Fire from Within

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Simon and Schuster, 1984 - Body, Mind & Spirit - 304 pages
3 Reviews
Fire from Within is the author's most brilliant thought-provoking and unusual book, one in which Castaneda, under the tutelage of don Juan and his "disciples," at last constructs, from the teachings of don Juan and his own experiences, a stunning portrait of the "sorcerer's world" that is crystal-clear and dizzying in its implications.

Each of Carlos Castaneda's books is a brilliant and tantalizing burst of illumination into the depths of our deepest mysteries, like a sudden flash of light, like a burst of lightning over the desert at night, which shows us a world that is both alien and totally familiar -- the landscape of our dreams.

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User Review  - IonaS - LibraryThing

All Castaneda´s books are brilliant and fascinating reads. However, I felt that this one was even more challenging than many of the others I have tackled. We learn that “seeing” is a peculiar feeling ... Read full review

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A Hidden Meaning in Castaneda’s Books
The stories about sorcerers who are determined to outwit death and to ‘merge with the intent of infinity,’ as related in the several books by Carlos Castaneda
, could be said to be a reflection of the wave of popular interest in exploration of the boundaries of consciousness that was somewhat characteristic of sophisticated Western society some forty or so years ago. Whether the accounts are really true or fabricated has been a matter of heated debate from the first. Whilst they certainly tend to stretch credibility almost to snapping point, there is a curiously attractive element that invites one to believe in the characters and their extraordinary adventures. The reported death of Carlos Castaneda in Los Angeles (1998) from an ugly disease must have been something of a blow for those readers who had no trouble believing in the stories.
Their relevance today? Well, whatever one cares to believe about the veracity of the story itself the work contains, through implication, a thorough critique of the human ethos. So skilfully is it woven into the texture of the tales that it may well have passed unnoticed, intentionally or otherwise, by millions of readers. Concealed in the romance of sorcery and magic is a totally disenchanted view of human society. The characters in the story simply turn their backs on humanity, occupying themselves instead with their all-absorbing interest: 'the mastery of awareness,' the abandonment of the ‘inner dialogue’ and the exploration of dimensions outside ordinary perception. Though the implied critique of humanity is easy to overlook or ignore, it interestingly amounts to a complete dismissal: why should anyone so passionately desire to leave forever the comfort and reassurances of normal association to travel the relatively lonely and often deeply disturbing path of sorcery?
Further, it appears that these stories are specifically to do with ways and means of leaving the repetitious cycles of the human world; the characters are wholly concerned with such departure and are not concerned with the global doings and importance of humankind—except in so far as human conditioning is considered to be the most serious impediment to the way of infinite freedom.
The ‘mastery of awareness' is deemed necessary in order to attain complete freedom from the binding conception of the known world, not so as to impress other people with acquired personal powers but in order to achieve freedom or ‘the totality of oneself.’ The sole concession to what might be called 'social consciousness' is to know how to behave so as not to attract unwanted attention and interference. The adepts-in-training simultaneously set about extricating themselves from society: this is the first step to being free, because as far as society is concerned, its patterns amount to the only known truth and no-one can escape its obsessive documentation. It is therefore seen to be vitally necessary to ease oneself out of the grip of the belief in social truth. Obviously this is an arduous task, due to a host of pressing survival concerns, such as bills, responsibilities, commitments, fears and unsatisfied desires.
The character of don Juan is, through Carlos' relative slow-wittedness and his reluctant curiosity, able to reflect accurately the quality of being human in all its complexity and deviousness. That humanity is not a worthwhile investment for the free spirit is regarded by don Juan as self-evident. That one should use every possible means to dissolve one’s hapless fixation is unquestionably the only right thing to do!
It is likely that more than a few readers of these books have actually journeyed to the Mexican desert, particularly from the neighbouring US, in search of characters like those described or in order somehow to find their own way to fulfillment. This reviewer doesn’t think that going anywhere in particular or trying to secure ideal conditions can awaken an interest in the infinite mystery that surrounds us and in


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About the author (1984)

Born in 1925 in Peru, anthropologist Carlos Castaneda wrote a total of 15 books, which sold 8 million copies worldwide and were published in 17 different languages. In his writing, Castaneda describes the teaching of Don Juan, a Yaqui sorcerer and shaman. His works helped define the 1960's and usher in the New Age movement. Even after his mysterious death in California in1998, his books continue to inspire and influence his many devoted fans.

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