WHILE PURSUING academic research and his own spiritual journey in the late 1960s, the Peruvian American anthropologist and author Carlos Arana Castañeda asked the Yaqui Native American shaman don Juan Matus to teach him to use the peyote cactus.

Castañeda hoped to experience the hallucinogenic powers of that wondrous plant and what a “Westerner” might call a psychedelic sense of reality. Castañeda assumed that by using the peyote, or to phrase it more generally, by being introduced merely to the technique of don Juan’s Native American religious world, he would gain insight into the world of the shaman.

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