The type of “dreaming” outlined in Castaneda’s teachings, is a step beyond what we normally view as “dreams”. It overlaps with a phenomena often referred to as “lucid dreaming”, where the dreamer is conscious of his dreaming, and learns to take control of the content and direction of dreams. It is akin to “waking up” in dreams, and learning to command your attention in dreams, rather than having the dream proceed in a random, unorganized fashion.

Dreaming was one of the maneuvers invented by the sorcerers of ancient times, and although the techniques were taught to modern sorcerers, it was cautioned against because of its inherent dangers. Dreaming opened up a myriad of unworldly possibilities in terms of visiting the realm of “inorganic beings”, but there was the danger of entrapment there, along with the enticing possibilities of extending human life far beyond its normal duration, by choosing to stay in those realms.

Don Juan’s party of warriors were not given to indulge in the dangers of these potential realms. Carlos had a proclivity of visiting the realm of the inorganic beings and tapping into their wisdom and experience, but it had a cost attached to it.

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Inner Silence

Also called “stopping the internal dialogue”, inner silence has been described as the initiation or nexus of elevated human awareness. It is the starting point of seeing, of dreaming, of moving the assemblage point, and of intending any of a range of far-reaching consequences.

Our “internal dialogue” is something that all of us experience. It is a cascading fabric of voices and understandings that plays constantly in the background of our consciousness. It is sometimes referred to as the “monkey mind” or the “ego”. It is a constant barrage of judgments, evaluations, criticisms, fears, memories, anticipations… and on and on. It is a complex overlay of programmings from both internal and external sources that ends up being the driving and guiding force in our lives. It’s also the series of “agreements” that keeps our view of reality locked into the currently approved societal sphere.

What the sorcerers of ancient times discovered was that this internal dialog is what limits the perception of contemporary man to the “cocoon” we live and die in, the agreed-upon manifestation of “reality” referred to as the “first attention” – the normal day-to-day world that the average man unconsciously maintains and ferociously guards with the powers of ego and logic.

As Don Juan pointed out many times in his teachings, when inner silence is attained, it is a stepping-stone to infinity. From that vantage point, anything is possible. Inner silence curtails the incessant barrage of beliefs that keep us anchored within a very limiting and mundane set of boundaries. It opens us up to the magical and wondrous world of intent. It tunes us to the calling of the greater power referred to as “spirit” or “infinity”.

In his last book, “The Active Side of Infinity”, published posthumously, Carlos adds yet another clincher onto the understanding of inner silence. Don Juan reveals to him that the “voices” we hear internally, that have become known as the mind of man, is not truly our own voice, but has been “installed” within us by a predatory and malignant force that basically is grooming us for our own self-destruction. Most humans live life unconsciously, and are not aware of the nature of this “foreign installation” that has taken over human consciousness; but men of knowledge, or sorcerers, have understood this, and devote their lives to freeing themselves from the enemy within.

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The Assemblage Point

The Assemblage Point is a challenging concept to assimilate and understand. The entire picture of the energetic structure of man needs to be accepted and experienced to some degree before this concept can be realized. This is not a subject for the language of debate or intellectual understanding; it is a vivid realization to be internalized and held at an experiential level.

Through different exercises in shifting awareness, Carlos was made to “see” energy and to understand “reality” – as we know it – to be a relatively arbitrary ‘branding’ and coagulation of perceptive trainings that are superimposed on our will, from the moment we are born. This is intended by all who surround us… who have been similarly formed to maintain “reality” in the same way: by their perceptive awareness being forcibly channeled and constrained, to “agree” with the perceived “reality” held by all those in the current cultural milieu.

By altering awareness to different vantage-points, an apprentice can be made to see that our version of “reality” is simply another dream – a dream that has been made solid by a lifetime of intent, conditioning and training, and it is no more real or valid than other worlds and other realities that practitioners are trained to access, simply by shifting the “valve of consciousness” that forces the interpretation of “reality”. This “valve of consciousness” is called “the assemblage point”.

On the “energetic body” of man, this “assemblage point” can be approximated to a location on the upper right back, near the shoulder-blade. Therefore Don Juan, in his role as “nagual” was able to shift his apprentices’ assemblage points by a physical blow to this area. This shift introduced a temporary change of consciousness, providing a state of lucidity that allowed certain teachings and understandings to be conveyed and permanently internalized.

Another example of a shift or movement of the assemblage point was dreaming. In the course of dreaming, the “valve of consciousness” that maintains our sensory interpretation of reality, is allowed to reconfigure itself and create a new total reality.

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Benefactor vs Teacher

In the book, Tales of Power, Don Juan Matus reveals a significant truth in the roles that he and Don Genaro Flores were playing in Carlos Castaneda’s apprenticeship.  To understand the contrast of these two roles, one must first understand the concepts of first and second attention, and the juxtaposition of tonal and nagual.

In following Don Juan’s teachings through Castaneda’s 4 books – up to and including Tales of Power – one develops the understanding that Juan Matus is the main teacher and benefactor to Carlos.  Genaro is seen as somewhat of an oddity: one who is imbued with the 2nd attention, or permanently trapped in his dreaming body; and in being such an enigma – a constant source of terror and mystery to Carlos (and entertainment to us!)…

So, halfway though the 4th book, Juan Matus drops this bombshell on Carlos: no, he is not the “benefactor”, he is a mere teacher – one who is cleaning and preparing the island of the tonal, for the ‘real’ lessons of the nagual himself, who happens to be Don Genaro.

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Death as Advisor

In the years he spent with Don Juan Matus, Carlos Castaneda was often reminded about mortality.  This was not introduced on a conceptual basis, but as an experiential glimpse into the reality of death’s presence in our day-to-day existence.   What is essential here is an understanding of who we are at our core, deep beneath the layers of assumption and societal programming that we wear like overcoats around our more fragile centers.

The programming we all have around death is inescapable and often impenetrable.  It’s fused together with many viscous elements, including – but not limited to – religious beliefs, fear, television and media programming, personal and familial trauma and aversion programming, societal and material addictions and distractions. These incessant and ongoing programs fuse us into a living a robotic ‘DisneyLand’ script of unfocused consumerism that becomes our life blood, our purpose, and our hiding place. Unconsciously, we weave a perceptive illusion that marries the denial of mortality with the false assumption of immortality.

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The Second Attention

Early in Carlos Castaneda’s apprenticeship, Don Juan introduced the basics of the second attention.  This was a state of heightened awareness that was distinct and different than our day-to-day state of mind, which was called the first attention.  Besides being an altered state of awareness and perception, it was also a portal or gateway to other realms; for example the threshold crossed in dreaming.

The first attention, our normal modus operandi, is the way we operate, perceive and navigate in daily life.   This state of being (or more appropriately – “doing”) is arrived at through the complex development and layering of the mind-ego conglomerate, with its attendant programs, scripts, justifications, excuses, self-adoration, criticisms, flaws and patterns.  It’s as though our consciousness was on “auto-pilot” and we careen through life, largely unaware of the true nature of self and world.

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