EST and Castaneda

January 27, 2014

In a recent long interview for his blog www.richardgodwin.net, author Richard Godwin asked as his third question:

Your novel The Book Of Est is a fictional account of Est training and includes mention of Carlos Castaneda’s works. How do you view the training and to what extent do you think it and Castaneda’s work represent attempts to decondition pre-existing social programming?

I answered:

Well, we’re getting into the heart of things. I like to think that everything I write is an attempt to “decondition pre-existing social programming.” Although I was concerned with the commercial goals of the est program, I nevertheless felt strongly that it was a powerful deconditioning and therefore liberating program. Carlos Castanedas work, at least his two books “A Separate Reality” and “Journal to Ixtlan,” seem to me equally powerful in getting people to question some of their basic attitudes and actions.

I think we can divide books into two classes: the literature of liberation and the literature of litany. The great mass of best sellers have incorporated into them the main values of the society; they work with many people because readers feel comfortable with the assumptions of the author, which are, in fact, the assumptions of the reader and his society. When they finish such a book they feel comfortable.

Other books force readers to question their lives and the values of the main society in which they live. Such books may force readers to question their attitudes towards gays or women or America’s “greatness”, or may question more basic structures like the nature of “selfs”, how we make decisions, or the seriousness of life. Readers who read works of liberation are left uneasy or questioning or excited: other possibilities of living have been opened to them.

There can be great novels in the literature of litany and lousy novels among the literature of liberation, but the two genres should be seen as serving very different purposes.

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