(The Art of Dreaming by Carlos Castaneda)
A few months later, my dreaming practices took a strange turn. I began to get, in my dreams, replies to questions I was planning to ask don Juan. The most impressive part of this oddity was that it quickly lapsed into my waking hours. And one day, while I was sitting at my desk, I got a reply to an unvoiced question about the realness of inorganic beings. I had seen inorganic beings in dreams so many times I had begun to think of them as real. I reminded myself I had even touched one, in a state of seminormal consciousness in the Sonoran desert. And my dreams had been periodically deviated to views of worlds I seriously doubted could have been products of my mentality. I wished to give don Juan my best shot, in terms of a concise query, so I molded a question in my mind: if one is to accept that inorganic beings are as real as people, where, in the physicality of the universe, is the realm in which they exist?
After formulating the question to myself, I heard a strange laughter, just as I had the day I wrestled with the inorganic being. Then a man’s voice answered me. “That realm exists in a particular position of the assemblage point,” it said. “Just like your world exists in the habitual position of the assemblage point.”
The last thing I wanted was to enter into a dialogue with a disembodied voice, so I stood up and ran out of my house. The thought occurred to me that I was losing my mind. Another worry to add to my collection of worries.
The voice had been so clear and authoritative that it not only intrigued me but terrified me. I waited with great trepidation for oncoming barrages of that voice, but the event was never repeated. At the first opportunity I had, I consulted with don Juan.
He was not impressed in the least.
“You must understand, once and for all, that things like this are very normal in the life of a sorcerer,” he said. “You are not going mad; you are simply hearing the voice of the dreaming emissary. Upon crossing the first or second gate of dreaming, dreamers reach a threshold of energy and begin to see things or to hear voices. Not really plural voices, but a singular voice. Sorcerers call it the voice of the dreaming emissary.”
“What is the dreaming emissary?”
“Alien energy that has conciseness. Alien energy that purports to aid dreamers by telling them things. The problem with the dreaming emissary is that it can tell only what the sorcerers already know or should know, were they worth their salt.”
“To say that it’s alien energy that has conciseness doesn’t help me at all, don Juan. What kind of energy – benign, malignant, right, wrong, what?”
“It’s just what I said, alien energy. An impersonal force that we turn into a very personal one because it has voice. Some sorcerers swear by it. They even see it. Or, as you yourself have done, they simply hear it as a man’s or a woman’s voice. And the voice can tell them about the state of things, which most of the time they take as sacred advice.”
“Why do some of us hear it as a voice?”
“We see it or hear it because we maintain our assemblage points fixed on a specific new position; the more intense this fixation, the more intense our experience of the emissary. Watch out! You may see it and feel it as a naked woman.”
Don Juan laughed at his own remark, but I was too scared for levity. “Is this force capable of materializing itself?” I asked.
“Certainly,” he replied. “And it all depends on how fixed the assemblage point is. But, rest assured, if you are capable of maintaining a degree of detachment, nothing happens. The emissary remains what it is: an impersonal force that acts on us because of the fixation of our assemblage points.”
“Is its advice safe and sound?”
“It cannot be advice. It only tells us what’s what, and then we draw the inferences ourselves.” I told don Juan then about what the voice had said to me.
“It’s just like I said,” don Juan remarked. “The emissary didn’t tell you anything new. Its statements were correct, but it only seemed to be revealing things to you. What the emissary did was merely repeat what you already knew.”
“I’m afraid I can’t claim that I knew all that, don Juan.”
“Yes, you can. You know now infinitely more about the mystery of the universe than what you rationally suspect. But that’s our human malady, to know more about the mystery of the universe than we suspect.”
Having experienced this incredible phenomenon all by myself, without don Juan’s coaching, made me feel elated. I wanted more information about the emissary. I began to ask don Juan whether he also heard the emissary’s voice.
He interrupted me and with a broad smile said, “Yes, yes. The emissary also talks to me. In my youth I used to see it as a friar with a black cowl. A talking friar who used to scare the daylights out of me, every time. Then, when my fear was more manageable, it became a disembodied voice, which tells me things to this day.”
“What kinds of things, don Juan?”
“Anything I focus my intent on, things I don’t want to take the trouble of following up myself. Like, for example, details about the behavior of my apprentices. What they do when I am not around. It tells me things about you, in particular. The emissary tells me everything you do.”
At that point, I really did not care for the direction our conversation had taken. I frantically searched my mind for questions about other topics while he roared with laughter.
“Is the dreaming emissary an inorganic being?” I asked.
“Let’s say that the dreaming emissary is a force that comes from the realm of inorganic beings. This is the reason dreamers always encounter it.”
“Do you mean, don Juan, that every dreamer hears or sees the emissary?”
“Everyone hears the emissary; very few see it or feel it.”
“Do you have any explanation for this?”
“No. Besides, I really don’t care about the emissary. At one point in my life, I had to make a decision whether to concentrate on the inorganic beings and follow in the footsteps of the old sorcerers or to refuse it all. My teacher, the nagual Julian, helped me make up my mind to refuse it. I’ve never regretted that decision.”
“Do you think I should refuse the inorganic beings myself, don Juan?”
He did not answer me; instead, he explained that the whole realm of inorganic beings is always poised to teach. Perhaps because inorganic beings have a deeper consciousness than ours, they feel compelled to take us under their wings.
“I didn’t see any point in becoming their pupil,” he added. “Their price is too high.”
“What is their price?”
“Our lives, our energy, our devotion to them. In other words, our freedom.”
“But what do they teach?”
“Things pertinent to their world. The same way we ourselves would teach them, if we were capable of teaching them, things pertinent to our world. Their method, however, is to take our basic self as a gauge of what we need and then teach us accordingly. A most dangerous affair!”
“I don’t see why it would be dangerous.”
“If someone was going to take your basic self as a gauge, with all your fears and greed and envy, et cetera, et cetera, and teach you what fulfills that horrible state of being, what do you think the result would be?”
I had no comeback. I thought I understood perfectly well the reasons for his rejection.
“The problem with the old sorcerers was that they learned wonderful things, but on the basis of their unadulterated lower selves,” don Juan went on. “The inorganic beings became their allies, and, by means of deliberate examples, they taught the old sorcerers marvels. Their allies performed the actions, and the old sorcerers were guided step by step to copy those actions, without changing anything about their basic nature.”
“Do these relationships with inorganic beings exist today?”
“I can’t answer that truthfully. All I can say is that I can’t conceive of having a relationship like that myself. Involvements of this nature curtail our search for freedom by consuming all our available energy. In order to really follow their allies’ example, the old sorcerers had to spend their lives in the realm of the inorganic beings. The amount of energy needed to accomplish such a sustained journey is staggering.”
“Do you mean, don Juan, that the old sorcerers were able to exist in those realms like we exist here?”
“Not quite like we exist here, but certainly they lived: they retained their awareness, their individuality. The dreaming emissary became the most vital entity for those sorcerers. If a sorcerer wants to live in the realm of the inorganic beings, the emissary is the perfect bridge; it speaks, and its bent is to teach, to guide.”
“Have you ever been in that realm, don Juan?”
“Countless times. And so have you. But there is no point in talking about it now. You haven’t cleared all the debris from your dreaming attention yet. We’ll talk about that realm some day.”
“Do I gather, don Juan, that you don’t approve of or like the emissary?”
“I neither approve of it nor like it. It belongs to another mood, the old sorcerers’ mood. Besides, its teachings and guidance in our world are nonsense. And for that nonsense the emissary charges us enormities in terms of energy. One day you will agree with me. You’ll see.”
In the tone of don Juan’s words, I caught a veiled implication of his belief that I disagreed with him about the emissary. I was about to confront him with it when I heard the emissary’s voice in my ears.
“He’s right,” the voice said. “You like me because you find nothing wrong with exploring all possibilities. You want knowledge; knowledge is power. You don’t want to remain safe in the routines and beliefs of your daily world.”
The emissary said all that in English with a marked Pacific Coast intonation. Then it shifted into Spanish. I heard a slight Argentine accent. I had never heard the emissary speaking like this before. It fascinated me. The emissary told me about fulfillment, knowledge; about how far away I was from my birthplace; about my craving for adventure and my near obsession with new things, new horizons. The voice even talked to me in Portuguese, with a definite inflection from the southern pampas.
To hear that voice pouring out all this flattery not only scared me but nauseated me. I told don Juan, right on the spot, that I had to stop my dreaming training. He looked up at me, caught by surprise. But when I repeated what I had heard, he agreed I should stop, although I sensed he was doing it only to appease me. A few weeks later, I found my reaction a bit hysterical and my decision to withdraw unsound. I went back to my dreaming practices. I was sure don Juan was aware that I had canceled out my withdrawal.
On one of my visits to him, quite abruptly, he spoke about dreams.
“Just because we haven’t been taught to emphasize dreams as a genuine field for exploration doesn’t mean they are not one,” he began. “Dreams are analyzed for their meaning or are taken as portents, but never are they taken as a realm of real events.”
“To my knowledge, only the old sorcerers did that,” don Juan went on, “but at the end they flubbed it. They got greedy, and when they came to a crucial crossroads, they took the wrong fork. They put all their eggs in one basket: the fixation of the assemblage point on the thousands of positions it can adopt.”
Don Juan expressed his bewilderment at the fact that out of all the marvelous things the old sorcerers learned exploring those thousands of positions, only the art of dreaming and the art of stalking remain. He reiterated that the art of dreaming is concerned with the displacement of the assemblage point. Then he defined stalking as the art that deals with the fixation of the assemblage point on any location to which it is displaced.
“To fixate the assemblage point on any new spot means to acquire cohesion,” he said. “You have been doing just that in your dreaming practices.”
“I thought I was perfecting my energy body,” I said, somehow surprised at his statement.
“You are doing that and much more, you are learning to have cohesion. Dreaming does it by forcing dreamers to fixate the assemblage point. The dreaming attention, the energy body, the second attention, the relationship with inorganic beings, the dreaming emissary are but by- products of acquiring cohesion; in other words, they are all by-products of fixating the assemblage point on a number of dreaming positions.”
“What is a dreaming position, don Juan?”
“Any new position to which the assemblage point has been displaced during sleep.”
“How do we fixate the assemblage point on a dreaming position?”
“By sustaining the view of any item in your dreams, or by changing dreams at will. Through your dreaming practices, you are really exercising your capacity to be cohesive; that is to say, you are exercising your capacity to maintain a new energy shape by holding the assemblage point fixed on the position of any particular dream you are having.”
“Do I really maintain a new energy shape?”
“Not exactly, and not because you can’t but only because you are shifting the assemblage point instead of moving it. Shifts of the assemblage point give rise to minute changes, which are practically unnoticeable. The challenge of shifts is that they are so small and so numerous that to maintain cohesiveness in all of them is a triumph.”
“How do we know we are maintaining cohesion?”
“We know it by the clarity of our perception. The clearer the view of our dreams, the greater our cohesion.”