This month's contents:
The Engineer and the Robot by Richard Rose | Introduction to Franz Hartmann by Richard Rose | Preface to Magic, White & Black by Franz Hartmann | Spiritual Action by Bob Cergol | Silence by Bob Fergeson | From the Experience of No-Self by Bernadette Roberts | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Further Impressions of the Headless Way by Shawn Nevins | Do Not Fear the Darkness by Art Ticknor | Critical Path to Nirvana by Art Ticknor | Humor | Reader Commentary
Sign up for e-mail alerts that will let you know when new issues are published.
Want to meet some of the Forum authors in person? Interested in meeting other Forum readers? Watch for more information about TAT's meeting schedule and programs.
Upon the dark paper, with seeming white lines, the Engineer created relationships between individual drawings, so that the mind of the robot would be entertained by illusory commensurateness, in a conceptual cosmos.
And the robot being commensurately constructed also vibrated agreeably with the cosmic design. But still the robot only manifested reaction.
And so the Engineer endowed the robot with Visualization so that the robot could feel and conceive as well as react.
And so, the robot saw motion in that which did not move, and began to love things which had no substance, and to develop reactions which it called thoughts,—and all of this seemed to function according to rules of commensurateness.
And being so immersed in his thoughts the robot did not realize that according to the rules of commensurateness that commensurateness applies only to relative experience, and that relative experience admits opposites in matters of reaction or direction. So that in choosing the realm of thought, and overlooking the possibility of No-thought, the robot passed by the door of the Absolute wherein thought is only a distraction.
~ From Carillon © 1982 by Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.
~ From the back cover of the book, published by the TAT Foundation
DESCRIPTION OF THE FRONTISPIECE
At the foot of the picture is a sleeping Sphinx, whose upper part (representing the higher principles) is human; while the lower parts (symbolising the lower principles) are of an animal nature. She is dreaming of the solution of the great problem of the construction of the Universe and of the nature and destiny of Man, and her dream takes the shape of the figure above here, representing the Macrocosm and the Microcosm and their mutual interaction.
Above, around, and within all, without beginning and without an end, penetrating and pervading all, from the endless and unimaginable periphery to the invisible and incomprehensible centre is Parabrahm, the unmanifested Absolute, the supreme source of every power that ever manifested or may in the future manifest itself as a "thing," and by whose activity the world was thrown into existence, being projected by the power of His own will and imagination.
The Omega (and the Alpha in the centre) represent the "Son," the Absolute having become manifest as the Universal Logos or The Christ, also called Buddhi, or the sixth principle, the cause of the beginning and the end of every created thing. It is One with the "father," being manifested as a Trinity in a Unity, the cause of what we call Space, Motion, and Substance. Its highest manifestation is Self-consciousness, by which it may come to the comprehension of Man. The spiritual man whose matrix is his own physical body, draws his nutriment from this universal spiritual principle as the physical foetus is nourished by means of the womb of the mother, his soul being formed from the astral influences or the soul of the world.
Out of the Universal Logos proceeds the "invisible Light" of the Spirit, the Truth, the Law, and the Life, embracing and penetrating the Cosmos and becoming manifest in the illuminated soul of Man, while the visible light of Nature is only its most material aspect or mode of manifestation, in the same sense as the visible sun is the reflex of its divine prototype, the invisible centre of power or the great spiritual Sun.
The circle with the twelve signs of the Zodiac, enclosing the space in which the planets belonging to our solar system are represented, symbolises the Cosmos, filled with the planetary influences pervading the Astral Light, and which are caused by the interaction of the astral emanations of the cosmic bodies and their inhabitants.
The activity in the Cosmos is represented by the interlaced triangle. The two outer ones represent the great powers of creation, preservation, and destruction, or Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, acting upon the elements of Fire, Water, and Earth—that is to say, upon the original principles out of which ethereal, fluid and solid material substances and forms are produced.
The two inner interlaced triangles refer more especially to the development of Man. B, C, and D represent Knowledge, the Knower, and the Known, which trinity constitutes Self-knowledge. E, F, and G represent the Physical Man, the Ethereal or Inner Man, and the Spiritual Man. The centre represents the divine Atma, being identical with the Universal Logos. It is, like the latter, a Trinity in a Unity1. It is the spiritual seed implanted in the soul of man, through whose growth immortal life is attained. It's light is the Rose of the Cross that is formed by Wisdom and Power. But below all is the realm of Illusion, of the most gross and heavy materialised thoughts, sinking into Darkness and Death, where they decompose and putrefy, and are resolved again into the elements out of which the Universe came into existence.
1Of the three interlaced A's, only one is distinctly drawn in the figure.
~ Excerpted from Magic, White & Black, which is published by the TAT Foundation © 1980 and distributed by Rose Publications.
In response to an inquiry about the possible downside of what's generally thought of as success in life:
I see I created some ambiguity. I believe action is required. Inaction won't lead to any realization. But an aspect of the "razor's edge" is the ability to get lost in action. Every step one takes that starts with sincere motivation is subject to subversion if one doesn't combine with that a practice of self-examination. Otherwise our motivations get hijacked by personality facets so gradually that we don't even notice. Sometimes it's hard to see what is really going on with someone solely by observing their actions. Who would have thought Jeff Tennant's fighting career encompassed his spiritual path. [Tennant never lost a fight in over 100 fights spanning 17 years in the Southeast Asian underground Martial Arts fighting circuit. - Ed.] At the opposite end, what better camouflage to hide from oneself than a life of overtly "spiritual" action. In fact I've met a few (myself included) whose "spiritual" activities were the means of escape from other courses of actions the world was presenting that were too frightening to face. "Right action" must involve action on another level—not easily seen even by oneself, let alone an external observer. The word "earnestness" covers it. The action that results from long-term earnestness is not completely visible except in hindsight. Action has to be grounded in a daily remembrance—in silence—of self-inquiry. Eventually the resulting mental vector becomes superimposed on the external swirl of events—those events of which even your self is a part. An accident needs to happen. Action makes you more accident prone. But the vector of one's attention has to be inward focused, with "hair trigger" sensitivity, so that the "affliction out of the blue" sets it in motion, when it is least expected, and without any intervention by you. That's key. If you participate, you stop it. So effortlessness ultimately IS key—but it is the result of prior effort! (Between-ness....)
The first piece of poetry I ever heard Rose read was "The Way" (still one of my top favorites). In the last paragraph he writes: "To avoid action, thou must first determine for great action."
~ See the July TAT Forum to read "The Way."
Silence has long been said to be a necessary component to any spiritual path, if not the goal itself. Much has been written of the Quiet, from its physical aspects, to using it as a symbol of the Void. Let us take a look at this thing called silence, and see if we may come to a better understanding of it, perhaps even to see it as it is, in ourself.
Silence can be said to have four aspects, in that it provides the background for the manifestation of four functions of mind. The first is the silence of the physical world, the realm of the body and senses. The next two are the silence of our emotions, within the heart, and the silence of the mind, behind the realm of thought. And finally, that of the spirit, the silence of awareness. As we come to know these aspects, we separate from the mind-function or foreground, and begin to travel within. Each one will be more difficult to accept than the last. We may see we actually fear silence, as it threatens us in our very sense of being, or identification. But as each fear is overcome and a new level reached, we may come to know that the Peace that passeth all understanding is found not in noise, form, emotion, or even in disciplined thought, but in silence.
The most common aspect of silence is its physical one, being the absence of physical sound. We can easily see the value of this in our seeking. Having a quiet place to meditate and think is a necessity for us when starting out on the path. We can concentrate, remember our goals, and look inside without outer distraction as we begin the arduous task of coming to know ourselves. This silence can be increasingly hard to come by in this day and age, being bombarded with noise in the form of entertainment and distraction as well as from the environment. We have become a society which places value on constant noise, making us afraid of the quiet, perhaps without even knowing why. Though this lack of environmental silence is prevalent, it is relatively easily dealt with compared with the mental and emotional aspects. To find a quiet place may take time and energy, but it does not require much in the way of facing ourselves, within. While the silence of the outer world maybe threatening to some, it holds no place compared to the threat of the silence within.
All miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone. —Pascal
Emotional silence is found by bringing our feelings into consciousness. The unconscious emotional turmoil many of us experience leaves us no peace inside, and no ability to use our feelings as a true guide. Being unquestioned, they take on a life of their own, to which we say "I," and never gain any resolution of them in the moment. These feelings may drive us relentlessly in circles, never allowing us peace, clarity, or the ability to hold to a steady purpose. To find the goal or aim of our very life, the thing we came here for, is impossible without some level of silence within our heart. We may be desperately searching for something we have never defined, driven by anxieties of which we are mostly unconscious, and which serve no real need other than to tap our energy. Working our way back to a silent heart is a wondrous thing, indeed. There we may find a goal we can live and die with.
A quiet mind cureth all. —Robert Burton
Many are the systems and methods designed to quieten the mind, to reach an inner silence. Why is this? We are told that a quiet mind is paramount in achieving liberation, but just how is this defined? Is it an absence of thought, or the absence of identification with thought? We may find that after training ourselves to "not think," that we have merely become good at holding the thought of "not thinking." This forced "silence" is not going to take us to the truth of ourselves. If we can find instead the true background silence behind the mind, then the thoughts may flow on without our being identified with them, enabling us to get a good look at them as they pass by. Thus we have become a silent observer of thought and mind, and taken a step farther within.
By witnessing our thoughts, rather than trying to control them, we begin to notice the endless internal dialogue running in our heads. Tricked into taking sides in this dialogue, we fight ourselves, pitting one thought-pattern against another, trapped in confusion. We may see that the next step into silence is found by simply listening, while paying careful attention. This may be terrifying to some, for it can threaten us at the level of our individuality, the ego itself, for now the voices of intuition and conscience may arise unhindered.
The first step should be into silence. Begin with the silent witnessing of your thoughts. —Vicki Woodyard
We can see that by listening within, in the background of our mind, new information is available to us that was being drowned out by the internal dialogue, our "knowing," and the constant emotional dissonance. By allowing our innate intelligence, reason, and intuition to solve the problems of the mind as they surface, rather than fostering interference through unquestioned desires and fears running counter to our aim, we no longer force the mind to fight itself, leaving it relatively quiet and efficient. And perhaps surprisingly, we find we are no longer identified with it, and find again another silence, a silence of the spirit which contains the mind, rather than being contained by it.
What is spiritual silence? It is not just the absence of talk. Silence has substance. It is the presence of something. —Kathryn Damiano
Here, beyond the reach of mind and emotions, we see we have become a silence, one that is aware. This is what Douglas Harding would call aware capacity. We have become the space in which all may happen. Just like the silence of the physical universe is the background and foundation of all noise, as the silence behind the notes allows the music to come into being, we have become that which gives existence to form and thought. As this aware silence, we may turn our attention around, and as we look within through the Mystery of the Unknown, we may find our Source, the Silent Spring from which all is born.
This journey from noise and confusion to Silent Being is not in any way an easy one, and not one which will be carried to the end by those that desire only ease and bodily peace. If you think you will breeze through the Gates of Silence with no trouble, then test yourself by spending a good length of time alone, in the dead quiet. Listen to your thought, and feel your heart. What do you hear and see, truly? If there is fear and ambition, desire and anxiety, your journey into Silence has just begun.
There is a silence within; a silence that descends from without; a silence that stills existence; and a silence that engulfs the entire universe. There is a silence of the self and its faculties of will, thought, memory, emotions. There is a silence in which there is nothing, a silence in which there is something; and finally, there is the silence of no-self and the silence of God. —Bernadette Roberts
Mind-shine makes such motion
Solitude's dark light
I am alone with the world.
I will sing to you
There's a cold wind coming down
There's a cold wind coming down
There's a cold wind coming down
I am surprised
Follow these words
Images pass through me
There is no penalty,
Amidst the songs of life
~ Notes from the summer of 1999
"I am not asking you to understand, I am asking you to look," by Saint Theresa, is a quotation filled with challenge. Douglas Harding quoted her early in the twelve days I spent with him in England. The challenge is to experience rather than think about Reality; to drop one's beliefs about their nature and the spiritual path. The danger in the challenge is in potentially exchanging one set of beliefs for another. It is easier to believe in El Dorado than go there.
I attended a four-day workshop with Douglas Harding in England and spent the following week at his house. I wanted to immerse my self in the man and his message and determine if his way could lead one to discover their true nature. What follows is to help you and me to learn from what I heard, saw, felt, and thought over that twelve days.
The four-day workshop, billed as a "Gathering," drew approximately 45 people to Felsted, England. Catherine and Douglas Harding spoke each morning for a couple of hours, three guest speakers took a turn in the afternoons, and the evenings saw a question and answer/discussion format. Interspersed were some yoga, dance, singing, and zazen. Douglas made a point of saying he did not structure this Gathering. Rather, he did what the organizers asked him to do. Several times he said it was an unusual format and I don't think he approved of the mélange of offerings. I gather a typical workshop is focused on the Hardings and the experiments. That it what I will focus on, as well. The stories of crazy Irish psychotherapists, drug-fried Osho devotees, and the cigarette-smoking and saki-drinking Zen abbot will wait till later.
The Hardings' format was similar to the workshop in Princeton on which I reported earlier this year [see the July TAT Forum]. Even most of the experiments were familiar. One notable exception involved people drawing what they see of themselves from the first person perspective (not an outside observer drawing you, but what you see of yourself). What results are 45 pictures of bodies with empty space above the chest, which is essentially Harding's realization of his true nature: a headlessness that reveals an aware nothingness containing everything. I could not escape the fact that the empty space, the void, was the same for every person. We all share this void. More startling is what appears when you lay the pictures in a circle on the floor, so that the empty space faces toward the center of the circle and the feet face outward. "Either we're all crazy or there is something profound here, " I said to myself. There on the floor was a perfect representation of the fingers on the hand of God—the Atman and the Brahman. Forty-five bodies sharing and emanating from the Void. This was not some thousand-year-old picture in a book of metaphysics, either. It was freshly made, moments ago, by living hands.
Harding's way is in turning concepts into precepts; making you feel that you just experienced what you previously only dreamed about. A key point for Douglas is that this seeing is always available. No long years of discipline and training are needed to see who you really are. He says,
"If I have to know anything about Douglas [psychologically] before I can see, then I'm stuck."
"I fear this [discussion] is descending into the psychological realm and that's not what Catherine and I are about. We're about this person here [at awareness] and not the little one here."
"There is no way of polishing that brick [the human] and making it a mirror."
"This is not a matter of deconditioning. There is no end to deconditioning the human. The deconditioned nature is present, always, right now."
"If you don't look now it's not because you aren't ready, but because you don't want to."
"I think what I've done in my life is test the teaching of Ramana Maharshi—that the solution to all your problems is to see who you are. I've found this to be true."
"If we're serious about our problems, we go to where they are resolved [the center]."
Naturally, this position of Douglas' stirred up a hornet's nest of psychotherapists in the audience. After much discussion, Douglas did agree that in rare instances a person might be so sick that they needed the help of psychology before they could see their real nature.
Through the experiments, Douglas believes seeing of one's true nature is made easy; perhaps too easy.
"You've got to see it and take it seriously—not dismiss it."
"You may have the seeing, but miss the significance."
What is difficult is to not forget the seeing; to live it consciously everyday until it becomes habit.
"Everyone lives from their true nature. To live from there is not seeing that you're there..... You're not conscious of it."
"It's possible to see who you really are and be a disgrace to this vision, until you are settled in it."
While the experiments dominated most of the Harding's time, they did delve into some concepts regarding the nature of the human. Douglas divides the human into "Awareness (spirit), mind, and body," with "mind providing the filling for awareness." Douglas also diagrammed an interesting "four wombs (stages) of life:"
Note the double arrows between each womb. They signify how one travels back and forth between the wombs. People try to escape the traumas of life and return to the embryonic stage through pleasure. Those on the Headless Way continually bounce between wombs 3 and 2 as they try to live the seeing. There is even travel back from womb 4 (death) by near-death experiencers. Harding also notes the significance of the tunnels that connect each womb. We are born from a tunnel, Harding utilizes tunnels in some of his experiments, and tunnels are generally reported in NDEs.
I found it impossible to judge from the workshop if Harding was pointing a way to enlightenment. I needed to get closer to the man. Ever giving of his time, he invited me to spend the week at his home in exchange for helping him with the gardening. Thus began a magical week at Sholland Hill, England.
II. "This was my path and perhaps it will be of use to someone else." —Harding
I believe this is what every true spiritual teacher says. No teacher can lay out a sure path for the seeker. Every teacher's path is infused with his personality, and the student's best hope is that they will find another piece to their path. That is what I hoped for from Harding.
Harding is ninety-years-old, has a full white beard and thinning white hair. He carries a healthy amount of weight with the careful gait of the elderly. Typically, he wears a t-shirt spotted with stains from preparing meals and marks from the blue pens he uses to sketch diagrams in his notebook. Harding is quite active, even though he swears he is naturally lazy. He spent his days reading and making sketches in preparation for a workshop in France, and in cooking three meals a day for the assorted folk staying with him that week, along with an occasional snooze. In between working and reading, we talked.
Douglas's conviction is deep. When he speaks, his words carry you with him. Sometimes he speaks as passionately as a young man and at other times it's as if he's in the nothingness quietly calling out to you. I asked if when he first "saw" he was convinced of its validity. He simply said, "yes," but it was as if a granite mountain whispered the answer, such was the authority.
Still, while I glimpsed the nothingness that Douglas says is our true nature (our first-personhood), I was not sure that was enlightenment. I expected enlightenment to carry a force of conviction that would leave one without a doubt as to Reality. Douglas says seeing is enlightenment (he doesn't like the word enlightenment, though) and that my doubt is typical resistance to the seeing. The third person (the little Shawn) continually throws up questions and concerns.
The key is to stick with the seeing until "seeing becomes natural." "Remember you have a long habit of not-seeing," Harding says. He feels that "determination, passion, and trusting (that the seeing will give you the answers) determine if one sticks with the seeing." As for why he's stuck with it, "I think what's kept my eye on the ball these sixty years is having something to do. Devising experiments has kept me on this. I think by giving this away I have gained it."
My pattern for the week was to glimpse my nothingness, then doubt it and ask Douglas my questions and concerns. Douglas's answers would lead me back to seeing without doubt, but shortly after I'd tumble into doubt again. Many of my questions centered on what seeing reveals about death.
For Douglas, our true nature, consciousness, awareness, spirit, first-personhood, center, voidness, or nothingness and everythingness (he uses these terms interchangeably), is timeless. It is outside the realm of birth and death. Your seeing center was always there, there before you were born and there after you die. While the headless seer in womb three dwells in time and timelessness, after death we dwell in the absolute timelessness of womb four. "The more we get used to seeing, the more we feel at home," he says. "Seeing is the homeopathic remedy for death."
When I asked if seeing affected what happens to you after death, Douglas laughed and said, "I think I'll refer this technical question to Abbot John [the Zen abbot staying with us]." Evidently, Douglas doesn't know or care about escaping a possible wheel of life and death. One glimpse of seeing is the whole experience and the real work is in living the truth of what you see.
The classic Indian metaphysical question of what happens to consciousness in dreamless sleep drew this response from Douglas: "Of course the Indians say that dreamless sleep is God-consciousness. For me, however, consciousness is timeless, so the question of consciousness in dreamless sleep is a dead duck [since sleep occurs in time]."
Looking for inconsistencies in Douglas's philosophy, I asked for an explanation of what was doing this seeing. Douglas said, "Looking in is consciousness turning upon itself—God self-aware courtesy of Shawn. It seems like there is a third-person consciousness that has to do something to see the first-person consciousness. It's kind of a working hypothesis. It seems that way, but it's not really."
I also wondered why we couldn't always see clearly; if the third person obscured the first person. "Well, I might say it does in a way, but I try not to get too complicated. I try to stick to this (pointing to his face).... We all dither instead of being resolute in our handing over to seeing."
Douglas says it is good to doubt and question everything he says, but questioning is often a form of procrastination. It is better to act; to do the experiments and see. As for my line of questioning, he said, "I think the more we focus on the seeing, the more these big metaphysical questions we bellyache about will either be answered non-verbally or cease to be of importance to us."
Still, some of Douglas's ideas I couldn't help but question. He lent me a recent paper of his titled God. One of the points was that our body is universal. Literally, that all things make up our body. This stems from an idea of his early years that tools are a literal extension of the body. (His Spectre in the Lake deals in depth with this.)
Douglas explained to me that there is much of our body we can't feel such as cells, or hair, or gastric juices, so feeling can't be the criteria for judging what is and is not us. He said modern science supported the idea that all things were connected and any pin that drops is felt in the farthest corners of the universe. He felt this was important to understand and later said, "As a little child, we were cosmic in nature. As we get older, we are shrunk into a box. I think there's a part of us that remembers this and needs to go home. I think it's important mentally and spiritually."
Despite my mind's continual objections (the dragon which guards the pearl, Douglas would say), my moments of seeing the light lengthened as the week progressed. Especially evident was the fact that "We are built at center to give our lives for others." While many seem to interpret this as an excuse for much hugging and brotherly love, I tended toward the grey tones that Douglas emphasizes. It simply seemed that whenever I faced another person, they were the only one there. They entered into an awareness, and action took place in that awareness. Our awareness is filled with others.
For me, seeing is frightening at times. Often, I feel myself slipping away as if someone just took the core out of me. That is replaced, though, by a simple awareness that becomes my new core. It is liberation to see that I am not my mind or my body. Even at Douglas's, though, the seeing fades in and out, and I wonder how it will fare in the real world.
I asked Douglas how to maintain this seeing while I'm in the States,
"Well, the best is in this face to face meeting. You're always meeting people. Are you going to meet them like this (hitting his two fists together), or like this (hitting an open hand against a closed fist)? It's a constant reminder to see who you really are. Of course, you're always welcome here, and there are friends in the States, and you can always share this with others. This (again hitting open hand against closed fist), though, I think there's the real secret to keeping this up."
To me, as well, the daily reminder of the seeing is in our face to face meetings. When I meet another person, do I really see two faces or is there only one? As my head dissolves when I turn my awareness upon the seer, my side of the meeting dissolves. As I die, I see how my awareness contains the world. As my first-personhood dawns, my third person joins its place beside the other contents of consciousness. Little Shawn becomes just another piece of mind stuff.
The path to Nirvana is as simple as 1-2-3.
The starting point is dissatisfaction, which can take on many shapes and hues. It may be tied to a fear of what death will bring, for example, or a deep disturbance at the perceived lack of meaning or purpose in your life, or an intolerable doubt that you are what you think you are.
Step #1 is intuiting, or hearing and believing, that all answers lie within. If you're fortunate, this intuition or belief will also include the understanding that you don't find the answer but become it.
Step #2 is turning the focus of your attention around until you find yourself looking at what you're looking out from.
Step #3 is admitting or accepting the implications of what is seen in step #2.
The critical path diagram is theoretically as simple as:
But this process or progression is not something that can be understood by the mind or managed by the individual. Even getting from dissatisfaction to step #1 is not something that we can do or force to occur. The vast majority of humanity will not be so fortunate as to reach step #1.
Moving on from point #1 to point #2 is the part of the path or "the way" that gets the most attention in the literature of spiritual work. The consensus view is that this is an arduous journey with many hazards, and the truth is that few people who start the journey complete it. Franklin Merrell-Wolff was convinced that for each individual there is a shortest path—and that finding that shortest path depends on applying intuition to customize the tools or techniques needed to continue the journey to fit one's own peculiarities. Richard Rose referred to his similar conviction as "creating the ways and means committee."
Douglas Harding had a profound experience of seeing what he was looking out from at age 33, after which he devoted his life to developing and demonstrating experiments that would give people their first conscious glimpse of this direct seeing. Some people "get it" upon first exposure to one or more of the experiments, which might be described as thought-experiments that take you beyond thought. So it's possible that moving from step #1 to step #2 could occur rapidly.
Something has to break the hypnotic spell which keeps our focus outward, whether that "outside" is the physical dimension or the mental dimension. If something like Harding's experiments—and I don't know of anything else like them—don't do it for you, either by lack of exposure to them or lack of impact, then you're faced with a potentially long haul with no guarantees. Success once again depends on factors beyond our control. First, you must have or find faith that you can find a total answer, or faith that nothing else is more worthwhile than devoting your life to trying. Second, you must have or find the determination to stick with what will seem, at some point, like an absurd or hopeless task, like Don Quixote's jousting with windmills.
Somehow the focus of attention has to be turned around so that you "retraverse the ray of creation" in Rose's poetic phrasing. This may involve bringing the mind under control, which can't be done directly. Rose's recommendation was to learn to turn the attention away from irrelevant thoughts in order to do productive thinking about the problem—the problem being lack of adequate self-definition or knowing what we really are. By doing so, this may bring a temporary halt to thinking, opening the possibility to an experience of direct seeing such as Harding's vision at age 33. Rose was a proponent of stopping thought, as was Ch'an master Huang Po. Merrell-Wolff, on the other hand, found it didn't work for him. He concluded that it was a common recommendation because most people arrived mainly from the feeling side, whereas his own path was mainly from the thought or intellectual side.
"What prevents this observing of the observer or looking at what we're looking out from? How can I do it?" It's what we really are at center, so in a sense there's nothing preventing it. It's accessible to anyone when they stop turning away from it. But it's not something we can will or do. You might ask yourself whenever the how-to question comes up—and the more often it comes up, the better—"What is more compelling to me at this moment? What business do I feel I have to attend to first? What excuses do I provide myself? What side trips have I been taking?"
When you reach step #2 and find yourself looking at what you're looking out from—observing the observer—you may not "enter nirvana" immediately. Nirvana or the kingdom of heaven is not a paradisiacal place you gain entry to. The term literally means a blowing out, or extinction. It may take repeated seeing of what you really are at center before you admit or accept the implications. "Wait a minute," you may find yourself thinking, "I see that what I am is self-aware and contains all existence ... but I'm the observer that sees this." To reach step #3 and cross the finish line from great dissatisfaction to Full Satisfaction, something has to get blown out. And this thing that gets extinguished is the final holdout: the spiritual ego, the conviction that I, as observer, am a thing apart.
Footnote: While it reportedly took less than an hour for Ramana Maharshi, at age 17, to go from point #1 to the finish line (in the preface to The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshi edited by Arthur Osborne), it took Merrell-Wolff 24 years, to age 48 or 49. Douglas Harding's journey lasted 44 years, until age 77. Richard Rose accomplished it in about 9 years, at the age of 30. Don't make the mistake of setting up a timetable for this project.
Footnote: "Every night, half of the people in the first row are crying when the star is singing To Dream the Impossible Dream. It's sad to see successful, middle-aged men with tears streaming down their faces, regretting that they didn't pursue their 'impossible' dreams." ~ An oboe player in the orchestra for The Man from La Mancha.
Another monthly feast! This time [i.e., the August issue] a valuable reference and guide to compassion, a subject I have been wrestling with recently. Thank you. ~ Alan Mann, Sydney, Australia [See Alan's site at www.capacitie.org.]
Want to help? Your donation of $5 or more will support the continuation of the Forum and other services that the TAT Foundation provides. TAT is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational organization and qualifies to receive tax-deductible contributions. Or, download this .pdf TAT Forum flyer and post it at coffee shops, bookstores, and other meeting places in your town, to let others know about the Forum.