on April 29, 2008
"Fire From Within" is one of two most memorable books (with the second being The Active Side of Infinity) by Carlos Castaneda that I have ever read, as ideas from this book that can be utilized for everyday life, such as "petty tyrant" and being "impeccable." This book contains profound lessons to learn in our world.
Face the petty tyrant in everyday life and you will face the unknown.
It is not the question of whether or not this book is fiction, but it is the idea(s) that stem from this book and others that can have such impact on our lives and how we deal with other people. These ideas seem to be traced back to ancient philosophies to which they were currently being ignored but they are crucial for today's world.
Most highly recommended.
on April 25, 2003
This is my favorite Castanenda book, and I have read almost all of them. Please skip my following justification for these books if you are already a fan: Regardless of how one feels about the New Age movement, it is clear that, as Einstein observed, "Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods." Reading Castaneda gave me an appreciation for people who take seriously the complexities of the mind, the universe and their infinite dance. Castaneda, in this book, seems ready to acknowledge that the fact of other ways of perceiving the world seems to mean that there are rational and non-rational ways which intertwine with eachother.
Having said that, Castaneda lovers will enjoy the many characters, stories and esoteric teachings that really coalesce in this book unlike in any other. We finally understand who La Catalina really is; we go deeper into the teachings on the Eagle; we get to here more about the interplay between Don Juan and Don Genaro, and we see Carlos opening up a bit too. It was not until I read this book that I realized how hard it was for Carlos to lose his "self-importance," and what a difficult task this is. Enjoy.
on June 5, 2002
I have read all of Castaneda's books and this is the one that I would recommend for those who wish to get a broad and clear overview of the Warrior's Way. In this book, Castaneda has finally come to terms with his often bizarre and terrifying experiences. We hear the voice of a more mature and sober Castaneda, unencumbered by doubts and the preconceptions characteristic of Western culture. Castaneda's earlier books were filled with these doubts and preconceptions and it was a relief for me to have the teachings of Don Juan presented without them. This book synthesizes all of the teachings touched upon in earlier works and adds to them, a breath taking energetic description of the Universe.
One major reason for the huge difference in the tone of this book is that it contains the teachings revealed to Castaneda while he was in a state of heigthened awareness as opposed to what was described in his earlier books. The earlier books describe what he was taught while in the awareness of everyday life. Because one is more capable of absorbing higher truths while in heightened awareness, the teachings described in this book are clearer, more direct, more complete and more profound that those described in the earlier books. In order for Castaneda to retrieve these teachings, he had to evolve energetically and learn to induce a state of heightened awareness on his own, without Don Juan's help. This major difference in tone has lead Castaneda's critics to believe that Castaneda was a fraud. It is a misconception due to the fact that these critics for the most part have no knowledge or experience of states of heightened awareness and do not acknowledge that such states are possible.
I highly recommend this book- read, enjoy, open your mind!! Also recommended 1) The Active Side of Infinity- Carlos Castaneda, 2) The Path- Esmeralda Arana.
on December 20, 2000
For those who might still suppose that Castaneda was actually recording his experiences with a Yaqui man of knowledge, read this one. If you still think so, I have a bridge I'd like to offer for your consideration. The original (The Teachings of Don Juan) was, at very least, a masterful ruse, and perhaps exactly what it purported to be. By The Fire From Within, the cagey old Yaqui speaks like a college-educated gentleman who's read too many Don Juan books. Every chapter starts out with a sentence or two to set the scene before going into an impossibly detailed, word-for-word description of numbingly intricate theories of how to manipulate "emanations" and "assemblage points," punctuated by the obligatory belly-laughs from Don Genaro and Don Juan at poor Carlos's expense, and the bizarre hallucinatory stuff -- you kow the formula. It's a caricature. I truly wonder if even Castaneda wrote it, rather than some ghost-writer.
That's not to say that such a work can't contain wisdom; it makes little difference whether the voice is Castaneda's, Don Juan's, or some hack's. And there's some stuff in there, if you want to wring it out. But why bother? It's not nearly as entertaining a work of fiction as countless other books, and if you really want practical guidance, there's precious little of it here. Stay awake, and stop looking for shortcuts.
on January 5, 2010
** spoilers at the bottom of this review **
I can barely finish this book. I find the characters unlikable, the message unclear and it jumps all over the place - I find it ridiculous! I adored Don Miguel Ruiz's books on Toltec Wisdom - The Four Agreements, The Voice of Knowledge and Mastery of Love. So, I was excited when readers who liked Ruiz recommended Carlos Castaneda. Maybe I chose the wrong book from this author - but, I can't believe how poorly written it is and how broken. I rated it as "It's okay" because I like the "intent" (although never attained) and the subject matter as a "topic".
Each time I think a lesson is about to revealed.. it ends in... "well, forget about that", "more about that later" or "you're not ready for that". It provides the terms used in Toltec wisdom (Eagle's emanations, glowing/luminous egg, cocoons, attentions, allies, seers, naguals, benefactors, hightened states of awarenes.. etc) but, there's no relatable explanation...more I can barely finish this book. I find the characters unlikable, the message unclear and it jumps all over the place - I find it ridiculous! I adored Don Miguel Ruiz's books on Toltec Wisdom - The Four Agreements, The Voice of Knowledge and Mastery of Love. So, I was excited when readers who liked Ruiz recommended Carlos Castaneda. Maybe I chose the wrong book from this author - but, I can't believe how poorly written it is and how broken. I rated it as "It's okay" because I like the "intent" (although never attained) and the subject matter as a "topic".
Each time I think a lesson is about to revealed.. it ends in... "well, forget about that", "more about that later" or "you're not ready for that". It provides the terms used in Toltec wisdom (Eagle's emanations, glowing/luminous egg, cocoons, attentions, allies, seers, naguals, benefactors, hightened states of awarenes.. etc) but, there's no relatable explanation - he doesn't even TRY to relate it to what we know/understand. The character being taught in the book can't even understand it! And, when asking for clarification - he's told he has to be in a "higher state" or reach or be pushed into some next level... a level the READER is not being pushed into?! The character is either "not ready" or the teacher suddenly has to go on a business trip.. the story is constantly interrupted and the 'phenomenon' is never explained!? Or, the 'teachers' find the lesson so funny they laugh hysterically at the benefactor.. but, WHY is never explained. They just find it 'funny' because they 'know'?! Umm... WE don't!? Or, to reach a hightened state, a NAGUAL (or, wait.. a seer?) has to deliver the "blow" so you can be pushed into it... um... do any of you have a nagual at your disposal? Then you have to decipher any lessons he teaches because after he explains some lengthy lesson - he then says that was what the OLD seers thought but, NEW seers think differently.. so, NOW i'm confused!
The only way I can explain the frustration of reading this book is... it's like reading the words of a foreign language you're interested in that no one will teach you.
Here is an example of the writing that I find absurd and unexplained (when reading it, I was constantly saying.. okay.. but, HOW?):
"In terms of what seers see, the first attention is the glow of awareness developed to an ultra shine, " he continued. "But it is a glow fixed on the surface of the cocoon, so to speak. It is a glow that covers the known."
"The second attention, on the other hand, is a more complex and specialized state of the glow of awareness. It has to do with the unknown. It comes when unused emanations inside man's cocoon are utilized."
"The second attention is also called left-sided awareness; and it is the vastest field that one can imagine, so vast in fact that it seems limitless."
"I wouldn't stray into it for anything in this world," he went on. "It is a quagmire so complex and bizarre that sober seers go into it only under the strictest conditions."
"The great difficulty is that an entrance into the second attention is utterly easy and its lure nearly irresistible."
"Old seers...they actually aimed at lighting up all the emanations inside their cocoons, one band at a time."
"The third attention is attained when the glow of awareness turns into the fire from within: a glow that kindles not one band at a time but, all the Eagle's emanations inside man's cocoon."
I'm given a list and 'description' of all these components but, not an explanation of HOW they apply or can be applied to OUR lives?! We are not seers, naguals, benefactors.. so, we're told we won't understand. Then, they go on to laugh about what they know and how silly we are but, don't tell us WHAT they are laughing about?!! The 'states' they achieve are only for them? So, what's the point of reading this? Like I said, it's like reading the words of a foreign language you would like to learn, you pay the money, attend class but, no one will teach you.. but, they spend the class telling you how wonderful the language is - and telling you a few words but, not their meaning?! Not much fun!
on September 6, 1997
I have read this book at least 15 times, finding it to be a classic of spirituality, both ancient and modern. Unlike Castaneda's earlier works, FFW is the first in which the structure of Don Juan's teaching methods becomes clear. Hence FFW reads like a textbook of stories about advanced spiritual practice.
It is a curious hallmark of Castaneda's work that, as with a sitcom, the reader often feels he knows more, and might have made better judgements, than the lead character. But the tasks are transformations of essence, not of mind or feeling, so Carlos' lack of comprehension is irrelevant. What counts is his ability to handle the excercises of transcendance.
Many important questions remain unresolved, such as whether the quest for immortality (freedom) is merely another form of materialism, or just how different Don Juan's brand of transcendance is from other paths to spiritual development.
IMHO, the scene in which Carlos and Don Juan visit the tomb of the ancient sorcerers, ghouls who have remained alive for 2000 years, and then laugh it off, is one of the finest moments in all of Western Literature.
on January 22, 2000
"One of the great maneuvers of stalkers is to pit the mystery against the stupidity in all of us."--Don Juan . . . The best book of a masterful author. In the fiction/nonfiction controversy, I lean toward fiction, but with the caution that these fictional stories are being used to demonstrate great truths. If anything, seeing the books as fiction makes Castaneda seem greater. Who else has written this many books, without plots of murder, war, or romance, that grip the reader the way these do? Not only are we gripped, but our minds are being changed. We can almost feel the chemical soup in our braincases being altered as we experience these tales. The device of the bone-headed Carlos is ingenious, putting us on the side of the seemingly rational, but actually post-rational Juan. The most amazing thing to me has been the way the lessons in this book have become my companions, helping me to live my life more fully and with greater awareness. It provides a new way to look at the feelings and impressions we all struggle with, reminding us that we and our lives are unique and powerful, that sobriety and self-containment are paradoxically the path to the mystery and the magic. This book is full of laughs, creepy stories, new concepts, and terms that you may not grasp until one day months or years later when something happens, and you realize "This is what he meant!" Everytime I reread part of it, I feel that fire within me rise and flicker.
on April 2, 2012
I was captivated by Fire From Within. This book, along with Active Side of Infinity, I feel are his two greatest literary achievements. Whether you believe his books represent actual accounts of his time with a Yaqui man of knowledge, or not, the teachings and lessons are quite unforgettable and extremely enjoyable to read. At times, I would lose track of whether I was reading an adventure novel or biographical account of an ancient form of teaching.
Two points in particular stand out in this book; Self-Importance and Impeccability.
Self-importance meaning as a Warrior on the path of knowledge, letting go of unneccessary baggage and beliefs about oneself. Which may be rooted in today's psychology as narcissism and vanity/self-esteem, which is different than self-respect or having an objective view of oneself. The story of how his tutor, Don Juan, learns to give up his self-importance by being treated like dog s*** by a horrible task master yet learning to stay calm, not allowing himself to submit to this man internally, and waiting to give this person his due, is a delightful read and a lesson on how individuals can sometimes learn to see opportunities in what we perceive to be the worst situations when we have a goal, an aim in place.
Impeccability, which is rooted in connection to Self-Importance is about ridding ourselves of needless expenditure of energy so that we can utilize it for the purpose of Seeing.
There is a certain mystical gloss to the writing, which is different from many other esoteric teachers like Gurdjieff, Ouspensky and Mouravieff who were more straightforward (in accordance to today's psychology) in their approach about psychological and spiritual matters. But I think this is the reason why his book's became so popular.
Individuals who are versed in some of today's new developments in psychology will see a lot of parallels. And if not, will enjoy the book anyways for what it is.
on February 21, 2000
This book is the 1st that is regarding Castaneda`s experiences beyond ordinary life in a clear and powerful way. It gave me a lot of material to think about and mainly to achieve. I am sure Don Juan and Genaro were deadly right when saying it tooks all of one`s life to become a true warrior and seer but it pays off. Here we are confronted with abstract explanations in a very concise and complete way but they can be verified only if the person has followed the premises and achieved real results - the most difficult thing of all. Everyone can think, judge, blame, gush, etc. But all that matters is action. The one who makes it will see it truely - otherwise it will be just another interpretation to consolidate our self-assurance but it will lead us nowhere. So act, don`t think! - understanding will come years later and thinking won`t have anything to do with it.
on January 13, 2001
This book rejuvenates the series; if you have grown weary and feel Carlos is simply repeating himself and are not sure whether to pick this one up -- think again! This book is second only to JOURNEY TO IXTLAN in its poetic, spiritual beauty and spirit of shared insight. THE FIRE FROM WITHIN addresses the role of our perceptual mechanisms and cultural upbinging in creating what we call reality in a practical, almost scientific way that is far more specific and detailed than in prior works.
Carlos is easily the best person at saying what cannot be said, at dancing around the fire of unspeakable truth, at pointing us in the direction that cannot be pointed, who has ever lived. He balances poetry and philosophy in a way that is truly uplifting, and this work is one of his best.