The Trip to Tulum
After receiving the call from The Voice and then experiencing my vision, I began to understand more clearly Fellini’s obsession with Castaneda. He too was looking for answers, some way he could wrap his mind around what he was experiencing and explain it. That’s a very human impulse, this need to understand before we can accept. For as much as he lived in and wanted to be engulfed in the supernatural, Fellini had to know what it all meant.
Despite the warning messages he was receiving from The Voice, the always stubborn Fellini was convinced that Castaneda could provide some answers. Either he was going to be the one directly involved with The Voice or he would be able to give some insight into the nature of The Voice and why it was reaching out to him. Fellini hadn’t really had the opportunity to discuss The Voice with Carlos in L.A., and truthfully, The Voice wasn’t as much of a presence until after that meeting. Fellini thought that following the plan and meeting Castaneda in the jungles of Tulum would be the ideal setting to finally get some answers.
I pulled into Tulum and as soon I got there, I was instantly reminded of its beauty and its thick cloud of mystery that seems to settle and never break in that mystical place. This is a land of the ancients. There are beliefs the locals share that these ancients were highly evolved and possibly from another planet, sent here to advance mankind. There are thoughts that global and possibly interstellar events have taken place here, including one that split the continents and shaped our world. To this day, there are strange phenomena that occur regularly, including unusual sightings and feelings and…voices. There is a power you feel when you pull into Tulum, despite the throngs of tourists that flock there every day to see the preserved structures. All the commercialism in the world can’t dilute the history of what happened here and how that history has forever impacted the aura of the place.
I parked my car and quickly realized I had no idea where to go. I asked around for some names of hotels. Since Tulum itself is a beach town, there are men who make their living offering boat rides to tourists. As soon as I got there, I was swarmed by short men with sun-drenched faces and smiles, aggressively trying to get me in their boat, constantly hustling with their broken English. Not knowing where else to go and thinking this might help me clear my head, I hopped in one to take a quick tour.
A very short time later, we rounded a corner of the beach and I saw one of the area’s most popular hotels, one Fellini refered to as the Tower of Babel. It was grand for this area and I was marveling so much at it that I almost missed who was walking on the beach in front of the hotel.
“Federico!” I yelled out and Fellini lifted his head in surprise. He couldn’t tell from this far away who I was or how a stranger would know him down there. Nor could any of his entourage who were following close behind. I told the boat man to take me to shore. It was unbelievable to me that I would run into Fellini and the group mere minutes after my arrival.
As I hopped off the rickety craft, I noticed right away how exhausted everyone looked. I could tell that the first couple days had not treated them well. I could also sense that Sybil, Andrea and Maurizio were not happy in the slightest to see me. Andrea and Maurizio instantly started talking to each other in Italian while Sybil simply glared at me. This was what I expected, but it still made me feel unsettled and very unwelcome. They weren’t my primary focus though. I greeted Fellini with a big hug and the ramblings of an excited child, letting him know why I was down there, that I had received a call from The Voice and a vision and how I wanted to help.
Fellini lit up like a Christmas tree.
Despite or maybe because of the energy of the group, I was the breath of fresh air Fellini wanted and needed. I would be with him as he had his final meeting, a defining one in Fellini’s eyes with Carlos. After spending a couple days trying to get a feel of the environment, following Castaneda’s path and hitting wall after wall in their search for something special in the Yucatan, Fellini was ready to discover more, discover something. He still had the film on his mind and was excited about the possibility of bringing don Juan’s tale to the public in a new light, but now he felt more pressing matters, things that he couldn’t shake…The Voice.
The group was set to meet Castaneda at the hotel that afternoon. We wandered the beach until the meeting. While I knew they weren’t happy to see me there, what with their frustrations of the last couple days also piling up, I couldn’t believe just how harsh they were right in front of me. All three of them had their doubts about The Voice and the validity of not just Fellini’s communication but also of Carlos and his potential involvement in this whole thing. The last few days did little in making them believers. Seeing me down here, knowing that I was encouraging Fellini to pursue this magic and that I was now talking of visions and voices of my own, they became convinced that I was working with Castaneda in a sort of con, that I was one of his women. They made me feel alone. They made me feel foolish. They made me feel disconnected from a group that I felt The Voice wanted me to guide.
“We don’t know this woman. We don’t know what she wants,” Maurizio pleaded to Fellini. “It doesn’t make sense that she should just show up like this down here.”
They even tried to use warnings from The Voice to convince him.
“Perhaps this is what you’re being told to watch out for,” Andrea said. “Perhaps she’s involved in the danger.”
The more it went on, the more defiant I got. I was here for more important reasons than their acceptance. I didn’t owe them or anyone an explanation. I had been pulled into this by bigger forces and I had a job to do. Lucky for me, Fellini listened, but chose to ignore them…at least for the time being. He said he felt comforted by my presence and that ended the discussion. Besides, he was about to meet Castaneda again and this time he was going to get the answers he sought.
That meeting lasted five minutes.
Five disappointing minutes for all of us.
Castaneda arrived with his own entourage in tow. Castaneda’s people, more specifically his three women, were unusual and even a little frightening on their own. All of his followers around the world were devoted, absolutely cult-like in their obsession. Yet, unlike most other cults, they had a reputation for not so much linking themselves to the man, but rather his ideas and the mysticism of the shamans as a whole. As such, they viewed Castaneda as merely the vessel for these messages. They honored and respected him, but the word was they tolerated some of his eccentricities only because he had been chosen. We would have much more intimate dealings with his followers in later years, but during this meeting they were there just to let their presence be known, to show us that Castaneda was more than just a man, he was a carrier. They hung in the background, quietly waiting and watching.
Carlos himself was unimpressive. I myself had been a devoted follower of his words since I was twelve. I truly thought of him as a spiritual leader, a living being in tune with something more. I too wanted to be in the tonal and with the nagual, two of his primary teachings. His writing had influenced and impacted my outlook on the world and all that we can and can’t see. My dealings with Fellini aside, I also was attracted to the idea of coming to Tulum for the possibility of meeting a man I greatly admired. We all think these people we put on a pedestal will have something powerful about their presence.
I would quickly learn that not everybody is the Dalai Lama.
Carlos was a short, paunchy, unshaven, plain-looking Latino man in a ragged Hawaiian shirt. He had a warm enough smile, but a posture that looked wary and almost weak. He looked like he carried a burden on his shoulders, but he also looked like a man willing to play the martyr, a man who wants you to believe he is something more than he truly is, something great. In reality, he was simply average.
“My friend,” he said, coming in to give Fellini a hug. Like Castaneda’s companions, we in Fellini’s group just hung in the background, watching the meeting of these two brilliant minds and seeing what would unfold. Before Carlos could get a word in about the project or the journey the group had taken over the past couple days, Fellini cut to the chase.
“Are you the one behind these voices?”
Carlos backed up away from Fellini with a puzzled look on his face. Castaneda was a man that didn’t like surprises, a man that was always in control of any and every situation.
“Voices?” he asked confused and smiling nervously.
Fellini proceeded to explain the calls he had received in both Rome and L.A. and how they had impacted him and set him on this quest.
“Are you making these calls? Is don Juan behind The Voice?
Carlos’ reaction to this is what I remember most. He looked stunned. It was just a fleeting look on his face, but I remember this as the moment I started to doubt the power of Castaneda.
“What calls? What voices? What are you talking about?” Castaneda was losing control of this conversation and he was getting angry. “As I told you before, I was told that I would meet you, but that’s it. I have no idea what you are talking about.”
He had never met anyone as stubborn as Fellini, who insisted that Carlos was somehow pulling the strings. Again, Fellini needed something to help him make sense of this all and he had focused so much on Castaneda giving him the answers. To come this far and not get anything was unacceptable, especially after the frustrations of the past couple days.
Castaneda got scared. We all saw it. He didn’t understand what was happening and you could see it in him. He was sweating, his eyes were wide and his entire posture changed. It was the moment this project, this collaboration between the two, truly fell apart. This was beyond Carlos, way more than he bargained for, and it freaked him out.
Again, he shook his head and said to Fellini, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You must know,” Fellini insisted. “You must.”
With that, Castaneda lost his composure. He began to rant about the “fools” who were out to persecute him. He talked of the CIA and other organizations who were trying to capture him and the dangers of his life. He wondered if we were being followed or if we had led “them” to him. As quickly as he arrived, he said a quick goodbye and left. He folded into his flock of followers and disappeared. None of us would ever see him again.
Everyone was disappointed. Andrea and Sybil began to realize this trip and all their running around was for nothing. Maurizio started to realize that there would be no movie and he started thinking of all the money already wasted on this supposed “pre-production” trip. I lost faith in a guru of sorts that I looked up to and admired. And Fellini realized he was not one step closer to getting any of the answers he sought.
Plus, The Voice was silent. Both before and right after the meeting, we hadn’t heard anything on that day from The Voice. Here we were, at a place where we thought its presence would be the strongest and instead, You had abandoned us.
We collected ourselves in the hotel room as best as we could. If tensions were high before, they were at an extreme level now. This was a disaster and everybody was looking for someone to blame. Nobody wanted to talk, so it simply boiled underneath, waiting to explode.
Fellini would eventually come to terms with the disappointment in Carlos and the abandoned project. In later interviews, he would say that he was still confused about Castaneda and whether or not the self-proclaimed shaman even really wanted him to make a film. He would look at that portion of the trip to Tulum as a wild goose chase of sorts. He would also at times wonder if Castaneda’s followers, who were very guarded of him and his secrets, somehow influenced the writer to not help with the movie.
“My film project based on Castaneda’s stories upset, alarmed or alerted a particular group of people,” Fellini said in an interview with an Italian newspaper years later. “Castaneda must have belonged to a well-organized group with an ideology that its members believed in fanatically, which also has underground informants scattered throughout the world. I am convinced that Castaneda was, in a certain way, under the power of this mystical group. The ‘friends’ of his books tolerated Castaneda, but when they realized that a film would disclose their mysteries, they intervened to scare Castaneda.”
That is a possibility. Personally, I believe he was scared and couldn’t handle what Fellini was telling him about The Voice.
Right after the meeting happened, Fellini was still very upset. He had not only lost a project that he thought could pull him from the doldrums of his stagnant career, he was also no closer in understanding the origins of The Voice and what You wanted from him and why.
The plan was to head back to L.A. to regroup and figure out what to do next. They would fly and I would have to get back to my car and drive. We were all disappointed, but I still had hope. I believed there was something else on the horizon. I knew more was coming and that we hadn’t heard the last of The Voice. Everything was happening and Tulum was just a distraction, a deviation from the path…or maybe it was exactly what we needed to infuse each other into our lives.
Either way, I knew this adventure was just beginning.