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I was surprised not too long ago to find out that today's young people have never heard of Carlos Castaneda, whose writings captivated me so much in my teens. I confess that I never went back to those books once I'd read them, except many years later, and then only by way of the Jungian exposition I found in a thin, excellent book called Border Crossings - A Psychological Perspective on Carlos Castaneda's Path of Knowledge, by Donald Lee Williams.
Like Hero With A Thousand Faces, it cuts through all the cosmic debris that surrounds so much of what we call "spiritual seeking" to help reveal the awesome beauty of the world that is right under our feet. Both books rescue the fundamentally human story from the seemingly incomprehensible mythological realms of the hero's journey. Both are worth keeping and returning to over years or even decades.
Williams closes with a quote from Castaneda's fourth book:
Don Juan explained to the apprentices that don Genaro loved the earth and that the earth in turn cared for him, sustained him and made his life complete and bountiful. "This is the predilection of two warriors," he said. "This earth, this world. For a warrior there can be no greater love." Don Juan caressed the ground and said, "This lovely being, which is alive to its last recesses and understands every feeling, soothed me, it cured me of my pains, and finally when I had fully understood my love for it, it taught me freedom."
--Carlos Castaneda, Tales of Power
After that quotation, Williams writes: "Carlos has erased his personal history, disrupted his routines, assumed responsibility for the task he has in life, sought death as an advisor on the path of knowledge. He has cleaned the island of the tonal and become an impeccable warrior.... And yet Carlos has still not integrated the last lesson of don Juan and don Genaro: he has not yet learned to love the earth."
Every now and then when I'm out in the woods doing photography I'll stop, take off my backpack and put down the tripod, then lie down on the earth and relax every cell of my body and mind until I feel all my cares drop away like apples falling from a tree. Amazing that something so simple can be so effective.
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