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Castaneda was born in 1925 and came to the United States in 1951 from Peru.
He’d studied sculpture at the School of Fine Arts in Lima and hoped to make it as an artist in the United States.
Richard Jennings, an attorney who became closely involved with Castaneda in the ’90s, was studying at Stanford in the early ’70s when he read the first two don Juan books. Skepticism increased in 1972 after Joyce Carol Oates, in a letter to the New York Times, expressed bewilderment that a reviewer had accepted Castaneda’s books as nonfiction.
Under don Juan’s tutelage, Castaneda took peyote, talked to coyotes, turned into a crow, and learned how to fly.A corporation, Cleargreen, was set up to promote Tensegrity; it held workshops attended by thousands.Novelist and director Bruce Wagner, a member of Castaneda’s inner circle, helped produce a series of instructional videos.Over the next decade, several researchers, most prominently Richard de Mille, son of the legendary director, worked tirelessly to demonstrate that Castaneda’s work was a hoax.In spite of this exhaustive debunking, the don Juan books still sell well.