I got out of the army in 1969 and by 1976 my life was a mess. I was on my third marriage, the war I had devoted my life to had fallen apart, leaving the people I had worked with the helpless victims of their enemies. I jumped into the dope, sex, and rock’n’roll ethos of the Sixties with both feet, and experienced what everyone did in those days. We had a lot of fun and our lives fell apart.

By 1976 I was working at a tech writer for the Post Office Department (Spiritual Development in Oklahoma) and I had a lot of time to read on my hands. I got interested in the books of Carlos Castaneda and wondered how much of those books was true, since they were published as non-fiction, and how much was fiction.

The advice in them was good, but the many of the incidents were impossible, from the viewpoint of mainstream culture.For thirty-six years it was a fascinating literary puzzle. I took the advice, strove to lose self-importance, to erase, or at least not dwell on my personal history, to use death as an advisor, i.e. to get on with it because I wasn’t going to live forever, and to take responsibility for all of my acts, down to the smallest and least consequential.

The advice worked and my life started coming together; my books were published and sold, I got to run around the world as a correspondent for Soldier of Fortune. I married the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, much less dated, and my self-importance filled back in again. I had published everything I had to say, my fourth marriage fell apart, and I moved to California.

So I started over, not with Castaneda this time, but with don Miguel Ruiz. And this time it wasn’t just reading. It was training with real Toltec naguals, and living with a community of other apprentices. That started with the incidents in my story Butterfly, and I won’t spoil the story for you by telling it here.