(The Secret of the Plumed Serpent)
Every morning doña Silvia would ask:
“What did you dream last night?”
At first I thought she was just having an informal chat, so I would reply with a string of inconsequential topics I thought I had dreamt of or that I had made up on the spot.
On one occasion, she gestured with her hand to stop my tirade, and said: “To fall asleep is to give in to unconsciousness, so a warrior never sleeps. Awake, he is aware of himself; as he dozes off, he enters dreaming. A warrior never surrenders control.”
She took every opportunity to point out the importance of the practice of dreaming. Aware of the difficulties I was having with some of the topics of my healing training, one day she said:
“A warrior knows that the odds are stacked against him, but that does not discourage him. On the contrary, he gathers all his courage and joyfully throws himself into the battle because he knows he is fighting for his freedom.
If you want solutions for your worries, formulate the problem in your mind before going to sleep, and let the solution present itself of its own accord. Our dreaming body knows things we cannot even imagine.”
On one occasion she told me about one of the basic requirements of dreaming. She said, “Eating habits can greatly influence one’s capacity for entering dreaming, especially in novices. Whenever you eat after six in the evening, it actually interferes with the transition to dreaming, so it is best not to eat anything before going to bed.”
One evening, to help me with my nightmares, doña Silvia pointed at my bed and said, “Go to sleep now,” announcing that she, too, was about to retire to her quarters and lie down.
Living with the sorcerers, I noticed that even couples never slept together in the same bed. They said it would interfere with their luminous fibres, and consequently with their dreaming. They claimed that sleeping and dreaming next to each other made it difficult for them to reach energetic balance.
Following her command, I went to bed. It was still quite early, but since I had just been working hard hauling stones, I had no difficulty going to sleep.
In my dream, I saw doña Silvia standing beside me. We were in the Zócalo in Mexico City. That was the first time I had gone into dreaming consciously, although it was with her help. In this dream, we entered the Cathedral which was strangely empty. I had the peculiar feeling of deja vu, of having been there before.
Doña Silvia guided me all the time. If it had not been for the pressure of her hand holding on to my arm, I would probably have left her and allowed myself to be pulled in by one of the many vortexes I saw forming everywhere.
On that occasion she also showed me the elasticity of the other world. It was as if the thought of an object or a place she suggested pulled us – sometimes abruptly – and that the object or the place immediately appeared.
Upon awakening after each session with doña Silvia, I knew I had been dreaming with her, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not remember the dreaming events. It took years before I could recover those memories. In that sense, dreaming and stalking are similar since both lead to the second attention, and in both cases a novice cannot readily remember the events that have taken place there.
On waking up, for example, an apprentice almost immediately forgets what he has been dreaming while asleep, as if layers of fog have hidden the dreaming events from the conscious mind even though they happened just a moment before.
In the case of stalking, the situation is even worse, because one immediately forgets what one was doing and suddenly finds oneself standing somewhere without a clue of how one got there, and that is disconcerting.
I remember spending years in a kind of lethargy, not knowing what was really happening to me. At one point I came to believe I was suffering from amnesia or some other memory problem, whilst on another level of awareness I knew very well what was going on. What helped me not lose the plot was the trust I had in doña Silvia, and the powerful feeling that I was finally involved in something extraordinary.
During my first attempts at dreaming, I would invariably let myself be pulled in by torrents of visions that appeared like a whirlwind before me. It was like sinking into a film projection, and from that one into another one, and another, and on and on until I woke up. Following doña Silvia’s instructions, however, I learned to keep my awareness fixed for longer periods before being pulled into the next dream.
To galvanize my attention, she suggested that I watch the flame of a candle every night without distraction. She said I should increase the length of the exercise, keeping my gaze on the flame from the moment it was lit until it was extinguished.
With her help, and the help of the other healers, I prepared a net to catch my dreaming: following their advice, I drew upon everything I could to reach my goal. I wore my nightcap and my dreaming band. I made a belt to hold pebbles in place on my umbilical region. To help me with the task, I placed a multitude of amulets strategically by the head of my bed.
As a very special dreaming aid, I made a sheepskin sleeping bag with the fur inside, and dedicated it exclusively to my dreaming practice. During one period, I spent all the time I could inside it. With actions like these, one becomes available to the intent of entering the other world.
Doña Silvia also taught me that the body position one adopted before entering dreaming was very important. She said that in the beginning it was preferable to make the attempt from sitting position, and only after achieving a certain degree of control could one start from any position, even lying down. She said:
“An experienced sorcerer can enter dreaming while awake, starting straight from his daily awareness, and that is how one creates a double.”
I asked her how that was done. She replied: “When you close your eyes, beyond the images projected by your brain you can see a point of light that is sometimes very clear and sometimes isn’t. If one can place one’s attention on this point, one can perceive the world of dreaming even when awake.
With experience, it is possible to enter that other world without having to go through the transition phase of going to bed and falling asleep. That is the rudiment of the technique used by sorcerers to enter dreaming while awake.”
To help me get into dreaming, doña Silvia also made me align my bed with my personal direction. She said we all had a beneficial cardinal direction that kept us in good form. I arranged my bedroll so that it was facing my good direction.
On another occasion she said: “If we wish, we can recall our ordinary dreams. Children usually don’t have a problem doing that. Remembering dreams is the first real step towards deliberate control of dreaming. That is why one must pay close attention to any recurring dreams one might have.”
I also remember my horror when doña Silvia said I should deliberately seek my nightmares. Luckily she first helped me understand and accept the reasons for my bad dreams until one fine day I found that I was simply no longer afraid of my night visions. Instead, when they occurred, I would watch them without emotion, feeling only a strange sensation that I was forgetting something important I ought to be doing.
One day, when I was finally able to deploy enough energy, I remembered myself in my dream. I discovered that dreaming was the same as the ordinary dreams we all had, only this time it was controlled.
Little by little, I gained confidence and began to explore the world of dreaming by myself. My night forays were mostly brief. I did not venture far beyond the familiar ground. As I entered dreaming, I typically stayed within visions which I’d had before, but in one dream, I began chasing a firefly which resembled a luminous dandelion. I don’t know how long the pursuit had been going on when I realized that I was lost in that other world. Because of doña Silvia’s repeated warnings, getting lost in dreaming was the greatest of my fears.
The spot of light seemed to understand my problem, because it held back and hovered so close that I could see it in detail. Its brightness suddenly became more intense. It seemed to inflate, stretching and convulsing for a moment, until it expanded into the diffused image of a human being. I could not tell if what I saw was a boy or a girl. The being spoke to me without using its mouth. I felt its voice within me. I thought I had heard it say:
“Why did you stop?”
That was the first time that I had met an aware entity during my adventures on the other side. I was astonished. The feeling of surprise made my rational mind pick up the reins, and I started waking up in my bed. I immediately used doña Silvia’s techniques of returning to a particular dreaming vision, and went back to sleep.
When I managed to return to dreaming, the human image was gone, but I could still see the speck of light. The context, too, had changed, and we were now in one of the places of power the sorcerers used to take me to. In that place, I had more self-confidence. I made a conscious effort to project a thought to the luminous being, a thought that said, “I’m afraid of getting lost in this world.” The light responded in the same way:
“Fear not, I’ll guide you.”
That encounter was the start of a friendship. I became used to meeting up with Blor, my friend from dreaming. I called the being Blor because that was the feeling I had in its presence: “Bhloor!”
In subsequent meetings, I learned that Blor was a female dreamer from another world who had ties to a group of healers. In fact I found out that it was doña Silvia who had asked Blor to help me move around in that other world, and it had worked!
Apart from learning to move around in that world, I learned many other things from Blor. In one of our meetings, she taught me a manoeuvre of passing unnoticed in that environment. Blor called the technique ‘the invisibility cloak’, claiming it was essential for survival in that world.
She showed me how to build a kind of ‘igloo’ made of energy, where I could hide very well. She made me turn my attention to certain properties some of Eagle’s emanations had and showed me how that special type of energy responded more readily to attempts to mould them. I did as I was shown and could see that the energy actually followed my command.
Using the will, one heaps up energy as if building a haystack. To understand this, one must take into consideration that the texture of the world on the other side is very malleable, and that will can be used to move quantities of emanations from one spot to another, so that, having made a ‘heap of light fibres’ inside which it is possible to hide, one can actually remain unnoticed by the countless entities marauding through that place, many of whom are not really friendly.
Another emergency technique Blor taught me was to curl up on myself like a foetus, but without lying down. That movement can be used if one needs to escape the many violent predators inhabiting these regions. They are known to the sorcerers as marauders.
I am infinitely grateful to Blor for sharing the knowledge that is so useful over there in that other place.
One of the greatest delights for sorcerers-dreamers is making contact with creatures from other worlds. Those beings usually come from the neighbouring world, but occasionally one may contact entities from more distant regions. It is known that the farther away they come from, the greater the risk that they might be hostile. I was able to corroborate that these explorers from distant worlds are indeed frightening. They are brightly coloured, and give the feeling of being under unbearable pressure, seemingly on the verge of exploding.
Blor once took me to see her world. The beings that inhabit it are not at all like us. They are not even solid like we are but resemble a kind of jelly, and the world they live in has the same characteristics– or at least that is how I perceived it. I saw that the concepts of male and female were valid in that world just like in ours. Beings there engaged without any inhibition in what we call ‘sexual acts’. It is natural for them to be connected all the time.
Blor told me that in her world she felt isolated from her fellows, finding it hard to carry out her normal role within the society in which she lived. It struck me that Blor’s fate in her world was paralleled to that of Carlos Castaneda’s here on Earth. Her world is similar to ours insofar as, because of the predators, no one there believes in the possibility of dreaming. That is truly a great pity, as so few individuals of either of our species are aware of their immense possibilities and consequently, on both sides, ridicule those who speak of the subject.
I have not seen Blor for years. The last time I saw her, she took her leave of me, and told me that she was about to set off on a very dangerous journey. She intended to cross a part of the dreaming world controlled by very fierce inorganic beings. I tried to dissuade her from that adventure, but she had confidence in her ability to hide and so set off on her journey. I’ve had no further news of her since. She may have achieved her objective, or she may have become prisoner of the marauders.
From the Dreaming Log
On one occasion, doña Silvia asked me:
“How are you getting on with your dreaming?”
I answered that I was carefully recording every dream I had. She laughed and said it was good to do that. I added that keeping a written record of my dreams had initially helped me remember more easily to find my hands.
At one point the subject of dreaming became so important to me that I tackled it with true passion. I considered it a legitimate field for personal investigation.
Even before going through the first gate of dreaming, I had discovered that writing down experiences, common dreams as well as nightmares, dissipated the large part of one’s obsessions and morbidity. In my case, dreaming became much easier as I advanced in the exercise of recapitulation. My instructors would often repeat, “For warriors, recapitulation is not an option. It is mandatory.”
That morning I was helping doña Silvia shell corn off the dried cobs. I had to wear hide gloves to protect my hands from injury. As we worked, she said I was ready for a new phase of training.
With great seriousness, but without formality, she said, “It’s about a new manoeuvre to be performed in the world of dreaming.
You’ve learned to reach the other world, and you’ve managed to keep pretty good control of yourself, so now it’s time to embark on a new task: go and recapitulate in dreaming.”
That aspect of the recapitulation was new to me. I had never considered using dreaming to recapitulate. I laid my gloves aside and jotted down her words.
“If you practise recapitulation and dreaming in parallel, you’ll notice that with time what you experience in either of them will seem more and more alike to you. One reinforces the other, until eventually there is no difference whatsoever between them.
Recapitulating in dreaming is one of the most rewarding tasks for an apprentice. What makes this task so special is that not only do you remember an event; you totally and completely re-live it.”
I committed to the task. It was hard work at first, but when I chose beforehand what I wanted to recapitulate, things changed. I would enter the pre-programmed scene in my dreaming. I was impressed with the vividness of detail, and my visions were shaped by things I had no idea I had witnessed.
Once our life experience has passed through the filter of recapitulation again and again, details such as modes of behaviour, gestures and anecdotes emerge and we end up realizing we had not been experiencing life as fully as we thought we had. We become aware that behind everything we witness there is always more going on: perceptions of events which seemingly have not happened. They have, though, but in different states of awareness.
As one progresses with this exercise, one ends up recapitulating not just the world of daily affairs but also all the dreams one’s ever had. It is a magical activity that happens of its own accord and ends in the joining of the dreaming body and the physical body. A warrior who has reached this level has no need to go to bed and sleep in order to dream: he can do it awake.
(The Art of Dreaming)
He said then that it was time for me to have a practical application of what I had learned in dreaming. Without giving me a chance to ask anything, he urged me to focus my attention, as if I were in a dream, on the foliage of a desert tree growing nearby: a mesquite tree.
“Do you want me to just gaze at it?” I asked.
“I don’t want you to just gaze at it; I want you to do something very special with that foliage,” he said. “Remember that, in your dreams, once you are able to hold the view of any item, you are really holding the dreaming position of your assemblage point. Now, gaze at those leaves as if you were in a dream, but with a slight yet most meaningful variation you are going to hold your dreaming attention on the leaves of the mesquite tree in the awareness of our daily world.”
My nervousness made it impossible for me to follow his line of thought. He patiently explained that by staring at the foliage, I would accomplish a minute displacement of my assemblage point. Then, by summoning my dreaming attention through staring at individual leaves, I would actually fixate that minute displacement, and my cohesion would make me perceive in terms of the second attention. He added, with a chuckle, that the process was so simple it was ridiculous.
Don Juan was right. All I needed was to focus my sight on the leaves, maintain it, and in one instant I was drawn into a vortex-like sensation, extremely like the vortexes in my dreams. The foliage of the mesquite tree became a universe of sensory data. It was as if the foliage had swallowed me, but it was not only my sight that was engaged; if I touched the leaves, I actually felt them. I could also smell them. My dreaming attention was multi-sensorial instead of solely visual, as in my regular dreaming.
What had begun as gazing at the foliage of the mesquite tree had turned into a dream. I believed I was in a dreamt tree, as I had been in trees of countless dreams. And, naturally, I behaved in this dreamt tree as I had learned to behave in my dreams; I moved from item to item, pulled by the force of a vortex that took shape on whatever part of the tree I focused my multi-sensorial dreaming attention. Vortexes were formed not only on gazing but also on touching anything with any part of my body.
In the midst of this vision or dream, I had an attack of rational doubts. I began to wonder if I had really climbed the tree in a daze and was actually hugging the leaves, lost in the foliage, without knowing what I was doing. Or perhaps I had fallen asleep, possibly mesmerized by the fluttering of leaves in the wind, and was having a dream. But just like in dreaming, I didn’t have enough energy to ponder for too long. My thoughts were fleeting. They lasted an instant; then the force of direct experience blanketed them out completely.
A sudden motion around me shook everything and virtually made me emerge from a clump of leaves, as if I had broken away from the tree’s magnetic pull. I was facing then, from an elevation, an immense horizon. Dark mountains and green vegetation surrounded me. Another jolt of energy made me shake from my bones out; then I was somewhere else. Enormous trees loomed everywhere. They were bigger than the Douglas firs of Oregon and Washington State. Never had I seen a forest like that. The scenery was such a contrast to the aridness of the Sonoran desert that it left me with no doubt that I was having a dream.
I held on to that extraordinary view, afraid to let go, knowing that it was indeed a dream and would disappear once I had run out of dreaming attention. But the images lasted, even when I thought I should have run out of dreaming attention. A horrifying thought crossed my mind then: what if this was neither a dream nor the daily world?
Frightened, as an animal must experience fright, I recoiled into the clump of leaves I had emerged from. The momentum of my backward motion kept me going through the tree foliage and around the hard branches. It pulled me away from the tree, and in one split second I was standing next to don Juan, at the door of his house, in the desert in Sonora.
I instantly realized I had entered again into a state in which I could think coherently, but I could not talk. Don Juan told me not to worry. He said that our speech faculty is extremely flimsy and attacks of muteness are common among sorcerers who venture beyond the limits of normal perception.
My gut feeling was that don Juan had taken pity on me and had decided to give me a pep talk. But the voice of the dreaming emissary, which I clearly heard at that instant, said that in a few hours and after some rest I was going to be perfectly well.
Upon awakening I gave don Juan, at his request, a complete description of what I had seen and done. He warned me that it was not possible to rely on my rationality to understand my experience, not because my rationality was in any way impaired but because what had taken place was a phenomenon outside the parameters of reason.
I, naturally, argued that nothing can be outside the limits of reason; things can be obscure, but sooner or later reason always finds a way to shed light on anything. And I really believed this.
Don Juan, with extreme patience, pointed out that reason is only a by-product of the habitual position of the assemblage point; therefore, knowing what is going on, being of sound mind, having our feet on the ground – sources of great pride to us and assumed to be a natural consequence of our worth – are merely the result of the fixation of the assemblage point on its habitual place. The more rigid and stationary it is, the greater our confidence in ourselves, the greater our feeling of knowing the world, of being able to predict.
He added that what dreaming does is give us the fluidity to enter into other worlds by destroying our sense of knowing this world. He called dreaming a journey of unthinkable dimensions, a journey that, after making us perceive everything we can humanly perceive, makes the assemblage point jump outside the human domain and perceive the inconceivable.