TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 February 2015
All Castaneda's books are brilliant and fascinating reads. However, I felt that this one was even more challenging than many of the others I have tackled.
We learn that "seeing" is a peculiar feeling of knowing something without a shadow of a doubt. The old seers found out that the best way to teach their knowledge was to make their apprentices shift to their left side, to a state of heightened awareness, where real learning takes place.
We meet la Gorda, a woman from Don Juan's group of warriors, who is Carlos' "petty tyrant". This is one who "either holds the power of life and death over warriors or simply annoys them to distraction".
Also, we are introduced to the concept of the Eagle, and its emanations. Castaneda tells us that there is no world of objects, but "a universe of the Eagle's emanations. These are fluid, forever in motion, and yet unchanged, eternal". I can't say I really understood about the Eagle, but Don Juan terms it as the indescribable force which is the source of all sentient beings. It was called the Eagle because the old seers "saw" it as something that resembled a black-and-white eagle of infinite size. It is the Eagle who bestows awareness, and the reason for the existence of all sentient beings is to enhance awareness. The awareness of sentient beings flies away at the moment of death and floats into the Eagle's beak to be consumed. This meant that the reason for the existence of sentient beings is to provide food for the Eagle. (This reminds me of Gurdjieff's assertion that we human beings are food for the Moon.)
Carlos is brought by Don Juan into heightened states of awareness, in which he "sees". But when he returns to normal awareness, he forgets everything he has experienced and understood.
"Seeing" is not done by the eyes but by alignment. "The alignment of emanations used routinely is the perception of the day-to-day world, but the alignment of emanations that are never used ordinarily is "seeing". When seers "see", a voice tells them in their ear what's what. If the voice is not present, the seer is not "seeing". Carlos is told that later on everything would become clear to him.
Don Juan instructs Carlos about the first, second and third attention. The first attention in man is "animal awareness". Everything that one can think about is part of the first attention. It is "the flow of awareness developed to an 'ultra shine', a flow that covers the known. The second attention, however, is a more complex and specialized state of the flow of awareness, and has to do with the unknown. The third attention is attained when the flow of awareness turns into the fire from within: a glow that kindles all the Eagle's emanations inside man's cocoon.
(I did mention that some of the information contained in this book is somewhat challenging.)
There is a chapter about inorganic beings, those beings that are dealt with extensively in Castaneda's "The art of dreaming", in my view the most fascinating of his books. Inorganic beings have the emanations of awareness in them and a kind of love man can't even conceive. In the present book it is described how Carlos gazes into a mirror held under water and sees not only the reflections of Don Juan's face and his own, but also another head - not a human head or an animal head, but a "shape that had no inner mobility" (whatever that means). At the same time Carlos hears a voice in his ear, and realizes that he is "seeing". The headlike shape in the mirror was an inorganic being that had come to look at them. The voice in Carlos' ear said that he was dying, and he would have died, had Don Juan not been there.
The two do another frightening experiment with a mirror, after which Carlos has a severe attack of melancholy.
Organic beings have a different kind of energy, more like an electric current, or heat waves. They are attracted to emotions, particularly "animal fear".
Don Juan states that there is no God - all there is is the Eagle's emanations.
" ... human beings are made of the Eagle's emanations and are in essence bubbles of luminescent energy: each of us is wrapped in a cocoon that encloses a small portion of these emanations."
There are chapters about the assemblage point, which is a point in our cocoon, the location of which determines what we perceive of as the world. The precise spot of its location is determined by our repetitious acts. The position of the assemblage point thus dictates what our senses perceive.
I won't go into the further content of the book. As indicated, it is not the easiest book to comprehend, but, like all the author's works, it is absorbing and well worth reading, and thus I thoroughly recommend that you read it!