The idea of the assemblage point is found in the writings of Carlos Castaneda. As explained by his enigmatic Toltec master, Don Juan, the universe is made of an infinite number of energy streams flowing everywhere, all at once. (Quantum mechanics, anyone?) Our physical shape, and our identity, is formed by the confluence of uncountable streams of energy passing through a specific, small point in our egg-shaped energy field. Located in adults about an arm's length behind our shoulder blades, the assemblage point is where cosmic energies condense to become "me."
There is a common story in shamanism, Zen, Yoga, and even Christianity wherein the seeker is clobbered from behind by the teacher, to awaken their enlightenment. My first shamanic teacher said that when he made his way to a Guatemalan village as young man, an old man came running up behind him and whacked him in the back with a heavy stick. As the young man picked himself up from the dirt, the old man said, "What took you so long? I've been dreaming of you for years!" He became his teacher eventually initiating him as a shaman.
That physical smack shifts the assemblage point so it can move to a different location on one's luminous body, to a place where different energy streams meet and create a different reality for that person. This puts a new spin on being "smacked" by life (physically or emotionally). It may be Spirit's way of shifting your assemblage point to open a new world for you.
Psychology can dilute the assemblage point down to the ego, or to a metaphor for our inner filters and personal bias. But Don Juan was saying that we are able to shift between actual universes by shifting our assemblage point. It's how shamans can have uncanny powers like shapeshifting into, say, a jaguar. This also points to the care that must be taken in our shamanic study and dream life, to make sure we don’t unwittingly stumble into unfriendly universes.
I had one visceral experience in Peru of stumbling naively into a universe in which the seemingly friendly beings there actually wanted to eat me. I met two people from this universe who had also stumbled into that one, and became trapped. It was the Spirit of Tobacco that rescued me from that place - literally pulling me back here by my legs while the Piranha-toothed people were pulling on my head to keep me there. The two trapped people I met did not have tobacco to get them out. Tobacco has proven again and again just how powerful an ally it is, and I bless my teachers for leading me to it and teaching me how to work with it.
We are in a time where our species-wide assemblage point has been loosened by Spirit - primed and readied to be shifted. This is a recipe for global anxiety - to have billions of assemblage points loosened.
Those who self-identify as "conservatives," are, from a shamanic perspective, committed to keeping their current assemblage point in place. Its loosening is seen as a descent into chaos. But, it is actually important to have some "play" in the assemblage point. Keeping it stiff and unmovable sets up a resistance that forces Spirit to shove harder to open new pathways. As the Tao Te Ching says:
Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death.
The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life.
Comics, tricksters and pranksters fulfill a sacred task – to break open calcified, heavy energies like arrogance and martyrdom. They refresh a universe made stale by self-importance. Laughter is considered by shamans to be high-frequency healing and cleansing energy. Laughter keeps the assemblage point lubricated.
So, how do we navigate this quantum flux, this assemblage point shift, and not stumble into one of those malevolent universes? The key is letting go of self-importance, which drains your green sap. Search your heart, mind and body for rigidity of ideas and old judgement, and ask Spirit to keep you lubricated with wonder.
An ongoing spiritual practice that builds your physical vitality, and opens your compassion and wonder is so important nowadays. Shamanic practice does that for me, as well as Qigong which I am new at, but has already revealed great results.
Plato taught about the four kinds of divine madness that release us from old habits, and I think these are also guides for us, antidotes to sickness, and protection against stumbling into bad universes.
The four kinds of divine madness are:
- "Divination" which, for us, can mean seeking messages from nature, or, in shamanic practice, the "drum journey."
- "Mystery": entering some kind of contemplation that opens up the wonder of the universe for you.
- "Poetry": working with any kind of creativity that opens "enthusiasm and furor."
- "The Erotic": placing your attention on what you love with intensity and diving in fully and enjoying it.
Plato said, "Our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness, which indeed is a divine gift."
I leave you with this from Lalla, the wandering Kashmiri woman mystic of the 1300's:"
The soul, like the moon,
is new, and always new again.
And I have seen the ocean
Since I scoured my mind
and my body, I too, Lalla,
am new, each moment new.
My teacher told me one thing,
live in the soul.
When that was so,
I began to go naked,
English version by Coleman Barks
Original Language Kashmiri