Bestselling author Carlos Castaneda introduces readers to the worlds that exist within their dreams.
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Sorcerers Of Antiquity: An Introduction
Don Juan stressed, time and time again, that everything he was teaching me had been envisioned and worked out by men he referred to as sorcerers of antiquity. He made it very clear that there was a profound distinction between those sorcerers and the sorcerers of modern times. He categorized sorcerers of antiquity as men who existed in Mexico perhaps thousands of years before the Spanish Conquest, men whose greatest accomplishment had been to build the structures of sorcery, emphasizing practicality and concreteness. He rendered them as men who were brilliant but lacking in wisdom. Modern sorcerers, by contrast, don Juan portrayed as men renowned for their sound minds and their capacity to rectify the course of sorcery if they deemed it necessary.
Don Juan explained to me that the sorcery premises pertinent to dreaming were naturally envisioned and developed by sorcerers of antiquity. Out of necessity--for those premises are key in explaining and understanding dreaming--I again have to write about and discuss them. The major part of this book is, therefore, a reintroduction and amplification of what I have presented in my previous works.
During one of our conversations, don Juan stated that, in order to appreciate the position of dreamers and dreaming, one has to understand the struggle of modern-day sorcerers to steer sorcery away from concreteness toward the abstract.
"What do you call concreteness, don Juan?" I asked.
"The practical part of sorcery," he said. "The obsessive fixation of the mind on practices and techniques, the unwarranted influence over people. All of these were in therealm of the sorcerers of the past."
"And what do you call the abstract?"
"The search for freedom, freedom to perceive, without obsessions, all that's humanly possible. I say that present-day sorcerers seek the abstract because they seek freedom; they have no interest in concrete gains. There are no social functions for them, as there were for the sorcerers of the past. So you'll never catch them being the official seers or the sorcerers in residence."
"Do you mean, don Juan, that the past has no value to modern-day sorcerers?"
"It certainly has value. It's the taste of that past which we don't like. I personally detest the darkness and morbidity of the mind. I like the immensity of thought. However, regardless of my likes and dislikes, I have to give due credit to the sorcerers of antiquity, for they were the first to find out and do everything we know and do today.
Don Juan explained that their most important attainment was to perceive the energetic essence of things. This insight was of such importance that it was turned into the basic premise of sorcery. Nowadays, after lifelong discipline and training, sorcerers do acquire the capacity to perceive the essence of things, a capacity they call seeing.
"What would it mean to me to perceive the energetic essence of things?" I once asked don Juan.
"It would mean that you perceive energy directly," he replied. "By separating the social part of perception, you'll perceive the essence of everything. Whatever we are perceiving is energy, but since we can't directly perceive energy, we process our perception to fit a mold. This mold is the social part of perception, which you have to separate."
"Why do I have to separate it?"
"Because it deliberately reduces the scope of what can be perceived and makes us believe that the mold into which we fit our perception is all that exists. I am convinced that for man to survive now, his perception must change at its social base."
"What is this social base of perception, don Juan?"
"The physical certainty that the world is made of concrete objects. I call this a social base because a serious and fierce effort is put out by everybody to guide us to perceive the world the way we do."
"How then should we perceive the world?"
"Everything is energy. The whole universe is energy. The social base of our perception should be the physical certainty that energy is all there is. A mighty effort should be made to guide us to perceive energy as energy. Then we would have both alternatives at our fingertips."
"Is it possible to train people in such a fashion?" I asked.
Don Juan replied that it was possible and that this was precisely what he was doing with me and his other apprentices. He was teaching us a new way of perceiving, first, by making us realize we process our perception to fit a mold and, second, by fiercely guiding us to perceive energy directly. He assured me that this method was very much like the one used to teach us to perceive the world of daily affairs.
Don Juan's conception was that our entrapment in processing our perception to fit a social mold loses its power when we realize we have accepted this mold, as an inheritance from our ancestors, without bothering to examine it.
"To perceive a world of hard objects that had either a positive or a negative value must have been utterly necessary for our ancestors' survival," don Juan said. "After ages of perceiving in such a manner, we are now forced to believe that the world is made up of objects."
"I can't conceive the world in any other way, don Juan," I complained. "It is unquestionably a world of objects. To prove it, all we have to do is bump into them."
"Of course it's a world of objects. We are not arguing that."
"What are you saying then?"
"I am saying that this is first a world of energy; then it's a world of objects. If we don't start with the premise that it is a world of energy, we'll never be able to perceive energy directly. We'll always be stopped by the physical certainty of what you've just pointed out: the hardness of objects."
His argument was extremely mystifying to me. In those days, my mind would simply refuse to consider any way to understand the world except the one with which I was familiar. Don Juan's claims and the points he struggled to raise were outlandish propositions that I could not accept but could not refuse either.
"Our way of perceiving is a predator's way," he said to me on one occasion. "A very efficient manner of appraising and classifying food and danger. But this is not the only way we are able to perceive. There is another mode, the one I am familiarizing you with: the act of perceiving the essence of everything, energy itself, directly.
"To perceive the essence of everything will make us understand, classify, and describe the world in entirely new, more exciting, more sophisticated terms." This was don Juan's claim. And the more sophisticated terms to which he was alluding were those he had been taught by his predecessors, terms that correspond to sorcery truths, which have no rational foundation and no relation whatsoever to the facts of our daily world but which are self-evident truths for the sorcerers who perceive energy directly and see the essence of everything.
For such sorcerers, the most significant act of sorcery is to see the essence of the universe. Don Juan's version was that the sorcerers of antiquity, the first ones to see the essence of the universe, described it in the best manner. They said that the essence of the universe resembles incandescent threads stretched into infinity in every conceivable direction, luminous filaments that are conscious of themselves in ways impossible for the human mind to comprehend.
From seeing the essence of the universe, the sorcerers of antiquity went on to see the energy essence of human beings. Don Juan stated that they depicted human beings as bright shapes that resembled giant eggs and called them luminous eggs.
"When sorcerers see a human being," don Juan said, "they see a giant, luminous shape that floats, making, as it moves, a deep furrow in the energy of the earth, just as if the luminous shape had a taproot that was dragging."
Don Juan had the impression that our energy shape keeps on changing through time. He said that every seer he knew, himself included, saw that human beings are shaped more like balls or even tombstones than eggs. But, once in a while, and for no reason known to them, sorcerers see a person whose energy is shaped like an egg. Don Juan suggested that people who are egglike in shape today are more akin to people of ancient times.
In the course of his teachings, don Juan repeatedly discussed and explained what he considered the decisive finding of the sorcerers of antiquity. He called it the crucial feature of human beings as luminous balls: a round spot of intense brilliance, the size of a tennis ball, permanently lodged inside the luminous ball, flush with its surface, about two feet back from the crest of a person's right shoulder blade.
Meet the Author
Carlos Castaneda was the author of the bestselling books, including the acknowledged classic The Teaching of Don Juan and most recently The Art of Dreaming and Magical Passes. He departed on his definitive journey in 1998.
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Not a book for beginners, this is a continuation of the Castaneda journey towards the final end. It is two books away from his last, which is Active Side of Infinity. Another illuminating volume in the Toltec Tradition. Accept no substitutes.
The art of dreaming is an useful guide for active 'lucid' dreaming. However, it is written by Carlos Castaneda, so do not expect it to be perfectly clear or to avoid references to Don Juan 'The sorcerer who taught Castaneda' or the previous six books. The phrasing of 'Don Juan said' mentioned in the previous review is only to comfort and aid the reader into familiarity with this obstruse topic. Read expecting to have methods implied, not explained, and not to fully comprehend without contemplation and/or previous reading. Please do not decide to vent against this noble book in retribution for your own inadequacies in understanding a intermediate concept.
At times while reading this book I wasn't sure if Carlos was actually using dream techniques or was using hallucinogens, which for me was important because I have done some lucid dreaming practice. So on that part of the book I was a little confused. The strength to me were the pearls of wisdom his writings imparted that can be seen in many self-help books on the market. Such as discussion about intention which has become the subject of many books. In fact, Castaneda is quoted in some of them. Overall, it had its moments but there wasn't much drama. The sections that did have some drama made for much better reading.
This book is painful to read. The author jumps into quoting a gentleman named 'Don Juan' without any clear explanation as to who this man is. After reading a few pages it's obvious Don Juan was a spiritual leader to the author. But why not clear that up right up front, especially since almost every paragraph starts with 'And Don Juan said...'. Maybe he should have let Don Juan write the book. He would've used half as much ink and paper if he had just titled the book 'Don Juan said...' and just wrote everything Don Juan said rather than tell us at the start of every paragraph that 'Don Juan said...' I gained nothing from reading this book. The author used a page to write what could've been written in a sentence.