Book Review: The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda

Rate this book!
[Total: 1 vote(s) ; Average rating: 5/5]

“The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge” recounts Castaneda’s extraordinary experiences, bridging the realms of mysticism and academia. It invites readers to embark on a spiritual odyssey, challenging their perceptions and urging them to contemplate the profound wisdom imparted by the enigmatic Don Juan Matus.

If you’re pressed for time, you don’t need to read the entire book. This review offers a comprehensive overview of the valuable insights you can gain from it.

So, let’s dive right in, without any further delay.

A Brief Summary

Embarking on a transformative adventure, Carlos Castaneda delves into the profound teachings of Don Juan Matus, a wise and enigmatic Yaqui Indian shaman. In “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge,” Castaneda shares his mesmerizing encounters with hallucinogenic plants and provides readers with a captivating narrative fused with scholarly analysis.

The journey begins as Castaneda seeks knowledge about peyote, leading him to cross paths with the extraordinary Don Juan Matus. After proving his mettle through a rigorous test, Castaneda earns the opportunity to meet “Mescalito,” the anthropomorphic representation of the hallucinatory effects induced by peyote. Through a long and arduous apprenticeship, Castaneda discovers the power of concentration and the ability to appreciate the wonders that surround him.

Under Don Juan’s guidance, Castaneda gradually acquaints himself with allies, entities that serve as invaluable aids in achieving extraordinary feats. These allies are not spirits or guardians but rather catalysts for great accomplishments. Don Juan introduces Castaneda to devil’s weed, an ally he dislikes, but acknowledges its significance by teaching him how to pick and prepare it. Castaneda experiences the painful side effects but acknowledges the ally’s approval. Don Juan then introduces him to the “smoke of diviners,” which he considers his most marvelous ally.

Throughout his apprenticeship, Castaneda learns to cultivate Datura and prepare the smoke mixture. Don Juan enlightens him about the arduous path of acquiring knowledge and the need to overcome four natural enemies: fear, clarity of mind, power, and old age. The outcome of this journey is uncertain, with the ultimate state of knowledge lasting only a fleeting instant after defeating the fourth enemy.

Castaneda experiences the second portion of Datura, which allows him to soar through the air, and finds himself immersed in serene darkness, rating the experience as truly magnificent. Despite a headache, he eagerly anticipates his next encounter with the weed.

As Castaneda ventures further, he encounters the terrifying sensations of smoking for the first time, which leave him feeling as though he is losing his mind. His final encounter with Mescalito occurs during a four-day peyote ceremony, where he learns a sacred song and gains intimate insight into his relationship with his father. Mescalito grants him a secret name, signifying approval and bestowing upon Castaneda the knowledge of a singular path to a world of happiness.

Castaneda’s journey takes a dangerous turn when he unintentionally performs the forbidden lizard ritual, anointing his forehead. Datura, however, spares his life. While he still prefers devil’s weed over smoke due to its fear-inducing nature, Don Juan reminds him that both paths blind individuals: smoke through fear and devil’s weed through ambition. Castaneda smokes again and undergoes a transformative process, turning into a crow—a difficult yet not painful experience. Don Juan reveals that Castaneda’s ultimate destiny lies in dying and fully becoming a crow.

Throughout his quest, Castaneda encounters dissociation and undergoes a diagnosis of “loss of soul” and true bewitchment. Don Juan prescribes specific bodily positions to help Castaneda reclaim his soul on his “beneficial spot.” Amidst a night fraught with horror, a diablera impersonates Don Juan, attempting to lure Castaneda away from his spot.

In the morning, Don Juan explains that Castaneda’s survival was only possible due to the knowledge he had acquired. Castaneda learns the importance of “unbending intent” and refrains from seeking further lessons. Months later, he struggles to organize his field notes, striving to reveal the internal cohesion of Don Juan’s remarkable teachings.

Get The Book Here


1. Enthralling Narrative

One of the key aspects that piqued my interest while reading “The Teachings of Don Juan” was its enthralling narrative. The story of Carlos Castaneda and his journey with Don Juan is told in a captivating, often spellbinding manner. It’s a unique, mysterious tale that draws you in and doesn’t let go until the last page.

Castaneda’s ability to recount his experiences with such vivid detail made the book seem like a fantastical journey into an alternate reality. The dynamic relationship between the two protagonists, coupled with the surreal experiences they shared, contributed to the overall richness and depth of the narrative.

2. Explores Different Perspectives

Another intriguing aspect of the book was the exploration of different perspectives of reality. The book didn’t merely document Castaneda’s physical journey but delved deeper into the metaphysical, exploring a complex blend of spiritualism, philosophy, and anthropology.

The teachings of Don Juan introduced the reader to an alternate worldview, one that challenges the conventional and embraces the unknown. The concept of ‘non-ordinary’ reality and the ways to perceive it is an extraordinary theme, which, while it may raise eyebrows in some circles, is certainly a refreshing change from mundane perspectives.

3. Insight into Shamanic Practices

What I found particularly fascinating about “The Teachings of Don Juan” was its insights into shamanic practices. Despite the debates surrounding the authenticity of Castaneda’s work, one cannot ignore the level of detail and depth in his descriptions of these practices.

The narrative provided intriguing perspectives on rituals and rites, and the uses of natural hallucinogens to alter states of consciousness, making it a captivating read.


1. Dubious Authenticity

Moving onto the aspects of the book that were less appealing, the dubious authenticity of the narrative is a major issue. The fact that several researchers have questioned the validity of Castaneda’s account raises red flags. Whether Don Juan even existed is an ongoing debate that somewhat tarnishes the credibility of the story. This uncertainty over the book’s truthfulness significantly affects the reading experience, casting a shadow of doubt over the fascinating tale.

2. Heavy Dependence on Hallucinogens

Another aspect of the book I found less commendable was the heavy reliance on hallucinogens to achieve altered states of consciousness. While Castaneda provides detailed descriptions of these practices, the emphasis on drug-induced experiences could potentially lead to misinterpretations or misuse. The promotion of psychotropic substances as a gateway to spiritual enlightenment might seem irresponsible to some readers.

3. Lack of Adequate Character Development

Lastly, while the narrative was engrossing, I felt that the character development in the book was lacking. Carlos Castaneda, the protagonist, often came across as a passive observer rather than an active participant in the story. It was as though he merely recorded his experiences without truly engaging with them.

On the other hand, the character of Don Juan remained enigmatic throughout the narrative. While this mystery could be appealing, it also left me yearning for more depth and understanding of his character. More insights into their characters could have enhanced the narrative and made it more relatable.

Get The Book Here


In concluding my review of “The Teachings of Don Juan,” I must confess that, regardless of the controversial aspects, this book provided me with an engaging and enlightening reading experience. I encourage future readers to approach this book with the mindset of a student, eager to learn and observe, seeking to understand the depths and nuances of existence and experience. Each chapter opens a new avenue for introspection, and taking pauses between chapters allows for a deeper comprehension of its teachings, and an opportunity to draw parallels to one’s own life, making the experience uniquely personal.

The book’s content is organized into two distinct parts: the first is a colorful narration of Carlos’ extraordinary experiences under the guidance of Don Juan, and the second is Castaneda’s systematic analysis of Don Juan’s teachings. This dichotomy of a raw account of experiences and a more academic approach to understanding those experiences makes for a compelling read. It provides a valuable framework for readers interested in exploring their consciousness, and the infinity of possible realities.

More than just a narrative, this book offers an opportunity for personal growth and expansion of one’s consciousness. It suggests that by designing our own rituals or habits, we can influence and co-create our experiences and life in a very powerful way. It subtly invites us to question the nature of our reality, thereby opening up a myriad of new, intriguing, and magical possibilities.

About The Author

Carlos Castaneda, an anthropologist hailing from Peru and born in 1925, left a remarkable literary legacy. He authored a collection of 15 books, which garnered immense popularity, selling a staggering 8 million copies across the globe and being translated into 17 different languages. Castaneda’s writings primarily revolved around the teachings of Don Juan, a revered Yaqui sorcerer and shaman.

Notably, his works played a significant role in shaping the cultural landscape of the 1960s and played a part in ushering in the New Age movement. Despite the enigmatic circumstances surrounding his demise in California in 1998, Castaneda’s books continue to captivate and influence his dedicated fanbase.

Buy The Book: The Teachings of Don Juan

If you want to buy the book The Teachings of Don Juan, you can get it from the following links:

Rate this book!
[Total: 1 vote(s) ; Average rating: 5/5]

Wait! Do You Want to Start a Blog and Make Money?

This 21-year-old student made $7,395 in just one week by blogging.

That’s more than $1K a day!

If he can do it, you can too!

Let's check out how he did it so that you can copy his success!

Learn How to Make Money Blogging Here

Leave a Comment