second attention is. Not so much because of its intricacy and complexity,
which are indeed extreme, but because, once I was back in my normal
awareness, I found it impossible to remember not only that I had entered
into the second attention but that such a state existed at all.
Another monumental breakthrough that the old sorcerers claimed, and
that don Juan carefully explained to me, was to find out that the assemblage
point becomes very easily displaced during sleep. This realization triggered
another one: that dreams are totally associated with that displacement. The
old sorcerers saw that the greater the displacement, the more unusual the
dream or vice versa: the more unusual the dream, the greater the
displacement. Don Juan said that this observation led them to devise
extravagant techniques to force the displacement of the assemblage point,
such as ingesting plants that can produce altered states of consciousness;
subjecting themselves to states of hunger, fatigue, and stress; and
especially controlling dreams. In this fashion, and perhaps without even
knowing it, they created dreaming.
One day, as we strolled around the plaza in the city of Oaxaca, don
Juan gave me the most coherent definition of dreaming from a sorcerer's
"Sorcerers view dreaming as an extremely sophisticated art," he said,
"the art of displacing the assemblage point at will from its habitual
position in order to enhance and enlarge the scope of what can be
He said that the old sorcerers anchored the art of dreaming on five
conditions they saw in the energy flow of human beings.
One, they saw that only the energy filaments that pass directly through
the assemblage point can be assembled into coherent perception.
Two, they saw that if the assemblage point is displaced to another
position, no matter how minute the displacement, different and unaccustomed
energy filaments begin to pass through it, engaging awareness and forcing
the assembling of these unaccustomed energy fields into a steady, coherent
Three, they saw that, in the course of ordinary dreams, the assemblage
point becomes easily displaced by itself to another position on the surface
or in the interior of the luminous egg.
Four, they saw that the assemblage point can be made to move to
positions outside the luminous egg, into the energy filaments of the
universe at large.
And, five, they saw that through discipline it is possible to cultivate
and perform, in the course of sleep and ordinary dreams, a systematic
displacement of the assemblage point.


As a preamble to his first lesson in dreaming, don Juan talked about
the second attention as a progression: beginning as an idea that comes to us
more like a curiosity than an actual possibility; turning into something
that can only be felt, as a sensation is felt; and finally evolving into a
state of being, or a realm of practicalities, or a preeminent force that
opens for us worlds beyond our wildest fantasies.
When explaining sorcery, sorcerers have two options. One is to speak in
metaphorical terms and talk about a world of magical dimensions. The other
is to explain their business in abstract terms proper to sorcery. I have
always preferred the latter, although neither option will ever satisfy the
rational mind of a Western man.
Don Juan told me that what he meant by his metaphorical description of
the second attention as a progression was that, being a by-product of a
displacement of the assemblage point, the second attention does not happen
naturally but must be intended, beginning with intending it as an idea and
ending up with intending it as a steady and controlled awareness of the
assemblage point's displacement.
"I am going to teach you the first step to power," don Juan said,
beginning his instruction in the art of dreaming. "I'm going to teach you
how to set up dreaming."
"What does it mean to set up dreaming?"
"To set up dreaming means to have a precise and practical command over
the general situation of a dream. For example, you may dream that you are in
your classroom. To set up dreaming means that you don't let the dream slip
into something else. You don't jump from the classroom to the mountains, for
instance. In other words, you control the view of the classroom and don't
let it go until you want to."
"But is it possible to do that?"
"Of course it's possible. This control is no different from the control
we have over any situation in our daily lives. Sorcerers are used to it and
get it every time they want or need to. In order to get used to it yourself,
you must start by doing something very simple. Tonight, in your dreams, you
must look at your hands.".
Not much more was said about this in the awareness of our daily world.
In my recollection of my experiences in the second attention, however, I
found out that we had a more extensive exchange. For instance, I expressed
my feelings about the absurdity of the task, and don Juan suggested that I
should face it in terms of a quest that was entertaining, instead of solemn
and morbid.
"Get as heavy as you want when we talk about dreaming," he said.
"Explanations always call for deep thought. But when you actually dream, be
as light as a feather. Dreaming has to be performed with integrity and
seriousness, but in the midst of laughter and with the confidence of someone
who doesn't have a worry in the world. Only under these conditions can our
dreams actually be turned into dreaming."
Don Juan assured me that he had selected my hands arbitrarily as
something to look for in my dreams and that looking for anything else was
just as valid. The goal of the exercise was not finding a specific thing but
engaging my dreaming attention.
Don Juan described the dreaming attention as the control one acquires
over one's dreams upon fixating the assemblage point on any new position to
which it has been displaced during dreams. In more general terms, he called
the dreaming attention an incomprehensible facet of awareness that exists by
itself, waiting for a moment when we would entice it, a moment when we would
give it purpose; it is a veiled faculty that every one of us has in reserve
but never has the opportunity to use in everyday life.
My first attempts at looking for my hands in my dreams were a fiasco.
After months of unsuccessful efforts, I gave up and complained to don Juan
again about the absurdity of such a task.
"There are seven gates," he said as a way of answering, "and dreamers
have to open all seven of them, one at the time. You're up against the first
gate that must be opened if you are to dream."
"Why didn't you tell me this before?"
"It would've been useless to tell you about the gates of dreaming
before you smacked your head against the first one. Now you know that it is
an obstacle and that you have to overcome it."
Don Juan explained that there are entrances and exits in the energy
flow of the universe and that, in the specific case of dreaming, there are
seven entrances, experienced as obstacles, which sorcerers call the seven
gates of dreaming.
"The first gate is a threshold we must cross by becoming aware of a
particular sensation before deep sleep," he said. "A sensation which is like
a pleasant heaviness that doesn't let us open our eyes. We reach that gate
the instant we become aware that we're falling asleep, suspended in darkness
and heaviness."
"How do I become aware that I am falling asleep? Are there any steps to
"No. There are no steps to follow. One just intends to become aware of
falling asleep."
"But how does one intend to become aware of it?"
"Intent or intending is something very difficult to talk about. I or
anyone else would sound idiotic trying to explain it. Bear that in mind when
you hear what I have to say next: sorcerers intend anything they set
themselves to intend, simply by intending it."
"That doesn't mean anything, don Juan."
"Pay close attention. Someday it'll be your turn to explain. The
statement seems nonsensical because you are not putting it in the proper
context. Like any rational man, you think that understanding is exclusively
the realm of our reason, of our mind.
"For sorcerers, because the statement I made pertains to intent and
intending, understanding it pertains to the realm of energy. Sorcerers
believe that if one would intend that statement for the energy body, the
energy body would understand it in terms entirely different from those of
the mind. The trick is to reach the energy body. For that you need energy."
"In what terms would the energy body understand that statement, don
"In terms of a bodily feeling, which it's hard to describe. You'll have
to experience it to know what I mean."
I wanted a more precise explanation, but don Juan slapped my back and
made me enter into the second attention. At that time, what he did was still
utterly mysterious to me. I could have sworn that his touch hypnotized me. I
believed he had instantaneously put me to sleep, and I dreamt that I found
myself walking with him on a wide avenue lined with trees in some unknown
city. It was such a vivid dream, and I was so aware of everything, that I
immediately tried to orient myself by reading signs and looking at people.
It definitely was not any English- or Spanish-speaking city, but it was a
Western city. The people seemed to be northern Europeans, perhaps
Lithuanians. I became absorbed in trying to read billboards and street
Don Juan nudged me gently. "Don't bother with that," he said. "We are
nowhere identifiable. I've just lent you my energy so you would reach your
energy body, and with it you've just crossed into another world. This won't
last long, so use your time wisely.
"Look at everything, but without being obvious. Don't let anyone notice
We walked in silence. It was a block-long walk, which had a remarkable
effect on me. The more we walked, the greater my sensation of visceral
anxiety. My mind was curious, but my body was alarmed. I had the clearest
understanding that I was not in this world. When we got to an intersection
and stopped walking, I saw that the trees on the street had been carefully
trimmed. They were short trees with hard-looking, curled leaves. Each tree
had a big square space for watering. There were no weeds or trash in those
spaces, as one would find around trees in the city, only charcoal black,
loose dirt.
The moment I focused my eyes on the curb, before I stepped off it to
cross the street, I noticed that there were no cars. I tried desperately to
watch the people who milled around us, to discover something about them that
would explain my anxiety. As I stared at them, they stared back at me. In
one instant a circle of hard blue and brown eyes had formed around us.
A certainty hit me like a blow: this was not a dream at all; we were in
a reality beyond what I know to be real. I turned to face don Juan. I was
about to realize what was different about those people, but a strange dry
wind that went directly to my sinuses hit my face, blurred my view, and made
me forget what I wanted to tell don Juan. The next instant, I was back where
I had started from: don Juan's house. I was lying on a straw mat, curled up
on my side.
"I lent you my energy, and you reached your energy body," don Juan said
I heard him talk, but I was numb. An unusual itching on my solar plexus
kept my breaths short and painful. I knew that I had been on the verge of
finding something transcendental about dreaming and about the people I had
seen, yet I could not bring whatever I knew into focus.
"Where were we, don Juan?" I asked. "Was it all a dream? A hypnotic
"It wasn't a dream," he replied. "It was dreaming. I helped you reach
the second attention so that you would understand intending as a subject not
for your reason but for your energy body.
"At this point, you can't yet comprehend the import of all this, not
only because you don't have sufficient energy but because you're not
intending anything. If you were, your energy body would comprehend
immediately that the only way to intend is by focusing your intent on
whatever you want to intend. This time I focused it for you on reaching your
energy body."
"Is the goal of dreaming to intend the energy body?" I asked, suddenly
empowered by some strange reasoning.
"One can certainly put it that way," he said. "In this particular
instance, since we're talking about the first gate of dreaming, the goal of
dreaming is to intend that your energy body becomes aware that you are
falling asleep. Don't try to force yourself to be aware of falling asleep.
Let your energy body do it. To intend is to wish without wishing, to do
without doing.
"Accept the challenge of intending," he went on. "Put your silent
determination, without a single thought, into convincing yourself that you
have reached your energy body and that you are a dreamer. Doing this will
automatically put you in the position to be aware that you are falling
"How can I convince myself that I am a dreamer when I am not?"
"When you hear that you have to convince yourself, you automatically
become more rational. How can you convince yourself you are a dreamer when
you know you are not? Intending is both: the act of convincing yourself you
are indeed a dreamer, although you have never dreamt before, and the act of
being convinced."
"Do you mean I have to tell myself I am a dreamer and try my best to
believe it? Is that it?"
"No, it isn't. Intending is much simpler and, at the same time,
infinitely more complex than that. It requires imagination, discipline, and
purpose. In this case, to intend means that you get an unquestionable bodily
knowledge that you are a dreamer. You feel you are a dreamer with all the
cells of your body."
Don Juan added in a joking tone that he did not have sufficient energy
to make me another loan for intending and that the thing to do was to reach
my energy body on my own. He assured me that intending the first gate of
dreaming was one of the means discovered by the sorcerers of antiquity for
reaching the second attention and the energy body.
After telling me this, he practically threw me out of his house,
commanding me not to come back until I had intended the first gate of
I returned home, and every night for months I went to sleep intending
with all my might to become aware that I was falling asleep and to see my
hands in my dreams. The other part of the task--to convince myself that I
was a dreamer and that I had reached my energy body--was totally impossible
for me.
Then, one afternoon while taking a nap, I dreamt I was looking at my
hands. The shock was enough to wake me up. It proved to be a unique dream
that could not be repeated. Weeks went by, and I was unable either to become
aware that I was falling asleep or to find my hands. I began to notice,
however, that I was having in my dreams a vague feeling that there was
something I should have been doing but could not remember. This feeling
became so strong that it kept on waking me up at all hours of the night.
When I told don Juan about my futile attempts to cross the first gate
of dreaming, he gave me some guidelines. "To ask a dreamer to find a
determined item in his dreams is a subterfuge," he said. "The real issue is
to become aware that one is falling asleep. And, strange as it may seem,
that doesn't happen by commanding oneself to be aware that one is falling
asleep but by sustaining the sight of whatever one is looking at in a
He told me that dreamers take quick, deliberate glances at everything
present in a dream. If they focus their dreaming attention on something
specific, it is only as a point of departure. From there, dreamers move on
to look at other items in the dream's content, returning to the point of
departure as many times as possible.
After a great effort, I indeed found hands in my dreams, but they never
were mine. They were hands that only seemed to belong to me, hands that
changed shape, becoming quite nightmarish at times. The rest of my dreams'
content, nonetheless, was always pleasantly steady. I could almost sustain
the view of anything I focused my attention on.
It went on like this for months, until one day when my capacity to
dream changed seemingly by itself. I had done nothing special besides my
constant earnest determination to be aware that I was falling asleep and to
find my hands.
I dreamt I was visiting my hometown. Not that the town I was dreaming
about looked at all like my hometown, but somehow I had the conviction that
it was the place where I was born. It all began as an ordinary, yet very
vivid dream. Then the light in the dream changed. Images became sharper. The
street where I was walking became noticeably more real than a moment before.
My feet began to hurt. I could feel that things were absurdly hard. For
instance, on bumping into a door, not only did I experience pain on the knee
that hit the door but I also was enraged by my clumsiness.
I realistically walked in that town until I was completely exhausted. I
saw everything I could have seen had I been a tourist walking through the
streets of a city. And there was no difference whatsoever between that dream
walk and any walk I had actually taken on the streets of a city I visited
for the first time.
"I think you went a bit too far," don Juan said after listening to my
account. "All that was required was your awareness of falling asleep. What
you've done is equivalent to bringing a wall down just to squash a mosquito
sitting on it."
"Do you mean, don Juan, that I flubbed it?"
"No. But apparently you're trying to repeat something you did before.
When I made your assemblage point shift and you and I ended up in that
mysterious city, you were not asleep. You were dreaming, but not asleep,
meaning that your assemblage point didn't reach that position through a
normal dream. I forced it to shift.
"You certainly can reach the same position through dreaming, but I
wouldn't advise you to do that at this time."
"Is it dangerous?"
"And how! Dreaming has to be a very sober affair. No false movement can
be afforded. Dreaming is a process of awakening, of gaming control. Our
dreaming attention must be systematically exercised, for it is the door to
the second attention."
"What's the difference between the dreaming attention and the second
"The second attention is like an ocean, and the dreaming attention is
like a river feeding into it. The second attention is the condition of being
aware of total worlds, total like our world is total, while the dreaming
attention is the condition of being aware of the items of our dreams."
He heavily stressed that the dreaming attention is the key to every
movement in the sorcerers' world. He said that among the multitude of items
in our dreams, there exist real energetic interferences, things that have
been put in our dreams extraneously, by an alien force. To be able to find
them and follow them is sorcery.
The emphasis he put on those statements was so pronounced that I had to
ask him to explain them. He hesitated for a moment before answering.
"Dreams are, if not a door, a hatch into other worlds," he began. "As
such, dreams are a two-way street. Our awareness goes through that hatch
into other realms, and those other realms send scouts into our dreams."
"What are those scouts?"
"Energy charges that get mixed with the items of our normal dreams.
They are bursts of foreign energy that come into our dreams, and we
interpret them as items familiar or unfamiliar to us."
"I am sorry, don Juan, but I can't make heads or tails out of your
"You can't because you're insisting on thinking about dreams in terms
known to you: what occurs to us during sleep. And I am insisting on giving
you another version: a hatch into other realms of perception. Through that
hatch, currents of unfamiliar energy seep in. Then the mind or the brain or
whatever takes those currents of energy and turns them into parts of our
He paused, obviously to give my mind time to take in what he was
telling me. "Sorcerers are aware of those currents of foreign energy," he
continued. "They notice them and strive to isolate them from the normal
items of their dreams."
"Why do they isolate them, don Juan?"
"Because they come from other realms. If we follow them to their
source, they serve us as guides into areas of such mystery that sorcerers
shiver at the mere mention of such a possibility."
"How do sorcerers isolate them from the normal items of their dreams?"
"By the exercise and control of their dreaming attention. At one
moment, our dreaming attention discovers them among the items of a dream and
focuses on them, then the total dream collapses, leaving only the foreign
Don Juan refused to explain the topic any further. He went back to
discussing my dreaming experience and said that, all in all, he had to take
my dream as being my first genuine attempt at dreaming, and that this meant
I had succeeded in reaching the first gate of dreaming.
During another discussion, at a different time, he abruptly brought up
the subject again. He said, "I'm going to repeat what you must do in your
dreams in order to pass the first gate of dreaming. First you must focus
your gaze on anything of your choice as the starting point. Then shift your
gaze to other items and look at them in brief glances. Focus your gaze on as
many things as you can. Remember that if you glance only briefly, the images
don't shift. Then go back to the item you first looked at."
"What does it mean to pass the first gate of dreaming?"
"We reach the first gate of dreaming by becoming aware that we are
falling asleep, or by having, like you did, a gigantically real dream. Once
we reach the gate, we must cross it by being able to sustain the sight of
any item of our dreams."
"I can almost look steadily at the items of my dreams, but they
dissipate too quickly."
"This is precisely what I am trying to tell you. In order to offset the
evanescent quality of dreams, sorcerers have devised the use of the starting
point item. Every time you isolate it and look at it, you get a surge of
energy, so at the beginning don't look at too many things in your dreams.
Four items will suffice. Later on, you may enlarge the scope until you can
cover all you want, but as soon as the images begin to shift and you feel
you are losing control, go back to your starting point item and start all
over again."
'"Do you believe that I really reached the first gate of dreaming, don
"You did, and that's a lot. You'll find out, as you go along, how easy
it'll be to do dreaming now."
I thought don Juan was either exaggerating or giving me incentive. But
he assured me he was being on the level.
"The most astounding thing that happens to dreamers," he said, "is
that, on reaching the first gate, they also reach the energy body."
"What exactly is the energy body?"
"It's the counterpart of the physical body. A ghostlike configuration
made of pure energy."
"But isn't the physical body also made out of energy?"
"Of course it is. The difference is that the energy body has only
appearance but no mass. Since it's pure energy, it can perform acts that are
beyond the possibilities of the physical body."
"Such as what for example, don Juan?"
"Such as transporting itself in one instant to the ends of the
universe. And dreaming is the art of tempering the energy body, of making it
supple and coherent by gradually exercising it.
"Through dreaming we condense the energy body until it's a unit capable
of perceiving. Its perception, although affected by our normal way of
perceiving the daily world, is an independent perception. It has its own
"What is that sphere, don Juan?"
"Energy. The energy body deals with energy in terms of energy. There
are three ways in which it deals with energy in dreaming: it can perceive
energy as it flows, or it can use energy to boost itself like a rocket into
unexpected areas, or it can perceive as we ordinarily perceive the world."
"What does it mean to perceive energy as it flows?"
"It means to see. It means that the energy body sees energy directly as
a light or as a vibrating current of sorts or as a disturbance. Or it feels
it directly as a jolt or as a sensation that can even be pain."
"What about the other way you talked about, don Juan? The energy body
using energy as a boost."
"Since energy is its sphere, it is no problem for the energy body to
use currents of energy that exist in the universe to propel itself. All it
has to do is isolate them, and off it goes with them."
He stopped talking and seemed to be undecided, as if he wanted to add
something but was not sure about it. He smiled at me, and, just as I was
beginning to ask him a question, he continued his explanation.
"I've mentioned to you before that sorcerers isolate in their dreams
scouts from other realms," he said. "Their energy bodies do that. They
recognize energy and go for it. But it isn't desirable for dreamers to
indulge in searching for scouts. I was reluctant to tell you about it,
because of the facility with which one can get swayed by that search."
Don Juan then quickly went on to another subject. He carefully outlined
for me an entire block of practices. At the time, I found that on one level
it was all incomprehensible to me, yet on another it was perfectly logical
and understandable. He reiterated that reaching, with deliberate control,
the first gate of dreaming is a way of arriving at the energy body. But to
maintain that gain is predicated on energy alone. Sorcerers get that energy
by redeploying, in a more intelligent manner, the energy they have and use
for perceiving the daily world.
When I urged don Juan to explain it more clearly, he added that we all
have a determined quantity of basic energy. That quantity is all the energy
we have, and we use all of it for perceiving and dealing with our engulfing
world. He repeated various times, to emphasize it, that there is no more
energy for us anywhere and, since our available energy is already engaged,
there is not a single bit left in us for any extraordinary perception, such
as dreaming.
"Where does that leave us?" I asked.
"It leaves us to scrounge energy for ourselves, wherever we can find
it," he replied.
Don Juan explained that sorcerers have a scrounging method. They
intelligently redeploy their energy by cutting down anything they consider
superfluous in their lives. They call this method the sorcerers' way. In
essence, the sorcerers' way, as don Juan put it, is a chain of behavioral
choices for dealing with the world, choices much more intelligent than those
our progenitors taught us. These sorcerers' choices are designed to revamp
our lives by altering our basic reactions about being alive.
"What are those basic reactions?" I asked.
"There are two ways of facing our being alive," he said. "One is to
surrender to it, either by acquiescing to its demands or by fighting those
demands. The other is by molding our particular life situation to fit our
own configurations."
"Can we really mold our life situation, don Juan?"
"One's particular life situation can be molded to fit one's
specifications," don Juan insisted. "Dreamers do that. A wild statement? Not
really, if you consider how little we know about ourselves."
He said that his interest, as a teacher, was to get me thoroughly
involved with the themes of life and being alive; that is to say, with the
difference between life, as a consequence of biological forces, and the act
of being alive, as a matter of cognition.
"When sorcerers talk about molding one's life situation," don Juan
explained, "they mean molding the awareness of being alive. Through molding
this awareness, we can get enough energy to reach and sustain the energy
body, and with it we can certainly mold the total direction and consequences
of our lives." Don Juan ended our conversation about dreaming admonishing me
not merely to think about what he had told me but to turn his concepts into
a viable way of life by a process of repetition. He claimed that everything
new in our lives, such as the sorcerers' concepts he was teaching me, must
be repeated to us to the point of exhaustion before we open ourselves to it.
He pointed out that repetition is the way our progenitors socialized us to
function in the daily world.
As I continued my dreaming practices, I gained the capability of being
thoroughly aware that I was falling asleep as well as the capability of
stopping in a dream to examine at will anything that was part of that
dream's content. To experience this was for me no less than miraculous.
Don Juan stated that as we tighten the control over our dreams, we
tighten the mastery over our dreaming attention. He was right in saying that
the dreaming attention comes into play when it is called, when it is given a
purpose. Its coming into play is not really a process, as one would normally
understand a process: an ongoing system of operations or a series of actions
or functions that bring about an end result. It is rather an awakening.
Something dormant becomes suddenly functional.


I found out by means of my dreaming practices that a dreaming teacher
must create a didactic synthesis in order to emphasize a given point. In
essence, what don Juan wanted with my first task was to exercise my dreaming
attention by focusing it on the items of my dreams. To this effect he used
as a spearhead the idea of being aware of falling asleep. His subterfuge was
to say that the only way to be aware of falling asleep is to examine the
elements of one's dreams.
I realized, almost as soon as I had begun my dreaming practices, that
exercising the dreaming attention is the essential point in dreaming. To the
mind, however, it seems impossible that one can train oneself to be aware at
the level of dreams. Don Juan said that the active element of such training
is persistence, and that the mind and all its rational defenses cannot cope
with persistence. Sooner or later, he said, the mind's barriers fall, under
its impact, and the dreaming attention blooms.
As I practiced focusing and holding my dreaming attention on the items
of my dreams, I began to feel a peculiar self-confidence so remarkable that
I sought a comment from don Juan.
"It's your entering into the second attention that gives you that sense
of self-assurance," he said. "This calls for even more sobriety on your
part. Go slowly, but don't stop, and above all, don't talk about it. Just do
I told him that in practice I had corroborated what he had already told
me, that if one takes short glances at everything in a dream, the images do
not dissolve. I commented that the difficult part is to break the initial
barrier that prevents us from bringing dreams to our conscious attention. I
asked don Juan to give me his opinion on this matter, for I earnestly
believed that this barrier is a psychological one created by our
socialization, which puts a premium on disregarding dreams.
"The barrier is more than socialization," he replied. "It's the first
gate of dreaming. Now that you've overcome it, it seems stupid to you that
we can't stop at will and pay attention to the items of our dreams. That's a
false certainty. The first gate of dreaming has to do with the flow of
energy in the universe. It's a natural obstacle."
Don Juan made me agree then that we would talk about dreaming only in
the second attention and as he saw fit. He encouraged me to practice in the
meantime and promised no interference on his part.
As I gained proficiency in setting up dreaming, I repeatedly
experienced sensations that I deemed of great importance, such as the
feeling that I was rolling into a ditch just as I was falling asleep. Don
Juan never told me that they were nonsensical sensations but let me record
them in my notes. I realize now how absurd I must have appeared to him.
Today, if I were teaching dreaming, I would definitely discourage such a
behavior. Don Juan merely made fun of me, calling me a covert egomaniac who
professed to be fighting self-importance yet kept a meticulous,
superpersonal diary called "My Dreams."
Every time he had an opportunity, don Juan pointed out that the energy
needed to release our dreaming attention from its socialization prison comes
from redeploying our existing energy. Nothing could have been truer. The
emergence of our dreaming attention is a direct corollary of revamping our
lives. Since we have, as don Juan said, no way to plug into any external
source for a boost of energy, we must redeploy our existing energy, by any
means available.
Don Juan insisted that the sorcerers' way is the best means to oil, so
to speak, the wheels of energy redeployment, and that of all the items in
the sorcerers' way, the most effective is "losing self-importance." He was
thoroughly convinced that this is indispensable for everything sorcerers do,
and for this reason he put an enormous emphasis on guiding all his students
to fulfill this requirement. He was of the opinion that self-importance is
not only the sorcerers' supreme enemy but the nemesis of mankind.
Don Juan's argument was that most of our energy goes into upholding our
importance. This is most obvious in our endless worry about the presentation
of the self, about whether or not we are admired or liked or acknowledged.
He reasoned that if we were capable of losing some of that importance, two
extraordinary things would happen to us. One, we would free our energy from
trying to maintain the illusory idea of our grandeur; and, two, we would
provide ourselves with enough energy to enter into the second attention to
catch a glimpse of the actual grandeur of the universe.
It took me more than two years to be able to focus my unwavering
dreaming attention on anything I wanted. And I became so proficient that I
felt as if I had been doing it all my life. The eeriest part was that I
could not conceive of not having had that ability. Yet I could remember how
difficult it had been even to think of this as a possibility. It occurred to
me that the capability of examining the contents of one's dreams must be the
product of a natural configuration of our being, similar perhaps to our
capability of walking. We are physically conditioned to walk only in one
manner, bipedally, yet it takes a monumental effort for us to learn to walk.
This new capacity of looking in glances at the items of my dreams was
coupled with a most insistent nagging to remind myself to look at the
elements of my dreams. I knew about my compulsive bent of character, but in
my dreams my compulsiveness was vastly augmented. It became so noticeable
that not only did I resent hearing my nagging at myself but I also began to
question whether it was really my compulsiveness or something else. I even
thought I was losing my mind.
"I talk to myself endlessly in my dreams, reminding myself to look at
things," I said to don Juan.
I had all along respected our agreement that we would talk about
dreaming only when he brought up the subject. However, I thought that this
was an emergency.
"Does it sound to you like it's not you but someone else?" he asked.
"Come to think of it, yes. I don't sound like myself at those times."
"Then it's not you. It's not time yet to explain it. But let's say that
we are not alone in this world. Let's say that there are other worlds
available to dreamers, total worlds. From those other total worlds,
energetic entities sometimes come to us. The next time you hear yourself
nagging at yourself in your dreams, get really angry and yell a command.
Say, Stop it!"
I entered into another challenging arena: to remember in my dreams to
shout that command. I believe that, perhaps, out of being so tremendously
annoyed at hearing myself nagging, I did remember to shout, Stop it. The
nagging ceased instantly and never again was repeated.
"Does every dreamer experience this?" I asked don Juan when I saw him
"Some do," he answered, uninterestedly.
I began to rant about how strange it had all been. He cut me off,
saying, "You are ready now to get to the second gate of dreaming."
I seized the opportunity to seek answers for questions I had not been
able to ask him. What I had experienced the first time he made me dream had
been foremost in my mind. I told don Juan that I had observed the elements
of my own dreams to my heart's content, and never had I felt anything even
vaguely similar in terms of clarity and detail.
"The more I think about it," I said, "the more intriguing it becomes.
Watching those people in that dream, I experienced a fear and revulsion
impossible to forget. What was that feeling, don Juan?"
"In my opinion, your energy body hooked onto the foreign energy of that
place and had the time of its life. Naturally, you felt afraid and revolted;
you were examining alien energy for the first time in your life.
"You have a proclivity for behaving like the sorcerers of antiquity.
The moment you have the chance, you let your assemblage point go. That time
your assemblage point shifted quite a distance. The result was that you,
like the old sorcerers, journeyed beyond the world we know. A most real but
dangerous journey."
I bypassed the meaning of his statements in favor of my own interest
and asked him, "Was that city perhaps on another planet?"
"You can't explain dreaming by way of things you know or suspect you
know," he said. "All I can tell you is that the city you visited was not in
this world."
"Where was it, then?"
"Out of this world, of course. You're not that stupid. That was the
first thing you noticed. What got you going in circles is that you can't
imagine anything being out of this world."
"Where is out of this world, don Juan?"
"Believe me, the most extravagant feature of sorcery is that
configuration called out of this world. For instance, you assumed that I was
seeing the same things you did. The proof is that you never asked me what I
saw. You and only you saw a city and people in that city. I didn't see
anything of the sort. I saw energy. So, out of this world was, for you
alone, on that occasion, a city."
"But then, don Juan, it wasn't a real city. It existed only for me, in
my mind."
"No. That's not the case. Now you want to reduce something
transcendental to something mundane. You can't do that. That journey was
real. You saw it as a city. I saw it as energy. Neither of us is right or
"My confusion comes when you talk about things being real. You said
before that we reached a real place. But if it was real, how can we have two
versions of it?"
"Very simple. We have two versions because we had, at that time, two
different rates of uniformity and cohesion. I have explained to you that
those two attributes are the key to perceiving."
"Do you think that I can go back to that particular city?"
"You got me there. I don't know. Or perhaps I do know but can't explain
it. Or perhaps I can explain it but I don't want to. You'll have to wait and
figure out for yourself which is the case."
He refused any further discussion.
"Let's get on with our business," he said. "You reach the second gate
of dreaming when you wake up from a dream into another dream. You can have
as many dreams as you want or as many as you are capable of, but you must
exercise adequate control and not wake up in the world we know."
I had a jolt of panic. "Are you saying that I should never wake up in
this world?" I asked.
"No, I didn't mean that. But now that you have pointed it out, I have
to tell you that it is an alternative. The sorcerers of antiquity used to do
that, never wake up in the world we know. Some of the sorcerers of my line
have done it too. It certainly can be done, but I don't recommend it. What I
want is for you to wake up naturally when you are through with dreaming, but
while you are dreaming, I want you to dream that you wake up in another
I heard myself asking the same question I had asked the first time he
told me about setting up dreaming. "But is it possible to do that?"
Don Juan obviously caught on to my mindlessness and laughingly repeated
the answer he had given me before. "Of course it's possible. This control is
no different from the control we have over any situation in our daily
I quickly got over my embarrassment and was ready to ask more
questions, but don Juan anticipated me and began to explain facets of the
second gate of dreaming, an explanation that made me yet more uneasy.
"There's one problem with the second gate," he said. "It's a problem
that can be serious, depending on one's bent of character. If our tendency
is to indulge in clinging to things or situations, we are in for a sock in
the jaw."
"In what way, don Juan?"
"Think for a moment. You've already experienced the outlandish joy of
examining your dreams' contents. Imagine yourself going from dream to dream,
watching everything, examining every detail. It's very easy to realize that
one may sink to mortal depths. Especially if one is given to indulging."
"Wouldn't the body or the brain naturally put a stop to it?"
"If it's a natural sleeping situation, meaning normal, yes. But this is
not a normal situation. This is dreaming. A dreamer on crossing the first
gate has already reached the energy body. So what is really going through
the second gate, hopping from dream to dream, is the energy body."
"What's the implication of all this, don Juan?"
"The implication is that on crossing the second gate you must intend a
greater and more sober control over your dreaming attention: the only safety
valve for dreamers."
"What is this safety valve?"
"You will find out for yourself that the true goal of dreaming is to
perfect the energy body. A perfect energy body, among other things of
course, has such a control over the dreaming attention that it makes it stop
when needed. This is the safety valve dreamers have. No matter how indulging
they might be, at a given time, their dreaming attention must make them
I started all over again on another dreaming quest. This time the goal
was more elusive and the difficulty even greater. Exactly as with my first
task, I could not begin to figure out what to do. I had the discouraging
suspicion that all my practice was not going to be of much help this time.
After countless failures, I gave up and settled down to simply continue my
practice of fixing my dreaming attention on every item of my dreams.
Accepting my shortcomings seemed to give me a boost, and I became even more
adept at sustaining the view of any item in my dreams.
A year went by without any change. Then one day something changed. As I
was watching a window in a dream, trying to find out if I could catch a
glimpse of the scenery outside the room, some windlike force, which I felt
as a buzzing in my ears, pulled me through the window to the outside. Just
before that pull, my dreaming attention had been caught by a strange
structure some distance away. It looked like a tractor. The next thing I
knew, I was standing by it, examining it.
I was perfectly aware that I was dreaming. I looked around to find out
if I could tell from what window I had been looking. The scene was that of a
farm in the countryside. No buildings were in sight. I wanted to ponder
this. However, the quantity of farm machinery lying around, as if abandoned,
took all my attention. I examined mowing machines, tractors, grain
harvesters, disk plows, thrashers. There were so many that I forgot my
original dream. What I wanted then was to orient myself by watching the
immediate scenery. There was something in the distance that looked like a
billboard and some telephone poles around it.
The instant I focused my attention on that billboard, I was next to it.
The steel structure of the billboard gave me a fright. It was menacing. On
the billboard itself was a picture of a building. I read the text; it was an
advertisement for a motel. I had a peculiar certainty that I was in Oregon
or northern California.
I looked for other features in the environment of my dream. I saw
mountains very far away and some green, round hills not too far. On those
hills were clumps of what I thought were California oak trees. I wanted to
be pulled by the green hills, but what pulled me were the distant mountains.
I was convinced that they were the Sierras.
All my dreaming energy left me on those mountains. But before it did, I
was pulled by every possible feature. My dream ceased to be a dream. As far
as my capacity to perceive was concerned, I was veritably in the Sierras,
zooming into ravines, boulders, trees, caves. I went from scarp faces to
mountain peaks until I had no more drive and could not focus my dreaming
attention on anything. I felt myself losing control. Finally, there was no
more scenery, just darkness.
"You have reached the second gate of dreaming," don Juan said when I
narrated my dream to him. "What you should do next is to cross it. Crossing
the second gate is a very serious affair; it requires a most disciplined
I was not sure I had fulfilled the task he outlined for me, because I
had not really woken up in another dream. I asked don Juan about this
irregularity. "The mistake was mine," he said. "I told you that one has to
wake up in another dream, but what I meant is that one has to change dreams
in an orderly and precise manner, the way you have done it.
"With the first gate, you wasted a lot of time looking exclusively for
your hands. This time, you went directly to the solution without bothering
to follow the given command: to wake up in another dream."
Don Juan said that there are two ways of properly crossing the second
gate of dreaming. One is to wake up in another dream, that is to say, to
dream that one is having a dream and then dream that one wakes up from it.
The alternative is to use the items of a dream to trigger another dream,
exactly as I had done.
Just as he had been doing all along, don Juan let me practice without
any interference on his part. And I corroborated the two alternatives he
described. Either I dreamt that I was having a dream from which I dreamt I
woke up or I zoomed from a definite item accessible to my immediate dreaming
attention to another one, not quite accessible. Or I entered into a slight
variation of the second: I gazed at any item of a dream, maintaining the
gaze until the item changed shape and, by changing shape, pulled me into
another dream through a buzzing vortex. Never was I capable, however, of
deciding beforehand which of the three I would follow. My dreaming practices
always ended by my running out of dreaming attention and finally waking up
or by my falling into dark, deep slumber.
Everything went smoothly in my practices. The only disturbance I had
was a peculiar interference, a jolt of fear or discomfort I had begun to
experience with increasing frequency. My way of discarding it was to believe
that it was related to my ghastly eating habits or to the fact that, in
those days, don Juan was giving me a profusion of hallucinogenic plants as
part of my training. Those jolts became so prominent, however, that I had to
ask don Juan's advice.
"You have entered now into the most dangerous facet of the sorcerers'
knowledge," he began. "It is sheer dread, a veritable nightmare. I could
joke with you and say that I didn't mention this possibility to you out of
regard for your cherished rationality, but I can't. Every sorcerer has to
face it. Here is where, I fear, you might very well think you're going off
the deep end."
Don Juan very solemnly explained that life and consciousness, being
exclusively a matter of energy, are not solely the property of organisms. He
said that sorcerers have seen that there are two types of conscious beings
roaming the earth, the organic and the inorganic, and that in comparing one
with the other, they have seen that both are luminous masses crossed from
every imaginable angle by millions of the universe's energy filaments. They
are different from each other in their shape and in their degree of
brightness. Inorganic beings are long and candlelike but opaque, whereas
organic beings are round and by far the brighter. Another noteworthy
difference, which don Juan said sorcerers have seen, is that the life and
consciousness of organic beings is short-lived, because they are made to
hurry, whereas the life of inorganic beings is infinitely longer and their
consciousness infinitely more calm and deeper.
"Sorcerers find no problem interacting with them," don Juan went on.
"Inorganic beings possess the crucial ingredient for interaction,
"But do these inorganic beings really exist? Like you and I exist?" I
"Of course they do," he replied. "Believe me, sorcerers are very
intelligent creatures; under no condition would they toy with aberrations of
the mind and then take them for real."
"Why do you say they are alive?"
"For sorcerers, having life means having consciousness. It means having
an assemblage point and its surrounding glow of awareness, a condition that
points out to sorcerers that the being in front of them, organic or
inorganic, is thoroughly capable of perceiving. Perceiving is understood by
sorcerers as the precondition of being alive."
"Then the inorganic beings must also die. Is that true, don Juan?"
"Naturally. They lose their awareness just like we do, except that the
length of their consciousness is staggering to the mind."
"Do these inorganic beings appear to sorcerers?"
"It's very difficult to tell what is what with them. Let's say that
those beings are enticed by us or, better yet, compelled to interact with
Don Juan peered at me most intently. "You're not taking in any of this
at all," he said with the tone of someone who has reached a conclusion.
"It's nearly impossible for me to think about this rationally," I said.
"I warned you that the subject will tax your reason. The proper thing
to do then is to suspend judgment and let things take their course, meaning
that you let the inorganic beings come to you."
"Are you serious, don Juan?"
"Deadly serious. The difficulty with inorganic beings is that their
awareness is very slow in comparison with ours. It will take years for a
sorcerer to be acknowledged by inorganic beings. So, it is advisable to have
patience and wait. Sooner or later they show up. But not like you or I would
show up. Theirs is a most peculiar way to make themselves known."
"How do sorcerers entice them? Do they have a ritual?"
"Well, they certainly don't stand in the middle of the road and call
out to them with trembling voices at the stroke of midnight, if that's what
you mean."
"What do they do then?"
"They entice them in dreaming. I said that what's involved is more than
enticing them; by the act of dreaming, sorcerers compel those beings to
interact with them."
"How do sorcerers compel them by the act of dreaming?"
"Dreaming is sustaining the position where the assemblage point has
shifted in dreams. This act creates a distinctive energy charge, which
attracts their attention. It's like bait to fish; they'll go for it.
Sorcerers, by reaching and crossing the first two gates of dreaming, set
bait for those beings and compel them to appear.
"By going through the two gates, you have made your bidding known to
them. Now, you must wait for a sign from them."
"What would the sign be, don Juan?"
"Possibly the appearance of one of them, although that seems too soon.
I am of the opinion that their sign will be simply some interference in your
dreaming. I believe that the jolts of fear you are experiencing nowadays are
not indigestion but energy jolts sent to you by the inorganic beings."
"What should I do?"
"You must gauge your expectations."
I could not understand what he meant, and he carefully explained that
our normal expectation when engaging in interaction with our fellow men or
with other organic beings is to get an immediate reply to our solicitation.
With inorganic beings, however, since they are separated from us by a most
formidable barrier--energy that moves at a different speed--sorcerers must
gauge their expectations and sustain the solicitation for as long as it
takes to be acknowledged.
"Do you mean, don Juan, that the solicitation is the same as the
dreaming practices?"
"Yes. But for a perfect result, you must add to your practices the
intent of reaching those inorganic beings. Send a feeling of power and
confidence to them, a feeling of strength, of detachment. Avoid at any cost
sending a feeling of fear or morbidity. They are pretty morbid by
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