The Third Gate; The riddle of how impossible and yet how easy it is to move the energy body

“The third gate of dreaming is reached when you find yourself in a dream, staring at someone else who is asleep. And that someone else turns out to be you,” don Juan said.

My energy level was so keyed up at the time that I went to work on the third task right away, although he did not offer any more information about it. The first thing I noticed, in my dreaming practices, was that a surge of energy immediately rearranged the focus of my dreaming attention.

Its focus was now on waking up in a dream and seeing myself sleeping; journeying to the realm of inorganic beings was no longer an issue for me.

Very soon after, I found myself in a dream looking at myself asleep. I immediately reported it to don Juan. The dream had happened while I was at his house.

“There are two phases to each of the gates of dreaming,” he said. “The first, as you know, is to arrive at the gate; the second is to cross it. By dreaming what you’ve dreamt, that you saw yourself asleep, you arrived at the third gate. The second phase is to move around once you’ve seen yourself asleep.

“At the third gate of dreaming,” he went on, “you begin to deliberately merge your dreaming reality with the reality of the daily world. This is the drill, and sorcerers call it completing the energy body. The merge between the two realities has to be so thorough that you need to be more fluid than ever. Examine everything at the third gate with great care and curiosity.”

I complained that his recommendations were too cryptic and were not making any sense to me.

“What do you mean by great care and curiosity?” I asked.

“Our tendency at the third gate is to get lost in detail,” he replied. “To view things with great care and curiosity means to resist the nearly irresistible temptation to plunge into detail.

“The given drill, at the third gate, as I said, is to consolidate the energy body. Dreamers begin forging the energy body by fulfilling the drills of the first and second gates. When they reach the third gate, the energy body is ready to come out, or perhaps it would be better to say that it is ready to act. Unfortunately, this also means that it’s ready to be mesmerized by detail.”

“What does it mean to be mesmerized by detail?”

“The energy body is like a child who’s been imprisoned all its life. The moment it is free, it soaks up everything it can find, and I mean everything. Every irrelevant, minute detail totally absorbs the energy body.”

An awkward silence followed. I had no idea what to say. I had understood him perfectly, I just didn’t have anything in my experience to give me an idea of exactly what it all meant.

“The most asinine detail becomes a world for the energy body,” don Juan explained. “The effort that dreamers have to make to direct the energy body is staggering. I know that it sounds awkward to tell you to view things with care and curiosity, but that is the best way to describe what you should do. At the third gate, dreamers have to avoid a nearly irresistible impulse to plunge into everything, and they avoid it by being so curious, so desperate to get into everything that they don’t let any particular thing imprison them.”

Don Juan added that his recommendations, which he knew sounded absurd to the mind, were directly aimed at my energy body. He stressed over and over that my energy body had to unite all its resources in order to act.

“But hasn’t my energy body been acting all along?” I asked.

“Part of it has, otherwise you wouldn’t have journeyed to the inorganic beings’ realm,” he replied. “Now your entire energy body has to be engaged to perform the drill of the third gate.

Therefore, to make things easier for your energy body, you must hold back your rationality.”

“I am afraid you are barking up the wrong tree,” I said. “There is very little rationality left in me after all the experiences you’ve brought into my life.”

“Don’t say anything. At the third gate, rationality is responsible for the insistence of our energy bodies on being obsessed with superfluous detail. At the third gate, then, we need irrational fluidity, irrational abandon to counteract that insistence.”

Don Juan’s statement that each gate is an obstacle could not have been more truthful. I labored to fulfill the drill of the third gate of dreaming more intensely than I had on the other two tasks combined. Don Juan put tremendous pressure on me. Besides, something else had been added to my life: a true sense of fear. I had been normally and even excessively afraid of one thing or another throughout my life, but there had been nothing in my experience comparable to the fear I felt after my bout with the inorganic beings. Yet all this wealth of experience was inaccessible to my normal memory. Only in the presence of don Juan were those memories at my disposal.

I asked him about this strange situation once when we were at the National Museum of Anthropology and History in Mexico City. What had prompted my question was that, at the moment, I had the odd ability to remember everything that had happened to me in the course of my association with don Juan. And that made me feel so free, so daring and light-footed that I was practically dancing around.

“It just happens that the presence of the nagual induces a shift of the assemblage point,” he said.

He guided me then into one of the display rooms of the museum and said that my question was apropos to what he had been planning to tell me.

“My intention was to explain to you that the position of the assemblage point is like a vault where sorcerers keep their records,” he said. “I was tickled pink when your energy body felt my intent and you asked me about it. The energy body knows immensities. Let me show you how much it knows.”

He instructed me to enter into total silence. He reminded me that I was already in a special state of awareness, because my assemblage point had been made to shift by his presence. He assured me that entering into total silence was going to allow the sculptures in that room to make me see and hear inconceivable things. He added, apparently to increase my confusion, that some of the archaeological pieces in that room had the capacity to produce, by themselves, a shift of the assemblage point, and that if I reached a state of total silence I would be actually witnessing scenes pertaining to the lives of the people who made those pieces.

He then began the strangest tour of a museum I have ever taken. He went around the room, describing and interpreting astounding details of every one of the large pieces. According to him, every archaeological piece in that room was a purposeful record left by the people of antiquity, a record that don Juan as a sorcerer was reading to me as one would read a book.

“Every piece here is designed to make the assemblage point shift,” he went on. “Fix your gaze on any of them, silence your mind, and find out whether or not your assemblage point can be made to shift.”

“How would I know that it has shifted?”

“Because you would see and feel things that are beyond your normal reach.”

I gazed at the sculptures and saw and heard things that I would be at a loss to explain. In the past, I had examined all those pieces with the bias of anthropology, always bearing in mind the descriptions of scholars in the field. Their descriptions of the functions of those pieces, rooted in modern man’s cognition of the world, appeared to me, for the first time, to be utterly prejudiced if not asinine. What don Juan said about those pieces and what I heard and saw myself, gazing at them, was the farthest thing from what I had always read about them.

My discomfort was so great that I felt obliged to apologize to don Juan for what I thought was my suggestibility. He did not laugh or make fun of me. He patiently explained that sorcerers were capable of leaving accurate records of their findings in the position of the assemblage point. He maintained that when it comes to getting to the essence of a written account, we have to use our sense of sympathetic or imaginative participation to go beyond the mere page into the experience itself. However, in the sorcerers’ world, since there are no written pages, total records, which can be relived instead of read, are left in the position of the assemblage point.

To illustrate his argument, don Juan talked about the sorcerers’ teachings for the second attention. He said that they are given when the apprentice’s assemblage point is on a place other than the normal one. The position of the assemblage point becomes, in this manner, the record of the lesson. In order to play the lesson back, the apprentice has to return his assemblage point to the position it occupied when the lesson was given. Don Juan concluded his remarks by reiterating that to return the assemblage point to all the positions it occupied when the lessons were given is an accomplishment of the highest magnitude.

For nearly a year, don Juan did not ask me anything about my third dreaming task. Then one day, quite abruptly, he wanted me to describe to him all the nuances of my dreaming practices.

The first thing I mentioned was a baffling recurrence. For a period of months, I had dreams in which I found myself staring at me, sleeping in my bed. The odd part was the regularity of those dreams; they happened every four days, like clockwork. During the other three days, my dreaming was what it always had been so far: I examined every possible item in my dreams, I changed dreams, and occasionally, driven by a suicidal curiosity, I followed the foreign energy scouts, although I felt extremely guilty doing this. I fancied it to be like having a secret drug addiction. The realness of that world was irresistible to me.

Secretly, I felt somehow exonerated from total responsibility, because don Juan himself had suggested that I ask the dreaming emissary about what to do to free the blue scout trapped among us. He meant for me to pose the question in my everyday practice, but I construed his statement to imply that I had to ask the emissary while I was in its world. The question I really wanted to ask the emissary was whether the inorganic beings had set a trap for me. The emissary not only told me that everything don Juan had said was true but also gave me instructions on what Carol Tiggs and I had to do to liberate the scout.

“The regularity of your dreams is something that I rather expected,” don Juan remarked, after listening to me.

“Why did you expect something like that, don Juan?”

“Because of your relationship with the inorganic beings.”

“That’s over and forgotten, don Juan,” I lied, hoping he would not pursue the subject any further.

“You are saying that for my benefit, aren’t you? You don’t need to; I know the true story. Believe me, once you get to play with them, you are hooked. They’ll always be after you. Or, what’s worse yet, you’ll always be after them.”

He stared at me, and my guilt must have been so obvious that it made him laugh.

“The only possible explanation for such regularity is that the inorganic beings are catering to you again,” don Juan said in a serious tone.

I hurried to change the subject and told him that another nuance of my dreaming practices worth mentioning was my reaction to the sight of myself lying sound asleep. That view was always so startling that it either glued me to the spot until the dream changed or frightened me so profoundly that it made me wake up, screaming at the top of my voice. I had gotten to the point where I was afraid to go to sleep on the days I knew I was going to have that dream.

“You are not yet ready for a true merging of your dreaming reality and your daily reality,” he concluded. “You must recapitulate your life further.”

“But I’ve done all the recapitulating possible,” I protested. “I’ve been recapitulating for years.

There is nothing more I can remember about my life.”

“There must be much more,” he said adamantly, “otherwise, you wouldn’t wake up screaming.”

I did not like the idea of having to recapitulate again. I had done it, and I believed I had done it so well that I did not need to touch the subject ever again.

“The recapitulation of our lives never ends, no matter how well we’ve done it once,” don Juan said. “The reason average people lack volition in their dreams is that they have never recapitulated and their lives are filled to capacity with heavily loaded emotions like memories, hopes, fears, et cetera, et cetera.

“Sorcerers, in contrast, are relatively free from heavy, binding emotions, because of their recapitulation. And if something stops them, as it has stopped you at this moment, the assumption is that there still is something in them that is not quite clear.”

“To recapitulate is too involving, don Juan. Maybe there is something else I can do instead.”

“No. There isn’t. Recapitulating and dreaming go hand in hand. As we regurgitate our lives, we get more and more airborne.”

Don Juan had given me very detailed and explicit instructions about the recapitulation. It consisted of reliving the totality of one’s life experiences by remembering every possible minute detail of them. He saw the recapitulation as the essential factor in a dreamer’s redefinition and redeployment of energy.

“The recapitulation sets free energy imprisoned within us, and without this liberated energy dreaming is not possible.” That was his statement.

Years before, don Juan had coached me to make a list of all the people I had met in my life, starting at the present. He helped me to arrange my list in an orderly fashion, breaking it down into areas of activity, such as jobs I had had, schools I had attended. Then he guided me to go, without deviation, from the first person on my list to the last one, reliving every one of my interactions with them.

He explained that recapitulating an event starts with one’s mind arranging everything pertinent to what is being recapitulated. Arranging means reconstructing the event, piece by piece, starting by recollecting the physical details of the surroundings, then going to the person with whom one shared the interaction, and then going to oneself, to the examination of one’s feelings. Don Juan taught me that the recapitulation is coupled with a natural, rhythmical breathing. Long exhalations are performed as the head moves gently and slowly from right to left; and long inhalations are taken as the head moves back from left to right. He called this act of moving the head from side to side “fanning the event.” The mind examines the event from beginning to end while the body fans, on and on, everything the mind focuses on.

Don Juan said that the sorcerers of antiquity, the inventors of the recapitulation, viewed breathing as a magical, life-giving act and used it, accordingly, as a magical vehicle; the exhalation, to eject the foreign energy left in them during the interaction being recapitulated and the inhalation to pull back the energy that they themselves left behind during the interaction.

Because of my academic training, I took the recapitulation to be the process of analyzing one’s life. But don Juan insisted that it was more involved than an intellectual psychoanalysis. He postulated the recapitulation as a sorcerer’s ploy to induce a minute but steady displacement of the assemblage point. He said that the assemblage point, under the impact of reviewing past actions and feelings, goes back and forth between its present site and the site it occupied when the event being recapitulated took place.

Don Juan stated that the old sorcerers’ rationale behind the recapitulation was their conviction that there is an inconceivable dissolving force in the universe, which makes organisms live by lending them awareness. That force also makes organisms die, in order to extract the same lent awareness, which organisms have enhanced through their life experiences. Don Juan explained the old sorcerers’ reasoning. They believed that since it is our life experience this force is after, it is of supreme importance that it can be satisfied with a facsimile of our life experience: the recapitulation. Having had what it seeks, the dissolving force then lets sorcerers go, free to expand their capacity to perceive and reach with it the confines of time and space.

When I started again to recapitulate, it was a great surprise to me that my dreaming practices were automatically suspended the moment my recapitulation began. I asked don Juan about this unwanted recess.

Dreaming requires every bit of our available energy,” he replied. “If there is a deep preoccupation in our life, there is no possibility of dreaming.”

“But I have been deeply preoccupied before,” I said, “and my practices were never interrupted.”

“It must be then that every time you thought you were preoccupied, you were only egomaniacally disturbed,” he said, laughing. “To be preoccupied, for sorcerers, means that all your energy sources are taken on. This is the first time you’ve engaged your energy sources in their totality. The rest of the time, even when you recapitulated before, you were not completely absorbed.”

Don Juan gave me this time a new recapitulation pattern. I was supposed to construct a jigsaw puzzle by recapitulating, without any apparent order, different events of my life.

“But it’s going to be a mess,” I protested.

“No, it won’t be,” he assured me. “It’ll be a mess if you let your pettiness choose the events you are going to recapitulate. Instead, let the spirit decide. Be silent, and then get to the event the spirit points out.”

The results of that pattern of recapitulation were shocking to me on many levels. It was very impressive to find out that, whenever I silenced my mind, a seemingly independent force immediately plunged me into a most detailed memory of some event in my life. But it was even more impressive that a very orderly configuration resulted. What I thought was going to be chaotic turned out to be extremely effective.

I asked don Juan why he had not made me recapitulate in this manner from the start. He replied that there are two basic rounds to the recapitulation, that the first is called formality and rigidity, and the second fluidity.

I had no inkling about how different my recapitulation was going to be this time. The ability to concentrate, which I had acquired by means of my dreaming practices, permitted me to examine my life at a depth I would never have imagined possible. It took me over a year to view and review all I could about my life experiences. At the end, I had to agree with don Juan: there had been immensities of loaded emotions hidden so deeply inside me as to be virtually inaccessible.

The result of my second recapitulation was a new, more relaxed attitude. The very day I returned to my dreaming practices, I dreamt I saw myself asleep. I turned around and daringly left my room, penuriously going down a flight of stairs to the street.

I was elated with what I had done and reported it to don Juan. My disappointment was enormous when he did not consider this dream part of my dreaming practices. He argued that I had not gone to the street with my energy body, because if I had I would have had a sensation other than walking down a flight of stairs.

“What kind of sensation are you talking about, don Juan?” I asked, with genuine curiosity.

“You have to establish some valid guide to find out whether you are actually seeing your body asleep in your bed,” he said instead of answering my question. “Remember, you must be in your actual room, seeing your actual body. Otherwise, what you are having is merely a dream. If that’s the case, control that dream, either by observing its detail or by changing it.”

I insisted he tell me more about the valid guide he had referred to, but he cut me short.

“Figure out a way to validate the fact that you are looking at yourself,” he said.

“Do you have any suggestions as to what can be a valid guide?” I insisted.

“Use your own judgment. We are coming to the end of our time together. You have to be on your own very soon.” He changed the subject then, and I was left with a clear taste of my ineptitude. I was unable to figure out what he wanted or what he meant by a valid guide.

In the next dream in which I saw myself asleep, instead of leaving the room and walking down the stairs, or waking up screaming, I remained glued, for a long time, to the spot from which I watched. Without fretting or despairing, I observed the details of my dream. I noticed then that I was asleep wearing a white T-shirt that was ripped at the shoulder. I tried to come closer and examine the rip, but moving was beyond my capabilities. I felt a heaviness that seemed to be part of my very being. In fact, I was all weight. Not knowing what to do next, I instantly entered into a devastating confusion. I tried to change dreams, but some unaccustomed force kept me staring at my sleeping body.

In the midst of my turmoil, I heard the dreaming emissary saying that not having control to move around was frightening me to the point that I might have to do another recapitulation. The emissary’s voice and what it said did not surprise me at all. I had never felt so vividly and terrifyingly unable to move. I did not, however, give in to my terror. I examined it and found out that it was not a psychological terror but a physical sensation of helplessness, despair, and annoyance. It bothered me beyond words that I was not capable of moving my limbs. My annoyance grew in proportion to my realization that something outside me had me brutally pinned down. The effort I made to move my arms or legs was so intense and single-minded that at one moment I actually saw one leg of my body, sleeping on the bed, flung out as if kicking.

My awareness was then pulled into my inert, sleeping body, and I woke up with such a force that it took more than half an hour to calm myself down. My heart was beating almost erratically.

I was shivering, and some of the muscles in my legs twitched uncontrollably. I had suffered such a radical loss of body heat that I needed blankets and hot-water bottles to raise my temperature.

Naturally, I went to Mexico to ask don Juan’s advice about the sensation of paralysis, and about the fact that I really had been wearing a ripped T-shirt, thus, I had indeed seen myself asleep. Besides, I was deadly afraid of hypothermia. He was reluctant to discuss my predicament.

All I got out of him was a caustic remark.

“You like drama,” he said flatly. “Of course you really saw yourself asleep. The problem is that you got nervous, because your energy body has never been consciously in one piece before. If you ever get nervous and cold again, hold on to your dick. That will restore your body temperature in a jiffy and without any fuss.”

I felt a bit offended by his crassness. However, the advice proved effective. The next time I became frightened, I relaxed and returned to normal in a few minutes, doing what he had prescribed. In this manner, I discovered that if I did not fret and kept my annoyance in check, I did not panic. To remain controlled did not help me move, but it certainly gave me a deep sensation of peace and serenity.

After months of useless efforts at walking, I sought don Juan’s comments once again, not so much for his advice this time but because I wanted to concede defeat. I was up against an impassable barrier, and I knew with indisputable certainty that I had failed.

“Dreamers have to be imaginative,” don Juan said with a malicious grin. “Imaginative you are not. I didn’t warn you about having to use your imagination to move your energy body because I wanted to find out whether you could resolve the riddle by yourself. You didn’t, and your friends didn’t help you either.”

In the past, I had been driven to defend myself viciously whenever he accused me of lacking imagination. I thought I was imaginative, but having don Juan as a teacher had taught me, the hard way, that I am not. Since I was not going to engage my energy in futile defenses of myself, I asked him instead, “What is this riddle you are talking about, don Juan?”

“The riddle of how impossible and yet how easy it is to move the energy body. You are trying to move it as if you were in the daily world. We spend so much time and effort learning to walk that we believe our dreaming bodies should also walk. There is no reason why they should, except that walking is foremost in our minds.”

I marveled at the simplicity of the solution. I instantly knew that don Juan was right. I had gotten stuck again at the level of interpretation. He had told me I had to move around once I reached the third gate of dreaming, and to me moving around meant walking. I told him that I understood his point.

“It isn’t my point,” he curtly answered. “It’s a sorcerers’ point. Sorcerers say that at the third gate the entire energy body can move like energy moves: fast and directly. Your energy body knows exactly how to move. It can move as it moves in the inorganic beings’ world.”

“And this brings us to the other issue here,” don Juan added with an air of pensiveness. “Why didn’t your inorganic being friends help you?”

“Why do you call them my friends, don Juan?”

“They are like the classic friends who are not really thoughtful or kind to us but not mean either. The friends who are just waiting for us to turn our backs so they can stab us there.”

I understood him completely and agreed with him one hundred percent.

“What makes me go there? Is it a suicidal tendency?” I asked him, more rhetorically than not.

“You don’t have any suicidal tendency,” he said. “What you have is a total disbelief that you were near death. Since you were not in physical pain, you can’t quite convince yourself you were in mortal danger.”

His argument was most reasonable, except that I did believe a deep, unknown fear had been ruling my life since my bout with the inorganic beings. Don Juan listened in silence as I described to him my predicament. I could not discard or explain away my urge to go to the inorganic beings’ world, in spite of what I knew about it.

“I have a streak of insanity,” I said. “What I do doesn’t make sense.”

“It does make sense. The inorganic beings are still reeling you in, like a fish hooked at the end of a line,” he said. “They throw worthless bait at you from time to time to keep you going. To arrange your dreams to occur every four days without fail is worthless bait. But they didn’t teach you how to move your energy body.”

“Why do you think they didn’t?”

“Because when your energy body learns to move by itself, you’ll be thoroughly out of their reach. It was premature of me to believe that you are free from them. You are relatively but not completely free. They are still bidding for your awareness.”

I felt a chill in my back. He had touched a sore spot in me.

“Tell me what to do, don Juan, and I’ll do it,” I said.

“Be impeccable. I have told you this dozens of times. To be impeccable means to put your life on the line in order to back up your decisions, and then to do quite a lot more than your best to realize those decisions. When you are not deciding anything, you are merely playing roulette with your life in a helter-skelter way.”

Don Juan ended our conversation, urging me to ponder what he had said.

At the first opportunity I had, I put don Juan’s suggestion about moving my energy body to the test. When I found myself looking at my body asleep, instead of struggling to walk toward it I simply willed myself to move closer to the bed. Instantly, I was nearly touching my body. I saw my face. In fact, I could see every pore in my skin. I cannot say that I liked what I saw. My view of my own body was too detailed to be aesthetically pleasing. Then something like a wind came into the room, totally disarranged everything, and erased my view.

During subsequent dreams, I entirely corroborated that the only way the energy body can move is to glide or soar. I discussed this with don Juan. He seemed unusually satisfied with what I had done, which certainly surprised me. I was accustomed to his cold reaction to anything I did in my dreaming practices.

“Your energy body is used to moving only when something pulls it,” he said. “The inorganic beings have been pulling your energy body right and left, and until now you have never moved it by yourself, with your own volition. It doesn’t seem like you’ve done much, moving the way you did, yet I assure you that I was seriously considering ending your practices. For a while, I believed you were not going to learn how to move on your own.”

“Were you considering ending my dreaming practices because I am slow?”

“You’re not slow. It takes sorcerers forever to learn to move the energy body. I was going to end your dreaming practices because I have no more time. There are other topics, more pressing than dreaming, on which you can use your energy.”

“Now that I’ve learned how to move my energy body by myself, what else should I do, don Juan?”

“Continue moving. Moving your energy body has opened up a new area for you, an area of extraordinary exploration.”

He urged me again to come up with an idea to validate the faithfulness of my dreams; that request did not seem as odd as it had the first time he voiced it.

“As you know, to be transported by a scout is the real dreaming task of the second gate,” he explained. “It is a very serious matter, but not as serious as forging and moving the energy body. Therefore, you have to make sure, by some means of your own, whether you are actually seeing yourself asleep or whether you are merely dreaming that you’re seeing yourself asleep. Your new extraordinary exploration hinges on really seeing yourself asleep.”

After some heavy pondering and wondering, I believed that I had come up with the right plan. Having seen my ripped T-shirt gave me an idea for a valid guide. I started from the assumption that, if I were actually observing myself asleep, I would also be observing whether I had the same sleeping attire I had gone to bed in, an attire that I had decided to change radically every four days. I was confident that I was not going to have any difficulty in remembering, in dreams, what I was wearing when I went to bed; the discipline I had acquired through my dreaming practices made me think that I had the ability to record things like this in my mind and remember them in dreams.

I engaged my best efforts to follow this guide, but the results did not pan out as I thought they would. I lacked the necessary control over my dreaming attention, and I could not quite remember the details of my sleeping attire. Yet something else was definitely at work; somehow I always knew whether my dreams were ordinary dreams or not. The outstanding aspect of the dreams that were not just ordinary dreams was that my body lay asleep in bed while my consciousness observed it.

A notable feature of these dreams was my room. It was never like my room in the daily world but an enormous empty hall with my bed at one end. I used to soar over a considerable distance to be at the side of the bed where my body lay. The moment I was next to it, a windlike force used to make me hover over it, like a hummingbird. At times the room used to vanish; disappear piece by piece until only my body and the bed were left. At other times, I used to experience a complete loss of volition. My dreaming attention seemed then to function independently of me. Either it was completely absorbed by the first item it encountered in the room or it seemed unable to decide what to do. In those instances, I had the sensation that I was helplessly floating, going from item to item.

The voice of the dreaming emissary explained to me once that all the elements of the dreams, which were not just commonplace dreams, were really energy configurations different from those of our normal world. The emissary’s voice pointed out that, for example, the walls were liquid. It urged me then to plunge into one of them.

Without thinking twice, I dived into a wall as if I were diving into a huge lake. I did not feel the waterlike wall; what I felt was not a physical sensation of plunging into a body of water either. It was more like the thought of diving and the visual sensation of going through liquid matter. I was going, head-first, into something that opened up, like water does, as I kept moving downward.

The sensation of going down, headfirst, was so real that I began to wonder how long or how deep or how far I was diving. From my point of view, I spent an eternity in there. I saw clouds and rocklike masses of matter suspended in a waterlike substance. There were some glowing, geometric objects that resembled crystals, and blobs of the deepest primary colors I had ever seen. There were also zones of intense light and others of pitch blackness. Everything went by me, either slowly or at a fast speed. I had the thought that I was viewing the cosmos. At the instant of that thought, my speed increased so immensely that everything became blurred, and all of a sudden, I found myself awake with my nose smack against the wall of my room.

Some hidden fear urged me to consult with don Juan. He listened to me, hanging on every word.

“You need to do some drastic maneuvering at this point,” he said. “The dreaming emissary has no business interfering with your dreaming practices. Or rather, you should not, under any conditions, permit it to do so.”

“How can I stop it?”

“Perform a simple but difficult maneuver. Upon entering into dreaming, voice out loud your desire not to have the dreaming emissary anymore.”

“Does that mean, don Juan, that I will never hear it again?”

“Positively. You’ll get rid of it forever.”

“But is it advisable to get rid of it forever?”

“It most certainly is, at this point.”

With those words, don Juan involved me in a most disturbing dilemma. I did not want to put an end to my relationship with the emissary, but, at the same time, I wanted to follow don Juan’s advice. He noticed my hesitation.

“I know it’s a very difficult affair,” he conceded, “but if you don’t do it, the inorganic beings will always have a line on you. If you want to avoid this, do what I said, and do it now.”

During my next dreaming session, as I prepared myself to utter my intent, the emissary’s voice interrupted me. It said, “If you refrain from stating your request, I promise you never to interfere with your dreaming practices and talk to you only if you ask me direct questions.”

I instantly accepted its proposition and sincerely felt that it was a good deal. I was even relieved it had turned out this way. I was afraid, however, that don Juan was going to be disappointed.

“It was a good maneuver,” he remarked and laughed. “You were sincere; you really intended to voice your request. To be sincere is all that was required. There was, essentially, no need for you to eliminate the emissary. What you wanted was to corner it into proposing an alternative way, convenient to you. I am sure the emissary won’t interfere anymore.”

He was right. I continued my dreaming practices without any meddling from the emissary. The remarkable consequence was that I began to have dreams in which my dream rooms were my room in the daily world, with one difference: in the dreams, my room was always so slanted, so distorted that it looked like a giant cubist painting; obtuse and acute angles were the rule instead of the normal right angles of walls, ceiling, and floor. In my lopsided room, the very slant, created by the acute or obtuse angles, was a device to display prominently some absurd, superfluous, but real detail; for example, intricate lines in the hardwood floor, or weather discolorations in the wall paint, or dust spots on the ceiling, or smudged fingerprints on the edge of a door.

In those dreams, I unavoidably got lost in the waterlike universes of the detail pointed out by the slant. During my entire dreaming practices, the profusion of detail in my room was so immense and its pull so intense that it instantly made me dive into it.

At the first free moment I had, I was at don Juan’s place, consulting him about this state.

“I can’t overcome my room,” I said to him after I had given him the details of my dreaming practices.

“What gives you the idea you have to overcome it?” he asked with a grin.

“I feel that I have to move beyond my room, don Juan.”

“But you are moving beyond your room. Perhaps you should ask yourself whether you are caught again in interpretations. What do you think moving means in this case?”

I told him walking from my room to the street had been such a haunting dream for me that I felt a real need to do it again.

“But you are doing greater things than that,” he protested. “You are going to unbelievable regions. What else do you want?”

I tried to explain to him that I had a physical urge to move away from the trap of detail. What upset me the most was my incapacity to free myself from whatever caught my attention. To have a modicum of volition was the bottom line for me.

A very long silence followed. I waited to hear more about the trap of detail. After all, he had warned me about its dangers.

“You are doing fine,” he finally said. “Dreamers take a very long time to perfect their energy bodies. And this is exactly what’s at stake here: perfecting your energy body.”

Don Juan explained that the reason my energy body was compelled to examine detail and get inextricably stuck in it was its inexperience, its incompleteness. He said that sorcerers spend a lifetime consolidating the energy body by letting it sponge up everything possible.

“Until the energy body is complete and mature, it is self-absorbed,” don Juan went on. “It can’t get free from the compulsion to be absorbed by everything. But if one takes this into consideration, instead of fighting the energy body, as you’re doing now, one can lend it a hand.”

“How can I do that, don Juan?”

“By directing its behavior, that is to say, by stalking it.”

He explained that since everything related to the energy body depends on the appropriate position of the assemblage point, and since dreaming is nothing else but the means to displace it, stalking is, consequently, the way to make the assemblage point stay put on the perfect position, in this case, the position where the energy body can become consolidated and from which it can finally emerge.

Don Juan said that the moment the energy body can move on its own, sorcerers assume that the optimum position of the assemblage point has been reached. The next step is to stalk it, that is, to fixate it on that position in order to complete the energy body. He remarked that the procedure is simplicity itself. One intends to stalk it.

Silence and looks of expectation followed that statement. I expected him to say more, and he expected me to have understood what he had said. I had not.

“Let your energy body intend to reach the optimum dreaming position,” he explained. “Then, let your energy body intend to stay at that position and you will be stalking.”

He paused and, with his eyes, urged me to consider his statement.

“Intending is the secret, but you already know that,” he said. “Sorcerers displace their assemblage points through intending and fixate them, equally, through intending. And there is no technique for intending. One intends through usage.”

To have another of my wild assumptions about my worth as a sorcerer was unavoidable at that point. I had boundless confidence that something was going to put me on the right track to intend the fixation of my assemblage point on the ideal spot. I had accomplished in the past all kinds of successful maneuvers without knowing how I performed them. Don Juan himself had marveled at my ability or my luck, and I was sure this was going to be one of those instances. I was gravely mistaken. No matter what I did, or how long I waited, I had no success whatsoever in fixing my assemblage point on any spot, much less on the ideal one.

After months of serious but unsuccessful struggling, I gave up.

“I really believed I could do it,” I said to don Juan, the moment I was in his house. “I am afraid that nowadays I am more of an egomaniac than ever.”

“Not really,” he said with a smile. “What happens is that you are caught in another of your routinary misinterpretations of terms. You want to find the ideal spot, as if you were finding your lost car keys. Then you want to tie your assemblage point, as if you were tying your shoes. The ideal spot and the fixation of the assemblage point are metaphors. They have nothing to do with the words used to describe them.”

He asked me then to tell him the latest events of any dreaming practices. The first thing I mentioned was that my urge to be absorbed by detail had subsided notably. I said that perhaps because I moved in my dreams, compulsively and incessantly, the movement might have been what always managed to stop me before I plunged into the detail I was observing. To be stopped in that fashion gave me the opportunity to examine the act of being absorbed by detail. I came to the conclusion that inanimate matter actually possesses an immobilizing force, which I saw as a beam of dull light that kept me pinned down. For example, many times some minute mark on the walls or in the wood lines of the hardwood floor of my room used to send a line of light that transfixed me; from the moment my dreaming attention was focused on that light, the whole dream rotated around that minute mark. I saw it enlarged perhaps to the size of the cosmos. That view used to last until I woke up, usually with my nose pressed against the wall or the wood floor. My own observations were that, in the first place, the detail was real, and, in the second place, I seemed to have been observing it while I was asleep.

Don Juan smiled and said, “All this is happening to you because the forging of your energy body was completed the moment it moved by itself. I didn’t tell you that, but I insinuated it. I wanted to know whether or not you were capable of finding it out by yourself, which, of course, you did.”

I had no idea what he meant. Don Juan scrutinized me in his usual manner. His penetrating gaze scanned my body.

“What exactly did I find out by myself, don Juan?” I was forced to ask.

“You found out that your energy body had been completed,” he answered.

“I didn’t find out anything of the kind, I assure you.”

“Yes, you did. It started some time ago, when you couldn’t find a guide to validate the realness of your dreams, but then something went to work for you and let you know whether you were having a regular dream. That something was your energy body. Now, you despair that you couldn’t find the ideal spot to fix your assemblage point. And I tell you that you did. The proof is that, by moving around, your energy body curtailed its obsession with detail.”

I was nonplussed. I could not even ask one of my feeble questions.

“What comes next for you is a sorcerers’ gem,” don Juan went on. “You are going to practice seeing energy, in your dreaming. You have fulfilled the drill for the third gate of dreaming: moving your energy body by itself. Now you are going to perform the real task: seeing energy with your energy body.”

“You have seen energy before,” he went on, “many times, in fact. But each of those times, seeing was a fluke. Now you are going to do it deliberately.”

“Dreamers have a rule of thumb,” he continued. “If their energy body is complete, they see energy every time they gaze at an item in the daily world. In dreams, if they see the energy of an item, they know they are dealing with a real world, no matter how distorted that world may appear to their dreaming attention. If they can’t see the energy of an item, they are in an ordinary dream and not in a real world.”

“What is a real world, don Juan?”

“A world that generates energy; the opposite of a phantom world of projections, where nothing generates energy, like most of our dreams, where nothing has an energetic effect.”

Don Juan then gave me another definition of dreaming: a process by which dreamers isolate dream conditions in which they can find energy-generating elements. He must have noticed my bewilderment. He laughed and gave another, even more convoluted definition: dreaming is the process by which we intend to find adequate positions of the assemblage point, positions that permit us to perceive energy-generating items in dreamlike states.

He explained that the energy body is also capable of perceiving energy that is quite different from the energy of our own world, as in the case of items of the inorganic beings’ realm, which the energy body perceives as sizzling energy. He added that in our world nothing sizzles; everything here wavers.

“From now on,” he said, “the issue of your dreaming is going to be to determine whether the items on which you focus your dreaming attention are energy generating, mere phantom projections, or generators of foreign energy.”

Don Juan admitted that he had hoped I was going to come up with the idea of seeing energy as the gauge to determine whether or not I was observing my real body asleep. He laughed at my spurious device of putting on elaborate sleeping attire, every four days. He said that I’d had, at my fingertips, all the information necessary to deduce what was the real task of the third gate of dreaming and to come up with the right idea but that my interpretation system had forced me to seek contrived solutions that lacked the simplicity and directness of sorcery.

***