Castaneda’s Eight Point Diagram

The total luminous being, which contains both selves, the dreamer and the dreamed, has eight points, which can be visualized.

The Eight Points



dreaming seeing feeling


known unknown

This diagram has two epicentres: reason and will. Even though reason dominates our era, it is by far the smallest point in the diagram, and connected to only one other point — talking. Reason is the smallest point, and the most isolated from our total being. We now are living in an age when reason is our epicentre.

Talking refers to our ongoing internal and external dialog by which we impose our thoughts and learnt expectations on the raw data of perception. When reason connects with talking, we call that understanding.

We use only the two smallest points in the totality of ourselves — reason and talking. Normally in our lives we never even become aware of the remaining six points. Reason and talking comprise the normal self of our era in human history.

Talking is connected to three larger points — dreaming, seeing and feeling. These three concepts have larger meanings than as normally understood. Dreaming is not simply something done while sleeping, but the movement of the assemblage point with its alignment of new strands of energy, whether done while asleep or awake. Seeing is the initial step of perception, before the interpretation step. It means seeing as opposed to looking. Feeling refers to the feeling of the double, which interacts with the world by projecting tentacles of energy strands outward.

Note that these three points — dreaming, seeing and feeling — do not touch the point of reason; reason cannot connect directly with these three points or anything beyond.

Reason is the dominant epicentre in our era. Although the smallest point in the human luminous being, reason is nevertheless something like the hero of modern humanity. Reason rescued us from earlier times when larger, darker powers dominated human life. Reason established its dominion by using language and talking to circumscribe and curtail the meanings of the concepts dreaming, seeing and feeling. Dreaming, seeing and feeling are concepts filled with vast powers, and used to have greater importance in an earlier era of human history when they were dominant, and reason was hardly known at all.

Dreaming, seeing and feeling are connected to a much larger point — will. Will refers to the ability of the luminous being itself to act, with intention, in its own domain where every being appears as a cocoon-like conglomeration of strings of energy that go to infinity. Will acts with its tentacles, its raw strings of aware energy.

From a sorcery point of view, and from ancient man’s position, will was the predominant epicentre, and reason was off to the side and ignored. Will is the central point that organizes the being and the activities of the other self, the dreamer. The world upheld by will is the world of the other self, just as the world upheld by reason is the world of our normal self.

The final two points are the known and the unknown. These points are much larger than the combined total of all the other points. In fact, to put the entire diagram in a more accurate perspective, if we imagined a football stadium, reason would be just the rule book in the referee’s pocket, while the known would be the entire stadium, and the unknown would be the infinite world beyond the stadium.

Tales of Power tells the story of Castaneda’s final days with don Juan Matus. By the end of the book, Matus and his group of old sorcerers have gone, and Castaneda has leapt off a cliff, along with the other two apprentices, Pablito and Nestor.

To set up the depiction of these events, Castaneda explained the final two of the eight points on the diagram that makes up the totality of man.

He said that the life of a human being is composed of two sides, which Matus names ‘the tonal and the nagual’. These two words are said to come from ancient American folklore; it’s hard to find exact English words to replace them. A rough translation of the tonal is ‘the known’ and the nagual is ‘the unknown’.

The known is temporary, beginning at birth and ending at death. The unknown is always there, eternal. The unknown is aware of everything but cannot speak. The known can speak but has a limited controlled awareness; it can point in the general direction of the unknown, if called upon to do so, but is normally not aware of the unknown’s existence.

The known goes a step further and actively denies the existence of the unknown. Matus says ‘the tonal’s great art is to suppress any manifestation of the nagual in such a manner that even if its presence should be the most obvious thing in the world, it is unnoticeable’. We’re always surrounded by eternity, but we’re busy thinking of more important things.

The known is everything we know, or think we know, and everything we have a word for during our lifetime. This includes ourselves as people, our identities, and all the things we identify as being in the world, including God, the soul and the Devil and any concept we can think of. The known makes up its own rules by which it apprehends the world and, therefore, creates and sustains its world. Without the known there would be no meaning, language or order in our perceptions. There would only be chaos.

The known of any sentient being is best visualized as a small island suspended in a vast universe which is almost completely composed of the unknown. The unknown can be visualized as an entire universe of power and awareness that acts constantly and knows and directs everything, but cannot say anything or understand who it is or what it is doing.

The unknown is everything that exists apart from the tiny island of the known. The unknown is unimaginably immense. When Matus taught his apprentices about this topic, they carried a small table on a four-hour hike into the desert. They found a valley and placed the table on the ground, with kitchen utensils on top. They then hiked for another two hours to the top of a nearby mountain and looked down at the table. He told them that the surface of the barely visible table represented the known, with the utensils being items of our understanding. Then, he waved his arms around, saying that everything else was the unknown.

The unknown cannot be described in words. If something can be described, it is then part of the known. The effects of the unknown can be witnessed but not explained. You can only point towards it. Matus asserts that it is possible to enter the unknown and witness and even use its power, but while experiences in the unknown can and do happen they can’t necessarily be described or analyzed; mostly, they are not even remembered.

Our identity, our personhood, is in the known part of ourselves. When the known becomes aware that it is speaking about itself, it invents words like ‘I’ and ‘myself’. In the unknown we have no identity; we have only power and effect.

When we are born, and for a short time after, we are all unknown. We are confronted by an operating world that we must learn to share and participate in. Our known begins to develop through a total monumental effort. We can’t remember this effort because it happened before we developed our language, identity and memory.

The known’s importance is so encompassing that eventually we become completely invested in it, and forget what came before. We retain a vague sense of our other self, so we begin making pairs in our thinking. We think of mind and body, matter and energy, God and the Devil, but these are all singular concepts that are part of the known. They are all things that are known in some way, things that have words attached to them. They do not comprise the actual duality that our complete being is composed of, which is the known and the unknown.

The unknown can surface in our lives but only inadvertently. We can’t consciously arrange to encounter it. However, the unknown can arise and when it does, the known can become aware of the totality of oneself. Usually this only happens at the moment of death.

In Tales of Power, Castaneda recounted how Matus taught him about the known and the unknown, and about how the known rules our lives even though it’s weak in comparison to our other side, the unknown. Because of its relative weakness, the known must be cunning and ingenious in maintaining the illusion that the unknown doesn’t exist. If the unknown does emerge, the known becomes vulnerable.

Anything more than a brief glimpse of the unknown is deadly for the known and, therefore, for the entire being. When the unknown emerges, it’s like a ‘bad dog’. Repeatedly, Matus dumped buckets of water on Castaneda to ‘whip his nagual back to its place. The tonal must be protected at any cost. The crown has to be taken away from it, but it must remain as the protected overseer.’

The unknown can only emerge safely if it’s used to boost the known. When this is achieved, it’s called personal power. Without long and careful training any encounter with the unknown results in the known ‘crapping out’, creating a fatal shock. Without training, the known prefers to die rather than give up control.

Training the known consists of removing all unnecessary items from it — ‘cleaning the island of the tonal’. Any habits, thoughts, beliefs, and especially memories of relationships, that would prevent the known from surviving an encounter with the unknown, must be recovered and released. A new internal dialog must be developed that allows for the awareness of both the known and the unknown.


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