa – in effect whitewashing a con. Especially when it comes to this Castaneda business. One hand only dirties another when it tries that.

    Any maneuvers, sly or not, to ‘redeem’ or ‘rehabilitate’ the Don Juan fraud raises disturbing questions. To see such in operation poses an unsettling vista. Like its founding inspiration, the contemptible cause such gesture would serve, it makes a mockery of the most basic distinctions between truth and falsity.

    Rather than separating wheat from chaff, the ‘Castaneda concern’ seeks to conflate and confuse; contemptible no matter how you slice it. As concerted deception, this particular cause lumps fact, with fiction, with fraud – as if they are synonyms, all the same — merely ‘stories’ or narrative – with toxic ‘who’s to say?’ anti-moral.

    As De Mille memorably noted, Castaneda seems to have lived his life as his own little private joke on everyone and everything around him, at their expense, for his sick amusement. Apparently he had some issues, and one of his little laugh-arounds was to subvert the very foundation of critical inquiry and pursuit of knowledge, truth, and better understanding – and get a phd for it. Well, he go this way. But his joke isn’t funny, and anyone still joking in service to such merry madcap mirth, trying to recapitulate his satisfaction for themselves – can knock it off anytime.

    Wake up and smell the coffee. Don Juan was not ‘fictionalization,’ nor does fiction excuse or equate with fraud. Fiction isn’t con art. Its a respectable literary tradition of storytelling. It doesn’t pretend to be some contribution to science or disciplinary study. It doesn’t have to, as some motives and purposes apparently do.

    The Castaneda con is so widely known and well documented that direct denial of issue is seldom even attempted by those who would somehow posture to defend his ‘good name’ and ‘legacy,’ on whatever vague rhetorical pretext they can muster. Tactics like euphemizing his fraud as ‘fictionalization,’ seem the best they can manage. Is it mere careless failure to observe a key critical distinction – of fraud from fiction – or grim, dogged refusal, denial of ethical accountability, rejection of the most basic values in any field of study and interest? I wonder.

    Euphemizing fraud as ‘fictionalization’ isn’t enough by itself, apparently – for further downplay the blur is qualified as merely ‘possible’ – not definite or certain, apparently. Like protective labeling, safe against – the truth of the matter. That goes beyond gratuitous; again reflecting stealth, tactical function. By implication, ‘possible’ disingenuously suggests some reasonable basis for doubt or question; complete with passive “didn’t specifically say” deniability.

    All as if to keep disagreeable question, long since answered, open artificially – maintain it on life support. What a farce. If its any indicator, the reflection on Castaneda’s legacy would seem to be – an ongoing crisis of credibility, even as a subject for discussion – ambivalence in pursuit of questionable interests, of distinctly dark hue.

    That Castaneda’s books springs to mind at mention of psychedelics in anthropology – true. That such subject might go beyond Castaneda makes an encouraging noise, considering the albatross around its neck he presents. The hell storm of issues he created for posterity and us, his fortunate beneficiaries, span quite a range and diversity — from commercial charlatanism, to cultic manipulation (suicide among sumptuous fruits borne), native cultural appropriation, exploitation of popular and institutional interests, subversion of the very purposes and mission of education — etc. And that’s just for starters.

    Any claim of some vague ‘benefit’ in Castaneda’s ‘approach’ or ‘contribution’ to research in any way (ahem) – could care less about such profound issues, or anything that matters other than a heralding cover-up storyline. Such claims are ultimately contemptible in their very purpose, defiantly carefree. Those who not only know better, and have regard for values and human worth – are not satisfied by answers proffered by loyalists. But the latter are quite ‘unfazed’ and, reasonable prediction, will remain thus forever. Whenever some runaway conviction crosses lines of reason, sense, sanity, better purpose, meaning itself – the glorious ends can justify almost any means. Deception and manipulation become the rule of such a regime, and no big deal. Just some people talking, or some man behind a curtain fit to ignore.

    The settled insistence on Castaneda’s ‘contribution’ demonstrates a defiantly carefree attitude about the uniformly detrimental nature of Castaneda’s legacy (“he was like an earthquake, and closer you were to the epicenter the more damage you took”). But for his ‘legacy loyalists’ – weighed on their moral scales – profound issues of fraud, exploitation, manipulation and deceit – costing not just money, or mental health and well-being, but ultimately even life and limb – apparently don’t matter. Such petty issues trifle against the ‘enrichment’ of some seeming methodological criterion, incoherently declared on some mysterious criteria suitably resistant to question.

    As one memorably put it: “it is his influence on researchers who have gone on to conduct genuine ethnographic investigations that is most important here. It’s also the writing style, incorporating subjective experience into ethnographic description …” ‘Subjective experience’ in this case used as a deceitful euphemism for – deliberate fabrication, deception as a modus operandi. The Don Juan code was cracked a long time ago, and many of us have the ring.

    The fruits of the Don Juan tree, offered as luscious temptations for the banquet of our appetites – turn out to be snake oil medicine show bs. No thanks, and shame on anyone trying to play that. That includes any institution failing to address such an issue arising within its program apparently, under its watch, exploiting its aegis. What the hell is going on at University of Bristol, in its Archeo/Anthro dept? Who are the faculty advisors involved here?

    Psypressuk might (logical and physical possibility) find its ethical compass, even dare take a clear position, more considered editorial stance on the basic ground of issue, as glares herein – of integrity and truth in psychedelia. So far what displays instead, is the ‘customary and usual’ – looking the other way, as if; communitarian pandering and polity. An ethos of ‘con me con you’ – playing up to pretensions, collaborating passively or actively, helping aid and abet exploitation, manipulation and deceit – is this what the psychedelic movement in society represents, stands for? Really? Is that what the ‘community’ – you know Us not Them – has to offer, when it comes right down to it?

    (On brighter side, psypressuk-wise, a recent internet laurel: “to psypressuk’s credit I’ve never seen them prejudicially censor reply posts. It bears mention because as I’ve found, most ‘psychonautic news and talk’ sites actively ‘manage’ discussion for ‘the right sound’ by aggressive censorship – on lip service pretense of ‘open discussion’ –

    In case anyone isn’t familiar with this Don Juan fraud business and the disturbance it hath wrought – ongoing, as we see reflected in this cringe-worthy ‘beyond Castaneda’ sermonizing – a few relevant sources:

    1) A one hour BBC 2006 documentary on Castaneda (Mr “Yaqui Way Of Knowledge”)

    2) “The Dark Legacy of Carlos Castaneda”

    3) From Steve Beyer (“Singing to the Plants”?), one of our top experts on ayahuasca and its cultural context:

    • PsypressUK says:

      There’s no way I could not let your replies up Brian – they’re literary gold and speak well for themselves!

      Personally, as a student of literature, I couldn’t care less whether someone says it is fiction or non-fiction. Authorial intent is just one minor area of analysis – one that generally proves to be allusive. However, your side-swipe at the University of Bristol is very interesting… which bit of nonsense do you think they’re letting through? That a student mentioned Castaneda within the same paragraph as anthropology? Did you even read the piece Brian? I think not judging by your convoluted response.

      The Castaneda controversy is history – indeed, this site has even covered it in its own reviews of his books – and De Mille’s for that matter. But, clearly, one should read before one writes, eh?

      Rob x

      • Brian Akers says:

        Thanks for at least printing my post. Psychedelia’s internet broadcast booths, its FYI news and info, often pay lip service to ‘open discussion’ – and practice stealth censorship.

        Far less respectable is the insinuation you offer – as I didn’t read something, and you’re going to chide? Especially with the pseudomoralism, e.g. “one should read before …” Whether you practice what you preach, on pretense – whether you yourself read what I wrote before replying, seems beside the point. Because your reply is not responsive to the fraud issue – as Castaneda poses.

        Whether you could ‘care less whether someone says it is fiction of nonfiction’ comes off as dodgy obfuscation, on oppositional defiance of any least shred of honesty or value placed thereupon. You’ve deftly ditched the key critical distinction Castaneda confronts us with: fraud – not to be confused honest fiction or nonfiction. A sly maneuver, right at the core of the Modus Operandi demonstrated here by Castaneda cheer leading.

        Yes I do happen to think interests of public institutions with educational and research purposes and mission – like Univ of Bristol (or is it a private Cleargreen Tensegrity school?) – are in the crosshairs, when fraud comes crawling. The detrimental impact on UCLA, and damage to the discipline of anthropology itself – loss of credibility, reputation subverted and undermined. Like Simon and Schuster, conned into published Castaneda as nonfiction – their good names also ripped off, made to look like laughing stocks, and worse – questions of dishonesty, what did they know and when did they know it.

        Culpable negligence for ethical responsibilities institutions bear isn’t what their good names are made of, not the stuff they built their reputations on. Its one thing for a psychonaut choir website to cheer and herald Castaneda’s “contribution” – psychedelia has no professional accreditation. To see Univ of Bristol’s proper interests compromised, by sponsoring pseudoscholarship – as happened at UCLA – doesn’t escape notice, and the issues it raises are more profound than would interest Don Juan redemption crusades.

        So when it comes to research, contrary to your nonchalance and gestures at trivializing – intent and integrity count for a little more than your perspective will allow. Fraudulent motive, deceit and manipulation – aren’t swept under a rug by some piece of talk, like “just one minor area of analysis.” I’m struck by an air of authority you give yourself, as if presiding, handing down a ruling – from ethical turpitude, oppositional defiance of issue? Really?

        I don’t expect any substantive conscientious reply to the issues of fraud, in this context. Nor am I disappointed. The only credit I can give psypressuk accordingly is – at least you haven’t stooped to censorship. At least you had the guts to print my post – the only flag planted here. One tiny hill you’ve topped – better than none, and more than some websites can brave.

        There’s higher ground, of course, but take position as you will. You could stand on principle, ethical priorities and values not pandering and polity. If you wanted, you could actually reply to the issue of fraud – rather than using the “fiction or nonfiction” device for purposes of obfuscating fraud. But nobody holds a gun to your head.

        You could take an ethical stance. Its one logical possibility. On the other hand you can dodge and divert, insinuate this or that … “eh?” I don’t know what you hope to accomplish that way. Nor does it matter in view of the fraud, the Castaneda issue.

        Same applies to ongoing ulterior attempts – as we see at Univ of Bristol, as spearheaded by this grad student apparently – to rescue and redeem Castaneda’s “contribution” – his glorious name and claim to fame, from its own contemptible scope and scale. As a crass fraud – like that’s a ‘paradigm.’

        Integrity or dishonest – its your choice. A matter of your freedom and responsibility – for better or worse. Whether you fully intended & realized, or not, I’m sure its true, as you plainly stated – that you “don’t care whether someone says it is fiction or non-fiction.” But since you didn’t mention the key critical category, the issue as I raised it – fraud (you left that out for some reason) – should I figure that’s a little more problematic for you? Why would you have “oops” left that out of your retort otherwise? Is there is some bugaboo for you about the Castaneda fraud, posed in that light?

        Why would you avoid the issue otherwise, not by silence but by noisy retort? I’m well aware of the raw nerve, and what happens when its touched. Psychedelia’s sleeve is densely covered with such, worn right out in plain view.

        I can only conclude from reply as you enact it – that the fraud issue is anathema to the false and unethical perspective presented about Castaneda. I find you euphemizing exactly like Mr Hunter, dismissing ‘fraud’ in favor of the intrigue he narrates – referring to “Castaneda’s popularization (and possible fictionalization) of anthropology’s involvement …”

        Such attempts to minimize, avoid and trivialize the issue of fraud, by trying to put it into the frame of “fiction or nonfiction” isn’t very respectable by my standard. Obviously not same as Castaneda and his choir. To your Motion to Dismiss, by disingenuous invocation of “fiction or nonfiction” – when neither are synonyms for fraud – I can only remind and re-emphasize:

        ‘Fictionalization’ strikes a discordant note … as a dubious euphemism for – fraud.

      • Brian Akers says:

        (Castaneda was a fraud. I’m not sure anyone has questioned this fact… Way to beat around a bush Brian… keep ‘em coming though… POSTED BY TRICKSIER BOND | APRIL 27, 2014, 12:35)

        Fraud. Command+F (search) “fraud” – 29 hits. First 28 uses, my commentary.

        The impossible truth. The word ‘fraud’ has been admitted to exist here, expressly, by someone other than an appalled poster, yours truly. I commend you for your priority, your firstness – to have whatever it takes to even utter the sound of the word ‘fraud’ in some sort of, well, reply I guess.

        Oh, others have proffered or enacted reply. Their posts stand in evidence, entered in the record for all to see. And as reflects – not one is ready, willing, able, or perhaps has any intention – of referring to the issue I raised; as they rush to obfuscate, dismiss and trivialize.

        So congratulations you are the first to dare even acknowledge a word so inconvenient as ‘fraud’ – the very issue I brought up. Only to have defensively obfuscated, at least by effort if not achievement. No mystery – after all, ‘fraud’ is a word of cold hard truth, going up against a riptide of crass cultic shenanigans, in present context. But airy silence might have been better strategy than high-energy passive ‘noise’ flack avoidance signals.

        On another hand, to acknowledge the fraud as you do, as ‘fact’ – seems like active defiance of passive defiance itself – going against quarter back call. It reminds me for some reason of an old hippie poster – “Last Gesture of Defiance.”

        Its just the fact of a word nowhere touched even with a ten foot pole, by other posters, avoiding the very word itself, like some traumatic threat — as contrasts so diametrically with your seemingly more carefree, even breezy way to admit so easily (even – proclaim?) “oh yeah, its fraud, hey I don’t see anybody’s denied that here” –

        (duh, nobody’s even touched the question, as I raised it. Nobody but me has even admitted to the word – as if afraid of its existence, as signifies the threat of issue as such – much less cave in “oh yeah, its known fact” as in your remark. TL;DR yes – you’ve a keen grasp of the obvious, nobody has denied or confirmed anything …. till there was you)

        So, your post addresses what you said. Other ‘replies’ – not so much. And how many times does it take – to use the word “fraud” before anyone can man up, apparently – to even a glimmer of “okay, okay” – instead of divert, digress, try to distract, clear throat and say “but our amps go up to eleven” etc?

        Houston, we have an answer:

        28 times.

        • The use of Castaneda in the context of Jack’s article (part 2 up soon) acknowledgedes Castaneda’s ablity to write the historical truth, but it focused on the content, not context, so far as the text described an interesting anthropological approach (hence my doesn’t matter if it’s fact-fiction comment earlier.) If one has to go into the full controversy of Castaneda, the man, everytime he is mentioned, then he over-raws any article in which he is used. It doesn’t take a lot of reading or watching to find out that he lied about what happened – it is old news. There is no Castaneda conspiracy at work here, Brian.

          Why must it always be a battle? A written discussion can be framed in a friendly and constructive manner.


    • Jack Hunter says:

      Hi Brian,

      The point of the article is to show that there is a lot more to the anthropology’s involvement with psychedelics than Castaneda – who is often seen as the face of psychedelic anthropology (and hence ‘Beyond Castaneda’ in the title). The aim of the paper is to give a brief historical overview of key figures in this field, including a brief mention of Castaneda in Part 2 (yet to be published here), and his influence on subsequent anthropologists. As I have said in the comments for the interview I did with Rob a while back, what I find most interesting is the possibility of an ethnographic method that incorporates subjective experience (which Castaneda’s books point towards, even they are works of fiction).

      All the best,


  2. Brian Akers says:

    “It doesn’t take a lot of reading or watching to find out that he lied about what happened – it is old news.”

    So, not only factual integrity but little principles like honesty, truth as a value (rather than deceit and manipulation_ – can now be swept under a rug? Once you’ve admitted ‘fraud’ you hope to dispel the issue by antiquating it?

    An interesting Modus Operandi, in view of motive, means and opportunity. And so simple:

    Step one, after resisting the very word ‘fraud’ – 28 times in a row (!) – you decide ignoring it isn’t working somehow. Pretending it hasn’t been brought up, or doesn’t even exist (“Fraud? What is – Fraud?”) – didn’t make it go away.

    So after 28 reps of ‘deafening silence’ – you try a different tactic:

    Concede, “oh yeah, its fraud” with ulterior purpose. Wrap the concession in “nobody has denied it” spin. (So what if its hard to deny something, a word you don’t even have the guts to face – considering how contrary the issue of fraud is, to the ery purposes of cultic narrative on parade here? Pay no attention to such a self-evident ‘duh’ consideration, that is just some man behind a curtain)

    Apparently you’ve masterminded, that admitting Castaneda and his siren choir is fraud – can be used to file some as-if Motion to Dismiss it – as “old news.” The La La La ‘deafening silence’ ploy gives way to a new tactic – shrug shoulders.

    Instead of ignoring and pretending fraud doesn’t exist, one can shift to – it doesn’t matter, its not problematic. Why its innovative, a new method of inquiry in Castaneda’s case. Why – its even a ‘contribution’ – a gift to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Read all about it, right here.

    So as you realize, clever you, instead of resisting and trying to pretend, ignoring the fact (hoping it will just ‘go away’) – in order to deny and defy, not the fact, but issue of sickness it poses. Sound like a ticket? Giver a try.

    To be aware of something sick and problematic is one thing – you got that covered. Now the rub: to care is quite another. By psychopathic standards, it applies only to ones own petty self. By human meaning, care extends beyond oneself – to others.

    In human terms (not inhuman) not only oneself but others also matter in the big scheme of things. Or at least can, might, at least.

    Conscience is a key factor and a defining quality of the human condition itself. Like any psychopathy, Castaneda and Co can be well aware of the fraud they represent, and at the same time, not care one bit about anyone or anything else but their own mission. That’s how it is with ends so glorious, they justify any means no matter how contemptible and scurrilous.

    I’d never suggest Castaneda, nor anyone in service to the glorification of his name and claim to fame – are unaware of the fundamentally fraudulent nature of their/his ‘vision.’ No more than you’re unaware, and good for you for defying exposure, stepping right out to say so – more than anyone else here has been able to manage.

    No. As with psychopathy in general – Castaneda and his merely don’t care. And nobody can make you/them care, an implicit message in their signal – LaLaLa verbiage and tone. You are so right, there’s no power on this planet that could make you and others so driven, so determined, give a rat’s patootie about anything else.

    Nobody can dictate or determine for others values are, nor even reason with insanity that mimics voices of reason, imitating ‘ideas’ with fraudulent intent, and effect.

    No way in hell would I try ‘talking reason’ to an ulterior anti-reason motive; nor try persuading a pathological liar he oughta change his ways, try a little honesty. I’m well aware of Castanedism as ‘incorrigible’ as it clearly conveys in every word. With glib dismissals like “old news” – it gleefully makes a mockery of the very idea that any interest other than its own might matter – to it (never mind anyone else), the one and only concern it has any intention to acknowledge.

    And it flips from sarcastic “way to beat around the bush” bullshit, to white-robed bad acting like its the Voice of Principle itself, all sanctimony wringing its hands. I’m sure Hitler might have bemoaned the same “human concern” you do, oh why why why must England “always be a battle” when poor Nazi Germany tries to ‘frame discussion in a friendly and constructive manner” – pied piping “Please Come To Munich, For To Peace-Talk” etc.

    I’m not going to be sickened or appalled beyond measure, no matter how bottomless the pit that stuff comes from. I’m just going to note the ongoing shift in tactics, the changes of costume and characterization, the various different acts attempted.

    For as Castanedic and other forms of subculturally patterned character pathology and cultism are concerned – caring for things that matter to humanity – that is strictly for prey species. The stalker, the predator, isn’t burdened by such. It doesn’t have that problem. Unlike its sport the prey, who don’t lack conscience, such sickness is carefree – and it likes being that way.

    Its not the predator who tends to be unaware, but the prey. Just as its the predator who doesn’t care, couldn’t care less – not the prey. No boundaries, all entitlement, whatever it wants is for the taking, as self-authorized.

    So – well, well. You’re proudly aware Castaneda was a fraud. And by actually being able to do, what nobody else here has manned up to – i.e. admit it – in order to frivolously dismiss issue, call the fact ‘old news’ – you’ve planted a flag? Well, one small step for man – congratulations on being aware Castaneda was a liar and crass con, regardless how serious your seeming lack of ethical perception, foundation of human values – conscience and better purpose itself.

    As your strategic shift, from “ignore F-R-A-U-D and it’ll go away” (wrong), to your newfound carefree candor – “oh yeah, its fraud” (“that’s old news ,what’s your point??” – we both know full well Castaneda was a fraud. Yes, he exploited everyone and everything that came into contact with him. Including readers, merely interested, who aren’t sure how to properly appreciate the violation of trust – for simply having given his writings attention, for his claims of ethnographic field reportage and anthropological info.

    Equally clear – only one of us, your humble narrator, considers fraud problematic. Especially in this case, where so many were compromised, harmed – with wreckage that continues to ripple through our culture, our society – and our educational institutions, where a ‘come back’ is apparently in the cards.

    But human worth, common cause – caring about things that matter in broader perspective – involve having a conscience. The aggression of ‘inspired’ deceit and manipulation has no place in psychopathic cultism and its ‘glorious inspirations’ – its contributions to anthropology. as we learn about here, the ‘experiential-integrating’ ‘value’ etc – a big bunch of mushy malarkey exuding a recognizable stench of long acquaintance.

    There’s no therapy or effective treatment for psychopathy. Castanedism, lo, will always be with us – its just a question of its condition, its degree of infiltration into educational institutions – and minds of its targets, its intended prey. We have antipsychotic medicines to take the edge off hallucination and ddisordered thinking. But there’s no method to install a conscience in those either born without one, or who’ve butchered it as a blood sacrifice – on the altar of some fanatic inspiration to which they’ve become servant, slave and robot.

    Nor can the issues thus created be addressed in any productive way, to the creators thereof. Its for the rest of society to wake up and deal with. As fraud is no big deal, nothing to concern over in your exposition, so darksiders don’t have any issue with how they are, what they do or how – to anyone, as they please. They’re gripe, they’re finger-pointing, is always directed outward to all and sundry – you know, conventional society.

    In whatever guise, any/all forms it takes, Man’s Inhumanity To Man has no intention to bear burden of conscience. It likes being the wolf in the human fold. Psychopathy regards H. sapiens as two species, one predator and the other – right! (aren’t you smart to know) – prey.

    The conflicts and dilemmas conscience can present, impose upon humanity – represent an ethical weight our sickoes have no intention of every shouldering, not one microgram. To witness the trajectory of narrative from fanatic psychopathy, Castaneda example – is really something.

    Please don’t think I consider incorrigibility amenable to rehab. With ‘cure’ options offering no avail, it falls upon society faced with psychopathic aggression and ‘glorious’ fraud, if it can ever snap out of its daze – to address issues created by oppositional subcultures, as defiant of authentic values, ethical perception and human purpose – as this sick Castaneda ‘inspiration,’ which is only one in the post-Leary psychedelic ideological movement.

    Maybe society will never wake up to what’s going on under its nose, flying beneath radar where possible. If so c’est la vie. And who the hell is “Tricksier Bond” who signs itself “Rob”? What is that about?

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