A Separate Reality
Carlos Castaneda's, A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan, was published in 1971 and proceeded his first book, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. Like the first book, A Separate Reality continues the author's spiritual journey with a Yaqui Indian from northwestern Mexico that he calls don Juan. On one level, the book explores the power of natural psychoactive substances, such as peyote, mushrooms, and marijuana , to change a person's perception of reality. On another more significant level, the book the process of spiritual enlightenment.
In the book's introduction, Castaneda reveals that don Juan to he that he possessed a secret knowledge of medicinal plants in 1961. This made him a brujo, or medicine man, and Castaneda became his apprentice for the next four years. By using natural hallucinogens, Castaneda experiences a variety of states of altered consciousness that he referred to as "states of non-ordinary reality." For Don Juan, these substances were allies and did not produce a non-ordinary reality, but provided a vehicle that could transport a consciousness to a state that allowed for meetings with certain powers. Because many of the events and experiences reported by Castaneda can only be understood through these "separate realities," they sometimes appear irrational or without significant meaning. Nevertheless, the book offers a method of seeing a separate reality that appears very similar to spiritual enlightenment.
The book centers on the author's return to don Juan in search of more knowledge. Specifically, Constaneda feels as though he needs to change people in order to help underprivileged children and others. However, don Juan tells him, "Some day perhaps you'll be able to see men in another mode and then you'll realize that there's no way to change anything about them" . Don Juan goes on to explain that the hallucinogenic mushrooms will help him to see the men as fibers of light that surround them and fibers that burst out of their abdomen to connect them with their surroundings and provide balance and stability. In other words, the hallucinogenic experience allows one's perception to be altered in ways to provide a view of a different reality. This different reality allows a person to see a deeper nature of being, in which a person is composed of energy and directly connected to the world around him by this energy. For some, this perception may be a soul, for others it may be an aspect of the universal energy that connects all beings. In either case, the "luminous egg" of energy that surrounds men demonstrates that all things are connected, which may be described as an enlightened form of consciousness.