Right off the bat, Ken Eagle Feather tells me he’s not Native American, but is “white as wonder bread.” The name was given to him by don Juan Matus, the same don Juan encountered by Carlos Castaneda of The Teachings of Don Juan, A Separate Reality and Journey to Ixtlan fame. He had it legally changed in the 1970s, during the time he was actively engaged with the controversial figure. “The argument as to whether don Juan is or was a real person has spilled over into academia big time,” states Eagle Feather. Claims that Castaneda himself was a fraud and that his Ph.D. in anthropology from UCLA had been revoked were put to rest when Eagle Feather telephoned the university, which assured him the bestowal is still intact. His own opinion is that Castaneda may well have been “the Copernicus of our time.”
Self-described as “a silver-haired rascal,” Eagle Feather asserts that he met and was apprenticed to don Juan, and that he was given the instruction to study Castaneda’s books (“they contain a sophisticated worldview to focus energy, as well as disciplines and techniques to harness energy”) and present the Toltec teachings within them from a different perspective. He spent 16 years poring daily over the material, adding another two years of intermittent study that included other esoteric writings and the world’s sacred texts. Eagle Feather’s first book, Traveling with Power, explained his encounter with don Juan and basics about the path revealed. His second, A Toltec Path (republished ten years later as On the Toltec Path) describes the overall structure of don Juan’s teachings. He then wrote Tracking Freedom “for good measure, to consolidate and synthesize Toltec teachings with other systems of learning.”
Since Eagle Feather feels he has moved beyond that identity (“Ken Eagle Feather has flown away”) and is now writing under his given name, Ken Smith, let’s call this fifty-something author ‘Smith’ from here on. It’s easy, and reflects the man’s focus on conveying his understanding to the ordinary person. “And how ordinary can you get?” he asks, chuckling at the simplicity of his ‘new’ name. In an upcoming title, he’ll do away with the somewhat cumbersome terminology in his current book, Toltec Dreaming, which illuminates don Juan’s teachings on the ‘energy body’. A hefty topic, admits Smith, who says the energy body includes not only the physical [body] but all the various “bodies” thought to exist in other traditions. “While the Taoists gave us the meridian system and yogis developed the chakra model, this concept and the mapping out of its anatomy is the unique contribution of the Toltecs.” (The Toltecs are thought to have ruled central Mexico between 3,000 – 7000 years ago. Though masterful in the control of energy, the old order grossly misused such abilities.) According to Smith, Castaneda built a bridge between the old and modern (circa mid-1700s C.E.) lineages. “Don Juan is part of a specific line dating to 1723 and is dedicated to using extraordinary capabilities only for positive purposes. He also thinks drugs warp personal energy and should be used rarely, with caution and reverence, and only if meditative exercises fail.”
The whole gig of being human, according to don Juan, is that we are luminous creatures. As such, our natural function is that of being aware, of perceiving. “The metaphysical philosophy known as the Toltec Way deals with the nature of reality, including how reality is perceived, formulated and experienced,” writes Smith. “Its philosophy of action and behavior superimposes on the waking world the subtle physics of the dream world in order to create a conscious dreaming body that, when fully realized, can act as a vehicle to higher consciousness.”
The energy (dreaming) body has eight cornerstones of perception which, when diagrammed look somewhat like the Kabbalist Tree of Life. Realities are created and congealed as patterns (termed ‘cohesions’ by Smith) within this body. Often culturally constructed, a particular reality determines what you think about, which in turn determines how you feel; how you feel determines what you think about, as well as your behavior, and how you behave determines what you think about (is that a ‘Catch-22’?). This Uber-Body—E-B for short—has, of course, a left and a right side, just like our physical body does. And we supposedly access only seven to twelve percent of E-B, just as we only use about ten percent of our brain’s capacity. For most of us, E-B is lopsided; the right side, which holds what we’re conscious of, is markedly smaller than the left, and relates to what Smith calls ‘the first field of awareness.’ The larger side holds all that is unconscious, and relates to the ‘second field of awareness.’
The goal, similar to Jung’s process of individuation, is to unite the two and move into a third field of infinitely larger possibilities (chaos theory’s combo of opposites spiraling into a “third thing” comes to mind). In this reality, we would “Be Here Now” and directly perceive our world, leaving behind the tendency to create “mirror bubbles” that reflect back to us our interpretations and judgments of that world. By expanding what we’re conscious of, we can experience alternate realities. (Great with analogies, Smith likens this to attending college; for most, the experience opens doors to new thoughts, feelings and behaviors that create new worldviews). But it’s when we enter the third field (which contains everything outside E-B) that we encounter truly transforming energies.
No stranger to transformative experiences, Smith grew up in a military family and, as a child, almost drowned in Lake Michigan. He remembers a vague form approaching him as he stopped struggling underwater, enveloping him in a sense of peace. Pulled to safety, he recalls seeing his father standing next to his mother after he was brought home. Later, he learned his father had not been there. After the accident, his life felt “lackluster”; psychic comic books provided a few bright spots. When he was in high school, his family moved to Virginia Beach, where the Edgar Cayce Foundation is located. In the metaphysical library of the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E., the Cayce ‘sister’ organization), he researched a term paper on the lost continent of Atlantis, giving his fertile young mind exotic food for thought. His path took him, at 17, into the U.S. Navy. While serving in Vietnam, Smith found himself merely thinking of where he wanted to be transferred, only to be given a set of orders directing him to just that place, a phenomenon that occurred numerous times. Back in the U.S., he experienced emotional malaise as well as internal bleeding that sometimes left him hospitalized. Facing invasive surgery, he practiced the exercises in Castaneda’s books and experienced respite. “Don Juan’s Toltec world has given me physical, mental and spiritual renewal,” says Smith. “His teachings literally saved my life.” While apprenticing with don Juan, Smith earned degrees in education and journalism, pursued graduate work in religious studies, and served on the A.R.E. staff and then at the Monroe Institute (where sound technology is used to facilitate the exploration of consciousness).
Currently the Communications Director for the Institute for Therapeutic Discovery in Virginia, Smith considers himself a very ordinary guy, holding down a serious job, leading a completely normal life. But he may “knock out 20 hours of meditation on the weekend,” which for him means “dreaming,” occasionally visiting alternate realities (he’s been to the moon and has experienced himself as a tornado and as a lizard, among other things).The tall, slim Smith says he has “dazzling crystalline eyes that are completely bloodshot.” He’s a tech-geek who sneaks in a Southern accent now and then, along with the truly ‘70s expression, ‘far out.’ But he’s not, really. For all his dreaming and traveling, Smith is extremely down to earth—grounded, he would say. He isn’t out to have psychedelic experiences, but focuses on connecting with what you might call the Will of God. “I have a problem with ‘creating your own reality’— take the energy of desire and use it to get more in touch with how God created you, nurture that and let it grow.” He doesn’t drink alcohol, and says he tries to eat well, but moderately. “I’m going out to Burger King as soon as we get off the phone, he informs me. “Come on, a Junior Whopper?” No worries; he’ll walk or swim it off. He loves living in Virginia with both the mountains and the ocean nearby, and enjoys experiencing the four seasons. His daughter is “the best part of the joy in my life” (Smith’s upcoming book will address ‘Toltec parenting’).
While Toltec Dreaming requires some serious mental processing, it is clearly written, and alternates conceptual material with personal anecdotes and comments on don Juan’s transmissions, as well as many practical exercises for “controlling your internal cohesions,” thereby shaping your external world. The work is influenced by more than Smith’s experiences with the Toltec seer; including talks with people who have had Dreaming Body Experiences (DBEs), the perusal of the Edgar Cayce psychic readings and his own explorations. As a result, he has come up with a three-step process for inducing a dreaming state. “This ‘3E’ method focuses on expectation (opening perception), excitation (balancing perception) and exploration (focusing perception). “A major theme in the Cayce readings is that as you develop spiritually, you shed the binding and restrictive forces isolating you in a three-dimensional, physical reality,” notes Smith, who offers another set of procedures “to exercise the dreaming body” and prepare for a conscious DBE. One of these—Too Tired?—grabbed my attention right away. Try this:
1. Allow your fatigue to saturate your physical body. This facilitates relaxation and the notion that it is OK to be fatigued.
2. Perceive a hollow core at the center of your physical body.
3. From that core push or expand the fatigue energy outward in all directions. As you do so, the core of the energy also expands.
4. Contract that energy. The core of the energy will contract as well. Exhale as you expand the energy away from you; inhale as you retract the energy.
5. As you fall asleep (attention, insomniacs!), expand and contract your fatigue energy at your own pace. As you expand and contract the energy, know within yourself that you are doing so in order to build dreaming intent.
Many of the exercises are designed to help access cues from the physical body. Smith thinks that if significant numbers of people could access their ‘body-wisdom’ and achieve deep relaxation, humanity might be able to mitigate a point of no return, known to military pilots as QNR. “We may be there,” he says, immediately mitigating his own statement: “But, if humans made it, they can temper it with actions like those Al Gore recommends. We need to develop a natural balance with nature; right now we’re taking and pooping, not taking and giving back.”
Ken Smith advocates developing and harnessing personal power for the purpose of unity with the God-Self, the Field, the Eagle of the Toltec world, and for creating a full, balanced life that is an inspiration to others and a boon to the planet. With both feet on the Earth, dare to soar beyond its bounds. Live in the world well, but be not tethered. “Dreaming is a land of potential, a no-money-down virtual reality technology,” he promises. “Anything can happen, and often does! Ordinary reality is but one dream, as is non-ordinary reality.” Shakespeare said it through Prospero in The Tempest: “We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” And of course, Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, “To sleep, perchance to dream…” conjures a sobering reality indeed. As Smith repeatedly advises, clarity and intent are prerequisites for healthy altered states. Before embarking, take a reality check. But do row merrily, for Life, after all, is but a Dream.