This month's contents:
Iris etched on glass
Jacob's Ladder (part 3) by Richard Rose | The Gap of Time by Bob Fergeson | Concerning Asceticism by Franklin Merrell-Wolff | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Shoebox by Shawn Nevins | Buddha Said... | Innermost Longing by Art Ticknor | Humor
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.
~ Continued from the March 2005 TAT Forum
Now I want to invite any questions that you might have, or any comments.
Q. You mentioned Gurdjieff's theory of the different I's. Then you said, "How are you to know which one you'd like to steer the vehicle?" Well, that's a concept you have about one driving the vehicle. It could be, say, four.
R. That's true. I say this, of course, because most people like to believe that they're not fragmented.
Q. I mention this because it's as if there are different ones, but there aren't; and these have to merge.
R. Well, sure. But we have to start from somewhere. I think when you finally may have a realization, you realize that each individual is only part. Whether he is four, five, or one—even that one is only part of a total mass of something like a universal mind. Or—if you want to call it God....
As for the hunger for the ego of singularity, for instance, we like to believe that we're only one. We have no proof of it—you're right in that.
This incidentally is what Gurdjieff implied. That proper treatment of the egos was not the elimination so much as the fusion. The understanding of all plus the use of all.
(Break in tape)
(Rose) ...how can you use some? Or can a man use them all? And I didn't hear that properly explained. I ran into that first in In Search of the Miraculous, I think, by Ouspensky. So I don't know....
But what I am getting at is that basically we look upon ourselves as a single body. So consequently we like to believe that there's a single unit of intelligence or spark of life that is identified with that single body. And sure, we understand that maybe there are forces or energies or parasitical entities, let's say, living within that body. But the individual is not too happy with that. So instinctively he looks for his individuality and his singleness.
And as I said, I do believe that after many years of the pursuit of his singleness, he finds out that he's only a part of a total. You become one with God, they say. That's the idea. You become part of something greater.
Q. Definitions should exist before action—is that what you said?
Q. So taking into account that language produces....
Q. ...meaning, which is not agreed upon the same by any two people—would you concede that?
Q. Then how are we to move towards an Absolute when there is no consensus-reality?
R. Well, one of the first things that you do, of course, is to realize that there is no consensus. As I said, nobody sees the color green the same—we don't know whether they do. And as for about an appreciation of beauty—nobody knows what the other fellow's appreciation is.
But regardless, there is a common definition, it's the dictionary. And there is a science, a psychological science, whether it's true or false. But one of the first things that happens in the pursuit of this definition is the recognition that all wisdom, including definitions in dictionaries, is relative and then circular. It's not going to take you anyplace.
A definition implies that which a thing is, and it also implies that which a thing is not. For instance, an Airedale is a dog but we say it's not only a dog, but it's not a cat, it's not an elephant.
Consequently, all of this incessant welter of going back and through in life, of definitions, is not the type of definition we're going at. But there's a definition spoken or implied, that man will, through the incessant contemplation of the negative and positive....
We discover in the final analysis, that this is only a headache exercise. In Zen they talk about confusing the mind to a point where the mind explodes. And when the mind explodes you have the definition, for the first time.
Q. I understand all the numerous analogies that surround us every day: how a computer functions, light versus darkness, thousands of metaphors we can attribute to this polarization....
R. Right. That's the binary theory of the negative and the positive.
Q. Now I maintain, and only on intuitive grounds, I have no facts for this, that our perception of a polarity is merely our perception. We only view visible life, and we cannot see the whole spectrum of phenomena that surrounds us. We seem to see a negative versus positive, but in actuality it's not a polarity.
R. You're absolutely right; I'm not arguing with you at all. I'm saying that this is the only way we can begin.
For instance, the mind of the child, in my estimation, is very close to being highly intuitive and possibly even in touch with an absolute dimension. And we seduce this child and take him into school and teach him the positive and the negative. And we pound that into him for years and years, until he becomes an electronic technician with his binary theory.
But much later, if he's really interested in definition, he's going to get up to a point where he sees that his mind isn't solving the problem. So it's as you said, the intuition coming in here is necessary. And now he thinks, "Oh, I've got it," and he has another plane that he vacillates on.
This goes on until he starts observing what he's doing. And then he becomes in contact with awareness. Now this [point G on diagram] just looks like a point on a line. But actually this is an experience. When he truly experiences awareness, and is still able to remember all of this other stuff, then the definition is there. He knows for the first time in his life who he is.
Now that's what I meant by definition. Ok, then after you know who you are, go out in life and act. Then go out and do something. But everybody goes out—takes a shot at somebody else, or destroys another man's business, or pretends to sit in judgment on him. And all this sort of thing comes from people who don't know who they are.
Unfortunately, we can't expect them to. But it's a protest with me that people are acting without knowledge of the essence of being.
Of course, you talk to the judge that says, "I'm going to sentence you to hang." He sits in judgment on you. You talk to him and he's going to hit you with some logic, and you'll stagger away thinking, "I can't argue, the guy's right." But basically, intuitively, you can just take a look at him and say, "This guy's snowing himself." Maybe he's got to snow himself in order to get that job done.
But this is everyplace you go. Whether it's in psychology or wherever. I don't care what they do in the courtroom; I don't care how many people shoot and kill each other. Because this may be a necessary part of the vegetable processes. But when they get down into what I consider the sacred sciences, with this same type of thinking, of acting before they define themselves....
A man makes a fortune teaching people about God. He makes millions. And I'm wondering how much he knows. I'm wondering why he takes this action—when he doesn't have the goods, so to speak.
Q. Pardon me. I agree with you in principle about the man making millions. But doesn't he have the goods? Might he have the goods?
R. Well, we don't know.
Q. (Discussion among audience about TV preachers.)
R. Oh, I can't clean up the mess. I'm just throwing it out here. (Laughs) There's nothing I can do about it.
Q. Well, you're saying, "This is the way it is." Or are you saying, "That's the way it is, but it could be different, and here I am, and I'd like to...." Is that what you're saying?
R. What I'm saying is that I discovered. And I don't know how many can discover through the same procedure. But I feel compelled to pass on my discovery, or insanity, to somebody else.
Q. Are you helping them to discover themselves?
R. Yes, yes. Not me. Forget about me. I'm not going to do anything. If I'm a catalyst it's because I said something that awoke a chain reaction in the head or something like that, that got them thinking, got them moving, got them observing.
Q. Maybe you should say something to one of those very rich ones up there....
R. Well—I don't think it would do too much good to the rich ones. Because first of all, the million or ten million that they've got may seem like a divine approbation. "If I had been doing wrong God wouldn't have given me the ten million."
Or twenty million. I don't know how they justify it.
Q. How is it possible to watch your actions and learn from it without deluding yourself?
R. Good. Ok. Now, I maintain that we do delude ourselves. And how we get around it is this: First of all, this whole thing is based upon a premise, if you want to call it that, and I think you can understand it as soon as I state it, that the view is not the viewer.
In other words, whenever you see something or experience something, and this goes clear through to what I call the experience of cosmic consciousness, the experience of ecstasy—this is not you. This is a visit. You're visiting a dimension, like heaven.
For instance, I maintain that the body is external. A lot of people don't like to admit that at first. But you can cut a piece of it off and keep on going. And it's amazing how much of it you can lose, provided you don't lose it all at once. So this body is manifestly not us.
Now, I'm not going to go into the relation—whether we have it or it has us.
But also—we are able to observe our thoughts. And after a prolonged meditational process we are able to observe our mind. Which I as a young man refused to believe. I said, "I am my mind." Now you don't watch it like you'd watch that blue carpet, but after awhile you're able to watch it. And this observer [point E] shows you what's going on.
Now down here [line AB] is the negative and positive; this is where you have to start, and this is where everybody starts whether they want to or not. It starts with simple little things like the body. You have to make a decision. And at the top of the triangle [point C] is what we call the Umpire.
There was a fellow by the name of Benoit who wrote a book on Zen (The Supreme Doctrine). And in it he had a little diagram, a little triangle, where life was the endless line of polarity, endless negativity, endless positivity, which would never do anything for the human being if there weren't what he called the conciliatory principle.
The conciliatory principle is the ability to judge from a detached state of being. Now if you want to study material, you almost have to look at it from non-material viewpoints. Material does not define material. Same way as a cat doesn't define a dog. The cat is not a dog. So if there were nothing but people, we wouldn't have the same understanding of people, except that we wouldn't be rocks, then.
By the same token, if you define a person as a being on a material planet, in a material galaxy, in a material universe, you still haven't defined that person. Because this entire galaxy, person and all—we don't know what the substance is. But when viewed from a spiritual realm you get an entirely different concept. For the first time you may get a real definition. For instance, my understanding of this physical body, plane, planet, galaxy, is that it's a mental experience.
So after you view it from the mental experience you may discover that it is a projection—from something like an unmanifested type of mind experience.
I don't know how many of you have seen a materialization in a séance. I have seen these, years ago. I described them in my book. Eighteen of these creatures came in, talked to some people, poof, one of them went through the floor, one of them exploded....
Now of course you can always say, "Hey, you're kidding yourself." But let's apply something then more tangible, like an electrical cloud. These electrical clouds that they have in electronic work....
Q. A plasma?
R. Right. If there is a dimension—just say if the entity that came through that materialization, as he protests—he comes from another dimension. He says, "Just by accident you're able to see me." Now if this is true, we know darn well that he doesn't have the same definition of our existence as we have. There's no two ways about it.
This is the protest of all the spiritual systems. That looking at life from death is an entirely different view. It isn't as important—things aren't as important as we make them, and the coloration is different and everything.
And the same thing would apply on a physical basis. That we can't define the earth from another earth, because you're dealing in terms of earths. The only way you can get a clear definition is from something detached entirely from that. Another type of universe, perhaps composed of different materials. Then you would define that in the comparison of these weird materials that we don't have in our nuclear chart.
And say, "That universe is composed of nickel, iron, and so on, whereas this other universe is composed of that genus and species of planets." Or, "That universe is composed of projected thoughts, whereas this universe is composed of essence." Something entirely different.
These possibilities mean that you have to have this conciliatory principle. You have to have something watching the two extremes.
So what happens is that this goes on whether you want it to or not. As I said, you take an instance that goes on within the body. I use the terms sex and hunger. A person gets to be a certain age and they find sex. So they say, "Hurray," and they go out on a picnic. And they lose their job, and they get hungry, and another voice starts talking. And says, "You were wrong. You're going to die, unless you stop playing and start working, start getting some food."
So this fellow up at the top [point C], this conciliatory principle, is the Umpire. We notice, if we observe our self, that something up there is saying, "Yesterday you were wrong, today you're right." There's an observing process going on inside the mind; a decision making process that has to do with the perpetuation of that body. That's all it is; it's a somatic mind.
Now as a result of that little operation laws are created. For example, laws that relate to sexual activity. Which they may chop the head off for in Arabia; I heard that the other day—they chopped the guy's head off.
So the head says, so to speak, "Hey," to the rest of the body. "Behave yourself or I'll get chopped off."
This is all somatic mind. But once you step up there and observe this process, of the mind umpiring an act, you're immediately behind it. It's automatic. As long as you can see nothing but positive and negative, you don't know there's an umpire. But just by accident, perhaps, you happen to see this process. You say, "Hey, I'm thinking about this judgment situation; I'm thinking about this decision." Then immediately you're behind it. You're observing.
That becomes an anterior observer. You're watching yourself doing something; it's objective and it's outside and it's not you, and you know it's not you. So the umpire is not you.
And so then you say, "Well, I'm beyond that, but I don't know just where I am."
What you're on is another line [line CD]. You're operating now from a kind of logic—that your body is governed by logic that says, "This is life and this is death," in the decision making of balancing things so that you neither live forever nor die too soon—and you identify possibly something as intuition, that helps you pick this up.
This is the opposite: the logical mind on one hand, the intuitive mind on the other. And then in all decisions, all thinking processes—there's something in between that plane of recognition.
All experiences - you decide definitely that you're going to quit eating meat or start eating macrobiotics because it's logical—or you're going to get an inspiration that you should go down to a certain church and be saved—whatever it is, this is going to be your plane of reference.
That is, until you observe that, which you're doing. And as soon as you observe it you're immediately elevated above it to the point of that conciliatory principle again. You're judging.
You're judging now your logic—just like the fellow said, the logic is imperfect—then you judge the intuition. The intuition is limited and impure at times; you have to perfect it, check it out. So there's another guy doing that. There's another self.
Now it doesn't go on forever, because that's the last; the person that's watching the processes. There is something behind the last ego, and that's awareness. And the combination—the process observer in combination with awareness, means the guy's not giving up yet. He still has some questions, he's still fighting for answers, he's still wanting to know who he is. "Is there anybody behind, watching me? Is there another anterior self behind that, or is there nothing else but pure awareness?"
And because you don't have any answer—nobody knows who they are, maybe at that point never expects to find out who they are—but by the persistent sticking that problem into the computer, on that binary system: "What is the relation between pure awareness, which I may be, I seem to be aware, and the pointed observer/awareness?"—you continue to analyze all of them. And all at once the thing pops.
Now this is the path to Sahaja Samadhi. There's no reason or rhyme to it. But at a given time this awareness pops and you are one with Oneness. And that's the end of the trip.
~ Continued in the May 2005 TAT Forum
© 1976 Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved. This talk is available on CD through Rose Publications.
The Gnostic's tale of the Demiurge, the arrogant ruler of the material world, gives us a clue as to the nature of our own prison, and how to escape it. Being himself created, a creature, the Demiurge's belief in his own infallibility is a lie in basis, and so must be continually bolstered. To accept the true nature of his existence would be un-thinkable, for it would mean his demotion from absolute ruler to mere manager, a caretaker of sorts, rather than the True God. This he sees as death, and rightly so. Let us take a look at how we as ego, a reaction-pattern created from thought, make the same mistake, and how we can become free of this prison of projection and delusion.
When we become identified, we do not become identified with the world or the body. We actually fall asleep to the world or body, and become identified with the mind; meaning we are identified with thought. We may believe we are seeing things as they are, for we have never bothered to take a look at how we see, or what we are really seeing. The self-reflecting consciousness sees just that: a projected reflection of its own consciousness. This inner mind-world is a superimposed projection, built of thought that was formed throughout the person's life and the process of which he is completely unaware. We do not see this projecting process, for it is instantaneous and automatic. We only see the end result; a world made of thought, removed from the eternal Now through a gap of time.
This split-second from when we receive a percept and then react to it with thought, is this gap of time. This gap, though it be only a split-second, is a chasm wide enough to separate us from our very Self or Source. It is also wide enough to allow us to live in a world of reaction; a world of judging, thinking, and assumption. This dualistic realm is never stable, ever changing, and ruled by a tyrant whose very existence is after-the-fact. This tyrant is called ego, and is the very thing we have come to be. Our very sense of self has become identified with a reaction-pattern, removed from the present through time. This sad state of affairs is not only unreal, but patently dangerous. All of the world's ills spring from this illusion. This illusion can also be called mind, or the inner drama. We live in this self-created drama, and must continually re-create it to keep our false sense of self somehow stable in an unstable world. Now, in our struggle for self-survival, our first reaction to hearing this is to dig in, to insist more than ever that we are in charge by deciding to take immediate action and remedy the situation with our new knowledge. We may decide to root out this egoic ruler who has deluded us for so long, and never again make the same mistake. Or, if our pattern is based in fear, we may decide to run farther into distraction and thought, hoping to be safe in sleep with the covers pulled tightly over our heads. Both of these reactions would be laughable if they weren't so common. Through our very effort to free ourselves, we trap ourselves even more. Through the arrogance of "deciding," the Demiurge has simply affirmed its self-declared infallibility. We have made the same old mistake, again. As the reaction-pattern, we have only reacted. Nothing has changed; the dream goes on.
How then, can we escape this prison of thought and time? Our very effort to escape binds us more tightly, and even the world of distraction and sleep provides no rest, being subject to drastic change through ever-reacting thought. The answer lies not in affirming our ignorance through thinking we now know what to do, but in our admission of the problem itself. Through the simple admitting that we do not know, we begin the homeward journey to freedom. We start with this surrender; then our attention has the possibility of freeing itself from the drama of the mind in time.
This surrender is a not a passive giving in to our identification with the world or thought, but an acceptance of the facts. We realize that we do not know ourselves. We do not know how we see, much less what, and are thus freed to start looking. This admission frees our attention from the hypnotic trap of conceptual thought, and stabilizes it in silence. To find the possibility of moving this attention within to find out who we really are, as the True Self, means that we must free this wandering attention from identification with thought, and allow its gaze to be turned back within, across the chasm of time and projection.
When we can actually view the world without association, meaning we are finally capable of admitting we know not what we see, we have found a valuable clue. We have now become an observer, capable of turning our gaze within. No longer lost in time and the projection of the associative mental world, there is now the capacity to move within. We have this new freedom because we are no longer locked in the after-the-fact reaction-dimension of thought. This is how honest self-observation gives us possibility to become, to become a real Observer. In the world of thought, there is none. We step out of our own way, and are freed from our personal demiurge as we allow the True Consciousness to come forth.
Throughout the history of religion, asceticism has played a highly important part, both as an enjoined discipline and as a spontaneously accepted practice. Several reasons underlie such practices, many of which have been listed and discussed by William James in his "Varieties of Religious Experience." However, I shall add certain considerations relative to this subject that have grown out of my personal experience and reflection.
I am convinced that for most natures and perhaps for all, a certain degree of ascetic practice is necessary if the individual is to attain his highest possibilities. But while this is particularly true with respect to preparing the Way for the Awakening, the same principle applies none the less in the unfolding or developing of power or skill in any field whatsoever. Man wins power in any direction by concentration of effort in the appropriate sense, but this involves inevitably a suppression of diffused activity. Combined with the main interest at any given time, most men feel within themselves counter interests and desires, and if the latter are indulged, the former are sacrificed. Here is a sufficient basis for essentially ascetic practice which may in extreme cases have all the value of the mortifications characteristic of some of the religious disciplines. A man may do this for the mastery of an art, of a science, for the building of a business, etc., just as well as for an objective of the type more commonly classified as religious. If the main interest is so all-consuming that there hardly remains any conflicting interest or desire, it may well be that but little discomfort is felt in the practice. On the other hand, important competing interests may cause the discipline to have the effect of real hardship. But, in any case, mastery in any field does require such discipline.
In the foregoing type of asceticism, there is no question of the essential sinfulness of the carnal nature. In fact, a rationale of asceticism may be developed entirely apart from the question of sin. Sin has been given a far too important place in religious thought and feeling. Such sin as there may be is largely incidental and the result of Ignorance and thus fundamentally a delusion rather than an actuality. The result of giving to sin the respect and attention which underlies the idea that it is of sufficient importance to be a worthy object of warfare is that sin is actually given life and power. We never destroy anything by fighting it. A force that we fight may be temporarily crushed, because at the time we may be wielding a stronger force. But it remains true that we have won at the price of a certain exhaustion, and meanwhile the opposing force rebuilds itself, partly out of the very force we have expended. Then it comes back upon us when we are weak and may conquer us. No man escapes the action of this law simply by dying physically before the rebound. Somewhere he will live again, and in the next life he may find himself as much identified with evil as in the preceding life he thought himself to be identified with good.
Undoubtedly a strong carnal nature does have to be restrained, and in the case of those who do not have a sufficient balance-wheel of wisdom, possibly extreme effort in restraint may be necessary for a time. But unquestionably, it is far better if this discipline is looked upon in the rational spirit of regarding it as simply a form of training. The problem is vastly simplified if the individual, instead of taking an attitude of fighting or suppressing, will undertake to transmute the carnal energy. Every form of energy regardless of how seemingly evil it may be, has its higher mode or aspect into which it can be transformed. If the effort is focused upon this transforming, the energy is released and becomes a positive power, and this is relatively easy to do.
But after all is said and done, asceticism related to the carnal nature belongs only to the kindergarten stage of the training for the Higher Life of man. The higher and genuinely adult asceticisms are of an entirely different nature. Thus, when a man learns to become detached with respect to his pet opinions or ideas, and is willing to accept conclusions quite counter to his preferences when either evidence or logic points that way, then he is practicing asceticism in a higher and nobler sense. This kind of asceticism does cut far deeper into the real vitals of a man than any restraint connected with the mere carnal nature, and if he can succeed in the higher discipline, then anything remaining in the lesser nature requiring to be purified becomes a mere detail. In the superior discipline, the will has become so highly developed that the carnal nature is controlled relatively easily, provided the effort is put forth.
I would reduce the whole problem of asceticism to the following simple formula: Let the individual concentrate his effort upon that which he desires most and restrain or transform incompatible desires. What a man desires most may change as there is growth toward maturity. One implication of the formula, then, is to drop action in the direction of the old desire when the new and more potent desire takes its place. Of course, discrimination must be made between a persistent new desire and the mere temporary uprising of an inferior desire. The rule is to be applied as indicated only in the former case. This course followed consistently will achieve for the individual ultimately his highest good, and sooner or later that will mean the Awakened Consciousness. The advantage in this form of discipline lies largely in the fact that the center of emphasis is placed upon the positive value to be achieved, rather than upon the negative or interfering quality. It makes for a life of greater happiness, and this, in turn, arouses a greater strength, all of which means that success will come the more quickly, at least as a rule. Of course, such a policy of life practice may very well involve one or more radical changes of direction in the life activity. Thus a man may start his adult life with a desire to attain a great business success, but after having only partly completed this work, he may find that a greater desire takes its place. In that case, he might have to forego great success in the business sense and, remaining content with but moderate achievement in that field, throw the central focus of his energy in another direction. But while this would entail a smaller degree of success in the narrower field, the whole life of the individual, considered in the wider sense, would be more successful. Such a one would escape the tragedy of so many retired business men who, after leaving their businesses, find themselves quite helpless in a meaningless and barren life. From the standpoint of the Awakened Consciousness, all life here below is of value only in the sense of training for the Higher Life and has nothing in it that is valuable as an end-in-itself. So, from the higher point of view, the judgment of what constitutes success in the subject-object field is formed on quite a different basis from that of the usual world-standard. Everything here below is instrumental and only instrumental. So a life encompassing many but partial successes in the subject-object field may actually be making more progress toward the Awakening than a life which is highly successful in one concentrated field. From the higher standpoint, this lower life may be viewed in much the way a music-master views his pupil. The music-master has in mind finished perfection as the ultimate, but in the work-shop of the studio the time is given almost wholly to fragments, such as the technical handling of a phrase, the building of tone-quality, etc. This life here is such a studio and only that. The concert stage is Cosmic Consciousness.
Once a man has Awakened to the Higher Consciousness, he may make a decision that requires the very highest ascetic resolution. He Knows the infinite superiority of the Higher Life in every sense, and, if he had only himself individually to consider, naturally he would choose that Higher Life exclusively. But consideration for the needs of others may lead him to forego this and accept a life in the world while, at the same time, it is not a life of the world. As a part of his work, he may move rather freely in the field of sensation, emotion, etc., and may even seem self-indulgent to the superficial observer, yet all the while he would be practicing asceticism in the severest sense in the very living in that way. For him there is not any longer a question of resisting carnal temptation, for Knowledge of the higher Joy has reduced all this to husks and ashes, relatively speaking. He simply endures what the carnal man imagines to be enjoyment.
The whole problem of asceticism appears to me, from my present perspective, as merely one of rational judgment and wisdom and is quite divorced from the emotional unpleasantness that is usually associated with it. It is simply good sense to choose the greater value in any conflict of values. Why should this be regarded as an occasion for serious emotional stress?
Reprinted, by permission, from "Experience and Philosophy" by Franklin Merrell-Wolff. See the Franklin Merrell-Wolff Fellowship site for more information on Merrell-Wolff's teaching. Each June, the Merrell-Wolff Fellowship holds an annual convention at the Great Space Center in Lone Pine, CA.
"Heaven is a Darkness that Deceives"
Under life is its current
"The Many Forms of Oceans"
On a narrow path under a wide sky,
Only the fearful drown.
My certainty is a whisper to you,
These words are tired trying
Brimming with emptiness,
What the hell are you doing
You can't go home like this,
A tree sees itself
My father has a small box in his dresser drawer. Most people have a box like it—filled with odds and ends of life—mementos not bold enough to display, yet holding moments of who they were and have become. My father has been dead for fourteen years, yet we haven't moved his memories.
I sit upon the bed and wonder. Who would understand the significance of a child's toy decoder? Of a black and white photo of men in uniform they never knew? As a curious little child, I looked though my dad's box many times, held the sergeant's stripes and the rifleman's badge, yet have no idea if they were even his.
And today, what do I know of who he was? Here is a geode, an ancient piece of quartz that a boy carried home from a creek bed sixty years ago. Why? Why of all the things to save, did he save this?
The thread of connection is severed, and all that holds these memories in place are the thin walls of a shoebox. Such thin walls separate us from the unknown.
What made my father who he was and where has he gone?
Hui Neng said, "Show me your original face before you were born," and a famous koan was born. Who needs Zen masters to ask the obvious? The koan of life and death, being and non-being, presents itself to you constantly.
You are a box containing a collection of moments. Such thin walls separate you from the unknown. What will you be when you are no more?
I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.
He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye.
Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.
To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.
There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.
Quotes come from BrainyQuote.com
There's an innermost longing that tries to get our attention and never lets us rest for long until it has been satisfied. Bernadette Roberts had a clear feeling about it at the remarkable age of ten:
"I went on to discover that in its deepest sense, the will is not primarily the faculty of desire for anything known, but rather, the desire for something unknown, an innate desire for something that lies beyond ourselves, a longing for something we know is missing in us. This longing is always uplifting, never focused on anything in the world we know of, and no matter how intense this longing, it is never a downer or sad, never focused on what is low or ugly. It's a need to have something, know something, possess something in order to fulfill ourselves, to be complete or whole. We may think at times it is a longing for beauty, truth, goodness and much more, but nothing short of God will ever satisfy." ~ From Contemplative: Autobiography of the Early Years.
Many of us become aware of a deep longing, and we arrive at various interpretations of what will satisfy it. Some of us pursue personal love, seeking the perfect mate as our savior. Others pursue wealth or knowledge or fame. The biologist Robert DeRopp, in a remarkable book titled The Master Game, laid out a hierarchy of life-aims and the corresponding strategies, or life-games, used to try to attain them:
Hog in Trough
Cock on Dunghill
glory or victory
Few of us start out playing the Master Game but come to it only after disillusionment with lesser games. Bernadette Roberts latched onto it at a very early age, although it was undoubtedly mixed with the religion game. She entered the Discalced Carmelites at a young age and, around twenty-five, had what the Catholic contemplatives call the unitive experience. As far as she knew, that was the end of the line, so she left the monastery and entered what she referred to as the marketplace, later marrying and raising a family. Then, in her fifties, she had a profound awakening which she described as the experience of no-self. Since then, she's dedicated her life to letting the Catholic contemplative community know that the end-point of the spiritual search is beyond the unitive experience.
Reading her books gives me the feeling that she indeed reached the realization that satisfies our innermost longing. The fact that she's seemingly stuck in the Catholic paradigm, seeing it as the best path and feeling she can only help others on that path, reminds me of the life of Francis Thompson. Thompson was the Englishman (1859 - 1907) who wrote one of the most glorious poems in the English language, The Hound of Heaven. It was abstractly autobiographical, depicting the deep misery of his life, his search for God or Truth, and its satisfactory attainment. The background, not clearly spelled out in the poem, is that he was a young man who failed at everything he put his hand to, becoming a laudanum addict in his twenties. He was rescued temporarily by a publisher and his wife, and there followed a four-year period of withdrawal during which he presumably had the awakening that led to writing The Hound of Heaven. Eventually, though, he relapsed into the laudanum addiction and died before fifty.
There's a Zen saying that before enlightenment, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers; with enlightenment, mountains are no longer mountains and rivers are no longer rivers; and after enlightenment, mountains are again mountains and rivers are again rivers. You'd expect that the enlightenment which brings satisfaction of our innermost desire would remove all personal limitations and lead to a happy-ever-after life. After all, it's associated in the popular view with uninterrupted personal bliss. But that's not really it, at all. It's much more; inconceivably so.
When we peel off the outer layers of personal desire and get down to the innermost one, its satisfaction coincides with the death of the personality-conviction. We find that what we thought we were, an individual something, is the faulty product of a finite mind, and what we really are is in no way affected by individual circumstances such as joy and sorrow—or life and death.
The Hokey Pokey
O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Submitted independently by Bob Cergol and Nicholas Vollmann. This is from a winning entry by Jeff Brechlin of Potomac Falls, VA, to a Washington Post "Style Invitational" contest, in which readers were asked to submit something in the style of a famous person.
(We appreciate hearing from you.)
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.