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

TAT Forum
December 2003

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

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This month's contents:

Peace of Mind Despite Success (part 1) by Richard Rose | Poems by Shawn Nevins | Faith and Discovery by Shawn Nevins | Today I Was Happy by James Wright | I Died at 10:52 A.M. by Victor Solow | Devotion by Bob Cergol | A Childhood Story by Robert Bossman | The Mechanics of Dreaming by Bob Fergeson | Humor | Reader Commentary

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Peace of Mind Despite Success
by Richard Rose

~ This is the first part of a public talk given by Richard Rose at Irwin, PA in 1984.

letter W We're a small group, and we can pretty much get more accomplished if it's informal. I'm going to try to give an outline of what has been accomplished over the last ten or twelve years, and the means by which it was accomplished, and the direction and the reason for it. Then I'll stop and open the meeting up for questions.

And I want you to feel free to ask questions. What you have in any group when you give a talk are people of different interests and different levels of interest. I'm talking this stuff every day, and it gets to a point where I'm so familiar with it I just presume everybody that I talk to understands what I'm saying. And lots of times there is a percentage of people with no real rapport with what I'm saying, and their language is different.

At the last talk I gave over in Pittsburgh I sensed that there were some very sincere people there—and I'm inclined to be rather blunt with a lot of things that I say—and I had kind of an afterthought in the back of my head, "Be careful. Don't say certain things tonight." Because there's some people there that might be hurt. Their pet theology is everything they've got in the world, and if you give that a kick that's no good.

Now for young people—I think young people need to be shocked out of ruts that they might get into. But when you get somebody that's sixty, seventy, eighty years of age....

I often think of my mother as a case. My mother was a very devout Catholic and had her concept of where she was going after death all mapped out for herself. And I had to stand by her bedside as she died, and I kept biting my tongue from saying anything. Because I was afraid that even consolation might betray the fact that I didn't believe what she believed about where she was going. Which is the best thing to do.


I used to give talks up at Kent, Ohio and I'd ask a few people, "What are you interested in?" People weren't interested in esoteric philosophy. That was back in the early seventies. They were interested in dynamic characters like Don Juan, a lot of them were reading Alan Watts. But they were not interested in a really deep research into the heavier Zen writers like Suzuki or the deeper philosophies put out by people like Paul Brunton or Gurdjieff. They didn't even know their names. And consequently if you start quoting Gurdjieff and three fourths of the people have never heard his name, you're wasting your time.

So we have to break every once in awhile and let somebody ask some questions, and then we'll try to draw a parallel about what that fellow said and what his contribution was. Incidentally, I think Gurdjieff made a tremendous contribution to psychology. I think he's the greatest psychologist produced up until 1950. [Gurdjieff died late in 1949 -Ed.]

I've got a little special message I'd like to bring, if I can get it across tonight, and that is the importance of what we're doing, or what I'm trying to do, let's put it that way. Again, it's difficult to get that across, because we're talking in terms of people's valuations of a common commodity, being wisdom, or achievement on a philosophic line. So anybody that ever dabbles in a philosophic direction is going to have a different idea of what he thinks is valuable.

But it goes back to 1972, when I finished writing a book. The first printing that came out in 1973 was just an 8-1/2 by 11 thing [i.e., Xeroxed, with heavier paper covers, and bound with carpet tape]. But the whole substance of this book was a direction toward clear thinking. This clearer thinking can be applied to any walk of life. And the reason we chose for the title of the flyer for this talk tonight—Peace of Mind in Spite of Success. The reason people don't ever have success is because they don't do clear thinking.

We have a case just yesterday or the day before, where the young Kennedy boy [David] overdosed and perished, and he had all the stuff at his disposal in the line of wealth in order to create an environment. He could have created any environment he had wanted with his wealth, but somehow his thinking still wasn't clear, and he settled on something that made him miserable.

Last night on television Ted Kennedy's remark was, "I hope he is more at peace where he is now than what he was before." That he found peace, at least, someplace.

But anyhow this book (The Albigen Papers) was a story of notes I had taken—I was fifty-five years of age when the book first came out. Now those were notes that were taken from the time I was a young man, and I had never put them into any form at all except a heap of notes. I had started to put them together and type them out, and I was going through quite a labor of sorting them and trying to keep from repeating myself, because many the notes over a period of years repeated things I had noted before.

In the meantime I got an opportunity to speak up here in Pittsburgh, at the Theosophical Society—it was the first time I had talked on the subject. Just about that time was when the 8-1/2 by 11 copies came out.

Well, things started happening. Some boys hitchhiked over from Kent to hear me talk—I knew the father of one of the boys—they went back and set up talks for me at Kent State, and from then I went it seemed very rapidly from one university to another, and by 1973 I was putting the book out in a 5 by 8 [i.e., professionally printed and bound] instead of the 8-1/2 by 11 format.

A group of people formed, and at one time there were over a hundred what I considered dedicated people, who were living the life. The were using The Albigen Papers as a guide for their life, and it worked. The amazing thing about it is that you don't look for amazing things to happen. You don't go into it saying, "I'm going to put so much energy into this and I will get X amount of returns." That's not the formula.

There is a definite formula in the book. But the book is a handbook. It's a handbook for a lifestyle. And to have things happen, to put all the energy into the venture you can possibly put into it, without any egotistical idea that you should have what you want. You should have a reservation, that if that's in the cards, if that's part of the master plan, part of the engineer's blueprint, then we say "good," we'll rejoice. If it's not in the cards, we'll keep on working anyhow.

So this is a rough idea of the attitude that a person would have from the book.

The book is jammed. It's a condensed thing, because it was notes I had made, just like I'm using notes here to talk by so that I don't forget something. But it was pretty much condensed because I was doing the typing myself and my coordination wasn't too good. So I was making mistakes, and I would shorten the sentences so I could get the thing over with sometimes, I think.

In the book was a list of laws, which I had noted. Some of them you're acquainted with, some of them you may not be acquainted with. I'll mention a couple of them to show you the scope of the thing:

"The Law of Proportional Returns." Now this has to do with any type of success. I maintain that these things in the book apply—basically they were written for philosophic reasons—but the application of them will fit into any lifestyle or any plan of life, whether it's economic, financial, or a power struggle, even.

As I said, the procedure has to be selfless to succeed. This is one of the great blocks that stops people from really having success.

I could not get this through my head when I was younger. It was slow sinking in, I think, because when a person is in their late teens and twenties, up to the time they're about thirty, they have the conviction that they can bull through with their shoulders and create a wedge in the plan, the social pattern, and make a place for themselves, and chop out a little area in which they will get rich and get happy, and everything they want will be there, and they're going to do it all with sheer determination, will power, etcetera.

They've got a few other little things, too, like knowing the right people, and that sort of thing.

But I realized—it just came as a sort of a hunch—I had been doing this— I'd been bulling my way through for many years. And I was in my late twenties when I came to the conclusion just by accident.

I didn't have too much love for humanity, but I had a lot of anger for fraudulence, for hucksters. And throughout this business of esoteric philosophy, and with religious people as well....

I mean we have the multi-millionaires on TV. And they're getting the money to pay for the TV space from little old ladies who can't afford to pay, in my estimation.

... So we've got hucksters and we've got phonies and we've got sometimes sexual deviants, where that's the only thing they can work at and at the same time get their sexual partners without too much trouble; get them inside the sphere of their religious preaching.

And I'm not exaggerating. I found these things in my own search. You're going along somewhere and you think somebody is sincere, and you find they've got an ulterior motive; they don't have a motive for truth at all. They've got a personal motive. And when you get them cornered....

St. Fidelis Seminary, Herman PA For instance, I studied right above Pittsburgh here years ago. I started off when I was twelve years of age, studying to be a priest. They took them at that age, right out of grade school, the Capuchins, up here at St. Fidelis in Herman, Pennsylvania, five miles from Butler.

I was rather dismayed one time when I was hitch-hiking up from Butler. I had gone down to Butler for a walk, and one of the parents of one of the priests picked me up and gave me a ride back. He said, "You from the seminary?"

And I said, "Yes."

And he said, "My son is down there. That's a wonderful place," he said. "He'll never go hungry."

And I thought, "Jesus! Is that what it is?"

A feed bag—just a place to eat. This is what he was looking at. Security. I read this book The Nun's Story, about a nun that became a doctor and went down to Africa and took care of sick people and that sort of thing. In her book she mentions that the convent was full of women who came from poor families who couldn't afford to feed them. They couldn't afford to keep them, so they encouraged them to join the monastery.

I think that my mother thought I was crippled and wouldn't be able to earn a living. She encouraged me to go because she thought I was weak. Which I was. But I managed to get my health built up and do a little work. (Laughs)

But out of this picture that I grew up in, I determined.... I got angry. As I said, I didn't have much sympathy at first for humanity, but I had a lot of anger for these people who were parasitical. So I just had an inborn determination to make it known.

And I didn't have too good of tools. I wasn't illiterate, but at the same time I wasn't used to writing philosophy. But I made up my mind to get the point across if I had to write it longhand and Xerox it and hand it out for nothing. To get the thing across.

So, as a result of that—that was automatically a gesture of concern for my fellowman. And I didn't even know it at the time. Because from that point on I worked for the future in which I would be able to help somebody else.

And only then did it start to pay off. It wasn't too many years after that that something happened. I had an experience which confirmed my search.


OK. We've got these laws, as I said, that I encountered, and they started manifesting themselves; and I think they're good to know, because they're applicable to almost anything, to any venture that you want to get into.

One of them is the Law of Proportional Returns—which we're all acquainted with. In other words, if you put so many pounds of coal into a steam engine, you can predict the amount of energy you're going to get out of that steam engine. That's the Law of Proportional Returns.

If you do so much work as a salesman and keep it up—they call it "throwing mud at the ceiling"—some of it will stick. It will eventually pay off, and you will become successful by putting out the energy.

The next one is the Law of the Ladder. This refers to the business of helping other people. That you can only help the person on the ladder rung below you, and can only be helped by the person on the ladder rung above you. And any attempt to reach too far down results in crucifixion. And any attempt to reach up too far would not work because you would despise the man on the second rung above you. You can only understand the one right above you.

There's another law, and that is the Law of Friendship.

~ Continued in the January TAT Forum.

© 1984 Richard Rose. All Rights Reserved.

Poems by Shawn Nevins

These words are shed
from the bronzed air of this season.
Where every view is momentous—
poised on the brink of winter.

Fall is the wisest season,
crafting itself
for the still, bare revelation
that waits.


I am waiting for you
at the edge,
where thought is held by riveted attention,
and self begins to slip away.
I am there,
where you and I become welcoming waters—
pure, dark, deep, and full.
Where all is lost
and all is found
in this ever deep, ever still home.


Bonsai is marriage
of hand and wind—
quickening the inevitable.
In this way,
we must seek our nature.


A weight descends upon me,
driving me into my emptiness,
leaving a solid block I cannot carve—
Kaaba's stone.
Each day I say less and less.
Everywhere I turn is holy.


We play at life
believing we shape our being
by action.
We are so much more than
waving hands and moving water.
We are creation.
We create nothing; act not.
We are creation.


Light stabbing through blackness
absorbing knowledge
collapsing being into unknowing.

In this desert is Self.
Then I remember
you are all dead,
still calling to your selves
from within.

Faith and Discovery
by Shawn Nevins

calligraphy gothic letter Q How can a person who doesn't have faith, who needs to find assurance that there's something absolute to find/become before he can make a commitment to find it, proceed?

calligraphy gothic letter A You would only ask this question if you had no sense there was an answer, if no one ever reported finding it, or if you never felt the hint of being more than this fragile body. If that was the case, you would not be reading this.

I will use an analogy, and let you substitute terms. You hear stories of Shangri-La, dream of it, and perhaps for a moment glimpse it inside your self. There are maps, and maps of ways to make your own map, yet you only venture out on the weekends. You fear straying too far from the familiar, fear the rest of your life will suffer, fear what others will think, and fear loss. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush, but is a bird in hand worth more than transcending the hunt for food?

"I'm not sure," you say. You want assurance of Shangri-La before you set out in search of it. You want what can only come about when you set foot in Shangri-La. Shangri-La is inside and beyond you and can only be known for certain after you have journeyed and arrived.

Well, then search for that of which you are sure. Write out what you do each day and what are the goals of those actions. What assurances are there about those goals? Their transience should be obvious. Do you wish to bet your life on transience or search for something more? You are already a naked emperor.

The Emperor realized that the people were right but could not admit to that. He thought it better to continue the procession under the illusion that anyone who couldn't see his clothes was either stupid or incompetent. And he stood stiffly on his carriage, while behind him a page held his imaginary mantle.

Those who are honest, realize there is only one hope. They have no need of faith. They walk inward, away from transience, toward discovery and surety.

Today I Was Happy, So I Made This Poem
by James Wright

As the plump squirrel scampers
Across the roof of the corncrib,
The moon suddenly stands up in the darkness,
And I see that it is impossible to die.
Each moment of time is a mountain.
An eagle rejoices in the oak trees of heaven,
This is what I wanted.

I Died at 10:52 A.M.
by Victor D. Solow

When I left home with my wife last March 23 to go for a ten-minute jog, I did not know that I would be gone for two weeks. My trip was the one that all of us must make eventually, from which only a rare few return. In my case a series of events occurred so extraordinarily timed to allow my eventual survival that words like "luck" or "coincidence" no longer seem applicable.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning. We had jogged and were driving back home to Mamaroneck, NY, along the Boston Post Road. It was 10:52 a.m. I had just stopped at a red light, opposite a gas station. My long, strange trip was about to start, and I must now use my wife's words to describe what happened for the next few minutes:

"Victor turned to me and said, 'Oh, Lucy, I....' Then, as swiftly as the expiration of a breath, he seemed simply to settle down in his seat with all his weight. His head remained erect, his eyes opened wide, like someone utterly astonished. I knew instantly he could no longer hear or see me.

"I pulled on the emergency brake, pleading with him to hang on, shouting for help. The light changed and traffic moved around my car. No one noticed me. My husband's color had now turned gray-green; his mouth hung open, but his eyes continued seemingly to view an astounding scene. I frantically tried to pull him to the other seat so I could drive him to the hospital. Then my cries for help attracted Frank Colangelo, proprietor of the gas station, who telephoned the police."

When Seconds Count

It was now 10:55—three minutes had elapsed since my heart arrest. A first-aid manual reads, "When breathing and heartbeat stop and are not artificially started, death is inevitable. Therefore, artificial resuscitation must be started immediately. Seconds count." Time was running out. In another 60 seconds my brain cells could start to die.

Now came the first of the coincidences: Before police headquarters could radio the emergency call, Officer James Donnellan, cruising along the Boston Post Road, arrived at the intersection where our car seemed stalled. Checking me for pulse, and respiration, and finding neither, he pulled me from the car with the help of Mr. Colangelo, and immediately started cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

In the meantime, the police alert had reached Officer Michael Sena, who chanced to be cruising just half a mile from the scene. He reached me in less than half a minute. From his car Sena yanked an oxygen tank and an apparatus with a mask which is used to force air into the lungs. Within seconds he had the mask over my face. Donnellan continued with heart massage. Sena later told me, "I was sure we were just going through the motions. I would have bet my job that you were gone."

Police headquarters also alerted the emergency rescue squad via high-pitched radio signal on the small alert boxes all squad members carry on their belts. When his warning signal went off, Tom McCann, volunteer fireman and trained emergency medical technician, was conducting a fire inspection. He looked up and saw Officers Donnellan and Sena working on a "body" less than 50 yards away. McCann made the right connection and raced over, arriving just ten seconds after his alarm sounded.

"I tried the carotid pulse—you had no pulse," McCann later said. "There was no breathing. Your eyes were open, and your pupils were dilated—a bad sign!" Dilated pupils indicate that blood is not reaching the brain. It can mean that death has occurred.

It was 10:56. McCann, who weighs 270 pounds, began to give me a no-nonsense heart massage.

Perfect Timing

The strange coincidences continued. The emergency-squad warning beeper went off at the exact moment when Peter Brehmer, Ronald Capasso, Chip Rigano, and Richard and Paul Torpey were meeting at the firehouse to change shifts. A moment later and they would have left. The ambulance was right there. Everybody piled in. Manned by five trained first-aid technicians, the ambulance arrived three minutes later. It was 10:59.

When I was being moved into the ambulance, United Hospital in Port Chester, six miles distant, was radioed. The hospital called a "Code 99" over its loudspeaker system, signaling all available personnel into the Emergency Room. Here, an ideal combination of specialists was available: when I arrived, two internists, two surgeons, two technicians from the cardiology department, two respiratory therapists and four nurses were waiting. Dr. Harold Roth later said: "The patient at that point was dead by available standards. There was no measurable pulse, he was not breathing, and he appeared to have no vital signs whatever."

11:10 a.m. A cardiac monitor was attached; a tube supplying pure oxygen was placed in my wind-pipe; intravenous injections were started. An electric-shock apparatus was then attached to my chest.

11:14. The first electric shock was powerful enough to lift my body inches off the operating table. But there was no result; my heart still showed no activity.

11:15. A second electric shock was applied—a final try. Twenty-three minutes had elapsed since my heart had stopped. Now, excitement exploded around the operating table as an irregular heart rhythm suddenly showed on the monitor. To everyone's amazement, I sat bolt upright and started to get off the table. I had to be restrained.

"There ... and Back"

Sometime later I was aware that my eyes were open. But I was still part of another world. It seemed that by chance I had been given this human body and it was difficult to wear. Dr. Roth later related: "I came to see you in the Coronary Care Unit. You were perfectly conscious. I asked how you felt, and your response was: 'I feel like I've been there and I've come back.' It was true: you were there and now you were back."

A hard time followed. I could not connect with the world around me. Was I really here now, or was it an illusion? Was that other condition of being I had just experienced the reality, or was that the illusion? I would lie there and observe my body with suspicion and amazement. It seemed to be doing things of its own volition and I was a visitor within. How strange to see my hand reach out for something. Eating, drinking, watching people had a dream-like, slow-motion quality as if seen through a veil.

During those first few days I was two people. My absent-mindedness and strange detachment gave the doctors pause. Perhaps the brain had been damaged after all. Their concern is reflected in hospital records: "Retrograde amnesia and difficulty with subsequent current events was recognized.... The neurologist felt prognosis was rather guarded regarding future good judgment...."

On the sixth day there was a sudden change. When I woke up, the world around me no longer seemed so peculiar. Something in me had decided to complete the return trip. From that day on, recovery was rapid. Eight days later I was discharged from the hospital.


Now family, friends and strangers began to ask what "death was like." Could I remember what had happened during those 23 minutes when heart and breathing stopped? I found that the experience could not easily be communicated.

Later, feeling and thinking my way back into the experience, I discovered why I could not make it a simple recital of events: when I left my body I also left all sensory tools behind with which we perceive the world we take for real. But I found that I now knew certain things about my place in this our world and my relationship to that other reality. My knowing was not through my brain but with another part of me which I cannot explain.


For me, the moment of transition from life to death—what else can one call it?—was easy. There was no time for fear, pain or thought. There was no chance "to see my whole life before me," as others have related. The last impression I can recall lasted a brief instant. I was moving at high speed toward a net of great luminosity. The strands and knots where the luminous lines intersected were vibrating with a tremendous cold energy. The grid appeared as a barrier that would prevent further travel. I did not want to move through the grid. For a brief moment my speed appeared to slow down. Then I was in the grid. The instant I made contact with it, the vibrant luminosity increased to a blinding intensity which drained, absorbed and transformed me at the same time. The sensation was neither pleasant nor unpleasant but completely consuming. The nature of everything had changed. Words only vaguely approximate the experience from this instant on.

The grid was like a transformer, an energy converter transporting me through form and into formlessness, beyond time and space. Now I was not in a place, nor even in a dimension, but rather in a condition of being. This new "I" was not the I which I knew, but rather a distilled essence of it, yet something vaguely familiar, something I had always known buried under a superstructure of personal fears, hopes, wants and needs. This "I" had no connection to ego. It was final, unchangeable, indivisible, indestructible pure spirit. While completely unique and individual as a fingerprint, "I" was, at the same time, part of some infinite, harmonious and ordered whole. I had been there before.

The condition "I" was in was pervaded by a sense of great stillness and deep quiet. Yet there was also a sense of something momentous about to be revealed, a further change. But there is nothing further to tell except of my sudden return to the operating table.

I would like to repeat that these experiences outside the dimensions of our known reality did not "happen" as if I were on some sort of voyage I could recollect. Rather, I discovered them afterward, rooted in my consciousness as a kind of unquestionable knowing. Being of a somewhat skeptical turn of mind, I am willing to grant the possibility that this is a leftover of some subtle form of brain damage. I know, however, that since my return from that other condition of being, many of my attitudes toward our world have changed and continue to change, almost by themselves. A recurrent nostalgia remains for that other reality, that condition of indescribable stillness and quiet where the "I" is part of a harmonious whole. The memory softens the old drives for possession, approval and success.

Postscript: I have just returned from a pleasant, slow, mile-and-a-half jog. I am sitting in our garden writing. Overhead a huge dogwood moves gently in a mild southerly breeze. Two small children, holding hands, walk down the street absorbed in their own world. I am glad I am here and now. But I know that this marvelous place of sun and wind, flowers, children and lovers, this murderous place of evil, ugliness and pain, is only one of many realities through which I must travel to distant and unknown destinations. For the time being I belong to the world and it belongs to me.

© Mrs. Victor D. Solow. Reprinted by permission. This article first appeared in the October, 1974 Reader's Digest and then in the TAT Journal Vol. 2, No. 3.

by Bob Cergol

I made some comment at a recent SKS retreat about the two poles in paths, i.e. devotional and self-analysis (jnana) and how most of them saw a hierarchy here, with Zen being above devotion. I said I was growing in my belief that Zen was the path required for those with bigger egos. In the final analysis, a devotional path of surrender would ultimately lead to the same confrontation of identity and "giving up of the egocentric position" as the supposedly more direct path of self-definition through confrontation and challenge.

If the devotional path was all about giving oneself to "god" or "letting god manifest in one's life," then wouldn't the sincere person be constantly faced with their failings in this regard, and in examining how they are NOT doing that and how they are placing themselves above "god"? A parallel question is, "How strongly do you believe in your own power?" followed by, "Where is the evidence for that belief?"

I believe Rose advocated BOTH, but he under-emphasized the devotional or feeling side, and his students have greatly under-emphasized it. Yet it is there, very prominently, in his writings, mostly the poetry. He once said at a lecture that you had to have 'HEAT,' that emotion and a yearning desire were the furnace to fuel the search.

This subject is very much tied in, for me, with the discussions we had on becoming at the last TAT meeting.

There are two vectors in play. One is of the Permanent, the other is an echo. The path is a struggle to change the balance of power between them, regarding what will be manifested in us or given expression as us. Will the echo bounce all the way back to the source? Or will it get diffused and muffled on the return journey? An absence of a devotional element, even if it seems to have no object, indicates strong identification with ego—which is only the echo.

So yes, I think there must be a devotional aspect in one's path. It is pursued the same as the philosophic path, i.e. a practice of inquiry into the self with total honesty.

It is difficult to speak about devotion in impersonal terms. I think [American Zen master Alfred] Pulyan is anthropomorphizing a bit when he writes poetically, "It is a fact that there is a Something that seeks us individually and personally with a humility and open simplicity we lack."

The Something to which he refers is that which is Permanent and therefore contains us, not we it. We emanate from it, not it from us. We are but an expression of it. So, in devotional language, how could the Father not love his only begotten son? How could anything in this manifested universe be anything but an echo of that One—the infinitely complex echo portraying an endlessly complex theme of the descent into the separation of multiplicity and the return ascent into unity? I think this is the "flow of life" to which Pulyan makes reference.

Christianity seems to be a language of devotion with quite a deep esoteric aspect. In the first few pages of Matthew's gospel, I recently stopped when I read: "The light of the body is the Eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light."

~ From an on-line confrontation group correspondence dated November 2000.

A Childhood Story
by Robert Bossman

While reading the Richard Rose story,1 it triggered a memory of a game I used to play as a child of 7 or 8 years of age. The trigger was Rose's recollection or explanation of the "void" during his experience.

Well while lying in bed trying to fall asleep at night as a kid, I used to imagine my house disappearing, then my city block disappearing, then my city, then my country and all others on the planet, then Earth itself (imagine zooming out into space), then the planets in our solar system, our sun, then I continued erasing the stars and other planets and galaxies until the universe was entirely empty.

What I experienced at that point was a feeling of extreme loneliness and sadness that nothing existed in the universe except empty space. I would then continue the process and toy with the idea that space itself didn't exist. That the universe disappeared. Imagine a TV set when you turn it off and the light reduces to a single point in the center. But it was more than that. It was a feeling that if nothing existed, we never existed. All that had been or ever was was never there. That there was ABSOLUTE NOTHINGNESS. And it scared the living *daylights* (being polite) out of me. It sent shivers down my spine because if I could imagine the nothingness I would disappear and no record of humanity or our beautiful planet or universe (stars, etc.) would have ever existed.

I don't know why, but from time to time I would do it again, just to end up scaring myself shitless. Imagining that everything that ever was or would be was no more was too overwhelming. It wasn't even a void. Because a void to me connotes emptiness. However, the feeling was more like the entire universe was being squeezed into a pinprick and even that was no more ... but and it's an important but, there was no space around it.

Something the mind cannot conceptualize. Or maybe had I let myself go I would have.

It's tough to put into words. And it's interesting that I did this at such a young age. Was I remembering something as a child?

Any comments on this childhood experience are welcome. I stopped reading the Rose story at that point as I became frightened again.


1The referenced Richard Rose story is "After the Absolute: The Inner Teachings of Richard Rose" by David Gold with Bart Marshall, including the Forward by Joseph Chilton Pearce.

~ Reprinted with permission by Robert Bossman from the Dr. Hawkins Discussion Group.

The Mechanics of Dreaming
by Bob Fergeson

Disciple: But how shall I comprehend this Ungrund (this naked Ground of the Soul, void of all Self)? Master: If thou goest about to comprehend it, then it will fly away from thee; but if thou dost surrender thyself wholly up to it, then it will abide with thee, and become the Life of thy Life, and be natural to thee. ~ Jacob Boehme

As spiritual seekers, we should become at least as aware of how we are built inside as we are of our anatomy. Our mind and its workings should be as familiar as the wiggling toes on our feet. Sadly, this is seldom the case. Let's take a look within our machine and see what's really happening in the inner realm of thought and feeling.

To start, let's perform a simple experiment. Ask yourself the question, "How do I feel?" Then, take a good look at what happens, inside. You may answer in different ways, in the positive or negative, and then perhaps wonder if you're right or wrong. This is all not going to help, no matter the answer, and is what most of us do, seekers or not. Instead, try looking a little deeper, and quicker, at what really happened. When the question is first asked, a strange thing occurs. The mind projects an image of what it currently believes "I" to be. It holds this image up in the attention, so that the feeling center can get a good look at it. This feeling or emotional center then has a reaction to this image of "I," of what you take yourself to be, at the current time and circumstance. Then another strange thing occurs. The mind that created the initial image modifies it according to the emotional signal it receives from the feeling center. (If you're feeling-oriented, the process could be reversed, with the feeling reaction noticed first, then the projected image.) This brings us to the question of where did the mind get the original image it projected? It was just the most current version of this created image, brought on by the endless and fully automatic cycle of thought causing feeling, causing more thoughts. From this, we can see the importance of discovering our own dominant moods, chief features and states of mind, which all fuel and mold the above process of creating an "I" which we then identify with. We unquestioningly believe in this "I," till death do us part.

Now we have to back up a bit and get into this business of identification, and the observer. Most of us are predominately identified with either feeling or thinking, and our main sense of "I" is in one of these functions or the other. The weaker of these is usually negated, and the brunt of much abuse by the ego centered in the dominant function. The trick is to bring both of the functions into full consciousness and to get behind them. To observe them rather than just identify. To unconsciously identify with the mechanical reactions going on in the mind is to stay asleep, believing in the dream we're unconsciously creating, which is based on the previous dream, ad infinitum. Direct contact with the inner self or higher power is impossible when this chain of mechanical reaction is running rampant. Not a good way to live, if you think about it.

Let's ask the question again, and see what happens. "How do I feel?" Be quick. You have to be awake and watching before the process gets moving. Can you see the image you project of who you think you are? Now, watch the feeling center have a reaction to this image. Then the resulting modification or acceptance is applied to this image of "I." If you try this in a very relaxed state, free from stress or worry, desire and fear, you may get lucky and see nothing. You may see nothing but an attention or awareness which looks within the quiet mind, sees nothing but silence, and then looks to the now silent feeling center, and sees nothing. No reaction, because there is no unquestioned belief causing the mind to project an image, which you then identify as "you." Now, wait until you are under stress or in a bad mood, or excited and feeling good about yourself, and ask the question again. The feeling center will be sending out a constant emotional signal to the mind, which will be obliging enough to create the appropriate image. Teamwork at its best, eh? Both of these reactions, the image-making apparatus and the feeling reaction, are mind. But where are you in all of this?

The impartial observer is not found by simply denying one half of the mind-team and thus claiming the death, or victory, of one's ego because you have ceased to have emotions; or to think you have stopped thinking and entered "no-mind." Such sophistry will soon enough be put to the test. The solution lies in the trap of identification, in the misplacement of the "I." Lead the attention farther and farther within, until you have fallen behind your self, behind the mind. In this back of beyond lies Nothing, Boehme's Ungrund, pure Silence. From then on the images and emotional reactions of the mind will be seen as simply as one sees those wiggling toes.

~ See Bob's web sites, The Mystic Missal, NostalgiaWest, and The Listening Attention.


Hogarth, 'Laughing, or a Pleased Audience' These are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others. ~ Groucho Marks

Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died. ~ Billy Crystal

A sobering thought: What if at this very moment I am living up to my full potential? ~ Woody Allen

Reader Commentary:

In response to the articles written on the question: "How can a person know if he or someone else—a prospective teacher—has successfully completed the spiritual search?" I thought about writing about it when the call came, but found I had nothing to say. But reading the responses that did come, words do seem to come.

You can't know about somebody else, whether they are a teacher or not, unless you've found the teacher in yourself, because how else can you be sure? How else can you recognize a teacher outside yourself, if not in a small way you've found him/her in yourself. For the teacher … is the spiritual search really ever over? Jiddu Krishnamurti kept searching, his whole teaching-career was a search. He taught by searching, as it were. But then, he didn't want to be a guru in the conventional sense of the word … I think only those who are humble enough to know and admit they are still searching, can be considered real teachers. I don’t mean searching in the sense of frantically looking everywhere for a glimmer of hope, or happiness, or inspiration. I think a spiritual teacher keeps searching in the sense that each moment is new. The past doesn’t interfere. There is an interest, a looking, an observing nature there that has a lightness to it. It is calm, yet always awake, full of fire. I don’t think that is easy to recognize in somebody else, because these are inner qualities somebody has, how can you judge them from the outside?

Anyhow, I appreciate your forum. ~ Katinka Hesselink

Just read this month's forum. Excellent!! I am emailing it to a friend Please keep up the good work. ~ Gary G.

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