(The Fire from Within by Carlos Castaneda)
Days later, in his house in southern Mexico, don Juan continued with his explanation. He took me to the big room. It was early evening. The room was in darkness. I wanted to light the gasoline lanterns, but don Juan would not let me. He said that I had to let the sound of his voice move my assemblage point so that it would glow on the emanations of total concentration and total recall.
He then told me that we were going to talk about the great bands of emanations. He called it another key discovery that the old seers made, but that, in their aberration, they relegated to oblivion until it was rescued by the new seers.
“The Eagle’s emanations are always grouped in clusters,” he went on. “The old seers called those clusters the great bands of emanations. They aren’t really bands, but the name stuck.
“For instance, there is an immeasurable cluster that produces organic beings. The emanations of that organic band have a sort of fluffiness. They are transparent and have a unique light of their own, a peculiar energy. They are aware, they jump. That’s the reason why all organic beings are filled with a peculiar consuming energy. The other bands are darker, less fluffy. Some of them have no light at all, but a quality of opaqueness.”
“Do you mean, don Juan, that all organic beings have the same kind of emanations inside their cocoons?” I asked.
“No. I don’t mean that. It isn’t really that simple, although organic beings belong to the same great band. Think of it as an enormously wide band of luminous filaments, luminous strings with no end. Organic beings are bubbles that grow around a group of luminous filaments. Imagine that in this band of organic life some bubbles are formed around the luminous filaments in the center of the band, others are formed close to the edges; the band is wide enough to accommodate every kind of organic being with room to spare. In such an arrangement, bubbles that are close to the edges of the band miss altogether the emanations that are in the center of the band, which are shared only by bubbles that are aligned with the center. By the same token, bubbles in the center miss the emanations from the edges.
“As you can understand, organic beings share the emanations of one band; yet seers see that within that organic band beings are as different as they can be.”
“Are there many of these great bands?” I asked.
“As many as infinity itself,” he replied. “Seers have found out, however, that in the earth there are only forty-eight such bands.”
“What is the meaning of that, don Juan?”
“For seers it means that there are forty eight types of organizations on the earth, forty-eight types of clusters or structures. Organic life is one of them.”
“Does that mean that there are forty-seven types of inorganic life?”
“No, not at all. The old seers counted seven bands that produced inorganic bubbles of awareness. In other words, there are forty bands that produce bubbles without awareness; those are bands that generate only organization.
“Think of the great bands as being like trees. All of them bear fruit; they produce containers filled with emanations; yet only eight of those trees bear edible fruit, that is, bubbles of awareness. Seven have sour fruit, but edible nonetheless, and one has the most juicy, luscious fruit there is.”
He laughed and said that in his analogy he had taken the point of view of the Eagle, for whom the most delectable morsels are the organic bubbles of awareness.
“What makes those eight bands produce awareness?” I asked.
“The Eagle bestows awareness through its emanations,” he replied.
His answer made me argue with him. I told him that to say that the Eagle bestows awareness through its emanations is like what a religious man would say about God, that God bestows life through love. It does not mean anything.
“The two statements are not made from the same point of view,” he patiently said. “And yet I think they mean the same thing. The difference is that seers see how the Eagle bestows awareness through its emanations and religious men don’t see how God bestows life through his love.”
He said that the way the Eagle bestows awareness is by means of three giant bundles of emanations that run through eight great bands. These bundles are quite peculiar, because they make seers feel a hue. One bundle gives the feeling of being beige-pink, something like the glow of pink-colored street lamps; another gives the feeling of being peach, like buff neon lights; and the third bundle gives the feeling of being amber, like clear honey.
“So, it is a matter of seeing a hue when seers see that the Eagle bestows awareness through its emanations,” he went on. “Religious men don’t see God’s love, but if they would see it, they would know that it is either pink, peach, or amber.
“Man, for example, is attached to the amber bundle, but so are other beings.”
I wanted to know which beings shared those emanations with man.
“Details like that you will have to find out for yourself through your own seeing,” he said. “There is no point in my telling you which ones; you will only be making another inventory. Suffice it to say that finding that out for yourself will be one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do.”
“Do the pink and peach bundles also show in man?” I asked.
“Never. Those bundles belong to other living beings,” he replied.
I was about to ask a question, but with a forceful movement of his hand, he signaled me to stop. He then became immersed in thought. We were enveloped in complete silence for a long time.
“I’ve told you that the glow of awareness in man has different colors.” he finally said. “What I didn’t tell you then, because we hadn’t gotten to that point yet, was that they are not colors but casts of amber.”
He said that the amber bundle of awareness has an infinitude of subtle variants, which always denote differences in quality of awareness. Pink and pale-green amber are the most common casts. Blue amber is more unusual, but pure amber is by far the most rare.
“What determines the particular casts of amber?”
“Seers say that the amount of energy that one saves and stores determines the cast. Countless numbers of warriors have begun with an ordinary pink amber cast and have finished with the purest of all ambers. Genaro and Silvio Manuel are examples of that.”
“What forms of life belong to the pink and the peach bundles of awareness?” I asked.
“The three bundles with all their casts crisscross the eight bands,” he replied. “In the organic band, the pink bundle belongs mainly to plants, the peach band belongs to insects, and the amber band belongs to man and other animals.
“The same situation is prevalent in the inorganic bands. The three bundles of awareness produce specific kinds of inorganic beings in each of the seven great bands.”
I asked him to elaborate on the kinds of inorganic beings that existed.
“That is another thing that you must see for yourself,” he said. “The seven bands and what they produce are indeed inaccessible to human reason, but not to human seeing.”
I told him that I could not quite grasp his explanation of the great bands, because his description had forced me to imagine them as independent bundles of strings, or even as flat bands, like conveyor belts.
He explained that the great bands are neither flat nor round, but indescribably clustered together, like a pile of hay, which is held together in midair by the force of the hand that pitched it. Thus, there is no order to the emanations; to say that there is a central part or that there are edges is misleading, but necessary to understanding.
Continuing, he explained that inorganic beings produced by the seven other bands of awareness are characterized by having a container that has no motion; it is rather a formless receptacle with a low degree of luminosity. It does not look like the cocoon of organic beings. It lacks the tautness, the inflated quality that makes organic beings look like luminous balls bursting with energy.
Don Juan said that the only similarity between inorganic and organic beings is that all of them have the awareness-bestowing pink or peach or amber emanations.
“Those emanations, under certain circumstances,” he continued, “make possible the most fascinating communication between the beings of those eight great bands.”
He said that usually the organic beings, with their greater fields of energy, are the initiators of communication with inorganic beings, but a subtle and sophisticated follow-up is always the province of the inorganic beings. Once the barrier is broken, inorganic beings change and become what seers call allies. From that moment inorganic beings can anticipate the seer’s most subtle thoughts or moods or fears.
“The old seers became mesmerized by such devotion from their allies,” he went on. “Stories are that the old seers could make their allies do anything they wanted. That was one of the reasons they believed in their own invulnerability. They got fooled by their self-importance. The allies have power only if the seer who sees them is the paragon of impeccability; and those old seers just weren’t.”
“Are there as many inorganic beings as there are living organisms?” I asked.
He said that inorganic beings are not as plentiful as organic ones, but that this is offset by the greater number of bands of inorganic awareness. Also, the differences among the inorganic beings themselves are more vast than the differences among organisms, because organisms belong to only one band while inorganic beings belong to seven bands.
“Besides, inorganic beings live infinitely longer than organisms,” he continued. “This matter is what prompted the old seers to concentrate their seeing on the allies, for reasons I will tell you about later on.”
He said that the old seers also came to realize that it is the high energy of organisms and the subsequent high development of their awareness that make them delectable morsels for the Eagle.
In the old seers’ view, gluttony was the reason the Eagle produced as many organisms as possible.
He explained next that the product of the other forty great bands is not awareness at all, but a configuration of inanimate energy. The old seers chose to call whatever is produced by those bands, vessels. While cocoons and containers are fields of energetic awareness, which accounts for their independent luminosity, vessels are rigid receptacles that hold emanations without being fields of energetic awareness. Their luminosity comes only from the energy of the encased emanations.
“You must bear in mind that everything on the earth is encased,” he continued. “Whatever we perceive is made up of portions of cocoons or vessels with emanations. Ordinarily, we don’t perceive the containers of inorganic beings at all.”
He looked at me, waiting for a sign of comprehension. When he realized I was not going to oblige him, he continued explaining.
“The total world is made of the forty-eight bands,” he said. “The world that our assemblage point assembles for our normal perception is made up of two bands; one is the organic band, the other is a band that has only structure, but no awareness. The other forty six great bands are not part of the world we normally perceive.”
He paused again for pertinent questions. I had none.
“There are other complete worlds that our assemblage points can assemble,” he went on. “The old seers counted seven such worlds, one for each band of awareness. I’ll add that two of those worlds, besides the world of everyday life, are easy to assemble; the other five are something else.”
When we again sat down to talk, don Juan immediately began to talk about my experience with la Catalina. He said that a shift of the assemblage point to the area below its customary position allows the seer a detailed and narrow view of the world we know. So detailed is that view that it seems to be an entirely different world. It is a mesmerizing view that has a tremendous appeal, especially for those seers who have an adventurous but somehow indolent and lazy spirit.
“The change of perspective is very pleasant,” don Juan went on. “Minimal effort is required, and the results are staggering. If a seer is driven by quick gain, there is no better maneuver than the shift below. The only problem is that in those positions of the assemblage point, seers are plagued by death, which happens even more brutally and more quickly than in man’s position.
“The nagual Julian thought it was a great place for cavorting, but that’s all.”
He said that a true change of worlds happens only when the assemblage point moves into man’s band, deep enough to reach a crucial threshold, at which stage the assemblage point can use another of the great bands.
“How does it use it?” I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s a matter of energy,” he said. “The force of alignment hooks another band, provided that the seer has enough energy. Our normal energy allows our assemblage points to use the force of alignment of one great band of emanations. And we perceive the world we know. But if we have a surplus of energy, we can use the force of alignment of other great bands, and consequently we perceive other worlds.”
Don Juan abruptly changed the subject and began to talk about plants.
“This may seem like an oddity to you,” he said, “but trees, for instance, are closer to man than ants. I’ve told you that trees and man can develop a great relationship; that’s so because they share emanations.”
“How big are their cocoons?” I asked.
“The cocoon of a giant tree is not much larger than the tree itself. The interesting part is that some tiny plants have a cocoon almost as big as a man’s body and three times its width. Those are power plants. They share the largest amount of emanations with man, not the emanations of awareness, but other emanations in general.
“Another thing unique about plants is that their luminosities have different casts. They are pinkish in general, because their awareness is pink. Poisonous plants are a pale yellow pink and medicinal plants are a bright violet pink. The only ones that are white pink are power plants; some are murky white, others are brilliant white.
“But the real difference between plants and other organic beings is the location of their assemblage points. Plants have it on the lower part of their cocoon, while other organic beings have it on the upper part of their cocoon.”
“What about the inorganic beings?” I asked. “Where do they have their assemblage points?”
“Some have it on the lower part of their containers,” he said. “Those are thoroughly alien to man, but akin to plants. Others have it anywhere on the upper part of their containers. Those are close to man and other organic creatures.”
He added that the old seers were convinced that plants have the most intense communication with inorganic beings. They believed that the lower the assemblage point, the easier for plants to break the barrier of perception; very large trees and very small plants have their assemblage points extremely low in their cocoon. Because of this, a great number of the old seers’ sorcery techniques were means to harness the awareness of trees and small plants in order to use them as guides to descend to what they called the deepest levels of the dark regions.
“You understand, of course,” don Juan went on, “that when they thought they were descending to the depths, they were, in fact, pushing their assemblage points to assemble other perceivable worlds within those seven great bands.
“They taxed their awareness to the limit and assembled worlds with five great bands that are accessible to seers only if they undergo a dangerous transformation.”
“But did the old seers succeed in assembling those worlds?” I asked.
“They did,” he said. “In their aberration they believed it was worth their while to break all the barriers of perception, even if they had to become trees to do that.”
“The nagual Julian did the same thing to me, much more ruthlessly than the way we do it to you. He knew what he was doing; he was a brilliant nagual who was able to reorganize in a few years everything the nagual Elias had taught him. He did, in no time at all, something that would take a lifetime for you or for me. The difference was that all the nagual Julian ever needed was a slight insinuation; his awareness would take it from there and open the only door there is.”
“What do you mean, don Juan, by the only door there is?”
“I mean that when man’s assemblage point moves beyond a crucial limit, the results are always the same for every man. The techniques to make it move may be as different as they can be, but the results are always the same, meaning that the assemblage point assembles other worlds, aided by the boost from the earth.”
“Is the boost from the earth the same for every man, don Juan?”
“Of course. The difficulty for the average man is the internal dialogue. Only when a state of total silence is attained can one use the boost. You will corroborate that truth the day you try to use that boost by yourself.”
“I wouldn’t recommend that you try it,” Genaro said sincerely. “It takes years to become an impeccable warrior. In order to withstand the impact of the earth’s boost you must be better than you are now.”
“The speed of that boost will dissolve everything about you,” don Juan said. “Under its impact we become nothing. Speed and the sense of individual existence don’t go together. Yesterday on the mountain, Genaro and I supported you and served as your anchors; otherwise you wouldn’t have returned. You’d be like some men who purposely used that boost and went into the unknown and are still roaming in some incomprehensible immensity.”
I wanted him to elaborate on that, but he refused. He changed the subject abruptly.
“There’s one thing you haven’t understood yet about the earth’s being a sentient being,” he said. “And Genaro, this awful Genaro, wants to push you until you understand.”
Both of them laughed. Genaro playfully shoved me and winked at me as he mouthed the words, “I am awful.”
“Genaro is a terrible taskmaster, mean and ruthless,” don Juan continued. “He doesn’t give a hoot about your fears and pushes you mercilessly. If it wasn’t for me. . .”
He was a perfect picture of a good, thoughtful old gentleman. He lowered his eyes and sighed.
The two of them broke into roaring laughter.
When they had quieted down, don Juan said that Genaro wanted to show me what I had not understood yet, that the supreme awareness of the earth is what makes it possible for us to change into other great bands of emanations.
“We living beings are perceivers,” he said. “And we perceive because some emanations inside man’s cocoon become aligned with some emanations outside. Alignment, therefore, is the secret passageway, and the earth’s boost is the key.
“Genaro wants you to watch the moment of alignment. Watch him!”
Genaro stood up like a showman and took a bow, then showed us that he had nothing up his sleeves or inside the legs of his pants. He took his shoes off and shook them to show that there was nothing concealed there either.
Don Juan was laughing with total abandon. Genaro moved his hands up and down. The movement created an immediate fixation in me. I sensed that the three of us suddenly got up and walked away from the square, the two of them flanking me.
As we continued walking, I lost my peripheral vision. I did not distinguish any more houses or streets. I did not notice any mountains or any vegetation either. At one moment I realized that I had lost sight of don Juan and Genaro; instead I saw two luminous bundles moving up and down beside me.
I felt an instantaneous panic, which I immediately controlled. I had the unusual but well-known sensation that I was myself and yet I was not. I was aware, however, of everything around me by means of a strange and at the same time most familiar capacity. The sight of the world came to me all at once. All of me saw; the entirety of what I in my normal consciousness call my body was capable of sensing as if it were an enormous eye that detected everything. What I first detected, after seeing the two blobs of light, was a sharp violet-purple world made out of something that looked like colored panels and canopies. Flat, screenlike panels of irregular concentric circles were everywhere.
I felt a great pressure all over me, and then I heard a voice in my ear. I was seeing. The voice said that the pressure was due to the act of moving. I was moving together with don Juan and Genaro. I felt a faint jolt, as if I had broken a paper barrier, and I found myself facing a luminescent world. Light radiated from everyplace, but without being glaring. It was as if the sun were about to erupt from behind some white diaphanous clouds. I was looking down into the source of light. It was a beautiful sight. There were no landmasses, just fluffy white clouds and light. And we were walking on the clouds.
Then something imprisoned me again. I moved at the same pace as the two blobs of light by my sides. Gradually they began to lose their brilliance, then became opaque, and finally they were don Juan and Genaro. We were walking on a deserted side street away from the main square. Then we turned back.
“Genaro just helped you to align your emanations with those emanations at large that belong to another band,” don Juan said to me. “Alignment has to be a very peaceful, unnoticeable act. No flying away, no great fuss.”
He said that the sobriety needed to let the assemblage point assemble other worlds is something that cannot be improvised. Sobriety has to mature and become a force in itself before warriors can break the barrier of perception with impunity.
We were coming closer to the main square. Genaro had not said a word. He walked in silence, as if absorbed in thought. Just before we came into the square, don Juan said that Genaro wanted to show me one more thing: that the position of the assemblage point is everything, and that the world it makes us perceive is so real that it does not leave room for anything except realness.
“Genaro will let his assemblage point assemble another world just for your benefit,” don Juan said to me. “And then you’ll realize that as he perceives it, the force of his perception will leave room for nothing else.”
Genaro walked ahead of us, and don Juan ordered me to roll my eyes in a counterclockwise direction while I looked at Genaro, to avoid being dragged with him. I obeyed him. Genaro was five or six feet away from me. Suddenly his shape became diffuse and in one instant he was gone like a puff of air.
I thought of the science fiction movies I had seen and wondered whether we are subliminally aware of our possibilities.
“Genaro is separated from us at this moment by the force of perception,” don Juan said quietly. “When the assemblage point assembles a world, that world is total. This is the marvel that the old seers stumbled upon and never realized what it was: the awareness of the earth can give us a boost to align other great bands of emanations, and the force of that new alignment makes the world vanish.
“Every time the old seers made a new alignment they believed they had descended to the depths’ or ascended to the heavens above. They never knew that the world disappears like a puff of air when a new total alignment makes us perceive another total world.”
Don Juan taught me that the limit of man’s capability of perceiving is called the band of man, meaning that there is a boundary that marks human capabilities as dictated by the human organism. These boundaries are not merely the traditional boundaries of orderly thought, but the boundaries of the totality of resources locked within the human organism. Don Juan believed that these resources are never used, but are kept in situ by preconceived ideas about human limitations, limitations that have nothing to do with actual human potential.
The human body, as a conglomerate of energy fields, has not only super-defined boundaries, but a core of compact luminosity, which shamans call the band of man, or the energy fields with which man is most familiar. The idea of shamans is that within the luminous sphere, which is also the totality of man’s energetic possibilities, there are areas of energy of which human beings are not at all aware. Those are the energy fields located at the maximum distance from the band of man. To establish the core of the energy body is to fortify the energy body in order for it to venture into those areas of unknown energy.