(The Power of Silence by Carlos Castaneda)
When we got to the rock ledge it was almost dark. Don Juan sat down hurriedly, in the same position as the first time. He was to my right, touching me with his shoulder. He immediately seemed to enter into a deep state of relaxation, which pulled me into total immobility and silence.
I could not even hear his breathing. I closed my eyes, and he nudged me to warn me to keep them open.
By the time it became completely dark, an immense fatigue had begun to make my eyes sore and itchy. Finally I gave up my resistance and was pulled into the deepest, blackest sleep I have ever had. Yet I was not totally asleep. I could feel the thick blackness around me. I had an entirely physical sensation of wading through blackness. Then it suddenly became reddish, then orange, then glaring white, like a terribly strong neon light. Gradually I focused my vision until I saw I was still sitting in the same position with don Juan – but no longer in the cave. We were on a mountaintop looking down over exquisite flatlands with mountains in the distance. This beautiful prairie was bathed in a glow that, like rays of light, emanated from the land itself. Wherever I looked, I saw familiar features: rocks, hills, rivers, forests, canyons, enhanced and transformed by their inner vibration, their inner glow. This glow that was so pleasing to my eyes also tingled out of my very being.
“Your assemblage point has moved,” don Juan seemed to say to me.
The words had no sound; nevertheless I knew what he had just said to me. My rational reaction was to try to explain to myself that I had no doubt heard him as I would have if he had been talking in a vacuum, probably because my ears had been temporarily affected by what was transpiring.
“Your ears are fine. We are in a different realm of awareness,” don Juan again seemed to say to me.
I could not speak. I felt the lethargy of deep sleep preventing me from saying a word, yet I was as alert as I could be.
“What’s happening?” I thought.
“The cave made your assemblage point move,” don Juan thought, and I heard his thoughts as if they were my own words, voiced to myself.
I sensed a command that was not expressed in thoughts. Something ordered me to look again at the prairie.
As I stared at the wondrous sight, filaments of light began to radiate from everything on that prairie. At first it was like the explosion of an infinite number of short fibers, then the fibers became long threadlike strands of luminosity bundled together into beams of vibrating light that reached infinity. There was really no way for me to make sense of what I was seeing, or to describe it, except as filaments of vibrating light. The filaments were not intermingled or entwined. Although they sprang, and continued to spring, in every direction, each one was separate, and yet all of them were inextricably bundled together.
“You are seeing the Eagle’s emanations and the force that keeps them apart and bundles them together,” don Juan thought.
The instant I caught his thought the filaments of light seemed to consume all my energy. Fatigue overwhelmed me. It erased my vision and plunged me into darkness.
When I became aware of myself again, there was something so familiar around me, although I could not tell what it was, that I believed myself to be back in a normal state of awareness. Don Juan was asleep beside me, his shoulder against mine.
Then I realized that the darkness around us was so intense that I could not even see my hands. I speculated that fog must have covered the ledge and filled the cave. Or perhaps it was the wispy low clouds that descended every rainy night from the higher mountains like a silent avalanche. Yet in spite of the total blackness, somehow I saw that don Juan had opened his eyes immediately after I became aware, although he did not look at me. Instantly I realized that seeing him was not a consequence of light on my retina. It was, rather, a bodily sense.
I became so engrossed in observing don Juan without my eyes that I was not paying attention to what he was telling me. Finally he stopped talking and turned his face to me as if to look me in the eye.
He coughed a couple of times to clear his throat and started to talk in a very low voice. He said that his benefactor used to come to the cave quite often, both with him and with his other disciples, but more often by himself. In that cave his benefactor saw the same prairie we had just seen, a vision that gave him the idea of describing the spirit as the flow of things.
Don Juan repeated that his benefactor was not a good thinker. Had he been, he would have realized in an instant that what he had seen and described as the flow of things was intent, the force that permeates everything. Don Juan added that if his benefactor ever became aware of the nature of his seeing he didn’t reveal it. And he, himself, had the idea that his benefactor never knew it. Instead, his benefactor believed that he had seen the flow of things, which was the absolute truth, but not the way he meant it.
Don Juan was so emphatic about this that I wanted to ask him what the difference was, but I could not speak. My throat seemed frozen. We sat there in complete silence and immobility for hours. Yet I did not experience any discomfort. My muscles did not get tired, my legs did not fall asleep, my back did not ache.
When he began to talk again, I did not even notice the transition, and I readily abandoned myself to listening to his voice. It was a melodic, rhythmical sound that emerged from the total blackness that surrounded me.
He said that at that very moment I was not in my normal state of awareness nor was I in heightened awareness. I was suspended in a lull, in the blackness of non-perception. My assemblage point had moved away from perceiving the daily world, but it had not moved enough to reach and light a totally new bundle of energy fields. Properly speaking, I was caught between two perceptual possibilities. This in-between state, this lull of perception had been reached through the influence of the cave, which was itself guided by the intent of the sorcerers who carved it.
Don Juan asked me to pay close attention to what he was going to say next. He said that thousands of years ago, by means of seeing, sorcerers became aware that the earth was sentient and that its awareness could affect the awareness of humans. They tried to find a way to use the earth’s influence on human awareness and they discovered that certain caves were most effective.
Don Juan said that the search for caves became nearly full-time work for those sorcerers, and that through their endeavors they were able to discover a variety of uses for a variety of cave configurations. He added that out of all that work the only result pertinent to us was this particular cave and its capacity to move the assemblage point until it reached a lull of perception.
As don Juan spoke, I had the unsettling sensation that something was clearing in my mind. Something was funneling my awareness into a long narrow channel. All the superfluous half-thoughts and feelings of my normal awareness were being squeezed out.
Don Juan was thoroughly aware of what was happening to me. I heard his soft chuckle of satisfaction. He said that now we could talk more easily and our conversation would have more depth.
I remembered at that moment scores of things he had explained to me before. For instance, I knew that I was dreaming. I was actually sound asleep yet I was totally aware of myself through my second attention – the counterpart of my normal attentiveness. I was certain I was asleep because of a bodily sensation plus a rational deduction based on statements that don Juan had made in the past. I had just seen the Eagle’s emanations, and don Juan had said that it was impossible for sorcerers to have a sustained view of the Eagle’s emanations in any way except in dreaming, therefore I had to be dreaming.
Don Juan had explained that the universe is made up of energy fields which defy description or scrutiny. He had said that they resembled filaments of ordinary light, except that light is lifeless compared to the Eagle’s emanations, which exude awareness. I had never, until this night, been able to see them in a sustained manner, and indeed they were made out of a light that was alive. Don Juan had maintained in the past that my knowledge and control of intent were not adequate to withstand the impact of that sight. He had explained that normal perception occurs when intent, which is pure energy, lights up a portion of the luminous filaments inside our cocoon, and at the same time brightens a long extension of the same luminous filaments extending into infinity outside our cocoon. Extraordinary perception, seeing, occurs when by the force of intent, a different cluster of energy fields energizes and lights up. He had said that when a crucial number of energy fields are lit up inside the luminous cocoon, a sorcerer is able to see the energy fields themselves.
On another occasion don Juan had recounted the rational thinking of the early sorcerers. He told me that, through their seeing, they realized that awareness took place when the energy fields inside our luminous cocoon were aligned with the same energy fields outside. And they believed they had discovered alignment as the source of awareness.
Upon close examination, however, it became evident that what they had called alignment of the Eagle’s emanations did not entirely explain what they were seeing. They had noticed that only a very small portion of the total number of luminous filaments inside the cocoon was energized while the rest remained unaltered. Seeing these few filaments energized had created a false discovery. The filaments did not need to be aligned to be lit up, because the ones inside our cocoon were the same as those outside. Whatever energized them was definitely an independent force. They felt they could not continue to call it awareness, as they had, because awareness was the glow of the energy fields being lit up. So the force that lit up the fields was named will.
Don Juan had said that when their seeing became still more sophisticated and effective, they realized that will was the force that kept the Eagle’s emanations separated and was not only responsible for our awareness, but also for everything in the universe. They saw that this force had total consciousness and that it sprang from the very fields of energy that made the universe.
They decided then that intent was a more appropriate name for it than will. In the long run, however, the name proved disadvantageous, because it does not describe its overwhelming importance nor the living connection it has with everything in the universe.
Don Juan had asserted that our great collective flaw is that we live our lives completely disregarding that connection. The busyness of our lives, our relentless interests, concerns, hopes, frustrations, and fears take precedence, and on a day-to-day basis we are unaware of being linked to everything else.
Don Juan had stated his belief that the Christian idea of being cast out from the Garden of Eden sounded to him like an allegory for losing our silent knowledge, our knowledge of intent. Sorcery, then, was a going back to the beginning, a return to paradise.
We stayed seated in the cave in total silence, perhaps for hours, or perhaps it was only a few instants. Suddenly don Juan began to talk, and the unexpected sound of his voice jarred me. I did not catch what he said. I cleared my throat to ask him to repeat what he had said, and that act brought me completely out of my reflectiveness. I quickly realized that the darkness around me was no longer impenetrable. I could speak now. I felt I was back in my normal state of awareness.
In a calm voice don Juan told me that for the very first time in my life I had seen the spirit, the force that sustains the universe. He emphasized that intent is not something one might use or command or move in any way – nevertheless, one could use it, command it, or move it as one desires. This contradiction, he said, is the essence of sorcery. To fail to understand it had brought generations of sorcerers unimaginable pain and sorrow. Modern-day naguals, in an effort to avoid paying this exorbitant price in pain, had developed a code of behavior called the warrior’s way, or the impeccable action, which prepared sorcerers by enhancing their sobriety and thoughtfulness.
Don Juan explained that at one time in the remote past, sorcerers were deeply interested in the general connecting link that intent has with everything. And by focusing their second attention on that link, they acquired not only direct knowledge but also the ability to manipulate that knowledge and perform astounding deeds. They did not acquire, however, the soundness of mind needed to manage all that power.
So in a judicious mood, sorcerers decided to focus their second attention solely on the connecting link of creatures who have awareness. This included the entire range of existing organic beings as well as the entire range of what sorcerers call inorganic beings, or allies, which they described as entities with awareness, but no life as we understand life. This solution was not successful either, because it, too, failed to bring them wisdom.
In their next reduction, sorcerers focused their attention exclusively on the link that connects human beings with intent. The end result was very much as before.
Then, sorcerers sought a final reduction. Each sorcerer would be concerned solely with his individual connection. But this proved to be equally ineffective.
Don Juan said that although there were remarkable differences among those four areas of interest, one was as corrupting as another. So in the end sorcerers concerned themselves exclusively with the capacity that their individual connecting link with intent had to set them free to light the fire from within.
He asserted that all modern-day sorcerers have to struggle fiercely to gain soundness of mind. A nagual has to struggle especially hard because he has more strength, a greater command over the energy fields that determine perception, and more training in and familiarity with the intricacies of silent knowledge, which is nothing but direct contact with intent.