After obtaining my doctorate in anthropology from the University of Michigan I taught for two years at Marmara University in Istanbul. Upon returning to the U.S.A. in late 1987 I began researching Dr. Carlos Castaneda & three of his UCLA associates, preparing to write what became my book Carlos Castaneda, Academic Opportunism & the Psychedelic Sixties. In 1990 I became a registered lobbyist dedicated to passing national legislation beneficial to Native Americans. In 1990, after the United States (U.S.) Supreme Court refused to protect sacramental peyote use for some 300,000 members of the Native American Church (NAC), I began participating in NAC peyote meetings and lobbying with a national coalition to persuade members of the U.S. Congress to pass legislation protecting religious freedom for NAC members. Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the NAC, in Employment Division of Oregon vs. Smith, I was adopted as a brother by Reuben Snake, a NAC ritual leader and prominent political activist. I wrote Snake’s biography, Reuben Snake, Your Humble Serpent, while lobbying Congress and educating the public about the need to protect sacramental peyote use. After Public Law 103-344 was signed by President Clinton in October of 1994, the NAC honored me for my public service.

In 1999 I became a Professor of Anthropology at Yeditepe University in Istanbul, Turkey. In 1998, with Phil and Celia Weigand, I edited the book La Mitologia de los Huicholes. The English version, Huichol Mythology, was published in 2004 by the University of Arizona Press. In 2007 my criticism of Carlos Castaneda was featured in a British Broadcasting Corporation television documentary “Tales from the Jungle: Carlos Castaneda”. In 2009 the Spanish edition of my 1993 book--Carlos Castaneda, Academic Opportunism and the Psychedelic Sixties--was published. Carlos Castaneda, oportunismo académico y los psiquedélicos años sesenta was translated by Juan Samper and Clara Escario; without pay and without me asking them to do so. In 2009 my wife & I completed our fifth annual pilgrimage to a Huichol sacred site at the Pacific Ocean. Our pilgrimages were supervised by Jesús González, an elderly Huichol shaman living in Tuxpan de Bolaños. I am listed in Who’s Who in America. Now that I have retired from Yeditepe University I hope to write much more about the Wixarica or Huichol (as they are known in Spanish).

My latest interview summarizes the religious rituals of the Wixarica/Huichol. It should be broadcast March 8, 2014.  Learn more at this URL:  http://www.cosozo.com/radio-show/enlightening-radio

To learn about contemporary Wixarica/Huichol political struggles check this URL: http://wixarika.mediapark.net/

TO ORDER UNKNOWN HUICHOL FROM ALTA MIRA PRESS:8004626420 https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780759120266

Unknown Huichol: Shamans and Immortals, Allies against Chaos, summarizes my 36+ years of ethnographic research with four Huichol shamans. I explain details about shamanic initiation, methods for diagnosing & treating disease, and motives for performing rituals related to funerals, deer and peyote hunting and cultivating maize. Unknown Huichol unites my participatory research to discover what Huichol shamans know by eating peyote with them & making pilgrimages to contact their deities with my observation of their rituals and interpretation of myths and sacred songs recited during those rituals.

"This invaluable book offers an alternative interpretation on what it means to be human. Jay Fikes ... presents the Huichol religion from a perspective unfettered by modern, Western, science-vectored assumptions .... creating an insightful portrait of a people whose annual cycle of rituals and pilgrimages have, until recently, sustained their harmonious relation with nature and with their divine ancestors. Fikes's book will become a landmark in comparative religion."—Huston Smith, Professor emeritus, Syracuse University; author, The World's Religions

"An important new study in comparative religion and philosophy, this fascinating and dramatic account is based on Jay Fikes's in-depth research, spanning more than three decades, on Huichol ceremonial life and worldview. Many of its unique insights reflect the author's personal knowledge of the shamanic experience. Fikes also reveals and clarifies fundamental long-term themes in Mesoamerican religion and worldview. Unknown Huichol contributes to symbolic anthropology, the anthropology of religion and of art, and to broader anthropological theory."—Professor Conrad P. Kottak, University of Michigan.

“Unknown Huichol is the most complete and coherent discussion of Huichol worldview available … Unknown Huichol is itself something like a sacred book that will be of enduring value to anyone interested in indigenous worldviews, particularly Mesoamerican worldviews.”—Professor Philip E. Coyle, Western Carolina University


As I mentioned in my interview with Jan Irvin, Gregory Bateson's policy paper, written in 1944 for the OSS, recommended "native revival" (a rebellion-prevention tactic pioneered by the Russians) as an effective aid to European colonization.  In addition to secret radio broadcasting of disinformation to undermine Japanese war propaganda, Bateson also successfully completed a dangerous ten-day mission behind enemy (Japanese) lines to rescue "three agents believed to have escaped after their capture by the Japanese" (Price 1998: 380). 1  I applaud him for that rescue and believe disinformation he disseminated to defeat the Japanese in WWII was justified. The "native revival" he advocated may have appeared necessary at that time, 1944, but by the late 1960s the war in Vietnam was teaching many of us that liberation from colonial rule (rather than native revival) was obligatory.

When I met Bateson in Hawaii  in 1971, he conveyed an anecdote suggesting that dolphins do not tolerate deceit (Unknown Huichol, p. 221). He was proposing that humans should follow their example. I have forgotten the exact context in which Bateson remarked that conquest of other people was never a good idea; but I remember his voice being full of sorrow when he made that comment to me while I was a guest in his home. Two years later, when he was briefly a guest in my home, I remember him explaining that most Japanese people, in contrast to many urban Americans, remained polite even while riding on crowded Tokyo subway trains. My personal experiences with Bateson, plus reading many of  his essays and books, persuade me that many CIA agents, Bateson included,  may have done less harm and more "good" (at least for the USA) than some opponents of the CIA will admit.  Certain covert operations (e.g., MKULTRA) carried out by the CIA have harmed innocent people or diminished our international reputation. Rather than over-reacting to such blunders, by demanding that our intelligence agencies be totally eliminated, it seems prudent to support efforts which will increase oversight of our intelligence agencies. They must not be permitted to persist unchanged.

It is time for us to reorganize the CIA and our other intelligence agencies; rather than closing them, or allowing them to continue operating without increased oversight. In today's world (which is far from my ideal world) we must be prepared to protect ourselves from those who intend to treat us as enemies. To be prepared, obtaining reliable intelligence remains essential.  We may also need to examine reasons why many non-Americans have come to view us as their enemies.  To do so may mean we must achieve more accurate understanding of ourselves, starting with insights based on  Jack Weatherford's remarks on Europe's obsession with silver and gold mining in the "New World" (post-Columbus).  As I explained in the introduction to Huichol Mythology by Robert Zingg, "Silver extracted from the Americas probably did more than anything else to undermine Islamic power for the next five hundred years" (Zingg 2004: xvii). That huge influx of mineral wealth, combined with banking, theft of Native American lands, slavery, technological innovation and other "modern" institutions allowed Europeans (and American colonists) to outperform (in a material sense) Islamic societies. How do members of those societies view us? How do we view them?

Some  books have helped me comprehend the simmering discontent toward "Western" civilization, including hatred manifested in attacks on Americans, as epitomized on September 11, 2001. I highly recommend Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response; Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit; and The Gift (see especially chapter 7, "Usury, A History of Gift Exchange") by Lewis Hyde.

As a social anthropologist I aim to educate people, to enable them to cherish universal human rights. For more than ten years my anthropology students at Yeditepe University have heard me lecturing about the value of endorsing and enforcing the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Universal Human Rights. They have discussed arguments I use to convince them that cultural relativism must be superseded whenever we are confronted with "honor killings," torture, female genital mutilation or other violations of Universal Human Rights. They are usually silent when I tell them that much of what happened to Native Americans can be defined as genocide (or attempted genocide). Most agree when I tell them that the Srebrenica massacre should teach us that all nations who participate in passing UN resolutions must demonstrate real commitment to building up UN peacekeeping forces, to make them powerful enough to enforce and protect universal human rights and deter or prevent genocide.  

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