(Encounters With The Nagual by Armando Torres)
“The goal of an apprentice is to take the reins of his assemblage point. Once he is able to displace it, he has to repeat those movements without external help, by force of discipline and impeccability. Then we can say the warrior has found an ally.”
The Trap of Fixation
In one of his lectures, Carlos explained that nothing is as fragile as the fixation of the assemblage point. He maintained that the art of agreeing is so special that we spend twenty years of daily training to achieve it. Those who do achieve it, we call ‘adults’, and those who don’t are ‘crazy’.
“However, nothing is easier for us than moving to new universes. To do it, we just have to return to what we were.”
He explained that the fixation of the assemblage point consumes enormous quantities of energy, and produces a static vision of the world. The energy used in that way is dispersed all through our luminosity and it winds up crammed in along its borders, where it forms dense masses that create a reflection of the self. Under these circumstances, to change the fixation becomes an exhausting task.
“To break the trap of fixation, one should try any recourse. In most cases, only a push coming from the outside can cause the movement of a person’s assemblage point. When we have a great, great deal of luck, we receive that push through the blow of a nagual.”
“Once the initial displacement is achieved, the warrior should fight for control of his attention, by means of exercises of intent and practicing dreaming. Dreaming is the escape door for the human race, and it is the only thing that can give our existence its appropriate dimension.”
Dreaming and Awakening
Carlos had a great ability to turn conversations towards the practical side of things. In spite of the extraordinary sharpness of his intellect, he hated it if conversations sank to the level of mere speculations. I often watched how he in an ingenious but firm manner would unravel the argumentation of the most rigid speakers, confronting them with the topic of results.
In my case, his method for silencing my attacks of rationality consisted of reducing everything to an immediate proposition and, according to him, something not very difficult: The control of dreams.
However, for me dreaming was the hardest aspect of his teaching. First, because I could not distinguish the concept of ‘dreaming’ from ordinary dreams, which are two totally different things for a sorcerer. Second, because the idea of focusing my attention on sleeping instead of on awakening was contrary to everything that I had learned in my philosophical search.
Both these considerations very quickly made me avoid dreaming, without ever accepting it as an authentic and reachable possibility. Whenever I listened to him talking about it, I was filled with apprehension. And I justified all this by saying to myself that such an irrational topic wasn’t even worth the pain of trying to analyze it.
That afternoon he asked how my practice was going. I admitted that my prejudices had prevented me from making a serious decision and, not surprisingly, I had not obtained any positive result.
“Maybe you just haven’t been lucky. My teacher said that each human being brings his basic inclination with him at birth. Not everybody can be a good dreamer, some find stalking easier. The important thing is that you insist.”
But his words didn’t console me. I began explaining to him that my incredulity seemed to be the result of some mental block, implanted in my earliest childhood.
He didn’t allow me to finish. Making an imperative gesture with his hand, he replied:
“You have not done enough. If you promise yourself that you will not eat, or pronounce a single word, until you dream, you will see what happens! Something in your interior becomes soft, the dialogue gives in and… kaboom!”
“Keep in mind that, for you, dreaming is not just an option, it’s something basic. If you don’t accomplish it, you cannot continue on the path.”
Alarmed by his words, I asked:
“But what do I have to do to achieve it?”
“You must want to do it!” he answered. “It is as simple as that. You are exaggerating the difficulty of this exercise. Dreaming is open to everybody, because to start, it barely requires the minimum of deliberation that is necessary to learn how to type or to drive a car.”
I commented that it was very difficult for me to understand how the handling of dreams could take us to internal awakening.
“You are confused by the words. When sorcerers speak of dreaming and awakening, the terms don’t have anything to do with the physical states you know. I don’t have any choice but to use your language, because otherwise you would not understand me at all. But if you don’t do your part, and put aside everyday meanings and try to penetrate the meaning of what I’m telling you, you will never get out of this state of mistrust.”
“I can only guarantee you that, once you discard the laziness that prevents you from facing the challenge, and attack dreaming directly and without hesitations, your mental mess will clear up by itself.”
I apologized for my stubbornness and asked him to elucidate the meaning of dreaming once more.
Instead of getting involved in a theoretical explanation, which was what I wanted, Carlos gave me an illustration.
“Imagine a confirmed believer, one of those who cannot do anything without requesting permission from his god beforehand. Once he falls asleep, what happens with his convictions, where do they go?”
I didn’t know what to answer. He continued:
“They turn off, like the flame of a candle in the wind. When you dream, you are not the owner of yourself. Your visions are isolated bubbles, without connections to each other and without memory of the self. Of course, the force of habit will almost always take you to dreams where you are yourself, but you might be brave or a coward, young or old, man or woman. Truly, you are only an assemblage point which moves at random, nothing personal.”
“For the ordinary man, the difference between being awake and dreaming is that in the first state his attention flows with continuity, and in the second it flows in a disordered manner; but in both experiences, the degree of participation from the will is minimal. A person will wake up in the place where, as always, he puts on his personality like a shirt and goes out to fulfill his routine tasks. Upon falling asleep, gets disconnected again, because he doesn’t know he can do something else.”
“The everyday wakefulness doesn’t leave us room to stop and wonder if this world that we are perceiving now is as real as it seems. And the same thing must be said of any ordinary dream; while it lasts, we accept it as an unquestionable fact, we never judge it; or, to put it in more practical terms, we never intend to remember, while inside the dream, some command or agreement made while awake.”
“But there is another way of directing attention, and the result of that can neither be called ‘dreaming’ nor ‘awake’, because it starts from a deliberate use of intent. What happens there is that we take charge of our awareness, and it is the same whether we are sleeping or awake, because it is something that transcends both states. That is the true awakening, to take charge of our attention!”
“The Toltec teachings emphasize dreaming. It doesn’t matter how it is described, the result is that the perceptive chaos of an ordinary dream is transformed into a practical space, where we can act intelligently.”
“A practical space?”
“That’s right. A dreamer can remember himself under any circumstance. He always has a password on hand, a pact he has made with his will, which lets him align with the warrior’s intent in a microsecond. He can sustain the vision of his dream, whatever it may be, and return to it as many times as he wants, to explore and analyze it. And better still, within that vision, he can meet other warriors; that is what sorcerers call ‘stalking in dreaming’.”
“This technique allows us to intend objectives and pursue actions, just as we do in the daily world. We can solve problems and learn things. What you learn there is coherent; it works. Maybe you cannot explain how you received that knowledge, but you won’t forget it.”
I asked him what kind of knowledge he was talking about. He answered:
“Life is learned by living it. The same happens in dreams, but there we learn how to dream. But those on the path sometimes hit upon other abilities. Don Juan, for example, used to use his dreaming body to look for hidden treasures, buried things from the war. The products of those operations were invested in various things, like petroleum, plantations of tobacco…”
My face must have shown the mixture of astonishment and incredulity I felt, because he exclaimed:
“It is not so extraordinary! We can all carry out similar feats; it is not even difficult to understand how it happens! Imagine somebody teaches you a new language while you sleep; the result is that you learn that language and you can remember it when you wake up. In the same way, if you witness something in that state, like a lost object or an event that is happening somewhere else, you can go and verify it later; if it is just as you dreamt it, then it was a dream.”
“Learning in dreaming is a resource much used by sorcerers. I learned much about plants in that way and I still remember all of it.”
“Don’t underestimate your resources. Everything the spirit has put inside us has a transcendent meaning. It means dreams are there to be used; if it were not so, they would not exist. The techniques I have described to you are not speculations; I have personally checked them out. The art of dreaming is my message to people, but nobody pays any attention!”
When I heard the sad tone of this last observation, I was suddenly struck by the unbearable timidity of my imagination. For years and years, without fail, he had encouraged us to expand our vision, not out of any selfish concern on his part, but for the sheer pleasure of transmitting to us his superior state of awareness. And here I was, wallowing in my second-hand beliefs and my habitual doubts!
I wanted to be on his side in the world. I got up from the bench with the intention of shaking his hand to show my gratitude. I was about to promise him something, but he stopped me.
“Better don’t say anything, don’t waste your time! Maybe it’s not your destiny to be a brilliant flying warrior, but you don’t have any excuses. Like everyone, you too are splendidly equipped for dreaming. If you don’t get it, it is because you don’t want to.”
The Door of Perception
In another of his conversations, he explained that any state of awareness that involves an unusual position of the assemblage point is technically a dream. He said that the advantage of dreams over everyday states of attention, is that they allow us to cover a wider sensory spectrum, and to better synthesize the information we receive. In other words, we learn how to live with more intensity. The result: Greater clarity in our perceptual processes.
“Above all,” he said, “dreaming gives us access to critical events in our past, such as our birth and early childhood, and it illuminates traumatic situations and altered states of awareness in our past. A sorcerer cannot leave aside his most harrowing experiences!”
Towards the end of his lecture he gave a definition that I considered very important, because he touched on what I felt was a sensitive topic. He said:
“Dreaming is not something impossible, it is just a kind of deep meditation.”
For years, I had been doing some spiritual exercises called ‘meditation’. These practices were quite different from what Carlos was proposing, both regarding their form and their results. As soon as I had an opportunity, I asked him to clarify the distinctions between the concept of dreaming, and meditation.
He answered: “What you’re asking is difficult, because there is no way of meditating without dreaming, both terms describe the same phenomenon.”
“Then why haven’t my exercises produced any of the things you talk about?”
“You had belter answer that yourself. In my opinion, what you have practiced up to now has not been meditation, but some kind of autosuggestion. It is common for people to confuse both things that, for a sorcerer, are not the same.
“Pacifying the mind is not meditation, but drowsiness. On the other hand, dreaming is something dynamic; it is the consequence of a process of sustained concentration, which implies a veritable battle against our lack of attention. If it were just the result of a dulling of the senses, practitioners would not call themselves ‘warriors’.”
“A dreamer can be the very incarnation of ferocity or seem profoundly calm, but none of that has any real importance, because he does not identify himself with his mental states. He knows that any definite sensation is nothing but a fixation of the assemblage point.”
“Dreaming happens when we achieve a certain balance in our daily life, and only after silencing the internal dialogue. The term ‘dreaming’ is not the most appropriate to describe an exercise of awareness which has nothing to do with the content of the mind. I use it out of respect for the tradition of my lineage, but the ancient seers called it something else.”
“Expert sorcerers dream, starting from their state of vigil as easily as from sleeping, because for them it is not about closing the eyes and snoring, but to witness other worlds which are out there.”
“From the point of view of the will, what distinguishes a dream from the daytime vigil of a sorcerer, is that the energy body obeys other laws, he can carry out incredible feats like passing through a wall or moving to the ends of the universe in the blink of an eye. Such experiences are complete and accumulative, and only somebody who has not lived them himself would cling to logical categories to explain them.”
“But that kind of manifestations, however valuable, are not the objective of dreaming. To dream is essential for you, because access to the nagual happens almost exclusively in that state.”
I asked him why this was so. He answered:
“The reason is evident. People who have a natural tendency to dream, and a surplus of energy, qualify to find other, more advanced dreamers, either accidentally or because they deliberately look for them. Occasionally, these traveling companions accept to take charge of instructing them more deeply in the art. Once an apprentice begins to shine, it is inevitable that he will attract the attention of a nagual.”
“Naguals are like Eagles, constantly stalking. As soon as they detect an increment of awareness, they swoop in, because a voluntary dreamer is a rarity. For a teacher, it is much easier to stimulate an effort that has already begun, than creating one from nothing.”
Carlos told me that he maintained contact with many warriors from various parts of the world through dreaming.
He went on to say that another reason why dreaming is a door to knowledge, is that its practice allows you to resolve a thousand problems derived from learning, like the lack of clarity and attention in a beginner, his mistrust regarding his instructor’s activities, and the intrinsic danger of some of the techniques.
“This art softens the obsessive nature of the emanations of the Eagle, which could otherwise destroy the psychological balance and the will of an apprentice.”
“Then,” I asked him, “what can those of us who don’t dream do, in order to gain access to these teachings?”
He seemed bothered by my question. He grunted:
“You have the wrong focus! The true question would be: What should I do to dream?”
“A warrior cannot walk around in the world leaving loose ends with every step. If you genuinely cannot consider your dreams a part of your life; if you cannot visualize them as what they are – avenues to power -; if you do not even understand what they are or what purpose they serve; well, then you have a lot of work before you.”
The Dreaming Double
“Within our sphere of perception, there is a force separated from what we call ‘oneself, which is detectable through dreaming. That force can be made aware of itself, absorbing the principles of our personality, and behaving with independence. The sensation that dealing with it produces in us is unspeakable, because it is an inorganic being.”
“Of course! We call our everyday attention ‘organic’ because it depends on a body made up of organs, right?”
“Then what would you call the body with which you perceive and act when you dream?”
“I would say that it is an apparition,” I answered cautiously.
“I agree! It is an inorganic being; it has appearance, but no mass. For you, it is only a mental projection. However, from that being’s point of view, it is our physical body that lives in an imaginary world. If you had the energy and the necessary concentration to become aware of your other self, and you asked that being what it thinks of your everyday world, he would answer that he considers it quite unreal, almost a myth. And, you know what? It would be right!”
“Our dreaming body has many uses. It can move in no time to whatever place you want and discover things. It can even be materialized, creating a visual double, something that other people can see, whether they are sleeping or awake. However, it continues being a mere appearance, it does not have any bodily functions. A human being sees it as person, but an animal would see it differently.”
I interrupted him:
“How do you know all that?”
“It is so simple! I verify it permanently, because my dreaming double receives all my attention. When I want to know something from it or about the world where it moves, I ask it and it tells me. You can also do it; it is not that difficult. You can contact your energy this very night, as soon as you fall asleep.”
“There are many ways. For example, look for a mirror in your dreams, lean towards it and look yourself in the eyes; you’ll see what a surprise awaits you!”
I had read something about the double in his books, but my prejudices prevented me from approaching that matter with an open mind, and in my mind there was a great confusion about concepts like the ‘luminous egg’ or magnetic field that surrounds living beings, the ‘energy body’, and the ‘dreaming double’. I asked him if they were the same thing or if there was some difference between them.
He was surprised by my question.
“But haven’t you understood anything? We are speaking of awareness, not of physical objects. Those entities, even the perceptive unit we call ‘the physical body’, are descriptions of the same thing, because there are not two of you. You are you! You don’t ‘have’ an energy body, you are energy, you are an assemblage point that assembles emanations; and you are only one! You can have various dreams and have a different appearance in each one, either human, animal, or inorganic, or you can even dream that you are several people at the same time, but you cannot fragment your being aware”
He told me that confusing the description of our various vehicles of awareness with our sense of being is common, particularly for people who have a robust and intellectual internal dialogue.
“Once I went to see an oriental teacher, and our conversation relapsed into dreaming. The man called himself an expert, he showed off to me: ‘I have seven dreaming bodies!’ Overwhelmed by this revelation, I didn’t know what to answer. I admitted: ‘Don Juan only taught me one.”
When he said this, Carlos pulled his head down between his shoulders, as if he was very shy, but was hiding a cynical giggle.
“So when you speak of the dreaming double and of the energy body, you are talking about the same thing?”
“Practically. The first one can be reached through dreaming and the second by means of stalking. Or put in another way, the energy body is the dreaming double with voluntary control on the part of the dreamer; but both are one and the same thing. The difference lies in the way one reaches it.”
“The ancient sorcerers molded their dreaming by the power of their will, and tried to reproduce the physical body down to the smallest detail. Calling it a ‘double’ stems from that tradition. The idea makes practical sense, since we are so accustomed to see ourselves in a certain way and only that way. In the beginning, it is very comfortable for the dreamer to consider himself in physical terms. But the new seers say that taking this intent to its furthest consequences is a useless waste, because it forces us to dedicate huge quantities of attention to details that will never have any practical use. They have learned to see ourselves as what we really are, bubbles of light.”
I asked him if, in the classic nagualism of prehispanic people, sorcerers’ ability to become animals consisted of trying to see themselves with animal bodies.
He looked at me as if saying: “Elementary!”
“Dreaming is the deliberate use of the energy body. Energy is plastic, and if you apply a constant pressure to it, it will eventually adopt the form you want. The double is the nagual, the ‘other’, the stamp of nagualism. When you control it, you are on the road to become whatever you want, from a free being to a beast.”
“Of course, to achieve something so specialized as becoming an animal can’t just be improvised, there are procedures. The double is managed through the fixation of the assemblage point in new positions. Such a fixation has an obsessive nature, and it should be evoked with sorcerers’ methods. For example, if your yearning is to be a hawk and you attempt it with inflexibility, you will end up becoming one! Each one of us will achieve what we look for. That is the trick of the nagual, to manage his obsessions.”
“However, you should know that people who focus on objectives that are not exclusively those of freedom and sobriety, become blocked, which can take them to madness, or to the most crass ordinariness. Truly, that is what we all do: We choose to be men, and we are! Any obsession not properly managed means slavery.”
“The problem with many naguals of modern Mexico is that they have forgotten the abstract possibilities. There are sorcerers who prefer to become turkeys, and they don’t come out of there. What’s more, many don’t have any idea that they can do something more with their energy than pursue strong sensations and scare others.”
“That decadence of the teachings is what moved seers of Don Juan’s lineage to attempt freedom in the most impersonal way possible, abandoning all the capricious positions of the assemblage point which they had inherited from their ancestors. The purpose of freedom is absolutely clean and displaces all others. By attempting it, new seers have restored the purity of nagualism.”
I asked him about the enormous effort which is undoubtedly required, in order to prepare a double in the environment of dreaming.
“For most sorcerers, that effort is the other option, the door to another realm of awareness, an awareness which will allow them, at the proper moment, to intend the definitive step into the third attention. By providing autonomy and purpose to their double, they are preparing to remain conscious after death. When that body is complete and the moment arrives, their awareness abandons the human shell for good, the physical body withers and dies, but the sense of being continues.”