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10 Best Carlos Castaneda Books (2024)

Best Carlos Castaneda BooksOne of The Most Authentic

Carlos Castaneda stands as one of the most authentic writers of the late twentieth century. The whole carrier of the author is dedicated to the shamanistic culture of modern-day Yaqui. Yaqui are a Native American and Mexican tribe that live along the border of the United States and Mexico around the state of Arizona. They still use their ancestral language and the preservation of their culture is one of the best in the United States.

Man of Knowledge

Carlos Castaneda is interested in one person in particular among this tribe, don Juan Matus. He was very intrigued by the mass of knowledge these indigenous people possessed and eventually came to be a disciple of the traditional “Man of Knowledge”, don Juan. He had done this even before finishing college. In fact, his first three books were written while he was also studying at the University of California for his anthropology degree.

Best Carlos Castaneda Books

The Teachings of Don Juan Series


A Subject of Conflict

The best Carlos Castaneda series is signed non-fiction by the publisher but there are still arguments on whether don Juan was a real person or the author just made him up. Some critics even published multiple books to prove Castaneda wrong. Some of the biggest arguments are that the author does not seem to possess a lot of knowledge of the tribe’s language even though he spent a lot of time with them and that he never encountered dangers in his journey.

The Teachings of Don Juan


Early Encounters With The Yaqui Sorcerer

We will go through these Carlos Castaneda books in order of publication and our first piece will be the one that changed the author’s life, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. The piece was written by the author as his Master’s thesis and published as a work of anthropology in 1968 by the University of California Press. Of course, it marks the beginning of the author’s adventures with don Juan and takes place between 1960-1965.

The first section of the that is divided into two talks about the first-hand experiences of the author. He narrates both the world he is surrounded with and his early interactions with the Yaqui sorcerer. He dwells a lot on the topic of psychedelics. He talks about his “encounters” with the spiritual body of the peyote plant known as Mescalito as well as other experiences with “Yerba del diablo” and “Humito” which are local names for Jimson weed and Psilocybe Mexicana respectively.

Analysis of Don Juan

In the second part, don Juan becomes the subject of the book as the tables turn. The author examines his belief system and breaks it down with scientific methods. Though, I felt as though his outlook in this jurisdiction of belief was quite a bit compromised by his heavily westernized and materialistic worldview compared to the native shaman. Still, this book is living proof as to why these pieces are the best Carlos Castaneda book series by far.

A Separate Reality


Focusing on True Meaning

The second book which we will go over now is one of the most popular books by Carlos Castaneda, A Separate Reality. This piece takes the events of 1960-1965 further and explains greater detail. It was written and published just three years after the initial book, in 1971. The great thing about this book is that it focuses more on what don Juan has to say rather than the writer’s interpretations of his words.

The title of the book is very cleverly chosen and it pretty much describes the heart premise of the book. A Separate Reality mainly concerns itself with altered states of consciousness. These states of consciousness can be as mundane as dreams and nightmares or as extraordinary as an intense psychedelic trip. All of these experiences are a reality of their own, you are in the universe of a dream whilst you are dreaming it.

Experience Rather Than Sensation

What I really like about this contender for the best Carlos Castaneda book title is its perspective on all of the different worlds of experience. By a world of experience, I mean the reality of a particular experience that I have mentioned above. The author does not just focus on the informational sensations but he also draws a lot of emphasis on what feelings an experience evokes. A Separate Reality can be best summarized as an eye-opening book.

Journey to Ixtlan


Gateways Into Alternative Realities

The third book in The Teachings of Don Juan series is another one of the best selling Carlos Castaneda books, Journey to Ixtlan. This piece takes into hand the subject of mind-altering plants and the theory that they act as gateways into alternative realities. These alternative realities are said to be as real as our own with their own physical structures and living beings.

Journey to Ixtlan was published just one year after its predecessor, in 1972. It is the last book about the author’s initial journeys with don Juan in the sixties. He dwells deep into his field notes for one last time and begins to understand something that don Juan has been trying to tell him from the start. Which is the notion that psychedelics are merely tools for embracing alternative realities that we talked about above.

Questioning Your View of The World

What I really like about this book is the fact that it can support a seemingly outrageous notion with ideas that can not be discredited as nonsensical. This comes from the author’s experience, or imagination, with the Shaman and his thorough examinations of it. What you have in the end is a book that can make you question your view of the world. For these reasons, Journey to Ixtlan is one of the best Carlos Castaneda books out there.

Tales of Power


Understanding of Mysticality

We will continue our journey into the realm of sorcery with the first place owner on the list of the best rated Carlos Castaneda books, Tales of Power. While the earlier books had just been accounts of the author following around don Juan aimlessly and trying to make sense of the things he says, this piece is a lot more different than that. Tales of Power is the tale of Castaneda finally reaching certain points of understanding in the field of mysticality.

My favorite segment of the book was the twenty or so pages long chapter in which the Mexican shaman sat his disciple in front of him and had “the talk”. No, it is not the talk you are thinking about. Don Juan recognized that Carlos had made enough progress for initiation. He explained the complex structures which the author had difficulty understanding and he let him ask any question he wanted on the subjects.

First Step of Initiation

What is the most fascinating thing in the book is that the period of explanation was just the first step of the author’s initiation as a man of knowledge and power. In other words, it was the first step of Castaneda into becoming a sorcerer himself. Reading this, you might think that those who question this book’s reality are right. However, you must keep in mind that the sorcerer we are talking about here is just a man of mystic knowledge.

Second Ring of Power


Aims of Focus

Almost halfway through our Carlos Castaneda book list, I will give you a quick glimpse into the Second Ring of Power book. In order to explain this piece, I think I should start by explaining the title. For the first four books, Castaneda was studying the “first ring” which stood for the practices of drawing attention to one’s body and embracing the realm of reason. In this piece, the author already mastered the first ring and is now up for the second one.

So, what is the second ring? Well, it has something to do with power as we can deduct from the title but it is the study of outer realms in essence. While the first ring aimed to pay attention to the body, the second ring aims to focus attention on the “non-ordinary” world. This “realm of will” is also called Naqual by the Yaqui and it is basically a psychic sub-realm in which sorcerers can locate, communicate, and attack other sorcerers.

An Old Enemy

The writer has to master the realm of Naqual as he is now a fully initiated sorcerer himself. He will have to use his powers whether he wants it or not. Why? Because he is being attacked by an old enemy by the name of Doña Soledad. He is thankfully not alone in his journey and a handful of woman sorcerers -whom don Juan mentored along with him- give him some much-needed help.

The Eagle’s Gift


Sorcerer’s Secret

We will continue our Carlos Castaneda books ranked article with the sixth book from the series, The Eagle’s Gift. I really liked the ominous feeling of the title when I first read it and I was amazed when I eventually learned what it stood for. The Eagle is a sorcerer’s secret, it is the being that gives us humans our invaluable gift of awareness and the being that takes it away from us upon our death.

The sorcerers know of this being -if it can even be called a being- but they also know how to fight it and retain their awareness. In another one of his extremely dream-like chapters, Castaneda tells us the story of how don Juan and his party of warriors left our world in an instant. The party vanished into the total night and the Eagle, bowing down to their will and discipline, let them pass through to the other side.

Symbolism of The Ancient Times

Whether the story is real or not, The Eagle’s Gift is a great example of symbolism in shamanistic cultures. It is very hard to make up what is real and what is imagination in this story as is usual for the author’s books but I do not think that the name Eagle is not to be taken literally. Instead, what I envisioned in my mind as I read through was a half-human with the head or some other characteristics of an eagle, akin to ancient Egyptian gods.

The Fire from Within


Interconnecting Conscious Energy

Next up among the best book by Carlos Castaneda that we will go over in this article, we have The Fire from Within. This piece discusses the landscape and the elements of our inner world which are shared by all humans even though we are not fully aware of it. This world is not one of material and subject-object relations, it is a massive web that serves as an interconnection place of all conscious energy.

What really intrigued me about this book is that in its time of publication, 1984, the ideas it put forth were never before heard of by Western civilizations. Today, though, countless people are beginning to wonder if there is a spiritual realm accessed through the use of strong psychedelics like DMT and some scientists are even going as far as to try and draw a map of this alien world.

How Much Can we Recognize?

When we take into account that people see similar beings during intense psychedelic experiences and that even ancient cultures with no awareness of one another have symbolic and mythical similarities, this idea of a shared higher plane becomes less absurd. All of these things are actually subtly mentioned in this magnificent book but I doubt I would recognize them if I had not known them earlier. I can only wonder what else I did not recognize.

Power of Silence


The Nature of Sorcery

Continuing on with our article, I will be bringing you another one of the top rated Carlos Castaneda books out there, Power of Silence. Throughout the series, the author has been explaining the secrets of our world through the use of sorcery as well as the secrets of sorcery through awareness of our world. With this piece, he dwells on the nature of sorcery itself.


The best parts of the book are without a doubt the stories of don Juan. His stories force you to stimulate your mind and if you are paying close enough attention, they share with us the meaning of sorcery and magic. We are let in on the connection of sorcery with belief and self-realization. Still, they are not so clearly illuminated. Don Juan gives us transcendental secrets that are a little hard to wrap your head around.

The Art of Dreaming


Author’s Own Wisdom

Nearing the end of our article, we will be talking a little about The Art of Dreaming. A very interesting detail about this piece is that it was published six years after the previous book, in 1993. The author spent this time expanding his knowledge by researching and practicing his understanding of different forms of meditation. At the end of these six years, with the help of don Juan’s teachings, he came to an understanding of dreams.

It is important to note that at the time this book was being written, Carlos Castaneda was already a famous occult figure and he had become highly advanced in the field of sorcery. He has been publishing books for twenty-five years and being educated by a master shaman for more than thirty years. Thus, The Art of Dreaming is not the teachings of an elder narrated by the author, it is the author’s own wisdom.

Deep Into The Dream Realm

The book starts off with the author mastering various techniques of lucid dreaming which is getting yourself in a conscious state while you are dreaming. He explores the realm of dreams and practices lucid dreaming until he becomes truly proficient. After that, he dwells so deep into this realm that it is inseparable from a psychedelic journey. Definitely a strong contender for the best Carlos Castaneda book title.

The Active Side of Infinity


The End

Our article is coming to an end and we will go over the last book of The Teachings of Don Juan in chronological order, The Active Side of Infinity. It is the twelfth book in the series, coming right after “Magical Passes” and “The Wheel of Time” which are both accounts of the culture of the Yaqui tribe and the physical practices of their sorcerers.

There is a reason that this book is the end of the series and it is that it talks about the end. We know this end as “death”, complete annihilation of our being. However, the wise sorcerers of the Yaqui tribe look at the concept from a different angle. For them, death is not the end of our self but rather the end of our physical journey. After all, no lone human or culture can actually know what happens after death.

Sole Purpose of Shamanistic Knowledge

After their physical death, shamans enter a region called the active side of infinity. They are no longer present in the physical world but their mystic being is very much alive in the form of a new existence. Reaching this region, according to don Juan, is the sole and most important aim of shamanistic knowledge. This wild concept along with the author’s talented writing make this piece one of the best rated books by Carlos Castaneda.

Michael Englert

Michael is a graduate of cultural studies and history. He enjoys a good bottle of wine and (surprise, surprise) reading. As a small-town librarian, he is currently relishing the silence and peaceful atmosphere that is prevailing.