Omega Institute Tensegrity Workshop - May 26-29, 1995
Part I - Friday night, May 26 - Florinda's Talk
by Corey Donovan
[Note: I took the following notes basically verbatim, writing in shorthand, while they were speaking--a practice they "banned" beginning with the August 1995 three-week workshop.]
In a giant white tent, a crowd of 450 to 500 assembled in folding chairs. There was applause as the members of Castaneda's clan trouped in and sat in the front row facing the stage. The diminutive, blonde, short-haired Florinda Donner-Grau took the massive seated podium on the raised stage and remarked, regarding the gigantic tent, that seeing it made her think they were "coming to the circus" today. This reminded her that when she allegedly first met don Juan and his party, she had the feeling they were some kind of circus troupe. Florinda, wearing a black top over a white blouse with a large collar, then introduced the other members of Castaneda's party, including Taisha Abelar, the three Chacmools, and three individuals she referred to as the "new guardians" (of the Chacmools as well as the clan): Fabrizio Magaldi, Talia Bey, and an African-American woman named Michelle, whom she indicated did not yet have a new last name [later Rylin DeMaris]. Florinda also told us that Carol Tiggs had not yet arrived.
Florinda apologized to all who didn't know who she and the rest were [and I knew from talking to the people in line with me at registration that many either had only read the first couple of books, or none at all]. She explained that they were the original disciples of Don Juan. They had all allegedly been drafted into the sorcerers' world more than 25 years ago. They had a long period of incubation, including 10 years with Don Juan [actually, in Florinda's case, if one believes her own chronology, barely three] and 10 more under Old Florinda. This was, she claimed, because they were "total imbeciles." The sorcerers aimed to modify their endless "I don't understand" response to their teachings. The sorcerers had to show them there was nothing to be understood. Castaneda had endless cases of "understanding," since he was the most aggressive and verbal of them. Don Juan explained that in trying to "understand," they were merely attempting to describe processes. What they learned, she claimed, was that humans are capable of tremendous possibilities of energetic changes without damaging the psyche. The sorcerers had beliefs whether their apprentices understood or not.
Don Juan, whom Florinda referred to as the "Old Nagual," had 15 cohorts -- eight men and seven women. He also had four different names, different personalities, different moods and four different "directions." He taught them a series of things that constituted the Warriors' Way. (She explained that a nagual has a "double energy configuration," giving them the capacity to enter "other realms of energy." When such a person's "perceptual fluidity" grows they can lead a group as nagual.) By interrupting the continuity of regular life, immense pools of energy become accessible. Energy opened up for Castaneda when he allegedly jumped into the abyss. They "don't understand what happened" themselves: they "saw him jump," and Castaneda resurfaced ten hours later in Westwood, in his apartment at the intersection of Westwood Blvd. and Wilshire Blvd. None of them pretend to understand what happened. (If he didn't jump, or they were hypnotized by don Juan -- that wouldn't explain how he ended up so quickly in Westwood, she argued, when it would have taken two days from the place he jumped just to get to Mexico City.)
Florinda claimed that Carol Tiggs disappeared for 10 years, reappearing at the Phoenix Bookstore after trying to find the clan for months. They use processes, like everyday people do (like in falling in love). Naguals can interpret their new perceptions because they lose awareness of self--their awareness has risen. "Of course," she commented wryly, "there are about 200 naguals lately, all self appointed." About three weeks ago, Castaneda received a letter. This letter read: "Dear Old Nagual: If I were with you I would give you a comrade's embrace. It is time for you to retire and to give youth its place." Interspersed was terrible Spanish. "Signed, New Nagual Don Alonzo."
All over the world there are new naguals -- Argentina, Russia, Eastern Europe. There's even a new nagual woman. (While describing this letter, Florinda digressed, claiming "Carlos doesn't read anymore like an ordinary person--he sleeps on top of books all day, because his liver and spleen were taught to absorb heavy, philosophical type tomes. His legs down to his ankles read thrillers. Unfortunately, he has no spot on his body for reading letters. His penis doesn't read at all; he can't even read Playboy with it." She said that she and Carol Tiggs "placed a batch of letters on his buttocks one day while he was sleeping, and when he woke he said he'd had the best sleep ever, but had felt alligators, snakes and barracudas biting into his back. His head is only good for reading magazines--Time, Der Speigel and Hola." So Florinda reads his letters to him.)
Women, because of their wombs, have an even greater capacity to read than men, but can do so only for a few pages at a time. "Unfortunately, we destroyed so many books this way [i.e., "reading" with their vaginas], that now we read like anyone else. The precondition for reading like this is inner silence." Individual thresholds as to the length of inner silence needed to perceive energy directly differ. Florinda's is eight minutes.
Florinda claimed they all have to obey Kylie. "Kylie won't let Taisha tell her stories, because they make everyone cry. She won't let Castaneda watch TV or drink coffee, and doesn't let Carol Tiggs eat because she gets too fat. But she lets me do anything. That's because we're both 'Baltic'--from the same planet."
Don Juan left a legacy of infinite possibilities. He took them out of the realm of the inane and turned them into pragmatic navigators in the sea of the unknown. The three of them will tell stories illustrating this, since it can only be conveyed through stories--"removed from the eye of the Eagle." Nagual men and women are the only beings capable of showing them the way. They are beings who are "so sober and calm, having left aside their self awareness, that they can journey in the face of the unknown." By leader, they don't mean the Nagual is someone who acts as a dictator, but that there is something "energetic" that directs the group.
The Warrior's Way
Three basic principles are used as the basis for reconstructing the constructions or conventions of the existing social order: (1) We are perceivers, who can only construct by perceiving. (Florinda said that don Juan repeated this incessantly-- the reason for endless repetition being that eventually something gets accepted on a bodily level, as much as our previous conditioning has become accepted as bodily truth.) (2) When we try to perceive there are lots of obstacles, because in everyday life we don't perceive, we interpret. "For example, we interpret from what we see now that we're in a tent. Sorcerers know that interpretation is the basis of what we do with sensory data. Intellectually philosophers have understood this well. Edmund Husserl, a German philosopher, said that to arrive at the truth we have to 'bracket' meaning and suspend judgment, i.e., stop interpreting. When Husserl's students asked him how to do this, his response, in German of course, was, 'How should I know, you pricks with ears? I'm a philosopher, goddammit.'" (3) Sorcerers know how to suspend judgment and how to get back again.
The Old Nagual was extremely pragmatic and was different with each one of them in technique and mood. With Florinda "he was concrete and lewd." He told her that every time she saw Old Florinda, Old Florinda was naked. Playing on how we perceive in everyday world everyone as being clothed, Florinda claimed that sorcerers can appear fully clothed even when they are really naked. They "wear a coat of sheer energy." Old Florinda used to walk around in what appeared to be a silk robe, which in itself scandalized Florinda, and don Juan walked in on them once and told Old Florinda to take off her clothes. Old Florinda responded "Whatever you want," and she appeared as "naked and gorgeous." Don Juan told Florinda, "Blondie, feast your eyes." Then he asked her where was the robe, and there was none. Old Florinda was just naked. Don Juan did the same with Castaneda, but Castaneda always thought it really was a physical robe, and that "because he was so busy hiding his erections, it gave them enough time to hide the robe from him." Florinda claimed she does the same to the Chacmools now. Renata Murez came to her room at 6 PM that night, very nervous. Florinda didn't have anything on, but Reni supposedly saw her as fully clothed. We don't see either that among us are bell-shaped, and also candle-like undulating, dark chocolate shapes -- the Inorganic Beings we coexist with, that move energetically at a much lower speed than we do. Only through dreaming can we balance our energy sufficiently to see them. One day in Los Angeles Florinda was ironing naked, practicing the robe of energy, when she felt a furry thing sliding between her legs. She thought she had left the door open and that a stray dog had come in, but, of course, it was an inorganic being.
"Once we realize that our interpretations are actually an act of intent, we are ready to see the world equally as an act of intent," or magic. "For example, the White House--all we really see from across the street is a rectangular structure, but we invest in that image all we've abstracted from our culture. This is an act of magic to sorcerers, and we do this with everything around us. Sorcerers simply intend new worlds. Intending is very pragmatic, permitting them to navigate in that sea of awareness. A sorcerer knows what they're doing and can cancel out their usual system of interpretation. It is only a temporary act, but gives entrance into something inconceivable. One can take up the everyday again, but one is never the same."
"Carol Tiggs lately is absorbed by recollecting. Together she and Castaneda are one person, energetically the same, and can cancel out the interpretation system with extreme ease, taking them out of this world. When one does this, at first one usually sees pictures, like a movie, and then one finds oneself wholly in a new world." It seems to them that it should be totally unnecessary to anthropomorphize to get an understanding of everything they perceive, but they now wonder if we are doomed forever to interpret the world only the way we know it?
"When Castaneda and Carol Tiggs have journeyed they find beings very similar to those in our world. They pick up other energy and at the moment they are very concerned with this issue of interpretation. Carol is very cool about it, while Carlos is more direct, saying that 'Lee Marvin is scared.'" This is a favorite Castaneda saying, taken from a headline that tickled him from an article in Esquire. (She then began the standard explanation of the luminous egg and assemblage point--"the miracle of the movement of the assemblage point"--which will be omitted here.) Florinda claimed, "What has happened to Carol Tiggs and Castaneda is they have moved their assemblage point outside of the luminous egg, and are exploring a world based on a position of the assemblage point outside the luminous egg. Yet that world appears to them as very much like this one. The luminous egg is linked up with earth, and when the assemblage point moves outside of it, perception changes too drastically. They no longer know what it is they're perceiving. Once they solidify their assemblage point, they start to reinterpret what they perceive as something like the world we know. The fear for them is that they seem condemned to interpret this new world--which is outside of don Juan's tradition--as though it were like our world."
Inorganic beings "populate a world parallel to ours." They are "awareness that is not attached to a being but to an energetic concentration." In "dreaming," sorcerers have "tremendous interaction with them. Dreams are hatches that allow sorcerers to interact with inorganic beings. We use inorganic beings to take us to new levels of perception. The presence of inorganic beings is automatic; when we empty our minds of thoughts, they become bound to sorcerers by the same kind of affection that binds us to our pets. Then sorcerers start constructing the idea of inorganic beings in the image of creatures they know in this world." One day when Florinda was driving with Taisha to class in their VW van in Los Angeles, an old woman grabbed onto the door. They sped up to lose her, but only lost her when they finally turned from Olympic onto Wilshire, where there were more lights. Don Juan laughed when Florinda described the woman as very old, with crooked teeth and horrible breath. He said, "I think you smelled her farts," commenting dryly to the others in the room that anyone who runs at that speed would, of necessity, have to fart. He even asked those assembled, "Wouldn't she need to fart a great deal?" and they all solemnly agreed. Later an "inorganic friend" showed up that was a mixture between a cat and a rabbit, "with the most horrible teeth." Don Juan allegedly told Florinda to quit anthropomorphizing the inorganics, because her "fixation on teeth" was unhealthy.
Florinda claimed there is also "energy configured in bundles that can feel like stray or gentle wind." She explained that "true wind" contains hot air overtaken by a mass of cold air, as opposed to something perceived as wind that isn't. Don Juan assertedly told Castaneda that the only way he could perceive the difference between this and real wind was by walking barefoot (a strange sight, she claimed,Castaneda wandering barefoot in the chaparral, because Castaneda had "virginal, untouched" feet).
Florinda claimed that don Juan took Taisha and Florinda into the hills [interesting, because Florinda complains in Being-in-Dreaming of never having met any of Castaneda's other women associates, even as late as don Juan's departure in '73], and said they would have to take off their clothes and lean by a rock. Once the "wind" came they were to join Old Florinda down the hill. Florinda waited, but of course there was no wind. She had given up and was going to leave when she felt a tremendous force of energy enter "the hole between my legs," causing her to run down the hill "in the air" screaming. Don Juan was waiting at the bottom with Old Florinda, and they "stopped the wind." They howled with laughter at her. She told them she had been "raped" by the wind, and beat on them. Don Juan told her if she'd only done it properly she would have learned something.
This kind of wind assertedly doesn't just occur with sorcerers--a friend of Florinda's in L.A. is a professor of Spanish literature. One day she was taking a bath and something grabbed her and made her roll down the stairs. Her robe fell off and her screams awoke her sister, who was also her housemate. The sister later described her as "lying there moaning with pleasure." The professor supposedly had to go into therapy as a result of her claim that she'd been "taken by the wind." Florinda added, "nothing we can perceive is either good or evil, it is just perception."
A friend of theirs [Tony Karam, head of Casa Tibet in Mexico] took a picture of a "voladore"--flyer--at an event in Teotihuacan. It was a Tibetan Buddhist event on the occasion of the Vernal Equinox at the pyramids. Because of "the intent of 100,000 people gathered there," they believe the voladore "somehow anthropomorphized." The friend took three pictures, but developed only the second one, enlarged it and saw a human shape jumping or flying. The man gave the picture to Carol Tiggs because he thought Castaneda would know what it was. Castaneda was shocked because it allegedly appeared to be just like don Juan's description. Don Juan supposedly called the Flyers "guardians of the chicken coop"--explaining that we are the Flyers' "chickens." They devour our awareness like we do chickens. "Our awareness should cover our whole luminous egg like a plastic, transparent cape. The flyers, however, have eaten our awareness down to around our toes." (Florinda claimed that when she first heard this, she thought, "Big deal, they just eat our toes.") When she would tell don Juan her dreams he would say "Amorcito" (which she knew meant she was in trouble), "Don't bother to tell me your dreams, because you're just talking from your toes." Once our level of awareness rises, perception grows. "Awareness rises through discipline--ruthless efforts with your self to eradicate egomania--the I, I, I, and the me, me, me. All the awareness we are capable of at 'toe level' is self-reflection."
One of the ways Castaneda's clan had been able to see how to raise awareness, she claimed, is through Tensegrity. They have seen through the three Chacmools that it's possible for people to change (among themselves, they can tell stories of how they were trained, but they don't know exactly how the change happened, she asserted). Castaneda's clan aren't the Chacmools' teachers or gurus--"the Chacmools had to do it themselves, and on a body level they have been able to reach a higher level of awareness." Don Juan asertedly said that when our awareness rises, we realize we are beings who are going to die. That gives us the impetus to seek total freedom. (Abruptly, at this point, Florinda said she wanted to invite us to ask questions, and put on her glasses to see the audience.)