Richard DeMille


Richard de Mille is a scholar and writer whose study of philosophy, religion and science drew him to Castaneda’s books (as well as his daughter who provided copies of the first four books and urged him to read them.)

Richard DeMille was the son of the famous director Cecil B. DeMille. He became one of Hubbard’s right-hand men during the traumatic two-year rise and fall of Dianetics, saw the establishment of Scientology. He left it in the mid-1950s.



He went to lectures and met Van Vogt who was an official at the time, got more and more involved. He had an editorial staff, guy named Dewey something, a sci-fi writer who was making publications out of lectures, doing editorial work. He got involved in that and worked on one of the first publications of lectures. Most of the people were either frantic or illiterate there weren’t too many people who could do useful work.

His work came to his attention and he also liked the fact that he was the son of Cecil B. DeMille, although it never occurred to him at time. He liked to collect celebrities.



So he went to Phoenix in ’53, with Mary Sue, and did some more work for him. Finally he began to be more and more sceptical of the whole thing. The claims were constantly mounting but the performance was always deficient. The answer to this deficiency was that we didn’t have that step exactly right but now we have the new step and it’s going to be right. This was the constant pyramiding of claims which was the device

Impact of Dianetics? It was a national craze, it was exciting, right across the country. The time is never wrong for a cultist movement. LRH was the Madame Blavatsky of 1950. Lenin was the LRH of 1917. People present new ideas which are going to change the world and there are a certain number of people willing to believe those ideas. There is never a time which isn’t right.

I saw him write on mimeographed masters, the wax stuff you type mimeographs on.His rate of writing was about 25,000 words a day. Many engineering types were attracted, like Evans Farber. A very early split was materialism versus spiritualism.



‘Castaneda’s Journey: The power and the allegory’ by Richard de Mille was originally published in 1976.

De Mille’s goal in writing the book was to debunk some of the non-fiction authenticity claims of Castaneda (and what was a growing army of devout followers at the time) and to examine possible academic sources that Castaneda had leant on for material.

In de Mille’s own words:

“Castaneda laboured 49 years to become the complicated, superficially inconsistent, deeply constant man who wrote Tales of Power. I have laboured one year to unfold him. Where I have gone astray, others will stay on the path. Where I have hit the nail on the head, many whose thumbs are throbbing will stoically deny it” (1978: P.25)

Throughout the analysis, which is structured in a pseudo-epic manner de Mille displays the ability to slip easily between more serious insights and “witty” conclusions. The overall effect is very engaging but it does work against him when tackling some of the more complicated issues; like metaphysics. He is also restricted somewhat in his analysis by exacerbating the authenticity point.

Having said this, he uses some very interesting techniques to examine both the books and the man. Immediately, de Mille declares that he will be using the names “Carlos” and “Castaneda” to mean two different people. When he ascertains facts pertaining to the author then they belong to Castaneda. When the facts are provided in conjunction with the literary works then they belong to Carlos.

Using this dual-character method he quickly identifies how very little is known concretely about the author and how timelines between the his real life and literary life are not always in sync. De Mille does maintain however, that the timeline in the books, though confusing sometimes, are consistent with one another. But his primary goal remains authenticity and by using this method he brings to light contradictions, which provide damning evidence against them being pure works of non-fiction.

What gives “Castaneda’s journey” some credence as important periphery reading for psychedelic literature is De Mille’s examination of not what is true in the strictest historically objective sense but what is true, or original, in the world of ideas. “The words that come out of his mouth or typewriter are charged with an essence that makes things happen in both separate and boss realities. Some of these things may be beneficial.

 De Mille, who states that he is a scholar interested in philosophy, science and religion.He is though, if nothing else, consistent with the text – especially in his reading of the metaphysics of nagualism:

The tonal is what happens when the nagual gives birth. The tonal is what exists. More properly, it is people’s perception or imagination of things. The idea of the nagual is part of the tonal, but the nagual itself is not part of the tonal. Everybody has a tonal but the nagual has everybody. When something ceases to exist – like an ocean wave, a life, or a tonal – it returns to its potential state in the nagual..

In his analysis of sources there is a constant recourse to Wittgenstein and his magnum opusTractatus Logico -Philosophicus. Though this fits into the popular trends of Anglo-saxon philosophy at the time (and still nowadays) it lacks the methodological equipment to engage with much of Castaneda’s ontology. Though slightly hampered by this, de Mille still manages to point towards several interesting insights and lay the foundations for future philosophical discourse though.

Overall, this is a very worthwhile read for anyone interested in the underpinnings of both Castaneda’s work and psychedelic literature in general. De Mille manages to put both the author and his works through a clear looking-glass and although his academic contextualization is limited, it is none-the-less valuable.

Several years later, in an effort to further condemn the beliefs of those people who understood Castaneda’s education by don Juan as pure non-fiction, he wrote a second book on the subject. Titled ‘The Don Juan Papers: Further Castaneda Controversies’.