The Art of Dreaming is an extraordinary and exciting adventure of the psyche unlike any other, which takes the reader on an amazing journey of the soul via the teachings of the great sorcerer, don Juan.
The Art of dreaming
Over the past twenty years, I have written a series of books about my apprenticeship with a Mexican Yaqui Indian sorcerer, don Juan Matus. I have explained in those books that he taught me sorcery, but not as we understand sorcery in the context of our daily world: the use of supernatural powers over others, or the calling of spirits through charms, spells, or rituals to produce supernatural effects. For don Juan, sorcery was the act of embodying some specialized theoretical and practical premises about the nature and role of perception in molding the universe around us.
Following don Juan’s suggestion, I have refrained from using shamanism, a category proper to anthropology, to classify his knowledge. I have called it all along what he himself called it: sorcery. On examination, however, I realized that calling it sorcery obscures even more the already obscure phenomena he presented to me in his teachings.
In anthropological works, shamanism is described as a belief system of some native people of northern Asia, prevailing also among certain native North American Indian tribes, which maintains that an unseen world of ancestral spiritual forces, good and evil, is pervasive around us and that these spiritual forces can be summoned or controlled through the acts of practitioners, who are the intermediaries between the natural and supernatural realms.
Don Juan was indeed an intermediary between the natural world of everyday life and an unseen world, which he called not the supernatural but the second attention. His role as a teacher was to make this configuration accessible to me. I have described in my previous work his teaching methods to this effect, as well as the sorcery arts he made me practice, the most important of which is called the art of dreaming.
Don Juan contended that our world, which we believe to be unique and absolute, is only one in a cluster of consecutive worlds, arranged like the layers of an onion. He asserted that even though we have been energetically conditioned to perceive solely our world, we still have the capability of entering into those other realms, which are as real, unique, absolute, and engulfing as our own world is.
Don Juan explained to me that, for us to perceive those other realms, not only do we have to covet them but we need to have sufficient energy to seize them. Their existence is constant and independent of our awareness, he said, but their inaccessibility is entirely a consequence of our energetic conditioning. In other words, simply and solely because of that conditioning, we are compelled to assume that the world of daily life is the one and only possible world.
Believing that our energetic conditioning is correctable, don Juan stated that sorcerers of ancient times developed a set of practices designed to recondition our energetic capabilities to perceive.
They called this set of practices the art of dreaming.
With the perspective time gives, I now realize that the most fitting statement don Juan made about dreaming was to call it the “gateway to infinity.” I remarked, at the time he said it, that the metaphor had no meaning to me.
“Let’s then do away with metaphors,” he conceded. “Let’s say that dreaming is the sorcerers’ practical way of putting ordinary dreams to use.”
“But how can ordinary dreams be put to use?” I asked.
“We always get tricked by words,” he said. “In my own case, my teacher attempted to describe dreaming to me by saying that it is the way sorcerers say good night to the world. He was, of course, tailoring his description to fit my mentality. I’m doing the same with you.”
On another occasion don Juan said to me, “dreaming can only be experienced. Dreaming is not just having dreams; neither is it daydreaming or wishing or imagining. Through dreaming we can perceive other worlds, which we can certainly describe, but we can’t describe what makes us perceive them. Yet we can feel how dreaming opens up those other realms. Dreaming seems to be a sensation, a process in our bodies, an awareness in our minds.”
In the course of his general teachings, don Juan thoroughly explained to me the principles, rationales, and practices of the art of dreaming. His instruction was divided into two parts. One was about dreaming procedures, the other about the purely abstract explanations of these procedures. His teaching method was an interplay between enticing my intellectual curiosity with the abstract principles of dreaming and guiding me to seek an outlet in its practices.
I have already described all this in as much detail as I was able to. And I have also described the sorcerers’ milieu in which don Juan placed me in order to teach me his arts. My interaction in this milieu was of special interest to me because it took place exclusively in the second attention.
I interacted there with the ten women and five men who were don Juan’s sorcerer companions and with the four young men and the four young women who were his apprentices.
Don Juan gathered them immediately after I came into his world. He made it clear to me that they formed a traditional sorcerers’ group, a replica of his own party, and that I was supposed to lead them. However, working with me he realized that I was different than he expected. He explained that difference in terms of an energy configuration seen only by sorcerers: instead of having four compartments of energy, as he himself had, I had only three. Such a configuration, which he had mistakenly hoped was a correctable flaw, made me so completely inadequate for interacting with or leading those eight apprentices that it became imperative for don Juan to gather another group of people more akin to my energetic structure.
I have written extensively about those events. Yet I have never mentioned the second group of apprentices; don Juan did not permit me to do so. He argued that they were exclusively in my field and that the agreement I had with him was to write about his field, not mine.
The second group of apprentices was extremely compact. It had only three members: a dreamer, Florinda Grau; a stalker, Taisha Abelar; and a nagual woman, Carol Tiggs.
We interacted with one another solely in the second attention. In the world of everyday life, we did not have even a vague notion of one another. In terms of our relationship with don Juan, however, there was no vagueness; he put enormous effort into training all of us equally.
Nevertheless, toward the end, when don Juan’s time was about to finish, the psychological pressure of his departure started to collapse the rigid boundaries of the second attention. The result was that our interaction began to lapse into the world of everyday affairs, and we met, seemingly for the first time.
None of us, consciously, knew about our deep and arduous interaction in the second attention.
Since all of us were involved in academic studies, we ended up more than shocked when we found out we had met before. This was and still is, of course, intellectually inadmissible to us, yet we know that it was thoroughly within our experience. We have been left, therefore, with the disquieting knowledge that the human psyche is infinitely more complex than our mundane or academic reasoning had led us to believe.
Once we asked don Juan, in unison, to shed light on our predicament. He said that he had two explanatory options. One was to cater to our hurt rationality and patch it up, saying that the second attention is a state of awareness as illusory as elephants flying in the sky and that everything we thought we had experienced in that state was simply a product of hypnotic suggestions. The other option was to explain it the way sorcerer dreamers understand it: as an energetic configuration of awareness.
During the fulfillment of my dreaming tasks, however, the barrier of the second attention remained unchanged. Every time I entered into dreaming, I also entered into the second attention, and waking up from dreaming did not necessarily mean I had left the second attention. For years I could remember only bits of my dreaming experiences. The bulk of what I did was energetically unavailable to me. It took me fifteen years of uninterrupted work, from 1973 to 1988, to store enough energy to rearrange everything linearly in my mind. I remembered then sequences upon sequences of dreaming events, and I was able to fill in, at last, some seeming lapses of memory.
In this manner I captured the inherent continuity of don Juan’s lessons in the art of dreaming, a continuity that had been lost to me because of his making me weave between the awareness of our everyday life and the awareness of the second attention. This work is a result of that rearrangement.
All this brings me to the final part of my statement: the reason for writing this book. Being in possession of most of the pieces of don Juan’s lessons in the art of dreaming, I would like to explain, in a future work, the current position and interest of his last four students: Florinda Grau, Taisha Abelar, Carol Tiggs, and myself. But before I describe and explain the results of don Juan’s guidance and influence on us,
I must review, in light of what I know now, the parts of don Juan’s lessons in dreaming to which I did not have access before. The definitive reason for this work, however, was given by Carol Tiggs. Her belief is that explaining the world that don Juan made us inherit is the ultimate expression of our gratitude to him and our commitment to his quest.
December 25, 1925 – April 27, 1998
Carlos Arana Castaneda was a Peruvian-American anthropologist and author.
Starting with The Teachings of Don Juan in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that describe his alleged training in shamanism. The books, narrated in the first person, relate his supposed experiences under the tutelage of a Yaqui “Man of Knowledge” named Don Juan Matus. His 12 books have sold more than 8 million copies in 17 languages. Critics have suggested that they are works of fiction; supporters claim the books are either true or at least valuable works of philosophy and descriptions of practices which enable an increased awareness.
Castaneda withdrew from public view in 1973 to work further on his inner development, living in a large house with three women (“Fellow Travellers of Awareness”) who were ready to cut their ties to family and changed their names. He founded Cleargreen, an organization that promoted tensegrity, purportedly a traditional Toltec regimen of spiritually powerful exercises.