Carlos Casteneda

Mondo’s story of Copper Canyon, adventure and Carlos Casteneda

Chapter One

I spent the last of my inheritance looking for God in my mid twenties and determined to find that elusive PROOF. It took me to Katmandu, Manchu Pico, the middle East, and became a Carlos Castenada enthusiast, who had written books about a Yaqui Shaman in the early 70″s, named Don Juan. I was graduating from film school at Trinity Uniersity and offered my first job in the film business. The job was to film the experience of going to the Copper Canyons in Mexico the home of Don Juan. We had the permission of the Mexican Governor of Chihuahua in a formal letter, but had to use our own money to produce the film. We started at Poncho Villas home, now a museum, in Chihuahua, and to my surprise was told that his wife, was still alive at 95.

She was wonderful and gave me full access to her for the film. The one bump in the road was when I asked her which wife she was as Villa used to get married a lot…like 28 times. Her answer was, “I am the only one, all the others were whores”. On the last day of filming her, she told me she needed to be paid. She only spoke Spanish to me up to that day. She wanted $500. I said, “Mrs. Villa, this is a travel film that will make you famous….and I have a letter from the Governor of Chihuahua that allows me to film you” And BOOM, she stopped me and in perfect English said “you want to make me famous?”

She then took out photo albums of her with Gary Cooper, John Wayne, John Ford, and the greatest movie stars of all time. She was belligerent and looked at me and said, “I am famous, you are nothing” and you will pay me or you will not leave Chihuahua alive. I believed her, and inasmuch as we were driving an Oldsmobile Tornado, which always had a crowd around it, we were very conspicuous.

Chapter Two

We did not have $500. The day before I was getting my shoes shinned and this kid insisted on selling me a lottery ticket. It was right out out the the movie, Treasure of the Sierra Madres” and I won. We paid Mrs.Villa and hired a single engine plane to fly us over the canyons…..which are four times bigger that the Grand Crayon in AZ, It was a Piper Cub……it flew so slow that I was able to take my camera and lean out the window…..everything was perfect, and we were deep into the canyons, until the engine started to sputter and then stopped. The pilot said…..”bad gas”.

We crash landed on an 1000 foot tall atoll in the middle of the Copper Canyons. The plane stopped about ten feet from the abyss. It was late afternoon. As the sun set, it got cold. I had on Guci loafers with no socks, Levis, a Rolex watch, and a silk shirt with a gold chain. My producer and the pilot had nervous breakdowns and were yelling at each other in Spanish. I realised that we would eventualy die and nobody would ever know we were gone.

The sun set and there was only a sliver of a moon.

My angst went against what I saw in the distance. I thought I was a hallucinating. Out in the abyss, were runners with torches coming to us. It was 20 Yaqui indians with torches who went up the atoll like it was an escalator. They were very brave as we scared them. We were so happy to see them…..they did not speak Spanish.

Chapter Three

It took a while but i eventually realised that our survival depended on these men who were not all that impressed with us….until I took a Polaroid picture of them. One by one they came to me and wanted me show them the plane up close….they were aggressive and scared. Then they left. It was sudden but as soon and they left, they came back and put their arms around me….and said in their language “you must meet out Father”.

We walked. Every night they made a fire and a camp…..it was six days before we arrived at their “village”. They had a lot of explaining to do to the Chief and his brother the medicine man Shaman. We spent the first night in the open but comfortable. They slaughtered a pig, and it was wonderful. Now I realised that we were deep in the canyons, and these people and just been discovered after WWII.

They did not like the Mexican pilot. They especially did not like my Mexican partner who was aggressive and uppity. I had connected with the the Shaman….and ask him to take me into his world. He understood immediately and took me to his Brother, the chief. He agreed and we went into a kinda of sauna….they gave me a drink in a plastic cup of which I drank completely down. It was mushrooms, peyote, and mescal. I realised that this was a test……

There is a point in hallucinogenic ingestion in which your body wants to eject the massive amounts of strychnine , BUT if you can keep it down, you become a GOD. You are the total of your WHOLE SELF. I have never felt more alive or wonderful…..Then I realised I was alone with the Cheif and his brother…..and they were uncomfortable….they had not seen anyone become such a seamless transition to power.

Then all the dogs in the camp, maybe 20, came to the entrance of the tent, and sat there looking at me, like it was time to go….I remembered that I had a vile of blow and laid out a few to the Shaman and his brother….they had never seen anything like it. So I laid out a third and did it in front of them to show them the way. Then I said, “I did yours, now you do mine”.

I was in my 20’s. In the best shape of my life……it was a full moon. I left the lodge, and started running. Into the night……the dogs followed. I can’t remember feeling better or more powerful…..the moon was full and the dogs all looked at me for guidance…..I climbed a rock and howled, the dogs howled with me for hours…..I woke up in the morning with all the dogs in my tent….these were not pets, these dogs were large and protected the Indians, but were not pets. They fought Mountain Lions, wolves and coyotes and had the scars to prove it.

The Alfa male was over 100 pounds. He never came into the village…..Mario, was shocked when after breakfast the alfa dog came over and curled up to me….and put his huge head on my leg and took a scratch.

Chapter Four

Don Juan was a fictional character and the protagonist of numerous best sellers on the non fiction list of the New York Times. Tales of Power is my my personal favourite….but here are some quotes in which you can make up your own mind. Once you read his books, you will understand that The Copper Canyons are a path to conciousness.

“For me there is only the traveling on the paths that have a heart, on any path that may have a heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge for me is to traverse its full length. And there I travel – looking, looking, breathlessly.” ~The Teachings of Don Juan

“Power rests on the kind of knowledge that one holds. What is the sense of knowing things that are useless? They will not prepare us for our unavoidable encounter with the unknown.” ~The Teachings of Don Juan

“The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” ~Journey to Ixtlan

“A warrior must cultivate the feeling that he has everything needed for the extravagant journey that is his life. What counts for a warrior is being alive. Life in itself is sufficient, self-explanatory and complete.” ~Tales of Power/ Wheel of Time

The world of everyday life cannot ever be taken as something personal that has power over us, something that could make us, or destroy us, because man’s battlefield is not in his strife with the world around him. His battlefield is over the horizon, in an area which is unthinkable for an average man, the area where man ceases to be a man.” ~Author’s Commentary to 30th Anniversary Edition of The Teachings of don Juan

“The only alternative left for mankind…is discipline…But by discipline I don’t mean harsh routines. I don’t mean waking up every morning at five-thirty and throwing cold water on yourself until you’re blue. Sorcerers understand discipline as the capacity to face with serenity odds that are not included in our expectations. For them, discipline is an art: the art of facing infinity without flinching, not because they are strong and tough but because they are filled with awe.” ~The Active Side of Infinity