(The Fire from Within by Carlos Castaneda)
The next day, in the early evening again, don Juan came to the room where I was talking with Genaro. He took me by the arm and walked me through the house to the back patio. It was already fairly dark. We started to walk around in the corridor that encircled the patio.
As we walked, don Juan told me that he wanted to warn me once again that it is very easy in the path of knowledge to get lost in intricacies and morbidity. He said that seers are up against great enemies that can destroy their purpose, muddle their aims, and make them weak; enemies created by the warriors’ path itself together with the sense of indolence, laziness, and self-importance that are integral parts of the daily world.
He remarked that the mistakes the ancient seers made as a result of indolence, laziness, and self-importance were so enormous and so grave that the new seers had no option but to scorn and reject their own tradition.
“The most important thing the new seers needed,” don Juan continued, “was practical steps in order to make their assemblage points shift. Since they had none, they began by developing a keen interest in seeing the glow of awareness, and as a result they worked out three sets of techniques that became their cornerstone.”
Don Juan said that with these three sets, the new seers accomplished a most extraordinary and difficult feat. They succeeded in systematically making the assemblage point shift away from its customary position. He acknowledged that the old seers had also accomplished that feat, but by means of capricious, idiosyncratic maneuvers.
He explained that what the new seers saw in the glow of awareness resulted in the sequence in which they arranged the old seers’ truths about awareness. This is known as the mastery of awareness. From that, they developed the three sets of techniques. The first is the mastery of stalking, the second is the mastery of intent, and the third is the mastery of dreaming. He maintained that he had taught me these three sets from the very first day we met.
He told me that he had taught me the mastery of awareness in two ways, just as the new seers recommend. In his teachings for the right side, which he had done in normal awareness, he accomplished two goals: he taught me the warriors’ way, and he loosened my assemblage point from its original position. In his teachings for the left side, which he had done in heightened awareness, he also accomplished two goals: he had made my assemblage point shift to as many positions as I was capable of sustaining, and he had given me a long series of explanations.
Don Juan stopped talking and stared at me fixedly. There was an awkward silence; then he started to talk about stalking. He said that it had very humble and fortuitous origins. It started
from an observation the new seers made that when warriors steadily behave in ways not customary for them, the unused emanations inside their cocoons begin to glow. And their assemblage points shift in a mild, harmonious, barely noticeable fashion.
Stimulated by this observation, the new seers began to practice the systematic control of their behavior. They called this practice the art of stalking. Don Juan remarked that the name, although objectionable, was appropriate, because stalking entailed a specific kind of behavior with people, behavior that could be categorized as surreptitious.
The new seers, armed with this technique, tackled the known in a sober and fruitful way. By continual practice, they made their assemblage points move steadily.
“Stalking is one of the two greatest accomplishments of the new seers.” he said. “The new seers decided that it should be taught to a modern-day nagual when his assemblage point has moved quite deep into the left side. The reason for this decision is that a nagual must learn the principles of stalking without the encumbrance of the human inventory. After all, the nagual is the leader of a group, and to lead them he has to act quickly without first having to think about it.”
“Other warriors can learn stalking in their normal awareness, although it is advisable that they do it in heightened awareness – not so much because of the value of heightened awareness, but because it imbues stalking with a mystery that it doesn’t really have; stalking is merely behavior with people.”
He said that I could now understand that shifting the assemblage point was the reason why the new seers placed such a high value on the interaction with petty tyrants. Petty tyrants forced seers to use the principles of stalking and, in doing so, helped seers to move their assemblage points. I asked him if the old seers knew anything at all about the principles of stalking.
“Stalking belongs exclusively to the new seers,” he said, smiling. “They are the only seers who had to deal with people. The old ones were so wrapped up in their sense of power that they didn’t even know that people existed, until people started clobbering them on the head. But you already know all this.”
Don Juan said next that the mastery of intent together with the mastery of stalking are the new seers’ two masterpieces, which mark the arrival of the modern-day seers. He explained that in their efforts to gain an advantage over their oppressors the new seers pursued every possibility.
They knew that their predecessors had accomplished extraordinary feats by manipulating a mysterious and miraculous force, which they could only describe as power. The new seers had very little information about that force, so they were obliged to examine it systematically through seeing. Their efforts were amply rewarded when they discovered that the energy of alignment is that force.
They began by seeing how the glow of awareness increases in size and intensity as the emanations inside the cocoon are aligned with the emanations at large. They used that observation as a springboard, just as they had done with stalking, and went on to develop a complex series of techniques to handle that alignment of emanations.
At first they referred to those techniques as the mastery of alignment. Then they realized that what was involved was much more than alignment; what was involved was the energy that comes out of the alignment of emanations. They called that energy will.
Will became the second basis. The new seers understood it as a blind, impersonal, ceaseless burst of energy that makes us behave in the ways we do. Will accounts for our perception of the world of ordinary affairs, and indirectly, through the force of that perception, it accounts for the placement of the assemblage point in its customary position.
Don Juan said that the new seers examined how the perception of the world of everyday life takes place and saw the effects of will. They saw that alignment is ceaselessly renewed in order to imbue perception with continuity. To renew alignment every time with the freshness that it needs to make up a living world, the burst of energy that comes out of those very alignments is automatically rerouted to reinforce some choice alignments.
This new observation served the new seers as another springboard that helped them reach the third basis of the set. They called it intent, and they described it as the purposeful guiding of will, the energy of alignment.
“Silvio Manuel, Genaro, and Vicente were pushed by the nagual Julian to learn those three aspects of the seers’ knowledge,” he went on. “Genaro is the master of handling awareness, Vicente is the master of stalking, and Silvio Manuel is the master of intent.
“We are now doing a final explanation of the mastery of awareness; this is why Genaro is helping you.”
Don Juan talked to the female apprentices for a long time. The women listened with serious expressions on their faces. I felt sure he was giving them detailed instructions about difficult procedures, judging from the women’s fierce concentration.
I had been barred from their meeting, but I had watched them as they talked in the front room of Genaro’s house. I sat at the kitchen table, waiting until they were through.
Then the women got up to leave, but before they did, they came to the kitchen with don Juan. He sat down facing me while the women talked to me with awkward formality. They actually embraced me. All of them were unusually friendly, even talkative. They said that they were going to join the male apprentices, who had gone with Genaro hours earlier. Genaro was going to show all of them his dreaming body.
As soon as the women left, don Juan quite abruptly resumed his explanation. He said that as time passed and the new seers established their practices, they realized that under the prevailing conditions of life, stalking only moved the assemblage points minimally. For maximum effect, stalking needed an ideal setting; it needed petty tyrants in positions of great authority and power.
It became increasingly difficult for the new seers to place themselves in such situations; the task of improvising them or seeking them out became an unbearable burden.
The new seers deemed it imperative to see the Eagle’s emanations in order to find a more suitable way to move the assemblage point. As they tried to see the emanations they were faced with a very serious problem. They found out that there is no way to see them without running a mortal risk, and yet they had to see them. That was the time when they used the old seers’ technique of dreaming as a shield to protect themselves from the deadly blow of the Eagle’s emanations. And in doing so, they realized that dreaming was in itself the most effective way to move the assemblage point.
“One of the strictest commands of the new seers,” don Juan continued, “was that warriors have to learn dreaming while they are in their normal state of awareness. Following that command, I began teaching you dreaming almost from the first day we met.”
“Why do the new seers command that dreaming has to be taught in normal awareness?” I asked.
“Because dreaming is so dangerous and dreamers so vulnerable,” he said. “It is dangerous because it has inconceivable power; it makes dreamers vulnerable because it leaves them at the mercy of the incomprehensible force of alignment.”
“The new seers realized that in our normal state of awareness, we have countless defenses that can safeguard us against the force of unused emanations that suddenly become aligned in dreaming.”
Don Juan explained that dreaming, like stalking, began with a simple observation. The old seers became aware that in dreams the assemblage point shifts slightly to the left side in a most natural manner. That point indeed relaxes when man sleeps and all kinds of unused emanations begin to glow.
The old seers became immediately intrigued with that observation and began to work with that natural shift until they were able to control it. They called that control dreaming, or the art of handling the dreaming body.
He remarked that there is hardly a way of describing the immensity of their knowledge about dreaming. Very little of it, however, was of any use to the new seers. So when the time of reconstruction came, the new seers took for themselves only the bare essentials of dreaming to aid them in seeing the Eagle’s emanations and to help them move their assemblage points.
He said that seers, old and new, understand dreaming as being the control of the natural shift that the assemblage point undergoes in sleep. He stressed that to control that shift does not mean in any way to direct it, but to keep the assemblage point fixed at the position where it naturally moves in sleep, a most difficult maneuver that took the old seers enormous effort and concentration to accomplish.
Don Juan explained that dreamers have to strike a very subtle balance, for dreams cannot be interfered with, nor can they be commanded by the conscious effort of the dreamer, and yet the shift of the assemblage point must obey the dreamer’s command – a contradiction that cannot be rationalized but must be resolved in practice.
After observing dreamers while they slept, the old seers hit upon the solution of letting dreams follow their natural course. They had seen that in some dreams, the assemblage point of the dreamer would drift considerably deeper into the left side than in other dreams. This observation posed to them the question of whether the content of the dream makes the assemblage point move, or the movement of the assemblage point by itself produces the content of the dream by activating unused emanations.
They soon realized that the shifting of the assemblage point into the left side is what produces dreams. The farther the movement, the more vivid and bizarre the dream. Inevitably, they attempted to command their dreams, aiming to make their assemblage points move deeply into the left side. Upon trying it, they discovered that when dreams are consciously or semiconsciously manipulated, the assemblage point immediately returns to its usual place. Since what they wanted was for that point to move, they reached the unavoidable conclusion that interfering with dreams was interfering with the natural shift of the assemblage point.
Don Juan said that from there the old seers went on to develop their astounding knowledge on the subject – a knowledge which had a tremendous bearing on what the new seers aspired to do with dreaming, but was of little use to them in its original form.
He told me that thus far I had understood dreaming as being the control of dreams, and that every one of the exercises he had given me to perform, such as finding my hands in my dreams, was not, although it might seem to be, aimed at teaching me to command my dreams. Those exercises were designed to keep my assemblage point fixed at the place where it had moved in my sleep. It is here that the dreamers have to strike a subtle balance. All they can direct is the fixation of their assemblage points. Seers are like fishermen equipped with a line that casts itself wherever it may; the only thing they can do is keep the line anchored at the place where it sinks.
“Wherever the assemblage point moves in dreams is called the dreaming position,”‘ he went on. “The old seers became so expert at keeping their dreaming position that they were even able to wake up while their assemblage points were anchored there.”
“The old seers called that state the dreaming body, because they controlled it to the extreme of creating a temporary new body every time they woke up at a new dreaming position.”
“I have to make it clear to you that dreaming has a terrible drawback,” he went on. “It belongs
to the old seers. It’s tainted with their mood. I’ve been very careful in guiding you through it, but still there is no way to make sure.”
“What are you warning me about, don Juan?” I asked.
“I’m warning you about the pitfalls of dreaming, which are truly stupendous,” he replied. “In dreaming, there is really no way of directing the movement of the assemblage point; the only thing that dictates that shift is the inner strength or weakness of dreamers. Right there we have the first pitfall.”
He said that at first the new seers were hesitant to use dreaming. It was their belief that dreaming, instead of fortifying, made warriors weak, compulsive, capricious. The old seers were all like that. In order to offset the nefarious effect of dreaming, since they had no other option but to use it, the new seers developed a complex and rich system of behavior called the warriors’ way, or the warriors’ path.
With that system, the new seers fortified themselves and acquired the internal strength they needed to guide the shift of the assemblage point in dreams. Don Juan stressed that the strength that he was talking about was not conviction alone. No one could have had stronger convictions than the old seers, and yet they were weak to the core. Internal strength meant a sense of equanimity, almost of indifference, a feeling of being at ease, but, above all, it meant a natural and profound bent for examination, for understanding. The new seers called all these traits of character sobriety.
“The conviction that the new seers have,” he continued, “is that a life of impeccability by itself leads unavoidably to a sense of sobriety, and this in turn leads to the movement of the assemblage point.”
“I’ve said that the new seers believed that the assemblage point can be moved from within. They went one step further and maintained that impeccable men need no one to guide them, that by themselves, through saving their energy, they can do everything that seers do. All they need is a minimal chance, just to be cognizant of the possibilities that seers have unraveled.”
I told him that we were back in the same position we had been in in my normal state of awareness. I was still convinced that impeccability or saving energy was something so vague that it could be interpreted by anyone in whatever whimsical way he wanted.
I wanted to say more to build my argument, but a strange feeling overtook me. It was an actual physical sensation that I was rushing through something. And then I rebuffed my own argument. I knew without any doubt whatsoever that don Juan was right. All that is required is impeccability, energy, and that begins with a single act that has to be deliberate, precise, and sustained. If that act is repeated long enough, one acquires a sense of unbending intent, which can be applied to anything else. If that is accomplished the road is clear. One thing will lead to another until the warrior realizes his full potential.
When I told don Juan what I had just realized, he laughed with apparent delight and exclaimed that this was indeed a godsent example of the strength that he was talking about. He explained that my assemblage point had shifted, and that it had been moved by sobriety to a position that fostered understanding. It could have as well been moved by capriciousness to a position that only enhances self-importance, as had been the case many times before.
“Let’s talk now about the dreaming body.”‘ he went on. “The old seers concentrated all their efforts on exploring and exploiting the dreaming body. And they succeeded in using it as a more practical body, which is tantamount to saying they recreated themselves in increasingly weird ways.”
Don Juan maintained that it is common knowledge among the new seers that flocks of the old sorcerers never came back after waking up at a dreaming position of their liking. He said that chances are they all died in those inconceivable worlds, or they may still be alive today in who knows what kind of contorted shape or manner.
He stopped and looked at me and broke into a great laugh.
“You’re dying to ask me what the old seers did with the dreaming body, aren’t you?” he asked, and urged me with a movement of his chin to ask the question.
Don Juan stated that Genaro, being the indisputable master of awareness, had shown me the dreaming body many times while I was in a state of normal awareness. The effect that Genaro was after with his demonstrations was to make my assemblage point move, not from a position of heightened awareness, but from its normal setting.
Don Juan told me then, as if he were letting a secret be known, that Genaro was waiting for us in some fields near the house to show me his dreaming body. He repeated over and over that I was now in the perfect state of awareness to see and understand what the dreaming body really is.
Then he had me get up, and we walked through the front room to reach the door to the outside. As I was about to open the door, I noticed that someone was lying on the pile of floor mats that the apprentices used as beds. I thought that one of the apprentices must have returned to the house while don Juan and I were talking in the kitchen.
I went up to him, and then I realized that it was Genaro. He was sound asleep, snoring peacefully, lying face down.
“Wake him up,” don Juan said to me. “We’ve got to be going. He must be dead tired.”
I gently shook Genaro. He slowly turned around, made the sounds of someone waking up from a deep slumber. He stretched his arms, and then he opened his eyes. I screamed involuntarily and jumped back.
Genaro’s eyes were not human eyes at all. They were two points of intense amber light. The jolt of my fright had been so intense that I became dizzy. Don Juan tapped my back and restored my equilibrium.
Genaro stood up and smiled at me. His features were rigid. He moved as if he were drunk or physically impaired. He walked by me and headed directly for the wall. I winced at the imminent crash, but he went through the wall as if it were not there at all. He came back into the room through the kitchen doorway. And then, as I looked in true horror, Genaro walked on the walls, with his body parallel to the ground, and on the ceiling, with his head upside down.
I fell backwards as I tried to follow his movements. From that position I didn’t see Genaro anymore; instead I was looking at a blob of light that moved on the ceiling above me and on the walls, circling the room. It was as if someone with a giant flashlight was shining the beam on the ceiling and the walls. The beam of light was finally turned off. It disappeared from view by vanishing against a wall.
Don Juan remarked that my animal fright was always out of measure, that I had to struggle to bring it under control, but that all in all, I had behaved very well. I had seen Genaro’s dreaming body as it really is, a blob of light.
I asked him how he was so sure I had done that. He replied that he had seen my assemblage point first move toward its normal setting in order to compensate for my fright, then move deeper into the left, beyond the point where there are no doubts.
“At that position there is only one thing one can see: blobs of energy,” he went on. “But from heightened awareness to that other point deeper into the left side, it is only a short hop. The real feat is to make the assemblage point shift from its normal setting to the point of no doubt.”
He added that we still had an appointment with Genaro’s dreaming body in the fields around the house, while I was in normal awareness.
When we were back in Silvio Manuel’s house, don Juan said that Genaro’s proficiency with the dreaming body was a very minor affair compared with what the old seers did with it.
“You’ll see that very soon,” he said with an ominous tone, then laughed.
I questioned him about it with mounting fear, and that only evoked more laughter. He finally stopped and said that he was going to talk about the way the new seers got to the dreaming body and the way they used it.
“The old seers were after a perfect replica of the body,” he continued, “and they nearly succeeded in getting one. The only thing they never could copy was the eyes. Instead of eyes, the dreaming body has just the glow of awareness. You never realized that before, when Genaro used to show you his dreaming body.”
“The new seers could not care less about a perfect replica of the body; in fact, they are not even interested in copying the body at all. But they have kept just the name dreaming body to mean a feeling, a surge of energy that is transported by the movement of the assemblage point to any place in this world, or to any place in the seven worlds available to man.”
Don Juan then outlined the procedure for getting to the dreaming body. He said that it starts with an initial act, which by the fact of being sustained breeds unbending intent. Unbending intent leads to internal silence, and internal silence to the inner strength needed to make the assemblage point shift in dreams to suitable positions.
He called this sequence the groundwork. The development of control comes after the groundwork has been completed; it consists of systematically maintaining the dreaming position by doggedly holding on to the vision of the dream. Steady practice results in a great facility to hold new dreaming positions with new dreams, not so much because one gains deliberate control with practice, but because every time this control is exercised the inner strength gets fortified.
Fortified inner strength in turn makes the assemblage point shift into dreaming positions, which are more and more suitable to fostering sobriety; in other words, dreams by themselves become more and more manageable, even orderly.
“The development of dreamers is indirect,” he went on. “That’s why the new seers believed we can do dreaming by ourselves, alone. Since dreaming uses a natural, built-in shift of the assemblage point, we should need no one to help us.”
“What we badly need is sobriety, and no one can give it to us or help us get it except ourselves. Without it, the shift of the assemblage point is chaotic, as our ordinary dreams are chaotic.”
“So, all in all, the procedure to get to the dreaming body is impeccability in our daily life.”
Don Juan explained that once sobriety is acquired and the dreaming positions become increasingly stronger, the next step is to wake up at any dreaming position. He remarked that the maneuver, although made to sound simple, was really a very complex affair – so complex that it requires not only sobriety but all the attributes of warriorship as well, especially intent.
I asked him how intent helps seers wake up at a dreaming position. He replied that intent, being the most sophisticated control of the force of alignment, is what maintains, through the dreamer’s sobriety, the alignment of whatever emanations have been lit up by the movement of the assemblage point.
Don Juan said that there is one more formidable pitfall of dreaming: the very strength of the dreaming body. For example, it is very easy for the dreaming body to gaze at the Eagle’s emanations uninterruptedly for long periods of time, but it is also very easy in the end for the dreaming body to be totally consumed by them. Seers who gazed at the Eagle’s emanations without their dreaming bodies died, and those who gazed at them with their dreaming bodies burned with the fire from within. The new seers solved the problem by seeing in teams. While one seer gazed at the emanations, others stood by ready to end the seeing.
“How did the new seers see in teams?” I asked.
“They dreamed together,” he replied. “As you yourself know, it’s perfectly possible for a group of seers to activate the same unused emanations. And in this case also, there are no known steps, it just happens; there is no technique to follow.”
He added that in dreaming together, something in us takes the lead and suddenly we find ourselves sharing the same view with other dreamers. What happens is that our human condition makes us focus the glow of awareness automatically on the same emanations that other human beings are using; we adjust the position of our assemblage points to fit the others around us. We do that on the right side, in our ordinary perception, and we also do it on the left side, while dreaming together.