Carlos Castaneda’s A Separate Reality appeared in the Season 5 episode of Lost: “He’s Our You.” It’s the second book in Castaneda’s allegedly nonfiction series that begins with The Teachings of Don Juan. I actually own this book, though I had never read it. I picked it up at a garage sale in a volume that also contains the first book and the fourth, Tales of Power. Why the 3rd isn’t included, I don’t know.
I read The Teachings back when I got the book in the mid-’90s, and while it was interesting, I never intended to keep reading. The books are about Castaneda’s supposed apprenticeship with a Yaqui Indian sorcerer named Don Juan Matus. The Teachings of Don Juan was Castenada’s grad school thesis in anthropology, though many now believe he made up the whole thing.
A Separate Reality tells of Castaneda’s second apprenticeship in which he attempts to learn to “see” the world as “a man of knowledge” does. Seeing is more than looking. It is a heightened perception that allows the warrior or the sorcerer to truly know the world as well as perform seeming impossible acts. Being a rational and scientific-minded man, Castaneda finds this to be quite difficult, though he does make some progress on his journey.
Ultimately, it is about the need to shed a hyperrational world view in order to come to terms with the mystical/spiritual side of our nature.
This, of course, is the story of Lost.
The tension between the rational physician Jack Shepard and the spiritual seeker John Locke drives more of Lost‘s plotlines than any other conflict on the show. In Season 5, we see Jack beginning to shed some of his rationalism and begin to have faith in the island and his destiny. Jack is, like Castaneda, a long way from becoming a man of knowledge in the mystical sense, but with Locke seemingly dead/evil/possessed, I suspect Jack’s ability to reconcile the opposing forces of reason and faith will decide the fate of the island.
The book is passed to an imprisoned Sayid by a young Ben Linus in “He’s Our You.” It seems appropriate that a book that deals extensively with the shamanistic use of psychotropic plants should appear in the episode in which Sayid is made to “talk” by being fed psychedelics. It also calls to mind Locke’s use of island psychedelics in Season 1 and Season 3. Both times, he partakes in order to commune with the island.
Through most of Lost, we are meant to see Locke as a man on a quest to become that man of knowledge. This makes it particularly interesting that it is Ben Linus who is the book’s owner. I suspect Ben sees more than we think and may even be more of a man of knowledge than Locke or anyone else suspects.
I have no great theories at this point, but there is a quote worth noting from A Separate Reality:
The world is incomprehensible. We won’t ever understand it; we won’t ever unravel its secrets. Thus we must treat it as it is, a sheer mystery!
Toward the end of the book, don Juan goes on to emphasize that one must break free of the prison of reason to become a man of knowledge. Trying to understand only prevents true seeing.
I suspect we’ll never really understand everything we want to know about the island, and quite frankly, that’s okay with me.
This will be my last Lost Book Club post until January when the 6th and final season commences. I am caught up with the exception of Flannery O’Connor’s Everything that Rises Must Converge, which appeared in the season finale. I’ll read that and report back as I gear up for the Lost season premiere in January.
Check out the rest of my Lost Book Club posts. I’ve read all 37 of the books references or shown on the show with the exception of the O’Connor book. It’s an amazing list too.
And for the best theorizing around, check out these two excellent Lost blogs and their analyses of the end of Season 5: