3. Did Juan Matus 'exist'?

"The body is an awareness."
Carlos Castaneda
For those familiar with the Castaneda books, philosophical arguments may nevertheless appear unsatisfactory as an answer to such a ‘simple’ question as ‘Did Juan Matus actually exist?’. Here again however, this seemingly simple question itself is riddled with deeper questions about what it means for anything or anyone to ‘exist’. Certainly the figure of Don Juan/Juan Matus – became as real, not only for Castaneda but for his readers – no less say, than the figure of Sherlock Holmes was for both Conan Doyle and his readers. What the question seems to really want to ask however, is whether Juan Matus was ‘real’ in the sense of being a flesh-and-blood individual. The deeper question hidden here however – and one also central to the deeper philosophical teachings conveyed by the Castaneda books – has to do with our conception of the nature of ‘bodyhood’ itself. In his own accounts of learning the arts of sorcery, Castaneda describes himself as having been taught to see human bodies, not in the everyday manner, but in the form of ‘luminous eggs’. This is neither a new way of ‘seeing’ the human body in terms of the history of esoteric literature (the ‘auric egg’) nor is it any more outrageous a proposition than recognising - as did the biologist Jakob von Uexküll - that most other species would be quite incapable of seeing ‘flesh and blood’ human bodies in anything like the way that human beings themselves do. Thus for human beings, a man, sheep or dog is a ‘flesh and blood’ reality, whereas the term ‘mammal’ is a mere generic category, whilst for the tick it is the other way round – their sense organs being such as to only register those features of a body which distinguish hairy mammals from cold-blooded creatures.  What for us then, is an abstract category is, for the tick, a concrete perceptual reality – and vice versa. Then again, how are we to know how sharks or bats for example, despite being virtually blind but with their hyper-acute chemical and electrical or sonar modes of perceptual awareness would perceive the bodies of human beings?  
In another essay of mine I have argued that all species – indeed all things - are essentially species of consciousness. By this I mean that what defines them is a particular field-pattern of awareness - one which in turn gives perceptual shape and form to that patterned field of awareness which constitutes their surrounding perceptual world or environment (German Umwelt). In other words, there are as many worlds as there are species - understood as species of consciousness – each of which in turn perceives both the bodily form of their own species and that of all other species in their environment in a unique and highly species-specific way.
Albeit an important one, this is only one answer however to the deceptively simple question of whether or not Juan Matus actually ‘existed’.  For another question lurking within this question is what it means for any thing or being to ‘exist’ or ‘be’?  Before even asking “Did or did not Juan Matus actually ‘exist’?” therefore, the more fundamental question is “Who or what is ‘Juan Matus’?”. In other words, what does it essentially mean for any human being - including you and me - or indeed any thing or being whatsoever, to ‘be’ or ‘exist’?”
This was the fundamental or basic ‘ontological’ question raised by the German thinker Martin Heidegger, who himself  concluded that the essence of the human being is nothing essentially human. Even for Castaneda himself however, the question of who or what Don Juan/Juan Matus essentially was, was itself a question - suspecting as he did early on that Don Juan was ‘pretending’ to be someone else – or that someone else was ‘pretending’ to be Don Juan.

I see this suspicion itself as the surface of yet deeper questions, each pregnant with yet deeper insights or ‘seeings’. One such insight is that we are all essentially eternal ‘spiritual’ or ‘trans-human’ beings in human bodily form. Another is the insight that our perceptual awareness of each other’s ‘flesh and blood’ bodies is what Seth calls a “secondary construction” i.e. a “materialised body image” or hallucinated perception of their own inwardly lived and experienced body or “primary construction”. This lived body however, is not essentially a body of flesh and blood we are merely and simply aware of - being made up not of atoms, cells, molecules and organs but of specific tones, qualities, shapes, patterns, flows and filaments of awareness. Indeed what we perceive and conceive as atoms, molecules, cells and organs are themselves but the outwardly perceived form taken by patterns and units of awareness. Essentially then, how any body is perceived from the outside or ‘exteroceptively’ - whether by members of its own or other species of consciousness - may bear little or no relation to how it is experienced by them from the inside or ‘enteroceptively’, which means also ‘proprioceptively’ and ‘kinaesthetically’.
Such understandings, however radical they may first appear, should come as no surprise to us – given that in our dreams we regularly create “secondary constructions” or “hallucinate” images of people and things, whether known or unknown to us in our waking life and world. This does not imply however that what we perceive in our dreams is merely a set of ‘constructed’ or ‘projected’ images that ‘we’ fabricate.  For again, the deeper question is who are ‘we’. For if, as Seth suggests, each of us is composed of a multitude of selves or ‘fragment personalities’, then what we behold in our dreams may not only be a ‘fragment personality’ or ‘sub-personality’ of ours, but might alternatively – or also – be our way of picturing and perceiving an aspect of another being’s self and body that is similar to or in resonance with an aspect of ours. The big difference between dreaming and waking consciousness however, is that dreaming permits the innately shape-shifting character of our inner body and that of other beings to be experienced or perceived – though, as I have discovered myself, dreaming is not the only mode of consciousness in which this is possible.  
Of course, it remains perfectly valid to ask how all these insights make sense of our everyday waking world – in which we do appear to have the capacity to perceive both each other’s bodies and those of the things and world around us in a recognisable and largely stable way that is shared by others. This question however, is one that again is itself central to the message of Castaneda books, which raises the deeper question of (1) how and in what ways this capacity to create and sustain a seemingly shared inter-subjective world is exercised, and (2) is the everyday waking world we seem to share in common the only or primary world that we share in common – or can we come to share other realities, other worlds? For after all, it seems from Castaneda’s accounts that others in the party of sorcerers knew and encountered Juan Matus too, and that Castaneda himself shared joint experiences of other realities with them. 

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