Amy Wallace - author of Sorcerer's Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda
Frequently Asked Questions from the Amy Wallace's Place Discussion Forum
1. Do you believe that there was a real Don Juan?
No. I believe that Carlos made up this wonderful literary figure as a composite of many teachers. These included Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo, of Sufi tradition, his hero, philosopher Alan Watts, Swami Muktananda and Swami Vivekananda, and many more. I assume he made many trips to Latin America, where he met shamans and took a wide variety of "power plants." I believe he added his own genius to these experiences, and gave us the magnificent, but fictional, don Juan.
I was contacted by a man in the New York publishing industry who requests anonymity -- he wants to keep his job -- and he wrote quite firmly that Carlos's work called for "very heavy editing." Perhaps this would explain the widely differing literary quality of Carlos' books -- different editors. Using a single mentor worked as a moving, forceful literary device, as most readers agree -- whether or not they agree with my conclusions.2. What of the sorcery "tough love" technique? Did it work?
It did not work for me -- I found it cruel and hurtful. But we are all different -- for others, verbal abuse may have been an effective way of blunting the ego. Carlos often said, "The time to be worried is when I'm nice to you," and "I only give it to the strong ones who can take it." One male practitioner asked Carlos why he was never insulted. Carlos replied: "Because you couldn't take it." By way of compliment, he told a friend of mine (whom he knew would report to me) that I was the dark horse, who could take insult. Once he told me, "It's the only way I know. If I knew a better one, I'd use it." Sadly, it left me with nightmares and much self-loathing, which I am working to lose.3. Can you address the topic of "sex magic"?
That is a book in itself! Carlos always told me that his sperm would reach my brain and alter it, make it non-human -- and that I should will this during sex. Then my brain would become a superior organ.
He also insisted I remain celibate "if we don't leave together," and said anyone I had sex with was a Flyer. Alternately, he said that anyone I had sex with was magically linked to his intent, and would live on in Infinity. I joked that this was "a Mileage Plus Program," but he didn't find this amusing.4. What caused your final break with Cleargreen?
There are many ways to answer this, so I'll pick one of the most poignant anecdotes, for me, anyway. It's illustrative.
In the last weeks before Carlos death, when I was Carol and I were together daily, I reached an internal crisis.
I asked her to stop giving me "sorceric advice," and seeking mothering from me, something she freely admitted. She claimed she had never given me advice, however, and promised not to do it again, if she had been. We lasted a single lunch before falling back into our old patterns.
I told her I didn't believe in "a hierarchy of emptiness," where she reigned supreme, above me. I said that if she wanted to give friendship a try, I would like that. She said she'd be happy to do that.
However, she insisted "a hierarchy of emptiness DOES exist -- maybe someday you'll catch up." It was the eternal dangling carrot.
In a recent conversation with "Tony Lama" [Antonio Karam, head of Casa Tibet] in Mexico, he told me why he had turned down the questionable gift of being the next nagual in the lineage. He explained he would always love Carlos dearly, but he never saw the much vaunted magic that was forever being promised, and he was asked to tell lies. Do I ever respect that man!
Carol, I felt, was never going to relinquish her seat of power -- and she seemed lonely, and no wonder. It's lonely if you believe you're at he top.
I found the carrot-dangling excruciating and crazy-making. Finally I had come into my own sense of power, no greater than anyone else's. I had to leave a hierarchical group -- it was junior high redux. My publisher said, "Could we have less Ridgemont High here? But that was daily life, to some degree. I could go on, but this incident carries the core reason for my departure.
A P.S. -- Some days previous to the talk, the nagual woman and I had a horrible moment in my pool, where we swam daily. She floated, relaxed, wiggled her toes, and bragged, "Now I have all the power! They have to come to me! Only I know what really happened!" It sent proverbial shivers down my spine. This was not a woman free of ego, in my opinion.
5. What do you think will become of Cleargreen?
After Carlos died, Lorenzo [Bruce Wagner] told me he felt "the circus had packed up and gone away," and that he was "THROUGH WITH THE LIES AND THE SECRETS!" I gather he has recanted, since he periodically appears at workshops, or so I'm told.
I have not attended a seminar in years, but have heard tales of "outer rung" students telling seminar attendees of their time as Carlos's disciples. Perhaps this is not true.
In the last weeks of Carlos's life, I saw Carol Tiggs daily. When the others "left," and she chose to say behind, a worried Lorenzo told me, "She is no more fit to take on the job of leader than I am to redo the plumbing in your house " -- that is, she lacks the requisite skills. He hoped I would take care of her.
When the Witches & co. disappeared, she told me repeatedly that they were "Dead, dead, dead!" and that "I don't like what left, and I don't like what stayed either."
Kylie, shortly before disappearing, told me she had warned Carlos that there might be suicides among the followers, if he didn't give tasks for the people in the group.
He seemed surprised, she said, and replied that he didn't care in the least if Cleargreen continued or closed shop. Kylie persuaded him to give out these tasks, so his group would have a reason to go on.
There have been suicides, and attempts -- a woman in Santa Fe jumped off a carton into a ravine "to join the nagual." Alas, her body was found intact. At least one group member I know of attempted a suicide for the same reason.
Cleargreen has lightened it's message about separating from family members, but some family members are approaching them, and apparently not getting satisfactory answers about what happened to their siblings and children. In Carlos's day, we were explicitly told to "send them to hell." Maybe "Cleargreen-Lite" will survive.
To come: Did Carlos speak of his books, or the characters in them?
Introducing Amy Wallace
Chapter 3 of Sorcerer's Apprentice by Amy Wallace
Chapter 4 of Sorcerer's Apprentice by Amy Wallace
Chapter 12 of Sorcerer's Apprentice by Amy Wallace