Best-selling author Carlos Castaneda, whose books about Don Juan and drug-induced mysticism attracted millions of New Age followers, has died of liver cancer. He was believed to be at least 66.
Castaneda died April 27 at his Westwood home, attorney Deborah Drooz said Friday. No funeral was held and his cremated remains were taken to Mexico.For more than three decades, Castaneda claimed to have been the apprentice of a Yaqui Indian sorcerer named Don Juan Matus. His first book, "The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge," described peyote-fueled journeys with a sorcerer who could bend time and space.
Castaneda argued that reality is a shared way of looking at the universe that can be transcended through discipline, ritual and concentration. The sorcerer, he said, can see and use the energy that comprises everything - but the path to that knowledge is hard and dangerous.
While his 10 books sold millions of copies worldwide - and continue to sell in 17 languages - critics doubted that Don Juan existed.
Castaneda always maintained that his experiences were real.
"This is not a work of fiction," Castaneda said in the prologue to his 1981 book, "The Eagle's Gift." "What I am describing is alien to us; therefore, it seems unreal."
Castaneda was obscure on such matters as his birth. Immigration records indicated he was born Dec. 25, 1925, in Cajamarca, Peru, while various resource books place his birth exactly six years later, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Castaneda, who held a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles, said he met Don Juan in Arizona in the early 1960s while researching medicinal plants. He followed when the shaman moved to Mexico.