JOURNEY THROUGH THE ASSEMBLAGE POINT
© Barry Klein, Los Angeles, Calif. Jan. 6, 1995
he notion of the assemblage point can be taken as a metaphor for any shift of awareness: dreaming, hallucinating, being ill or old, having prophetic or clairvoyant visions, being drugged or fatigued, firewalking, winning competitions, and experiencing religious or mystical states. I have seen this terminology per se only in the works of Carlos Castaneda (as in the opening quotation, above), but there are abundant analogies to it in mystical tradition. For example, Gurdjieff refers to "self-remembering" and "levels of being" in similar ways; the satori of Zen and samadhi of yoga also suggest the same idea.
But the notion of the assemblage point also has some more precise implications. First of all, the perceived world of each of us conforms to our ongoing description that occurs as incessant chatter inside our heads. That chatter sets up a system of "filters" that allow us to see, hear, think and feel only in certain narrow ranges. Even our very humanness results from a set groove of description. It is possible to stop the flow of description, or to change the filter set, or to make use of other ranges of perception which are not normally available; then we can perceive the world very differently or even "assemble" entirely different worlds since, according to this paradigm, all possible experiences result from the movement among assemblage-point positions and the infinite number of ways that emanations can be "bundled."
The notion of emanations is a way of describing the moving, glowing network of fibers which are often perceived under the influence of various entheogens (psychedelics), and it turns out that, as psychics can see auras, we can train ourselves to see and then make use of these fibers. This should be done with discrimination and care since these fibers are seen to be intelligent and sentient and, in addition, comprise our very sense of self. I believe that tales of the supernatural come from people's getting lost in these alternate perceptual fields.
Some explorers, such as Carlos Castaneda, report experiencing themselves as clusters of emanations in highly altered states of consciousness (yours truly can attest to some glimpses of this). It feels like being nothing and everything, in a million pieces with no body, or like being a kaleidoscope, perhaps for some external being's perceptual pleasure (compare this to Terence McKenna's description of the DMT world). Without some kind of platform or center, and a keen sobriety in the midst of chaos, we can feel truly lost, and they say that some people never return to the ordinary world from this type of expansion (shamanic literature is full of legends about this). Some Eastern disciplines, like Zen and Kung Fu, and the sorceric practices that Castaneda has brought forward, have been very helpful for steering a course through the unknown.
Castaneda gives us a handy way to describe the distinction between so-called ordinary reality and the unknown which contains countless non-ordinary realities: the Spanish words tonal and nagual. As Castaneda uses these words, the tonal (which is particular to each individual) represents all the ordered features of our world; in other words, all the attributes of time and space, causality, ethics, religion, culture and sense of self. In terms of assemblage point, the tonal is the set of bundlings of luminous fibers which seem to have a collective allegiance to a given person until Death (capitalized because it is also regarded as a sentient entity) strikes and separates the bundlings until they lose that allegiance. The force that holds us in the delusion of the tonal is what Castaneda calls "the Form of man" and even "God," because the Form operates through blind belief and projection.
The nagual is "the other"; it is the polar opposite of all the "doings" of the tonal. The latter is organized on the "place of reason" whereas the nagual is oriented on direct knowing. Castaneda refers to all the things we think we know as being objects on "the table of the tonal" and the unknown as being that part of the nagual which is "just under" the table. Everything else is apparently "the unknowable." With the discipline, focus and alignment with Intent which result from the "not-doings," we are eventually able to move our assemblage point to align with "features" of the unknown, which include the "lines of the earth," the luminous auras of living beings, entities of other levels and dimensionalities, and "holes" in the fabric of reality.
Castaneda uses the word seeing to describe these views. I have to put the word "features" in quotation marks because all description is in terms of objects of the tonal; without the latter, there is no way to think about or order the perceptions of the nagual. I should mention here that, properly, the tonal is but an arbitrary selection of infinitely many possible assemblage-point fixations, or world-views, and is completely contained within the nagual.
For "lines of the earth" we might picture luminous, sentient cables which connect everything on the earth; I consider them to be the constituents of the aura of a sentient planet. A seer can make use of these lines to travel large distances quickly (like "seven-league boots"), to scale walls and waterfalls and to fly in wondrous ways. He can find holes and spaces between the lines and go through them to other places in the universe and other dimensionalities and levels of being. This might explain why mystical literature so regularly refers to "dying in order to be reborn," but that expression could turn out to be an understatement.
The movements of the assemblage point can be described in terms of altered states, in terms of attention, in terms of power or in terms of level of being. When we speak of altered states, we are usually referring to the effect of religious experiences, drugs and entheogens, strokes of lightning, voodoo, hysterical emotions, the effect of location on the psyche, aging, and even states of health, especially feverish deliria. These influences all move our attention to greater or lesser degrees outside of our normal perceptual/conceptual view of ourselves and the world; we may even lose our sense of self for a time.
Working with the attention can also move the position on which our world of perception is assembled; these movements can be similar to the altered states we've already mentioned, but they can also be to more specifically sorceric positions. By this, Castaneda is clearly referring to working with Intent; with gazing techniques which break up the normally assembled patterns; with dreaming, which incorporates lucid intentionality infused into the state of dreaming, without regard to the ordinary notions of "sleeping" and "waking"; and with "recapitulation" and "sorcery passes" (these complete and attune the basic energy body). In Don Juan's system, recapitulation seems to be the prerequisite for almost everything else--it consists of examining past experiences organically and reclaiming all of our energy from them, leaving us clean of attachments about the people and events involved. The sorcery passes, whose forms remind me of Kung Fu, condition and activate the energy body.
Sorceric positions can differ from externally induced altered states in terms of how much control you have in the new position, how easily you can keep (or at least return to) your basic identity and sobriety, how fluid you are in your ability to move from world to world and with radically changing sense of self without freaking, and whether you have a complete enough perceptual energy vehicle to integrate all this non-ordinary material.
Castaneda uses the term "not-doings" to describe ways of approaching perception of the nagual. The "not-doings" will almost certainly appear to be pointless time-wasters, like obsessive-compulsive behaviors: gazing at specific types of items for hours each day for years; walking in unusual ways; manipulating details of dreams; and the recapitulation and sorcery passes mentioned above. These disciplines accomplish a steady shifting of the assemblage point away from the ordinary; they eventually result in altered states which can be maintained and controlled by the practitioner, making them actual sorceric states.
The ability to integrate this material, and to be aware with more of the whole of ourselves, is apparently what Don Juan refers to as power and Gurdjieff calls level of being. In terms of assemblage points, power means, in my view, having a large enough, steady enough attention that a larger collection of points is activated at one time. This is tantamount to having a higher-dimensional consciousness, because we are then experiencing with multiplexual viewpoints. It also means somehow standing above the flatness of the ordinary worldview such that magic is encountered as a normal occurrence. The place of power comes with a "faster rate" in Don Juan's parlance, and "finer vibrations" in Gurdjieff's.
In effect, one's body contains the whole of the universe; the body is not merely flesh and bone (in the multidimensional sense, it is not flesh and bone at all!)--but an onion with many layers. One layer is, of course, the one to which we ascribe physicality (we edit the flesh-and-bone details into our memory); other layers are the electro-magnetic and the finer-vibrational fields as well as denser levels. These layers correspond to the four bodies of metaphysics (physical, astral, mental and causal), the healing aura, the "inner demon," the High Self, and many other depictions. The features and details that we ascribe to these fields and levels are artificial and metaphorical; the purpose of making these descriptions is to give an intuitive sense of scale and relative function to our primitive perceptual mapping. In this paradigm, both past and future emanate only from the moment of the present.
By now, it should be much easier to talk about phenomena that people experience almost universally, like déjà vu and "false memory." I find it useful to describe displacements of the tonal (realignments of the fibers) as the movement from one "bubble" of reality to another. In a current bubble, I may begin to hear of a special person, or an invention, or even a concept which does not seem too likely. As I approach the edge of my bubble, nearer where it meets other bubbles, I find some confusion and cross-over, wherein some of what I was quite sure of before has now become uncertain, and more of what seemed quite unlikely is at least talked about in a more commonplace way. Now I've drifted into the next bubble, and what I used to be sure about has become either ancient history or may no longer even be considered sensible to talk about. Finally, I lose any memory I had of the previous notions not described in the present bubble. I have many examples of this, personally--what are some of yours?
Another way of putting these shifts is to imagine that you are watching a movie, which is synchronized with your eyes' ability to smooth or edit out the spaces between the frames. Now suppose that something changes your rate of perception, and suddenly you start seeing other movies which had nothing to do with the "original" one. Oddly enough, the new movie starts to seem more familiar than the first one, and then you have no recollection that you have ever seen anything other than the current film. At some point, you may become aware that you have merely been watching movies, and that you can stop the films and even leave the theatre. The resulting jolt can be to great advantage if the theatre is burning, or if there are matters in the larger world that you need to take care of.
This jolt is Gurdjieff's "self-remembering" and Castaneda's "stopping the world." While we are identified with the movie, we are comfortable, even if the contents of the film are unpleasant; the movie itself will foster our deeper identification with it, perhaps even allowing us breaks to get more popcorn. If someone came in and tried to get us to leave, we might view them as a subversive enemy or a crackpot. Mysticism considers it a great step merely to remember that we are, metaphorically, in a theatre.
+ - - - - - - - tonal nagual
| | |
REASON + - - - - - - - WILL
| | |
| | +----------+----------+
Talking"- -| | | |
| Feeling Dreaming Seeing
| | | |
POINTS OF THE TOTALITY OF MAN
(derived from Tales of Power)
This diagram shows the two polarities, reason and will, correspond to "first attention" (on the tonal) and "second attention" (in the nagual). Will has direct effect on all 5 genuine points of attention, but reason attempts to dominate only through "talking" (the incessant internal description).