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Carlos Castaneda: Enigma Of A Sorcerer
Featuring Carlos Castaneda's Sorcerers Group. Directed and produced by Ralph Torjan. An Indican release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 91 min.
The documentary that compels you to ask yourself how many spheres of energy you have in your luminous egg, "Enigma of a Sorcerer" examines the teachings of the late Carlos Castaneda, an author and New Age guru alternately referred to here as a narcissist, a "P.T. Barnum-type con" and a "genuine seeker." Castaneda gained fame in the '70s for his books chronicling his spiritual adventures with a Native American healer called Don Juan, who opened up "a strange world of Shamanistic lore, psychedelic experiences and states of non-reality." It's called getting high, folks.
Director/producer Ralph Torjan, a one-time Castaneda pupil, gathers other former students to muse upon the nature of their mentor. Castaneda's manipulations, deceptions and unethical seductions ("he believed his sperm changed our brains," one lover reports) are recounted without malice by those who no longer blindly revere him but seem to want to give some validity to that intensely significant period in their lives. Torjan superimposes these talking heads against cheesily low-tech psychedelic backgrounds, further straining the credibility of a group of so-called "sorcerers" who bought into a mythology of witches, electric warriors, and an omniscient Yaqui medicine man who, more likely than not, didn't actually exist. Nevertheless, most of the ex-followers come off as intelligent and thoughtful, having shaken off the Castaneda thrall while still perceiving a value in that which he had to impart. However, just as one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, one sorceress who alludes mumblingly to her "extraterrestrial perceptions" jettisons legitimacy out the window.
"Enigma of a Sorcerer" feels like the work of a jaded acolyte seeking to expose the emperor's new clothes. Basically, it will leave true believers deeply disillusioned and everybody else apathetic. The film's main value is as a document of cultism and its eternal effects on participants, ranging here from lifelong insecurities to creepily mysterious suicides.