This month's contents:
Zen, Spiritual Steps & Spiritual Systems (part 1) by Richard Rose | Poems by Shawn Nevins | The Company You Keep by Shawn Nevins | My Last Identity by Irene Palmer | The Source of Trouble by Bob Fergeson | The Paradox of Change by Bob Fergeson | Run & Hide by Chris Papadopoulos | Feed Before You Eat by Art Ticknor | I Have Never Left You by Art Ticknor | Humor: The Meaning of Life | Reader Commentary
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There are several things that I want to discuss tonight. To those who have done some digging in Zen, you'll find that it's difficult to talk on Zen—because the majority of it more or less gives you the impression that you shouldn't even be talking, and even action is rather foolish if you're aiming at the discovery of a universe that is illusory. You get this little hint if you read on Zen.
There are many other ideas that are associated with Zen. At a lecture in Pittsburgh, I found several people very disappointed because I knew nothing of Zen archery or tea ceremony, or Zen poetry, or Zen art.
As Augie said [in the introduction] we're here to find ourselves, not pictures. Or not objective experimentation. I don't care to evaluate in depth too many authorities on Zen, although I can't escape some sort of comparison; you all come from somewhere if you've read Zen. But I think if you've dug into it deeply enough, you'll find that there is a universal objective. And the main objective of a life of Zen is to find definition, to find your real self. And this differs from some religious movements and even some Zen movements in that they may find for you peace of mind, or some rare talent....
So the objective is rather nebulous, when you speak about it. And they always remind you that it cannot be spoken too well. I think it is spoken—we have to talk about it. There's a saying that he who knows doesn't speak, and he who speaks doesn't know—and that's a very clever escape mechanism for those who do not know and would like to make their words equal to those who maybe know something about it.
We use the word "enlightenment." And later on I want to go into the different levels of what psychology might call exaltation, and I want to go into some of the mechanics of how it's brought about.
Also, I believe Zen to be the most perfect psychoanalytic system you can tinker with, if you want to tinker with psychoanalysis. Because it goes directly to definition, not to a survey of statistical behavior-reactions and judging those statistics by what does the herd the best good.
I'll start by telling you a little something about myself, and the reason I'm doing this is that I'm new here. This is the first lecture I've given in this area. And I put myself in your place, or try to, in order to communicate. I feel that the thing I talk about is the most important thing in human existence or experience. So consequently I think you should know something about the fellow who's talking, or that I should talk enough that you get some glimpse into what type of fellow I am. So that—you can't prove what I'm saying, or disprove it perhaps, but you will be able to somehow intuit whether I'm serious or whether I'm here for some other reason.
I began my search when I was a kid. I was born and raised a Catholic. And I had the God-objective. I had a devout feeling that I would find God, by trusting the people who used his name eloquently. So I went away and I studied to be a priest. And I became somewhat disillusioned, or let's say impatient. Because I felt mainly that the people there, those who were in authority and in charge, did not believe that which they taught me.
I left there, and I had nowhere to go, presumably. With that particular disillusionment came a sort of disillusionment in the general Christian faith, so I didn't run and join another Christian church. I went to books. I was too poor to travel at the time—I had no way to go to India or Tibet. I had heard fantastic stories of what was over there, and I'd have liked to look into them, but I had to settle myself with books and traveling around the United States, looking into various movements that existed here. And being about seventeen years old at the time, I had a strong desire to objectify, or to follow an objective path, that is.
My first encounter with the search was one of faith. And I flopped over completely then into an extremely objective approach in which I tried to study the human mind. I'd get books on the brain, and I'd get books on astrology and palmistry, and I'd gravitate into spiritualism.
After many months of hunting for genuine materializing mediums, I finally found one, and I even managed to talk to some spirits—only to be again disillusioned with the results, because they talked mostly nonsense. When I approached them with serious questions, such as: "Where are you? Is Jesus there?" or "Is so-and-so there?" they would give an evasive answer, and mostly reply in the same vein in which I had spoken to them. In other words, what information I gave they echoed.
So I got into yoga. And of course the type of yoga that attracted me at first was the same as attracting a lot of young people today—forms of hatha yoga. Still again, the thing that attracted me to it was the promise—there was always this promise of good health and longevity, that I'd live to be two hundred years old. We had stories such as Lost Horizon about the guy who went over and found people with ears that hung down to their shoulders from excessive age. And I thought, "Well, that's pretty good. At least that'll give me two hundred years to find the solution to the problem."
So again I met disillusionment. But each time I would be disillusioned, it seemed that a new bait would drop and I'd pick up something. I got into raja yoga, and I explored at that time many of the sects that are still in existence but somehow tapering off. Some of you are acquainted with Kirpal Singh, I think. I was initiated into the same group that Kirpal Singh belonged to, the Radha Soami sect of India.
I tried to form groups of people that were just simply honest little groups: "Let's sit together and talk, and each of us will go join one of these other groups and come back with the net result. We'll come back with the secrets if they've got secrets—we'll tell each other—and that will save us years of each one joining every group."
So in this manner we were exposed to quite a few. Strangely enough, the group is pretty much defunct now. That is, they're all dead, except one, and [humorously] he's half dead. He's in the room here, tonight—one of my old friends. Incidentally, the only living witness to my experience, or when I came back from it. He was the first man I came back to, and it was here in Cleveland, incidentally. He lived in Cleveland at the time, and I came to his house.
Anyway, from the age of twenty-one to twenty-eight I decided that I would obey all the rules. I decided that if I were going to discover anything, it was simply like the laws of physics: if you want a return, you've got to put in some energy. I believed then and I still believe that results are directly proportional to energy applied, whether you want to apply it in the field of salesmanship, physical energy such as a lump of coal in a steam engine, or whether you want to apply it to spiritual things.
I also discovered that most laws of physics are applicable to, or are almost translatable into, spiritual laws. For instance, the Law of Karma. One of the things I'll try to do in this talk is to keep entirely away from Asiatic terms. I do not believe that the truth is limited to any group, nation or religion. I speak of Zen because Zen is the closest—and the most unaffected by, let's say, bad history. My experience was not as a result of a Zen teacher; my learning of the system was a result of a Zen teacher.
I find that the experiences of John of the Cross and others are equally valid with the satori of the Asian peoples, and the place they go, or the state of being that they arrive at, is pretty much the same. There are different levels and different intensities of that sort of thing.
But karma is a word that has been adopted, and it fits in pretty well because it saves us a lot of other words, perhaps. It's one word that describes the Law of Equilibrium, and the Law of Proportional Returns. If you strike an anvil with a hammer, the anvil strikes the hammer with the same force with which it is struck. That's the law of physics. This applies in spiritual matters, too. So we use one short word to describe that law, and that's karma. Now the mechanics of it are something else.
At any rate, I took the synthesis of all these movements I had looked into, looking for a common denominator. I was still trying to be scientific, and I believe you should be. Everybody should try to be as scientific as you can about your search. And I saw that there were certain common denominators. One of them was the conservation of energy, if you want to put it that way. Celibacy. Abstinence from things that destroy your senses—intrusions into your mind of things that will stop you from thinking clearly on a given point.
In other words, you can't concentrate and have all the doors open, all the spigots running. I never was hung up too much on cigarettes or booze, but I did from twenty-one to twenty-eight become totally abstinent. I avoided even tea and coffee. I had read that the yogis didn't like meat, so I quit eating meat: "Try that, too. I'm going out for this thing, and if anything helps, I'm willing to make my body a laboratory."
I realized that even in those days, and especially in those days, you were looked upon as a screwball. And that perhaps some of these people were pointing the finger and saying, "You might be a screwball for doing this"—and they could be right. That maybe I'd wind up nuts. I could lose my mind. I could become a fanatic.
And just by way of a side word here, I think you do get fanatics from people who delve deeply into things. I'm under the impression, though, that it's people who study intensely without having the doors closed. I think this is what causes the fanatics. They try to mix too many things.
But at any rate, I got into every day doing my meditation. In those days we didn't have "Aangh" or "Boing" [humorously referring to TM]. We had Om. So I diligently and faithfully breathed my exercises and went "Om."
Well, after seven years of this I looked into the mirror. My hair was falling out, my teeth were falling out—and I felt like a regular fool. Naturally I'd occasionally get this fond idea of getting married. I'd see something pretty go by and say, "Oh boy, as soon as I get enlightened I'm coming back to that." Then it dawned on me that with a bald head maybe I wouldn't get back to that.
So this is part of the tension that is built up. And incidentally, this tension is a very vital factor in the business of enlightenment.
At twenty-eight I threw it all overboard. I said, "That's it. I'm going out, I'm going to get married, and I'm going to forget about this stuff. I've been kidding myself. This is some sort of a narcissistic dream I've been indulging in all these years."
And I went out and I couldn't get married because nobody would have me—at least the ones that I set my head on at that particular time. And I was too lazy to go look too far. And I also realized that what I was taking was a vacation. I had been really plugging away, and I would get the itch to go back—I'd find myself traveling to California to visit the Vedanta temple or looking in on the Rosicrucians at Oceanside, traveling to my friend's house in Texas to interview a witch-doctor, or something of that sort.
But still it was hot and cold. I would get intense, but I wasn't doing anything consistently. Until I was about thirty-two, I kept this up. When I was thirty-two, an experience occurred. [In earlier talks, Rose said it happened at thirty-two. But later he found a postcard he'd written at the time, and it was dated the spring of 1947, when he was thirty years old.] I don't want to go into it too much now, because it could be a science-fiction story as far as you're concerned. If you're interested, later on it's all right to ask some questions. Unless you have some intuition about that sort of thing, it could be nothing more to you than a science-fiction story.
I was in Seattle, Washington when it happened, and afterwards as I said, I came to this gentleman's house in Cleveland. I was pretty upset. Because the experience going in and coming out is rather traumatic, when you find very little to live for—or at least I found very little to live for.
Then the next thing was, "Well, if you're going to live, why not tell a few people? Why not help some of these kids that, like you—when you were twenty-one, you were looking around blindly for gurus, and the gurus were all phonies, and you couldn't find the authors of the books that sounded so good, and the money angle was prohibitive. Every place you went somebody wanted to tap you. So why not find these people who are sincere and genuine and willing to work, and make yourself available?"
Well, you people are late getting here. [Rose was fifty-seven when he gave this talk.] I wanted to do that when I was thirty-three years old, and nobody was there. Because we had a different era. You didn't dare talk about it. If you went down where you worked and told them you were interested in yoga, they were liable to lay you off. You were maybe a hazard at work, or something. Business associates would shun you. You had to learn to keep your mouth shut. Instead of going out and saying, "Hey, can I help you?" you had to learn to be quiet.
So it wasn't until—it was like I was thinking today: "In the beginning was LSD." In other words, there was no wholesale consciousness of another dimension until a few people stuck their head in the meat grinder, so to speak. Some of them didn't pull their heads back out. But this gave a hint, for the first time, a chemical hint to a lot of people.
In the group that is established today, we don't have a single soul who takes any form of narcotic. But I attribute perhaps thirty percent of them gained some insight by seeing a flash of another dimension and saying, "Ho, maybe it isn't impossible. Maybe there is something. Maybe there is a dimension after the grave."
Whereas before that, the word just went out, "Well, I'm going where everybody else goes, and nine chances out of ten that's zero because nobody ever came back and said anything."
The search that I got into, starting when I was twenty-one, was one of looking for a change of state of being. Now we have quite a few spiritual movements, but most of the spiritual movements involve an attempt at objective enlargement and mind expansion. And even some people tried to do it with drugs. They thought they could blow their head up so big it would include the cosmos.
This is not what we're talking about in mind-expansion, of course, or in becoming. You learn somewhere along the line that you're not going to get anything from wisdom. Wisdom will get you nowhere. Faith will get you nowhere. But it's a combination of both.
There's an old theological axiom which echoed through my head ever since I was a child. I think it came from Thomas Aquinas: "The finite mind shall never perceive the infinite."
And I would think, "There's no use in trying. What he says is true. You're never going there as long as you've got this brain or mind that is dependent upon the synapses, on the DNA molecule, for your final memory. When that goes, you are going. You have a relative mind, and how are you going to perceive an absolute condition?"
The answer was there all the time—and if it's written, I have not read the books in which it is spoken—that the finite mind can become not-so-finite. It is possible for the finite mind not to comprehend but to become the infinite.
Now if there is a definition of enlightenment—and I'm avoiding the use of the word satori as you'll notice—that definition would well be it. It's a condition in which, by careful building, as in the case of a teacher or in the case of life—and it's your desire that does it; it creates a tremendous tension—from that tension you will come between the relative condition of the mind.
Hubert Benoit [in The Supreme Doctrine] speaks of the compensation, the pyramid, the triangle—the positive and the negative and the compensating neutral. Well, it isn't quite the same. It's a "this" and a "that" and a something in-between.
We had a fellow in Pittsburgh, a fellow about two years older than I—we would hold our meetings, and he'd come and he would sometimes hold up one finger. And everybody would laugh. Because he couldn't communicate too well. He was a very brilliant man, but he just didn't have the art of talking. And occasionally he'd get his finger on the desk and he'd say, "There's this [to one side], and there's that [to the other side]." Then he'd look at you and say, "But there's this [in the middle]." And everyone laughed because they didn't know what he meant.
But this is the whole secret of the path: what's in-between.
Continued in part 2...
It is a day of fundamentals
Between the question and the answer
The Truth is clean.
A man wakes from slumber,
The Truth is clean.
The river holds me spellbound.
A whole winter hiding
"Strike the Evening Chime at Noon"
Foyan saved those words nine hundred years ago,
The seat of the soul is empty,
There was a movie in the early nineties called "The Laws of Gravity." The gist of it was a fellow trying to raise himself from the life of a hoodlum. His friends continued a life of crime, however, and in trying to help them he was drawn back into their drama—eventually to be gunned down on the street. It is the title that haunts me, and its implication that you cannot escape the company you keep.
Obviously, if you are on a spiritual path, the "laws of gravity" can drag you down. To embark on a spiritual search, you need time and assistance—no different than if you wanted to become a photographer, for example. You will want to read books, meet people with experience, and experiment with different methods. If your drinking buddy shows up at the doorstep every other night, you won't have time for your new interest. You need the strength to tell him no, and the willingness to let that friendship go if a new basis for it cannot be found.
I recall a friend from college-days who called me after a couple of years' absence. He reminisced about the good times we had indulging in the pleasant haze of alcohol and wanted to visit me, but I invented an excuse to delay and never called him back. I turned my back on him, and that was considered harsh by some of my friends. Yet, I was trying to build a new life, that of a spiritual seeker—embarking on a new career that required all my energy to have a hope for success. We do not realize how weak and easily distracted we are—little better than recovering alcoholics. The company we keep will either drag us down or lift us up.
Only now, after years of work and change, do I allow myself to indulge the desires of others. I may go to a baseball game, or share a drink with an old friend. He enjoys it, and there is little concern I will make a habit out of it.
I am sure this sounds condescending. We are rather shy these days about labeling one person better than another. Everyone has potential, talents or gifts; there are different ways of measuring intelligence and success. Everyone can learn and we can learn from everyone. I don't dispute this, but I do say that we must choose what we wish to learn from others.
What do you owe your old friends? What was the basis of that friendship? In what life direction is that friendship leading? Where should your loyalty lie?
Irene lived in the
My Last Identity
Trap: believing the "world" is the sole source of your troubles. In the active-reactive situations of life, we may mistakenly come to believe that other people or circumstances are the sole source of our problems, as well as the potential source of our future happiness. This locks us into a no-win situation, for the world is not going to change to suit our petty desires and fears, nor will molding our "self" to fit the world resolve the conflict either. The world is change, and as such, no counter-change made in our environment or pattern can last, or bring peace and lasting security.
Trick: seeing that identification with our "self," as it rises to meet the world, is the root cause of our trouble, desire and fear. When we come to see that our own reaction-pattern is what we should be looking at, we may also come to see that what we have been calling "me" is not us at all. It is but another part of the changing world, a view. By observing our "self" as it rises up in reaction to the world, through self-observation, we come to this startling realization: we are only an observer. All action-reaction is of the world or view, it is not us. Thus, we separate from our pattern, and the view becomes just that, "self" included. Once we have hit this point of fact, we are ready to go within.
~ "Tricks & Traps" is a regular feature of Bob's Mystic Missal web site.
"And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find;
knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth;
and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." —Luke 11:9
Both Jesus and St. Nicholas had one important thing in common: they were men of action, and taught through example. The theory came later, from those who recorded their lives and words. Neither of these men taught that we should wait around for them to save us, or that the inner kingdom was only entered by first gaining permission from paid priests and preachers. They taught that we must change first, in a fundamental inner way, and then the doors could be seen, knocked upon, and entered.
The primary change that must precede any exterior change, is that of value or aim. Another way to put this is that what we love must change in order for our life to gain new direction. This inner or spiritual change comes first, an inner realization perhaps that things are not as they seem, and that if we are to find something permanent and unchanging, we can no longer put our faith in the ceaselessly changing outer world, a world of flux we now know cannot be depended on. This inner change causes or precedes the outer or psychological change. And from there, our actions too, may change.
A strange belief seen in some who profess to desire the truth is one that no effort or change is necessary, but that all one must do is wait, or believe, and that some force will do the work or changing for us. We should just sit, and perhaps talk high words of exalted states of complication or simplicity, and we will be enlightened or saved simply because we already are and just don't know it, or because our unconscious belief in our innate superiority will cause the gods and teachers to save us from the perils of life with no effort of our own. This is all nothing more than a rationalization for our own pride and laziness, or else fear of action and its consequences. While there is truth in the effortlessness of essence, and that the ego cannot create heaven in its own image, no matter the effort, this is only known after the fact, not before.
Waiting for inner change to occur without effort is actually the worshipping of our current psychological state. We do not wish for real change but for all resistance to our self-centered will to be removed, so that our self-survival mechanism can render us omnipotent and eternal. This is ego worship, nothing more. The willingness to change, in a real and drastic sense, is shown first by a willingness to accept the truth of ourselves as we are, regardless, and then by a willingness to work on changing our current psychological state. This shows the powers that be we are not afraid of mental change or emotional pain, and do not place our identification with our accidental state of being above fact of Truth, and our petty wants and worldly needs above love for Truth. We show we are willing to let go of our identification with our reaction-pattern, our "self," and face the unknown, knowing intuitively that the Kingdom is within.
This initial change of heart and mind, the change in our direction or aim, comes to each of us in our own manner. Some may find it through mental inquiry into their present state. Others may find it through an intuitive feeling, while still others come to it by the trauma of drastic events. Some may find it through contact with a teacher or friends. Whatever the path we take to this moment, and whether we are even aware of it at the time, the inner change is primary and causal. It works its way outward and affects our lives, whether we like it or not. We will eventually look back with understanding, perhaps, but always with gratitude and praise. If this has not happened to you, but you know for sure that your life can't be as good as it gets, then begin the effort: ask, knock, and seek, with all your heart and mind, and surely you will find.
Run & Hide
What distinguishes man from the so-called lower animals? As Temple Grandin tells us in Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, one of the major differences is that "animals aren't ambivalent." She points out that neuroscience is showing us that animals and humans have the same core emotions, but animals don't have the mixed emotions that normal adults have. In that respect, animals are more like children and autistic people. The child and the autistic person are innocents whose feelings are direct and open. The difference may be explained neurologically by the development of the frontal lobes. They don't have the mental equipment to support love-hate relationships or to entertain the resulting psychodrama that normal adults engage in. (Suggestion: don't read any further until you've identified and considered an example of the psychodrama that you indulge in.)
Jesus exhorted his followers: "Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Richard Rose tried to make it clearer by saying: "... become like an autistic child." To know the self, we have to somehow become innocents again. How can that be done?
We aren't going to rewire the prefrontal lobes, to "dumb" them down to pre-adult simplicity. So we have to somehow transcend the turmoil of mixed emotions. All that's required is a shift in our observation platform. From being caught up in the swirl of conflicting emotions, we find ourselves watching the struggle from an anterior position. There's no formula for making this shift, but the general approach is one of 1) noticing what we're observing, 2) providing room for our curiosity to work at trying to understand what we observe, and 3) overcoming our disbelief in the possibility of attaining a radically different perspective. This approach is synonymous with productive meditation.
Education in self-knowledge generally comes in the form of shocks that jar us out of self-complacency. But these shocks impel hypnotic psychodrama. So we need an alternation of being focused on the inner drama and of putting our attention on something else. In other words, if we spend too much time "in our heads," we need to disrupt that spell with some focus on the outer world. One of the best ways to do this is to ask ourselves what we can do for someone else. Not to win points toward some do-gooder prize, not to pump ourselves up as more benevolent than the next-door neighbor, but just to stop taking our personal psychodrama as being so important. (It's not.)
When you reach the pinnacle of self-knowledge, you may find yourself aligned with the view expressed by Nisargadatta: "My stand is clear: produce to distribute, feed before you eat, give before you take, think of others before you think of yourself."
I have never left you.
Your existence depends on my attentive grace at every instant.
I have particularized,
I have waved,
You and I are not two.
An American businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied only a little while. The American then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.
The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor."
The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise."
The Mexican fisherman asked, "But senor, how long will this all take?"
To which the American replied, "15-20 years."
"But what then, senor?"
The American laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."
"Millions, senor? Then what?"
The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."
Like a dutiful recipient of your newsletter, I have read the articles and poems and given them some thought. I have been reading similar material for so many years that a lot of it just sort of blends in with what I have already read or experienced. As always, I enjoyed learning more about others, those who contribute to the site and those they write about.
It is often difficult to say what I like best. However, there is absolutely no doubt there is a real winner in [the October Forum]. It really hit home. It is that marvelous insight into "Why women live longer than men." Great photo and caption. Thanks for the chuckle! ~ M.J., Iowa, USA
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