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The TAT Forum: a spiritual magazine of essays, poems and humor.

TAT Forum
August 2002

Essays, poems, opinions and humor on seeking
and finding answers to your deepest life-questions

 

This month's contents:

Memories of Past and Future: Alfred D'Aliberti by Richard Rose | Compromise by Shawn Nevins | Self-Enquiry: Some Objections Answered by Douglas Harding | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Still Point of the Turning World (part 2 of 2) by Bob Cergol | Save it for Later by Bob Fergeson | Humor

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Memories of Past and Future
by Richard Rose

TAT founder Richard Rose spent a lifetime in spiritual and philosophical research. In "Alfred D'Aliberti: A Vignette", he shares his memories of one of the men who meant the most to him along that path, a man of real stature who might otherwise go unremembered. Rose's short story "Last Act" which will appear in next month's issue, is a dream-like evocation of a man's thoughts before the curtain falls.

Alfred D’Aliberti: A Vignette

illustrated letter A To the average layman, there is nothing more boring than the meetings with, or dialogues with, a spiritual person. A type has been cast that all spiritual people are supposed to fit into. The type or stereotype is that of a hypocrite, a person that is mentally sick perhaps, and a nuisance who goes about trying to convert you by shouting positive statements which in turn seemed to be needed more by the exhorter to shore up that which constitutes his faith.

Perhaps I have associated with a different breed of spiritual people. I have met a few men in my life who stood out, and yet the outstanding quality which they possessed was largely their own casual truthfulness. I could have said humility, but somehow I associate that word with hypocrisy. Many of the ministers and philosophers whom I met who described themselves as being humble were described by others as being tumid or hypocritical.

Alfred D’Aliberti was a minister. I never called him "reverend" because I thought the term itself was hypocritical unless it has been earned. Alfred understood when I called him Mr. D’Aliberti that I was trying to be an honest rebel, and he knew that I was very fond of him and his family. If there has been a man who ever truly earned the spiritual title of "reverend," it was the man who never got it from me. But we knew each other, and like any really close friends, knew that we could depend on the other when the chips were down.

I met Alfred after talking to a friend of his in San Antonio, a Reverend Green, formerly of Steubenville, Ohio. I cannot remember Green’s first name. Reverend Green had been interested in ESP and had done some research with Sheldon Scott and Alfred. Green suggested that I look up Scott and D’Aliberti when I returned to Wheeling.

Alfred and his wife were seekers in the true sense of the word. They did not make compromises for the sake of pollyana or church politics. To them, the truth was the truth. As soon as I talked to them a short while, I knew that I had enlarged my family. We decided to invite a few tolerant people to form a small group which would be able to get together once a week and discuss philosophy, religion or any interesting esoteric direction.

I have always said that a man must work spiritually on three levels. He must do something on the physical level, on the mental level, and these two levels make for or create the spiritual work. Alfred and his wife gave of their time, money and energy to help people. The esoteric research work which we did in our group constituted his mental contribution. And in true philosophic consistency, he had no dogma except helping and encouraging his fellow man to look for the truth of things. God was the search, not some pompous announcement by some cleric who had not made the trip.

He also taught in the local high school—and did this because he could not survive on the receipts from his church. It was never his policy to pressure his congregation for anything. I know that all of this sounds superlative, and I will stop short because my words will not change Alfred’s fact-status, which will live in the hearts of those who knew him.

I would like to leave with you some of his sayings. I got them from the little tracts that he dittoed off to pass out at each Sunday meeting.

Alfred considered himself to be a liberal, but he did not endorse anything that detracted from the substance or energy of people. "Let’s get this clear: your minister is quite liberal in his Theology and in his conduct. He has never condemned drinking, smoking or friendly games of cards, bingo or what have you. But he does not hesitate to tell you that intemperate smoking may enslave you and do irreparable damage to your body, that intemperate use of alcohol can, and often does make some people incurably alcoholic, and friendly games are no longer friendly when they turn into downright gambling. In the Protestant Church, gambling is a sin."

*

"There are certain people who bark at the darkness, curse it vehemently, threaten to destroy it—but they are too indolent to light a candle. It is within their reach to turn the lights on, but they are afraid. They will even raise their children in the darkness they curse and contribute to its blackness with money, submission and vote, but to hear them talk, they have the mouths of lions and the hearts of ... chickens."

*

This one is dated September 7th, 1958. "With this copy we hope to have the time to fill this page with thought-provoking statements on religious beliefs, religious history and religious facts. We believe that religion is the most important force for good in the world, but its effectiveness can be greatly impaired by errors, delusions, credulity, superstitions, etc.... Religion is a tragic, and criminal, evil when it is used to keep people in subjection through fear of "sin," the "wrath of God," and the eternal (?) flames of hell. Religion is being used today by unscrupulous men who are gradually infiltrating into every phase of society with the most sinister results. Of course there are many excellent, highly educated men and women in such organizations, and occasionally they muster enough courage to complain. One thing they know: they are guilty of a lack of intellectual and moral integrity for their apathy and indifference and personal identification with organized fraud.

"If religion were at least skin deep, some of it would, in one way or another, get into the bloodstream and be carried to the heart. Religion is more like a costume. It only covers the skin....

"Conventional Christianity is not the moral philosophy of Jesus, but a distortion of his person and his teachings. It should be called Churchianity. Many Church members are not Christians but Churchians...."

*

July 27th, 1958. "If God is within me so that I am a manifestation of God, how can I worship Him? I will be worshipping myself! That’s it! Until I learn to worship myself humbly, sincerely and earnestly, I can never hope to worship God. Please think.

"God is the source-spring of all blessings. If you knew that such a source-spring is right in your very heart, would you worry? Wake up then to the presence of God within you.

"To 99.44% of members of all religions, God is something to be placated. God is an invisible overlord, demanding and exacting obedience and tribute. People pay tribute to this cruel, harsh, powerfully wicked chieftain in many ways: in India, some people who are faithful go to such extremes as traveling a hundred miles or more by rolling! In Mexico, on Good Friday, the faithful, clad only in short shorts and a crucifix around their necks, jump into clusters of cacti, often piercing their throats or eyeballs! The Protestant faithful hold rattlesnakes, often with fatal results! I have often wondered—if I were God, what would I want people NOT to do?"

*

July 20th, 1958. "The following is an important Bible statement. 'Neglect not the gift that is within thee.' In a Church-religion, "sin" is the breaking of a law which is related to self-development. The harboring of thoughts that degrade in any way is "sinful." Negatively speaking, the neglect of moral development is equally sinful. Hence the admonition: 'Neglect not the gift that is within thee.' What gift? The gift of life. The gift of intelligence. The gift of love. The gift of conscience. What do you say of a person with a beautiful voice who neglects it? The gift of music, or of painting, or of speaking.... There are so many gifts given to people which are neglected!...."

*

Alfred had a very full crusade against childishness in religion—and by childishness I mean the childish insistence by theologians to force the public to accept absurd beliefs.

On February the 16th, 1958 he wrote: "About 400 years ago a Protestant scholar computed the age of the world to be, at his time, 3963 years old. Pope Urban VIII condemned such ignorance in no uncertain terms. Being a very smart man, and with the direct help of the Holy Ghost, he declared that the whole world was created in the year 5199 BC. With penalty for unbelievers. (Alfred is here referring to the ex cathedra infallibility of the Pope.) 200 years later, after the penalty was worn out, theologian Lightfoot startled the world be placing the creation on Oct. 23, 4004 BC!!"

On February the 9th, 1958, he puts the following arithmetic to work: "There are 1440 people dying each day, and not counting the millions of people who died before the time of Christ.

"The whole thing is preposterous... Jesus sitting at the right hand of God on a golden throne... are only figures of speech, and not material realities."

On October 21st, 1956 he wrote on sin: "In your minister's dictionary there is no such word as SIN. A Christian does not believe in sin... there are only right and wrong."

*

I have skipped through quite a sheaf of weekly messages, none of which were as illuminating as his conversations in informal groups. He had a quiet way of pointing at things which people took for granted, customs or beliefs that did not deserve the attention given them. I remember once he was talking about the crucifix and the devotional fetish that it had become.

"Why don’t we worship the electric chair?" he commented. "Crucifixion was a very brutal execution in which we see Christ at his worst. Are we to remember him morbidly, worshipping and kissing the instrument used to kill him?"

I remember when he said this that had not occurred to me previously and probably had not occurred to thousands of other Christians, that the sanctification of the cross was the equivalent of universal Christian masochism or morbid fetishism. I can see that it is good to remember the brutal execution of a hero, so that by remembering we will never allow it to happen again. But when the remembering takes on the love of the process (of execution), then we are worshiping the sadistic procedure, not the hero.

Alfred believed that Jesus was basically a man and that our first appraisals of Him should be practical and not bloated with wishful thinking about celestial things that Jesus might be. He believed that Jesus was a good man, a saint, and an historical social revolutionary. He used to point out that Mary was evidently married, because Jesus had brothers. Jesus pointed at the divinity of every man, or the divine potential, and he may have been misinterpreted. His message was that we were all men, but we could be like Jesus and discover that we had been a part of (children of) God all the time.

Alfred did not accept Hell as it is accepted by many Christians. To him, either the Christian concept of Hell was wrong, or the Christian concept of a benevolent God was wrong. And he knew that he must try to point out these things to people, but he also knew that he had to do it gently—he did not want to fracture the faith of those that needed faith to sustain them, but he wanted to be honest and reassuring to those who were beginning to break the chains of blind belief.

He did a lot of work along esoteric lines, knowing that any path to Truth was worth the while, if it were sincere. It was through the effort of Alfred and John Copitka that I was able to find a genuine materializing medium and witness a genuine materialization. We experimented with paranormal phenomena, and we spent several years at this type of research, meeting sometimes every Friday.

But his was a mind that did not plunge blindly into anything. He was able to pick out the frauds and did not hesitate to notify our group when fraud was detected. He was sitting with a small group once, experimenting with table-tilting. One of the sitters had encouraged the sitting and had a habit of helping the table a bit. So Alfred reached beneath the table and caught and held the man's hands, causing all phenomena to cease.

I often wondered how he managed to do all that he did. When I first met him, he was very close to sixty years of age. Yet he was in the process of building his house. The D’Aliberti children, a son and daughter, had married and were living out of the immediate area. Alfred felt that the time had come to try to make things more comfortable for his wife. Their house had been in bad shape for years, so he decided to rebuild it.

He taught school besides his ministerial duties while all this was going on, and our psychic group met, as I mentioned, sometimes every Friday. And he spent a lot of time in hospitals, visiting the sick.

I am inclined to think that his schedule ultimately killed him. He was a short, husky man with tremendous energy and determination. He was also one of the kindest men that I have ever known. When he visited my house or the Copitkas, I noticed that he always picked up the children and kissed them, and he talked to them with genuine concern for their positions and dispositions.

One day he had a heart attack while sitting in a chair. His passing was quick and unexpected, since all of us thought that his vitality would keep him going for a long, long time. My first reaction was a desire to put up a monument to him. It seemed that forgetfulness would settle over the town too quickly, and I knew that the town owed this man a lot. But his service dealt with intangibles for the most, and intangible services and acts of friendship cannot be seen unless they are written in history or granite.

Then it dawned on me that perhaps I was doing something, or trying to do something, that Alfred would not approve of. His life was a great success because he lived to the fullest a life of service. This fact, and his knowledge of that fact, was him. And this Self would be forever immortal without my help and without the reminders in paper or granite. However, I will retain, to the end of my days, the belief and fear that the members of his congregation never knew the real size of the man who was their minister.

Continued in the September 2002 TAT Forum

~ First published in the TAT Journal No. 2 (Vol. 1, No. 2). © 1978 by Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved. See the TAT Journal Archive page.


Compromise
by Shawn Nevins

illustrated letter C Today's attitude of spirituality seems one of compromise. We look at our behavior and ego games and decide how to 'integrate' spirituality into them. We create spirituality in the workplace, spiritual sex, spiritual relationships, pet spirituality, spirituality of wealth, spiritual social work, and such. We want to look at our present lifestyle and make it spiritual rather than honestly appraise what we are doing in light of the apparent meaninglessness of all worldly action.

Some of this has to do with spiritual movements more interested in making money than finding Reality. We find spiritual movements willing to justify any sort of behavior in a drive to increase their coffer.

However, the root problem is with the individual who is not asking the basic questions—what motivates me, why am I in internal conflict, who chooses among my desires, what about me is unchanging, how can I discover if I have a soul or spirit? Most people see the value of the spiritual search but refuse to gamble their worldly position for something apparently ethereal. They compromise and declare their actions spiritual, so they feel content. Our everyday life is like unbroken ground, and the spiritual search is a plow. You can declare the unbroken field a farm but will raise little but weeds, or you can plow it up, sow, and reap.


Self-Enquiry: Some Objections Answered
by Douglas Harding

Our self-knowledge is our beauty; self-ignorant, we are ugly. ~ Plotinus

All Christian religion consists wholly in this: to learn to know ourselves, whence we come and what we are. ~ Boehme

Who is it that repeats the Buddha's name? We should try to find out where this Who comes from and what it looks like. ~ Hsu Yun

You know the value of everything except yourself. ~ Rumi

Forgetfulness of the Self is the source of all misery. ~ Ramana Maharshi

How is it that we need all this prodding, all these warnings and earnest invitations and promises of infinite rewards, to persuade us to take a really close look at ourselves? Why don't all intelligent and serious people make it their chief business in life to find out whose life it is?

Thoughtful people, when challenged on this delicate subject, are apt to excuse themselves by raising a number of objections to this inner search. They aren't at all sure it's a good thing. Of course all agree that we need a working knowledge of our nature in order to make the best use of ourselves and get on with others, but (they feel) the probing can thrust too deep and go on far too long. "Know thyself" is all right up to a point but shouldn't become an obsession, an end in itself, and certainly not our life's work. Introspection carried to such lengths is likely to do more harm than good.

Or, in detail:

  • It's a selfish diversion of our energies from the service of others to preoccupation with ourselves.
  • It's a morbid introversion leading to excessive and handicapping self-consciousness (in the bad sense of that word) if not to mental illness.
  • It's time consuming and unpractical, unfitting us for our jobs and for family life.
  • It's depressing, and a bore, leading (its practitioners themselves admit) to a dead end and mental blandness.
  • It kills spontaneity and all natural, outgoing enjoyment.
  • It's a wonderful excuse for idleness and sponging.
  • It's coldly indifferent to art and to Nature, to the beauty and wonder of the universe and the rich variety of the human scene.
  • It's a stupefying drug that kills creativity, reduces words to gibberish, stops thought, numbs the mind itself, exchanging our most highly evolved human functions for the nonhuman or subhuman Inane.

Let's explore these eight objections to Self-enquiry.

Selfish?

We pay lip service to the dictum that we are not here to find ourselves but to forget ourselves, concentrating on others and exchanging our natural self-centeredness for the other-centeredness of loving service.

That's all very well, but how can we be sure we are doing others much good till we know ourselves? How much of our so-called help is working off our guilt feelings on the world, or indulging our craving for power, or white-washing some other grubby motive, regardless of the world's real need? How often our short-term help ends in long-term hindrance! It's notorious that the material and even the psychological aid we give people in solving one of their problems is apt to create two more. Only the kind of aid that's given by one who really knows himself, and others through himself, can be guaranteed altogether beneficent and free from those unfortunate side effects that go on and on so incalculably: and then the gift is probably a secret one, unexpressed and inexpressible. The truth is that helping oneself (which means finding oneself) is helping others, though the influence may be altogether subterranean. It goes without saying that we must be as actively kind as we can, but until we can see clearly Who is being kind we are working more or less in the dark, with the hit-or-miss consequences that might be expected.

Another trouble with this would-be forgetfulness of self in the service of others is that it's practically impossible anyway. Deliberate virtue rarely forgets to pat itself on the back a little. Goodness aimed at directly can scarcely avoid self-congratulation, and then it begins to smell less sweet. But if, on the other hand, it's a by-product, arising naturally out of true knowledge of oneself and concern for others because at root one is them, then it's indifferent to itself and any incidental merit earned, and continues to smell sweet. Unfortunately, trying to become a saint, or even a sage, is a self-defeating (or rather Self-defeating) enterprise likely to end in its opposite—and inflated ego.

Morbid?

Is there any truth in the opinion that radical Self-enquiry is sick?

What is mental illness, in the last resort, but alienation from others and therefore from oneself? It's the shame and misery of the part trying to become a whole (which it can never be) instead of the Whole (which it always is). We are all more or less ill till we find by Self-enquiry our Oneness with everyone else.

Unpractical?

Self-enquiry is also suspected of being, if not actually sick, at least unbalanced and abnormal, unfitting us for life. Some color is given to this objection by the fact (painfully evident to anyone who gets mixed up with religious movements) that "spiritual" people are quite often cranks, misfits, or inclined to be neurotic. Actually this isn't surprising. Contented (not to say self-satisfied) people, fairly "normal" and half-way good at being human, aren't driven to finding out what else they may be, their divinity. It's those who need to find out Who they are, the fortunately desperate ones, who are more likely to go in for Self-discovery. A sound instinct tells them where their cure lies.

So it is that initially the worldling may appear to be, and often is, a far better person than the spiritually inclined, and certainly looking within doesn't transform the personality overnight. All the same, to the degree that this supreme enterprise succeeds, it "normalizes" a man, fitting him at last for life and correcting awkwardnesses and weaknesses and uglinesses. Now he's truly adjusted; he knows how to be at peace. Paradoxically, it's by discovering that he isn't a man at all that he becomes a satisfactory man. Once he steadily sees into his Nature his needs and his demands on others rapidly dwindle, his ability to concentrate on any chosen task is remarkable, his detachment provides the cool objectivity necessary for practical wisdom. For the first time he sees people for what they are really worth, he takes in everything but is himself not taken in. At the start Self-enquiry may not be the best recipe for making friends and influencing people, but in the end it's the only way to be at home in the world. Nothing else is quite practical. Sages are immensely effectual people, not a lot of dreamy incompetents.

Dull?

Ah (say those who don't know) but their life is so uninteresting, so monotonous. How is it possible—attending for months and years on end to what is admittedly featureless, without any content whatever, mere Clarity—to avoid a terrible boredom? Discovering our North Pole may be fine, but do we have to live there in the icy wasteland where nothing ever happens?

Now the extraordinary truth is that, contrary to all expectations, this seemingly bleak and dreary Center of our being is in fact endlessly fascinating: there's not a dull moment here. It's our periphery, the world where things happen, which in the end bores and depresses. Why should the colorless, unchanging, shapeless, empty, nameless Source (in actual practice, not in theory) prove forever fresh and charming, while all its products, in spite of their inexhaustible richness, sooner or later prove a great weariness? Well, this happy fact, plus the happy fact that our vision of the source is always available, just has to be accepted—thankfully. It can hardly be a matter of serious complaint that everything lets us down till we see "who" never lets us down.

Unnatural?

Everything naturally directs us back to its Source within us. In fact, the whole business of Self-discovery is our normal function, our natural development and growing up, failing which we remain stunted, if not perverse or freakish. Again, this is a surprising discovery. One would have imagined that any protracted inward gaze would have made a man rather less natural, probably giving him a withdrawn look, an odd and self-occupied and forbidding manner. Actually the reverse is true. The Self-seeing man has the grace and charm of one who is free. To find the source is to tap it.

Take the case of one who is morbidly self-conscious. There are two things he can do about it, the one an amelioration (if that), the other a true cure. The false remedy for shyness is to lose himself by moving outwards toward the world, the true remedy is to find himself by moving inwards towards himself, till one day his self-consciousness is replaced by Self-consciousness and he is at ease everywhere. It's true, of course, that nobody can, by any technique of self-forgetting, regain the simple openness of the small child and the animal. Nevertheless by the opposite technique of Self-recollection he can regain something like that blessed state, at a much higher level. Then he will know, not by taking thought but by a kind of immediate instinct, what to do and how to do it. And, rather more often perhaps, what not to do. Short of this goal, we are all to some degree awkward and artificial and putting on some act or other.

Idle?

Is this a soft option, an easy way out of the Hell of responsibility and involvement and danger into a safe and unstrenuous Heaven? Not so. In a sense, admittedly, it's the easiest thing in the world to see what nobody else can see, namely what it's like to be oneself right here at no distance from oneself: the Emptiness is blazingly obvious, the Clarity absolutely transparent and unmistakable. But in another sense, alas, it's the most difficult thing in the world to see and go on seeing this Spot from this spot. The trouble is that this mysterious Place one occupies, where one supposed there was some solid thing and in fact is only the Seer Himself, is too wide open to inspection, too obvious and too plain to capture our attention. All our arrows of attention point outwards, and they might be made of steel, so seemingly hard it is to bend them round to point in at the Center, and still harder to prevent them springing back again immediately. Of all ambitions this is the most far-reaching, and no other adventure is anything like so daring and "difficult"—till we see how the "difficulty" was a nonsense of our own making.

World-Rejecting?

sunrise over ocean Is the game of Self-enquiry worth the candle? The answer is surely "no" if there's nothing of value out there, nothing worthy of our dedicated attention and love. Turning our backs on a universe so teeming and so magnificent, on all the treasures of art and of thought, and above all on our fellow humans, is surely a huge loss. Yet the sage—so it's reported—isn't interested in these matters: the world consists of things he doesn't wish to know. For him (they say) knowledge of particular things is ignorance.

The facts are the other way round. Oddly enough, it's the man who attends only to the outer scene, ignoring what lies at its Center, who is more or less blind to that scene. For the world is a curious phenomenon that, like a faint star, can be clearly observed only when it isn't directly looked at. The world will hide its true face from us until we look in the opposite direction, catching sight of it in the mirror of the Self.

For example, though the world is occasionally beautiful in places when directly viewed as quite real and self-supporting, it's consistently beautiful when indirectly viewed as an overflowing of the Self. When you see "Who's" really here you see what's really there, as a sort of bonus. This bonus comes as surprise on surprise. The universe is transformed. Colors sing they are so brilliant and glowing, shapes and planes and textures arrange themselves into charming compositions, nothing's repulsive or ugly or out of place. Every random patterning of objects—treetops and cloud banks, leaves and stones littering the ground, reflections in shop windows, stains and the tattered remains of posters on old walls, rubbish of all kinds—each is seen to be inevitable and perfect in its own unique way. And this is the very opposite of human imagination. It's divine realism, the clearing of that imaginative and wordy smokescreen which increasingly hides the world from us as we grow older and more knowing.

Uncreative?

The path of Self-enquiry is indeed no escape route. It's the short way in to the universe as it is, our highboard to immersion in the world. Yet, they say, it's incompatible with any other serious creative endeavor, whether artistic or intellectual or practical. It this is so, then here is surely a considerable drawback.

It's true that Self-enquiry will never succeed till we put our whole heart into it, and consequently the dedicated artist of philosopher or scientist would seem to be an unpromising candidate for sagehood. If so, this is not because he's too devoted to his calling but not devoted enough, not yet absolutely serious about it. He needs to deepen and widen his field till it includes both himself and the whole world. For the only consistent genius, the only complete artist-philosopher-scientist is the sage who is fully conscious of being the Painter of the world picture, the Thinker of all thought, the Universe-inventor, Knowledge itself. This doesn't mean, of course, that he has all the details at his fingertips, but he does see what they all amount to in their innermost essence and outermost sum. Namely, his true Self. And when a question of detail arises his response is the right one. His mindlessness is the indispensable basis of a smoothly functioning mind. His Self-knowledge contains all the information he needs from moment to moment. In short, the sage is sage, not clever and learned and with a head full of ideas but truly simple and clearheaded. Precisely so.

Even in ordinary life we find hints of this vital connection between Self-awareness and creativity. Don't our very best moments always include a heightened consciousness of ourselves, so that we aren't really lost in inspiration or creative fervor or love, but newly found? At its finest, doesn't the opaque object over there point unmistakably back to the transparent Subject over here? It may even happen that the transparency comes first: we attend, our idiotic chatter dies down, we consciously become nothing but this alert, expectant Void—and presently the required tune or picture, the key notion, the true answer, arise ready-made in that Void, from that Void.

The result of observing only the universe is anxiety. Only observing the Observer of the universe will put a top to a man's worrying and fussing and scheming. When his interest is diverted inwards he naturally relaxes his hold—his stranglehold—on the outer world. Having withdrawn his capital and paid it into his own Central Bank (where it appreciates to infinity), he has nothing to lose out there and no reason for interfering. He knows how to let things be and work out in their own time. He's in no hurry. Knowing the Self, he can hardly fail to trust its products. Whatever occurs is fundamentally agreeable to him. In Christian terms, he has no will but God's: what he wants is what happens and what happens is what he wants. Paradoxically his obedience to the nature of things is his rule over them. His weakness is in the long run all-powerful. And the secret of his power over things is that he goes to the Source. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you." Seek ye first these things, and even they shall be taken away.

This perfect obedience isn't just lining oneself up with God's will, or imitating it, or even becoming part of it. It's that very will itself in full operation. If we wish to find out what it's really like to create the world, we have only to desire nothing and pay attention. But total acceptance is very hard. It's precisely the opposite of the lazy indifference that lets things slide. It springs from inner strength and not weakness, from concentration, not slackness. Why is the world so troublesome, so frightful? Is it like that by nature, or because we take the easy way of fighting instead of the difficult way of fitting in with it? We have to find out for ourselves the truth of the sage's demonstration that even in the smallest things the way of noninterference, of giving up all self-will, of "disappearing," is astonishingly practical, the way that works. Not only in the long run but from moment to moment consciously getting out of the Light, giving place to whatever happens to be presenting itself in that Light, is astonishingly creative. We do too much and therefore remain ineffectual, we talk far too much and therefore say nothing, we think far, far too much and therefore prevent the facts from speaking for themselves—so say those who know the values of emptiness. It's for us to make our own tests, not—repeat not—by the direct method of trying to be quiet and mindless (it just won't work) but by the indirect method of seeing Who, it seems, was trying to be like that. No man becomes Godlike except by seeing that he isn't a man anyway.

His experience of deification has no content whatsoever, no details. It's not merely indescribable but nonmental and nonpsychological and in the truest sense nonhuman. Thinking or talking about it kills it by complicating what is Simplicity and Obviousness itself. It's rather like tasting sugar or seeing green: the more you reflect on it the further you get from the actuality. But there the resemblance ends. Seeing green is an ineffable experience because it's a prehuman or infrahuman one; seeing the Seer of green is an ineffable experience because it's a posthuman or suprahuman one. The sage's rejection of the concept-ridden, word-clouded mind isn't retrogression but the next evolutionary step beyond man, or rather the whole path from him to the goal of Self-realization. And though that goal is beyond thought, pure limpidity, void even of voidness, it's nothing but the Honest Truth at last. For only the Self can be known: everything else is partly guesswork, partly false, not all there. Only Self-awareness is wide-awake and fully observant: all other awareness is a kind of mind-wandering. Total awareness is the Self.

And so, in conclusion, every fault we could find with Self-enquiry has turned out to be a merit, thinly disguised. Certainly there are kinds of introspection which are harmful, but they are concerned with the ego or empirical self and the very opposite of the true enquiry which is healthy and sane, creative, natural, life-enhancing, practical, and altruistic. Though some of us may start this true enquiry terribly late, it's what we are here for. To neglect it is in every sense a shame.

It would still be a shameful neglect and cop-out, unworthy of our energy and intelligence, even if our Self-enquiry came up with no pay-off at all. In any case its benefits, though immense, are not the point. The only way to have them is not to go for them but only for the unvarnished Truth about ourselves, no matter how unedifying it might turn out to be. If all we want is to see Who we really, really are, nothing can stop us from doing so this very moment. But if our plan is to use that blessed vision to buy baskets full of nice feelings or any other goodies, we might as well abandon the very idea of Self-enquiry.

~ Reprinted by permission, from Look for Yourself by Douglas E. Harding. See The Headless Way web site for more information on Douglas Harding and his teaching.


Poems by Shawn Nevins

The seed is not the source.
Finding the "I Am,"
the seed finds itself.

Motion flings you outward,
but the gravitational pull of silence
brings you home.
"I Am," the seed, is the orbital balance point.

Walk in the right direction,
following your hunger.

*

You are a god in the body of an ant.
The impossible becomes possible.
Only ant-power is required
to reveal your majesty.

*

All your love is love of self.
Your fear is real love
that scours you like ice-cold wind.
Do not fight the cold, and you will find
space which marvels at every motion.
Love wants nothing; is present for everything.

*

Our lives pass like dreams in the morning—
but for a bit of memory all would be darkness.
Yet the dark is more alive than the light,
and dreamless sleep shimmers with Being,
if we could just remember.
Remember to be quiet
like man on the brink of sleep's oblivion
whose faltering self lets through a new life.

*

Sometimes I wonder, "Me of all people,
why was it me who Saw?"
Then I remember
I had nothing to do with it
and was not even there.
I am no God,
but God IS,
and I AM.

*

The trouble is
we want something from the ineffable—
like asking a waterfall to bend towards us
rather than sticking out our neck.
Our very life is given
and every need is met.
Be courageous and lay down your arms.

*

What drives us down and makes us dream
of places we have never seen?
What lifts my hand to the sky
and makes me ask why I die?
What is this darkness deep inside
from which I cannot ever hide?
Is my joy
but a ploy
to keep me here
in this place of fear?

This place, this sorrow, this tragic dome—
will lead us home—no need to roam.
Turn with me deep within,
for all that matters is to begin.

Brothers, we who cannot die,
laugh and cry for that which lies.
Laugh and cry for this fated "I"—
the eye that dies,
the "I" that dies....

*

Our life is like a stone bird
frozen by some demon of memory.
All that holds us together and still
is memory of the last moment.

Living birds tumble through emptiness
using what wind is available
to catch the prey God gave them.
God giveth and we taketh away
into little minds thinking with fear
of demons.

*

— will always wait for you.
Underneath every scene,
behind every thought,
between the flashes of existence.

This cold poetry, like wind from dark hollows,
brings with it
news of ever-present waiting.

The eternal hears this
and remembers its mortality,
remembers the limits of time.
Memory of fleeting feelings lost.

Follow this line of words to its inevitable conclusion.


The Still Point of the Turning World (concluded)
by Bob Cergol

(~ Continued from the July 2002 TAT Forum)

The Building of Identity – Striving to Define Oneself

You are born into this world as an individual body and just as that body does not contain air so much as it is immersed in an ocean of air, so too is it immersed in the all-pervasive Silent Stillness – the Living Awareness.

It is this background of Awareness in which the process of experience occurs and gives rise to separate individual consciousness. The physical body is a sense perception machine. The first perceptual experience simultaneously gives rise to the subject "having" the experience. Experience builds on experience and identity builds on identity.

You experience individuality and until proven otherwise know only that you exist as an individual. To exist as an individual – and consequently, TO FEEL THE COMPULSION FROM A SOURCE UNKNOWN – TO BE THAT INDIVIDUAL – while at the same time NOT KNOWING JUST WHAT EXACTLY THAT INDIVIDUALITY IS, or is supposed to be – means that YOU HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO DEFINE YOURSELF TO YOURSELF. (Identity spins identity.) That is your nature, period. That is the direction of all your thoughts and actions. This IMPERATIVE is itself an expression of, or an echo of, that Being, from which all arises, when manifested as individualized forms – a dust funnel in a desert.

When you think you are looking inward, you are in fact looking outward. You can never really see yourself. The instant that such seeing occurs will be the same instant that the self you take yourself to be will cease to exist. The direction of your looking is to define, build, magnify and preserve this self – generated by experience.

This is a hopeless endeavor since by definition that self doesn't know what it is and therefore what to preserve. The method of preservation is to possess all in its field of vision and by association with the "real" out there infer its own reality. All the poignant pathos in your life is the story of this process.


Identity spins Identity

Here's your predicament.

Childhood launched you on a journey of creating your individuality. You were the center of the universe, and the universe existed to satisfy you. The world had to conform to you. You create the world in your own image and likeness.

Adolescence launched you on a journey to find your relationship to the world – further defining your individuality. By now the world had also become a threat to that individuality and fear became entrenched. You now also had to conform to the world.

In young adulthood you seek to find your role in that world and your possibilities seem endless. Now cautious that the world can also be your enemy, you still see the purpose of the world as serving your needs. The only problem is how – what pathway are you supposed to take. It gradually becomes more and more apparent that you have little control over the outcome. It's starting to look like the world is stronger than you are. You steel – or resign – yourself and determine to forge ahead to live your life – to continue the process of building your individuality – albeit with some level of doubt.

But before you can commit, a terrible indecision begins to arise like a worm eating away from the inside. There is the fear of taking the wrong path. There is the hesitation in lack of conviction that any given direction is the way you are supposed to go. Why? What is this fear?

So long as your possibilities were endless and the purpose of the world was to serve you, you were safe. But now the world is recognized as much, much bigger than yourself and you must somehow find your place in it.

Your cannot dispel the doubt that the quest to build your individuality ultimately cannot succeed because it won't make your individuality bigger and longer lasting than the world. In fact the world itself might swallow you up. You are threatened from within and from without.

Your indecision and uncertainty stems from the recognition somewhere deep inside of your own mortality. Your whole life you have managed to look away from the fact of your own mortality. You fear that your time is limited and that you will not be able to go back. But it is also the awareness that you're not even sure of what it is you are trying to build and protect.

A conscious life-long commitment, such as raising a family, is difficult to make because once made it fixes the end-point. Death becomes real enough that it is no longer as completely out of your consciousness.

So the outer dialog says, "Choose wisely. You have one shot at crossing the chasm."

But the inner dialog says, "All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."


The denial of death

It's a fact, you can lie to everyone around you, but you cannot lie to yourself. The only thing you can do is look away from whatever you don't want to face.

Therefore the only thing to do is to face everything squarely – and it is the looking away from the ever-present fact of death that is the fundamental problem.

Our life's story is really about our journey of learning how to reconcile ourselves with, and accept, our own death.


The Path

Use the "Who am I?"

Focus the attention on sensation and feeling, not on thoughts. Do not focus the attention on emotions per se, but on the sensation of having the feeling – both the sensation of having the feeling and the source of the feeling.

Thoughts generated by this attempt are the reaction to this "direct looking," and the "looking away" is experienced as a rush of ensuing thoughts.

How did you get to where you find yourself right now?

This is an exercise in trying to see and feel, not think.

What is the earliest memory that occurs to you now of "you as a child"?
What is the circumstance?
What is the feeling?
Can you see what your thoughts were then?

What memory occurs to you now of "you as an adolescent"?
What is the circumstance?
What is the feeling?
Can you see what your thoughts were then?

What memory occurs to you now of "you as a young adult?
What is the circumstance?
What is the feeling?
Can you see what your thoughts were then?

What memory is most prominent of "you last year"?
What is the circumstance?
What is the feeling?
Can you see what your thoughts were then?


Save it for Later
by Bob Fergeson

The Usual Mode of Conversation Between God and man

God: Turn round, and come Home to me.

man: Two dozen dirty lovers before you, I must be a sucker for it.
I'd cry, but I don't need my mother, just hold my hand while I come to a decision on this.

Sooner or later,
your legs will give way, you'll hit the ground. Turn round.

Save it for later,
just hold my hand while I come to some decisions on all this.

Sooner or later,
you'll hit the deck, you'll get found out. Turn round.

           I just need more time to think.
Save it for later, but don't run away and let me down.

Turn round, and come Home to me.

           I've traveled all 7 seas, they're rotten through and through, so what can you do?
Sooner or later,
you'll run away and let me down.

Sooner or later,
your legs will give way, you'll hit the ground. Turn round.

           Two dozen other stupid reasons why we should suffer all this?
Sooner or later,
you'll run away, run away, and let me down.

Sooner or later,
you'll hit the deck, you'll get found out. Turn round.

Save it for later,
just hold my hand while I come to some decisions on all this.

This continued for some time, right up to and through the present day.
- with apologies to The English Beat -


Humor...

Whenever I'm caught between two evils, I take the one I've never tried. ~ Mae West

When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Kentucky—because there it will come 20 years later. ~ Mark Twain

I'm free of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally. ~ W.C. Fields


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