Before Don Juan

the Wanderling

When I first met Carlos Castandea I was a newly employed teenager just a few short months out of high school. Castaneda, while admittedly higher ranking in the overall scheme of things and some ten years older than me, was not yet the cipher of an undergraduate student lost among the hundreds enrolled in the anthropology department at UCLA of his early years. Nor was he close to the later controversial figure he was destined to become. Matter of fact, as far as his academic career was concerned, he was really not much more than a vacuous-faced student enrollee at Los Angeles City College struggling along with everybody else to hammer out the 60 units of general education requirements needed for an AA degree. It was still about a year so before he would transfer to UCLA and many more after that before he would meet the nearly white-haired Yaqui Indian shaman sorcerer he called Don Juan Matus at the Greyhound bus station in Nogales, Arizona --- the powerful shaman sorcerer that eventually became the focus of Castaneda's dozen or so books and that made Castaneda rich and both of them famous.

Before our meeting little did either of us know we were on a collision course. I had gone to work for a seemingly innocuous little aerospace firm with a huge reputation about six or seven miles north along the coast from the little southern California beach community where I lived. The company was located in what was then not much more than a small oil refinery owned industrial town called El Segundo right next to Los Angeles International Airport. I had been hired as a trainee technical illustrator for an even smaller offshoot of the company that helped design and build the high altitude breathing equipment for the then super-secret U-2 spy plane --- which basically meant I got paid for my drawing ability.(see)

After I had been there a respectable length of time and got to know a few people I began hanging out with a small, sort of loose-knit but quasi-exclusive group of people that fancied themselves artists much as I did of myself. Nearly every Friday after work we would meet in some small out of the way place like the Iconoclast Coffee House on Wall Street in Redondo Beach or the Insomniac on Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach, and depending where we were, order some wine, beer or coffee and talk art, philosophy and politics late into the night just like artists and beat poets did, we thought, in the West Bank sidewalk cafes of Paris.

A couple of miles from my job was the Mattel Toy Company. Some of the people in the group knew some people at Mattel who also fancied themselves as artists and some of them joined us as well. One of the people that used to show up at those get togethers was Carlos Castaneda, who just happened to be working at Mattel at the time. Now, most people, especially those who know little or nothing about Castaneda's pre-Don Juan background, find themselves at a total loss as to why Castaneda would even bother to show up at our small, unprestigious, under-the-radar, and unheralded group of so-called artists. Over and over it comes up: Why would a person in their right mind, of such stature as Castaneda, entertain the possibility of participating in such a group of nobodies? The answer is quite simple. First, as mentioned in the opening paragraphs at the top of the page, at the time of the meetings Carlos Castaneda was NOT the Carlos Castaneda he came to be AFTER he met the mysterious and powerful Yaqui Indian shaman-sorcerer he came to call Don Juan Matus. Secondly and most importantly, in those pre-Don Juan days, Castaneda likened himself as an artist --- and truth be told, our group was openly receptive to artists that had not made it simply because none of us had. As for Castaneda being an artist, it is weaved throughout his early personal history and background. According to his own words, on Monday, July 24, 1961 in a conversation with Don Juan and published in Castaneda's third book Journey to Ixtlan (1972), Don Juan admonishes him for never assuming responsibility for his acts and Castaneda writes:

He (Don Juan) dared me to name an issue, an item in my life that had engaged all my thoughts. I said art. I had always wanted to be an artist and for years I had tried my hand at that. I still had the painful memory of my failure.

Castaneda was a Peruvian. Most people I knew at the time with a Hispanic background were of Mexican descent. For me, to be a person from Peru was kind of odd and the fact that he was piqued my interest. The most of what I knew of Peru circled around the hidden city of Machu Picchu that I had learned from a very good friend of mine who had been there.

Four of five years before those artist meetings, because of an impending divorce between my dad and Stepmother, he sent me and my younger brother to live with our grandmother on our mother's side in a small suburban beach town southwest of Los Angeles, California. The summer had just ended and I was just about to enter high school for the first time while my younger brother was starting the seventh grade.

Like many kids in those days we had a number of what my grandmother used to call chores that we were expected to do around the house. One of those chores was cutting the front lawn. My dad, after visiting one weekend and watching me struggling to cut the grass with an extremely ancient and dull push-type hand mower, went to Sears and bought a power mower for me to use. The first thing my brother and I did after our dad left was build a small cart and haul the mower around the neighborhood cutting lawns for money.

Around the corner and up the street was a house built on a lot that was on a small hill that was at least five feet above sidewalk level. Because the house had a perpetually unkempt lawn that always seemed in need of mowing I thought it was a perfect place to earn a few bucks. However, the other kids in the neighborhood told me a scary old mummified man that sat staring out the window all day long and hated kids lived there and they warned me if I was smart I would never get any closer to the place than the sidewalk.[1]

One day in the need of some cold hard cash to go to the movies or indulge in some other equally important pastime, and, after having gone to almost every house on the block trying to drum up some lawn cutting business with no success, I forced myself to climb the stairs to the porch of the mummified man and knock. A lady barely looked out from behind the door and told me she was just the housekeeper and worked there only a couple of days a week. About cutting the lawn I would need to talk to the owner, but he couldn't come to the door, I would have to come in if I wanted to to talk to him. She took me to a room that was just to the right of the entry way that looked out over the street and sure enough, sitting in a chair looking out the window was the mummified man.

As it turned out the mummified man wasn't mummified at all. Actually he was hooked up to some sort of breathing apparatus attached to an oxygen tank, plus, on-and-off throughout the day he had IVs stuck into his arms and wires attached in various places for monitoring equipment to record his heart rate, blood pressure and other vitals. So said, for the most part, because he was so hooked up to machines and couldn't move he basically just sat there all day long and either read books and newspapers or looked out the window.[2]

The man himself, although seemingly tall, was stocky for his height, slightly heavyset, raspy voice with a short, almost military style haircut. His skin was dry and wrinkly as though he had been badly burned in many places, and he had. He was a onetime merchant marine. During World War II the merchant ship he was serving on was queuing up for a convoy and positioned amongst the other ships in the rear corner on the starboard side that he called "coffin corner," said by experienced hands to be the most easy picking location for submarines in a convoy. Everybody on board was nervous, not because of the position, but because previously another crew member, an able-bodied seaman by the name of Olguin (possibly Holguin) had always been with them. Word had it that any time Olguin was part of the crew and the ship was in coffin corner, because of his karma or good luck or whatever they would not be attacked. The legend was alive because not one of the several voyages he had been on and traveling in coffin corner had his ship been hit or even come under attack. On this trip Olguin was either not in the convoy or assigned to another ship. Even before the convoy really got underway a wolfpack started picking at the edges and my friend's ship torpedoed. In order to save himself he had no choice but to jump overboard, landing in an area with oil burning along the surface of the water, the fire scorching his skin as he plunged through and returned for air. He spent months in recovery and rehabilitation. A few years after he was released he moved into the place he was in now. He said in all the years he had lived there I was the first kid in the neighborhood to actually come up on the porch and to the door, let alone come in. He wasn't too concerned about the grass one way or the other, but he could use, he said, a reliable errand boy a couple of days a week to go the post office, pick up and deliver packages, go to the drug store and library and do minor shopping for such things as vegetables and freshly ground coffee. Hence started what turned out to be a very interesting friendship between me, a ninth-grade freshman just into high school and the older, heavily scared, barely able to move ex-merchant marine.

Every wall in the room that he sat in day after day, except for the wall with the picture window, was completely covered with bookshelves, stacked shelf after shelf, row after row, from floor to celing, each shelf stuffed with book after book. Along the floor beneath the window were boxes filled with even more books and on the wall space next to the window was what I would call the only picture in the room, an old movie poster simply thumbtacked to the wall. On the wall space next to the window on the other side was what looked like a few framed certificates or dipolmas and a couple of plaques.

He told me he had been all over the world. He had seen the pyramids in Egypt, the Olmec, Mayan and Aztec ruins in Mexico and Central America. Easter Island all by itself in the Pacific and Angkor Wat in jungles of Cambodia. He had been to Machu Picchu high in the Andes of Peru by climbing the Inca Trail and explored Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain in England. Machu Picchu and Peru always seemed to be in the forefront of his thoughts, speaking fondly of both quite often. One reason is because he knew Hiram Bingham, the explorer that discovered Machu Picchu. He claimed they were more than just passing acquaintances, but actually friends. During WWII Bingham gave lectures on the south sea islands to members of the Navy. My merchant marine friend had traveled extensively throughout the South Pacific, including, as mentioned, Easter Island. Somehow the two met along the way and Bingham used him as a source for some of his lecture materials. My friend even had a signed first edition copy --- with a rather lengthy handwritten personal acknowledgement --- of Bingham's book, LOST CITY OF THE INCAS: The Story of Machu Picchu and Its Builders (1948), that Bingham sent him a few years into my friend's recuperation period. Bingham even wrote in the acknowledgement that he hoped the merchant marine would have "a quick and full recovery."

Every day I came by we would talk about some place he had been to, Peru or otherwise. Our discussions on any one place could run over a period of weeks or sometimes just last the few hours I was there. Sometimes we would pick up where we left off and other times we would go off on some tangent discussing someplace else right in the middle of what we were talking about and not come back to the first topic for weeks.

Each time we talked he would have me get down several books related to the place and we would look at pictures and go over the differences and the similarities of what different authors had written compared to what he had seen and experienced. He had lots and lots of books on Atlantis by Edgar Cayce, Ignatius Donnelly, and L. Sprague de Camp as well as a complete set of the Lost Continent of Mu books by James Churchwood. He told me when he was around my age he had become driven, actually obsessed with Atlantis and Mu. He began traveling the world to find or substantiate both places. But, the more and more ancient places he visited and more and more educated he became the more and more he became convinced neither place ever existed. In his quest, both pro and con, besides all the Atlantis and Mu books in his library, he had collected reams and reams of books, material, research and explanations that debunked nearly every single aspect of either continent or their civilizations that anybody could ever pose, except possibly one.

Replicating almost down to the letter the classic Egyptian "tale" --- with strong Atlantean overtones --- transcribed on papyrus by Ameni-amenaa dating from the XII Dynasty, circa 1991-1805 BCE, The Shipwrecked Sailor, he was found weeks, possibly months after his ship had been torpedoed somewhere in the Atlantic strapped with heavy ropes to a piece of debris floating all alone in the middle of the ocean, and except for being unconscious and heavily scared from the burn marks, which had seemingly healed, he was in pretty good shape. Everybody said it was a miracle, that his burns must had healed by the salt water. How he had made it in the open ocean without food or water nobody knew. Most people speculated he had been picked up by a U-boat and ejected at a convenient time so he would be found, although no record has ever shown up to substantiate such an event, nor did he recall ever being on a submarine, German or otherwise.[3]

The day he told me the story about being found he showed me a delicate gold necklace that had what looked like a small Chinese character dangling from it. He said one day in the hospital while being given a sponge bath he was looking in a hand mirror at his burn marks when he noticed he had the necklace around his neck. He never had a gold necklace in his life. When he asked the nurse where it came from she said as far as she knew he came in with it as it was found amongst the few personal effects he had with him. She said typically they would not put any jewelry on a patient but some of the staff thought that since he was so scarred by the burns that he might like a little beauty in his life so someone put it around his neck. He told me he had no clue where it came from or how it came into his possession, but for sure he didn't have it on before he was torpedoed. He said everybody always admired it and it appeared to be very ancient. [4]

I told the story about the necklace in an abreviated sort of way to the artists one Friday, interjecting a strong emphasis on Machu Picchu because it was located in Peru and Castaneda was in the group that night. The mention of Machu Picchu perked up his ears it seemed, so I continued with the only other Peru "story" I was able expound on at any length. I had learned the story from a book given to me by a friend of my Mentor, the person I did study-practiced under. Although my mentor told me he had studied under a maharshi in India he never specifically gave me his name. His friend told me he had studied under the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. To fill me in on Sri Ramana she had given me several books on him, one of which had the following story:

A couple from Peru was visiting the ashrama of Sri Ramana Maharshi one day and he was enquiring about their day-to-day life, and their talk turned to Peru. The couple began picturing the landscape of their homeland and were describing the sea-coast and the beach of their own town. Just then Maharshi remarked: "Is not the beach of your town paved with marble slabs, and are not coconut palms planted in between? Are there not marble benches in rows facing the sea there and did you not often sit on the fifth of those with your wife?" The remarks of Sri Maharshi created astonishment in the couple. How could Sri Bhagavan, who had never been out of Tiruvannamalai since a boy, know so intimately such minute details about their own place? Sri Maharshi only smiled and said:

"It does not matter how I can tell. Enough if you know that abiding IN the SELF there is no Space-Time." (source)

NOTE: A second equally interesting incident, cast in in a similar vein, and involving the Maharshi but a little too long to go into here, can be found by going to: THE MEETING: An Untold Story of Sri Ramana.

Castaneda was totally fascinated by the story of Sri Ramana and the Peruvian couple, especially the space-time part, and wanted to know both the name of the author and the name of the book the story came from. I told him I couldn't recall at the moment, but at the next get together I would bring the information. The next time I saw him I gave him a note with all the info on it he requested. He thanked me and except for a brief interlude a year or so later when I saw him from the distance across the seating area at the Nogales Greyhound Bus Station on the exact same day and time he alludes to of having met Don Juan Matus for the very first time, that was the last I ever saw him.

The interesting part of it all is those artist get togethers happened over a period of time before Castaneda, to my knowledge, ever thought of Don Juan Matus.

I say so because IF Castaneda was working on the development of the Don Juan character at any time before he purportedly met him at the bus station in Nogales he never said anything about it. I would think our artist discussions after work would have been the perfect forum to bring him up --- yet he didn't. Why? Castaneda just didn't seem to know about such things. If Don Juan Matus was a total made up work of fiction it seems to me, since the timing was perfect, some rudimentary form of Don Juan would have come up in our discussions --- and it was a perfect place to do so as nobody in the group leaned toward the literary side of things so there was no chance any idea Castaneda may have had or presented would have been appropriated or stolen. Even if Castaneda carried a staunch predilection toward holding his cards close to his vest during those early years of our discussions, you would think by now at least, some sort of rough drafts of primitive Don Juans' and his beliefs would have surfaced if he was indeed working on any pre-Don Juan ideas. Additionally, although Castaneda's ex-wife Margaret Runyan, now deceased (1921-2011) confirmed that her husband made frequent field trips to Mexico in the time he was supposedly apprenticed to Don Juan --- and while she has publicly dumped on him pretty hard in many areas, she has NEVER reported that Castaneda was working on the Don Juan idea or talking Don Juan philosophy before the Nogales meeting. To my knowledge nobody has come forward to state equivocally that Castaneda was expounding a proto Don Juan philosophy anytime before he supposedly met the Shaman.

However, at those meetings, besides the necklace story and the Machu Picchu story, on a minimum of at least two occasions, I know I told a story about my uncle taking me when I was a young boy to a very special cave deep in the desert --- a story that ended up, after thirty years passed, so remarkably close if not verbatim, to one Castaneda told in one of his books. Where Castaneda's cave was I don't recall. My cave, if it was in Arizona, New Mexico, or Mexico itself I'm not sure primarily because like most of the excursions I went on with my uncle they were seldom to one place during one trip and time and travel was almost always convoluted. I do know we had met a strange old man who went with us part of the way and that we had gone to the cave for a special time. That special time was either the summer solstice or fall equinox.

After traveling over some pretty rough non-road roads we got to the point we could go no further by truck so we simply left the old man and the vehicle behind and continued into the mountains on foot --- all so we could be at the cave to see the sunset. My uncle told me the cave was one of three caves, all carved out and man-made, positioned along the ridgeline in such a way so that when the sun went down on special days it would would set directly on the very tip of the tallest mountain miles across the valley.

We ourselves were miles and miles from any road or habitat that I knew of and because it was too dark to travel we had to stay the night at the cave. In the middle of the night, seemingly out of nowhere, we were confronted by an emaciated man. My uncle and the man got into a heated argument and the next thing I knew the man was gone, like he had disappeard into thin air.

I am certain Castaneda was in attendance for at least one, possibly both of the times I told the story. The only reason I bring it up is because in Castaneda's eighth book Power of Silence (1988) in the section entitled THE MANIFESTATIONS OF THE SPIRIT: The First Abstract Core he describes, at least up to the appearance of the emaciated man, an almost exact scenario --- carved out cave and all --- that transpired between himself and Don Juan.

So, what am I saying, that Castaneda copied my story? Could be. Or it could be, unrelated to anything I said, that he himself was taken to one of the seasonal caves by Don Juan Matus or the old man or both. So too, although such an occurrence seems to be highly remote, he could have, after hearing the story and getting wrapped up in the various events as they unfolded, searched until he found one of the caves or someone who could take him there.[5]

In closing, it should be noted, unconnected with me or any of the above, Castaneda did meet up with my uncle sometime prior to that bus station meeting while traveling in the desert southwest on his infamous Road Trip with the former Pothunter turned anthropologist colleague Bill during the late spring, early summer of 1960. In Zen, The Buddha, and Shamanism I bring up the relationship between my Uncle and Carlos Castaneda as follows:

In later years, because of that association and my uncle's knowledge of Sacred Datura and peyote as well as other halluciogens, he was interviewed by Carlos Castaneda, apparently on a Road Trip in the process of gathering information for future use in his series of Don Juan books. In 1960 or so Castaneda was an anthropology student at UCLA collecting information and specimens of medicinal type plants used by the Indians in the desert southwest when the two crossed paths. My uncle had field searched thousands and thousands of plants, herbs, and mushrooms, even to having had several previously undiscovered species named after him.



Over and over people ask why is it that they should accept what I have written about Castaneda as having any amount of credibility?

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For one thing I personally knew, met and interacted with Castaneda many times --- however, it was done so long before Castaneda became Castaneda. Matter of fact he was still a nobody student trying hard to obtain an AA degree from Los Angeles City College, working at Mattel Toy Company, and when I knew him, considered himself mostly as an aspiring artist rather than anything that remotely resembled an author or shaman. Secondly, and unrelated to he and I knowing each other, my uncle was the Informant that is so widely mentioned in Castaneda's works both by him and others, that introduced him to the rites and rituals of the use of the plant Sacred Datura that sent him into his initial experiences of altered states. Third, in an attempt on my part to confirm, clear up, or have them discount any number of things that have shown up or said about Castaneda and his life, things that have taken on a life of their own as fact because they have been repeated over and over so often, I interviewed, talked to, or conversed with a number of individuals that were prominent in his life --- especially so in areas that raise conflict when people read one thing about him and I write another.

Originally when I first started writing about Castaneda it was for one reason only. It had to do with help substantiating an incident in my life that revolved around what are known in Buddhism and Hindu spiritual circles under the ancient Sanskrit word Siddhis. Siddhis are supernormal perceptual states that once fully ingrained at a deep spiritual level can be utilized by a practitioner to initiate or inhibit incidents that are beyond the realm of typical everyday manifestation.

In that the incident that occurred in my life, although bordering on the edges of what is generally conceived in the west as Shamanism or possibly the occult, was actually deeply immersed on the eastern spiritual side of things. To bridge the understanding between the eastern and western concepts I brought in for those who may have been so interested the legacy of one of the most well read practitioner of such crafts in the western world, Carlos Castaneda. Although highly controversial and most certainly not the fully unmitigated expert in the field, he is widely read and a known figure when mentioned, by camps both pro and con. So said, Castaneda has the highest profile in of all individuals to have claimed the ability through shamanistic rituals the ability to fly --- thus, for reasons as they related to me I used Castaneda in my works as an example. In doing so it opened a virtual Pandora's Box of never ending controversy, causing me to either ignore or substantiate what I presented. Hence, as questions were raised by me in my own writing or raised by those who read my material more pages were created to explain who, what, when, where, and why.


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The following people were all major movers in the life of Carlos Castaneda, and at one time or the other I met and talked with them all, which is more than most people who write about Castaneda has ever done. And I only did so on and off over time primarily to clarify questions about Castaneda that I had read that just did not make sense. Most people who question what I have presented about Castaneda simply gather their information from the standard already in existence party line. Some of the people I've talked to in reference to Castaneda who, following some rather extended discussions, clarified a lot for me --- after Castaneda himself of course, others are people like C. Scott Littleton, Alex Apostolides, Barbara G. Myerhoff, Edward H. Spicer, Clement Meighan, who Castaneda dedicated his first book to, and Castaneda's ex-wife Margaret Runyan.

Interestingly enough, my interview with Runyan came about because before she married Castaneda, she had been engaged to another author, the cowboy and western writer, with over 100 books to his credit, Louis L'amour. It just so happened my uncle who, if you recall, was the Informant in Castaneda lore, just happened to know L'Amour. My uncle took me with him one day he went to see L'Amour. When I had a chance to meet Runyan years later I used me knowing L'Amour as the wedge to talk with her. As it was, and not many people know about it, my uncle, who was influential with Castaneda also, along with another man deeply seeped in Native American spiritual lore by the name of H. Jackson Clark, worked together funneling Native American spiritual facts to L'Amour used as a theme in two of his books that borderlined much of what Castaneda wrote about, titled The Californios and Haunted Mesa.



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The house "around the corner and up the street on a lot that was on a small hill" where the so-called mummified man lived was just over the crest and downside toward the north of a hill that rose up a couple hundred feet high from the south with its base along Torrance Boulevard. It was that same hill, from a house on Lucia Street about two blocks away and where I lived as a little kid before my mother died, that I caught the first glimpse of the huge object that came to be known as The Battle of Los Angeles: 1942 UFO as it barely crossed over the crest of that hill in a south southeasterly direction and right over my house.


Even though the object basically came straight on and crossed directly over the top of us, being out of the range of the searchlights it's actual shape was hard to discern against the upper night sky. My dad, who had actually watched the Graf Zeppelin land in Los Angeles at Mines Field (now LAX) and even walked along side and under the giant airship, often said the object that passed over us that night was as big, if not bigger, than a Zeppelin.





To my knowledge my merchant marine friend never left his house except for two times during all the time I knew him. The first time was around three months after I started working for him. During that period a continuous series of high-powered winter storms battered the coastline all along Redondo Beach for a good two weeks straight, with giant two-story high waves tearing out a good portion of the beach and destroying houses all along the Strand. The damage received a good amount of national coverage and almost nonstop local coverage. My merchant marine friend, who could barely get between rooms without collapsing, decided he wanted to see the waves and destruction himself in real life. He got a couple of merchant marine buddies along with a couple of ex-navy guys he knew, one of whom was Guy Hague, who became famous in his own right one day, to carry him down to the street along with all of his breathing stuff, put him in the back of a panel truck, and take him down to the Strand.

Several women observing the waves recognized one of the sailors and came over to talk and fuss over the merchant marine who had been carried up on a stretcher. Interestingly enough, and much to the surprise of the men and the merchant marine, a couple of the women recognized me. None of it would had meant one thing one way or the other except that the women worked for or loosely affiliated with the infamous Redondo Beach madam Fifie Malouf.

Five years before I had lived with a foster couple and, not liking the arrangements for one reason or the other, ran away from home. Without anybody knowing where I was or having anybody's consent I ended up staying with a World War II ex-Marine taxi driver that had fought his way up through all the islands in all the major battles in the Pacific from Guadacanal northward. The taxi driver and I would have breakfast several days a week at Malouf's Happy Hour Cafe and sometimes I would hang out in the cafe in the afternoons or evenings while the ex-marine "visited a friend" in one of the apartments attached to the cafe. As a young boy basically unattended in the cafe it wasn't long before some of the women --- who worked for Fifie and knew what was going on --- befriended me. It was a couple of those same women who recognized me that day I was with my merchant marine friend.

The second time my merchant marine friend ever left his house was about six months before he died. I started to work for him just as I began the 9th grade. Two years later, during the summer between my junior and senior year, apparently because of all the trauma and stress he had endured over the years from the severe burns, his body just gave out and he died. Even though he had severe burns and scaring from the torpedo attack and was housebound to boot with a tough time talking, he still had all kinds of people that used to stop by and see him and get into big long discussions on all sorts of topics. But, for all the knowledge and topics he could talk about what he was really known for was Atlantis and Mu --- both of which he not only studied indepth and had book after book on, but he also had spent a good part of his life out in the field physically searching for clues to their existence. In the end, as a one time true believer, he became convinced neither existed and would argue vehemently with a huge arsenal of information and facts at his fingertips against either of the lost continents.

In those days both the merchant marine and I lived in homes on the 200 block south in Redondo Beach. Just a few short blocks away, with an address in the 500 north Gertruda section lived a man by the name of Truman Bethurum. Bethurum would come by the merchant marine's house on occasion and the two of them would get into heated discussions. Several times he was there I was there. The last time I remember seeing him at the merchant marine's house was in February 1954. Bethurum told him that in a couple of days, on Friday evening February 19th, at the Neptunian Womens Club clubhouse in Manhattan Beach (a few miles north of Redondo) he was going to give an hour-long talk begining at 8 p.m. and hoped he could be there. With much struggle and pain, with the help of several of his merchant marine friends, for whatever reason, he made it and I tagged along.

Unknown to me at the time, all the while Bethurum had been coming by to visit my merchant marine friend he was rising up the ranks just to the cusp of being famous --- famous for what was was being called a "contactee." I was told a contactee was a person who had been contacted by aliens from another world. At his talk that night, in so many words, Bethurum said his experience began after his shift working as a maintenance mechanic for the Wells Cargo Construction Company, an asphalt mixing plant in Nevada. Tired, he took a little time to take a snooze at a nearby place called Morman Mesa where he had been hunting for ancient seashells. In the process he encountered a UFO and its occupants including the ships captain, a female named Aura Rhanes. According to what Rhanes told him she came from a planet called Clarion, which is not known to earth-based astronomers because its orbital path kept it permanently hidden from the earth behind the moon. Bethurum claimed his first contact took place on July 7, 1952 (later corrected to Saturday or Sunday of July 26 or 27) and since then to have had several similar encounters and at the time of his presentation continued to look forward to the time when he could travel to Rhanes' home planet Clarion.

I sent a letter to my uncle outlining Bethurum's story. He wrote back saying to take the guy for what he is worth, but he sounded like a nut case. My uncle said he had three personal experiences with flying objects of an unknown origin, the San Antonio crash (1945), the Roswell crash (1947) and the Kingman UFO (1953), and not once, under any circumstances involving the objects, had he run into any sort of life forms, dead or alive. My uncle's advice, possibly tinged with a tiny bit of jealousy, asked what I thought my dad would think if he found out I was listening to Bethurum. After all, he said, my dad had told him (my uncle) when he asked me join him in Kingman that he "was filling my mind with all kinds of 'weird and useless shit' and to and keep his 'cock-and-bull stories' to himself."

The interesting part of it all 50 years or so later meeting Bethurum allowed me, or at least opened the doors for me to so, meet and talk with another alleged contactee named Judith Anne Woolcott, sometimes Judy Woolcott or Judi Woolcott, that played a very instrumental part in the aforementioned incident covered most thoroughly at the following site: Kingman UFO 1953. If I would have taken my uncle's advice and curtailed my youthful naivete' it is quite possible the meeting and the information regarding Kingman I obtained may not have transpired.

Bethurum died in 1969 after reaching his pinnacle some years before. When his narrative about Clarion being in an orbit kept out of sight by the moon was proven to be scientifically infeasible he said he was mistaken and that the planet was really in the exact orbital path of the earth only directly opposite of the earth on the other side of the sun. When that was discredited he moved the planet to another solar system.

Some people have questioned how I can be so sure so many years after the fact that February 19th was the specific date for Bethurums talk at the Neptunian Club. If you remember from the above, with the passing of my mother I was sent to live with a foster couple that owned a flower shop and of whom, almost immediately, I ran away from and ended up staying with an ex-Marine who had fought his way through all of the major Pacific battles. He was a tough, rough sort of guy and could back it up if necessary. One day I found him sitting bent over with his head in his hands looking all the same as though he was crying. After composing himself and shaking it off as though nothing had happened he told me that it was his birthday and that he and his very best buddy in the military shared the exact same birthdate. They went everywhere together and did everything together. The two of them had fought their way up through all the islands side by side from Guadalcanal northward.

He said barely a year and a half ago, on February 19, 1945, the two of them had just landed on Iwo Jima and no sooner had he come ashore than his best buddy was blown to bits right in front of his eyes and what was left of him wouldn't even fill a dog food can.




When my Merchant Marine Friend told me the story about being torpedoed for some reason I just naturally pictured the incident transpiring in the North Atlantic --- and truth be told, he seemed to allow me to believe it, although he never specifically stated so one way or the other in the many times he told me the story. However, I did overhear a conversation between himself and a man that identified himself as a researcher one day. The merchant marine told the researcher his ship had been torpedoed well off the coast of Florida, and after a lengthy back and forth questioning admitted to the researcher it was somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle. I think what actually happened was the spot where his ship was torpedoed and where he was eventually found floating in the open ocean was two different locations. Sank off Florida in or near the Bermuda Triangle, found in the North Atlantic. The thing is, the merchant marine HATED the Bermuda Triangle and any mention of it, especially in relation to any of the events that surrounded him.

In an extremely interesting twist to the whole being torpedoed off the coast of Florida story is that years later my mentor sent me to study-practice under a mysterious, unhearlded and nearly unknown American Zen master by the name of Alfred Pulyan. As it turned out, Pulyan's most ardent supporter and follower, a man by the name of Richard Rose, had a brother that was a merchant marine who was killed apparently during the same U-boat attack that burned my merchant marine friend so badly that led ultimately to his demise. Regarding the attack, in the Alfred Pulyan link above I write:

"A year or so passed and one day out of the blue my mentor brought up what he was able to ascertain from the facts he found. He told me as far as he could tell my merchant marine friend and the brother of the man he met had been attacked at the same time, albeit under slightly different circumstances. Although it wasn't likely they were shipmates, apparently the ships they were on got hit during the same U-boat attack. My mentor told me my merchant marine friend was part of a top secret convoy. The ship the man's brother was on was actually unescorted, and apparently, having spotted the convoy sometime after leaving Baltimore, under the cover of darkness, began tagging along in the shadow of it's wake for protection."

When I was first informed by my mentor that the convoy my merchant marine friend was on was a top secret mission it meant nothing. It was only when I started putting together bits and pieces to tell the story of how the merchant marine being my friend forged a connection between Carlos Castaneda and myself that any of it began to take on any sort of significance.

If you notice at the top of the page there is a graphic that appears to be a map. That map is a drawing that indicates where many members of the ancient world thought the continent of Atlantis was located. If you remember from the above, in his youth the merchant marine had an obsession with Atlantis and the lost continent of Mu. There is no direct connection between Atlantis and Carlos Castaneda that I am aware of except for my merchant marine friend's interest in same and his knowledge of Peru and how I used Peru to open and establish a dialog with Castaneda.

As I remember now --- stretching back into the dim, foggy reaches of my onetime teenage mind --- I recall my friend telling me about the Azores, a group of islands in the mid-Atlantic well off the coast of Portugal and Africa and how they related to the torpedo attack and Atlantis. Over a period of days during my regular daily visits my merchant marine friend had me get down a bunch of books and maps, spreading the maps all over the desk and all excited, explaining to me the early importance of the Azores in the myth of Atlantis. In several of the books he pointed out how Ignatius Donnelly, author of Atlantis: The Antediluvian World (1882), had first proposed that the Azores were the remnant remains of an Atlantean island continent --- and he told me how he always wanted to go to the islands because of it. He thought the convoy he was on was going to end up there. In those early months of the war a highly secret plan was being put into place for an invasion of North Africa. How that invasion was going to work, during the time of the convoy, had not been finalized. One school of thought felt that staging an invasion from the Azores and Canary Islands would be a good idea. The other school of thought felt a direct invasion would be the best as taking over both islands first then building up men and materials would be a dead giveaway of a potential North African invasion. The convoy he was on was doing top secret pre-staging staging of equipment, material, and ships in Puerto Rico for a quick jump either to the Azores and Canaries or directly to North Africa. His ship was sunk before it ever reached Puerto Rico.(see)


Photo courtesy of the Mariners Museum, Newport News VA
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Several years after I saw the necklace for the very first time found me in a red-darkened strobe light lit bar sitting around with a handful of para-military types and close Army buddies in the Cholon district of Saigon gulping down a large amount of a seemingly never ending supply of of alcoholic beverages. From out of the smoky milieu of mostly horny and inebriated GIs, unsolicited, a tea girl attempted to sit on my lap and tried to put something around my neck. Pushing back I could see she held what appeared to be a gold necklace stretched between her hands. Hanging midway along the necklace was a small Chinese character. Basically grabbing the necklace from her hands I asked where it came from and how she got it. She turned pointing toward a group of barely discernible figures sitting and drinking toward the back of the barroom in the shadows along the darkened wall, telling me that one of the men, a burnt man, had paid her to put it on me. When I asked what she meant by a burnt man, using her hands in a swirling motion in front of her face combined with a snearing facial expression to indicate scars while gasping for air as if the man had a tough time breathing, said in broken English, "burnt man, burnt man." In just the few seconds it took me to work my way through the crowd to the back wall pulling the tea girl with me the burnt man, if there ever was a burnt man, was gone. Nor could anybody at any of the tables remember seeing or talking to a heavily scarred man, burnt or otherwise, sitting at any of the tables --- although some of the GIs were fully able to recall the girl.

The necklace, which I still have and continue to wear to this day, from what I could remember, looked exactly like the one my merchant marine friend showed me and said to be mysteriously wearing out of nowhere the day he was found floating in the sea after his ship was torpedoed. The only problem is, by the time the incident in the Saigon bar occurred my friend had already been dead some ten years, having passed away during the summer between my sophmore and junior years in high school. At his memorial service I was told by family members, following a death bed request on his part, that in an effort to rejoin his fellow seamen he wanted to be cremated and his ashes tossed at sea near where his ship was torpedoed and, along with the ashes, the necklace returned to the sea as well. As far as I know those wishes had been complied with.(see)



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Many people have asked me about the cave. My uncle told me it was man-made and very ancient. It was quite clear it was located and made where it was because of its exact alignment with the setting sun and the major mountain peak across the valley. When asked about the timing for me being there I am at a loss for words. I was never informed one way or the other by my uncle or the strange old man we were traveling with that it was somehow coordinated with a given celestial event or any other reason. However, as I look back now, I am convinced being there must have been because of the solstice or the equinox --- although in either case, the importance of that being so was never made clear. In that I was off from school at the time it must have been summer or possibly fall, but I really can't say as I do not remember. I do know that I had already been with my uncle at the Sun Dagger site and our timing there was designed to coincide with an extremely "special time," that special time being an occurrence of a very rare astronomical phenomenon of the moon being full at the EXACT same time as the summer solstice. Initially the Sun Dagger event did not seem to involve me, only my uncle and the spiritual elder we were traveling with. But the results were quite different before we left. The event in the cave ended with a similar involvement.

Who originally built the cave, how ancient it really was, and why it was so important to go through all the trouble to align it with the equinox or solstice is also a mystery to me. Years later I asked my uncle where the cave was and how to find it. He told me it was a very sacred place, but when the time came it would be revealed to me. He also told me including the cave we had been to there were two other mostly hand-carved caves spread out along the ridge for a total of three, each one aligned with one of the seasons and the mountain peak across the valley --- one for the two equinoxes, one each for each of the solstices.

Even though my uncle had told me that when the time came it would be revealed to me, to this point in time, and even though many upon many years have elasped, such has not been the case. I can tell you that as I was leaving the cave very early the next morning and looked back I could see the ridgeline was slightly crescent shaped curving fairly sharply toward the west and rather slowly curving back toward the west at the other end --- almost as though the center of the crescent was directly in the middle facing toward the mountian peak across the valley. Hiking back to the truck, after I asked, my uncle told me as you sat in the cave facing toward the equinox sunset, the summer solstice cave was to the left of the equinox cave along the ridgeline, which was in the middle of the three, while the winter solstice cave was to the right.

Although, as presented in The Last American Darshan, I had been to and seen, as a very young boy, Arunachala, the holy mountain of the venerated Indian sage the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, I did not remember it primarily because of mitigating circumstances. However, the first time I saw a picture of Arunachala depicting it in a distance view, as a grown-up, thinking back to my experience at the cave, even though the mountain peak was way across the valley from the cave, the shape of the peak looked exactly like Arunachala.

The cave story is elaborated on much more fully and in-depth in Julian Osorio, Don Juan's teacher.


Out of the hundreds and hundreds of books my friend owned and had neatly stashed away all over the place in boxes and on shelves there was only ONE that he ever gave to me to keep. That one book was a hardback copy of The High Barbaree by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, the same authors who wrote Mutiny on the Bounty. He handed it to me one day out of the blue without comment, basically telling me to read it and that it was mine.

In 1947 a movie version of the book had been made that I had neither seen nor heard of, but, in later years have since seen many times. Set in World War II and following the plot of the novel, the movie starred Van Johnson and June Allyson as childhood friends who get separated when June's family moves away. The story begins in the present (that is, the present then, circa 1943-44) with June and Van now back together again as grown adults. June soon discovers that Van has not followed his dream of becoming a doctor and tries to convince him that he needs to be true to himself or else he will never be happy. Before June succeeds in her mission, although the two find themselves in love, neither can act on it because once again they become separated --- only this time by the ravages of war.

Van, who has now become a Navy pilot, while on patrol in the South Pacific in his PBY 5-A floatplane, is shot down. He and his co-pilot find themselves stranded and drifting without communication and become listed missing in action and presumed dead. Days go by. To pass the time, through a series of flashbacks, Van begins telling stories of his childhood, taking the viewer through his life as a young boy and the close friendship he had with June up until the time she moved away. He talks about his Uncle and various tall tales he used to tell. His uncle, a seafaring man who is now a Navy Captain, told him about a mysterious enchanted and uncharted island that rose up out of the sea that he saw once in his youth, an island called High Barbaree. In his stories he even related to Van the latitude and longitude of the island. The co-pilot charts their position and discovers their location is right on top of the coordinates Van's uncle had given him for the legendary island many, many years ago when Van was just a boy. Before the disabled floatplane is able to drift to the actual location --- 1 Degree North, 160 Degrees East --- the co-pilot dies and Van is left all alone and on the verge of dying himself, adrift at sea having long since run out of food and water. He is eventually located alive and returns to June, but not until after he apparently finds refuge on High Barbaree. Of course when he is finally found --- on his downed PBY --- even though he is no longer dying and in good health, as well as seemingly of sound mind, there is no island or sign of High Barbaree.

How all this relates to Carlos Castaneda is because of the unusual nature of the story and the outcome because of it. That is, my mechant marine friend being found strapped to a piece of debris in the middle of the ocean still alive weeks, possibly months, after his ship was torpedoed --- and then him giving me the book High Barbaree that aludes to an island that rises up out of the ocean and saves a Navy pilot after weeks of being lost at sea. One day many years later I told the story to my uncle. Accompanying us at the table that day, and not at all unusual, was a friend of my uncle, a man known to be a well regarded tribal spritual elder. The elder listened intently to my story and, although not interested in the specifics because much of it was foreign to his culture, the overall theme of the story he liked.

However, a few days later he showed up with a truly elderly man. The spiritual elder had been talking to a group of men about my story when a man stepped forward saying he had been a Code Talker in the south Pacific during World War II and knew about PBYs. This inturn put the truly elderly man in the group into some sort of trance. The truly elderly man told the Code Talker for ME to beware of PBYs. Because of the unusual nature of the warning, PBYs and all, the elder brought us together. The truly elderly man was somehow privy to a story that it had been said that as a young boy I had been touched by the White Painted Lady (see). Because of such, he felt a connection that otherwise might not have been there. Basically, through translators, because the truly elderly man did not have a full command of the english language, he wanted to know if I had access to a PBY. I told him not only had I never been on one or near one, to my knowledge I did not think I had ever even seen one. The old man slumped back almost as though he had fainted. Within minutes he returned to consciousness. He said that if not me someone from my past, possibly a woman, and if not her someone close to her would be impacted adversely in the use of such a craft. For me to stay away from such aircraft and ensure that any of my friends that might fit the bill stay away from them as well.

At the time I knew nobody that in anyway would be involved with a PBY, especially so since they were for the most part World War II aircraft on the brink of obsolescence.

One summer, albeit unrelated to any of the above by me at the time, I crewed on a yacht come marlin boat owned by the multi-millionaire David J. Halliburton. On one of the days the boat was in the marina a very little girl who apparently couldn't swim fell off the dock into the water. I jumped in and pulled her to a location along the docks where the skipper I worked for, who was following right behind me, was able to lift her out of the water. In the process a small crowd gathered and in the crowd was a woman from my past that I had not seen in years. The following relates more fully to that incident:

"Amongst the crowd was a woman that recognized me, a former Rose Marie Reid swim suit model that I knew as Sullivan, but since married to the son of a renowned ocean explorer. They had a boat in the harbor and since we had not seen each other in years, after everybody was sure the girl was OK, she asked me to join her for drinks on her yacht, get into some dry clothes and get caught up. As I was leaving later in afternoon Sullivan asked if I would be willing to go to a party she was throwing in a couple of weeks. As I slowly strolled away down the dock I halfheartedly turned back and nodded in agreement that I would attend."(source)

Now, I do not recall if the above incident between the former model and myself occured before or after the warning by the elderly man, but please note that I say the woman in question was married to the "son of a renowned ocean explorer." She and I never had an opportunity to talk or cross paths again after the aforementioned party. However, some years later --- and with me being in absolutely no position to know of such things --- they, in the mid-1970s, bought a PBY. Four years after the purchase her husband was killed piloting the plane during a water landing.


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Photograph: U.S. Navy Historical Archives

In a footnote to Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery, refering to the small gold medalion, the following is found:

"(I)n 1977 I was in Hong Kong to seek audience with the famous translator Upasaka Lu K'uan Yu."

I go on to say the purpose of that meeting was to get a better handle on what the Zen master wrote. The Zen master in question was the master at the monastery. However, there was an equally strong if not even more so overriding reason I was in Hong Kong to meet with Lu K'uan Yu in 1977, and it revolves around handwritten Chinese characters given to me by the Zen man far away and high in the mountains above the monastery. Even though we were unable to communicate verbally because of not knowing each other's languages, there was a great nonverbal understanding between the two of us. When he showed me that he too had a small gold medalion just like the one I wore around my neck, through hand gestures, pantomime, and line drawings in the dirt I tried to get him to show me how it was he came into possession of the medalion. He drew a couple of cuneiform characters in the dirt and I copied them as best I could. He inturn, upon seeing how I copied them, nodded in agreement. However, nobody I showed them to could translate them --- hence my trip to Hong Kong. Even Lu K'uan Yu was baffled, alluding to the fact I may have copied them wrong. Eventually he was convinced the characters were meant to mean Gyanganj, a home for immortals said to be hidden in a valley in the remote Himalayas. For those who may be so interested, in the west Gyanganj is known as Shangri-la or Shambhala. For more please see



Again and again I am asked where is it in Ignatius Donnelly's book does he make reference to the Azores as being "remnant remains of Atlantis," a reference of which in turn drove the merchant marine to go there? The quote and map below are from Donnelly's book Atlantis: The Antediluvian World, more specifically PART I, THE HISTORY OF ATLANTIS CHAPTER V: The Testimony of the Sea:

"Here, then, we have the backbone of the ancient continent which once occupied the whole of the Atlantic Ocean, and from whose washings Europe and America were constructed; the deepest parts of the ocean, 3500 fathoms deep, represent those portions which sunk first, to wit, the plains to the east and west of the central mountain range; some of the loftiest peaks of this range--the Azores, St. Paul's, Ascension, Tristan d'Acunba--are still above the ocean level; while the great body of Atlantis lies a few hundred fathoms beneath the sea. In these 'connecting ridges' we see the pathway which once extended between the New World and the Old, and by means of which the plants and animals of one continent travelled to the other; and by the same avenues black men found their way, as we will show hereafter, from Africa to America, and red men from America to Africa."

When I was in the fifth grade or so I was living on a ranch owned by my Stepmother in the Mojave Desert. Down the road on the next closest ranch lived a much older boy than me that collected every cowboy western comic book he could get his hands on. He had hundreds of them neatly stacked in brand new turned-up orange crates made into shelves in his room, each book in pristine condition and always kept in order by title and chronological by month, date, and number. I used to go to his place whenever I got a chance sitting around all day hanging out and reading them.

During that period, one of the comic books he collected centered around a female western hero who, according to the storyline, had been found near death and saved by Native Americans. She was then adopted into the Dakota Tribe who gave her the name Firehair because of her red hair. Both my mother and her sister had beautiful long red hair. In that they were so close together age-wise and looked so much alike almost everybody mistook them for twins. Although I do not remember much about my mother I remember my aunt very well, and because of their look alikeness I always felt I had a good idea of what my mother looked like. As a young boy I always held a certain affinity towards the Firehair character because I liked to believe my mother, with her red hair and all, would have been like her, maybe even, since I never went to her funeral, found by Indians and saved.

A couple of years later I was living in the home of a foster couple that I ended up running away from on more than one occasion. One day I traded two or three comics for a copy of Rangers Comics #63 dated February 1952, a comic I wanted for two reasons. One, the lead off story was about Firehair, who I had not seen anything on since leaving the ranch. And secondly, it had a section on Billy the Kid whose gravesite I had gone to with my uncle on one of our travels. As I was reading the comic for the 100th time the woman of the foster couple, seeing the story I was reading was about a redheaded woman like my mother, grabbed it out of my hands and threw it across the room telling me to get over it, my mother was dead and long gone, and she was my mother now. As soon as I saved a few bucks I packed up a handful of things, including the comic book, and ran away.

I ended up at my now ex-stepmother's for a second time, then with my Uncle for the rest of the summer before going to my grandmother's and starting high school in the fall. It was shortly after moving to my grandmother's that I met my merchant marine friend and it was he who brought up the lost continent of Atlantis. Interestingly enough, the very same copy of Rangers Comics #63 that I had been hauling around with me since running away from the foster couple had one of the first stories on Atlantis I recall, The Quest for Lost Atlantis. As the young boy that I was at the time I had no reason to discount the accuracy of the story.