The TAT Forum: a spiritual magazine of essays, poems and humor.

TAT Forum
September 2001

Essays, poems, opinions and humor on seeking
and finding answers to your deepest life-questions

This month's contents:

Tales of Love (part 3 of 3) by Richard Rose | "What is your calling?" by Bob Cergol | Marriage of Heaven and Hell by Bob Fergeson | The Identity Barrier by Gary Harmon | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Two Types of Art by Shawn Nevins | Muddled Mind Sonnet by Art Ticknor | Humor | Reader Commentary

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Tales of Love (conclusion)
by Richard Rose

(~ Continued from the August 2001 TAT Forum)

man on highwire crossing Niagara Falls "So He gave them all up [Adam continued] and immortalized them besides, forming for all time a new, non-relative love. A love beyond the pain and the payment. He rejected the payment of His love for His mother and family which tempted Him to cling to them in a dreary life of mutual watching-over, of identification with everything that afflicted Him or them. He rejected the role as king because that role always calls for more human hate than love. He had created an esoteric brotherhood, but He gave up that fellowship, knowing that maybe by bidding for the greater goal He may have interpreted His role in the drama incorrectly, and maybe had lost the impersonal love that the brotherhood represented, and which may have been his real purpose for living....

"He must have had some shaky moments ... but He played it out because it was placed before Him. Just imagine having to hang there and watch your family going through more pain than yourself.... He must have been half-dead by the time they got Him nailed to the cross ... or in shock. So the pain at that moment was not significant. His pain would have been the surrender of His concern for those in his immediate circle that only knew about personal love. He was bound to have had a sympathy for their love.

"His brotherhood had scattered. They suddenly became body-conscious. A few morbid people were now his only following ... that is, besides the family. He also gave up his reputation ... and the reputation was the catalyst that may have helped effect all those miracles. But He gave that up too, for the long shot."

I was getting an inkling of his picture, or thought I was. "I always thought that later historians and devout but happy morbid minds, detracted from the figure of Christ by drawing bloody hearts and lacerated bodies. Christ became for centuries a fetish for a weird form of meditation."

"Not at all. Don't get carried away by the drama. Noble actors must occasionally play the part of the creep. Why was he noble? All men are noble ... they just have to take the role that allows them to learn about love. Judas had to become a classic heel ... the greatest historical heel ... then the noble Judas kills the Judas creep ... and the light and attention validates the theme of the drama, because it is all reflected in the direction of the Christ-objective.

"It was the greatest drama ever enacted. The actors had to be the greatest. They were called upon to give up the most. When young lovers die in an unconsummated love ... they die for human love. Their story is good ... but we always have the feeling that if they had lived it would have become very carnal once it had been consummated. The Romeos and Juliets gave up their physical experiences ... in the name of selfless friendship ... but not universal love. The manifest dream of the Romeos and Juliets is an eternal love in which those two will immortally share a bodiless love. Just those two. The hell with the rest of humanity."

"Is that wrong?" I asked, meaning was it wrong to reject humanity?

"No ... no. I was just trying to point out lesser love stories. But those lesser love stories are greater than most of our stories. We act out our parts well, but we just do not sign up for the real good stories.

But every man and woman is a lover ... and every life is a story. We like to think that we are conscious actors.... I say we have to be conscious of our act and then we can see it from the audience for what it is. We get too identified with a stage-play, and feel responsible for writing the play. Occasionally the creep believes that he really is a creep. He does not realize that he surrendered himself into that play before he was born. Sometimes the greatest sacrifices are made before we were born.

"Christ was aware of that. Once He was asked for the cause of a certain man's affliction. The guy asking the questions thought that the afflicted guy had some genetic defects or some curse that lasted for seven generations. And Christ replied that the man was born to be healed by Christ,—made sick so that Christ would heal him. From this it is evident to me that Christ knew that He was acting out a drama. The stage had been set a long time ago. Yet it is possible that Christ through some exceptional talent was merely able to see conditions that launched Him into this life. It could be that Christ had a power over events, but it looks more to me like He too surrendered to the terms of a contract written before He was born."

Adam saw everything as aimed at love ... mostly human, selfless, love. People act out selfish lives to glorify that much more—the selfless type of human personal love. The human personal love can be witnessed. Impersonal love is very hard to witness.

I felt that I had suddenly been taught something by Adam. He was deliberately giving up the importance of Adam Jones the lover so that I could get a glimpse of Impersonal Love itself. To him the prostitute gives up the sweet role of loveliness to publicize and endow loveliness. The hater becomes the black paint on the back of the mirror of love ... so that we will only wish to see love. The killer kills the lover and not only immortalizes the love of the lover, but immortalizes goodness as well.

crowd on frozen river below Niagara Falls The man who works for forty or fifty years in the mill, or in the mine, does not do it for himself. He places his loved ones above himself ... and he may drink himself to death just to hold his job for them.

Then we see the man who gets drunk and loses his job, and becomes a bum. And his wife and children descend into poverty. This man has a family that has problems that require hardship in the prescription for their evolvement. Perhaps the bum is under contract for hardship for the same reasons. And so he acts it out, suffering greatly because he cannot help those that he loves any better.

I knew I had a lot of questions to ask Adam, and the first one had to do with getting a line on his activities for the following day. I knew that I had to find my children and prepare to camp for the night.

Then I remembered that he did not wish to be obligated to any social requirements. I could not call him up if I did not know his name. So that when I left him, I tried to be as casual as possible. I said, "Maybe I'll run into you tomorrow. If I do not, I'll sure remember the Story."

He cocked his head and grinned, and shook my hand. Even handshaking to him was an unnecessary formality, but he obliged.

I got out of the car to lock it up preparing to go up on the hill to the pylon where the children had headed several hours before, but as I locked the car I saw them coming only a few feet away. So I unlocked the door again, and went back to the driver's side and started up the car.

We drove back to the American side to camp along Lake Erie. We were all tired and sleep came easy, even in a camper. I have forgotten the name of the park into which we pulled, but the sunset was very beautiful. A long pier extended out into the water. It was concrete and may have been placed there to prevent erosion. We walked out on it and took a few pictures.

I fell asleep and was awakened by a dream. It was morning. The heavy hues had left the sky. It was clear and cheerful, and the birds seemed in agreement. I had been dreaming of Adam.

We had gone down to the pier and taken some pictures. Adam had appeared and I was overjoyed. I realized I should have gotten his picture at the falls since we had a camera. So he walked out on the pier and we snapped the shutter. All dreams have strange abilities for change. My camera was a small Kodak Instamatic that held film in a sealed plastic cartridge. But in the dream it had now become a Polaroid. Ruth and James were hovering over the camera as we waited for the picture to emerge.

When it came out, there was no pier, only the sky with all its different shades of red, yellow, blue and vermillion. The picture now apparently had not fully developed. We stared in amazement as a face appeared in the picture taking up the whole horizon. It was Adam, and he was grinning.

The pier now appeared slowly across the bottom of the picture. And as we watched them forming, two words appeared printed the length of the pier. They were—IN TECHNICOLOR.

I had to wait a while for James and Ruth to awaken. I could hardly wait to tell them about the dream. After we had washed, we sat at the large rustic picnic table allotted to us, and had breakfast.

"Had an odd dream about Adam last night."

Ruth said, "Oh?"

"It seems that we were down there on the lake, and we took a picture of the sunset, and it turned out to have Adam's face in it."

"Adam who?" Ruth asked pedantically.

"You know, the fellow I was talking about on the way over here last night."

"You mean the bum."

"No, he wasn't a bum. He was well dressed. He paid for his own drink ... in fact insisted on paying for his own. But you saw him. I was shaking hands with him when you walked up to the car."

"If you say so, Daddy." She gave an impatient sigh.

"What do you mean by that.... 'If I say so?'"

"Daddy ... you were asleep when I came up to the car."

I never saw Adam again. In a way I never expected to. And I realized that if I were ever to tell this story I would have to surrender any claim of immunity to senility ... to get it told.

First published in the TAT Journal No. 4 (Vol. 1, No. 4) and republished in "Carillon: Poems, essays and philosophy of Richard Rose." © 1978, 1982 by Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved. See the TAT Journal Archive page.

What is your calling?
by Bob Cergol

photo of sun breaking through clouds The following thoughts were written in response to an inquiry regarding content and activities for the "Youth and Spirituality Conference 2002" being organized by the Raleigh Self Knowledge Symposium:

The theme, "What is my calling?" is so very germane to individuals at this stage in their lives where they are faced with, and perhaps for the first time seriously attempting to deal with, the future course of their lives. For myself, when I was at that age, this was a fundamental problem that weighed heavily on me. In your letter you mention, "opportunities that provide an outlet for exploring the values underlying their decisions are scarce." This was likewise true for me nearly 30 years ago. But when an opportunity did arise for me it was an enormously life-changing event.

I would say people fall into two camps on this issue. Those who have no idea and those who have decided, albeit with varying degrees of specificity and certainty. I would suggest different workshops be targeted to these distinct groups. The main reason for doing so is that the values and motivations for each group are likely to be quite different—and equally unconscious. Also the fears and desires which interfere with clear thinking on the subject are likely different for the "undecided/indecisive" and the "decided" groups.

In view of this I think it would be useful if the participants were asked to submit in advance, or bring with them, a written statement about what they think their calling might be. If they have no idea, then a written description of what they think would constitute a meaningful or fulfilling calling. It might also be very interesting to solicit the same written statements post conference. (Maybe that's a closing workshop in itself.) Perhaps adult participants can write to describe what their calling has been or become.

Workshops should promote direct looking at both the values and the fears and desires underlying individuals' thinking on this issue. The conference should challenge conventional thinking and promote introspection free of preconceptions. (This may require exposing some of those preconceptions, and workshops could be designed around that.)

One specific idea for a workshop early in the program would be "How did you get to where you find yourself right now?" The format would involve questions put to the group, writing and discussion. This would be an exercise in "seeing" not "thinking." The same series of questions would be asked for different eras in the participants' lives: infant/earliest childhood, child, adolescent, "you last year", and "you now." (Maybe even "you in the future.") The questions are:
1) Without thinking about it, what memory occurs to you now of you as [each item above]?
2) What is the circumstance?
3) What is the feeling?
4) Can you see what thought was prominent then?

In fact the whole idea of such conscious, deliberate self-inquiry was unknown to me as a college student prior to my encounter with Richard Rose. As an "undecided" my "calling" at that time was, in essence, to find out who I was, what the purpose for life was and what my role in it was supposed to be. But I didn't see that, and I was in mental "gridlock" because I knew that all the while I was worrying about the question, my life was moving on—down some path which led I knew not where. My "opportunity to explore the values" underlying my situation opened me up.

Of course there are two levels here. One is outer directed—which is where everyone is focused, even when they think they're looking inward—and one is inner directed.

There is a fundamental contradiction in the conventional way of answering this question, "What is my calling?" The contradiction is that the question implies that we were put here for a purpose—that we as individuals have some unique, specific purpose. If that is true, then that purpose supersedes the individual, and it is a contradiction to simultaneously believe that such purpose is defined by the individual. This "purpose" would be defined by "that which put us here" in the first place. Therefore, it seems to me, the only defensible answer to the question is "to discover that which put us here." (This is in fact our true calling.) All other answers are to a different question....

Having said that—neither the individual nor anyone else can predict just what life circumstances will be helpful or harmful to the unfolding of that purpose. The problem is that in our culture there is intense pressure to declare an external purpose that translates to career and accomplishment. This is a fatal mistake. You cannot invent purpose or "calling." There is but one real purpose and one real calling. And it is not making a "splash" in the world. It is not leaving your footprint on the world.

People don't know why they are here. But death is calling. Therefore, out of fear, a purpose must be invented. To insist on this external, self-invented purpose is to deny this calling—and to miss the opportunity for our real purpose to be revealed. It is the equivalent to denying their Source and its purpose for the universe. It betrays a lack of faith in life. If you didn't create yourself, then you must already be fulfilling your purpose. How could that which is responsible for you and the universe be in need of a purpose—which you would supply? It's all too egocentric. The task then, has to be discovering that purpose of which you are already a part. This is synonymous with discovering your true nature or defining yourself. Nothing else can possibly matter. Nothing else is valid. Therefore your external circumstances do not matter, and finding "purpose" in your outer life is to bait yourself and draw the attention away from looking at the looker and to instead project a dream.

The popular notion of "calling" and "purpose" is nothing more than inventing a story to be inserted between point A (birth) and point B (death). The infinite variety of stories expressed is of no consequence, and the stories themselves ultimately don't matter. All that matters is that the individuals discover what their true purpose and true calling are. This becomes a spiritual path—and one on which you cannot invent the answers to please the pressures of culture or satisfy individual fears about living and about dying. It is not about career or satisfying self-identity!

So I think there is great power in accepting one's circumstances and responsibilities—and therein also finding the opportunities to keep asking the question "Who am I?", "What am I?" Perhaps "success" is what one person requires in order to reach the condition of asking this question totally in the present. For another it might be what the world considers as failure that is required. So one should, as Lao Tsu puts it, "Have faith in the way things are."

One's life is not defined by any of the external things: education, career, even family. One's life is defined by one's inner life, in which all the externals are contained. I would consider this conference a success for the participants if it simply gave them serious pause about the heretofore unconscious process by which they were embarking upon their futures. But the best success would be if they left with the conviction that what we "do" in the world should not be confused with that which is our true calling.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
by Bob Fergeson

Blake's Marriage of Heaven & Hell ... The struggle to get out of the mind is such a paradox and our identification with it the cause of so much of our suffering.... To listen can be a key. We can pray to ourselves, and then by listening, hear our own answer. The outer man begins to yearn for the guidance and assurance of the inner man, but still tries to use the mind to solve the problems of the mind. To give up on our mind (as being us, or the end-all, be-all) and begin to listen to the void is the jumping off the cliff. We may find the inner man is us. The problems of the outer man will still have to be dealt with, but they will be seen for what they are. Our depressions, ups and downs, etc. are just the waxing and waning of the mind dimension as seen by the particular body/mind we identify with. An energy flux with which we have become identified. We get a boost to the ego, we go up; we get tired and things don't go according to plan, we go down (Blake's 'Energy is Eternal Delight'). This may be unavoidable, as we will waste away ... but our inner man will be forever, he just ain't us. The inner man watches the little man, but doesn't come and go, or fade away. I was reminded of an old song, by the Talking Heads: "Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens." If this life is hell, and the void heaven, then the marriage of them is us.

(A Google search showed www.levity.com/alchemy/blake_ma.html among other sites with the complete verses from "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" including Energy is Eternal Delight —Ed.)

The Identity Barrier
by Gary Harmon

~ Excerpts from notes used for a workshop session

Suffering? Why are you suffering? Could it be you are suffering because you are a case of mistaken identity? Dropping conditioning and false identities is the hardest thing of all to do, but it can be done; here is how. We need to first get a handle on what these identities are and how they are formed.

We tend to develop a self-identity somewhere that is a comfortable and a safe place to be. Understand that your island of safety is an identity that was created as a refuse from the wrath of others. That supposed island of safety is no more real than a vivid dream. Using that identity for any period of time makes you alone, isolated, miserable, confused and floundering in resentment....

What you identify yourself with can become an impenetrable obstacle that stands in the way of Self Realization.

How do you identify yourself? You see your body, or rather a part of it, and identify yourself with it. The appearance of your body in consciousness is perceived and interpreted by you exactly as it is done by any other spectator. Your own interpretation of yourself is as ephemeral and illusory as that of others, although maybe a little more pleasing and a very solid entity to you. But any thought about yourself, whether your own or someone else's, is only a brief mental image. The solid personality you think yourself to be is nothing more than a fragile succession of these images stored in the memory, much like a cartoon....

The very preoccupation with one's own state of consciousness can also keep identification in place....

In identity we are identifying with an illusion. To be 'aware' is to know this; it is to be able to drop the identity given, and to be that formless immortal. This is the opportunity that each of us has in our lifetime....

Grace and trust need to be brought into play, for at this point we need to surrender to the reality of the situation. All we are actually doing is to stop fantasizing that we are controlling anything. Intuition is also a great help here for there very well may be a hunch that is going to tell you how to proceed.

The vehicle is running on autopilot already so the only change that is occurring is to recognize the false identity for what it actually is, and trust your ability to find the answer, your definition, your true identity, which is eternal. Put a more accurate way ... allow your Real Self to find you.

Poems by Shawn Nevins

Pass your days and nights
In endless speculation,
Turning on the pin of self-concern.
In Reality, the axis is empty,
The spin is frozen.
All resolves into One.


The hawk's cry is swallowed in Silence.
Yet, he is alive for a moment—
Significance unknown.


Where is the final observer?
What is that which cannot look upon itself—
The end of dichotomy?
I speak to you through words
And watch the speaking.
I am aware and immediately
Am aware of that fact,
So there are still two
And wherever there are two
Means those two are really life and death.
The place where there is and is not One,
Which is empty in its Completeness,
Is the no place which IS.


Despite my protests
There is water flowing through me.
I want to have solidity,
But my edges are blurring.
Sounds travel through me
Even as memory tries to maintain its hold.
Dissolving is the way of all things,
Just as clinging to life is, as well.


A bell rings, blown in the wind.
There is no one there to hear it
And never was.
Yet I hear it ringing;
Hear the sound of Reality.

All I ever wanted spills at my feet
As desire itself unravels
And reason-for-being melts into
Simple fear of dissolution.

In the blackest abyss is Singular Life—
Singular Presence.
Past these words I cannot take you,
But speak from them without fear.


In the night
The sleepers are restless—chasing dreams.
Calm is all about them,
But their eyes are closed
By lullabies of life.
I hear the chanting,
But my eyes are ever open and hollow.
Your soundest sleep is but a moment for me.


Stillness speaks words more eloquent than I,
If only you will give up the idea
That I know more than you.
What you see is as dead as stone.

A teacher acts out his destiny
While the student misreads all the parts.
The student is but a teacher
Wearing a mask of fearful lies—
Blind to the script.

Follow my sad look, as sadness is the mark
Of beauty too painful for words,
Even as beauty is just a word
Floating in an empty canyon at twilight.

Two Types of Art
by Shawn Nevins

I see two types of art: emotional and transcendent. Emotional art encompasses the bulk of artistic expression. In it, the artist's emotions produce the expression. In transcendent art, the expression emerges from beyond the personality of the artist. The artist is moved by his art. The expression causes emotion rather than emotion causing the expression.

William Blake's Ancient of Days The artist begins his development with emotional art. It is the process of studying one's life, traumas, challenges, and mind. Eventually, the truthful artist will gain perspective on his emotional drama. At that point, his mental needs diminish and his destiny in service to others appears. The master artist is in service to mankind—not to his ego. He dips into an interior pool of wisdom to share with those who will listen.

The transcendent artist knows his mind and has a mental place of peace in which creation emerges. His skill is in perfecting his ability to transform the stuff of inspiration into earthly clay, making the invisible visible, in giving the eternal a flavor. The transcendent artist is a mystic with a gift for expression.

The artist who never transcends emotional art indulges in artistic masturbation. The work of such an eternal journeyman may be filled with tremendous energy, but it is the energy of a mind erupting with emotions. The emotional artist is an insane person with a gift for expression. The insanity resulting from ignorance of his true nature and the resulting confused attempts to establish and defend an identity.

The binge and purge of emotion will be transcended by an honest, earnest quest for the source of artistic inspiration. Within one's self is found the source of creation.

Muddled Mind Sonnet
by Art Ticknor

Where do I look for X, the Great Unknown?
How do I tell the false way from the true?
A rishi says it's Here and Now, Alone—
To see this for myself, what must I do?

How do I look for X, whatever the cost?
It's nearer than the mind, another says.
How do I find the One that's never lost—
Turn inside out, or flip, or spin sideways?

What is it that I really, really want?
Can I trace the yearning back into its source?
Or is the rich, soft longing just a taunt—
To keep the sled-ride on its downward course?

Where hides the X, the Eye that never sleeps?
What veil or trance this separation keeps?


endeavor debunked

The wise man of the mountains.
Thanks to Chris Madden for sharing this.

Reader Commentary:

"Shawn's Things to Do in the July TAT Forum ... is on the mark." ~ David Weimer

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