Downloadable/rental versions of the Mister Rose video and of April TAT talks Remembering Your True Desire:
"You don't know anything until you know Everything...."
Mister Rose is an intimate look at a West Virginia native many people called a Zen Master because of the depth of his wisdom and the spiritual system he conveyed to his students. Profound and profane, Richard Rose was not the kind of man most people picture when they think of mystics or spiritual teachers. Yet, he was the truest of teachers, one who had "been there," one who had the cataclysmic experience of spiritual enlightenment.
Filmed in the spring of 1991, the extraordinary documentary follows Mr. Rose from a radio interview, to a university lecture and back to his farm, as he talks about his experience, his philosophy and the details of his life.
Whether you find him charming or offensive, fatherly or fearsome, you will not forget him, and never again will you think about yourself, reality, or life after death in quite the same way.
3+ hours total. Rent or buy at tatfoundation.vhx.tv/.
2012 April TAT Meeting Remembering Your True Desire
Includes all the speakers from the April 2012 TAT meeting: Art Ticknor, Bob Fergeson, Shawn Nevins and Heather Saunders.
1) Remembering Your True Desire ... and Acting on It, by Art Ticknor
2) Swimming in the Inner Ocean: Trips to the Beach, by Bob Fergeson
3) A Wider and Wilder Vision, by Shawn Nevins
4) Make Your Whole Life a Prayer, by Heather Saunders
5+ hours total. Rent or buy at tatfoundation.vhx.tv/.
Last month we asked readers what constitutes a "good" meditation for them. The follow-up question this month is: Why do you meditate? The complete response from Richard G. follows:
The rationalization I use for meditation is two-fold: a) relaxation and b) self-inquiry. The relaxation component is self-explanatory. I will utilize diaphragmatic breathing, chanting a mantra, or focusing attention on sounds or sights (in the mind's eye) before retiring at night. As far as I'm concerned this method works; I haven't lost a night's sleep in long time.
The self-inquiry part to meditation is more complicated. For example, the etymological derivative of the word meditation comes from a Latin, meaning to "think about" or "think over." I'm not sure what pondering or thinking over does with the exception of feeding the "machine" or cogitating process. Exchanging or collecting words has its usefulness but generates problems as well, along with more verbal constructs.
I now view meditation as an active deconstruction process; a removal of falsehoods; challenging should or 'shouldistic' beliefs; removal of verbal constructs; and reducing or eliminating useless reverie. There still seems to be a dualistic notion about what I just said, i.e., meditation and meditator. A subject and object I'm not sure how to write about it without sounding dualistic.
One aspect of meditation therefore, would be the examination of our shoulds and other irrational or unproven beliefs that seem to be pervasive in waking consciousness and the dreaming state. These shoulds, musts, or demanding philosophy create a false notion about ourselves and what we encounter or experience. Some examples would include: "We should be enlightened," "I should not have the problems I have," "meditation should lead to some gain for me," or "meditation must be the key to unlock the mysteries of the universe." The list of shoulds can go on and on. I've found myself living in a trance-like state at times that no matter what I did, saw, experienced, or thought it was second rate, not quite good enough, with some mental ideal that acted like an irrational yardstick that only seemed to be good for browbeating and self-criticism.
Meditation would also include trying to analyze, challenge, or substantiate the sense of I-ness or staying with the I-thought (in Ramana Maharshi terms).
The sense of I-ness seems inseparable from consciousness and the appearance that consciousness or awareness is a function of I-ness or the I-thought. The sense of I-ness seems interconnected with the appearance of consciousness within it and the inescapable manifestation of divisiveness, through subject/object dualism.
However, I've found that staying with the I-thought, through questions, self-inquiry, or Ramana Maharshi's classic inquiry, "To whom does this thought arise, to me, who is this I" acts like a vortex; "turning the head away," I watch for 'shoulds' creeping in and deconstruct them once identified.
That pervasive subject/object dualism doesn't necessarily hold or maintain. What happens, or what does it mean to you, when you find out or discover that the I-ness is within awareness or consciousness and not the end all and be all? Verify this for yourself and don't take my word for it. See for yourself. The following may be helpful as well:
To quote from Solid Ground of Being by Art Ticknor: " The actual transition to knowing the self—a form of knowing that is unfamiliar to the mind. To contrast it to the mind's knowing, we could describe it as unknowing. Actually it's a direct knowing, a knowing by becoming one with." [From "The Last Supper."] " As introspective looking brings into view more and more of what we had assumed was the self, the hypnotic identification with those attachments becomes weakened . This process of going within is like peeling layers off an onion. We may eventually arrive at the point where the only attribute we can assign to our inner self is that of awareness: We feel that we're an aware something, an observer. There's nothing left on the viewing screen that we can identify as self . But what about the viewing screen itself, the background upon which all the thoughts and things appear? What is it, this screen of awareness?" [From "Seeing Something New."] "What we're looking out from is aware—without any help from you or me. It's awareness. The Awareness. Self-aware. 'But wait a second,' we say to ourselves, 'I'm a separate something that's aware of it—' If the mind stares at this vast contradiction, something has to give." [From "Seeing Something New, Recapped."]
Robert Wolfe has a website and has some books that can be downloaded, e.g., Living Nonduality.
Early Impressions of Richard Rose in Retrospect
The material here is from interviews conducted between 1994-1995 with students who knew Richard Rose as early as 1973, by Paul Schmidt—an early and still-active TAT member. The Mr. Rose that we knew as students was fading into Alzheimer's by that time. The TAT Forum published a memorial issue to Richard Rose (March 14, 1917–July 6, 2005) in August of 2005.
Bob F.: Meeting Mr. Rose in his house in Benwood was anticlimactic. The room was cluttered, rundown, and the man himself was old, humbly dressed, with the stocky appearance of a retired wrestler. It wasn't until a few minutes later, when we were leaving from the school parking lot across the street, that I caught a glimpse of the man within. As I walked away from him to get into another car, I had an eerie feeling. I turned and observed Rose staring intently in my direction. I felt he saw more of me in that look than most people see of themselves in a lifetime. I also knew at that moment that I was a stranger unto myself, but no longer to Mr. Rose. Those feelings have only intensified these past two years. They have served to strengthen my search for self-definition and have given me hope that there is something to find.
Shawn N. relates attending a lecture in Raleigh titled "What is Enlightenment?" Rose was talking, and Shawn felt an energy, a heightening of awareness, about a third of way through. He started thinking: "If this was so important that Mr. Rose spent his life doing this work—giving this lecture, trying to reach out to people—and we aren't taking advantage of it and I remember feeling sad, which was strange because I'd felt in some sense he hadn't done what he'd hoped to do and was feeling disappointed—then I had to try. This was important to me, to try to achieve this enlightenment. And I remember he was talking about the time his daughter Ruth was looking at a draft of The Albigen Papers, something about the phrase (she had said to him) 'I know that you are God,' and then she started to cry, which was incredibly emotional. And then Rose said, 'But I am also weak.' And I remember he threw something down like an eraser. I was in tears at that point. The statement 'I am also weak' was not in the story about his daughter, but was made apart from the story while lecturing." Shawn said a full-fledged rapport did not break out, but throughout the whole lecture, energy was building.
"I asked him outright, what I am supposed to do now with you, what are you here for? He said, 'I'm basically here to be a friend. If you have something you're stuck on, give you some advice, a question that I can give an answer to.' A teacher is a person who's been there before, he can offer you some advice."
Michael C.: I don't think a person has an experience of Rose, per se. You have a realization, and you know Rose more. Metaphorically speaking, if Rose is a thousand-watt bulb, and you're a ten-watt one, when you have a realization you become a fifty-watt bulb. Then you know more of Rose.
Augie T. hearkens back: "And I think back to what attracted me to this group. Most importantly, in these dark and troubled times, when people are wishy-washy, when you're pro-social and non-violent, when you don't push baby ducks backwards in the water, I think there was something in me going all the way back to 1973 that said: 'What a man—pure, unabashed. What a man!'"
Doron F. remembers Rose looking at a sugar bowl and wondering at all the grains, and comparing it to the universe. With the earth as a grain, and how could we think we were so significant? "And then he got a serious look on his face and said, 'Somewhere on that grain of sugar is an enlightened bastard.' That was the first thing I remember that was interesting about Rose, how he was able to take something and turn it around and just make a really meaningful point and get into your head."
Bill K.: Commenting on the first lecture he attended, "Rose was extremely direct. It was like talking to a young kid that was wet behind the ears and had a lot of questions and didn't know much about the world. (Mentions a book by Watts, This is it: And Other Essays on Zen and Spiritual Experience.) Frankness was obvious—almost any question you asked, you'd get an answer, and if he didn't know, he would say that he didn't know."
"He talked about everything; nothing was too taboo to talk about." Bill mentions his girlfriend and how the things Rose said seemed to be totally right and accurate and to the point. "Rose gave me an in-depth analysis. From that time on, as they say in marketing, I was sold."
"His insight into me, it just took me right off guard. Of course my head was spinning—quite a few people [said the same thing]—when you're walking out of there, when you realize somebody just put their finger exactly right on your personal problems, on what you've always wanted to do that you haven't done, what you should be doing."
"I think ever since that time everybody else I've come across in spiritual work or religion, they're always careful not to say too much, so as not to reveal what they don't know ."
Bill mentions Larry L., who "had no idea what to do, didn't have any inkling about philosophy, but was really attracted to Rose. I think Dave M. was like that too. Rose not only had both feet on the ground, but nobody could turn him off balance. These people sensed that . Boy, this guy knew what he was after, he knew who he was. Not only that, he had incredible insight into other people, and he talked about everything and anything, there was nothing off limits none of this 'I'm greater than you' attitude, either. Rose was very inclined to tell you about his follies in his life."
Art T. was going to the Pyramid Zen [the initial name for self-inquiry groups at scattered colleges and universities] meetings at Ohio State University but hadn't yet gone to a TAT meeting. Rose showed up unannounced at one of those meetings. Art introduced himself, said he knew he was into this for selfish reasons, and asked Rose why he was doing it. Rose joked that he was doing it because he couldn't help himself, it was an obsession. "At some point in the evening, a bell went off in me; it surprised me because I'd never had this happen before. The words that came along with it were: 'This man is telling the truth. I've never heard it before, but something in me recognizes it!' Afterwards we went to the McDonald's in the basement of the student union. When I walked out of there, my feet honestly didn't touch the ground—there wasn't any feeling of my feet touching the ground. I was walking on air. My experience was a joyful sensation—ecstatic would probably be closer to it."
"Another thing that struck me when I read The Albigen Papers (before I had met him) was that he had the best sense of humor of any author I'd ever read." It also dawned on Art at that time that his last ten years had been spent toiling in the wrong direction. What had rung his bell at that first meeting was hearing Rose say that answers were to be found by looking within. "I never would have had the intuition to see that on my own. It was part of that experience, affected by a new state of mind, that possibly there was an answer. Before that I had come to the conclusion that there weren't any answers. A door opened to a new direction that had never dawned on me."
Lee W.: "I had the distinct feeling I had met Mr. Rose before—meaning spiritually. His face was identical to a face I used to see in a vision. This vision would occur during meditation in times of extreme turmoil and bring with it serenity and peace. When Mr. Rose shook my hand for the first time, he looked at me and said, 'We've met before.' And I replied, 'Yes, I think we have.' Then Mr. Rose made a statement to the effect that he felt he had met previously most of the people who eventually found their way to him. It's as if they were 'sent.' In addition, I got a feeling of unconditional friendship, which has proved to be absolutely true. Mr. Rose has always been the same to me: rock solid, absolutely honest and sincere, and completely dependable and trustworthy."
"There are many things about him, but three really stand out: trust, friendship and humor. You can absolutely trust him, and he is a true friend like no other—always available, sincere, and honest, with no strings attached. He has a really insightful sense of humor, which is full of wisdom and Truth. He is a genuinely enlightened man who is very sensitive, sensible, insightful and wise. He is a 'regular guy,' offers a lot, asks for little in return, and is the best friend you could ever have. There is no pretense and bullshit with him, and his system works. It has produced bona fide results."
More on Character:
Al F.: "That first summer we went to the Owl's Club, and Rose—I have never seen him at a loss for words with anyone. He could talk to anybody. He talked to these local people that I was paranoid of, that I couldn't say 'Hi' to. He didn't talk philosophy, and he had them all laughing. I ran into Tom S., a local Benwood Italian thug in the unions in Wheeling, and Tom asked me, 'How's Dick Rose doing? I ran into him at a restaurant.' And I said he's doing pretty good. And Tom says, 'You know that man has so much wisdom, he helped me so much in my life. I was 13 when I met him, and Rose taught me how not to take shit from people. I owe that man.' I got a lot of that. I was lost. Late teens I realized I wasn't going anywhere."
"I think of the cop in the parking lot who was about to tow my van [in the parking lot across the street from Rose's house] over an incident, and Rose came out with Dave G. Rose said, 'Don't argue with him.' And the cop said, 'You stay out of it, or I'll arrest you.' And Rose says just like this, 'Who the fuck are you, the Gestapo?' It stopped the cop's head. 'You think you're the goddamned Gestapo. You're just a nobody in a uniform.' The guy could have clubbed Rose over the head. That cop, today he's a deputy in Marshall County. To this day when I see him, he still remembers me and looks away. Rose backed him down . It stopped Dave G.'s and my heads."
"I was with Rose the day the Hare Krishna neighbors tried to bulldoze [a tiny corner of] the farm, to bulldoze over the road by the cemetery. I was working at the penitentiary at the time. We were sitting at the table [in the farmhouse kitchen]. Rose gets a phone call: 'What's that?' They're taking a bulldozer down the [county] road that runs through the farm, which is illegal. Rose went in his room and came out with a rifle, and when he comes out he says to me, 'Call the state police; tell them somebody will get killed out at the Rose farm.' I called the state police, told them somebody's about to get killed out at the Rose farm. He meant it. Here's Rose under tension, Rose under fire. Rose coolly went out there, got in front of the bulldozer. After we called the police, we went and got guns, and he told everybody to get back, 'I don't want anybody involved in this.' The bulldozer's running, but not moving. Rose said to the driver, 'This is my property here; you come on it, I'm going to have to kill you.' That's all he said checked his rifle and just stood there. Then Dave G. shows up. Then the Swami shows up. Then a whole carload of state police show up ."
"You hear all these stories about him. 'Is he really the guy?' Here it is now. 'Is he really the guy he says he is?' Yeah. He would have killed him. I can't think of anybody else I've met, other than Chuck C., who put things on the line like that. With that conviction and determination, this wasn't any wild-eyed gunman like they try and make it out to be. He didn't hold the gun up to the guy. He said it to him. He didn't explain anything, It wasn't an angry tone or anything. It was, 'I don't hold you responsible, but you realize you come up here, I'm going to kill you. I have no choice, you're backing me into a corner.' I believe that guy, that Krishnite picked it up. He never moved . It always worked out for Rose."
"This is a guy who grew up in the Depression. Because I've met other people like him locally—the Man from West Virginia, poor, starved during the Depression. Rose is a pack rat, from the day I knew him. He got angry with someone because they chopped up some good oak quarter-round. He saved everything . One time we were talking philosophy, and we were crossing Marshall St. that first summer, and he saw a single rubber boot. He picked that up, and I said, 'What's that for?' 'That's good for starting a fire.' he said."
"And maybe some of that rubbed off . My old man never did anything with his hands. I learned from Rose how to use a hammer, how to use a saw. I wasn't handy as a kid. We tore down the house on High St. [that the state took by eminent domain to build a new road]. Nails don't cost much, but we straightened every nail. We saved all the plumbing. We saved all the wiring. We saved all the wood. We built the Emblem Lodge [a bunkhouse on the farm] out of it."
Bob F.: "I did a strange but fortunate thing soon after [seeing an article about a talk Rose was giving in Boulder, CO]. I wrote him a letter asking him more about his philosophy and to send me a copy of his book, The Albigen Papers. I did not expect a personal reply, and when his hand-written letter soon arrived, penned on old hotel stationary, I was humbled. This man, a stranger, had taken the time to answer me personally. That act, coupled with the message he wrote, convinced me Richard Rose was serious about his work. The fact that he had asked for no money, just my time, also struck me."
Michael C.: "Rose was a hell of a lot of fun to travel with. He never let you sleep. He was always talking. 'Those clouds over there, what do you think makes them that way? That spot on the road that truck up ahead of us must have an oil leak.' He was always noticing things in the environment and commenting on them and wondering how they got that way. 'That tree's twisted.' We stopped at the Petrified Forests. They had signs everywhere: Don't pick up the petrified wood. You're being watched and all this. We took a walk, I knelt down to tie my shoe, and I picked up a piece about this big, and I was real proud when we got back to the truck. Mr. Rose looked at what I got. And he starts emptying out his pockets, and he picks his hat up and there's a big pile of rocks."
Bob C.: "He was always intense. Everything you did with him, whether it was clearing brush, driving or going on a trip, it was always an intense experience. He was always an intense person to be around. He could be abrasive. Look, just to sit in a car with Rose being in any situation with him where you were going to be in close proximity, and you're not talking? He exuded voltage constantly, and it wasn't always comfortable. Sometimes you wanted to get away. You wouldn't relax around him like you would with a peer. Because he wasn't your peer."
"I read a book once, Transcendental Magic by Eliphas Levi. It's really more a philosophical treatise than a book about magic. There was something called a magic circle, a magic chain. You got to keep in mind that Rose was a constant koan. He was constantly confronting me on some level. That he constantly had my head all stirred up, up in arms trying to figure out why the hell is this bothering me so much. I would get mad at him. It causes your mind to focus on him a lot. This was virtually constant."
Bob talks about all the confrontation he got when he was leading the Columbus group, creating a lot of tension. "There was also an emotional component of this. Rose was like a second father to me. I always saw him in that way. In many aspects he was closer to me than my father. With that feeling, if you became angry or upset with him, it bothers you and you try to figure it out. And usually whenever I got answers to something, they came in the form of a picture or image first before the words. The picture would resolve something for me. One evening when I was falling asleep I got this clear vision of Rose in my mind, of the thing I just described [Levi's magic circle], about his being a vector. His actions were so intensely focused and consistent. If you could see his actions on another space-time picture, that became a frozen picture in itself. The picture I saw was that of a person moving in a circle with intensity and creating a wake. Like a tornado that sucks everything around it into its funnel."
Deniece du M.: "The most extraordinary aspects of Mr. Rose are his fearlessness (he knows the difference between real fear and unreal fear), his insight into the minds and conditions of others, and his free and far-ranging humor. Nothing and no one escapes! He also makes fine buildings, campfires, astounding poetry, and awful-looking scrambled eggs."
Al F.: "The first time I met him he gave me his hat. He gave a hell of a lot of people his time who never gave him anything back . I've often thought Rose should have made himself less accessible; too many people wasted his time."
Doron F.: "The idea that you stand by your word, you live by your word, you do what you say you're going to do: Nobody epitomizes that more than Richard Rose, in my opinion. If he says he's gonna do something, he does it. He doesn't care whose feathers he ruffles. If he doesn't believe a situation is right for him or right for his purpose or meaning—which is this work in my opinion—he won't [commit to] it. I think that that's probably the lesson that I've learned from him, to a great extent."
"He didn't have ulterior motives. I think motives are very, very important in this work. So many teachers at the time—looking around and going to different lectures and talking to other teachers—seemed to have an agenda, ulterior motives. Obviously, for one thing he wasn't money-motivated. He really had an opportunity. He wasn't a rich man—West Virginia, working class, very modest lifestyle—where a lot of other people were taking the spiritual thing and packaging it in a certain way and charging a certain amount of money."
Augie T. relates the time when Rose was talking in the U. of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning, in a room on a high floor: "A guy from the Hare Krishnas stood up and was preaching. Rose asked him if that's what his intuition told him to follow, and the guy acknowledged this to be so. Rose says, 'Good. Go in peace, brother.' But the fellow kept going: 'What about Krishna?' Rose turns back to him and tells him very nicely, 'Look you're obstructing the meeting. I'm going to have to ask you to leave.' The Krishnite says, 'I don't have to leave. I'm a student at the U. of Pitt, this is a lecture on the university campus, etc.' Rose just looks right at him and says, "Listen, there's a misunderstanding between you and I right now. The misunderstanding is not whether you are going to leave, which you seem to be under the impression of. The only thing we're discussing now is whether it's going to be the door or the window.' [The Hare Krishna devotee] turned on his heels and walked out the door."
Bob C.: "We talked about that incident later. The reason he felt so strongly was because when it came to what he saw as his purpose in life, his spiritual work of helping other people, you have to draw a line somewhere and make a stand. There's no in-between with him, no shades of compromise when something threatens that."
Augie T.: "I think that Rose compromises. I think that Rose is never compromised. If you look at most human beings in their work environment, they eat so much s**t from their boss, because they're thinking about their mortgage payment, and they go home at night and stick pins in the boss's picture and rehearse what they're going to tell that boss someday, but they never do. To me that's being compromised. Rose can roll with the punches, do what is appropriate, forgive when it's time to forgive, be tough when it's time to be tough, be extremely compassionate."
In the Mask, but not of the Mask:
Chuck C. tells of when Rose's friend Walter Lee died and Rose had to deal with Navy officials, describing "his ability to assume a character and become a different person. I went to D.C. with him, and we had to deal with representatives of the Navy—lawyers and other people. In the process of it, I saw him go through a doorway and become a different person and deal with each person in a certain way. He and I discussed the matter in depth. The strategy was almost a military strategy. He walked through the door and became an ordinary man in front of these guys. They were totally undefensive, totally disarmed, and they revealed more information than they ever expected to. And he walked out of there with all the info that he expected to have. These guys, in one respect they were suspicious of him, in another respect they were totally baffled by him. When we got back to WV, one guy called him up and said, 'Hey you misled me.'"
Chuck compares this to instances of Gurdjieff when he'd change roles: When Rose changes, the air changes as he reveals different aspects. [He's] not acting. Al F. asks Chuck if he thinks it's a result of Rose's Experience. Chuck thinks so. "After the Experience comes the power to affect some changes in what appears real."
Shawn N. has come around to being more relaxed and closer to Rose and has developed a deeper admiration. He's seen more of Rose's human side, seen him deal with his daughter Tatia, pet the cats, look at the sky, remark how blue it is, and give him advice on growing tomatoes. Rose told Shawn once, "You'll never understand me. Quit trying to figure me out; you'll never figure me out." "He said to me once that he puts on masks. He can be the joking guy. He can be the griping guy. He's given me the impression he could be whatever the situation demands."
Michael C.: I always like to describe him as someone who has at his disposal all of the archetypes that Jung talks about—the father, the warrior, the jokester, the wise man. And it seems to me at any given time he manifests those. But behind that, even as he gets older and his memory is slipping, there's a guiding light, there's a driving light.
Editor's note: The preponderance of Rose's students were males. The path that he advocated for males was a warrior's path—fighting one's way to truth. There are few interviews with female students here, and they tend to be very personal and practical. I've generally identified them only by initials, if at all, to preserve their privacy. Here are two examples:
"The first thing I learned was to keep a calendar, and I could see it like clockwork—every day was a different state of mind and reverie. Certain times of the month the reverie would be more sexual and other times of the month it would be more practical, romantic, like let's get married and buy a house, let's just get right down to having babies."
"What would happen is I'd get around him and I'd just break down spontaneously. It would be a feeling at first of loss and then it was a feeling of release from some kind of torment in this illusory existence that didn't have to be there. In other words, the illusion was tormenting me but because it was only an illusion ."
End of part 1. To be continued .
Did you enjoy the Forum? Then buy the book! Beyond Mind, Beyond Death is available at Amazon.com.