Carlos Castaneda. The Art of Dreaming

Carlos Castaneda 1993

Carlos Castaneda asserts the moral right to be identified as the author
of this work


Author's Note
1 Sorcerers of Antiquity: An Introduction
2 The First Gate of Dreaming
3 The Second Gate of Dreaming
4 The Fixation of the Assemblage Point
5 The World of Inorganic Beings
6 The Shadows' World
7 The Blue Scout
8 The Third Gate of Dreaming
9 The New Area of Exploration
10 Stalking the Stalkers
11 The Tenant
I2 The Woman in the Church 13 Flying on the Wings of Intent


Over the past twenty years, I have written a series of books about my
apprenticeship with a Mexican Yaqui Indian sorcerer, don Juan Matus. I have
explained in those books that he taught me sorcery, but not as we understand
sorcery in the context of our daily world: the use of supernatural powers
over others, or the calling of spirits through charms, spells, or rituals to
produce supernatural effects. For don Juan, sorcery was the act of embodying
some specialized theoretical and practical premises about the nature and
role of perception in molding the universe around us.
Following don Juan's suggestion, I have refrained from using shamanism,
a category proper to anthropology, to classify his knowledge. I have called
it all along what he himself called it: sorcery. On examination, however, I
realized that calling it sorcery obscures even more the already obscure
phenomena he presented to me in his teachings.
In anthropological works, shamanism is described as a belief system of
some native people of northern Asia--prevailing also among certain native
North American Indian tribes--which maintains that an unseen world of
ancestral spiritual forces, good and evil, is pervasive around us and that
these spiritual forces can be summoned or controlled through the acts of
practitioners, who are the intermediaries between the natural and
supernatural realms.
Don Juan was indeed an intermediary between the natural world of
everyday life and an unseen world, which he called not the supernatural but
the second attention. His role as a teacher was to make this configuration
accessible to me. I have described in my previous work his teaching methods
to this effect, as well as the sorcery arts he made me practice, the most
important of which is called the art of dreaming.
Don Juan contended that our world, which we believe to be unique and
absolute, is only one in a cluster of consecutive worlds, arranged like the
layers of an onion. He asserted that even though we have been energetically
conditioned to perceive solely our world, we still have the capability of
entering into those other realms, which are as real, unique, absolute, and
engulfing as our own world is.
Don Juan explained to me that, for us to perceive those other realms,
not only do we have to covet them but we need to have sufficient energy to
seize them. Their existence is constant and independent of our awareness, he
said, but their inaccessibility is entirely a consequence of our energetic
conditioning. In other words, simply and solely because of that
conditioning, we are compelled to assume that the world of daily life is the
one and only possible world.
Believing that our energetic conditioning is correctable, don Juan
stated that sorcerers of ancient times developed a set of practices designed
to recondition our energetic capabilities to perceive. They called this set
of practices the art of dreaming.
With the perspective time gives, I now realize that the most fitting
statement don Juan made about dreaming was to call it the "gateway to
infinity." I remarked, at the time he said it, that the metaphor had no
meaning to me.
"Let's then do away with metaphors," he conceded. "Let's say that
dreaming is the sorcerers' practical way of putting ordinary dreams to use."
"But how can ordinary dreams be put to use?" I asked. "We always get
tricked by words," he said. "In my own case, my teacher attempted to
describe dreaming to me by saying that it is the way sorcerers say good
night to the world. He was, of course, tailoring his description to fit my
mentality. I'm doing the same with you."
On another occasion don Juan said to me, "Dreaming can only be
experienced. Dreaming is not just having dreams; neither is it daydreaming
or wishing or imagining. Through dreaming we can perceive other worlds,
which we can certainly describe, but we can't describe what makes us
perceive them. Yet we can feel how dreaming opens up those other realms.
Dreaming seems to be a sensation--a process in our bodies, an awareness in
our minds."
In the course of his general teachings, don Juan thoroughly explained
to me the principles, rationales, and practices of the art of dreaming. His
instruction was divided into two parts. One was about dreaming procedures,
the other about the purely abstract explanations of these procedures. His
teaching method was an interplay between enticing my intellectual curiosity
with the abstract principles of dreaming and guiding me to seek an outlet in
its practices.
I have already described all this in as much detail as I was able to.
And I have also described the sorcerers' milieu in which don Juan placed me
in order to teach me his arts. My interaction in this milieu was of special
interest to me because it took place exclusively in the second attention. I
interacted there with the ten women and five men who were don Juan's
sorcerer companions and with the four young men and the four young women who
were his apprentices.
Don Juan gathered them immediately after I came into his world. He made
it clear to me that they formed a traditional sorcerers' group--a replica of
his own party-and that I was supposed to lead them. However, working with me
he realized that I was different than he expected. He explained that
difference in terms of an energy configuration seen only by sorcerers:
instead of having four compartments of energy, as he himself had, I had only
three. Such a configuration, which he had mistakenly hoped was a correctable
flaw, made me so completely inadequate for interacting with or leading those
eight apprentices that it became imperative for don Juan to gather another
group of people more akin to my energetic structure.
I have written extensively about those events. Yet I have never
mentioned the second group of apprentices; don Juan did not permit me to do
so. He argued that they were exclusively in my field and that the agreement
I had with him was to write about his field, not mine.
The second group of apprentices was extremely compact. It had only
three members: a dreamer, Florinda Grau; a stalker, Taisha Abelar; and a
nagual woman, Carol Tiggs.
We interacted with one another solely in the second attention. In the
world of everyday life, we did not have even a vague notion of one another.
In terms of our relationship with don Juan, however, there was no vagueness;
he put enormous effort into training all of us equally. Nevertheless, toward
the end, when don Juan's time was about to finish, the psychological
pressure of his departure started to collapse the rigid boundaries of the
second attention. The result was that our interaction began to lapse into
the world of everyday affairs, and we met, seemingly for the first time.
None of us, consciously, knew about our deep and arduous interaction in
the second attention. Since all of us were involved in academic studies, we
ended up more than shocked when we found out we had met before. This was and
still is, of course, intellectually inadmissible to us, yet we know that it
was thoroughly within our experience. We have been left, therefore, with the
disquieting knowledge that the human psyche is infinitely more complex than
our mundane or academic reasoning had led us to believe.
Once we asked don Juan, in unison, to shed light on our predicament. He
said that he had two explanatory options. One was to cater to our hurt
rationality and patch it up, saying that the second attention is a state of
awareness as illusory as elephants flying in the sky and that everything we
thought we had experienced in that state was simply a product of hypnotic
suggestions. The other option was to explain it the way sorcerer dreamers
understand it: as an energetic configuration of awareness.
During the fulfillment of my dreaming tasks, however, the barrier of
the second attention remained unchanged. Every time I entered into dreaming,
I also entered into the second attention, and waking up from dreaming did
not necessarily mean I had left the second attention. For years I could
remember only bits of my dreaming experiences. The bulk of what I did was
energetically unavailable to me. It took me fifteen years of uninterrupted
work, from 1973 to 1988, to store enough energy to rearrange everything
linearly in my mind. I remembered then sequences upon sequences of dreaming
events, and I was able to fill in, at last, some seeming lapses of memory.
In this manner I captured the inherent continuity of don Juan's lessons in
the art of dreaming, a continuity that had been lost to me because of his
making me weave between the awareness of our everyday life and the awareness
of the second attention. This work is a result of that rearrangement.
All this brings me to the final part of my statement: the reason for
writing this book. Being in possession of most of the pieces of don Juan's
lessons in the art of dreaming, I would like to explain, in a future work,
the current position and interest of his last four students: Florinda Grau,
Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs, and myself. But before I describe and explain
the results of don Juan's guidance and influence on us, I must review, in
light of what I know now, the parts of don Juan's lessons in dreaming to
which I did not have access before.
The definitive reason for this work, however, was given by Carol Tiggs.
Her belief is that explaining the world that don Juan made us inherit is the
ultimate expression of our gratitude to him and our commitment to his quest.


-- Don Juan stressed, time and time again, that everything he was
teaching me had been envisioned and worked out by men he referred to as
sorcerers of antiquity. He made it very clear that there was a profound
distinction between those sorcerers and the sorcerers of modern times. He
categorized sorcerers of antiquity as men who existed in Mexico perhaps
thousands of years before the Spanish Conquest, men whose greatest
accomplishment had been to build the structures of sorcery, emphasizing
practicality and concreteness. He rendered them as men who were brilliant
but lacking in wisdom. Modern sorcerers, by contrast, don Juan portrayed as
men renowned for their sound minds and their capacity to rectify the course
of sorcery if they deemed it necessary.
Don Juan explained to me that the sorcery premises pertinent to
dreaming were naturally envisioned and developed by sorcerers of antiquity.
Out of necessity--for those premises are key in explaining and understanding
dreaming--1 again have to write about and discuss them. The major part of
this book is, therefore, a reintroduction and amplification of what I have
presented in my previous works.
During one of our conversations, don Juan stated that, in order to
appreciate the position of dreamers and dreaming, one has to understand the
struggle of modern-day sorcerers to steer sorcery away from concreteness
toward the abstract.
"What do you call concreteness, don Juan?" I asked.
"The practical part of sorcery," he said. "The obsessive fixation of
the mind on practices and techniques, the unwarranted influence over people.
All of these were in the realm of the sorcerers of the past."
"And what do you call the abstract?"
"The search for freedom, freedom to perceive, without obsessions, all
that's humanly possible. I say that present-day sorcerers seek the abstract
because they seek freedom; they have no interest in concrete gains. There
are no social functions for them, as there were for the sorcerers of the
past. So you'll never catch them being the official seers or the sorcerers
in residence."
"Do you mean, don Juan, that the past has no value to modern-day
"It certainly has value. It's the taste of that past which we don't
like. I personally detest the darkness and morbidity of the mind. I like the
immensity of thought. However, regardless of my likes and dislikes, I have
to give due credit to the sorcerers of antiquity, for they were the first to
find out and do everything we know and do today. Don Juan explained that
their most important attainment was to perceive the energetic essence of
things. This insight was of such importance that it was turned into the
basic premise of sorcery. Nowadays, after lifelong discipline and training,
sorcerers do acquire the capacity to perceive the essence of things, a
capacity they call seeing.
"What would it mean to me to perceive the energetic essence of things?"
I once asked don Juan.
"It would mean that you perceive energy directly," he replied. "By
separating the social part of perception, you'll perceive the essence of
everything. Whatever we are perceiving is energy, but since we can't
directly perceive energy, we process our perception to fit a mold. This mold
is the social part of perception, which you have to separate."
"Why do I have to separate it?"
"Because it deliberately reduces the scope of what can be perceived and
makes us believe that the mold into which we fit our perception is all that
exists. I am convinced that for man to survive now, his perception must
change at its social base."
"What is this social base of perception, don Juan?"
"The physical certainty that the world is made of concrete objects. I
call this a social base because a serious and fierce effort is put out by
everybody to guide us to perceive the world the way we do."
"How then should we perceive the world?"
"Everything is energy. The whole universe is energy. The social base of
our perception should be the physical certainty that energy is all there is.
A mighty effort should be made to guide us to perceive energy as energy.
Then we would have both alternatives at our fingertips."
"Is it possible to train people in such a fashion?" I asked.
Don Juan replied that it was possible and that this was precisely what
he was doing with me and his other apprentices. He was teaching us a new way
of perceiving, first, by making us realize we process our perception to fit
a mold and, second, by fiercely guiding us to perceive energy directly. He
assured me that this method was very much like the one used to teach us to
perceive the world of daily affairs.
Don Juan's conception was that our entrapment in processing our
perception to fit a social mold loses its power when we realize we have
accepted this mold, as an inheritance from our ancestors, without bothering
to examine it.
"To perceive a world of hard objects that had either a positive or a
negative value must have been utterly necessary for our ancestors'
survival," don Juan said. '"After ages of perceiving in such a manner, we
are now forced to believe that the world is made up of objects."
"I can't conceive the world in any other way, don Juan," I complained.
"It is unquestionably a world of objects. To prove it, all we have to do is
bump into them."
"Of course it's a world of objects. We are not arguing that."
"What are you saying then?"
"I am saying that this is first a world of energy; then it's a world of
objects. If we don't start with the premise that it is a world of energy,
we'll never be able to perceive energy directly. We'll always be stopped by
the physical certainty of what you've just pointed out: the hardness of
His argument was extremely mystifying to me. In those days, my mind
would simply refuse to consider any way to understand the world except the
one with which I was familiar. Don Juan's claims and the points he struggled
to raise were outlandish propositions that I could not accept but could not
refuse either.
"Our way of perceiving is a predator's way," he said to me on one
occasion. "A very efficient manner of appraising and classifying food and
danger. But this is not the only way we are able to perceive. There is
another mode, the one I am familiarizing you with: the act of perceiving the
essence of everything, energy itself, directly.
"To perceive the essence of everything will make us understand,
classify, and describe the world in entirely new, more exciting, more
sophisticated terms." This was don Juan's claim. And the more sophisticated
terms to which he was alluding were those he had been taught by his
predecessors, terms that correspond to sorcery truths, which have no
rational foundation and no relation whatsoever to the facts of our daily
world but which are self-evident truths for the sorcerers who perceive
energy directly and see the essence of everything.
For such sorcerers, the most significant act of sorcery is to see the
essence of the universe. Don Juan's version was that the sorcerers of
antiquity, the first ones to see the essence of the universe, described it
in the best manner. They said that the essence of the universe resembles
incandescent threads stretched into infinity in every conceivable direction,
luminous filaments that are conscious of themselves in ways impossible for
the human mind to comprehend.
From seeing the essence of the universe, the sorcerers of antiquity
went on to see the energy essence of human beings. Don Juan stated that they
depicted human beings as bright shapes that resembled giant eggs and called
them luminous eggs.
"When sorcerers see a human being," don Juan said, "they see a giant,
luminous shape that floats, making, as it moves, a deep furrow in the energy
of the earth, just as if the luminous shape had a taproot that was
Don Juan had the impression that our energy shape keeps on changing
through time. He said that every seer he knew, himself included, saw that
human beings are shaped more like balls or even tombstones than eggs. But,
once in a while, and for no reason known to them, sorcerers see a person
whose energy is shaped like an egg. Don Juan suggested that people who are
egglike in shape today are more akin to people of ancient times.
In the course of his teachings, don Juan repeatedly discussed and
explained what he considered the decisive finding of the sorcerers of
antiquity. He called it the crucial feature of human beings as luminous
balls: a round spot of intense brilliance, the size of a tennis ball,
permanently lodged inside the luminous ball, flush with its surface, about
two feet back from the crest of a person's right shoulder blade.
Since I had trouble visualizing this the first time don Juan described
it to me, he explained that the luminous ball is much larger than the human
body, that the spot of intense brilliance is part of this ball of energy,
and that it is located on a place at the height of the shoulder blades, an
arm's length from a person's back. He said that the old sorcerers named it
the assemblage point after seeing what it does.
"What does the assemblage point do?" I asked.
"It makes us perceive," he replied. "The old sorcerers saw that, in
human beings, perception is assembled there, on that point. Seeing that all
living beings have such a point of brilliance, the old sorcerers surmised
that perception in general must take place on that spot, in whatever
pertinent manner."
"What did the old sorcerers see that made them conclude that perception
takes place on the assemblage point?" I asked.
He answered that, first, they saw that out of the millions of the
universe's luminous energy filaments passing through the entire luminous
ball, only a small number pass directly through the assemblage point, as
should be expected since it is small in comparison with the whole.
Next, they saw that a spherical extra glow, slightly bigger than the
assemblage point, always surrounds it, greatly intensifying the luminosity
of the filaments passing directly through that glow.
Finally, they saw two things. One, that the assemblage points of human
beings can dislodge themselves from the spot where they are usually located.
And, two, that when the assemblage point is on its habitual position,
perception and awareness seem to be normal, judging by the normal behavior
of the subjects being observed. But when their assemblage points and
surrounding glowing spheres are on a different position than the habitual
one, their unusual behavior seems to be the proof that their awareness is
different, that they are perceiving in an unfamiliar manner.
The conclusion the old sorcerers drew from all this was that the
greater the displacement of the assemblage point from its customary
position, the more unusual the consequent behavior and, evidently, the
consequent awareness and perception.
"Notice that when I talk about seeing, I always say 'having the
appearance of' or 'seemed like,'" don Juan warned me. "Everything one sees
is so unique that there is no way to talk about it except by comparing it to
something known to us."
He said that the most adequate example of this difficulty was the way
sorcerers talk about the assemblage point and the glow that surrounds it.
They describe them as brightness, yet it cannot be brightness, because seers
see them without their eyes. They have to fill out the difference, however,
and say that the assemblage point is a spot of light and that around it
there is a halo, a glow. Don Juan pointed out that we are so visual, so
ruled by our predator's perception, that everything we see must be rendered
in terms of what the predator's eye normally sees.
After seeing what the assemblage point and its surrounding glow seemed
to be doing, don Juan said that the old sorcerers advanced an explanation.
They proposed that in human beings the assemblage point, by focusing its
glowing sphere on the universe's filaments of energy that pass directly
through it, automatically and without premeditation assembles those
filaments into a steady perception of the world.
"How are those filaments you talk about assembled into a Steady
perception of the world?" I asked.
"No one can possibly know that," he emphatically replied. "Sorcerers
see the movement of energy, but just seeing the movement of energy cannot
tell them how or why energy moves.'
Don Juan stated that, seeing that millions of conscious energy
filaments pass through the assemblage point, the old sorcerers postulated
that in passing through it they come together, amassed by the glow that
surrounds it. After seeing that the glow is extremely dim in people who have
been rendered unconscious or are about to die, and that it is totally absent
from corpses, they were convinced that this glow is awareness.
"How about the assemblage point? Is it absent from a corpse?" I asked.
He answered that there is no trace of an assemblage point on a dead
being, because the assemblage point and its surrounding glow are the mark of
life and consciousness. The inescapable conclusion of the sorcerers of
antiquity was that awareness and perception go together and are tied to the
assemblage point and the glow that surrounds it.
"Is there a chance that those sorcerers might have been mistaken about
their seeing?" I asked.
"I can't explain to you why, but there is no way sorcerers can be
mistaken about their seeing," don Juan said, in a tone that admitted no
argument. "Now, the conclusions they arrive at from their seeing might be
wrong, but that would be because they are naive, uncultivated. In order to
avoid this disaster, sorcerers have to cultivate their minds, in whatever
form they can."
He softened up then and remarked that it certainly would be infinitely
safer for sorcerers to remain solely at the level of describing what they
see, but that the temptation to conclude and explain, even if only to
oneself, is far too great to resist.
The effect of the assemblage point's displacement was another energy
configuration the sorcerers of antiquity were able to see and study. Don
Juan said that when the assemblage point is displaced to another position, a
new conglomerate of millions of luminous energy filaments come together on
that point. The sorcerers of antiquity saw this and concluded that since the
glow of awareness is always present wherever the assemblage point is,
perception is automatically assembled there. Because of the different
position of the assemblage point, the resulting world, however, cannot be
our world of daily affairs.
Don Juan explained that the old sorcerers were capable of
distinguishing two types of assemblage point displacement. One was a
displacement to any position on the surface or in the interior of the
luminous ball; this displacement they called a shift of the assemblage
point. The other was a displacement to a position outside the luminous ball;
they called this displacement a movement of the assemblage point. They found
out that the difference between a shift and a movement was the nature of the
perception each allows.
Since the shifts of the assemblage point are displacements within the
luminous ball, the worlds engendered by them, no matter how bizarre or
wondrous or unbelievable they might be, are still worlds within the human
domain. The human domain is the energy filaments that pass through the
entire luminous ball. By contrast, movements of the assemblage point, since
they are displacements to positions outside the luminous ball, engage
filaments of energy that are beyond the human realm. Perceiving such
filaments engenders worlds that are beyond comprehension, inconceivable
worlds with no trace of human antecedents in them.
The problem of validation always played a key role in my mind in those
days. "Forgive me, don Juan," I said to him on one occasion, "but this
business of the assemblage point is an idea so farfetched, so inadmissible
that I don't know how to deal with it or what to think of it."
"There is only one thing for you to do," he retorted. "See the
assemblage point! It isn't that difficult to see. The difficulty is in
breaking the retaining wall we all have in our minds that holds us in place.
To break it, all we need is energy. Once we have energy, seeing happens to
us by itself. The trick is in abandoning our fort of self-complacency and
false security."
"It is obvious to me, don Juan, that it takes a lot of knowledge to
see. It isn't just a matter of having energy."
"It is just a matter of having energy, believe me. The hard part is
convincing yourself that it can be done. For this, you need to trust the
nagual. The marvel of sorcery is that every sorcerer has to prove everything
with his own experience. I am telling you about the principles of sorcery
not with the hope that you will memorize them but with the hope that you
will practice them."
Don Juan was certainly right about the need for trusting. In the
beginning stages of my thirteen-year apprenticeship with him, the hardest
thing for me was to affiliate myself with his world and his person. This
affiliating meant that I had to learn to trust him implicitly and accept him
without bias as the nagual.
Don Juan's total role in the sorcerers' world was synthesized in the
title accorded to him by his peers; he was called the nagual. It was
explained to me that this concept refers to any person, male or female, who
possesses a specific kind of energy configuration, which to a seer appears
as a double luminous ball. Seers believe that when one of these people
enters into the sorcerers' world, that extra load of energy is turned into a
measure of strength and the capacity for leadership. Thus, the nagual is the
natural guide, the leader of a party of sorcerers.
At first, to feel such a trust for don Juan was quite disturbing to me,
if not altogether odious. When I discussed it with him, he assured me that
to trust his teacher in such a manner had been just as difficult for him.
"I told my teacher the same thing you are saying to me now," don Juan
said. "He replied that without trusting the nagual there is no possibility
of relief and thus no possibility of clearing the debris from our lives in
order to be free."
Don Juan reiterated how right his teacher had been. And I reiterated my
profound disagreement. I told him that being reared in a stifling religious
environment had had dreadful effects on me, and that his teacher's
statements and his own acquiescence to his teacher reminded me of the
obedience dogma that I had to learn as a child and that I abhorred. "It
sounds like you're voicing a religious belief when you talk about the
nagual," I said.
"You may believe whatever you want," don Juan replied undauntedly. "The
fact remains, there is no game without the nagual. I know this and I say so.
And so did all the naguals who preceded me. But they didn't say it from the
standpoint of self-importance, and neither do 1. To say there is no path
without the nagual is to refer totally to the fact that the man, the nagual,
is a nagual because he can reflect the abstract, the spirit, better than
others. But that's all. Our link is with the spirit itself and only
incidentally with the man who brings us its message."
I did learn to trust don Juan implicitly as the nagual, and this, as he
had stated it, brought me an immense sense of relief and a greater capacity
to accept what he was striving to teach me.
In his teachings, he put a great emphasis on explaining and discussing
the assemblage point. I asked him once if the assemblage point had anything
to do with the physical body.
"It has nothing to do with what we normally perceive as the body," he
said. "It's part of the luminous egg, which is our energy self."
"How is it displaced?" I asked.
"Through energy currents. Jolts of energy, originating outside or
inside our energy shape. These are usually unpredictable currents that
happen randomly, but with sorcerers they are very predictable currents that
obey the sorcerer's intent."
"Can you yourself feel these currents?"
"Every sorcerer feels them. Every human being does, for that matter,
but average human beings are too busy with their own pursuits to pay any
attention to feelings like that."
"What do those currents feel like?"
"Like a mild discomfort, a vague sensation of sadness followed
immediately by euphoria. Since neither the sadness nor the euphoria has an
explainable cause, we never regard them as veritable onslaughts of the
unknown but as unexplainable, ill-founded moodiness."
"What happens when the assemblage point moves outside the energy shape?
Does it hang outside? Or is it attached to the luminous ball?"
"It pushes the contours of the energy shape out, without breaking its
energy boundaries."
Don Juan explained that the end result of a movement of the assemblage
point is a total change in the energy shape of a human being. Instead of a
ball or an egg, he becomes something resembling a smoking pipe. The tip of
the stem is the assemblage point, and the bowl of the pipe is what remains
of the luminous ball. If the assemblage point keeps on moving, a moment
comes when the luminous ball becomes a thin line of energy.
Don Juan went on to explain that the old sorcerers were the only ones
who accomplished this feat of energy shape transformation. And I asked him
whether in their new energetic shape those sorcerers were still men.
"Of course they were still men," he said. "But I think what you want to
know is if they were still men of reason, trustworthy persons. Well, not
"In what way were they different?"
"In their concerns. Human endeavors and preoccupations had no meaning
whatsoever to them. They also had a definite new appearance."
"Do you mean that they didn't look like men?"
"It's very hard to tell what was what about those sorcerers. They
certainly looked like men. What else would they look like? But they were not
quite like what you or I would expect. Yet if you pressed me to tell in what
way they were different, I would go in circles, like a dog chasing its
"Have you ever met one of those men, don Juan?"
"Yes, I have met one."
"What did he look like?"
"As far as looks, he looked like a regular person. Now, it was his
behavior that was unusual."
"In what way was it unusual?"
"All I can tell you is that the behavior of the sorcerer I met is
something that defies the imagination. But to make it a matter of merely
behavior is misleading. It is really something you must see to appreciate."
"Were all those sorcerers like the one you met?"
"Certainly not. I don't know how the others were, except through
sorcerers' stories handed down from generation to generation. And those
stories portray them as being quite bizarre."
"Do you mean monstrous?"
"Not at all. They say that they were very likable but extremely scary.
They were more like unknown creatures. What makes mankind homogeneous is the
fact that we are all luminous balls. And those sorcerers were no longer
balls of energy but lines of energy that were trying to bend themselves into
circles, which they couldn't quite make."
"What finally happened to them, don Juan? Did they die?"
"Sorcerers' stories say that because they had succeeded in stretching
their shapes, they had also succeeded in stretching the duration of their
consciousness. So they are alive and conscious to this day. There are
stories about their periodic appearances on the earth."
"What do you think of all this yourself, don Juan?"
"It is too bizarre for me. I want freedom. Freedom to retain my
awareness and yet disappear into the vastness. In my personal opinion, those
old sorcerers were extravagant, obsessive, capricious men who got pinned
down by their own machinations.
"But don't let my personal feelings sway you. The old sorcerers'
accomplishment is unparalleled. If nothing else, they proved to us that
man's potentials are nothing to sneeze at."
Another topic of don Juan's explanations was the indispensability of
energetic uniformity and cohesion for the purpose of perceiving. His
contention was that mankind perceives the world we know, in the terms we do,
only because we share energetic uniformity and cohesion. He said that we
automatically attain these two conditions of energy in the course of our
rearing and that they are so taken for granted we do not realize their vital
importance until we are faced with the possibility of perceiving worlds
other than the world we know. At those moments, it becomes evident that we
need a new appropriate energetic uniformity and cohesion to perceive
coherently and totally.
I asked him what uniformity and cohesion were, and he explained that
man's energetic shape has uniformity in the sense that every human being on
earth has the form of a ball or an egg. And the fact that man's energy holds
itself together as a ball or an egg proves it has cohesion. He said that an
example of a new uniformity and cohesion was the old sorcerers' energetic
shape when it became a line: every one of them uniformly became a line and
cohesively remained a line. Uniformity and cohesion at a line level
permitted those old sorcerers to perceive a homogeneous new world.
"How are uniformity and cohesion acquired?" I asked.
"The key is the position of the assemblage point, or rather the
fixation of the assemblage point," he said.
He did not want to elaborate any further at that time, so I asked him
if those old sorcerers could have reverted to being egglike. He replied that
at one point they could have, but that they did not. And then the line
cohesion set in and made it impossible for them to go back. He believed that
what really crystallized that line cohesion and prevented them from making
the journey back was a matter of choice and greed. The scope of what those
sorcerers were able to perceive and do as lines of energy was astronomically
greater than what an average man or any average sorcerer can do or perceive.
He explained that the human domain when one is an energy ball is
whatever energy filaments pass through the space within the ball's
boundaries. Normally, we perceive not all the human domain but perhaps only
one thousandth of it. He was of the opinion that, if we take this into
consideration, the enormity of what the old sorcerers did becomes apparent;
they extended themselves into a line a thousand times the size of a man as
an energy ball and perceived all the energy filaments that passed through
that line.
On his insistence, I made giant efforts to understand the new model of
energy configuration he was outlining for me. Finally, after much pounding,
I could follow the idea of energy filaments inside the luminous ball and
outside it. But if I thought of a multitude of luminous balls, the model
broke down in my mind. In a multitude of luminous balls, I reasoned, the
energy filaments that are outside one of them will perforce be inside the
adjacent one. So in a multitude there could not possibly be any energy
filaments outside any luminous ball.
"To understand all this certainly isn't an exercise for your reason,"
he replied after carefully listening to my arguments. "I have no way of
explaining what sorcerers mean by filaments inside and outside the human
shape. When seers see the human energy shape, they see one single ball of
energy. If there is another ball next to it, the other ball is seen again as
a single ball of energy. The idea of a multitude of luminous balls comes
from your knowledge of human crowds. In the universe of energy, there are
only single individuals, alone, surrounded by the boundless.
"You must see that for yourself!"
I argued with don Juan then that it was pointless to tell me to see it
for myself when he knew I could not. And he proposed that I borrow his
energy and use it to see.
"How can I do that? Borrow your energy."
"Very simple. I can make your assemblage point shift to another
position more suitable to perceiving energy directly."
This was the first time, in my memory, that he deliberately talked
about something he had been doing all along: making me enter into some
incomprehensible state of awareness that defied my idea of the world and of
myself, a state he called the second attention. So, to make my assemblage
point shift to a position more suitable to perceiving energy directly, don
Juan slapped my back, between my shoulder blades, with such a force that he
made me lose my breath. I thought that I must have fainted or that the blow
had made me fall asleep. Suddenly, I was looking or I was dreaming I was
looking at something literally beyond words. Bright strings of light shot
out from everywhere, going everywhere, strings of light which were like
nothing that had ever entered my thoughts.
When I recovered my breath, or when I woke up, don Juan expectantly
asked me, "What did you see?" And when I answered, truthfully, "Your blow
made me see stars," he doubled up laughing.
He remarked that I was not ready yet to comprehend any unusual
perception I might have had. "I made your assemblage point shift," he went
on, "and for an instant you were dreaming the filaments of the universe. But
you don't yet have the discipline or the energy to rearrange your uniformity
and cohesion. The old sorcerers were the consummate masters of that
rearranging. That was how they saw everything that can be seen by man."
"What does it mean to rearrange uniformity and cohesion?"
"It means to enter into the second attention by retaining the
assemblage point on its new position and keeping it from sliding back to its
original spot."
Don Juan then gave me a traditional definition of the second attention.
He said that the old sorcerers called the result of fixing the assemblage
point on new positions the second attention and that they treated the second
attention as an area of all-inclusive activity, just as the attention of the
daily world is. He pointed out that sorcerers really have two complete areas
for their endeavors: a small one, called the first attention or the
awareness of our daily world or the fixation of the assemblage point on its
habitual position; and a much larger area, the second attention or the
awareness of other worlds or the fixation of the assemblage point on each of
an enormous number of new positions.
Don Juan helped me to experience inexplicable things in the second
attention by means of what he called a sorcerer's maneuver: tapping my back
gently or forcefully striking it at the height of my shoulder blades. He
explained that with his blows he displaced my assemblage point. From my
experiential position, such displacements meant that my awareness used to
enter into a most disturbing state of unequaled clarity, a state of
superconsciousness, which I enjoyed for short periods of time and in which I
could understand anything with minimal preambles. It was not quite a
pleasing state. Most of the time it was like a strange dream, so intense
that normal awareness paled by comparison.
Don Juan justified the indispensability of such a maneuver, saying that
in normal awareness a sorcerer teaches his apprentices basic concepts and
procedures and in the second attention he gives them abstract and detailed
Ordinarily, apprentices do not remember these explanations at all, yet
they somehow store them, faithfully intact, in their memories. Sorcerers
have used this seeming peculiarity of memory and have turned remembering
everything that happens to them in the second attention into one of the most
difficult and complex traditional tasks of sorcery.
Sorcerers explain this seeming peculiarity of memory, and the task of
remembering, saying that every time anyone enters into the second attention,
the assemblage point is on a different position. To remember, then, means to
relocate the assemblage point on the exact position it occupied at the time
those entrances into the second attention occurred. Don Juan assured me not
only that sorcerers have total and absolute recall but that they relive
every experience they had in the second attention by this act of returning
their assemblage point to each of those specific positions. He also assured
me that sorcerers dedicate a lifetime to fulfilling this task of
In the second attention, don Juan gave me very detailed explanations of
sorcery, knowing that the accuracy and fidelity of such instruction will
remain with me, faithfully intact, for the duration of my life.
About this quality of faithfulness he said, "Learning something in the
second attention is just like learning when we were children. What we learn
remains with us for life. `It's second nature with me,' we say when it comes
to something we've learned very early in life."
Judging from where I stand today, I realize that don Juan made me
enter, as many times as he could, into the second attention in order to
force me to sustain, for long periods of time, new positions of my
assemblage point and to perceive coherently in them, that is to say, he
aimed at forcing me to rearrange my uniformity and cohesion.
I succeeded countless times in perceiving everything as precisely as I
perceive in the daily world. My problem was my incapacity to make a bridge
between my actions in the second attention and my awareness of the daily
world. It took a great deal of effort and time for me to understand what the