A Definitive Journey

BluebonnetI recently was reminded of my search for my former teacher, Dr. Jenny Lind Porter, which culminated in April this year with my discovery of her home address followed by my writing an old-fashioned letter to her. She doesn’t have a computer.

The reminder was a message from someone else who is searching for her. This little journey has been shared by a couple of other former students who were also searching. And maybe for reasons that are obvious, this reminds me of a book by Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan [1]. By the way, Castaneda was mentioned in this month’s issue of Psychiatric Times in an article about a psychiatrist, John Mack, who identified too closely with patients who reported they’d been abducted by aliens. The author, Greg Egighian, PhD, notes,

“The issue of how far a professional may legitimately go in allying and empathizing with his or her subjects extends well beyond UFOs and aliens…” “…anthropologists widely rejected the work of Carlos Castaneda, a PhD in anthropology, after he adopted and became a vocal advocate for a form of Yaqui Indian shamanism.6 – See more at: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/blogs/history-psychiatry/psychiatrist-aliens-and-going-native#sthash.ZUxNowuZ.dpuf

Back in the ’70s when I was a student at Huston-Tillotson College (now Huston Tillotson University), I was reading Castaneda’s trilogy, and I was struck by the lyrical metaphor of Journey to Ixtlan.

Well, OK, I didn’t think of it as metaphorical then. I was blindsided like Mack (“the psychiatrist who wanted to believe”). It was only decades later, after I became a geezer, that I “realized” Castaneda’s works were literature, perhaps never intended to be taken as scientific documents. At least, that’s my opinion now and it seems shared by others, who conceptualize it within the framework of mindfulness (see link in the tweet below):

Nowadays, I think of Huston-Tillotson College (HT-C) as a place very much like Ixtlan. Obviously I could travel back to Austin, Texas and find it. And I could probably find Dr. Porter’s address–maybe. But I’m not interested in making the journey.

And there’s been no reply to my letter to Ixtlan.


1. Castaneda, C. (1972). Journey to Ixtlan: the lessons of Don Juan. New York, Simon and Schuster.



  1. Hi there…I’m writing to you in hope there may be an answer for my father….my mother passed away in 2012 and it was very hard on my dad…ever since he has had problems with his teeth….he says it started after a root canal …..BUT…he cannot be dx on what is causing his chronic pain…he has been to neurologist….dentist…oral surgeons…University of MI. dental team….he has had gamma knife treatment to no avail…at this moment I write this he is at yet another dentist trying to find out what is causing this chronic pain; it has been over 2 years….he is 71 years old and it breaks my heart…he took care of my mother for 7 years after her massive stroke till she passed two years ago….I can’t stand to see him suffer and i’m at a loss trying to find out what is causing this ….maybe it’s in his mind???? I have been researching this disorder and not sure if this could be possible for him….Please please help if you think you can.

    Thanks.. Michelle Robinson
    Clinton twp…..Mi.


    • Michelle, I’m so sorry for what’s happening to your dad. The kindest thing I can do is not speculate on a psychiatric diagnosis for him. He’s in pain and I hope doctors help him the best way they can. A colleague wiser than I ever will be once said that sometimes the list of things doctors can to you can be very long–yet not helpful or even kind. On the other hand, sometimes the list of things doctors can do for you can often seem pitifully short–yet infinitely kinder.

      I’m glad you’re there for him.


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