Saturday, June 07, 2014

Castaneda's witches

Some family discussion that touched on fake interviews reminded me of Carlos Castaneda. I read his books back in the day. They were fun, but less and less plausible as the series went on, and as the previous link or the Salon story show, don Juan was fictional. Apparently Carlos spent his time in the library instead of in Mexico.

At any rate, he dropped from sight, and I had other things to keep track of.

In the meantime he died, apparently followed shortly thereafter by at least the three top women (called the "witches") in the secretive cult he established. One was found and is assumed to be a suicide, and two others vanished and are probably suicides.

From time to time I've read claims that it was considered to be an honor to be selected to die as part of the entourage of the dead king or Viking, and that some sati were voluntary.(*) It is easy to assume that this claim was self-justification by the perpetrators, but stories like Castaneda's, or Heaven's Gate's, or Jim Jones' tell me it isn't always fake.

At least, it isn't "fake" in the sense that some of the victims really believe that it is an honor, and choose their fate. They're wrong, and in that sense it is fake. I'd guess this, like most evil, is a twisting of some natural impulses, here probably the impulse to serve twisted out of all proportion.

I wonder if there are some commonalities among the people who follow into such a death cult. Some people have personalities I can't imagine blending in, others: well, it's a stretch, but maybe...

(*) This isn't related to martyrdom. The martyr's ideal is not that he die for the faith, but that his would-be executioners repent and accept the faith. I admit that some martyrs seem to have regarded it as a shortcut to heaven; a lot easier than living out a righteous life.

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