This Month's Contents: No Religion is Greater Than Friendship by Paul Constant | "Faith Matheny" by Edgar Lee Masters | Group Work by David Weimer | Video: Together We Will Live Forever by Clint Mansell | Quotes | Humor | Reader Commentary
I wrote these words as a purpose statement for a group I formed early last year in the San Francisco Bay area:
A community of friends who hold truth as our standard and self-honesty as the road to spiritual discovery. We seek to know, experientially, the truth of our nature rather than simply believe what others tell us. Through honest, open dialogue, we help one another clarify our understanding by turning away from untruths. Thus we turn from the illusion of life to the Reality.
After a recent reunion with comrades from the old Self Knowledge Symposium, I am struck with how rare it is to find a few good friends on the path. It is easy to find people who simply want to sit and be entertained by teachers, or who want to sit and entertain by playing the role of teacher. In other words, the quest for affirmation often outweighs the quest for truth. Yet you may have one or two good friends, and definitely have one or two waiting to be discovered. Find them; be thankful.
I am imposing nothing on you & expect nothing of you.
- Alfred Puylan, November 14, 1960, personal correspondence with Richard Rose
To me, that is an immensely profound statement that should apply to every spiritual teacher and every seeker. In the context that Puylan used it, a teacher should be utterly selfless and seek no personal gain from his or her students, nor impinge personal desires, rituals, or dogma upon others. Likewise, seekers should follow the same principles when working with other seekers, whether those seekers are on the same Essential level or on the levels below. In other words, spiritual seekers should not be in this for superficial acquisition.
There is no religion greater than human friendship.
- Richard Rose, The Albigen Papers
When Rose speaks of religion here, he isn’t talking about today’s conventional, organized religion. He means an organized entity that represents a group, whether that group involves an eastern or western devotional, intellectual, or Essence-seeking collection of individuals. True friendship is, above all, what matters most. And now I’ll explain my convictions….
A Personal Story
Between 1982 and 1985, I was reading numerous books related to the spiritual path—Krishnamurti, Gurdjieff, Ouspenky, and many others. Most of the other books I read were of a much lighter caliber. In a bookstore near Pittsburgh, I stumbled on a book stuffer that someone had placed in one of the books. Something about the words in the stuffer struck a chord with me:
A valuable follow up to this book is The Albigen Papers and The Direct-Mind Experience. These books give a system of discovery of esoteric matters, supplementing books which ably point the way.
This note is placed as a token effort by the local Albigen study group, and which, not desiring to proselytize, remains anonymous.
A few months later, I ordered The Albigen Papers, thus starting my search in earnest at the age of 22. From that point, I basically devoured Rose’s writings, moving next to the Psychology of the Observer and then reading his five remaining books while still attending college in Pennsylvania. During the summer months, I lived with my parents, who were a little more than a stone’s throw from Rose’s farm in West Virginia. I was quite shy and certainly not prone to rashly attending a spiritually-oriented group. Still, something was lacking on my spiritual path, and so I put pen to paper and mailed the following letter:
Dear Richard Rose:
About two years ago, I discovered Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous and have since read many other related books. But now I am at a standstill. I realize that I need a school or brotherhood to help me, but where do I turn? Few of my friends seem interested in spiritual work. And surely, a good school would not advertise in magazines, newspapers, etc. Who, then, do I turn to? How should I approach others concerning these matters? I am very confused at this point and would really appreciate some suggestions.
Rose responded with a note a few days later: I am pleased to welcome you to the TAT group. You are invited—unless this is too short a notice of the seminar this coming weekend—at the farm. It is an exercise—in which we try to get the most in introspection. In those days, Rose arranged an “August Chautauqua,” an annual event intended for those who were more serious about their path and usually more interested in the Albigen System in comparison to the TAT group at large.
During the TAT meetings that followed in 1985 and 1986, I clearly remember thinking: “I’m here to see Rose. It doesn’t matter whether I associate with his students. What do they have that could possibly be of benefit to me?” To me, only Rose had the Final Answer that I sought. Although Rose would frequently discuss the threefold path, the value of true friendship, the “Laws”—and by that, I mean the Law of Extra Proportional Returns and the Law of the Ladder—I wanted no part of it in those days. I thought I could follow the “twofold” path.
Slowly, my attitude changed. I visited the farm on weekends when Rose wasn’t around, often working side by side with other students of Rose. We chopped wood, repaired fences around the property perimeter, dug drainage ditches for roads, and countless other farm projects. You can learn a great deal about another person when working together—their strong points and their warts. Yet, those fellows answered so many of my basic philosophic questions. In essence, they challenged my beliefs, and I obtained a depersonalized perspective by listening to various seekers who had been on the path for a while. Perhaps on the “spiritual ladder,” they really were on the rung above me….
What else could an ignorant neophyte like me do to help someone else on the path?
Later, almost by accident, I became quite involved in TAT’s business affairs. I didn’t really consider it as anything spiritual. My attitude was that someone helped me, and I was filled with gratitude for their efforts. So, with my personal spiritual ship pretty much dead in the water, I figured the least I could do is help someone else to help themselves. And plugging away for TAT, friends on the path, and unmet strangers ultimately led to the surprise of my life....
Selfish and Selfless
In today’s world, we can completely immerse ourselves in outward-driven material. By that, I mean the voluminous information that is available at our fingertips through the Internet—Web sites, books, and audio and video. In such a situation, we can easily overlook the need to interact with others with the rationalization that all knowledge is accessible without ever having to leave our homes. But real action involves going within as well as working with others and the “school” or Sangha. So allow me to build a case using a few excerpts from The Albigen Papers (1978 edition):
The first questions are, "How do I start" and "How will I know to trust any advice on the subject?" This means that we are looking for yardsticks and human guides. And, of course, we may realize that we must find some means of checking our own thinking to see if it is impersonal, and not the automatic reactions of a conditioned mind.
And knowing all of these things, together with an awareness of all of the obstacles—all of this will not get us started. We must, if we are not inspired to a singular method, look to our fellowman for his record of experience on this path.
If we are going to build a shed, it is usually advisable to spend a few hours getting some advice from a carpenter. And so, automatically we gravitate toward men who have a reputation for being seekers after Truth. The blueprints left behind by Christ and Buddha were both threefold directives. "The Way, the Truth, and the Life", (John 14:6), is given as the means of coming to the Father. We find other directives that fit into and explain the threefold message of Christ. We are told to "seek and ye shall find," and "The truth shall make you free." The way is the particular path of seeking. The Truth is the objective. The truth is also the practice of honesty. There are naturally many opinions as to the exact meaning of these words, but the "Life" refers to the type of life that is led by a seeker, and to the collective spiritual life of a church or brotherhood of souls. It was in his final order, given to his intimate apostles, in which he repeated, "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep."
Let us compare the directives of Christ with those of Buddha. The three ways of Buddha were, the Buddha (the Way of Discernment), the Dharma, (the life of Truth and duty), and the Sangha, or brotherhood.
Next we go to the teachings of Gurdjieff, and we find that he recommended the Way of Self-observation, and the School. The latter may be synonymous with Sangha. It may be said that Gurdjieff was involved in a work that was aimed at truth or greater understanding, by virtue of his strenuous efforts to produce reasonable concepts and techniques. [The Albigen Papers p. 183]
And this brings us to that which this book proposes. We can enter the brotherhood of the ignorant and climb and study together. If this makes for us a wide field in which to work, we can find friendship and comfort at least in the large number of people found there, and we can still find the select few among them that can work more dynamically with us by virtue of their nearness to our level. [p. 187]
We need a spot on earth upon which to meet. A homing ground, but not an intellectual prison. A library and a clubhouse of philosophers. A place with quiet rooms where a person can be alone if he desires. A clearinghouse of contacts, or a place where a card-file might be kept with names of those who wish to be contacted. In philosophical research, access to personal contacts is more valuable than any card index of an esoteric library.
Many people of philosophic drive feel no compulsion to mingle with anyone except their colleagues. But these people must be unaware of future growth-possibilities for themselves, and they must be unaware that they must help others in order to grow themselves. This is the Law of the Ladder, which will be discussed later. The Ashram brings the different levels together that are needed for the growth of each member. [p. 187 - 188]
We come now to a very important conclusion. There is no religion greater than human friendship. Now this conclusion should not be quoted out of text. It does not mean that people are greater than truth. It does not mean that we should worship humanity or individuals. In fact, I strongly oppose getting the idea of love and friendship mixed in deciding the attitude of the student toward the teacher, especially if the student cannot discriminate between physical love and platonic devotion.
Nor does the above mean that we should reject a particular religion, if it interferes with friendship. That which is meant is quite the opposite, in that a religion should not be found acceptable if it holds that human friendship as principle should be cast aside. Strangely enough, this demand, if made, has to emanate from the mouth of another human, not a divine spirit. It has been a long time since man has received any messages from burning bushes or voices in the sky. So that to our knowledge, our whole spiritual education and help must come from other humans or their books.
We need to trust any man whom we accept as a teacher, because he holds in trust our hopes for salvation or enlightenment, as well as our sanity, which, until we make the final jump, is the only true communication with our essence or absolute being. [p. 191]
Helping per se may not involve direct contact with others. It could mean working for the good of a spiritual group, or a seeker out there with whom you haven’t met. First and foremost, you must develop an attitude whereby you want to help others, not out of an interest for personal gain, but because you take joy in helping. Helping should be natural to you. This doesn’t mean you disregard your own spiritual work under the guise of helping others. Rose said we follow a selfish, selfless path. The selfish part means you desire above all else to find your Essence. You’re not going to save your friends, family, or country from the woes of the planet. By selfless, I’ll illustrate with an excerpt from Shawn’s article, Things to Do:
#4. Realize that you want to help others: The ego prevents us from reaching out to others. With persistent self-analysis, you will come to have true consideration for your fellow man—you will see your flaws in others and others’ flaws in you. There is the thought that we should help others because it will help us in the long run, but this is not the same as truly wanting to help another. It is a milestone when we want to help simply because it is the natural reaction.
How does “helping” accelerate a seeker’s progress on the spiritual path? Notice that I said “help” and not “fix.” On a mundane level, we can only remain introspective for a limited time during each day. The mind tires of abstractions and looks for something more tangible on which to rest its focus. If that’s the case, we can work on projects that may be of benefit to other seekers. It will certainly accelerate our spiritual vector and commitment to Truth. Even after his Realization, Rose offered his family farmhouse and property to spiritual seekers, many of who were strangers. On a magical level, perhaps a leap of faith is necessary to fully employ the Laws as Rose describes them:
Law of the Ladder. We do not visualize a single man upon each rung, reaching down, pulling up the man below. We find that the ladder is “A” shaped, pyramid in form, for one thing. There are less people on the higher rungs than on the lower rungs. We will be lucky if we can find one man who can help us, but we should be working with six or more on the rung below. We also find a new meaning for the brotherhood now. The man above may be pulling up the man below,—but they are pushing him a bit, at the same time.
The Law of Extra Proportional Returns can be effected only with the cooperation of friends. The Law … infers an unexpected increment. To draw an analogy, two factors (human) working together will accomplish more results together, than will either of the two factors in twice as much time. This is also known as the Contractor’s Law. If this law did not exist, no contractor would hire men. It would all be done by individuals working alone. We apply the same principle to spiritual work. We must work in groups, in other words. You can call them brotherhoods or societies, or you can work in groups without a name.
Surely you have all experienced a situation where you talked through a problem with someone else and arrived at a solution you wouldn’t have considered alone. If you want to contrast that situation with a polar opposite, try a week or month completely alone in an isolation retreat. You’ll learn the value of friendship. Truly, two heads are better than one.
In the late 1990’s, I received a bundle of handwritten personal correspondence from me to Richard Rose—I think he saved everyone’s letters. Over the years, I too kept letters that he mailed to me. On several occasions, rather than replying, he would hold my letters until I showed up in Benwood or at the farm, and then we would discuss my questions.
The following two email correspondences are not about me. Paul Constant is a fictional character who sought to know his true Source, but he is meaningless. I offer these letters as a ray of hope to you, the seeker. In all likelihood, my words will sound familiar to you….
December 17, 1987
At the last meeting, you mentioned that you periodically ask for a short summary of yourself and the system from some of the members. Well, I thought I would take a shot at it myself and found it rather challenging. The best method I could come up with was to write as if to someone unfamiliar with the TAT organization. After I wrote it, it seemed oversimplified. I think it would take an entire biography to reveal any great details. Nevertheless, I hope it is of some use.
No seeker should walk the path alone if he can help it. Of course, had someone told me this three years ago, I would have had reason for argument. Even then, I was in the midst of Ouspenskian philosophy, which repeatedly explained that progress was extraordinarily difficult without a school. But I was going to make it alone.
After several books and an unsuccessful year later, I ran across a profound book titled “The Albigen Papers” by Richard Rose. Here was a book that finally spoke in my language, leaving behind all the nebulous mystical garbage. I didn’t find it particularly shocking. Instead, I found it a delight that someone was writing about familiar societal absurdities. More importantly, “The Albigen Papers” sparked a tremendous craving for additional roadmaps.
A year later, after reading all of Rose’s books and after some intense personal debating, I decided it was time to make a move—I was going to visit the TAT farm. I thought it was a big move, really. Mr. Rose answered the phone when I made the call. After explaining that I recently joined TAT and was interested in attending the meeting, he knew who I was. I found it comforting that TAT was not a large impersonal group.
My first visit to the TAT farm was during one of the Chautauqua’s. I distinctly remember that early August morning. To begin with, a question was asked of everyone on what they wanted out of life. I was dumbstruck by the sudden silent attention of the group when it was my turn to answer, so I mumbled “Wisdom.” Of course, I was spared the overall shock of listening to Rose’s lecture for the first time since I knew some of his philosophy before I ever knew him.
During the next year, I regularly attended the TAT meetings. The premise of the TAT Society is interaction with fellow inquirers so that one can expedite the journey. At that time, though, I saw no value in the TAT group. I only came to listen to Richard Rose. In fact, in retrospect, I may have bordered on the emotional/devotional type. The fallacy of this attitude was revealed in time. Not only did I begin to exchange valuable information with TAT friends, but I was finding that Rose was helpful only to a certain degree. In other words, expecting him to do the pushing instead of myself—I think this was simply laziness on my part.
[Incidentally, there is a flip side of friendship. Too many of us rely on teachers and friends to satisfy spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. We should constantly be on alert for the mind’s tendencies to seek out crutches. Crutches are not true friends.]
A second frustrating period was marked by a tremendous lack of faith in myself. I would listen to Rose’s stories and his monumental determination to find the Truth in his earlier years. I thought it was inconceivable to match that determination. However, with time, I began to see more of his human qualities. He too, had encountered pitfalls and stumbling blocks, and had made mistakes along the way. For the next two years, Richard Rose would shatter every preconceived idea of what an Enlightened man was supposed to be.
Once, I was asked to summarize the Albigen System in a nutshell. With great difficulty, I stumbled over some fragmented explanations without really providing an adequate answer. After some time, I decided that it couldn’t be summarize so briefly. But I think an attempt should be made (from my perspective) to highlight the important benefits of the system.
The Albigen System substitutes a scientific approach for the mystical; doubt and introspection for belief. The approach involves the improvement of intuition through self-observation, and conditioning this intuition with logic. In addition, the method entails a conservation of energy: you can spend it by thinking about or doing thousands of useless little things, or spend it wisely by focusing on thought processes or by asking yourself who’s doing the observing. Much information can be gathered from fellow seekers, such as valuable books or other ways and means to keep the head on the problem. This information is not to keep up to date on philosophy, but to attack the problem from new angles. Perhaps the greatest value, and yet the most overlooked by his listeners, is Richard Rose’s “Between-ness” approach. The proven theory employs holding the head “between thoughts” to provide an avenue for unlimited “happenings” on the physical, mental, or spiritual level. I believe Between-ness will be uncovered in the future, when it will be more easily understood, and when Richard Rose will be looked upon as a frontiersmen of this science.
[To me, between-ness works on a macro scale and a micro scale, although the two are intertwined. In “The Practical Approach” from Psychology of the Observer: Rose says, “We begin to notice a motion within the head. The physical head does not move, but we become conscious of a mental head that literally turns away from a view. When you are able to turn this internal head, whenever you wish, without any inability to continue thinking, you are half way home.” Also see Ultimate Between-ness by Bart Marshall.]
In summary, Richard Rose has been a success at what 99% of the population considers nonsense. He does not ask that you believe—only that you doubt. He gives ideas on what worked for him, in his lifetime, and leaves his listeners to decide if it is useful. He is probably the most sincere person I know—he “walks what he talks” so to speak. And he will be the first to admit uncertainty when he does not know. At times, I find it difficult to discern between his personal philosophy and the philosophy, but in the end it may not matter. Whether it’s common sense advice or methods of introspection, I find immense value in every conversation.
[Again, that’s a summary I wrote in 1987—a summary that Rose informally requested from each group member. Maybe some of you want to try writing a summary of your own.]
March 13, 1988
I thought I’d contact you because I am at a standstill. This whole ordeal has become a matter of swinging swords in the dark. Sure, I’m ready to battle, but with what? I keep asking myself, “What’s stopping me?” Well, I’ve observed some rather obvious mental time consumers. For instance, my job. But I got to thinking, “Why would my job be so important?” And I saw it wasn’t the job, but the ego behind it. It seems I have this strange desire to impress others, a concern for what others think about me. Even an eagerness to please. I don’t say it’s Pollyanna. I say it’s more like a desire for acceptance. It may have originated some time in adolescence. Can this be a block? I keep beating my head wondering why I am moving so slowly, at times seemingly stagnating.
I figured it was time to open my mouth and lay my head on the chopping block. Otherwise, I’ll just continue running circles around myself. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on this or a different perspective on any of the obvious blocks. I’m not sure anyone else can provide an unbiased viewpoint. If you prefer not to write, I was planning a week of isolation during April 2 – 9. We can talk either before I go in or after I come out if you’ll be at the farm one of those weekends.
All egos are not a detriment unless they become an impediment. To have a desire to impress others, or to please others, or to seek acceptance—is not an ego if it never becomes a trap.
These characteristics are unselfish unless we try to cash in—once we have pleased or been accepted.
The flesh does not function without some ego. But it should be that we should know that it is a selfless direction until we pose it for profit.
The ego to please makes politicians and presidents. Who amount to much but they become in essence very little.
It does not matter which type of job a man works at—as long as that job does not compromise his main ambition—which is becoming.
If you wish to agonize—struggle to function as a vector, and keep perfecting ways and means to expedite becoming more of a vector.
Do not know where I will be on April weekends yet. C[.] was going to set up a meeting on an upcoming weekend.
But we’ll find time to talk. Incidentally, I have been getting a few orders from Pennsylvania—for Magic [White & Black]—mostly.
See you later
At first you will know not what they mean,
~From Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters
I wait to meet myself. Sometimes I see him come into our meeting room, but he’s not willing to hear me. I can recognize myself sitting over there, but I can’t strike up a conversation. Sometimes I see him walk in, look around, and walk out. Sometimes he walks by in the hallway without coming in. Sometimes he stays and I give him a book to read and he or she leaves, takes the book and brings it back unread. I’m the tree in a time-lapse film, a flickering lantern on my motionless branch.
My notion of group work has changed over time. Group work concerning seeking a permanent solution to the ultimate question of life is what I’m referring to. In the beginning, I had no concept of group work. I had ultimate questions but I walked with them on my own. I avoided philosophic books from a strong conviction that they were irrelevant. I avoided churches because I considered the attendees deluded.
In 1992, I ran across a University of Pittsburgh student group called the Self Knowledge Symposium. I was a reporter for the campus paper and I chose to cover this group’s first meeting of the semester over other, more boring, story assignments. I became interested and returned to following meetings. Each week, there were people sitting in a circle of chairs in a classroom in the evening to talk about very important things, things like consciousness, awareness, states of being, meaning, and the purpose of our lives. At that time, I was thrilled to have an outlet and an opportunity to speak aloud all of the things that I had held in my head for years. I’d found my own church.
I’d been attending SKS meetings for two years when first Al and then Mike F. stopped heading them. I remember sitting in the basement cafeteria in the Cathedral of Learning with Mike at the end of 1993. We met there regularly after SKS meetings to discuss the night’s activities. This particular night was the last meeting of the year and had been a particularly good one. Mike commented nostalgically about the course of that semester’s meetings. He said that they had been profound for him—and also that he wouldn’t be coming back to head the meetings in the spring. He was going to begin a new phase of his life.
I couldn’t accept letting this valuable thing that I’d become increasingly involved with dissolve. I’d never considered heading a group, but if I failed to act, this gem would slip through my fingers and disappear.
Waiting on a January evening in an empty second floor classroom of the Cathedral of Learning, I was nervous. That’s primarily what I remember from the first spring meeting. I’d prepared an introduction to what my notion of the purpose of this group was. I’d waited ten minutes past the time that the meeting was supposed to start, relieved that no one had shown up. As I was gathering up my things to leave, two pretty girls walked in. I gave them a handout and told them about this group aimed at investigating the meaning in one’s life. After some silence, they told me they’d thought that this was a fraternity meeting of some kind and had wanted to find out for sure.
With that start, things took off. By the time that I left this precious group in someone else’s hands, it had been a real adventure. There was a core of six or seven regular attendees and we’d formed a bond of friendship and shared experiences. We’d gone on trips to caves and railroad tunnels. We’d engineered thought experiments and explored magic, ghosts, perception and divination. The group had become an established funded student organization that sponsored lectures and presentations. We had a website. In December, I graduated and held a meeting with these core members, telling them that I had to make a clean break of things and let them move into the driver’s seat. This was the best and truest gift that I could give—the experience of leading a group. Even before I was gone, I’d missed the meetings that I wouldn’t get to attend. I was occasionally tempted to go back but resisted because I didn’t want to influence things. Mike’s own farewell echoed with me at times.
Along with leaving notes, instructions, tips and so on, I showed core members the ins and outs of running the show. I believed in the purpose of the group. We were explorers. I handed them the keys and left.
I stopped by in six months and was deeply moved to see it still working. A year later, I visited again and was amazed and happy to see it alive. I felt thankful for myself and others that it still lived. In 1996, during my separation from my first wife, I found unexpectedly large chunks of time in my hands so I started auditing the SKS meetings, interacting with a new regular crowd.
When I left Pittsburgh that November, I’d become friends with a new treasured group of similar souls. On a cold weekday, I held a going away party in a friend’s house on Suburban Avenue in the South Hills. Five or six fellow seekers of truth came to wish me farewell. It was a happy sad time. I’d left once before and knew that this time it would be for good. Some things you don’t get to have back twice.
My notion of group work had evolved. I’d gone from being a fully engaged group participant to being a fully engaged leader of an organization of metaphysical exploration. I’d then handed the reins over to peers on a path aimed at enlightenment—at least that’s the path that I was on. I haven’t spoken to these friends in a decade, but they’re as alive in my mind as they were for me when I saw them regularly.
While I was leading SKS, I had what I consider an evangelical mindset for a while. I would greet newcomers with the motive of converting them to truth-seeking people. I wanted to make everybody obsessed with it like I was. Before one meeting, I was organizing handouts and I remember stopping and staring at the chalkboard over the table. I said aloud to myself, "This isn’t for everyone." I saw what I had been attempting. This isn’t for everyone…. Nothing was.
After that, I never did anything except focus my attention on what I was interested in. Each meeting, I presented a topic or idea that I was interested in and I abandoned all efforts to show or convince anyone of anything. Surprisingly, attendance shot up. We had a dozen people or more regularly. The group thrived. I noticed the irony.
Following my departure from Pittsburgh, nine years would pass before I would engage in group work of this kind again. I’ve been a regular attending member of TAT since 1993, making it to most quarterly TAT meetings, but I’m referring to group work that I initiate. I would eventually get back into metaphysical group work by returning to the U.S. from France.
When I moved overseas, I didn’t make it to any TAT meetings. I was immersed in foreign languages and cultures. I subsisted from a trickle of email correspondence with seekers of the truth. I knew some of them from TAT circles. I’d met a few from a bulletin board on Shawn Nevins’ link, Spiritual Friends Locator on his spiritualteachers.org website. All the while, I was desperate for the rare thing that I was accustomed to having at TAT meetings and SKS meetings. I discovered what I’d taken as a given.
I adjusted to my new life in first German and then French societies, but it was living with the sound turned off. I didn’t get the opportunity to talk on a channel and subject that I yearned for. I’m sure that I would have found something if I had lived there the rest of my life, once the language barrier was completely gone, but I didn’t. I corresponded with one or two people at a time, and we would agree to pause our correspondence, and then I would find myself comparing notes with someone else a few months later via email. That was my lifeline. I was an expatriate on a metaphysical desert island.
Without expecting to ever return, I came back to the States in 2003.
I attended TAT meetings again for the first time in five years. It was very nice to be where I recognized and resonated with the subject matter in the air.
My family and I relocated to the Ohio Valley in 2005. Waiting for TAT meetings was almost the extent of group work for me. That, and occasional email correspondence with other seekers.
Once in the Wheeling area, I began running a weekly discussion group at the library there after a conversation with the coordinator for library activities. The group is called M&M Philosophy, short for Meeting of the Minds Philosophic Inquiry Forum.
Here, I see group work with other, older eyes. I organize meetings with various topics, exercises and activities and my enthusiasm and curiosity about the subjects we cover is all that I bring to the table. Attendance for the first two years was regular and I think that word of mouth had something to do with it. Maybe curiosity about something new in town was a factor, too. We had a lot of people coming through the auditorium double doors. It seems like everyone popped in at one time or another. I say ‘we,’ but there isn’t a core in the sense that there was at Pitt with SKS. One or two people are interested enough to come back regularly. An average crowd is five or six. Sometimes it’s just me and one another. It’s a different dynamic. I’m different. These Tuesday nights, there are people from various times of life coming together in an auditorium in the basement of the Wheeling library. Retirees, working class people, students.
Thematic ripples move through these three years. I stand on this beach, watching waves cover the sand and disappear. Geriatrics. Extremists. Conservatives. Christians. Atheists. Liberals. Young and restless. And… seekers—who don't know what they want or what they are; just that something is missing and it echoes for them in our meetings.
I’ve questioned my motives for organizing and running this group. All I can say is that I have a habit of returning to the same place in the library auditorium to gaze at the water.
I feel like a still tree in a time-lapse motion picture with days and seasons coming and going. I watch people meet each other, return, don’t return, laugh, leave.
What do I have to offer....
For three hours each Tuesday, I am a truth-seeking arrow. I have spent my life energy fixated on the most important subject that exists for me. I have devoured esoteric books and listened to a West Virginia enlightened man whose voice always pointed towards home. I dedicated my life to reaching that one goal, that Mount Everest of my existence and I never found it. I turned into it.
I think that I have something to offer myself, and if I walk through those auditorium doors, sitting there in my chair, I will look up and recognize myself, knowing that I can say a thing or two that I might use in my life.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
~ from P.S. I Love You by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Hi all at TAT Forum,
Tess's submission concerning ego is interesting but all of the (possible) solutions to the illusory ego - love, gratitude, tolerance, kindness etc. as control, must be an effect taking place after ego sensation: ego sensation being an effect of momentary incomplete (blind) brain activity. And even then these (blind) brain 're-actions' to overcome ego may very well affect further (blind) brain activity to effect further ego sensation. It seems to cultivate love, compassion, gratitude etc. is an aspect, a category of (blind) brain activity attack/escape, control/alteration of what has taken place as (blind) brain activity consciousness.
Ego doesn't exist, any more than so-called 'I', 'Me', 'Self', as an illusory entity/person/agent exists. These are only words to describe subject(ive) sensation as an effect of momentary incomplete (blind) brain activity - first person subject sensation names 'I' being the effect of the existence of the physical organism in the physical environment. 'Me', 'Self(ego)' being an effect of the existence of the physical organism as psycho-physical sensation psychological time-space.
The human organism has tried (for ever!) to establish behaviour that is opposite to the human condition, as conditions of hate, apathy, indifference etc. But the one cannot exist without the other. To cultivate the 'positive', as further conditioning, is only as the sensation of the other as the 'negative'. The positive, as measure, contain their opposite: without the opposite they do not take place as incomplete (blind) brain activity. This is not to deny instant 'mindless-without-measure' response as love, gratitude, tolerance, kindness etc.
It seems there is only understanding of the human condition, in this understanding there is (blind) brain activity evolution - not an illusory entity/person/agent that can implement positive 'ideas' as existence. That understanding is the outcome of the constant rediscovery of seeing, sensing the whole of out there, as the out-there, taking place in here, inside the darkness of skull as (blind) brain activity. Then all other sensations as so-called 'consciousness' are sensed for what is taking place rather than affect further (blind) brain activity to effect alteration/control of what is. Consciousness as psycho-visual and psycho-physical sensation everyday looking/seeing and thought-thinking/speaking are a (blind) brain activity indication of what is taking place out there as the physical environment and in here as incomplete (blind) brain activity psychological time space. Phew!
The really serious question is 'is there a state of being that is without measure'? If this takes place then it is (possibly) without any sensation of illusory entity/person/agent or ego for this (possible) state of being is an effect of relentless (momentary) complete (blind) brain activity . 'Momentary' because there is still everyday living to take place with all its conditions as an effect of existing conditioning as the human condition.
Tess Hughes' reply
Thank you for taking the time to comment on the ego article in this months Forum. I'm not sure if I am understanding your comment correctly. Your interpretation of ego as " being an effect of momentary incomplete (blind) brain activity" is not what I mean by ego. Ego, as I see it is an effect, behaviour, emotions etc, resulting from hidden beliefs and assumptions, picked up in our environment. It is possible to become aware of these hidden beliefs, which is the whole point of self-inquiry.
The thought streams, which are what ego is composed of, are generated by the unconscious beliefs and assumptions and lead to suffering. Since the whole point of a spiritual path is to reduce or annihilate the suffering, it makes sense to uncover the these thought streams and examine them in the light of how real they are. The root thought/belief is that I am a separate being, which leads to fear of death, which is the root of all fears. But, until you trace this back to the root of your thinking it is just another belief, picked up from someone else.
It turns out that all beliefs are not real but until we have seen this in our own experience, and have come to recognise what is beyond the mind our behaviours and emotions are driven by them.
One method of counteracting the egoic behaviours is to practise non-egoic behaviours, such as love, compassion, gratitude etc. This is not blind brain activity. It takes conscious effort to do this.
Practising these behaviours,tolerance, gratitude, kindness, gentleness, peace, goodness etc engage the emotions and actions. Practising this is another belief but my experience has been that it works and I wanted to share that with others. Of course there are many other practises, such as "seeing" as recommended by Douglas Harding or other forms of meditation, equally valuable but any practise is just a practise. I have found value in many different practises along the way.
Self-realisation is a total transformation of the being, not just the mind. It is a shift in identity.
You cannot deny that you are, but what you are is another matter. Coming to recognise what we really are, always were and always will be, is not a matter of blind brain activity. It is beyond it.
The article was intended as giving some hints on how to make this happen for oneself. It is based on my own experience. You are correct, there is no "I", but until one knows that for themselves it is also just another belief, another prop of ego.
Perhaps we have a difference in language and are really trying to say the same thing. All language if off centre, but since it is the only tool we have for sharing we have to do the best we can with it.
Thank you for your comments. Wishing you all the best,
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