Castaneda, Carlos

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Read here about Carlos Casteneda, an author who uses the word "tensegrity" to describe a set of shamanistic practices.


Carlos Cesar Salvador Arana Castaneda (25 December 1925 – 27 April 1998) was a Peruvian-born American anthropologist and author. Starting with The Teachings of Don Juan in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that describe his purported training in traditional Mesoamerican shamanism. His 12 books have sold more than 8 million copies in 17 languages. Obviously, his writing and teaching are valued by a broad population that both comprehend his writings and find them vitally important to their own personal search for meaning in life.

In his books, Castaneda narrated in first person what he claimed were his experiences under the tutelage of a Yaqui shaman named Don Juan Matus whom he met in 1960. Castaneda wrote that he was identified by don Juan Matus as having the energetic configuration of a "nagual", who, if the spirit chose, could become a leader of a party of warriors. He also used the term "nagual" to signify that part of perception which is in the realm of the unknown yet still reachable by man, implying that, for his party of seers, don Juan was in some way a connection to that unknown. Castaneda often referred to this unknown realm as nonordinary reality, which indicated that this realm was indeed a reality, but radically different from the ordinary reality experienced by human beings who are well engaged in everyday activities as part of their social conditioning. Ordinary reality as experienced by humans was simply a "description" that had been pounded into their awareness since they were infants.

The books and Castaneda, who rarely spoke in public about his work, have been controversial for many years. Supporters claim the books are either true or at least valuable works of philosophy and descriptions of practices which enable an increased awareness. Academic critics claim the books are works of fiction, citing the books' internal contradictions, discrepancies between the books and anthropological data, alternate sources for Castaneda's detailed knowledge of shamanic practices lack of corroborating evidence and convincing evidence to the contrary, such the comparison with his library stack requests at the University of California. The stack requests documented that Castaneda was sitting in the library when his journal said he was squatting in don Juan's hut. One of the most memorable discoveries that De Mille made in his examination of the stack requests was that when Castaneda said he was participating in the traditional peyote ceremony—the least fantastic episode of drug use—he was not only sitting in the library, but he was reading someone else's description of their experience of the peyote ceremony. Other criticisms of Castaneda's work include the total lack of Yaqui vocabulary or terms for any of his experiences.

Cleargreen Inc and Tensegrity

Castaneda and the other students of Don Juan created Cleargreen Incorporated in 1995.[2] The purpose of Cleargreen as mentioned on its web page is "carrying out the instruction and publication of Tensegrity". Cleargreen has been organizing and leading classes and workshops on Tensegrity in North and South America, Europe and Russia. Castaneda also published the book Magical Passes in 1998. Magical Passes contains a series of instructions for performing a set of Tensegrity movements. With the aid of the company Laugan Productions Castaneda also published instructional video recordings of Tensegrity movements.

Castenada's Definition of Tensegrity

Cleargreen provided this definition of the word on their website:

"Tensegrity is the name gave to the modern practice of the warrior-traveler’s path with heart that don Juan Matus taught his four students: Carlos Castaneda, Florinda Donner-Grau, Taisha Abelar and Carol Tiggs. The word ‘tensegrity’ was coined by an architect, scientist, engineer, global thinker and dreamer whom Carlos Castaneda admired: R. Buckminster Fuller. Fuller described tensegrity as a process of tensional integrity—the inherent interdependence of structures such as cells, bodies, and solar systems which are held together by a continuous web of tension (such as gravity) holding together discontinuous islands of compression (such as the sun, planets and moons in the solar system).

"As a modern practice of shamanism, Tensegrity means adapting to our own energy, the energy of sun and stars, the air, water, the land, and of its inhabitants in a way that supports the interdependent integrity of the community that we are, as individual and collective beings. The tools that can help us to do this include the ancient energy-enhancing movements and breaths known as magical passes, as well as tracking and dreaming exercises, all of which we will do in this workshop.

"Tracking exercises are: guided self-examination exercises practiced individually and with a peer witness, which allow one to track not only our physical patterns, but also our related mental and emotional patterns and their consequential behaviors and judgments, which we inherited from our lineage and cultures.

"We can direct the energy and awareness gained from this review to access what don Juan Matus called freedom of perception—the freedom to move past any limiting interpretations of our lineage, upbringing and culture to perceive energy directly, and to dream true interdependence—new possibilities of working with others and with the earth–wherever we are, possibilities which spring from an open heart, from bringing one’s best to the interchange."

In 2018 the website still prominently displayed a registered trademark symbol by the word, Tensegrity. In other parts it refers to Carlos Casteneda's Tensegrity.

Rejection of Castaneda's Use Of The Term Tensegrity

People working with tensegrity structures almost uniformly reject Castaneda's use of the term, and there is lingering anger against the Cleargreen corporation for trying to trademark the term. For years, the Wikipedia article on tensegrity was only about Castaneda's use.

However, spiritual and movement therapy practices often borrow terms from construction and structural practices in order to explain the transformations that the practitioner will undergo in concrete or metaphorical terms. For example, yoga teachers speak about balance, building, or connecting; Pilates teachers about piling one vertebrate upon another, and so on. "Tensegrity" was coined only recently, so it has not penetrated into those older spiritual practices, but it is not surprising to find it used to express relationships of contrasting elements.


There are many videos available online showing people performing the Magic Passes series of movements.

An example: Dmitry Rudyi published on Aug 3, 2011 "tensegrity first series - preparation by Dimk" a video that has been viewed over 70K times.


Links and References

Official site,